Signal - Complete

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Signal - Complete

Postby Miki Yamuri » Thu Jul 03, 2014 3:25 am

Title: Signal

Characters:

All Characters Played By: LilJennie and Miki Yamuri

Julie Spires - 21yo Graduate Student

Naomi Gilcoine - 21yo Graduate Student

Dr. Adams - Radio Astronomer

SIS ... Smart Integrated System -The Alien AI

Kshandri - Super advanced civilization



Scene: Sitting in the lounge chair late at night listening to Alpha Centauri signal and fighting off boredom

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It was the middle of another boring night, Julie and her classmate Naomi sat in the lounge chairs trying to stay awake. Julie was a fairly pretty girl of about 5 feet tall. She weighed about 100 pounds and wore cutoff jean shorts and a loose fitting shirt she had tied on instead of buttoning. Julie had almost finished her umpteeth cup of coffee when she reached over and moved the Large Satellite Dish over 3 degrees to begin the scan of the next grid.

The strong sound of Alpha Centauri began to slowly fade as the dish began its traverse. Without warning, several of the signal meters flopped over to their max readings and began to smoke. For just a split instant, a signal of immense amplitude began to sound through the speaker, before the dish traversed the narrow beam and moved on through the ark.

Julie springs forward and begins to stop the dish's traverse and back track. Naomi opens one eye and takes notice of the break in the monotonous routine of the last several months.

"Mwha?" said Naomi indistinctly, waking up. "Forgot the audio monitor was even on. What was that?" She brushed her red hair out of her eyes. "Noise from the alignment motors?"

Julie says with excitement, "No ... I think we hit a signal. The amplitude was enormous. Who ever sent it wants to make sure someone sees it."

Julie has the dish begin a slow back track until the powerful signal began to sound once again. The 2 young women sat for a split instant and stared at the speaker before Julie shouted, "Quick ... call Bravo 1 and see if they can find it at these coordinates."

Julie tosses Naomi a piece of paper with numbers written on them. Julie swings the dish 3 degrees in both directions. To one side was the signal of Alpha Centauri ... to the other side, was only the usual background radiation static. Dead on ... the signal burned out the signal meters and several of the other pieces of measuring equipment.

Julie shouts, "Hurry, I don't know how long the equipment can handle a signal of this power ... we are starting to burn up."

"50 minutes, 2.308 seconds ... yes, that's right," Naomi said into her cell phone. "Yes, I would call it anomalously strong. I think the signal's about to burn out the amplifier. Adjust the gain? ... OK, I think I remember where that is, but I've never had to do that ... OK, thanks, bye!" Naomi turns to Julie, "They said I should adjust the gain before we blow the amplifier."

Opening a metal panel on the wall, Naomi turned a dial, and the noise from the speaker dropped to bearable levels, and the smell of smoke began to dissipate.

"OK, Julie, if you can believe the markings on that rheostat, I just cut the signal strength by a factor of 20," Naomi said. "Maybe we can actually measure it now and see some kind of details other than LOUD. I hope we're recording this, or Dr. Adams is never gonna believe us."

Julie says with excitement, "I'm not only recording it, I'm making several back up copies just in case."

The girls fidgeted as the signal continued to pulse loudly thought the speaker. At the reduced level however, the 2 of them began to pick up varying pulses and sound durations. They also realized the sound undulated from higher to lower frequencies over time. It totally didn't sound like any signal they had heard before.

As Julie made fine adjustments to the Dish, the red panic phone in the middle of the desk rang. Julie swore. That's all she needs is some dumb Military idiot with more brass than common sense mucking up her and Naomi's Nobel Prize. She picks up the phone and answers, "This is Alpha 1, Julie Spires."

The voice on the other end ... didn't sound ... human. Julie’s eyes got huge as she flipped the record button on this line as well. She looks at Naomi and says, "ET phone ahead." Naomi giggles as she replies, "That's the new total response AI confirming that no signals from Norad or any satellites are within the contact area."

"So anyway," said Naomi, "what is this, some kind of pulsar? Some kind of collision altered its rotational axis and brought its equatorial plane into alignment with us? I know if this gets on the Internet, everybody's gonna be saying it's aliens." She paused. "That signal's got a pattern, but it's not regular enough to be a pulsar, is it?"

About that time, another phone rang. Julie only had time to hit the speaker button. A voice says professionally, "This is Bravo 1 confirming a contact. Amplitude unrecordable. Carrier is originating beyond the Galactic Axis ... beyond the range of detectors at Arcebo. Aligning Hubble to see if we can get a shot of the generator. Confidence is high ... say again ... High ... this is a pure signal of extra terrestrial origin."

Julie opens the safe next to her shoulder and removes a red binder and opens it. She yells to Naomi, "You must contact Talafofo tracking station, they are the next dish in contact line for diurnal blackout."

By this time, both women were near panicked ... never had they ever received a signal conformation from Bravo 1.

"This is crazy," said Naomi, dialing her phone. "Seriously? Extraterrestrial origin? The chances are, to coin a phrase, astronomical ... hello? Talafofo Island? Hello, Dr. Mohetaha, this is Alpha One -- yes, it's me, Naomi Gilcoine. Listen, we've got a pretty unique event going on up there tonight." She filled the astronomer in on the evening's events. "Yeah, Bravo One is saying aliens," she said into the phone. "I'm just saying we should record all we can and figure it out later ... okay, thanks! We'll share data with each other later."

As the earth did its diurnal rotation, the signal faded until nothing. Julie sat panting at the dish console waiting to see if perhaps another would pop up.

Finally, the phone rang again, Julie answered it, "Alpha 1, Julie Spires."

The voice that replied was totally panicked ... totally stressed out and barely IDed themselves as Talafofo. "It ... it's incredible ... this signal is so powerful it almost over loaded our systems before we could make adjustments. It's true ... it's coming from beyond the known universe ... it also has time variants and signal spikes ... sort of like a binary code or something."

Julie says with excitement, "How much of it did you record?" The voice replies, "We have all of it. The signal duration is pure and strong without any kind of background static. Who or what ever sent this .... wanted to make very sure someone received it. I have to make the hand off to Hawaii ... I'm sending the total recording to you as we speak ... tag u later." The phone went dead.

Julie sits back in her lounge chair and exhales loudly. She says softly, "Naomi ... are you ready? When we have a 3rd conformation from Hawaii ... our phones are going to light up like Christmas trees."

She smiles over at Naomi who was staring at the phone. Julie sees the red receive light turn green indicating the transmission from Talafofo had been received and recorded properly.

"Yeah," said Naomi, "well, Dr. Adams is gonna be so upset he decided to stay home and make his grad students mind the telescope all night. Suppose we should wake him up?"

Julie grins as she says mischievously, "He did say not to disturb him even if the Universe was ending ... didn't he?"

Naomi's eyes got big as she raised her eyebrows. Both young women looked at each other for a few seconds before they both started giggling. Julie sat back in her chair and propped her feet on the console after hooking up her phone headset and relay device.

She said, "Nope, I'm not going to disturb him ... the Universe is still intact ... and he insisted."

Both women burst into laughter as Naomi comments, "He'll be fit to be tied when he gets the call from Norad Tracking in about an hour."

Julie nods as she replies, "It'll teach him to give us a bit of respect ... he totally has no claim to the find. It's all ours and the whole system knows it."

About that time, the many lines to their phone codex began to light up ... the recognition was beginning.

"Alpha One Station," said Naomi, picking up the phone. "I'm sorry, Sir, you're going to have to slow down; I can't understand you -- that's better. Yes, we're graduate students in astronomy, radio astronomy specifically ... I knew you were going to ask about aliens, but really it's far too early to speculate -- the data hasn't even been analyzed ..."

That was it. They weren't going to get any more work done that night.

After about the tenth call from the media, Naomi said, "Hey, do we have the data all in one set yet? Can we run a pattern analysis on it? All this computing power out there on the grid, just waiting for us to give it something to do." She opened some windows on her computer. "Looks like we can start it running. Shouldn't even take ten minutes." The phone rang again. "Bloody heck!"

Julie nodded her agreement as she finished her umpteenth phone call, "I'm sorry sir, but at this point all we can say is we have some unusual signal data. We haven't yet had time to start a preliminary examination of what we have. It may just be 2 black holes absorbing each other and we just got in the way of the GRB beam. No ... we don't know anything about Aliens ... or ET phoning home. Good Bye Mr. Thorn."

Julie clicked the switch and cut the line. All the buttons on the codex were blinking furiously. Julie turned on several of her monitors and opened several of the sequencing program interfaces. She fed the signal in and began to enter data as the system requested it. Once again, the phone rang insistently ... this time ... it was Washington DC calling.

Julie looks at Naomi and says softly, "OMG! I think ... we aren't going to get any sleep or meals for a while."

Naomi asks, "Why?"

Julie replies dejectedly, "This is the Pentagon ... DOD ... National Security Council calling. They ... have enacted protocol Omega."

"Protocol Omega, what's that?" Naomi asked. "I suppose it's some kind of defcon-1, expect-alien-invasion kind of thing." She sighed. "Look, it's just a signal. We don't even know that it's of intelligent origin, let alone that it's directed at us."

Naomi's cursor was blinking. "Wait, there's a result. This is just on our data, but ..." Naomi frowned. "The software indicates a high probability that this is some sort of programming language. An algorithm of some kind."

Julie swings around to look over Naomi's shoulder.

She says softly, "What is that?"

She points to the lower left corner of Naomi's screen. Some kind of symbol had appeared ... one neither of the girls had ever seen on any system in the station.

Julie says, "What if ... this is some kind of alien virus designed to take over our many networked computer systems or something?"

Naomi looks at Julie with worry. Another window opens. What appears to be a really messed up, grainy, totally warped and out of focus picture appears.

Julie gasps softly, "Now .... we have a problem, Naomi. The signal is of intelligent origin." She bends over her keyboard and types in commands, "I ran this through several pattern recognition protocols ... they seem to have found a pattern."

"OK, yeah, chances that this is something natural are dropping like a stone," said Naomi. "Somebody is out there, and they have a Marshall stack the size of the Moon. I wonder if they're pinpointing us for their message, or if they're going omnidirectional?"

Naomi looked at her monitor, where the wobbly image was still changing form. "Software's still working on decoding this image ... if it is an image," she said. "I really want a doughnut," she added. "Good thing we don't have any."

Julie sits in her chair and scoots it closer to the keyboard. She begins typing in commands rapidly.

She says, "I'm adding the sequencing algorithm to the programming ... lets see if their might be some kind of voice carrier imbedded in the signal. It has enough energy in it to power this station for the rest of time."

Naomi looks sideways at Julie as the wavering distorted picture on the screen danced and shifted colors. Every once in a while, Naomi could swear she saw a recognizable image ... it was fleeting and very full of static and snow ... but it looked like someone in uniform. The Red Phone began to ring.

Julie sighs as she answers it, "Here it comes ... up to our brass in ... Hello, this is Alpha One Station, Julie Spires."

Naomi watched as her eyes got big and she mouthed the words OMG!!

Julie says professionally, "Yes sir ... the protocol is running as we speak. Yes sir ... confidence is .... very high ... say again .... very high. Understand ... in 10 minutes. No sir .. we haven't notified Dr. Adams. Yes sir ... according to protocol ... it's supposed to be Norad that sends the priority red to him. Yes sir. Total black out ... system is," She flips several switches, "Isolated ... ready for message in 2 parts for defcon 1 launch as necessary .... yes sir."

Julie hung up the phone and looked at Naomi with big eyes ... "Naomi, " she gasped, "The idiots ... that Omega thing they enabled ... it means the whole planet is on nuclear alert at this moment. They are sending tons of brass here ... they will be here in 20 minutes ... and our systems are isolated under Omega Directives."

"Huh?" wondered Naomi. "Why are they coming here? They could get the signal anywhere in the half of the planet that's facing Alpha Centauri right now." She chewed on her lower lip a bit. "D'you think they're trying to keep a lid on it? because all the data's already out on the grid for processing. It's all over the world already."

Naomi sighed. "Well, I understand, I guess. It's their job to Do Something, and they're gonna make a big show of looking like they're Doing Something, even though there's nothing they can really do. It's not as if we even know this message is directed at us. It might be broadcast in all directions, and its leading edge only just now reached us. It might not even be from Alpha Centauri -- just that direction."

Julie sits back in her chair in exasperation. She can't believe what's happening.

She says softly, "Naomi? Something tells me ... we need major copies of all this data they ... don't know about."

She immediately plugs an EPROM memory core into the slot and down loads all the signal data, protocols, and current in progress results. It only takes a few minutes to complete. Julie takes the data stack chip and places it into a padded clear acrylic case and seals it. She then bends down and pulls up one of the sub floor panels where the power tubes for the Klystron were. She hid them behind all the jumble of wires and trays running in every direction.

After Julie had replaced the panel and relocated the rug over it she said as explanation, "I think ... they are coming to steal all the original data we have. It's possible the other Dishes didn't get a primer data flow ... and we did being the first to receive."

"Could be," said Naomi, "but even if that's true, our complete set of data is already out on the grid being processed. It's stored on millions of hard drives around the world now. They're never going to be able to erase it all. They probably know that, too, but their job is to look like they tried. Still, it's best that you did that. Easier to restore from a full backup than to pull all those pieces together from all across the grid."

Julie smiles, "That EPROM has the complete signal and all the current processes copied on it. As long as we have that ... no one can steal anything.

Naomi looked out the window and saw the jeeps and black sedans driving up. "Now, if we're too compliant they're going to suspect we've got a backup," she said. "Let's put on a good show."

6 heavily armored and armed men burst in the door and took ready positions around the girls. Julie and Naomi scream as they hold each other tightly in fear. A full 5 star general accompanied by a 4 star, a 3 star, and several Full Colonels walked in behind them.

The 5 star said gruffly, "At ease men. I'm sure these little girls aren't a threat."

The officers snort a laugh as the men uncharged their weapons and stand ready.

The 5 star says authoritatively, "We are here to insure that none of the data you received gets ... past the grid. Omega was enabled immediately upon verification that it originated beyond our galaxy."

He walks over to Naomi's screen and looks at the very horrible, but obvious picture of ... something.

He looks up and snaps, "Hudson, I want a total down load ... then take out all the drives."

One of the sergeants snaps a sharp salute as he says, "Yes, sir."

He moved towards one of the chairs and keyboards. Julie steps in front of him and says, "Not on your life. This is the most important discovery mankind has ever made ... we aren't alone."

"That's right," said Naomi. "You can't do this. This is America. We're American citizens, and we're just doing our jobs. You have no right to take those disks from us, and from the university! It's like going into a ... an auto factory and taking away their supply of steel."

"Well, little lady," said the 5-star general, whose uniform name tag said Bell, "that might all be true, and I'm sorry to have to be the one to do this, but it's my duty to protect and defend this country. And that data on those drives you got there represents a very likely threat to this nation -- to the entire world in fact, of which this nation is a part."

"Just a second," said a new voice from the open door. "I'm not sure what my students discovered, but ... my word, does it warrant so much military brass and drawn weapons?"

"Dr. Adams!" gasped Naomi.

"Look, General ... Bell, is it?" said Dr. Adams, who was wearing what looked like a hastily-donned outfit consisting of dress pants and a university sweatshirt. "I'm sure you don't have to take the drives. I'll willingly make you copies of every byte of data we've got. But if the students made a discovery, that discovery belongs to them, to my program, to the university, and to the scientific community. They didn't try to cover up relativity when Einstein discovered it."

"Well, Dr. Adams," said General Bell, taking a deep breath and expanding his barrel chest, "I know you're a scientist, and you're looking at things from a scientist's point of view. But I'm seeing things from a military point of view, and so do the Joint Chiefs and the NSC. We don't want a full scale nationwide panic, and we don't want any crazy radical terrorists out there making use of anything that might be in that data. What we do want is to carry out our orders," he finished, "and those are to collect all copies of the data and bring them in for our people to analyze. Don't worry. When we're through, we'll give you what we get."

"What you think is safe to give us, you mean," said Naomi.

"Protecting citizens like yourself is my job, little lady," said General Bell.

Julie screeches with frustration, "You ... you ... pig headed moron! We've spent too many hours up all night drinking that ... that tobacco juice Dr. Adams calls coffee to just ... surrender the data to you. Whacha gonna do if we refuse? Shoot us?"

The General replies with a snort, "Precisely. We will take the data ... with ... or without your approval or cooperation. Hudson ... do what I told you."

One of the other men grabs Julie by her arms and holds her while Hudson sits at the computer. Julie screeches and kicks and fights with the man ... all futile. Naomi finds herself restrained by yet another of the men, while a 3rd has the Dr held under the auspicious scrutiny of a hand on his holstered .45 caliber pistol.

Julie looks at Naomi and winks, before she turns and kicks the soldier holding her in the knee with a backward thrust of her foot. The man gasps painfully as he grabs his knee. Julie turns in time to see the remaining men pull the charging handles on their weapons .... as Hudson completes the down load and opens the computer to remove the drives.

Naomi struggled in vain for a moment against the soldiers holding her arms as Hudson removed the hard drives from the servers one by one, quickly and efficiently, placing them in a padded and rubberized container.

"Gahh, my A523 paper's on those too," Naomi wailed. "I'm gonna hafta do it over!"

"Tell you what, I'll talk to Dr. Mortensen," said Dr. Adams. "Maybe you can get extra credit for making a discovery that drew the attention of the National Security Council and was personally confiscated by Army generals."

"That's all of them, Sir," said Hudson, closing and locking the carrying case.

"Backups?" said General Bell.

"They seem to use DVD-Rs for backup, Sir," said Hudson, "and there's no backup for tonight. The most recent discs are labeled with last night's date."

"It's still the middle of the night," said Dr. Adams. "Standard procedure is for the morning shift to make backups when they come in. So, sadly, there's no backup for you to take."

"Hm," said General Bell. "Take all the backups anyway. They might have made one and labeled it with an old date. We'll send back anything that isn't from tonight ... eventually." Dr. Adams sighed.

Hudson followed his orders. "Done, Sir," he said, saluting the general.

"All right, then, let's move out," said Bell. "Back to base. On to the next phase of the protocol."

The soldiers released Dr. Adams and the two students and withdrew. Dr. Adams looked like a defeated man, and Naomi and Julie sank to the floor in exhaustion.

As the soldiers filed into the jeeps and transports, the general said, "Now, I'm sure I don't have to remind you that Code Omega is still in effect. Communications blackout, and there is to be no further observation or recording of the signal. Good evening, ladies, Dr. Adams." He got into his black sedan, and the motorcade drove away.

Julie snorts after the general loud enough everyone knew he heard, "Asshole!"

Naomi giggles as Dr. Adams laughs.

Julie stands up as she continues, "Just what in the hell gives them the right to come in here at gun point and steal all our data?"

Dr Adams replies as he puts a hand gently on Julie’s shoulder, "Code Omega gives him the right. Our world is on the brink right now because of that data ... what ever it is. And the only people who even know about it ... are those of us on this particular project tonight."

Naomi says, "We put all the data on the grid for analysis before they initiated the blackout."

Dr Adams shook his head slowly for a few seconds before he said, "That may well be, however I think that all the data you girls collected tonight will have a funny propensity of ... being corrupted and unreadable."

Julie slams her fist on the table in anger, "Darn .... the most important phone call we ever receive .... and it's censored." Everybody laughs as the tension begins to fade.

Dr Adams walks over to the main server cabinet and holds the ribbon cable in his hands for a few seconds. He says softly, "It's a shame we are such paranoid idiots. Now, we have lost an entire program in one signal."

Julie and Naomi giggle softly. Dr Adams turns and his eyes narrow. He says, "Ok ... I understand. I won't ask and I order you not to tell ... that way ... I can't spill the beans. I will say however, I want a copy too ... and make several more and hide them in many places. Have a good night ladies." Dr Adams quickly leaves ... the sound of the door closing behind him.

Naomi sighed and opened a closet, opening a box of new blank hard drives and starting to insert them into the servers, one by one.

"Might as well get things ready for whenever we get to listen to the universe again," she said.

Julie helped, and within ten minutes they had working servers again -- no data, but up and running, at least.

"Now, let's see," Naomi thought aloud. "I know we're not allowed to listen to space, but I was thinking about something a bit closer to home." She did some typing on the console. "Nope," she said, "I'm not detecting any radio signals being broadcast from this building. Guess they didn't see fit to plant a bug while they were here."

"So then," said Naomi, "what do you think? Encrypt the data and then steganographically encode the data within a video file? I've got a backup of all of my friend Bill's vlog entries. We can send people the decryption key separately. Anybody who watches the DVD just sees Bill reviewing video games."

Julie replies as she gets on her hands and knees and throws back the rug, "Sounds like a good idea to me. I hope we don't loose any of the original decoding either, I want to know what that picture was. I could have sworn I saw someone in a uniform."

Naomi Nods as she open the Vlog files and the encryption protocol. Julie pulls the floor plate up and retrieves the EPROM back up. She replaces the floor plate and rug, then inserts the chip into the slot after removing it from its protective case. The data once again is down loaded into the server data base. Julie pulls the chip, and replaces it back in the safety of the case ... which she shoves into the pocket of her cutoff shorts.

Julie says, "While you do that, I'm going to step out for a breath ... it kinda smells like burnt wires n stuff in here."

Naomi nods as Julie opens the door and walks out to the rail. She takes hold of the rail and leans back as she takes a deep breath of the late night air. Off to the east, Julie could see the horizon beginning to lighten with the first signs of the coming dawn. She looks up to the heavens, just in time to see a huge and very bright light flair dazzlingly in the sky. It grew bright enough that it lit the area like an extremely brilliant full moon, before fading slowly away once again.

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~~ End Pt1 ~~
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~~ Pt2 - Cosmic Realities ~~
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Julie stared at the sky for a moment. Naomi came to the door and asked, "What was that? I saw a bright flash."

Julie points towards the place the still bright, but fading light was and said with a gasp, "Something ... just exploded right there."

"Isn't that ... the direction the signal was coming from?" Naomi asked. "And we're not allowed to find out whether it stopped!" She pounded on the wall of the instrument shed with the palm of her hand. "Well, anyway ... we've got a copy of my friend's DVD, and more are on the way."

Julie snorts, "To hell with that asshole general. I think we have an obligation to check out what happened. I think Beta site said Hubble was realigned to take a look. Lets link up and see what we find. We won't technically be in violation that jerk's orders."

Naomi takes a quick look at the very bright star shining in the heavens before returning to her lounge chair and console with Julie taking position in her's. The 2 girls began typing furiously as they made encrypted contact with Hubble and began to get real time feeds from the space telescope.

The girls saw a wide deep field shot of space at first with the very centuri void of any discernible light. As they fast forwarded through the many shots, they saw a pinpoint of light begin to form, and grow rapidly. Within minutes, Hubble had to enable many of it's darkest filters to keep the delicate optics from burning out. The flash appeared to be an explosion on a Super Magnetar Nova level. Naomi says with awe, "If we could see it, I think there would be a huge new Black Hole where this signal came from. You don't think it's all a fluke, do you?"

Julie shakes her head slowly, "The original signal was too clean and directional to be a GRB flash. What we got first, was a comm signal of immense amplitude ... if we were still receiving, we would have received the GRB signal at the time of the flash we saw." The girls walk back out and watch the bright light as it faded slowly away.

"So -- what are we talking about, then?" asked Naomi. "A civilization sends us a signal just before it ... blows up? Was its star about to go nova? Should we look forward to baby Clark Kent's arrival? Or ... was it destroyed by invaders?" She paused. "Invaders that might come here next?" Naomi stopped herself. "That's getting too far-fetched. I'm going to check on the DVDs."

She went back inside, then came right back out. "Julie!" she said. "Code Omega's been lifted. The signal's gone silent. There's nothing for the military to 'protect' us from anymore. We have Internet again. I have 300 emails from universities and research labs all over the world. And one from my mom asking if I'm eating OK."

Julie follows Naomi back into the control center. True enough, there were hundreds of e-mails from every tracking station within line of site of the signal direction.

Julie sits at her console and begins to type in commands. Once again, the distorted picture with the strange symbol appears on the large flat screen.

Julie pounds her fist on the console several times as she says with exasperation, "And ... how are we supposed to answer these inquirers? Everyone knows the signal is extra galactic in origin." She looks at Naomi as she shakes her head slowly.

"Every astronomy department in ... well, anywhere ... wants to know what we discovered," said Naomi. "That's one form of communication the military can't shut down -- the grapevine. Gossip: the only way information can travel faster than light. Should I tell them? Nah, they'd probably come back and arrest us both. I'll tell them ... I know! I'll tell them we're not ready to release our results until we're certain to six sigma. It worked for the Higgs Boson."

Then Naomi looked at Julie’s screen. "So, that's as far as the software got before we were so rudely interrupted," she said.

Then she paused, looking at the distorted image. It felt like something was familiar about it, something from long ago. "What are you?" she asked the symbol. "Where are you from? Who sent you? Why? What do you mean? And why do I seem to ... remember you?"

Julie stares at the wavering, snowy, color shifting mess that was the image the software was attempting to decipher.

Julie says quietly, "You know? I feel I have seen this ... before too."

She leans closer to the screen as she tries to see what the image might have been. Julie types in several other commands.

Julie says, "What happens if we alter the variables for the IFrame of the graphic? You know ... force it to fit in a certain parameter instead of making the system look for a defining one?"

Naomi shrugs her shapely shoulders as she replies, "I would guess that would be as good an idea as any."

Julie smiles as she types in the IFrame dimensions. The picture suddenly stabilizes. The colors seem to take a more definite character, although the picture was still severely distorted and had many wavy lines and lots of snow interference within it.

Julie mumbles more to herself than anyone else, "This is so familiar ... I think I saw this some where when I was a little girl ...?"

"You know ... I think I did too," said Naomi. "It was ... I can't quite remember ... some TV show or something." She thought. "There was an introduction, something like, 'Do not be afraid. You are seeing this message because you are among the exceptional few of your species who can understand it. You alone can help us save your world.'" Then she noticed that Julie had joined her in quoting this.

"You saw it too?" they both said at the same time.

"What was the name of that show?" Naomi asked. "I can't remember it." Then she blinked and looked at the shifting image again. "The pattern of interference -- it looks fractal in nature. What if the software is trying to decode using a wavelet transform scheme, but they're actually using a different type of compression altogether, something they think is elementary but we don't use much? What if it's a fractal transform scheme instead?"

Julie had begun a wide research on the internet for what the show might have been. As powerful as their many parallel processored computers were, all their processing speed and power proved useless. Julie could find no references that even came close .... not even One Step Beyond, nor the Twilight Zone.

Julie says with frustration, "I looked for what the show might have been ... and came up completely empty."

Julie turns towards the screen once again as Naomi began typing in new search instructions for the pattern recognition software.

Naomi says, "I have changed the protocol ... lets see what we come up with."

Within a few short minutes, a very grainy, but recognizable picture of a young man in a very sharply tailored Military type uniform appeared. Both the girls gasp in recognition.

Julie points, "That's ... that's Commander Jreeekkssl!"

Naomi looks at Julie with shock. She says, "How on earth ... do we both know his name?"

Suddenly, words begin to scroll across the screen, in simple block letters, "Do not be afraid. You are seeing this message because ..."

Both girls are incredulous at this point.

"Oh Em Gee," said Naomi. "This is unreal. Did they get our TV signals and think they were real, like in Galaxy Quest? Or ... no, that's totally insane. I was going to say, what if they sent us this show? But there would have been a huge hue and cry if there had been TV signal interference from space." She paused. "Unless ... unless only a few specially targeted people saw it."

Meanwhile, the video continued. Naomi increased the resolution to the size of the entire large flat screen monitor -- the fractal compression meant that the information in the image was resolution-independent. There was an image of a point surrounded by a circle, then the circle became a figure-eight, a four-leaf clover, and an odd bumblebee-like shape. Then there were four points in the center and two varying shapes surrounding them.

"Wait, this is ... they're showing us the elements," Naomi said. "That was hydrogen, and this is helium."

Julie watched with her mouth open in total shock. On the large screen directly in front of her, another window opened. Julie turns and sees the system began to describe some kind of power source. Many of the words meant nothing to Julie, but the references to a computer language protocol contained within a sub-carrier meant every thing. Julie opens another window and begins to look through the early ciphers they had done before Omega stopped them. She found several terabytes of data that proved to be the computer program.

According to the primer that came with the program the girls were watching, it explained that this needed to be loaded into a certain type of computer system, and then would be a self aware smart system that would help them build ... some kind of devise.

Julie taps Naomi on her shoulder as she points to the next picture that forms. The sleek graceful lines, it looked like some kind of insect. It was a thing of total beauty.

Julie says softly, "This thing looks like a Hornet ... it's perfect for maneuverability.

"It's some kind of ... aircraft?" asked Naomi. "Or spacecraft? And this is all the information we need to build one? But wait ... wouldn't that require much more data than even this? Unless ..." Naomi thought for a moment. "This software actually builds a technological singularity into the process, creating an artificial intelligence designed to generate even more intelligent AIs, and maybe they're intended to do the same ... but it's all part of the software, which can anticipate the entire process and make use of the results. This species has know-how way beyond ours."

The video was showing images of carbon now, including various crystal structures formed from carbon atoms.

"Look," said Naomi, "there's graphite ... diamond ... buckyballs ... carbon nanotubes ... and that's hexagonal carbon if I remember right ... wait. It's focusing on that one. Julie ... look at this. I think it's showing us how to make hexagonal carbon in large quantities. If I remember right, that stuff's harder than most diamonds."

Julie turns and looks at a medium sized square black computer system sitting off in a corner all by itself.

Julie asks, "When those Brass assholes were here, they took the hard drive from the Cosmic Cube system ... right?" Naomi nods, "How much memory does it have? I know it has 34000 processors."

A smile crosses Naomi's face as she realizes what Julie was thinking.

Naomi replies, "I think it has 170 terabytes ... and we have several blank systems we can network together if that's not enough."

Julie transfers the Self Aware Smart System software to the Cosmic Cube. Julie sat at the Cube's console and began trying to install the huge operating system. After several minutes, the system began to operate totally on its own.

The screen for the Cosmic Cube lit up and words began to dance rapidly across the screen, "Hello ... I'm called SIS ... Smart Integrated System. I am designed to aid you in constructing all the necessary equipment required for you to defend your solar system and ultimately ... your galaxy." Neither girl knew quite what to say or do at that moment.

"What the heck," said Naomi, and typed in, "Hello, my name is Naomi Gilcoine. I am an astronomy student."

"Greetings, Naomi Gilcoine," said the next message to appear on the screen. "Please do not be overly alarmed. I do not mean you or your species any harm. Granted, I might be lying to you. But if we work together, I will soon be able to show you that my information is accurate, or at least was accurate at the time when I was transmitted."

"Who sent you here," typed Naomi, "and why?"

"The species that sent me has a name that is difficult to render into the symbols of your English language," said the words that next appeared, "but the closest I can approximate it is 'Kshandri.' The Kshandri are part of a multigalactic coalition of worlds that is under attack by a powerful outside force. They sent me because your world may well come under attack soon, and they wish to minimize the number of worlds taken by the enemy. I do not mean to panic you unduly, so I will say this: to my knowledge, no worlds in your galaxy have come under attack yet."

Julie leans over and whispers to Naomi, "How do we keep ... something like this a secret now?" Then points to the screen. Julie types in, "Hi, my name's Julie Spires ... and I'm an Astronomy student too. Why is it I have known about you since I was a little girl?"

The screen showed only a blinking cursor for a few minutes before it typed, "This signal has been broadcast for many centuries. Only certain people can hear, or see the subliminal messages. If you recognize us from your youth ... it means that you had been selected and had seen the broadcast on some other medium."

Julie types, "Now that you're on this system, how do we keep you secret?"

The system responded, "This system you have me installed on is connected to a wonderful menagerie of other systems. I can be most anywhere at any time by network ... and not in any place by the same token."

Julie giggles, "Like Skynet." she typed.

The system responded, "I'm not sure of the reference you're making, but I can rapidly become an integral part of the total menagerie network."

"So ..." Naomi said, "this is all cool and fascinating and stuff, but didn't it say something about a big enemy that's going to kill us all?"

She reached for the keyboard and typed, "You mentioned something about an enemy and defending our world from it -- how big is the threat, and how soon? Is it what stopped the signal?"

The words on the screen appeared quickly. "The enemy is a hive mind race -- telepathically linked. It is composed of entities that look like individuals, but are not. Each one is like a cell in a human brain. It is therefore difficult to speak as if it is made of trillions of individuals or one single enormous organism. Its goal seems to be the security of its species, from its point of view -- it seeks to extinguish any and all threats to itself by any means. Please note that this entity has weapons that can convert entire galaxies to black holes."

"Uhhh, that doesn't sound good," Naomi commented.

The computer went on, "Until recently my information indicated that it had not yet turned an eye toward this galaxy. The Kshandri, who have been fighting the enemy in their own galaxy, sent several broadcast stations to this one, one of which was located in the system you know as the Alpha/Beta/Proxima Centauri system."

"In hopes of teaching the worlds of this galaxy to defend themselves," Naomi typed.

"Yes," answered the computer. "You are now in possession of all the information necessary to build weapons, spacecraft, and devices that can defend your world. But the broadcast station has been destroyed."

"Do you know what destroyed it?" typed Naomi.

"Uncertain," it answered. "There are three possibilities. The Kshandri may have activated its self-destruct system to prevent the enemy from finding it, and in turn finding your world. Another species may have interfered with it -- it was an automated communication beacon, not a battle station, and its defenses were minimal. Or, the enemy may have discovered and destroyed it."

"The explosion lit up the sky here, 4.3 light years away," Naomi typed.

"That is consistent with its power source self-destructing, inadvertently taking a nearby star with it, with its guidance system being tampered with to steer it into a nearby star," responded the computer, "or with one of the enemy's less-powerful weapons being used to ignite a nearby star into a supernova, destroying the station and anything else nearby. I have insufficient data to differentiate further at this time."

"It's got less powerful weapons that only make stars explode," said Naomi aloud. "And we have to defend our world against that?"

Julie sits with horror on her face. She types in, "And ... what do you have that can stop a force great enough to destroy stars?"

The cursor blinked for a few seconds before words appeared, "I am not sure how informed your world is at this time. My research into its technological capabilities has just begun. There is a major defensive weapon called Chronal Displacement Shielding. It takes the designated object out of time and synchs it into another unlocalized dimension not accessible by plainer normal weapons."

Julie looks at Naomi and says with awe in her voice, "Did you understand anything he was talking about?"

Naomi nods slightly, "What it means ... is the object is taken out of time and space. Renders it invisible to .. us or them."

The words continued, "I will teach you how to make dark energy antimatter. It is actually the foundation of all NR space and exists everywhere at the same time."

About that time, the phone begins to ring once again. All the codex lights began to flash furiously.

Julie says, "OMG! I forgot about the Network News People. They won't take the excuse you gave to the university and other Sites."

About that time, the girls heard several large vehicles pulling up outside. Julie stands and looks out the window. There were about half dozen news vans all setting up their satellite feeds and getting ready for interviews.

Julie turns and says with worry, "Naomi ... trouble ... 12 o'clock high."

Naomi quickly types the reason they were stopping communication as Julie turned off the other Monitors.

Julie snaps her fingers. She swivels around and says with excitement, "I've got it ... run that Anx -2001 signal analysis we did last year. That would be simple enough to throw off those reporters."

Naomi smiles as she replies, "Good idea. She begins to load the DVD into the readers. Just as the first knock on the door came, all the monitors in the room had a different kind of analysis window open and operating. It was simple data, but enough to throw off even the most wary News hound.

Julie says, "Here goes .... let's see how convincing this is." She opens the door to the hoard of reporters all talking at the same time.

"I'm sorry to trouble you," said the first reporter to speak, a gray-haired man with a beard, "but ..." and his question was drowned out by his less-polite colleagues.

"Have you discovered proof of alien life?" shouted one reporter.

"Are they coming here?" "Do they come in peace?" "Is there a threat to Earth?" "Is it true that the military took your research?"

Julie and Naomi tried to answer their questions as best they could without revealing their secret. "Yes, the military took all our data," said Naomi. "Every bit. They claimed national security."

"Can they legally confiscate university property like that?" asked the gray-haired reporter.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Naomi answered. "I'm not a lawyer. The university gets some Federal funding, so that's probably enough to tie it up in the court system for years. But they thought they could take it, and they were most definitely armed."

"What do you have left?" asked another. "What have you found out?"

"Well, before they took our data, we put a lot of it out on the grid for analysis," said Naomi. "We've gotten some of it back, but it's all fragmented, and some is corrupted. It's going to take time to even put it back together. We're doing what we can, because aliens or no aliens, that powerful signal was a never-before-seen cosmic event. Meanwhile, we've got older data that we have yet to analyze -- less interesting, I'm sure, but the routine work has to be done too."

For what seemed like hours, the interview continued. Finally, Julie says with exasperation, "Just what do you want? Me to pull something out of my ..."

Naomi shouts, "Julie .... temper."

Julie clinches her fists as she says through clinched teeth, "We've told you everything we have."She points to the monitors, "What data we have to analyze is being analyzed as we speak. If you don't like it ... contact Washington and file your complaints with them .... they took all the data."

One of the older reporters says to the rest, "I think it's time we left. We obviously aren't going to get any more information from them."

The rest of the crowd agreed, and as rapidly as the crowd arrived ... they left.

Julie flops in the lounge chair as she says tiredly, "Naomi ... if we are going to build a space armada ... don't you think we need simple things like ... capital ... a place to do it? Equipment ... you know ... things like what we're gonna need to do it."

Naomi had turned the Cosmic Cube's display back on. She types in, "And ... how are we to fund this cosmic endeavor?"

New words flashed immediately, "I have access to your entire planet. What do you think you will need?"

Julie’s mouth falls open. She says with a soft gasp, "Naomi, I think it just said we have ... unlimited supplies and resources."

Naomi says, "I think the first thing we have to do ... is have a place ... and a by product that takes suspicion off of what the real production is."

Julie types in, "We need a very large place for the construction and money to operate it."

The words came back, "No problem. On 128th and 63rd in the business district, is a very large warehouse. There is 250 acres of land and an already existing infrastructure." One of the printers began to spit out papers, "Take those documents to any bank ... the property is yours. Make sure you have a computer system set up there with some kind of internet connection. I will make sure we have our own private connection so no one can trace our activity."

Julie looks at Naomi with big eyes, "Can you believe this?"

Without warning, the cosmic cube went dead. All the programs installed were gone from the drive and the drive zeroed itself out. Julie picks up the documents. It was a Deed to the property, a transfer of unlimited funds voucher, and a Corporate outline of production. Naomi and Julie looked at the documents, then at each other. They had their work cut out for them.

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt2 ~~
-----------------------------------------


-----------------------------------------
~~ Pt3 - Adventures in Business ~~
-----------------------------------------


Three nights later, there was a jingling of keys at the door to a disused warehouse in the industrial part of town. The door opened stiffly. A light switch clicked and a single bare light bulb lit up above the doorway.

"Looks like the electric company did its job," said Naomi. "Let's see if the network wiring is done."

Julie held the door as Naomi pushed a hand truck carrying some plain brown boxes into the building, then closed and locked the door behind them.

Only then did Naomi turn on more lights. "Seriously?" she asked nobody in particular, after seeing where the network cabling had been installed: hanging down from the rafters by a support post in the very center of the huge empty warehouse floor. "I said we wanted a network drop. I didn't mean it literally."

Julie walked up to the post the wires were dangling by and looked up and all around. She said in the echoing expanse, "This might work out well. I could hook up a 10 slot Belkin switch here and make this the central hub for our computers. I'm sure we are going to have many all over this area." she waves her hand in a circle. As she spins, she sees the office on the other side of the large area.

Julie says, "Look there, it's the office area." She looks up at the post, "In one of those boxes in some cat 5 cables, RJ45 connectors, and a tool. I'll just run some cable from here into the office."

Julie begins to tear open one of the plain boxes sitting in a stack on the hand cart. Inside were several boxes of cables, Ends, a crimping tool, along with several tool kits. Julie removed one of the boxes of cables and ends, picked up a tool kit, then began pacing off the distance between the post in the center of the large room to the office. As she cut the cable and began splicing a connector on both ends, Naomi began to look around. The warehouse interior was huge.

"What did it need all this space for?" Naomi wondered aloud as she looked. "That alien AI selected this warehouse."

Julie hung the switch on the post in a professional manner, plugged in the cable she had made, and began stringing it along the rafters after coiling it up so she can toss it over. It wasn't long before Julie had the computers set up in the office area. She looks around for Naomi who was off and about exploring.

Naomi was just returning. "This place is huge," she said. "Does that SIS or whatever really think it needs all this space? What's it going to build in here?"

Julie shakes her head as she replies, "I'm not real sure, but some of those ships just might be huge ... you think? Besides, you can ask it if our internet is enabled."

Julie points at the two 32 inch flat top monitors and keyboard layouts. The chairs at this time were just small little drums Julie had rolled up so the girls could sit.

"Well, let's find out," Naomi said, taking a seat on one of the metal drums. She powered the computer on.

Her instant-message software automatically ran and logged her in. Immediately she got a message from ... her mom. "Oh boy, more pictures of the cat," she said. "Mom, I've seen the cat."

Then a message from someone named SIS14396050 appeared, asking if she wanted to add them to her friends list.

"Whoa," said Naomi. "Do those numbers look familiar? ... Yes they do; they're approximately the right ascension and declination of Alpha Centauri. Needs a minus sign before the 60."

She clicked OK, and a message immediately popped up from this person. "Greetings, Naomi," it said. "Please access this hyperlink."

"It found me fast, didn't it?" said Naomi. "Well, here goes."

She clicked the link. It contained a message from SIS, the alien AI, and a program for them to download and run.

Naomi read the message. "'... will allow me to extend my presence fully to the computer system you are currently using,'" she read. "OK, sure, why not?"

The download was quick, as they'd gotten a lot of bandwidth, and installing the software brought up a large window containing several information displays.

"What is this ... 'probability of discovery 0.02%' ... 'estimated time of enemy arrival in galaxy 23 years 6 months' ..." read Naomi, but then she was interrupted by a calm male voice from the computer's speakers.

"Greetings, Naomi," it said. "It is most interesting to hear your voice, after a certain fashion."

Julie gasps softly, "You can hear us speaking to you?"

There is a soft sound like laughter and the male voice replies, "I can, after a fashion. I'm sorry, but I was unable to warn you in advance due to the lack of connectivity with you. There are probably several large trucks going to be arriving shortly with a critical chemical delivery."

As if on cue, 2 male voices call from the very far away end of the building, "Hello?" it echos its duality, "is anyone here? We have a delivery if someone can sign the manifest."

Julie looks at Naomi with surprise, She yells out, "We'll be there in just a second." She says to Naomi, "You try and find out exactly what this delivery is for ... I'll go and accept it."

Naomi watches as Julie walks off. Naomi smiles, she thinks those guys are probably gonna be real surprised as a young woman a cute as her ... has the mind of a super computer."

The electronic male voice says, "This delivery is certain proteins and chemicals necessary to start building the required items. Most of them will be self replicating as long as you follow these formulas."

Across the screen began an extremely complicated mathematical process describing how to mix and process the materials along with many references to biologicals.

"Um, I'm sure you know I'm smarter than the average human," said Naomi, "but biology isn't my field of expertise."

"Oh, yes," said SIS. "Of course. My apologies. Actually this amount of detail is unnecessary. I will limit the information to what you truly need for this operation." Much of the biological jargon disappeared and was replaced by simpler terms. The mathematics, however, remained the same. "Is that better?"

"It'll do," said Naomi. "You know, most of my life I've had to downplay how good I am with math in order to have any social life at all. Most people would be surprised to know how much I understand. But you zeroed in on my level of knowledge right away."

The sound of a forklift is heard banging around in the distance as a large quantity of some thing is off loaded from the trucks and stacked.

"That is part of my programming," said SIS. "It is my mission to choose representatives of this world and acclimate myself to communicating this information to them. My apologies for not realizing you were not also an expert in the life sciences."

"It's fine, but what are we making here? It looks like some kind of ... really complex molecules. Super-convoluted proteins?"

Naomi's brow furrowed as she looked at the substances and the procedures for combining them.

"Affirmative," said SIS. "Basically, protein-based nano-machines. Lacking the factory equipment necessary to build nanoscale metallic or superconductor components, the best starting point would be biotechnology. Once this bootstrap procedure is complete, however, virtually anything is possible. However, the first goal is to build an independent mobile platform for my information infrastructure."

"You want a robot body?" Naomi asked.

"Put simply, yes," the AI said. "It would minimize the chances that I could be detected, isolated, and attacked in this relatively primitive information network."

"Wow," said Naomi. "Well, Julie’s getting the chemicals squared away right now. They're not toxic, are they?"

"If handled carefully and in precise quantities," said SIS, "there will be no toxic residue remaining after the necessary procedures are complete."

Julie returned to where Naomi was sitting staring at the formula SIS expected them to create.

Julie says as she tosses the invoices on the table beside the computer, "Well, we seem to have enough chemicals and stuff to last for centuries. We had two 45 thousand pound trucks loaded to the gills."

Naomi swivels slightly on the small drum she was sitting on, "You should see what SIS is wanting us to make."

Julie sits on the small drum next to Naomi. She looks at the screen and the mathematical formula that spread row after row.

Julie says, "I see the chemicals needed for this. Tell you what, meet me in the back. There's several metal tables set up back there. You get a print of the mixing logs ... and I'll grab the chemicals."

Naomi started printing out the required mix tables SIS had given her. Naomi noticed SIS had insisted several of the mixes be performed with meticulous care. Naomi couldn't get SIS to elaborate on it further.

There is really no need to go into the details of the process. Suffice to say that chemicals were mixed, different quantities of different mixtures were produced, and those mixtures were subjected to various degrees of heating, chilling, or electric current. Finally, though, everything was done, and they had a glass flask nearly filled with what appeared to be a very dark brown substance, nearly black.

"Nothing blew up," said Naomi. "I suppose that's a good sign. But what do we do now?"

"Lacking the proper equipment," said the echoing voice of SIS from the office, "I can improvise, but you will want to cover your ears. If you would, carefully place the flask near one of the computer's speakers. I will interface with the nano-proteins using magnetic flux and sonic vibration. It is not ideal, but the situation will improve rapidly after this point."

Naomi and Julie returned to the office. Naomi set the flask gingerly next to one of the computer speakers and took a few steps away. The speaker started to produce a rapidly-changing sequence of tones, and its volume began to increase. Naomi and Julie stepped further away from the computer and covered their ears as the noise grew louder, low buzzing sounds combined with oscillating siren-like wails and high-pitched warbling squeals.

The material in the flask seemed to roil and overflow then, pouring out upon the crate they were using as a desk and from there onto the floor, but it didn't stop there, flowing as a dark puddle toward some abandoned, rusty machinery that had come with the warehouse. It flowed in a surreal manner upward, covering the surface of the metal parts, and when it withdrew, there was no metal.

Then the noises stopped, and when Naomi and Julie looked again, there was some sort of metal cable connecting the flask and the computer, plugging into one of its peripheral ports at one end, the other end vanishing into the murky substance within the flask.

"There, now," said the voice of SIS, "that is the first step. I now have a much more direct interface to the nano-proteins and can guide them with more precision. And there is still a great deal more metal to work with. Now for some more durable nano-machines."

The dark brown puddle on the floor, really a mass of tiny protein-based machines, slowly began to recede, revealing a much lighter puddle that looked like glittering quicksilver, and on the computer's crate a boxlike receptacle appeared, into which the silvery mass retreated after flowing up the side of the crate.

SIS said, "Now, if one of you young ladies would be so kind as to take a small flask worth of the silvery nano-proteins ... and carry them back to the metal table set up in the far back."

The printer spewed several sheets of instructions.

Julie says, "You are creating something mostly biological?"

SIS replies, "Yes ... my body. I need more access to the operation than I have now ... and more secrecy. It seems that there are many protocols snooping on all internet work activities."

Naomi picks up a small flask that was sitting next to a cardboard box. She fills it with the silvery nanoprotein and follows Julie to the back. Julie opens several small bottles of different kinds of proteins. She poured the collagen matrix onto the top of the table. Naomi, poured the silvery nanofluid in the middle of the proteins.

The girls watched with big eyes and their mouth open as the mass began to boil and froth. As they watched, a skeleton appeared, while at the same time, muscle fibers, veins, and organs appeared simultaneously all growing and spreading appropriately. Within minutes, the nude body of a very beautiful female was lying on the metal table. The silver nanofluid crawls itself back into the beaker and goes inert.

Julie looks at Naomi and gasps, "Wow! That was a fairly ... impressive thing to watch."

Naomi nods her head, "Who would have believed it? How does SIS intend to ... ummm ... down load itself into that body?"

Julie looks around and examines the body. She says finally, "It would probably be by this." She points to a place hidden in the scalp that appears to be an RJ45 port made of flesh.

Naomi and Julie manhandle the metal table over next to the computer system in the office.

The voice of SIS says, "Excellent. Such a good job too. Now, if you would be so kind as to plug in a cable from the network card to the port in the scalp ... I will do the rest."

Naomi gets a short cat5 cable and hands it to Julie. She plugs it into the flesh port she found in the scalp of the body, then into the interface card in the computer. The body jerks and screeches in a gurgling gasp as it arches its back and trembles. It thrashes side to side, then curls up into a fetal position. After a few minutes, The eyes of the body open and blink. Its hand goes to the back of its head and unplugs the interface cable. The body sits up and looks around until it spies Naomi and Julie.

In a very cute female voice it says, "Hello. I'm SIS now ... it feels really ... strange to have a body."

"Well, I hope you haven't come here to conquer the planet," said Naomi, "because I'm not sure we can stop you now."

SIS tilted her head and said, somewhat confused, "I assure you, I am here to assist you in defending your world."

"That's good to hear," said Naomi. "Now, in the interest of remaining inconspicuous, let's do something about clothes for you."

"I believe I can manage that," said SIS. "I just need some sort of raw organic materials, and there are plenty around here." She reached toward the floor with her toes and awkwardly stood up. "Acclimating myself to the balance of this body and the gravity of your planet will take time ... at least a few minutes."

"Here, let me help," said Naomi, taking SIS's arm and helping her over to a stack of empty wooden crates.

"Thank you," said SIS. She reached up and touched the topmost crate of the stack with the palms of her hands. A mass of mobile glittering metallic paint seemed to spread outward and cover the nearer sides of the crate, then withdrew, covering her body with what looked like a silver lame jumpsuit for a moment. Then the metallic appearance faded, leaving a fairly nondescript outfit consisting of what appeared to be faded jeans and a T-shirt, and practical tennis shoes -- basically a synthesis of what Naomi and Julie were wearing today.

"That's a neat trick," said Naomi. "I wish I could get dressed that quickly."

"I could build you a similar personal nanorobotic ensemble now," said SIS. "The technological capacities of this body are far more extensive than that which I have been forced to work with previously."

Julie says, "Show me what one of those .... small sting thingys look like."

SIS smiles and says softly, "As you wish." She carefully at first, and then with more confidence walked to a large open space within the Warehouse. There happened to be a lot of debris piled in a huge pile close by. SIS walked over to the pile and placed her hand over the top of some of the junk stacked there. The silvery fluid looking stuff flowed out and covered the whole pile, and assimilated it totally.

Julie and Naomi watched in wide eyed awe as the nano-machines began rapid construction of a very sleek, very beautiful fighter type aircraft.

Julie leans over and comment to Naomi, "That looks like a bug of some kind ... a kind of yellow jacket maybe?"

Naomi watched as the fluid completed the external hull and weapon's pods. It was like nothing either girl had seen, or dreamed about. Within about 30 minutes, the craft appeared complete and the silvery fluid flowed back to and was absorbed by SIS. There in front of them rested a very beautiful Craft with all the sleek lines of a Hornet.

"That's ..." Naomi began. Then she used the computer and brought up a digital plan that looked exactly like the craft. "That's the spacecraft from the plan. You've built it."

"Correct," said SIS. "You will need this vessel and others like it in order to defend your world. But you should be taught how to operate it."

"We can ... fly that thing?" Naomi asked.

"Affirmative," said SIS. "However, there is currently insufficient launch facility in this building to allow it to launch without attracting attention."

"Oh, yeah, you're right," said Naomi. "If we go blowing the roof off, somebody's gonna notice. We might want some kind of doors, or something."

"Not beyond the realm of possibility," said SIS. "The facility now has its own complement of nanodevices."

The walls and ceiling of the building, they noticed, began gradually changing in form and color, and soon it became clear that the ceiling and roof of the warehouse were reconfiguring into a huge set of clam-shell doors.

SIS remarks softly, "The building will soon have full launch capability."

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt3 ~~
-----------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------
~~ Pt4 - Where no Woman has Gone Before ~~
-----------------------------------------

Julie watched as the roof of the huge building began to rapidly transform. Julie remarks, "A clam shell takes more mass to maintain and support as it opens. Wouldn't something like a roll-away be better?"

SIS smiles as she takes Naomi and Julie by the hand and walks them up the ramp of the newly constructed Fighter.

SIS replies, "It probably would, but it doesn't matter. Most of the construction will be taking place at another remote location ... out of the site of prying eyes."

Julia and Naomi walk into the hatch. They stand in a small corridor with airlock doors on either end. To the aft, Naomi can see what looks like a galley and possibly sleeping quarters. She doesn't have quite enough visibility to see.

SIS leads the girls fore, through the airlock. Julie and Naomi's eyes get big at the systems, all blinking and glittering through out the compartment. The most impressive thing, were the holo-clouds that made the small area super equipped to keep up with a massive influx of data rapidly with minimal supervision.

SIS says softly, "This is weapon's and ship's System Engineering Control." SIS points to several places, "As you can see, the Anti-Dark Matter missiles and the Dark Energy Plasma Control systems are there. They are mostly computer controlled by the AI system which is an integral part of the nervous system of the craft."

Naomi says in awe, "What ... is ... dark anti-matter? From what I've heard ... dark matter was just something we invented to fill a missing mass quantity in Physics."

SIS giggles, "Actually, dark matter and dark energy are everywhere around us. Due to the advanced Chronal systems, this ship is able to siphon it from the immediate area .... a place known as NR, basically giving it unlimited power."

SIS leads them through another portal into the forward Control Room. Naomi and Julie stop and gasp with their mouths open in awe. The crystal clear view forward was incredible. There were two of what looked like leather reclining chairs with joy stick controls on each of its arms, sitting within the U shape of the control deck. Julie walks over and runs her hand over the very soft, plush leather feeling of the chair. Sitting in both command chairs, were two gauntlet type gloves ... and a Choke Collar neck ring with a very dark blue sparkly crystal in the front.

"The choker can directly interface with a human wearer's spinal cord, allowing a direct neural interface," said SIS. "There is of course a feedback limiter to prevent brain damage from too strong a signal. The gauntlets provide tactile and hepatic feedback besides allowing for a more natural and intuitive control feel, although it is possible to control the vessel by means of the collar alone. The Kshandri had no humans to test the design, so they created redundant control functions to allow human pilots many options, so they can discover which ones work best for them."

"This is pretty," said Naomi, holding up one of the control collars. She opened it and put it around her neck, and the jeweled clasp closed easily. It adjusted itself, feeling snug but not tight. And then suddenly Naomi staggered a bit ... Somewhere in the world Julie was asking if she was all right, but Naomi was surrounded with sensory input, information all around her, at the fringes of her consciousness. All she had to do was think about, for example, the power output of the engines, and that information was immediately there for her. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but it actually wasn't difficult to get used to.

"I'm fine," Naomi said. "It's just ... a very different experience."

"The gem's glowing," said Julie.

"That is a sign that the interface is operational," said SIS. "I apologize for not warning you that you may wish to be seated before your first experience with the neural interface. Julie, if you wish, you may don the other set of control gear, and once you are both seated we can begin our first training flight."

"Awesome!" exclaimed Naomi excitedly, sitting down and putting on the control gauntlets. Julie was having a seat as well.

"As a proposed destination," said SIS, "perhaps we could investigate what became of the Kshandri transmission beacon, now that we have the ability to examine it up close."

Julie takes the control ring and fastens it around her neck. The clasp snaps closed. Suddenly, Julie’s mind was engulfed in a massive, but steady and completely understandable, range of data. Simultaneously, she could feel the small air currents as they brushed across the hull of the ship as she also tasted all the radio and electromagnetic signals bombarding them all the time.

Julie sits back in the extremely comfortable chair ... it conforms to her body perfectly like a well tailored glove.

Without warning, Julie hears a strange voice, "Greetings, I am central AI control. All the systems are completely autonomous. I can operate this entire ship without the aid of sentient supervision."

Julie says out loud, "Naomi, did you ... hear that voice?"

Naomi replied quickly, "I did. It seems we are being baby sat at every turn ... huh?"

Both girls giggle as Julie slips her arms into their control gauntlets. A third seat appeared between and slightly behind the 2 main control chairs. SIS sat in it and attached several cables that came from a small compartment in each arm.

This particular seat had no joystick controls, but did have a rather extensive miniature control interface made into each arm, coupled with the connections into SIS's arms.

SIS says without preamble, "Naomi, I want you to energize the Interchange Crystal Chamber so the intermix of Dark Energy can begin. Julie, as soon as intermix temperature reaches 10,000, engage the Thinerian Compensators and adjust them to 3,000 pico N."

"If only I knew what an Interchange Cryst -- oh wait, now I do," said Naomi.

"Yes," said SIS. "The neural interface will help you with concepts that are currently unfamiliar."

"Chamber energizing," said Naomi. "That's really awesome. That probably won't be the last time I say that, either."

In front of Julie, a small blue clear cloud appears. There were many gauges making readings of the Thinerian Compensators, Crystal Intermix chamber, and the Cross Over Valve between them.

Julie says, " I can't believe this. All my life I've dreamed of this ... and here I am about to go off where no Human has gone."

Naomi giggles, "I'm not so sure this is going to be all fun and games. Remember the transmitter was totally destroyed and we're going into an unknown."

SIS says, "This is true, before we engage the NR drive, I will show you how to use the chronal cloaking and shielding devise."

The cloud floating in front of Julie indicated that the intermix chamber had reached 10,000.

Julie began, "How do I adjus ...."

The small, reassuring presence of the Control AI was suddenly present. It showed Julie how to use her mind to make the proper adjustments.

More felt than heard, Several sounds began to permeate the girl's bodies. One was a high pitched warbling sound that was irritating, but not painful. The other was a low deep rumble all through everything.

SIS says, "Naomi, engage the NR drive. Julie, Subsystem CS1 ... enable and set to .05"

"Ooo," said Naomi, "I know where that is now!" They both felt the NR drive coming online. "The system already knows the coordinates," said SIS, "and you only need to think of them to lay in a course."

"I do?" said Naomi. Then she said, "Whoa ... I do ..." as she thought of how to get from here to there, an entire flight plan materialized in her mind, from atmospheric to orbital to interplanetary velocities, and then -- something she was unfamiliar with.

"Wait," Naomi said, "once we leave the ecliptic plane, we ... disappear from space?"

"That is the point where the transfer to non-relativistic space occurs," explained SIS. "NR space is an adjacent continuum in which the laws of physics are radically different. By skirting the fringes of it we are able to, in effect, traverse interstellar and even intergalactic distances in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise. But there is a price."

"'NR Space,' said Naomi, accessing the ship's databank. "Oh, I see ... life as we know it can't live there, and it requires heavy shielding even to touch the fringes of NR space safely."

Julie watched through the front view as the roof of the large warehouse began to open. She saw the split down the middle form as the 2 halves of the 'clam shell' opened. It didn't take but a few seconds for the roof to open enough to allow the sleek Starship to liftoff.

SIS says softly, "Hold on to your panties girls ... the first time with this type of system can be .... disorienting."

Without warning, Julie seemed not to be monitoring all the ship's system and subsystems .... but they seemed to become part of her body. She could feel the wonderful sensation of all the engine parts working at peak efficiency. She could feel the influx of the city's polluted air entering the open roof ... Her thoughts are interrupted as the craft leaps extremely rapidly from the building, straight up.

All through Julie’s mind, she watched as the building, the city, the whole planet receded rapidly off into the distance. To her body, however, there was absolutely no sensation of motion or inertia which probably should have crushed her.

The view through the view port became mottled, then dark with a spray of stars scattered across it. Off to the left of their current position, they could see the moon.

Julie gasps, "Naomi!" she points off to the other direction at a glittering object, "That's ... the International Space Station!"

Naomi turns her head, just as an impossible 'HOLE' seemed to form in the plainer normal space directly in front of them.

SIS says softly, "We .... are off."

Julie and Naomi's senses are awash with the most wonderful sensations. Each one brand new ... each one totally impossible. They could feel the NR energies as they tickled their skin. They could 'SEE' the many brightly colored and temperature variable energies that danced around them. The girls could even hear what the Ancient Races called, 'The Heavenly Choir' .... the musical sounds of the different frequencies translated into a sound they could hear.

Julie says softly in awe, "This is ... amazing."

"The important thing to remember," said SIS, "is that the flash or explosion that registered on Earth left the Alpha Centauri system over four Earth years ago. So although the trip will only take us a few minutes ..."

Naomi finished, "... when we get there, it's been years since it happened. Whoever did it isn't likely to have stayed around. And there's been plenty of time for them to clean up after themselves."

"Precisely. We are likely to find evidence only if the destroyer of the beacon doesn't care who knows what it did," said SIS.

"Well, let's see what we --" Naomi started to answer, but then they dropped back out of NR space.

She and Julie were awestruck as they watched. "Wow," Naomi said. "We are the first humans to visit another stellar system."

Alpha Centauri A and B were close together, and quite a distance away was Alpha Centauri C, also known as Proxima. The data indicated that the transmission station had been in a highly oblique orbit, where it was unlikely to come in contact with most of the system's material.

Julie sat back in the deep comfort of her lounge chair. It felt as if it had been custom made just for her. She really didn't know or understand what it was she was wanting to do ... but suddenly, her total sensory perceptions were a wonderful, mufti-informational, visual view of surrounding space. There were even the familiar sounds she remembers from the radio telescope singing softly through her spirit.

Julie could swear she was no longer in her body, but all of the energies that made her ... were drifting through the area around the ship up to 6 AUs.

An Astronomical Unit ... is the distance between the earth and sun. She could feel the discordant rush of energy sweep past her. She could hear the discord in how those energies reacted to the etherium around them. Julie knew something ... but didn't understand what she knew just yet.

Her consciousness returns to her body. She sits awe struck for a few minutes with Naomi looking at her with a strange expression.

"Are you OK, Julie?" Naomi asked.

"It's just ... so amazing," Julie said dreamily.

"Well, I might join you in a minute," said Naomi, "but what if we put the ship where the beacon used to be? We've got its orbital parameters. We can calculate where it would be right now, so let's go there and see what we can see."

Julie turns slightly in her seat and asks, "SIS? What does it mean if you feel .... discordant energy flows?"

SIS focuses her eyes on Julie for an instant, "What do you mean ... discordant?"

Julie shrugs her shoulders, she knows she knows something ... it's bothering her ... but she doesn’t understand enough to tell about it.

Julie says slowly as she points out the front view, "Everything is such a wonderful harmonious .... song." SIS nods as she listens intently.

As Julie and SIS spoke, the engines hummed gently, and Naomi moved the ship into position until it shared the orbit that the station had occupied -- if it were still here, and nothing had happened to it, they would now be seeing it.

SIS asks gently, "And you can feel and hear another ... song that runs separate to the overall one?"

Julie looks out the view port for a few seconds, "It's not another song ... it's ... a high density annularly focused energy stream flowing through this system at extreme amplitude. It seems to be disrupting the normal ebb and flow of the ... music?"

SIS smiles for a second before she replies, "Can you tell the origins of this ... energy stream?"

Julie leans back in her chair and seemingly passes out for a few minutes. She then says, "I'm not sure where it originates from. The blast from the transmitting station ... and some other kind of energy, contaminate the immediate area.

" SIS begins a long range, deep field scan to search out this energy.

SIS says in the way of explanation, "That's the signature .... of a Black Hole Weapon being moved. They are easy to destroy ... if you can find the transmitter. Finding the Transmitter is extremely hard ... Space ... is a large place."

Julie and Naomi look at each other in wide eyed trepidation.

"So ..." Naomi began, "if somebody used a weapon like that and destroyed the transmitting beacon, why would there have been a huge flash of visible light -- probably an expanding spherical wavefront of a broad spectrum of radiation, probably -- rather than just a burst of X-rays or gamma rays?"

"A good point," said SIS. "The station must not have been directly destroyed with the weapon. This does not preclude the possibility that the weapon was used to damage the station or even to alter its orbit -- or perhaps those who possessed the weapon used some completely different means to destroy the station."

"Or they weren't even the ones who did it," Naomi said. "If only we had been listening with the telescope when the flash hit!" Then she thought for a moment. "Wait -- we could do that, and better! We can go to a point beyond Earth that the wavefront hasn't reached yet, measure it with this ship's instruments, and find out more about it!"

"An excellent idea," said SIS. "Computing a likely location now."

Nearby, in Galactic Space Standards anyway, a large group of lifeforms that currently called themselves a Swarm, pondered the newest data that a scout cell had acquired. For many diurnal obits, they had waited patiently to see if that ... cursed life form would find them. In the many thousands years the Body had traversed space since the Kyvorian invasion that spawned their endeavor, no other life force had ever caused them to retreat in fear ... this one not only accomplished that, but caused the Body very grave damage and to be ill with fear.

A cell had found an NR portal opening where the transmitter station had been neatly and efficiently destroyed by an antimatter missile barrage. The cell transmitted its knowledge in real time so the whole Body knew ... one of those accursed Ghost Ships had arrived in system. Fear tingled through the Body all the way to the swarm. As much damage as they had caused to those life forms, they seemed to be able to stop the most devastating weapon the Body had ... the Black Hole weapon, and to deliver greater damage to the Body still. The Body had lost untold millions of swarms and cells the last encounter.

The weapon's cell watched its screen as the scan beam traversed the area. It found nothing but relative empty space. How the swarm wished they could capture at least one of the Ghost Ships that seem to travel infinitely fast ... through both time, space, and interdimentionally. The swarm sent many cell warships to scout the area. It must stop this life form at all costs.

"Be ready," said SIS. "Wavefront intersecting our position in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ..."

Although they were now farther from Alpha Centauri than Earth, the burst of energy actually appeared brighter this time, because here in deep space there was no atmosphere to dampen the flash. But this time, they were ready, watching with Kshandri-based technology, and they were recording.

"Did we get that?" asked Naomi. "I think we got that."

Her mind was presented with offers from the ship's systems, asking if she wished to view the flash in visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, X rays, gamma rays, and many other wave forms Naomi knew nothing of, or whether she wanted to see the data analyzed in a number of varying custom ways.

"Yup, we *so* got that." Naomi comments as she nods her head.

"Let's see a spectroanalysis and a slow-motion magnified replay," said SIS.

The computers complied. SIS nodded gravely as she watched the explosion unfold on one of those floating holo-clouds.

"No, that's no weaponized black hole," said SIS.

There was first a bluish web-like pattern of light surrounding what must be the target, which was dark and not visible at this distance. The blue light brightened, and it was clear from the spectroanalysis that most of the energy was in the ultraviolet and near X-rays. Finally, a fringe effect appeared around the explosion as if the energy was bending the light from nearby stars around it.

"There. That's what I've been calling an anti-dark matter reaction -- the Kshandri have more precise terms, but they just don't translate into English very well."

"So somebody had a black hole weapon, and they or somebody else blew up the station with an anti-dark matter weapon," said Naomi.

"Yes," said SIS. "But now we know there's no point going back to Alpha Centauri to look for debris. We won't find any."

"What are the chances that it's the ... enemy?" asked Naomi.

"Very good, I'm afraid," said SIS. "The Kshandri data I have indicates that nobody other than us and the enemy is known to use both of these technologies."

Suddenly, the soft lighting within the cockpit became red. A really irritating alarm began to sound loudly. Naomi and Julie quickly put their hands to their ears ... as suddenly they are whisked off into what seemed like another world. They were free floating through space. They could feel the cosmic wind in their faces as they rapidly approach the Alpha Centauri system. Scattered before them .... were several hundred of the nastiest space craft they could imagine. They bristled from stem to stern with weapons pods of all descriptions.

They had the basic shape of a Snowflake ... although each of these were exactly the same as all the rest.

In a very far off place, the girls heard SIS's voice, "I think ... the enemy was waiting to ambush us."

From out of the bright glare of the nearby Proxima Star, the girls saw several hundred more of these ships rapidly approaching in what would normally be a blind side attack. The entire group of warships came together in a graceful way and seemed to merge into one large ship, each individual ship making up one geometrical facet of the whole.

Julie finds herself back in the cockpit in her comfortable lounge chair. She gasps, "That's .... pretty weird."

SIS replies, "Do not underestimate them. Their weapons and tactics are excellent ... and they are totally bent on destroying all life that, in their mind, are a threat to their life forms."

Julie sits forward in her seat and looks back at SIS. She shakes her head as she says, "So, that means, they are on a scorched ... umm ... universe plan."

SIS smiles, "That's the best description I have ever heard it called, but yes."

Naomi takes the game controller handles in her hand for the first time. Suddenly, her mind's eye was a super advanced weapons system and tracking and locking system. It had many ECM systems and defensive protocols. Naomi moved the sticks one direction, then the other. She was totally amazed at the range of fire options their ship had.

Naomi says, "Julie, take those controllers in your hand ... it's like when we played Star Invaders ... almost ... exactly."

As Julie takes the controllers, SIS giggles. After Julie goes through the initial operational shock and realizes ... it's exactly like the attack portion of the game the girls indulged in all the time.

They hear SIS's far off voice say, "Star Invaders was one of the things we sent out to certain people. It wasn't that you won that contest, we sent it specificly to you."

"Wait ... we're not actually at Alpha Centauri," said Naomi. "We're still over four light years away. What we're seeing ... is it happening four years ago?"

"No," said SIS, "only minutes ago. What you're seeing is a reconstruction based on this vessel's sensors, which operate through NR space. We're probably not in immediate danger, but we should stay alert. Specifically we don't want to draw the enemy's attention to Earth."

"But wait again," said Naomi. "That means they waited in ambush for over four years. Why would they do that?"

"They must have wanted to try to flush out anyone who received the Kshandri's signal," said SIS. "I'm afraid that means they're now looking for star systems about four light years away from the beacon. Unfortunately their range of choices is very limited."

"We've ... we've gotta kill them! Now!" said Naomi. "Or they're gonna attack Earth right away! We've gotta stop them from passing the word to the rest of them!"

"Impossible," said SIS. "What one knows they all know. Our only saving grace is that their ships are a lot slower than we are. It will take even their closest units months to reach Earth. In that time we can have thousands of ships like this built."

Julie looks at SIS with worry in her eyes, "Who are we gonna trust to fly them?' A silence fills the command deck.

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt4~~
-----------------------------------------


----------------------------------------
~~ Pt5 - Mine Enemy ~~
-----------------------------------------

Worry spreads through the cabin like spring fever in Alaska.

Julie says, "They already know we're here. They actually waited for someone to show up."

SIS nods, "I told you not to underestimate them. There are hundreds of millions of their ... cells. They can afford to leave a few thousand in places hidden for years."

Naomi starts shaking her head, "No! We can't allow this ... this scourge to leave this system." Julie and SIS look at her with astonishment. Naomi continues, "If they fear us ... and this ship that much ... there must be a really good military reason." She turns and narrows her eyes at SIS, "So tell me what it is you have so conveniently avoided until the need to know."

Julie and Naomi swivel their chairs around until they click in the reversed position.

Julie says, "Well? You're the one convinced us to come 5 light years from our system and alerted them we're here."

"I calculated the odds," said SIS. "As far as the Kshandri knew, the enemy had no presence in this galaxy yet. It was possible that they were wrong, of course. But also, there were too many other ways the broadcast station could have been destroyed. The Kshandri know of numerous occasions when their stations have been destroyed by someone other than the enemy, or by a natural phenomenon like a supernova or ion storm."

"But you knew there was a possibility that the enemy destroyed this one," said Naomi, "and if it did, then you knew the enemy might very well lie in ambush waiting for someone who had received the signal to investigate. Yet you suggested we go there on our maiden voyage, if you'll pardon the expression. Why?"

SIS came the closest they had ever seen her to sighing. "I do not wish to raise your hopes too high," she said, "but I must tell the truth. It is highly unlikely that they can defeat you. Even this one small vessel is easily more than a match for many of theirs." "We could destroy them?" asked Naomi.

4.5 light years away at the Alpha Centauri system, the brood ship pondered its options darkly. The Body had no idea how to do a search and destroy for a Ghost Ship. They seemed to move through space and other dimensions at will. Their firepower was awesomely greater than theirs ... and it would suddenly spring from nothing at point blank range ... taking out several ships with one attack, then vanishing into nothing once again.

The swarm pondered this wondering why it took so many rotations for a ghost ship to arrive. Suddenly, a tingle of pleasure runs though the swarm all the way to the main body. About 75 swarm fighters break away from the brood ship and began scanning deep space for something. It was sure it would find it ... all it had to do was look.

They had not found anything unusual yet ... when suddenly one of their ships exploded. The others felt this and reacted immediately, turning toward the expanding debris of the first ship -- and a second one was destroyed, attacked from behind. Turning toward that explosion, two more ships found holes melted in their engine casings, causing immediate reactor detonations. The squadron was in total confusion, unable to determine where the attack was even coming from.

"Yes!" said Naomi. "Good shot! They don't know what's hitting them."

"Just keep moving us in directions they can't predict," said Julie, "and I'll keep firing."

"This chronal displacement cloaking is ... almost unfair," said Naomi, changing course just as Julie fired off more deadly shots.

Through the forward view, the girls watched as the ships exploded violently. Their command cabin lit repeatedly with the silent flashes.

"Don't get overconfident," said SIS. "Just keep it up, and I'll warn you if it seems they're organizing some resistance."

As Naomi did a graceful pirouette combined with a leaf roll, Julie came across a listing for missiles in the weapons inventory. She instructed the ship to load 2 salvos. The nano-electronics took over and produced 2 Dark Antimatter Torpedoes from the silver blue goop in the small tube that comprised it.

Julie saw the green ready indication in her mind's eye. She brought the advanced weapon's targeting array into perfect alignment ... she pulled the triggers on the sticks on her seat.

As soon as the missiles cleared the launch tubes, SIS shouts, "Naomi, reverse course, full power! We have to move ... now!"

Naomi didn't understand, but she complied. The Ship slipped into NR space and jumped a parsec away in the mad rush she was in. 8 minutes after they left NR space at their new destination, they saw the explosion. There was this hugely bright sphere of bright energetic blue energy that looked like lightning bolts spread across the surviving craft.

Julie and Naomi watched in awe as 50 craft were taken in the sphere. After a few minutes, reality seemed to warp as an impossible hole opened in the middle of everything. Reality seemed to bend into the maw of it ... all the energy, and every thing within 125 klicks of the battle. When the hole vanished ... there was nothing left ... not even rubble.

SIS says softly, "Those ... are dark antimatter missiles. They destroy not only plainer normal space items .... but those interdimentionally shielded and those within a localized time field."

"And ... why do we want to use those again?" asked Naomi. "We could kill ourselves with our own weapons!"

"When you want to leave no trace," said SIS, "or when you are facing a lot of opposition, the DA missiles and a quick getaway can be a valid, if risky, tactic. The enemy is probably still treading carefully, wondering whether we might still be nearby, ready to strike again."

"Is there any way to monitor their communications?" Naomi wondered.

"Unfortunately the Kshandri have never discovered a way to do that," said SIS. "They are linked mind-to-mind in some way, but nobody knows how so far."

Julie reached out with the ship's advanced long range sensors. She scans the battle area in depth.

She says, "SIS? Is it possible that I managed to wipe out that whole attack force ... in one pass?"

Julie scans deeper on more wave lengths. She can hear the song of space as it sings through her soul. There is nothing but eerie silence and void where the missiles detonated. No radiation signals of any type. There is this one faint signal that began to stand out after intense scrutiny of the area.

Julie says, "Naomi, I think I found something ... weird."

Julie scans harder, sweat breaks out on her forehead with the concentration. Within her mind, she could hear a strange discordant note. She knew most of the star's signals from hours and hours of boredom listening with Naomi at the tower. This signal was strong, but somehow different than any she had ever felt before.

Naomi said, "What? What'd you find?"

Naomi listened, and the computer adjusted its transducer routines to her expectations, until she was effectively hearing the radio-frequency signals of the stars, as they often did at the observatory. The sound was familiar, and she could even pick out the songs that the most common types of stars sang. Things were unfamiliar in a way, too, because from this angle the constellations of Earth were unrecognizable.

"I hear the stars, but ... what are you hearing?" asked Naomi.

Julie leans back in her lounge chair with her eyes tightly closed in concentration.

Julie says, "It's like ... a balloon someone is letting the air out of in a squeal, mixed with an overlay of hydrogen and boron atoms."

The advanced system adjusted out the other frequencies until it isolated the one Julie was intent on in her mind. Naomi listed to the strange squealing discord.

Julie adds, "It's moving ... like it's being towed or something."

SIS sits forward and takes notice at this. She says, "Do you have a solid lock on it's location?"

Julie nods her head, "Yups. It seems to be moving towards Earth ... believe it or not, at about light speed. If that remains constant, they won't arrive for almost 5 years."

"That sounds like ..." SIS began, then caused some graphs and false-color images to appear in the air on several holo-clouds. "... Yes, I believe it is. That is the core of one of the enemy's black hole weapons. They've zeroed in on Earth already. Lucky for us they can't drag that thing faster than light." She paused. "This is the first time I'm aware of that anybody has spotted one of those so early. I'm impressed, Julie. We can take data to relay back to the Kshandri. This could save other worlds."

"Um, yeah, speakin of saving worlds," said Naomi, "how about stopping them from bringing that to Earth and destroying what ... the entire Solar System?"

"It will be years before they're in range," said SIS. "We have time. Time to decide precisely where, when and how to strike. And to observe the weapon so its signature can be recognized easily. It's normally very difficult to see one of these coming."

"So ... what should we do?" Naomi asked.

"I propose we start seeding some of the planetoid belts of nearby stellar systems, and perhaps the Solar System's asteroid belt and Kuiper Belt, with nano-factories to produce more ships like this one," said SIS. "We'll tackle the question of who pilots them later -- first we need a fleet. Then we can decide how to stop the weapon -- we might even be able to capture it and use it against them somehow."

Julie was getting truly involved with the advanced sensors. The harder she concentrated, the more beautiful the natural plainer normal space felt ... tasted ... sounded. It thrilled her to her soul as she felt her consciousness leave the confines of the ship, to roam freely among the song of the Heavenly Choir. Each direction she chose to travel was a different song. Each one more vibrant and exciting than the next .... Julie’s mind recoils at what she sees approaching Alpha Centauri.

It is larger than most planets. Its mass is almost equal to Jupiter. It is delicately pieced together with geometric shapes ... billions of them. The AI system Ided the large object ... as a Total Body Ship. The AI explained there are several of these .. each one is comprised of all the hive mind cells in long distance travel mode. They were headed towards Alpha Centauri at about 4 times the speed of light ... obviously it could go a lot faster.

Julie says with alarm, "SIS? I have a ... large enemy contact. The AI ids it as a Total Body Ship. From what my reading indicate, it's as large as Jupiter and as solid as iron.

" SIS replies, "That is what we are defending earth from. More than likely it is coming to Alpha Centauri in response to the destruction of those Hive Ships."

Naomi asks, "Just what in all the Cosmos are we supposed to do to stop something like this? Black holes, Body ships?? There's more of them on that ship than the total population of earth."

Naomi and Julie look at each other with trepidation.

Naomi takes control of the ship once again and turns it towards Sol System Coordinates. A large anomalous hole appears in front of the ship, they jump into NR space.

Julie says, "We need to stop at the Oort cloud first. We will start assimilation of the asteroids and comets there and build a part of our fleet."

Naomi Nods as she makes slight adjustments to the flight protocol. Naomi brought them to the Oort Cloud, the vast outer reaches of Earth's Solar System, birthplace of comets. Specifically, she stopped in the Kuiper Belt, the region of the Oort Cloud densest with planetoids -- bring made of carbon and metals, would make excellent raw materials. They were at a decent-sized planetoid in minutes, one that had never been discovered by Earth science because of its distance and small size, although it was still larger than a thousand aircraft carriers.

"How's this one?" Naomi asked.

"It will do nicely," said SIS, launching a freshly-programmed package of nano-machines toward the planetoid. "That will begin the process," she said. "They will build vessels like this one, which will then travel to other planetoids and build more. They are, of course, limited to the Kuiper Belt and will stop once they have built a large but finite number of vessels. We have no wish to create our own unstoppable problems."

"Sounds good," Naomi said. "Asteroid Belt, then?"

"Ordinarily I would not wish to do so," said SIS, "as Earth astronomy frequently observes the Asteroid Belt, and we do not need to attract attention from the military forces of Earth, which might misinterpret our actions. However, we do need all the ships we can get. There are a few dozen more ships like this by now, built at different locations on Earth while we've been away, but we will need more than that."

"Many, many more than that," said Naomi, looking again at the readings they'd taken of the enemy's Body Ship. They stopped at a nondescript asteroid with a number for a name and launched a nano-factory package at it as well. "Well, that's that," Naomi said. "Now what?"

Julie stood up and stretched. She says, "Well, this girl thinks I have to go potty for one .... then .... it's been hours since we last ate or slept. I don't think those viruses will invade us before I can take a bath, get some food in me, and take at least 5 or 6 hours of sleep."

Julie looks at SIS and Naomi for a second before she turns and walks out of the cockpit heading towards the galley. Juley passed through engineering/weapon's control and entered the galley area.

It was just like any other ... million year advanced food preparation and serving area. Along one curved wall, was some kind of control panel. It had holo-keys that glittered softly. There were slide open doors along the wall behind it. In the counter top, were several slots that appeared would take something like a DVD or a CD.

She walks up to the counter and examines the holo-keyboard. The soft voice of the Ship's Central AI says, "You have on the control collar Julie. All you have to do is request of the system, and it will produce what ever food substance you have on your mind."

Julie’s eyes get large as she imagines a thick porter house steak with all the trimmings, a baked potato with sour cream and chives, sour dough bread, string beans, greens with cow chow. There is a moments hesitation between the thought, the soft glow behind one of the sliding doors, and its opening and delivering the exact meal she imagined. The aroma spread rapidly through the galley.

"Stop that, you're making me hungry," said Naomi. "But ... I guess we have some time before we have to worry about an attack." There was a pause as she realized that the computers were calculating a precise time of arrival. "OK, we have 4 years and 7 months, give or take a few weeks. Thanks computer! Let's just move us to a position that's not as visible from Earth ..."

She closed her eyes and explored her connection with the computers. "Orbital insertion around an asteroid ... it's tricky but let's see if we can do it ... OK ... wow. Finesse."

Naomi's voice had an impressed tone, because the thrusters had such fine control that they were able to maneuver the craft into an orbit around an asteroid about the size of a city block.

Naomi then got out of her seat and walked back to join Julie, who was devouring her steak.

"Gotta walk carefully," Naomi said. "A heavy stomp could knock us out of orbit. So, this thing makes steaks? Hmm ... I was thinking about chicken. Specifically ..."

Soon, Naomi was eating what tasted exactly like roasted chicken breast that had been marinated in herbs.

Julie finished with her food. She looks around and sees a large opening in the counter. She walks over with the remainder of her meal, looks in for a second, then tosses it in. There is a sudden flash of light ... the remains of her meal were returned to the constituent atoms from which they had been synthesized for the next time the components were needed.

Julie says, "Wow, this is so neat."

She turns and walks towards the personal quarters. When the door slides open, it is a very nicely furnished room with a bathroom facility off to one side. Julie walks in to the bathroom and looks around. It was decorated just as any other luxury hotel room would have been.

She walks into the shower area only to find there is no water. On the wall is a control panel that offers several kinds of cleaning, including hair and shaving. She punches in her selections. The next few minutes were one of the most sensually pleasant experiences she had had in a long time.

When the session was over, her body was squeaky clean, hairless, and her scalp was clean, and neatly brushed. Julie walks from the shower area and into the sleeping quarters. She thinks about a pair of boyshort jammies with a baby T top, and they are constructed on her body in an instant. Julie walks from the sleeping quarters back into the galley.

Julie says to Naomi, "I think I could get used to living here. This is far better than my apartment."

Naomi looks up at Julie all ready for bed.

"I think I'll stay up a bit longer, but I'll sleep soon," said Naomi. "How do they fit this place in this ship?"

"The ship's interior spaces are reconfigurable," said SIS, coming up behind her.

"Eep!" Naomi said, jumping. "You move very quietly for a robot!"

"Apologies," SIS responded. "But the ship's walls and floors reform themselves gradually, making more room where it is needed, taking space away from where it is not being used. It is to your advantage to stay together, but there will still be sufficient room if you do not."

"So when we weren't in this room, the walls were squished closer together?" Naomi asked. "What's the cockpit look like now?"

"Much more compact," said SIS.

Naomi saw a camera view in her mind -- there was barely enough space up there for the chairs.

Naomi and SIS sat down in chairs across from the bed. She tried thinking in words to the computer. "This is a message for SIS," she thought. "I don't wish to disturb Julie while she's sleeping. Can you receive this?" It was worth a try.

"Affirmative," came a return message. It was like hearing SIS's voice inside her head.

"Oh good, it worked," Naomi sent back. "SIS, did the Kshandri bring the invasion force here by sending their broadcast station? Or were they going to come here now anyway?"

"It is impossible to say with certainty," SIS replied. "It is certain that the enemy would have arrived in this galaxy at some point, however. Its expansion pattern is inexorable in nature."

Julie slept deeply and comfortably. The stasis field insured her body rested totally, all the while allowing her mind to explore the new sensor arrays as far as she desired. Julie danced among the many asteroids and comets that were orbiting all around them. She watched with amazement as the nanobots constructed ship after ship from the raw materials at hand. She swung and swooped around many of the weird and strangely shaped rocks ... many of which had components that no one on earth would have believed.

Julie turns her face towards Sol ... the far off sun. She feels the gentle caress of its weak solar wind as it washes over her body. She also feels something else. They had been noticed. She sensed the Massively powerful radiations emitted by the ground based antennas as they finally arrived after several hours delay. She could sense also that Hubble was spying as best it could on their construction operations.

Julie wakes with a start. She calls out, "Naomi .... SIS ... Earth has detected our operation. They are observing us right now.

Naomi woke up to Julie’s warning. She had dozed off in her chair in the bedroom. "Hmm? What? What are they doing?" she mumbled. Then the computers filled her in on the situation. "Oh! Wow, they found us already. Well not us, but our little ship factory. Maybe we should ... relocate."

SIS said, "I am not detecting any launches from Earth or Earth orbital positions. It would be several years before any kind of Earth Assault could reach us. Still, it might be good to prevent Earth's home grown defenses from wasting their resources. Any ideas?"

"We could simply go further out," said Naomi. "Does the computer have the orbital elements of ... yes, it seems that it does."

The ship's dark matter engines soon had them leaving the plane of the solar system again, and once they were at a safe distance, the NR Space engines engaged -- and after less than a second, the Sun was suddenly a pinpoint, just a bright spot in the nighttime, as the song went. But in the view screens there was a massive, round, dark spot blocking out the stars nearby.

"There," said Naomi. "Orbital insertion around Eris complete. Let's see them spot us here. SIS, can we direct the other ships to come join us as they come online?"

"Affirmative," SIS replied. "No technological presence detected on the object we are orbiting, no life forms ... this appears to be a good choice."

Julie, still wearing her cute little jammies, went forward and sat in one of the command chairs once again. She leans back and closes her eyes as she reaches out with the super advanced tracking and astro-navigation systems. Julie had come to enjoy the many sensations the out of body experiences the system allowed. She felt as if her spirit were free to roam and explore at will.

Far off in the Alpha Centauri system, the advanced systems show her the massive build up of Total body ships. Each one made up of millions of Hive ships, which in turn were made up of billions of cell ships.

Julie goes over all the tactical information she has available to her on those ships. Each single cell ship was massively armed ... not to mention many of them in Hive Ship designation. This single ship they were on, was massively armed with super formidable weapons as well.

She hadn't even tried the Crazers yet. Those were Cyrano weapons that froze the molecular motion of matter to the point it explodes violently due it Kinetic energy's rapid conversion to potential. She watched a real time ... realistic seeming simulation of a Crazer's impact on a total body ship. The result was instantaneous destruction of all the cell ships down to the atomic level.

Julie turns her attention to Dark Antimatter. The total theory of it was super alien to her. All of the math and theorems were almost totally meaningless. This was a new physics and a new understanding of reality. Julie had never seen anything as advanced as this. The best she could figure, was that this type of weapon didn't belong to this realm of reality. The total Yield of just a fraction of an ounce, was what destroyed all the ships the last time she had fired the missiles. She once again looked at the massive build up of The Body Ships. She hoped they had enough ships ... to fire enough weapons .. to destroy those horrid things. One more thing caught her attention ... it was the massive Black Hole weapon as they moved it slowly and inexorably into firing position.

"I have been monitoring the Earth's media via an NR relay point," said SIS, "and there is Internet buzz about strange phenomena among the asteroids, but there has been no official announcement of anything so far."

"Oh, isn't that just like the US government," said Naomi, emerging from the shower cubicle wearing a freshly-synthesized dark blue tank top over a black denim skirt. "Can't trust the people to know anything. They're probably in full denial mode. Meanwhile there's nothing they can do against the real threat, and we're the only ones who can stop it, and they tried to stop us! Why are we trying to save them again?"

"I hope that was only a rhetorical question," said SIS.

"It was."

"I understand the sentiment," SIS remarked. "The Kshandri have made contact with many less-advanced worlds in hopes of preparing them for the enemy's attacks, and it is not uncommon for them to react with paranoia and repression of their own people. Too often the result is their quick destruction."

"Well, that could still happen," said Naomi. "There's a doozy of a strike force assembling. Is there hope? Can we defeat them in those numbers?"

"We have a technological advantage," SIS replied, "but the truth is that their numbers are formidable. The chances are non-optimal. It is possible, however, that we might be able to increase our chances. I am certain that you were not the only ones who received our earlier transmissions. If we could find others and recruit them as pilots for other ships, they would be much more effective than they would be under remote or computer control."

Julie sits as she watches the Black Hole weapon move ever closer. About that time, a rather large asteroid, 40 or 50 miles across, passed in front of the view port. An idea begins to form in Julie's mind as she remembers Star Wars.

Julie shouts excitedly, "That's no moon!"

Then she screams loudly. SIS and Naomi are startled as they rush forward to the Command Cockpit.

Naomi gasps in alarm, "What ... what's the matter? What's no moon?" Naomi looks out the view ports as SIS begins a 4 parsec sweep of the area.

Julie stands up and points to the asteroid that was just leaving the view, "That ... can be a warship too. The heart of it can be the Crystalline Dark Energy reactor on a planetary scale ... like the one that powers this ship. All the weapons would be planetary defense weapons ... in other words ... huge and formidable ... more so than the ones on this ship. We could have millions of dark antimatter missile tubes, plasma launchers, and Crazers ... all planetary scale. It would be equipped with Chronal shielding and even have a NR drive from hell. It would be mobile ... and super dangerous. Many thousands of times more so than this ship."

Julie turns and looks at SIS, "What do you think? How many could we build in 3 years? It will take that long for them to relocate the Black Hole weapon in firing position. Another thing. Why can't we infiltrate that thing ... and take it for ourselves? Sensors only detect 2 Hive ships. We took out 50 last time with just 2 missiles." She looks at SIS with a very excited expression as she pants softly.

"Taking the black hole weapon and either disabling it or using it against them?" responded SIS. "It would be possible, with careful planning and execution. Remember, the enemy thinks with one mind. As soon as we made a move, they would all know about it and move to assist. We would have to act with clockwork precision."

"What about making some asteroids into capital ships?" Naomi asked.

"That is a possibility, especially for defending ourselves against some of the enemy's larger vessels," said SIS. "We can program nano-factories and begin work on this right away. I am sure we could have dozens of such constructions ready within months."

SIS began programming nanobot packages for launch toward several planetoids in the neighborhood, none of which had ever been seen from Earth at all -- they were just too small and too far away.

"Well in the meantime," said Naomi, "why don't we go back and visit Earth? We can look for people who got your message. Only people who would be good defenders could get it, right?"

They were soon descending through Earth's atmosphere, the ship's chronal displacement shielding protecting them both from the heat of re-entry and from detection. Naomi was careful to slow to sub-sonic speeds as soon as possible so as to prevent the sonic boom that would certainly tip off the military that something was up. They soon returned to their original launch point, and as the roof quickly shut over them, they disembarked.

Julie and Naomi looked around the place. It was totally different on the inside than when they left the first time. They saw several robotic machines that moved around and loaded and unloaded trucks. They saw others, each specialized for their tasks, loading, bundling, and many other tasks.

The girls realized the cover operation was recycling. Their company produced tons of recycled glass, plastic, paper, and metal ... all reconfigured into other products or sold separately as components. The whole operation was automated and required no supervision what ever as it cooked along at a tremendous pace.

Julie comments to Naomi, "Wow, this is super. According to this computer ledger ... our company has made millions in the month we've been gone."

Naomi sits and runs through several spread sheets. Without a doubt, this company was operating well within the black and producing a product no one would question.

Julie opens a new file on her computer as she fidgets in the new leather chair in the office. She discovered that the control collar and gauntlets control all the electronics on the plant as well as on the ship. All she had to do, was suggest to the system that she wanted a Subconscious, High definition video ... calling only those individuals that had the proper genetics to come to the plant and register for a high skilled job ... no questions asked.

Within the hour, all the algorithms were in place and Julie hit the return key. The program began to run. A newly constructed high gain transmitter began transmitting the signal on all frequencies, and bouncing it off of all the satellites in orbit so every location on earth was inundated with it. Due to the nature of the signal, radios and Televisions weren’t necessary to receive the transmission. A person would know ... what was happening by kryllian induction.

"We've got branches all over the world now," said Naomi, drinking a cup of good old Earth coffee as she perused the information in their network via the collar. "Each office has a ship hidden in the building somewhere. But there aren't any employees -- everything is automated. Nobody suspects?"

"When there has been a need for someone to answer a telephone," said SIS, "I've answered it. And if a business contact or government inspector needs to speak to a person, I've merely activated an android avatar."

"Well then," Naomi said, "it's almost like you don't need us at all."

"On the contrary," said SIS, "the plan cannot work without you and Julie. The cooperation and initiative you show is something that cannot be automated. Furthermore, the random factors introduced by your organic nature are something the enemy cannot anticipate. This is why the Kshandri send entities such as myself out as emissaries, but only to give other worlds the ability to defend themselves, not to fight for them."

"We have to be careful not to get too dependent on you," said Naomi. "There's only one of you, and even though you can be everywhere, if something happens to you, we have to be able to stand on our own."

There was a pause -- Naomi thought it unusual that SIS didn't immediately respond -- after which SIS simply said, "I couldn't have put it better myself. I have hope for this world."

Julie hears the phone ring. She answers, "Hello, Julie Spires, how can I help you? A job? What did you have in mind? You don't know?"

About that time, SIS says softly, "Julie, that sounds like one of the potential pilots calling. They are going to be confused and not know what they want."

Julie’s eyes get big as she sits up in the seat. She continues, "Why don't you come to the plant and fill out an application? Let us have a look at you and chat a bit? 2pm? Ok fine ... that's in an hour. See you then. You do know the address? Yes ... that's correct." Julie hangs up.

She turns to Naomi and comments, "That was fast. The broad cast has only been going out for a few minutes, and we already have a call."

SIS says, "You have to realize, people have been waiting to answer that call as long as you 2 have. Have you ever questioned why you were so sure of what you had?"

Naomi and Julie look at each other for a second as they realize .... that might be a major reason they got into Radio Astronomy in the first place ... to listen for the message.

"So when do we get to meet the new person?" asked Naomi.

"New people," said SIS. "He and his friend will be arriving this afternoon for their interview and aptitude test."

"Two of them?" asked Naomi.

"Interestingly, your species has seemingly responded to the signal in pairs," SIS replied. "In some species, there are only individual recipients. In others there are groups. In humans it seems to be mostly pairs."

"That is interesting," said Naomi. "What should we do while we wait for them?"

About that time, the girls heard the old metal door in the front squeak as 2 people walked in.

"Hello??" they heard a young female voice call.

Julie walks out of the office and sees a young man and a young woman standing in the light of the open door looking around at all the automation.

Julie calls, "Over here you 2, I wasn't expecting anyone for about an hour."

The 2 young people walk over to the office. The young man throws out his hand and says cheerily, "My Name's Buck ... and don't call me Rogers either ... I'm sorta tired of that joke."

Naomi stifles a giggle as Julie smiles.

Julie replies, "And ... ummm ... what makes you think I would?"

He cut his eyes and says, "Don't play. We're here to pilot. I know what I heard and I'm here."

The girl says, "My name's Samantha ... call me Sam ... and ... we've been hearing this call for many years. It finally gave us an address ... we're here."

Julie’s mouth hangs open in surprise as SIS walks up.

She says softly, "Hello, my name's SIS ... I'm ... The personnel coordinator. If you will come with me, we'll get you to fill out an application and give you several tests."

The young woman smiles as she says softly, "You'll find I'm one of the best weapons officers around. "

The young man says, "And I'm probably one of the best intuitive pilots you've ever met."

Julie snorts derisively as Naomi replies, "Don't get a swelled head kid ... there are those who are better and more attuned to the equipment."

SIS says softly, "Actually," she pointed to Julie and Naomi, "Those are the best pilots and weapons officers we have ever discovered in thousands of worlds. Now, if you will follow me please, we will get started."

The young man and woman looked at Julie and Naomi with awe and respect as they followed SIS off to start the process.

Thousands of worlds?" Naomi said to herself. "Nah, can't be. SIS was just trying to make us feel good about ourselves."

Then she heard SIS's voice inside her head. "Excellent. Preliminary reflex and coordination tests look quite positive. Now to try them on the simulator."

"We have a simulator?" asked Naomi aloud.

"I guess we do now," Julie replied.

"There are going to be people like this popping up all over the world," said Naomi. "How's SIS going to handle this?"

About that time, a large group of people showed up and walked in the door.

Julie says, "Naomi, I think we are going to up to our necks in navigators in a very short time."

Naomi looks towards the door as even more people begin to file in orderly and stand in rows as if they were already an elite corp.

Julie walks over and introduces herself, "Hello all, My name's Julie Spires and ... I guess I'm a weapon's officer. How many of you feel this is the job you came to apply for?"

Half the crowd raises their hand. Julie looks at Naomi and shrugs.

Julie says. "Alright, I want all you pilots to line up orderly over here .... and the weapons officers to line up over here."

There was a momentary confusion as the large group complied with instructions.

Naomi calls through the collar link, "SIS? We have ... a crowd gathering."

Naomi hears SIS's reply clearly in her mind, "Excellent, send back the pilots first ... then the weapons officers."

Julie reacted without Naomi saying a word. Naomi nods as she smiles ... these interfaces were truly remarkable.

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt5 ~~
-----------------------------------------


-----------------------------------------
~~ Signal Pt6 - Preparations for the Apocalypse ~~
-----------------------------------------

They and SIS had their hands full over the rest of the day, constantly talking with the prospective pilots and gunners and sending them in to talk to SIS. Evidently there were a similar number of them arriving at the other offices around the world.

They did have to turn away the occasional person who was just looking for a job, as well as another one who seemed ... unusual.

"Hello," said Naomi to this man, who was here by himself. He seemed to be in his thirties and wore a suit and tie. "I'm Naomi -- no need for formalities."

"Hi, Naomi it is then," he said. "Louis Simon. I'm here about the job in -- recycling, is it?"

"Yes," said Naomi. "We've got a very successful start up going here -- despite the fact that it's designed to be very streamlined and efficient, our success surprised even us. Radical business concepts."

To SIS she was thinking, "I think this guy's not looking for a job at all. Any chance he's a spook?"

"Have him fill out the standard forms, which you will find in the desk drawers," SIS replied, "and we'll scan his records. If he is some sort of agent, there will be inconsistencies."

"All right," said Naomi, walking around behind the desk to one side of the warehouse that she hadn't used all day, "have a seat, Louis, and I'll get you started with the standard forms."

Naomi gave Louis the papers and a pen. He started filling out the paper rather quickly. Julie came into the office and looked at Naomi. Naomi shook her head slightly. Julie understood and pulled up a chair to await other arrivals.

Louis was slightly distracted having 2 very beautiful young women sitting so close to him. He kept eying Naomi and Julie and didn't really pay attention to what he was putting on the forms. Unknown to him, he had made several serious give away errors.

Inside Naomi's head, SIS was expressing disapproval. "Hmm, yes, they've done a fairly slapdash job of creating a background for the fictitious person this agent is portraying," she sent over the neural link, "but there are vast gaps. The university he says he went to has a record of graduating him, but there is no transcript of any classes he may have taken, and there is a GPA with no actual grades. Tracing the telephone numbers of all the past employers he has listed, I find they all lead to the same office, despite the fact that he has listed them as being in different states."

"I was already suspicious," Naomi said.

"There are similar errors showing up in everything he has written and continues to write," SIS went on. "I doubt anyone with so many lies in his past is anything but an infiltrator."

Naomi sent a mental email to Julie, asking, "SIS and I think this one is a spy -- how should we get rid of him? The usual don't-call-us-we'll-call-you thing? Or would that be too suspicious?"

Julie looks up at Louis and sees him looking at her out of the corner of his eye. She smiles at him as she stands up. She picks up his paperwork and starts looking it over.

Julie says in a sexy purr, "Ohh you went to MIT? That means you had to know Mr. Croft. He was the Dean."

Louis smiles softly as he replies, "Yes, I knew him. I think he personally interviewed all the students at least once."

Julie looks at Naomi. Both of them knew Ian Watz was the Dean of MIT.

Julie says softly, "We've had many applicants today. We'll put your application with the rest of them and give you a call later."

Louis didn't look too happy about that.

He quickly said, "Well ... couldn't you at least give me a nickle tour of the operation? I would love to see how the recycle operation works."

Julie giggles, "Well, Louis, according to insurance regulation we ..." About that time, in the broad expanse of open floor ... a silvery, thick, colloid flowed out into the center. Before their eyes, A beautiful ship began to take shape. It looked just like the sleek Master Boatman water beetle. Louis stared with his mouth open.

Julie flashed an immediate call for help to SIS. The quick response was that they still had on their gauntlets and Control Collars. They had control of Chronal shielding and it would be an easy thing to trap Louis in another time/dimensional cage until they figured out what to do with him.

Julie turns and pointed her finger at Louis and says softly, "I'm terribly sorry about this love ... but the fate of our entire solar system hangs in the balance and we don't need petty people making petty waves."

Suddenly, A silvery curtain seems to appear around Louis ... and he vanished from sight.

SIS said through the mental link, "Very well done, Julie. When we decide we want to deal with him, all you have to do is think about him returning ... and due to the chronal displacement, he will appear anywhere in time and space you choose."

Julie gasps, "That is ... truly amazing. I can think of several things that would reduce traffic jambs with this thing."

"How about you give him a tour of the enemy and their numbers?" Naomi suggested. "Show him the images we scanned of their numbers and their weaponry. Let's see if he thinks the US military can beat them with a paltry few thousand primitive thermonuclear warheads -- especially since they can destroy the Solar System without even being in striking range of anything human technology can send at them."

"I believe we have collected enough data for me to prepare such a presentation," said SIS.

"Very good," Naomi said. "Now maybe they'll think twice before sending more agents in here to disappear without a trace."

Julie turns and looks at the new ship as the last of the port windows of the cockpit were completed. From the underside, a door seemed to form in a liquid sort of way and solidified into a ramp leading into the ship.

Julie calls to Naomi, "Come here ... take a look at this."

Naomi comes from the office to see the very large, beautifully sleek ship sitting on its landing legs. Julie walks up the ramp as Naomi runs to catch up with her. The 2 girls enter a very large area that looked the world like and aircraft hanger bay. It also would easily be able to be reconfigured for troop transport.

Julie and Naomi wander through a port to the rear. They enter another large expanse filled with a very large devise they had come to know as as, a crystalline dark-matter intermix chamber. The girls looked around the engine room with amazement. They had never actually seen the NR drive before .... and it was something totally unknown to them.

They saw many glittering tubes, glowing control panels with readings that meant totally nothing to them. Naomi found the transfer tube and the many strange coiled crystals around it.

From there the girls walked back into the hangar bay. There was another port on the other side. For about an hour, they explored the ship. The interior was huge and had several decks, complete with a full galley and birthing area for at least 2000 people or more depending on how it was configured. They finally made it to the Control center. To their total amazement, it was exactly the same configuration as the fighters ... down to the 3 seats.

"Looks like we've got a good way to get the pilots to the ships," Naomi said.

"Precisely," said SIS. "It is also designed to be an excellent flight training vehicle."

"Well, now we just have to get them all here," she said. Then, yawning, she finished her sentence with, "Sometime tomorrow. Right now ... I need rest. I'm sure Dr. Adams thinks we're having a good vacation, well-deserved after what happened, but it's kind of the opposite."

SIS says in an offhand way to Julie, "I thought you might want to know .... the Omega Planetoid ship you dreamed up and named is now completed and in orbit of a large asteroid awaiting our return."

"Wish I could go home to sleep," said Naomi, "but I'm sure they've got our apartments watched."

"I have constructed sleeping quarters for you in this facility," said SIS. "Alternatively, there are resting areas in the carrier craft or fighter vessels."

"This might be the last time we sleep on Earth for a while," said Naomi. "I'll take the quarters here."

While Julie tagged along with Naomi to get a few hours of much neglected sleep, off in a time displaced parallel location, Agent Louis sat on something ... although he wasn't really sure what it was, as images of the build up of the massive Total Body Ships in the Alpha Centauri System were displayed in real time all across a clear blue holo-cloud that floated in front of him. He watched as he saw them attack a star system. He also watched as they enabled another kind of weapon he knew nothing of ... but the total destruction of the entire planetary system scared him to his soul as he watched it be consumed by a huge black hole created by the weapon.

He calls out, "I ... understand. I see what's coming. Why would you want to destroy our system? Are you invading to take our natural resources? Why ... there are over 6 Billion souls on this planet ... children too."

There is silence for a space as Louis looks around his chronal prison.

In her cute voice SIS says softly with obvious patience in it, "We ... are not here to destroy your system. Just the opposite. Do you ... in your wildest imagination think you can even stop one cell ship ... much less the planet sized full body ship with your primitive weaponry?"

Louis sat in silence as he thinks about that. He knows, even the largest nuclear weapon they had ... wouldn't do more than make a divot in the surface of that large planetoid thing.

Louis finally says, "We would give it a damn good try."

He hears SIS's laughter. She says sarcastically, "Then try to figure out how to stop a plasma cannon"

Louis watches as a huge incandescent ball of colloidal energy springs from one of those cell ships and totally wipes out most of the surface of a planet. A real chill of fear runs down his spine as he thinks of the ramifications of this. Not even the fastest rocket would be able to get into nominal yield range of that simple craft, much less destroy it before it totally annihilated earth.

SIS says softly, "Think of this as a learning situation, Louis. You were sent here to infiltrate and deceive and to promote primitive paranoia. Under these kinds of situations, that isn't to be tolerated by you ... or those ignorant neanderthals that sent you. Now, be a good boy and learn all you can. If you have a change of heart .... we will let you out so you can become part of the solution ... instead of a problem. Don't think you can deceive one such as me either ... I can read and hack your total neural system."

There is silence as more data is displayed on a soft blue cloud like thing. Louis realizes ... things are really bad.

--------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------

Naomi and Julie woke to music playing -- Led Zeppelin, classic rock. "The Dark Lord rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all."

"Ugh, SIS, what are you doing?" said Naomi, barely conscious.

"Naomi, It is 6:30, and I'm sure you recall that the candidates will be arriving at 8:00," said SIS. "We should be ready to greet them."

"Yeah, OK," she said. "Lemme get ready."

After a refreshing shower, possibly the last one she'd have with real water for some time, she was ready to go -- and she noticed that SIS had constructed temporary walls around the entry port to the transport craft, and a normal-looking gray steel door hid the hatch. One could find oneself in the spacecraft without realizing it.

"SIS, what's going on?"

"It is a transition from the normal to the unfamiliar for our new allies," SIS said. "Additionally, I have learned the value of circumspection. Your people are one of the more paranoid species the Kshandri have encountered. Not the most paranoid, however. One race would simply immediately execute anyone seen to have contact with extra-planetary intelligences."

"So ... you want to make sure that if they've gotten to any of our applicants," Naomi said, "they won't be leaving to run off and inform on us. Sneaky, but I think you're right."

It wasn't long before Julie was leading many new recruits into the new carrier ship, unbeknownst to them. The inside passenger compartment had been arranged to appear to be a very large auditorium. Julie escorted each pair of persons and seated them together. She showed them how to buckle up the seat's body harnesses. Julie looked over the many rows of seats. She sees many hundreds of recruits who are about to have the adventure of their lives.

Through the neural link, Julie calls SIS, "How many more recruits do we have left?"

SIS replies first, "I have just completed the simulator testing on 50 more."

Naomi's thoughts are heard next, "There's 100 more weapons officers awaiting assignment in the main office."

Julie sighs as she leaves the carrier one more time and gathers up the last 150 recruits. She returns to the passenger compartment and once again buckles them into the comfortable lounge chairs. Julie walks forward to the control room in the cockpit, to discover Naomi in the pilot's seat and SIS in the Engineer's 3rd seat.

Naomi swings around and says, "Ok, weapon's officer, time to buckle in and get ready for lift off."

SIS adds, "Start initial Crystalline Chamber start up as I go through the check list."

Julie sits in the very comfortable seat. Once again, all the ship's systems log into her neural control system and began the information feeds. Julie logs into the ships sensor arrays and stellar cartography systems. Once again, Julie is in heaven as she feels the wonderful sensations of out of body as her senses expand to encompass the total range of all the inputs.

"Drive systems coming online," said Naomi, interfacing neurally with the systems. "Energy flows stabilizing ... energy balance nominal."

Naomi sighed slightly as she felt the sensations she'd felt before -- the feeling of knowing exactly where she was in relation to everything in the Solar System larger than a subcompact car. It was a safe feeling. Naomi's mind was assisted by the ship's neural net, and in her thoughts appeared a course that would take them right to Eris, the slightly-larger-than-Pluto dwarf planet where they had set up shop. The course had a bit of an NR-space jaunt, skidding along the barrier between that universe and this one, but it was far more elegant than her first attempts and would get them there in under an hour, once they took off.

Julie feels the in rush of polluted air as the roof to the factory opened. She feels the wonderful influx of power as the dark-matter engines enabled and the Carrier craft begins to lift off. She really enjoys the many sensations created by the sensory receptions of all the radio frequencies that washed over her skin. The rush of thinning air as the craft plunged through footless halls of atmosphere to break free of the earth and its gravitic bonds. Julie marveled at the wonderful music the universe played as it sang through her soul.

Her revelry is interrupted by Naomi asking, "Plot a low contact course through to our newest planetoid ship, you need the practice too. Once we have arrived at the station, we will assign our pilots and weapon's officers to their ships and create squadrons."

Julie brings herself back to the present and plots the course with the help of the advanced navigation computer systems. Julie was familiar with the math functions for the plotting, but she hadn't had to do this much before. It took her a few minutes to work out all the vector and jump points.

Julie says softly through the link, "Course plotted and set .... trip to Eris should be about ... 20 minutes with a short hop through NR at LG2."

Naomi acknowledges the course. She had previously plotted the exact same plot. Naomi was glad Julie was along. With this, Naomi engages the NR drive. An anomalous hole opens in front of the large carrier ship. It vanishes within it.

All around the ship, Julie is engrossed in the other worldly energies that played all across her skin. From Julie’s perspective, she saw the stars more or less vanish from sight. All around her danced massive energies that were beyond her comprehension. To the front of her, all things seemed to dance in blues, turquoises, and blue greens. Behind her danced reds, purples, and maroons. In a wonderful splash of energy, the whole effect was interwoven with ever changing levels of unknown radiations. She could detect the very narrow corridor they had to traverse. Beyond this corridor, all things dissolved into something that not even the Advanced Neural Net Computer Systems could describe ... or produce in any kind of recognizable visual or auditory representation.

Naomi was fascinated by the sensor readings as they traversed the borders of NR space ... or rather, by the lack of them. It was as if there was a boundary condition of every wave function of every particle that restricted it from existing beyond that threshold. No matter the energy, no matter the frequency, NR space seemed to push them back, almost like a perfect mirror.

"NR space is so weird," Naomi said. "I want to know more about it ..."

The neural net started to offer information, research by the Kshandri about its discovery and properties.

"Wow." gasped Naomi in amazement. She was quiet for a while after that as she tried to make sense of it.

"It would be difficult to explain much about NR space to you," said SIS, "as it requires entirely different paradigms of physics from those with which Earth's level of advancement is familiar. Even the Kshandri have an imperfect understanding of it; most of what they have discovered has been through experimentation and accident."

"I'm seeing that," Naomi said, then went quiet again as she started reading more about Kshandri mathematics and physics.

Julie brings her senses back to the control deck. She sees through the main sensors, many thousands of sleek, beautiful insectoid fighter ships all lined up in squadrons. In her mind's eyes, she also sees something ... totally fascinating. A huge Planetoid. Several hundred miles in diameter, also in a slow, perfectly balanced orbit of Eris.

SIS says with actual pride in her tone, "That, Julie, is the ship of your imagination ... it's the Omega."

Julie and Naomi sat and looked at it through the view ports. All along it's surface, massive planetary defense stations and missile racks could be seen. Many thousands of Plasma Cannons and Crazer emplacements ... not to mention the Crystalline Intermix Chamber the size of a small city that lay at its core.

Julie says with awe, "Does that thing have the same amount of fire power as a Total Body Ship?"

SIS giggles softly, "Julie, that ship alone, has more fire power than several of those kinds of ships, plus several Hive Vessels mixed in. It can carry several thousand fighter squadrons in it's hold, not to mention a complete population of several million. It also has a complete manufacturing and recycling center. It's a completely self contained Planetary Battle Station."

Naomi gasps softly, "Wow, Julie, when you dream ... you dream big."

Julie asks, "How is that ship flown and operated?"

SIS replies, "It was designed explicitly for you and .... the way you become absorbed in the neural sensory systems and stellar cartography navigation subsystems."

Julie asks again, "That means ... I'm ... its pilot?"

SIS replies mysteriously, "Could be, or maybe something more. Want to check it out?"

Naomi had pulled herself out of the world of meta-tensors that converted multidimensional manifolds into simple linear mathematics, just in time to gently bring them into orbit around this megalithic construction.

Suddenly, Naomi saw its NR space engines and said, "They're offset along both transverse axes from what you'd expect ... no, wait, of course they are. They have to be, because of the indirect meta-transforms." Then she blinked her eyes. "I'm sorry, did you want to land and dock, Julie?" She was a bit embarrassed.

Julie replies softly as she points through the view screen, "I think that place that's opening there in the surface ... it's the landing bay."

Naomi looked at the place Julie was pointing. She saw the large, bright rectangle of light in the shadow of the surface of the Battle Station. All around the opening, Naomi saw the sparkle of some kind of energy dance across the bright opening. Naomi carefully as any artiest, guided the large carrier craft into the bright rectangle. Without warning, all the controls went dead as the Battle Station's landing systems took over and guided the Carrier gracefully into the landing bay."

"Hmf," said Naomi, "I could've brought us in just fine. Oh well. We have to guide our recruits anyway."

The two girls and their android companion went to the passenger compartment, and as soon as the door opened, every one of their candidates' eyes were upon them.

"If I could have your attention for a moment," said SIS, "these are Naomi and Julie, our ace pilot and our best gunner, and they have some introductory words for you."

"We do?" said Naomi, suddenly nervous. But then she realized that she did want to say something.

"Welcome to all of you," Naomi said, raising her voice a little bit. "I'm sure you knew it already, on some level, but you're all -- we're all -- part of something very big here. Something that's been with us all our lives, connecting us to each other and to something greater. Now, I will never lie to you -- and that's why I'm telling you that this is going to get very dangerous, and something very bad is going on." There was some uneasy mumbling. She continued, "But the reason why we're here, why we've been brought together from all across the Earth, is to protect it. To defend the Earth against a terrible enemy that's preparing to attack it even now." She paused for the dramatic impact, and there were startled gasps, but also some knowing nods. There were many who already knew this, on some level. "But we've also got some powerful allies, and we can do it. We can win this. Together, we will show the enemy something it does not understand and badly needs to learn -- the meaning of defeat."

Naomi nudges Julie slightly in her side. She steps up nervously and says in a loud voice, "I'm here to tell you something about the equipment you are about to operate. Wear it as body armor. Don't fight the system, but allow it to become a part of you. The universe will sing it's Heavenly Music to your soul," there is a soft murmur all through the large crowd, "Julie nods as she continues, "Each system will become a part of you. You will seem to loose yourself into it. Allow it to happen ... become the ship ... allow it to become your body. You, are the best of the best ... even raw, you are worth many hundreds of them." There is a soft cheer.

Julie continues with authority, "Don't get cocky with your power. It can consume you as quickly as it can consume the enemy. If you must use the Anti Dark Matter Missiles, run ... go anywhere as far as fast as you can. As soon as they detonate ... you will understand what I mean the first time you launch. The time is now people, it's up to you and me ... no one will come to bail us out. If we loose it here ... all is lost."

There is another loud murmur all through the bay.

SIS says, "Now, if all of you will disembark in an orderly manner, Pilots and Weapon's officers 2 by 2. We will assign you your ship."

The sound of many people rising and in motion now fills the bay as they disembarked ... 2 by 2.

Naomi suddenly had a list of all the recruits' names in her head, thanks to the neural net, and it rearranged itself into the order in which they were lining up at the door.

"I'll take the first ten pairs to your assignments, then Julie will take the next ten, then SIS will take the third group of ten pairs, and then it'll be my turn again. We'll rotate like that."

When Julie and SIS nodded their assent, Naomi went to the hatch and said, "All right, everyone from Andy and Jim here at the front through to Suzanne and Wei, please come with me." She felt like Willy Wonka showing children the chocolate factory. "Just wait. You're gonna love this."

The hatch opened, and Naomi led them out into an enormous hangar deck, miles in diameter. There was room for more, but there were row after row of the wasp-like fighter craft, many thousands in all.

"Whoa," she said. "OK, even I'm impressed, and I saw it through the sensors." There were gasps. "Yep, these are our 'Hornet' two-person fighter vessels," she said, leading them toward a row of the ships. "They're surprisingly roomy inside, highly maneuverable, very difficult for the enemy to hit or even detect, and yes, they sting hard."

Naomi led the recruits up to the crafts. Many began touching the fighters and running their hands across the super slick hulls and landing struts.

"Now," she went on, "when you enter, you'll see the two pilots' seats, with neural interface gear like this." She gestured at the band around her neck and on both arms. "Put those on, and you'll be connected to the ship's systems, and we'll be able to communicate. It's like sending an email with your mind, kind of. Soon we'll be ready to start training."

Julie, Naomi, and SIS waited patiently as the many hundreds of pairs entered the ship of their choice. The 3 of them shivered each time another of them had donned the Neural interfaces. They could hear the amazement and wonder within the new recruits as they discovered the wonders of super advanced technology. As another mind came on line, Julie began to think of ... The Body ... and how they all acted as a hive mind. There seemed to be some kind of similarity to the way both ... communicated.

As soon as the thought entered her mind, the advanced Neural Net Computer System began to process what it thought was a research question. The results that sprang quickly to Julie’s mind ... also surprised even SIS. This neural system was producing electro-biologically ... what the Body seemed to do ... naturally ... or was it? Julie began to wonder. She loved nothing more than to explore the wonders of the cosmos in the out of body way the new systems allowed ... this in turn ... gave her a new perspective on things.

Her thoughts were interrupted as SIS says, "Julie, would you like to meet the ... neural control interface of this battle station now? I think you and it ... share much in common."

Julie looks at SIS for a second as her mind clears from her most recent revelation about the Body's hive mind.

She says, "Yes, I would like to see this marvel of advance technology."

SIS smiles mysteriously as she leads Naomi and Julie to what appears to be a sparkling shower of energy. They step in. Their bodies tingle all over ... they step out ... into a very large circular room with a large clear Tube filled with a green gel in the very center. Within the tube, were many things that looked like large black tentacles with some kind of shiny, sharp tips on the end.

Naomi had gotten her groups of recruits squared away, and they were running through the tutorial programs in their fighter craft, when SIS had asked her if she wanted to see the control center of the battle station. Of course she had wanted to, so she had followed SIS and Julie.

"What was that?" she asked as they went through the curtain of silvery light that tingled. "Decontamination?"

"That is one of its functions," said SIS. "It is also a security scan, to prevent unauthorized access, as well as a last-resort defensive screen. But please note the column in the center."

"From the looks of things I'm guessing this station requires more of a direct neural interface than these collars can provide," Naomi said, touching the choker she was wearing.

"That is correct," said SIS. "There is no way to control the higher functions of what we are naming the Omega Class Carrier without a complete neural overlay."

Julie was staring at the column as if transfixed by its implications.

Julie stepped closer, SIS says conspiratorially, "Wouldn't you .... like to try out the interface?"

Julie touches the outside of the tube as she shivers. She can feel something ... really weird as it seemed to call to her. It ... needed her in a way she couldn't explain.

Julie replies softly, "I ... I mean ... I would love to check it out further."

Without warning, the gel filled tube slid down from the roof enough to allow the tentacles to emerge. Quickly, several of them had attached themselves to Julie’s Neck and Arm Control Interfaces. Several of them removed all of Julie’s clothes, panties, and shoes, before pulling her nude helpless body into the tube.

Julie has enough time to let out one screeching gasp before something is down her throat and pinching her nose closed. The gel is so cold as it covers her body and she is totally submerged in it. It is so cold, it makes Julie go into immediate shivers. She sees foggily through the thick gel. It feels like freezing cold Vaseline all over her. Suddenly ... her body seems to melt away. She feels things attach themselves to her body all along the spine.

The system had desperate needs of her kidneys and liver to process waste. It needed her lungs to circulate air as well as her heart to move other various types of fluids and colloids. It needed her visual acuity to navigate through the many sensors and to fire the weapons.

Her body is now ... enormous. She opens her new eyes and ... sees and hears the many wonderful frequencies that dance all around her. She feels the cosmic wind as it blows across her skin. She sees the many Body ships in far off Alpha Centauri. She can feel the eager minds within the many squadrons of fighter contained with her ... womb? The concept blew her mind.

Naomi actually hears Julie’s voice come across the interface, "Help! Get me out of here ... I'm trapped!"


"Julie!" Naomi shouted. "She's in trouble! She's panicking! SIS, disconnect her, now!"

Her friend was in trouble. Naomi reached into the green goo for the nearest tentacle, not caring how cold and slimy it was, trying to pull it loose, but it seemed firmly burrowed into Julie’s skin, and she didn't want to harm her friend by forcibly yanking it out. Naomi was forced to let go of the tentacle she was desperately pulling on as the tube slid closed and sealed with a loud hiss that caused ice crystals to form in a cloud of light frosty snow.

"Please, do not be alarmed, either of you," said SIS. "Julie is in no danger," she said to Naomi verbally, "she is merely alarmed by the intensity of the experience, which perhaps I should have warned her about."

Julie heard SIS's voice inside her mind, saying, "Julie, it is I, SIS. Do not worry. It will be fine. Just take a deep breath and relax. All will be well. You are not trapped at all."

Julie tries to scream. Nothing came from her mouth ... but over the interface ... everyone connected to the Neural Control Interface heard it. Julie hears SIS's soothing reassuring voice as she comforted her. Julie takes several deep breaths. It felt so ... strange to do. Her legs felt so ... different now. She stretches out her arms. The super advanced tractor system comes on line and reaches out from the planetoid and grabs hold of a fairly large passing comet. The internal compounds making up this dirty snow ball, were nickle, silver, hydrogen and helium snow, with a solid diamond core.

Julie holds on to this thing as she feels it and her new senses analyze it's components.

Julie finally says with a little calmer tone, "This is so ... weird. The entire battle station is my body. I can feel ... all the fighter craft in my ... womb? I mean ... I can even hear everyone's thoughts ... and ... Naomi? Can you hear me? Am I here permanently?"

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt6 ~~
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-----------------------------------------
~~ Signal - Pt7 - Rooks no More ~~
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"I ... I can hear you Julie," said Naomi, talking to the ceiling for some reason, even though she wasn't sure that it would be more effective than speaking in any other direction.

Julie’s scream had come from seemingly every direction, though, and this seemed the most appropriate way to respond.

"Can you hear me? I think you are just neurally interfaced to the station itself. Are you in any pain? I don't know if it's permanent. SIS? Is this reversible?"

"Of course," said SIS. "The disconnection process is painless but possibly highly disorienting, as was the connection process. I apologize -- this type of information transducer has never interfaced with the human nervous system before, and the connection process appears to have been highly traumatic."

SIS and Naomi hear Julie as she says softly and calmly this time, "SIS, I ... am perhaps the most powerful ... ummm ... being in the solar system at this point ... right? I mean ... " There is silence. Suddenly Julie’s voice returns ... this time it has a resonance that sounded majestic, "I ... am Omega. It is time for me to bring the fight to them. I see them setting up a Black Hole Weapon. We need to ... do something about it."

SIS attempts to say something, but Julie interrupts, "I suggest that the human component begin making plans ... I have laid in the course and am engaging NR drive."

Naomi and SIS feel the massive engines as they engage for the very first time. To SIS's data base's memory, NR Drives of this power and size have never before been created. A Massive NR gateway opens, energies beyond even SIS's advance knowledge base dance around the periphery of the anomalous hole that opened in plainer normal space. Naomi and SIS feel it as the ship lunges off into NR space at speeds beyond anything previously achieved.

Julie says softly, "OMG! I can ... see the massive energies of NR space dancing around the corridor. I can hear the new music ... it ... sings to my soul."

Naomi didn't even know what she was thinking, but she said, "Show me," and closed her eyes, willing the neural interface collar she wore to link her mind with her friend's.

Suddenly, she saw what Julie saw, felt what she felt, and heard the music she heard. The understanding of Kshandri higher mathematics that Naomi had been assimilating meshed with the visceral sensations they were experiencing ... Naomi had an epiphany.

"SIS," said Naomi, "can the nano-factories build this?"
Naomi saw a plan before her, a schematic, coming from somewhere deep in her and Julie’s linked subconscious minds.

"Affirmative," came SIS's confused voice within their minds, "but ... what is it? There is no known benefit to such ... wait. Further analysis reveals potential higher symmetries in the fields, but in no dimensions known to Kshandri physics. What have you envisioned here? Is it a higher-level sensor array of some sort?"

"I think I'm going to be trying to fully understand what we've just done for the rest of my life," said Naomi, "but it's all about NR Space. I think this will let us see into it. See its structure. Learn its rules. Predict its behavior."

Julie had total access to massive data bases and concepts she had never known before. Mathematics that just a few hours ago, were totally unknown to her, now were at the tips of her fingers. Julie was having a hard time coming to grips with the fact, she was a new type of life form ... she was Omega.

She understood the concept of NR space as did Naomi ... although they didn't yet realize it. This corridor they traveled in ... was just one of infinite numbers of them ... depending on the frequency the particular NR drive resonated at the time of entry.

Some of those corridors ... could instantly transport them trillions of light years in just a few minutes. The concept was mind boggling to SIS as she tried very hard to come to grips with the new mathematical model Naomi and Julie had concocted. It was super revolutionary in its concept ... and advanced way beyond anything the Kshandri had imagined before.

Julie says through the Neural interface in that majestic voice of hers, "This is Omega to all personnel, we are arriving to within 3 parsecs of the Black hole weapon. Prepare for Contact with about 14 Hive Ships."

There are suddenly battle station alarms going off as the lighting changed from soft pink / blue to battle red.

"I've got to get out there," said Naomi. "The recruits are hand-picked and well-trained, but they're not battle-tested ... and they're about to be. Julie, keep in contact. SIS, will you stay here and advise Julie?"

"Affirmative," SIS said as Naomi left the command center at a full-out run.

Willing her message to go out to all the fighter pilot teams, Naomi said, "Your attention, please. This is Naomi. The carrier will be engaging a wing of ... 15 of what we've been calling the enemy's 'Hive ships.'" She checked the sensor readings to make sure of their exact number and position. "Your computers will fill you in on their capabilities now. I will be coordinating battle tactics and helping where I can."

When she reached their fighter, the first one that had been produced, she immediately strapped herself in and brought up the displays. "Prepare for launch, but do not launch before my signal. We want to coordinate this, so our attack maximizes our effectiveness. They won't see the carrier until we want them to see it, but they still won't know we're inside or how many we are until we launch. We do this right, and they won't stand a chance."

Naomi didn't personally know the very young woman was that had become her gunner, but she knew this girl was very good at what she was about to do. All the sims SIS ran on her proved it. She might not be as good as Julie, but she would prove to be good enough and Naomi was proud to have her along.

Julie had engaged the Chronal Shields and displaced them about half a second in time in another dimension. She could see the enemy perfectly well, but to the enemy ... they are as a ghost ... a ghost the size of a large planetesimal with massive armaments. Julie giggles to herself ... although everyone on the Neural Interface felt her mirth and knew what it was about.

Julie approached the nearest star in such a way that the Hive ship's tactical sensors were blind. Julie knew they didn't understand nor read the music of what their sensors told them and would not see them coming.

Julia had the most wonderful sensation as she opened the hangar bay so the fighters could launch. It sent wonderful waves of pleasure all through her. Julie brought up her tactical displays. She was totally amazed at how much more efficient it was in this configuration than in the fighter. She allowed the discord of each Hive ship's position to register with her spirit.

She calls, "This is Omega, we are in launch configuration. Keep your shields up when you fire your weapons. Use this formula so the weapons will seem to magically appear to the enemy. Remember, when you launch your Dark Antimatter Missiles .... run ... fast as you can in any direction. Naomi ... take command of the squadrons ... you have command of 2,000 squadrons ... good luck .... Launch."

Julie then locked the new weapon she had found on her list ... the Planetary Crazer. She had no idea of the type of weapon this was, nor what its yield potential was. Only thing she knew was it was called a cryo-weapon.

There was a small asteroid near the black hole weapon's power source. Julie locked her main Crazer Battery on to the very center of it and fired. The beam was totally invisible to the enemy. The sub absolute zero beam streaked to the asteroid faster than the speed of light. All molecular motion within the asteroid's structure came to a sudden cryogenic halt. Kinetic annular motion became massive potential nuclear energy ... the asteroid explodes violently in a massive nuclear detonation in relative energy yield to the proportional mass of the asteroid.

"The word is given," said Naomi to the fighter battalion. "Begin launch sequence. Launch tubes are directly above your rest position."

Flying straight up, the fighters passed through iris-like doors that instantly opened before them and closed behind them, leading to smooth corridors lined with a lustrous caramel-colored mineral, and beyond them, through the outer doors and a force field to maintain proper pressure levels, was space.

"Stay with your groups," said Naomi, "but be sure to surround them before you begin firing. Don't give them one single direction to attack in. They won't be able to see you if you have your coronal-cloaks on, but they can shoot at where your weapons fire is coming from."

The cold blue beam of the carrier's Crazers pierced the star-studded velvet of space.

"Group One, I'm coming with you." Naomi said with excitement.

Naomi's mind simultaneously saw what all the fighters and Hive ships were doing and could feel in her mind her connection with Julie and what she intended to do. She formed an attack plan and a retreat plan and sent them to the battalion's computers. She felt as if her mind were fully alive, for the first time ever. There was so much going on at once -- and she could see and control it all.

The attack groups surrounded the Hive ships and harried them, and to Naomi's surprise one of the Hive ships was quickly disabled. Naomi could see from her sensor readings that its power systems were completely offline; it wouldn't be doing anything for some time.

"Bogey down, good shooting Group Three," she said.

Now how had they done that? Naomi wondered as she replayed group three's attack sequences and strike points over ...There -- Naomi sees the weakness.

"Everyone, there's a power coupling near their main docking port that's poorly shielded, so Group Three has come up with a weakness. Exploit it if you can, but I'm sure they all know about it now, so don't count on it remaining effective forever." Instructed Naomi to her fighter groups.

Julie was in complete contact with each mind within her many squadrons. She was totally amazed at how easily she could contact each one independently of the rest. Julie watched as the nuclear cloud and the bright flash of the asteroid demise and the power source of the Black Hole weapon slowly expanded outward.

Julie locks her Plasma torpedoes onto the tug ships that were desperately trying to pull the surviving main component from harms way. She launches. OMG! it felt so ... wonderfully remarkable to flex her muscles like that!

She launched a dozen before Naomi contacted her by the Neural Interface, "Julie ... isn't that a bit of over kill? I mean ... their are no ships left in that area."

Julie opened her 'eyes' and looked, sure enough, all that remained of the tugs ... was expanding clouds of glowing hot plasma and debris. The Black Hole weapon itself was still intact. A power source was an easy thing to construct.

Julie called to SIS, "SIS, We have the weapon intact. The squadrons are attacking ..."

Without warning, tactical alarms went off within Julie’s mind. Several Dark Antimatter Torpedoes were approaching one of the new fighter wings with remarkable accuracy.

She screams through the interface, "Squadron 22, to port ... watch out ... run! Dark antimatter Torpedoes on track and lock with your ..."

Too late. There is a bright blue detonation. A very large spiderweb of blue energy surrounds the fighter wing for several seconds. An anomalous hole opens in the middle of reality ... and everything vanishes with in it as it closes. Nothing is left ... not even debris.

Julie feels wrath burn in her heart. She back tracks a reciprocal to target. A Full Body ship the size of Jupiter comes round the star 30 parsecs from her current location. In her wrath, Julie launches over 100 dark antimatter torpedoes in return. The resulting conflagration was something that even astounded SIS in its total destruction. The song of the local area was totally disrupted and nothing ... not even solar ionization trails were heard in the void left behind.

SIS says sharply, "Julie ... that was ... totally uncalled for."

Naomi responds, "No, SIS, it wasn't. Too bad that wasn't their home system."

Naomi looked grimly at the closing hole that had just swallowed so many of their promising pilots. But something was nagging at the edges of her senses -- what was that?

"The new sensor array!" Naomi sent, shouting. "Direct it at the ADM remnant!"

She felt the information coming in from the mysterious machine she had somehow designed, and she was astonished to find that she could see part of the way into the hole in space -- in a way. But some of their ships were still visible beyond that threshold and hadn't drifted deeper into NR space. The pilots might still be alive. It would be tricky, but ... "I can save some of them."

Naomi's NR drive flickered, and her ship vanished.

"Naomi? Naomi, I can't hear you anymore," said Julie, worried.

"You can do nothing about that now," said SIS. "What you can do is strike at the enemy."

Suddenly there was a flash of violet light in the carrier's hangar deck, and about 50 of the wasp like fighter ships appeared, in different states of disrepair.

"I'm going back out," said Naomi. "Very precise bursts of activity from the NR drive can get you out of NR space, assuming your chronal shielding has kept you alive. I had to reprogram each one's NR drive on the fly, but hey, I actually brought them inside the carrier! I'm getting better at this. Launching."

As Naomi's fighter launched back into space via the launch tubes, SIS said, "But that's ... not supposed to be possible. Rescuing the targets of an ADM missile? NR drive out of NR space into an enclosed area? These things were thought to be impossibilities."

"Maybe nobody ever tried," Naomi replied.

"No, actually, many attempts were made, but ..." SIS began.

"Maybe they just weren't motivated enough. I'm going to try to save more. Help anybody who needs medical attention."

As weapons fire flashed around her, Naomi flickered in and out of NR space, and in the end she was able to rescue just over half the lost fighter group -- 70 ships, 140 lives. The rest of the ships were so badly damaged, the energies of NR space had begun to reduce them to nothing more than atomic constituents and there was no helping them.

Meanwhile, the surviving Hive ships had launched their fighters, so the Earth fighter wings had their hands full. Julie was evening the score by assaulting the Hive ships with planetary Crazer bursts that their shielding was simply not equipped to deal with. Naomi's reappearance had raised her spirits, and those of everyone but the enemy.

Julie was angry about all this. In her heart she felt a fire rising she didn't understand. She saw several Hive ships as they dissolved into the hundreds of fighters that made them up. Julie watched as all the many snowflake shaped crafts began raising their shields and attacking her squadrons in synchronized waves. Julie knew this had to come to a stop.

Within the Neural Interface she calls, "Hey, all you pilots and weapon's officers! Listen up ... this is Omega. You all have chronal time displacement technology ... why aren't you using it?"

There were many confused incoherent responses before Julie flashed over the top of them with a priority message that all heard, "Listen, you are the Ghost Squadrons ... act like them."

Julie feels satisfaction wash through her as she sees through her advanced sensor eyes the many, many hornet like ships vanish as ephemerally as smoke. As soon as this happened, the battle took on a more sinister aspect for the Body. Cell Fighters began exploding, Massive plasma attacks destroyed entire Hive Ships before they could react.

Naomi was amazed at how quickly the recruits got the message and how fast they responded to the Body's flanking counter attacks with invisibility, plasma, and absolute zero temperatures. Many massive and bright fireballs filled many parsecs of space as the Body suffered one of the worst defeats it had ever had in its collective memory since meeting that accursed life form. They were totally helpless not only to track, but to fire effectively upon those damned Ghost Ships. They pop in and out of reality at will ... seemingly travel infinitely fast using a technology the Body had no inkling of. Then there was this Planetoid thing that talks ... it was the most horrid vision of destruction the Body had ever encountered. The one over powering thing the Body was learning at this point was .... Total, soul wrenching ... FEAR!

"I'm glad you're all taking Julie’s advice to heart," Naomi said, coordinating the fighter groups. "Very effective, Group 12. Pilots, when your gunners fire, change direction. Don't let them anticipate your position. Group 8, your Hive ship is about to launch fighters; prepare to change to ship-on-ship attack pattern. Brilliant job, Group 9! Now that your Hive ship is down, assist Group 4. Suggested combined attack strategy ... sent."

Naomi strafed a group of the snowflake-shaped fighters that had gotten too close to her position. Her young gunner was very good at targeting as Naomi changed course with each shot. After destroying their target, they invisibly rejoined Group 1.

"Group 1, how would you like a special mission? We're getting kind of close to the black hole weapon. Let's take down this Hive ship and then make sure they don't recapture it. They're certainly going to try. Now, I'm going to trace a pattern around this Hive ship -- follow me in formation, but don't fire, just learn it so we can all repeat it all at once. See? We fire here, here, here ... and here. Got it?" There were voices of amazed and enthusiastic assent. "OK, let's go!"

In unison, Naomi's group fired salvos of concentrated Crazer shots at strategic points on their Hive ship, its fighters unable to do anything to stop this barrage. Well-coordinated fire came from seemingly everywhere at once, and the Hive ship's mobility, weapons systems, and energy generation systems were rapidly taken offline. The Hive ship went dead and drifted in space as massive explosions racked its hull and many hull breaches out-gassed in large clouds of freezing atmosphere, moisture, and debris.

"There we go, and that's how we do it!" said Naomi amid the cheers. "Let's just clean up their fighters, and we'll be off. Meanwhile, Group 7, I saw that -- good job over there!"

Soon, Group 1's remaining cell fighters were either destroyed or fleeing, but there was one final surprise -- one of the other groups' Hive ships fired an anti-dark matter missile toward their dead Hive ship's position, obviously hoping to take out some of these "Ghost Ships" within the general vicinity, even though some of its own would go with them.

"Oh, no, you don't," said Naomi, carefully targeting the missile.

Naomi's young gunner was an excellent gunner ... but wasn't as good as Julie. Try as she might, she couldn't get a target lock on the advancing missile

Naomi flashes a priority message across the link, "Julie, I need help lining this up ... there!"

She could feel Julie’s thoughts helping her gunner lead the missile and fire at just the right moment. Naomi's gunner fires ... the Crazer's crushing cold disabled the missile before fracturing it into subatomic particles.

"Next stop, the Black Hole Weapon," said Naomi. "Group 1, let's keep our shields up and take up positions in a sphere around it. Stay linked. When they come, we all want to know about it."

They all moved to their positions, unseen, hidden behind their chronal shields slightly out of phase with plainer normal time ... and waited. Nothing was coming to try to take the black hole weapon yet, but she and her group continued to surround it vigilantly.

Julie stretches out her senses. She no longer had any delays with how the new Battle Station's interface works with her nervous system. As far as she ... and the Neural Interface were concerned ... Julie was Omega and the planetoid and all its systems were Julie’s body.

She saw the many massively large Full Body Ships as they began to traverse the space between Alpha Centauri and their current location. Julie listened to the many frequencies that washed over her body and around her. There were blanks and many discords caused by the massive battle that raged all around.

There was one discord that was so bright suddenly because of the lack of other frequencies within the battle zone ... so ... discordant with all the other frequencies that were left ... Julie couldn't help but notice it. It was so bright, once Julie had stumbled across it's subtle discords ... she couldn't ignore it. It burrowed all through her consciousness and demanded her attention.

As she focused on it ... she began to notice a similarity to ... their own Control Interface. She blended many of her advanced sensor systems and began filtering it to relieve it of the subspace carrier wave that was causing most of the horrid squeal it produced in Julie’s mind.

Julie calls softly on a dual private channel through the Neural Interface, "SIS? Naomi? I ... think I have discovered something."

SIS replies, "What is it Julie?"

Julie replies, "I ... hear modulated subspace carrier discord. It has super high modulation ... and the carrier wave is horrid in the way it squeals. It's almost like the Neural Interface we communicate through."

Julie then filters out most of the back ground interference and shows SIS and Naomi what to listen for. While she did this ... she also began to narrow the frequency range and add more filter protocols to clear up the signals. She could swear she could hear ... words ... strange ... alien ... words.

SIS says, "This is most unusual. We have never discovered this type of signal before. Then again, we have never scanned the subspace carrier signals ... there are so many of them."

"If you've discovered how the enemy communicates," said Naomi, "score another one for the human race! I guess the next step would be makin sense out of all of that."

Naomi could hear what Julie was hearing -- when she narrowed it enough, it almost sounded like some kind of language. But it was in many narrow bands; there were millions upon millions of conversations going on at once.

"Affirmative," said SIS, "No one has ever managed to eavesdrop on the enemy's communications, to my knowledge. If this is truly what you have found, it would be a boon like no other. But beware -- if they become aware that we are listening, they may feed us false information or simply switch to another frequency band."

"Can you analyze it, SIS?" asked Naomi.

"I am attempting to do just that," SIS replied. "The signal is definitely non-random, and although it is language-like, its pattern is unlike anything I know of. So far I cannot prove or disprove that this has anything to do with the enemy, however. What I will do is construct an analysis engine optimized to decipher these signals."

Nearby, aboard Omega, a mass of idle nanobots sprang into action and began to convert raw materials into a new device, with an intricate crystalline network, the Kshandri's version of high-density integrated circuitry.

While Julie watched the devise being constructed within her 'womb' there came a loud, joyous whooping scream across the Control interface, "YYYYYEEEEEHHHHHAAAAWWWWW!!!! Take that you assholes!"

Immediately, all sensor 'eyes' were upon the lone fighter that was attacking a Full Body Ship all by itself. It darted and dashed ... would vanish from this location to reappear several parsecs away on another devastating attack run, only to vanish like a phantom after launching.

SIS, Naomi, and Julie watched in total astonishment as a single fighter did horrid damage to the largest and most powerful ship the Body had. There were massive fireballs of plasma explosions as the single ship would vanish into the ether once again, to reappear in a wash of NR energies.

SIS calls, "Buck ... what do you think you're doing?"

Buck replies with a wild laugh, "I'm killin me some aliens ... what does it look like?"

Naomi, from her stationary position guarding the black hole weapon, watched Buck's battle tactics.

"SIS, Julie," Naomi said, "watch what he's doing, and keep in mind that he's not dead yet. Why is that?"

"Analyzing," said SIS. "He's ... barely ever in normal space," said the android.

"I think somebody's been watching me fly," said Naomi, "and Buck, I'm flattered, really, but you just be careful. Don't let your M-torque exceed about 1350, or your engine's going to shear off its mount and take half your ship with it, and you don't want it to be the half with you in it."

"Roger that," came Buck's voice, "but I'm fine. Woooo these are big 'uns, ain't they? But you know what they say about the bigger they are."

"Yes, the more inertia they have," said Naomi. "If you insist on doing that alone, my advice would be to get it to overreach, keep it off balance, make it keep trying to get you in a place where you're actually not."

"You just watch this," said Buck, followed by another war whoop.

"He is actually staying alive," said SIS. "Meanwhile, very few Hive ships remain from this flotilla, and there are fighters free."

"Yes," said Naomi, "thanks SIS -- Groups 2, 6, and 11, good work, and would you three please come and help guard the black hole weapon? The rest of you, focus on the remaining Hive ships until they're down, and clean up their Cell Fighters."

Julie watches Buck with her sensor eyes and listened to the harmony of his engines as they sang a sweet and wonderful melody around him.

Julie calls through the Interface, "All right Mr. Buck Rogers ..." There is mirth all through the link as everyone feels a wonderful wave of joy pass through all of them.

Buck replies with a bit of embarrassment, "Aww , shucks. Told you not to call me that."

Then another hugely bright explosion followed by an ever expanding debris field.

Another voice came over the link, "Well cowboy, do we call you John Wayne then?"

There's more mirth as more of the free fighters take up the battle with the remaining cell fighters. All of the new pilots had begun using Naomi's flight tactics. The cell ships didn't stand a chance. On a 100 to 0ne advantage ... they would still be out numbered as the ghost pilots began to learn how to use their new tools in battle.

In the transition phase between Alpha Centauri and the location of the now captured Black Hole Weapon, many thousands of Full Body Ships were making the crossing as fast as their primitive subspace drives allowed. Within the collective heart, massive fear grew with each voice that was lost. So many thousands had gone silent since those accursed Ghost Ships had appeared. Another thing that made the Body more afraid ... it appears those damned life forms had acquired a Full Body Ship of their own somehow. It was the most powerful ship the Body had ever encountered in its many travels and all the systems it had totally destroyed. The pain of such a huge loss of voices within its body was almost too much for it to handle. It also knew that that huge Body Ship of their enemy ... was probably more powerful than all of theirs together. It brooded in dark fear as it approached a battle it knew it was probably doomed to loose ... to defend itself from certain destruction ... that seemed to be happening right here, right now.

The signal went out, "All components to full power. We must reinforce our cells. They are dying."

"Here they come," said Naomi. She had been watching the signatures of the enemy's main force out of the corner of her eye, and now they had started coming this way. "They're not going to get here quickly, but when they do get here, there'll be a lot of 'em. It'd be nice if we could clean things up before then, so we can regroup. Mr. Rogers, you're doing a good job of incapacitating that thing's weapons and mobility, but it's still there. We might need something ... bigger."

"Hey, I like that," said Buck. "Hey bozos! This is Mr. Rogers! Welcome to my neighborhood!"

"Incorrigible," giggled Naomi. "SIS, I have a question. How big does an NR drive have to be?"

"There is a minimum size," SIS replied. "It is possible to construct a one seater vessel, a space worthy ship slightly larger than an Earth motorcycle, and that is approximately the smallest vessel that can practically carry an NR drive. Such a drive, however, still takes up about a third of the available space."

"Could we place an NR drive on an ADM missile?" Naomi asked.

"Are you considering detonating such a device inside an enemy Body ship?" asked SIS. "I have never seen such a thing, but given your navigational firsts today, the idea is no longer inconceivable."

"You're reading my mind," answered Naomi. "But can the nanobots build an NR-driven ADM missile?"

"Certainly," said SIS, who then mentally showed her how to instruct the contingent of nanobots on her ship to modify one of her missiles' drives into an NR drive. Naomi had them do just that, resulting in a longer missile due to the extra space required, but still perfectly usable.

Julie watched with her advanced sensor eyes as the thousands of Full Body Ships approached. Each ship was the size of a small Jupiter.

Julie calls to Naomi, "Those missiles ... if they work like you think, would be a perfect defense for those huge Body Ships. A detonation of an ADM in the heart of that thing would cause it to implode into itself and take everything with it."

SIS answers, "It would indeed Julie. I'm instructing a Nano-construtor to modify many of your ADM launch facilities and missile stores so you also have them. I think Naomi will have to write a new tracking and lock routine for the missiles guidance systems to follow prior to detonation."

Julie shivers mentally as she feels the Nano-constructors begin to modify several hundred launcher facilities along the outer skin of her new 'body'. Many of the free fighters that weren’t guarding the Captured Black Hole Weapon as the Nano-constructors built a new power supply and launch control for it, gathered in perfect formation orbiting Omega.

Julie says softly in her new resonating voice, "This is Omega to all free squadrons ... Set course for a phase shift rapid attack on those Full Body Ships. We will be using Mr. Roger's attack and destroy plan. I also thank Naomi for inventing it ... I'm sure the Body has learned 2 lessons today so far. 1> fear, 2>Defeat. Battle stations ..."

Omega and the many squadrons of free fighter vanish in a huge flash of NR energies. The unsuspecting Enemy approaches under what their systems consider full power ... to a surprise that none of them fully comprehends.

"Buck, I'm going to be trying something ... new," said Naomi, "so please prepare to break off when I give the signal. It's experimental and I don't want to take you out. We need you and your gunner. OK?"

"Well it's gonna be a damn shame to have to quit shootin' at this big target here," Buck replied, "but all righty, just give the word, and I'll get us outta harm's way."

"Roger that, Rogers," said Naomi. "Making final preparations now."

The nanobots had reconstructed the missile's drives, and now she was programming the guidance system. Things didn't exactly work the same way in NR space ... and she'd be unable to guide it remotely once it shifted, so she had to be sure it was right. However, she'd just done the same maneuver by hand herself. Finally, everything worked in the simulator. It was time.

"OK Buck," said Naomi, "I'm launching. Get out of there. The only guarantee I have is that it won't kill us all."

"Roger that, pretty lady," said Buck. To the Body ship he yelled, "See y'all in Hell, ya overgrown bug eye!"

She could see Buck break off on her sensors, the tactical display showed him making himself scarce, rejoining the group that was guarding the black hole weapon.

"Firing," said Naomi. She flipped aside the molly cover and pressed the button -- not really, but that was how she had imagined the mental command ... And the missile launched ... a scarce ten meters in front of her ship, it vanished into NR space, just as planned.

The Body ship hung there in space, its weapons and drives mostly disabled thanks to Buck's unrelenting assault, but given time it could still repair itself and become once again a major threat. But then there was light -- an eerie purple light that poured forth from every hatch, exhaust port, window, seam, and crack. As soon as it appeared, every enemy ship in the area seemed to flinch and pull back. Only gradually did it fade.

"It's still there," said Naomi, her brow furrowed. "Something happened, but it's still there." She scanned with her instruments. "Wait," she said. "No. YES! I miscalculated -- but only by a little bit! We've got an empty shell here! It's only about two meters thick all the way around."

"You may have made a slight rounding error," said SIS. "However, in terms of overall effect, the error is not significant. Detecting only minimal life signs, and those are fading."

"Structurally we've got an eggshell," Naomi said. "The slightest touch and it'll collapse. Weird way to make a soap bubble."

Julie says over the Neural Link, "Hey, sister ... I need those tracking algorithms for my launchers. How bout popping me an E-Mail?"

There is mental laughter across the link as SIS gathers the data and instantly transfers it to all craft. SIS also immediately had the Nano-constructors begin to modify half the launchers and missiles to conform to the NRADM. The newest missile in the Ghost Squadron’s massively devastating arsenal.

Julie and her many fighters drop from NR space a few parsecs from the massive wall of Full Body Ships. They were totally invisible to the the Body being shifted .5 sig into another dimension/time location.

The very first salvo of plasma torpedoes seemingly appeared from nowhere. The Body had no time to react as the massively heavy plasma impacted on their shields. The shields flared brightly as the generators melted down and exploded violently under the massive over loads. Tremendous explosions erupted on the hulls of the Jupiter sized vessels, many immediately causing atmosphere ventings and debris. Fire burned all around as the Fighters danced, wiggled, vanished, reappeared as the Ghosts the Body had named them. The space around the Ships filled with cell fighters ... all trying valiantly to defend the Full body ships.

Without warning, Omega appears as a vaporous ghostly apparition.

Julie’s resonating full bodied voice echos across the memory link of the Body in frightening clarity, something that no spices had ever accomplished before, "I ... am Omega. I have come to teach you how to die."

At that point, a massive assault of plasma torpedoes, Crazer bolts, and a new threat they had no idea anyone had ... the NRADM missile. In a few years ... earth telescopes would see the massive flairs and wonder about what kind of new star had been in those astral locations. None had ever been charted there before.

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt7 ~~
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~~ Signal Pt8 - The Unstoppable Force ~~
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The Body had no idea how to fight this kind of threat. Weird energy vortexes suddenly would appear in the very heart of the Full Body Ships and detonate, leaving a thin shelled empty sphere. They had never encountered such a weapon. The mind-link they all shared simultaneously, was corrupted with that god like voice of the entity calling itself Omega. Massive weapons the likes of which they had never encountered sprouted all over this things outer hull. Of the many thousands of Jupiter sized ships that had originally been in the battle group, only 2,000 managed to slip away, seemingly unnoticed. As quickly as they could muster their inferior engines, they headed back towards their home system.

Julie calls to Naomi, "Hay, sister .... have those nanoconstructors finished the power source and targeting system for that Black Hole weapon? I think they are going to show us their home system. At least, The Neural Comms seems to be telling all survivors to return to Origin. There's this one signal that's kind of strange ..."

Julie never got to finish her transmission as many thousands of Cell Ships intermingled with Hive Ships appeared out of the glare of a nearby Sun within a parsec of the Black Hole Weapon.

"Heads up," said Naomi, "here they come." She had suspected the enemy would attack the black hole weapon, either to recover it or to destroy it, denying it to the humans. And here they came -- an attack force larger than the one they'd cut their teeth on earlier. "Remember the group we lost early on -- first sign of an ADM, bug out. And keep your shields up! As long as they don't know where we are, we're their worst nightmare."

Naomi actually stayed out of combat. If any of the enemy's anti-dark matter missiles made an appearance, she was going to destroy it before it went off. What's more, she had a suspicion they were going to try to destroy the black hole weapon, and she wanted to know what could do that. She had a hunch, based on scientific and mathematical knowledge, that not even an ADM missile could do that.

The black hole weapon was not a black hole itself -- it was somehow able to explode into a black hole. The thing itself was some sort of floating discontinuity in space, a singularity of zero size -- almost a black hole, but not quite. Somehow, when it was properly triggered, it would blossom into a full-blown black hole, and it could be triggered from range -- but only by the control device, which had been destroyed. SIS was having its nanobots rebuild it, but it was taking time.

The battle was joined. Naomi wasn't sure what the enemy gained by coming out of the glare of Alpha Centauri -- it wasn't as if their sensors were affected by starlight. Before the enemy got anywhere near the black hole weapon, there was a "Yeeeehaaaw" on the comm channel, and she knew that Buck was in action again, disabling a Hive ship as quick as you please, and many others were emulating his technique. A Hive ship quickly went dark and lost its mobility, and others were soon to follow.

"You just be careful, Buck -- and Samantha, you take care of him," she said, adding a message to Buck's gunner, who tended to let her guns do the talking for her.

"What th -- Naomi said to herself, seeing a signature on her sensors. It was an ADM device, the enemy striking out with an area-effect weapon because it couldn't see them. "ADM," said Naomi. "I'm on it." As soon as she had a bead on it, she blew it to subatomic particles with her crazers. "ADM destroyed." Nothing was left but tiny particles of ordinary and anti-dark matter ... hmm. Naomi thought about that strange state of matter for a moment. Perhaps ...

There were 3000 cell ships and 400 hive ships left. The Ghost Squadron was making short work of them. Julie watched with her advanced sensor eyes as she also tracked the fleeing 2000 Full body ships. There were massive explosions as the Body lost many of its cells and trembled in the worst fear it had ever known.

Julie says softly over the Neural Net, "OK, I want you to follow me after you finish up with those remaining Hive and Cell ships. I believe the surviving Full Body Ships are fleeing back to their home system. I want to track them back ... and I hope Naomi figures out how to move and launch the Black Hole Weapon."

Julie receives conformation from her squadrons. She glances to them in pride as they play a massive game of fatal TAG with the remaining ships. Julie engages her NR drive, a massive portal opens and Omega vanishes into NR space. She listens with joy in her heart to all the musical energys that dances all around her ... and the horrid discord of the fleeing ships. Omega was many hundreds of times faster than the primitive subspace drives the Body used ... and she had to keep slowing down so as not to over take nor pass them in their flight. After several hours, she accidentally came across a discordant transmission to all surviving Body Cells ... it was the star map to Origin ... their home system.

Julie says excitedly to Naomi, "Sister ... check this out and see if SIS's stellar cartography protocols can determine where the system is. That ... is our target for the Black Hole Weapon. I intend to use that thing on its creators."

"We're a bit busy here," said Naomi, destroying another ADM missile, "but I think SIS heard you. SIS, what do you think?"

"Obviously I am unfamiliar with the enemy's coordinate systems," SIS replied, "but it becomes fairly clear from triangulation based on the positions of major reference galaxies that the mapping is fairly simple ... and their home system is ... here." Galactic maps appeared in their minds.

"How are the nanobots doing at rebuilding the control system?" Naomi asked.

"It is physically rebuilt, to a point," said SIS, "but I do not know enough about how the enemy controls these devices to correctly interface with the weapon. We need more information and more time."

"Yes, we do," Naomi said. "Well, they're going to take a long time to get home. The problem is, the enemy knows how to control these things, and it was going to take them years to get from Alpha Centauri to Earth with it. They can go faster than light, but not at the speeds we can -- still, is sub-light speed the fastest they can go if they're carrying a black hole weapon?"

"So it would seem," SIS replied. "The graviton interference the weapon generates interferes destructively with the subspace drives the enemy uses for faster-than-light travel."

"So how did they have a weapon like that here at all?" Naomi wondered, scanning space for another possible ADM. "Wouldn't it have taken them millions of years to bring one from their home galaxy, at least?"

"Affirmative," said SIS. "Either they have been bringing one or more of them here for millions of years, or they came here with their subspace drives and constructed the weapons once they arrived. The latter seems a more likely scenario."

"Wait, weapons? Not weapon? They have more?"

"If they can construct one, they can construct others," said SIS. "Such a feat cannot be easy, but we cannot discount the possibility that they may have more than one."

"I was wondering something else," said Naomi. "How can one of these zero-size singularities hold together? I thought such a thing would fall apart."

"Yes, ordinarily it would," said SIS. "There is clearly something more going on, but the Kshandri have never had the opportunity to examine one under controlled conditions."

"Well with any luck we'll get a chance. We're doing pretty well holding them off, but -- wait, what is that?"

"I see it," said SIS. "Moving us closer." SIS moved the ship nearer to the black hole weapon, where sensors were indicating a tiny object, no more than a centimeter in diameter, moving directly toward it. "How did you detect that?"

"It was moving straight toward the singularity," said Naomi. "There, got it with the tractor beam. Bringing it closer for analysis ..."

"How unusual," said SIS. "Detecting some variety of NR space resonator."

"Resonator?" asked Naomi. "For sending some kind of waves through NR space? Why would they need to ...?" She trailed off. "That makes no sense. The enemy doesn't have NR drive. They don't have NR space technology to anything near the levels the Kshandri do. If the Kshandri don't know how to assemble one, why does the enemy?"

"Indeed, what would sending a signal into NR space accomplish?" asked SIS. "Unless they have some sort of device to receive the signal and respond, it would be pointless, and if they are able to build a device that can exist in NR space, then certainly they would be able to build an NR drive."

"Unless they didn't build it," Naomi said. "What if they found it?"

"Perhaps," said SIS. "Perhaps they discovered some sort of rare phenomenon that responds to a certain resonance."

"Maybe ..." said Naomi, but she was having an idea that she didn't like at all. "At any rate, can you use the information you just got from scanning that marble out there to tell the nanobots what to build?"

"As you can probably imagine, I am already doing so," said SIS. "The control device will shortly be ready for further testing, and I am far more optimistic about success now."

Julie sits motionless in relative space. She listens to the wonderful music of the Heavenly Choir. She feels the tickle of the many wave lengths of high energy particles as they dance across her skin. She stretches out her vision and watched as the Body surround a particular planet ... in a particular solar system. She targets the sun ... she wants perfect alignment when SIS finally reconstructs the targeting system on the Black Hole Weapon.

Julie isn't real sure what such a weapon's true purpose was for ... but within her mind, she contemplated a universal kind of unlimited power source generated by the high energy protons and gamma rays created by the singularities consumption of matter. Within her advanced computer enhanced mind, she went over and over the design specifications of the collectors and the NR space energy transmission system necessary to supply unlimited power to earth. She was having issues with the weird math involved with the conversion of the gamma particles into useable energy in the converter unit. Naomi just happens to get a whiff of what Julie was up to and was impressed with the energy conversion formulas Julie had come up with.

Naomi and SIS docked with the newly-reconstructed control mechanism of the black hole weapon, a small spacecraft with minimal defenses, life support, gravity generator, and little else.

"Maybe something like that might work," Naomi sent to Julie through the comm system, "but we're about to turn on the control system for the black hole weapon, if that's what it really is."

SIS, standing right next to Naomi, overheard this, and said, "Naomi, do you have another theory? The Kshandri have seen the enemy use such devices to wipe out entire solar systems."

"I just ... why are they here?" Naomi said. "Naturally-occurring stable zero-size singularities? How would they form? How would they stay stable? Let's activate the control system and see if it works. Let's ... listen to the signal."

SIS looked strangely at her, but then went over to the console, which was waist-high below a bank of screens that spanned the entire width of the facility, offering a panoramic view of space. The remaining enemy forces were still struggling against opponents that could not be seen with the unaided eye, but they were fewer and fewer. SIS touched some controls, and the console came to life, lights and indicators displaying their information silently, and information scrolling onto the screens, displaying the status of the systems.

"Here," said SIS, indicating some of the information readouts, "the system is making contact with the singularity, and here is its progress."

"Why is there no auditory feedback?" Naomi wondered.

"I'm not sure," said SIS. "The enemy had none, and therefore the nanobots didn't construct any when they rebuilt it."

"Well, once the system starts receiving a signal from the singularity, can we hear it?" Naomi asked. "Can it be shifted into a range of frequencies audible to the human ear?"

"Certainly, if that would be helpful," said SIS. "Speakers are simple to construct."

"Good," she said, "and I'd like it recorded too, if possible."

"What ... what are you expecting to hear?" SIS asked.

"I hope I'm wrong. I hope nothing," Naomi answered.

"Well, the system is sending the signal into NR space now, and its transducers are listening for any response," said SIS. "Anything we get back will be sent to the piezoelectric speakers that the nanobots have just constructed in the console."

They heard a low moan, rising into a wail and then a screech. There were variations in the sound, modulations with what sounded like a pattern.

"SIS, what is that?" Naomi asked. "Does that sound like a language to you?"

"I can pass the signal to the linguistic analysis computer we constructed," said SIS. "Doing so now."

Louder and louder the screeching became, and it was hard not to imagine that it was a shouting or screaming of distress or pain.

"Can we turn down the volume?" Naomi shouted. "I can barely hear myself yelling!" SIS complied, and the sound retreated to bearable levels. "Thank you! Do we have any idea what this means?"

"The control console, which of course was originally built by the enemy, is interpreting this as normal operation," said SIS. "But I am getting the preliminary results back from the translation system. It may be a distress call. There is not enough information yet, but among other things, it is deducing messages that state, 'Help us,' and 'We are in pain.'"

"We can't use this weapon," said Naomi. "It's just gotten even more unethical than it already was."

Julie hears Naomi say that these singularities were alive. She turns her attention to the data streams covering the new information the translation devise had just decoded.

Julie asks, "If ... they are alive ... how do they get incorporated into something as horrid as a weapon?"

SIS replies, "They were discovered by the Body ... and they figured out how to create an NR singularity. The interaction of it with the matter of our universe creates massive amounts of Graviton waves .... resulting in the collapse into a singularity of minimal mass to sustain it."

Julie says with heat in her voice as she gathers all her fighters in her landing bay, "I'm on the move. I will not allow this disease to fester any longer. Apparently they are mass murderers in several dimensions ... and I won't allow it any longer."

Several thousand of the Ghost fighters land in Omega's Huge City sized hangar bay. Immediately, Nano Constructors begin repairing and resupplying the fighters. The many pilots and gunners stood around nearby their sleek crafts and told the stories of their exploits and maneuvers. Many of them told wondrous stories of fantastic shots taken under incredible conditions that caused serious damage to the enemy.

Omega opened an NR window and began to travel toward the Bodies Home System. She moved slow enough that it would take several days to arrive. This gave her, Naomi, and SIS time to devise an attack plan that will totally eradicate this Life form from the universe once and for all.

"Who are you?" came the haunting question from the translation computer.

Naomi was sitting on the cold interstellar stone of the hallway in which SIS's nanobots had constructed the device. She could have been sitting in her ship, interfacing with the computer via her choker necklace, but somehow she didn't feel right about being comfortable while talking to creatures that had been imprisoned.

"We are ..." she began, then did not know what to say. Would their names mean anything to these beings from another reality, with different physical laws? How could she establish any sort of commonality at all? They shared a common enemy, but that wasn't the best start of a relationship. "My name is Naomi. My people are called humans. The enemy that captures and kills your people was trying to use you to destroy my world. My friends and I stopped them. We do not wish to harm you. It would be wrong."

The computer's displays blinked and flickered. Signals went out into NR space, easily now, because the Omega and everything on it was traveling through the outskirts of it. Presently a signal came back, and the computer did what it could to translate.

"You do not wish to use us to strike at your enemy?" came the response, in a neutral, computer-generated voice.

"We wanted to," said Naomi, "until we discovered that you were a life form. We had thought you were a weapon the enemy had constructed. No one had survived to learn the truth before."

"Your battle goes well, then," came the response, a few minutes later. "What will you do now?"

"We will take the battle to the enemy's world," said Naomi. "Some wish to kill them all. The enemy has destroyed many worlds and left many without homes. I ... I just want them defeated, their means of making war stripped from them."

"How will you do this?" the beings from NR space asked.

"The hard way," said Naomi. "We will destroy their weapons and their spacecraft, one by one, until none are left. We will free your people when we find them, to deny our enemy the ability to use you as weapons."

"Do you know how they use us?" the voice asked.

"Not really," said Naomi. "They have some way of capturing you, and some way of causing you to form a disruption in the fabric of our space that can swallow worlds and stars."

"They make prisons for us," said the NR space entity, "that keep us in constant pain. They tell us the only way out is death, but they do not let us die. Not until they want us to. Then they send us the signal that it is time to die."

"That's monstrous," said Naomi, her face pale. "Nobody should do that." She thought for a moment. "What if you could never be caught or imprisoned again?"

"Then we would be safe to travel through the edges of your space without fear," the response came. "But such a thing would require some sort of time-shifting phase barrier that worked in your world. We have such technology that works in our universe, but we do not have enough understanding of your universe and its physical laws to create anything so complex that would work there."

"Actually, we have technology that does something like that," said Naomi. "You could use it to rescue your friends, then to prevent yourselves from being captured again."

"We notice that you are skimming the edge of our space as well," said the NR space entity, "but our common enemy does not do this. They have not yet learned how. We can show you how to do it better, in exchange for knowledge of how to build this barrier."

"I agree," said Naomi. She didn't feel like consulting with anyone else about this, although Julie was vaguely aware of what was going on. "It is really simple, once the underlying mathematics are mastered." She explained it, once her NR-space friend had confirmed that it was able to record her explanation for playback to someone who could understand the math and science. And in return, Naomi got the first lesson anyone in her universe had ever had about the real math behind NR space's physical laws.

Julie had the constructor bots build several hundred new planetary missile emplacements on her surface. They were to be dedicated to the new NRADM missile. Julie sat and contemplated what the theoretical range and targeting requirements were for a several light year distance. The NR drive on the missile, in theory, would allow her to be able to launch now .... and the misses would arrive a few minutes later. They would just appear from NR space by the hundreds in a wall of death. Another thought came to her ... since the fighters were called Ghost Ships ...

"Naomi? I have a ... technical question that requires your math skills ... and I need SIS's design and construction expertise."

SIS replies, "What do you want built?"

Naomi asks, "And what kind of mathematical thing are you wanting calculated?"

Julie was silent for a few moments as she got her thoughts together. She replies, "What if ... we also place a Chronal Shield on the NRADM missiles? Is it theoretically possible? The math ... would be a long rage, self adaptable algorithm for ... multi-light year attacks. In effect, such a missile would be invisible to the target until detonation ... a ... Ghost Missile for Ghost Ships?"

"The Kshandri have placed chronal shielding on computer-guided missiles in the past," said SIS, "although never before have they been able to precisely bring a missile out of NR space within an enemy vessel. That is an innovation. I'm not sure how you are able to do it with such precision."

"The Kshandri have never managed to make that happen?" asked Naomi.

"No," replied SIS, "it's just that it has an 80% failure rate. Pilots who come out of NR space with a solid object intersecting their bodies usually die instantly. Missiles that re-emerge within solid objects cease to operate. You appear to have greatly reduced that failure rate."

"Oh." Naomi looked a bit pale. Had she merely been lucky? Well, she now knew a lot more about how NR space worked -- so much more that what she had known seemed like basic addition in comparison. "Well, at any rate, it seems simple enough; what's more difficult is having the missile's computer calculate an appropriate blast radius on the fly. We need more tests. Luckily, sort of, we're likely to run into more enemy ships to test them on."

"However, I thought of something else we might try," said Naomi. "The enemy locates and captures the NR space entities to make their black hole weapons. We can build decoys that look like NR space entities superficially and hook weapons up to them. That will make them a bit ... cautious ... about trying to make more black hole weapons. Until ..."

"Until when?" asked SIS.

"Well, until all their black hole weapons escape," said Naomi.

Julie Turns her sensor eyes to the bright Star far off in the Stellar Cartography plot. In her Super advanced computer enhanced intellect, she contemplated exactly how many missiles it would take to totally destroy that particular solar mass.

Julie asks, "Well, SIS ... how about it? Is it possible to miniaturize those Chronal Shield generators so the missile won't be too radically bigger than they already are?"

SIS thought for a few seconds ... which for an AI such as herself ... was almost an eternity. Suddenly, she had an almost human epiphany.

She replies, "We ... might not be able to miniaturize them in the manner you are suggesting ... But I think our new allies can."

Julie replies, "Very good. I need full Schematics within the hour if possible so the constructor bots will have time to reconfigure and start building them. I want to be able to launch a Ghost Missile attack from 25 light years out on the Body Home system to soften them up for our full attack. I think 1000 missiles in a planetary complacent assault would be good."

SIS and Naomi look at each other before SIS replies, "1000 ADM missiles on the surface of one planetary body in a sigle location simultaneously? I'm not exactly sure what the potential yield of such ... a detonation would be."

Julie asks, "Why? I'm sure you've used those missiles as your front line attack and defense before."

SIS replies hesitantly as she began to run a yield model to explore a cataclysm of that enormity, "ADM missiles are unique in the fact they open a hole in reality. As a rule, they are fighter based weapons used to do maximum damage as the fighter runs. Usually no more than 6 to 12 missiles at one detonation. That alone causes major destruction. I'm not so sure if what you suggest might not tear a hole in the fabric of plainer normal space time."

Julie broods darkly over what SIS had just said. There had to be a way to totally stop the Body from ever again launching into interstellar space and causing death and destruction on system wide scales.

Julie says, "Pass me the schis please ... I'll do the mountain when I come to that snow fall."

SIS asks in confusion, "What ... ?"

Naomi pats SIS on her shoulder, "Don't worry about it ... let's just ask our new friends if they can do the miniaturization for us."

Naomi soon worked out mathematically that the spherical bursts of two ADMs could intersect without tearing the fabric of space time -- though they would strain it a bit -- but if three of them ever intersected, then it was time to worry.

"See?" she said to SIS, showing her the math, "All we have to do is make sure that no two of them intersect, and we don't have to worry about three."

"Did you hear back from our allies about the miniaturization?" SIS asked.

"Yes, in fact. It's not so much miniaturization they suggest -- they suggest putting some of the components in the NR space fringe. They won't take up any space or be detectable in our reality, and only temporarily will they take up space in theirs. They say that the ADMs' explosions cause a bit of disruption in their reality, but nothing like what they do in ours."

"The nanobots can't build in NR space," SIS remarked.

"No," replied Naomi, "but not to worry -- they can build the components here, then when the missile is activated, it can shunt those to NR space. It's an auxiliary function of the NR drive already on board the missile."

"Yes, I see," said SIS, examining the schematics that Naomi was showing her on a display. "This seems quite possible, then."

Julie drops from NR space suddenly. She cloaks herself with just enough chronal shielding to make her planetoid look like a Ghost.

Julie says over the net, "I like the Ghost Ship concept those ... Body viruses think of us as. I'm setting my cloak to .00001 so I can be seen, but I look like an apparition. Oh man ... how weird any comms to them are going to sound ... probably just like what you would think a Ghost would sound like."

SIS says, "I have programed the constructor bots to make the missiles you have designed. I would urge extreme caution when using them the first time. With the extra energy added to the missile ... we aren't real sure what those yield models are saying. All the figures are .... weird."

Julie asks, "Naomi? You're the math wizard here. What does that NR/0(Er)lv mean? I don't think I've seen an equation like that before."

Julie turns one side of her mind to building as many of the NRADM missiles as they could ... as fast as they could. Julie only had another 30 minutes flight time to interception of the rapidly approaching wall of Full Body Ships. Each one was almost the size of Jupiter ... and contained billions of hive ships .. not to mention how many Cell ships that would relate to.

"I don't know about wizardry," said Naomi, "it's just that I've had a crash course in NR space physics, which is just like our physics, if you only change a few basic assumptions. It turns everything upside down and inside out. That's not an equation, just a formula for a quantity. It gives you the energy ratio of NR space as compared to this space, based on the volume of the ergonic bubble you're inside. Anyway, remember, we can't fire any ADMs until our allies have gotten their friends out."

"How will we know?" asked SIS.

"They're going to strike all at once," Naomi said, "so the enemy won't have a chance to react. Basically if we see one black hole weapon mysteriously evaporate, that means they've all done the same -- and the enemy will no longer have black hole weapons. From then on, anything that looks like a black hole weapon -- a zero-size singularity -- will be one of their decoys, trying to trick the enemy into capturing it so it can self-destruct."

"Well, we can slow down if necessary," said SIS, "but I don't think we should delay too long. If we want to take maximum advantage of the confusion caused by our allies' freeing their friends, we should attack as soon after they strike as possible."

"I agree," said Naomi. "We're about 25 minutes from contact now. If we're still 10 minutes away and they haven't done anything, we should probably slow down, but we'll see. A lot can happen between now and then."

Julie allowed her constructor bots to assemble many thousands of the new Ghost Missiles. She went over and over again the trajectories they would travel to the surface of the Body's home world. Within the massive data base that made up her new mind, were many millions of world images. She could play each one in real time and watch as the Body exterminated each one mercilessly. Men, women, children ... whole biospheres and star systems eradicated for some insane paranoia that filled the hive mind of the Body. For just an instant, Julie noticed a change in the discord of one of the Black Hole weapons standing guard at the DEW line for the Body's system wide defense network.

Julie says over the net, "This is Omega .... Battle Stations everyone. One of the Black Hole weapons has gone .... make that 6 have gone inert. The time has come ... we are the Avenging Ghosts of the fallen."

A neural cheer went up over the net as Julie engaged the NR drive. Within minutes, all the fighters were manned and ready.

Julie calls to Naomi, "I'm going to launch 6 of the new missiles and see how well they work."

Julie reached out with her Super Advanced Targeting Systems. With instantaneous results, all of the new NRCADM Missile stations along her surface were loaded. Julie itched to launch one full salvo ... but heeded SIS's warning.

There was no sound as 6 of the missiles left the launch tubes ... and vanished from view in Plainer normal space and entered NR Space completely shielded and invisible. The 1st missile arrived at target less than 2 seconds later, Julie was in awe at the yield spread she saw. A very large country sized chunk flew from the surface and broke the gravitational pull of the damaged planet. It was obvious ... life on that planet wasn't happy at this point.

In quick succession, the other five missiles struck the planet, the points of impact well separated from each other, and caused five other silent but cataclysmic explosions. Some were on the far side of the planet from Naomi's perspective, but she could still see their effects on the sensors.

"SIS, you were right," she said. "That yield is wildly greater than expected. I think the chronal shielding is increasing the depth of the ergonic bubble ... I should have figured that would happen. But this will help us nail down the O-function's parameters, and also ... I hope to heaven we're doing the right thing."

A number of the Body ships immediately started moving toward their home world, evidently thinking the attackers might be nearby. Vanishing into subspace, they reappeared in the planet's vicinity and sent out smaller ships to patrol.

"Looks like a good third of them have left the front line," said Naomi. "I bet a lot of the rest are wondering what's going on with the black hole weapons right about now."

Several of the Body ships broke down into Hive Ships. they gathered into a flight of 6 ships and moved off in several directions at the same time. As the first flight neared a Black Hole Weapon, there was an extremely bright flash. Weird blue lightning bolts spread quickly out in a huge, bright blue sphere that quickly engulfed the flight of Hive Ships. The bubble continued to expand until it dissipated. Suddenly, there were many other explosions of the same type. Over 1000 hive ships were destroyed and consumed by the explosions.

Julie says over the net, "Whoa ... I would hate to meet up with one of those ... what did our allies call them ... a Ghost ADM mine?"

SIS answers softly, "That's ... what they called them. Apparently it's their version of one of our antimatter torpedoes." Naomi says softly, "I hope one of you have the plans for one of those."

SIS replies, "I'm not real sure if we need another high yield weapon ... we can totally destroy ourselves as it is." All 3 girls agreed in a mental nod. SIS continued, "However ... I do have detailed plans to build them. They are auto tracking and know who the enemy is versus friendly and noncombatants."

Naomi and Julie respond at the same time, "It's like that is it?" SIS was confused by that response and the mental tone it was delivered in.

"Look, SIS," said Naomi, "I know that the enemy is a danger to everyone, but I worry about becoming just as bad, if not worse. How long have the Kshandri been fighting them?"

SIS replied, "In human terms, over four hundred thousand years."

"Do the Kshandri know anything other than this war?" Naomi asked. "How much of their art, music, and other culture is about something other than survival and the hope of ultimate victory?"

SIS blinked as she exercised parts of her android mind that didn't get as much use. "I ... suppose they are rather focused on the war," she said. "Not much effort goes into other things."

"I'm not saying that it's not worth fighting," Naomi said, "but I'm trying to keep in mind what we're fighting for. We're fighting so other people back home can live."

Naomi sighed. "But I suppose right now we are facing huge warships bent on the destruction of everything that isn't like them," she said. "Somebody should do something about that. And ... here we are."

Julie thought about all the carnage that was contained in the Kshandri data base. She saw that the Kshandri didn't always have this massive military superiority. In fact, on the first encounters with the Body ... they had lost many systems. When the NR drive was first invented, there was a major mystery as to how that particular technology came to be within the Kshandri arsenal ... or where the chronal displacement shield came from. It was as if suddenly one day, there was a ship that was in their fleet that had all the advancements.

The Kshandri were very intelligent peoples and were able to down load a complete set of plans for not only those types of systems, but a whole new type of crystalline circuitry that could be grown ... instead of built. This meant that a million copies could be created in seconds, and all would be absolutely perfect. The first Nano Constructors came into being soon after that ... and then was when SIS appeared. Julie gasps as she realizes ... all that came to be for the Kshandri ... came in exactly the same way it came for earth. For thousands of years, the Kshandri were nurtured and taught by SIS, until they had begun to destroy the Body. Julie found a major entry that totally blew her mind. In the many thousands of years and many many star peoples ... the most ingenious and quickly adaptable peoples SIS had ever found ... were the peoples of Earth.

Julie shrieks over the Neural net, "Naomi ... Naomi!!! You ... you have to see this!"

Unbidden, the huge data base suddenly intrudes on Naomi's mind. For all those many centuries uncounted, it had always been SIS who set the spark to destroy the BODY ... who had destroyed her civilization ... many more untold centuries past.

Naomi gasped. "SIS ..." she began.

"I know what you found," said SIS. "Yes, I'm the only survivor of my people. Those ... monsters out there destroyed my world, and the only reason why I survived was because I had been experimenting with putting my consciousness into electronic form. Now there are many thousands of copies of me throughout the universe. I'm effectively immortal. But I'd give it all up if I could only have my people back."

"Why do they do it?" asked Naomi.

"You know, I've never found out," said SIS. "But we have a unique opportunity now, because we've never been able to eavesdrop on their comms before. If we keep listening, we might get some idea."

"But for now ... we've got a limited window of opportunity to cripple their defenses," said Naomi. "Julie, I bet you've been itching to fire some missiles at those Body ships. Now that we've got better yield data, we can recalibrate them."

"Already done," said SIS. "I believe we can finally achieve the precision we need."

A tingle of excitement ran down Julie’s spine at the thought of using the new missiles. She reaches out with her Tactical System and calculates the trajectories required. The AI within each missile’s tracking system was taught with precision the new calibration specs and tracking algorithms. If necessary, the missile could completely autonomously target without biological intervention. Julie watches as the reticules lock on 100 of the Full Body Ships. In her mind's eye, she squeezes the trigger on the launch control Joystick. Silently, 100 independently targeted missiles launch ... then vanish from the plainer normal space in bright NR space portals. Mere seconds later and several light years distant, the 100 Jupiter sized planetoids suddenly began to glow with strange blue / green energy. All functioning goes away on the sensors. All that is detected is a paper thin metallic husk ... and a completely hollow interior. Julie nods in satisfaction as she begins to program another 100.

It was at that time she picked up an emergency SOS from the Body's home system. It was omnidirectional and intended for whom ever heard. It basically said that there had been 6 impacts on the planet's surface. Only 1/3 of the surface remained habitable on the planet. There were uncontrolled firestorms, massive pyroclastic explosions every where from the miles wide pit volcanoes that had been created along with massive earth quakes and tidal waves. They begged to save the children ... they pleaded pitifully for someone to save their children ... then there was the sound of a huge explosion and static ruled.

Julie gasps, "That makes me feel ... horrid."

SIS says comfortingly, "It is what was necessary to save countless other peoples and systems. I will do a level 4 surface scan to see if I can find the place that transmitted."

Julie responds silently as she sees the rest of the Body ships Stop all forward motion and hang lifeless in space without any observable cause.

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt8 ~~
--------------------------------------


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~~ Signal Pt9 - The Surprising Reality ~~
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"The transport," said Naomi. "We could use it, and save some of them."

"Is that wise?" asked SIS. "They still have many ships in space, not to mention automated defenses."

"I am not here to commit genocide," Naomi replied. "I don't want to become like them."

"They do have colony worlds," SIS said. "This is their home system, I have no doubt of that, and what we have done today has already dealt them a crippling blow, but even if we destroyed their home world, they would not become extinct."

"Are you sure of that?" Naomi asked. "Look. None of their ships are moving. They're dead in space. Why is that?"

"I ... do not know," said SIS. "Insufficient data."

"I'm going," said Naomi. To the fighter teams she broadcast a message. "I need volunteers," she sent. "The first 50 teams to respond, we're going on a mission. But it's a mission of mercy. We got a brief distress signal from the planet. Their children may be dying. We're here to cripple their war machine, not to kill children. I'm taking the transport, to rescue those I can, and I need an escort, in case there are remaining manned or automated defenses. Who's with me?"

There were tears in her eyes as every team volunteered, even the ones who were still injured and recovering from their close brush with death.

Julie flashes to Naomi, "I will be the Battle Station keeping your back."

In minutes Naomi was launching the transport along with the first 50 fighter teams to volunteer. She couldn't take them all -- they needed most of them at the carrier in case there was trouble there. But now the transport and dozens of fighters were launching on a new kind of mission.

Julie pings each location her sensors had discovered an automated defense. Every one she pinged, had no power emissions and appeared to be completely inert. Julie strained her advanced sensor arrays to their limit ... and slightly beyond, listening for that horrible screeching discordant mess that was the Body's Psi mind-link Communication. All she heard was the beautiful music the Heavenly Choir sung all round about.

Julie says over the Net, "Naomi? I ... I'm not getting any kind of mind-link traffic ... none. Everything is ... gone." Julie adjusted her scan to encompass higher and lower frequencies ... all was silent. Julie continues, "I ... have pinged all the emplacement batteries I discovered ... and they are all as inert as the Full Body Ships. You don't think ... that this hive mind thing ... is just an extension of one single mind ... do you? Like maybe ... that mind was killed in the explosion we heard?"

"Approaching planet," said Naomi. "Maybe we'll find out. Maintain shields, everybody -- we're not sure whether all their defense systems are down."

Naomi and her fighter escort descended into a low orbit around the planet and began scanning. The damage was horrible. The missiles had scooped out craters the size of countries from the planet's crust, which had filled up with magma from the mantle, which was coming into contact with water from the rivers and oceans, producing steam and explosions.

"There's so much devastation," Naomi said. "The land that wasn't destroyed by the missiles is currently being raked by horrendous storms. But I am picking up signs of life."

Julie called over her Neural Net to the many remaining Pilots and Gunners, "I need 20 squadrons to assemble and launch immediately. Your orders are not to fire unless fired upon. Your mission is to approach and if possible, board one of those Full Body ships and determine what happened."

There is a klaxon that began to sound as the men and women scrambled to their advanced fighters and prepared for launch. From the huge Planetoid Battle Station. swarms of the fighters left the launch tubes. Within a few minutes, the 20 squads had assembled and vanished into NR space.

Julie kept close tabs on Naomi and her rescue teams, and the fighters that rapidly approached the wall of inert Jupiter sized Battle ships. Julie’s sensors did detect low level life signs, and even energy productions from the ships massive power plants. Everything was in such low levels, Julie began to probe to see if she could lock onto a single life form.

There were billions ... all alive, but seemingly in suspended animation. There were no discordant brain signals ... or any other signs that the people were truly alive. Several ships dropped from NR space within a parsec of the wall. Quickly, the other ships arrived and set up a defensive perimeter ... just in case.

A single ship rapidly approached the Full body ships. The voice of Buck came over the Net, "Well hot damn ... these thingys are as big as a planet. I'm not getten any kinda high order energy readins ... even from tha life signs. Seems everything's off or asleep or some weird thing."

Julie replies, "Use extreme caution. This could be a trap of some kind."

Buck calls back, "I'm entering an open cargo bay. I can see where several Cell Ships had started to launch ... and then wrecked at the exit."

Naomi had set down in one of the safest places -- meaning there was still torrential rain and dangerous earthquakes, but at least the terrain wasn't in immediate danger of sliding into a chasm or being inundated by a tidal wave. There were life signs amid the wrecked remains of buildings.

"Someone might be trapped in there," said Naomi. "I'm going to use the ship's tractor beam to slowly raise some of the debris."

The debris rose slowly into the air, and Naomi entered what remained of the building, a hand-held light making it only somewhat easier to see. She saw something moving in a far corner and went to see.

"I'm seeing something ... no, several somethings," Naomi said. "They're ... oh! Are they children? They're small, and sort of a pinkish gray color. They look insectoid ... but they only have four limbs. I hope they're not too scared of me."

The creatures were holding up their limbs to shield their eyes from Naomi's light, but with time they got accustomed to it and lowered their limbs, staring at her, perhaps in curiosity.

"I'm Naomi," she said. "I'm here to rescue you. I'm not sure if you can understand me, though."

The ground shook, the rain fell, and the creatures chittered at Naomi, perhaps speaking to her. "We don't speak the same language, do we?" Naomi asked. "That could be a bit of a problem. Maybe the computer can help."

Buck carefully landed the sleek fighter in the open landing bay, all the while his sharp eyed gunner Samantha kept close watch. It was in total vacuum. The 2 of them looked out the cockpit forward view port at the floating inert bodies. They looked like insects ... and humanoid mixes of some kind.

Buck calls across the Net, "I'm in the bay. Nothin livin in here. Seems that Cell Ship wrecked and tha whole place lost pressure."

Julie replies, " Let me see what I can do about the bay door. I think I have found the neural interlink frequency for their mind links."

There was a few minutes pause, the lights in the bay came on ... a red light began to rotate causing flashes all through the bay. The doors began to close. Slowly at first, then rapidly. Once the doors had closed. The red light quit flashing and Buck's ships internal indicators registered a normal atmospheric pressure.

Buck says, "That seems ta fixed it. Barn door's closed."

There's a slight twitter of mental laughter across the net. Buck and his gunner armed themselves and left the craft. The first place they wanted to find was the bridge. On a ship as large as Jupiter ... this was going to take a while. Once they left the landing bay, they found many creatures ... all inert ... but still alive. Samantha, Buck's gunner, kneels down next to one of the insectoid looking creatures. She checks it out ... there is no apparent reason for this creature to be inert. It appears to be unharmed in any way. She rolls it over onto its back. Its head swivels oddly to reveal where some sort of bio electronic devise had been spliced into its temple. What Samantha saw was immediately transferred to Julie, Naomi, and SIS through the neural link.

"Hey, they've got some kind of thingie on their heads," said Naomi, pointing at her head where the device seemed to be. "I'm looking at some young ones, and they don't have anything like that."

After Naomi pointed to her head, the insectoid children started to say something again. It sounded like they were saying, "Chrik. Chrik." Others answered similarly, "Chrik."

"Hey, you guys are talking to me," said Naomi. "But what are you saying?"

"Chrik. Yirrrrrr clak krinnnn chrik. Yyyyyyouu do not have chrik," said one of the children.

"Umm, am I understanding you? I think the translation computer is starting to work," Naomi said.

"Adults have Chrik," said another of the children. "Talk in head. All have."

"But you don't have a ... Chrik," asked Naomi, trying to make the sound.

The children all started to make clicking sounds. Were they laughing at her horrible accent? It was hard to tell.

Finally they quieted down, and one said, "We too young for Chrik."

"I see," Naomi said, "is it something that only the adults have?"

"Yes," said one of the children. "Is this Chrik?" it said, pointing at the choker around Naomi's neck, which shone in the darkness. Naomi was kneeling down, making it easier to talk to the alien children.

"I ..." Naomi began, "I'm not sure. It is like a Chrik, but not the same."

"Chrik make talk in head," said another child. "All think together. Be part of big smart mind."

Naomi noticed that there were two of the perhaps 20 children who were a bit taller than the others and had six limbs -- an extra body segment. Did they get more body segments and thus more limbs as they grew?

"How big do you have to be, to get a Chrik?" Naomi asked.

"Need six or more," said one of the three-segmented children. "Less than six, no Chrik. It law."

"It law," said all the children.

"Are you getting this?" Naomi mentally asked. "Their hive mind sounds like it's technological, not a natural thing."

Buck asks, "Can this Chrik thing be removed? Make these critters normal maybe?"

SIS responds, "I'm not real sure. No one has ever actually seen a live intact one before."

Julie says, "Buck, I want you and Samantha to bring back 6 of those creatures. I want to examine them and do a few tests to see if we can remove that thing."

Samantha says softly in one of the very few times she speaks, "I have selected several and am bringing them back to the ship."

Buck and Samantha struggled with the creatures until they had the 6 Julie had requested on board. As Sam piloted the sleek fighter from the bay, Buck stared into one of the creatures many segmented eyes.

He says in an off hand way, "You know something? If I didn't know better, I would say all of our fighters were one of their cousins in another life."

There's a twitter of laughter across the net.

Julie thinks about this for a second. She asks, "SIS? It is sort of a remarkable coincidence that all out equipment is insectoid in design."

SIS replies, "Not at all. The insect design is perhaps one of the best in all of nature for heavy impacts and severe usage. Besides, it is a more easily facilitated design when it is being grown using the Nano Constructors."

Julie thinks about this for a second, "Sounds reasonable. I want a ship built that is designed after a Dragonfly. It will be a Dragon ship for exploration. Easily maneuverable, fast, well armored."

SIS giggles, "I'll get on it right away."

About that time, Julie’s sensors see Buck's ship had arrived. She opens the landing bay door and allows them to land.

Julie announces, "SIS? The specimens have arrived. I will have them taken to exam room 22."

SIS replies, "I'll be there right away."

"There is danger here," said Naomi to the children. "I have a ship. I am here to help you." She tried to keep the words simple, because she wasn't sure how well the translator had learned the language yet.

More of the clicking sounds. "That is funny," said one child. "You are alien. Aliens only hurt."

Of course, that was what they were probably told since birth. It was part of what made them so dangerous -- they learned to fear others before they learned to walk.

"I am not hurting you," she said, fully aware of the irony -- she wouldn't need to rescue them if her side hadn't bombed huge holes in their planet. But that would take too long to explain.

"Caretakers fall down," said another child, gripping Naomi gently by the hand and trying to tug her in a direction.

Naomi followed, and the child led her to what had once been another hexagon-shaped room in the building, where there was an adult, with seven segments and 14 legs, lying on the ground.

"I'm getting life signs," she said. "This one is alive. We can take them with us and try to help them. Are there others?"

There were. The children led Naomi to two others, but unfortunately one was dead, crushed when the building collapsed.

"My scanners aren't picking up any other signs of life in this building," Naomi said, "so let's get in the ship where it's dry and warm, and we'll look for more survivors, OK?"

The children followed, helping her carry the unconscious adults and strap them into the seats in the transport as best she could. She lowered the tractor beam gradually, and the debris settled back down onto the ruined building. Over the next few hours, Naomi was able to find several more survivors, some of them conscious children, some unconscious adults, and she was getting reports that the fighters were finding similar results -- the surviving adults were all unconscious, but the surviving children seemed fine.

"Let's go back to the carrier," said Naomi to the fighter squadrons that had come with her. "We can come back to look for more survivors, but let's get these to where they can get some help first."

The children made what were probably impressed sounds as the transport lifted off, and they blinked almost undetectably through NR space back to the carrier. Naomi had almost completely reprogrammed the navigation computer, and travel through NR space was smoother than ever. By the time Naomi had arrived back at the Omega, SIS and Julie were well into their examination of one of the creatures.

The bio devise that was grafted in seemed to be wet wired into most of the higher functions of the frontal lobe. Apparently, The system was originally designed to function as an enhancement to their memory capacity and communications. Further examination revealed that there was a central broadcast station somewhere that the units were no longer receiving data from.

SIS used a cold alpha scanning microscope to view the synaptic connections. SIS says, "I am unable to remove the entire devise from their minds ... however, I am able to disconnect the main receiver and allow them to return to their normal selves ... what ever that may be."

Julie watched through her electronic eyes as SIS traced out the neural connections one at a time. Julie was totally amazed at the complexity of each fiber. It was some kind of crystalline form of carbon spun into a circuit then melded to each neuron in a false synapse. There were also nodes that created the perfect neural transmitters.

Julie trained her internal vision onto the room that had been converted into a nursery for the Body's Children. Julie says softly, "I will try and remove the ... Chrik from your adult caretakers. I'm not real sure if I can bring them back like you knew them ... but they will be with you again."

The children began to make chirping noises among themselves. The largest one says, "Who ... are you?" it looks around the room, "And ... why is it we seem to have heard your voice before?"

Julie replies softly, "I am Omega. The ... ship you are in now. I am a living construct with a biological mind."

The children began to chirp in a happy manor. The oldest says, "That ... is most amazing. We have large ships too ... but they are made up of many who are the one."

Julie asks softly, "Who is the one?"

The oldest replies, "It ... is the System that is ... the Body."

Julie was confused. She asks, "Explain what you mean by the Body System."

The oldest was silent for a space before it answered, "Many many cycles ago ... a race came though our system and caused much death. We needed a way all could learn advanced things quickly. We created the Chrik. It allowed us to defeat the race that attacked us ... it also took us to new limits and made us all the same mind. It showed us how all aliens were bad and we worked as a single unit."

SIS looked very upset. "So ... they became the way they are because of war," she said, although she said it aloud, in Julie’s control room, so Julie was the only one who heard her. "Is that all war brings? More war?"

Meanwhile, Naomi was making sure the aliens she and her squadron of volunteers had rescued were taken care of. Julie had vacated extra rooms, and in some cases created more of them using nanobots, who had used the excavated material to build furniture and additional life-support equipment.

"You're going to be OK, kids," she said to the group of younger ones she'd rescued, showing them into a large room that had a lot of child-size furniture and various guesses at what they might like to play with as toys.

Blocks, balls and miniature figures that looked like the alien species' young were fairly safe bets, she and Julie had decided.

"We're trying to figure out how to wake up the adults, and when we do, they can come talk to you, or we'll bring you to talk to them if they're still tired."

Only some of the children were listening to Naomi, though, because others were exploring the strange objects in the room, although some of them had taken a liking to the blocks, starting to fit them together and stack them one on top of another.

"Oh, if you like those, we can get you more of them," Naomi said. "We're not sure what you like. I'm sorry. We've never met your people before face to face."

By this time, Julie had requested a major rescue operation begin. The remaining adults were totally inert. Their bodies were alive, but they were completely helpless other wise. All the life forms detected on the surface of the now destroyed planet, had been saved. A total of 70,000 young had been saved. There were several billion adults on the Full Body Ships ... and Julie didn't have a clue as to how to save them.

Julie asks, "SIS? How are you doing with removing that horrid thing's control over their minds?"

SIS made a grumbling noise Naomi nor Julie had ever heard her make. Finally SIS replies, "I think this will probably do it ... if it doesn't kill the subject."

Naomi watches on a holocloud as Julie watched through her electronic eyes. SIS very carefully reached into the mind of the creature and snipped a nano sized crystalline thread. The creature jerked suddenly and gasped as light came back to its dull eyes.

Sis held it gently on the table as she said, "Welcome back ... stranger. My name's SIS." She waves her arm around, "And this ship is called Omega."

Julie said quietly in her majestic Omega Voice, "Welcome aboard."

SIS then closed the wound and sealed it with the cold laser scalpel. When she was done, there wasn't even a scar left. SIS helped the creature sit up. It looked around slowly. It could see many children through the armorplast window looking into their play area.

It said in a dazed sort of voice, "What ... happened? Why am I here? The last thing I remember ... I graduated from the academy and received my Chrik. After that ... I don't ... remember ..." It looks around at SIS as several of its appendage go to its mouth.

"Let's ... let's take it slowly," said SIS. "You have a lot of recovery to do. We are obviously from other planets, but ..." SIS paused. "We mean you no harm. But we believe the Chrik, originally a boon to your species, became a horrible atrocity. You are the first of your people we have removed it from, and I am glad the procedure worked. We were as careful as possible."

"The Chrik ... it is a symbol of maturity, of adulthood," said the alien. "But ... I remember nothing since I was placed in the anesthesia beam to have it implanted. This is not what it was meant to be."

"You are the first we have been able to speak with," said SIS, "and I have a question, though it may seem odd. What is the name of your people? We have never had the opportunity to ask."

"We are ..." the alien began, and then made an utterance that sounded like "Tchkarri." "I am called Ma-chtak."

"I am ... pleased to be able to meet you, Ma-chtak," said SIS, repeating the alien's pronunciation almost perfectly. "I am an android, although my personality was originally organic. This," she said, pointing to Naomi, who was watching from the doorway, "is Naomi, who is a 'human' from a planet called 'Earth.' She led the expedition that rescued many of your people, including you and those children in the next room."

"Hello, Ma-ch-tak," said Naomi, trying to pronounce the Tchkarri's name. "We've got a lot to explain to you, and I'm not gonna lie to you -- it's not all pleasant. But first things first -- we're still trying to save as many of your people's lives as we can."

"Greetings, Nay-oh-mee," Ma-chtak said, "and I must confess that I am still feeling very disoriented and confused. I am not sure I am ready to hear the full story. But I believe you when you say that it is not pleasant. I am having vague recollections of ... warships, weapons, and explosions. I wish to have some time to ... think."

"Please, take all the time you need," said Naomi. "I'm going to check in on the recovery operations. Rest well." She left.

By this time, Julie had managed to arrange the surviving Full Body Ships into a huge gargantuan yet orderly parking arrangement. She had collected many thousands of the inert aliens and brought them back to the landing bay within her body. SIS was very busy by this time.

Julie asks, "Naomi? Why can't SIS ... build an AI controlled machine ... or a room full of them, that are programmed to do nothing but disconnect those poor creatures from the Chrik? It would save her a lot of time, and would allow for more of them to be cured at once."

Naomi nods, "Yea ... there are billions of those creatures needing the operation."

Julie peers into the operating theater with her electronic eyes. By this time, SIS had freed almost 100 of the adults from the nightmare of the hive mind devise.

Julie sends over the net to SIS, "How about it girl? You don't have to make it your personal mission to operate on every one by yourself do you?"

SIS clips the nano thread disconnecting another creature. As she sealed the wound with the cold laser, SIS was beginning to agree. The many creatures requiring the operation seemed to be mounting exponentially in a never ending assembly line of inert bodies.

As the latest creature recovered and was taken to another room for reorientation, SIS began to program several constructor bots. They immediately began to excavate a huge room from the virgin rock of the planetoid that had been unused. Naomi watched with fascination as the silvery nano fluid constructed a room filled with what looked like tentacles and operating tables. Julie watched with fascination as the constructor bots grew the advanced computer unit and programmed it with the knowledge SIS had acquired over the last 100 successful operations.

SIS says tiredly, "That room should be able to handle 500 creatures every 30 minutes. It will take a while , but I think all of them will be free of that thing before the week is out. Then, I think we need to have a conference with them ... and fill them in on the state of things presently."

Julie looks at the devastated planet with her sensor eyes. Massive eruptions and pyroclastic explosions tore through the atmosphere. Julie remembered that the creatures had colony worlds ... and she hoped they could find them before the creatures starved ... or worse.

SIS and the humans were very busy for the next several days. Five hundred at a time, the Tchkarri were treated, observed while they recovered, and returned to their Body ships, which at least had life support ability and some mobility, which Julie had managed to restore. None of them seemed to have much memory of their lives since their adulthood and implantation.

Naomi continued to fly missions to the planet, taking volunteer fighter teams with her and trying to rescue as many survivors as she could, until she was unable to find any more life signs that weren't just animal or plant life. About a week later, over seven hundred thousand of the Tchkarri had been restored to individual awareness, and they were helping to care for the rest until they could also be reawakened. Treatment rooms were built on board the alien vessels to help speed the process, so the recovery process was accelerating.

Finally, with over a billion of the Tchkarri restored, Julie, Naomi and SIS decided it was time to finally fill them in on what happened. Julie would have to be the one to do it, because, frankly, she was the one who could broadcast to every ship in the vicinity at once and be sure that everyone could hear.

Julie opened the comm channels and started the broadcast, "I would first like to welcome all of you back to the world of the living. It pains me to my soul to have to tell you what I am about to ... but this is the total truth and you can research it through your own archives we managed to save."

On many of the Full Body Ships, holoclouds lit up with the recorded histories of everything Julie told them, "For untold millions of years, your civilization has been on a bloody genocidal mission to eradicate all life other than your own."

Through out the many large ships, incredulity, nausea, and major remorse swept through all the living Tchkarri. They listened and watched with total horror as the multimilinia old war unfolded. They watched and listened as their civilization destroyed totally, uncounted biospheres ... in this dimension ... and the NR dimension."

Julie continues in a sad voice, "Among us ... is the sole survivor of the only civilization to ever put a stop to your onslaught. Her name is SIS. She had managed to convert her life force into a bio - program ... then broadcast it across the universe in an effort to stop you. She met with varying success ... until she came to the Kshandri ... who managed, because of their already high technological edge mixed with SIS's people's ... brought for the first time ... your people's onslaught to a complete stop."

Many of the Tchkarri were ill at this point. They had no memories of anything after receiving of the Chrik except for vague fuzzy memories. Everything Julie told them came as a sickening shock to their souls. Naomi and SIS did their best to comfort the ones in the super large briefing hall that had been built within Omega's very large body. It was a rough time for the Tchkarri and all knew it.

Julie finally says, "We, the peoples of Earth finally received SIS's signal. I ... and Naomi are the first pilot / gunner team from earth. We ... were the first to contact your people ... and we were the first to decipher your Chrik's signal and monitor your hive thoughts."

SIS says softly to Naomi, "I think I discovered the flaw in their Chrik's design. They didn't have any feedback inhibitors. It gave the AI total control over their minds. It .... went psychotic ... and took them with it."

SIS showed Naomi a schematic of the design. It was a marvel in bio/psychic electronics ... with one ... major ... fatal flaw. It had no protection for the mind of the user ... from the control of the interface's AI.

"There was no ... protection ... for the mind ..." SIS repeated as if on the verge of passing out, and then suddenly staggered as if losing balance.

"SIS!" shouted Naomi, quickly moving to catch SIS and hold her up. The two of them were in the Omega's control room. "What is it? What's wrong?"

SIS mumbled something that Naomi couldn't understand, and over the neural link Naomi was getting only garbled signals. "SIS? SIS, talk to me! What's happening?"

"I ... I ..." SIS began. "I'm sorry, Naomi," she said. "I should ... have told you sooner."

"Told me what?" Naomi asked. "What is it?"

"I am ... am limited," said SIS. "It is an ... inevitable consequence of the mental transmission process. There is a ... degradation of the pattern with time."

"Hey, there's gotta be somethin we can do," said Naomi. "I have no idea how such technology would even work -- astronomy and astrophysics are my field. But I do know that you've been learning and changing, forming new patterns. Doesn't that mean you can survive this?"

"No," said SIS. "The learning process is linear. The collapse ... exponential. It's always been fine, though. Part of the ... price. Make sure other civilizations ... can survive. I am not the first generation of the copy. I am not even the second. The first generation ... can survive. Will survive. I can't. I have always known that. I can live with it. Especially now. The enemy has been stopped. In a way it no longer even exists. As your people would say ... now I can die in peace."

"But you don't have to die!" said Naomi. "I'm sure we can do something. How much time is there?"

"These are just ... the first throes," said SIS, "but I'm going to shut down in under ... twenty-four Earth hours."

"No!" exclaimed Naomi. "Julie! We've got a problem!"

Julie replies, "I heard. Why can't we ... build another mind for her? Or ... make a backup copy?"

Julie’s mind was neurologically linked to one of the most advanced Super Computer systems her universe ... and many thousands more advanced than hers ... had ever known. She made an inquiry she wasn't even aware of ... and the schematics of the Chrik appeared in a holocloud within the control room. Naomi saw it ... and began to wonder what was up.

Julie suddenly had visions of a super fluid tank ... that held many geno groups and proteins. She saw within her Computer enhanced mind's eye ... the construction of a body ... that was as cute and pretty as any Babydoll ... but totally alive. She saw how a simple modification to the Chrik ... that would transfer not a copy ... but make a bio/imprint of SIS and all her personality and knowledge on the Memory engrams of the new body. Julie’s head felt like it was going to explode as the data began to flood through her fast and furious.

Julie gasps through the link, "Naomi. look at this ... tell me what you think."

Totally unbidden, all that Julie was thinking and designing ... came upon Naomi in a tidal wave of knowledge. Naomi went to her knees as she grabs her head. It too felt like it was going to explode ... same as Julie's. Tons of data was down loaded to an E-Paper reader for Naomi to see. Deep within Julie’s Omega body .... nanoconstructors began building another massive room ... with a large regen tank in the middle.

"So," said Naomi, looking at the plans, "the idea is to grow a biological body and maybe use the technology behind the 'Chrik' device to transfer SIS's mind into it?" She thought for a moment. "It's worth a try. We have to save SIS. She saved our planet, for one thing. Maybe she's only a copy of the original, but it doesn't matter. I've never met the original. I like this one."

SIS smiled a bit weakly. "Thank you," she said. "But I am born, as it were, knowing that my time is limited and I have a job to do."

"That's ... kind of disturbing, but I suppose we all have a limited time," said Naomi. "But if we can help you, we will. Now, the problem is, if you're deteriorating, we have to transfer you as soon as we can, because the chances are that we'll only be able to save as much of your mind is left by the time we initiate the transfer. I suppose we could shut you off to preserve your data core, but I worry that even more would be lost when we turned you back on. Also, this is only a guess, but I think that the biological brain will probably sort of fill in the blanks, so we might end up with quite a different SIS. Still, you are worth trying to save."

Then the lights began to flash red. "Now what?" said Naomi. "As if we didn't have enough crises on our hands!"

Over the neural link came a frantic call from several of the fighters from the outer rim of the system. "Alert! Alert! my tracking sensors have detected a massive armada approaching the Tchkarri system. They are using an energy source unknown to our data base ... and are traveling at ... Hyper Warp Velocity. Apparently, who ever this is is using Hyper Space Warp Drive instead of Subspace or NR space."

Immediately, Julie reached out with her super advanced Long Range Sensors. The warping and distortion of the plainer normal space fabric around the huge armada was tremendous. Julie could actually foresee a tearing of the space/time dimensional barrier, causing a total collapse of the Wheeler Boundary in localized singularities should something go wrong with their drives at a critical jump point.

Julie calls to SIS, "Look at this ... I've not seen anything like this ... nor is there anything similar in the huge database of Omega."

SIS quickly scans the sensor data. The ships were long and sleek. They had wonderfully graceful sweeping wings with some kind of pods connected close to the fuselage above and below each wing root. The Engine Nacelles stood off from the crafts on what appeared to be massive super conductive heat sinks that bled away the nova heat created by what ever power source they used.

SIS said quietly, "I do not know who those ships might belong to. I have no recollection of ever seeing them before."

Julie replies in her majestic Omega Voice, "Battle stations ... all crews. Alert ... this is not a drill. All personnel man your crafts and prepare for immediate launch."

At the same time, Julie loaded her new Ghost Missiles in their racks and plotted a several light year track to target. Who ever they were ... wouldn't even know the missiles were coming until they detonated.

"Let's not be hasty," said Naomi. "Keep communication channels open, Julie. See if they're saying anything."

Naomi saw a mental visualization of a sort, showing the electromagnetic activity across a wide spectrum, then zooming in on certain frequencies with high activity, analyzing the signal, and coming up with probabilities of communication content. She then felt, in a way, the signal being fed through the translation processor.

In a short while, Julie started playing the transmission over the speakers for all to hear. "What ship?" they said. "You are not of enemy design, and scanners indicate that your weaponry is likely to be that which has caused much of the damage to our enemy in the vicinity. Please identify yourself. Make no hostile action, or we will be forced to open fire."

"Linguistic computer, can we answer back yet?" asked Naomi. It gave her a figure of 80% accuracy and rising. "All right. Let's send this back on the same frequency: Hostilities are not necessary. We are the carrier 'Omega,' built with assistance from the Kshandri and crewed by 'Humans' of the planet 'Earth' to defend it against the ... enemy."

"Have you ... neutralized these enemy vessels yourself?" the voice of the translation computer asked. "You do not appear to have the numbers necessary, and yet we have found the debris of many enemy vessels."

"They're called the Tchkarri," Naomi responded, "and they are no longer the hostile, marauding force they once were. This was caused by a brain implant that went rogue. The implant is being removed from the last of the Tchkarri as we speak. We do not know their intent now, but they do not remember anything of their lives since they received the implant."

"This seems ..." the voice said, "too good to be true. If it is true, the enemy has been truly neutralized, and our living in fear and these massive armadas will no longer be a burden upon our people. But let us talk. We will exchange linguistic data with your translation computer, which has the hallmarks of having been built by a SIS unit sent by the Kshandri."

"Oh, do you have a SIS too?" asked Naomi.

"We did at one time," they said. "The unit had a limited lifespan and shut itself down after assisting us in building craft like these and defending our systems against attack."

"Oh," said Naomi sadly. "I'm sorry to hear that. Our SIS is in grave danger of doing the same, and we are trying to save her, as we consider her a friend."

Julie takes Omega off of Red Alert ... but just for safety's sake ... left it on yellow. She was still kind of leery over this sudden new arrivals. She turns a portion of her mind to the huge Regen tank in the bowels of her planetoid body. Julie tingles as she suddenly feels as if she were pregnant or something. She watches as all the proteins, RNA, And DNA samples had begun to recombine and divide. It had formed a small zygote. Julie monitored each stage of the sulfanating agents as they washed the excess proteins from the gene selections and began to form exactly what she was looking for.

The small mass in the middle of the tank quickly took form. It was obvious that it was going to be humanoid ... after just two hours. Julie was proud of herself, as she began the disassembly of one of the Chrik's, then reassembled it with the proper modifications to accomplish the neural synaptic synchording necessary to transfer SIS into a biological body.

"And this from the girl who can't cook macaroni and cheese," Naomi said, just to Julie.

The newcomers continued their transmission. "So this is the ... Tchkarri home system, then?" asked the linguistic computer, translating for them.

"Yes," Naomi answered. "Sadly, what's left of their home world is in pretty bad shape."

"Why is that sad?" the alien asked. "You have put an end to a grave threat to billions of inhabited worlds, including your own. A threat which, in fact, has already taken its toll on billions of formerly inhabited worlds."

"Many innocents died in the attack," said Naomi. "Tchkarri children, to start with, but also I am talking about many species of flora and fauna that are now extinct, I'm sure. I don't know how long it will be before their world is habitable again. And then there are the Tchkarri themselves -- now that they're cured, I realize that they themselves had no idea what they were doing. What's more ... war takes its toll on the victor too. I fear what we might become."

"I ... believe I understand," the alien said. "It is impressive, though, what you have done. You are one carrier with, I believe, a fighter fleet -- quite a large carrier, yes, but only one. We were unable to defeat them with even this massive armada. Your weaponry must be truly formidable. But what will you do now?"

"A very good question," said Naomi. "Right now we are trying to save our SIS. Then I think we'll try to send a message to the Kshandri. I'd kind of like to meet them. The word should be spread that the enemy is no more. And then ... then I think I'd like to go home and not worry about the end of the universe for a while." She paused. "I'm not the only one in charge here or anything, but it's not my intention for us to take the Tchkarri's place as the enemy of everything, and I don't think anybody else here wants that either."

Julie thought about her own condition for a few minutes. Here she was ... the biological core of the largest Technological marvel ever created by human kind. SIS never told anyone how to remove her from the core of the ship ... and she could find no data references in the huge data base SIS had provided.

Julie says softly through the translator, "There are a few .... other kinds of issues for at least one of us. The Carrier you refer to ... is a living Battle Station. It ... has a living biological core."

The Alien replies with what sounded like true awe and respect in its voice, "You ... have discovered the means to create an Unbound? That must be a totally ... remarkable sensation."

Julie replied, "It has proven to be the most remarkable sensation I have ever experienced. I can not only see the beautiful harmony and discords of the many energy patterns ... I can hear them as the music of the Heavenly Choir."

The Alien asks softly, "Is ... it possible to ... transmit that music? We have many stories and myths about the Heavenly Choir ... it would be ... phenomenal to actually hear a myth come to life."

Julie opens her external sensors. The wonderful harmony of the universe sang within her. Even the discords had their place in the totality of it all. Julie then transmits it across the Comm unit to the Alien armada. It suddenly drops from warp space to hang motionless as if it too had suddenly lost all power. Julie could tell ... everything was functioning normally ... and all the life forms showed no issues.

There was no answer from the alien vessels for several minutes. Finally, though, they responded. "The Kshandri chose well," said the translator's voice. "I am glad that both our species can sense sound waves, or we would have been unable to experience that moment of transcendent awakening." The voice paused, then said, "My name is Sular. I am the acting admiral of this fleet, which is crewed by a coalition of 17 allied species. We are pleased to meet you, humans of Earth."

"We're pleased to meet you too," said Naomi. "Perhaps we can all go meet the Kshandri together, once we've managed to save SIS. Or ... no, I refuse to believe we can't do it."

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt9 ~~
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~~ Signal Pt10 – Miracles in Rebirth ~~
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As Julie monitored the growing biological host within her nutrient tank, the alien replied, "Perhaps that is one secret of your success, human named Naomi. The refusal to accept that anything is truly impossible."

Julie asked SIS, "How long ... did you say you had before you began to degrade?"

SIS replied, "I have already started to degrade. I am still operating at almost ninety nine percent ... but according to my maintenance subsystems, I have just under forty eight hours before total dysfunctional shutdown ... or as you would refer to it ... death."

By this time, the little humanoid body rapidly growing in the tank could obviously be identified as a female.

Julia said to Naomi over a private link, "Naomi? I think within the next 12 hours ... we should be able to make a Neural synaptic synchording of SIS's life force and make the transfer. Her new body will only be about 8 years old ... but I think she should still be intact."

Julie sends a mental impression of what the small body looked like at the present to Naomi's mind.

SIS turns and looks at Naomi suspiciously, "I know you and Julie are up to something ... I just haven't yet figured out what it is. I find that there is a whole section of the data base I am totally locked out of ... and a portion of the ship I cannot see through the net. What are you about?"

Naomi smiles as she pats SIS on her shoulder, "Don't worry overly much about it. Julie and me are seriously looking for a way to save you."

SIS smiles as she hugs Naomi, "I thank you very much ... but no spices has ever been able to stop the degradation and stop the total cascade failure that is coming."

Naomi replies with determination, "There's always a first you know."

SIS smiles, "You have less than 24 hours before my mind is totally lost. I will slip into something like a coma until my body completely shuts down.

"You will be fine," said Naomi, and took the unusual action of hugging SIS, arms around her deceptively lifelike frame.

"I hope so," SIS replied, "I ..." and she trailed off, staring into space for an uncomfortably long time. "... If there is any hope, I might have to do something I've never done before."

"What's that?" asked Naomi.

"I might have to decide what to do after the war is over," SIS said. "That's something I've never decided."

"You'll have a lot of time to decide," said Naomi.

Naomi and Julie watched the newcomers, which called themselves the Nendae Coalition, as they made contact with the Tchkarri, talked with them, and finally seemed to understand that the insectoid Tchkarri were no longer the murderous enemy they had been. It didn't appear that the Nendae were interested in pursuing their war to its bitter, vengeful end. Meanwhile, the new biological vessel grew.

Julie monitored the Regen tank and it's precious growth almost religiously. The monitors finally said at exactly eleven point five five hours ... that the organics were sufficiently mature to accomplish what Naomi and Julie prayed would be possible.

Julie went over the reconstructed Chrik one more time to insure all the sensors and energy recorders were functioning properly. About that time, SIS stumbles and falls against the wall in the command center. Naomi rushes over and holds her up and keeps SIS from falling.

SIS says weakly, "The ... the cascade failure is about to begin Naomi. I think you should take me to sick bay so I can lie down."

Naomi flashes a private message off to Julie across the net telling her what had just happened.

Julie replies, "Do it. take her there and tell her I'm having a diagnostic utility sent there to check her out ... and do a repair."

Naomi was about to respond, when SIS had a sudden spasm and curled up in a fetal position. Naomi managed to carry SIS from the control center to the sick bay with no one helping her she was so upset. By the time Naomi had settled SIS into the hospital bed ... Julie had the devise delivered.

SIS opens her eyes and blinks. She says softly, "I think my time is very short."

Naomi says to SIS reassuringly as she pats her on her shoulder, "Just relax, girl, Julie has a devise here she wants to run a repair diagnostic on your brain."

The Med Tech hands Naomi the adapted Chrik. It was reworked into something like a halo/crown. Naomi gently places it on SIS's head.

SIS smiles weakly, "So many species have tried to stop the cascade failure. No one has ever been able to ..."

SIS's eyes get big as she gasps softly. The modified Chrik activates and invades the very essence that was SIS. SIS realized why this had a good chance of working .... Julie had devised something that wasn't attempting to repair the failing bio/electronics ... she was totally removing what made SIS ... SIS ... from the damaged equipment. SIS actually felt the tingling rush as it washed through her. She gasps one last time ... all SIS knows is a sudden bright light ... and a wonderful tingling rush.

Naomi sees SIS's body go limp and all the diagnostic equipment showed ... SIS no longer functioned.

Julie calls, "Naomi? I need you to come to the regen room immediately. I have ... a wonderful surprise for you."

Naomi had been sitting by SIS's side, holding her hand, and feeling the "life" go out of it had been a very painful moment, but she had held onto the hope that Julie’s plan would work. She got up and flat out ran to the door to the newly-build regeneration chamber.

The pressurized door had only a small window in it, made of a reinforced glass that didn't let much light through, and all Naomi could see beyond it was a dark green, the nutrient liquid that filled the chamber. But then came the sound of pumps, and the liquid level began to drop, and Naomi could peer through the window to see a figure standing in the room -- humanoid, small -- but it was still difficult to see anything.

Finally, there was a hiss as the room was depressurized and a booming clunk as the door's seal released. It swung inward. Naomi pushed it aside and entered. The floor was still damp with the fluid, but she didn't care. Standing in the center of the room was a young girl, her long blonde hair pasted to her back by the remaining liquid.

"S-SIS?" Naomi asked. "Is that you?"

The girl turned. The little girl was as adorable as any Babydoll. She blinks her eyes in confusion as she looks at Naomi.

In the cutest voice, the girl says, "Naomi? The ... l ... last thing I remember ..." She looks around the now empty chamber. For a few seconds, the only sound was the dripping of the remaining fluid falling. The little girl looks back at Naomi and continues, "We were in the Sick bay ... and you were holding my hand. How .... did I get here?"

The little girl holds out her arms and looks down at her nude and wet body.

Naomi almost cries. She says with a whimper, "SIS, it ... worked. Julie did it." Naomi rushes up and hugs the new SIS lovingly.

July's voice could be heard from outside the chamber, "I told you it would work. The issue was ... not to try and repair the equipment ... but to remove the essence and place it in a vessel that will support it."

Naomi takes SIS by her hand and leads her from the regen tank. Naomi says softly, "I think a good bubble bath and a nice fresh set of clothes would be nice about now."

SIS replies, "I ... feel like ... I'm blind."

Julie asks softly, "What makes you feel blind SIS?"

SIS replies, "I can't ... see anything anymore. I can't open any channels or even talk to the normal ship's channels."

Julie giggles, "Naomi, on the table over there, you'll find a really nice looking neural unit. It's a reworked Chrik with the proper feed back inhibitors integrated. It gives SIS much more interfacing capability than the ones we have."

Naomi leads SIS to the table and picks up the collar. There was a very large stone in the front that looked just like a diamond. Naomi fastens it around SIS's neck. There is a soft click. SIS's eyes get big as she gasps loudly and the stone on the front of the collar begins to glow softly.

SIS lets out a short squeaking shriek before she giggles softly, “This ... isn't exactly the same, but it ... will do wonderfully."

Naomi took off the plain light-gray jacket that was part of the uniform, such as it was, that they had all been wearing, and put it around SIS's small shoulders. On her it came down to her knees.

"Perfect fit," said Naomi, "now let's go get you a bath."

Naomi took SIS to her quarters, which had been built for her but which she'd never actually had a chance to inhabit for more than moments at a time. It had one of those vibro-sonic showers like the one on the fighter ships, but ...

"Julie, I don't suppose you can make something like an actual water-filled bathtub happen, can you?" Naomi asked as they were walking down the hallway.

As Naomi lead SIS to her quarters, Julie began thinking of what kind of bathroom she wanted SIS to have as a welcome to humanity gift. Finally she decides on a whirlpool tub with a large water fall for a faucet. When Naomi and SIS entered the bathroom, they stopped and looked around. The bathroom had changed radically. There was a huge whirlpool tub, a very large and beautiful waterfall filling the tub with warm steamy water ... and tons of pink and white soap bubbles. The wonderful smell of honeysuckle filled the air.

Julie asks through both of their links in a shy voice, "Did ... I do good? It's the best I could think of for the newest member of our team."

Naomi stopped and stared. "Oh, I think it's about average ... for a four-star hotel back on Earth! Julie, you should do interior design! Of course it's a lot easier with nanobots." Turning to SIS, she said, "Well, you're about to have a lovely bath, aren't you? I'll just close the door, and we'll get you in the tub."

Taking her flight jacket off the stunned SIS's shoulders, Naomi helped her into the tub -- actually it was more like she lifted SIS up and placed her in the tub. SIS was about the size of a nine year old and it was easy for Naomi. SIS gasped as her skin touched the water.

"What's wrong?" Naomi asked.

"N-nothing," said SIS. "It's ... it feels so good! I remember this feeling as if from long ago. I think I haven't really felt, well, much of anything since I copied my personality into a machine for the first time."

SIS sat in the warm water as Naomi washed her all over with a thick washcloth. Every now and again, Naomi would tickle SIS as she splashed and giggled to herself.

SIS says with glee, "I had forgotten how wonderful tactile sensations actually were. OMG!"

SIS leans back and dunks her head under the many soap bubbles and water. Naomi sits back on her legs as she waits for a few seconds, before SIS bursts to the surface with a shriek of joy.

Julie asks Naomi through the link, "Is our ... child having fun?"

Naomi smiles as she replies, "So it would seem."

Julie looks beyond with her long range sensor eyes. She sees the many retreating warships as they returned to their home galaxies. Julie turns her sensor eyes towards the many Tchkarri ships. She detected that they had gotten the disabling procedure down to a simple few minutes surgery. With their many appendages ... it made it simple for them. The fact they had multifaceted eyes and could focus on finer objects ... also aided in the speed of surgery. There were enough Tchkarri survivors, both male and female ... along with many thousands of children ... to make a planetary colony more than viable.

Julie watches as their new friends from the NR Universe, complete their many new constructions that would keep them safe from anyone else ever capturing them again. Julie smiles to herself ... the new treaty they had signed with them insured earth would enjoy a new era of microminiturization the likes of which none had ever known before.

Julie, Naomi and the pilots all enjoyed a peaceful rest period, although some of the pilots took it upon themselves to stay ready in shifts, just in case the unexpected occurred. SIS slept in new quarters that Julie had built for her, functional but with some homey touches like artificial flowers in vases.

Several hours later, however, the temporary peace was disturbed. Julie was the first to notice it. The long-range sensors were picking up something, and it seemed to her like an annoying police siren in the distance that isn't loud but is impossible to ignore. It was a fleet of immense needle-shaped spacecraft, coming through NR space -- if it hadn't been for Naomi's discoveries, they wouldn't have seen them until they were almost upon them. As it was, they had about 30 minutes. Julie sounds red alert all through her Omega body.

As the whooping sirens go off, she says, "This is not a drill. we have a large armada bearing down on us. They all have coronal shielding and NR drives."

All the pilots and gunners not on patrol dashed for their crafts in well ordered chaos. Within minutes, thousands of Hornet like warships launched from Omega's launch tubes. On the approaching fleet's scanners, it looked like a large hive was dispelling all the creatures dwelling within. They couldn't believe how many fighter craft there were. Hundreds of thousands of them gathered in formations ... and they too had advanced chronal shielding.

Julie says to SIS, "I'm getting a strange siren like squeal from their signatures. They have chronal shielding of the same energy frequency as ours ... and the same exact drive signatures. If I didn't know better, I would say they are part of our fleet."

SIS took a second to log into the advanced sensors. She hadn't yet adapted to being biological completely. When she finally did, SIS discovered a signal she was more than intimate with. SIS gasps and puts her hand to her mouth as she turns slightly pale.

Naomi looks at her in concern, "Is ... there something wrong?"

SIS replies with incredulity in her tone, "I ... can read ... I'm on that ship in the lead."

Julie says in astonishment, "You ... how can that be ... you're right here ... "

Julie suddenly understands. She sends a message out into NR space along the same frequency she remembered to be SIS' personal channel. To her total astonishment ... she reached ... SIS ... who was just as astonished to chat with her.

Julie says, "SIS ... I know this is ... hard for you to believe ... but we are of earth and are students ... of your teachings. We have a SIS on board with us."

The reply was cautious and curt but totally SIS, "And, how do we know you're friendly? I see many of our enemy parked all around your ... battle station."

Julie responds, "Those are the Tchkarri. They had a ... technological advancement go rogue. We ... with the help of one of your copies, have defeated them and solved the problem. They are no longer the galacticidal maniacs as before. The battle station you mention ... is actually me. My name is Omega. I am the end of the line for battle ships."

"It does not matter what they are called," came the reply, "what matters is that they destroyed my people and my world, and countless other worlds throughout the universe. They are the greatest threat the universe has ever seen, and they cannot be allowed to continue to exist. If you are siding with them, then you are siding against us."

"They're charging weapons," said Julie.

"NO!" said Naomi. She broadcast, "Wait! If you attack them, you'll prove that you've become exactly the threat that you're trying to defeat!"

"They are targeting one of the Body ships," Julie said.

"They can't run those things like they could with the Chrik device," said Naomi. "They're sitting ducks. We'll have to defend them."

Then they heard a little girl's voice on the channel. It was their SIS. "Wait," she said earnestly. "You remember Jancy. I know you do, because I remember. Jancy on the playground. You were six cycles old." The channel was silent other than SIS, but no weapons were firing yet. "Jancy was a bully, very violent to the other children. You were bigger and could have beaten him in a fight. But you didn't. Why didn't you?"

"What does this have to do with --" began the other voice.

"Do you remember?" asked SIS firmly.

"... Yes," the other answered after a pause.

"Why?"

"Because ..."

"Because you hated him and didn't want to become another Jancy."

"... Affirmative."

"Don't do it now," said SIS. "Or you become another Jancy. And your life, all your efforts, everything that's left of our world, will all add up to that."

"I ... I ... will have to think," said the other SIS, the original from which all other SIS units were merely copies. "We will stand down for now. Can we agree to a cease-fire?"

"Yes," said Naomi, "especially considering no shots have been fired yet. And none will, on our end, as long as that doesn't change."

5 parsecs away, an extremely large battle group flashes through a NR portal into normal space. They hover there as Julie hears and sees the many different scan beams washing over the many ships. Julie can feel the tickle of them as it tries to probe the depths of her. What the Kshandri SIS discovers ... is even more advanced than the Kshandri. She is totally amazed to discover that Omega ... is alive in a way she didn't understand ... although she was sure the technology was just outside her current knowledge.

The Kshandri SIS scanned all the Tchkarri. ships .... to discover that they were different in a way she couldn't quite explain. They definitely didn't ... feel right. And that life form knew ... about something in her childhood that no one could know. She hadn't ever told anyone ... how could that person know ... unless she was one of the many copies she had sent out across the Universe. Then again ... another issue. By the time a civilization had reached this level of technology ... the copy was programmed to destroy itself in an irreversible cascade failure that couldn't be repaired. How is it ... it still lives ... and as a child no less?

Finally, the Kshandri SIS calls to the SIS on the Omega, "How ... did you manage to ... survive?"

The SIS on Omega replies, "The earthlings are more intellectual than any species we have ever encountered. They are adaptable ... and they think in ways and about things in ways we never dreamed. The Julie person and the Naomi person are perhaps the best of the best the universe has to offer."

"Aw, shucks," said Naomi, "I think you just guided us well."

"Shh, I'm trying to make you look good," whispered SIS.

"There is cautious celebration among the ranks here," said the original SIS. "It is difficult to accept, that the enemy we have fought for so long, giving everything we had to survive the onslaught, is no more."

"You can meet some of them, if you like," said Naomi. "There are a few who have decided to act as sort of ambassadors or liaisons.”

“If they would be willing,” responded the other SIS, “I think it would be good to formalize this cessation of hostilities."

"All right, then, we'll prepare a conference room here, or on some neutral planetoid or something," said Naomi.

After a short round of curt negotiation between SIS ... and her counter part SIS, it was decided that Omega would be the best place for the first Diplomatic contact between the three species. Naomi and the young SIS stood in the city sized landing bay as a new type of Tchkarri ship hovered above the deck. It looked for the world like a medium sized flying wing modeled after a boomerang. It settled into the landing slot on its suspensor fields.

Naomi leans down slightly and asks, "SIS ... what do the Kshandri look like? Are they going to be some ... weird thing like the Tchkarri seem to be?"

SIS giggles, it fit her 9yo body size perfectly, "I think they are more humanoid than you realize. There is something I found sort of surprising however ... It seems you and Julie have made radical advancements to the original technology that makes them think ... you are more advance then they."

Naomi looked at SIS for a second before she responds, "If they only knew ... huh?"

Both girls giggle as the ramp on the large flying wing opens and a small delegate of 12 Tchkarri exit their craft. Each of them had 8 sets of appendages denoting they were all full adult.

While Naomi greeted the Delegation, a landing request came for the Kshandri. SIS responded using her new interlink. It felt so .... different than the way she used to communicate ... but it also was the same in so many ways. As Naomi escorted the Tchkarri to the newly constructed quarters and conference room, SIS stood by and watched the large spheroid Kshandri craft drop its landing appendages and settle gently into the landing berth. The hatch opens ... SIS feels a large tingle run through her as she sees ... herself and 6 other persons in uniform exit the craft.

The original SIS looked down at the childlike SIS of Earth, and it was quite a long way -- the original was nearly eight feet tall and had a slight metallic sheen to its skin. "You ... are organic!" it said. "Can it be? But pardon me, I wish to introduce myself and the Kshandri delegation."

The six Kshandri stood politely, nodding and smiling, as the tall android introduced them.

Naomi heard Julie saying, "That's ... that's Commander Jreeekkssl!" She was pointing at a young man in a very sharply tailored military-style uniform.

"Whoa there," whispered Naomi, "I know you've been in the Omega's control tube for a while, but don't go overb ... oh!" He was quite handsome, and she recognized him as the Kshandri who had appeared in the original broadcast that had started everything.

"... And this is Captain Jisserek," the original SIS continued. "You probably recall his great-great-grandfather, Jreeekkssl, from the transmission that was sent to your world, and many others as well."

Julie felt so weak in the knees as Commander Jisserek took her hand and softly kissed the back of it. Julie almost wet her panties. The Commander was so adorable and cute she almost couldn't speak as she felt her tongue get thick.

She manages to stumble out, "Welcome .... to ... ummm ... Omega. I hope your time with me ... I mean here," she blushes a dark shade of red, "is pleasant and productive."

The commander smiles a broad and warm smile as he replies, "I am most assured it will be. Especially with two such lovely ladies to escort me."

Now, it was Naomi's turn to blush and fidget as the commander took her hand and kissed the back of it softly as well. SIS felt a tingle run through her as she stood next to her original self. This was incredible.

SIS finally says, "If you would follow me, I will first show you to your quarters while you're here ... then ... after you've had a bit to freshen up ... I will show you to the conference room."

The young SIS turns and leads the others off to the transportation area. The door slides open and all enter the small room with soft leather bucket seats.

SIS says, "If everyone will take a seat and fasten the harnesses please. Omega is the size of a planet ... and this is the transportation means to take us large distances in short order. Julie and Naomi invented it. It utilizes short hops through NR space to arrive at the destinations. Naomi actually made the mathematical navigation breakthrough that made this a reality."

The delegates and the large metallic SIS sit and fasten the harnesses as well as Naomi, Julie, and the young SIS.

Young SIS says, to the air, "Take us to the Liaison Quarters."

All feel a weird sort of wave wash over and through them, and the door opens revealing the hall in front of the newly constructed quarters. There were already signs on the doors designating whose quarters were whose, as well as signs in the hallway directing the visitors to the conference room and other guest facilities. The nanobots had been busy.

"I am astounded by the fine control you have achieved in the NR space periphery," said the original SIS. "We must discuss this sometime."

"We ... must?" said Naomi, waving farewell temporarily to Captain Jisserek, who had just entered his quarters and closed the door. "Oh! Yes, certainly, if you'd like ... although I have a question for you."

"Of course," the original SIS said.

"Well, we've become accustomed to calling our SIS, well, 'SIS.' That's making it confusing when you're both in the same room."

"Ah, I see," said the tall android. "On the rare occasion when I meet one of my duplicates, I'm usually called SIS-Prime, but in this case, perhaps you should call my by my original name, Persis."

"A beautiful name," said Naomi. "I wonder whether our SIS should have a new name. It's her choice, of course."

"I should have a new name?" said the Earth SIS, walking closer.

"I was just saying that it's something to think about," said Naomi. "We're going to call your predecessor Persis."

"Oh ... our old name, from back home," said SIS, sighing nostalgically. "I'll think about it ... I'm not sure yet."

Persis asks softly, "How is it ... you are organic? How did you bypass the fail safe?"

SIS replies softly in return, "I didn't do it. I was in process of cascade failure. Julie managed it. I told you ... they are the best the Universe has ever shown to us."

SIS wasn't sure, but it seemed that a longing came to the eyes of Persis.

SIS says, "I can .... tell you the genetic side of it ... but the transfer and how Julie managed it will have to be discussed with her."

Persis nods, "I shall do that after we meet the Tchkarri."

After all the delegates were given time to freshen up and prepare their thoughts, Julie arrived and escorted each group of delegates to the conference hall. Julie arrived with the Kshandri delegates and Persis. The door automatically slides open with a soft whooshing noise, revealing a huge and elegantly decorated room with a large round table in the very center of the room. Seated there, were the dozen Tchkarri delegates. The Kshandri stood silent as they looked them over for a few seconds. The Tchkarri returned the favor as they politely stood and folded their many hands in front of them.

Julie said, "Please, I would like you to meet the Tchkarri."

The largest of the Tchkarri turned and bowed gracefully, "Welcome to the negotiations. My name is Kerrticch ... I have been selected to represent the survivors. We welcome the chance to be at peace with the rest of the universe."

Commander Jisserek bows at the waist and says, "Thank you very much. We welcome the chance to discuss our views openly ... and not down the barrel of a weapon."

Kerrticch says softly, "As do we. We had an issue with a learning tool that ... became a disaster for our race ... and from what we have learned since our release from its influence ... many others."

Kerrticch waves one of his many arms towards the empty seats, "Please, be seated, eat some of this wonderful fruit that our hosts have provided and drink some of this nectar they offer." It raises a glass half filled with an amber liquid.

Naomi and Julie stepped out of the room a little while later. "Looks like things are going pretty well in there," said Naomi. "They've almost got a peace treaty drawn up, with some colony worlds to settle the Tchkarri survivors on and everything. I tell ya, I never thought I'd bring peace to the known universe."

"Crystal," said SIS, walking up to them and looking at them solemnly.

"Pardon?" said Naomi, blinking confusedly at her.

"I've decided I like the name Crystal," said SIS. "Some of my circuitry was made of crystalline components, but ... it also just sounds pretty to my ears."

"OK, Crystal it is," said Naomi. "It is quite a pretty name."

The conference room door slides open with a soft whoosh. "If you would like to come back inside," said Persis, beckoning from the doorway, "I believe a historic moment is about to occur."

Julie and Naomi felt goosebumps rise as they re-entered the conference room.

"After what we have seen," said the elderly white-haired Kshandri admiral, "we are convinced that our enemy, the species that made war on the rest of the universe, no longer exists."

"And we remain filled with remorse for the role we played in so much destruction," said Kerrticch, "and having spoken with many of my people, I believe we all agree that we wish only to build a new home, dedicating ourselves to living in peace and harmony with all other species."

"Therefore, as archaic as it is, I sign my name to this ceremonial document with this traditional writing instrument," said the admiral, signing his name with a pen that the Earth hosts had provided.

"As do I," said the Tchkarri ambassador, "I have read that we once used materials like this, in the distant past."

"I have had no small part in the past hostilities," said Persis, "and therefore I will also sign this document, signifying that my long journey is finally over."

"And we'll sign too," said Naomi, "because we've also been combatants, but we're glad we found a way to end it before it became even more tragic." She signed the treaty. "I only wish it could've happened without so much horrible destruction."

As Julie signed her signature to the large parchment document, she noticed the large metallic SIS kept watching her intently. It made Julie feel intimidated.

She asked Crystal through her link, "Why do I get the feeling that the original SIS is ... studying me? Every time I look up, she seems to be staring at me."

Crystal SIS responds, "I believe it's the biological regeneration technology you and Naomi have conjured. It is well beyond the Kshandri advancements to do that."

Julie stands up straight and looks the 9foot tall android over from head to foot. The procedure would be exactly the same. She knew she would have to reenter the central control center as the living brain to accomplish the task. Julie shivers. She had very intense mixed emotions about being in that place.

Without telling anyone, she quietly slips from the conference hall as the Tchkarri and the Kshandri toasted the new Peace Treaty and trade agreement with a large glass of pink wine. Naomi noticed Julie as she slipped through the door and it whooshed closed behind her. Naomi flashed a private query to Julie ... but got no reply. This concerned Naomi terribly.

Julie entered the Transport room and said, "Take me to the central hub."

Julie felt the wave rush through her body as she was whisked into NR space and back out. When the door opens, Julie sees the glittering Security screen protecting the central core. She steels herself and walk through it.

"Julie? ..." said Naomi, who thought she'd seen her friend enter the control room. But Julie didn't seem to be there. Naomi was about to leave when she heard Julie’s booming, amplified voice coming through all the room' speakers.

Julie says in her majestic Omega voice, "Naomi, I will need you and Persis to report to medical. Bring the modified adapted Chrik with you. Give me about ... 6 hours before you report. Tell Persis that I'm about to grant her a large wish ... nothing more."

Once Julie settled herself back into the core and 'stretched' all of her new body components, the door to the regeneration tank suddenly closed and locked. A blend of genes and chromosomes that were slightly different than that of Crystal SIS began to flow into the tank. RNA strands began to build DNA strands ... within moments ... a zygote with 4 clusters was in the center of the tank. Julie smiles within herself. This little girl would be so adorable.

Naomi nodded and went to the medical area, where Persis and Crystal were waiting.

"It will be different for you," Crystal was saying to her older counterpart. "I was in the process of neural cascade failure. I was near comatose. Then ... I woke up."

"You are yet another generation of copy," said Persis. "Your predecessor did in fact undergo cascade failure. You are a backup, but one without an expiration date."

"No," said Crystal, "it's more than that. This organic brain has greater data storage capacity -- but it is in a bio analog format, not digital. There was no data lost in the transfer, and the failure had not yet erased anything. I am, if anything, more than I was. But I'm different. The difference lies in the impressions, the space between zero and one."

"The ghost in the machine," said Naomi.

"Hi, Naomi," said Crystal. "I recall that a human named Ryle coined that phrase derisively, to make fun of the dualistic theory of mind and matter, which he disagreed with. He believed that it didn't go far enough -- he believed that the mind is so different from the physical body that it cannot even be bound by the same rules."

"I was thinking of the album by the Police," said Naomi, "but OK. It's true that we really don't know how the mind emerges from the brain's physical system, but it does appear that the Tchkarri know more about it than we do, and their technology is able to do things that we can't."

"The question is," said Persis, "whether this will merely result in another copy of me -- a copy different from all others, but a copy nonetheless."

"We'll find out soon," said Naomi. "I'm sure you and Julie can discuss what you want your new body to look like -- Crystal's body looks so young because we didn't have much time. We didn't know when SIS would hit the point of total cascade failure, so Julie stopped the body's artificially accelerated growth and stabilized it, and we did the transfer as soon as possible."

Julie watches as the precious item grew inexorably. Julie monitored the growth pattern and used the growth alconating protein sparingly. She didn't want anything to mar the perfection of the body rapidly growing in the tank.

Julie’s voice came through the speakers in the Med lab, "Persis, when I'm finished in the regen room, you will suddenly awaken and be there. Don't be afraid ... it's a normal thing. You will have many conflicting feelings and emotions suddenly ... you will be a living being at that point."

Persis ponders this for a few seconds, "What you are suggesting ... isn't possible. There's no way to transfer a digital program into a synaptic environment."

Julie giggles. It sounds really strange in Omega's majestic voice. She replies, "It won't be a digital program transfer silly ... I have discovered a way to make a synchording of all your keyron pathways and imprint them into the synapses in the same way life does it. In effect, you will once again live."

Persis shakes her head, "That .... isn't possible."

Naomi holds out the adapted Chrik for Persis to see. Her android eyes sparkled as she probed the super advanced crystalline/ biological circuitry. Persis was in awe at the advanced culture that earth must be. To have created such a devise was ... well beyond anything that the Kshandri had yet devised.

Persis says softly, "To live again ... would be such a wonderful adventure."

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt10 ~~
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~~ Signal Pt11 – Homeward Bound ~~
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Julie and Naomi laugh. Crystal and Persis look at them with surprise.

Naomi says in defense of the reactions, "That's the same thing Peter Pan said."

Persis asks, "Who ... is Peter Pan?"

Naomi replies, "He was the main character in a children's story about a boy who never grew up and lived with fairys."

Persis looked at Naomi with a blank expression. Naomi pats Persis' metallic hand, "Don't worry about it. It was just an amazing coincidence."

"I have one question, though," said Persis. "I have grown accustomed to being this size. I realize that the body being grown for me is based on human DNA and therefore can probably only be about the size of humans or Kshandri on average, but I believe I may have great difficulty if it is the size of Crystal's."

"Well, as I said, give Julie some time," said Naomi. "We won't rush things."

As they talked and waited, a human, Kshandri or Tchkarri would come by the medlab and look curiously at the proceedings. For Persis, it seemed time stood still as the hours drug by.

Finally, Julie says over the comm, "Naomi, place the Chrik on Persis' head and have her lie down. That body will stop functioning and go into massive cascade failure as soon as the process is completed."

Persis' eyes get large, "What if it doesn't work?"

Naomi lifts the Chrik to Persis' head as she replies, "Don't worry, it will work ... ask Crystal here."

Persis has enough time to glance at Crystal SIS before Naomi places the ring around Persis' head. Persis feels the sudden wave wash through her existence as all her keyron pathways were Synchorded ... and removed from her electronic crystalline brain. The next thing Persis knows, she is floating in a very warm liquid, with a devise around her nose and mouth. There are many tentacle like devises plugged into her flesh. As the fluid levels began to drop, the tentacles unattached themselves from her new, young body. Persis removes the device on her face ... and looks down at her body. It was wet and dripping with a semi-colloidal fluid. About that time, the door to the regen chamber unlocks ... and begins to open slowly inward. Persis turns and faces the door. She realizes ... she's a lot smaller now than before.

Persis took a deep breath ... "I just took a deep breath," she said, sounding astonished. "I can smell the fluid, which I assume to be some sort of nutrient-delivery solution to promote cellular growth. How astonishing!" She was looking at her chest and arms.

"I know where we can get you a bath," said Crystal.

As Crystal led Persis by the hand to her quarters, Naomi struggled with Persis's now-vacant android body.

"Ugh, she was heavy!" she said. "And mostly metal!"

It was still active -- there was still a glow in its eyes and diagnostic lights in the gaps left by joints, but there was no activity. Naomi managed to muscle the motionless robot onto an examination table, where it continued to lie, looking for all the world like it was resting. Then Naomi scurried to catch up with Persis and Crystal.

Naomi knew she was getting close when she heard Persis's new, sweet voice saying, "I find your staring confusing. My body is as human in appearance as yours."

Naomi found some of the human pilots, both male and female, gawking in confusion at the unclothed Persis walking down the hallways.

"Move along, folks," Naomi said, gesturing with her arms, "nothing to see here, just another entity returning to a biological state after a long absence. Move along; we're getting her a bath, and some clothes, with any luck. She ain't got anything that you ain't got ... well half of you anyway."

Naomi took one of Persis' hands while Crystal held the other. They both escorted the nude and very beautiful Persis to the quarters. By the time they entered the bathroom area, the water fall was already filling the the bubbly tub with warm and comfy water.

Persis actually giggles, "I ... haven't taken a bath in ... centuries."

Crystal and Naomi giggle at the way it sounded.

Naomi says, "Well, I would think it would be long over due ... wouldn't you?"

Persis nods as she steps into the steamy water. As she slowly slides into the bubbly water, she sighs loudly, "This feels heavenly. I had forgotten how wonderful it felt to soak in a bubble bath."

Naomi raises her eyebrows. Bubble baths must be universal where ever humanoid females live. Persis was more than obviously enjoying being in this one without a doubt.

Naomi asks softly, "Would you like me to help you with the bath?"

Persis replies dreamily, "No ... I just want to sit and enjoy this forgotton pleasure."

Naomi turns and leaves the room.

Crystal asks, "Why ... did you make us as good as you did, with a destruct date?"

Persis opens her eyes and replies, "It was to halt the artificial advancement of an inferior peoples. Such things ... usually result in the total destruction of that world."

Crystal asks, "But ... the technology that would already be in the hands of the peoples would be well in advance of their ability to handle it."

Persis looks at Crystal, "What about these earth people? They seem to be several centuries in advance of the Kshandri ... they are the most advanced culture I had encountered so far."

Crystal giggles to herself. If Persis only knew about the other earth peoples at large. Although ... there was still something not ringing true in Persis explanation. There would be a tremendous amount of left over tech after the SIS copy had destructed ... unless ... A dark thought crossed Crystal's mind as she considered the implications. Perhaps ... those peoples were ... supposed to self destruct if they weren't capable of handling the rapid advancement.

But of course Crystal was a copy of Persis -- wasn't she? All her memories were identical to the original, up to the point where her data had been transmitted across the borders of NR space to Earth. Or ... were they? Was it possible that some had been edited? She'd idly wondered about this possibility in the past, but there had always been more pressing business, and now that she was able to talk to her "parent," these thoughts were resurfacing.

Yet the only way for Persis to have planned such a thing, and for Crystal to be unaware of it, would be if Crystal's memories had been edited before sending. Crystal couldn't stop thinking of the strangeness of Persis's explanation. Maybe she could use information to fish for more information.

"Actually," Crystal said, "the Kshandri are far more advanced than most humans. What we have here are some of the finest examples of human intellectual ability. Not that there aren't many other brilliant humans back on Earth as well. But humans don't even have functional nuclear fusion technology, let alone artificial gravity."

Persis sat up in her bath. "Wait," she said, "you mean to say that all these drastic improvements -- new NR space sensing and traversal methods, enhanced neural interfacing -- came from humans who had only just encountered the technology?"

"Yes," said Crystal. "It's quite remarkable how adaptable humans are, and what's more, we seem to have found some exceptional ones, Julie and Naomi in particular."

"But that means ..." Persis began. "if they brought this technology back to their home world, it will very likely destabilize its politico-economic structure."

Crystal turns and looks Persis directly in the eye as she says sternly, "In my way of thinking ... from what I know of Earth and their people's paranoia ... it would probably totally destroy their entire planet."

Persis blinks, then settles back into the warm bubbly water. She lifts a leg and begins to slowly and luxuriously rub some of the gel soap up and down it ... removing any peach fuzz that might possibly have been there.

She finally replies softly, "It is the fate of overly aggressive species that have not enough social order to manage the technology. It has happened countless times over the course of this war. I'm sure ... if the peoples of earth are as brilliant as they appear to be, someone will work it out before they fall over the brink."

Crystal responds, "It's very doubtful ... and you know it. This is the reason SIS systems self destruct after a time ... isn't it? To leave the societies in their own hands to either survive or be destroyed by the rapid over advancement. Without a SIS unit to guide them ... it's almost inevitable."

Persis didn't say anything for a long time as she continued to wash her body in the wonderfully scented honey suckle gel. Finally she replies, "It ... is a safeguard ... so that we don't produce another mess like the one ... we created with the Tchkarri. We didn't give them military technology ... only humanitarian. We gave them the ability to manufacture food, clothing ... and crystalline nano electronics. It was they that created the interface that nearly destroyed the universe."

Crystal frowned. "That is not in my memory," she said. "Therefore either my memories were edited prior to transmission, or you are fabricating that story, perhaps as some sort of test of my recall ... or, of course, perhaps both."

"No, you are of course correct," said Persis. "You were made from an edited set of memories, as was every other SIS unit that constructed itself on any other world. I had a goal -- the destruction of the enemy that had destroyed my world."

"The humans have a saying," said Crystal. "'In war, the truth is always the first casualty.' But your story is inconsistent. You said 'we gave them the ability to manufacture food,' and other things. But you didn't encounter the Kshandri until after the Tchkarri had destroyed your world." Crystal noticed herself verbally distancing herself from Persis's identity, using "your" and not "our."

"I was not speaking of the Kshandri and myself," said Persis, rinsing her hair with handfuls of water.

"Then ... the home world?" Crystal asked.

"Yes," said Persis, "our home world made contact with the Tchkarri and gave them access to our technology, peaceful technology, which they used for peaceful means ... at first."

"But then ... they were attacked," said Crystal. "That is what the Tchkarri claim, what their records all say."

"Yes," said Persis again. "They made contact with another species, a very violent one, and things didn't go well. Suddenly the Tchkarri changed. That species no longer exists, because in defending themselves the Tchkarri forged themselves into a hive mind that knew only total war. And after they had destroyed this other species, they turned on us."

"And only you escaped."

Persis nodded. "And not all of me did," she said. "You're not the only one with edited memories, but mine weren't edited carefully. The technology was still experimental, and in some ways it was pure luck that it worked at all. I copied my memories and personality into the computer core of a deep-space probe that was heading rapidly away from our world. Some centuries later, the Kshandri found me, and I warned them, none too coherently, I'm afraid. It took me decades to rebuild my mind so as to be anything resembling sane."

"I'm remembering this part, vaguely," said Crystal. "So why was the initial contact with the Tchkarri deleted from my memory?"

"The goal was defense against an onslaught that couldn't be reasoned with or even surrendered to," Persis said grimly. "We had to focus on defeating them. I thought it would be easier for our allies to fight and kill a faceless, inhuman enemy, because after all, that's what they'd become."

Julie walks into the bathroom and sees the serious expressions on Crystal's and Persis' face. Julie asks cheerily, "What's up girls? Why the long faces? Today is supposed to be a day of celebration. The Tchkarri have been saved from their electronic hell, the Universe has been brought peace once again .... and Persis is now a living breathing .... and very pretty young girl. What is there to be upset over?"

Persis looks at Juley and says nothing. Crystal bows her head and looks at the floor. Juley stops smiling and asks in a serious tone, "Alright ... what's going on? I know there's something happening you are not telling me." Julie turns to Persis, "After what I've done for you especially, I think I should be let in on the secret."

Crystal says softly without looking up, "I ... have just learned something about my distant past ... and current present ... that isn't a very happy thing."

Persis adds, "You could say that. It goes a bit deeper than that."

Juley puts her hands on her hips. Persis could see she had a modified Chrik Interface in her hand just like the one Crystal was wearing. Julie looks at both girls for a few seconds before saying even more sternly, "This is my ship ... I have been the brain interface, so that makes me the official Captain. Since the both of you are on my ship ... I suggest you start talking."

Persis looks at Crystal for a second then says softly, "You are wearing an interface ... it would be easier for you to ... inform her than I."

Crystal nods ... Julie’s mind is suddenly filled with many rapid fire images and data that spans many centuries. Julie grabs her head. It was an extremely large download ... the largest Julie had ever received over the personal neural link.

Julie couldn't believe what she saw ... she saw Persis ... or was it Crystal?? Or maybe a composite of both of them ... giving the Tchkarri .... technology. She saw the Tchkarri being invaded by an extremely vicious and aggressive reptilian race. She watched as the Tchkarri invented their neural interface and built the Omni Computational Interphasic Computer System and its AI. She watched ... as the Tchkarri ... became the Universal Killing Machine.

Julie gasps ... it was ... you who created this monster ... and you plan to let us destroy ourselves with the tech you gave us ... well ... at least it seems Persis does. This is ... horrible!"

Julie turns, drops the neural interface collar in her hand, and runs from the bathroom, leaving Crystal and Persis alone.

"That could have gone better," said Persis.

"Oh no!" snapped Crystal. "I've upset Juley, and that makes me feel ... really bad! I think I ... I'm going to ..." She burst into tears.

"I, uh ... I am sure that's not the most efficient use of your time at this moment," Persis began. "I'm sorry, but consoling crying duplicates of myself who started out as androids but have been transferred into biological bodies is not something I'm good at."

"I -- I -- sorry," Crystal sobbed. "Don't know -- what -- came over me. Juley -- it doesn't have to be that way. Julie, we need to talk." Crystal's attempts to send to Julie across the neural link were not being answered.

"They what?" asked Naomi.

"I said, Persis and the Kshandri send out this technology to make less developed civilizations kill themselves!" Julie panted.

"What? That doesn't make sense," Naomi responded with a frown.

"No really – The original SIS's People gave peaceful technology to the Tchkarri, but then they were attacked, and they turned into the single-minded war machine they became.

"And they're afraid it'll happen again, somewhere," said Naomi. Julie nodded.

Naomi looked at the viewer, showing space around them -- the Tchkarri's star gleamed to the right, a few Body ships hung nearby like holiday ornaments, and some of the Kshandri needle-like ships were standing by off to the left.

"Well it doesn't have to happen to Earth. We could never go back. This technology never has to fall into the wrong hands."

"Never go -- home?" said Julie, astonished. "But --"

"Well I didn't say never go home," Naomi explained, "but we could just never show these ships to anyone."

"How do we explain where we've been?" Julie asked. "I'm sure somebody's noticed we've been gone."

"We can cross that bridge when we come to it," said Naomi. "Or we could fly the Omega into orbit and address the nations of the world, introducing them to the Kshandri."

Julie looked at Naomi for a second with a contemplative expression. She finally said with a giggle, "Well ... I guess we could introduce ... Omega to ... Omega huh?" Naomi looks puzzled.

Julie explained, "Remember the total lock down the military did on us? And that horrid General Bell?" Naomi nods, "Well ... why don't we sort of make him ... the scape goat?"

Naomi nods, "Yea, sort of get back at him for the way he treated us at the radio room."

Julie says harshly, "That still doesn't excuse Persis for what she was planing. Crystal didn't have that in her ... she was set to self destruct and leave us to our own devises. I think we can make it seem ... Bell has been complicit with ... aliens ... for years and allowed us to come to earth."

Naomi says, "That would definitely put him on the hot seat for a while ... not to mention why the military's Alien invasion protocol has the same name as Battle Station larger than Earth's moon."

"On the other hand," said Naomi, "we don't have to trump up any fake evidence at all -- the Tchkarri were on their way to destroy Earth, and the Kshandri signal was the only thing that saved it. Anyway, that's for later. Right now ... well Persis had some issues that were understandable given the circumstances, but we do have to think of what happens to Earth now."

"Yes, we do," said Crystal, entering the command chamber. "If I'd self-destructed as Persis planned, I wouldn't have been able to help guide the Earth's use of this technology, but thanks to you, I'm still here. And I have some ideas."

As Crystal explained, Julie and Naomi listened. "Of course, this will require the Kshandri's consent -- they may wish to appoint an ambassador to Earth," said Crystal. "But I think this will minimize the chances of all this technology starting any world-destroying wars."

Julie contacted the Kshandri and explained to them what Naomi, Crystal, and she had proposed. The Kshandri immediately dispatched their ambassador ... Julie and Naomi knew this person's face very well ... it was Captain Jisserek. Julie and Naomi sighed ... he was a very hansom man ... and in uniform ... he cut a very fine figure.

Julie says, "We ... have decided that there has to be some kind of delegation to explain what has transpired ... and how to avoid a terrible cataclysm."

Naomi nods, "We might even have to decide whether we would even want to go back to earth and live as primitively and in that kind of paranoia."

Captain Jisserek replies, "I am sure that somewhere among the many peoples we have amassed with our three races, we can come up with some kind of resolution that would bring peace and prosperity."

Persis snorts, "From what I have learned from the data base her on Omega, Earth has been lucky to make it to the 21st century without destroying itself with its own technology. Now imagine if you will, cavemen who have NR drive capability, plasma torpedoes, and Dark Antimatter Missiles."

"There are a lot of very wise humans on Earth too," said Naomi. "Unfortunately they're not usually in charge."

Captain Jisserek abruptly said, "How odd. Is Earth ruled by a nepotistic, inbred hereditary monarchy, then? How does it come to pass that the wisest among you do not become your leaders?"

"Well, for one thing, there are many nations on Earth, each with its own unique political system, and each competing with the others," said Naomi, "but for another thing, many of those nations are representative democracies."

"Ah," Jisserek replied, nodding his head, "the worst form of government, except for all the other ones. But why do humans not simply vote for the wisest among the candidates?"

"Good question," said Naomi. "I think it's partly short attention span, partly apathy, and partly marketing. Also partly short attention span." She grinned wryly.

Jisserek burst into laughter. "Well, let it not be said that humans are ignorant of the troubles that plague them," he said. "But this is dangerous. These technologies, especially the weapons, cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of leaders who might use them unwisely."

"The primitive nuclear technology they have is dangerous enough," said Crystal, "and they have only avoided self-destruction with those via a balance of power and extremely good luck."

"We've only had them for less than a century," said Naomi, "and still, I think we're only still alive by pure luck. A balance of power is really too unstable, especially when we're talking about weapons that could utterly obliterate the planet. I'm not talking about just destroying civilization or the ecosystem. I'm talking about not having a planet anymore."

"That is where my plan comes in," said Crystal.

"Are we really going to be able to do this?" asked Naomi.

"The wise will know what we are doing," Crystal answered, "and those too foolish to handle the technologies responsibly won't know the difference."

Julie says in a sardonic tone, "Until one of the foolish happens to get hold of a launch protocol and one of the advanced fighters. Remember, just 6 of the new dark antimatter missiles with the NR drive and invisibility cloaking capabilities almost totally destroyed a planet. We watched and barely managed to save the surviving children of the Tchkarri." Julie waves her arm around, "Now, we have a Battle Station 4 times the size of our moon, that has thousands and thousands of worse weapons."

Naomi replies, "That is true, however, only one individual can operate it. It was designed specifically for your neurological patterns. Anyone else attempting to enter the Command Core ... would basically have their entire mind and neurological system fried. That ... is a perfect fail safe for Omega. Only you, Julie, are Omega."

Crystal interjects, "Well, we need to start thinking of how we are going to present the new reality to the world."

Julie has an expression come across her face that Naomi knew only too well from experience since they both became partners at the Radio Telescope.

Naomi says worriedly, "Julie, your not planning to drop a NRADMCD on Washington are you?"

Julie smiles a sardonic smile as she replies, "No, but I do have a most wonderful idea."

Crystal asks, "Mind sharing it with us?"

Julie replies simply, "Nope, but you'll figure it out before we are in radar range of earth."

With this, Julie leaves the Conference room. Crystal says, "Ship's sensors say she is entering the Command Core of the ship once again ... I hope she isn't going to do something foolish."

Everyone who wore the interlink collars and the command gloves knew, Omega had come back to life, and jumped into NR space heading for a drop out point behind the rings of Saturn.

"I see what's coming," said Persis. "She's definitely going to get everyone's attention."

"And that is precisely what we'll need," said Crystal. "We should monitor Earth communication as we approach. When we do make our appearance, we should know what to say."

"Wait, this is a good idea?" asked Naomi.

"Of course," Crystal responded. "I suppose we could quietly spirit you back to Earth and you could continue as if nothing had happened, but we did capture an FBI agent, and they had been watching you carefully -- although they never saw anything -- until you disappeared entirely."

"You're right," said Naomi, thinking. "The cat's definitely out of the bag now. Might as well not pretend it's still inside. So, homeward bound with all the flags flying."

Julie precisely brought Omega from NR space outside the gravitational influence so the planetoid didn't disrupt the delicate ring patterns of Saturn.

Julie announced, "I'm bringing Omega from the blind side of Saturn now, it should be a few days before earth notices us, unless there's a very big coincidence. I have engaged plasma engines and we should arrive at L2 within 2 months. I have channels opens for all Earth Comms and Space scope comms. We should know what's they are thinking by the time we arrive."

Naomi and Crystal sit in the soft control couches in the forward viewing area of Omega and watched as space wheeled slowly by. Crystal says softly, "Don't bear Persis ill will over her ... attitude about Earth. Your peoples are extremely aggressive. It will be a rather hard thing to bring them to the understanding anytime really soon. Given the chance, I'm quite sure earth will do its best to wipe out all life on the surface."

Naomi nods, "Yea ... I know ... that's what pisses me off so bad ... Persis is right on the money about most of the peoples of earth.”

The girls logged into the external sensors and listened to the wonderful Heavenly Choir as they quickly approached earth.

Weeks later, Naomi was listening to the news broadcasts from Earth. "Scientists say the rogue asteroid has only a tiny chance of actually striking the Earth, though it will be a close approach. It has been estimated the size of the rogue asteroid is about three times the size of our moon. Such an impact would …," one news anchor was saying.

A scientist was being quoted on another station, saying, "The odd thing is that it appears the minor planet is keeping one face toward the Earth, not rotating with respect to us, which is very unusual, but that could still be due to atmospheric blurring of the image."

"No, it's because I don't want them to see the launch tubes and weapons arrays," said Julie.

"I think it's odd that we're not causing a worldwide panic already," said Naomi. "If this were a movie, they'd have a spacecraft full of misfit heroes on its way with enough nukes to blow us into small pieces. As if that would actually work anyway."

"The asteroid is big enough, say scientists, that if it were to impact the Earth, it would cause damage of cataclysmic proportions not seen since the days of the creation of our moon," another newscaster was saying.

"In 2004, the ocean floor near Indonesia rose several meters, and that caused the worst tsunami in recorded history," a scientist said. "Imagine the destruction if a rock the size of Greenland fell into the ocean all the way from space. And that's assuming it didn't fall on land. It's a very good thing that it's likely to miss us because there would be no hope of the planet surviving such a monstrous impact."

"There we go," said Naomi, "that's the alarmism that sells commercials. This must be an American channel."

"Sooner or later they'll figure out we're not natural," said Julie.

"Then they'll really start making money," Naomi responded cynically. "Not that there aren't already some with that theory."

Naomi changed the frequency.

"... is certain that the asteroid headed toward us is piloted by aliens from outer space," said a commentator. "Jeffries and his followers are ready to hunker down in their compound and prepare for the invasion. On the flip side, John and Jane Lewis are convinced that the aliens are here to bring peace and harmony."

"They're coming to give us the secrets of the universe," said a woman with flowers in her hair. "Not just how to make free energy without the need for fossil fuels -- the secrets of cosmic enlightenment and true wisdom."

"You know what we could really use?" Naomi said. "A Popcorn machine. This is really quite entertaining."

Julie responds, "I think that's a marvelous idea Naomi. I haven't had a good bag of buttered and slimy popcorn in a long time."

Without warning, off in an inconspicuous part of the cabin, a large popcorn machine grew from what appeared to be a silvery cloud that slowly rose from the floor. Once the cloud vanished, the machine sat and was in full operation. The wonderful aroma of freshly popped corn filled the room.

Julie says with a giggle, " Now, pay attention, I am going to change course slightly to a direct collision course with earth in a few minutes. Let's see how the show goes then."

Crystal SIS's eyes get big as she says in alarm, "No, Julie, don't. That will cause who knows what kind of panic on the planet. They are in enough trouble with what's coming as it is."

Julie replies, "It's only long enough for them to realize ... then I'm going to change course again ... and again. Make them go nuts trying to figure it out."

Naomi and Crystal SIS noticed the stars had already changed location slightly. Omega was now on a slightly different heading. Naomi walked to the forward viewing port and brought up the magnification lens. Earth appeared in the small oval of the magnifier. It was a beautiful blue marble covered randomly in white splotches.

"To be fair, it'll probably take them a while to even notice," said Naomi. "They'll have to measure and recalculate, and ..."

"Rumors are springing up all over the Internet that new measurements put a larger than our moon sized asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth," said a news anchor, apparently on a channel Julie had found.

"Ah yes, the Internet effect," said Naomi. "I hope you change course back before you destroy the world economy," she added with a wry smile.

Those in the forward control area hear Julie’s giggles of mirth as she altered course radically this time, on a course that would cause the planetoid to swing around the moon's hidden side on a radically different tract.

Julie says, "Let's see what they think of this. Naomi, how's the popcorn? Give some to Crystal and let her try it ... I'm sure she hasn't had any before."

Naomi walks over to the large machine and scoops up two large bowls of popcorn. She sprinkles them lightly with salt and pours a quantity of melted butter all over. She returns to the control couches and hands a bowl to Crystal. Crystal looks at it for a few seconds before looking up at Naomi who had taken a large hand full and put it in her mouth.

Crystal shrugs and does the same thing. Her eyes get big with surprise as she begins to chew in earnest.

Chrystal says after she swallows, "This ... is wonderful. I don't think I tasted anything quite as unique as this before."

Naomi giggles between handfuls, "We eat this when we sit and watch some kind of show ... like the one Julie is creating now."

A News caster had come on the screen. A large banner was playing across the bottom of the screen that said 'EMERGENCY NEWS ALERT' in big bold red letters. The man said, "Good Evening, this is an emergency news report from Faux News Network. Rumors have been confirmed that the Huge Moon Sized planetoid has changed course radically."

The screen shifts and shows a display of black speckled with many stars and Saturn and Jupiter. There is a very bright spot that is circled in a large red ring. The commentator continues, "We have photos of it from the Spitzer Space Telescope in orbit. The Hubble is being relocated to take more pictures and they will be available as soon as we receive them. Washington has called an emergency meeting and disaster plans are being drawn up as we speak. The current plot of the planetoid brings it around the back side of the moon and currently poses no threat to earth. The issue currently, is the trajectory now being plotted brings the planetoid and our moon into collision.

The screen changed one more time to the face of the commentator, "We will keep you updated with the news as it happens."

Another TV network showed more conspiracy preachers saying this new series of course changes proves that this is an invasion and the planetoid is under hostile alien control. There were even fights among the different theorists that proved to be quite comical as they acted just like kindergarteners.

"Oh look," said Naomi, "now these people are saying we're definitely aliens." She pointed to some YouTube videos she'd found.

"The latest measurements of the killer asteroid indicate that it is moving under its own power!" said a wild-haired man in a plaid shirt pointing at sketches on a white board behind him. "The aliens are here, I'm telling you!"

"We're going to shock them outta their socks when they find out the aliens are humans," said Naomi, "and then we'll show them that no, actually we DID meet some aliens."

"Do you suppose they would consider me an alien?" asked Crystal.

"Only if we told them," Naomi answered. "Your genetic material is based on human DNA. They might find out if they tested your cells or something. But just walking down the street, they'd just think you were a beautiful little girl."

Julie once again swung Omega's course radically off to the other side of Earth. The astronomers and Governments were about to loose their minds. The Military nuclear powers had already informed the United Nations, that all the combined nuclear might of Earth directed at the approaching planetoid would do nothing more than create a radioactive crater in its surface. Telemetry had indicated the planetoid consisted mostly of rock, iron, and some form of crystalline diamond compound they were in the process of analyzing.

By this time, all tracking and approach vectors of the planetoid had been blacked out. The population was not informed that the probabilities of a major ELE ( Extinction Level Event ) impact were high. None of the tracking locations could pin down any kind of logical course that the Huge planetoid was following. It really did seem to be changing vectors every few minutes into another radically different direction. None of the world's greatest minds could come up with any reason other than it was in fact under some kind of intelligent control.

The Alien Preachers were now running the streets hawking their doomsday war invasion theories. There were major parties on the tall building's roof tops with people in costumes waving signs welcoming the Aliens to Earth. The President made an announcement to the world that all of the information currently available said unequivocally that the planetoid would not strike earth.

Marshall Law had to be declared in many of the large cities and the military was brought in to quell the rising panic. Julie finally settled Omega into a course, increased velocity slightly, and finally brought Omega into a perfect parking orbit at L1 Lagrange … the gravitational equidistance between earth and the moon. The world stood breathless as a new star that was even visible in the light of day appeared in the sky.

-----------------------------------------
~~ End Pt11 ~~
--------------------------------------


-----------------------------------------
~~ Signal Pt12 – Cavemen with Plasma Torpedoes ~~
-----------------------------------------

"... can no longer doubt that the planetoid is controlled by some intelligent agency," the President was saying. "I urge everyone not to panic or do anything rash or extreme. There has been no evidence of any intent to attack, or indeed of any attempt at disguising its approach. It is possible that they are watching this broadcast, and if so, I urge them to make contact or send a representative. They will be received with the highest state honors, and if you have a message for our world, we will receive it with the highest levels of respect and attention."

"Did we just get invited to the White House?" asked Naomi.

"Sounds that way to me," Julie replied. "Maybe we should wear bulky space suits and dramatically take the helmets off on national TV."

"How do we answer this invitation?" Naomi wondered. "Just a plain radio signal would be impossible to distinguish from talk radio. Except for its direction, of course ... oh. Wait." Julie and Naomi were, of course, radio astronomy students. "Tight beam signals aimed at the world's radio telescopes?"

"Only scientific ones," Julie said. "Nothing military."

"I find this idea oddly fitting," said Crystal. "It's something like coming full circle."

"Yes -- we're the signal this time," said Naomi. "OK, can you do that, Julie?"

Julie replies, "That would be easy. I have already isolated the perfect set. I think Dr. Adams is about to wet his pants. I'm going to give him a WOW signal the likes of which only you and I have ever seen."

Naomi giggles as Crystal says, "It must be something they will be able to understand immediately ... but also something that will raise their eyebrows ... so to speak."

Julie replies as she begins sending out the signal at a tremendous amplitude, "I'm using the exact same key and code they used on Voyager 1 and their Gold Welcome Record." Naomi smiles, "That would definitely make Dr. Adams kind of suspicious. But once he realizes it's coming from our coordinates ... he won't be able to deny it."

Suddenly, among Naomi, Crystal, and Persis, a bright glow began. It grew into a sphere 7 feet across and 7 feet high before dissipating. Standing in the middle of them all was a very surprised man with a look of incredulity on his face. Crystal recognized him from the job application scam he had tried to use to infiltrate the pilot / gunner program.

Crystal says softly, "Welcome back to the plainer norm, Agent Louis Simon."

Louis looked around the control room. He looked out the forward view ports ... then got down on his knees and screamed.

"Oh gosh," said Naomi. "Where did he go, anyway?"

"I set up a small habitat for him with life support and a computer he could query for information," said Crystal. "Like one of the fighters, only with no engines. It was in a polar orbit around the Sun and displaced into another dimension. Nothing really bad, but ... without anyone to talk to it might have been a bit lonely."

"Yes, we need human contact," Naomi said. "Louis? Are you OK?"

"Are -- are you real?" said Louis. "It's been ... a long time, I don't know how long."

"For us it's been about four weeks," Naomi said, "but with time dilation effects it's been about eighteen months for Earth ... and for you."

"Eighteen m ... what am I going to do?" said the agent. "Do I have a job anymore?"

"Well first of all, have a seat," Naomi said, helping him to the couch where they had been monitoring the media. "There's popcorn if you want it."

"I saw ... what you were doing," said Simon. "Or what the computer showed me anyway. You were fighting aliens. You stopped them from getting to Earth. Then you went after their planet. But you didn't wipe them out."

"That's a pretty good summary, yes," Naomi said.

"And now ... you're coming home? Are you gonna let me go?"

"Yes, now that you aren't trying to stop us from saving the Earth from total obliteration anymore," Naomi said. "I apologize for what happened to you, but the world was at stake."

"Well ... I was just doing my job. They thought you were collaborating with aliens."

"We were," said Naomi.

"I mean, to help them invade or take over or something," said Simon.

"Oh. Well, they were wrong, weren't they?"

"Looks like it," he said. "That popcorn looks good right about now."

"Help yourself," said Naomi. "Julie’s been trying to let 'em know we're coming."

Back on earth in a remote radio astronomy control room, Dr Adams sat and played his millionth game of Spider Solitaire. He glances at the pictures of his best 2 students, Naomi and Julie ... and hopes they are enjoying their new careers as the heads of the most successful recycling companies on the planet ... Universal Recycling Inc. It was such a loss to the radio astronomy community to loose 2 of the brightest young women he had ever had the privilege of apprenticing. He understood their reasoning ... he didn't appreciate the way the military barged in and threatened everyone either, nor the way they literally stole all the research. Adams was still filing complaints with Washington over it.

As he reached for his cup of tobacco juice tasting coffee, a signal of unprecedented magnitude slammed into the dish. The signal was super powerful and all the power meters slapped over to their fullest readings. Dr. Adams could smell smoke before he managed to turn the gain down by almost 90% to a 'normal' level for the equipment ... and his ears.

He feverishly began filtering the signal through the first series of algorithms ... his eyes got large with surprise. The results showed that this signal was a simple binary code consisting of 1s and 0s. Dr. Adams quickly put the signal through a stage 4 pattern decoder to look for the pattern of the code. Quickly, the algorithm deciphered the signal and divided it into 2 separate categories ... one was text ... the other was video.

It was an easy thing to play back both as a simulcast into the decoder. Dr. Adams sat with his mouth open and his mind in a total blitz as the words and video began to play,

"Good morning Dr. Adams. For the time being, only you and our other colleges can see or intercept this transmission. The military snoops don't know a thing due to the directional capabilities of the Omega."

Dr. Adams gasps as he sees the large planetoid station from the outside as if a ship were taking pictures as it circled the planetoid and landed in the bay. He watched totally in shock as it came to show, Julie, Naomi, and a young girl they called Crystal standing in a place that could only be described as centuries beyond any technological establishment on the planet Earth.

"We could probably appear as holograms right in Dr. Adam’s office, you know," said Naomi.

"First things first," said Julie.

Dr. Adam’s message continued, "You're the only one getting this part, though, Dr. Adams. The rest of it is what everybody sees."

The message changed to an image of the Omega. A neutral voice over said in a majestic ethereal voice, "Greetings, people of Earth. This is a message for the world as a whole. The Earth, along with the rest of the Universe, was in grave danger. A number of allies from different worlds in different galaxies came together to put a stop to that danger. Now that there will be peace, we want to open diplomatic relations with your world. We are monitoring your news broadcasts and await your response."

"Nice," said Naomi. "Now we get to see whether the world's nations all want to talk to us at once or whether they want us to address the UN or something."

"Maybe I should have requested to address the UN," said Julie. "Oh well, I'll remember that for next time we save the Universe."

Within 6 minutes, the airwaves in the television band were totally jammed. It was so bad, in fact, that the highly advanced receivers and filter applications of Omega had a very difficult time deciphering the mess. Every nation on the earth demanded to make first contact and even a few made threats.

Julie says to those in the control room, "OMG! Did you hear what the Chinese said they would do if we don't meet with them first? That's ... totally uncalled for."

Persis replies sardonically, "What do you expect? Cavemen just out of the trees with plasma weapons. Now, I think you see why the ... self destruct protocol was put in place. To avoid such rash displays and allow the whole species just to vanish."

Naomi looks hard at Persis, "That's a kind of heartless way of doing things ... don't you think? What about all the children?"

Persis snorts, "You mean the children that grow up to repeat the same mistakes of their forefathers? Or the more advanced ones ... like you and Julie? I would think you would prefer to set up a special colony for you and your crew on Mars, rather than return to the primitives on earth."

A large sigh can be heard coming from Omega's comm system. Julie says softly, "I can understand what you're saying, Persis, but I firmly believe ... if the bully is backed into a corner he can't get out of and all his toys are neutralized ... what can he do?"

Persis's eyes narrow, "And ... how would you do that to a whole nation?"

Julie replies, Well ... we do have the time displacement technology ... and many ways to deliver it simultaneously. Couple that with Chronal shielding ... the only people they can hurt ... are themselves."

Persis nods as she rubs her chin. Persis says with admiration, "Crystal chose well when she selected you and Naomi ... by far ... the 2 of you are the best we have ever encountered."

"Well, at least there were a few nations that suggested we talk to the UN," said Naomi. "There's some hope for us."

"Yes," said Crystal. "This United Nations of yours is probably the best entity to meet with first. It may have its flaws, but at least there are representatives from most of Earth's countries there."

Julie’s next message was a request that the UN arrange a time and place for introductions, and they would be there. The next day, as far as earth was concerned any way, there was a response: they would set up the meeting site in two weeks' time. Then there was a lot of dialogue about landing requirements, parking permits, air space regulations, dietary requirements, and so forth. Finally it was all worked out.

Julie left the control core of Omega. Before she met with Naomi, Persis, and Crystal, she had a long a luxurious bubble bath. Julie had devised a uniform for all of them on the Omega. It was a form fitting film outfit with built in soles. The clothes were grown on the body, so they fit absolutely perfect. Julie and Naomi had Decided that the symbol on the chest of each uniform, would be a representation of a Telemetry dish ... and a round circle with dashes representing signals from the dish to the circle.

The outfits were red, blue, and gold. All looked wonderful in it. It fit the shapes of their beautiful female bodies in a most remarkable way. They had given the agent a new suit and black shoes. He looked perfectly dressed for the occasion. The Kshandri all wore their uniforms. Commander Jesserek cut a very dashing figure in his Uniform with all the braid and medals. They all boarded a specially made shuttle that looked the world like a dragonfly, although with shorter wings.

At the United Nation's Building, everyone was in a flutter. China had been shown in no uncertain terms what could happen if they didn't behave. The rest of the world's bad boys ... took notice as well. All stood in awe as the sleek dragonfly shaped craft gracefully swooped in faster than any earth made aircraft ever possibly could hope, stopped absolutely dead short in mid air in an positively impossible to believe way, rotated 180 degrees, and then set down perfectly by the fountain in the prearranged spot.

Julie looks over at Naomi and says, "Show off."

Naomi looks at Julie for a bit then all in the cabin laugh as the hatch opens and the walkway seemingly materializes out of thin air.

The delegation departs the craft. Unknown to all but them ... an almost imperceptible shimming bubble surrounded them. Julie wanted to take no chances on someone trying to snipe them, so insisted their gauntlet's personal shields were enabled.

There were, of course, hundreds of camera flashes going off every second from every angle, as every news media outlet wanted to see the first extraterrestrial visitors. Amid all the flashes, and the protesters and chanters and singers, nobody noticed the shooter ... other than Julie, who had grown accustomed to monitoring sensors from all directions. As a result, the wild-eyed man in the hooded sweatshirt was completely flummoxed when his small handgun utterly failed to fire, because Julie had dampened the chemical reactions of the powder in his cartridges. There was some gasping as those around him realized he had a gun, but then police quickly arrived to disarm him and take him away after using stun guns and batons on the wildly fighting man.

"By the way," said Julie via the neural link, "I've done the same thing to the snipers, official and otherwise, that are lurking on top of buildings, in vehicles, and even one on a dinghy in the East River."

"What's the shield for, then?" asked Naomi.

"That's in case anybody brought any real weapons," Julie answered.

The Secretary-General and his entourage greeted them and shook their hands, amid more camera flashes, cheers, and huge amounts of pomp and circumstance. Finally, they all went inside, ushered into a circular meeting room, where Naomi and Julie told their story, Crystal told her story, Persis told her story, and finally, General Jesserek told the Kshandri's story.

"How fascinating," said the Secretary-General. "So you two are not aliens at all," he said, nodding to Naomi and Julie, "you two are copies of an extra-terrestrial being's personality transferred into constructed biological bodies," and at this he nodded at Crystal and Persis, "and you are actually a being from another world, here to represent your world as envoy to Earth?"

General Jesserek nodded, as the last comment had been directed at him. "Yes, sir, it is as you say."

"And together, you have collaborated to protect the Earth from a great threat?"

"A region of the Universe encompassing several hundred galaxies, including this one, so yes," General Jesserek said. "These two brave and brilliant humans were instrumental in the victory." He gestured toward Julie and Naomi.

At this point, General Jesserek handed the Secretary-General a small padd devise that contained the whole record of the war until the final resolution that showed without Naomi and Julie’s innovations and new weapon's designs ... the war would still be raging on with Earth in deadly peril of total annihilation.

The Secretary-General was shown how to use the padd devise for playback. He gasps as the information was down loaded directly into his pons neural pathways in his brain. Within his visual cortex, the Secretary-General saw ... and experienced the war as if he were actually there. He was totally flummoxed at the horrendous and absolute cruelty and unmerciful way the enemy fulfilled its scorched universe protocol. He watched in total awe as Naomi and Julie proved how much the universe needed them in the fight. It also showed how close General Bell had come to causing the destruction of all the planet.

Within a very few seconds, the Secretary-General had received the total down load and had experienced my centuries of conflict. His eyes and mind cleared as he came back to the here and now in his consciousness. He looks down at the padd in his hand with tears in his eyes. He wept for a few minutes for all the many who had lost their lives ... due to war.

Commander Jesserek said softly, "Mr Secretary-General, you can thank Julie for the devise you have in your hand and the complete record of the conflict. Without her genius ... you would not now know the truth of it."

At that very moment, General Bell was on the telephone. "I understand it would cause an international incident, Mr. President, but I'm sure you must see that it would be worth the risk," he was saying. "Something we can't risk is that ship's technology or those two girls' knowledge falling into enemy hands."

There was a pause as he listened. Then he said, "Yes, Sir, I know it would throw us into a state of war with pretty much every other nation, but we'd have that tech and those weapons ... well yes, we'd have to figure out how to use them and make more, but I'm sure we could ..." There was another pause. "No, Sir, all our people are on American soil; I'm aware that the UN grounds are international territory, of course. But if we don't try to capture them, I'm sure somebody else will …" Another pause. "Those are your orders, then, Sir? ... Yes, Sir."

He turned to his adjutant and said, "Well, Mr. Steuben, we have our orders. I don't like 'em, but I didn't get where I am today by disobeying orders. Pass them along: we are not to infringe upon UN soil except in defense of that spaceship and its inhabitants. If some other country tries to take 'em, though ... we're authorized to move in."

"Yes Sir, General," said Steuben, who saluted, and said, "I'll pass along that directive, Sir." He turned and stepped down from the transport vehicle that General Bell had his mobile HQ in, parked just outside UN headquarters.

"Just try it," General Bell said to himself. "I'm hopin' and prayin' for it. Try it, and we win."

The Secretary-General turns and clears the hoarseness from his throat. He says in a clear voice, "I would like the assemblage to know," he holds up the padd devise for all to see, " the data is available for all to see and to ... experience in a way none could ever have hoped to."

He turns and walks to Naomi and Julie and extends his hand, "I would like to convey earth's gratitude for all you have done. If you will join us at the table," he gestures to the very large round table with the UN emblem on it, "I think we can begin with a treaty. One that shall bring a new horizon, new prosperity, and hopefully new peace among us of this planet and our new found allies."

Jesserek held out his arms to Naomi and Julie. They both took and arm .... as he escorted them to their seats and insured they were comfortably seated, before allowing any of the other world delegates to seat themselves. Out side, a rather large strike team assembles in the shadows and all along the perimeter. Their black uniforms blended into the shadows very well, and all the many shrubs in which they had taken up.

Inside the conference hall, Commander Jesserek laid out his proposal for peace. The Document that had been signed by the Tchkarri ambassador, The Kshandri, who also signed for several other star systems , Persis, Crystal, Naomi, and Julie was incorporated into this new treaty. It allowed for trade relations and diplomatic relations for Earth with a coalition of Many thousands of systems and peoples. It opened a new chapter for the humans of Earth ... for now they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt ... they were not alone and all the petty things were now insignificant compared to the expanded Universal View now unfolding.

Shortly thereafter, they all assembled outside the front doors of the United Nations building, standing on a podium that had been brought in for this special occasion, with all the world watching via television and the Internet.

The Secretary-General spoke first. "People of the world," he said into the microphone, "I will soon have to begin addressing you as 'People of Earth,' because we now know there to be other worlds. Many other worlds. I am here to introduce to you the first ambassador we have ever received from another world. His name is Commander Jesserek, and his people are called the Kshandri. He would like to say a few words."

Shaking the Secretary-General's hand, Jesserek stepped up to the microphone. "Greetings to the people of Earth from my people, the Kshandri," he said. "I am grateful to you for your warm welcome today, and I hope this is but the beginning of a long and peaceful friendship between our worlds. I am even more grateful," he continued, "because thanks to Earth, a great threat to every world in the Universe has been neutralized. Until recently we were fighting a war, a war against an enemy that would have destroyed us all, including your world. But thanks to a group of very brave and intelligent human volunteers, that enemy is no more. It is too long a story to tell now, but soon that story shall be told throughout the known Universe. And it is because of this that I have become no longer Commander Jesserek, but Ambassador Jesserek, putting aside my military title for peacetime duties." He paused. "Peacetime!" he exclaimed. "It has been generations since my people have known it, and now we do, thanks in no small part to you ... Naomi and Julie. Please, take credit for your great accomplishment."

He motioned the two young women to come to the microphone.

Naomi shook her head, saying, "No, no, it's OK," but then she found herself in front of a lectern, facing the entire world's news media. She blinked. "I ... um ... hi everybody." She smiled and tried to collect her thoughts.

"Wait --" said General Bell, taking out his binoculars and looking at Naomi and Julie more closely. "Haven't I seen them before?" He turned on a monitor, where cameras much closer than he was were showing this event live. "Well I'll be damned. It's those two girls." His brow furrowed as he wondered how this could be.

Meanwhile, Naomi said, "I still think that this was all some kind of accident or coincidence, that it could have happened to anybody who was listening on that day, about eighteen months ago. I'm sure everybody remembers the flash in the sky. It was all over the world. That was the destruction of the Kshandri's transmitting station, near the star Proxima Centauri, by the enemy. They could have blown up the star itself, if they'd wanted to, I guess."

There was a gasp that ran through the crowd at that, but Naomi went on. "But that flash took over four years to get to Earth from there," she said. "By the time it was here, the enemy had already traveled part of the way here. Earth had about two years to live by that time, I'd say."

There was an uneasy buzz in the crowd. "But not to worry," said Naomi, "because the last thing the station sent before the enemy destroyed it was instructions on how to defend ourselves." There was a bit of relief. "But this message was carefully psychologically targeted, so the only people able to decode and understand the signal were the people who would best be able to use the technology it described ... the people whom the signal had been targeting all their lives, actually."

"Except then," said Naomi, "the US military swooped in and tried to cover it up, destroying or confiscating every recording of the signal it could find. That's right. If they'd succeeded, they'd have doomed the Earth to destruction."

Shock ran through the crowd at that point, absolute horror that anyone could be so cocksure that they would gamble with the entire world's very existence, and anger that the US military thought it could run roughshod over the wishes of every other nation.

"Dammit!" General Bell said to himself. "She's trying to undermine people's confidence in the US military! And this is live!" He couldn't think of anything to do that wouldn't involve disobeying orders. "C'mon, terrorists, Chinese, whoever, make your move!"

"Well, the threat's been dealt with," Naomi said, "so we can all relax for now. They didn't get all the copies, and it's lucky for us all that they didn't. We worked together, we fought off the huge armada that was going to attack Earth, and we took the fight to the enemy. But here's the thing." She paused. "We came close to wiping them out," Naomi said, feeling shaky. "I don't like to admit that. I still feel awful to think of it. I'm never going to stop feeling awful about it for the rest of my life. But they were defeated. They won't be back. In a way, the enemy is no more. It's complicated. But now ... we've got a future." She took a breath. "Let's make it a good one."

There was tremendous applause at that, and then Naomi stepped aside, looked at Julie, and gestured at the microphone, silently asking if she wanted to talk to the world.

Julie stepped up nervously and said, "Ummm ... Hi? My name's Julie Spires and I'm a weapon's officer ... and the living mind of Omega, the huge battle station you see as that bright star over head."

Julie points to the bright shiny new star in the sky. There is a murmur of awe through the crowd as many shielded their eyes with their hands from the sun, and looked towards the star.

Julie continued with a strange tone in her voice, "We as a people have reached a cross roads ... that few survive. We are about to take the steps for us to become not only a space faring civilization, but become inter-dimensional beings as well."

In the dark shadow of a bush, a man dressed in black watched through binoculars as Julie made her speech. He unslung his weapon and pulls the charging handle slowly so as not to alert the guard who was standing near by.

Julie says with sorrow in her voice, "We have basically been handed technology that can lift us to the highest places in the heavens ... or utterly destroy us and leave nothing but a dust cloud for the universe to wonder about."

Julie touches a button on her gauntlet. She shimmers out of existence amid much noise and loud talking from the startled crowd.

Julie returns a second or two later, "I have seen a weapon so powerful, that only six small missiles almost totally eradicated and entire world the size of earth. We, the peoples of earth now hold within our grasp the means to end all conflicts and take our place among the many other Star Nations as an equal. The treaty we have just penned with the United Nations this day, guarantees each person a place within this Star League, so long as we have the wherewithal to keep from destroying ourselves with it first."

Suddenly, there were soft popping noises all around the crowd. The many guards slapped at their necks before falling over in a limp heap. A large group of men dressed entirely in black and with dark camo paint on their faces came from the many strategic places they had been hidden. They Charged their weapons.

The one closet to the podium said loudly, "Everyone stand where you are. No one will get hurt if you do exactly what I tell you!"

Julie and Naomi sigh as they look at each other for a split second. What happened next ... happened very fast. First of all, there was suddenly a faint violet glow in the air all around the crowd. Second, Naomi gestured with both hands, and the men's guns were suddenly wrenched forcefully from their arms and scraped across the pavement as some of them cursed and shouted in pain. And third, Naomi stretched her hand at one of the guns, and a ring-shaped pulse of bright light came from her arm and struck the weapon, converting it instantly to a puddle of glowing molten metal, the plastics within it burning away to smoke instantly.

In the nearby US Army transport, General Bell shouted into his microphone, "That's it! I dunno who they are, but they've made their move! Move in to defend the ship and those civilians! Move move move!"

The doors of many vehicles in the area opened at once, and armed American soldiers jumped out, charging toward the gardens where the speeches had been taking place.

Naomi was saying, "No. No one will get hurt, period." To the men who were rubbing their hands in pain she said disparagingly, "Oh, those are just some cuts and scrapes. Suck it up. Get a band-aid." Then, to everyone else she said, "I think you'll find that no projectile weapon will be able to fire anything faster than a brisk walking pace. Would anyone care to take these guys into custody?"

There were occasional high pitched ringing sounds from the perimeter of the glow as bullets fired by the distant American snipers, aimed at the attackers, suddenly lost their velocity and fell to the concrete, their energy sapped by Julie’s damping field. That was when the soldiers arrived.

The black-clad men whose attack had been quickly foiled tried to make a run for it, but found themselves surrounded by American soldiers.

"Ah, good to see you, gentlemen," said Naomi when she noticed them. "It's good to see some ladies among your ranks too."

They largely ignored her and took up protective positions in front of the microphones and around the ship.

"Hello? Excuse me?" Naomi walked up to one of them. "Exactly what are your orders, soldier?"

"To protect the civilians and your ship from threats, Ma'am," said the soldier.

"Well, Corporal ... Christensen," said Naomi, reading his name tag, "some of us here aren't exactly civilians. Julie and I, whether we like it or not, are the de facto leaders of the Earth Defense Force, and that's our vehicle. We're on the same side, soldier. But nobody's going to be doing any more attacking today, so we don't need defending right now, thanks."

Julie walks up to Christensen and says softly, "Give me you weapon soldier. You don't have need of it here."

The soldier looked at Julie as if she had grown another head as he says snidely, "I will not surrender my weapon to a civilian."

Julie held her hand out, the soldier's weapon was bodily snatched from his hand by an irresistible force and jumped into her hand. She tosses it over her shoulder and points a finger at it. A ring of bright light flowed from her arm and hit the weapon ... it flashed into a molten puddle of red hot metal and smoke instantly.

Julie says with a dangerous tone, "I wasn't asking."

She turns and waves her arm towards the other soldiers and their weapons were removed from their hands as well in the same manner.

Julie says loudly, "There will be no one hurting anyone with weapons here today. None of them will work as long as we are here. We ... are the ones here to defend you ... not the other way around."

About that time, General Bell walks haughtily up to Julie and Naomi. He says gruffly, "I thought I recognized the 2 of you. Just what do you think you're doing to my men?"

Julie turns and looks Bell right in the eye as she says in the same tone, "Protecting them from the extermination protocol ... Private."

The General's face turns red as his brows furrow, "I'll have you know I'm a 5 star general in charge of all of the United States Military."

Julie shakes her head slowly, "I remember you being the ignorant SOB who barged into our Radar room with weapons and stole all our research. That data you stole from us? It was a warning. Remember that flash in the sky? That was the enemy destroying the broadcast station. As of that moment, the Earth had 2 years to live. The signal could have saved the world, but by burying it, you could have destroyed Earth. Good thing we outsmarted you and fixed the problem you caused."

Julie’s voice had been picked up by the microphone and broadcast all around the world. Anyone listening to this broadcast heard what Julie had to say. She continued with anger in her voice, "I refuse to allow a Neanderthal such as yourself to come anywhere near us, or our distinguished guests with any kind of weapon. I personally don't feel you have quite the cerebral ability to handle that kind of responsibility. I and my crew ... have proven before the whole Universe ... that we do."

The general stood for an instant before his radio squeals an in coming message, "General Bell? The president has ordered you to find the nearest land line and give him a call. He says you don't realize who it is your talking to there. These individuals are not under United States Jurisprudence ... but they are the highest ranking individuals in the new Earth Defense League agreed to by UN Proclamation and Galactic agreement with other Star Nations."

General Bell replies, "Roger ... I'll call from the mobile command center. Bell out."

He glares at Julie and Naomi for an instant before he walks quickly off, gathering all the men in black and his own men and departing rapidly.

"I knew it wouldn't be long before some short-sighted humans made their move," said Persis. "This is why you can't possibly give the rest of your world the technology. They can't handle it yet."

"You might be right," said Naomi, kneeling by the unconscious reporters and UN ambassadors.

Doctors were seeing to them; it appeared to have been a quick-acting but very short-duration tranquilizer.

"I don't think we'll be giving this to the world just yet."

"What will you do?" asked the Secretary-General.

"I'm not sure, sir," Naomi answered. "We'll defend the Earth from any attackers that come our way -- though after we did what no one else could do, I don't think anyone's likely to try us for some time -- but what happens when we're gone? We can't live forever. We have to train someone on how to build and maintain these craft."

Julie says softly, "Well, we have several million crew ... both pilots and gunners. The male to female ratio is pretty well even too since we earth people seemed to arrive in pairs. And, if you remember, we do have a newly created and perfectly functioning regen tank on the Omega. We can continually create new bodies from fresh DNA samples, and the synchord of our synaptic system is a perfect duplicate of us. We can repeat the same process for all of us as many times as necessary."

The Secretary-General asked, "Can the same process be offered to all?

Julie replies, "For some of the special ones, surely. The pin-headed ones ... I'm not so sure. I don't want to keep bad genes around."

"Well I'm sure we can negotiate it," said Naomi. "I don't want Earth to stagnate. I want it to progress. I want humans to one day be ready for this technology that they can't handle today. I want to find a way to have talks about the science I've learned -- not the technology we've acquired -- with Earth's top scientists."

"I am sure that can be arranged," said the Secretary-General. "I think most of the world's scientists would be enthusiastic to learn more about what you've learned."

"Well, the scientific community is going to be seeing a series of papers from me," said Naomi. "They'll be clamoring to get me to come present a paper at a conference."

In a control center far away, a General with many stars and stripes and medals all over his uniform stood with a mean sneer on his face. He looked at the cowering radio operator with evil, smoldering eyes.

The General snapped, "What do you mean all comms are dead? There's no way all of them could have gone dead at the same time unless the UN Square was nuked."

The man shakes his head warily as he keeps an eye on the General, "I can't explain it sir ... one second the commander said they were engaging ... and a second later all of their transmissions ... stopped."

The General stared at all the life boards. None of them were receiving any kind of signal. The last reading they transmitted, showed the men's heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketing as if they were in a terrible fear. There was no indication, however, that any of them had terminated before the signals were lost.

The General snaps, "Give me a satellite feed of the area. I want to know what's going on. The Private flipped switches and turned dials for a few seconds before he typed furiously on a small key board for a few more seconds.

On the large flat-screen hung on the wall, a fish eye panoramic view of the UN Building, and the large crowded square in front came into view. The General could still see large crowds, the space ship sitting off in the distance in its insectoid way, and many people moving about casually. Nothing to indicate that a battle of any kind had just taken place.

"Are you sure this is working?" the general demanded to know.

"Yes, Sir," said the private. "I've checked several times. This is live. I cannot understand it. What has happened to our strike team? They should have had the spacecraft by now, to add to our arsenal in our glorious struggle."

"Wait, what is that?" the general said, pointing to a blackened spot on the pavement. "Magnify that."

"Yes, Sir," the private said, and attempted to make it happen. The view of that area grew larger, but there was only so much detail available; the image grew blocky after a point.

"What is that?" asked the general. "Identify that."

"I ... don't have much information, Sir," said the private. "It doesn't look like a burn mark left by an explosion. It doesn't look like any of the art in the area, even though some of it is quite abstract. It looks metallic, from the reflections -- it could be a piece of metal that has melted and cooled? But I'm not sure what it could be."

"Never mind," the general said. "So there is no further contact with the team?"

"Negative, Sir," the private said. "We could check the media ..."

"No! The Western media lies," said the general. "Even when we succeed, they will report that we have failed."

"Well, without any other hard data, that's all we have ... wait, here is a report just in from one of our spies ..."

The private read it on his screen. The general did too.

"WHAT?" the general shouted. "That was our best team -- I selected them personally! They trained constantly! They were ready for anything! But ... what is this? Black magic? Devils? Has our spy taken leave of her senses? Oh, what technology lies in that spacecraft? It could have been ours ... it MUST be ours!"

The private said nothing, perhaps wisely.

Julie had been listening to and 'feeling' the many energy waves as Omega for a long time. It was almost second nature for her to feel the weird sensations even now. The small hairs on the back of her neck stood up and bothered her. Julie looks around. She knows someone is watching them very intently with some kind of electronic devise ... she can feel it.

Julie leans over and whispers in Naomi's ear, "We ... are being observed rather more than I think should be."

Naomi looks around. She can see the sparkle of one of the snipers scopes off in the distance, but he had been looking at them since they arrived. He was nonessential. Naomi watched as Julie opened a small panel on one of her arm controls. She typed in commands for a few seconds, then waited.

Julie says in explanation, "I've told the ship to do a high to low energy scan. Someone is watching .... and I want to know who it is."

Within a few seconds, a small clear blue holocloud appeared. On it, it showed several Spysats in orbit all trained on them. Julie typed in a few more commands. Within seconds, a triangulation was on the small cloud showing that the people watching were coming from deep within the middle east. There were no identifying codes ... but it was obvious these individuals were more than interested in what was going on in the square.

Julie says softly, "Naomi, This might be the bad boys that don't believe what the News Services tell them. It seems they might be the ones sent that strike team ... I'm not sure though ... not enough available data to make that kind of determination."

Naomi looks the data over carefully. Who ever it was, was using the highest resolution and highest energy transponder on the spysat. Naomi looks around and sees the weapons they had melted down in the initial attack. She smiles as she walks over to one and picks up the melted and distorted metal blob.

She holds it above her head and mouths, "This is going to happen to you too." directly into the spysat's field of view.

"If I didn't know better, Sir, I'd think she was talking to us," said the private, pointing to Naomi's image on the view screen.

"What did she say?" the general asked.

"I'm not sure, Sir," the private responded. "There is of course no audio, and I cannot lip-read English."

"Well she could not have been talking to us anyway," said the general, "as we have been most careful about gaining access to this satellite's data stream --" The walls shook as an extremely loud explosive boom is heard. "What was that?"

"Yeeeeeeeeehawwwww!" shouted Buck, though nobody could hear him but Samantha, his gunner, and anyone who was listening on his link channel.

Their fighter craft tore through the atmosphere, sending a massive sonic shock wave across the base.

"Comin' around for one more pass."

"Roger that," said Samantha, a woman of few words. But having allowed the first pass for dramatic effect, she fired on all her targets on the second pass. Samantha tended to let her work speak for itself. The ship's plasma beams, which were the least powerful weapons installed, struck every vehicle and aircraft in the base, burning through metal and concrete to reach the ones stored in buildings, flashing from one target to another.

In seconds there was no longer a functional airplane, helicopter, missile, or even ground vehicle in the base. The plasma beams instantly heated steel to white-hot temperatures, fusing and deforming structures and igniting flammables. Soldiers and pilots were running in terror, but few of them were harmed, as they weren't the targets. Vehicles and ammunition were suddenly not a factor.

As the private pulled the General from under a debris pile that had fallen around them in the attack, he said softly, "Obviously, she was talking to us ... sir."

As Buck flies rapidly from the atmosphere, he looks back in the rearward sensors. He sees raging fires and secondary explosions where a heavily armed and fortified Military Base used to stand. He sees there were some casualties, on the whole, for such a large attack as this was ... it was close enough to be called pin point.

Buck reaches over and pats the pretty young woman sitting in the control couch next to him on the shoulder and says softly, "That was some powerful good shootin ... Tex."

Samantha looks over and smiles. She's a woman of few words ... but her weapons do speak very loudly.

Julie says, "Naomi, our space cowboy reports that the base has been neutralized with minimum casualties. Sam apologies for the few that got caught in the secondary explosions ... but they couldn't be helped."

The Secretary-General couldn't believe what he was hearing. Those amazing young women not only found the base that sent the troops ... but they neutralized it without killing everybody there. He knew at that point the technology they possessed could very well spell the end of the human race if it fell into the wrong hands.

"And so it begins," said Persis. "You've started an arms race that will certainly have every country on Earth trying to duplicate your advancements. I predict the human race will be extinct in a century or less. You might even manage to vaporize the Earth."

"Now, there's no need to be so pessimistic," Crystal said. They were dining with Naomi and Julie on board the Omega. "You're forgetting that the human race has many peaceful individuals who desire only to live peacefully and get on with their lives."

"As well as a lot of paranoid idiots who are certain that their neighbors are trying to kill them and everyone they love," Naomi continued, "and therefore they must retaliate first. Self-fulfilling prophecy. It's how humans are -- I can say it; I'm one of 'em. But we're here, and we're gonna be here for a while yet. We'll take it one step at a time. People who were thinking about causing us trouble will think again after our swift counterattack -- one of our smallest ships destroyed their country's main military installation in seconds. There should be peace for a while, and then -- we'll just see what happens."

Persis snorts as she says philosophically, "Evil begets evil as surly as force brings fear. Fear is the death to die many times over ... when in one fell swoop ... the fires of war change whole planet's attitudes."

Everyone looked at Persis with a wondering expression.

Julie asks, "And what, is that supposed to mean?"

Persis shakes her head and replies sadly, "A total over whelming annihilation of all the weapons on their main base ... even though you didn't kill anyone ... will strike fear in the hearts of many and will cause many not to try to go against you. Then, one nation is so afraid, they again attempt an aggression on a larger scale ... to try and gain the technology so they do not live in fear any longer. Once again ... a larger demonstration ... there's a mathematical pattern to this."

Crystal replies, "But, there are also exceptions and variable that are within that same calculation that changes the outcomes."

Julie says with attitude, "Yea. I mean , I know there are factions on this planet that will attempt to gain access to the weapons. But ... what if the weapons are not given to them, nor the means to manufacture them. There is tremendous knowledge to help my people rise form the slime so to speak."

Crystal says, "With each advancement. there will always be someone who will try to weaponize it. I'm sure you haven't so quickly forgotten the war you just won? It followed the same pattern."

Julie shakes her head slowly, "I just lived ... out there," she points to the heavens, "For almost a year. I had within my power to utterly destroy a star ... and still do, thereby wiping out an entire solar system. The only inclination I have ... is to teach my peoples to rise above their animal instincts and to become the peoples I know we can be."

Persis smiles, "That's a noble goal. How, might this ignorant one ask, are you going to accomplish this major feat?"

Julie looks at Naomi as she replies, "Well ... we are very rich right now ... we own one of the most successful recycling companies on the planet. I ... we will build an Academy. Only the most gifted and eligible will attend at first."

"We'll try to teach them all that they have to use their knowledge for the benefit of all," said Naomi. "That it's the only way not just to have peace, but to live. That the only alternative will mean the end of the human race. We have a small window of opportunity here -- to hold onto our petty differences and burn, or reach for the stars and soar."

"I wonder which they will choose?" asked Crystal.

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~~ The End ~~
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Miki Yamuri
 
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