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12.1 9:26:66

"Receiving coordinates from the Mantichore, Sir. Coordinates confirmed; jumping in five, four, three, two, one...jumpdrive engaged. We are away, Sir."

"Right on course; Well done, Lieutenant." Straightening slightly, vaguely aware, as always, of the old, familiar ache in his neck and lower back, Captain James Noonan angled his head to examine their projected course on the navigational display. Idly, he continued to drum his fingers across the smooth surface of the semi-circular data panel surrounding the raised command station as he regarded the stellar map.

Outside, the pulse of starlines flared and sizzled across the hull of the UWS Interstellar as she bored her way through the underbelly of reality. An impartial observer might have noticed that she was not alone among the Doppler streaks of underspace; a cluster of ships, sleek and deadly, paced her through the kaleidoscope of relativity. The Interstellar flew in the august company of the UGTO 3rd Expeditionary Fleet.

Their charter was simple: to explore and open for colonization new territories for the UGTO. They had made progress in the proceeding weeks and months; a vast array of promising new planets and systems had been charted and logged in the UGTO database. And now, as Capt. Noonan watched their progress across the virtual map of infinity, they were preparing to continue with that charter.

Sag Hothha. Remote probes had determined that, of all the planets in the Sirius system, Sag Hothha would be the most likely to support a dedicated colony. Terran class, she had everything necessary to nurture human health and psyche. If Noonan had been a poetic man, he might have waxed eloquent about the sun dappled oceans and riotous vegetation, but his mental linguistics were couched in terms of axis and rotation, pitch and yaw. No, he was not the lyrical type, but even Noonan could see that Sag Hothha would be a prize jewel in the UGTO crown. Chances were good that they would leave a listening post on the surface of the planet; Noonan was actually looking foreword to that part. In fact, odds were they'd get an opportunity to take a turn on the surface of the planet themselves, and not even the most hardened spacer could resist the siren call of well-earned shore leave.

Noonan turned back to stare straight ahead at the main viewscreen. It showed nothing but starlines at the moment, those sketchy strands of light that decorated this angle of the universe. Somewhere ahead of them, lost in the streaks and tangles of jumpspace, was the blue-green gem that was Sag Hothha. Noonan permitted himself a narrow smile, then turned sharply on his heel.



"You have the bridge."

Behind him, the starlines continued to flicker and pulse across the viewscreen, until they were obscured behind the closing ready room doors.


Third Sun/Tenth Cycle/Twentieth in the Age of Wandering

Tar'Esh Haakar'Nan crouched silently in his personal chambers, opening his mind and spirit. It was always necessary, this daily ritual of worship, in order to cleanse the mind and body. Indeed, it was ever more necessary in these times of exile and turmoil, ever more the only stability when all else was chaos. He released his breath, and focused inward.

As always, there hovered in his consciousness the awareness of the thought of his fellow K'Luth. This was how it should be, and he took comfort in that peculiar shared mind, even as he focused his own thoughts on his devotions.

*Praise be to Y'Rath'Atar, who brings us out of darkness. Praise be to Y'Rath'Atar, who led us when we were Sleeping, and Awakened us to that which we must Know. Praise be to Y'Rath'Atar, who leads us now in search of other Suns and delivers them to us.*

*Hear me now, O Light and Maker. Guide us in this time of trouble, strengthen our hands and guide our weapons, make us the tool of Your will. In the spirit of Jemah and Var, let us go forth into the dark sea. In the spirit of Irrat and Gendith, let our enemies know the strength and surety of our blades. And in the spirit of Tomak, let us seek and find that which must be found, and come to know that which must be known.*

*Praise be to Y'Rath'Atar, who delivers our enemies into our hands.*


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