The TAURUS machines on Quella had been running to full capacity for 10 cycles and even in that short time frame, the numbers of PiruNostram gangs had begun to dwindle quite noticeably.
What had started out as mere rumour had now stretched to endless streams of pathed messages among their own kind and to Xethantian sympathiser’s.
But none of this mattered as no-one in authority on Xethenia had become officially aware of what was happening on Quella and because of who it was, would they have cared?
Certainly no-one on Quella cared about the destructive removal of the PiruNostram as they had only ever been something akin to a plague. Nevertheless, the planetary authorities were taking the highly unusual step of screening all communication, just to make absolutely sure that nothing could be leaked either in, or off-world.
Any Xethantian PiruNostram gangs that attempted to leave Quella illegally were being hunted down and where necessary shot out of the sky before they could engage Foldspace, should they fail to adhere to military requests to return and land.
As their ships exploded, all the bodies could be seen falling to the surface, unharmed of course, apart from being somewhat dazed. Ground patrol units would then sweep in and collect them, taking them back to detention centres for processing through TAURUS.
Mequexian PiruNostram gangs were a lot easier to spot and detain because of their glowing blue eyes, but they were treated no differently.
On Xethenia the Apostophet were in counsel and the main topic on their agenda was the official recognition and deployment of TAURUS, whilst for the most part being completely unaware of the activity on Quella.
As Sobek delivered his unsurprisingly positive opinions on why TAURUS should be deployed; there sat opposite him on the oval table, was Senator Magdala.
She was seething inside whilst desperately trying to present an image of composure, as she knew full well that trying to accuse Sobek of being disingenuous and a partisan to the atrocity on Quella, would be a very foolish thing to do right now.
She could easily be arrested for rebellious and treacherous behaviour as she couldn’t easily substantiate her claims without corroborative evidence linking the whole thing back to Sobek.
“So I would now like to see a unanimous commitment to the proposal that has been laid out before you. A proposal which without doubt will be of significant benefit to the whole of Xethanity and the wider galaxies in this quadrant of the universe”
Some senators wasted no time in confirming their approval for the commencement of the TAURUS project which simply required them to have their thumb print scanned and verified by an encrypted reader.
Others looked at each other and into their own consciences before they made their choice. Nobody would know how each Senator had voted, not even Sobek. In all cases where a vote was required then Sobek would always present the facts as he saw them and so his vote was already obvious.
Sobek smiled and stood up to announce the verdict with his traditional outstretched arms “Thank you Senators. The TAURUS programme will commence immediately”.
Senator Magdala stood up and shouted “No! This cannot be allowed to continue! I will not have this abhorrent process carried out in my name” and she made her way towards the exit from the chamber.
Sobek immediately shouted back “Senator Magdala I know you have your own views and opinions but the Apostophet have spoken as a collective and we are duty bound to take action based on the majority view and that is what we are doing”.
She stopped and turned round with a scowling look on her face “This is a dangerous course we are taking Principal and you and I both know that this is not the beginning of the ramifications that will ensue as a consequence, as I believe they have already started”.
Sobek’s eyes narrowed and he was about to respond but chose to change his words “You are entitled to your opinions Senator but if you would prefer I will accept your resignation, as this issue will become a very absorbing matter for the whole planet. We need to present a unified stance in order to maintain control and recognition for what we are doing to address what has become an intolerable situation”.
“I will think about your offer” Magdala yelled and left the room.
Sobek sat back down and addressed the remaining Senators “Well that could have gone better. However, unless there are any other matters then I would suggest we adjourn and reconvene in 10 cycles to progress other business?”
They all looked at each other and signalled their acknowledgement and began to walk away from the room, some talking in pairs.
Once he was alone he touched the com link on his neck “General Herod with view” and a moment later an image of Herod appeared as if he was standing in the chamber next to Sobek.
“Yes Principal” he announced standing to attention.
“General Herod, the Apostophet has signalled their approval to commence the rollout of TAURUS and I want to see the extermination of the worst gang members of the PiruNostram to commence immediately. I take it that the DEC build of the 20 TAURUS machines has been progressing in the background whilst we waited for the collective Apostophet approval?”
“Absolutely Principal, all machines will be completed in the next 3 cycles”.
“I have been receiving favourable progress reports from Quella, so my sincerest thanks and appreciation to you and your Away Teams General”.
“Thank you Principal. We are here to serve and we are equally as pleased with the results to date”.
“You are a loyal Xethantian General Herod. Now I need to bring Senator Magdala to account as she is getting far too wayward for my liking. I cannot risk her tales over spilling into the public domain and gaining the wrong kind of gravitas. So let’s make sure that Nemesis is one of the first to be purged by TAURUS along with his closest aides. Then we’ll see what her attitude is like after that and if necessary I will arrange for her to be placed under house arrest. I hasten to add I’ll need some hard evidence of her empathy and support towards the PiruNostram, so bear that in mind over the next few cycles if you could”
“Yes Principal. No problem. I’ll update you in due course. Was there anything else?”
“No that will be all for now General. Thank you” and with that he closed off the call. Next he made contact with Janithillon who was at the Laboratory.
“Hello Principal how can I help you?”
“Hello Janithillon. I have some good news for you”.
“I take it that means that the Apostophet have signalled their approval to roll out TAURUS here on Xethenia?”
“Yes exactly right. I wanted you to be among the first to know. It’s thanks to you and your hard work and dedication as a scientist, that we now have the means of changing the lives of everyone here on Xethenia. I am sure that your Mother and Father will be very proud of you what you have achieved”.
“Thank you Principal. Has the experimental process on Quella been very successful?”
“I can’t comment about that Janithillon and I must ask for your continued discretion on this matter”.
“There have been a lot of rumours that TAURUS has been decimating large volumes of PiruNostram on Quella and before long you may have to make a statement on the matter Principal. That is all I will say”.
“Yes, yes, that is in hand, which is why I need to get an equally large number of PiruNostram processed here on Xethenia, so that the populace will understand and appreciate why we needed to install TAURUS on Quella”.
“Well I’m sure General Herod’s teams are working as quickly as they can to deploy TAURUS. When can they start?”
“Seemingly in 3 cycle’s time, but I’ve been thinking that I want to start now, using the machine in your lab, as I think we need to be able to make a planetary wide announcement of our progress. I have asked General Herod to process Nemesis and his closest cohorts as soon as possible”
“You know my feelings about Nemesis, Principal, so please feel free to use our facilities here as we have no further need to develop this particular machine. I hasten to add that it did not form the basis of the DEC schematic for the machines on Quella, or those that will shortly be rolled out here”.
“Well that shouldn’t matter surely? So it is done. Excellent. Thank you Janithillon. I’ll alert General Herod who I’m sure will be in touch. Goodbye for now my friend”.
Sobek had a series of important meetings to attend that day, so he made a note to call General Herod later, but he was interrupted during the last one with an urgent call from Herod himself, which he was forced to take on Private mode.
“Principal I have some very bad news. Nemesis and some of his commanders we arrested earlier have escaped detention, thanks to what must have been a carefully planned mission by a highly trained and experienced PiruNostram gang. They invaded the security block with explosives and weaponry. I’m very sorry Principal. We’ll do all we can to bring them all to back into custody”.
Sobek went white and then stood up and shouted “Damn the PiruNostram, Damn them all. Have any mortals been killed General?”
“No Principal. They were in a secure block. One we thought was unknown to Government outsiders and so only Xethantian personnel were on duty”.
Sobek paused and his train of thought went immediately to Senator Magdala. He was about to yell an instruction to the General, when he suddenly checked himself, made an excuse to the people in the room he was chairing a meeting with and stepped out to continue talking.
“I want you to locate Senator Magdala and escort her to my private office and then you can organise the recovery of Nemesis and his pack. I want an FTB (Foldspace Travel Ban) on all flights leaving and arriving Xethenia with immediate effect and initiate an XPACE search to screen all occupants in case anyone is planning an illegal exit”.
“Of course Principal. I will see to it personally”.
The XPACE orbiting computer system can be instructed to physically restrict the passage of all spaceships from moving anywhere within a set radius from the surface of the planet.
This enables the security forces to quickly conduct a very secure and remote examination of all the occupants via a penetrating beam which scans the ship and identifies all those on-board based on their PDT chip.
If they are Xethantian, then their ID card can be scanned remotely, which they would be required to carry for travel in any event. The ID card would contain a reference to their birth number and during various stages of their life; images, data and information would enable the security forces to make sure that the holder of the card married up to who it said they were.
This isn’t just a process exercised by the Government of Xethenia, as it is a widely practised form of identity checking adopted by many planetary authorities within many neighbouring galaxies.
The system isn’t completely fool proof and armed with the right tools, the PiruNostram can and do, forge ID cards to avoid detection. It is a very specialist skill and requires significant resources to make a convincing and accessible forgery.
Clearly any obvious discrepancies between the passenger count and an ID tally meant that one or more passengers were travelling illegally and the security forces would need to board the vessel.
The problem with exercising an FTB was that it required passenger ships to come out of Foldspace much earlier and place themselves into a parking orbit around Xethenia.
They would have to surrender the control of their ongoing movements to the security authorities via XPACE which would normally lead to lengthy delays, especially if they were going to be boarded.
More importantly, by being in a parked orbit and not in control of their own ship, they would leave themselves wide open to interference by PiruNostram gangs.
All of this would affect the smooth running of commerce and travel and the ramifications could easily impact badly on the planetary economy. Hence why any decision to suspend travel into the planet or worse still, for departing flights, would not be taken lightly.
Sobek was now livid with anger, “General Herod; begin the process of PiruNostram elimination using the TAURUS machine at the laboratory installation. Janithillon has agreed to let us use this, whilst we bring the other machines on stream”.
“The laboratory is not a military establishment Principal. It may present us with some difficult security issues”.
Sobek screamed “Just do it General. I don’t care and whilst you’re at it, get your best men to track down Nemesis. I want him removed as fast as possible”.
“Yes Principal. Certainly. Will do. Herod out”.
Sobek closed the call and stood in silence, so he could take in some deep breaths to calm himself ahead of returning back to the meeting he’d excused himself from.
Within an hour of the FTB announcement there were already 50 ships inbound that were parked in orbit, with more coming in behind them. A further 200 craft were grounded and numerous others which weren’t necessarily scheduled, all being prevented from leaving Xethenia.
Media announcements were already rife with reports of mounting anger and dismay as the impact of the ban worsened the delays and disruption.
General Herod commandeered a fleet of carriers, filled with as many PiruNostram gang members as he could safely carry and headed off for the laboratory, where he already had a team of his troops waiting to receive them.
What he hadn’t been prepared for was the number of PiruNostram squads that were quietly and stealthily heading for the same laboratory, fully armed and ready for combat.
Normally each prisoner vessel would be accompanied by one or two outriders, whose job it was to protect the carrier from attack. But with the laboratory being so close to the security building and with the FTB taking up significant resources on the ground, let alone potentially checking craft in orbit, then he was compelled to take a chance and forgo the need for outriders.
Nemesis was a very experienced tactician when it came to guerrilla warfare and he waited patiently until all the carriers were en-route before he authorised his gangs to attack them.
He’d even arranged for a number of heavily disguised gunships to position themselves innocently above the carriers along the route, so that once everything went weapons-hot, they couldn’t easily take flight, as he would make sure they could be taken out early.
Prisoner carriers are built to withstand attacks from medium scale weaponry, such as proton pulse bullets, blast lasers, even rocket shells, but give the PiruNostram half a chance and they will use excessive force to overcome what in this case would be a virtually defenceless convoy.
They know that no-one will be killed outright, just temporarily dazed and confused, but that’s all the time they would need to rescue their fellow gang members.
The first hits simultaneously took out the first and last carriers using high power military grade shells akin to a rocket propelled grenade, but the resulting destruction was on an epic scale. The ship just disintegrated like melting tin foil and all the occupants were blown out several hundred feet across the surrounding landscape.
Small snatch squads moved in quickly to collect comrades whilst using the opportunity to let off a few rounds from their pulse rifles at the government troopers and detonating smoke grenades which was futile and pointless, but it all added up to creating the confusion and distraction they needed to make off with their fellow bounty.
The remaining carriers tried to execute random evasive manoeuvres but they realised all too soon that this was a futile action, as the strategically placed ships flying above them were easily able to target them like an angry rash.
Those that managed to make some distance were hunted down and destroyed. Some tried to turn and face their hunters and enter into a weapons fight but they were massively outnumbered and out gunned.
Within minutes all the carriers were either severely damaged or completely destroyed. All that remained on the ground were dazed and confused troopers, desperately trying to regain control and composure of the situation they were caught up in, but time and opportunity were just overwhelmingly against them.
Their uniforms had been reduced to shreds and torched and any equipment they were carrying including pulse laser pistols, portable traction beams and more importantly the com-links on their neck were either destroyed or unusable, so they couldn’t alert anyone in the command centre for help.
Similarly whilst the PiruNostram prisoners were in an equally tattered state, the pathing disruptors had been neutralised and had fallen away from their heads, so they were free to communicate telepathically.
Thankfully, the all-seeing eye of the orbiting XPACE computer had been alerted to the destruction of the military vehicles and had begun to record footage of the scene whilst broadcasting it, along with an audio track to the command centre.
“This is XPACE, a number of prisoner carriers have been intercepted and destroyed by a suspected PiruNostram gang. General Herod has been identified as the Commanding Officer and they need rescuing from the scene. Their location code is 117259”.
Herod suspected that the escaping PiruNostram gang would now be on their way to the Laboratory. He clenched his fists and yelled up to the sky in frustration and anger, but there was little he could do other than wait for a support team to arrive.
Within minutes Nemesis and his now swollen rank of gang members had landed outside the laboratory, where Janithillon and his team, along with the Planetary Protectorate force were waiting for the prisoner carriers to arrive.
A sudden blast filled the air with noise and smashed debris, followed soon afterwards by a hoard of PiruNostram foot soldiers running in and quickly disbursing down various corridors, vaporising anything that blocked their way, be it a wall or a door.
Oddly enough when a situation like this erupts, then Xethantians just begin to walk away and avoid any contact with the terrorist gang, as they both know that maiming or death is not an option and consequently there’s certainly no point kidnapping anyone.
However once the troopers became alerted to the marauding gang, they tried at least to slow them up and wherever possible apprehend and cuff isolated members. However it was a trivial effort in the face of such numbers.
By now a loud siren was reverberating throughout the complex and everyone knew full well what that sound meant and it certainly wasn’t to suggest that the building was on fire.
Janithillon was on a com-link call to Principal Sobek who had called to alert him to the imminent threat being posed by the invading PiruNostram gang headed by Nemesis himself.
He hardly had time to end the call properly, when the doors leading into the very room where he stood were vaporised and in marched Nemesis flanked by 4 gang members.
In amongst the sound of the explosion, Janithillon could hear Sobek repeatedly shouting his name and slowly he silenced the call as he stared across the room at Nemesis and their eyes met.
“So the mighty Janithillon, we finally meet at last”.
“What do you want you murderous thug?”
“I want your killing machine Janithillon. Does this make us equal in our pursuit of controlling life?”
“We don’t go round murdering innocent victims of your violence and savagery. We are trying to bring an end to that which is feared throughout the galaxy”
“Oh selective killing then?” mused Nemesis with a condescending laugh.
“Look Nemesis I’m not going to try and debate rationally with the PiruNostram, it’s a waste of time. No-one here is going to help you to understand how TAURUS works or how to use it for that matter. So it’ll be useless to you”.
Nemesis laughed again saying “I don’t need to know, because I’ve got a bunch of my people accessing DEC files and a sympathetic Senator who will obtain everything else I need to know. In exchange, I’ve agreed the protection and safety of her daughter, who is on some forsaken primitive world, which I must get around to visiting sometime. I’m sure I’ll end up living like a member of the Apostophet if I did”.
“So what do you want with me?”
“You’re directly responsible for killing my fellow PiruNostram family and for that they need to be avenged”.
“Which means what you mindless animal? What would you know about family, you’ve no understanding or meaning of the word”.
“Wrong, but irrelevant. Your life will now be terminated, just like theirs was” and with that Nemesis signalled his comrades to grab Janithillon and drag him over to where the TAURUS machine stood, humming and waiting to start the process of death.
“Bind him onto the maglev plinth. Hurry we don’t have much time as the Protectorate will be on their way”.
Janithillon writhed and screamed but it was useless, because he could no more undo the binders by pathing than fly. So instead of panicking he focused his mind on the control panel in a desperate attempt to try and compose settings and processes to try and limit what would happen to him and then he spoke to Nemesis.
“Whatever you do to me will not prevent the extermination of the PiruNostram. I can assure you I will return to deal with you and your kind in another lifetime, and when I do I will make doubly sure that you won’t be in a position to avenge anyone or anything else ever again”
“That’s if there’ll be anyone or anything left for you to come back and save Janithillon”.
Nemesis com-linked through to an agent whose image beamed into the room and she started to look around and take in all the controls for TAURUS.
“Everything looks in order, you’re good to go. Just edge the plinth up to the opening and I can control it from here”.
Janithillon looked across at the 3D image of the agent and cried out “Jabrah, what are you doing? Why are you disgracing yourself, your parents and the whole of Xethanity for that matter by helping these savages? When I think of everything we’ve gone through to build TAURUS, what has happened to turn you to the belief that the PiruNostram has in any way, a right to live among us”
“I’m sorry Janithillon but my heart was never in this fight. I don’t share in the beliefs of Principal Sobek or with you agreeing to work with him to develop this machine of death. The only way I can clear my conscience is to see the creator destroyed along with it”
“No Jabrah you’re wrong. I too have a conscience. TAURUS is just the beginning of a much longer journey, but to begin with we have to silence this evil streak of existence that ripples through our culture with so much hatred. Do you think you’ll be spared by the PiruNostram? They will exterminate you along with anyone else they want out of the way whilst TAURUS exists”
Nemesis shouted menacingly “Silence! Enough! Jabrah don’t listen to this idiot and his gibberish. You are a friend to the PiruNostram. Proceed now. No more delays”.
Thankfully in his haste to get Janithillon into the TAURUS, Nemesis had neglected to put a pathing disruptor on Janithillon’s forehead and so he simply closed his eyes and began to path as many of his contacts as he could to say farewell.
He started with his Mother and he asked her to tell his Father that he loved them both and that he would be sorry not to be around to mourn his Father’s impending demise due to old age. Whether he would manage to get back to see her, he had no idea. All he could do was hope that the settings he had put in place would allow him to retain more than just his Entience.
He never thought he’d end up being terminated by the very machine he had helped to create. His mind raced back to Senator Magdala’s speech to the Apostophet, in which she reminded them of her daughter’s fragile position on the planet known as Earth.
He quickly composed the imagery of the galactic constellation in his mind and focused all his mental energy on reaching XPACE to try and pre-ordain the Foldspace exit point for his Entience despatch.
Jabrah wouldn’t have noticed any changes to the configuration mapping being pathed into the controls, as she was only aware of how to activate the despatch sequence.
She had simply taken it as read that the laboratory machine was already pre-calibrated to deal with the PiruNostram based on what it had been set to from the original unveiling event. Even though she was in effect a hologram, she could still physically engage with the controls, thanks to what was known as pulse-drive technology.
Suddenly Janithillon was aware of Nemesis speaking to him in a quiet voice close up to his ear, as he lay bound and motionless on the plinth “And when I’ve finished with you, I’ll seek out your Mother and everyone else that has worked with you on this project. After that Sobek can meet his destiny along with anyone on the Apostophet that fails to recognise the PiruNostram. Life on Xethenia will take on a new meaning when we have dealt with all that stands in our way”
Janithillon opened his eyes and looked at his executioner and said “You can’t reach my Mother or anyone else on the Apostophet as I have alerted her to what is going on and she in turn will get a communication for the safe passage off-world for the Apostophet if necessary”
Nemesis shrugged when he realised his error about the disruptor but then laughed “There’s an FTB embargo so that will put pay to their swift despatch. Besides which my comrades will soon reach their targets”.
“An FTB doesn’t apply to the Apostophet or anyone they clear for passage, but that is of little consequence Nemesis. Mark my words you mindless, ruthless thug, I will discover a way to change life for the better for everyone on Xethenia and the PiruNostram will become a hated legend consigned to the historical archives”
“Well the race will be on to see who wins but for now you will be somewhat disadvantaged” and with that he shouted “Commence” across to the agent and she directed some PiruNostram operatives who sat at the control desk.
As the plinth edged into the maw of TAURUS, the noise and associated energy began to escalate in volume and fieriness.
The uniform surrounding Janithillon’s body was already alert to the threat of impending destruction and despite his mind being focused on remaining calm and in resignation of what was about to happen, it fought to keep him taut and protected.
He could feel the bonded biology of life racing through his veins and muscles, crawling through the very skin that covered him as the tyranny of destructive technology battered his body, mercilessly tearing away at the fabric of life that for 300 orbinars had protected his very existence.
He wasn’t sure at what point he had lost consciousness due to the intense pain, but he did remember receiving a message from his Mother which began with “Be at peace Janithillon, my beloved son. I have every faith that we will meet again and be reunited. We will always love you” but then it was lost.
He remembered thinking at the time he received his Mother’s message ‘so this is what pain feels like’ and consequently experiencing the hitherto unknown emotions of fear and apprehension being brought on by the imminent end to his life. An experience he thought must be what a normal Xethantian feels when they reach Transition at around 3000 orbinars of age.
After that his memory of most of the events that had taken place evaporated and at best they became fragmented.
He had no idea as to how much time had elapsed since his Entience and safe guarded DNA code had been expulsed through FoldSpace, but it had now reached Earth and had manifested and reincarnated itself into the human genome of Richard Jackson, who at that moment was making passionate love with his wife Alison.
© 2018 Visionaries by Chris Donlan - All Rights Reserved