Author : Tom Coupland

Dropping from his vantage point, Sijen kicks out, snapping the neck of the first guard. Hearing his partner’s choked scream, the remaining patrolman swings about, weapon leveled. Rising from his landing crouch, Sijen’s blade like hands take the man below the rib cage. Intestines, stomach, lungs, burst in turn. Continuing the fatal movement, vaulting over the ruined body, Sijen sprints off down the corridor, followed closely by the two white shadows that are his brothers. Their goal is close, but time is short.

Passageways stretch out all around them; a trick of perspective making their target larger on the inside than it had looked on their approach. They takes turns at speed, navigating their way through the labyrinth, following the route etched into their minds. Drawing ever closer to their target.

Alarms ring out. Days of preparation at the monastery have reduced time to a crawl for the covert boarding team, high pitched alerts become deep undulations of sound. Even with their ear piercing intent removed, their meaning is clear, the time for subterfuge is over, but the team have nearly arrived. Signalling farewell, Biji breaks off to head towards the nearest power relay. Their aim, as for them all, clear in his mind.

A flash ahead. Sijen leaps towards the ceiling as the projectile whispers past, followed shortly by the dull crack of its firing charge. Beneath him now, Dijen snakes towards the hardened firing position protecting the hatch that leads to their target. Skin changing from ghostly white to burning red, Dijen unleashes the microfilm suit’s power supply as he closes. He is not the one that must reach their goal.

Sijen breathes a prayer for his brother, as the waves of heat and sound from his sacrifice wash over him. Reducing the magnetic output of his suit he returns to the floor and races to the breached hatch, diving through the smoke and flames onto the bridge. Operators nearest the door, incapacitated by his brothers sacrifice, can be ignored, but there remain three, lurching to their feet, hands grasping at holsters.

A tremor, signalling the loss of his remaining brother, vibrates through the ship. Darkness engulfs the room, confirming his success. The darkness is brief, yet still it is interrupted by three desperate flashes of light. Popping into life, the emergency lighting illuminates Sijen striding towards the central command chair. Lacking Sijen’s heightened vision and lethal speed, in the dark the three hadn’t stood a chance.

It’s time to perform his role. Jacking into the central pedestal he shifts into the realm of pure data that controls the ship. Nearing the engines representation the pressure on Sijen’s mind becomes close to unbearable, sweat beading on his brow as he wrestles with the ships systems for control, face contorting with effort for the first time during the operation to save his world. Breaking through he takes power from, the soon to be redundant, life support systems, forcing fuel regulators to open far beyond their safety limits.

Klaxons replace alarms. The ship simultaneously crying out for aid and warning any aboard to leave. Sijen, assuming a meditative pose before the viewing screen, bids his home farewell. His mission complete.


A new star pierces the darkness above and a moan passes through the vast congregation gathered before the grand cathedral, high on it’s hill at the centre of the capital. A soft lament for the fallen swells from the brethren. It rises and falls, drifting on the wind, out into the quiet of the night and the population of the city knows time has been bought, paid for with blood. Time it so desperately needs. Time to finish it’s preparations for what was to come.

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