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July 19 , 2010

The Pandoran Age Chronicles: 8 Havoc Storm


The Cat's Paw Nebula, Scorpius.

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The Princess of Caldris

With the advent of hyperdrives in the 2300s, Humanity poured out to the stars in a great diaspora. The original terraformer families, paving the way for later waves of settlements, became Aristocracies of sorts on the plethora of new worlds. For eight hundred years civilization spreads, flowering into dozens of cultures. Then came the war, and the…

Harry Stark could smell the Cat's Paw Nebula long before he actually glided the Riptide out of hyper, easing back into normal space, and it was like a field of flowers. Of course, since everything one experiences in MERGE is a virtual construct, the gasses of the nebula could have been made to smell like anything. But the Riptide was a luxury yacht before it was refitted as Harry's private battlewagon, so the Cat's Paw smelled good-yacht owners don't take well to programmers who make the flight experience unpleasant.
"If you can't be Goulet, don't play" the yacht salesman had explained. Harry had shrugged and bought the whole shipyard.
NGC 6334, the Cat's Paw Nebula. Fifty light-years of some of the biggest star nurseries in the galaxy, toward the center, toward the core. He surveyed the broad sweep of gas and dust clouds with a run of different infrared and x-rays. He consulted the charts. He became familiar in more detail with the territory-as he had been doing in the long weeks of hyperspace. He looked at the big young stars- some ten times standard solar mass. He catalogued the accretion discs, proto-planets, heaving billows of nebula. Asteroid belts raw and red with impacts.
The hunting ground.
At the edges; shaken into coalescing by ancient interstellar shock waves, remnant Oort clouds of icy comets, dropping into the maelstrom of the star forming region from the distant blackness of the void again, following the complex vectors and apogees of a gravitational beehive.
The boredom of hyper had been grueling-ever and always the same. The rush and bang of the early legs of the space journey eventually giving way to the uncompromising responsibilities of keeping the crate airworthy, staying alert, staying alive. Then the joy of arrival, the sense of accomplishment. Harry's head, deep in his MERGE helmet, bent forward unconsciously- arrival at the Cat's Paw wasn't the accomplishment of this mission. This was going to be a waste of mesons if he didn't take some prisoners.
"Surfin' Safari!" Mustafa smacked Harry a high five as he came out of MERGE.
"Cat's Paw is ours. Throw out a beacon with the Ahura Mazda flag. We're taking this nebula." Harry said casually.
Snickers and guffaws from the crew.
They think I'm kidding.
"Go ahead, drop the beacon." He said. "The Pleiades too were a region like this once-not long ago in cosmic time. Today, the Marauders raid the burnished celestial wastelands. Today, the Bogies are creeping at our heels like emissaries of death-but this day will pass." He gave them a rakish glare of challenge, "We will take by storm, we will grind our enemies at our heels, and we will plant orchards of cherry blossoms on uncharted worlds- worlds which we will name."
The bridge crew stared silently back.
He returned the stare, "Hey man, we're making history here, write that down."
The Riptide hit the nebula with a plasma shockwave slamming the gasses, a lightshow, a beacon, and a song broadcasting high and wide: My Maria. They had to look like a drunkard's dream to the Marauders, busting in noisy and oblivious like a twisted wealthy tourist too long removed and sheltered from the nature of reality.
Just what Harry wanted them to look like; a fat huckleberry for easy picking on a sunny day.

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