PHASE IV : THE LOKI ARC ( 52 of 66 )

: “ War in Heaven ”

“… The Families are embroiled in a grim bloody war that has lasted for centuries, and will last for centuries more. Both sides are too evenly matched, bound in the ties of honour and duty too tightly to stray from their path of hatred and vengeance. Hundreds of Family and House members have been lost on both sides of the conflict. Some on the battlefield, many more in the tenements and buildings in a secret war of subversion, vendettas and murder that stains the streets red with Family and House noble blood…”
- Passage from Erinus Tan’s “A Loyalists account of the Blood War,” 2168, New Maynah Press (Internal Publication Only)


Gemini Prime
Tanfen Corporate Enclave Border
Gemini Sector

The planet of Gemini Prime, in itself nestled in the heart of free enterprise in the Confederation, was a bustling hub for all of the mega-corporations. In a time where corporate warfare encompassed all aspects of the word (though legally not accepted, precedent existed, not least being with the Blood War and the Tannhauser-Reindhart Guild Wars), a place of neutrality was required whereby corporations could negotiate and barter for services and goods through coin, favors or darker deeds. Gemini Prime was one such place. It was the largest, and the only place that was accepted by all the corporations as neutral ground. To that end, the corporations kept enclaves here, embassies to the business world for daily business operations that required resources that a corporation could not manufacture or acquire in itself. 

Gemini was neutral ground for all the megacorps. It was right in the middle of anyone's territory, and so anarchic no Corp found it worth to ever dominate or control. Regular meetings of the Corporate Council there have turned it into a neutral ground for discussion and arbitration. All the megas had offices and embassies there. No one controlled Gemini. Those that tried answered to the Corporate Council. One corporation that tried to dominate Gemini through influencing the Confed government on several key infrastructure tenders as well as putting their own people in government earned a Corp wide sanction, as well as several "visits" by agents from the larger members of the Council-namely the TISD of Tanfen, the PKS of Porhen and Origin Aerospace's own Origin Security Service. The unnamed Corp in question, thinking to dominate the one neutral meeting place for the megas in the universe, was literally liquidated and annihilated, its remains sold off for profit. The rest of the Corps saw and learned the lesson. Don't play with the big boys. And don't ruin the play ground either. 

Now, the megas may be genial, in a sense, but being unarmed in one of the most lawless and dangerous places in Terran space is sheer lunacy. To that end, practically all of the Corps maintain a security force there to protect their embassies from the other Corps (though no one would dare to try), and the odd madman or disaffected anti-Corp terrorist or Retro. Though two respective Corps may be hating each other to the ends of the universe, and are attempting to kill each other on both the market and the battle field, there was a rule. No fighting in Gemini. 

Though a corporations security forces would be slaughtering each other on another world, here, neutrality was expected and honored. At the border between the Tanfen and Porhen enclave, a squad of Porhen Sekuritat Cadre, lead by one of their Bravos patrolled in the opposite direction from a Tanfen Security Force squad lead by a Lieutenant. All the Corps still maintained defensive units here, with the khaki and tan of Tanfen Homeguard, the green and red trimmed Calistine Combine and even Porhen Industries Korporat Sekuritat grey and black, all interspersed throughout the sprawling metroplex. Though Tanfen and Porhen were now literally at full scale corporate war with each other, each sides security forces on Gemini did not go full tilt at each other. Corp troops that passed each other in the streets on their patrols, though their home corps hated each other, would still give each other a respectful salute. 

The common populace, small time entrepreneurs and businessmen huddled in between the huge expanses of the corporate enclaves, feeding off them like parasites. The disparity between areas of corporate control, and those that were not, were as clean cut as could be. Clinical hygiene seemed to be fighting a desperate holding action against urban decay here. The tall kleer steel of the Corporate towers constantly loomed over the dark streets. While the streets itself, those not under immediate corporate control were strewn with filth and the detritus of society. Yet, life and commerce thrived here. 

Down this particular street strode a squad of Tanfen Homeguard troops, led by a Lieutenant. Seeing the Blood Feud happening, all wore combat armor, and all were armed to the teeth. Though rarely seen, several troopers slapped on micro grenade launchers to their laser rifles. Spare clips festooned their bandoliers. All of them were heavily armed for a patrol through the Tanfen part of town. 

And just on the opposite end of the street came a cadre of Porhen Sekuritat Cadre, their numbers twice as many as the Corps' Homeguards, but (marginally) less well armed, though their sheer volume of fire made up for the lack of quality. It was rare, but all the cadre wore ablative flak vests and carried spare clips. Leading them, instead of some paid trooper was an actual soldier from the Noble Houses. 

Trouble was a brewing. Both sides were embroiled in the worst possible fighting in corporate history, with escalating levels of violence. Even the Corporate Council took note of the fact that their favorite activity, making more money, was being impeded by all out corporate warfare.

Nevertheless, it was an internal matter and the other Corps declined to participate, though they were more than eager to exploit it. The people in the street, entrepreneurs, residents and others stayed clear of these far reaching events. 

The Lieutenant had met this female Bravo before, since their patrol routes crossed at the exact border between both corporate enclaves. Nestled between the enclaves were residences and shops that catered to the enclaves. Like frightened children, they huddled in the looming shadows of the corporate towers. Wisps of steam from venting, along with the ever present condensation and dripping formed a shadowy, eerie tableau. Monuments of glass windows and chrome stood out like giants. Ground glass and rubbish crunched under the rhythmic march of their troopers' boots. The street seemed awfully quiet, as if the city itself was holding its breath. An old lady, looking out from a small barred window in an overhead apartment, shuttered it hurriedly. 

Both knew quite well what was happening on the rest of their own territories, and of the Corp war happening now. Nevertheless, both sides gave a smart salute as they passed each other. A grudging one, but a salute nonetheless as the Tanfen Lieutenant gave a smart, brisk one and the Porhen commander returned the gesture. 

Both knew the rules. This is neutral ground -- so hands off -- business only. As the Tanfen squad walked on, a Porhen employee crossed the street. He gave them a hateful glare, spitting on the boots of the Homeguard Lieutenant. In Euro-Indo, he cursed “Damn you, dogs of Families.” There was a horrifying ratcheting sound as the whole TSF squad unsafetied their weapons. The hateful man was suddenly filled with fear that his outburst would cost him his life. 

The Porhen squad, just across the street readied their weapons at this act. Both had their weapons pointed at the other. The TSF troopers squinted their eyes, ready for the word. The Cadre troopers looked anxiously at their Bravo, their weapons all aimed at the Tanfenners. No one moved. A cold wind howled through the urban canyon. And a dog howled even as a shredded piece of old newspaper rolled along the ground between both factions troops. 

The Lieutenant held his hand up. The Bravo was about ready to shout the order to open fire. Both noted that each side bore more firepower than was normally necessary. The Bravo knew her own Cadre was outgunned. For every TSF trooper, she would need at least two Cadre troopers to make it a fair fight. Inherent Porhen doctrine dictated that lives where cheaper than guns, and that more bodies were better, and cheaper. A bead of sweat dropped from the Porhen Bravo's forehead, slowly dropping down from her blonde forelocks onto her eye, stinging her. Yet, she refused to squint at all, her hand held high and her Imperator pointed at the enemy. The pain stung her, but she did not flinch at all. 

“Stand down people,” the Lieutenant said. The Porhen Bravo gave a quiet sigh of relief. She didn’t want a firefight, any more than the Tanfen Lieutenant did. Of all places here. The Porhen employee scuttled off, relieved to have avoided a potential bloodbath. Both tried to smile as their paths. The Bravo waved in greeting. Then the Lieutenant smiled back. 

Far overhead in the eaves of the gothic urban expanse of Gemini Prime, hidden in the shadows of yet taller buildings, a nameless figure simply nodded as he readied a round for his rifle. Primitive it may be, but its simple bolt action and ammunition ensured that Corporate authorities didn’t pick it up with energy trace signature equipment. Who would expect a bolt action rifle in an age of energy weaponry? No one. 

Reassembling it into its original state took but seconds to the trained figure. At the appointed time, like clockwork, the patrols from both Tanfen and Porhen crossed the exact border. The man quickly, but carefully loaded a Tanfen manufactured HV round, specially rechambered to be fired in the primitive rifle, and then a Porhen flechette round, also modified to be fired in his rifle and stacked them in the magazine carefully. 

Drawing his bolt, he aimed. And fired. The Bravo's face and head disappeared in a cloud of blood, brains and meat as her limp form, regardless of body armor toppled to the ground. There was a stunned silence in the street. 

The figure fired again, this time reaching the flechette round. He reloaded and fired. 

Suddenly, a Tanfen Homeguard trooper doubled over, his head an expanding melon of brain tissue. On the Porhen side, three Cadre troopers, in line abreast staggered before falling apart at the waist as if all three were sliced at the waist by an invisible hacksaw. 

Both sides reacted instantly, and instinctively. Both were also mortal enemies. The Porhenners raised their rifles and opened up, sending a hail of ion fire at the Homeguards. The Tanfenners returned the gesture, even as their Lieutenant hit the floor and crawled behind the cover of a parked hovercar, urging his troops into cover, and tossing a frag grenade at the Cadre. Screams of fear and panic from the civilian population rang through the air, along with the sounds of gunfire-the distinctive roar of Archers going off at full auto and the harsh guttural language of the Porhenners. The frag grenade rolled off the roof of a parked semi, and then exploded near a water main, causing pressurized water to sky rocket into the air to drench the battle below. Car alarms went off as the release of military grade weaponry and ionic discharge triggered their illogical little ceramic logic chips, causing the street to sound like pandemonium and hell rolled into one, with shrieks and bells and screams. 

The Lieutenant leaped for a hovercar and hid behind it while he shouted into the comlink, “This is Patrol Alpha Beta Foxtrot! We are taking heavy fire from Porhen units! Requesting backup and permission to return fire!” He waved his troops to scatter and get behind cover. The Cadre troopers, bereft of leadership panicked and begun opening fire at random with their rifles. 

The Lieutenant squeezed off several shots at them, before hunkering down from heavy suppressive fire. "Home One! This is Alpha Beta Foxtrot! Under heavy attack by Porhens! I repeat - under attack! Request reinforcements!" 

The Porhenners, seeing three of their comrades down, and the treacherous Tanfenners, felt angered at their duplicity. Their Cadre sub-commander gave a howl of hate as he began urging his Cadre forward, inching past the urban landscape of ruined water mains spouting high into the dark sky, and ruined, burning hover car hulks now ruined by laser and Archer fire as well as grenades. As his men tried to advance, he screamed in Euro-Indo back to his superiors on the network! "Tanfen Hardheads have attacked us, we need reinforcements! The scum are attacking us!" 

A round spanged by him, slamming into a fire hydrant and causing a geyser of water to spout into the air. The ion bolt also set off the hovercars alarms, adding more noise to the fiery tableau. Regardless of the reply, the corporal wasn’t in position to answer it. A shot from up high splattered his brains over the hovercars windscreen. “Patrol? Patrol? Corporal, come in!”

Limp fingers drenched in brains and blood released a comlink into the drenched street. The troopers shouted in anger, rage and panic and begun opening fire at their counterparts. And thus, the sanctity of Gemini Prime was violated. 

Elsewhere, things galvanized themselves. Many of the lesser corps had their own small units of security troops on staff. All also knew that survival required being on the side or being sympathetic to one mega or the other. Helping a mega was often remembered with trade concession or more. Within minutes of the firefight breaking out, more than half of the corps in the city flocked to either Tanfen or Porhen and begun sending APCs and urban combat vehicles from locked bunkers to engage their enemies. 

Starting in each side’s embassies, the whole city turned into a war zone as things rapidly escalated into a massive fire fight. From underground parking lots emerged heavily armored APCs packed with Homeguards or PSC troopers, all rushing towards their mortal enemies and depositing teams of assault troops. 

From the Tanfen Heavy Arms facility rolled out a mostly finished light hover tank, still in gun metal grey, but nonetheless a deadly threat to the enemy as it engaged its gatling neutron gun and stabbed and skewered a Porhen APC crossing an intersection full of neutron bolts, causing massive rents in its side armor, before a shot hit the engine, causing the APC's hulk to jump into the air, only to fall down in a burning heap. 

Like an eerie magic carpet, the light tank seemed to tilt as it banked right to seek another Porhen target. As it passed a tight side street, Porhen sappers swarmed up, slapping demo charges right up to it before fleeing. The Tanfen light tank exploded, its hover drive failing, causing it to fall with an audible crash onto the street. Smoke roiled out of vents before a choking Tanfen Homeguard trooper came out, coughing and bleeding. A stream of ion fire cut the trooper in half before a frag grenade was thrown into the hull to finish off any survivors. 


Peace Street, Corner of Brooke and Lee,
Corporate Enclave, New Gemini

Teams of Loyalist Marines, organized into hunter-killer teams stalked the streets, flitting from shadow to shadow like vengeful wraiths as they sought vengeance against the Porhenners. Staging ambushes and rapid strikes, they more than made up for their lack of numbers. Moving silently in pairs, as well as in armored platoons of power armored, or mechanized troops were

Laifen Highlanders that were rapidly recalled from parade duty into the battle. Those on foot melted into the shadows as their sniper rifles sought Porhen targets, while those mechanized stalked the streets like vengeful metallic demons. Some, like the ancient demon hunters of old bore massive shock lances, fearsome weapons in the tight confines of the city, their edges crackling with leashed power. 

On the other end, Cadres of Porhen Golden Lions hunted back the Tanfenners, paying blood for blood. Like a pack of wolves, they loped along the alley ways and avenues, moving together, unified in purpose-the destruction of anything that bore the rampant stallion head. Until a Loyalist hunter killer team met a pack of 'Lions. Both sides gave a howl of hate at each other. Both paused at opposite ends of the street, like high noon at the Corral. Both sides’ eyes narrowed in hatred. Teeth were bared in malefic grins half insane with centuries of hatred and simmering vengeance. Holstering their Archers and Imperators, both sides reached for their regressive blades and vibro machetes. Each side thought, 'These aren't common gun fodder rabble.

They must die-like dogs in the most painful way possible-in glorious melee" Like an ancient melee, both sides charged into battle, blades leading the way -- each of them seeking to resolve the ancient feud of their masters. ("For Taaan!!!" "Van Housen!") 

The street, given the quaint name of Peace Street did not live up to its name as its some one hundred meters of pavement turned into a massive bloodbath the likes only seen on Repleetah. The clanging and hiss of white hot blades against the roaring screech of rapidly vibrating steel turned it into a cacophony of chaos. The oaths, shouts and screams of unbridled retribution rang through the small street, along with the shrieks of pain and suffering as limbs were lopped off, and Loyalists and Lions were reducing each other to component bodyparts. A Loyalist Marine was swarmed under as a trio of Golden Lions, their black and red armor making them look like fearsome Arcturan panthers, executed a brilliantly timed maneuver that saw the hapless Loyalist beheaded, gutted and quartered in a few short seconds. Elsewhere, a wounded Lion writhed on the ground in agony, before a savagely timed Loyalist kick snapped her neck like a twig. There was no mercy, no quarter. Death to the hated enemy! 

War had come to Gemini. And not from an outside source. It came from within, at the moment when humanity required every fighting man and woman for the survival of the species. Sometimes, it seem men never learn. And history repeats itself. 


Tanfen Homeguard Assault Shuttle
Task Force Tashia
En route to reinforce Bifrost garrison
Aeritos High Orbit

Private Christiansen Sims sat in his shock seat, looking up at his sergeant as she shouted out her final instructions. The shuttle while doing re entry maneuvers was bucking like a mad kalaris, and almost every soldier was strapped in. Except the sergeant. She was tougher than boot leather, with an attitude to match, and she stubbornly stood up in her seat restraints as she shouted out in the harsh red lighting, making her strained vocal chords seem to bulge out even as they highlighted her curiously glowing eyes. 

Sims heard it before of course. Was looking forward to it. They were being sent to reinforce the garrison, under attack by what ISD said was about three companies worth of Sekuritat. Three hundred victims, all for him and his squadmates. He gave a grim smile and checked the action on his assault rifle before a shout was directed at him. 

"Buck up, Sims! Pay attention!"

"Yes, ma'am!" 

"I want this smooth and by the numbers! Our Thud escorts will sweep the area and secure the field. As soon as we touch down-squad one," she pointed at another trooper, a corporal. "You secure the LZ. Squad Two," she pointed at Sims' squad, "you move out, sweep the area for Porhenners." She pointed at the final squad in her platoon of fifty men. "You reinforce Sergeant Arono's squad. Break a path to the base!"

 Then, the sergeant gave an enthusiastic and threatening gesture. "ANYTHING not wearing this," she pointed at the rampant horse symbol on her shoulder, "YOU KILL. DO YOU GET ME?" 

There was a unified chorus. "WE GET YOU, MA'AM!" 

The sergeant touched her comlink headband as the pilot announced time to arrival and that the Thunderbolt pilots reported that airspace was clear of enemy fighters or transports. The Sergeant nodded, thanking the pilot and then turned to her little brood of killing machines. 

"Get ready, boys and girls. ETA 30 seconds. Lock and load. Kuan Yin be with you all." 

There was a near cacophony of chaos as the entire platoon checked and unsafetied their weapons. The troopers in each ten man squad designated as the heavy fire support trooper snapped in their weapons harness and jacked in the targeting feed into their helmets for their MLS 101 SSWs. Meant to use the same ammunition as the Archer, the 101 Squad Support Weapons were designed to fire from 500 box clips at rates of about a thousand rounds a minute. Tanfen still preferred ballistic armament because of the fact that it was not subject to attenuation, dissipation or the fact that it could disperse in adverse weather. Of course, it still used energy or Gauss in vacuum, but that was the exception, not the rule. Boarding actions were normally reserved for Loyalist Marines or specially trained Homeguard units for Customs operations. 

The shuttle pilot’s voice was on the main intercom. "20 seconds." 


"... 9..."

"... 3... 2... 1..." 

There was a sudden jarring and a hiss of decompression as the rear loading ramp hissed open. 

"GO! GO! GO!" 

Sims rushed out, his rifle at the ready, face bared in a near insane grin in anticipation of a relaxing bout of bloodletting, until he realized that there was nothing. There was the howling wind, but the bitter sleet and driving snow that followed it had stopped, so that only the bitter cold and perhaps, the mournful lamentation of the dead rang throughout the mountain range. 

The Sergeant, armed with a Gauss Archer with an extended stock still seemed wary though. "Hold your positions, this could be a trap. Wait for my go." 

Five minutes later, Sergeant Aronos squad reported in. There was no resistance. Nothing at all. No mines. No automated turrets. No Sekuritat troops. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was as silent as the grave. The winds howled. A light blanket of snow began carpeting everything again, only melting in pools from the white hot heat of the idling assault shuttles engines. Sims felt the crunch of Paraclete and snow beneath his boots. He heard nothing. He felt nothing. His breath frosted in front of him like an icy blow torch. Small heat inductors in his armor noted the drop in temperature and begun heating internal coils, sending spreading coils of heat through his body. Sims also heard his assault rifle's internal diagnostics note the drop in temperature and begun to compensate with its internal computer by affecting the viscosity of its lubricants in its action. Yet, of the sounds of battle, of signs of the enemy, nothing. 

"All units advance to the base -- wedge formation, spread out" 

The cold wind gave a perpetual howl throughout the arctic night. They advanced, their suit searchlights painting out pale white circles in the grayish white fog. As Sims walked along, his armored foot thumped into something hard and yielding. He gave a start, pointing his rifle down. His suit lights beamed down at whatever he stomped on. It was a head. A human head. He knelt down. 

"Sarge! I've got something here!" 

His armored mitten parted the packed snow as the squad slowed down. He saw a brown khaki uniform. 'One of us'. The face looked almost peaceful, if not for the section that Sims unerringly stomped on by accident. More parted snow revealed that the poor man died, not because of the frost, but because of close to a dozen gaping wounds torn into his chest cavity. 

Sims could hear the sergeant behind him. "What in Her Holy... damn... its one of our boys. We'll signal the meat wagon later for pickup, boy. He’s deader than my meatloaf. Tag him and let’s move." 

The closer they reached the facility, the more they could see the signs of recent battle. Caked chunks of frozen blood, bodies frozen into rictus poses of agony and freezing cold death. The silent staring remnants of a Porhen Snowtrak, along with its crew, and farther up, the pieces of what seemed to be a Tanfen powered armor detachment. Stranger and stranger. Along with dozens of Porhen dead. Yet, there was no one, nothing at all in the cold howling vastness. 

Ahead, lay the forced open door that lead deep into the facility. Internal lighting, powerful and white shone out, making the small gap seem to lead into a treasure trove or sorts. As the squads neared the door, they noticed scorch marks. It had been forced open. 

Sims overhead the tactical channel. "We're going in first boys. Sims, you and Fraternelli take point. Hachiko, Gerhard, Gaider, fire support. The rest follow me" He confirmed the orders, and stood beside the gaping door. He hazarded a peek. Even more dead. He stood in the doorway, rifle sweeping the corridor left and right. Nothing. The corridor stretched for as far as the eye could see into the mountain. 

Six dead Tanfen Homeguardsmen, three ATMs, an overhead turret gun and over two dozen Porhen Cadre corpses littered the corridor entrance. The cold howling wind silenced the crackling fires over the turret mounts, causing a light rim of frost to coat everything. Overhead, the white halogen lighting cast a pale white cast over the spectacle. One corridor light turned on and off at odd intervals, sparking and flashing in the distance. A fight to the death, the Corp troops here gave everything they could, and then some, but the sheer volume of Cadre troops overwhelmed them in the end. And they were not merciful either. Sims turned his eyes fearfully away at the splayed, spread eagled and dead form of what was once a comely female private. She certainly did not die in the battle, that much was sure. Tatters of her uniform littered the corridor. Around the area were the recent signs of habitation too, as if the Porhenners had set up camp here for a long siege. 

He held his hand up and motioned his Fraternelli to follow. He was wary. The Porhen dogs were like animals, cunning and vicious rabid creatures that deserved to be put down. Him, and a hundred other Homeguardsmen were here to put the bladed boot of justice on the hides of these abominations. And he for one was going to enjoy it. He stepped ahead bit by bit, mindful of trip wires, but there were none. "Sarge, all clear. No hostiles." 

His comrades piled in, grateful for the small heat the bases internal generators gave out. Yet, the image of the violated soldier still haunted him. Her green eyes stared in horror at the ceiling. He couldn't take it anymore. He unclipped his thermal cloak, and covered her bare corpse, closing her staring eyes. But they had already frozen in place. He gave a grim gulp. And pulled his cloak to cover her face. Memories of that dark day came swarming back to him. He clenched his fist in anger, and bit back tears of vicious hate. Behind and around him, his other squadmates were silent, staring at him, their thermal cloaks wafting in the wind. They had all seen what the Porhen war machine was capable of. They were evil incarnate. Vicious vermin from hell. Aronos squad begun securing the perimeter, more grizzled than he. Other Homeguard squads swarmed in, securing corridor after corridor and vital sections of the base. 

Fraternelli held his shoulder. "We'll make them pay Sims. We will. Every last one of them." Sims took strength from that remark, standing up. "We will... we will." 

They swept the base, noting more Tanfen and Porhen dead, and no attackers, nor defenders at all. Strange. In some spots, there were black ichor stains on the walls or floor, and what seemed like acid burns that went all the way into the bedrock, melting deck plating, durasteel pylons and everything else on the way down. After a time, there were no more Tanfen dead. Just Porhenners, some three Cadres of them, close to three hundred dead, and not from Tanfen armament. The dead seemed to have died not from gunshot wounds, but from being torn apart or exploding from within as if they swallowed a grenade or something. Strange. Could it have been some sort of Porhen genetically engineered beast of war that went berserk? Unlikely, human bodies were a lot cheaper.  

"Nothing so far. Sims, Fraternelli, follow me, the rest sweep the perimeter again." The sergeant grunted. "Last place to make a stand is always the command center. You two follow me." He and Fraternelli nodded. Following in step, they reached the heart of the base and were greeted with a charnel house. The base's internal heating was in full swing here, aiding decomposition to a certain degree. If not for his helmet and armor, he could have smelt the sweet rotting stench of dead Porhenner. The CC's door was torn open, as if by some immortally strong beast decided to tear open a sweet wrapper. Dead Porhenners littered the door, as if they were trying to open it, but failed, and instead were ambushed from behind. An unexploded demo charge still ticked silently, showing its armed status in the death grip of a Porhen sapper. "Sarge, look at this!" One of the dead Porhenners bore the epaulets of the Bravo; their mercenary warrior class. Better trained and better armed than the rabble they lead. The equivalent of one of their colonels. Not as fearsome as their House Guards, but a rare sight nonetheless. And deader than a dodo. 

What in the Empress' Name was this? 

The Sergeant snorted, and pointed for Fraternelli and him to move in. The Sergeant gave a quick peek, and saw nothing hostile. They walked in, guns trained on anything that moved, and saw nothing. Nothing except for some thirty dead Corp personnel. 

His comrade beside him vomited, and kept vomiting, until she fell to her knees, dry heaving and wheezing from nausea, simply clutching her mouth and holding herself, rocking back and forth in sheer shock. Sims simply stood transfixed. This was not a battle. Not a fight. It was a slaughter. 

One Homeguard sergeant lay on the floor, his face torn to bloody shreds by the serrated furrows of what appeared to be the claws of a praying mantis like weapon. His torso was bloodily torn open like a gift wrapper; the contents spread about the dead man as if his murderers sought to find a precious gift within him but grew frustrated and instead tore the packaging apart. The man's hands were frozen in deaths embrace like claws. One held a grenade, with the pin still with it. Power armor wounds were mostly blunt trauma or from very obvious slashing or stab wounds. Not even the most sick and depraved Porhen dog could have access to such weaponry, to such casual easy strength that a mans ribs are splayed open like toothpicks and was capable of tearing right into tri Kevlar body armor as if it were tissue paper. He did not die easily. He did not die by Porhen hands. No one in this room did. 

A trooper made to reach for one of the violated corpses. A TISD lieutenant gave a hiss. "Don't touch anything!" The young man had just only been given a briefing from Sue via EVE and Tanfennet regarding this kind of threat. The grunts didn't know, and didn't need to know, but TISD did. He had a few discreet words with the sergeant. She nodded.

"Jesus fucking Christ. Get Colonel Morelli up the line. The base is secure, there' no Porhenners here, and those that're here all casualties. No survivors either. But fuck if I know what killed'em. Get the clean up team here," ranted Sim's sergeant up the pipeline.  

Sims walked past heaving Fraternelli, heaving on the ground, and reached for a torn, bloodied book. He paged through the handwritten journal. What little he could make of the handwriting told of the desperate siege, of the Porhenners breaking through the defensive perimeter into the base, and then absolute silence except for a cryptic sentence. "The... things! I thought they could have been something TAARD came up with, to help us... but they weren't. They don't care. They kill everything. Anything! Anna. Oh god, poor Anna. I... I hear them banging on the door now!". The entry remained eerily unfinished, the results evident before him. The rest of his squadmates appeared, some of them exhibiting Fraternelli's response. 

One of his squadmates managed to activate the bases internal video camera system. "Yo, Sarge. Look at this." Sims gathered around to look at the video. 

"In Her glorious name -- " 

"By her sacred teeth - what the hell were they -- " 

"I think I'm gonna -- "

The Sergeant received a commlink signal. She nodded and turned to the technical officer. "Alright, pack this up, seal it, and then give it to the TISD rep. Whatever you've seen here is classified under DC Sue's direct order."

"Under the Corporate Code and the Union of Border Worlds State Secrets Act, I am now enabling Executive Order A-14. No news of this is to go to the outside world. Penalty of which is court martial. Report for debriefing," said a TISD officer who had arrived on the scene on behalf of the Colonel.

His gut feeling was right. This was no mortal enemy he was being sent to fight.