: “ Dreams of the Dead ”


Tanfen Sutari Sector Fleet
In orbit above Masa
Vega Sector, Union of Border Worlds
0800 Hours Zulu, 10 Feb 2681 (2681.042)

The Fleet remained quiescent in high orbit above Masa. The massive leviathans, super heavy freighters and their assorted support craft, floated in the darkness, interrupted from their orbital dance by the steady and constant movement of Corp shuttles and light freighters, the few ships that Tanfen possessed that could enter a planet’s gravity well and leave again on their own power. Instead of loading goods, the transports were engaged in a much more different task - the disembarkation of the combined planetary population of Tyr VII, erstwhile former divisional headquarters for Tanfen Sutari Branch, also of late the former Lord John Tan’s jurisdictional fief. Now, it was under the leadership of a boy scarcely half his age, yet tempered in battles men thrice his age would scarcely ever have seen in their lifetimes.

Right now, that young man was stuck in what was perhaps the saddest, most gut wrenching aspect of post battle operations - the burial of the dead. Maximilian Gan, now acting CEO and Lord Commander of Sutari Branch leaned back in the small office on board the Memory. Before him in glowing green letters, just recently compiled from the Sutari datacore were the names of the dead, culled from a DBMS of surviving personnel. Max rubbed his eyes, fragments of the weird dream he had careening in his head like tenpins. There were so many problems to solve. He wondered how Lord John could have remained sane in a job like this. In addition, he was also in charge of Fleet logistics, business, production quotas, cost assessment, risk assessment and practically every aspect of business that Sutari ran. Costs were factored in every day, every minute - fuel, oxygen, salaries, compensation, damages, munitions expended… the list went on and on. If not for the datacore, it would require dozens of accountants to keep track of everything.

He would be glad to relinquish this post once he had dropped off the Union Marines along with the refugees, and handed control of the Fleet and its assets to whoever was in charge at Tanfen Kohlingen. Until that fated event came though, he was stuck with paperwork and gut wrenching decisions. A heuristic program with his writing style inputted into its logic via EVE silently continued to churn out condolence E-mails to each of the families affected.

+++ Dear [sir]/[madam], we would like to regretfully report that your [son]/[daughter]/[husband]/[wife] had [bravely]/[gloriously]/[honorably] [in battle]/[in the defense of] the… +++

And running behind that program was an automated spreadsheet, calculating full death benefits and other necessities. The Corp took care of their own.

Not just simple casualty reports listing units or assets lost lay before him, but the actual names of those who had given up their lives for the Families and for the people of Tyr. Ironic that Tyr is a god of justice, Max thought as the screen of the computer in front of him scrolled, opening and closing windows on the screen showing the images, names, service numbers and rank of the fallen. Like impassive specters, the faces of the dead appeared before him as portrait shots, as the computer tagged their status as deceased, and faded as the computer moved onto the next name, their image fading into an electron oblivion. The alien enemy had not spared any from Tanfen. Not all those who had fallen in service to the Families were soldiers serving in the Honour Guards or in the Homeguard. Ordinary personnel, including two children were among the casualties when a glancing hit on a Tanfen shuttle moored to a super freighter tore loose the airlock connection, killing the personnel jammed into the corridor. According to the Union’s damage reports, they weren’t classified as Tyrran citizens, and thus were considered "internal Corp casualties" - which annoyed Max to no end.

On another screen, hanging off the ceiling was a visual link with Marisa Hudgins, Sutari Branch’s TPRO regional manager, transmitting from the corvette Alieut Serene. Her elfin face was accentuated with her pageboy cut, lending her a youthfulness belying her thirty plus years. She had been summoned to assist in planning the funeral of Lord John Tan. Her experience, as with all in TPRO, was in media control, politics, propaganda manipulation and psychological warfare, as well as the more mundane aspects of event planning and people management. Her skills would have made her a valuable asset to any corporation, more so Tanfen.

Off to his right, away from the small desk, sat Celes on a pull out chair and table, a data pad in one hand, with the other within easy reach of her Archer. In another age, she would have been known as a political officer. Her half tarot lapel badge attested to just what she was capable of. Her reddish eyes alternated between the door, and the data scrolling past on her pad: logistics assessment reports as to when the last of the refugees would be offloaded and maintenance priority schedules. Lord Maximilian had more important tasks than to be worrying about such minor things.

The harsh white overhead lighting cast her pale features in even sharper contrast, showing her high cheekbones and pursed lips. Her mane of pale hair was tied back in a ponytail, a regulation barrette pinning her hair in place, though wisps and locks of it tumbled down to frame her heart shaped face. Men had come to her before, with proposals and offers -- but she couldn’t understand why. There was only duty to the Family for her. Even if it had been otherwise, she suspected that they desired her more for what she appeared to be, than for what she was.

Max gestured for Hudgins’ opinion. Her position in TPRO meant that she handled peoples minds and hearts as easily as the Loyalists handled their Archers. “I require your opinion as to how to maintain face for the Families and our personnel in regards to the burial rites. We have over eighty five dead, nearly all of them Loyalists, Homeguards, TMMN or business related divisions, two of them children. I do not think we have the resources at this time to bury them all, or to arrange for that many burials.”

Celes nodded. It was a difficult decision. There was not enough time, and inadequate resources. Each of the fallen deserved a burial as soon as possible. Those who had fallen in battle should be given equal priority, yet the children too deserved a quick burial. Conducting a simultaneous ceremony was untenable, since each one was to be personalized for it to be effective. There were also inadequate resources towards the incineration of hell money and goods for the afterlife for the dead. To not mourn the dead now would be a loss of face for all involved, and to mourn but a few would mean gross disrespect to those ignored. Marisa gave an affirmation at the possible public relations fiasco that might happen.

“Milord, I propose -- in the interests of Lady Elayne and fairness -- since we cannot mourn part of our dead, that we arrange for just the funeral of Lord John. As former leader of Sutari, he has higher standing than the rest. His sacrifice and his standing mean he is the fairest choice for now. The rest of our dead can be deep frozen for eventual burial at New Maynah and Laifen. We can handle the formalities of informing the families of the deceased and explaining the reasons to them.”

“Do we have the freezer capacity?” he queried Celes.

Celes first queried the datacore on just what was the total combined capacity of the deep freezers in the Fleet. She then entered the approximate mass of raw material type to be frozen and the duration required, checked it with a TMMN logistics calculation program which then spat out an affirmative that such space was available on board the fleet. In a small minimized corner of her datapad screen, EVE appeared, and silently mouthed a reminder to Celes. She had set the pad on silent mode, and read the subtitled statement; a message from the Jasmine. The Jasmine’s physicians continued to remind her of the strain they were under. Nervous breakdowns, post battle stress disorder and a host of other mental ills plagued the fleet. Their brush with death sent many near or off the edge. They requested additional medical personnel to be transferred to Psychology. She would deal with that later.

“Yes, milord.”

Max leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “Then what of those who have left no body, then?”

“I have spoken with the chaplain. He says that regardless of it, a deceased must still have a casket.”

Marisa agreed. “For the purposes of image, we must have a tangible object to mourn, milord. We can use that as a focal point to reinforce morale and Sutari’s loyalty to you through Lord John and his sacrifice. I can handle the necessary transfer and guest aspects of the funeral.”

Max continued, “As I remember from a manifest, we only have six caskets, and those are for emergencies. There are too many corpses.”

“Lord John’s funeral will still be the fairest choice for now. The rest of the caskets are irrelevant due to the numbers involved. Do I proceed?” Celes asked.

Max thought of it. It made sense to the Families and to Tanfen’s point of view, though oft times, both diverged as much as they converged. “Get it done, Corporal.”

Celes nodded as she wrote something down in the datapad, “One more thing, milord - I have two queries regarding this operation. Firstly, are to invite the outsiders to the funeral?”

He paused. The Union Marines did take part in the battle, as well as the fight to liberate the fuel stores. They were not complete outsiders now, per se. “Invite them, but please let them know just what sort of traditions that are involved in a Taoist funeral.”

“I will forward an FAQ to their tactical network for distribution when I see their CO, milord.”

Max turned to Marisa. “Ma’am, can you handle the invitations and the rest of the guest list, as well as seating arrangements based on rank and seniority?”

“Not a problem, milord, I will forward a proposed plan to you and your...” Marisa paused as she sought to find the proper word to denote Celes' status, “... seneschal within the hour once I have obtained and sourced a guest list, but where are we to hold it?”

Max had that in mind, at least. “I was proposing for it to be held on the main deck, Deck 3 of the super freighter Ymei Exultant. It should be large enough, and after the refugees have been offloaded, it should be all empty. Get in touch with the chaplain as to what protocols are required.”

“An excellent choice if I must say so, milord. I’ll get right on it.” Marisa then turned from the screen as she proceeded to note down what was to be done.

Celes continued, “Secondly, I have proceeded, based on input from our chaplain as to the sourcing of materials necessary for the funeral. I have encountered some difficulties, milord.” She proceeded to explain the problem. Marisa listened attentively, as did Max.

The sourcing of the items required was no small feat. After much desperate searching, Celes had managed to source a Buddhist chaplain, serving one of the surviving Homeguard infantry regiments. Taoism and Buddhism were basically the same in principle, though they differed slightly on doctrine, but that was the best to be managed under the circumstances. The sourcing of hell bank money was a different problem altogether, solved through ingenious application of Tanfen production techniques. The chaplain had a small source of hell bank money, denoted by the face of Yen Lo Wang and a pagoda set in a more serene section of Hell along with ridiculously large amounts in excess of millions. Celes had simply scanned them in and printed more, using a printer on one of the super freighters carrying a printing press used for internal publications in the Corp, in the millions.

On Max's orders, and Lady Elayne's assent, every last drop of ink was used to print the notes, until a small storeroom onboard one of the freighters was full to bursting with enough money to last him for eternity. The major problem was the sourcing of paper goods to burn for the dead (crafted of bamboo strips and coloured paper, they resembled their real life counterparts in every way, save for being inflammable and for the dead), since finding bamboo, as well as the proper paper sheets to craft the appliances and conveniences such as a house, a hover vehicle or other things on a refugee fleet in space, while on the run from an inhuman enemy was a difficult proposition, to say the least.

As Max begun to think of how to solve this problem, and almost deciding to drag in a TMMN logistics expert to solve it for him, his comm beeped. He patched it into his desk monitor. It was one of the Memory’s pilots. His comlink headband was perched on his head like a rakish ornamentation growing from his ears. It was only made even more eerie by the fact that his face was highlighted in neon green from the cockpit displays.

“Sir, we have First Lieutenant Petrov in a shuttle requesting permission to dock with us. He has an outsider, a Mrs. Felin with her son requesting an audience with you. Your orders?”

“Send them in please.” Petrov was the highest ranking TASC member left. His superior ate an Alien MIRV warhead during the battle to save the fleet. He needed to see him to get a picture as to what is happening in the TASC units he had available. He had never met him before. Now would be a good time. He raised his eyebrows, though, and felt a deep sense of shame. Mrs. Felin was here no doubt to berate him on not keeping his promise. He deserved it. Full compensation was necessary.

He turned to Celes. “Keep working on that problem. If we cannot find anything, we may have to use the real items and throw them into the reactor for incineration... though that will have to be the last possible option. We don’t have enough supplies.”

Max continued, “That’s the best we can do for now.”

He turned to Marisa. “Administrator Hudgins, proceed with what we have discussed. See what you can do about our sourcing problem. Thank you for your time. I would like to conclude this meeting. Please inform me as to your progress.”

Hudgins blinked, and gave a smile. “At your service, milord Gan.” The feed went static as she disconnected and disappeared off to do her tasks.

A slight shudder throughout the Memory signaled Petrov’s and Mrs. Felin's arrival. After a few minutes, there was a beeping noise from the door as his Loyalist guardians’ authorized Petrov's entry. Huxley, one of his Loyalist retinue opened the door and ushered them in. “Milord, First Lieutenant Petrov, Lady Felin of Tyr and,” the Loyalist said, pausing as he watched the small babe held in Mrs. Felin’s arms and her statement of his name in amusement. “Master Maximilian here to see you.” He saluted, then went back to guarding the corridor. Celes raised her guard, though, and warily watched the trio, so close to her lord. It was not unheard of for Porhen to actually implant subversive agents with explosive devices, and to have them triggered when the time was right.

The TASC officer seemed pained and walked with a pronounced limp, and held his right arm stiffly, as if it was freshly mended by a NanoDoc. The benefits of nano-technology were many, and with the right application were of great benefit to humanity. The little machined robots were injected into his bloodstream, and were programmed to regenerate and mend his broken bones and torn ligaments rapidly, doing what would have required the human body months on its own. After their task was done, the nanobots were washed through the bloodstream into the liver for destruction, where they would dissolve and deactivate, to be passed out through bodily fluids. The man straightened and saluted.

“As your blade boy said, First Lieutenant Ivanov Petrov, acting officer for all TASC forces assigned to the defense and security of Sutari Branch at your service.” Max shook the proffered hand and noted the firm grip. It was a sad state of affairs when a First Lieutenant commanded what would have required at least a major or colonel in rank.

“At ease, pilot.”

His form, unhidden by helmet nor armored flightsuit, was that of a short man. His form was severe in demeanor, as if he felt the fire of a righteous cause and was hell bent on imposing it on everything and everyone else. His eyes were deep set and dull orbs of brown, though Max noted the intelligence that glinted behind them. His hair was cropped short, but with a long lock left unshorn, the current style among TASC, with a braid in the long lock of hair for every kill. That lock was left over from a pilots graduation at Laifen Academy. There were three such knots in the lock. Suddenly, it all clicked together. The limping leg and the mending arm.

“You were my Thunderbolt pilot during the defense of the tankers!”

The man rubbed his chin ruefully and gave a grin. “That I am, sir. That I am. And pleased to make your acquaintance again, though I hope under less trying circumstances than our first time.”

He then turned to the seemingly small woman amid a company of warriors. Mrs. Felin, her pale skin wan from the harsh conditions of her exodus from Tyr, and seemingly hope. She held a small babe with her, recently born and it gurgled contentedly as he gazed at his namesake. She recognized that the man that traveled with her was a pilot. She had seen her husband’s friends often enough. That she managed to get an audience with Max was nothing short of a miracle. She was supposed to leave on one of the shuttles, but instead, she mentioned to a TMMN crewer, who took her to her crew chief, who then contacted a TPRO officer who then authorized this audience, and only because she mentioned Max by name. Hardly any of the civilians, if any were supposed to know the name of Sutari branchs’ new CEO, though word had traveled through the Fleet of the brave sacrifice of Lord John. It was standard policy in Tanfen, and no one was willing to risk it - a friend of the Families is a friend of Tanfen. They were too leery to risk angering what could possibly be a close associate of their new CEO.

She gave a small curtsy, still holding her babe with her. The TPRO officer had fervently briefed her on protocol, and it was only a few minutes ago that she had realized Maximilian's new position in the Corp, or rather, how high he was. “M-m... milord Maximilian, h… hello.” Celes was watching her every move, cataloguing it in her mind for further reference, watching every gesture, testing her sincerity and body language. She seemed sincere enough, though she detected fear in her, and no small amount of nervousness.

Max seemed flushed with chagrin and shame. Even Ivanov, untrained in such matters noticed the look in Max eyes. “Mrs. Felin, I humbly apologize for breaking my promise to you. I did not realize that our Branch was intending to evacuate Tyr.” Max was beginning to lean into a bow before Mrs. Felin stopped him with an arm.

Celes stood up, her hand reaching for her Archer. Ivanov was already in mid-stride to Max, before Max saw them all and gestured to them to stand down. Celes nodded, though she kept her hand on the Archer, and her eyes on Mrs. Felin. Mrs. Felin did not see all this happening behind her, though she seemed fearful of the icy looking woman sitting on the couch. It seemed that she lacked emotion, or was not taught of such a concept, or perhaps, kept it all hidden away in the darkness of her soul. She seemed so cold, so methodical and distant. Yet, she noticed those reddish eyes staring at Max with strange confusion. She had seen that look before, on her husband, years ago, when he sought her hand. Love or the beginnings of it. When Celes noticed she was staring at her, she turned away, continuing to stare at her datapad, though she looked up every so often to see her actions.

“No, s… sir. That wasn’t my intention here. Please. I heard of Lord John’s sacrifice, and we are all grateful to him, the Union and to Tanfen for saving us. We all heard of how John defended our ships, and… well… we heard from rumors that Lord John’s family was Taoist. In that case, he would require things that would ease his living in the afterlife. Me, and a few volunteers would like to help make them, if you would have us,” she added nervously, shaking her babe as it began to gurgle and cry. “I made handicrafts such as that required when I was younger… it’s the least we can do to thank him.”

It seemed the problem had solved itself. Max nodded. “Thank you, Mrs. Felin. Your help is highly appreciated and otherwise couldn’t come at a better time. I’ll ask a TPRO officer to help source you what you require for the job. And… again, my apologies. Forgive me.”

He made to bow again, but she stopped him. “Please, no. I understand. Your generosity and kindness are enough for me. It wouldn’t do to ask for more. You’ve saved my family’s lives, and that of everyone on Tyr.” She held up her child. “He was born during the evacuation. I was on the medical frigate, when the shock of the battle made me go into labor. If not for you, and Lord John’s sacrifice, I would never be able to hold my son or live until now. Which is why he is named after you. Thank you, sir Max. Thank you again.” She shuffled backwards. “I-I… had better be going. I thank you for your time, sir.”

He was now in a position to make a difference and make it he would. “My offer still stands, Mrs. Felin, and now extends to your husband, if he would like to join us.”

Mrs. Felin was overwhelmed. “T… t... thank you, sir. Are you sure you would have me?”

“Well,” Max looked around at Celes and Ivanov. "I seem to be the boss now, and what I say tends to go.” Ivanov grinned. Celes gave a look of detached interest. “Effective immediately, I am attaching you to TMMN’s secretarial division. We’ll see what your husband is interested in. Perhaps he should come in for a checkup at the Jasmine - they might have implants that would help his eyesight. I’ll inform the TPRO officer immediately.” He called for the TPRO officer.

A TPRO officer, waiting in the front of the door gave a cheerful smile as she greeted Mrs. Felin and Lord Max, and then proceeded to escort her off to the shuttle before Max stopped her, and informed her of Mrs. Felins’ new status as a member of the Corp. The TPRO officer nodded cheerfully, her perfectly coiffured hair bouncing in time with her platinum ear rings. Her pouted lips and green eyes made her very attractive, but then again, to be in TPRO you had to be. “I understand, milord. I’ll get right on it. Have a nice day!” she said before she turned to explain to Mrs. Felin what it meant to be in Tanfen. They disappeared down the corridor, the TPRO officers sweet voice seemingly floating in the air.

Ivanov raised an eyebrow as he watched the until now, ice cold Corporal Celes Sims seemed to turn a light shade of red as she glared at the TPRO officer behind Max’ back. Hmmmm, he mused, Looks like the ice queen has fire in her after all.

Max waited for the door to close before he turned back to Ivanov. “Give me your assessment report, Lieutenant.”

Ivanov straightened up and handed over a compact disc. “Here are the latest TO&E reports including what pilots we have left, their skill level, our munitions remaining and present assessments of defensive capability based on scenarios outlined in the Corporate Rules of Engagement.”

“Give me the gist of it, Petrov.”

“Well, if you asked me, sir, we could probably take on, barely, pirate raiding groups and poachers, maybe even a Porhen hunter killer pack. But if what the spook boys in ISD have given us is true, then we’d be minced Kalaris if the next pack of these...” he then tried to then pronounce the word in question carefully, “Nep... Neph… er… Nephies looked our way.”

“Any improvement in our fighter and pilot roster...?”

“The latest reports from the techies say they’ve managed to re-convert two planetary cargo haulers that started life out as Longbows back into their original configuration, though they’re having problems getting the engines back to milspec and the guns need retuning. We lack the software required to boot up the T-com, and since the things are so damned old, we’re still trying to look through Tanfennet to see whether we have any functional backups. I doubt Origin Aerospace’d have a node this far out in the rim, so we’d probably have to cut some code with an auto-compiler. Or maybe you can loan a techie or two, milord?”

“I’ll get someone from TAARD to look into your problem.” Celes nodded and proceeded to type in the temporary transfer order into the main server.

“Please continue.”

“Well, milord… we’re still short of munitions, and we don’t have any more milspec warheads. All we have left are used up reloading our remaining rides. We’re still short, so we’re scrounging up civspec warheads to load onto our birds. Repair wise, we can get our birds flying, but we don’t have enough armor plates and replacement parts to fully repair them. Some of our fighters have only half functioning shield generators and armor plating like Swiss cheese.”

Max gave a grim nod. “And our morale?”

“Well… that’s what I wanted to see you about, sir. What we have left are the leftovers from half a dozen Homeguard fighter squadrons. The most complete unit has only about four members of the original twelve left. We’re all pissed as all hell at the buggers and are itching to get back at 'em, but we’re all still thinking as separate squadrons.”

“As I remember unit-wise, we are about a reinforced squadron in size -- correct?”

“That’s right, sir.”

“Now what about reforming them under another squadron, the largest one remaining...?”

Petrov shook his head. “That’d be difficult if you ask me, milord. We flyers are a loyal bunch, and flying under another’s colors is not what we’d call standard practice, not while the old ones haven’t been retired.”

“Then what if a new squadron was formed instead and all remaining units re-drafted into it? All would start with a new history then.”

Petrov thought about it and nodded. “That’d be good, but what designation would we have, we’re practically the only ones left standing in this whole sector?”

Hmmm. Last ones standing. Max had a number in mind, but he wasn’t sure whether it was taken or not. He called up a database of all Corp fighter squadrons, and ran through it, finding to his satisfaction that it didn’t exist. Yet.

“Lieutenant, are you familiar with Cantonese slang?”

Petrov gave a indignant snort. Then he remembered where he was, and who he was talking to. “Er... yes, milord. I am familiar with that. It is a requirement with those who would serve the Families.”

“I am proposing, Petrov, what with the rag tag nature of our remaining units, that the new squadron would be designated the 101st Tactical.”

Petrov raised his eyebrows, “The last one standing?” 101 was a Chinese slang code that denoted the last item, or the last thing remaining, whether in a sale, or on a battlefield. The item in question was normally too expensive or represented something rare, or in this case, a survivor that was too hard to kill. Petrov gave a grin, a snigger, then a total roar of absolute appreciation. “Oh aye, milord. That is irony at its best. Excellent. The 101st it is.”

“Then, officially, under my seal as Lord Commander of Sutari, all remaining units are now reformed under the banner of the 101st Tactical -- ‘the Last Ones standing.’ Effective immediately you, Ivanov Petrov, are to be the 101st's new squadron leader, with a field promotion to captain in TASC, though on paper your rank in the Homeguard is still going to be LT for some time, until we get to a Branch.”

Petrov saluted Max. “Thank you, sir. Understood, sir. But I do have one request, milord.”


“Even when we are the 101st, I feel that we, as pilots would like to keep the colors of our original squadrons on our fighters as a token of respect and honor. Is that allowable?”

“If it improves morale, I don’t see a problem with it. You’d best discuss with your new squadron members just what new insignia you would have. I’d like you to run as many simulations together as possible to start coordinating and working together. That is all for now. Congratulations, Captain Petrov.”

“Understood, milord,” Petrov saluted and walked out, head held high.

Celes gave a look at Petrov leaving and noted how Max's morale had improved rapidly through the conversation. Interesting. The rest of the day was spent running administrative functions essential to the Branch, while all the while, shuttle transports ferried the remainder of Tyr’s refugees onto the surface of Masa. Going with the last of them would be Kyra and her squad, along with a trans-comm beacon, enough food, and tents for the refugees (the Homeguardsmen were irate that their therma-plastic tents, heater units and all weather thermal cloaks were being shanghaied by the refugees, along with some of their rations but relented when promised they’d all get new ones when they reached the next branch), and on a prudent reminder by Richard, a few pre-fabricated rapid deployable bunkers, mines, barbed mono filament wire and anti aircraft weapons, enough to form a defensible perimeter. Just in case some raiders or slavers thought to find the refugees easy meat.

Artificial day passed quickly, Celes always at Max's side, giving opinions, confirming options, giving statements and relaying them to the lower ranks. Max leaned back as he rubbed his eyes and stared at a chronometer. It was about now 8 pm at night, 2000 ZULU. The last status report from Hudgins, the TPRO division chief of Sutari said that the funeral area was ready, and that Loyalist Marines were even now keeping vigil, burning the first of the hell bank notes and maintaining the red candles that were beacons to Lord John’s soul. If all went well, the chaplain would even now be chanting prayers to him, delivered in a sing song voice in an ancient dialect that told his spirit of the dangers that would await him on his journey into Hell, so that he may avoid them. In Taoist and Buddhist belief, Hell was like a recycling ground, where souls would go there, work out their sins via torments or punishments, or if they were good, go to another place in Hell, much like the Elysium Fields of Greek Myth to spend their afterlife, or, if the spirit needed more lessons in life, reincarnation into another form, either animal or human once more. Heaven was the exclusive property of deities, in a nutshell, no mortals accepted.

Also, Hudgins stated they had managed to salvage some wooden furniture from their regional office that was cut into strips, and with colored paper fabricated from a printer, they had begun construction, with the volunteers in a cargo bay working hard to finish it on time. Even now, a paper house about the height of a man and eight paper doll "servants" were being constructed, with a hover vehicle on the way. Celes, had excused herself as she went to carry out some administrative tasks for him, though to make up for that, Mai was posted in to replace her.

Max leaned back and gave a tired sigh as the days work was done, for now. It would be about eight more hours to offload all the refugees, seeing that Tanfen was now using its own transport capability, without assistance from the Union, with Admiral Hanton leading a diversionary attack against the Alien enemy. TPRO, and Hudgins had put a positive spin on things as they proceeded throughout the night to create a positive image and press reports for the media. They were intent on milking this humanitarian relief action as much as possible.

He wound down, thinking of sleep as he signed a few more papers and documents that required authorization. Glancing out the porthole, he could see the constant running lights of Corp shuttles disembarking the first platoon of Kyra’s Marines, along with survival equipment and as many refugees as they could. He had thought of carrying them all to Kohlingen, but TMMN had calculated just enough fuel to carry them here and drop them off, and then arrive in Kohlingen, not enough to carry them to Kohlingen, too. He had ensure that they had enough to eat, drink and to survive on the relatively placid planet. That ended his commitment to them. Now he had to look out for his own people.

Max's only hope was that Tanfen Kohlingen was more peaceful than Tyr had been.