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Central Galactic...

Premier Candiru followed the same procedure each day. After he finished work at midnight he would take express elevator down and board a train to the (with eternal thanks to the re-colonisers) renamed Museum of War, where he would drink a bottle of human synth blood while poring over the documents for Belial Fang testing. Slowly he tried to unravel the missing ones, the Vampires who had died fighting for the regime they despised. Slowly, his health was failing.

H-853...

"So, any ideas?"

Blake was at a loss.

"We could try to go out through the airlock and push the object away."

"In the empyrean pit? They may have given me the uniform jacket and peaked cap for a human (indeed, they still lay on the table), but they never provided me with a spacesuit."

"What about the one hanging up?"

"If you go out there and die, I will suffer with the insurance company. Go ahead."

Blake slipped into the suit and eased through the narrow airlock doors.

"Please rise, Blake, for the Commodore!"

The image of what seemed to be a human appeared on the screen, although that failed to distinguish him from any of the other fifty recognised near-human species. Blake's helmeted head came sharply into contact with the beam.

"Your mission is to proceed to Aldebaran, and hence destroy the space station Sapiens. No survivors are permitted. This gang have already murdered millions in pursuit of the human geonome. Afterwards, drill surveilance holes for one month on a Gnome-run ocean resort world. Good luck."

"I will monitor communications."

Hyperspace...

Hyperspace, it was said, did not exist until observed. Still, Spencer observed rather a lot of it and was glad of the tether.

"It hit Vortex 3."

Floating, without knowledge of the minor turmoil it had caused, was a monolithic shape. Lacking full control of his actions, he grasped it and tried to drag it towards the airlock.

"Don't do it Spencer, I'm afraid."

He searched for the salvage arm, and started to link it. Inside, the Cockatrice was screaming into the radio.

"Stop now! You need me! Go on, ask me something! Do you want to know the square root of two? Well, it starts with 1.41 and I can look up the rest. Desist! H-856 is compromising reality stability!"

Blake, compelled by some unknown power, continued.

"I need you out of the way, no excuses! H-856 closes in twenty!"

The radio contacts scythed back towards Blake to admit the superluminal Hydra, and for a moment he heard the Blue Danube.

Central Galactic...

The Premier put down his glass next to the picture of the last pilot. Unfortunately, Vampire telepathy depends on knowing that another of their species exists. As much as the Fallen hated each other, they had to co-exist for their own sanity. Candiru, alone again at the end, let his eyelids slide mercifully together.

H-853...

"You idiot."

Blake woke up in a dazed state.

"So now, we have a massive and useless lump of ice on my table and we are at the back of the pack. Happy?"

"Ice? In Hyperspace?"

"Yes, probably a fuel leak. Still, you got back."

"Well, I once did something similar underwater to recover a piece of a stealth fighter."

"No, you did not. Original you performed THAT task and Current you got the memory. Try shooting the ice with this blaster."

The Cockatrice ran behind the lead decontaminent shower curtain before Spencer could even take safety off.

"Have you finished?"

"Yes, I have put it down now."

The reception to the feeble hole along the left side of the ice was abject horror.

"Spencer, understand that I will try to keep you safe."

Central Galactic...

Candiru was annoyed that the alarms had been set off, but no one would get here in time as it was. Red Mercury blood started to fuse the elements of his form together. And then, life. A Scorpid Soldier was first to see the new Candiru, neotenic fangs hardly concealed by receded lips. His wings from his bat form were limply fused to his back and he was filled with joy.

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