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Waking the Angel: A Mindlord Novel by Igor Swann
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Waking the Angel: A Mindlord Novel by Igor Swann

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Waking the Angel: A Mindlord Novel by Igor Swann. ...

Waking the Angel: A Mindlord Novel by Igor Swann.
Angel has always felt the world had it in for him, but now he realized the universe felt the same way. Abducted by your every day anal probing aliens, he found himself in a wonderful world where fantasy meets science fiction and mythology stands in for reality. Finding that he has lost his mind, literally, and can now play tic-tac-toe against it seems of little comfort with the difficult choice facing him; attempt to save the universe or attempt to save his home. Joined on this futile quest by a size changing blue monkey, a magic spy, and a hammer wielding little person as well as two dangerous blonds, and a really dangerous little eight-year-old girl he is going to try his utmost to save something. At least he has Skibladne; the amazing ship of legends, to ensure someone is going to be envious of him before the end. An end that might well have occurred two weeks ago, and everybody knows that time travel is a myth.

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    Waking the Angel: A Mindlord Novel by Igor Swann Waking the Angel: A Mindlord Novel by Igor Swann Document Transcript

    • PROLOGUE The universe paused. Somewhere a nerve was being harassed and generallymistreated. It slowly gathered its attention from several nearby galaxies andfocussed its cosmic essence on finding the reason for itsdiscomfort. This event was not a singular occurrence. Every so often, it experienced niggling irritations creep up thecentral nervous system of galaxies. Lately it had become a habit. Still, after the excitement of the beginning, and at this advancedstate of being, very few things made the universe sit up and takenotice. Time in itself remained a quite hypothetical reality to theuniverse, but things tend to start and end, and this universe wassomewhere in the middle right now. Hmmm, I have picked up a few more light-years around thewaist it seems, imagine that, the distracted thoughts rumbledthrough the ancient synaptic web as it noticed its expandingexpanse with disdain. Old memories briefly overpowered the hunt for the annoyanceas it fondly reminisced on a time when it was the centre ofattention on the canvass. It burst onto the scene with a big bang and quickly became theenvy of all the other universes. It had a plan. It was going to do things right. i
    • This universe would not repeat the mistakes of the others andlet itself slowly slip into eternity. Nevertheless, fate is patient and time is relative with destinybeing inevitable… no one would take that bet. Now a few billion years down the line it had become justanother cranky old universe with an expanding waistline. Now there were other young idealists, with seemingly balancedcreations on the canvass. Losing a few galaxies around the waist seemed to becomeimpossible as time went by, time being hypothetical of course. It cringed at the thought of having to use black holes tomaintain some semblance of dignity and a semi respectabletuxedo size. When did it all get away from me? The universe slowly turned its attention from the memories asits irritation mounted, but only for a moment before slippingaway again. It still headed towards the annoyance. Sentient life, what every universe desired, and he had inabundance. Why, he never understood. They were a nuisance and needed constant supervision. The torment he endured from the prattle of the other universeswith first time newborn sentients usually ended in a galacticheartburn, without the prospect of an antacid tablet. ‘Ooh you know what my sentients did now? They invented fire,’‘Mine are developing legs,’ and ‘My sentients are developingadvanced interpersonal communication skills.’ ‘They are?’ ii
    • ‘Yes. The female chatters incessantly while the male clubshimself to death.’ ‘Wow!’ The universe continued its search. Since these sentient life forms came to be, the neighbourhoodhas gone to hell. It was not sure where hell was anymore. It felt quite certain itwas in one of the galaxies off to the right. Of course, after the sentients evolve, then the gods move inwith their demands. Do this; create this; and destroy this. It never ends, simply never ends. It found the source of its irritation. The universe sighed, them again… iii
    • WAKING THE ANGEL A Mindlord Novel IGOR SWANN iv
    • v
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 1 He dove for cover, landing heavily on his dislocated shouldermere fractions of a second before the shrapnel started to whistleover his properly battered body. He tried hard to remember what madness drove him to set offin aid of this unwilling damsel in distress. He thought that he portrait the role of a hero on a white horsequite admirably; he even remembered his lines for the most part. Being a little more appreciative of his efforts would have beennice. Fine, they might both be in a spot of bother right now. Nevertheless, she could show a touch more gratitude, since hedid save her life, quite frequently following their introduction. Now she had disappeared and he could feel consciousnessslowly slipping from his grasp, which in all honesty might not bethe worst of the two possible endings he envisioned. He was quite sure of a couple of things. Firstly, that the tank like vehicle called a Reaper heading his waywas a serious chunk of metal. Oversized spike tracks, and withturrets and gun barrels all over the place it appeared overdone.Every modern art critic’s worst nightmare and they could reallyhave done something different with the light fixtures. Nevertheless, who ever designed this monstrosity wanted tomake sure that if it did not rip you apart with its awesomefirepower, the mere sight would cause you to rather just give upand go away. Far, far away, quite convinced you forgot to turn offthe stove before leaving home and maybe you should go check. 1
    • Igor Swann Others, after a hasty glance in its direction, might simply diefrom fear. Another more comforting thought very clear in his mind was hisresolute confidence in his training and by popular belief makinghim one of the most lethal beings in the universe. He should know. He was there. At this moment, his extensive training made him keenly awareof one other important detail. He would shortly be theunfortunately deceased, previously most lethal being in theuniverse; and he is most definitely here. As he slipped from this reality, his thoughts took him back toonly a few short months ago. To a time, he would like to refer to as living in blissful ignorance. The universe made sense then; it was something romantic wayup there. Stars were what got him into intimate moments on ahilltop with a bottle of wine and a blanket. Genes be damned, he thought angrily. He would have happily lived and died of natural causes by now,preferably intimately on a blanket, with a bottle of wine, underthe stars. To avoid more confusion our tale needs to start at a differentpoint in time. In the beginning, No, not that beginning, but rather a beginning we find in thememories of the unconscious human. It was a dark and stormy night… No? Oh well, so much for thatgood old cliché. 2
    • Waking the Angel In fact, it was a quite pleasant evening. Birds were merrilychirping away in the lane of trees next to his favourite bench.Dogs were walking their owners. People seemingly without a dayjob were picnicking in the park and pigeons were defacing statueswithout fear of arrest. Everything from a distance of more than 20feet seemed tranquil and serene. He often wandered to this bench when he needed time toreflect on a particularly taxing day. Feeding the pigeons calmed him. He stared absentmindedly at the brochure in his hand, which hegrabbed from a pretty girl distributing them outside the gym nextto his office building. He was not entirely sure why. On the front scribbled in bright red letters the words, ‘A greatway to get fit’. He felt it should rather read, ‘A great way to get a fit’. He poured over the wonderfully relaxing things you can do suchas stretching classes, swimming, running, exercise bikes, corestabilization, circuit and free weights. He expected to read wheelbalancing and alignment on the next page. Placing the folded brochure in his pocket, he sighed deeply. Thepeople in the picture looked too depressed. I do not need a gymto feel that way; I just need to wake up in the morning, hethought. Today weighed particularly heavily on his mind. He endured atax audit, which was, as expected, a disaster. Moreover, well, let us just say a substantial pile of otherproblems, very much inconsequential to what his genetic codehad fated his life to become. As in right about… 3
    • Igor Swann …tick… …tick… …now There were no strange lights in the sky from previouslyunidentified flying objects, a glowing beam surrounding him, oraliens politely requesting him to ‘Take me to your leaderearthling.’ He was there and then he was not. *blink* Life seemed to be doing fine without him. A few pigeons wereannoyed since their waiter inexplicably vanished. However, havingthe attention span of peanut, this lasted only the time needed forthem to spot a statue with less than adequate poop graffiti. He awoke in excruciating pain. Something that resembled giving natural childbirth to aporcupine crossbred with a full-grown gorilla; and it was stuck. It carried through every receptor in his nervous system. Everysingle one competing to get to the brain first, and inform it thatthe problem was in its sector and it had damn well better dosomething quick. His brain however had other concerns. The burning desire to form a thought, which was contrary topopular belief, not, ‘where the hell am I’ but rather, ‘where in hellam I’. 4
    • Waking the Angel Of course that would have been his thoughts if he had anycontrol over even a single neuron in his cranial cavity, and in factwas his first thought when he found one. Screaming seemed the next logical direction to progress in, butthat also required reflexive mental activity, and a faintrecollection on the general vicinity of his vocal cords. The torture ceased abruptly, after what he could only surmiseto be days… thirty-three seconds to be exact. They were there, surrounding him, staring at him with theirlarge almond eyes imbedded in those pale grey thin faces. They looked exactly like the government said they would notlook even if they did exist, which they did not, you silly conspiracytheorist person. ‘It’s all just weather balloons and stuff, so let that be the end ofthat. Tea with crumpets will be served in the reception area, butbe forewarned, there are balloons in there, so please do notpanic.’ One of the expert weather balloon pilots surrounding himscreeched. He had no idea which one. They were not using sound. The scream was inside his head. The words were like a tsunami,rolling in from the ocean and his brain was a pebble in its way. It smashed into his mind, again, and again. This time he did scream, cradling his head in his arms, pleadingfor the sound to stop. It stopped. 5
    • Igor Swann A voice came, soft and smooth, a playful stream full of apologyand comfort. The tone your boss would adopt and cause you to panicuncontrollably, because the next words from his mouth weregoing to be ‘unfortunately due to downsizing…’ ‘We apologize for your discomfort. I did not mean to shout butwe could not be sure the procedure succeeded and you couldhear us. I am Qren and we are the Ark council. The pain youexperienced was a side effect to the procedure used to unlockthose parts of your mind you humans do not use. This wasnecessary to release your telepathic abilities. If you wish toaddress us simply think a word or sentence and then direct it atthe recipient.’ They stared at him. He stared back. It spoke again. ‘What is your name?’ The words were robotic. They had no feeling behind them,simply a statement of facts. It was a script perfectly memorized,and seemed alarmingly well rehearsed. He could think of nothing to say or everything to say butnothing made sense. ‘Sweet angel of mercy’ seemed to pop up, and somehow outbecause a buzz went up around the room. The grey figures appeared to enter into a puzzled debate withone another but he did not understand the language. Qren spoke again. 6
    • Waking the Angel ‘You are ‘Sweet Angel of Mercy’? Strange… we acknowledgeyou Sweet Angel. What is Mercy? May we call you Angel? Good!’ Too tired to argue, and far too angry to care what they calledhim, he simply sighed in hopeless anguish. His brain hurt, and raced. It was too powerful and fast. He couldnot lock onto his own thoughts. He designed light refracted super computers, re-indexed theNational Library, and negotiated peace treaties between India andPakistan at the exact same moment in time. He also levitated anurn type object on the other side of the room for no apparentreason. His mind now calculated how long he could last before hisbladder exploded. The answer made him extremely nervous. Angel became a passenger while his mind drove. His mind,obviously way over the legal alcohol limit, drove a Ferrari over theAlps with a large red letter ‘L’ in the rear windscreen. Qren spoke again, ‘it will be a while before your consciousnessaccepts your mind, so they may again be in harmony. We willdepart and return when you call.’ They left silently, as if floating. Their long grey robes concealedany movement made by their limbs, if they had any limbs. He made a few attempts at grabbing hold of a passing thought,missed by a country mile, gave up and went to sleep. He left hismind to solve world hunger, or perpetual motion or whatever elseit was working on currently. The next conscious period arrived. 7
    • Igor Swann He had no perception of time, his brain chirped in with ‘7 hours32 minutes 12 seconds and 42 hundreds of a second since yourlast conscious state.’ He took his mind’s word for it. It waited. The realization hit him like an Acme anvil in a cartoon. His mindwas not playing dodge ball with him anymore. It was a dragsterrevving on the start line, just looking for an excuse to throw himthe finger and thunder off in the distance. Angel approached cautiously like a kitten stalking a bird for thefirst time, slowly, carefully, not to scare the bird away. Having chosen an ostrich for this life altering experience mighthave been slightly overoptimistic, but what choice did he have. His brain carefully observed his every move from the corner ofits third eye. It seemed to come to a decision, smiled inwardly, and to Angel’sgreat surprise, moved over and presented him with the driverseat. Angel understood that this came with a promise to be a realpain in the arse back seat driver. For the first time he could examine his surroundings, while itpresented not overly much to examine. Whoever decorated thisplace was on a tight budget, with the imagination of a coconuttree, and not a very bright one at that. It was a dull grey, itradiated dull, shining dull from every corner of the room. Wow, I must get the number of their interior decorator, hesarcastically thought. 8
    • Waking the Angel They obviously did not fully comprehend the minimalisticapproach to decorating. The grey urn he levitated being the onlyaesthetically enhancing aspect to the room. Great, a toilet, they thought of everything, he groaned. Now if he could just remember how this walking thingmanifests again. His mind refused to help since it was too trivial arequest. He lay stretched out on a slab made of a substance his mindcould not interpret, and it tried desperately. Angel could not remember ever feeling this helpless and alone.He wanted answers, especially to Why me? He had a thought, Iwonder if they can hear me. The door opened and the alien choirwalked in. He now noticed one of the creatures’ robes was a shade of greydarker than the rest. His mind calculated the exact frequency oflight that would cause this deviation. After they took up position around the table, Qren’s voice brokethe silence. ‘Well rested Angel?’ His mind calculated the angle of the incoming thought andsurmised it to come from the darker robed figure. It was the firstsemi useful information his mind produced. Angel; he had no desire to fix this mistake, the less they knewabout him the better. Angel formed a response and pressed the send button. ‘What the hell do you want from me? Where am I? What areyou? Did your decorator die painfully? Is there any chance of adrink? Or an automatic rifle perhaps?’ 9
    • Igor Swann He stopped his mind short of giving them the calibre, projectilespeed, firing tempo, muzzle velocity and serial number of therequired weapon. Qren’s silky voice entered his mind again, ‘We mean you noharm.’ ‘Is that right?’ Angel interrupted sarcastically. Qren continued unabated, ‘Your abduction was due to ahopeless situation which required a drastic solution. You were theonly suitable candidate in age and genetic makeup. Yourpredecessor met with an untimely demise. He was involved in anunfortunate strata-surfing accident involving a meteor1.’ ‘The normal procedure of infant seizure and training could notbe employed and was not scheduled to commence for quite sometime. This necessitated the procurement of an adult human. Thisis a regrettable and ill-fated arrangement to be sure.’ Angel stared ahead blankly; confused would be anunderstatement of galactic proportions. Predecessor, Genetics, Are they mad? Is he mad? Where wasthat drink? His mind also tried to make sense of this, and seemed bemused. It made no sense of it either. His brain shrugged and continued to calculate the amount ofnose hair needed to fill the room. Qren’s voice droned on.1 Strata surfing required a space suit, a long board, a strata sail and a whole lotof guts. The fact that he managed to sail into a meteor seemed quite suspiciousat the time. It is not easy to overlook a million tons of rock coming straight atyou. 10
    • Waking the Angel ‘We were fortunate to find a single male possessing DNAsequence TNFR-12, the gene necessary for successful mindtransformation.’ Questions swam in Angel’s mind. He knew he had an exceptional IQ, but why did they need him?Their technology seemed far more advanced than anything hecould hope to imagine. They were obviously a superior race, and what did they mean bypredecessor; and where was that damn drink! Qren must have intercepted part of the thought. He started toconvey a completely different information package. ‘We are called the Ark. We are a race who travels the universein search of technology we may incorporate into our way of life,or we might get lucky and find a new seafood restaurant.’ Qren felt proud of his joke, he was almost sure he got it right.Humans appreciate these things. Angel’s mouth did not even twitch and Qren continued, slightlyoffended in an emotionless kind of way. ‘Even though we possess some of the greatest engineers inexistence, we do not posses what humans call imagination orcreative thinking, the reason why we need to accumulate ideasfrom other species.’ ‘Many millennia ago we came upon the mind enhancingtechnology. The origins were indeterminable. It was found on aremote planet close to the edge of explored space, abandoned byan ancient civilization.’ ‘We experimented with the device, but found that our ownneuron structure was insufficient to be enhanced using this 11
    • Igor Swanndevice. We conducted tests on all known species but none had anadequate neurological network.’ ‘Hey, take a breath,’ Angel projected. Qren ignored him and continued. ‘Centuries passed and our civilization became stagnant. Havingaccumulated and enhanced all available technology, we weredesperate for an engineering challenge.’ ‘Is there a point somewhere?’ Angel projected. ‘Information came to us from a deep universe explorer of theexistence of your planet.’ ‘Dispatching a research party, news returned that your mindswere compatible. Unfortunately all initial attempts failed ashumans could not control this transformation and lost theirsanity.’ Angel had a revolting image projected into his mind. He couldsympathize with those unfortunate enough to be ‘liberated’ bythe alien technology. He remembered how close he had come to losing control of hismind. He then reminded himself of the fragile truce he currently hadwith his mind, and silently wished that he could lose his mind... orrather part of it. Qren continued without pause, ‘determined to find a solutionour research team, by coincidence or by fate, transformed ahuman child who did not become insane. Many more yearselapsed before the discovery of the illusive gene.’ 12
    • Waking the Angel ‘From there it was a simple matter of reconfiguring ourscanners. We continued to probe from our ships hidden in yourmoon’s shadow and selected infants with the gene.’ Though fascinated by this he was now also realizing the gravityof his situation. Without the help of his mind, he noted withdisdain. His mind was off calculating all possible proteinsequences. They must need me for a think tank of sort, an imagination fortheir engineers. My body hooked up to machines, with wires and pipes runningfrom me. My intelligence drained. I am going to become a livingthought machine. I am going to be intravenously force fedvegetables… ‘I hate vegetables!’ he screamed. The chill shot down his spine, and cold sweat was dripping fromhis forehead. His mind returned briefly to see what all the commotion wasabout, decided it was unimportant, and went back to its DNAsplicing and constructs. Perceptive as ever Qren hastened his retelling, ‘do not fearAngel. You have not been brought here as a prisoner providingcreative stimulus for our engineers. Perhaps I need to clarify whoyour predecessor was.’ As Qren’s words unfolded in his mind, Angel felt anunimaginable fear tightening around his soul… he preferred thepipes and wires! 13
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 2 Sweat flowed freely from her brow serving only to accentuateher striking beauty. The girl appear tall, slim and graceful; aquality shared by all her brethren. Her precise movements sent ripples through her toned andslender muscles. An air of aristocracy surrounded her like a fineswirling mist. Her auburn skin glowed with its own light, a side effect of a lifeon a radioactive planet, to which her kind had adapted andbecome immune to long ago. This remarkable quality of Elheimr deterred many would-beinvaders and served to protect her people. Elheimr had anotherunique property, where its gravity would cycle between four andnine times the gravity experienced on earth, making it impossiblefor most species to visit the planet in its upward cycle. Unlike the rest of her kind who became docile and inactive nearthe top of the gravitational cycle, the extraordinary energyrequired to exercise in this gravitational field only made her moredetermined. The girl’s ears pointed sharply upward, as did her eyebrows andeye corners. Her eyes were uncannily large and in the shape of ateardrop, a solid dark platinum coloured teardrop, with no pupilor sclera. Her raven black hair sprayed majestically and hugged her formas she performed an intricate, and to any knowledgeableobserver, quite deadly manoeuvre. 14
    • Waking the Angel It resembled a flowing seductive dance more than movementdesigned for precision killing. She was El, a race of explorers and warriors, a curious andintelligent people who imagine their kind to be superior beings. Repeatedly she performed the routines. They were completelystored in her muscle memory, available as reflex actions to anythreatening situation. Of course, if no such situation presenteditself she was sure to create one. She handled a strange weapon in the form of a curved metalalloy staff, bent in the centre and towards the ends again in theopposite direction. The end points of the staff were fashioned intoblades like those used on sickles, difference being the sharp sharkteeth-like protrusions on the outward facing side of the blades. This was an awesome weapon of almost unrivalled destructivecapability when compared to any equipped on a single person. In close combat, the El could deploy, twirl and move the bladesat speeds that suggested that there were no blades. Anassumption with severe continued existence limiting implicationsfor any would be assailant. A simply thought would activate an energy shield, which wouldform between the two blades. The shield is able to stop anyprojectile, blaster or small arms ion cannon fire. Gripping the centre of the staff in a bow-like fashion andtapping the centre of the shield released a devastating energybolt. A bolt powerful enough to obliterate light armoured vehiclesand in their expert hands even disable the heavily armouredReapers. What made this weapon so impressive was that it required noreloading. The bow-staff siphoned organic energy from any source 15
    • Igor Swannin the vicinity. This made the El untouchable in woodland orvegetation-rich environments. ‘Princess,’ someone started to say. ‘I’m busy,’ she rasped in a voice that would on her death makethe devil wonder if he had come at a bad time. ‘But…’ he tried again. He got no further. ‘You have one word left, and then you will hold your tongueand leave. Any words following that word and you will hold yourtongue permanently…’ malice dripped from her perfect lips,mixed with a fair amount of sweat, ‘…in your hand, do not ignorethis warning!’ she added. She did not break her stride or falter on a single movement. ‘Meeting,’ the nervous voice said in haste. ‘What meeting?’ <Silence> ‘Are you deaf?’ she snarled. <Silence> ‘Enough you insolent fool!’ she growled, ‘you may keep yourtongue. Give me the message and go!’ An urgent voice continued, ‘My lady, we have news from theArk council, a replacement has been found. You are summoned toattend an emergency senate meeting.’ He ducked just in case. Sharin gave a sneer of contempt and her eyes appeared evendarker than usual. 16
    • Waking the Angel ‘Who do these Arks think they are summoning me,SUMMONING ME? What little respect they bestow upon an Elprincess.’ Forced into a truce with the United Galactic Empire, or UGE forshort, because of the inferior El numbers and the growing threatof the Taur, the repulsive alliance was born from necessity. She hated the Vanir, the UGE name for humans, even morethan she hated the rest of the races. She had to admit that theymight be mentally superior. No El was worthy of mind transformation, as was the case withall other UGE member races. Only the Vanir, the despicable vileVanir were worthy. She spat at the thought as if hoping that thiswould remove it from existence. Since her ambassadorial appointment, her duties forced her tosuffer the indignity of consorting with these unworthy UGEspecies, accepting them as sentient, and actually pretending tolisten when they speak. How revolting, she thought. She spared only a fleeting glance at her messenger beforesetting off towards her wing of the palace. The fury radiated fromevery graceful stride. The messenger shared most of the princess’s attributes with themost notable divergence being his blue eyes and blond hair. Thecharacteristic features of the previous rulers of the El, before thecurrent House of El, overthrew them. He displayed the same ageless quality of their kind, which madean estimation of their age quite impossible. 17
    • Igor Swann The other variation to this ‘El-kind’ theme was dark green eyesand red hair, but these features were the mark of commoners andworkers. Royalty, such as the upset princess, came endowed with thedark platinum colour eyes and midnight black hair. He intently followed her departure, not sharing her unbridledhatred for other species. He could only shake his head, a reactionthat would have found him separated from said head, had certainplatinum eyes observed this. Kainen quickly scanned the surroundings for such eyes, but itwas a futile exercise even for the El-sight. His people were nearinvisible surrounded by forestation, and his home world was onelarge shimmering radiating forest. The cities seamlessly weaved into the trees, with moststructures built either in or around them. This was not surprisingsince the trees provided the energy that sustained their way oflife. Kainen walked back to his quarters, now quite focused on aneven more vexing problem, what was on the menu for dinner. 18
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 3 His senses dulled. Angel would give anything to feel something;even the temperature in the room was dull. His mind hit his hand on the table. ‘Bet you felt that,’ it said as Angel yelped. I have to escape, he thought, there must be a way off this…whatever this was. He had managed to convince his mind to let him use the urn afew minutes earlier. The only reason his mind agreed was soAngel would stop his incessant moaning, and so he couldaccidentally hit Angel in the privates when he levitated the urntowards him. ‘So are we going to escape or what?’ his mind asked, shortlyafter Angel discontinued his contorted pose in the foetal position. ‘How exactly do you propose to do that?’ Angel returned thethought, feeling quite silly speaking to his mind. His mind had told him to sing if that would make him feel betterbut after the first few bars, his mind cut off his control to thevocal cords. ‘Won’t they know what we are thinking?’ he asked his mind. ‘No, they seem to be able to read what is in your consciousmind, and I can control that,’ it smugly stated. ‘They are under theimpression you are thinking about cutting your toenails in theshape of animals.’ ‘Okay, so how do we…’ what am I saying he thought, we? Hewas referring to himself in the plural. ‘Oh god, he was going toend up in an asylum.’ 19
    • Igor Swann He gathered his thoughts again, ‘how do I open that door?’ ‘Leave that to me,’ his mind said as he walked Angel over to thedoor. It opened. ‘How did you do that?’ ‘Simple, when those things walked in it projected a thought atthe door, and told it to open. I used their brainwave frequencyand did the same,’ his mind explained as if it was the mostobvious thing in the world, and Angel must be the biggest idiot fornot thinking of it himself, which he in essence did but let’s notconfuse the issue. ‘How do we proceed from here?’ he asked. ‘Well walking would be my first choice, but you may run if itwould make you feel better,’ his mind answered sarcastically. ‘Fuunnnyyyy,’ Angel replied. ‘We need a disguise, so let’s open a few rooms and find one.’He walked down endless deserted corridors and visited countlessabandoned rooms.The fatigue enveloped him and he did not even think to usestealth anymore. Finally, he found a room with an unused grey cloak. ‘Good now we find a way off this ship,’ his mind ordered. ‘I should have figured we are on a ship of sorts,’ Angel replied. ‘Nooo… you think?’ his derisive mind replied. ‘I sensed a faint tremor when we accelerated, thus I surmise ourpresent course will take us to the back of the ship. I also judgethat to be the place they would keep any smaller ships since itwould be easier to launch ships from the rear.’ 20
    • Waking the Angel ‘Makes sense,’ Angel thought wearily. He listlessly embarked on his journey to the back of the ship. ‘Why did I not wear walking shoes?’ Angel groaned, painfullyaware of the blisters forming on the soles of his feet. ‘Yes, I can’t believe you did not know you would be abducted byaliens today,’ another mocking thought came from his mind. An alien blocked their path. ‘Leave this to me,’ his mind’s overconfident thought came tohim, as Angel shrunk back into the hooded cloak praying thecreature do not pay close attention to his unusual shape andheight. Angel could feel thoughts leaving his brain. A few moments later, his mind returned. ‘We need to turn left at the next corridor and then continueanother 100 yards to the docking bays.’ The door slid open silently. ‘Wow,’ Angel thought while his mind whistled. It was huge. Ships lined the hull as far as he could see. ‘Well, pick one so we can get out of here,’ his mind suggestedurgently. ‘Why the rush all of a sudden, and why am I getting worried?’Angel thought back. ‘None of your business!’ his mind replied, ‘now move it!’ ‘You gave us away when you spoke to that alien, didn’t you?’Angel smirked. ‘Would you move already!’ his mind ordered. ‘No, you tell me what you said,’ Angel delighted in thisopportunity for payback. ‘That’s it. Move over I’m driving,’ his mind replied. 21
    • Igor Swann They ran to one of the ships, and his mind ordered it to open. ‘You know how to fly this thing?’ Angel asked. ‘I am the most intelligent life form in the universe,’ his mindreplied smugly, ‘how hard could it be?’ Angel sat in front of the command console. ‘Where the hell is the on button,’ he heard his mind thinkingaloud. Angel heard the faint sound of the ship’s access door opening. His heart sank. Moments later Qren floated in accompanied by guards. ‘We have followed your progress on the ships monitors. Highlyimpressive,’ he remarked before continuing. ‘We unfortunately cannot allow you to leave. Please understandthe future of the known universe could depend on yourcooperation in fulfilling your destiny.’ ‘And if I refuse to cooperate?’ Angel asked fuming. ‘That is not an option you would wish to consider,’ Qrensuggested without a hint of malice, ‘the guards will escort youback to your quarters. Please remain there until we reach ourdestination. Thank you.’ ‘We’re screwed aren’t we?’ Angel asked his mind while theywere ushered back to their quarters. ‘Yep,’ his mind replied indifferently. 22
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 4 ‘Victory!’ the cry echoed along the cavern walls bouncing offinto the distance. ‘Care to wager another ounce of Zellion brother?’ the warmdeep voice asked, ‘you still have much to learn about the game ofDigs, but you will in time.’ Two small black beads stared out from under bushy eyebrowsat the one who made this statement before replying. ‘Yes brother dearest, but who could foresee a fate carddestroying my number one shaft?’ ‘Ah, as the saying goes putting your coal all in one bucket. Nocontingency plan, which was admittedly a brave move, butfoolish.’ ‘Let us not forget that this youth has cried victory before.’ ‘True brother, very true, and what a famous victory that was.’ ‘It will not be the last,’ a determined voice came from theyounger player. ‘That I do not doubt, and I look forward to the day it will be aregular occurrence.’ Brom proceeded to reset the pieces and shuffle the fate cards.He loved this game. It gave him endless satisfaction to out-minehis opponents, and none except for Kirom once, has ever tastedthe sweetness of victory when playing him. His only regret was cheating to let his brother win. He dealt afate card from the bottom of the deck. He already knew what itwould be; a plague card that wiped out half his own workforce 23
    • Igor Swannand left key areas severely weakened. This took careful planningand positioning without his brother realizing what he was doing.Kirom had won, and he did not stop smiling for a week after,while Brom pretended to sulk. It was necessary. He had to keep his brother’s interest in thegame. Adequate playing partners were hard to come by. Even inthe Universal Digs Championship, none came close to challengehis skill. The thought seem to amuse Brom and he let out a thunderinglaugh that shook a few crystals loose from the ceiling. One particularly large crystal unceremoniously dropped on hisbrother’s oversized foot. Kirom swore and bounced off into an unlit tunnel. It took a while for his curses to die down in the distance. A disappointed older brother watched him depart. Brom waslooking forward to testing out a new strategy he was working on. As he returned his gaze to the board, he only now noticed thelarge gist1, perched on the playing field, twitching his nose atBrom. Brom held out his hand and the gist scrambled on. He touchedthe creature’s head lightly where he knew the hidden recordingdot resided.1 A furry little rat creature. However, he had a much more relaxedtemperament and was a heck of a lot faster. They created their own tunnelstructure in the Dwar maze and trained easily, thus they were the preferredcarrier of information, since radio waves did not travel well in these ore-richcaverns. 24
    • Waking the Angel A monotonous voice arose from his hand, ‘Brom, Grand MasterDwar, your presence is hereby requested for an emergencysenate meeting.’ Brom immediately grasped the meaning of this, the Vanir hasbeen located. ‘Excellent,’ he thought. He loathed being on the surface, too much fresh air. He missedthe damp musty smell of his beloved caverns, tunnels and shaftswhen he was unfortunate enough to be off-planet. Topside Nidavellir was completely devoid of life. Acid andsulphur pits covered its entire surface and one gigantic electricstorm fully describes the planet’s weather patterns. This was one planet where the weatherman had an easy job. Hecould predict the weather curled up in bed 10 miles underground. The Dwar were a stocky, hairy race turned so by evolution fromliving underground. As miners and traders, they were well known.Their cities frequently visited by offworlders seeking a tradeagreement and a chance to lay their hands on the precious metalsand minerals only the Dwar seem to be able to get hold of. They were rich, rich beyond the imagination even Angel nowpossessed. They loved their underground dwellings, so much so that theydecorated the inside of their interstellar cruisers in the fashion oftheir caverns. Stalactites and stalagmites were painstakingly‘grown’, and all the ships were equipped with burrowing tools sothat they do not physically land on a planet so much as inside aplanet. 25
    • Igor Swann The race hierarchy was simple. You had miners and captains,masters of mines, masters of planets and him, Dwar GrandMaster. He gave the gist a few scraps from those left on the table. ‘Off with you now little one,’ he commanded. He picked up his gigantic hammer, and set off to pack. In peacetime, they banned the use of these hammers on thesurface of any habitable planet. It had a tendency to causedevastating electric storms, not unlike the ones raging onNidavellir. This was due to the build-up of electromagnetic energy in thehammer core enabling the hammer to cut through solid rock ormetal like a hot knife through butter. It did not only shatter therock. The hammer in fact ripped apart the strong and weak forcesholding the atoms and molecules together. This would release the electromagnetic energy that binds theelectron to its nucleus, which the hammer absorbs and use torecharge. The hammer would direct the rest of the energy awayfrom the user and this energy subsequently collect in thestratosphere. In a very short time, the energy builds to such magnitude that itcreates the electric storms. Precise prospecting was the Dwar creed. The few Dwar thatwere unlucky enough to hit a uranium or plutonium deposit werenever heard from again, neither was the planet. Brom’s hammer, a particularly powerful example, needed only afew blows to cause a super-storm of continentally devastatingproportions. The name of this hammer was Mjolnir. 26
    • Waking the Angel Mjolnir, handed down from generation to generation alwaysbelonged to the Grand Master Dwar. It was the most exquisitelycrafted tool in the entire Dwar Empire, and it was the first. Allother hammers were fashioned from it. Mjolnir was the symbol ofDwar power. 27
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 5 A freezing early dawn broke on Arken. It would be another 2hours before late dawn, and the rising of the second sun with anorbit far closer to the planet, providing most of the heat. Angel rubbed his chest as he aimlessly sauntered down theendless corridor. He arrived on the planet three days ago andsince been allowed to wander the palace grounds unescorted. Noone bothered him and he felt invisible, almost as if he was back atwork, only here he did not have to pretend to be working. Still he wished he could wake up. He stared at his own reflection in one of the palace’s mirroredwalls. It was still his face staring back. Angel was tall at almost six foot four inches, and had a decentenough bone structure. Angel had a naturally athletic build, eventhough fitness was not one of his main concerns, he maintained asemblance of a decent shape. His dark hair, and grey blue eyesthat had a constant naughty glint to them, along with his well-chiselled face and broad shoulders made him a very attractiveman indeed. Even the scar running from the corner of his righteye about half an inch down his temple just made him appearmore handsome in a rugged way. He had never believed himself an attractive male specimen buthe received constant compliments and attention, which shouldhave given him a clue. Confused and lonely he kept walking. 28
    • Waking the Angel Walking gave him something to do, something to dull thelonging for home. He missed earth, his bench, the pigeons, eventhe tax audit would be welcome relief from this nightmare. He had so many questions, most of which he did not wantanswered. A large memorial stone drew his attention and he ambledacross lethargically. A strange hieroglyphic language covered the stone. As he staredat the writing, the symbols started swimming in front of his eyes. Here we go again, he sighed. His mind was at it once more. Qren had told him that it would take months before his mindwould feel like part of him. Apparently, he still controlled his mind, only it operated at suchan enhanced level of processing, using so many previously unusedsectors, that it felt as if detached. His mind had found a cryptic puzzle and it would be damned if itwould let this go by unsolved. 12.23 seconds later, it had very disappointingly cracked thecipher. Sulking, it returned to a state of complete and utterboredom. <Sigh> Angel gaped at that which his brain had revealed to him. Howcould this be, he wondered. Carved on the memorial-stone were the surnames of some ofthe most renowned forward thinkers in earth history, stretchingback thousands of years. He slowly read the latter ones he recognized. ‘… Einstein, Newton, da Vinci, Alexander, Michelangelo, Freyr…’ 29
    • Igor Swann That last name rang a bell, but he could not place it. Angel shrugged, confident his mind would come up with ananswer shortly, and indeed, he did not need to wait long beforehis mind head-butted his consciousness out of the way andstarted chirping. ‘137 hits found on Freyr, to narrow the search, please supplymore parameters.’ When none was forth coming, it got back to calculating theangle between the two suns and the second they would overtakeeach other. He made a mental note to ask Qren about these carvings andthe Arks’ interest in the greatest minds of his planet. They already possessed the knowledge of the gene long beforeany of these men were born, and the transformed humans weremuch more intelligent, he thought, with his freezing limbs nowmostly forgotten, he walked on, quite puzzled. He noticed the ion trails of a few personal cruisers arrivingduring the course of day, but did not pay them much heed. He had more questions than answers in any event, and had noenthusiasm for compounding his confusion. The revelation Qren imparted on him while en route to Arkenwas too profound. There were also a few other insignificant little details, such asstanding on a planet a zillion light-years from a place he reallyliked to call home, looking at an alien sky, surrounded by beingsthat did not exist a few days ago. Then finally coming to therealization that this represents only the tip of the iceberg and hewas certainly in for a few more surprises. 30
    • Waking the Angel He walked to the gardens on the other side of the palace,kicking absentmindedly at anything unlucky enough to be in thepath of his foot’s pendulum. I am only one man, one insignificant man, how can they expectthis of me, how can they expect me to command galaxies,countless races, and lead them into war. ‘Why me!’ he screamed. He fell into a brooding silence. Angel tried waking from this nightmare every chance he got. His mind has even helped on occasion, thinking of clever waysto shock him back to reality. Angel was sure his brain was only doing this because deepdown it had a nasty homicidal streak. 31
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 6 Teral stood on the bridge of his battle cruiser, a giganticspaceship. He calmly gave orders while a battle raged on the view screen infront of him. The raiders, mostly Taur bombers and a few fighters,were attacking from all sides, but held at bay by his cruiser’sheavy shield and directional turrets. He had been hunting this raiding party for weeks. Theyslaughtered settlements on more than a dozen worlds, and somehe could only surmise to be for sport. These settlers had no valuables or commodities that would beof interest to the Taur. He inwardly smiled a wry smile, as he watched the murderousfools taking the bait. They were so gullible, but then again, dangling the seeminglyunescorted Imperial Battle Cruiser as lure, how could they resist? He even gave them a few added incentives. The broken ion trailof a crippled ship and taking his forward defensive array off-line,something he knew their sensors would detect. True, they might stand a measly few percent chance of takingher but he was counting on this greed. Why would they not want to return home as heroes havingdestroyed the flagship of the Aesir. The raiders pressed on in the attack and Teral let them getclose, he wanted to draw them all in. 32
    • Waking the Angel Some were still hanging back, tentative, careful, not trustingtheir luck, but more and more joined the attack after seeing theapparent success of their brothers. Everything was going according to plan. Nearly there, just a few more, a few more, he thought tohimself. He wanted the two Taur capital ships within range. They mustnot get the opportunity to escape, he thought. That’s it, ‘Commander, give the order for the corvettes todecloak and commence fire,’ Teral barked. The Aesir were the only race whose ships had this ability, exceptfor one other very special craft. The cloak was not so much technology as it was magic. Theresult of Aesir mages seated in the hulls of the corvettes pluggedinto a thought amplifier. This enabled them to generate a hugemagical field around the ships, which made them invisible to anyobserver or sensor. This however presented one serious problem, since for anyoneinside the field there was no way to observe the outside either. This necessitated one decloaked ship with a senior mageonboard to mind guide the cloaked ships. The development of this strategy took many years, and manyships. They were flying blind and kept on crashing into each other,quite embarrassing really, but the captain of the ship only had afew seconds to feel embarrassed about their manoeuvring skills. Teral tapped his mindcom to broadcast his orders to his ships,‘bring the forward array online, all stations fire at will! Launch allsquadrons! Destroy them! Destroy them all!’ 33
    • Igor Swann He sat back in the command chair with pleasant thoughtsspiralling in his mind; did this scum really think the imperial battlecruiser would travel without an escort? How simple-minded theymust be. At least he will have revenge for his people’s needlessdeaths. The mindcom projected thoughts as voices directly into Teral’smind and he was listening with satisfaction. He kept switchingwavelengths, listening in on stations across his fleet. ‘Forward array is on line, commencing fire.’ <Click> ‘Corvette Astor in position, decloaking.’ <Click> ‘Alpha squadron completed flanking manoeuvre, commencingattack.’ ‘Delta 3 and 4 break left, on my command… go,’ ‘What the heck is that Taur doing? He is going straight into thecruiser, must be Mino’t, sleep tight baby.’ <Click> ‘Oh shit, oh shit oh shit; get him off my tail… AND STOPSHOOTING AT ME!’ ‘Sorry, I thought you were the one, who looked like he knewhow to fly.’ ‘I’ll fly this thing up your big ugly butt, asshole.’ <Click> ‘WHO IS CONTROLLING TURRET 4? Tell the idiot to shoot at themoving things; he can’t hit the pretty little lights from here!’…‘Yes, I mean the STARS MORON!’ 34
    • Waking the Angel ‘HE FORGOT HIS GLASSES AT HOME? Get that C^@%$ off thatturret NOW, and eject him through the airlock… of course I waskidding, eject him through the refuse disposal, we’ll give his familya medal later.’ ‘He’s your friend? Just send him to his quarters for Odin’s sake,and choose your friends more carefully in future.’ <Click> ‘Bring the Corvette round.’ ‘No, the other way idiot, never give your flank to the enemy.’ ‘What is wrong with you? Are you auditioning to be a bus driverat the old age home? I saw that!’ <Click> ‘Alpha three to Alpha two, I am on three, you?’ ‘Stopped counting at 10,’ ‘Bull.’ ‘No really, last one was named Trac’y; she was a really hotwaitress at Blongs on Keras2.’ ‘Idiot,’ <Click> ‘Sigma 1 you break left and I’ll go right, we’ll box him in.’ ‘No, your other left, F*****, oops sorry my mistake, did not seeyou were inverted.’ <Click> ‘Corvette Brondir Turret 7 acquiring target, target in range,target locked. Firing plasma cannon…’ ‘Sir, do they have battle cruisers?’ ‘No?’ ‘Then that’s… oh shit!’ <Click> 35
    • Igor Swann Teral watched as his cruiser and the corvettes rained a barrageof plasma, ion cannon fire and an assortment of missiles on themurderous trash. His fighters outflanked them and his corvettes formed acorridor of death trapping the entire marauder fleet. He hoped they have some idea of what his people felt beforedying, hopelessly awaiting death. His people, the Aesir were a peace loving society of mages, whoembraced combat training only as a means to defend themselves. Renowned as entertainers they were a flamboyant race withmagic being to them what air is to humans. They were shape shifters; able to take on the appearance ofalmost anything they touched. Though they could not duplicateintricate machinery or complex cell structures, in outwardappearance, they were perfect replicas. In their natural state, they had no prominent features. Their‘skin’ and eyes appeared dark blue in colour with a metal-likesheen. They have no hair, nails, or any orifices. The Aesirassimilated food by phagocytosis. This means the outer layer ofthe skin, with the magic field surrounding it, constantly attracts‘edible’ particles, which the ingested through the cell membrane. Their preferred means of communication like the Arks wasmental telepathy. Although, when taking the form of an entityusing any other means of communication, they would use thisinstead. 36
    • Waking the Angel The commander’s voice interrupted Teral’s thoughts, ‘sir, theyare running! We got at least 68 of the marauder ships, includingboth Taur capital ships. There were only a few casualties on ourside. Your plan was a resounding success, congratulations sir.’ ‘Your congratulations are premature commander,’ Teralthought, ‘they will all die today, every single one. Send the fighterwings after them, and I want an account of every Taur ship’sdestruction,’ and to be sure he added, ‘did I make myself clearCommander?’ ‘Crystal sir,’ the Commander turned on his heel and left. Teral was not blood thirsty by nature, none of his people was,but after seeing the mindless slaughtering of the Aesir, his people,his blood, something snapped inside. Now he wanted vengeance and he wanted blood to flow, theblood of the Taur. Today he will cleanse this vile smudges on theuniverse’s floor. He had the soap and brush, and he was not goingto stop scrubbing until it was spotless. The mindcom beeped in his head, ‘Speak,’ he commanded. ‘Sorry to interrupt Sir, but we just received an encrypted deepspace transmission from the Arks. You are required to attend anemergency senate meeting,’ the nervous voice squeaked, ‘shall Irespond in the positive?’ This did not amuse Teral in the least. He savoured thesemoments of retribution but alas duty called. He took a minutebefore answering. ‘Do so.’ He still did not recall his fighters until he was sure he destroyedall remnants of the Taur raiders. Only then did he order theirdeparture for Arken. 37
    • Igor Swann Teral relaxed in his chair even though a terrible sense offoreboding plagued his thoughts. The Taur had become more organized, deliberate and arrogant.It felt as if some force controlled them, gave them courage. Hecould sense an evil mastermind behind their movements and itwas not their current leader Kra’st, who would start tophotosynthesize if his IQ fell by one point. No, something waswrong, very wrong. His cruiser gave a faint shudder as the massive hyper-driveengines came online and propelled them towards Arken. 38
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 7 It was not until nightfall that Angel had a chance to catch upwith Qren. He took up stride alongside the leader of the Arks, andcontinued to examine the face of his abductor. Qren seemed oblivious to Angel’s presence. He did not wish to interrupt, sensing a great weight on Qren’sshoulders as even the alien’s expressionless face displayedconcern. They walked together for a while in silence before he felt Qren’svoice enter his head. ‘Did you have a pleasant day my lord?’ This startled Angel. He was not ready to accept such a title. ‘Please Qren no more, I need time,’ he shook his head andturned to leave. He was in no mood to get into a debate on thisabsurd subject. Qren would not understand. How could hewithout an imagination. He was about to turn and leave having completely forgottenwhy he wanted to see Qren in the first place, but got a reminderfrom his now manically depressed brain. It could not find a single thing worth dissecting and exploring. Ithas even calculated the atoms in Angel’s body, but got frustratedwhen Angel had a coughing fit and kept on throwing off his countby expelling atoms. It bing’ed politely and said, ‘Meeting with Qren, Subject: Stonecarvings, 5 minutes overdue.’ Angel pulled a face at his mind. 39
    • Igor Swann ‘I came upon a memorial stone today listing the last names ofearth’s geniuses. What does it mean?’ he asked. ‘Who told you what was written on the stone?’ Qren askedwith genuine surprise. Qren seemed concerned and Angel tookthis as being something that is not because he has donesomething right. ‘No one, I read it, or rather my mind did,’ he answered inearnest not knowing if he should lie or not. Qren took a moment before replying. He was surprised at how efficiently Angel’s brain haddeveloped. Breaking the cipher so quickly was truly unimaginable. He did not feel the necessity to inform Angel of this small detail,but rather gave him the information he requested. ‘Oh? Well, to answer your question. The names on the stoneare not those of whom you are thinking. The names were those ofthe UGE Lords, but to explain this I need to start with how andwhy.’ Angel’s mind jumped into an armchair, ‘popcorn check, earsclean, check, storage cells, check, reception… testing… testing…check; Okay WE’RE READY,’ it announced. Qren seemed thoughtful as he started to explain, ‘I did not fully explain the gene’s occurrence on the ship. Pleasebear with me and all will become clear.’ ‘Damn another long lecture,’ Angel thought. At least his mindmight get off its suicidal streak for a little while. ‘The gene is only found in the male of what you call twinbrothers, two males born from the same female in the same birth.The gene would only be present in one of the twins, never both, 40
    • Waking the Angeland rarely occur more than twice per generation. We were luckyin that your generation had two occurrences.’ ‘This however is not the case with the female of your species.The gene could occur in a single birth and occurs more frequently.Unfortunately the mind transformation on females has a morephysical effect.’ ‘The transformation machine seems to focus not as with themale on the central nervous system but rather the somaticnervous system. That is the motor neurons connected to the muscle andexternal sensory receptors. This makes them more agile, fasterand stronger. They develop enhanced senses and it seemed to augment whatyou call their sixth sense as well.’ Angel quietly thought how dangerous this sixth senseenhancement would make them. No more going out with theboys, slipping away to go play golf, flirting with the secretary…men would become slaves. What horror. ‘This does not however mean that there is no significantincrease in intelligence, but it would solely make themcomparable to the geniuses of your world, which does not meetour requirements.’ Again Qren took a moment before continuing, it seemed he wasabout to divulge information that he was not comfortable with. Something he did not agree with completely but partook in as anecessity. ‘At birth we would take the gene bearing twin from the motherand bring him to Arken. The current UGE Lord raises him until he 41
    • Igor Swannis ready to take over as the new UGE Lord. Humans age veryslowly on Arken, as you will experience yourself. Therefore wehad ample time for the new lord to reach maturity and be fullytrained before accepting his position.’ ‘Thanks Qren, but this still does not answer my question on thememorial stone,’ Angel said. ‘I was getting to that. The names you saw on the memorialstone were those of the twin brought to Arken. The name of theearth family was given to our ruler, though you are correct inassuming they were also the last names of your earth’s greatestminds, the twin brother left on earth.’ This made no sense to Angel; he had no twin brother. His fatherdisappeared right after his birth. His mother had skilfully avoidedthe subject whenever he approached it. He froze… it was as if someone hurled icy water into his face. A memory peeked thoughtfully into his consciousness. Couldthis be the secret, his mother would not tell him? He had a twinbrother and his twin lives with his father? He was surely going tolose his sanity. This is madness, all madness. Deep down Angel felt it was true; he had to believe it was true.He had a brother. He believed in a lot more, in what exactly he had not decidedyet, but as soon as he did, he was definitely going to believe thattoo. Hallelujah. Angel’s mind on the other hand was on a completely differenttrain of thought. 42
    • Waking the Angel A train heading in a completely different direction and movingat break neck speed. Mind link, a link between twins, it thought. Could it be that thegenius of the transformed brother on Arken had somehow filtereddown to the twin, enlightening him in some cosmic twist of fate?Stranger things have happened, especially to it, especially in thelast couple of weeks. Angel hastily said goodnight before Qren had a chance to throwanother curve ball into the mix. He had had enough. His mind blown so many times it felt like ahopscotch team having a game in a minefield, and they were notdoing particularly well. That night disturbing visions marred his dreams. It seems hismind now equipped with the knowledge of him being a twin,searched for the mind link. It seemed to have found it. Visions came and went. Apparently, his mind was struggling to‘tune’ into his brother’s consciousness. The images weredistorted; a horror movie created by a demented mind. You mightfind the same thing if you gave a monkey a video camera to playwith at a nightclub. He woke in a pool of sweat. Overcome with nausea and asplitting headache, with his thoughts haunted by the images ofwhat he assumed to be his father or a 1942 Dracula movie. Sitting up and desperately wishing to remove the meat cleaverfrom his cranial cavity and he assumed that an aspirin would be asdifficult to find on this planet as a decent steak dinner or a flighthome. 43
    • Igor Swann Angel slowly got out of bed, and struggled towards thebathroom. His was the only quarters equipped with this featuresince the Arks had no need for brushed teeth or combed hair asthey had neither. The room had a shower, one of the few pleasures he stillenjoyed. It had hundreds of directional nozzles covering 360degrees and from his head to toe. The water massaged his aching body and slowly he could feelthe tension leaving him and his headache dissipating. He stoodthere for what might have been half an hour. Quite a number oftimes he told his brain to shut the <some choice French words>up. His mind was acting like a 5 year old kid on a road trip ‘Are wethere yet… are we there yet,’ only it was complaining aboutboredom. He heard Qren speaking inside his head, ‘Angel I sense you hada difficult night for which I am truly sorry.’ It would have felt as if he meant it if he had actually pausedbefore continuing. ‘There is unfortunately a matter of great urgency that needs tobe attended to. There is a senate meeting scheduled for later thismorning and you would be the reason. I would ask you to remainin your quarters till an escort arrives to collect you.’ Angel did not care, he wanted to be alone, and staying in hisquarters would be a welcome relief. He also had an excuse nownot to take his mind for a walk. His room was comfortable, decorated in a number of earthycolours, which he accidentally chose while examining all theswitches in his room. This was calming. 44
    • Waking the Angel The human who created this room spend a lot of time ensuringit resembled the world he never knew. A world he only saw in hisdreams at night. Drapes adorned the windows and thelampshades had designs on them, matching the duvet covers. Thefloor covered in a thick soft rug and the walls were a cream colourat present. It had a distinct 1930s feel to it. It was easy enough tochange. Turning a dial next to his bed changed the room colourscheme to shades of blues or greens. They provided him with clothes, which were nothing more thannormal slacks and plain cotton shirts, clean underwear, socks andcomfortable shoes. He felt sure Einstein’s twin had a hand in thistoo, well either that or they raided an old age home last time theyvisited earth. He sat down at the foot of the bed, absentmindedly staring atthe clock next to his bed. ‘Why do these aliens have the same notion of time as we haveon earth?’ he asked his mind curiously. ‘If you hadn’t noticed a second here is almost 1.76 earthseconds, and a day is synchronized to the sun’s movement aroundArken. They used this same model on earth to express days,hours, minutes and seconds. I have to deduce that the concept oftime on earth must have originated here, and filtered downthrough the mind link,’ his mind surmised in a half-hearted tone. Angel sighed. He had hoped his mind would be able to reinitialize the mindlink with his twin but from what he understood on his mindsmindless babble, it could only be useful if his brainwaves were indelta around 1.5 to 4 cycles. 45
    • Igor Swann It explained that this was the reason for the distorted pictures.As soon as Angel became actively involved in what he saw, hisbrainwaves increased to a theta state where it was not possiblefor his brain to keep the connection. Angel stood up and slowly walked to the bathroom to get aglass of water, where the tap handle broke off in his hand. Heexamined the handle perplexed. It really looked like a solidenough metal. His mind whistled, and then added sarcastically, ‘That was a great trick. Do it again! Do it again!’ 46
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 8 A noticeable tension prevailed in the council chambers,something which resembling a rap concert from the brothers inthe hood at a Ku Klux Klan convention. ‘What do you mean it will take years, I thought he wassupposed to be the most intelligent being in the universe?’Princess Sharin, Ambassador to the El coldly exclaimed. Qren frowned, as much as an expressionless face could. ‘He must learn our lore, adjust to his new mind, be trained incombat and in our technology, vessels and weapons. This takestime. Our previous leaders were raised from infants,’ he patientlyexplained. It was no use and he was getting Sharin even more upset. ‘How is he adjusting so far?’ Grand Master Brom of the Dwarasked genuinely concerned. Qren shrugged. ‘As well as can be expected, he still needs to clarify many thingsin his own mind.’ ‘When will training commence? Will he be able to handle thephysical strain?’ chirped Sharin, annoyed that someone darespeak while she was interrupting. ‘When he adapts to his new nervous system, we will commencetraining. The mind transform has enhanced his synaptic pathwaysand motor neurons to such an extent that he is most probably notonly the most intelligent, but might well become the mostpowerful UGE Lord ever,’ Qren quoted. 47
    • Igor Swann ‘This is not the normal reaction to the procedure, but we neveruse the procedure on adult males. He has reacted quitedifferently to what is observed in infants.’ ‘This physical transformation will take time unfortunately, wehave been monitoring him and his muscle mass is slowlyincreasing, so is his speed but he might not have noticed this yet,’Qren continued. Teral seemed troubled. ‘What if he cannot be controlled, you have already mentionedhe cracked the cipher on the stone in seconds. This took hispredecessors weeks to break down.’ This also concerned Qren. The Arks used the memorial stone asa final test when the students were ready to become the UGELord. They placed the stone in the square for the new UGE Lord tostudy. When he broke the cipher and wrote his own name on thestone in the code, there was a party of galactic proportions withlots of dancing, drinks, and crowns flying all over the place. ‘We don’t know yet, a lot is new in his situation. He needs todeal with a cerebrum that has somehow managed to disconnectitself from his consciousness, becoming a voice in his head.’ Qren knew this happens to some extent in the infants theyabducted. They noticed the infants kept talking to themselves justafter the transformation; they learned to speak several languagesin a few days. It was always just one side of the conversation that was audibleas if speaking to something else in their heads. Unfortunately, theArks could not hear or rather mind read the other voice since itwas not in the conscious mind. This lasted a week at most beforethe two combined into one. 48
    • Waking the Angel ‘You might see the consciousness as what he remembers hismind’s abilities to be,’ he continued. ‘The other voice is all his mind is now capable of. Theconsciousness actually does not understand how to control thisnew power so it has given it a personality and kept it separate. Itwill only gradually accept it and become one, when it realizes thechange is permanent.’ The others now shared his concern. What if they have a ruler,whose decision-making abilities do not lie within his genius side? What if he did not consort with his new intellect and madeemotional decisions? Sharin was as always the first to start throwing her toys,preferably not her bow-staff as it might cause a few heads to roll. ‘The El will never stand for this! We joined this alliance andsubjected ourselves to the rule of the Vanir because of theirsuperior standing. The El will never be subjected to an inferiorspecimen.’ She gave a satisfied smile at the murmur of approval from the10 junior senators that were not part of the head. She always hadthem eating from her hand, after all she was El; they wereinferior. There were only six chief senators namely herself, Brom, Teral,Qren, the Vanir, and Noone. Nobody knew anything about Noone. His origin, what race he was and how old were secrets he kepthidden from everyone. All they know is that he has the wisdom of the ancients and hewas responsible for the creation of the alliance, before even thegreat grandfather of Sharin was born. 49
    • Igor Swann He brought the knowledge to understand the mind transformdevice. He also found the Vanir gene and he discoveredstrawberry ice cream. He was brilliant. He refused to carry a name. They called him ‘no one’, whichover many generations and millennia became Noone. Nobody knew what his face looked like because of the dark greyhooded robe he always wore. His face remained cast in a shadowdeep within the hood. Only when he looked directly at you couldyou see two glowing orbs inside the darkness of the hood. Somespeculated it to be two torches he has strapped on his head forreading. The other 10 senators comprised of races, which either werecolonists or ungoverned. They were numerous in number but tooscattered and poor to exclude them from the protection of theUGE against the Taur. Brom spoke up, ‘you forget princess that we are on the brink ofwar. You have heard Arch-Chancellor Teral’s recount of the battle.The Taur are openly aggressive and do not share the respect forthe alliance they had in the past. For some reason they are underthe impression we can now be beaten…’ Teral broke into their minds, ‘our spies have heard rumours of aforce that would destroy the alliance. However, it is a well-guarded secret, known in only the top Taur circles. Our spiescannot infiltrate this war council because they possess a scanner,which can detect our cell structure.’ ‘Our long range scout ships have found massive fleets beingreadied in the far sectors of Taur space. Not enough to take onthe combined strength of the UGE but if they managed to divide 50
    • Waking the Angelus we would make easy targets,’ the concern in Teral’s thoughtsclearly audible. ‘So what you are saying is if we do not accept this Vanir, andkeep the alliance under him we are doomed?’ Sharin made this astatement less than a question. She was ready to withdraw the El from the alliance a fewmoments ago but now doubt clouded her mind. If this were true,the El would not survive. The El was the most powerful race along with the Dwar. No oneknew who would win an all out confrontation between these twoUGE races, and no one was keen to find out. That is except for the punters, who have on several occasionsattempted to initiate a confrontation accidentally. The reason the alliance was successful was the introduction ofthe Vanir. Nobody would willingly be subject to the rule of the El. Especially not the Dwar, who has always felt the El wascolonizing planets, they saw first. By a UGE decree, Dwar may not mine a planet if there werealready colonists on the planet. However, they could continuemining, if the introduction of colonists happened after theystarted mining operations. Unfortunately, for the Dwar, prospecting takes time, and once arace registers a planet with the senate, that race was responsiblefor the planet’s inhabitants and upkeep. Due to financial constraints, they can only register once theyhave struck ore, and by then the El had jumped in and registeredthe planet, if there was ample forestation on the planet. The converse was also true. 51
    • Igor Swann No El would agree to the command of the other inferiorspecies. The Vanir was the only exception. He was superior in intellect,but did not belong to their worlds. There was no chance of bumping into another Vanir in a pubwho would tell them they are not allowed in the VIP section ormake them feel they need to buy the drinks so they could ‘fit in’. The El would submit to his rule, while he did not make amistake in judgment. No Vanir ever did… to date. The only other option was Noone. He however refused to rule since by his own admission, he wasno ruler, and reluctantly the others had to agree. Even though he was a brilliant advisor and spoke with thewisdom of the ancients, he did not have the presence of the Vanirto rule. He had dignity, and he could make mistakes. No, the Vanir would have to do. The only mistake ever made by the Vanir, was the loss of thesymbol of Vanir power many centuries ago. Each race had a symbol in the form of a weapon. The Vanir had a sword. This caused some division in the ranks of the UGE and caused afew of the member states to go rogue or neutral, as they liked tocall themselves. This was a huge blow to the UGE as they presented a sizablepart of the UGE defence strategy in the outer rim planets. Sharin sighed, bowed her head slightly, and with a weary voicesaid, ‘so Qren lets meet this protégé of yours.’ 52
    • Waking the Angel Qren waited and silently prayed for this conclusion. He gave anod to his guards who promptly left for Angel’s quarters. Angel was playing noughts and crosses with His Worship theLord of the Brain Elite as his mind referred to himself now or LOBEto his friends. He reluctantly allowed Angel to call him that aswell. Angel was deep in thought and LOBE was getting irritatedbecause Angel was just randomly putting down X’s, even when hewas playing noughts. LOBE vowed if it happened again he was going to start amigraine. Angel laughed until his belly ached. ‘That’s it, I’m leaving,’ LOBE said. ‘So where would you be going then?’ Angel asked still laughing. ‘Hmmm forgetful are we, you have been driving too long I see.Shall I remind you that you are only in control because I allow youto be, and because I had more important things to do,’ LOBE saidwithout malice, but Angel could feel the smile burn into the backof his head, from inside his head. ‘Okay, okay, let’s just play, shall we? Have you had any luck infiguring out why I could break the handle that easily?’ Angelasked, trying hard to get off the previous subject. LOBE started an explanation in his professorial voice, ‘I haveanalyzed our nervous system and have deduced that thetransformation did not only affect me. Our motor, inter andsensory neurons seem to be multiplying exponentially. Thesynaptic clefts have decreased in size. Dendrites branchedextensively. The neurotransmitters changed in composition and 53
    • Igor Swannincreased in density. Action time has decreased from the normalrange of 0.5 and 1 millisecond. It is now less than a nanosecond.’ ‘Protein absorption has increased dramatically and hypertrophyis occurring without resistance,’ LOBE smugly answered. Angel was NOT impressed. ‘English please!’ he replied irritably. ‘LOBE talks to muscles quick-quick. Muscles get biiig. Angelstrong like bull, run like deer, leap tall buildings in a single bound,’sarcasm dripped from LOBE’s medulla oblongata. ‘Really,’ Angel asked. ‘No.’ Angel felt like strangling him, or at least cutting off the oxygensupply to LOBE for a while. A knock at the door placed a damper on his plans. He made amental note, Suffocate LOBE, and walked over to answer thedoor. 54
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 9 Angel gingerly entered the great hall as his ushers took upposition on either side of the doors. Again, he could see anunmistakable human influence. The décor of the chamber was inthe fashion of the Michelangelo ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He stood in front of a half moon shaped table with the top sixchairs and that part of the table forming a dais. The seats weremore like thrones than chairs. A low hum came from themembers of the senate. They were obviously talking, those whohad vocal cords, but he could not understand them. He tentatively walked into the middle of the half-moon. A court attendant placed a small piece of metal behind his ear,and it seemed to be absorbed into his skin, because when he feltfor it, there was nothing there. The hum started to become words, and the words becamesense. Angel felt like a racehorse on parade, and judging by the buyers’reactions as he scanned the room one by one, they thought hewas an old plough horse. Revise that, a crippled old plough horse.No rather a blind and cripple old plough horse. Fortunately, Qren choose that moment to speak distracting hissurvey of the council, for the next person his eyes would turn towould have been Sharin, and if he saw her face, he would havefelt like the rotting broken tooth of the aforementioned ploughhorse. 55
    • Igor Swann ‘Lords and ladies of the senate, may I introduce to you, Angel ofthe Vanir,’ he turned to Angel, ‘Angel this is the Senate of theUnited Galactic Empire.’ Qren began to introduce the senate indicating each as hepresented them. ‘Firstly we have Arch-Chancellor Teral of the Aesir, next to him,Brom, Grand Master of the Dwar,’ for a moment Angel felt heheard something strange, but dismissed it as a misunderstanding. Qren continued, ‘Noone of the Ancients, Princess Sharin of theEl.’ This time there was no mistake, he had definitely heard Elf, andhe heard Dwarf when Qren introduced Brom. He had seen the words El and Dwar written on the memorialstone, but when Qren pronounced it, the wave coming into hisbrain made an ‘F’ sound while it withdrew. He started to laugh and walk around the room, looking undertables, behind potted plants, curtains, chairs, even examiningsome of the junior senators. This must be the most elaborate hidden camera show everdevised. He was on to them now. What did they do to make his mind react funny, see things, hearvoices? It was most probably some designer drug that will wearoff in a day or two. What would they want him to believe next? Kidnapped by alienswas far-fetched but now they wanted him to believe there wereElves, Dwarves and whatever Aesir and Noone were? 56
    • Waking the Angel He expected to find Godzilla, King Kong and Barney theDinosaur playing destructo-monopoly1 in the closet. ‘So where are the cameras?’ he asked, ‘great acting though, youhad me going there. Wow, I thought the alien abduction was real.What a relief,’ he gave a mock applause. Sharin reacted so quickly that it was almost impossible to seeher move. Angel felt something thin, cold and obviously deadlypush against his neck. A faint trickle of blood dripped on his shoe.‘You dare mock an El Princess,’ she spat. The venom in her voice clearly audible, no mistakes this time,she was great at making a point. Angel believed some more. ‘This is real?’ he stammered, ‘You are Elf and he is Dwarf?’ ‘We are El, Vanir, El not Elf,’ her icy voice could freeze anerupting volcano, if it had enough guts to erupt while she spoke. ‘On earth you are called Elf your greatness,’ Angel stupidlyreplied. He felt foolish and very scared. ‘What made him say that?’ he wondered, ‘they look like elves,but that was coincidental was it not?’ ‘Elf, how could Vanir know about the El or Dwar for thatmatter? Neither race has ever been to Vanaheimr. The Ark are theonly ones who know, or care,’ Sharin sneered, ‘where thatprimitive planet is, and they have no means to communicate with1 Destructo-monopoly is where they start with the hotels and houses and thendestroy them as the game progresses. 57
    • Igor Swannthe Vanir except after he has been successfully transformed,where after he is the UGE Lord and never returns home,’ she spat. No one else he knew could make ‘lord’ sound like ‘he whowashes my feet, with his tongue.’ This made no sense to Angel. Their descriptions fit perfectly intowhat he remembered from his fantasy novels, and a little hobbyhe had on Norse mythology at university. LOBE’s voice rose inside his head, ‘Freyr, Vanir, Elf, 1 hit,’ hewas pleased with himself. LOBE proceeded, after imitating a drum roll. ‘The god Freyr was the bravest and strongest of all the gods. Agreat leader, he was of the Vanir, a tribe associated with fertilityand prosperity. He was the god of the Alfkind or Elven,’ he pausedfor dramatic effect. ‘He lived in Vanaheimr. Swedish royalty still believe that Freyrwas one of their Ancestors,’ LOBE was on fire, and did not intendto relinquish the floor. ‘Freyr is second only to Thor in popularity in Iceland, and one ofthe three most popular mythological gods of all time. The thirdbeing Odin.’ Angel understood. It made so much sense, even to him; insanity rocks. Angel remembered. However, the concept, what it would imply was unbelievable. Angel believed. He wanted to speak privately to LOBE but it came out audible tothe entire senate, ‘Freyr was the first human ruler right?’ 58
    • Waking the Angel To his surprise, the senate responded, and a nodding of headsaround the room confirmed this assumption. Angel shrugged. ‘Well what do you know,’ he whispered to LOBE and continuedaudibly, ‘he had a twin sister on earth.’ Disbelief was as thick inthe room as marijuana smoke at a Bob Marley concert. The sweet smell of success, but he had LOBE to confirmeverything, and he knew Norse Mythology, now that LOBEallowed him access to the memories. It was definitely a sister. LOBE nodded. Angel felt his brain move inside his cranial cavity. Qren interrupted, ‘it is true,’ he announced. ‘He was the first and it was an anomaly.’ ‘He was the only male gene-carrier whose sibling was female.We still do not understand how, but the anomaly has neverresurfaced.’ Angel continued unabated, ‘a twin sister called Freyja, whom hewas mind linked to.’ He could see the puzzled expression on their faces. He smiled,how could they know? The mind link between twins was an unobserved concept, evenif one of the infants experienced the mind link while he was here,he would not know what it was and assume it a dream. He andLOBE had had long conversations on the subject after LOBEbecame aware of this strange phenomenon. ‘So the twins have a mental link? Like telepathy?’ he had askedLOBE. ‘Yes, only much stronger and over an almost infinite distance.’ 59
    • Igor Swann ‘But won’t brainwaves fade and dissipate after a while. Aren’tthey just energy and waves?’ Angel wondered, ‘I mean they werecommunication over zillions of light-years?’ ‘How do I explain this to a halfwit, actually more like a fractionof a halfwit,’ LOBE patiently replied while snickering. ‘It is as if the souls are connected by a ‘cable’ on a differentplane of existence where distance and time does not matter, theycommunicate through this cable.’ ‘Oh!’ was Angel’s only disappointing response. Irritably LOBE continued, on… and on… until he realized Angelhad probably nodded off after ‘oh!’ Growing in confidence Angel continued speaking to the senate,but first he gently pushed the blade away from his neck. Sharin did not object, and he started pacing, as she returned toher seat. ‘She saw what he saw through the mind link they shared,’ hepaused to catch his breath and savour their expressions. ‘I assume your Freyr was closely befriended with the El?’ Angelasked. Again, the spellbound nods greeted him. He had unearthed a crucial piece of this mystery. ‘Now Freyr’s sister on Earth or Vanaheimr as you call my planet,dreamt of strange worlds filled with El. She dreamt of the onewhom the El saw as their ruler and friend, which shemisinterpreted as a god. She did not recognize the Vanir as beingan earthling or her brother for that matter. She just assumed hemust be of some deity race worshipped by Elves. She called this 60
    • Waking the Angelrace Vanir, but you confirmed now that Vanir were in fact yourword for human.’ The faces in front of him were filled with fascination and he wasnot about to disappoint them. ‘She must have had suspicions at some later stage that Freyrwas related to her in some way, because in some later recordsthey were mentioned as siblings as well as husband and wife.Marriage between siblings, especially royalty was not frownedupon then.’ Qren gave Angel a knowing look. Was it because he was doing well? No, there was somethingelse! He knew a lot more than he let on. The story might not be asstraightforward as Angel thought it to be. ‘Mental note,’ Lobe chipped in. ‘I think so,’ Angel remarked before he continued. ‘These were probably just a tail added to the story, but themind link between some twins could be very strong. So strong,that if one experienced pain, love, sadness so would the other.This closeness between the two was most probablymisinterpreted as a union between them.’ ‘You see Freyr’s life here became the basis for a belief structurecreated by Freyja on earth thanks to the mind link which is sharedbetween twins.’ ‘The mispronunciation Freyja got was the same one that I hadwhen Qren mentioned your races. El and Dwar when thoughttransmitted sounds like Elf and Dwarf.’ The story of Freyja had a few unexplained sections he had notsorted out yet. 61
    • Igor Swann It did not quite fit completely into his retelling. She wasapparently the chief of the Valkyries and a goddess herself. He kept this to himself not wanting to confuse the issue, but hefelt there were more to this story and he felt Qren had at leastsome of the answers. Angel accidentally caught a grumbling thought from the Arch-Chancellor of the Aesir. He could see Teral did not enjoy his race’sexclusion. Angel thought hard and took a chance. ‘In most earth tales of glory and honour, there was a greatfriendship between Vanir, El and Dwar. They were alwaystravelling together on quests and adventure. However, the partywas never only three; there is always a fourth member, the mageor wizard. This wise and powerful mage was a key figure, withoutwhom there would be no victory.’ He was looking intently at Teral and saw he had hit a goodnerve, a faint twitch as Teral’s head moved. Angel felt confident to throw the final dice. ‘The party of four forms the basis for earth’s mightiest tales. Nostory is complete without all four. Against the four, fearsomearmies would fall and unthinkable legions conquered. No onecould stand against the four when they stood as one.’ He saw Qren smile; he was becoming quite proficient in seeingsomeone without a mouth smile. He knew he had won a small battle, but a very important one. Brom was the first to shake his hand. Sharin and Teral followed close behind. Noone paused a second to whisper one word in Angel’s ear,‘congratulations.’ 62
    • Waking the Angel The rest of the senate all followed suite and the celebrationsbegan. Qren seemed the happiest of the lot. The weight on his shoulders, Angel sensed the day before, wasgone. ‘Happy?’ Angel projected. ‘Ecstatic,’ Qren responded. 63
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 10 Guival tried to walk with as much confidence as possible, or atleast as much as his new form allowed him. He was afraid, deadly afraid. He had just disembarked the Taur cruiser and his next obstaclewas customs. ‘Next,’ the gruff call came from the officer. ‘Cru’t, bound for Evergal’t,’ Guival lied. ‘And what is your business in our capital, Cru’t?’ came the curtquestion from the customs official. ‘Trade agreement, Zellion imports for the military,’ Guivalreplied without hesitation. The official handed him back his documentation and ID badge. ‘Next!’ he barked. The Aesir spy shakily walked off with his heart pounding in histhroat. He turned the corner to leave the spaceport and go into thebusy street. Only now did he heave a sigh of relief, knowing this was theeasy part, but still traumatising. He impatiently waited for the rail-train to come. It was a dark and desperate city; there was no hope left here.The wars were all that mattered, for these were people driven bythe sword. They fought for fun, and killed for pleasure. He took a seat in the back, uncomfortably trying to push all thelimbs and horns into the space available. 64
    • Waking the Angel There are three subspecies of Taur. Guival decided on the easiest form of the three namely theMino’t. The Cen’t and Sa’t’s leg configuration were difficult tomaster, although he was quite proficient in imitating both theother species. The Mino’t however, as specie had the combined IQ of a rock,therefore none of the other two species took much notice ofthem. They also stood about 10 feet in their hoofs and had anenormous build. They were the muscle of the organization. It wasthe easiest form to travel in; only other Mino’t would intentionallyget in your way. None of the species had hair on their body, although all threespecies were subject to this dull brown pigmentation from headto toe. All three races had growths on their foreheads, which seemedto increase in size and number with age. The size varied fromspecies to specie, but a Taur could have as many as six horns. The strangest part of these races was below the waist. Their legs where more like bended spikes, broad near the topending in a sharp hoofed point where their feet should be. Both the Sa’t and Mino’t had two spikes. Both these races’ knees constantly bent, like a kangaroo. TheMino’t’s legs bent to the front like most earth animals; however,the Sa’t’s knees bent to the back, similar to a grasshopper’s hindlegs. The Cen’t was the only one of the species with four legs spacedaround their body almost like a horse-crab’s legs divide by two. 65
    • Igor Swann Both the Cen’t and Sa’t had very sharp noses, their mouthswhen closed showed no visible slit, but could open as wide as ahuman’s head and seemed to break open to their sharp pointedears. This would display hundreds of razor sharp triangular teethwhen open. The Sa’t also had a sharp chin, which resembled the beard of aBilly goat. The Mino’t faces although similar in discoloration had a jaw linethat protruded forward like most earth animals, closest would bethe bulldog. Their noses were flat, snout like and they had a muchlarger mouth housing many more teeth. The Taur’s most intimidating feature however, was their eyes,which were black as midnight. It gave the impression thatsomeone gorged them from their skull. This happened quite frequently in any event, when their handswere busy and their eyes were itchy. The Mino’t and the Sa’t were probably the closest relatives,where the Mino’t had the brawn the Sa’t had the brains. TheSa’t’s chosen professions included science and engineering alsoserving as advisors to the Cen’t. The Cen’t were born leaders, they were also born killers andbrilliant strategists. The Mino’t mostly guard things and carry things. It is advisable though to refrain from calling the Mino’t stupid totheir face, or you might find their face around yours and thatwould be slightly detrimental to your health or soon to be lackthereof. 66
    • Waking the Angel Together they lived in harmony, except when they were killingeach other, and this was as it happens quite often, mostly whenthey could find no other living entity to slaughter. However, thisinterspecies killing had no racial motivation; there was nodiscrimination, they would kill anyone presumed to be alive. ‘You see I was there, he was there, then he wasn’t so muchthere anymore, shit happens,’ is the general answer in aninterrogation afterwards. In the central war room, not far from where Guival nervouslysat on the train, a brainstorming session progressed quitesplendidly. This involved the Sa’t braining, the Mino’t stormingand the Cen’t wondering who they would kill first. Kra’st, supreme commander of the Taur forces, got theirattention by gently tapping Gungnir his spear, through the nearestMino’t’s heart. The session came to order. ‘Have we located our target?’ he rasped. An old Sa’t with fading brown skin named Tri’st answered. ‘We have my lord.’ ‘The fleet is ready?’ Kra’st’s question came with a hint that hehad better hear what he wants or else. ‘Within the week my lord, the last crawlers and reapers arebeing loaded as we speak,’ came the answer from his second incommand, Alra’st. Alra’st was an anomaly through inbreeding; he had theintelligence of a Sa’t and the body of a Mino’t. A Mino’t with abrain was someone you did not want as an enemy. 67
    • Igor Swann ‘Good, good,’ Kra’st rubbed his hands in anticipation of hisglorious victory. ‘Has our spy in the council been briefed? He knows theschedule, and what he must do?’ ‘It is his plan,’ was what Tri’st wanted to say, but he did notreach this grand old age by being stupid so he simply answered,‘yes my lord he was fully briefed before we lost communication.’ After the last UGE Lord’s ‘accident’, Arken blanketed allunauthorized communication. Kra’st knew this but he was quite proficient in asking the samequestions repeatedly. This usually had the desired effect, since somewhere,somehow, someone would roll an eye or sigh or maybe blink... forone final time. ‘We intercepted a few communications but they were encodedby a new Kasparov encryption. We have not been able to decipherit,’ Tri’st continued, ‘it does appear to be only random chatter,and the UGE seems to be oblivious to your master plan my lord.’ Kra’st was pleased, extremely pleased. He dismissed themeeting and sidled off to his command centre. He had a muchmore important meeting to attend to, and he had good news toreport. Meanwhile Guival had reached the base of the command centretower. He saw no way in. The tower had only two entrances he could find, both heavilyguarded and equipped with scanners that could detect his Aesircell structure. 68
    • Waking the Angel He made himself comfortable at the burro-house across fromthe tower. It felt hopeless; despondence crept into his now bulkyconstitution. He might as well go home. There was nothing else to do. His thoughts drifted back to his briefing. ‘We need to know why they are amassing that fleet,’ hissuperiors had informed him. ‘They are planning something huge and it will not be somethingnice, they will probably not be delivering Freymas1 gifts toeveryone.’ Guival understood the gravity of the situation, but what was heto do, WHAT? Hours passed slowly. His mind had gone numb; probably fromthe terrible stuff, he was drinking to look inconspicuous. Adelivery truck from Desm’nd house of pastries pulled up alongsidethe tower. A panel in the tower wall slit back to reveal a Cen’tforeman with a clipboard2. He had four Mino’t with him and theystarted unloading the cream buttons. Guival stared at the scenewithout much enthusiasm. ‘Buttons as ordered, 10000, counted them myself. Feel free tocheck.’ ‘Oh I will,’ the foreman smiled. He revealed two Sa’t counters sitting behind him.1 Freymas was Christmas for aliens.2 Apparently pastries and clipboards are another universal truth foundeverywhere in the universe along with rocks and ice. 69
    • Igor Swann ‘Good, good,’ Desm’nd said but he was worried, he ate 10 ofthem on the way over. ‘Er, wait,’ he said urgently, trying his utmost not to perspire, ‘Ijust remembered, I forgot a batch in the oven. Silly old me, damnmy bad memory, I’ll just go and get it shall I,’ Desm’nd nervouslyconcluded. ‘Tsk-Tsk, can you believe it. That is such rotten luck. Maybe Ishould just remove that forgetful head. It seems to only get youinto trouble?’ The Cen’t foreman sardonically replied. ‘No, please sir; I am quite attached to it. It has been with mesince my unfortunate birth. It is the only thing my mother evergave me,’ Desm’nd visibly shaken, could feel his bladder controladversely affected. ‘Here’s what we do, your next delivery is next Cen’tday right?So let’s say a little extra would keep your head in the sameuniverse as the rest of you,’ the foreman said with a wry smile, ‘Iwould be happy to return it to your mother on your behalf.’ He loved buttons and now he was getting them free. For weeksnow, he has been tortured with accepting these deliveries, sinceKra’st took a liking to them as well. The few he has been sneakingon the side, was just not doing it for him. ‘Okay, I’ll just be getting on my way then,’ Desm’nd hurriedlyannounced and disappeared. Guival overheard the conversation even though it was morethan 300 yards away. He was Aesir and after all, they werethinking very hard while trying to outwit each other. The thoughts were clear in their conscious mind, and heaccepted them gladly. Guival could see a plan forming. 70
    • Waking the Angel He needed to disguise himself as a button… No, that was not it. He paid for his burro. Even his altered form could not stomachthis disgusting Taur drink. The waiter was kind enough to providehim with directions to Desm’nd house of pastries but it was toofar to walk. He hailed a sky-cab and they made their way throughthe city. Guival confidently strode into Desm’nd house of pastries. Theunfortunate owner sat behind the counter, thinking hard on howlucky he was to be alive. Guival smiled inwardly, ‘good, you juststay frightened.’ He informed Desm’nd that the foreman requested that he helphim ‘remember’, and the Foreman wanted a 1000 buttons for thisservice. Desm’nd still thanking his incredible luck did not even think toask for identification. ‘Yes sir, no problem sir,’ he muttered a response. A thousand buttons was worth a lot less than his life and it isnot as if Kra’st actually paid him. The next week Guival spent enjoying pastries and orderingDesm’nd around. It was not often that a spy gets pleasure fromhis job, and he loved it. Cen’tday arrived, and he helped Desm’nd load his truck. ‘I will accompany you back to headquarters,’ Guival instructedDesm’nd. ‘Sure, sure, whatever you say.’ ‘And be very careful what you say. No one must know about theextra buttons.’ ‘You are only to answer direct questions and the foreman willpretend not to recognize me,’ Guival concluded the briefing. 71
    • Igor Swann This plan was masterful if he did say so himself. Desm’nd hadcomplete deniability when the rest of his plan goes into action. Shortly after Desm’nd’s truck pulled up at the tower and Guivalhelped to unload the pastries. He now wore a Desm’nd house ofpastries uniform. They finished unloading the last batch. As Guival walked back with the guards, he patted his pocketsand found he accidentally dropped his keypass and therefore willnot be able to get out the gate. Guival appeared furious withhimself. Stuff like this always seems to happen to him. He tapped the nearest guard on the shoulder and absorbed hisform definition. An Aesir needed physical contact to learn the structure of theperson they wished to shape-shift into. Guival put on his best, please help me sir, I am stupid face, andstarted begging. ‘Would you help me look for it sir, I am so clumsy?’ ‘Whatever, where do you think you dropped it,’ the guardreplied, glad to finally find someone even more intellectuallychallenged than himself. ‘I remember now, I heard something roll behind those crates. Itook no notice then, but now I think it’s the keypass,’ Guivalreplied. ‘Let’s go,’ the guard ordered. The guard peered under a crate and Guival pretended to lookwith him. He lifted the guard’s blaster seamlessly and fired, putting apeephole as big as a large coffee tin through the guard’s face. 72
    • Waking the Angel Good thing I absorbed his form before this, otherwise I mighthave had a little trouble explaining the ‘see through’ head, hethought. Hurriedly he took off his uniform and transformed into theguard, every so often peering over the crates in case uninvitedguest were in need of a welcome. He then proceeded to dress theguard, swearing at how difficult it is getting pants on those spikylegs. Guival walked towards the front door. ‘Spy!’ he yelled at the top of his lungs, and started shooting hisnewly liberated blaster in arbitrary directions. The other guards rushed towards his position, dodging his wildblaster shots while trying to get him to stop shooting. ‘Will someone please shoot that idiot!’ one of the guardsshouted. Guival stopped hurriedly since getting his head blown off wasdefinitely not part of his master plan. ‘I found him trying to sneak into the tower,’ Guival informed theoncoming guards desperately pointing in the direction where heknew the carcass lay. The foreman with Desm’nd had come over as well to investigatethe commotion. The foreman bravely walked over to the crate where he foundthe faceless corpse wearing the house of pastries uniform. ‘You dare bring a spy into the tower,’ the foreman scowled atDesm’nd after surveying the scene. Desm’nd was confused. ‘He said you sent him, to make sure I remembered our deal,’Desm’nd blurted, now visibly shaken. 73
    • Igor Swann ‘Outrageous how did he know about our deal,’ the foremansuddenly realised what he said, ‘I mean WHAT DEAL?’ ‘You tell me,’ Desm’nd said, ‘I am as confused as you.’ ‘I AM NOT CONFUSED, GET OUT, OUT,’ he screamed. ‘As for you, you made that mess, you clean it up,’ the foremantold Guival. ‘Take him to the incinerator,’ he ordered Guival. ‘Sir, yes Sir,’ Guival replied. Inwardly he was smiling from ear to ear, and outwardly, hecould if he wanted to. He dragged the corpse into the turbo-lift and pressed thebasement button carefully avoiding the scanners, which woulddetect his cell structure. Guival unceremoniously dumped the guard with the ventilatedbrain into the incinerator, and returned to the lift. He caught a final whiff of the steak in the oven and pressed thebutton for the penthouse suites. A lone guard stood outside the top floor exit, violently pickinghis nose. It was in there and he was going to excavate it. Guival stood in silence waiting patiently, trying to maintain themystified look on his face. As the guard took notice of him, Guival pretended to be veryconfused. He looked around bewildered, not understanding howhe got here. ‘What do you want imbecile,’ the Mino’t guard commanded. ‘Is this the kitchen?’ Guival asked completely perplexed. ‘NO MORON, you need to press 10 not 100.’ 74
    • Waking the Angel ‘Oh… how many circles after the little stripe is that again? Ialways get confused,’ Guival was relishing this ruse. ‘Er, let’s see,’ the guard counted on his fingers, ‘One. Now go.Lowly kitchen guards are not allowed here.’ ‘Okay but how many is one?’ he innocently asked. The guard sighed, and held up his middle finger. Guival hurriedly shook the guard’s hand, mindful he took thehand not involved in the nose excavation, but displaying immensegratitude for his assistance in this quite perplexing situation. He shook it long enough to absorb the gold digger’s formdefinition, and use his mind suggestion. The guard being Mino’t did not give him much mind to workwith. The Aesir magic was strongest when in physical contact with thetarget. He suggested to the guard’s heart that it would prefer to stopbeating since it was mistreated anyway; I mean, just look howoverweight your owner is. After transforming into the guard and then dragging the nowslightly deceased to the nearest room, Guival heaved him into theincinerator shaft with a slight grunt. These Mino’t were damnheavy. The shafts were something Kra’st had installed in all the topfloor rooms. It was far easier to get rid of bodies this way, otherwise theywould just litter up the room. ‘I mean it is only good manners. Someone might trip over abody and injure himself,’ Kra’st had explained to the architects. 75
    • Igor Swann After about a 3-hour search he was ready to give up. He wasfast running out of rooms, and it was probably almost time for thechanging of the guard. He entered a huge office. It had slightly more decor, meaning more blood splatteredadorned the walls. He started searching through the cabinets. Guival discovered, under some very unimportant documents,minutes from a meeting held a couple of weeks ago. He sighed heavily as he began to scan through the entireuseless scribble. The Sa’t scribes were thorough, with no consideration forunfortunate spies needing only the summarized version. There were notes on a few Taur that Kra’st accidentally killedbecause they forgot to address him as lord, they gave him badnews, or they breathed unevenly. These minutes were probablythe closest thing to a remembrance or eulogy any Taur could hopeto receive. He read the last sentences of the minutes and it shook himdown to his core. He suddenly understood the reason for the deserted commandcentre. This cannot be true, this cannot be true, he repeated to himself,over, and over, as the colour drained from the rest of his face. 76
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 11 The next few weeks Angel spent studying lore, weapon and shipschematics and statistics as well as the races’ strong and weakpoints. LOBE thrived. He was as happy as a fox in a henhouse. ‘Know your enemy and know your allies. Use the strength ofyour friends against the weakness of your foe. Study youropponents with as much fervour as you would your assets,’Noone had told him. Noone was his mentor and Angel was fast becoming quite fondof the old, well, Noone. Qren placed the physical training on hold until his body’stransformation was complete. The physicians could only guess asto how long this would take. Angel already measured three orfour times the strength of any of his predecessors and wasinfinitely more agile. His unchecked strength posed an increasing danger to thosearound him. He could barely touch something without breaking it.He made a pact with LOBE to calculate the strength needed foractions taking into account his transformation rate, and thenapply the correct grip pressure. LOBE happily approved. This gave him something useful to do,but he often purposefully miscalculated to cause Angelembarrassment. He would miscalculate the speed at which Angel walked and lethim run into a wall at speed. 77
    • Igor Swann During dinner, LOBE had him crush a full Zellion alloy winegoblet. This metal, the hardest and scarcest material known to, er,alienkind, were sometimes found in the bow plating of someridiculously expensive space cruisers to protect the most sensitiveareas. Sharin was not amused when the spray caught her in the face,almost causing an intergalactic incident. She seriously consideredattaching Angel to the bow of her cruiser as a figurehead. Sharin volunteered to organize his combat training. She was byher own humble admission the most qualified instructor, andNOBODY was going to dispute that. Except maybe if you were along way away, like in another galaxy, and you were dying from anincurable illness, preferably before she reached you. Sharin didnot hold a grudge forever; she would die eventually. She revelled in the process of creating a program to torturehim, designing it in such a way to inflict the maximum painwithout disabling him permanently. The princess even summoned a few more students, not wantingto waste her precious time on a single individual. She carefullyselected these students from her black book of ‘people I’d reallylike to kill but might need an alibi for.’ She anxiously awaited the start of the training. Every day she visited the physicians to ascertain the extent ofAngel’s progress. She had so many surprises for Angel. Angel on the other hand was quite oblivious to the darkprospect surrounding his future. 78
    • Waking the Angel He found his predecessors intriguing and lost himself in thearchives for days on end. Angel scanned the page on the hollow projector in front of him.The UGE Lords know as Aristotle 384 BC and Archimedes 287 BC.How did he know they would be there? He swiftly flipped throughthe UGE Lord profiles. It was the latter lords, which he knew moreabout that were of more interest. He found that ‘Da Vinci’ who was born in 1452 had a reign thatwas quite short. He contracted a rare disease and the Arksabducted the newborn twin brother of Michelangelo Buonarrotito replace him. Da Vinci survived long enough to pass the sceptreon to his young protégé. The latter names read: Da Vinci 1452 Buonarroti 1475 Galilei 1564 Newton 1642 Gauss 1777 Einstein 1879 Kasparov 1963 On every occasion, almost a hundred earth years passedbetween abductees. He looked at the last name that was his predecessor, Kasparov.He would have loved to meet him. His twin was an amazing man,and drawing the chess match with the super computer Deep Bluewas astounding. 79
    • Igor Swann The accomplishments of the Vanir Lords were equallyimpressive. They designed the jump drive. This reduced the journey toearth from months to mere days. They frequently created weapons of mass destruction.However, they also invented useful technology, which couldtransform a planet from uninhabitable to a paradise, namely theplanet-shaker. Buonarroti had a thing for architecture. He spent most of histime on architectural designs and more efficient constructiontechniques. Better living conditions and effective use of energywere paramount in his constructions. He did a lot of research onclimate control and structural support for unstable planets,especially those hollowed by the Dwar. Galileo’s brother seemed to spend his days on war tools, butnot so much weapons. He was interested in the hull constructs ofthe alien ships, and did many useful calculations on theconstellations. He discovered how to plot jump points accurately,which were crucial for long-range exploration. He developed most of the modern sensors and long-rangescanners. Newton and Gauss continued to build on the discoveries ofGalilei but Newton focused on energy sources and jump-drivetechnology and later expanded into shields when a technicianaccidentally dropped a spanner on his head. Gauss preferred weapons for his field of study, making the shipsand weapons of the UGE far superior to anything the memberstates could even hope to imagine. 80
    • Waking the Angel This had the desired effect. The unfriendly races were not prepared to take on thesedevastating fleets. Einstein was a pacifist. He, like his twin on earth, was more interested in small things. He did a lot of research on the races’ cell structures, magicfields etc. He attempted to duplicate the effects of their specialproperties. In the end, he created enviro-suits that could withstand anyplanet’s atmosphere. He accidentally discovered the technologyfor the tachyon cannons as well. This was an incredible weapon,which affected a glorious fireworks display, and went to show itwas not only magic that could make things disappear,permanently. Kasparov was a brilliant tactician. The strategies he devisedboth defensive and offensive were simply awe-inspiring. Hereorganized planetary defences for optimum effect and createdattack formations and fleet compositions that would obliteratearmadas 5 times their size. Angel hoped LOBE could compete; he sure as hell could not. ‘The moon is made of cheese,’ LOBE smirked sarcastically. At night Angel’s nightmares continued. He saw many glimpsesof earth, but could not keep up the willpower not to get involved,which caused the visions to start to fade as soon as theyappeared. Angel’s consciousness overruled all LOBE’s attempts to keephim from becoming actively involved. 81
    • Igor Swann Angel suspected the only reason why LOBE was so helpful wasso he could watch TV. However, they were both curious as tocurrent events back on earth. LOBE had the patience of a 4 year old with Attention DeficitDisorder. ‘Concentrate you moron,’ and, ‘it’s amazing you can focus longenough to get the food from your fork to your mouth,’ or, ‘hey!You remembered not to breathe and swallow at the same time.Impressive,’ the abuse continued. ‘It’s a damn good thing I look after bladder control.’ His nights were not the only torment he endured. Training now filled his afternoons, and for once Sharin washappy. She started him off very easy, stretching classes to make himsupple and flexible. 82
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 12Dear Diary,Yesterday afternoon I attended a stretching class… stretching classmy ars#$#. Sharin is the devil incarnate. The dungeon masterthought up these positions which I have aptly named the‘precarious pretzel’ the ‘cranium cracker with jam’ the ‘dying stickinsect cha-cha’ and the ‘Oh god, I cannot feel my toes, oh sorry, Ithought this was my leg I am holding’.Here is what I do not get, which part of, I am a 33 year old, 93.72kg MALE did she not understand. ‘Straighten your back’ … ‘pointthose toes’… ‘Look up… I said look down’… ‘Sit erect. Oooh; youare a big boy aren’t you; I did not mean do that, idiot! Sorry, Imeant Lord Idiot.’‘Hook that leg under the other one… now put your arm aroundboth of them grabbing your ear… no, your other ear… yes, that isit. Now push your head through that hole. Not that hole, and yes,that is your own fat arse you are staring at… I said straighten yourback, you useless sack of wasted skin!’‘I don’t care if you’re stuck! Breath in deeply; now relax and waveyour other arm gracefully around your head!’I had flashbacks of my grade 2 teacher. She was cross between aDoberman pincher with rabies, Bigfoot with dandruff and the MacDonald’s Clown with mad clowns disease. Only longer teeth, and 83
    • Igor Swannbigger feet, with redder hair. ‘Please don’t hurt me anymore, Iswear I won’t misspell ‘Beaujolais’ again, just stop hitting me,please.’I swear I actually saw the back of my own head at one stage whileI was trying to untangle my legs, which I knotted behind my back…or somebody else’s back. I felt confused and delirious. Next to mean El girl cried, she looked like she might have lost a limb but Icould not be sure since none of her limbs were in a position I couldrecognize from 1st year anatomy.There were a lot of limbs and ears and other stuff laying aroundthe room, most of it not attached to anyone.In the front of the class, an El lay unconscious. She landed quiteheavily on her head after Sharin told her to wave her armsgracefully. Dropping out of the handstand first should have beenslightly higher up on her ‘to do’ list.Another nice young El (she smiled so sweetly at me when I walkedin, told me her name was Laidin), now wandered aimlesslythrough the class, speaking to an invisible fruit bat. Now andagain, she would just start screaming hysterically and run into awall. My heart bled for her, her heart bled over everyone else.Gripped in terror and surrounded by complete madness, I ran, fellreally hard, unlocked my leg from behind my neck, got to what Iassumed was my feet, since they were below what I hoped was my 84
    • Waking the Angelknees and ran, and ran. They found me trying to board an off-world freighter going to dump waste into the sun.The end; diary entry day 1 LOBE took it upon himself to keep a diary of the training. Angelcould not decide who was more thrilled, LOBE or Sharin. LOBE swore these were an actual account of events. Angel suffered a severe concussion in the latter part of his initialtraining, and did not remember any of this. Later when LOBE showed Angel some extracts of the moreinteresting entries, as he referred to them, Angel had to laugh.LOBE actually had a sense of humour. LOBE said he wrote them from Angel’s thoughts for completerealism, with a little creative license because Angel was simplyboring by nature. Angel had to agree this would be what he thought. 85
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 13Dear diary,Satan’s girlfriend is forcing me to do all these ‘fun’ things.Today the elves and I found these disassembled space cycle thingsplaced in the training facility. They were unlike anything I haveever seen in my life. One of the elves explained that according tothe ‘wise and beautiful Princess Sharin’… aargghhh, it wascurrently not fully assembled. We need to finish construction andhe offered to help me, but LOBE insisted he did not need any help.I started my work to the best of my somewhat extraordinaryengineering ability. LOBE was getting to be his bossy self so Iignored him.Eureka, I did it; it was a work of art. Mostly abstract modern artwith a hint of da Vinci, a pinch of Van Gogh and a healthy dose ofPicasso; but art nonetheless. After I carefully examined mycreation, I got the distinct feeling something was missing. Youknow that little thought that sits in the back of your head, andmakes your brain itch, where you cannot get to it to scratch… ohyes, that would be LOBE.Right the engine… engine... engine. Were the heck did I put it?Oh well cannot blame a guy for trying, finally I was ready to go… IfI were thinking at all, my quarters would have been a good 86
    • Waking the Angeldirection. LOBE wanted to see what would happen next so Istayed. This is the last time I listen to that freak.Old Demon Spawn walked in and took up her place in the front ofthe class. She greeted us with a smile that could make springblossoms bloom ecstatically on weeping willows, in a blizzard. Allthe laughter and chatter died down, you could cut the tension inthe air with an ice cream scoop.I got very nervous.She started some music device and these funky El tunes filled thehall. They were soothing.I felt even more nervous.I don’t exactly remember when I lost my will to live or preciselywhen I forgot I had a will to lose. Hallucinations filled my mind,laughing hyenas, and nasty little blue midgets with cold noodlewhips, hot leg waxes, natural childbirth, and a big black guy calledBubba trying to force-feed me a shaved poodle.I felt the poodle transform into cool blissful liquid. I lay flat on myback next to my study in abstract art. I stared into the face ofanother much more pleasing work of art, a beautiful goldenhaired Elven girl. Laidin.Her bike stood next to mine. She squeezed water down my throatand smiled sweetly… she understood… I saw it in her eyes. They 87
    • Igor Swannwere the eyes of someone with uncontrolled suicidal tendenciesand it dawned on me, we were going to die!I recovered slightly. I could feel my strength returning, mostly dueto panic and pusillanimous fear. Could the next 20 seconds beworse than the first 20 seconds? I could not see how. I was young,naïve. I had a mind like a steel trap, although thoughts usuallymanage to skilfully avoid it.Sharin would not break me with her pathetic intimidationtechniques. I used to be in Special Forces… we know things!One thing I did know was earth’s gravity was a fraction of Elheimrand even on the lowest resistance setting; I was struggling notwith strength but with sustaining energy to my muscles. Okay,that is how LOBE explained it.I inadvertently lost my manhood somewhere, which put me whollyin touch with my girly side. Tears were streaming down my cheek.I was bleeding profusely, from hitting my ankles on the pedals, myknees on the handlebars and my head against the ground. Painwas my friend, it kept me conscious… it reminded me I was notfortunate enough to be dead yet.There is no record of rest of my experience in hell, because my soulleft my body. LOBE wanted to go along but his fortunateattachment to my brain was one small consolation, I suffer, hesuffers. The soul left shortly after discovering the next routine wasin fact called climbing with resistance (and I have always had aresistance to climbing unless it was out of the gutter the next 88
    • Waking the Angelmorning). Meanwhile the soul felt that no way could the real hellbe worse than this, and it needs a vacation anyway. It switched offthe lights before leaving.My soul returned with a simmering Pina Colada and a nice crispytan. It took a while for him to recognize the crumbled mass ofbones, blood and flesh as that which it had inhabited earlier, in abetter time, a better place… before the time of the wicked witch ofthe North.LOBE felt since he was only a few weeks old and not ready to startdecaying in some casket somewhere that he would convince thesoul to give me a second chance, being a loyal soul and all, andwell frankly the brochures might have been slightly misleading.‘Come to hell for a truly amazing vacation you’ll never forget, nowelcome is warmer than ours’, was truly amazingly forgettableand you would pray to forget soon, hopefully by dinnertime, or bythe latest next Tuesday (it WAS a very optimistic soul). It alsothought ‘No idiot would be stupid enough to try something likethis a second time, right?’ and ‘Obituaries did not usually startwith ‘dear diary’, did they?’ It was also quite convinced hell mightfreeze over in the foreseeable future (intelligence was not one ofits more marketable qualities)The soul’s second mistake was its belief that the vessel spread onthe ground was still recoverable. That it could still use some of thelimbs, eye lids or still had some degree of bladder control. Put itthis way, if the soul was playing monopoly, it was bankrupt and 89
    • Igor Swannparked in jail with no get out of jail free cards… and he was prettysure this is NOT how gin rummy is usually played.LOBE decided that now was as good a time as any to start a clinicfor the Para-psychiatric treatment of traumatized souls, andmaybe he should order me a wheelchair and a straw.The end; diary entry day 2 Reports of more frequent raids surfaced, mostly occurring insectors of Aesir space. Teral returned to the warpath. He hadtaken a massive fleet with him this time, under the flag of theUGE. Dwar and few other smaller races along with the Aesir madeup the fleet. The El had a number of similar problems, and their fleet left toliberate one of their border planets, which was under siege by theTaur. Teral sat on the command deck of his Imperial Battle Cruiserdeep in conversation with Brom. They were planning on how topatrol the sector when they got there. The Arks supplied four Dreadnaughts1, immense warships withthe firepower to destroy entire planets. The only ships that werebigger, of which there are only 2, and not present in this fleetwere each as large as the earth’s moon.1 If you compare a Battle Cruiser to say an aircraft carrier then Dreadnaughtswould be ‘aircraft carrier’ carriers and then some. It is rumoured to be largeenough to hold Sharin’s shoe collection (she is apparently related to KeiraKnightley) but as an unfortunate bystander who wishes to remain namelessand not headless told us ‘nothing can be that big’. 90
    • Waking the Angel Their massive hull held mostly capacitors and generators topower its wide-angle ion cannons. These cannons were each aslarge as a Corvette and could fire a beam that could destroyTeral’s entire fleet in a couple of sweeps. It took fourDreadnaughts to tow them into position, which was a slow andtedious process. These ships, aptly named Darkmoons, were under direct controlof the UGE, and if needed, dispatched to orbit the capital planetsof two feuding races. This was to protect the race from invaders, but mostly fromthemselves. The Darkmoons would destroy any fleet attemptingto attack or leave the planet. They have never needed to destroya fleet since everyone knows better than to mess with these twobehemoths. The deployment of the Darkmoons around Elheimr andNidavellir occurred on more than one occasion. This still madeQren smile when he thought of Brom and Sharin having to kissand make up so they may take back control of their planets. At this moment both were in Aesir space, orbiting twouninhabited planets in the hot sectors east and north, next toTaur space. From there they could easily deploy with a lot of effortanywhere on the border. It was not as if anybody could steal them, no armada could getclose enough. Teral surveyed his current fleet. 91
    • Igor Swann The Dwar contingent consisted of 12 Corvettes and 3 BattleCruisers along with 200 long-range bombers and fighters, all stateof the art, fitted with the very latest technology. The Dwar wererich and they like to parade it around. He himself had 8 corvettes and 100 long-range fighters. Thatwas as much as he could spare without weakening his optimumdefence strategy according to Kasparov. He was the mostvulnerable as he shared an eastern and northern border with theTaur. The armada was starting to reappear from the jump anddecrease speed. Brom and Teral had spent the whole tripdiscussing strategies. ‘I suggest we split the fleet into 4 equal parts and keep fightersin reserve,’ Brom suggested. ‘I concur, we will place the fighters 1 jump behind the mainfleets, in range of all 4 attack groups,’ came Teral’s thoughts. ‘The movement of the Marauder fleet or fleets seems to berandom. I can find no specific pattern or direction,’ Brom cursed. He expected this. They wanted the element of surprise, and did not want anarmada waiting for them at their next victim. ‘We should send one group to the last attacked planet. Maybe ifwe are lucky my mages can expose an ion trail, which would giveus a general direction and hopefully a trail to follow. The rest I feelshould go to each of the planets in the sector most likely to beattacked next.’ Brom agreed that Teral’s idea was sensible. 92
    • Waking the Angel ‘We should look for planets with a large enough colony, but asmall defensive grid since these seem to be the planets favouredby the raiders,’ Teral continued. Brom was examining the holo-image of the star map. In this configuration, the map displayed only the planets withthe population density and defensive capabilities next to them. ‘There are unfortunately from what I can gather about 7 ofthese planets in this sector. We can probably ignore Tramor, since it is a Dwar mining colonyand too difficult for the raiders to flush them out without a longand costly siege of the planet,’ Brom commented. He was confident in his people’s ability to survive. They werehard assed and hardheaded. You needed endurance and patienceto outwait a dwarf; and the ability to get very, very old. ‘Do you suggest we further divide our forces?’ ‘Not the main attack force. We would need them all once thehunt begins, and we will not have planetary defences to aid us likethe other groups,’ Brom suggested. ‘Agreed,’ Teral added approvingly. He was very happy to have Brom along on this mission. Theirlong-standing friendship made them brilliant strategists whencombining their experience. They rarely disagreed. Brom spoke up again. ‘This would leave most of our attackgroups without dreadnaughts, which slow them downimmeasurably and would make them almost useless asreinforcements. That is unless you plan to have a day long battle,when we find the scum,’ Brom smiled knowing how much Teralwanted to extend the torture on the murderous Taur. 93
    • Igor Swann ‘True my friend, the groups led by cruisers can reach us atmaximum burn in less than an hour and the reserve fighter groupin less than 15 minutes.’ Teral ignored the comment about thedaylong battle, but was supremely pleased with their plan. Teral picked up his mindcom and spoke to his ship’scommunication wing. He relayed detailed instructions for thedeployment of the fleet. ‘Let’s hunt,’ Brom said, and slapped his friend on the back,unfortunately for his size his slap landed on Teral’s ass. ‘Oops, sorry,’ he blushed when Teral gave him a look ofdisapproval. 94
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 14Dear diary,Today the queen of the damned took us to a swimming pool.Olympic size my foot, unless the Olympians are 14 feet tall. Youcould barely see the far end. This was obviously built by someonewithout any sense of dimension and who has never laid eyes on aswimming pool. I examined the gear. A nice shiny silicone formfitting swim cap (recycled implants), blue tinted goggles and askin-tight swimsuit. The ones with a short leg that looks like the1943 female bathing costumes without the frills (banned in 1944for causing too many drowning of male swimmers). Of course, thelist would be incomplete without the bright orange inflatablearms. She presented those to me herself. Why did these thingslook so familiar?Off I go, extreme swimmer, ready to make waves and breakrecords. Who were these sissy swimmers I saw on TV anyway.Lap 1 to 10 went relatively without incident. I started in lane 3 andended up in lane 7. I struggled a little with the turning, got tangledin the swim lane ropes once on turn 4, luckily I had a knife with me(I was taking no chances with Old Demon Spawn organizing theseevents). I banged my head on the pool floor on turn seven (strokeof luck that I stayed conscious. I forgot you only make onesummersaulty type move thingy), and got all the skin taken of thetop of my feet when I hit the tiles around the pool on turn 9. I had 95
    • Igor Swanna little problem once with the breathing when I forgot to turn myhead to the side before I inhaled, so I looked like a walrus humpingan imaginary friend for a while. However, other than that the firstten laps went as well as might be expected. I was concentratingvery hard on my form (and the form of Laidin the golden haired Elin the lane next to me, her tail fins were glo-ri-ous). Admittedly, Igot confused between the butterfly, doggy paddle and freestyle acouple of times (so I invented the new drowning praying mantisstyle, which was a great hit with the El on the side of the pool).Actually, I was concentrating a little too hard on my form and Iforgot to check my battery levels. As luck would have it, thebattery gave out half way through lap eleven.So there I was half way through and absolutely no energy left. Idecided this was it, a character defining moment in life. I couldshout for help, I could wave my arms (trying hard to remember theinternational signal for I’m in deep $%#%^#, or I need a doublemartini on the rocks… and where were the Baywatch chicks whenyou needed them). I could scream like a girl … but I decided NO …NOOOOO, I’ll die with the little dignity I have left. I felt my lungsburning, I saw the water close over my head (or it could have beenthe water in the goggles. I remember wondering if I could stillswap these goggles for ones with orange lenses. I also realized Iwould be dead in a few seconds and it might not matter anymore).I rue the fact that I forgot to inflate my inflatable arms. I saw thelight grow dim. The water was streaming into my mouth. Iremembered it tasting a little salty with just a hint of chlorine, andwondered if someone balanced the PH level in the pool. I alsowondered how many of these bastards urinated in the water. I 96
    • Waking the Angelsaw a pornographic movie flash before my eyes. I realized that thismust be my life then, I wondered if there was enough time towatch my whole career or if it would be only a highlights package.Every fibre in my body was screaming for sex … er… I mean air, Ifelt myself sinking … sinking …down, ever spiralling downward. Ifelt my knees hit the bottom with a thud. I was already kneeling soI prayed. He answered with a cramp… no, the mother of allcramps, if you took the greatest cramp on earth, this one would beits great aunt. The pain caused me to extend my legs. Reliefflooded over me since the water was only chest deep <sheepishgrin>Okay, I tried to drown again to watch the end of the movie, but noluck. I walked back to the other end of the pool, still keeping upappearances while moving with perfect free style form in myupper body or my version of perfect freestyle form.I pushed myself out of the pool; fell on my face because I could notfeel my arms anymore. I slithered the rest of the way out, with asmuch grace and dignity as was possible in this situation. Realized Ihad slithered out of my costume. Slithered back into the pool,found my costume, found the ladder, calmly walked to my towel,slipped on a wet tile, twisted my ankle, scraped my knee,dislocated my jaw again, gathered myself and limped to thechanging room.The end; diary entry day 3 97
    • Igor Swann New understanding dawned in Angel’s mind. He rememberedreading in his old fantasy novels that there were light and darkelves. The light elves were blond with blue eyes, and the dark elveshad black hair and black eyes. Apparently, the commoner El, with Green eyes and red hair didnot have an opinion on their alignment, probably neutral elves. He understood why an earthbound observer would classify theEl royalty, judging by Sharin’s magnificent personality, as darkelves. Her creation of a torment procedure that was so similar to theone used on earth was uncanny. He thought that alien torture would at least have someimaginative elements to it. A thought wanted to break through into his consciousness,‘aargghhh’, if he could only get hold of it. Angel jumped up as if he was sitting on a hot coal. ‘Speedo, swimming caps, Goggles, Exercise bikes, StretchingClasses, the dimensions of the swimming pool? It was as ifsomeone saw a…’ He started to run to the door, thought better of it and slowed toa walk. ‘It is a good thing there are no old age people with walkersaround. They might get angry at you for holding up the traffic, andwhere are you rushing off to anyway?’ LOBE quipped. ‘Wait and see, it is something I found before you were born,and I think Sharin has it.’ He got to her office after what seemed a good few hours ofcareful shuffling and cursing. 98
    • Waking the Angel He noted with a smirk the Princess Instructor printed on thedoor. It was unlocked so he quietly sneaked in. He had no otherway of going in at the speed he was moving. He did not even haveto search for it. On the table was the brochure from the Gym nextto his office; the unholy relic he had had in his pocket when hearrived on this godforsaken planet, and she was using it to torturehim. The bitch, Angel cursed. He and LOBE walked back to his room in silent contemplation.Angel was furious while LOBE was amused. ‘So you gave her the whip to lash you with, how ironic.’ 99
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 15 By the time Angel arrived at his quarters, he had already lostinterest in the subject and started to wonder about somethingcompletely different. He could not figure out why he was struggling so much. He was under the impression that he had almost unlimitedstrength and speed. ‘Well since you have been sitting on your fat ass for the pastcouple of years, guess what, you are unfit!’ LOBE explained ‘I would not be too worried about it. Our body seems to react tooutside stimulus by reconfiguration,’ LOBE concluded. ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ enquired Angel, trying tofocus but he was so tired that it was an exercise in futility, mainlybecause of futile exercising. ‘Body see, body do,’ LOBE laughed. Angel sighed. ‘Our cell structure in the muscles is adapting. Our body seemsto have realized that it has gone a little overboard in generatingmuscle cells.’ ‘So what,’ Angel remarked, yawning. He could not keep his eyes open. He wished LOBE would get tothe point, but knowing LOBE that point would be far off. He mightas well catch forty winks and with a bit of luck wake in time forthe punch line, but he also knew LOBE would pound his brain untilhe listened. ‘Well it’s reconfiguring the excess cells and increased waterretention in the muscle. Almost exactly half of them have been 100
    • Waking the Angelslowly changing in construct. They now resemble photoreceptormolecules and are pairing with the normal muscle cells in a kindof symbiotic relationship.’ ‘Seen any matches I can put in my eyes?’ Angel commenteddespairingly while free falling onto his bed not bothering toundress. ‘The mitochondria inside the muscle cells have also increased.They are used to make energy called ATP for protein and amino-acid synthesis in case you were wondering.’ ‘I wasn’t, but please continue professor.’ Angel was fading fast. ‘The photoreceptors I mentioned previously are commonlyknown as Chlorophyll,’ LOBE paused for the gravity of this remarkto hit Angel. It took a while. Angel sat bolt upright, ‘I’m going to turn green?’ he exclaimedvery worried. Green, little green men, he was going to become a human alien.Although he had to admit, he did not notice any of the other racesbeing green. He wondered where humans got that notion. ‘No, unfortunately not,’ LOBE appeared genuinely disappointed,‘but these cells are absorbing the Carbon dioxide excreted by themuscle cells. Together with the H2O and the photosynthesiseffect, they are producing oxygen and glucose. The oxygen feedsthe paired muscle cell, and the glucose converts to glycogen andis stored. This is used to create ATP which turns chemical energyinto kinetic energy, when the muscle needs it.’ ‘All I heard now was Blah-Blah Blah-Blah Blah-Blah’ 101
    • Igor Swann ‘It makes the muscle contract when needed,’ LOBE explainedirritably. ‘Oh, I understand. See I am a good student.’ He was begging the sandman to come. ‘Yes, your body has created its own self sustaining powergenerator. When the process is complete, it should in theory,never get tired. That is if you have enough sunlight and water,’LOBE remarked teasingly. ‘Maybe you should go plant yourself in the garden somewhere,’he smirked. Too late, Angel had dropped off. At least he slept better now,which pleased LOBE no end. Angel was so tired he immediately went into Deep Delta sleepand LOBE could activate the mind link. Just in time for the discovery channel, LOBE thought. He loved the fact that Angel’s twin regularly watched theDiscovery Channel. This gave him all the information he neededwith which to pester Angel. Days turned into weeks and the training became more gruelling,but as every day turned into the next Angel found it becameeasier. The bond between him and LOBE was also growingstronger and LOBE allowed him into more and more areas of themind. It was fascinating. He was like a small kid walking into a palaeontology museum.LOBE played the part of curator with more than the requiredgusto, since this was his domain after all. 102
    • Waking the Angel ‘This part of the mind was last used 28 years ago. It was one ofthe oldest specimens on language absorption, I uncovered. Thiscavern, we expect, used to house a sizable creative thinkingcentre and memory storage array that seem to have gone extinctshortly after the parties at varsity commenced. It would havebeen fascinating to see this as a living…’ his voice trailed offgenuinely dejected. Angel’s latest body enhancement process had stopped and hewas now getting the hang of his new strength and speed. He learned fast and studied hard. The library had many books on fighting techniques and stancesand LOBE helped him perfect them and store them in musclememory. LOBE wanted to kick Sharin’s butt as much as Angel did. ‘Okay, okay, let’s start again. Left foot forward, right back andtwist slightly… good, now place your weight on your back foot,and position your centre of gravity. Fine, now use your right armto steady yourself and bring the blade up in a wide arch… NO, NO,NO, snap your wrist… Okay back to one,’ LOBE’s voice droned onand on. He also studied Kung Fu and Jujitsu on earth. Although he wasnever a brilliant pupil, he knew the theory behind it. His new body took to these techniques like a duck to water. He knew this gave him an edge that would serve him well. Hewas revelling in it, vowing to wait until he had perfected everymove before using it on Sharin. His studies into the races were keeping him enthralled. The Eland their bow-staff he was quite familiar with having felt the flatof the blade on numerous occasions. 103
    • Igor Swann The Dwar and the Aesir were just as interesting. He found references to the incredible hammers of the Dwar,and their ability to break down molecules and atoms and absorbthe energy. How they cause electric storms and the symbol ofpower called Mjolnir. ‘Dwar Thor Mjolnir 7 hits’ LOBE interrupted. Angel gasped. He never realized that, as Freyr was the God ofthe elves, that you could link Thor to Dwarves. The amazing hammer Mjolnir, The hammer was the key! Heremembered Brom asking where Mjolnir was. He forgot he left itin the restroom, and went ballistic. I mean, it is not as if anyone could steal it, nobody but one of hiskin could lift it, he had thought to himself after seeing Brom’s act. He at least knew that much about the hammer. Wow. Thor and the amazing hammer Mjolnir. The thunder godwho was able to control lightning and thunder with Mjolnir, Angelthought. Was he a dwarf? They seem strong enough, but Brom is veryintelligent, and the description of the bright red haired Thor wasas strong as an ox and almost as smart. Maybe he was a friend ofthe Dwar or simply their god. He would need to ask Brom when henext saw him. He wondered about the other races, the Aesir could they belinked to earth mythology as well? He had read previously that they were shape changers. Heknew most of their customs and he knew they were entertainersand great magicians. ‘LOBE, do you have any reference to shape changers in NorseMythology?’ 104
    • Waking the Angel ‘As a matter of fact Loki the trickster god was a shape changer,’LOBE answered. ‘Yes!’ thought Angel, ‘he fits the profile. Entertainer, shapechanger, and magic user.’ ‘Odin was also a great magic user and was said to be related toLoki,’ LOBE continued. ‘So Odin and Loki are both Aesir?’ Angel’s curiosity reachedboiling point. He had so many questions for Brom and Teral, such as did theyhave ancestors called Thor and Loki in the time of Freyr? He didnot want to wait. He jumped up and rushed to find Qren. Hewould know. Qren was missing in action, and he sulkily went for a walk in thegarden. It was a beautiful day outside. He walked along the garden path that followed the contours ofthe castle. Amazing birds flew overhead in all colours anddescriptions. He had never seen so many birds in one placebefore, here or earth. One particularly large bird caught his eye. Shinning blue and shimmering in the sunlight it resembled afalcon. It glided over the castle and he tried to follow its flight as far ashe could. The bird disappeared over the castle roof. In thewindow, right below where it disappeared, something drewAngel’s attention. The figure only appeared for a second, but he could have swornit was a girl. 105
    • Igor Swann Not an alien girl, she looked human. He knew that that was impossible so he dismissed it withoutanother thought and kept walking. The amazing garden clearly displayed a distinct humaninfluence. This must have been where his predecessors came toponder their plight. Flowers as large as hubcaps and as small and frail as butterflywings, painted in all colours of the rainbow surrounded him. Ovalflowers looked as if covered in lace, with the most amazing blendof pastel colours. Trees covered in blossoms, shrubs and bushesall beautifully kept. Some shaped like animals and others likebirds. It was a little Garden of Eden, and the one place whereAngel could feel a little happiness. ‘What are we doing LOBE?’ Angel asked suddenly feeling quitedrained, ‘why are we here?’ ‘You walked here?’ LOBE replied. ‘NO! I mean HERE!’ Angel screamed, frightening the birds away. ‘So you can become lord of the United Galactic Empire,’ LOBEanswered without emotion. ‘I know why I am here! I want to know, why am I here?’ Angelwas frustrated. ‘Why am I going to fight some aliens’ fight for them? Theykidnapped me, took me from my home and everything I knew,changed me, and now I HAVE to fight for them, why?’ ‘Because your life has meaning now,’ LOBE softly explained withan unnerving compassion. ‘BECAUSE MY Life has meaning now…’ Angel’s voice trailed off. LOBE was right. 106
    • Waking the Angel He knew that something was missing in his life since he leftSpecial Forces, a long time ago when the earth was still young, orhe was still young, all that matters is, it was a lifetime ago. His life had meaning then. He was fighting for a cause, and he was protecting lives. It mightnot have been his cause, and he would never know the lives hewas protecting, but at least his death would have meaning. He would have died protecting souls. Sure, this was different. He did not even know if they had souls.These were not his people. Asked to lay down his life, die for creatures that were nothuman. They came to earth to abduct and enslave for their ownpurposes. Nevertheless, in the end that did not matter. He had a cause, hehad beings in danger and he was the only one who could savethem. He had a purpose again. His life had meaning! 107
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 16 The days kept their monotonous routine and Angel still hadmany questions and very few answers. Not only about Thor andLoki, but also since Mjolnir the Hammer exists, then what aboutGungnir the mighty spear of Odin, questions leading to yet morequestions. Qren suggested an off world excursion, to experience more ofthe universe first hand. Angel happily agreed. He rushed off to find Laidin. ‘Laidin I have permission to go off world. Let’s go have somefun,’ he excitedly imparted when he found her reading in thegarden. ‘Sounds great but I have to study, my friend,’ Laidin said lookinginto his grey eyes. The look of utter disappointment on Angel’s face was too muchfor her to bear. ‘I guess it could wait a while,’ she sighed. ‘Great! Qren has been gracious enough to lend us his cruiser.’ Uncertainty crept over his face. ‘But where will we go?’ he asked. ‘Leave that to me,’ she said with a glint in her eye, ‘I think theCity of Dreams should do just fine.’ ‘The City of Dreams, I like the sound of that,’ Angel agreedeagerly. 108
    • Waking the Angel The city was in a word, enormous. It covered the entire planet.It was a medley of dazzling lights and glittering signs. The magichung as thick as fog over the city. Sounds of laughter and pleasurebeckoned them to join in the festivities. The city invited you to lose yourself and that would not bedifficult. Some who entered a decade ago are still looking for the exit. It would take years and years of exploration to visit only ahundredth of this magnificent city. ‘Wow, this place is amazing!’ Angel remarked in wonderment,his nose pressed tightly against the shuttle view port. ‘Yes, this is the capital world of the Aesir. Its real name isÁsgarôr, but because it has become such a huge tourist attraction,visitors like to refer to it as the place dreams come true,’ Laidinsaid smiling. ‘Ásgarôr, as in Asgard, the home of Odin,’ Angel askedbemused. ‘You sound surprised,’ Laidin laughed, ‘is it because anotherpart of your earth mythology is true?’ Angel ignored her, distracted by the sights from the city ofdreams below him. Sigh, men! Laidin thought giving Angel a moment to focus hisattention on her again, before continuing. ‘They understand the art of entertainment. You would findmore races and species here than in the rest of the universecombined. The origins of some were unclear even to the mostardent of scholars. Most probably bred here and mutated throughall the residual magic,’ Laidin explained. ‘Hmmm sounds like New York on earth,’ Angel commented. 109
    • Igor Swann ‘You have a place like this on your planet?’ she asked perplexed. ‘No not really. I would not even try comparing anything I haveseen in my sheltered life to this,’ Angel replied grinning. They landed the shuttle on one of the millions of platforms inthe city. Being that the craft was a UGE Imperial shuttle theycould have used a VIP platform but Laidin did not want to attractattention. They both wore hooded cloaks, as per Laidin’s suggestion. Noreason to stand out in this crowd, even though that might beimpossible. They walked down the street or more precisely Laidin walkedwhile Angel stumbled. He was falling over everyone because hiseyes were never on where he was going. Laidin had never before heard anyone say ‘WOW’ so manytimes. ‘Here we are,’ she said, ‘a retreat favoured by El.’ Plants were growing everywhere and it looked like a nursery leftunchecked for a million years or so. Elves sat on tree trunks and in branches of trees, happily talkingand drinking. ‘We are safe here,’ she said as she pushed back her hood. They walked up to a bar and she ordered them a couple ofdrinks. It was sweet like honey. ‘Nectar of the gods,’ she explained. ‘Do not drink too many, they pack a punch and could leave youhung-over for a week,’ she grinned. They spent the rest of the evening chatting away. Angel told herabout earth and their customs, the diverse races. She showed 110
    • Waking the Angelextreme interest in his stories on Norse Mythology, and how itrelates to the truth, he now knew. ‘So we are gods on your planet?’ Laidin asked curiously. ‘There are few who still believe in the legends and worship thegods of old. The myths are still well known and makes forinteresting bed time stories,’ he said. Laidin told him of Elheimr. ‘Sounds almost exactly like how it is described in our fantasynovels,’ Angel remarked, ‘although it is a city, not an entireplanet!’ he added. It was getting late and they decided to head back to Arken. Thecity was as busy this time of night as when they got there. Street magicians were performing incredible magic. Angel kepton looking for the wires until Laidin told him that they are usingtrue magic and not illusion. The duo walked up a small street since Laidin was tired of beinghustled. Angel felt a little tipsy. ‘Did you enjoy yourself?’ she enquired. ‘Oh, I am going to,’ a gruff voice came from behind them. They turned around to find five burly creatures grinning stupidlyat them. They tried to go in the opposite direction, but five morevagrants blocked their passage. I am about to be mugged, and I am not even in New York, Angelnervously thought. LOBE spoke into his mind. ‘Why are you worried? This is your chance to test out your newabilities. Just don’t hurt them too badly,’ LOBE joked. He was right Angel thought. 111
    • Igor Swann He has been looking for an opportunity like this for weeks now.He had even tried to pick a fight with some of the students thatwere bullying an El who had trouble keeping up with the program,but they just walked away. ‘Stand back,’ Laidin ordered. ‘Not on your life,’ Angel replied with determination. Laidin sighed. ‘Okay back to back; and go for the ears and knees, which arethese scum’s most vulnerable areas.’ They started to dance. The adrenalin pumped so hard Angelcould hear the ringing in his ears. He lifted his leg and side kicked left and right at the nearest twoheads. One head flew into a wall followed closely by the body, theother spun around twice before it sagged into a crumpled mass. Yeah baby, he thought, this is going to be fun. The thugs seemed a little less sure of their strategy and decidedto draw their weapons. Laser whips that could slash clean throughyou, long thin poison blades and shock batons that could putdown an elephant appeared in their claws. Laidin dispatched one of her opponents with a short punch andthrew a second into his friend impaling him on a poison blade. ‘I guess he got the point,’ Angel smirked. The dance continued. Angel and Laidin had now circled away from each other, eachusing the wall as a cover for their backs. The whip screamed at Angel’s head. He ducked, or rather, hewas there and then he was not. 112
    • Waking the Angel The thug’s head exploded into the wall before the whip hadeven reached the place Angel’s head occupied moments before. ‘That’s what you call opening a can of whip-ass, or rathercanning the ass with the whip,’ Angel explained to no one inparticular. He felt a slight electric current prick the hair in his neck. Heimmediately jumped into the air and made a back summersaultlanding on a platform 16 feet above him. Two thugs both holding stun batons stared up at Angel. They looked at each other, and then looked back at him. It took a fraction of a second, but Angel had disappeared,except for his shadow, which seemed to have problems keepingup with him. ‘Here I am gentlemen,’ he said from behind them. They turned quickly batons swinging but all it made contactwith was each other’s jawbone, obviously with a littleintervention from Angel. The shock batons discharged and they lit up like Christmas treeswith their boots starting to smoke. ‘Hey, it’s a shocking remake of puff the magic dragon,’ Angelmanaged another corny remark. One burly gentleman that was sneaking up behind Laidin, foundhis feet not in contact with the ground any longer, and in onemovement Angel threw him to the end of the street. ‘He could have applied for his pilot’s license after thatperformance. Too bad he did not stick the landing though, mighthave lost points there.’ Angel’s mind must have been infected by this place, Laidinthought, he speaks no sense. 113
    • Igor Swann Laidin jumped and did a spinning kick aimed at one of the twobouncers in front of her; almost removing Angel’s head as well, ifhe had not ducked in time, but she did make contact with thetarget. The enemy slid on his backside until he hit the wall and lay still. After her foot made contact, Angel caught it. ‘Hey baby; want to go for a spin?’ he asked, and shoved her legin the opposite direction cleanly breaking the other distinguishedgentleman’s jaw. A confused Laidin lightly touched down. Peace returned to the street. ‘Hmmm that was fun, let’s do it again,’ Angel kidded. ‘Let us not,’ Laidin scolded giving Angel an angry look. Laidin’s unease grew. In all her years of coming here, she had never had anexperience like this or even heard of anyone having a similarexperience. This appeared premeditated. They walked back to the shuttle and took off in a hurry. Angel’s face creased with a deep frown; he obviously hadsomething on his mind. It felt like a fog lifted and he could thinkclearly again. ‘Laidin, would you keep this between us? If you tell them theywill never let me go off world again, and this was the best night ofmy life.’ She hesitated but agreed. ‘I do not like it but I do not have to, I suppose the choice isyours,’ she said. 114
    • Waking the Angel ‘Thanks… One more thing, please do not tell anyone about whatyou saw me do tonight. It’s a surprise,’ he gave her a sneaky grin. ‘The corny stand-up comedy with the terrible jokes?’ she askedsarcastically. ‘Especially not that!’ he smiled sheepishly, ‘I think I’ll leave thenectar of the gods, to the gods from now on.’ The weekly evaluation day arrived, and with this Sharin’schance to humiliate him. He had been holding back the previous 8 weeks not using hisspeed, strength or reflexes. Last week he had to fight Laidin and he definitely did not wantto hurt her. She was his only friend and the only one who seemedto care whether he lived or died. They did a few monotonoushaphazard manoeuvres together before Sharin haltedproceedings, claiming utter boredom. No, he wanted Sharin, and today was his big chance. He wassupposed to be the teacher’s punching bag for the day. LOBEbrimmed with delight at the prospect. He unlocked it all, and a little bit more even Angel was not privyto. Sharin started off by demonstrating a few attackingmanoeuvres with the bow-staff before she called Angel up, an evilgrin played across her face. ‘Even though I am not presented with a challenge, I will attemptto show the effectiveness if these techniques,’ she sneered. She hit, he blocked, effortlessly. Her face contorted in a mix of confusion and contempt. 115
    • Igor Swann She hit again, he blocked, and then, ‘accidentally’ swept herfeet from under her. He stayed rooted to the same spot the entire time. She furiously looked up at him from the flat of her back. Sharin flew up, twisted and sent a flurry of attacks in hisdirection. She moved at speeds that made the rest of the class look inopposite directions trying desperately to follow her movements. He just stood there pretending to yawn and with only one handon his staff blocked every one of her deadly assaults, his feet stillunmoved. Sharin charged, her eyes on fire, her muscles taunt like aracehorse. She desperately attempted to put the wooden training bladethrough his intestines. Angel moved and instantly became a blur. Her confused starestayed rooted to the spot where he was supposed to be. He tapped her on the shoulder with his bow-staff. ‘You’redead,’ he whispered into her pointed ear, his mouth inches away. She spun around, unfortunately for her, Angel’s bow-staff hadalready been repositioned and had inexplicably ended upbetween her legs; she ended up on her bottom again. Sharin flipped up but again found her legs not where they weresupposed to be for her landing and she landed flat on her face;Angel’s bow-staff completing the graceful arch that caused theaccident. He pushed her face down in the dirt with the end of his bow-staff. ‘Do you concede,’ he demanded. 116
    • Waking the Angel He took her grunt as ‘yes’, but it could have been somethingabout his mother. Laidin sat with a huge grin on her face while the rest of the classappeared gripped in unimaginable fear. Sharin did not bother to dismiss the class before storming off. The El seemed confused and too afraid to move in case the classwas not over, or that Sharin might notice them. One El trieddesperately to camouflage himself behind a blade of grass andanother imitated a shrub. Only Laidin jumped up and hugged him. She was as pleased as punch. 117
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 17 Brom clearly felt Teral’s disappointment. They had picked up the ion trail with the help of his mages.They followed the ion trail for 2 days until for no apparent reasonthe trail changed direction. This mystifying turn of events had flung the two leaders into aserious deliberation. They could not have known he and Brom were following sincethey were pursuing cloaked by his mages. The trails lead into Taur space in a straight line and judging bythe ion radiation at maximum burn. They were in a hurry to getback. Why were the Taur recalling their troops? Teral thought. ‘Shall we follow?’ Brom asked. ‘No, that would be futile. We do not have the numbers tocompete should we run into a border patrol and they summonreinforcements.’ ‘You are right, we would never catch a raiding party atmaximum burn in any event, and even if we did we would be inTaur space and we would be sitting broadwings1,’ Brom thoughtback equally disappointed.1 Stupid alien ducks, that cannot fly and cannot run fast either. This was ablessing since they always run towards the threat instead of away. Only reasonthey have survived this long is that they taste worse than their manure. 118
    • Waking the Angel The communications officer broke into the two leaders’thoughts. ‘Sir we picked up a signal beacon on the low frequency band, itseems like one on our spy network,’ he said into the mindcom. ‘What is the origin?’ Teral asked. ‘A small mining colony, Kend’d4 just inside Taur space sir,’ camethe reply. ‘Do we have any spies scheduled for pickup?’ Teral asked. ‘One second sir, I’ll find out.’ An intrigued Teral patiently waited for his communicationsofficer to verify their schedules. They do not usually welcomespies back, though they would if they ever came back. The work was deadly and the danger pay was tremendous whensuccessful. It could cripple most small races entire entertainmentbudget. However, spies had a 100% success rate in not beingsuccessful or returning from active duty, therefore, they haveunfortunately never had the pleasure of actually paying out thedanger pay. Nevertheless, by cleverly omitting this point from therecruitment brochure, new spies were still conned into a short lifeof service. The mindcom beeped again, ‘we have only one spy deployedsir. This is not his scheduled extraction, but he might haveuncovered something. He is the best we’ve got,’ thinking better ofcompleting the sentence with... left. ‘Set course commander, we might as well do something usefulon this tour.’ Brom seemed concerned, ‘what if this is a trap?’ 119
    • Igor Swann ‘We have to take the chance my dear friend,’ Teral answered,‘he might have information on why the Taur is amassing thatfleet.’ ‘You are right, we must take the chance. That fleet has beenbothering me incessantly,’ Brom replied with a grimace. He did not know what to make of these new developments inTaur behaviour, but knew it would not be pleasant. This might well be a trap, but they needed the informationbadly. ‘I wish I knew what suddenly made the Taur so brave. Have theyfound an ally somewhere, or found some artefact of greatpower?’ he thought aloud. That was unthinkable, but they had been doing a lot of deepspace exploration, far beyond normal scout missions, he thoughtto himself. ‘We will hopefully soon find out,’ Teral answered. 120
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 18 Angel woke with a scream stifled on his lips. LOBE eventually got the hang of tuning into his brother’sthoughts and was doing so at his convenience. He watched events on earth through his brother most nights,and it was quite pleasant really, since his brother had anexceptionally ordinary life. His brother often visited their father at the old age home, andAngel loved to listen in on their conversations. Tonight was different and Angel was terrified. Cold sweat flowed from every gland in his body. He ran madly, ran to find anyone who would listen. Angel screamed for Qren, Noone, Sharin anyone. The halls seemed endless. He ran. Around a corner and another, nothing. Where did Qren sleep? He ran past some guards and stopped long enough to getdirections. He ran on, still shouting in his mind for Qren. ‘Where are we going,’ LOBE yawned. ‘What? You saw the vision,’ Angel barked. ‘What vision? I did not start a vision?’ LOBE remarked. Angel ignored LOBE. He knew what he saw. He burst through a door and ran into a mystified Qren. They both lay sprawled across the floor. ‘They’re there,’ Angel screamed in his mind. 121
    • Igor Swann ‘Who’s where,’ Qren enquired calmly. ‘They, THEY, the things are on earth, your things,’ he was somessed up he could not remember what they, the Taur, werecalled. Qren understood, ‘the Taur?’ ‘Yes the Taur, they have invaded earth,’ Angel stammered. ‘Please calm down my lord, tell me everything,’ Qren tried hardto appear calm but he was also feeling panicked. ‘That is everything. My brother was watching TV and thebulletin came on about massacres. An alien race had invadedevery major population centre, and they were killing everything insight. They had pictures. It was the Taur, there is no doubt.’ ‘Do not worry my lord, we’ll think of something, we’ll dosomething,’ Qren answered at a complete loss. He did not even bother to wonder how Angel knew all of this. ‘WHAT, what can we do? By the time we get a fleet there theplanet will be destroyed, did you not hear me they are there.’ Angel continued at a frenetic pace stomping around like alunatic. ‘How could you let this happen? How could you let them findearth? How could you not know this was going to happen? Whydid you not leave us alone? You caused this, you caused this,’Angel shouted turning red in the face. Sharin and Noone came rushing in as well. Qren quickly gave them the run down. Sharin was furious but Noone seemed somehow deep inthought. ‘We have failed,’ Noone proclaimed. 122
    • Waking the Angel Angel felt like geysers about to erupt, even LOBE seemedsympathetic, since he had hoped to see earth one day. Anyway, he had grown attached to Angel and he hated seeinghim this way; the fact that he had no choice in his attachment toAngel was beside the point. Sharin and Qren just stared blankly in front of them, trying hardnot to make eye contact with Angel. Qren feeling guilty for his planet’s destruction and Sharinfeeling something, which could have simply been a stone in hershoe. Noone on the other hand seemed distant, as if he was figuringsomething out, something that did not seem to fit properly. If theTaur had moved a fleet through the earth jump gate, they wouldsurely have known. He turned to Angel and asked, ‘was there anything strangeabout the vision, contorted vivid colours, names spelt backward,or reversed. Movements that was too quick?’ ‘Now that you mention it, yes, this vision was different to all theothers. All the words in the vision appeared backwards. I noticedthat when the vision started, but so what?’ he did not understandwhy that was important. ‘There is time!’ Noone exclaimed. ‘What?’ All four of the others said in unison, okay of courseLOBE and Qren thought it. ‘There is time,’ Noone said again. ‘No there isn’t. They are there and they are killing us. Did younot hear the words that are coming out of my mouth?’ Angel saidagain, mouthing the last few syllables irritably. 123
    • Igor Swann ‘They are not there yet,’ Noone said calmly, ‘what you saw isthe future.’ ‘How,’ Angel asked frantic. ‘I noticed this in your predecessors. There were some strangereadings from them at certain stages through the night.’ ‘When I interviewed them through hypnosis and using a mind-projector which showed me the images of what they saw. I foundthey saw glimpses of the future, especially very traumaticsituations which seem to come into their mind from somewhere.’ Noone continued, ‘I then found out, from studying textcollected by the Arks from earth, that you humans have what iscalled a soul, it is in you but not part of the body.’ Noone seemed distant as if even now he was trying to makesense of this phenomenon. ‘This soul can leave the body and explore. You see, becausetime is bound to the physical universe, things with dimension,weight etc. we have to travel with time.’ ‘Okay, so,’ Sharin asked. ‘Well these Vanir soul entity travel on different planes wheretime has no meaning. It can travel forward, backward andsideways in time. It is not bound to time like us,’ Noone paused asif puzzled. ‘I have yet to find the use for the soul. I have no idea why Vanirhave them.’ He snapped out of the daze he seemed to have fallen into whenAngel spoke. ‘So it’s like our God, who can listen to everybody’s prayers atthe same time and knows how the earth is going to end,’ Angelasked. 124
    • Waking the Angel New understanding seemed to dawn on Angel. His mother being a devoted Christian had subjected him to hisshare of church services. ‘Now I understand what it means that to him a day is like athousand years and a thousand years like one day. Time has nomeaning in that realm,’ Angel remarked quoting the bible. ‘Anyway,’ Noone said, not appreciating the interruption. ‘When the soul has seen something very traumatic the thoughtsometimes filter through to the mind, but the thoughts aredistorted, and usually things are reversed in the visions, such asnames etc.’ ‘So I had a vision of a vision I was going to have in the future?’Angel asked perplexed. ‘Now this is real sci-fi,’ LOBE giggled in Angel’s mind. ‘That sound like the description of a dream to me. He isstudying the Taur at the moment, his mind may have fabricatedthis,’ Sharin remarked. ‘True, it could be a dream as well. We won’t be sure until ithappens, but can we take that chance?’ Noone asked. ‘No!’ Angel cried out, ‘We definitely cannot! But if I saw thefuture, and if it hasn’t happened, it is going to,’ he continued,killing Sharin’s thoughts. ‘Not necessarily. What you saw is one possible future and in thiscase the most likely one,’ Noone explained, ‘but that can bechanged, the past is irreversible but the future is a series ofpossibilities.’ ‘So how long do we have?’ Sharin demanded. 125
    • Igor Swann ‘I do not know. I shall have to place Angel under hypnosis andon the mind-projector and hope he has seen something useful inthe vision, something we can establish a time line from.’ Qren spoke for the first time, ‘then I suggest we do thatimmediately.’ ‘We will speak further when I have more,’ Noone advised, ‘inthe meantime Qren send out communiqués. We need the Senatehere now. Angel, follow me.’ He spent almost an hour interviewing Angel. When Angel woke, the questions were already forming, as hiseyes were still flickering open. ‘So how long do we have? Did you see anything useful?’ ‘I am sorry Angel, there was nothing I could use to deduce atimeline from,’ Noone apologized. Angel left feeling dejected. He wanted action, and he wanted it now. However, first hewanted an aspirin, in the form of whiskey. He found Qren in deep deliberation with Sharin. ‘We need to call in our forces now,’ Qren told her. ‘But that could take weeks. We do not have the time. In anyevent, we have no solid evidence. It could just be a dream. Howare we going to convince the UGE to bring in all their fleets on a,what did Noone call it? A soul flight,’ Sharin sneered. ‘It’s like asking them to believe in the Walker-monster1. We willbe laughed out of the senate,’ she concluded.1 The boogie monster’s evil stepmother with hairy legs; she scares boogiemonster. 126
    • Waking the Angel They saw Angel approach and stopped talking. ‘You are not going to do anything,’ Angel remarked, it was astatement more than a question. Qren spoke up, ‘we are my lord. We will do everything possible!We will fix this!’ He had heard enough. He turned and headed back to hisquarters. ‘How did he hear us?’ Sharin whispered when he was out ofearshot. ‘Super hearing,’ Angel’s distraught voice drifted in from thedistance. Sorrow overcame a beleaguered Qren, how could Sharin havebeen so heartless. He made a decision. He would send his fleet nomatter what the senate decided. He made a few calls. The first was to the Admiral of his fleet. ‘Admiral I need you to assemble our entire fleet, they must beready to deploy immediately. I shall explain later, it is imperativethis is done with the utmost urgency.’ The Arks were no fighters. They did not possess the fortitudefor bravery and heroism. Fortunately, their weaponry and technology were astonishingand they relied on this as a deterrent, instead of actual fightingskills. The dreadnaughts were the property of the Ark. TheDarkmoons, even though the UGE senate would deploy them,belonged to the Arks as well. 127
    • Igor Swann You would generally not attack the Arks and hoped to returnhome triumphantly. You might however get a standardizedautomated note of apology afterwards. The Arks were nothing if not polite. Qren sat deep in thought, how could they have allowed this tohappen. Unbeknownst to Qren, Sharin did something completely out ofcharacter. She brought her forces to full combat readiness, andcalled up all available El to active service. To an outsider it might look like she had gone soft. Some might say she actually cared about something. Careful observers would have noticed the glint in her eye. 128
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 19 Teral and Brom sat in stunned silence in the huge conferenceroom aboard the Imperial battle cruiser. They had heard the story from Guival, and read the minutesfrom the meeting. The end of the known universe had begun. ‘We need to get to the senate,’ Brom said quite unnecessarily. Teral was already thinking into his mindcom, ‘convene thesenate immediately.’ ‘Set course for Arken. Maximum burn and I do mean maximum.’ ‘Get all fleet commanders on conference mindcom,’ Teralordered. ‘Get mine as well,’ Brom added. ‘Call up all the reservists, get them all fitted and battle ready.NOW, NOW, NOW,’ Teral barked at the unfortunate lieutenantwho just happened to be bringing afternoon drinks. A few seconds later the message came back from thecommunications officer, ‘the senate is already convening sire,they request your and Lord Brom’s presence. The message cameflagged as priority black.’ Both Brom and Teral knew what that meant. The entire universe was under threat. Teral wanted to tell the senate immediately but he could nottake a chance and tip off the enemy thereby hastening theirjourney to earth. He could speak to his commanders; tell them to battle ready hisfleet, without giving them information that would alert the Taur. 129
    • Igor Swann Minutes later both Aesir and Dwar fleets were on full alert, andhe dispatched the fleet with him to join the armada. Only the Imperial Battle Cruiser continued on to Arken. They arrived at Arken that same morning. The rest of the senate, already there, were deep inconversation. Nobody except the Chief Senators knew what the bigcommotion was, and the rest were speculating to their heartscontent. However, not even their most ridiculous fantasy flightscame close to the gravity of situation. Qren called them to order with Angel sitting among the ChiefSenate on the dais. ‘We have called this meeting because Angel has had a vision ofthe future.’ He nodded at Noone who proceeded to convey the events ofthe previous evening, as well as his hypothesis. At the end Sharin added, ‘it might also be a dream, and we needto decide if we are going…’ she did not finish the sentence beforeBrom forcedly interjected. ‘That was no dream,’ he boomed. Blank stares met the leader of the Dwar, and a cold one from acertain raven headed princess. ‘We picked up an Aesir spy, Guival. He is waiting outside andwill confirm Angel’s vision,’ Brom said while he turned to theGuards. ‘Summon Guival.’ Guival stood on the same spot Angel did a few weeks earlierstaring nervously at the stark faces around him. ‘Members of the Senate,’ he began. 130
    • Waking the Angel ‘We all know the Taur had been amassing a fleet for unknownpurposes,’ but an irate Sharin cut him off. ‘Yes, yes get on with it,’ she spat, politely informing him tohasten his retelling or else. Guival hurriedly continued. ‘I managed to infiltrate the Taur tower, and found minutes of aTaur war council that contained disturbing news,’ Guival rambledoff as fast as his entertainer mind could form the words. ‘The minutes had the following lines spoken by Kra’st, we willcut off the head of the hydra and burn the wound closed soanother head cannot grow in its place’ He passed copies of the minutes to all the senators. ‘Lord Teral and Grand Master Brom deduced the same as I, thedeath of Lord Kasparov was no accident. There is a spy on Arkenand they did not know about Lord Angel because of theinformation blanket. However, the fleet left for Vanaheimr, orearth, almost a week ago. To burn the wound closed.’ The council sat dumbstruck. This was not what they hadexpected. Angel first to recover, the desperation clearly audible in hisvoice, spoke the words on everyone’s minds. ‘They left a week ago. Then my people are doomed,’ Angel saidfeeling the life drain from his body. Noone ignored him. ‘We need to bring the fleets on alert immediately. I suggest wecombine the Chief Senator’s fleets as our main attack force, andhave the other senator’s fleet serve as border protection.’ ‘From my estimates using the Bifrost jump point, compared tothe Taur fleet movement with partial jump points and having to 131
    • Igor Swanndo most of their journey on ship power on the space curves, Iestimate we must leave within two weeks to beat them to earth.’ ‘How long will it take to alert your commanders?’ Nooneenquired. ‘My fleet is being assembled as we speak,’ Qren announced,very proud of himself for his foresight. ‘So is mine,’ Brom said. ‘Mine too,’ came Teral’s voice. ‘The El fleet is on full alert as well,’ Sharin commented in a waythat would suggest she had the same motives. All the chief council turned to stare at her. They did not know what surprised them more, the spy’s news,or this. ‘What?’ she demanded irritably. They all suddenly pretended to be busy. Brom intently studiedhis nails. Teral saw a dirt spot on the roof. Qren found a wrinkleon his never crease tunic, and Noone desperately tried todetermine the taste of his pencil. Only Angel looked at the council with amazement andgratitude. They were anxious to help his people. They were rushing to gohelp the earth, even Sharin. ‘Thanks Princess,’ he murmured. She smiled at him, in a friendly way for the first time, or he wasalmost sure she did when he tried to recall the moment a nano-second later. It might also have been a very evil grin. ‘Thank you all,’ he smiled. ‘Then all that remain is, for the rest of the senators to get theirfleets ready,’ Noone continued. 132
    • Waking the Angel ‘I shall undertake to deploy them when they are assembled.’ ‘The chief council may continue to form the plans for the battleof earth,’ Noone concluded. The meeting disbanded in haste. 133
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 20 A confounded Angel ambled back to his quarters, ‘LOBE I didnot understand any of that. If the Taur fleet left a week ago, howare we able to take two weeks to prepare and still reach earthbefore them?’ ‘I figured you did not,’ LOBE thought, ‘I’ll try explain. Space isnot linear but rather curved, similar to a piece of cloth foldedmany times, or more accurately, like a Japanese fan. Normal timeflows with space curves, following the contours of the fan.’ ‘Are you following me so far?’ LOBE asked. ‘Yes, yes, space is a Japanese fan, go on,’ Angel sighed. ‘You take the fan and open it up, fan it out, and then makemarks at both ends of the fan. We then imagine one is Arken andone Earth. Then you measure the distance between the twopoints. Even when folded the distance between the points will notchange if measured tracing the outside of the fan’s surface. Areyou keeping up?’ LOBE asked suspiciously, wondering if Angel waskeeping up. Angel nodded. ‘Now fold the fan and press a needle through the fan’s bladesconnecting the two dots, measure that distance between thepoints going through the hole.’ ‘The second is a fraction of the first.’ ‘Uhuh,’ Angel acknowledged. ‘Jump points. They are holes through space folds. The one toearth that is in this sector, connects this fold with earth’s fold.Therefore, travel time to earth is the distance through folds, not 134
    • Waking the Angelalong them. In the case of earth, it would take weeks instead ofyears.’ He could see lights flickering in Angel’s eyes, from the inside. ‘The Taur do not have a hole that goes directly from here toearth. They have to, if we take the fan example again, jump to saythe third fold, and then they need to drive along the outside tosay the seventh, before they use a hole to the ninth. I think youget the picture now.’ ‘Yes thanks,’ Angel acknowledged, ‘you need a special engine totravel through these gates. This was developed by one of the UGELords. A Taur spy later stole it, which is a shame. It would havegiven us a huge tactical advantage,’ remembering having readabout it when he was studying his predecessors. ‘Bifrost,’ Angel jumped, ‘Noone said Bifrost.’ ‘Yep,’ LOBE acknowledged, ‘the legendary Bifrost Bridge thatconnects Asgard and Midgard in Norse mythology.’ ‘Wow,’ Angel breathed, ‘so the jump gate is the bridge.’ ‘Congratulations captain obvious,’ LOBE sneered. Angel decided to take a stroll in the gardens. This used to calmhis nerves and help him think straight. His route took him past Qren’s quarters where he saw ashadowy figure exit and slink down the hallway. ‘Do you think,’ he started but LOBE interrupted before he couldfinish. ‘Yep, follow it,’ LOBE commanded. The figure moved like lightning but Angel had no problemkeeping up. He moved silently and kept the figure in visual range. 135
    • Igor Swann The figure scanned its surroundings to make sure there were noobservers, before entering Noone’s room. Angel sneaked up to the door and listened. He could hear themysterious figure going through Noone’s personal belongings. Angel silently opened the sliding door. The figure looked up at him in horror. A mask of sorts coveredits face making it look like an evil ninja from some bizarre TVshow. It vaulted the table and bolted for the door, but Angel reactedfaster. He launched himself at the fleeing shape and in a singledeft movement clambered onto the sprawling intruder, twistingthe fugitive’s arm painfully behind its back. ‘Now let’s see who is hiding behind mask number one,’ hescoffed. As he reached for the mask the interloper twisted, and withexpert precision hit him solidly in the ribs. He was not expectingthis and had no time to counter. The pain blinded him and gavethe assailant enough time to get to his knees and kick. Angel flewseveral feet through the air and landed heavily against the desk,sustaining a heavy blow to the head and just barely stayedconscious. By the time he gathered himself the figure had made its escape. ‘Damn,’ he said and got groggily to his feet rubbing the bumpon his head. ‘I suggest we keep this little episode to ourselves,’ LOBEremarked sorely, ‘we don’t want our mission delayed because of aspy hunt. Anyway I don’t want to hear Sharin’s remarks on how,The Amazing UGE Lord, got beat-up by a lowly spy.’ 136
    • Waking the Angel That evening, Qren visited Angel and found him nursing thebump on his head. ‘What happened to you?’ Qren asked. ‘Shaving accident,’ Angel snarled and added in a much kindertone, ‘what can I do for you Qren?’ ‘My lord how much do you know about the mythology of Freyr.’ ‘Enough. Why?’ Angel sensed a story coming, his thoughtsreturned to the day in the senate meeting. The day when he wasfirst introduced, and how he sensed Qren knew more than he leton. ‘Assuming not enough then?’ he added smiling welcoming theopportunity for a distraction. ‘Walk this way,’ Qren suggested. Angel walked that way. ‘Hey this is not as easy as you make it look,’ ‘Was that an attempt at humour?’ Qren asked. ‘Sorry,’ Angel pretended to look embarrassed. They walked to a hover-platform, which gently skimmed offafter they took their positions. ‘In your mythology, there was a gift given to Freyr. Amythological ship; a very special ship, which folded up so he couldcarry it in his pocket and never ran out of wind for its sails.’ ‘How do you know that about our mythology? You have cableTV and you have been holding out on me huh?’ Angel grinned. Qren did not answer but simply continued with his story,‘anyway; this ship was called…’ ‘Skibladnir,’ Angel interrupted before LOBE could. The platform came to rest in front of a large building. 137
    • Igor Swann ‘Yes she was called Skibladne or Skibladnir as you rightlypointed out.’ Qren pushed a button and two massive doors silently swungopen. ‘My lord may I present the lady, Skibladne.’ Angel stood frozen, his mouth hung unashamedly open. It wasthe single most beautiful thing he has ever seen. LOBE gave a wolf whistle. ‘What? No comical banter?’ Qren asked in mock surprise. Skibladne, twice as long as a modern Airbus A380, it was sleek,and beautiful to behold. The design resembled a SR-71 Blackbirdbut with its three massive angular engines on the rear seamlesslyflowing into the nose, with an angled intake at the bottom of eachwing. The curved wings branched out from almost next to thecommand section. It was resting on three skids that resembled claws folded flat atthis moment, and the command centre was visible about a thirdof the distance from the nose to the tail. Skibladne shone with platinum coloured undertone, and shewas simply breathtaking. She radiated grace, stealth, agility andan attitude, which unmistakeably stated, you are welcome to tryto mess with me, but be sure that breathing is not an attribute youwish to possess in the near future. Qren kept on explaining, and Angel kept on answering with, ‘Ohmy god.’ ‘The most exclusive personal cruisers for the ultra rich hadsome bow plating over its most critical systems made fromZellion,’ Qren explained, ‘the hardest and lightest material known 138
    • Waking the Angelin the universe. It was also the scarcest and most expensive. Tobuild a complete ship from it was inconceivable,’ Qren continued. ‘And I assume she is?’ Angel asked. ‘Yes my lord. Skibladne is made entirely from Zellion.’ It was a marvel of modern alien engineering. Every single advancement and piece of innovative technologyimaginable was inside. Every race brought its most prized ancientartefacts, and it meant great glory to the race whose ancienttechnology became part of the lady. The ship’s power source was donated by the Griff, a poor racewho had very little to give. The energy source was the Griff homeworld’s main source of live, an ancient artefact of unimaginablepower. They were also a proud race and part of the then, newlyformed UGE. They were not going to disappoint. No one knew which ancient race left it there, but he was nottelling. It was inexhaustible, and not even the Arks when powering alltheir technology from it, could consume more than 10% of itspower output. The member races, to show their gratitude for such amagnificent gift, built power plants on all the Griff planets, and inaddition sent them agricultural and mining equipment. This elevated the Griff to an economically stable if notprosperous race. The Griff never forgot this show of generosity,and afterwards they formed the core of the humanitarian, orrather alientarian, drive in the UGE. ‘They supplied, the sails that were never without wind,’ Angelthought to Qren. ‘Yes my lord. That is what your mythology says.’ 139
    • Igor Swann All the Vanir Lords who inherited Skibladne kept on tinkeringwith it. Shields, navigation equipment, jump drives, ion engines,and adding weaponry far enhanced, beyond even that found inplanetary defences or on Darkmoons. The obvious reason beingthe immense power source they had to play with, but mainlybecause Skibladne was theirs. This power source was also the reason Skibladne could cloaklike the Aesir ships, but without magic. The speeds Skibladne could fly at were quite ridiculous, whichwas why Skibladne was built from Zellion. Any other materialwould simply disintegrate at that velocity. ‘This was of course before one of your predecessors inventedshields, now she can travel as fast as you can imagine,’ Qrenexplained. This ship was not only the fastest ever conceived but thedeadliest. Some reckon she is the only thing that can take on aDarkmoon and win, but no one who has ever seen a Darkmoonwas going to put any substantial bet on that. It had one more amazing feature, one that made it legendary.Its real hangar was not so much a place as a universe,dimensionally removed from ours. The ship created a tear indimensional space and moved into it. This was the combined effort of scientists and engineers fromall the races, and with substantial aid from ancient technology leftbehind on various planets. Whichever lord owned Skibladne at any moment in time, wouldcarry a DNA coded beacon in his pocket. Whenever he neededSkibladne he could call it by activating the beacon, and the shipwould appear wherever he was. 140
    • Waking the Angel Losing the beacons of course presented a real problem when ona road trip and calling AA roadside assistance because the vehiclewas sort of in another dimension and that implied their mindcomwas as well. On the other hand, there is no AA support on say anyplanet not named Earth; so no worries mate. Due to the forgetful nature of the UGE Lords, with the mostprevalent excuse being, ‘oh I must have left it in my other pants,’the beacon design later changed to reside on a wristband. With the beacon tuned to the ‘TNFR-12’ transformation gene, itmeant only someone with the gene and the beacon could callSkibladne. ‘Fold it and carry it in his pocket, apt description,’ Angel smiled asmile that almost encircled his head. Now it is mine, Angel thought with a satisfied grin playing acrosshis face. If Angel thought this was where his surprises would end thisevening he was in for a very big surprise. ‘Can we take her for a spin?’ he asked Qren. ‘Why would you want to do that?’ Qren enquired with a puzzledlook on his face. ‘I meant can we fly her,’ Angel corrected himself. ‘Yes my lord, she is your ship, you can do with her as youplease.’ ‘You command the ship mostly by thought, and as I said she istuned to the transformation gene so she will listen to you,’ Qrenexplained, ‘just ask her to let you in.’ Angel did and the hull of the ship exposed stairs that lit up andled into her bowels. It was as beautiful inside as out. 141
    • Igor Swann There were 10 fully fitted luxury cabins inside, along with akitchen, and a state of the art conference room. There were morerooms but he could not immediately deduce what function theyperformed. In the rear of the ship, he came upon a sizable hangarwith two hover-bikes of a design Angel had not yet seen on theplanet. Then there was the crown jewel, namely, the commanddeck. This was magnificent, Six high back leather seats stoodaround the deck. Each one positioned in front of some commandconsole, tactical and engineering, weapons, shields and scanners,and the pilot and co-pilot seats, where he and Qren took uppositions. ‘I cannot show or explain to you all her capabilities. Much ofwhat she is capable of is frankly beyond me. I am sure she willinform you in due time.’ ‘Fly now, talk later,’ Angel said. ‘Think of your training and then tell Skibladne what you requireof her. You may give one command that would mean multiplethings to her, like ‘take off’ would mean, do checks, start engine,lift off and retract landing gear.’ Angel thought hard, and then relaxed as he heard the massiveengines come to life. It was the sound of distant thunder,continuously rolling in. ‘Your predecessors liked the sound but if you wish she could runin complete silence.’ She lifted off the ground a couple of feet and retracted herlanding gear. Angel told her to leave the hangar, and she shot off like a wildmustang begging for the taste of freedom. ‘Yahoo!’ Angel cried, his face frozen in a grin. 142
    • Waking the Angel ‘When you fly she will be in tune with your thoughts, you do nothave to give explicit commands. She will sense when you wish toaccelerate, slow down, turn, stop, etcetera. She will not perform amanoeuvre, which is beyond her capabilities, or would endangerher or you. If you become incapacitated and she cannot senseyour mind anymore, she will fly directly here, or the nearest UGEship.’ ‘Your crew will unfortunately need to give manual commands,or use the consoles. You are the only one whose thoughts she willaccept... or anyone else with the transformation gene,’ he quietlyadded. This took Angel by surprise. ‘Yes, but I am the only one carrying the gene who knows aboutSkibladne, right?’ he asked puzzled. ‘Well my lord. That is not exactly true.’ 143
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 21 The war room was abuzz with a quite heated debate. ‘I am not forming the reserve,’ Brom said, ‘let Qren form thereserve.’ ‘What do you mean I am not in command of this mission,’Sharin forcibly interjected. ‘I am by far the most senior and I AM EL,’ according to her thatsettled it, but only according to her. ‘Well I have the most experience with Taur battle tactics. I havebeen hunting them for many years,’ the quietly commandingthoughts from Teral entered their minds. ‘Yes but have you ever faced a Taur armada?’ Sharin gave asnide sneer. ‘I am not heading up the reserve!’ Brom boomed again, highlyagitated. Angel did not pay any attention to the volatile deliberation. Hishead swam with thoughts of Skibladne mostly, but also very muchwith what Qren had told him afterwards. LOBE cut in. It would seem he did listen. ‘You better become a lord real soon your graciousness,’ henoted sarcastically, ‘or we are never going to get off this rock.’ ‘What? Oh, what do I know about war tactics LOBE?’ Angelasked. ‘Everything, you studied it for weeks and you have me,’ he saidwith a fierce thought. ‘So what do you want me to say?’ Angel asked. ‘Tell them this…’ LOBE proposed. 144
    • Waking the Angel It was brilliant. ‘Lord Kasparov could not have done better,’ Brom remarkedand everybody agreed. A content band of leaders left to go organize their troops, givethem stirring pep talks, hoist a lot of flags and say a lot of, ‘someof you might not return, but the rest of us will remember youwhile we drink ourselves silly, don’t worry you won’t feel a thing.We will be the unfortunate ones left with the hangovers.’ At last, Angel had some quiet time to reflect on Qren’s wordsfrom the previous night. Apparently, Freyja’s gender was not the only anomaly in thestory. Angel had guessed correctly, when he thought there weremore to this tale. Freyja also had the gene. After her brother, Freyr’s transformation, some of it seemed tohave filtered down to her. The mind link became stronger andstronger, she and Freyr became like Siamese twins, attached atthe soul. The link between Angel and his brother only seem to be activewhen he is in delta sleep, and with a lot of interference fromLOBE. The link between Freyr and Freyja were continuouslyactive. They could communicate through it, and see through eachother eyes. They both kept it well hidden, although Freyja spoke ofeverything she saw. Neither knew where the other was. The Arkdid not initially tell Freyr where he came from, and since he wasthe first, Arken did not have any record of earth. Freyja only sawthe world of the gods through her brother’s eyes. 145
    • Igor Swann It was only when they were both well into their twenties thatthey invited Freyja to Arken. LOBE started to quote from a book Angel had read 15 years ago. ‘Freyja was said to be a beautiful sorceress who could fly in afalcons skin and some traditions state that on her arrival inAsgard she taught the gods the spells and charms of the Vanir, hertrue name is not known...’ ‘Was this the new power she possessed, or the soul link? Didshe explain to the Ark how it worked?’ Angel wondered. ‘The falcon skin sounds like a spaceship,’ LOBE had observed. ‘Freyjas greatest treasure was the Brisingamen necklace. TheBrisingamen necklace was crafted by four dwarfs with suchartistry that it glittered like a constellation of stars in the nightsky...’ This meant nothing to either LOBE or Angel. It was not apparentfrom the tale Qren had told them the previous night. ‘She was the keeper of feminine magic; Unleashing magicalforces were like breathing to her. Freyja was an exceptionalwarrior. She was skilled at the form of ecstatic, consciousness-altering and sometimes malicious magic called seidhr…’ Qren explained this to Angel. Her visit to Arken includedtraining in combat and full mind transformation after which shebecame very powerful. 146
    • Waking the Angel Except for her mind, her body reacted much the same as Angel.Her reflexes and speed became unmatched in the UGE, and evenher brother took many a beating. She gained the power to block thoughts and project anythingshe wished directly into the subconscious of another mind. Thevictim would believe whatever she suggested. She used this to seduce or destroy. She could play withanyone’s emotions and feelings twist and turn it to her heart’sdesire. The senate decided to return Freyja to earth because itwould be too dangerous to keep her on Arken. They told Freyr under a brainwave scrambler so the mind linkwould not project the thoughts. Freyr even though distraught, agreed that she could destroy theUGE if she was turned. She had the ability to subject a mind to herwill, which was an incredibly dangerous skill to have running wildon your planet. Freyja employed this ability on numerousoccasions with increasing incidents. She was a feminist and believed woman should be elevated andassume positions of power, which in itself was not a problem, butthis was not a case of fighting for equal rights, she wanted themen to bow at her feet and worship her. They came up with a brilliant plan. ‘She is patroness of women who attain wisdom, status, andpower, since the Valkyries had been ordinary women, thenpriestesses, and after being Valkyr became Norns, the GreatGoddesses who weave the fates and histories of people and ofnations…’ 147
    • Igor Swann They requested Freyja to recruit other females with the gene,unlock their powers and create a small tactical army on earth.They would be the protectors of earth. She felt this was a wonderful opportunity, for she washomesick, and longed to return to earth, not having lived onArken from birth like Freyr. They gave her a scanner to find females with the gene, and acopy of the mind-transform technology, which they managed toduplicate with some measure of success. It was not as thorough as the original alien artefact, but it couldstill turn her army into semi-super humans, with skills farsurpassing that of their kin. She was pleased with this since her army would have powersinferior to her, and she enjoyed the thought of being the mostpowerful female in the universe. Freyja received a small fighter, called gyrfalcon customized toher specifications with a little help from Freyr, before shereturned to earth. After her return to earth, Freyja created an amazingunderground army of female warriors, which she kept secret fromthe world. She called them the Valk’r. They were her daughters she felt, she created them, and shewas their mother. The Valk’r did amazing things, always from theshadows, but deeds that transformed earth’s history and stoppedmany wars. Even more than they started, since an apt descriptionof the Valk’r would be a promiscuous society and men will bemen. 148
    • Waking the Angel Freyr1, his human name, given to him by Freyja, often travelledto earth in Skibladne to visit his sister. Freyr fell in love on one of these trips with a Valk’r called Gerd.Together they had a son called Fjolnir who later became aSwedish king; hence, the Swedish believe that Freyr was anancestor of theirs.1 Freyja heard her brother called ‘lord’ by the UGE and took this to be hisname; Freyr directly translated means ‘lord’. 149
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 22 This story of the Valk’r formed the basis for the first part ofAngel’s master plan. He would travel to earth and bring the Valk’r out of hiding. The earth is going to know of the existence of the alien races inany event. There was no reason for the Valk’r secrecy anymore. The second step would be to inform the world leaders of theapproaching threat. He thought Skibladne would serve as a greatpersuasion tool in case, or rather when, they do not believe him. He could just imagine their faces when he let the ship oflegends appear on the Whitehouse lawn or the Palace ofWestminster. Guival was to accompany him in human form. If the need arose,he could transform, being an added incentive for them to believehim. There was one more addition to Angel’s team needed for theplan to succeed. First, another short story needs telling. In Freyja’s old age, she retired feeling unworthy of leading theValk’r. She gave the reins temporarily to her deputy Brunhild whobecame the most well known Valk’r of all time. She was a mightywarrior and fought bravely for the Valk’r way, and she was theonly chief of the Valk’r who was not from the house of Freyja. Freyja was married to a man called Odur with whom she had adaughter, who she called Gersemi meaning ‘dear bijou’. 150
    • Waking the Angel Her choice of Odur was no accident. She had scanned earth fora male carrying the gene, assuming through normal genetics thegene would pass to the next generation. She did not intend to let the leadership of the Valk’r leave thefamily. She was correct in her assumptions, and Gersemi carriedthe gene like her mother and father. Gersemi accompanied Freyr to Arken where she was mindtransformed with the original artefact. She would be Freyja’s truesuccessor. The tradition of the successor came into being. The successor would return to earth on her 24 th birthday. She would then receive 1 year of intense training on the Valk’rway from the current chief, before taking over the chieftainship. The successor tale had a twist however, where a year beforeher return she would seduce the current UGE Lord and to bear achild from him. This child was always female1. The girl born from the union would remain on Arken, andbecome the next Valk’r chief when she reached the prerequisiteage.1 For a male to carry the gene, neither parent would have the gene. When thegene occurred in a male, the offspring would always be twins, where only onetwin would have the gene. This would maybe occur twice in a generation.There were no rules for the gene forming in females, but to ensure that afemale would definitely carry the gene, both parents had to have the gene. Theoffspring would always be female, when both parents carried the gene.Accidental female gene carriers happened frequently from single parent orneither parent carrying the gene and after their discovery recruited into thesecret Valk’r order. 151
    • Igor Swann Ark science made the process less crude, with the artificialcreation of the next Valk’r chieftain in a laboratory on Arken, byusing samples from the current UGE Lord and the soon to beValk’r chieftain. When Qren explained this to Angel, he suddenly rememberedthe girl he saw in the palace window. ‘She’s here right?’ he said. ‘In the palace, I caught a glimpse ofher, I think.’ ‘True’ Qren replied, ‘She is here. She will accompany you backto earth since she is your only link to the Valk’r. Although she istoo young to be able to find them, they will find her, so beprepared.’ ‘How old is she?’ Angel asked. ‘She is now 8 of your earth years. Her name is Gemmi,’ hecontinued, ‘But do not be fooled by her young age. She has agenius IQ, and she has been educated in most combat techniques.She has already acquired all the abilities of her predecessors to alesser degree,’ and, he sighed, ‘she is also an extremelyheadstrong child.’ ‘Oh no, just what I need’ Angel thought, ‘a mental midget withan attitude.’ ‘I shall teach you a technique that will shield your mind fromher; or else she would manipulate you as she wishes,’ Qrenseemed genuinely concerned. ‘Good, I have had enough women on earth messing with mymind,’ Angel retorted. ‘Heed this warning my lord, she also carries the gene, she cancontrol Skibladne if she wishes to do so,’ Qren added. 152
    • Waking the Angel ‘Great,’ Angel’s sarcastically remarked, ‘now she can steal myride as well. This is going to be a fun trip.’ He turned his thoughts inward to LOBE, ‘you up for babysittinga hell’s angel?’ He went straight to voicemail. Angel walked back to his quarters, wondering what happenedto LOBE. He had tried talking to him for a while now but withoutsuccess. Due to their departure being so close, he could not worry aboutthat now. In a different part of the palace, two other travellers were alsohard at work preparing for the journey. ‘I am taking Loser along,’ Gemmi screamed. ‘No young lady, you are not,’ the adamant guardian refused togive in to the child’s demands. She could see the frown on Gemmi’s face, and knew she wasconcentrating hard on twisting her mind into a pretzel. ‘NO, stop that this instant.’ Gemmi’s face relaxed, ‘but he is just a baby Gerbit1, he won’tharm anyone or get in the way.’ For some inexplicable reason this Gerbit formed a mind linkwith Gemmi or she with it. It never left her side, and would1 Gerbits are small blue monkey like creatures, intelligent and mischievous,also completely un-trainable and uncontrollable. They are immune to magic.They have one other attribute displayed when they got angry. They couldshape shift, and their alter egos are fearsome enormous creatures. It could ripoff your head while playing with you, not that the alter ego was the playful sortbut it would try putting it back on for the rest of the afternoon. 153
    • Igor Swannprotect her to the death. This made Gemmi’s combat trainingcumbersome indeed. Thankfully, it also listened to her, so whenshe eventually explained to it that she was not in danger it wentoff to go swing on the ceiling rafters, quite content. The guardian stood fast. Gemmi’s mouth went, ‘okay, I’ll leave him,’ but her thoughtswent, ‘there is no hope in hell he’s staying here.’ The keen observer would have spotted a twinkle in her eye, butthe guardian was not a keen observer with her back turnedtowards Gemmi. In yet another part of the palace Guival continued his packingwith the excitement of a girl at a 75% off clearance sale in a shoestore. He was going to see earth, and he was not going to have toinfiltrate anywhere he would most likely leave with a blaster holeor be submit to torture… ignorance was bliss. 154
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 23 Angel felt the pressure grow with every passing moment. Theyneeded to leave soon to mobilize the Valk’r and earth’s defencesbefore the main armada arrives. He managed to have one last consultation with Qren beforesaying goodbye. ‘My lord, do not be concerned, Skibladne knows the way toearth. She has been there many times. Simply tell her you wish togo there. We have loaded her cargo bay with all the weapons,scanners and technology she could carry for the governments onearth to deploy.’ ‘Thank you my friend. Be safe and god speed. My world iscounting on you,’ Angel had said with a lump in his throat. The rest of the senate all came to say farewell to the UGE Lord. ‘You have only been with us a while my lord, but you havestolen our hearts. We will stand by your side till we draw our lastbreath,’ said a very sincere Brom. He echoed the sentiments ofthe rest of the crowd gathered there. Sharin, refusing an inferior race to outclass her farewell, saidsomething to this effect. ‘Never fear the El is here,’ but nobody heard, since Angelcompletely by accident, started Skibladne’s engines with athought. He boarded Skibladne with Guival and Gemmi; both of thelatter were nervous being on the ship of legends for the first time.A dark shadow followed them onboard, but it was only there foran instant, then it was gone. 155
    • Igor Swann The hatch clicked close. The three quickly stashed their belongings in their quarters,before they took up position in the chairs on the command deck.Guival took care of tactical, shields, engineering andcommunications, while Gemmi controlled scanners, sensors andweapons. Angel felt proud of this move. Give her something tokeep her occupied, something important and she will be out myhair. Angel flopped down in the driver seat, and gave Skibladne thecommand to take off. After one last wave to his friends, he simply told her, ‘Earthplease my lady.’ Skibladne accelerated to a speed that squeezed every bit of airfrom their lungs, or more accurately his and Gemmi’s. Guival had no breath to take away. It felt as if someone had tieda rope to their hair and was now trying to extract their skullthrough their mouths. Guival simply touched a floor panel, and now looked up at themas part of the floor. Skibladne showed no mercy, as she kept on accelerating. They broke free from Arken’s atmosphere, and the pressurestarted to decrease. Angel swivelled his chair to face the rest of his intrepid crew,slowly looking them over. ‘Ehem,’ Angel cleared his throat. ‘This is your captain speaking. If I may have your attentionplease, thank you,’ Angel said. ‘You, the fearless crew of the lady Skibladne, were chosenbecause you’re the best of the best. Our mission is vital to the 156
    • Waking the Angelcontinued existence of all the member races of the UGE and infact the UGE itself. The mission has a potential survival rating of2%. We do not expect there to be any survivors, but they willremember us as heroes. They will sing songs about us. They willcompose ballads and tell their children of the brave adventurersAngel, Guival and Gemmi who gave their lives so that they mightlive.’ He saw their eyes widen. Not so cocky now Gemmi, he thought. Angel laughed ‘Nah just kidding,’ he continued, ‘what we needto do is get hold of the Valk’r and bring them out of secrecy. Thatis where you come in Gemmi. You are the beacon that will bringthem to us. Guival you will need to absorb a human form definition. Thenwe, that’s me, you Guival and you Gemmi will need to convincethe heads of all the powerful nations to get battle ready for thefight for the continued existence of the human race.’ He finished with, ‘After that Gemmi you may choose to staywith me, or join the Valk’r, and Guival you may choose to stay orjoin the Aesir fleet which then should have joined us.’ They just kept on staring at him as if he was speaking Russianwith a Japanese accent in the Central African rainforests toPigmies. ‘Would you just repeat that last bit again,’ Guival asked. ‘Which part?’ Angel asked Guival. ‘From ‘Ehem’,’ Guival answered. ‘You’ll be fine,’ Angel laughed. ‘Just follow my lead. Remember this is an alien society to bothof you so be as inconspicuous as possible. That means Guival youdo not change shape, and Gemmi you do not get people to take 157
    • Igor Swannoff their clothes and dance naked in the streets. Is thatunderstood?’ They nodded their heads like two little kids, both with a veryevil and quite disconcerting glint in their eyes. ‘When will we arrive at our destination,’ Gemmi asked in aformal tone, an, I’m bigger than I look wê wê-wê WÊ wê tone. ‘Best estimate, 4 days. Skibladne is about three times as fast asthe quickest ship in the UGE fleet. We left just before theDarkmoons, which should enter earth’s orbit with their 8dreadnaught escort in about 14 days.’ They stared at him yet again. ‘If you keep on staring at me like that I am going to get reallyself conscious,’ Angel smiled. ‘The Darkmoons are going to earth?’ Guival asked. ‘Yes my friend, they will orbit earth. We wanted them to orbitearth’s moon but we could not quite decide which would orbitwhich. Even though a few small fast fighters could still getthrough, an entire occupation force cannot.’ He tried to read their faces. ‘Happy?’ Angel asked. ‘Very,’ they replied in unison. ‘Okay, I’m going to lie down for a while,’ Angel remarkedwearily. ‘You kids play nice now that you are here.’ Again, the nodding of heads ensued. ‘Can you keep a secret,’ Gemmi asked Guival when Angel leftthe bridge. ‘Sure, what is it, wait let me guess; it is the Gerbit that slippedinto your room as we left?’ Guival projected a grin. 158
    • Waking the Angel ‘You knew? And you did not betray me?’ Gemmi asked with herbrow wrinkled. ‘Naturally young lady, I am a spy after all. It’s my job to noticethings,’ Guival added, ‘but your secret is safe with me Gem.’ Gemmi looked at Guival as if she just found the most wonderfulperson in the world, someone who actually understood her. She liked him a lot. Angel she did not understand. She could sense he was powerful,much more powerful than she was. Probably like Loser comparedto his Gerbit alter ego. She decided she was definitely the cuter ofthe two of them. He was at least a zillion times stronger thanKasparov. She did not like Kasparov; he was too uptight. However,it seems as if Angel was doing his best not to accept his power,but at the same time, he knew he needed it all to succeed in hisdestiny. She came to a decision, I to help him. She wondered if he would be okay with her Gerbit. Sure hewould be. She could tell Loser to listen to Angel and Guival. If theysee he is good, they would probably not be mad at her. Gemmi quickly ran to her cabin to free Loser. He jumped on hershoulder and they ran back to the command deck. Guival who knew what vicious monsters they could becometentatively approached the blue monkey like creature. He tried hisutmost not to upset the little creature. ‘So does he get angry much?’ he asked Gemmi. ‘No not at all, only when someone is nasty to me, but as soon asI tell him we are friends and just pretending he calms down,’ shesaid with a playful smile. 159
    • Igor Swann ‘Although it’s difficult to put the person back together againafterward, but Loser won’t attack him anymore,’ she joked. Guival gave her a horrified look. ‘I’m kidding,’ she laughed. ‘Loser let me introduce Guival, he is my friend,’ she placedemphases on the friend part, ‘Guival this is Loser, he is my bestfriend in the whole world.’ Gemmi looked like she wanted to hugeverything in sight including the chair. The Gerbit walked up to Guival and extended his arms, Guivaltentatively extended his as well and Loser jumped into them. Hequickly scampered onto Guival’s shoulder and hugged him, histiny face pressed tightly to the cheek of the blue metallic Aesir. Guival projected, ‘thank you,’ to the Gerbit. He was sure he got a warm feeling back from the monkey, as ifto say, ‘you’re my friend now.’ Guival was dumbstruck. ‘He spoke to you, didn’t he,’ Gemmi remarked. ‘I saw the look on your face, and yes he can speak, but not inwords. Loser uses feelings. After a while you can understand himquite well,’ she explained. ‘It’s my fault really,’ Gemmi gave a shy smile. ‘We became friends from his birth, and I was very young then,probably 5.’ ‘I did not know how to control projecting feelings then, and hepicked up the trick. Gerbits are very smart you know,’ she keptbabbling. ‘So now he can do what I taught him. Like project emotions andattach a thought to it so you can know what he is saying. He 160
    • Waking the Angelunderstands you very well, ask him to do something,’ she toldGuival excitedly. Okay thought Guival, but this is stupid. ‘Loser, fetch me a toothbrush please.’ A confused emotion came back from Loser that felt like, ‘whatthe hell do you want to do with a toothbrush? You have nomouth.’ Gemmi started to giggle hysterically. Guival tried again. ‘Yes, well, climb on the captain’s chair and then do a backsummersault with a single twist.’ Up, summersault, one twist… this was amazing. ‘Wow,’ he projected, ‘you are an amazing little guy aren’t you.’ He was careful not to say creature or animal in case the Gerbitthought he was human or something. Loser chattered excitedly. A big commotion in the command centre woke Angel with astart. He found Gemmi sitting in front of two furry little creatures.They were playing a game where she was trying to find out whowas Loser and who was Guival. Angel cleared his throat, but there was no anger in his voicewhen he spoke. ‘So we have a little stowaway,’ he paused, ‘now which one ofthese two do we throw out the airlock I wonder. They both lookthe same to me. Gemmi maybe you can tell me which one is thestowaway.’ Gemmi looked up in fear. She could give up Guival but she likedhim, and Angel would be mad. She could never give up Loser. 161
    • Igor Swann Angel saw tears well up in her eyes and her bottom lipquivered. She contemplated using her mind trick but sensed thepotent protection around his mind. If she let her consciousnessflow into his, she might never return. Angel examined the distraught faces in front of him. He had avery good idea what thoughts were flashing through Gemmi’smind right now. Angel decided to end their suffering. ‘So, are you going to introduce me to your friend? Or are wegoing to be strangers all the way to earth?’ he asked with anaughty. She beamed and hugged him, ‘thank you Angel,’ she screamedhappily. ‘He is my best friend in the whole universe. His name is Loser,and we would die if we had to be apart.’ Angel switched to his best Captain’s voice. ‘Well he is a part of the crew now, and needs to take up hisresponsibilities the same as everyone else. He will be in charge ofbringing the Captain’s coffee.’ Angel almost fell on his back when the little Gerbit halted infront of him and saluted. Angel, stunned, saluted back. The Gerbitran off to the kitchen and returned with a cup of coffee. Angeltook it as if he saw his mother’s ghost, God rest her soul. ‘Thank you,’ he stammered amazed. Guival who had subsequently returned to his usual form,projected to Angel, ‘careful my lord he can understand everyword you say, and he can speak through emotions. He is noordinary animal, and I have a feeling he is going to be quite auseful addition to this crew.’ 162
    • Waking the Angel ‘Amazing,’ Angel breathed. ‘Good thing he could sense your emotions when you made thecomment of ejecting him,’ Guival added. ‘Why?’ Angel asked. ‘Let us simply say, there are not many things in this universe aUGE Lord needs fear. An angry Gerbit needs to be near the top ofthat list.’ Angel did not fully understand and Guival did not elaborate. Gemmi danced around with Loser, as happy as a mouse in acheese factory. Angel felt the joy spill into his troubled mind. He was cheerfulfor the first time in ages. He liked the crew. They were the nicestteam he could have wished for, and if you forgot their outwardappearance, they were probably the most lethal as well. They were in close proximity of the Bifrost jump point when thecommunication consol beeped. What is the matter now? Angel thought. ‘Two ships of our starboard bow,’ Guival remarked. ‘Establish contact,’ Angel commanded. ‘My lord, the pilots of the ships identified themselves as Laidinof the El and she had Kirom of the Dwar accompanying her,’Guival relayed the message. Guival seeing Angel’s mystified expression misinterpreted it asnot recognizing the names, ‘Laidin is head of EL intelligence andKirom is of the Dwar royal family,’ he explained, ‘both aretrustworthy.’ Laidin, his friend, was the El’s chief spy. How was that possible?She trained with him. 163
    • Igor Swann They pulled alongside in two fighters. Laidin piloted an El fighterand Kirom in a small Dwar fighter. Angel could see from the design they were no ordinary fighters.They were both exquisite pieces of alien technology. Laidin piloted a golden ship, which was in stark contrast to themidnight black Dwar fighter. Both, though very different, would cause every Trekkie andother sci-fi nut to drool incessantly. Angel had never seen fighters that looked like this and he hadstudied every fighter configuration in existence. How did they manage to intercept Skibladne? That wasimpossible was it not? ‘They are asking permission to come aboard my lord,’ Guivalpatiently reminded Angel. ‘Huh? Sure, of course,’ Angel returned from his reverie. Angel opened the hangar bay doors with a thought. ‘Please welcome them aboard,’ Angel commanded. 164
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 24 A gorgeous golden haired elven girl stepped onto the commanddeck. A dwarf accompanied her. However, like Brom and unlikeany other dwarf Angel had seen, this one had bright red hair tiedin a smart ponytail. He sported a neatly kept goatee wrapped in apiece of leather. He was taller than all the dwarves he had encountered before,standing around 5’2’ in his impressive boots. The duo’s most noteworthy features were the bow-staff onLaidin’s back and, Angel could not believe it, was that Mjolnirstrapped to Kirom’s back? He fondly hugged Laidin and theyexchanged cheerful smiles. Laidin smiled when she noticed Angel staring at Mjolnir. ‘Yes my lord that is Mjolnir with Kirom and this is the Bow ofOdin. Grand Master Brom asked Kirom to come, and Kirom askedme to join him. Brom was a little upset about this of course,’ shesmiled at Kirom. ‘But he agreed when he heard that you and I were friends. Heasked us to tell no one, and he presented Kirom with Mjolnir.Kirom is Brom’s brother, which is why he is able to lift thehammer.’ ‘Your majesty,’ Angel curtsied. ‘My lord,’ Kirom acknowledged. ‘So here we are on our secret mission,’ Laidin laughed. Angel’s confused look reappeared, ‘What mission?’ Laidin attempted an explanation. 165
    • Igor Swann ‘Brom and Teral suspect there is a mole close to the senate. Wefound top-secret information leaked to the Taur, which could onlycome from someone in the council. It was done so covertly andwith such skill that none of our counter intelligence operationshave been able to locate the source,’ she continued. ‘Teral and Brom wished us to secretly join this team so we mayassist you in this vital mission. We anticipate that the mole wouldfind a way to inform the Taur of your journey, and we expect thatthey would be quite unprepared to deal with the addition of bothOdin’s bow and Mjolnir.’ ‘That makes sense, my lord,’ Guival said. ‘I know Laidin and Kirom, and bar Sharin and Brom, there arenone that can fire a bow more accurately than Laidin or create amore skilled pinpoint storm than Kirom,’ he smiled a devilishsmile. ‘Most would agree that Laidin is the far superior archer, but notwhere Sharin could hear them.’ Angel nodded, he knows of the devastating power of Mjolnir,which can create an electric super-storm with hundreds oflightning strikes per square mile. He however, had not thought ofOdin’s bow still being around. Would it not be in the possession ofSharin if it were? He kept this to himself, not wishing to offendLaidin. According to the mythology he knew, it was able to fire 10 boltswith every shot. Hmmmm, Angel thought, legends and fantasy have theopportunity to become reality. The Human, the Dwarf, the Elf, andthe Wizard with the bonus of a Valkyrie and a shape shifting 166
    • Waking the Angelmonkey off to save, not the kingdom, but rather the entireuniverse. He smiled at the thought as he ordered Skibladne into Bifrost. It took a while before he had the chance to catch up with Laidin. They crew kept themselves busy with unpacking and sorting outtheir cabins. He hesitantly knocked on her cabin door. ‘May I come in Laidin?’ ‘Of course my lord,’ she answered. ‘There are a few minor details I am still unclear on,’ Angelstated. ‘I thought there might be my lord.’ ‘Why were you training with students when you are head ofintelligence of the El?’ he asked. ‘I was hunting the mole my lord,’ she explained, ‘both Sharinand I felt this would be the perfect cover for me. Joining a bunchof inept students would not draw any unwanted suspicion to an Elwandering about asking questions.’ ‘Inept? And why did you not ask for my help?’ Angel felt a littlehurt, ‘you knew I could not be the mole, and I would have gladlykept my eyes and ears open. I was allowed everywhere andnobody paid much attention to me?’ ‘I know my lord, and I wanted to ask you, but Sharin refused,and I had to reluctantly agree. We could not put your life indanger. You are too important to the continued existence of theUGE.’ He understood, though he was still not happy with the reason. Angel smiled awkwardly, ‘well I am very happy to have youalong on this trip my friend.’ 167
    • Igor Swann ‘I am happy to be here my lord, good friends are hard to comeby, and even harder to keep in the lives we lead.’ Angel was curious about one other thing. ‘If you do not mind me asking, how old are you now?’ ‘I am 212 earth years my lord, still quite young for an El,’ shesmiled. He sat down hurriedly. The numbers made his head swim. He sat talking with her for a while longer while she unpacked afew last things. He heard that they did not actually interceptSkibladne. She and Kirom had left earlier and waited for Skibladneto arrive at the Bifrost jump point. She confirmed Angel’ssuspicion that they would not have been able to catch the ship oflegends if they needed to chase her. She moved a jacket into the closet when both their eyes fellupon something Angel recognized. Laidin tried to cover it but itwas too late. Angel had seen the mask. ‘It was you!’ he screamed. ‘Yes my lord,’ Laidin said in an apologetic voice. ‘You threw me against a table,’ he said accusingly. ‘You had my arm painfully twisted behind my back my lord,’Laidin defended herself. ‘What were you doing there?’ Angel asked with burningcuriosity. ‘I was searching for the spy. My research had narrowed mysuspects to either Qren or Noone,’ Laidin explained, ‘I was tryingto find evidence of their guilt when you surprised me.’ 168
    • Waking the Angel ‘I apologize if I harmed you my lord, but I had to escape for Iwould not have been able to adequately explain my presence tothe authorities without breaking cover; and that was not anoption,’ she concluded. ‘I guess it makes sense,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘but no more liesand no more throwing me around.’ ‘I swear on the honour of Queen Sif my lord,’ Laidin said inearnest. Angel winked and they left to get something to quench theirthirst. The journey through the jump point proceeded quite pleasantlyat first. Angel reassigned posts, with Kirom on tactical, shields andEngineering, Guival on Communications and Laidin on weapons,scanners and sensors. Loser, showing an amazing proficiency inthe Kitchen, and Angel appointed him mission cook. No one knewwhere he acquired this skill, but the food was excellent. That is ifit actually made it to the table and Loser did not get hungry on theway. Gemmi explained that he loved to hang out in the kitchen of thepalace and steal food when the cook was not paying attention.They all agreed that food was not all he stole. He stole the cook’srecipes as well. Gemmi transferred to co-pilot, an opportunity she relished. ‘I am second in command now,’ she told Loser with great pride,as they danced around the ship. Angel grew extremely fond of the little blond girl. He assumedshe was a handful on Arken because no one trusted her, andtreated her like a child. 169
    • Igor Swann From Angel’s experience, she was anything but. She understoodhis explanations immediately and handled Skibladne like a pro. Guival and Gemmi became thick as thieves and they endlesslychatted about some arbitrary nonsense. He sometimes called hermam, which scored him another million points or so. Angel had an interesting discussion with Kirom on a symbol ofpower given to the Vanir. ‘In our culture, each of the UGE members has a symbol, orrather a weapon that serves as a standard for that race to unitebehind,’ Kirom explained. ‘Similar to the flag we use on earth. Each country has a flag thatserves as the symbol for that country,’ Angel remarked. ‘Yes my lord. The Dwar has Mjolnir; the El has the Bow of Odinand the Aesir the spear Gungnir. Likewise, each of the other racesin turn has a symbol they chose,’ Kirom continued. ‘Teral does not carry Gungnir does he?’ Angel asked. ‘No my lord, their symbol was lost a long time ago,’ Kiromclarified. ‘Another thing I was wondering about was why Laidin has theBow of Odin and not Sharin?’ this has been bugging Angel forquite some time. ‘Sorry my liege, but I do not feel that is my tale to regale youwith. You need to ask Laidin,’ Kirom stated with a naughty glint inhis eye, ‘mine is on the symbol of Vanir power.’ ‘Please continue my friend,’ Angel smiled. Kirom cleared his throat. ‘The Vanir symbol of power was in the form of a sword, namedthe Sword of Freyr.’ Kirom began. 170
    • Waking the Angel ‘I’ve heard of it!’ Angel yelped, ‘in mythology the sword couldfight on its own.’ ‘The sword has micro receptors in the hilt,’ Kirom said with adreamy look in his eyes. He seemed to be quite fond of exotictechnology. He had begged his brother to send him on thismission so he may be able to experience Skibladne first hand. Kirom continued. ‘This allows the sword to bypass the somatic nervous systemand get signals directly from the brain. It uses an electromagneticpush-and-pull effect to then do what the brain suggested beforethe muscles in the arm could respond.’ ‘Amazing,’ Angel said, ‘so it actually seemed to fight on its own.’ ‘Yes, it was again ancient nano-technology built into the sword,and we have not been able to duplicate it. There is no way, evenfor modern technology, to receive a signal from the brain andtranslate it into electromagnetic energy before the muscles in thearm can react,’ explained Kirom. ‘In a skilled user’s hand, someone with an extremely quickmind, like the UGE Lords it could deflect blasters or any projectileweapon’s shots with great ease.’ Kirom continued speaking as if he was talking about his onetrue passion in life. ‘The blade’s edge is only a few atoms thick and made from aZellion alloy, which is the hardest material known in the universe.The swords protection comes from its own shield, which gives it astriking bluish glow. This means the sword can never go blunt. Italso enabled the sword to slice through virtually anything savemaybe a Zellion hull or an energy shield, with very little effort.’ 171
    • Igor Swann ‘The scabbard was just as impressive. It was part of the sword,living in the hilt. You would position the sword on your back and itsensed that it needed to deploy the scabbard, which would thenwrap around it and your chest. By grabbing hold of the hilt againthe scabbard would instantly retract and the swords energy shieldwould active.’ ‘Do we have any idea where it is?’ Angel asked Kirom since hehad absorbed Kirom’s excitement and was now just as eager tofind it. ‘Freyr had a close friend and confidant, an El named Skirnir orSkern as we called him. He often visited earth serving as amessenger between Freyr and Freyja. Freyr tasked him withpresenting the sword as a wedding proposal to a certain Valk’r,but the sword never arrived. Skern stole the sword. There is astrong belief the sword is on earth, but we have no records orcurrent rumours on the sword’s whereabouts,’ Kirom said. Angelcould see he felt truly sorry for the loss of such a wonderful pieceof history. ‘So the loss of this sword is what caused the UGE to split?’ Angelasked. ‘Yes my lord, many of the minority council members wereunhappy about the amount of power the El, Dwar, Ark and Aesirhad, and was simply looking for an excuse to rescind theirmembership. They however feared retribution from the othermember races who would classify them as traitors, if they did notremain part of the UGE. When the symbol of Vanir powerdisappeared, they used this as an excuse to break off from theUGE, claiming that the UGE Lord was not fit to be in control. Thatthe UGE was fallible.’ 172
    • Waking the Angel ‘I see,’ Angel’s brow creased, ‘so it might be in our best interestto recover this artefact.’ ‘True my lord, very beneficial indeed,’ Kirom smiled broadly, hehoped Angel might come to this conclusion. Guival was a master storyteller and he held the crew’sfascination for hours with his retellings of UGE history andglorious battles. He also loved playing pranks, placing a spell on Kirom’s hammerMjolnir to make it invisible. Since no one could lift it but Kirom, he believed he was goinginsane and physically turned the ship upside down looking for thehammer he misplaces. In another episode, Guival used magic tochange the properties of Laidin’s facial wash. She walked aroundwith little horns coming out of her face for a day. Gemmi’s food came alive and ran off at dinner, scaring her halfto death. He was careful not to anger Loser. He preferred his head whereit was, and it did not help at all that Gerbits were immune tomagic. Angel got the worst of Guival’s trickery. He woke up onemorning with his head facing backwards. He had a nice view of hisass the rest of the day. It was, needless to say, frustrating trying towalk backwards. Every time something happened Guival seem to disappear, andcould not be found until the magic wore off. The crew grew tired of this tomfoolery and Guival got a severereprimand from Angel. 173
    • Igor Swann He promised to be good, but Gemmi decided to give him a tasteof his own medicine. One morning as Guival woke he found an enormous Gerbitstanding over his bed, the saliva dripping from its mouth, giganticfangs exposed and death flashing in his eyes. Guival gave abloodcurdling scream into the minds of the crew. They rushed in and saw the scene. Gemmi had installed ahollow projector next to Guival’s bed and it was now projecting animage of Loser in, don’t you wish you were somewhere else now,mode. The laughter did not die down for a long while after, leavingGuival feeling like an idiot. Guival kept quiet and his behaviourwas proper for a while. This lasted until breakfast ended. He and Gemmi made up, and the friendship was as thick asever. Unfortunately, they teamed up after that and things gotconsiderably worse. Angel confined both tricksters to quarters until they reachedearth. Guival’s personality intrigued Angel, somehow reminding him ofsomeone he knew from Mythology. ‘Skibladne, do me a favour and analyze Guival’s DNA, if you can.Give me a genealogy report on him. More specifically tell me ifLoki was an ancestor of his.’ #confirmed. Guival is a descendant of Loki# Skibladneanswered. Angel jumped. ‘You can talk?’ he asked. #of course my lord# Skibladne answered in a metallic drone. 174
    • Waking the Angel ‘Wow,’ Angel exclaimed before wondering, ‘I would haveassumed with all this amazing technology your voice would bemore like one of those GPS devices we find on earth?’ #I could synthesize any vocal pattern perfectly my lord. Yourpredecessor preferred I spoke with a more robotic voice#Skibladne answered. ‘That’s interesting,’ Angel answered. #Do you wish me to change my synthesized voice patterns#Skibladne asked. ‘No, I think I like it this way, thank you,’ he answered. He then thought about what the ship previously mentionedabout Guival. So that explains it all, Angel laughed, he probably cannot evenhelp himself. He is a descendant of the trickster god Loki. It is in hisgenes. Angel and Laidin kept busy in the replicator room preparing thecrew for the long journey ahead. They designed black jump suitsmade from a comfortable material that looked like somethingAngel saw in a superhero movie. He designed insignia that wereartistic impressions of Skibladne, which also doubled as mindcomdevices, a concept again borrowed from the movies he loved onearth. Belts with the same clasp insignia and comfortable stylish bootscompleted the outfits. Though not original ideas, they were functional and lookedgreat. Even Loser got an outfit. 175
    • Igor Swann When Angel put the little outfit in his small hands and two smalltears ran down Loser’s cheeks, the crew could not help but feelmoved. They could feel emotions of happiness and gratitude flowingfrom the little creature in waves, washing over them and spillingfrom their eyes. All he ever wanted was to belong somewhere and not be justanother nuisance. A tender smile played on Angel’s face and hefought hard against the emotions projected by the little bluecreature, threatening to expose him as a big softy. Angel saw Kirom turn away, obviously to hide his feelings. An emotional dwarf, Angel thought, who would have thoughtthat possible. Loser ran to Gemmi’s quarters and a few minutes later returnedwearing his jump suit. Although it was the wrong way round andhis arms were through his suit’s legs. He jumped on everycrewmember’s shoulder and gave them a big hug. Gemmi took his hand and led him to their room. She showedhim how to put it on by dressing herself and from that momenton, there was no way for them to get him to take it off. Towards the end of their journey through the jump, Angelexperienced fear, which he last felt when he had the vision fromhis brother. It was late afternoon when LOBE came into his mind. ‘I have calculated and recalculated every possible scenario,taking into account, every possible jump point location, flightplan, and burn speed, which could be incorporated by the Taur.’ ‘LOBE, Buddy, you are back. I thought you had deserted me.’ 176
    • Waking the Angel ‘No, I was just busy and I could not afford to lose concentrationand make a miscalculation, especially after I found the mistake,’LOBE said. ‘What mistake, what are you talking about?’ he enquired due toa quite disconcerting urgency in LOBE’s tone, and because LOBEhad not made a single sarcastic remark yet. ‘Noone made a mistake in his calculations. We will reach earthonly about ten days before the Taur, and they would reach earth11 hours before the Darkmoons and four days before the UGEfleet. If we assume they follow standard operating procedure andthey do advance reconnaissance and scout missions while they setup a base of operations...’ LOBES voice trailed off. ‘Then what,’ Angel asked frantic. ‘We will still be without a fleet,’ LOBE said. ‘I hope there is a, but, coming,’ Angel remarked. ‘If they do not pick up the Darkmoons arrival, which is doubtful,we might have just enough time to put them in place before theirfull strike on earth is launched.’ A visibly upset Angel conveyed the news to his troops. ‘I cannot understand how Noone could make such a mistake?He would never make a mistake like that,’ Guival observedobstinately. ‘Trust me Guival, LOBE and I did a detailed study of the starcharts before we left, and this is the quickest way that the Taurcould move undetected.’ Angel looked at them in turn before adding, ‘we are in bigtrouble!’ To show them the validity of LOBE’s calculations he called upthe star charts stored in Skibladne onto the view screen. He 177
    • Igor Swannproceeded to plot the course with the help of LOBE, each stepshowing the time it would take to complete. LOBE also plotted allthe other most likely routes. The longest of all the unlikely routes would still place the Taurfleet there three hours before the Darkmoons. The team agreedthat the route LOBE chose is the same one they would havechosen as well. No one could offer up even a far-fetched explanation forNoone’s miscalculations. They started examining their options. ‘We do not have any way to contact the Darkmoons and speedthem up while they are in the jump. Signals cannot be beamedinto a jump because there is no space to carry the signal,’ Guivalmade a point which was already obvious to everyone exceptmaybe Loser, but since he did not show any visibleenlightenment, nobody was sure. ‘When we exit the jump we can contact the fleet, but even atmaximum burn, they will still be four days behind theDarkmoons,’ Kirom remarked. ‘Our only course of action is to convince earth to mobilize theirentire defence initiative against something they do not believeexists,’ Angel continued. ‘I do not see how we can achieve this, but if we do the Taurmight be in for a few small surprises.’ ‘Earth has developed a nuclear missile arsenal that coulddestroy the earth a thousand times over and they can be fired atorbiting vessels. We have planes, which even though they cannot leave earth’satmosphere, travel at twice the speed of sound and are all 178
    • Waking the Angelequipped with missiles that could bring down Taur fighters andbombers. That is if they could penetrate the shields. We havenuclear submarines that can launch warheads from the oceanfloor.’ ‘But how,’ Laidin asked, ‘from the last Ark reports, you were stilldecades from such technology.’ Angel smiled, ‘humans evolve more rapidly than other species.They seem to be in a hurry to go somewhere. We might evensurpass the Arks in technological know-how in a couple of years,’he said proudly before he added gritting his teeth, ‘if we don’tdestroy ourselves first, and make it past the next couple ofweeks.’ ‘I just hope the cargo Skibladne is carrying will tip the balancesomewhat in earth’s favour,’ Laidin solemnly added. One ship with supplies did not give much hope against anarmada but it did raise their spirits somewhat from suicidaldepression to sombre hopelessness. Even Guival seemed to have lost his appetite for playing prankson the crew. Angel started working on the crew’s disguises since he was theonly one that knew earth styles. Skibladne had an advance database on earth fashion, butsomewhat out of date, and he had to make a few alterations toher suggestions. Hiding the crew’s alien heritage became quite a challenge. Thetwins, since Guival had decided to absorb Gemmi’s formdefinition, which obviously gave Gemmi endless enjoyment,became an exercise in futility. Their demands were endless. 179
    • Igor Swann He created a little rucksack for Loser, with breathing holes and‘windows’. This was after a massive debate on whether Losershould stay on board Skibladne or not. Apparently, ‘not,’ was the only acceptable answer. The bulky weapons were even more difficult to disguise. LOBE came up with the solution. They reconfigured the teleportation chambers on Skibladne tobe remote activated with beacons. The weapons placed insidewould be teleported to the heroes on demand. Angel also created Zellion alloy gauntlets for the crews’ leftwrists. These housed an information database, scanners andguidance equipment as well as the beacons tuned to the teleportchambers. His had the added functionality of placing Skibladne in thehangar dimension. Angel was impressed. The crew looked spectacular, especiallyLaidin. She looked like she walked off a runway at a Milan fashionshow. They would have looked even better if they could just keepfrom making faces and stop pulling on the clothes. ‘The blouse is scratching me.’ ‘The boots are too tight.’ ‘My top is suffocating me.’ Even Loser found a reason to complain. There was no place to store his emergency food supply in thebag. Angel gave up and went to look for a rope with which to hanghimself. 180
    • Waking the Angel The plan of attack was an even more complicated affair; nobodyknew how to approach this. ‘I should probably start with America, Britain, China, Russia andthe EU. These are the largest superpowers on earth,’ Angelexplained but after seeing the blank stares, he decided to givethem an overview and a brief history on earth. ‘Our main objectives are twofold. Firstly to find the Valk’r,’ hepaused, ‘Gemmi that will be your and Laidin’s responsibility,’ andseeing the look on Loser’s face added, ‘and yours Loser.’ ‘You need to convince them of the threat and mobilized theirforces.’ he took a breath and continued. ‘I am sending you, Laidin, because I believe these Valk’r arequite partial to females. I have asked Skibladne to return to theplace it landed last time Freyr visited earth, and that shouldhopefully place us near where the Valk’r headquarters is.’ ‘Yes my lord, it will be done, and I shall look after her well,’Laidin responded, followed by a slight altercation in which Gemmiwanted to know who exactly would be looking after whom. Angel gave her a sharp look and turned to Kirom. ‘You my friend have a very special mission, which could be quitetricky. I need you to locate the Sword of Freyr, the symbol of theUGE Lord’s power. I don’t know why but I have this gut feeling weare going to need it soon.’ ‘The Valk’r might have archives or ancient scripts that mightgive you an idea of where to start looking.’ ‘No problem my lord,’ he said with a glint in his eye. ‘Be careful with your fighter, if it is seen it will probably beattacked. You will travel with the ladies till you have an indicationon a starting point for your search,’ Angel remarked. 181
    • Igor Swann ‘As you wish my lord,’ Kirom smiled. ‘Then that leaves just you and me Guival. We have the toughjob of convincing the nations.’ Guival said nothing. ‘We might start with America and go alphabetically. We needto get into the Whitehouse, the home of the ruler of America.’ 182
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 25 The anticipation Sharin experienced made her thoroughlyhyperactive. She summoned crew on a regular basis for sparringcontests, mostly bitterly disappointed because they rarely lastedmore than a few seconds. The two days since she left Arken felt like two weeks hadpassed. ‘Are we clear on our mission parameters,’ Teral asked in theirlast mission briefing. ‘Yes’ Sharin sighed, ‘I take a third of the fleet and enter Taurspace. Working from the outer stronghold, I destroy all hardtargets such as ammo dumps, refuelling stations, orbital stations,minefields, ground defences, manufacturing plants and mines,patrols and security outposts. Then go to Evergal’t and destroythe command centre, as well as all other military installations.’ She revelled at the thought of this command so much she didnot even attempt being condescending. Until she added, ‘wouldyou prefer I spare Kra’st’s outhouse as your holiday home?’ ‘Good,’ Teral remarked ignoring her. ‘Brom and I shall take the rest of the fleet to Earth. There weshall await the arrival of the Taur and hit them into last Cen’tday.’ ‘They will never expect it, it is a masterful plan. I wish I couldsee Kra’st face when he sees the armada and the Darkmoonswaiting for him,’ Brom smiled with glee. ‘I wish to take only my fleet. It should be sufficient to take on afew defenceless planets,’ Sharin suggested, or rather demandedsince this was the same thing in her world. 183
    • Igor Swann Both Teral and Brom quickly agreed since neither feltcomfortable with her abusive self in charge of their people. Shewould probably just use them for suicide runs or target practice. ‘Noone will organize the border patrols and scout missions,’Teral confirmed the rest of the battle plan. ‘Qren will act as command central and coordinate the separatemissions. I think that is it. Good luck my friends, and goodhunting.’ Sharin stood on the command deck of the Royal El Cruisers, abeautiful, fast and deadly warship. She designed it to perfection, her prized possession.Admittedly, she stole a number of ideas from Skibladne, and shewas furious when the El council refused her the right to build theentire ship from Zellion. However, not even she would dispute thefact that Skibladne was the crown jewel of the UGE fleet and aculmination of the technological supremacy of all the UGE races.It was damn cool as well. The fleet she commanded stretched as far as the eye could seeand with the El-sight, she could see pretty far indeed. She had360-degree view screens on her command deck from where shecould ensure nobody stepped out of line. Sharin hated not to be able to see everywhere at once, andwhat she saw made her very happy, and even more hyperactive. Battle Cruisers, numerous Corvettes and thousands of fightersand Bombers littered space, and they were hers to order about,all hers. 184
    • Waking the Angel You could not get the smile of her face with a crowbar, even ifyou did forget to call her Princess. You would still lose your headobviously, but she would be smiling while removing it. She intently studied the star-map on the giant holographicimage projector that featured in the middle of her commanddeck. A round flat structure which when activated would projectanything she asked above it in three dimensions. It currently displayed a planetary system map of Taur space,and the rest of her commanders nervously stood around the holo-map hoping she would not direct any questions at them. She zoomed in on the border planets carefully analyzing thestatistical data she had on each, while creating a summary of thenumber of hard targets available on these planets. Sharin ensured the planets with many red dots remained in hertarget list. Not that she was selfish, she just likes to blow thingsup, and okay, we are not kidding anyone, she was a certifiedegomaniac. She fitted enough weaponry onto her fighter to blow up herselfand half the galaxy. It was like placing a chimpanzee in charge of a steamroller at anexotic china exhibit. Her crew painted, ‘shoot at me and die,’ on the side of her ship,and this was no joke. Sneezing near the ship was strictly forbidden and punishable byexpulsion, from the airlock. Any enemy that would want her as a trophy needed to ensurethey were shooting from the next galaxy wearing welding goggles. 185
    • Igor Swann She left very little standing on a planet. A few mountains mightsurvive if they managed to look inconspicuous and not toomenacing. Most planets surrendered even before her cruiser got intoorbit, other planets would surrender on principle even if they hadno life forms inhabiting it. Even allied planets surrendered. ‘Better safe than not around to be sorry,’ they would say. Her cruiser currently attempted to find parking around the firstof her little experiments in urban renewal. It bumped a few communication satellites out of the way andsqueezed in between a relic space station and a freighter. She blew up the freighter for suspicion of it carrying something.It was a good bet since after all it was a freighter. In any event, itwas blocking her view of the planet. She blew up the space stationbecause she could. The planet surrendered. The inhabitants destroyed everything on the planet that Sharincould find threatening or offensive. This included The PassionsLingerie Emporium, since everyone knows the Princess despisesfrilly stuff. ‘Mother Father!’ she swore when she noticed the explosions allacross the planet. The next planet did not surrender in time, mostly due to Sharinaccidentally blasting a hole in the communication console withher sidearm while cleaning it and no one noticed the smokesignals the planet tried to send up. Accidents do happen. The fleet separated and the attack commenced. 186
    • Waking the Angel The first targets were any communication centres and thedefence grid, followed by anything that made a large bang. Sheeven took out a few enemy trees that were trying their utmost tobloom white flowers and wave them as a flag. They were not doing too well and she picked them off just incase there was some covert plot by the trees to attack from therear. A maniacal laugh filled the mindcom. Her wingmen, the poorsods who drew the short straws and could not think up an illnessdebilitating enough to get them sent home, or could not getreassigned to the suicide bombing runs against planetary defencegrids, were keeping their distance in the event that she got boredand started shooting at them. You got a medal just for flying with her, mostly presentedposthumously. She shrieked as something else went BOOM! 187
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 26 On board the Taur Imperial Battle Cruiser, Kra’st appeared in afoul mood. The endless wait, while they were en-route, got tohim. We should have fought our way open to the earth jump point,he thought to himself. If not for the damn alliance he would have, but they suggestedsecrecy, no surprises. He reluctantly agreed to it, but this felt like shooting fish in abarrel. ‘Is the fleet ready?’ he asked Alra’st agitatedly thumping hisspear, Gungnir, on the floor. ‘Yes my lord, ships are outfitted with full payload and arefuelled, pilots are on standby. Ground attack forces are on fullalert. Our scouts and reconnaissance forces are prepped andready to roll.’ He had this little rhyme memorized by now. Kra’st kept on asking the same question, and even though it wasdriving him insane, it was better to repeat the rhyme than tosurgically remove a spear from his skull. ‘Shall we go over the battle plan one more time,’ Kra’stinterrupted his thoughts. ‘If you wish my lord,’ Alra’st secretly wished Kra’st would tripand accidentally fall on Gungnir, but that was not likely to happen.Cen’t warriors do not accidentally trip often, only accidentally onpurpose when trying to explain an unfortunate death. ‘Oops I tripped. Can you believe my blade went straight throughhis skull? You know, I was just examining my blade for rust, and 188
    • Waking the Angelthis crack in the pavement appeared out of nowhere. What afreakish accident, so very unfortunate.’ Nobody questioned the fact that the cracks in the pavementwere painted, and that nobody knew what rust was. ‘I wish,’ Kra’st gruffly replied. ‘Yes my Lord,’ Alra’st continued. ‘I shall lead the reconnaissance mission to Vanaheimr, with yourpolite invitation, as soon as we leave the jump point.’ Thank god he thought. ‘The rest of the fleet will set up base and do long range scoutmissions while we let the planet know we are here. We will givethe planet three days to organize a defence so we may at leasthave some sport before you destroy it.’ ‘Good, good, that’s very good,’ Kra’st sneered. Alra’st did not share this enthusiasm, but he did not raise hisconcerns for fear of his life. He felt sure that the alliance was afarce, so did Tri’st. Unfortunately, neither knew anything of themysterious alliance Kra’st has formed except for what he toldthem, and what he told them sounded extremely disconcerting. ‘What do they have to gain by helping us?’ Alra’st had askedTri’st. ‘The question should be what is going to be their objective afterthey help us. You do not start a war and sit on the sideline if youhave no other agenda,’ Tri’st answered. ‘How do you know they are on the sideline? They may be UGEand part of this war already, helping us from the inside. Or theypretend to help us, lure us away from home and destroy us here,while our planets are unprotected,’ came Alra’st’s deeply troubledresponse. 189
    • Igor Swann ‘I don’t think Kra’st would leave our planets unprotected if hewas not sure the alliance was real,’ Tri’st said but Alra’st did notneed a degree in psychology to know Tri’st was as unsure of thisas he was. ‘If you are right, at least they will keep our planets safe whilewe are here?’ asked Alra’st hopeful of some comforting thoughts.This situation bugged him from the start. They left their homeworld unprotected, but Kra’st had insisted they need the entireTaur fleet. According to Kra’st, they needed to withstand an armada fromthe UGE if they should arrive in aid of the puny planet. Thealliance agreed, and that was the end of that. This was not Kra’st’s idea, Alra’st felt sure of this. They plantedthis in Kra’st’s soft brain. ‘I wish I knew. It is all just speculation, but if we have a UGEarmada waiting for us, then we know they played us. There is noway they could have found out about our plans, except from ourmysterious spy in the UGE senate. What better way than twofleets destroying each other far-far away from home,’ Tri’st hadsaid. ‘If they are as powerful allies as Kra’st said, why don’t they justdestroy the UGE and be done with it.’ ‘I don’t know but if you think about it what does a Tre’nt 1 dowhen it is threatened? It runs for its hole. It is very difficult to1 The Tre’nt described as a warthog like creature, shy and retiring and quite thepacifist. That is until you threaten its little ones. They would retreat into theirholes dug in solid rock, and you would be extremely brave to continue with thecapture effort. Their armoured hide and razor sharp barracuda like teeth would 190
    • Waking the Angelflush it from there if you want to capture it alive. It is also quitedangerous to put your hand down the hole, since it would mostprobably not be there on the return journey. You will also need todestroy the hole to get to the Tre’nt and its babies,’ Tri’stexplained, ‘but if you can keep the Tre’nt from its hole a child cancapture it.’ ‘So you think they are making us destroy each other so theymay take our and the UGE planets intact? To what end? To avoida long battle,’ Alra’st asked perplexed, ‘what is the meaning ofthis?’ ‘That my friend I do not know,’ Tri’st replied, deep concernclearly audible.deter even the most avid hunter. Whatever you place down the hole generallyremains down the hole. 191
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 27 Silence remained, and a lot of it, deafening silence, as thick asfog. The crew begged for it to stop. Brom and Teral sat looking at each other in shock, neitherwanted to speak first, both wanted to believe that they misheardthe UGE Lord. The Echo of Angel’s voice still haunted theirthoughts with the horrifying news. ‘Noone miscalculated, the Taur will arrive 4 days before you.The earth will not survive.’ ‘What…’ Brom started and stopped. ‘How did…’ Teral tried not getting much further. ‘Should we…’ ‘We were…’ ‘It is…’ ‘The…’ ‘They must…’ Some of the crew, overhearing this very insightful conversation,slowly formed the suspicion that there might be something amiss. ‘Sirs, I have ordered the ships to maximum burn and we will beentering the Bifrost jump point any second. We deployed themines as ordered and they entered the jump 5 minutes ago. Wewill not be able to keep the fleet together, but some of the fasterships might reach Vanaheimr to give it some protection,’ aconcerned fleet admiral relayed the current situation. ‘If anything survives that long,’ he added softly, absentmindedlystaring at his boots. 192
    • Waking the Angel Teral, thankful for his admiral’s presence of mind, ordered hisfleet commanders assembled. Brom initiated another conversation with sentences exceeding2 terms… mostly. ‘Something’s wrong,’ Brom exclaimed. ‘I know,’ Teral agreed. ‘Noone miscalculated?’ Brom’s puzzled reply came. ‘I know.’ ‘Our entire defence is deployed in different universes; becausewe believed the Taur fleet going to earth was the only threat.’ ‘I know.’ ‘What if there is another Taur force, waiting for us to leave ourspace. One we missed on the scouting missions?’ asked Brom. ‘I know.’ ‘What are we to do?’ asked Brom, quickly adding, ‘and if yousay, I know, once more I’ll pummel you.’ ‘I don’t know,’ Teral said and then quickly added. ‘The dreadnaughts and most of the older cruisers won’t even bein time to pick up the ion trails of the Taur. We might as well leavethem here.’ ‘I agree. We should stick with the corvettes, the fast cruisersand the fighters.’ ‘Let Qren deploy the dreadnaughts and cruisers around all ourstrategic planets,’ an uneasy Brom replied. ‘But, I still smell a gist.’ 193
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 28 The intrepid adventurers chose the cover of night to make theirapproach to a remote location in Sweden. It appeared as an oldabandoned ruin that could have been a temple a few thousandyears ago. They had built the temple into a mountain so that italmost seemed to be part of the mountain. Only a few walls andpillars still stood although in a bad state of disrepair. The team, after Skibladne made such a soft landing that theywondered if she had actually touched down or if she still hoveredin mid air, disembarked and began to explore the ruins for someclue as to the whereabouts of its ancient inhabitants. Darkness enveloped them and the crew felt uneasy walkingthrough the haunted ruins. ‘I wish I could see more clearly,’ Gemmi complained. ‘No problem,’ Angel said feeling dim-witted for not thinking ofthis earlier, ‘Skibladne, some light please,’ he flashed a thought tothe lady. The area lit up like a football stadium, completelyblinding the crew for a few minutes until their eyes got use to theintense light. ‘Ah, the light of my life,’ Angel quipped. ‘Yes, that was pretty bright of you my lord,’ Guival joked in turn,not to be outdone; he was the entertainer after all. ‘I wish I knew what we were looking for,’ he added. They searched the ruins for quite some time before Laidin’skeen eyes found the ancient runes obviously left there by theValk’r, since the language was that of the Arks. Angel stared at herin amazement, since the carvings were no more than a sand 194
    • Waking the Angelcovered nondescript stone set in the floor. It seemed to be newerthan the surrounding ruins. The crew carefully dusted the stoneso not to damage the fragile lettering. The clue appeared to be ariddle of sorts.He who seeks the lady’s broodFrom her gown in heaven’s wombthe monument ensuedand guide became a tomb.Bounty of the Gefion thiefThe sovereign will revealInside the ladies griefbeware the stone of teal.Her weep the veilHer fury the shroudIn halls of palethe call will soundNo sense will servethe path to exposeSightless Valk’r of silent nervefollow the odourless rose.When cast a thoughtwith gift life brought,from fire of the mind the cry leadthat all Valk’r must head. 195
    • Igor Swann They stared at each other in confusion; this meant nothing toany of them. ‘Okay we must figure this out,’ Angel stated the obvious. ‘We know this riddle is meant for the returning Valk’r leader, soshe must be able to follow it and get to the Valk’r. It should alsoinclude information and directions only a Valk’r raised on an alienplanet could follow.’ ‘Well we know, He who seeks the lady’s brood, means findingthe Valk’r since Freyja often referred to the Valk’r as her children,’Gemmi suggested. ‘We could probably surmise we are looking for an Island, sinceaccording to mythology Gefion stole an island from Sweden,’Angel remarked after a brief conference with LOBE. ‘Now we have, from her gown in heaven’s womb, what inheaven’s name could that mean?’ Kirom asked. ‘Freyja directly translated means the lady. Freyja’s gown is astar constellation which today is known as Orion’s belt,’ LOBEstated in his most overbearing way after liberating Angel’s vocalcords. ‘So we are looking for an island under Orion’s belt?’ Gemmiasked. ‘No, I don’t think so,’ Laidin said. ‘I think we need something else to show us the way to theisland, a sovereign of sorts.’ ‘Any ideas,’ Angel asked. ‘This is your planet, remember?’ Gemmi reminded him. 196
    • Waking the Angel ‘Okay, okay, I assume we built a monument from Orion’s imagethat is supposed to guide us and it is now a tomb,’ Angel sharedhis thoughts. ‘Probably, but let us get Skibladne’s assistance on this issue,’Laidin interjected. They all bundled into the command centre on Skibladne. ‘Skibladne, do you have any information on a monument builton earth in honour of Orion,’ Angel asked. #negative my lord# she answered. ‘What now?’ Gemmi was worried but Laidin suddenly had anidea, ‘Skibladne, do we have anything on earth that resemblesOrion’s belt.’ #Affirmative my lady, the pyramids at Giza were built in theexact configuration of Orion’s belt# ‘Great,’ Angel exclaimed before he added. ‘It is long believed that the pyramids were not built by theEgyptians but by aliens, and later converted to tombs by theemperors of Egypt. So what are we waiting for, let’s go!’ Skibladne set off at speed. Minutes later, they hovered over the pyramids at Giza. ‘Well I don’t know much about the pyramids,’ apologized Angel. ‘I do know the pyramids are supposed to be aligned to truenorth. I know that a blade hung from the Great Pyramid will nevergo blunt; it is rumoured to sharpen. The other thing I remember isthat the Great Pyramid is rumoured to have a strange energyemanating from it.’ ‘Unless we are expected to fly true north, I don’t see any helpthere,’ Kirom retorted. ‘Now what,’ Gemmi enquired. 197
    • Igor Swann ‘Now the pyramids must show us the way to the island,’ Guivalanswered in a mysterious tone. ‘And I know how.’ ‘Do we need to find the energy source?’ Gemmi asked. ‘No, but I like the way you think little one. We do not need tofind it only use it,’ Guival explained. The others looked at him curiously. Guival walked over to his communications console and startedconfiguring his instruments. ‘Got it,’ he exclaimed after a few minutes. ‘The coordinates are hidden on a communication band thisworld has not been able to detect yet. To them it will look like anenergy signature,’ he smiled self-importantly. ‘You have to be in close proximity to the pyramid to detect it,but when you have the right equipment it is easy,’ Guivalexplained. Angel called up a map, but no island appeared at thecoordinates. ‘Sorry guys, there are no islands recorded in that area,’ Angelsounded despondent. A permanent, thick, very unnatural fog covered the area towhich the coordinates pointed. This was clearly visible on thesatellite image Guival found when he commandeered an earthweather satellite. ‘It is there all right,’ Guival said, ‘a wall will hide what is on theother side, but that does not mean there is nothing on the otherside. It is a simple illusionist trick.’ ‘So that’s why there are no islands recorded there, because it iscloaked. Maybe that’s what ‘inside the ladies grief’ means,’ Angel 198
    • Waking the Angelexclaimed and then added something he remembered fromstudying lore, ‘Gefion was also rumoured to be another nameused by Frigg.’ ‘You mean the wife of Odin?’ Guival asked. ‘Yes. She must have brought the technology to cloak the island,and then gave the island to Freyja.’ He understood now how Gefion managed to steal the island.She did not pick it up and walk away with it. She simply cloaked itin this mist and hey presto, one standard size island stolen. Angel decided that it was time for them to go their separateways. While he and Guival continued on their quest, Laidin,Gemmi, Loser and Kirom would continue in the fighters to find theValk’r. Kirom stared into the unyielding veil below them. The mistseemed foreboding. It made him feel uneasy. The composition ofthe fog, according to his fighter, contained trace elements foundonly on Arken. Laidin intently studied the scanners, which did notgive proper readings. It seemed the mist not only confused thesenses but sensors as well. ‘We already know the mist is unnatural, so is it possible for youto pinpoint the origin of the mist?’ Gemmi asked. She flew with Laidin and Loser slept peacefully in her lap. ‘I am, just bear with me for a tick,’ Laidin responded still intentlystudying her scanners. Kirom’s mindcom came alive. ‘Kirom, change course to 12 degrees North by North-East, andhold course for 12 seconds at current speed. Then we need todescend into the mist.’ 199
    • Igor Swann The soul-destroying fog enveloped them like a blanket, Her fury the shroud, Kirom thought. Laidin’s voice interrupted his thoughts. ‘We are about 2 miles from the source.’ The mist broke suddenly and a small island came into viewbelow them. All around them, the sombre mist swirled andformed a dome of clear air around the island. It appeared lifeless, since the mist blocked out the sun novegetation would survive. Laidin hated this place. This is no place for an El, she thought miserably. The barren rocks looked disfigured and evil. If somebodyaccidentally stumbled onto this place, it might be more preferableto take on the mist. ‘It is better to die out there than die here,’they would say. ‘We are here,’ Kirom stated the obvious, ‘so let us see if we canfind any clues from the rest of the riddle.’ ‘Angel thought, her weep the veil, meant a waterfall of sorts.Let’s see if we can find one,’ Gemmi suggested. They did not have to fly far before they saw a huge darkwaterfall tumbling from the mountain, and they found a place toset the fighters down. The closer the better was the entire group’ssentiment. 200
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 29 Angel and Guival had problems of their own. How were theygoing to get into the Whitehouse? ‘Let’s blast a hole in the side and walk in,’ Guival suggested injest. ‘I have better idea,’ Angel smiled with a gleam in his eye. At about four in the morning, they touched down in theAmerican capital. Both were dressed in their earth clothes andGuival had transformed into his Gemmi alter ego. They stuck their com-badges onto the inside of their jacketsbefore leaving Skibladne. ‘We might as well find an all night diner and have coffee andmaybe get breakfast,’ he told Guival. Angel sent Skibladne into the next dimension and walked offinto the cold night with Guival. It felt good to be home even though the smell was quite putrid.Strange how he never realized it before, but admittedly aftergetting used to the pure air on Arken this polluted place wouldtest the olfactory senses of any alien nose. What a wonderful smell. He looked up, and all the stars were inthe right places; he was home. He smiled happily but said nothing. They walked only a little while before finding a diner. Bothordered coffee since Guival had now developed a taste for it, afterAngel introduced it to him in a role-playing exercise. The four hours they waited before putting their plan into actiondragged past. They kept themselves busy with working on the 201
    • Igor Swannplan’s detail, and Angel explaining to Guival the customs ofearthlings. The strange customs of these earthlings intriguedGuival no end and he asked many questions on the behaviour heobserved from the few people that visited the diner. ‘Why do they put their fingers in their noses?’ he asked. ‘That is a disgusting habit, my friend. Cleaning your nose withyour finger is socially unacceptable.’ ‘Why is than male staring intently at the front of the femalebehind the counter?’ Guival seemed perplexed, ‘I sense he finds itstimulating?’ ‘Er… Yes staring at the breast of females is stimulating to mostof the males on this planet,’ Angel awkwardly responded. ‘It is also really bad manners to stare like that, and it would getyou slapped more often than not.’ ‘Why do they give her that paper before they leave?’ Angel felt a chill shoot down his spine. Shit! We have no money, he thought, why did he not think ofthat? ‘We are in trouble Jen,’ the name Gemmi chose for Guival. ‘We need that paper to pay for the coffee, and I don’t haveany.’ ‘Would you mind if I liberated some for us? I noticed the femalekeeps placing it in that silver box,’ Guival responded pointing tothe cash register. ‘How will you? Oh, I forgot. I think this situation is desperateenough, go ahead.’ They ordered some more coffee and Guival lightly touched herhand as she picked up the empty cups. 202
    • Waking the Angel A little while later the waitress headed for the restroom, andGuival followed but only to the door where he quicklytransformed. He casually walked to the cash register and took a few notes. A quite obnoxious patron sitting across from him, who had beentroubling the waitress since he arrived, reached over and grabbedGuival’s breast. He uttered a distasteful laugh followed with,‘what big titties you have gorgeo…’ His sentence ended abruptly as the slap rang across the diner. Angel, who inconspicuously observed to restroom for any signof the returning waitress, sat bolt upright when he heard the slapring out from the counter. He unfortunately forgot to mention to Guival how hard humanfemales slap, and therefore the patron now sat propped againstthe wall, approximately 10 feet from where his coffee was gettingcold. When Guival returned to his seat he had transformed into Jenagain, and a few dollars lined his pocket. The waitress lookedconfused, the patron looked concussed, and Angel lookedconstricted, as Jen was now a con. They paid and left in a hurry, with Guival still not understandingwhy they needed to go that urgently. ‘Did I do something wrong?’ he enquired from Angel. ‘Well you just slapped someone straight into another bloodtype remember? We do not have time to answer questions whenthe cops show up,’ Angel answered. ‘But he asked for it and you told me to.’ Angel could not argue with that logic. He kept quiet andproceeded to hail a cab. 203
    • Igor Swann ‘Whitehouse,’ he instructed the cab driver. Qren sat staring at the mindcom. Teral’s news left an icy grip onhis heart and his blood boiled. His normally unflusteredcomposure was something of the past. ‘Get me Noone,’ he screamed telepathically at the guard, whoraced off completely forgetting military protocol. Thoughts rushed through Qren’s mind, Noone, his friend andconfidant. It is impossible. There had to be a mistake. There is noway that Noone could be a spy. Noone helped them so much. Itwas mostly due to him that the UGE is what it is today. He remembered how many hours they spent together justtalking on nothing in particular and how they tried to challengeeach other in mind-battle, a favourite game on Arken. How Noone fussed over him when he contracted a virus from analien artefact he had studied. Noone is his friend. One of his commanders returned a few minutes later. ‘We are unable to locate Noone, sir,’ he exclaimed. ‘He seems to have gone off world. His cruiser is gone and he didnot submit any clearance documents.’ Qren felt sick to the pit of his stomach. It is true, he thought. Hedid betray us; betrayed us all. To what fate did he doom thepeople that cared for him, and why, WHY? ‘Send out every scout ship we have available. I WANT HIMFOUND,’ Qren projected. Only Noone has the answers he thoughtto himself, like the recipe to his favourite gruel for instance. Qrenfelt angry and alone, more alone than he ever felt before. 204
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 30 The four heroes tentatively left the protection of the fighters.Gemmi of course felt this was her show so she ran off ahead,followed closely by Loser. Circular stones of all sizes left the embankment and seemed topass in front of the edge of the waterfall before continuing to theopposite river bank. Gemmi started playing hopscotch and Loserstayed on her heels one stone behind. ‘STOP!’ the word thundered off the mountain walls as Kiromscreamed at the top of his lungs. Gemmi froze and Loser dove for his rucksack. ‘What?’ Gemmi asked irritably when she recovered enoughcomposure to speak. ‘The riddle, remember the riddle, beware the stone of teal, hesaid, while Gemmi and Loser jumped back to where the other twowere waiting. Kirom took a large rock and threw it onto the seventh stone,which appeared a bluish-green colour. Immediately all the stonesvanished. The rapidly flowing river would have cut them to shredson the sharp rocks all the way down to the ocean, if they weretraversing the stones. ‘Thank you,’ Gemmi mumbled. They approached the stones, which had subsequentlyreappeared, with less gusto and a lot more respect. A new obstacle hindered their progress. Neither Kirom norGemmi could make the jump from the sixth to the eight stone. 205
    • Igor Swann Kirom suggested Laidin go on ahead, and they would wait forher. ‘I do not think that is the answer to the problem,’ Laidinremarked. ‘The words of the riddle, when cast a thought with gift lifebrought; I think that means Gemmi needs to activate whateveracts as the Valk’r beacon.’ Gemmi beamed. She was important. ‘How are we going to get her across then? I think I can throwher but if the wind gusts, or if I misjudge the distance she will bekilled,’ Kirom speculated. They sat there in sullen silence, but looked up startled whenLoser suddenly began chattering wildly. ‘What’s wrong?’ Gemmi asked with deep concern in her voice. However, Loser took up position a way off clearly concentratingvery hard. The others stared in amazement. They had never seen a Gerbit transform except when heattempted to hit someone senseless with that someone’s ownarm. Loser gradually became 10 feet tall with arms and legs like treetrunks. His muscles rippled as he moved towards Gemmi. Helooked like King Kong up close and personal, way too personal forthe others’ liking. They would have preferred to see this withLoser behind bars in a Zoo, and by the look of things, preferablybars made of Zellion. Laidin and Kirom backed away slowly. They did not intend totake chances. Gemmi smiled as Loser gently picked her up as if heunsure of his own strength and did not wish to hurt her. 206
    • Waking the Angel He effortlessly jumped from the first stone to the eighth andthen jumped once more disappearing into the waterfall. Laidinand Kirom exchanged fleeting glances before Laidin followed. Kirom reflected on the world around him as he sat alone in thestrange place, wondering what complication he will need toovercome in his quest for the sword. He relished the challenge. In his minds-eye, he could see himself holding the sword. Howhe victoriously presented it to Angel and how the UGE cametogether because of his ingenuity and bravery. For once, he would be the hero and not his brother. He loved his brother, but had always lived in his shadow. Brom bested him in everything they shared, and Kirom knewthat his brother was the obvious leader of their people.Nevertheless, just once, just this one time he would like to be theone holding the microphone on centre stage and not as a backupsinger. 207
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 31 ‘The Whitehouse my friend,’ Angel gestured, ‘the seat of powerof the American people, one of the most powerful nations on thisplanet.’ The two figures stood on the pavement watching the cabdisappear in the distance. Angel kept only enough money for thetrip here and the tour. He left the rest to the waitress whoprobably thought she had hit the jackpot in tips. Angel surmisedthey would be off in Skibladne no matter what the outcome oftoday would be, so there was no reason to keep the rest. They entered the Whitehouse and joined one of the tourgroups. The tour operator’s voice droned on, and it felt like ages beforeAngel gave Guival the signal to wander off. Guival slinked down a number of passages until he assumed hehad placed enough distance between him and Angel. He took amoment to put on his lost little girl face, before his purposeful,aimless wandering commenced. He did not get very far before he was intercepted by a SecretService Agent. ‘And where would you be going young lady,’ he asked. ‘I’m lost sir. My daddy is with the tour group. He is going to beso mad,’ Guival stuttered in a quivering voice. ‘Well, let’s just go and find him, shall we,’ the agent said. ‘Thank you mister, thank you so much.’ Guival’s appreciation was unmistakable as he grabbed theAgent’s hand before walking off with him. 208
    • Waking the Angel ‘Sir, is this your daughter?’ a voice behind Angel asked. ‘There you are! I was looking all over for you. Don’t ever do thatagain, do you hear me?’ he shouted at Guival who imitatedGemmi to perfection. With a whimpering lip and tears welling upin his eyes, he stared up at Angel. His race is after all entertainers,and this was his bread and butter. ‘Sorry daddy. Thank you Mr. Policeman.’ ‘It was my pleasure little one. Just be careful okay, the presidentis in a very important meeting, so there are a lot of people like methat are not very friendly today,’ he looked at Angel in andisapproving way. ‘What’s the meeting about?’ Angel asked innocently. ‘Don’t you watch the news? What planet are you from?’ theagent responded sarcastically. If you only knew, Angel mumbled under his breath and then inan audible tone replied, ‘sorry, TV on the fritz again. So what’s itabout?’ ‘The five most powerful people on the planet are planningnuclear disarmament,’ the agent added a bit of information forJen’s sake, ‘that would be us, the Russians, Chinese, British andthe President of the EU.’ He continued, ‘if everything goes as planned the earth will benuke free in 2 years.’ He ruffled Jen’s hair one more time before he walked off. ‘If everything goes according to plan the earth will be nuke freein 2 weeks,’ Angel smiled, shooting a glance at Jen. They managed to split off into a closet-like room. ‘Okay, now for part two of my plan which I got from your floortrick on Skibladne.’ 209
    • Igor Swann ‘No problem my lord,’ Jen answered. He became like Liquid, first making a puddle on the floor intowhich Angel stepped. Guival then proceeded to flow up Angel’sbody, becoming a second skin. Angel looked in the mirror. The secret service agent stared back at him. ‘Incredible,’ he said in amazement. ‘Thank you,’ Guival thought back. They sneaked out of the closet and headed off to the ovaloffice. Two Secret Service Agents blocked the door. ‘I have an urgent message for the president,’ Angel alleged in adesperate tone. The agent clearly saw the worry on his face and thought betterthan to interrogate one of his own. He nodded and Angel slipped in. The five leaders were deep in conversation. They did not even notice Angel as he stepped into the room. Angel cleared his throat. ‘Gentleman, this is a quite fortuitous turn of events. I was afraidI would need to visit each of you in turn on separate occasions,’Angel said in fluent English, Russian, French and Chinese, ‘fated itwould seem.’ The translator the Arks installed projected any species’ mothertongue even when Angel did not speak it. It seemed that Francewas at the head of the EU for the current six months. Five heads around the table jerked up and silence befell theroom before the president of the USA recovered. 210
    • Waking the Angel ‘Who are you and what are you doing in here,’ his irritable voicerang clear around the oval office. ‘I came to save your lives of course and ensure the continuedexistence of this planet,’ Angel replied simply. ‘Get out,’ The President of the USA shouted now visibly upset. Angel ignored this, ‘gentleman, it would be a grave error if youshould disarm your nuclear arsenal. You will need every lastwarhead in the next couple of weeks if the earth is to survive.’ ‘Are you a madman?’ The Chinese President asked withoutfeeling in his voice except for a slightly comical inquisitiveness. The other delegates wondered why the Chinese Presidentspoke to Angel in Chinese when Angel was obviously British… er,Russian… I mean French. ‘No sir I am not a madman, but for the next few minutes I shallsound like one.’ ‘Jackson, Smith we have an intruder!’ yelled the president. The two secret service agents burst into the room, onehurriedly talked on his radio and both scrambled for their pistols. Angel stood unmoved. He barely blinked. A smile gently played across his face. Nothing thus far has been unexpected. Ten more agents piled through the door, all confused as towhere the intruder was. ‘Take this man into custody,’ the President ordered pointing toAngel. ‘Now?’ Guival thought to Angel. ‘Now,’ Angel thought back. 211
    • Igor Swann Guival became like liquid for the second time flowing fromAngel. Nobody moved, but the mystified secret service agents kepttheir weapons aimed at Angel. Angel however did move. He became a blur as he moved from agent to agent, too fast forany mortal eye to follow, even though some tried and got aterrible headache. Less than two second later, he stood in the same spot he hadoccupied earlier. Guival’s transformation was still in progress and Angel smiled ashe sensed the confusion. The agents pointed guns without barrels at him. He had neatlystacked all the barrels on the table in front of the delegates. A deafening silence followed. They stared at Angel as if he was an alien, and at Guival whomthey had very little doubt was an alien. The President of the USA recovered enough to ask in a shakyvoice. ‘What are you?’ He felt the fear. He could smell it from every corner of theroom. This after the day started out so nicely with the leadersvery close to reaching an agreement on how they should proceedwith disarmament. He already imagined the adoration, and the recognition as thegreatest President ever, the one who saved the earth from itself.Now his day was most likely ruined. How badly would soonbecome apparent. 212
    • Waking the Angel ‘Me? I am human, or I used to be few months ago. This isGuival, he is Aesir,’ Angel answered. ‘Would you kindly ask the agents to leave, we mean you noharm. We travelled a long way to save your planet.’ He rather said your planet instead of our planet, since thingswere confusing enough. The President waved the agents out feeling that if these twointended to kill them, they would have done so by now. ‘That was a nice party trick, and I must admit the blue guy’smakeup is exquisite, but what do you really want from me? Doyou need money or to free some political hostages?’ He continued to recover his composure rapidly. This did not sit well with Angel. He preferred the Presidents tobe without composure, as that would make them think less andbelieve more. He definitely did not need a load of thinkers rightnow. ‘Sir, there is an invasion force heading for earth. They will reachyour planet in approximately 8 days. Earth will not be able todefend against them but you might buy enough time for thecavalry to arrive.’ He got their attention. They definitely took a step back in thecomposure standings. ‘I know this is impossible to believe and we did not wish toinvolve you as we felt the earth is not ready to be enlightened tothe existence of other civilizations and species. We had no otheralternative Mr. President. If you do not aid us in protecting yourplanet then there will be nothing left for us to protect.’ He looked at their most satisfying reactions, then added, ‘pleasefollow me,’ in a tone that would serve a third grade teacher well. 213
    • Igor SwannA tone that meant, ‘do not even contemplate disobeying me, orelse,’ and everybody who heard it would know that there wasactually an, ‘or else,’ that would follow. They followed cautiously. The Secret Service kept at a safe distance but no one interferedwith the assembly’s progress to the Whitehouse lawn. Angel looked at them and smiled. ‘Gentleman, I wish to introduce you to the lady,’ he said whileusing the beacon to call Skibladne. The air shimmered and moments later the beautiful ship filledthe sky, hovering inches from the ground. Angel commanded her to land and shut off her engines, but didnot lower her shields immediately. His eyes did not leave the congregation of agents and leaders.He felt like grinning as he saw the look on their faces. The pride hefelt threatened to make his chest explode. Skibladne looked evenmore amazing than he remembered her to be. Admiration slowly replaced the fear on the faces of the leaders,followed by, ‘why don’t I have one of these. What good is it beingthe head of a powerful nation and I do not have one of these.’ The stairs slowly descended from the bowels of the lady. ‘Gentlemen, please accompany me aboard,’ he commanded.One of the agents, Angel assumed him to be the agent in charge,intensely protested, ‘sir, I must protest. You cannot do this. Weknow nothing of these people.’ ‘Yes, you are correct, but look at the beautiful plane he’s got.No species that’s all bad could make something this beautiful,’The President defended. ‘Sir, I must object! What about the Sirens.’ 214
    • Waking the Angel ‘The Sirens are mythology.’ ‘Yes sir, but so is this.’ ‘I promise I’ll avoid all beautiful singing females.’ ‘Sir, she is called the lady and I am sure I heard her hummingjust now.’ The President ignored him and continued to climb into the lady,closely followed by the other heads of state. Curiosityoverwhelmed them, and none intended to back down before theother. Pride was at stake. They followed Angel to the command deck. Their eyes were wide with amazement and blinking was not anoption. They might miss something cool. He asked them to take a seat and activated the hollow projectorin the middle of the room. Angel had the presence of mind tocommand Skibladne to reactivate her shields just in case someidiot in a tank on the Whitehouse lawn did something stupid anda shell bouncing off Skibladne’s hull hurt someone. The shieldwould disintegrate the shell. His mindcom beeped. ‘I’m a little busy right now,’ the leadersheard him speak to some unseen entity. Angel chose to speak inwords rather than only thoughts for the benefit of the guests. ‘Yes my lord we know, but we need your guidance urgently,’Laidin’s thoughts came over the mindcom. ‘Gentleman, please excuse me for a second.’ He directed this remark at the delegates before he turned hisback on them, and continued speaking with thoughts. ‘Sorry for the interruption,’ Angel paused to gather his thoughtsbefore he proceeded. 215
    • Igor Swann ‘I know you have many questions which I shall not answer atpresent like, what does this button do, but what I do need toexplain very clearly is the threat you are facing, and what weintend to do to help you.’ He studied their expressions. ‘Please bear with me and keep your questions for later.’ The premiere started on the holo projector, the most gruesomehorror movie ever made. All that lacked was the popcorn and ablanket to cover your head. 216
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 32 In halls of pale, an accurate description of the limestone cavernsbehind the waterfall Laidin thought. A number of them branchedoff from the great central cavern in which they now stood, allconnected by passages. Unlike the previous ruins, decorated by carvings and pictogramsthese walls appeared eerily blank, just bleak caverns leading tothe next bleak cavern. ‘So what do we do now?’ Gemmi asked desperately as shestared at the endless labyrinth before her. ‘I do not know, we might consider the riddle again,’ Laidinsuggested. ‘Well, No sense will serve the path to expose, means very littleto me.’ ‘Nor me,’ Laidin concurred. ‘Loser, would you be kind enough to fetch Kirom.’ Loser noddedand disappeared through the veil of water without a sound.Seconds later he reappeared with a struggling, red-faced Kiromslung over his shoulder. ‘Of all the indignities,’ he roared. ‘My apologies my dear friend, but we are at a loss and since youare the expert on caverns, we were in desperate need of yourguidance.’ ‘Well in that case, let us see what we may see,’ Kiromanswered, brushing off some imaginary dust. 217
    • Igor Swann ‘Usually when you need to find a way out of a really difficultmaze of caverns you follow your nose to fresh air; but from theriddle it seems we are not allowed to use our senses.’ ‘I know, I know,’ Gemmi excitedly screamed, ‘I know what itmeans.’ ‘Think about the next lines, sightless Valk’r of silent nerve willfollow the odourless rose. Look at the words sightless, silent, and odourless. Those are non senses,’ she beamed proudly at the crew. ‘Well done Gemmi,’ Laidin acknowledged her ingenuity. ‘In order of appearance our first passage needs to test our sight,or lack thereof. I propose that one,’ Laidin pointed towards one ofthe passages. ‘They are all dark?’ Gemmi indicated perplexed. ‘Trust me little one, that one is darker,’ Laidin confirmed. ‘She has the El sight, Gemmi,’ Kirom explained, ’just trust her.’ They cautiously proceeded with Kirom in the lead. Even Laidin’s elf vision could not penetrate the darkness in thenext cavern, but to a dwarf working in complete darkness quicklybecame second nature. He skilfully avoided all the obstacles andseemingly bottomless pits that adorned the passage. It took the better part of 10 minutes before the cavern becamelighter again. Kirom could not explain the light’s origins, but thewalls pulsated with a dull glow. They came to the next set of cavern entrances. ‘Next sense,’ Kirom affirmed, ‘I believe that would be silence.’ They walked from entrance to entrance listening for nothing. 218
    • Waking the Angel Again only one of the entrances did not present them with thesound of rolling waves or wind or dripping water. The tunnelappeared completely devoid of sound. ‘This is very clever. If anyone were lost in here he would followwater or air, not silence,’ Kirom explained. ‘Yes and they would definitely not follow the darkest passageeither, as we did. Very clever,’ Laidin admitted. The foursome cautiously proceeded. Another few minutes and yet again they reached more cavernentrances. ‘Odourless is up next,’ Kirom established. ‘It’s no use,’ Gemmi’s voice cut the silence, ‘they all have smell,damp and limey,’ she signed after they had visited all the tunnelentrances. ‘I concur,’ Laidin added, ‘we must have overlooked some crucialpiece of information, unless the composition of these caveschanged since they created the riddle. If that is the case myfriends we are in a dire predicament.’ ‘I don’t think these caves are allowed to change,’ Kiromresponded thoughtfully. ‘Explain?’ Laidin requested. ‘Well, we know the fog is to keep intruders out, but it seems theveil serves another purpose, to keep time in. It seems as if thecaverns behind the waterfall are in some kind of stasis field,everything inside ages and changes very slowly. I noticed thatwhen we came in. Everything inside the caverns seemed a lotyounger than what the outside island would suggest,’ Kiromreplied. 219
    • Igor Swann ‘So then the riddle is a dead end?’ Gemmi inquired. ‘Notnecessarily,’ Kirom seemed deep in thought. ‘I don’t think the riddle meant using our senses on anothercavern entrance. Remember the first two clues referred to theValk’r, but the last one to a rose. I think we should look for a roseor at least a carving or wall marking of one. This would still makeit an odourless rose.’ The four excitedly started searching the cavern entrances. Angelhad the foresight to show them how a rose looked before theyleft since none of them had ever seen one. It took almost half anhour before Laidin beckoned excitedly to where Loser did animpression of a Super-bowl victory dance. ‘Loser found it, Look.’ Just a little inside the entrance a small stalagmite perfectlyresembled a rose. Kirom stared at it in admiration. ‘So beautiful,’ he whispered overcome with emotion. ‘Let’s go my friend,’ Laidin suggested when she noticed thatKirom might be staring at the rose for the rest of the day. The quartet picked up the pace and not long after the pathopened up into yet another cavern. This one had no tunnels leaving it. There were also nothing elsein the cavern, just the pale dull pulsating cavern walls and floors. 220
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 33 A panicky voice reached Sharin’s pointy ears. ‘We have a UGE cruiser that just entered scanner range,princess.’ ‘Wow, really, you are not serious, a real cruiser with enginesand everything?’ sarcasm dripped from her voice and asubstantial puddle formed on the floor. ‘It’s not part of the fleet princess. It is not transmitting thecorrect fleet id,’ the petrified voice came again. ‘Then find out who it is!’ Sharin yelled. She was not in the moodfor games and she did not like surprises. ‘The cruiser is not responding to hails. Scans reveal it to besenator Noone’s.’ What would Noone be doing way out here? she thought toherself. ‘Get me Qren,’ she commanded. ‘Mam,’ the nervous voice hesitantly replied, ‘break radiosilence?’ ‘Oh no, I meant you should walk there and then go ask himpersonally,’ Sharin fumed, ’of course I mean break radio silenceyou fool.’ A few moments later, ‘Princess, we have huge problems,’ Qren’s urgent thoughtsreached her mind. ‘Something to do with Noone I bet.’ ‘How did you know?’ Qren asked puzzled. 221
    • Igor Swann ‘His cruiser just went past like a Werten1 out of hell.’ ‘There is more to it than that. He’s the spy!’ Qren responded inanguish.1 Werten, the black bullet like creature which seem to propel itself with a fart,it could travel extremely fast on this gaseous propulsion method generated inits stomach. 222
    • Waking the Angel ‘Princess it is imperative that you capture him! I cannot stressthe importance of this enough. You must bring him back toArken.’ ‘Was that an order Qren?’ she spat. ‘No your highness, of course not, it is simply an urgent request.Please your majesty,’ Qren replied. ‘I know you like the old man but is he really that important?’she added venomously. Qren gave her a quick report of the others’ findings. ‘The bastard,’ she rang off without saying goodbye. A few seconds later her cruiser and several corvettes, sped afterthe fleeing senator’s cruiser. Sharin ran at full burn for almost a day and a half, but still didnot make huge inroads in capturing Noone’s cruiser. Apparently,it was no slouch either. She had placed a few million miles between her and herretinue, but instead of bothering her, it made her morehyperactive. If Noone decides to fight he will die, she thought. Boredom snuck up on the impatient princess. This was taking way to long. She wanted him caught now, rightnow. She tapped out her irritation on her command chair, whichirritated everyone else on the command deck, but not visibly,never visibly. She finally snapped. ‘Ready my fighter!’ If the El could read minds, the sighs across the bridge wouldhave been deafening. 223
    • Igor Swann No more waiting around, time for action. She commanded an exceptionally quick fighter, so too did thespecial death squad of dark-El she had recruited as her bodyguardand tactical team. The Royal Demons were the closest translationfor their elven name. She had spared no expense in outfitting them with the besttechnology and equipment available to El. They would haul in the renegade cruiser in no time and keephim busy until her cruiser arrived. An hour later, she could smell the exhaust fumes from Noone’scruiser and her squadron deployed in battle formation. ‘A little closer, just a little and I’ll have a lock on you, youbastard,’ she smirked, ‘you better pray and hope your gods canlisten real quickly.’ Sharin flew directly behind Noone with her fighters spread in a‘V’ behind her, but nowhere close to her for obvious reasons. Noone’s cruiser started reducing speed. ‘He’s giving up, the coward,’ she thought disappointedly. Then a vision of nightmare proportions began. She saw the rolling red and yellow clouds like a breaking waveapproach. <Blink> She saw it bend around Noone’s cruiser and her fighter sinceshe was directly behind the betrayer. <Blink> She saw her own squadron evaporate into thin air. <Blink> 224
    • Waking the Angel She saw the green light from a tractor beam hit her fighterleaving her with no control. <Blink> She saw the inside of the monstrous hangar bay. <Blink> Then she saw nothing. Someone else watched in horror as this disturbing episodeunfolded. ‘What are we going to do sir?’ the lieutenant anxiously asked,‘they’ve got her.’ The stunned commander looked on in petrified silence. Whathe saw in front of him filled him with the kind of dread only thenightmares of a small child dreaming of the walker-monster coulddescribe. ‘We can do nothing for her now,’ he meekly responded, ‘weneed to warn the UGE council.’ ‘But sir…’ the lieutenant began. ‘No buts; and I have seen the way you look at hers.’ ‘I have not sir,’ the lieutenant looked shocked. ‘You must admit it is a nice one,’ the commander said dreamily. ‘Yeah…’ the lieutenant replied in the same way. ‘Even though it is attached to a Croman1,’ the commanderconcluded, snapping back to reality. ‘But, it is too late to save her1 The Croman was a little black ball of hatred. It despises everything. Even if thetarget were as big as a house and not necessarily breathing, it would still try tobite its head off on principle. One of these agitated, hyperactive creatures oncetried to kill Skibladne. 225
    • Igor Swannbutt now, lieutenant. We cannot hope to attack thosemonstrosities.’ He felt quite comfortable discussing her rear while she was along way away and most probably not going to return. He continued, ‘get us out of here, maximum burn. Warn thecorvettes and order the entire fleet to retreat to Arken. Nowlieutenant!’ he barked. He did not feel the need to commit suicide, not for her anyway. 226
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 34 Alra’st smiled. He was in his fighter and Kra’st was far behind him. Alone and happy, he studied the approaching blue planet. ‘Attack formation, fighters will lead the way. The landing partywill follow behind.’ Alra’st felt sure no one on earth knew of what was about tobefall them. A fighter exploded a little way off and took out mostof his own squadron in the process. ‘What the hell?’ Alra’st was dumbstruck. Whole squadrons of fighters went down in flames, or moreaccurately, went nowhere in flames since they were still in space. Immense explosions rocked his ship. ‘WHAT’S GOING ON?’ he screamed into his communicator at hissupport ships. ‘It’s missiles sir, hundreds of missiles leaving the planet’ssurface.’ ‘HOW, THEY DO NOT HAVE THE CAPABILITY!’ he bellowed.‘Raise shields, barrage attack, shoot down those missiles. Keepfiring!’ he screamed into his communicator. We have not even fired a shot, he thought. What bloodthirstyspecies would just start shooting without first finding out what theintentions of the other party is? However, they seem to be ready,almost as if they were expecting us. No, that is an insane thought.We would have picked up a UGE fleet on scanners. I do notunderstand. Do they really know our intentions or are they justguessing? 227
    • Igor Swann Fewer and fewer of the missiles hit, some got through to hisLanders with the troops and assault vehicles. He had less than a third of his initial forces left, but they werestill more than enough to deliver a decent invitation to this planet,and right now he was badly pissed-off. ‘Head for the largest concentrations of life, and destroy at will.Destroy this puny planet. Let their blood form rivers in thestreets,’ Alra’st spat. The bloodlust in the cheers from his fleet elevated his own needfor vengeance and fuelled his hatred for this specie. They weregoing to pay for the damage to his fleet, and for making him comeall the way out here. They were going to pay for him having tolisten to Kra’st’s incessant questions and for him having to leavehis home world unprotected. They were going to pay for theirinsolence and they were going to pay for not understanding anyof this. His forces split, with thousands of fighters, bombers and landerssetting course for their individual targets. Alra’st still could not understand how earth managed to obtainso much firepower. This completely contradicted the intelligencethey had on this planet. His cakewalk had turned into a food fight, and although coveredin jelly, he still held a cream pie with a brick in the middle. Hewanted to cream some faces and crack some skulls. They will havetheir just deserts. 228
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 35 ‘Concentrate,’ Laidin implored her young charge, ‘You mustfocus.’ Half an hour had passed since she spoke to Angel and receivedthe final piece of the puzzle. The line in the riddle that read, fromfire of the mind the cry lead, means Brisingamen. Brising meantfire or fire of the mind, and men meant jewel. This was Freyja’smost prized possession, the jewel whose power no one may resist. This line had Angel quite puzzled so he had Skibladne do a littleresearch just in case. It all made sense now, the power to control and summon herfollowers came from the jewel. Her mind joined with the jewel could make her disciples cometo her from anywhere on the planet. It must act as some kind of thought amplifier. Just how dangerous was this woman? Laidin wondered. ‘Please Gemmi, concentrate, you must,’ Laidin pleaded. ‘Concentrate on what, Laidin?’ Gemmi sounded desperate. Theone thing required of her on this journey, her one special task ofthe mission, and she did not know how to do it. She wanted to die. Nothing in the cavern screamed, pick me, you need toconcentrate on me. She blindly needed to focus on something she had never seen,and which might or might not be in this place. Laidin hoped that if she focussed on this unseen jewel it mightreveal its location. 229
    • Igor Swann Loser came up from behind and put his arm around her neckwhile he laid his head on her shoulder. She could feel his sadnessfor her; it made her feel better somehow, comforted. ‘Here,’ they heard Kirom’s cry. In the centre of the room on the floor, he found the carving of asmall rose. It was barely visible, almost indistinguishable from thedust to the naked eye, but Kirom’s eyes were far from naked. With those huge lashes, nobody would refer to them as naked. In any event, his people noticed the smallest change in textureand shape of rock formations or sediment patterns. This couldmean a deposit of some or other precious metal and Kirom was amaster prospector. Gemmi squinted at the rose, but nothing happened. Sheconcentrated so hard that she thought her brain was going toimplode; still nothing happened. ‘It’s not working,’ she screamed in anguish. ‘Gemmi, calm yourself,’ Laidin said in a soothing voice.‘Endeavour not to concentrate on the rose, but rather ask therose for the jewel. Speak to the rose as if it is protecting the jewel,okay?’ ‘Okay I’ll try,’ Gemmi did not have much hope for thissucceeding either. It was only the faintest of tremor. Gemmi tried harder, and there it was again. Gemmi keptconcentrating and this time the rumbling grew louder. Ancient mechanics were at work; they could hear cogs grinding. A pedestal rose from beneath the rose, and in the centre laidthe most beautiful stone Kirom had ever seen. A jewel with its 230
    • Waking the Angelown light inside, a fire, a soul and it seemed to be looking directlyat them. Gemmi and Loser danced around the pedestal, and a broadsmile played on the lips of Kirom and Laidin as they glanced ateach other. ‘Gemmi dear, your task is not complete, you must still summonthe Valk’r,’ Laidin remarked softly. Gemmi regained her composure. She felt an ancient call embedded in every fibre of her tiny littlebody, and it almost felt as if the jewel was guiding her. She knewexactly what to do. She gently lifted the jewel dangling on a golden chain and put itaround her neck. She sat down cross-legged and closed her eyes. A few moments later the jewel began to glow brightly, andLoser began to scream. ‘It’s all right Loser, Gemmi is in no danger,’ Kirom told the littleanimal. The light became so bright that none of them could look atGemmi. Then the wailing began, the vociferous banshee screamrose and it cut through skin and bone. All but Gemmi were kneeling on the ground covering their ears,the pain threatened to consume them. The deafening silence followed. Kirom tried to speak to Laidin, asking her if she was all right. Shesaw his lips move but she could hear nothing. No one but Gemmicould hear; the jewel seemed to have protected her. They decided to go to sleep and wait. 231
    • Igor Swann Even an overexcited Gemmi surrendered to sleep after a fewhours of fruitlessly guarding the entrance. Kirom and Laidin were deep in a hushed conversation whenLoser finally awoke. They seemed to have regained their hearingin part, but Loser’s sensitive little ears still buzzed madly. Gemmi rhythmically breathed next to him and Loser did notwish to wake her. The jewel around her neck pulsated in harmonywith her breathing as if it was asleep too. He gently lifted her armthat she had tightly wound around him and shuffled off to findwater. ‘Do you remember when we were stranded on Reva?’ Kiromasked Laidin. ‘Yes my dear friend, you dug a shelter with your bare handswhen the neutron storm appeared from nowhere,’ Laidin smiled. ‘Quite correct, but it was you who managed to adapt yourshield to protect us from the neutron barrage.’ ‘And you who found the water deposit, incidentally, the onlyone for hundreds of miles around.’ Kirom had a faraway look in his eyes as he fondly rememberedthe adventure. ‘You managed to kill a Grey Farren1. I have never heard ofanyone do that without a serious scrambler helmet and plasma1 The Grey Farren is a bear-like creature with enormous spines running from itback, its head more closely resembles an insect with thousands of eyes. Thebiggest problem with hunting this creature is that it could sense brain wavepatterns even through the most protective scrambler helmets. When it sensedyou wish to kill it, it would simply run away or roll on you impaling you on the 232
    • Waking the Angelcannon. Even the greatest hunters in the universe concur that thebeast is near impossible to kill.’ ‘Yes my friend but good fortune favours the brave, and thedesperate. If not for your water and the beast’s flesh, we wouldsurely have succumbed to that treacherous planet,’ Laidinanswered. ‘We do make a great team, don’t we?’ ‘That we do my dwarven brother; that we do.’ ‘I would not want to share this adventure with any other in theuniverse.’ ‘Nor would I Kirom, I may trust few, but you I trust with myentire being.’ Kirom squeezed his friend’s hand as if to say, ditto. The team knew it would be a while before the Valk’r arrived,but even the ever patient Laidin began to doubt whether the callhad worked. It was however impossible to judge how much time had passedin this place. ‘Maybe we should send out the call again,’ Gemmi suggested. ‘They might have ignored it the first time, or maybe we sent itincorrectly,’ Laidin added. ‘This island is a long way from anywhere. It could take a whilefor them to return here, but you might be right.’spines. Oh and it should be mentioned that these creatures at full gallop havebeen heard to break the sound barrier. 233
    • Igor Swann Kirom did not mind the surroundings much, but it definitely gotto the others. ‘I will send out the…’ Gemmi’s words faded with Loser’s tinylittle finger on her lips. He anxiously looked at Laidin, who listened intently and silentlymotioned for the others to prepare themselves. It took a while before the rest of the team heard the noise too,like the rushing of many little feet. 234
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 36 ‘We are doomed,’ the despondent reply came from thePresident of the United States. ‘We cannot withstand an invasion force of that size, with theirtechnological superiority,’ the French President concurred. ‘Yes Mr. President you are correct, but you can at least try, andhopefully hold out long enough for help to arrive,’ Angel returnedsoftly. ‘Why would your alien friends want to help us?’ enquired theChinese leader, ‘they owe us nothing.’ ‘Er, that is a very difficult question to answer. You see it is sortof their fault that the invasion force, which is called the Taur as amatter of interest, learnt of this planet.’ Angel did not see the relevance of informing them that earthwas the breeding ground for the UGE leaders. ‘Why are they so interested in destroying us?’ the British PrimeMinister was not about to let up, and he kept asking questionsAngel did not wish to answer. ‘They are afraid of what we could mean in a war against themsome time in the future.’ That is partly true, Angel thought, the UGE leader would play anintegral part if there were to be a war in their galaxy. ‘So step on the snakes head while it is still an infant?’ ThePresident of the Chinese Peoples Republic added. ‘Something to that effect,’ Angel agreed, ‘but sometimes a babysnake is just as lethal as the parent. If you underestimate it, youwill be in for a big surprise.’ 235
    • Igor Swann ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ the President of RussianFederation demanded, he had been exceptionally quiet up untilnow. ‘It means that they have outdated information on yourcapabilities. It means they did not anticipate how rapidly youdeveloped, and it also means that they will not be prepared todeal with the venom of the baby snake.’ ‘You mentioned, when we first met, that you were human. I amcorrect in assuming this is part of the reason for this invasion,’ theChinese leader asked in a composed tone, with an unmistakableintelligent glint in his eye. ‘I am, and it is, but please do not ask how. I will explain in duecourse,’ Angel replied with a hint of urgency to, with any luck,dissuade more questions like this. ‘I shall have Skibladne drop you off at your respective homes.You have much to do and very little time. Skibladne brought asmuch equipments and weapons as she could carry. This will beevenly distributed among the nations.’ ‘You must contact all other nuclear powers and convey thissame message to them. I have created these videodisks, whichyou may use to convince anyone who might doubt you.’ ‘I shall be in contact when Skibladne detects the invasion force’sapproach in at most eight days. This is all the time we have.’ Angel looked at each of them in turn. ‘Prepare well gentlemen.’ ‘I believe this is where I leave you, though I must admit I wouldhave loved to fly in this masterpiece.’ The President of the USAremarked as Angel lowered the stairs. 236
    • Waking the Angel ‘I have asked Skibladne to unload your allocation of theequipment Mr President. I would suggest you deploy the shieldgenerators around your most vulnerable targets immediately.Help will arrive soon to aid your technicians in setting up theequipment. Goodbye Mr. President, I hope to grant your wishsoon,’ Angel said as he waved goodbye and ordered Skibladne toset course for Mother Russia. It was en-route that Skibladne started speaking again andcaused Angel to spill his coffee. ‘Dammit,’ he said glaring at Skibladne, she ignored him andcontinued. #Request: Remote teleportation sequence initialized# #Verify: DNA verification Laidin successful# #Verify: DNA verification Kirom successful# #Weapon: Mjolnir teleport sequence successful# #Weapon: Bow of Odin teleport sequence successful# Fear raced uncontrolled through Angel’s mind, and it was aterrible driver. His team must be in trouble. He must contact them. Lobe spoke for the first time in ages. ‘If you contact them it might distract them, you should ratherwait for them to contact you.’ ‘You are right, but it is infuriating not knowing what ishappening.’ ‘Yes, emotions, that is one trait I prefer to leave with you,’ wasLOBE’s ever-faithful response. ‘They can take care of themselves, don’t worry. Rather concernyourself with your guests.’ 237
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 37 Arken did not feature in the top ten places Qren would haveliked to be right now. It ranked below timeshare on a prison planet and acondominium on the sun. He would have rather listened to Brom singing the dwarf song,‘Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho It’s off to work I go, with a bucket and a spade andan ion grenade Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho.’ He had now modernized this into a rap version thanks toAngel’s invaluable input. Something in the line of, ‘yoyo Hi-Ho, to work yo, Hi-Ho, letsBlow Yo-yo-yo.’ Even the hilarious image of Brom doing the finger pointing andbaggy pants thing did little to improve Qren’s current mood. I am no war leader; I am an engineer. That is what the UGELord is for, Qren thought in anguish, repressing the thought thathe was also a part time kidnapper. He let his head drop to his desk. How can he defend all of UGE space against this murderousforce, with technology far superior to anything the El commanderscould even begin to describe? His mind drifted aimlessly to the council he had with thereturning El commanders. ‘From the footage we have of the invasion force, we coulddiscern markings similar to those found on the ancient artefacts,’the commander told him. 238
    • Waking the Angel ‘We must assume that they are the ancients returning,’ anotherremarked. ‘For what purpose, what could we have they need?’ Qrenasked. ‘We do not know yet sir. Our fleet was deep in Taur space, andfrom what we could surmise, doing long range scans in thedirection the ancients came from, they were doing the same as usto the Taur planets.’ ‘Only, where we destroyed military targets,they left entire planets devoid of sentient life,’ the commanderreplied biting his lip. ‘With very little damage to the planet’s environment,’ headded. He did not enjoy needless slaughtering at all, even on the Taur. Qren stared at him. ‘We know Noone betrayed us and that he is probably one of theancients, could it be that he played both sides? Have our armiesdestroy each other somewhere far, far away, where they could dono damage to the planets. Then the ancients could just walk inand take what they wanted with no resistance?’ ‘It is possible,’ a commander remarked. ‘However, with their superior armaments they could wipe outall our fleets without taking a single casualty on their side, or evenslow down.’ ‘Yet another question would be; why would Noone help us allthese years to become an advance species, and then destroy us?’another commander questioned. ‘He must have been contacted by the ancients quite recently,’was the only sensible thought coming from the room. 239
    • Igor Swann ‘I think he was coerced by the thought of being reunited withhis fellow ancients.’ ‘I don’t believe that!’ Qren cried. ‘This was his home for thousands of years; he would not just letus be slaughtered.’ ‘Sir you know it is common knowledge that he has beensearching for his people since we first made his acquaintance. Hehas launched many probes and built huge frequency scanners inorder to find them. If his yearning was this great to be reunited,he is probably not thinking rationally.’ ‘Please, leave me now,’ Qren let the word dribble softly into theminds of the commanders. ‘The further we get from Arken the less I like this,’ Brom saidbroodingly. He had been irritable since the thought of Noone’s mistakeformed in his mind. Teral had only a slightly more upbeat disposition, since he had ascore to settle on the other side. Driven by vengeance and thethought of retribution for Taur crimes against his people filled histhoughts. Nevertheless, he shared his friend’s concerns. Things weredefinitely not as they should be. The two stared at each other as they have done countless timessince they entered the jump. Brom jumped to his feet. ‘That’s it,’ he roared, ‘I am going back.’ ‘But I shall need your guidance old friend when we meet theTaur,’ Teral confessed without much conviction. 240
    • Waking the Angel He also felt his friend’s presence back home would serve thepurpose much better. ‘You’ll be fine. You have fought this fight for a long time Teral. Ihave faith in you, as does the whole UGE. I shall just be in the waywith so much else on my mind, and would it not lighten yours thatI am taking care of problems back home?’ Brom enquired. ‘That it will; that it will.’ He smiled at Brom. He knew he would not be able to change hisfriend’s mind. It would lead to a pointless and futile argument hecould never win. ‘Go now, quickly.’ ‘Be safe and victorious.’ ‘And you Brom. Till we meet again, and boast of our exploits.’ Brom ran down to the hanger where his fighter stood waitingfor him, thanks to Teral. Changing direction in a jump had never been attempted before,since time did not exist in the jump, nor did space or propulsionfor that matter. The jump sucks you in and spits you out the otherside at the same speed you entered the jump. Since time andspace did however exist aboard the cruiser, Brom had a plan. The UGE Lord Einstein theorized that it would theoretically bepossible to reverse course. If the forward speed of the ship whenit entered the jump could be overcome by a second ship movinginside the first, but in the opposite direction at speed exceedingthe forward momentum of the first ship. The second ship wouldend up at the origin jump point. Brom had a simple plan. 241
    • Igor Swann If he used the rear-docking bay, and he could gain enoughspeed, greater than the cruiser’s forward momentum the jumpshould spit him out at the jump point in UGE space. If he did notachieve the required speed, he would most probably be stuck inno-space forever. Well that was the theory anyway. ‘Wish me luck my friend,’ Brom said into his mindcom, andpowered his engines to maximum. He shot off with his beard covering his eyes, and easily overtookthe forward momentum the cruisers had on entering the jump,before he exited Teral’s cruiser. What Brom could not take into account was if the cruiser hadincreased speed in the jump, since there were no such things asmeasuring speed or time in the jump. He had to pray it had not. Immediately after he left the cruiser it disappeared and he wasin his own world filled with lots of nothing. Now he had to waituntil he emerged from the jump, and hope he was on the rightside, but mostly that he would actually emerge somewhere. 242
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 38 The four explorers calmly stood watching the growing crowd offemales. They looked quite ordinary. Not the warrior woman Gemmi hadimagined they would be, with leather skirts and boots, silverbreastplates and helmets with feathers, though they did haveswords strapped to their back. They were all dressed in figure hugging black outfits with highcollars and black boots, and they definitely had the figures to hug. The girls shared three traits. They were lean and toned. They allhad a gleam of intelligence in their eyes and they all looked likesomeone you will not throw a wolf whistle at and expect to keepchewing with your own teeth. ‘What are you doing in the sacred chambers and whosummoned us?’ asked a female who seemed to be the leader, ayoung beautiful green-eyed girl, probably in her early twenties. However, her most striking feature, and this mesmerized Kirom,was her hair. It looked as if made from pure gold. She had twogolden bars on each collar, which seemed to be the onlydivergence between her uniform and the others behind her. ‘You don’t seem old enough to be Gemkel,’ Laidin remarked in apuzzled tone, ‘would you mind fetching her, we have urgentbusiness to discuss.’ ‘How do you know of Gemkel and again who are you?’ she onlynow noticed the necklace around Gemmi’s neck. ‘How dare you touch the sacred jewel!’ she screamed atGemmi. 243
    • Igor Swann ‘Calm your tongue less you lose it woman,’ Kirom fumed as heglared at the golden haired girl. Loser sensing the danger hadgrown to the size of a truck. ‘Valk’r. To arms, and destroy the blasphemers,’ the goldenhaired girl ordered and jumped at Gemmi, sword glinting in thesolemn glow emanating from the walls. The bow of Odin appeared in Laidin’s hand as if by magic. Hermovement blurred as she deflected the Valk’r’s blow with littleeffort leaving a very confused looking attacker staring at her andthe bow-staff. The Valk’r attacked repeatedly, and with each attack, her blowsbecame more difficult to block as they increased in desperation. This girl is quick; too quick, Laidin thought. I have never seenanyone except maybe a UGE lord move this fast. She is almost asfast as Angel is. I had better end this now before she gets lucky,and she does seem like someone who got lucky often. The only reason Laidin could keep up is from 200 years ofpractice in anticipating moves. Laidin swept her feet frombeneath her, and laid the bow’s blade securely across her throat. ‘Yield,’ she commanded. ‘Never,’ the golden haired girl defiantly returned. Laidin pressed the point, with a little more force. The girl sighedand let her sword roll from her hands. Over her shoulder, Laidin saw Loser with four Valk’r in a vicelike grip, while another six lay unconscious around him. Mjolnir whirred around the dwarf’s head and the other Valk’rwas doing well to stay out of its way. A few of the Valk’r weredancing around Gemmi, something like a ballet of very ineptballerinas. 244
    • Waking the Angel Laidin smiled, she must have taken control of their minds. She probably did not even need my intervention Laidin thought,I should not underestimate this mental midget. She took a moment to take pleasure in the exceptionalproficiency of the team. ‘Hold your positions,’ Laidin commanded. ‘Gemmi control Loser,’ she ordered and then continued in aneven more composed manner. ‘If you are quite finished with this futile endeavour of yours, Ithink an introduction is in order. We are from the UGE, and I amLaidin of the El. This is Kirom of the Dwar, Loser of the Gerbit andGemmi of the Valk’r,’ nodding at each in turn. ‘Valk’r? She is one of us?’ the commander gave a less thanconfident reply. Laidin felt a little taken aback. The girl did not give anyrecognition to the fact that she stood, or rather lay, in thepresence of Dwar and an El. ‘She cannot be. Unless. She is the daughter of Gemkel. But thatis impossible?’ The golden haired Valk’r remarked in an inquisitivetone while getting up and dusting her clothes. ‘We have introduced ourselves. Please return the favour inkind,’ Laidin commanded slightly bemused. ‘The name given to me by Gemkel is Ricci. I was trained byGemkel before she passed away to keep the Valk’r safe until thesuccessor arrived.’ She intently studied Gemmi. ‘But that is only in another 16 years.’ ‘Gemkel is deceased, how?’ Kirom demanded ignoring Ricci’sconfusion. 245
    • Igor Swann ‘She fell ill 2 years into her reign. We could do nothing for her,since the illness seemed to be of alien origin and must have laindormant. She passed away a few months later, and I have been incommand for the past 5 years,’ Ricci explained and seemed togrow in confidence as she did. ‘Now will you answer some of my questions?’ ‘Yes but first, I think, we should find more comfortablesurroundings. It is a long story, and we have very little time,’Laidin did not intend to hang around these sombre caverns muchlonger. ‘Sure. Please try and keep up,’ Ricci scoffed while she walkedtowards the tunnel they first entered, followed by half a dozenValk’r who were still mobile. ‘I will send a medical team for the rest of you,’ she unhappilyremarked to her fallen kin. The team followed her for what seemed to be an hour or so. They arrived in an inconspicuous room in which Ricci spoke oneword, ‘Down.’ The whole cavern started to shake and then the floor began arapid descent. It took quite a while before it came to a standstillagain. The platform started moving sideways so swiftly that Gemmilost her footing and fell down. She sat laughing and played withLoser for the rest of the journey. ‘Follow me,’ Ricci commanded, walking to one of the tunnelentrances. The tunnel broke into a beautifully decorated reception hall,like that of an extremely wealthy cooperation. They walkedpassed a room that seemed to be a command centre with display 246
    • Waking the Angelscreens and consoles, then laboratories and high-tech engineeringfacilities. They saw libraries and weapon testing facilities,armouries, sleeping quarters and mess halls. It seemed to be anendless journey before they finally entered a room furnished withcomfortable couches and coffee tables. ‘Please take a seat,’ Ricci pointed to the couches. ‘Carra, bring drinks and food for our guests,’ she sneered stillfeeling a little sore about being beaten by Laidin. Kirom intercepted Carra, ‘would you mind if I used your library.There is an urgent matter that needs my immediate attention.’ He did not feel like hanging around listening to why they werehere. He was sure he knew why by now and he was pining ongetting started with the quest Angel gave him. ‘Sure. Kilda is our head librarian. She will give you any otherassistance you might require.’ Carra did not intend to deny him anything at this stage less hestart whirring that hammer again. The redheaded girl led Kirom away from the others with anunmistakable sway in her hips. She wore the same uniform asRicci with the exception of single bars on her collar. ‘The archives are this way, master Dwar,’ she said in an almostseductive voice. Kirom wondered what her chosen professionwould have been had she not been recruited by the Valk’r. The difference between her and Ricci was more noticeable intheir posture. Where both were lean and toned, Ricci was more ofan athletic fighter, while Carra in the way she presented herself,resembled a seductress. She had the ‘it’ factor that made menswoon at the sight of her. They would soon regret any uncalledfor advances, since she was as deadly as she was beautiful. 247
    • Igor Swann He smiled at the thought and continued to trail in her wake. A few moments after Kirom disappeared with Carra, Laidinstarted relating their tale. Her audience’s eyes widened visibly when she confirmed thatGemmi is indeed their true leader. She explained the dire peril they were in and that the Valk’rmust finally fulfil their purpose. They must come out of hiding and protect the planet. ‘We are well equipped,’ Ricci seemed extremely pleased withherself and the Valk’r. ‘We have been analyzing and duplicating, even enhancing theequipment found on gyrfalcon, the ship Freyja arrived in.’ This surprised Laidin, the ingenuity of this species knows nobounds, she thought, but aloud she said. ‘Good. You will need it allin the fight to come. What is the number of your forces?’ ‘Almost twelve hundred, including ground forces and Gentari,’Ricci answered. ‘What are Gentari?’ Gemmi asked. Ricci tapped the badge sewn onto her uniform, an artist’srendition of a falcon that resembled Freyja’s ship. ‘Do you know nothing of our culture? The Gentari is the elitewarriors of the Valk’r. There are but 50 of us left.’ ‘Then let us begin our preparations,’ Laidin announced, hidingher disappointment in the small number of Valk’r available. They are not a fraction of the force needed to overcome the evilabout to befall them. Even if we had a Skibladne for each of themthey would not be enough, she thought and sighed. Oh well, wemight as well attempt the impossible. 248
    • Waking the Angel Ricci appeared quite oblivious to Laidin’s turmoil. She did seem hesitant before continuing, ‘there is one smallmatter. To prove the child is really the descendant of Freyja, sheneeds to complete a sort of initiation ceremony,’ Ricci looked atGemmi. ‘To wear the jewel and lead the Valk’r, you must succeed in onetask.’ ‘Lead on Ricci,’ Gemmi answered, full of confidence. Laidin was sceptical. She did not like the smile Ricci gaveGemmi, but felt that if she could stay close to Gemmi, she wouldbe safe. Ricci saw Laidin’s concern and smiled even wider. Her shoulderstill smarted painfully from one of Laidin’s precisely aimed blows. Kirom felt lost in the enormous archives. He did not know where to begin. ‘Do we have any keywords we could go on?’ Kilda asked. She was a petite little brunet with twinkling brown eyes. Shealso wore the uniform of the Gentari, the same as Ricci and Carra. ‘Yes. I need anything and everything on Skirnir or Skern and thesword of Freyr. However, in your incredible archives that couldtake centuries to find,’ Kirom admitted unhappily. ‘Do not lose hope so quickly Master Dwar. We have spent muchtime cataloguing and storing keyword references in ourdatabases.’ She saw the perplexed look on Kirom’s face and stifled a smile. ‘Let me show you,’ she said and walked to a computer terminalstanding in one corner. 249
    • Igor Swann ‘Now, all we do is give the list of keywords, and it spits out theparchment, scrolls or books the words appears in,’ she continuedtyping in Kirom’s references. ‘We have scanned most of the older documents since theywould disintegrate if touched. You may read them here on thisterminal.’ Kirom was more than impressed. The Computer started listing references: References found: (42) ‘Skirnir’ (12) ‘Skern’ (5) ‘Sword of Freyr’. Parchment 4 (Please reference online copy), Parchment 8, (Please reference online copy), Book, the elder years, by Termak, Book, Valk’r Myths and Legends, by Gemtres, … On and on it droned. One book caught Kirom’s attentionimmediately, Diary, by Freyja. ‘Hmmm I think I shall start with that one,’ he said to Kilda. ‘If anyone knows anything about the sword it would be Freyja.’ Kirom’s excitement grew when he found that Skern did in factreturn after he stole the sword, but he disappeared againsomewhere on earth and Freyja could not locate him. Skern would be free to come and go as he pleased, and wouldoften disappear for months on end. Freyja did not monitor him; he was her brother’s right handman after all. Kirom spent the rest of the night studying each reference. Someled to more references and leads to locations Skern favoured. Apparently, he became obsessed with the pyramids, as hehimself was a well-known architect. Kirom’s research led him to 250
    • Waking the Angelthe pyramids of the Inca and Mayan people and the GreatPyramids of Giza in Egypt. Considering the Mayan temples are in forests and Skern was El,he picked this as the focal point of his research. He already knew abit about the pyramids at Giza thanks to the scans on theirprevious visit there. The Valk’r had an extensive database on the Mayan temples,but one document drew his attention, or rather, the legendsurrounding the pyramid. The pyramid at Uxmal also called the temple of the Magician. A dwarf boy raised by a witch, who hatched him from an egg,apparently built the temple. According to the legend, the Dwarf boy needed to build atemple in one night as part of the impossible tasks given to him bythe Lord of Uxmal. The Dwarf magically made the temple in onenight thus completing his task and became the King of Uxmal. This myth he found in the archive, reminded Kirom of a legendhe had heard as a boy. It was of a Dwar baby left stranded on anAesir Outpost in an escape pod when his families prospecting shipcrashed nearby. It continued with how an extremely powerfulAesir Sorceress raised him. She saw a strange power in the boy.He had the ability to manipulate, transform and move anyearthen building blocks like stone, rock, sand, clay etc. The Sorceress encouraged and developed this attribute andthus as a boy he became a legendary builder in the early UGE. Hedisappeared after a very short career and no one ever heard ofhim again. 251
    • Igor Swann This sounded like something Skern would have done. Hisrepertoire did include kidnapping. Who better to build a hideoutfor the sword than someone who could build a temple in a singleday? Kirom smiled proudly thinking only a Dwar could haveaccomplished this amazing feat, and now he at last had a viablelead. I think I should go check this out. He pressed his mindcom, ‘Laidin, I think I may have uncovered abit of promising information, I’m going to follow up on it.’ ‘Be sure to check in and let me know of your progress myfriend,’ Laidin answered. Kilda led him back to the moving cavern, and took him to theveil. There she pressed her hand on the wall and told him to proceedover the stones as they would not descend this time. Kirom waved goodbye and took off. A few minutes later, heheaded towards the Yucatan Peninsula. He felt like a kid and a huge ice cream was dripping all over him. 252
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 39 It took mere minutes but felt like an eternity before he reachedSouth America. It took even longer to find the pyramid he wishedto examine in the dense Amazon rainforest. He configured his scanners to search for any alien elements ashe silently hung over the Pyramid of the Magician. The Pyramid, made up of five different pyramids, did notprovide enough indicators of alien involvement. His scanners only detected a few small fragments and airmolecules in the upper yet undisturbed chambers. Being a prospector, Kirom knew one thing; never getdespondent on the first attempt. They discovered the trulyfamous deposits in the most unlikely places, places that Dwarschooling did not teach you. He resumed scanning in ever widening arcs. His black Dwar fighter running dark and silent faded into thenight sky. He started searching for undiscovered tunnels leading from thepyramid, and found only a few undisturbed, but they all led todead ends. He flew to Calakmul, which is the largest Mayan pyramid andfound a few undiscovered rooms and secret passages, but nothingthat would suggest a vault. He saved them for later review. He visited Cancun, Tikal, and Coba and did scans on all thepyramids in these areas. 253
    • Igor Swann No luck, nevertheless he could not shake the feeling that he wasright on the first pyramid he searched. The Pyramid of the Magician is where his answers lay. Hereturned to this pyramid and restarted his scans of the surrounds. If I was Skern and I wanted to hide something from probingships, how would I do it? Kirom thought hard, he knew we woulddo surface scans. He knew we would find tunnels and follow them.What if... yes, yes that is it. It must be. He adjusted his scanners for deeper and deeper scans. 300meters below the pyramid, he found more, a lot more than hebargained for. Skern, you were a tricky one. You know very well what theincrements were for depth scanning, so if you found nothing totickle your interest in the first 250 meters you would generally notscan any deeper, ingenious! Skern had a platform installed inside the great pyramid. Thethickness of the platform’s base measured 300 meters andconstructed from the normal rock found in the area. This left nohollow spaces below the platform to detect and follow down,unless your scan started below 300m. This platform fit intoanother 300 meters of excavated shaft below the hiddenchamber. I need to get inside the pyramid, he thought. He tapped hismindcom, ‘Kirom to Angel.’ ‘Kirom how are you? Long time no hear. I was truly worriedabout you guys,’ Angel’s friendly voice came over the mindcom. ‘We are fine my Lord. Did the meetings with the leaders bearany fruit?’ Kirom enquired. 254
    • Waking the Angel ‘Yes my friend, I am just helping them to get battle ready andcreate a defence plan. We are distributing the equipment andweapons we brought. Unfortunately we need a lot more.’ ‘Glad things are going to plan,’ Kirom voiced his support, beforeconveying the details of their adventure. ‘Things are going exceptionally well on this side. Laidin andGemmi found the Valk’r, they should be getting battle…’ Angelinterrupted him. ‘Sorry to interrupt, but your weapons were requested fromSkibladne, why?’ Angel asked puzzled. ‘That is a long story my lord. Suffice it to say, we did not get thewarm friendly welcome we would have expected,’ Kirom relivedthe memory of their meeting with the obnoxious Valk’r leader. ‘But you say things are looking good and we may expect helpfrom our Valk’r friends?’ Angel asked. ‘Yes, I am confident they will assist us.’ ‘And your hunt for the sword, any luck?’ Angel enquired. ‘That is why I contacted you, I have found an incrediblechamber beneath the Mayan, Pyramid of the Magician, but I haveno idea how to approach the situation from here. I need to beable to investigate without attracting attention.’ ‘Hmmm let me think,’ Angel replied. However, LOBE chipped in with, ‘I think a little role playing is inorder. Kirom could you join us on Skibladne, you will need thehelp of a certain highly skilled entertainer.’ Angel smiled as he realized in which direction LOBE headed. Very creative, I thought you were left-brain dominant, hethought a punch at LOBE would make up for his interference. 255
    • Igor Swann As I said before, I control ALL the parts of your brain you do notuse. This leaves me with almost exclusive control of the entirebrain except for emotional sectors and that controlling your libido.Although I am not entirely sure, the latter exists. I heard thoughthat you lose that in your old age, LOBE revealed his comical sideand Angel laughed. ‘I’m on my way,’ Kirom said and broke the connection. In a quite different part of the multi-verse Kirom’s brother hadanother far more vexing problem facing him. ‘Phew familiar stars, thank Thor,’ Brom thought. Lord Einstein’s hypothesis did appear to be mercifully accurate. Nevertheless, even after determining this he still wondered ifhe really was on the right side of the jump. Would Teral be okay without him? Would he be okay withoutTeral? What if this was nothing? In his heart, he knew he was right and his friend knew it too. Hehad to come here. He had to put his mind at rest. They bothneeded to know everything was in order at home, and he knew hisfriend would better focus on his war while he was here. ‘Requesting permission to land,’ Brom asked the controllers atArken. ‘Permission granted Senator Brom. You have clearance forapproach on your private hangars. Welcome to Arken.’ Meanwhile in another part of the palace, He is here, he returned. Oh my dear Brom you are a marvel.Qren’s jubilant thoughts rang in the halls. He rushed to Brom’sprivate hangar. 256
    • Waking the Angel ‘My friend,’ He telepathically thought when he finally saw him,‘you are a most welcome sight. Come, come we have much todiscuss and time is of the essence.’ Brom just stared at him confounded, ‘slow down Qren, you’llgive yourself a heart attack.’ ‘No time, no time. We must hurry,’ Qren anxiously responded. He related the tale of Noone’s disappearance. He told Bromhow Sharin chased him and how the alien fleet captured her,assumed to be ancients. How the ancients had devastated theTaur Empire leaving death and despair in their wake. He endedwith, ‘our only consolation is that she will make the enemy regretthe day they laid eyes on her. They will probably start killingthemselves off before long.’ That for which Brom risked his life to return, and prayed wasnot, had happened. He felt a mixture of relief and dread flow overhim. ‘We have no time to lose, we must organize our defences. It isfortunate we left all the dreadnaughts and most of the cruisershere. The gods must still favour us, in some small fashion. It doesnot seem by the look of the El commander’s video log thatfighters will inflict much damage on them.’ Or last very long, he thought but kept it to himself. ‘Do we have their last coordinates and possibly a best estimateon where they would be entering UGE space?’ The commander supplied Brom with the detail before he set offto ready his fleet. Qren had the foresight to recall all the other forces left in UGEspace including Border patrols. 257
    • Igor Swann ‘I agree with your assessment Qren. I also think that they wouldattack from a single simple access point. From what I coulddetermine from the video log of Sharin’s capture, their fleetinterconnects, which serves to fire their weapons as a cluster. Thiswould also account for the reason they did not chase the El afterthey captured Sharin, although it might also mean that they justdid not care much for a few insects escaping.’ This is hopeless, Brom thought, how am I to destroy a fleet withthat kind of offensive weapons? He doubted that even theDarkmoons would have been of any assistance in this situation. ‘I assume it might be wise to scatter the ships and attack fromevery direction instead of giving them an opportunity to shoot fishin a barrel as Angel used to say,’ Qren suggested. ‘What are fish? Never mind. Your tactics seems reasonable. Iwould rather face a large lerok1 than a million tiny erks2 coming atme from every direction.’ Brom knew they based their tactics on the one weapondeployed against them but that is all they had to go on, it wouldhave to do.1 A lerok is a large bee like creature, about as big as a house cat. Very fast, verypoisonous with a stinger like a cattle prod. They do not like anything other thananother lerok breathing their air.2 The erks are as would be expected the size and shape of bees, but with teeth.Not very poisonous and it requires a few thousand bites from them to die. Onlyproblem is they always travel in swarms and these swarms number in theirmillions. They have the same problem with air as the lerok. 258
    • Waking the Angel Later that same day Brom stood on the El imperial battlecruiser’s command deck. Qren suggested he would stay behind onArken to coordinate events. Brom knew Qren’s pacifist nature would serve the UGE betterat home. The combined remnants of the fleets, including the El fleet wereformidable indeed, far superior to the armada Teral commanded. Brom knew it would not be enough. This race probably created the energy source that powersSkibladne. Most of the technology in Skibladne is possibly fromthem; and they created those marvels many thousands of yearsago, he sighed, what incredible wonders have they created sincethen? This thought brought back a longing for his friend’s presence ina way Brom has never felt. I wish you were here now my friend, Ineed you, he thought. He had sent out fast long-range scout ships since scans wouldbe useless. The El never caught the ancient fleet on theirscanners, so a visible recon seemed the only recourse. The scouts had crossed into Taur space earlier, and were rapidlyproceeding to the last known coordinates of the ancients. All he had to do now was hope the ancients stayed their course;actually he hoped they turned around and went away. 259
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 40 Laidin followed a few steps behind Gemmi admiring the air ofconfidence and tenacity surrounding the little girl. She had thedemeanour of a UGE Lord and the resolve of a Barken1 finding aheat signature. They halted in front of a huge vault door. Ricci placed her hand on a scanner and gave a voice command. ‘Ricci, Commander Gentari.’ The vault door slowly opened. ‘What is inside here is the most prized possession of the Valk’r,’Ricci explained while proceeding to enter the chamber. ‘This is also the location of the test.’ Gemmi said nothing and walked boldly into the huge room. TheBrisingamen jewel hung securely around her neck, pulsatingrhythmically. They stopped in front of a platform that appeared to be empty. ‘Would this be the test? There do not appear to be anything,’Laidin observed. Ricci said nothing; she merely nodded up at a Valk’r in thecontrol booth.1 When this animal wants some loving, it goes literally insane, and NOTHINGwill stand between it and the object of its affection. Unfortunately, this‘nothing’ would sometimes include ravines and chasms. They appeared on theendangered species list. 260
    • Waking the Angel The Platform opened and a strange ship arose. Its design wasunlike any Laidin had ever seen, but still simply a very smallfighter. Ricci turned to Gemmi. ‘This is Gyrfalcon, Freyja’s fighter given to her by her brotherFreyr. The ship, built to resemble a falcon, an incredibly largefalcon but a falcon nonetheless with claws, beak and tail. If Freyjahad to do a scout mission, an observer would mistake her for afalcon playing on the air currents by anyone on the ground. Theship is small and manoeuvrable, but do not let her size fool you. Itis equipped with incredibly powerful weapons modelled on thelegendary Skibladne.’ She scanned their faces. None of the newcomers seemedparticularly impressed, not even by her knowledge of Skibladne. ‘We have been able, as I mentioned before, to replicate it withsome degree of success. We had to find alternatives for some ofthe more exotic and sophisticated parts as well as her powersource, thus our versions of the ship are not as fast or powerful.However, there is still nothing on earth that can touch one of ourfighters.’ ‘So?’ Gemmi asked. ‘We all possess the TNFR-12 gene, and we have all beenenhanced by the mind transformer. We are not disputing youhave the gene Gemmi, our scanners already confirmed that, butthis ship is keyed to the living DNA of the house of Freyja. Only adirect descendant of Freyja can activate and fly the ship.’ A naughty smile played across Ricci’s face. ‘This is the big test?’ Laidin seemed unimpressed and at thesame time relieved. She worried for nothing, after she imagined 261
    • Igor Swannlava pits, duels to the death with monstrous robots and jumpingchasms. ‘Okay Gems it’s your show. Please fly this thing so we may getdown to business.’ Gemmi resolutely walked over and touched the little DNAscanner, commanded the ship to open its canopy with a thoughtand climbed inside. She waited a second for Loser to jump intothe small space behind her, probably a storage compartment ofsorts, and took off with another thought. She had a lot of practiceflying Skibladne on the way over, and this ship reacted in exactlythe same way. Brimming with pride, she flashed inches above theheads of the onlookers. Only Laidin did not duck. She just smiledat antics of the little rascal. Gemmi handled the ship in the manner of someone born in acockpit. She tumbled and turned, rolled and did 360s from oneside of the hangar to the other. She made 90-degree turns,followed by turns that you could only describe as handbraketurns. She performed in the manner of a wild falcon caught in a cage.Then she did the unthinkable. She swooped down and usedGyrfalcons claws to catch a drum that stood in the middle of thehangar. Without breaking stride, she neatly deposited the drumon a stack of drums in the opposite corner. Laidin tapped her mindcom. ‘Okay, show’s over little one. There is work to be done.’ ‘Satisfied?’ Gemmi asked smiling at Ricci, after making a perfect2-point landing, accompanied by the cheers of the growing Valk’rcrowd. Ricci simply nodded, turned and walked off. 262
    • Waking the Angel ‘Shall we advance to the war room my lady, as you said there ismuch to do?’ Gemmi walked with a self-satisfied stride and Laidin took stepbeside her. ‘Remember Gemmi, nobody likes an obnoxious arrogant child,and nobody knows so much that they cannot learn. Only a foolspeaks when he should listen. What I am trying to say is justbecause you are the leader of these people, does not mean youshould not learn from them. Remember your predecessorsstudied for a year at the feet of the chief of the Valk’r before theybecame chief.’ Laidin felt she needed to make this clear to Gemmi. ‘You shouldlead, not rule, draw people close to you by being friendly, openand fair. You are truly intelligent. Remember the greatest leadersof all times were fair, just, brave and treated all as they wouldwant to be treated.’ ‘I shall not forget Laidin. I know I have much to learn. I shallmake you and Angel and the rest of my friends proud,’ Gemmiproclaimed in earnest. ‘We are already proud of you Gemmi. More than you could everimagine. You are an invaluable part of our team, and I am trulyhonoured to call you my friend.’ Laidin smiled and put her handon Gemmi’s shoulder. Gemmi in turn put her hand on Laidin’s hand, and Loser his ontop of both theirs. ‘Thank you,’ she stammered. This maturity impressed Laidin when she expected a child’soutburst at her speech, a tantrum. She expected the kid to tell herthat she knows what she is doing and she did not need advice 263
    • Igor Swannfrom an over the hill El. She looked at Gemmi and knew thisyoung girl would become one of the great leaders in history. Thatis, if she is allowed to live that long. Kirom brought his fighter to rest inside Skibladne’s hanger, andwalked to the command deck where Angel and Guival waited forhim. ‘Well met. I am overjoyed to see you again,’ Kirom announcedand flashed a smile through his well-groomed facial hair. ‘Great to see you too Kirom, What do you think of my planet?’Angel asked. ‘Earth is an interesting planet, very colourful and lots ofdifferent climatic regions. Would love to see what is underneaththe surface though.’ ‘So tell me exactly what happened since we left you,’ Angelrequested. They spent the next few minutes listening to Kirom’s recount ofthe adventure the four of them had. He showed a slight grimaceas he told the others of Loser unceremoniously flinging him overhis shoulder and carrying him through the waterfall. Loser’s impressive new skill intrigued Angel. Kirom took thestory of unravelling the clues to great lengths as only a truestoryteller could. He told them about the Valk’r and their base, and concludedwith his findings at the Mayan temples. ‘That is brilliant work Kirom. You guys have done exceptionallywell.’ He looked at Guival, ‘our mission had a lot less excitement, butGuival did inject a lot of enjoyment into the episode,’ Angel began 264
    • Waking the Angeland then related their journey and Guival’s integral part in theirsuccess. ‘But now Guival has a new equally important task to perform,’Angel said as he glanced at his metallic blue Aesir friend. ‘You, my friend, will need to absorb another form for us. Youwill need to go to a Dr. Tina Skinner. According to Skibladne, she isthe foremost authority on Mayan Pyramids. Nobody wouldquestion her presence in the tombs.’ He turned to Kirom, ‘and you my friend will need a change ofclothing. Please follow me.’ In Kirom’s quarters, Angel had placed real archaeologistclothing, safari pants and shirt, long socks and the round littlewhite hat. Complete as he remembered it from the movies hewatched, movies like Indiana Jones. ‘You want me to wear that?’ Kirom asked in surprise. ‘Trust me my friend you will fit right in,’ he laughed. Angel doubled over when the master dwarf finally came out ofhis quarters dressed in his work attire. It had been a long timesince he last had the opportunity to laugh like this. ‘You look perfect,’ he said whipping the tears from his eyes, ‘offyou go.’ ‘Oh and Guival, you might want to use your Jen disguise untilyou get the doctor’s form.’ ‘Skibladne updated your fighter’s navigation computer with thecoordinates of Dr. Skinner’s dwelling in the USA,’ Angel informedhim, and then for Guival’s benefit, ‘please be discrete.’ ‘Kirom you will present yourself as Doctor Cramer and you aredoing a thesis on the similarities between Mayan and Egyptianpyramids. You should have gained enough knowledge through 265
    • Igor Swannyour research to fake it. Remember most of the knowledge youfound in the scrolls are not common knowledge on earth, and shewill not know some of the things you found in your scansespecially on the undiscovered rooms. So dazzle her.’ ‘Be safe gentleman, till we meet again,’ Angel said. ‘Er, Kirom. I think you should leave that here,’ Angel supposedpointing at Mjolnir. Kirom looked slightly flushed as he left to place the hammerback in the teleport chamber. Laidin’s curiosity got the better of her, ‘Ricci, those swords you carry, they look like they are madefrom pure white gold. Where did you get them?’ ‘Oh, thanks for reminding me. Carra, fetch the sword,’ sheturned to Laidin, ‘I thought the swords might interest you.’ Ricci took a deep breath as to say this is going to be one ofthose long explanatory stories again, live with it. She unsheathed her sword and handed it to Laidin. To Laidin’samazement, the sword felt almost weightless, and immenselysharp. The entire sword appeared constructed from what Laidinwould have sworn was white gold, with only the hilt covered insome synthetic polymer grip. Laidin could only imagine how much Kirom would enjoy this.Every Dwar child dreams of growing up to one day find a yetundiscovered metal or gem. ‘The metal in the sword has one of the densest atomicstructures known to man. Almost as dense as that found in whatyou call Zellion. The sword is almost impossible to chip or blunt.The origin of the metal is a closely guarded secret.’ 266
    • Waking the Angel ‘Follow me,’ she said and left the room. They walked down a few passages and through massive vaultdoors. Inside, on a small pedestal, rested a simple nondescriptwhite gold ring. ‘You jest,’ Laidin said, ‘that could not possibly be the…’ ‘Oh but it is,’ Ricci smiled. ‘That my friends, is Draupnir, the ring of Odin,’ Ricci explained. ‘The ring that spawns eight new rings every 9 days?’ Gemmi hadheard of this legendary ring. ‘Yes Gemmi, but unlike legend has led people to believe, thering is not made of gold and neither are its children. We call itDraupnite.’ ‘The eight rings cannot re-spawn, if I remember correctly,’Laidin added. ‘Quite correct only Draupnir has that ability,’ Ricci answered. ‘But how do you mould such dense material?’ Laidin asked. ‘That was an immense problem. We had vaults full of theserings but could do nothing useful with them. That was untilhumans discovered the laser fusion reactor, the only thing thatcould generate enough heat to melt and reshape the rings intosomething useful. Unfortunately, we are only able to reform themetal while it is at this heat. Therefore the metal is shaped intoswords entirely with the use of magnetic fields, which wasexceedingly difficult, but we are geniuses after all,’ Ricci laughed. ‘The swords are then presented to a Valk’r who has reached thelevel of Gentari. It is a great honour to receive a sword. It is thesymbol of attaining a high level of enlightenment and is covetedby all Valk’r.’ 267
    • Igor Swann ‘But how did it come to be here? It was supposed to be on thefuneral pyre of Odin’s son Baldur,’ Laidin asked confused. ‘According to our legends, the ring was given to Freyr. He inturn gave it to Skirnir to present to a Valk’r called Gerd that Freyrintended to marry. After Gerd passed away the ring remainedhere in New Valhalla.’ ‘Hmmm, you mean Skern actually delivered something he wassupposed to, amazing. Thanks for the tour, but I propose wereturn to the war room,’ she suggested. Back at the war room, Carra waited with an exquisite swordmade from the same metal as the others, though with a verydifferent design. This one however had a large ruby decoration where the hiltmeets the blade. ‘You may notice that the Brisingamen jewel around your neckGemmi is flat at the back. The reason for that being that the jewelwas too powerful even for Freyja to control. It took hold of hermind and made her do unspeakable things.’ ‘Her 2nd in command noticed this and one night stole the jewel.Long story short, the jewel was halved.’ ‘The sword has the same abilities as the jewel around yourneck. Its name is Dragonfang and we did not create it. Freyr hadthis sword forged by the dwarves from a mould of his sword, andhe presented it to Freyja. The substance used to forge the swordhas no equal in strength and durability. According to legend, thedwarfs used the tooth of a dragon for the blade, but that is justsuperstition. We added the setting for the Brisingamen jewel,’Ricci explained. 268
    • Waking the Angel She knelt in front of Gemmi, ‘please accept the sword as thesymbol of the Valk’r chief.’ ‘I thank you,’ Gemmi said and took the sword. She strapped the sword to her back. Loser who sat on hershoulder pulled the sword, but it was a little heavy for his smallbody and he fell from her shoulder, sword and all. A soul-destroying scream rang through the halls as he ran to hide behinda huge potted plant. Gemmi laughed, ‘it is okay my friend. You can come out. I’m notangry.’ Only when Loser came close did she see that he held his littlearm. A huge gash lay across it and blood streamed from thewound. ‘Oh no Loser you are hurt!’ Gemmi cried. ‘Get a medical team in here immediately,’ Ricci ordered. Seconds later two Valk’r ran in and started to clean andbandage the wound. Loser was obviously in much pain andGemmi softly sobbed hugging the little animal. From that moment, Loser would not come near the sword, andsince Loser was Gemmi’s best friend whom she enjoys having siton her shoulder, she made a promise. ‘Don’t worry little one, I won’t wear that nasty sword again,’she swore, to which Loser jumped on her shoulder and squeezedher face tightly to his little Gerbit cheek. 269
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 41 After an uneventful flight, Kirom landed the fighter in an unusedpart of a nearby park. They had to wait for nightfall as cover toland and then they hoofed it to Dr. Skinner’s apartment. Dr. Kirom Cramer rang the bell. A very attractive middle-agedwoman opened the door. That would be according to earthstandards, as El would refer to her as a spring chicken. She smiled at the comically dressed person standing in front ofher. ‘Yes. May I help you,’ she asked in a pleasant tone. ‘Good evening Dr. Skinner, my name is Dr. Cramer and this ismy daughter Jen,’ Kirom answered. Jen saw this as her cue to rush the doctor and give her a greatbig hug, and a broad smile. ‘What a delightful child,’ Dr. Skinner said smiling. ‘So, to what do I owe the pleasure doctor?’ she asked whileshowing them into the living room. ‘Well it is actually more a case of what I can do for you,’ hepaused for effect, and then continued. ‘I have developed a new X-ray technique, which I used onCalakmul. I have found quite a few undiscovered rooms andsecret passages, which I think might be of interest to you.’ Dr. Skinner’s ears pricked up, she heard secret, a word shecherished. ‘Please continue,’ she replied with controlled excitement. Kirom unrolled a printed scan he made on Skibladne beforethey left. They spent a few minutes discussing the incredible 270
    • Waking the Angelfindings of Dr. Cramer. Dr Skinner would be looking for theserooms in Calakmul, which meant they would not run into her atUxmal. They were deep in discussion when Jen started complaining. ‘I want to go now daddy. I want to go play with my friends. It’sboring here,’ Guival imitated Gemmi to perfection, ‘now daddy,let us go, please DADDY, I want to go.’ Kirom gave in. ‘Okay, okay! Stop whining we can go now.’ Dr. Skinner looked bitterly disappointed. ‘You do not wish to accompany me and examine your findings?’ ‘I’m sorry doctor but I need to get back to some other pressingissues, but I am sure you will not be disappointed with what youwill discover,’ he smiled. ‘You are just giving me this?’ Dr. Skinner uttered quiteperplexed. ‘My field is locating secrets, yours is exploring them,’ Dr. Kramerexplained. ‘I am at a loss for words. Thank you doctor,’ Dr. Skinnerexclaimed. ‘Good luck and good hunting,’ Kirom said, and waved goodbye.So did Jen. ‘I will not forget to give you credit on my findings Dr. Cramer,’she smiled and waved goodbye. Kirom set course for the Pyramid of the Magician with Jen, andlanded with a perfect replica of Dr. Skinner in a clearing, a coupleof minutes walk from the pyramid. ‘Yuck. El country,’ Kirom expressed his disdain. 271
    • Igor Swann Kirom felt as depressed about being in the jungle as Laidin didabout being underground. Guival preferred the cities with its lights and noise. ‘Yes I do not quite understand how they find this mess homely,but to each his own.’ They broke into the clearing around the pyramid. There were quite a number of people walking around, butnobody bothered them until they reached the entrance closest towhere the secret platform was. ‘Doctor Skinner. So nice to see you again,’ a friendly nativegreeted them. Guival had no idea who this was but held his pose. ‘My dear friend, how are you?’ he answered. Kirom reacted quickly, ‘I am Dr. Cramer, pleased to meet you,’he said holding out his hand. ‘Pleased to meet you too, I am Professor Kitzel. I have assistedDr. Skinner on a number of archaeological digs.’ ‘Yes.’ Guival said to Kirom, ‘he has been invaluable in myresearch.’ He turned to Kitzel. ‘Professor I am sorry to interrupt your work. I brought DoctorCramer here to show him around and give him a tour of theamazing work you have been doing.’ ‘That is quite all right my dear friend, take all the time you need.You are free to visit anywhere you want,’ he smiled. ‘Enjoy the show,’ the professor told Kirom, ‘it is quiteimpressive.’ ‘Oh, please excuse me,’ he said noticing one of his team wavingin his direction. 272
    • Waking the Angel ‘Phew, that was close,’ Guival exclaimed. ‘True but quite enjoyable too, like a game of digs, trying tooutmanoeuvre your opponent.’ The duo walked through the entrance to the pyramid. Guivalcarried a hand scanner and took readings every couple of steps. ‘We are on top of the platform now,’ he said after they hadtravelled down a maze of tunnels. There were no indications that they were in any special part ofthe tunnel. It looked exactly like every other tunnel they hadtraversed thus far. ‘No wonder nobody found it, who would look here,’ Kiromcommented, ‘now to find the switch.’ Guival did scans on the walls, floor, even the ceiling for anyalien or electrical technology. He found nothing. Guival felt despondent however, Kirom looked quite impressedas he took hold of a protruding rock. ‘Elementary my dear Guival, and if your knowledge ofmetamorphic rock formations were slightly better you wouldrealize this rock is not in its natural habitat.’ He pushed down on the rock and they suddenly began todescend. ‘Counterweights,’ Guival exclaimed as they rapidly moved downto the hidden chamber. ‘Primitive. However, it is impossible to detect with moderntechnology, very clever.’ They dropped into the cavern space 300 meters below. ‘Incredible!’ They both exclaimed in unison. 273
    • Igor Swann An enormous stockpile of alien technology greeted them. Allkinds of weapons, shield generators, scanning equipment, diggingequipment and other useful tools littered the room. A quiteordinary looking ship stood in the centre of the cavern. ‘This is the special ship Freyr gave Skern?’ Kirom asked Guival. ‘Yes, this is she,’ Guival said in admiration. He looked like hewas going to ask the ships hand in marriage any second. ‘Amazing is she not?’ ‘You are losing your mind my dear Guival. This is the mostnondescript prehistoric relic I have ever encountered. I don’t thinkyou would get even an ounce of Zellion for it,’ Kirom commentedunimpressed. ‘And no alien race would even bother looking twice at it, if theyfound it; right?’ Guival asked. ‘No they would not,’ a light went on. ‘You mean…?’ ‘Yes Master Dwar, this is the fabled morph ship, designed withthe ancient’s technology.’ ‘But that ship is just a legend, a story to keep kids entertained.’ ‘I have always believed in legends. They are mostly alwaysbased on fact,’ Guival explained. ‘How do you think Skern managed to visit so many planetsundetected. He was after all an explorer and Freyr’s messengerand envoy.’ ‘I understand,’ Kirom conceded, ‘but if you have quite finishedogling the ship, I have a mission to complete, so may we continueour search for the sword?’ Kirom asked. ‘Okay,’ Guival agreed reluctantly, and started scratchingthrough the huge heaps of equipment. He could not help feeling a 274
    • Waking the Angellittle disappointed at Kirom’s lack of interest, and could not helpstealing a glance at the ship every so often. ‘It would not be in here. That sword is far too valuable,’ Kiromannounced looking at the junk littering his feet, ‘it will be in aspecial hiding place.’ ‘Like the ship?’ Guival suggested. ‘Maybe,’ Kirom answered thoughtfully, ‘so how does it work.How do you get it open?’ ‘I suppose it is mind controlled,’ Guival surmised. ‘Great, so it’s tuned to Skern’s mind,’ Kirom glumly replied. ‘Might as well call for Mjolnir and bash it open.’ ‘No!’ Guival screamed in anguished. ‘It is far too valuable, and anyway it is built from a mallicon1alloy if you have not noticed. Mjolnir would end up destroying itbefore it made a hole in the side. The energy from the hammerwould rip its entire atomic structure apart. And if you damagedthe morph engine, your precious sword might be a carrot stickwhen you find it.’ ‘I guess you are right, so what do we do?’ Kirom asked. ‘I assume Skern was quite secretive about this room, and sinceit has been sealed for so many generations everything inside hasbeen preserved almost perfectly. What I need is a sample of hisDNA. I need a hair, a bone, anything that belonged to him.’1 Mallicon is metal commonly used by magic users due to the ease it couldtransform into other substances because of its loosely coupled atomicstructure. 275
    • Igor Swann About 15 minutes later Kirom had found a sharp rock with somedried blood on. El blood is a lot more resistant to decompositionthan human blood. ‘Great,’ Guival howled, ‘this is El blood. We can safely assume itis from Skern. Now I won’t be able to take his form definition fromthis, but I hopefully won’t need it.’ He tapped his mindcom. ‘My lord, I need to send a scanned DNA sequence to you. Iwould require you to use Skibladne’s medical facilities. In thereyou will find the regeneration chamber. It can generate lost limbsetc. What I need you to do is program the regeneration machineto create a brain using this DNA sequence,’ Guival explainedexcitedly. ‘Are you with me so far my lord?’ he asked. ‘Yes. Please continue,’ Angel replied. ‘The regeneration machine will activate the brain for testingpurposes. What I need you to do is record the brainwavepatterns, and then I need you to play the recording back to me viathe mindcom, understood?’ ‘I’ll get on it immediately,’ Angel replied still confused. ‘How did your meeting with Dr Skinner go?’ Angel asked. ‘Like a dream,’ Guival answered. ‘We are currently in the cavern, thanks to some brilliantdetective work by Kirom.’ ‘Good to hear. I’ll get back to you when I have something,’Angel replied and disconnected. Kirom and Guival kept themselves busy cataloguing theequipment and placing beacons on the useful piles. 276
    • Waking the Angel They felt they could pass on this equipment to the earth forcesso they may better defend themselves. ‘So how do you think he got this ship down here?’ Kirom asked. ‘I do not know, it definitely did not come down the platform,and I do not see any other exits to the cavern,’ Guival lookedperplexed. ‘Then how do you intend to get it out of here if you do get itworking?’ Kirom asked Guival. ‘Don’t know yet, but I am sure a solution will present itself,’Guival answered, but felt somewhat unsure of this. It took hours for the two of them to sort through theequipment, but it kept them busy and for that, they were grateful. An eternity later Guival’s mindcom beeped. ‘Okay I have what you want, are you ready to receive?’ Angelasked. ‘Just a second,’ Guival replied as he took a comfortable positionon the ground. He took his normal Aesir form sitting in a way that resembledthe lotus position. ‘Kirom I have to ask you not to speak to me, after thetransmission has begun. I’ll have to concentrate to keep thebrainwave patterns stable,’ Guival projected into his friend’s mindnow that he lost his vocal cords. ‘Very well, I shall refrain from speaking.’ ‘Please start the transmission my lord,’ Guival projected into hismindcom. Guival seem to flow into a trance as Skibladne beamed thepattern into his mind. 277
    • Igor Swann After a few minutes, he slowly got to his feet, and walked to themorph ship. His eyes were shining like blue lights, and he seemed quiteoblivious to his surroundings, except for an intent focus on theship. He appeared to be staring at it, but Kirom knew he wascommunicating with the ship. A hatch in the side of the ship slid open, and Guival silentlyentered. He walked to the command console and again seemed to stareat it. It took a few minutes before he turned to Kirom. The light in his eyes had vanished. ‘It is fine now my friend, you may enter, I have reprogrammedthe ship to accept my brainwave signature and it will listen to menow.’ For the first time Guival looked around the ship. He and Kiromstood on a small command deck, with a hatch leading aft. Kirom eagerly opened the hatch and he was not disappointed.Skern used this part of the ship as a tomb. His skeletal remains lay on a flat table. On his chest lay the sword of Freyr. Kirom stared at it in awe. ‘We’ve found it.’ He picked it up and held it in his outstretched arm, watching itglint in the dull light. He flicked it around a few times, whatamazing craftsmanship, he thought. ‘So Skern came here to die?’ Guival asked. 278
    • Waking the Angel ‘Yes. It would seem he built this pyramid as his tomb,’ Kiromacknowledged. ‘Seems more like suicide,’ Guival pointed out. ‘Guess we will never know,’ Kirom shrugged, ‘you know El andtheir weird honour thing. Maybe he felt remorse for his crimes.Who knows?’ The heard a whirring noise from the direction of the platform. ‘What’s going on?’ Kirom asked. Guival seemed to be concentrating on the noise. ‘It’s Professor Kitzel and some guards,’ Guival answered. ‘How did they find the platform,’ Kirom asked bewildered, thencursed. ‘We did not send it back up and the rock switch is quite obviousin the down position,’ the dwarf swore. ‘From what I can gather from his thoughts, Doctor Skinnercontacted him and asked for his help at Calakmul. He smelled arat when she was both at home and here. He is coming down toinvestigate, and he is very angry. He dislikes grave robbersintently.’ ‘Then we better find a way out of here, right now!’ Kiromexclaimed, ‘we cannot start harming natives.’ ‘I agree,’ Guival acknowledged and pressed his mindcom. ‘My lord you might want to start teleporting up the equipmentwith the beacons.’ ‘Will do... what is wrong, you sound worried?’ Angel asked,happy that had distributed most of the equipment they came withoriginally. 279
    • Igor Swann ‘Nothing we can’t handle my lord, but I would not waste anytime getting the equipment on board,’ Guival replied. I hope, hethought to himself. ‘We should have sent the platform up again,’ Kirom cursedagain, ‘they would never have found the entrance otherwise.’ ‘Let it go my friend, we need to focus on our current problem.’ ‘What’s the plan?’ Kirom asked. ‘Can we jam the platform, before it descends,’ Guival asked. ‘I do not think 300 meters of rock will stop for anything we stickin its path,’ Kirom commented. ‘Cant you put a sleep spell on them,’ Kirom asked. ‘I don’t know enough of this species physiology. Angel andGemmi are not exactly human anymore. I might kill them.’ ‘Would have been great if Skibladne’s teleport technology couldbe used on something other than inanimate objects,’ Kiromgrowled and then turned his attention to their currentsurroundings. ‘Too bad this ship is not Sleipnir, Odin’s ship. It could teleport usout of here.’ Guival imitated the thinker, which he saw on a photo Angelshowed him in his cultural training, and which intrigued him. Itworked. ‘This is a morph ship,’ he thought to Kirom, ‘it can become anyship in its database by rearranging the atoms in its structure.’ ‘Very impressive,’ Kirom sighed, not knowing how this will helpthem. The morph ship could become any ship of comparable atomcount it has scanned, even if it had to hide a few atoms in extra 280
    • Waking the Angelgear or not replicate some less than useful equipment on theother vessel. It will not be able to become a huge cruiser or even a corvetteof course but any smaller ship like a fighter, bomber, scout ship,medical evacuation unit or small transport ship. ‘Yes, it is impressive. It cannot however replicate any livingmaterial, also no intricate or foreign technology. It will also notreplicate any substance or elements it does not understand.’ ‘So we can’t replicate Sleipnir,’ Kirom continued to curse, ‘thereis a surprise.’ ‘No, but we can become anything else in its database,’ Guivalsaid. ‘Great now would you mind getting us out of here, the platformis descending.’ ‘Relax my friend. There is no way for them to penetrate the hull,unless they brought some kind of explosives along.’ Kirom heard the click as the hatch closed. ‘You do know this is a dig sight, right,’ Kirom asked sarcastically,‘lots of explosives!’ Guival ignored him and asked the ship to bring up a list of all theships it has scanned, from its data banks. ‘No, no, that will not work… no, no, YES!’ he startled Kirom. The ship began to glow, and separate into molecules and atoms,kept from spreading into nothingness with a swirling blue lightcoming from a machine behind them. Except for the commanddeck floor, which seemed protected by a force field, a strangemachine appeared to be the only other part of the ship that didnot become part of the swirling blue light. ‘The morph drive,’ Guival explained. 281
    • Igor Swann Seconds later, the ship, or more correctly a ship had formedaround them. ‘A Tunneler,’ Kirom boomed, ‘wonderful!’ ‘I thought you would like it. Shall we get out of here?’ Guivalasked. ‘Let’s,’ Kirom answered happy to be back in a tunneler. He grewup in them, and had fond memories of learning how to drive one. Kirom grabbed the controls. Guival did not protest, as he had no idea how to pilot atunneler. They hovered and moved slowly forward until the tip of theship’s nose touched the far wall where an enormous nose drillstarted up aided by ion beams extruding from the side of thenose. The tunneler rapidly moved forward. The two grave robbers were almost out of sight when theplatform with the invasion party finally came to rest. Desperatescreams followed their ascent. They broke through to the surface. Guival turned the morphship into its original form, which was not the junker disguise itwore inside the cavern. It resembled a B-2 spirit stealth bomber,but with much sleeker lines. He activated the ship’s camouflage and dropped Kirom and thesword off at his fighter. ‘We are on our way, my lord,’ he said into the mindcom. A miserable Guival piloted the ship back to its true owner, thecurrent UGE Lord. However, he felt blessed having had theopportunity to operate it for a while. He sighed, and set course for Skibladne. 282
    • Waking the Angel283
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 42 The following day’s strategy meeting with the Valk’r proceededrapidly and surprisingly smooth. They seemed to be well organized and easily agreed upon abattle strategy was. Since only Gemmi had a fighter capable of leaving earth’satmosphere they agreed to wait until the invasion force enteredearth’s atmosphere before they would launch their attack. With the help of the Valk’r deep space scanners, they would beable to pinpoint the incursion coordinates and deploy their fighterwings in time. ‘The Taur love to attack weak or single targets, so do not leaveyour squadron unless your wish to be bait,’ Laidin explained. ‘That is a tactic to remember. Put them at ease then destroythem in an ambush,’ Ricci helped. ‘Yes, that is an option. The Taur fighter cockpit is the mostvulnerable point and they have a blind spot in their seven o’clockposition if you come in high. This is from the attachment for theirvision enhancer.’ Ricci made more notes. ‘They are incredibly ferocious fighters and will hunt a targetwith total disregard for their fellow pilots. If you are in trouble, flyas close to some of the other Taur ships as possible. They mightshoot down a few of their own, or hit another Taur who wouldnot take kindly to it. With luck you will start an internal squabblewhere they might forget about you.’ 284
    • Waking the Angel Laidin saw the gleam in Ricci’s eyes, this tactic seem to sit wellwith her. ‘First priority would be the bombers. They are able to inflict themost damage. Then the fighters and then only we destroy theground forces. For this to work we need to distract the bomber’sfighter escort. I think by baiting them into an ambush as yousuggested earlier, would be a good ploy to use here.’ ‘Understood,’ Ricci acknowledged. ‘I have uploaded schematics and images of these ships ontoyour computers, along with their favourite tactics andmanoeuvres, and any weaknesses. This is so you may recognizethem in battle, and for programming your fighter simulators,’Laidin stated. ‘If you get shot down, these are anatomical presentations,showing all the weak points in the anatomy of each of the threeTaur races.’ Ricci stared at the pictures in front of her. ‘Huh? We are going to be attacked by mythological goats, filliesand cattle?’ She asked flabbergasted. ‘I do not know what those are?’ Laidin answered. ‘Those are earth animals that were used to describemythological creatures,’ Ricci explained, ‘only we call themMinotaur, Centaur and Satyr.’ ‘You know about the Taur?’ Laidin asked quite interested in thisnew revelation. ‘Well we knew the myths and legends, but we always assumedit was just made up to amuse the children. I mean, really,mixtures of human parts and animal parts is a little farfetched Ithink?’ Ricci asked, 285
    • Igor Swann ‘Actually, they don’t quite look like the animals on earth but Icould see how the writers of mythology could make the parallel intrying to describe them. I can’t believe they actually exist.’ ‘Hmmm, but it is fine for El, Dwar and Aesir to exist?’ Laidinsmiled, ‘Shall I continue?’ ‘Please do,’ Ricci suggested quite unabashed. ‘Right, these holodisk are for your holographic simulationchambers. It will teach you where and how to attack each of theraces, and what their favourite attacks are. There are tacticlessons on how to defend against them and preferably kill theminstead of them you.’ Laidin preferred not to mention the Taur mechanized forces.They will be near impossible to stop with the earthling’s primitiveweapons. All she mentioned in passing was that if you shouldencounter one, you should run. ‘I suggest you retire to your quarters and simulators, and startstudying these. We will hold a session in the morning withquestions.’ An overtired Gemmi said her goodnights and retired to herquarters along with Loser. It almost seemed as if Laidin did not need sleep, as if thethought of battle kept her recharged. They were about to depart when the door burst open and Kildathe librarian ran in. ‘It’s gone, Draupnir is gone,’ she screamed. ‘Calm down,’ Ricci commanded after taking a moment to gatherher composure, ‘let’s go see.’ They quickly made their way to the vault. 286
    • Waking the Angel ‘I came in this evening to collect the 8 spawned rings and this iswhat I found.’ ‘But this is impossible,’ Ricci remarked dumbfounded. ‘This room is sealed there is no way in or out, and you and I arethe only ones with clearance to come into this room,’ Riccireaffirmed the facts. ‘I know, but I did not take it!’ ‘I did not say you did, but how did anyone else get in here?’Ricci asked puzzled. ‘It is improbable but not impossible,’ Laidin suggested. Laidin studied the room intently, a small fibre caught herattention. She picked it up and examined it with her amazing Elsight. Then she smiled. Laidin looked around the room again as if searching forsomething very specific. ‘Aha, I think I know what happened,’ she declared. ‘What?’ Ricci asked irritably. ‘Elementary my dear Ricci,’ Laidin began, ‘let us examine theclues. There is no way in except for the door and an air vent toosmall for anyone to fit in. We have a missing ring and this smallpiece of fibre.’ ‘Now I deduce that this is from cloth commonly used inbandaging.’ ‘No shit Sherlock,’ Ricci sarcastically remarked. ‘Excuse me?’ Laidin answered confused. ‘Nothing, continue,’ Ricci sneered. ‘I surmise that the air vent although too small for human usagewould be large enough for a certain smallish animal to squeezethrough.’ 287
    • Igor Swann She turned to a frightened little Loser peeking out behindGemmi’s head, ‘is my hypotheses correct Mr Loser?’ Loser dropped down from Gemmi’s shoulder, and withdrooping shoulders and a bowed head slowly left the room. Ricci wanted to follow but Laidin held her back. ‘Let him do this his way?’ she suggested. Loser returned a few minutes later, and extended his little handtoward Ricci, a golden ring lay in the palm of his hand. She took itand placed it back on the pedestal. Gemmi appeared to be close to tears, ‘why did you do it?’ sheasked the little felon. She felt his emotions come over her in waves, and sheunderstood. ‘That’s why!’ She exclaimed. The others looked at her strangely. ‘The ring makes the swords that hurt him. He thought if he tookthe ring you couldn’t make any more swords.’ ‘But Loser,’ Kilda explained, ‘we already have vaults full of rings.Even if you took Draupnir now, we would still have enough ringsto make hundreds of swords.’ ‘Do not fear little one, we understand,’ Laidin softly mentionedand gave Loser’s hand a squeeze. Loser smiled shyly and slinked away to the safety of Gemmi’sshoulder. Assuming the issue resolved they turned to leave but Kilda hadone more concern. ‘Sorry to be a bother but there is still the matter of the 8spawned rings.’ 288
    • Waking the Angel Gemmi looked at Loser and he looked at her, then he shrugged.Obviously, the ring had not spawned yet when he took it. He jumped down again and took Kilda’s hand. He led her through the corridors to a vent, and pointed inside. She looked down and saw the nail on which Draupnir previouslyhung. ‘Sorry Ricci, but it looks like the rings that spawned might haverolled down the shaft. They are not on the small little hook Loserused the hide the ring.’ ‘Oh well, no big loss, we will just amend our books to show this,’Ricci shrugged. They retired to their quarters, beautifully decorated with muralsfrom Valk’r legends. Gemmi fell asleep as soon as she lay down her head, with Loseron top of her chest snoring away merrily. The next morning Gemmi found the base in disarray. She heard phrases like. ‘We are going to get slaughtered like cattle, by cattle.’ ‘It’s hopeless. We are going to be creamed by goats.’ ‘I wanted to get laid by a stud; but not onto a slab in themorgue.’ ‘We cannot hope to win.’ and ‘I am too young to push updaisies. We are already animal fodder.’ ‘Be silent!’ Gemmi commanded with more authority than Riccihad heard in her entire life. The Brisingamen jewel glowed with a dark red ominous light. 289
    • Igor Swann ‘Did you really think any enemy you will face would roll overand lick your hand as soon as you approach?’ Gemmi spoke as ifto naughty little girls. Valk’r warriors were approaching from every direction, to findthe cause of the commotion. Soon a large crowd of Valk’r had gathered. ‘You will fight because you are Valk’r and you will fight becauseif you don’t then you and your families will be slaughteredwithout mercy,’ she said. Ricci felt something important was coming, and whispered toCarra to have this speech transmitted over the entire Valk’r base. Gemmi changed her tone to someone speaking with others thathad much to lose and are in need of guidance. ‘Do not doubt that you are strong. They may be from a far awaygalaxy, but that does not make them stronger. Underestimatingus, thinking we are weak, will be their biggest mistake, one theywill not have the opportunity to regret. Travelling from a far awaygalaxy does not make them smarter. Coming here to mess with usjust shows how stupid they are. You are warriors, the sworn protectors of our planet. The planetis in danger and the human race is on the brink of extinction. All that stands between them and the end of mankind is ourstrength, but what a glorious strength it is.’ Gemmi again changedher tone to speak to warriors needing courage for battle. ‘The leader of the entire United Galactic Empire is a human.WHY IS THAT? It is because we are strong, because we are smart,because we are courageous! It is because we will not lie down andsurrender! 290
    • Waking the Angel We were chosen because they know that we can lead and wecan fight, and we will fight, and we will be victorious because, WEARE THE VALK’R.’ An enormous cheer rang through the halls in the Valk’r base. ‘We will not hide in silence anymore. We will not disappear intothe shadows again. We will not fight in secrecy any longer. Evileverywhere in the universe will from now and for all eternity,LEARN TO FEAR THE NAME OF THE VALK’R.’ Her voice echoed through the Valk’r base. ‘We will be known as the greatest warriors in the universe! WEARE VALK’R.’ The chant began. ‘VALK’R, VALK’R, VALK’R.’ The walls vibrated with it, and Ricci and Laidin gave each othera smile. She is the one, she is definitely the one, they both thought. 291
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 43 Angel stood waiting in the hangar bay when the twoarchaeologists touched down. ‘Welcome back gentlemen,’ he said with a friendly smile. Kirom and Guival approached Angel with solemn looks on theirfaces, though it was for quite different reasons. Angel found this quite disconcerting. It seems something hadgone terribly wrong. Kirom knelt before Angel, bowed his head, and held up thesword. ‘Allow me to present your sword my liege, the symbol of yourpower. May it serve to once again unite the UGE,’ Kirom formallyannounced. A relieved Angel thanked Kirom for his brilliance in finding thesword and the duo for retrieving it. ‘I could not have selected a finer team of adventurers. You havemy sincere appreciation and gratitude.’ He placed the sword on his back and it immediately secureditself. He had to remind himself constantly of the sword, as it wasvery light and comfortable. Guival seemed more reluctant to hand over his bounty, butcontinued anyway. ‘I have returned the incredible ship that Skern took when hestole the sword. It will serve you well my lord.’ Angel looked at him and smiled, he could see Guival had alreadyfallen in love with the morph ship. 292
    • Waking the Angel ‘Hmmm, I think I shall name her Jen after the alter ego of hernew owner.’ ‘My lord, you mean? It’s mine?’ Guival stammered a thought. ‘Yes my friend, she is yours. I have Skibladne the most amazingship in creation. We have a very close mind bond now and I thinkshe would be jealous if I introduced another lady into therelationship.’ ‘Thank you my lord. Thoughts cannot express how I feel rightnow.’ ‘It is my pleasure, I hope you…’ Angel did not have time tofinish. #Subject located# Skibladne’s metallic voice came over theship’s intercom. Angel turned around and started to run towards the bridge,leaving two puzzled aliens standing in the hangar. He halted in front of the view screen, eagerly examining theinformation displayed. ‘She found him,’ he whispered. ‘She found you?’ Guival concluded after he appeared next toAngel and seemed confused since the display showed a photo ofAngel. ‘No, my brother,’ Angel tried to explain. ‘We were separated at birth. It received the vision of the attackon earth from him.’ ‘Why did you have such difficulty in locating him?’ Guivalinquired. ‘Well there are a few billion people on earth, and we haddifferent surnames. My mother never revealed my father’sidentity.’ 293
    • Igor Swann He paused before continuing. ‘I had nothing to search on except the hope that we wereidentical twins.’ He proudly patted Skibladne. ‘The lady has been jacked into all the major networks in theworld trying to locate someone that looked like me.’ ‘Jacked in?’ Guival asked. ‘Connected; and although she complained frequently about theancient technology, she performed a sterling job. In only a weekshe managed to sift through a few million faces.’ He studied the screen again. ‘Mark Stern, my brother.’ He turned to Guival, and Kirom who had now arrived afterdeciding to get into his jump suit as soon as possible. Guival justformed his around him, much less bother than actual fabric. ‘I shall be departing shortly,’ Angel explained. ‘I need you to load all the weapons and shields we liberatedfrom the pyramid and take it to the Valk’r. Please ensure theydistribute it fairly among the nations of earth. I also need them tosend out technicians to help deploy the equipment.’ ‘My lord,’ they both acknowledged in unison and turned to dohis bidding. Guival selected a transport ship from Jen’s archives, which hadsufficient space to carry all their cargo and they used Skibladne’steleporter to transfer the payload. Angel’s mindcom beeped. ‘We are ready to depart my lord,’ Guival’s voice rang in hismind. 294
    • Waking the Angel ‘Excellent. Demonstrate haste my friends we have less thanthree days before D-day,’ Angel thought back. They parted company and Angel set course for somewhere inBoston. On route, he had Skibladne create a teleportation chamber forhis sword alongside that of the Bow of Odin and Mjolnir, and hechanged into his human clothes again. Skibladne landed silently in an open field. Angel disembarkedand sent Skibladne into the next dimension. He cursed the fact that were no fields closer to the town, andwalked for the better part of an hour before he reached it.Thoughts rushed through his head like a freeway on fast-forward.He had rehearsed what he would say so many times but thenervousness would not leave him. The little house seemed almost too ordinary as he walked up tothe front door and rang the bell. He still straightened his clotheswhen the door swung open. ‘Hello brother,’ he said and smiled. Mark stood staring at him, unable to speak. ‘Long story but yes I am your brother, and yes we are twins,’Angel tried again. His brother kept on staring without saying a word. ‘Would you like me to go?’ Angel tried a different approach. This was not quite the welcome he expected. ‘No, er, no please come in. Forgive my rudeness, but you mustunderstand this is quite a shock. Opening the door and staringinto your own face does not happen often,’ Mark explained thenhe started chattering. 295
    • Igor Swann ‘So you are my brother? How did you find me? Were you livingwith our mother? Can I meet her? Is this real?’ ‘Slow down brother, sit and I’ll try to explain,’ Angel said. ‘Yes, we were separated at birth. I stayed with our mother andyou went off with our father. They both vowed not to tell usabout each other, and I am sorry to tell you this but she took thesecret to her grave. I have lately had dreams of you. That is how Iknew that you existed, but since we took the names of theparents that raised us, I did not know how to find you. Luckily Ihave some very resourceful friends and they managed to trackyou down.’ Angel took a breath for the first time, ‘how is dad?’ Mark looked dejected. ‘He died of pneumonia about 3 weeks ago,’ he said and turnedhis gaze to his brother. ‘I thought I was now truly alone on this planet and then youshow up.’ If you only knew how alone you were on this planet till a weekago, Angel thought. Though saddened by the news of his father,he at least had his brother. ‘I know this is going to sound confusing, but we have little timebrother and I have much to do. I cannot explain now but pleasepack a bag, we need to go.’ ‘Excuse me? You just got here, you tell me you’re my brother,and now you want me to pack up and leave?’ Mark repliedbaffled. ‘All will become clear very soon. Do you have a car?’ Angelasked. 296
    • Waking the Angel ‘Yes in the motor port. I don’t even know your name,’ Marktried again. ‘You can call me Angel; everyone that matters now does.’ Mark thought this was a strange name but went with it all thesame. ‘Okay I’ll humour you. It is Sunday and I have nothing better todo today,’ he said and walked off to go pack. A couple of minutes later they were driving towards the field. ‘So tell me; where do you live?’ asked Mark. ‘We used to live in a small town in Ohio. It was quiet living,’Angel reminisced. ‘Mom was a sensitive woman, beautiful and had a bubblypersonality. She took very good care of me, and we never reallyhad any shortages in the home.’ Angel felt a lump in his throat. ‘After she passed away I moved to New York and started myown company. It had been a rocky road but that is all behind menow. My life is now something completely different.’ ‘Well dad was a strong person, quiet and very intelligent. Healso took very good care of me, but I did not see him nearly asmuch as I would have liked. He went away on business frequently.I had a housekeeper who looked after me most of the time.’ ‘So dad never got remarried, that is strange,’ Angel remarked. ‘Okay, pull over here.’ ‘There is nothing out here!’ ‘Not yet,’ Angel gave his bother a naughty smiled. They walked a little way into the field before Angel calledSkibladne. Mark fell heavily on his backside as the massive shipslowly appeared. ‘What the hell is that?’ he fearfully said pointing at the ship. 297
    • Igor Swann ‘This, my dear brother, is Skibladne. Come,’ he motioned as thehatch opened in Skibladne’s belly. Mark, mouth agape, followed as if in a trance. They stood on the command deck when Angel orderedSkibladne to set course for the Valk’r base. ‘Okay, now for all your questions, but first I shall give you a littlebackground,’ Angel suggested. He told him about his abduction, the worlds he visited, how hebecame the UGE Lord, the visions, and lastly about the attack onearth. ‘The earth is going to be destroyed?’ Mark nervously asked. ‘Not if we can help it. We are doing everything in our power toprevent it from happening. But I’ll be honest with you, it does notlook good,’ Angel responded solemnly. They continued speaking about what is going to happen andhow it all came about. Mark was astonished. He could not believehis ears or his eyes when Angel showed him around Skibladne. ‘You have yet to meet the crew, and it unfortunately getsstranger. We have a Valkyrie, a Dwarf, an Elf, a Wizard and ashape changing monkey.’ Mark laughed so hard his whole body shook. ‘Elves, Dwarves and Mages, with a shape changing monkey anda Valkyrie in for good measure, now I know you are pulling myleg,’ Mark said when he could breathe again. Angel just smiled. ‘You’ll see. Myths, legends and fantasy usually have a core oftruth somewhere at the centre. You would be amazed how muchof what we believe to be fictional is real. Take Skibladne for 298
    • Waking the Angelexample, it is straight from mythology yet here you are standinginside her.’ ‘We will be landing shortly. I am going to change clothing. I havecreated an extra jump suit for you, although I should haveexpanded the waist area slightly,’ he joked. By the time Mark reappeared on the bridge, Angel had theSword of Freyr securely strapped to his back and he wasrequesting permission for final approach from Valk’r control. ‘This is Skibladne to Valk’r control requesting clearance to land.’ The answer came promptly. ‘This is Valk’r control, change heading to 32 degrees, altitude1500 feet my lord and welcome to New Valhalla.’ They were heading into a mountain, and a section of the rockface moved away, large enough for Skibladne to pass throughcomfortably. Skibladne gently touched down in the hangar where a hugereception committee waited for them to disembark. All the Valk’rhad heard the legend of Skibladne and the UGE Lord but none hadever seen them. They were here now and nobody intended tomiss this. His crew formed an honour guard; all dressed in theirjumpsuits. Gemmi proudly wore the Brisingamen jewel aroundher neck. Kirom had Mjolnir, and Laidin the Bow of Odin strappedto their backs. They looked proudly on, as he disembarked fromthe crown jewel of the UGE. Even Loser proudly stood next to Gemmi, wearing his tinyjumpsuit and the bandage on his left arm, with his little chestpushed out as far as it would go. 299
    • Igor Swann Angel happily noticed Loser’s jump suit held up under thefrequent resizing he subjected it to, which he built in as aforesight, but never had a chance to test. Gemmi stepped forward as leader of the Valk’r. ‘My lord, it is with great pleasure I bid you welcome to NewValhalla, we hope you had a pleasant journey,’ she said with adeep curtsey. ‘Oh shut up and give me a hug,’ Angel laughed, and Gemmirushed into his arms. ‘I missed you,’ she whispered happily. ‘And I you little one,’ he returned the affectionate words. Loser hugged both of them, just as happy. Angel walked over to greet the rest of the crew, and then heturned to Mark who stood on his own quite bemused. Angelwaved him closer. ‘My friends may I introduce to you my brother Mark.’ Hepointed to each of his crew in turn. ‘Mark this is Laidin, Kirom, Gemmi, Guival and Loser, theintrepid crew of the Lady Skibladne.’ There were a lot of, ‘how do you do,’ and ‘pleased to meet you,’before Ricci stepped forward. ‘My lord, I am Ricci. We are honoured to meet you at last.’ ‘Please to meet you too Ricci,’ Angel said and for the first timelooked at her. Something stirred inside him, and it felt verystrange. He could feel his cheeks redden. Angel quickly turnedaway, pretending to examine his surroundings. ‘Impressive base you have here,’ he said without looking in herdirection. 300
    • Waking the Angel ‘Thank you my lord, would you like some refreshments?’ sheasked, her naughty eyes twinkling. ‘That would be lovely, thank you,’ he said and she walked off,hips purposefully swaying, to go organize it. He watched her depart and suddenly realized he was staring, sohe quickly turned his attention to Laidin. ‘My lord, the war effort is going well,’ Laidin remarked tryingher utmost to stifle a laugh. El generally did not miss much. ‘Great so give me the low down,’ Angel requested as theystarted walking towards the war room. ‘We have distributed the shield generators and otherequipment to the major cities. It should give them someprotection but not a lot,’ Laidin confirmed. ‘The Valk’r warriors are battle ready and monitoring all knownTaur frequencies but nothing as yet. Guival informed us of yoursuccesses. It seems we have done as much as we could for thepeople of earth. The rest is up to faith and good fortune.’ ‘I agree; I think there is little more we could have done, even ifwe had more time.’ Angel felt anxious, the end was drawing ever closer and it was adaunting prospect. ‘Let us review the battle plan one more time and then weshould get some rest. We have all worked hard these couple ofdays, and we need all the strength we can muster for the battle.’ Angel spent most of day eight and nine with his brothercatching up. There was nothing more to do but wait and pray. 301
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    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 44 Day 10 broke and you could cut the tension in the air with aknife. Angel stood in front of more than a hundred view screens,of which 12 displayed the tense faces of the nuclear superpowers.The rest of the screens showed the worried faces of most of theleaders from the rest of earth’s nations. LOBE’s voice came into Angel’s mind. ‘They have left the jump point,’ and Angel said in an audiblevoice, which instantly translated in the mother tongue of each ofthe leaders by the Ark technology. ‘They are here.’ No sooner had he said this and radio chatter started on one ofthe Taur frequencies. Angel still addressed the screens. ‘Please have someone monitor this broadcast continuously.There would be very little time after we give the final warning.’ Laidin took up position next to him. ‘Unfortunate news my Lord, the Taur are mobilizing to attackimmediately. We will not have the Darkmoons as a defenceinitiative.’ ‘It is, as you feared. Their battle hunger has got the better ofthem,’ Angel acknowledged. ‘A consolation is that we detected only a small portion of thefleet break off and heading here. The rest seemed to be setting upbase.’ ‘How small,’ Angel asked under his breath. 303
    • Igor Swann ‘Large enough to wipe out the earth, several times,’ Laidinsolemnly confirmed. Angel did not understand this. ‘What do you think that’s about? Why not just send the entirefleet and crush us? Why bring such a massive fleet if you are notgoing to use it?’ ‘I think they want to put the fear of God into these people andmaybe get them to mount a defence so they may have somesport before decimating the planet,’ Laidin answered in a gravely. ‘Well that is good news for us, is it not? We have a betterchance now. If they want us to mount a defence they wereplanning to give us some time and hopefully enough for theDarkmoons to arrive in 12 hours.’ ‘12 hours and 37 minutes, earth time,’ LOBE corrected him. ‘That is one way of looking at it, but this means they will attackcivilian targets on this run which makes it worse. They want to getearth angry and force them to defend themselves withoutweakening earth defences before they show their true might,’Laidin remarked. Angel addressed the leaders trying his utmost to hide hisconcern. ‘We have news that only a small portion of the invasion force isheading our way. We assume it is to extend an invitation to earthto defend itself. They will come here and destroy at will to showtheir superiority, and then leave us so we may, in their opinion,mount a feeble defence. We have a few surprises for them, and ifwe succeed in holding them off, the two super-weapons calledDarkmoons should be arriving in 12 hours. They would make theTaur think twice before attacking again.’ Angel did not feel the 304
    • Waking the Angelneed to share the gravity of their situation with them. He did notneed them to panic. He wanted them focused on the mission. Angel spoke to LOBE. ‘How long before the Taur are in target range and what are themost likely coordinates for first contact?’ Angel asked examiningthe Valk’r long-range scanners. ‘93 minute 12 seconds at current speed, entry will be 39°12’17’Latitude 8°44’01’ Longitude,’ LOBE stated and Angel relayed thisas quickly as possible to the leaders. ‘Place your air force on full alert. Do not bother loadingammunition, it will just weigh down the planes and have no effecton the enemy. Arm the planes with high yield missiles only. If yourfighter planes were fitted with the plasma cannons we broughtalong, use those to weaken the Taur’s shields before firingmissiles. I believe your personnel received instruction in theproper battle tactics against the invaders. I shall initiatecountdown for the nuke launches closer to the time. We will nowfeed our scanner information to you so you may stay informed.’ Angel did not attempt to argue with Gemmi when sherequested, no, demanded to lead the Valk’r into battle. He hadfaith in her, and now he had to prove it. ‘Remember patience young one, a wise warrior waits for theopportunity to attack to present itself while a young warriorrushes in head first. Ricci will fly on your wing, listen to heradvice,’ he said in parting. He fell in step beside Ricci as she walked to her fighter. He couldfeel his heart starting to beat faster. The effect this green-eyedwarrior had on him amazed him. 305
    • Igor Swann ‘A favour my lady,’ he said feeling strangely out of sorts. She smiled sweetly, ‘anything my lord.’ ‘Bring her back safely. She is very dear to me,’ Angel felt theword choke in his throat. ‘I shall my lord’ Ricci promised looking deep into his grey blueeyes. ‘Wear this. It is a mindcom. With this you will be able totransmit and receive thoughts to and from any of my crew,’ heexplained, ‘and me,’ he added. Angel turned to leave, and called over his shoulder. ‘I would love to see you again as well.’ She stared at his departing figure and smiled. Since only his crew had any real battle experience against theTaur they all took command of a squadron of Valk’r fighters. Angel stood in front of the rows of screens for one last time. ‘Okay LOBE, count me down to 30 minutes to Launch,’ Angelrequested. ‘31 minutes 12 seconds,’ LOBE answered. ‘Gentlemen start 30 minute countdown to missile launch on mymark.’ LOBE said, ‘Now.’ Angel said, ‘Mark.’ Mark said, ‘Yes?’ Angel ignored him, as counters all around the planet startedticking down the seconds to the end of the world. ‘Set coordinates as previously given, they have not changed.Deploy your fighters now. There will be no time to get themairborne when the attack begins. You have all received our 306
    • Waking the Angelfighter’s images. Please ensure you program your identificationcomputers accordingly. Some of our fighters will act automaticallyon a perceived threat like a missile lock, and we don’t want anyfriendly fire incidents.’ ‘Good luck gentlemen, I shall now return you to the feed fromour scanning equipment.’ He hurried off to Skibladne closely followed by his brother. ‘Where do you think you are going?’ he asked Mark. ‘Well I figured the safest place on earth right now would be in aplane that does not exist, right?’ Angel smiled briefly. ‘Come on,’ he said. The boarded quickly and took their seats. He turned on his mindcom. ‘Well my friends, this is it. So get your backsides to the insertioncoordinates, and come back alive.’ 307
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 45 Skibladne took the lead, followed closely by the fighters of hiscrew, and the 500 or so Valk’r fighters. ‘Battle mode,’ Angel commanded. #Battle Mode engaged# The gasps from his crew were clearly audible over themindcom. He knew why and smiled broadly. They had never seen theamazing ship go into battle mode. He wished he could see whatthey saw now. It must be the most incredible sight ever. Laser turrets, rocket pods, ion and Tachyon cannons, missilelaunchers and some weapons no one had ever seen before,appeared from nowhere. Skibladne deployed weapons thatshould not exist, and some that could not exist. The lady lookedlike a porcupine having a bad hair day. Nevertheless, she alsolooked like something you would rather not mess with, even ifyou could not count and you had your own personal Darkmoon. ‘Automatically target and destroy any Taur ships,’ he finishedthe command sequence. ‘Guival if you intend morphing into a Taur ship, stay well clearof Skibladne unless you wish to become cannon fodder.’ ‘Trust me my lord, I don’t think anybody is going to come withina standard continent of you once we go into battle,’ Guivallaughed. ‘Does it look that bad?’ Angel asked innocently. Laidin answered. 308
    • Waking the Angel ‘Put it this way my lord, if Skibladne is ever decommissioned wecan refit an entire UGE armada from the salvaged weapons.’ ‘Okay, stop it now. You are going to hurt the lady’s feelings,’Angel pleaded playfully. ‘Anyway the more firepower we have the better.’ ‘I agree my lord but I think the rest of us should just get ringsideseats, a good supply of popcorn and enjoy the show,’ Guivalchirped. ‘Nobody is denying me a fight,’ Kirom growled. ‘Nobody would dare deny you anything Master Dwar,’ Riccianswered adding her opinion. ‘Hey where did you get a mindcom?’ Gemmi demanded. ‘From me,’ Angel said, ‘I… We will need her insight.’ ‘He just wants to speak to his girlfriend,’ Gemmi remarkedteasingly, ‘isn’t that right Loser old buddy.’ ‘Gemmi that’s enough,’ Laidin’s stern reply touched a nerve inthe little girl. ‘But you said...’ came Gemmi’s faint voice. ‘I said enough, young lady.’ ‘No let her finish,’ a terse Angel remarked. ‘What did Laidin say Gemmi?’ Kirom interrupted, attempting to run interference for his friend,‘we are approaching the coordinates my lord.’ ‘This conversation is far from over,’ Angel snapped. Ricci remained strangely absent during the entire exchange. ‘Squadrons deploy. There will be a lot of military planes uphere, so be careful.’ 309
    • Igor Swann Angel hoped the military planes knew what the friendly shipslooked like and did not start shooting at Valk’r, a move that wouldbe detrimental to their health. ‘Time to launch,’ Angel asked. ‘30 seconds,’ LOBE answered. ‘My lady, connect me to the leaders.’ A second later, the faces of the leaders spread acrossSkibladne’s view screen. ‘Gentlemen this is the fight for earth, it’s what we prepared for.Let’s show them what the earth is made of,’ he paused fordramatic effect. ‘Now if you would be so kind as to nuke the bastards it wouldbe much appreciated.’ Angel switched channels to command his troops. ‘Okay, get low ladies and gentlemen, the sky will be filled withnasty little thorns shortly.’ None of them had ever seen a firework display of suchmagnitude. Hundreds of missiles came pouring overhead fromevery direction. Smoke trails painted thin white lines on the bluesky, before leaving earth’s atmosphere. Even inside earth’satmosphere, the explosions were clearly visible. From Skibladne’s scanners he could see the missiles doing theirjob. It’s working, he thought satisfied. ‘Oh no, they are dividing into different forces in space,’ Gemmiobserved anxiously. ‘LOBE, calculate possible targets,’ Angel thought. 310
    • Waking the Angel ‘North America, Europe, Russia, China and Australia,’ LOBEanswered immediately. Angel spoke into his mindcom. ‘Gemmi you have Europe, Laidin Russia, Kirom North America,Guival Australia and I shall take the China remnant.’ Angel suspected that their leader would go for the greatestconcentration of people, which would be China. ‘Ricci take command of 100 fighters and follow me, Gemmi youare on your own, make me proud,’ Angel commanded. He headed towards China at maximum burn, not waiting forRicci. There was no way he was letting the Taur beat him there. The Chinese air force, already airborne, awaited his arrival. ‘Hello boys,’ he said on their frequency, ‘mind if I join theparty?’ ‘You are most welcome honourable warrior,’ the reply came. He only had to wait a few seconds before the Taur invasionforce came into visual range. A sickly looking green fighter led theTaur. The Taur leaders had this interesting habit of marking theirfighters in a distinct fashion making them extremely easy to spotin battle. Their arrogance knew no bounds. ‘Whose fighter is that,’ he asked Skibladne. #Alra’st# Skibladne replied. ‘The second in command of the Taur?’ he smiled in glee. He washoping that Kra’st would have been arrogant enough to lead thisforce, but Alra’st will do nicely. Angel would have loved the look on Alra’st face when he sawSkibladne; it was priceless. 311
    • Igor Swann What the hell, Skibladne, here, Shit! I should have known theUGE were involved! He thought, but she seems to be alone, exceptfor a few earthling bugs. A disturbing thought hit him like a sledgehammer. The UGE Lord is dead. If there is no UGE Lord then who is flyingit? The legends say that only the UGE Lord can pilot it. This wasbad. What is going on? However, the thoughts vanished when he realized what he hadin his grasp. ‘Destroy that ship! Destroy Skibladne!’ he spat the order to hisentire fleet in general. It would be a glorious victory if he returned to Kra’st with thenews that he destroyed the crown jewel of the UGE. Kra’st mighteven forgive him for losing most of his invitation fleet. ‘What is he doing? He is flying straight at us.’ Alra’st askedbaffled. ‘Is he truly insane?’ A completely sane UGE Lord commenced fire on the Taurremnant and it was like staying out of the way of a stampedingherd of buffalo. The Chinese fighters followed closely behind,using the highway Angel cleared for them as an attack corridor. Ricci, a brilliant strategist herself, adjudged Angel’s intentionswere to perform a head on assault on the Taur. She knew theywould scatter and she brought her Valk’r fighters in from aboveand behind in a wide-angle formation. 312
    • Waking the Angel The Valk’r warriors fought like cornered lions, not a quartergiven or asked for. The Taur ships went down in droves from thefront and the rear. The Chinese fighters were not doing as well and their numbersdwindled far quicker that the enemy. Nevertheless, they werebravely fighting and they were achieving a measure of success,especially with allowing the Taur to destroy their own forces. Ricci hunted the Taur Landers while Angel resolutely pursuedAlra’st. ‘How are we doing?’ he asked Skibladne. #Shields are down to 2%, rerouting power from energyweapons, regenerating now# she answered. Angel took thousands of hits flying straight through the Taurforce, but the amazing power source of Skibladne seemed to havekept them in one piece. He did do his share of damage. The awesome firepowerSkibladne deployed ripped through the hulls of those unfortunateenough to be in close proximity of the juggernaut, like the Swordof Freyr through thin air. Countless Taur fighters, bombers and Landers were there andthen they were mostly everywhere, in molecule form. Otherssimply fell out of the sky like confetti depending on which ofSkibladne’s weapon selection they were unlucky enough to be onthe receiving end of. #one more direct hit will most likely result in hull breach#Skibladne remarked. Alra’st was a great pilot, and Angel struggled to keep on his tail. 313
    • Igor Swann ‘Damn, missed again,’ he breathed after Alra’st outmanoeuvred him with a tight turn at high speed, at the exactmoment he lined up for the final shot. He threw the ship around and searched for Alra’st signature. ‘Where are you hiding little one? Come out come out whereveryou are. Uncle Angel has a surprise for you.’ Skibladne located Alra’st coming from directly above him. ‘Ah, there you are... just a little closer.’ #if he fires now he will destroy us# droned Skibladne. ‘I know,’ Angel replied deep in concentration. ‘Now!’ he sent Skibladne into the next dimension by pressingthe beacon. She disappeared into her hangar dimension with a veryconfused Alra’st targeting thin air. ‘4… 3… 2… 1…’ he pressed the beacon again and Skibladnereappeared. ‘All hull turrets target Taur fighter.’ ‘Fire,’ Angel commanded. Alra’st could not avoid the barrage. First Skibladne disappearsinto thin air, and now this. His fighter’s engines exploded in a ballof flames and smoke, and Angel watched as he fell to earth. ‘Aren’t you going to finish him off?’ Mark asked his brother. ‘I have more pressing concerns than a downed Taur my dearbrother.’ Angel did not want to shoot an unarmed enemy, even ifhe was a Taur. He got back to where he left the Valk’r and found Ricci in a spotof bother. Three Taur Fighters sat on her tail and they had her boxed in,leaving her no room to manoeuvre. 314
    • Waking the Angel Angel smiled. ‘Skibladne, be a dear and target those three fighters for me.’ Hegot in behind them with ease. With Skibladne’s manoeuvringcapabilities, it was like taking candy from a baby. Three pops laterand the slim lady had sung and eaten the candy for goodmeasure. ‘Thank you my lord but I had the situation under control,’ anannoyed Ricci responded. Sure you had, he thought but said, ‘just being a gentleman.’ The Taur forces scattered and appeared in disarray withouttheir leader. The casualty count on both sides was astronomical. ‘They are retreating, my lord. It seems Skibladne’s return to thefray did not go down well,’ Ricci observed. ‘Ah, and I thought we were getting along so well,’ Angel teased. Nine fighters remained in Ricci’s squadron and the enemy allbut wiped out the Chinese Air Force. Angel felt sorry for theChinese, as their air force had to deal with the main Taur invasionled by Alra’st. Many cities lay in ruin as several of the Taur Landersmade it onto the ground and some of the bombers got through aswell. ‘All right ladies, check for wounded on the ground and return tobase. I shall meet you there shortly,’ Angel commanded. ‘Regroup as quickly as possible. They have more than enoughtime to send the main fleet, before the Darkmoons arrive.’ Angel knew it would not matter; they had no more nukes andalmost no air support. They had nothing to throw at the Taurexcept rocks. 315
    • Igor Swann He set off towards Europe and Gemmi at full throttle. Anamazing sight greeted him. The Valk’r and Euro fighters picked offthe Taur as if it was open season in an apple orchid and an angryGerbit stood below the tree shaking it. ‘Gemmi, you sly little minks,’ he thought. She obviously messed with the Taur minds. Confused and frightened they flew around like idiots,presenting themselves as easy targets. ‘All team leaders check in, situation report,’ Angel commanded. ‘We have them on the run,’ he heard a pleased Kirom’sthoughts, ‘we have sustained heavy casualties, but theseAmerican pilots have the right stuff. They took down a fairnumber of the Taur bastards. I have less than forty Valk’r fightersleft in my Squadron.’ ‘We are fine. Seventy-five Valk’r fighters remain in mysquadron. We destroyed most of Taur forces save a few Landersthat made it down. We did not have the brunt of the force to dealwith. The Russian pilots must be commended on a superb job ofdefending their homeland,’ Laidin concluded. ‘I’m okay,’ Gemmi remarked simply. ‘I can see that little one,’ Angel grinned, until Guival’s worriedvoice came into his head. ‘We are in deep trouble. I am overwhelmed and I have no Valk’rfighters left. The Australian planes could put up very littleresistance and the Taur decimated our forces. We wereoutnumbered 20 to 1. The only reason I am still breathing is that Imorphed into a Taur fighter. Most of the major cities are in ruin.They seem to be withdrawing. I think they have completed the jobthey came to do.’ 316
    • Waking the Angel Angel felt sorry for Guival. Except for the force that went toChina, he had the largest insurgence to deal with and he was theleast experienced commander. This strange force divisionmystified Angel. Why would they send such a huge force therewhen America and Russia were much bigger threats? ‘Guival, see if you can leave the Taur remnant and then meet usback at base.’ ‘I’ll be there shortly my lord.’ ‘We are in position my Lord,’ a voice Angel did not recognizewas transmitting on the mindcom. ‘I am very glad to hear that. Ehm, now, who exactly are you?’ ‘Commander Darkmoon-1, my lord,’ the voice came again. ‘WHAT? You are here. But how, you were not scheduled toarrive for…’ LOBE interjected. ‘…8 hours and 13 minutes, earth time.’ ‘Yes my Lord but we detected Taur presence when we left thejump and immediately went to maximum burn. The towing beamswere placed under a stress they were not meant to handle, butthankfully they held.’ ‘I am deeply thankful for your foresight commander. Now, thereis a Taur invasion force trying to leave earth orbit. Under nocircumstances may they leave, destroy every last one of them,’ amystified Angel requested, how did they sneak two ships as big asmoons past the Taur armada? ‘We have them on scanner my lord, it will be our pleasure.’ ‘Thank you. Have the dreadnaughts deploy in a defensivepattern around earth when you are done, good hunting.’ 317
    • Igor Swann ‘All squadrons take care of the wounded, examine every Valk’rfighter shot down, we are leaving no one behind. Laidin sendsome of your Valk’r fighters to Australia. Gemmi request medicaland support staff from New Valhalla. We will regroup back atbase.’ A crippled Valk’r fleet assembled in the hangar where Gemmiaddressed them. ‘Valk’r you have done yourselves proud. The slain will remain inour hearts in a place of honour. You have fought bravely andbards across the universe will sing of your courage and valour.Today the human race became one, fought as one, stood as oneand in one voice refused to surrender. The greatest battle thisplanet has ever seen led by the greatest warriors this planet hasever seen... led to victory by the Valk’r.’ A cheer went up around the hangar and the chant of ‘Valk’r,Valk’r, Valk’r,’ started while slain comrades were fondlyremembered. Angel in the meantime, stood in the Valk’r command centre andreceived feedback from the leaders. ‘Our forces are severely diminished and our nuclear arsenaldepleted. Millions of lives were lost but we managed to savemillions that would surely have succumbed today. The shieldsheld for the most part and many cities and other vitally importantcentres remained intact. Our thanks to you and your bravefighters,’ the President of the United States announced with deepappreciation. The other leaders echoed this sentiment. ‘Thank you gentlemen but I cannot take credit for the victory. Itwas not aliens but a secret society of earthlings that fought so 318
    • Waking the Angelbravely. They have been on earth protecting your continuedexistence for millennia. You will be hearing a lot more from thesewarrior ladies, known as the Valk’r, in the future. You are alivetoday because of their bravery and undying devotion to thisspecies. They went into battle knowing they will in most likelihoodnot return, but they were willing to die for all of you,’ Angelpaused. ‘If anyone deserves your applause and admiration it is them.’ ‘Then please extend our heartfelt gratitude to these finewarriors,’ the President stated while the other leadersenthusiastically concurred. ‘The fight is not over Mr. President. A sizeable remnant of theground forces remains on the planet, and they will be difficult tostop. The Valk’r will do what they can, but you will need to assistthem in this perilous task.’ ‘We will do what we can Angel.’ ‘The super weapons I spoke of are now in place. You might havenoticed two extra moons orbiting earth. There are eightdreadnaughts orbiting the earth as well. The Darkmoons shoulddeter any further invasion or at least slow them down until thecavalry has arrived.’ ‘Thank you Angel. We still have much to do, our countries arebattered and we have many terrified people out there. Till wemeet again,’ he said in parting. Ricci stepped up beside Angel. ‘I heard what you said, and you did not have to give us all thecredit.’ ‘How many close friends did you lose today?’ 319
    • Igor Swann ‘237 Valk’r including 12 Gentari and another 42 Valk’r are badlywounded,’ Ricci responded in a anguished tone. ‘How many close friends did I lose today?’ Ricci understood. ‘You deserve every bit of credit. You fought for every bit ofrespect the world now gives you, and it is time the Valk’r receivethe recognition they deserve,’ Angel said in solemn voice. ‘You will probably be going now?’ she asked. ‘Soon, I need to make sure the earth is safe first.’ ‘Good,’ she said and walked off. Angel walked back to his quarters. In passing, he noticed Guival from the corner of his eye, sittingalone in the atrium. ‘My friend, why the solitude,’ inquired Angel. ‘I have failed you. All the others succeeded in repelling theinvaders and I failed. I had to hide like a coward just to be spared,’Guival replied tormented. ‘Guival, both Kirom and Laidin are experienced warriors. Theyare used to leading people into battle. Gemmi used trickery tosubdue her opponents and Ricci was all but wiped out save foreight Valk’r. You also need to remember that the four of them hadthe support of a very large air force from the countries theydefended. You had the second largest invasion force to deal withand you had very little support from the Australian Air force. Youalso did not have Skibladne to destroy almost half the invadingforce like Ricci did.’ Angel saw his words slowly sink in. ‘You were faced with unbeatable odds. That you survived is amiracle, one for which I am eternally grateful.’ 320
    • Waking the Angel ‘But I still hid like a coward,’ Guival spluttered. ‘You did not hide until it was hopeless did you? You did not hideuntil you were facing an insurmountable force on your own didyou?’ Angel asked. ‘No,’ Guival’s head still hung. ‘You did what you know best. You are a spy, and youcamouflage yourself, as any great spy would have done. There is atime to be brave and there is a time to be cunning. Why dieneedlessly when you can live to fight another day,’ Angel placedhis arm around his friend. ‘Your skill is invaluable to me. We know you are brave, we haveall seen that. We know you are resourceful, we have all seen that.We know you are true to your word and faithful to your friends.This crew needs you.’ ‘Thank you my lord, I shall not fail you again,’ Guival promised. ‘No problem, but if you say you failed me one more time I shallneed to see how sharp this blade on my back really is,’ Angeljoked. ‘Now go get some rest.’ The water soothed Angel’s tired body. He leaned against thewall with his eyes closed and let the spray massage his back andneck. He stood there for a long time. Afterwards he sat on his bed, thinking back on the day’s events,when a knock on his door startled him. ‘Enter,’ he commanded. ‘Am I intruding brother?’ Mark asked. ‘No, please come in.’ 321
    • Igor Swann ‘You look tired,’ Mark observed. ‘Yes it has been a rather taxing day, how are you doing?’ ‘That is why I came to speak to you,’ Mark said but did not seemto be able to find the words to express what was on his mind. ‘This is difficult to say brother, but I do not fit in here. This isyour world, not mine. I am an accountant. I work with numbers incolumns. I do not count how many enemy ships we shot down orhow many of my friends returned in body bags. My worst fear is apaper cut or a freak stapler accident.’ ‘Do you think I like doing this?’ Angel asked accusingly. ‘No I do not believe you do, but I am completely out of mydepth. You at least had Special Forces training. You also lived onan alien planet and trained for this. This day had been a verytraumatic experience. I do not think I can or want to be part ofthis life.’ ‘I understand. Would you like me to take you back home?’Angel asked. ‘Yes, that would be appreciated. Do not get me wrong brother, Iam overjoyed to have found you, and I am proud of the personyou are. Nevertheless, I am not as strong as you are. I need aquiet life, a life without complications. I want to marry a normalboring girl. Have 2.5 normal boring kids. Live in a boring middleclass suburban home with white picket fence and familyLabrador,’ Mark explained with a heavy heart. He felt like he wasdeserting his brother. ‘It is absolutely fine brother, I do understand. I on the otherhand want to feel needed by the universe. I have never felt morealive than now, with these aliens. I am apparently ruler of the 322
    • Waking the Angelknown universe. I have a life. I have purpose. You do not have thesame needs. I shall take you back to Boston tomorrow morning.’ ‘Thanks Angel, see you in the morning.’ ‘Sleep well brother.’ ‘Just before I go, what is your real name?’ Mark asked. Angel told him. 323
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 46 Aboard the Taur Sovereign Destroyer flagship, things weregetting messy. Taur hid behind desks, in wastepaper baskets, inairlocks, and some posed as statues in the corridors. Kra’st was furious. ‘What do you mean you can’t make contact with Alra’st?’ Hethrew his spear Gungnir at the wall. *gurgle* ‘All I asked for is a simple communication relay so I may speakto my forces on the battle front. Is that too much to ask?’ *gurgle* ‘I am a patient Taur. I gave you 3 hours to complete a simpletask. 3 hours of our boys not hearing their beloved leader’s voice,encouraging them, telling them, they are doing a great job and weare thinking of them. I think I gave you enough time don’t you?’Kra’st said in his most sincere voice. *gulp gurgle* ‘All I wanted was to know how they were doing. To send help ifthey needed it, to know our boys on the front are doing us proud.’ *gurgle, gurgle* 324
    • Waking the Angel ‘And you can’t even do that right. Makes me wonder why I ampaying you. Oh, that’s right I’m not, but if I was, I would definitelywonder.’ Kra’st always felt he should have had the lead role in, The Taurand the pauper, in kindergarten but then a spiteful teacher deniedhim the opportunity. She did however decide to sit on his Grun1shortly afterwards, which seemed to have found her chair mostcomfortable. She died an excruciating death, which many felt, hadto have been the performance of her life. *gurgle* A Cen’t interrupted his fun. ‘Sir, I think I know why we cannot establish communication withour invasion force.’ ‘Why? Pray tell.’ Kra’st was now so far into the role it wassickening. The Cen’t knowing fair well not to give bad news by word ofmouth and so giving Gungnir an obvious target, put the bad newson the huge view screen. Kra’st stared at it. ‘Yes it’s the puny planet. Well done, you sent a probe and itssending back pictures of the planet. So tell me exactly why I amlooking at this revolting picture?’1 The Grun is an extremely poisonous snake that could become near invisiblewhen asleep; it seemed to fade out of existence when unconscious and thenseem to come back into being when it awoke. 325
    • Igor Swann ‘Sir the planet has 3 moons,’ Tri’st answered him. ‘Tri’st not you too, am I surrounded by stupidity today, woe isme.’ ‘Sir it had 1 moon when we arrived.’ ‘The planet grows moons?’ Kra’st asked. ‘Unlikely sir, I think they might be Darkmoons, but I could bewrong. We might need to get the probe closer.’ Tri’st tried to walkthe thin line between being right and being dead. It was soobviously Darkmoons but nobody was going to be sure until Kra’stwas sure. ‘Get that probe closer,’ Kra’st ordered. ‘Immediately sir,’ the Cen’t who brought the news,acknowledged the command. ‘Your assumption is quite correct Tri’st; it does appear to beDarkmoons. See that is why I keep you around as my advisor, younotice the little things, so I can focus on the larger picture,’ Kra’stcontinued. ‘So how the hell did 2 darkmoons slip past us and get into orbitaround that planet?’ Kra’st bellowed. <Silence> *Gurgle, urgh* ‘Well at least the planet poses a challenge now,’ Kra’stremarked thoughtfully. ‘Get me Alra’st,’ he ordered. ‘Sir, Alra’st is on earth. I do not think they can escape with twoDarkmoons orbiting the planet. It will destroy any ship leaving orentering the planet’s atmosphere as you are well aware,’ Tri’stexplained while ducking instinctively. 326
    • Waking the Angel ‘So they are stuck on the planet having fun destroying it fromthe inside, while we are stuck out here till we figure out how todestroy those two damn moons,’ Kra’st speculated on theobvious. He pulled Gungnir from the wall. A loud plop followed as the now permanently retired previouslysenior communication engineer hit the deck. Tri’st had other concerns. Why are the Darkmoons here? Does this mean the betrayal isreal? He could not get his mind around this. Kra’st is obviously toothick to understand the gravity of this situation. If the Darkmoonsare here then the UGE armada will not be far behind. Tri’st knew it could mean his death, but he would rather diethan see this fleet destroyed without the chance of defendingthemselves. ‘Sir, I have just had a thought. I am sure it is just paranoia in myold age, but if the Darkmoons are here, could it be possible that aUGE Armada is also on their way?’ Tri’st attempted to lookextremely baffled. He stopped short from drooling todemonstrate his stupidity. Kra’st looked at him smugly. ‘In my extensive experience as a commander, I would expect anarmada to closely follow the Darkmoons. They probably sentthem ahead while preparing their fleet.’ Tri’st looked impressed, had Kra’st actually concluded that onhis own. ‘Brilliant my lord, I wish I had thought of that. What should wedo?’ he asked innocently. 327
    • Igor Swann ‘We should prepare to engage the UGE armada of course. Thereis ample time to destroy that puny planet afterwards. Do I alwayshave to think for everybody?’ Kra’st said feeling very proud of hisobvious genius. ‘Prepare the fleet. Send probes to the earth jump point, andredirect scanners. I want everyone on full battle alert,’ Kra’stseemed ready to implode. Tri’st wondered how long he could still play this dangerousgame with this buffoon before it backfires on him. 328
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 47 A brilliant plan formed in Brom’s mind. He would have his fleethide inside the huge nebula near the Taur border. This Nebula had been a source of amusement for youngsters forages due to its strange properties. No scanner could penetrate itbecause of the high radiation and no light escaped it, thus whenyou entered the nebula you were for all practical purposesinvisible. He would put together a small tactical force and accidentallyrun into the ancient fleet attempting to coax them into followinghim. He would pretend to try escape into the nebula where hisfleet would ambush them. One of his scouts had spotted the ancient fleet less than a light-year from his current position. ‘Brom to Rellen, is the fleet in place?’ ‘Yes sir. The last of our fleet have now entered the Nebula. Wewill be creating a corridor for you to lead the ancients into.’ ‘Good work, you may open fire as soon as we have passedthrough the corridor of death.’ ‘Very good sir, we will lose radio contact as soon as we enterthe nebula, in about 30 seconds. Good luck sir.’ ‘And to you Commander,’ Brom said. Brom had selected about 50 very quick fighters that should beable to outrun the ancients if push comes to shove. With the trapset, and the bait deployed, the hunt was on. He was fast approaching the last known position of theancient’s fleet. 329
    • Igor Swann ‘Are you sure this is the place, there is nothing here,’ Bromasked his second in command. ‘Yes sir, this is the exact coordinates the scout sent us, factoringin their rate of travel.’ ‘Let’s keep our course steady. Reduce speed to 5% burn. Wedon’t want to run into them at high speed.’ Brom felt uneasy. Something bothered him; the light from thestars seemed somehow distorted. ‘Alpha 2, fire a light-burst,’ Brom commanded. The light burst illuminated the space around them. ‘By the hammer of Thor,’ Brom breathed. They had found the ancients fleet, no, they were inside theancient fleet. The light-burst, for a split second, revealed themonstrous hunks of metal all around them before they faded backinto the darkness. Fifty fighters started to glow with an eerie bluish-white light asif St. Elmo’s fire surrounded them. Brighter and brighter, theyglowed until it was blinding, and then just as suddenly as itstarted, the light disappeared. So did everything else. Nothingremained, just the vast emptiness of space. Teral awoke screaming inside his mind. He knew something terrible had befallen his comrade. His Aesirblood ran in freezing streams throughout his body. He could sensethe universe weeping for the loss of a righteous being, a braveand noble soul. Teral suddenly felt a dreadful loneliness, and theexcruciating pain from his spirit threatened to consume him. Hislifelong friend, his blood brother, he could not sense him anylonger. 330
    • Waking the Angel The bond they had formed after centuries of friendship haddisappeared. ‘Brom!’ he cried in anguish. 331
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 48 A beautiful day broke in New Valhalla. The soft rays of dawnstreamed through the sky windows. The hive was abuzz by thetime Angel stepped out of his quarters. ‘Good morning my lord,’ a friendly voice echoed from behindhim. ‘Good morning to you too,’ Angel said as he turned to the redheaded warrior. ‘Ricci asked me to escort you to the command centre. There issomething she wants you to see,’ Carra said. ‘Before I had my morning coffee?’ Angel asked genuinelydisappointed. ‘Your coffee is waiting in the com room sire.’ ‘Then by all means lead on,’ Angel replied smiling. Ricci stood looking at news broadcasts from around the worldwith Laidin at her side. ‘Good morning my Lord, slept well?’ Laidin asked withoutturning around. ‘How did you know it was me? No I don’t really want to know,’Angel wondered while Ricci turned her head and flashed a smileat him. ‘So, what is so important that it supersedes coffee?’ Angelinquired, quite intrigued by the obvious bond between the twoladies. ‘Look,’ Ricci answered pointing to the monitors. From all across the globe newscasts streamed in of successes bythe military in curbing the devastating destruction of the Taur 332
    • Waking the Angelground forces. It intrigued Angel to see Valk’r fighters flying insome of the bulletins. ‘And those,’ Angel nodded at the screen, sipping his coffee. ‘We deployed 200 Valk’r fighters in 10 squadrons this morningto aid the governments in destroying the more imposing Taurheavy gear,’ Ricci explained. ‘Most of the governments do not have the means to stop thesemachines or penetrate their shields.’ ‘That’s great,’ Angel admired their tenacity. The last thing he would like today is another yesterday. The Taur tactics confused him. ‘They are like sharks ravenous for blood. They are impossiblyoutnumbered, and they have no chance of victory. Yet theypersist in their foolhardy pursuit of death and destruction, insteadof surrendering.’ ‘Yes, but they still expect their fleet to come,’ Laidin remarked,‘they think Kra’st would smile on them if he saw their bravery.’ ‘Do you think the fleet will still try get past the Darkmoons?’Ricci asked. ‘I doubt it, even Kra’st’s mushy brain should realize that if theDarkmoons are here then a UGE armada won’t be far behind. Hewill be readying his fleet for them,’ Laidin explained thoughtfully. ‘Well ladies it has been fun, but I still need to go drop off mybrother, see you later,’ Angel said and turned to leave. ‘Mind if I joined you? I would love to experience the ship oflegends first hand,’ Ricci enquired politely. ‘Sure, let’s roll.’ Laidin looked at him quite puzzled, ‘let’s roll? Where will you berolling to?’ 333
    • Igor Swann ‘It is an expression my Elven friend, it means, Let us depart’Angel grinned. He tapped his mindcom. ‘Mark would you meet us in the Hangar.’ ‘Sure brother, be there in a sec,’ Mark replied. Skibladne looked as beautiful as ever gleaming in the first raysof the morning sun. She stood proud and dangerous like anAfrican lion surveying his pride. ‘She remains an awesome sight,’ Ricci remarked, admiring thelady. Angel flashed a knowing smile. ‘Yes she is. But she’s mine, you can’t have her,’ he joked withthe golden haired Valk’r. They climbed aboard waiting for Mark to arrive. Angel took thistime to show her around the Lady. ‘And this is the command deck,’ He concluded his tour. #good morning my lord# Skibladne greeted him. ‘Good morning beautiful. May I introduce to you, Ricci of theValk’r,’ Angel replied. #good morning princess, I am pleased to make youracquaintance#. ‘Huh? What did you call her?’ Angel asked perplexed. #I called her ladyship by her title, is that wrong# Skibladneenquired. ‘What title, what are you going on about?’ Angel askedSkibladne, Is she being stubborn on purpose he wondered. #Her DNA scan revealed she is a direct descendant of Thrud,born from the union of Grand Master Thor of the Dwar andQueen Sif of the El. Thrud came to earth to become a Valk’r under 334
    • Waking the AngelFreyja. She is therefore royalty#, Skibladne explained in heremotionless voice. ‘She is a princess? And her ancestors were Thor and Sif?’ Angelexclaimed in disbelief. #correct# Skibladne confirmed, not understanding a rhetoricalquestion. ‘I’m an alien princess?’ Ricci exclaimed stunned. #I am sure I mentioned that# apparently Skibladne was notabove sarcasm. ‘But I carry the TNFR-12 gene, which is human? How is thatpossible?’ #that is unclear# Skibladne interjected. ‘There have been many of my ancestors who were Valk’r,’ Riccimentioned thoughtfully and as an afterthought, ‘but why was thatpart of my heritage never written in legend?’ ‘Maybe Thrud did not want her heritage known. Except forSkibladne no one realized you were a descendant of Thrud,’ LOBEanswered her through Angel. ‘Skibladne, what can you tell us about Sif?’ Angel asked. #Queen Sif was the last ruler of the true royal house of El. Sheruled after her husband died up until her banishment due to hersecond marriage to Thor# #a new ruling house came into power by hostile takeover. Therewere royalty claims lodged by this house at a later stageapparently proving they were the pure bloodline, unfortunatelywithout disputed for fear of decapitation# #the evidence presented by them are rumoured to be forgeriesand has since been lost. Sif’s son Ullr from her first marriage andtrue heir to the throne did stay on as a servant in the new ruling 335
    • Igor Swannhouse. His submissive behaviour supposedly showed the truth ofthe dark El claims. Ullr, a well-loved El, except by ‘Royalty’ ofcourse, became a legend with the bow-staff# #Sif had a further child with Thor namely Thrud. Queen Sif’seyes were blue and her hair blond. Shortly after her banishment,but before Thrud was born, Loki of the Aesir cut her hair as a joke,but Thor made him replace the hair with living gold# ‘So that is why Ricci’s hair looks as if it is made from gold,’ Angelexclaimed smiling at the blushing princess. #Correct my lord. Thor had two more children one of them withthe Dwar Jarnsaxa named Magni; he formed the bloodline forBrom and Kirom. Thor’s other children namely Thrud and Modiwere outcasts. Thrud joined the Valk’r. Modi became a pirate#Skibladne concluded. ‘My Lady, it almost seems as if you have an opinion on Elhistory, and on what is the truth,’ Angel mentioned curiously, ‘youdid not give only the facts.’ #this is how I was programmed# Angel considered the information, ‘so if Ricci is descendantfrom Thrud, and thus the Lineage of Sif, that makes her the trueheir to the throne of El.’ #no, there is one other from the bloodline of Ullr# ‘Who is that?’ asked Angel. #I am not at liberty to say# ‘You cannot refuse a command from me?’ Angel inquiredperplexed. #no, I may not# ‘But you still refuse to answer?’ Angel asked. 336
    • Waking the Angel #I do not, but I implore you to reconsider asking that questionmy lord# Skibladne continued as emotionlessly as before. ‘Who told you not to tell me?’ Angel asked getting irritated. ‘That would be me,’ Laidin answered. Both Angel and Ricci jumped when they heard her voice behindthem. ‘You,’ Angel looked confused. LOBE on the other hand was not. ‘Of course her, where is your mind. Oh right,’ LOBE liberatedAngel’s vocal cords. ‘I noticed your ability to use the bow of Odin. Yes, I thought itseemed strange that Sharin did not take that precious bow fromyou, but she cannot use it can she?’ LOBE surmised. Laidin bowed her head. ‘Yes it is true. Although for some reason I have not managed toascertain, she would prefer that dreadful black bow-staff even ifshe could. Nevertheless, I knew that the moment I would firststep aboard Skibladne, she would recognize me. When Icontacted you asking permission to come aboard I asked her notto reveal my ancestry or use my lineage title, on a low frequencyband hidden in my communication.’ ‘But why would she? It is not your title now, by El law it belongsto Sharin,’ it made no sense to Angel. ‘Yes my friend, but remember Skibladne originally belonged toFreyr, and he befriended Thor and Sif long before the incident. Henever believed the claims by Sharin’s ancestors and alwaysmaintained that Sif’s children were the true heirs to the El throne.Therefore Skibladne would believe it as well.’ ‘So you and Ricci are cousins?’ ‘I guess so?’ Laidin said. 337
    • Igor Swann ‘And she and Kirom,’ Angel stated the obvious. ‘Yes.’ ‘So I am a princess,’ Ricci wanted to be sure of this. This waseven better than being chief of the Valk’r, which she didrelinquish, extremely reluctantly, to Gemmi. ‘If Skibladne believes you are, I won’t argue,’ Angel smiled. ‘Laidin, one more question.’ ‘How did you know I was asking these questions of Skibladne?’ She tapped her mindcom. ‘I asked Skibladne to let me know if anyone asked her sillyquestions,’ she smiled and left. 338
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 49 Laidin stepped off Skibladne where she found Mark waitingpatiently. ‘Goodbye Mark, it was nice meeting you,’ Laidin said almostabsent-mindedly in passing. Questions plagued her mind, which were in a tussle with asneaking suspicion. ‘Are we ready to go, brother?’ Mark asked as he made himselfcomfortable on the command deck. ‘Sure, we’ll be on our way in just a second,’ he looked to Ricci. ‘Want to take her out?’ ‘What? Me pilot this ship, are you insane?’ ‘You dare call the UGE Lord insane!’ he answered in mock rage. ‘My sincere apologies, my lord,’ she replied taken aback. ‘I am kidding,’ he laughed to which she playfully punched him,‘So take her out, you have the gene, just tell Skibladne what youwant her to do in your mind and she will do it.’ ‘Really, May I?’ Ricci asked excitedly and closed her eyes toconcentrate. ‘Er, I think it works better if you keep your eyes open,’ Angeladvised her. ‘Sorry,’ Ricci tried again, she started issuing commands toSkibladne and the lady responded as if on rails, every commandhandled with such precision it scared Ricci. ‘Er, Ehm, the door is that way princess,’ Angel said pointing inthe opposite direction to which they were travelling, praying thatSkibladne’s hull would survive this abuse. 339
    • Igor Swann ‘Yes, yes, it’s not as easy as it looks,’ Ricci said as three Valk’rdove for cover and two others ran for the exit. Even though Skibladne executed every command withincredibly precision she did not intend helping the princess. Shewas an enormous ship to begin with, being twice the size of anAirbus A380. She belonged to the UGE Lord, and did notappreciate a female in control of her. ‘Shit, Skibladne raise shield,’ Angel called out, just before hertailfin, dislodged part of the roof. ‘Okay, chill, I think I’ve got it now,’ Ricci said agitatedly as shecalmed down and began to think slower and more accurately.Skibladne responded immediately and turned from a wildmustang into a mountain pony promising to be nice for as long asRicci kept her mind focused on her alone; a trait shared by mostbeings of the female persuasion. ‘I have a question. Why are you able to travel light-years inseconds but it takes you several minutes to get from here to sayBoston?’ Ricci asked. ‘Two reasons, firstly if you dive into a swimming pool from ameter up you enter the water easily right, now go 500 meters upand try the same stunt. Splat,’ he emulated this by gesturing withhis hands. ‘In space there is no air resistance, but down here it would belike driving through a solid mountain at that speed.’ ‘Makes sense,’ Ricci said. ‘Secondly the drag I’ll cause would severely disrupt the earth’sweather patterns. I’ll be pulling along compressed air behind memaking me drag liquid oxygen and hydrogen, and sucking in that 340
    • Waking the Angelmuch combustible material would be a nuclear holocaust waitingto happen.’ ‘Interesting,’ she smiled. ‘Here we are, Boston,’ Ricci announced several minutes laterand started to descend. ‘Seems like it was pretty much left intact,’ Angel remarked. ‘My car is probably still parked in the field.’ Mark pointed to where he left his car. ‘You can drop me off there.’ Ricci performed a pinpoint landing in the field, and dropped thestairs. They walked with Mark to where his car stood parked nextto the road. ‘Goodbye brother, come visit sometime,’ he said to Angel. ‘Sure will, this used to be my home too, remember,’ Angelhugged his brother. ‘Goodbye,’ Ricci gave him a hug as well. They waved as he drove towards town. The rumbling started in the distance. ‘I don’t remember thunder on the forecast this morning,’ Angelremarked. ‘That’s not thunder,’ Ricci nervously responded. ‘Look!’ she screamed as three monstrous tank-like things cameinto view. They seemed to have spotted Skibladne. The tanks’cannons spluttering were their first clue. Angel pressed thebeacon and Skibladne dropped into its hangar dimension. ‘What do we do now?’ Ricci asked, ‘we have no weapons exceptyour sword.’ ‘Run?’ angel suggested. ‘Run!’ Ricci concurred. 341
    • Igor Swann The ion cannon blasts and plasma cells rained around themcreating enormous craters. Deadly pieces of shrapnel whistled allabout them. ‘Whatever happens to me, I want you to keep moving and don’tstop,’ Angel commanded. ‘You are the UGE Lord, I am here to protect you,’ Ricci fumed. ‘I am also your commander in chief, and I gave you a directorder. Do not stop for anything, I will find you.’ ‘I have also been mind transformed. I can run the 100m in 5seconds so do not tell me what to do, you old coot.’ He just shook his head. He did not hold much hope of thecommander in chief bit working on this headstrong Valk’r. The cannon burst exploded less than 8 feet from them, andflung them to the ground. The shrapnel did a bang up job on both of them. Ricci had a bighole in her arm, and she bled below the ribs from a piece of metallodged there. The rest of her looked like some crazy Japanesesushi chef went berserk on her. Angel looked a lot worse. More shells exploded around them. ‘I think we should split up and give them two targets. RUN!’ hecried. She flew off, assuming he was going the other direction. He didnot want her to know that he had a broken leg and dislocatedshoulder. He lost her in the smoke and haze. She moved like a gazelle. Shemoved incredibly quick for someone so badly injured. Even though in excruciating pain, he lay unmoving. Two of theGrim Reapers followed what he assumed to be Ricci. The third 342
    • Waking the Angelturned towards him and appeared to want to crush him beneathits giant spike tracks. He lay motionless until the monster tankclosed to within 5 meters of his position. The following events occurred in the blink of an eye, literally,and we decided to write it down in slow motion so you may beable to follow. Angel pushed up with his left arm onto his unbroken right legand the sword appeared in his hand in an instant. Thanks to thewondrous technology in the sword, it screamed towards whereAngel knew the Reaper’s energy cells were before he even flexeda muscle. In the same movement, he dove for the only safe place around,underneath the tank. The sword sliced through the armour and the energy cells like ahot knife through butter. The cells started to hum with theirexposed core overheating. He did not have long to wait before theexplosion rocked the earth for miles around but with the forcedirected upwards, and he remained safe. He pressed the beacon to call Skibladne, and ordered her topilot one of the hover-cycles she had stored in her hold, to wherehe lay. He placed her back into her hangar dimension and set offafter Ricci. One chance, he thought, as he set the auto destruct sequenceon the hover-cycle. Even though the bike had a number of highyield missiles it would do very little damage to those tanks whenfired in sequence, but if combined into one synchronizedexplosion, it might do the trick. He also became quite convincedhe would win the next lotto draw, without buying a ticket. 343
    • Igor Swann He flew his hover-cycle straight at the tracks of the nearestReaper. Oh no, I have been spotted, he thought as one opened fire onhim. He dove for cover landing heavily on his dislocated shouldermere fractions of a second before the shrapnel from the plasmacell whistled over his properly battered body1. The Hover bike hit,exploded, and ripped a gap the size of a small elephant in the sideof the Reaper, which caused some of the ammunition inside toexplode. A firework display the Chinese would be proud ofensued. Angel could not move. He fell very badly and broke a few ribs in the process. He saw the last reaper turn around as if in a dream. He saw it slowly move towards him, the spike tracks saying‘die… die… die,’ with every turn. Consciousness slowly slippedfrom his grasp. At least I tried to save you my beautiful princess, he thought andthen it went dark. He walked in silence through the visions of his life and into thelight.1 If you just experienced a feeling of déjà vu then be not afraid, you havereached the end of the beginning of the thoughts of the unconscious human.See Chapter 1. 344
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 50 The Bifrost jump opened and Teral’s fleet started to appear. He knew there would be a welcoming committee, so inforesight he shot off jump enabled Tachyon-mines a few minutesbefore entering the Ark jump point. He designed them to arm onleaving the jump and you would want to be in a quite differentsector of the universe when they were active. As he left the Bifrost jump point, he could see his advance teamhad already engaged the enemy. The Taur appeared visibly shaken. He was pleased. The mines obviously worked. He saw a lot of debris from Taur ships, floating around hiscruiser. ‘Engage, engage, fire at will, fire at will,’ he shouted into hismindcom. His fighters were running like angry hornets at the Taur Capitalships and Destroyers. Kra’st, where are you, you coward, show yourself, Teral thought,wanted blood for his friend. It is your fault he is gone. Fight me you bastard. His battle cruisers and corvettes kept pouring through the jump. Explosions lit the black canvas like a mad hatter disco party. We need more heavy firepower, he thought, ruing the fact thathe left the dreadnaughts behind. The six Taur destroyers continued doing massive damage to hisfleet and he could not afford to send in his battle cruisers. 345
    • Igor Swann They were too valuable, and too few to take on the destroyers,which were the Taur equivalent of a UGE dreadnaught. The battle did not proceed according to plan. Too manycorvettes and fighters went down in relation to the enemy. He slammed his fist into the armrest of his chair; I do not have achoice. I have to take out the destroyers or this battle will be oversoon. ‘Battle cruisers, to me,’ he ordered. They formed a scattered formation bearing down on the firstdestroyer, making it difficult to target them all simultaneously. Teral’s optimism had left him; six destroyers are going to beimpossible to take down, even with 14 battle cruisers. ‘Close formation, attack from right in front. Do not let the flankcannons get a lock on you. Concentrate your fire on the commanddeck; we must punch a hole through the shields,’ he commanded. The firepower those monsters could muster seemed almostabsurd. The ion beams they fired would take out a battle cruiserin a single salvo. The only upside was it took almost a minute torecharge. One of his battle cruisers disintegrated as a salvo hit, andanother exploded from a direct hit from a destroyer on his flank.The other four destroyers were thankfully out of range. He ordered six of his cruisers after the one that just fired fromthe flank and he kept on course to the second. ‘Hit it, with everything you’ve got. NOW,’ he ordered, anxiouslycounting down the seconds in his mind until the destroyer couldfire its main weapon again. A concentrated salvo hit the command deck of the destroyer,ion cannons, missiles everything in his arsenal. Another of his 346
    • Waking the Angelbattle cruisers went down as a couple of the lesser guns on thedestroyer concentrated fire on it. The destroyer finally exploded in sections from the front like anopen mine blasting operation. He heard cheers through his mindcom. His other squadron ofbattle cruisers had lost two more of their own but had similarresults. He did not feel like celebrating, this is hopeless, he thought indesperation. The other four destroyers are moving in closeformation, each firing in turn leaving us no gap to attack. He knewone of them would be Kra’st, but he saw no way to get to him. He felt their impending defeat creep over him like a slowmoving cold mist. A Taur destroyer to his left exploded. Then another explodedahead of him. ‘What the hell…?’ 347
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 51 Qren stared intently at the scanner in front of him. ‘They have entered UGE space, sir.’ They were not even trying to hide anymore, their path easy totrace. A little while ago, they appeared on scanners thanks to deepspace probes launched by Brom before he disappeared. ‘They must have destroyed our fleet and is now so sure thereare no more resistance that they are approaching unmasked,’ oneof his commanders ventured. Qren had no one left to consult. He had a devastating fleet approaching and no way to stopthem. He knew they were going to destroy the UGE planets asthey did the Taur’s planets. It was only a matter of time. Qren sighed, and closed his eyes. ‘We tried,’ he thought to himself, ‘order the immediateevacuation to the outer rim planets of all UGE planets in proximityto their current course.’ Angel slowly opened his eyes. Hmmm, so this is heaven. Strange, I thought it would be a lot different, for one a lotbigger. At least it is comfortable. A sudden whirring noise distracted him. ‘She’s released him!’ he heard a voice shout. He blinked and then squinted at the bright light. An angel looked down at him. 348
    • Waking the Angel I thought of leaving you out there,’ she said with a serious face,‘the Valk’r is only supposed to remove the bodies of slainwarriors, not living ones, and anyway we only take the braveones, but then I thought. He was going to die soon and he was alittle brave, so what the hell, I’ll take him,’ Ricci joked breakinginto a huge smile. I am alive, he thought. ‘How long was I unconscious,’ he managed to mumble. ‘Two days, but Skibladne took great care of you. She refused toopen the coffin. Sorry, I mean recovery chamber, even after wegot back to New Valhalla. Apparently, she knows what she isdoing because you are as good as new. I asked her to make a fewimprovements but she would not hear of it,’ Ricci laughed. ‘You don’t look half bad yourself,’ he observed. ‘Yep, I got into the second chamber, after telling Skibladnewhere we needed to go,’ she smiled. ‘She took great care of me too.’ ‘What happened? I remember dying and you were missing,’ hecroaked, trying to sit up. ‘Well if you can remember, I was pretty badly wounded as well,’she remarked accusingly. ‘But since the last tank concentrated on you, I managed to slippast him and roll you in between his tracks before he could crushyou.’ ‘Ah, so we are both dead and this is a dream,’ he surmised. ‘No silly, I pressed the beacon on your gauntlet and Skibladneappeared,’ she relished in telling him this story. ‘I used the mindcom and told her you were dying and weneeded to get rid of this thing on top of us.’ 349
    • Igor Swann ‘So you told her a sob story,’ Angel tried to joke, but ended upcoughing his lungs out. ‘Well it worked,’ Ricci pulled a sour face, ‘I think she got mad orsomething because the tank thing lifted off us and landed about50 feet away on its back. Then she fired something and itvaporized.’ #it was a tractor beam and concentrated tachyon cannonburst# Skibladne filled in the gaps. ‘Now why didn’t I think of that,’ he said feeling stupid;Skibladne could have remotely taken care of all three Reaperswithout breaking a sweat. ‘Because you men always need to do the macho thing, andwon’t ever ask for help from a lady,’ Ricci’s sarcastic reply rubbedsalt in the wounds. ‘Well I guess I owe you both my life,’ he sputtered sincerely. ‘Thank you princess and thank you my lady.’ ‘Yep, you owe me one. Again,’ Ricci grinned. Angel was unsure how he owed her, again, but actually did notmind owing this green-eyed girl. ‘How is my brother?’ he asked. ‘He is fine, apparently there were only 3 of those things in thearea,’ Ricci answered. ‘Now get some sleep. I will be back to check on you a littlelater,’ she said and left. Angel almost immediately fell into a deep sleep, and onlyawoke several hours later. This time he did not feel stiff, sore and groggy like before. ‘Thank you beautiful, I appreciate it,’ he said to Skibladne. #pleasure my lord# Skibladne answered. 350
    • Waking the Angel He disembarked and went to look for the others. All of them except for Ricci and Laidin sat in the tranquillitylounge area having a royal time. Guival entertained them withmagic tricks. They stopped when they saw him approach andrushed over. ‘Glad to see you are still in one piece my lord,’ Kirom remarked. ‘Reports of my death have been exaggerated, but not by much,’Angel grinned. ‘We heard you took on 3 Reapers with your bare hands, andwon,’ Gemmi exclaimed in amazement. ‘Well little one, firstly it was not bare handed, I had the swordof Freyr with me. Secondly, I had to crash a hover-cycle into thesecond one. And lastly, Skibladne and Ricci destroyed the thirdreaper after Ricci saved my life, when that thing was about tocrush me,’ Angel recounted his version. ‘Ricci told us a quite different story of how you single handilydestroyed all 3 reapers, then carried her and placed her in therecovery module, before collapsing in the other one,’ Kiromheartily retold the previous version of the story. Angel frowned, and then smiled. ‘Oh, it is probably because I gave the Valk’r all the credit for thevictory against the Taur. She is trying to repay the favour, but Iassure you, she deserves all the recognition,’ he looked around. ‘By the way, where are Ricci and Laidin?’ ‘In the archives,’ Guival assumed. ‘Doing what?’ Angel’s interest peaked, especially after their lastconversation. ‘Don’t know. They were very secretive about it. Anyway youmust be starving.’ 351
    • Igor Swann Guival showed Angel to a chair, while Loser ran off. ‘He said he’ll go make you your favourite food,’ Gemmi relayedthe message. While they waited, they chatted about the way forward andwhat they are planning to do next. ‘I need to see my caves,’ Kirom solemnly remarked. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I think earth is beautiful but home iswhere the Dwar heart is.’ ‘I don’t know. Earth is one of the friendliest planets I have everspied on,’ Guival grinned. ‘I am in two minds as well,’ Angel frowned. ‘I missed earth, but like a brother in jail. You love him but youdon’t speak about him, now I miss Arken and space.’ His reminiscence about his newfound home abruptly endedwith the appearance of two excited faces. They had apparently become like naughty twins since Ricci’sreturn. ‘We got it,’ Ricci beamed. ‘Okay, go back one, got what?’ Guival asked. ‘The proof, or rather the disproof of the proof,’ Ricci explained. ‘It was here?’ Angel asked. ‘Yes,’ Laidin answered. ‘What was here? What are you talking about, somebody betteranswer me or I start busting heads,’ Kirom growled. ‘Patience Master Dwar, all will become clear soon,’ Laidinsmiled and turned to Angel, ‘I started searching for it right afteryou left. After hearing the story of Thrud, I had a hunch Sif mighthave stolen the evidence, to protect it from being destroyed, withthe help of her son. She had to get it off world so I further 352
    • Waking the Angeldeduced she must have given it to Thrud. That left New Valhallaas the most likely place for the evidence to reside.’ ‘Why did you think they would keep it here, and not use it todisprove the current house’s claims?’ Angel asked. ‘It was too dangerous to use it then, and Sif needed to protect itin the event of a generation down the line wanting to reclaim thethrone.’ ‘Why did the Valk’r not have reference to it in their archives?’ Laidin unrolled one of the scrolls. ‘Since not even I can properly decipher it. It is written in theforgotten tongue of ancient El.’ ‘Then how do you know it’s a forgery,’ asked Gemmi. ‘Smart girl,’ Laidin smiled at her. ‘Because Skibladne was kind enough to date the paper and inkfor us,’ she beamed. ‘This document had been signed 200 years after the date at thebottom of the document implies.’ ‘Huh?’ Gemmi said. ‘The paper and ink had been created 200 years after thedocument was supposedly written, young one,’ Laidin explained. ‘Hey, I thought Skibladne is my ship? You two are using hermore than I do,’ Angel expressed in mock disgust. ‘I am sorry my lord, we promise to ask next time?’ Laidin smiled. ‘So then you two are princesses, congratulations,’ Angel happilyreplied. ‘Okay, if somebody does not tell me what is going on right now,Mjolnir and I are going to do some serious damage?’ Kiromsnarled, not impressed that he had been left out of the loop. Laidin started her introductions. 353
    • Igor Swann ‘Kirom my dear friend, I would like to introduce you to yourcousin, this is princess Ricci. You share a common ancestor.’ ‘A common ancestor?’ a puzzled Kirom enquired. ‘Grand Master Thor,’ Laidin said with as much effect as shecould muster. ‘What? She is Dwar?’ he exclaimed. ‘And El,’ Laidin added. ‘And human,’ Angel threw in his two-cent worth. ‘Stop you make me sound like some horrible half-breed,’ Riccicomplained pulling a sour face. ‘I do not understand?’ Kirom remarked bemused. ‘You are from the Bloodline of Magni son of Thor, a pure Dwarline. I am from the line of Ullr son of Sif a pure El line. However,Ricci is from the bloodline of Thrud, the union of Thor and Sif.That would make her a relative to both of us,’ Laidin explained. Ricci walked over to where Mjolnir lay on the table and easilypicked it up. Kirom’s mouth hung open; only one of Thor’s descendantscould lift Mjolnir. ‘Incredible!’ Guival breathed. ‘Incredible is an accurate observation,’ Laidin remarked, ‘wealready tested the Bow of Odin and she is able to use it as well.’ ‘Hmmm, so she can steal all our weapons and hijack my ride,’Angel jested to the enjoyment of the crowd. ‘From the information Ricci and I uncovered while searching forthe falsified documents, it gets a lot more complicated,’ Laidincontinued. ‘I wondered why I have the gene, which make mind transformpossible. So we combined our research,’ Ricci said. 354
    • Waking the Angel ‘Apparently Odin of the Aesir’s wife Frigg was human and theirson Tyr became the stepson of Thor and Sif. We know Frigg andFreyja were very close since Frigg often borrowed Gyrfalcon,which like Skibladne you need the gene to operate. Of course, thisis before Freyja coded Gyrfalcon with her DNA. So we mustassume Frigg had the gene as well.’ ‘Go on,’ Angel was mesmerized by this story. ‘The most logical explanation is that because of Odin’s aliengenetic makeup the TNFR-12 gene was fused into Tyr’s DNA.Another very logical assumption is that Thrud found her way toearth and to the Valk’r with the help of Tyr. She was his stepsister,and he knew where the Valk’r was thanks to his mother,’ Laidinpaused. ‘We found one entry describing how close Tyr and Thrud wasfrom the Diary of Freyja. We asked Skibladne to analyze Ricci’sDNA further but he did not have Odin’s DNA on file. Skibladne didhowever find that unlike other humans whose TNFR-12 gene istransposable, her gene fused into her DNA pattern. This isbecause it is paired with an Aesir gene.’ ‘So she is the daughter of the Dwar, the El and the Aesir,’ Guivalaffirmed. ‘And the Vanir,’ Angel interjected. He felt he needed to makesure everybody remembered her human allegiance, althoughexcept for the hair that looked as if weaved from living gold, sheappeared completely human. ‘Yes I am a common quarter breed born from the rejects of allthe races,’ Ricci said in a sad voice. ‘Don’t ever say that!’ Kirom boomed angrily. Both Laidin andGuival looked at her quite displeased. 355
    • Igor Swann ‘You are the direct descendant of the greatest of our races,Odin who was the father of the Aesir, Sif the last queen of the El,and Thor the first Grand Master Dwar to carry Mjolnir. Nevertarnish their memory again.’ Ricci went as red as a fire engine. ‘I apologize, I am so sorry, I did not mean to insult you,’ shemumbled. ‘It’s just, well, I feel like I belong nowhere. I do not fit inanywhere anymore. I am not El or Dwar or Aesir or even humanfor that matter.’ ‘Belong nowhere?’ Kirom said softly, the anger had dissipatedas quickly as it appeared, ‘you belong everywhere. You fit into theentire universe. You are the first true princess of the UnitedGalactic Empire.’ It dawned on the entire crowd that she embodied everythingthe UGE stands for. She is the culmination of the UGE vision forone universe. Loser it seems had developed the ability to transform at willnow. He ran in causing an earthquake scare on the lower levels, andto Ricci’s relief distracted attention from her uncomfortablesituation. He carried four platters stacked with goodies to theloud applause of his fellow crewmembers. While they ate, Angel spoke softly to Ricci. ‘I understand that you might still feel like an outcast, even afterwhat Kirom said. However, just imagine what your ancestryembedded in you DNA. You have the strength and fortitude of theDwar. You have the agility, beauty, and wisdom of the El. The 356
    • Waking the Angelintelligence and emotional control of a mind transformed human,and maybe even the magic of the Aesir.’ ‘You are only saying that, because it’s true,’ Ricci said flushed,but slowly came around. ‘You are also the descendant of the greatest legends inmythology,’ Angel declared, ‘how cool is that?’ Ricci nudged him, ‘you still like me don’t you?’ Angel felt his cheeks burning, he started to stumble over hiswords like a schoolboy trying to talk to the girl he liked for thefirst time; and she was the most popular girl in school. ‘I er, you see, what I want to say, I meant to say,’ Laidininterrupted, ‘oh for the love of Odin,’ she exclaimed in mockirritation. Angel gave Laidin one look that immediately made her returnher attention back to Kirom who was sitting next to her. Angel got up and pulled Ricci up with him. He gently held herhand while she followed him to his quarters. Ricci did not protest. At his quarters, he waited for Ricci to walk in and then followedher, closing the door behind him. After the events of the lastcouple of days, he did not have the energy to play games anylonger. This was the girl of his dreams. Sitting on his bed, Ricci sat quietly, looking at him with hertwinkling green eyes while he gathered the courage to say whatwas on his mind. He took a seat next to her, holding her hand. Talking about emotions had never been easy for Angel. Onearth, he had always been one of those guys that girls would askon a date. He never had to make an effort to meet girls, since they 357
    • Igor Swannalways approached him. Now for the first time in his life he had tobe the instigator, and this was hard. ‘I er,’ Angel said still not quite knowing what to say. Looking atRicci, he could see that he was not going to get any help from her.Seeing the soft look in her eyes, hidden behind the naught glint,finally gave him the courage that he needed. ‘I love you,’ he whispered. ‘Sorry, I did not catch that,’ she pretended not to hear. Angel shuffled uncomfortably. Ricci decided to rescue him. She could see how difficult thatwas for him to say aloud, and got up from the bed. She walkedaround to face him and knelt so her face was inches from his. She leaned over and gently kissed him. ‘I love you too,’ she whispered back. They kissed again, not wanting the moment to ever end. Ricci finally broke the embrace and suggested that they getsome drinks. The others were missing in action, so the two ofthem spend the biggest part of the night talking, well, their lipsmoved... a lot. ‘It’s getting late, and we are both tired,’ Angel finally said. Bothwere unenthusiastic to go to sleep, but they knew that much workstill lay ahead and tomorrow was going to be another busy day. ‘Yep,’ Ricci reluctantly agreed. Angel walked her to her quarters, kissed her good night, andwalked back to his quarters on a cloud. ‘Crap, now the last bit of intelligence you had to exhibit hasdissipated,’ LOBE’s irritated voice came into his head. 358
    • Waking the Angel Angel would not be able to get mad at LOBE even if he startedcalling his mother names. ‘LOBE my dear friend, how have you been?’ he asked. ‘Have you gone quite insane?’ LOBE looked at Angel’s thoughts,‘Yep, brain has gone all mushy in your section,’ LOBE answeredhimself. ‘Life is wonderful isn’t it?’ Angel replied dreamily. ‘We are dead,’ LOBE cried in mock anguish. Angel grinned foolishly. ‘I will leave all the thinking to you for now, okay.’ ‘As opposed to...’ LOBE teased Angel. ‘Ah shut-up,’ Angel said happily. ‘I’m going to sleep now. You work out what we are supposed todo next.’ 359
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 52 By the time, LOBE managed to wake Angel and get him to thecommand centre it was almost mid morning. Ricci smiled as hewalked in. ‘Morning sleepy head’ she said. ‘Good morning princess,’ he said but felt too self-conscious togive her a kiss. ‘We have been getting reports on increased activity in China.Bands of Taur remnants seem to be reforming and they aregetting to be more than just an irritation. They’ve holed upsomewhere and the Chinese cannot track them to their base ofoperations,’ Ricci reported. Damn Alra’st, Angel thought, I forgot all about him, this must behis work. LOBE also had something to add. ‘The UGE fleet will arrive in four hours.’ ‘Ricci, please have the team assemble in the war room. Wehave urgent matters to discuss,’ he said and walked out deep inthought. ‘As you wish my lord,’ she said, her face showed no emotion,but she felt twisted up inside. She watched him leave, wondering if she did something tooffend him, or if the previous evening was just a dream. He was still the UGE Lord after all, she finally decided withoutmuch conviction. Minutes later, the entire team sat around the table in the warroom. 360
    • Waking the Angel ‘Friends we have little time. Two urgent matters need to bediscussed and dealt with swiftly,’ Angel looked at each of them. ‘Number one, I shot Alra’st down over China but did not finishhim off. It now seems he had amassed an army of sorts and isterrorizing the country. If he manages to unite enough of hisoriginal force he could become a real threat.’ He continued, ‘the second thing is the UGE fleet will arrive injust over three and a half hours.’ ‘So what is the plan?’ Gemmi asked. ‘The five of you, with Ricci leading the Gentari, will take care ofAlra’st and the Taur in China.’ Angel looked at Ricci and smiled ashe gripped the sword of Freyr, while it released itself from hisback. ‘I would like this back,’ he said as he handed it to her. She took it without a word, averting her eyes from his. Angel got serious again, ‘I will take the Dreadnaughts and gohelp the UGE fleet.’ ‘Be safe my friends,’ he said as they left to go and prepare. ‘Ricci,’ he called after her. ‘Yes my lord,’ she solemnly answered. Angel examined her totally perplexed, ‘what is the matter?’ ‘Nothing,’ she said coldly. Angel looked at Ricci. He felt such deep love for her it scared him. She stood motionless as he softly put his hand under her chinand pulled her gaze upwards until it met his. Looking into her beautiful eyes, all he could think of was takingher into his embrace again, feeling her heart beat next to his, herwarm breath caressing his neck, her lips tantalizingly seeking his. 361
    • Igor Swann However, something was bothering her and he needed to findout what it was. ‘Please talk to me princess,’ he quietly asked, ‘what is botheringyou?’ ‘Would you even miss me if I did not come back?’ she askedaccusingly. Where was this coming from? He thought completely takenaback. ‘I do not understand you,’ Ricci angrily continued, ‘last night youtell me you love me, but this morning you treat me as if I amnobody. Like one of your pawns to order around and do yourbidding.’ Ricci took a deep breath before continuing, but Angelintervened before she could. ‘I am so sorry. I have been neglecting you because I did notknow how to show affection in front of the troops and I did notknow if you were comfortable with it in front of yours. I am reallydeeply in love with you. I wish I could take you with me and keepyou safe, but I know that would be wrong. I cannot protect awarrior princess. I do not know what I would do if anything shouldhappen to you. I know it is not a bunch of roses, but the sword isthe only thing I could give you in the hopes of protecting you.There is nothing and no one in the universe more precious to methan you are.’ She smiled and jumped on him. ‘You are such an idiot, but I love you anyway,’ she grinned andpassionately kissed him. 362
    • Waking the Angel He was laughing when he detached himself from her embrace,when he was quite certain the battle would be over before theywould join in, if she had anything to say about it. He looked pensive for a moment before speaking, ‘you dounderstand that I am the UGE Lord, which means I might at stagesneed to give you orders. Are you okay with that?’ ‘As long as you always imply; please, my beautiful, precious,love of my life and centre of my universe,’ she laughed, ‘and aslong as its orders from the UGE Lord, not Angel.’ ‘Always, I promise,’ he vowed laughing. ‘Oh and if you are ever again too embarrassed to kiss me infront of your friends, you will be surgically removing this swordfrom your brain,’ she grinned. ‘Now my lord, I think you have wasted quite enough of my time.I still need to prepare my troops,’ she replied in a mock irritabletone and left. She flipped her hair and winked at him over her shoulder. Angel stared after her, where was that untouchable youngValk’r he met a few days ago? He wondered. He tapped his mindcom. ‘Commander Darkmoon-1, please prepare the dreadnaughts fordeparture. We will be breaking orbit in 1 hour. Place them all onfull alert. The Darkmoons will remain in position.’ He walked off to Skibladne to prepare, and say his last farewellto his team. They were already in the hangar when he got there. Both Kiromand Laidin looked eager for a fight. Gemmi chatted with Loser andGuival, and Ricci did equipment checks with the Gentari. ‘My lord,’ Laidin said for the first time voicing her concerns. 363
    • Igor Swann ‘Do you think it is a good idea to go on your own?’ ‘Why princess? Eight giant dreadnaughts will accompany me. Iam sure I will be fine.’ Angel looked pensive, ‘my concern is for you guys.’ ‘Don’t be my lord. We are seasoned warriors. We have the mostamazing skill set available in this team, and we are fit and ready.’ ‘Then may Sif guide your bow,’ Angel said. ‘And your ship,’ Laidin returned. He walked over and shook Guival and Kirom by the hand. Hegave Gemmi a hug, which unintentionally included Loser. Angelwent to Ricci dipping and kissing her to the delight of hersquadron. ‘Good luck princess,’ he whispered. ‘You too angel,’ she whispered back; then seemed bemused. ‘Hmmm, that won’t work, I’ll have to find a new pet name foryou,’ she laughed. She turned to her highly amused team. ‘Okay you lot, show’s over, move out,’ she ordered. He stood on the launch-bay platform as the fifty odd fightersdisappeared into the distance. Slowly he turned and purposefully strode towards Skibladne. The Dreadnaughts were already in formation when he arrived. ‘Follow me lads, maximum burn,’ he ordered as he placedSkibladne at the head of the formation. 364
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 53 Laidin set her scanners to detect Taur vehicles as the squadroncrossed the Chinese border. ‘There is a large contingent less than 400 miles from here.’ ‘Shall we proceed there?’ Kirom asked. ‘If it is not the main force it would be a good place to start,’Laidin decided. ‘Then lead on my lady.’ They flew over the target area a little while later. ‘That is the burial mounds of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, there aremore than 7000 Terracotta warrior statues down there. We areon a valuable historic site. We cannot just carpet bomb this area,’Ricci explained into her mindcom. ‘Then we go on foot,’ Kirom revelled at the thought, up closeand personal, just the way he likes it. ‘I have detected an unused tunnel leading from the foot of thatmountain into the area where the Taur are assembled. Ricci youtake the Gentari and cover the front entrance. We will go inthrough the mountain passage. Wait for our signal before youland and attack,’ Laidin ordered. ‘Keep your eyes open for traps. These tombs are renowned forits booby traps,’ Ricci warned. They landed close to the secret mountain passage. ‘Are we ready?’ Laidin asked looking at each of them in turn. ‘Ready,’ Kirom said gritting his teeth. ‘Good to go,’ Gemmi had a determined look on her face. 365
    • Igor Swann Laidin felt happy thoughts from Loser. Guival did a few quick metamorphoses into different objectsand let loose a thunderbolt from his fingertips, which melted anearby boulder into a small pool of glass. ‘At your command princess,’ he said. Gemmi looked at him in amazement, ‘I did not know you coulddo that?’ ‘Aesir are magicians little one, and you never asked,’ hegrinned. Laidin scrutinized the entrance for any sign of danger. ‘Proceed with caution. Kirom you take the lead. Your eyes arebest for spotting traps,’ Laidin commanded. Ricci did not exaggerate on the amount of traps in the passage,and the team advanced at a crawl. ‘Duck,’ Kirom yelled, as a trap accidentally triggered, and a hugeblade came whirring down, missing Gemmi by inches as Loserjumped hard on her back, flattening her. ‘Thanks Loser old buddy,’ she breathed after noticing hernarrow escape. They came to a section paved with stones, each etched with asymbol. ‘This is clearly a trap. We can probably only move on certainstones in a sequence,’ Laidin said, ‘but how do we figure outwhich.’ ‘My turn,’ Guival said as he took up position in front of thestones. Guival extended his right arm towards the stones and starteddepressing them with telekinesis one by one. Some caused metalarrows to fly across the passage, others breathed flames or 366
    • Waking the Angelcaused spikes to shoot up from the floor, and some just fell awayinto a bottomless pit. Guival continued until they had a clear pathmapped out to the other side. ‘Ladies first,’ he said. ‘Thanks!’ Laidin pulled a face at him. Not much further, Kirom caught Laidin’s belt just before she fellto a spiky death after she stepped on a trap Kirom did not detectimmediately. The passage opened up into a cavern sporting a chasm runningthrough its centre. The only way across seemed to be a massive drawbridge whichthey needed to lower. Unfortunately, the drawbridge resided onthe other side of the gaping abyss. ‘This is obviously a route out and not in,’ Guival stated theobvious. ‘What now? We can’t fly,’ Gemmi sounded despondent. Laidin looked at the scene. ‘Loser can you make the jump?’ she asked. Loser shook his head. They could clearly see the crank used to lower the bridge. Awedge kept the large iron brake in place to ensure it would notaccidentally drop the bridge. A swift movement and the bow ofOdin appeared in Laidin’s hand. She tapped the energy field andten arrows flew off, becoming one in flight and not only took outthe brake but the complete drawbridge control. ‘Guival, catch it!’ she commanded. Guival extended his hands and telekinetically caught the ricketybridge as it fell down. ‘Sorry should have warned you,’ Laidin apologized. 367
    • Igor Swann The team gingerly made their way across to where a massiveiron door blocked the tunnel. ‘Kirom,’ Laidin gestured to the door. ‘Sorry, can’t. Look,’ he pointed to the support stones aroundthe door. ‘If I use Mjolnir on the door, it would cause a cave in and blockoff that tunnel.’ ‘Hmmm, then I assume the bow of Odin will have the sameeffect, and Guival’s lightning attack as well,’ Laidin lookedthoughtful. ‘Loser, do you think you can rip out the door?’ Loser grew and grew; he looked like a blue gorilla on illegalsteroids. He stood in front of the door, curled up his middle finger andflicked. The door flew off its hinges, about 20 meters down thepassage and into a wall. Loser started gibbering excitedly as heturned back into his smaller self. ‘Nice trick with the bow earlier on,’ Kirom commented as theymade their way down the musty passage. ‘Combining the 10 energy arrows into one, I did not think it waspossible.’ ‘Power of the mind my dear Kirom.’ ‘Yes, a quite brilliant mind.’ He sniffed the air. ‘We should be close now,’ Kirom observed, ‘I smell the stenchof Taur.’ Two corners and four traps later they could hear the tick-tick ofTaur feet on stone and the grumbling of Taur voices above them. 368
    • Waking the AngelThe roof had been made of stones that formed some kind of trapdoor. ‘We go on three, Kirom you know what to do.’ She scanned the nodding heads around her. ‘Three,’ Laidin said. Kirom whirled Mjolnir and smashed it against the trap door withall his strength. Mjolnir transferred such energy into the rocksthat it broke into small projectiles each moving fast enough tospontaneously combust. Nothing within a 20 feet radius of the trap door stood or livedfor that matter. Truthfully, if this had been one of those TV shows, which givesclues, and you need to guess the object, nobody would be able toguess a single object that occupied this space a few secondsearlier. They leaped into the room filled with hundreds of Taur, almostlike ants swarming inside their anthill. Ten arrows dispersed inside the chamber and six found theirmark. Mjolnir flew gracefully at a group of Taur standing around anenergy pod, which exploded on impact sending the Taur whomescaped instant incineration, flying in several directions. Loser grew to the size of a double-decker bus. He used anunlucky Taur as a club against a few of his mates. Gemmicheerfully used her mind-trick to cause Taur to shoot at eachother. She then projected an image of each of the Taurs’ angry 369
    • Igor Swannmothers-in-law1 into their minds. They ran around like crazychickens, some into the arms of Loser who gave them a great bighug in sympathy. The compassion left them breathless...permanently. Guival let loose a giant fireball, which burnt a path ofdestruction clear to the other side of the room. Weapon dumpsand energy cells stared exploding near its trajectory, Taur fell overand lay still just in case they were dead. ‘Strrikkkke three, you’re out!’ Guival shouted in reference to aweird earth game that he had grown addicted to while on theValk’r base. Laidin managed to deflect a rather large chunk of metal withher bow’s energy shield just as it threatened to displace her headfrom its current position to the general vicinity of the oppositewall. Kirom lifted Mjolnir high above his head and brought it down onthe ground in front of him. The well-directed tremors dislodgedfour huge statues falling on top of the Taur shooting from behindit.1 The Taur mother-in-law was the most feared creature in Taur society. If theyhad to choose facing Kra’st or their mother-in-law, Kra’st would win every time.It is assumed that female Taur birth is a combination of excruciating pain andthe longing for sedatives which of course in not available for Taur because itwould constitute a sign of weakness. The mother is therefore pissed off frombirth and that continues into the disappointment of the son-in-law not being asuccess, since no Taur was. 370
    • Waking the Angel A squad of Taur rushed in from the opposite entrance. Guivallet loose a lightning storm that melted the ground beneath them.They sank into the molten glass where they remained entombed. Laidin’s bow fired so fast it looked like a Gatling gun, and sheonly broke the rhythm to use the bow-staff as a hand to handweapon, when needed. The room quickly emptied. Gemmi held a line of Taur in check,queuing nice and straight in front of Loser. He in turn held a hugeiron bar as a club and batted them one after the other as theystepped up to the plate. ‘Wow you got some distance on that one,’ Gemmi remarkedafter a particularly fine shot from Loser. ‘Finish up you two,’ Laidin commanded. ‘Okay,’ Gemmi shrugged. The Taur started to run down the tunnel from which theadventurers had previously appeared. They heard screaming and shouting from the next chamber. Thefive of them rushed in to see the Gentari leaving a lot ofdestruction in their wake, with Ricci in the lead. The sword ofFreyr moved so fast it was near invisible; her tongue moved sofast it was as well. Ricci was a master of insults in her own mind, and now happilythrew them about, with complete disregard for how annoyingthey were. ‘Hey you, yes you calf-boy. Shouldn’t you be hanging on yourmother’s teats?’ ‘If you just weren’t so damn bull-headed; guess its genetics. Donot worry I am a doctor. Let’s operate!’ ‘Heehaw, time to send you space cows out to pasture.’ 371
    • Igor Swann ‘Any of you mythological cattle wanna dance?’ and, ‘hey yourmamma wants her udder back. You cannot get it off. It is stuck onyour face. Wait, let me help!’ <Whack> The quick and agile Gentari were as difficult to hit as catching asummer breeze in your hands, never giving a target to the haplessTaur. They would attack and disappear, and even with the thickTaur armour protecting them, with so many wasp stings, theywere falling like cornered spiders. A reaper fired up next to Kirom. He absentmindedly brought down Mjolnir on the front of themonstrous machine. Sparks and lightning shot from the point ofimpact and the front of the reaper disintegrated into, well,nothing really. Another reaper bore down on four Gentari engaged in battlewith a group of Cen’t. ‘Get down,’ Laidin barked. She let loose a flurry of arrows, which exploded on the back ofthe reaper, leaving no more back of the reaper. A heavy ion cannon that rained fire from a position above thebattleground had several Gentari pinned down. Guival looked up and smiled. He persuaded the cannon to overheat, which is apparently nota great position for an ion cannon to be in, since it exploded. A quite insistent Mino’t decided to charge Gemmi. She leapedup using his double bladed axe as a platform and kicked him sofirmly in the face that it now protruded from the back of his headlike a glove turned inside out. 372
    • Waking the Angel The Gentari warriors moved at speeds, which caused Laidin tostruggle to follow them. As Ricci, often and quite accurately, liketo point out, ‘We hit so fast you would think you are surrounded and weduck so fast you would think you are alone.’ Glad I am not fighting them, Laidin thought. Now that the Taur faced attackers from both sides, they beganto panic. One or two wild shots found their mark wounding a fewGentari. Most of the Taur only carried their axes, which werecompletely ineffective against the agile Gentari. ‘Guival to your left,’ Kirom yelled above the battle noise. Guival let loose three fireballs in the direction Kirom suggestedbefore even trying to see what Kirom saw. Some unfortunate ASa’t shooting from behind crates, now facing great balls of fire,screamed completely off key. The balls burnt three neat round fissures through the crates,the Taur, and the wall behind them. A wild blaster shot hit Kirom in the leg, and he hobbled awayswearing revenge. Loser flipped a reaper on its back with little effort. He grabbedan armoured hover platform that shot at Gemmi and used it as aFrisbee to help several Taur trying to escape through a tunnel getto the exit much faster than expected. Most missed the tunnelentrance completely. <Splat> Gemmi convinced several Taur gunners on a platform near theceiling that they could fly. She shrugged as they hit the ground,‘who would have thought with all that hot air inside them theydon’t float.’ 373
    • Igor Swann Ricci separated two more Taur from their heads in one deftmovement, and smiled self-satisfied at her handiwork. From thecorner of her eye, she saw a Taur sneak up on the Valk’r besideher. She grabbed the girl’s arm and swung her away from theblow that would have cleaved her head in two, unfortunately itstill caught her on the shoulder ripping a big chunk of flesh fromit. She smiled appreciatively at Ricci, before swinging round andremoving the Taur’s head. Gemmi in the meantime found a Taur to carry her around on hisshoulder, while she used him to do brain surgery on his comrades. Finally, Laidin spotted Alra’st where he shouted commandsfrom a balcony in the far corner. She aimed the bow and fired, but no arrows appeared. Her bowhad run out of energy with no vegetation to replenish its supply. Apparently, Kirom spotted him as well because Mjolnir alreadyflew at great speed towards the back wall. It hit with incredibleforce and the wall crumpled into dust, bringing down the balcony.Alra’st fell heavily. His double bladed axe knocked from his hands. Ricci moved like a cheetah as Alra’st bent to pick up the twohanded axe. As he came upright, he wondered why the axe felt solight all of a sudden. It is around the same time he noticed hewould never be able to pick his nose again. He felt a littledetached at that moment, mostly from his arms, which lay infront of Ricci’s feet, his axe firmly secured in its hand. Alra’st saw red, but not from blood. Ricci’s sword had moved so fast it actually fused the woundsclosed. 374
    • Waking the Angel He was about to put his head down and charge, impalingsomeone on his horns when he felt the slight prick of a steel bladeon his throat. ‘Moving your ugly head might not be a great career move atthis point in time,’ Ricci observed. The team moved quickly towards their position. Most of theTaur were dead, and the Gentari held the rest captive. ‘Alra’st my old friend, how is life treating you,’ Laidin smiled asshe noticed the severed arms, ‘hmmm, not too well it seems.’ ‘Go to hell,’ he spat. ‘No thank you, I heard the weather is not great there this timeof year,’ Laidin remarked flatly. ‘What are you doing on earth?’ Alra’st spat again. ‘Oh we were tipped off by a very proficient spy,’ she saidnodding at Guival. ‘At your service,’ Guival made an elaborate bow. ‘Then our alliance did not betray us,’ Alra’st sighed with relief. ‘What was that?’ Laidin’s pointy ears pricked up. ‘Nothing, El scum, you will see for yourself when you returnhome, or to what is left of it.’ He gave a gruff snort. ‘Okay girls get them out of here. We will hand them over to theChinese. I am sure they will love to get hold of a few of the dogswho destroyed their cities,’ Ricci ordered. She sheathed the sword or more precisely the sword sheatheditself as she walked over to where Laidin stood looking worried. ‘So you intended having all the fun on your own cousin,’ shesaid accusingly. Laidin looked up from her thoughts. 375
    • Igor Swann ‘Truthfully, yes, I thought you had lost more than enough goodfighters and I did not want you losing more. Secondly, I did notwant to be the one to explain to Angel why you did not return.However, judging by what I saw, I was unjustifiably pessimistic.You handled those Taur better than the best fighters I have everhad the pleasure of seeing in action,’ Laidin said in earnest. ‘Seems I owe you an apology,’ Laidin added. ‘Accepted,’ Ricci looked extremely pleased at Laidin’s praise ofher fighters. ‘Shall we get out of here?’ Laidin asked with a nervous twinge inher voice. To what alliance was he referring? What is happening backhome? Her thoughts raced. The team returned to New Valhalla in a rush and went straightto the war room. ‘It seems the Taur were not the only force seeking to destroythe UGE,’ Laidin told the troops when they were all seated. ‘We need to return home immediately,’ Kirom acknowledged. ‘I concur,’ Guival seconded the motion. ‘Then we are agreed, we leave immediately,’ Laidin echoedtheir decision. ‘I’m coming with you,’ Ricci said without hesitation, she did notintend to let her love go without her. ‘What about you Gems?’ Laidin asked. ‘I understand the reason for Ricci’s decision but that leaves theValk’r without a leader. I am trained to lead them, I thereforeshould stay here.’ She spoke with so much authority that itsurprised Laidin. 376
    • Waking the Angel ‘Wise decision young warrior. We will miss you and think of youfondly and often,’ Laidin replied. She felt extremely proud of the little scamp. ‘And I of you,’ Gemmi said now biting back a quivering lip.‘Please visit soon.’ ‘We will little one, you can count on that,’ Kirom said giving hera hug. ‘Good bye my dearest friend,’ Guival held her tight, ‘I will be back soon, I promise.’ Laidin also gave her a hug and Ricci saluted her and shook herhand. Gemmi looked at Loser and then whispered something in hisear. ‘Ricci,’ Gemmi said as Loser ran from the room, ‘Loser and Ihave a little gift for you.’ Loser appeared again a few seconds later, dragging somethingheavy. Gemmi picked it up and handed it to Ricci. ‘Here. We think you might make better use of this than I will. Ivalue my friendship with Loser highly and this is of no usegathering dust in the closet.’ ‘You are giving me Dragonfang?’ Ricci asked surprise. ‘Yep, this sword looks much better than the one you havestrapped to your back,’ Gemmi announced. ‘The two swords are twins, Gemmi,’ Ricci laughed. ‘Yes, but this one has a bright red jewel in the hilt, and a goldenhilt. Anyway, you are a princess now. You are supposed to wearjewels and I think it might be very useful in your new career,’Gemmi grinned, referring to the Brisingamen jewel. 377
    • Igor Swann Ricci spent her last moments saying goodbye to the only familyshe ever knew. They all said a fond farewell again and they all gave Loser a hugbefore running for their fighters. ‘Ricci you will fly with me,’ Laidin said. A Gentari honour guard stood at attention and saluted as shetook the seat behind Laidin. Moments later a teary-eyed girl waved to them as they sped offin the distance. ‘Well Loser, looks like it is just you and me again,’ she smiledthrough the tears. ‘No your ladyship, you have a new family,’ one of the Gentari,whom had silently gathered behind her, proclaimed. ‘Thank you,’ Gemmi said turning to look at them. ‘Now, shall we go have lunch? I’m starved.’ 378
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 54 ‘There they are boys, split into teams of two and target thedestroyers,’ Angel commanded, ‘fire at will.’ He turned his attention to Skibladne. ‘Battle mode, target Taur ships and open fire.’ Angel tapped his mindcom. ‘Hope this isn’t a private party,’ he laughed. An astonished Teral stumbled across the words. ‘Angel? No my lord, you are most welcome.’ ‘Thanks Teral, I hope I may be of service,’ Angel laughed as heploughed through the endless swarm of fighters. Kra’st had Skibladne on view screen. She did as much damageas all the other UGE fighters together. ‘What in mother’s womb1 is that?’ asked Kra’st. ‘Skibladne my lord,’ Tri’st responded trying his best not tosound too intelligent. ‘That is impossible,’ Kra’st spat. He refused to believe anythingthat he did not foresee, that means he pretty much believed innothing. ‘No my lord, it seems our intelligence reports were flawed, theUGE Lord still lives.’ ‘I want that ship destroyed!’ Kra’st barked. ‘Order all our ships to concentrate on it, promise great glory tothe Taur who obliterates it.’1 As any Taur will tell you, this is the start of its time in hell. 379
    • Igor Swann Teral, a seasoned veteran, immediately noticed the change inthe flow of the battle. ‘My lord the Taur is targeting Skibladne. I am creating a corridorwith the Battle cruisers and corvettes. See if you can lure themthrough.’ ‘I’ll try, but it is getting pretty hot in here, and Skibladne’sshields are down to 8 percent.’ ‘I would suggest you stop firing and reroute all available powerto shield generation and manoeuvring capabilities.’ ‘Sounds like a plan,’ Angel agreed as he ordered Skibladne intostealth mode. The weapons disappeared and Skibladne became very difficultto track. It did not stop the thousands of Taur fighters from tryingto find and destroy her. ‘Okay, the ambush is ready, bring them through if you will mylord,’ Teral said. Angel become clearly visible, shining in the morning sun, andmade a few more turns to attract more eager Taur, before settingoff. It worked beautifully. The fighters, bombers and even a capitalship or two followed Skibladne into the tunnel of love, and Teralloved every moment of it. ‘What is going on, where are my fighters?’ screamed Kra’st. ‘They are gone my lord along with five of the destroyers. Wehave only a few corvettes and capital ships left, and a fewhundred fighters and bombers, shall I order the retreat?’ Tri’stremarked head hanging. ‘NO; WE KEEP ON ATTACKING!’ Kra’st roared. 380
    • Waking the Angel ‘Then you leave me no choice sir,’ Tri’st pulled a blaster from hisbelt and aimed it at Kra’st. ‘I should have done this a long time ago,’ he softly stated whilepulling the trigger repeatedly until he drained all the energy fromhis blaster. ‘Order the retreat,’ Tri’st ordered one of the commanders wholooked at him in shocked disbelief. Tri’st walked over and picked up Gungnir. He made his point. ‘Now,’ he ordered again. ‘Open a channel to the commanding officer of the UGE fleet,’Tri’st commanded. ‘Yes,’ Teral barked as Tri’st appeared on the screen. ‘Your lordship, I am Tri’st. Kra’st is dead. We had him removedfrom power after he clearly displayed his madness. His idealswere not that of the majority of Taur. I would like to propose atruce.’ ‘Why would I accept that after you murdered so many of mypeople?’ Teral asked. ‘I have information that would be valuable to you my lord,’Tri’st explained. ‘May I join you on your Battle cruiser to discuss the terms of oursurrender?’ ‘Make it so,’ Teral said and turned to his commanders. ‘Stop the attack but stay on full alert.’ A few minutes later and the fireworks show on the battlefieldstopped except for a few UGE fighters that still had a score tosettle because of a fallen comrade. 381
    • Igor Swann ‘My lord you might want to join us on my cruiser,’ Teralinformed Angel. ‘Be right there.’ The room filled with fleet commanders and generals. Angel satat the head of the table next to Teral. Tri’st’s lone figure took aseat at the opposite end. He came unescorted feeling if theywanted to kill him, it would not matter how many men he hadwith him. ‘Speak,’ Teral ordered. Tri’st started by telling them about the allegiance, and the spyin the UGE. How the spy told them where to find earth and todestroy it. How the alliance were to destroy the rest of the UGE ifthey destroyed the UGE Lord’s planet. ‘Who is this alliance?’ Angel asked. ‘We do not know Lord Kasparov, I do not think even Kra’st knewwho they were, but we do believe that they coerced Kra’st intothis madness.’ ‘I am not Kasparov, Tri’st. My name is Angel,’ Angel correctedhim. ‘My Lord, you are not...?’ Tri’st expressed confused, but he wasinterrupted by Teral. ‘We have to return, now!’ Teral commanded. He looked at Tri’st. ‘You will return home immediately, and you will dismantle yourfleet. We will be sending an inspection team, and if they find youare reconstructing a fleet at any stage, we will destroy you and allyour planets. Is that understood?’ Angel gave the ultimatum. 382
    • Waking the Angel ‘Understood,’ Tri’st said thankfully, ‘I am as concerned as youare, I just did not have the strength to stand up to Kra’st and hismadness. I am sure the alliance was a subterfuge technique to getour fleet away from our home. I believe we both have the samefears regarding our homes.’ ‘Then you may use the Bifrost jump to return home. I am sureyou are as eager to get back as we are,’ Angel said. Teral flashed him a disapproving look but said nothing. ‘Thank you,’ Tri’st said softly. He turned to an object wrapped in cloth that lay next to him. ‘I believe this belongs to you Arch Chancellor,’ he said andwalked to Teral unveiling Gungnir. Teral stared in wonder at the spear of his forefathers. It was thought lost forever. ‘You had it all this time?’ he asked. ‘Yes, one of Kra’st’s forefathers found it after raiding a planet inyour sector.’ ‘Thanks,’ Teral said trying hard not to project his joy. ‘Now get off my ship. I need to prepare for the jump,’ Teralordered Tri’st and then spoke into his mindcom, ‘order thedreadnaughts to go pick up the Darkmoons, get the fleet information we are jumping within the hour.’ Angel walked over to Tri’st, ‘I hope your planet is safe. I havefelt the fear of losing everyone and everything you love. It is notsomething I would wish on anyone.’ Tri’st nodded and left silently, we may have been wrong aboutthe lord of theirs. He shows compassion when others would haveshown their teeth. 383
    • Igor Swann He had a lot to think about on his way back to Kra’st’s, no, hiscruiser. He stepped onto the command deck of the Taur SovereignDestroyer and gave the order for the fleet to fall into formation. He initiated a fleet wide broadcast. ‘The UGE Lord has graciously allowed us to use the earth jumpback to Taur space,’ he paused before continuing. ‘It seems the alliance Kra’st so foolishly got us involved in hasbetrayed us. We have good reason to fear they have turned onour own defenceless planets. We have followed a madman for toolong. It is time we lived not as terrorists and pirates, but as thebrave and noble warriors we are.’ ‘We will follow the UGE fleet into the jump, and pray that thereis a home to return to.’ 384
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 55 ‘Requesting permission to land,’ Laidin’s thoughts projectedthrough the mindcom. ‘You and your team have permission to land my lady. Goodtiming, we will be entering the jump momentarily.’ They walked onto the bridge where they found Angel and Teraldeep in conversation, both got to their feet as they saw the partyapproach. ‘Welcome back my friends. I am glad to see you are all stillkicking,’ Angel smiled. Angel turned to Teral, ‘may I introduce to you Ricci of theValk’r?’ ‘Pleased to meet you Ricci, I am Chancellor Teral of the Aesir,commander of this fleet.’ ‘Teral would you be so kind as to fill the party in on recentevents,’ Angel requested. He grabbed Ricci’s hand and they hurriedly walked to a privateroom. ‘I am so glad you are safe my love and that you chose to joinus,’ he said and kissed her. ‘Hah, you won’t get rid of me that easily,’ she said and held himtight. ‘Anyway I would like to see my other three home worlds,’ shegrinned. ‘If there is anything left of them,’ Angel’s mood turned sombre. ‘That is true,’ she agreed in a subdued tone. 385
    • Igor Swann ‘What do you mean?’ Angel’s curiosity pricked up since he hadnot told her what they had learned yet. ‘We captured Alra’st. He told us of an invasion force heading foryour planets,’ Ricci explained, ‘that is why we rushed here.’ ‘Hmmm, yes, we gathered the same intelligence after wedefeated the Taur Armada.’ ‘How did your mission go on earth? I know you finished offAlra’st but how did the rest play out?’ ‘Walk in the park,’ she smiled. ‘Oh by the way here is your toy back. I grew very attached to itso you almost did not get it back, but then Gemmi gave me thisone which is a lot better suited to my particular skills,’ shegrinned. ‘Thanks darling, but what makes that sword so special?’ he saidwhile placing the sword of Freyr on his back. He did not realizehow naked he felt without it. ‘I’ll show you,’ she giggled and drew her sword, Dragonfang.The jewel began to glow and Angel started to feel funny. SuddenlyRicci screamed and dropped to her knees. ‘What happened, my love?’ Angel asked concerned. Ricci satholding her head. ‘She tried to make you dance the funky chicken,’ LOBEinterjected without any malice, ‘I just reflected the thought backto her, but it seemed the Brisingamen jewel in Dragonfangresisted and from there her discomfort.’ ‘Oh, I am so sorry darling. I should have warned you that themind tricks do not work on a UGE Lord. We have studied blockingtechniques,’ Angel said sounding truly sorry. 386
    • Waking the Angel ‘I too am sorry. I should not have tried to make a fool out ofyou,’ she said, ‘but dammit, I wish I knew your mind was like ahotrod with an illegal engine. Throughout history no one has everbeen able to withstand the Brisingamen jewel, although, I do notremember anyone using it on a UGE Lord. That is probably whythe jewel threw its toys.’ ‘I do not understand? Why did Gemmi give you the jewel?’Angel asked. ‘She did not give me her Brisingamen jewel. This is the otherhalf of the jewel. Let me explain,’ Ricci said, launching into thesame story she told Gemmi when she presented the sword to her.She told him what happened to Loser and why Gemmi did notwant Dragonfang. ‘Incredible, I knew nothing of any of this,’ Angel said, ‘so yoursword was forged from the mould of the Sword of Freyr?’ ‘Yes although yours is made from Zellion and mine Draupnite,and mine does not have the nano-technology, it does have thejewel making it a lot more powerful, and better looking,’ sheteased playfully. Angel laughed. ‘It seems the gods think we are a pair my love,’ she observed. ‘How do you figure that?’ he asked in mock ignorance. ‘Well they gave us the two most powerful twin swords in theknown universe; don’t you think that is a little too coincidental?’she stated. ‘Princess, I would have loved you even if all the gods and aliensin the universe were against our union,’ Angel declared and kissedher. ‘But now, tell me what happened this morning.’ 387
    • Igor Swann She gave him a rundown of the morning’s events of coursefocusing on her capture of Alra’st in detail. ‘That’s my girl,’ Angel laughed. When she finished he shared his little adventure with her, but itseemed to pale in comparison. ‘So Alra’st spilt his guts,’ Teral thought came into their heads. ‘Not quite, I think he accidentally let slip about the alliance,’Laidin remarked. ‘Oh I actually meant he was sliced and diced but that’s goodtoo. I am just glad you are all safe, and here.’ Teral looked atKirom and felt a sickening grief befall him. ‘Now if you would leave me, your quarters have been prepared,get some rest,’ he expressed a tired thought. They all stood up to leave. ‘Not you Kirom!’ Teral thought to him. Kirom looked at Teral in surprise, but sat back down. ‘Kirom, I am afraid I have dreadful news. I do not quite knowhow to put this to you. You know that Brom and I have beenblood brothers for many years. We shared a bond that transcendsspace and time. Your brother returned to Arken because he adisturbance in the universe, and with good reason.’ He placed his hand on Kirom’s shoulder. ‘I am sorry my friend, there is no easy way for me to say this. Ifelt the bond severe last night. I am afraid your brother haspassed on to his next life.’ ‘No,’ Kirom screamed and sobbed uncontrollably, ‘Brom can’tbe dead, no, no, no; you must be mistaken!’ 388
    • Waking the Angel ‘I am truly sorry Kirom, but I am not wrong in this. I am hurtingas well. He was my blood brother and dearest friend.’ ‘I need to be alone!’ Kirom’s cried as he left for his quarters. ‘I understand,’ Teral thought back to him. It was a long and anxious journey home. Most of the team spent the time on their own, but Angel andRicci became inseparable. They were permanently in each other’scompany, sitting together whispering and giggling. Siamese twinsattached at the hip seem to be an apt description. Kirom appeared for dinner once or twice, but always sat on hisown. He refused to speak to anyone except Laidin. Guival spent most of his time with Teral giving him the fulldetails of their exploits on earth. Teral had asked Laidin to verify some of the details when thestories became too absurd, but she only served to amplify theabsurdity. She told Teral what an integral part of the team Guival was. Shetold him about Guival’s bravery, his ingenuity, and his amazingfeats. Teral was highly impressed. Guival, having proved himself onnumerous occasions, might be just the Aesir he was looking for. The day before they left the Bifrost jump there had been aceremony. It served to release some of the tension they all felt. Teralawarded Guival the position of Aesir Ambassador to the UGE. Hewould have to answer only to Teral in the entire Aesir Empire. He performed a stately bow following which Teral tappedGungnir on his shoulders. 389
    • Igor Swann Gungnir kept on wanting to turn inward point first, because itnever missed, but Teral kept it under control with magic. Teral said a few words on his bravery and commitment andthen officially handed him the appointment. ‘There is this little matter of outstanding danger pay,’ Guivaljoked holding out his hand. Teral gave him a disapproving look. ‘Why could your ancestors not be Odin instead of Loki,’ Laidinsighed lightening the mood. ‘Great job my dear friend,’ Angel slapped Guival on the back,‘you deserve it.’ Ricci ran up and kissed him. She seemed to be in the mood tokiss everything. Some of Teral’s crew had close encounters of theRicci kind, and were now avoiding the sectors of the ship, whichshe frequented. Even Kirom congratulated him. It seemed as if Laidin’sencouragement had lightened his mood slightly. 390
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 56 The moment they left the jump, the fleet went to maximumburn for Arken. Teral tried to contact them. ‘Qren, come in Qren!’ ‘Teral you’re back, I am so glad to hear your voice,’ Qrenexclaimed after a long anxious wait. ‘What is the situation?’ Teral asked. ‘It is unclear. The ancient fleet has stopped moving.’ ‘Ancients, like Noone?’ Teral asked surprised. ‘Yes. He has joined them. They captured Princess Sharin, and wepresume they destroyed the fleet Grand Master Bromcommanded. We have no means of defending ourselves againstthem,’ Qren continued. ‘They destroyed most of the Taur planets in their path. Forsome reason they have not destroy any of our planets, yet. Theyhave now for some mysterious reason stopped, a long way fromArken and have not moved for the past day.’ ‘Well at least that might be a positive sign,’ Teral mumbled. ‘We should reach Arken in the hour.’ ‘That would be most welcome,’ Qren’s genuine appreciationentered into his mind. ‘What the hell is going on?’ Teral threw his thoughts at theteam sitting in front of him. ‘I think that will be revealed soon enough,’ Angel voiced hisopinion. 391
    • Igor Swann ‘The ancients came too far to hang around and do nothing,’ heconcluded. ‘They might simply be recharging weapons,’ Ricci ventured. ‘A chilling thought but a plausible one,’ Laidin acknowledged. ‘I think I need to have a little chat with our new neighbours,’Angel decided. ‘I’m coming too,’ Ricci affirmed. ‘We all are,’ Laidin concluded with nods around the room. ‘I will continue on to Arken, and see what we can do from there.For some reason the object of their affection seem to be Arken,’Teral remarked. ‘How do you figure that?’ Kirom asked. Teral pointed at the holo-map showing the estimated coursethe Ancients followed based on the Taur planets they destroyed. ‘Their course leads straight to Arken,’ Teral argued. ‘Guys and girls load up your horses, we are moving out in five,’Angel said, but received only blank stares from around the room. ‘Er, would you ladies and gentlemen be so kind as to dock yourfighters in Skibladne’s hangar bay. We are leaving in five minutes,’he tried again. The team scrambled. ‘Thank you!’ Ricci remained standing. ‘Should I try again?’ he remarked jokingly, ‘which words did youmisunderstand?’ ‘I don’t have a fighter,’ she pulled a sour face at him. ‘Oh? Sorry darling, I forgot.’ Teral overheard this and smiled. 392
    • Waking the Angel ‘You are a descendant of Odin, if I heard the rumours correctly?’Teral asked. ‘Yes sir, I am,’ Ricci announced proudly. ‘Then come with me,’ Teral commanded her. She looked questioningly at Angel who shrugged. ‘Meet you at Skibladne honey,’ he shouted after her, whilstadmiring her tight bottom. The duo walked through endless corridors, before they came toa halt in front of Teral’s personal hangar bay. ‘As a descendant of Odin, and my only living relative, as well asbeing the first princess of the UGE I am please to present you withthis gift from the Aesir.’ Teral paused for dramatic effect. ‘Sleipnir, Odin’s personal ship,’ Teral said in the style of a trueshowman. ‘You are giving me my own ship?’ Ricci shrieked excitedly. ‘You may speak in your mind cousin, I will hear you,’ Teral saidtapping his head. ‘Sorry, I forgot sir,’ she thought back to him. Teral opened the sliding door. The strangest ship Ricci had ever seen greeted her. It looked like an eight-legged golden spider. The body appearedbroad and flat, forming into a fin at the back and short stubbywings. Teral saw her look at the ship in a strange way. ‘This ship may look strange, but it has quite amazing properties.Firstly, it is a walker, so it is quite comfortable as a ground assaultvehicle. Unlike fighters that are loud and difficult to manoeuvre 393
    • Igor Swannclose to the ground, this fighter is noiseless and extremely quickover any terrain. However, that is not all; you also get a beautifulfighter and a versatile submersible thrown in. When in asubstance other than air or space, where normal engines will notpropel you, the legs will ‘swim’. If you wish to use it as a fighter,the legs will seamlessly fold away into the hull of the ship, and youwill have one of the most manoeuvrable fighters in the UGE.’ Ricci’s smile widened. Teral noticed and started to close the sale. ‘The legs also act as tunnelers. This allows you to dig throughvirtually any material. Last but not by any means least; there isone other unique attribute to this craft. Something they have noteven been able to duplicate it the amazing Skibladne. It is able toteleport itself and its occupants for short distances, as far as theshort-range scanners can detect an opening large enough to fitthe ship. Normally not more than 400 meters or so away, but it isquite handy in a pinch. This is the only teleportation device in theUGE that is able to teleport sentient beings without killing them.’ ‘Great! Amazing, may I fly her please?’ Ricci looked like Santajust brought her the bike she always wanted. She always liked theidea of being different and this ship was most definitely different. ‘She is yours my dear, of course you may. But I think the UGELord would like to depart, so let us get in and you teleport us intoSkibladne’s hull, okay?’ Teral suggested. ‘Cool,’ Ricci acknowledged happily. They got inside and Ricci activated the short-range scanners. ‘There is Skibladne. Now to scan into the hull… there are theother fighters… and there is a space. Okay let’s see if we will fit,’Teral narrated as Ricci played with the controls. She touched a 394
    • Waking the Angelfew buttons and a red outline of Sleipnir appeared on thescanner. She moved it around with a touch pad until it fit perfectlybehind Laidin’s fighter. It turned blue. ‘Teleporting now!’ she said and pressed the teleport button. A few seconds later and they appeared inside Skibladne. ‘I forgot to tell you the teleport engine takes a few seconds towarm up. So make sure you can spare that if you need to teleporturgently.’ ‘That’s not too bad, she said. But the selection of thedestination takes a while too,’ Ricci commented. ‘That will get a lot easier with practice,’ Teral remarked whilethey disembarked. They walked onto the bridge. ‘So are we going or what?’ asked Ricci. ‘What? How did you get onboard? I never saw you coming and Idid not open the hatch?’ Angel asked confused. ‘We came with the great new ship Teral gave me,’ she saidbefore adding, ‘don’t worry your pretty little head. I’ll tell you allabout it later.’ ‘Well my friends, good luck. I will see you soon,’ Teral stated butdid not sound overly optimistic. Skibladne swiftly closed the distance to the ancient fleet. Atense crew sat on the command deck dressed in their jump suits.They kept themselves busy with the controls in front of them,praying to any god willing to listen, which they preferred to thealternative of staring at each other and wondering how they weregoing to die. Angel had an idea. 395
    • Igor Swann ‘Qren, do me a favour. Please, go look on Noone’scommunicator for the last frequency he dialled in?’ he said intohis mindcom. ‘On my way,’ Qren’s thoughts came back. A little while later, ‘okay I’m transmitting them to Skibladnenow. I can’t believe we never thought of that,’ Qren said. Angel started transmitting on the frequency as soon as theywere in range of the ancient fleet. ‘This is Angel, representative of the UGE, requesting permissionfor an audience.’ He continued to broadcast this. The lead ship, a hulking monster, well most of them were butthis one was as big as a Darkmoon, only larger, completely filledSkibladne’s view screen. Minutes went by. ‘It’s not working; he must have reset the dials,’ Guival observedmiserably. Angel tried another approach. ‘Okay Skibladne. Try using normal deep space communicationthat matches the frequency range from your energy source.’ He got this idea from Guival at the pyramid of Giza. The others looked at him with huge question marks on theirfaces. ‘The energy source is from them right. So it is assumed theyhave equipment that can detect variations in the frequency rangefrom the radiation emitted by the energy source,’ he replied as ifhe could not understand why his request baffled them. His words still hung in the air, when a massive hull door startedto slide open. 396
    • Waking the Angel ‘Oh well I guess this is our invitation to land,’ Angel said andslowly piloted Skibladne inside. ‘At least we are not dead yet,’ Guival remarked relieved. It felt like they were traversing the inside of a planet. ‘Do you think they are trying to compensate for something?’Ricci observed sarcastically. Angel flew to what he assumed must be an entrance to theupper levels and set Skibladne down. They still had not seen any sign of life. They disembarked after testing the air quality, and walked to anarea that could be a lift, if you use your imagination. ‘Well, we might as well try,’ Angel suggested. They stepped on, and the platform started moving upwards. It moved for what seemed an eternity before it stopped on theupper deck. A door opened. The room appeared to be a conference facility. ‘Let’s make ourselves comfortable,’ Ricci opted and jumped intoone of the chairs. The others shrugged and took their seats as well. A door at the far end opened and a lot of Noone like alienswalked in silently, heads bowed. Angel and the crew stood up respectfully waiting for them toenter. They each walked to a chair and sat down concurrently. Angelassumed this was their cue to take their seats as well. The door opened once more and two more ancients walked in.All the other ancients stood again, and Angel and the crewfollowed suit. 397
    • Igor Swann ‘Geez, if I wanted a workout I would have gone to the gym,’Ricci admonished under her breath. One ancient wore a black robe with red insignia; the otherlooked to be in a terrible condition. He leaned heavily on awalking stick and seemed to be in excruciating pain. They took their seats, as the one with the insignia helped thewounded one into a chair. The intrepid crew waited silently for the proceedings tocomplete. None of them felt the overwhelming urge to speakbefore asked to. 398
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 57 The silence broke with the sound of a clear soft voice. It wasuncertain how it managed to travel the distance but it was clearlyaudible to all the crewmembers. ‘We of the D’nari have travelled the universe for millennia. Wehave visited countless planets and encountered many sentient lifeforms, both moral and wicked,’ the black robed figure began tosay. ‘We returned after many centuries to your quadrant, and whatwe found here is pure evil. Evil such as we had never encounteredbefore.’ He paused. ‘The Taur, a bloodthirsty species, bent on the destruction of lifewith no understanding of compassion. These creatures wouldmurder their brothers and sisters for their own amusement. Theyslaughter the innocent for pleasure.’ He looked at the heroes. ‘The council decreed their removal from existence for thebetterment of the universe.’ ‘We were contacted by one of your own. A hateful, treacherousthief whose sole purpose had been the glory it could attain andthe destruction of those who oppose it. It cared only for itself, nobetter than the Taur species.’ ‘The verdict of the council remained the same, the eradicationof this species and all its allies.’ 399
    • Igor Swann ‘So you are going to kill us. You brought us all the way up hereto tell us you are going to kill us. Who the hell do you think youare,’ Ricci spat, close to erupting; the jewel in Dragonfang pulseddangerously. ‘However,’ the dark robed figure continued ignoring heroutburst, ‘the keeper of the Keystone had a different tale to tell.’ ‘He told of bravery, of selfless love, of the movement to peace,harmony and unity. Of heroes who defend the innocent andoppressed,’ he slammed his small hand onto the table. ‘How could we believe this, when all we found were lies anddeceit, hate and the love for destruction?’ Angel felt a little less tense. There seem to be doubt and doubt is good. It looked like Ricci might have been wrong on her assumption,though he admired her guts. They might live to die another time yet; he hoped it would bemore than a few minutes from now. The ancient continued. ‘Your minds have been probed since you entered our ship, andwe saw brave creatures. Warriors, that went in aid of a race indire peril, with no hope of success and no hope of returning alive. We saw heroes that came here when they knew they werewalking into the executioner’s hands. Nevertheless, they had totry everything possible to save their people. A people who mightnever know of their brave selfless act, for this thought did notcross any of your minds.’ He sounded truly remorseful when he said, ‘we had to admit wewere wrong.’ 400
    • Waking the Angel Angel felt the anger well up inside him, ‘you speak about deceitand betrayal, but it was one of your own people that betrayed us.’ ‘No UGE Lord, you are mistaken. One of our own saved yourspecies. All will become clear shortly.’ ‘Bring in the prisoner,’ he commanded. ‘Sharin!’ they all exclaimed at once, when the door opened. The guards placed her in an energy cell behind the black robedfigure, where she stood quietly glaring at Angel and his team. ‘Perhaps I can better explain if I start from the beginning so asto avoid confusion,’ the injured ancient next to the black robedfigure spoke for the first time. ‘Noone, is that you?’ Angel asked perplexed after hearing thevoice. ‘Yes my lord, it is I.’ ‘I… I don’t understand?’ Angel stammered. ‘You will my lord, if you will give me a chance that is.’ ‘I am sorry, please continue,’ Angel answered mystified. ‘This retelling starts many millennia ago,’ Noone started his tale. He paused a moment before continuing, ‘Due to my impetuousas a youth, I accidentally got stranded on Arken.’ ‘By fate or coincidence I had in my possession an artefact calledthe Keystone, which is the only means my brothers have offinding their way back home.’ ‘The details are not important, only that they cannot returnwithout it, and they only discovered my absences when they did. Ihave been searching for my people for centuries. I developed longrange beaming equipment and have since meticulously 401
    • Igor Swannexperimented with frequencies and wavelengths in the hope ofestablishing contact with them.’ The crew stared at him absorbing every syllable. ‘Sharin had looked in on me one day when she heard a noise onmy scanners. To make a long story shorter, she successfully madecontact with my brothers in my absence.’ ‘Even then a plan of immeasurable evil had formed in her mind.She altered my notes ensuring I would never happen on the samefrequency again and continued with her plot to deceive mypeople.’ ‘She had to use my equipment since it was the only technologystrong enough to communicate over such a distance. She wouldsneak in, use it for her evil scheme and then reset the equipmentto its original settings.’ ‘I came to suspect someone had used my equipment quiterecently when the settings I last programmed were not as I hadleft it.’ ‘I installed a memory function, which Sharin did not knowabout. Unfortunately the only conversation I recorded had beenthe one before Sharin left to attack the Taur worlds.’ ‘She did not leave the frequency on the machine, but Isuspected she would meet them on route and I left in a hurry toget there first. Hopefully to give them the correct informationbefore something dreadful happened.’ ‘But how did she hope to achieve this?’ Laidin asked. ‘Her initial plan had been simple. She would have the UGE Lordkilled in an accident. She would leak the information of thelocation of earth to the Taur, convincing them that without theUGE Lord, the UGE will scatter before their armadas.’ 402
    • Waking the Angel ‘She would then unite the UGE under her flag and lead them toa glorious victory against the defenceless Taur planets,’ Nooneexplained. ‘She would convince the other leaders to return home while sheand the El took care of the last remaining Taur. The ancientswould then destroy the UGE fleet on their return home and shewould be unopposed to take control of the UGE with the onlyfleet left being hers. The returning Taur fleet would also bedestroyed by the ancients.’ ‘What did she have over the ancients to control them?’ Angelasked. ‘The Keystone, she heard that the ancients were searching for itand found it in my quarters. She hid it promising only to reveal itslocation after they had done her bidding,’ Noone replied. ‘Why would she do this?’ ask Guival. ‘Obvious,’ said Laidin, ‘she hates every one not of her kin. Shewants a dictatorship, and to enslave all other races. This wasimpossible while there was still a UGE Lord or the chance of a newone emerging.’ ‘So that is why she had been so upset when I was found,’ Angelremarked. ‘Exactly,’ Laidin replied. ‘That must have thrown her plans off a bit?’ ‘Yes but she did plan to kill you accidentally in training,’ Noonesaid. ‘The day I beat her; I could see the hate in her eyes, she did nothold back. She wanted to impale me on that staff,’ Angelreminisced thoughtfully. 403
    • Igor Swann ‘The attack in Ásgarôr,’ Laidin exclaimed, ‘that is why it did notmake sense then. She must have hired them to kill us.’ Noone nodded. ‘You bitch,’ Ricci said through clenched teeth, on behalf of hercousin, while glaring at Sharin. ‘She had even gone to the lengths of having Laidin investigatethe spy. She knew she could control her investigation and makesure it came nowhere close to throwing suspicion on her, whileimplicating anyone else she wished.’ ‘You female Croman1,’ Laidin growled emulated her cousin. ‘Nice try cousin, you’ll get there, just stick with me,’ Riccigrinned. ‘Yes, well, the next problem she had to deal with was Angel’svision and Guival’s brilliant spy work,’ Noone continued. ‘But that actually gave her a way to manipulate things. Shecould have you go to earth while knowing the UGE armada wouldbe too late. There the Taur would destroy earth and you. Shecould have the UGE armada and the Taur fleet destroy each other,while she volunteered to take her fleet and destroy the Taurplanets.’ ‘Yes, what was that all about? How did you make a mistake likethat in your calculations?’ Angel inquired. ‘I had been plotting the most likely routes and calculating thetime differentials when I was summoned to an urgent meetingwith Qren. I could not locate him and returned to my workassuming he had to attend to other matters. Before my return,1 This creature was a little black ball of hatred, possibly because it was ugly. 404
    • Waking the AngelSharin altered my calculations so surreptitiously that I did notnotice it.’ ‘That explains it,’ Laidin acknowledged. ‘I also remember her insisting on taking only her own fleet,saying no El would be commanded by an inferior race,’ Angeladded. ‘Correct my lord; then my brothers would destroy the reservefleet in UGE space and any returning fleet from earth. She wouldreturn from her conquest of Taur space and the ancients wouldpretend to flee. She returned a hero and with no UGE Lords leftbecome ruler of the UGE as well as having the only fleet to crushthose who might oppose her,’ Noone continued. ‘I became her next hurdle,’ Noone smiled in the darkness of hishood. ‘When I sped past her she chased me, and she did not expect tofind the ancients where she did. They did not know who she was,or who I was for that matter, and destroyed all her fighters. Theonly reason my brothers did not destroy me, was that I managedto transmit a code used by my people when there is anemergency using the lights on the ship. They understood anddirected the attack around me and unfortunately her, at the lastmicro second.’ ‘So why did you not stop them before they killed my brother?’Kirom growled. ‘Firstly my dear Kirom the blast did not completely miss mycruiser, and I had been badly injured as you might have noticed. Ionly regained consciousness a day ago, shortly before the fleet 405
    • Igor Swannstopped moving. Secondly your brother is not dead, he is instasis.’ ‘What! He is alive?’ Kirom yelled. ‘Yes. He was fortunate in that he used El fighters when he camesearching for the ancients. Let me explain.’ ‘After Sharin’s rescue she pretended to be a commandingofficer in the El fleet sent to guide them on their mission. Sheknew if she told them who she was, they would probe her mindfor the location of the Keystone, and she would lose heradvantage. She also made sure she did not know where it was, byasking one of her kin to hide it. She could not risk my brothersfinding the Keystone, destroying the UGE planets and leaving.’ ‘If they are so benevolent, why would they so easily eradicatelife?’ Angel asked. ‘Simple. We wish to protect life on other planets. If theconquests here are completed what would stop these species ofterrorizing others in other galaxies?’ the black robed ancient withthe insignia commented. ‘So what happened next?’ Ricci asked while she lay on herfolded arms, enthralled by the story. ‘Well her next problem had been that her fleet had returned toArken, assuming her to be dead, and she needed it.’ ‘What she planned next was for the ancients to wait aroundhere till the UGE sends an armada to stop them, as she knew theywould.’ ‘But they would destroy her fleet as well?’ Kirom remarked. ‘No. We found the following when we probed her mind. Heridea had been to make my brothers release her to join thearmada taking command of the El fleet. She would order the 406
    • Waking the Angelremnant fleet to encircle the ancients and attack from the rear,while her El fleet pretends to attack from the front. The ancientswould naturally pretend to give up, and turn around to escape,with unfortunately only the remnant fleet in their way, which ofcourse would be destroyed.’ ‘Well she might be pure evil, but no one ever accused her ofbeing stupid,’ Kirom remarked. ‘I agree, she had to adapt her initial plan several times, whichadmittedly she did brilliantly,’ Laidin concurred. ‘What about you? She must have known you survived?’ Guivalasked. ‘Yes she did, but she had no access to my recovery area. Shehoped that I would stay unconscious until my race had left or thatI would preferably die from my wounds,’ Noone told them with ahint of malice in his voice. ‘I must assume my brother made a mess of the plan somehow?’Kirom asked. ‘Again you are correct in you assumption. He led a squadron offighters to intercept the ancients. For what purpose we still do notknow. We have not had any contact with the fleet he presumablycommanded.’ ‘Why did you not simply probe his mind?’ Laidin asked. ‘My brothers captured Brom and his squadron using a stasisfield transporter, which has the unfortunate side effect of erasingall short term memory.’ ‘This is incredible,’ Angel remarked. ‘I have a question,’ Ricci put her hand up like a school kid. ‘Yes?’ Noone acknowledged. 407
    • Igor Swann ‘What were the ancients doing here in the first place, and whydid they leave you?’ ‘Ah, good questions, you see many millennia ago our worldswere running out of energy, a very special energy source onlyfound on our planets. We had become completely dependent onit. My people sent out long range prospecting missions to findmore. In our search we passed by this quadrant and aftersearching it and not finding any trace of the energy here mybrothers left.’ ‘Did they find the energy?’ Ricci asked. ‘Yes they did. A more than ample supply that will last my peoplemany generations,’ Noone answered, overjoyed. An ancient came running in speaking hurriedly to the blackrobed figure. The ancient’s leader began to relate the message. ‘Good news, a fleet has just been detected exiting the Nebulaclose to where we picked up the El fighters and your brother,’ hedirected at Kirom. ‘Brom, he has always been a sly one,’ Noone chuckled. ‘He must have tried to lure the ancients into the nebula wherethey could not detect his fleet,’ Kirom exclaimed proudly. ‘Brave plan, but unfortunately would have been for nought,’ theancient leader remarked, ‘there is no technology on these worldsthat would threaten us.’ ‘So where is the Keystone?’ Laidin asked. ‘On Elheimr, we will be collecting it shortly,’ Noone answered. ‘Oh and Angel you might want to tell the fleet not to attack,’ headded. ‘Yep, that might be a good idea,’ Angel concurred. 408
    • Waking the Angel ‘Anyway I think it might be appropriate to go to Arken now.There are a lot of worried people there,’ Angel concluded. ‘Not before I see my brother!’ Kirom demanded. ‘Then follow me,’ the dark robed ancient suggested. He led them through endless passages and down into thebowels of the ship. They entered a chamber, and like everything else in the ship, itwas slightly bigger than your average metropolitan city. Insidewere rows and rows of stasis pods. He led them to where fiftypods had life forms inside. He walked to a control console and made a few intricategestures with his hand to which the pods opened, smoke pouringfrom them. ‘It will take a few minutes for them to come round but they willbe fine.’ Brom opened his eyes staring into the familiar face of his littlebrother. ‘Where am I?’ he asked confused. ‘Do not worry brother, you are safe,’ Kirom helped his brotherout of the pod. ‘It’s a long story for which we will have ample time later. Fornow you just need to rest.’ 409
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 58 Skibladne had a fifty-fighter escort back to Arken. Angelcontacted both Brom and Teral’s fleets and told them to standdown. Now he sat on the command deck with his crew. Noone and theancient leader had joined them on the trip. None of the ancientshad names or rather any names that any of the UGE species couldpronounce. Sharin stayed imprisoned below deck, under guard by two ofthe ancients. She kicked and screamed all the way onto the ship,her composure entirely disappeared. Angel told the ancient leader about the technology they hadfound and incorporated into Skibladne. The ancient wasimpressed that they had found such novel ways of using theirtechnology, in ways they never intended. On their final approach to Arken, Angel had one request. ‘My friends I have one favour to ask of you; please omit anyreference to the Sword of Freyr from your stories to the senate. Ihave another way of introducing it,’ he said with a glint in his eye. The party proceeded directly to the senate room and aftersome heartfelt greetings by Brom and Teral in particular, Angelbrought the council to order. Angel told the story from start to finish as Noone had relayed itto them, attempting to spare Noone the ordeal of anothertribunal. Ricci filling in the juicy bits that Angel omitted. 410
    • Waking the Angel The senate remained intoxicated with the retelling. They askedmany questions and received more answers than they bargainedfor. Laidin, Guival and Kirom took turns in telling of their exploits onearth. This seemed to intrigue the crowd even more than Noone’sstory, being a tale of true heroes and conquest, and in thisculture, cherished more than Zellion. ‘Now all that remains is to decide what to do with Sharin,’ Bromremarked. ‘Oh, I know exactly what to do with that treacherous daughterof a Perol1. She will complete her diplomatic duties,’ Teral said asan evil grin formed in the minds of those present. The dark robed ancient stood up and a hush descended on theroom. ‘I have been honoured to meet such a glorious conglomerate ofraces. You have succeeded in winning the admiration andgratitude of the D’nari. As a token of our friendship we haveprepared a gift of some of our technology that you might finduseful,’ the ancient’s leader said. ‘We are also honoured to have made such wonderful newfriends. Please feel free to visit any time you wish,’ Angelpreformed his duty as UGE Lord.1 A Perol is a creature created in hell to torture the most evil of souls. However,even hell has to draw the line somewhere. The torture dished out by thiscreature was too inhumane for even demons to accept. The demons exiled thePerols from the underworld, abandoning them on a remote world without lifeforms. The world’s name is the planet of the Damned. 411
    • Igor Swann ‘Now if you would kind enough to return us to my ship, we areeager to find the Keystone and return to our home,’ the ancient’sleader requested. ‘And we hope you will take good care of our ambassador, whohas requested to remain here,’ he added. ‘Noone, I am overjoyed. I would have missed you so much if youdecided to leave,’ Qren became quite emotional. ‘I would never do that to you my dear friend, we still have agame of mind-battle to finish,’ Noone replied. Brom called for order just as the senate began to disband. ‘There is one last matter that I would like to bring to thecouncil’s attention. Both Teral and I feel that we are neglectingour duties to our people with the time spent on UGE affairs. Wetherefore have decided to give full ambassadorial and senatorialcommissions to Kirom and Guival. They will from now on fulfil ourindividual races’ duties to the UGE.’ ‘They have proven that their judgment is sound and we haveboth agreed that they may speak for our peoples,’ he said in asolemn voice while Teral confirmed that Brom indeed speaks forthe both of them. ‘Also it would give me and my old friend a chance to catch upon some hunting,’ he laughed with a thunderous roar. Teral walked up to Guival and held out the spear, Gungnir. ‘This is yours now. As ambassador of the people you shouldcarry the symbol of our people,’ he stated. ‘Oh, and you may keep Mjolnir little brother,’ Brom boomedwithout the fanfare. 412
    • Waking the Angel ‘I am sure it likes you better than me now, since you haveshown it so much action,’ Brom laughed again. 413
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 59 The entire senate along with the ancients gathered on thecommand deck of the Aesir Flagship, while Sharin remainedsecurely imprisoned in the brig. The ancient leader called Angel over to where he stood a shortdistance from the rest of the group. ‘May I ask a boon my friend? I am quite intrigued in the novelway you incorporated our technology into your ships. We ask thatyou leave Skibladne and the other fighters with us, while youfinish your diplomatic duties. We will upgrade all the systems wecan, and see if there is any other useful technology we canintroduce to them.’ ‘Of course you may. We would be honoured to share ourlimited knowledge with you,’ Angel replied. ‘Laidin and Ricci will escort you to Elheimr to fetch theKeystone. On her return Ricci will bring Skibladne back to me.’ ‘Superb,’ the ancient replied. The enormous hangar bay exposed itself slowly. Even Teral’sBattle Cruiser seemed lost inside the hull of the ancient’s ship. ‘Definitely compensating for something,’ Ricci giggled oncemore. Laidin and the ancient’s leader said their farewells and left.Angel took his time saying goodbye to Ricci. ‘Now darling, keep to the speed limit and don’t try overtaking inheavy traffic. You know how easily accidents happen,’ hesolemnly instructed while Ricci giggled. 414
    • Waking the Angel ‘Come back safely my darling. I love you,’ she said. ‘I love you too, so don’t go picking up any good looking elves onthe way,’ he joked. They kissed until finally Guival sighed. ‘Ah give it a rest already, I’ve just eaten,’ he said to the delightof the entire crew. Two days later and Teral, Brom, Angel and the two newambassadors sat in the tower on Evergal’t. The city lay in ruin;most of it destroyed by the Ancients. Makeshift shelters had goneup and the city seemed mostly deserted. Work crews scamperedabout trying to clear the rubble. Even the tower looked worse for wear. Large gaping holes werevisible throughout its once magnificent rise into the clouds. Tri’st and a number of sceptical looking generals sat across fromthe UGE envoy. ‘We came to offer you our aid in rebuilding your cities. Whathas happened here is an atrocity. We do not condone the wilfuldestruction of any species, and will do our utmost to help inrestoring your society to its previous splendour,’ Angelproclaimed. ‘I have heard what you said on the cruiser after the battle, and Iaccept that the whole conspiracy centred on the plot of amadman. You have the opportunity now to prove me right.’ ‘We thank you,’ Tri’st said in an appreciative voice, ‘but it will bedifficult though, the masses are screaming for blood. They wantthe ones responsible for this to pay. Most of them knew nothingof Kra’st’s madness. All they see is their homes and livesdestroyed. They want someone to pay.’ 415
    • Igor Swann ‘I felt the same way, after seeing my home destroyed,’ Angelheld out a recording device. ‘This is an account of the deceit and betrayal that forced ourraces into war. You may use it as you see fit.’ ‘Yes that would help,’ Tri’st remarked after viewing therecording. ‘I have more,’ Angel smiled and nodded to two of Teral’s men atthe door. A short while after, they returned with Sharin. Sharin remained white as a sheet. Teral smirked. ‘The betrayer, to do with as you wish. Please except this as atoken of the UGE’s commitment to establish ties, and buildrelations with the Taur Empire.’ Tri’st looked surprised, and then his eyes showed a glint as anidea formed in his head. ‘Yes, yes that would work. I could use this to bring the massesto our side. Once I explained the madness of Kra’st, and turnedover the betrayer along with the confession... Yes, that shouldwork,’ he sat deep in thought for a few seconds while a plan tookshape. ‘We have much we can do for each other. I understand that forthe moment, we need you much more than you need us.However, in time, we might turn this society into one of tradersand not warriors, and be of mutual benefit to each other,’ Tri’stvowed. ‘We will start sending emergency supplies and medical support.This should help you solidify your command. I would not want todeal with another madman,’ Angel approved smiling. 416
    • Waking the Angel ‘Then let us drink to a long and prosperous alliance between theraces of this quadrant,’ Tri’st said holding up his burro. ‘Oh no, you will not catch me with that a second time. I actuallylearn when I hit my head,’ Guival exclaimed in mock agony, ‘youdrink, I’ll watch.’ Laughter filled the room. Angel understood where Guival’sresentment of the drink came from but this was in the interest ofdiplomacy. He drank and kept it down, barely. On their return to the cruiser, Teral and Brom cornered Angel. ‘We went there to deliver a prisoner, not to make friends,’Brom grunted. ‘And the only reason we agreed to that is because they have nolaws against torture like we do,’ Teral said reproachfully. Angel looked at them but said nothing. ‘They tried to kill you and your family, and they managed todestroy a large part of your earth,’ Brom stated with disdain. ‘They murdered millions and destroyed millions more lives,’Teral added. Brom broke into a smile. Angel could feel Teral doing the same. ‘And we now understand why you are the UGE Lord. Yourcompassion and your vision for the future are admirable. Wherewe stare ourselves blind in the past, you look to find a betterfuture,’ Brom praised their leader. ‘We are proud to support you my lord. You are truly a leaderworth following,’ Teral commended him as well. ‘Thank you gentlemen, I appreciate the words and yourcommitment to a new and better UGE,’ Angel sighed, relieved. 417
    • Igor Swann They met Ricci en route to Arken. The Ancients had left for home after they recovered theKeystone, and enhanced Skibladne and the fighters as promised. She ran out to meet Angel, barely giving Skibladne enough timeto touch down inside the Aesir flagship. ‘Whoopee!’ She started to babble, ‘we got new shields, newengines and almost inexhaustible energy sources, and a lot of coolnew weapons and scanners. They even managed to enhanceSkibladne’s engines, and replaced some of the older borrowedtechnology. Our ships can now cloak like Skibladne. We can goplay hide and seek. My ship had the oldest technology and theyalmost rebuilt it from scratch, with a few design ideas from yourstruly. You need to see it darling. It is gorgeous. It’s now astreamline, mean, ass-kicking machine,’ Angel put his finger infront of her mouth. ‘I missed you too darling,’ he said softly. ‘Sorry. Of course, I missed you,’ she blushed, ‘but you shouldsee the new controls and the…’ The laughter that followed almost rocked the Battle Cruiser offcourse. 418
    • Waking the Angel CHAPTER 60 Laidin had never been this anxious in her entire life. This is afight where the bow of Odin would be of little help, except tomaybe get her into real trouble. The El Council assembled in the capital of Elheimr, an incrediblecity to behold. Everything seemed crafted from crystal and gold.Trees stood in abundance, with the bigger part of the citycompletely integrated into the gigantic trees. In fact, for the mostpart, the crystal palace was trees. This was not nature meetscivilization, this was nature is civilization. She approached the imposing golden doors guarding theentrance to the council chambers. If all went well this would bethe first step to her and all of the El’s new future. ‘Enter Laidin,’ a deep old voice escaped from the dark interior. She wordlessly entered, and halted in front of a half-moonshaped table. ‘State your business,’ the same voice commanded. ‘I am Laidin, great granddaughter of Ullr, son of Queen Sif of theEl.’ She paused for a second, biting her lip before continuing. ‘I herewith reclaim the throne that was taken from myancestors by false claim.’ Laidin’s heart pumped in her throat. Maybe she should havestarted with the evidence and led up to this, maybe she shouldhave told them about Sharin’s betrayal first off. 419
    • Igor Swann ‘Present your evidence,’ the voice said again with nodiscernable incredulity. The voice searched only for facts, thevoice of reason, Laidin thought. She presented the documents, and explained how she found it. How Skibladne had dated the paper and the ink and how it wasobviously a forgery. The council hung on her every word. ‘Summon my experts on historical documents,’ the voicecommanded again. A short while later three El entered. They looked as if they hadnever seen the sun, and colour was something that happened toother people. ‘My lord,’ they uttered in unison. ‘Examine these scrolls and determine if they are forgeries ornot,’ the council chief ordered them. The three took the scrolls and left with another, ‘my lord.’ ‘I do not see the defendant. She must have the opportunity todisprove your claims,’ the deep voice declared. ‘That would be slightly more complicated my lord,’ Laidinannounced. She launched into the tale of betrayal, deceit and liesthat would have brought about the extinction of the UGE, and herpeople. ‘Do we have proof of this?’ the voice asked after the rest of thecouncil had had a chance to voice their disapproval, in acomposed manner. ‘My lord, I have brought the leader of the ancients with me toretrieve the Keystone which Sharin hid here,’ Laidin explained. 420
    • Waking the Angel She tapped her mindcom, ‘Ricci would you kind enough toescort the ancient to the council chambers. Ask any El to directyou.’ ‘Sure thing, but we are about an hour away from the main city,’Ricci answered. Laidin relayed the information to the council who decided toreconvene after lunch. A welcome break, they felt, since Laidin’sinitial summary took almost three hours. After lunch, Laidin, The Ancient and Ricci stood before thecouncil. ‘Order,’ the El Elder commanded, ‘will our guests pleaseintroduce themselves for the records.’ ‘I am Ricci of the Valk’r, first princess of the UGE anddescendant of Sif, Thor and Odin,’ Ricci announced proudly. A low hum went up around the council chambers. Theconsensus was, impossible, but nobody said anything. Riccienjoyed the look of scepticism on their faces. One of Sharin’s clan had an uncomfortable episode of tonguecontrol and Ricci happily obliged in fuelling the fire. ‘This is an outrage, how could you believe such obvious lies?’ ‘Hmmm, you’re cute,’ Ricci began, ‘why don’t you slip intosomething more comfortable,’ she said in a seductive voice, ‘like acoma for example,’ Ricci spat. ‘You dare speak like that to a royal El!’ the dark elf continued. ‘I don’t know what your problem is but I bet it’s hard topronounce, although after this hearing it would probably soundsomething like traitor!’ The council had to take a moment to gather their composurebefore the chief council spoke. 421
    • Igor Swann ‘Princess Ricci, would you be so kind, as to leave that judgmentto the court. Thank you,’ he smiled. He solemnly nodded at the Ancient. ‘I am principal of the D’nari,’ the Ancient said. ‘Are you able to verify the claims of Princess Sharin’s treacheryto the court?’ the chief of council requested. ‘I am,’ the ancient said. He placed a small cube in the middle of the floor. It opened and a holo-projection filled the centre of the room. Itshowed Sharin’s interrogation after Noone spilled the beans, andit showed her confessing to the crime of high treason. ‘May we keep this as evidence?’ the chief of Council asked. ‘Of course,’ the Ancient said. ‘Have you uncovered the Keystone?’ the chief inquired. ‘Not yet. The shimmering woods are presenting more of aproblem than we anticipated, and our scanners are ineffective indetecting something as small as the Keystone, which is obviouslywell hidden,’ the disappointed ancient reported. ‘That is not a problem friend,’ the chief stated. He addressed the guards at the door. ‘Find me every available tracker and scout. Call up our infantryand reserves. I am authorizing the use of every available resourcefor the recovery of the Keystone.’ ‘My sincere thanks your lordship.’ ‘No sir, we owe you our thanks. If I was presented with theevidence you had, I would have destroyed this species withouthesitation,’ the chief explained. 422
    • Waking the Angel ‘You need to thank Laidin. If it was not for her pure heart,honourable intentions and brave spirit, the decision would havebeen quite different.’ Ricci and the Ancient took their leave of the council, andcontinued their search for the Keystone. The Elder summoned the experts to present their findings. ‘My lord, we have concluded that the documents are indeedforgeries. We have no explanation on how this had beenoverlooked when they were originally submitted,’ the expertsappeared perplexed. ‘Please enter the documents into evidence,’ the chief ordered. ‘We will now retire and deliberate our findings.’ Two days after, the council summoned Laidin to appear beforethem. She felt even more nervous this time round. Every Eldignitary and high born sat assembled on the gallery to hear theverdict. News travelled fast and everyone had heard of thecommoner El who dared claim the throne. The deep voice from the Chief of Council filled the chambers.His tone implied, I speak the law, and do not forget it. ‘By the power vested in me as chief of the El council. I find theclaims of Laidin to be true and legitimate. The evidence shepresented has brought irrefutable proof to every single claimmade to the council. I hereby rule in favour of the House of Sif,and re-establish this house as the ruling house of El withimmediate effect. We will observe a 3-moon protest periodwherein the current ruling house may submit counter claims anddispute the ruling as per El law,’ he said scanning the room. 423
    • Igor Swann ‘Hereafter preparations may begin for the coronation ceremonyof Princess Laidin of the Royal House of Sif.’ This is the decree of the El council.’ ‘This is an outrage!’ ‘We will not stand for this!’ ‘We will never accept her rule!’ Cries from the dark elves came from every corner of thechamber. Sharin’s family was vocally well endowed. ‘Careful Denelin,’ the chief addressed the most vocal of theprotesters, ‘less I rule on your involvement in the treason of yourcousin. We will be investigating this in any event. The council isunder the impression she did not act alone in hiding the Keystonehere, and needed the backing of her house if she was to succeedin her betrayal of her people. You have your 3-moons to submit evidence to the contrary, useit wisely.’ ‘One word of warning though, any false claims or forgeriessubmitted will be seen as high treason and will invoke the deathpenalty.’ ‘You have no proof of her doing anything against the El!’Denelin screamed. The chief of the council sighed, ‘I wished to spare your familythe humiliation, but truthfully I do not know why I bothered.’ ‘Bring in the confession made by the accused,’ he ordered. A few moments later, the cube again stood in the middle of theroom and Sharin’s confession replayed. Quite a few dark headsslinked away before Sharin completed her final admission to theEl. 424
    • Waking the Angel When Laidin left the chambers, thousands of her kin from everyclass and house without dark hair greeted her, all cheering andrejoicing in her victory. She met Ricci and the Ancient halfway down the long windingstaircase. ‘Congratulations!’ Ricci shouted above the din of the crowd. ‘Thanks,’ Laidin mouthed back at her. ‘We found the Keystone thanks to your people’s help. TheAncients are eager to be on their way, and who could blamethem. We will be leaving within the hour,’ Ricci announced. ‘Thanks for all your help, princess,’ Laidin gratefully remarkedand hugged her and the ancient. ‘You’ll be coming for the coronation?’ Laidin asked. ‘Would not miss it for the world,’ Ricci yelped, ‘I am your cousinaren’t I?’ ‘Of course and now a member of the royal house of El,’ Laidinsmiled. ‘I’ll drop off your fighter sometime soon,’ Ricci grinned. ‘Oh no you won’t, I will fetch it thank you very much,’ Laidinjested, ‘I saw you pilot Skibladne.’ They waved and left Laidin standing on the steps looking overher kingdom. She smiled. Perfect, she thought, just perfect. 425
    • Igor Swann CHAPTER 61 Almost two months had passed and Arken was in a festivemood. Beautiful decorations, a kaleidoscope of colours andshapes, adorned the city. The wedding day of the UGE Lord and the first princess of theUGE finally arrived. Arken played host to everyone who wasanyone. The few hundred with personal invitations received theroyal treatment; most of them were royalty in any event. The huge banquet hall had a feast that encompassed theculinary delights of the entire United Galactic Empire. At the farend stood two golden thrones, where Angel and his bride sataccepting well wishes and gifts from every corner of the universe. The thrones had been Ricci’s brainchild and no one felt braveenough to deny her this. The Brisingamen jewel pulsatedrhythmically in Dragonfang, as if it too enjoyed the festivities. A smartly dressed Aesir, wearing an itchy powdered wigannounced the guests on arrival. ‘Queen Laidin of the El.’ Angel looked up, so wonderful to hear that title, he thought. ‘Senator Guival of the Aesir and Senator Kirom of the Dwar...’ ‘Arch-Chancellor Teral of the Aesir and Grand Master Brom ofthe Dwar...’ ‘The Lady Gemmi Chief of the Valk’r and Sir Loser of theGerbit...’ The Brisingamen jewel shone brightly around her neck. Loserhad grown to a respectable size and walked at her side dressed inthe jump suit Angel had created for him. 426
    • Waking the Angel Apparently, he still refuses to remove it. A whole entourage ofGentari followed in their wake. ‘They made it, they made it,’ Ricci shrieked, before she jumpedfrom the throne and set off in their direction. She sent the Ark cruiser to go fetch them, and hoped theywould make it back in time. ‘Mark!’ Angel proclaimed joyfully. ‘Hello brother, nice place you’ve got here,’ Mark joked. ‘I am so glad you came,’ Angel cheerfully exclaimed. ‘Would I miss my own brother’s wedding?’ Mark askedpretending to be hurt. Angel laughed, ‘go mingle, I see a pretty Valk’r checking youout.’ ‘Emperor Tri’st of the Taur,’ the announcement of thedignitaries continued. A hush descended over the crowd. What madness is this? How dare he show up here? Angel stood up and walked to him. ‘Welcome Emperor, glad you could make it. Please enjoy ourhospitality,’ Angel smiled and shook his hand. The crowds started up again just as noisy as before. Apparently,they were mistaken, and he is supposed to be here. Nobodywanted to look foolish for not knowing what was going on in theEmpire. The dignitaries continued to pour in. Noone, Qren and all of theUGE senators, even the Leaders of the neutral planets not part ofthe UGE were present at the celebrations having all receivedpersonal invitations from Angel. 427
    • Igor Swann Angel had a plan. Gemmi approached the thrones to speak to Angel, ‘My lord’ she said, ‘I brought you some homemade apple pie.Unfortunately Loser has eaten half,’ she said and pulled a sourface. ‘Wow, thanks, that is the best gift I have received all day, and Idon’t mind sharing,’ he smiled at Loser, ‘how are things back onearth?’ ‘The Taur are under control, a few went into hiding, but notmany and we do find them eventually. I have informed Tri’st andhe will be sending transport ships for them. The cities are slowlybeing rebuilt and some will look better than ever.’ ‘The Valk’r warriors received a lot of recognition and are prettymuch the new buzzword on earth. The world thinks we are itsnew superhero police force, and we even have our own range ofaction figures.’ she grinned before continuing. ‘One small problem however, it seems Alra’st escaped and hemanaged to get off world somehow. Apparently, he was in amurderous spirit when he left, bent on destroying both the UGEand earth.’ ‘This is grave news indeed,’ Angel’s brow creased as he felt thewarning lights flash, ‘Alra’st might still have support among theTaur. Last thing we need now is a revolution.’ ‘I better warn Tri’st,’ he added and left to go find him. Tri’st stood alone, at one of the buffet tables. ‘My lord, anything I can do for you,’ he said when he saw Angelapproach and noticing the concerned look on his face. ‘Well actually there is,’ Angel replied, ‘apparently Alra’st hasescaped from his prison on earth.’ 428
    • Waking the Angel ‘I did not know Alra’st was being held on earth?’ Tri’stannounced surprised. ‘My apologies, I actually forgot all about that,’ Angel answeredsincerely. ‘Anyway, he has escaped, and he is not happy. He wants todestroy the UGE and everyone he felt betrayed him. I think thatincludes you for not coming to rescue him.’ ‘This is not welcome news,’ Tri’st remarked a little out of sorts. ‘The Taur are still uneasy and to create an underground rebelmovement now would be very easy indeed. There are still manyTaur who feel an alliance with the UGE is sacrilege, and wouldgladly join a movement against the treaty. Alra’st is a highlyregarded war hero, and will find followers with little trouble.’ ‘This is as I feared,’ Angel agreed in a sombre tone. ‘I will send out my spies, and keep my ear to the ground mylord. Thank you for the warning,’ Tri’st promised. ‘So what happened to Sharin?’ Angel asked, curiosity gettingthe better of him. ‘I would rather you do not ask that question of me, my lord.Suffice to say, what she calls home now, others fear to name.’ Angel gave him a puzzled look and Tri’st noticed this. He sighedbefore continuing. ‘Her sentencing and punishment did not reside with me. I sawher once before her relocation to the planet of damnation. Asentence to this planet is only for the most evil of creatures, andthis is by Taur standards. That should give you a clue. We do givethose sentenced to go there an option of death by slow tortureafter we skin them alive. No one who knew of the planet chose to 429
    • Igor Swanngo there instead. Sharin did not have the option. Her best friendsare now Perols,’ Tri’st explained. Angel almost felt sorry for her, almost. Angel asked for order after ascertaining that the entire guest listhad arrived. ‘Ladies and gentlemen we are gathered here so you may bearwitness to a very special day for me and my beautiful wife, and soyou may share in our joy,’ Angel said to the resounding applauseof the crowd below. ‘But it is hopefully not the only union that this day will beremembered for.’ He motioned to someone in the corner, summoning him. Whispers started in the crowd. Everyone wanted to know if theperson next to him knew what the UGE Lord meant. A soldier walked in carrying something on a cushion coveredwith a red drape, and knelt before Angel. ‘Many centuries ago the UGE divided as a result of treachery.The symbol of the UGE disappeared and the UGE lost many of itsvalued members as a result thereof,’ Angel paused. ‘A brave knight of the United Galactic Empire has gone to theends of the earth to retrieve this symbol. To again unite the UGEinto a society of diversity, and into the powerful unit that protectits members.’ He looked at the anxious faces in front of him; they knewsomething interesting was about to happen. ‘First allow me to present the warriors who strived to reunitethe UGE. Queen Laidin of the El, Senator Kirom of the Dwar, andSenator Guival of the Aesir,’ he indicated each in turn, ‘Sir Loser 430
    • Waking the Angeland the Lady Gemmi of the Valk’r, and of course my lovely bride,Princess Ricci. With special thanks to Master Kirom for finding thesymbol for us.’ He paused while he took hold of the hilt underneath the drapes. ‘Without further ado, I give you the sword of Freyr symbol ofthe UGE, and an invite to all, to again join the United GalacticEmpire. Standing together under the symbol, once a sign of ourunity, there will be no more discrimination or segregation. We willall be equals in the new UGE.’ The applause rose to deafening heights, and it seemed that itwould continue for an eternity. ‘We have extended an invitation to the earth, which will soonhave the capability of extended space flight. Senator Gemmi willrepresent them on the council until they become fully fledgedmembers of the UGE,’ he paused and searched the crowd. He found Tri’st standing quietly in a corner. ‘And now a special invite to the Taur Empire to join the UGE.They have shown remorse for past mistakes, and we cannot andwill not dwell in the past. No race will be excluded from thisopportunity to join the combined United Galactic Empire.’ Silence from a shocked crowd greeted him. A pin dropped anddeafened those close by. Tri’st noticed that Angel was in trouble joined him. Heunderstood the importance of this invitation, especially now thatAlra’st was somewhere surely stirring up trouble. Tri’st looked at the masses of dignitaries standing before him.He stated in a clearly apologetic tone. ‘I am not able to undo the atrocities my people subjected youto. The crimes of the Taur committed against the UGE races are 431
    • Igor Swannunforgivable. I can only on behalf of the Taur extend my deepestapology, and beg for undeserved understanding. We weresubjects to a dictator, a madman, who wished only to destroy andmurder the innocent. None of us had the courage to stand againsthim. In the end when we did find the courage, it was too late. Ican only hope that you would understand that the actions of afanatical fool did not portrait the sentiments of a race, and thatyou may someday forgive us our past crimes. If you would give asthe opportunity we would try our utmost to become valuedmembers of your UGE and attempt to repair the pain we caused,’Tri’st bowed his head. Laidin started to slowly clap her hands. Kirom and Guival joinedher. Slowly the crowd started applauding. Tri’st and Angel shareda meaningful glance. Noone smiled. Brilliant my lord, place them where you can keepan eye on them and control them, he thought to himself. Angel smiled as he placed the sword on his back and took Ricci’sslender hand in his. They slowly walked down the aisle shakinghands and greeting new friends. They came to their crew and comrades, old and new, the veryyoung and the very old. ‘Well friends, it seems our adventure has come to an end, andall is well. But something tells me this will not be our lastadventure together.’ 432
    • Waking the Angel EPILOGUE Angel had no idea how true these words were. A few short weeks after the ceremony, he received an urgentcommunication from Tri’st. ‘My lord, we have located Alra’st. He has as you suspected setup an underground movement, and is in the process of convertingmany Taur to his cause. I have discussed the situation with theTaur council, and they agreed that it would be foolish to ask theTaur to move against him. They will not fight a war hero likeAlra’st, and many more would join his cause. It is fortunate thatthe rumour of the rebels have not spread far. We think he iskeeping it covert till he has amassed a large enough force.’ ‘I therefore respectfully request your help in this situation. If hepersists in gaining support, we will have a large problem on ourhands, in the not too distant future,’ the communiqué endedwith, ‘your friend Tri’st.’ Angel stared at the screen. Things have been going so well, everything they worked for inestablishing the new UGE formed seamlessly. He should haveknown it would not last. ‘Convene the senate,’ he ordered the guard at the door. The Ark had completely refurbished the senate chambers with50 seats, with Angel in the middle of the horseshoe while Ricciand the rest of his crew flanked him. Even earth’s seat on thesenate had a representative present, since Ricci would not allowthe Gentari to leave yet. Loser sat quietly on Gemmi’s lap. The 433
    • Igor Swannonly seat notably empty was that of the Taur, and for goodreason. ‘Friends,’ Angel addressed them waiting for silence beforecontinuing. ‘We have had disturbing news from the Taur Empire. A few daysago, Tri’st detected a rebel movement led by Alra’st. He escapedfrom earth, and has now managed to get a rebel faction going.We need to stop it before the cancer has time to spread to therest of the UGE member planets,’ he barely finished when heremembered that the senators probably had no idea what canceris. ‘I suggest we send a strike force to deal with the problembefore we need to deal with another Taur invasion. I will now askthe senate to vote on the issue. Emperor Tri’st has given me proxyto vote yes on his behalf.’ The votes came in anonymously with the press of a button fromthe council members. ‘Thank you ladies and gentleman. The strike is approved.’ The senate spend the rest of the afternoon debating trivialmatters. Late evening arrived on Arken and Angel got his old crewtogether. The Gentari who were eager to explore other planetsjoined them. ‘Well, it seems we will be going on another adventure soonerthan we anticipated,’ Angel said when they had settled down. ‘I have decided not to involve anyone else, simply because weneed a small tactical strike, not an all out war in Taur space.’ 434
    • Waking the Angel ‘I agree,’ Laidin concurred, ‘the smaller the better. Everybody inthis room has proven themselves before. I see no reason toextend the party.’ ‘I second that,’ Kirom added, feeling there will be more for himif less people join their mission. ‘Then it is settled. We will start our planning at dawn. Preparewell my friends, we will depart soon after,’ he smiled as they piledout of the room. 435
    • Igor Swann *** Early dawn and the surgical strike team eagerly assembled inSkibladne’s hangar to discuss their battle plan. ‘Settle down friends,’ Angel ordered, ‘what we thought wasgoing to be a walk in the park turns out to be a much more deadlyand important mission. I received an urgent communication fromTaur intelligence this morning. They picked up a Taur that escapedfrom Alra’st’s stronghold.’ ‘Apparently Alra’st had gone quite insane. After he left earth, hetook a detour, and ended up on a planet held by the Mates ofModi.’ ‘Mates of Modi, who are they?’ Gemmi asked. ‘Bloodthirsty pirates me hearty,’ Guival got into the act, ‘theyare techno junkies and drug addicts, but pirates all the same.Except for the technological secrets guarded by the UGE, theyhave the most advanced technology in the known galaxies. Theycrave blood, mostly flowing down the sewer. This is due to a drugwhich causes insanity, but also gives them incredible strength,about 10 times that of a normal El which is pretty damn strong Imight add.’ Laidin flashed him a smile for the compliment. ‘Modi, isn’t that Thor and Sif’s crazy son?’ Ricci asked. ‘That is correct princess,’ Guival answered. ‘But,’ Qren interjected, ‘he did not create the Mates of Modi, heonly served as their figurehead. Bringing them together had beenthe work of a failed transformation on a human by the name of 436
    • Waking the AngelTeach. Even though he carried the gene, he gradually went insaneafter the transformation.’ ‘Blackbeard!’ Ricci shouted, ‘Edward Teach, the most fearedpirate in the Caribbean. The Valk’r had dealings with him on morethan one occasion, but we never managed to catch him. He wasas slippery as an eel.’ ‘I do not know what his brother did,’ Qren explained. ‘But weoffered our Teach the opportunity to stay on Arken after itbecame clear he could never be allowed to take power. Hedisappeared however and soon after that, the Mates of Modiformed. We knew it was his doing since they knew much of theUGE’s closely guarded secrets.’ Guival sensing Qren’s story was at an end, continued. ‘Er, Oh yes. Only the most fearless traders with the protectionof fleets rivalling that of most member states would attempt touse trade routes frequented by these pirates. Nevertheless, theywould still only use these routes if they could make enormousprofit by being at their destination early.’ ‘The Modies will plunder every ship and murder every singlebeing on board these ships.’ ‘They are left as empty shells filled with ghosts. I have tried infiltrating their ranks before but they are a closelyguarded secret society. No one gets in and no one gets out alive.’ ‘The UGE launched operations against them before but theywould disappear into the night, and no trace of them had beenfound.’ ‘We know their leader is called Vigil, a lunatic son of a Perol. Heis rumoured to have killed everyone claiming relation to him andthen those who refused to acknowledge it. He cut out his one eye, 437
    • Igor Swanncut off his hand and one leg, so he could have augmentationsdone, because it seemed fashionable,’ Guival concluded hisbriefing. Angel started to feel even more uncomfortable with theinformation he received earlier. He cleared his throat. ‘Apparently Alra’st managed to join forces with these vagrants.They must have noticed his insanity and bloodlust and thoughthim to be a suitable ally. They supplied Alra’st with some kind of mind function inhibiter,which once injected into the bloodstream will cause you to lose allfear, and gives Alra’st the ability to plant suggestions in thesubconscious of everyone who had the inhibiter. This is essential for controlling someone with no fear,’ Angeladded. ‘The other little gift they had for Alra’st was the infamous drug.Therefore, thus and because thereof Alra’st now has an army offearless super-strength lunatics bent to his will.’ An icy shiver ran down Laidin’s spine, ‘the Mino’t already hasincredible strength, enhancing that tenfold…’ ‘Yes. We are in trouble, and this is even more reason why wemust succeed. The mindless minions will not stop coming at you,they will not run away, they will not hide and shoot from theshadows. They will be in your faces and they will be almostunstoppable. Use your speed, do not attempt to match strength with them,and if you are outnumbered, then retreat immediately. Do I makemyself clear?’ Angel asked. 438
    • Waking the Angel Nodding heads flowed like a Mexican wave. ‘Gemmi, you and Ricci will play an integral part if we are tosucceed. You must find a way around these inhibiters,’ Angel saidwith a soft glance at Ricci seemingly to say, I do not like asking thisof you but I have no choice. He continued. ‘You will also be fighting the Modies, as Guival called them.They have allied themselves with Alra’st for what purpose I canonly speculate to be Alra’st’s desire to destroy the UGE. Again,they are sneaky and strong. They have no honour in battle like theTaur so watch the shadows carefully.’ ‘How did he escape from earth?’ this question has been buggingRicci for a while now, ‘last time I saw him he did not have theability to scratch his ass let alone pilot a ship.’ ‘He did not escape alone. Quite a few others got out as well,’Gemmi explained, ‘They had ships hidden in a location we onlyfound after the fact.’ ‘The Valk’r responsible for that sector swore that area had beenthoroughly scanned. The strange thing is that, according torumours, they did not break out. Someone rescued them. Bywhom and why no one could explain to us. From the Chinese weinterrogated it seems the wind or a ghost freed them. Some say ithad been a demon in an iron mask. They all mentioned blacksoulless eyes. The demon appeared from nowhere as soundless asa whisper, killed and disappeared again only to reappearelsewhere.’ ‘Why have you not mentioned this before?’ Angel asked. ‘It seemed like the ramblings of madmen,’ Gemmi answered. 439
    • Igor Swann ‘It could not have been the Modies. They know nothing of earthand had no reason to go after Alra’st?’ Angel remarked in general. ‘They have ways and means my lord,’ Guival interjected, ‘stolenship logs. Intercepting data streams etc. But why... your guess isas good as mine.’ ‘They might want to expand their operations into Taur spaceand wanted first hand information from a reliable source high upin the Taur ranks,’ Kirom opted. ‘I doubt it. To Travel all the way to earth for that is a littleextreme. They also had no idea if Alra’st was alive or dead, and ifhe would help them against his own race,’ Angel thought. ‘I agree, I think they wanted him for more than information. If itwas indeed the Modies that liberated him,’ Laidin concurred. ‘Well he is starting a rebel movement. Maybe that was theirobjective all along. Get him to make the sector unstable and easyfor them to run their operations in,’ Angel suggested. ‘Makes sense, but who is this demon in the iron mask. I knowVigil, he is as ugly as hell but I would not describe him as asoundless demon that moves like the wind. He is more like amarching band that moves like an angry Gerbit with ear infection,’Laidin stated. ‘Yes, that is an apt description,’ Guival agreed, ‘the Modies arealso not known to slink around and kill their targets. They like torush in with a lot of screaming and swearing.’ ‘Do you think the Modies sent an assassin to free Alra’st?’Gemmi asked. ‘That is a viable conclusion,’ Kirom agreed. ‘Hmmm, quite intriguing questions we are faced with,’ Laidincommented, ‘but I am sure we will have answers soon enough.’ 440
    • Waking the Angel ‘Oh by the way,’ Angel continued, ‘apparently Alra’st has had afew cyber enhancements made to his body, or more accuratelyhis body has made a few enhancements to the technology. He ismore android than Taur now.’ ‘What?’ Kirom exclaimed in awe, ‘bionic augmentation is neverattempted simply because the pain is completely unbearable. Thebody tries to reject the implants, and most patients die fromshock after the most undemanding implant. Full bodyaugmentation is unthinkable, only the truly insane would evenentertain the notion.’ ‘Well according to Taur intelligence he is about a tenth of theTaur he used to be, and 50 times the Taur he should be.’ The Queen of the El looked at the crew in turn, beforecommenting, ‘listen to me closely my friends. Do not becomecomplacent because of our past successes against the Taur. This isa completely new breed, and from what I could gather fromAngel’s briefing, we are strolling into our untimely demise. At therisk of sounding cynical, I suggest you say your last farewell inearnest and prepare yourself mentally for losing comrades inbattle,’ Laidin again scanned the faces, making sure theyunderstood, before continuing. ‘You cannot grieve for a fallen comrade or hesitate for a second.Be sharp and be focused, do not lose your head. The lives of allthose around you depend on it. This might sound strange butKirom would affirm these sentiments.’ They all turned to look at him nodding in agreement. Angel continued, ‘this mission is critical. It not only threatensthe Taur but the entire UGE.’ 441
    • Igor Swann ‘For you Gentari remember he knows where earth is, and hehas a score to settle there as well. You will be fighting as much foryour own planet’s survival as the UGE.’ ‘He might be insane, but there is a fine line between genius andinsanity. I feel that he did not stumble upon the Modiesaccidentally; he had to seek them out purposefully. This all seemstoo coincidentally perfect. I sense a much more sinister brilliancein planning behind these accidental circumstances.’ Angel thought it best to start the mission planning now. He andLaidin were scaring everyone. ‘Right, Tri’st supplied us with the coordinates of the planetsAlra’st uses as his base of operations.’ ‘There are 2 of concern to us, the first is his command centre,and the second is a training facility and weapons stockpile.’ ‘This will be a synchronized operation, as we will take bothobjectives at the same time. His command centre will be a fullfrontal assault.’ ‘As far as Tri’st could determine there are only a small numberof fighters on this planet. Dispatching these will be the task of theGentari lead by Gemmi. The 42 Gentari fighters that you broughtalong, we enhanced with the new technology given to us by theD’nari. They are now capable of space flight. We upgraded yourshields and weapons as well. You should not meet anything outthere that your craft cannot match,’ with an added, I hope, in hismind. ‘We will then infiltrate the stronghold and take out Alra’st. Beaware that we have very little information on the layout of our 442
    • Waking the Angeltarget. All we know for sure is that the command centre issomewhere in the middle and on the lower levels of the fortress. I do mean fortress ladies, thus we will not be going in quietly.We will need to create our own entrance into the compound,which will be Skibladne’s task. This means they will know we arecoming and they will be ready for us.’ ‘The planetary defences though crude are still dangerous sotake care. Be quick and do not hang around inside. Your newmotto is in and out.’ Ricci started to giggle. Angel felt flushed as he continued his briefing. ‘We estimate there are no more than 500 or so Taur andModies in the compound. That information is again based on verysketchy intelligence.’ Ricci looked puzzled. ‘So darling; why don’t we just take a few of those big ships ofyours and blast the planet to kingdom come?’ she asked. ‘Four reasons,’ Kirom interrupted. ‘First we need to be sure we kill Alra’st and not give himanother opportunity to escape. Secondly we need to find out whorescued him and why. Thirdly, we should find locations of moreModies bases since their alliance could attack from any of them. Lastly we need to find out what their plans are, their strengthsand weaknesses, allies and any other useful information to give usan edge.’ Angel nodded and continued his briefing. ‘Spot on Kirom, you are correct. That was the reasoning behindmy battle plan,’ Angel acknowledged before continuing. 443
    • Igor Swann ‘Our second objective will require stealth and demolitions. Weneed to blast the training facility and weapons stockpile into orbit.You will need to plant high yield explosives all over the facilitypreferably without being detected.’ ‘Gather intelligence from every possible source. Guival you willneed a disguise and mingle with the crew.’ ‘And before you ask darling,’ he smiled at his wife, ‘no, wecannot blast the planet to kingdom come, because they chose aplanet with benevolent inhabitants.’ ‘I am sending the four of you on this mission,’ he pointed toKirom, Laidin, Guival and Ricci. ‘My reasons are quite simply that Guival and Laidin are bothspies. Kirom is an expert on demolition and Ricci has the ability tomask your movement with her mind trick.’ ‘And of course we don’t want to mess with a winning recipe,meaning a human, dwarf, Elf and Magician,’ Angel grinned beforehe finished his briefing. ‘The new cloaking devices installed in your fighters, shouldmask your approach.’ ‘The explosives are being loaded onto Guival’s ship as we speak.They are triggered by remote detonation, which will be initiatedonce you leave orbit.’ ‘I have uploaded the coordinates of the target to your fighter’snavigation computers.’ ‘Come back safely my friends.’ He felt an impending doom grip his heart. This all seemed sosimple yesterday. Now it had become another deadly fight forsurvival. 444
    • Waking the Angel It would be a while still before late dawn broke, when a keenobserver would have noticed almost 50 flashes, as they left theatmosphere of Arken. Angel loved the emptiness of a space, the absolute nothingness,and the complete solitude. He was alone with his thoughts. Hewould have wished for better thoughts right now, neverthelessthe endless night in front of him was strangely calming. He thought about Ricci. Moments earlier, she had slippedaboard Skibladne to say her last goodbye, before they set coursefor their targets. He missed her already. Her bubbly personality and quirky senseof humour always got him in a good mood. She always said whatwas on her mind, never trying to play games with him. Heappreciated this more than he could ever tell her. She was his soulmatch, and he loved her with all his heart. His memories travelled back to how they met. The feelings hefelt then. He again relived the fear for her safety when thereapers attacked, the reluctance when he sent her off to fight theTaur in China. He saw their wedding day and all the happy timesthey spent with each other, and he smiled. He felt trepidation as he thought of the mission he had sent heron, or did he really? No. She would not have forgiven him if hemade her stay. Skibladne interrupted his thoughts. #approaching the target my lord# ‘Er, thanks,’ he answered confused for a moment as hisattention returned to his current predicament. ‘Stealth mode,’ he commanded Skibladne to cloak. 445
    • Igor Swann ‘Gemmi you know what to do. I am going to hang back whileyou group the enemy fighters close together. Make sure I have acorridor to come through,’ Angel confirmed the plan, ‘off you goand good luck.’ Gemmi and her Squadron disappeared into the distance. He struggled to think of her as the little girl she was. It wasstrange to think that only a few short months earlier he could seeher as nothing but. Now she was Gemmi the warrior, a leader andhis equal. He listened to the mindcom chatter as Gemmi expertlydeployed her troops. She sent a squadron Gentari after theplanetary defences while the rest hung back, waiting for theenemy to launch their fighters. She drew them in and closed themdown. They were trailing after her like the rats in the Pied Piper ofHamlin. ‘We are ready for you my lord,’ Gemmi confirmed, ‘But Isuggest you hurry, there are a lot more flies in the sky than webargained for.’ ‘Time to go my lady,’ Angel remarked. #Yes my lord# ‘Battle mode,’ he commanded as the excitement mounted. #Battle Mode engaged# Drums played a dramatic beat in his head. Angel loved this, the thrill of the speed and the absolute powerunder his command. He loved the danger, mostly to the onesfacing his lady. He felt the maniac laugh fill his chest. What a rush.Who needs drugs? He thought. The platinum coloured juggernaut burst into the atmosphereraining destruction like the angel of death. Multicoloured beams 446
    • Waking the Angelof light flashed in all directions, smoke trails from rockets andmissiles, detonations and fiery explosion as they found theirtargets. It was magnificent to behold, or maybe not somagnificent if this show was for your benefit. ‘Beautiful’ Gemmi gasped. ‘Yes chief. You wondered what a rave looks like; well somethinglike that,’ Kilda interjected. ‘Did you see that in one of your library books,’ Carra, Gemmi’ssecond in command jested. ‘I’ve gone out before,’ Kilda blushed. ‘I was just playing Kilda, you are too easy,’ Carra laughed. It ended as quickly as it began. ‘Okay Gems, the rest are yours. I’m going to knock on the doordown there,’ Angel said as he studied his scanners. There wereless than a fifth of the enemy fighters left and they were indisarray. Of course, Gemmi played with their minds again, so itwas even more chaotic than if Skibladne had been their onlyproblem. A rave party complete with hallucinogens, he laughed athis private joke. He turned his attention to the fortress in front of him. ‘My lady, analyze that structure for the weakest point, thenconcentrate fire and make us a door,’ Angel commanded. The lady’s turrets that were seemingly wildly firing in everypossible direction, and with what was obviously the luck of thegods, always hitting something, suddenly started concentrating ona specific section of fortress. It held for a brief moment before everything in that sectiondisintegrated. #access granted my lord# 447
    • Igor Swann ‘Did you just make a joke?’ Angel asked. #was that not executed properly my lord# ‘No, no, you just surprised me. I did not know you had theprogramming to do that,’ and he quickly added, ‘but that was agreat attempt.’ #thank you my lord# ‘Gems get the landing party over here. We are going in.’ Twenty fighters broke away and fell in beside Skibladne. Therest mopped up the remaining few bad guys and kept the skiesclear. They landed and disembarked quickly. Angel sent Skibladne intoher hangar dimension. ‘Gemmi take out the sentries on the walls,’ he commanded andwatched as the nimble Gentari practically flew up the walls barelytouching a nook here and a cranny there. Loser, who was now thesize of a tank, threw rocks and debris at the guards. TheBrisingamen jewel around Gemmi’s neck burned a sickly red.Angel suspected that this was the reason the guards chose toskilfully evade empty air and instead duck into the path of Loser’sprojectiles. He swung the sword of Freyr and sliced a massive iron supportfor one of the compound’s towers. The tower obliged by crashingdown with its sentries. ‘Let’s go, let’s go ladies!’ he shouted. ‘Teams of seven, sweep the compound, Gems take your teamleft, Kilda take right and I’ll plough down the middle, keep movingladies do not give them a target. Carra keep the skies clear please,I don’t want any surprises.’ 448
    • Waking the Angel He had decided to split them into teams since the corridorswere too narrow for all 22 of them to fight side by side. The onesat the back would be of no use. It was slow going. There were many Taur and Modies. Somewere ready, and others seem to have just woken up. All feelingthe same way afterwards, rather detached from their bodies. They kept on charging, as Angel had feared. Removing limbshelped little as they would crawl after you and bite your shins.The only way was removing their need to blow their noses andclean their ears, mostly through a lack of a head. Angel who had never seen the Gentari in action could not helpbut be impressed. They reminded him of Ricci as she evaded the reapers. Theunarmed guards tried to grab for them and managed to grabentire arms full of nothing. Usually only able to wonder, what thehell, just happened? while descending into the underworld. The sword of Freyr did an amazing job as well. It made an eeriebanshee howl as it sliced through the sound barrier. Even if theseTaur did not know the meaning of fear, this sound would makethem stop and wonder; is there possibly something important inlife I should have known the meaning of? Angel moved at speeds that caused lighting flash in everyfootstep from the friction he generated on the metal floors. Theair he dragged behind him physically blew over two Sa’t just byrunning past them. His sword arm moved at the same incredible speed, but hecould feel that the sword moved his arm instead of the other wayaround; it was an incredible piece of machinery. 449
    • Igor Swann Gemmi’s team made less time, because of Loser’soverwhelming desire to want to shake hands with everyone hemet. It went something like grab their hand, bash the headagainst the ceiling and then leaving a crumpled mass on the floor. The Gentari ran on walls, bouncing off the ceilings as theyentered rooms and rushed down the passages. The Taur felt likethey were trying to stop rushing water and if the current did notsweep you away it just flowed around you. One Gentari unfortunately collected a lucky shot in her leg. Shenow sat on Loser’s shoulders shouting encouragement to herfriends. ‘You go girl!’ ‘Kick him in the balls!’ ‘Give him a lap dance, yeah baby,’ and then she sang theGummi Bear Song ‘… Bouncing here and there and everywhere…’ 450
    • Waking the Angel *** Kilda, not having Loser to slow her down made excellent time aswell, until she ran into them. A hoard of heavily armed Cen’t, Mino’t and Modies blocked theonly exit. She ordered her troops to retreat, as Angel had toldthem to do, but the door slammed shut behind them. ‘Ladies, allow me to introduce myself,’ a shrill maniac voicecame from the crowd in front of them. They parted and the mostdemented demon in existence hobbled forward. Looking at himwas enough to consider suicide. One of the Valk’r lost herbreakfast. ‘I am Vigil, and you are… well… unfortunately dead,’ he said in avoice that could cause the devil to grind his teeth and wonderwhy he chose this job. The hoard behind him opened fire as the madman’s hystericallaughter filled the chamber. Angel ran into the command centre closely followed by theGentari, it was mostly empty save for a few minions, which histeam quickly dispatched. ‘Damn, no Alra’st,’ he said under his breath. The Gentari did a thorough search of the room. ‘I found something,’ a pretty brunette exclaimed a short whilelater; well Angel was not looking but if he did he would havethought she was pretty. Angel rushed over to find she had uncovered documentationthat pinpointed the locations of a number of the Modies bases. 451
    • Igor SwannThey also found communications to Alra’st from Vigil and amysterious third person named Dar’kel who seems to be the mainbrain behind this operation. ‘Great work,’ he said, but at the same time, his concerns grew.Gemmi and Kilda should have joined him by now. The scream tore through Gemmi’s head. ‘Kilda,’ she cried, and halted her troops; ‘we are going back.’ They ran. The most gruesome sight any of them had ever laid their eyeson, met them when they discovered the missing team. All the Valk’r dead, executed, murdered. Gemmi felt a fury rise inside her, which she had not known waspossible. ‘I will find the one responsible, if it is the last thing I do,’ sheclenched her jaw, speaking with such fierceness the nearestGentari attempted to back away from her. She walked to the opposite door and turned to Loser ‘Follow the stench of these murderers,’ she commandedthrough gritted teeth. Loser started to sniff around and then set off through the door. They were running, stopping and smelling through several levelsof the compound before they came to an enormous steel door. ‘Hangar bay,’ Gemmi breathed, ‘the scum are trying to escape.’ ‘Loser, open the door.’ Loser crashed through the door to where the Taur and Modiesloaded crates onto a transporter. ‘That’s them?’ she asked Loser who nodded his head. 452
    • Waking the Angel ‘Girls time for them to start breathing through their assholes,’she rasped as the Gentari charged. ‘The leader is mine.’ The enemy knew no fear. Gemmi taught them fear. She showed them death and she showed them what liesbeyond. Loser extracted their limbs one by one and tossed them asidefeeding on Gemmi’s rage. ‘Where is your leader?’ her chilled voice reached one of theModies who was quite hysterical, seemingly not having had his fixin a while. He laughed and made faces at her. ‘Loser, please help him remember.’ Loser stepped up and the idiot started pointing frantically at thecruiser. ‘Move,’ Gemmi ordered the Gentari who started swarming theCruiser. Slowly and determinedly, she walked onto the bridge with herretinue. ‘So there are more maggots1 in my haven,’ the sick voicereached her ears. ‘I love squashing maggots, I love to see them wriggle around as Ibreak them apart and then stomp on them.’ Gemmi said nothing. She just stood staring at the creaturemade of vomit and spare parts. ‘So they do not speak. Interesting, but I have never known amaggot to speak,’ he said in the high-pitched squeak.1 Maggots seemed to be one other constant in the universe. 453
    • Igor Swann ‘Sword,’ Gemmi ordered and held out her hand to the nearestValk’r, who placed the hilt in her hand. Loser instinctively gave astep backwards. She dropped her sword arm to her side and walked forwardpurposefully. Murder flashed in her eyes and the Brisingamennecklace burned brightly around her neck. ‘Ooh, look I am unarmed,’ the malicious giggle filled the room,‘you won’t kill a poor unarmed victim of circumstance,’ Vigilmocked her. The sadistic smile still appeared on his bloated face but it wasgetting thinner. Gemmi kept on walking. The jewel controlled minds, and this mind, this mind shewanted to teach the meaning of fear. ‘Enough games!’ Vigil started to sweat profusely. He laughed again viciously as a blade appeared from hisdismembered hand. He feint a blow at Gemmi and started circling her. She stood unmoved. Then she closed her eyes, which surprised Vigil for a moment. He grinned, ‘foolish little girl.’ Vigil attacked suddenly from her left, aiming a vicious blow ather head but her sword had already moved in the way of itsdestination. Gemmi’s eyes still closed, her feet unmoved. Sheread his mind, since reading his movements would only distracther. He slashed at her waist and then her arm but both times ablade magically appeared to halt his progress. ‘Yer good lassie,’ he said, ‘but no one has ever beaten me in anunfair fight. My breathing is proof of that.’ 454
    • Waking the Angel ‘You bore me,’ Gemmi said and threw a flurry of blows at him.He parried them haphazardly. She sensed his fear, unimaginable undiluted fear. He was ready. ‘For my friends!’ she cried and jumped in the air. He blocked hersword coming down on his head. Unfortunately, for him her bladenever intended to find his crown and now vibrated, firmlyimbedded through his rib case and his heart. ‘Oops,’ he said and fell backwards with the sick grin now wipedfrom his face. ‘Let’s find Angel.’ Gemmi turned and walked from the Modie ship without abackward glance. Angel meanwhile had made his way towards Gemmi and foundthe wounded Gentari propped against a wall. ‘Gemmi screamed, and then she ran off towards Kilda,’ sheinformed Angel. Angel looked at the Gentari around him, ‘take care of her, I’mgoing after Gemmi.’ ‘We are coming too.’ ‘You will only slow me down,’ Angel shouted as he disappeared.They did not even see him flex a muscle, he stood talking to themand then there was only the rush of wind. He ran so hard he thought his lungs would explode. He was gladthat his muscles did not need oxygen from his lungs anymore. Thisoxygen was for his brain and it worked overtime. Mostly to keep him from running into a wall, but also playingscenarios on what could have happened to Gemmi. 455
    • Igor Swann He found the slaughterhouse and stopped to examine thepieces of Valk’r scattered around the room. ‘No, Gemmi is not in here,’ relief flooded over him, along withnausea. He was about to set off again when Gemmi walked into theroom. ‘They will have a proper Valk’r burial at home,’ she stated. ‘Fetch body bags from Skibladne and collect the remains. Thenload their fighters into the lady,’ she ordered. ‘My lord, we have dispatched Vigil to the underworld.Unfortunately, not before he murdered our friends. We found noevidence of Alra’st. I do not think he is on this planet,’ Gemmipresented herself as a true leader but Angel sensed she washeartbroken and felt out of her depth. ‘You did great pixie,’ he said and hugged her. She hugged him back and held him for a long time. When all the Gentari had left and it was only the two of them,she sobbed silently. 456
    • Waking the Angel *** ‘Going to stealth, cloaking device armed, and engines on silentburn,’ Laidin said to the others. The four invisible ships descended into the planet’satmosphere. I hope these cloaking devices the D’nari installed are as good asSkibladne’s, she thought anxiously. ‘We are approaching the target and it appears to be in thatmountain. We will set down on top and make our way down,’Laidin suggested. The four ships landed silently. The adventurers checked their weapons and gear. They divided the explosives between them, before setting offon the arduous journey down the steep slopes. Laidin’s keen eyes spotted something. The other three strainedto see but there was nothing in the direction she indicated. ‘It looks like a ventilation shaft. There are two guards.’ ‘Guival and I will take care of them, you two wait here for oursignal.’ The two figures slinked off. ‘I suggest we get close enough for you to use Gungnir.’ ‘Oh do not worry about that, I have been practicing. It is as ifthe spear reads my mind and hits exactly where I want it to hit. Inever miss even from 300 yards,’ Guival remarked proudly. ‘Okay I did not really want to get that close but 300 yards it is,’Laidin smiled. They crept closer to the target. 457
    • Igor Swann ‘Right, think you can make it from here?’ she asked ‘With my eyes closed,’ he grinned. ‘You take the guard on the right through the throat. We do notwant him making a sound.’ ‘Laidin I am a spy. I do know how to kill silently,’ he said in mockdisgust. ‘Just shut-up and throw,’ she said as a smile played across herbeautiful face. Guival wound up and let loose the same time Laidin fired acombined energy bolt. Both hit their targets at the exact samemoment. ‘Bulls-eye,’ Guival whispered. ‘Yes we all get lucky sometimes,’ Laidin teased. ‘Then I must be born under a very lucky star. Shall we go backand get the others?’ Guival asked. The quartet sneaked up to the shaft. It had been sealed shutand obviously bolted from the inside. ‘Mjolnir,’ Kirom enquired burning to let loose its awesomepower again. ‘No my friend, it would make too much noise,’ Laidin observed,unfortunately no obvious way past the obstacle presented itself. ‘We might as well try finding another entrance.’ ‘No we don’t,’ Ricci said excitedly, ‘wait here, I’ll be back,’ shewhispered and disappeared. The remaining heroes looked at each other quite perplexed.Kirom shrugged. A few moments later, they saw a shimmer in the air in front ofthem and then it was gone. 458
    • Waking the Angel They waited. Laidin’s sharp ears heard the bolt on the insidebeing moved. They braced for action. It slowly opened. ‘Well are you coming?’ Ricci whispered from inside the shaft. ‘How did you do that?’ Guival asked. ‘Simple; Sleipnir can teleport remember. I just found anunoccupied space inside and teleported my ship there.’ ‘Brilliant princess, that was quick thinking,’ Kirom exclaimed. ‘Your ship will not be discovered?’ Laidin asked. ‘Not unless they start cleaning this place, which by the look ofthings has not happened in millennia. It’s in a room filled withcleaning equipment,’ Ricci laughed. They silently made their way down the shaft and into thefacility. ‘Excuse me, I need to go find a form to absorb and do a littlemingling,’ Guival stated. ‘We will meet back here in an hour, willthat give you enough time?’ ‘I’m good,’ Kirom remarked, ‘I think Ricci should accompany me.I assume you wish to do your own investigation Laidin?’ ‘I do. An hour it is,’ Laidin agreed. ‘I will leave Gungnir in Ricci’s fighter while we do ourreconnaissance.’ Guival walked down the filthy corridors. Trash and rubblelittered the path and at stages, he had to climb over it. It wasmostly deserted. He had to hide in the shadows once or twice butthe pirates did not expect an attack and were not on alert. At last he found what he was looking for, a Mate fast asleep orpassed out he could not tell. Guival quickly absorbed his form 459
    • Igor Swanndefinition and set off. Not long after he ran into another filthybunch. They were drinking, laughing and singing. ‘Yo ho, ho, and a bottle of Grum1,’ ‘So maties, has anyone seen the boss around?’ Guival askedswinging a bottle, with his arm around one of the drunks. ‘Nah, he never comeshes here… hic… hish down thersh,’ theModie said pointing down at the floor. ‘Yep, you don’t want to be caught by him huh?’ Guivalwondered how long it would be before he got any useful info outof him. ‘Yesh,’ the Modie leaned in real close, the stench of his breathmade Guival want to puke, ‘I shaw him squeesh a matie so hardshwith those metal armsh of his, thash his brain… exshploshes…swhoosh,’ he displayed a wild gesture that placed him flat on hisback. Guival helped him to his feet. ‘Thanksh Matie,’ the drunk slurred. Hmmm, Alra’st is here. That is interesting; he almost thoughtthe drunk was talking about Vigil there for a second. The drunk started to say something, which was mostly garblednonsense. ‘Bu’t hesh okay, it’sh the one in the iron mashk you hash toworriesh about, itsh a de… hic... emon they saysh. It wouldsh puta blade through yourshes gut for… for… for lookinsh at it. Youcantsh shee a damn thing anywaysh... Oh, and the voishe it’sh‘orrible, Liksh nailsh on shlate.’1 Grum is rum on steroids. 460
    • Waking the Angel A demon, here, must be the liquor talking, but it was worthlooking into. ‘So where’s captain Vigil huh?’ ‘He’sh had gone… hic… somewhersh imp… imp…’ The drunk wasgoing fast. ‘Important,’ Guival tried to help. ‘Yessshhhh…’ the drunk dropped and passed out amongst hiscomatose mates. ‘Hmmm, so Alra’st is here, and Vigil is gone. This is usefulinformation indeed,’ Guival thought. Laidin managed to find a communication terminal into whichshe quickly hacked. She felt slightly aggrieved at what littlechallenge it presented, but they obviously did not expect to behacked by her. She found a lot of useless stuff, but also a communiqué fromAlra’st and Vigil, and few from someone called Dar’kel. … I want that trade route secured by next week – Dar’kel We are on schedule – Alra’st Good! They will pay handsomely for the safe passage of theirprecious cargo through the jump – Dar’kel Soon we will control all the jumps in the sector – Alra’st And have enough money to create our own fleet to destroy theUGE – Dar’kel Cut of their aid to the Taur, make them the enemy again –Alra’st Make it that much easier to convert to Taur to our ways, showthem the UGE cannot be trusted – Dar’kel 461
    • Igor Swann The glorious day approaches when I will bath in the blood ofthose weaklings – Alra’st We both will – Dar’kel … Not good, Laidin thought, so they are planning on taking over allthe trade routes, and liberate the aid to the Taur. The four friends reconvened again. ‘Explosives set,’ Kirom affirmed. ‘No problems?’ Laidin asked. ‘None that Ricci could not handle. A few got close but theyseemed to remember something they needed to do and went theother way.’ ‘Good! I found some disturbing news though,’ Laidin said andrelayed her findings. ‘Hmmm then maybe we should stick around for a while, sinceboth Alra’st and this Dar’kel person are on this base,’ Guival said. ‘Huh?’ Ricci exclaimed. ‘Yep, I talked to a Modie who confirmed Alra’st is here as is ademon with a metal mask, which I can only assume, must beDar’kel.’ ‘Then we stay, and we make sure they do not escape,’ Kiromexpressed happily, eager for a fight. ‘Just give me a second to fetch Gungnir.’ They slinked down to the lower levels, keeping to the shadows.Ricci persuaded a few to go the other way, and Kirom persuaded afew to go the underworld way. They reached a large hallway that appeared clean and betterdecorated. This meant that the spelling in the graffiti was almostcorrect. 462
    • Waking the Angel The noise started. It came from all around them, a loud clankingand chains rattling. ‘Look out!’ Ricci bellowed, but too late. The cage had dropped and sealed them in tight. ‘Shit,’ she said as she tried her sword Dragonfang on the bars,but it simply bounced off. Laidin readied the bow of Odin, and Kirom lifted Mjolnir. Guivalformed a giant fireball since lighting does not work that well in aFaraday cage. The door in the far side slid open. ‘I would not do that if I were you,’ Alra’st grunted as he walkedin, ‘or maybe I should let you try and watch you die by your ownhand. However, that would not be fun would it? I need you tosuffer; suffer as I was made too by your hand.’ ‘For both our sakes darling,’ rasped a masked figure floatinggracefully down the stairs. The figure, covered in a flowing darkgreen hooded cloak with the same colour boots, displayedexposed skin. Her hands covered in metal gloves and her facecovered in a metal mask, served to accent a severely menacingdemeanour. On her back, an El bow. ‘Sharin,’ Laidin exclaimed. ‘What?’ The other three adventurers exclaimed in unison. ‘The bow on her back is Sharin’s and the name Dar’kel or DarkEl, the ancient name for her lineage. Why did I not see it earlier?’Laidin chastised herself. ‘Yes puppet it is me; in all my disfigured glory thanks to you andthe UGE. Too bad Teral could not be here. I would have loved toreturn the favour in kind after he so graciously sentenced me to 463
    • Igor Swannbe tortured and die on Evergal’t. But I am sure I will have thatpleasure soon enough,’ a grating laugh filled the room. ‘How the hell did you escape the planet of damnation?’ Kiromasked. ‘Oh my friends the Mates of Modi recognized my genius andtalents. We have had a long-standing relationship. They havebeen of service to me on many occasions. Remember ourprevious UGE Lord’s untimely demise. Unfortunately, they failedwhen I sent them to destroy the new one in Ásgarôr; but they didcome through when you stuck me in hell. The poor fools were sosimple minded, so lacking in vision, but I changed all that after wemet. They loved my ideas and of course the technology I couldprovide.’ ‘The Modies, I should have guessed. How did you manage tohide their involvement in your interrogation?’ Laidin spat. ‘That was easy. I tricked you and the whole UGE senate intobelieving me, how difficult could it be to omit a little fact like thatfrom my confession. They would not expect me to lie now that Iwas faced with certain death,’ Sharin sneered. ‘And then you rescued Alra’st,’ Ricci added. ‘Yes my dear, we interviewed a Taur from the earth battle andhe mentioned that Alra’st was still lost on earth. I felt that hewould hate you as much as I do and would be a brilliant partner inmy quest to destroy the UGE. He is of course a great leader and aTaur of intelligence and character.’ ‘Wow, don’t you struggle to breathe with your head so far uphis ass,’ Ricci made a smooching noise. 464
    • Waking the Angel ‘Ricci right... or should I rather call you bastard princess Ricci.Yes, Alra’st has told me all about you. He has planned somethingquite special for you half-breed.’ ‘Ooh a party, for little old me. He should not have. No really, I’mgood,’ Ricci sneered. ‘He did not care that you started all this. That it was you whofed the Taur the misinformation. That you led the raids againstthe Taur planets?’ Laidin interjected. ‘Old news darling, why would he care about people that left himto die on a god-forsaken planet at the end of the universe? Hewants revenge as I do, against the Taur, against the UGE andagainst you. We are two of a kind,’ Sharin’s grating voice cutthrough them, as she gently stroked Alra’st metal arm. ‘Yep; two demented clowns, a perfect match. You should getmarried right away, and have evil little clown babies we can usefor cosmetic experiments,’ Ricci agreed. Sharin ignored her. ‘I am so happy you obliged by dropping by. We were so hopingyou would. We especially constructed this lovely accommodationfor your enjoyment, making your weapons useless. Mjolnir wouldcause a cave in burying you alive. The bolts from the bow wouldbounce off the energy shield back into the cage. The shield alsoacts as a brainwave scrambler, which would nullify theBrisingamen jewel. Of course, lighting and fire is useless, and wellGungnir is just a spear is it not. Did we miss anything?’ she askedthe rhetoric question. ‘You missed my foot up your huge arse as soon as I get out ofhere,’ Ricci spat. ‘No cousin, she is mine,’ Laidin fumed through a clenched jaw. 465
    • Igor Swann ‘Well it was lovely chatting to you again, but we have urgentbusiness to attend to. Do not go anywhere now, you hear. We willbe back soon to come play with you. Don’t want to rush thingsand make you feel unwelcome.’ She made a weird throat sound that you could interpret aslaughter, or mimicking the sound of a foghorn. The four sat in a huddle, after a number of failed attempts toescape. Their captors definitely did a good job in the cages construction,and Laidin surmised that was the reason for their current privacy.Sharin wanted to show them how hopeless their situation was. 466
    • Waking the Angel *** Angel walked back to the command centre deep in thought. Hehad to active the self-destruct, which seemed to be standardfunctionality in structures such as these. You would not want theinformation contained here falling into the wrong hands. The communication console beeped. … We are on route to the jump, is the welcoming committee ready– Dar’kel … Angel felt Dar’kel deserved an answer. … Aye – Vigil Good, we had some unexpected visitors but they are caged.Place your forces on full alert, an infiltration team might beheading your direction as well – Dar’kel. Aye – Vigil See you soon and don’t be late – Dar’kel Aye – Vigil … Vigil never used, or did not know many words, as Angel couldsurmise from the other communiqué he read. Okay, you have captured my crew, but made the mistake ofleaving them alive. I am going to ensure it is the last mistake youwill ever make, Angel thought furiously. He set the self-destruct sequence and rushed to Skibladnetapping his mindcom. 467
    • Igor Swann ‘Gemmi get your fighters ready to move. We need to leavenow.’ ‘Ready and waiting,’ she answered. ‘Good,’ he acknowledged as he ran aboard Skibladne, orderingher to take off before he cleared the last step. ‘I am sending new coordinates to your fighters. Go to full burnas soon as you leave the atmosphere. You will not be able to keepup but infiltrate the installation when you get there and find me.Use stealth, no unnecessary killing, and hide the bodies of thoseyou do.’ ‘As you wish my lord,’ Gemmi said. ‘Good luck Gems.’ Skibladne screamed out of the atmosphere. He pushed her ashard as she would go and slowly lost consciousness because ofthe acceleration. The lady just kept on accelerating. Angel awoke with Skibladne beeping in his ears. #we are nearing the target coordinates my lord# ‘Stealth mode,’ he breathed heavily from the lack of oxygen inhis lungs. ‘Find Laidin’s fighter and land as close to it as you can,’ Angelordered. The lady landed without moving a blade of grass. Angel placed his sword on his back and started to make his wayto the door. He stood in the doorway and had a thought. ‘Skibladne, Can you detect the explosives in the compound?’ #Yes my lord# ‘Are they set properly?’ #Yes my lord# ‘Can you remote detonate them?’ 468
    • Waking the Angel #Yes my lord# ‘Are you able to detect Laidin, Kirom, Guival and Ricci as well asmy vital signs?’ #Yes my lord, all are well# ‘Then my lady, I need you to remote detonate the explosives assoon as we are all deceased. If you detect we have not changedlocation or if I have not contacted you for more than a day, go forhelp.’ #understood my lord# He turned to go. #my lord may I make a suggestion# ‘Sure go ahead.’ #I have created something you might find useful. It is in thematerialization room# On the platform lay a gauntlet similar to the one he wore on hisleft wrist. The old one held his scanning and navigationequipment, as well as the beacon to summon Skibladne. ‘So what does this do?’ Angel asked. #while you are in a five-mile radius of my position, I can projectmy cloak around you# ‘Cool, an invisibility bracelet,’ Angel said snapping the gauntletonto his wrist. #Pleasure my lord# ‘You are amazing my lady,’ Angel marvelled at the artificialintelligence Skibladne possessed. He did not put Skibladne in her hangar dimension, since heneeded her in this universe for the cloak to work, and to detonatethe explosives. He ran as quickly as he could down the mountainand found the ventilation shaft the others used. 469
    • Igor Swann He came into the corridors and while still moving swiftly,concentrated more on stealth. Even though they could not seehim, they could still hear him. Nobody even spared a glance in hisdirection. He smiled as he saw his friends sitting huddled in the centre ofthe cage, extremely despondent. All except for Ricci that is, shelooked mad as hell stomping around the cage breathing cursesand telling the world what she would do with that rattlesnake ifshe gets a hold of her. She gestured wildly with her hands,demonstrating how she would rip her head off. He felt such pride in his wife, he almost laughed aloud. Even inthe face of death, she still wanted to spit in his eye socket and tellhim where he can shove his stupid little scythe. He found a comfortable ledge in clear sight of the crew, andstretched out nonchalantly, before he decloaked. ‘Tsk, tsk. How like you to stumble into a silly trap. How manytimes do I have to save your sorry butts huh?’ he said. ‘Darling,’ she yelped, ‘I knew you would come for me; I justknew it,’ she laughed and then suddenly got serious. ‘What tookyou so long? I have needed a bathroom for the past 3 hours.’ ‘My lord, are we glad to see you,’ Guival had already imaginedall the horrible torture techniques they were planning to performon him. ‘Get me out of here,’ Ricci screamed. ‘Nope, I have a better idea. I assume this cage is protected by aforce field?’ Angel asked. 470
    • Waking the Angel ‘Correct my lord that is why our weapons are ineffective,’ Kiromanswered. ‘So if I turn off the force field you could break out in aheartbeat?’ Angel asked. ‘Yes my lord,’ Laidin acknowledged catching on to Angel’s idea. ‘Then I have a plan.’ They all agreed that Angel’s plan would be a lot more fun thansimply escaping immediately. He had to let Ricci out for a while, because what she threatenedto do to him if he did not was not something he would have likedhanging over his head. It was inhumane. He assumed one of herancestors must have been a Perol. Angel tapped his mindcom, ‘Skibladne disregard last order. Wewill be staying in the same location for a while. Contact Gemmiand tell her she may return home and everything is in order. Wewill see her back on Arken.’ They had to wait for almost a day before the terrible twosomereturned. Of course, they were furious. Vigil did not pitch andwhen they went to look for him the base was nothing more thanrubble. ‘Who did that?’ Sharin demanded. ‘Did what?’ Ricci asked innocently. ‘Don’t play games with me half-breed, we will just prolong yourultimate demise,’ Sharin rasped. ‘I am sure I don’t know what you are talking about. We havebeen here the entire time. Well, except when we popped out for abite to eat. Oh, the one time I just had to try on your exquisitedemented wardrobe although green is so last season and the 471
    • Igor Swannmasks did nothing for me. Of course, I still have a face so noworries there. Hmmm, yes, come to think of it there was this oneother time when we slipped out to blow up the Modies CommandCentre,’ she said with a wicked grin, ‘would that be what youwere referring to?’ ‘WHO DID IT?’ Alra’st screamed ‘That would be me,’ Angel said calmly stepping out of theshadows. Both Sharin and Alra’st spun around to face him. ‘So the lord returned to free his pitiful underlings and mongrelwife,’ Sharin mocked trying to hide her shock. ‘Yep,’ ‘What are you going to do? Kill us both; you are good but notthat good.’ ‘Nope,’ ‘Then you have walked into your doom UGE puppet,’ Alra’stboomed. ‘Nope...’ ‘Guards,’ Alra’st yelled. ‘Goodie,’ Angel laughed. ‘Are you ready to die?’ Sharin asked. ‘Nope, but I hope you are,’ Angel suggested pointing at thecage. The crew had formed a half circle behind Sharin and Alra’st,having slipped out by removing the bars. Angel had previouslysliced through them seamlessly and then replaced them to givethe appearance of an intact cage. ‘NO, NO, NO! This is not how it was supposed to happen.’ ‘And how is this different from any of your other plans?’ Riccimocked. 472
    • Waking the Angel ‘I’ll kill you, you… you… UGE, er, thing,’ Sharin screeched as sheleaped for Angel’s throat. ‘Ooh good one,’ Ricci laughed, ‘I’m going to have to write itdown. Anyone have a pen and paper for me... anyone?’ Angel ducked as Laidin landed a flying kick on Sharin’s back,which saw the masked figure flying over him. Closely followed bya golden haired queen, the Bow of Odin firmly gripped in herhand. Alra’st lunged at Angel as well. ‘You three take care of the guards,’ Angel ordered the others asAlra’st swung his heavy axe at Angel’s head. He blocked, butassumed his sword would go straight through Alra’st axe. It did not and violently threw him off his feet and against thewall. ‘Neat trick,’ Angel said, ‘force field?’ ‘Today you will die by my hand UGE bastard.’ Sharin’s midnight black bow-staff moved like lightning to blocka vicious blow from Laidin. She rolled and swiped at Laidin’s feet. Laidin came down hard to avoid learning to walk on stumps, herbow whirring at Sharin’s head from the flat of her back. Sharinbarely able to parry all the blows while Laidin regained her feet,unfortunately survived. Sharin made a back flip and immediately swung her blade in along arch. It missed Laidin’s chest by a hair’s breadth. If Laidin hadhair on her chest, it would now have split ends. Laidin would havebeen sliced in halve if she had not jumped back at the last second. 473
    • Igor Swann ‘Isn’t this fun, the queen versus the lowborn bitch,’ Sharinbreathed. ‘You should not talk about yourself in that way my dear Sharin.You might develop an inferiority complex,’ Laidin remarked,‘although the description is fitting.’ ‘Die commoner,’ she shouted, and swung wildly at Laidin. Laidin parried easily, ‘so I guess you did not hear. Your househas been disgraced and the throne has been given back to itsrightful heir, namely me.’ ‘That’s a lie.’ ‘Now why would I lie to you?’ Laidin smiled, she was definitelyspending too much time in her cousin’s company. ‘I will be queen of the El.’ Sharin saw red as she aimed another sweeping blow at Laidin,who rolled with the blow and swung in the same motion. Her blade firmly planted in Sharin’s heart. ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Sharin stood unmoved. ‘So you do have a heart after all,’ Laidin remarked with a wrysmile, turned around, and slowly walked away as a thud camefrom behind her. Angel could hear the trio fighting the guards in the distance. Now and again, he heard a boom caused by Mjolnir and awhistle as another fireball left Guival’s hands or remarks like,‘your mother bends for hippopotami.’ ‘Oh you like that do you,want some more. I have all you can handle right here.’ ‘Come here so I can stick this thing up your fat arse and flossyour brain. That is if I can find it,’ from his sweet little darling wife. 474
    • Waking the Angel Alra’st swung again but Angel had left the general vicinity of theblow ages ago. ‘Stand still so I may remove your head,’ Alra’st shouted. ‘Now why would I do that? I am rather attached to it you see, itfits me so well,’ he laughed pretending to model his head. Alra’st swung again, and again. Angel just took a step backwardseach time. ‘I was wondering. Does the force field go all the way up yourarm?’ Angel asked as he swung at Alra’st left arm where it joinedhis torso. <Clunk> ‘Guess not. Clearly, the force was not with you. You seem tohave a real problem with keeping your limbs don’t you? Maybeyou should take something for that. Actually there are no pills forstupidity, are there?’ Angel joked as Alra’st arm dropped off. That’s good, he thought, keep him off balance by making himangry. Alra’st started whirling his blade in front of him. ‘You will pay, I swear. I’ll gut you like a Tre’nt,’ Alra’st’s eyesglowed red. He flew at Angel with superhuman speed. Angel did not expectthis rapid acceleration. Only by sheer luck did the sword react intime; leaving Angel with a flesh wound instead of a severed limb. ‘What? No smart remarks, UGE fool?’ Alra’st asked. ‘No. However, I was wondering how a bully like you would stayupright on those stick… sorry hooves… I mean feet, if one wasmissing,’ Angel asked. Angel knew he had to finish this, Alra’st had the strength andspeed to beat him, and he might get lucky soon. 475
    • Igor Swann He ducked under another sweeping blow by Alra’st, rolled andremoved his left leg, after which Alra’st obliged by collapsing. ‘NOOO!’ he screamed. He wound up, and threw his axe at Angel who spun as a purereflex reaction and deflected it millimetres from burying itself inhis face. He swung back, only to see Alra’st’s head, failing to find asubstantial grip on his spinal cord slowly topple over backwards,and Ricci wiping her blade. ‘No you don’t!’ Ricci angrily remarked. ‘Nobody throws an axe at my husband’s head except for me,’she sneered and kicked Alra’st’s head into the corner. Kirom stood behind her with a huge grin on his face. According to Kirom, it had been one of the most entertainingbattles of his career. Guival asked if he might copy some of hiswife’s anecdotes for the comedy act he moonlighted in. ‘So you think I am funny? I’ll show you funny. Why aren’t youlaughing huh?’ she asked and started chasing them around theroom, Dragonfang flaying madly around them. Angel and Laidin looked at each other and both broke into hugelaughter. Laidin walked back to fetch her bow-staff. Sharin’s body had disappeared. All that remained was a few words written in blood. I have no heart. 476
    • Waking the Angel *** It was a sombre afternoon on Arken. All the dignitaries werepresent in full dress uniform. Angel and his crew wore a version of their jumpsuits that Riccidesigned with the help of Skibladne, for as she put it formal wear. Angel had to admit it looked damn smart. Black jackets withsilver insignia, high collars, and silver trimming all around theedges. Loser looked incredibly cute in his suit and everybody wanted topat him on the head and give him hugs. He started snapping athands and Gemmi suggested he should grow-up. He took it literally and it worked. Nobody felt like patting a 500-pound blue gorilla. The Gentari slowly carried in the seven caskets. On top of thecaskets, they had securely attached the fallen Gentari’s swords. Gemmi gave a stirring speech ending with the words. ‘… Now return to the universe from whence you came, bravewarriors. Your praise sung throughout Valhalla, never forgotten,you will remain in our hearts in a place of honour for eternity. Weshall miss you greatly and be forever proud of the privilege wehad of serving with you. Farewell, my noble sisters.’ She said as atear rolled down her cheek. There was not a dry eye left in the house. Angel saluted followed by the rest of the retinue. The casket’s rockets ignited and they launched into space. According to Valk’r tradition, a massive feast in honour of thefallen warriors followed the ceremony. 477
    • Igor Swann Angel and his friends were solemnly talking about all thathappened. Noone had cornered Ricci and quietly explained something toher when suddenly she screamed, ‘I’m what?’ ‘What’s wrong darling? Are you okay?’ Angel exclaimed startledat the outburst. ‘You bastard, you knocked me up,’ she yelled as she launched atAngel. ‘You are...’ he stammered trying desperately to muster somedefence from the coming onslaught. She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately,‘congratulations daddy,’ she laughed. ‘I’m going to have a baby?’ Angel sputtered confused. ‘Actually two my lord,’ Noone corrected him. ‘I’m having twins,’ Ricci yelped, ‘I’m going to look like anelephant.’ Angel grinned like a Cheshire cat, as his friends congratulatedthe happy couple. It neared the witching hour and everyone had left except forAngel’s close companions. Angel walked out onto the balcony with a mixture of happinessand sadness, ‘so we get to greet new souls while others are takenfrom us.’ ‘I guess we do,’ LOBE agreed. ‘How long before I lose one of my close friends? I would notknow how to handle that. It had been soul destroying watchingthose caskets leave.’ 478
    • Waking the Angel ‘You will when the time comes. The human mind is strong,’LOBE answered. ‘I pray I will never have to face that moment.’ ‘I hope your prayers are answered,’ LOBE remarked. His friends walked out onto the balcony and they all stared intothe night sky. Ricci stood next to him and placed her arm aroundhis waist, laying her head on his chest. They all just stood there wordlessly taking in the beautifulevening. Angel turned his head to look at his friends each in turn andsmiled. He felt incredibly fortunate to have the loyalty andaffection of these extraordinary individuals. ‘Well, at least for the moment, there is peace in this Universe,’Angel sighed as his solemn words carried off on the night breeze. Alas, all things must end. However, that is a story for anothertime. THE END 479
    • Igor Swann GenealogyVanir (Humans)Planet: Earth (Vanaheimr)Deity descendant from: FreyrAngelPosition: UGE LordAge: 33Weapon: Sword of Freyr (Sword)Ship: Skibladne, the ship of legends and the crown jewel of the United GalacticEmpire, enough saidDescription: the hero; he would have preferred to be consulted on this careerchangeBrother: Mark (twin)Companion: LOBE, angel’s sarcastic migraine who could figure the amount ofnose hair needed to fill a room in seconds; an unstable truce exists between itand Angel most of the timeDeity descendant from: Odin, Frigg, Thor and SifRicciPosition: Valk’r Commander, GentariAge: 23Weapon: Dragonfang (Sword, equipped with half Brisingamen Jewel)Ship: SleipnirDescription: a Valk’r warrior with a fast blade and an even faster tongue; shecauses the strange fluttery feeling in Angel’s stomach; LOBE calls it heartburn 480
    • Waking the AngelValk’r (Humans)Planet: Earth (New Valhalla)Deity descendant from: FreyaGemmiPosition: New Valk’r CommanderAge: 8Weapon: Half Brisingamen JewelShip: GyrfalconDescription: The Valk’r leader with the weight of the world on her tinyshoulders; Loser is Gemmi’s pet and generally the other weight on hershouldersCompanion: Loser (shape changing blue Gerbit)Carra ndPosition: Valk’r 2 in command, GentariAge: UnknownWeapon: Valk’r swordShip: Valk’r fighterDescription: A Valk’r warrior, second in command to Gemmi, when Ricci is notaround, it is complicatedKildaPosition: Valk’r LibrarianAge: UnknownWeapon: Heavy bookShip: Valk’r fighterDescription: keeper of the Valk’r archive, warrior 481
    • Igor SwannEl (Elves)Planet: Elheimr (El), Svartalfheimr (dark El)Deity descendant from: SifLaidinPosition: SpyAge: 212Weapon: Bow of Odin (Bow-Staff, fire 10 bolts consecutively)Ship: Golden El FighterDescription: the Elven voice of reason and guidance; she is more than sheappears to be and apparently even more than that. She is Angel’s best friend inthis unreal worldDeity descendant from: UnknownSharinPosition: El Princess, evil bitchAge: UnknownWeapon: El Bow-StaffShip: Royal El CruiserCompanion: Seriously?Description: is an arrogant self-centred Elf princess, egotistical to a degree,which on her, death would make the devil wonder if he came at a bad time 482
    • Waking the AngelDwar (Dwarfs)Planet: NidavellirDeity descendant from: ThorBromPosition: Grand Master DwarAge: 145Weapon: Mjolnir (Hammer)Ship: Dwar Battle CruiserDescription: Leader of the Dwar.KiromPosition: Ambassador to the UGEAge: UnknownWeapon: Dwar War HammerShip: Royal Dwar FighterDescription: portraits the hardcore adventuring dwarf and is trying his best toget out of his brother Brom’s shadow as well as the hip-hop pants Angel gavehim 483
    • Igor SwannAesir (Mages)Planet: Ásgarôr, Asgard, “City of Dreams”Deity descendant from: OdinTeralPosition: Arch-Chancellor of AesirAge: UnknownWeapon: MagicShip: Imperial Battle CruiserDescription: Leader of the magesDeity descendant from: LokiGuivalPosition: Ambassador to the UGEAge: UnknownWeapon: Gungnir (Spear, Magic)Ship: Morph shipDescription: the unfortunate Aesir spy who would rather be doing stand-upcomedy and magic tricks than the inevitable dying he is currently employed todo; but the danger pay is great. At least it is rumoured to be, since no one hasactually claimed it 484
    • Waking the AngelArk (Aliens)Planet: ArkenDeity descendant from: UnknownQrenPosition: First Ark EngineerAge: UnknownWeapon: NoneShip: Ark CruiserDescription: has no desire to be in command but frequently becomes burdenedwith the responsibility; he would be happy if they would just let him abductpeople in peaceD’nari (Ancients)Planet: UnknownDeity descendant from: UnknownNoonePosition: AdvisorAge: Unknown but rumoured to be millenniaWeapon: NoneShip: CruiserDescription: a mystery but speaks with the wisdom of the Ancients 485
    • Igor SwannTaur (Creatures)Planet: Evergal’tDeity descendant from: Minotaur, Satyr, CentaurKra’stPosition: Taur CommanderRace: Cen’t (Centaur)Weapon: NoneShip: Taur Sovereign DestroyerDescription: dictator ruling the Taur; he would struggle to notice a supernovathat threatens the continued existence of his specie; but as he likes to point outhe has no time to be concerned with the little things in life. He mainly likes tomake this point with the tip of his spear Gungnir. Survival rate was negligentwhen he made a pointAlra’st ndPosition: Taur 2 in CommandRace: Mino’t (Minotaur)Weapon: NoneShip: fighterDescription: second in command of the Taur, and seems to have a brain butprefers senseless violenceTri’stPosition: Taur AdvisorRace: Sa’t (Satyr)Weapon: NoneShip: NoneDescription: main ambition in life is to become older. Tri’st serves as an advisorto Kra’st, which is a sure way of not achieving his goal in life. He is intelligent,but profusely denies such groundless accusations 486
    • Waking the AngelOther Norse gods mentioned:Skirnir (Skern): Servant to FreyrMagni: Son of Thor and bloodline of the DwarfsModi: The crazy son of Thor and SifThrud: Daughter of Thor and SifBaldur: Son of OdinUllr son of Sif: Pure royal bloodline of the Light Elves and so LaidinBrunhild: Most famous ValkyrieGersemi: Daughter of Freyja and OdurOthers mentioned:Dar’kel: is a mysterious and dark figure, which puts the fear of the gods ineverything, including certain morphological formation, a number of foodgroups and small woodland animals.Vigil: He is a pirate, rumoured to have killed everyone that claimed relation tohim and then those who refused to acknowledge it 487
    • Igor SwannAnimalsGerbitThey could change from a spider monkey size to a bus size gorilla in seconds ifit was angry enough. They communicate with emotions and are immune tomagic.Grey FarrenThey are highly sought after bear-like creatures with enormous spines runningfrom their backs. Its head more closely resembles an insect with thousands ofeyes. The biggest problem with hunting this creature is that it would sensebrain wave patterns except through the most protective scrambler helmets.When it sensed you wish to kill it, it would simply run away or roll on youimpaling you on the spines. Oh and it should be mentioned that thesecreatures at full gallop have been heard to break the sound barrier.PerolThese remain creatures of legend, rumoured to have originated in hell totorture the most evil of souls. However, even hell had to draw the linesomewhere. The torture dished out by these creatures became so inhumanethat the demon union voted them out, calling it cruel and unusual. The demonsbanned them from the underworld and left them on a remote planet with nolife forms, the planet of the Damned. 488
    • Waking the AngelCromanThis is a little black ball of hatred. It despises everything. Even if the targetswere as big as a house and not necessarily breathing, it would still try to bite itshead off out of principle. One of these agitated, hyperactive creatures oncetried to kill Skibladne.GistA furry little rat creature. However, he has a much more relaxed temperamentand is a heck of a lot faster. They created their own tunnel structure in theDwar mines and train easily, thus they were the preferred carrier ofinformation, since radio waves did not travel well in ore-rich caverns.BroadwingStupid alien ducks, that cannot fly and cannot run fast either. This is a blessingsince they always run towards the threat instead of away. Only reason theyhave survived this long is that they taste worse than their manure.Tre’ntA warthog like creature, shy and retiring and quite the pacifist. That is until youthreaten its little ones. They would retreat into their holes dug in solid rock,and you would be extremely brave to continue with the capture effort. Theirarmoured hide and razor sharp barracuda like teeth would deter even the mostavid hunter. Whatever you place down the hole generally remains down thehole. 489
    • Igor SwannWertenThe black bullet like creature, which seems to propel itself with a fart, it couldtravel extremely fast on this gaseous propulsion method generated in itsstomach.LerokA large bee like creature, about as big as a house cat. Very fast, very poisonouswith a stinger like a cattle prod. They do not like anything other than anotherlerok breathing their air.ErksAre as would be expected the size and shape of bees, but with teeth. Not verypoisonous and it requires a few thousand bites from them to die. Only problemis they always travel in swarms and these swarms number in their millions.They have the same problem with air as the lerok.BarkenWhen this animal wants some loving, it goes literally insane, and NOTHING willstand between it and the object of its affection. Unfortunately, this ‘nothing’would sometimes include ravines and chasms. They appeared on theendangered species list.GrunAn extremely poisonous snake that could become near invisible when asleep; itseemed to fade out of existence when unconscious and then seem to comeback into being when it awoke. 490
    • Waking the Angel491
    • Igor Swann The AuthorShortly after he hatched, the author proceeded to lead the life that wouldconstitute the fantasies of most parentally supervised mental midgets. Hemanaged a miraculous escape from the festivities at university with his mindmostly intact. He then became an instructor on special weapons, attended theMilitary Academy and survived Special Forces.An epiphany or two later he found that he preferred the life of a successfulnerd dodging viruses to a poor jock dodging bullets. He descended into theworld of bytes where he soon reached the top of his profession as a seniorsystems architect. He got bored, became a lecturer, got bored, and became aquant. He is now happily doing extreme maths, and according to rumourmastered multiplication in addition to addition.In an attempt to appear more interesting he found time to raise cheetahs, racehuskies, do modelling, fling himself from serviceable airplanes, and scuba withthose teeth with fish.After someone, presumed to be his mother, told him that he actually lived aquite interesting life for a hamster, he began to write his autobiography. Thisfactual account of his life encountered more than the expected scepticism sohe decided to reposition this book for publication in the genres of fantasy,science fiction, science and mystery.He unfortunately lives on; and has vowed to deposit more of these literarymasterpieces on the unsuspecting public. 492