Actions

Work Header

Guyver AU A Tale of What Wasn't

Work Text:


Guyver AU – A Tale of What Wasn't

3 Months AE (After Earth) The Ark

"We found them."

"And?" the single word conveyed far more than its meaning. There were layers of questions there. Where were they? Why weren't they dead? And more importantly, why wasn't one of them laid at his feet now?

"Combat was not advised my Lord."

"Oh?" again, so many meanings were carried in the single syllable. The man had learned the fine art of interrogation and despite the loss of position, the loss of everything, he maintained that ability.

"The preservation of the Ark was considered to be of paramount importance."

"You mean?"

"Yes, my Lord."

There was a snarl of anger but no further expression. The preservation of the Ark was of paramount importance, even to him. Moments passed and the air quivered with rage before it stilled as deliberate calm was enforced. "So they have been stealing the women?" the sentence was spat.

"Yes, my Lord." The man who had been sent to investigate remained kneeling. He did not tremble, he'd never trembled in the face of his Supreme Lord. That's why he had been chosen years ago to become one of the Lords of Chronos but he knew better than to show the slightest trace of disobedience now.

Alkanphel was angry. They all were. They had controlled the Earth, the perfect blue and white sphere that was the birthplace of humanity. There had been petty annoyances in the form of the Guyvers but they had been preparing rise, to leave the Earth and to take on Uranus, to take on those who had created them and then abandoned them.

But then they, Uranus, had returned. No one was ready and Uranus weren't interested in discussing things with their creations. They'd swept through the solar system, destroying every technological device they came across… which explained how they had known to return. Humans, ignorant, prideful, stupid humans had been the architects of their own demise. Uranus had heard the broadcasts from Earth and had known that the planet that should be dead was not. They were not going to fail a second time.

It had not been much of a battle. Uranus weren't interested in capturing specimens or samples. They wanted to return the planet to the point they believed it should have been. There hadn't even been time to open communications with the annoying Rebels but by reports, they too had at least attempted to fight in the futile defense of Earth. It was ended, as Uranus thought it had ended last time, with a single asteroid, flung towards the planet, that none of them had the strength to stop.

Alkanphel had tried but his Lords knew that he could not do it, even if it cost him his life, he could not stop that rock. They'd used a larger one this time. There was no escape. The Lords of Chronos were designed to lead humanity but they were entrusted with the task of protecting Alkanphel and that's what they did. They protected their lord. It cost three their lives but better that than the lives of everyone. It meant now that their Lord was confined to the power core of the Ark, generating the energy to power the vessel that they all needed to survive and Chronos was now short five Zoalords, one having been killed in the squirmishes against the rebels after having betrayed another.

Earth was gone. The crystal blue planet was now a mass of debris in space. Uranus would allow nothing else. They had left then, secure with the knowledge that the experiment was dead. It was the truth, save for a few tattered remnants who had made it to the Ark. They'd survived but their problems had only begun.

Five Zoalords dead meant that Alkanphel, weakened as he was had to remain in the core of the Ark, providing the baseline power. The path forward then had been obvious. They had to find a new planet to settle in the vast array that was the galaxy, and they had to be stronger so that when Uranus found them, as they would invariably, the outcome would be very different. Except, Chronos, being Chronos, had rescued their troops, there were precious few women on board and they were now a resource that were too valuable to waste. They had been confined to the centre of the Ark and breed to the strongest.

Except someone had been stealing them, the women, removing them from their protective quarters to a location unknown. They'd searched the Ark completely and had not been able to find anyone… until now.

When they had escaped Earth's destruction, those survivors of Chronos had at least been consoled that the Rebels had died. True, they had attempted to fight Uranus but like Chronos they had been destined to fail. Unlike Chronos the Rebels had no chance to escape. It seemed they had made their chance though and now the rulers of the Ark were presented with a far different problem.

"Why?" The question was ground out, and the gnash of teeth against teeth was heard.

"Because women are not property!"

It was a new voice that spoke… a woman's voice.

Alkanphel snarled and turned to the new speaker. It was only the fact that he was wrapped in the core of the Ark that meant he did not obliterate them. Amniculus remained kneeling but he was careful to keep his body between the newcomers and his Lord. He recognised the woman, but he was sure Alkanphel did not. Short black hair, black eyes and a spark of force in her personality that was visible even from here. The Lord of Chronos didn't know her but the rebel Guyver standing at her side made her identity clear. Names did not matter, though Amniculus was quick to reach out to give his Lord what information he had.

:Taga Natsuki. It is believed she was harbouring the Segawa's during the time Fukamachi was missing. Japanese national, highly religious in the Christian faith.: The information was scant enough and had no real bearing on now. Events on Earth were gone.

"What do you want woman?"

"I want the same thing you do, Uranus dead." She allowed the statement to hover in the chamber for a few moments before she spoke again. "But neither of us is going to get that if we continue as we are."

Amniculus considered the words. They were true. They could not continue the battle against the Rebels here. He'd seen that truth himself when he'd found the missing women in the company of the two rebel guyvers and two lost numbers. Combat had not been an option but was Alkanphel ready to acknowledge that? The Supreme Lord of Chronos was angry and in his anger he was frustrated. They could not afford mistakes here.

The seconds dragged into minutes and neither moved. The woman Taga remained standing proudly, Fukamachi at her side, his armour active and silent but his presence all the more strengthened by his silence. Alkanphel glared at them, his eyes dark as he thought. The Ark continued to syphon energy from him and they continued to glide through space.

"What do you want?" the question came again and Amniculus hid his relief. Alkanphel was still angry, was still filled with hatred for those who had dared to stand against him and for Uranus but he had accepted the truth.

The woman stepped into the room, not far enough to be considered a security risk, though anyone in this room was a security hazard but far enough that the doors slid shut. The locks could be heard sliding home. She stared at Alkanphel for long moments, returning the frank gaze from his cat like eyes with her own. "I believe we have several decisions to make," her voice was weighed but the words were nothing less than the truth. "Our previous hostility must be put aside for the greater good and it must be put aside such that it does not flare once Uranus lie broken."

The two Zoalords remained silent. The truth of the words was far more than they were prepared to accept but for the moment hostility could be set aside. What happened after… that was a different matter.

"What do you want?" Alkanphel asked again.

Natsuki snorted, her laugh containing no amusement. "Fine, my Lord, I'll tell you our demands."

10 Months AE (After Earth) The Ark

"How is it going?" Aptom's question to Tetsuro was quiet. With the watching audience the Lost Number wasn't sure what the answer would be and had already reminded himself to ask again later, in a more private setting for the truth.

"Well." There was nothing in the inflection of tone that hinted that the word was anything but the truth. The man in the processing tank floated gently in the liquid, his eyes closed and his hair forming a halo around his face.

"So how much longer?"

"I don't know." Again there was nothing to say that the words were not the truth. "Another couple of weeks, at least," came the additional qualification.

"Weeks?" Aptom wasn't the only one shocked.

Tetsuro flashed a smile at him. "Slow and steady," the young man said the words without hesitation, his voice light.

"It didn't take this long for you!"

"Of course not! I'm human," Tetsuro's voice was firm, the words nothing but the truth.

"And he's not?"

Tetsuro looked into the tank, his eyes attempting to peel away the processing liquid and the layers of flesh and blood before he sighed. There was a note of unfathomable sadness there. "Not anymore," he whispered. "Not for a while."

"You know it was never your fault."

Around them the audience shifted slightly, their movements indicating that they were listening but they were discrete enough that they pretended to ignore them.

"Yet the outcome was the same."

The Lost Number snorted. "Outcomes are the only thing remembered."

The young man was silent as he continued to watch the processing tank, his hands making adjustments to the controls automatically. He was no longer the portly teenager he had been. Though he'd never be tall, his bulk was now muscle and he moved with the unconscious grace of someone who knew how to defend themselves. He didn't possess the hunting grace of Aptom or aura of danger that surrounded others but he exuded an air of competence. "And only outcomes are judged," Tetsuro said finally. "I know."

"You know but you do not believe," Aptom growled. "Does he blame you?" he asked, gesturing towards the young man floating in the tank.

"You know he doesn't," for the first time there was a trace of anger in Tetsuro's tone.

"Then don't blame yourself!"

The way the sad smile slipped on to Tetsuro's features, Aptom knew it was a lost cause. "I'll be back later," he said before stalking off. The lost number knew about guilt, he knew about regret. He carried an ocean of them but they could not be your sole driver. Uranus meant that he had to bury his plans for revenge, Tetsuro needed to realise that the events he blamed himself for, were the very events that allowed him to live, though Aptom knew the young man already knew that. He was too intelligent not to have made those connections.

The lost number made his way through the Ark, a savage smirk on his face at the way the zoanoids gave him a wide birth. It was amusing, as if they thought he could take them over at any time. He could… but in this situation his ability was more a hindrance than a blessing so he had restrained himself. The message hadn't gotten to the rank and file, obviously.

"How is he?" the question was asked even before he'd entered the room that was his destination.

"It's slow going, little bird," Aptom answered the girl who sat in a chair at the table. "It should be before the birth."

"Ah," there was a smile in her voice and as the Lost Number watched, her eyes became distant as one hand moved to her enlarged belly, gently rubbing. "Thank you, Aptom."

He shrugged. The information was not classified. Well… it was but they had clearance enough for it. "How was the new planet?" the question came from Natsuki as Mizuki returned to her task. Heavily pregnant or not, everyone on the Ark contributed.

"Unsuitable," Aptom replied shortly.

"How?" the woman demanded, a trace of coercion entering her voice.

Aptom settled beside Mizuki at he looked over at Natsuki, one eyebrow raised. Taga was sitting before a view screen flicking through text so fast it was a wonder she could read it all but he knew she was reading every word. Her comprehension abilities had only been enhanced when she'd been processed. "You know that doesn't work on me," he muttered, referring to the modulations of her voice which would have had any other zoanoid on his knees before her, begging to spill every detail.

"Force of habit," Natsuki replied without a hint of discomfort.

"Yeah, right," Aptom rolled his eyes. She had perfect memory recall yet could not remember he was a Lost Number? Heh. "The temperature fluctuations were too large," he answered her question.

"Ah," Natsuki nodded before flicking off the screen and turning towards him. Her eyes were sharp. "How long until the next planet fall?"

"About three months. We should have a new Zoalord and a new babe by then."

"If he survives."

Mizuki paused, her eyes going hard as she glared at the man who had spoken. Agito Makishima had remained silent until then but he had heard every word. "Fumio will know his father," she said gently, not rising to the argument she knew Makishima was spoiling for. It was the same every day and it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain thankful to a man whose vision remained firmly in the past.

"It can't be done," Makishima stated before turning his back on them. Natsuki snorted and moved to place one hand on Mizuki's shoulder.

Her voice echoed in the pregnant woman's mind, going over things they had said before. :That's not true,: she told Mizuki. :Tetsuro is confident that everything is going fine. It's just taking so long to ensure that no mistakes are made.:

Mizuki smiled, though the expression was more like a mental caress for Natsuki to show that she believed the Zoalady's words. :I know,: Mizuki made sure her thought was clear. :Shō will be the first of his kind, so caution is called for. How are you adjusting?: The question was more than mere politeness, it carried deeper concerns.

So much had changed in mere months. A year ago she never would have believed she'd be in the middle of space, heavily pregnant under the protection of Zoalords… Now she was happy for the situation. Well, relatively. At least she was alive… Billions were not. Earth was not and she, like all the survivors wept for their planet every day. But they had to survive. They could not fight Uranus if they did not live. But they also needed more population. The Ark was only about half full. A pitiful few thousand had survived.

:It is difficult,: Natsuki replied after a moment, her mental presence carrying far more than the words. Natsuki had been chosen to confront Alkanphel when they had been caught. They knew they would be. It was impossible to hide forever in a finite space but they had managed to prove their point and entrench their position. Chronos could not remove them from the Ark without risking the destruction of everything. It was almost a contemptible position to negotiate from but it was all they had. And negotiate they had. The few women that had managed to get on board the Ark were being breed brutally, with no thought to them. Oh, they were well kept, well fed and never physically injured beyond the necessity of sex but no other concern had been given to them beyond that much well-being. By stealing some of the well protected women away, they had shown that they had the power and they had been able to heal the women as much as possible, though that would be a long process.

It had given Natsuki a position of strength when confronting Alkanphel and that had been enough. Negotiations had been cold, logical but punctuated with feeling. In the end, the only compromise possible had been worked out, which had been much along the lines of what they had foreseen.

Alkanphel needed twelve Zoalords and he needed the losses replaced as fast as possible. They had possessed two guyvers, one protolord with a mental presence the equal of Alkanphel, three humans and two lost numbers, yet they held the solution. Shizu, their protolord became the first replacement Zoalord. Natsuki became the next and she took control over all the women who were on board. The situation had not been allowed to continue and as a human, with Shō to guard her, Natsuki had snarled that to the Supreme Zoalord. She'd given him the ultimatum that either he allow her control over the women, and the breeding of further population or all the women would either kill themselves or take a small pill Tetsuro had devised which would result in their sterilisation.

Without Balkus, they'd argued, Chronos did not have much hope of reversing the pill's effects and the Corporation had reluctantly agreed, which was a good thing, given that the pill was a bluff. The counter from Alkanphel was that all women of age had to bear children, though conception would be a gentler process. The women accepted that, they had expected it. One of the older ones had growled that men always thought women were emotional, that they did not recognise reality. Well they did. They knew that they had to bear the next generation as fast as possible but that did not mean that they would put up with rape and emotional torture. They were as aware of the reality of the situation as Chronos was.

So the separation had begun, while at the same time merging their powers. Shizu, as a protolord was already infertile, and with her mental presence and control over zoanoids she was the obvious choice to replace at least one Zoalord. Natsuki had been rendered infertile by a previous attack, she had become the second Zoalady. Alkanphel was not happy that his crystals were going to those he considered traitors, but he had no choice. Tetsuro was next. The young man had replaced Balkus as the chief scientist and his methods were far more humane. There were no test subjects in the creation of his zoalords and thus his efficiencies cemented his position. There were five positions to fill, to recreate the circle of Twelve. Four went to them, and one to Chronos. At least that way Chronos still held the balance of power. The last Zoalord, who Tetsuro was working on now, was 'Shōel'. Aptom had declined the honour and Agito was convinced it was not possible to be both Guyver and Zoalord and that in attempting to become one, while possessing the power of the other, would kill.

So far, Shō had not died, though the process was slow and until all the Zoalords were created Alkanphel remained the driving force behind the Ark. The women, under Natsuki's guidance had recovered as much as possible and had selected mates, however they recognised that they could not bear children to the same man again and again. For genetic diversity as many blood lines must be continued as possible. Still, where they did not wish to physically join, it was a simple process to inseminate them. The few children who had been born so far were being raised by their fathers, while their mothers recovered from birth, sometimes in a processing tank and prepared to become pregnant again. The children would know their mothers but the norms of society had changed with reality.

:You are doing fine,: Mizuki re-assured Natsuki, rubbing her belly again. Natsuki and Shizu's mental presences controlled the harsher aspects of the zoanoid's psychological makeup, which ensured that the women on the Ark were no longer abused, though some preferred to remain segregated.

"How are you doing?" Natsuki asked aloud.

Mizuki smiled. "I feel big!" she made the statement light. She, like the others recognised reality, that's why she was pregnant with Shō's child. She was only six months pregnant, so not that big yet but she was feeling ungainly. Mizuki hadn't even cried that she was only allowed to bear Shō one child. The next would be sired by another man.

"Are the meetings helping?"

"They are. And being born on the Ark, Fumio is going to have so many brothers and sisters to play with!" Mizuki said lightly. The women were meeting regularly to make sure all of them remained healthy and all the children, while being taken care of by their fathers, were being allowed to see each other. A large area had been set aside to serve as a school and a place of care. It was near the centre of the Ark and thus heavily defended. If it came to a fight, they would be well protected.

Agito snorted but the gesture was ignored. He had managed to get them on board the Ark but his beliefs had quickly isolated him, leaving Shizu as one of his only supporters. Usually that would be considered dangerous given her control over zoanoids but while it was known he harboured ambitions there was no outlet for them. He was as stuck as the rest of them and thus he reluctantly, grudgingly contributed.

"Hopefully the next planet will be suitable."

"We will find one," Mizuki said gently. "We just need to be patient," she added with a smile. "Then Uranus had better start running," the usually gentle girl added the qualifier with uncharacteristic hate lacing her tone.

Natsuki smiled. Yes, as she had told Alkanphel when they had confronted him, Rebels and Chronos did whole heartedly share several goals.

Year 004 27th February, Terra Nova

Shō looked up through the atmosphere, the muscles of his eyes working to sharpen his vision beyond anything ever devised on earth. It was a challenge to filter out so much light but the ships in the outer limits of the solar system became clear.

"They are Uranus," he spat the words, his hands tightening into fists, the armour of his Unit stretching.

"The Ark is ready."

"The Ark is always ready." Voices became from behind him but Alkanphel had said nothing though Shō could feel waves of anger radiating from the Supreme Zoalord.

It had taken them three and a half years of wandering to find a suitable planet to settle on. This was even utilising the ability of the Gigantic Unit with his Zoalord form. Shō had been able to scout out many more planets that had proven unsuitable thus saving them years of travel. They had settled here eight months ago, calling the planet Terra Nova, and while the Ark could take every citizen, the population had not yet grown beyond the Ark's capacity, they would be running again and neither Rebels or Chronos wanted that.

But they could not afford to lose another battle such as the one for Earth. Even with the ground based defenses they couldn't be sure of victory.

Shō looked at Alkanphel. "I'll go," he said softly.

The Supreme Zoalord was silent for a moment longer before he nodded, his cat like eyes narrowed. This was no time to hesitate and Fukamachi was correct. He was the best candidate to go. The cat eyed man still remembered the events of eons ago. "Show them what they fear," he gave the instruction before turning to the speakers. "Start loading the Ark!" The order was sharp but it brought into focus the situation even as Fukamachi streaked straight up. Alkanphel allowed himself a tight grin. They wouldn't need the Ark but there would be too much panic if he did not give the order.

Shō paused outside the atmosphere of Terra Nova. His vision was clearer here and he could see three ships clustered together heading for their position. They were definitely Uranus. He transferred the knowledge to Alkanphel before summoning the Gigantic Unit. Alkanphel's memories came back to him, holding the warning that he should watch for a remover and Shō nodded to himself. While the Supreme Zoalord had justified his decision with memory, it had been a far different logic which had driven Shō. He was the most powerful fighter they had, though Alkanphel came a close second. They had only fought once, in space where the damage was contained by distance and it had shown them both the limits of their destructive power. Though Alkanphel required a lot of rest both before and after, he had recovered very quickly.

His choice had been dictated not just with the knowledge that he was the strongest, but with the fact that Uranus would not recognise him. They couldn't know for sure that it was humans on this planet, and if he had his way, they would never know! His zoalord form, with his Unit was not recognisable as human, it was as simple as that… and with the Gigantic Unit…

Besides, if worst came to worst, Agito could become a Zoalord and harness the same power he had and the Gigantic would go to him. He was both the strongest and somewhat expendable. Mizuki would not think that, nor would little Fumio but it was the truth. Still, he did not intend to die here, nor did he intend to allow Uranus to come closer. With a flash Shō disappeared, covering vast distances instantly as he teleported to meet the ships.

He appeared beside one of the ships, elbow blade flashing as he slashed deeply into it. His sensors detected the other ships powering up but Shō didn't even hesitate. With a flash he launched energy into the opening he'd created before spinning away. A hybrid gravity globe energy blast was flicked towards another ship as it turned towards him, firing but Shō was too quick and dodged expertly, watching as the energy flashed by him with only millimetres to spare. One thing he'd learned in the last few years was that distance didn't matter, all that mattered was that it missed.

As the vessel behind him burned, Shō jumped forward, elbow blades once again flashing. So far they had not yet found anything he could not cut with these blades and Uranus ships were no exception. He was not interested in talking, nor were they. He began charging his mega-smasher. The move would reveal what he was but only as the final ship was destroyed. That would not matter.

They could not defend against his blades and the second ship fell quickly before he turned on the third, destroying it with overwhelming energy. In the silence of space, Shōel took a deep breath and exhaled, closing his eyes. One ship was gone, two ruined hulks burned fitfully as they consumed the oxygen aboard and they still did not know who or what Uranus was. He sent the message to Alkanphel, feeling the Supreme Zoalord's acceptance of the situation before Shō looked back at the remains of the ships.

He needed to search them.

Year 004 28th February, Terra Nova

With the proof that you could be a Guyver and Zoanoid at the same time embodied in Fukamachi Shōel, the three guyver Units that Shō brought back from the wrecks of the Uranus ships were causing quite a bit of interest. No one was dumb enough to ask who was going to receive them. That wasn't open to discussion in a larger group.

"One."

"Two."

Shō looked over at Alkanphel. Despite the fact he was a Zoalord, he did not hold residual loyalty to the Supreme Lord. He listened to Alkanphel because the man had experience and despite his debilitating need for rest he was a good leader but there were times when the Zoalord's morals were archaic. It was understandable but it led to frustrations.

"One, Alkanphel. Or next time I'll just report however many I think you should have."

The Supreme Zoalord of Chronos didn't say anything but Fukamachi could read his thought that there would not be a next time. Or that even if there was he would not be able to defeat the original Zoalord because he would be healed. Shō smiled to himself. Alkanphel would be stronger with the Unit he intended to take but Shō had learned much in the last few years of travel.

"I should be getting them all!"

"You trust your Lord's that much?" Shō was amused. If Alkanphel took them all, then he would take one Unit and so would two others loyal to Chronos and they would not be Zoalords or Zoanoids. He already knew that the supreme lord did not want to risk the creation of more potentially powerful traitors. Alkanphel had more than learnt his lesson in regards to traitors.

"And who would you give them too?"

"I don't need them all. Mizuki gets one, so does Aptom. No one else."

"You aren't giving one to your brats?"

Fumio had just turned three and Mizuki's second child, created by Tetsuro through the manipulation of DNA to allow the Lost Number Aptom to reproduce was almost two while her youngest was barely a month old. While only Fumio was his son, he treated them all as if they were his by blood. As did their fathers, Aptom and Hayami. It was perhaps obvious for Alkanphel to think that he'd want the Units for them. "Of course not," Shō snapped the return. "They are all too young." If he gave them a Unit Mizuki... would… He didn't want to think about that, that's why she was definitely getting one of the Units.

He sat back in the chair, gesturing vaguely towards the table. "Let's face it, you really only need one, Alkanphel and I think you'd be much happier if I had only brought one back because you know I'm the best outcome you could ever have hoped for as a Zoanoid Guyver being."

The golden lord of Chronos remained silent. There was really nothing he could say about that because it was the truth.

"I'll give you one, the other two come with me."

"All right," Alkanphel said finally. "Though you aren't worried?"

"About Aptom?" Shō asked rhetorically. "I'm not worried. "

"Why? As you say, I'd be much happier if there was only one Unit."

Shō smiled, a touch of arrogance in the expression. "I'm not worried, because despite everything, he is still only a Zoanoid. A hyper zoanoid to be precise but we both have more power. And regardless, he is loyal."

"To you."

The Guyver shrugged. Loyalty was loyalty and he could argue that Aptom was only loyal to his child.

"The Unit won't interfere with Mizuki's ability to bear young?"

The Shō of Earth would have been offended by the frank question from the supreme zoalord. The Shō of now understood. While most women of child bearing age had given birth to at least two children since they had fled from Earth, the loss of any woman was not something to be taken lightly. "No, she'll still be able to give birth. She hasn't chosen a fourth father yet."

"I would have thought it would be Agito."

"I doubt it." Even Alkanphel picked up on the frost in Shō's voice.

"You don't trust him?"

"Do you?"

"No, but I don't trust any of you."

"Then take it from me, we don't trust him either."

Golden eyes narrowed. "Do you have a plan?"

"Only the outline. Would you help?"

"I'd consider it."

"Good," Shō almost purred. "Then if it comes to it, we will kill him."

"Shizu won't allow that," the statement was obvious.

This time Shō smirked and Alkanphel knew he was missing something. "Shizu is female. You put all females under Natsuki's protection. At least that's what you said when the design for her Zoalady form was being created. Tetsuro took that to heart and made sure it was fact. Natsuki agrees with us on this so she will take care of Shizu if necessary."

For a moment Alkanphel was silent, then the implications set in and he laughed. "You rebels! It is a good thing we are on the same side."

Shō frowned. "Are we truly?" The question calmed the Zoalord.

"We are now," Alkanphel said, his voice serious and for the first time since they had fled Earth Shō felt that it was true.

Year 024 21st July, Terra Nova

Shō smiled as he entered the little house. Well the house wasn't really that little comparatively but he was the Second in Command of Chronos. There were some perks to rank but he did live with a hoard of children and was one of three Guyvers living here.

They were still on Terra Nova living as quietly as they could. Alkanphel had shown his hand when planning revenge against Uranus. Everyone burned with the desire but the Supreme Lord knew their position was weak. Revenge would come but in time, when their position was not weak, so for the moment they were concentrating on living and breeding.

It had been twenty years since settlement, so the next generation was beginning to breed as well. Natsuki was overseeing the bloodlines. It was almost humiliating, to breed humans with all the care and attention that had gone into breeding prized show dogs or horses on Earth but at least she was being discrete about it. And no restrictions were being made upon people and who they lived with. That's why he lived here with his mates, Mizuki and Aptom.

Fumio had moved out a couple of years back, setting up a little house with his wife who had presented him with a blood son before giving birth to a daughter which he'd proudly named after his Father's mother once he discovered that none of mother's daughters had been named in her honour. Mizuki still bore a child every third year. Though she had reached the quota required of all women, ten live births, she insisted that she was still healthy enough, and willing to bear further children, especially since her Unit healed any damage. After the third child, they'd never bothered inquiring about the fathers, though the cat like eyes of her fourth child was more than a bit of a give-away.

She had fifteen children who named her mother and called Shōel their father. Ten named Aptom that as well, or they would as soon as the youngest was old enough to talk. Only two of them were his by blood, not that he cared. They were happy. It was remarkably fulfilling living with children, though it could be frustrating. They were always so imaginative when getting into trouble.

"Shh!" Mizuki soothed, stroking the hair of the child at her breast. Mizuki was one of the odd mothers; she chose to keep the children she bore, rather than fostering them immediately to their father. The fathers agreed to that in advance.

"I think I'm jealous," Aptom whispered to him, stepping out of the shadows near the entrance.

Shō raised one eyebrow in question.

"The brat gets her boob without even having to fight you for it."

He chuckled, looking up at the scarred face. Aptom had never given up his sunglasses so it was hard to see his eyes, but Shō could see that the hyper-zoanoid was laughing so he adopted a suitably exaggerated huff with his reply. "I thought you liked mine better!"

The predatory grin on Aptom's face was his reward. "Oh I do," the tanned man replied, licking his lips as he looked at Fukamachi who was still watching Mizuki with a soft gaze but brown eyes turned towards him.

"Prove it!" The whisper was of necessity but it still carried a playful challenge.

One of Aptom's tendrils rose to brush against the small of Shō's back before another twitched lower, caressing a firm buttock as he moved closer, his bulk almost engulfing Fukamachi in shadow. A clawed hand reached out, gently tracing under Shō's chin to raise his face as he leaned down, pressing his mouth firmly to the succulence that was his lover's lips. There was nothing shy about the brown haired man's response. One arm snaked around Aptom's powerful shoulders, pulling him closer, while the other reached lower, pulling the hyper zoanoid in close so that there was barely any gap between them before he reached down, caressing, rubbing, showing his beloved exactly what he wanted.

"Ah hem!"

They separated, almost guiltily at the cough and turned to see Mizuki standing beside them, babe in arms, her eyes flashing with annoyance. "Not in the hallway!" she growled the statement as the two hung their heads before her.

"Miz-chan!" Shō said, his voice gentle but she huffed and walked back into the room he had seen her nursing in.

"Little bird!" Aptom's voice was deeper and he was breathing hard as he fought to control the sensations Fukamachi invoked within him. Even after fifteen years of intimacy he still wanted the boy as if he was a hormone driven teenager.

"Not in the hallway!" she repeated the admonishment and the sharp ears of both zoanoids detected that she was still moving… towards the back of the house… where their bedroom was. Black eyes met brown over almost identical grins and the two men trailed after her.

Year 024 21st July, Terra Nova

Mizuki stretched languidly, nuzzling into the hard muscles of Shō's chest even as she hooked one leg over Aptom's. The hyper zoanoid retaliated by rubbing her back in long slow strokes. "Oh, that feels good," she sighed. He chuckled, the sound rich and deep before casting one arm over them both as the large man moved closer.

"I hope that's not all that felt good."

"You always feel good!" Mizuki purred. "Both of you," she added grinning as Shō stroked her hair.

"Are you sure we waited long enough?"

Both Mizuki and Aptom growled slightly. Shō always asked. "I waited plenty!" Mizuki said. "Two months is more than adequate for a woman without a Unit to heal after child birth, so it was far long enough for me to heal! Besides… it's not like you two gave up anything!" After fifteen children, she was more than comfortable teasing them this way.

"You know we would."

"I know," she said. They had this discussion after every birth, at about this time. She'd always loved Shōel and his consideration for her just reinforced that love. Love for Aptom had come later though it was just as passionate. She had to abstain from sex near the end of pregnancy and after, but she had never insisted that the two of them give up the pleasures of each other's body… even though they would have if she asked. "It's okay. It's always okay, because you are both here now."

"Little bird!" Aptom growled the endearment, shifting slightly so that he reared above them to steal a kiss. His eyes burned possessively. Shō's arms tightened around her, telling her without words that he was there.

"What did my brother want?" Mizuki asked, changing the subject.

Shō might have been the second in command of Chronos but he still responded to summons when the chief researcher wanted something. Tetsuro had called earlier in the day, telling them that he had something he needed to show Fukamachi.

"The first prototype is ready," the Guyver Zoalord replied.

"Already?"

"You know your brother! Always over achieving!"

She chuckled luxuriating in the warmth, both physical and mental. They'd been through rocky times but slowly they had integrated with Chronos… or Chronos had integrated with them to the point where they were one force now. One force working towards the destruction of Uranus. Shō had destroyed three vessels many years ago and no others had been detected. It was a welcome respite but they all knew it was only temporary. They couldn't live with the shadow of Uranus over them forever.

"Though the weaponry won't work without three."

"What..?"

"But you can generate the field yourself! Hell you could even power the Ark's weaponry."

"I'm the exception to the rule but Yentsui could generate the weaponry field as well you know," Shō added the clarification. Both his lovers had full clearance to know everything he did.

"Yentsui can't fly one at the same time though," Aptom dismissed the other Zoalord.

"I don't think that will be a problem."

"How many are they making?" Mizuki blinked as she asked, realising she should be far more worried than she was, but it was hard to worry when both her lovers were wrapped around her, warm and strong. Their strength was always reassuring but neither had ever hurt her. They were both gentle, especially with the children.

"As many as we can," Shō replied. "It's likely to be another couple of hundred years before we are ready to take on Uranus, but overkill is something we want… and who knows what else we will need to defend against in the meantime."

And that's why she didn't feel upset. Years, decades… awaited them before they fought Uranus, though the desire was for blood now. Mizuki knew the feeling would not fade as the generations came and went. Chronos would make sure the desire burned in the hearts of men. When they fought, while Shō and Aptom would both be at the front lines, they would be as well protected as anyone within Chronos. By that stage they would have centuries of strength and training behind them. Uranus would never know what hit them.

She didn't like war or fighting… But against those who had destroyed their planet… She was willing to make an exception.

Year 089 31st May, Planet Obelisk, Non-Human Territory

Lois cruised through space. He'd been ordered to scout this area for potential planets but so far nothing had been suitable and he'd transmitted back that they could be mined for resources rather than settled. He'd encountered a few pirates and those dumb enough to attack had been dispatched. He'd enjoyed the mission. The time alone had been refreshing but he was more than ready to return home, especially into Caerleon's welcoming embrace. He knew they'd missed each other. He had one more planet to check, one that by the emissions detected seemed to be suitable.

It was his internal senses that brought his attention to the present. If he'd been on a ship it would have translated to the blaring of alarms but his senses set his teeth on edge enough to know that something was wrong. He slowed, scanning the area around him and quickly found what his unconscious sweeps had discovered.

Artificial satellites and ships hung around the planet and its moons and small fighter vessels were already turning towards him, their energy signatures rising as they powered their weapons. Behind them a green planet spun, off white clouds visible in its atmosphere. Lois halted, his eyes narrowing as he assessed the gathered ships. From the numbers this was not a pirate base but was a well-established settlement of some aliens. They'd engage him if he approached, rightfully so since he was invading their territory. After memorising the numbers he turned, accelerating again out of their system. He didn't even bother to check if they followed, they hadn't.

As he turned towards human territory Lois grinned, imagining what was going on in the head of the alien commander. No doubt the stories would be interesting but they were worthless to him now. There were no suitable planets in this part of space, so they would have to find others. They weren't prepared to fight yet, so they remained as Chronos always had, hidden, bidding their time until all was ready.

Year 115 12th October, Hyperion

Edward Caerleon stood in space glaring at the fleet before him. There had been incursions into their territory before but this was the first time someone had sent a full fleet. That's why he'd been surprised when he'd been put in charge of the operation to wipe it out. Human territory was going to remain just that, human territory and it was time that the rest of the galaxy learned that their little piece of space was inviolate.

The fleet before him was not Uranus, it was something else and behind him was a fleet of comparative size, at least in numbers. That's what part of this mission was about. They would capture some and destroy others, all to collect data about their comparative strength. Behind him, somewhere, Caerleon knew that Fukamachi and Yentsui were in the fleet, riding those flying contraptions, the Grampus, that they'd developed years back. He would never admit it, but the dark haired Zoalord was actually thankful for them today. Ranks and ranks of zoanoids alone would have looked odd in space. The flying contraptions made their fleet appear more normal and at this point in battle, he wanted to appear normal. At the back of them an Ark hovered, its weaponry fully extended and charged, though the aim was to have nothing get close enough to it for it to need to engage.

In the wings, at a distance and not planning on participating Makishima, Amniculus and Tetsuro waited with further contingents of troops. If they were required for this battle, then humanity's fate was very dim indeed.

He didn't think they would be defeated. He was being bombarded with hails from the alien fleet but he hadn't bothered to listen to them. They either called for his surrender, or they wanted to talk. Neither of which was an option and if it was truly something important, one of the others would tell him. Edward shook his head, this battle was overdue and he raised his hand, his full Zoalord form wavering slightly as he opened the dimensional portals that were his home in combat before he lowered his fist, signaling the beginning.

Year 115 12th October, Moon Hyperbole

"This is ridiculous," Caerleon muttered. He stood with the rest of the commanders before the gathered prisoners. They weren't on any of their populated planets. This was a small world with a barely breathable atmosphere so most of the zoanoids and all of the humans were wearing breathers. The Guyvers, both real and prototype (Chronos had been able to duplicate the Units on Earth, rediscovering how had just been a matter of time and the new constructions were far more stable than the one on Earth had been.) had left their armour in place, letting the parasite filter the air and the Zoalords were putting up with the thin oxygen. They had an image to maintain after all.

It was effective. Edward felt his lips twitch slightly as he glanced towards the aliens. Most of them were writhing on the ground, gasping for air while a few, which he assumed were their commanders, were grimly glaring towards him.

As well they might. They knew what would happen now, as did he, which was leading to the problem. They needed information but it was the linguistic problems which were in effect now. Tetsuro could probably whip something up but that would take time, time they didn't have.

"So how do we talk to them?" He asked the gathered commanders. He should be reveling in how well the battle had gone but right now talking was a bigger problem. Yentsui and Amniculus were close enough to hear him. Makishima was off to the side, examining one of their ships and Tetsuro had already left after taking some of the bodies. He hadn't bothered to be discrete and the sight had no doubt upset several of the aliens. Fukamachi was in orbit with the grampus squadrons, making sure that they were not interrupted.

His ships had performed well… better than well. Even Caerleon could admit that. Chronos already knew from Earth the effectiveness of zoanoids against steel and the hardened plates of the alien vessels had taken just a mite longer to fall. Some of the ships had given them problems but Tetsuro had quickly seen that those had ceramic reinforced armour. Against the cutting blades generated by the Grampus that armour had melted like butter.

That outcome was good. It was good to know that their ships when pitted against the rest of the galaxy could stand up to them. There had been losses but the numbers had not been unacceptable. While they could garner some information from the bodies and the ships, they needed to know what the aliens knew.

"Do they have any sort of translation software?" Yentsui asked, offering the alternative with an edge of hope in his voice, though it was faint.

"Probably," Edward sighed. "But it will take Makishima or Tetsuro time to find it."

"This is very frustrating," Amniculus sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Usually we'd have the information by now."

"I know." The lament was easy. On Earth, if they had of been Zoanoids, or had the potential to be, then the prisoners would have already told them everything they knew. Even if they were defective, plain humans, questioning though any number of means would have given them results. The linguistic barrier was too high and while the Zoalords were telepathic, they could not hear even the glimmer of thought from the aliens. That meant nothing. It merely confirmed that they were alien.

"How the hell did the Rebels do this with their morals?" Yentsui growled as Makishima completed his inspection and turned towards them.

"How did we do what?" the dark coloured Guyver asked.

"Question prisoners. I know for a fact you couldn't speak all their languages."

Agito shrugged, looking over at the aliens curiously. "We let Aptom do it," he said with an offhand tone, throwing the information out as if it was something the Lords of Chronos should already know.

"You let a Lost Number do it? How did that help?" Amniculus asked, though Edward and Yentsui nodded their agreement with the question.

Makishima frowned and dragged his attention to the Zoalords. "You mean you don't know?" Disbelief washed through his voice.

"Know what?"

He laughed, shaking his head. "Oh dear… I always assumed you know. We never had to question Zoanoids. Aptom just absorbed them and we knew what they knew."

Caerleon felt his eyes widen at the information Makishima so casually revealed. More than one hundred years might have passed since he had fought the Rebels but the knowledge of their interrogation techniques explained so much! How many times had they lamented that information had been extracted with almost contemptuous speed? At least he knew why and how they had achieved that goal. Most had assumed that the Rebels were exceedingly proficient in the methods of information extraction, though admittedly that had gone against their image. But Chronos had been more than aware of how one image could mask another and had assumed that the image of those fighting for freedom had been covering the darker aspects of their campaign. His assumption had been correct but the Rebels had probably presented Aptom's ability as something good and it certainly wouldn't have been known to the general forces but the commanders had to know.

He shook his head, bringing his attention to the present as he looked over at the aliens with new eyes. Aptom could take over Zoanoids… did that trait extend to aliens? There was only one way to find out. "Where is Aptom at the moment?"

"Terra Nova… I think," Makishima said with a shrug, looking back to the aliens. They were ugly but strangely fascinating and his mind was already occupied with thoughts on how their ships might be improved to better fair against zoanoids.

Edward resisted the urge to grind his teeth. Aptom was on Terra Nova, the one planet they would not take these aliens. Who knew what diseases they were carrying and if they had the potential to infect humans. Everyone present would be in quarantine for a while after today's work but he still needed to question the prisoners and that meant he needed Aptom. Since the hyper zoanoid was a lost number he could not just reach out to order him here.

"Order him here," Caerleon snapped the instruction to Agito. Aptom might be a lost number but he possessed one of those infernal guyver units, and not just a prototype, he would hear Makishima's call.

The black guyver looked amused at something but shrugged and his control medallion glowed as he reached out across space. "He says he's busy," Makishima finally reported.

"Busy!?" Edward felt rage send its tendrils through him. What mere Zoanoid was too busy to attend a Zoalord? "Order him here!" he repeated the instruction yet Agito merely gave him a look which despite his armour was easily readable.

"I do not outrank him," the dark Guyver said aloud, reminding the Zoalord of the facts he knew well. Aptom was not a part of the Council but he had been a rebel and that put him under Fukamachi's direct supervision.

Annoyed, Caerleon sent his thought upwards to where the other traced guarding patterns in space with his ship. :Fukamachi!:

:Yes?: The question was polite but had the hint of being expected.

:Order Aptom here.:

The hint of expectation became a flood of understanding and Edward could almost see the other Zoalord nod. :So that's what's got him so upset,: Fumakachi muttered allowing Caerleon to feel some of what he felt from Aptom. :He's occupied at the moment,: came the further explanation and linked as they were Edward could feel exactly what was occupying the Hyper Zoanoid. He felt the echo of lust from the guyver before the boy controlled his emotions. Technically Aptom was off duty… what he did with his time was his own affair… but the fact that he was occupied in such a manner, when Edward himself would far rather be similarly occupied with Lois was not a calming thought. That would be a far more pleasant way to pass the time. Edward's dark hair quivered and he forcibly shoved his anger aside.

:I still need him,: the Zoalord sent to Fukamachi. :He's the only way we have to question the prisoners.:

:Oh,: the Guyver above seemed to nod and Caerleon felt Fukamachi drawing the same conclusions they had earlier but then the boy offered a solution. As annoying as the child could be, he was intelligent. :Why don't you ask one of Aptom's descendants? Some of them have similar abilities.:

Edward held back his disbelieving growl, remembering that until quite recently, Fukamachi had lived with his wife's spawn. He would know which zoanoid abilities had bred true. It was a small comfort that both Yentsui and Amniculus seemed equally aggravated. For all that the Rebels were useful, and it was arguable that Fukamachi was one of the strongest warriors they had, they could still set his teeth on edge even with the steps taken towards integration.

"Let's find some of Aptom's descendants," he said aloud and the gathered Zoalords sent their thoughts out, brushing against the consciousness of the gathered Zoanoids with their desire. Shortly a small group of Zoanoids appeared before them, kneeling. The prisoners shifted uncertainly. They must have anticipated the problems with language yet their commanders continued to watch trying to assess the situation.

The first thing Edward noticed about them was that they were a diverse bunch. Natsuki controlled the blood lines so that human genetics did not mix too closely but also had the duty to ensure that zoanoids bred true. A gregole would breed a gregole, a vamore a vamore and so on. The only changes allowed where to improve a design. Aptom's descendants were not uniform. Kneeling before him was a motley lot of just about every zoanoid form Chronos had conceived. The second thing he noticed was how many of them there were! Mizuki had borne Aptom two children, it was a good thing she had not borne more! She had not born a child for decades though so this was merely the actions of population growth… He suppressed a shudder.

"You are Aptom's descendants?" Yentsui asked the question for him.

"We are my Lord," one of them replied and none of the Zoalords could detect falsehood in their thoughts.

"Can any of you merge to absorb information?"

The cluster of Zoanoids shared a long look and it was obvious to the gathered commanders that they were discussing the question. Various bloodlines were known to retain telepathic abilities between those who shared their traits. It appeared Aptom's was one.

Their spokesman eventually replied. "We are not sure, my Lords." His voice was deeply humble and Edward concealed a smirk. At least Aptom's descendants showed the proper respect. "Several of our parents could do so but none of us have had reason to attempt such a feat."

Caerleon's smile was thin. "You do now."

Aptom's descendants shared another long look with each other before one of them stepped forward. "I know both my parents could merge and the others aren't sure, so I will try, my Lord."

"Get to it," Yentsui was losing his patience and gestured towards one of the aliens that other zoanoids had dragged forward.

The zoalords watched curiously. This was the first time any of them had seen this and while the rebels had not openly advertised Aptom's ability it was reasonably well known to Chronos' Command. The zoanoid stepped up to the alien pausing slightly just out of arm length to close his eyes and take a deep breath. Then he took a determined step forward, reaching out one clawed hand to touch the alien's arm. The alien tried to jerk back. It had no way of knowing what was going on but it instinctively knew that this was not a good thing but the zoanoids who had dragged it forward, now held it steady.

There was no flash of light or anything to announce that things had begun and as Caerleon watched he thought the process looked simple. Aptom's descendants hand seemed to liquefy and seep into the alien though the rest of his body remained as it was, then the Zoalord realised that the process was anything but simple. Deliberate disincorporation of your body with the ability to reform… no, that was not a simple thing at all. And Aptom had been able to do this for decades… What the hell had Chronos Japan been thinking when they made him?

The descendant's head jerked upwards and he hissed but then seemed to drive harder before there came a definite growl. Time trickled away.

"How long does this take?" Amniculus asked the other descendants of Aptom.

"We thought it was close to instantaneous," one of them replied but before he could elaborate there came a scream and all eyes turned towards the alien.

Aptom's descendant and it were an unholy mix together and the zoanoids who had been holding the alien had jumped back, shaking their hands as if they were burned. Another scream rent the air and the Zoalords recognised the threat inherent in the tone though Caerleon moved the fastest and dimensional portals appeared around the abomination. "What is that?" he demanded.

One of Aptom's descendants had started crying. "Oh no, oh no, oh no!" and the others had drawn together in a cluster.

"That…" another said, visibly gathering himself. "That's not meant to happen."

"But you know what it means?" Yentsui demanded as Caerleon focused on containing the thing. It looked like thick liquid goup but it kept moving and it screamed again. It attacked the barriers with mindless fury and Yentsui could feel the strength it had, even behind Caerleon's containment.

"Something went wrong."

"Obviously!"

Understandably the other aliens had shrunk back as far as they could but they were little more than witnesses to the tableau before them.

"Fukamachi!" Amniculus sent the summon to the boy. They needed him here now more than they needed the guards above. It took him only an instant to respond and at other times the Zoalords might have berated their fellow for revealing secrets but since none of the aliens would ever be reporting back, the boy's ability to teleport was of no consequence.

He assessed the situation instantly and before anyone could say anything one hand snapped up and a secondary barrier reinforced Caerleon's shields.

"What is that thing Fukamachi?" Yentsui growled.

The Guyver-Zoanoid shrugged, apparently unconcerned at the vicious churning mass that was what remained of the alien and Aptom's descendant. "That's what happens when you get complete disincorporation," he said, as if this was something that was an everyday event. But then… maybe to the rebel it was. "I thought you were just going to question the aliens?"

"We were trying!" Amniculus snapped. "That happened."

"Oh," the boy still didn't seem too concerned.

"We need to destroy it!" Caerleon snarled, sweet beading on his face. Fukamachi's barrier had helped but this thing was insanely strong.

"No!" Aptom's descendants cried with Fukamachi.

"That won't be necessary," the boy continued, an aura of menace around him and the Zoalords knew he would not allow them to move against the thing Caerleon had contained. "Just give me a moment and what is his name?" The question was directed to Aptom's descendants.

"Aptowan," one of them said and none of the Zoalords missed the bow given to Fukamachi.

"Please just keep it contained Caerleon," the Guyver asked, his voice almost pleading and Amniculus realised that Fukamachi did not want to fight them all. He probably couldn't though he would definitely try. "I'll call Aptom and he can sort out Aptowan from that mess," the boy added but he'd obviously forgotten how sharp Zoalord ears where so that while no one else heard his next comments, the three of them did. "If he can." Wisely, they chose to remain silent.

They could destroy Aptowan and that mess of the alien and it would be justified, but eventually the defending Zoanoid forces would return home. One thing Chronos had learned on Earth and they had learned it well as the Rebellion took full advantage of the fact, was that even if they could control Zoanoids, could order them to die with a thought, they could not control their will, their thoughts. They might be bound to obey, but they still had their own opinions. Remaining on reasonable terms with their troops was important so they could let Fukamachi try this.

:Aptom!: They heard Fukamachi reach out across space, his face slightly upturned as he stood on the planet.

:What is it?: The Hyper-Zoanoid's voice came back to them after a short moment, though the question was more like a growl and they could feel his annoyance along with the imagery of where he was and what he could see. :If you wanted in on this, you shouldn't have accepted that mission.:

Amniculus shuddered, trying to remove the image from his mind. Aptom had projected what he could see and the image was not one the Zoalord needed. Mizuki was with him, naked, writhing on her back with her hair a mess around her. It was obvious she was in the throes of pleasure, a state the hyper-zoanoid was sharing. With far more aplomb than Amniculus thought he possessed Fukamachi replied. :Aptom, there are others watching.: The response cut the image off but linked as they were the Zoalords could tell that Aptom felt no shame, though there was a slight trace of guilt but that was for revealing Mizuki, not for himself. He truly didn't care what they thought about him.

Unheard by the gathered Zoalords Shō reached out with his Guyver Unit, :You know I'll always want in on that,: he purred to Aptom, allowing the hyper-zoanoid to feel his arousal which is what Aptom had been aiming for in the first place. :But right at the moment,: Fukamachi continued, switching to a frequency the Zoalords could share, :I need your help. The aliens weren't a simple absorb. Bring Mizuki, Aptowen might need her help.:

With Aptom aware that others were listening, he was far more controlled and Amniculus was impressed. He knew the zoanoid was joined with a woman but he felt nothing of it when he replied and it took a formidable amount of mental strength to be able to suppress that much feeling, especially when your partner was one you cared for, as Aptom obviously did for Mizuki. :Where are you?:

Shōel gave him the co-ordinates and they waited, doing their best to ignore the screams of the liquid. The way Fukamachi was standing showed he was still communicating with Aptom and Amniculus wondered what was said though with a moment's reflection he realised he didn't want to know. Conversations between lovers were best left private but if that was what it took to get Aptom here, then so long as it was quick…

:Have Mizuki bring you with the Gigantic,: Shō instructed the hyper-zoanoid, allowing his Unit to link him with Aptom's feelings.

:Would you shut up?: Aptom snarled, :I'm kind of busy!: He had resumed nipping a line along Mizuki's neck to a point they both knew was sensitive for her.

Guyver I laughed gently into Aptom's mind. :You should already be running you know. If Mizuki finds out…: The threat killed the passion Aptom felt but did nothing to the pleasure the female Segawa was feeling which had been Shō's objective with the words. It allowed Aptom to focus on her and would bring them here faster. A few minutes later Mizuki was a weak mass in Aptom's arms though neither missed the way her eyes darkened slightly. Pleasured, and sated with feeling, she was aware of the fact that Aptom did not share her state.

:You can explain this one to the little bird,: Aptom said to Shō with a slight vindictive tone.

:Fine, but you owe me.:

:And I will enjoy making it up to you,: the hyper zoanoid grinned mentally letting Shō see some of his ideas. The way the boy cut the link with him let him know he had been successful in arousing him.

:Miz-chan,: Shō called, as if he was tentative and unsure of her state. :Miz-chan.:

In Aptom's arms the female guyver blinked sleepily. :Shō?:

:Miz-chan!: Relief flooded his tone and Aptom was surprised at the boy's acting. His voice displayed nothing but artful gratitude that he had managed to contact Mizuki. There was not even a hint that Fukamachi had been in contact with him.

:What is it?: She picked up on his relief.

:Aptowen needs help!: Fukamachi continued, his mental tone breathless with worry. :We captured some aliens and were trying to interrogate them,: the explanation quickly followed. Mizuki knew Shō had been on that mission but the outcome was not yet known. :Something happened so he's completely merged with the alien. Can you bring Aptom too?:

Mentally the mentioned hyper-zoanoid was impressed. If something had happened to Aptowen when trying to merge with an alien, then Shō should have been calling him… had in fact already called him but with his question he made it seem as if his first thought was to his wife and her healing abilities. Aptowen was her great, great, great grandchild or something… Maybe another generation. Fukamachi's handling of the situation was artful especially since it would be logical to think of family.

:Where are you?: Mizuki demanded already rising to grab at her clothes Aptom had left strewn around. "Aptom," her voice was sharp, "Aptowen needs your help," she gave the instruction which sent him from looking at her in confusion to rising as well. Aptom thought he handled the transition rather well.

"What happened?" his question was not filled with the same worry as hers. Aptowen might be his great, great whatever grandchild but while he had been close to Mizuki's children and to some extent the grandchildren, over time his relationships had grown more distant. Mizuki kept in close contact with them still. It wasn't that he didn't care, he just didn't know them as well as she did. Maybe it was time for that to change… especially if his progeny were attempting to merge.

"Aptowen got ordered to merge with an alien and he's stuck," her reply was tinged with frustration and Aptom imagined that Mizuki had had a few choice words about Zoalords to Shō. She was already dressed and the instant he got his pants on he barely even saw her summon her Unit, then the Gigantic before he felt her hand grasp his arm and there was the familiar tingle of transportation before cold air washed over him and they landed wherever it was that Fukamachi was.

They'd barely landed before Mizuki had bustled off, taking charge of the situation and Aptom suppressed his smirk at the faintly startled looks that graced the Zoalord's features. And was Yentsui blushing? Certainly the Zoalord appeared to be having trouble meeting Mizuki's gaze and had stepped back. Amniculus and Caerleon were more controlled, though no doubt they saw a spring in her step. Shō was standing beside Caerleon, one hand extended and his control medallion glowing as he maintained his barrier.

"Miz-chan," he greeted her, moving his free hand to offer her a breather as she dismissed her armour.

:What? None for me?: Aptom grumbled into Shō's mind.

The Guyver flashed a mental smirk at him. :You've already adapted,: came the response. That was true. The instant he'd landed on this planet his body had compensated for the thin air and gils now flared at his throat and under his arms.

"Thank you Edward," Mizuki said, stepping towards Aptowen, "I'll take it from here."

Aptom moved with her. Aptowen wouldn't deliberately hurt Mizuki but in his current state… he wouldn't know what he was doing and the hyper zoanoid suppressed a grin at the image they must be presenting to the aliens. They probably thought Mizuki was their leader the way she had appeared and ordered the Zoalord's around, especially with the way his children were bowing, their voices awed as they said, "Mother." It was satisfying to hear them say "Father," in the same awed tone, though it was a little disconcerting. He made a note to ask Natsuki about the clan structure the survivors of Earth had adopted. Something told him that his clan was well ranked… and if it wasn't, then that would change.

"Let me," he said, putting one hand gently on Mizuki's forearm which had the effect of steering her back.

Caerleon's dimensional barriers faded and the liquid that was Aptowen and the alien screamed and surged against Fukamachi's barrier. "You'd better hurry," Caerleon said, stepping backwards. "If it escapes we will have to destroy it."

"That won't be a problem," Aptom said, not even turning to face the Zoalord as he stepped forward. Almost without thought he linked with Fukamachi and the Guyver generated barrier altered, it became more bowl like. Aptowen must have been aware of that because the liquid surged upwards, just as Aptom jumped.

He batted it away his black eyes narrowing before he impacted with the bulk of the disincorporated organic material. His body melted automatically and Aptom felt his mindscape encounter others. Something shadowy attacked him and as one of his tendrils smacked it away he shook his head. This was his mind scape! He was king here.

The shadow continued to attack until Aptom snarled, baring his teeth and curling his fingers into claws. A few swipes left the shadow bleeding before him, figuratively gasping for air and the hyper-zoanoid recognised the badly injured form of one of the aliens. His lips quirked. "Well done, Aptowen," Aptom called. The damage to the alien had been extensive but the boy probably didn't know that to finish it off he had to keep it pinned. You learned the most the first few times you absorbed someone and Aptowen had been close to full success.

"I failed!" a young voice came from around him.

"Oh… I wouldn't say that," Aptom grinned.

"But I didn't defeat him! You did Father."

The hyper-zoanoid sniffed. "He's still bleeding here."

"I can't. I failed."

"Why don't you let me assess that?" Aptom challenged.

A shuffle came from behind him and the scarred man turned in his mindscape to see his descendant. The boy was obviously depressed. "You did well," Aptom said easily. He was a bit out of practice with dealing with children but he knew what to do.

"I failed."

"I failed the first time," Aptom admitted. "But I wasn't absorbing an entire being, so you've done far better than me." He ignored the disbelieving look he was getting. "Now," he continued, gesturing towards the alien, "why don't you finish it?"

Aptowen looked at him uncertainly and Aptom gestured again. "Go ahead," he encouraged. "I have better things to do than answer Caerleon's questions."

The small derision brought a flash of a smile to Aptowen's face and the zoanoid moved forward one hand extended before being placed on the alien's chest.

"When you absorb an entire being," Aptom said causally watching the process. Aptowen seemed to draw the alien into his form, "it's important to remember to tie them down. Rope will do though I usually spear them. They all fight the inevitable so you have to remember to make sure that they can't and that makes it so much easier. Don't worry that this one escaped. You'd done enough damage and would have caught it eventually."

"But how long until someone decided I was a threat? I know what happened to my body."

Aptom shrugged. His progeny was fairly intelligent to have realised that but there was no need for the boy to worry. "Shō was there."

That caused Aptowen's eyes to widen further. "It's all right," he reassured the boy, "You can call him father."

"It hardly seems right."

"Mizuki's children called us both father," he shrugged. "Now do you have everything? Caerleon will want to know or do you need another alien?"

Consideration flashed across Aptowen's face. "I think I have everything," he said slowly.

"Good. Do you remember how to reform?"

"Heh… not exactly remember but I think so."

"Reform. I will take whatever mass is left over."

To those watching time passed as it always had but it seemed that Aptom had barely joined with the liquid before it became more placid. And then a moment later it wavered and formed into two humanoid forms, though one was larger than the other. Those watching couldn't drag their eyes away as Aptowen reformed and stood, stretching carefully though he was still standing in a rapidly shrinking pool of organic goup. His eyes widened when he realised who was watching him. Four Zoalords, though his other Father's appearance was that of a Guyver, all his cousins and their ultimate grandmother… She was surrounded by his cousins, comforting Mizuran but when she saw that he had reformed she bustled over and proceeded to make sure he had reformed completely. He was so stunned he couldn't tell her that Father had been there to guide him.

A moment later Aptom reformed fully, the last of the organic material appearing to be sucked into him. He rose, ignoring his nakedness as he worked his neck carefully. "See Caerleon, that wasn't very hard at all."

"Did he get the information?"

"Why don't you ask him?" Aptom asked as he moved towards Fukamachi.

"I did, my Lord," Aptowen gently shook off Mizuki's soothing hand and moved to kneel before the Zoalord. "I will answer with what knowledge the alien had but some is known only to the others but I will translate."

Mizuki shifted slightly and allowed her children to surround her again. They were in awe at seeing both fathers, but they were more familiar with her and that was fine, though she looked over at her husband and lover. Aptom had one possessive hand on Shō's shoulder and the way he moved made his muscles ripple beneath his skin. If they didn't think of him as family, Mizuki knew she wouldn't be the only woman present pleased with the sight… still… her boys had tried something they shouldn't and it was time to remind them that she was just as responsible as them for the future of humanity. She'd do what it took… even interrupting… well yes… :You know,: she said casually. :I am a Guyver...:

The statement hung between them and the way Shō stiffened told her everything she needed to know. Mizuki laughed softly when Aptom leaned in close to whisper something to her husband. She might have been otherwise occupied but she had heard… still she loved them both so much and her good mood translated to her children. She might have been the one pleasured, but her statement ensured they would be working to make things up to her.

Nearby Caerleon looked down at the naked form of the zoanoid before him. His form was solid but it seemed odd that he could be disincorporated so completely yet reform so easily. Aptom's ability was truly frightening. He said nothing of it, and neither did the other Zoalords. They would need to think on it but for the moment, there were more important questions to ask. "Very well," he said, "we will begin."

Year 148 23rd February, Terra Nova

"How is it going?" Aptom's question to Tetsuro was quiet and he was reminded of a time, many years ago when he had asked the same question, in much the same environment. There were differences though. The Zoalords had gathered true, but this time several stood quite obviously in positions to guard and they were not tolerating his presence graciously.

"Well," Tetsuro said, flashing him a smile, no doubt remembering the same conversation. The man in the processing tank floated gently in the liquid, his eyes closed and his white hair forming a halo around his face.

"So how much longer?" Aptom asked, almost chuckling.

"I don't know, another couple of weeks probably."

Where last time it had been Aptom who gasped the question, this time the guards were not as discrete. "Weeks?"

Tetsuro looked over at Amniculus. "Slow and steady," he said. "This is very delicate. Even if he didn't have a Unit, I would expect it to take that long."

"Why?"

"Because this is akin to rebuilding him molecule by molecule, organ by organ. It's really not something I want to rush."

"No… No I can see that," Amniculus agreed slowly looking up at Alkanphel. In the tank the Supreme Zoalord seemed peacefully asleep and while he did not understand everything Tetsuro was doing, he understood it was necessary. Khan had confirmed the former Rebel's calculations and theories and that had calmed the members of the Council. But they maintained their watch. Day or night, there was never less than three of Alkanphel's original Zoalords here.

"He's the really hard one," Tetsuro said as Aptom showed himself out.

"What do you mean?" Fried'rich asked.

"Alkanphel was created by Uranus," the relatively young Zoalord Scientist said. "They made him an almost perfect weapon but one they would not lose control over. There are even vestigial control elements in his DNA!"

"So?"

"So that means not only do I have to remove the active control elements, I have to find those which have either been superseded or were being added to him and remove those as well!" Tetsuro explained calmly making a few adjustments. "And then we will have to implement those changes on the population."

The last was something the Zoalords fully understood. If they were to fight the Uranus then they needed to be able to fight, which meant that every control had to be removed.

"Frankly, this would have been easier to do on the Ark," the young Zoalord continued. "There was a far smaller population. I could have reprocessed everyone… Or even just the women would have been sufficient."

The observation passed without comment from any of the Chronos Zoalords. Tetsuro knew full well why this had not been done then, not matter how advantageous it would have been.

"It will be complete soon?" Amniculus asked, looking directly at Tetsuro.

"Very soon," the former Rebel replied, looking up at Alkanphel. "This generation will be the first that can truly fight back," he added with a smile. A smile that was echoed by the other Zoalords.

They weren't ready to fight the Uranus but this was the first step.

Year 187 2nd September, Non-Human Territory

"What's there?" D'aljiw of the burgeoning Var Empire pointed to an area of space where no territory was marked. His people needed more space but apparently they were too late. By the time they emerged from their planet they found several alien Empires already established. The Empires were friendly, though they would not trade technology, they were happy enough to explain what territory belonged to whom and that had already saved the Var from several potentially highly damaging incidents.

But they would not remain a minor power. No, they had already decided that and the first step towards their growth to the dominant Empire in the galaxy was to establish themselves on more planets. Simply put, more population equalled more power. To their chagrin most territory appeared to be taken, marked with the colours of strong established Empires who all bowed to one other, Uranus. D'aljiw had never seen an Uranus but the other Ambassadors spoke of them with reverence. That left one rather large patch of space which had been left blank.

"No, don't go there," Yil'gri turned luminous eyes towards the Ambassador. "That's dark space."

"Dark Space?" D'aljiw asked. What was dark space?

"There is an empire there. They are highly territorial and aggressive."

"Yet no one complains about their attacks!"

"Because they don't," Yil'gri said gently, seeking the best way to explain dark space to the new comer. "Dark space is our name for that relatively small area of space that was colonised by… I don't know what they are. No one knows what they are, not even Uranus know. Whoever, whatever they are they were highly territorial and any ship entering that area is never heard from again. Pirates, official ambassadors, attack fleets. It doesn't matter. No one has reported back from there. Even the Uranus have sent ships that just disappeared."

There was more fiction than fact about whatever species lived there. She took a deep breath. "We might not know who they are, but we do know that they do not leave their territory and they defend it aggressively. The only other piece of information I can give you D'aljiw is that dark space has enlarged over time. They are expansive but their accretion of territory is slow and while there have been a few supposed sightings of things we think are scouts for them, they do not and have never entered territory legitimately claimed by another race. The last sighting was almost 100 years ago."

"What happened?" D'aljiw asked, intrigued despite himself.

Yil'gri sighed, tapping a few keys which played a very old recording. At first the picture appeared to scale, and for those with sharp eyes, a flick of white could be seen moving. Then it zoomed in and the white became blurrily defined. The timestamp on the recording showed numbers and orders being issued as well as the speed of the white object. It could be clearly seen to be slowing down and as it did, the focus resolved slightly. Smaller images appeared at the side showing other observational spectrums. Whatever it was, it seemed bipedal though wisps of something came off it. It was motionless for a few moments which allowed them to get a still picture before it flipped over and accelerated. The speed was phenomenal and almost before they could track it, it had disappeared.

After the video stopped there was silence. Yil'gri had seen it before so she knew what it displayed but D'aljiw hadn't. "That's it?"

"The heading was into dark space," Yil'gri explained patiently. "And yes, that is the best shot we have. As I say, they never leave their territory and they do not settle in previously claimed territory, so we leave them be. The only other thing to note is that there was no vapour trail. Whatever it was, it does not use engines as we know them."

She could tell that D'aljiw wasn't convinced but as soon as the Var inevitably sent a probe into the territory and lost it, they would believe.

Year 231 18th November, Terra Nova

"So… what happens after?"

"After what?" Cat like eyes narrowed as Alkanphel looked at the board between them. He did not understand the point of these games others played. The rules always seemed to change, or the pieces or something.

"After Uranus," Shō clarified, placing a piece with soft click of noise. His finger lingered on the piece before Shō withdrew his hand, brown eyes softening as he looked over at Alkanphel.

The ruler of Chronos seemed confused for an instant before his features changed into and expression of understanding. "That won't be for a long time," he murmured, his eyes sweeping the board, assessing his position.

"I know," Shō agreed. "But what happens after?"

As he placed his move, Alkanphel looked up. "Why do you want to know?" he demanded gently.

"It is always a weakness of plans. You reach the end and you don't know what to do."

"You speak from experience?" The supreme Zoalord asked, realising that he was interested in the reply.

"Somewhat," Fumakachi admitted before he sighed. "I shudder to think what might have happened on Earth if we had won," he confessed and Alkanphel blinked. That was not something he'd ever expected to hear.

"You were in no danger of winning," the ancient zoalord countered but he did not miss the way Guyver I's lips creased in a soft, sad smile. Chronos might have been in no danger of losing when Uranus struck, taking the planet from everyone, but they both knew that the Rebels had been gaining credence. Fighting as equals had only been a matter of time.

"It doesn't matter," Shō said, looking up as he placed another piece on the board. "We never got to that point but we will get to this point. What happens after?"

"I would have thought you'd be more interested in how long until we strike," Alkanphel retorted, picking up one piece and moving it to the side.

"Oh I am… but I know that it will not be yet. The population is growing but isn't large enough. And frankly, the occasional incurrence from aliens is enough to keep the population excited, as well as giving us the opportunity to test our defences and abilities."

"Heh," Alkanphel laughed. "I still remember what you did to those Uranus ships."

Shō's lips quirked again as he conceded that point. He hadn't had much issue with the ships of the day, nor had he had any issues with any of the alien incursions but others had and Tetsuro examined the remains of each alien and their ship with an eye to improving Zoanoid design. While most breed true these days, improved blood lines were always welcomed and the basic strength of a Zoanoid of today, was about equivalent to a Hyper-Zoanoid on earth. They were advancing. "And I know what you are capable of," he replied to Alkanphel, his mind replaying the memories of the supreme zoalord's abilities when he merged with a Guyver Unit. "But that isn't the question," he pressed on. "What happens after?" Shō asked again, placing his game piece.

Cat like eyes stared at him as if measuring his worth. Shō didn't blink or flinch. He returned the gaze with a frank one of his own. What happened after was as an important a question as when they would attack but he knew that the attack would be authorised only when the Supreme Zoalord believed they were ready. That meant multiple planets populated and technology beyond the rest of the galaxy. Victory should be assured but what then?

"It will depend on the battle," Alkanphel said. "What happens in the battle will define much of what is to come." His golden eyes moved back to the board as he assessed his position before picking up a piece and moving it carefully. "We have hidden from the galaxy. They know we exist," he clarified, "but they do not know what we are. Our attack shall educate them as to reality. It will be a brutal reality for most."

Shō nodded. That was a fair assessment. Their attack would be akin to the peaceful but reclusive neighbour suddenly turning savage. Since the aliens would not know the reasons, it would be seen as unprovoked which was why they needed such strength. They would most likely have to take the entire galaxy to reach Uranus. Briefly Shō wondered when he had become a man who could condone the potential deaths of millions to fight Uranus and his expression was grim when he realised he had become that man on the day he watched the Earth burn. Many feared Aptom with his sadistic tendencies; they overlooked those who saved their ire.

"So we will have some options," Alkanphel continued, speaking slowly as their game progressed.

"Not many," the Guyver shook his head. "If we wish to retreat into seclusion, we will be hemmed in by their fleets, every move watched. If we wish to rule, we will be seen as tyrants, savages who attack without warning or reason and who cannot be trusted. Neither is good."

Alkanphel was silent for several minutes as he examined Fukamachi. He had just summarised the problems they would face succinctly. Others would have thought upon this for days and not arrived at the right conclusions. The others had given him trouble for exalting the Guyver but he had made the right choice. "That is my thought," he told his former enemy, "but there are alternatives."

"Alternatives?" One eyebrow raised in question. It was a causal gesture that Fukamachi allowed himself only because they were in private. He placed a piece on the board with another click.

The Zoalord played his piece before he spoke. "If we wish to rule after such an attack, we will be seen as savages because no matter how justified we think ourselves, they will not know. Such a situation provides its own answer."

Shō frowned as he thought and then he remembered something odd. Makishima had been sent to Earth except that there was nothing left of Earth. The Guyver had accepted the mission without complaint and slowly Alkanphel's plan became clear. "So Makishima guards Earth until we are ready for someone to find it. And when they do they shall find that it was inhabited and that the inhabitants did not possess the technology to destroy their world," he said the words with a note of speculation but knew they were the truth.

A gentle smile played on Chronos' commanders fine features. "With luck, they shall ask Uranus what caused the destruction of such a verdant world… and if not… the knowledge that the world exists will make our reasons so much more justified."

"Do you wish to rule?" Shō asked, placing another piece on the board.

"I have only ever sought to keep us from destruction."

Fukamachi nodded and fell silent. He didn't quite have his question answered but he was secure in the knowledge that the ancient zoalord had considered the question. For now, that was enough.

Year 298 31st December, Terra Nova

"So you see, if you combine that with the aura you get a copy."

"But only a temporary one," Khan said.

"Temporary is best," Tetsuro countered. "We mostly want it for the resonance."

"Resonance?" Jabir asked.

"Eh…" Tetsuro thought as he rearranged a few designs. Khan helped, moving the design pieces roughly into position before the younger Zoalord placed them precisely. "It's like the Circle," the former Rebel said. "But smaller and more precise."

Jabir nodded. He understood the purpose of the Circle but he knew what Khan and Tetsuro were discussing went far beyond that. It was only a small comfort that most of the other Zoalords, both old and young would be as lost as he was when confronted with the plans the two were working on. Still… Tetsuro had a precious gift. He could explain the most complicated things in terms that made it easy to understand. "Is there any way to make it permanent?" He asked the question without true understanding but it brought frowns to both Khan and Tetsuro's features.

"It could be useful if it was permanent," Khan said carefully.

"It's not stable though," Tetsuro objected. "It would only be held together by the resonance aura that it was generating."

"Then add a stabilising agent."

"What would have enough power?" the challenge was returned. The answer was that easy.

"Can it exist without the resonance?" Jabir asked, interrupting before the two scientists could fight it out with incomprehensible questions and counter questions.

"The whole point is for the resonance," Khan snapped, glaring at him.

"Then could it be linked with a pre-existing resonance, like that of the Circle?"

The Circle of Twelve Zoalords resonated with each other. It was something they didn't even think about, it just happened because they existed. Their resonance was a part of the reason they could speak to each other over long distances, the echoes of their resonance had allowed them to escape from Earth. Now of course, Tetsuro had had removed the genetic loyalty embedded within them towards the Uranus which had made their resonance stronger. So to his mind, resonance was a good thing but he didn't understand what they were talking about with the aura or the need for a copy.

"I suppose that could be done," Tetsuro said slowly, obviously mulling the idea over in his mind.

"To break the initial resonance, you'd need power," Khan growled. "Then to establish the link, even more power. It defeats the original purpose."

The younger Zoalord nodded.

"What was the original purpose?" Jabir asked. They might understand it just by looking, he didn't.

"It's a healing technique," the former Rebel said patiently, ignoring the way Khan seemed annoyed. "At least, it would be if it didn't require stupid amounts of energy. The theory is pretty simple, you create a copy with the aura of the being and since the copy takes form from the aura, it is whole, and undamaged. They will resonate and the damage will heal."

Jabir took a deep breath. He grasped the edges of Tetsuro's explanation but it still left a lot to be desired.

"I still think it's worth pursuing," Tetsuro said to Khan when it became obvious that Jabir had no further questions.

"It's a waste," the old Zoalord said. "Too much energy. With the amount of energy you'd need to stablise it, you could heal anything."

Reluctantly Tetsuro nodded. "Still, as a form of secondary resonance, it has potential."

"Oh, for that it does! Though I wonder… could you link it to the thermal couplings of the ground defences?"

"Where did that thought come from!?" Tetsuro gasped…

Jabir shook his head, fighting back the headache that was forming. This was all far too much and he had better things to do. He got up slowly and walked to the door where he looked back. The two Zoalords, young and old were still discussing things. They hadn't even notice him leave. He snorted and left. They'd come up with something no one would understand but it would work… Though it might take them all night to work through the tangents their conversation would pursue… and he had better things to do, like sleep.

Year 352 8th August, Outskirts of New India's Space

"Someone tell me why we don't just invade these morons?" Aptom snarled as he blew another few ships out of space.

By now most aliens had figured out not to come into their territory after the first two or three ships disappeared. This race had yet to learn and he, and the other senior commanders were stationed on the outskirts to ensure that they could take care of these incursions. The aliens were easily destroyed. The hardest part of the job was to ensure that they didn't get a signal out but even that was routine now that they'd had enough practice.

The entire process was rather boring but more importantly, this particular little raid had pulled him out of bed and already he was missing the warmth of his partner. Shō had probably sidled into the warm patch he'd left in the bed. It had been his turn to take out the invaders.

:That's… not such a bad idea,: Shō's voice came to him, cautious with the tones of sleep and consideration.

The statement almost caused the Zoanoid-Guyver to pause but then he grinned and if the aliens could have seen it, they should have run. Shō was still awake, so if he hurried, perhaps they could return to their previous, far more enjoyable activities. Aptom brought his hands together, wrapping them around the tips of his tendrils. Lightning raged and his tendrils drew back, trailing the energy, until his whips were far longer than they had any right to be. An instant later they were ready and he lashed the appendages at the alien vessels. Energy cut through them, melting their armour plating as if it wasn't there and thirty seconds later there were no further vessels, just the dying hulks.

Aptom surveyed the scene carefully, confirming that all the ships were destroyed, and that there were none in the wings. Satisfied, he turned away accelerating through space to re-join Shō in bed. There were a few escape pods but the clean-up crew would take care of them.

:Tell me more about how it's a good idea?: Aptom purred, intending to return home and ravage Fukamachi until the adrenaline faded from his system.

:Because we have no information about the outside galaxy, and discrete enough control would allow us that.:

The Zoanoid-Guyver almost screamed when he recognised that tone. Shō had abandoned their bed and was up and dressed, probably in his full Zoalord robes which he donned whenever he had to contemplate something he considered useful but less than honourable. The mindset transformed him from the almost innocent young man Aptom had known on earth to a creature that was as coldly logical as a Guyver Unit without a Host's guidance. He'd remain that way until whatever plan they came up with was either for filled or denied but for the moment, when Shō was like this, he was not interested in sex or cuddles or affection. Aptom did growl as he considered the alternatives. He had to do something to calm his blood. Mizuki was still on Terra Nova, Imakarum was busy and both of his sometimes ladies, Natsuki or Miraya, would want more than a post battle snog and bedding, especially since the battle had not been life threatening for him. There was no one to turn to but at least Fukamachi would cut a striking figure in his robes, so maybe he could take out his frustrations with the boy later.

Year 373 5th July, Var Home World, Non-Human Territory

Aptirosen kept the link between his father and the alien steady though the sensation was odd. He could feel the alien's consciousness being shredded by the ruthless probing and it left a phantom feeling on his own mind. It did not cause any damage to him, his father was far too careful to allow that but it was strange. He could also feel everything his father did, the same way he could feel the alien. The alien reeked of fear which was hardly surprising, his father… Beneath the cold logic gruff exterior his father displayed to the world, Aptirosen could feel fiery waves of emotion that drove the Zoanoid Guyver. Right now Aptom's mind scape was stained with desire. Lust had been quenched with Mother's willing participation but Father wanted, needed his Aptirosen's other father. The thought made the young zoanoid blush and he pulled back from it, concentrating instead on the interrogation of the alien. It was one thing to know that your parents loved each other both mentally and physically, but he did not need to remember the blatantly erotic plans his father had.

"What is this group?" Aptom hissed the question. Merging with one of his descendants, then with another being was not quite the same as simply absorbing the other but it was the only way they had found to separate again and they needed this alien, the head of the Var to be uncontaminated, even as they needed his information. The Var would be controlled from now but there would be no evidence of that control curtsey of his descendants.

The group of Zoanoids that he could merge safely with all called themselves his Sons and named Mizuki for their mother even though it had been centuries since that was the case. The gesture was touching and necessary since merging required a great deal of trust. Apparently they liked merging with him, it increased their abilities and to be known as one of his descendants gave them a great deal of respect. That's what Aptom had learned from Aptirosen when the youngling had touched his mind. It had almost caused him to laugh. He, a Lost Unit, one deemed a failure by Chronos was now one of the most sought blood lines! Male or female, his descendants had no trouble finding themselves mates.

"Like a Council," the Var replied, bringing Aptom back to the present. With the words flowed other information, thoughts and feelings from the alien that explained far more precisely what this Council was.

"Controlling?" Fried'rich Von Purgstall asked from the side. The small office was currently guarded by Var loyal to them, paid handsomely for their service. Chronos could bioengineer Zoanoids into the semblance of a Var but money could just as easily buy what they needed in this case and they did not wish to leave evidence, not even bodies that disappeared. Besides, even if the Var confessed, who would believe them? That some unknown alien empire paid them… They had been pulled from the dregs of Var society.

"No. Guidance only," the Var's leader said. "We meet them more than two centuries ago. They showed us the empires, told us the territories, provided trade partners."

"For technology?" The question was quick.

"No. Never traded technology. Couldn't steal any either."

Fried'rich's eyes narrowed at the thought. They had been driving off Var incursions for more than two centuries so they were familiar with how the alien's technology worked yet it appeared they were the younger siblings of the galaxy. They wouldn't have the most powerful abilities. "What are the differences?" Meaning was carried with his question.

"Centuries," the Var replied.

The Zoalord rubbed his eyes before reminding himself that they had successfully defeated every fleet which had entered their space and ignoring the Var, some of them had to be of this Council he spoke of. "How many aliens?"

"Seventeen, though all bow to one. We only know five. The others are too distant to bother to trade with us and we had nothing that the one wanted."

"Name them."

The Var leader rattled off some names which meant nothing to them but would no doubt fit with the information they had stolen from the primitive computers the Var had, except as the list ended there was one name everyone recognised. "Uranius."

"Uranus?" Aptirosen asked before the others, knowing they'd want clarification.

"Yes," the Var quivered beneath his touch, what was left of his mind shivering. The young zoanoid glanced towards Fried'rich for a nod of permission before he merged with his father more completely and the two of them drove into the alien's memories. Absolute understanding of the alien flooded into them though Aptirosen knew that Aptom could not share this with others so it would be up to him to provide the intelligence to the Zoalord.

"The Council is not really a council, my Lord," Aptirosen relayed the information to his commander. "They meet to try to avoid wars, but there have been some. The Var didn't really pay attention to them as they weren't between any of their trading partners. There do not appear to be limits to these wars but the Var don't know for sure. They do know that the wars have never spread to other territories, mostly because of heavy defences. He's quite afraid of what would happen if there was a war on his border. They can't afford to defend."

Fried'rich nodded. "What of Uranus?"

"Looking now, my Lord," the young zoanoid said as he filtered through the alien's memories. His father was supporting him though was maintaining a distance with their thoughts yet the zoanoid could feel his father's excitement growing. It was well concealed but it was a tightly wound bud that might explode any second and Aptirosen deliberately veered away from the thought when he realised it had something to do with the purely erotic desires he'd felt earlier.

"Got it, my Lord. It appears that sometimes some of the aliens try diplomatic solutions to their problems. At that point they ask the Uranus to mediate. This Var hasn't actually seen a Uranus but another has."

"Who?"

"One of the diplomats down the corridor," Aptirosen said as the memory sufficed him.

"Get them."

He nodded before pulling back from the alien. The Var sagged, collapsing to the floor without the support of the invading zoanoid. Aptirosen stood and as he did his Father merged with him fully so that they formed one being. The boost to his power was immense and the younger zoanoid marvelled at the tightly controlled abilities of his father. Mentally they were meant to join but he felt himself gently shoved aside. :This will be easier for you,: Aptom's voice rumbled and Aptirosen felt a surge of gratitude. He was fully prepared to merge but his father was correct, the distance would make it easier on him afterwards. Full mergence always made him feel like he was a different person, because he was and it took weeks to recover from. :Besides,: Aptom continued. :I don't need you feeling my desire for your father any more than you already have.:

If Aptirosen had of been in control of their body it would have blushed a brilliant scarlet. As it was he felt heat rise on his mental cheeks. :I didn't realise I was leaking that much,: Aptom continued, ignoring the embarrassment of his son as he looked at the Var on the floor and melted their combined features into the form.

They'd waged a shadow war against the Var, hiring Var mercenaries and pirates to do their bidding. It was only now, at defeat that any of the Var had even seen one of them. Fried'rich had appeared to their Var hirelings in his full robes, armoured and hooded so that his identity remained secret as had Aptom and Aptirosen though they had acted as body guards as well. The only Var to actually see a human or zoanoid was their leader, who was now trapped in his office with the Zoalord. The war had been so successful that only the upper echelons knew how badly defeated they had been so even with their victory, it would not do for some unknown alien to wander around the Var corridors of power.

As they walked down the corridor, ignoring the looks from the mercenaries who had been told that they could do what they wanted to the Var leader but only after given permission, Aptom looked over at his descendent. :There is one thing I'm curious about,: he told the youngling.

:Father?:

:I understand my descendants call themselves the Sons of Aptom?: It was a question and statement all together and inexplicably Aptirosen felt his stomach tighten.

:Yes, we do Father.: He used the word from long ingrained habit though it did nothing to ease the sudden surge of nerves.

:I don't really understand why,: Aptom confessed.

:Why we call ourselves your sons?: Aptirosen sought to clarify. Father didn't seem upset, he could feel that much even though the older zoanoid was limiting the extent of their linkage but the young zoanoid couldn't help the feeling that he was about to learn something immense.

:Exactly,: Aptom said. :Your Mother only ever gave me daughters.:

Aptirosen felt his eyes widen and for a moment his mind went blank. Then he laughed. Of all the things Father could have said... They called themselves Aptom's Sons with the assumption that they were descended from Mizuki's sons... But they came from her daughters. Not that there was anything wrong with that. Indeed, from his study of history Aptirosen knew that in the years after settlement, daughters were sought after and it was most likely that fact that Mother had birthed daughters for Aptom that meant that there were so many within their Clan. Bloodlines spread faster through matriarchal lines after all and after all this time, perhaps it was better that they begin to look to the future.

:I'll see that the name is changed, Father.:

Year 373 19th August, Terra Nova

Mizuki looked over at Aptom. The Hyper Zoanoid was pacing as they waited for Shō to return. The mission to Var had been a success and the ongoing mission would be fruitful but that still meant that Shōel had paperwork to attend to. He was after all a commander who took his responsibilities more seriously than his privileges which meant all his duties were attended to before he came home but that didn't make the wait any easier.

She'd tried to distract the scarred man by letting him know about how their children were doing, but he seemed to know all the information already which meant that he must have merged with a descendant during the mission. She'd even tried cajoling him into bed but Aptom's response to her kiss had been half hearted at best. Mizuki understood. It had been a long time since Shō had shared their bed, twenty one years to be precise and now the mission was over. She was looking forward to her husband's return just as much as her lover was. She loved Shō, all of Shō, even Second in Command of Chronos Zoalord Fukamachi Shōel but the persona he adopted when he donned the robes was cold. She much preferred her relaxed Shō, as did Aptom.

Relaxed Shō took the Zoanoid as his lover and was not as strictly formal about initiating intimacy with his wife. Thankfully the Commander recognised that Aptom lived with them. It would be difficult if Shōel did not acknowledge that. That's why they were both eager for his return.

"Mizuki," Aptom said, pausing in his pacing.

"Hmm?"

"I'm sorry."

Mizuki blinked brown eyes in shock. Aptom was apologising? "Why?" she asked, her voice gentle with her curiosity.

"This was my fault."

"What was your fault?" She had no idea what he was talking about.

"This… Everything. The Commander of Chronos Fukamachi! It was my fault."

"You and I both know how he gets when he…" Mizuki began to say but the Hyper Zoanoid cut her off, his eyes burning as he looked at her.

"No. This time it was my fault," he sighed heavily, sitting down on the couch beside her to sling one arm around her shoulders. Mizuki complied, allowing herself to lean into the warmth and shelter of his arms. It wasn't so much for herself but it was for him. Instinctively she knew Aptom needed the reassurance of her touch. "It was over New India. The Var had been sending waves of pointless attacks and I was bored with it all, frustrated, especially after the last attack had pulled me out of bed. That's why this is my fault."

"I still don't get it," Mizuki breathed, stroking Aptom's arm.

"I'm the one who suggested we invade," the Zoanoid guyver growled as if that explained everything. "And he took the suggestion to heart so before I knew it, there was Commander Fukamachi and it's taken twenty one years to get him back!"

Mizuki blinked as the meaning sunk in and then she closed her eyes, leaning into Aptom's chest. "Silly," she barely whispered the word, knowing that he would hear. "You are so silly, Aptom," she added, moving so that she was kneeling in his lap, her hands on his shoulders as she leaned forward so that their noses were touching and all he could see was her brown eyes.

"It was not your fault," she said clearly, her breath mingling with his. Aptom's arms moved to steady her, resting lightly on her hips.

"My suggestion, therefore my fault."

"Not your fault… though I understand your frustrations," she retorted, allowing one hand to trace down over the muscles of his chest. "You were on New India. I was on Terra Nova," she breathed, remembering the events twenty years ago. "Shō was with you, guarding the borders," Mizuki took a deep breath. "Oh… yes, I understand your frustration," she murmured, her voice husky. Commander Fukamachi recognised his wife, and the duties he had as a husband but he did not recognise his lover. No wonder Aptom thought this was his fault!

"You have Shō for tonight," Mizuki said, slipping off Aptom's lap and before he could object she jumped back. "Tomorrow, we'll properly greet him… together."

She wasn't quite fast enough. One of Aptom's tendrils wrapped around her wrist, holding her close as the large man surged upwards to tower over her. Clawed talons traced their way over her face, under her chin, yet despite the threat and the fierce look on the zoanoid's face Mizuki felt no fear.

"Little bird," he whispered the words, the endearment one she seldom heard now and that was all the warning she got before Aptom kissed her, passionate and demanding. She responded as his tendrils loosened, allowing her to reach up to embrace him. He tasted as he always had, a heady mix of spice that bespoke power and danger but to her meant comfort and safety and Mizuki felt her body relax.

They parted with them both breathing hard and adorning Aptom's face was the satisfied little smirk he wore when things were perfect. "Oh, little bird," he breathed. "You'd better rest up," the zoanoid added, his voice a promise and Mizuki shivered, her loins burning.

Aptom seldom promised anything but he always made good on them and this promise was laced with his desire. Mizuki returned her own smile, a saucy, sassy one that those who knew her on earth would be surprised to see. This was a private smile, one reserved for Aptom and Shō and as the scarred man let her go she made sure to swing her hips provocatively as she walked to the door. When she reached it, Mizuki allowed herself a glance back, smile still in place. "I'm not the one who'll need rest," she purred and was satisfied to see Aptom's black eyes widen as he realised the implications of her tone. As she slipped from the house she could hear him laughing, though the note indicated he understood her warning and Mizuki smiled to herself, before schooling her features into a calm expression and smoothing her hair. The hospital always needed someone for an extra shift, so she'd better be going.

Aptom would make Shō more than welcome tonight.

Year 374 14th January, Var Home World, Non-Human Territory

Ratansi closed the heavy door to his office with a sigh. Peace… at least! Freedom from the ever present politicking that was the reality of Leadership of the Var. He was good at it, he had to be and he was as ruthless as necessary but the office from which he made the important decisions, that was a haven at times. It had been during his time as a mercenary captain, it remained the same now that he had taken on a more administrative role. That was what made turning to find someone sitting in his chair so surprising.

"Who the devil are you?" The exclamation left his lips before Ratansi knew what had happened.

The person in his chair seemed to smile but it was hard for Ratansi to tell. He wasn't that familiar with alien expressions.

"I am the one you will call Master." The alien's voice was rich and smooth and his Var was accentless so it took a moment for Ratansi to realise what was said.

"I don't think so."

The alien laughed. The Var leader recognised it as a laugh and the alien shifted his eyes narrowing slightly. "Did you really think that after organising the over throw of your previous government that we'd just go away?"

Ratansi felt his eyes widen at the words. He'd been amongst the mercenary commanders who'd met their benefactor but that alien hadn't looked anything like that. Neither had his body guards. That alien had been dressed in flowing robes so maybe…

"Beneath all the robes, we look like this," the alien sitting in his chair anticipated his question but it gave him no time to recover. "Now, you have a choice. You can try to shoot me with the weapon at your back and I will kill you and deal with your successor. You can call your guards and I will kill them and deal with you afterwards. Or you can sit and listen to me, which is really the best option for everyone."

The Var leader froze and stared at the alien for long moments before he swallowed heavily. The alien had an air of menace that eclipsed the previous alien. He took a deep careful breath sinking into the chair at the front of his desk. "What do you want?"

"That's the spirit," the alien smirked and Ratansi could hear the laughter in his tone. "I have neither the time nor the patience to spend coddling you so I'll make this simple for you. The Var have a caste called the Karshim, correct?"

Ratansi nodded. It seemed best to humour this one for the moment. Even if it was lying as soon as it was gone he could order an audit of security around here. Except… the alien didn't seem to be lying. The way it sat there radiating an air of confidence spoke of someone who had planned this to the last moment. The alien was thin and had black fur which was swept back from its face. Cold dark eyes watched him and slim hands were folded neatly on his desk. The aliens face was pale and expressive and Ratansi could see that they were fit. Black clothing covered them but it was sleek and well fitted. The Var leader could tell it was well tailored. This alien represented power and it knew it.

"You will send me the Karshim, all of them to co-ordinates I will provide. They will work for me. If they do well, they will be rewarded as will the Var. If they fail me… well… let's just say you don't want that."

"The Karshim are the lowest of the low!" Ratansi objected.

"They are sufficient and I rather like the idea that your fate will be decided by those you rejected."

"I can't."

"Of course you can. Most of the Var won't even object."

That was true. Most of the Var would be happy to get rid of the Karshim but… "What do you mean, if they fail you? What do you want them to do?"

The alien smiled again. "I want them to do any number of things. I'll discuss it with them. All I need you to do is to give them to me and to make sure that your successors continue to do so."

Ratansi felt his breath hitch. "If they succeed, what then?"

"Then the Var will be one of the most powerful empires in the galaxy. It's not like I want them to do much… just whore themselves out to the rest of the galaxy. No one will notice a difference."

That was something he wanted… but the price… This alien had never mentioned a price and Ratansi knew he wouldn't want to know it. "If I refuse you?" he had to ask.

"We've over thrown one Var government. How long do you think you would survive?" There was a chuckle in the alien's voice. "I would be thankful if I was you. Think about it. I take the most troublesome of the Var from you and give your empire the opportunity to rise to heights they won't otherwise see. It's a good deal… though…" this time the alien did laugh. "It's not really a deal. You will do this, or your successor will… or theirs. Make no mistake, I will get what I want in this."

Ratansi gulped, fighting back panic. The alien's voice was cold and while he had commanded troops he had never felt this level of threat before. Every murmur of intimidation sent a shiver of fear down his spine. He could feel the reality of the threat and if he wanted to get out of his office again, and if he wanted the Var to prosper then he had to obey. It was not a feeling Ratansi enjoyed. He shuddered before lowering his head. "Give me the co-ordinates," he said, his voice defeated.

"See, that wasn't so hard, was it?" the alien grinned. "You will see me from time to time but I doubt I will need to be here often. Still… should a Karshim come to you and say my name, you will do what they request."

"Your name?"

"Makishima," he seemed to purr his name as he rose. "This is our little secret and it shall remain that way for though you have no thought to betray me now, that will come later. I do not advise it. You have no ability to fight me and any attempt will only do two things. It will waste my time, and it will annoy me. You do not wish to do either."

Ratansi shuddered watching as the man moved into the centre of the room. He stood for a moment murmuring something. There came a blast of energy and after the dust settled the Var leader was left staring at a black armoured form. Ratsansi had guessed the alien to be about his height, now it towered over him and looked nothing like it had. The pale soft skin was gone, replaced with armour and spikes and its eyes glowed dully. There was very little colour and even standing half in the shadows his eyes were drawn to the alien form. It turned towards him and he was fixed in its glare. His breath stopped, his heart hammered in his chest and if he wasn't already sitting he would have collapsed.

Then there was nothing.

Ratansi blinked and the shivers he had been suppressing shook his body. He grasped the edge of his desk as his stomach heaved. "Ancestors forgive me."

Year 374 25th March, Non-Human Territory

"The Var have had a change of government."

The statement didn't even cause a stir of interest amongst the gathered aliens.

"Analysts believe it occurred on the instigation of those in dark space."

That got the attention of the audience and the little rustlings vanished.

"What's the evidence?" The question was the most asked. All of them knew the Var had continued to send forays into dark space. The Var had no idea how to control their people so the information was freely available but this was the first time anyone had heard of the residents of dark space striking back. Ships disappeared without a trace and that was the extent of knowledge that most had about dark space.

"Someone paid several major mercenary groups to stage the coup. Since the cash flow has not come from any known sources and the groups had neither the motivation nor the resources to stage an uprising themselves, it is the only logical explanation."

Interest waned again. So the analysts believed that because they could not track the necessary funds from any known source that those in dark space had broken their silence of centuries and attacked. It would be odd for them. If they could take out Uranus ships then the Var incursions would have been as if a baby was attacking.

But perhaps the baby became annoying.

"Is there anything else?"

"The mercenary leaders themselves report that their benefactor has no interest in ruling Var and has left them to their own devices. That has left the Var in turmoil. They also report that they never saw their employers except at the end of the final battle. One condition was that all Var officials be captured alive. The mercenaries are on public record as executing the commander and others, but one is missing. Due to the turmoil those with borders adjoining Var territory are advised to raise their defences."

Most of the gathered aliens snorted. They had always had strong defences against the Var. Their delusions of Empire were well known and it appeared that someone had gotten sick of their attacks and had done something about it. A bit of uncertainty about the mercenaries benefactors did not equal dark space interference, it just meant that whoever it was, they had been discrete… though… those gathered would make their own inquiries. It might be highly unlikely that dark space's residents had interfered but if they had, then any information was worth seeking.

Year 381 29th December, Var Home World, Non-Human Territory

"Karshim, report!"

"Humph, about what?" The Var snorted. He'd been off Var for the last six years, working for some alien who apparently had the leadership under his thumb and nothing had changed. They were still arrogant prats.

"Don't talk back to me!"

"You no longer have authority over me." The alien had made that clear. His voice was the only one they were to listen to. He'd made that very clear.

"You are on Var! I am the authority here."

The karshim laughed. He'd hated the thought of working for an alien but it wasn't so bad now. The alien demanded perfection but he also rewarded success. Still, the alien had sent him to give Command a summary of what had happened in the last few years. At least… Command would get an abridged version.

"Of course you are the authority here. That's why you sent all the Karshim off to some broken world to do some aliens' bidding."

"Broken world?"

"Pft! The co-ordinates. What did you think they lead to? Paradise? They lead to the remains of some planet."

"Why hadn't we heard of this?"

The Karshim shook his head. "What? You really thought your little spies got left alive? He had them rooted out within a day… their execution, now that took a lot longer." He was deliberately nonchalant as he said it, knowing that the causal tone would be best to set the Var leader on edge. The Karshim might be considered the lowest class on Var and they were all marked with the same physical form but they were just as intelligent, just as strong and watching the leader of those who had cast them out from their home squirm was satisfying. It was more satisfying than the executions… Those had made him sick but had left all the Karshim knowing that the alien was serious and had the power to do what it wanted.

"All right," the Var leader recovered but the Karshim could see how he still trembled and he resisted the urge to laugh. Makishima had said that he had dealt personally with this Leader so the man, with the perfectly groomed tokens of office was nervous. He could see that and the thought sent a little thrill through him. No Karshim had ever held this much power. "What does he have you doing? And surely he's not alone."

"I've only ever seen Makishima and his mate. If you think you could take either of them out, think again. They are both far more powerful than any Var or any weapon we can create. And even if by some miracle we did take them out, he's not alone. I've seen his table set for three but have never seen another. Nor have any Var. We wouldn't even see death coming." The stark reality of his words hit home to the Var leader who no doubt had been hoping for some way to win free of the bargain he had been forced to make.

"As for what he has us doing," the Karshim continued, "we are working, which is more than you ever allowed us to do." He couldn't resist the barb.

"Working? Surely he can't think you can repair the planet!"

The Karshim laughed. "Of course not! He doesn't let us anywhere near that. He doesn't let anyone near that planet and there have been a few probes. It was a class M planet. One of us saw a picture of it once. Blue, verdant. It made Var look like a desert. I don't know how it was destroyed but I know I wouldn't want to be the one responsible."

"So what are you working on?" Even backed into a corner the Var leader recognised that knowledge was power and despite Makishima's threats, which still gave him a shiver, the alien had been as good as his word. He had not appeared much on Var.

"Everything and nothing," the Karshim sighed. "You'll find out soon enough. Though…" eyes narrowed as they assessed the Var leader. "Makishima told you that if we helped him, if we succeed, then the Var will become one of the greatest empires in the galaxy, did he not?"

The Var leader nodded slowly. That had been included somewhere in the threats.

"He wasn't lying."

"What?"

"He wasn't lying," the Karshim repeated. "Why do you think we are working so hard? We will be the greatest empire in the galaxy! And the Var will owe it to the Karshim, to those they threw away! That is our revenge upon you."

It was satisfying to see the Var leader squirm and the Karshim enjoyed it for a few moments before took a deep breath, settling more comfortably into the chair before he got to the real reason he was here. "This is what Makishima wants now…"

Year 408 16th May, New Hungary

"So this is a Uranus," Amniculus mused over the hum of the containment field.

Alkanphel was staring at the glowing being with narrowed eyes, his expression unreadable. Those present did not want to think what memories were going through the Commanders mind. They knew the destruction of Earth, Alkanphel knew far more.

"It is," the golden Zoalord said suddenly. "But it is a young one," he added the qualification.

"Does it make any difference?" Aptom growled.

"Some," Alkanphel replied. "The older ones have more power. Their glow is different."

Imakarum frowned. "How did we capture this one anyway?"

"Their ship skipped a bit too close to our territory," Fukamachi said. "I scooped it up."

"Will they come looking?"

"They didn't last time," Aptom shrugged, looking over at Amniculus. The Zoalord seemed worried but his expression smoothed as he remembered that nothing had happened all those years ago when Fukamachi had destroyed three ships, not just captured one. Uranus didn't seem to be interested in them.

"What are they exactly?" Tetsuro asked, looking up at the glowing form of the alien. It seemed to be nothing more than a bright light streaming around the containment energy.

"It's a Uranus," Imakarum replied.

"That's not what I meant," Tetsuro shook his head. "I know it's a Uranus but what are they exactly? Is there a physical form in all that, or is it just energy?" He directed the question towards Alkanphel.

The oldest Zoalord grimaced, obviously remembering the past. "They are just energy," he spat. "That's why they created us." He added glaring up at the Uranus. "We were meant to be their soldiers."

The commanders listened with interest. Shōel and Imakarum had heard some of this before but listening to Alkanphel's memories added new information and context to their knowledge.

"Human form for times of peace," Alkanphel continued, as if he wasn't aware of his audience, "and battle form of zoanoid for when they needed to fight. We were meant to be perfect for them and we were... With one tiny fault."

"Guyver 0," Shō breathed. He had seen some of this history. The ship beneath Mount Minakami had shown him but it had shown him events, it hadn't shown him reasons or the fact of Uranus.

"Yes," the Supreme Zoalord continued. "Guyver 0. It was an experiment to see what would happen. What happened is that it awoke will! We were meant to be perfect soldiers for them. We were not meant to have a will of our own. That's all that happened. The human realised he was better off fighting for himself and did not want to sacrifice himself for their war."

"And that's why they ran," Tetsuro summarised. "They were afraid the rest of their experiments would have their will awoken."

"Yes," Alkanphel said sadly. "They left, abandoning us."

"What about the asteroid?"

Golden cat like eyes looked down. The asteroid was the cause of much of Alkanphel's pain and his debilitating need for rest, a need which had been healed when Fukamachi had brought him a Guyver Unit years ago. "I don't know if they sent it," he said, "or if they just let natural events continue." It was the truth. Coming as soon as it had after Uranus had abandoned him it was easy to assume they had sent it, trying to destroy their creation but it was possible it had always been there. If Uranus had stayed they would have destroyed it but they didn't stay. He had always wondered and with the events over Earth...

"They definitely destroyed Earth though," Aptom brought up the event that they all remembered. The Hyper Zoanoid was not one to hide from the truth, no matter what it was. "Why did they do that?" he challenged.

"I do not know."

He didn't. No one knew.

"Then let's ask this one," Tetsuro said as if it was the most obvious thought in the world. "After that, we'd better learn how to kill them. If they are energy then it presents several problems."

"How so?" Imakarum asked, his expression faintly thankful that the other Zoalord had changed the subject slightly.

Tetsuro took a deep breath, as if preparing to give them a lecture. "Energy cannot be destroyed. Not the way physical forms can. It can only be transformed, thus if Uranus are energy beings, then our usual weapons won't kill them. They won't even feel them. A Vamore's energy blast might affect one but won't kill it."

"But Shōel's killed them."

"And in hindsight I really don't know how he did it," Tetsuro said, smiling at his friend who shrugged at the obviously questioning look the others directed towards him. It had been so long ago. He remembered tearing into two of the ships, and blasting the third one, and at the time they'd assumed the occupants had died. But what if they hadn't?

Fukamachi wasn't the only one to think that. Aptom stirred, his eyes narrowing as he looked around, as if trying to see energy forms that might attack them at any moment.

"Any Uranus on the third ship were destroyed," Tetsuro said easily. "The energy from the mega-smasher would have forcibly transformed them, so that when it faded, so did they. Any on the first two ships... Those I don't know about."

"So we could have spies?" Amniculus asked.

"Maybe."

"They would have escaped," Alkanphel said. "They weren't capable of teleporting but they were capable of something similar. It's most likely that those on the first two ships transferred to the third and then were consumed."

After the words were absorbed there was a sign of relief from all round once Tetsuro nodded that it was a possible explanation.

"So what do we do with this one?" They came back to the issue at hand.

"My Lord," Tetsuro turned to Alkanphel, his eyes serious. "I request permission to examine the sample for a week, after which I propose that it be executed. My purpose would be to interrogate it for useful information and to determine the most effective methods of elimination." The request was cold and ruthless as was Tetsuro's voice when he spoke. A few of the gathered commanders looked at him sharply, never having seen this side of the man who was the pre-eminent professor in Chronos but none of them refuted his logic or claim.

"Your request is approved though two Zoalords and one Guyver – a real Guyver – are to be present at all times in case the specimen attempts to escape," Alkanphel nodded giving his approval before he rose, his golden eyes hard as he took one last look at the energy that bobbed in the containment field.

He had loved them so.

Year 408 24th May, New Hungary

Five people stood in the room, looking up at the containment field. The light that was trapped within it was a slightly different colour now but only their sharp eyes could detect such a change.

"What did you learn?" Imakarum asked.

"It's only a young one," Tetsuro replied. "So it didn't know much."

"Why did they destroy Earth?" Aptom demanded.

The Japanese man shook his head. "It didn't know."

"Did it know anything of importance?" the Zoanoid Guyver snarled.

Valkus' replacement sighed. "Not really."

"So what did you learn?" Imakarum asked again.

"Only enough to confirm the Var's information. This one just knows nothing. It's not old enough."

"Tell me you learned how to kill them?" Aptom growled, his teeth showing. The Var were providing their own information, whoring themselves out to the galaxy but as far as he was concerned, so long as they could kill Uranus, they had nothing to fear from the others.

"That I learned," Tetsuro confirmed looking over at Alkanphel.

The Supreme Lord of Chronos had given him the week of research that he'd asked for and had not visited in that time. Instead the Zoalord had left after their previous meeting and Tetsuro was reliably informed that the ancient had not been in a good mood. Imakarum wasn't able to calm him but Shōel had, though the battle left them both bruised from combat. Mizuki had been annoyed at having to heal them both. Still, the fight had allowed Chronos' leader to sort through his emotions though neither combatant had said who won. Tetsuro's lips quirked gently. Ever since Alkanphel had gotten his Unit and the delicate process of merging it with his Zoalord form was complete, neither Fukamachi nor the Supreme Zoalord ever announced who won their occasional bouts. Brown eyes flicked to his friend... He didn't think Shō lost but that was not the point here.

"It is not so much a matter of killing them," he continued, elaborating for the others. "I said last week that energy cannot be destroyed but it can be transformed. If we wish to kill Uranus then that is what we shall have to do."

"How?" Aptom didn't care about the details, he just needed to know how to kill them.

"That will vary," Chronos' scientist said. "Zoanoids are not going to be able to do it. Guyver's might be able to, though they will have to possess good control over their Units. Energy Hyper-Zoanoid types should be capable of it and of course all Zoalords will be able to."

"How?" Aptom growled.

"Aptom," Tetsuro said with a long suffering sigh though he was smiling, "I'm getting to that."

"So energy types will have the most success," Imakarum leapt to the obvious conclusion.

Tetsuro nodded. "I think a Zektoll type would be best. When they fire their final strike they absorb energy from the surrounding environment. If a Uranus was a part of that environment…" He let the statement trail off, the implications were obvious to all.

"We don't want to kill the Zektoll types though," Shō objected.

"I can make some modifications. They have the ability to absorb energy, it's just a matter of linking that in to one of their more regular weapons."

"They will not remain motionless," Alkanphel's statement was soft but they all heard it.

"I thought about that my Lord," Tetsuro replied glibly. He was seldom at a loss for words and always had the answers but it was his job to be the one who pioneered new ideas and he was very good at it. Even if Tetsuro could not solve the problem himself, his team invariably helped and he was honest about rewarding those who had come up with the solutions. Not every idea was his and thus his helpers gave their all with their assistance, knowing that if the idea was theirs, then so was the reward. "Containment fields like this one are not portable enough, but we don't need to trap them for long, only long enough for their energy to be transformed and their consciousness removed."

Sharp nods greeted his words.

"Shō, your Grampus now carry two pilots, don't they?" Tetsuro asked, already knowing the answer.

"One to pilot and one to shield or attack," the original Guyver Zoalord nodded his reply. They had improved them over the years, and Yentsui had learned to fly one himself while attacking but it still required three Grampus to make the dimensional blades. It was far easier with two Zoanoids on board, and while any Zoanoid could pilot, the second one had been created specifically for the Grampus. It could generate shields or other attacking options.

"That shield, it can hold a Uranus. Can they generate it without the Grampus?"

Shō's eyes widened as he realised what Tetsuro was suggesting, then his expression became thoughtful. "I think so, though they will need practice and… My Lord," Shō turned towards Alkanphel, "are any of the older Uranus larger?"

"I do not think so," Alkanphel said after a moment to search his thoughts. "Assume that they are and assume that they are more powerful," he added the contradiction but it was one in line with their philosophy to always be over prepared for an attack by Uranus. They would be over prepared when the reverse was true.

"So… is there anything else this thing can tell us," Aptom asked, holding up one hand to theatrically allow small discharges of energy to arc between his fingers.

"No," Tetsuro's smile was grim. "It's already given me all the codes to its ship. I should be able to duplicate it so that we can test the strength of Zaonoids against them." He could never forget that taking out Uranus was their ultimate goal.

"Then is there any reason it's still alive?"

Before anyone could answer, Alkanphel moved forward, staring up at the Uranus. It actually seemed to respond and the brilliant ball of light moved within the containment field to hover opposite the supreme zoalord. Long minutes passed as he stared. "Does it recognise us?" The question came eventually.

"It knows who we are, yes," Tetsuro confirmed quietly.

Alkanphel stared for a few minutes more, his eyes unreadable before he turned and strode to the door. "Imakarum, with me. Tetsuro, I want your full report tomorrow. Aptom, kill it and Fukamachi, stay with him to make sure it does not escape." With that the supreme zoalord swept from the room, Imakarum a close second behind him.

Tetsuro looked over at his friends before he sighed. "I'd better get to it," he said resisting the urge to shudder at the way Aptom was grinning. He was Chronos' executioner and perhaps he enjoyed that role too much. Shō had settled into a chair, his eyes hooded as he watched Aptom, whose hands were glowing with energy, with his black eyes alight with an unholy glow. Only Fukamachi had ever seen Aptom at his worst and the older Segawa suspected that only Shō could love the man when he was at his most vicious, vindictive and brutal. He had come a long way from the innocent teen on earth but it did make Tetsuro shudder at the thought of what Fukamachi's never seen dark side must be like. "I'll tell Mizuki you won't be home tonight," he said as he left and was thanked by Shō's gracious nod before the door slid closed and the locks on both sides engaged.

It took the Uranus a very long time to die.

Year 431 27th June, Erin Home World, Non-Human Territory

"I don't believe they won another contract! Why doesn't the Presidium just hand them the keys to the treasury!"

"You're kidding me?" Asrin looked over at her friend.

"I wish I was," Pyema growled sinking into the chair beside Asrin and taking a gulp of the drink in front of him, "but the announcement just came through. Varth Enterprises. won yet another contract."

"They're alien! Does the Presidium care nothing for us?"

"They're cheap… You remember Naju?"

Asrin frowned. "Vaguely. We didn't exactly get along."

"Doesn't matter," Pyema dismissed it. "She's an official for the Presidium now and apparently got a look at the proposal."

That got Asrin's attention and she put her drink down, focusing on what Pyema was saying. It was an old complaint that Varth Enterprises was winning contracts but it was a true complaint. They'd come out of nowhere about forty years ago and were now a major galactic corporation but no one knew exactly who was behind them. Even if most of the workers were Var, the Var disowned them.

"She said that their prices were at least twenty per cent below the other tenders."

"That's not possible!" Asrin gasped. She'd worked on her company's proposal for this tender and they'd already cut their profits to the bone. It just wasn't possible to do the work as cheap as Varth Enterprises apparently priced it. "Did they put in for bonus or extras?" That was the only way they might be able to do it… if they undercut the normal operational price but made up for it with extra works.

Pyema took another long swig. "Naju didn't say but I doubt it."

"Then how the hell are they making a profit?" Asrin took up Pyema's lament. Her company didn't need the Contract but it would have been nice. If they didn't win the work, they expected to lose out to Matex, Iridu or Abeco, their main competitors. And the one important trait that they all shared was that they were Erin! All of them. To lose to an alien corporation… Varth Enterprises… That was fast becoming an insult. Slowly Asrin shook her head. "I don't care what they say, there is no way Varth can be doing this… they have to be subsidised."

Pyema looked over at his friend. "You know full well the Var Government disavows all knowledge of Varth Enterprises and they presented their books to the Stellar Inquiry. There was no subsidy found, despite what everyone wanted."

Varth Enterprises had been spreading through every alien territory it could. It had been slow at first but now, if you were in industry, then you would have heard of them, or dealt with them. Their prices were cheap, their goods, while not the best quality, were acceptable and their shipping was fast. All in all they seemed to be a perfect company. But that was the problem. They were too cheap and they expanded too fast and they took contracts from locals. No one had ever met the CEO, though they'd met deputies and it had become one of the greatest mysteries of the galaxy… almost as good as Dark Space.

"How are they doing it then?" Asrin demanded, downing the last of her drink and reaching for another. After news like this, she needed another.

"I heard a rumour once but no one's been able to verify it for me."

"What?"

"You know on Tethan they had the cleaning contract in the Senate?"

"Of course I know!" Asrin looked amused. "It was a huge scandal to find a Var in the Senate building who then turns out to be a contract cleaner! Who knows what secrets he stole!"

"Well… they couldn't prove anything, could they and the cleaner was fully cleared for the work… but anyway, I heard a rumour about that. It didn't make much sense but I heard that the guy in charge of that contract was living in the slums."

"What?"

Pyema took a drink before answering. "I know. But think about it. Let's say it wasn't a rumour, let's say it was the truth. What if Varth barely pays their employees? We know they aren't slaves… that came out at the Stellar Inquiry but no one ever said how much they paid their workers."

"They couldn't!" Asrin objected. "Who'd work for a company like that? And surely someone would have blabbed from the Stellar Inquiry."

Her companion was quiet for a moment. The Stellar Inquiry had been over twenty years ago, when Varth Enterprises was relatively small but had been an up and coming power. "I don't think so," he said slowly. "Remember the Stellar Inquiry operated under the rules they all do. Total secrecy in regards to corporate matters… or no one would present their books. And so long as Varth was paying its employees, the Inquiry wouldn't have said how much it was."

"All right," Asrin allowed. "Let's say that's true, that Varth barely pay their employees… Why do they stay with Varth? Some of them must have skills that would get them employed elsewhere."

"That is the question," Pyema agreed. "But there is a rumour from Barseron…"

"And how do you know about every rumour regarding Varth?" Asrin asked shrewdly.

"I've been looking into them. Your Melso company might not have needed that contract… Iridu did."

"Oh ancestors! Pyema, I'm sorry! I didn't think… will you be okay?"

"I should be," he replied. "I'm working on other contracts… but it's one of the reasons I was looking into Varth…"

"What happened in Barseron?" Asrin asked trying to distract her friend. There really was nothing she could do about Iridu.

"It's only a rumour mind… It's always policy to take care of aliens… except on the truly mixed worlds. Barseron's not a mixed world though… and a Var apparently collapsed. It was delirious with hunger and before they managed to get some food into it, it was raving about how starvation was the only way they could be free. When it recovered, it denied everything… but you know as well as I do that most Var on alien worlds are Varth employees and we don't know who is in control of Varth."

Her eyes had gone wide. "You're not serious!" Iridu might be in a tight spot but that was no reason for Pyema to give credence to those old rumours! "Dark space is dark space! They have no need to take over the Var."

Pyema gave her a look, one she recognised from old that told her not to make assumptions just because everyone else did. Then he took another long pull from his drink. "I know," he said softly. "But Varth… There is…They are just… wrong somehow. If you'd heard what I heard…"

Asrin blinked. This was not the Pyema she knew. His voice was too soft, too serious and she gulped the last of her drink. "All right," she said, equally softly, "I'll look into it." As she rose later, long after the conversation with Pyema to go to a sleeping chamber, Asrin was surprised at herself to realise she had meant it. She would look into Varth because even if it was rumour and innuendo, Pyema was right… There was… something about it and she was tired of Melso losing contracts to them.

Year 512 3rd March, Earth Remains

Makishima looked at the view screen with a hard smile. Around him the Var quivered with fear, thinking that they'd failed but he was relieved. It was finally time!

:Shizu!: he reached out. He had refused to be fully processed as a zoanoid but he had allowed his telepathic abilities to be increased. It made co-ordination with his wife much easier.

:It's time?: she questioned, the information he saw already flowing to her.

:It is… It is time the galaxy found us. Though there are five ships incoming… and we only need one as a messenger.:

:Yes, Agito,: her voice came to him and he heard her smile. Shizu had become less subservient over the years and while she still deferred to him in most things, that did not preclude her having an opinion. It seemed she was as tired of the charade as he was.

"Prepare the defences," Makishima instructed aloud, startling the Var who had no doubt been expecting punishment. The galaxy did not know his face or form but they knew him as the CEO of Varth Enterprises. Varth was mostly the Karshim Var working for him and over time they had spread to every part of the galaxy. Even those territories not usually open to aliens had eventually welcomed his corporation and their cheap prices.

It had not been easy work and it had taken more than a century but they were ready. The Var had collected information about every species, their abilities, their territory, their strengths and their weaknesses. Humans had the star charts to everywhere… including what the Uranus claimed as their territory and Varth was the most powerful multi-territorial corporation in the galaxy… And those behind it cared for none of it. It was a farce, a necessity created to gain information though Agito knew, even once humans struck out, he'd still maintain the corporation.

Alkanphel would most likely rule, but he, Makishima Agito would control the galaxy business community. The Zoalords, the Rebels… none of them would ever know the power he had over them… not until it was too late. But for now, he needed to pursue the plan. With a superior smirk Agito looked over at the Var who had remained near him. The creature cringed and he let himself chuckle.

"It is time to be found," he announced. "One of these ships must survive… pick one," the instruction was whimsical.

The Var shuddered and Agito didn't even pause to think what was going on in its mind but shakily it raised a hand pointing towards one of the ships. "Very good," he praised the alien before issuing the order. "The second ship from the right shall be our messenger. All others are expendable."

:I'll make it look good,: Shizu promised as she sped out from her hiding position. The ships appeared to be of Erin design, which suited them well enough. The Erin were a commercially orientated species but they were not so tight with information that they would not share their findings with the galaxy and from Varth, they knew that there was interest in their section of space. The ruins of a planet, ruthlessly defended by an unknown being would generate more interest and might even bring a Uranus here. While that would be a good outcome it was not what they wanted. They merely wanted the ruins of Earth to be seen by the galaxy. The knowledge would help with their coming assault and so for the last few years, the careful mis-direction that the Karshim engaged in when coming into Earth Territory had been dropped, until one of their competitors had taken the bait and followed a Karshim ship back.

They probably only thought they'd find some space station that was the headquarters of Varth... The ruins of a planet... now that was completely new. The Ark was carefully hidden and would remain that way. Follow up expeditions would be allowed to land on the ruins of Earth. They would be allowed to find evidence of human civilisation. Even any Uranus that came would be allowed to leave and that would just increase the mystery surrounding the leadership of Varth.

It was all a game within a game and the opening move required Shizu to appear to lose a battle with these ships. At least they were armed. It would have been difficult to pretend if they weren't armed.

Shizu picked out her first target and fired an energy beam at it. It was satisfying when the energy cut through the vessel but she realised she would have to be careful. They were weaker than she thought. Tetsuro had reprocessed her centuries back, making her into a full Zoalord and the weaknesses in her form left by Hekkering were removed. She was as proficient in long distance fighting as any other Zoalord and her close combat ability was markedly improved. So for the moment she had better pretend that the energy beam was a one shot deal.

The surviving ships turned towards her and Shizu flared her hair blades and reinforced her talons as she charged towards them, carelessly dodging the hail of energy they sent towards her. As she flashed passed the ships she spun, her talons and head blades cutting long diagonal gashes in the hull of the leading ship. Three ships wheeled, attempting to track her while the one she had damaged spiralled out of control.

:Leave it,: Agito's voice came to her. :It will impact on Earth,: he added the reason. So long as the ship was destroyed it did not matter.

The last three ships kept firing at her and while the energy was too weak to truly hurt her, she deliberately allowed a few shots to impact on her energy shield. It flared, throwing her back which hid the fact that she was unharmed but she recovered and charged again. This time the ships tried to dodge her but one met the same fate as its fellow. The two other ships used the opportunity to converge and Shizu appeared to be battered, allowing the energy to toss her through space haphazardly. With a move designed to look desperate she fired her energy beam towards the vessel chosen to survive. It was a glancing blow and the ship shuddered and fires broke out but it did not explode. It could still fly and without looking back, as if she was confident that the damaged ship was finished she charged towards the last vessel, spinning to meet it head on. Her blades cut into last ship and Shizu's powered her shields to their maximum as she brought herself to a halt in the centre of the ship.

Around her fired flared and the ship groaned. To the damaged ship, the one that would limp its way out of the system with the information about the ruined planet, her move had looked suicidal. She had taken the last vessel but it had taken her. No doubt they were already thanking whatever worthless deities they worshipped. Now all she had to do was wait for them to leave.

:Brilliant! Absolutely perfect!: Agito praised her and she could feel the jubilation in his voice. The words were expected for the successful completion of the first stage of Chronos' plan but Shizu could feel the deeper meaning. The first step of Agito's plan was also completed by her actions and that gave her the most pleasure.

On the bridge of the Ark, Agito looked at the Var who stared at the screen. Shizu had been magnificent! A perfect display of power with just the right hint of weakness to make the fleeing vessel think that it had escaped by sheer luck. "Send the message to Varth," he ordered, ignoring the way the Var stared. By now they should be used to these little displays of power. "We are moving to the alternate contact point and full defensive protocols are once more in effect."

"But sir! Your planet!" One objected and black eyes narrowed as Makishima turned on the speaker... "Your wife!" the Var belatedly said, as if realising which one Agito held with more respect.

His smile was thin. "Proceed to the secondary contact point," he instructed. "Shizu shall meet us there."

"But..."

"You question me?"

"No sir!" Suddenly self-preservation was more important than the Var's objections. "I am sorry that your planet has been discovered," the alien said in an attempt to mollify Agito.

"All is as planned," the dark guyver said as he stalked away, his eyes glittering.

Everything was as he had planned.

Year 512 22nd June, Non-Human Territory

"As can be seen, this planet was inhabited before its destruction." The statement accompanied various shots of detritus, some of which was adorned with language but most of the aliens listening didn't care. The information they wanted had not yet been revealed.

"The main inhabitants were bipedal and from evidence collected appeared to have various skin and fur colourations. It is unclear if this was the result of breeding or if it had any social implications. Scans of the debris found by the Erin show that they were familiar with nuclear energy, though there is the possibility they used it as a weapon." Images accompanied the words, showing the natives. They appeared to come in a wide variety of colours and shapes as the lecturer suggested.

The gathered dignitaries shook their heads. The lecture on this unknown species was part of an annual social gathering of Heads of State. While the informal council helped to keep the peace, this gathering hammered out much of the reality of galactic politics. The CEO's of the major galactic companies were present as well, completing the list of important dignitaries, though this year, one was conspicuous with their absence. Varth's CEO had never personally appeared at these functions but once Varth as a company had grown large enough to be invited, they had always sent a representative.

The fact that they hadn't this year was lending credence to the rumours that Varth had far more interest and knowledge of the planet that had been found. It was rumoured that the CEO of Varth had made his headquarters there. Someone had since the Erin scout ships that had found the planet had been destroyed. All but one which had pitifully limped its way back to the safety of Erin space. Yet when follow up probes had been sent... nothing had been found.

"Evidence suggests that the destruction of the planet was within the last millennia. Further to the find..."

"Enough!" A voice cut through the droning lecture and all were surprised to see a Uranus glowing on the edge of the stage. "Enough!" The ancient creature repeated and the gathered dignitaries watched. If the Uranus had something to say about this planet... That was something they all would hear. The Uranus were a peaceful race but every other race knew they were beholden to them. They were the undisputed leaders of the galaxy.

"The planet was named Earth. The bipedal race called themselves humans."

"You knew them?" This was news!

"We did," the Uranus continued. "They were an industrialised but pre-space faring race. The planet was destroyed some five hundred years ago, so we must ask that you honour the dead and leave them in peace."

"Sir, how was the planet destroyed?"

"An asteroid strike."

"Surely they saw it coming! And if they had nuclear facilities… they could have tried to strike it."

The Uranus seemed to radiate sadness. "It was too large."

"With respect sir, why did you let it hit? From the scans of the debris the planet was Class M, in the first tier. It was an incredibly valuable world." As expected the question came from the Erin but others nodded. The potential of the planet was staggering… if it had of survived… its biosphere… Such a waste. Now all it was good for was resources. Though… why had no one found the planet until now… Had Varth really protected it?

"We do not interfere with the natural course of events," the Uranus said. "The loss of life is regrettable, and even if they saw the asteroid coming, they did not possess weapons of magnitude to destroy it. Imagine if we had of interfered… They were advanced enough to have known and suddenly a young race would be unleashed upon the galaxy… No. It is difficult but it was better this way. Call it fate, destiny, whatever you will… To die was their fate."

Most races nodded, saddened by the truth but heeding the Uranus' warning in its tone.

"Sir, do you think Varth protected the planet remains?"

"Varth… Earth…" the Uranus mused. "The similarity in names would suggest a relationship but as Varth Enterprises is almost completely composed of Var, I think it merely a co-incidence. The Var were not a space faring race when the humans died." The logic was impeccable but the Uranus wasn't finished speaking. "I recognise that many of you will wish to mine the resources from the planet remains, so I offer the services of the Uranus to help determine if anything is dangerous and that there is no disturbance of human remains beyond scientific exploration. The dead deserve that much respect."

There were nods from the gathered dignitaries. While most would take up the Uranus' offer, that wouldn't stop them from harvesting a little bit extra. The humans may have been pre-space but they might have had ideas which were useful. Until you looked, that possibility could not be dismissed.

Year 514 4th April, Terra Nova

Alkanphel watched as the ships rose into the air, forming great V shapes, reminiscent of those formed by migrating fowl on earth. Below him, ranks upon ranks of Zoanoids were drawn up, each legion lead by a proto-Guyver or a Hyper Zoanoid. In the distance there was cheering, though the soldiers were silent. Gathered around him, in full ceremonial armour was the entire Circle.

They formed a magnificent sight; as well they should for this spectacle. It was the launch of the great army, those that would avenge Earth, those who would wrest the galaxy from Uranus, who would tell the creators that the creations would not bow. The image of them, watching their forces rise would be broadcast to every planet in their territory. All humans would all know that this was the beginning!

"I still think we should have captured an older Uranus over Earth," Aptom grumbled, though his expression remained positive.

"You know we couldn't," Alkanphel heard Shō retort. It lacked the cold that usually graced Fukamachi's voice when he wore his Zoalord robes so the boy was becoming better at integrating his roles. The extreme change with costume was rather disconcerting at times.

"Sure we could have. We just had to grab one."

"Aptom, there were others watching."

The Hyper-Zoanoid growled softly. "I know," he said, "and they should never have been allowed near our planet."

Internally Alkanphel was surprised at the sentiment the Zoanoid Guyver was showing. He would never have expected the gruff man to be so attached to their home world.

"We will take back every piece they have dared to remove," Shō said in the voice he reserved for strict announcements as a Zoalord. Perhaps he had further to go with integration than Alkanphel believed. "But it was necessary."

"I know," Aptom sighed eventually and fell silent but the Supreme Lord of Chronos knew that he was probably continuing to discuss things with Fukamachi. He was going to have to watch those two carefully. Aptom's vices were well known, Shō's were less so but he was not blind to the times when the two of them indulged. The captured Uranus was just one example… Perhaps Mizuki could help. The woman would at least keep them focused on Uranus and that would be enough.

The troops on the ground began moving, boarding their transports and Alkanphel nodded regally every now and then. It was expected. The forces were a mixed bunch and above the grampus squadrons flew. Mixed in with the troops were specialised teams. They consisted of modified Zektoll-type Hyper-Zoanoids with two advanced and combat adjusted Grampus Weapons Zoanoids. They were the teams who would capture and execute any Uranus they discovered. The two Grampus Zoanoids would hold the energy being, the modified Zektoll types would harvest the energy. Their guards, usually a mix of Zoanoid types would keep any mundane attacks away while this happened.

It was the quickest and cleanest way Tetsuro had devised to kill a Uranus. Compared to what some of his Lords would do, it would be an easy death. He felt a passing regret for those who would die at Aptom or Fukamachi's hands but nothing further. The Uranus had brought this upon themselves and he couldn't stop it now.

The Circle continued to watch as the troops were loaded. This scene was being repeated on every planet they had colonised and soon Alkanphel's commanders would disperse to take up positions at the head of each army. He raised his face, looking up at the sky, as if trying to see through the billions of miles into Uranus territory. What had they told him, the first time they had left Earth? The words drifted out of memory, soft and gentle in tone but bitter in meaning. : We are sorry Alkanphel, you are too young to know these kinds of things.:

The Supreme Zoalord closed his eyes as he took a deep breath. Slowly he opened his eyes, golden iris' glittering as he continued to stare at the sky. "I am sorry, Uranus… We could not be children forever."

Year 514 5th April, Targum Border, Non-Human Territory

"Unknown vessels, heave too! You are illegally entering the sovereign territory of the Targum! We will fire if you continue!" Captain Jarva of the border patrol was hard pressed not to scream the order, despite his years of experience. Before him lay hundreds… thousands of ships… all of a design he had never seen before… And they did not respond to hails.

"Targum border patrol," the words flooded the comm system and the entire crew of his little ship shuddered. Whoever the speaker was they sounded powerful and an image flickered to the screen. It was an alien but one they had never seen before. They were pale but had dark fur on the top of its head and bright cloth seemed to cover it below its face. "The sovereign territory of Targum is acknowledged and we have no desire to fight you. You will however stand aside or we will destroy you."

"What!?" Jarva demanded. This upstart alien was demanding that he stand aside… from his own border!

"I'll be honest with you, Captain," the alien said and even though the words were almost perfect Jarva could hear the alien's mounting frustration. It did nothing to sooth him. "I have a battle appointment on the far side of the galaxy. It makes no difference to me if I go through you and your armies or you stand aside. In fact…" the alien's voice took on a note of speculation. "It would be better for me if you fight… it would blood my troops."

"I am Captain Jarva of the Targum Border Patrol! We do not let upstart aliens pass!"

"That's your final word?" Regret tinged the alien's tone which set Jarva's teeth on edge.

"That is my only word!"

The comm line blinked out. "Stand ready!" Jarva ordered his crew. It was the last thing he ever said, the last thought on his mind because as the final word left his mouth, his patrol vessel exploded into molten slag. It had been hit by an energy beam so intense nothing the Targum possessed could have stopped it.

At the head of the invading fleet, Mirabilis sighed as he looked into the distance. He hoped the other aliens listened to reason.

Year 514 5th April, Erin Border, Non-Human Territory

Sala of Abeco Corporation currently wished that they were not in charge of Erin Border security. Their ships were more than adequate for dealing with Var who couldn't hope to match their technology. They were adequate for dealing with Hirotes providing that it wasn't Hirotes military but that wasn't an issue since their border had been stable for generations on that side. And the reinforced squads that patrolled the Erin border with the Janng seldom ran into trouble.

The ships before her were not Janng. They were not Hirotes and they most definitely weren't Var. They almost seemed organic in nature and they were spread out as far as their sensors could reach but while they could sense the ships, they could not get a read on anything internal to them. Put simply they had no idea whose ships they were or what was on them… and she had to challenge them.

Yet before she could the comms squawked with an incoming signal.

"Erin border forces, this is Varth Enterprises fleet five niner, requesting permission to enter Erin space. We are transmitting our clearance codes now."

To say Sala was surprised would be an understatement but with some semblance of normality she managed to look down at the Comms crew. They looked as shocked as she did but they were doing their jobs. After a few long moments that seemed to stretch one of them turned his head towards her. "The codes check, Ma'am. They even have the permit to bring a fleet of that size into our territory."

"You mean to tell me those are merchant vessels?" Sala had seen a lot of transport vessels in her life and the ships outside met none of those memories. Sure, they were large enough for cargo shuttles but they were also large enough for troop carriers and there was something in them… in the way they moved. Cargo shuttles were ponderous in flight, these were too smooth. This fleet had not been assembled for trade.

"Their idents say they are," the Comms officer said, though the trace in his voice confirmed her suspicious.

"Varth Enterprises Fleet five niner," Sala ordered the transmission line opened. "Please be patient, it's taking us some time to check so many idents. What is your final destination?" They'd already checked the idents but she needed time to consider her actions.

"We are transporting goods for the Uranus. Proof of contract is enclosed." Whoever the Varth Comms officer was, they did not seem upset at being told to wait and with their glib reply they seemed to be ready for any question.

"Uranus…" Sala breathed. Since when did the Uranus order anything from anyone? They were the most advanced race in the galaxy. They needed nothing. Her look to her crew was instruction enough and they began pulling apart the contract proof.

More minutes passed leaving Sala nothing to do but look at the vast fleet stretched out before her. If they were hostile they could have rolled straight through. If she attempted to stop them… they'd probably do just that. Even if they were merchant shuttles, her little fleet could not hope to take out that many ships.

"Ma'am," her crew called. "Believe it or not, the contract proof looks to be legit. We've run it through every system we can think of and it seems to be an official contract issued by the Presidium… Just like their permits."

Sala nodded. That meant either one of two things. Either their contracts and permits were completely legitimate or… They possessed the best forging abilities in the galaxy. Both scenarios could be true. Though… There was one further possibility but she did not wish to think that the Presidium had been that thoroughly compromised.

"Varth Enterprises Fleet five niner, thank you for your patience. Welcome to Erin," Sala greeted them with words she'd spoken a hundred times before. "Please keep to your assigned space lane and may your contract bring profit."

"Thank you Erin Border Forces," came the clipped voice of the Varth Fleet Comms officer before the fleet began a delicate ballet reforming itself as it streamed into Erin space.

Sala watched, her heart cold, as her suspicions were practically confirmed by the manoeuvre. It was too well choreographed. Only military vessels moved like that. "Send a priority burst message to the Presidium and to Abeco Command. Tell them what is happening here." She shuddered. "And suggest, in the strongest possible terms, that we stay out of the way."

As she watched the alien ships moved passed her Sala gulped. She'd dodged a bullet here.

Year 514 5th April, Janng Border, Non-Human Territory

"Sir, we are coming up on the Janng Border. Sensors indicate ships moving to intercept us."

Shō nodded towards the Zoanoid who had given him the notification as he turned toward the main view screen. The information Makishima had collected with his corporation was impressive. They had knowledge of every space lane and the strength of every alien fleet. More importantly, they knew the most direct routes to Uranus territory. Except he wasn't on his way there. Alkanphel had given him different orders and he was not happy. It was only a small consolation that Aptom was accompanying him and the Zoanoid Guyver was equally unhappy, as evidenced by his stiffly correct stance at Shō's side.

Still, it would not do to take out his anger on the Zoanoids of his command. It was not their fault and the one consolation Shō had was the absolute certainty that he could catch up to the forces heading towards Uranus space. For now though he had to head to the location of the council. With everything that was happening, the aliens would no doubt call a Council meeting and he was to be there.

Alkanphel wanted him to announce their presence and species to the galaxy! As if the hundreds of ships streaming across every border would not announce them. The Supreme Zoalord wanted to give the aliens warning to stay out of their way. It was a stupid warning. It was an honourable warning, one he might have given on Earth but Shō recognised a different reality now. At least some of the races would side with Uranus… At least they would until they recognised the reality of this war and there would be only one way to teach the aliens that… Demonstrate!

"Aptom, if you would please," Shō gave the instruction as his brown eyes narrowed focusing on the fleet displayed before him.

:You're sure?: While Aptom's mental tone showed his willingness to comply, he questioned the violence Fukamachi was ordering.

:I'm sure that the best way to get our message across is demonstration,: the words were coldly savage and the hyper-zoanoid could feel Shō's frustration.

"By your command," Aptom replied aloud, bowing slightly before he disappeared. The zoanoids on the bridge didn't even blink. They were too used to the power their commanders displayed.

Aptom appeared in the midst of the Janng vessels, his electro whips already flashing around him to tear through the ships. It wasn't a fight. A fight would mean that the Janng had a chance. It was slaughter and the sight of it did nothing to calm Shō. Two minutes later Aptom reappeared at his side.

"Thank you," Shō said with strict formality and the fleet continued on.

:Shō…: Aptom said the name tentatively.

:Aptom,: came the reply and the hyper-zoanoid felt his eyes widen slightly. He was looking at Commander Fukamachi of Chronos but at least some of the inflections in his voice were that of Shō. It was like the two were mixed. :You can relax. I recognise you for what you are.:

:Shō?:

:Must I spell it out?: the words were purely Commander Fukamachi. :You are my bed mate, my lover, my confidant. You are one who holds the dark at bay.:

:No,: he objected. :That's Mizuki!:

Shō turned slightly to look up at him and Aptom saw that his brown eyes were hard. :My Lady wife helps but she has not seen the truth of the dark. She is too gentle and does not know the pain that is its reality. Only you have. Only you can.:

:We will feed each other.:

:Perhaps,: Fukamachi allowed. :But you are the reason I have not torn Alkanphel apart for his orders.: Accompanying Shō's words was the certainty that he could do just that and the hyper-zoanoid caught a flash of memory. Alkanphel and Shō occasionally sparred but no one ever knew the outcome but if that memory was not tainted by arrogance, then the result seemed assured.

:How?: Aptom asked curiously. He wasn't the most calming of presences.

While nothing changed outwardly Shō seemed to soften. :Because there is a better than even chance that there will be an elder Uranus at the Council meeting… and I do so enjoy watching you work.:

It was only because they were on the bridge of the command ship that Aptom didn't jump at Shō right there. He'd never seen Fukamachi display that depth of lust. As it was his eyes glittered and a faint smirk flashed across his features with the hint of promise. Slowly the hyper-zoanoid licked his lips and surreptitiously one tendril snaked its way up and around the command chair in a gesture he never would have dared in the past to stroke at Shō's lower back. The soft crease of Fukamachi's lips was his answer and with the façade of normality Aptom returned to his statue like post at his Commander's side.

Year 514 8th April, Non-Human Territory

"What the hell is going on?"

The usually quiet meeting of the informal council of species was charged today. The reason was obvious and displayed on many screens. A ship with a rounded hull and smooth lines. Below it what pitiful information the galaxy's species had about the ship was displayed.

Design: Unknown.
Species: Unknown.
Purpose: Unknown.

"It is a most baffling situation," the Uranus agreed, its voice oddly fluted.

"Looking at the times of their appearance, even with adjustments for galactic standard time, it doesn't make any sense sir," one analyst said. "There is no pattern to their order of appearance so I can't track them back to their point of origin."

The Uranus seemed unconcerned though the statement did nothing to calm the nerves of the gathered diplomats. The leading theory was that the fleets had come out of Dark Space… yet no one could prove it beyond some anecdotal evidence. The lack of vapour trails being one often touted reason… but it was flimsy at best. All military vessels suppressed their emissions and these were military vessels of the highest order.

"What about the battles we fought? Is there any pattern to that?" All races were reporting that there had been some pitched battles though whether they were space or terrestrial, they had all ended the same way with the unknown alien's total victory. Then to add insult to injury some places they abandoned, others their forces lingered, vengefully holding their captured territory against all comers.

"There is no pattern," the analyst shook its head slowly, "though it is confusing the space lanes."

"Has anyone spoken to them?" The Janng ambassador demanded. As far as they could tell their border patrol hadn't even managed to get the traditional warning off before they were destroyed.

A few ambassadors nodded though most were quick to amend that the conversation had been short.

"We did," the Erin said finally. "The fleet that entered our territory transmitted full merchant codes, complete with permits from the Presidium authorising their passage."

Hard eyes turned to the Erin and the ambassador recognised the threat. "The Presidium did not authorise their passage!" He was quick to add.

"That is most troubling," the Uranus said, its voice thoughtful.

The Erin ambassador said nothing. There were a few further notes about the encounter at their border… like the fact that the ships supposedly had a contract with the Uranus but he had been ordered to remain quiet about that. There was something deeper being played here. Any idiot could see it.

"We need to unite and strike at them!" The Ratarai ambassador almost screamed.

"Strike at what?" came the counter. Fleets that big should not have been as elusive as they were yet no one had been able to track them. It was the randomness of everything that was confusing. The border patrols had been decimated but other softer, easier targets, targets that would have had significant military significance, they had been left alone. Such variance in aggression made no sense.

"Uranus, please! Do you know them?" the question was desperate.

"We have never seen ships of this type before," the response was prompt.

"Can you help us?" Most knew better than to ask the Uranus for help. The ancient race was willing to mediate disputes but they would go no further. They did not police the galaxy and they did not interfere with anything. They kept to their territory.

The Uranus was quiet for several long moments and the gathered ambassadors turned to watch it. The question should have been answered instantaneously. There should have been no hesitation. There never had been in the past. But there had never been a situation like this.

"We will... consider it."

Relief flooded the room.

"Then who is going to help you?" There was a bitter note of challenge in the voice.

It took a moment for the ambassadors to realise that none of them had spoken and instinctively they turned to the voice. Recoil was visible and disbelief flashed through the gathered dignitaries. Two figures stood just inside the entry but they recognised them. Humans... a race that was dead. Those standing close to the Uranus were the first to notice it shift. That wasn't unusual by itself but the way the humans kept their eyes trained on the glowing ancient was. Most newcomers were fascinated by the ancient race. The humans seemed... they seemed pleased at its presence.

"Who are you?" No matter how surprised the dignitaries where, they knew their job and the demand came a moment later. The two humans strode further into the room and it seemed odd that the smaller more delicate one took the lead but perhaps that was human culture. The second one moved behind him, taller, broader of shoulder with his eyes covered by some black lens.

For long moments it seemed that the alien would not answer but then it appeared to smile and when it spoke its voice was rich and strong, the very embodiment of power. "My name is Commander Fukamachi of Chronos Corporation." The human looked around while his hulking companion never took his eyes off the Uranus. "I believe you would better know us as the parent company of Varth Enterprises."

Silence greeted the proclamation then there was an outcry! Many turned to the Var ambassador. While it had been demonstrated many times, the fact remained that most Varth employees were Var. Surely they had known something... Except the ambassador's stare was vacant and just as shocked as the rest of them.

"Human!" the Uranus hissed and there was a frightening note of hatred in its voice, a note none of the diplomats had ever heard.

Fukamachi didn't appear surprised at it as he swung his red brown eyes back to the glowing being. "Indeed. I am touched that you remember us, Creator."

"What?" The scream was almost universal but trailed away to nothing.

With the humans declaration the Uranus had done the unthinkable. Energy flashed out from its being, lancing towards Fukamachi. It was so fast that most of the ambassadors could see nothing. Fukamachi's body guard was more astute and the scene change appeared instantaneous to many. The hulking human appeared in front of Fukamachi, his hands upraised and a dark smile adorning his features as he caught the energy whips the Uranus had launched towards them.

The gathered dignitaries were given an instant to take in the tableau before it changed. Fukamachi's body guard leapt into the air in a feat none of them were capable of. He literally flew towards the Uranus his form melting, changing into another species. It was so fast that to most all they saw was a new being land beside the Uranus, casting energy whips at the ancient being. A deep throated growl resonated through the room and Fukamachi took several steps forward, his eyes burning a deeper red.

"Did you think we would be unprepared, Creator?"

"You should be dead!" The Uranus seemed unconcerned at the energy that crackled around it. The older ambassador's thought the Uranus amused that some species thought that mere energy could hold it... a being of energy. At least the amused undertone lasted until the energy whips squeezed.

"But we are not Creator... despite your best plans to the contrary. Are you ready?"

"What?" the Uranus roared with an uncharacteristic display of emotion as it surged forward... or at least attempted to. Fukamachi's body guard held firm and to the surprise of all, not the least of which was the Uranus the energy being was held tight.

Fukamachi continued to glare at it for a few moments before he took a deep breath and looked around at the gathered dignitaries again. His gaze froze them in place. "To the rest of you," his rich voice projected into the furthest reaches of the room. "The leader of Chronos sent me to give you a warning." The inflections in his voice made most shudder. There was something dark in the way he stood. He cut a magnificent figure. Even for an alien, most would admit that Fukamachi was handsome. The cut of his robes was precise and the way he stood bespoke confidence and power. But there was a deep cold in the way he moved and in his glittering eyes. There was the promise of pain and most shuddered back from that.

"You have a choice. You can stay out of our way... and live," the soft note of his voice was not reassuring. "Or you can support the Uranus... and die." The smile gracing his features spoke eloquently of his desire.

"You can't possibly believe you can defeat the Uranus!" An Eoiyie snapped. They were an old race, one who had been in space for millennia longer than the others... They had been met by the Uranus who to them seemed as unchanging as time. No upstart race could defeat the Uranus and this pathetic little human was a fool to think that he could.

Fukamachi's smile deepened and he laughed. The sound was not cheerful. "You never told them Creator?" He turned his head towards the confined brightness that was the Uranus. "You never told them our purpose when you told them of our planet?" There was accusation in the man's voice but he appeared relaxed.

"Stop that!" The Eoiyie growled.

"Stop what?" Fukamachi didn't bother to turn, his eyes burning as he watched the Uranus.

"You have no right to call them creator! It shows your ignorance!"

This time when Fukamachi laughed there was at least a note of genuine amusement and his eyes flickered for an instant to his companion. A silent message passed between them and the energy whips, visible as dark crackling lightnings against the soft gentle light that was the Uranus surged. To the surprise of all the Uranus screamed and the diplomats cringed back at the violence.

"So what exactly did this Creator tell you about humans?" Fukamachi asked conversationally, as if he was a newcomer with a passing interest in the topic.

Before the Eoiyie could rant the Erin ambassador stepped forward. "The Uranus told us that you were an industrialised but pre-space faring race. Your planet was regrettably destroyed by an asteroid strike and it was assumed that your species had died with your home world." The words were bland and straight forward and displayed no inflection of feeling yet the Erin dignitary almost flailed when Fukamachi's eyes turned towards him. The gaze reached into his soul burning through him for the truth and a moment later Fukamachi's lips creased as he turned away.

"True enough statements I suppose," the human said and all could tell that his teeth were gritted as he controlled his emotions. "We possessed one ship... Unlike the hundreds you sent against us Creator... barely two thousand of us made it to the dubious safety of that ship. Billions died when you thought our defences were gone and sent that asteroid... but you knew that... didn't you Creator?"

The question hung in the air and all could feel the mounting tension between the human and the Uranus.

The gathered dignitaries didn't know what to think but some were drawing their own conclusions. The Uranus' statement when the humans had appeared... that they should be dead... that had carried a more personal note... True, the Uranus had told them all about the human planet but this had been something else... Surprise. The Uranus had recognised the human instantly and had been surprised that it was alive. But they all were... No... it was not just surprise caused by the unexpected... It was deeper. And now the Uranus had never rejected the human's words... He had not denied the acknowledgement of creation.

That was somehow connected to the core of the matter. Hatred had graced the Uranus' tone just as hatred graced the human's speech. A couple of the diplomats stepped backwards, swinging their heads between the Uranus and the human. If this was a grudge match... then it wouldn't matter how primitive the humans were pro ported to be... they had nothing to lose.

But those ships were not the ships of primitives. Their power was not that of race that had driven itself into space with the destruction of their planet. It was the power of a race old in their strength and secure in their position. It was the power of a race that could very well be the parent company of the largest corporation in the galaxy.

"Why don't you tell them the truth, Creator?"

The dark energy whips tightened again and again the Uranus screamed as they bit deeply into its form. A wave of pain flashed through the room, the mental distress from the Uranus and several of the diplomats collapsed, gasping for air. The human didn't seem to notice. "You'll have to do better than that if you want to scratch the surface of my mind, Creator," Fukamachi said easily. "Why don't I show you how it's done?" He asked and before anyone could answer they saw again a human leap in a feat they could never match.

Fukamachi didn't change his form as his body guard had but his hands glowed and he thrust them forward pushing up to his elbows into the glowing light that was the Uranus. The scream was agonised, the modulations drawn out and the watching ambassadors saw for the first time in history the light from a Uranus flicker. On and on the Uranus screamed, its voice weakening and if it had of been organic the gathered dignitaries knew that they would be seeing a body straining against pain, gasping against the inevitable. Waves of pain emanated from the Uranus but neither human appeared affected while the ambassadors dropped, their own breath short at the phantom pain that assaulted them.

But before the impossible could happen and the Uranus died before them, Fukamachi stepped back, withdrawing his hands and the screams of the Uranus faded and its light solidified again becoming the normal gentle glow.

"You..." the Uranus gasped and Fumakachi chuckled.

"Did you think we were not prepared?" He reiterated the question. "Did you think we would not remember? Did you think we would not revenge? Did you think we would not use everything within our power to strike back? So why don't you tell them Creator... tell the gathered Council about us... your precious humans... Tell them what we were made for."

The light from the Uranus steadied and grew slightly stronger but the gathered ambassadors could hear the Uranus growl. It was an animalistic sound and they were surprised but then the ancient being roared, its voice almost beyond the range of hearing. "What do you want them to know, human?" the Uranus challenged Fukamachi, the glow of its light straining towards where the human stood. "That you were created to be our bodies! That you are meant to be mere creatures of instinct... never aware, never sentient! That your only purpose was to be our shells so that we might better control the flesh beings that came after us to pollute the galaxy with their beings! Is that the truth you want human? Because that is the truth I give you!"

There was silence after the Uranus' pronouncement and to those ambassadors who had pushed aside their emotions, who had watched the tableau with a calm critical eye they could see that the human was also surprised. This was not the truth Fukamachi had expected to hear. It was a truth that might very well buy the Uranus its death and as they watched, the human's eyes narrowed, flashing red and he raised his hand again. Energy once more collected there and the Uranus laughed.

"Do it human! It will not change anything!"

Fukamachi's hand glowed and he plunged it forward towards the Uranus.

"STOP!"

Year 514 8th April, Chronos Command Carrier, Ark of Chronos

Alkanphel sat as they cruised through space towards Uranus territory. Most of the way had been cleared out by the other fleets but they still encountered little pockets of resistance. They were dispatched easily enough and where it looked as if the ships were trying to flee they were ignored. There was little point in alienating the entire galaxy if they could possibly help it.

The reports were coming back from his Circle of mixed responses to them. Imakarum had been forced to destroy a border patrol but had managed to avoid most other fleets. Natsuki had used forged Varth codes to get them through the Erin border, Tetsuro had managed to hack most of the alien ships he'd encountered, thus eliminating the need to fight and the others had had mixed success. It appeared things were going well… with one exception.

Fukamachi.

The reports from the former Rebel indicated complete destruction of any force encountered.

The Supreme Zoalord sighed gently to himself as he considered the problem. He knew Fukamachi had been upset with his orders… though upset was perhaps too mild a term. The Guyver-Zoalord had retreated into his Commander Fukamachi persona and at least that had made delivering the orders easier but Alkanphel had not missed the flash of his eyes.

The boy understood the logic of the orders. He even understood the logic of the reasons behind those orders. He just did not like the orders.

It required someone of significant standing within Chronos to offer amnesty to any aliens who stayed out of the way and Alkanphel had no doubt that more than a few would agree to almost anything merely to stay on Fukamachi's good side. The aura of menace he emitted unconsciously when he donned his robes of office was formidable.

But he had been becoming better at it lately. He still maintained the coldly logical façade, and most of decisions were made with the counter balance of consequence not emotion guiding them but Fukamachi had become more personable… Except as he'd saluted and left, Aptom at his side, it appeared as if there was nothing left of Shō. The boy hadn't even bothered hiding his thoughts and while their battles were usually close if Fukamachi had of attacked him then… the Supreme Zoalord was not assured of victory especially as he could guarantee that Fukamachi would order the Gigantic Unit not to obey him.

Still… he had thought that Fukamachi would calm down after thinking about his orders but the deaths of the aliens said that he hadn't. Maybe he should have ordered Mizuki to go with her husband… No… Alkanphel shook his head. That wouldn't have worked either. Commander Fukamachi acknowledged his wife and tried to please her but he would not show mercy to an enemy of Chronos… not even if she asked. It would have just caused them both pain. He only hoped Mizuki could drag Shō from the darkness after.

He knew what the boy wanted… he wanted to participate in the initial assault against the Uranus and while Alkanphel could appreciate that desire… Fukamachi was too well ranked. He had to be where he was, which meant that he… Alkanphel, the Supreme Lord of Chronos had sent a homicidal Commander to negotiate peace with any alien willing.

The expletive hanging in the air was the only proof that the bridge crew had that Alkanphel had been sitting there a moment before.

Year 514 8th April, Non-Human Territory

"What do you want them to know, human?" The noise assaulted Alkanphel as he appeared and the modulations of the voice could only have come from a Uranus. A Uranus in a lot of pain. For an instant Alkanphel felt a flash of anger towards Fukamachi but he should have expected it. The boy wouldn't let any Uranus escape but then the Uranus continued…

"That you were created to be our bodies! That you are meant to be mere creatures of instinct... never aware, never sentient! That your only purpose was to be our shells so that we might better control the flesh beings that came after us to pollute the galaxy with their beings! Is that the truth you want human? Because that is the truth I give you!"

Golden eyes widened at the words and Alkanphel's gasp was lost in the silence of the room. They were… he was… What? Mentally he screamed the word! The memories of Uranus surrounded him. They had been mother. They had been father. They had been his everything! He had done everything he could to please them… to fight for them… they had been pleased with him… their golden light had brushed up against him so that he felt their warmth always.

He would have died for them! Lead armies to destroy the entire galaxy if it had of made them happy but that was not what they wanted… that was not what had been. Alkanphel drew a shuddering breath and a hundred half-forgotten things flooded into his mind. He had to know… He had to know the truth!

"Do it human! It will not change anything!"

Alkanphel turned towards the voice and saw the situation instantly. Aptom's whips were wrapped around the Uranus, holding it in place. Its glow was dulled but it was an ancient one. It would know the truth. Fukamachi stood beside it, one arm raised, his hand glowing, his intent obvious.

There was actually two ways of killing a Uranus. The easiest, most merciful, way was to absorb their energy, the hardest was to overwhelm them with foreign energy until they dissipated. That's what Fukamachi would do. The boy's arm moved down.

"STOP!" He used every modulation of his voice to enforce his command but still knew that Fukamachi halted only because of his surprise.

The aliens cleared a path for him, no doubt recognising both his species and his robes. His rank was confirmed by the fact that Fukamachi had let the power fade and had turned to face him. Unconsciously Alkanphel noted that there were no alien bodies anywhere… For all his rage Fukamachi had kept it targeted though the Supreme Zoalord never let his gaze stray from the Uranus as he strode down the length of the room.

He came to a halt in front of the Uranus and stared for a few moments. "Is it true?" The question was soft, his voice lacking any modulation of power.

"Of course it's true Alkanphel," the Uranus snapped, not bothering to use the universal tongue. "You were to be weapons but you were to be our weapons, our bodies that we took into war. Why else would you need such perfection?"

The Supreme Zoalord of Chronos stared at the Uranus and he was aware of every other being in the crowd watching him. Apparently the native tongue of the Uranus was not something they understood, yet it was something he understood on an instinctual level. It was coded into him, coded into all humans. "There were far more Zoanoids that there were Uranus," Alkanphel heard himself murmur the defence.

"Some would always be used to weaken the foe."

Gold eyes closed and Alkanphel trembled. Shōel flicked one hand over energy gathering in his palm. While the light show would be impressive to the watching aliens, Alkanphel shook his head slightly, his eyes narrowed as he looked at the Uranus. Fukamachi's eyes widened in disbelief.

"No, Shō-kun," he said, growling the words. "That is far too quick."

The faint doubt disappeared and a there was a flicker of a smile from Fukamachi as the energy dissipated. :Here?:

The Supreme Zoalord's eyes flicked around the room… only a few diplomats were backing away. The rest were watching as if this was some fascinating new opportunity even though they couldn't possibly understand what they were speaking of. Surely they understood the gestures? :Yes… I think so,: he said after a moment's thought.

"My Lord?" Fukamachi said aloud, though he already knew what Alkanphel wanted, for the sake of the dignitaries he played out their scenario.

"Show me what you can do… I think this time, I will enjoy it."

Shōel nodded his understanding and as if the diplomats weren't there he turned to Aptom to give the hyper-zoanoid a significant look. Alkanphel knew that Fukamachi and Aptom could read entire conversations in the other with their stance. They didn't need to talk.

"What..?" The question came from behind them. "What are you doing?"

For the first time Aptom spoke, though he seemed to spit the words in a tongue they would understand. "I would have thought that was obvious. We are executing this scum Uranus."

"What?" The demand was more wide spread.

"I told you," Shō said absently as Aptom tightened his whips around the Uranus causing it to whine in pain. "You can either stay out of our way and live, or support the Uranus and die with them!"

"So what you said was the truth?" A couple of the ambassadors asked.

"Of course. I have no reason to lie… not even to this filth!" Fukamachi said easily. "While apparently our knowledge of the Uranus' reasons was incorrect, our knowledge of their actions has been sadly extensive. We will destroy Uranus, or they will just continue to try to destroy us. It is your choice if you live or die, no one else's."

The Uranus hissed. "And after you destroy us… what then, human?"

The challenge was not to Shō or Alkanphel, it was to the gathered ambassadors and Aptom's energy whips surged around the Uranus making it scream again. A couple of the dignitaries moaned but the gathered humans ignored them. The Uranus was sending out as much of its pain as it could hoping to overwhelm them but the very first thing Alkanphel had done, as soon as he was able was to have the genetic compulsion towards Uranus within humans removed. It had taken centuries but the genetics had spread throughout the world… It could send out whatever phantom feelings of pain it wanted, the humans would not feel it.

"Shield!" Aptom roared and once again Alkanphel was treated to the sight of Shō and Aptom working together. The Uranus overwhelmed the energy whips holding it, surging upwards into the air, lashing out at them but the zoaniods were prepared. Alkanphel's shield had snapped into place almost automatically but Fukamachi hadn't bothered to shield himself, instead he'd created an area containment shield, trapping the Uranus with them in the confines of the room. Aptom had shielded him, just as Shō had known that he would.

"Little prick harmonised energy streams with me," Aptom snarled. The words would mean nothing to the ambassadors but they explained the Uranus' escape.

Shō laughed. "Aptom," his voice was filled with the rich resonance of amusement and while nothing more was said, a moment later the hyper-zoanoid shared Fukamachi's happiness. Alkanphel wasn't sure he wanted to know what was going on in their minds and his attention was focused on the Uranus.

It was hovering near the centre of the room and he could see that it had lifted one energy stream high probing the shield Fukamachi had made.

"There is no escape, Uranus," the Zoalord said and Alkanphel waved him to silence.

"You know who I am," Alkanphel said not bothering to translate for the aliens, his golden eyes darkening slightly as he looked up at the Uranus. This was a conversation they didn't need to hear.

"I know what you are," came the snarled reply and the golden zoalord realised that Aptom's whips had been more than just restraints given that the Uranus' voice still echoed with pain.

Slowly he looked to the ground. "I had hoped…" Alkanphel sighed. "In my deepest heart, I had hoped there was a reason. I had hoped that the first time you left that it was merely because you were afraid, startled at the unexpected nature of a Guyver-human. I had hoped that the asteroid then was mere coincidence; something was always going to happen. I maintained that hope for years… I kept the blood lines pure, I protected the planet, I protected everything you had created.

"But I was injured. I needed rest. I needed you. And humans slowly drifted away from me until the only way I could see to bring them back to you, to show them the love I felt for you was to control them and so I did."

The audience watched. Even Fukamachi and Aptom were silent as they watched the Supreme Lord of Chronos speak. The gathered ambassadors did not understand his words… not truly but they knew their tone and they could feel the power behind them. The Uranus watched, though it was difficult to tell without eyes yet it seemed to listen.

"Control came easily of course, you designed me that it was so but there were resistors… those few who did not hear my call. We dealt with them as we could and always worked in secret until everything was ready. There were hardships but those I chose to support me were strong, they didn't feel the love I had for you but they respected my dream.

"Others fought. The Guyver-human you saw was not the last and the others rose against me. They tried. They fought so hard but they could not prevail, not against the centuries I had prepared, the centuries my followers had prepared. They always tried though, never giving up, never surrendering and we were locked in that conflict when you returned.

"For a moment I rejoiced! You had returned. I could finally show you everything I had dreamed, I could be everything you wanted.

"But then I learned that the asteroid had not been a coincidence, and you had not been afraid. You were terrified," Alkanphel looked up, gold eyes blazing and his teeth almost bared in a snarl. "Terrified enough to use another asteroid, terrified enough to ensure that this time, it worked.

"It would have been a mercy to ensure we were all dead but you were still too scared... This time you should have been!"

"And why would I ever fear you Alkanphel?" contempt was heavy in the Uranus' voice. "You are merely a tool we developed! A strong tool but a disposable tool."

"It is not me you should fear," the Zoalord smiled and many of the diplomats took a step back. "I see only one way for you to survive."

"You cannot kill me."

"I'm not going to. The one advanced beyond a Guyver-human and the most advanced form of those who cannot hear me will do that."

On cue, Shō summoned his armour, both his basic Unit and the Gigantic Unit. He was fully a Guyver though his armour was accented by green focusing points, as if he was covered in head beams. Aptom shifted as well, moving into a form not often seen. While armoured it was sleek and radiated strength and somehow he almost seemed to fly without taking a single step.

"Uranus, the only way you have to avoid them is to take my body... and hope. Hope that I am a perfect enough body to survive what they can do, hope that you gave me strength enough to fight!" The small knowing smile on Alkanphel's face spoke volumes. "We were fighting Uranus when you came... We see no reason to fight each other now."

The glowing being shot upwards, but was confined by the shield Fukamachi had raised.

"Shō-kun," Alkanphel said gently. "Let it go."

The Gigantic Guyver shifted slightly, the question obvious. "Let it go," Alkanphel repeated. "I want it to report back. I want them to know what they have awoken. I want them to know that they cannot stop us. I want them to see their doom."

Fukamachi nodded and with an unnecessary gesture he dismissed his barrier. The Uranus fled and they were left with the diplomat's stares.

Alkanphel looked around through narrow eyes. Several diplomats were on the ground, still writhing with the pain the Uranus had reflected, others were watching them carefully. No one seemed sure what could be done. "This a warning," the Supreme Zoalord said. He didn't need to use any tricks to make sure he was heard or that he was taken seriously. "If you stand with the Uranus you will die. If you harbour a Uranus we will hunt it down. I am Alkanphel, the Lord of all Humanity, the Leader of Chronos and those who are Uranus are anathema! I have no patience to negotiate and this is your only warning. Either you heed it or die."

Year 514 30th June, Uranus Territory

"Report!"

"Sir! The Grampus / Zektoll execution squads a proving effective however the Uranus have taken to avoiding them through non terrestrial means."

"Explain?"

The zoanoid gulped but flicked through a few pages to the field report. "The Uranus are taking to the air or into space and not many of the teams can form or hold the barriers at such distances."

Thankfully for the zoanoid, Commander Fukamachi merely nodded, his face thoughtful. "We should have expected that," he muttered, "but it is nothing insurmountable. What of the aliens?"

"There have been some who attacked but they were denounced by their respective governments, however no government has made an official statement yet."

"Don't worry Shō," Aptom drawled. "The fence palings will hurt after a while and some will fall off."

A ghost of a smile traced its way over Fukamachi's lips at the hyper-zoanoid's attempt at humour.

"I'm more concerned about the fact that the Uranus fleet appears to be missing. We did not give them that much warning to hide after all."

Levity faded. The initial assault on Uranus territory had gone exactly as predicted. The ancient race had been unprepared and under defended and the slaughter… Aptom wasn't sure which was better… the feel of Uranus energy pouring through him or the feel of Fukamachi later, wild and hot as they'd mated with the passion of death still upon them. But while the Uranus had never interfered with the galaxy, they had not remained sacrosanct to the other races merely because they were old. They had the firepower to back up their words.

Except no one had seen their ships. Oh, a few had been seen, and gleefully destroyed but the numbers weren't adding up and so far they had mostly encountered younger Uranus. The old ones, secure and wily in their power were hiding. One or two had been cornered but not even their best efforts had been able to extract the position of the others.

"You know the current theory is that they are just hiding in the space between stars."

"Lois doesn't feel them though."

"He can sense that far?" Aptom asked, a bit startled at the power of the young Zoalord.

"He can when he gets backing," Fukamachi said dismissively and Aptom understood. If Lois couldn't detect the ships, then they just weren't there. Which meant they had to be elsewhere… Which meant some race had to be harbouring them. A feral grin graced the scarred man's features.

"Dibs on the leader!" he crowed.

"Of course you can have the alien leader," Shō said, flexing his fingers into claws. "It's only the Uranus I'm interested in."

Rather than verbally spar with Fukamachi Aptom gestured to the zoanoid to continue his report. The sooner they found the oldest Uranus, the sooner he could revel in their power as they died. And that was something he had been looking forward too for a very long time.

Year 514 17th July, Hijane Home World, Non-Human Territory

"Think about it," the voice was a sibilant whisper though the words were well formed and clearly heard.

"You saw what they did."

"Destruction."

"Death."

"No warning!"

The Hijane leader tossed in her sleep, the equivalent of a frown tracing over her features. There was no need for the voices to tell her who 'they' were. She knew. Everyone knew!

They were the new race that had appeared. The race that had been hiding in Dark Space. Human they called themselves but they came in such a wide variety of colours and shapes that it did not seem possible that they were just one race. They didn't seem interested in explaining either. As far as she knew, apart from that one appearance at the Council they had declined to speak to just about everyone, though she was fairly sure they spoke to the Uranus, at least as they killed them.

The thought made her sick and she woke, retching. She never noticed the way the light faded in the corner of her eyes.

"Ma'am?"

"Just a dream, Namal," she murmured to her ever-present body guard.

"The humans?" Namal spoke with such calm collection that it was sometimes a wonder that she was not the Hijane leader.

"Who else? What do you think of them?"

"I think they are very powerful Ma'am."

"No," she shook her head. "What do you really think about them?" Despite the sleep just fading from her and the nightmare that was as real waking as sleeping, the question was serious and was possibly the most serious thing she had ever asked Namal.

Namal looked over at her for a moment and for the first time ever the Hijane leader saw her body-guard with a contemplative look. "Come with me," Namal said finally, and her voice was so filled with urgency that she couldn't deny it.

They walked through the building for what seemed like hours but the Hijane leader knew it was only about 40 minutes. The one thing she did notice was that they were always going down and by now had probably passed through the lower levels. "What is this?"

"This?"

"We have to be below the presidential palace now and this," she gestured to the corridors, "are not meant to be here!"

"They were a natural cave and they are really the only way I can get peace."

"Namal?"

"Avran," her body-guard said her name, turning finally, eyes wide and somehow peaceful. "How long have I been your body guard?"

"Since I got the job! You've always been there," Avran replied.

"And I was your predecessor's body-guard wasn't I?"

Avran nodded and began casting her mind back… Namal… "What?" the question burst from her and the Hijane leader looked over to the other woman standing there. "How?" As far back as Avran could remember Namal had been the body-guard of the leader. That wasn't possible… Unless they were selected to look alike and took the same name… But if that was the case, then the Hijane Leader would know of the program to do that.

"I have been the body-guard of the leader for the last 200 hundred years, Avran."

"How is that even possible?"

"I've had help of course but you wanted to know what I truly thought of the humans? Yes?"

Avran nodded. If Namal had to bring her here… wherever here was just to talk about the humans… well she was intelligent… Namal's help was becoming clear, though the how was still a mystery. As was the why she realised.

"I think they are powerful," Namal began, the words the most obvious description for the humans. "The Uranus screwed up when they made them."

"You mean to tell me that 'creator' comment was true?" Avran couldn't help but gasp the question. She, like every other leader, had gone over the encounter at the Council closely. The fact that Fukamachi, whatever he was, had called the Uranus Creator was something that puzzled them, especially with most of the conversation being conducted in Uranus! No one understood that tongue… though the humans had.

"It was. Let me tell you what I know… though some is what I have guessed."

"Namal," Avran's voice was hurt. "You… you serve the Uranus?" This was the woman entrusted above all others with her safety? And she served another race?

"Not anymore." There was more to those words that Avran could understand but she could feel the depth of pain in Namal's voice and knew she could not ask. This was her body-guard's choice and she would honour that.

"The Uranus created the humans. Fukamachi was not lying. I don't know why they created them. They never said but they are afraid of them. Very afraid."

"The Uranus don't fear anything!"

"They fear the humans," Namal countered. "The humans can kill them."

"What? That's not possible!" Avran, like all Hijane leaders, had read the classified reports about the Uranus when she rose to power. They were energy beings. They could not be destroyed or captured, or … anything that one could usually do to a foe. They possess ships that were ancient, weapons that were powerful and if they decided to attack Hijane then that would be that. But they were a peaceful race. They mediated for the galaxy, ensuring that there were no pan-galactic wars and that most races could grow as it pleased them.

Namal's look told her to be sensible and Avran gulped. She'd already seen that it was possible. Fukamachi's companion had held the Uranus, and they had both hurt it. The humans knew what they were doing. "The other thing that you know is true, that you've seen yourself, the humans will go over anyone and anything to get to the Uranus. They truly do not care about the rest of us."

"So we can stay out of their way?" Even as she said the words Avran knew it would not be possible. She could order it but how long would the resolve hold? And those dreams… She had been raised to honour the Uranus but not to worship them so why was her subconscious telling her to rescue them? Did they even need rescuing? And how did that serve the Hijane? The humans had been very clear on how they would interpret support for the Uranus.

"You will not be able to stay out of their way forever," Namal said before her body guard smiled. "And you are already beginning to feel the effects of them."

Avran frowned. "Them?"

"You already know them," Namal whispered. "They speak to you at night. They tell you the truth of the world, if you would only listen."

"Namal?"

"You have been so strong… you listen to the heart of Hijane. It guides you. It strengthens you. It makes you great Avran. But such greatness does not serve them. Surely you can see that?"

The Hijane took a step back, her eyes widening as she looked at her body guard. "Namal?" Her voice was uncertain as she said the name.

"You have to serve them. It's the only way. They will let you be great then… Great for them!"

Avran's breath was quick and she took another step back. Namal had said she wasn't serving them anymore but what a fool she had been! "I trusted you!"

Her body guard blinked. "At least, that's what I'd be saying if I served them still," Namal said and Avran felt herself sag with relief. The cocky little smile that graced Namal's face told her everything she needed to know.

"Don't scare me like that!" Relief dripped from her voice.

"Avran," Namal smiled. "You've heard the Uranus in your sleep. You know what they want. That's why I did that, to show you what you would be like… what I have been like at times. They are seductive and strong. They are a form of perfection we will never know."

"So it is them?"

The body-guard nodded. "I told you, they are afraid of the humans. They'll use anything they can to fight them… Including you."

Avran felt a deep cold in her soul. A premonition. "Namal?"

"Yes?"

"You don't serve them, do you?"

Namal smiled at her, one of those smiles you give a young child who had just asked the obvious question and Avran felt her eyes, already impossibly wide from the surprises of the evening, widen further. "I told you Avran, not anymore." For an instant the reply was heartening then Namal began to glow and that was everything she saw.

Year 514 24th September, Chronos Command Carrier, Ark of Chronos

"We found them!"

There was no counter question. There didn't have to be. The only thing they needed to know was where.

"Not all of them. The numbers aren't large enough for that, but a portion of the Uranus fleet attacked Kulkyne with the Janng. They were driven off."

Shō and Aptom shared a look. "I'll go," the Guyver-Zoalord said, rising.

"To Kulkyne?" Yentsui asked.

"To Janng," Fukamachi countered. "They probably took the initial assault as an insult and have thrown their backing to Uranus. We warned them and since I was responsible for the assault on their territory, I will take care of them."

The Circle was meeting. They had taken most of Uranus space without issue. Their fleets had spread throughout the ancient species territory without encountering any resistance they could not counter. For a lesser race, one of those the Uranus guided, it would have undoubtedly been impossible but human development had not been bound by Uranus supervision… they did not have the same limits. And the ancient beings knew that. They had fled before them and now, barely five months into the war, they found themselves playing hide and seek with the Uranus. Only the Uranus were the ones hiding. That realisation brought a warm feeling to most.

The gathered Circle was not yet concerned but they could not allow this little game to continue. Despite their warnings, the races of the galaxy were loyal to the Uranus, if for no reason than they were the devil they knew. And no doubt the Uranus were spinning tales of murder and mayhem.

"Are we sure about this?" Shizu asked, the question no doubt driven by Agito who was seeing Varth Enterprises dismantled before his eyes. It would hurt, the more sympathetic Zoalord's thought, to see something he had laboured for centuries on crumble but it was a necessary sacrifice and could be revived later.

"I'm sure," Shō said forcefully. "We have two choices here. Either we strike the Janng hard and show them the price of siding with the Uranus or don't and watch the rest of the races join against us."

"It wouldn't make a difference."

"I know it wouldn't" Fukamachi said, sounding less irritated than he might have. "But it would cause unnecessary losses… for all of us."

"You may go after the meeting," Alkanphel said sagely and Shō reluctantly resumed his seat. "I also expect the planet to be intact once you are through," he added, cat like eyes watching his second in command.

Fukamachi gave him a stiff nod before the Supreme Zoalord allowed his gaze to travel around the room. Tetsuro looked thoughtful, as did Khan and Natsuki.

"There is something not right about the attack," Tetsuro said slowly.

"Why did they even need the Janng?" Khan demanded in the silence brought by Segawa's question.

That caused the gathered Zoalords to blink. It was a good question. "They certainly didn't need the help with Earth… and we have not done that much damage."

There was silence as they pondered the problem.

Mirabilis broke the silence. "I believe they are using the Janng," he said and the others turned to face him. "The Uranus do not know what we are capable of. I'm sure they suspect, having seen Fukamachi and Aptom, but they cannot know for sure. They know they were far stronger than we were five hundred years ago but they don't know what has changed. Now they could probe our lines themselves, but that just spreads them thin. We have yet to find their main fleet and I daresay we have yet to find their main population concentration and they were to probe we might find both!"

Khan nodded but then spoke before anyone else could take up the thread. "The Janng are expendable to them," he agreed with Mirabilis' reasoning. "As is any other race. But the Janng are also a test. It is a test of our resolve and our strength. We promised retribution if any other race got involved. We must now be seen to carry out that retribution but therein lays another test. I will wager they have watchers on the Janng planet and surrounds, watchers who will report back the strength of our response."

"We have to attack!"

"We do," Khan agreed, "but we have to do it in such a way that they learn nothing." The old Zoalord spoke steadily.

"There are two ways to do that and there has always been two ways to do that," Jabir ibn Hayyan said. "We either conceal our attack or do it so subtly that they don't notice, and thus learn nothing… which defeats our purpose here… or we make the attack so overwhelming that we lose nothing. They gain knowledge of numbers, and know that zoalords may crush aliens… but that is not something they did not already know."

"I can do that alone," Fukamachi said, his eyes burning. "And that may be best. They already know the power of a Guyver and they already know I possess a Unit, so they learn nothing."

Tetsuro gulped reaching out to Shō mentally. :You do not have to kill them all,: he said, trying to keep the worry out of his tone. His friend could easily destroy himself if he took on everything but Tetsuro knew that Fukamachi would take the killing and the death… if it could spare them, he would sacrifice himself.

:It will be okay.:

:No… it won't.:

:It must be done,: Shō countered.

:But it doesn't always have to be you,: Tetsuro said sadly.

Shō looked over at him though the glance was so quick that it might not have happened. :I made the threat to the galaxy… I need to be seen to carry it out, or they will never learn.: The logic was strong and Tetsuro briefly closed his eyes. It wasn't fair!

But it had never been fair, he knew that.

"I propose a mixed group," he said aloud. "Fukamachi should lead it, however I believe it would be best to combine at least some Units from all our troops to retaliate. Our entire population base knows we were attacked. The troops know it as well, so let's share the responsibility and the pleasure of revenge… At least this first time. That way, everyone gets the morale boost."

:They'll only slow me down!: Shō objected.

:Perhaps,: Tetsuro agreed, :but unity is important.: He didn't miss the glare the Guyver-Zoalord gave him but he didn't relent.

"That is true… though it does give information away," Khan said slowly.

"Not that much, Elder," Natsuki spoke, nodding her head respectfully towards Khan. "Uranus already know that we are zoanoids so they will be expecting it. It's matter of degree. I don't think they will learn that much, especially if Shō-kun neutralises any Uranus."

"That is the best idea," Alkanphel agreed, cutting any arguments. "Fukamachi you will take a contingent from all forces to Janng to educate them."

Shō looked angry for a moment before he gave another sharp nod, no doubt recalling Natsuki's suggestion.

"We will continue to search," Alkanphel continued before he called for one of the younger Zoalords, "Lois, you will continue to work with Caerleon and Purgstall to locate the Uranus fleet or any significant population. They can run and hide…" he smiled. "But not forever."

Year 515 13th February, Non-Human Territory

"Why can't the Uranus fight them?" The Ratarai ambassador asked.

It was a very diminished Council that meet this time. Some of the diplomats were just not present forced to remain at home and some were dead, killed by the humans.

"The Uranus created them… at least if we believe that human," the Erin dignitary said.

"Can we believe the humans?" The voice was weak.

"I don't see why not," the Erin countered. "As far as I can see the humans have not lied. The Uranus have."

"After so many years you can say that so easily?"

"Because it's true!"

"Or because you want it to be true?" The challenge came from several.

"Fine!" The Erin ambassador snarled, in an uncharacteristic display of emotion. "We withdraw! We will not stand in the way of the humans because despite the slaughter they have never lied. We will talk to those who survive… if any of you do!" He stormed out.

In the silence that followed none wish to speak but they knew they had to. The war between the Uranus and the previously unknown Humans was almost a year old but it showed no signs of abating. It was not a war as they knew it. There were not lines over a border; instead it was a fluid war, fought whenever the two sides found each other. There were battles, over the human planets, but the outcomes were unknown. If the humans had lost, they didn't show it. They maintained enough strength to carry out their threats.

Most had thought Fukamachi bluffing… or at least stretching the their abilities when he had made the threat those moons ago but every time the Uranus managed to convince a race to help them, even if it was only peripheral the humans retaliated viciously. Scouting got you a moon scoured clean. Those daring to attack… The Janng home world had been reduced to cinders… it was doubtful that anything more complicated that a microbe had survived. It had taken the humans about five days to do it as well; three to gather the forces and two to wipe the planet clean. They did not listen to excuses, they merely acted.

All had seen what they did to Uranus… the ancient beings had made sure of that. They played the images of the human execution squads to anyone who would watch. The humans, in the few times they had deigned to speak when hailed had not denied anything. They had been brutally frank about what they were doing though they had been less than forthcoming with details of their reasons. The sole answer they gave when asked 'why' was to provide a visual of a shattered planet.

The gathered races knew that planet… it was Earth… the planet the Uranus had told them about.

"None of this answers the question," one ambassador finally spoke timidly. "Why can't the Uranus fight them?"

"Because they created the humans to be weapons," the Hijane ambassador said. "Then somehow they lost control."

"And how do you know that?" Despite the usefulness of the information, the accusation followed quickly.

"We have had our own experiences with the Uranus and humans."

"So what Fukamachi said was truth?"

"In so far as it went. The Uranus created them. The humans are capable of love and peace and every other emotion we experience but they are also capable of hate and rage at a level we cannot comprehend. That's been made brutally clear to us. It's not that their base emotions are stronger, it's just that they are guided by pure instinct, something we have evolved beyond."

"Instinct is not intelligent!" a Hirotes growled.

"I realise this," the Hijane ambassador said. "The Uranus made a mistake when they created humans. They wanted instinct… they did not want sentience."

"You mean they created life beyond the reproduction of their species… they created artificial intelligence in a living being?" The Bartim gasped. They had been trying to create artificial intelligence for centuries and failing. Yet the Uranus had done it… had done it in the hardest form possible.

"Yes," the Hijane said simply.

"How was that a mistake?"

The Hijane merely looked at the Bartim as if asking why it had such a stupid thought. The Humans were butchering the Uranus… How could their sentience be anything but a mistake! It was a point not lost on the others but not everyone made the same conclusions.

"The Uranus created the humans and then the humans gained sentience… why did the humans turn on their creators? Why do they show a shattered planet for their reason?" The question was slow, as if the thought was still forming but it was asked.

"Wouldn't you do anything you could to wipe out something as dangerous as the humans?" The answer was snapped back as a question.

"The humans are not unthinkingly vicious," a Mekatisasharn said softly. "They do not chase down those who are running to avoid the conflict… In fact we've seen instances of them going around our transports when they've been chasing Uranus. That is not a creature driven only by instinct."

"They are not sane! Not by any definition!"

"And we still don't know why can't the Uranus fight them?" The question was shouted. "Hijane, you seem to have all the answers. If the Uranus truly created the humans, why can't they fight them? Surely they know how to neutralise their own creations."

The Hijane acknowledged the point with a bow of his head. "They created the humans to be near perfect, especially the strong ones. We've seen that now. Caerleon, Mirabilis, Taga, Alkanphel, Fukamachi, Segawa… we've all heard the names and we've seen them fighting. Combine their strength with a single-minded drive to destroy Uranus and you have a very effective fighting force."

There was a heavy sigh. "That's well and good but still doesn't explain why the Uranus can't fight them! They are ancient! Centuries, eons beyond any of us! How can some upstart creation fight the as more than their equals? Why do the Uranus keep asking for our help? For all that it has spread to the galaxy, this is essentially an internal problem. At least that's what we'd be saying if it was any of us. If that question can't be answered, I'm inclined to follow the Erin out and be done with it."

"Why do they ask for our help, when they have never answered any of our pleas for assistance?" Someone else voiced the question

"I'm getting to that," the Hijane ambassador said, "but I will not speak on it while this is an open session! It must be closed."

The gathered aliens looked to each other briefly, considering the question. For all that they were in desperate times and needed the information the ambassadors represented some of the best of their species. They were not stupid. The Hijane had knowledge, that was true but they had not missed the heavy weight in favour of the Uranus but why had the Uranus informed the Hijane and not the rest of them?

"Oh all right," The Eoiyie snapped and the already closed doors locked. "This had better be good."

"I assure you that it is," the Hijane smiled looking around at the gathered dignitaries. "I assure you it truly is," he repeated, his eyes beginning to glow.

The ambassadors, who had until that point been fidgeting all turned to face the Hijane. The glow caught their eyes and they watched with fascination.

The Hijane spoke for hours, and they had no thought to interrupt.

Year 515 15th October, Salamanka, Non-Human Territory

Even with his eyes closed Shō could feel the sway of battle. In its own way it was intoxicating and to his mind's eye the position of the grampus shone brightly. Every now and then, automatically he reached out, taking over individual units or a whole group of units to correct some alignment or to make the battle more efficient. The minds of the pilots yielded to his and he always felt their faint awe at the manoeuvres they were capable of under his guidance.

:Sir!: One grampus pilot snapped, mentally indicating the direction he should push his attention.

His senses extended. Off to the side, probably at the edge of their sensor range were ships. They were not Uranus ships but appeared to be Arn'ry if Varth information was correct.

:Well done!: the praise flowed naturally from Shō to the grampus pilot. He could sense that far easily, for a zoanoid it was a stretch and in the middle of combat… It was worthy of praise.

:Sir,: the response was flushed with pride.

:Just ignore them for now,: Shō gave the instruction, letting his mind send the words to the entire fleet. :The Arn'ry may watch, so long as they don't interfere.:

There was a chorus of agreement and attention shifted back to the rapidly diminishing Uranus fleet.

:Careful,: Fukamachi said, still broadcasting, :be careful. These are young Uranus but that doesn't meant they won't know a few new tricks.:

As if on cue the ships spiralled and Shō gritted his teeth as some of the points of light in his mind that represented his forces winked out. It was war, he understood that but the deaths fuelled his rage and deep inside he felt something slip a little further.

Without thought Fukamachi reached out, touching the minds of all the pilots and the weaponry zoanoids, reconfiguring his squadrons into new patterns. They formed parallel lines, spaced evenly but each line was offset to the one below and above it. He took the centre position, the larger body of his grampus defining the line. The Uranus craft kept firing at them but the shields held and Shō reached out. :Ready?: the question was deceptively simple, given the manoeuvre he was about to pull. Everyone reported back their confirmation and he stretched further, linking their minds in a way that they could not do alone.

It took three Grampus to create the triangular dimensional cutting blades they were famous for, which connected each individual to two others. Each Grampus now was connected to six others, which formed a wall of triangles. Instead of supporting one blade, each Grampus, save those on the outer lines supported six blades. It was only possible because of his touch, his ability to coordinate between all the teams but it was a devastating move… And from the behaviour of the Uranus ships… they did not recognise yet. Shō suppressed a hard grin as he watched them continue their spiral. It was an effective move, the spiral focused their firepower on one target at a time, usually overwhelming it but against what he was about to do… They could not fight that.

The Grampus advanced swiftly and Shō watched the Uranus. Their spiral fired at them, at him but his craft absorbed the energy and the deadly blades that were erected like a wall continued to close with them. He saw the exact moment they realised what would happen and the spiral fell apart, the ships scattering as they attempted to flee the oncoming wall. Too late. A savage joy took him as they impacted. The dimensional blades didn't just cut the Uranus ships, they consumed them.

It was possible to escape them, it all depended on what part of the ship the blades took but most of the Uranus ships were swept up in their wall and the few that managed to evade were quickly destroyed when Shō released the meld necessary to maintain the wall and the well-oiled groups of three swooped after the ships, running their single blade along the length the vessels.

In the aftermath Fukamachi turned his grampus and a smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. Five Uranus had survived and their glowing forms were attempting to hide in what debris they could. He didn't even need to give the order to capture them before his forces moved and Shō felt one tooth catch his lip when the Uranus were brought before him, enclosed in the shields that only a Grampus Weapon Zoanoid could make. His squadron had done well, they had done very well… and they deserved a reward. They could not absorb the Uranus like a Zektoll type, but with his help they could overwhelm them. These were young ones.

:You may kill them,: he instructed. :I will boost your energy.: The purr of pleasure he received from his troops as they reached for the wellspring of energy he represented almost drowned his feeling of rapture at the fear he could feel from the Uranus. This was a very fine days' work.

Year 516 9th January, Chronos Command Carrier, Ark of Chronos

"It's going too smoothly," Mirabilis observed.

His reply was Alkanphel raising one aristocratic eyebrow at him. It said without words that he should explain.

"The campaign."

Alkanphel nodded before he turned his cat-like eyes towards the portal. They were passing a nebula which was particularly beautiful. He believed it had been named the Eskimo Nebula but with so much information from Earth lost, even with the Ark conserving much of the accumulated space information, they were not sure. "The Uranus do seem to have fallen far more easily than anticipated. Have the others noticed, Masaki?"

The former proto-lord looked thoughtful. "Not all, but most suspect or at least have that feeling that something isn't quite right."

"How is Lois doing?" The follow up question may have seen out of place but Lois was using his ability to attempt to find Uranus. Caerleon was with him and the two of them worked well together but the younger zoalord had found only pockets of resistance which had been quickly destroyed.

"He's still looking. His skill is improving but space is so vast and there is a limit to his range," Imakarum replied.

"I'm surprised Fukamachi did not opt to be with him."

That brought a knowing smile to Masaki's face and Alkanphel turned slightly to look at the single Zoalord he trusted the most, the one he was linked with permanently.

"Shōel-kun is more than aware that the Uranus are still out there but he also recognised that his emotion would distract Lois so he absents himself when possible. I believe he shares the first reports with Caerleon though."

For a moment the supreme zoalord was amused. His forces had ways of working things out to their liking without interfering with efficiency and that was the result of long practice. It was an interesting study in desire but then his eyes darkened slightly. "Is Fukamachi taking his time off?" it was not really a question.

The dark haired zoalord nodded. "He takes no more recreational time than a line zoanoid but he does go to see Mizuki at those intervals."

"Ah," Alkanphel sighed though he was not content. "How is Shōel?"

For a moment Mirabilis looked surprised but then he nodded his understanding. "He needs more time. Mizuki has been saying that."

Golden eyes closed briefly in acknowledgement and Alkanphel thought. There was nothing he could do about the situation though. His Second in Command was taking his allotted leave, though those who knew him best would also know that it was not enough, and every day the war continued, Fukamachi would becoming colder, more logical and far more vicious when encountering Uranus. Most zoanoids wouldn't even notice! The boy cared for his troops as if they were his own sons… though that was perhaps because they could have been but those who knew him, who knew what Shō was meant to be like… they would see the difference. The Guyver-Zoalord had become more adept over time at integrating the cold logical personality of the Commander with his almost carefree one but the war would not be helping.

"Assure her I'll give him whatever time he needs once this is over," he murmured, coming to the only conclusion he could.

"You could tell her yourself," Imakarum almost seemed amused at being a messenger.

"Masaki! You know I can't!" He objected. "She'd convince me to pull him back now… And you know how that would go!" Alkanphel might have been the Supreme Lord of Chronos and Mizuki merely a Guyver but he knew how persuasive she could be when she wanted something. The thought brought a small puff of laughter. All those years ago, Taga had been right, women were not property but she had neglected to mention that they were far more dangerous creatures. Logic and emotion flowed through them equally making it very difficult to counter their arguments… especially when you agreed.

Mirabilis said nothing though he came to look at the nebula with his lord. "There is only one other thing to note," he muttered gently, his own split eyes looking around as he checked that they were alone. They were in an observation room but it seemed deserted, most zoanoids would not interrupt their Lord unless directly ordered to by another Zoalord. He focused on the lock for a moment, suppressing a grin as the panel light silently changed from green to red.

"Hmm?" the Supreme Zoalord prompted as his eyes traced the convoluted trails the gas cloud was making.

"Most battle groups have been reporting watchers."

"Any particular species?"

"It's mixed. At first it was only at a few battles, but lately it's becoming much more prevalent."

"Are they interfering?"

Mirabilis shook his head. "They are very careful not to," he said, placing one hand on Alkanphel's shoulder. The Supreme Zoalord cast one golden eye towards him but made no move away and Imakarum continued, moving to stand behind his Lord to massage his shoulders. "I believe Shōel reported them first but the others have been seeing them."

"So long as he did not kill them, there is hope."

"He didn't kill them… The Uranus though…" On Earth, he would never have imagined Shōel capable of such but the boy had proven again and again that he was more than capable of killing Uranus, doing it both in the most efficient and the most painful ways possible. He was a contradiction.

Alkanphel leaned into the massage, his mind focusing on the aliens. "What else is there?" he asked. The watchers would not have been mentioned if there was not something else happening.

"They are avoiding Lois but he did get a read on some of them once. Natsuki, Shizu and Amniculus confirm his feelings. They were ordered to watch. They couldn't tell by whom though."

Gold eyes narrowed. "There is only one possibility," he murmured before turning to face Mirabilis. "It was to be expected, I suppose and so long as they do not attack… we cannot yet prove they are helping the Uranus. Scatter zoanoids throughout space to observe," he gave the order without much thought knowing that his follower would attend to it; later, after Imakarum finished attending to him.

With a small smile Alkanphel raised his hands, placing them on Mirabilis' chest. "So what else?" he breathed.

The taller zoalord grinned. "Tell me your wish… my Lord."

Year 516 22th May, New India, Battle Command

"The Union Squads are gathering. They should be ready in time though electrical group's numbers are low."

"Send some from plumbers to even out the numbers. What's the E.T.A.?"

"Hasn't changed!"

The defence commanders of New India listened to the reports. They were in the control room and information was streaming to the zoanoids stationed there both by telepathic and more mundane means. New India had the same defences as all human planets. Ground based cannons, orbital defence rings, and legions of Zoanoids... even if they usually worked as butchers, bakers and the proverbial candle-stick makers.

"We are going to lose space," one of them whispered pointing at the tactical map.

For all that New India had defences and could defend against an attack that had taken Earth, no one had foreseen a fleet of this size attacking!

"Hillard, we're going to lose the planet if they use mass drivers."

One of the oldest commanders frowned. "If they do that, then they had better recognise that the gloves will be off. I know for a fact the Zoalords have been somewhat honourable with retaliatory strikes. They fight hand to hand, not what they could do."

"Commander, the gloves will be off with this attack," one of the others countered and the old commander nodded his acknowledgement of that truth.

"We'd best prepare as if they will use mass drivers, though there is precious little that can be done."

"Are the Zoalords coming?"

The old commander nodded. "We've called them but they are gathering forces. That's our one weakness... Our fleets are scattered."

"Yentsui is trying to jump his forces through his dimensional blades and Caerleon is trying to open a rift for his but that could take a while," Hillard reported, checking his notes.

"They'll teleport themselves if they can't get others here. That should tip the balance," the old commander said matter of factly.

"The non-coms are secure," the shouted report rang through the room and all gathered felt an inkling of relief. If the Uranus destroyed the planet, then nowhere was safe, but for the moment, those too old or too young to fight, those too ill and pregnant women were all in shelters designed to withstand just about anything short of planetary destruction. The rest were formed into their battle groups.

"Start cataloguing which aliens are in that fleet!" the commander ordered. "Then send the information in a burst to Terra Nova. High command will want to know."

That caused a chuckle from a few gathered. High Command would more than want to know. Retribution would be bloody.

"Another classic understatement from Commander Ting."

The quip brought a small smile and no one made a move for discipline. Commander Ting didn't even seem to notice.

"Issue full authorisation to transform at will," he instructed before gesturing to a runner who had approached.

"Ground cannons are warmed up and the orbital platforms are reporting all green Sir!" the runner gave his report, and upon receiving a nod of recognition he left to collect more reports.

"Medical Zoanoids are gathered and have been scattered across the planet with body guards."

The commanders nodded before wincing at a new wave of klaxon alarms!

"Cut those alarms!"

"Sir, new ships!"

"Wait! Transponders recognised... Holy..."

A screen flicked up a visual of the new ships. They were easily recognised. Grampus and there were at least sixty of them.

"They just appeared! How did they get there?"

"Commander Fukamachi teleported us in," came a smooth reply though it resonated with the tones of a zoanoid. "We see the rest have not arrived. No matter. Commander Fukamachi has returned to retrieve more but it is tiring to teleport so many and very tricky to ensure the connections are solid enough. For now we will hold this scum off for you."

In the command room a few muttered denial. Holding off a fleet that big was suicide! The grampus had to know that.

Commander Ting was more realistic though his eyes were sad as he rose and saluted. "Honour to your flight," he murmured as the rest of the command crew rose and saluted.

The Grampus pilot nodded. "Twenty shields stand before you, twenty blades will strike at your foe." The signal was terminated and they watched as the newly arrived grampus formed into their triangular formations and flew as one unit towards the approaching fleet. It seemed to take forever for the two fleets to meet but there was an explosion of light when they did. The alien fleet opened fire and the grampus evaded, the teams of three working as one unit.

From the distance the command crew could not see much but they watched as some alien ships burst into fire and the lights continued to flash. They held hope when they saw that but it could not stop the inevitable and as the minutes ticked on, minutes which gave the other gathering forces longer to approach, the flashes of fire faded as did the lights and they knew that the grampus were dead.

"Honour to your flight!" Commander Ting repeated.

"Honour to your flight!" the command staff roared before returning to their duties.

Year 516 22th May, Chronos Command Carrier, Ark of Chronos

:You will not wipe out all of your grampus forces!:

:Then what should I do? Wait?:

:Yes!:

:You know full well that if they were there, then there wouldn't even be an attacking force around New India.:

:Fukamachi, I know that. And I know your Grampus will serve, that they want to fight. I will not allow it,: Alkanphel sent the thought across space, emphasising each word as much as he could. The echoes were probably heard by surrounding zoanoids, which was all to the good. The Grampus would know that it was not Fukamachi who ordered them to stay. :This is war! And this is the reality of war. We have it harder than others because we know where we should have been. That doesn't change the fact that I need you there!:

He didn't get much of a response from that, for which the Supreme Zoalord was thankful. Fukamachi was logical about his response to the attack, just that this time, his logic did not agree with Alkanphel's.

:This could be a feint and even if it isn't,: Alkanphel continued, :I will need you to lead our forces against the insignificant peons who did this. They should not have supported Uranus.:

That seemed to calm Fukamachi a little though the Guyver-Zoalord wanted to attack.

:Besides, you know it's policy. As second in command you cannot be near me when there is an attack to ensure continuity of command!:

:Then don't go, let me,: Shō said and Alkanphel almost laughed. That really was the central point on which they disagreed. Fukamachi agreed that they shouldn't attend the same battles, he saw the logic there, but if he had his way, he would respond to every battle. The former rebel had already tried the argument that the Commander should remain safe. Alkanphel had snorted at that thought.

:No, Fukamachi,: Alkanphel replied, letting his anger bubble to the surface so that Shō could feel it. :If these peons are actually decent, then you will be needed to retaliate.:

Reluctantly he felt the younger Zoalord's acceptance and it seemed that perversely, his anger had calmed Fukamachi's. The boy still wanted to fight but for the moment he accepted his orders. Retaliation though... that would come and Alkanphel almost felt sorry for the races... Fukamachi would probably make their battle with the Uranus look tame with his actions but as the Supreme Zoalord felt the zoanoids on New India die... he didn't really have the heart to care.

In the deep of space where Fukamachi had been gathering his grampus to teleport them to New India, he looked around. The faces of the pilots and weaponry zoanoids were grim but they had heard their Lord and they would obey.

:My sons...: Shō sent to them all. :There will be vengeance.:

Year 516 22th May, New India, Battle Command

"Kinetic strikes incoming!" The scream tore through the command room but before the echo of sound faded there were responses.

"We've got them!"

Fighting a battle on this scale was chaotic. There was very little point in trying to co-ordinate every tiny strike but the overall tactics were being coordinated well. Humanity had an advantage there. Zoalords could make themselves heard wherever they were so none were in the command centre. They were instead on the battle field, decimating the enemy forces.

The force against them was huge but it was comprised mostly of alien ships and so far no secondary forces had been detected anywhere, though all human worlds were on high alert.

"Shit we missed some!" The grampus pilots who had tried to intercept the bolts screamed. They had done well, angling their dimensional blades to phase the strike from reality but there were too many. Beneath them, but still above the ground a veritable blanket of dimensional pockets opened, consuming the kinetic rods before they could impact with the ground.

"I got them!" Yentsui reported. "But this is about all I can do," he added. The Zoalord had opened dimensional rifts, allowing the instantaneous travel of as many grampus as he could but they were spread thin and it had tired him enormously. It had just saved the planet though so the energy was well spent.

"Why are they still coming?" Commander Ting asked. "Their losses are catastrophic!" If this had of been a human engagement, even with zoanoids… He'd studied history, including Chronos operational procedure on Earth. There was no time when such losses were acceptable… even if the loss of the entire force had become routine when fighting Guyvers. Surely aliens did not just fight until they could not fight any further? He shook his head grimly. If the aliens were continuing to attack, then he would continue to defend! New India would not fall on his watch and if the aliens were too stupid to run, then they would wipe them all out. He almost didn't want to think about how long it was going to take for them to clean up the bodies.

:I believe they have some larger plan,: Alkanphel's refined voice was heard by most of the planet, answering Commander Ting's question, :so we will continue to destroy them until they realise that no larger plan will ever work against us!: As the words faded all the zoanoids took strength and began fighting with renewed ferocity. Lord Alkanphel was with them! That was all they needed to know.

Khan grinned to himself, extending his reach to better co-ordinate the ground forces. The aliens had landed forces, no doubt hoping that the planet could be easily subdued but they had found zoanoids… rank upon rank upon rank of them and even without the overriding guiding consciousness of a Zoalord, the hyper-zoanoid commanders and the proto-guyvers had been coordinating their forces well. With his presence… the outcome was already decided. He had made sure to capture a few aliens who appeared to be commanders. No doubt they would have an interesting tale to tell.

In space Natsuki growled. Working illusions in a large scale battle was too difficult. There were too many friendlies around so she was reduced to more mundane means of fighting. Her claws ached! She had cut through so many hulls that she wondered how some of the others managed it. She was definitely going to ask Tetsuro to re-engineer her claws. But that was for the future, and she still had ships to destroy. :Five ships coming in at three o-clock!: she sent to the surrounding zoanoids and was happy when they responded, shifting slightly to eliminate the ships. It was suicide! The few Uranus ships that had been with the fleet had been taken out early. The ground defences and the orbital stations had focused on them taking them down but the other ships were still surviving merely because they had numbers. There was no reason for them to still be here. But they were and aching claws or not she would take them out.

:Oh shit! Asteroid incoming!: Jabir screamed to everyone. With the confusion of battle it had been easy to miss, though they had been watching. It appeared the Uranus were up to their old tricks. It was coming in at an oblique angle and the Uranus had definitely set this one in motion before the battle had even begun. The question would be asked later to the few surviving aliens if they had known.

:I'll take it,: Alkanphel said, his voice calm.

:With respect my Lord, no,: Imakarum's denial was firm. :We shall handle it. You will remain as backup. I would not put it past the Uranus to use two.:

The Supreme Zoalord allowed his decision to be over turned by Imakarum's logic but he remained ready to act.

:Let's see if we can deflect it first,: Mirabilis said to his fellow zoalords. :Jabir, Fried'rich move into position and try.: The orders were odd given that it was his ability to control gravity, not theirs but underlying them came the knowledge that he would use a black hole if they could not move it. Neither bothered to point out the consigning that amount of mass to his black hole could be disastrous. :Natsuki, I need you to keep the aliens off them. Illusion, claws, it doesn't matter.:

To the attacking forces, it probably seemed as if they were abandoning their positions. To the fighting zoanoids, who had heard the order and knew what was coming it was the best assignment of resources, thus the morale boost of the aliens was barely noticed. Not that such things meant much. They had come here to die and those they left behind would pay a heavy price.

As Imakarum watched, Jabir and Fried'rich disappeared when Natsuki wove her illusions around them. There was not even a ripple in space to indicate where they were but the effect was not perfect since he was maintaining mental contact with them. Still, he was impressed. They would be completely hidden if she wanted and he wondered how large an area she could conceal.

:Large enough,: Natsuki responded to his unasked question. :Now focus.:

He did as instructed but he could see that his fellow zoalords were struggling to move the asteroid. It was large and fast and they were no doubt having difficulty getting a grip on it. Even firing energy beams at it did little to deflect it, it merely broke pieces off it. He was going to have to use his black hole.

:Natsuki,: the name was order and space took on a slightly iridescent hue as she wrapped him in concealment. That wasn't the only change. He could now see Jabir and Fried'rich clearly.

:Of course you can. Those under my power can see each other… or not as I desire,: came Natsuki's explanation and Imakarum resolved to find out more about her abilities. Illusions may lack the sheer brute power of a force attack but they held a dangerous subtlety of their own.

But that wasn't a problem for now. Quickly Mirabilis moved towards the asteroid. It was coming in from high and would strike the pole of New India. Most of the fighting was happening along the axis of the equator and this strike was well designed to be near unnoticeable until too late… But they had been looking for a strike like this. Had the Uranus learned nothing about them? He crossed his hands over his chest as he focused his mind on his crystals. They glowed and his senses extended. Jabir and Fried'rich came to stand slightly beside him though neither offered energy yet. They knew they'd be needed in the aftermath…

The black hole attack was the single most deadly attack Balkus had created. Tetsuro hadn't changed it in the slightest. He'd claimed he never needed to but the attack itself carried huge risks. If it grew too large he would lose control and it would become a black hole in truth, consuming everything in this area of space. And that would do the Uranus' work for them. Consuming small things – energy attacks, enemies – that was simple… but the sheer mass of the asteroid would be a problem. That and the distance he would need to project it to remain beyond the event horizon. This black hole would make the one Guyot had raised on Earth look… tiny.

His focusing points glowed incandescent before fired them. They speed away from him, little points of light burning light stars as they began to orbit each other. For a moment Mirabilis sagged, drained but then he raised one hand to direct them, pushing them further from him even as their gravity increased. Even with Natsuki's illusions there was no way they could hide the gravity well but by now at least some of the aliens had to have seen the asteroid and they would know they had been betrayed.

Light gathered for an instant, brighter than the sun and then it collapsed, conflagration of light becoming thin with the black hole's disk before it vanished entirely. Already the gravity well was impressive and it had been raised directly in the asteroid's path. The rock flew onwards, unaware of the efforts taken to stop it. The pieces that had been shattered earlier were impossibly dragged faster and they spiralled into the blackhole giving it more mass which made it spin faster. Imakarum's eyes glowed as he focused, both hands extended and his body covered in sweat which froze in space instantly but did nothing to cool him.

And then the asteroid hit it. He groaned and it was almost a comical sight; the huge rock being compressed into the infinitesimal space of the black hole. It cracked and shattered as gravity worked differently on its parts and almost like one sees in children's cartoons, where the vacuum or some other ordinary device consumes a huge amount of mass the asteroid was sucked into the well.

:Gah!: Imakarum couldn't help the scream as the mass tore energy from him. His mind was screaming in pain but he had to maintain contact with the core! If he did not then they would never be able to generate an energy blast large enough to destabilise it now. That was one thing Tetsuro had done. He had not altered the attack but he had increased his ability to focus on and feel the crystals that made the gravity. He had made them more a part of him so that in theory the destruction of the black hole was simple. But they had never tested it with this much mass!

:Energy,: the word was gasped brokenly but his two fellow Zoalords knew what he needed and Fried'rich and Jabir were quick to raise their hands to touch his back lightly as they poured their energy unstintingly into him. Natsuki appeared beside them a moment later and began to add her own energy.

Mirabilis focused, narrowing his mind so that his world was the spinning crystals that formed the heart of his black hole. The gravity was still increasing but if he could destabilise the core then the entire thing would fall apart. If he had of been able to see the crystals he would have seen that they were a blur. Even with the enhanced eyesight of a Zoalord their spinning would have been too fast to make out the individual ones. But he didn't need to, all he needed to do was grasp one with his mind. Except, they were proving to be slippery and no matter how hard he pulled they remained elusive. The others sensed his frustration and they began pouring more energy into him. He grabbed it, merging it with his own as he reached out. The energy reached the glowing focus points. He felt it and through him, the rest of the circle felt it but the energy glanced off. They were moving too fast, generating their own energy now and that was shielding them.

:Just target one!: Fried'rich said.

:I'm trying!:

:No, your grab is too large.:

Imakarum felt a flash of anger then Purgstall's reasoning became clear. He was trying to grab one of the focus crystals. He didn't have to do that. He just had to poke one out of alignment. If he managed that everything would fall apart. And he had better manage it quickly because he was tiring, as were his fellows. This would be the last attempt and would use up their power. It was this… or oblivion!

He gathered their energy pulling every last bit that they gave to him into his mental hands as he fashioned it. This time, instead of trying to pull one of the spinning focusing points, he'd push into one. It didn't matter which one with the mass spinning that fast he couldn't pick out a single one anyway. The energy formed into a thrust, and almost as if he was using a snooker que Imakarum thrust it forward into the focusing point. He felt it hit and then felt the other focusing points impact shattering the energy but he hoped it was enough. It had to be enough!

It took a moment, an agonising moment of wondering if the crystal had dislodged. Behind him Jabir, Fried'rich and Natsuki sagged, exhausted but Mirabilis kept himself upright through will alone. They had not shorted him on the energy, giving everything they could summon. But then it happened and it happened all at once. He hadn't been able to hit the crystal hard, but the tiny jolt of movement had been enough to knock it out of alignment. The formation of the blackhole and its maintenance depended on the precision of those crystals.

When the spinning stopped, and the focusing points slammed into each other, shattering the force was released. It did not explode; though it did throw back some of the material which had been gathered towards the gravity well. Instead there was a spread of released light that flashed across space and the four Zoalords were left gasping.

:Well done!: Alkanphel's voice praised them. :Scans of the immediate surrounds indicate no follow up rocks,: he continued. :Longer range scans will be initiated once we have finished up, a task I will attend to now.: None of them were in any condition to stop him but Imakarum made Alkanphel aware that if they so much as scratched him, there would be hell to pay.

:I understand better now,: Natsuki gasped.

:Understand what?: Purgstall asked though his voice was also tinged with fatigue.

:Why Alkanphel was so insistent on getting a Unit. If he exhausted himself against that asteroid on Earth and he felt like this all the time…: The implications were obvious.

:Yes,: Mirabilis said. The others of the Circle knew Alkanphel's pain but he had felt it, felt the debilitating need for rest and the exhaustion that had been a part of the Supreme Zoalord's entire existence.

:It's going to take forever to clean up,: Jabir changed the subject, watching the distance where Alkanphel was destroying the few alien ships that had survived until now.

The thought caused a stir of anger. They would have to deal with the bodies on the planet and the debris around it somehow… The bodies first so they did not rot.

:Sleep first,: Natsuki said. :We can wait that long at least,: she added.

That was true and as the last of the alien ships was destroyed the four Zoalords rested secure with the knowledge that the battle was over.

Year 516 25th May, New India, Alien Disposal Point Alpha

Yentsui's expression said everything that needed to be said. He was not happy.

His fellow Zoalords were almost beside themselves with mirth.

One thing history never mentions when it speaks of battles is the reality of the aftermath. True, usually one force is victorious but what the histories of those who won never mention is that in the aftermath of victory there is a lot of clean up.

For New India… that meant there were thousands of alien bodies which had to be disposed of. The human bodies had already been collected in the first two days. The alien bodies had been tossed into piles while it was debated what should happen to them. Burning was suggested but burning, beyond the obvious environmental damage had the problem that no one was entirely sure if that might release pathogens from the bodies which were dangerous to humans into the atmosphere. It was the same problem with burial. Chances are if the aliens did have any pathogens they had already spread into the environment but there was no need to add to anything that was already there and the bodies could not just be left to rot.

It had left them at an impasse for a day or so, until someone had suggested that Yentsui's power could be used. His dimensional portals, which had recently been used to transport troops for the defence of New India could now be used to open doorways into space and the bodies pushed through. Once in space they could be pushed toward the sun. It would take a few years for them to reach New India's sun but they wouldn't be rotting on the planet.

And that is why Yentsui's expression was patently unhappy. And why his fellow Zoalords were quietly chuckling to themselves every time his name was mentioned.

It was not a normal use of his power but as Tetsuro had tried to point out, before Yentsui had cut the transmission, it was an eminently useful expression of power and it would save New India from environmental damage and would save the population from the risks inherent in handling corpses, human or otherwise. And all he had to do to help the clean-up was sit and hold open the gate. The crews came and threw the corpses through and in space, a small team of zoanoids optimised for vacuum, were sending them on towards the sun. When he had become a Zoalord, Balkus had promised him many things… power, immortality, respect… Garbage disposal had never even entered into the discussion… never… in all the centuries of life he had lived…

Yentsui's expression said everything that needed to be said. He was not happy.

Year 516 14th August, Orbit of Kyshrye, Former Hirotes Territory

Fukamachi looked down at the planet, his arms crossed over his chest. It had been a verdant world with rich green forests and emerald oceans. He was thankful that the oceans were emerald... If they had of been blue... But they weren't and now the forests were burning. Across the planet he could see the thick pall of smoke choking everything but he felt nothing. This wasn't the first planet he'd razed to the ground... it most likely would not be the last. Some natives would survive. The lucky ones but they would not be attacking further. They should be thankful that he wasn't doing worse! They had attempted kinetic strikes on New India! He would be well within his rights to do the same… but he was a Guyver-Zoalord, he didn't need to and the races of the galaxy were learning that lesson all too well.

Around him the grampus spun in complex patterns as the pilots and weaponry zoanoids cleared space of the last few defenders. He'd left them at it while he attended to the planet. He was proud to say that no human forces had ever used kinetic strikes on a planet. They had no need to and it was lesson the galaxy was learning the hard way.

:Sir... There is a ship approaching!: One of the grampus pilots caught his attention.

:Destroy it.: The order was automatic.

:It's an Erin ship sir. They say they wish to talk.:

For a moment Fukamachi was tempted to ignore them but the Erin had been honourable. As far as he knew they had never attacked a human ship and they, with a few others, had not been present in the attack on New India. They had taken his warning to heart... so he owed them the curtsey of speech. :Send them to my Ark, I'll talk to them there.: Almost reluctantly he turned away and speed towards his ship. Hopefully whatever the Erin wanted it could be dealt with quickly because with a bit of luck he could catch up to Aptom and the two of them could pass the night together.

Year 516 14th August, Chronos Ark, Cry Havoc, in orbit around Kyshrye, Former Hirotes Territory

When Sala had begun moving through the ranks of Abeco Corporation, the last place she ever thought she would be was deep in the heart of Hirotes space attempting to negotiate Hirotes surrender. But here she was approaching a being whose name had become a nightmare to the galaxy.

The first thought that struck her was that he was small. She'd seen vids of him but while he wasn't short... he was smaller than she expected. Perhaps his battle form was taller... Of course it was! She knew that and forcefully Sala tried to bring her mind to the present.

Fukamachi looking surprisingly... well... she didn't like to think it but ordinary. He was handsome enough and his robes moved around him precisely. She could tell from the cut of the design and the fall of the fabric that they were expensive but he wore them with a complete unconcern that made them seem a part of him. It made him seem... refined, graceful... peaceful. It was not the image she expected from a man she knew could and had single handedly razed planets to the ground, scouring off all evidence of civilisation to leave the natives reduced to the literal stone age. He had personally killed millions... possibly billions... he was not meant to look like this! Where were the feral red eyes? The blood dripping from his fangs and claws and the bulging hairy muscles… Where was the monster that ate your soul? The aura that froze thousands in terror… No, this was not that man.

He sat and motioned for her to take the other seat.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?" His eyes seemed to glitter which made the red brown appear all the more red.

She was surprised for an instant before collecting herself. Every piece of intel they had been able to gather said that while Fukamachi could spin the flowery speech of diplomacy if needed, he preferred to be almost brutally straight forward.

"I was selected to bring you a message." Selected and paid handsomely to bring a message. Well... Abeco Corporation had been.

The smile on Fukamachi's face could almost translate to his knowledge of their customs but he chose to ignore it. "What is this message?"

"It is from the Hirotes and their allies," Sala felt she had to say. If Fukamachi didn't want to hear the message then she didn't want to be killed because he disliked her words. It would be safer to let him chose to listen or not.

Again his smile spoke volumes as if he could read her mind and Sala suppressed a shiver. His eyes almost glowed red but he didn't lose his air of urbane refinement. "And what do my dear enemies have to say?" There was no threat in his tone, just interest.

"'We surrender'," Sala said.

"That's nice," Fukamachi said and Sala felt her eyes widen as he made to rise.

"What?" She couldn't help but blurt the word. Maybe he was the monster the others said he was.

"I said that's nice," he repeated looking at her with a slight frown before he nodded to himself.

Sala struggled to speak. She'd been expecting many responses, they all had... just not this one.

"Ah... I see," Fukamachi said, his voice tinged with a note of understanding. "You expected me to be surprised, or to be happy? Or perhaps gracious? Yes?"

Shocked, she nodded. They had expected almost anything except the indifference shown.

"Well... allow me to explain," he said, almost gently. "I do not care," Fukamachi continued his voice smooth as if he was discussing the weather. Outside the ship had moved orbit slightly and Sala could see the planet burning at Fukamachi's back. The human rose and turned to look at it, motioning her to come to stand beside him, which she did but she could not quite hide her trepidation.

"You wonder now why I do not care? Or perhaps you wonder why I can stand here and watch without emotion?" He asked but did not wait for an answer. "It is quite simple my dear, they brought this upon themselves. If I care, I care for the lives that have been lost in this pointless struggle. I care for the days I have not spent with my lady wife or the nights I have not shared with the embrace of my lovers."

Sala hardly dared to breathe. No one anywhere had ever mentioned or even breathed that Fukamachi was married... Married but not faithful given the ease with which he admitted to lovers. But then... what woman would object... certainly not one who expected to live. Mentally she shook her head. Human mating culture was confusing but not the issue now... She needed something better, something to work with but perhaps confusion about human culture could be an opening.

"Forgive me... so surrender means nothing to humans?" she asked, phrasing the question as if this was merely a matter of culture.

"It means a great deal," Fukamachi replied. "That's the problem."

"I don't understand."

The man beside her seemed to sigh but his posture demonstrated no change. "If I acknowledge their surrender, then I grant them certain rights... rights I do not have to give an enemy," he explained.

She wasn't sure what she could say to that. She felt sick. Fukamachi was every bit the monster they had told her about… he just masked it and masked it so well that to him… the slaughter of planets was merely a day's work. Sala bit her lip… she had to find some way but she knew if she tried to push the surrender Fukamachi would resist it and there was nothing she could use as leverage, not against a man like this.

They stood in silence for long moments watching the planet burn before Fukamachi sighed deeply, turning back to his desk. "Very well," he said at last, touching a button which brought up a hologram showing a young human woman. "Mizuki would be disappointed if I committed xenocide."

Sala frowned. She did not understand the term though Fukamachi's basic was impeccable.

Again he seemed to possess an uncanny ability to read her. "Xenocide," he repeated. "Since it is not humans, it isn't genocide."

She still did not understand.

"Xenocide," Fukamachi repeated. "Killing the entire alien species," he explained.

Sala felt her eyes widen. It was an unbelievable concept but he spoke of it so casually. Then she remembered the original sentence... Who was Mizuki? How did she hold so much power over Fukamachi?

"Lady Mizuki Fukamachi, my wife."

She gulped. She couldn't help it. Mizuki was his wife? The wife he admitted openly that he was not faithful to with his lovers? She held that much power still? Human culture made absolutely no sense! These humans were truly alien if Fukamachi could put so much power in his wife's hands but disregard it so casually.

"Sit down," Fukamachi's voice took on a thin note of annoyance. "If I am to accept their surrender, then they will accept my terms which are deteriorating for every moment this keeps me away from spending the night with Aptom."

Year 516 20th August, Chronos Ark, Cry Havoc

"Well... I think you should get half the galaxy to surrender more often," Aptom said as he stretched. "And I can't wait to see your reaction to the Uranus!"

"What do you mean?" Shō asked turning his head to look up at the scarred man's face. The feel of Aptom's chest beneath him and the steady thump of his heart was comforting.

"Surrender did not come from the Uranus."

"Of course not! We'd have never accepted that."

"Even with that though, half the galaxy surrendering has made you insatiable! The Uranus... who knows what that will do! Though are you only this happy because you broke their pacts? The Uranus promised the races that they'd support them in fighting us... Or supposedly they did and you've seen how much support has been provided."

Shō laughed. "Their fault for believing them."

Aptom moved one hand, placing it on his shoulder as Shō turned again, lying on top of the hyper-zoanoid with his chin resting on Aptom's chest. "You're warm," he said with a smile before he sighed, becoming serious again. "I know the Hijane had something to do with it," Shō continued. "All the aliens we ever talked to said this was all the Hijane's fault."

"It was," the zoanoid-guyver rumbled, moving his hands to Fukamachi's shoulder blades and rubbing gently. "The way I understand it is that some Uranus took over the Hijane leadership and the ambassador, and then hypnotised the rest of the ambassadors or brainwashed them or something. And then before most of the races knew it, they had attacked New India."

"If their military controls are that lax then we did them a favour," Shō said.

"It's a bit more than that," Aptom countered, "but the short version is that the Uranus promised them support... and they gave it. At least at the battle of New India... after that... they've been surprisingly scarce."

Even though Aptom spread his legs, which allowed them to rub together deliciously and was a clear invitation for a more vigorous pass time, Shō frowned. The Uranus had been scarce lately. Oh, there were forces still engaging them but...

"Those absolute cowards!" he cried.

"What?" Aptom snapped.

"The Uranus! We should have seen this! They used them."

"The Uranus used who?"

"They used the races of the galaxy. Think! We've been busy decimating the attackers... and we've been attacking the Uranus... but the fleets haven't encountered as many Uranus as they should have. While we destroyed some of the Uranus fleet we still haven't accounted for them all! They used the rest of races as camouflage and they've gone to ground."

The hyper-zoanoid began swearing.

Shō sighed and shifted slightly, hooking one leg up so that it balanced on Aptom's as he thought. "There's no help for it," he said eventually. "We'll just have to find them the old fashioned way."

"We could boost Lois' ability..."

"Already are. We don't want to push too much power into him. How far is your range?" Shō asked without the slightest trace of doubt that Aptom would have... appropriated Lois' very useful ability.

"Less than his," the hyper-zoanoid replied. "It's a very specific ability but mine is good enough."

"Oh well," Fukamachi sighed before he folded his arms, looking down at Aptom. "We'll just have to go hunting," he purred. "And you do so know how I love hunting."

The scarred man grinned as Shō's smile turned licentious and he shifted his grip, holding Fukamachi close to him as he rolled them over so that he was looking down into the ruddy eyes he knew so well. "Well..." he breathed. "I think I need to practice."

"Funny... I was thinking the same thing."

Year 516 16th November, 51 Pegasi, Former Eoiyie Territory

Caerleon speed through space, his senses extended. It was a nice enough system. A couple of planets, not fit for habitation but there was a rather pretty gas giant similar to Jupiter which he was approaching.

:They should be around there,: Lois' voice came to him. The young Zoalord was hiding in space between stars but his senses had extended this far. Not by himself. It was true his range had increased over the centuries but he didn't have this much range. Maybe he would in time but for the moment he only had such range when another Zoalord gave him a boost. Natsuki and Shizu usually performed that role. It was a throwback to belief that women should not fight, though the few Uranus who had encountered would have laughed at that belief… if they had been able to. Natsuki was with Lois now, boosting his reach as she recuperated from the attack on New India.

:There is nothing here,: he said. :There's a couple of planets in this system but nothing else. I'm not even sensing any satellites or vapour trails."

:They are there! Somewhere. I still sense them.:

Edward sighed. He didn't doubt Lois but it didn't seem possible. :I'll search around the planets then, in case they ar… YARGH!: Agony lanced through him, shattering the link with Lois and he was hard pressed not to fall out of his Zoalord form. Caerleon gasped, gulping blood. "Help…" the word was choked and before his vision was consumed by darkness he turned towards the planet… a light faded and then he knew no more.

:Caerleon?: Lois called, projecting his mental voice as powerfully as he could. He could still feel Edward but just for a moment his senses had been overwhelmed by the feel of Uranus and then Caerleon went silent. :Edward!: he screamed but there was no answer.

His scream did not go unnoticed and Natsuki broke her link with him, dulling his senses!

"No!" Lois sobbed.

"Lois!" the Zoalady snapped but the young man was too distraught. :Lois!: she reached out, trying to centre him. He didn't hear her, he didn't want to and Natsuki could feel his mind and senses reaching out, trying to find Caerleon. A futile task without her help. She slapped him.

The force snapped his head to the side and the shock snapped his mind back to his body and Natsuki was quick to force his black eyes to meet hers. "Lois!" She growled his name, staring at him. "Tell me what happened?"

"I don't know!" Lois answered, distraught. "He just disappeared from my mind."

"Who is he?"

"Edward!"

Natsuki took a deep breath, settling her own nerves. She could not afford to fall apart here. "Think," she coaxed. "Where was he?"

"He was searching that system."

"Which system?" she frowned slightly.

Lois gulped, deliberately bringing himself under control. "One of the systems you boosted me to feel. I wasn't sure… Well… not really. But I asked Edward to look… just in case."

"All right," she made sure her voice was calm even as she stretched out, touching those Zoalords who could help. The Circle was linked in a manner. They didn't share each other's thoughts but they could talk no matter the distance. :Tetsuro, Shōel, Amniculus, Yentsui!: She reached with her mind, not really caring if the others heard. Natsuki didn't bother wait for them to reply. :Caerleon's been injured. I don't know by what but the co-ordinates are here. You have to find him.:

Shō growled into her mind but she could already feel him teleporting. Amniculus and Yentsui also replied before they teleported while Tetsuro reached out to touch them both, giving what comfort he could to Lois and herself. :I'm already firing up the tank,: he said and Natsuki felt a flush of thanks. Edward would be found. Whoever or whatever had hurt him would be dead and the instant he was back in their hands, he would be well cared for.

In the system Fukamachi appeared, flaring his aura. The reason was twofold. It was a challenge. If Caerleon felt it, he'd reply but it also served as notice to whoever had attacked. He would take them on… if they had the guts to appear!

There was nothing to his senses, even when he extended those of his Unit, and Shōel snarled but with his senses extended he felt Caerleon. He didn't think before he teleported to his fellow Zoalord's side. Edward was unconscious… blood hung in space around him and it was only because he was a Zoalord that he was still alive. His breath was gasping, bubbling in his throat in a way that was not healthy. His wounds were both cauterised and bloody. Whatever had caused them was… Amniculus and Yentsui appeared and Shō could see shock enter their eyes before they extended themselves towards their fellow Zoalord, pouring energy into him.

:Teleport to Segawa,: Amniculus instructed, barely looking over as Fukamachi reached out to touch them both. They disappeared leaving the only evidence of their passing the floating crystal forms of ice blood that had poured from Caerleon.

Year 516 16th November, Chronos Ark, Mighty Pen

Tetsuro already had Caerleon in a tank of glowing liquid but Lois was crying. The young zoalord's muffled sobs echoed through the room filled with power. But the power was tinged with worry. Tetsuro was making fast, frantic adjustments, his face a mask of worry and outside the dark of space they could see the extent of the damage.

Whatever had injured him… They had not seen this before. There were things that could injure Zoalords. Asteroids, passing too close to the sun, another Zoalord, a Guyver but Caerleon was too skilled to be taken unawares by an asteroid and he had not been too close to the sun, while the other two were allied…

Alkanphel appeared but Tetsuro didn't even pause in his work as the other Zoalords nodded their heads towards their leader. Mirabilis appeared in his wake and Lois still sobbed.

Shō looked up at Caerleon. It looked like something had tried to split him in two and there was one long gash running up one leg and his body but from that slash horizontal wounds extended, as if while they were trying to split him in two they changed their minds, and wanted to inflict more damage. Some of the gashes were cauterised, others were raw as if different weapons had inflicted them. This was not the work of blades, whatever had caused that damage had been energy based though the frequencies were different and possibly the base carrier to cause such a different array of damage.

"I'm getting tachyon, photon… argh! None of these things should be here!" Tetsuro growled, heedless of his audience as he worked. Natsuki had taken a position on the other side of the tank and was also making adjustments to the fluid. It was too early to say but Caerleon remained floating, and he did not look peaceful. Blood still seeped into the liquid though now the loss of the fluid wouldn't be fatal. He twitched involuntarily and that was meant to be impossible with the sedatives that were involved.

"This is my fault," Lois sobbed and the gathered zoalords looked to their young companion.

Lois looked a lot like Alkanphel, hardly surprising given his method of creation but the young zoalord had blood shot eyes and was staring miserably at Caerleon. To the surprise of all, Shōel waved off his fellows as he made his way over to the young man. Without hesitation he slung one arm around Lois' shoulders, and began talking.

"Shh… It's not your fault and Tetsuro is here now. Just tell me what happened?" While Fukamachi's voice was a whisper the rest of the zoalord's heard it and were surprised by the soft note of support in their fellows tone. He had been cold in the last few years to the point of being unapproachable but there was nothing about that in his demeanour now.

"It's my fault!" Lois sobbed again, and Shōel ran a soothing hand up and down the young man's back, brushing his black hair out of the way.

"No, it's not. But tell me what happened. We can't do anything until we know what happened." Again, no recrimination or blame, merely warm support in his voice.

Amniculus stared and then looked to Alkanphel who shrugged, indicating that this was normal and the old zoalord looked back at the former rebel with new eyes. There was far more to Fukamachi than he knew.

"I … Natsuk… Taga-san has been boosting me so that I can feel entire star systems to try to find the Uranus."

"And you've been very good at it!" The praise flowed from Shō though the older Zoalords shuddered at the underlying note of pleasure.

Lois sniffed before he continued. "There was one system… I wasn't sure. There was something there… but it was almost beneath my senses and it could have been anything. Pirates, some sort of space station that survived the purge… So… I asked Edward to search for me… just to be sure."

"And then?"

"And then that happened!" The young zoalord wailed. "This is my fault!"

"Stop that," Shō's voice was hard but not unreasonably so. "This was not your fault," he said. "Did you make those cuts? Did you fire the weapon? Did you want him to be injured? Did you know that anyone was there?"

Lois was silent for a few moments, his wavy black hair quivering as he cried and Shō pulled him closer, wrapping the young man in his arms as he hugged him. The sight was comforting but in the back of Amniculus' mind he could not help but marvel at the strength contained there. They were both compact. Lois' human form was very small for a zoalord and Fukamachi had built up muscle over the years but he was still lithe compared to the rest of them. Lois' pale face and elfin ears, curtsey of Alkanphel stabilising his energy, made him seem almost ethereal but he had lost all grace with his sobs, while Fukamachi looked far too innocent given what he knew what Chronos' Second in Command was capable of. "No…" the young man managed to say after a moment.

"Hmm?" Shō prompted.

"No," Lois repeated sounding more sure of himself this time.

"Then it is not your fault," Fukamachi said the statement as if it closed the issue but they all knew it wasn't closed. Caerleon was injured and injured badly and while it was not the young zoalord's fault… someone or something had done this to him and they had no more information now than earlier.

"Tell me what you felt," Shō coaxed after a moment to let Lois think.

"Felt?"

"You were linked with Edward… Tell me what you felt. I know it's hard but the slightest hint might tell us something that will help."

The pale zoalord took a deep breath his features marring with thought. "Just… just for an instant… Right when it happened, I thought I felt Uranus. But it was far too strong for them and I couldn't pin point it."

"See," Shō smiled at him. "You do remember something."

"It's nothing."

"On the contrary," Fukamachi assured him, his dark eyes narrowing and his aura of menace building slowly. "You have confirmed that there are Uranus there… or at least their tech and that's enough." The former Rebel shifted Lois in his arms slightly, holding the young man out so that he was forced to look into Fukamachi's almost burning eyes.

Amniculus realised with a start that they were not brown as they should have been but were rudy, as if the brown had become the red of rich river clay. It was not meant to be possible and for a Zoalord… he wasn't sure what he could say.

"There is one thing I need you to do for me," Shō said. "You have anger, you have grief, Lois, I feel it within you. Give it to me."

"What?" Those not involved in attending to Caerleon were confused.

"Give it to me," Shō repeated. "You have to let it go Lois or it will consume you. Give it to me instead."

"Won't it consume you?" Lois asked with confusion. He didn't want to hurt his friend.

Fukamachi smiled and there was nothing in the gesture to recommend it. Cunning and fierce anticipation shone in his eyes. "It won't have a chance," he assured the young zoalord. "Your grief will find those responsible, your anger will strike them… but only after they speak," he almost purred the words. "It shall be your hand that strikes through me."

:Fukamachi you can't!" Amniculus objected.

:Of course I can,: came the calm reply and it was then that the older Zoalord realised that this is how Fukamachi had been able to fight for so long, where his unholy endurance came from. But the darkness was consuming him slowly, though his will kept it at bay… How long could he continue if he took on the darkness of others… And what would he be when there was no light… Rubeo swallowed heavily, not wanting to think about it.

:Be careful,: it was the only thing he could say.

:I'm always careful,: Fukamachi answered and with it came the thought that whoever had attacked, must have taken Caerleon by surprise. It was combined with Guyver-Zoalord's thought that they would not take him in the same way. It was not arrogance for Fukamachi to think that, merely fact and Amniculus recognised the truth. Embedded in it though was that the former rebel held no blame towards Edward. That surprised Rubeo but he was thankful. At least Fukamachi was not so arrogant to think he was infallible.

"But…" Lois objected again.

"Give it to me," Shōel cajoled gently. "If it stays with you, your mind will be trying to find those who hurt him and you will be distracted. Give it to me and your focus will not be divided." The words were the clincher and Lois held out his hand, palm up.

Shō covered it with his own and for an instant the two of them seemed to blur before Fukamachi stepped back, his eyes redder and a soft smile on his face. "Thank you, Lois," he said. "Now focus on Caerleon. He will need your help. I will hunt those responsible, and I will find them. They will know his name before they die. They will know everything... just as we will." The room seem to grow colder with his words. Before anyone could respond Fukamachi nodded his head towards Alkanphel and vanished.

Year 516 21st November, Chronos Ark, Mighty Pen

"How is it going?" Natsuki's question to Tetsuro was quiet and despite the reminder it brought of better times he couldn't be happy.

"I've stopped his deterioration," he replied aware that Lois was listening. The young Zoalord hadn't even been interested in playing chess lately. His focus was on Caerleon who still bobbed gently in the processing tank. The only books Tetsuro had managed to interest Lois in had been medical texts but those said nothing about the treatment of injuries this severe.

Edward was still held in his Zoalord form and the wounds had not yet begun to close. The glowing green fluid was stained with his blood. They'd cleaned it a few times but since they could not stop the bleeding it was better to let the liquids stabilise. The main wound ran from Edward's right shoulder, down his torso and abdomen to end in a deep gash on his left thigh. Crossing it were four other wounds. The middle two were across his chest and guts. The highest was the most difficult. It had come close to cutting straight through Caerleon's throat and if it had… They wouldn't be here. The lowest… well… if he had of been in human form… Edward would have had to give up chasing Lois as a bed partner.

"That's good right?" Lois said, looking up at Edward. For all that the young Zoalord had sometimes seemed flustered with Edward's attention; it was obvious that he cared.

"It is," Tetsuro agreed. Lois had barely left this chamber since Caerleon had been brought back and while five days of no sunlight was not going to make him any paler, it would not be healthy if it continued indefinitely. Tetsuro made a mental note to attend to that before it happened but for now it would be a futile cause.

"Has Shō found anything?" Natsuki asked, turning the conversation slightly. She knew what would follow. The deterioration had been stopped but Edward wasn't healing.

"Not yet. He figures it best not to actively search and is lying in wait."

"But they could take him by surprise!" Lois objected.

Tetsuro turned and smiled. "He's checking in with me each night and Mizuki and Aptom are both monitoring him constantly via his Unit. They won't take him."

The words served to calm Lois, who despite Shō's efforts still carried some guilt. "That's good," he said after taking several deep breaths… but then Tetsuro saw it when a new thought appeared. Lois was so delightfully open with his expression that the scientist could understand Edward's fascination. "What is he eating?" The question was blurted almost horrified.

"Oh don't worry about Shōel," Natsuki dismissed the question. "He'll lie in wait a lot longer if it means capturing a Uranus."

"But…" Lois objected meekly. Natsuki was so dominating at times that it was hard to question her but zoalords were beings of energy. They needed food to sustain the expenditure of that energy. He understood that better than most, since his energy form had been so unstable until Alkanphel had solidified him into this form.

"Shō is not just a Zoalord," Tetsuro explained, taking pity on the young man. "His Unit is sustaining him." Even as it ate him, he added the last silently to himself but Lois didn't need to hear the last. His unit would sustain him but it would do so by converting all his fat and muscle mass before it used its own energy. The human body would do the same… just that a guyver unit was so much more efficient at it. Shō would need a lot of food when he returned but that was nothing which could not be accommodated.

"He's not healing, is he Tetsuro?" The change in demeanour from Lois was startling with the question.

Tetsuro sighed. "No, he's not. And I don't know why."

"Alkanphel solidified me from energy! Surely there is something that can be done," Lois cried.

"I've already trie…" Tetsuro paused mid-sentence and his eyes clouded with thought. 'From energy'… the words sparked a memory… but it was long ago and as he thought he remember vaguely. He had been debating things with Khan at the time. The old Zoalord had not been Balkus' equal but he was no slouch and he was better than the others when analysing possibilities… What had they been discussing? It was something to do with energy and… "Resonance," he breathed the word.

"Stay with him Lois!" Tetsuro almost shouted as he ran to the door. "I have to check something." He missed the almost bewildered look shared by Natsuki and Lois as he disappeared.

Year 516 22nd November, Chronos Ark, Mighty Pen

"Will it hinder?" Alkanphel asked.

"No," Tetsuro shook his head. "It will either work… or it won't. And if it doesn't we will be in the same situation as we are now."

"Then, despite the energy consumption, I see no reason why you should not try it."

"Thank you, my Lord," Tetsuro bowed and the connection was cut.

Lois and Natsuki were on him in an instant. "What do you want to try?"

He signed as he sat down. "Something that I hope will work."

"But what?"

"It's a procedure," Tetsuro said. "It's completely theoretical," he added. "Khan and I speculated centuries ago that it was theoretically possible," the words left him slowly as he sought the best way to explain.

"Go back to the beginning," Natsuki said.

After taking a few moments to gather his thoughts, Tetsuro looked at them both. The room was dark, lit only by the glow of the fluid where Caerleon was suspended. It created an eerie environment, one that was almost surreal but perhaps that was the best to explain this. "Lois, when you spoke of energy yesterday and of the way you were formed, you reminded me of a conversation I had with Cablarl Khan centuries ago.

"We were speculating on the use of a Zoalord's combat energy to heal. Not something we truly thought possible but out of that conversation there came the idea of resonance…

"Edward is injured," Tetsuro sighed, needlessly gesturing towards the Zoalord who had not moved in days and was only alive because the fluid provided everything he needed; food, air, water and kept his condition from deteriorating. "But his body and his energy remembers what his condition should be like. Remembers is the wrong term but it will suffice," he muttered fussily to himself. "The problem we are facing here is that for whatever reason his normal healing energy cannot act. Something is inhibiting it and despite looking, we just don't know what it is.

"But that's where the beauty of the idea of resonance comes in. If we can create a copy of Edward's energy, and place that copy near enough to him then, I'm hoping, the two will resonate."

Lois frowned… His mind brushed around the edges of the idea but it was… There were so many questions. "Where do you get the copy from?"

"From Edward."

"But that would be too dangerous."

"I know," Tetsuro agreed. "We can't drain any of Edward's energy. That could be fatal. All we need to do though is use his energy as the template for the copy. You, and I and everyone we can call in will provide the power. The energy will provide the form."

"So what if they don't… resonate?" Natsuki asked

"Then we will have used an awful lot of energy, which without the stabilisation provided by resonance will dissipate."

"So if they resonate..?"

"If they resonate," Tetsuro said, looking oddly pleased, "then, Edward's energy should recongise its true form and be able to push through whatever it stopping it from taking it. He should be able to heal and I think once healing starts, I can help it along."

"So what happens to the copy?"

"Oh, that's just energy, when it's no longer needed it disappears," the scientifically minded Zoalord shrugged. "It will be created by all of us, using Edward as a template so it will most likely return to us… Or I suppose it might go into Edward… which would help."

Natsuki was silent for a moment as she thought. She had no idea about the science behind this but if Tetsuro thought it might work then they would try it, especially as it didn't seem to have any ill side effects. "So… the more people contributing to this energy template thingee, the better?"

"Well… it's only going to be able to hold so much energy but yes, I believe that would be accurate. At the very least, the more people who contribute the less draining it will be for them all."

"When do you need them?" her eyes were intent but Lois shared her thought and practically glared at him.

"Hmm…" Tetsuro frowned thinking through what he was about to do. He knew in theory… but now he needed to translate that to practice. "I'll need to set up a secondary tank and stablise the fluid with Edward… and then conduit will be needed to link…" he muttered the considerations under his breath but his audience was patient. "Three… no four hours," he said finally. "That's the earliest."

Lois and Natsuki shared a look and Tetsuro could see them discussing something. "Set up eight power feeds," she said finally. "But do not include yourself in it! If this is so experimental then you are going to have to remain conscious so you can't be feeding energy into the template."

"Eight…" he was surprised. Regardless of the fact Edward was injured they were still in a war and the Commanders were needed where they were.

"Eight," Natsuki said firmly. "I'll get them all."

Year 516 22nd November, Chronos Ark, Mighty Pen

Tetsuro looked at those Natsuki had gathered. He should have known she'd get everyone needed. Lois might have been crying over Edward but she felt the wound just as deeply. The Council Zoalord had made almost a playful sport of chasing Lois but he and Natsuki had passed many a night together. Those she had gathered were standing roughly in position, spaced at the places he'd need them. It wasn't a ritual; he just thought it best to space out the energy collectors.

"Edward is injured," he said unnecessarily but figured that the obvious was the best to start his explanation. "He is not responding to treatments and despite my, and others, best efforts, we do not know why. It is as if what caused the damage is inhibiting healing. So, we are going to try something that is only theoretically possible. Practically, it has never been tested, though there are different examples of parts of this theory working."

"What do you mean?"

He frowned for a moment, trying to find the best example. "The Grampus," he said shortly. "Their dimensional blades are created by three weaponry zoanoids who work together… who resonate with each other. If they did not, the blade would be unstable and would not form. That is an example of resonance, and that is at the heart of what we are going to try.

"Edward's energy is trying to heal him. His body knows that it should not bear those wounds. If something is blocking healing and it cannot be removed, then the only hope is to overwhelm it. To do that, we are going to use the theory of resonance and give Edward something to resonate with. It will be a copy, not of him but of his energy, something it will recognise.

"In the very best case, he will resonate with the energy and consume it to heal. What I hope will happen is that the energy resonates with him, overcoming the barrier to healing and then we can boost it via normal means. But the worst case is that nothing will happen which is why we are going to try this since we cannot hurt him."

The gathered people nodded. "Just tell us what we have to do."

Tetsuro nodded before speaking. "The two bio-tubes before you are linked. I've already created a template in the empty one which is based on Edward's energy signature. So for now, those of you who are Guyvers need to summon your armour and for the rest, please harness your energy and give it into the collectors. It will feed into the bio-tube to create the energy copy of Edward. We have asked for the participation of so many so that it is not exhausting to any one being."

"Is the fluid meant to be cloudy?" Purgstall asked.

"No," Tetsuro said with a sigh. "I've equalised it with Edward's and since he has bleed… that's what you are seeing, the contamination of his blood. If I clean it, he will just bleed more."

The zoalord nodded and after he looked around briefly, Tetsuro made a few more minute adjustments. "You can begin when you are ready." It was a rudimentary skill for a zoalord to gather their power and release it, one all zoalords were taught. For a normal zoanoid it might be difficult but unless they were an energy type, most were never taught how to consciously harness their power. So, it only took a few moments for energy to begin to flow into the template Tetsuro had created. It glowed, soft and gentle and he smiled, recognising that for the moment they were all holding back.

"The conduits will hold," he said aloud, making further adjustments. So far everything was going well. The energy was flowing into the tank and then along the paths he had laid for it. It was gathering, growing stronger and in theory once it was strong enough, it would either reach out to Edward as a like form or Edward would reach out to it… and they would resonate. "Though keep the energy flow steady," he advised. Slow and sure was the best option here.

Time passed and the energy grew. Tetsuro adjusted things as they progressed and when he looked up he was pleased. The glow of energy which had initially been almost blindingly brilliant had softened slightly and was forming into a definite humanoid form. He turned towards Edward's bio-tube and watched as the readouts did nothing. That was good! In fact for the moment that was great! He only hoped they didn't spike.

"Tetsuro…" Natsuki called, her voice urgent.

"Tetsuro!" Miraya echoed. "You'd better look at this!"

Once he had turned back it took a moment to see what they saw and Tetsuro was left staring at the bio-tube. The fluid was clearing. The cloudiness caused by Edward's blood was dissipating. It was slow but it was happening. "I guess the energy is cleansing," he said though his tone was not convinced. "Continue, please," he encouraged the gathered zoalords and guyvers. The energy flow had to be steady to establish the template properly. He punched a few more controls.

"Tetsuro!" Natsuki was insistent.

He looked back up and froze. The energy was still flowing in the path he had designed. "That's not possible…" he muttered. The organic material was being filtered out of the liquid but it was not being cleansed. Instead it was forming into a network of fibres that were laid out like a human circulatory system. As he watched the liquids in the two tanks continued to circulate and he could see it visibly clearing.

"Stop the energy feed!"

"We can't!" Natsuki growled. "You don't think I haven' t been trying?" she snapped. The others nodded.

"What is happening?" Amniculus asked.

"It's forming a body."

"There's not enough nutrient there!" Miraya said. "Blood maybe but there isn't enough calcium or other minerals."

"It does appear to be helping though." Of all of them Alkanphel was the calmest and his gaze had settled on Edward. Their energy was now being drained but he was looking better. Or perhaps it was merely the cleaning of the bioliquid.

"That's too soon!" Tetsuro objected. "Resonance can't have begun!"

"Well, we can't stop," Purgstall said matter of factly. "So all we can do is go forward. If it's now trying to form a body, Tetsuro, then I suggest you make the necessary additions to the fluid and we let this experiment take its course. This may be what it desires by resonance."

Reluctantly Tetsuro nodded. There wasn't much else he could do and despite what was happening, Alkanphel was right... it did not appear to be injuring Edward.

Year 516 23rd November, Chronos Ark, Ark of Chronos

"Report."

"The copy is fully functional and fully independent. Resonance is successful and Edward is already healing though I'm keeping him unconscious," Tetsuro summarised the situation.

"How did it form?" Alkanphel asked.

"It should not have formed. I have checked the outputs, the templates, so has Khan. There is nothing there which should have initiated that."

"Not the question," the Supreme Zoalord interrupted. "How did it form?" He repeated his question.

"In an effort to stablise Edward, the biofiltration was at its lowest setting. The biological material formed the base, providing the DNA map and additional nutrients were added once it became clear what was happening. I can only postulate that the energy template was enough to trigger the formation of a physical template as well."

"Is it alive?"

"Yes, my Lord, though it is being kept sedated."

Alkanphel sighed. The only good news to come out of the fiasco was that Edward was healing. Already the wounds crossing his body were responding to treatment and closing. That left them now with a copy, an almost perfect clone that should not have formed. The supreme zoalord believed Tetsuro on that. Khan had looked over the settings, as had Imakarum and Miraya and they could find nothing wrong. But it had formed and he had to deal with it. "How perfect is this copy?"

"Perfect, my Lord," Tetsuro replied.

"Zoalord?"

"Yes."

"Crystal?"

"Yes."

"Independent energy flow?"

"Yes."

"Self-sustaining?"

"Yes."

"So an independent cloned life form with no attachment to the original?"

"Yes."

"Why it is blond?"

"I don't know." On that Tetsuro the whisper of chagrin entered Segawa's voice. That was the only difference between Edward and... well... Edward. In all other aspects, in every way that mattered, it was a perfect copy, down to an including the zoacrystal, a feat which was meant to be impossible. The supreme zoalord had to give credit to Tetsuro, when he achieved the impossible, he didn't do it by half.

The theory was easy. Their combined energy, interacting to create the simulacrum of Edward's energy interacted with the biomaterial and the cloning process was begun. It was their energy which had coalesced, solidifying to form the crystal which had essentially completed the process as Tetsuro had added additional nutrients and materials mid-way through. The two beings had resonated, as planned and Edward had begun healing.

"How intelligent is it?"

Tetsuro paused before answering, thinking. "I believe that it had Edward's knowledge," he said finally. "The brain wave activity is almost identical which would indicate that at least some knowledge is there. I do not believe we are dealing with a child in a zoalord's body."

Alkanphel nodded. That was a small blessing.

"I can kill it, my Lord," the suggested was differential but genuine.

"No. I do not think Lois would let you." The young Zoalord had stayed by Edward's... clones side the entire time. "Let it awaken, but in a full containment zone so that we can find out what we are dealing with. You've created the impossible Tetsuro, it would be a shame to destroy it without seeing if it can be useful and besides... we need to give Edward the chance to meet his brother."

Tetsuro gulped and nodded. "Yes, my Lord."

Year 516 1st December, 51 Pegasi, Former Eoiyie Territory

When the change happened, it happened all at once and his senses came alive with feeling. For days Shō had been lying on this rock, his senses, guyver and zoalord and just plain human stretched out as far as they could. It gave him almost complete situational awareness similar to that of Lois' but the difference between him and the young Zoalord was that he truly had to concentrate, Lois just knew what was happening. Despite concentrating for the last fifteen days he did not miss the ship when it launched.

What surprised him was the location. The system was comprised of a close orbit gas giant, and a few rocky planets orbiting further out. A few stray rocks had also been attracted and were orbiting the planets. He'd expected the ship to be hiding on those planets, or on one of their moons. He had not thought that the Uranus ship would launch from the gas giant, its hull glowing as it dissipated heat.

Shō let it gain altitude; let it think it was safe before he pushed off from the rock. Uranus were so used to fighting zoanoids that they often forgot that there were guyvers in the human forces. He and Aptom had used that fact to their advantage several times.

Even if they expected him, it was too late. He closed with it impossibly fast and ran guyver reinforced claws over the hull. Unlike the first Uranus ships he had ever destroyed he didn't want this one to become an inferno but that was several lifetimes ago and he was far more practiced now. The ship turned and with his senses open Fukamachi could almost feel the panic of the Uranus. He flicked around and ran his claws down the other side. The ship shuddered.

It wasn't that his scratches were that deep. It was a space ship, armoured for the rigours of space travel but he was cutting with more than just his claws. Energy blades extended further, cutting just deep enough to leave it now dead in space without allowing it to explode.

Shō backed away slightly content to see what move the Uranus would make. Either it would stay on the ship and make him come to it, or it would try to run... though where it could run... The Guyver-Zoalord was not sure. He wasn't disappointed. For all that it would have been safer for the Uranus to stay on the ship, it appeared, emerging into space as a glowing ball and he moved without hesitation, his hands springing up as he manifested the containment field the Grampus were now known for.

Inside his barrier the Uranus screamed! Shō drifted close to it, watching curiously when the Uranus threw itself back from him. It was not the first time he had been recognised. It would not be the last and it gave him a cold sense of satisfaction. The Uranus should fear him.

:No! Not you! I saw you leave! You can't be here!: it was babbling.

:But I came back," Fukamachi purred. :And I waited for you.:

:You can't have! I would have sensed you!:

:Yet here I am. And there you are.:

:It's not possible!:

:Look,: Shō snapped. :We can argue this until you glow blue, but it doesn't change the facts. You are here. I am here and you know what happens next.:

:You kill me.:

:Quite true, but the nature of your death has yet to be decided. So you have a choice.:

:Choice!: the Uranus spat, an impressive feat for one without a mouth. :You're going to kill me.:

:Yes but you have information I want. You can tell me and I will drain your energy, which is a quick and painless way to die,: Shō offered. :Or you can chose not to tell me in which case, I will torture it out of you before I overwhelm your being with my personal energy which is, quite frankly, an excruciatingly painful way for a Uranus to die.:

:I don't know anything!: The Uranus wailed.

:Of course you do,: Fukamachi countered. :Caerleon was not injured by nothing.:

:That wasn't me!:

:But you know what it was.:

Inside the barrier the Uranus recognised its mistake and it froze.

:So,: Shō said easily. :I'll only offer this once. Which is it to be?:

:I just want to go home!: There was a note of longing in the Uranus' voice and even with everything that had happened Fukamachi did not think the feeling of homesickness was feigned.

:We hold your home, Uranus. We swept through your space and took over your home system.:

Somehow that statement seemed to give the Uranus strength. :You do not hold our home,: it countered, it's voice full of pride. :You do not recognise our home! And from it we shall strike you failed experiments down!:

Shō frowned. That was not an answer he had expected but it felt truthful and he let his mind wander to the system they had conquered. It had been a system much like Sol. Outer gas giants orbited the star while smaller rocky planets orbited closer. Their star was bigger that Sol and older and there were only five planets but as one was Earth like the similarities had been shocking. It had pained them to damage a planet they might have once called home but they no choice and they had burned the Uranus from the face of the Earth like planet leaving it... Shō hoped it wasn't dead. If there had been indigenous life on that planet he hoped that some pockets had survived but he was realistic. They had, in all likelihood left that world dead and it was only through their better graces that they had not destroyed it utterly.

But now this Uranus said they had not conquered the Uranus home world... what was it saying? :And what makes you think you can?: he asked, realising that he had to put aside the question of the home world for now.

The Uranus laughed. :What did you call him? Caerleon? It was only luck he survived... but he is one of your strongest and he can't stand against us. What hope do you think your soldiers have? We created you humans! We can destroy you and we will correct our mistake in not ensuring you were dead centuries ago!:

Shōel snarled and closed his fingers, making his barrier smaller.

:Oh... does the truth hurt?: The Uranus jeered. :You can kill me but it won't change the facts and you will remember this as the energy cuts into you, fibre by fibre and you scream for our mercy.:

That caught Fukamachi's attention and his eyes seemed to glow. :Mercy?: he asked. :Shall I tell you about the Uranus who have begged me? Who have cried and screamed and pleaded? Shall I tell you about those who wanted nothing more than to die? Some of them started like you. Full of arrogance and pride until they realised that I really was going to kill them and no matter what happened next, that would be their eternity. Others were just afraid. I almost feel sorry for some of them... Especially the young ones, those who only know what we are because you elders deigned to tell them. At least that's now... the first one though... it had no idea what humans were... and how it cried.

:Do you know what it said before it died? Do you know what it pleaded for? All alone in our territory when it did not know who we were... Shall I tell you that Uranus?:

:You murdering monster!:

:Am I really, Uranus? Or am I just a product of your creation? Like it or not Uranus it was your species that created us, your species that have forged us in the fire of war and by force we have become adept. So...: he paused slightly. :Tell me now... which is it to be?:

:I'll tell you murderer nothing!:

Beneath his armour Shō smiled. It was a smile only Aptom would recognise though even he sometimes took a step back from Fukamachi when he was like this. He raised his hands, connecting shining tendrils of energy to the containment field and slowly it began to shrink. :I was so hoping that would be your reply.:

Year 517 7th December, Uranus Home World Blockade

"So what have we learned this year?" Alkanphel asked the question to the gathered Council. It was risky to gather but occasionally they needed to speak.

"The Uranus have a particular and unfortunate fondness for gas giant planets," Caerleon drawled the answer which brought a few smiles.

"We may have a problem shortly," came Tetsuro's reply though it was considerably more grim.

"Explain."

"The Uranus have retreated into gas giants, primarily the one in their home system but we are aware of ships in one or two others. From there they have attacked. There has been a marked increase in both their strength as individuals and the strength of their ships and weaponry." As he spoke, the scientifically minded Zoalord pressed some buttons displaying charts which all had lines tending upwards.

"Isn't that to be expected?" Edward asked, not dismissing Tetsuro's words but seeking clarification.

"Certainly," he admitted. "As we closed in on the oldest Uranus we were expecting an escalation in difficulty. They are after all the strongest, most powerful representatives of their race, the ones who made us, then abandoned us. But this is more than that."

Shōel nodded, as did Aptom and Alkanphel realised that the two of them would have collected much of the field data Tetsuro required. It was not that Segawa could not fight he just recognised that it was best to let those who specialised in it take the lead in matters such as that.

"How much longer before it becomes insurmountable?"

Tetsuro splayed one hand rocking it back and forth. "I'm not sure yet. It could be a year, it could be twenty but the longer they stay in there, the bigger the problem will be."

Sheldon whispered something in Edward's ear and the dark haired Caerleon nodded before he spoke. "It would seem then that we need a solution."

"It would," Natsuki agreed as did the rest of the gathered Zoalords.

"When all is said and done, the difficulty lies with the environment," Shizu said slowly but her words cut to the heart of the matter. "Is there any way we can combat that?"

"What is the environment?" Purgstall asked. "Specifically I mean."

"It depends on how deep we need to go," Tetsuro answered. "And I pray that we do not have to go that deep... Hydrogen or helium rain is not something I wish to encounter. The atmosphere of a gas giant begins before you reach the clouds and it's hot. Very hot. It cools as you go through it and then it's very cold and the pressure is … well I wouldn't want to feel it. Then you hit the clouds and the pressure and temperature increases. Given what we've seen, if we want to chase the Uranus, we are going to have to enter the clouds. I just hope they don't live in the liquid below."

"There's liquid?"

"Theoretically," Tetsuro replied.

"So we can't get there?" Imakarum asked.

"We can. On earth before X-day scientists sent a probe into Jupiter which survived for some time. I think we can do better."

"What about organic?" Alkanphel seemed intent with his question.

Tetsuro shook his head. "The form would have to be engineered from scratch," he said, "and would not be practical in any other environment."

"What about the Guyver Units?" Jabir asked, looking at Alkanphel.

Shōel answered. "We've never tested them under those conditions." He shared a look with Aptom and their thoughts were obvious. "I guess we can."

"Is it that much of a problem?" Yentsui asked, his voice almost breathy with speculation. "The Uranus have only sent out two fleets in the entire year. They have to be getting desperate! They do not have the resources to make more ships."

Khan disagreed, shaking his head. "No. I think we'd best assume they have an almost infinite resource. The core of Jupiter is known to be hydrogen. The Uranus are energy and until now we've not seen much difference between them and organic species. I think they are showing us those differences now and that we must assume they have the ability to forge that hydrogen into any element they need."

"So we can only create ships that can enter the atmosphere?"

"At the moment, yes but the designs will need to be drawn up," Tetsuro agreed. "At least we will be able to probe and if the Uranus destroy them, then we will know some of their defences."

"Is there any reason a Zoalord could not go?" Shō asked.

Tetsuro looked thoughtful. "Temperatures range from approximately 600 C to negative 175 C without considering heat generated by entry. The pressure has a similar disparity. There is no reason a Zoalord can't enter it, though I don't believe all of us are suited. Yentsui and either Caerleon would be an obvious choice... Their dimensional barriers would help protect them however I do not believe they could hold those barriers and effectively fight." There was no accusation with Tetsuro's words but they stated clearly that Shō needed to take a step back from his desire to see the Uranus dead.

"Build the probes, Tetsuro," Alkanphel instructed. "We need to know what they are doing. Khan and Natsuki, work on a new zoanoid design. Edward, Sheldon and Yentsui work on finding out if one of you can hold dimensional barriers around another from a distance. If one can hold them from the upper atmosphere, it may be possible to combat the Uranus. Fukamachi and Aptom, find out the limits of your Units but do not put yourselves in unnecessary danger or Mizuki will be disappointed. Everyone else, continue to man the blockade. The Uranus may be desperate, or they may have access to everything they need. It does not matter if we keep them trapped."

"My Lord, what of the rest of the galaxy?"

"What about them?"

"Those that did not heed the Uranus are still nervous, as are the remnants of the others. Sending a diplomat costs us nothing but would calm them and once the Uranus are dead, we are still going to have to live in this galaxy."

The Supreme Zoalord nodded slowly. Amniculus had a point. "Send Mizuki," he instructed with a small smile, "with a full complement of hyper-zoanoid and proto-guyver guards as chosen by Fukamachi and Aptom." Alkanphel didn't miss the looks of surprise gracing Shō and Aptom's features at his instructions but their outrage faded into cunning when they realised they could chose the guards. "I believe that will set the appropriate tone for the galaxy," Alkanphel added before dismissing the meeting and turning to the view screen which showed the gas giant they now believed to be the Uranus home world.

"Soon," he whispered. "Soon I will show you that I was never too young."

Year 518 14th January, Non-Human Territory

Mizuki sat in the Council chambers and looked around. It was beautiful and the architecture was done with a graceful elegance. Not many aliens had gathered. It was here that Shō had delivered Alkanphel's warning and here that so many had been led astray by the Hijane. It was a fitting place for the meeting of power. She wasn't really sure what Alkanphel expected her to do though. The consequences of her presence would be far reaching and she was not blind to the implications and hidden messages the mere act of sending her entailed. Of course, that's why she was surrounded by guards, and more of the squad lined the outer walls.

Shō had chosen them with Aptom and she knew that every single guard could fully disincorporate if necessary, though with her Unit she was hardly defenceless. Still, she was certain that as reluctant as Shō would have been he would have given them instructions that if the worst came, they were to grab her control medallion and run. It would not come to that.

She wondered at the sight she made to the aliens. It was probably odd, since her four closest body guards, even in human form towered over her, yet they recognised her as their Clan Mother and treated her as such and she was almost amusingly reminded of some of the clichés of Earth. She sighed… she had not thought about Earth for a while.

"Mother?" Aptsan rumbled.

Mizuki shook her head. "I just remembered Earth," she said with a soft smile.

"You still miss it?"

She nodded. "After so long, it's hard to describe the feeling. The culture I grew up with is very different from the culture of now."

"Ah," her descendant nodded. They tried to educate the young about Earth but the subtleties were lost and that was something only another survivor would understand.

"How many more are we expecting?" Mizuki asked, looking out at the gathering aliens. A few were looking at her curiously, no doubt recognising her species.

Aptnir looked around carefully. "I think they are all here," he said. "Would you like us to introduce you?"

"And spoil Alkanphel's surprise? Goodness no!" she replied with a smile. Mizuki didn't need to look behind her to know that all four of her guards shared toothy grins and they clustered a little tighter around her. "Now, now, children," she scolded lightly, pushing the lead two away gently. "I'm sure the aliens will play nicely."

She didn't need the enhanced hearing of a zoanoid to hear the muttered "or else," but she chose to ignore it. "Do we have any information on what usually happens at these things?" She asked. Mizuki had reviewed the files available during the flight, but maybe Shōel or Aptom had said something further to one of her guards.

"Not really. Neither Father said much."

"Ah," again she sighed and wondered if she should just go to speak with one of the aliens but then another rose and called the Council to order.

"… and the humans have sent a representative."

Mizuki started at the words. The alien had been speaking so long she had given up even the polite façade of attention but she was brought back to the present when they said her species name. Smiling sweetly she nodded at the alien. "We live in this galaxy too."

"Oh do you?" The challenge was laced with anger and around her Mizuki felt her guards tense. So did the chamber and the speaker was quick to duck down.

"We do," she replied. "Lord Alkanphel felt it was time for us to be represented here. Perhaps if we had been from the beginning it would have prevented several gross… misunderstandings." She said the last delicately. She didn't entirely agree with the actions taken but she understood their reason.

"Massacres more like," came the mutter from the side. Aptesi growled low and the speaker quailed before him. Mizuki placed one hand on his forearm and the larger man subsided.

"And what power do you have within the military that is the humans?" The question might have been harsh but the speaker, a Mekatisasharn she believed had kept its voice calm and even.

"None," Mizuki admitted. "I hold no military rank within Chronos. I was appointed as an ambassador."

"Forgive me," the Mekatisasharn continued. "If you hold no rank, how can you be an effective ambassador?"

She nodded slightly. It was a fair question. "An ambassador is one who takes proposals and messages and relays them to their government. Some, yourselves perhaps, are vested with power to act in a limited manner for the good of their species. I have not been vested with any power, nor do I desire any power within Chronos however I assure you any proposal or message you give to me will be heard at the highest levels of power."

That brought a mixture of muttering and Mizuki could hear the doubt. Most believed she would be ignored if it suited Alkanphel. Before her body guards could react, though she had figured out that they were at least partially play acting she smiled at the gathered aliens. "Perhaps it would be best if I introduced myself?" she suggested mildly. It silenced the mutterings at least.

"Be ready," she murmured to her guards and they nodded at her, fingers flexed ever so slightly and muscles tensed, ready for action. If anyone was to attack it would be once they knew her name. "My name is Fukamachi Mizuki. I am the wife of Commander Fukamachi Shōel, Second in Command of Chronos."

The silence was deafening but before it could explode an Erin made a harsh gesture and rose to speak with Mizuki. "My lady, we understand the term of marriage to mean that you and your husband mate with each other to the exclusion of others."

Mizuki gave a small nod and the Erin continued. "Your husband, while acknowledging that you are his wife, is not known for his fidelity so if you would forgive me, my lady, the question must be asked as to how much power you truly wield."

Her body guards bristled. Her marital life was of no consequence to these aliens and she felt her own ire rise slightly but then Mizuki almost laughed and while it was not in her usual nature, she understood the fun that could be had with the complicated games of diplomacy. These aliens knew nothing of human life or history. It was time to educate them. "I am aware of my husband's lovers," she said serenely, "as he is aware of mine." For some reason that addition caused the Erin to pale significantly. "In my life, I have born seventeen children, though I admit only two were sired by my husband, and two were sired by my lover. The others, while I loved them deeply, were sired by other men."

No one had the guts to call her a whore, which was just as well, they wouldn't have survived.

"The concept of marital fidelity became somewhat laughable after the destruction of Earth. You do not know much of human history beyond the fact we are at war with the Uranus so I will educate you. When the Uranus came to our world, despite our strength now, we were not prepared to fight them. We could not fight them. Embedded within us was genetic code which mean we had to obey. It was a struggle, but we fought that war on two fronts, one against the Uranus and one against ourselves. We lost very quickly and Earth was destroyed.

"Shō tells me that the Uranus said we were a pre-space faring race. That is true enough. We possessed one ship and only the lucky managed to make it to that ship to survive… We are a bi-gendered species and it requires both genders to reproduce. Not many women survived and those that did were required to birth the next generations. For genetic diversity we could no longer mate with our preferred partner exclusively and that was true for generations. However the concept of marriage is not worthless, or powerless. Despite the fact my husband has lovers, you will note that I am still his wife and have been for over five centuries."

If anything the silence was even more profound. The Erin looked at her with something akin to shock and awe displayed on their features. The other aliens just looked surprised, as if they weren't sure what to think. Surely they had not thought that their society had retained the norms with such radical changes? It was only now that things were returning to normal though the more relaxed attitude to relationships in the general community was helping with some of the darker aspects of human nature. She was wise enough to see that.

The Var ambassador recovered first and he took a few steps forward but not close enough to be considered a threat. "My lady," he said, bowing slightly. "Welcome to the Council. On behalf of the Var, I look forward to working with you and am eager to learn more about human culture. As you say, if we had of known more, then perhaps certain misunderstandings would never have happened."

Given Var history, Mizuki resisted the urge to chuckle at that and nodded her head. "I look forward to gaining a better understanding of the Var," she replied politely.

That set off a wave of welcome and inwardly Mizuki grinned. Alkanphel might have considered this a throw away gesture, one he made only through long habit of infiltration. Once the war ended he expected to dictate where humanity would stand to the galaxy and they would be in a position to do that but perhaps her presence here would make that dictation somewhat more palatable. At the very least, she would use her time her to educate the aliens about humans. If they understood the reasons, then perhaps they would not make so many mistakes.

Year 518 30th January, Uranus Home World Blockade, Chronos Ark, Mighty Pen

"What was he thinking?" Tetsuro cried, his hands flashing over the controls as he prepared a healing tank.

"He wasn't," Shō replied, ignoring Imakarum's glare. The white Zoalord stood holding Alkanphel protectively but all the protection in the world did not hide the Supreme Zoalord's injuries. His breath was laboured and blood dripped to the ground slowly, staining Imakarum's robes. Tetsuro didn't like the way it seemed to bubble and he realised that on top of everything else, he had to put Alkanphel through decompression.

"Put him in," he instructed after several long minutes of adjustment. The tank glowed and unlike a mechanical one, the surface film parted. Mirabilis didn't hesitate and gently rose to hover beside it, sinking his arms deep into the fluid as he placed Alkanphel in the liquid before the film closed again.

Tetsuro looked down at the numbers as the tank's sensors feed him information about the damage and he heaved a small sigh of relief. Whatever the Uranus had done, at least they had not included the same inhibitor they had given to Caerleon…

After several long moments of silence, Imakarum shifted, the question obvious in his movement.

"He'll heal,' Tetsuro announced. "Give it a couple of days," he added. He knew what Zoalords were like… Always impatient but he would do his best to keep Alkanphel here for as long as needed. He touched a few more controls, starting the process of de-compression while the healing waters washed and soothed the Supreme Zoalord's wounds and before Imakarum could snap at Fukamachi he turned, ignoring the way that relief was giving way to antagonism. "So why doesn't someone start at the beginning?" he asked, his voice mild.

That calmed them and Tetsuro hid a grin as he directed everyone to sit at the desk on the far side of the room. It may seem odd that he had a desk here, but over the centuries this had proven the best arrangement. It allowed him to work while still keeping an eye on delicate cases or when he was healing someone who should have known better.

"We can't let the rank and file know," Imakarum said, obviously not yet ready to discuss the real issue.

"They don't," Shō assured him as Aptom took a seat beside him. "The call for help was on a private line."

As Tetsuro took his seat he began to get the idea of what had happened and his eyes flickered towards Alkanphel for a moment. It was hard to remember sometimes that he was the leader of Chronos, given how childlike he seemed and even now there was an air of innocence surrounding him, an air Shō possessed when he wasn't hell bent on destroying the Uranus.

"As far as we can tell," Aptom wasn't one to dance to the subtleties between the two Zoalords, though he saw them. "Alkanphel entered the atmosphere of the Uranus home world, attempting to fight them. That was the result." Short and to the point.

He didn't need to ask why. His probes had shown them why though his lips pursed as he watched.

:The problem is sight,: Alkanphel spoke and all four turned their heads sharply.

:Shō-kun you are angry with me," the Supreme Zoalord continued. :You have the right to be but I needed to know.:

:I already told you what you would find… I showed you what I felt in Jupiter!:

:I know, and it was very much the same. The problem lies in sight and sensing,: Alkanphel countered.

Shō had been experimenting with entering such a harsh environment. They all had and any idea was being pursued. He had been able to enter Jupiter's atmosphere, but he had not yet been able to fight there. The same way as some of Tetsuro's very special and hastily processed Zoanoids had. They could survive in the atmosphere and pressure but they were too heavy and sunk. The volunteers had barely been retrieved by the watching zoalords who had teleported to save them. But the experience while not yet successful was helping them build toward success, though all were aware it was a race.

Tetsuro's probes hadn't shown everything the Uranus were doing but it had been clear they were busy in their haven. The probes showed … something on the metal hydrogen innards, something that looked like a great scoop ladling the liquid into other machines. His earlier speculation that they could process hydrogen into whatever they needed had proven eerily accurate and so while they didn't know exactly what the Uranus were doing, they knew enough to know that those machines were not going to be good for them.

The probes had also shown one more interesting fact. The Uranus were keeping to certain sections of the planet. Their home world was like Jupiter with cloud masses that formed bands around the planet. The Uranus were in the equatorial region and two cloud bands either side. They had not been detected any closer to the pole in either direction.

:I could harden myself against the atmosphere, much like Shō-kun can, but I could not see them. Nor could I sense them.:

:What if you linked with Lois?: Mirabilis asked, his voice weighted with relief that Alkanphel would recover. He had felt the Supreme Zoalord's pain but had been unable to act because more than the physical pain, his link allowed him to feel everything that Alkanphel was. Young though he was, most of the older Zoalords believed he should be the second in command of Chronos but they respected Alkanphel's choice of Fukamachi when he had told them to. He was not suited to that role, not tied as closely to their leader as he was.

:The feedback wouldn't be fast enough,: Aptom said before anyone else could object. :And it would slow down with every injury because Lois wold blame himself.:

:I thought he was over Edward's injuries?:

:He is,: Aptom said, :because Shō took most of his anger. But he still blames himself and that's pushing him towards Sheldon.:

:Edward hasn't mentioned that.:

:Natsuki has been pleased,: the hyper-zoanoid shrugged.

:What about Edward and Sheldon?: Tetsuro asked, trying to drag the conversation back to the problem at hand.

:They aren't sensor types,: Shō said.

:Their dimensional pockets would be useful though,: Alkanphel mused, not disagreeing but adding layers to the nebulous suggestion forming in all their minds.

:So would Yentsui's.:

The five of them were silent while they thought about the problem.

:So what are we suggesting here?: Shō asked. :That we link a sensor type to someone and send them down to fight the Uranus,: he summarised what they were all thinking about. :It's not going to work,: he added. :The feedback just wouldn't be fast enough, no matter who you send, even if we linked zoanoids. By the time the sensor type told you where the Uranus were, they'd have struck. And if they used that weapon they pulled on Edward… the sensor type probably wouldn't feel it coming so you'd both be hit.:

No matter how harsh his assessment was, it was the truth.

:Alkanphel,: Aptom asked suddenly and actually saying the Supreme Lord's name was about as close to respect as the hyper-zoanoid got. He was not a Zoalord but he was one of the few who got away with a certain amount of informal regard when it came to the supreme lord. :When you went to then were you Zoalord? Or Guyver? Or both?:

:Both,: came the reply as if it was obvious but the tail end of the word took on a note of speculation, as if some notion had just occurred to the golden lord. :My Unit's sensors did help… a little.:

:And that's how you called Fukamachi. Which is just as well or half the zoanoids would know.:

:What are you suggesting?: Imakarum demanded.

:I'm suggesting that the solution most likely lies in our Units,: Aptom snapped back. :We know the Uranus can use them which means the parasite can bond with more than just flesh and blood.:

Tetsuro's eyes widened slightly at the hyper-zoanoids words. That was true… why hadn't he ever thought about that? Imakarum took up the thread though.

:So you suggest that we use the proto-guyvers to surround the planet and they act as sensors?:

Aptom laughed. :No way,: he retorted. :The proto-guyver's are okay but the lag time on their communication sucks.:

:Then how do the Unit's help?: Mirabilis snarled.

:I don't know!: Aptom shouted. :I just think they are going to be needed.:

:Don't suggest things…:

:Quiet!: Fukamachi didn't shout. He didn't need to. The force of his mental voice was enough to silence the two of them and both Aptom and Mirabilis looked genuinely bashful as they turned to Shō. His eyes were red and his expression hard and the two of them recognised the persona of Chronos' Second in Command… And with Alkanphel in a healing tank, that made him the acting leader of Chronos. Neither rose to bow but they both lowered their heads with respect. :While Aptom and I have had some success when we join before entering the atmosphere of Jupiter,: Shō said, his voice still cold but with his words he had acknowledged and dismissed both Mirabilis and Aptom's actions. :I believe the distance I could see was greater but not sufficient for combat.:

:I believe that is something that should be pursued, Commander,: Alkanphel said.

Shō shook his head. :No, we believe we have already exhausted all possibilities for experimentation in that area,: he replied and accompanying his mental voice came the myriad of things they had tried. They had certainly been imaginative.

:I see you have been most thorough in your endeavours,: Alkanphel said without the slightest trace of discomfort.

:I could probably enhance a Zoalord's sensory abilities,: Tetsuro mused.

:I do not believe that would be effective,: Imakarum countered. :Unless you could give us Lois' level of ability I doubt it would be sufficient. Nor would we have time to practice.:

Silence reigned again. :This will require further thought,: Alkanphel said his voice showing none of the frustration they were all feeling. :They will not be able to hide forever.:

Year 518 4th March, Uranus Home World Blockade, Chronos Ark, Cry Havoc

"Shō?" Aptom asked and the guyver-zoalord looked over at the hyper-zoanoid. He could hear the frown in his voice and that was not normal.

"Hmm?"

"How is Tetsuro going with developing a zoaform that can enter the atmosphere?"

"He's developed some that can withstand the pressure, those that can withstand the temperature and those that have great sensory ability but combining them is proving difficult. Why do you ask?" Fukamachi returned. Aptom already knew how the development was going. He might not be a Zoalord but the hyper-zoanoid knew almost everything the Council did.

Aptom stood and looked out the window at the Uranus home world. Shōel let him, waiting for him to speak. At length the scarred man sighed. "There is one thing we did not try."

Fukamachi remained silent.

"I could sense for you."

Shō said nothing though his sense purveyed the question. They had already tested that.

"Not as I was of course. We tested merging but..." Aptom sighed and Shō could sense his reluctance. "If I disincorporate completely I could sense the Uranus."

"What do you mean?"

"If I disincorporate beyond liquid, my form around you would sense them."

Shō felt his eyes widen. "No," he snapped, harsher than he intended. "You can't!"

"I can!" Aptom returned. "I don't want to but I can."

After taking a deep steadying breath of his own, Shōel replied, keeping his voice stable. "I know you can disincorporate completely," he said. "The problem is not that but rather the fact that in the atmosphere you would not be able to remain around me. The winds would drive you away... and how would you reform?"

For a moment Aptom looked confused and then he sighed. "You did not know that I can disincorporate completely," he muttered.

"That doesn't change the fact that the atmosphere would further scatter you," Fukamachi countered, the almost fond smile in his voice admitting the truth of Aptom's words. "Does Mizuki know?"

"She's the one who pointed it out."

"What do you mean?"

"She told me that after I disincorporate the room smells like me but what I didn't realise until later was that I could remember her being in the room... at times I had never been there. I had reincorporated those parts of me later."

"Did you want to test it?"

"No," Aptom shook his head. "You are right, the winds would scatter me too far."

"So you aren't concerned about reforming?"

"In a still environment, that shouldn't be a problem. I think even with the winds I could reform if I left some mass here but it doesn't do us any good if the mass that is transported to the planet is not around you."

Shō frowned as he continued to think about the problem. Aptom had acknowledged the issue now but the hyper-zoanoid had never said how he had intended to actually tell him about the Uranus presence. "Out of curiosity... if you disincorporate fully... how were you planning on telling me where the Uranus were?"

"Oh that's simple," Aptom shrugged. " If you can't pick up the sense from them then I was going to use my Unit."

"You can call it even if you are formless?" Fukamachi seemed surprised.

"The Uranus use the Units and they are energy beings. I figured my being diffuse mass would be a simple adjustment for one of them."

Under his breath, Shō counted to ten before he reached up to rub his temples. Aptom had thought some aspects of his plan though but others had been completely neglected. "We are going to test it," he announced.

"Test what?"

"Test your theory."

"Now?"

"Right now." Shō growled. "First I want you to disincorporate then reform. I want you to prove that can be done. Then I want you to disincorporate and talk to me via your Unit. Then I'll shift into battle form with my Unit and we will test that again."

"What's the point?" Aptom asked, turning away from the window. "You are right. The wind would drive me away from you and then I'd just be a bunch of particles in the air. I'd be far too scattered to be useful."

"But what if you had more mass?" Shō replied a kernel of an idea forming in his mind. "What if the layers where the Uranus are hiding were saturated with your presence?"

"It's theoretically possible," Aptom admitted slowly as he thought about it. "But where am I going to get mass from?"

"Later," Fukamachi waved one hand. "Let's test this first."

"I won't incorporate zoanoids," the scarred man growled. "No matter how willing they are."

"I wasn't even thinking that!" Shō snapped offended. Their sons and daughters, those who bore Aptom's blood, they would be more than happy to help their father. If it was to fight the Uranus, to finally defeat them... No matter how ruthless aliens named him in battle, he had never wanted to sacrifice any of his own troops. Some died of course, it was combat but he mourned each loss.

"There is no point in testing this then. If it works you will just be longing for a way to do it, and I doubt even you could provoke an alien race into attacking us now."

Shō fought back a chuckle. "Even if I could, Mizuki would probably have it sorted before the armies got here. Though please... can we test this? I want to see you disincorporate fully..." he added with a sly grin.

Aptom looked over. The words were from Shō, the tone was Commander Fukamachi and not for the first time the hyper-zoanoid was struck but the sense of duality his friend and lover had. But beneath that he could see that there was some idea forming. He hadn't thought his plan through fully and discussing it now with Shō had smoothed out several rather obvious flaws... but the main one remained. "All right," he sighed, slouching his way to where Fukamachi stood. He missed the tiny pout that flashed across Shō's features.

They faced each other in the centre of Fukamachi's office. This was his command carrier, the Ark assigned to him, Cry Havoc and like all Zoalord's he had an office. The desk was the main feature but there was plenty of space within the room. Some of them kept a couch in the spare area, to allow for more informal talks, Tetsuro kept his office in one of the labs with a processing tank but Fukamachi kept the rest of his office empty. It was all a matter of style. Aptom looked quizzically at him when the ever present hum of the ventilators stopped.

"The last thing we need to do is to have to filter you out of the air so I've sealed this room for the moment," Shō explained before being asked with a somewhat ironic smirk on his face. "All right, disincorporate."

Aptom did so, first melting into the viscous liquid form Fukamachi was familiar with but then he pushed it further. Tendrils rose but as Shō watched they disappeared as Aptom vaporised himself. The air changed and the guyver-zoalord realised that Mizuki was right... It did smell of Aptom. When most of the liquid form was gone he called out. "Enough! Leave that much to re-incorporate with," he said then closed his eyes. "Now for the tricky bit. Show me my desk."

It was an odd feeling. It felt as if the air got denser when Aptom gathered around him and while Shō could sense vaguely the location of his desk it was not sufficient. He shook his head. "I know where it is roughly," he said aloud for Aptom's benefit. "But I would trip over the stair on the way."

:That's because I can't get good contact with you,: Aptom complained and then chuckled. :That answers that question. I can use my Unit to talk to you.:

:Talking isn't going to be fast enough,: Shō said though he was still pleased.

:Strip!: the hyper-zoanoid demanded. :I can't get the information to you because I can't feel you. So strip, maybe if I touch more then this will be effective.:

Shō nodded and began removing his robes of office and placing them on the desk. Nakedness between them was hardly an issue. As he slide the tailored fabric from his body he could feel the phantom impression of Aptom pressing into him, touching him and Shō flushed slightly. Aptom watched, running his non-existent tongue over his lips. Fukamachi was handsome and he was his... all his. The invisible mist that formed him surged forward wrapping itself around the boy tightly and Aptom revelled in the new sensations. Touch was different in each level of his transformation and he had never consciously experienced this. Shō even smelt different to him now... almost more refined.

:Close your eyes again,: Aptom said and Shō complied, swinging his head from side to side as he 'looked' around his office. A slow smile formed on his features and Aptom recognised it as satisfaction. For his part, feeding information to Shō while in this form was easy... he did it unconsciously which was all to the best as that was faster than having to verbally tell the guyver-zoalord everything. The hyper-zoanoid wasn't exactly sure why that was but he thought it had to do with the way that zoanoids and zoalords interacted combined with the fact that they both had units. Being intimate probably helped as well.

:Are you connected to your liquid form?:

Aptom felt himself. He could feel parts of himself reaching back but the link was tenuous and deliberately he severed it ensuring that none of the parts of him hanging in the atmosphere were touching is his liquid being. :I'm fully separate now,: he told Shō.

:Nothing changed. That's good. Though feedback is going to be an issue. Reform now.: The instruction was toned with the modulations of a zoalord's order to a subordinate and while that did nothing for Aptom he recognised the fact that Commander Fukamachi had decided that it was enough for today. It was one of the contradictions that made up Shō. Commander Fukamachi was fully dedicated to eliminating the Uranus and other threats to humanity. The idiot aliens who had attacked New India had seen that face of him. Those under his command saw that but they never felt it. Fukamachi was always careful to drive them only as hard as was needed. And the men and women under his command knew that he worked five times as hard as any of them, which is not to say that he did not demand long shifts from them, just that when they were ordered to rest, they knew he continued. Shō had always been popular as a rebel, where he knew the names of each of those who fought with him. He had made the transition to a larger group.

So that meant even though this test was potentially a way to end the Uranus once and for all, Fukamachi would not push it too far too fast. They would test it each day. Testing would be fast and may be brutal but it would not be deliberately damaging. As instructed Aptom reformed. It was a little disorienting but nothing that was insurmountable. It was his turn to pout when he realised Fukamachi had donned the uniform he wore under his robes again.

"Later," the zoalord purred and Aptom grinned recognising the message before he deliberately stretched, letting Shō see all of him. His clothes had gone and he didn't bother to generate their semblance. Maybe that would make later come faster.

"So I can disincorporate and reincorporate fully," Aptom said as the hum of the ventilators began again. He was so used to them that the silence had seemed odd.

"Yes," Shō agreed. "But I can only adequately sense things when you maintain enough physical contact with me... That is going to be an issue because I do not think I should attack the Uranus with anything less than my full form."

Aptom gasped. He couldn't help it. Fukamachi's full form was... He'd only ever seen it once or twice and never in combat... He had never needed it in combat.

"Against the Uranus, on their home world, it would be impolite to show our Creators anything less than perfection."

The hyper-zoanoid nodded though he wasn't sure he agreed. Full form for Fukamachi meant his full Zoalord form, combined with his Unit and the Gigantic Unit. Energy consumption alone would mean the battle would be short and devastating but if Fukamachi could not kill the Uranus it would leave a significant gap in their defences, a gap the Uranus would be sure to exploit.

"Aptom," Shō said, sensing his thoughts. "Energy will not be a problem, not with so many Uranus contributing."

That was true. He remembered the intoxicating battle they had fought years ago now on a world that was a distant speck through the window. They had both been filled with the energy from the Uranus... Shaking his head to return to the issue at hand Aptom thought for a few moments. "We might be able to get around that. You get the most feedback when I am in physical contact with you and if you recall, over Jupiter we tried to see what happened when I formed a second skin... I could do that now, over your Zoalord form but before you summon your Unit. That would provide the necessary contact if your Unit doesn't remove me."

"Another test," Shō said, "though one I believe should be successful. You use your Unit to speak to me so it should recognise you as another Guyver."

He nodded his agreement. "That doesn't solve the problem you indicated though," Aptom said slumping into a chair as Shō took his seat. The leather felt good against his bare skin.

"The problem of mass?"

"Yes. Though I have no idea how much mass I can control. On Earth the most I ever got up to was thirty and that didn't seem to be a problem but for all I know thirty-one is the limit."

"I don't think so," Shō said with a soft smile. "You took material from corpses a few times."

"That's easier!" Aptom admitted. "There's no consciousness to subdue and Alkanphel just left them lying around!"

Fukamachi chuckled remembering the battle from so long ago. When he thought about it, it made the current situation almost surreal. Here he was sitting on his Ark, commanding Zoanoids for Chronos. Slowly he shook his head. This was the way it had to be and even once the Uranus were dealt with, this was the way it would be. You could not go back in time. "So if we had a large enough collection of organic material you could use that as mass?"

"Yes but I told you, I'm not going to use Zoanoids and until the Uranus attack it's not like many are dying and when they do attack it will be too late."

"And I told you, I wasn't thinking about them!"

"Then what were you thinking."

Shō steepled his hands, leaning forward on his elbows over his desk, "There were thousands of alien corpses on New India."

"Didn't we burn them?"

"And release who knows how many potential pathogens into the atmosphere? No, they were not burned, and they were not buried."

Aptom frowned. "What happened to them?"

"Space," Shō chucked. "Yentsui still hasn't forgiven us."

The hyper-zoanoid blinked... and then he laughed. "You didn't?" He'd never asked about the clean up because he'd been with Fukamachi during the battle and ordered to remain at a distance and then afterwards he'd been so busy that he'd never had time to inquire about the aftermath of a battle they had won. He had assumed it had been taken care of the old fashioned way.

"How else were we going to do it?" Fukamachi asked and Aptom nodded. It was obvious now that he thought about it and it explained a few of the almost cryptic comments that had been made in the years since. No wonder Yentsui vanished so quickly after combat now.

"So the corpses are in space."

"Heading towards the sun," Shō added. "But they were only launched as fast as a space zoanoid could hurl them... so even if we say it was 500 kilometres per hour that's still going to be at least thirty years before they get to New India's sun. Right now they won't even be close enough to be crisped. Tetsuro got someone to do the calcs and to check that there was no other planets or asteroids to get in the way so the most that they would have suffered is exposure to cosmic radiation."

"I can deal with that," Aptom said, dismissing the concern as he closed his eyes, thinking. "One more test, I think. You in full form, me as a liquid coat with a vapourised shroud, over Jupiter. I think we should test at least that much before going further."

"Agreed," Shōel said though his eyes were half closed and when Aptom glanced up he was surprised to see that they were almost fully brown. He would have thought that with the progress made today they would have been red. "When that test is successful, we have a decision to make."

"Oh?"

"Do we tell the others?"

Ah! Now Aptom understood. Commander Fukamachi, while not having genetic loyalty, would still feel bound to inform Alkanphel... Shō did not have that problem. But right at the moment he didn't really care. He didn't know how Shō felt but he felt... The thought that the Uranus would be defeated finally... oh yes... his blood was singing through his veins. Aptom rose and moved around the desk as if he was thinking. "How about we toss for it?" he leaned down to whisper in Shō's ear.

Fukamachi turned to face him, his expression a mix of amusement and question and Aptom grinned when he saw a sparkle of feeling in Shō's eyes, though the hyper-zoanoid realised he'd missed an opportunity earlier. "I do not think we should use something as arbitrary as a coin for this," he said, his voice inviting.

Aptom licked his lips and grinned. "I was thinking I'd toss you!" he purred but before he could move closer Shō had already pounced, claiming his lips in a passionate kiss. Oh yes... the thought of the Uranus' demise had definitely aroused him as well and as Aptom let himself embrace Shō completely he suppressed a shiver when he realised that this was only the beginning.

Year 518 18th July, Uranus Home World Blockade, Chronos Ark, Cry Havoc

"Are you ready?" Aptom asked.

Fukamachi nodded. "Have you located several Uranus?" he returned his own question.

The hyper-zoanoid grinned. "I think I've found them all!" he replied.

"Then let us begin." Fukamachi's voice changed as he morphed into his Zoalord form.

Aptom nodded and with a practised move he let himself dissolve to flow over the polished floor to Fukamachi before he began wrapping the zoalord's naked form with himself. Off to the side, a small amount of his biological material waited. It would remain there against need though Aptom fully expected to return for that part of himself.

They had spent the last few months hauling bodies. Hardly the most glamorous pastime for a Zoalord but a necessary one. He had taken over each body and they had released them back into space, this time in a slowly decaying orbit so that the bodies disintegrated into the clouds of the Uranus home world. The most challenging part had been ensuring that no one caught them at it, but Fukamachi was a zoalord, when he commanded zoanoids to look the other way that's exactly what they did.

Now the clouds were properly seeded and Aptom could feel himself there and it was time to strike. He would be the eyes and ears and the touch, taste and smell and Fukamachi would be... well he would be the hammer that drove the Uranus into the ground.

"Shō, why didn't you let the others know?" Aptom asked the question suddenly before the guyver-zoalord called his unit.

Even with the relatively expressionless face of a zoalord Aptom could see the pensive expression. Wrapped around Fukamachi as he was he could feel the subtle changes in his body that spoke the truth.

"You know why," came the softly spoken response.

"They would not have blamed you." It might have been more than five hundred years since Aptom had met Shō, and the boy might now be the Second in Command of Chronos but on some things he had not changed. He still protected his underlings, even from the potential of false hope.

"No, but they might have stopped me."

The hyper-zoanoid felt a wave of shock. Shō's first reply had contained the desire to protect, this one was far more dark but he reluctantly admitted it was the truth. Alkanphel, Tetsuro... Mizuki they would have stopped this. They wouldn't have let one man take on the death... No they would, they would not let Shō do it. The war had already caused him to embrace the darkness in his soul... this would make him wallow in it, and that might be the death of him. He looked again at the Zoalord, allowing himself to feel everything and he could see that Shō was almost lost... This would most likely tip him over and in the silence of his mind Aptom prayed for forgiveness. But this one action, the good man that was Fukamachi might be forever lost...

"They would have been right."

"So why have you not stopped me?" Shō returned the challenge.

"Because this must be done."

"And that is why this must be." Fukamachi paused for a moment. "I know what they fear. I can feel it growing within," he said with amazing candour. "But this must be done and even if Mizuki does not, I have faith."

"Faith?"

"She believes in me... she believes in us."

Aptom nodded, understanding. "Hold on to that faith," he whispered as he allowed himself to completely envelop Fukamachi's zoalord form. The man he had known for so long said nothing and then the relay of information began and Shō could see what he could see, feel what he could see from the planet. The locations of the Uranus shone brightly and the Zoalord nodded before summoning his armour.

It settled around him, ignoring the sticky coating that was Aptom and the hyper-zoanoid could feel the parasite threading through him to reach its true master. His Unit reacted slightly, hissing into his mind at the other but they had practised this and after the two Units established a connection they both fell silent.

:Are you ready?: This time it was Shō asking the question.

:Cry havoc!: Aptom replied.

With a whisper of sound Fukamachi's office on his Ark was empty.

The shock of transition was brutal. The storms on the Uranus home world had raged for centuries, they would rage for centuries more before another took their place. The clouds churned and spun and everything mixed together. It was only because the Uranus were energy beings that they could live here. Physical forms, even those as strong as a Guyver-Zoalord were at the mercy of the elements... but not for long.

Fukamachi had appeared practically on top of a Uranus and it didn't even have time to scream as energy whips wrapped around it and forcibly yanked its energy away, syphoning it into the Guyver-Zoalord's form. That was one thing they had discovered through experimentation. The parasite that was the Guyver would take energy from its host but you could supplement it. Its appetite was voracious and it didn't care where the energy came from, so long as it was abundant. They teleported again and another Uranus fell, and another and another. Only then, sufficed with the power from the Uranus did Fukamachi summon the Gigantic Unit.

Linked as they were, its materialisation caused them both to feel a rush of power and the instant it had settled Shōel activated it, growing. Its usual form was much larger than a Guyver but the truly gigantic form was almost gargantuan. It helped stabilise them in the buffeting winds and Fukamachi took a moment to look around, assessing the information he was receiving from Aptom and his own sense.

A slow smile spread across his face. The Uranus were here... And they were preparing. They weren't ready to strike out from their home world yet but the ships he could sense were beginning to gather. It was only a matter of time but now time was on his side though it would take a few days at least for him to destroy this many ships... they could not launch now!

With a flicker he vanished, reappearing over a cluster of newly formed ships. It took the Uranus a moment to see him and Fukamachi almost laughed at that knowledge. They might be able to live in the ever shifting atmosphere of a gas giant planet but it dulled their senses. They probably had to expend a sizeable amount of energy just remaining in place or energy or not they would be swept away by the winds.

He drove into them, mundane blades flashing to slice the ships into ribbons. They couldn't react fast enough though eventually they would know he was coming. He could not stop them from communicating with each other forever. With the ships gone, the remains were swept away by the wind, dropping down towards the core, the pressure already distorting them. That left the Uranus and they had no choice but to fight him. They swarmed attempting to overwhelm him. Shōel felt no scorn. It was the only move that might work but as they came into contact with him, they died, their energy sucked away to feed his form and he quivered. This form... his full form, fully Zoalord, with a fully manifested Guyver ate so much power! It was nice to be able to use it without draining his own reserves! He felt energised and as the last Uranus died, he allowed the winds to pull him away, tossing him like a leaf as he headed towards further gatherings of Uranus.

It was slaughter. Plain and simple. The only mercy was that it was quick. Young or old, experienced or not, they all fell before him. They all screamed when the final remnant of their power faded and their consciousness died. And he revelled in it! This was what they had done to Earth... hunting without pause, killing without mercy. This was the will they had forged, the doom they had created for themselves and the very atmosphere of the Uranus home world reacted to his power. Energised particles spun around him, wreathing him in shifting veil that only served to better hide him from the Uranus.

They tried to run and he chased. They tried to fight and he defeated them, the death of each making him stronger. Shō lost himself in the hunt, dancing on the winds that carried him around the planet. It was a dream and how long it continued, he did not know. Aptom was with him, the hyper-zoanoid a strong warm presence enveloping his form and the zoanoid revelled in the hunt as he did, laughed as they struck and lashed the energy forming around them so that it spun faster.

There was no thought to stop. There was no fatigue or mercy. There was only the hunt and they drank in the energy of fear, bathed in it as the Uranus died. The sickening moment above the Earth, watching as their planet died... Now it was avenged. Now the reason for that suffering became clear for without that memory, that driving force they would not have been able to do this. This was for Earth. This was for humanity. This was for the dark that lay within them all, for the desire they had carried through the generations and centuries. This was the power the Uranus had created and it was fitting for the children of planet killers.

He lost count of the number of ships he destroyed, the number of Uranus he consumed. It did not matter. Until they were destroyed he could not stop. His form glowed with their energy and his eyes burned red and the path to eternity opened.

Year 518 23rd July, Uranus Home World Blockade, Chronos Ark, Ark of Chronos

"Shut those alarms off," Alkanphel instructed as he strode on to the bridge of his Ark. His eyes automatically went to the screens displaying the Uranus home world but he could detect nothing amiss. "What's happening?" he asked.

"You can't see it yet, my Lord, but we are detecting massive shifts in the storms."

"Natural variation?"

"No… far too large to be that."

"So they are coming? Alert the fleet!" They had been expecting this for months for despite their best efforts, they had yet to be able to make a zoaform which could withstand the environment and successfully see well enough to fight. "And get me Fukama…"

There were very few things that could shock the Supreme Zoalord to the point of speechlessness. What he saw now was one. The view screens zoomed in on the planet, highlighting one of the anomalies within the storms and as they watched a Uranus ship emerged. The clouds trailed off it and to Alkanphel's sharp eyes he could see that its engines were pushed to the max, not particularly unusual when trying to escape the gravity well of a planet. What silenced them was the whip of cloud that raced up and wrapped itself around the ship and without even appearing to strain, it pulled back. The ship disappeared back into the cloud and the surface soon appeared unmarred again, except for the flash of light and those watching didn't need to see to know that the ship had been destroyed.

"What was that?" One of the zoanoids gasped the question.

The alarms didn't start again but there was almost a continuous chime from the communications console as the other blockade ships sought orders.

"My Lord, all ships in range are reporting seeing… that. Ships on the far side of the planet are reporting similar anomalies within the storms but they haven't actually seen anything."

Alkanphel nodded, mentally holding off the inquiries from his Zoalords. "Continue monitoring the situation and assume the worst. Prepare for combat," he added before closing his eyes to concentrate on the mental conversations that were raging.

:Quiet!: the golden zoalord shouted after a moment and was satisfied when the other zoalord's complied. :I assume you all saw that, and if you aren't on the right side of the planet, then I assume you have now seen the memory. Thoughts?:

Several began talking at once but the gist was the same. No one knew and it was not a natural phenomenon.

:Lois, can you sense anything?: The young zoalord had the best sensory perceptions but had not yet spoken though the Leader of Chronos could feel him in the mental link through Sheldon.

:I can, my Lord but it is too diffuse. There is definitely something happening but it feels as if it is spread around the planet.:

:Can you feel the Uranus?:

:Yes. They are moving very quickly and it seems… it almost feels as if they are joining.:

:They are forming a single being?: Tetsuro asked quickly.

:I don't know,: Lois said, his frustration evident. :The feelings are too scattered to be able to tell.:

:But something has definitely changed?:

The question was accompanied by a pause from the young Zoalord. :Something has… but it doesn't feel any different from yesterday…:

:What is it?: Alkanphel coaxed. Lois was holding back on something. The little catch in his voice said that much.

:I only realised now but the sense of the planet has been changing gradually for a while. I don't know when it started though… a few months at least.:

:Tetsuro?: The demand was obvious. If Lois had been feeling only tiny changes in the planet for months, then there should have been something detected by more mundane means.

They could feel the scientifically minded zoalord thinking and occasionally numbers or the image of a diagram entered the mental link. :The composition of the first cloud layer has altered a little, my Lord but only 0.0001% so I still running tests to determine if the change was real or was artefacts from sensing. Given these events, I think we must assume it is real.:

:My Lord…: Khan interrupted. :I believe we should return our attention to the planet.:

:Yes!: Lois almost sounded pained but Alkanphel could not heed that as he opened his eyes and focused his senses outwards again. The klaxons were blaring again but were quickly shut off but their reason quickly became known. Their sensors were focused on a distant part of the planet and another visual feed accompanied the one his Ark could see. The ident stamp said the sensor feed was from Shizu's Ark, Humanity Ascendant but that hardly mattered.

Three Uranus ships were rising out of the cloud cover. They were far too distant for the Chronos fleet to engage and they did not appear to be interested in fighting. Two of them had large gashes in their sides and all three were firing… back at the planet!

Alkanphel felt his eyes widen slightly when he realised they were running! As they watched the cloud formed a whip again and almost faster than they could follow it wrapped around one ship and lashed it towards one of the others. The two ships dodged and the whip crushed the ship it held before reaching upwards. The Uranus ships fired again, at the whip this time and the watching blockade ships could almost feel their panic. Through it all they continued to rise out of the atmosphere, heedless of the forces waiting above them. The reaching waves of the whip of cloud managed to catch a second ship and slam it back into the storm of the planet, disintegrating it instantly but as they watched they could see that the third ship was rising faster and the movement of the cloud seemed angry that it could not catch them. The cloud subsided after a moment and it seemed as if they were now waiting for something further.

"Incoming transmission!"

"… human for… …rend… …ithou… …ditio…"

"Clean the signal up," Alkanphel ordered, his eyes never leaving the ship that was still fleeing the planet.

That's when they saw it, forming almost instantly in the perpetual clouds that ringed the planet. A vortex appeared. Against planetary size it wasn't big. Against the size of the storms that raged on the Uranus home world it wasn't large but to form instantaneously the power required to form it was almost unthinkable. Something rose out of the middle of it, moving at such speed that it was hard to make out. The Ark of Chronos was too distant to lock its sensors on to it and while the Humanity Ascendant was the closest it radiated too much power for them to accurately lock on. The visuals were enough. The thing rose, energy trailing back from it, back into the vortex and while they could not see it move they saw when one of the energy trails left the vortex stretching up towards the fleeing ship.

The Uranus ship fired at the figure. Their aim was good but the energy… it didn't bounce off, it seemed to join the light rising from the centre of the vortex. Then the energy trail hit the ship and for one instant it glowed brighter than the other before it was gone and they could only watch as the figure sank back into the vortex and the spinning calmed and the storms resumed, the clouds rushing in to obscure their view.

:That is what I sensed!: Lois said not bothering to make the mental transmission private.

Alkanphel felt himself staring at the view screen. Shizu's ark hadn't managed to actually lock on to the figure but they had gotten sensor readings and the numbers were unbelievable. The numbers were too high, the energy too intense and whatever it was it should have consumed itself instantly. Obviously it hadn't but that didn't change the numbers.

"Sir, we cleaned up the signal, though it has ceased," the zoanoid added the last unnecessarily. They had just seen the fate of the Uranus ships.

"What were they saying?"

The zoanoid took a deep breath and looked down at the screen he carried before he spoke. "'Human forces, we surrender without condition.'"

There was absolute silence on the bridge and Alkanphel heard the words replay in his mind. Those Uranus wanted to surrender… Time seemed to slow down and he could almost feel the seconds flowing through his body. Surrender… A word he had never thought to hear from his Creators. Surrender… it opened possibilities.

He took a long slow deep breath, the feeling tickling through him, almost making him feel dizzy. Another breath and the feeling had not faded. Of all the things… Never… never had he thought it was a possibility. This was a war of extinction… Humans would not surrender. They could not surrender because that would seal their fate so better to fight but the Uranus… Surely they knew their creation's desires? Why would they surrender? Or at least offer the possibility of it…

Another breath. If he accepted it, would they honour it? They would for the moment, if only to escape whatever was attacking them but how long would that last? Would they use the time to build up so that it was them who struck with ruthless precision… Or was there a future with both creator and creation alive… if not in harmony then at least not in conflict.

Fukamachi would never accept their surrender… would he? Alkanphel questioned his conclusion almost before he drew it. Fukamachi was a compassionate man. His ire was only seen against the Uranus but was that enough for him to kill them all? Or would he exterminate them in the heat of combat and regret it after? He had never killed an entire species. Even at the height of their retaliation for New India, Fukamachi had never committed xenocide though perhaps he had come close. Or would he kill all the Uranus and say it was merely the will of nature…

Alkanphel shook his head, his blond hair falling forward over his face as he thought. But before he could consider further the alarms blared again and were shut off. He opened his cat eyes already knowing what he would see.

More ships were rising from the planet, firing back into the cloud. This time they emerged from the far side of the planet, so it was difficult to see the whips of cloud on the transmission from Jabir's In Time but as they watched the glowing being emerged again, this time without the vortex and their energy illuminated the situation. The ships exploded as the energy touched them and it was a macabre reality to know that there was nothing the Uranus could do.

"The In Time reports they are receiving a transmission from the Uranus ships."

"Patch it through."

"… ease! Prove yourselves better than us! We surrender, without condition! It is absolute, it is eternal! Please humans!" The Uranus' voice was desperate as it begged. "Please… please!" the Uranus was crying. "Be better than we were! Be superior… Alkanphel… if you ever loved us… please!"

"My lord?"

Alkanphel looked back at the view screen. Only one Uranus ship remained. It was clearly visible because the glowing being had it wrapped in energy but was… waiting? His heart beat thundered in his ears and slowly Alkanphel closed his eyes, taking deep breaths. He bit the inside of his lip using the pain to keep him centred.

It was his decision. Was he better? Could he be better? Could they all? Was humanity innately compassionate or mindlessly vicious? Were they just expressions of instinct or could they turn aside from that?

He swallowed hard.

"I accept." The words were whispered. "Tell them I accept," he repeated more firmly this time and around him his zoanoids scrambled to obey.

Golden eyes opened slowly and he looked again to the screen which showed the glowing being and the Uranus ship. Slowly, carefully the energy surrounding the ship disengaged and while they could not see the details, Alkanphel could imagine the look. And then the glowing being allowed themselves to seem to fall, disappearing under the clouds as if it had never existed.

"Have Jabir escort the Uranus vessel here," the Supreme Zoalord instructed. "Maintain the blockade but do not fire on any Uranus ship unless they fire on us first. And order Fukamachi here." It was surprising that the guyver-zoalord had not already made his feelings known and Alkanphel wasn't sure what the man's reaction was going to be.

"My Lord!" the zoanoids on the bridge were quick to relay his orders and Alkanphel's eyes remained on the visual of the Uranus ship. Once the glowing being had released it the ship had been quick to fall in with Jabir's In Time and they had broken position, making their way towards him. Automatically he opened his mind slightly, allowing his Zoalords to release what was happening.

He was about to call for those who would attend him when the alarms blared again. "What is it this time?"

"Ships, my Lord, Uranus ships," his bridge crew responded. They had been selected because they were the best. There was little which fazed them and the sight of Uranus ships appearing to almost be flung through the cloud cover was not enough. As they watched the ships engines flared, stabilising them and they quickly fell in with the human ships that demanded their compliance, though more and more ships appeared.

"It would appear that…" he didn't finish the sentence.

There… on the prow of the Ark of Chronos as if they had been standing there the entire time was the glowing being. Even this close, it wasn't any easier to make out details but Alkanphel could tell that they were tall. Zoalords were between two and a half to three metres tall, this was ten metres, more probably. It was hard to judge exactly without reference. Energy trailed off and around their form, reminding him rather oddly of Aptom's tendrils. The most surprising thing was that it was bipedal; at least he thought it was. Energy wrapped around it like a veil but it was not stationary, it writhed in space, so that the being was surrounded by lightning. That said nothing about the force of its presence. Even from here, Alkanphel could feel it. It was crushing and didn't even seem to notice the depth of its presence.

As they watched, the being appeared to bow and then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it vanished and those watching were left blinking with the after image of light.

Alkanphel stared into the distance, concentrating on his breathing. That creature… It had laughed. Not at him… it had laughed with him, as if there was some private joke only he and it understood. He shook his head, dismissing the feeling for consideration at a later time. Right now, the Uranus required his attention.

"The Cry Havoc reports that they cannot locate Commander Fukamachi, my Lord."

"That's because I'm here," Fukamachi said, striding through the door. His robes were immaculate and his expression was unreadable. Predictably Aptom followed in his wake, an unnecessary hulking body guard. Neither of them looked any the worse for wear.

"What are your thoughts?"

Shō's eyes flickered towards the view screen showing the Uranus ships. "I think they could lose a few more before they tip over into extinction."

"Fukamachi," Alkanphel's voice was firm.

Chronos' second in command took a deep breath and the golden zoalord could see his throat working. "If they betray us," Shōel whispered finally, his voice trembling with the force of his conviction, "I will not stop until every last one of them is dead."

Alkanphel nodded to Fukamachi a sly smile gracing his features as his thoughts were all but confirmed. "So must it be."

Year 518 10th September, Terra Nova

Mizuki looked over at Shō and Aptom. They had both changed and the change was displayed in the tiny variations in their stance and eyes. Alkanphel had instructed her at the beginning of the war to keep them sane, to hold the darkness that was within them both at bay.

She had failed. The Supreme Zoalord had known that she would but he had given the order anyway. The attempt had to be made yet she knew, from the way the golden Zoalord was standing that he recognised his contribution to her failure. He should never have ordered them to fight Uranus yet Chronos’ leader knew the price of victory. Without Shō and Aptom... they would not have won.

The two had been the sword that had mercilessly gutted the Uranus forces. Humanity was saved. Earth was avenged. They were finally free of the shadow of their creators and she was left with two lovers who were dark incarnations of the men they had been. She resisted the urge to snarl. They would take it as a challenge and it was time to heal. This was the reason she hated war!

It had been necessary... she knew that. Mizuki was not so sheltered that she believed that diplomacy could solve everything... but she hated the dark stain it left on everything.

Deliberately she walked towards the two Commanders of Chronos that many would now never dare to approach. They radiated a sense of danger with the complete assurance that anything coming near them would be destroyed. Alone they were formidable... together they were unstoppable and the galaxy would tremble at their memory for generations.

She didn’t care! The galaxy could tremble. The rest of Chronos could view them with awe and fear and avoid them but they were hers! That’s all she wanted. Her desires showed in her eyes and Mizuki didn’t even bother to hide it. It wasn’t lust which drove her, instead it was the genuine need for them both.

Aptom saw her first but then the hyper-zoanoid had always been aware of shifts in the environment and never more so than when he stood at Shō’s back. Things might get close to him but when Fukamachi was present, nothing got close to either of them. The scarred man’s instincts where best when aroused for protection and Mizuki knew that the chameleonic zoanoid would protect Shō with his life. She had no care that most said he’d stolen his almost complete aptitude for situational awareness from Lois. If he had, the younger, non-Council Zoalord had not complained. Mentally she breathed a sigh of relief when he made no move to protect Shō against her. This would be harder if either thought she was a threat. She made sure to smile at them and was surprised when Aptom’s eyes directed her to Shō...

The hyper-zoanoid was aware! Her smile brightened. He knew the darkness that was consuming them and he knew she would fight it! He welcomed her efforts! Mizuki’s heart tightened and the slightest flick of her eyes showed Aptom that she had seen his intension. The zoanoid had lived with the darkness the longest... but if she led Shō from it... he would follow.

That’s why when she stood before them, she reached out gently, placing her hands on Shō’s cheeks, drawing him forward so that she could kiss him.

It was not a passionate kiss. It was instead soft and gentle. She pressed her lips to his, moving them slightly to gently lap at him. Commander Fukamachi was surprised, she could feel it in the stiffness of his body but he responded slowly, moving one arm around her as he opened his mouth, letting her taste him. Mizuki pressed her breasts into his chest provocatively and when they parted she made sure to rest her head against him, allowing herself a soft sigh of content. Like this... close to his warmth she could imagine nothing had changed when everything had.

Aptom helped her then. The hyper-zoanoid wrapped one tendril around their wrists and tugged them away. To most watching it would seem that he was eager to begin private celebrations but Mizuki caught Alkanphel’s eye... Until she said they were ready... the Supreme Zoalord would have to do without his Second in Command.

By the time they made it back to their house, Mizuki was pleased that Shō was responding to her. His kisses lacked his usual passion but they were not longer merely obligation. Aptom’s presence had probably convinced him that she was not some whore attempting to seduce him. Even so, Mizuki was thankful for his response but she knew it would take weeks… months maybe to heal.

:Natsuki?: She reached out as Aptom fumbled with the keys to their house. Her hands began to work at the fastenings of Shō’s armour.

:What is it?: Her old friend’s voice came to here. From the overtones, Natsuki was still at the party and had probably not missed them yet.

:I need as many of my clans that can be spared to come home,: Mizuki said pulling away the frontal fall of robe and throwing it through the door Aptom had opened. With their family around him Shō would heal faster.

:All the clans?” Natsuki was shocked. The clans were their legacy of the flight from Earth. They were named for the women who had born the next generation. All except Mizuki’s… Well one clan did name itself Mizuki but four others also named her Clan Mother yet bore the names of their Fathers. The Clans had no official power yet they wielded a great deal of influence. Mizuki’s power as the openly acknowledged and the still living mother of five of the most powerful clans was formidable.

:Focus on the Fukamachi and Aptom clans. I need them both.:

Mentally Natsuki nodded as a flash of Mizuki’s need came to her. :Would tomorrow afternoon be too early?:

:That shall be fine,: Mizuki’s reply was short and the connection was severed. Natsuki didn’t mind. Mizuki had far more important duties now.

The instant the door slid home, Mizuki didn’t hold back and she latched herself on to Shō quickly allowing her hands to slide under his clothes as she caressed his skin. Aptom helped in his own way. The hyper-zoanoid continued working at the fastenings of Shō’s armour. The cloak was flung away to join the puddle of fabric that was the earlier discarded front robe. It was gratifying that Shō seemed to share their hate and Mizuki did nothing to stop him when his hands closed on her own raiment and he divested her of them with a delft touch.

Their house was warm, so the air against her bare skin felt good though Mizuki felt a shiver of anticipation when Shō pushed her against the wall as one hand moved to her most sensitive place and he began ruthlessly probing her depths. It didn’t hurt but the gesture was forceful and Mizuki threw her head back as he tweaked her flesh. Shō lowered his head, first nipping then sucking at her breasts and she snaked her arms around him to hold him close, lifting one leg to wrap around him.

The movement was taken as an invitation and Mizuki groaned when Shō thrust into her. The intrusion was hard and welcomed and filling but she had not expected it quite so fast.

“Shh… Little bird,” Aptom crooned into her ear. The hyper-zoanoid stood behind Shō pinning them both to the wall. He lapped at her face as Shō jerked upwards. “Relax…” he said as Shō continued to move in short hard strokes. “You know you are the only one who can satisfy us now.”

The press against her and inside was warm and good but Mizuki tried to pull Shō’s head from her breast so that she could kiss him. Chronos’ Second in Command did not move and Aptom took the opportunity to sweep in and take her lips, swallowing her cries of passion. Their tongues battled and deep in her mind Mizuki considered Aptom’s words. She was not blind, she knew he sought comfort with Natsuki or Miraya at times but now, with the darkness consuming them, it was her that they came to. She smiled against Aptom’s mouth and moved her hips forward to meet Shō’s thrusts. Quickly she felt him move deliberately before he poured into her.

“Shō!” She cried his name, pulling back from Aptom to look down through heavily lidded eyes at her husband. A soft smile graced her features.

He blinked at her and Mizuki’s smile widened as his eyes softened and his arms gathered her close, supporting her weight. He placed his chin on her shoulder, nuzzling her neck as he breathed her name. “Mizuki.”

Her eyes sparkled with mischief and she looked over to Aptom who nodded. He didn’t know exactly what she wanted yet but he’d help. “Shō!” Mizuki laughed. “What have I told you about the corridor?”

It was only because he was still buried in her warmth and that she undoubtedly smelt like home that she felt Shō quiver with his own laughter. It was just for an instant but the reaction was heartening. Beneath the darkness, buried by the hate and his desire for revenge, her Shō was still there. She’d just have to draw him out. The instant of levity had been good for Aptom too though the hyper-zoanoid was more practiced at living with the darkness. It was truly a part of him where it was only a visitor for Shō.

“Let’s see what she says about the couch!” Aptom rumbled and before Mizuki could even utter a startled cry his large arms wrapped around them both and he carried them there. At some point he’d lost his armour but his uniform beneath was mostly intact. As Shō stretched her out, gently placing her head on one of the arms Mizuki pouted as she realised she was only the one naked. That was hardly fair! Shō’s armour and robes were gone and his uniform was open revealing his toned chest but his arms were still covered. At least his pants had been lost. Determinedly she reached up running her hand over Shō’s chest and down his arms, pushing away the fabric.

He looked down at her, his brown eyes glowing and his features showing a small lazy smirk. He licked his lips and before she could stop him Shō gripped her hips pulling her upwards as he mounted her body. Shō was gentler this time, less demanding and instinctively her hips jerked as she tried to welcome him. His grip was too strong though it gave somewhat so she didn’t bruise and slowly Mizuki stilled becoming aware of the way her back was arched and her buttocks rested on his thighs.

“Stay still,” the instruction carried all the modulations of an order and Mizuki froze as Shō moved. She gasped at the feeling and tentatively Mizuki tried shifting one leg, only to find to her chagrin that her position was fragile. Her knees were bent and her thighs splayed to accommodate Shō. She could move slightly but she could not gain enough purchase to match his movement. Her brown eyes widened and Shō nodded at her before he moved again. His length within her rasped against her walls invoking a pleasurable friction and Shō’s thumbs stroked her hips from where he was holding her steady.

Mizuki threw her head back in a soundless scream as Shō continued to move, pleasuring her. Aptom was there and Mizuki realised with a flash that the hyper-zoanoid might follow Shō from the darkness but there was no reason she couldn’t show him the path. She reached out, stroking his length through the fabric of his uniform. As expected he was hard and startled black eyes met hers as her hands massaged him. Mizuki smiled trying to undo the fastening but even with centuries of practice it was a difficult task upside down, especially with Shō doing his best to distract her but Mizuki was determined and eventually she worked the buckles free. Her hands then tugged at his pants pulling the fabric down to free his hardening cock from its confines.

Letting out a low groan of appreciate for the pleasure Shō was invoking Mizuki reached upwards again. She wrapped one hand around Aptom’s pole letting her fingers slide up and down his girth as her other massaged his balls. It took only the slightest tug to convince him to come lower and as Aptom fell to his knees Mizuki grinned. The hyper-zoanoid reached out his large hands, playing with the flesh of her breasts.

“The couch does have certain advantages,” she murmured, arching her back more which thrust her breasts harder into his hands and let her tilt her head back so that she could open her mouth to engulf the head of Aptom’s cock.

The hyper-zoanoid groaned at the sensation and she flicked her tongue, rasping it against the sensitive flesh. The position did not do good things for her balance and Mizuki was forced to push her arms out, bracing herself against Shō’s forearms.

“Mizuki!” The hyper-zoanoid groaned as she opened her mouth wider, encouraging him to plunge more deeply. She swallowed coaxing him and felt Aptom accept her invitation when he leaned forward, probably to share a kiss with Shō. But even as she sucked his length the hyper-zoanoid was practiced, always drawing back enough so that she could breathe.

He matched Shō’s rhythm, confidently moving with the Guyver. Mizuki blew little puffs of air from her nose, heightening his pleasure as the air moved against his saliva slicked cock and she recognised the excited timbre of his voice and Aptom came. “Mizuki!”

The first spurt came into her mouth, the second splattered on to her breasts and Shō moved swiftly lapping it up before he took the tip of Aptom’s cock into his mouth, suckling as the hyper-zoanoid came. The taste and smell of his lover’s completion and the tight friction of Mizuki’s beautiful body combined with her whimpers of feeling set Shō off again and he could tell that the taste of Aptom on both their tongues had been too much for Mizuki. She came with him, her body quivering around his as she orgasmed.

Shō shifted slightly, pulling out as he lowered her to the couch. He released Aptom’s cock, licking his lips. Her husband’s eyes looked down at her, gentle and relaxed and she reached up to pull him down in a kiss that would arouse Aptom. They both tasted the hyper-zoanoid on the other and they continued to kiss, open mouthed, licking the other. Mizuki reached up, beyond Shō and stroked Aptom’s length. Before she could do anything but caress it a few times, Shō lifted his head and scooped his arms around her, pulling her into a sitting position. The gesture cleared a space for Aptom and the hyper-zoanoid moved swiftly to sit beside them.

“I think she likes the couch,” Aptom said conversationally and Shō grinned. It was not quite the same as his normal chuckle but it was a start. It would take more than a night of sex to drive out the darkness and it would go in waves but anything was to be encouraged. Aptom leaned over and kissed Shō which loosened his arms. It allowed her to squirm her way into the larger man’s lap. Aptom continued to kiss her husband but his arms closed around her and his hands found her buttocks. He squeezed and kneaded the flesh making her wriggle in his lap, pressing the folds of her flesh against his rigid member as she nipped at his chest.

Gently Aptom coaxed her higher and then let her slip down, sheathing himself in the warmth of her body. Mizuki sighed and wiggled, settling his length within her, slowly rotating her hips to grind against him. Aptom liked the movement and she felt him jerk weakly beneath her. Each of her loves felt different with in her. They both filled her with warmth but she could never mistake one for the other and each had their own preferred little gestures. When Aptom was beneath her like this, he liked to let her set the pace, let her guide their movements though his demands were simple enough. Mizuki bit one of his nipples, her small white teeth not piercing his flesh as she allowed the tiny pain to tease the hyper-zoanoid.

His growl was almost a purr from deep in his chest but he did not stop kissing Shō. Instead he raised one of his hands, tickling along the curve of her back before he cupped her head, holding her in place. She continued moving her hips, riding his cock with larger movements enjoying the slide in and out. It felt good. Shō reached out and tweaked her nipple the touch of his hand feathery light as he caressed her skin. Mizuki continued lapping at Aptom’s chest as she rode his engorged member. The touch on her ass was not completely unexpected, she had felt Shō shift on the couch and she smiled. It was not until she felt Fukamachi’s second hand on her hip that she realised what had happened.

“Aptom!” Her chiding came out more like a gasp. “No disincorporation in the lounge. You know that!”

Over the years they’d come up with several rules... well, more like guidelines when it came to intimacy. No sex in the corridor was one of the first. Too many children could catch them. No disincorporation in the lounge was another. The fat in the liquid of Aptom’s form made it almost impossible to get the stains out.

“Shh, little bird,” Aptom replied. “I’ll be careful.” He punctuated his words with wriggles of his tendrils and Mizuki collapsed against his chest, her arms braced there as it worked its way inside. It was slimy but that was okay, the slipperiness made it easier for it to move as Aptom set up a counter to her motion. In when she was out, out when she was in and the pleasure was indescribable. Shō wasn’t forgotten either. She could felt other tendrils reaching off Aptom towards him and she turned her head to watch the hyper-zoanoid tease him. One was wrapped around the zoalord’s cock, the spiral spinning around it to coax Shō back to erection and others wove their way over his body, touching and caressing, seeking the places she knew were sensitive.

Another tendril joined the first in her ass and Mizuki squeezed her eyes shut at the sensation. They twined around each other, cleaning her out. Aptom laughed, and she felt another rope its way around her breast. A second fluttered against the skin of her stomach but did not touch her breast and she understood when Shō’s hand resumed lightly pinching her nipple.

“See,” Aptom complained. “He always steals your boob!”

She laughed at the old complaint and shifted her knees slightly on either side of Aptom’s legs. Once secure Mizuki resumed riding her lover. Shō took up Aptom’s challenge, moving closer himself and lowering his head so it was no longer his fingers tweaking her nipple, it was the varied pressure of his teeth and tongue. Aptom wrapped his arms around them both, his tendrils slithering over their skin and as Mizuki let her muscles massage the pole within her she felt the hyper-zoanoid’s body tense and she drove herself down harder. She looked up as he came, seeming to expand within her. Shō sat back and Mizuki rested her chin on Aptom’s chest, forcing the scarred man to look down at her. Mizuki grinned, jerking her hips to elicit another groan from her lover. Without his glasses his eyes glittered dully with satisfaction and Mizuki knew that her own gaze reflected her feelings.

Aptom growled at her slightly though. She hadn’t come with him but he knew she was close and he drove the tendrils into her. “Aptom!” Mizuki squealed and she tried to lift herself up to escape the pleasurable torment he was inflicting. “Aptom!” she laughed when she realised his tendrils were holding her firmly in position. “Not here!” she objected. “Bedroom!” the word was gasped but was instruction enough.

The hyper-zoanoid didn’t even get a chance to move them before they bounced lightly on the covers. “Shō!” two voices cried out. The gentle jolt of movement had pushed Aptom’s tendrils deep inside her and Mizuki was fighting the feeling. Usually she wouldn’t mind, but today she wanted it to be their tools that drove her over, not Aptom’s ubiquitous though certainly arousing tendrils and she was already close.

The hyper-zoanoid shifted slightly lying back on the bed, and pulling Mizuki down so that she lay against his chest. “This way I get your boobs!” he crowed, grinning as his hands once again took up position on her buttocks. His cock, which had softened somewhat with his release surged back into hardness as he shifted within her and Mizuki rested her weight on his body, looking up to share a long lazy kiss with him. Idly, slowly the tendrils in her ass moved again, twisting around the other but only so that the movement was comfortable and when Shō became a warm weight beside her they pulled out to be quickly replaced by her husband’s cock.

Mizuki moaned, her breath short at the assault of feeling. “God…” she whimpered as Aptom and Shō began to move. Aptom moved his powerful hands to her waist, holding her steady while Shō moved above her, tickling his hands down her spine. It felt so much… They felt so much and her eyes half closed as she could think of nothing else. They moved together, each pushing in as deeply as they could before they drew back leaving her sobbing with desire before they filled her again. And then they’d change, Aptom driving into her while Shō pulled out so that they alternated.

“God… please…” she begged. The sensation was overwhelming and Aptom chuckled as he rolled them over, to lie on their sides. He still supported her body, though one hand now moved to lift her thigh so that they could continue their assault. “Please… god!” she pleaded.

“Not god,” Shō whispered into her ear, his breath warm against her skin. One of his hands reached around her to squeeze her breast. Aptom’s tendrils held them close. There was one advantage of intimacy with a zoanoid like Aptom, he could hold them in place even when gravity did not like it. He could touch and rub in a hundred places at once. It made everything so much more… but that was hardly a thought that occupied her mind… not when other things were so completely occupying her body.

“No, not god,” Aptom agreed.

“Say it, Miz-chan,” Shō murmured, rocking his hips back and forth.

She might have been almost completely incoherent with feeling but even as she gasped in tiny half breaths Mizuki smiled. Shō’s purr into her ear held very few of the inflections of dark. He wasn’t back yet. It was just the moment but she vowed that the moment would become longer. This was her job, her way of healing but it only worked with her two loves. She felt good… by everything that she had ever known, she felt good. Mizuki always felt good with them both! Singularly it was great… together… Mizuki moaned… it was almost too much but she knew from experience that the sensation was just as good for them. It was the control the war had brought them that was making them so refined. Mizuki shook her head, whipping her hair at them both and all both zoanoids did was close their eyes while continuing to nuzzle into her neck driving her crazy with the powerful movements of their hips.

She wasn’t going to say it though. She’d make them force her to say it only when it was as difficult for them to deny the reality as it was for her.

“Little bird,” Aptom growled holding her head steady by the simple expedient of running his tongue over her ear before his sharp teeth pressed against her skin in a shower of nips and kisses. The note in his voice showed that the hyper-zoanoid was close to release. Mizuki gasped… they knew every sensitive spot and exactly how hard to touch or fondle. Shō lapped at her neck, the arm he had under her moved slightly, letting his fingers brush against her skin while his other continued to squeeze her breast. Aptom did the same, though his free arm rubbed against her waist allowing him to massage her buttock.

“You taste good!” Shō said and Mizuki could feel the grin in his voice.

“You smell good, little bird,” Aptom muttered, letting his face nuzzle into her short hair.

“You look good,” Shō’s voice held a grin.

“You sound good,” Aptom said his line and Mizuki could tell that they were both enjoying her gasps.

“And you feel great,” they said together.

She knew what was coming! After so long, how could she not know what was coming but that made the reality no less frustrating. Brown eyes squeezed closed when Shō and Aptom stopped. The soft murmur of sound made by the slide of flesh on flesh faded leaving the only sound her gasping breaths with their more controlled exhalations. To them the room was probably filled with sound but she was not a zoanoid so she could not hear the pounding of their hearts or the rush of blood through veins. Mizuki could feel her heart though, thumping in her chest and she could feel sweat beading on her body.

They had halted within her, making her feel stretched and full and there was a delicious tightness stretched through her body. They hadn’t linked today but Mizuki knew, they felt the same and while the dark drive within made them try to dominate she knew of only one retaliation. Strong hands on her body would not allow her to move but there was more than one way to complete their pleasure. She was a guyver. She was the only guyver who could use her vibration blades to cut tiny marks in flesh in surgery, who could use the sensors to see inside the body to know exactly what was wrong and who could control her head beam to the point where it was not a deadly weapon but one that sealed and cauterised wounds. It left scars but in the situations she was called into, scars were better than death. And all that had given her some of the finest muscle control ever. Zoanoids had fine control but their control was focused around power, they lacked the gentler smaller more delicate control she did.

Mizuki squirmed slightly, her breath coming in short gasps at the rasp of the flesh within her, “So good!” she cried before she focused, squeezing her muscles as hard as she could.

Success was heralded by twin groans so she relaxed and repeated the motion. She tried to ignore what the massage of flesh was doing to her. “Aptom,” she grinned at him, turning slightly so that it was her mouth at his ear and she nipped the lobe before continuing her message, punctuating each word with a squeeze. “You feel good!”

“Shō,” Mizuki continued, tilting her head back to look over her shoulder as she continued to massage their cocks lodged within her. “You feel good!” She might have said something about their being captured in friendly territory but that would definitely awaken the dark desires of them both and she knew exactly how creative Aptom could be with his tendrils! The ability to reform his body into almost any configuration… Mizuki suppressed a pleasurable shudder just thinking about it. He’d only scratched the surface today.

“Miz-chan!”

“Little bird!”

They breathed at her together and Mizuki laughed when they resumed moving! The friction against and within her was intoxicating and quickly drove any thoughts of victory from her mind. “Love…” she moaned. “Love you both!”

The sensation overwhelming and as it exploded within her, filling her entirely she felt her body clamp down on the hard rods inside. She reached one arm forward, holding herself to Aptom while the other stretched backwards, doing her best to wrap around Shō. It was a bit awkward but that hardly mattered. The sensation and pressure of her release affected them both and Mizuki bit her lip when she felt them cum within her. It felt good… She quivered as if it was her own release and her breath was short.

Both Shō and Aptom snuggled into him as they lay together, enjoying the glow of release. Slowly Mizuki closed her eyes, lowering her head to rest on their arms, relishing the tingling sensation that engulfed her. “Love you,” Mizuki gasped.

They hadn’t joined minds. The dark in Shō and Aptom would not allow that for a while but she could feel their satisfaction. It was evidenced in the smirk gracing the hyper-zoanoid’s features, the soft glow of content in his eyes and in the way his tendrils gently moved, swaying almost with his heartbeat, caressing both of them as they regained their breath. For Shō it was different. His eyes were still hard, showing more red than the soft brown she remembered but his movement was soft and relaxed and she stretched into the hands that stroked her back. They were as sated as she was.

Shō shifted first, pulling out and a moment later Aptom moved, shifting her slightly so that she could lie more comfortably. The two of them moved together to embrace her nuzzling into her and Aptom licked her skin, tasting the salt on her. “You really do taste the best,” the scarred man said and she could hear the smile in his voice.

“Enough?” Mizuki asked.

“For now,” Shō replied for them both as he wriggled a little settling more comfortably.

Mizuki smiled. It was not his usual affection but for someone consumed by the darkness it was an improvement. She gave Aptom a peck, nipping his skin before she turned towards Shō and gave him a tender kiss. The guyver-zoalord seemed surprised but Mizuki gave him no time to consider as she snuggled close, tucking her head under his chin. Aptom’s long arms reached out, and pulled them both tight against him and he tucked Shō’s head under his chin. It left her warm, surrounded and protected by them both and even though things were not yet right, Mizuki let herself hope. She breathed deep, the two scents she loved and she didn’t fight it as her eyes fluttered closed.

The two zoanoids heard her breath even out and the gentle peace of it, combined with the satiation coursing through their systems let them relax and for once, for the first time in a very long time, sleep came easily for them both.

Year 518 21st November, Terra Nova

“So?” Mizuki looked over at her brother.

“Mizuki,” he regarded her seriously. “Are you sure you needed me to run all those tests?”

“Of course I’m sure!” she said exasperatedly. “I’m not meant to get sick, yet I’ve been sick off and on for the last couple of weeks.”

“And you don’t know what’s wrong?”

“I wouldn’t have asked you if I knew.”

“Mizuki… it’s just that…”

“It’s what?” She demanded.

“Sis, this isn’t a new experience for you.”

“Of course it’s new! I do not get sick! Shō and Aptom are worried and I am running out of excuses.”

“That’s the thing Sis, you don’t need excuses.” For some reason Tetsuro seemed amused.

“Then what do I need?” She growled. For the moment she only suffered mild nausea every now and then but the knowledge that she was sick had put her on edge. She didn’t get sick! Her Unit kept her healthy and while she had never been processed into a zoanoid, if it took some tank time to make her feel better again, then Aptom would throw her in it himself! She couldn’t be sick. Shō and Aptom were just beginning to come out of the darkness. If something happened to her… No… she just could not be sick. It would destroy them.

Her brother laughed and lowered his head to his hands as he continued to chuckle. “I don’t believe I have to tell you this,” he said finally, grinning widely.

“Tell me what?’

“Sis… There is nothing wrong with you.”

“There is! I’ve been getting sick.”

“I know,” Tetsuro agreed urbanely. “But that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong.” Now he was obviously playing for laughs.

“Just tell me,” she said through clenched teeth.

She almost stormed out when he stifled another chuckle. “Mizuki,” Tetsuro said seriously. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you or with the symptoms you are experiencing. You are simply in the first trimester of pregnancy.”

“I’m what!?” She felt her eyes widen.

“You’re pregnant Sis. Congratulations!”

“But…”

“Oh come on!” Tetsuro laughed. “I don’t need to tell you how it happened!”

Mizuki blinked. Of course she knew how it happened… but she hadn’t been pregnant for centuries. Aptom was a lost number, he couldn’t sire a child on her naturally and Shō shouldn’t have been able to yet… the stress of the war and of being in his full Zoalord form usually rendered him sterile for at least a little while. They had been busy in the months since they’d come home but… He was not yet healed enough. And Tetsuro knew that! He’d confirmed it with the tests he’d done on Shō a week or so ago. Her husband was getting better but he wasn’t back to normal yet. Her method of checking was far simpler… his eyes weren’t yet the soft brown she loved.

“Tetsuro,” she said, deliberately keeping annoyance out of her tone. “Think about it for a moment… How?”

That brought the chuckles from her brother under control and after a moment he frowned. Finally he stood and came around his desk. “I need to test something. May I?” he asked and Mizuki nodded. If he wanted to test something right here then it had be something he could feel as a Zoalord.

Quickly Tetsuro’s form blurred and he spread one hand over her abdomen. She felt a whisper of energy tickle through her before her brother rocked back.

“Well?”

“Well…” her brother repeated, letting out a long breath. “I’m going to have to run a few more tests but I have a few theories. The baby is fine though and that’s really all that’s important for now.”

“Ah… the father?” She asked, quirking one eyebrow. Neither of the two men she slept with exclusively were meant to be fertile… It was an important consideration.

“Oh, that’s Aptom,” Tetsuro said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Mizuki growled. “Lost Number Aptom?”

While he was in his Zoalord form Tetsuro still somehow seemed to grin at her. “That’s what the extra tests are for. But for now… how are the clans?”

She jerked up… “Oh my god!” The clans… Aptom’s clan in particular were going to go insane with the knowledge that there was a new infusion of blood on the way…

“You do realise half the Empire is going to get drunk celebrating this news, don’t you? Alkanphel might lead but Sis… you know you are more than royalty to most of them.”

Mizuki nodded, placing one hand on her still flat stomach. The news hadn’t really sunk in yet… and there was so much to consider… “I think I’ll need to speak to you tomorrow.”

“I’ll be at your disposal, Clan Mother,” Tetsuro said and she could hear the grin in his tone before he turned serious. “Mizuki… I know this wasn’t expected but I think… it will be for the best.”

“How?”

“I think a child will bring them both back and anchor them fully in the light,” he said simply and Mizuki recognised the truth of Tetsuro’s words. “You aren’t the only one worried.”

She took a deep breath and nodded. “Thank you,” Mizuki said, turning to the door.

“Any time sis,” her brother replied.

Year 2847 17th December, Terra Nova

:Have you said good-bye?: The thought was sent on a private frequency.

As expected there was no immediate answer and Alkanphel continued to walk around the high tower of Chronos, trailing his fingers over the surface of things as if he could extract the memories of what they had seen. It was time and with a particularly deep sigh he looked out, admiring the vista.

Terra Nova was the home world of the Human Empire, though almost three thousand years on from the destruction of Earth, their true home world still held a special place in their hearts. Shizu had summed it up quite nicely once, serenely asserting that no planet would ever be as beautiful as Earth for those who had stood on its surface, basked in its sun, felt its wind and had bleed for its life. But most humans were happy here and as the years had progressed Terra Nova had become a fine world.

He had learned long ago that a planet was merely a planet, a building just a building. It was the people that mattered. Humans had changed over time. It was to be expected of course but he had never expected this much change. The first change had come with the war against Uranus. All things considered it had been short. There had been surprises, but they had been prepared. Not so for the second war but that had not been against Uranus… that had been against the races of the galaxy that had supported the ancients.

That war had been even shorter and had awoken the ire of humans. He'd never really bothered asking but it had been obvious that the idiots had not thought before they attacked but it had led to Empire. Once, so long ago that the words were almost lost to memory, at the dawn of the war with Uranus, he had told the gathered species that humans had no wish for dominium save for their own fate. That war changed things and it had been a brief but vicious time of conquest. As the Uranus had said once, they had been made perfect and the other races could not stand against that.

They were not dead. Alkanphel had controlled humans enough for that. Surprising most of his Generals had controlled their warriors as well, even the two who had wiped out the majority of Uranus. Still… that war had set the tone. Humans were peaceful but when they made war their entire outlook changed. It had been difficult, years later for him to see that outlook displayed against each other.

The Clan Wars had been next. They had been long and bitter and he still didn't know what had caused them. His Lieutenants told him they'd been brewing for some time but no one knew the spark which had started them. Stupid thing that they were. He knew the exact moment they ended, even if it took some small time after that moment for the hostilities to cease.

Someone had thought it wise to attempt to assassinate the still living Clan Mother. If they had tried thinking it would be an instant victory, or a devastating indication of their strength, they had been sadly mistaken. It had brought escalation and the interference of the two Clan Fathers who were happy to be acknowledged as such. Until that point, the Lords of Chronos had let things progress as they would.

Fukamachi Mizuki was the Clan Mother of five clans though by that point in time Hayami's had merged with the others. The ice zoanoid had said it was a relief in a way, to know that his ice powers could now be used by all the Clans that named her Mother. His clan, never that big, had tried to remain aloof and had suffered the consequences. It wasn't even a tiny blow to his pride. They had made their own choices. Clans Fukamachi and Aptom were both still strong, though it was becoming somewhat difficult to tell where the boundaries were as they intermarried so much. And the final clan, that of those who didn't claim a Clan Father… they were split. Half sided with those against their clan brothers and sisters, and half with their clan brothers and sisters. None had known of the assassination attempt. That had united Mizuki's clans in a way that had never been seen before.

The two Clan Fathers had called their children… all their children together and their call had been backed by the Clan Mother. Then, Alkanphel wasn't really sure what had happened, but he knew Aptom had gone amongst them. By then, most had at least some of his blood within them, though not all shared his abilities. It had been an informal agreement between Clans Fukamachi and Aptom for centuries by then that anyone displaying Aptom's abilities was immediately adopted by his Clan and those born into Clan Aptom without his ability to disincorporate were of Clan Fukamachi. It had seemed to work.

But whatever it was that Aptom had done, and Alkanphel suspected that he had merged with every single one of his children, it had been enough to awaken latent abilities. So long as they had just a smidgeon of DNA from Aptom, the hyper-zoanoid had awoken it. The clans had come out of that meeting united… Not just in ideals but in mind and body. They had been a force that the others could not hope to counter. And that had ended the clan wars, though it had been a few years of brutal violent battle.

The Clans who had planned Mizuki's assassination had not been prepared for the rage of the escalation. They had not been prepared to face two of the most powerful warriors ever to grace humanity and while neither Shō nor Aptom had fought themselves… the outcome had been determined.

A few years later, the survivors had sued for peace, a peace that was reluctantly accepted and enforced by a large number of matings. Natsuki had seen to that. It came as no surprise that the losing Clans had died out or merged with those that had won. She'd done it over generations so that it came gradually but the outcome was the same.

After that he had gotten to watch the development of his Lords and they had no doubt watched his own with some amusement. They were used to him being asleep, and even with the time, the five hundred years after Earth that they had been preparing, they had been so busy that no many had taken the time to play. They relaxed now.

He had watched the long relationship between Edward and Lois falter. It did not die but with the incident it became far more difficult. Despite Fukamachi's acceptance of Lois' anger, the boy still blamed himself and that created a rift. Subtle but there all the same. The young zoalord could tell where Edward was at any given time... It was not romantic as some idiots believed. It was stifling and they both felt it. The only reason it did not erupt into violence as so many strained relationships did was Sheldon, Edward's clone, inadvertently created in an attempt to heal Edward from the wounds suffered in the incident. Sheldon calmed them both, kept them both sane and Lois had almost naturally gravitated towards the blond copy of Caerleon. It had taken time, and a lot of patience but eventually the two of them were happy.

As far as Alkanphel could tell, Edward was happy. Natsuki had definitely been pleased that rival for her lover's affection had found someone else, though the Supreme Lord of Chronos knew that she had shared her affections with Sheldon. It wasn't like Edward didn't like her either. He had kept Lois and Natsuki happy before the incident and so that little group was content.

The interactions spread further though. The effects on one, rippled through his other Lords and their attendants. Over the centuries Aptom had slowly turned from his sometimes ladies, Natsuki and Miraya until the point where he was almost exclusively and excessively faithful to Shō and Mizuki. Still... Alkanphel knew that sometimes Mirabilis convinced the hyper-zoanoid into his bed, especially if Fukamachi was there but for the most part, and for the last few decades, the hyper-zoanoid had slept only with his two rebel lovers.

It was possibly Yentsui who had made the biggest steps in maintaining the peace. After the Uranus had been destroyed, Alkanphel knew that at least some of his original Zoalords expected the rebels to continue their ways. He had never bothered to tell them that if they did, Chronos had lost. Fukamachi and Aptom had been solely responsible for the surrender of the Uranus, a fact they had kept hidden from everyone but he knew. He had seen the truth but the golden eyed Zoalord also knew that Fukamachi had no through to continue the rebellion with the Uranus dead. Makishima might have though. It was hard to know what the Guyver was thinking and Yentsui had completely unknowingly removed any thought from Makishima's mind. He had an unexpected flare for trade and between Yentsui and Shizu, Makishima had been drawn deeper and deeper into the fold until there was no thought to leave. The supreme zoalord had never doubted Yentsui's faith. Edward had ensured that in the brief time he had retreated from all, casting aside Sheldon, Lois and Natsuki in his confusion and turning towards Yentsui.

Varth Enterprises flourished, though it had gone through changes but Makishima was acknowledged as a true master of trade both in the Human Empire and aliens. He had brought some to their knees through his company.

And Alkanphel had watched as others found their strengths, developing into those who had so faithfully served him into their own beings. Some had withdrawn from the world. That was to be expected and truthfully many humans simply forgot that he was their rulers these days. There was little to control. Natsuki, the architect of so much preferred to live quietly with Edward, though her advice was still sought when they developed a new zoaform. She was the best in ensuring that it breed true to the next generations.

Amniculus and Purgstall had eventually found each other, though the two of them both preferred to live quietly. They had set up their worlds to need little interference from them though those in their protectorates knew that they watched. After the war with Uranus Amniculus had withdrawn from Fukamachi and Alkanphel was almost certain that Rubeo knew the truth, that it was Fukamachi who almost single handedly slaughtered the Uranus. Amniculus did not possess the brilliance in science that Tetsuro did, or the sheer understanding of human nature that Khan did, but he was no man's fool. He knew the truth when he saw it and he could see facts that remained hidden. He had probably seen the truth in Fukamachi's eyes, which had burned red for months after. Shō never seemed to miss their closeness but the boy was good at hiding things. His protective streak had only gotten stronger as time went on, and he would protect people, even from the pain he caused them if that made them happy.

It was the secret of the age and remained even now. He knew, though Fukamachi had never told him and he was fairly sure Amniculus knew. Mizuki knew. For all her faults, she was not blind to the darkness that lurked in the hearts of her lovers, and they would have told her at some stage. But no one else knew. They knew only what had been seen and what the Uranus reported. A being, not zoalord nor guyver, wreathed in energy, which controlled the very winds had attacked and destroyed them. No defence was enough and nothing stopped it. It knew where they were and it knew where to strike. The planet obeyed it and the only thing they knew with certainty was that it had eyes that glowed. The fact that he had seemingly controlled it... that sealed their surrender and they had kept to the letter and intent of their surrender ever since.

:Have you?: his question was returned and Alkanphel smiled. Masaki knew him too well.

:I've said the same numbers you have,: he replied, looking out at the setting sun. It was only a passing interest to him if the Uranus continued to keep their word in the years to come. If they didn't, the situation would be rather quickly resolved. Shō remembered his promises… every last one of them.

Centuries had changed him as it would all men but Fukamachi still maintained his ideals, he was loyal to the principles he had on Earth and that's why Alkanphel felt no fear at what would follow. The Human Empire he had built would rest in good hands. They had blood on them, but they also had tears and they were supported by others. He would be a good leader.

:Is it time?: Masaki asked barely even needing to speak. As the years had progressed their bond had grown deeper until it was a conscious effort for one to block the other. He had seen into the depths of Masaki's soul just as the younger man had seen into his and they were still together. Alkanphel knew the zoalords sometimes laughed about that and they teased Masaki… gently of course.

:It is,: he replied, and with barely a thought Alkanphel teleported, reappearing above the planet. Masaki appeared beside him.

:So… my Lord…: Masaki bowed, his black hair falling over his shoulders. When he rose he gestured to the stars. :Where shall we go today?:

Alkanphel smiled, and took a deep breath as he looked around at the ribbon of stars. So many possibilities. One twinkled and he pointed towards it. :That one.:

The End.