The Missing Princess Part 15: The Ancient Artifact!


In the last chapter Commander Lightyear got a coded message to Ace McGuire en route to a mysterious rendezvous with Dr Zahn, while the rocket containing Princess Taegan and the space pirate Xasaphrax disappeared from the astro-radarscope. But what has been happening on planet Dormientes Draco with its strange ancient towers that threaten the whole galaxy? Let us now find out.

The large fleet of Imperial rockets were arrayed refuelled and ready for launch. As before there was a final inspection, gallingly the magi-lord Dr Axon the man-machine had usurped the military role, insisting on the inspection of every crew lined up in parade and every rocket before the next gridsearch launch. While mercifully swift it still angered every member of the Imperial fleet from the highest commanders to the lowest of ground crew.

Captain Atrius was not yet sure what the aim of these inspections were. Some show of political force encouraged to reinforce the magi-lords position of authority? If so it was excessive done more than the once let alone at every refuelling and only increasing morale problems in the ranks. But Atrius was increasingly suspicious that some form of paranoia or other motive was behind the inspections. It would be logical that Dr Axon suspected Zenithian spies had infiltrated the ranks, but it was his inspections of the rockets themselves that seemed the greater focus of these inspections.

The great metal bodied giant swung away from another rocket, huge metal arms resting clasped behind his back, the bubbling liquid around the visible brain in it’s glass tank, all that remained of the man that Dr Axon once was, swashing about with the swift turn. Finally it seemed the bizarre ritual was complete and they could return to searching for whatever it was the Magi were searching for that would unlock the dilemma of the strange towers, but then Dr Axon changed his pattern.

“An Announcement” intoned the mechanical replacement of a voice, and always Atrius wondered how so much smugness could carry in such a dispassionate monotone voice. “A Crew/Magi rescheduling.”

Atrius heard in his minds ear the echoing groan surely filling the inner thoughts of all on the parade ground, yet trained to perfection as they were not one soldier of Marduk betrayed the slightest visual sign of displeasure or reaction at all to this news.

“Myself and my team and equipment will now shift to the Shaheen and be transported by the crew of Captain Atrius.”

Unlike the rest of the warriors of Marduk, Atalleph, the Princesses pet viper-bat left in Atrius’s care, or perhaps it was vice-versa, and wrapped about his arm, voiced it’s displeasure as Dr Axon swung his brain to regard them with whatever hidden marvel of technology served for his eyes with a long sibilant hiss of aggression and a display of leathery wings somewhat between those of a bat or flying fish.

Within mere minutes the equipment was transferred and a storm-browed Captain Atrius and a skittish hissing Atalleph escorted Magi-lord Dr Axon into the skies over the barren rocky ochre landscape of Dormientes Draco.

“Captain Atrius” the soft rumbling voice of Dr Axon intoned, “break off from gridsearch vector to these coordinates in precisely 20 minutes.”

Atrius, with eyes narrowed, obeyed. The new trajectory took them well away from the rest of the Imperial fleet, to a point on the planets equator in an area already covered by the searchers and devoid of any of the tower ruins. The Shaheen raced through the dusty lemon skies of the dead world and came to land on a small flat-topped escarpment in a ruddy landscape of crags and fissures.

The Man-machine Dr Axon said but a single word “Wait”, before stoopingly exiting the side hatch and down the groaning and protesting telescoping ladder to the rocky ground below and then disappearing from view over the rocky edge of the escarpment. But Attaleph, the Princesses pet jewel-scaled Viper-bat from the shadowed forest moon of Eth did not recognise Dr Axon’s authority, and quietly slithered in pursuit, this Atrius observed with a smile and a nod of respect.

Unawares of his stealthy slithering pursuit Dr Axon clambered his way ungainly but efficiently into a heavily eroded gully, once, long ago, a part of a watercourse long since dried. There was no sign whatsoever of life, but it was not the living he was looking for. In the shadow of an overhanging outcrop luminous electronic eyes irised open, and the Centurion of the Robot Legion strode forth, hand raised in greeting….

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In a darkened throne room on a world orbiting a far distant star a hunched figure peered over steepled fingers at instant images that were seen by his eye alone as Emperor Marduk watched as if from the point of view of Attaleph the revealed treason of Dr Axon.

“It was only a matter of time with you Dr Axon, wasn’t it. Even with the extension of life I granted you. And now for you the inevitable reward for traitors. Enjoy your last minutes, for they are now numbered.”

Without turning he reached to his side with a practiced air and placed a long finger on a concealed button concealed beneath a jewel on his throne.

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“You have, I presume, the guarantee of Amnesty in writing? I am not about to go further without certainty that your Queens extermination of inefficient organic life will exempt my own person.”

“Affirmative.” The Centurion raised a hand and passed a metal cylinder to Dr Axon, who immediately unfurled the translucent flexible metal scroll to analyse the particulars.

“This says my brain will eventually be transferred into a mechanical brain at a time of my own choosing…”

“My Queen assumed you would be dissatisfied with the meagre lifespan an organic brain imposes, and that this eventual choice on your part would be mathematically inevitable.. however the particulars are up to you.”

“Yes, quite.” Replied Dr Axon with a hint of uncertainty in his mechanical voice.

“So may we proceed? The Queen is quite eager for confirmation that you have control of the stellar weapon.”

“Yes. The entrance is hidden just a few metres from here, I trust you brought the weaponry I requested?”

As an answer at some wordless and motionless command from the Centurion a Warbot Destroyer buried in the Draconian soil sat and then stepped up towering over them, it’s arms huge energy weapons. And at Dr Axon’s pointing gesture began tunnelling into the ravine wall, rock glowing then melting in rivulets like wax that flowed and cooled reshaped and discoloured.

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In the darkened room the Emperor Marduk watched with grim glee as the time ticked down to Dr Axon’s execution, drumming his fingers in an ever increasing rhythm on a countdown unknown to all others in the universe, swiftly that rhythm reached a crescendo..

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Attaleph watched coiled and hidden amongst the rocks watching as a great gate of unknown crystalline material was gradually revealed by the rays of the warbot destroyers raygun-limbs. Dr Axon waited with his metal feet mere centimetres from the flow of molten rock eager to get his electronic senses closer to the strange inscription on the crystalline door.. then, suddenly, his whole body twitched and spasmed! From the iconic bejewelled eye emblem worn upon the uniform of every citizen of the Imperium of Marduk and in Dr Axon’s case set into the mechanism of the translucent case which sustained his life, pulsed a strange radiant series of concentric circles of light followed by arcing and deadly electricity that lashed around the brain case and into the brain itself! The sustaining liquid boiled and frothed as portions of the brain popped and burst till at last the glassteel shattered and the remaining fragments of cerebral matter streamed out like a stew to pour onto the sand! The lifeless form of Dr Axon slumped forward on it’s feet, as the slurry continued to drain to a trickle before the impassive features but shocked poses of the robot legionnaires!

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“Thus perish all traitors to my reign.” Whispered Emperor Marduk to the image seen by him alone. He depressed a hidden button on his throne. “Orders to Captain Damqi, redirect all your forces to the current coordinates of Captain Atrius, I want a sizable ground force ready for combat within the hour. Orders for Captain Atrius, once the force of Captain Damqi arrives you are to return to searching for the missing Imperial Daughter, this order cannot be countermanded until fulfilled.”

The Emperor, the Man-God, Marduk the First and Only, had lived for aeons and had found little in life surprising… still when he returned his gaze to the image before him after giving those orders something caused his mouth to drop open and all 3 eyes widen in astonishment!

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Dr Axon’s body returned to an upright stance! The wrecked brain cylinder mechanically ejected from the shoulders of the machine body. Then from inside the barrel-like torso another brain cylinder arose bearing within it the true brain of Dr Axon shielded from Emperor Marduk’s assignation device and without the jewelled insignia all citizens were required to wear!

“Hahahaaaaa! It worked! I live! I live! Free of the tyrant Marduk today, to be his master tomorrow! Now to unravel the mysteries of the ancients and harness their power!” and with that Dr Axon strode over the cooling stone to examine the crystal door to the complex below…

Will the treacherous Dr Axon hand ultimate power over the galaxy to the dread Robot Legion of Queen Mechanica? Can Dr Axon trust the promises of the dread Machine Monarch or she trust him? What new thrilling mysteries horrors and fantastic sights await in the hidden depths of the core of the planet Dormientes Draco? What will become of the marooned Commander Lightyear? What fate awaits Princess Taegan at the base of the Space Pirates? Be sure not to miss the next edge-of-your-seat installment of Hydra Serials Waaar Roooocket The Missing Princess Chapter 16: The Shrouded Star Fortress! Proudly brought to you by the Caprican Toaster Co. the toasters which cut your corners for you! And by the Planet Arous Policeman’s Union Retirement and Medical Fund.

The Missing Princess Part 14: A Desperate Cry in the Darkness

In the last heart-wrenching chapter Imperial Princess Taegan allowed herself to be captured by one of a gang of brutal Space Pirates who had boarded the desolate Imperial Watch Station in orbit around planet Eratus Est of the Draco star system, as she was carried off aboard a stolen Imperial Class II Scorpion rocket as gallant Galacteer Commander Lightyear of the Lightyear Brigade was forced to watch on along with the rest of the Space Pirates the treacherous four-armed Kutila named Xasaphrax tossed a live grenade into the docking port! Which terrible fate has befallen noble Commander Lightyear? To be marooned with murderous pirates or a swift explosive death?

“See you all in the afterlife you scudge swilling zwilniks”
With a cruel laugh the mottled reptiloid tossed the live grenade, slamming closed the aluminiglass and goldrantium hood down and pulled the rocket swiftly away.

The grenade bounced and skittered across the docking bay right into the corridor where Commander Lightyear and the Pirates had watched the departure of the treacherous Xasaphrax coming to rest right at Lightyear’s feet! As the pirates stared in stunned and fatal shock Lightyear, with his superior strength from years spent as a child growing acclimatised on a high-gravity world; the superior reflexes of Galacteer training and the skills of split-second decision-making that comes from mastering the break-neck speed of the Galacteer Class 1 Comet Rocket leapt into instant action!

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The Missing Princess Part 13: Misfortune is Written In The Stars!

In the last chapter Princess Taegan and Commander Lightyear, marooned on an Imperial watch-station with the remains of the slaughtered crew fought the mentalist illusions of an extraordinarily deadly menace of space: an Adult Brain Parasite, using an old folk-tale of the Empire about Emperor Marduk as a shield and a weapon but even as the tendriled malevolent brain’s reign of terror was ended they discovered the space outside was filled with battle and the station about to be boarded by Space Pirates! Now let us uncover their fate..

Princess Taegan looked down at the astro-radar screen then up to Commander Lightyear, “The Pirates are coming closer! They must mean to plunder the station!”

“How big a rocket?”

“Probably a Class 2 Stiletto by the rad leakage.”

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Retro Raygun Rulebook Released by Hydra!

It’s out everybody!
The infantry scale game of action and adventure from the creative team of geniuses and artists behind War Rocket! With playtesting and some fiction contributions by those of us here at My War Rocket Blog!

Be entranced by the Valkeeri Empress! Shudder in fear at the Hordes of the Robot Legion! Battle Wicked Tyrants side by side with Ace McGuire, Jane Hunter, Rocky Rizzo, Dr Zahn and Cadet Skippy! Enjoy a fast paced elegant rules system designed for Narrative and Fun gaming that can hold up to the needs of seasoned wargamers with decades of experience and novice players alike! (We know cause we tested it on both!)
http://shop.hydraminiatures.com/product_info.php?cPath=34&products_id=166

Get it now and begin your own exciting adventures! And of course expect to see even more of the thrilling Retroverse here as the adventures and serial stories of our own games will continue!

Check your charge-capacitors, turn all the dials to maximum and pull those levers and launch into the adventure of Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today!

The Missing Princess Part 12: Mastermind of the Star Zombies

In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commander Lightyear and Space Pirate Captain Woz managed at last to reach the Imperial Watch-station in the Draco system to try and warn the great powers of the galaxy that prominent commanders were being replaced by pod-people clones as part of a sinister Zenithian plot, while strange devices on the planet Dormientes Draco were causing the star Draco to turn into a black hole threatening the whole galaxy. They arrive to find the crew of the station all dead and then Captain Woz abandons them marooning them on the station and intending to send Pirates to pick them up to ransom back to their own people! But while they try to repair the stations communication systems to call for rescue strange eyes are watching them from hiding…

Princess Taegan and Commander Lightyear, both now armed with ray pistols after Lightyear recovered one from the holster of a deceased imperial crewman and wearing Imperial space-suits they took as soon as they found them, made their way through the cramped and small stations claustrophobic pie-slice shaped rooms, short corridors and ladders to reach the point the analog systems determined the communication systems circuit fault was. Just a short distance from the reactor rooms output junction. Their passage was tense, making as much haste as they could but wary of any sign of the threat that had killed so many so very recently, moving as quietly as possible in the nearly-total silence of the empty station over metal grill walkways and floors, their breathing and footfalls seeming deafeningly loud above the faint thrum of the stations reactor. Having abandoned the weak illuminators of the Zenithians for sturdy Imperial ones still it seemed almost like the darkness was hungry, absorbing, draining, devouring the light so that it seemed to fade where it should have shown crisp sharp shadows. Despite the sealed suits the mind quickly filled in the smell of oil and fear as their lights swooped and slid over metal grills and rails and riveted panels glinting moistly in the humid darkness.

At last they turned the corner to the junction box, pistols drawn and at the ready, to find another tale of woe. A crewman’s body still standing, still clutching the metal axe with which he had cut the circuit, an Imperial knife still buried in his shoulder and at his feet the body of another Imperial soldier who had died from an axe blow apparently in the act of trying to stop them from cutting the circuit.

“What could possibly have happened here?” murmured the bewildered Princess.
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Sleeping Dragon and the Battle for Science!

Captain Atrius fumed quietly as he sat in the command chair of the Class II Imperial Raptor Rocket The Shahin. It was difficult enough sitting in the position normally taken by the Princess instead of his usual position to her right. Especially as he couldn’t go anywhere without the Princesses pet Vyper-bat Atalleph left in his care coiled around his arm or hanging on his shoulder, though it did help him keep the Princess in mind. It was worse that helping the Magi, the scientists of the Empire, determine the secret central hub of the strange tower ruins the Zenithians had activated and their dangerous effects upon the star Draco meant that he and much of the Princesses’ fleet had been taken off the search for their missing leader. Worse yet was that the mastermind behind the Magi’s operations Magi Lord Dr Axon had implied that the search for the Princess should be abandoned altogether… but the most infuriating of all was that the very same Dr Axon had insisted on being on board the very same Rocket as Atrius!

Normally he got on well with battle-magi, those soldiers of the empire most entrusted with the powerful secrets of the Empires advanced science and engineering. That Dr Axon was more machine than man, after a grievous wounding in battle his vast swathe of knowledge resulted in him determined too valuable to the Empire to be allowed to die. His brain having been transferred into a translucent jar atop a life-sustaining mechanical apperatus, a humanoid body all too reminiscent of the Robot Legions for anyone’s comfort, was disturbing in itself, but it was the attitude that seemed so incompatible with the honourable noble demeanour of the warriors of the Emperors rocket fleet that was worst. This was the first citizen of the Empire Atrius felt he could not and should not trust. And right now he had hooked his mysterious devices to the rockets engines doing who knows what as they scanned, like the rest of the class 2 Imperial rockets on Dormientes Draco, along a grid search pattern measuring the strange energies at work. At least, thought the Captain, the Magi are staying in the engine access compartment…. and that’s when the saucers attacked!

Once again it’s time for another exciting battle report from a saturday morning game of War Rocket down at my local game store The Sleeping Dragon. Alas due to a late night Jason wasn’t able to join in (but hopefully will be in the next report) so Taphyl and I battled it out. This time Taphyl wanted to try the Zenithians rather than the Valkeeri so i let him try with my currently-small Zenithian force.

We started setting up the table with the familiar belt-of-orion placement of strange towers, then Taphyl placed some other ruined buildings from the ancient past of Dormientes Draco along with the floating Ice-teroids created by the towers drawing the indescribably rare mineral MacGuffinite in prodigious quantities from deep in the ground as Taphyl asked “What will the objective be?”

Alerted by 7th-dimensional sensors to the scanning taking place by Imperial rockets around the world of planet Dormientes Draco the Zenithians have been tasked with capturing some Imperial scientists to find out how much the Empire knows about what is happening and see if the Empire is a threat to the Saucer-men’s terrible plans for our 4 dimensions of the universe! While on the Raptor…

“All Hands, battle stations!” Called Captain Atrius as the Zenithians swarmed in to the attack.
“Which foe Captain?” demanded the authoritative mechanical voice of Magi Dr Axon, sounding much more acceptably Imperial for a moment.
“Zenithians closing fast, a class 2 and 3 class 1’s”
“Capture the Class 2 Beta-Z saucer at all costs captain, interrogating their crew could give us the vital information we seek, help us save the galaxy and get you back to searching for your Princess!”
“Raptor to all Scorpions, Raptor to all Scorpions, class 2 saucer to be boarded, repeat: class 2 saucer not to be destroyed!”

Taphyl scrutinizes the Zenithian stats before we start (and misses something which we discover much later)

Taphyl scrutinizes the Zenithian stats before we start (and unfortunately misses something important which we discover much later)

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The Missing Princess Part 10: Under the Shadow of a Dark Star


In the last chapter Imperial Princess Taegan, Galacteer Commander Lightyear and Space Pirate Captain Woz were heading for the Imperial Watchstation orbiting the planet Iratus Est Draco in a damaged Zenithian saucer, while back on the planet Dormientes Draco the loyal Captain Atrius had been left guarding the strange engines beneath the ancient ruined tower rebuilt by the Zenithians and the Princesses beloved pet Vyper-bat Atalleph was left guarding Captain Atrius. While Emperor Marduk the all-seeing Man-God sees all….

Dr Axon entered the command room of the mighty Manticore Class Imperial war rocket The Sirrush, flanked as always by a coterie of assistant Magi and several slaves.

The Magi were robed in lavish black and gold, the mark of the Lords of Knowledge in the Empire. In a state where knowledge was power and all power was held in the tight fist of Marduk the Man-God a Magi’s loyalty was absolute. None outside the Magi knew how Marduk ensured that loyalty, what extra pains or threats or measures were taken to do so, but none of the Magi would ever even hint at it. It was rumoured that sometimes a low ranking Magi might occasionally keel over dead with not a mark upon them but none who wanted to live for long, or live happily, ever spoke of it.

The slaves were learned too, the captured scientists of other civilisations, their lack of trustworthiness clearly marked by their white coats and the ornate and decorative collar about their necks.. from which horrible electric shocks or even fatal injury could be given by the electronic wands that were every Magi’s seal of office.

Dr Axon was the 2nd most senior of the known public officials of the Ministry of Magi. When he had been injured in a battle between the Fangs of Tiamat and Ace McGuire’s Blue Devils he had been deemed too useful to be allowed to die and now was a disembodied brain in a Jar of sustaining fluids often set within all manner of interchangeable mechanical bodies. This transformation proved useful to the Empire, but did nothing to soothe the doctor’s infamous temperament.

Commander Kurigalzu’s trigger finger kept twitching where he held it hidden behind his back as he looked at the large metal humanoid body the brain-jar was attached to, looking all too much like a Robot Legionnaire for his combat reflexes from his time in the Infantry to not kick in and require constant irritating repression. He snapped his feet as he stood to attention before the high-ranking Magi lords.

“These delays are unacceptable!” growled the mechanical voice of Dr Axon, though if anything the clear tone of angry emotion in the voice broke some of the illusion of similarity to the Robot Legion whose voices, on the rare occasions Kurigalzu had heard them speak, were monotone and emotionless.

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The Missing Princess Part 4: The Tower of Treachery

Chapter 4: The Tower of Treachery!
Where we left our heroic Imperial Forces, Captain Atrius had just rescued Princess Taegan from the Temple of the Dino Men and we follow them now as they flee from stone-age reptile pursuers into the tunnels beneath The Tower of Treachery!

Princess Taegan and Captain Atrius ran at full speed down the corridor of the secret stone Labyrinth, behind the strange reptilian Idol of the troglodytic dino-men to catch up with the two other Imperial survivors of the disastrous battle with the Zenithians.

“Atrius” Princess Taegan panted as she ran, used to having given commands in combat situations, she timed her words with the breathing required to keep her muscles powered for distance running.

“Yes my Princess?” Atrius responded, his deep voice showing none of the exertion of the activity.

“Should I be offended or take as a compliment that both of the two tribes of Dino-men on this forsaken world have tried to sacrifice me to their stone gods?”

“Clearly, my Princess, it is a sign they recognise enough of your greatness and beauty as to see you as the most valuable and worthy of us to give to their god and a sign of their blindness that they don’t covet your beauty enough to defy their god and don’t see enough of your strength and cunning and wisdom to just fall at your feet and worship you in its stead.”

Princess Taegan thought of two different reprimands for Atrius’s excessive flattery but discarded each, then decided too much time had passed for her to bother. Though she couldn’t help but smile both at the compliment and at the recent memory of the furious face of the dino-man high priest as his stone god’s decapitated head crushed the thin bridge he was standing on plunging him into the lava below.

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The Missing Princess, part 2: Fall of Terror!

Where we left our heroic Princess the assault against the unfinished field of Zenithian death-towers had failed and the Anzu was destroyed! How can our hero survive the destruction of her rocket? Watch on to discover her fate in this weeks exciting episode The Missing Princess chapter 2, Fall of Terror!

The coruscating spectrum of atomic light-fire finally boiled off the Zorastrianite layers from the hull and then sliced through the superstructure of the Class III Imperial Gryphon-pattern rocket the Anzu in a shower of golden sparks that fell like a rain of stars.

Princess Taegan turned to see the hovering body of the Rocket lift up out of view looking more like an engineers cutaway illustration than the Machine that had been a home and central command for longer than she could easily remember. She caught a glimpse of the horror-struck face of the new sidegunner Muranu who had only recently replaced Moumis lost and never found when the landing party encountered carnivorous plant-people while trying to hunt down Valkeeri spies on Nelith, and the scrambling engineers of the deck below who still were fighting to keep the mighty atomic heart of the proud metal beast from breaking, before it fell upwards out of sight, or more correctly before the nose of the rocket where she sat with it’s huge curved faceted golden-framed window and long golden ramming prow fell from the body as if decapitated and twisted towards the ground below after being severed wholly from the rest of the rocket by the saucers cutting beams.
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Fiction: A Fragile Alliance

A little bit of fiction for your enjoyment 🙂 (Which i started writing ages ago and only remembered to finish the other day. This story relates to the game reported back in November )


A musical chime, the result of notes of electronic perfection projected through a delicate crystal in the eyes of a brass and gold gryphon-dragon statue set into the wall, sounding as beautifully cold and deadly as the Empire itself, took Princess Taegan from her astrographic calculations. She pressed the concealed switch behind the Gryphon-dragons ear in a way that looked like she was caressing the fierce snarling metal beast.

“What is it Captain Atrius?” her voice as sharp as any dagger.

“More Space Pirates have been detected heading towards Dormientes Draco”

“Bring in the scouting scorpions and prepare to intercept!” she turned from the sculpture, the luminous crystals that glowed as they emitted sound fading as she switched off the communicator. With efficient grace she donned her ceremonial cape and buckled on her atomic pistol and her Tling-steel electric sword, merely the obvious and visible weapons she carried on her person. As she stepped past the golden ornate perch in the corner of the cramped but comparatively luxurious cabin she raised her hand, a gesture as automatic as the response of the deadly hand reared vyper-bat of the forest moon of Eth that slithered onto her arm coiling its long sinuous form about her wrist.

Princess Taegan took her seat in the rose-gold command chair of the Raptor, the viper-bat Atalleph burying its head in the dark folds of her cape.

“Report, Captain Atrius”

Captain Atrius, nodded, his face as dark and broodingly handsome as ever in direct contrast to the Princesses paler steely sharpness. “Princess Taegan, our numbers are even, it is a Class 2 Stiletto and 3 class 1 Daggers coming in fast from the other side of Dormientes Draco. They have detected us and changed their course to meet us head on.”

“And their original trajectory…?”

“The moon Princess, just as before.”

“The moon, the single moon of Dormientes Draco. Several times we have had to fight the pirates here. Why is it so important to them? Whatever can there be on that moon that they are after?” Princess Taegan clenched her long fingers around the control levers of the Raptor, the tense grip paling them even further. The engines roared as the small Imperial Fleet rushed towards the enemy and battle was engaged…

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Sparks flew from shorting circuits as fire poured smoke into the Rockets cabin. Captain Atrius sprayed retardant foam from the golden dragon-mouthed nozzle of an extinguisher amphora while soldiers were passing about replacement breathing apparatus cylinders and filters to everyone, a necessity till the air purifier was able to catch up with all the particles of ash and the excess of carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses from the fire. Engineer Gilgan had managed to restart the atomic engine but until the control circuits wiring was repaired the Raptor would still be tumbling gently in orbit around the moon at the mercy of the Space Pirates. Princess Taegan stood silent and still amidst the chaos, standing as if in defiance of the elements; in defiance of the chaotic winds of the raptors defeat. One hand balled into a furious fist and the other clutching under her arm protectively the deadly vyper-bat in the spherical alumini-glass container she used to transport it through space in boarding operations. She had but a simple air filter on, having waved away the protesting Captain Atrius and insisted that the air canisters go to those whose expertise would most swiftly return the rocket to function, or at least capable of keeping them alive ‘till the reinforcements arrived.

As the smoke cleared, Captain Atrius returned to the instrument panels of the Raptor.

“Princess, there is a transmission coming in from the Space Pirates!”

Taegan slammed her fist against the Golden-bordered red metal of the wall.

“They have cut us to pieces and we didn’t take out a single of their number! I don’t need to tell you how unacceptable this is. We will not surrender or negotiate terms. If they want us they can kill us from there or they can board us and let us kill them with our very own hands!”

“They aren’t asking for surrender Princess…. they want to negotiate an alliance!”

*************

The warriors of the Imperium stood at the airlock of the slowly tumbling Raptor resplendent in their Red, Gold and Black armour. Captain Atrius showing his rank with the gleaming skull faceplate of his helmet hiding his brooding dark eyes and dark olive skin beneath a grinning emblem of the power of the emperor, while Princess Taegan wore a tight-fitting armoured spacesuit of glossy black with more subtle golden decoration of rank and privilege, her Dark auburn hair pulled back from her face with a golden tiara was sealed into a alumini-glass bubble surrounding her head, the sphere containing the viper-bat tethered to her waist. Through the round porthole in the ships hatch the pirate Stiletto could be seen matching their velocity and rotation till they tumbled gently in perfect unison on parallel courses a matter of feet away. One by one the Imperial warriors leapt from the door of the Raptor to the other rocket, holding onto the hull of the pirate vessel with a magna-grapple before making their way into the other vessels hatch. Where the Raptors hatch was designed for defence in boarding with its single person doorway the pirate rocket the Stiletto needs to carry stolen cargo as much as battle and the big broad hatch that opened was large enough for Taegan and her bodyguards to enter at once side by side.

The Space Pirate interior was very different to an Imperial craft, austere and practical but with a Spartan elegance of its own, dominated by a harsh regular thrumming from the rockets engine. The cargo space was well stocked with well-armed pirates in shiny black one-piece uniforms, but no-one on either side gave the other reason to brandish their implements of atomic death. They were cautiously escorted past the tiny crew cabins to the Control room. The Pirate Commander sat in a large swivel chair in the centre of the room in front of a crescent of controls, the great domed alumini-glass behind him filled with the moving star field they had been battling under. Tall and thin but with clear wiry strength, dressed in the same glossy black but for a red triangle on his chest matching that on the rocket, he regarded the Imperials with shrewd confidant eyes.

“Welcome Princess Taegan, I am Captain Woz. I’m sorry for the limited hospitality on my rocket but I’m sure you understand it’s not built for comfort.”

“I’m rather surprised to receive any Captain Woz. You were trying to kill me such a short time ago.”

“Ah well circumstances change, and I am ever one to change with them. Like a sailor of old changing course with the changing winds eh? I must say that I was surprised to find you alive at that, I had counted your rocket destroyed at first, but I am pleased to have been thwarted in that.”

“So what was it that changed your mind?”

“One part the Imperial reinforcements arriving shortly; two parts of combined bad…the Zenithians working with Valkeeri, and three parts – heading this way!”

“What? Why we had scouting reports observing a conflict between Zenithians and Valkeeri in this sector recently… why would they suddenly work together?”

“That is my question too Princess. I can imagine everything from them coming to a formal truce; to the Valkeeri successfully seducing the Zenithian commander; to the Zenithians developing some kind of mind-control ray that works on Valkeeri – but all that is just fancy. We won’t know till we crack open some of their rockets and take a peek inside. Besides, whatever the answer, it isn’t a good thing that these two have joined forces and are coming here to Dormientes Draco. They will outnumber either of us even with your reinforcements… unless we too work together.”…..