An Empire's Honour
by Crazed Attourney

Fowllinn City, 2348

He let out a whimper of surprise as the tall women suddenly spin and lifted him effortlessly off of the ground and out of the shadows. The sharp burn of fear lodged in his throat as he felt her sharp claws dig in the tender skin of his neck and saw the bored amusement sparkle in her cat-like eyes, making him feel like a doomed mouse trapped in a corner.

He let out a small relief filled sigh as her claws retracted and recognition fill her cold hazel coloured eyes. "What do you want?" She sneered in smooth but accented English, as she released him.

Backing away from her slightly, he whispered, "I bring a message." He felt an excited shudder run along his spin as surprise and shock filled the women's eyes as a small pistol appeared in his hands. The excitement grew into joyful warmth in the pit of his stomach as he fired twice into her heart, and her eyes clouded with fear and death.


The thin spears of light that sliced through the darkness and filled the corridor with twilight and shadow. Dark figures moved like hungry wraiths hunting their prey in the dusk, their bodies glistening in the hazy light, and their weapons forming twisted deadly shadows.

The lead figure raised their hand, and with military precision they moved around a shadow filled doorway, four along one side and four pressed against the other, the ninth balanced a long, thick tube on their shoulder directly in front of the door.

All waited patiently, their bodies tense with anticipation as their leader silently counted down on their fingers...5...4...3...2...

Wood sizzled and hard blue light burst from the darkness, catching the ninth man fully in the head and chest. The corridor filled with the acrid smell of burning flesh as he toppled forward.

"Oh fuck -- get down!" A feminine voice cried in desperation as one of the thin lines of blue burned through the tube igniting its explosive charges.

Fire and smoke engulfed the corridor. "Get that bloody door down!" A voice shrieked in the chaos that swirled around them.

One of the dark figures stumbled forward, ramming their rifle against the lock and with a roar, oddly muted in their ringing ears, wood and metal splintered as the door rocked on its hinges.

Grenades angrily spitting and hissing smoke quickly followed as the bright light burst into the corridor. "Go! Go! Go!" A feminine voice screamed again, and two of the attackers began firing blindly into the now open door.

A series of dull whumps followed and a heavy but oddly pure white gas spewed out of the apartment.

And with that they charged.

Two fell immediately as the searing blue light tore through their bodies, but still they came their guns blazing as they moved. One of the room's occupants stumbled backwards, purple blood flowing freely as bullet after bullet riddled his body.

"Don't fucking move!" Someone screamed as another figure tried to flee the room, it turned toward the voice and the odd half disc in his hand that spat blue light wildly.

He crashed into the wall as they returned fire.

"Quickly, quickly I w..." A man's voice was cut off sharply as something heavy landed on his back, driving the air from his lungs. His cry of surprise turned to a wet gurgle of pain as a thin rapier like tail crushed his chest and sharp teeth ripped into his neck and shoulder.

He rolled on the floor in panic trying to dislodge the reptile-like thing that clawed at his body. A heavy boot dug into his stomach halting his terrified struggles, "let him go!" A voice snarled, a rifle hovering unmoving above the reptile's head.

At the room's other end another door collapsed under a heavy black boot. "Put it down...don't even thi..." The shrill voice became muffled as its owner disappeared from sight.

A thin figure bent over in the middle of the room, taking a deep breath through painful lungs and tucking a silver pistol between their legs they pulled off the heavy black helmet releasing her long thick red hair. "Fuck me," she groaned, feeling a warm trickle of blood and sweat flow down her pale skin.

She straightened up slowly, her soft attractive face twisted horribly as muscles and joints protested loudly. Her eyes widened as a sixth sense screamed danger in her mind, and she dove sideways.

A thick, spiked tailed sliced through the air where she'd been standing. And as she dove towards her attacked another lash of the wicked looking tail barely missed. Twisting as she moved she rammed one of her pistols into the monster's jaw the second into its soft underbelly.

The thing that loomed above her stilled abruptly, its scales rasped as it shuddered in fear. "Will someone collar and cuff this fucking thing." She shouted shrilly, her normally soft voice jumping with terror and adrenaline.


James Finnell absently snapped open the lid of his pocket watch, barely taking notice of the arguments raging around him. "'ve been saying that for the last six cycles.3 " A heavily accented voice shouted as its owner slammed their fist onto the heavy stone table.

For the first time during the meeting Finnell took notice of those around him. Lord Wyndam-Pryce face was a deep embarrassed red, his mouth opening and closing as his mind tried to deal with anger that had been thrown at him. At the tables other end his tormentor was standing, his skin was flushed green in anger, his yellow eyes dark and blazing with emotion and his fangs bared.

"Jaron, please calm yourself." A cool voice interrupted, though Finnell's sensitive ears could hear the subtle menace leaking through the words.

"Of course Prime Minister." Jaron choked out, though the tiny rippling scales at the base of his neck showed the anger that still burned within him.

"Grand Admiral Finnell, do you have anything to add to our discussion?" He heard the amusement in the Prime Minister's voice as he called on him and immediately the air in the cabinet room darkened at the mention of his name. The delicate hairs at the base of his neck shuddered as his felt the hatred of the Cabinet's two other Si members burn into him, and even the cool exterior of the spider-like Zha broke as his eight golden eyes dimmed for a moment. The female Fowlitian's dark red-eyes sparkled with enjoyment and barely controlled laughter at their reaction, and he felt his own mischievous smile answer her as he leaned forward to shuffled papers the papers in front him.

"Of course Prime Minister," he began quietly in his soft, precise voice, "the Brilliant squadron will arrive tomorrow, the Catherine and the Elizabeth will be accompanying them bringing with them the first components of the shipyard -- recruitment is..."


"You're damn lucky girl." The tall copper hair girl teased beside her.

"Yeah, yeah -- just drive." The redhead snarled with bad humour, twisting in her seat trying to ease the sores and twitches that prickled along her body.

"Touchy, touchy." A wide grin spread across her companions face, it grew even wider at the stormy look the red head threw at her.

The redhead's bright green eyes darkened angrily at her partner's light-hearted tone, pain shattered her anger as the car turned sharply and her already sore muscles were jerked violently. "Oh shit." She gagged.

"Willow, are you okay?" The other women's bronze eyes filled with worry as Willow curled up in the passenger seat.

"Cordy I'm fine." Willow winced, "but I think I ache in all kinds of places."

"I'm not surprised, that thing was pretty bloody big." Cordelia shook her head in amazement, her mind still seeing the huge dragon-like Fowlucian towering over the thin frame of her redheaded friend.

"Nah -- it wasn't big." Willow bit back absently. "It was fucking huge!" She laughed painfully. "Goddess, that hurts." She choked out.

"Wimp." Cordelia teased.

Willow's eyes narrowed playfully as she observed her partner, watching as the sun sparkled against her bronze coloured hair and skin, announcing her Luna heritage. "Looney. "

"Flep." The other snarled back.



"Dyke." Willow winced as she spat out the insult, instantly knowing she'd lost their sniping match as a wicked looking grin spread across the other women's face.

"And like you're not -- little miss stalker girl." Cordelia teased evilly, enjoying the childish pout on her fried.

"I don't know what you mean." She grumbled.

"Oh really!" The other crowed. "And who spends every lunch watching a tall, curvy blond librarian."

"I don't -- the food's excellent." The redhead protested weakly.

"You take sandwiches!" A blush as dark as her hair began to spread across Willow' face and neck.

"It'''s close to the Station House." She fumbled, struggling to find an excuse for her lunchtime habits. The amused, cocked eyebrow gave all the answer the copper-skinned women needed, as both knew that the Imperial Library and the Station House were at opposite ends of the city's centre.

"You're just jealous." Willow gripped petulantly through her embarrassment.

"And why, pray tell, am I jealous?" Cordelia cried haughtily.

"'Cause you're not my type." Willow replied nastily.

"Yeah right -- I'm tall, leggy and got great breasts -- I 'm so your type." And a part of Willow couldn't even begin to argue; her eyes travelled the long lithe form of her partner and enjoying the way her expensively tailored body armour hugged and extenuated her generous curves. However, the redhead couldn't fight the small bite of jealousy that rose in her when she compared her small, thin almost boyish frame to her partner's fuller figure and the way her more standard cut armour hung awkwardly on her body.

"I miss the black." She grumbled quietly. "I looked good in the black."

"Hun, everyone looked good in the black." Cordelia agreed just as quietly, remembering the sleek, body hugging black armour and uniforms of the old Imperial Security Services, which had been replaced by the supposedly friendlier looking blue of the renamed Royal Security Services.

"Not everyone." The redhead muttered darkly, as her mind was filled with the rapid, blurred images of raids and interrogations, punctured only by the terrified screams and cries of their victims.

An ugly heavy silence fell over the two women.

"Switch to Captain Rosenberg...Switch to Captain Rosenberg...Swit..." The radio spat loudly, crashing into the pair's dark thoughts, echoing around the small confines of the car and deep into their ears.

"This is Captain Rosenberg...go ahead switch." Willow called into the small mouthpiece that snaked out from behind her ear.

"Patrol report a body found in the Plaza Construction site." The switch operator reported in smooth but cold feminine voice, almost robotic in nature.

"Any further details switch?" Willow could feel the dread and excitement bite in the pit of her stomach.

"Negative...please refer to Patrolman Holmes on site...North entrance... switch out." And with a buzz of static the voice disappeared and the mouthpiece automatically retreated into the flesh coloured holder behind her ear.

Willow felt acceleration push her tightly into her seat, and the grinding wail of sirens begin to assault her senses.


"Patrolman Holmes reporting ma'am." The eager and obviously very green young man cried as he saw the two Investigators approach, his eyes widening slightly as he took in their glistening dark blue armour.

"At ease." Willow smirked, amused at his overenthusiastic greeting.

Blushing slightly at their expression he continued, "thank you ma'am, if you like to follow me." He turned back quickly towards the two women ducking under the garish police tape. "Oh please be careful, it's a little tricky."

The small alley was indeed filled with debris from the surrounding building sites; piles of sand and rubble were strewn haphazardly along path, mixing with bag of cement and loose tarpaulin and on top of all this, huge poles of scaffolding were precarious balanced. The treacherous pathway drew their eyes downwards, but all three wanted to look up and marvel and the elaborate buildings that loomed above them.

The skyline of Fowllinn City was dominated by a series of huge building sites, intricate patterns scaffolding, cranes and lifts reached up into the sky all over the city. But of all the great works none were as vast or as impressive as the Imperial Plaza, the series of huge buildings and gardens that would eventually form the centre of the Empire's government throughout the Province. Even in its half finished state it was an awe-inspiring sight, a series of white towers with gold and turquoise domes that twinkled in the bright sunshine peaked out from shadow filled scaffold frame, huge slabs of local marble and precious metal disappeared into the site's secretive folds. And like a giant anthill life swarmed around it, human and alien alike bustling around it tiny against the vast background.

"Why the second lot of tape?" Cordelia whispered into Willow's ear as she caught the falling women, pointing out the ripped bright yellow tape as they passed.

"Thanks - I don't know, not a good sign." Willow shivered quietly, louder she called, "how much further patrolman?"

"Just round this corner ma'am." Patrolman Holmes called back suddenly indicated that they should go on without him.

Willow took as sharp breath as they turned the corner; the crime scene in front of them was teeming with officers. "Sergeant," she called loudly, her eyes quickly finding the solid looking red and green-scaled Kessali sergeant. She could see his head tails twitch and his black forked tongue taste the air rapidly, a sign of his nervousness. "What we got?"

"Murdered. Female. Unpleassant." He hissed out, in his race's typical deep lisping voice and hesitant English.

"Bad?" Willow asked cautiously.

"No Head. No hands. No feet. Musssh. Blood. " It hissed out again.

"Then why the second cordon?" Willow asked as she stepped around the alien's bulky body and towards the white body tent.

"Sssee. For yourssself." The alien waved his clawed hand dismissively.

With a growing sense of dread lifted the light cloth tent that she knew contained the body, bile burned in her stomach as she took in the pale heavily mutilated body. The body was headless and handless resting in a pool of black blood, despite that it wasn't that horror that made Willow's stomach boil, rather the purple spider web like blemish that covered the pale torso.

"Oh shit!" She gagged trying to fight done the dread and the nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.

"Willow what's wrong?" Cordelia called her voice filled with worry.

"It's a cat. It's a fucking cat." Willow cried, collapsing to her knees.


The warm, relaxed air of the old fashioned office seemed to banish the aching cold from her body as effectively as the spicy, soothing tea that settled her troubled stomach. Somehow in this office her troubles seemed so far away, from the supple leather chairs that embraced her as gently as any lover to the soft orange sunlight that sparkled against the rich varnish of the heavy furnishing.

"Are you sure it was a cat?" The Commandant's rich English accent broke through Willow's calm state of mind.

"Yes -- she had a big, dark kalika burn all over her back." She shuddered again, remembering the purple stain across the victim's pale skin. The kalika burn a side effect of a chemical that scrambled the DNA markers and genetic id tags that could be used to identify a Si.

Opposite her, the Commandant cleaned his glasses nervously before continuing. "No identification at all?"

"Nope, she was naked, headless, handless and footless -- those thick central registry files are completely and utterly useless." Willow growled ruefully.

"An Isab killing?"

"Could be." Willow shrugged, "it had all the hallmarks -- the kalika burn, a Fallsome tube used to destroy the head, hands and feet and the post-mortem bruising, all points to the Fowlician Resistance."

"This is not what we needed." The Commandant sighed fatalistically.

"Tell me about it." Willow barked angrily, "we break one cell and another rears it ugly fucking head."

"Indeed." The Commandant's eyebrow twitched slightly at her colourful expression, though he could not help but agree. The activities of the Fowlician Resistance had not ceased with the expulsion of the Sizastian Empire and with some the smaller and more extreme groups forming into criminal organisations or taking part in brutal attacks against the small Siza community they had become a deadly foe to the RSS, with the deaths during Willow's raid earlier that day proving a sad, costly reminder.

"How..." The commandant's words did not have time to form as the intercom on his desk beeped quietly. "Yes Patricia." He answered, his voice filled with a quiet annoyance.

"Sir Rupert," the shrill voice of his PA answered loudly, "Investigator-Sergeant Chase and Dr Burkle are..."

"Send them in." He snapped, cutting her off abruptly. "Bloody woman." He muttered quietly, ignoring Willow's surprise he greeted the two women who entered warmly. "Cordelia, Fred -- please come in, sit down, sit down." He waved them towards the rooms large leather bound chairs.

Willow nodded to her partner and the unfamiliar woman who accompanied her. The small, thin woman clutched tightly at a portable computer, her fingers drumming nervously against its hard skin.

"Fred I don't think you've met Willow Rosenberg?" he smile kindly.

"I don't think so...have, definitely not...I'd remember wouldn't I?" She babbled in her thick Texan drawl.

"Anyway," Rupert frowned kindly before continuing. "Have you anything to report on our victim?"

The brown haired scientist giggled slightly, bouncing in excitement. "Have I."

"And?" Rupert pressed used to Fred's eccentric behaviour.

" know at first...with the kalika chemical, the no head and everything -- I thought I wouldn't find anything." She waved her hands in agitation. "But then, I thought, well the central records keeps everything, every operation, doctor's and hospital appointment, everything...So I did an autopsy, and found nothing." She sighed with frustration.

"She's almost as bad as you." Cordelia whispered teasingly in Willow's ear, throwing the bronzed skin women an evil look at her partner before turning back to the scientist.

No way, she thought, I babble occasionally -- she babbles incessantly.

"Nothing unusual at all, but...but then we found this!" She pulled a small white lump in a plastic bag from her pockets.

"What is it?" Willow asked with a frown.

"It's a tooth...the site team found it amongst the ash." Fred shrugged happily.

"Are you sure its from the body, Fallsome tubes get real hot." Willow pressed, easily sliding into the role of an interrogator.

"Oh yeah they get real, real hot...about two thousand degrees in 2.6 seconds, that's why...poof no head...but that's why this survived...It's a calcium graft." Fred giggled absently at her revelation, giving an apologetic shrug before continuing. "The graft relies on heat to work, so the tube's heat made it grow quicker...that's why it's all lumpy."

"And with the graft you can identify the victim?" The redhead squeaked, her excitement rising slightly.

"Oh yeah...that's easy. It's of human make and from Si fourth and fifth molar..."

"How can you tell that?" Cordelia interrupted, earning a confused and questioning look from the young scientist as if the answer to the statement was obvious.

"Well, it grew real quick in the heat -- `bout three millimetres a second -- which means its was real new, less than two weeks had traces of Baroninthia in its make up, which is a human antibiotic, which is mainly used in dentistry...and is the main form of treatment for Kisaola disease, we the remains of the parasite in tooth, if you're interested, we also found them if you're not." She grinned at her small joke, the first real break in her monologue. "Which as you know main effects molar areas of the mouth."

"And the central records, did they give any likely candidates for our body?" The excitement in Willow's stomach was suddenly very real.

"Oh yes! Three males and one female." Fred grinned happily flipping open her computer and after a few moments a face filled the screen. The thin face with its hazel eyes and tawny coloured her was instantly familiar.

Suddenly the shadows of the city's huge buildings sites loomed large and heavy upon their shoulders. "Bloody hell." Three voices whispered as the face Treylinn Gathar, the Si in charge of those vast projects, stared out at them.


"Hello can I he..." The PA's efficient tone died as he took into the two shadows that had suddenly loomed over her desk. His mouth worked silently as he stared fearfully at the two women in front of him, his eyes however were drawn to the large pistols that rested at their sides. "C-can I help y-you?" he squeaked again.

Willow smiled kindly at the young man, understanding that while the soft uniform of the RSS was not their full body armour, it was still very intimidating. It was almost a suit, a single piece blazer, held together by a series of hidden buttons on the shoulder and chest with a thick over the waist belt, and a pair of matching trousers. However no suit came accompanied by hard black leather calf high boots or a belt holding a wicked looking pistol on one side and the thin nightstick on the other. And despite the lightening of its colour, the new uniform like the old seemed to absorb the light around it, casting a deep dark shadow around them.

"Of course, I'm Investigator-Captain Rosenberg and this is my partner Investigator-Sergeant Chase." The bronze-skinned women also smiled warmly at the young man as both showed their id wallets. "We have a few questions."

"Certainly." The young man smiled weakly.

"I'm very sorry -- but your name is?" She smiled apologetically as she slide into the chair opposite him.

"Tom. Tom MacKay."

"Thank you Tom, now don't worry you're not in any trouble just a few simple questions, that's all." Willow grinned disarmingly.

He nodded, returning the women's smile with a weak one of his own. "Now when did you last see Lady Gathar?"

His eyes widened in surprise, "t-this morning why?"

"Did she have many appointments?" Willow responded quickly without answering his question.

"Yes, a breakfast meeting with our suppliers, a board sub-committee meeting, as well as a meeting with our head architect before a lunch. Why?" Again he pressed.

"Do you have their names?"

"Yes, J..."

"You can give them to Sergeant Chase later -- now how had she been recently?" She continued smoothly, as if barely acknowledging his answer.

"Umm...tired I guess -- yeah tired."

"Nothing else?" She pressed firmly.

"No, not really, we'd been having a few difficulties they were" He paled, noticing his unconscious slip into the past tense when talking about his employer. "...They are taking up most of her time...Is Treylinn okay?"

"What kind of difficulties?" She asked firmly but kindly.

"Contractors, suppliers, bankers, workers, unions, press..."

"So just your usual big project problems -- I bet her being a Si didn't help?"

"Everyone's enemy, no-one's friend?" Cordelia sighed her only contribution to the interview so far.

"I wouldn't say that, Treylinn is very well liked and respected." He answered quickly, firmly and colour touched his cheeks again.

"Okay, okay." Willow placated gently, hoping to keep him co-operative rather than belligerent.

However he continued as if she had not even tried. "If anything, Captain, perhaps she was too well liked especially by her employees, especially the Fowlician workforce -- why in the last 4 months we've had no Resistance or Industrial Action. I don't think either the ICS or the RSS can claim that record." A small smile touched his face as the two policewomen shifted uncomfortably his unsubtle barb.

"That as maybe -- so she was a good employer, how so?" Hoping to get the PA back onto more friendly ground.

"No, I think she was an excellent employer, Captain. She trusted the people under her, treating them with respect whatever their position. She was also unafraid to get her hands dirty, why she would spend at least half the day on site..."

"Did she go there this morning?" Willow interrupted.

"Of course -- only the breakfast meeting was here, the rest were all where at the Plaza construction site."

"Do you have an address for the site offices?" Willow pressed calmly.

"Of course -- what is this all about?" He asked once again as handed over a small ivory coloured business card.

"Thank you -- we'll also need access to her diary, contacts as well as her personal and professional files." Willow told him evasively, suddenly unable to meet his eyes as the moment of truth loomed on the horizon.

"I'm afraid that will require permission from Lady Gathar or a court order -- now what is this all about?" He growled harshly.

Willow's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Mr MacKay I'm afraid I have some bad news..."


"By the Gods -- I hate doing that." Willow sighed between mouthfuls.

"Yeah tell me about it." Cordelia agreed sadly, remembering the PA crumbling into tears and anger as the news of his employer's death had sunk in. "Do you think he'll be okay?"

"Hope so. I had a couple of Patrolman take him home, a support officer will visit him tomorrow." Willow shrugged, recognising the limits of her actions.

"You know the food's not bad here." Cordelia said with a small teasing smile, hoping to break the dark silence that had fallen over them.

"It's not bad." The redhead shrugged, not noticing the grin touching the corner of her partner's mouth.

"Though it does have something missing." The grin grew just a touch, as Willow looked up at her and narrowed her eyes.

And with a growing feeling of dread Willow asked the next question. "What?"

"A certain blond librarian."

"I don't know what you mean." Willow huffed.

"Can we go to the library, please can we go to the library..." Cordelia's childish imitation ended as the redhead kicked her sharply under the table.

Grinning happily, as a lighter silence descended, she went back to studying the diary in front of her.

"Willow." She gulped, her fingers beginning to shake as she stared at the day's entries.

"What?" The redhead huffed, not willing to be drawn into her partner's teasing again.

"W-Willow, y-you really need to look at this." Cordelia stuttered, causing her to look up in surprise.

"What is it?" Willow asked in a much softer tone.

"You remember the PA saying she was having a lunch today?"

"Yeah -- I think so, why?" She answered with a confused frown.

"And you cut him off before he told us who?"

"Yeah so." The frown deepened she wasn't used to having her questioning style questioned.

"Well you wanna know who she was having lunch with?" Cordelia pressed evasively.

"You gonna tell me or am I gonna have to guess?" She snapped impatiently.

"It was with James Finnell."

"As in Grand Admiral James Finnell, Grand Duke of Richmond, Commander of the Imperial Navy James Finnell?" She squeaked.

"Uh huh."

"Oh shit." Willow stammered in a stunned whisper.


"We are so not doing Finnell yet." Willow decided firmly.

"We got to talk him at some point, and anyway James isn't that bad." Cordelia responded cheerfully as she eased their patrol car into the parking bay.

"Not that bad! She says, not that bad! We are talking about the same Grand Admiral here, commander of the Black Star, he who defeated van Kupp, he who has never ... what do you mean James?" The redhead asked suddenly, her mind catching up with her partner's previous statement.

"Daddy was his Fleet Exec during the Third Feiyn War, he's my godfather -- I haven't seen him in a couple of years. Are you sure we can't see him?" Cordelia grinned happily.

"Is there anyone you don't know?" The redhead huffed in annoyance, suddenly reminded of the other woman's upper class upbringing.

"I don't think so." She replied cheekily. "Who's this again?"

"Elizabeth Summers-Maclay, the Head Architect and Gathar's 12:00am appointment. " Willow checked off the list.

"What we got on her?"

"At last someone you don't know." Willow grumbled, then continued with a frustrated sigh. "Not much really -- Elizabeth Summers-Maclay, age 28 born in Savannah. After an apprenticeship with the Jupiter Consortium formed her own Design and Construction Company. She worked on a number of small and medium sized throughout the Empire, the border territories and Pimrv, before winning the tender for the Fowlicia Prime projects."

"Is that all? A career bio!" Cordelia asked with surprise. "What about personal details, hell even a full CV, or security vetting?"

"Nothing she's a blank. Hell, I even had to get this from the web." The redhead's voice sighed with resignation. "The only other piece of information I could get was an address and that she's a Permares not a Postie."


"Don't think so, she's not part of the local section and the company checks out. She's just a complete blank, not clean." Willow frowned as she spoke, not understanding the contradiction.

"Well I don't like it." Cordy said firmly, but with her eyes on the road she didn't notice her partner's small nod of agreement.


"Well I tell you what -- Architecture sure pays well." Willow whistled as they approached the large bungalow. The home despite its harsh, functional lines held an alien elegance lacking from the small box- like apartment of Willow's official residence.

"Actually, their not that expensive." Cordelia responded absently. "The Fowlicians won't touch them, the Si aren't there to live in them and we don't like `em -- so they're real cheap. I've bought one by the south river." She paused as she rang the very human sounding bell.

"Now making them liveable, that's bloody expensive." She complained. "The contractors have only just finished gu..."

"Can I..." The cheerful, if slightly annoyed voice that interrupted Cordelia died abruptly. "Can I help you?" The voice began again, this time it was filled with a cold anger.

Both Willow and Cordelia felt a need to take a step back from the petite, robed clad blonde with the raging hazel eyes in front of them. "M-M-Ms Summers-Maclay?"

"Yes -- and you are?" The women all but snapped.

"I'm Invest..."

"I can see what you are." She interrupted harshly, and Willow could here the insults in her words: Murderer, Stormtrooper, ISS Scum. "But that does not tell me who you are?"

"Willow Rosenberg."

"Cordelia Chase." Automatically, they flashed their id badges as they answered.

"Thank-you," The blonde smiled with fake sweetness. "Now what do you want?"

"It's quite sensitive may we come in?" Cordelia asked gently.

"Of course." She agreed with reluctant politeness.

It seemed as if every trace of the harsh functionality of Si design had been ripped from the house, earthy or bright colours had replaced neutral, light and shadow danced together where a hard brightness has once dominated, and the harsh minimalism of Si decoration had been swapped for the clutter of humanity.

It seems architecture does pay VERY well. W. Flashed up on Cordelia's notepad, and she couldn't help but agree, delicate Meteshi water silks sparkled against the walls, carefully bringing a persons eyes towards the Kessali Scale Murals and Human Oil works that lined the wall. And covering the living room's far wall was a huge piece of Aleanos Wood Furniture , its branches and leaves forming the room's shelves and cupboards, and from the rich, relaxing smell the large sofa suite was made from real leather, and Cordelia doubted the bright Fowlisician Fireweave blankets were any less genuine.

This was a home of extreme wealth and taste. "Do you live here by yourself Ms Summers-Maclay?" Cordy asked absently as she studied one of the intricately woven silks on the wall, marvelling at the tiny silver flecks that glistened like scales.

"I don't think that's any of your concern, do you?" The cold voice answered again.

"Maybe -- maybe not, I think that's our decision." Willow answered just as coldly, growing tired of the small women's attitude. And anyway with the suitcases in the hall and the gentle noise of a shower they already had their answer.

"Maybe -- maybe not." The blonde parroted back. "Now what do you want?"

"You had a 12:00am appointment with Lady Gathar, correct?"

"That's right." The blonde answered with a frown.

"Did she make it?" Willow asked, her voice still as cool as the blonde's.

"No she didn't -- I waited for almost half an hour." She answered with a annoyed shrug, though for the first time it was not aimed at the two policewomen.

Cordelia's eyebrows rose slightly as she communicated with her partner, with Gathar finishing her previous meeting at 11:15 and not making her next, they had the window when the crime took place. "Was she late regularly?"

The blonde smirked, "she was a Si -- what do you think?" And both police officers nodded in understanding, as a race the Si adhered absolutely to the rules of protocol and punctuality; being late was almost a cultural sin.

"What was the meeting about?"

"A disagreement over design." The blonde's eyes rolled as she growled at her answer; once again her antagonism was aimed elsewhere.

"What do you mean?" Cordelia asked with a confused frown.

Again the blonde rolled her eyes before answering. "She was a Si -- she didn't get Anglo-Metesh design. She wanted form, function and big bright lights." She gave a disgusted shudder as if she could see the design.

"So I take it you fought about it a lot huh?" Cordelia asked, sharing a sympathetic shudder.

"A lot doesn't even begin to cover it."

"Bad?" Cordelia winced in understanding.

"Very -- I usually won, but it was never pleasant." The blonde sighed. "I had my remit, she didn't like nor understand it, but with London on my side she had to live with it."

"So I take it you didn't get on?" Willow asked gently, but as soon as the words left her lips she saw the cold mask slip fall back onto the blonde's face.

"No, strangely out of work we got on great. And despite our differences she was always gave her absolute support. It just wasn't easy."

Willow turned as a door opened behind them, and all three women rose automatically there feet. She had to grasp the sofa tightly to maintain her balance as she recognised the women; the blonde librarian. Almost without thought her eyes traced the soft curves barely hidden by her robe, slowly rising to the delicate hands that were tying a bright silk scarf around her neck.

And then as her eyes met, Willow felt fear and queasiness grasp her stomach, as the women's soft blue eyes were filled with absolute terror.

"A-a-nne?" Her voice was strangely husky.

"It's okay hun -- they're..." Anne's arms were outstretched reassuringly as reached for the other women.

The Librarian was shuffling backwards, her eyes filled with panic as if she were trying to run.

Her back foot collided with one of the suitcases.

Willow moved forward, seeing the danger before everyone else.

The other blonde all but leaped away from the policewoman, and for Willow time seemed suddenly to slow as the blonde began to fall.

"A..a...are y..." Willow's voice faltered as she looked at the crumpled blonde, the poorly tied scarf had fallen away revealing an ugly spiderweb like scar across her neck and upper chest.

The blonde scrabbled desperately away, and Willow barely saw Anne barge pass and gather the other blonde protectively up in her arms. The reason behind the fear and anger hit her with absolute clarity, and she could barely stand: the ISS had done that, and the blackcoats had come again.

"I-I-I'mmmm s-s-s-sorry." She stammered.

"Just get out...just get the fuck out!" The blonde snarled as the struggled to retie the scarf.


"...naked, a thief in one hand and what I thought was a nightstick in the other, surrounded by cops. Only it wasn't a nightstick it was my bodyguard's nine inch dildo." The Boston accented voice finished with a flourish, and Finnell felt his sides begin to split, as he could no longer holder his laughter in. "I swear they didn't know what to do."

The dark haired Fowlitian grinned wickedly as the Grand Admiral collapsed into hysterics, the scales along her neck rippled happily as she began to fell the disapproving looks of the restaurant's Si clientele.

"So w-what hap-hap-happened?" James hiccupped violently as he tried to control himself.

"Well my `guard pulls up, all in control and bossy, until...until she saw what I was holding." She slapped the table as she began to dissolve into laughter, remembering the look of sheer embarrassed terror that had engulfed her stocky, confidant bodyguard. "And I t- thought only we could go that shade of red."

The hysterics continued for a few more minutes before the two diners regained enough control to continue with their lunch.

"So I how come you all by your lonesome?" Siran Pllar, Finnell's cabinet colleague asked with a snort.

"Well I was meant to be meeting Treylinn, but she didn't turn up." Finnell answered with a frown. "Perhaps she is just running...very late."

"Standards are slipping." Siran teased.

"Loosening maybe, but never slipping." Finnell grinned back.

"Gods forbid." They both chuckled.

A polite cough interrupted. "Good afternoon, Grand Admiral -- Lady Pllar." Rupert Giles nodded politely.

"Rupert, how are you?" Finnell beamed happily up at the RSS Commandant.

"I'm fine thank-you Grand Admiral." The Englishman shuffled nervously, reaching for his glasses before he caught himself. "If I could have a word please."

"Of course - Sit down, sit down." James waved happily, ignoring Rupert's nervousness as the Englishman's almost Si sense of propriety.

"In private please."

"Certainly, Siran would you mind?" The Fowlitian nodded and began to move from the table. "Thank you, we'll catch up properly later."

"Now Rupert, what can I do for you -- your not going to tell me a Irajni Horde has invaded are you?" He teased lightly.

"No Grand Admiral, I'm afraid I have some bad news." This time Rupert did clean his glasses nervously.

"What is it?"

"It's about Lady Gathar."

"Treylinn?" James ran his fingers through his short white hair, not liking the tone of the conversation.

"Yes...we found a body this morning."

"A body -- w-w-w-what does this have to do with Treylinn?" Finnell stammered, his senses suddenly deserting him.

"The body...the body was Lady Gathar."

"I do...don't...bel..." He stammered, but couldn't deny the truth that radiated in the policeman's eyes. ""

"It looks like an Isab killing."

"The resistance?" Finnell closed his eyes with a whimper, he knew all to well what the Resistance did to its victims. "How c-could y-you identify..."

"She's recently been treated for Kisaola disease." Finnell nodded, remembering the pain the other Si had been in. "We identified her through the calcium graft."

"C-can I s-s-see her." Finnell mumbled.

"I'm afr..."


"You're an idiot!" A voice hissed angrily in the darkness, and he could feel the dank breath against his face.

"I d-did exactly what I was told to do." He whined.

"They've already identified the body, you fool." The slap echoed in the small dark room, and he could feel his own blood trickle down his cheek from clawed fingers.

"Enough!" A voice snapped. "This was to be expected, the RSS are not fools."

"But ..."

"But nothing...they believe the resistance killed her, that is very useful...very useful indeed." The commanding voice chuckled lightly.

"How?" The voice whined and the assassin relaxed slightly.

"I think the resistance will prove a useful distraction -- so let's turn those frown's upside down." The voice chuckled happily.


"Will, it'll be okay." Cordy gently said as she squeezed her partner's arm in support.

"Yeah, and how could it possibly be okay?" Willow snapped, she could still see the huddled form of the librarian, the fear in her eyes and the scars on her body.

"I don't know." Cordy sighed apologetically, "I don't know."

"Did you ever take part in the purges?" Willow asked suddenly, surprising her partner it was a subject they'd never raised.

"No I was posted on Georgestown for most of the Republic." She whispered in response. The Colony had been the main base for Queen- Empress' counter-coup, and had therefore been spared the Republican purges.

"I was based in the Investigators Unit in New Scotland Yard." She heard her partner gasp in surprise. "I lead raids..."

"Captain...Sergeant, the Grand Admiral will see you know." A blue uniformed officer interrupted.

"Thank you." Willow responded, her professional mask slipping into place.

James rose from his desk as the two women entered, absently smoothing the cut of his white uniform. "Captain...Cordelia!" A broad smile broke as he recognised his tall, bronzed skinned goddaughter.

"I'm fine are?" She laughed happily as she enveloped him in a warm hug.

"I've been better." He winced. "But that's for later, how are you? How's the Admiral?"

"Still keeping us on our toes, I'm sure you remember?" She chuckled.

"Of course, how could I forget his legendary taste for practical jokes? It's been far too long, I'm must try and see him the next time on Lunapolis." Finnell sighed, he had only been in the home system briefly in the last seven years, and after the fall of van Kupp he had been quickly posted far from Earth.

"Definitely, I know he and Elaine would love to see you, if not just to give him a new target." She teased lightly.

"Well then I shall have to be very careful then." The smile suddenly died on his lips. "You're here about Treylinn aren't you?"

"How d..." Willow asked in surprise, the news had yet to be released.

"Rupert...Sorry Commandant-General Giles told me earlier." He answered quickly, noting how well the two covered their surprise. "You will want to know about my relationship with Treylinn, what I knew about her life and why I was seeing her for lunch. Correct?"

Willow nodded dumbly; the whole interview had been completely removed from her control.

"Treylinn was, before my exile, my wife." He stated simply, his fists clenching. "As was normal all my business and personal relationships were annulled and records destroyed. My birth, my marriage even that I was a father were removed from history, and simply never happened."

"James, I'm so..." He cut her off with a wave of his hand.

"It's okay, it was almost 360 years ago -- I've accepted what happened and what I did." He brightened suddenly. "However, Treylinn and I were hoping to reconcile, at least enough so I could see my three sons and daughter again."

"Did you see her often?" Willow asked gently.

"At least twice a week for lunch or dinner, occasionally through work. Not as often as I would have liked." Finnell answered with a sad sigh.

"Did you talk much?"

"We did actually, but I'm afraid not about what would be helpful to you."

"You never know -- anything may help." Willow smiled encouragingly.

"I think she was far too complacent about the Resistance, she often said she had nothing to fear from them." James growled with a surprising bitterness. "She was too high profile to think like that. As you know there have been a number of attempts on my life." The small cold smile sent a shiver along Willow's spine.

"Did she ever say why?" Cordelia pressed, as far as she was aware all of the Siza community feared the increasingly brutal resistance attacks.

"No -- just that she didn't have to worry." Finnell shrugged. "Is there anything else?"

"Not at the moment, but..."

The redhead's words died as Cordelia darted past to embrace the white- haired alien. "We'll tell you I promise." She whispered, the embrace lasted until she felt him nod.

"Are you coming to the Brilliant Reception tomorrow -- I can arrange tickets if you wish." Finnell pressed suddenly wanting to see his goddaughter again.

"No need, Willow's taking me." She said with a grin.

Finnell settled himself back at his desk. "So what did you think?" He called softly.

A piece of the wall flickered and collapsed into darkness. "I don't know." A soft Irish accented answered; a faint shadow moved across the room, dissolving into a tall, pale dark haired man. "Rupert thinks highly of them -- but..."

"But what Liam?" Finnell's voice was suddenly cold and filled with the authority of command.

"They're RSS." He answered back arrogantly, as if that was all the answer that was needed.

"And you are the RIS?" Finnell growled sarcastically.

A confident smirk replied as Liam shifted to a more comfortable position in his seat.

"Well I trust your confidence is well placed Liam. I want the cell found, understand?"

"And then?" Liam gulped nervously as Finnell's bright green cat-like eyes bored into him.

"That is my business, you have yours." The Admiral dismissed him coldly.


The Library's desk clerk smiled kindly at the nervous looking redhead, which hovered in the main entrance trying to strangle a bouquet of flowers. "Can I help you miss?" He asked gently.

"" The young women stammered weakly, trying not to meet the older man's kindly eyes.

He waited patiently, knowing that she would either answer or run.

"Is Ms Summers-Maclay in t-t-today?" She spat out timidly.

"Oh you Tara -- yes she's in her office, would you like me to get her?" He pressed kindly.

"No...I don't wan...could you really?" She pleaded through terrified eyes.

"Of course -- can I tell her your name?"

"W-W-Willow R-R-R-R-Rosenb-berg." She stuttered.


Tara's hands gently caressed the soft silk around her neck, and in her mind's eye she was surrounded by billowing clouds of choking smoke filled with dark violent ghosts and not the peaceful surroundings of her small office.

"Tara?" The quiet voice and soft touch sliced through her thoughts, and she let out an almost silent of fear, her voice no longer capable of making the necessary sounds.

"A-A-Andrew." She let out a long calming breath as she recognised the crinkled face and scruffy grey hair of the elder librarian. "Is e- everything okay?" Her husky voice asked through deep breaths.

"It's fine love, but you have a visitor."

"Is it Anne?" She grinned happily, after yesterday her sister had promised to spend the afternoon with her.

"No, it's a pretty nervous looking redhead, cute though..." He grinned mischievously as he gently took the young Head Librarian's arm, not seeing the confused frown spread across her features.


Willow felt her nerves suddenly desert her and a small smile touch the corner of her mouth as the blonde librarian stepped into view. She stepped forward slightly, holding the bouquet in front as if it was a shield.

The redhead's clam facade shattered as she watched terror grip the other women again. "Look wait!" Willow cried desperately, as she watched the other women stepped fearfully behind the older man. "Please."

"I think you should." Andrew whispered back to Tara, and then with a surprising dexterity for his age he moved behind the blonde, though still standing close to help his timid boss if needed.

"I w-wanted to say, sorry for yesterday." Willow stuttered. "I didn't mean to scare you, not ever, okay...I just wanted to say that, that I'm sorry. I know its not enough." Willow winced inside, this was not the smooth and coherent speech she'd rehearsed, and she could feel her cheeks begin to burn. "But you had to know that...and I b-bought you these...okay bye."

She thrust the flowers at the blonde, only waiting long enough for the blonde grasp them before fleeing out of the door.


The contradiction of a ship's bridge always fascinated him, how it could hum with frantic activity but at the same time remain absolutely still, he remembered the first moment he'd experienced it as a new midshipman nine years previously. And today as a Captain of one of the Royal Navy's Command Carriers it still enthralled him like a child discovering magic for the first time.

"Captain." A voice interrupted his quiet musings.

"Yes Commander." He quickly returned the older man's salute.

"Sir. We've arrived at the jump co-ordinates."

"Excellent." Alex congratulated, a warm smile spread his face highlighting his handsome youthful features. "Inform the Comm..."

A smooth voice, with a light Irish accent interrupted. "That won't be necessary Captain."

"Sir." He and older commander saluted crisply as the tall Commodore fully entered the bridge.

"At ease, gentlemen, at ease." The Commodore smiled warmly at the two younger officers, though with the scar that ran from his top lip through his right eye and into his hair, turned the gesture into a twisted, sardonic scowl. "Is the rest of the fleet ready?"

The Captain nodded for the Commander to answer. "Yes sir, it awaits your command."

"Wonderful. Alex is my flagship ready?" The Commodore asked lazily, fully expecting the standard question to be met by the standard answer.

Automatically Alex straightened before answering. "Sir, the Brilliant is fully at your disposal."

"Then you may proceed."

"Helm." Alex barked, "prepare to re-enter normal space on my mark."

"Aye aye sir!" Echoed around the bridge.

"Mark." And the maelstrom erupted around them.


The small Cabinet room was filled with low, annoyed voices. "Lord Wyndam-Price," with the Prime Minister Belayn's hard voice silence quickly descended, "you have something to tell us."

"T-thank you, Prime Minister." The Englishman stammered, as he nervously flipped through the file in front of him. Smiling weakly he continued, "first of all I must apologise f-for bringing you all here at short n-notice."

"Just get on with it." Jaron growled impatiently, scratching at the rough scales on his hands, in a Fowlitian gesture of annoyance.

"O-of course, Minister." Wesley nodded quickly. "T-there was a m- murder yesterday."

"You got me out of bed for that." Jyohavye Sinstrey snorted derisively; the once powerful Prefect of Fowlicia rubbed his alcohol- reddened eyes and adjusted his brightly coloured silken robe as if suddenly struck by the cold. "These brutes are always killing each other," he waved indicating the Fowlitian members of the Cabinet. "Let security deal with this." He began to rise, fully intending to depart.

"Sit down." Balayn growled; the rippling of his neck scales the only sign of his anger, though both Siran and Yaron were on there feet looking as if they would attack the Prefect.

"It was Lady Gathar who was murdered." Wesley blurted into the tension.

"P-pardon?" The Prefect stammered after a few moments of absolute silence, collapsing heavily back into his chair.

"I s-said it w-was Lady Treylinn Gathar who was murdered." Wesley repeated, his confidence faltered, as he became the centre of attention.

"How?" Jyohavye gulped.

Finnell watched the civil servant pale, and felt an immediate tug of sympathy; it was not news he'd have liked to deliver. "We're n-not sure, but i-i-i...but indications are that it was a resistance killing."

Wesley head dropped and he closed his eyes, as the silence descended once again.

"Are you sure?" Belayn asked softly, his voice suddenly high and tight.

" we're not, but the way that the body was found and the presence of Kalika..." Wesley's sentence died on his lips.

"And what are you going to do about this?" Chancellor Jodazk growled in his awkward and heavily accented voice.

"Investigations are continuing." The Englishman answered evasively.

"What does that mean, investigations are continuing?" Jyohavye snarled.

"It means just that Prefect." Finnell's soft measured voice cut through the room for the first time. "Treylinn's body was discovered yesterday morning, the investigation is less than 28 hours old..."

"Danois spit!" Gretharl Intizak's deep voice echoed around the cabinet room. "Investigations - under our rule this would have been over within the hour."

"How by killing a hundred innocent Fowlicians?" Jaron barked hatefully.

The heavyset Si chuckled evilly. "Of course not, for someone like Gathar it would have been a thousand."

"That w-will not happen, the RSS w-will..." Wesley stammered weakly.

"...And that is why your weak little empire will fail..." Gretharl snorted derisively.

"Was it weakness that destroyed the garrison at Towlit? Or perhaps we were weak in ending nine millennia of Siza rule in nine days?" Finnell's voice taunted softly, enjoying the embarrassed scowl that crossed the other Si's features at his reference to the Empire's victory in the massive fleet and ground battle for Fowlicia's habitable second moon, and the complete rout of the Sizastian military that had followed.

"It is certainly not strength when someone of Lady Gathar's status can be simply assassinated, what of the rest of us." Jyohavye snapped.

"Or the twenty other Si and Zhan killed in less than a half-cycle." Jodazk growled, his eight golden eyes flaring with anger.

"And the hundred Fowlicians have been killed in the same time, and countless others injured." Siran added, her tone apologetic at having the support Zhan's point.

"P'ar'nal-tellis." Jodazk rumbled, to Jyohavye and Gretharl amusement.

"Both are unfortunate." Finnell stated quickly forestalling any further comment, "the RSS has had remarkable success in shutting down cells, but..." He trailed off uncomfortably.

"But what?" Gretharl snarled.

"The RSS is stretched to limit - recent attacks on training centres have reduced already dangerously low recruitment levels to almost nothing. We simply do not have the manpower..." Finnell was interrupted by a dismissive snort from Gretharl.

"Can't you use the military?" Jyohavye snapped.

Finnell and Wesley both shuddered involuntarily at the suggestion, before the civil servant snapped out his response. "Law enforcement is not the military's concern."

"Not even for our protection?" The Prefect pleaded.

"There ma..." Wesley began to concede, before a dark haired, pale skinned young man entered the room, passing him a neatly folded note. "Thank you John - if I may, the Brilliant has arrived."


The space above Fowlicia shuddered and rippled as if were a pond assaulted by heavy rain, the ever-increasing waves merged together they began to obscure the stars themselves. Then at the heart of each the ripples a golden orb throbbed like an evil eye as lightning pulsed outwards, it crackled and burst spreading forth and joining together to form a nightmarish spider web.

And from the twisted maul that ripped across space, the fleet emerged.

The ugly, black cigar-like shaped gunboats came first, surrounded by three huge waves of bi-wing fighters moving outwards like a huge protective curtain. Behind them came the mighty powerhouses of the Royal Navy, the frigates and destroyers, their mirror smooth hulls reflected the chaos around them and with their ship-like hulls and towering superstructures they echoed their ancient counterparts that had once graced earth's oceans. The fleet's large six carriers came next their multi-layered decks and sweeping command platforms joined together to form an elegant teardrop. Despite their size the huge boxy, awkward looking hulls of the transport ships that followed dwarfed the carriers, but the ship that then emerged eclipsed them all.

The Brilliant was huge, a massive leviathan that dominated the fleet like a spider at the heart of a web. Its black heart was surrounded a series of silver decks, like the bastard child of a carrier and a destroyer, its giant shadow obscured the small auxiliary fleet that followed and brought stillness back to the space above the glittering planet.


Rupert let a small groan of pain as he rolled his shoulders and neck; trying to jog free a knot at the centre of his back.

"Getting old Rupert?" A feminine voice teased gently.

"Good morning Anne." He greeted warmly as he turned towards the voice, his head cocked in question when he saw she was dressed in practise whites and carrying two lightweight class sabres. "Can I help you with something Anne?"

"I wish to train." She said simply, tossing him one of the weapons.

"Why has civilian life dulled your senses?" He mocked lightly. "'Cause if that's the case perhaps you should wear a mask."

"You haven't touched me in eight years, I doubt you'll do it today." She snorted derisively.

"Perhaps." He grinned, lashing out with a quick hard slash that caught the younger women off guard. "Perhaps not."

She disengaged smoothly moving into the classical en guarde position, while he moved quickly into the flowing, hacking attack of the newer tournament style of fencing. The hard, barely balanced attacked forced Anne back with every ringing blow, but she still remained in the classic stance, small balanced steps and simple quick parries, waiting the moment to attack.

As they neared the edge of the training mat, he over lunged and Rupert stumbled awkwardly; she parried lightly stepping forward and tapped his wrist causing his sword arm to flail madly.

She stepped in for the winning blow and her head rang as she found his fist instead. As she staggered back from the blow, he stepped away breathing heavily as he balanced himself.

"Is your mind somewhere else Anne, a few years ago you wouldn't have made such a simple mistake." He questioned, his tone lightly teasing.

"Two of your stormtroopers paid Tara and me a visit yesterday." She snapped as she dropped into the en guarde position again.

"It was just routine Anne, they are investigating the murder..." Rupert answered softly, waiting for the women to initiate any attack.

"Was it routine when one of them gave Tara flowers - I don't won't them anywhere near my family." Anne snarled, she lunged forward clumsily a move he easily blocked but did not follow-up, rather stepping backwards.

"I didn't know about the flowers, but you know I can't tell them to back off." He paused wincing knowing that he could not find the right words. "It would be inappropriate."

"Inappropriate?" She snorted dismissively, as she circled the older man. "I'm so dreadfully sorry my dear fellow, forgive my ignorant ways." She sneered in a bad English accent.

"Anne." He admonished calmly. "You are fully aware how important a case like this is, what it could mean."

"For your precious Empire - don't give me that shit." She barked, in two small, quick steps she moved into the newer style of fencing and launched herself at the older man. He parried the first few blows awkwardly, until he could hold her blade steady and slip into the classical defensive stance. He parried her attacks simply and efficiently, calmly stepping away from the attacks.

"It's your empire too." He replied as she finally broke away.

"It ceased to be my empire when it took my family." She snapped back.

"And yet you're in charge of building the very symbol of that Empire here on Fowlicia." He answered calmly.

"Well aren't you a loyal son." She snarled angrily.

His eyes darkened at the subtle insult. "I'm not a terrorist." He hissed, referring to the Republican fanatics who had twisted the phrase for their own purposes.

"Maybe not," She conceded sourly, "but when the Empire came calling you came crawling didn't you." She hissed back in a similar tone.

"I am but a humble servant Anne, and in that I have come to terms with my sins." He answered softly, forcing himself not to respond to the anger in her voice. "One day perhaps, it will helps with yours."

Her face darkened, and she launched herself at him with an uncontrolled scream, the dull ring of metal against metal echoed around the small training room.

The constant barrage of blows drove Rupert to the wall and he winced as each shuddered along his arm robbing him of strength.

His feet tripped on the edge of the ring, and he stumbled to his knees with a cry Anne brought her sword down in a violent double- handed slash.

Her eyes widened as Rupert's sword caught her blade, he shoved it sideways causing her to flail wildly, spinning he tapped her ankle completing her fall.

She attempted to roll away, but the point of Rupert's blade kept her still.

Anne scowled angrily as he helped her to her feet, and moved to flee. "Anne." His soft voice stilled her. "My door is always open for you."

She shrugged off his words and snarled back, "I don't need your help and I don't want your goons around my family."


"Who wanted the other lo-café?" Willow asked as she tried to balance a heavily loaded tray with one hand. "There we go Fred." She grinned at the mousy scientist ramrod straight raised hand.

"Thanks." The other girl blushed furiously at the slightly amused looks the others were giving her. "Sorry."

"'S'okay - Michael, you're the large white full-café?" Patrolman Holmes nodded, equally nervous as the Forensics officer. The redhead looked at her eager looking partner, "and I suppose you want your full cream, triple shot, roasted moonbean concoction?"

"Uh-huh," Cordelia nodded happily, "and sweets?"

"And sweets." Willow rolled her eyes tolerantly, dumping the sweet laden tray on the offices desk, not surprised at her partner's aggressive lunge for nearest pastry. "So what have we got?" She moaned as she slumped into her chair, her muscles still aching from the previous days raid.

"Well," the Patrolman squeaked, before starting again in a more normal tone of voice "well as you suggested we carried out a finger tip search of the crime scene - we didn't find anything."


"No traces of blood or DNA outside of ten centimetres of the body, nor were there any signs of fulsome charges or Kalika splashes within five of the body." The Patrolman elaborated.

"Did the FSA teams find anything?" Willow asked hopefully.

"No." Fred sighed as she nibbled at a chocolate oozing pastry.

"So this wasn't the crime scene?"

"Definitely not, it was a clean site..." Fred gave an apologetic shrug as she trailed off.

"Yeah and to much debris and movement for us to find anything useful - what about the body, it tell you anything?" Willow huffed slightly.

"Oh yes - the Kalika and all the Fulsome damage was added post- mortem." Fred perked up.

"What all of them?" Cordy asked, interrupting the scientist before she could build up any steam.

"Yep - all of them."

"So she wasn't killed with a Fulsome weapon?" Cordy asked, exchanging a surprised look with her partner.

"No, the damage to her heart and lungs indicate she was killed by a projectile-based weapon, and then a Fulsome tube was used to mask the damage after her death." Fred grinned and looked away from the surprised looks that formed on the two detectives faces.

"S-She was killed with a gun?" Fred nodded in answer to Willow's stammered out question.

"I thought only the Empire used guns?" Michael asked through a frown.

"Pretty much, the Si use Fulsome disks or rifles not projectile weaponry, so that's all the resistance had, and they've got a lot of them." Willow answered quietly, not needing to add: 'until now'. "Could they have got them from an attack?"

Cordelia shook her head. "Unlikely, most of our armaments are kept in a few secure locations, not the centres that have been raided or attacked."

"Smugglers or the back market?" Willow asked, hoping to probe her partner's greater knowledge of that area.

"Possible - but why bother, Fulsome weapons are cheaper, hard to trace and real easy to get hold off."

"I so didn't want to hear that, any clues to the make or calibre?" Willow turned back to Fred.

"I'm afraid not, there was no trace of metals in the wound, so the bullet either went clean through or were removed before being burnt - it's only cause of surrounding damage you'd know what had really been used." Fred gave a weak grin before finishing.

"That may explain what she meant - that she didn't fear the resistance." Cordy exclaimed.

"Yeah well let's not count them out yet, all we got is questions and no fucking answers." Willow growled in annoyance.


"Did you finally get the warrants?" Willow asked her partner as she shifted in her formal uniform, trying to pull out the heavy travel creases and twisting in the hope she could somehow find a better fit on her slim body.

"Yep, we've finally sealed her home, apartment and three offices, I set Fred's FSD teams to work - you should really see a tailor." Cordy advised as she watched the redhead struggle in her uniform.

"I know, I know." Willow harrumphed, as she rolled her shoulders in the forlorn hope the jacket would suddenly fall into place.

"Look there's a good one off of the main bazaar, a bit militaristic but reasonably priced, and with the season abo..." A polite knocking forestalled any further comment.


"Captain, there's a Mr Collins to see you." Willow's face paled, she'd forgotten her appointment.

"Shit - send him in." She threw Cordy an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, I'll see you at the reception."

"Are you sure?" Her partner asked quickly, surprised by the defeated look that suddenly fell over her partner.

"Please." Willow pleaded.

"Okay." Cordelia agreed a little reluctantly, moving to leave she threw the man who entered an angry look.

Smiling slightly at her partner's actions, she took in the new arrival. He was tall and middle aged, his neatly cut hair lightly dusted with grey, his neat well-pressed suit looked as if it had could have come from London's Saville Row or LunaCol's Market Street, worst of all she could feel the contempt that shone in his pale blue eyes. "Good Afternoon Captain Rosenberg." He greeted coldly with a clipped English accent.

"Mr Collins - I take it you're my new vetting officer?" She whispered softly.

"That's correct - Captain please, there's no need to stand on ceremony." Indicating gently she should sit. "I've spoken to Mr Winehouse, and according to him you've been a model citizen."

"I always was." She contradicted without any real conviction.

"That's what I'm here to check." His pale eyes flashed briefly. "At the fall of the Republic, what was your role at Scotland Yard?"

"You know this." She growled mildly.

"Yes I do - what was your role at Scotland Yard?"

Willow closed her eyes and let out a deep shuddering breath. "I was Deputy Head of Investigations."

"Your responsibilities?" He marked something down on his pad.

"Serious crimes - robbery, homicide, fraud and the like." She all but whispered.

"Did you have much contact with Lieutenants Harper and Peters or Captain Travers?"

"Yes." She sighed.

"Could you elaborate please?"

She clenched her fist tightly; trying to fight the bile that suddenly burned the back of her throat. "I had daily contact with them. Harper, Kennedy and myself were in charge of the individual units, Captain Travers was our immediate superior..."

"Your relationship with Lieutenant Harper was a little more involved than that wasn't it?" He sneered.

"Do you mean that we were married? Then yes it was a little more involved than that." She snarled back.

"There's no need to take that tone with me Captain - do you wish me to report that you've been uncooperative?" He threatened calmly.

"No, no of course not. I'm sorry." She rushed out, fully aware that her continued employment rested on receiving positive reports from people such as Mr Collins.

"Excellent - In the last six months have you had any contact with any senior members of the Republic's security services?" He changed tack, though she was fully aware that he'd return to her and Elaine Harper's relationship.

"Most of them are dead." She snorted, though as she watched his pen still she moved to recover. "I have received a few death threats, even the occasional call to arms."

"Did y..." He scowled in annoyance as she slid an amber coloured computer mini-disk towards him. "Thank you - any names you recognise?"

"No, they're either anonymous or blanket drops from the 'Sons of the Empire'." She sighed; he shrugged as if not expecting anything more.

"Now your relationship with Lieutenant Harper..." Willow winced as his returned to his original topic.


"Willow!" Cordelia called, her voice relieved to see her partner, even if she looked tired and withdrawn.

"Hiya." The redhead greeted weakly.

"You okay?" The taller women gently squeezed her partner's shoulder.

"I guess, just a little tender that's all." She grinned feebly.

"Who wa..."

"Later okay - this is meant to be a Reception, with lots and lots of free drink." Willow interrupted absently. "I'm going to see an old friend and then I'm going to get very drunk." She shrugged off Cordelia's hand and headed off into the gathering crowd.


Willow enjoyed the burning trail of alcohol that tickled her throat, and gave into the numbing warmth it caused in the pit of her stomach. And with a slow, deliberateness she lowered her glass to the gleaming bar, and signalled for another.

She couldn't hold back the smirk at the speed which the barman silently refilled her glass. With the reception being held in the main hall, the elegant side bar only held the redhead and the barman.

The redhead nodding in appreciation at the man's professionalism, he poured the richly coloured liquid before stepping away without a word - close at hand for his customers needs, but with enough distance so that he did not disturb.

"Wha..." Willow jumped as hands tickled her sides, the anger in her eyes died quickly as she recognised the grinning man behind her. "Alex!" She squeaked happily, enveloping in a warm embrace.

"Hey you okay?" He asked softly as she held him tightly for longer than usual, before she could answer though he pulled her back into his chest, recognising the hollow look in his old friend's normally vibrant green eyes. "You had another visit?"

He felt her nod against his chest. "Bastards - can't they ever leave you alone." He sighed angrily. "Is there anything I can do?" He asked firmly, as he finally pulled away from the embrace.

" you shouldn't get involved." She warned softly.

"What sort of a best friend would I be if didn't?" He asked lightly, though his eyes were deadly serious.

"Smart - I don't won't you getting hurt." She whispered.

"They can't touch me Will - let me do this." He growled softly.

"They can, they can do what the fuck they want." She snarled fatalistically.

"Trust me - they really can't." He whispered darkly, and for an instant Willow didn't recognise the shy boy she'd rescued from school bullies 20 years ago.

"When did you get so grown up Alex?" She asked softly.

Seeing that his friend was going to accept his help, he grinned widely before answering. "I think when she said yes."

Her eyes widened. "You're joking."

"Nope - it's not been formally announced, but she said yes." He grinned, as the redhead hugged him again.

"Oh my god!" Willow squeaked, stunned at his revelation.

"It's not been formally announced, but she said yes." He blushed happily, as if lost in a happy memory.

"Oh my god." She repeated again, a sly grin suddenly appeared on her face. "But doesn't that mean, you most people marry she who must be obeyed - but really are marrying she who must be obeyed."

"Oh ha ha." He mocked weakly, before matching her sly grin. "But that means you're gonna hav..."

A loud voice, filled with anger interrupted Alex, "'s getting ridiculous, with the Brilliant's posting - the Fowlician Provinces are better protected than the Sol System."

"We've been through this before Robert." Another voice answered softly, though it contained almost as much anger. "The civil war left us thinly stretched, decisions must be made on necessity..."

The two newcomers were instantly recognisable; the first with a jagged scar marring the right side of his face identified the tall form of the Province's Royal Navy commander. The second younger looking man despite his white hair was more instantly familiar, unlike his taller companion his uniform lacked any mark of courage or rank, the colour alone was enough, the white of a Grand Admiral, to identify him as James Finnell.

"It's been two bloody years James, we should be at full strength." Rennick snapped back, causing Finnell's eyes to narrow dangerously.

"We may never fully recover." Finnell answered haltingly, as if trying to control himself.


"Bullshit! Bullshit!" Finnell's dark cat-like green eyes burned with a seething anger, and his voice was a barely controlled hiss. "We lost almost half our entire military, and only three Grand Admirals survived...Good evening Alex, Captain Rosenberg." Finnell suddenly greeted the watchers loudly, bringing the argument to an abrupt end.

Rennick brought himself under control to acknowledge the Commander of his flagship. "Alex, and..." He gestured towards the red-haired women, indicating that he didn't recognise her.

"Of course sir, please allow to introduce my friend Investigator- Captain Willow Rosenberg, she's head of investigators in Fowllinn City." Alex introduced quickly, stammering slightly. "Willow, this is Commodore Sir Robert Rennick, Commander of the Brilliant Squadron."

"Charmed." Rennick bowed awkwardly as he shook her hand.

"Likewise." Willow responded unconvincingly, an odd feeling of dread filling her stomach as she gripped the Irishman's hand. "We'll talk later Alex - Commodore, Grand Admiral." She nodding, leaving quickly.


"Shit - where the fuck is she?" Cordelia griped petulantly, her concern about her partner gone to be replaced by annoyed frustration. Ever since the redhead had disappeared into the crowd, Cordy had yet to even catch a glimpse of Willow.

Sighing she spun on her heel and collided with a small, solid body. "Sorry, I wasn't looking." She apologised absently, trying to move around the other person.

"Yeah and still not bloody looking either." A feminine voice growled angrily.

"Look I'm so...Hello Ms Summers-MaClay." A startled Cordy greeted, recognising the slim blonde in front of her. "Look I really am sorry, I'm trying to find my partner."

"Oh the redheaded stormtrooper." The smaller women sneered, turning her back on the other women. "I haven't seen her."

"Look what exactly is your fucking problem." Cordy snapped, letting some of her frustration leak out.

"I beg your pardon." Anne turned back, her hazel eyes widening with surprise.

"You heard me." Cordy answered back quickly.

"You're my fucking problem - why can't you leave us alone." Anne snarled.

"I wish I could - you seem to always be in my way."

"Well don't let me stop you!" The blonde moved sideways and gestured extravagantly, indicating for Cordy to move past.

"Oh no, it's not that easy." Cordy moved to confront the blonde. "Not to I find out why you're such a bitch."

"I doubt you're that good a cop." Anne spat.

"Maybe - Maybe not." Cordy agreed lightly, not rising to the insult. "But I've my ways."

"Torture, violence and bribery?" Anne asked hatefully.

"In a former life maybe, but there are better ways." Cordy whispered teasingly moving close to the smaller woman, enjoying the surprised look that spread across the blonde's features. "Well more fun at least."

"Yeah you and your IS..."

"Oh I'm not talking about the ISS, no I learned these when I was really bad girl." Cordy whispered huskily practically on top of the smaller women.

"Y-Your crazy." Anne stammered, suddenly and completely lost as to the direction where the confrontation was going.

"Why? You're attractive and passionate - maybe I want to see that passion in other...more satisfying way." She drawled huskily, taking her time to study Anne.

"You couldn't handle me." Anne purred back running her fingers up Cordelia's arm. "And I think you're bluffing."

"Don't think so." She drawled, moving even closer to the blonde, though up until that precise moment Cordy had been bluffing, wanting to tease the annoying women.

Anne also gave up at that moment. "Don't I get flowers first?"

"That's my partner's style, I'm far more direct." Cordelia whispered, brushing her lips lightly against the smaller woman's.

"Lucky me." Anne moaned.

"Not yet - but you will be." Cordelia teased, her fingers dancing along the blonde's back, their lips touched for longer this time.

"Hmm - promises, promises." Pulling the taller woman into a hard kiss.


Willow once again found herself back in the small bar, annoyed at herself for her reaction to the oddly familiar naval officer. The bar was busier than before, but still quiet and within moments another glass appeared in front of her.

The redhead barely noticed as another body slid onto the stool next to her. "Thank you." A soft, rough voice whispered suddenly in her ear.

"Wha...oh god...yeah I'm glad...I was a happy thanks right?" She babbled as she instantly recognised the tall, blond women beside her. She was wearing black trouser suit, with a soft lilac shirt and matching throat scarf.

Tara nodded; a slightly amused smile touched the corner of her mouth. "Yes it was."

"Cool!" Willow squeaked happily, gesturing towards the barman. "C-can I get you a drink?"

"A Kessali desert brandy." Willow nodded, also indicating that she'd have another.

"Would you prefer a sarpa or a kavara?" The bartender asked smoothly. "Kavara." Tara grinned slightly, surprising them both with her choice. "Cheers." She mocked toasted before swallowing the clear sparkling liquid in one.

"Another?" Willow asked with wide eyes, watching the blonde lower the glass with a warm, slightly satisfied grin.

"Thanks." This time, though she sipped at the potent liquor. "The flowers were lovely."

"ReallyIdidn'tknowifyouknowyou'dlike...erm...them." The redhead blushed, knowing her sentence had made little sense.

"Oh yes, my sister didn't but I did very much."

The pleased little centre of Willow shattered almost before it had begun. "I'msorry...I didn't mean..."

"Oh don't worry." The little half grin appeared again. "My sister's far too over protective, well either that or she just doesn't like Confederacy Roses."

"Are you sure?" Willow gulped.

"That she doesn't like Confederacy Roses - no I'm but I wouldn't put it past her." Tara teased gently. "But yes, I'm sure - and I guess I should say sorry as well."

"Nonono - we surprised you and there's me with the flowers and the babble, it's all my fault." Willow pleaded quickly.

"I was surprised, but it wasn't your fault, and I thought it was very sweet." Tara answered with a kind smile.

"The flowers or the babble?" Willow asked softly.

"Both." Tara answered just as gently, enjoying the broad smile that spread across the redhead attractive features. "Though if you're going to start giving me flowers, I think I should know your name?"

Willow blushed furiously under the blonde teasing admonishment. "W-w- willow Rosenberg." She offered through a mumble.

"Tara Summers-Maclay - pleased to met you." She bowed slightly with mock formality. "And while I liked the roses, I really like Luna Fool's Bloom, preferably bl..."

"Excuse me, did you say your name was Tara Summers-Maclay?" A greying woman interrupted softly.

"Yes." Tara answered quickly, but not unkindly - a sad, resigned look touched the corners of her blue eyes.

"Oh my god!" The older woman giggled in shock. "I thought it was! Barry, see I told you it was." She turned to her companion, admonishing him sharply.

"Yes dear." He agreed quickly.

Assured that he now agreed with her, the women turned back to Tara. "Could I have your autograph - I'm a huge fan, I saw you at the Royal Savannah Theatre in '65 - you were amazing."

Willow watched with a growing sense of dread as an odd smile appeared on the other woman's face, it was both happy but at the same time very sad. She felt almost physically sick as the next obvious question was asked. "Will you perform again?"

Tara absently touched the scarf at her neck. "No I'm afraid not."

"Oh that's sad - why?" The women asked obliviously.

Her companion however caught the immense sadness that suddenly touched Tara's face. "I think that's none of our business Ger."

"Yes you're right." She huffed, gripping her autograph firmly.

"We'll let you and your friend get back to your evening - it was lovely to meet you." He gently led his still excited companion away from the two women.

"You to." She whispered gratefully, before turning to a very pale looking redhead. "Will..."

"I've got to go." Willow blurted weakly, loosing the battle against the storm that raged in her stomach.


Anne purred happily as she stretched in the warm bed, luxuriating in the feel of well used muscles. A small unconscious frown marred her relaxed features, as her body expecting a tall warm body and finding only a cooling empty space.

The bed rocking slightly and a muffled 'fuck,' brought the blonde closer to consciousness.

"Whats'up?" She moaned, stretching more aggressively this time as if trying to wake her body up.

"Shit - sorry, Wills gonna be here soon - I gotta go to work." Cordy whispered, mentally kicking herself for waking the other woman.

"Don't stay." Anne purred, tickling Cordy's lower back with the tips of her toes.

"Can't wo...ow...shit!" Cordy moaned with pain.

"What's wrong?" Anne asked as she sat up slightly, a sly smile spreading across her face as she took in Cordy's semi-naked form.

"I can't - can you." Cordy harrumphed with embarrassment, gesturing to dark straps hugging her shoulders, back and hips.

"Course." Anne moved quickly, the last vestiges of sleep disappearing quickly. Gently Anne pulled the straps closed. "How tight do you want them?"

"Not to tight, I want to be able to move." She hissed as warm lips tickled her neck.

"There we go." The blonde said gently as she finished tying the last strap down.

"Thanks." Cordy answered gratefully. As she moved into a full body stretch she could feel that the gravity supports that lined her body were snug against her skin. She hated the latticework of traps and supports that lined her muscles and joints, the constant reminder of her Luna heritage.

"It's okay." Anne whispered huskily, her fingers now danced along the bronze skin of the taller woman.

"Stop...please." Cordy hissed, as those fingers found a particularly sensitive spot.

"You like huh?"

"Hmmm..." She twisted her head, moving to kiss the small blonde.

"Anne - there's someone at the door for you." Tara's husky voice poured cold water over the two women.

"Fuck!" Anne harrumphed petulantly.


"Are you okay?" Tara asked the pale looking redhead in front of her.

"Yes." Willow answered, and Tara frowned since entering the home the redhead had not her eyes, barely acknowledging apart from short monosyllabic answers.

"A little hangover though?" She tried gentle teasing.


"That's good, I was a little worried."

"Really?" Willow squeaked suddenly.

"Of course." Tara grinned as the redhead warm green eyes met hers, even if it was just a fleeting glimpse.

"Then maybe I have a little one." Willow murmured.

"I have just the thing then." Tara moved quickly, pouring a murky blue-green liquid into a glass and presenting it to the redhead. "It will help."

"Your sure." Willow was unconvinced.

"Absolutely, now drink." Tara grinned firmly.

Willow was pleasantly surprised as she sipped at the thick drink, it was cold and tasty a fruity taste that was sweet and a little salty at the same time.

"Good eh?" Willow nodded whilst gulping down the rest of the glass. "It's Rasha - very good for hangovers."

"I'm sold." Willow agreed quickly, while her hangover wasn't completely gone it was quickly receding into the background.

"It was nice of you to bring your partner's uniform." Tara sat opposite the redhead, cradling a warm cup of tea.

"Well I didn't want her to walk in to the office in yesterday's formal wear - big giveaway." Willow grinned slightly, already planning to tease Cordy relentlessly. "But I hellauva surprised by the call - I didn't think she'd be your sisters type."

Tara snorted slightly. "Oh she's just my sisters type - tall, great body, energetic."

"How do you kn..." The blush that suddenly appeared on the blonde's face answered the question before it was asked. "I don't want to know - anyway what's your type?" The redhead asked suddenly feeling brave.

"I don't think that's any of your business." A cold voice answered suddenly. "And I think you'd both should go now."

Tara's head snapped up throwing her sister an angry look.

"Of course." Willow answered guiltily, while shock spread across Cordelia's features, in a few moments the blonde had turned from a bundle of flirtatious teasing to a ball of seething hatred.

"Wait." Tara ordered firmly, and still throwing daggers at her sisters she whispered into Willow's ears causing the redhead to stiffen immediately.


"So that was a surprise." Willow teased happily, all but skipping towards her car.

"I have no idea what you mean?" Cordy replied aloofly.

"You and a small blonde who hates cops." Willow answered eagerly.

"Ah well you see I have my ways." She winked.

"Yeah I can see those, but hello she hates us - we've just been thrown out of her home." Willow cried extravagantly as she unlocked her sleek, racing green car. "So how did you do it?"

"I challenged her that I could get to the reason why she didn't like me." The taller women answered casually, calmly working out her next answer hoping to stop her partner in her tracks.

"And did you."

Cordelia face split into a wide grin as Willow predictably fell into line. "Well no - but after last night I'd have confessed anything." She crowed happily at the wide-eyed blush that exploded onto her partner's pale features. "So anyway why are you so happy?"

"Well she answered my question." Willow answered after a few moments, her normal colour returning slowly.

"And?" Cordy pressed.

"Slim, babbling, redheads." The dull roar of the cars engine cut off any reply Cordelia had.


"pr"a'ki - pr"a'ki - t'chi-m'I - gr'"o-t - pr"a'ki" Anne screamed angrily as a huge slab jerked dangerously in its sling. "gr"'o-t - hi - k'n'al' - fal'k - k'n'al - fal'k."

A group of fish-like Meteshi labourers ran forward to grab the swaying heavy marble slab, their webbed arms strained against its weight. "pr"a'k - pr"a'k." Anne continued to scream.

"Temper, temper Elizabeth." A lightly Irish accented voice teased.

The small woman turned slightly towards the voice but dismissed the newcomer with a frustrated growl. "q-o - q-o - q-o." She barked as the slab slipped free from the labourers. "q-o - pr''a'k - gr'''o- t."

Slowly the great slab steadied. "q-a - q-a - im'ii''s - im'ii''s - q-a - p'a'op - gr'''o-t - d'amo'is." Anne let out a sigh of relief as finally with the cold scrap of stone against stone, the slab slid into place.

A slow clapping met the occasion.

"What do you want Liam?" With a tired sigh, Anne finally acknowledged the newcomer.

"What no warm greeting for an old friend?" Liam pouted slightly as he moved towards the blonde.

Anne's hazel eyes flashed dangerously at his approach. "I really don't have time for your games."

"But you certainly played cops and robbers last night didn't you." He drawled wickedly as he moved behind her.

"Jealous Liam - how so...well you." She smirked evilly.

He gripped his heart melodramatically. "You wound me my dear Elizabeth - I'm just concerned."

"I'm deeply touched," she drew her hand up his chest. "But not as much as last night." A knowing, amused smile grew as she saw his eyes darken in anger. "I was deeply you remember those nights Liam?"

She let a small bark of taunting laughter as he spun away, his body trembling with anger. "Oh well perhaps you can't."

"She was a smuggler Elizabeth." He choked out angrily.

"So you're a reformed assassin - I've always been one for the dark side." She sniped back. "Now did you want something Liam, or did you just come to brighten my day." She snarled sarcastically.

"I have been asked to look into Lady Gathar's death." He whispered softly.

"Isn't that the RSS's job?" Anne asked softly, the malicious playfulness suddenly gone from her voice overtaken by a cold shudder along her spine.

"The Grand Admiral asked me to look into it personally." He answered coolly.

Anne stiffened and paled at his reply. "With your usual diligence and methods of course."

"Of course." He shrugged casually.

"And you'd like me to help?"

"You were very good Elizabeth, and I'm sure the Grand Admiral would be very grateful." He whispered into her ear.

"Did he ask you to come?" She felt his shrug, he didn't need to answer - if Finnell wanted something he'd ask himself. "Then you know my answer Liam."

"You may not have a choice Elizabeth - you can't escape this." He gently caressed her shoulders, and he could feel her begin to relax - begin to give into his words. "We used to be so good together - the hunt, the kill, you can remember those can't you?"

"And what of the price Liam - I'll not loose what little remains of my family, not for you or any damn white uniformed sailor." She suddenly snapped, breaking free of his light grip.


"Just go Liam." She whispered, her body trembled with barely controlled emotions. "Just go Liam, I have a new life now and my family. If you come back - I'll show just how good I really was." She threatened softly, not bothering to watch if the Irishman left or not.


"What an odd human?" Belayn frowned.

"You mean our esteemed Consul-General from the Indian Federation?" Finnell yawned.

"Yes - it was like watching a Prefect meet a lesser race." The Prime Minister's confusion was evident, and his frown deepened at Finnell's dry chuckle.

"You have just witnessed a great human irony." Finnell shifted in his ceremonial uniform, adjusting the long purple sash that enveloped his chest and waist, the only adornment to his bare white uniform and the symbol of the Imperial Navy. "Here I stand, despite a civil, war the Commander of the third most powerful fleet in this part of the Galaxy, at this precise moment the second most powerful fleet fights under the same flag as I, the flag of the richest human empire ever - but..." He chuckled deeply, "...but I'm not part of the most powerful human nation."

"I do not understand." Belayn's frowned deepened, as if the Grand Admiral had suddenly gone mad.

"Nor should, but you have just met the representative of the most powerful human nation." Finnell hiccupped lightly.

With a wave, Belayn dismissed the thought as a bad joke. "Do we have anymore of these ceremonies?" He growled, rubbing neck scales firmly.

"Not this week at least - the Americans and the Russians were delayed again, they maybe here next week, or for all the god's know next month." Finnell snorted derisively, remembering a time when the two nations had been leviathans dominating humanity, now mere shadows of their former selves they were pawns for India, the Empire, and even the unstable African Alliance.

"Hopefully as late as possible." Belayn snorted, haphazardly throwing his flowing black ceremonial robes onto his desk. "I wished to discuss something with you." He began awkwardly.

"Of course Prime Minister - but I'm afraid I don't have long I must catch a shuttle for my inspection of the Brilliant." Finnell answered apologetically.

"It can wait..."

"No, no, we'll discuss it in the car, Peter can bring you back - I'll not need him 'til tomorrow." He insisted.

"Thank-you, I wished to discuss the Resistance. I find myself agr..."

"Grand Admiral! Grand Admiral!" A loud out of breath voice interrupted, a thin very pale young man jogged up to him.

"Mr Dallas." Finnell greeted with an annoyed frustration.

"...Thank-y-you...Mr Prime Minister, Grand Admiral...I have a telegram that Lord Wyndam-Price thought you should see." He panted heavily, trying to catch his breath.

"Can't this wait..."

"I'm a...afraid not, it's a flash from Lo..." The panting young man never finished his sentence as with a bright flash and a dull roar the corridor disintegrated into flame.

To Be Continued...