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In a cosmos filled with myriad and diverse species, freedom is prized above all else. But freedom means nothing without life, and the corrupt are killing the free, planet by planet, system by system, against all rule of law. To stop it, enforcement requires cooperation from Alta Andromedi, the oldest and most powerful empire in the Omniverse. Isolationist to an extreme, though, the Andromedans refuse to intervene, so a group of disparate rebels, each powerful in their own right, concoct a plan to force them to, plunging all involved into a cataclysmic conflict that could unravel the very geopolitical institution both sides hope to save.
They were a gathering of rebels
Thrown together, not by happenstance,
But by design and intrigue —
The Ben-Drom’s design
And the Cadre’s intrigue —
Except for one wild radical,
One unpredictable element,
Who threatened to undermine
The efforts of all sides involved,
And all because of one small minor —
A Syrene who belonged to
None other than the Ben-Drom.
They were a gathering of rebels,
Fighting one another and themselves
In a clash of titans.
QUROC DROPPED OUT OF HYPERSPEED in atmosphere, down low on the far side of the planet, right amidst the cityscape that was Iban, Omniversal High Fleet Headquarters. He was on the inside, now, his calculations perfect, his luck holding-no disintegrating percussion telling him that he'd obliterated something, either ship or structure.
Now, Quroc concentrated on his flying, wheeling, sideslipping, skewing his scrappy Veerwing's flightpath to avoid collision with a blur of obstacles that, at speed, his sensors only identified as solid. He was base final, now, and happy. He would make it.
A beacon loaded. Quroc swore. The pesky maverick was back — had jumped after him — the chase, the battle of skills, returned.
The flyer was harrying him, now, pushing him to stretch the limits of ship tolerance, forcing him to take chances that could kill them both, and, perhaps, a host of others, too, as the flyer repeatedly bore into him, compelling him away from any quarter that would give him freedom enough to maneuver. And, still, the Ghirran didn't fire — odd.
They were driving deeper into the complex…lower, into the congested gridwork of concourses that fed pedestrian traffic back and forth on lifts between shuttle landing platforms and various Fleet offices. The flyer wouldn't fire on him here in the deeply populated administrative quadrant of the planet, Machon Code or no, and they were way beyond that code's restrictions, now. But there were other ways, and the feisty flyer used them.
Quroc knew what the maverick was doing, but he was at a loss to stop it without killing himself and a host of others if he took the Ghirran out. And to escape now, to achieve his objective, Quroc knew he'd not only have to outsmart, out-fly, the Ghirran, he'd probably have to down him.
And it was in that moment that Quroc realized that, still, no Fleet Security defenses had engaged to stop him…that Fleet Security wasn't after him, at all and, by this time, it should have been, else he'd already be blown from atmosphere. It was only the machon who were bent on turning him from target, and images of the ghostly fighter squadron that had chased him earlier in the journey flashed in his memory sight. Why?
Quroc looked toward the Ghirran's ship, seeing it clearly for the first time. Why?! And then he saw the ship for what it was — a customized Quad just like his, if a little newer — customized and battle scarred. The Ghirran was not just a real mach pilot, Quroc realized. The Ghirran was Mach Elite — combat tempered Mach Elite. Like Quroc had been. Like he still was, Quroc reminded himself with gritted teeth. He was still Mach Elite, despite his move to kathon and the rank of high commander. In that moment, Quroc knew that one of them was going to die.