January 2024 Archives

Right now, most of my time was being spent developing the gunships based upon Swass-class transports. I'd designed in a bomb bay for napalm bombs, as even the extended range flamethrowers required being too damned close to the terrain - call it two sixty-fours of paces, local measure. Two Gatling-style machine guns firing our standard rifle round and two high-velocity automatic grenade launchers and the ammunition for them filled the rest of the cargo area, firing off the left side of the plane so the pilot could see what was happening. The problems were weight and balance - first, the firing platform had to be reinforced, and then we had to make certain that neither the weight of the platform nor the recoil of the weaponry unbalanced the plane. Then we had to ensure our pattern for feeding ammunition worked also. It appeared they weren't major problems, and I'd checked my solutions through computer simulations at Bolthole Base, but we'd never be certain until the first time we tested them under conditions as close to combat as we could devise. The first prototypes would be ready in a couple more days - if the demons waited that long. Speaking of which, "Makis, spread the word that putting in extra time is encouraged and will be paid at higher rates on the new Nhadragh planes. I've got a feeling we'll be needing them soon."

"Right, boss. Can't wait to see if it all works." He'd been born a farmer's son outside Yalskarr. He was big and brawny, at least by local standards. He'd helped crew one of the Vickers machine-gun knock-offs we'd used to defend Yalskarr from the last big demonic incursion, and stuck around to learn the aircraft business as it grew from the first primitive plane to what it was today. These days, he looked older than I did, but he'd become one hell of a designer and project manager. He'd probably contributed more actual original ideas to the Nhadragh than I had. Once upon a time, he'd asked where I was getting the designs for our planes from. I'd told him, "I can't tell you that yet. Trust me." He'd never asked again, but the look he gave me now was eloquent enough. He knew the designs were coming from somewhere that wasn't Calmenan in origin, but he also knew how much what Asina and I were doing had benefitted Yalskarr and the rest of Calmena.

"Soon, Makis. I'll be able to tell you soon."

"Suddenly, I'm chilled. Like a likahn digging up my grave." He wasn't stupid. In fact, he was probably the smartest natural state human I knew.

"I understand." No need to tell him the demons were on the way in such numbers as to constitute a tsunami that would wipe away all life where it reached. "But there are wonderful things coming as well."

"Hope my grandchildren will be alive to enjoy them."

What to say? I couldn't guarantee the next week to anyone living on Calmena - myself and Asina included. The only thing I could do was nod. "Let's get this plane ready. Quickly."

It was his turn to nod. "I'll tell the assembly line managers to push production, too."

"All deliberate speed," I agreed, "It will do no good to send out four aircraft that fall apart rather than two or three that work like they should."

He nodded again in understanding - there'd be no time to repair mistakes.

Copyright 2021 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

Yalskarr was nothing impressive to look at - yet.

Docks, blocky wooden warehouses, and the occasional stone or brick edifice rising three or four stories off the ground. It was Calmena's answer to Houston at the dawn of the petrochemical age.

This time, the hard work of setting up the station had been done for us. Yalskarr had been one of Hashiboor's first seaports, and for nearly thirty years, a rail hub as well. Asina's daughter Tellea and her husband Fittorn had built it up from nothing, one small bit at a time, over the past fifty local years, as they worked to nurture the nascent petrochemical industry of Calmena, currently centered north of Yalskarr. In one of the many ironies of the Calmena uplift, we were playing the part of Tellea's daughter and son-in-law to enable them to 'retire' and return to the Empire - both were approaching a public age that would make continuing the masquerade difficult, and they'd been on Calmena for eighty Earth years or so. It was time for them to take a break. The result was that we were 'inheriting' an ongoing business. As a result, the Imperial gear was already well hidden, nearly an ifourth below ground level, and the hidden quarters Asina and I would occupy had all the improvements that could be hidden from the natives.

Things were a little more complicated now than they had been. At the end of our first assignment, we'd simply told everyone else that our replacements were our inheritors, and walked out of town with no trouble to our replacements, then or after. But things were done formally now; the transfer would take longer and the local government would extort a certain amount in exchange for official recognition of the transfer. It wasn't to protect anyone; the purpose was the avarice of those in control of the local government.

Tellea's eyes were hazel now, her dark brown hair was sprinkled with grey, and her somewhat Polynesian appearance was weathered and wrinkled, a concession to what the Calmenans expected from someone who had spent the last forty Earth years - 100 local Calmenan - working with chemicals and shipping and everything else. Her husband Fittorn looked like he could have come from nineteenth century Holland or Belguim - light brown hair, blue eyes, and tall for Calmena, similarly weathered. But the appearance was only skin deep; Tellea was actually in her first days of pregnancy with what would be Asina's first grandchild. They'd be looking like any other young adults in the Empire within a day or so of arriving at Bolthole Base for transport out. Mother! Uncle Joe! she greeted us, good to see you even if it is only for a couple weeks! Asina and Tellea hugged; Asina hadn't actually seen her daughter in a year.

Asina wanted to inspect the new baby, and Tellea let her do so with perception. Looking good so far. Any idea if he's operant?

Not yet. We've built in as much augmentation as we could, but so far no sign. Augmentation would decay unless maintained by the baby after he was born, and more than a certain amount could be a threat to him if he wasn't operant. I'll shift to artificial gestation if there's no sign of operancy at ten weeks.

We've got a building for the casting works almost completed, Fittorn advised me, and we've got the land for the airfield, too. You can start clearing it when you're ready.

That will probably be a couple years. Marine diesels can be cast with steel. We need Asina to lay a little more groundwork with aluminum before we're ready to use it in airplane engines, and she needs to work on refining better grades of fuel for them, too. I was thinking about something a couple grades above the Wright Flyer; similar but with true ailerons and rudder controls as well as a lighter engine. Enough for a proof of concept, enough to encourage the interest of potential competitors. Our mission wasn't to make money; it was to advance Calmena so they could defend themselves and inconvenience the fractal demons. The best way to do that was show potential competitors how to get to a point where they could build something others would be willing to pay for. That would also help them be ready to assimilate into the Empire when the time came.

Marine diesels - diesel engines in general but marine diesels particularly - were more important than aircraft. Look up how Germany's manufacturing in World War II kept increasing despite allied air raids until allied troops started capturing the means of production in 1945. I'd once taken a drive with my dad up old Interstate 84 alongside the Columbia River on the Oregon-Washington line. I'd seen a long line of semis completely dwarfed by a single train - all of which was in turn dwarfed by a smallish barge headed up the river. Multnomah Falls is beautiful, by the way. But the point is which moves the most freight the most economically. The sooner we gave marine diesels their starting push, the sooner and more powerfully they'd work their economic blessings. There was nothing that could compete with them until impellers got strong enough.

You're the folks who've been studying it, Uncle Joe, Fittorn conceded, but the longer you take, the more pressure you're going to feel from people wanting to use the land for other things. It was difficult buying everybody out and fencing it off. People will try moving back in whenever they think they can.

We can afford to pay people to keep the land clear, Asina replied, we can even afford to maintain a grass runway until we're ready to use it.

She was right that we could afford it - our converters could create all the precious metals we might need. But that will cause people to wonder what we intend to use that runway for, my love. Which will tell every observer that we knew what we designed would need it long before we built it. We know the demons have agents and they are watching. They probably even have likahns in the area. We can't telegraph our intentions like that. The demons are lazy, not stupid.

Copyright 2019 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

It was barely thirty seconds later that Tellea herself appeared out of one of the satellite personnel portals. She and Asina squealed like a couple teen-age girls from Earth and hugged each other for a good thirty seconds while I told Hunor, "She's here, thank you again for your generosity. We'll try and keep you advised of our plans so that you can forbid anything that doesn't fit your parenting decisions."

"That would be welcome," Hunor said, "Enjoy your time together!" and broke the circuit.

About that time, Asina and Tellea broke their embrace, and it was my turn to get hugged, "Uncle Joe!" She gave me every bit the hug one of my own aunts or sisters would have, too. Maybe once she was a legal adult, I'd be able to arrange a visit between them.

"When can I make arrangements to visit you on Calmena?" was her first question.

"Calmena is still under Interdiction," I told her, "You have to be assigned there or to a mission with transit rights."

"Why would you want to go back there?" Asina asked.

"Because you're there," she said, and then changing into telepathy with both of us, and I want to do something to help the people who weren't as lucky as we were. Even with my minimal exposure to Imperial culture, it was amazing how often a sense of self-imposed duty to others kept cropping up, and how strong it was. Most charities in the Empire had more money than they had real things to spend it on. It really was a qualitative, not merely quantitative difference from the United States of my youth. I'd passed the Imperial adulthood tests, but it seemed I'd be forever outside looking in on this aspect of the Imperial psyche.

Tellea, you're not a legal adult yet, I started.

I can change that in the next few minutes, she replied. She could, too, by passing her remaining adulthood examinations. I wasn't sure if she only needed Implied Responsibility, or if she'd been holding off on Explicit Responsibility as well.

What Joe's trying to say, Asina broke in, is that it's not an easy life. I know I couldn't do it without Joe. I'd wait until you find someone who can join you. Because you'll get awfully lonely on your own for twenty years at a time. Even if you find someone you like among the natives, you can't tell them. You'd be forever apart.

Oh, Mother, she said, it's just sex!

No, isn't just sex, we told her together, like we some old Earth stereo recording. I let Asina continue alone, When you find someone you really belong with, you'll know that sex is sex but love is something so much more. It keeps you going when the universe is against you. The only way to get that on Calmena is to bring it with you. I maybe could have got through my contract without Joe; I was young and not qualified for much and didn't have any better choices. But Joe made all the difference.

I'd put up with worse than Calmena if that was the only way I could be with your mother, I explained. I was having sex with a different woman every few days in Bolthole Base before she got there, living in comfort comparable to the rest of the Empire. Giving that up to be with your mother was the best decision I have ever made.

When you can say the same thing, you might have a partner that will help you survive Calmena, Asina continued.

What I will do, I said, is make arrangements for you to visit the Calmena Sanctuary on Indra once you're adult. You'll be able to learn what it's really like, prepare yourself if you decide it's still something you want to do, and you might even meet someone to partner with. When you're ready, someone will offer you a contract. They need more teams like us.

On our private link, Asina thanked me for thinking of that. Asina had never had a chance to be a child or a teenager. Growing up on Calmena wasn't easy, and my wife had had it worse than most. Orphan, sex slave, slowly dying from internal injuries and malnutrition. But I understood more of the adolescent mindset, having had a typical middle-class American childhood. Flatly tell a teenager "No!" and be prepared for a fight to the death and willful disobedience into the bargain. Tell her you'll help her get ready, and that leaves her room to back down gracefully when it turns out things aren't as they thought. And if they still persist, they will be ready for what follows.

Thank you Uncle Joe! Tellea responded. I had said I'd help her get ready for what she wanted. Never mind that her interpretation of that was different than ours. I'd happily sponsor her at the sanctuary if it meant only that she'd be going in with her eyes open as to the difficulty involved.

I can agree with that, Asina told her daughter, but keep in mind, you have to be an adult first. Ayorsi and Hunor and the rest of your parents want to see you take adulthood in the normal course of things, not rush into it. Haven't they earned that much from all their love? Let her keep her legal childhood the full normal period. Once you were adult in the Empire, there really wasn't any going back. Most Imperials intentionally held off their last test or two until about their thirtieth birthday; the later part of legal childhood was a cherished time to most of the Empire like it had been to pre-contact Earth. Not just the children; the adults too. It was a time for mutual bonding as the relationship between parents and their children shifted.

You're right, mother, Tellea capitulated, They have been wonderful to me. I should show my appreciation to them.

We ourselves probably won't be going back for about a year, I told her, we're hoping for another twenty year contract when we do, so that's plenty of time for you to find a project and a partner. Now, enough of that! Let's plan some fun!

Copyright 2017 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

I woke up about five hours later when Dulles came and got me. Our next run was one of our longer ones for this trip: a touch over sixteen light-years (23 Imperial) to what everyone agreed was our best hope to find a truly Earth-like world: Tau Ceti, a yellow G8 star. Will and Jayden were in their bunks, I noted as I climbed down. I don't think either one was asleep, but they were at least giving sleep a chance. I didn't blame them. Major Kyle had gotten us about four light-years out from Ross 154, but it was obvious he was at the end of his endurance. His eyes were red sores. "You take it, Joe. I'm crawling off to get some shut-eye."

I checked the ship read-outs and said, "I got it." I nodded to him as he got up. He'd done a hard day's work, even if it was sitting in a chair. It was obvious VSC needed to give more weight to people who could pilot the ship on the next run. Unlike the NASA missions, we needed someone awake and piloting constantly. Dulles was basically taking up space we could have used for another full-time pilot, and there was no reason Major Kyle or another pilot couldn't have led the mission. I'd done some basic oversight functions, but hadn't done much maintenance - I'd been too busy piloting. To be fair, as long as nothing malfunctioned we probably didn't need an engineer either, and Imperial gear was so reliable that even the best Earth gear was garbage by comparison. But if something did break, you couldn't call for a mobile engineer to come fix it - tachyonics had a range of maybe two light-years. Back in the Empire, they had relay networks, but not here.
Dulles was trying his damnedest not to fall asleep. "You might as well turn in for a while," I told him, "I'm going to run basic checks on the essential systems before I engage the time-jammer again."

"Let me know before you start up the time-jammer again," he said, "That's an order." Yeah, big man in a small pool. He was snoring in the chair within thirty seconds. Meanwhile I was checking that the impeller alignment was still good and there were no problems in the power circuits. Inertial integrators were fine, and the time-jammer itself was straight nominal down the line. Main siphon was not likely to be a source of grief, but I checked anyway. Shield circuits were nominal, capacitors were holding full charge, emergency siphon was functioning. Life support was theoretically Jayden's to oversee, but I double-checked his work. Six minutes Imperial (a little over ten Earth), and I was ready to go, reassured that everything was working as it should.

I tapped Dulles on the shoulder, said, "I'm getting ready to start the time-jammer." He stirred, mumbled something like, "Okay," then shimmied himself more comfortable in the chair and resumed snoring. Okay, whatever you say, Mister Commander Sir. I put my attention firmly on the forward sensors, engaged the time-jammer, and ran it quickly up to ten square (36,000). After a couple minutes of watching rocks that weren't particularly close crawl by to make certain I was awake enough, I started increasing the dilation again, up to thirty square (108,000). At that speed it would be about 25 Imperial minutes (46 Earth) to Tau Ceti, but I took us down out of light-speed after about five minutes. I stood up and stretched, moved my arms and legs a bit, then sat back in my chair and repeated the process. Maybe a trained Guardian could do it uninterrupted all in one session, but I thought it better if I did it in several short legs. Being a natural state human with less than perfect control over my mental state, better to stop and take a break before my attention started to wander of its own accord. At thirty square, we were crossing the full diameter of Neptune's orbit more than six times per Imperial second. At that speed, we might have a little over a second and a half warning. Kind of like running your car down the freeway at two hundred miles per hour with a visibility of under a tenth of a mile. Unlike that situation, we knew we could dodge - the metaphorical freeway didn't end and we weren't going to run off the edge - but you had a very limited time in which to react. You didn't have to worry about stopping or running out of maneuvering room, which was good. You weren't going to stop in time, but then, you weren't going to run out of lateral maneuvering room either. I was generally turning down the dilation on the time-jammer until I knew we had dodged - akin to stepping on the brake while yanking the steering wheel, only you didn't have to worry about either one causing you to lose control. Allowing your attention to wander while piloting a time-jammer was practically begging the universe to throw rocks at your blind side. All it took was one.

After about five minutes, I got back in the pilot's chair and resumed our forward progress. I wondered if it was better to just start out at thirty square, but chickened out and worked it up to that point over a couple of minutes, just like before. I left it going for about seven Imperial minutes at full speed, then eased off on the dilation factor and took another break. I figured I'd gone four Imperial light years this turn, as opposed to about three and a quarter the time before. Not bad at all; in less than half an hour Imperial, the ship had moved almost half the distance Major Kyle had left me to get to Tau Ceti. I got up and took another attention break; there was nothing to worry about at subluminal speeds for hours at least. As I got the blood pumping and smoothed out the muscle kinks, Dulles snored away in his chair, completely oblivious. Of course, if either I or Major Kyle let our attention wander and broadsided a rock, the offender and the rest of the crew would die instantly. The more I thought about it, the gladder I was that I was one of the drivers. If I was going to die, at least it would be because I screwed up. Conversely, of course, I had the opportunity to not die by not screwing up, an opportunity the passengers did not have. I'd hate to die from being along for the ride when someone else screwed up.

The third time, I let the time-jammer run a little longer but dialed it down hard when I caught myself distracted by a stray thought. Probably two more runs at this rate - can you imagine trying to explore the galaxy at these speeds? Ten thousand light years or more in little spurts of three and four light years at a time? If there was one thing Imperial records were clear on, it was that there were more rocks between star systems than most people thought. Sure it was still mostly empty space, but when you actually have to travel the distance, even small ships were "sweeping out" an awful lot of volume. I computed with my datalink that Golden Hind had thus far "swept through" over one point five times ten to the fifteenth power cubic kilometers on this trip. Nearly twice the volume of Earth. And that's if you felt comfortable missing rocks you were passing by at a hundred thousand times the speed of light by the width of a hair. I wasn't, and nobody else was, either. Official corporate protocol said anything less than a thousand kilometers was unacceptable. By that standard, we'd swept through a volume of roughly six times ten to the twentieth cubic kilometers, sixty million times more. Gives you either an entirely new perspective on the pilots of those old science fiction starships, or an appreciation of how much the authors had handwaved. Sol's Oort Cloud was thought to contain over a trillion rocks big enough to worry about, and where Sol's Oort Cloud left off, the next star's Oort Cloud began.

Personally, it gave me an appreciation for Vector Drive, which went from point to point without occupying the space between. This nonsense of watching the instruments like a hawk with obsessive compulsive disorder and we all die if my attention wavers at the wrong moment was bullshit. Even if Vector Drive meant I'd never pilot a starship again.

The fourth run, I thought about pushing the dilation factor even higher, but decided against. Let pilots risking only their own skin be the ones to test that - any other decision was rank arrogance. What I was doing was within well-established parameters of performance. Starting out at ten square and pushing it to thirty when I established my mind was sufficiently concentrated upon the task. When I disengaged the time-jammer a few minutes later, we were nearly four Imperial years closer to our goal. Tau Ceti was starting to be something a little bit more than the brightest star in the sky.

Copyright 2016 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

"Look, I have an assignment. Asto's splinter will get you home. If I'm not back, expect a wakeup at eighteen forty. You'll be expected to be at your console ready to learn by nineteen zero."

"Thought you said the days were fifteen hours."

"The weeks are sixty hours, and that's how the clocks are set up. Add fifteen hours for times on day two. Family dinner at eleven thirty daily means twentysix thirty, fortyone thirty, and fiftysix thirty as well."

"Where you going?"

"Contact trace in Osh City on Habitat One." I pointed towards the sky, where it shone bright against the stars, "Going to look for traitors."

"Bring them in for trial?"

"That would be a pleasant change."

"Huh?"

"These don't surrender."

"Never?"

"Not a single one yet."

"And you don't subdue them and bring them in anyway?"

"They've soulbound themselves to demonic parasites in order to become operant. That's how precious the gift of operancy is. If you need more explanation you'll understand when you get to Guardian training."

I left the room before teleporting to the parking garage. I suppose I could have teleported direct to somewhere on Habitat One, but Osh City was over ninety (Earth) degrees away from Indra's current position, and I'd rather use a Starbird despite the time. Someone would probably do a portal linkage between the Rosette Worlds and the Major Habitats eventually, but it hadn't happened yet. I queried for an available vehicle, teleported again to its berthing area, did my preflight. I did not file a full route flight plan, which was part of the 'being careful' I'd talked to Lemarcus about. Instead I eased out of the Residence garage into aerial traffic, headed into a departure lane, and Vectored outside the participation zone before contacting System Control for routing to Osh City. Four minutes and another Vector later, I was landing in a public garage near my destination. A single portal put me within easy walking distance.

I was roughly eight ithirds up an arcology called Player View. It wasn't actually on the shore of Player's Lake - A freshwater lake roughly the size of the Atlantic Ocean, one of several such bodies embedded within the city along with rivers connecting them - but it did have an unobstructed view on two sides. Most of the viewscreens in the public area showed sun glinting off clear blue water and white sands below, pleasure craft plying the shores. In the distance, several island arcologies were visible, towering as high as any on the mainland. The horizon curved ever so slightly upwards on annular habitats, but as on Earth, thick moist air near sea level often limited visibility. The public area was fairly dense with people around the portal, an otherwise open area roughly an ifourth square, the ceiling viewscreens six ififths overhead. The main access hallways crossed here; twelve ififths each wide, the occasional small delivery vehicle moving slowly among the crowd, basically impeller-driven pallet jacks with a seat for the driver. That might be a decent profession for Lemarcus once he learned some patience - you moved with the crowd in those, not faster. I, however, was under no such constraints. My target was two units, on adjacent floors but roughly ten ifourths apart. Four people were known to live in the first unit, two in the second. While I was there, I'd check Event Lines to see if anyone else was a matter of concern.

The path I was on made the second unit the natural one to visit first. The residents were a man and a woman, Bezeers and Salama. She was a commercial dispatcher; he was a programmer for a company that had a contract to build military cruisers. I was hopeful; they'd called for Enforcers and there'd been a short engagement. Arriving, I pinged their door with "Investigations."

"Identify yourself please."

"Investigator JuaGrace, regarding the incursion." From outside, I could tell that the invader had indeed been a jopas. If they were legitimately innocent, it was a miracle they and all their neighbors weren't dead. Dipole moment for a duel between jopas and someone capable of killing - or even not being killed by - said jopas was likely fatal to natural state humans out to a distance of about two ifourths, maybe more.

The door opened. Salama was a lot like me, almost exactly my height and as heavily built, medium dark skin, maybe a touch less olive and a touch more straight melanin, hair even darker than mine but still not quite black, although hers was straight and bobbed short. She was dressed in a beige blouse and brown trousers that wouldn't have been out of place on Earth of my youth. Bezeers was almost exactly the same size and build, a few shades lighter of skin but with pale green hair, perhaps a little longer than hers. Since I could immediately tell they were both operant, they were perfectly capable of changing anything about their appearance they didn't like; height and build were probably artificial as they conformed to the 'endurance' build that was the most common body type among operants. Everything else about their appearance was none of my business, right down to the ridiculous orange tunic Bezeers was wearing that would leave everything exposed if he bent over. Taking in my epaulets, Salama said, "They warned us there'd be an Investigator, but they didn't say it would be a Nonus' representative."

While she was talking, I'd been using kored and spak to check for other event lines in congruency to the demonic high noble. "Jopas are powerful. Not the very strongest demons, but right below them. When one shows up anywhere in the Empire, we want to know why, and sometimes what they leave behind is dangerous. There aren't a lot of Investigators wearing green and purple." Fourth Order Guardians wore green Guardian insignia like I did; Fifth wore purple. Most Investigators were Guardians, but most were Second or Third Order, and weaker than average Second or Third Order at that. Too many better opportunities for the stronger or more experienced Guardians to keep working a government gig. I wasn't the strongest Guardian with Investigator authority in the Empire, but these days I was the strongest one on Scimtar's continuing payroll or any of his subordinate viceroys. When he had something I couldn't handle, he had to handle it himself or bring in a special contractor. "You do understand why there needs to be an investigation?"

"That has been made entirely clear to both of us," Bezeer seethed, "My programming clearance has been revoked, and Salama's been locked out of her work as well. The longer it continues, the more clients she loses."

Salama had my particular sympathy; unlike starship pilots there were plenty of commercial dispatchers. Whatever her situation, there wasn't a lot of tolerance for her not working. "Then let's get it over with. The sooner I can certify you as uncorrupted, the sooner it will end. To make it clear, you have the option of not cooperating with the investigation as there is no evidence of an actual crime committed at this point. However, if I can't certify you uncorrupted, your employment options will be limited to those without any military or Imperial components." Even after thirteen Imperial years of war, the government share of the economy wasn't large, but few companies and even fewer large companies had absolutely no government contract work and didn't care for the extra expense of segregating those cleared from those not. Damned near every commercial flight had some military equipment or personnel onboard - just a consequence of the fact most commercial carriers were huge Size Six capital ships and any military or government cargo would be reason to bar them, even if it was three privates on routine reassignment or a pallet of rations the military found some reason to ship rather than creating out of a converter on-site. And even if there weren't a military or government component to a particular task, not many companies would be enthusiastic about potential threats to their own assets. I understood the bad place these people were in might be none of their doing, but there were good reasons things were that way - the fractal demons would take any advantage they could. "The investigation requires you drop your mental defenses and answer truthfully without evasion. If I sense mental evasion, a more active probe will be necessary. You have the option of stopping at any time unless I discover evidence of a crime or intent to commit one, however certifying you uncorrupted requires carrying the session through to completion."

"Proceed."

Copyright 2024 Dan Melson. All rights reserved.

 



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