Prologue

0300 – BetaMountain SecStaff Quarters

135 - 2105

Gasping for air, Niko sat straight up in her bed. Her bedclothes were drenched from sweat as were the sheets of her bed.

"Lights." She ordered breathlessly.

Full voltage light flooded from the recessed fixtures above her bed as well as from the dressing area. Temporarily blinded by the sudden brilliance, she amended her former order. "Lights, 30 percent." The lights immediately dimmed to a friendlier, early morning cadence.

Still glassy-eyed from the earlier glare, Niko looked around her room, half-expecting to find…

What? She asked herself as she lowered her head to her drawn up knees and sighed. The images, or feelings, really, were fading beyond her recall. Slowly, she pushed her damp hair off her face and neck and took a calming breath.

Not trusting her legs to fully support her, Niko gingerly slid off the bed. She was shaky on her feet as she made her way to the lavatory. Splashing cool water onto her heated face, she looked up at her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were the color of lilacs at dawn.

Although surprised by her eye hue, she was not too distracted to catch the faint aura of psychokinetic energy still burning a chaotic path through her living quarters. Spinning abruptly from her reflection, Niko raised a mental shield fully expecting to be engulfed by a psychic onslaught.

Nothing.

Still keeping a defenders stance, Niko once again looked around her. The energy field she had seen was gone, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary - with the exception of her eyes.

Niko turned to face her reflection once more. This time familiar blue-green eyes stared back at her. Did I imagine it all? Keyed up from her abrupt waking and from nightmare fragments, was it possible that she skewed reality and dream state? Shaking her head, Niko moved to the small shower unit.

Half an hour later with clean linens and a hot cup of herbal tea, a vanilla scented Niko sank back into the cushions of her bed. Knowing that sleep would be elusive, she opted for a light meditative trance for the few remaining hours prior to going on duty

2100 – BetaMountain SecStaff Quarters

147 - 2105

Niko key palmed the lock to her apartment and practically slid into the closest chair. What a few days she had had. She and Doc had just returned from an assignment, finding the kidnapped, teenage daughter of the Senator to Nebraska.

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After two days of following a bogus trail, Niko and Doc had intercepted a lead sending them to what was left of a week-long rave on one of the asteroids circling Tortuna. Niko smiled as she remembered Doc trying to sweet talk his way past the bouncer, who had already motioned her inside, but Doc apparently had not met the "party-profile" of the club's owners.

Who knew Doc had those dance moves? Another of Miss Abercrombie's Charm School talents, perhaps?

Once inside, it hadn't taken long for one of Doc's tweaker programs to get a fix on the senator's daughter. Getting to her had proven more difficult as the club was packed well past fire code regulations. The mob of teens on the dance floor had been quite difficult to maneuver through and even shouting to be heard above the cacophony of music made little impact on the rave-crazed throng.

Luckily, the senator's daughter had chosen that moment to visit the ladies room, where Niko had been able to confront the young woman on her elaborately staged kidnapping.

Unfortunately, a confrontation had actually ensued. As Niko identified herself as a Galaxy Ranger to the girl, a drug deal was concluding in one of the bathroom stalls behind them. In seconds, the whole room was bathed in a stream of gunfire as the dealers, believing they were being busted, attempted to shoot their way out. Niko was able to shield herself and the senator's daughter from the majority of the shots; however, the daughter had been grazed in the crossfire.

Doc hearing the commotion, even over the ear-splitting music, exploded into the room with guns drawn. Several minutes passed as the rangers exchanged fire with the drug dealers. When the firefight was over, two dealers lay stunned and one had managed to flee out the back window.

Leaving the two criminals in the hands of the sector authorities, as well as a complete visual description of the one on the run, Niko and Doc took the senator's daughter into custody and returned to Beta.

Unfortunately that had not been the end of the event for Doc and Niko. Upon their arrival, Commander Walsh, under pressure from the Senator from Nebraska, had demanded a full report on the incidents that led to the injury of the daughter a prominent political figure.

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At 1900 hours, Niko and Doc had sequestered themselves into the office the Series 5 Team used while on base. Fortified with a carafe of coffee, they began preparing their report. Doc, already anticipating that he and Niko would be required to submit a report before going off-duty, had constructed a computer program to incorporate the general information that they had already compiled during their mission.

"We should be out of here in a matter of minutes." Doc smiled broadly as he launched the program. "See, Niko, the doctor is always in."

Niko peered over his shoulder and frowned. "Okay, doctor, then what is that?" She asked pointing to the computer screen.

Flashing in alternating green and blue were what appeared to be ingredients and directions for baking different Kiwi pastries.

"What the…" Doc immediately started hitting keys on the keyboard. "I don't believe this."

"Where is the report?" Niko asked.

"It's…it's not here. But, that is impossible."

"Apparently not." Niko muttered under her breath and massaged the base of her neck where the beginnings of a headache were starting to throb steadily.

"I can fix this, just give me a minute. Ah-ha, here we go." Doc pointed to a line of the report embedded in the recipes. After few more minutes, he created another program to pull just the original report. "There."

Niko looked at the now almost completed report and smiled. "I was really getting worried there."

"Now, Niko, you should know better than to question the doctor."

"What happened, Doc?"

Doc's smiled faded as he looked back at the computer. "That, I'm not so sure about. It seems that these recipes from Zozo corrupted the program I generated back on Ranger One. Basically, it generated a report incorporating our data with the pastries. Takes good to the last byte to a whole new level though"

Niko ruefully shook her head at Doc. "Getting back to the issue at hand Doc, what caused it to merge the two documents?"

"I don't know. But it certainly makes interesting food for thought, doesn't it?"

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