10. A war to wage

Who will survive?

Let's get it on,

And we will fight

(Adema, Immortal)

A blade in her right hand is so thin it can hardly be seen at all in this dim, tricky lightning. It does its job perfectly once again nevertheless: one swift arcing sweep of her wrist and the Queen's head falls off of her shoulders and rolls away from the body still standing. Two heartbeats later it follows, hitting the floor with a dull thump.

"Enimun lupum purnum pravis intus*," she says coolly turning around to survey the aria; the sound of her voice strange and foreign even to her ears, distorted by surroundings. "Without, however, does the trick just as well, and much faster."

The Wraith cruiser interior is one peculiar sight indeed and this particular suite is no different; if anything, being here feels like poking through the insides of a dissected animal. Or insect, which would probably be, considering the circumstances, much more accurate a comparison.

The Hive.

Narrow twisted passages with fleshy purple living-looking - or actually being; from what she's known that could be precisely the case - walls. Cocoons, stuck to the said walls here and there, containing remains of Wraith resent and not very much so victims - their drained bodies just left to rot with no respect for lives forfeited whatsoever, like some food leftovers. She finds it not only enraging but repulsive, too.

Some passages – not all of them, thankfully – covered of all the things with the mist, or at least with something that looks like it. Hanging knee high at best, it won't hide someone relevant, yet it is quite enough to conceive something that makes wet squelching sounds under her feet from time to time. She decides she doesn't actually want to know what causes them unless it's vital. Luckily, it proves to be not.

And there is also some kind of web. Its thick rope-like entanglement partially covers walls along the way and also blocks accesses to some main passage offshoots. A warning system? The Authorized personnel only grid? Hard to tell. She does not touch it even once just in case, not that she would actually want to; like cocoons it's a spitting reminder of the Wraith origin and she is not into bugs, really.

Janus, however, would be fascinated beyond himself. Well, perhaps, except for the dead bodies' part.

The Iratus bug - quite a peculiar, predatory and very deadly insect species originated in Pegasus - mutated and evolved into the Wraith absorbing for generations their human and Alteran victims' DNA. According to Lantean scientists, the event was arbitrary, accidental.

She has her doubts about that.

However, there is no reason to question that without Alterans seeding sentinel life wherever they come, there would be no Wraith whatsoever.

As you saw you shall mow, they say. But look who eventually gets to be reapers.

She stares upon the dead bodies on the floor. Their black identical closes are dark holes in the white smoky mass hanging low at her ankles. Their look-alike long hair has the same dirty, grayish white coloring, like some elderly humans'. And like the mist. They are creatures made of shadows and nightmares came to life, people of the younger race say. For once, she tends to agree.

No nightmare, however, could withstand a direct run with a Ta'ori and live to tell the tale.

Discretion is a trend she values greatly and uses often, yet it is not for the lack of other skills; every higher Wraith, every drone completely impossible to avoid on her way here servers a proof to it. There wasn't even single shot fired, nothing happened that would alert the Hive to the intruder's presence – her blade created in a place long-lost in time and space has taken care of it.

Not only Tao'ra is a heart and will of her people, but a hand of chastisement, too.

Eight higher Wraith stood between her and the Queen, eight heavily armed mature fighters ready to defend their mistress with their own lives around the clock, for the last living one of the triumvirate that had declared the truce negotiation with Lanteans and then ambushed their envoy obviously apprehended for her life and for good reason, as the other two Queens were killed within mere days and their Hives were destroyed given only enough time to send a distress call and notify others of what happened.

Three of the Queen's guards fell even before they started to comprehend what was going on, five others followed them shortly after, unable to inflict even a single wound on a lone lean form moving between them with the inhumanly speed, serving death in her wake. The multifunctional force field she placed on the throne room after bursting in prevented Wraith guards from calling for help and their mistress from escaping.

The Queen tried to put out a fight too - she has to give the mutants' ruler that - but there was nothing she could've done against the strength no less than matching her own and far superior reflexes; never mind countless generations of warlords' sovereigns with their vast battle experience and expertise passed though the blood to their rightful heir.

For times she marked the Queen, for cuts ripped her pale alien flesh accompanied by hisses and grunts of rage and pain; each one was a blood price paid for every murdered Ta'ori. These were painful and humiliating yet hardly lethal wounds, but… she watched in cold satisfaction as the Queen's expression changed from anger to fear when this scratches - for this is what they should've been to a Wraith, let alone the Queen – failed to heal.

Not for this enemy her blade was made and yet, for the very first time in countless millennia it was unsheathed and proved its untainted quality.

She watched the realization of what was ahead drawing on a hybrid's face. A swift kill wouldn't be adequate a payback for what the creature participated in. No, only when she let her enemy have a full taste of despair and doom did she took her head off - the fifth mark, for her late second in command, Deimos.

She crouches beside the headless corpse and takes a medallion off it. The damn thing will alert every Wraith at the Hive the moment her force field's deactivated. Try to destroy it without proper proceedings, there's going to be such an energy outburst multiplied by the field power that even her unique battle-gear will hardly protect her sufficiently enough.

She would have teleport to her cloaked shuttle normally drifting nearby the Hive, as she did before, but unfortunately this one ship has some kind of a jamming device active that utterly denies the possibility. This is new, and should've been investigated further too, alas, the circumstances are unfavorable.

So, the most likely option is to make a run for it back to the darts bay, where her disguised transport now awaits. Inconvenient but irrelevant. She will manage. There can be no failure.

She rises on her feet, comes closer to one of the exits and reaches for a hand-device, ready to shut the field down and redirect all the power to her personal shield before started running.

"Very impressive," a low rumbling alien voice says from behind and she spins around on her heals at the sound of it to face the new threat.

The Queen's fingers linger on the prisoner's cheek touching it almost gently, but he knows better than to take it for a caress.

"You shall not have anything from me", the kneeled male spats, the anger and disgust are evidential in his voice.

"But I shall", the Queen purrs before she presses her palm firmly to his face, anticipating the rush of pleasure the life-force pouring into her would bring.

Nothing happens.

"What is this?" she exclaims, turning to face him, hardly more than annoyed so far.

This, however, can be changed and oh, so very quickly. He hesitates, choosing his words carefully.

"I know not, my Queen," he bows slightly. "I've never seen such as this before."

"Some Guide you are," she mutters and turns her attention to the prisoner once again for which he is grateful.

She has quit a temper, his mistress.

"How is this, that you are not succumbed to my powers?" she demands of the human. "Tell me, and your death will be swift and painless; or better yet I might even spare you."

"Whether I shall live or die remains to be seen," the male smiles crookedly, and by the Hive, despite of him being unarmed and subdued this grimace is very much unsettling. "You, however, are already dead. Just don't know it yet."

The Queen laughs at the sheer ridiculousness of his statement. She's so amused she isn't even enraged, yet.

"Is that so?" she queries mockingly. "Does this petty anomaly make you be thinking thus? What a fool you are, then. True, it seems like I may not able to feed on you or influence your mind, for some reason, but rest assured - I'm quite capable of making you suffer and wishing for a death to come."

"That's exactly what I said," he pronounces with a serene certainty. "She will come and you're going to die."

The Queen slaps him, the force of impact makes prisoner's head jerk so severely that for a moment he thinks that the human is about to go down. This, however, not happens. The man spits the blood from his mouth to the floor and laughs.

She's hardly alarmed by his defiant words, yet a mentioning of someone presumably more powerful, more fearful than her causes exactly a reaction he would expect of the Queen. She is infuriated with jealousy. Learning down to the prisoner she hisses right into his face.

"Who is 'she', your Queen?"

"My life," the man states, his eyes blazing fiercely, "your oblivion."

He wasn't exaggerating in a slightest, that strange prisoner. She did come and death followed, hot on her heals.

A trail of his butchered brethren led him here to witness a final act: the Queen ceased to exist, just like she was promised. Good. He never liked that bitch. A thought forms in his mind as he watches the medallion – a sign of Queen's power – being taken off the body. Before the intruder would disappear in one of the Hive passages he calls for her attention.

She ventures in a blur of motion facing him and he has his suspicions confirmed. He shows her his empty hands before she would decide that he is to join lifeless bodies on the throne room floor.

"It's an honor to meet you in person, Commander. I'm not here to cause you any harm," he says hoping it sounds not as ridiculous as it feels being saying the words. "If you would just give me a minute to explain, I'll make it worth your while."

The left corner of her mouth tags upwards in a sardonic grimace bringing out a distant resemblance to the prisoner. She studies him for a moment with a very cold, calculating look.

"Speak fast," she finely drops. "Although my job here's nearly done, I still have a war to win."

It takes him by surprise for he was ready to an outright refusal as much as for some haughtily 'we have nothing to speak of' remark. He even prepared words to try and make her listen. Frankly, he was approaching to the task as if she was a Queen. But clearly, she is not, so he has to adjust.

"Do you know what a Guide is?" he asks.

"This is who you are and this is what you are," she says dryly. "Would that be a sufficient enough level of knowledge?"

But of course, he thinks briefly, know your enemy.

"I am… or more accurately I was and am going to be, again, a Queen's Guide. I came here to propose an exchange," he tells her ignoring an incredulous eyebrow rising. "I shall ask two things of you. One of those would be you giving me the medallion. The second, you will not destroy my Hive as it happened with those two before. Your offenders are all dead; surely, to take your revenge upon the lesser ones who had no saying in what happened with the envoy ship is beneath you."

"So much for the loyalty to your Queen," she cocks her head, eyes of a strange ever-changing color scrutinize him sending unexpected shivers down his spine. Danger! his mind screams at him but he wills it to shut up.

"Actually, you did me a favor," he tilts towards the headless body. "She was… insufficient. Another shall come into her place: the younger, stronger one. Smart enough to make enemies she can handle and to take the timely advice with gratitude."

"Ah," for a moment she looks genuinely amused. "Already evolved enough to learn what a coup is, then. Congratulations. What's in it for me, Guide the Wraith?"

He ignores her jab at his origin. Talks are not the matter of determination whose species shall prevail. The war won most certainly is, and that his kind shall have.

"A safe passage from the Hive," he answers and seeing her indifference at his offering portrays a wide arc with his hand taking in the carnage. "As extremely proving as it was, yet you might find it difficult to fight off every Wraith on this ship."

"Insufficient," she tonelessly says much to his surprise; a sensible creature no matter how powerful still must be able to access the challenge the situation presents. Every Queen he ever new would put her own wellbeing above everything else, and rightfully so. Why test the fate? Unless, of course, it is he who has it all misjudged. Her further words serve to confirm this highly distressing assumption.

"The availability of difficulty yet remains to be seen. Now, if that's all…"

Luckily, he still has something in his sleeve.

"When one asks of two things, that is what one must offer in return as well," he notes calmly as if it was his intention all along. "I would give you a safe passage and one of your man's life. Happened also to be the Commander of this Hive I can guarantee this."

Her face remains calm and impassive but her eyes blaze and he knows he got her.

It is exactly how he'd hoped when in spite of a direct order from the Queen he secretly kept the prisoner alive. Just to learn more from him, for a start, to determine at least something defined about his immunity to Wraith powers. There were few other things very much worth looking into as that man obviously was no average Lantean they had incarcerated before.

However, when news about the first destroyed and in a very particular fashion Hive came, he knew at once that that fierce, utter and absolute loyalty the prisoner had shown despite everything he had endured to the one he recognized as his superior is mutual, at least in a way.

A person, who would go for such length to avenge, surely should be more then interested in getting what's lost back. He'd bet on that and he's right. Feeling responsible, maternal even to the certain degree regarding the lesser ones kindred is one of the treads all good Queens possess. It's a shame, really, that that one's born Lantean as she undoubtedly would make a great one. He has watched her for years, collecting every small bit of information since he realized who would be the most dangerous adversary his people are to fight.

One really should know one's enemy.

Exactly the same qualities he would admire and more than welcome in a Queen are those that make her a dire enemy to the Wraith. Even if they are to have this deal now, after that all bets are off. She must be dealt with and fast if what the Wraith started is to end in their favor. She's probably thinking something along this line, too - the situational mutual advantage is no reason at all not to be at each other throats when the moment's passed.

He very much counts she thinks this way too.

"What say you, Atlantis High Commander Atorious, do we have ourselves a deal?"

First thing he becomes aware of while drifting out of darkness, overcoming dizziness and nausea on his way regaining consciousness is a hand holding his own. Its coolness revives him. The energy pumps through it and into him bringing at least some of his strength back and making that drug-induced fog he was lost in for what feels like ages vanish.

He recognizes whom this hand belongs to even before forcing his eyes opened – a deed that takes almost everything he has in him right now.

"Forgive me Ta'ora, for I have failed you." His voice is hoarse and low and every word coming out of his mouth is a struggle. "The envoy… the others…"

He stares right at the blackness behind the shuttle view screen in front of him, hardly seeing anything at all. The feeling of shame, of failure, of losses he remembers now is a heavy burden that makes his shoulders sag.

"Nonsense," she interrupts him in that imperious tone that leaves no room for debates at all. "You have done everything I wished of you and more."

He glances sideways where she sits in the pilot chair. Her left device-gloved hand hovers over the navigation panel operating the shuttle, eyes focused intently on the stream of data running on the screen.

She looks so very familiar in her dark-bronze battle gear she favors so much he hardly can remember her wearing anything else at all, rich chestnut hair put in a short neat braid and a calm composed expression on her face. And the fire's burning in her eyes as it always does when there is no need for concealing Ta'ori true nature.

It is as if nothing has happened; it would take if only a little of imagination to envisage this being one of countless battle simulations he had been put through during his tutorage. It would be so easy to think of everything that occurred after he set his foot on Assumption as of a very vivid yet a dream. Only this is not so. Blood and gore, pain and death he has perceived are very much real. There is war going on out there right now. And war is a matter their kind was designed and bred for.

With all that ages of peace and prosperity it was so easy… well, not to forget their true nature and purpose but to have it become more a matter of a distant legacy rather than an actual life mission. True, they've been taught this day would come sooner or later. Yes, they were given the most advanced and severe trainings, both physical and mental. Each one's of them talents were carefully explored and the most fitting roles within the Ta'ori structure assigned. And war was in their very blood and yet… when that day did come most of them weren't ready. Not really, anyway. That abstract knowledge couldn't truly prepare to what the actual war is – that's why they failed. The trap, the overwhelming manpower Wraith had on them, even the crying incompetence of the Councilor in charge of the parley process and his refusal to follow the appropriate security protocol were secondary details. They were used to peace, and that was that.

She, however, is different; she always' been. It is only now he starts to comprehend what does it mean to live this kind of life – not only to remember every battle fought from the beginning of the time, from that very day the very first of their kind was born, but to have actually felt lived it. Madness. And yet, here she is, as safe and sound and sane as it actually gets. More so, she's being the only one keeping a very dangerous part of their legacy at bay. An incredible burden, but look at her – she is as steady as eternity itself.

His blood. His sister. His Tao'ra.

He's overwhelmed with the need to express his feelings, to show her how much she means to him, and the words of the ancient vow from the beginning of everything they are break the silence.

"My life for you."

She turns to face him. The ever-burning flames rise in her eyes even brighter as she squeezes his hand tightly; for a moment gone is coolness - it's warm, burning hot even.

"As I live for all of you," she says and those not just the proper words of his loyalty acceptance. "Always and forever."

He stands before the command center holo-map displaying their current location and stares the entrance. There is no one else here which would be strange at any other cruiser, but this one in particular could be managed with a minimal crew in general and was designed to be operated by just one person if needed – the most powerful vessel in Pegasus Galaxy, the flagman of Lantean fleet, Atlantis High Commander's and, doing two jobs at the time, Ta'ora's personal battleship.


She is his ship, too, because hardly ever there was a Captain that would think of the vessel under his command otherwise. He loves them both, loyally and fiercely – the ship and her mistress - and what looks like more then he should.

He hears her approaching, handing orders around and somehow managing to attend multiple different things simultaneously. She is good like that. Has to be.

Where are we on that signal imitation? Contact outpost Tau. Give me update on teams Epsilon, Xi, Pro and Omega progress. Reschedule visiting sector Delta. Med bay is to report the moment they have test results.

He feels small smile curving his lips for the very first time since Assumption. To have one of his brothers back does not make the grief he feels any lesser, yet, however small, it is a consolation.

He would rather met them right at the shuttle bay to make sure they both are fine immediately, but this is where he belongs, so patiently he waits till she gets here. It doesn't take long.

She enters the quarters and answers the question before he has a chance to ask.

"He will be now, when fully deprived of suppressing drugs; it is nothing our metabolism would not handle. I refused leave anything to a chance, anyhow, he has treated as we speak. The update on Metos' condition will follow shortly."

He nods, "Good. And good to have him back, too."

Her expression softens for the briefest of moments, "It is."

It doesn't last long, however. She comes to stand beside him and continues in a much cooler tone, "Now, to the less pleasant matter. Explain, exactly how did you manage to loose that Hive."

He grimaces with irritation and averts his gaze. "They dropped to the hyperspace before we could've had a clear shot. Your shuttle was still too close."

She utters thoughtful hmm. "Detected my transport despite the cloak. Planted charges to the hull. Full scan requires time and slows down, neglect the procedure – you're going to have quite a boom. Win-win situation and he made the best of it. Quick thinking. Smart bastard."

The explosives part gets his attention even more than the bastard one, "What?!"

"I'll brief you later," she waves his concern off. "Did the Hive send any signals?"


"Good. Proceed as planed then."

He hesitates. "Without residual post-explosion radiation we wouldn't be able to cover our energy signature. They would know that we are, it fact, not helpless at all. Chances of getting any enemy ships into the trap decrease drastically."

She frowns, "How drastically?"

He closes his eyes briefly, bits and pieces of information they have on Wraith rearranging in his mind until the answer clicks – yes, he is good like that. "Seven point twenty four present. I'm sorry, Ta'ora, it won't work."

She crosses her hands under the chest, shrugs and flashes him one of those lopsided grins that periodically drive mad most of the Council members.

"Well then, the solution is obvious, isn't it? Drop the shields, power – at operational minimum. Twenty percent should do it."

His mouth hangs open and for a few seconds he's lost his words.

"But… it will take some time to have it back at sufficient level to raise the shields al least, and then some before we will be able fire back. Time enough for Wraith to tear us apart if the weapon won't work."

"Does it matter?" She shrugs again. "It will work."

"It's untested!" he exclaims, resistant to believe that she would actually take such a risk. "Not in a proper way, it isn't. Having blueprints older that time itself is one thing. Now, to build the item operational, having no adequate experience whatsoever and at the deadline …"

"Well, we'll never know without actually testing it, right?" She looks completely nonchalant.

It is not his place to question her and he knows it well. She leads, they fallow - as it always has been. It is not characteristic of her to dismiss others' thoughts out of hand though. She does listen and to those who of her own more than to their more distant brethren. However, once she has her mind made up, all arguing is off table. And the fact – which means everything to him but hardly anything to her - that they share a bed from time to time, cannot change that.

Ta'ora is and always has been free to choose anyone she wills as her mate, anytime, but belongs to none other then the Ta'ori . It is only up to her to determine how long relationship would last and what form it to take. He knows as a fact she was close with Demos too, but being the Second in command he was a reasonable, traditional even choice. He shouldn't be even knowing what a jealousy is, and yet … While accepting how the things are, he doesn't have to like being just the one out of few.

Regardless, it didn't prevent him from being mad with fury and grief when he learned of Assumption. Each Ta'ori's drop of blood is precious; each one's death tears a hole in a fabric of existence for others, leaving them to patch it so they can go one. So very few of them left whose blood still carries the Eternal flames. There cannot possibly be rivalry there.

But then there is Janus, and it's all together one different matter.

"Fine," he utters through the clenched teeth. "Leave the Firestorm then. Take your shuttle to the safe distance and wait. If everything's worked out, we'll pick you up afterwards. If not, well then… at the very least you'll have a chance to rethink your redundant faith in the half-blood."

"Do you really suggest me demanding of others anything I'm not ready to do myself?"

The temperature in the room seems to be dropped drastically, and although her tone is still calm, he can spot the note of anger creeping into it.

He admits, he shouldn't have picked on Janus like that, for like it or not, the scientist really was the one who managed to make something of the ancient coding and move it up into the actual blueprints.

From the narrow-eyed stare she measures him with he knows that her tolerance to his defiance's come to an end.

"Standing here debating and loosing precious time when the decision's already made, with that Hive somewhere out there, decreases our chances too; or did you forget to include this particular condition in your calculations?"

"I…" he starts, realizing that he's gone too far, but she won't let him finish.

"You have your orders, Captain. Comply."

He does as he's bid and they wait in uncomfortable tight silence until the first red dot appears on the holo-screen, followed soon with a few more.

"Fifteen minutes before they drop from hyper-space," he says hoarsely, unable to take his eyes off the picture of approaching hostiles. "Seven Hives in tote. I hope you know what you're doing, Aeris, or this is going to be one long flight for a very short fight."

"I do hope so," she says, activating the holo-interface and a console appears hanging in midair.

He knows that the moment for the Disruptor's activation must be very precise. Do it too early and Wraith would definitely sport the enormous amount of energy building so rapidly it reminds of a super-nova and will do the only reasonable thing to have done – they'll skip the drop. Delay and the drop will happen before the weapon strikes, leaving them utterly helpless before the enemy. Such demanding the device is that it requires almost everything they've got to be activated. It will take some time before the Firestorm would return even to half of her full capacity.

This kind of the ancient warfare was used just ones - eons ago when the Tao'ri fought their way off the home Galaxy against the dire enemy and only because they saw no other choice.

To operate the Disruptor, one would need become if only for a short amount of time whole with the Universe, would need to feel that 'this is it'.

He keeps quiet although it hardly necessary – she can be dead to the world without loosing awareness. Her eyes are half-closed as if she's listening to something he cannot hear, and that can be precisely the case. Her expression is calm, relaxed one even; a small smile lingers on her lips. She looks… content.

More content then when she is with him, a bitter thought occurs.

Time starches and it feels like years between the moment her left hand starts moving and up to the point when her palm lies on the bright orange stamp on the virtual console.

This is it, then.

He blinks as the seven dots flash and disappear simultaneously - just like that. Wraith cruisers simply ceased to be the millisecond they'd started coming out the sub-space. There was no explosion. There are no crumpled hulls and broken pieces floating in the dark debts of space. Nothing betrays what has happened. Whoever created this device was a genius and – he admits with reluctance - it took no less than one to build it again.

"It worked," his voice is low, hoarse and slightly disbelieving even now. "It did work."

The sound of alarm interrupts him. He rushes to the command terminal and checks the readings; she joins him, a frown on her face.

Something strange happens with a planet they can see trough the observation screen. According to the Firestorm's remote scanners its temperature suddenly has started rising exponentially as well as its radiation level, just like a star before it would go nova. Only this is not a ball of incandescent plasma, but a terrestrial world.

"What's happening?" He asks bewilderedly already knowing that nothing good is.

She shakes her head, "Unforeseen complications. A side effect, obviously. It looks like the Disruptor somehow triggered the extensive production of energy trough the nuclear fusion. Something down here must've responded to the weapon. We have to leave and fast. "

He processes the information and the realization draws at him. This is a habitual world. That's why that Hive originally even was here – apparently they claimed it as their hunting ground, which means there is a human population. And now they are doomed. He never really cared that much about the younger race; even Lanteans in his eyes weren't even nearly close to being of the same value as his kin. Yet… to think of all this lives that are about to be forfeited because of what they have done makes his stomach roll and leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.

"Is there anything," he starts but she interrupts him in a cool composed voice.

"Those in a close proximity to the Astria Porta and smart enough are leaving this world as we speak. The others… well. Everything comes with a price; the enemy has been hit hard."

"A heavy cost."

"I pay it gladly," her eyes flash. "Think of how many lives would have been lost if we are to lose this war. This cannot happen."

He averts his gaze, admitting it does have a ring to it, yet reluctant for once accept the harsh truth she never bothers to sweeten.

"If I could avoid it, I would, you know that," she continues in a softer voice, "but I can't. And I can't let myself dwell on something I have no control over. Save all the data, I will have Janus looking into what went wrong when we back to Atlantis."

He nods, hiding a twitch at the half-blood's name spoken, "Whatever my Tao'ra wishes."

She turns and locks her eyes on the command terminal, "Good. Now, when are we ready to jump?"

That reminds him that not only life down there, they too are in danger staying in such a proximity to the planet that apparently goes against all the laws of nature back to being a star. Or even nova.

"Twelve minutes," he says re-checking the Firestorm's power level and gives her a querying look.

"Unacceptable," she shakes her head. "Ignore all secondary systems, de-energize additional shields and loose the canons. Cut down life support to minimum except for the med bay and bring the hyper-drive online. Now."

He initiates the process, cutting off the entire power requirements excerpt for the primary systems and says adopting the same calm cool demeanor she's fallen into, "Five minutes."

She turns on her heals and heads towards the large observation screen and stops, resting her palms and forehead on it. "Good."

"This is not your fault," he suddenly says unable to bear the sight of a slim lonely figure facing the vast darkness of space pierced with the cold star light, the doomed planet making one eerie background. "Janus should've done better…"

"There is no fault," she drops in a dispassionate, absentminded tone. "The Wraith are down seven Hives, and that is what matters."

She turns to face him and folds hands under the chest.

"This is war. The Council may entertain themselves with illusions, but you should know better that to think it can be won without sacrifices. This is just the beginning."

And again, she's right, but doesn't she always?

He glances towards the control panel and sees that the power has reached the essential level.

"We are ready to jump in five, for, three, two..."

It's just a slight tremor as the ship drops into hyper-space. He momentarily starts rerouting the increasing spare power activating additional hull shields, knowing only too well that the build-in ones - even those of the Firestorm - can take only so much of the subspace radiation before it starts affecting the crew.

"Good job," she says heading towards the exit. Then stops abruptly and says without so much as a glance back. "And, Chaos? Don't you dare to forget, it's not your place to question me, ever."

Ancient language

*Enimun lupum purnum pravis intus - Verily, the corrupted sinner will be cleansed from within