• The child was coming, he could feel it. The last Valkirian was almost within reach. He could see the future clearly now: Adanis would stand before him again, and he would fall. It was so easy, just letting him walk blindly into his hands. The stupid boy was letting himself be strung along, like a fish on a line. He was so convinced he would have his ‘vengeance’, that he hadn’t even stopped to question the motives of his ‘friends’. Arek grinned in the darkness. Raphael, he mused, now there was a man he’d left more than just a painful past on.

    Arek stirred; a dark shape in the centre of its shadowy web. A figure was picking its way unsteadily across the floor, heading towards the flickering circle of candlelight. Things crunched under Commander Harmon’s feet as he staggered forwards into the firelight. His old, scar-lined, face twitched as he glanced down. Then he straightened up and looked off into the darkness, towards where he believed Arek to be. He looked tired, worn out, as if he’d not seen sleep in days. His eyes were ringed with shadows and his body slumped downwards, no matter how hard he tried to stand up straight. Arek surveyed him from the darkness, watching as his eyes flickered to the mask on the plinth in front of him.
    “My... my lord.” He stuttered. Arek noted that his skin seemed more drained than before. Perhaps it was working, or perhaps he was simply dying
    Harmon squinted into the shadows, at the vaguely humanoid dark patch. The whole room seemed to be far bigger than it ought to be; no room should be so big that the candlelight could not even reach the walls. No room should have a floor that seemed to be chiselled out of black rock, with great columns of the stuff reaching up out of the light towards the ceiling. And no room should be so utterly silent, save the slight crunching as he stood on... things.

    “My lord?” He repeated, his voice shaking slightly less.
    “Yes?” A voice hissed in his head. Harmon shivered.
    “We have received word that they are on their way, sir.” He managed. Arek said nothing. “We believe they are using the subspace device you mentioned, sir.” Again Arek did not respond. “Should I send some of our ships to intercept them sir?” Harmon strained to see through the dark.

    “No,” said the voice of Arek, right behind him. Harmon froze, rooted to the spot in fear. He could feel the breath, slow and cold, on the back his neck. His eyes swivelled in their sockets, trying desperately to see behind him. Unbidden, his head began to inch around. “Don’t! Look around.” Snarled Arek’s voice in his head. Harmon’s face snapped forwards again. “I’ve sent the Envoy to deal with them.”
    Harmon gaped.
    “The... the Envoy.” He stammered. He felt the presence behind him moving slightly and made to turn around.

    “Don’t look at me! Don’t even look!” Harmon’s head whipped back, staring at the dark rock between his feet. “If you turn around, you will die.” A bead of sweat trickled down his between his eyes and dripped off the end of his nose. The ‘plink’ of it hitting the floor seemed unnaturally loud, though still not as loud as the frantic thumping of his heart.
    “Do we have any people still free on Rivka?” the voice whispered. Harmon swallowed.
    “Yes sir.” He said, his voice now audibly trembling. “We have several hundred agents scattered throughout the planet.” Arek was silent. “And of course you have several Sleepers and Drones there as well. We could take the planet with almost no resistance.” Arek said nothing for a long time. Finally, when he could no longer stand it, Harmon asked. “My lord... where are you?”

    “Close.” Came the reply in his head. “Oh so close.” The hairs on the back of Harmon’s neck prickled. “I’m right behind you.” He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, feeling the breath wash over him as Arek moved closer. Instinctively his body recoiled, twisting around. “Don’t turn around!” the voice growled. Harmon went rigid, his eyes and mouth clamped shut, his face shining with sweat.

    “Can we still monitor our troops from here?” asked Arek. Harmon nodded mutely, keeping his eyes and mouth shut. “Good. Because that is where the Envoy is going.” Harmon’s eyes snapped open in shock. “I want to know if it’s weapon is fully calibrated this time.”
    “But… But there are billions of people on Rivka!” Harmon burst out, “You can’t send the Envoy there! You’re condemning the whole planet to death!” Arek said nothing.

    The candlelight played off the face of a plain metal mask. It sat on an altar, staring straight through Harmon. His heartbeat seemed to fill the whole universe with sound. The world around him became thin as smoke and fell away.
    He looked around.