The Doom Watch was an organization that could trace its existence back to the Old Universe where it had been formed as an Intelligence Branch of Sarkhon Enterprises.

Legend had it that it was chartered by the legendary Harlan Sarkhon in the years before House Sarkhon left the continent of Atlantis, the planet Atlantis and the Old Universe. It was this organization that had been important in keeping Sarkhon ahead of his Tauran and Shaitannis enemies—as well as his Atlantean competitors.

The Doom Watch is so named because its agents were tasked with looking out for coming calamities. Keeping their bosses informed about the dangers inherent in that universe.

They were also responsible for carrying out covert operations that would prevent the very Dooms they were looking into. It is no accident that the ancient term for a lord’s chief spymaster comes from the Doom Watch title—Master of Assassins. As is not so much the case today, in ancient Atlantis assassination was a common tool of statecraft.

One can, after all change a monarchy by killing the king. This doesn't work with a democracy.

Spies and Master Assassins by Landru Thomas

Prince  Toreus Rhann  and the Thuvian Rangers

Chapter 3: Taxi!

“Things are getting bad,” said Pinkston Tam in the left hand seat of the yellow taxi. He waved one big pink hand toward the crowd gathering in front of the Fountain Base.

Pinky Tam was—as his name suggested—pink. Like a strawberry milkshake.

His father had been a Red Jovian and his mother a Shavian woman—a wild type human. His father had enlisted in the Thuvian Outworld Legion as a young man and therefore had become a Thuvian citizen. He had fought in the Pangean Unification war and that had earned him a Pangean citizenship.

When Pinkston was seventeen standard years old he joined the Thuvian Army and then the Rangers. He wore a tattoo of the Thuvian Rangers on his left arm__an arm that was always bare when he wore shoulder strapped smart armor over his bare chest like today. His forearms were covered by shield cuffs and he had an Ezekhiel 350 assault rifle cradled across his lap. The Zeke was an imported weapon from a faraway worldline and a favorite of Pinky’s. It fired  9 mm hypersonic rounds and hit like a mammoth. It also had an underslung grenade launcher that could handle a variety of rounds.

Pinky’s hair was shaved into a thin crest and was shiny black. It was trimmed and shaped so that it looked like ebony feathers.

Pinky had quit the Rangers five years ago at an invitation to join Doom Watch. The Watch had sent him to Arcadia to work with the Vincenzo Cab Company branch there. He worked as a Mechanic though in actuality he was a Doom Watch Outrider—a swordsman for the Watch and a bodyguard for the local Vincenzo apparat.

Arnie Vincenzo liked the big guy and trusted his judgments. A full blooded Jove would not have fit in the taxi but Pinky did and he had as much punch and power as any of his people in his eighty centimeter tall frame.

They’d been sitting in the hack in the open air market on the mall in front of the Fountain Station all morning, waiting for the friend of Arenjun Sarkhon's that they were supposed to pick up.

They’d watched as the crowd began to gather, a tight lead ball forming in Arnie’s gut.

He’d been in combat and he knew when trouble was brewing. He had fought in the Third World War of the Earth he had grown up on.   A nasty affair with a grand total of one billion casualties.

This was trouble with a capital T. Now that the kingdom had limited the rights of the commoners tempers were growing thin. And a large hunk of the military had deserted when they had been asked to fight beside the Kai'Vhan and treat them as if they were fellow warriors.

And now this gathering at the Fountain Mall.

At first it looked like a bunch of college kids were gonna sound off and parade about with some signs. Pretty much the same sort of thing that happens on most worldlines. Only on most worldlines the authorities had a better grasp of proportion and a sense of honor. Here they were trying to live up to the philosophical meanderings of a cruel and selfish bitch.

The students raised their voices and called the powers that be nasty names. On more civilized worldlines they would go away satisfied that they had been heard by the establishment.

Of course on those worlds the establishment was not of the opion that slaves or robots might better serve their needs than the lower classes.Arcadia was the robot capital of the Sphere. It also had a 25% unemployment rate among biologicals.

Of course on his home worldline such a demonstration had led to a massacre that had led to a shooting war—and billions dead. So one never knew where these things could hop to. Sometimes they hopped like those blood thirsty Chupacabras some Arcadians kept as pets. Sometimes blood was let, it might just be a few crakced skulls or it might be a major war. Just toss the dice and see how they came up.

Of course he was hacking in Arcadia on Terra Prime. If there was a fascist, goose-stepping center to the Cosmos this was it. The nobility worshipped the Prophet Joshua on Sunday and the nutcase Ayn Rand the rest of the week.

The temp was rising out there now. The college kids were being supplemented by more middle class types. Workers mostly. Union members who were unhappy with the fact that the monarchy had outlawed collective bargaining rights in order to increase domestic sales of Nippona robots. And then declared unions as illegal criminal organizations and terrorist groups.

And now young hoodlums joined the fray. The kind of kids who showed up looking for action and were not above tossing the odd rock and flaming cocktail to set it off. Some of them carried rounders and cricket bats. Some would also__as sure as shooting__be armed with handguns and sawed off rifles.

And here he was, in his cab, waiting for his fare and not at liberty to go anywhere else. He thanked whatever god there might be that he had the Outrider with him. And that his cab was armed and armored.

He had considered bringing along his niece, Nikki. He wanted her to meet the Prince. But no, this was danger turf and Pinky was a better fit.

Arnie’s cab was a low slung triphib model with a large passenger compartment and gull wing doors. Tonight it bore yellow livery with check borders, but a flip of a switch could change that. The Vincenzo cab company had no official livery. They were a Romany cab company anywhere they operated. Even if none of them were of Romany stock. Most Vincenzos were Italian of Siciliano and Tuscan descent. Except maybe on that one worldline where the Itallians still called themselves the Romans.

The Vincenzos operated just about anywhere that the Doom Watch operated. And that was just about anywhere they were needed.

Arnie gave the foam dice that hung from the rear view scanner in the middle of the windshield a punch for good luck and sat back.

“Could be that it’s all just some big trekkie convention,” Arnie said, laughing. He didn't like Trekkies much__he preffered Star Wars and Battle Star Galactica.

Pinky’s eyebrows went up in question.

Arnie laughed. “On worldlines where they don’t have starships__and probably never will__ the folks love a vid show about a starship and her crew. You’d like it. You got some things in common with one of the characters.”

“I have never been much for fandom.”

“Live long and prosper, my friend.”

Someone threw a rock at a window. The rock bounced off and hit someone who howled like a banshee. Windows on Terra Prime took some effort to break. Rocks wouldn’t do it. Try an armor piercing shell or a proton blaster,

“Naw, second thought,” said Arnie. “Not a trekkie convention. Unless there are a lot of Klingons and Kardashians at this one.”

“Do we know what this guy we’re waiting for will look like?” asked Pinky.

“He’ll be disguised. Yeah that he will be. Can't have a royal prince walking round a war zone,”

“Then you don’t know.”

Arne nodded. “He’ll be big. Not as big as you but big. I’ll recognize him.”

heavy footsteps drummed along the approaches to the Mall. That and cadenced chants in a language that Arnie did not know but which sounded a lot like Deutsch.

“Trouble,” said Pinky pointing at the column of Kai’Vhan that marched up to the other side of the market lane across from the station entrance.

Line after line of pale white and gray faces. Even the Centurians, who supposedly had working brains, looked like Zombies.

They wore standard Vhan battle gear but with armbands that idented them as Royal Arcadian Mounted Police auxiliaries. And true to Vhan form they carried lethal weapons. Bullet firing rifles and machine pistols and some lasguns__they’ll set half the town afire with those lasers. Energy weapons were not really preferred for urban combat let alone riot control.

There were also Squad Support Blasters observed Arnie. Fire one of those in a closed room and the concussion would knock yez on yer arse.

” Only a Kai’Vhan would bring a gamma ray laser to a knife fight” said the Outrider.

“Pinheads,” swore Arnie shaking his head.

More Vhan cops marched around the corner two blocks down. No official Royal Arcadian Mounted Police—which would have been bad enough__in sight

Kai ‘Vhan were violence junkies. They liked to stomp heads about as much as a rat likes to chew through cartons.

Violence was programmed into them when they volunteered to be Vhans and had all of their humanity drained out by that cyborg pin they had inserted in their heads. They were cyborg servants of the highest bidder and that highest bidder wanted the dirty nosed students quiet.

“Okay,” said Arnie, “not our concern. We’re not here to mix it up with the cops even if we’re in agreement with the kids. It’s time for a change here. High time. Radu Wallace and his fam have to go and they have thrown the only dude capable of doing it in jail.”

“Duke Nathaniel is the future and Radu and his retard nephews are the past,” nodded Pinkie.

A group of tough looking characters wearing spacer colors moved by. Among them was a tall balding humanoid bear who wore a black and white checkered shirt under his club cut. His head was white with tiny black eyes and he had a grim smile on the mouth of his snout. Arnie recognized him. So did Pinky.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” swore the Pink warrior.

“Probably, if you hang out with me,” said Arnie through tight lips. “Well if it isn’t Speedrow Wilson of the Star Kings SC all the way from Ridge. Another universe and another galaxy.”

“And that’s Lucy Lamb and Hank Berhn with him,” said Pinky. “The president, vice-president and treasurer of the Star Kings club. Why are they here?”

“Could be they’re just on tour.”

“Not bloody likely,” said Pinky. “Speedrow likes the maglev car racing circuit these days. And Arcadia is not a venue. He also likes to hit people. I know. He once took a swing at me.”

“Yeah, dirty deeds done dirt cheap—that’s the Star Kings motto,” nodded Arnie, his yellow leather cabbie cap bobbing in the light of the instrument illuminated compartment like the skippers cap of some small sea ship.

“Someone must be buttering the bread thick to get those lads all the way from Ridge in Worldline 3261,” said Pinky.

“Sounds like Watch business,” nodded Arnie.

A tall man with white hair wearing a long black cape walked by. For a minute Arnie thought that it might be Lazar Sarkhon, the time sorcerer that had recruited the Vincenzo mob for Doom Watch. But it wasn’t. Just someone who dressed similar. There were guys who favored Chronomancer garb for the effect. Like the men who wore cowboy sombreros and boots back homeside.

Arnie and his family had been with the Watch for a long time now. Since Lazar had recruited his brother Bernie on one of the worldlines.

Of course Bernie wasn’t really his bro. Bernie was another version of himself from a different worldline, but all Vincenzos considered one another family. Brothers, sisters, cousins one and all. Even alternate worldline ringers. No other family he could think of was so acquainted with the multiverse—other than the families of Time Sorcerers that is.

Arnie stretched and slumped back in his couch looking up at he big holoscreen that fronted the Fountain terminal. The face of a man with curly hair and a long, handlebar moustache—much the rage among Arcadian aristocracy__ flashed in the screen. The logo that inched across it said:

Jonny Tripod in Speru and the Seraphian Stone—A Mammoth Production—if it ain’t Mammoth it ain’t big.

Jonny Tripod, thought Arnie. Me and mine aren’t the only refugees from other worldlines. When is Jim Glimmis and his oversized company gonna get done with those awful Speru stories?

And Jonny Tripod__ex-adult movie star. One of his ringers had died on Arnie's homeline. After making one last flick called Jonny Tripod Has Risen From the Grave. Of course that title had been given it six months after his death.

Arnie knew Glimmis. Sometimes Glimmis helped the Watch. He was very charitable when he wasn’t helping himself.

Unlike Pinky Arnie was into fandom and he hated Speru—with a passion. He had once taken a girl he really liked to see a Jonny Tripod film and was rewarded for the effort. Too bad he's wasting his time doing Speru shit now,

some folks think that keeping your clothes on to do crap is more noble than taking them off to do porn.

Tripod was hung like an elephant__hence his stage name. But he was tone death as an actor. Arnie believed that people should follw their first best talent.

Arnie rubbed his eyes and looked down at the doors of the terminal. A big man in a rugger shirt came out.

“How about him?” asked Pinky.

The man Pinky pointed to was blonde and heavy set but there was no disguising the way he moved. Arnie had known the father and that was the way Toreus the Slayer had moved in his prime. Like a cat. A big cat.

And this big cat was stepping right into the heart of the action. Some of the spacers were already scuffling with some of the students and a man in a Mr. Brick jacket tossed a flaming bottle full of flammable liquid at a parked car.

Leave it to an ass that’s a Mr. Brick fan, thought Arnie. Arnie really hated that cartoon, too. A talking brick with a high pitched squeaky voice. Those people have got bricks for brains.

The Vhans were mixing it up with the kids now. The Mr. Brick guy went down and cracked his head on the pavement waylaid by the butt of a Vhan KV-4 rifle.

A big Jovian—like there was any other kind—in a rugger shirt that was a shade lighter than his green complexion, picked a Vhan up and tossed him into his squaddies. It looked like a game of nine pins to Arnie. And it would have been funny had the Vhans not raised their lethals and taken aim.

The cops didn’t see Toreus fall into a crouch. Nor did they notice the shimmer of the plasma shields around his forearms—like big wavering haloes.

No knife but the shields could be formidable if someone pushed you with them. Cold plaz could deflect a bullet or bend an energy charge that was travelling less than the speed of light. Mere people it could knock on their arses.

In quick succession the Prince knocked one cop after another down stunning them with the powerful wall of plasma that flashed each time it made contact with their personal shields and armor.

The big man ducked low as a Vhan discharged his rifle at him. He swung his leg around and knocked the cyborg's feet out from under him. The merk sprawled on the ground.

Yeah, concluded Arnie, he was The Slayer’s son all right. He’d seen that kind of action before. It was signature. The kind of catlike agility and fighting style that lion men learned from childhood.

“Let’s roll,” he said and cut in the engine.

Pinky activated the power cell in the caseless ammo loaded Assault Rifle.

Toreus sized up the situation quickly.

The Vhan riot police were armed with lethal weapons and they were going to use them on the Jovian rugby player. He could not just stand by and let that happen. It was against his nature not to get involved.

He activated his shields and waded in knocking cops right and left like a humanoid triceratops. Compared to Toreus the

Vhan were weak children. Only their numbers would give them an edge.

He ducked the rifleman's aim and swept his legs out from under him with one of his own muscled extremities. The Vhan wewnt down with a stunning plop.

Two more mercanries charged at him as he popped back to his feet. He punched both of them to the chin and sent them wheeling back to trip over their own heels.

This was not the time for him to use lethal violence. The Vhan might be like an army of flesh and blood bots but if you killed one of them every other Vhan on the plate would make it his life goal to hunt you down. That was the way they were. They were stupid pinhead cyborgs but nonetheless they were a pinhead cyborg brotherhood.

Ahead and left, said the Guider.

The warrior prince plowed into a Vhan with a drawn sidearm and knocked him over atop the wounded man in the Mr. Brick jacket.


The warrior whirled to face a cop that had come up behind him with an aerosol can of vomit gas and walloped him hard with the shield on his right sleeve. The man flew back and landed across the melons in a veg stand.

The frutis rolled everywhere and the Vhan came to a rest in a bed of crushed pulp and rines,

Right and left, warrior,

Two more cyborgs attacked Toreus from two sides. The Prince hit them in a one two action.

Both victims were rendered unconscious. Getting hit with a Cold Plasma sheaf tends to shock one as well as knock him over. There was an electrical discharge when the plasma hit metal or human ungrounded flesh.

Toreus retried the spray cannister and empited it inot a chanrging cloud of Vhans. They were masked so the gas had no efect save to smear their visors.

Now he had become the focus of attention of the army of riot cops and they were all converging on his location to stomp him senseless.

Toreus whirled and cleared legs out from under attackers. He was in full combat mode now, the Guider directing him to punch and kick at the hordes of enemies that fell upon him.

Six low. Warrior—high seven—ten.

His muscles flexed with incredible augmented might. The slow and stupid Kai’Vhan were tossed around like rag dolls.

But there were too many of them and they were fixing to pile onto him. Even the severely injured ones still had fight in them. They had no sense of self preservation. Not a gram.

That was when the taxi cab pulled between Toreus and the Vhans and stopped. A pink Jovian with an automatic weapon—a Zeke__ emerged from the shotgun seat and fired wildly at the Vhans, bullets striking their armor with little or no harmful effect.

The bullets were frangibles that broke up on contact with the shields and armor. Not lethal to anyone using a shield but causing a barrage of blinding flashes to the wearer blanking out their visors and putting blobs of color in their field of vision. Like a hail of tiny flashbang grenades.

“In the car, sir,’ said the pink Jove

The back gull wing door of the yellow taxi flew open and the pink man pushed Toreus into it.

By now some of the rioters had retreaved Kai'Vhan weapons and were firing at the soldiers as they themselves beat a retreat from the mall.

A rain of flaming bottles showered dwon from surrounding roofs. The riot was progressing to a firefight.

No sooner were the prince and the pink man inside the vehicle than a plasma pulse erupted from the vehicle’s right side, barreling the angry Vhans over and sending several flying into the produce stands and lunch wagons along the plaza.

The pulse threw out a wall of cold plasma in a widening bubble on that side of the vehicle. It mowed down anyone whose shield had not activated. It also pushed some of the mobile snack carts over and into the crowd of soldiers.

One cart that had a charcoal grill in it upended and the grill exploded. Grease splashed across several Vhans.

A mushroom cloud of charcoal smoke rose into the night.

The gull wing door closed and the grizzled driver called out. “Welcome to Newer London, Your Highness.”

“Ernie Vincenzo as I live and breath,” laughed Toreus.

“No,” said the driver. “I’m his brother Arnie—from United Earth worldline. It’s a common mistake.”

“Are you Toreus Rhann?” asked the pink man.

He was not a full blooded Jovian, Toreus could see that now. He was a hybrid—probably part Homo sapiens sapiens.

“Let me introduce you to Pinkston Tam, my Numero Uno Outrider.”

Toreus removed the holomask. “I am Toreus Rhann.”

Arnie’s hack was full of illegal goodies.

That’s because it was not so much a cab as an undercover vehicle of the Doom Watch Society.

There were the Cold Plasma shields and there were the levitation generators—both magnetic and dark energy paragrav. High altitude flying cars were outlawed in most cities of the United Kingdom or limited to low hover. Newer London was no exception. But sometimes you needed an edge to escape the bad guys.

So Arnie cut in the paragravity drive and rose straight up as Vhan’s fired their pistols and carbines to no affect into the CPS of the vehicle.

He could see his passenger looking over the back of the seats with a surprised expression shortly being replaced by one of amusement.

Then the big guy and Pinky were pushed back into the couches as Arnie hit the drive and the car zoomed forward.

The taxi had antigravity, Toreus realized just before the force of acceleration punched him back into the seats.

This was no ordinary cab and the driver was no ordinary cabbie. He’d met Arnie’s brother Ernie__his ringer actually__ a while ago. This fellow could have been his twin, save that he did look a little younger. Inter-Worldline doubles__or ringers to use the slang term__ need not be the same age nor need they come from the same era. But in the Vincenzo clan all Vincenzos from all worldlines—no matter what—were looked upon as family. After all versions of yourself from alternate worlds all had the same genes. Just different life histories and different memories.

The vehicle came to a hover and settled to ground in an alley. It was a dark quiet alley far from the riot at the Fountain base.

The driver grinned at him from the front seat. ”One more gag, boss.”

Arnie put the vehicle in drive and rushed toward a wall covered by an old fashioned billboard. The billboard showed two women kissing in some long forgotten add for a sex club.

Just before the car would have struck the wall it slid open separating the lovers and the hack entered a big garage. The door slid closed behind it and bioloom globes unmasked shedding light over a line of parked vehicles—several of them cabs.

The cabby’s hands flew over a panel beside his couch and the color of the vehicle changed from yellow to black. No doubt the registry plate and transponder signal had also changed.

“This is a Watch safe house,” said Pinky.

“Yeah we should be safe here,” said Arnie as he opened the door of the cab and got out, stretching his portly frame.

He took his yellow peaked cap off his head and scratched his balding pate and grinned an impish grin in a mouth lined with big teeth.

“It’s good to be at the service of a Rhann again, Sire. I’ve worked with your Da. You look a lot like him.”

“Family resemblance,” laughed Toreus as he and Pinky got out of the back of the hack. ”My brother, Theseus looks more like him only shorter.

“Were you waiting for me or are you just rare volunteers?”

“A little of both. We work for Doom Watch and my bosses sent me to make sure you got to your next destination safely.”

Bosses, mused the Prince. Was Arenjun Sarkhon involved in this? Or was it some other Time Sorcerer?

Ask rather was there anything on Terra Prime that the Sarkhons were not involved in? Guild restrictions to the contrary.

For the first time since volunteering for this mission Toreus was beginning to realize how deep he was in and how big the stakes were. He wasn’t just here to rescue two kids and a woman. He was in the middle of a civil war and that someone—no doubt one of his family’s allies—was manipulating the hatred and resentment already neck deep in Arcadian society.

What are we into here, Da.? Do you even know?

Kothar junior was charged with covert operations for the Privy Council. He was not required to report all his actions to the Emperor—for the Emperor’s protection. He was also a swarn member of the Watch.

If worse came to worse it would be Kothar Khonn junior who fell and not the Emperor and his councilors. That was the way that things worked in the secret world. Good people were paid to do bad things and then fall on their swords if they failed.

A bit of sadness for his boyhood friend washed through the Lion Prince and he quickly shook it off.

I’m behind enemy lines now and there is no turning back. I will save the Taylors and then find out just what my father’s Privy Council and the Doom Watch are up to here.

Very well, warrior, said the Guider who had been silent until then.

I’m glad you agree, Old Ghost.

It was then that a slim young woman with big dark eyes and black hair entered the room.

She wore a black leather jump suit that clung to her well turned body and a small black version of Arnie’s cabby hat wreathed in her curly dark hair. The zipper of the suit was open low enough to reveal a sumptuous amount of olive skinned cleavage.

In short she was quite a looker. She smiled at him.

“Ah, Nikki,” Arnie said to the girl. “Glad you’re here.”

“Where else would I be, Unk?” said the girl.

The cabbie gestured toward the girl. “This is my niece by my younger brother, Joe—Dominique Vincenzo—Nikki for short.”

Hello,” Toreus said. “I’m Toreus.”

The girl laughed. “Isn’t that a kind of wood screw?”

Toreus squinted. “Actually in ancient Thuvian it means warrior.”

“Mine means Lady,” the girl said. “You don’t look old enough to be the Emperor of Pangea.”

“Naw,” interrupted Arnie. “He’s the Prince—heir to the throne. Capo di tutti capi in Thuvia. She’s from off line, Your Highness. She doesn’t know the ropes yet.”

“It’s alright,” Toreus said. “I’m from The Sphere and I don’t know all the ropes yet either. I am pleased to meet you, Lady.”

“Call me Nikki,” she said and winked. “All my friends do.”

“Nikki,” nodded to the Prince. “In public you have to call me sire. But amongst friends I’m Toreus.”

“The wood screw,” she laughed.

“The warrior,” he corrected. Hormonal coding deep within him made him wish that he could spend several days getting to know this luscious female. But he did not have those days to spare.

“We got business,” insisted Pinky. “Boss.”

Toreus Rhann could see that the pink Jovian did not appreciate his attention to Nikki. Was there some sort of understanding between them that the uncle was not aware of?

“Yeah, we do,” said Arnie.

“Very well, Arnie,” said Toreus Rhann, once again uncomfortably jolted back into his role as Prince. “Take me to the nearest jump point terminal and then you can report back to your boss mission accomplished.”

“We should wait until the hunt for my hack cools off,” said Arnie. “Meanwhile we can get you a change of Idents and clothes and have a cuppa.”

“Could you brew us some joe, Nikki?”

“Girl’s work, Uncle Arnie?”

“You do a better job at it than me,” Arnie shrugged. “Mine could take the paint off a starship hull.”

Nikki shrugged and turned away toward the pantry.

“We’ll use Nikki’s hack car and Dominique will take yez where you’re goin”

“Sounds good,” said the Prince of Lions—guiltily happy that the girl would be the driver. “Lead on.”

Arnie nodded and led them to an elevator that took them two floors up to an apartment behind the Vincenzo Cab Company office.

Nikki was wearing an apron and had removed her cap. She was carrying a tray of cups from the beverage maker in the kitchen.

“Nikki is proficient as a driver and has many other talents,” said the cabby.

“Yes, I can see that,” said Toreus.

The girl smiled at him. His father was cautious whenever he dated common girls. The Prince of Thuvia and the Imperial Heir could not be wed to a commoner. Royalty had to wed other royalty—that was politics in a monarchy.

Toreus’s mother reminded the Emperor that she was herself not born to the purple.

The Emperor reminded her that a sister of the Magdalene Order was above the purple.

His Ma wanted him to marry for love and to be happy. Da knew that his son would have to marry a royal. That was the way the Imperial cookie crumbled.

Toreus was not looking to marry just yet. There were too many women in the world that he had not met just yet. He was only twenty-two standard years old.

Just then several bright flashes lit the sky beyond the window and there was the staccato sound of automatic weapons firing and the single pops of rifle shot.

The girl looked away and Toreus was suddenly alerted out of his musings about her.

The first shots of a civil war, thought Toreus. By morning it will be a full out fracas.

“The Crown has declared martial law and a curfew,” said Pinky. “That means that they’ll be putting robo-snipers in high places around town and the hell with anyone who didn’t get the word to stay off the streets.”

“They’ve already started that in Nippon town,” said Nikki. “A friend of mine was shot just last night.”

“Nice folks those Wallaces,” said Toreus.

“Locals who don’t respect them call them Wallies,” said Arnie.

Toreus laughed. “Nice folks those Wallies.”

.Arnie laughed. “Always a pleasure to work with a Rhann, Sire.”

“Call me Toreus,” laughed the Prince.

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