220 - The Rainbow Connection

The bubble of locally stable reality darts through a shifting geometric landscape of color - the emotional loom of the universe. Earth falls away behind them immediately, then the Sun, then the Solar System as a whole. The three Concordance agents are levitating, legs folded together, arms out, fingers configured in complex gestures that control the bubble-ship. Behind them, Jordan occupies her own smaller bubble. She’s kneeling, and pouting, and trying to burn a hole in the back of their heads with sheer indignation. It’s not working. So far.

“Where we goin’?” she demands.

“We are going to another planet to perform a Tribunal,” Red answers.

“Whassa Tribunal?”

“You will be tried for the crime of collaborating with the Void Shadow Collective, an enemy of the Concordance.”

“Thas’ dumb. I’ve been princessin’ and that helped people.”

“You were acting as an agent of the Collective. That is your crime.”

“That’s double dumb.” Jordan crosses her arms. “My dad’s a cop, an’ he doesn’t arrest people for doin’ good stuff for other people.”

“Would your father arrest a known criminal, even if that criminal was assisting others?”

Jordan thinks this over. “Prob’ly? Like, are they still a crim’nal, or did they get sentenced an’ get let out?”

“This conversation is not productive,” murmurs Green.

Jordan doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo. “My dad says everyone gets an attorney, even scum. I wanna attorney.”

“It’s going to be a long trip,” observes Blue, very quietly.


The first thing Adam does, after watching the Trio abduct his little sister, is pull out his phone.

He doesn’t want to have to do this. He really, really doesn’t.

“No powers in the house” was a rule, and he followed it, but the rule was meant to stop things like this.

How did I know Jordan would be kidnapped by supposed heroes?

He calls his mother.

After seconds of ringing the call goes to voicemail.


“Mom, it’s Adam. Some Concordance guys took Jordan. It’s complicated. I’m going to get her back. I promise.”

He makes the next call, and dreads the sound of his father’s voice saying “Hello?”

“Dad, hi, it’s Adam. Is now good?”

Nassir Amari works at a job where his life is regularly at risk. Adam hopes he’ll understand.

“Now’s fine, Adam.”

“Listen, dad, uh… the Concordance Trio, they uh, they took Jordan away.”

Adam hears his dad’s voice harden instantly. “Took away where, son?”

“Into space. Listen, dad–”


“Dad, I’m going to get her back. I’m leaving right now. I won’t let you down.”

Nassir’s tone shifts into paternal protectiveness. “Adam, are you sure you can handle it by yourself? There’s still HHL members, maybe one of them should take care of this. The Concordance is some kind of authority in space, isn’t that right?”

Adam glances up at Harry with worried eyes. Harry, in turn, seems to sense the problem, and beckons for the phone. Adam hands it over.

“Mr. Amari. Harry Gale here. We’re going with Adam to help out.”

He realizes he said ‘we’, and glances backward at A10, TK, and Armiger. A10 gives him a disgusted “why-are-you-even-asking-of-course-we’ll-come” look.

He smiles briefly at them, unable to express his appreciation properly, and turns his focus back to the phone. “Sir, Adam’s very capable. But we’ll be there to watch out for him. I’m going to put him back on.”


It’s Adam’s turn to give Harry a fast, powerful glance of gratitude. “Hi Dad, it’s me again. I left voicemail with Mom. Just in case, can you let her know?”

“I will. Come back safe, Adam.”

Adam hangs up and lets out a long sigh. That went better than expected.

A thought hits him. “Hey, I can take myself, but I dunno if I can take you guys into space with me.”

Harry holds up a hand. “I got that covered.”

The five heroes are inside the Park Tech hangar. Owned and operated by noted space veteran Ki-woo Park, and funded partially with Quill money, the hangar was an unassuming but vital part of the HHL’s journey into space.

The team were welcomed by Lisa Park, Ki-woo’s daughter, who now explains the ship they see before them.

“The Vanguard was actually the first ship we put together and sent beyond the Solar system. We used it to prototype the ship the HHL used, the Sunjumper. We’ve been keeping it behind in case other HHL members need to follow, but it sounds like you folks have a pretty important need of your own.”

Harry, who has had this tour before, and Adam, who doesn’t even have his driver’s license, stay back a bit. Armiger, Telekinetian, and A10 all seem much more interested in the details of Lisa’s presentation.

“Hey, Harry, you don’t need to come along.” Adam worries he’s going to sound ungrateful, and it isn’t that. He’s too grateful for what Harry’s group has done already. How can he ask for any more?

Harry’s hand lightly falls on Adam’s shoulder. “It’s okay, man. Family is family.”

He glances over his shoulder at A10, realizing what he’s saying. She’s caught wind of the conversation and took a break from the presentation to watch.

“Why are you three coming along, anyway?” Harry asks.

“We like you, dork, and hanging out with you is fun.” A10 grins, mimes a dope-slap at Harry’s head, and goes back to Lisa’s explanation about the food synthesizers.

The Vanguard lifts out of the hangar on silent electromagnetic thrusters. Harry, as the only one who’s actually been trained on the ship’s systems by the HHL, is piloting. TK, by dint of picking up the demonstration the fastest, is co-pilot and systems operator. A10 and Armiger are relegated to the passenger seats.

Adam is technically the navigator, operating the third crew station. He doesn’t really get this tech. But he’s got an emotional thread connecting himself to Jordan, and to the Trio. Nobody else knows where to go.

The ship clears atmosphere around the same time that Ki-woo Park comes on the radio. “Smooth sailing to you.”

As sysop, TK takes the call. “Thanks to you, your daughter, and your company, sir. We’ll bring her back in one piece.”

“Coming up on the Kepler Accelerator,” Harry announces. “Any time, Adam.”

Adam closes his eyes and focuses his emotional awareness on how he feels. He misses his sister, and wants to find her. He’s angry at the Trio, and wants to confront them. He finds the energy, and lassos it in two directions. Backwards, toward the PATH Engine - standing for Park-Aiken-Thorne-Hawking, four pioneers of black hole travel tech. Forward, toward the Accelerator.

The Vanguard drinks greedily from the Accelerator’s stored potential through a pencil-thin channel of energy projected by the satellite. A white light engulfs the little vessel, and it and its occupants disappear from the Solar system entirely.

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The Trio’s reality bubble merges with a congeries of larger such bubbles, floating in the vastness of interstellar consciousness.

In human language, this station is known as the Orion Schema. It oversees Concordance activities throughout nearby space - a radius of perhaps 3,000 light years’ distance. In this place between both stars and souls, thought is at a low density - a single quale per cubic centimeter. If one bent a good enough telescope toward Earth from the Schema, they could watch moments from the Early Medieval period playing out. But all such influences are far away, allowing the Concordance’s emotional energies to operate unimpeded.

Concordance warriors are trained here. Psycho-astronomers listen to the eons-long mutterings of stars through telepathic telescopes. Alien artists have their residence in some of the outlying bubbles, creating new and original works by sculpting gamma-ray bursts. Most importantly of all, prisoners and repossessed artifacts can be taken here, to be kept secure.

“We’re not taking her,” the warden explains.

“But this is a Void Shadow agent,” protests Honesty. “She’s dangerous.”

“She appears to be safely confined, and not resisting,” the warden observes. Jordan, meanwhile, is pounding and kicking the inside of her personal bubble.

“She’s being remanded for Tribunal,” points out Compassion. “Shouldn’t we be following protocol?”

“Listen, you three are new, so I guess I have to explain this.” The warden shrugs his shoulders and sighs - newbies! - and settles into his office chair. “We’re keeping Karkath the Moon Eater here. This is taking up 83% of our isolation capacity just by itself. The rest of the cells are holding unvetted refugees from Rigel and surrounding stars, or actual criminals like Zaxelis, Kwa Benga, or Om the Face Flenser.”

The warden glances at the holographic manifest the Trio provided. “Whereas this is… Jordan Amari, aka Princess Peri, a young child from your planet.” He looks up, aiming a withering stare at the three. “I can make room, but I’ll be adding a note that you three are so incompetent that you can’t look after an alien child yourselves. You want that on your record?”

The three look at each other, visibly uncomfortable. “No, it’s fine,” says Valor at last. “We’ll put her up in our quarters or something, until Tribunal.”

The warden leans back in his chair. “Glad you see it that way. Now scram.”

Inside her bubble, Jordan smirks in vicarious victory.

Valor is the first to play host to Jordan. The Trio split up at a junction within the Schema’s residential area, and Valor escorts Jordan’s bubble down a passageway and through an apparently solid wall.

Beyond the wall is an apartment of sorts. Jordan recognizes most of this stuff. It looks like Earth furniture, but … weird? Wrong? Like how someone imagines an apartment is supposed to look, but they got a lot of little details wrong?

Jordan watches the weirdo Agent do something with some kinda floaty light thing. “Security parameters established,” comes a voice. Then two things happen. First, the bubble around Jordan pops, plopping her on the carpeted floor. Second, the Agent armor disappears, leaving a young human woman behind.

“Bathroom’s that way,” she says, pointing.

Jordan, scowling, goes that way. When she comes back, she’s stomping, fists curled angrily.

“Take me back to Adam!” she demands.

“No,” says Valor. She shrugs, and flops down on a purple polka-dotted couch.

Jordan rushes her, fists swinging. Valor takes the hit without flinching, then pulls Jordan into an uncomfortable head-lock.

“Do that again and I’ll twist your head off your neck,” she mutters.

Jordan struggles, but knows the battle is lost. “You suck!” she shouts.

“Yeah, I know.” Valor releases the lock, and lets Jordan stumble away.

Jordan takes a moment to regain her poise. “Why are you three doin’ this?”

Valor shrugs again, but doesn’t seem interested in elaborating.

Jordan tries going back through the wall, but it’s as solid as one would expect. “How’d you do that?”

“What?” asks Valor, without looking up from the couch.

“Go through the wall!”

“Dunno. Concordance magic.”

“What’d you do with Anty?”


“Anty! My voice.”

Valor pauses. “Oh. Your shard. It’s sealed.”

“Well unseal it! I wanna talk to Anty.”



Valor snorts. “You’re a pain.”

Jordan changes tactics. “Adam’ll come for me! He’s gonna make you sorry!”

“I’m sorry already. Now shut up.”

“I’m bored,” announces Jordan.

Valor does nothing.

“Gimme a book.”


“Lemme watch Disney.”


“I’m hungry.”


“I’m dyin’ of hunger!”


Jordan stamps her feet. “You’re stupid! Stupid stupid stupid.”

Valor has been laying on the couch, arms folded behind her head, legs crossed. Now she sits up. “You shouldn’t say stupid.”

“Well ya are!”

“Nah. I mean, it’s a bad word.”

Jordan’s confused by that. “Well yeah, tha’s why I said it. Not gonna call you good words.”

Valor sighs. “Listen. There’s people with learning disabilities or mental issues. They have trouble reading. Thinking. Understanding people. Whatever. But people called them ‘retard’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘spaz’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’. They make up words to hurt someone for something that’s not their fault. And it’s hurtful to call other people that, because you’re saying ‘you are no better than someone with a mental disability, and that is bad’. You see how that’s bad, don’t you?”

Jordan has heard something like this before, but isn’t sure she got it at the time. “So I just gotta call you somethin’ else?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“Like what?”

Valor shrugs helplessly. “Annoying. Obnoxious. Uncool. Dorky. Whatever.”

Jordan takes this to heart. “Okay. Well… you… you took me away from Adam, so you’re super dorky!”

“I can live with that,” says Valor, rising from the couch. “Maybe shoving food in your mouth will shut you up. Come on, I’ll make sandwiches.”

Jordan is on board with sandwiches but is still pretty pissed off. “I won’t talk with my mouth full, but after that, no promises!” she declares.


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Jordan kept her promise. She wolfed down the sandwiches, then started shouting again. This has landed her back in her bubble, and in another set of quarters.

“I’m Compassion,” says the Agent. They have not removed their armor, even in their own quarters.

“You’re a big…” Jordan is good at learning lessons, and so searches her vocabulary for something appropriate that won’t be a bad-as-in-bad-to-use word. “Meanie.”

Meanie sucks. I need better bad words. When I’m older I can use all of the really bad words, but not now.

“I suppose you’d think so,” the Agent says with a shrug.

“Lemme go home.”

Compassion shakes their head. “I’m sorry, Jordan, we can’t do that. You really are a Void Shadow Agent, so we have to take precautions. You’ve got a very dangerous power.”

“I’m a princess!” shouts Jordan. “I help people!”

The Agent shakes their head again, but it’s less decisive, more confused. “Who are you helping? You’re the enemy of the Concordance.”

Jordan ticks off people on her fingers. “So first there was the construction guy, an’ a woman who made toys, an’ a dancer, an’ someone at the bakery, an’ a bike messenger. They all had negative energy an’ turned into monsters, so I saved 'em with Perfect Purification. Plus, I stopped a robbery which woulda made people sad if their stuff was taken.”

She looks at Compassion through narrowed eyes. “An’ then you three messed it all up. You’ll be sorry.”

Compassion tilts their head. “Why would you want to help people? You’re a Void Shadow Agent.”

“You keep sayin’ that, but why is that bad?”

“Well, because you’re the enemies of the Concordance.”

Jordan remembers the stresses her big brother has endured. “An’ why is the Concordance the good guys?” she demands.

Compassion pauses.


The Agent stiffens slightly. The voice of feeling they had a moment ago is gone, replaced with a monotone. “The Universal Concordance is a galaxy-wide organization dedicated to upholding the cosmic Virtues of Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, and Humility.”

Jordan’s tone is acid. “Whicha’ those lets you kidnap little girls offa’ their planet?”

The same monotone answers without hesitation. “Justice. It is axiomatic that the existence of life as a whole is superior to its nonexistence. The Virtues are self-evidently beneficial for the flourishing of life in the galaxy. The Void Shadow Collective is dedicated to undermining the cosmic Virtues, as demonstrated by their antagonism toward the Universal Concordance, which upholds them. The Virtue of Justice demands that we defend life, hence oppose its enemies. Hence we oppose the Collective. As you are a member of the Collective, we exercise our right to protect life by apprehending you.”

This is a lot of big talk. Jordan thinks she gets it. She doesn’t like it, but she gets it. “How was I hurtin’ life or whatever by purifyin’ people of bad energy?”

“We cannot vouch for the authenticity of those actions. It is your affiliation with the Collective which merited your apprehension.”

Jordan peers up at the Agent. This sounds like how it is when Anty talks. Is this what I sounded like to other people?

She realizes she doesn’t like it very much.

“Is that you talkin’, or is that your voice?”

Compassion pauses again, a perplexed expression on their face. “Well… It’s the shard,” they admit. “They’re more eloquent than I am on big mission topics like that. I thought you’d want the best answer possible.”

“So I’m bein’ blamed for people I’ve never met, is that the size of it?” Jordan loves the phrase ‘the size of it’ and has wanted to use it since forever. This seems like the perfect moment. Everyone’s bigger than her, and ‘size’ makes her feel bigger in return.

“Well, yes.”

Jordan, hands on hips, stares defiantly up at the tall Agent. “For someone named Compassion, you’re pretty mean.”

The Agent actually looks hurt, and Jordan feels bad immediately. Not bad enough to take it back. Mom and Dad aren’t here to tell her to apologize, either. She’s not sure what she should do now.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

“No, no, it’s fine…” The Agent takes a seat on their couch. Even leaning over, hands on their knees, they’re tall, but Jordan thinks they’re somehow smaller.

Jordan grows apprehensive. “The Concordance seems pretty mean, but you’re not. I just wanna know what I did wrong. An’ nobody’s tellin’ me.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Jordan.” The Agent speaks, and realizing what they said, looks up, worry-stricken. “Look. Maybe you should talk to Honesty about this.”

Jordan feels like she messed up big time. “I’m sorry,” she says again. She’s not sure what else to do but repeat it. It doesn’t seem to help.

“I’m Kirk. To you, I’m sir.”

This Agent is the shortest, which makes Jordan happy. He’s also the bossiest and loudest. This annoys her immensely.

“Sir Kirk.”

“Call me sir.”

“Is Sir your first name?”

“My name is Kirk.” Jordan can tell he’s getting frustrated, and she’s secretly gleeful. But the secret to fighting an older boy is persistence. She’s learned this vital lesson in verbally sparring with Adam.

“Okay, Kirk.”

She can tell he’s given up on this part, and exults in her victory.

“Just keep your mouth shut, kid. I don’t have tolerance for your shit,” he growls.

Jordan mugs at him with her best ogre-goblin facial expression.

“Stop that.”

She sticks her tongue out, thumbs in her ears, fingers wiggling mockingly.

“I said stop that.”

Next is what she thinks of as the “booger-zombie” face, complete with one squinty eye and one wide open. Holding this too long makes her eyes water, but it’s worth it.

“Just… stop being stupid,” Kirk growls.

“You’re not s’posed to say that word,” crows Jordan. “It’s insultin’ to people with dish abilities.”

Kirk tries to go back to the book he was reading when Jordan was dumped on him. “Shut up, I said.”

“Make me.”

He balls up a fist, and for a moment Jordan worries he’s going to hit. Then she remembers the bubble around her. If she can’t punch through it, he can’t either, right?

The fist relaxes. “How about I eject you into space, then?”

Jordan isn’t actually sure what that would entail, so doesn’t really find it that daunting. But it sounds like he’s escalating, and she’s committing. “Then Adam would come and make you sorry for messin’ with me.”

She recognizes the flare of anger at the mention of her brother’s name. “SG4 would crush Adam Amari,” Kirk boasts. “He’s welcome to come here. We’ll hand him his ass in a hot minute.”

Jordan knows this kind of boasting. She’s on familiar turf.

“You ran away from Concord. So big. So tough.”

“Shut up!” roars Kirk, flaring with energy.

Jordan is really worried. She pushed too hard, too much, and knows it. There’s the bubble, but it’s in the control of these people, and they could just drop it. She freezes, unable to do anything but wait and find out what he does next.

Kirk throws the book across the room and stalks toward the bubble. “Listen. Adam Amari is nothing. If he wasn’t such a fuckup as an Agent, the Concordance wouldn’t have chosen us three. Him and his broken shard, him messing around with Keynomes which are off limits, him getting all the attention from the higher-ups, him being so special they put him in charge of a Tribunal for another broken shard. He’s nothing! Do you hear me? He’s nothing!”

“You’re cryin’,” Jordan points out, softly.

Kirk rubs his eyes in furious realization. “I am not!”

She senses a moment here, and she’s not sure if she should fill it. But she does.

“Why do you hate my brother so much?”

Kirk seems to remember himself. “None of your business.”

Jordan makes an important realization. “I’m in this bubble 'causa my brother. Not 'causa the Void Shadows. You just don’t like Adam.”

These words strike their mark with precision, and Kirk turns away, unable to look at her any longer.

She pushes forward. “Adam’s still parta the Concordance, isn’t he. If he’s so terrible at bein’ Concord, they’d kick him out, or tell him to stop, or whatever.”

Kirk wheels, and now Jordan can see glee in his glistening eyes. “Oh, that’s going to happen, you little punk brat. Adam’s gonna come here, where everyone can see. He’s going to try to rescue you, and then everyone will know what a fucking pathetic nobody he is. And then SG4 will be in charge of Earth. And I will personally rip that defective, useless shard out of him.”


What is the nature of the universe? What is the truth of reality?

Some people believe that all of existence is just the shadow cast by something else, something larger. That our three-dimensional experience is a hologram, created by a two-dimensional pattern on the bubble of some inconceivably large black hole’s event horizon.

At first the occupants of the Vanguard want to see what it’s like to travel faster than light. Movies like “Star Wars” and television like “Star Trek” prepared them for stars suddenly streaking past, as they leap forward. Nobody really expected the universe to just sort of fall away from them, like a bedspread falling off a clothesline and into a pile on the ground.

The PATH Engine is humming merrily along, untroubled by this development. Everyone turns away from the viewscreen, to look somewhere - anywhere - else.

“So uh, what’s your plan?” asks Harry.

“Plan?” Adam frowns. He doesn’t actually have one. Righteous determination got him this far, then drop-kicked him to the curb.

“Well these guys took Jordan, so they’re bad guys, yeah?” asks A10. “We punch bad guys. You don’t need a plan for that.”

Adam is relieved to hear TK answer, saving him the trouble of doing so.

“It’s more complicated than that. They’re members of the same organization, the Universal Concordance. Information is scarce, and the trio is rare.”

“How come you know about them?” A10 asks, turning her head.

TK shrugs winsomely. “Anyone going by the term ‘Rainbow Warriors’ has my attention. Alas, they turned out to be rather less interesting than advertised.”

A10 rolls her eyes. “Okay fine, they’re cops who are doing shady cop shit.”

Adam frowns. TK nudges A10 and whispers, “his dad, you know.”

A10 connects the dots and falls silent. Armiger fills in. “If this lot’s connected to you, Adam, don’t you know the ins and outs of how to deal with 'em? The Knights aren’t big fans of me, but at least I got some ideas on how to work around their bollocks.”

Adam sighs. “I only learned about the Tribunal process recently. That’s how I got Tau - my shard. So I don’t really know much.”

A crystal flickers to life above Adam’s shoulder. It speaks, the crystal flashing with every enunciated syllable. “I am Tau.”

The others blink in surprise. Only TK has the presence of mind to smile and speak immediately. “Hey there Tau. Say, maybe you know about this. How does the Concordance resolve internal disputes? What is this Tribunal?”

Tau flickers. “I am not familiar with the proceeding known as ‘Tribunal’.”

Everyone’s shoulders sag slightly.

“I don’t wanna do it, but…” Adam’s quiet voice fills the silent cabin of the Vanguard. “Jordan really did get some kind of power from somewhere. Probably the Void Shadow Collective, like the Trio said. Probably Sablestar. She’s the only one of them I know on Earth. If so, the Concordance will probably do something pretty bad, like seal Jordan away.”

A10 is appalled and pissed. “They can’t blame a fucking child for something like that. There’s no justice in that, Adam.”

“The Concordance can be… kiiiiiiinda strict about things,” Adam concedes with a frown. “They’re not really big on nuance or extenuating circumstances.”

“Well we’re just gonna have to figure something out, between now and when we get there,” announces A10.

There’s a ping on the console. Harry checks it, and announces the bad news.

“We’ve gotten there.”

The universe flips back into existence, and the enormity of Orion Schema fills the viewport.

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Jordan and Kirk have reached détente. She knows how to push his buttons (talk about Adam, mention that he’s short), but knows he can be pushed only so far before something bad might happen. Buttons therefore remain unpushed, and Jordan remains in her bubble.

It looks like Kirk’s victory, until the computer voice announcement plays. “Unregistered vessel approaching. Active Concordance Agents will rendezvous in the hangar to provide security.” And Jordan grins to herself as the first emotion she reads on Kirk’s face is fear.

Instead of radio communication, the Vanguard is hailed by a glowing green gemstone that appears, hovering in the middle of the cabin. “Identify yourselves,” it announces coldly.

“Adam Amari, Concordance Agent of Sol,” Adam says. “I’m here with friends.”

A green beam sweeps over Adam, then over the others.

“Identify the purpose of your visit,” the voice demands.

“I’m here because the Solaris Gamma 4 team took my little sister here.”

Seconds pass. The Vanguard’s crew look at each other, uncertain of what to expect.

“Access to the Orion Schema public areas is granted. You will be docked. Neutralize your controls.”

Harry shrugs. “That’s a better reception than I was honestly expecting.”

The Vanguard is drawn through the membrane of one of the larger bubbles by invisible forces and brought gently to rest on a hangar deck. There are around a hundred sentient beings in the hangar waiting for them.

Most numerous are the rank-and-file Agents and other Concordance personnel on the station at the moment. Organic beings, synthetic lifeforms, bio-constructs, energy patterns, and weirder incarnations of life are all present within their ranks. Each is here for their own purposes - training, mission briefing or debriefing, recreation, and so on - but all Agents are expected to be present at moments like this. If security is needed, they’ll help provide it. If it’s just a new situation, they’ll hopefully learn something from it.

Less numerous are the Vectors, the Concordance’s automated guardians. They’re technically robots but look more like ever-shifting accumulations of geometrically intricate CGI than metal humanoids.

Fewest in number are the Coordinators. These are the senior members of the Concordance, gifted with multiple personal Shards. Some are said to be millions of years old, while others possess an equivalent life experience thanks to the banked memories their ancient Shards provide them. They are the masters and overseers of Orion Schema and all similar stations around the cosmos. Not every Coordinator is here now, but enough are present to represent the Concordance’s interests and intentions.

The assembled Agents watch Earth’s visitors disembark. First is Adam, whose presence causes some whispered conversation among the assembly. He can see the trio of SG4 Agents within the crowd, all watching him. Compassion looks glum, Valor looks distant. He can’t read Honesty’s face through the mask he wears.

Second is A10. “Lotta reception for li’l ol’ us,” she remarks with a smirk.

Harry is third. “Just don’t start any fights without checking with Adam,” he advises her with a grin.

TK is fourth. “This entire place is just solidified psychokinetic energy,” he announces excitedly to his team. “I’ve got to experiment with this place.”

Armiger is last, with Excalibur out slung over his shoulder. His presence causes far more consternation than Adam’s, but only from the assembled Coordinators.

Three of them step forward. One, a tall humanoid with a shaggy mop of white hair, and robes of night dappled with radiant starlight, extends a withered finger at Armiger.

“Who are you?” the ancient demands.

Armiger blinks. “Uh. William Eddison, sir, Bill Eddison that is, aka Armiger.”

The elder looks to his peers, then back. “That is a Prime Shard. How did you acquire it?”

Armiger glances behind him, then back. “A what?”

“The weapon, boy! Where did you get it from?”

Armiger scratches his head. “Uh, well, I was chosen.”

The Coordinator reels. “Impossible!”

Adam raises a hand, signaling his team not to react. The others tense, but hesitate at the signal.

In their moment of indecision, another Coordinator snaps a confinement bubble around Excalibur, and it floats away from Armiger.

“Hey!” the young knight yells. The sword vanishes from the bubble, and returns to his hand.

“It is not possible!” announces the elderly Coordinator. “Vectors! Isolate and restrain the visitors!”

Suddenly, everything is in motion.

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Every Agent in the hangar is instantly warming up their best attack. But they can’t all unleash at once, because they’re all in formation - they’d be shooting through their own ranks. The ones in back take to the air. The ones in front, realizing perhaps that there’s potential friendly fire behind them, pause just a moment to check.

A moment is all TK needs. Orion Schema is composed of the same energy he manipulates, only it’s material. His powers work literally at the speed of thought. Before the massed wave of Concordance energy blasts reach the party, he’s raised a wall as tough as anything in the station to block it.

“A10, tank!” shouts Harry. “TK, CC. Armiger, deeps!”

The orders come from the MMORPG experience of Evan, TK’s boyfriend. A “tank” tackles big enemies and keeps the rest of the team from being hurt. “CC” is crowd control, keeping smaller enemies from becoming a bigger threat. “Deeps” is “DPS” or “Damage Per Second”. The group once joked about using these terms as battlefield language, and now Harry finds himself blurting them out in the chaos. He starts to run at super-speed, praying they get the idea.

They do. Several Vectors are on this side of TK’s barrier and are rapidly approaching the team’s position. A10, with her notable lack of fucks to give, charges headlong into the first of them and sends it spiraling. She launches herself off of it, into the second one. The other Vectors get the hint and start converging on her. Which is the whole point.

TK spins his barrier in place, using it like a huge board to slap away hordes of Concordance Agents. Many fly out of range before it hits, but many more are too slow and get knocked across the hangar. In the moment of disorientation, TK changes the shape of the barrier, drawing a new partition that isolates half a dozen of the Agents from the others.

These become Armiger’s targets. A rain of swords descends on the Agents out of nowhere, followed by triple blades each the size of a Buick. The Agents raise their barriers, but Excalibur slices through them like paper, and the surprised warriors of Virtue must physically dodge.

While the rank-and-file struggle to organize, the Coordinators are more prepared. One gestures, conjuring up a complicated holographic astrolabe to float before her. She manipulates it by moving fingers over its surface. TK suddenly finds his barriers disappearing, and he renews his effort to maintain control over the psychokinetic energy around him.

Through the gaps thus created, more Vectors fly under the direction of another Coordinator. Harry knows this is his job - notice and react to surprises. His team is counting on him to pick up the slack, so they can keep doing their jobs. But how?

Everything here is psychokinetic energy, TK said. Does that include these floating weirdos? Harry doesn’t want to bet on it. But if they’re energy… He sprints at super-speed into the Vanguard, yanks open the maintenance panel, uncoils plenty of the spare high-capacity power cable, and runs it just as quickly back out of the ship. Every loop he throws around a Vector takes microseconds. Back to the Vanguard, where he flips on the entire bank of switches that engage the PATH Engine. At these speeds, he can watch the switches physically toggle themselves into position and be impatient. But the wait is worth it. The hungry black-hole drive siphons power from any available source, and the Vectors are robot enough to feed its appetite.

He takes stock. A10 is being swarmed. She’s powerful against individual Vectors, but they’re able to coordinate with inhuman precision compared to the Agents beyond TK’s walls. “A10, go deeps!” he shouts. “I’m on these guys!”

She complies immediately, only to find the ancient Coordinator teleporting in front of her. “No more of your nonsense!” he cries, and A10’s engulfed in a containment bubble.

Instinctively, Harry glances around for Adam. But the young man is gone.

Probably to find Jordan. Fine.

Harry grits his teeth, and runs for more cable.

The warden isn’t part of the assembly turned brawl. He’s more than Agent, less than Coordinator, and must attend to his special duty. Now, that attention to duty is warranted. He watches his board as overall isolation energy drops from its usual 100% to 98%, then 95%, then 91%.

Throughout the Schema, cells are collapsing back into ether, freeing their occupants. Right now, this is fine - it just means the Rigellian refugees are being dumped into a boring gray void. They’ll have the same life support as the rest of the station, no worries.

The warden is more worried about the series of cells marked as having highly dangerous prisoners. And one in particular, Karkath the Moon Eater’s, has high priority on station energy. That one absolutely cannot be let out.

He begins emergency requisition of isolation energy from other parts of Orion Schema. Unoccupied residential areas, for example.

Kirk’s apartment blinks unexpectedly out of existence. Jordan finds herself looking at a rainbow-colored section of space, where the stars are distant but brilliant points shining through the cloudy tapestry.

She’s still in her bubble.

Oh. This must be what ejected into space means, she thinks.

I guess he really did it?

Jordan realizes she really doesn’t like this.

Where’s Adam?


Princess Bride you keep using that word

Prisoner Rover short

If there’s a cosmically dangerous prisoner in the containment cell in Act One …

1 Like

Also, nice combat scene.

Adam jets rapidly through outer space, following the curve of the unbelievably large sphere. The trail leading to Jordan is strong and growing stronger.

He finds her just beyond a gaping hole in the containment sphere of Orion Schema itself. She’s floating in her own little bubble, arms folded, face pinched in frustration.

“Get me outta here,” she grouses.

“I told Mom and Dad I’d bring you home,” Adam explains. “We might have to fight our way out.”

Jordan scowls more intensely. “Buncha awful people here. I wanna fight too.”

Adam inspects the layers of confinement the Concordance has placed on his little sister. “That may not be easy. How about we get you out of space here, and back to our ship?”

Jordan kicks the bubble, to zero effect. “Fine. This sucks.”

The three Coordinators have sent out priority override instructions. The massed Agents in the hangar are no longer independent operators, but extensions of the elders’ wills.

Harry has just finished coiling up all the Vectors to the Vanguard when he sees the first fruits of this unified battle strategy. The Vectors go into overload, flickering and cycling through their colors at breakneck speed. Sensing danger, Harry shouts “shield!” to TK. Just in time, the hero shapes the psychokinetic matter-energy of the hangar into a dome around them. The Vectors channel too much of their energy, too fast, into the Vanguard engine. The sturdy little ship is atomized, the explosion venting into outer space thanks to the assorted force fields protecting the hangar’s occupants.

“Least the drones are dealt with,” mutters A10.

“We may be next,” replies Harry, assessing the new status quo. In the wake of the blast, the Coordinators have taken control of the rest of the hangar’s energy - thanks to their control device - and the Agents are now surrounding them.

“TK, cut a hole in the floor. Get us out of here,” Harry orders.

The massed firepower, firing with laser precision at TK’s ultra-bubble, might have pierced it if the psychic hero had been a second slower.

Adam is leading the way back to the hangar when he sees the Vanguard’s remnant explode outward into space.

“Yeah! You guys show 'em!” shouts Jordan, not understanding what just happened but happy to cheer any destruction associated with Orion Schema.

Adam, on the other hand, realizes what’s at stake and what the team just lost. He knows he can get Jordan home. He’s not sure how to extract the others from the chaos inside.

“Hey Jordan?”


“Umm… Things might be kinda complicated right now. I know a lot of stuff happened to you pretty fast. But whatever happens next, I need you to listen to me and do what I say, okay?”

Jordan tilts her head. “You aren’t gonna give up, are ya? Those guys are mean.”

Adam smiles faintly. “I’m not gonna give up on you, Jordan. And yes.” He turns his eyes back to the station as a whole, thinking intently. “Those guys are pretty mean.”

The human heroes’ bubble falls through the station. Floor after floor - some wildly different than others in construction, layout, even height - whip past. The ceilings seal close above them as they pass.

Finally, TK stops the elevator to Hell.

Harry lets out a long-held breath and considers his options. He’s not a fan of how the rest of the team is still looking to him for ideas. This is just a bad place to be in, tactically. Their ride home is trashed. The objective of their mission is missing, along with the one hero who actually knows what’s up with the Concordance. They’ve got offense and defense teammates who can exploit the station’s nature, but Harry only has his speed and A10 her strength.

He feels defeated.

Before he can say anything, he feels A10’s hand on his shoulder.

“You didn’t fail. We aren’t dead yet.”

She’s reading him like a book, and Harry smiles in gratitude.

It’s at that moment that Adam pops out of nowhere, along with a bubble of energy containing his little sister Jordan.

“Hey guys,” Adam says with a smile. He glances at Armiger’s sword. “Hey, can you cut the bubble open with that?”

Armiger obliges, and Jordan is finally free. She looks up at Armiger, still scowling, and points at the sword. “Anty is bubbled too! Free Anty.”

Armiger glances at Adam. Adam glances at Harry. Harry looks back, expecting an explanation. Adam reflects that look back to Jordan in turn.

The girl siiiighs like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Antares Alpha One. Anty. My voice?”

“Your Shard?” prompts Adam.

“I guess?”

Adam looks curiously at Armiger. “You can do that?” he asks. “The sword can reach Shards?”

Armiger shrugs. “I dunno. Can it?”

Everyone kind of looks at each other.

Harry feels confidence well up inside him. “Yeah. It can,” he announces. “Armiger, do it. Adam, help him out.”

He has no idea, realistically. Attempting whatever this is could do anything.

Is it a lie to say it’ll work? Maybe. But it’s also hope. And hope is what gets people to do the impossible.

Right now this team needs hope.

Adam nods. “Okay. Jordan, I’m going to expand the containment bubble around your Shard. Right now it’s extradimensional, like it’s curled up in a little pocket of its own. This will bring it out into space. But I need you to think about Anty for me, feel something about Anty, some kind of emotion. Okay?”

Jordan’s face scrunches in concentration. “Ready,” she announces at last.

“They’re coming,” says TK, looking upward. “Better make this fast.”

The bubble emerges from Jordan, growing and growing. The boundary fluctuates and ripples, like a puddle of water children are splashing their way through.

“Cut it,” Adam commands, clearly straining to hold onto whatever he’s got.

Armiger draws Excalibur, and in a quick, clean slice the bubble pops.

Orion Schema itself parts to allow the Coordinators and the Concordance army to descend. They arrive, once again surrounding the refuge of Earth’s rescue mission.

“It is time for you to surrender, Adam Amari,” the elder Coordinator intones.

“Yeah,” Kirk says mockingly from among the gathered Agents.

Adam looks at the Coordinators. “I came to get my sister back. It doesn’t look like she’s been processed through Tribunal, and she wasn’t being kept in proper isolation, so she’s not officially guilty of anything yet. And you attacked us.”

“She’s a Void Shadow agent!” shouts Kirk.

The Coordinator takes note of this. “Aside from the unauthorized possession of a Prime Shard by a human, this is a serious charge. Adam Amari, you and your party have not acted in accord with the principles of harmonious conflict resolution.”

“Nor have you guys,” points out Adam. “You know, the Solaris Gamma 4 team just grabbed a scared little girl off the Earth. Then we show up to talk about it. But before we can do that, you try to take William’s sword away from him, and then you attack us when you can’t do that.”

He remembers the first time the SG4 team appeared, at the hospital. He remembers something Leo shouted at them. He remembers their encounters since then. Grudging cooperation at best. Snobbish superiority at worst. And it’s not like the rest of the Concordance has been much better.

The words come to him out of some deep place in his heart. “You know, for guys who talk a lot about Honesty and Valor and virtues and feelings, you sure are bad at feeling those things yourselves.”

Ripples of shocked conversation swim through the thronging Agents. The Coordinators glance at each other, and Adam’s not sure how they took what he said. He suddenly feels worried for having said it.

Worried, but not ashamed, he realizes.

“We are speaking now, as you wished. We can begin the process of Tribunal against Jordan Amari,” states another of the Coordinators, the one who operated the station’s force fields earlier.

Adam realizes this is not going to work out. Any kind of Tribunal will condemn Jordan, and then whatever shaky footing he’s on right now will fall away.

He hears Jordan’s voice, monotone, and recognizes a Shard speaking through its partner.

“Does the Concordance still recognize trial by empathy?”

Further waves of conversation descend on the Agents. The Coordinators don’t just glance at each other, but look intently to each other.

What curve ball did this Antares Alpha-One just throw here? Adam wonders.

“We do,” the elder Coordinator replies.

“I request trial by empathy. I charge the Solaris Gamma Four fusion with engaging in a personal vendetta against Adam Amari and using Jordan Amari to punish him by proxy.”


Adam doesn’t want to mess up whatever’s going on here. He asks Tau, but the training Shard is as ignorant as he is.

“I will explain,” says the elder Coordinator, and the room stills.

“In a trial by empathy, two participants struggle for their lives against each other. There are no rules. It is combat, with the goal of achieving victory by any means necessary. However, during the battle, the emotions and virtues of each combatant will be recorded and tallied. The winner of the trial is not the party that attains martial victory, but the party whose motives most closely align with the Virtues of the Concordance. Selfishness, cowardice, or deceit will be punished. Truth, compassion, and justice will be rewarded.”

The Coordinator now turns to Kirk. “As speaker for the Solaris Gamma-Four fusion, you may decline the trial. However, this will forfeit your right to pursue a Tribunal. As you have made some rather serious charges, we expect you to participate.”

Kirk is sweating - Adam can tell that much even without being able to see behind his mask. But pride compels him. “Yeah, fine, we got this,” he announces cockily.

The Coordinator turns his attention to Jordan. “As you have requested the trial, you will face the fusion. Are you prepared?”

A thought comes to Adam. “Hey. If Jordan is part of a fusion, can she fight with them?”

“Of course.”

Adam grins, and looks up at Armiger and down at Jordan. “I think this is a fight for all three of us.”


Adam is the only one who’s really done this before. Jordan is untrained, and seven, while until recently William had no idea his sword had anything to do with these weird chromatic space jerks. So he leads.

“Those guys are pretty tough. And I like Tau, but he’s not that strong. So we’re combining the best of all of us. My experience, plus Excalibur, plus Jordan 'cause she has to be involved.”

Jordan glares daggers at Adam. “Hey. Hey. I was princessin’ just fine before these goobers messed it all up.”

Adam holds up conciliatory hands. “Okay, okay. Alright, this will feel pretty weird, so just hang on…”

Kirk is resolute. His teammates, less so.

“We’re gonna fight that dork and we’re gonna win,” he announces.

“I was fine with messing with Adam, but we’re also going to be fighting Jordan,” protests Compassion. “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

“Yeah,” echoes Valor.

Kirk makes a spitting sound. “You two are afraid of a little girl?”

Valor grabs hold of his arm, and yanks him to face her. “Say that again,” she says in an icy tone.

Kirk isn’t sure he’s got enough guts to actually do that, so he pivots. “We’ve got every advantage. We just have to beat them, then the Coordinators will rule with us. We can let Jordan go back to Earth without that enemy shard, and Adam will get depowered. It’ll be fine.”

“I don’t think that’s how this works,” comments Compassion. “That is to say, how does this work?”

“How does this work, anyway?”

The younger Coordinator sends the thought via private mind-link, not wishing to appear ignorant in front of the assembled Agents.

The elder makes no outward sign, projecting the same reassuring vibe of authority. His answer is equally private, meant only for his fellows. “Trial by empathy is one of the first protocols devised by the Concordance for the administration of justice. Mortal danger is one of the few situations where one’s pretenses can be stripped away, exposing the Virtue - or lack of it - beneath. Fear of death shows us the real person, so to speak.”

“But we didn’t even know about it?” the other Coordinator muses. “It was discontinued for some reason.”

The elder’s mental message is the equivalent of a nod. “Indeed. Better protocols were established.”

“Then why allow this one? It feels risky and dangerous to me. Why are we even allowing it to go ahead?”

The elder’s eyes regard the Agents, all watching the pre-battle preparations. “To forbid it now would be to admit it was wrong. To suggest it was wrong would undermine the findings of every trial that was performed. To undermine our trials is to shake the universe’s faith in the Concordance.”

The eyes narrow, by the slightest degree. “And that would be unacceptable.”

The fusion is starting. Adam leads the way.

Jordan feels like she’s coming apart, at seams she didn’t know she had. There goes Anty - not stripped away from her, but more like floating nearby? There’s William, and the sword, and there’s Adam and what must be his voice, Tau.

The seams are re-stitched, but in new ways. It’s like, what if she took her dinosaur plushes apart, and sewed terra-dactal wings onto the tiramisu-saur? It’d be a terra-misu-dactal-saur.

That’s what she is now. She remembers a lot of things now, stuff she wasn’t aware of doing, like wielding a sword. She remembers weird confusing feelings toward a barista girl. She remembers having her own tiny little sister, and a big sister named Keri.

She remembers, rather than hears, Adam’s voice. “Alright, I think we’re doing okay. Tau?”

Tau’s voice is new, but familiar the way Anty’s is. Connection at 72.5% and holding. Neural dampening fields at full strength. Affective compartmentalization, gender armor, and emotional regulators are active.

Adam comes again. “Okay. We need more. What are we all here to do? We need to be aligned in purpose.”

“Beat up the bad guys!” Jordan remembers shouting.

“I just like a good fight,” William admits.

Jordan feels Adam rummaging. “Okay. William, sorry for intruding. But if these guys had kidnapped JC, and she asked them for an honor duel, you’d be her second, yeah?”

“Yeah. Oh, definitely.”

Adam’s next question is to Jordan. “You and me, we’re supposed to be heroes. A superhero and a princess, right?”


“So, does a princess just beat up bad guys?”

Jordan hates when he has a point. “No. A princess has’ta protect other people an’ do good.”

“What good are we here to do?”

She thinks. She remembers. “We’re here to show ‘em that Kirk an’ those others are wrong.”

Tau chimes in. Connection at 92%.

Jordan looks down at herself. What she sees is a humanoid figure, definitely very big and growed up, with some kind of silver armor on. She’s got a cape, too, and it billows and flows very dramatically, which is cool. And it’s got stars in it! It’s like she’s wearing the moon, and the night sky is behind her.

“Hey, bad news.” She remembers William saying this. “Excalibur’s sitting this one out. I’ve got the power, and whatever uh principal shard thing this is, but I don’t think you two are really worthy of wielding the sword.”

“What does worthy mean?” Adam asks curiously.

“Uh. You gotta be willing to fight, to lead, and to rule.”

“Oh yeah. Leading and ruling isn’t really my thing,” confesses Adam.

“Yeah, I’m a princess, I don’t really boss people around,” Jordan adds.

“What options do we have?” Adam asks.

It’s Jordan’s time to shine. “Lemme show you guys the full complement,” she crows.

Weapons, warps, shields, illusions, and other tricks of every kind present themselves to the consciousness of the trio. Adam and Jordan feel William’s experience as a warrior asserting itself, as he selects from the arsenal, starting with Jordan’s Continuum Sword.

“We ready?” the fusion asks itself.

They are.


The figure that stands before the Sol-Gamma-4 fusion is a Starry Knight. The Lunarmor glistens with reflected sunlight, and the cape is a vision of a distant night sky. The Continuum Sword shines, its edge blurry and indistinct in the glare.

“I am ready,” the Knight announces.

Inside SG4, three minds struggle to unify themselves in purpose.

Kirk has adopted the Dominant stance. Jack is playing Associate. Erin is ready as Antipode. This configuration is orthodox fusion strategy for a three-person combination. One leader, one follower, one person playing Devil’s advocate, ready to jump into the driver’s seat if the current tactic fails. If Kirk can’t hack it, Erin becomes the new Dominant and everyone plays musical chairs to find a new position.

Kirk may not be able to hack it. “Full power,” he’s arguing. “Just blast them. I don’t care how shiny that fusion looks.”

“We should be careful. We don’t have infinite power,” counters Erin. “We’ll win this. Why not do what you’re best at, and get a read on them?”

“Fine. Fine.”

“Every combat starts with a question,” William explains. “What’s the other fighter’s vibe? What’s their plan - their nature - their training? What will they bring to the fight? You answer that question with light sparring. Sword-to-sword. Take each other’s measure. A good fighter will hold back what they’ve got, rather than show all their cards.”

Affective scan initiated against us, warns Tau.

“I’m on it,” says Adam, grabbing hold of some of the shields. He wraps the fusion in a barrier, blocking Kirk’s first attempt at true-seeing.

“Just tell me when to stop holdin’ back,” Jordan shouts. She grabs hold of the sword, but William stays her hand.

“Here, let me show you how to use that.”

A Möbius strip, covered in rainbow hues, hangs in the air above and between the combatants. Sparks of energy emit from both fusions, and travel upward to ignite the colors of the strip. As the symbol accumulates this energy, certain colors begin to shine more and more brightly. The emotional truths of each fighter will be revealed soon enough.

Energy sparks in earnest as SG-4 launches itself at the Starry Knight, who leaps forward to meet its nemesis in turn. Swords clash. They don’t ring out as metal strikes metal. Rather, their impact creates a deep bass note that sweeps across the audience, and their separation is marked by a glissando upward to a bell-like sound.

The Knight’s sword is held at the defensive. SG-4 uses both shield and sword, blocking with one and striking with the other. A series of strikes, thrusts, cuts, and ripostes ensue, but nothing really lands, and both combatants retreat a few steps.

“They’re good,” comments Erin glumly.

“Better than us,” adds Jack.

“Shut up!” growls Kirk. “SG-4, you’re supposed to be this badass Concordance shard. Aren’t you good at swords too?”

I have been programmed with numerous martial techniques from cultures across the galaxy.

“Then why are we sucking?”

Lack of driving intent.

Erin gets it. “We gotta want to do something specific.”

Kirk growls again, but assents to the conclusion. “Okay. Posture change. Erin, I concede Dominant and adopt Associate.”

Jack slides into the Antipode role, and Erin takes over. If there was such a thing as “cracking her knuckles” in the psychic space the three occupy, she’d be doing it.

“They kinda suck,” is William’s assessment.

Adam is alert to the change in tactics. “Shields up!”.

Jordan is ready. “Shadow Shield!”

A hexagonal barrier appears before the Starry Knight, just in time to catch the surprise energy blast leveled at it by SG-4. But it’s not going to be all blasts - this is just a feint.

The Concordance fusion has four arms, and all four are now holding smaller swords. It leaps into the air in a high arc, and comes down with every blade extended. If the Starry Knight steps forward, SG-4 can simply lunge and stab. If the Knight moves left or right, swords on that side will slice. Moving backward will mean the two combatants crash into each other, and momentum is on the side of the falling fusion.

William, acting on sheer instinct and training, changes grip on the Continuum Sword and aims it upward, through the gap in SG-4’s blades. He can’t see it - but he knows it’s there, because it must be. And it is.

SG-4 brings its blades close to block the counterattack, giving the Knight time to whirl about and face its foe again.

“They stopped sucking,” William observes.

“They’re not using any ranged attacks,” Kirk observes, as Associate. “If we break that shield, we have them.”

Jack chimes in. “I’ll build up some power for a Dissonance Discharge. On your mark, Valor.”

Erin’s contribution is to keep up the swordplay. There’ll be time for talk later.

Jordan thinks she’s getting the idea. In fusion with William, she knows a lot more about fighting than she did as Peri. She’s not sure how to contribute yet. One thing she knows is he’s not using the full combat complement.

“Adam, can I do stuff?” she asks.

“Sure, like what?”

“Like… Oh, here we go.”

She meshes with William’s intent. Together, the two steer the Knight backward in a graceful leap, avoiding a flurry of slashes from SG-4. She visualizes the move, and William assents.

The Knight mirrors SG-4’s tactic earlier - a long, high leap. But this time, four Knights take to the air. Three are illusionary. SG-4 sees through the illusion, but it takes precious time. When the Starry Knight lands, it’s able to aim a thrust at SG-4’s vulnerable flank. It doesn’t connect, but the move shows promise.

“I get it!” William exclaims. “Like when I teleport between swords, almost. Thanks, Jordan!”

Jordan’s radiated happiness fills the fusion’s shared psyche.

The Coordinators watch carefully as the emotions of both fusions radiate outward to the Möbius Meter.

They note the Starry Knight’s technical proficiency. They note the positive emotional interplay. And they note the dry, technical way that SG-4 is handling the fight.

One of the junior Coordinators addresses the elder in the most private of mindlinks, with a daunting question.

“What happens if the child wins?”

There is a pause, and she wonders if she was truly heard.

The elder’s answer is cold, distant, steely. “If a Void Shadow agent should prevail, against our chosen champion, it would mark the end of the Concordance.”

“What can we do?”

The elder straightens up. “We do what heroes do. We do whatever we must.”

1 Like

Harry, TK, and A10 are watching the fight unfold.

“So it’s basically a street duelo,” comments A10.

TK and Harry look at each other, and back to her.

A10 glowers at the need to explain something to a couple of apparently un-hip people. “Two people mixing it up for clout. Could be freestyle, could be knives. If it doesn’t escalate, the loser loses face and goes home to rethink their life.”

“Cool. Does the loser’s circle of friends give the winner’s pals a ride back to their planet?” asks Harry, apprehensively.

A10 shrugs.

TK, meanwhile, has begun to look around. “Something’s happening to the energy of the station here. Weird.”

“What are you doing?” the junior Coordinator asks.

“Simply redirecting some of the Schema’s energy,” the senior one answers placidly. His hands are operating the astrolabe-like controls, out of view of everyone. A random Agent might happen to spot it - but all eyes are on the fight.

“Y’know how I said we need to break the shield?” Kirk asks. “Some energy is coming in.”

“Dissonance Discharge at 92,” reports Jack. “I usually cap out at 35. This is really going to leave a mark!”

Erin retreats from Dominant stance. “Snipe away,” she remarks. Kirk and Jack align, becoming a living machine to aim and fire a tremendous burst of energy.

The Starry Knight has gotten into its rhythm.

William is handling the mechanics of the Continuum Sword. Jordan keeps coming up with new tools and tricks. Adam rides in the back seat, so to speak, watching for enemy attacks and using his insight into the Rainbow Warriors to suggest strategy.

Adam has kept it to himself, but he’s realized Jordan’s strongest contribution here. For all his own heroics, he’s never really truly wanted to do this job. William Eddison, for all his worthiness as a knight and wielder of a holy sword, mostly seems intent on fighting good fights. The thing his little sister brings to this fusion, Adam thinks, is that she wants to be here, being a hero in her own very specific way. She’s too young now, but what about when she grows older?

His thoughts are interrupted by the awareness of a sudden, and very large, energy build up. “Big hit!” he warns the others. “Huge hit!”

William jinks the Knight left, leaping out of the presumed line of fire. The radius of the beam is enormous, and the evasion is barely enough to escape it. But mirror-like projections appear in the air, bouncing the blast back toward the Knight’s new position.

Jordan throws up a Shadow Shield. The Dissonance Discharge wipes it out. She’s too stunned by this failure to follow through, but Adam is ready, and starts raising other Shields in her place. The energy blast plows through them like they aren’t even there.

In desperation William aims the Knight at SG-4, hoping the beam will catch them once he dodges out of the way a final time. But he’s too slow, and the attack strikes the Knight’s left arm and leg.

“Anyone get the number of that truck…?” mutters William.

“Jordan! Jordan, are you okay?” calls Adam.

“Yeah…” She sounds emotionally hurt, and scared, and Adam’s worry for her grows dire. “Adam, that’s not fair. We’re s’posed to be the good guys.”

Available energy has been depleted. Shields will operate at reduced strength, announces Anty.

Adam catches the emanation of something from Tau, and prompts the shard to express it.

A great source of fear has been detected.


Tau draws Adam’s attention to the Coordinators.

“We did it!” Kirk exults. “Alright, team, while they’re down.”

Jack concurs. “There’s a lot of energy here. Let me draw some more…”

“They’re building up for another blast,” Adam reports.

“Excalibur could handle this, but without it I don’t have any good ideas,” William admits.

“Hey, Adam, Tau said fear. Is that like a negative energy?” Jordan asks. Adam can tell she’s still scared and hurt, but he can feel determination shining through as well.

“Yeah, all emotions are energy of some kind. Why?”

“I gotta idea. You guys, let me lead. Okay?”

Adam and William exchange unspoken checks of confidence. Neither of them have a plan. So, why not…?

“All yours, Jordan.”

“Yeah, do your thing, kiddo.”

Jordan pouts. “I’m not a kiddo, I’m a princess. Now watch.”

The build-up of the beam comes. Jordan squints. She can see the energy of the blast, an undifferentiated mass of white-colored power. But at the center of it, like a tiny thread blowing in a gale-force wind, she sees what she is looking for.

There’s something Anty told her, long ago, and it stuck with her but she was never sure why.

Can I do princess stuff like helpin’ people in trouble and makin’ people feel better?

You have always been able to do that, Agent.

All this power is coming because someone is afraid.

Afraid of what?

She reaches out, grasps the thread, and pulls.

Kirk is nearest. She can feel his attitude toward Adam, but the person he really hates isn’t Adam. It’s Kirk. He’s afraid of being small, and disappearing in the shadow of all these amazing people around him.

Jack is afraid of letting people down. They’re afraid of being found out. They’re afraid of having a false face put on them, so they wear a mask of their own choosing.

Erin fears disappointment. When you’ve been told you’re gifted, and set up to think you can’t fail, your first failure is devastating. Your next one, and the one after that, build and build. She fears trying, because it might mean failing, so she does what she already knows will succeed.

And beyond them, she feels the fear of a very old person, whose whole life has just been thrown into chaos.

Jordan takes everything she’s gotten off the thread, and hurls it with all her might back down the line.

Let every one of them feel what the others feel. You stop hurting when people share their feelings. That’s what being a princess is about. Stopping fighting, by making people realize they don’t have to fight.

The energy discharges, but it’s no longer a focused beam. It’s an explosion of energy, blanketing the arena of battle. SG-4 is motionless, because its component members have been psychically stunned by the sudden insight into each others’ minds. And they have realized how little faith the Coordinator really has in them.

Jordan takes the Continuum Sword from William, and lunges at the vulnerable fusion. But not to strike it down in a moment of weakness.

“You all treat Adam like crud, but it’s not Adam’s fault!” she shouts, and the Knight shouts too, for everyone in the Schema to hear.

“You’re all meanies, but you’re also okay people when you aren’t bein’ mean!”

She slams the sword into the core of SG-4, using it as a channel to communicate her own memories, her own feelings. “Alla you got chosen, same way as Adam! Alla you got this power! It’s not Adam’s fault if you’re not usin’ it to help people! It’s yours!”

“I got this power ‘cause I wanted to be a princess, so that’s what I did! Well, what do you wanna do with it? Huh? Who in your life needs some helpin’? Who needs their negative energy taken away? Huh? What’s stoppin’ you?”

The Möbius Meter glows with incandescent intensity.

The elder Coordinator manipulates the device further.

At his station, the Warden notes the further drop of energy. Isolation energy is being drawn away, with an authorization that overrides even his own safeguards.

Inside SG-4, a tremendous pool of energy accumulates.

The Elder closes his eyes. Some sacrifices must be made.

Kirk, Jack, and Erin recover their wits in time to find SG-4 set, essentially, to self-destruct via energy overload. And then, the power is just… gone.

They look up.

The Starry Knight is holding Excalibur.

Its surface coruscates with siphoned energy. A significant percentage of Orion Schema’s power has been absorbed into it.

The Knight turns, and aims the blade. A window opens in the wall, exposing the base to outer space for just a moment, and the accumulated power lances outward in a single blinding blast.

Excalibur fades, and the Knight returns its attention to SG-4.

The Warden looks at his dashboard. He looks at the numbers. And he looks through a portal, to the floating bubble beyond the station proper, whose outlines are already starting to fade.

He slaps a hand down on the alarm he never, ever thought he’d have to use. His pride and talent have been good enough, all these years. But this too is part of his duty.


The Agents who were observing the fight have been shocked by what they’ve seen, even if that’s only a fraction of the drama that’s truly unfolded. But now they mobilize.

Senior Agents take charge. “Rho, Sigma, Chi teams - apprehend Zaxelis, Om, and Kwa Benga.” “Auxiliary Agents - form up, fuse up, get the Rigellian refugees into lifepods. Enhanced authorization to draw on whatever Schema energy is left.” “Escalation Tier Four Team. If - when - Karkath gets loose, we need to buy time.”

Orion Schema shudders.

TK starts marshalling power from the station. “All aboard,” he calls, and wraps A10 and Harry in a protective life-support shell.

The Starry Knight fusion separates. SG-4 finds itself looking down at Jordan, who’s looking back at them, hands on hips, eyes narrowed in stern disapproval. But then she smiles. “I’m not gonna put you three in a bubble. That’d be mean.”

The SG-4 fusion separates, and three Agents appear. None of them seem willing or ready to talk about what just happened. They look at Jordan, and Adam, and William.

“You better get outta here,” Kirk says at last. “Station’s gonna collapse.”

Jordan glances back at Adam, then at Kirk, and nods.

The lifepods, crafted from Orion Schema’s own psychokinetic energy, drift away in regular lines. In the distance, the human heroes can see a mass of Agents battling against some kind of multidimensional monstrosity.

“Moon Eater? Sounds fun.” A10 punches her palm with a balled-up fist.

“Not our fight,” Harry says firmly.

“What does the Concordance do now?” TK asks Adam.

Adam shrugs. “I’m not sure. I don’t think any of this went the way anyone wanted. But I guess we’re free to go home. Just hold the bubble steady, and I can get us there.”

“What happens when we get home?” Jordan asks curiously.

“Well, Mom and Dad will probably ground us both forever.”


This part of the story is over, but the tale of Princess Peri isn’t over yet. We’ll see what happens once the team reaches Earth!

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