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Chapter One
Breath

Early Morning, Redria Sector, Pioneer 2

  The door gave way quickly, in less than 5 seconds the massive red android has entered the apartment. He quickly scanned the rooms, the coating on the exterior walls to prevent peeping androids was not usually found inside homes. The place was bare, just floor and walls. His prey had once again managed to elude him. An incoming message caused him to look at his hunter’s Data Link on his left wrist.

>Tygrin, have you located the third and fourth prototypes yet?

The android through his direct connection to the Data Link sent the reply:

>No.

  Showing no sign of his incredible inner rage and frustration, Tygrin calmly turned and walked out the door, down the hall to the transporter, and disappeared. Across the street from a dark alley, four eyes intently watched the departure of the massive android. Two Numan females slowly emerged from the alley, one a tall beauty with bright orange hair, still in her sleeping clothes. The other a full quarter meter shorter, wearing black force garbs with red highlights perfectly matching her hair.
  “Good job Tear,” said the taller one, “Again we were saved by your dreams. That android means business... he’s impervious to all techniques, I don’t know what we’d do if he ever caught us... probably take us back to the lab...”
  “Iris, what is ‘lab?’”, interrupted Tear, “Is lab eatable? It yummy?”
  “No Tear,” Iris said, “As I have explained, the lab is where we come from, where they made us. Remember when we escaped?” Of course Iris knew, there was no way Tear could remember. She was too young back then. Too young to remember the pain, the experiments. Iris shut her eyes and turned her head, trying desperately to drown out the memories.
  “It okay sister!” exclaimed Tear with a smile on her face, “you not worry! We go get eatables now?”
  “I’m sorry Tear, we don’t have any money, all our belongings were in that apartment. We had to destroy everything with foie and zonde to make sure there was no evidence Tygrin could use to track us. But... we still have each other... and out mission.”
  “Right!” Tear said as she remembered their mission. “We go down to forest and find lots of yummy eatables now right!!”
“That’s right, lots of yummy eatables.”

  They had been on the run for years now. Ever since escaping the lab they were created in. Iris didn't know much about the project itself, except that it was known as “Sols” and that they were doing some advanced research on Numan females. She knew that, unlike normal Numans, she grew much more slowly. She had recollections of early childhood in the lab, and of the experiments. She remembered her older sister, the blue haired girl who always tried to take her place for the painful tests, but never did. She remembered the time when she was eight, how they had brought a new girl from the birthing wing of the lab, she was only 2 years old. The same age Iris had been when she first began undergoing the tests. She also remembered the screams in the night from the new girl, she way she would cry as they walked her past Iris’ room on her way for more tests. Or how the floor of the hallway outside was always covered with the new girl’s tears. Always in the same line, from the test room, to the new girl’s room. The same trail every night, the same tears shed. She wanted to do something, she wanted to help, and to strike back at those who were subjecting both her and the other girl to the tests. Yet she was only eight, she was a young girl, with no way do stop the horror she and her new sister were subjected to.
  It all changed one night. The alarm sounded abruptly late into the night. Iris looked out her barred window to the courtyard below, there were dozens of androids entering the front of the labs, and behind them was wave after wave of humans wielding guns. From the front of the lab more, differently colored androids emerged and began to fight with the ones entering the courtyard. The lab was being raided. Suddenly the door to Iris’ room burst open, a guard with a photon rifle barged in. Before the guard could act, a bright streak of electricity hit him from somewhere out in the hallway. Iris watched in amazement as the unnamed blue haired Numan girl she had seen so many times before entered the room carrying a photon pistol.
  “Don’t be afraid, I am your sister, my name is Trys”, spoke the girl. “Quickly Iris, come with me, we have to escape!” Trys ran to Iris’ bedside and grabbed her hand. Practically dragging Iris, Trys ran out the door and into the hallway. They turned right and ran several meters to the new girl’s door. Inside, face to her pillow crying, they found the new girl.
  “C'mon!” shouted Trys, “we have to go!” Trys handed Iris the gun, and went over to the new girl’s bed. “Tear... Tear, please do not be afraid, my name is Trys, I’m your sister, and so is she” Trys pointed to Iris, “her name is Iris. Please get up Tear, we have to leave now. The government is raiding the lab, but the doctors have sent the elite androids to retrieve us before they teleport out. If we don’t leave now, we’ll never get away from them. They’ll just take us somewhere else and keep experimenting on us!” Seeing the futility of her words on the inattentive little girl, Trys wrapped the little numan in a blanket and picked her up. She looked at Iris, and they both ran out of the room. Trys took lead as they ran through the dark hallways, alarm blaring. Finally they came to the emergency teleporter room, inside was a teleporter with enough charge remaining for one use. Just as they entered, a tall imposing red android entered through a door at the opposite side of the room. On the upper left side of his chest plate was written ”ACAS 01: Tygrin”. The android quickly made strides across the room, closing on in the 3 numan girls.
  “Listen to me Iris!” Trys shouted, “Take Tear, and never look back. There’s a ship called Pioneer 2, be on it.” With this Trys placed Tear in Iris arms, and shoved Iris onto the teleporter pad. She then pressed a button on the teleporter control panel. Desperately trying to stop the escape the red android reached the teleporter just as Iris and Tear disappeared. Eyes glowing with rage, Tygrin turned to face Trys. A bolt of Zonde shot from Trys’ hand, but had no effect on the angry android.
  Iris opened her eyes and saw that she was standing on a cliff overlooking the lab, from many kilometers away. She watched as wave after wave of government troops flooded into the burning lab complex. She cried for the first time she could remember, the tears softly landing on Tear’s own wet face. Tear stopped crying and looked up at Iris, her fists clenched, teeth grinding, tears streaming down her face. Tear then looked at the war zone in the distance. “I hungry” she said.

  Iris and Tear had traveled to the Bluefull sector commercial district. Iris had by now changed into the only thing she took with her from their apartment, her yellow hunters clothes. They stopped at the checkroom to retrieve their hunters items, barriers, frames, weapons and mags. They equipped their belongings, and walked into the hunters guild. Iris instructed Tear to wait by the door, while she approached the counter.
  “I am the hunter Solstrys”, Iris said to the clerk. “I need permission to go down to the surface of Ragol with my apprentice.”
  “We will need a DNA sample to confirm your identity, said the Clerk, “please place your palm on this scanner.” Iris did as instructed and placed her open hand on the grooved scanner on the counter. The device made three quick beeping noises, and then fell silent. “Your identity has been confirmed, thank you Hunter Solstrys, you have permission to go down to the surface.”
Her plan had worked, her near identical DNA to her sister had allowed her to get a pass to the surface of Ragol. And her sister’s level 100 rank with the guild ensured that all areas would be open. They could proceed directly to the ancient ship, and begin their mission. Iris smiled, and turned to face the door, when her smile instantly changed into a look of total fear. Entering the guild was Tygrin.
  Tygrin spotted Iris and Tear immediately, and as he was closest to Tear he grabbed her first. Tear screamed out in surprise, not fully understanding what had happened. Drawing her one hope, a Gladius with a bonus to machine a seedy character on the Oberon ship had given her, she lunged at Tygrin. She hadn’t accounted for the powerful barrier Tygrin was wearing, he easily blocked her attacks with one hand, while tightly holding Tear with the other. He then extended a leg and met Iris mid way with a foot to the neck. Iris stumbled back, badly hurt from the kick, she dropped the gladius and began to clutch her throat. As she did this, Tygrin drew a photon pistol from his null space item storage, and quickly began to pull the trigger in rapid succession. Several shots hit Iris in the legs, immobilizing her. Screaming in pain, Iris collapsed, unable to breathe.
  Seeing her sister bleeding all over the guild’s floor was more than Tear could bear. She channeled a bolt of pure light energy from her body at Tygrin. The blast was so powerful, it sent him flying across the room, where he impacted a far wall. Just as this was happening, nearby troops rushed in to see what was going on. Tear ran to her sister’s side, and cast the most powerful resta technique she could. Seeing the troops in the guild inspecting the android, Iris stood up, grabbed Tear, and ran outside. They turned right coming out of the guild and jumped onto the teleporter pad. Iris activated her hunter’s data link, and frantically selected the first option she could. There was a flash of light, and then they were gone.

  Two years had passed since they escaped the lab. Everyday Iris thought back to that moment, the girl named Trys pushing her on to the teleporter. What had happened after the teleport? A kind Force named Marchioness had discovered them on the streets, filthy and begging for food. Something about them had compelled March to bring them in. She clothed and fed them, and did her best to teach them the ways of the world. She taught Iris how to read and write, and the best way to care for her younger sister. Ever since the night of the escape Tear had reused to be quiet. She talked nonstop, even in her sleep. She possessed a great curiosity about the world, a hunger for information, but despite being repeatedly told things, she never seemed to understand. It was strange the way they aged, March admitted once. Ordinarily a Numan develops fully physically in a few months, but Iris and Tear were developing at a rate almost that of a human. They were rejected by Numans for this flaw, and by humans because they were Numan. It was frequent that March would disappear, often for days at a time. She told the girls that she was at work, and her duty was very important. It was later the discovered she was a high ranking scientist working for the government. Then one day, she told the girls she would have to go on a long journey, and wouldn’t see them for many years. She was a special class Force, assigned to the Pioneer, and she was leaving within a week. Marchioness apologized for the last minute information, but said that the launch had been moved up, and she could not acquire permission to take the girls with her. The next day, Marchioness brought in a woman the girls had never met before, her name was Empress, and she was Marchioness’ twin. The weeks passed, and became months, time passes as it tends to do, until a full year had passed, Iris was eleven, and Tear five. It was then they once again met the menacing red android, Tygrin.
  It was very early in the morning, as if aware of the coming terror neither Iris nor Tear had been able to sleep. They were together in Iris’ room, curled up on her bed quietly whispering. Looking out the window, Tear wondered about the stars, where they were, what they were. Iris did her best to explain, but she had long since given up on realistic explinations, and soon Tear had developed a theory of her own, ignoring all her sister told her. The stars, she decided, were places where everyone was happy, and there was no fear, no sadness, no anger, no envy. The stars were happy, and she wanted to visit them.
  The home’s front door burst in quickly, and 4 dark blue androids of commanding height entered the home. Roused from her sleep, Empress emerged from her room and walked down the hall. Immediately realizing the danger, she ran into Iris’ room. She told the girls to dress, and be ready to leave. She left the room securing the door behind her, and walked down the hallway to the common room of the house. There amongst the furnishings and electronic devices, the four androids stood scanning the house. They were confused because there was a coating on the walls to prevent androids from seeing through them. They quickly noticed Empress. The two closest charged at her. She let out a massive wave of electricity, the RA series zonde technique, in all directions. Their circuitry overloaded, they stopped dead in their tracks, unable to move. The remaining two drew photon pistols and began firing at her. She did her best to dodge or deflect the shots, but they were coming too fast. She was hit in the left shoulder, the force of the impact and pain sent her stepping back. Reeling from the pain shooting through her body, Empress cast a Grants technique at the closest Android, causing massive damage to the Android’s frame and body. The remaining Android took cover behind a large sofa, while occasionally emerging to fire a volley of shots. From her null space item storage she drew her final resort, a customized photon pistol called a “Holy Ray”.
  Immediately following a volley from the Android she stood up and fired as fast as the gun would fire, it’s elongated shots piercing the Android’s meager cover. She heard several impact sounds, then there was silence.
  Iris instructed Tear to wait in the room, they had finished dressing, and were preparing to leave, as they always knew they would have to. From the moment Iris had described the lab, Marchioness had begun modifying her home to accommodate a last second escape, concealing single use teleporters in many rooms, and coating the walls with a special chemical androids could not look through. Iris ran out into the hall, and saw Empress struck by a photon bullet in the shoulder. Iris watched as Empress cast a Grants technique, then drew an odd looking gun and began firing at the other end of the room. Iris then watched as Empress look of relief changed to one of terror. Empress fired several shots at something on the other side of the room, and began to slowly move backward. Something was advancing on her. As Iris looked on she saw why Empress was so afraid, the red android Tygrin was slowly advancing on her. Empress turned to run, and as she did Tygrin sprinted to her. Tygrin grabbed her by the neck, and threw her with great force against a wall on the opposite side of the room. Then he looked down the hallway and saw Iris.
For a moment, Iris could not move, she was inexplicably frozen in complete terror. Her body refused to move, and she was certain she would die. Then the door to her room opened, Tear looked out. Iris’ senses returned to her, she ran to the door, grabbed Tear by the arm and pulled her to the far end of her room. She depressed a hidden panel on the wall, and a section of wall to their left popped out and slid away quietly, revealing a teleporter. With Tear in tow Iris ran to the teleporter, and as Tygrin entered the room they disappeared in a flash of light. They were alone again.

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