Chapter 1: Impact Crater

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The lich frowned as it watched the massive piece of wreckage continue to burn across a late afternoon sky.  Well, it frowned as much as its withered face would allow it to frown.  But it wasn't the wreckage itself that put the expression on its face.  It was the glowing light that was pacing it.

"What do you make of it?"  Its companion, also a lich, asked in a soft, leathery voice.  It too watched the sky.  "Wherever that big piece of wreckage goes, that light follows it.  Some kind of alien probe, maybe?"

The first lich shook its head.

"Saw plenty of alien ships in my time."  It whispered, its voice nearly gone.  "And none of them glowed like that.  Naw, that's something completely new, Slim.  'Sides, why would a probe be interested in a piece of dead metal?"

Slim fell silent at that, obviously digesting the question.  The first lich pressed on, determined to make its point.

"Whatever it is, I think that piece is gonna miss us.  Maybe hit somewhere in the Pacific, maybe Asia."  It whispered musingly.

"I think we should tell New Retribution about that glowing light."  Slim stated with no little amount of conviction.  "They're going to want to know about it."

The first lich shrugged.

"Maybe.  But we won't reach New Retribution for at least another couple weeks."  It said, gesturing at the overgrown highway they were using to travel east to where they heard the new Risen base was now located.  They had managed to survive two waves of alien offensives in the last couple months and had decided to quit their small post and travel to the supposedly massive and secure underground base.  Unfortunately they had to walk there, possessing no other means of transport.

"By that time the wreckage and its little escort will be on the ground and far away from here."  The first lich pointed out.  "New Retribution might care about it enough to go looking.  And they might not."  It turned away from the glow in the sky and resumed its deliberate pace down the overgrown highway.

"I suggest you stop worrying about it and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.  Once we actually get to New Retribution, you can start thinkin' about it again."

Slim stared at the fireball and its accompanying pixie light for a long moment before it too turned to the road and resumed its journey.

"I just hope it isn't something important!"  It muttered to itself as it began to walk.

As it turned out, the massive chunk of wreckage didn't drop into the Pacific Ocean as the first lich supposed it might.  Following a northeast to southwest path, it finally came to ground in the jungles of southeast Asia.  After shearing off the top of a mountain, the nearly kilometre square piece of wreckage smashed into the ground, tearing a swath through the jungle that was twenty kilometres long and two wide before it came to rest half buried in the dark soil.

For a long moment the only sound in the shocked and wounded jungle was that of cracking and falling tree trunks, the animals stunned into silence.  Into that silence a quiet hum entered as a small ball of light dropped out of the sky to slowly hover in a circle over the half buried wreckage.  Small that is in comparison with the wreckage.  In truth it was nearly twenty metres in diameter, a perfect sphere of golden illumination that was bright enough to cast shadows off nearby objects, but not so brilliant as to blind a casual observer.

It continued its slow path over the exposed portion of the crashed fragment for a long moment.  Then, just as the animals were starting to return to their daily routine and fill the jungle with their calls and cries, the ball of light abruptly stopped.  A beam of brighter light then stabbed out from the sphere's bottom pole to cut into the metal beneath it, sparks flying as the beam sliced through with little resistance.  Then a circular portion of battered metal was being silently pulled up and out of the way to let another beam of light extend into the resulting hole.

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