Chapter 1 - Pandora's Box

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Eve jerked hard on the unresponsive controls, and the thruster-wings of her Cherubim came to life after a quarter-second delay. They sent the chubby humanoid construct spinning out of the way of a piece of space debris that would have torn it to shreds.

Eve and the rest of her salvage team were deep into the Battlefield, the vast starship graveyard that was once a heavily populated star system. That was thousands of years ago, before an ancient interstellar battle choked it with wreckage. Now it was a popular but dangerous salvaging grounds, where Eve and others like her could pick over the corpse of their ancestors civilization.

Eve was a top-level Cherubim pilot, as was everyone on her team. They had to be, to be this deep into the debris field. The starship wreckage was much too dense for the support ship to follow them in that far. They were all alone in a gauntlet of space junk, and a single misstep in one of the clunky Cherubim could spell a messy death in space.

Much of the technology of the Ancients was poorly understood, and could not be reproduced. It could only be salvaged. The periphery of the debris fields of the Battlefield system had been picked clean long ago, and so each expedition had to venture deeper and deeper to find anything worthwhile. The situation was becoming tenuous.

Eve rolled to dodge another potentially lethal projectile, once again coaxing uncharacteristic performance out of her Cherubim with superior reflexes. She had the timing to compensate for the controls down perfectly.

When she was out in space in her Cherubim like this, she liked to imagine she was actually at the controls of a Seraphim. As much a work of art as a weapon, Seraphim were twice the size of a Cherubim, controlled like butter, and were raised to near-mythological status by her people. They were the knights of space and the defenders of the empire, the last foothold of human civilization.

Eve had never been at the controls of a real Seraphim, and probably never would, but she could still daydream. As good a pilot as she was the Seraphim Knights were a very select group. It was as much a social rank as anything. She wasn't born into one of the right families. Being a top-tier Cherubim pilot was as close as she could get, and she had to admit it was pretty satisfying to be out in space in one.

From the pilot's chair of her Cherubim Eve's entire field of vision was taken up by a panoramic screen displaying a raging river of metal debris. Her Cherubim's scanners were doing the best they could to display relevant data about individual pieces of wreckage but the density of the debris made a joke of them.

"Anyone getting any readings?" Eve asked "I'm picking up junk out here. My scanners are borked."

The sound of her voice activated the communicator, and a picture of her face appeared in the bottom right of her companion's screens while she spoke.

"I have nothing," said Sam, his face appearing on Eve's screen.

"Don't count on getting any kind of coherent scanner readings this deep," said June, her face materializing beside Sam's.

"We've still got visual," said Eve "If anyone spots anything interesting we can haul it out and figure out what it is afterwards."

"That's crazy," said Sam "I'm sure if we get close enough to something we'll be able to scan it. This is a debris field not a magic... place."

"Good try, Sam," said June.

The three Cherubim broke formation to avoid a particularly large chunk of starship.

"Let's split up," said Eve "If anyone finds anything call it in."

Eve gently pushed on her controls, and the Seraphim in her mind's eye shot forward a full second before her Cherubim. She dodged three more pieces of debris as she rocketed towards a large and potentially interesting section of wrecked starship.

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