Chapter 17 - Temptation

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Where do we go from here now that all of the children have grown up

And how do we spend our time knowin' nobody gives us a damn

I don't wanna live here no more, I don't wanna stay

Ain't gonna spend the rest of my life, quietly fading away

-- The Alan Parsons Project (Games People Play)

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The colony entity sensed what was coming before anyone else did. Then again, it knew about what was coming. No one else did.

The entity was out there, past the galactic barrier, with a clear, straight shot to the Triangulum galaxy, its erstwhile original home. But it had moved, first to Andromeda and then to the Milky Way. And that had seemed to somehow be a better fit. It had left Triangulum, and then Andromeda, not just to explore new places.

It had also been driven out.

And it sensed – before anyone else – that the race that had exiled it unjustly, twice, had found it again. That race – the Varg-i-yeh – would not rest until the colony entity was exterminated.

The Varg-i-yeh had more on their minds than committing genocide on the colony entity. They wanted no less than to subjugate entire galaxies, thereby making the Borg look like pikers.

Triangulum had been a snap, a cosmic blink of a purple eye. And then they had moved onto Andromeda, taking whatever they wanted. They were loaded for bear, and ruthless. Mercy was an alien concept to them.

The colony entity had proven to be a threat back in Triangulum, for the colony could become most shapes, colors and textures although it could not alter its own mass, save through the conventional methods of ingestion and excretion. It was, in some ways, superior to other shapeshifters as it could hold shapes for hours – for years if necessary, as it certainly didn't care. And it had the patience and fortitude to mimic just about anyone or anything. It had spent its exile hiding out in the mirror universe, watching others go back and forth, and it had perfected its mimicry of others.

The entity hadn't liked what the Varg-i-yeh had been doing, and so it had fought back.

But it had just whizzed through Andromeda for the most part, as the Varg-i-yeh had been in hot pursuit but the trail, for the Varg-i-yeh, had grown cold between the two galaxies. And so Andromeda was falling even faster than Triangulum had.

The Varg-i-yeh were virtually unaffected by the temporal changes that the Perfectionists had wrought. They did not know from oil spills or political assassinations or the founding of a revolutionary software company. The deaths of rock stars or Oklahoma City office workers meant as little to it as did the question of whether Josie O'Connor was here or elsewhere, perhaps in a heaven or an afterlife if such things exist.

All the Varg-i-yeh knew was power.

One warning went out. The Zetal were a species that had had some contact with the Milky Way. The contact was ancient, even earlier than when Milton had crossed over. Long ago, in the late 2150s, the Zetal had sought Warp-capable species from the Milky Way. The intention was to bring them to Andromeda for war games on a grand scale. The Witannen – long before treaties and peace – were charged with the collections, helped by an enormously physically powerful mercenary species, the Imvari.

But that was in the past. The Zetal had made some advances and some gestures. They still loved their war games, but realized that, perhaps, there would be an opportunity to still have them played by Milky Way denizens, only this time it would be on a voluntary basis.

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