The Ruined House

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He got into the Observation Lounge just as the roasted meat was being served. It looked and smelled pretty good – certainly better than most of their meals. There was gravy and, ha! There were new potatoes, but they were probably resequenced protein. But still! At least someone had figured out how to get that thing to work properly again. Tom sat down in the free seat next to Takara. She looked over at him, "I hear you lost your command. Bummer."

"Yeah. But I'll get the next one. Don't you worry," he looked her up and down. "What the hell are you wearing?" he whispered to her.

She got up to show him, "Oh, this old thing?" It was a mini skirt made of zebra hide.

"Niiice," he said.

"Empy's is Siberian Tiger," she said, pouting a little.

"Yours looks better. It'll look better on the floor next to my bed," he said to her quietly.

"Maybe," she said, "Or maybe next to Joss's bed, or even Charlie's sleeping bag. At least they were both able to keep doing what they planned to do today. No one ordered them away from the game," she looked away.

"That was a game. Children play games. Men take command. A command is more serious. It's dangerous. And you find that sexy," he reminded her.

"A little," she shrugged, "And who says you're a man yet? You're just barely eighteen."

"I'm almost a month older than you are, Takara," he said, "I can make you a woman. And you can – well, I'm already a man. But it'll be fun. I can do things that I bet you've been dreaming of for a while."

"Huh. Who knows?" she said, "Seconds," she ordered, "Not so much gravy."

"Yes, of course," Aliwev said, coming over with the plate of sliced meat, "Potatoes?"

"No. Some more of that purple stuff, whatever it's called," she commanded.

"Olowa salad," he replied.

"Whatever," she said.

=/\=

The Bridge was lively. Lucy looked up when the Observation Lounge called, "Yes, Empress?"

"Are you ready? We need the entertainment."

"Yes, just a moment," she said, "Fire when ready, Ms. Benson."

"Firing," Benson said, "Pulse shot has gone in."

"Looks like the gap is opening. It's not big enough for a ship yet," Lucy said, "I'll contact you when we can get the Luna through. Stone out."

=/\=

Doug and his men were at cover near the amplifying dishes on Point Abic – no, wait, it was called Mount Arashi.

"Sir, are you absolutely sure we can't hunt for rations?" asked one of the recruits.

"Yes, I am. Sorry, but just, you'll have to wait a little."

"What are we waiting for, sir?"

As if in answer, flakes of red and copper began to be pulled into the thickest concentration of dishes.

There was a low rumble, and then a whistle, as the flakes and bits of red and crimson swirled and were sucked even deeper into the dishes.

And then it got louder, and they could all see it – a gap opening up. The flakes turned from red to white, crimson to grey and copper to silver as they passed through the gap. The gap started small, but it began to shred and tear and get larger. It was looking large enough for a man.

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