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GM Newtorch station, Inner Oort Cloud, Sol System Second orbit, fifth day, April 15th, 7.30AM Earth time. A brilliant crystal lance sailed through the void, mighty donut-shaped rings spinning endlessly around the haft, housing the several hundred scientists, staff, and guards keeping safe the future of Lor technology. There they lived and worked in strict, regular shifts, coming and going, eating and sleeping to refresh their tireless dedication. A phalanx of ships patrolled far outside the sight of any being, searching unceasingly for any sign of an approaching threat. At the lance's tip was a white diamond, where the force field was strongest and the gunnery lines were thickest. The size of several battleships welded together, that was where the most dangerous part of the station's mission was kept. Newtorch station was one of several throughout the Republic, uncovering new ways to draw energy from the world and power the bustling interstellar civilization. They often ended up examining things strange and powerful enough that risking star systems was all too possible. Inevitably they ended up on the fringes of inhabited space, far from either help or victims. Thefts were possible too. But the sheer danger tended to keep everyone away. Except, of course, the daredevils. "Next shift incoming, sir!" called out the surveillance monitor "and none too soon!" "Just the facts, Bey." replied the station captain with a wry twist of his purple lips. Hands clasped behind his back, the stubby Lor watched the small, regularly spaced dots draw near and allowed himself a slight note of self-praise: nothing had happened that had endangered the crew, the only faulty source had been safely ejected and destroyed, and they had a marvelous new subject: the gem from Sirius. It could power an entire fleet if they could get the transferal right, and then... "Bey, how many ships are in that convoy?" The sudden edge in the officer's voice got a puzzled look, and a quick response "Eleven, sir. Usual number-" "That's one too few! Alert the ships, tell them there's an infiltrator!" 'Sri Steward of Earth, you have an incoming message.' Mentor's voice had all the warmth and wisdom that came from the unthinkable eons it had seen, but it was still as commanding as a drill sergeant, clear as ice and cut Kyle off from sleep like a knife. 'Blockade Fleet Admiral Kalf has urgent news, and a request. Your system is in great danger.'