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September 2015 

Target sentient detected. Subspecies - homo aquaticus diaboli. 

Aquaria was still standing in front of the television when Jessie burst into the living room - her eyes wide and hands clapped over her mouth as she stared at the television - and the broken remains of the cheap porcelain mug that Aquaria had hurled through the screen, breaking glass and cup both. "I'm sorry Jessie, I'm sorry," said Aquaria, waving her hands back and forth. "I didn't mean to scare you-

Subspecies is targeted for extermination by other sentient subspecies on native planet. Subspecies is heavily influenced by worship of beings from other frames of reference. 

"It was the King of Atlantis and he was talking about how they had broken up an 'infestation' of Deep Ones just because it was near a Surfacer city! And they showed pictures, Jessie, they showed pictures!" She turned to Jessie and clutched at her friend, her hands sticky and throat bulging with frantic emotion. "They were going to-"

Target exhibits grief and rage compatible with Spectrum Knight primary mission. Secondary target present with primary target - prepare backup protocols for Berserker-class target. Activating transportation from lunar orbit. 

"-that whole tribe is going to starve in the deep ocean now!" Jessie remembered Aquaria's stories about the death of her tribe - how thrown from their brackish home into the deep waters of the Caribbean by Surfacer and Atlantean attack, most had slowly succumbed to salt poisoning, or cold, or starvation before finding their way to a Deep One city far below the surface. "And no one's going to care! Not one Surfacers going to do anything! All because Atlanteans told them it's okay! I hate them! I hate them so much!" She buried her face in Jessie's shoulder and began to sob. 

And over Aquaria's shoulder, Jessie saw a faint light suddenly glow from their kitchen. 

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Jessie managed to supress the startled panic at being yelled at and grabbed, a reflex she'd worked very hard to overcome during her two years at Project Freedom. She patted Aquaria gingerly on the back while trying to assess whether the television was going to catch fire or explode from having a cup thrown through it. "We can fix it," she tried to assure her friend. "It's bad, but we can tell the heroes and they can make it better. We can go talk to Eve. Eve won't let anybody starve, right?" 

Her eyes widened as she caught the glow suddenly coming from the kitchen. She sniffed the air. "Um, you weren't cooking anything on the stove, were you?"

Edited by Electra

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"I'm sorry, Jessie, I didn't mean to startle you...no?" Her apology - and her disengagement interrupted, Aquaria turned and stared at the still-glowing light. "Do you smell that?" she asked, her voice still thick as she took a tentative hop towards the kitchen. "That smells like..." She took another hop into the kitchen. Knowing that she'd already pushed her fragile friend to the limit that day, Aquaria didn't yell. Instead, after a moment's hesitation, she swallowed and called, "Jessie? I think you should come in here now." 

Hovering in the middle of their kitchen was a trident. And not just any trident. It was long and thick, made of rough-worked metal like wrought iron. But it glowed with an inner light in a shade of pale green that seemed almost perfectly matched the color of Aquaria's skin, for all that it was mostly obscured by one of her many white shirts and jeans. "Blessed Sire and Dam," Aquaria croaked softly at the sight of the holy symbol - one tine for Dagon, who protected, one tine for Hydra, and the center for their children - the Deep Ones of Earth. "Where did it come from?

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"We should stay back," Jessie advised, keeping a healthy distance away from the glowing weapon. "Something might be trying to attack us. Maybe it was supposed to stab one of us and missed." Even though it was only seven, Jessie had already changed into her favorite blue and purple sweatsuit, a cozy fleece one that had been a birthday gift from the staff at PF. Wearing it made her feel calm and safe, even though now she was anxiously twisting the hem of the sweatshirt. "I think we should call Erin and tell her something bad is happening. Maybe we should leave and go upstairs too." 

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"It's beautiful," breathed Aquaria, only half-listening to Jessie as she padded towards the trident. "You should call Erin," she agreed, her gold-black eyes wide as she advanced on the beacon of hope and salvation. "Look at it..." Aquaria looked at the trident for a long moment and then made a fateful decision - even as she heard Jessie dialing the phone behind her, she reached out with long, padded fingers and grabbed the trident tightly with her right hand. As Jessie watched, the trident suddenly flared to brilliant life in her friend's grip, a glow so bright that Aquaria raised a hand to shield herself from the brilliant green glow that briefly dazzled her darkness-adjusted eyes. 

In the glow, the two women heard a voice, one that croaked in a deep, vibrating tone like someone speaking underwater. For Jessie, the voice was in English - for Aquaria, in Lemurian, but both heard the same words, even as Aquaria felt strange, eldritch energies crackle over her damp skin, like the oldest and deepest of the catacombs in her long-lost home. 

"Ackwareeaa In-His-Mouth! You Are Worthy! Welcome to the Spectrum Knight Corps!

As the light faded, Jessie caught a glimpse of her friend changed - clad in a glowing green shell that covered her torso and legs and the back of her head like an ancient helmet and suit of armor - and then the light flared again, impossibly bright, and when it cleared the kitchen was empty. 

 

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"No, don't touch it!" Jessie begged, even as she mashed the speed-dial buttons on her phone. It was all to no avail, of course. Aquaria's webbed fingers closed around the trident, and Erin's phone went straight to her terse answering machine message. "It's Jessie," she said unnecessarily into the phone, "There's something weird in the apartment. Something-" And then everything was light, and light, and light, and there were stars, and a strange weightlessness, and she wondered if maybe she was dead and floating to heaven, but she still had her phone in her hand and that seemed off. Wherever this was, there was no phone reception at all. 

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Aquaria, daughter of the deeps, had no idea what was happening. Was she ascending to Hydra's maw? Had the gods of space called her to their side as their champion? All she knew was that something was coming, something wonderful. 

So Aquaria swam through the cosmic ocean - rushing through a tunnel dappled with the perfect dark of a night sky in the Caribbean and the comforting glow of stars, the water against her skin cool and inviting. Wait, water? She looked back at Jessie and realized she wasn't drowning - and that come to think of it, there wasn't water actually in the tunnel with them! The green stuff over her skin that clung like a warrior's armor felt coated with warm wetness on the inside - as if it carried with it the warm, brackish waters of a river's mouth, the kind of water in which she felt perfectly at home. I actually like clothes for once! She didn't know what was going on, but she could see the concern on Jessie's face. 

Without letting go of the trident in her hand, she reached over to Jessie and called, "I'm glad you're with me!

-

And then there was another flash of light - and they were standing together somewhere else entirely. 

The two women, Deep One and human, were standing in the middle of a metal circle set in the middle of soft, mossy ground - moss that looked almost black to both Aquaria and Jessie's eyes. The circle itself sat in the middle of a towering spire of rock at least as big as the DuTemps Building, one that towered high over what looked to be over a vast ocean the color of Surfacer blood! Overhead, Aquaria blinked her eyes as she looked upwards and caught the light of two suns overhead - one a brilliant, eye-searing blue, the other a much smaller red. 

They weren't alone - a figure in armor like Aquaria's was approaching them. Well, not quite like Aquaria's - the armor itself curved upwards and out in a style unlike anything human, making it look like something between a medieval knight's armor crossed with peacock feathers, and it glowed red rather than green. And the face underneath the armor, blue-skinned with visible white hair, didn't look human either. 

"Welcome..." He looked from one to the other for a moment, before settling on Aquaria. "...sisters, to the Spectrum Knight Corps. I am Bie Yie - once of Zultas, now of the Corps.

"Hello," said Aquaria cautiously, waving her free hand. "Can you tell us where we are?

"Yes," declared Bie Yie, smiling beneath the faint blue screen over his face. He had a weapon as part of his armor too, a long curved sword that hung at his side. "You are at our home planet, Stronghold, deep in the Barrier Sector. Neither Star Knight nor Lor Republic, nor their many allies, can penetrate our defenses.

Aquaria stared at the man, goggle-eyed, before saying in a slow, careful voice, "...what?

Edited by Avenger Assembled

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Jessie dropped into a defensive crouch upon landing, having immediately ascertained that this was not, in fact, any sort of heaven. She stared around with great apprehension, her eyes focusing on the stranger for a moment before darting away again. Only when he began to speak did she manage to pay some kind of attention. "He said another planet," she whispered loudly to Aquaria. "He took us away from Earth! How are we ever going to get home again?" There was more than a trace of panic in her voice, but at least she wasn't retreating into blank-faced lack of emotion yet. That could be disastrous. 

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Aquaria looked around, desperately trying to remember the sciences classes she had barely paid attention to at Project Freedom. Was this...Mars? Mars was red; the ocean below looked red! Bie Yie took the liberty of answering her hesitation. "When your friend is trained in the use of her chosen weapon, she will be able to transport both of you to your homeworld within a few days," he reassured Jessie. "Your homeworld is remote and diverse - but well within the reach of our wormhole network.

"My chosen weapon..." Aquaria looked down at the trident she still held in her hand and concentrated - and the greenish translucent armor that it had formed in her skin gradually faded into nothingness. Naturally, she assumed this was certainly magic. "We could get in a lot of trouble if we're gone," she croaked awkwardly, trying to reassure this very powerful shaman. "Jessie and I, we're-

"I know, Ackwareeaa," Bie Yie told them. "All of us are like you. I was an outcast on my homeworld because I rejected the Thousand Jeweled Gods - a heretic, facing certain execution. If you were chosen, you were chosen because of what you were. Someone hated and shunned by those in power on your world. A monster to their eyes, hated and degraded. The Spectrum Knights are charged with bringing justice to the galaxy - and no one knows justice better than an outcast.

"Well..." Aquaria shot a look back at Jessie. "What about Jessie? She's...she really needs to go home, her sister is going to be worried about her.

"In time," Bie Yie assured them. "You are not a prisoner here, neither of you - but our enemies are thick beyond the Barrier. Lor, Star Knights, and even Unity would gladly strike us down if they could. Sending you back now, with no knowledge of your weapon and our ways, would only expose you to a greater danger." 

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"Why did you bring us here if it's so dangerous?" Jessie demanded, straightening up and facing Bie Yie, the only obvious potential threat. "You didn't even ask first if it was okay, or if we wanted to come. It's wrong to do dangerous things with people without their consent." Jessie was very confident in this, it was a lesson thoroughly drilled. "And why did you bring us anyway? Aquaria isn't an outcast, she has friends! I'm her friend!" she added staunchly. "And there are other ones too, people who like Aquaria and think she's great. You should just send us home right now, just the way you brought us, and we'll be okay." 

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"Is that true, Ackwareeaa? Is there nothing you would change? For yourself, or your people?

Aquaria, tense, rested her head against the tines of the trident - her face torn with indecision. "I...Jessie, think about it," she begged, turning to her friend. "They're powerful space shamans!" She raised the trident in the air and added, "And if I figure out how to use this, _I_ can be a powerful shaman too. I'm just another Deep One, I don't have any real power except being an amphibian." She took a deep breath, her throat bulging, and went on, "If I can come back to Earth with power, with real power, I can help Deep Ones! And everybody else," she added. "I can be the first Deep One superhero! Superheroes get away with all kinds of things, we won't get in trouble. We can just say we had to go to space to learn how to be better heroes, everyone will think that's okay." She gave Jessie a beseeching, wide-eyed look, begging her best friend in the world to understand. "If we get in trouble, you can just tell Erin it was my fault.

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"But it's dangerous!" Jessie maintained, drawing Aquaria away for a moment's sidebar conversation. "And it's against the rules!" She gestured to the ankle monitors they both wore, the small LEDs now dark and dead. "Nobody will know where we are. And... and..." She raked a hand through her blond hair, leaving it standing on end in places. "And how do you know this is the right thing to do? Superpowers don't always help! Sometimes they just make things worse." Her voice dropped, barely audible even close up. "I got superpowers and I couldn't save anybody. And somebody else came along and made me do terrible things. I wish I never had them at all." 

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"Oh, Jessie..." Aquaria remembered what she'd heard about Jessie's life before coming to Project Freedom, the stories horrific even by Surfacer standards of gory death, loss, and torture at the hands of people who looked like friends. "I'm sorry, I..." She looked out at the water for the first time, hearing the sound of the alien ocean, inhaling with deep breaths the moist scent of the alien air. It was warm here, and wet even this high up - the brackish-smelling water below had to be as warm as a bath. "...I have to try," she croaked softly. "I have to try. We don't...we don't have any heroes, we don't have anyone to fight for us, we're just...amphibians, squeezed between the Surfacers above and the Atlanteans below, and every year another generation grows up believing that Dagon and Hydra can only be worshiped by blood." She put her hands gently on Jessie's arms, careful not to grip. "I've prayed so long and so hard that Dagon and Hydra would give me a sign, would show me that they haven't abandoned my people. Maybe this is our chance. My chance. I promise, as soon as I can, I'll take us home - and you won't get in trouble for this. It's all me.

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"Then be careful." With her piece said, Jessie sat down on the ground, sliding away from Aquaria's hand and settling herself crosslegged behind and out of the way of the action. Her face was set, her eyes troubled, but she'd obviously used up her best rhetorical ammunition, and now she was teetering on the edge of the place where her memories used to be, not exactly an ideal mindset for this sort of situation. The ground was hardly dry, but she didn't seem to notice or mind, focusing instead on the trident and the ones negotiating for it. 

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When Aquaria rejoined Bie Yie, he smiled behind his translucent mask, looking delighted to see the Deep One had chosen the Spectrum Knights. "I knew you wouldn't turn your back on your people." He pressed a few buttons on his glowing armor; and as Aquaria and Jessie watched, suddenly the air all around them rippled and changed as dozens of columns of stone appeared, each topped by their own towering crystal palace of translucent cones and spirals, each one a different shade of red, blue, or green. Other Spectrum Knights were visible now too - flying to and fro in the air in a broad assortment of colored shapes, walking back and forth on bridges that had arisen between the islands, or visible through the windows of the towering spun-sugar palaces rising far above their heads. 

They had thought they'd stood on a lonely crag far above an alien ocean; but now it was clear that their lonely crag was part of a vast community. "Wait, they can fly We can-" As she spoke, Aquaria's armor flared to life again, a flash of translucent green seeming to spill out over her body from the trident she still held pointed outwards at her side. She took a step onto one of the glowing bridges and suddenly she was indeed in the air, jetting rapidly upwards dozens of feet before jetting downwards equally quickly, her armor thrumming slightly with a faint noise of electrical feedback. "Jessie, I can fly!" she croaked excitedly, her throat bulging wide. "Come on, let's fly!" 

"Careful," said Bie Yie with an indulgent laugh, and a look back at Jessie. "You don't want to frighten your friend. Why don't we try walking to the training center? The Galaxy's not going to free itself - but we don't have to free it today." 

-

The training center, the 'palace' with the darkest green, turned out to be a place full of a dizzying array of alien species, the main room being the interior of a large cone where the Spectrum Knights, humanoids and aliens, were conferring in a conference a good twenty feet aboveground. With a reassuring look down at Jessie, Aquaria waved - and then flew up to join the other Knights in a conversation half-audible to the people below. That left Jessie down on the ground; along with a motley group of humanoids, perhaps a dozen or so compared to the two dozen Knights in the air. 

They were an odd-looking bunch to Jessie's eyes; but looking up, she could match them all to various of the Knights overhead. Aquaria wasn't the only Spectrum Knight with family. Or a friend 

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Jessie could've jumped high and far enough to join in on some of the lower maneuvers if she'd wanted to, but she did not seem at all interested. Instead she found a spot on the weirdly metallic-glassy ground and sat on her heels, solitary as a toad, and watched her friend anxiously. It was cold in the cone, cold enough that she didn't want to sit on the ground, but Aquaria in her new armor didn't seem to mind at all. There were doors around the funnel end of the cone, not written in English but somehow legible nonetheless, labeled "Cafeteria" and "Housing" and "Medical" and "Hangar," with people and monstrous thing going in and out of them. She kept an eye on the moving beings, but most of her attention was elsewhere. 

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Over the next few days, Aquaria and Jessie had very different times. For Aquaria, Spectrum Knight training was just as exciting as she'd hoped it would be! She didn't really follow the explanation for how her trident worked - the shamans' talk of 'charged plasma fields' and 'subconsciously-adjusted internal environmental controls' was certainly exciting, though. Her new trident made her strong enough to lift heavy objects, let her fire blasts of energy from the weapon's tip, and super-charge it enough to cut through the strongest metals. And that wasn't the best part - carrying the weapon, she could fly through the air, even into space from what Bie Yi told her. But even that wasn't the best part. As she told Jessie, her voice thick with emotion one night, "I can fly underwater! I can fly underwater!" The oceanic depths here were very different than the oceanic depths back on Earth; but they were hers, the energy of the trident pumping oxygen into her system, letting her survive even at crushing depths. It was like she'd been transformed into a true Deep One without all the emotional sacrifice such a transformation would have made. Jessie had never seen her friend so happy. 

Of course, even for Aquaria it wasn't all perfect. The other Spectrum Knights were all learning how to use their weapons for war - each of them armed with swords, knives, whips, and other energy weapons of various colors that each had roughly the same powers as her own. Aquaria had no real objection to a righteous war, especially not when the scarred bodies and hard eyes of her fellow Knights told of the grim conditions on their homeworlds. But time and time again, conversations with her peers centered around revenge, about the oppressors they would bloodily slay upon their return to their homeworlds, about the righteous war that would end with them ruling on high as kings and queens of a transformed planet. That made sense to Aquaria too, raised in the blood and autocracy of Deep Ones, but something about it still seemed...wrong. They all talked the same, as if they'd all been chosen for a purpose. 

For Jessie's part, she found herself in the strange position of being the human friend of one of the chosen ones. The people who talked with her were mostly the families and friends of other Knights, people who'd been close by when their relatives were taken away by the Knights. She was able to find out more about their lives; it sounded like space had been through a long, bloody war in the recent past, and these people had suffered from it more than most. But for all they shared the desire for revenge against a long list of oppressors, it was easy to see how alone many of them were. Aquaria, with her frequent visits to the barracks where the humans and humanoids were sleeping, at least four or five times a day, was very unusual. 

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Jessie didn't spend much time talking to the other inmates of the barracks, and counted what time she was forced to interact as reconnaisance, just to keep herself from running away and hiding. This place was bad news, scary bad news out in space, and the dead tracking bracelet around her ankle just served to remind her of the bad trouble they were in. Yes, partially because they were breaking probation and would have to answer questions about that at home, but the tracker was also Jessie's safety net. The tracker meant that if someone bad found her and tried to do something to her, she would be missed and looked for. Without that, any of the dangerous creatures from the time she didn't remember could come after her, and she would be gone, gone, gone without a trace. Being surrounded by strangers in a place where there was precious little quiet or privacy didn't help that feeling even one little bit. It was just as well that Jessie did not need very much sleep. 

Still, she wanted to be a good friend to Aquaria, who was always nice to her and doing good things for her, and who deserved to have a better best friend. So she listened to Aquaria's excited stories about all the things her new armor let her do, and all the stories about the training exercises, in the sky and under the water. She smiled and nodded and agreed that it was all really exciting and would definitely be an asset to superhero work back on Earth, when they went back to Earth, which would surely be incredibly soon now. 

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The last day came about a week after their arrival by Jessie's count, though it was hard to know exactly how much time lay between the rising and the falling of the double suns here. It was a busy day on Stronghold; the skies were buzzing with more Spectrum Knights than Jessie had seen all week, and gossip around the barracks was that some of the Knights had gone on a "mission of holy liberation" to rescue some of their fellows held in captivity by the Lor. (Many of the people she shared the barracks with were members of religions she didn't understand, and there'd been at least one brawl she'd witnessed that had been broken up by the Knights 'associated' with the combatants, a Zultasian woman like Bie Yie and a big lizard-faced humanoid over two meters tall.)

There was some kind of ceremony going on for new Knights like Aquaria, who was excited to report to Jessie that her training period was complete. "We're done! We can go back to Earth soon!" That was good news, enough to get Jessie and Aquaria together in a big glass-steel dome the color of the reddish seas below. There were lots of Knights here; and their families too, but Aquaria's grip on Jessie's arm meant she joined the Knights down inside the bowl. There were a good fifty humanoids of various shapes and sizes here, all of them in different colors of armor, with enough space that Jessie and Aquaria could stand together without too much crowding. 

When Bie Yie took the stage, the crowd roared with enthusiastic applause - he had evidently been the trainer of this particular class of Spectrum Knights. "My friends!" he was calling. "My friends, your training is complete! You are ready to FIGHT! For your freedom! For your people! For the LIBERATION of this galaxy from the monsters who have bound it in chains! From the lowest soldier to the mightiest Praetorian, from the most vile king to the most fearsome Star Knight, none shall keep us in chains again!" The crowd went wild, Aquaria along with it, waving her arms and bellowing noisily in triumph, her trident glowing brightly in her opposite hand. 

 

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Jessie clapped halfheartedly along with the crowd, hunching her shoulders and keeping close to the wall she'd insisted they stand close to for the ceremony, despite Aquaria's desire to be front and center. These people reminded her of something, maybe more than one something, but every time she tried to puzzle it out, she ran smack into the blank white hole. There was something bad associated with these people. Bad things had happened to them... had she done bad things to them? Had they done bad things to her? Whatever it was, she was sure it was not good. But they were going to be home soon, and Jessie could find Erin, and Erin would help fix everything that had gone so wrong and maybe it would be mostly okay again. 

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When the crowd was in a frenzy, Bie Yie called for a volunteer onto the stage. All the Spectrum Knights could fly - but none could leap as high as Aquaria, or wave an extended limb with as much vigor. Aquaria tried to take Jessie with her, not wanting to leave her friend in the middle of this crowd of excited aliens who (if she was honest with herself) were starting to make her feel a little uncomfortable, but wound up leaving an unhappy Jessie at the foot of the broad, curving stage while she joined Bie Yie out front. His sword in hand, Yie took her hand, then 'cut' the air, producing a glowing blue circle in the air as if he was cutting a paper shape out of the fabric of the universe. Her trident still in her hand, Aquaria gave Jessie a reassuring human thumbs up as Bie Yie addressed the crowd. "Behold! By the power of our patrons, I can show you all a sign - a glimpse into the future of the LIBERATION of your world! Take my hand, Ackwareeaa." Aquaria did so and the scene changed; the glowing blue circle now showing images that Aquaria knew well - images drawn from her secret dreams; and beyond. 

-

Atlantis bled. Clouds of foul fluids stretched up above towards the hated Surface; the mixed blood of Atlanteans and their shattered city. The empire of Poseidon had fallen - and everywhere, Deep Ones moved among the ruins. Amphibious in their breathing masks, aquatics standing proudly naked in Hydra's ocean, the victorious armies of Dagon and Hydra rounded up Atlanteans everywhere, driving them forward with whip and chain, driving them out of their city and onto the naked sea floor. Where they could starve. Where they could know suffering. 

In what had been the throne room of Theseus, king of Atlantis, Ackwareeaa  In-His-Mouth, the queen of the Deep Ones and High Priestess of Mother Hydra, sat sprawled across the orichalcum throne, glowing, bloody trident in her hands. Theseus and the rest of the royal family were there too, surrounded by Deep One guards armed with fearsome, twisted weapons that looked like gigantic fishhooks, bound by burning black chains that kept them bound despite their attempts to assume a watery form. 

"Mercy!" begged the broken monarch, his hand severed by his earlier battle with the unstoppable cthonic warlord. "Mercy!" 

"Yes, mercy! The same mercy you have shown us for two thousand years!" Ackwareeaa taunted before impaling the Atlantean through the midsection on her triple blade. As the princesses screamed in grief and rage, the Deep One monarch pulled her trident free. "My brothers and sisters!" She called to the other Deep Ones. "Lemuria is AVENGED! We will eat our fill of this blasphemous city - and then we will free ourselves at last from TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY by the final war against the SURFACE WORLD!

-

The crowd of Spectrum Knights cheered lustily - but Jessie could see Aquaria's crest fallen completely flat and her big eyes bulging wide, and in fact the gregarious amphibian actually took a step back away from the image as her other 'self' fell upon the Atlanteans with her blade. Having temporarily forgotten her English, Aquaria croaked nervously, her eyes casting around the crowd for her friend's face. 

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Jessie couldn't fly like a Spectrum Knight, but she could jump like nobody's business, and in a half-second, she was on the stage next to Aquaria, standing between her and Bie Yie. "NO!" she screamed defiance at the elder Knight. "You can't make her do those things! She's good!" Jessie turned to Aquaria and pulled on her friend's armored arm. "Please, we have to get out of here," she begged. "It's evil here and they're going to make you bad if we don't leave, and you'll go back to jail or make terrible things happen!" 

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Bie Yie reached for Jessie, a snarl on his face, but Aquaria interposed herself between her friend and her erstwhile mentor, trident crackling to life in her hand. "Hey, no!" Jessie could hear the sudden desperation crackling in Aquaria's voice, the grief that edged her "No!" Inside, Aquaria was screaming Not again! Not again! "You leave her alone!

And then suddenly the sky opened up. The gateway in the stars that the Spectrum Knights used to gather new recruits, and to send out large groups for reconnaissance, suddenly gaped wide - a golden circle of light in the sky overhead looking as big as Earth's Moon. The gateway disgorged a small, rapidly-fleeing group of Spectrum Knights, recognizable as the "liberation mission" that had left that morning.

Everyone had seen these before; liberation raids that freed captive Spectrum Knights, battled against the forces of galactic oppression, and each time the result had been much the same. 

Until today. This time, the returning Spectrum Knights weren't alone!

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Cavalier really was not having any of this. 

It wasn't as if the Lor had gone through enough. While he understood the idea of insurgency, there really were better times to do so than after the annihilation of a homeworld. It didn't help that he had no real idea of the cause - some of the people targeted had been far from saints, but the grouping had been so randomized as to make it hard to devise what the hell they even wanted. It was something to monitor, but it hadn't exactly been personal.

But then he'd arrived in the wake of the attack on the Hall of Justice. Him, some of the Praetorians, and two new Star Knights, under his training and being put through the paces. They'd all traded fire with the rear guard of the jailbreakers. And they'd all gotten a good look at their armor.

"Sri Steward?" asked one of the Knights. "Was that...?"

He didn't know - but he dreaded the possibility. In the wake of everything from the Communion, there had been armor that had failed to return to Citadel. There were rumors of it being colonized by the Communion, used as lures and infiltrators. It should have shut down when the Communion's central hub was destroyed... so who was wearing that now?

In any case, it wasn't a Star Knight. And this could not stand. Especially if that was the actual armor, stolen off the body of people who'd died doing the right thing. 

"Gird your armor," he said, "and charge your weapons. Prepare to meet frequencies similar to our own. We're going in." 

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Paradigm watched as the fleeing raiding party that had attacked the Hall of Justice disappeared through a gateway.  She and several of the Praetorians had been on the new Lor homeworld when the attack had begun, and they had responded along with Cavalier and two of the more recent Star Knight recruits.   

The Naram had heard of similar raids carried out by a group that referred to themselves as the "Spectrum Knights."  Thus far they had been able to strike and be gone before any of the Praetorians could arrive at the scene of one of the raids, given the seemingly random targets and locations they struck throughout the sector.  But now, now they had an opportunity to pursue a group of them. 

While there was certainly risk in following right after the raiding party, it presented an opportunity that was worth the risk. 

"Agreed Knight Steward."  Paradigm stated confidently.  "We cannot let them slip away again."  She continued, glancing at her fellow Praetorians before she started forward through the air, accelerating as she went. 

On the far distant planet on the other side of the gateway, a loud sonic boom echoed through the air as Paradigm emerged from the gateway at supersonic speed, quickly decelerating once she was through as she quickly took in the scene below her.

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