"How is the shoulder?" Sophia asked.

            "Not…not terribly bad," Jessie said quietly.

            The Captain hadn't spoken lately—the site of Orlando's slain body, as well as the priest's, and Ana in a teary mess had unhinged him slightly.

            The two of them were sitting in a lounge.  Grypps said he had an announcement to make that morning, on the Wednesday after the incident.

            "This was found at the scene of the…the Event," Sophia said, holding up a small notebook, "do you know what it is?"

            "The priest gave it to your brother," Jessie said quietly.

            Sophia opened it, and looked at the cipher.

            "I cannot make heads nor tails of it," she said.

            Jessie looked over.

            "Neither can I," he said, "though the letters look familiar."

            "Same here, though I can't tell from where."

            The PA chimed, indicating that everyone was to gather in the giant meeting hall that had meant to house both organizations—Iter and Warheitsucher.

            Jessie stood.

            "Time to listen to the boss-man," he said, stretching, "c'mon, Sophie, maybe it has something to do with your brother."

            "I doubt it," she said, but smiled slightly, "though I appreciate the attempt."

            Aleksandr stood in front of the assembled staff of Iter and its off-shoot.  He was in full dress uniform, black with golden pips and a red beret.  In front of the giant red Warheitsucher insignia, he looked inspiring in a contrived way.

            Seated to his left, dressed in the standard khaki-and-blue was Christine, with Seth standing behind her.  To his right was Grypps, dressed with similar formality to his Russian subordinate.

            "In light of recent events, it is apparent that we cannot fight the war as we have been," Aleksandr said, "due to the increasing power of the enemies, including the strange humanoid being involved in the incident this previous Sunday."

            A picture of a black-clothed being with a mask of polished bone and eyes like solid orbs of pale blue.

            "Because of this, and a recent grant from the Pan-Earth Treaty Organization, we have decided on an effective means to combat this threat.  To speak on it will be our commander, General Grypps."

            Sophia blinked—she didn't know that Grypps had that kind of rank, though thought it would probably be the only explanation for his commanding of Iter.

            The blonde man walked to the podium, and an image came up behind him.

            "This, is the Merkava," he stated.

            Behind him, the screen displayed a giant construct, something like a battleship with two huge bulges on the side of it.

            "It is an aerial battleship, with enough hanger space to carry up to six archons, in addition to our full compliment of Support Armors," he looked at the crowd, "as well as five hundred crew members."

            Murmurs rippled through the crowd.

            "This is our flagship," he said, "and the first of three that have been planned."

            Sophia leaned over to Jessie.

            "What the hell is Grypps thinking?" she hissed.

            He held a finger to his lips, and mouthed.

            "He knows what he's doing."

            "This ship…Merkava…will be instrumental in fighting and winning this war.  The War of the Devil Kings."