Martin Kore awoke from a pleasant night's sleep. He lay in his bed for a while longer, looking up at the ceiling and contemplating the previous day's events.

He had been approached by his commander, Ramon Hood who had offered him an opportunity to accompany two other Seekers for a trial run of an alliance between the Seekers, the Defiance Insurgency and the House of Shadows. It sounded like an interesting experience to Martin so he had quickly accepted. He had assumed that it was a prize for the almost flawless completion of his assassination of the Shardnay prison commander.

He had spent the rest of the day brushing up on his knowledge of the Defiance Insurgency and the House of Shadows, learning of their commanders and second-in-commands and such like. In his seventeen years of life and his five years with the Seekers he had not yet met any of the other rebel forces. Today he was going to meet two of the most powerful groups. He relished the thought.

Someone's hand brushed across his chest and Martin looked across to see that his girlfriend was waking up beside him. He stared into her chestnut eyes for a few seconds.

"Morning, beautiful," he greeted her before kissing her on her lips.

"Ugh, morning-breath kiss," she joked before kissing him back.

They passionately kissed for a few more seconds before Martin pulled away and sat up in the bed. He reached down the side of the bed and picked up a plain white, sleeveless shirt from the ground. He pulled the shirt over his head and then heaved himself out of the bed.

"Do you have to leave so early today?" Martin's girlfriend asked him.

"You know I do, Jan," Martin answered.

"But you could stay here with me for a while longer," Jan said as she sat up, pulling the duvet up to her neck to cover her body.

"Think of all the fun we could have," she said seductively.

"Don't you have loads of paperwork to do for the commander?" Martin asked her. "You might want to get an early start on that."

He picked up her bra from the floor and flicked it over to her. "Come on, you need to get up and get dressed as well," he told her.

"Why are you pushing me away?" she pouted, crossing her arms over her chest moodily.

"Because if you keep asking me to stay, I know that I'll do it," Martin smiled at her. "So, get up, get dressed and I'll walk with you to your office."

Without another word she got out of the bed and began to dress. Martin resisted the urge to turn and look across at her as she dressed, instead concentrating on dressing himself. He pulled on a long-sleeved leather jumpsuit and zipped it up almost to his neck. He pulled on a pair of thick leather boots. He stooped and reached under his bed, pulling out a half-packed suitcase.

"I didn't even finish packing last night because you came over for 'a little fun'," Martin complained. "This is why I should have stuck by my plan."

"You could have said no," Jan replied as she delicately applied make-up to her face.

"Would it have mattered if I said yes or no?" Martin asked as he began to stuff more clothes into the suitcase.

Jan laughed. "Not really."

Martin closed the fully packed suitcase and attached the clips which kept it secured. He picked up a smaller bag and went into his bathroom to put in any essential toiletries that he would need. When he came out of the bathroom Jan was finishing putting on her last bit of facial make-up.

She began to quickly brush her short blonde hair. "So, you're gonna be gone for a whole month," she said sadly.

"It'll go quickly, trust me," Martin told her comfortingly.

"I don't mind the time, it's just that it's a long time to be going without seeing you," she said as she placed the hairbrush back down on the dresser. She picked up a pair of golden earrings and put them on.

"If you're thinking that I'm going to be getting into any trouble, you know that I can take care of myself," Martin assured her.

"It's not that either," she turned to him. She looked absolutely stunning. She was wearing a beautiful summery dress that showed off just the right amount of her attractive body without making her look like she was trying to attract attention. Her hair framed her face beautifully.

"Wow, you look really beautiful today," Martin admired her from every angle.

"Did I not look beautiful yesterday?" she asked as Martin walked around to the back of her.

Martin wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the neck. "Jan, you look beautiful every day," he whispered in her ear.

"And don't you forget it," she said as she turned around so that she was looking directly into his eyes. "I don't want to hear about you running around after some tramp while you're with the DI and the House of Shadows. I hear the women of the House of Shadows are quite sexy so just remember me when you see them."

Martin reeled back, with mock-hurt in his voice, placing his hand across his chest he said, "Why, Miss Weste, I can't believe you don't trust after all that we've been through together."

"Hey, I haven't forgotten about your mission to the Lower Province last year," she said, narrowing her eyes in pretend anger. "How you were caught in the arms of that…"

"Yeah, yeah, I get it," Martin said, looking down at his feet. "The mission said to infiltrate the gang by any means necessary."

"Yeah, but you didn't have to sleep with the boss's daughter to get a place in the gang," Jan said indignantly. "Actually, as I recall, it didn't exactly work towards you either. And then there was that time, two years ago when…"

"Alright, I get your point," Martin said, placing a finger across her lips. "No funny business while I'm away. You have my word."

"Glad to hear it," Jan concluded. "Now let's get you on your way."

Martin grabbed the suitcase and the small case of toiletries and he and Jan walked towards the door. Jan pulled the handle on the door and opened the room up to the large concrete corridors directly outside where men and women in military uniforms walked to and fro.

As Martin and Jan walked to Jan's office they were quickly met by a skinny man who ran over to Martin.

"Hey, big guy," the skinny man greeted Martin.

Martin raised his hand with the smaller case in it to quickly bump fists with the man. "Wassup, Joey," he greeted the man back.

"Wassup? Today's the big day!" he exclaimed. "We're going to meet the DI and the House of Shadows. How cool is that? I hear that the babes from the House of Shadows are really hot as well."

"Yeah, well, I've already had my lecture on how to behave while I'm away," Martin nodded over to Jan who was walking by his side.

"Oh hey, Jan," Joey peeked around Martin to wave at her.

She gave him a withering look and walked on, leaving Martin and Joey behind.

"Alright, man, I just gotta walk Jan over to her office and then I'll meet you in the armoury," Martin said.

"Sounds good," Joey nodded. "I'll catch ya' later then."

Martin nodded and then sped up to catch Jan just as she reached her office. Martin placed his bags by the side of the door as Jan placed her hand on the scanner which read her fingerprints and then opened the door automatically.

"Okay, so, I'll be back in a four weeks," Martin told her. "Don't worry about me too much. I'll try to call when I can, so keep your holophone handy."

"Are you sure you have everything you need?" she asked him.

"Everything but a wish of good luck from you," he smiled at her.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him for a few seconds. "How's that for a wish of good luck?" she said when she took a step back.

Martin nodded his head slowly. "It'll do," he said. He picked up his bags.

"I'll see you soon, baby," he told her.

"Bye, Martin," she said with a sad look in her eyes.

As he walked away he turned back to look at her for one more time but she had already closed the door of her office. Martin shook his head and began to walk in the direction of the armoury. Along the way he saw familiar people that wished him good luck on his trip. He finally reached the armoury and pulled open the door.

Joey was already in there along with Steve Astrin, the pilot who had extracted Martin from the prison two days earlier. Steve was a tall middle-aged man with muscular arms which were clearly visible under the leather jumpsuit that he was wearing. He had clear-ice blue eyes and wavy blonde hair with an electric-blue streak through the middle of it.

Joey was the complete opposite. He was a skinny man of about twenty years of age. He had long black hair tied back in a tail behind his head.

Martin was in between with his average height and build and his ordinary blue eyes. He had tried to stand out from the crowd by dying his hair blonde but the dye was fading, giving his hair patches of blonde hair and patches of dark, black hair.

The one thing that the three did have in common was the fact that they were all human Variants.

Variants were humans who had been modified either by scientific experimentation or genetic mutation over time. Variants were split into several different classes. Martin and Steve were both Omega Variants as various parts of their bodies had been replaced with bionic limbs or organs and such like. Joey was in the class of the X Variants, the Variants whose powers were not yet understood. Joey could open personal wormholes to any place as long as he had a visual image of where he was going.

Variants were the only people whose powers came close to those of the Exalteds. Because of this many Variants were either killed or placed in prisons like Shardnay. However, some were found by other groups of rebelling Variants and humans and were then protected by them.

"How'd the goodbyes go?" Steve asked Martin.

"She took it well enough I think," Martin nodded as he walked over to a rack of energy rifles.

"She really didn't want you to go, did she," Steve said with a grin.

"What makes you say that?" Martin said as he pulled a rifle from the rack and looked down its laser sight.

"I walked by your room late last night on my way to the showers," Steve said as he pulled to twin plasma-pistols from the wall. "It sounded like you two were having a real good time."

Joey sniggered.

"If she came to your room late at night dressed like how she was, I doubt you would have said no," Martin retorted.

"You're damn straight I wouldn't," Steve said, still grinning.

Martin replaced the rifle and then went over to a series of boxes set into the wall. Located the box with his name on it, he placed his thumb across the small scanner. The box popped out of the wall and into Martin's hands. He pulled out the hilts of his two plasma swords and his wrist-mounted plasma-pulse cannon. He attached the hilts to the magnetic holdings on the belt he was wearing. He slotted the pulse cannon on to his right wrist and flicked open the side of the cannon to check the energy level of the cartridge inside.

"Well, I'm packed and ready to go," Martin said as he sat down on a bench along the sides of the huge armoury.

"Me and Joey were finished before you even got here," Steve pointed out.

"Great, then let's not waste any more time," Martin said, quickly standing back up after a few seconds of relaxation.

"Joey, take us away," Steve told the skinny man.

Joey walked between Steve and Martin, placing his hands on their shoulders. He closed his eyes and had a look of intense concentration on his face. The lights began to flicker and Martin could feel the hair on his arms beginning to stand to attention. And then with a massive whooshing sound the three comrades disappeared from the armoury and reappeared in the spacious cockpit of a Dragon-breath fighter.

Immediately Martin sat down in the co-pilots seat and raised his eyes to the roof. His face was oddly pale as he deeply took in breath.

"I hate teleportation," he said as he breathed deeply.

"Turns your stomach doesn't it," Joey chuckled as he took the rear seat and buckled himself in. "I used to puke every time I made the smallest 'jump' to anywhere but you eventually get used to the feeling of dematerialisation and rematerialisation."

Steve took a seat in the pilot's seat and waved his hands over the dormant controls display. The holographic control sphere immediately appeared. Steve began to check essential systems. He flicked a switch and began to speak.

"This is Dragon-Breath fighter Delta X-ray Gamma zero three niner," Steve said into the communications system. "Requesting permission to take off."

Immediately the voice of Ramon Hood came over the comms system. "Before I let you go, I should remind you that you are representing the Seekers," he said, his voice sounding scratchy through the speakers around the cockpit. "I will be expecting daily reports on your progress. Also remember that before you leave the DI base to do anything, I don't care how insignificant, you will contact a Seeker controller before leaving."

"Understood, sir," Steve replied.

"With that in mind, I would like to wish you good luck," Ramon said. "You may now take off and proceed to the DI base."

"Thank you, sir," Steve said into the comms system. "See you in a few weeks."

He shut down the comms system and took the control sphere in both hands. The jets massive plasma engines fired up. Steve pushed the control sphere forward and the bulky jet began to roll down the runway, slowly picking up speed. When the Dragon-Breath fighter had reached its maximum land speed Steve pulled back on the control sphere and they lifted off.

Steve took the fighter up to about forty thousand feet and then levelled off. He set a course for the coordinates of the DI base and then unbuckled himself from the seat and standing up.

"Alright, ladies, we have a three hour flight ahead of us," Steve told Martin and Joey. "Feel free to catch up on any lost sleep. As for me, I am going to do a little bit more research on our new allies."

Martin took Steve's suggestion and made himself comfortable, quickly falling asleep. He dreamed the same dream that he always dreamed though.

He is on an operating table.

His body is covered with burns.

His limbs are crushed beyond repair

He is injected with something which dulls the pain and feeling.

He then watches helplessly as his limbs are sawn off.

The stumps where his limbs were are cauterised with a plasma torch.

Bionic limbs are then attached to the stumps and then there is pain beyond anything he ever felt before as the electronics are spliced with his nerve endings.

A bloody hand covers his eyes and a shaky voice says, 'When you wake up, it will be all over."

Martin jolted out of the dream with a gasp. He could see that Steve was once again in the pilot's seat.

"You looked so peaceful, we didn't want to wake you until we landed," Steve said with a sarcastic grin.

"I feel anything but peaceful right now," Martin growled. "Where are we?"

"On final descent into the DI base," Steve replied, turning back to the control display.

Martin strained to look through the cockpit window but could see nothing in front of them but barren desert.

"I hate to tell you this, Steve, but it looks like we've been stood up by the DI," Martin said as he settled back into his seat.

"If you'd read the files on the DI base itself you would know that it has a cloak of invisibility around its entire perimeter," Steve responded as he flicked a few switches above his head.

"Furthermore, the majority of the base is in fact underground and is accessible only by Ascension Platform," Steve continued. "You really need to study more."

Martin snorted. "Just fly the damn plane."

"Roger that, commander," Steve said with a mock salute. "We'll be passing through the cloak any second now."

Seconds later the Dragon-Breath fighter passed through a shimmering field and before them laid a complex airfield. Hellfire and Dragon-Breath fighters were patrolling the skies, landing for refuelling and taxiing for take-off. Martin marvelled that so much was hidden from the sight of so many.

"This is DI Controller Munz to Seeker jet call-sign DXG 039," a voice came through the intercom. "We have you on our radar. Please state your purpose in our airspace."

"This is DXG 039, we are the representatives of the Seekers who have been sent to examine the possibility of an alliance," Steve replied, though his hand flicked over to the switch that would raise the ships energy shields in case of an attack.

"You are recognised, you are cleared to land on runway two four left," the controller directed.

"Thank you, control," Steve said as he twisted the control sphere to line up with the runway.

A few minutes later they had touched down on the base and were beginning to disembark from the Dragon-Breath fighter. They were met on the runway by a tall man dressed in a pristine, tidy uniform. By the man's side was an attractive woman dressed in a similar uniform.

They walked over to the new arrivals and the man stuck out his hand towards them in greeting.

"Welcome to the Defiance Insurgency Military Compound," he said with a wide smile. "My name is Lynn Fang; I am the commander of this base. I am very pleased that you could make it here today and I am sure that the coming weeks will be very beneficial to all of us."

Martin looked at Steve and then at Joey before taking Lynn's hand and shaking it firmly. "Seeker Martin Kore," he introduced himself. He waved his hand towards Steve and Joey. "This is Seeker and Pilot Steve Astrin and Seeker Joseph Hood."

"I am pleased to meet you all," Lynn said, still smiling broadly. "This is my personal assistant, Mealin Chen. If you need anything during your stay or if you are having any issues then feel free to speak to her and she will sort it out for you."

"If there are no more speeches, I don't suppose we could actually get into the base," Steve said crisply. "It's getting a bit cold out here."

Lynn was unfazed by Steve's sharpness. "Of course," he quickly agreed. "The weather is getting colder by the day." He turned to his assistant. "Mealin, take us down."

She smiled and pressed a few buttons on a device in her hand. Seconds later, with a loud humming sound a white light appeared and the party found themselves on an Ascension platform in the middle of an embarkation room.

Martin surveyed the room, examining the technicians that continued to perform their work despite their visitors, not giving them so much as a second glance. Lynn and his assistant stepped down from the platform and Martin, Steve and Joey followed them as they left the room.

As they stepped out into the corridor Martin couldn't help but admire how clean everything was and how immaculate the uniforms of every man and woman were. They saluted their commander as they walked past. Clearly they were putting their best foot forward for their guests.

Lynn led the trio to an elevator and took them down several floors. They arrived in the Accommodation Block. Lynn did not leave the elevator with the others.

"I have some other business to attend to," Lynn told them. "Your bags and equipment are already in your rooms which Mealin will show you to. Once you have settled in she will take you on a tour of the base and its facilities."

"It was a pleasure to meet you, commander," Martin said, shaking Lynn's hand one more time for politeness sake.

"This is one of the many floors on which our members of staff live," Mealin told them. "Because of your status you will be given the VIP suites."

She led them down several corridors and into a particularly spotless section. She opened one of the doors to the rooms and led the trio inside.

"This is your room, Mister Kore," she said as she waved her hand around the room.

The room was enormous. There was a minibar, several comfortable looking sofas, shelves of reading material and a beautifully crafted writing desk and this was only the front room. She led them into the bedroom. It was fairly spacious and had a massive king-sized bed along with tall wardrobes and chests-of-drawers. A holograph projection pad was in the corner of the bedroom and in another corner was a computer table, complete with its only holograph projection screen. There was another room adjacent to the bedroom which Martin assumed was a bathroom. Martin also noticed his bags beside the bed.

"I trust this room will be adequate," she said. "There are two rooms identical to this which are for Mister Hood and Mister Astrin. If anything else is needed then do not hesitate to ask."

"I don't think we'll need anything else," Martin laughed. "This will be more than enough, ma'am."

"In that case, I will leave you all to get settled in," she said with a smile. "I will return in one hour to begin the tour of the base."

With those words she left the room and closed the door behind her. Steve slapped Martin on the back of his head.

"Ow!" Martin exclaimed. "What the hell was that for?" he demanded.

"If you were to kiss any further up their asses your head would get stuck," Steve said sharply. "A pleasure to meet you, commander. This will be more than enough, ma'am," he said in a voice imitating Martin's.

"We're supposed to be trying out an alliance," Martin said, rubbing the back of his head. "The least we can do is be polite."

"Yeah, well, save it for when it really matters," Steve said. He turned on his heel and left the room, closing the door behind him, leaving Martin and Joey in the room.

"Joey, go get settled in your room, I've got a call home to make," Martin said quickly.

Joey left without a word.

As soon as the door slammed shut Martin threw himself back on to the bed. He pulled the pulse cannon off of his wrist and placed it on the bedside table along with the two plasma swords. He pulled a holo-disk out of a pouch on the back of his belt and brought up a display of numbers. He quickly punched in a combination of fourteen numbers and waited.

A few seconds later a holographic image of Jan Weste popped up from the disk.

"Hey, babe," Martin greeted her. "Just calling to say that I've arrived."

The holographic image of Jan smiled and nodded. "That's good," she replied. "How was the trip?"

"Troublesome," Martin answered.

"Was it the dream again?" Jan asked.

"Yeah, it was the dream," Martin nodded.

"Do you wanna talk about it?" she asked, concern showing on her holographic face.

"Do I ever want to talk about it?" Martin countered.

"I guess not then," Jan said, her image quickly stacking up some papers before shoving them out of the image. "Listen, I've got some work to get finished up so I'll call you tonight after work."

"Can't wait," Martin replied with a smile.

The image deactivated and Martin tossed the holo-disk across to the bedside table. He kicked off his boots and reclined back on his bed. He decided that he could definitely get used to living in these conditions. He closed his eyes and relaxed, hoping for a pleasant nap before the tour but he knew that he would most likely be haunted by the nightmare once again. The same images which had haunted him since he was twelve years old. It seemed so real, the blood and the pain.

Martin shook off the feeling and attempted to drift off to sleep.