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“Samdru, what’s that?” Our team leader, Instructor First Rank Ranan Dumogga Batar, gestured to a display of an odd reading taken from the ground beneath our feet. Odd, for we had just scanned this area before landing, no signs of anything worth looking at below ground but our finding. Just moments ago, we dispatched courier drones to a Kai’Siri outpost in the next system following the funeral of our friend and teammate young Khamudraht Vaasa, dead on his twentieth birthday, or so we thought…

Seemingly destroyed, caught in a flash of Dunar radiation with no apparent remains, not even ashes to spread across the stars in mourning.

Ignoring the Instructor’s casual and improper use of my dimunitive, I look where he points, at a display showing an odd formation six meters below us — Fossils? Odd. Why didn’t they show up before? — The more I look, the stranger things get. That’s a human skeleton, in strata indicated at over 50 million years of age. That’s impossible, as our earliest human ancestors were transplanted from Sacred Terra only 200,000 years ago.

What on Sirug’s majestic glaciers is a human skeleton doing here at that date?? I get a chill down my spine as I look, and punch in a command to the ground scanner. I have a bad feeling about what I’ll find, perhaps just my grief over young Khamud’s sudden death only an hour ago, but I must find out. I order the scanner to match biometric data against the members of our team.

Numbers flash across the screen, and stop where I was afraid they would. The bones are the fossilized remains of Khamudraht Vaasa, dated along with the strata now at 55 million years or so. I let that sink in. For a moment, both the Instructor First Rank and I are speechless, then after several more tests of alternative hypotheses we conclude that Khamud must have been somehow shifted in time by the relics, and suddenly killed on this landmass in the distant past before he traveled too far on foot, or perhaps displaced just under it, tens of millions of years ago.

My heart sinks with despair. So young, so handsome and full of life. And now gone…I barely knew him. Then I think of what this implies…

“Instructor First Rank…” My voice quavers, “…the relics…If they can do that, they must be powerful weapons… They could be put to our service, even end the war with our enemies, end the stalemate of this conflict. We could win this!” Ranan touches my shoulder as I stare at the readings, but I ignore the familiarity, even welcome it. He ranks above me, after all, and is not an unhandsome older man.

In a moment of nationalistic pride that I’d come to regret the rest of my days afterward, I whisper, “We must use them, to overwhelm the Giants and cement our place in galactic affairs!” Ranan looked on at the relics, held in their Dunar field containers, slowly rotating in and out of spacetime, to us almost as intangible as ghosts and potentially giving us the powers of the gods themselves…

He nods, and begins giving orders to the rest of our team.

The others have so far been kept unawares of our plans for these relics as weapons, as we’ve convinced them that young Khamud was killed by ancient security systems. In a way, that’s true. We haven’t told them about the fossils we found — in an oddly fortunate turn of events, our funding has permitted us only one groundscanner system, and by tradition, only the Instructor First Rank and I as his assistant researcher have full access to its data.

Oh, others may use the device, but the data on Khamudraht’s multimillion-year old remains is kept quantum-encrypted as classified information, our eyes only.

Only the two of us know the secret of his demise. We oversee the loading of the relics onto the shuttle for our craft in orbit. Once docked, we set coordinates and starfold to an outpost three systems out, a frontier military base where our discoveries will be kept and studied. They are now state secrets.

It is difficult to keep the true nature of the relics from the others, and they cannot help but suspect that we are doing just that. None of us are stupid, and their insistent curiosity, so much a part of their scientific outlook, is not helping with keeping things quiet.

We Kai’Siri are an aggressive lot, though our social evolution has permitted us to outstrip that and survive as an interstellar species. Still, tensions run high, and we strain even our culture’s evolved safety mechanisms at keeping relations civil.

There is resentment, and jealousy…I fear now that I was too unskilled at hiding my feelings for Khamud when he lived, nor now for the Instructor. The others have noticed, and that may bring shame upon my family line.

I must take steps to ensure the secret of these relics, which Ranan has called ‘hypershards,’ even if I must eliminate others to do it.

I think a prayer to my family’s household gods that it does not come to that. We Kai’Siri are a civilized people! Please, let it not!

What have I gotten into?

To be continued…

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