2010 – 11:39 P.M.
Valkyrie had almost reached the top of the stairs.
Okay, just admit that whatever that was really shook you down to your 'I'll-never-heart-Ringwraiths' panties – and just keep moving, she thought. Just one more step-
"Ringbearer, this is an emergency transmission – do you receive? Ringbearer – can you reply?"
Valkyrie found herself floating in outer space, her polarization shields active as she found herself awash in the unending light of –
"That's the sun."
Shaking her head clear, the Ringbearer glanced around her surroundings – such as they were – and stopped herself from tumbling through the void as she called up the heads-up display on the shields her Ring had already deployed.
"Determine location and position," she said, as if unaware of the voice trying to get her attention.
The information scrolled up on her display:
==Temporal Position – 2:54:49 – 04 November 2010
==Dimensional Location – D-1245
==Spatial Location – Sol (southern polar orbit / Y-axis + 118 miles)
==Shifting to long-range scanners...
"DAMNIT, RESPOND! Cloak, damn you! Cloak yourself!"
Valkyrie suddenly became aware of the voice; she cloaked herself in a 'glamour' as the DRADIS (the combat sensory system the Rings used) went active... to show Valkyrie the largest single reading that she had ever seen on any device...
==ALERT! Active HST infestation zone
==Classification: Doppelganger/Elemental Composition
==Infestation Intensity Level Status: CLASS FOUR
==Location: Lunar orbit/southern polar region (current)
==Updating Threat Evaluation and Identification database...
==Location: multiple Earth-bound vectors confirmed
==CONFIRMED CHAIN SWARM IN PROGRESS
==ALERT COMMAND IMMEDIATELY
==ENGAGE EMERGENCY BEACON IMMEDIATELY
==HST shields deployed
"What's going on?"
"We identify you as Brevet Ringbearer Henry!" the voice from nowhere replied. "You are not authorized to be in this continuum – evacuate immediately! Set to the following coordinates and portal out once hostilities commence!"
"What's going on here – oh, my God."
Valkyrie's voice failed her as she saw the fabric of space and time literally burn open as streams of flame – streams of flame that dwarfed the largest solar flares she had ever seen – flowed into reality far beyond the Moon's orbit.
Adjusting optics, Valkyrie's display zoomed in on one of the massive streams – and her breath skipped as she saw that the stream was actually composed of flaming figures in the likeness of Daria Morgendorffer... millions upon millions of them, an infinity of flaming beings headed for the Earth like a blazing double-helix poised to burn the world from space itself.
Valkyrie's eyes went wide; 'Hammer' was the nickname given to the most powerful weapons in the Corps of Ringbearer's arsenal – the Sky Vaults.
A woman's voice came over the channel. "Hammer Three is go for transit."
A raspy, melodious sound that Valkyrie immediately recognized as the voice of a female human-Kor'am'mai hybrid (the species that reproduced itself by impregnating mammals and taking on the racial traits of that species) came across the channel. "Hammer Four is go for transit."
"Hammer Two is go." This time, the speaker was a man with the unique, grunting tone that she always associated with Jovian colonists.
"Hammer Five is go."
The voice that had told her to hold her position spoke once more. "Hammer One is go."
"Hammer Seven is go."
A voice that Valkyrie immediately recognized came across the channel – the voice of Danielle Todds. "Hammer Six is go for transit."
Disbelief arced through the blonde Ringbearer. Hammer Seven? That's not possible! We only have six of them - but if there's seven, that means-
A pinpoint of blue light appeared in space – and an instant later, the moon-sized artificial world that was the Sky Vault Andúril appeared in real-space, followed by her sister vessels - the Chosin, the Tesla, the Giza, and the Masada.
Barely had the Masada entered real-space when two more Sky Vaults arrived in-system – the Saleesa, and a seventh that Valkyrie's IFF system identified as the Avalon.
Valkyrie watched in awe s a beam of yellow-white energy the size of Australia lanced out from the Andúril, followed immediately by beams from the other vessels.
She watched as the beams impossibly shifted and flattened, each becoming a burning sweeping field of destruction five times the width of the Earth that swept across space - and detonating the massive curtain of flame that was the billions of flame-Judiths approaching Earth.
"This is unreal," Valkyrie whispered to herself, thinking aloud as she watched several dozen Mobile Advance Bases arrive in-system and begin firing upon the flame-Judiths with their heavy solar cannons – smaller than the Sky Vault's main weapons, but each capable of scorching an Earth-sized planet. "What the hell is happening?"
Making a quick decision, Valkyrie adjusted the Ring's 's settings to the coordinates she received earlier – and as the massive assault of flaming doppelgangers fell apart, a purple ring of energy appeared around the blonde Ringbearer, and she disappeared from space and time!