The Hassan's Follower crept softly through blackness where only dim light shone. She was in full EMCON, stealth 'ware on full tip and flow, wavelets and the few stray particles this far into the Dark sliding over her surfaces in uncaring caresses. Her crew lay in their boostcouches, Interfaced, waiting for Ballistics to match up in the consensual CONSpace they shared. The Engineer was sweating a maneuvering thrusterpak running rough, and had been babying it since the final Jump sequence had completed. The Pilot and Second were just waiting, 'hands' off 'controls' but ready and tensed in this world without flesh.

Computers ticked softly to themselves inside Hassan's Follower, content with their ruminations. Spacetime moved and flexed; time passed, bodies spun, suns soared on their paths through space. Through all that, the numbers trued slowly towards optimum, status sliding down towards green in their heads as Weapons cyclechecked the launchers for the Nth time. All go. Ten seconds.

A small jet of ice crystals spat from a maneuvering thruster, then another; a hot blast from Auxdrive as the Gravity-Resist idled on low power. This far out from system primary, there was little for it to do. The ship moved, sliding up into the vector it had waited to reach, nonexistent lights went green-for-go, and Weapons watched as the computers brought up the mass drivers and spat a stream of compressed carbon and osmium projectiles onto the vector they had worked so hard to reach. The shapes shot away from the energy mantle of the ship into the blackness, rushing outwards to meet an appointment long years away, and Hassan's Follower turned delicately on thrusters. Deep inside her hull, incomprehensible claws grabbed at space and twisted as the deVass Generator cycled, and space was as empty as it had ever been.

Ten times the dark ship dropped into Jump out of Proxima Centauri; ten times it Jumped back, slightly different locations greeting it each time. The defenders of that system may have seen it coming, but it was many, many AU outside interdiction; interceptors were only half as far out from the small dim sun, and even the massive sensor arrays which could detect the faint wriggle of its deVass signature were hard-pressed to do so before it was gone again. The defenders of the system consoled themselves with the fact that there wasn't much it could see from way out there; nor had it launched any missiles, beam weapons, or left behind any devices from which to spy (they checked, reaching its locations after it had departed).

Ten times it poked into the outer system, and ten times it departed, then was seen no more.

The war continued. Invasion fleets entered the Proxima system and were beaten back; others grabbed footholds. Lives continued to wilt and fail. Ships died, alone in the dark, or in crowds; entire shoals of wreckage grew around inhabited bodies in the inner system. The Terrans were disadvantaged, fighting at the end of a multi-light-year long supply line, but they had allies; the Alphans were closer, and they were pissed.

Four years later, the Hassan's Follower jumped back into Proxima Centauri. The war was stalemated around the innermost belt worlds; two planets inside an asteroid belt and a ring of artificial habitats supporting a fully-mobilized war economy. Although the Terran/Alphan alliance held the outer system, the inner belt had proven too tough a challenge, and the decision was made.

The Hassan would remain silent.

She did.

Four years of gravity and alignment; four years of silence and darkness. Position and calculation traded, distilled in those long months of flight into energy. Proxima's own power, stolen, bloated into tiny ticks of horrid light-

Ten times, the hammer fell.

Ten times, the inner worlds shuddered to the Assassin's Knife, and the sky rained fire.

When it was over, Hassan's Follower flicked her deVass Generator and vanished back into the night, killer for hire, shame of a war but pride of a fleet, and moved back out into the interstellar night where the feathered touch of gravity was so light that she could not harvest her potentials of death.

It was the only place, so far from the primaries that no sun was larger than any other, that her crew felt clean.

SciFiQuest 2106!

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