Prologue

President Toni Childes sat behind her desk and took a calming breath. Today was supposed to be a normal day…Well, normal for the “leader of the free world”, at any rate. And then right away her Chief of Staff, Marion Bradley, told her of a last minute change in her morning schedule. The French ambassador was going to be upset and Childes was already thinking of ways to make it up to her when there was a gentle knock on the door and Bradley and her new eight o’clock entered the Oval Office.

Childes had met Glin Chet’crebinel only a handful of times before and the envoy of the Confederacy of Civilized Worlds always struck her as being a bit of an odd duck. She seemed to say things to deliberately provoke people and it was impossible to tell if it was because she enjoyed ruffling feathers, did so to test their mettle or was simply still ignorant of certain Earth mores. Today she was clad in a dull black pantsuit with a shimmering silver blouse, her hair done up in a severe bun and Glin was not smiling as she accepted Toni’s proffered hand.

Oh, Childes thought. It was going to be one of those meetings.

Pleasantries lasted all of thirty seconds and Childes had barely taken her seat on one of the couches before-

“You need to cancel all your appointments today,” Glin said.

“Wh-“ Toni began.

“All of them,” she glanced at Marion, who had begun pouring her a cup of tea, “Please have your aged but otherwise highly competent servant see to it right away.

Childes paused, then asked, “Are you deliberately an asshole, or do you just accidentally say things to offend people?”

Glin hesitated, then replied, “When the device known as The Augmenter was implanted in my skull certain bits of my brain had to be removed, one part involved impulse control.”

“Is that story true or the one you thought up in case anyone ever called you on your bullshit?”

“Yes.”

Sighing, Toni asked, “Okay, what is it?”

“What do you know of your predecessor’s arrangements with my government?” Glin inquired.

“You mean the thousand page legal nightmare I’m still wading through as well as everything else sitting in my in box? Just the basics. Why?”

“You are aware of a facility we have on your sole natural satellite.”

“Yeah, the one where you keep your space ship parked.”

“That is not the only reason it exists. That facility houses a prisoner. Kept in stasis, she poses no threat. But we have reason to believe that eventually someone will come for her.”

Glin raised her hand and twisted the wrist, a hologram appeared over the coffee table of a desolate landscape beneath an angry red sun. The ruins of some facility littered the landscape. Glin said, “This is what is left of what we call a ‘dark vault’, in it were kept various prisoners the Confederacy does not wish to admit exist but at the same time find prudent to keep alive. And please, Madame President, spare me any moral outrage; as a minor functionary I do my best to survive in the vast machine in which I exist. The point is this facility was supposed to be so secret only a handful of individuals were aware of its existence; I only learned of it several hours ago. It was where Veshuthru, Lord of Marrow was being held.”

Toni frowned, “Veshuthru…” her eyes widened as the name came to her, “You mean one of the four…”

“Who attempted to re-write reality some years ago. Yes, the same. Veshuthru was freed and his whereabouts are unknown. What we believe is that he will attempt to find his three siblings, uniting them so they might try again. Right now at this moment The Queen of Blood resides upon your moon and it is only a matter of time before her brother tracks her down.

“So, Madame President, the question is, do you simply sit there and do nothing and hope The Confederacy’s various military, law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses stop Veshuthru, or do you assume they will mess things up again and you do something it?”

Toni felt a cold rock form in her gut. She had read the reports years ago about The Four, about how powerful they were and how utterly insane their motivations seemed. One alone was bad enough, but if they got the band back togtehter…

“Marion,” she said after a long quiet moment, “Pass the word along I just came down with a bad case of the flu. Cancel all my appointments and quickly and quietly start asking the cabinet to meet here this evening."

Her expression was grim when she added, "Tell them it's going to be an all nighter…"

Prologue

Cosmic Defenders katefan