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In the barren reaches of space, through a wormhole deep in the blackness, across billions and billions of miles of emptiness lies the Cairghrian Galaxy and in that vast expanse are the Federated Moons of Rysalia.
While Earth was still staggering from the assassination of the greatest political leader their world had ever known, the Rysalians were systematically eliminating anyone they considered a threat to their multi-world domination; not even newborns of the ruling classes escaped the Rysalian sickle of destruction.
To that end, Dr. Piev Jale, the head research scientist on board Frontier Station Khamsin-14, had engineered a new retrovirus which caused instantaneous infertility in his female lab specimens. The retrovirus, codename V-7, attacked the ova and destroyed all the egg cells, thereby rendering the female unable to conceive. The inability of enemy females to bear offspring would mean no future enemies about whom Rysalia would need to worry. Therefore, V-7 was developed as part of a huge stockpile of biological weapons to be added to the Rysalian Empire's war arsenal for use in future conflicts. If Rysalia could simply stop their enemies from reproducing, ultimately, there would be no more enemies with whom to share their part of the universe. It had the full endorsement of all high-ranking members of the Fleet Command.
Once the retrovirus was deemed safe for transport, two hundred titanium canisters were sent via three long-range cruisers to the holding facility on Rysalia Prime. Each of the other fifteen space stations was to receive a dozen canisters to be incorporated into the weapon's array of that station'sassigned warship.
While FSK-14's own warship, the Whirlwind, was having her cache of V-7 installed, the canisters of the retrovirus suddenly exploded in the cargo bay. The pressurized contents were forced out of the ship's forward hold and sucked into one of the space station's air registers and from there into FSK-14's ventilation system. The bacteria invaded every chamber, every corridor, and the respiratory system of every living thing aboard.
The results were disastrous.
What had been harmless in lab animals, became lethal to the females of FSK-14. Every woman who breathed in the odorless, colorless gas drew deep into her lungs the live bacteria and was dead in less than one hour from massive hemorrhage of the uterine blood vessels.
Before news of the disaster could reach Rysalia Prime--and before the other fourteen space stations could be warned of the potential danger--each of the poorly-manufactured pressurized canisters exploded, sending clouds of deadly gas into the lungs of every Rysalian female in the Empire. Within two hours, all the women were dead.
Such a tragedy stunned the men of the Rysalian Empire.
To have lost their mothers and wives, their lovers and sisters and daughters, was a crippling blow. Humbled by their grief, the Rysalian's accepted peace terms from their enemies and set about to re-populate their world with willing women from among their former enemies.
But the gods had frowned darkly upon the Rysalian warriors and their attempt to rule their part of the universe. The retrovirus, while harmless when inhaled by Rysalian males, nevertheless attached itself to the reproductive system of its victim and began to mutate amongst the spermatozoa. While no longer lethal, V-7 still carried with it devastating results: the instantaneous infertility of any female who engaged in sexual relations with a Rysalian male.
And there was no way to reverse the contamination of the spermatozoa.
As their male population began to decline, the Rysalians ranged farther and farther afield from their home world, seeking out carbon-based humanoids with whom they might successfully mate and repopulate their dying world. The search within their own galaxy had proved futile; the females they found were just as susceptible to the bacteria as were their own.
Then, when their race was on the very brink of extinction, Captain Kyrish Brell of the Rysalian Fleet Command encountered an anomaly while on a routine run of the Gamma quadrant. The long-range cruiser was sucked into a massive wormhole and jettisoned out into an area of space widely thought to be uninhabited. After ascertaining he could make the return trip through the wormhole without endangering his ship and crew, his tried his luck in the solar system into which he had been thrust.
Passing planets that showed no signs of sustaining life as he knew it, the Captain finally arrived at a small, blue-green, pear-shaped ovoid.
What he had found was Earth, or Terra as he named it in his own Rysalian High Speech. Captain Brell and his men transported to the surface of this undiscovered world and encountered a female species that was not unlike their own. With methodical intent, twenty young women of childbearing age were abducted, taken on board Brell's ship, The WindLass, and examined for their ability to conceive. Only one was rejected and she was soon replaced with another fertile female. Satisfied with his human cargo, Brell returned to FSK-14. Once there, the women were handed over to specially selected males of the elite warrior caste whose task it was to impregnate them. When the first female conceived, there was uncontrolled jubilation throughout the Empire, but the jubilation soon turned to abject disappointment. Though all twenty females conceived and bore offspring of the Terran-Rysalian union--twelve females and nine males--the female children were born without reproductive organs; the males with contaminated spermatozoa.
Such news was bitterly disappointing to the Rysalian males. If these females' children could not reproduce, what good were they? It was decided by the High Council of Scientists that from that time forward, all female fetuses growing in Terran wombs would be aborted while the male fetuses would be left to term. It did not matter that these male children could not reproduce. After all Terran women could easily be harvested from their backward world to be used to re-populate the Rysalian Empire.
What Rysalia needed were more Terran women to bring forth Terran-Rysalian males who would become fierce warriors over time.
In order to advance this Rysalian objective, special sections of the Rysalian Fleet Command were formed for the sole purpose of extracting suitable females from Terra. They were called Retrieval Units.
The men of the first section were called Hunters. They were transported to Earth and left there to blend in with the inhabitants. Their job was to seek out young females of exceptional intelligence, maximum physical heath, and arresting beauty: all attributes thought to be necessary for optimum breeding ability.
The second section, the Shepherds, were assigned the job of 'herding' those women who were selected to a pre-arranged spot where the third section, the Harvester, picked them up and brought them to Rysalia. Once on FSK-14, the women were turned over to the fourth section, the Breeders, who assigned them to their mates.
But it was the infamous Fifth Section that was feared the most. It was these men who struck fear into the heart of every woman brought to FSK-14. They were called Reapers, cold-blooded killing machines bred without conscience, compassion or regard for human life. Programmed to repress all gentle emotions, they were shapeshifting vampires who bled black blood and had the strength of twenty men. Not only were the Reapers feared by their enemies, they were feared by their own society.
'Run and the Reapers will find you,' it was said.
'Disobey and the Reapers will punish you,' they were warned.
'Harm your mate and the Reapers will kill you,' they promised.
The Reapers were the demons of every Terran woman's nightmare.
And one in particular was a nightmare in his own right, a killer among killers.
His name was Kamerone Cree.