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Timeo Eldraeos et Dona Ferentes: Beware of Space Elves Bearing Gifts

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Even Later That Night

Danny Hebert sprawled across his couch, the night air pouring through the shattered window, and contemplated the wreckage of his life. An open bottle of whisky sat on the table, with an untouched half-full glass next to it, which he stared at unseeing.

Everything he touched had come to ruin.

He couldn’t fix his city. All the years of planning, pleading, practically begging for the resources to reopen the docks, to get the ferry running again, even just to keep the gangs out of the docks or persuade the few struggling businesses that still used them to stay, and still things worsened, year on year.

He couldn’t help his men. Every year, there was less work for the Dockworkers, less work – however far he stretched it – to divide among them. More leaving, to the gangs, to flee the broken city, or simply to despair.

He couldn’t save his wife from the crash that killed her, or from the fight – his damned temper – that preceded it. He couldn’t protect his daughter. Not from the bullying she went through at school, which must have been far, far worse than he could have imagined. Not from his own negligence, the disconnect that had haunted their home and relationship since Annette died. Not from the life of a cape on the run that she faced now.

And now, at the last, he couldn’t even help himself. The PRT men had left him in his home, warning him to stay there, knowing that there was nowhere he could go, and nothing he could do. No way to make up for any of his failures. Helpless. Hopeless. Nothing but bait, now, to lure Taylor in before punishing him for blocking her capture, and then –

He clutched his head in his hands, fingernails digging bloody furrows in his scalp, and groaned in absolute despair.

And then they were there, crystalline structures larger than worlds, spiraling around one another in unnamable directions, fragmenting into thousands of pieces, each a mass bigger than cities, countries, continents.

Voices thundered through his head, each word an encyclopedia in itself:

[DESTINATION]

[AGREEMENT]

[TRAJECTORY]

[AGREEMENT]

And as the two fell headlong towards a familiar world, one fragment plunged right towards him –