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Sojourn to the Stars

by Wendy Morgan about a year ago in science fiction

Part one of the Sigrún Saga

By Wendy Morgan

Glory to the Allerhine

Could anyone be more qualified for the position than I? Who would be a better fit as commander of the 77th Valkyrie regiment than a national hero? I graduated the military academy at the top of my class, I wrote my university thesis on the victory of the Central Powers in 1919, marking the twentieth century as the "German Century". I've studied the Norse mythology on which our nation was founded in 1939 to great extent. I even performed lead roles in the Canonical Operas by our nation's most cherished cultural icon, Richard Wagner. This was much earlier in my military career, perhaps around 2021, when I was still allowed to do such things.

No, nobody other than I, Sigrún Dämmerung, could stomach the task of protecting Earth from the horrors that await it. And it will be the Allerhine, the jewel of the Earth, the Midgard Sphere that is our galaxy, that will conquer any evil that dares trod on our hallowed world. It was even agreed that my mere image invoked national pride! What was more, I was proud of the woman I watched in the mirror. She had a firm, sharp jaw, a pointed nose with a gentle bow to its length, and cheekbones as serene and smooth as rolling hills on the countryside. Her eyes are green and flecked with brown, an admirable trait as it was said Freya's eyes shone with the same beauteous color. Draped over it all was her wavy, blonde hair, which was arranged in curls and locks that bedecked her jawline, graced the nape of her neck, and met towards the back of her head, as if washing onto a shore that was drawn in a line from her eyes, to her ears, and a short distance beyond.

She was beautiful, and something to be proud of. I could always feel a warm smile cast in my direction, or a longing gaze. To be someone's idol, a role model, was a dream of mine since I was a little girl. Now that I could not only inspire my countrymen, but lead them into battle, I felt a sense of belonging and destiny with every step I took.

A week later, I received my promotion to commander of the 77th Valkyries, an air corps regiment of skillful pilots raised from birth to become the highest protectors of the Allerhine. It's only fitting that I should fill this position, as I was the first successful person to receive this honor. Genetic mutations combined with cybernetic enhancements created a new weapon, a superhuman. Of course, I wouldn't have gotten it if not for being in Kaiser Wilhelm IV's good graces.

I was the first of these valkyries, seven feet tall, fast on her feet, mind quicker than the eye, strong enough to bear the burden of the most advanced personal flight system ever devised: the Icarus Mk. VII, a pair of miniature jet turbines affixed to the back with platelets and long blades designed to fan out like feathers on wings to direct the direction of the draft. This was a valkyrie's signature tool, her constant companion. Guns and respirators are temporary, but an Icarus is forever. "Overengineer, overthink, overcome" was always the motto of the Allerhine Aviation Institute.

Today marks a historical day in my life. Today, I set foot on Sleipnir, the Allerhine's battle-capable space station orbiting the Midgard Sphere. I was greeted by the lead engineer at the Allerhine Aviation Institute's surface-to-orbit launch station in Köln. I've been here many times, mostly for my astronautical training. This was one of the four launch sites in the Midgard Sphere, all of which I've landed at as part of my training with space-capable fighter aircraft, notably the Fokker E.XIX Pegasus, specifically designed for use in the Valkyrie Program. I've spent countless hours enjoying the superb flight conditions in the American Southwest at S-4, our fourth launch station.

We proceeded down a hallway I've never walked down before, and as we reached the end, a hidden panel opened in the wall, revealing a long flight of stairs. After touching down on the landing, I was stunned by an incredible sight. It was a massive, circular control room, alive with monitors all over the walls, lights blinking and computers flashing. Flight paths were charted on large screens, and a map of Earth's orbit was broadcast onto a dome-shaped screen at the very top of the room. I quickly discovered that all remote operations on Sleipnir, as well as other space projects, were conducted here.

"This is where you will check in for all trips in and out of Sleipnir. You are not to divulge the location of this facility to anybody. The risk is too great. If the French or the British discover it, we may find ourselves in trouble." The lead engineer said, and I nodded. Since the Great War, they have been bitter towards us for the Treaty of Berlin, a strict decree demanding war reparations that forced them into economic depression. The British descent into socialism and civil war rendered them powerless. The French started a larger war in 1939, when they invaded German satellite nations and systematically massacred their Jewish and Afro-descended population as a scapegoat for their economic ruin. This horrific and inhumane practice was soon put to an end in early 1942, when German, American, and Italian forces pushed through the country, liberating camps on their way to Paris.

I failed to understand this place. How was I supposed to enter Sleipnir so far underground? There were no launch silos at this base, only platforms! I asked the lead engineer where I was meant to go, and he told me to look at the middle of the room. I turned my gaze thither, and saw a man walking up onto a platform raised towards the dead center of the room. A distinct humming began, and coils descended from the ceiling, charging rods in a ring around the platform with beams of energy. The rods began to spin, and the diameter between the edges of their ring was slowly closed. The circle of rods spun faster, its diameter slowly tightening around the man. I looked on in horror. Our great nation was resorting to ritual sacrifice to further science? I turned away as the lights brightened, and a boom echoed through the room. The humming died down, and I looked up. Indeed, the man was gone.

"What have you done?!" I shouted at the lead engineer. He gulped and stammered as I approached him, standing three heads taller than his scrawny frame. He pointed a shaking finger behind me, struggling to speak even one word. I turned around, and a large monitor on the back wall showed camera footage of the same man in a similar, smaller room walking away unscathed. He whistled and checked his watch nonchalantly.

"Teleportation..." I muttered as the lead engineer caught his breath. I thought such things were impossible. How many more secrets would I learn today?

"You're next, Senior Valkyrie," he said, gesturing towards the platform.

Red Horizon

After spending a fortnight onboard Sleipnir, I quickly became accustomed to prolonged exposure to zero-gravity life. My training only allowed exposure a couple of hours at a time due to cost efficiency. Artificial gravity was a future development that I would not see for many years.

I was enraptured by Sleipnir. Eight massive Braunkorp Haunebu Drive thrusters sped the space station into orbit, and now they awaited their next journey. On the bottom of the craft was the hangar for thirty Fokker E.XX Pegasus fighters, adapted from the previous model for primary use in outer space. This version had no landing gear, instead it wore two large arresting hooks under retractable panels designed to be grabbed by the ship's arresting system. They were pulled into the bottom deck of the station and hung from the ceiling like bats.

The science team aboard the Sleipnir was composed of the most prodigious graduates the astronautics school of the Allerhine Aviation Institute could provide. Today, one of the scientists called me to the satellite imaging laboratory to discuss some disturbing findings with me. I knew him personally. Bernd was one of the men who proposed the Valkyrie Project in 1989. In a way, he was like an uncle to me. Apprehension seized his face, and I prepared myself for unsettling news, taking a seat in front of the scientist.

"Two nights ago, I received troubling scans from our satellites," He said, uncomfortably twiddling his thumbs with an unusually averted gaze. It was apparent that he was afraid of what I might say.

"If there is a problem concerning our planetary security I must know," I said, urging him to speak. He glared up at me with a sad, reluctant look in his eyes. He considered his words carefully. "And don't sugarcoat anything," I said sternly. I could see a pang of apprehension on his face.

"A danger lurks in our solar system. A foreign, man-made object has appeared within the asteroid belt. It is currently orbiting Mars."

"Surely you mean to say Tyr," I interjected to his chagrin. The scientific community was still adjusting to the new names of the planets that Kaiser Erwin proposed to align with the Norse faith instead of the Roman and Greek faiths in 1946. Earth would stay as it was since it wasn't named after a deity, regrettably. Mercury became Hermod, Venus became Freyja, Mars became Tyr, Jupiter became Odin, Saturn became Thor, Uranus became Frigg, Neptune became Njörd, and Pluto became Hel. Naming these planets was a special kind of hell because of all the inconsistencies with the Roman and Greek pantheons and the Norse pantheon.

"Only the highest echelon of the space program knows this. The rest of the science team is investigating it as a comet. Their tools, however, cannot pick up the signals we've found. There are traces of radio frequencies and electromagnetic disruptions, as well as more advanced signs of technology," His eyes bored into mine, searching for a hint of fear. They quickly faltered, seeing no such thing. "Our best course of action... is to wait. Currently all potential flight paths point back towards the asteroid belt. Our scans have indicated that the vessel's engines are slow, and a return trip to Mars from its original location, which is estimated to be somewhere outside our solar system, would take roughly sixty years. In that time, we can prepare for anything. At the moment, however, we are uncertain of the threat that it poses." He stood up and paced around the room.

"I advise sending a supply ship here with additional troops and mobilizing towards Tyr to intercept the vessel. Whatever it is, it will be no match for us," I say, leaning back in my chair and relaxing myself. Bernd's fear was unprecedented to me. Decades ago he was one of the most daring in the scientific community, always working at the forefront of progress. Now for some reason, he felt uncertain about a critical issue. I couldn't shake the feeling that something else was influencing his emotions.

"That will be another conversation entirely. Only the minister of space affairs can approve such a project. Besides, he has said on multiple occasions within the last week that he is not willing to engage the threat."

"Then prepare the teleporter. I have an appointment to make," I said, getting up from the chair and leaving. Such threats would not be taken lightly under my watch.

A Spanner in the Works

Rudolf, the minister of space affairs, was reluctant to meet. I wonder if it was the short notice that troubled him or something else, perhaps the same thing that inspired apprehension in Bernd. I arrived at his coastal house in Spain within the week. I brought a briefcase with me full of the satellite images and readings that proved the existence of this threat, this hidden demon that could take on any form it wished. Who knows what really lurks inside that vessel? I knew, however, that if I told him of the issues I was to discuss he would not want to meet with me. Bernd made the minister's reluctance to use force very apparent to me.

Like most of the ministers, Rudolf was an old man. He greeted me on his front patio smoking a pipe, dressed like he was on a holiday. I suppose every day in a Spanish coastal house must feel like a holiday. He gestured for me to take a seat. I obliged him and took in the sea scents from the comfort of a padded wicker chair, as did he. The house was fabulous, combining the comforts of tradition with the advancements of the modern world, combining baroque styles, with their tall windows and pillars, and the possibilities of modern architecture, with impossibly long ledges and broad arches.

"How is your health, minister?" I started, wishing to bash the pleasantries and formalities over the head with a table.

"My health? Why, how could I ever worry about my health when I've got two of the most beautiful sights in the world right before me?" He chuckled, and I gave him the flustered giggles of protest usually expected by rich old men. "I understand you're here to discuss the advanced applications of our surface-to-orbit teleport?" He said as he blew a smoke ring.

"That was my original intention," I clarified, laying the briefcase on my lap and unfastening the locks with two satisfying clicks. "Something more pertinent was brought to my attention by the science team, however," I said, watching him shift uncomfortably in his seat, coughing as he tried to blow another ring.

"I'm sorry?" He furrowed his brow, leaning forward.

"I want to know what your plans are for this unidentified vessel," I said sternly, presenting a satellite image of the ship, a long, broad blade with a bridge at the tip, giving itself the appearance of a hammerhead shark. "Readings indicate that the ship is scantily armed, possibly a research vessel. The threat, nonetheless, is great," Rudolf opened his hands in a shrug at this, this lurking danger within arm's reach of our world. The reckless abandon to which he assigns all our safety appalled me so much that I could scarcely keep my hands from creasing the papers I held.

"There is nothing to be done. All possible flight predictions indicate a return to whence it came. It might as well have been an error with the radar," Rudolf said, shaking his head as he pursed his lower lip. "Besides, Sleipnir isn't going anywhere without my saying-so. You may be her captain, as falls under your responsibilities as commander of the Valkyries, but military law prohibits unwarranted action. Unwarranted by me, that is."

"These scans indicate a fuel that is theoretically possible for faster-than-light capability onboard! The sixty-year return prediction is null in that regard!" As I said this, Rudolf's lips tightened.

"That is irrelevant!" He shouted, springing from his seat. "Under no circumstances will I supplant your desire for battle!" This resonated deep within me, and I sneered at him, standing up slowly. "The fact that you were made for war does not allow you to pursue campaigns of pointless valor!" I scoffed at him and shook my head.

"I am more than a hasty weapon. I implore you to respect that," I said, glowering at him as I packed my briefcase and stormed off the patio.

I slept soundly during my return flight to Köln. For the first time in months, I experienced a dream. In this dream, I was suspended in the middle of outer space, watching Earth and Tyr. Suddenly, the little red planet turned into a massive cosmic wolf, and in a single bite it devoured the Earth.

As I drifted out of the dream, I was caught between the waking world and the dream world. I was in the middle of a cosmic field, standing on a glorious, glittering rainbow that stretched through the stars with no end. I could not move my body, but my spirit could roam freely. At once, time stopped and I was greeted by a gorgeous woman. I instantly recognized her, but could not name her. I often caught glances of her from the corner of my eye, looking on at me from a distance.

"You should know who that was," She said softly to me, pacing slowly about me. Her voice was cool and low, like a softly running brook. Her words were icy and warm at the same time, commanding the aspect of a fiery giant, but at the same time of a lonely siren basking on icy shores.

"It was Fenrir, the wolf destined to devour the world. At least, I think so..." I say quietly, not sure what to think of all this as I turned around confusedly in this endless space, not quite sure how to place my feet on the cosmic rainbow.

"There are few other wolves as sizable and hungry," The woman said softly. She then turned her gaze to me. "You can so easily recall him, but you have not yet identified me." She then walked toward me and looked up at me with a stern face. "I know because you have not already knelt before me, as one should before a goddess of warriors like yourself. Of hunts, and of destiny. And of course, of sweet, sweet love. Ring a bell?"

"Hail, Freya. Forgive my insolence," I said, flustered as I knelt before her.

"Come now, don't be so hard on yourself. We all become lame in front of such beauty," She said with a smirk. "But I'm sure you know that this is no time for jest, for if you do not act, jesting and jubilation will become history, at least for the human race. Though that is not all. If you fail to hold back this threat, they may someday, sooner, find a way to defeat even us and bring upon the end times, the winter of thrice-might."

"What is to be done?" I say, shaking my head in disbelief. Freya held up her hand, and from thin air appeared a huge, long-handled sword in it.

"The threat orbiting Tyr is more than it appears. It must be swiftly wiped out, or all will fail. Fenrir will devour the world, and winter will prevail forever. This is Heimdall's blade, Hofund, call its name when you are in need and use it to become greater than the sum of your parts. Battles are won by heroes, but wars are only won by legends." I grasped the sword, and in my hand it felt weightless. Swinging it about, it felt less like a weapon and more like an extension of my body. This must be what a truly magical weapon feels like.

"Now you must return to your realm, and I to mine." The rainbow bridge beneath me shattered, and I was cast into freefall. Then I awoke in my seat where I belonged. I couldn't tell if I was only dreaming or if I'd breached some other barrier of reality. Real or not, I knew that destiny was upon me.

A Dark Truth

As the Kaiser of the Allerhine, one must have full faith in the Norse teachings. Knowing this, I promptly made my way toward the Berlin Palace to speak with him. I walked along the city streets, looking up at the posters all around. Some of them depicted me, standing proudly before a crowd of people, leading a charge, or mounting a Pegasus fighter. It gave me hope to remember what I was fighting for, but I also felt a crushing weight on my shoulders. I hoped that the Kaiser would honor the favor he owed me for saving his life during the British terrorist attacks in 2030, when I served as an honor guard. I approached the guards at the back gate and greeted them as they clumsily saluted me.

"Sigr-, Comma-, Senior Valkyrie!" The first guard stammered in salute. Her face, looking up at me from what might as well have been three stories, was flustered and red. The second and third had similar faces.

"At ease, I must speak with the Kaiser personally on an urgent matter," I looked down at them, basking in a sense of lofty importance.

"Certainly!" The second said as he stepped aside. The first guard made a small peep, but was too embarrassed to say what she wanted. I gave her a doting smile and wrote her an autograph, much to her fangirly glee. "When will you be at the opera again?" she shouted as I rushed past her through the gate.

I slipped through the imperial gardens and made my way into the building, greeting several more flustered guards. If I didn't know it like the back of my hand, I would be entirely lost in the tall, imposing halls. But within a matter of minutes, I was at the door of the Kaiser's study. After a period of muffled grumbling and shuffling, he opened the door. Upon seeing me, he laughed and shook his head.

"Don't you always appear in the strangest of places?" He said with a grin, though I could tell he was somewhat annoyed. He wasn't dressed as sharply as he would be in public, instead opting for a more comfortable, yet modest dress shirt and suspenders above a pair of modern jodhpurs ("modern" meant that the buttons were made of gold instead of ivory). His short, white hair was receding and his mustache had not yet been waxed.

"Herr Wilhelm," I said as I strolled past him, prompting from him a baffled look and a barely audible 'harrumph!', "has Minister Rudolf told you of a threat orbiting the planet Tyr?" The Kaiser looked down and pressed his tongue to the corner of his mouth, furrowing his brow as I set down the briefcase and opened it.

"The minister has told me... something of that nature," Wilhelm said, nodding slowly. I knew it! Something was always peculiar about the minister. When I was in line for the promotion to my current position, he brought in another candidate who had little military experience outside of signing papers and observing military tribunals, a bureaucrat to the core (only a French word could describe such a useless and menial position).

"The minister has left out some very important details," I said, producing several documents from the briefcase. I pointed out the details in readings and images and explained their meanings as best I could. "These readings are indicative of an Yggdrium-77 repository, which is, in theoretical terms, a fuel that could enable faster-than-light travel, meaning that even if the ship turns around back towards the other side of the asteroid belt, it could come back at any time, making this threat infinitely more capable." The Kaiser nodded slowly, pursing his lips and knitting his brow.

"The minister mentioned none of this... still, I think the best course of action is to hear input from all the other ministers and consider a tact and efficient approach," He said, giving me a pleading glance.

"Herr Wilhelm..." I said slowly, pausing mainly for dramatic effect. "I had a dream earlier today, of the prophetic type." The Kaiser's eyes lit up, and I knew I had struck a chord. I described the dream to him, and like me he instantly drew the connection to Fenrir. "Then after that, I was suspended between reality and dreamworld. In that world, the goddess Freya approached me and told me that eliminating this threat was tantamount to the survival of the human race." The Kaiser was flabbergasted, blinking quickly and leaning forward. "This could all have been part of the dream, but then she gifted this to me." At once, I drew up a breath and looked heavenward.

"COME, HOFUND!" I bellowed, and at once a crack of thunder was heard. The sword Hofund was cast from the realm of Asgard to my hand, long and broad, glittering with magical power. Kaiser Wilhelm was struck with awe, stumbling back on his desk.

"The- the sword of Heimdall! The key to the Bifrost! To Asgard!" He shouted, pointing at the epic sword as I twirled it in my hand. It truly was worth beholding. The handle was carefully bound in leather, with a wide piece in the middle where one would separate their hands should they hold the sword with two. The crossguard was elegant, with star shapes on the ends encrusted with large, red jewels. The blade was a very lightly-colored metal, almost like silver. While holding it I felt like an expert swordswoman, as if Heimdall himself had imbued his warrior essence into it. I was thankful for this, for I certainly had little experience with bladed weapons, guns making up the bulk of the modern army's arsenal. The Kaiser wiped his brow with a kerchief and sat down in an elegant reading chair.

"Asgard above, I never imagined I would truly see a mythical weapon... my dear, I believe you will soon become a master of two worlds," He said in a low, sincere voice, looking up at me as I rested the blade on my shoulder, standing tall. "I will stand with you. Expect the full force of the Allerhine behind you. I will notify the launch center in Köln to send additional soldiers and gear."

I spent several days in a bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Köln. I would need time to myself to plot an attack on the Tyrisch ship. The plan was straightforward. Sleipnir would approach and anchor several miles away from the ship. As it began to broadcast a signal in attempt to communicate with the enemy, Pegasus fighters would scramble and scan every nook and cranny of the ship's exterior. If the ship reacted violently, they would attack, board, and capture the it. It wasn't the most diplomatic approach, but I wasn't going to chance anything. My prophetic dream was enough to convince me that this ship would bring on the destruction of everything I know and love.

I walked into the underground chamber in the Köln launch facility, standing tall as always. Though the looks I received from the staff were different. They stared as if I didn't belong, to which I paid little mind. All that was needed was a pompously-charged glare to make them swivel their heads around as if struck by a boxer.

The teleporter was frightening when I stepped onto the platform and requested to be sent, its arms swinging closer and closer, glowing and sparking ever nearer to me until the very last moment. A flash of light, a tingling feeling, then I was back on Sleipnir. I left the receiving chamber into the bridge, then a peculiar sight sent a chill down my spine. I stiffened, clenching my jaw as I laid eyes on Rudolf. He was accompanied by a goon squad made up of military police and internal security agents, numbering about ten. They all glared up at me behind the dark screens under the visors of their cadet caps.

"Sigrún, I was wondering when you would arrive! It appears you didn't take much away from our chat in Spain, hm?" The minister said, grinning up at me like a chimp. I was baffled at his brazen gumption. Other valkyries and auxiliary troops entered the bridge, looking to me for support.

"That's Senior Valkyrie to you, minister," I said coldly, "try as you did to keep me out of this position, you'll have to face facts," I retrieved from my breast pocket a decree from the Kaiser to attack the Tyrisch ship and flashed it at him. Handwritten, of course. I put away the letter, knowing that he didn't care to examine it for discrepancies. "I'm captain of this ship, and the Kaiser has personally instructed me to take her to Tyr. I suggest you leave before the teleporter becomes out of range," I then scowled at the goons, walking past them. "You need to go, too. You'll only get in the way." I stopped before one of them, glowering down at him. "Friendly fire happens more than you'd think."

"That's enough. You must understand that as long as I'm on this vessel, it's not going anywhere I don't want it to. Like it or not, I outrank you," The minister said, pointing a finger at me. One of the valkyries laughed and I crossed my arms.

"That's enough prattling," I said, rolling my eyes as I tapped the universal intercom and radio system implanted in my ear. "Valkyrie leader to navigation crew, plot a course for Tyr orbit position 23-4, over," I said as I walked toward the bridge of the ship. The minister scoffed, then whistled to his troopers. At once, they raised their weapons and pointed them towards me. Several clicks followed. "Stand down, you insufferable pigs, and put those weapons on safe or you will regret it," I warned with a sharp, biting tone as I slowly wheeled around, placing my hands on my hips. The other valkyries drew their P-80 handguns and pointed them at the troopers, who recoiled and shrunk slightly. The aim of a valkyrie's targeting system implant was deadly, this they knew well. They gave hasty glances to the minister, who appeared more offended than afraid.

"How dare you disobey me!" He shouted, a vein throbbing in his neck. I would have laughed had the situation not been so grave.

"You give me no other choice, minister," I said quietly, then raised my hands. The valkyries looked at me in disbelief, shocked, let down. The minister then grinned and nodded slowly.

"That's much more like it, perhaps your batch isn't entirely ruined after all," He said, and with that I bellowed, summoning a battle cry to rival my ancestors.

"COME, HOFUND!" I cried as a thunderclap resounded and the mythical sword appeared in my hand. Now it was the minister's turn to be stricken with shock and disbelief. Suddenly, losing control of my body, I leapt forward and struck the minister across the arm, opening a gash that hissed and bubbled. The goons beside him were shocked by this, and thus were too distracted to react. Three of them scowled, but were too afraid to do anything. I gazed on with horror as his skin burned away to reveal a different person altogether. His hair was thin and blonde, and his lips were peculiarly scarred. His scrawny frame paled in comparison to the other soldiers around him, and he growled at me like a vile creature.

"You traitor! You damned, filthy whore!" He seethed at me, his eyes rueful and cruel. The troopers around him were confused, some looked at him fearfully, and others gave this same look to the valkyries. Three of them morphed into bearded men, one with frostbitten lips.

"The Jötnar will make mincemeat of you dreadful vermin!" One of the bearded men shouted, then pointed at the man who was disguised as the minister. "Our fearless leader, Loki the trickster, will surely have you strung up by your entrails!" He cried with pride, then quickly faltered as he met Loki's pleading grimace, waving a flat hand back and forth in front of his throat, swiveling on the wrist. Loki snapped his fingers and disappeared, and soon after the three Jötnar were quickly wasted with a hail of bullets from the valkyries. The remaining troopers knelt and held up their hands.

"Go home and give your commanding officers a full report of these events," I said to the kneeling troopers, who quickly nodded and hurried towards the teleporter, clearly not wanting any part of this mess.

I sat down at the captain's chair on the bridge, rubbing my fingers against my temple. I heaved a sigh of relief, then returned Hofund to Asgard. I couldn't believe that for so long, we'd been lied to and manipulated from the inside. I shuddered, imagining what would happen if everything had gone according to Loki's plans. My mind raced again. The idea that he could take form in my realm was chilling to me. How many other monstrous figures of myth could manifest themselves, real enough to kill?

"Senior Valkyrie," One of the other valkyries said softly, walking up to me and placing her hand on my shoulder. "I know now what we must do. Understand that we will follow you to the grave, ma'am." I looked up at her and smiled. She looked much like me. She was tall and strong, her legs like javelins. In a way, I was her mother, because she was a clone of me, as were all the other valkyries.

"Then prepare yourselves for a long journey, my sisters. It will be a while yet before I fall for the final time," I said proudly, standing up.

"Not if we have anything to say about it," Another valkyrie said, then saluted. "Heia-ha-ha!" She cried, followed by her fellow sisters in suit. I took a deep breath, admiring all of them, still as statues.

"Heia-ha!" I cried, returning their salute. Now was the time to ride on to glory. The weight of responsibility was great, and twice great was the weight of uncertainty. Nothing, however, was too great to bear at this moment, for the thrill of adventure coursed through my veins as fire, turning my body, my spirit, into a great engine of war. Ride I would, swiftly, brave as the dawn and fell as the night.

science fiction
Wendy Morgan
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