The Story so Far…. A collaborative Effort between yours truly and my wacky similarly thinking associate (http://www.geocities.com/ceaudritsh/)Agraf glided silently through the murky shadows. Agraf was of the Affia, but not of the Ks’tene, as one would expect. That would have been… imprudent. There was already so much to atone for. But now the path was clear. Agraf knew what must be done, knew what she had to do. Which is not to say there was no hesitation. But it had to be done, it was necessary. Then the consequences would have to be dealt with — those that could be. Others simply must be fled from.Her chief sin, she’d decided, was her complete and utter failure to choose an appropriate hat for the day. As mysterious as the command from the Affiaplex was, she’d obeyed the commandment every day of her short life until this one. Perhaps that explained the relative ease with which the Ks’tene patrol had found her in spite of the fact that she was one trillionth their physical size and half a galaxy away. What were the chances that the leader of the patrol would drop a donut so close to her tiny body? It was said that the Affiaplex exacted vengeance for one’s missteps in the most subtle ways and Agraf was never willing to rule out the use of toroid confections as one of her God’s agents of retribution.Yes, if she’d only chosen an appropriate hat. One that could have alerted her to the Ks’tene. But now that could not be helped. The hat she had chosen was one she would need later, assuming she made it that far. What was a damn Ks’tene patrol doing out this far if not looking for her?!? She cursed a thousand curses under her breath — breath she was holding on the off chance that the D.O.N.U.T., Dynamic Omnidirectional Nemesis “Undertaker” Toroid, had not detected her. The chance was small, considering the highly precise engineering that went into confectionary weaponry these days, but one could always hope. She shut down all of her vessel’s systems and with a curt wave ceased the grooming of her bristles and scales by the servile, tripodal Gar’ked. Absolute silence was necessary if there were to be any chance at all of evading the donut.No, the patrol couldn’t be looking for her. There was no reason at all to suspect her of disobedience to the Affiaplex — she’d committed no transgressions yet. But what if somehow they suspected what she’d been planning? These were the thoughts that raced through her mind as the donut approached her position, and then passed by. She vented a plume of relief from her ventral blow hole. But the patrol did not leave. Could it have been a warning shot? Some moments later she vented relief again when the donut found its target some distance away, drew it into the center of its donut hole, and annihilated it with a relentless bombardment of fat globules from all directions. Confectionary weapons were a serious threat to beings her size. She wondered what the victim of the donut had done to become an enemy of the state… Still, it appeared she *had* just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But what were the odds of that so far from Affiadon? She continued to lay low and hope she was right that the Ks’tene patrol was not here for her as well.* * *Crouched in an alcove, surrounded by her own nasal exhalations, she contemplated her predicament. This was just the kind of situation she’d read about in all those fourth-rate novels as a child. Unfortunately, the parallels between her own situation and that of her Affian literary heroes did not instill a great deal of optimism. Like all children her age, she’d read the government approved books and recited the pledges and played the part of the good little citizen but she always knew she was somehow different from the rest. She’d never officially run afoul of the law but she knew it was only a matter of time. By the time she was 27 she’d qualified herself for a death by annihilation. It wasn’t willful disobedience per se, but MECRA (Mandatory Electronic Correspondence Response Act) laws were strict in her quadrant and after ignoring the email thread for three weeks it seemed safer to continue to ignore it than to call attention to it by answering it after all that time.Frankly, at this point, what did she have to lose? It was clear that with multiple sentences of death hanging over her head, any authority figure who found her would destroy her. What was she to do? Skulk in the shadows of existence for the rest of eternity? What use was a life spent in fear of everyone and everything? But then again. . . What hope was there out there? Clearly, she was no match for the forces aligned against her. The Government had prepared for every contingency, had every resource and knew everything that went on almost before it happened. Hadn’t the books she’d read taught her that much at least? Or perhaps that’s exactly what the books were supposed to make you think. It made no difference. She had the directives of the Affiaplex to carry out and if those directives lead her to certain and painful death then so be it. Besides, even without the commandment of her God, life in hiding was no life at all. She lifted her considerable bulk from the floor of the Fecus V livestock waste processing facility and stepped from the shadows to meet whatever fate had prepared for her.