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The genomes of the dogs from the western branch suggest that they went through a population bottleneck—a dramatic dwindling of numbers. Larson interprets this as evidence of a long migration. He thinks that the two dog lineages began as a single population in the east, before one branch broke off and headed west.

This supports the idea that dogs were domesticated somewhere in China. The team calculated that the two dog dynasties split from each other between 6, and 14, years ago. But the oldest dog fossils in both western and eastern Eurasia are older than that. Which means that when those eastern dogs migrated west into Europe, there were already dogs there. Many thousands of years ago, somewhere in western Eurasia, humans domesticated grey wolves.

The same thing happened independently, far away in the east. So, at this time, there were two distinct and geographically separated groups of dogs. Along their travels, these migrants encountered the indigenous Ancient Western dogs, mated with them doggy style, presumably , and effectively replaced them.

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Less than 10 percent comes from the Ancient Western dogs, which have since gone extinct. This is a bold story for Larson to endorse, not least because he himself has come down hard on other papers suggesting that cows, sheep, or other species were domesticated twice. Everything else is once. They concluded that dogs were domesticated somewhere in Europe or western Siberia, between 18, and 32, years ago.

By comparing the full genomes of 58 modern wolves and dogs , his team has shown that dogs in southern China are the most genetically diverse in the world. They must have originated there around 33, years ago, he says, before a subset of them migrated west 18, years later. Those Ancient Western dogs might have just been wolves, he says. Or perhaps they were an even earlier group of migrants from the east. It must have happened in southern East Asia. Except, you totally can. Adam Boyko from Cornell University does, too: after studying the genes of village dogs—free-ranging mutts that live near human settlements— he argued for a single domestication in Central Asia , somewhere near India or Nepal.

And clearly, Larson does as well. Larson adds that his gene-focused peers are ignoring one crucial line of evidence—bones. If dogs originated just once, there should be a neat gradient of fossils with the oldest ones at the center of domestication and the youngest ones far away from it. Instead, archaeologists have found 15,year-old dog fossils in western Europe, 12,year-old ones in east Asia, and nothing older than 8, years in between. A dual domestication makes more sense. But even Larson is hedging his bets. We lack the smoking gun.

Why is this so hard? Of all the problems that scientists struggle with, why has the origin of dogs been such a bitch to solve? For starters, the timing is hard to pin down because no one knows exactly how fast dog genomes change. That pace—the mutation rate—underpins a lot of genetic studies. It allows scientists to compare modern dogs and ask: How long ago must these lineages have diverged in order to build up this many differences in their genes?

The resulting ebb and flow of genes has turned their history into a muddy, turbid mess—the homogeneous soup that Larson envisages. Wolves provide no clarity. Grey wolves used to live across the entire Northern Hemisphere, so they could have potentially been domesticated anywhere within that vast range although North America is certainly out.

The study informally known as the Big Dog Project was born of frustration. Back in , Larson was working hard on the origin of domestic pigs, and became annoyed that scientists studying dogs were getting less rigorous papers in more prestigious journals, simply because their subjects were that much more charismatic and media-friendly. So he called up his longstanding collaborator Keith Dobney. Right from the start, the duo realized that studying living dogs would never settle the great domestication debate.

The only way to do that was to sequence ancient DNA from fossil dogs and wolves, throughout their range and at different points in history. While other scientists were studying the soup of dog genetics by tasting the finished product, Larson would reach back in time to taste it at every step of its creation, allowing him to definitively reconstruct the entire recipe. In recent decades, scientists have become increasingly successful at extracting and sequencing strands of DNA from fossils. This ancient DNA has done wonders for our understanding of our own evolution.

It showed, for example, how Europe was colonized 40, years ago by hunter-gatherers moving up from Africa, then 8, years ago by Middle Eastern farmers, and 5, years ago by horse-riding herders from the Russian steppes. Larson originally envisaged a small project—just him and Dobney analyzing a few fossils. But he got more funding, collaborators, and samples than he expected. He and his colleagues would travel the world, drilling into fossils and carting chips of bone back to Oxford.

They went to museums and private collections. When I toured the facility with Larson, we wore white overalls, surgical masks, oversoles, and purple gloves, to keep our DNA and that of our skin microbes away from the precious fossil samples. In one room, the team shoves pieces of bone into a machine that pounds it with a small ball bearing, turning solid shards into fine powder. They then send the powder through a gauntlet of chemicals and filters to pull out the DNA and get rid of everything else.

The result is a tiny drop of liquid that contains the genetic essence of a long-dead dog or wolf. His team photographed the skulls of some 7, prehistoric dogs and wolves at angles each, and rebuilt them in virtual space. They can use a technique called geometric morphometrics to see how different features on the skulls have evolved over time. The two lines of evidence—DNA and bones—should either support or refute the double domestication idea. It will also help to clear some confusion over a few peculiar fossils, such as a 36, year old skull from Goyet cave in Belgium. Maybe it represented yet another separate flirtation with domestication.

All of these options are on the table, and Larson thinks he has the data to tell them apart. Larson hopes to have the first big answers within six to twelve months. In , he rounded up as many dog researchers as he could and flew them to Aberdeen, so he could get them talking. But it went away very quickly. And, frankly: alcohol. I just want to know. A dangerous trend in fake news has the potential to affect the upcoming U.

The White House insisted allegations that it wanted to add a citizenship question to the survey for political reasons were conspiracy theories, right up until the moment the president confirmed them. The conservative justices on the Supreme Court apparently found this argument very persuasive. The evidence that the Trump administration had consciously sought to use the census to strengthen white voting power was ultimately not a part of the case before the Court, which came down to whether the Trump administration had violated administrative law by misrepresenting its motives in adding the citizenship question.

No one! Reed is partially right; for many evangelical Christians, there is no political figure whom they have loved more than Donald Trump. He spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, so as to avoid personal or professional repercussions. He had interviewed scores of people, many of them evangelical Christians. Wronged by Mueller, wronged by the media, wronged by the anti-Trump forces.

A passionate belief that he never gets credit for anything. The return of a vanquished disease reflects historical amnesia, declining faith in institutions, and a troubling lack of concern for the public good. She also suggested that disease itself can serve as a metaphor—a reflection of the society through which it travels. For instance, AIDS would not have ravaged America as fully as it did without institutionalized homophobia, which inclined many Americans to see the disease as retribution for gay sex.

Two decades ago, measles was declared eliminated in the U. Yet in the first five months of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 1, cases—more than occurred from to Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean.

Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say. It soon became apparent that the SMG wasn't going to be the only source of frustration. The second source was related. It happened while he was planet-side for a meeting with the new magical government. They went about things in the usual manner which had worked just fine for generations.

Unfortunately, despite the rune stones being set up properly, and the casting happening without issue, the attempt failed. Instead of the whole structure being blanketed in the usual security measures, they got bubbles around each ward stone of about four feet in width from the stone surface, but nothing else. Everyone had been confused and worried by the outcome, and Harry offered to be nearby and make some on-site scans while they tried again, only for the procedure to work perfectly, save for two particular wards whose underlying workings Harry wasn't familiar with.

This led to general bafflement, especially once the results of the scans came in and informed everyone that whatever the cause was, it was something that none of Camelot's extensive sensors could pick up. Considering that those were the same sensors that could detect the Force, that was a shock to the system. At least it somewhat appeased his annoyance over not getting the SMGs to work, not that he shared that feeling with anyone. They duplicated the experiment with Harry off Camelot, and they again got the odd failure.

Then they tested the attempt while another witch or wizard was nearby, with Harry still absent. The simpler wards seemed to engage successfully, but the complex ones didn't, though Hermione and, oddly enough, Luna seemed to allow for more success if they were in the immediate area. On a hunch, Harry got Ragnok to approve of the Goblins and the human curse breakers in their employ teaching him all they knew about warding over the course of a month. Thanks to how Ward Master Grimgit literally fawned over Silima and Alteran technology in general and Harry in particular after Camelot's scans helped reveal some sites warded in ways that had been lost to time, the agreement came without any of the usual grumbling.

Once Harry knew all they had to share, he had the Goblins tear down everything they'd set in place and start over.

Thayer's Note:

The warding procedure finally worked as intended. Further tests established that as long as Harry was anywhere on Camelot's surface, distance wasn't an issue so he could be doing whatever he wanted and the Goblins could do their own jobs as well, so long as he understood exactly what they were doing and had the ability to do the same thing himself, even if he wasn't present for or aware of their activities at the time. It was pretty ironic that a direct tie between wizardkind and magical phenomena was finally revealed.

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The implications were rather frightening for the Goblins, though Harry was impressed by how they never allowed it to show on their faces. Bonded house elves couldn't hear their master's call from space, or from the planet if they were brought to Camelot via shuttle. Worse, if the elf's actual master and Harry both left the city at the same time, and the elf wasn't near a wizard, a witch or VERY close to a goblin, they lost their power and fortunately not immediately their lives as well.

If Silima hadn't been keeping some sensors on everyone in the city and performed an emergency transport of Nevile's poor elf to the medical level of the Spire of Learning, she'd have died right then. It was lucky that Padma was already there. Harry decided to hold off on drawing a conclusion after so many of his initial ones had been proven incorrect during his relatively short trip through creation. While he did have some pretty likely assumptions, he needed more information and long-term observation. Up till then the Vorlon organic-metallic ship armor had lived up to its reputation at being capable to "learn from experience.

Harry had already treated the test piece with every energy weapon he had, and the eventual result was a couple inches-thick sheet with an area of two square feet that could only be overcome by prolonged exposure to two simultaneous Alteran energy lasers. Sure, full-scale, live firing tests would probably not yield the same results, but it was still impressive since it meant that any ship coated with the mastered compound would be able to shrug off a fair bit of unfocused fire by dissipating it across the outer hull.

He'd carried a sample of the armor around with him in Hogwarts for a few days, assuming that exposure to a magically-charged environment would teach it to resist magic. That didn't work, since the energy field didn't register as damage in the first place, so Harry eventually had to go ahead and start firing spells at the poor thing. Oh, a stream of normal fire may as well not have been there and absolute-zero blizzards had no effect not that the last one was a surprise, with the vacuum of space being so cold itself.

Lightning was also fully dissipated. But even the weakest reductors always blew a hole or crumbled the armor to pieces, cutting curses worked fine even after repeated strikes, cutting charms worked, and transfiguration didn't seem to get any harder over time either. Moreover, every Bombarda, Bombarda Maxima or other bludgeoning spell invariably turned the armor sheet into a battered and crumpled shadow of its former self. Maybe it wasn't fair to the poor technological wonder. Harry's power level was huge after all.

And similar spells from the others didn't work nearly as well, or sometimes at all. Nevertheless, the lack of improvement on the armor's part was frustrating to the extreme. The bouts of incredulity didn't help, but Harry couldn't resist that reaction when the armor that had become all but invulnerable to a sustained superlaser blast actually experienced a rise in temperature when subjected to a mere cooking charm. It was mindboggling.


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The test had actually been a joke, a way for him to blow off some steam after the unbelievable results, but it ended up inflicting upon him a mild form of shock instead. After a while he recovered and continued to experiment. Harry slowly breathed in and out through his nose and reminded himself that he had perfect control of his powers and the ability to put more of it into a single spell matrix than all his friends put together, and then some. A normal witch or wizard wouldn't be able to do more than leave a large gash that didn't fully penetrate, and even that would take effort.

Unfortunately, it didn't work. The silver-blue ball of energy as large as his palm smashed into the armor 10 feet away hard enough to wrench it from its support scaffold and scatter it into several warped chunks. Scowling, Harry levitated it back into place as he paced. Yet again he'd felt no difference in the power needed to do that. The armor wasn't adapting at all. That did it. Fuming, he put all his annoyance into one heating charm and waved his hand at the armor.

Between the brute force of the spell and the fact that a heating charm possessed the parameter of duration, the action had the most interesting result yet. Especially since Harry had deliberately not included an upper temperature limit. A minute later, the normally hard, tough metal with the ability to dissipate all kinds of energy and even blunt trauma began to warp.

Two more minutes and it started to melt, then outright boil and drip off the support until it was a smattering of smoking sludge on the lab floor. Having already been brought as close to apoplectic rage as his Jedi-like mentality allowed, this final test pushed Harry the rest of the cycle, leaving nothing behind but stunned amazement. A ludicrously overpowered one, sure, but still nowhere near what fiendfyre was…. It was enough to make him think that Magic had deliberately gained sentience just so it could mess with him. He'd assumed from being able to detect wards on Camelot's scanners and even bypass them with the beaming transport system eventually that there was nothing really "magical" about magic.

But either he'd been wrong or even the Alterans hadn't advanced technology to the point where it could understand and replicate or counter the abilities that their descendants on his Earth had come up with over time. Initially he was determined to be the first to crack the mystery, but it had been a month since his experiments began and there had been NO progress. Harry turned to the now open door, where the bland comment had come from. As always, even after having adopted the white tunic and pants of Alteran casual garb, she kept that straggly, waist-length dirty blonde hair free.

Coupled with her very pale eyebrows and protuberant eyes, it gave her a permanently surprised look. Off what? Off the city? I can't imagine you'd want to spend any more time down on the planet than you had to. I imagine the goblins would be put off if they didn't get advanced notice as well. Even after four months of his friends and… guests… coming and going to and from the city, he still couldn't tell when Luna was being serious or not. The fact that she still wore her radish earrings and butterbeer cork necklace didn't help lessen the impact of her presence either.

Everything about her did make every conversation between her and Master Yoda an exercise in hilarity though. Luna's half-vacant stare turned to him. She had been staring at the wall before that. The only wall in the lab that happened to be completely bare. Yeah, best not think about it too much. This place is better lit than the corridor I came through.

Then again, if Luna was deliberately acting so dense, she was doing a great job of distracting him from the cause of his aggressive urges. She was giving him a more benign type of weirdness to focus on in preparation of a lead-in to more happy thoughts. Because thinking positive thoughts was the only way to cure one's self of a wrackspurt infestation which, by extension, would make it harder for him to become afflicted with Loser's Lurgy-. Harry James Potter forced his own thoughts to a screeching halt so suddenly that he literally visualized the train wreck as it played out on his mind.

Forget being worried that he could actually recognize her tactic. If he had reached the point where he automatically thought in Luna's terms then it was time to get the hell out of the lab for a while. Weasley had been sending care packages up there by way of Luna or Hermione every other day or so. Luna fell into step with him as he passed by her.

Or, well, skipped along. Lunch was four hours ago Harry. It's dinner now. Great, so he'd lost track of time even worse than he had the previous day. Which in turn had been worse than the day before that and so on and so forth. After a bit of procrastination, he mentally connected to the city and winced. Silima was giving him the silent treatment again today. She never did approve of him holing up in there, especially after he'd lamented the solitude as he traveled through dimensions on his trip.

Pulling his mind away, he decided not to beam straight to his destination yet and eyed his traveling companion. They decided to wait for you this time, no matter how long it took to drag you out of that junk yard you call lab. Dean's words, not mine. And spare parts. And rejected prototypes. And okay, two different tool sets were scattered all over the place, but it wasn't like he had trouble watching his step.

And there were just four cut up engines there, and only five new sensor systems mockups, plus the pile of SMGs which might still be made to work in the future — ANYWAY! He knew exactly where everything was! Finally entering the transport booth, Harry mentally inputted the destination code, trying to remember the last time he'd actually spent a whole day with other people. Or at least all three meals. It seemed his connection to the system was being observed, because his ship's AI provided the answer he was looking for as pop-up text that only he could see.

Harry blinked at the date. That had been two weeks ago. Had so much time really gone by? In the end, eleven months after the end of the Second Wizarding War and one month after the opening of the Potter Campus school, he decided it was time to leave. He'd given up the SMG project as a bad job and put the magic-proofing of the Vorlon armor on the backburner until further notice. This, unfortunately, brought with it a new problem: where to jump next?

There was a synch point already stored for the original dimension of the Alterans, and he'd added the ones for the Babylon 5 and the Force dimensions, but for any other universes they were mostly flying blind. There seemed to be a method to the Dimensional Drive's way of choosing the moment in time and area of space where Camelot would materialize in a dimension other than the ones stored in memory, but they were still mostly flying blind.

What could be determined was whether or not space travel was being done in the proximity of the arrival point by taking readings of the way matter behaved on a subatomic level, as well as hyperspace phenomena and whatever subspace and EM signals were being broadcasted, if any. In the end, it was Luna that actually broke the ice and said that they should just randomize the destination frequency while leaving the standard suite of failsafes in place of course and head off instead of trying to look for anything specific.

Even if there was no space travel or communication being done, in the forms they knew of. This was probably going to be the only jump prior to their arrival in the original dimension, so they may as well make it an adventure. Based on his experiences in the other universes, he was confident that nothing could really threaten them, so he called everyone relevant to what would normally be the Alteran Council meeting room and put it to a vote. With his seven friends, Yoda, the goblin Wriptoc liaison and the other relevant goblin Grimgit ward master , there were ten people in total besides him.

Predictably, everyone was eager to go, even though the goblins were worried of how magic would hold up away from Earth. They did agree that going ahead and seeing what would happen would be the only way forward though. Since permanent area magic that wouldn't take unless Harry was present seemed to hold up just fine afterwards even if he beamed off Camelot , he was pretty certain wards and expanded rooms or trunks wouldn't suddenly fail. Decision made, everyone beamed to the main control tower chamber and spread around to cover whatever systems they were most comfortable with.

Harry himself took the control chair but instead of starting every system himself or letting Silima pick up the slack, he waited to see what the others would do. With how advanced Alteran ships were, and how much could be done mentally, many of the old crew posts had merged, but only on the smaller craft. Control chair or no, the captain could hardly fight a battle alone. The information coming in from every one of the thousands of sensor suites on the outer hull, the many weapons that could be engaged at any one time, and the damage reports or regions where the shield was taxed or hull breached, would lead to an information influx too high for even an Alteran mind to process.

And that's ignoring the fact that the captain also had to actually use the space vessel to fight the battle. It was taxing enough on an Aurora-class starship of 1 by 3. There was a reason the standard complement was of strong. Needless to say, a City Ship like Atlantis and Camelot itself had even more data to sort. Having a true AI like Silima there made up for the lack of sector operation and maintenance crews, but it wasn't a perfect solution, and the expectation that the shield couldn't be breached by anything so long as there was power mitigated most issues, since the readings coming in from the systems throughout most of the city could be ignored in a pinch.

Well, barring those from transportation drives, power cores and inertial dampeners. Harry had deliberately not explained which suite would normally belong to each primary crew member of the ship. He'd also removed that information from the data repository everyone had downloaded into their brains at the very start, and issued a standing order to the AI to refrain from divulging that information.

Instead, he allowed his friends simulated access to the secondary consoles during the months while Camelot orbited Earth on the other side of the moon. That way they could find where they fit best without any feelings of inadequacy or self-importance if any getting in the way. Harry had expected Hermione to immediately head for the Executive Officer post, but Neville did that instead, he noted with well concealed amazement.

He wondered if his friend would have been so eager to become the one responsible for the safety and security of the entire ship and crew if Camelot actually had anything resembling an actual population. Hermione settled at the console showing the general day-to-day operations of the ship as well as cargo management. That was the job of the Operations Officer, which essentially put her as the third in command. Harry thought it fit in well with her ability to organize the living lights out of any predicament she encountered.

He was just glad she'd given up her scrolls and notebooks in favor of holopads. Anthony was probably interested in having as much access as he could to the view outside and sensor readings of everything out in space when he commandeered the console responsible for navigation, guidance, FTL jumps, piloting, course corrections, atmospheric entries and flight planning. Then again, if Harry remembered correctly that did align with Anthony's childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.

Dennis was a bit hesitant in approaching what he didn't know was the flight overseer's post, but if any of his brother Colin's propensity for finding the best angles and light when he took photos carried over and translated into a good grasp of astrography and spatial positioning, Dennis would be a competent enough Navigator in time. He noticed that Padma had sat at the First Helmsman's post, who would be the lead pilot and leader of the flight department, but she wasn't looking at the console at all. Instead, she was staring out the window, excited to see hyperspace for the first time.

And Earth from Orbit, that too. Harry already knew she'd been spending more time in the medical and biological research level than up there, so she was probably going to become the physician of their little expedition, and there wasn't a post on the main deck for someone like that. Not on any Alteran ship except science and relief vessels anyway.

Watching her, Harry's eyebrows went higher the more seconds passed. Unless he was mistaken, she was carrying out the mandatory database integrity check and active memory and program diagnostic required before the start and after the end of every mission. Somehow, the owner of the Alteran City Ship Camelot had the feeling that she'd oversee data gathering systems and databases just fine.

Maybe he'd also hand her control of the computer systems and cyberwarfare suites and see what happened.

The Comma Queen on the pleasures of a different alphabet.

Harry had a moment when he imagined an electronic war with an Ori ship on one end and Luna in an Aurora-class vessel on the other. He lacked the information and disposition to lay the scenario out in his mind, but he felt a chill go down his spine anyway. Oh, what the hell. With a mental command, he slaved the computer system and cyberwarfare ops to the database console. Luna didn't even bat an eyelash when the extra UI literally pushed its way into her holoscreen. She ignored the surprised looks that the others threw her.

But when you created Silima you specifically intended for her to have real-time access to every byte stored on Camelot. Archiving anything at this point would just be detrimental to her performance. Well, so much for thinking Hermione was the one with the biggest affinity for all things software. Actually he already knew, but the others needed some training, and since they'd all declined entering a virtual reality via stasis pods he had to do it the old fashioned way.

At least he'd managed to involve them in a few drills. Harry wondered if the others were surprised at her apparent skill or the fact that she didn't sound as dreamy or distant as usual. He then turned to Dean. Dean blinked, startled to have been singled out. I mean systems green. I don't suppose we'll be paying compensation? You can do everything from the control chair, and AIs and replicators have been doing everything else just fine so far. You seem to prefer them to human help anyway. Harry internally winced at the innocent comment about him preferring AI to human contact.

It might be a ship, it might be that we'll be on separate vessels. It might be that I'll be incapacitated or killed and you'll have to do without me. And it might be that we'll be swarmed by space flobberworms. In such a situation, the Captain's role will be purely proactive. In other words, I'll dish out the damage and you make sure we stay alive long enough to win or retreat.

But for that to be possible and done quick enough to matter, the Captain's mind had to be as clear and unburdened as possible. Dennis took a deep breath and pasted a sickly expression on his face. Maybe it finally dawned on him what that chair he'd sat on meant. It took around ten minutes and a fair number of direct interventions on Harry's part before Dennis finally managed to complete his first order as navigator. Maybe eventually his post would be made official. A long time down the line. As it was, Harry's on-screen remote assistance tutorial had done most of the work, though it might just have been the first-time stress.

It was a good thing that actual piloting and mid-battle spatial positioning and maneuvering was the First Helmman's job though. The Navigator was a sort of co-pilot during those times. Of course, since the Chief Pilot's post was unoccupied, it fell to Harry to fill in for it, like he did for the rest of the dozen posts still left open. Activating sublight engines. No issues. Adjusting for acceleration… the ETA is 5. The next five minutes were spent gazing at the splendid form of the Earth and how it soon got smaller and smaller once Camelot begun its interplanetary trip.

Harry had his chair tip backwards and called up a hologram in the large space above him reserved for just that function. The nonexistent ship captain inside Harry winced at the utter lack of discipline shown by his "crew," such as it was. Cream of the crop they definitely were not. And you already expressed your disdain for all forms of divination, so you couldn't have foreseen that. Either that or you intend to have my eyes gouged out the moment you fall over, just so I don't get to witness it happ -".

Harry reached up and grabbed the bridge of his nose. Anthony had this problem of his paranoid imagination going out of control at the strangest times. Their standard retribution for enemies who've deliberately insulted them is to pour acid down their eye sockets while applying healing magic and strengthening potions in order to prevent damage being done to the rest of them and shortening the retribution by allowing the mercy of death. And now Padma was being openly vain. Harry tried to exchange a long-suffering look with Dennis but he and Dean refused to look at anything other than their consoles for "some" reason.

That left Hermione, and she only had amusement to convey. After they were beyond the edge of the Sol System with no evidence that magic was going to fail any time soon and the Goblins showing no health issues , Master Yoda finally beamed over to the bridge and Anthony got to do his job of initiating hyperspace travel. Or do his best anyway. Yet again Harry had to mentally assist him remotely by showing tutorial pop-ups and guidelines here and there, especially when it came to double-checking the calculations. It could have taken as little as a few hours to get to the spot where Harry had set up his mining facilities, construction bay and Trans-Dimensional Stargate TDS , but he decided to take things slow so that his friends could enjoy the view and use some of the holodisplays to zoom in on some planets.

They even took a detour so that Camelot could pass through the system where an amphibious society had managed to evolve to a level of technology just one tier behind spaceflight. Hermione had insisted. He didn't really need to use the TDS at 40 feet in diameter it was too small for most ships anyway, let alone a City Ship like Camelot , but he wanted to show everyone what he'd been up to, just in case.

The TDS was there if Kingsley had to contact him with his special communication device at any point. They were all appropriately impressed, especially the goblins, even though they did seem to be wrestling against a mild form of agoraphobia. Goblins always would prefer underground or otherwise enclosed spaces it seemed.

Once they were all ready to go on the next step of their journey, he initiated the jump. Since he didn't intend to ever let anyone have access to the dimensional drive technology, he handled it all by himself as usual. Although with Silima there to handle the underlying processes, everything seemed to go more smoothly than usual. Unfortunately, the efficiency of Alteran technology blocked everything but the briefest flash, so those within the ships's dome shield didn't get to see the outside spectacle.

Speaking of whom. Different stellar drift? Different time point? They'd been on the edge of the Orion Arm before they jumped. Let's see how active this version of the Galaxy is, technology-wise. The first day, Harry plotted a course that would take Camelot on a periodically interrupted hyperspace trip to the point outside the Orion Arm where he'd set up his operations in his home dimension. Or former home dimension, since he didn't plan to go back there any time soon, at least not in any permanent basis.

From there, they'd head on towards Earth. The dating systems studying cosmic matter estimated that this dimension had about the same age as the one they'd just left. So there was no time difference to account for the spatial disparity between the departure and arrival points. Maybe randomizing the destination synch point had something to do with it.

Harry had reached the conclusion that he'd gone a bit overboard when he spammed hyperspace-capable satellites in the previous two dimensions. The asteroid operation he'd started in his home galaxy and the materials gathered before he left the Force dimension hadn't restored even half the naquadah, trinum and neutronium stores he'd wasted on what could ultimately have been achieved just fine even by restricting his so-called Spynet to his immediate galactic surroundings, in Alteran terms. This time, he only prepared normal sublight speed-capable satellites with cloaks, which he released one by one every time Camelot came out of hyperspace in a system judged likely to be hosting intelligent life or relevant resources.

All of them cloaked of course. The one exception was a full-featured satellite, the best he could build, which was more along the lines of an unmanned exploration vehicle. It meant that Harry had to go a lot slower than the city's maximum speed, but it wasn't like he was in any hurry. He wasn't even sure he'd get involved with whatever version of humanity existed here, if any. He'd just decided to go there first before doing anything else, for lack of better ideas. It took about four days of going in a relatively straight line to finally reach the unofficial galactic sector that contained the Sol System.

To his pleasant surprise, his friends spent much of that time fervently brushing up on what they'd need to know to better man their consoles. When they weren't studying or training in hand-to-hand or weapons not lightsabers though with Master Yoda, they would plug into virtual realities where various scenarios were simulated. For his part, Harry reviewer ancient wartime reports and went through some simulated courses of his own, having realized that he needed to get a better grip on how to train a crew, never mind lead it on a mission.

During the hyperspace trip, Camelot kept getting information from all the satellites he left behind. Harry found plenty of common and not so common resources, but no forms of civilizations at all. That didn't have to mean anything though, he told himself. The path he'd cut across the galactic arm was a tiny speck compared to the vastness of the Milky Way, not to mention the whole universe.


  • Chocolate Comfort Foods.
  • Inbetween;
  • Não te contei... Não? (Portuguese Edition);
  • Anything He Wants: Castaway #1 (Anything He Wants 6).

Since he didn't have anyone to show off to, and he wasn't in any hurry, he stuck to intra-galactic speeds instead of going with the overkill intergalactic hyperdrive engine. It was a bit hard to ignore the total lack of interstellar travel though. Even if they didn't travel all that fast in astronomical terms, every hole punched through subspace or hyperspace from real space caused ripples that eventually stretched across many light years.

Camelot could detect even the weakest of such eddies, as well as subspace communications, which was why it could deduce if there were advanced enough space-faring civilizations that might have anything to offer him. By the fourth day, he was sure that the Terra he was headed for would have nothing special in store for him, and he assumed that the rest of the immediate galaxy was in pre-spaceflight stage as well.

One Last Breath

On the bright side, Camelot had finally started to pick up some very faint and garbled radio transmissions, so it was deduced that this version of Earth would have started their space program, or at least a space radio project of some sort, a few decades back, when the first space-aimed radio dishes were deployed. Meaning that it was probably on the same level as his own Earth, more or less. He'd come to the point where he'd already planned out their stay: they'd take a few days to see how history differed, if at all. See some sights and check if there were any movies, books, comics or musical pieces unique to this version of Earth and go on their way.

Then the avant-garde satellite leading their path lost contact. And a minute later, Camelot received notice that it had been destroyed while passing Saturn. The alert blared in his mind so suddenly that it made him forget all about the cruiser schematic he was examining. The shock that there even was anything that could detect his technology, never mind destroy it, made him use the necklace he wore to enhance his mind link to the Camelot control center and force an unplanned exit from hyperspace before Silima could compensate for one little oversight on his part.

Had he been sitting in the control chair at the time, he'd have been tied into every system and would not have forgotten to adjust the inertial dampeners in preparation. Unfortunately, he was not in the control chair, so he did not adjust the inertial dampeners in preparation. Camelot rocked in its entirety as it fell into normal space several parsecs away from the Sol System. Harry managed not to fall off his workshop chair, but what he wouldn't be made aware of until sometime later was that Neville and Dean face-planted rather painfully right where they were sparring hand-to-hand in one of the many training rooms of the Spire of Learning.

Forcing past the brief moment of shock, Harry had himself beamed to the central tower immediately, right in the control chair. The other members of their makeshift council beamed in not long after, but by then he was already half-way done reviewing what had happened. He was distantly aware of Silima explaining the situation to everyone else, but he paid it no heed.

He was busy bringing up the recording that the black box of the satellite had just managed to beam via subspace after detaching from the satellite. A moment later, he cursed openly when he received notice that it had self-destructed as well. Apparently, the satellite had exited hyperspace just outside the orbit of the tenth "planet" that Earth may or may not have discovered by now.

Then it had detected the locations of the planets in regards to the sun and each other, information it used to plot a meandering path that would allow it to pass close enough to each of them to conduct scans as per protocol.

One Last Breath

Things went fine for "planet" X, Pluto, Neptune and Uranus, but while passing by Saturn the satellite detected an anomaly on Mimas, one of the gas giant's moons that also possessed a mostly spherical shape. The satellite focused its scanners in that direction, reaching the conclusion that the anomaly was located on the far side of that particular moon. Given the orbital positioning at the time, that side happened to be away from the sun. So, in accordance with its programming, the satellite made a detour intending to circle around and take a closer look.

It made it a third of the way before some sort of alien jet came out of nowhere less than three miles behind it. Harry could only assume it had circled around the moon, and maybe rode its gravitational pull, along with that of the planet it was orbiting, to quickly close in on the space probe. More worrying was that it had somehow stayed undetected by every passive sensor he had except the cameras that captured the visible light spectrum.

He assumed okay, hoped that the fact it had come from behind meant that the jet would have been detected by the active scans.

That the jet or whoever was driving it seemed to know how to work around that issue spoke of experience in space warfare though. The satellite was going to open a hyperspace window to get away, but it didn't have the time. The jet released some type of silver-colored wide-coverage energy blast that… eliminated the cloak and blew all the scans out of whack, even though the shields of the satellite hadn't been disrupted.

That meant that, somehow, that wave had done something to the area of space itself, essentially blindfolding the probe on all frequencies, subspace included. It effectively rendered it incapable of plotting a jump to begin with, or getting in contact with Camelot or any other ship with subspace comm support. Harry watched the recording, dumbfounded, as the jet continued to close in without firing anything else, no doubt seeking to capture the probe.

At that point, the satellite ejected the black box in the direction farthest from the bogie and at the same time overloaded its hyperdrive engine to self-destruct and propel it away faster. The recording ended there. Harry closed his eyes. From the looks of it, it was pure luck that the black box made it out of the blind zone before it detonated its integrated explosive charge.