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Sunset: Then, Now, Tomorrow (Nation Maintenance)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]

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Sunset
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Tue Jul 24, 2018 7:59 pm

Officer's Briefing, Circlet NNE, Circlet Civilizations (Condensed)...

Brief;
Of all the various Krȃng Artifacts yet discovered, those known as 'Circlets' rank as the largest. Each is an enormous ring-world encircling a medium-sized gaseous body that is then used as both gravitational primary, anchor, and atmospheric storage & recycling system. Gigantic processing plants in the lower atmosphere exchange gases back and forth between the Circlet and its primary with each supplying one of the eight Circlet Settings with the appropriate gas mixture. Thus each of these Settings is its own complete biosphere and while some - notably the Svari and Zeer'Gen of Circlet NNE - can easily coexist there are some that require their own setting.

By and large, all of the civilizations thus far cataloged - again, with the exception of the Zeer'Gen - have suffered from severe industrial and economic stagnation, placing their highest technology levels at that of 18th Century Earth. With no large metal deposits precision tools are in short supply and most could be considered Agrarian with the rare Pre-Industrial civilization struggling against the limitations of their environment. These latter are the most likely to know about their captivity; The average soil depth is fifty meters and it is reasonably easy for the dedicated miner to hit the PTU-557 structure below their world. Even given that, these civilizations can be vast and sprawling as each Setting is some four hundred kilometers wide and nearly seventy four thousand kilometers in length.

Circlet I - NNE

Setting 1; The Sitsizi'i / Otterkin
Otterkin, as their name implies, are shaped just like semi-bipedal terrestrial river otters. The only difference besides their stance are more fully formed opposable thumbs and what seems to be an irresistible cuteness. Due to what seems to be an insatiable curiosity they have tended to drift into roles as explorers, scientists, researchers, and the occasional military scout or intelligence officer. Thankfully they breed like rabbits and whole packs can be spotted wandering the streets of Sunset on occasion. The origins of the otterkin are somewhat muddy. According to rumors, they were picked up by accident during the clean-up from an epic beach party on an unknown world. By the time they were discovered among the pool noodles and sand toys, it was too late to return them to their home planet. As the otterkin didn't want to go home either, a cloning and breeding program was instead established and they've successfully spread all over Sunset.

After years of negligent investigation, it has since been determined that the Otterkin found by Republic explorers on a distant world were actually captives taken by the Kion and abandoned on said world, where they self-established a small colony. Their true origins were aboard Circlet I or possibly somewhere in Canis Major; Further investigations are on-going.

Setting 2; The Zeer'Gen
The Zeer'Gen are believed to be one of the seven species that the Circlet in the Gen Celet System was originally intended to house and with the possibility that the species in fact evolved there as well. While secondary evidence is scant, this is the history given by the Zeer'Gen themselves and is currently the widely accepted answer. They maintain that sometime shortly before the Kion attack that destroyed the dominant Sitsizi'i civilization their species rose to the level of semi-connected tribes occupying the jungles dominant to the Second Setting but avoided the destruction due to being beneath the Kion's attention. However, some measure of the attacker's technology seems to have been discovered or abandoned and the Zeer'Gen began their own slow technological revolution with the end result that sometime in the last few thousand years they managed to breach the barrier between Settings and first invade then occupy the First Setting, enslaving the Otterkin population. Though a distant memory, they still retained a large measure of fear and respect for the Kion invasion and with their home secured, they began a military build-up that would last until the modern era and an unintentional conquest by Captain Blaine and the SDF-Ojeni.

As apparent, they are an Insectoid-Humanoid species that largely carries a cultural similarity to many Terran species. An Empress sits at the top of the hierarchy and under her are her few direct progeny, the Crown-Daughters. These serve as a nobility of sorts with ceremonial control over the most notable military elements - previously the few space ships in their possession - and pheromone control over the breeding 'queens' scattered through their territories. All Zeer'Gen are sapient but only the Empress and the Queens can reproduce and this is regulated by pheromones produced first by the Empress and then spread by the Crown-Daughters. All of the other individuals are gender-less and their role in society is set by both personal desire and strengths as well as a subtle influence from the spread pheromones. This serves to give their society more than a taste of martial feeling and this was reinforced by the wholesale slavery of the Sitsizi'i, who occupied most menial roles until their liberation.

Setting 3; Vacant

Setting 4; Vacant

Setting 5; The Svari
Another one of the many species to inhabit the Circlet in the far-off Gen Celet System, the Svari are a nocturnal species that largely resembles humanoid elephant shrews in both appearance and behavior. They are also one of the smallest species of biological sapient known to the Republic at a good stretch under one meter in average height. Living in moderately sized packs or extended families, they hunt the surface at night for the large pseudo-insects that are their primary protein source and then retreat underground at night for defense against larger predators. As one might guess, their culture is much less advanced than others discovered on the Circlet and the Svari are just on the verge of adopting both written language, tool manufacturing, trade, and a host of other hallmarks of established civilization. Because of this it is theorized that they were one of the more recent species to evolve on that unique mega-structure and it is thus likely that they completely post-date both the disappearance of the Krȃng, the Kion Invasion, and the eventual Zeer'Gen subjugation of Settings One through Three. They also have one of the smallest populations with only a few thousand groups and perhaps a hundred thousand total individuals scattered across all of Setting Five.

Setting 6; Vacant

Setting 7; Vacant

Setting 8; Vacant

Additional Notes;
Evidence points to the Kion as the likely source of the vacancies. Against even more primitive peoples, the Kion's arsenal of low-end laser and nuclear weapons would have proven devastating. While most radio-logical traces are gone after the intervening seventy-two thousand years, enough remain to make this the most likely conclusion. With the Republic conquest and acquisition, these vacant Settings are being turned over to migrant and refugee populations as needed.
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Sunset
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jul 25, 2018 10:51 am

Officer's Briefing, Circlet ENE, Circlet Civilizations (Condensed)...

Brief;
Of all the various Krȃng Artifacts yet discovered, those known as 'Circlets' rank as the largest. Each is an enormous ring-world encircling a medium-sized gaseous body that is then used as both gravitational primary, anchor, and atmospheric storage & recycling system. Gigantic processing plants in the lower atmosphere exchange gases back and forth between the Circlet and its primary with each supplying one of the eight Circlet Settings with the appropriate gas mixture. Thus each of these Settings is its own complete biosphere and while some - notably the Svari and Zeer'Gen of Circlet NNE - can easily coexist there are some that require their own setting.

By and large, all of the civilizations thus far cataloged - again, with the exception of the Zeer'Gen - have suffered from severe industrial and economic stagnation, placing their highest technology levels at that of 18th Century Earth. With no large metal deposits precision tools are in short supply and most could be considered Agrarian with the rare Pre-Industrial civilization struggling against the limitations of their environment. These latter are the most likely to know about their captivity; The average soil depth is fifty meters and it is reasonably easy for the dedicated miner to hit the PTU-557 structure below their world. Even given that, these civilizations can be vast and sprawling as each Setting is some four hundred kilometers wide and nearly seventy four thousand kilometers in length.

Circlet II - ENE

Setting 1; The Chagarians

A race of intuitive brachiators with no eyes and green skin. They use crystalline tools and weapons grown from reasonably abundant local minerals. Scarification is used to create intricate markings that indicate the individual's status in their society. Chagarian civilization is at roughly Tribal levels, with most individuals involved in hunter/gatherer-type occupations or light farming and some very light industry. They believe that the universe is a physical manifestation of God, and that gathering information about the universe is the only way to become closer to God.

Setting 2; Vacant

Setting 3; The Gordalrizi

A race of bovids with extendable limbs. They secrete a flammable liquid from glands in their skin, and they regularly set fire to themselves as a way of cleansing their bodies. If they get too hot, they have been known to explode. Their culture is highly competitive and places a great deal of emphasis on competitive sports and games. Most individuals play some form of sport, whether it is a physical game or an intellectual game. Contact sports are extremely popular, as are games of strategy.

Setting 4; The Biloxirans

A race of small fury marsupials who obsess over advanced technology but also hold to their ancient traditions. They carry ceremonial spears and wear tribal headdresses unique to their tribes. They are deeply religious, and while they are generally peaceful, they have been known to embark on religious crusades against their enemies from time to time. They are vegetarians and eat only fruit. Their ceremonial spears have small hooks at one end designed to pull fruit from the trees.

Setting 5; The Bromiri

This species has a long, slender body with as many as thirty-eight legs (depending on an individual's age and gender) and three eyes. Although they appear to be anatomically similar to centipedes, they do not have exoskeletons but rather cartilaginous skeletons surrounded by soft tissue and leathery skin. They are telepathic and can project their thoughts across vast distances. They only reproduce once in their lives but have a large number of offspring. The Bromiri do not like to involve themselves in the affairs of others, and prefer to remain neutral, going so far as to refuse most outside contact and offers of assistance.

Setting 6; The Zluorg

A race of giant sloth-like beings who have incredible regenerative abilities. Their Setting is a barren wasteland of deserts, dry plains and scrub-land. It is extremely hot. Because of this, they live mainly in the cooler and more fertile regions close to the other Settings where the airflow from the atmospheric recyclers keeps the temperature moderate. Their culture is similar to that of ancient Greece with thousands of small city-states practicing functional democracy. The Zluorg were fully aware of their captivity when contacted and have begun to vote city-by-city on whether to accept the offers of citizenship and assistance.

Setting 7; Vacant

Setting 8; The Teegafane

A race of shape-shifting zooids with green skin and bulging eyes that communicate only through body language. They have a complex religious system centered around worship of the 'gods' which we understand to be the Krang. The Teegafane evolved a para-symbiotic relationship with the Krang; Every five years, they sacrificed ten percent of their population, believing they would be consumed as food by the 'gods'. While this was mostly done as appeasement, it was also proven to be an effective form of population control. Their religious leaders are selected by way of a sporting tournament. In order to win a position in the priesthood, players must prove themselves in a variety of different sports, including both physical and mental challenges. These 'leaders' were then sacrificed to the Krang at the end of the five year cycle.

This system created a cycle of explosive growth followed by extreme famine that was followed right up to outside contact. Without the Krang to consume and control the population, it grows rampant until the environment cannot sustain it. At that point mass starvation ensues and roughly ninety-five percent of the population dies. The Teegafane are currently in the 'growth' portion of the cycle and efforts are being made to curtail the population growth along with the standard post-contact procedures.

Additional Notes;
Common slang is to refer to the various Circlets by the phonetization of their compass direction. Circlet I at galactic NNE is thus 'NiNee', Circlet II is 'EeNee', and thus 'EeSey', 'CeCee', 'SoSaw', 'WeSaw', WeeNew', & 'NeNew'. Normally the natives would use their own designation, but with a large number of natives - some of which have multiple separate names for their home structure - the default nomenclature is drifting towards 'NiNee Two' for Circlet I, Setting Two.
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Sunset
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Postby Sunset » Sun Aug 19, 2018 4:33 pm

Special Projects Long Shot Research Station 'Zebra', Trans-Galactic Space...

"Call me crazy..."

"Hi Crazy! My name's Katryna," the aforenamed quipped, swiping her fingers across a dozen different control panels as the android manipulated this control or that, "How are you? And does it say that on your business cards? Or did you have your middle name officially changed to Crazy? Because I'm pretty sure your name is Saryan!"

"...but this is kinda crazy. Are you all right," the physicist leaned closer, raising a finger to poke at her boss's otherwise normal-looking head. "Are you sure the engram transfer went alright? Are you... On drugs?"

Neither woman was there-there, of course. Both had copied sufficiently-high resolution copies of their consciousness into remote Cortex that were in turn 'wearing' near-perfect replicas of their regular bodies; One flesh-and-blood, the other silicon-and-circuits. Somewhere out 'there' - with 'there' being a distance essentially unfathomable on an individual level - their real analogs were watching through an excessively secure one-way link as the two presumably went through the instructions their sapient twins had carefully detailed out for them to follow.

"No... You did ask a silly question though, so I thought I'd give you a silly answer. This isn't crazy. It is risky and dangerous but," she swiped her spread hand down a full array of indicator slides, turning them from blue to green and causing an indicator on another screen to momentarily shit itself before the power levels normalized, "That's why we've taken every precaution we could think of, right?"

Or at least every precaution I could think of.

Besides being in trans-galactic space some half-million light years from anything valuable, Research Station 'Zebra' also wasn't properly in this universe or mine. A custom holographic boundary interface had been constructed and the facility - a spherical structure with a pair of antenna-studded truncated cones cut into either end - had been moved inside that. Positioned around the boundary interface itself (six modified Aurora III-Class Transit Gate segments) was a brand spanking new tesseract sphere; That is, a sphere with more outside than in - or vis versa. This consisted of a number of satellites capable of creating a tesseract field between themselves with these also equipped with a BOOBYTRAP node as well as a faster-than-light scrambler.

Beyond that the research station had just enough matter and the matrix created by the first HBI was just large enough to accommodate their project - nothing more.

Perfectly safe.

"Right. And it's not like we're going whole-hog on this," Katryna continued, looking through the screens to where the test object sat in the exact center of the facility. Which meant it was technically floating in deep space, since the facility itself was a modified tesseract sphere. Thus it was surrounded by deep space, but this was not the familiar and somehow comforting deep space with stars and galaxies and pulsars on the horizon but instead a complete and utter empty blackness so deep that it would give the most desperate nihilist a feeling of miserable gloom.

"This thing's going to be like a fruit fly. A sterile fruit fly."

The point was, of course, to create an HBI - again, holographic boundary interface - that was alive. Of course the other point was to create an HBI that wasn't too alive. They'd get to that point later, assuming this all just didn't blow up in their face.

"Ready?"

"No."

"Too bad. Everything shows ready," Katryna put her fingers on the last two switches, "Here we go..."
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Nov 13, 2018 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:33 pm

Waystation Savage, Poleman Lagrange Three, Poleman System, Alpha Quadrant...

"...and is working?" the buyer asked, his thick Slavic accent an affection less legitimate than the weapon that lay out in its case in front of him. It was a worthy question given the unsavory surroundings - a little-used hangar bay at the backside of a less-frequented trade port. Once upon a time it had been a notable crossroads and the refuse from that time lay in various stacks and piles around the cavernous expanse, leaving it a perfect maze of abandoned spacecraft, parts to no-one knows what, and aging containers that smelled only slightly worse than whatever they had once contained.

It was also a question he didn't wait for the seller to answer. Instead there was a snap of thick fingers and a thin young man stepped forward. He'd practically disappeared in among the thick wall of muscle that had accompanied the buyer to the meet but now he took center stage as he pulled out a scanner, flipped up a pair of rabbit-eared antenna, and slowly ran it down the length of the warhead. A steady click-click followed his movement and after reaching the fat base he stood straight, pushing his round glasses back on his nose before turning to the buyer with the desired announcement.

"It's good. Eight Eff Zero Two One - Five megaton thermonuclear warhead. It would have been mounted on a Soviet Ar Thirty Six Em-Pee Ey Cee Be Em. An antique," he pronounced carefully, "But isotope levels are stable. I'd give it a ninety... Ninety three percent chance of detonation."

"Good enough," the buyer shrugged, drawing a welcome smile from the seller. "Close it up - we'll take it. To go."

"And my price?"

Again there was a shrug and the buyer snapped his fingers again, summoning one of the thick-looking men that stood watching the rest of the hangar with wary eyes. He stepped up to the pair and lifted a briefcase, setting it down on a crate to open it facing himself and then turn it to face the seller. Secure in their foam cushioning were a dozen sharp black credit sticks - 'Black Cards', by market parlayance - and the seller picked up one to thumb the display. The total was to his apparent contentment as he put it back in place with a satisfied grunt and reached up to pull the case closed.

The gun in the thug's hand bucked once and the seller pitched forward, his eyes wide with surprise. Pressing the suppressor against the back of his head, he fired twice more before calmly tossing the weapon aside where it shattered on the metal deck, a million pieces of undetectable polymer scattering like cast sand.

"Apologies - loose ends," the buyer smiled, snapping his fingers again and summoning forward the rest of the brute squad. "Close it up. Quickly - we've got our own appointment to keep."

Someone somewhere wanted the warhead and they wanted it yesterday. They also wanted it enough that they'd paid him significantly extra to eliminate one of his favorite dealers from the supply chain - though he would take more aggressive precautions on delivery. Two of the goons lifted the molded aluminum case and were just about to latched it down when there was an odd noise. A soft thud, actually - followed by another.

Knock, knock.

"What was that?"

He eyed the case close, reaching inside his coat for the weapon which - by previous agreement - was not there. His eyes went next to the dead man, and then the thin man who was already looking down at his handheld scanner, "Is it supposed to be doing that?" His accent had now disappeared to be replaced with a worried tone, "I said, is it supposed to be doing that?!"

"No, I..." he waved the device over the conical warhead again, "Everything looks normal..."

Knock, knock.

"Then what was that?!" the buyer near-shouted, his voice high at the end and his feet taking him slowly back towards the imaginary safety of the bay doors. This deep inside the station the atmospheric blast wave - useless in the vacuum of space - would tear the heart out of the station and leave it a shattered wreck.

Knock, knock.

"I don't know!" The thin man's voice was now a squeal and he knelt close, running his scanner again over the green-painted warhead, trying to find some indication of just what was making the noise. There didn't seem to be anything that could - should - move in order to produce the mysterious sound. Leaning close, he reached out a knuckled hand and turned his head to nearly put his ear against the case, Knock, knock.

Knock, knock.

Head swiveling around as if on a possessed axis, he looked back over his shoulder, his eyes wide and blood draining from his face, "It's coming from inside!"

"Of course it's coming from inside," the buyer wailed, rushing forward to knock the minion aside and stoop down, repeating the earlier gesture with his own thick fist, "Nuclear warheads don't knock, you idiot! There's something inside! Leave it," he decided suddenly, standing straight and turning to the doors just as the narrow shaft of light from the airlock began to slid shut with a rusty rattle, "Shit!"

Knock, knock.

"Who's there?" a low-pitched but distinctly female voice echoed over the bay's ancient loudspeaker. "Ah, shit. Ah had a joke, but Ah lost it."

Running ahead of his henchmen, the buyer reached the door just as the last sliver of light disappeared. Heavy fists fell on the door to no avail and he turned to look up, searching out the source of the voice. Just to his right the bulkhead rose to an outward-angled control deck and he stepped back until he could see just see a shadowy figure standing behind the elderly consoles.

"Who are you? What do you want?!"

"Eh, it's not what I want - it's what she wants. My boss tha' is. And she doesn't want scum lahk you getting ahold o' anything more dangerous than a unsharpened pencil. But me? Ah'm doin' this fer fun!"

For a moment he was about to ask the question that deserved an answer but the answer was the sudden rumble and clatter of the hangar doors opening behind him, accompanied by an ominous and unholy shriek...
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Postby Sunset » Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:43 pm

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System...

"...so, what's my next adventure into questionable and unethical behaviour going to be?" Fredrick asked, twirling what for all the world looked like a flexible too-small hula hoop around his raised index finger as he studied his guest, the other hand shoved deep into a trouser pocket.

"This;" A small metal case was the answer, and the decidely average-looking man who was thus definitely not average placed it on the only clear space on the nearest workbench before going through a complicated opening sequence that would have done a goblin proud. All that ended with the lid open and flat on the crowded counter and a small metal vial sitting safe in protective foam.

Taking it gingerly from its place, the anonymous agent held it out for a moment before suddenly thinking twice and curling his fingers protectively around it, "Actually, my question first. What's that?"

"What, this?"

Kraus spun the ring around again, tossing it high before catching it behind his back and rolling it from arm to shoulder and down to the hand where it had started before setting it spinning again, "This is an ExoDonut. Or a Decap-o-Cortex. I haven't decided yet but I really like the first better."

"And it does..."

"Cuts your head off," he counted off with extended fingers as the ring circled his wrist, "Then it sticks a probe into your brain and asks if you want your consciousness migrated to the built-in ExoCortex. Then it migrates that to a HBM for eventual movement to the Eien. Nifty, right?"

"I suppose so," was the neutral answer, but the man seemed convinced and held out the vial. "This is a genetic sample from the son of one Urungus, supreme leader of the Ozlukar. Said son is currently being educated on Sakaldale with an eye towards eventually succeeding his father. But..."

It was a loaded 'but' amd Kraus supplied the 'But what?'

"But Ozlukar leadership is determined by merit. Or at least not what we consider merit. They are a violent and savage people and our civilized education may be too civilizing. So we want you to prepare a back-up. Clone him, indulge in whatever cybernetic reconstruction you want, and rig the result for remote control. It's not something we want to do, but it never hurts to have a back-up plan."

"So... You want me to make some kind of cybernetic death-puppet on the off chance you'll need to use it to conduct a shadow coup against the legitimately selected leadership? Using whatever monstrous methods and techniques I pull from the depths of my twisted nightmares?"

The agent nodded once, "Yes. Again, this is a back-up. The Ozlukar are the target of multiple operations - QuarterBack, OverWatch - and it is likely that your work will not be needed."

"Even better!" Despite the warning, Dr. Kraus was suddenly enthusiastic, tossing the prototype aside and rooting through the junk on the workbench in search of something. "I'm thinking three-quarter.conversion cyborg. One quarter will be raging maniac and the other three one hundred percent kick-ass..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Sep 18, 2018 8:17 pm

RDF Training Academy Twenty-Six, The Southern Continent, Ares, Ares System...

"Ah, graduation... I'm glad I'm going to miss it," Kami proclaimed, drawing the attention of a pair of nearby cadets for a moment before they realized her rank and thus immunity to the end of year ceremony.

It also drew a momentary pause from her flaxen-haired companion, who had graduated two years before her ambitious companion, "Why? You graduated first in your class. Why would you be glad to miss it?"

"Because I was nervous as hell. Right up to the moment when they called my name I was sure they were going to find some way, some excuse, some last minute reason to drum me out. And right in front of everyone too. 'Cadet Blaine,'" she pantomimed Commander Sheldon's posture and vocal range, "'Your bed sheets were rumpled this morning - you've been dropped from the Academy.' When I left my room that morning it was spotless. Even the toothbrush I'd used to clean around the sink was bleached white."

"...and I would have done it too, if I'd have found some reason," the familiar voice from behind interrupted, pausing both in their tracks long enough for the lanky Commander to insert himself between the pair. "I almost got your brother too, but he had gotten the permit to cut the road through the Academy grounds. I'm not exactly sure how, but he did."

Sloan laughed, "I don't believe you, you know." Twisting from one to the other, she looked over both shoulders before she was sure there was no one in easy audible range. Still her voice was a whisper when she continued, "Have you ever expelled anyone?"

"Yes."

"Pinkie Swear?" and she held up the required digit.

Hooking her finger with his own he shook her hand, "Pinkie swear. Though most of them have been foreign agents and handled quietly. An irregularity in their paperwork and a casual 'Oh, can you drop by my office...' A few have run - you can find their bones out there if you look," he nodded towards a nearby window and the vast expanse of rough, heavily forested terrain that stretched to the horizon.

"Really."

"Really really," he nodded his head, though there was a smirk on his lips that suggested he might maybe just be lying. "Of course, you'd never know. Did you ever have someone just disappear? Someone you didn't think was going to withdraw?" Both women thought back for a moment and then shook their heads; "No - because we replaced them. Sent the spies off to Intelligence for indefinite detention and replaced them with body doubles. I'm sure they're still harvesting the results of that particular operation."

Commander Sloan's jaw moved silently for a few seconds while the Captain eyed him sideways. Both were on the verge of saying something, asking for proof of some kind, but then they reached the double doors that led out onto the campus quad and their journey both on foot and through the hallowed halls of Republic Defense Force Training Academy Twenty-Six was at an end. Above them the sky was an endless, brilliant blue except for the overarching shadow of a starship that crawled along above them, its oval nose just keeping pace with their feet as they walked into the sunlight.

All three looked up, though it was Commander Sheldon that spoke first as his companion's eyes continued to trace along the lettering that adorned her flanks, broken only by the Republic roundel, "Well, it looks like your parents are here. Did you get all your stuff? Use the bathroom before you leave?"

"...jerk," though her words were nearly breathless. "What is she?"

Sheldon's jaw swung back, "Hmph - I'm pretty sure we taught you to read at least. Let's sound it out... Oh... Gen... Eee. Repeat after me, a couple times just to make sure you get it."

"Don't make me punch you, Shelly."

"That would be striking a fellow officer, and I'm pretty sure I could have you expelled for that, Captain," he answered, the smirk again on his thin lips. But after a moment he relented, "Impact-Class Advent Cruiser, fresh off the line. Fresh off the drafting table too - there's no finer ship in the Fleet. Everything an adventurous young captain could want. All she's missing is her commanding officer."

"All? So..."

He nodded, "All. Your crew woke up aboard her this morning, but when they ran the details past my desk I decided a little alteration was in order. Something special."

"Something special, huh?" Kami held up a hand to both ward away the sun and the giant bucketful of paint she was now sure had been dumped on them. That particular humiliation didn't come but her guard was up; Sheldon had stepped to one side and now stood watching them, hands tucked behind his back. "Well, what is it? What are you going to do to us?"

"Oh, its not what I'm going to do," he shook his head, the smirk growing into a broad grin. "It's what she's going to do. Ojeni, this is Sheldon. Two to beam up, if you please."

"Beam up? What do you mean..."

The brilliant purple beam hit the pair in mid-stride and for a half-second Kamilia could swear she was in two places at once, the quad stretched out around them and nestled between the white buildings of the Academy and in the middle of a much smaller room on a raised platform. Standing in a semi-circle around her were the various members of her command crew - friends all - and on the other side there was a small knot of unfamiliar faces clustered around a console, expressions between frowns and cheers of delight ranged among them.

Then she was not in the first place and still in the second and one of the familiar faces stepped forward, a near-round ball perched on two spiked legs, "Great! It worked..."
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Actually, They're My Units. You're ****ed.

Postby Sunset » Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:24 am

Tivrusky IV, Ozun System, Gamma Quadrant...

"Closed, what do you mean, closed," the Ozlukar bellowed, his voice a deep, rumbling rasp. The robot across the counter didn't care that it was standing sensor to spittle with a being more than capable of tearing it limb from limb; It simply extended one of those limbs to point to a sign prominently placed under another, larger sign.

The first said 'CLOSED' in bright red letters printed on a white background and with a tastefully thin black line between the edge with its smoothly rounded corners and the lettering itself. Below those first six letters were then printed in another handful of languages and in a smaller font the same word; Hebrew, Tajik, Klingon, Farsi, Tlingit, and finally Ozlukar. Perhaps more important was the larger sign hung above the first, draped across the ceiling on tissue paper banners, and drifting noiselessly from an old-fashioned biplane as it lazily circled the small moon where the even smaller facility was located; 'OUT OF BUSINESS'.

Which apparently also meant 'CLOSED'.

"I have money, you have money - we tra..." The paymaster's voice trailed off and he looked to either side of the woman's-torso-stuck-on-an-office-chair robot. There was no money. He'd been to the small shop more times than he had digits and there had always been money there. Carts and trolleys and trays and drawers and...

"Where did all the money go?!"

Again, the robot pointed first to the larger sign, then to the smaller sign, and then reached up to draw an opaque gray shade half-way down the exchange window before pausing to speak in a halting but feminine robotic voice, "There. Was. A. Robbery. We. Are. Now. Closed. Excuse. Our. Mess." With that, it drew the shade entirely to the counter and rolled back, the towering Ozlukar trying to burn a hole in the curtain with the ferocity of his gaze. After a few seconds there were hisses, snaps, and pops and when the curtain itself caught fire and fell apart, he could see that the robot had somehow burst into flames and was now consuming itself - and the office - from the inside out.

There had been a robbery, of sorts, though it had been one of the most orderly and widespread robberies ever to take place and possibly one of the most lucrative. Just that same morning, a dark green gull-winged ship had touched down barely at the door and a small group of men and women in floppy hats and outrageous costume had run inside without a trace of space suits and waving what looked but didn't act like old fashioned muskets, pistols, and cutlasses. In only a few minutes they had emerged hauling trolley and cart loaded with currency in various denominations and printings behind them, loaded it all on their ship, and departed while the robots began to dutifully hang out the signs and banners announcing that this - and all other branches of the exchange - was now closed.

----

A Random Planet, Somewhere inside Ozlukar Space, Gamma Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy...

"It broken - fix it!"

If the 'slave' had any trace of consciousness left, it would have given the Ozlukar warrior a sour look despite the collar firmly latched around its neck. Instead the non-sentient program that was running the former body consulted its sensors, checked its databases, and ran a few preliminary diagnostics, "The unit is not broken. It has been turned off. I will turn it on."

There was a small display panel to one side of the resource collection node's flattened cone and it knelt at this to pressed the conveniently labeled button next to the small red-lettered display that said 'OFFLINE' in scrolling letters. After a moment the letters flashed 'ERROR' and then, in a display of insufferable machine arrogance, switched back to the useless 'OFFLINE'; "There has been an error. The machine is offline."

"I told you that! I not stupid - I tried that," the Ozlukar answered, crossing his arms across his beefy, blubbery chest and bending over to glare first nose-to-nose at the slave and then at the display. "It broken - fix it. That your job. We need dis machine, it important. People come to take metal soon, so you fix. Now."

In fact the machine would stubbornly refuse to be fixed, and it would also refuse to be serviced. Sitting where it was, it was just one of many identical resource collector nodes scattered across a large number of the known Ozlukar worlds. Every few days the top would open and a small platform would rise up that contained, according to the tiny humans who came to collect it, trace minerals that were required to sustain certain manufacturing processes. The warrior didn't exactly know what that meant - 'How It's Made' hadn't made its way to Ozlukar space yet - but the important thing was when they came, they also brought money which he then dutifully turned over to the clan.

If the machine wasn't working and the people weren't coming there would be no money.

Which saved him a walk.

"Alright," he decided, echoing the wisdom of the lazy, "We wait. See if it fix itself."

With that he took a seat on a convenient rock and the slave, after a moment, sat down on the ground beside the unit. The likelihood was there that the unit had some manner of self-diagnostic and self-repair cycle and what did it matter to the slave that the people would never come back? In fact the tubular mining units hadn't returned to the site in some time either - nor had they returned anywhere else. Shortly after the last batch had been collected they'd stopped their slow travel between the deep pockets and the collector node, though they were still active.

The node showed that at least; Dozens of status lights, each slowly blinking green but showing nothing more useful than that.

It was a good sign, right?

----

RDF-Sular (FT-855211 (Zenith-Class Fleet Transport)), Circlet Orbit, Gen Celet System, Delta Quadrant...

"What do you mean, 'put them all back'?"

"I mean what I said," the Chief Quartermaster replied, looking over and past his assistant to the towering racks of containers that filled Sular's extended modular storage bays. "We're putting them all back. New orders from Fleet. They all go back into storage."

In other, more recent times, this would have been accompanied by some amount of whining. There were after all millions of transport crates stacked to fit the expansive cargo bay - just one of eight that hung off the back-end of the Zenith-Class like an extended tail - and that would have entailed a lot of work. But this wasn't more recent times and the Sular was a modern military cargo vessel. As soon as the ship moved closer to the Circlet the pods would detach, descend to the Defense Force warehouse facility that had been built into the super-structure of what was generally called 'Setting One', and they would empty themselves.

The work - if you could call it that - of a few minutes. So instead of a whine, the assistant's answer was a question, "Why?"

"Because the powers that be have decided we will no longer interact with the Ozlukar, that's why. I'm sure its something political - you know, except for the part where they're monstrous, unrepentant slavers and raiders. I think that was the title of the memo, actually," he finished, rubbing his chin in the deepest of false thoughts. "So all these Gen2 units? Back to the warehouse. I'm sure we'll find something to do with them."

----

The Harbor, Kinola, Sakaldale, The Periphery...

"...I'm sure we'll find something to do with it," Governor Taidasha declared, her voice a low growl. That she couldn't help; A pair of tusks protruding from the troll's lower jaw tended to turn everything she said into a threatening statement. As a point of fact, she rather liked the structure that towered in front of her. Built for the son of the Ushtar Uzgoth - Gorgor - and his entourage, she'd had a hand in much of the design work and naturally that had lent the exterior appearance an appeal to her sense of aesthetics.

He'd left that morning and not of his own particular will. Instead a ship - a Republic warship, accompanied by several others - had arrived along with Mister Kjarll Raizengi of the Secretary-General's Office and whisked him away without ceremony and to be 'kicked out at the next stop', by the gentleman's own words. Where that would be he didn't say, but that left her with a new building in the capital that was both attractive and too big.

"So we'll add some floors between the floors. Which still leaves us the problem of what to do with it."

The 'other' problem was the smell. The Ozlukar liked the smell of the ocean, the sea, the tanneries... So she'd built the manor on an empty plot of land next to all three.

"...maybe a positive air pressure system and some heavy-duty filtration. Like they mount on tanks. Come on," she gestured to her own assistant, "We've got some tanks around here somewhere. Let's take a look..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:24 pm

Special Projects Research & Development Site Beta, Mars, Sol System...

Beta was, by the numbering system implied, one of the oldest R & D sites established for the use of Special Projects and its various research, design, development, and deployment branches and sub-divisions. Ot was also thus one of the least secure, being perched right on the lip of the vast Vallis Marineris super-canyon that ran a third of the way around the Red Planet. This put it directly across from the so-called 'Embassy Row' and presumably the vast assortment of monitoring systems smuggled in by enterprising intelligence services both hostile and curious.

Perhaps that had been intended; Beta had never produced anything groundbreaking and in fact several of the 'inventions' to emerge from those pastel grey halls had a habit of exploding for no particular reason other than being breathed on. Perhaps this explained the presence of a science-type from New Dornalia, who were well-noted for the random explosion of their own. Which didn't stop the expected questioning by the random researcher encountered in the halls...

"Who the hell is this guy? What's he doing here?!"

"Artemis Wimps, he's from New Dornalia and he's here for a joint development project. Project MAYBERRY. Which is..."

"Oh," and the lab coat scurried past, content that he no longer cared about the rest of the answer.

"...which is the re-development of a Gen1 REDSHIRT into a civil variant capable of generic law enforcement, search and rescue, and medical intervention."

Which explained in part the unit designation as well as the spindly build and certain resemblance of the default polymorphic face to Don Knotts. The other part was that the Dornie were involved and that explained why it had defibrillator pads concealed in the hands and knew Preying Mantis-style kung fu. Or at least what it called kung fu in its default comically endearing vocal range.

Which - one supposes - doesn't matter much when one is taking fifty thousand volts across the nipples as Officer Fife kicks your ass.

"Should we give it a gun?"

As far as Clyde was concerned it was a relevant question but Artemis shot him a look as though he too - or possibly both of them - had been shot, "What do you mean... No gun? I was... A phaser. Fully automatic belt-fed shotgun..."

"You know, most people on the streets don't expect to see a cop - anyone - carrying a gun except in a case. Here, at least."

It was an oddity of sisterhood. Both nations shared enough genetics that they could be described as siblings but one was in a thousand dollars of designer skirt and low-cut blouse while the other was wearing a kilt and waving around a lightsaber. Thus while the laws were the same, one could find a Wilk's 320 Laser Pistol in every glove box in New Dornalia and in Sunset they would find gloves.

"Weird."

"How about a holster with a sash, like the old motorcycle cops? With a Colt Python;" It was the only old-style revolver Clyde could think of. "Variable.loads, auto-loader in the holster..."

Artemis held up a hand to stop him, "See, that's the difference between us. You guys think of all the options up front - we like to have something to change..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Sep 24, 2018 12:07 pm

RDF-Ojeni, Ares Orbit, Ares System...

Her ship was both bigger and smaller. From stem to stern she was a little over a hundred meters larger than her previous incarnation but with only twenty-five flesh-and-blood crew members her interior spaces were much, much smaller. Just a tangle of quarters, section offices, and general spaces laid out around the armored bridge and all buried in the heart of the ship. She'd stopped by her own quarters first only to find them strangely familiar and weird. The layout was much the same as it had been aboard the first Ojeni but with the addition of this and that and all those little conveniences she'd always wanted.

The space had been bare but her belongings had been there, stacked in containers and crates just here and just so as though some disgruntled steward had packed them up and moved them from ship to ship, complaining all the time about the obnoxious task of moving the Captain's things instead of the Captain doing it herself like everyone else. Or had they been? Or had they simply been cut out of whole cloth as the ship itself had, some imaginatively complex environmental database deciding that this box should be just here and the other should be just haphazardly placed atop the two so it looked as though it had been left in haste before hands virtual had moved on to other, more important tasks.

There were uniforms already in the drawers though, dress and everyday and cold weather and hot. She'd chosen a dress uniform for this was a dress occasion and pulled it on over her bare body to find it fit her as well as if the finest tailor had been there to fit and sew it as she stood admiring the cut of her jib in the long mirror. The badges and roundels and rank insignia - earned, she hoped - and service ribbons - some labeled with regret unsuited for a face so young - were all there and in their proper place though she adjusted them anyway. There were new boots there as well, but those stayed as she sat on the bed and pulled on the same that she had just removed.

'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.'

"...I'm not putting a sixpence in my boot," she finished, setting the cuff of her trousers against the material that would self-seal in case of a vacuum breach, "Ready, Commander?" She looked over her shoulder to the other side of the bed where her executive officer, counselor, friend, and on occasion lover had been similarly dressing to already find the blond-haired woman ready and at attention, "Then let's go."

There had been ten-something paces between her door and the bridge doors before and it was maybe the same now. It was a ritual she'd already forgotten, the countdown of steps between her front door and what she thought of as the big office. Doors slid shut behind and open ahead and familiar figures slid from their chairs to stand next to their stations in a ritual that would rarely be observed again aboard this ship, "Captain on the Bridge!"

This was the moment she'd been dreading, of all the moments in a captain's service. A speech, a quick 'stand down' and a resumption of normal operations; These were all her friends and they were all her subordinates and this was her ship and her crew and how would she start the next phase of their life together? But in that moment, when she looked past them and to the sprawling main display with its view of the planet slowly rotating below, a smattering of ships and stations circling alongside, and the endless stars beyond, she knew exactly what to say.

"When I was young - not that long ago - I'd come home to my parent's house late at night and look up above the house and at the stars. As far as we were from Earth the constellation that always drew my attention was Orion, the Great Hunter. 'Someday', I told myself, 'I want to see those stars.' Today is that day; Lieutenant Wayson, set a course - point us right at the buckle."

"Aye, aye, Ma'am," he slid into his seat, hands moving over the controls as though they were the same today as yesterday. "Setting course for Alnilam. Navigational computer shows green, navigational sensors show green, quantum frameshift drive is online and shows green - set for quantum frameshift," he continued, the litany of ready checks necessary and completely unneeded. "And orbital traffic control shows us as clear for departure."

His finger hovered over the final button that would speed their departure but in that moment a hand rested on her forearm and Captain Blaine looked over to find Commander Sloan already studying her face, a single question ready, "You don't want to know what's there?"

"Nope," she decided, settling into place and turning back to the forward display where the faint crackle of cyan lightning signaled the imminent formation of the frameshift spindle. "Let's find out. Mister Wayson - Engage!"
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Postby Sunset » Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:34 pm

RDF-Ixutsangi, Off the Leviathan, Interstellar Space, Southwestern Delta Quadrant...

"...at that point I realized we were basically doing the same thing that the Grosh Ner Grat - we were the predator, they were the prey. So I called off the roundup and decided we better find another approach to the problem before we accidentally make that relationship permanent. Which is why we're here rather than aboard Qasr - we need some resources you have;" Captain Tarbell nodded at that and the former Commander went on, "Specially a whole bunch of IntelRats or similar. I'd like to seed the interior with them, have them listen in on their conversations."

The Troll considered for a few moments before giving his slow reply, "It's a good idea, and it might be your only option. At least to do this peacefully. We've deployed an engineering team to the derelict's command center - they've confirmed your team's findings and added some more detail."

Reaching out with a finger towards the floor to ceiling - Troll ceiling - virtual window that dominated one side of Ixutsangi's bridge conference room, he drew out a holographic rectangle in glowing green and filled it with a close up of the drifting vessel's stern, detailed down to the trio of engineering shuttles that drifted around the shattered command deck, linked to it by cables where technicians occasionally sailed back and forth.

"The explosion really did a number on their control systems, but more than that - it also destroyed what we think is the only information storage system aboard the entire ship. Shrapnel right through the main storage medium. We've got teams trying to reconstruct it, but they are not a familiar design so its taking some time, if it can happen at all. I don't like it, Sergeant," he said, falling back to his friend's first name as his tone grew suspicious, "I don't like it at all."

"This isn't just two peoples who don't like each other engaging in the kind of regular violence that we see all the time. This is deliberate, planned, and malicious. Any reasonable shipwright would have a second or a third or a four backup data center on a ship this big. Or dozens. But we haven't found any. Every cable, every connection - they all lead back to here," he tapped the second screen.

"So everything went past that little closet where that lone saboteur was hiding. Like running prey past a hunting blind..."

"Exactly, I think we're dealing with two species that have taken on roles at extreme ends of the spectrum. Our unnamed friends are the prey, the Grosh Ner Grat are the predators. With the added twist that both species are intelligent. But there's another twist - the Admiral has dispatched engineering teams to the wreckage of the Grosh Ner Grat ships. They're not exactly the same - but they're really damned close. It's easy to suspect that this thing was built by whoever built those ships and I don't know about you, but if I were an aggressive paramilitary organization I'd build my own damned ships."

"So you're thinking this whole thing was a setup, right from the very beginning?"

"Putting it into the predator-prey analogy, the Grosh Ner Grat built their own exclusive game reserve with the sole purpose of hunting these people to extinction...
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Postby Sunset » Sat Sep 29, 2018 9:10 pm

The Cutpurse's Dagger, Deep Space, Somewhere in the Delta Quadrant...

"First time I've been asked to lose my cargo on purpose, mon amie. A few times because I've had to, a few times because I've had too much to drink, but never here, never now..."

"Mais l'argent, Capitaine?"

"The best reason," Captain Archambeault replied, his shoulders a shrug though there was a broad smile across his vacuum-weathered face, "La meilleure raison."

Their brief aside over, the two turned to watch as Dagger's automated stowage system plucked another crate from the racks and trundled it towards the open bay on the Corsair's underside. Once the claw-like arm reached the end of its travel, the lesser crewman turned again to the controls. Releasing cargo into the void would require an override and thus it was up to Archambeault to enter his code with a flourish before the robotic arm curled up its thick finger and gave the container a 'flick', sending it tumbling end-over-end into the endless abyss. Out this far, beyond the gravitational influence of any star or lesser known body, there would be very little chance that anyone might stumble across it.

That was something of the point, of course. As the The Cutpurse's Dagger turned away, its gull-wing form passing bird-like over the crate before stretching out to infinity as it shot away into warp, the crate began to roll to a stop. Such a thing should not happen in the friction-less darkness but as there was no one there to comment this oddity went unnoticed. After a moment it came to a stop, turned to swivel, and then oriented itself on a particular and peculiar angle before setting itself spinning again.

Again and again the Sanglanti ship would stop, repeat the same action, and where they were most unlikely to be discovered the unmarked crates would signal the slow expansion of TRIPWIRE-Delta and the Republic's surveillance operations in the region. With things heating up it was always wise to keep an eye on enemies and friends alike...

And if someone were to stumble across one of the crates, tripping across it in the darkness? Subtle charges would destroy the vital components and those interested would find only another box of scrap.
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Postby Sunset » Tue Oct 02, 2018 11:49 am

Special Projects Research Complex, Landor City, Terra Incognito...

"A step too far?" Doctor Tithral stood alone in the modest workspace assigned for his person use, a pair of fingers slowly rasping against the stubble of several days inside a body that was still, by natural rights, his own. There was a chill in the air and he unconsciously pulled his lab jacket closer, concealing the narrow line of ash-black skin that began at his collar. "With one hand we could give and the other hand take, but both the same body - and where is our soul?"

After a few more minutes of silent contemplation, his eyes drifted from the numbers and symbols that wound their way around the near-translucent sphere that floated in the middle of the space. It was an unusual way to mathematically construct such a thing but it was an unusual thing; The Bajoni was one of only a few people who truly understood the physical intricacies of the manipulation of holographic boundaries and eccentricities were common to them all.

Stopping at the window that looked out from the tower to the broad bay that spread out into an endless horizon of crystal blue he paused, violet eyes going from the sparkling white sand to the crisp waves that rose and fell and then beyond to where the sun beat down on it all in blazing oppression. The sun...

It was pertinent to his thoughts in a dozen ways.

Far beyond it and among the countless stars that made up the grand disc of the Milky Way and all the galaxies beyond, countless civilizations strove against and among themselves for the resources that orbited these vast nuclear furnaces. Collectors in their uncounted billions went out among planet and asteroid, strove against rock and mineral, built house and warship, grew food and purified water but yet all but a few ignored the greatest resource available to them.

"And even for those that recognize it, harvesting its bounty is a task daunting. To harness the power of the sun;" He looked back to the star slowly churning its grand path towards the horizon. "A great work decades or even centuries in the making and not one to be taken up lightly. Most thus spend their time in petty squabble, ships and soldiers dying for the mere scraps each has gathered to itself."

He turned back to the sphere and approached it again and for a moment, an instant, his finger left the place where it rested over his arm to touch the button that would deactivate the sphere and wipe away all that he had accomplished; Good... Evil... It was the perfect illustration of the false dichotomy of order versus chaos. One work, many uses. But this was not some grinding tyranny where lives were meaningless and only the state mattered - this was the Republic of Sunset.

The Shining City on the Hill.

He smiled thinly. Someone was overly fond of that phrase, though it was apt. Perhaps someone somewhere would replicate his work - he could not claim to be alone in his knowledge - and so best it was that such thoughts had come to him, here, where good could come of it rather than the imposition of order through destruction or the spread of chaos through freedom. For another long moment he paused, gathering thoughts, and with a touch he began the recording that would lay down the foundations of his Great Work.

"One of the problems with VELMAs and those like them - Dyson Swarms, etc - is the VLEMA itself. Its a very large thing after all; That point is right in the name. But what if it were not? What if we could somehow accomplish the same purpose but without the same apparatus? We may not be able to break the laws of Physics but we sure can fuck with them...," he grinned at the included obscenity before continuing, "The idea would be to surround a given star not with a physical device but instead with a physics device. A holographic boundary interface that accepts all of the incoming energy but instead of storing it or allowing it to careen into the unknown depths of the universe it instead, through the instructions written on that interface, converts those photons and other portions of the electro-magnetic spectrum into new and raw elements to be arranged at our choosing through methods already known."

"Such a system and device could thereby be mobile and more than that manufactured, built in our own great foundries and in numbers both needed and reserved. And even more than that, such a device could - by its arcane nature - be made useful to both friend and ally without revealing its nature. Magic, invisible to all except by its products..."

Now he stopped to reference the numbers and symbols on the sphere before continuing, "Assuming a starting collection area one kilometer square and a Sol-type star, said system would take two days to double in collection area. One to absorb enough energy to do the deed, the other to do the deed. It would thus take eighty-eight days to expand to cover the entire surface - or around three months. At that point it could start converting the energy output of the star into useful matter at a rate of;" He listed off a series of numbers by second, minute, hour, and day that were nearly beyond comprehension. "But it also took my thoughts as of fifteen minutes ago to turn this thing - a wonder for the betterment of all - into a super-weapon. Certainly it would take those three months, but in those three the light of the sun would fade from a given system, the sun blotted out."

"Let it never come to pass," he ended, his voice fading to a whisper.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Oct 07, 2018 7:59 pm

Thur'Abys Volcanic Plateau, Casablanca, Bogart System...

"...it's not something we'd considered," the armored figure admitted in response to the question that came unbidden on the wind. "Would it work..."

He rose from his burning throne and strode down the dais, each step leaving a footstep that burned and seared its way into the black rock. Veins of molten lava crisscrossed the plateau and he'd situated his dwelling not far from a nexus of these. Runnels of liquid orange burst from the crust behind him as he approached, flowing in gutters and spurts until each died away to harden into their own weird form. Standing on the edge of the greatest chasm, he looked down into the blazing depths where rock flowed as water and noxious gases washed over him without a trace of effect except for the burning reflection in his dark eyes.

"I will ask for you," he declared, reaching down into the lava as unflinchingly as one might plunge their hand into a summer pond. It found something there and he stepped back, pulling as he did so, until a narrow crystal spire emerged. Flecked here and there with the blazing remains of its former tomb, it was followed by more and more, each step back revealing what would become a dagger-like craft of fighter size molded from black obsidian and studded here and there with crystals of deepest purple.

"Why not fly commercial?"

"Do you understand the possible ramifications? You intend to join us, but what if one of the doomed were to come across this on their own? The possibilities," his face twisted into rare emotion, "Are truly horrifying. That you communicated this here to me - when they now watch you - was a risk that shouldn't have been taken."

"Unlike you, we can't just pull a ship out of our ass. Remember how much trouble we had getting this thing up and running?"

"I remember those you killed."

The voice didn't answer, but he continued his work. The hull was cleaned and he rose slowly into the air to place a hand on a crystal that could have only been the impossible craft's cockpit. His originator would have vaulted the side and thrown himself into whatever must be a pilot's seat but he stepped in carefully, gracefully, his body stretching out inside the formation as though it was not there. Without a trace of thrust the craft rose into the air and turned skyward before angling away faster than any arrow. Within moments it had passed out of the system entirely...
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Postby Sunset » Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:47 pm

TRIPWIRE Monitoring Center, CORE-III Station, Deep Space...

"What do you mean, 'we can't track it?'"

"That's just it, Admiral," the technician replied with a note of consternation in his tone, both at the Admiral and at the console in front of him. "We can't track it."

"...well, that just doesn't make any sense," was the unmeasured response before the Admiral leaned over his shoulder, braced an arm on one edge of the smooth black surface, and began tracing hand and fingers over the various readouts to confirm - eventually - for himself just what the technician had said. "So we can't track it. That doesn't make any sense. Why can't we track it?"

"I think if I knew that, I'd know how to track it, Sir..."

The Admiral straightened up and looked around the monitoring center, his shoulders finally collapsing with a sigh, "Okay, so we've lost track of the last known representative of the Druth'Haari, who just summoned a ship of unknown design and manufacture from the pits of hell itself before departing for parts unknown, somehow managing to conceal his - their - course and purpose from one of the most sophisticated tracking systems across this or any other quadrant."

"...there is some good news," a voice piped up from across the center, barely heard over the absolute silence that had reigned after the Admiral's self-defeat-in-detail.

"Okay - what's the good news?"

"The good news," the new technician answered, pulling up a series of holographic displays that then hovered around the central sphere where the whole of the galaxy was laid out along with flashing hot-spots and other points-of-worry, "Is that we know they were talking to the iWe before they left. If you recall, RDF-Columbia has been standing watch over the iWe home stations and diving into the mechanics of just how it works, and the sensors there have cross-referenced an increase in certain activity bands with the departure of not-Admiral Villanova. I cross-referenced that with satellite thermographs of the area and there was a specific and sharp tempurature decrease near the subject. No weather-based explanation, Sir."

"So we have two representatives of galactic entities whose known abilities exceed our own holding a pow-wow in the middle of nowhere and then one taking off before purposefully blocking all of our efforts to track them. What about our Peer Group?"

It was another technician's turn to speak, "Nothing yet. The Menelmacari didn't pick up anything - they didn't sound happy about that - and we haven't picked up any indication of activity in either UIK or Phoenixi space that would indicate they saw something. Menelmacari Command indicated they were going to talk to the C'tani, but they might not tell us anything even if they do know something."

The Admiral nodded, his face dour, "Alright. Let me know the second you hear anything. Take the whole thing - sensor logs, lack of sensor logs - and tie it all up with a bow and send it over to Special Projects. Flag it to the Director and Doctor Brilla. We'll see if either has anything they can make of this. They'll want to know anyway..."
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Tornado Queendom
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Capitalist Paradise

Postby Tornado Queendom » Sat Oct 13, 2018 6:53 pm

Tornado Molly walks in, wondering what happened. She then says the following: "Uh, I think that Nationstates might be fixed by Midnight."
New ITV-like Television Network: http://leagueoftelevision.epizy.com/smf/index.php
If I'm not on Nationstates [on either this account or one of my other puppets], you can usually find me in Worms Armageddon under the name "SpyVsSpyFan" [which I have yet to change] (If I'm not there, I'm usually either at school or asleep.).

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:43 pm

RDF-Nocturnal, An Outstandingly Uninteresting System, Somewhere in the Delta Quadrant...

"When early man first looked up to the sun and declared it 'god, giver of all life', they probably didn't have any idea how close they were to the truth..."

"Which doesn't exactly explain why we're here," Captain McAdams countered, clearly uninterested in the Director's flowery statement. Like the Director, he was firmly ensconced in his chair on the bridge of the Nocturnal and like any new car owner he was more concerned about scratching the paint than listening to his passenger prattle on about the scenery.

After a moment Katryna answered with a sigh, "Fine - to the point. We're here because there's no one else here. As far as everyone else in this corner of the galaxy is concerned, this system is pretty much useless. A few asteroids, a few comets - no planets, no rich mineral fields. Just a plain old boring yellow sub-giant that managed to swallow the last of its primordial afterbirth a few million years ago. Which means, as of right now, we;" And the enormous asteroid the Nocturnal was towing behind and below, "Are the most interesting thing in this system. So we're going to dump this asteroid into a very close orbit around that star and then bug out before anyone catches us here."

She'd been very careful to make sure that was the case; The system had been first 'scouted' with a quick sweep of the new Delta TRIPWIRE array and then intensively swept again when it was reasonably obvious that the only thing the star played host to were a few very lonely asteroids and a few comets on their last legs. Then one of the Exploration Command's long-duration starships had cruised through, put an even finer point on the system's empty status, and left without introducing itself to the neighbors. Another sweep by TRIPWIRE just before they arrived to make sure it was still empty and the elongated triangle that was the Director's 'personal' starship arrived with a rather ugly multi-kilometer asteroid in tow.

"And you're not going to tell me," his tone was flat, "Why we're doing this or what that thing is."

"As far as you and your pay-grade are concerned? It's an asteroid. That we just happened to find in this system already orbiting the star at a useful distance and that we, as a culture and civilization of explorers, scientists, and researchers, placed a long-duration solar observatory on."

Which probably meant it was a weapon, but Director Silaco was correct; His pay-grade was commanding the Nocturnal and doing whatever it was that she needed to be done. Questions were okay - Fleet wanted their officers to ask questions. But sometimes the answer to those questions was no answer at all. But that didn't mean he couldn't fill their time with other questions - and maybe she'd let something slip, "And if someone does come around and ask what we're doing here?"

"Then whoops, we miss. And the asteroid falls into the star. Guess we look like idiots in front of whatever rando happens past."

Definitely a weapon.

"Once its in orbit and we're gone..." She shrugged. "It will be fine. That rock is among the most useless of all asteroids out there. And it will be so close to the star that the only straight shot at it to look at the observatory with a ship's sensors will be to enter the corona. Then they'll find that its just exactly that - a pretty low-tech stellar observation platform that wouldn't even get a scavenger excited. Hell, they'd be doing us a favor - land, look around, wreck the place... Then no one after that will even bother. In fact..."

"...maybe we should shoot it up before we go?"

"Yeah. I was just thinking that. We've got another eleven of these babies to go though, so let's hurry it up, Captain."

"Eleven?" His voice sank and she clapped a hand on his shoulder; "Hey - you wanted a new ship. I got you a new ship. The piper has to be paid..."
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Wed Oct 17, 2018 1:05 pm

RDF-Ojeni, After An Abrupt About Face, Somewhere in the Beta Quadrant...

"Captain..."

"...Commander."

The two considered each other for a long moment; One an impressive slab of a man, older by far but still powerfully muscled and with a wide and expressive chocolate face with eyes that seemed to take in everything with a near-insatiable curiosity and the other a slim stitch of a woman, raven black hair cut close around her neck and her resting face seemingly fare too young for the chevrons and star on her collar and sleeve. Then the moment ended and the first put out her hand for an eager handshake while both broke into a welcome grin, "Commander Timmons - I can't believe I was the one who got the call to come haul your ass across the galaxy - It's good to see you again!"

"Good thing you added that last past," he laughed back, quickly falling in beside her as she turned from the small platform where he'd found himself and headed for the door. "Seems you're the best choice for the job though - fastest ship in the galaxy, right? And from what little she told me;" The who of the she was implied in his tone, though he didn't mention the Secretary-General directly, " We're going to need it. Chasing someone we can't track to somewhere we don't know? seems like we're going to need a fair bit of luck too..."

"Faster drives, bigger guns, better shields, new systems, fewer crew," she emphasized this last by gesturing to a humanoid figure that was standing along with identical others in an alcove. Each face was a blank and fleshy gray with no mouth to further indicate they lacked the breath of life. "Best ship in the Fleet - for the next fifteen minutes at least. I'm assuming that's why you're here instead of... Ixutsangi, was it?"

"That's right. I got the notice that we;" The rest of his team minus his patrons was somewhere ahead or behind, "Were being reactivated at the same time that Captain Tarbell got his recall notice. Perfect timing too - SAWHORSE was just about to jump the Leviathan to the Schumann system. We got to see her off and then there you were. You know, Captain - just between you and me," his voice went low and conspiratorial, "I think someone's a little too interested in keeping things neat and tidy."

There was a subtle shift under their feet though only he commented, "We're underway already? Not even giving us enough time for a proper conversation. How long until we arrive?"

"Not even enough time to unpack," she answered, stopping at a particular door that opened at his approach to offer a quick peek at a breathtakingly well-appointed suite before she stepped away and signaled him to continue on. "We'll be at Casablanca shortly, then we'll..."

"Casablanca?" In his head he reeled off some numbers, matching them against the galactic cartography and especially the last location of the Leviathan before it had been transitioned to somewhere far safer for the millions of occupants, "That's like a week away..."

She held up her middle three fingers as they continued along the curve of the hallway and he let out a low whistle, "Three hours? Well, at least we've got time for lunch," but she shook her head and clarified; "That's a galactic crossing. We'll be there in a few minutes. Enough time to show you around and introduce you on the bridge."

A sharp left and the last hallway with the senior officer's quarters and the double-doors to the bridge passed quickly under their feet, the doors sliding opening ahead of her. There had been some changes from the usual layout and he stepped a little slower as the ex-Marine took in the new digs. Previously the entrance to the bridge had always been from the back left or back right but now it was a ramp that led up through the forward stations and under a large holo-sphere, the floor-to-ceiling main display now stretching in a broad curve across his back. The chairs and stations were much the same as they had been before; Single panels of black glass that stretched in an arm's reach arc around fixed chairs that looked comfortable enough for a four hour shift but seated the given officer in a professional way, suitable for greeting the odd foreign visitor.

Looking from station to station there were faces he mostly recognized - some better than others - but at the top of the ramp where it split to either side of the Captain's dais there were a pair of chairs to either side and one held a voluptuous blonde woman who was wearing the uniform with all the sloth of an unruly teenager. At the sight of her he glanced sideways at his host but she was hurrying forward to stand next to the willowy woman who had been sitting in the command chair and who now slid aside while the blonde rose uncertainly to her feet. Drawing level with her, Timmons put out a big hand with the expectation of an introduction. She had neither name badge or rank emblems, though her tunic was decorated with the blue sunburst of the Defense Force and the matching roundel of the Triumvirate. That labeled the uniform as borrowed and the woman similarly as a guest aboard the Ojeni.

"Commander Timmons," Kami spoke carefully, "Doctor Saryan Brilla. We swung by Terra Incognito and picked her up first... Do you two know each other?"

"Only by reputation," he answered with a confirming nod from the Doctor and then a thought popped into his head and he checked his internal clock, "You picked her up first? Where were you when the orders came through?"

"Alnilam."

He let out another low whistle, "That is fast. So, Doctor - any idea how we're going to find this guy?"

"I was hoping you had a hunch," Kami put in just before Saryan gave her answer; "Not a fucking clue. I've got a pretty good idea how they might have done it, but we're already behind here - anything we might have been able to track is probably long gone. Ingersol," she jerked a thumb over her shoulder to indicate the Lieutenant Commander who was sitting at his sprawled-out sensor console and watching the interaction with considerable interest, "Is supposed to be the best, but we're talking decay rates of minutes. Which means they didn't want us to even have a chance of catching them or tracking them. Kinda makes you wonder why, right?"

Looking around for a spare seat, Timmons found that the closest was half-way across the bridge and unsuited for an intimate conversation so instead he crossed his thick arms across a broader chest and leaned sideways against the rail that wrapped around the backside of the command dais. There was a Coatlicue there he didn't recognize but he gave her a nod and a quick 'Hello' before asking back, "How much do we know about the Druuth'Haari? I've had zero chance to go diving into their file."

This was Commander Sloan's opportunity to speak up, as she was apparently the only one who regularly read the briefing materials, "Post-Singularity civilization with a penchant for purple crystals and singularity manipulation. Small 's'. They are responsible for a string of artificial black holes scattered across our galaxy and there's indications they may have others outside the MWG. Doctor Brilla's colleague Doctor Tithral has been able to establish that they are using the material these black holes take in to create a similar number of stellar nebula with the goal of birthing stars and then planets. They seem to have some connection to the iWe, but we're not exactly sure how."

"I wanted to get ol' Titty in on this, but apparently he's busy with some super-secret project," Saryan added. "But yeah - we don't really know a lot about the Druuth'Haari and they seem to want to keep it that way. There were only three of them - all clones of people who'd had contact with one of their probes. One who looked like me - she disappeared during the Star's Charter incident - and another who looked like Commander Jhira. Dunno what happened to her. The last looked like Admiral Villanova;" there were nods of recognition at the name, "And that's the one who just got away."

"You know, I recall Alwyra - Alwyra Maric - saying something about something that went down on Hanson's Kneecap with one of these Druuth'Haari. She didn't say much - but I'll ask her. See if I can't get some details out of her. Might give us somewhere to start."

Captain Blaine's mouth split in a broad smile, "Is that a hunch, Commander?"

"...it is."
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Sat Oct 20, 2018 7:24 am

RDF-Ojeni, Casablanca Orbit, Ares Super-Cluster, Alpha/Beta Border...

"Go ahead and read them all in," Director Silaco ordered, her tone less instructive than suggestive. "I'm less worried about what they'll know than figuring out what is going on. It's a bit of a story though," her hologram turned to the flesh-and-blood that was scattered around the many chairs of Ojeni's largest conference rooms, "So get comfortable. My only official concern is you," she looked directly at Seeker Deanna, who was flopped out next to Annya at one end of the great glass-and-oak oval, "But as the Duab'Akii don't seem to want you back..."

The half-naked young woman nodded and raised two fingers in the traditional gesture of the Boy Scout Oath, "I solemnly swear I will immediately sell this information to the highest bidder, placing my own financial security ahead of the safety and security of the galaxy. Assuming this involves the safety and security of the galaxy."

"I'll give you points for funny, but it just might. And not some frivolous conflict like the bull shit brewing out in Delta. So buckle up - Saryan?"

"Uh... Right," the physicist seated at the far other end looked around the room. "I'll just start at the beginning and you can fill in the details?" The hologram nodded and she continued, "Okay, well - in the beginning were the Druuth'Haari. And I mean way, way back in the beginning. As near as we can tell the DH possibly predate this particular cycle of the universe and may well have been the reason why this cycle exists."

Annya raised a paw, the Shepard pushing herself forward from where she sat in a chair with her tail curled around the stalk between seat and rest to brace the other paw on the edge of the table, "Question... How?"

"Well," Saryan looked to the Director and back again, "That's part of the story. See, a few years ago I was part of a research expedition that was supposed to investigate and catalog various black holes. Pretty mundane stuff, as far as one of the most incredible natural entities in the universe goes. We'd done a couple when I noticed that our latest subject looked a little too... Orderly. It was an average black hole - too average. So I clawed through the data, ran some models, and based on that I came to the wild-ass idea that this particular black hole was fake. Guchi fake. But a really good fake, like it had been made in the same factory in China. So we went with the hunch and jumped a terrasect probe into it. Normally that should have been the end of that probe but it wasn't. Instead we found a whole bunch of planet-sized stations made of purple crystals and metal-looking filigree. Which promptly started dissolving into ass and all."

"We now know that this was a defense mechanism of some kind. The Druuth'Haari - they don't seem to like people poking into their business."

"Which is weird," Saryan added in again, "Because supposedly they are interested in us."

"Except they weren't. Aren't," Katryna self-corrected. "You all remember the incident with the giant space kraken in the Parson's Shoal System? Where the Dauntless was lost?"

There were nods all around the room at this, some with a greater sense of unease than others. Dauntless had been Grand Admiral Glafka's - the former top-ranking officer in the Defense Force aside from the Secretary-General herself - personal starship and the Fleet had taken a serious blow in moral and experience when she and her crew were lost.

"As near as we can tell, that was a dispute between two factions within the Druuth'Haari over some information one of their spy-clones had recovered from an artifact uncovered by your former boss," she looked to Commander Timmons, "Alwyra Maric. Whatever it was, the other faction felt it was worth dispatching one of their more powerful minions to destroy the system and presumably the clone who had it in her possession."

Realization crawled across the big explorer's face, "The gems - the Shifting Tyrants. They're part of these Druuth'Haari, aren't they? I heard her - Alwyra - talking about something with Kedo and it didn't sound like they wanted anyone else to find out about it - but it was about the stones."

"The stones were part of their armor, as near as we can tell. The stones found on Hanson's Kneecap seem to have been scattered there during a previous battle between these factions. Our guess is that one of the two 'lost' some piece of information during this battle and that the clone that recovered it was aligned with the losing side of this previous battle - or at least the one without gigantic space kraken at their beck and call. But we won. Except we were just about to lose. When the first appeared, we sent ships to check on the rest and they were gone. Best guess is that they were headed for Parson's Shoal in force."

"So where do they come from? The giant space kraken?"

"This is where I wish ol' Titty was here," Saryan sighed, "But I'll do my best. See, during all this time, we'd figured out that the DH were using the matter pulled into their artificial black holes to create new stellar nebula. These would give birth to stars, stars formed planets, and on these planets there are birthing chambers where new crystal things are slowly forming under the watchful eye of one of their probe-ships. After the battle in Parson's Shoal we took the corpse apart and compared samples to those recovered from these birthing chambers - some were a very close match. Others were closer to the Doso and Heon, but I'll leave that one for later."

"These Druuth'Haari are really patient..."

"More than me!"

"So with all these space kraken headed right for us, I figured out that they must have been after the Jhira spy-clone. Her break-in at Alwyra's office was too much of a coincidence. We could have taken her and ran, of course, but that whoever was controlling these Kraken had apparently picked up on her acquisition the moment it happened was a good indication of their capabilities. Fortunately I had an ace in the hole - the Dulyani Gateway."

"That sounds familiar;" Two voices called out at once, the Captain continuing whole the Commander waited. "That's where that Shatterblood asshole was trapped, right?"

It had been during a related event in which then-Lieutenant Blaine had proven her mettle. A group of unknown ships had attacked a Dulyani colonization fleet around Queen of the Valley, a world within the boundaries of what could be loosely called 'Republic Space'. Defense Force starships had jointed the defense and one of their casualties had been her ship Sailfish, a Light Courier with barely a weapon to its name that she'd thrown into the fray with all the guts of a battle cruiser. They'd destroyed a broadside of torpedoes and were attempting to draw off fire from the colony ships when her helmsman had seen the opportunity and taken it, ejecting the rest of the crew just before ramming the enemy flagship.

"Right. He was a former tyrant that ruled the Dulyani for a time before they deposed him. Actually, they tricked him into going through this gateway and trapped him inside another dimension."

"Except it wasn't another dimension!" Now it was Saryan's turn to interrupt. "The Dulyabi Gateway is what we'd now call a HBI - Holographic Boundary Interface - that provides the physical link and instructions between the regular universe and a holographic boundary manipulation. Or HBM. Remember those artificial black holes? We're now sure that they are the same thing or created by the same process. That's why the crystal stations started to fall apart as soon as the artificial event horizon went down - the matter they were made from started to rectify with the regular universe. Which," she looked to Lieutenant Commander Ingersol, "Looks just like Hawking radiation - because it is Hawking radiation!"

"Which you should be able to pick up with Ojeni's HMDA sensor platform," Katryna put in.

"Right - for as long as it lasts. Here's the trick: The more different the HBM is from our universe the stronger the resulting Hawking radiation when the two meet or the HBI is disrupted and the inside becomes the outside. Now the Druuth'Haari are really different, but that doesn't mean this ship was. We'll see."

"So what happened to the Jhira spy-clone?"

"I offered her the opportunity to exile herself into a new permutation of the Dulyani Gateway. She took it. I have my suspicions about what the information she took with her was, but we don't have any way to prove it. Or to get it back. But that was the springboard for the whole thing; We figured out how the Dulyani gateway did what it did, and how this meshed up with what the Druuth'Haari are doing. We've been working on some permutations since then and there's the Eien, of course. The big question right now is whether this story somehow ties into our hypothetical conversation between the iWe and the Villanova spy-clone. Which brings us to the iWe..."
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Sat Oct 20, 2018 2:28 pm

RDF-Ojeni, Casablanca Orbit, Ares Super-Cluster, Alpha/Beta Border...

"...actually, let's cut back to the spy-clones," Commander Timmons said, pushing himself back from the table to cross his arms over his check and flick something away from the side of his nose. "You mentioned Admiral Villanova - who we should all know - and Commander Jhira, who I don't know, and... You. How'd you three get wrapped up in all this and why are you calling them spy-clones?"

"That's a bit of a story... But I suppose it could be important?" The blonde scientist shrugged, the motion impressive in a loose-fitting chocolate syrup stained uniform kind of way. "We'll go back to Admiral Villanova, since he was the first. But he wasn't an Admiral then, but he had been President. Back when we still had Presidents," she added, looking to the Duab'Akii, who had the question written across her face. "When he left office, he decided he wanted to go into the Defense Force. He enlisted and made his way through the Academy, same as everyone else, and when he graduated he was assigned to an Explorer. At least, this is the story as I remember it."

"So that Explorer was assigned to the area where ePyrk is... The..."

"aPhilos System," Katryna supplied.

"Right. Back then the planet wasn't part of the Republic - there were a bunch of warring factions and they were fighting for dominance. Lieutenant Villanova was sent down to the planet on a recon flight and somehow his shuttle was shot down over hostile territory. It crashed, he survived, and he found himself in an ePyrk prison in the something-something highlands. His jailer was Commander Jhira, and we all know how much of a smooth talker the Admiral is. So she helps him escape and they flee into the highlands where they find a cave that's under guard by the locals. They sneak inside - I don't know why - and at the very end of that cave they find themselves in a room with a bunch of strange purple crystals and a metal eye-looking thing in the wall."

"Which we now know was a Druuth'Haari probe ship. Somehow the probe ship moves them inside itself and at that point, if their experience was like mine, they are asked a bunch of weird questions before being spat out on the surface buck-ass naked and with a bunch of microscopic purple crystals seeded through their body. He was picked up along with his new girlfriend..."

"Boyfriend. The ePyrk females retrieve the male half of the egg from the males using something that's kinda-sorta like a penis but with suction. Which means that male ePyrk - both genders are outwardly similar - more closely fit the Human female sexual characteristics."

"...okay, so boyfriend. They're picked up and whisked off and they don't pick up on these purple crystals in his body until, well, the whole thing happens to me. In his defense, they're hard to pick up on. Basically they're a crystalline version of an HBI, except far more advanced. They can do things instead of just serving as the anchor point for the HBM. Anyway, when it happened to me a couple years ago, they went in and took a really close look at my body. You can see the crystals, but they are nearly impossible to pick up on anything except for something like BOOBYTRAP or your HMDA sensor rig. Faint traces of Hawking radiation, because they're so small."

"Right - so at that point we knew those three were probably infected with some kind of spying apparatus, so we cut their heads off, surgically removed all the crystals up top, and cloned them new bodies. But the old bodies... They didn't quite die. So we cloned them new empty heads and the Druuth'Haari filled them with 'something'. They had some of the mannerisms - patterns of speech, body language - of their previous owners, as well as some pieces of their personality, but they were now distinctly Druuth'Haari. They also had crystals on the outside of their body. As soon as they could talk, they told us that they were interested in learning about the rest of the galaxy and since we didn't yet know how to monitor what these crystals were doing, we let them do just that."

"But my guess - our guess," Katryna went on, "Was that they weren't looking to learn about our societies and civilizations. They were instead looking for things that had been left on the outside, like the information gems on Hanson's Kneecap. Or as a potential point of contact between them and the other post-Singularity civilizations scattered around. Or both. Which does bring us back to the iWe."

"Alright, so the iWe..."

"Which is our name for them - they haven't given us one. But we ran into them long before we discovered the Druuth'Haari. They - if they are a 'they' - live in a chain of stations deep in the Memuru nebula where these stations have created and maintain an artificial star. The star was discovered by SDF-Columbia way, way, way back in the day, and we eventually made contact. From all appearances, the iWe are an incredibly advanced but generally pleasant people who may or may not be sentient electromagnetic radiation. They have a habit of showing up when they want to and where they want to..."

"And they always talk like this," Saryan put in.

"Right. You won't see them either, though you can pick up traces of their presence as a sudden decrease in temperature in a specific area. They occasionally leave frosty hand prints on things, send a shiver up your spine, things like that. We think they accomplish this through their artificial star, which is very well ordered for a star. In fact, to our new sensors it looks more like an antenna - and an antenna on the scale of a star would be very powerful."

"So why don't they just talk to the Druuth'Haari that way?"

"Best guess? They can't 'talk' through an HBI."

"Right. We do know they are in communication with or have knowledge of other post-Singularity civilizations. They've been talking trash about the i'Halalaentariel lately - apparently they knew them before they went off wherever they went and left the 'Avatar of Salvation' to keep an eye on things. It doesn't really tell us what, if anything, they were talking to the Villanova spy-clone about before he left in a hurry, but our sensors that are studying the iWe home star showed activity just before the event and TRIPWIRE traced that to Casablanca. Then it went dark - nothing since then."

"So was there anything going on before this that might have caught either's attention?"

Katryna shrugged, "There's always stuff going on, here and otherwise. But this hasn't happened before. We know they've talked - or we're pretty certain - but neither of them are exactly the question-and-answer types. My money is on the Villanova spy-clone returning to one of the Druuth'Haari's artificial black holes for some kind of face-to-face, but who knows? The only good news is that the giant purple space kraken haven't moved an inch. If they were going to go after someone for some reason, that would be their most likely vector."

Timmons rubbed his chin with his hand, "Something's tickling at me here, but I'm not sure what it is. Oh - here's something though. I recall something about the gems, how there were a number of different types of them. Three or four - could this have been three or four different Druuth'Haari?"

"Could be. The Villanova spy-clone was observed wearing armor of some kind after the incident in Parson's Shoal - right up until now, actually. I'll see if the images we have compare at all to the existing gemstones. They could be unique to the wearer."

"Or indicative of whatever faction they follow. It's a hunch," he admitted. "But that wasn't whatever's tickling around in my head. I think we should get going though - see if we can't get some kind of track on where this guy went. Any idea how he did what he did, now that we've been brought up to speed?"

"Yeah," though Saryan looked to Katryna for confirmation before continuing. "I think he dodged TRIPWIRE by telling the universe what to tell us. Which is a neat trick. TRIPWIRE works by sampling the space-time matrix in a particular volume of space trillions of times a second. Normally there's no way to fool this; The space-time matrix is the fundamental fabric of the universe. Unless you happen to have a very complex HBI that can tell surrounding space what its supposed to look like, at least for long enough to get done what you need to get done."

"Can we do this?"

Saryan shook her head, "No - not yet. Though now that I've got the idea in my head, its something that I'm going to start working out the math on. But you're right. We should get moving..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Fri Oct 26, 2018 10:11 am

Inside the Walls, Setting One, Circlet I, Gen Celet System, Far Gamma/Delta Border...

Lieutenant Calwell-Origos swept her light from surface to surface, each long movement sending a play of shadows back from the various unidentifiable machines and functioning that dotted the interior of the great open room, "Did I mention how creepy this place is?"

"Several times," her partner answered, his face more straight and business-like than her own hesitant oval. "Times several more times. A hundred? Get over it - the Krȃng bugged out eighty thousand years ago and if there had been any left..."

Then the i'Halalaentariel WarSpheres wouldn't have left either. But they had and since then the Republic as well as the occasional allied and friendly state had settled into the eight Circlets that ringed the main body of the Milky Way with few problems. Eight? Make that seven and then six; When the first task force had arrived at the south-eastern Circlet they had found ships of a different realm already there and then the decision had been made to pass control and responsibility of its neighbor to the north to the Phoenix Domain.

Something about if you love it put a ring on it?

Love wasn't exactly the best word, at least in the second case. The Domain was the source of the ExoCortex technology that the average Republic citizen had adopted with unadulterated delight. Pushing that forward to the EienCortex of the current year and the Republic owed the Domain an immortal lifetime debt; A single orbiting mega-structure was merely a bottle of expensive wine they'd brought to a dinner party.

"...then we wouldn't be here trying to figure out how much space we have. Billions," he muttered under his breath. "That's going to be an interesting challenge."

Caldwell-Origos stepped up to one of the white bollard-shaped devices that stood by itself and gave it a shove. Like everything else, it was fixed quite firmly to the rest of the structure and further was made of the glossy cream-colored meta-material that everything else was made out of. Which meant it didn't give an inch or even a millimeter. That didn't mean it couldn't be removed; In fact, there were literal armies of REDSHIRTs carefully going through every Republic Circlet and removing any trace of the Krȃng's insidious machinery. Devices like whatever-this-was would simply be cut away while others were striped of the Krȃng-equivalent of cables and circuitry until there was no chance that they could ever come to life again.

With his modified hand scanner held high, Ztsetanos completed another circuit of the room, comparing the holographic representation of the area that hovered next to him to what he could see. That was the problem and the advantage of PTU-557; It played merry hell with most conventional scanning and sensor techniques. At first that had resulted in impromptu hacks but now specific modules had been developed and issued that mostly solved the problem.

"Looks like we can get another thousand in here. Which," he paused to mentally access the project files where the other two-man teams were similarly adding their data, "Means we're close to a hundred thousand. That's not bad - they're not all going to want bodies, after all."

But a lot of them were. The subject of his sentence were the billions of individuals rescued from slavery under the Ozlukar thanks to a bit of technological wizardry. Careful manipulation of the Plexus Boundary had allowed each node to become a gateway, pulling the ExoCortex supplied to each now-former slave inside. The boundary had been reset and that had left the Republic with a few billion people to take care of and hopefully no one the wiser. But that had raised the ethical conundrum of what to do with them; Keeping them inside the Eien would be nearly but not quite as bad as the slavery they had formerly suffered under - even with immortal access to thousands of virtual worlds.

Enforced confinement was enforced confinement, no matter the motivation behind it.

"I'd want a body. Maybe if I'd been born a virtual being I'd be okay with spending all my time 'inside', but when you know that this," she waved an arm around to indicate the room, the great orbiting mega-structure, the planet that held it captive, the star they both circled, and the great universe beyond, "Is out there, you want to get out there and do something in it. Or I do."

"Four hundred years."

"What?"

Lieutenant Commander Ztsetanos looked up from his scanner, "Four hundred years. That's how long it would take a hundred thousand cloning tanks to fast-grow enough precision bodies to give all of them their own body back. Give or take. Let's see..."

When the directive had come down from on high, the easier part of the problem had been to send representatives into the virtual worlds or connect to the individual mind-spaces in order to ask the question; 'Do you want your body back?' Some did, some didn't - and some wanted to take advantage of the offer to get the body they'd always dreamed of. Others... There was also a significant percentage that had ranted vengeance against the Ozlukar and had demanded or begged the bodies to make that happen. While the last was still under consideration, there was already a back-log in the millions.

"So... Months. We're going to need more tanks."

More tanks they would have; The Republic was not without resources. At designated arrival points ships - Zenith-Class Transports of the new design - were arriving with long trails of cargo pods behind them, each bearing thousands of the life-forming cylinders. At this point the question was not whether they would have enough tubes but whether they would be able to clear enough space to set them up fast enough...
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Postby Sunset » Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:04 pm

The Embassy District, Capital of the Five Kingdoms, Arda... Otherwise Known as Earth...

Like the arrowhead that had evoked its shape, the transport that had appeared in the skies over the capital city of what had formerly been known as the Five Kingdoms fell earthward in a flat arc. Instead of slowing down as might benefit its passengers or the anxiety of any observers on the ground it continued to accelerate, the otherwise cobalt blue of its drive radiators surging white as they dumped waste heat into the atmosphere behind it. The destination was a circular tower in the heart of the district built of steel and glass and with a broad slice taken off the top adorned with an enormous black, blue, gold and silver roundel. Behind a flight of fighters screamed in as well, oddly-shaped four-armed craft mixed with slightly more traditional aircraft of an avian bent. After these came another transport, it too following the same trajectory as the first came to a sudden halt directly above one of the several landing platforms built into the periphery of the tower.

Hovering just above the tarmac there was a half-second wait before two armored figures appeared with a 'pop' of displaced air just to either side of the arched doorway that led into the larger structure. One tapped quickly at the keypad that would have otherwise opened the door while the other braced fingers at the gap and pulled but with an invisible shake of the head both indicated that neither option had worked. Ducking around the corners, they ducked and knelt as a single blast from the transport erupted from a point in space just forward of its nose to reduce the doors to sideways-thrown shreds. A dozen more pop's followed as more Marines appeared out of thin air, their boots already in motion as they ran into the building with rifles up and accompanying drones spreading out ahead and behind them.

Inside they found just what they expected to find; Several members of the team had worked in this very building before it had been abandoned in haste and the layout was as familiar now as it had been all those years ago. Just in side the door and indeed out on the platform itself were the bags and suitcases that had been left behind in favor of another family member, friend, or loved one. Possessions - no matter how personal - that could be replaced while the lives that had been saved that day could not. If the opportunity arose these might be gathered later, but for the moment they were ignored as they swept through and past, looking for any sign that the building was inhabited by another other than rodents.

It was only when they reached the building's open lobby that they stopped and waited - though not that long - for their counterparts to follow. A moment later the doors from outside swung open and a thicket of rifles presented themselves to the black-clad Mornahosse that dropped their active camouflage for only a second while their peers streamed past and into the streets outside. They had cheated, of course - but that was to be expected. Rather than meeting in the lobby, the pair had shattered a window high above and jumped to the ground in order to make it appear that the Menelmacari had somehow covered the same distance in less time.

One could almost imagine the cheeky grins and exasperated sighs. But that was not the point of the endeavor and so the Marines followed out the door, spreading out to the perimeter of the building's courtyard while their slender-and-occasionally-annoying companions clung to the shadows as though they'd been born out of them. This left enough room for the last phase of their arrival and with a much greater boom a pair of hovering armored fighting vehicles appeared on either flank of the fountain while they were simultaneously dwarfed by the last; A behemoth Typhoon Super-Heavy Grav Tank that plowed through the fence and out into the street as easily as one might walk through low grass.

There was no conversation as the group moved out towards their objective but by the way many were turning this way and that an observer - if there had been any - would have guessed at the thoughts running through their heads. This was not the city they had left. Without people to clean and maintain it nature had taken over the job. Wind-blown seeds from far afield had settled in whatever crevice they could call home and sprouted there while mosses and creepers had steadily climbed buildings to leave them sheathed in green. Trees - some intentional and some their offspring - had grown up here and there to tear the pavement into tectonic plates while between these there were here and there the signs of animals.

Not all of the buildings were intact, either, and they found their way obstructed by great piles of broken brick and glass where storms had shattered facings to leave them piled in the streets. These were easy enough to bypass but it came as no surprise in a city based on conflict when a whole tower had shattered and toppled to block the grand avenue completely and this provided an easy departure point with some turning left, others right, and some straight through by means narrow or clever.

Just as each section was about to leave one - who, as all except the armor were invisible, none could say, finally broke radio silence to reiterate their objectives; "Remember - we're looking for any information on other refuge locations the five-k might have plotted out. Any useful or unusual military technology. Any intelligence caches or data files. Don't spend too long, but be curious. This is a city built on conflict and secrets - we should all expect to find both."

With invisible nods of confirmation the three went their own way, their destinations different and each inevitably unique. At the long end of the avenue stood the Palace and thus the seat of the former ruler while to the left lay the Ministry of Defense and the right the Ministry of Intelligence. But as he had just said; The Five Kingdoms were built on conflict and secrets and between here and there they might find either...
Last edited by Sunset on Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:27 pm

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System...

"So what'cha workin' on, Doc?"

It took more than a moment for Dr. Kraus to acknowledge the voice who had suddenly spoken from the doorway of his laboratory and even more for him to look up from whatever had caught his attention to realize that the source of the query was short, generous, and somewhat unfamiliar to the confines of a laboratory - or indeed any place of science. With another quick glance at what lay before him, he reached into his lab coat and discretely triggered a remote that sent a wave of thick transparent blast screens sliding out from under the edges of desks and workbenches to curve up and over, slamming into place with a finality that would likely do little to stop the Dwarf should she turn violent.

"Still, you gotta put in the effort," he half-whispered to himself before stepping back with a sweep of his arm to indicate the micro-assembler he'd been fixed to for the last several days. "I'll ask you a question in return, Ms. Slaghammer," he said, using her surname in a way that he shouldn't - technically - have been able to, "Do you have a soul?"

"A soul?" Her face cocked and she stepped closer. The micro-assembler was an amazing device but from where she stood with a couple inches of space-age engineered polymer between her and it - as well as all the graffiti - it was hard to tell what he'd been doing with it or even how many arms the little bugger had. "Sounds like cock-a-many religious mumble-jumbo tah' me. If Ah ken't put mah fist through it," she clenched her enormous right hand, the muscles of her exposed bicep and forearm bulging out to show every detail of their creator's art, "Then it ain' real."

He eyed her careful for a long pause, "...I'll take your word for it. But there are many out there who do - and a fair number who call our Great and Glorious Republic and it's Fair Leader, Erika Silaco," he called out, looking up and around the room as though searching every inch for the cameras that were presumably recording his every move, "Their home. Hmm - shouldn't have used an apostrophe there. Anyway - yes. Despite what modern science tells us there are a fair number of religious kooks and whack-jobs out there who still believe in disjointed notions like 'spirits' and 'souls'. And there are a few number of them who are so unwilling to exercise the least bit of personal hypocrisy that that they won't accept or use an ExoCortex or EienCortex."

"Basically they believe that - even though we can watch the cloud of consciousness itself migrate into the new substrate - that this is effectively killing the person. As far as they are concerned it is the cells themselves and not the great mass of constantly flowing conscious and unconscious thought combined with our very sense-driven perception of the universe around us that makes us... Well, people. Us? Can't think of a good way to put it. Maybe I'll go back and edit this conversation later..."

That last prompted the oddest of odd looks from Meli, who stepped close enough that the tips of her combat boots were touching his own loafers before levering herself up a whole four inches and looking into the depths of his strangely crazed blue eyes and then shaking her head as though warding off a spider, "You okay there, Doc? Ya' don't sound completely sane. Fault in the ol' sub-routines, maybe? Ya' can't go editin' mah an' yer conversations!"

"Huh? What? Oh - that. No no," he backed away, hands held up to defend his intellectual integrity, "I'm writing my memoirs. My autobiography. 'A Man...'," his hand traced out the words in the air between them, "...of Science. No? I'm still working on the title," he finished.

"So what's ah'l this about souls?"

"Ah! Yes, I'm glad you asked," and he returned to the workbench, visibly relieved. "So yes - souls. Some people still believe in them and more importantly in the concept of bodily integrity. Our body houses our spirit or our soul until we die and then its poof - off to heaven. Or hell. Or Detroit - depending on your theology."

"You ever beh'n to Detroit?"

He shook his head, "Closest I came was Boston. Me and the missus went last year for our anniversary. Left the kids with their grandparents... Okay - that's a lie. My parents are dead. I just told them they were their grandparents."

"Who were their grandparents?"

"It doesn't matter," he shrugged. "For two weeks those hideous amphibians with more tentacles than testicles had family again. Paid them a few hundred bucks too."

"The kids or the swamp monsters?"

"Both? I mean, it went into their college fund, but how else are you going to get two kids to believe that story? Anyway - Detroit. Souls. Soooouuuls," he let the vowels drag out. "So what I'm doing is building a MicroExoCortex, or an IndoCortex. Or a networked synaptic maintenance prosthesis. Since they believe in souls and I don't believe in their bullshit, I figure we'll," he poked his index fingers together, "Meet in the middle. I'll figure out a way for them to maintain their precious bodily integrity while they will get all the benefits of modern science without the inconvenience of confronting their own self-fabricated falsehoods! Everyone wins!"
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Postby Sunset » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:33 pm

RDF-Ojeni, En Route from Casablanca to Points Unknown, Ares Super-Cluster, Alpha/Beta Border...

Commander Timmons traced his big finger along the glowing line that led back from the on-screen representation of Ojeni to the planet where she'd come from and with a pull and a pinch and a twist he zoomed down to the exact point where the track appeared at the edge of the planet's atmosphere, "I don't like it."

"I don't like it either," Kami nodded, her arms folded across her chest as she stood back from the image, one foot tapping the floor in front of her. "You first."

"I don't like it because its sloppy. Or its intentional. I'm no tracker - I've picked up a few things here and there - and just enough to guess that we're headed off in exactly the direction they want us to head. Which might be the same direction they're heading, but that almost makes me think ambush instead of misdirection."

"There's no reason for the Druuth'Haari to ambush us though, right?"

"No," he agreed, once again manipulating the image so that the entire known course as well as the unknown but projected course was laid out inside the hologram. "But there's more than one type of ambush. These Druuth'Haari strike me as the subtle type. Actually," he stopped to consider his words in light of revealed events, "They don't strike me as the subtle type at all. These are the guys who sent a space monster the size of Neptune at one of our systems to take care of who-knows-what problem."

"The kind of problem only a space monster the size of Neptune could solve. I've heard back from the people on the ground," Commander Sloan interrupted, putting her slender self between the two officers. "They've inspected the site as thoroughly as we know how and there's no sign of anything that would have been able to make that ship - but there were some traces of Hawking radiation. The most likely scenario is that not-Admiral Villanova created it through sufficiently advanced magic."

"If he could do that," she went on, taking a few steps back and sinking into one of the available chairs, "Then it is just as possible that the woman involved in the incident on Hanson's Kneecap could have done the same."

"Which - back to my point. The ship took off from here, it left the atmosphere here, and the radiation trail heads directly away from the planet. Now, you could argue that could have been because they don't know we have the capability to track them on that level, but if he's already using some kind of cloaking device to hide his ship - then why isn't he doing anything else to cover his trail? Fly through the upper atmosphere for a bit, swirl things around, then leave at an angle so the trail goes muddy? He's pointing us towards something," Timmons finished with absolute certainty in his voice.

"...bring up the map of known Druuth'Haari systems," the Captain instructed. "Overlay."

Behind her at the Sensor console Lieutenant Commander Ingersol nodded and after a moment the requested pattern appeared. Scattered far and wide across the galaxy there were nearly two dozen black holes that had been labeled as suspect and subsequently surveyed by the Exploration Command. As far as black holes went they were not the largest; Most all tended towards the lower and middle end of the spectrum. Average - except they were all too average.

"And project the Admiral's course based on the current course - does it intersect any of them?"

Again, after a moment the line began to extend but it was immediately obvious that the projected course would, without any significant deviation, taken the unknown craft away from all of them.

"Okay - he's not going home. Or he doesn't want us to think he's going home. Or he's going somewhere else. Highlight all systems within... One light year of the projected course and run a database search on all of them for anything unusual. Crystal worshipers, giant purple space kraken, anything."

After only a moment there was a chime from the Sensor Officer's station; "That was quick."

"It is, because there's only one," Thomas explained, leaning forward for a closer look at the entry before swiveling around to face the three, "Because there's only one. And I don't mean oddity - I mean system. Based on the projected course that ship will pass through only one system and," he turned back to his station to double-check something, "It will intercept one planet in that system."

"Really..." Her face shrunk back, an incredulous look pinned to her features. "I don't believe you."

"We've already covered a couple light years and I've got enough sensor data to establish an exact path - at least if he doesn't turn. He's going there."

"And what's there?"

He turned back to his station and pointed back to the holosphere. She turned and there was the indicated star system, a massive blue giant with a lonely pair of planets still orbiting it. The image zoomed in on the second or outer-most of the two and that was as close as they got, an uninteresting gray-gray sphere filling the holographic volume.

"The answer is that we don't know. We haven't surveyed this area of space yet... Well, not completely. A task force led by SDF-Dauntless engaged a Syo fleet thirty seven light-years away. This was during the Wright Brothers incident. That would put this system in the vicinity of the Jerenda civilization - the Danyth - which was destroyed by the Syo before the PsiDucks apparently destroyed themselves. But I don't think its related; There's nothing that looks like any kind of a link between either of those three civilizations. And the catalog sensor data we have on this system - well, this is it. The star long ago consumed all the planets in its habitable band. This is all that's left."

"How long until we get there?"

"At our current speed.. Four days."

They could get there faster, but that was the reason the question had been asked. At that moment the Ojeni was going much, much slower than she was capable of in order to allow her sensors the best look at the shadowy trail left by the unknown craft. If they went faster there was a chance they might lose the trail if it turned off to the left or right. Was that a risk she was willing to take?

"Get us there now," she decided, retreating from the holosphere to head to the safety of her command chair. "Inform Fleet that we've got a possible destination and that we're heading there with all haste. Advise to send another ship to our position and follow the trail, just in case. Thomas - keep your eyes on it. But I've got a hunch he's headed there and we won't know why until we get there too..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Nov 09, 2018 6:07 pm

The Secretary-General's Office, RDF-Unconquered Sun, Chuh-Yu Orbit...

With a careful finger wrapped in a handkerchief Erika dabbed at the trickle of blood that flowed from her nostril and just barely touched the upper edge of her lip. It was a very odd thing to bleed, especially when one didn't have blood. That could only mean that something was up, and that was why she stood looking in the broad mirror hung on her office wall at the array of officers and technocrats seated here and there around the cluttered space, "What does it mean?"

A final dab and she folder the cloth to return it to Secretary Nyoma. The Kitsune accepted it with the grace accorded to his species and folded it again into a more complex shape before tucking it into the sash of his kimono. He made no effort to clean it nor did he comment on the incident; Those of his bloodline were well-used to strange portents and heralds and the kerchief - despite its antique appearance - had already cleaned itself of the biological material.

Returning to her desk, she took her seat hastily, scooting herself and her chair forward until she could rest her elbows in the middle of the blotter and lean forward to look over laced fingers, "It means that we don't have to check our ambitions at the door - at least not in that direction. Which I fully intend to take advantage of. This," she glanced sideways to where an active hologram of the galaxy swirled slowly in grand scale, thin lines and blobs and pinpricks marking out the domains of Kings, Tyrants, and Republics as well. Most notable was an area of active blue that stretched beyond the currently accepted borders of the Republic to both the north and the east, "This is our new doorstep."

"That sounds like Empire," Grand Admiral Erriki answered, her tone a carefully neutral question.

Erika shook her head, "It does, but I don't mean it to. The last time we tried pushing in this direction mistakes were made - both ours and theirs. But looking at the full analysis? Our efforts were stymied because they feared our expansion - not because our expansion would have been a bad thing. Now? We don't have the same risks we did before. Heading east we'll run into Dornie space - not a worry, since they're our friends, and heading north there's no one to speak of straight to the core. But again - You're right, and I want to do this right. So here's the plan..."

Against the doorway a lean figure leaned and it was towards Grand Admiral G'OgraPhi that she fixed her gaze, "Gee - I don't want a re-survey. We've got everything in this segment in the catalog already. But I want ships in there, and we'll give you every ship you need to do it. Any civilization in that volume is to be approached and offered inclusion in the Republic. Uplifting, infrastructure... No bribes, but if they're reasonable or semi-reasonable and just need a massive dose of education and investment then make promises. Which brings me to money."

That brought Secretary Jin's head up, the Qoyat fixing her with golden eyes, "By which you mean me?"

"By which I mean you. We're going to ramp up Wave Two. Special Projects has made some very useful advances and we've been able to shorten the time frame from decades to months. So we're going to do that; You figure out what your wildest dreams are and they'll make it happen. The goal is to be able to bring everyone in that area up to the living standards of the core worlds inside of a year. Six months would be better."

"Question..."

Ure Noldo would have raised his hand but he didn't have any, so instead he proceeded as soon as the Secretary-General looked in his direction, "Have you run any of this by the Senate?"

"You're the Secretary of Justice," she countered. "Legally, do I have to?"

There was a moment's thought from the floating insectoid cyber-head, "That depends on your reasoning."

"My reasoning is the big dust-up in Delta. Yes, it's Delta, and yes, it's a garbage fire, but this time we didn't have to put it out. Next time we might, and next time they might look this way when they are contemplating whatever stupid shit goes through their heads. With that problem out of the way," she wiped at a non-existent spot of blood under her nose before contemptuously flicking it away, "We have the opportunity to do better. And we should, so we will."

"Circular logic; You propose expanding the Republic's area of influence to defend those you are expanding to protect."

"Thank God for the third bit. Will it pass muster?"

"Will the Senate even care? I'll prepare something that sounds a little less 'imperial ambitions' and more 'drawing a line in the sand', just in case the question does come up. Will this new direction be an officially announced policy?"

"No," she shook her head again, "It's what we've always done, but we're going to be focusing our efforts on this particular patch of the galaxy. And I'll be talking to our friends and like-minded colleagues about it. I'll be honest - this thing in Delta has me concerned. Not worried - we've got the resources to do this and to fight a quadrant-level war if we need to - but concerned. There's a lot of people between here and there."

"There's a risk we'll be putting them in harms way - you understand that, right?"

"That's why we need to take the time to built up our foundations, extend bridges. If that time comes, we want whoever it might be to look across that line and see a serious dog-piling and think twice. Life is precious - there's no reason to fight fair when protecting it..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 11, 2018 6:36 pm

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System... The Same Conversation...

"...so what in turn draws you to my laboratory," Fredrick asked, interrupting an uncomfortable period of silence that seemed to last for exactly nine days, five hours, and ten minutes. "Unless;" He'd returned to his micro-assembler but looked up sharply, fixing her with those strange blue eyes, "You're here to kill me? If so, I can assure you it will not be as easy as you've no doubt planned!"

His hand moved towards the seat of his chair but she was faster, opening her mouth in a sharp, barking laugh that was shortly answered by his own; "Nah - Ain' like that at ahl. Got orders tha' Ah was supposed to report to you for some kah'n o' procedure. Can' imagine what that would be, given Ah ain' exactly the kin' o' flesh-ah'n-blood to come down with ah cold, now a'hm Ah?"

"No, but now that you've reminded me, I recall the procedure in general, though I wasn't aware you were the proposed test subject."

"Test subject?" She eyed him with a hard stare and a subtle flexing of her already-hard musculature, "Ya ain' thinkin' oh anything... Unnatural, are ya? Ah got a boyfriend now."

"Hey hey there, Rule Thirty Four - I'm not interested in getting into your pants. Just your spine. So, uh..." He looked her up and down carefully before edging around to the back until she was nearly staring at him like an owl, "Pull up your shirt? Vest? Tactical Vest? Do you even have casual clothes?"

"What are ya talkin' bout, Doc?" Fingers as thick as good Dornalian sausages went to the heavy-duty clasps that held her pocketed web vest tight across her chest, undoing one after the other with an intensely audible 'click' and ending without an eye-watering sag as she released her impossibly-shaped breasts to the wild. "These ah'r mah civvies."

"...okay. Well, I forgot my instruments at the bench over there and so I'll just be carefully averting my eyes as I retrieve them. Let me know if I'm about to walk into something valuable."

With that, he put one hand over his eyes and the other in front of him and began to carefully shuffle towards the workbench in question with the Dwarf laughing at every step. When he had nearly plowed into the mess she called out to stop him and he uncovered his eyes long enough to sort out a pair of particularly ominous-looking devices from the unregulated collection before turning back to her - only to find that she'd taken the opportunity to lean back against the bench behind her, her boots up on the stool across from her. Instantly his hands went back to his eyes, nearly gouging one out with the pointy end of one nasty-looking cylinder.

"Ha! Ah'm just kiddin' Doc. Ain' you ever seen a girl's heavies before? Pretty sure ya have - Ah seen that wife o' yers. Pretty cute fer' a blue girl. Ain' no way yer not plowing that field, not with two kids!"

"Thank you for your permission," he answered, proceeding normally to his former place behind her. With a touch at her shoulder, he put her upright with her ankles locked around one leg of the stool. "And I'll pass your complements along to Meri and the children. Though after my recent visual journey over your mammaries, perhaps I shouldn't have based my aversion on your dignity but instead on that tattoo. I'm pretty sure its obscene and if your particular branch of the intelligence services was subject to any regulation it would be in violation."

"Good thing we ain't - ah'n whats wrong with four healthy adults fuckin'?"

"...that very much depends on their species. Anyway, I had this dream where I was Tony Stark and I realized that I was trapped in an artificial reality where my actions were revealing my carefully held secrets. When I woke up... If I woke up," Kraus stopped and looked around the room carefully, noting what seemed like every detail and even stooping to look under the benches as though the odd dust bunny might reveal the truth, "I found I had revealed to myself a method to counter this scenario. Or at least ablate it. It is a problem that would be more bothersome to you intelligence types; Walk through the wrong door and you could find yourself in a simulated reality where... Breath in."

Meli took a deep breath and he gathered a portion of the pseudo-flesh at the base of her skull; "And breath out... And breath in... And hold it."

She held it while he jabbed the sharp end of the ominous-looking device into her skin and pressed a button on the side. Instantly there was a lightness in his hand as whatever contraption was inside wiggled its way inside her body and began to seek out its appointed place. If it was painful in any way she didn't show it, instead waiting bent over with her chin on her fist.

"What this is is an implant that will, when it detects a specific signal from your nervous system, activate a transmitter that will provide your location. It does this by using the electrical signals coursing through your senses to power the transmitter, which is otherwise passive and well-concealed. This will also produce a sharp pain at the site of the implant which will let you know that its active and that you haven't been, say, brain-jacked by a rival intelligence service. Either way it will give you the information you need to act accordingly."

"Which mostly means punchin' out."

"Pretty much," he answered with a shrug. "In your case, if you know about some kind of effort in this direction the simplest course of action would be to abandon your body and your captors to the loving embrace of a high-fraction kinetic strike. Now, the first thing to do is condition the implant with the activation phrase. Repeat after me; 'Jarvis, launch the mark seventy-three.'"

"Jarvis, launch the mark seventy-three," she repeated, her dialect carefully similar to his own; "Good!"

With one eye closed, he looked closely at the read-out on the device and pressed a few buttons, "And repeat it?"

She did and this time there was clear signs of distress, her body going stiff as a board before falling off the stool and onto the ground in a tangle of arms, legs, and overly-graphic tattoo before he was able to press another button. Without even asking if it was a good idea, she pulled the cable from the back of her neck before jumping to her feet with an extended 'Owwch!'

"Ya could'a warned me, ya jerk! That really did hurt!"

"Mmm, well - you can put your vest on - it probably hurt you more than it hurt me because of your body's capacity for heightened senses. With the ability to react a thousand times faster than a normal meta-human, your neural pathways have to have that much more bandwidth. So it hurts more - even if you're used to it. Still, hopefully it's something you won't ever need, right?"

Fetching her vest from where it had fallen, she pulled it on with a grumble and the same heavy 'click' as the clasps locked everything into place and her cleavage back into the tightest of visible 'v's, "Like a kick in tha' teeth. You say you had this revelation in a dream? I'd say lay off tha' pizza before bed."

"Hey now," he put the devices aside and raised his hands to ward her off, "You have your kinky breast tattoo, Meri has her thing. We're not telling you how to live your life..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Nov 11, 2018 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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