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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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Site 23 was Obliterated by Someone Microwaving Ramen...

Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:13 pm

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

"...reported a security violation and I'm..." Site Director Krieger paused, her eyes dropping from the oddly colorful shirt the Doctor was wearing under his lab coat to the piece of laboratory equipment in front of him. While it had been a while since she'd worked in a lab herself - mostly due to the time constraints imposed on her by her foremost charge - she felt reasonably sure the tub-shaped enclosure was new.

If it was lab equipment at all.

Turning to the Marines on either side of her, she nodded and cocked a finger before stepping forward to the waist-height table with the familiar-yet-not device on it. There was something about it, something tickling at the edge of her consciousness, but it was only until she looked down and caught a flash of color in the middle of a field of gray that she realized what it was, at least in miniature, "A sports stadium?" She glanced up and there it was again, the same logo on the Doctor's odd-looking shirt. Now that it was established as a jersey of some kind, she asked the next question, "I didn't realize you were a sports fan. To the point of building a miniature stadium..."

Which was weird, but the Doctor was weird. If anyone was going to obcess over a sport to the point of building a miniature version of their stadium, it was Fredrick Kraus. She looked back to the stadium again, half expecting to spot miniature spectators picked out in exacting detail in the stands, but instead the bleachers were bare strips of metal all the way up to the rounded edging. A cover of some transparent material was secured to the top but oddly there were a number of miniature cameras set up to cover various angles. One even clung to the transparent ceiling where it could zip around on a little cart. The playing field had the long oval of a hockey rink but there were regularly placed trapezoids and high angled walls that could not suggest any sport she'd heard of. At each end was a round column with a shallow bowl cut into the top. Roman numerals marked some of the obstacles but there was no clear indication of what they meant; The layout was essentially random though each half had the same number of obstacles.

"...it's not a miniature!"

"What?"

"It's not a miniature," Kraus repeated, drawing himself up straight and puffing out his chest. Hooking his fingers behind his lab coat he drew it back and looked down to the logo on his chest. "This is an official MicroWarz stadium!"

The urge to rub her eyes and pinch the bridge of her nose ran through the Director and she almost - almost - raised a hand before substituting a sigh and taking a half-step back. This had to be the source of the reported security breach but her instructions had been specific; Kraus was to be given enough rope to hang himself with. Or to haul the Republic forward. She was starting to prefer the first option, "Alright, what's MicroWarz?"

Why was there a 'Z' at the end? And why did she know that?

"MicroWarz is a science sport for us genius types," he began, leaning over the stadium to tap at the center of the cover. "We fight teams of micrites against each other. There's various classes - I'm in the 1k100 Class - which means my micrites can have up to a thousand molecules and both sides have one hundred. The teams start here," he indicated the columns on either end, "And you win by either getting one of your micrites to the other column or wiping out the opposing team. It's a fantastically brutal sport and team owners have to be clever. You've only got a thousand molecules to work with so..."

Krieger held up a hand, "Okay, okay, sounds... fascinating. I'm sure the thrill of competition and the desire to win pushes forward the state of the art... Or something..."

"...or you'll get eaten by your own team," Kraus mumbled under his breath. "Poor Doug."

Francine raised an eyebrow and a hand, stepping forward to put it on the stadium before suddenly realizing the risk inherent in her next question, "Wait, you mean to tell me that there have been team owners who've been eaten by their own team?" Carefully she eyed the field, searching for any signs of the Doctor's team, and beside her the two Marines each took their own side step to the side with guns tracking on the potential threat, "How many?"

"That I know of? Just Doug..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:51 am

Dr. Saryan Brilla's Condo, Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

"...who the shit..."

The front panel of the door clicked to virtual transparency and at least Saryan had managed that; Despite the late hour, the blonde woman was dressed in nothing more rigorous than a pair of cargo sweatpants and a bra-less tank top that was scrawled with the unintelligible stains of activities unknown. Her long hair was a messy coil around her throat and her eyes were heavy with nothing more lustful than a lack of sleep or perhaps an unsteady hangover. Behind her the shallow entryway gave only a foreboding sense of the desolation to come with articles of clothing both interesting and common left where they'd fallen and a bag of groceries abandoned for time unknown next to the door. A bench had been upended and still tottered on one pair of crossed legs while the shoes clustered on the mat under it were now scattered and mismatched and all of this contrasted neatly with the carefully dressed man who stood on the other side of the door.

Prying an eye open, she stared at him through the bleary portal while one hand tried to brush her locks into some semblance of order; Whether she noted nor cared about the sticky brown stain across one cheek was a concern for another hour. What little she could make out of the unexpected visitor wasn't encouraging at all. While she looked like she'd just crawled out from under something horrid or mechanical, he looked reasonably well put together in a button-down shirt and sport jacket though he wore these over black jeans in at least a nod to the casual. His hair was very dark brown and his skin was dusky and his general shape and stature brought something to mind, though what that was seemed to be in running conflict with a steady buzz circulating through her forehead. With one hand she leaned on the doorframe to steady herself - the question had already been asked and she was in no condition to repeat it.

"Doctor Brilla? Saryan Brilla?" His tone was unsure and as he stood there with his hands in his jacket pockets he looked not only at her but around the shared hallway of which her condominium was only one doorway. There wasn't anyone around but his eyes settled on a vase full of flowers next to the door: Flowers that seemed to be looking back at him. Perhaps they were because his next words were exceptionally carefully put, "Doctor Brilla, I've come up with a way to get around your boobytrap. Can I," he glanced around the hallway - and back to the flowers - again before returned to her with something of a vague sense of pleading in them.

"...what the shit..."

With a sigh more seated in anger at her current condition and the sudden intrusion into it than at the intruder himself, she extended a thumb to press the invisible button. The door slid open and before she could move aside he had scooted through, casting one last glance at the flowers beside the door. It slid shut behind him and perhaps it was just the breeze of his passing but one bud in particular seemed to turn and follow him and he frantically groped for the controls to turn off the visitor panel, "There! Now..."

"...who the shit..."

"Am I?" Nearly stumbling, he moved past her to the opening into the living room, spied the closest soft surface, and collapsed into the chair without a care to the bathrobe draped across it or the paper plates stuck and stacked on the seat. Something squished under his butt and he half-stood while she stuck her hand underneath to pull out what became her breakfast - or lunch, given the hour - as a sandwich of indeterminate origin and type slowly disappeared, "So, who the fuck are you?"

"I," he looked past her for a moment and then to the windows, which were virtual and thus could not be used by any spy to observe more than the camera that recorded the scene and transmitted it over thousands of lightyears to be displayed on her living room wall, before turning up to her as she stood half over him, "Vihaan. Vihaan Sasashy. We've meet... On the Apexis?"

"Apexis?"

It took her a long moment but finally something stirred, flickered to life, and her eyes opened wide, "Oh, right! Apexis... You're Akashan, aren't you? You were working on... TRIPWIRE? So;" And the lines finally crossed and she remembered a distant conversation in that ship's lounge with various notables and a nervous-looking Akashan hanging off the end of the booth, "You've figured out how to bypass it?"

That would be a great trick if it were true. TRIPWIRE and its junior BOOBYTRAP worked by measuring the space-time metric tensor many thousands of times a second across a near or wide patch of space. Anything but anything moving through made an impression of some kind and while it was possible to sneak through by going very, very slowly the big banana prize would be to figure out how to move through said space quickly; Even forms of faster-than-light travel that used some notion of extra-dimensional space emerged into regular space-time at some point and often very violently - at least as far as the tensor and the sensitivity of the Republic's TRIPWIRE network were concerned. The consolation was that no-one but no-one knew about TRIPWIRE and more importantly how it worked.

At least for now.

That explained his nervousness however and she finished her sandwich before flopping onto the couch in a splash of sweatpants and unaligned socks, "How?"

Again he looked around, but this time the look in his eyes when he locked with her own baby blue's was different, sincere if a bit worried, "...time travel."

"Time travel?" Perhaps she hadn't meant to, but the laugh that followed seemed to push him right into the chair and he said nothing as it ran its course until, "Time travel. Really."

There were ways to travel through time, of course - everyone did it, every single day. The easiest was also the best example of why the notion didn't work. Wishing to observe past events somewhat directly, a ship with faster-than-light capabilities would move the required distance away from the site of the events in question and then put out its eyes and ears to record the light and other emissions as they were after traveling all that distance. It was a good way to look at big events but not very useful for small happenings. The same applied to time travel; In order to travel back through time the universe itself would have to be rewound or at least recreated and, as one might easily point out, it would take all the energy and matter in the universe to accomplish it with precision and thus render the exercise (and the universe) moot.

"Yes."

"Well, at least you sound certain," she sighed again and with a finger conjured up a virtual whiteboard. After a moment equations began to scrawl across as she called them up from the files and he watched for a moment. "I hope this wasn't just a lame attempt to see me in my skinnies. I've got a website you know..."

"No, I," though for just an instant he glanced down to her tank top, "I'm serious! Quite serious, but you are thinking of traveling backward through time. I'm thinking of traveling forward through time. And to do so," he put out a finger and wiped away the equation for the space-time tensor, "You have to bypass that. Though it is more complex than that." Hesitantly at first but with increasing confidence, he began to write out his own series of equations and diagrams while explaining, "The essence of it is that we move ourselves forward through time until there is a high probability that we will be in the desired location. Until that moment there is no change in the local tensor."

"But there is a change." Saryan swiped the tensor back into existence, "Right there. You come out, poof, the tensor changes, and we know you're there. You've made a big ol' impression in the matrix!"

"Yes, but that's not the point. You won't know where that impression originated. Much of why TRIPWIRE is useful is because it shows where something came from or where it is going. The tangents drawn in the tensor. We already know ships are out there; TRIPWIRE is simply a better sensor than what came before but with the added benefit of being able to back and forward track a target based on their individual disruption in the tensor."

"Okay," but there was a roll of the eyes, "So you can bypass one portion of TRIPWIRE. What's next?"

"Next, I need your help and the help of your Special Projects. There's the concept," he pointed to the equations, "But we have to build a drive, find out if it works..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:11 pm

Ship's Shuttle, Just off the Leviathan, Interstellar Space, Southwestern Delta Quadrant...

"...hell of a parking job," Timmons complimented, his voice full of admiration as he rose from his seat and gave Kedo's shoulder a squeeze before turning and heading to the back of the shuttle. "Now, everyone remembered where we parked."

It was no false appreciation; Their chosen landing site had proven to be chock full of barely attached and free-floating debris and after a minute of carefully nosing into the field the shuttle's maneuvering computer had refused to go any further. That had left them a hundred meters short and with the threat of spinning shrapnel taking a bite out of one or more of them as they crossed from Qasr's shuttle to the barely-visible port, the decision had been made to risk the shuttle's hull rather than their own hides. The big man had expected Seeker Deania to put her hand up first; She was, after all, trained as a shuttle pilot and had taken over the duty when they were still in the 'Force. Instead Kedo Maric had turned to the controls and without even a pause to consider his route, he'd proceeded to manually pilot through the field without so much as a bump, jar, or scrape. With a pair of nasty-looking slices pinwheeling around each other behind them, he'd put the shuttle within a meter of the port and pulled to a precise stop.

Behind him the Neko rose from his seat and, waiting for first the Seeker and then his wife to exit the cabin, he pulled himself through the doorway and stood waiting while the others put on their helmets and gloves. All had pulled on the majority of their suits as soon as navigating the field had been declared necessary except for him and while they were not strictly needed - risks to their mortal bodies not being fatal risks - losing one or more would be fairly inconvenient. As soon as they were done, he began the process himself starting with the clamshell torso while they went over the Commander's outlined plan.

"We'll start by looking for a cause," Sergeant began, pulling out his hand scanner, turning it on, and running a self-test, "See if we can't figure out what happened. Attack, asteroid, whatever, there will be some kind of trace. Transfer of some kind is the most likely. To me it looks like something big hit her but it could have been a missile or other explosive weapon."

They'd tried to make that determination from the Qasr but both were her civilian-class sensors not up to the task but also the damage was so dramatic as to render the returns indefinitely confusing. To add to that was the likelihood that the ship had been carrying various elements and cargo - dirt and plant life - that might have literally muddied the waters. A Fleet Task Force dubbed SaddleBack was being pulled together to recover the mega-wreck. Even if there were not millions of colonists trapped in hibernation the ship contained such a large volume of refined elements that recycling the hull would be well worth while. That the salvage claim had been filed by A'iruka Industries' CEO would make the expedition financially rewarding even if nothing else of significance was discovered.

"...not too long though. If they rush, Saddleback could be here in a couple hours. I don't think they will - not with Qasr here to hold the site - so I'd guess we've got twenty-four to thirty-six hours on our own. After that you can bet all the interesting stuff will be found pretty quickly so we want to move quickly. We'll have plenty of time after to sink our teeth into the details if we want so," he swung his helmet shut and checked those present, "Let's get moving..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:39 am

SDF-Unconquered Sun, In Orbit over Verlaliskarriri, Somewhere in the Delta Quadrant…

The ultimate destination for the Danyth bounty hunter and thus the Unconquered Sun had turned out to be Verlaliskarriri, a city on the second planet of the Forklisian Home System. Known for being the main external trading hub with outsiders and for the distinct lack of many of the laws and morals so endemic to the rest of the galaxy, it was quite the convenient place for shady dealings with both the Forklis and with other visitors. Viewed from the Dreadnought’s high orbit the city was sprawling and - despite the typical reputation otherwise - appeared to be a decent though perhaps not respectable place to live.

“The core of the city is that of several enormous linked skyscrapers, usually rented or given out to those companies, states, or other organizations wishing a more permanent representation in the area, and wishing it to look somewhat official. Surrounding these are lower districts and their buildings dedicated to the actual trade of goods, whether harmless, or not so harmless,” Commander Vincenti detailed, seeming to read from a prepared summary as his floating body circled the holosphere and its projected image of the city. “Many streets resemble something more like what one expected to see in more primitive cultures - rows and and rows of street vendors and outdoor computerless counters. Reputedly there are scattered throughout the districts hidden sellers of what one doesn’t want in the open; stolen government documents and blueprints to more dangerous and deadly fare.”

“Abutting the districts to the north is a mass of hotels, housing, and leisure areas which could be called the hospitality district. It hosts temporary visitors and some more permanent representatives, and the odd tourist or visiting researcher. The more recreational part of the district contain everything an individual could want to do for fun, and then some. And if the odd prostitute happens to be working for some intelligence service or another, well,” his voice turned into an electronic smile. “Further north of this is the main spaceport and then a secondary spaceport for those with more… destructive landing methods.”

“The buildings abutting to the south of the commerce districts contain the housing for the Forklisians of the city, and a representative selection of manufacturing. Some of it is purely for show or demonstration; a civilization having morality a fair bit different from the rest of the galaxy being quite the convenient place to get your illegal goods made. Naturally, some of this production is dedicated to the rush production of goods being sold by the Forklis themselves, many of which you wouldn’t want to leave lying around.”

“And right here,” he finally pointed, swirling the image around to highlight one area in particular, “In the nebulous border between this industrial district and that of the neighboring commerce district, is our target. This is where you can find the more people-oriented traders. The slavers, the assassins, the criminals of all stripes. The bounty hunters, and in one particular case, the local office of the Vahkiran bounty contracting agency Boran & Hagh.”

“Admiral Villanova didn’t have a chance to make the intercept, Ma’am,” Commander Vincenti continued, moving to flank the Secretary-General as she moved to the edge of the holo-sphere that sat in the middle of Unconquered Sun’s command center, just as the Heavy Explorer belonging to the aforementioned Admiral rolled into position on the Dreadnought’s flank. The image below was the same as what lay below the spread-out warships; A teeming city on a world they’d barely acknowledged before now with the office in question at the center.

“She knew where she was going. As soon as her ship came out of Ef-Te-El, she headed straight for a private landing facility in the same building. White Nile was right on her tail but they weren’t close enough before she got under cover.”

“So she knew we were after her?”

There was an unseen shrug, “I’d say ‘no’ - until she made the jump to this system we were keeping our distance. I’d say she’s just quick on the draw or eager to get paid. Presumably she knows who she’s got - had - and just what her risks are. But it is possible that she has contacts inside the BUSF or perhaps with the Vcær. Those are the only two places we’ve distinctly crossed paths with her. Unless…”

Erika turned to look back over her shoulder at the flying wasp-torso cyborg, “Unless what?”

“‘Billions with a ‘B’’, Ma’am. To me, that says we’re looking at a state-level interest. An interest that could have its own intelligence service. Don’t ask me who, yet. A bounty on a diplomatic officer seems counter-productive no matter the entity.”

“But yet here we are. Who wants to give me some options?”

The first to answer was Admiral Villanova, who had just moments before appeared solidly on the deck as a hologram shimmered quickly into existence, “Zero-Div does a smash-and-grab on the office complex. We go in, kill everyone and destroy everything. The chances of success are high - this is what we do,” the raven-haired man said, his eyes flashing dark behind shadowed brows. There was a brief smile of confidence but that was then replaced with some cold hard realities, “And we blow a lot of unknown capabilities. A camera picks us up, someone lives…”

And literal decades of very secret research, development, and deployment was out in the open. Or at least up for guess.

“Personally, if it was my call,” Fidelo paused, tension on his face, “I’d call them. They know we’re here, they know we’re watching. No one is coming out of that building without us knowing who they are or where they are going. Go for the soft resolution and if that fails, my team and I will be just a little more prepared.”

A tense pause and her decision was made. The Admiral and her wife had history together and had remained friends after; His advise would put her best interests out in front, “Put the call through. Connect me directly to the highest representative you can get ahold of,” she said, talking past the two to the communications officer who stood at one of the ring of stations surrounding the holo-sphere.

“Yes Ma’am. Accessing local communications network…” The rest of the Kitsune’s actions were left unspoken; The Secretary-General didn’t need the details. It was the work of a few minutes to navigate the unfamiliar local landscape but then, “On the line for you, Ma’am - a representative with Boran & Hagh…”
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Postby Sunset » Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:52 pm

Grand Admiral Alyndra Erriki's Office, SDF-Vigilant, Underway in the Ares Cluster...

The Grand Admiral sat at her desk and the young officer across from her, the Coatlicue dwarfing her by a good head-height even as the two sat in equal chairs. Part of having an open-door policy was that one had to be ready for anyone and anything to come through that door though the young Lieutenant seemed to have a certain command of himself that heralded something beyond extending meal periods another half-hour or banning beets. Technically neither proposal had reached her desk but there were always the smart-asses who had decided that the policy meant they could lean in and give her a cheeky smile and a trivial policy suggestion. Instead he wouldn't have looked out of place with an old-fashioned briefcase at his ankle and ready to produce a half-dozen mostly completed forms, though she was reasonably sure the Coatlicue civilization hadn't worked their way up to inventing briefcases before joining the Republic.

"Alright, so what do you have for me?" It was straight to the point; If he had to resort to pleasantries to work himself up then he wasn't as sure of his plan and position as he should be.

"It's called the Rapid Recovery Initiative," he swept a hand across the near edge of her desk and holograms with both images and numbers appeared. "I've been taking a look at our numbers and what I'd like to propose is a back-up plan to our back-up plan. Currently we have the capacity," he indicated the first, "To replace the majority of the fleet in this amount of time. Incredible, to be sure, but that assumes the continued operation of all existing VLEMAs as well as the secondary facilities such as the CORE and Anviltop stations. I would like to draw this number," he again pointed to the first, "Into contrast with this number," he indicated the second. "Which is the current average projected time to full reduction in war-fighting ability of potentially hostile states. The first," he noted dryly, "Is larger than the second."

"Go on."

"Essentially that leaves a gap of here to here where, in the event of a near-peer conflict, the Republic would be vulnerable. We live in a dangerous galaxy and while our goals are peaceful, I don't believe we can make the long-term commitment that we will remain uninvolved in trivial military conflicts. The idea of the Rapid Recovery Initiative is to lower the potential time between the first and the second with the goal of putting the Fleet back into readiness as quickly as possible and, potentially, off-setting any damage to our recovery time caused by damage to our military industrial infrastructure. While the goal is to win, and win decisively, that ability to win also assumes a significant depletion of Fleet assets and thus a period of weakness during that time. It is unreasonable to think that a conflict on these scales would go unnoticed and further that some nefarious power might not seek to take advantage of that."

"All good points," she leaned back and steepled her fingers, just putting the tip of one index finger on her lips, "So what would be involved in this proposed initiative?"

"Some money and some time. The central point of the Rapid Recovery Initiative would be to take a look at existing assets - those we would be replacing - and then have those designs redesigned with recovery in mind. To draw a simple example; This office," he looked around. "While comfortable and useful, is not useful to either attack or defense. Every function can be accomplished virtually, and while I too appreciate my quarters, they are not strictly necessary to continue the ship's day-to-day operations. With the introduction of the REDSHIRT program they are less-so; Those crew who want to stretch out in the real world can transfer to a different extension instead of requiring extensive ship-board facilities to do so. In light of this, the designs modified under the Rapid Recovery Initiative would be extremely minimalist with even such necessities as life support being eliminated. No offices, no crew quarters, no recreation facilities. In light of the production capabilities of the VLEMA, these would not be existing designs minus the unnecessary but instead new or highly modified designs that would fit the same tactical and strategic role of the asset they replaced but with a reduced production time and thus," he point to the third number, "A significant narrowing in the gap."

"Then, presuming hostilities do not continue, a gradual replacement could be made while these Rapid Recovery assets are transferred into units such as the deep space Fast Attack Squadrons. These units already operate with minimal crews to begin with and there are already plans underway to transfer them to a similar arrangement, correct?"

"That's right," Erriki nodded. "We've already begun pulling in the FAS' one ship at a time and replacing the crew with Gen-Ones and a retrofitted Eien Replication Suite. We don't want to do it all at once, or else we'll negate the main advantage of the FAS."

Which was that they were fast. Each of several, they were large groups of warships set on something of a gravity-induced racetrack that had slowly built them up to incredible speeds. Einstein continued to be right; A ship that wanted to move at or near the speed of light would have to be able to consume itself to do so and so in order to avoid an attack force made up entirely of photons, the ships of the FAS' outsourced their acceleration to artificial gravity generators that could be easily refueled and could slowly push the ships up to the desired speeds. Since being aboard one of these ships was tedium in itself, most were staffed by those who preferred a life in the virtual. Or had; Now, as the Lieutenant understood, their crew could simply disconnect from one body - their Prime Extension - and connect to another leaving the Squadrons as ghost ships endlessly circling their booster stations.

"The idea would work well then. These Rapid Recovery designs would be warships only, without even a trace of creature comfort, and thus ideal to be deployed into the Squadrons. To summarize, my proposal is that we solicit our engineering and design firms for designs equivalent to current vessels minus the comforts and then keep these designs in readiness. Hopefully they will never be deployed, but hope has not won wars."

"No, it hasn't. Preparation is key," and she stood up, the officer following her lead, "And you look to be prepared. I'll look it over again, pass it around my staff, and maybe call you in for a consultation or two, Lieutenant. Good work..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Nov 28, 2017 8:04 pm

SDF-Ojeni, The Nomads, Canis Major Extra-Galactic Segment...

"...it looks like something took a bite out of it," Kami said, an idle comment as she waited for the communications officer to establish a connection with the distant station. "Check that - it looks like someone took a bite out of it, chewed it up, spit it out, and built a space station out of that."

Not the most polite description but accurate in its own way; Where the first Nomad vessel they had encountered had been all sleek angles and predator-deadly, the station they had stumbled across was assembled in a haphazard way from a dozen asteroids of various sizes tied together by open triangle-work, flimsy-looking boarding tubes, the occasional bit of construction equipment, and what looked like a very large cargo net that might have been at home on the beaches of Normandy. There were splotches of color here and there as well as lights of a dozen shades that illuminated landing facilities, docking bays, and even the odd window or observation bay. It was nearly impossible to ascertain anything about the species that had built it by looks alone; Most of the modules were along a single multi-level plane but here and there others looked to be turned sideways or even jutted off from the main mass at an odd angle. Artificial gravity was a given but most species seemed to prefer a natural or walking transition and while the captain and bridge crew of their previous encounter had been very humanoid that wasn't to say the rest of the eclectic residents of the Nomads would be. The information they'd been given by the Blishi'i indicated they were the remnants of an older civilization that had once had a wider presence across this particular portion of the Segment but; "It was sparse on information about their biology."

Which was information that the Wes'Terly would have presumably sent back, if it hadn't been lost.

"Anything yet, Lieutenant," she asked over her shoulder but a hesitation in the officer's voice made her turn, "No... And yes."

"What's the problem, Yu?"

"The problem is that there's a whole bunch of people on the line," he answered, pointing to one of his screens where not a couple, not a dozen, but scores of different wave-patterns indicated incoming transmissions. "And before you ask, this is what I got when I asked to talk to whoever was in charge. They're not aggressive, just adamant. Or confused. Or just eager; There are merchants who want to cut deals, merchants who claim to represent a majority of the merchants and thus are the only ones entitled to trade, people who claim to be government..."

"That's the one we want to talk to!" But he answered Captain Blaine's interuption with a shake of his head; "No, because there are others who also say they are the government or traffic control or the docking authority or that the government is an illegal concept. It's..."

"It's an Anarchy," Commander Sloan interrupted, with a nod from both the Captain and the Lieutenant. "Explains the chaotic design of the station, if you can call it a design."

"Who do we talk to then?"

Commander Sloan stopped to think about it a moment and then rose from her seat to walk over to the communications console. A tap on the glass and she was answered by a cacophony of voices, both translated and untranslated. A few seconds of this and she shut it off, "None of them. We'll probably get a different story from every one of them and it will change every day. But there are merchants and docks - that means there are outside traders. They might not be talking to us over the station channels..."

"...but that doesn't mean they won't talk to us," Kami agreed. "So we'll go talk to them." But the situation on the ground was clearly chaotic and by any reasonable standard she should stay aboard Ojeni, "Prep a shuttle. Commander Sloan, you're going down there. Take whoever you need..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:06 pm

Sunset Defense Force Training Academy Twenty-Six, Northern Ares, Ares System, Ares Cluster, Ares Super Cluster, Ad Nauseum...

One by one the cadets filed or drifted in, bits and globs finding their desired seats until it was just nearly time for the lecture session to begin. Most simply ignored the prop that was built along the center of the raised stage that sat along the outside wall of the curving gallery; They'd grown used to such things, though this one seemed especially crude by the standards of a department with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of student labor to draw on. This one was a fence and again crude as the series of pickets was only loosely attached to the stringers and here and there these too were hanging cockeyed from the posts that were propped up with braces so that the whole wouldn't collapse into a jumble of mismatched lumber. The only comment came from one of the older students lamenting the fact that the chest-high barrier blocked their view of a perfectly good mid-winter afternoon outside of the three story tall windows that backed the stage. This was momentarily made irrelevant as the lecturer entered and the windows turned opaque, matching the walls that framed the rest of the room except for the illusion of a series of banners hung down their length, each matching the flag of one of the Republic's member states.

Conversations and gossip ceased as she walked to the center and laid a hand atop the wall to support herself as she leaned on it, "Well, what do you think? Good fences make good neighbors, right?"

The only reasonable response were catcalls and taunts and she weathered these with a smile or a laugh as when one cadet asked why she - dressed in bib overalls and a straw hat - was dressed like a farmer. When they had all settled down again she turned to the fence, "Good fences make good neighbors. Some of you have heard that phrase before and some haven't. It's not a particularly good fence, is it? But what does that really mean? Why does a good fence make a good neighbor?"

A couple hands went up but they were hesitant and then dropped. No one, it seemed, had a guess as to where she was taking the question.

"The easy answer is that a good fence marks out your property from mine. We both know whose is whose. If your apple tree is on the other side and those branches need to be trimmed, its your responsibility to trim them. A good fence can keep my cows out of your garden... But there's more to it than that. Let's talk about a good fence when it comes to international relations. Now, I'm not talking a good fence in a physical sense. Borders in space are pretty useless and often only serve the purpose of providing a device to measure one's imaginary genitalia against. But that's something of the point to a good fence as well. It's a boundary; Here's where our interaction begins and ends. That's important because we're not all the same," she gestured to the banners lazily floating against the wall.

"What if your neighbor - five hundred fifty kilograms of them - likes to use the hot tub on their porch? Is that any concern of yours?" There were a couple head-shakes and she went on, "Naked."

That got a couple laughs and she smiled in turn, "Still none of our business, is it? Now, some people might think its their business and might want to go over and tell that neighbor that they are a fat, ugly, disgusting... Well, they can, but the fence is in their way. So the fence - not this fence - but a good fence helps them be a good neighbor by not getting involved in something they have no business getting involved in. But now what if that neighbor was drowning in that same hot tub? Would they want their nosy neighbor to come rescue them? Embarrassing as it might be, I'd want someone to pull me out even if it meant showing off my flabby ass to the whole neighborhood. Good fences make good neighbors so you want that fence - those boundaries - to be both high enough and just high enough."

"The same is true internationally; Our boundaries should tell our neighbors just as much about ourselves as we do. We want them firm and high enough to stop casual snooping but not too high that if we need to be rescued - or we need to rescue them - that we can't cross if need be. We - and in a few months you," she pointed to the cadets, "Also need to present the same boundaries. If our boundaries vary from one person - one captain, one crew - to another, we'll end up like this fence here," she lifted her hand and the fence toppled over dramatically.

"Useless..."
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Sunset
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Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:11 pm

Shadowport Zids, Coreward of the HSE, Delta Quadrant...

If there was a Lesser Truth to the Universe - among many - it was that every space station, way-point, trade port, or other similar facility must have a grungy bar frequented by the local equivalent of riff-raff and scum; And that despite the physical and financial impossibilities the destruction, demolition, or bankruptcy of such an establishment would immediately cause another to come into existence. This happenstance alone would seem to indicate that a symbiotic relationship existed between the station and the required watering hole - though the circumstances of Zids where the port and the bar were one and the same - would seem to indicate that such a relationship was far more fundamental to the very nature of the Universe.

Such conversations and philosophizing were common among the loosely labeled 'clientele', though it often boiled down to the more eloquent, 'Wherever you go, there's always a shittier place to find a drink...'

With one hand extending an over-full mug of the local slop to aid in balance and the other gesturing to follow every other word, Meli sat precariously balanced on two legs of her chair with her boots up on the edge of the table. This itself was another feat as the table was sized for the average - Human - patron and thus she could have comfortably rested the underside of her ample breasts on it merely by stooping slightly. Since that wouldn't have been that comfortable except for her breasts, she'd taken up residence in the chair at a corner table as soon as she'd arrived with the stated purpose of keeping an eye and an ear on everything. Given that both the table and her companions at the table had reduced the first to essentially zero she may have had a more tactical reason in mind - keeping her back to a wall.

Zids - It may well have been 'Sids', but whoever had hand-painted the lettering on the outer hull had gone for the impressionist flavorings of the '90-20's era of Earth gang graffiti - was not the kind of dark and sparsely populated canteen where half-sober spacers down on their luck went to increase that to a more reasonable melancholy stupor. Instead it was a rambunctious and rowdy place that sprawled over several larger rooms and a few more marked as 'Private', though the traffic in and out of these indicated there were others likely elsewhere that were indeed so.

Commercial activity of every sort - aside from the drinks, which still centered on the bar - could be found in every niche and alcove with a Vahkiran running a confidence game right next to the door while an Aoraqet'yari madam led her patrons up a flight of stairs to whatever private delights or torments they had secured while an enthusiastic Human in a Hawaiian shirt peddled guns from a collection spread out on one of the tables. More ostensibly important to the Republic operator and her companions was the constant ebb and flow of gossip and conversation that flowed through the establishment though it seemed evident by their own replication that any hint of intelligence gathering had gone out the window, "Ah'n then Ah punched it so hard tha' one o' it's teeth blew out tha' back o' its head! Sucker dropped rah't there, dead as a doorknob..."

"Never happened," Doctor ScLappi objected, his tone authoritarian and a knobby hand held up while the other rested on her thigh, "I observed said event myself, and she most definitely killed it with a single blow to the eye socket which caused bone shards to pierce the cranium and disrupt the brain tissue."

"Yeah, wa'll, you tell it your way," she took a drink, draining the Human-scale mug to less than a quarter of its previous contents, "Ah'n Ah'll tell it ma'hn. Give us a refill, will ya' love?"

It was true in one way that the outcome of the story mattered less than the contents. The third person sitting at the table - if 'sitting' was as appropriate to the posture as Meli's version was - was an absolutely enormous Maiorca. The feathered humanoid dinosaur had been a last-minute addition to the party though a useful one; The most reasonable course of action had been to continue their previous cover as representatives for the Slave Prince Jero Heron and the towering beaked females tended to turn heads and attract notice wherever they went. If the sight of a Troll at two-and-a-half was enough to put pause to a man then the presence of a three-and-good-god-what-the-fuck-is-that? would be more than enough to put them back in their seats.

That the Maiorca were herbivores and otherwise quite peaceful was a fact that tended to be glossed over - and they didn't do much to calm that image themselves. The species had been well abused for the psychoactive components of their feathered mantle by the Sessool and even now that they had begun to filter into the wider galaxy they had taken a cautious approach to revealing any weakness or opportunity to strangers. The conversation had started when Tweelie - many of their names sounded like bird calls - had asked as to the rumor that Meli had been the one responsible for killing the 'monster' that had threatened what was now known as the Slave Prince's Jungle Palace on the hidden moon Kyupuu.

"Certainly..."

The offered mug was placed on the table and, in a nod to the future that was not entirely present across Zid's rambling aesthetic, a nozzle connected to the bottom and a valve opened to inject it full of a golden yellow froth. In a sign that the future had not entirely come there was a spurt, a gush of foam, and then another as the system tried to find just the right fill level before settling for yet another addition to the half-dry stickiness that was the surface of most of the tables. Presumably after closing the nozzles above each table would come on to simply wash the grunge away - or, as some suspected, recycle it back into the system - but as the bar never closed there was little likelihood that this was the case or that said cleansing ever occurred.

"Wha's important is tha' Ah killed it and now we," the Dwarf raised her voice just slightly for the benefit of anyone who might be looking to sell, "Ah'r open fer business. Buyin' ah'n selling, plenty o' slaves go through Prince Heron's place, rah't?" The other two nodded, she nodded, and with the mug conveniently placed in front of her but at the edge of the table she swung her boots down to drop forward and end up with it right at eye level, "Yep. Now, who's up fer some cards?"

If there was one thing nearly as common as bad beer it was cards or card games and each table had between one and four packs in various kinds and varieties and - less appetizingly - flavors scattered or heaped in the center. Half-crawling across, Meli grabbed the most familiar looking and opened it up to find the usual fifty-two though to call them uniform would be a favor. Settling back into her seat, she took a quick look around the room though Tweelie blocked a good quarter of it. A quick shuffle and she began to divide them out, "Tweelie, I'ma teach you how to play poker..."

After the first few hands it was apparent to both the Maiorca and the Dwarf that ScLappi was the one who would teach them how to play poker. Neither size nor speed was particular useful when opposed by the Doctor's keen understanding of odds and altogether inscrutable facial expressions. Since they were playing for points and the game was friendly, neither minded much as he swept the table until a voice peering out from behind the blue-feathered bulk interrupted, "Cards... Poker, yes? May I join you?"
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:41 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:34 am

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

"So..." Dr. Kraus took a deep, long, and editorially satisfying slurp of coffee from the mug charmingly labeled 'World's #1 Mad Scientist Dad', "What'cha working on?"

That was the signal for Dr. Krieger to look up from what she had been working on and fix her underling with a steely glare. Her initial reaction when he'd walked through the door - the locked and password-protected door hidden behind the bookcase in her office that he wasn't supposed to enter without an appointment - was to tell him to get out and in no uncertain terms but she'd stifled the reaction as the reaction in front of her carefully and for once continued. Now there was a moment when everything was going right and she could look away - but only for a moment - to make those terms even more certain, "Get out now or I'll have you shot."

It sounded like a threat but it was simply more effective; In a few minutes he'd emerge from that closet of his in a new body and she'd post a Marine next to the bookcase with shoot-to-kill orders. He, however, didn't seem to care. Another long sip from the steaming cup and he was at her shoulder looking over the project spread out on her private workbench.

"Some kind of doohickey?"

"...doohickey?" Her voice rose at the end, nearly to a shout, but she held back to snap her jaw shut and mentally summon the previously mentioned Marine. With a mind that having a suit of power armor burst into her office at super-sonic speeds might just cause more mess than it was worth, she set a mental timer and took a glance at her work. Things were progressing slowly and surely and so she turned to him, "Doctor Kraus, are you aware of the concept of Maxwell's Demon?"

"Maxwell's Demon?" He leaned closer, clearly unaware of the words just about to come out of his own mouth, "You're summoning demons? Neat!"

Once again her mouth opened and then snapped shut, "I... No. Maxwell's Demon is a physics thought experiment where a demon bypassed the second law of thermodynamics by opening and closing a door between two rooms of equal energy fast enough that only the fast high-energy molecules can go through. By selectively opening and closing the door, it could make one room high energy and the other low without... Get out!"

"That... Doesn't seem like it would work. The demon would still use energy to open and close the door. You're getting ahead in the room, but you're ultimately still using up energy."

"That's exactly right. But the idea of Maxwell's Demon leads to another concept; Entropy-based power generation. That's where it gets more complex," she checked the timer and then drew his attention away from the fragile experiment to an array of diagrams and formulas on the wall. "But what I'm essentially trying to do is create a HBI;" Holographic Boundary Interface, "That also acts as an entropy sink. But an HBI isn't a true singularity, though it shares some common properties. For the purposes of an Eien Node, it is a pass-through that allows certain types of energy through from the holographic universe to this one - the Prime. Now, there's been some talk of creating an Eien Node - interface, really - that will also act as an energy source. Reactors on the inside can feed energy through the node to whatever is on the other side, essentially off-sourcing the power generator and turning the Extension into a very powerful emitter. Less mass, less volume, more... boom."

"Cool. But..."

"Yes, there's a 'but'. But you have three seconds before Lieutenant Fry shoots you. So you better get your butt out of here," she pointed to the door. "Now."

Kraus put up his hands in surrender and turned to the door, though his mouth was still working, "Alright, alright - I get it. But moving that much potential energy into the Prime will produce waste. Either you'll have to reduce the amount of energy or... Dump it into the boundary interface itself..."

"Exactly. Now," she hit the panel next to the door with her fist, "Out, and stay out!"
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Postby Sunset » Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:37 pm

Interior of the Leviathan, Interstellar Space, Southwestern Delta Quadrant...

"Well, if we're looking for the cause, I suppose this is as good evidence as any as to the source," Timmons said, reaching up to grab the edge of a metal curl, its edge torn to a long knife. Just below him Annya sniffed around his feet, a useless gesture without air to sniff at but where the big man could only move carefully through the tangle of debris she was able to stick her canine muzzle deep into the various dark spaces left by their lights as they swept the majority of the wreckage. "This was ripped - torn away - by whatever happened. If it had been an explosion or external attack I'd expect things to be more..."

"Melty?" Deania volunteered to a nod and confirmation; "Yeah. Melty. Though we're not that far in," he shrugged, nearly invisible under his suit, "So who knows?"

As it was they were both deep inside and only on the very fringe of the wreck at the same time; Just this side of the shuttle's airlock, as it were. Behind them was a vast debris field that had stayed with the drifting vessel through both inertia and attachment with both thin pieces of metal and drifting loops of cable and wiring holding pieces both large and small near to the side of the ship in something of a net. That too spoke to the nature of the violence that had befallen it and Timmons reached up to grab a cable, start reeling it in, and then stop as he thought better of it, "All the way out there. Better not - don't want to get the shuttle trapped."

One by one, they pushed further into the wreck. What they had chosen because it resembled a docking port was quickly revealed to their swinging lights to be nearly useless. While bulkheads still surrounded it on all sides, one of these ended only a few meters closer and simply turning the corner allowed access to the spaces beyond. It had served as a useful shield, however, as evidenced by the scars on its face as well as the mercifully open area beyond. Some scant debris had drifted inside through the unknown years but this was little more than the occasional glittering shard of metal or pulverized this-or-that. The doorway itself had previously been designed to split along the center and, by the centrifugal gravity provided by the spinning torus, retract into floor and ceiling. Instead of an airlock it had likely been a bulkhead door to be used in case of just such an event though the event itself had obviously proven too dire. What lay beyond was a corridor and possibly one that wrapped around the entirety of the torus though both darkness and the curvature of the immense structure soon swallowed whatever lay ahead.

"Look," the Seeker called out. She'd turned from forward to back and shined her light over the backside of the door where something shined back. A glittering layer of ice as dense as long-fallen snow had built up in one corner, "I'd say this solves one mystery. Water," she produced her hand scanner and double-checked. "And there's more of it out there," she pointed through the door. "I'd say she was hit by a comet or some other icy body. Can you imagine the luck? Building all this, all of those years," she panned her wrist light around, "And then random chance puts an interstellar snowball between you and..."

"...And whatever they were out here for," Timmons agreed, seemingly satisfied with the answer. One hand on the wall, he gave it a gentle push before turning to look past it and to the extent of the destruction. "Could have been from a corona, injected into the wreck as vapor, then pulled back to freeze here. It could also be from some internal water storage though, so keep an open mind."

With that word of caution in their heads, they spent the next few minutes collectively studying their surroundings, though the Maric's seemed more interested in the former occupant's possessions rather than in the wreck and its source. One of the pulverized items had turned out to be a ball - nothing more complex than those still played with by untold billions - and they spent some time trying to get it to puff out before giving up and tucking it away, "Pretty sure it had to be a colony ship, too. Does this mean they were up and active when the comet hit?"

"I hope not. Better to be in cryo and just not wake up than to know you're about to die when a comet hits your ship..."

It was a morbid thought and there was a moment of silence that dragged away until Annya turned to move down the corridor, "Only way to know is to find out!"
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Postby Sunset » Wed Dec 13, 2017 11:17 am

Special Projects Black Site 1097A, The Southern Hemisphere of Casablanca, The Bogart System...

"Two hundred days, two hundred explosions... I'd say we're a failure!"

For whatever reason, it seemed as though the Universe itself did not like magic. Or that it did not like the Republic's attempts to emulate something that looked like magic. Either the fire was a warm glow that would have been better set in a hearth and accompanied by marshmallows in hot cocoa or fed back into itself in an explosion that ripped the test vessel apart. Tweaks and upgrades to these hadn't seemed to matter much as the blackened bristles of the push broom next to the test chamber doors attested. One by one they had gone back into the recycler in various bits and pieces ranging from half-body chunks to free-floating ash.

"I wouldn't say we've failed," Claire objected, thought it sounded half-hearted. "At least, we haven't failed until the Director reads our report. Then I'd say we've failed, officially."

Whether or not the Director of Special Projects would be especially happy about that was another question entirely. In the grand scheme of things it probably wasn't very important for the Republic to have, in some manner, the capacity to emulate what would broadly be called 'magic'. Chucking fireballs and lightning bolts around was useful but in the same vein so was a particle beam rifle. Since all of that was a known quantity; Well, perhaps it was better to stick with what works. That had evolved into Claire's opinion of the whole thing and though it was echoed by Karl and what seemed like the entirety of the rest of the site staff, she still couldn't shake the lingering feeling that the Director would be somehow disappointed.

Would she? Claire fiddled with the one possible success from the whole assignment. A smooth black orb, it had been one of the small drone spheres routinely carried by the various pieces of power armor, body armor, and even integrated into the new REDSHIRT units. They could hover and zip around and emit a particularly nasty particle blast that made them useful as both offense and defense. About the size of a naval orange and with a near-invisible series of hexagons just visible under their smooth glass-black exterior, it had proved the perfect starting point for her own side project; "What is that?"

She looked up at Karl's question and then back to the not-ball as it spun across her desk. Right now it looked like a five-pointed star or perhaps some kind of octopus, "This? It's a... Well, it's Mr. Handy."

"Mister... Handy."

"Yep!" With a finger, she stopped it spinning and brought up an invisible interface before turning that visible as a projected hologram so Karl could see what she was doing. "It's a third hand. Or fourth, or fifth. I modified a drone sphere. I took out the emitter and left the hover unit and wired in a power transmitter."

The unit rose above her desk, the five points to the star drooping down as she finished initializing the system. It was all ad-hoc for the moment and, if she'd have gotten the time, she'd intended to work on the look and feel after lunch. For a second it slowly spun as the guidance system stabilized itself and then the five points perked up to spin and wheel around the surface until coming together into a reasonable semblance of a hand.

"It can do things for you, things you might need a hand for. I've wired in an II core written with some loose assistant code I found floating around the net. Watch... Mister Handy, bring me the picture from the shelf."

Without pause, the sphere arced over their heads to the only shelf in her office and picked up the only picture on it, a framed portrait of her and her significant other. Only slightly slower it returned to her, dangling the picture in front of her until she took it. A step and she returned it to the shelf, "See? Tell it what to do and it will do it, if it can. There's a weight-slash-power limit, but for jobs around the office and the house it does a good job. Or will. The code," she brought up a listing and let it scroll past, "Is clunky. It does what you tell it to, as long as what you tell it to can be done. If there were two pictures on the shelf it wouldn't have done anything."

"So it needs to be able to ask questions and clarify, maybe improvise. Well, that's what an II core is for."

"Right. Sorta. It still needs some code to ask questions and I'll need to give it a speaker too. I kinda forgot that part..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:36 pm

Nameless Station in an Unmarked Asteroid Field, The Nomads, Canis Major Extra-Galactic Segment...

"Places like this are the way people like me get by... Commander," the man's mouth moved around the unfamiliar word while the translator in Commander Sloan's head handled the transition from one language to another mostly seamlessly. The captain with the golden mustache looked down at his own duties and then up to check on his crew before continuing, "Making a few hundred on this and that won't get you very far when the docking fees at some Blishi'i station eat all of that up. Plus you get to meet all kinds of interesting people," he looked to one side where a towering leather-hided being with an equally enormous whiskered snout was carrying a titanic barrel of something on one shoulder without apparent augmentation nor concern as to the leaking trail of yellow-green liquid dripping from one end. "Real interesting people."

"How about the Blishi'i? A BUSF Explorer passed through this area a few months back - we're looking for her or her crew."

"Oh?"

In fact, as soon as their shuttle had touched down in one of the station's deconstructed landing bays both her and her chosen team had gone to work asking everyone they had come across about the missing Explorer. They'd already passed under, past, and behind a dozen ships before turning a corner to find the Captain with the Golden Mustache standing watch over a mixed crew as they loaded and unloaded bags, boxes, drums, and chests from a ratty-looking tramp freighter. That she'd seen before - a disc with a bank of engines across the back and two prongs running out from the front - but the mustache appeared to be real gold and that she'd never seen before. Certainly the Galaxy was crawling with the interesting, unusual, and the downright weird but the yellow caterpillar sitting atop his upper-upper lip was a new one by her. That and the two mouths, one above the other.

"Anything; Rumor, gossip, whatever. We think they were looking for the capital of the old empire but they haven't been heard from in a couple months. Say," she hated to distract the man from her own question but her fascination with his facial hair was overwhelming, "Is that real gold?"

"Real gold," his eyes went thin and he tensed for a moment before relaxing. "Yes, of course its real gold. I take it you've never met a Hornitci before?"

"No..."

"Then I advise if you ever meet one again to not ask that question or else you might not meet another," he explained, his tone blunt. "A man's mustache is his trade, his livelihood, his reason for being. Gold coin was how we conducted trade for thousands of years;" she nodded, the concept familiar, "And so my mustache is gold. Each of us," he pointed to himself, "Marks our trade that way in some way. Some of us have to get really creative but some of us," he shook his head dismissively, "Either don't, can't, or fake it. Asking if its real gold is like asking whether a man's honest or not. If you ever meet a Hornitci without one, he's been shaved for some reason - like being fake, dishonest. Never trust a Hornitci without one. But your ship... I can't say I've heard anything about it. That's the risks out here... Hey! Hey Ozkular," he turned to the towering biped who had changed his barrel for a crate, "Watch it - you dripped that kumur all over the deck! Pilli," he turned to another, this time a short mass of fur and legs that had been sitting on a stack of crates beside the two the entire time, "Clean that up! Before someone slips on it."

"Alright, thank you, Captain," and Sloan was about to turn to leave when he reached out and snagged the sleeve of her uniform; "You're about to thank me again."

Tugging her close, he pointed a finger over one shoulder and whispered in her ear, "Speaking of docking fees; Take a look at those guys behind you. Nice and slow..."

She turned her head, just barely following the line of his finger out of the corner of her eye and past another ship, another stack of scattered cargo, and to a group of locals that were walking through the bay on some decidedly purposeful errand. They were looking this way and that and before they could catch her eye she turned back to the Hornitci, "Okay?"

"Those are the guys who like to call themselves the docking authority. They're not, but around here everyone's who they claim to be. But if they catch up to you, they'll ask for a docking fee - a hefty one. And a loitering fee for your ship. And a transit fee. And," he rolled his eyes in a most human-like gesture, "And the sun and the moon and the dancing shoes of the nine gods. Being an honest merchant myself I don't like to say this, but they don't really expect much. Just a little..."

Sloan rubbed her fingers together; "Exactly. This place runs like that. But there's the trick - there isn't no docking authority. Everyone takes care of themselves, everyone makes sure their own messes are cleaned up, and if you don't," he turned to look down at Pilli, who was busy wiping up the trail of oil with his own matted fur, "Then the next guy after you is likely to put a hole in your hull and no one will say nothing about it..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:56 am

The Planet Ozun, Backside of the Galaxy...

"No customs?! No customs," the short feathered meal nearly shouted, "Why... It's, it's, it's just not customary! No Customs - where will I present my credentials?!"

The answer from the towering Ozkular warrior was a shrug, immediately familiar as such despite his clearly inhuman nature, "You want to see the Ushtar Uzgoth, go see the Ushtar Uzgoth. I'm not gonna stop you and if he doesn't like you, he'll eat you," he finished, eying the avian as if deciding - which he probably was - whether he'd fit in his mouth whole or whether he'd have to chew.

For a long moment it looked like the penguin would run, his webbed feet waddling back and forth, but with a glance at the officer next to him and a shiver up his spine some sense of bravery materialized, "Eat me. Right. Well," he waggled a flipper in a chiding manner at the warrior, "I can tell you now that he wouldn't find me appetizing. In fact, I'm downright tough. And gamey. And chewy. And there would be wires and circuits everywhere and... Oh God, my wires and circuits!"

Like a rubber band the Ambassador stretched out, sprinting away on churning legs while his head and shoulders flattened out behind him. Or would have, at least, until the officer reached out and snapped her fingers around a non-existant collar bone. Orange webs flailed meaninglessly at the rocky ground and he was hefted up and around by the four-armed woman until he once again stood face-to-face - or at least within arms reach of - the warrior. As soon as his feet had stopped their churning and immediate forward motion was no longer assured she set him down and he sighed while she rolled her own black eyes so hard one could nearly hear them clattering across the floor.

"Really, Lieutenant, really. It's not like I could have gone very far. Not here," he looked around and past the Ozlukar, taking in the entirety of the rocky coastline and the city that spread half in and half out of the sea. Thin strings of greasy black smoke traced their way into the sky and he sniffed, his nostrils drawing wide as he hunted for the distinctive smell of spit-roasted penguin. Flavors were evident on the air but the truth was that the Ambassador had never smelled one of his kind in the kitchen and, as the ocean-side city lacked that acidic burning electronics olfactory delight, he could only lie about it; "Nope. Could not have gone that far at all. Look at these short little legs," he eyed the water line where waves pounded and the call of the sea beckoned.

At least until the moment when one of the natives surged out of the tide to heave himself onto a rocky shelf in a single motion, blubber squashing out into a wrinkly semi-circle as he now imagined he too would be.

"My credentials! That's right," he squawked, "My credentials! I'll need those! Must present them to... Back in the shuttle," his flippers went to his chest and he tugged at the invisible lapels of his suit. "Lieutenant..."

There was a nudge at his back and he stumbled forward before catching himself and turning to eye the woman, who was looking elsewhere and oh-so-innocently scratching her knee; "Hmm?"

His shoulders collapsed and he returned to the warrior, "Right, the Great and Gaseous Ushtar Uzgoth. That way, you say? Through the city, big house on the end of the spit? I think I can make my way there," he nodded, "Thank you..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:51 pm

SDF-Procyon, Far Eastern Beta-Gamma Border Region...

"Captain, we've got something interesting..."

By rights there shouldn't have been anything interesting about the system now tagged in the Exploration Command database as GEC-1350904. A reasonably regular blue-series star with a total of two planets in long eliptical orbits with whatever others had formed alongside them billions of years ago having long since been swallowed by either the star, the inner purple-green gas sub-giant, or the outer swirling yellow-gray super-giant, or ejected into the darkness between stars. Out this far, where the galactic disk was nearly at its thinnest, such worlds were just as likely to leave the galaxy entirely. A run-of-the-mill star system with exactly one potential point of interest.

Around the larger of the two gas bodies a cloud of moons and lesser satillites swirled through a distinct ring system leaving their own trail behind where they had swept the dust and ice crystals clear over the eons. The lone exception to the well-ordered perfection was a small rocky moon that swung wildly around the planet on a long elliptical orbit beyond the tenuous rings. This was the point of interest and Procyon followed behind like an eager puppy as her sensors probed it from a safe distance. Already they'd taken the required look at the other bodies and left survey beacons in orbit before returning to the erratic.

"No surprise there, Lieutenant," Captain Finn replied, sitting back in her command chair. There was still some tension in there somewhere, as though the chair didn't quite yet fit her. That was unlikely; The chair knew and adjusted to her proportions better than she did and it was far more likely to be her relatively new status as commanding officer and Captain to one of the newest and most advanced ships in the fleet. "What's the secret?"

A touch at the console and the image of the rough planetoid swung around in the sprawling holosphere sunk between the two forward stations and forward of her chair to show the shadowed backside. These faded away as the image brightened and then zoomed closer until a cluster of impact craters dominated, "They look like craters, but they aren't," Jacksyn explained, laying grid lines over the top.

"This crater rim, right here;" One was highlighted, cut across by another. "Picked up a concentration of refined metals. Somewhere under there is something and I'll bet those were the drive cones;" red lines blinked around the regular craters.

"Something?"

"Something. Either it's a ship of some kind trying to look like a planetoid or its a ship that's picked up a nice shell over however long. Or someone crashed a ship into it and the ejecta covered the wreck."

"Or," another Lieutenant interrupted, this time from the Communications Station, "Someone tried putting engines on an asteroid to move it for mining and it didn't go right. That would explain the elliptic orbit," the Hauyht explained. "Though there aren't any stations or inhabited moons in this system to move it to," she continued, neatly negating her own suggestion. "Would you like me to try comms?"

"Sure," but the Captain had a feeling and with a look at her XO for affirmation she issued orders. "Prep a shuttle for launch. Two suits of armor, six REDSHIRTs. I'm pretty sure we're going down there and if we've got the technology we might as well use it. We'll do an Extension transfer and second and third shift will take care of Procyon while we're down there."

Procyon was not simply advanced or new; The starships of the Nebulous-Class were the beginning of a seismic shift in Fleet operations. The Captain and crew were not truly aboard; Rather their concious selves were safe in the locked-away Eien but connected to biological bodies in the so-called Prime Universe. Beyond this the majority of the crew were automatons known as REDSHIRTs that handled the dull tasks while the three shifts of the command crew and a few specialists made up the sapient crew. The REDSHIRTs assigned to Procyon were also advanced Gen-3 units and could be fully 'inhabited' by either the crew or anyone else in the Eien, allowing risky operations without actual risk. Since dispatching the first shift to the surface was just that, the REDSHIRTs were the perfect option.

"Aye, ma'am..."

"Anything?" Captain Finn looked over her shoulder to the Comms Station where the tall-eared Lieutenant shook her head; "Nothing."

"Alright!" There was a sudden eagerness in the Captain's voice. "Everyone report to your quarters, second shift report for bridge duty - we'll transfer over and head down to see what's what!"
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Postby Sunset » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:43 pm

Interior of the Leviathan, Interstellar Space, Southwestern Delta Quadrant...

A dozen doors and they were once more looking up at the sky, this time from an endless circle of frozen tundra. While it did not yet spell certainty, the enormous biosphere now perfectly preserved in frozen splendor added one more point to the score. If the leviathan was not a colony ship now bound forever to a destination unreachable then it's purpose was beyond discernment - or at least until one of the inhabitants managed to tell them exactly what it was. That would be a bit of a feat, however; The airlock they had breached to enter the biosphere had already been unsealed however many eons earlier by the ship's collision with the comet and just as the flora and fauna were frozen in time, so were the inhabitants.

"Solid as a rock," Deanna reached out a gloved hand and knocked on the forehead of one of the unfortunates. He, along with two others that were likely spouse and child, were curled up in agony at the base of a tree. "Poor guy - that sucks."

Timmons agreed and he too knelt to inspect their first encounter, "It doesn't make any sense either. He shouldn't be here. This place should have been evacuated before the ship was hit, even if they couldn't avoid it."

Among the corridors leading to and from the biosphere level had been alcoves lined with escape-type pods and hatches still loaded, though whatever batteries or power they had previously required had long ago faded. Through the windows they could see them and the launch tunnels that led to hatches on the surface of the craft; More than enough to carry the inhabitants away to at least temporary safety if not recovery to one of the other rings.

"I'd say that means they didn't know they were going to be hit," he finished with a grunt. "How do you not know? Were their sensors out? You take the time to build something this big but you don't put at least some kind of radar on it? I don't think so - a comet doesn't just sneak up on you from a dark alley."

"That sounds like you're talking about murder," Alwyra said, her voice quiet in a place far too large for a whisper.

Timmons shrugged and looked back over his shoulder to where she stood shortly behind, an odd expression on her face, "Maybe I am. Certainly something doesn't fit together here, and whatever it is, these people paid for it."

He turned back to the aliens and pulled out his hand scanner. Slowly and carefully he moved it over each body, adjusting the settings here and there as he did. They were humanoid after a fashion, with reverse-jointed knees and wide padded feet that looked like they would be very comfortable to stand on for a long time. His estimate was that the tallest - the female - would stand some two and a half meters with the male nearly a meter under that. Both had two eyes raised to nearly the top of their heads which would give them exceptional vision of their surroundings. Between these was the base of a broad trunk that reached to nearly the middle of the chest and by contorting himself, he was able to observe a mouth at the end of this as well as thick elephantine lips. They had no arms and thus the easy guess was; "Probably prehensile."

Standing, he looked around at the flash-frozen trees and other plants, comparing the height of branches and the odd fruit here and there, "Natural selection at work. Their ancestors ate from these same trees and over time those with the best and most nimble trunks passed on their genes, then eventual tool use, larger brains... A perfect fit for their environment. So why did they leave? And why did they die?"

"I'd say we should head for the control center at the far end of the spindle," Kedo offered. "There should be records there in the computer system, but maybe not. You're right," the Neko looked around, sharp eyes picking out other frozen passengers, "This all seems really suspicious..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:29 pm

Virtual Conference, Dr. Saryan Brilla's Condominium, Landor City, Terra Incognito...

"It's brilliant work - and it would work," Saryan began, stepping back from the virtual whiteboard that hung in front of the pair. Beside it were a few more images - concepts of weapons and armor with the prefix 'e' - but her focus was on the equations that filled out the central space, "But..."

"But what," Francine asked, waiting by the mathematical listing for Doctor Brilla to point out some flaw. Her answer seemed to indicate there wasn't one, but there was the 'but'; "But there's a non-mathematical problem. Transferring the waste entropy back into the boundary solves that problem neatly - we could pump as much juice as we want through whatever system we wanted, as long as it has a way to accomplish that transfer and we've got the energy available. But what will happen," she pointed to one particular string of operators, "Is that as we transfer entropy into the boundary the boundary will expand. Except in this case the event horizon won't expand, but instead the Eien will itself expand and I'm not sure we want it to?"

Her face screwed up into an odd expression and she took another step back, staring at the symbols as though she understood them while those of us who didn't do as well in maths considered them just another way to draw dirty pictures. Whether she did or we didn't, it was all broad concepts anyway - at least as far as the decidedly abstract physics of singularities and related holographic boundary manipulations could be labeled 'broad'.

"Right now the Eien has a volume defined by the boundary interface. If we dump entropy into that boundary, we are providing it with something to grow. Which is hard to twist your head around;" Though by the contortions of her face and neck she was certainly trying, "But it's not really entropy, since this isn't a true singularity. The Eien shares some properties with it, but the boundary conditions are self-constructing but they act on information from the outside. Which, in this case, is entropy. The boundary conditions would expand and thus the Eien would expand and eventually it would over-write the reality of the Prime Universe in places. It might even spontaneously form outside connections."

Which was a harder concept to wrap one's head around. The Eien wasn't a construct created from whole cloth; It wasn't a 'new dimension' or some other appellation that would label it as separate and distinct from the Prime. Instead it was a section of the Prime that had been cordoned off with new rules that defined how matter and energy operated inside that volume. Except that the volume wasn't distinct - the house next door - but instead was a portion of the universe essentially 'bare' of existing information. Or at least it had been. Now it was occupied by a large number of people as well as the structures required to sustain those people as well as newcomers for an indefinite time period.

Or at least until the universe came to an end.

"Which would let people into the Eien. If you know where the gateway is;" Only one person - Katryna Silaco - knew where the gateway was and her conscious self was inside the Eien and thus for all intents and purposes unassailable; "You can just sail right in. You won't fit, but you could make your way in. But put enough information into the boundary conditions and it might spontaneously create another gateway. That would be bad..."

A thought occurred and she began to paw through images of the recent past as well as technical information she'd had socked away for later pondering, "Yeah - here it is. That might be how whoever was trapped inside the Dulyani gateway got out. Or partially out. If they could devise a method on the inside to inject information into the boundary layer, they could in theory cause a chaotic event that would generate an outside connection. They were and are still tied to that boundary condition but they'd be able to act by relay on the Prime. Boom, another chance at revenge. But for us what that means is that the usefulness of the Eien would be compromised and it's plausible that eventually the Eien could overwrite the entire Prime. You know, in fourteen trillion years give or take a few billion!"

Doctor Krieger nodded, "We could avoid that by setting up a separate boundary manipulation for these systems though. We'd want to do that anyway - if someone got their hands on them, they could potentially reverse-engineer them and figure out how to do what we do."

"Yeah, but," Something was tugging at the edge of Saryan's thoughts. "That takes care of one problem, but... Something about expanding that boundary manipulation. Information is never destroyed. Energy, matter... It still goes somewhere, and that's what the boundary layer is. Information on how that particular portion of the universe operates. But what if you were to keep putting energy in, make it somehow self-sustaining. Eventually you could over-write the Prime..."

"That would be a lot of energy," Francine noted carefully. "You're not even talking about a PD-galactic-core-generator-level of energy. I'm not sure you'd be able to do that, not given the size of the universe."

"Maybe?" But there was a serious tone in the physicist's voice now. "We've been wondering about that for a couple years now. What was the secret that the Druuth'Haari were willing to destroy a whole star system for? Or whoever controls the giant purple crystal space kraken? One thought was that some faction had the knowledge needed to trigger the Big Crunch. To start the Universe over while they stayed safe behind their singularity barriers. It was enough for one of their number to exile themselves into a locked boundary and throw away the key. We don't know how widespread they are; A dozen artificial singularities in this galaxy, but how many more out there? With that kind of power already at hand, maybe they could do just that..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Dec 26, 2017 12:08 pm

The Doctor's Laboratory, The Moon Minamoto, Hachiman Orbit, Ares System...

"I am a mad scientist!"

Noting the lack of capitalization and the presence of a 'bang' at the end of 'scientist', it was clear that Doctor Ambrose's words were an emotional statement rather than a declaration of his status. The reason for his discontent was clear; Equipped with mask and nutrient tube, he still floated upright in the tube where he had awoken so many weeks or months ago - depending on how one wished to accumulate the days. Various projects here and there had kept him busy but now the isolation was clearly taking a toll on him. His features were drawn and strained and his eyes had sunk in and his posture had curled until he resembled some crackpot hunchback rather than the elder but self-assured genius he had once been.

"Miss Nineteen;" His laboratory assistant looked up from where she was working, hand unconsciously extending towards the clipboard that she would undoubtedly be needing. Something had changed there as well. A week - Or was it more? - ago she would have walked into the lab wearing a near-transparent red camisole over an unacceptably short skirt with tall black or gray heels under her open lab jacket. He would have then spent a few leisure moments enjoying the curves of her body or attempting a glance down her shirt. That was their interplay and that was his purpose in having created her. Whatever his purpose, all that had changed in subtle ways over the past months as she first wore a button-up blouse - fitted, but concealing - then longer skirts, lower heels, now practical shoes, and now the jacket was entirely buttoned up with an array of useful handheld devices in the breast pocket while the other displayed the required identification badge. Her hair was up and not in a messy bun but instead in a Veronica Palmer power-bun, "Yes, Doctor?"

"How long until my new body is ready?"

It was a question that reminded him of the exceptionally occasional trip he'd taken with his parents when he was a child; Are we there yet? Those were now a half-score of decades in the past and both his parents were long-dead in the kind of industrial accidents that seemed implausible at first but upon close examination were the result of a tragic combination of circumstances that would result in both gruesome deaths and an uncontested payout from the insurance companies and suitable seed money for a young man's scientific ambitions. That they had died on the same day at the same hour was happy coincidence for them; No need for husband and wife to spend years apart.

Not that there was much love to be lost - Stephen had been an only child for reasons of good wine and ovulation.

Miss Nineteen began to flip through virtual pages, "It seems that there has been another..."

"Another delay, yes, yes," he snapped, interrupting her with such fervor that she looked up sharply, her normally calm expression now taken aback. "What is it this time? A fault in the cloning module? An invalid gene-seed? What further excuse can those incompet..." His voice trailed off and he stared hard at his appropriately dressed laboratory assistant. His lips moved in thought and after a moment of silent consideration he locked eyes with her, "Miss Nineteen, remove your clothes and have sexual intercourse with Minion 43."

Next to the door the Minion shifted, though whether it was anticipation or discomfort was beyond the Doctor's care. His focus was on Nineteen, who should have already been putting down the clipboard and taking off her clothes. Instead she was looking up at him with a question on her heart-shaped face and her clothes still firmly on, "Doctor?"

"Override Alpha Five Three Seven Charlie; Take off your clothes and have sex with Minion 43!"

Again it didn't work and again it should have; The combination of chemical and genetic conditioning he'd programmed into her should have resulted in her immediately following the second order, even at the cost of her own life. Instead there was only the question on her lips, followed by a thin trickle of blood from her left nostril. That served as confirmation of the truth and he shrank back from the glass, almost disappearing into the green shroud. For long minutes he considered his options while the faint shadow of Miss Nineteen - or whoever she really was - eventually vanished as she went back to whatever she was working on. Just as she turned she stopped and a foot reached up to scratch at her calf...
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Dec 26, 2017 12:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 31, 2017 4:56 pm

Nameless Station in an Unmarked Asteroid Field, The Nomads, Canis Major Extra-Galactic Segment...

"...yeah, lit out-oh-there pretty quick, though I'm sure that was them." The old prospector turned the picture around in his hand, looked the ship over again, and with a certainty that made the Commander suddenly less certain declared, "Yep, absolutely."

"Out of there?" Sloane pressed closer and slid her still-full glass of whatever the locals favored across the table, "So it wasn't here?"

Steady but eager fingers wrapped around the container and lifted it to parched lips for a slow draw, "Nah, not here. Was docked at..." Another mouthful and he searched his thoughts until something percolated to the top, "FalStird? I wanna say FalStird." Leaning back in his chair, he nearly tipped back onto the wide back leg to nudge someone sitting at the table behind him, "Clek - FalStird, ain't that the name?"

"FalStird? Ain't no FalStird - you mean YalStir. Over by the Heaven's Gate nebula..."

"Yeah, that's it," the prospector nodded, tipping forward. "YalStir. No idea why I thought FalStird. Was over there takin' a look around for a rock to sell."

Sloan nodded as if she understood, "Sure, sure. Lit out of there pretty quick? Any idea why?"

"Can't honestly say Ah asked," he answered, sharing a drawl acquired from another old prospector she knew from some fifty-thousand odd light years away. The glass was half-empty now and he eyed it with an expression that said she'd need to provide another shortly, "But it was quick-like. I saw them pull in, and it ain't often you see a ship like that," he tipped the glass towards her picture, "Near FalStird or anywhere else around these parts. 'Spect folks will be talkin' about your ship too. Anyway - I was out in the field pokin' around when I saw her come in, then she left again pretty soon to a half-hour later. Shorter than it takes me to pee."

Despite the clean exaggeration, she nodded again and lifted a finger to summon another drink, "Alright - where's YalStir at? And what can you tell me about it?"

Before the next round arrived he'd supplied the directions and filled in what details he could. YalStir was another mining station situated at the edge of a titanic asteroid field some thirty-seven light years rimward and, according to him, much more orderly than the chaotic unnamed station she'd found him on. Another drink followed that and she left a tip on the table before brushing to her feet and checking her outfit. With the warning provided by the Hornitci trader in mind, she'd added a ratty jacket in the local style of brown as well as a floppy hat that reminded her of a ushanka to her uniform. His story was useful if brief, but there were two more stops to make before she returned to the docks and then to Ojeni...
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:17 pm

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

"So, Doctor Kraus, what's this?"

Whatever it was, it didn't look like much. After a busy few weeks of work on her own project, Site Director Krieger had finally acknowledged the inevitable and had put aside her own pet project to check on those of her charges - Charge, to be specific. Doctor Kraus was the only 'Lead Researcher' under her and by both the value Director Silaco put on his work and by the amount of work it took to prevent some catastrophic event from consuming the site justified the vastly simplified reporting structure. But at least for the time being, he seemed content to do little more than stare with interest at his MicroWarz arena where lights flashed and even a miniature scoreboard lit up as invisible armies slugged it out on the titanium gridiron. Since he was distracted, she took a closer - if justifiably careful - look.

It looked like a flashlight.

A cylinder of what looked like aluminum with a slight oval or egg-shaped profile was sit carefully on a fancy-looking black metal stand. On one end was a fanciful four lobed sculpture while the other end - and higher on the stand - was somewhat cup shaped but in the same style except for the ebony gloss of an emitter of some sort half-buried under the metal. Small knurls covered the space between suggesting a tool of some kind though it wasn't immediately apparent as to what that tool was. A similarly egg-profile lip ran around the high end and there was a small activation stud carefully placed in a small cutout on the wide side of the cylinder. For a hand-held instrument it was somewhat large and the elaborate stand suggested it was more than just a simple device. A slow pace around the isolated station and she shrugged, "Alright, I give up. What is it?"

"What's what?" Kraus glanced up, looking at once excited and annoyed, "Can it wait? I'm... Yes," he glanced back and his eyes remained locked on the play field, "Yes! Yes! Go, go... Score! And a win! Go Devilz!"

"Doctor Kraus, I... Uh, Devilz?"

"That's right! My team," he straightened up and pointed to his shirt that itself bore the same logo painted at the mid-point of his miniature stadium. For the first time she looked closely enough to realize that the stylized gray devil somehow reminded her - or was intentionally patterned after - his own visage. "The Denali Devils. So, you were asking about something?"

She pointed at the object on the stand and he put one foot in front of the other as if he was about to come attend to her question but then his mouth opened and his finger went up, "That? Oh, that! Well, I've got to go put my outfit on then! I'll be right back!"

Pivoting on his heel and without paying at all attention to her incoming objection, he quickly walked towards the storage closet in the back of the lab. Just before the door he reached up, grabbed his head at the chin, and gave it a sudden twist. The whole thing came off with suspicious ease and she watched open-mouthed as the body carried the head inside as his head answered the question she hadn't meant to ask, "New idea I had. Easier to just change your head instead of changing your clothes. Now," his words faded as he moved deeper into the depths, "Let's see... You're going to love this one..."

Her mouth moved but before she could figure out just what she was going to say in response he re-emerged and a whole new set of questions fought for control of her conscious mind. Instead of a lab coat and logo t-shirt over a pair of ratty slacks with holes in the knees, he now wore a cream-colored fitted tunic over rough looking trousers and solid boots while over all this was draped a robe in solid gray with metal accents here and there in the same style as the fixtures on the mysterious tool, "Well, what do you think? Pretty cool, right?"

"I... And this?"

Holding out a hand, there was movement from the station next to her and she turned just in time to catch the cylinder as it rose to the same height and then zipped across the room to land with a slight slap in his hand, "This... is a Darksabre. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster - a civilized weapon for a more civilized age."

Francine's chin sunk to her chest and she rubbed at her eyebrows with the other hand on her hip, "Okay, I'm an idiot. You're doing some weird cosplay..."

"Woah, woah, woah!" His objection was immediate and she looked up just as he struck a pose and flicked the activation stud. A visible distortion in the air emerged from the cylinder to reach nearly half his height in length and an exceptionally thin line of darkness could be seen in the middle. "No need to be rude - this might be a reasonably authentic robe I made myself, but this isn't cosplay!"

With a motion that had to be practiced, he went into a three-point lunge and the end of the blade plunged into a workbench, leaving a perfect round hole far larger than the hair-thin edge of black that had pierced it. Spinning in place, he threw the weapon at one of the cloning tubes in the back of the lab and it spiraled true to split the glass neatly while the purple goo inside seemed to flow away into nowhere in particular. His hand was still out and the cylinder stopped before it could hit the far wall and returned to his hand before he stood straight and the edge disappeared. Hanging it on his belt, he bowed his head and tucked his hands into his sleeves, neatly concealing the fact that one was now missing several fingers.

"You've made a fancy sword."

"No," he corrected, "You made a fancy sword. See, I snuck back into your lab and took a look. This," he looked down to where the cylinder now slowly dripped with blood, "Is my modification of your modification of an Eien Node. Instead of shunting waste energy into the holographic boundary, it absorbs anything it touches into the boundary. It can cut through pretty much anything - I can even intercept incoming fire with it."

"You shot yourself, didn't you?"

The evidence was the blood soaking through the sleeve of his robe, but he objected again, "No! Well, yes, but I got it right after a couple tries. And putting the target acquisition and engagement system from a GhostDragon between my head and my hand;" The Target Acquisition and Engagement System - really its own semi-independent networked Expert II Core - was just the kind of thing that one could achieve when looking beyond the biological to the electronic. Not only was it capable of identifying targets essentially instantly, it could also project where any weapons were aimed, track their possible action paths, assign the GhostDragon's own weapon systems to engage those systems, and do so far faster than one might blink. "It moves the sword to where the weapon is aiming and intercepts the shot. I'm working on a deflection protocol," His face went pale and his eyes rolled up before he pitched forward to sprawl out on the laboratory floor.

"Great." Francine eyed the not-corpse before walking over to nudge the fallen with a toe, "Great. Why can't he stay dead? Just once..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jan 04, 2018 1:19 pm

Shadowport Zids, Coreward of the HSE, Delta Quadrant...

After several hands of casual play it was less apparent why the newcomer was there and more apparent why he wasn't; Nervous but still somehow excitable the thin Human was as easy to read as a hovering billboard for Happy Happy Foods. Playing for points that meant nothing though and while the winner seemed almost obligated to buy the table another round it was fair to say that he would not be paying his unfair share. It was the Doctor who finally asked the question two at the table had in mind, opening as casually as he could; "So, what brings you to Zids..."

"Hmm... Oh, hmm?" The stranger looked up from his cards, pushing one behind the other and accidentally revealing the number and suite. "Me? Oh," he looked up from the table and glanced around the room, "Here? Well, I..." Craning his already slender neck further, he half-rose from his seat to check both the door and the long row of stools occupied by hunched backs at the bar. "Well, I... I heard what you said earlier," he scrunched down into his chair, nearly touching his chin to his cards which in turn nearly touched the grimy tabletop, "You know, about slaves..."

"Oh, ya. Bayin' ahn sellin," Meli answered, picking through her own hand before tossing one into the center. This provoked raised eyebrows from the porcine humanoid next to her; An Ace was still an Ace - until it could be better. "You interested in either?"

Again he looked around and one face in particular caught his attention. At a nearby table a man in a threadbare suit with an earpiece and a distinct German accent sat at an immaculately clean table that may have well been his own personal property. Here and there throughout the evening and even now a patron or three had approached, passed something across the table, and shortly after he too had replied in kind before his visitors abruptly left - almost as quickly as they came. Now the chairs were occupied by two rough-looking mercenaries who'd stayed for longer than most, though the sharp eyes of the table master roamed the room past and through them. For a moment they met and the newcomer sunk lower into his chair but it was only a moment and they passed on without seeming to garner interest.

"I... Well yes," he cleared his throat, "Yes! I mean, yes. Selling, right? Well, I'm looking for someone. I mean, not someone in particular, but someone... Can I see who you're selling?"

"Heh;" and that turned into laughter with even the towering Tweelie joining in, her twittering call bringing short attention to the table from across the room. "It doesn't work like that," ScLappi continued amiably. "We're agents for Prince Heron. If you want to buy, you go to him," he paused, riffled through a pocket and slipped a seemingly blank card across the table, "And if you're selling, same thing. This isn't the kind of thing you want to do too close to the borders of the Empire. Are you," the Doctor corrected himself, "You don't seem like you're from around here?"

"No - I'm from Fisterfaust," he mumbled. "Came here on the Eucer trade lane and I heard you could get things here."

"Whal, I suppose it dapends on what yer' payin'," the Dwarf pronounced, leaning back in her chair and studying him again over her cards. "Maybe if you tell us what you're lookin' for, we cahn help ya out, raht?" She glanced to ScLappi with a shrug of her over-broad shoulders.

"Oh! I have money," he declared brightly. His hands went to his pockets and his cards flopped all over the table in his haste, "Or, well, I shouldn't, you know. Not here. And you say I'll have to go to this," he picked up the blank card and turned it here and there, the mystery of how to reveal its secrets lost to him, "Well, here?"

"Mahbe - agahn, depends on how much yer payin'." Again Meli shrugged, "Ahn why."

"Well, I'm looking," a sudden shyness crept into his tone, "I'm looking for a girl. A pretty one, doesn't matter what species. I'm not very good, you see. No one is interested in boring, dull, me. It's not exactly legal, but I thought, and you, well, you don't exactly care why, do you?"

"Nope! They say ya'h can' buy love - but they jus' didna have enough credits," the Dwarf replied, answering her own joke with a laugh. "Ah'll take a look. Ah know Ah got some pictures oh' the last shipment to come through in here somewhere," she tapped her head, "Ah'n Ah'll pick out the purty ones for yah. Say, wonder if the Slave Prince'll pay me a commi..."

Hopes for a little extra in her pay packet came to a sudden halt as a mug sailed across open space and past the intended victim to shatter with an attention-grabbing crack across the broad back and sturdy armor of one of the mercenaries seated at the next-to table over. Bad beer foamed over laminate armor and a glued on patch with a pair of red lines and a circle over them as he - No, she - surged to her feet and grabbed for the menacing-looking carbine slung at combat readiness under her chest. A hand from her partner halted her arm but it wasn't to stop her; Instead he passed over the chair next to him and instead of red-hot death the seat whip-sawed through the air to shatter across the face of the smuggest looking asshole at the target table. That brought the whole group to their feet and as per unwritten law a half-dozen unsettled quarrels chose that moment to clear debts in a flurry of fists, tentacles, and half-empty bottles...
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:34 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jan 06, 2018 3:31 pm

SDF-Unconquered Sun, In Orbit over Verlaliskarriri, Somewhere in the Delta Quadrant…

Boran & Hagh had a reputation. It was a reputation of discretion and reliability; A good reputation to have for one in their particular sub-set of business. Boran & Hagh also had a reputation because they were a Vahkiran company and that was evident in the willingness to accept a bounty contract on a sitting Ambassador. The Vahkiran lived short lives in teeming numbers and to take that risk - to try and get ahead - was as much as part of their being as their chitinous exoskeleton. Those two details had combined themselves to form something of a narrative in her head and as Erika went over her last-moment preparations before sitting down with their representative she ran through it again.

They'd deny. It would put them in the best legal position down the line and the Vahkiran were as willing to use the law as they were to flout it. She would counter with proof; Statements and video provided by the Blishi'i, Republic recordings of the bounty hunter's craft coming down in their own parking lot, and of course the bounty listing on Boran & Hagh's own black site. They'd admit it; A clerical error. But in that way apparently common to the species (And it was plausible that the representative was not of that species - it didn't matter) they would make the suggestion that the problem could be erased. Corrected. For a fee, of course. That would be their gambit, their way to get ahead despite being caught with their hand in the coconut. The Republic did not negotiate with hostage takers. Even if it was her own wife. The suggestion would be lessened in some way but still the request would be there for payment of some kind. Perhaps they would note that the Republic couldn't just cause a problem on a world not their own and that was true. That was her problem and she'd found what she considered a solution.

In fact, there were two, but she didn't like the second and it would set a poor precedent so she was trying to push it from her thoughts.

She'd threaten. Boran & Hagh was a business and she could ruin their business. Constant surveillance outside every office, every bounty hunter stopped and questioned, every visitor recorded and transmitted to the galaxy at large. The inexhaustible resources of the Republic against a business already on the gray edge of society. They'd cave. She'd cave, at least, given the same situation. Even at ten percent, they only stood to make a couple hundred million off the bounty. She might be nice at that point; If the Ambassador was released there wouldn't be any record of these events and Boran & Hagh could go back to doing what they were doing. They'd have the problem of a bounty hunter who wanted to be paid, but that would be her problem. She'd already made an enemy of the Blishi'i and she'd been...

"Commander..."

"Ma'am!" The urgent call from the Commander interrupted her thoughts just as she was about to touch bottom to seat and give the order for the representative to appear. The hovering cyborg had drifted over to the sensor console as she'd made her way to the command chair and Vincenti had been just over the Lieutenant's shoulder when he'd called out the alert; "What?"

"TRIPWIRE just went off - inbound ship. Unknown drive signature," he paused, wasp head turning to look towards the central holosphere where the distinct overhead view of Verlaliskarriri was replaced by stars and a sudden burst of light as the called-out ship materialized, "You're not going to believe this - the origination point was Ares System, Anuke. Five hundred..."

"They are firing!" The warning was called out and the only thing they could all do for the moment was watch as a spiraling beam of lavender pierced stars and heavens to land on the outskirts of the city where the offices of Boran & Hagh had presumably just been...
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:21 am

A Hallway Conversation, Special Projects Research Facility Gamma, Mars, Sol System...

"...it's an interesting question. Is it ethics? Philosophy? The universe is holographic - or at least some portions of it are. That leads right smack into previous proposals that the universe as we know it isn't real. That this," she turned nearly fully around, pointing to walls, ceiling, floor, and then to the woman who walked next to her, "Is all a simulation. That none of it is real and it is all being created by a very powerful computer somewhere... Well, somewhere we can't get to. Because we're inside it. Holographic theory means that this is looking more and more likely. It's like... Procedural generation. In a lot of games the world you experience isn't entirely unique from one place to another. A tree might have the same number of leaves, the leaves might all draw from the same files, the tree itself. It used to be that they would have a single 'tree' file for the entire game. All trees, exactly the same. But as people wanted more and computing power and storage space increased, so did the detail and 'uniqueness' of each tree, if you want to think about it that way."

"So you're saying that all those galaxies are not unique?"

"Maybe not. Some math here; If you wanted to spend one year of your immortal life on each planet in our galaxy it would take you around eight hundred billion years. That's just mosying around and exploring however you want. And a year - that's not really a lot of detailed experience. Say you pushed out further than that. They estimate heat death or big crunch in fourteen trillion years, right? So that's about twenty galaxies. And there are millions visible and who knows how many that we just can't see anymore? What I'm saying is that while they might 'exist' that doesn't mean that they are anything more than a set of instructions. Think about the Eien. It's basically a new set of instructions drawn over blank space. We didn't destroy anything to create it, but we didn't create it either."

"Okay, so the universe is a computer simulation. What does that mean for us? Can we break out?"

"Do we want to break out? That's the bigger question. Maybe we're in the simulation for a damned good reason. In fact, I was thinking of one this morning. What if we're in the simulation because 'our' universe is already dying or dead? Or we're in here while we're waiting for our universe to reset?"

"Then why don't we know we're in a simulation?"

"How do we know we're not the simulation," she countered. "It's plausible that we are all simulated conciousness. That somewhere in here is the one person that the entire universe was created for and that we're just here so they can kill time until the movie starts?"

Both looked directly at the camera and held their step.

"That would suggest that we're really screwing things up with the Eien? No... Because eventually they'll shut the simulation down and we'll just cease to exist."

"Right - which was what happened before. Our conciousness would cease and we'd die. Oblivion. Nothing. Not even a conception of something. Not fun to thing about, so we've always been chasing that brass ring. Or at least some of us have. But here's the kicker. What if that chase has happened before? What if you or I or that guy," she pointed towards that guy, right over there, as they passed. He in turn pointed to himself with a question on his lips and she shook her head to send him back to the water cooler. "What if we knew this was a simulation going into it? What if we voluntarily locked our memories away, knowing we'd 'die' eventually and wake up knowing everything we knew before and all we've experienced now? There are people talking about that, you know..."

"Talking about what?"

"Conciousness Jacking. Inserting a BioEien Node into a gestating embrio and replacing what will become its conciousness with their own. Then they can live out another life - another existence - as their own. Sometimes they'll know about it, sometimes they won't. Sometimes they'll 'wake' up at some pre-determined point and decide if they just want to punch out because it wasn't interesting."

"...that doesn't sound ethical. Or moral."

She shook her head, "I didn't say it was. It's something the Eien management is aware of though, and they are trying to figure out how to apply the law to it."

"That's good, I think. But what if they catch someone who's done that thirty, fourty years later? After someone has become established in the lives of those around them?"

"And what about us? What if it's turtles all the way down? What if we're inside a simulation, and that simulation is inside another, and..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:57 pm

SDF-Procyon Away Team, Uncataloged Object, Newly Surveyed System...

It was a blink-and-you-missed-it moment.

Literally.

In one instant Captain Holii Jacksyn was laying down on the carefully cornered bed in her quarters, legs out straight and parallel with her arms crossed over her chest coffin-style and the next she was looking out at the curved forward screen and lower pair of helm positions of a small Flare-Class Shuttle. She'd been through the transition before in simulation but now it was both unnerving and fascinating. Then she had woken up to find herself facing her own body with old and new standing in matching cubicles across from each other. Another instant and she was back where she - or at least her accumulated perception of what her body should look, feel, and act like - belonged. When she'd first gone through the process she'd mentally compared it to plugging into a virtual world with the same unanticipated transition from one body to another but this was different; These bodies were real and what they did was real.

Two others were sitting at the console in front of her and for the moment she didn't reckognize either. Both were, like her own new body, default REDSHIRT Gen3 units with the same smooth featureless head and face and the same slightly-bulky armored body. Then the middle-dark brown of their flesh began to warp, change, smooth, and wrinkle until the first matched the boyish features of her helmsman and the other the long-eared fur of the tactical officer. Her own features had changed as well but it was impossible to know - with their backs to her - if either had experienced the same strangeness to the transition as she had. Perhaps telling was that it was a dozen or more seconds before their hands began to move, finding comfort in the familiar controls in front of them. That meant it was her turn and she opened her mouth, half expecting a strange electronic voice but again surprised to find her own in its place.

"Shuttle One to Procyon; Transition complete. Lieutenant," she looked up to the display where a view beyond the hull spread out across the false glass, "Your choice. Find us somewhere promising to put down."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Whether or not he already had a notion of where to land, he touched the controls and there was a slight clunk as the interlocks disengaged and the shuttle dropped free of its bay. Behind it the armored hatch would be sliding closed, slotting into its housing until the compartment would all but disappear against the false seams of the mono-hull. Her interest was on the moonlet though, and the odd-shaped outcropping that marked the presence of something artificial. Without more than a single circling pass the shuttle headed directly for this promentory and the area of deepest shadow. As they approached this disappeared as the exterior lights came on, a single bar-shaped searchlight punching through the cast gloom to reveal a rocky wall studded with the glint and glimmer of refined metal. Without a bump their craft came to a halt, hovering just above the surface while the landing feets deployed.

"Contact, Captain; We're down."

"Good landing, Lieutenant;" A programmed approach was still skill of a kind, after all, "Let's go take a look. Nice thing about these Gen3's - no need to cycle the airlock."

In point of fact someone had beat her to the punch; The shuttle had been depressurized before it had been launched though she hadn't had reason to notice. That allowed the team to exit via the larger cargo door with the Marine armor jumping down first to spread out in a pointed fan between the shuttle and wall. Behind them came the REDSHIRTs, the occupying officers picking their way between the scattered impact craters as they wound towards the slope to leave the shuttle behind. Already the wall rose over them, looming up into darkness where the spotlight behind them faded to nothing. What had been first assumed to be rock studded with metal was shown to be the opposite; Patches of rock worn away to show metal underneath.

"I don't think it's a disguise - I think this is natural accretion," Lieutenant Andrews declared, scooping up a handful of regolith and letting it run out through artificial fingers. "Or they were very careful about making it look natural. I went camping on Diamus - one of Ares' moons - and it was just like this. Soft, kinda spongey. I'd guess this has been here a long time and this," he tossed another handful, "Was laid down as it swept through the rings..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jan 24, 2018 12:58 pm

CORE III Deep Space Station, Deep Space, Really Deep, Dude, Have You Ever Really Just Looked At Your Hands?

"Because it's time to change the locks, Lieutenant Commander."

That was Katryna's answer to Josh's question as to what the Director of Special Projects was doing aboard the station and his first response was to fall in and walk in step beside her as she headed towards the machine that made the batteries with intense purpose in her step; "Why do we need to change the locks? The batteries?"

Without explaining too much, the locks that kept unauthorized users from accessing various bits of Defense Force kit were not the locks themselves. That didn't mean the locks didn't function; They were perfectly functional devices that incorporated the usual array of biometric identifiers - all of which were susceptible to an even wider array of hacks. The trick was that the lock wouldn't operate without the battery to power it and that battery was firmly on the inside of the device. Thus concealed inside the battery was a passive detector that would only supply power to the lock if it picked up a precise dosage of rare isotopes.

"Because the old method doesn't work - or at least won't. As more and more of our officers move into the Eien and gain the ability to process out a raw Extension we'll run into instances where they show up in a new body not printed from one of our replication suites and need immediate access to some system. So what we're going to do is rig them with an Eien authentication system. The battery will recognize the user's Eien Node and allow usage."

"Problem," Josh raised a hand, "What if there's a local FTLi field up? The Eien can punch through;" Everything was ultimately a question of power. Spread out the power generation of a ship with a faster-than-light interdiction field over a ten AU volume and an approaching - or fleeing - ship could simply punch through. Thus most successful FTLi systems used very large generators to interdict a relatively small volume of space. The Eien had what could be called a 'Big Honking' power generator and could.thus punch through nearly anything, at least, "But if you're trying to push nch through a whole fleet's worth of Eien Nodes..."

"Right, so we're going to check for residual radiation along the specific frequencies the HBI has been programmed to emit. Have you seen Dr. Krieger's work on dumping excess entropy - waste energy - into the HBI? Really groundbreaking, though she might not realize it. Introducing that extra energy into the HBI means we can do something with it - even if its technically 'waste'. In this case we're going to set the HBI;" Holographic Boundary Interface, for those annoyed with Katryna's use of acronym; "To emit a certain radiation spectrum that can then function as the key to the lock. Only someone with an Eien Node..."

"...or someone who knows that the battery is looking for that particular spectrum," the Lieutenant Commander put in; "Right - or that particular spectrum - will be able to unlock these systems."

Which included starships, space stations, tanks, fighters, power armor, and even some of the more classified individual weapon systems.

"So the rosk is that if someone gets their hands on a battery and does a tear-down they'll get the key to the whole system."

She shrugged, "True, but we have to have a lock somewhere. And anyone attempting to steal a system might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Most of the GESTALT II Cores are logged in all the time and are passing tracking data to the network. It's a difficult series of events; Cut off the system from the network and move it to where we don't know about, then cut in and know that it's the battery you're supposed to bypass, then unlock the system and prevent it from calling home and triggering a knock-knock from a Courser. You'd probably have one chance to use that information before we'd change the locks. Plus there are the locks themselves - they're pretty good, but no system is perfect. And we'll probably be able to pick up the thieves on TRIPWIRE since generating that radiation will pretty much require a micro-singularity generator and those are like a spotlight to a local BOOBYTRAP array."

"Not the only use for this extra energy though," she went on. "Someone trying to unlock the HBI by pattern-matching the emissions and working back to the boundary state will be looking at the wrong state. They'd then have to know exactly what additional changes I've programmed in and those aren't right here," she tapped her forehead. "All of that is partitioned off from my physical consciousness and isolated in its own HBI I've hidden away... Well, it would take several universal lifetimes on average to find it and there are dummy barriers and ghost traps and... I'm no slouch..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:25 pm

The Doctor's Laboratory, The Moon Minamoto, Hachiman Orbit, Ares System...

For a man certain of himself, the Doctor was decisively uncertain. Of how to proceed in the immediate scale - all of the overrides implanted through a strict regimen of physical, chemical, and mental brainwashing had failed to produce so much as a 'touch nose' from either Ms. Nineteen or the Minion stationed at the door - as well as where those proceeds would take him. He was well and true locked out though the one apparent grace was that whoever had locked him out was not who he had first assumed; "Not," as he told himself, "The Krȃng."

At least here he was certain; From a small patch on the back of her carefully sculpted calf Ms. Nineteen had begun to shed. He'd first noticed it as he followed her around the laboratory with his eyes - one of the few things he had left to entertain himself with - and her constant itching had become far more noticeable. One leg below her skirt was now bare black fur and the other had begun to peel in long strips of gangrenous flesh. Of strange concern to the Doctor - who had already written her off - were the bulges at her hips, plainly visible under the white lab coat. He had his suspicions but without knowledge of events in the wider galaxy they would have to remain unconfirmed. More concerning were his former assistant's projects.

In the middle of the laboratory stood a familiar column. It had been a seemingly innocuous portion of the strange machine born out of the heart of the moon, where he had taken the fateful step that had placed him in this predicament. It was white - nearly brilliantly so - and without feature except for a convex top and a triplet of bulges that acted as feet near the bottom and held it just above the ground. The unit stood on these and then a pad that itself hovered an arm-span above the floor while these both were surrounded by devices created in his own laboratory that projected a soothing blue field all around the cylinder. It was his presumption that these were containment devices of some breed through their exact function eluded him. He hadn't asked and didn't want to - there was an assumption in his head that either the answer would be 'no' or that attracting her attention would suggest himself as a test subject.

That was precisely what he would have done.

Would do, too, if he could manage an escape.

Instead he remained silent, watching and observing just as she was to the unknown object. Sleep came to him from time to time but he wasn't sure whether this was through need or through some outside chemical influence. Time seemed to pass strange as he floated at the edge of the life support gel, the bulk of the lab just visible while only his eyes and the hard edges of the mask he still wore would be visible to her. The first Minion left and another came to replace it and here there was some interest. Whereas she was slowly changing, slowly shedding her skin to become something else, they were unchanged. Interesting that; By his reckoning the Minions would be the hardest of all his forces to subvert. Portions of their genetic series were morphic and he himself had had a devil of a time inserting the operand conditioning. This showed in their ability to both endure hideous amounts of damage and in the colorful results when they were destroyed.

'Perhaps they are not so fully subverted,' he mused, holding his thoughts to himself for once. 'Play me for a fool for not ensuring some method of...'

No? Mayhaps there was a way; Or at least a way for him to ascertain more of his situation. He would have to be very careful - the plan that formulated itself would involve risk to himself as well as risk of discovery. It would be best to wait until Ms. Nineteen left the laboratory and while he waited, he planned. Each movement practiced in his head, timing one after the other. He pondered training his body to the physical motions required but the monitoring devices on the tank might well give him away, 'No, better to quickly practice as soon as she...'

The door slid aside and another pair of Minions entered, hauling a larger version of the surmounting devices between them. Following her pointed instructions they set it up just beyond the first ring, turned it on, and then left with her following shortly behind. Now was his moment but now he was intrigued. Even as his fingers moved to remove the mask and the vital supply of air it allowed him, even as he held his breath for the few seconds needed to press his mouth and body as firmly against the glass as he dared, he wondered. They were clearly meant for containment but was that containment in doubt? Were the devices of the Krȃng somehow more powerful than those of his captors? He had made certain assumptions; One sought those with more power than one-selves to gain power they did not have. But was this seeking a fool's quest?

"Activate security camera display," he shouted, hoping against hope that the vibrations induced in the glass would be picked up by the voice-activation system. "Activate security camera display..."

Across the lab the dark monitors lit up, cameras stationed here and there showing everything from random hallways to the expansive office where Miss Seventeen now ran the day-to-day company operations. He slipped the mask back on, a trace of the green gel leaving a sour taste on his tongue, "Why did I choose Green Apple..."
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