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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:41 am
by Sunset
Exterior of the Leviathan, Interstellar Space, Southwestern Delta Quadrant...

Determining the best way forward was to go back, the team did just that - retreating back through shattered bulkheads and doors askew to the site of their initial penetration and the shuttle that hung just beyond. Here and there one or another stopped to take a sample or snatch up some object left behind by the inhabitants and leaving speculation as to their purpose or that of the ship itself. But most of their conversation focused on the fate of the ship with the preponderance of opinion leaning towards something more sinister than mere accident. Securing their cargo, Jedo once again took the controls to pilot the small craft on a long arc towards the aft end; "Look - that looks like a radar array."

Everyone followed Deania's finger to where she was pointing; A gap between the last enormous once-spinning torus and the six huge drives that would have once pushed the ship away from whatever planet it had come from. If she was right it was a familiar design with a mildly geodesic dome atop a layered plinth with two more spaced out around the circumference. Thick conduits led out of these and into a jumble of similar that linked the titanic drives to the core and then back further still to a module nestled between the dark cones.

"The mystery deepens." Commander Timmons was standing behind her chair with a big hand gripping the shoulder, "We can't be sure, but you're right - those look like some kind of sensor array and there's three of them with good coverage. Sure, maybe one went out, but... Maybe two? Maybe all of them? At once?" He shook his head, no.

"And there's another one at the bow," Annya noted. She'd brought up a wireframe rendering of the ship as presented to the Qasr's sensors. "Based on the potential angles of impact - all four would have had to go down to miss it. We could assume vast incompetence, but... They built that. Assuming it was built in orbit they would have had to deal with hundreds if not thousands of objects from micro-meteorites to wandering asteroids. Why would a comet slip past?"


The shuttle rounded the edge of one of the drive cones, completely lost against the incredible scale of the hollow cavity. As it slid around the corner the spotlights mounted on the nose followed to reveal the aft end of the spanning core, a flattened parabola that was the ultimate destination for the twisting control conduits, and a thin trail of debris that had traveled along behind the ship tugged forward by its infinitesimal but still evident gravity well. Below a bank of armored shutters was a landing bay of some kind with its doors open and waiting but it was the probe of the spotlights that brought the second part of Timmon's answer. One of the shutters was shattered and as the light swept over it they could see the interior, a mess of consoles and stations with more debris clogging the space.

"Because they didn't see it coming. Whatever blew out that window," he put his hands out together, palms flat, "Did it from the inside. And I'd bet good money and bad that whatever backup command center they had suffered the same fate. Pull us in close," he instructed, stepping away from the chair and towards the airlock in the rear compartment. "We'll go in through there."

Alwyra spoke up first, "Wait. That doesn't make any sense. Destroy the bridge, sure, but the rest of the ship still knows something happened. They move to evacuate or at least prepare. Something this big - they'd see a comet coming from a long way away, right? Millions of kilometers? Destroy the command centers before the comet comes into range and they have plenty of time to act. Destroy it after they've spotted it and you're too late. But those people - they didn't look like they were expecting to die. To me it looked like the impact caught them by surprise."

"It doesn't - it's all starting to look like a careful sequence of sabotage. But why?" The Commander pushed off, crossing the gap in a second and grabbing the open edge of the blast shutter, "Let's see if we can find some answers. Best guess we've got ten minutes before the task force arrives..."

PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:57 pm
by Sunset
Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System...

"Director Krieger, there's a problem..." Doctor Kraus stopped - hand raised as if he were being called on to provide the incorrect answer at some ancient elementary school - as a Pyrk woman in a gray coverall walked out of the Director's office with a plastic box cradled in her arms, "In the..." Followed by another, this time an older Oeie who was carrying a very similar box but this time open with the two interlocking flaps on either side. On top of a collection of miscellaneous goods was a coffee cup and a framed picture of what he mistook at first for a manatee and then was proved wrong as a closer look added a sweatshirt with a university logo concealed among the folds; "Down in the lab. Is that your..."

The desk was empty. In fact, with the exit of the worker carrying the box that hopefully didn't contain a picture of either the Director's son or daughter, so too was the room. Even the bookcase that retracted into the wall and slid to one side and that could be easily bypassed by sticking a three-point-five-seven meter wire (no more - no less) down the track to engage the mechanism had been cleared of all the books, framed diplomas, and accumulated beverage stains. Behind the desk sat the chair and it looked and smelled as though it had been freshly cleaned. In fact the whole office smelled of oxygen...

"Oh no!" Kraus put his hand over his mouth, realized that oxygen was still good to inhale but not ignite, and then spun on his leather heels to make a jump for the door and safety only to come to a screeching halt before bowling into the figure now standing in the frame; "Oh yes!"

Fredrick struck a fighting pose, waving knife hands through the air in an intricate pattern beaten into his brain by one too many late-night Kung Fu movies, "Who are you?!?"

"Why;" The unnecessary pause gave him a moment to look the man over. It was clearly a Man - Human - unlike the previous two who both might have been men or women or in the gestating phase of their lives depending on species and there was something immediately familiar. The same full beard, the same mustache that met in a slight 'V' just below the nose, but missing were the strange blue eyes and the specks of gray here and there that gave such a distinguished look. Instead he wore glasses without frames and a pair of overly bushy eyebrows under a swept-back haircut; "I'm Doctor Kuzniak. Actually," he stroked his fingers along his chin and then looked down to tug at the identification badge that hung on the lapel of his lab coat, "I suppose I'm Site Director Kuzniak, since they took away my licence. But don't worry..."

"Site Director?" Kraus interrupted, accompanied by a false kick that nearly sent him lurching forward and into the man's arms, "You don't look anything like me. What happened to Doctor Krieger?! Did she..."

"Kill herself after years of abuse at the hands of a subordinate with an unprofessional streak one-point-six kilometers wide and of equal length and height? No," he laughed and Kraus nearly slipped as his tone went flat and creepy at the end, "Haha - of course not. Even worse," Kuzniak explained, tucking his hands into his jacket pockets, "She was promoted. It seems her work on boundary interface power systems was revolutionary, even catastrophic. Heads will roll for this one, I assure you," he finished, raising a hand still in the pocket and making a chopping motion for unneeded emphasis.

Kraus sank back against the desk, steadying himself or his nerves or perhaps it was the desk itself, which seemed destined to collapse under him like a house of cards under a fat kid with a hero complex, "Promoted, well," he mentally wiped the sweat off his brow, "That's a good thing, right? Congratulations to her then. Why didn't she tell me she was leaving?"

"Because you're an irresponsible jerk and it was that or sink into the bottle until she was nice and warm and could take that handful of pills like she's been considering for the past six months. I read her diary. But I promise," the new Site Director put his hand on his heart, "That I will be a much more tolerant, inclusive, and productive supervisor than she was. Now get back to your laboratory and invent something, you fucking malformed bitch..."

PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:18 pm
by Sunset
SDF-White Nile, In Orbit over Verlaliskarriri, Somewhere in the Delta Quadrant...

Admiral Villanova sat forward in his seat, keen anticipation on his aquiline features as he waited for the next move. The unknown vessel had made the first, firing on the planet below through there had seeming been no damage. More interesting was the reported origin but that only added another twist to the tale; Ares was the Republic's de facto capital system and he'd spent more than enough time in orbit and between its worlds to declare that he'd never seen its like before. Hovering to his right was a small display where the conversation between the representative from Boran & Hagh and the Secretary-General was about to begin. His expectation was much the same as her's; The Vahkiran and thus entities associated with them seemed to gleefully exist outside of civilized norms. He'd had no personal experience with them but what reading material crossed his desk indicated that they would try to claw everything they could out of a deal - if one could be made. The representative appeared, stepping into the image from one side, and there was a very solid clunk under the Admiral's feet.

There shouldn't have been a clunk.

Starships were solid things; There was very little that could produce a clunk sound, not even the stomp of boots on the deck and he hadn't been stomping. He glanced to either side, trying not to take his eyes off the conversation ( can Boran & Hagh assist you...) while still seeking out the source of the clunk which had now been replaced by a subtle hummm that ran through his boots and up his legs. Something tripped behind his dark eyes and he looked behind him to where Lieutenant Huang stood at her station, eyes focused on the console in front of her. She'd been Lieutenant Huang, then Lieutenant Commander, and now Lieutenant again but she was, by all comparison, the best if not more than a little impul... "Lieutenant?"

'You have in your possession one Ambassador Demi Love, a diplomatic officer of the Republic of Sunset. I would like her returned, immediately...'

"Slaving helm to my station," she replied, fingers moving over the glass in precise fury, "Initial course laid and locked..."

Outside, the White Nile surged forward as a sudden mountain of artificial gravity appeared behind its twin shells and sent it falling away at a rapidly increasing pace towards the unknown ship; "What are you doing?!"

"Apologizing. Slaving comms to my station," she added, "Forklis Control, this is SDF-White Nile. Unknown ship in orbit is actively engaging in the kidnapping of a Republic diplomatic officer and has refused hails;" That at least was the truth, though whether she knew it was another question. The unknown ship seemed to be a blank slate, though at least one person was aware otherwise; "And we are moving to engage. Advise all traffic avoid the immediate area with apologies."

He knew exactly what the previous clunk had been now, as well as the source of the ferocious humm that was now traveling up through his chest. Deep in the bowels of his ship the interlocks - enormous physical clamps - on the ship's Cyclone-type torpedo launchers had been released and the great spinning drums full of ordinance had been brought up to speed.

"Laying in target patterns, bringing secondary and tertiary reactors up to power," Janice continued, even as the ship raced closer to the unknown. The lights went dim for a moment and then steadied, "Overriding draw safeties... Arming warheads..." A thumb to its pre-destined position, "Firing forward batteries!"

Below, above, and behind them the bores opened, greedily sucking in their meal as fast as the churning vortex could feed them and bright sparks spat away from the launchers propelled to impossible speeds. In the time that it took to snap a finger they were gone, the great drums empty now as an unbroken chain crossed the distance and sought the newly-established enemy. By their lot and by the Lieutenant's hand some swirled and arced, others crowded together, and still more clung true to their target, though it would be a grazing hit if it was to be a hit at all. This left an opening for the target to respond and broad shields of darkest plum appeared in front of some to destroy on impact while others were intercepted by lavender beams that emerged from strange folds in the tormented hull or twisted aside just in time to continue to their target, "Rerouting power from launchers to primary batteries..."

There would be no need; The bays had been emptied in as long as it took for the Lieutenant to announce their firing. Once again the lights dimmed and as the torpedoes reached their mid-point brilliant cyan lances erupted from White Nile's hull to cross the gap in pulsing stream, racing to catch up and then pass what had come before, slipping through gaps left intentionally or not just as the officer at the sensor station called out, "Admiral, power surge from the unknown - it looks like they are..."

'Secretary-General Silaco, that contract has already been filled and the individual in question transferred to the recipient...'

If they were about to jump it was an unneeded pause at the edge of the abyss. Particle beams slashed at her hull, some outlying structure that would surely be unnecessary to the operation. Flickering magenta hinted at shields of a sort but then they were gone, just as the first brilliant star slammed into the protrusion to erupt in a white-hot jet of energy that punched cleanly as if through paper rather than whatever strange material it was made from. Another slipped inside but there was no explosion, no nibbling detonation that would eat away at the substance of the tentacle. Instead the ship gave a lurch, pieces sloughing off here and there as if necrosis had set in among the tissues of some living thing. Around and behind her the remaining volley disappeared as warheads self-destructed and nearer-still the starship raced.

"Your turn, Admiral," Janice called from her station, "Rerouting power, bringing up aft launchers;" There was another clunk, "Sweep and capture - slaving navigation to my station..."

Fidelo could only nod and push to his feet, the chair flowing up behind him as plates shifted into armor until he was dressed for battle with pistol and rapier in hand. This was a Maxim 2 moment; She was the best, he'd picked her because she was the best, and he'd have to trust that she was doing what was best. It was time to do what he did best, "Alright, Zero Div - Sweep and capture..."

"Good luck."

He nodded again and fell into a half-crouch, "Jump on the Lieutenant's mark..."

Taking a close arc, the White Nile swung past the drifting unknown, the Lieutenant's fingers hovering over her console to respond with fire and death if there was any sign of life left in her. A shadow played over the lifeless hull, a seeming trigger-point established at some point seconds and now hours ago, "Mark! See you in Ares..."

But the Admiral was already gone, a crisp pop the only sign of his passage. That was enough for the Lieutenant and with a flourish she rounded a finger and stabbed at her console, "Next stop, Shiva..."

PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 4:19 pm
by Sunset
The Doctor's Laboratory, The Moon Minamoto, Hachiman Orbit, Ares System...

From what angles the Doctor could see, business across his sprawling facility seemed normal. In Miss Seventeen's office the redhead worked steadily at her desk, bare feet up on a cushioned rest while the instruments of torture sat just to one side ready to don in case of a visitor. What she was working on he couldn't be sure and while the cameras could move and zoom...

'An idea for another time,' he thought, careful to keep both his thoughts to himself and the vile taste of rotten applesauce out of his mouth. The notion of moving the cameras in particular pattern to attract notice was a good one but perhaps it would also draw attention to his attempt at escape. Until he could be certain that she was not subverted; The easy assumption was that she was - her latest iteration dated from the same range that had produced what he now presumed were his nemesis. Still, she was the most intelligent aside from Agent 16 and thus the most likely to note a signal from the cameras. Perhaps the best suggestion that she was not compromised was the state of her shoes - why would they care about their personal comfort or behave in so casual a manner?

That brought his thoughts to Agent 16 and his focus to a monitor on the near-opposite side of the quadrant, 'There is both a problem and a missed moment of salvation.'

It had been her own fault that she had ended up in the cloning tubes again. Even her expert skills had been unable to correct for a sudden rush of the explosive creations of the Krȃng and she had been rendered explosively inert and what scattered parts of her body that had remained were quickly eaten away by the acid spray. 'Fault' was perhaps a poor way to put it, but now the problem was that the secondary cloning facility was no doubt compromised and thus she would no longer offer an avenue of escape - even if 'she' was what eventually emerged when the cylinders were breached and the dark shapes floating within released.

But it would not due to focus on possibilities and reminiscence too long; Miss Nineteen could return at any moment and the jig, as they say, would be up. Sweeping the monitors as quickly as he could, he took in the whole of his operation. In the massive bays ships were being assembled, through the tunnels Minions walked on endless patrols, and outside the laboratory another pair stood guard over the transparent chamber where their master waited for rescue. Did they know? His increasing suspicion was that they didn't. Their unique nature would make them very hard to subvert; Ultimately part of this universe and another, if the documentation was to be believed. Based on what he could observe from his narrow vantage point it was more likely that only the mostly-human members of his staff had been subverted and they in turn were preventing his escape through misdirection and organizational inertia.

A shadow appeared at the lower edge of the camera that was pointed towards the laboratory door and he reached for the mask; If it was Miss Nineteen he would have only seconds to turn off the cameras and there could be no hesitation.

He hesitated; Just as a crest of raven black hair appeared sudden motion on the display next to it drew his attention. Two Minions had been walking the titanic corridor that linked the business offices to the manufacturing wing, heavy rifles swinging in front of them as casually as one might carry a basket of groceries. Then both the camera and the room shook, both instantly turning their weapons upward as lights began to swirl in alarm and debris fell. The chamber shook again and he knew just as quickly that it was not their camera shaking but the laboratory, just as said camera cut out in tumbling motion as the corridor collapsed. On the screen to the right Miss Nineteen had stopped, fingers inches from the control panel that would trigger the door, and she turned to look up and momentarily lock eyes with the camera as the normal grays of concrete and industrial piping swirled with the red of the warning lights. Unconsciously he too looked up to the pointless abyss of translucent gel above him but then back to the monitors with a curse.

One by one they were now going dark, some indicating their doom as rooms collapsed but others disappearing in a flash as humanoid figures appeared from thin air and a static burst followed. More shocks rattled the room and his tank shifted on its carriage, gel sloshing back and forth in slow motion as he was pulled away from the glass. Bony legs pushed him close again and he only caught a glimpse of the last monitor where Miss Nineteen stood outside the door in apparent shock before another quake sent the tank over, the floor rushing up to meet him as he pushed himself away...



Official Republic of Sunset Government and Diplomatic Service Account
Published 2174.89From Ares, Ares System, Ares Super-Cluster

Immediate Notice; Military Action in Ares System.
All ships and vessels are highly encouraged to avoid and evacuate Anuke and Hachiman orbital space due to intense military action. All ships and vessels further encouraged to avoid immediate proximity. Further details forthcoming on the completion of Defense Force operations.¥AresSystem ¥OfficialNotice ¥SunsetDefenseForce

PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:20 pm
by Sunset
SDF-Ojeni, Under Way, The Nomads, Canis Major Extra-Galactic Segment...

"By all indications - everyone I talked to who knew anything - they made as far as this 'YalStir' station near a nebula called 'Heaven's Gate'," Commander Sloan continued, tapping away at the console on the seat of her chair all the while. "If not further. Based on the coordinates given for YalStir, that would have put the Wes'Terly on-course for the region generally considered to be the location of the old empire's home system. That's interesting," she paused, reading through something scrolling down the display, "Heaven's Gate..."


"There's an entry for it in the Blishi'i navigation system," she paused, flipped back, hit a button, but then returned to the previous document. On the main display the ordinary outside view of stimulated stars streaking past was replaced by an enormous gas nebula that sprawled from on side to another. Enormous twisting spirals of blue and purple wound together like tracery until they came to the middle edge where they rose into a curving arc beside nearly nothing at all, exceedingly thin filaments from these two bars stretching inward towards a central point. It truly looked as it was named; A spiritual gate flanked by the outward arms of an artful fence; "Oooh, very pretty!"

But Sloan was still focused on the article, "But I didn't refine my search - there was also a group called Heaven's Gate back on Earth in the... Nineteen-Ninety's. They were a millennial suicide cult focused on the idea that a UFO was following a comet due to pass Earth and that this would herald the end of the Earth and their ascension to a 'higher form'. Coincidental," she closed the article and sat back to study the nebula, "But interesting. Apparently there were a lot of apocalyptic cults and sects during that period - big round numbers."

"Kinda like watching the odometer hit a million light years?"

She laughed, "Something like that. But this is interesting," she sat forward intently then pulled up the virtual console again, "Are there any records of any Blishi'i ship visiting the center of that nebula?"

Whatever the computer's answer, Captain Blaine had her own, "Are you thinking that might be where their home system once was? Some kind of explosion?"

"I'd say definitively." That was Lieutenant Commander Ingersol, who had been silent at his station while the two talked. His own command went through and the image on the main screen split into twin images and then one began to change, flowing backwards until the two arcing bars became a globular mass between the two trailing arms. "This is a time-lapse composite of the past few hundred years, stitched together from various sources. Something;" The image went to the full screen and zoomed in on a point before that point became a black dot expanding as the image widened again and a visible shock wave pushed the nebula apart, "Blew up there. Sorta."

"Sorta, meaning there's no air in space so there's no way for a shock wave to propagate. Which means what we're seeing is..."

"Probably a very intense gravity shear moving out from the point of origin," Thomas agreed, manipulating the image to show one small portion where the gases of the nebula seemed to compress and roll away as a ripple of distorted light came behind.

That was a familiar concept; In fact, something very similar was responsible for propelling the Ojeni through normal space. Some gravity drives worked by creating a 'well' in space ahead of the ship that the ship then 'fell' into. Neither term was completely accurate as both presumed gravity was a sheet instead of a three-dimensional matrix but it sufficed to illustrate the point. The problem was that the well was so intense that it also drew objects - micrometeorites, interstellar dust, minor gases, and more importantly missiles, railgun rounds, and even lasers and particle beams - towards the ship or where it would be. A clever gunner could actually use this to make their ordinance hit harder by slingshotting fire through the edge of the well. Ojeni - and all Republic-drive equipped vessels and craft - worked in the opposite manner where they generated a 'mountain' of gravity and fell away from that instead with the positive effect that fire directed at the ship would be slowed down perceptively as it tried to 'climb' the 'mountain'. Since warships should always be moving anyway, it made the ship that much harder to hit and damage.

It wasn't very nice to the landscaping though.

"Something that intense..."

He agreed with a nod, "Right. The nebula is nearly fifty light years across and the shock wave died out about half-way. So whatever it was that blew was big - and there's probably nothing left. Those tendrils;" Green markings appeared to mark out the faint tentacles of gas that were moving back towards the center, "Are probably from whatever it was essentially 'sucking' space-time back in towards the center. Even if there wasn't enough force in the initial shear;" The extreme difference between one area of high gravity and an area of normal gravity produced something like a cliff edge or shear instead of a gentle slope; "Then the compression from whatever is drawing these back would have crushed it to nothing. I'm surprised there isn't a singularity at the center."

"A Black Hole - but could there be? That would explain why all those ships have gone missing. If they made the same observation and jumped to the center of Heaven's Gate..."

"...right - a naked singularity. They're rare, but they don't have an event horizon. They don't show against the outside universe. But if you touch one, you're gone."

"So let's not do that," Kami decided, turning to look back over her shoulder at the Lieutenant Commander. "Put your best effort into studying that shock wave. Look for irregularities, see if you can get a precise fix on the center. No speculation if at all possible. I don't want to take my ship near a naked singularity without a really good idea where it is. Like one hundred percent. And let's keep all our eyes peeled," she looked around the bridge. "I have a hunch that if that was the location of the old empire's home system, that shockwave was caused by a weapon of some kind. If it was, there might be more out there..."

PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 1:44 pm
by Sunset
Primary Command Deck, The Leviathan, Interstellar Space, Southwestern Delta Quadrant...

"I'd say we're a lot closer to the answer to our mystery," Timmons began, leaning up against an overhead bar with his hands while his legs drifted freely in the negotiable gravity. They'd come in through the ruptured window to find essentially what they'd expected; A command deck with a number of stations in various states of devastation with a similar number of flash-frozen corpses snagged here and there. The explosive had been set right up against the window and while it had been enough to rupture, it had not been large enough to suck the entirety of the room into the void, "But why?"

His foot nudged a floating corpse; That itself another clue. Poking through the debris the team had found that the command deck was linked to the rest of the ship by a long tunnel that led through the very core but after the first door - opened by a still-working mechanism located at nose height - they'd been confronted by another as well as another bit of evidence in the form of a drifting body. Annya had headed straight for it with a statement of the obvious, "They shouldn't be here."

At least not by the observed inhabitants of the ship. This one was an entirely different species; Something of an up-armored felinoid with a long, predatory muzzle and patches of hard, fur-less leather protecting what they could see of the neck and shoulders. Large eyes on either side were crowned by a stiff row of what could have been whiskers, eyebrows, or something else entirely, but were now frozen solid with several cracked off. It was wearing a space suit - also the first they'd seen - made of a red fabric with nothing further to identify it. The occupant had been wearing a hard, translucent helmet that followed the shape of its head but this had been shattered by the next unique object; A gun tethered to the suit by a flexible line.

"Well, that's kind of an assumption," he mused aloud, "But we haven't seen any other weapons and this one is pretty specific to the species."

In fact, it would have been familiar across the broad expanse of human space; A heavy barrel with a magazine in the grip which was molded to the needs of the three-fingered body. The shot had shattered the helmet and punched a neat hole in the side of the alien's head without leaving an exit wound, though dried blood and brains had frozen on the exterior of the entry wound.

"Hard to miss a nose gun," Annya added. She'd taken advantage of her smaller size to move under and around the body without disturbing it too much. This had left Deania to poke through the other object of interest while Kedo and Alwyra worked at the far door, trying to open it and gain further access to whatever ship's components likely lay beyond.

"Very hard. What is it, Seeker?"

"It," she partially emerged from the open hatch that had given clue to something of interest, "Is a computer!"

That didn't seem too interesting - the ship would be filled with them in various forms and capacities - but her enthusiasm said it was more than a simple server or console. That prompted Timmons to leave his post and, hand-over-hand, use the bar as it had likely been intended to pull himself along towards her. She swung the hatch wide to reveal just what he'd expected - a maintenance compartment of some kind with a number of cables coming out of one wall and running into the opposite. A terminal between them was fitted with a number of clamps that held the various cables as well as readouts that would have once supplied monitoring data of some sort. Now they were dead, but of more interest was the computer that sat on top of the terminal. It was a thick tablet with an obvious screen and finger-pattern buttons and more interesting one of the cables plugged into the side and another coming out to plug into the wall running towards the command deck.

"And look at this," she directed his attention upward to where a panel in the ceiling had been pushed or pulled back, revealing a small space, "I bet this was where they were hiding!"


The Akii shrugged, "That's my guess. I think we're looking at sabotage and then mass-murder. Whoever that guy was, they stowed away in this compartment - there's some storage lockers and containers up there, probably food and water - and then, when the ship was underway, crawled out and into the compartment. They hooked this up to the bridge control system," she pointed to the thick cable leading into the device, "And probably set it to first record a loop of 'normal' operations to use later and then to either redirect the ship towards or not direct it away from the approaching comet."

"Extremely speculative," But to the Commander it made sense as he indicated with a nod, "What about the explosion on the bridge?"

"I don't know... Actually," she took her hand scanner out, braced her legs against the wall, and jetted down the corridor back to the bridge. In less than a minute she was back and then clambering up into the hidden compartment, her legs nearly disappearing as she moved around. Another few seconds, "Found it! Traces of an explosive compound matching one I found in larger quantities on the bridge. We had to open that door," she flipped around and poked her head and arm out the hole to point back down the corridor, "So there's no way it drifted all the way back here..."

That was the cue for a useful interruption, "We got the door open. What's going on?"

"I've got a theory!"

"And she's probably right," the big man added. "It doesn't look like whoever did this did much to cover their tracks - aside from launching all the evidence into deep space for who knows how many thousand years..."

PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:24 am
by Sunset
SDF-Unconquered Sun, In Orbit over Shiva, Ares System…

"...Admiral Villanova delivered her personally. We've got her hooked up to the orientation environment and she'll go out with the next shipment later today. She's in good spirits but she's asked if you're going to come visit a couple times."

Erika wanted to; She truly did. But the events seemingly precipitated by her wife's kidnapping required she be in the loop and available to issue direct orders if necessary. By all experience Demi should know that, should understand that, but she couldn't help shake the feeling that there would be a moment of tears in her wife's eyes and she would ask why she wasn't there when she woke up. Duty? Her duty to the state? Or perhaps it would be best to not answer and let Demi give the answer she wanted to hear, "I can't - not right now. There's too much going on. Please tell her I will be there as soon as I can - and thank you."

"I will;" And with that the technician was gone, the hologram vanishing in a puff of nothing and with it the only few moments she'd been able to spare and even those reasonably official. Already her next interaction was waiting with Commander Vincenti hovering just over her shoulder; "Ma'am?"

"Sorry - all done. Admiral Villanova has relayed the Ambassador to the Eternity staging office. She's okay," 'I hope', she didn't add.

That left them with crisis-in-motion still, and the Commander covered each in turn, "Good; Zero has secured the wreckage and its being loaded aboard Aleadalat Al'iilhia for transfer to CORE II. Engineering and analysis teams are already standing by. The locals - Forklisians," he corrected, "Managed to sweep a few pieces under the carpet but we're not going to make a big deal of it. We did destroy a ship in orbit without warning and they didn't throw a fuss."

"Thank God for that. And they're taking special care with it? Complete isolation and containment?"

Normally a job like that would be handled by a Recovery Cruiser, which would move in to grapple the disabled vessel and move it wherever it needed to be moved. She didn't know the details but her assumption was that, both for security and physical reasons, it would be better to transfer it aboard the much larger Aleadalat Al'iilhia and then on to one of the deep-space super-stations where it would be poured over and dissected.

He would have shot her a strange look if he could - the Doso's hovering insectoid head chassis didn't really do 'looks', especially strange ones - but the passing reference to a deity from the distinctly non-religious would have been reasonable cause; "Yes, your daughter is handling it personally. Ambassador Prear has been dispatched to handle any formalities that pop up on the ground. And the Marines have secured the site on Minamoto. Aside from various oddities, they've reported few problems."

"Doctor Ambrose?"

Through the fish-eye lens of the suborned testing equipment in the Doctor's laboratory, they'd had a good idea of what was going on almost from the moment he'd been sealed into the tube and essentially taken captive by his laboratory assistant. There were certain unknown particulars at the time but the connection had been made and even before the White Nile had arrived in Anuke orbit warships from the interior patrol groups were laying siege to the scientist's headquarters. Those defenses had fallen just as quickly and the Marines had swarmed the facility.

But the Commander was silent for a moment before he answered, "We've detained the individual known as Miss Nineteen, as well as key associates of Doctor Ambrose and a good number of his minions. Miss Seventeen, as well as the office staff in particular. But they haven't found either Doctor Ambrose or Agent 16."

Which was by all estimates very strange as the cameras had been looking right at him up until the moment when an explosion had knocked his tube off balance and sent it crashing to the floor. Marines sent to apprehend Miss Nineteen had burst in shortly after and they had found the green life support gel drained away and no sign of the Doctor despite a thorough search.

"Have them keep looking," she ordered, though she already knew it would be useless. He probably had as many escape routes planned out as she did and one had likely been only seconds away.

"Which brings us to Anuke. White Nile is coordinating the situation there, but they have a problem. They've got a fix on the ship's starting position as cross-reported by TRIPWIRE and all the local arrays, but there's nothing there. Lieutenant Huang's had the ship pointed right at it;" As a Venture-Class Heavy Explorer, the White Nile mounted not one but six extremely sensitive sensor arrays including its own BOOBYTRAP platform; "But it's solid rock. They have to be masking something, somehow, but we can't send Marines in until we have somewhere to send them..."

PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:46 pm
by Sunset
Somewhere Below the Ice, Rime, Somewhere on the Fringe of the Ares Super-Cluster...

"I have a question;" That was Commander Meadows. It was his job to ask questions.

"I may have an answer, though whether it will be an answer that interests you or satisfies the question posed may not be the truth;" That was the Nameless One. It was the Commander's job to ask her questions that she might answer. Simple questions of technology - How this particular thing worked or what scientific principles it was based on - were ignored. It was only when the Nameless One seemed to have some wisdom or experience to offer that she was willing to talk, though most of the discussions that occurred deep in the bowels of the ancient ship hidden under endless ice could be less catagorized as that and more as lectures. Since the Nameless One was the only record of events over a million years into the galactic past these were encouraged, no matter what form they took, "Ask."

"Why didn't the Kal-En-Vesho ascend? Advance into some kind of post-Biological Singularity?"

"You assume that we didn't."

That put a pause to the Commander's train of thought and for a moment his jaw worked, "Then how was the Empire defeated?"

"That is a question you already know the answer to, but I do not think it is the question you meant to ask. An explanation to your question requires an explanation of the empire itself, though that term is not wholly correct and that provides some of the answer. The more accurate is the Primarchy; To suggest Empire suggests that the Kal-En-Vesho," she named her own enigmatic species, "Lived their lives above those they dominated. As true as this was, we too were dominated but by ourselves. Each of us held knowledge to ourselves, sharing it rarely if ever, seeking to make ourselves better than each other. Thus the highest among us had power and dominance over the rest, sharing what she knew but rarely and otherwise directing those she controlled to undertake their tasks with their own skill, their own ability, their own resources. Such was the way the Primarchy was built with those below seeking to build themselves the power required to take their rightful place above others. In this the Primarchy was balanced on the edge of a knife; Always growing stronger but always its own peril. To ascend, as you think it, was considered the ultimate accumulation of power. To put oneself beyond the reach of both the empire and its enemies."

"It was not a matter to be taken lightly and it was not to be shared. Your civilization has come across perhaps a few such individuals or entities but rest assured that those few allowed themselves to be contacted. I say this because the primary motivation for ascension was - and is - at its core the concept you call fear. Fear of nothing; Of oblivion. And for the Kal-En-Vesho this was unfathomable. To spend one's life in pursuit of power but to have that final choice un-chosen. Thus for each of us the question of ascension, for those who could attain it, was intensely personal. Each method was their own and they took great pains to keep it secret, to keep it safe. Fear motivated them, for imagine the power one could accumulate if they were to know the hows and whys of another's release. Safety would become slavery. But secrecy is not a pleasure of the busy and so it was with the empire. The Primarch kept her lessers busy so that they would not be able to devote time to this effort while she made her own plans."

"Whole races were bent to the task and then extinguished, her secrets carried to their graves. Some succeeded, others did not, and it is likely we will never know which was which. Often it was as simple as a palace door ajar that would herald their departure; Vanished to be never seen again."

"So the Primarch would just disappear? She wouldn't tell anyone that she was leaving? What about succession," Meadows asked.

"Never. Control must be absolute and to risk discovery or interruption may as well invite death. Tremendous resources would have to be devoted to the cause and this was weakness that might be exploited. The Three," she moved her arms in what might have been gestures, "Would become one, long-laid plans coming to sudden ends as the one who was truly in control of themselves was revealed as the Primarch in waiting. Then the Five," one hand indicated her radial legs, "Would become the Three," she raised her hands and spread them evenly, "And the Primarchy would remain. If one did not already have plans in place to become the One, they would not be Three, and they would not be Five. Succession was always swift but..."


"It was during one of these moments when the first blows of the Great Rebellion fell. The Primarch had vanished and as the empire crumbled there were those who blamed her..."

PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:21 pm
by Sunset
Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the Galaxy...

An egg was hatching.

This would otherwise be no rare occurrence; After all, the tropical rain forest surrounding was full of birds, eggs, and the things that came out of them before they too went on to lay eggs in a cycle that continued back until before there were either. But this egg was quite unlike any that had ever hatched in that particular jungle before. Smooth and with a color somewhere between the gray of rock and the blue of the water that crashed against those very same, it had seemingly set out to answer the question of which came first by being first; There was no chicken nor mother of any sort. Rather the egg had appeared out of thin air with not even the call of a stork to herald its arrival. Resting among a conveniently arranged pile of stones and branches left behind by some creature that might, someday, evolve into something good to eat, it now seemed perfectly at home.

The egg began to crack.

If this was an egg then it too was no egg. Gone was the tap-tap of a hard tooth on calcium shell, replaced with a slight humm as an organized network of veins crossed the surface, each glowing with a faint white light. This turned brilliant as the cracks spread, split, and moved from top to bottom until the middle pushed its way out and that same light spilled in dominant abundance across the rocks, sticks, and nearby scattered leaves. This was a working forest, after all, and thus it was little surprise that a spindly-legged lizard that might not have been reptilian paused in its progress across the faint clearing and turned to look at the egg. Perhaps it wondered what was contained there-in but likely not as the pause turned unfortunate and something resembling a large sturgeon with wings swooped out of a nearby tree and made off with the lizard clutched in gore-soaked talons. That was signal for the largest panel to lift and a pair of equally spindly legs to appear, gingerly touch the rocks, withdraw, and then re-emerge with a sigh, "Why did I chose the tanning lights over the plush carpet?"

These were followed by thighs, hips, waist - and yes, a penis - as well as a rib cage that could nearly be described as skeletal. Bony arms and a face that sported both an immaculate goatee as well as a moderately triangular tan line included themselves and this was topped with both the fantastic noggin of and the shock of white hair that accompanied Doctor Stephen Ambrose everywhere he went. Unfortunately clothes had not and he commented on this nearly as soon as he emerged, though how he had ignored that state for as long as it had taken him to acquire a tan that would make George Hamilton proud was a question better left to those concerned with his mental health and well-being.

"And where in the Nine Hells am I?"

"I could certainly tell you how I got here;" That at least was a certainty. The tank had fallen over and cracked wide where it had met the solid concrete of the laboratory floor. That had sent the thrice-dratted Green Apple-flavored life support gel splattering all over the nice clean surface and the Doctor skittering backwards towards the apparent safety of a sturdy set of metal shelves. At any moment Miss Nineteen or whoever hunted them would come bursting in the door and it would not do to present himself in such a manner - or at all, if he could avoid it. Long-laid plans are the best plans, however, and his mind set upon a memory of an escape planned out in detail before the facility was even constructed. A grate under the shelves came away easily thanks to some false bolts and just inside was a pod prepared by the extraordinarily talented little gray contractors who had done the work. A dramatic press of a button, a flash of light; "But where is here?"

"They assured me it couldn't be tracked. Useful, for one seeking an escape," his foot kicked at a leaf only to discover that it concealed something akin to a slug that sailed off into the wood to explode lushly and with enough force to swirl his hair, "But if one is then forced to escape, not so much, hmm?"

A tap of his long finger on a mysteriously shaved chin and he turned to the pod, "The first thing to do is to panic. As I have already panicked, the next step is to assess one's situation and one's supplies. That I am here means that this world can be survived by humans - of which I am only one by the narrowness of definition - and likely confirms that I will be able to acquire food. Except for the slugs - do not eat the slugs," he noted aloud for his own future benefit. "Is there some manner of..."

No; There was not. By the instrument cluster the tanning lights had approximately two millennia worth of power left but they were the only thing that could perhaps contribute to his survival, assuming he could either find someone in desperate need of Vitamin-D or a quick bronze without the undesirable after effects, "Though in an emergency I suppose I could give someone a sunburn, or hope they are some manner of vampire. Still, wires, batteries, bulbs. Perhaps these cushions for clothing;" No one wanted to see him naked, though some occasionally asked why, when, or how he'd managed to acquire that particular tattoo. "And at worse I can sleep in the pod. Now, I recall the first rule of being lost is to not leave the place you are in when you realize you're lost," he stood and looked around.

The sun was out - a nice familiar yellow-orange - and there were traces of clouds in the blue sky. Trees and low shrubs grew all around him and there were distant sounds of pleasant animals and no nearby sounds of unpleasant animals. If he had somehow managed to shut these first up with either firepower or poison, he would have heard the distant pound of wave on shore that would have indicated he was on an island but without either he could only confine his assessment to the immediate, "And this looks as good of place as any to be lost. So, we'll stay here..."

PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2018 3:11 pm
by Sunset
The Northern Governor's Residence, Kinola, Sakaldale, The Periphery...

"What ill-favored blessing of the gods has brought you to my doorstep," Taidasha asked, stepped away from the door to let the figure standing mournfully in the rain step inside. To apply cats and dogs to the scale was to nearly do the raindrops justice, fat globs of water that fell in a constant hail to splatter against slate roof, cobblestone street, and run in thick rivulets through the leering mouths of stone dragons, horses, and fish that adorned the corner of each roof. That they passed right through the guest betrayed his nature though his demeanor matched the weather.

Inside there seemed an instant change, however, as he looked around the entry to the hilltop manor and nodded approvingly, "Very nice. I can see why you've become a bit of a destination."

Exactly opposite the door there was a fire roaring in an enormous stonework fireplace with an expansive wooden mantle spread above this and this was again crowned by the mounted skull of what would otherwise be known as a dragon, jaws wide and great horn running back from where the muzzle met the face. Chairs of heavy oak with leather tacked between them and cushions tied in place provided comfort to weary backs and the Warlord - she eschewed the title 'Governor' except when paperwork dictated - gestured to one of these while taking her own seat in the other. Not as many years as might be imagined had passed since she'd arrived on the planet by mistake and where he bore more than a touch of gray in his hair she still looked young and hearty, though the lines under her eyes were sure sign of her status as Mother.

Her answer carried a note of pride, "Hard work and careful planning."

Before she'd taken up the mace and donned the armor that now hung on display in one corner, she'd been an Engineer. Not a Technician in charge of changing the fuses and swapping out the occasional module as entropy took its inevitable course but an Engineer who designed and built things, some meant to last and some meant to do the job they needed to do. She'd applied that in conquest and she'd applied it afterwards with the consequence that as new towns and villages cropped up and those older than her expanded, they did so with a certain order and precision that set them apart from the chaotic devil-may-care manner of their previous rulers.

"And that's why I'm here, Governor. Kjarll Raizengi, Secretary-General's Office," he added by way of introduction.

She grunted. She'd already guessed as much by the little atomic sunburst pin on the Bajoni's lapel and a quick check of the augmented calling card he was broadcasting confirmed it. Despite appearances, Sakaldale was not as backwoods as one might ascribe. All of the technology was there but it was hidden away behind wood panels and stone plugs, both for the general citizenry who had nearly all been born before outside contact was re-established and for the tourists who wanted an authentic neo-Nordic experience. The fisherman who spent his days at sea sold just as much of his catch to the restaurants in town as he sold to the housewives and when he went home and closed his door he sat down to enjoy a holocast from hundreds of lightyears away or to a meal cooked to some exotic pan-Asian Danish Fusion recipe, "Warlord, if you insist on formalities, or Tai if you don't want to irritate me. What do you want, Mister Raizengi?"

"Actually, we want exactly that - this," he looked around again. "You see, we've got something of a special circumstance on our hands. Special Circumstances being my job," he chuckled, sitting forward and clasping his hands together. "You see, we've recently come into contact - official contact - with the Ozlukar. Interesting people... Well, let's leave it at interesting," he raised a hand and coughed into it in false politeness. "And we've been offered one of the Ushtar Uzgoth's children - that's their leader, you see - as something of a ward. Gorgor - he's one, by the way - will come to the Republic, learn from us, and then return to his father when he reaches their age of maturity. Which doesn't take very long; They grow fast and they grow big."

"How big?"

That was an important question and he held up a hand, then stood, then stretched, "Big."

Which took his fingers up to the top of the Warlord's own horned head; "Maybe a bit bigger."

Judging by the size of the house that wouldn't be much of a problem. Everything had been built to Troll size, which was to say a hulking, muscular humanoid somewhere around two and a half meters tall. Her visitor might well assume that the small chair he was sitting in was meant for visitors but he would only be half-right; It was for her own children - somewhere for them to sit when they put their boots on.

"And you want me to play host?"

"Exactly, exactly. Sakaldale is perfect - I've done a bit of research - and the clans here have something of a similar tradition with the children of their chiefs living with other tribes as, well," he paused, "As friendly hostages. Ideally they'd form attachments, make marriages, bond the two tribes together. Young Gorgor wouldn't be a hostage, per-se;" The Ozlukar didn't seem to attach much significance to their children until they were capable of fighting or breeding and even then mostly to the first; "But the concept is there. We - I - view Sakaldale as something of a bridge between the... Well, depressingly violent and savage culture of the Ozlukar and the modern galaxy that the Ushtar Uzgoth wants his people to take their place in. So what we're asking you to do is take him and his entourage in, expose him to as much Republic culture and learning as you can, and then in a few years we'll send him back. If his older brother survives, he'll be a capable adviser. If not, he'll be next in line. Hopefully by that time he won't have to fight for it, but," Raizengi shrugged.

"I'll think about it, talk to my husband, my children. He'd probably only spend the first year here," she continued, thoughts racing ahead, "While we build him a separate dwelling. He'd need a tutor; How big did you say they get..."

Storyline Dropped; Sugar Beet People Silly. News at 11.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:54 pm
by Sunset
SDF-Procyon, Far Eastern Beta-Gamma Border Region...

"Well, that was dull," Captain Finn pronounced, stepping out of the shower. Real water was a luxury for many star-faring navies but it was only one of many the Procyon had in spades. She fetched a towel from the bar and ran it down her lean body and then up again, more for the ritual of doing it than the necessity. Wrapping the soft cloth around herself she tucked one end between her breasts and stepped to the next station, a vertical line of rounded squares set just into the wall. There was a beep and a low hum and she opened her mouth so that the subsonic tones wouldn't chitter her teeth. After a slow turn she undid the towel and let it drop, enjoying the strange pressure of a gentle full body massage. It was all unnecessary, of course; This body was only her own as long as she wanted it. But there was something about the ritual of bathing - of cleaning oneself - that felt right, as if it was an endpoint.

"Computer, bring up the current mission log, commanding officer's supplemental notes."

Any bureaucracy ran on paperwork and the SDF - correction, RDF - was no different. In fact just as she'd come back aboard from the away mission via the simple means of closing her artificial eyes and waking up in her own bed and in her own skin, a chime both at her desktop computer and inside her augmented reality had alerted her to another missive from Fleet. General Directive 7860-773-A, Unrestricted, All Service Members; With the authority of the Secretary-General and under the direction of the Senate and with the approval of... Sed ut perspiciatis, unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa, quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt, explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum... Basically, the Sunset Defense Force was to be re-titled as the Republic Defense Force to better denote its status as the military representation of not only Sunset but all the Federal States. For now, the current lettering would remain where a change would result in the unreasonable depredation of function or aesthetics; Basically don't scratch out the 'S' if you can't make the 'R' look like it had been there all along.

Given even the smallest part typically carried the trilogy as a prefix to part or serial numbers, it would have been unreasonable to send either or both her small crew and the REDSHIRTs into the ducts to paint over them though as she began to pull on her uniform Holii was sure with a certainty that some Captain somewhere was undertaking that very process, 'Tiny paint brush in hand...'

Time to compose her thoughts. She didn't really need to add them - the detailed details of the mission would have been filled out by the system itself and more than likely already filed - but more than one observant officer had picked up on something that would prove important later and included it in their supplemental to be discovered by a later reader, "Begin logging," she paused, taking the opportunity to slide her fingers around the seam between blouse and trousers and ensure a seal in the mostly-pointless case of a hull breach, "Mission... Pointless? Erase that. The away mission resulted in no significant findings. The metallic structures first identified by Lieutenant Jacksyn proved to be large chemical rocket boosters covered by a thick layer of dust and debris, likely accumulated by the asteroid's passage through the primary's rings. This suggests the asteroid was moved with some purpose, but the boosters were so generic and damaged that a direct connection to a particular civilization would be difficult. As the asteroid proved to be just that - a rocky body with a higher-than-normal amount of useful trace elements - the presumption is that it was secured for use in mineral recovery operations and subsequently lost or abandoned as initially suggested by Lieutenant.. Ter'Ton. Attempts to access a possible interior proved fruitless and the suggestion that the asteroid might instead be some kind of interstellar snow globe inhabited by a species of sugar beet people has been discarded as fanciful speculation. End logging, playback..."

Sitting on the edge of the bed she listened to her own words, the uncomfortable pauses and unevenness in her voice mostly evened out to her satisfaction, 'I'll get better at it, eventually.'

The bit about an interstellar snow globe and sugar beet people was true, or at least that conversation had occurred. As they'd attempted to ascertain if the rock held some secret the absolutely regular results had resulted in boredom and speculation as to what might be hiding inside the otherwise normal. The most popular, though not the most convincing, had been that the spherical asteroid was really a transparent snow globe-like affair with the boosters as a base and intended to send a colony of ambulatory sugar beet people across deep space secure in their vegetation-draped terrarium...

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:05 pm
by Sunset
RDF CORE II Deep Space Station, Deep Space, Somewhere in the Gamma Quadrant. Maybe...

"I can tell you a good deal about it already," Katryna answered, talking to the side where a hologram of Lieutenant Huang hovered inside an equally holographic frame. In front of her floated - held fast by a network of gravetic mines - the remains of the disabled Sh'Dos ship and over this swarmed dozens of figures from large to small, "I'm just not sure how much of it will be of use. Your little trick with the tandem warhead did exactly what you wanted it to do, but it also destroyed a lot of what made this ship unique - and what would have made it useful!"

"What do you mean?"

Katryna reached out and grabbed the lower edge of the frame and turned it around so the virtual Lieutenant could see the damage she'd wrought, "I mean that we're now missing some parts - important parts!"

At its base, the ship was a skeletal arrowhead with a split bow that resembled something like a beak. This mostly solid forward section then split into a trailing polyp and two arcing spans that filled out the blades. These too had the odd protrusion and these were where the bulk of the investigation was happening but here and there the hull of the ship looked pitted or split and these were what the Director went on to explain, "The technology is a bio-mechanical mix, or was."

"The base is Kal-En-Vesho. We already know that the Sh'Dos were one of the species that participated in the rebellion that brought down their empire, so that makes sense. There are some significant deviations though - a regular Vesho ship wouldn't have been disabled by a HOBD warhead going off inside the hull, though it would do a mess on the crew - which is what happened to these guys. And why we don't have any captives to interrogate!" She shot the younger woman a look, but since the frame was still turned the hasty Lieutenant missed it. "In this case it wasn't just living metal - a nano-material - but also contained a good bit of biological material as well. Which went sploosh."

She didn't get into details as to why that was. While the White Nile's Tactical Officer - and now self-appointed coordinator of the holding action over Anuke - needed to know that those warheads killed all biological life without favoritism, she didn't need to know why, "Which disabled the ship but also completely destroyed a lot of components that would have given us a good clue as to how they worked - and how you can find wherever that ship came from. Let's see," she held up her fingers to tick them off, "There was some kind of abduct-o-ray. Very interesting, we'd love to get our hands on that. Gone. Those point-defense shields? Gone. The faster-than-light drive? Gone. If it had any regular shielding systems... Gone. The crew," she repeated, again with a glare at the back of the officer's head, "Gone."

In fact, the only thing she was happy about at the moment was that Demi had been safely recovered; Admiral Villanova's Zero Division had gone through the interior like a tornado and had tracked her ExoCortex to a chamber where the abduct-o-ray had presumably deposited her. He'd snatched it up and jumped out, sending the rest of his group back to Ares with the Unconquered Sun. They were back aboard the White Nile now but with no way to know where or what they were jumping into, they were keeping their suits firmly on the deck.

"Sorry," which sounded about as sincere as she'd meant it to - not very, "Any ideas?"

"Yeah;" At least she'd called the expert. "Pull up the engineering logs from the Yangtze. There should be a design in there for a tesseract probe. Put your guys to work turning those out, have them jump into where the ship originated according to TRIPWIRE, and cross your fingers they don't have some kind of invisible FTLi up..."

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:27 am
by Sunset
Shadowport Zids, Coreward of the HSE, Delta Quadrant...

A mug of half-empty piss arced through the air and Meli considered it, a half-dozen possibilities suggested by time, trajectory, positioning - and instead of each or any she leapt onto the table and swung her head back and then forward, the mug disintegrating on impact to leave foamy shards of glass decorating her hair like glitter at a rave. Stepping forward, she returned the favor with the side of her boot sending a refill flying across the room to smash into the back of a man's head just as he was leaving. He went down in a tumble of arms and she dropped to the floor in a crouch, avoiding a vicious chair swung by the other half of the mercenary pair.

"Go, that one!" It was an order now, barked up at the towering Maiorca, "Grab him!"

Something about the way he'd headed straight for the door when the fighting had started had attracted her eye. Maybe it was nothing, maybe it wasn't, but beside her Tweelie responded to the command by reaching under the table, grabbing it by the pedestal base, and ripping it bodily out of the plumbing to heft it as a shield. If it was a weapon that was purely incidental though - as the first person who stepped in front of her learned as they crossed the room in a head-over-ass spin - it was an effective one. Lowering herself behind the barricade the saurian let out a roar and charged, the wise jumping out of her way before the foolish were trampled under stylish boots the size of a man's torso. To either side the fight raged on, fists and talons joined by improvised implements mostly taken from the shattered remains of the furniture.

"Dare I ask why you have dispatched our pacifist friend to undertake the capture of that fellow," ScLappi asked, now bereft of cover and making a cautious stand behind a pair of chairs with their nervous-looking guest cowering behind him and thus in the very corner.


A scream of pain punctuated the question and, given it had come from the rough direction of the trail of destruction left by the three-meter monster it was only assumed to be of her doing; "Well, pacifist," Meli scooped up an unopened deck of cards and winged it across the bar at random, the explosion of paper stock only adding to the chaos, "That's taking it a bit far. I'd say... Generally peaceful. That doesn't mean... Duck!"

Something scythed through the air in their general direction, struck one of the occasional support beams, ricocheted off to head in a completely new direction, caught on a table and then flipped like a coin to land neatly on a small squabble with an unhealthy crunch. That turned out to be the table that Tweelie had departed with and she jogged up just a moment later with every step shaking the flood beneath her feet and one particularly strenuous bounce sending a brawler off his feet and into the arms of his rival, caught as fondly as a lover's embrace to be followed immediately by several firm punches to the abdomen.

"Got him!"

She dropped the man at their feet and he landed in a crumple. Meli rolled him over but that didn't do a whole lot of good - somewhere in the journey he'd taken a nasty hit to the face and blood was now draining from a nose that was already twice the size it should have been. There was nothing to do but shrug and the Dwarf pushed him up against the wall where he'd be mostly...


Everyone stopped. Fists hung in mid-air, mugs clattered to the floor, and chairs were rapidly sat upon. The reason was rapidly clear; One particularly blank section of wall near the bar had slid up, or slid down - it didn't matter which - and something had emerged from its cave to snatch up the nearest patron and hold them, kicking and squealing, over a mouth that looked like it could swallow another half-dozen. There was no mistaking an Ogre, at least for those who had heard of the giants before. There was also now no mistaking the voice of Zid, the medium height fellow who now stood on his own bar with a bullhorn in hand, "NOW! Or my friend here will have his fill. You will all stop making a mess of my bar immediately, and you will all start cleaning! You have exactly," he turned his face to the side to check a clock that hung on the wall behind the long plank; It was smashed, utterly defaced, "Five minutes!"

He turned to the Ogre, gave some signal, and the man wiggled as he dangled him over his teeth, "Five minutes, my best guess..."

PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:05 pm
by Sunset
Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the Galaxy...

"Crude, yes, primitive, yes - perhaps even grotesque - yet something inexplicable tells me that this might well do the job..."

Stephen hefted the weapon experimentally, careful not to wiggle or even waggle it overmuch. It was a spear - a simple wooden shaft torn from some innocent tree-like plant - but it was the tip that gave the Doctor both caution and a certain child-like glee. He'd chosen a shaft with a decent fork at the tip and in this he'd very, very carefully bound one of the varicolored gastropods with a flexible length of green vine. Defense, as he'd decided, would readily turn to offense and would surely supply him with his first meal presuming that both his aim was true and that the sudden acceleration of shaft did not result in the premature detonation of his slug on a stick.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained?" He cocked his arm over his shoulder and looked around for a likely target. The jungle had proven to be the natural domain of Man but pickings - those animals of a decent size to make a meal - were thus slim. The rational response might have been to indulge in the local vegetation but where, as he himself had posited, would Man be without Will?

"And we must ask and thus answer the inevitable question - for science, of course." Motion in a tree close to the clearing had drawn his eye and he stepped forward, summoning skills practiced by his most distant ancestors and letting fly, "Does it taste like chicken?"

The shaft sailed well and true, smacking into the truck just below the reptilian avian just as it decided to leap into flight and disappearing in an orange fireball that flung the Doctor instantly on his back. Of the spear there was nothing to be seen and the crown of the tree was on fire but with suitable stomping through the undergrowth the mighty hunter emerged with prey held high in triumph, "And thus intellect again pulls man from the previous age! Oh, and I've invented fire," he looked up to the burning wood. "Also useful."

A sharp rock insured that the flying lizard was indeed dead and a ring of stones formed a sacred circle to receive the flames. Another stick - the abortive brother of the first - and he knelt by the fire to turn his meal on the spit.

"Food and shelter. Water next - though perhaps the fire has the answer there;" But instead of the flames he raised his eyes to the mountain and the thin trail of smoke that lingered at the summit. "A spring, perhaps? Where there are plants there is, by rights, water. To find it - that will be the trick..."

Gosh I've Been Lazy...

PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2018 8:41 pm
by Sunset
Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the Galaxy...

"What a ridiculous - Dare I say concocted - situation!"

Doctor Stephen Ambrose - he would, of course, add 'The Great' before any such usage of his trademarked name - looked up at the bars that stretched overhead and to all sides with irritation. Less than a hundred meters after making a careful exit from the clearing where he had been keeping camp he had stumbled up to the top of a low, rocky rise and just as he had realized it was a trail had glimpsed what could only be an ocean in the near distance. That had put him off the first and he'd trotted briskly down the narrow dirt path, under a tree, and into the un-careful aim of whatever mechanism had previously held the cage aloft. Dropping like a stone - several were secured around the base to give it some stability and weight - the wooden bars had delivered a conk on the noggin that had dropped him to his knees and momentarily into unconsciousness. Now nursing a nice goose egg on the crown of head, he surveyed his situation and nearly repeated his previous comment.

"Absolutely ridiculous! A cage trap? Here? Why, there would be no need for such a device! What would the builder hope to accomplish? The only thing on this island;" At least he surmised that it was, in all likelihood, an island; "That is human-sized is, well..."

There was a long pause as he regained his feet or at least his knees and swept his surroundings, "Me."

But there didn't seem to be anything particularly amiss in the jungle. Here and there the call of something like a bird rose from the high branches, the occasional buzz of a nearby sorta-insect drifted on the air, and no busty beauties stepped from behind the undergrowth to take him back to their village where they would induct him into their tribe in an orgy of tangled, sweaty bodies.

"And more's the pity," he sighed. "Probably improve the local breeding stock. But someone must have built this," he grabbed one of the bars and gave it an experimental shake. Six beams crafted from the local equivalent of bamboo had been drilled out with holes and lighter but more flexible bars inserted and weaved together to form a strong and secure lattice. A woven bag of rocks had been tied at each corner and he kicked at one, the stones rattling as they swung one and twice, "To catch something. But me? I think not."

That brought another thought to mind and he once again swiveled to survey his surroundings. Then his hand went to his furry eyebrows and he shaded his eyes to look towards the sun, "Dusk is many hours away and most predators prefer to hunt by night. So I have some time, though this puzzle is decidedly easy for one of my intellect! Simply put..."

He grabbed the lower edge of the cage and lifted it, faint muscles bulging under skin that was no longer as pale as it had properly been. Scooting one foot in front of the other he scuttled out from underneath, the motion reminding any and none who observed it of a crab with pincers raised to hold the trap.

"I have possible thumbs. Against those without, it would surely prove useful and that suggests that there is some animal about that does not have them and, if physiology suggests anything, that there is similarly something else about that has them. Or at least an equivalent. And that," he stood and leaned against the cage while one hand rubbed at a chin no longer stubble but well-grown with hair, "May prove my escape. Let us see..."

Stepping around the cage and towards the pseudo-tree that had no doubt originated the device - and unaware of his continuing monologue - he began to search for the method, "Since one leads to the other. Perhaps the information gathered will be lax but - Aha!"

Leaves had been scattered across the trail just before the impact site and these concealed two thin ropes - one ahead, one behind - that would serve to drop the cage and give a step or two before impact. These had pulled a knot and sent the cage plummeting to the earth and onto his head. Simplicity itself.

"Ropes, leverage, the knot - primitive, yes, but they have potential. But now a conundrum. My own revelations;" His voice full of modesty; "Suggest that the prey is a nocturnal traveler of some manner. Efficiency would then demand that the layer of such a trap check during the morning hours and so I have quite a wait before..."

A shadow rose behind him and, as he swiveled, there was a dull whack. Without perception he slumped and hands unseen grabbed at his ankles to drag him away...

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:55 pm
by Sunset
Dr. Saryan Brilla's Condo, Landor City, Terra Incognito...

"Back in the Twenty-First - and before - there was a theory going around that our universe was a simulation - a complex computer or electronic construct that 'we' were trapped inside. Some individuals and groups;" Her hand moved across the invisible whiteboard in her usual scrawl, the through-the-glass view giving Commander Brown an interesting picture of an attractive female body in motion. A two-body problem, as it were. She was lacking in clear support though this was less entertaining than disgusting; On occasion the bobbing masses suspended under her shirt would reach out and penetrate the invisible surface to leave a blotch representing some past deposit of chocolate or caramel syrup from one of the confections she'd consumed at some point in the recent past; "Devised various means and methods to attempt to test this hypothesis or to 'break out' of the simulation."

The physicist held up her fingers for the requisite air quotes and, as the particular mathematical motions of a wet t-shirt contest would dictate, left a mostly-matched pair of oblong splotches on her work.

"The problem is that there's no way to know if you've broken out of the simulation or if you're just simulating having broken out of the simulation in your own self-generated simulation, since all of the proposed solutions basically rest on massive amounts of computing hardware. So the idea has been mostly abandoned, though there's a couple religious organizations that have incorporated it into their theology."

"I didn't know you were a student of galactic religion," Brown offered, doing his solid best to keep his eyes up top or at least focused on her nearly-illegible scrawl rather than the works of her secondary attachment points.

She paused and the sway of her formerly white t-shirt had the opposite effect, though her gaze was distant and it was doubtful she noted his distraction, "Nope - just came up on wikipedia and I skimmed the relevant bits all night. A bottle of jack will do that to you."

It has long been understood that a display of one's previous drinking accomplishments - outside of a proper bar or wine cabinet - should be considered tacky, though whether the assortment of liquor bottles scattered around the floor, window sills, or tucked into the opposite corner of the couch where the Commander sat would properly count as a display. Perhaps more they would testify as to the depths of her slovenly personality as even the cheapest cleaning robot would be able to keep up with her mess with ease. That thought passed through and he looked around. Most apartments and condominiums had such things as standard, after all, and...

There it was - right next to him, in fact - a small hatch built into the wall where the automaton would emerge and go about the business of cleaning up the floundering estate. That is, if someone hadn't wedged a bottle of fine Kentucky bourbon in the opening. He made a grab for it, found the neck slick with an inconsiderate substance, gritted his teeth, and tried again. This time the cork came free and a moment later the little drone emerged, immediately extending a manipulator as it found its first mess dripped across the upper surface of its chassis. Tucking the bottle into the corner of the couch, he turned back to the physicist.

"...and the Church of Space Most Infinite. Though there was a schism with the Church of Most Infinite Space over the exact meaning of 'simulation' but that was a hundred years ago and all thirteen members of CoMOIS are dead now. Anyway, I've got an idea, though there's still a few problems. What I'm thinking is that we make a HBI that dictates that the contained space-time matrix is blank. Or at least blank to the best of our current knowledge. No rules, no particles, no branes, no foam, nothing. Just a defined but not defined patch of nothing. Then we monitor it."

"How do you monitor it? Pretty much every method of monitoring that we have now introduces energy of some kind. Even TRIPWIRE adds a very small amount of energy to the local matrix, just above the background radiation. You'd have to be right on top of it to notice it, but its there."

"We'll go the onion method, with an outer HBI using the entropy-sink method to prevent the energy from affecting the blank HBI inside it. What I'm thinking is that we'd be kinda 'erasing' a sector of the simulation's storage. We mark it as blank from the inside and then see if something is written onto it. That does suppose that our simulation - if we're in a simulation - shares space with another or other simulations or processes, but its a start. If something does pop up, we'll..."

*Bing Bong Ding Dong, Ding Dong Bing Bong*

"Hold on," Saryan turned from the whiteboard to the front hallway and the unexpected interruption from the doorbell. Commander Brown held up a finger to object but she'd already caught it, looking down at her sugar-stained tank top with a frown. The simple solution to the less-than-presentable problem was to discard the offending garment with the cleaning drone snatching it out of the air before it sullied the one clean patch of carpet in front of the door and she stooped to rummage under the couch before emerging with both a dusty covered hand and a camisole that looked far cleaner than it had any right to be. Pulling this on over her mammaries she bent and swooped, tucking them into place before turning to the door.

*Bing Bong Ding Dong, Ding Dong Bing Bong*

"Now who the fuck could that be..."

Options ran through her head - her boss, her boss's boss, any number of once-off lovers come back to get their things - but as she triggered the door panel and it swept aside with only a faint hitch of something sticky she was not expecting the armored figure who stood just outside. Old fashioned plate armor with the drape of a tabard dangling between his legs and a bucket held fast in two solid looking gauntlets. Just for a moment she caught a glimpse of a intricate case built into his breastplate, a book inside slowly turning page by page where his wide brown eyes could just look down to read it. Just as one parchment page turned to the next the slosh of water hit her, covering her from head to toe and immediately sticking the almost clean shirt to her voluptuous form, "AAaaah! What the..."

The knight turned and walked away, the bucket swinging at his side, but Commander Brown was already at her elbow, "Oh - sorry. I think that was for me..."

PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:59 pm
by Sunset
Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the Galaxy... Maybe?

No prophet written, Doctor Ambrose's first words on regaining consciousness might well be remembered as such, "Well, whoever it was did the best with what they had."

During his time of slumber either he or the cage or possibly only one had been moved from their previous residence to what could only be described in that wonderful colonial mindset as a native village. Lovely round huts thatched with something like palms circled around him, each half-dug into the earth with a single door that also served as a window accessible by a sunken stair. The notion immediately struck him as foolish; A tropical island such as this must normally receive a certain volume of rain and thus the houses would be flooded. But the technicalities of civil engineering were mostly ignored for the more immediate concern as the cage was again circled with the recipients of his first remark.

"In fact, very interesting," he admitted, rolling onto his side and then pushing himself upright to squat in the middle of the bamboo apparatus.

Whether they in turn were entirely interested in him was a different matter. One might expect, given the previous description and its loathsome cultural bias, that the villagers would be standing around the cage with spears peering intently at him from behind intricately carved masks, warpaint, or bloody hand-prints across hooting ape-faces but this was fortunately - at least for the author's reputation as a person of the modern era - not the case. Instead one was leaning against it with one arm straight, casually talking to another while two children (guessing by their diminutive appearance) were sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce just beyond the bars and one poking in his general direction with a limp-looking stick. A few more were sitting on a log bench and preparing food, tugging the husks from something that might have been corn if not for the shape of the pod while another pulled the skin from one of the flying lizard creatures he'd seen earlier.

All present had the same general appearance and while he could not be sure that they were not only some tiny fraction of a large non-homogeneous body the odds were significantly in his favor that they represented the general species. They were all humanoid - another mark against the writer for human-centric thinking, I'm sure - but it was the easiest way to describe them. Since he was capable of standing in the cage (though he had not tested this particular cage) then they would be on the average taller than him with lean, muscular bodies doubtless enforced by a near hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Woven plants and shaped wood made up the bulk of their apparel with leather lashing keeping things in place. To keep things simple he assigned them male and female, though since only the females had what he would classify as 'breasts' and all wore some kind of covering over their waist and hips it was impossible to know whether the particular male attachment was present, missing, or multiplied.

To be certain, the species had more to distinguish itself than just a latex forehead. He was certain that upon closer inspection some distinguished from the regular human form would present itself but the most striking feature was often - and in this case was - the individual's head. There was a chin, yes, and a mouth, yes, and the second was curved into a natural smile that might indicate a pleasantness until one observed that the mouth and thus the teeth were curved into a gentle upward arc. A parting of the ways put a row of nostrils or some other sensory organ along the cheekbones while a fleshy ridge with a serrated appearance separated first one pair and then the other of eyes from each other. The four eyes were spaced with one set narrow and smaller and the other set wider and large, giving them a particularly wide field of vision.

They did not have hair but instead their bald pates were intricately decorated with a raised pattern. This somehow reminded him of a county fair and the false tattoos made using henna that were occasionally popular at such low-brow gatherings. Some also wore these across their shoulders, breasts, or arms and thus he immediately assigned some yet-unknown significance to them. The most likely was that they were some form of hierarchical marking, though he was dead wrong; The wandering troupe of artisans who provided such had departed just the previous day and he would have to wait until the next turning of the moons to receive his own decoration.

"But they are talking," he noted aloud, "Rather than communicating via telepathy or radio waves or sexual congress and so," he ignored the stick that poked him in the arm, "It should be of little consequence for one of my prowess to establish a rapport with them and assume my rightful place as their leader as I... Well, lead them," he sighed, disappointed with the repeated use of the word, "Into a glorious future based on science and reason!"

"So," he hauled himself to his feet, careful to duck just enough to avoid the bars and thus prove his earlier hypothesis as to their height correct, "Let us begin! I," he pointed to himself and caught the eyes of one of the children, "Am Doctor Stephen Ambrose."

"We know," she answered, batting away the stick before her brother could again accost him with it. "Did you know you talk in your sleep?"

PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:22 am
by Sunset
Special Projects Research Tower, Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

"At full capacity, the three fully-operation VLEMA's outstrip the Academy's capability to produce new officers in a week - which presents two problems, possibly more," Katryna explained, sinking into the voluminous leather of the antique chair. First designed by Charles and Ray Eames, it outdated the office by over two centuries with the rest being of a more modern dark glass and steel design. One whole side of the office was taken up by high floor to ceiling windows and this served to belay the harsh atmosphere; Outside was a wide balcony rimmed with glass and beyond the beach with its endless waves and deep blue sky.

"The first is perception; We don't want to start an arms race by putting as many ships as we can into the field. That's just not who we are or who we need to be. The second is capability. Already we're seeing some negative effects from the roll-out of both the REDSHIRT program and the accelerated officer commission program. By the numbers we've lost more ships in the past six months than we did in the past six years. Of course, we have more ships to lose - and we didn't technically lose any personnel - but those losses create an image problem as well as a problem of expectations."

"So what's your solution," Grand Admiral David Edge asked, sitting forward on the glass-top bench that sat parallel to one of the towering windows. Either end held a planter but the flowers contained within were odd, alien, and dark rather than in any sense cheerful. This only served to emphasize the bright day outside and the warm sun across his back didn't help.

But these were questions he'd had himself; As the head of the Defense Force's Logistics Command, all of these questions were his official domain though Katryna seemed to dabble in everything.

"I'd like to start by rolling back the accelerated commission program and really get on the Academy Commandants about rejecting or preventing more applicants. The process has, in my opinion, gotten too predictable and easy to overcome. There are even services that will let you rent a body for both the application and for the duration. Yes, the Force largely de-emphasizes physical ability past the Academy, but that's not the point to the physical challenge of the application process. Commitment, perseverance - that's what we're looking for, among a host of other things."

"I think I've got an idea there," he offered. "In fact, its something you've done from time to time, if I recall. We'll put forward a class challenge - make the application and admissions process harder. As hard as they can. We won't use all the ideas of course; I'd imagine some of the cadets would gladly put their potential fellows through a literal meat grinder. But we'll give the Commandants something to work with."

"And I'm sure they'll roll their own ideas into it. So, yes - slow that down. We don't need a new crop of officers and ships every six months. Extend them back out to two years. Which will leave us with the next problem and that will be three largely idle VLEMAs. We can produce some stand-by needs but..."

"We've already produced most of those," David countered. "I've got huge stockpiles of REDSHIRTs, power armor, tanks... Everything. Just sitting out there in cold storage."

By 'out there' he really did mean out there. In the darkness between the stars both orphaned planets and rogue asteroids roamed, along with the occasional frozen comet. These were the ideal locations to stockpile war material that would hopefully never be used, both hidden and well-preserved. They'd even stumbled across similar caches left by truly ancient civilizations in that way, all ready for wars that either never came or passed them by.

"Right, so, I've talked to a few of our leading minds and come up with an idea. What we'll do is fit the operational arrays with what they're calling a HBI Conduit Node. It basically allows the arrays to shunt the spare energy they collect into an Interface and then out again. When they are idle they'll send their spare energy to the Baby Velmas that we're putting up out on the periphery;" That is, on the very edge of the galaxy - not on the edge of the Republic. Small 'p', not capital. "And push forward their completion. Yes, that will ultimately leave us with the same 'problem' of having too much capacity but I'd rather have idle hidden capacity than over-active public capacity. Eventually someone is going to figure out just how much juice you can get out of a star and crap themselves..."

PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:02 pm
by Sunset
The Exact Same Special Projects Research Tower, Landor City, Terra Incognito, Blah Blah Blah...

"Basic medical services?"

"That's what we're selling it as," the engineer replied, spinning a floating in front of him with a quick finger. It was more to entertain than design; Whatever it was seemed to be mostly completed or likely entirely so.

"The Ozlukar are slavers - very prolific slavers at that. They've basically painted their civilization into a corner; They can't support themselves, so they need slaves. They're just barely industrial, but they want to be star-faring and since they don't want to - and kinda-sorta can't - do the work themselves they're stuck. The higher-ups have made it known that we're not going to be correcting their course via military action - too many slaves in close proximity; We'd kill tens of billions or something like that. Instead they are working the diplomatic angle and offering assistance in improving their industrial base. Give them a couple generations, better schools, nicer neighborhood... Home loans..."

"Right, and basic medical services?"

"Not for the Ozlukar - for the slaves. The average Ozlukar would sooner rip your arm off than allow you to poke them with a needle. If we used needles," he corrected. "Special Circumstances came up with the idea and asked us to do the back-end work. Which is what this is."

"And it is?"

"Integrated ExoCortex? Multi-Function Personnel Maintenance Implant? That sounds good. I'm sure someone will come up with a suitable acronym. In detail, it's an ExoCortex with an attached Nano-Medical Unit, a tracking device - so the Ozlukar can keep track of them - but I've come up with some additions. Since slavery is yucky. I've added a Plexus node and an Engram Control Module. Instead of working the slave to death, we'll load a generic non-sentient 'worker engram' and the individual can go... Do whatever. They've got a Plexus node. They will be trapped in that body, but as long as they aren't smashed by an angry sapient walrus they should be okay enough."

"What's next then?"

"Well, we - they, Special Circumstances - have to okay it with the big man, the UU. It's a good deal for them; They'll get better, longer lived slaves, but will he be okay with the idea that the person that was previously the slave is free to fuck off to some virtual fantasy realm? According to the scuttlebutt, he's a pretty sharp guy. Which might mean he doesn't care. He's not the kind of person where it's better to ask forgiveness than permission. If he's okay..."

"We'll set up receiving stations at the various arrival points. The slavers will receive a small sum for every slave processed - an 'Inconvenience Fee', they're calling it - and we'll hit them with a broad-spectrum immunization and this implant. Could be drones, could be trained locals - they've even got this idea to make it something of a religious experience. Slaves who serve their masters well and true - and with this implant - can expect to find paradise when they die. It will give them a reason to bring in their existing slaves for implantation. Another reason, at least."

"What about long-term?"

"Long term? Better schools and slow progression of their industrial infrastructure. When we've got them up to a reasonable point we'll throw the switch on a VLEMA and move them directly to a self-sufficient automated industrial state. The trick is getting them to that point..."

PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 11:38 am
by Sunset
Marie's Fury, Windsole's Nebula, Ares Super Cluster...

"Qu'est-ce que vous avez dit?"

"I said, 'We want you to accept their challenge," Lieutenant Horimoto repeated, his voice as level and as neutral as the gray uniform he wore. This was in contrast to the Captain and crew of Marie's Fury, which ranged from fabulously piratical to everyday dockworker with not a single note of uniformity between them. Captain - Lord, as the hierarchy of the Sanglanti pirates went - du Fontaine was decked out in a large slouch-brimmed hat and an intricately cut doublet and trousers with a wide belt bracketed with pistols on either side and a rapier hanging at his waist.


"Because we know very little about these Vorr," the odd man out answered. Unlike the rest of the deck crew, which stood casually near their stations, he was off to the side and half in the shadows where his features were near-indistinguishable. Reflecting his businesslike-tone, he stood at what might be called parade rest, though the organization he belonged to did not regularly indulge in such traditions. He was a traditional man, however, and from a traditional family that stretched back through the joint effort that had established his homeland and further back to the previous Imperial age. His father had been an officer, his father as well, and so he too was an officer, though the rising sun had been replaced by orange and gold.

"They've issued a challenge, apparently as part of a ritual hunt. They seek warriors and hunters who are their equal."

"Then why did you not take up this défi," Marq said, stabbing his finger into the man's chest. "Pourquoi posez-vous cela sur nous?"

"Because the Republic Defense Force is a professional service - We do not engage in pointless combat."

"Merde... And this is not what you pay us to do either," he countered, "Or what we do ourselves - Nous sommes des aventuriers audacieux, pas de petits voyous! You ask us to lay our lives down so you can learn something? Where is your honor?"

"Mon honneur est le mien, and what risk is there? We will replace your ships, your bodies - all we ask you to do is fight. Obviously, you will be well rewarded, and already have," Horimoto said, continuing, "There will be a substantial bonus offered, win or lose. Say... Two ships, of your choosing."

There was not even a moment of calculation behind du Fontaine's dark eyes, "Deux navires? Whatever we want? Where?" He corrected, "Where will this trial take place?"

"Here. The Vorr will begin their hunt once we have formally accepted the challenge;" Though this wasn't entirely accurate. The Republic wouldn't answering the Vorr's challenge. They had already refused. Instead they had directed the Vorr to Admiral du Paix, who had in turn suggested Lord du Fontaine as suitable to the task. Horimoto was the go-between, a liaison between the scattered pirate flotillas and their secret paymasters in Republic Intelligence - though as many star-states maintained unofficial privateers it was more a sideways secret than truly hush-hush.

"Et toi?"

"I - we - will be watching. Fight well, Capitaine..."

And then he was gone, faded away just as suddenly as he'd appeared. Lord du Fontaine looked first to his crew and then to his surroundings, suddenly aware that time was not on his side. The nebula was the ideal place for such a thing with broad bands of gas in various densities scattered across nearly half a parsec - something like two light years - of space with a smattering of asteroids and proto-planets for variety but so too was his fleet scattered.

"Connard - Appelez-les plus près. Nous trouverons une couverture parmi les astéroïdes et attendrons que nos invités arrivent..."

To call it a fleet would be to inflate its ego. Perhaps if substituted by Republic WarShips it could be called such, but a handful of Raiders and the battered old Draconis-Class Cruiser that could be called a flagship did not a fleet make. His best hope would be in the pair of Republic-supplied Corsairs that hung behind him but to win a pitched battle would be an interesting trick; They were pirates and smugglers, in the end.

"...Merde! Qu'ai-je accepté?"

PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:39 pm
by Sunset
SDF-Ojeni, Heaven's Gate Nebula, Canis Major Extra-Galactic Segment...

"Captain, I've got good news, good news, and bad news..."

Captain Blaine looked up from her meal as the voice ran through her skull, "Oh?"

"You might want to come up to the bridge - as I said, good news, good news, and bad news, but it's not urgent. Just better on the big screen."

"Alright," Kami rolled to her feet with a sigh, "I'm on my way - keep your pants on," she finished, Commander Sloan supplying a snicker to the out-loud response; "Or put them on?"

"Or put them on," she agreed, tugging her uniform blouse on over her bare torso and sweeping the remains of dinner off the bed and into the disposal. By the numbers she was off the clock - though Captains were never truly off-duty - while the Commander was headed for the last half of her shift. That put Thomas as over-hours or over-eager, though both were normal when the lead sensor officer had a puzzle to unfold. "Let's see what he's got."

What he had was already laid out across a dozen screens and projections until Ojeni's forward bridge looked like the entrance to a Las Vegas astronomy convention. Across the center screen was the greater mass of the nebula while in the holosphere at its foot was a wireframe laid out over a blank expanse of stars. Sub-screens showed numbers, data, and - spotted out of the corner of her eye - the screen above the Lieutenant Commander's station where a ship or wreckage of some type floated.

Her immediate temptation was to hover over Ingersol's shoulder, if said ship was what she hoped it was, but in an act of bare self-restraint she hopped the rail and landed with a 'thump' in her command chair, barely avoiding a dramatic displacement of the previous occupant, the duty officer having risen to her feet just as soon as the door swished aside, "So, what do we have? It looks like... The hind end of Lieutenant Marsh! Lieutenant Commander, what is this strange area of space you've led us to?!"

"...good news, good news, and bad news," he repeated, though she could practically hear the exaggerated eye-roll from her seat. "Let's start with the bad news."

"Okay - what's the bad news?"

The bad news was front and center, "Whatever was at the center of the nebula is now gone, and I'd put good money that it was the former home system of the empire. Poking around the edges, I've picked up enough sensor data to say with certainty that the gravity wave was artificial in origin. Very rapid, very sharp. But I don't think it was a weapon."

"Not a weapon?" By the enormous hole it had left in the nebula, she was willing to put her own money counter to that bet, but he continued, "No - I think it was either a drive malfunction or - possibly - a successful use of an unknown faster-than-light drive. For certain values of 'successful'," he qualified his answer. "Whether they had decided to destroy their home system in the process is up for questioning, but as I said - I don't think we'll ever know the answer to that."

"The reason I think it was a drive malfunction or test is this," he directed their attention to the holo-sphere with its wire frame. "From our point of view - the view of the galaxy - it looks like the event is a circle or sphere. That would make sense if it was a weapon, but its not. Away from us the remnants of the shock-wave taper off into a teardrop. Not very pronounced," he demonstrated, rotating the sphere so the slightest little point was as pronounced as it could be, "But there's something there."

"So... Whatever it was went that-away?" She pointed straight forward, which coincidentally matched both the direction of the ship and the original direction of the point; "That's right. And whatever it was had to be big - really big. Or it was the most colossal drive malfunction you've ever heard of."

"Have you considered the possibility that they took the whole system and up and left?"

"...No," and his fingers tapped away at the console, "But you could be onto something there. I'll do some numbers, see what we've got. Though you realize that if they did, they still destroyed a half-dozen or so systems and whole stars on their way out?"

Manipulating the forward image, he rewound it back through time and then highlighted the systems that had been there previously. Out this far, at the very fringe of the very edge of the galaxy, stars were few and far between but they were still there and were there no longer.

"If you're going to move a whole system, presumably you've got enough shipping to evacuate... Hold on a tic," she paused, leaning forward in her seat to study the central screen. "I don't think they did. That's what the Nomads are, right? So whatever happened, they either didn't tell anyone about it or didn't want to. Then the shockwave forced the inhabitants of the nearby systems to flee, mass chaos, small groups taking whatever transport they could find - and then we end up with the strange segmented cultures!"

"That could be..."

"Alright - Sloan, see what you can dig up during your shift. Unless Thomas has something more urgent come up..."

For a moment she looked as though she was about to rise from her chair with a yawn but he interrupted, "Not done yet, Captain - I've got good news and good news."

"Okay, so what's the good news?"

"The good news," he flicked one screen to the other, "Is that I've found the Wes'Terly. Or rather the sensors did when I was poking around the edge of the sphere. Blishi'i Revelation of Grace-Class Explorer," he highlighted the outlines of the mottled gray ship. "Even better, it looks to be mostly intact. And Captain - they are transmitting a distress signal. It's very likely that no one was able to pick it up because they're right at the inside edge of the gravity shear."

'Mostly' was relative. The long crescent-nosed ship looked to have been broken into three pieces with the nose one of these and one of the two split engine pods the third. Past that destruction was general, with the surface of the ship looking as though someone had taken it by the leg and beaten it up and down on a concrete floor. There was less debris around the ship than she suspected there should be and she put this question to the sensor officer, "Where's all the junk?"

"Likely swept along by the gravity wave. Pretty easy guess - they probably jumped right into the wavefront and got tossed around. But there is a distress beacon active, and that means they have power."

Which might not be much power; Kami had heard tell of a resourceful Otterkin activating a Defense Force emergency beacon by putting the wires under the electrodes some asshole was using to torture him. It hadn't been much, but the pulse had got the attention of the Fleet and that was enough. Still, her plans for a relaxing evening were abandoned.

"Helm, you think you can get us safely through that wave?"

"But... I still haven't gotten to the other good news yet..."

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:57 pm
by Sunset
Interior of the Leviathan, Interstellar Space, Southwestern Delta Quadrant...

"Of all the ships in all the places, it had to be you, didn't it?"

In one broad corner of Commander Timmons' vision Captain Turbell shrugged slight and smiled sly, "Not as unlikely as you'd think. Out last assignment was just finished when the orders came through to assemble Sawhorse. I talked up the chain and put us in for the assignment - can't hurt to attach another multi-role frigate to a job like this."

Even without the great bulk of the interstellar derelict dubbed the Leviathan to add its own emphasis, the scale of the coming operation was easily indicated by the great number of ships recently arrived. While the smaller frigate hung close to the Qasr, there were a dozen recovery cruisers hanging around the flanks of the titan while a small group of warships held sentinel over both these and a pair of fleet transports trailing a long chain of cargo pods behind them. Over all of these stood the greater bulk of a Resolution-Class Tactical Dreadnought while a trio of far smaller Opposition-Class Destroyers zipped around them all in enormous lazy circles.

"Can't hurt to catch up on old times," Timmons replied. "Or new times either, right?"

"Right you are. So - what happened here?"

"Do you want the facts or the working theory," the explorer answered, taking a moment to pause at his labors. Inside the monolithic vessel the team had been making their way down the access shaft that led from the command deck situated between the great engines to the closest habitation ring. It was not a short trip - more than enough time for the promised task force to arrive from wherever they'd been assembled.

"How about both? I'm sure Fleet will want a full report, but since you're a civilian now, I'll do the reporting and save you the time."

That put the working theory as his preferred starting point and he hung back further still, allowing the entire team to pass him by so that he could tell the tale and proceed through the wrecked corridor at his own pace, "Then we'll start with mass murder - possibly genocide. Tens, even hundreds of millions. That's what this looks like. We've got a civilian population consisting entirely of a single species while we've found the body of a saboteur of another. Based on the evidence, it looks like they were on board the ship when it launched. A space deliberately prepared for them so when the time was right they could strike. They intercepted the data lines between the ship's sensor system and injected their own data, then blew out the command bridge so they couldn't avoid an imminent collision."

"With what?"

"A comet - you'll find plenty of ice and snow trapped in the wreckage around the impact area."

"Comets aren't just something that pops up," Turbell pointed out. "If I were building a ship this size, and launching it, I'd make sure its pointed as far away from known comets and asteroids as reasonably plausible. Old fashioned launch windows."

Timmons nodded his reply, "And that fits well with our theory. Our guess is that we're looking at a situation where two sentient species evolved or was somehow forced to live on the same inhabitable planet. This species - which looks to be herbivores - lived alongside another that appears carnivorous. Now, being sapient that's not likely to matter as far as the functions of living together, but it certainly could indicate a wide cultural gulf and that's our guess - at some point one or both parties decided to remove themselves or the other from their previous living accommodations. But that wasn't good enough, so these carnivores decided to eliminate the other species entirely. Now, it may be more complex than that, but that's the working theory."

"That sounds exceptionally vicious."

"Hard to color it any other way - given your point about comets. They put them on this ship, launched it with a comet in its path, disabled it when it was close, and let it murder how many millions. It's not a sleeper ship either - the residents were awake and aware when it happened, though they probably didn't know until it hit. I'd like to trace its course back and see if we can't pin things down, but the collision likely knocked it off course and its been out here so long whoever it was is likely long-gone..."

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:40 am
by Sunset
Welcome to the latest iteration of 'In Case of Emergency...'! Are you interested in establishing relations with a new civilization? Exploring new cultures? Solving a mystery or two? Or even just having a conversation with some newfound friends over tea before sending them back home from where they came? 'In Case of Emergency...' has done all that and more and you're invited to join in! This thread is open to all technology levels and all ability levels, but there are two things before you jump in. The first is to read the introductory story below. The second is to read the rules below that but everything starts with the discovery of some mysterious wreckage and some strange purple capsules...

RDF-Tontongo, Deep Space, Ares Super-Cluster...

"I've got something..."

The announcement from the duty officer at the sensor console was exactly what Captain Y'livia had been waiting for and she sat forward in her command chair, expecting the results to be momentarily pushed to the enormous display that stretched from wall to wall and floor to ceiling ahead of the two forward duty stations. Two minutes ago something had set off an alarm in the early-warning array that stretched across and protected the Republic's core worlds from a surprise attack and Tontongo, as the closest idle ship, had been dispatched to investigate. Based on the data supplied by the array, they'd emerged nearly on top of the contact at a distance she'd ordered as 'just a bit shy of respectful'; That is to say within easy sensor range and just at the edge of the starship's optimal engagement range.

But there hadn't been anything - or at least there hadn't been a ship. Something had arrived in this random patch of space via some form of faster-than-light travel but it had taken a couple seconds worth of sensor returns to confirm that it wasn't a ship and was instead something else. That 'something else' appeared on the screen and she leaned further forward to try and make it out against the darkness while the Lieutenant at his station looked up at his own screen - a mirror of the larger - and tried to dial in the image.

"Debris, Ma'am. Working on finding a match now;" The first she could see, though without even looking over her shoulder to check the status of the computer's search against its exhaustive databases she could tell it would be difficult if not impossible to determine the origin from here. What little remained intact, or presumably so, resembled nothing she'd ever seen. Thick threads of orange and brown wound around each other and fused together or splintered apart at each end to form what might have been a mesh or a net-like arrangement. If it had once been one piece, one item or vessel, this was now scattered into dozens of tumbling pieces with most being the size of her own body or less, according to a scale in the lower corner of the screen.

"What's that?"

Deep in the debris field something had caught her eye and she touched the controls on her armrest, dragging a marque around the area of interest so that it expanded to fill the entire screen. Between arm-thick strands of ocher and umber there was a glimpse of glossy magenta, a hidden object just catching the light from some distant star or nebula or even from the Tontongo itself. It might have been round but slow movement of the surrounding clutter revealed it as a medium-long oval, again perhaps slightly longer than she was tall. Something about it in particular drew the eye and she sat back to consider it, one hand supporting her chin.

"There are more - three, by my count..."

"Right - Helm, take us closer. Call it fifty thousand klicks. Engineering, prepare a shuttle for launch. Redshirts only," she referenced the autonomous cybernetic humanoids that now composed the large majority of her ship's 'crew'. "Orders are to examine and determine if that debris is safe to bring aboard, particularly those purple capsules. Lieutenant," Y'livia turned to the sensor officer, "Coordinate with engineering with anything else you find. Anything dangerous or worrisome, pass it to me immediately..."


Welcome to the latest iteration of 'In Case of Emergency...'! As the title states, this thread is open to all role-players of any technology & ability level with an eye towards giving each participant their own story within the framework of the larger story line that will unfold during my replies to the individual posts. To help accomplish this, there are several rules that ALL participating players must follow:

I: Each player may discover between one and four of the individual capsules mentioned in the introductory story above and a reasonable amount of debris to accompany these or or one to four capsules and no debris or debris only and no capsules - the capsules will largely center around character interaction while the debris will be of a more technical and problem-solving interest. The where, when, and who of their discovery is up to the individual player; As example, capsules can be discovered in deep space, on the surface of a barren moon, or deep underwater and by a military organization, backyard astronomers, or a child playing in their backyard - the exact details of this discovery are up to you and should be the focus of your first post. The same is true of the accompanying debris and - hint - how* exactly either arrived at their current location will be pivotal to participating in the larger story line.

II: Every player's story is separate and players - aside from you and me - do NOT have to interact if they do not want to. My intention is that each player will discover the larger story for themselves and act and react individually. If you want to interact with another player, please ask them directly and respect the normal conventions of inter-player interactions when doing so.

III: I alone will determine who or what occupies the capsules and what constitutes the debris and I will write their non-trivial interactions. Some flexibility - largely depending on my perception of your writing ability - is possible but the first point is non-negotiable.

IV: I will respond to the oldest unanswered post first. This is to be both fair and to motivate me to get to your post as soon as possible. Some posts will be long, others will be short, but I will reply with something!

V: Questions? Drop by the NSFT Discord Server and I'll be happy to supply answers!

*To get a good sense of 'How', please read the introductory story completely. Your particular 'How' does not have to match this, but all of the capsules start their journey by arriving in the same manner though not in the same place or even in the same time.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:27 pm
by Sunset
Shadowport Zid's, Coreward of the HSE, Delta Quadrant...

The five minutes was up and, much to the clear dissatisfaction of the ogre, had never looked better. Or at least looked better than it had during the previous five minutes; A table in the corner was covered with a suspicious tablecloth while several others lacked a full complement of chairs. Most of the refuse - including the chairs - had been stuffed down the disposal chutes and perhaps one or two of the more inconvenient combatants had accompanied them. At that same table the towering Maiorca sat chewing on a suspicious-looking toothpick.

One might wonder how the table, so freshly tore free of its moorings by said same dinosaur, had managed to be restored to working order but they would not have to wait long for the answer as the cloth was brushed aside and Meli emerged from the shadowed interior, "Whel, tha was a bust..."

"He doesn't know anathing," she sighed, taking her former seat back and pushing a loose pile of scattered playing cards around with her broad fingers. "Jus' ah cowardly type who didn'a want a punch to the face. Never hurt ahnyone - do em a fat lip of good in some cases. We'hl," she winked, "Least tha's what 'e says. We'll see what he says after a' few hour'so holdin' up the table!"

There was a suspicious groan from under the fabric and she silenced it with a foot, "E' don't know nothin' bout these Kul'Drathi..."

"The Kul'Drathi?"

At first Meli thought the question came from Tweelie and she looked up at the saurian as if she expected the beaked humanoid from half-way across the galaxy to suddenly spout either a fourth eye - they had three - or a font of knowledge about a civilization possibly located some sixty-thousand or so light years from her own homeworld. This was not to be the case, as convenient as it might be. Instead the looming dinosaur turned to the side to look over her own shoulder and incidentally reveal a much, much smaller figure standing there.

This was Zid, proprietor of the establishment and owner of an eerily similar high-pitched voice. She'd never had the opportunity to observe him up close and with the bullhorn missing. To keep the description short, he looked very much like someone had crossed a Hobbit with Leptoceratops Gracilis right down to the pushed-in beak that resembled a chin and a natty vest over a long-sleeved shirt, "What do you want with the Kul'Drathi?"

It was a moment of rare hesitation for the Dwarf and she paused, looked to the side where her boyfriend had also resumed his seat, and mouthed what could only have been, "Ah knew Ah should'o asked the barman. Ah'ways ask the barman if 'e's heard ahny rumors..."

Apparently the barman was possessed of both superior skill at reading lips - perhaps expected in one of his trade - or he was mildly telepathic. Since it was a big galaxy and either would be possible, he again repeated his question but this time with a note of exasperation, "Yes - What do you want with the Kul'Drathi?"

"We're looking for them."

Zid looked around the table, eyeing each in turn. His opinions he kept to himself, but they were apparently such that he was willing to hop up on the remaining chair and lean forward, again taking a oversuspicious look to either side. That drew the rest of them in, even the nervous-looking newcomer who had been interested in buying love. Then his fingers plucked at the tablecloth and he studied it for a moment before subsiding with a shrug of his squared-off shoulders, "Look, I don't know why you're looking for them, and I probably shouldn't care, but I'll tell you - they are bad news. Had one of their ships come in - just once, mind - and they docked nice and clean. Sent over a shuttle, but it was loaded with soldiers. Marched in like they owned the place, surrounded one of the tables, and grabbed a feller."

"Then they walked right back out - never saw him again," he finished, sitting up and looking over his shoulder to where the incursion had presumably occurred. "Never seen anything like it. Didn't say a word."

"How do you know these were the Kul'Drathi," ScLappi asked.

"A couple ships tried to contact their ship. Strike up a conversation, do a little deal. Usual thing around here. All they got was a recorded message warning them to stay away from the ship, but it mentioned the name so there you are. Can't say I've ever seen anything like them - not that there was much to see."

"What do you mean?"

"Oddest thing," the little man answered. "When they walked in here, it was like they were floating heads. But they had to brush by a couple people in here and you could tell they were wearing some kind of optic cloak. So the heads were masks, though why they didn't cloak them as well - guess they figured it would look intimidating. Big bug-like things," he pantomimed, drawing a roughly triangular shape around his own rounded-off rectangle of a head. "Painted the same as their ship, all white and gray and blue."

"Look," he leaned forward again, his voice louder this time, "I don't know why you want to know about them, and since you're currently holding up one of my tables with one of my patrons, I probably shouldn't care, but these guys are bad news. Don't go looking for them..."

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2018 5:33 pm
by Sunset
Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System...

Doctor Kraus was walking on eggshells with his new boss. For a couple days there he'd considered making the adage literal and scattering eggshells in front of Site Director Kuzniak's door as a sort of early-warning system but the more likely scenario was that he would then be tasked to clean it up and verbally abused until the deed was done. Since he had no desire to spend the better part of a minute or even an hour on his hands and knees in front of the man, he'd disposed of that particular plan in pursuit of another.

It had been a long time coming, really. He'd gone soft, and all of the guys at the club had been saying so. But it was so easy to just keep puttering along under someone else's light yoke, doing this or that. But now the yoke was heavy and - for a few minutes last week - literal. That incident had been the straw that had broken the camel's back and now...

"Well, I'm movin' on up," he sang, his smooth baritone strangely enjoyable, "To the east side! To a deluxe apartment in the sky! Yes, We're moving on up - To the east side! We finally got a piece of the pie!"

Whistling the next few stanzas, he piled one object after another into the plasticboard box and then closed the flaps, securing it with the tabs before heading for the door. It was almost too easy; While Site Direct Kuzniak - he didn't know the man's first name - was a tyrannical and cruel dictator, he was also chained to his desk. Literally - he hadn't asked why but it was likely that he didn't want to know. To facilitate this awkward arrangement he'd had his office moved adjacent to the main hallway and between Kraus' laboratory and the bathrooms.

It was a clever plan but perhaps too clever; After the first week of defecating in the corner cubicle, he'd engineered a new implant (Good News! It's a suppository!) that converted his bodily waste into toxic gas via a catalytic process. It was a marvel of chemical engineering and he'd won several patents for the design but enough was enough.

"Nope, cause I'm moving on up! To the east side!"

Pausing with his foot nearly in the air, he peeked around the edge of the Site Director's door until he just caught glimpse of the man, who was sitting at his desk and clearly absorbed in either paperwork or pornography. Assuming an upright confidence and timing his stride so that it would only take one long step to pass the doorway he stepped past and was on his way. One box at a time.

Then it was out the front door, onto the back of the little Vespa hover-scooter he'd picked up online, and through the woods to the clearing where it would be stacked with the others. Eventually everything there would be moved to here and for the last trip he'd take a picnic with his wife and son.

"Totally, one hundred percent normal. Except for the part where I build my lair into the side of an active volcano!"

Maniacal laughter followed but then a sudden pause - so sudden that he almost went over the handlebars.

"...this has been his plot all along! He's just trying to get rid of me..."