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Sunset: Then, Now, Tomorrow (Nation Maintenance)

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

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Sunset
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Postby Sunset » Mon Nov 12, 2018 6:56 pm

RDF-Thessalonica, Ceruchul Orbit, The Coreward Expansion Zone, 2175.908...

"...and there she is, Master Asimas. The Milky Way Galaxy," Captain Antria said, gesturing to the image spread out on the forward display with one hand while keeping the other three carefully tucked at his back.

"Is it?"

"What was that?" The Ju-Docri asked, looking down at the squat and vaguely rhino-shaped humanoid. It was unfair to describe every species encountered as a comparison to a well-known Terran species, but there it was; The Dru looked like squat humanoid rhinoceros with the exception that their horn rose from each cheek (likely an over-sized bicuspid analog) and joined together between their widely-spaced eyes. Like many of his particular culture, Master Asimas had elected to carefully bore a hole through the joined horn and hang a pendant there, symbolizing his wealth, power, and status; Against the hulking umber body of what many humans would assume to be a fierce species it was quite disarming.

"Is it? That is not a window - it is a picture of some kind." A few steps took him to within arm's reach of the display and he reached out to tap his knuckles on it. "I knew it - it's a picture. A moving painting."

Antria sighed; There was the problem with not having any windows. When the locals wanted to see space from, well, space, they weren't really seeing space, were they? The designers didn't put windows on warships because that was a dumb idea, pretty much always. But the Dru were just at that pre-Industrial point in their development where they had...

'Telescopes - should have gone with a large telescope.'

"Very perceptive, Master Asimas. We don't put true windows on our ships for the very reasons I laid out in my presentation to the Council; It is a dangerous galaxy and there are those who try to take advantage of any possible advantage, no matter how slight."

The Dru turned back to him, "I said I wanted to see it, so I could believe it with my own eyes. We have the saying, 'It is only that which we can touch that we can believe.' Of course, it was said to keep children from being taken advantage of in the market, but I will say it now - show me your galaxy or I will not believe it!"

It took another moment for the Captain to come up with a solution, "Alright - actually, there is one window on board. Back the way we came!"

Not that it was a very long trip. The Thessalonica was one of the new model starships and thus the truncated command bridge, crew quarters, crew areas, and then the small auxiliary shuttle bay were only a couple hundred steps away. In fact the last was right next to the bay where the shuttle they had taken from the surface was now docked; The auxiliary bay was intended for the rare occasion when they might have to receive visitors that were not using a Republic-model shuttle or transport. Thus the it was that they shortly found themselves in the shuttle control room where an actual window looked out on...

Well, pretty much nothing. Since it was likely that the bay would only be needed in an emergency, and there was still the likelihood that someone might well shoot at them, the outer door was not some fancy airlock field or force screen but instead an honest and enduring slab of composite armor on the other side of an empty room.

"Open the hangar door; Master Asimas would like to see the sights..." Turning to the control station, he half-expected to see a real live crewman sitting there but instead it was a faceless (literally) REDSHIRT, but his orders had been perfectly clear and a moment later the armored curtain began to split in the middle, huge teeth visible for a moment before they too retracted as the wall passed into floor and ceiling. Beyond were the stars and the curve of the planet.

"Much better! Well, I don't expect I'll be able to go touch them, but..."

"Actually. Well, maybe not the stars themselves. Very hot. But we can get closer. That would be one of the many benifets of joining the Republic, Master Asimas - you and your people would have every chance to go see them..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:02 pm

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

"It worked!"

"It did work!"

For a moment, both women looked at each other and just for a brief moment there was the possibility that they'd link arms, dance around in a circle, and make up an impromptu song about the whole thing working. But it didn't and after a few seconds both women sagged in relief instead - though they kept the silly grins. The problem was that it hadn't worked for a good hundred or so iterations but after a few real-time weeks on the job they'd finally managed it; A stable, living boundary condition.

That is; It was alive. Or more accurately; It had been. The goal of the experiment had been to create a holographic boundary manipulation that was alive - a self-replicating cellular structure - and they had successfully pulled that off.

For all of a minute.

Then the self-replicating boundary had consumed its available structure supply and promptly died.

"So there's the problem, Sari - living creatures need to keep consuming energy in order to stay alive. The problem there is that if we were to create an HBM that is alive and unconstrained, it could just eat everything it has access to."

"Right... So you and me. And everything in the universe, given ability. That would be bad." The Physicist sank to her seat on one of the two available chairs in the small research area. In fact they were the only chairs; Two researchers, two chairs. Why have more?

"That would be very bad, but also unlikely. Essentially we'd have to give the HBM the tools to do that. Program them in. What we need is an HBM that is both alive and limited by its own programming. More like a person where we can change our ideas and thought processes without substantially changing our body. The problem is..." Holograms and diagrams began to flash under her fingers, quickly assembling a collection on the work table between the two.

"The more volume or potential volume we give this thing, the more likely we are to encounter a cascade scenario where the HBM realizes its limitations and then finds ways around them. The closest mathematically model I can find is the one for our own Instinctive Intelligence Cores. The larger the core, the more likely it will be to evolve to sentience and the less time it will take to do so. But the larger the Core, the more useful it is. If you want a sentient Core, you're going to have to accept that its going to go off the rails occasionally. Like me!"

"But I've got a body and that body is a certain size," Katryna continued. "My 'brain' can grow no further. I mean, there's a few tricks, but the part that makes me 'me' is always going to be the same size. But there's not a lot..."

"What if we layer it?" Saryan broke in. "Like an onion!"

"...we use that analogy too much. Onions, ogres, the Eien..."

"But it's a good analogy," her opposite countered, "Especially in this case. We don't want the HBM to be able to grow beyond a specific size, so we'll only give it a specifically sized 'home'. Program the boundary conditions of a different..." Her fingers tapped away at a virtual console, "A different HBM that surrounds the first. Make the first conditional on the second so it can't grow beyond those constraints. Give it a body..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Nov 15, 2018 2:02 pm

The Secretary-General's Office, RDF-Unconquered Sun, Roundtable Docking Ring... Republic Date 2175.919

"...alright, alright - Alright!" Erika threw her hands up before retreating to the safety of her desk, leaving her wife sitting alone and on the long couch that faced the floor-to-ceiling picture window that stretched along the opposite wall and through a positive throng of holographic people. Demi had a confused look on her face but as soon as she'd retreated behind the black walls the Secretary-General set about restoring order to the chaos.

"Okay - I'm not sure how you all managed to book the same appointment, but we'll handle this. First," she raised a hand and looked from face to face - some of who she only barely recognized - and asked the important question, "If what you have to discuss could be considered classified above the level of... Admiral - we'll make a new appointment right after this. Unless someone is declaring war on us."

That at least cleared out the room to a handful as the other handful walked out the door to the outer office where her secretary - who should have been handling this instead - would correct the problem. Maybe. Maybe a sit-down chat with her secretary should be next on the docket...

"No wars? Anyone?"

That was unlikely anyway. If certain conditions were met, that information would start flowing directly to her head and she'd already be deep in an accelerated reality determining the Republic's political response. 'General' might be in the title but any actual war-fighting or intensive planning would either be handled by the professionals or had already been gamed out long ago. Arrays of deep space sensors would turn their focus on the determined adversary in question, fleets tucked away alongside them would turn from their course, and ships would appear around distant systems to disgorge the very dangerous arrays that would herald the momentary arrival of those same fleets.

She was not so they were not.

"No? Okay - then we're good to go. Let's start with... Doctor Kraus," she pointed to the researcher, who had been - up to that moment - chatting amiably with a fellow researcher from Special Projects that she didn't immediately recognize. So where was her daughter? And why weren't they talking to her instead? "What's on your mind?"

"Hmm?" He looked up from the much shorter woman, "What... Oh! So you know. Well, I guess..."

"...know what, Doctor?" She sighed. She didn't have many face-to-face dealings with the unwashed hordes of scientists and researchers who toiled under her daughter's aegis at Special Projects, but Kraus's name and work had crossed her desk more than once. Often with warnings attached. "You wouldn't be here if you didn't need me for something - spit it out."

Looking back on his colleague perhaps a bit too fondly, the scientist walked over to her desk and took the seat she'd indicated; "So?"

"You said 'what's on your mind?' so I thought you already knew and..;" She glared at him. "Oh. Well, figure of speech. So I've been working on this interesting project and I thought you might like to see the results."

"Me?" She eyed him again, a finger pointed to her chest, "Why not Director Silaco? Or... Site Directer Krieger?"

"Weeeell, the first said she was busy, and the second told me to - and I quote - 'Die in a garbage fire'. I'd press a complaint but I was talking to her through her bathroom door so... My bad."

Erika hung her head with a sigh. The man was using up every facial expression and body language indicator she had and it wasn't even noon. "Your bad. So what were the results? What was the project?"

"Ah!" He gestured with a hand and another hologram appeared over her desk, a pre-prepared demonstration that drew the attention of several others. "A while ago Francine came to me and asked me if I could figure out whether people have souls. Which," he turned around to survey his impromptu audience, "Total Poppycock! No souls, not ever, no matter what. But I did get to thinking... There are a lot of people out there who have pretty strong views on bodily integrity. Or at least cranial integrity. Even if the consciousness is migrated to another sub-strait, as in the ExoCortex, they believe that this is basically slowly killing off one body and activating another."

"Which, they're right and they're wrong. But I've got a way past the problem. This," he pointed to the center hologram, which looked exactly like a human brain with an ExoCortex plugged in, "Is a KrausCortex. At least until I figure out a better name. What I've done is create a 'MiniExoCortex' that inserts itself into each cell - trillions - and monitors it for signs of health. Those then communicate with this," he pointed to the implant at the back of the skull, "Which can send out repair or replacement units as needed. As long as they have power, and undergo regular maintenance themselves, they can keep the brain alive essentially forever. If you then take that brain and transfer it to you-know-where..."

He looked at her with a wink and she nodded back, "Right - put it in the Eien. It's a messier solution than the ExoCortex, but for those that value their cortical integrity... Good work, Doctor. File your report with your Site Director and I'll be interested to see the technical details when it crosses my desk. Next!"

Next turned out to be one of the small crowd that had assembled to watch his demonstration, a four-armed Ju-Docri in Republic uniform that she recognized as Captain Antria after a moment's thought. While all promotions to Captain and above crossed her desk for approval, she'd approved a lot of them lately and she didn't even have the Captain's particular ship on hand when she waved him forward, "What can I do for you, Captain?"

At least the uniform sleeve gave that away.

"Windows, Ma'am. At least, it started with windows."

"Alright, windows - tell me about them."

Watching a four-armed humanoid shrug was an interesting sight; First the lower pair of arms and then the upper, as though they were coordinated a split-second behind the other, "As I said - it started with windows. We were showing one of the Dru around the Thessalonica. One of their Great Council. He wanted to see this space we claimed was out there for himself, but as soon as he was aboard he realized that the windows were fake. I took him to the shuttle bay and we opened the hangar and that got him, but that got me thinking, Ma'am. We don't need windows, but we could use a way to show people like him what we're about. An organized way."

"Go on."

"I was a Young Explorer, Ma'am. I think we could use something like that - except for people from the civilizations we're trying to bring in. Give them a window to our civilization and maybe even turn them into evangelists for our mission. Sorry to use the religious term, but it's the best one for it. Which means we need an organization set up to do it right. If we do it on an ad-hoc basis, we'll end up with mistakes being made."

"Good idea, Captain," a mischievous smile spread across her face and she pushed herself back from the desk, "Make it so."

"What do you..."

"I mean, 'Good idea - Go make it happen.' You mentioned the Young Explorers. Well, their budget has been underutilized for years. But they've also got expertise, as you said. So I want you to work with the Under Secretary... Corpi? Kopri? That oversees the program and make it happen. Split the two, roll them into one, but talk to her and see what needs to happen to make your idea a thing."

"I... Yes, Ma'am."

'And there might just be a promotion in it for you,' she thought, watching the man's back as he retreated. One by one she worked through the remainder until every issue - most oddly trivial - had had a chance in front of her. Then, with the room finally empty, she leaned back with a very human sigh of relief. At least until the next appointment she was free to...

She looked over at the couch. Demi was gone. Which wasn't worrying or even unexpected; The Ambassador had likely gotten bored and slipped out to get her own tasks accomplished. But it was now nearly lunch and she pushed herself to her feet and headed for the office door before remembering her promise to herself to have a little chit-chat with her secretary about scheduling such an odd meeting. Then she'd round up her wife and the two would head back - virtually - to her house for lunch with Nathyn and Alex. The last footstep to the office door fell behind her and it whisked open...

"...Surprise! Happy Birthday!"
Last edited by Sunset on Thu Nov 15, 2018 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:32 pm

RDF-Springbok, Trans-Galactic Space... Republic Date 2175.922

"...because there's theory and then there's practice. So we're going to put the theory into practice and see if it works. In theory, enveloping a boundary manipulation in a FTL interdiction field of greater power should destroy that manipulation. So we'll start with the reverse." Captain Brown turned to the Engineering Officer on duty behind him, "Activate the gateway, half power."

Out beyond the Springbok - a brand-new Resolution-Class Frigate in gray and near-black with the metallic trace overlay - a spherical constellation of satellites floated, the only indication of their existence the slow flash of brilliant blue running navigation lights that matched those of Springbok. At the center was the satellite referred to as 'Gateway' but it would be a doorway without a destination. To reduce the risk of potential problems, the gateway had been written to produce a manipulation that was as close to that of the regular universe as possible. The only difference was that the highest electron of an element that wouldn't even be present was set to a fractionally higher energy level.

At the Lieutenant's command this came to life, feeding a small trickle of energy from its reactor into the instructions which in turn marked that energy as different from that present in our universe and expressed the faintest image of a new dimension from that. Accompanying this activation was a scattering of lights around the perimeter of the ring-shaped platform which were, as it was, mostly for show. They were also linked to the system's internal detection sensors and thus a simple indication that the half-meter boundary manipulation at the heart of the torus was active; "Sensors?"

"Manipulation detected - realization gradient is as-programmed..."

"Good," he nodded. "Let's let it stew for a few minutes. Keep a close eye on the realization gradient;" That was how much Hawking Radiation was being 'emitted' by the boundary manipulation's interface as it and the rest of the universe tried to get along. Given the minute differences between the two the amount of radiation emitted was similarly minute but the sensors were designed around this and those of the Springbok were, to put it plainly, exceptional. "I'd like to see if we're getting any deviations based on the manipulation's proximity to our local Eien interfaces."

That prompted the Lieutenant at the sensor console to look at him oddly, though the Captain didn't notice; They were, at best, a few thousand kilometers away from the satellite cluster and so it was unlikely that there would be any bleed-over, even given the power imbalance between the Eien and the newly created manipulation. Orders were orders though, and so...

Ten minutes later, "Captain - I'm not seeing any variance in the gradient that is not tied to other events."

"Other events?" That was enough to lure Brown from his seat and to the Lieutenant's side. Looking over his shoulder, he watched the data stream go past with the occasional facial expression indicating his interest in a particular event, "Super nova shock waves... Neutrino pulses... We seem to have chosen some kind of trans-galactic nexus. Okay, well, then lets get on to phase two. Engineering," he turned to the station at the back-middle of the bridge, "Fire up the interdictors, run a status check, then we'll ramp up the power and see how much we need to turn our new plaything into nothing."

For the next few minutes there was the expected chatter back and forth as the outer sphere of satellites came online, went through their tests, and waited idle while the Captain double-checked their work, "Alright - start at one percent power and ramp up one every minute. The power should equalize at..."

"Ten minutes."

And at ten minutes? The expected happened, "The manipulation is gone, Captain. Gradient is at point-oh-oh-five and diminishing. Half-life radiation..."

"Alright, good. All systems on the boundary generator check out?"

"All lights show green..."

"Then ramp power and see if it can re-established the boundary manipulation. Let's play around with the settings..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:31 pm

The Secretary-General's Office, RDF-Unconquered Sun, Roundtable Docking Ring... Republic Date 2175.926

"...and that is the plan, Ma'am. Someone once said, 'Build it and they will come'."

For a long minute the Secretary-General sat leaned back in her chair, her fingers steepled in thought as she studied the ceiling tiles through eyes that looked at least like they hadn't had enough sleep the night before. When she had completed whatever mental process she'd been performing, she dropped her hands to the black surface of her desk and looked back at him, tapping a finger on the desk as she laid out her response, "The problem, Admiral Belén, is that no one is going to believe us if we're the ones who do it. It's out of character. As someone else once said, 'We live in an age where honesty is called threatening and lies considered comforting.' That age is the same as now. No one would fall for it if we did it."

"I'm not saying that it's not a good idea," she went on, correcting her course. "It hits all the right check-boxes. A critical piece of military infrastructure orbiting an idyllic world populated by naive primitives and," she lifted a virtual file folder and looked the included pictures and representations over again, "Seemingly fortified against any less-than-determined attack? The flaw, again, is that it is us. We don't do this."

"But..."

"But?"

"But there are others who do. Or who have a certain reputation for naivety - not deserved, but there. Some of who are our friends." Rising from the desk, she walked around to the side to where the floor-to-ceiling window that dominated the wall displayed a view of the cylindrical station just off the Dreadnought's starboard flank. In one corner there were pictures of her wife, son, and daughter and then the four together as a family seemingly floating in the middle of space, lit by the lights of the station and the ship. With a swipe of the finger it all disappeared to show the galaxy itself, spread out in an existing arrangement with areas of influence and consolidated power shown as different colored layers. One of these - that with its center thickest around the Republic's home system of Ares, was already extending itself further to the north-north-east - even if nearly imperceptible in its speed.

There were others, though, and one she tapped, "Here. If we put your plan into action, that far from our home systems, no one will believe us. If they do... Well, these are their home systems. I'll talk with our friends. I want you to start getting things together. I'll also open doors for you; Start with Special Projects. They'll get you set up with your naive primitives..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:52 pm

Republic of Sunset Special Projects Facility Tahoma (Epsilon), Devil's Picnic Basket...

"...I'm surprised she didn't send you to Fredrick Kraus," the Dwarf continued, looking from the interactive tablet in her hand to the holographic creation that was slowly growing in front of her. With a thumb that was nearly as thick as his wrist she made a series of fine adjustments that applied a slightly hunched over appearance to the biped. "This is just the kind'o work he loves - playing God he calls it. You'd figure for a hardcore atheist he'd avoid invoking the name but... He's nothing but contradictory, tha' one. Does good work though."

"Familiar work - which is the problem according to Director Silaco. If someone manages to get their hands on one of these things they will find his fingerprints all over it. She said you're far more careful."

"Ah'll take that complement, Admiral Belén. Which means I'd better live up to it. Fortunately we've got a huge base of DNA ah'n analog samples to start from. Best choice..." She stepped up to another circular projector and activated the controls that were mounted on a slim pedestal that rose from the floor-mounted base. "The Dawnguard executed a raid on a Scieridae outpost in Canis Major. Buncha nasty slavers, but Dawnguard also came away with a lot of samples from species spread around the Segment. One of which," Doctor Bhinri finished her programming and a simian form - just slightly taller than her own point-nine - appeared, "Is where I'm going to start. Or have started," she waved the tablet at him, "Since you sent along a few ideas."

"They are what they appear to be - roughly analogous to Earth primates. They're bipedal - check - and have a rough tribal organization - check. And for your pot-oh-honey, they're highly unlikely to have been seen by anyone this side'o Sol."

Even less likely than that; The Scierdae were a civilization of anthropod-based legalist slavers that completely dominated their home system. Unfortunately that system was also entirely surrounded by other civilizations except where it had its back to the wall of the gulf between our galaxy and the next. This put that system roughly one hundred and eighty thousand light-years from Earth and about one hundred and twenty thousand from the proposed site of the Admiral's planned operation. While the system itself was off-limits due to the co-mingling of slavers and slaves and the attendant risks of mass civilian casualties, the Scierdae occasionally established small outposts in otherwise-empty systems as a place to conduct their loathsome 'business' and these - when they were found - were easy targets for Admiral Falk's growing outpost in the Segment.

"A few more tweaks and," Bhinri returned to the first projection, "And we'll grow you a couple hundred thousand for seed. You wanted them to look a bit more savage, warlike - but cute?"

He nodded, "That's right. One of the potential targets is slavers. If they are strong and healthy looking, they'll be good potential slaves. So," the Admiral took a few steps to circle the hologram, stopped between it and the row of virtual windows that looked out from her laboratory over the sand-scoured canyons where the facility had been built, "Larger, more muscular, and I was thinking horns and fangs."

"Looks lahk an old helmet to me," she replied, turning the tablet to study the crude sketch he'd included. "Framing the face. How about..."

Some careful work later and she had surrounded the extended face - now more human and minus the hair - with a thick, bone-y brow that extended down the cheekline and ended in two nearly-sharp points. Smaller points swept back from the temples while another rose just above the upper lip to form a nose-horn that ended just above the brow. The fur above was now thicker and longer, draping down the nape of the neck in a thick bunch. Just the very tips of two enlarged incisors could be seen over the top of the bottom lip.

"It's cute in ah savage way. D'ya want boobs?"

"Are they mammals?"

"Live birth and all - though if you didn't know they'd scare you on the first date. They're naturally hermaphrodites. All of their reproductive organs are on the inside and when they get down to business they extend out. They've got a breast analog, but Ah can make them bigger, smaller - whatever you want."

Javier held up his hands to his own chest and tried to get a judge of things, even hunching over to imitate the Doctor's suggested stance, "How about like this? I'm trying to check all the boxes here and sex slaves are still a thing."

"...right up until you get poked by Tab A when you were expecting Slot B. Alright," she slid her finger along the tablet's slick glass and the hologram changed in response, "They've got a nice pair of breasts. Add some more muscle... Ripped, shredded - how long do they spend in the gym?"

"Ripped. And can we change their skin tone? I think we're edging a little too close to super-monkeys here."

"Yeah..." Swiping off the side of the table, she produced an independent color palette and he stepped around to flip through the options; "How about a pattern? Mottled, brown with orange and yellow. More hair too, I'm thinking."

That he left to her and with a hand she sculpted the formerly-naked pseudo-monkey's fur until it extended over the shoulders, widened out to nearly cover the breasts and then narrowed down the body to between the legs. Pulling a patch down, she stroked it down from the outer thigh to the ankle where it ended in a ruff around the not-quite human shaped foot. She added more to the forearms and then looked up to the Admiral, who had drifted close again.

"The bone mask looks out of place. How about claws on the toes and hands?"

"If Ah put claws instead of toes I'll have to change the foot. How about extended nails? Maybe make the fingers a little shorter..." The toenails grew out into a thick, sickle-like claw and the last joint of the fingers were replaced with a small horn-like talon."

For a long minute he stared at the hologram and she waited patiently until he first nodded and then shook his head, "You know, I have an idea. Let's add another check-box. Can you infuse their bones with a mineral? Say... Gold. Or silver?"

"Ah can... That will take some very tailored engineering, but for now I can color the bones. Gold," she poked at the palette, "Silver... Or how about both? Electrum..."
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Yes, That Was An Actual Issue...

Postby Sunset » Wed Nov 21, 2018 10:50 am

Director Silaco's Office, Special Projects Research Complex, The Outskirts of Terra Incognito... Republic Date 2175.941...

"...she wants faster, we'll give her faster. Double-quick, as they used to say..."

With a cup of still-hot coffee gracing her lips, Katryna stood at the middle of the far wall of her office, which had converted itself into a huge floor-to-ceiling display with the representational galaxy spread out across it. The New Latin system was marked near the bottom-center-middle but all around the periphery where there didn't appear to be any stars at all - not at this scale, anyway - there were a halo of single, similar markings. These were reflected in the map's label, neatly encased in an angled-off rectangle in the lower right corner: Republic VLEMA Deployment, Wave 2.

Except they weren't VLEMA. Not anymore at least. The expansion VLEMAs that were still under construction and partially complete were slated to be shipped in bulk to the Phoenix Domain as Doctor Tithral's HBM-based 'Quick Dyson' or 'HBMQD' were deployed instead; "Which is a terrible acronym. Sounds like something the dog rolled in."

"You let yourself get distracted by the strangest things," her husband said, coming up behind her and sliding an arm around her waist to rest his fingers inside the waistband at the small of her back, "Which acronym? Our workplace is built on a foundation of terrible acronyms."

"HBMQD."

"Hech-be-em-qew-dee," he pronounced, his Elven tongue rolling out the letters so they didn't sound quite so dissonant. It helped but not enough, "Yep - nope. Terrible."

"You know, with an unlimited budget and a huge backlog of potential hires, we - I - should establish a department of... Less-Terrible Acronyms? Official Phraseology? Jargon & Naming?"

"Identification Clarity & Standards. With the ampersand."

"Perfect! After lunch and sex though."

"Lunch and sex?" He eyed her up and down, though not unwillingly. She was still dressed from her morning jog and it had been almost cold outside; Capri leggings and an equally tight cropped running shirt with half-length sleeves with the electric blue sunburst of the Defense Force spread across mesh cutouts here and there. Plenty of skin and half-visible cleavage, both in front and in back.

"Mmm - lunch and sex. Did you hear about the nutters that showed up in Mom's office? The Anti-Sex League. They supposedly took a lifelong vow of celibacy, claiming recreational sex is a needless distraction in the age of baby-in-a-box. Apparently they were all a little... Twitchy. It didn't go well. The counter-argument was from Hope Leach - 'The Big Book of Bonking' - and she suggested couples be provided with more work-place breaks for enjoying themselves. So lunch and sex."

"I... Can get behind this."

"And after lunch you can get behind me! But," she checked a non-existent watch, "You're going to need to keep things on a simmer for an hour and a half. Any ideas?" She caught the sudden tension in his hand and corrected herself, "Any ideas for a better acronym..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:18 pm

RDF-Ojeni, Approaching Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Minutes Later...

"Captain? We're nearly there..."

"Alright," Kami swung down into her seat from where she'd been standing at the rear bar chatting with the tactical officer. Her butt hit the seat with an 'Oophf' and she corrected her position before continuing, "Let's assume violence. Roll for initiative; Bring us in fast and evasive. Cali," she called over her shoulder to the Coatlicue she'd just been talking to, "Do that thing we just talked about."

Which was mostly Lieutenant Calindra putting herself into accelerated space along with the ship's tactical system so that the two could respond, if necessary, to any incoming threats with far greater speed than the Captain was capable of issuing orders. Even if she was a blabber-mouth. Kami's primary concern was their potential foe; The Druuth'Haari were a near-complete unknown and especially in a military capacity. She might not get seconds to act - or even milliseconds.

"What do we have, Thomas?"

The answer from the sensor console came at the same moment that Ojeni dropped out of faster-than-light, the horseshoe-pronged Cruiser executing a series of sharp turns, rolls, and jinks as the Lieutenant at the helm worked to make the ship as hard a target as possible. If anyone on the bridge felt it, they didn't say so; Most were concentrated on the image of the planet displayed across the main screen or the three-dimensional view of local space as represented in the primary holo-sphere.

"We've got... A lot. Planet's there, just as in the catalog. I'm not finding any indication of the Admiral's ship but there are three ships in orbit and a cluster of... I'm going to call them settlements," he decided, flicking one of these up onto a smaller display next to the Captain's armrest. "There's also a network of ruins or very primitive structures across the surface and the settlements are at the locus of these. Captain..."

"...slavers. Great."

That much was readily apparent from the image next to her and she allowed a moment to take in the details. Most of the buildings were of the temporary variety with the rest assembled from what looked like stone culled from the ruins surrounding it. There was an impromptu port where small craft from those in orbit were parked and half-circling these were lines of cages where the tiny dots of people were herding other tiny dots into and out of the cages with the arcing spark of electric current visible as they prodded the reluctant. She didn't take the time to zoom in and check the individual details, instead calling out, "Comms? Hail..."

"Too late," Ingersol announced, substituting for his accelerated girlfriend. "The ships are breaking orbit and have opened fire."

"...them."

She didn't bother to issue further commands and it would have been worthless to do so; The Tactical Officer had already opened up with counter-fire, the ship's shields flashing brilliant as particle beams erupted across their surface and leapt across the empty black to splatter first against shields and then through hull and armor. Against a lower-grade opponent, she was playing gentle and in as long as it took Captain Blaine to consider adding some twist she'd holed each of them through the drive section reducing them all to manned wreckage.

Except for one. A few seconds after it had stopped firing and the lights had gone out, it too went out in a tremendous explosion as something or other went critical and scattered bits and pieces of the pie-shaped ship across the near field.

"...well okay then. Any damage," she looked around the bridge, her words less question than anticipation. This was the first time she'd been 'in combat' under an accelerated ship-mind and it was far more fleeting than she had imagined. Her previous actions at Queen of the Valley and Ner'Purish had both been console-driven, the first by a lack of the appropriate systems on the doomed Fast Courier Sailfish and the second by the immediacy of need aboard Ojeni's last iteration. "No?"

"Hits to the shield grid," Lieutenant Commander Ingersol answered. "That's it."

"Cool. Get that back up to one hundred percent and keep alert. Did they send out a distress call? Comms?" Lieutenant Yu shook his head and she continued, "Okay, good. Send prize crews over to take those ships. Orders are to capture and not kill the crew where possible. Thomas... Keep a close eye on those settlements and a closer eye out for our Druuth'Haari friend. If they start killing the prisoners we'll have to take quick action, but I don't want those ships pulling themselves back together for a parting shot and I don't want to be ambushed by a crystal starfighter that we can't track either. We'll have to stay on our toes..."

"...we should call for backup," Commander Sloan put in.

"...yes, I suppose. Call for backup," she ordered, her voice a grumble. There was confidence in her crew and her ship and then there was what she should do; It was Sloan's job to remind her of the latter...
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:15 am

Shadowport Tarheel, Beta/Delta Frontier... Republic Date 2175.953...

"...ah'right, Grelka - let's see if ya wanna talk now!" Without pausing to wait for an answer, Meli grabbed the little man by his shoulders and slammed him up against the wall, her thick fingers crumpling the shoulder plates of his armor jacket like they were made of particularly thick paper. A wince of pain crossed his inverted features but his reply still came through barely open teeth, his mouth not appearing to move at all; "I don't know anything."

"Ya don'? Well, lemme pain' you a word picture!" Keeping him firmly in place with one hand, she pushed his face to the side with the other until he was forced to look directly at the man standing beside him. Or what had been a man; Now he was a pair of hands and feet protruding grotesquely from the air vent where the Dwarf had prematurely stuffed him, folding his body in half with a single surprise punch. Blood dripped out of the shredded opening and as they both watched something thicker than blood slipped out to land with a sickening splat on the station corridor's grimy deck.

"Ah'n tha' picture is that Ah' will enjoy figurin' out a more creative way oh' disposin' oh' you if you don't tell me everythin' you know about the Trelmakier syst'm!"

"The Trelmakier system?" She released his head and he turned to look her in the eye, his own lower orbs full of terrified sincerity, "I've never heard of Trelmakier!"

"Oh yeah? Thet's not wha' mah sources say - they say you've been blabber'in Trelmakier all over the place. Com'on Grelka," she squeezed, cinching his jacket just a little further and producing a nice flow of orange blood through the fabric underlay, "Who's yer source? Tell me, ah'n I won' see if you'n this guy will fit in tha' same hole," she promised, her voice low and full of menace.

Not that there was any reason to keep quiet. This particular section of the sprawling former supply depot was always quiet; Perfect for the sort of clandestine meetings that Grelka and his post-friend were known for. She, of course, had slipped a wrecking bar through the doors behind her and there was little chance of interruption.

"I told you... I don't know anything about it. I don't have a source because I've never heard of Trelmakier!"

She released his injured shoulder but balled her hand into a fist to cock it back, "Ah think' yer lyin'! Trelmakier - talk!"

A sound from over her shoulder caught his sudden attention. Between the long handles of the distant doorway the wrecking bar rattled. Someone was trying to come through, but Meli heard it too. Yanking him close, she snarled in his face, "Ah' ain' got time now, but if Ah ever hear any more talk about Trelmakier... I'll make time."

The door burst apart and a towering figure stood there, one clawed foot shaking off the remains of the door. In their hands was some great rifle and as soon as the shattered plate rattled to the floor they opened fire, bursts of neon-green energy lighting up the corridor and splattering all around them. In an instant the Dwarf was gone, sprinting off down the hall while the figure ran towards them, bellowing fiercely in some high-pitched alien language. With energy still carving new holes in the wall, Grelka could only curl to the floor and clutch his arms over his head, completely missing the sight of an enraged Maiorca charging past with every floor tile bouncing up and down, free from their elderly rivets.

Unfortunately for his poor partner, it wasn't a question of just who was chasing the Dwarf that had assaulted him but why. Grelka was a talker and trader in information and among his sources and contacts were several marginally reputable journalists. Eventually a dose of liquid courage or a slice of non-standard currency would persuade him to open his mouth and he'd mention - in passing - a system named Trelmakier and then someone would put their ear to the ground, wondering why the name had come up...
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:53 pm

RDF-Casimir, The Newly Named (And Discovered (And Surveyed) Trelmakier System, Beta/Delta Frontier... Republic Date 2175.957...

"Seems a bit odd to name a system before its been discovered, isn't it, Captain?"

"It is," Captain Pheanbar agreed with a nod, glancing up at the blue-green sphere spread out across the ship's forward display and then back to the data streaming past on his armrest console. The Skri wasn't seated; For the oddly shaped species a saddle-shaped chair was the preferred approach and he had slipped off the seat to stand just a tad shorter on two spiked legs. "But the assignment was to make the face match the name."

From every indication provided by the ship's sensors, the planet was just what they - and a dozen-dozen ships like her - were looking for. Water covered just about eighty percent of the planet's surface more or less a percentage here and there and what was left ran the gambit from frigid white at the poles to vibrant green at the equator. There was life as well, but it wasn't complex life with the local stellar conditions contributing to a general biome that just about matched Earth's Carboniferous Era. Though Captain Pheanbar hadn't been read into the particulars of the greater operation, the engineered species that would be shortly introduced would be the most complex among many.

"I've got a surface team ready, Captain..."

"Belay that," Pheanbar ordered, though there was a sigh mixed into his cybernetic vocalization. "We can't put a single spike-mark on it - orders from Fleet. Orbital scans and high-altitude survey flights only. And," he took a peek at the orders displayed on the other armrest, "We've got some things to look for. Notable resource sites, anything that looks like it might have been formerly inhabited by anyone, and a very comprehensive seafloor survey. It looks like we got lucky enough to do some hard work; We're also to pull in all the shuttles and fighters for the survey flights and scrub them clean. Not a drop of outside anything."

"That seems... Highly unlikely."

"Yes, well," he spun on a single leg and stalked across the bridge to the communications station and the Lieutenant who had just posted the question, "Sometimes I don't make the orders - I just get to hand them out. Pass everything to Fleet, locked classification. You'll find the distribution group in the mission orders, Lieutenant."

"Yessir..."

"But keep your eyes open, everyone. If we find even one thing that rules this planet out as a possibility then we'll all get a chance to get our spikes wet. Hands-off becomes hands-on..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:04 pm

RDF-Ojeni, Holding Station Off Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Minutes Later...

"Prize crews dispatched..."

"...and backup is on its way," Lieutenant Yu added, turning from the communications station to where Captain Blaine was nervously looking over Lieutenant Commander Ingersol's shoulder as though some alien horror might pop out of the sensor console itself. "And you're going to like this," he went on, trying to get her attention as more than just a voice over her shoulder, "Battle Group Springboard has been dispatched - Rear Admiral McCopper commanding."

That had the intended effect and she turned from the multiple screens with an odd mixture of joy and surprise written across her features, "Really. The gang's coming back together then... At least we'll have someone watching our backs who knows when to stay out of our way."

If she had to guess, the returning partnership was intentional; Her first duty command had been under the Rear Admiral, and since Rear Admirals nominally commanded a Battle Group of five'ish ships, he was both a reasonable choice for the assignment and the best choice for dealing with her personally.

"And I suppose that means we can expect the Horizon and whatever other ships were near at hand to arrive in..."

"Forty-five minutes."

"Great! Let's try not to get ourselves killed inside that timeframe. Lieutenant, keep me appraised of the progress of the prize crews. Thomas," she turned back to the sensor station and the Lieutenant Commander's back, "Any idea what we're dealing with here yet? Why here? Why this planet?"

There was a moment of silence as he configured several screens to show a series of new images and in-progress recordings and then, "Well, I can tell you what we're probably not dealing with - the original inhabitants. I've got a rough calculation for the age of the ruins, based on several factors," he pointed to one screen where those factors showed along with their related numbers and cumulative dating score, "And we're looking at millions of years for these ruins. Except where they've been taken apart by these people," he gestured to another where people in cages were currently looking up at the stars and likely at him looking at them looking at him.

"Still running a database check on them, but those suits and helmets don't help."

She didn't recognize those either. The planet didn't have an atmosphere - or it had been long ago lost to the star - and so both the slavers and the inhabitants were wearing various flavors of space suit or environmental armor. Importantly, and as indicated by various outlined items, symbols, and lettering, there wasn't any particular design similarity to the ruins around them.

"My guess is that we're looking at a colony that is less than a few years old. This is a pretty dangerous region of space; These could be refugees from the Syo War. Might even be Danyth, though they haven't come up in the database. Same for those ships - totally unknown design, even if we've got a good bead on their technologies. Some of my colleagues have started calling it FatedTech - we'll see if it catches on. Basically a couple grades below our own, and just what you'd expect from slavers."

"None of which tells me why the trail would go cold here."

"Except the ruins," he countered. "And that the trail does run cold here. In fact it ends right here," he went to the last image, which showed a particularly interesting patch of nothing at all. "I've checked for anything buried, any evidence of camouflage... Nothing."

"Is the Hawking radiation at that point decaying or static?"

"Ah," he put a finger in the air before tapping at his console, "Good question. You're thinking that if the radiation is static then there's a chance that the ship is still there... Which, you might be onto something. Readings from a couple minutes ago match the current readings! Good catch."

"Thank you. Lieutenant Calindra, I suppose you over-did it and all the shuttles and fighters are currently headed out with the prize crews?"

The answer was an accusatory 'yes' but this wasn't the destination that the Captain was aiming for, "Don't we have a brand new abduct-o-beam?"

"...that's one-way only," the Coatlicue answered with a snap. "It's right in the name. Do you want me to call a shuttle back or not?"

"No... Did you really send all of them?"

"Yes. The disabled vessels are between us and the planet and... Oh fuck, we have an abduct-o-beam. Captain, permission to remove the slaves directly? I'll have Marines meet them at the pad and escort them to cargo bay two."

"Uh - if I might offer a suggestion?" Kami was again looking over Ingersol's shoulder, this time at the image of prisoners in their cages. "There's maybe... Ten guards down there. And a few hundred prisoners. Let's start with the guards... And I'll figure out some other way to get a team down there..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Nov 28, 2018 2:02 pm

RDF-Thessalonica, Vuvuz Orbit, The Coreward Expansion Zone, 2175.964...

"It is rather fetching, isn't it?" Junior Asimas turned in place, trying in vain to look back over his shoulder so that he could pick up the details of the uniform that now stretched somewhat tight over his ample frame. The Dru were a species of not-quite-fat and not-quite-muscular; They had the muscle mass to carry their hulking form around at a surprisingly quick speed but here and there great slabs of flesh hung off. Like a Dad Body that hadn't exactly melted away when he finally went on that workout regimen.

"It fits you."

It was as close to a complement as he could get without being dishonest. It was also cheating. Instead of having a new uniform designed from the cuffs up, Captain Antria had had a clever young Ensign with a talent for the virtual needle modify the outfit 'worn' by the Gen1 REDSHIRTs into something suitable for the expanded Auxiliary Explorer program. He hadn't had as much of a choice when it came to Asimas though. While he was a pleasant enough young man, he was also Master Asimas' nephew and politics had definitely been at play when the Council had decided who would be their first representative in the program.

That was not something likely to change even after the Dru officially joined the Republic as a Federal State, though the various Councils were working towards a mutual decision as quickly as possible. There was a Senate election coming in only a few days and if Ceruchul and a host of other planets and systems re-visited by the energetic Exploration Command could beat that deadline then they could possibly win a Seat or two. But the civilizations contacted would mostly stick to their own government - outside of a few notable exceptions.

"...how will they even vote," Antria murmured to himself, though still drawing the Dru's attention.

"Hmm? Vote? What do you mean?"

"Well, if Ceruchul crafts an agreement among the Councils where-by they join the Republic as a Federal State, the entire population will be eligible to vote in the upcoming Senate elections - otherwise they'll miss a year. Well, twenty-five percent of the population... But how will they vote?"

"We use voting pegs. Each Master puts his peg on the board to show how he voted and that he voted."

"Like cribbage."

"What's cribbage?"

"Old Earth game, played with cards and pegs in holes. My roommate at the Academy introduced me to it. Does everyone have a voting peg?"

"No, but," and the young Dru shrugged his shoulders in a gesture he'd already picked up from Thessalonica's crew, "Most won't vote anyway. We select the Masters to do that for us."

"Right... But every Republic citizen has the right to vote. Even if they don't. So we'll have to..." Captain Antria sighed. "What are the odds that someone in the Diplomatic service has figured out that they'll need a way to get a massive voting education campaign in place on a world that doesn't have television, radio, and barely has books? Or is this another something I'm going to be tasked with?"

"...they have it covered," Asimas said, reassurance in his tone. He was flipping through a hologram of what appeared to be a news feed and had stopped at a particular entry. At least his rapid adoption of the available technology was to his credit as the selection. "Education Under-Secretary Announces 'Get Out The Vote' Campaign for New Worlds."

This time it was a sigh of relief, "Alright! If that's settled, let's get out of here. Time to go see if the locals are interested..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:06 pm

Somewhere in the Virtually August Halls of the Republic Senate, CORE VirtaGov Virtual Space...

"...because the rest of the Senate won't go for it - and neither will the regular voters. That's why. Look," the Senator took the questioner by the lapel and tugged them off the carpet that ran down the center of the marble-clad hallway and into one of the many alcoves tucked between a pair of pillars that rose together to support the ceiling that didn't need any support at all.

"We've ran this by various groups already - opinion-makers, thought-leaders. You pick a buzzword that can be applied to someone important and we've had someone put exactly that question to them and the answer is a near-universal 'no'. If anything, the vote would go the opposite direction. Two hundred senators doesn't sound like a lot when you're talking a population of hundreds of billions..."

"Not including the Circlets," the questioner interrupted with a hiss. "And that's what I'm..."

"...except we're not. Look, Mister..."

"Uebacher. I'm in your district."

The Senator from the 39th put out his hand, "Nice to meet you, Mr. Uebacher. Now, as I was saying - we're not talking the Circlets. Not yet at least. The Republic has established control over them as Federal Territories, but that does not automatically extend citizenship to their populations. They have the right to seek citizenship, just like everyone else - and it is as simple for them as everyone else. But that's not so simple when literacy rates - and we're talking their own languages - are somewhere in the mid-teens on average. Most of these civilizations are pre-Industrial. They didn't need to know how to read and write."

"But we're teaching them!"

"Yes, and that won't be an overnight process. As you just pointed out, we're talking a population per-Circlet in the T-range. And it is far more complex than spraying the countryside with teacher-drones. Education, infrastructure, employment, healthcare - it all goes hand-in-hand. The Secretariat is giving us a timeline in the range of twenty years to fully integrate a single Circlet and that, in my opinion, is optimistic. And even full integration doesn't mean full citizenship. They already have their homes, their families - we're just going to make their lives better. Just think about how many people don't vote now - wait until we have just that many more apathetic voters..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Nov 30, 2018 5:00 pm

RDF-Gethsemane, Notch Orbit, Mojang System, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 2175.971...

"...just how certain is certain, Admiral? We gave the Macisikani our absolute assurance that we would be returning the Eiryuj Aosh to his home."

"Very certain," Admiral Tucker replied. Unlike the Ambassador - who was moving around her suite like a bee between flowers - the Admiral had elected to sit and sat he still was with one long leg perched over the other and his hands thrust thumb-deep into the pockets of his dress uniform. "Point-zero-one percent chance that this is not the Eiryuj home system. We've pointed every sensor and system we've got at it and we're ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent confident that this is their home system. The only way to be more sure would be to go check ourselves but according to Commander Timmon's report the Eiryuj don't exactly want visitors. Not that they are unfriendly..."

"Just private."

"But presumably that doesn't extend to one of their own. Now, we've tried looking for this Fyieae's ship - the Ee'jeelaqj - since that would seem to be a better option for Aosh, but its right there in the report. They like to observe from outside of a system and that makes the playing field so much bigger. We've got asset looking for signs that that ship might have returned to either the Eiryuj home system or this so-called monument site, but nothing has popped up. So far."

"And if it turns out to not be the right system?"

The Admiral half-shrugged, "He can ask for help. The only thing we're worried about is his ship jumping into a system full of hostiles and we'll make sure that doesn't happen. With the specifications the Macisikani fed us, a Transit-Class should have enough on board to sustain him for years. Yellowstone will be on duty at the monument site and if anything happens they'll be a second away. If worse comes to worse and we can't find this system we'll put up a permanent outpost over the monument and the Ee'jeelaqj can pick him up on their next visit..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:44 pm

RDF-Ojeni, Holding Station Off Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Minutes Later...

If the Abduct-O-Beam had a drawback, it was that the device - reconstructed from fragmentary remains recovered from an even more fragmentary warship - could only operate in a very broadly defined fashion; Move this volume defined as this radius around this point to this new location. That meant that whatever was inside that volume came along whether it was wanted or not. What that ultimately meant was that when the slavers on the planet below were involuntarily 'beamed' into Ojeni's Beam Receiving Room they were as well-armed as they had been on the surface.

Oh, and it didn't work through most forms of energy shielding. Or nearly any form of faster-than-light inhibitor.

The first limitation already had a fix in place though, and that was provided by the active presence of a pair of Marines in GhostDragon MkV power armor. As soon as the first abductee was transferred to the waiting pad he was simultaneously met by a fusillade of light particle beam fire from the suit's array of point-defense drone-emitters. In less time than it took for the two - a man and a woman were the first - to even consider raising their weapons the suit's sensor systems had identified their weapons as weapons, piped that through to the targeting system, shared that data between the two suits to ensure no 'unfortunate' overlap of effort, and the joint targeting systems had tasked the appropriate number of drone-emitters with neutralizing the threat.

That left the two slavers holding guns with smoking holes through their important parts and what could be interpreted as stunned looked on their faces - useful data for the translation system that was already building up an appropriate translation codex. It also left the pair looking down the barrels of two very large rifles that were pointed at just the right angle so they could look down the barrel and see death approaching on wings of darkness.

"Move," the first Marine ordered, jerking the barrel over and to the right, gesturing towards the far wall. Even if they couldn't understand they quickly got the point, dropping their useless weapons to stagger back against the wall with hands raised. Behind them a door whisked open and they were treated to the inside view of one of the cells in the ship's brig; Beds for two, no checkout time listed.

One after the other their fellows appeared and were treated to the same display of technological wizardry until the last pair were standing against that same wall - which was when one tried to throw a grenade. That didn't last long either; The same process picked it up as a threat and blew a neat hole straight through before it had even cleared the small crowd. Rendered inert it clattered against the wall, the closest Marine kicking it away before walking over to not-too-politely shove the two into their new home with the barrel of his over-sized rifle.

----


"Too bad we can't 'beam' ourselves to the surface," Kami muttered, watching the action on a floating holo-screen. Lieutenant Calindra's dispatch of the entire small-craft inventory to the two disabled ships had been proper and reasonable; There was no way of knowing just how much opposition the prize crews would face. And with the two disabled ships in a lower orbit and thus between Ojeni and the planet they would also be in the best position to make a landing against the slavers on the surface.

If they had still been on the surface.

That wasn't strictly on the Lieutenant either. She'd forgotten about the new system herself until that forehead-slap moment...

"Escape pods! We still have escape pods, right?"

In fact they did, though not as many as before. Instead of scores there were now only around ten and she tapped away at the display until she had located the closest. Which was the Bridge itself. Since it wouldn't exactly do to eject Ojeni's heart and soul in order for a small team to reach the surface, she checked the diagram a bit closer.

"There's one in my suite?"

It made sense, of course. Outside of the bridge most of the crew spent most of their free time in their quarters or in the various communal spaces. If the ship was to come under sudden attack or some kind of extremely-unlikely equipment malfunction was to result in the emergency order to abandon ship, these were where the people would be. Though technically it wasn't 'in' her quarters. Instead it was between her quarters and the adjacent suite and was of the standard four-man design rather than the entire bridge module.

Was it unorthodox? Absolutely. Was it necessary? She glanced up to check the chronometer that indicated for all to see how long it was before Springboard was scheduled to arrive. Just a little under forty minutes and who knows how cold the trail might go in that time?

"Commander Timmons, Lieutenant Commander Ingersol, Doctor Brilla," she listed out, the second alerted by her voice while the other two received the summons inside their augmented reality, "My quarters immediately - we're going down there!"

Which probably sounded a little weird, but whatever.

"Commander Sloan, you have the bridge," and she headed for the doors...
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Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 02, 2018 1:02 pm

RDF-Nwlyan, Unexplored System, Alpha Quadrant, The Galactic Rim... Republic Date 2175.980...

Against the great void of interstellar space the arrival of the Nwlyan was merely a pinprick; a sparkle of lingering neon lightning as the cruiser dropped out of faster-than-light travel. It had not been a long journey from the ship's departure point in the Peabody system but sometimes the trip was explicitly about the destination rather than the journey. Coming in at galactic north the system spread out beneath them, the elongated horseshoe of the new-model Impact-Class heeling over to unwind into a gentle flat arc towards the object of their curiosity.

"Mister Rogers..." Captain Shevchenko sat forward in her chair anticipating the results of her order, "Fill the screen if you would."

That brought the distant object circling the lonely star from a bare few pixels to an enormous disc of blue, brown, and green that sprawled across the floor-to-ceiling display. At this magnification it was immediately clear what the object was; A titanic disc world, its continents, islands, cities, and people sprawled out across a great lentil slowly spinning on its edge around the host star like a coin carefully flicked into stability atop an antique turntable. They had known what to expect but for a moment it still took their collective breath away as they absorbed the details.

The object had been detected during the stellar survey portion of the tightly-held project referred to as 'Wave 3'. Initially it had been just the kind of star they were looking for; Isolated on the very edge of the galactic periphery, the star was a completely over-look-able mid-range model. But when the selection process had advanced to the next stage the survey team had encountered a twist in the data. Instead of nothing - which would have been preferred - or an orderly progressions of rocky bodies and gas giants spinning in slow orbits - and thus rejected - they instead found a singular object of unusual shape and size. Orbiting its host star in the so-called 'Goldilocks Zone', it was highly likely that the object was not some galactic fluke or stellar anomaly but a deliberate construct and thus Captain Shevchenko and her crew aboard the Nwlyan had been dispatched to put eyeballs on it.

After a few moments of awe, she began to issue the expected orders, "Helm, take us in. Nice and easy. Conrad;" The Lieutenant at the sensor console perked an ear in her direction, the ship's namesake keeping his blue eyes on the station, "Full sensor net. I want to know what we're dealing with before we get there. Comms..."

"Nothing yet, Ma'am..."

Which meant that the two-headed Arenja would be just about as surprised as the Captain if they were contacted before Constance ordered it. A mega-structure of this size and complexity was a solid indicator of advanced ability across a broad spectrum of technologies and it was less of a surprise that they had not already been contacted but that the Republic had not encountered this civilization before. Since they had not, it was likely that there were reasons but the ability was there - above the great planetary disc she had noted the sparkle and flare of ships with their drives burning hot for some unknown destination.

She would wait until they were closer before giving the order to attempt contact. Better to let the locals think they were the superior - unless both sides were playing the same game. Then it would be a quiet approach and that was good too, "What can you tell me?"

"Very exciting, Captain - we've got two things here. The first is the disc world itself. Inhabitable surface area is approximately fifteen times that of Aramos and seventeen times that of Earth. Of this approximately thirty-five percent is actually inhabited with an estimated population of," he read off the number. "Inhabitable surface area is key; One side of the disc is completely bare, as is the center of the inhabited side."

That she'd observed but now the question was, "Why?"

His voice rose just a notch and his tail began to twitch, "That is the very exciting part! There is a tethered station above the central opening and a large mirror complex mounted on the end, along with a smaller but still substantial sub-station between the mirror and the disc. Captain - I believe the entire structure is a telescope!"

That brought universal attention back to the main screen and again a pause from the Captain as she considered the implications, "...biggest fucking telescope I've ever seen. Why not just go there?"

"Without a guess - because they cannot. None of our sensors have detected anything like faster-than-light transit or the remnant effects. Likewise, sensor sweeps of their ships show power levels suitable for slower-than-light travel only. It does not answer the question of whether they have the knowledge but they do not appear to have the ability."

"Weapons?"

"None visible. Which does not mean anything;" The Nwlyan didn't have her various weapon systems hanging loose on the outside of her sleek hull for all to see either, "But based on a general understanding of such things their ships seem to be transports of various types. Most telling - they have windows. But that does not mean they are unarmed. As is the way of such things... A telescope capable of gathering that much light would also be capable of focusing it. An unwelcome intruder would likely find themselves burned to a crisp."

"A good point. Lieutenant Dunwere," she addressed the Arenja again, "Let's make sure we're not an unwelcome intruder. Helm, slow us down and give us a little wiggle. I don't fancy being an ant..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:16 pm

Special Projects Research Complex, Landor City, Terra Incognito... Republic Date 2175.983...

"...at least she hasn't blotted out the sun," Tithral said with a quiet sigh, once more putting virtual chalk to holographic sphere. Many of the symbols and hieroglyphs were the same this time but there was a certain difference; Plus some things and minus others. "Though perhaps there is now some series of worlds out there growing cold as their planets come to a freezing halt, a chorus of tiny voices raised to the heavens to shout..."

"Screw You, Mel Brooks!"

"...yes, that. Thank you." Without bothering to look around, the Bajoni continued with his scribbling. That the iWe were somehow interested in what he was doing was not unexpected; He'd already drawn a connecting line between the disappearance of the last Druth'Haari and the slight uptick in reported 'encounters' with the obnoxious and meddlesome singularity. This too would be reported but for a moment the thought crossed his mind - 'Where do these reports go? Perhaps straight to the iWe themselves...'

It was a disturbing though. It could be argued that the Republic was now a post-Singularity of various types but one of those was not a post-Information Singularity. It was still to each individual to seek out and take to themselves what knowledge they could gather, to horde or dispense it as they willed. It was, to his mind, one of those appellations he could not ever see applying to the Republic. The preservation of the individual and the continuance there-of was the priority and to become a post-Information Singularity would erase the distinction of the individual.

"And not yet, Doctor - if that is any reassurance."

"In your case, it is not. I suppose you are here to discover just what it is I am working on?" There wasn't an answer but a certain shiver in the non-existent wind told him nothing at all. The invisible hand of the distant star could have moved on or it could have simply taken a seat where he would invariably find the leather cool to the touch rather than the delicious warmth of a previously occupying bottom. Since it wouldn't matter either way, the Doctor assumed the second and continued, "You see, the Director has approached me for a technical proposal concerning 'Wave Four'. Wave One through Three are decimal expansions of our existing VLEMA and now HBIEMA networks. Wave Four will be different."

"With Wave One complete, we achieved resource independence for the Republic-as-State. Wave Two will expand that to the entirety. Wave Three is just over-kill and since Maxim 37 deems that impossible we now come to Wave Four. Wave Four will be to correct a problem with the previous in that they have created a potential bottleneck between here and there. That is, moving resources from the previous Waves to the worlds and places occupied by Republic citizens both requires an enormous amount of logistical deployment and the unfortunate revelation of the existence of these locations to outside powers."

"At the present time, this is unnecessary and so simply does not happen. The resources gained are purely militaria and as all Republic military manufacturing is done out-system anyway... There is no one to notice the diversion in origin. But the government would like to extend this abundance to the general citizen and it is here we find the essential questions of Wave Four - how do we do this," he pointed to the previous sphere where the mathematical process of creating the HBIEMA that were now being deployed in select, secret locations around the galactic periphery was described in technical detail, "But there," and he pointed to the window where the sun still burned bright on the horizon.

"The answer is that we take half-measures. Not all of the energy cast off by our local star is visible light. In fact, much of it is useless or even harmful. It is this useless or harmful segment of the spectrum that I propose to utilize - most notably the so-called 'solar wind'. Which, if one were to expose oneself to the vacuum of space, would not be particularly welcome if one was not already dead. This will be filtered out by what I have named the 'Solar Induction Power Plant' and converted directly to additional useful resources. That power plant will itself be a holographic boundary manipulation gateway, although I imagine that - if questioned - the response to any inquiries as to its function would be 'That's classified and need-to-know'..."

"Which," at this he finally looked around the room, trying in vain to spot the invisible voice or some echo of its presence, "Since I suspect you've already gone through my theoretical underwear drawer..."

'Nice tighty-whities...? No?'

He continued, "Means you already know."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:23 pm

Platform Three, Docking Facility Seven, Heliopause City, Tsubasa... Republic Date 2175.987...

"Scandaleux," the Sanglanti sputtered, his hands as outraged as the spittle gathered on his lips, "You cannot impound my ship. For what raison, you cochon!?"

Without even a trace of reaction, the port official reached into a pocket and withdrew a handkerchief to wipe it carefully across his face before stuffing it back into his coverall, "Smuggling." Then he read from the tablet he held in the narrow space between the two of them, each word careful as the ship's owner and captain grew more and more red-faced, "Namely two hundred and thirty instances of a restricted weapon system reported stolen - by this ship... Registration number;" and he read off the sequence that matched the sequence painted out above them on the side of the decrepit-looking merchantman.

This looked like it was not the first bore by that ship and possibly not the second. Whatever green paint had been applied over the first was both newer and of a slightly different shade with the white-gray letters that had been its previous registration still reasonably legible underneath. Further down the hull was another patch of darker paint with a collage of geometric shapes half-hidden below and even further down the line was yet another, this time crudely disguised under a flag that had not flown over Mars or any other world for nearly a hundred years.

"...by a facility belonging to the Union of Worlds. Your cargo will be impounded;" Where it would promptly disappear out of a shockingly poorly guarded Port Authority warehouse, "And a fine issued in the sum of..."

"Je ne vais pas le payer!"

"...which has been," he pressed his thumb to the screen, "Authorized to be withdrawn from your accounts. Further, on consultation with the Union of Worlds Commerce and Import Authority, your ship - registration number Oscar Sierra Romeo November Nine-Three-Two-Zero - has been banned from Union space for a period of no less than twenty-four months."

The captain stared at him, his flashing eyes doing their best to burn through the man's lowered eyelids, "Fine! Whatever..." He turned to one of his own dock hands - a cousin by marriage - with a snap of his fingers, "Vous y! Peinture plus verte!"

"...sign here," and he flipped the tablet around to meet the man's glare with eyes as calm as if they were made from plastic. After a staring contest that stretched on for nearly five minutes the captain blinked, placing his thumb on the tablet; "Vous êtes un acteur terrible."

There wasn't even a shrug. Turning the appliance back to himself, the official checked the mark before raising a hand and giving the signal to the massive multi-limb cargo loader-unloader that had followed him onto the platform. With surgical precision it reached inside the cavernous hold of the merchantman and began extracting one pallet after another that were in turn carrying long tubes labeled with the cryptic 'Mk24 DSL SOBMLS 'KRAKEN'' and the previously mentioned 'UNION OF WORLDS' with its olive-wreathed star grid banner painted between.

"...have a pleasant day."

"...va te faire foutre."

With that, the little drama on the open deck of Platform Three was over and the official retreated to the great curving bulk of the city. Behind him the captain threw up his hands and turned to stare daggers at the cargo loader as the deck hand returned from somewhere inside the ship, bucket and brush in hand.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:26 pm

RDF-Ojeni, Holding Station Off Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Minutes Later...

"...and they made you a Captain?"

But it was said with a grin as Commander Timmons strapped his thick form into the crash couch next to her own. Across from the first pair Doctor Brilla and Lieutenant Commander Ingersol were similarly mounted though the look on his face implied that his version of the same question was more serious in tone. Whatever his opinion, the Doctor seemed perfectly at ease with the idea though it was taking her a good deal longer to secure the webbing around her built-out hourglass.

That gave her time to poke through the control screens built into the arms of the couch, her fingers looking for the particular sequence of commands that would allow her to launch just this one and without calling battle stations or initiating a self-destruct of the ship itself. Fortunately someone had considered the possibility and with only a simple Captain's override - It's Good to be the King - she had a launch button at her fingertips and was looking around to make sure everyone was ready.

With her other hand she opened a channel to the bridge and as soon as the sitting officer appeared she asked the important question, "All ready there? We're pointed at the planet, right?"

"...yes;" And it didn't matter which one she was answering because Kami's thumb decided to press the button anyway; "Bye! Have fun!"

Then the pod was away, thrown into the void by whatever mechanism had been put in place to do so. There wasn't even that long, lingering shot out of the window where the ship spiraled away behind them - there were no windows and she hadn't considered pointing a camera in that direction. Instead she was instantly aware that there was something wrong; "Whoops - should set a destination..."

Thomas glared at her but the other two laughed and after a moment of fiddling with the controls she had plucked their landing spot out of the ether and the pod was firing its thrusters in a slow attempt to line up on just where she wanted to go.

"Touchdown in seventeen," she read off, mentally comparing that to another important number. "Should just beat Springboard."

Which was the point, wasn't it..?
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Postby Sunset » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:12 pm

Plexus PrimeTime News with Tanya Zaldano... Republic Date 2175.994...

"...with two days until the General Election and the New Year, PrimeTime has conducted a series of polls across the Republic questioning the positions of potential voters and here to discuss the results with us is Profession Pol'E'Tics, of New Vancouver University. Professor," Tanya turned in her seat to where the similarly seated ArAreBeen - who had distinctly not been there the moment before - was now seated just to the right of the news desk. "One of the more notable trends - as noted in the PrimeTime poll - is an uptick in anti-immigrant sentiment, particularly among the segment who identified themselves as Martian... What do you make of this?"

Was it possible to have a dorky ArAreBeen? The answer was yes, especially if that ArAreBeen was wearing a bow tie and a ratty old jacket with patches on both the sleeves and collar. After taking a moment to adjust his glasses, he opened his mouth and then promptly shut it again before clearly considering something and then continuing, "Well, Ms. Zaldano, it should be carefully noted that this polling has a statistical margin of plus or minus four percent. Further it should be observed that the Republic Senate only replaces twenty-five percent - that is, fifty out of a total of two hundred - Senators every year. Further it should be noted that the random distribution model used means that low-percentage positions will tend to be even more under-represented."

"That said..."

"That said, the results of the PrimeTime News poll are of more interest from a sociological perspective than a political one. Election trends over the past one-hundred seventy-three years have taken the Senate more towards the middle time and again and I would daresay that advancements in knowledge and technology have done more to push us towards our current position rather than the political process. While the polls indicate a rising sentiment of anti-immigrant opinion among the Martian population, this - in my opinion - is largely due to the recent arrival of some, ah..."

"Old and new faces? Particularly the..." Tanya glanced down to check the screen in front of her, "The Norse Empire? Wasn't it the Immortal Khanaite or something like that just a week ago?"

Once again adjusting his glasses, the Professor nodded, "Yes - Norse Empire and then previously the United Kingdom of the Radiant, the Khaganate, and then the Scythian Empire. That being, in my opinion, the point of the self-proclaimed 'Mars for the Martians' organizations. They see these newcomers - as well as the Aumanii, who have returned to their previous holdings after an absence of..."

"Seventy years."

"Yes - somewhere around there, though the number slips my mind at the moment. They see these newcomers and the returning Aumanii as a destabilizing element in the Martian political landscape. I would imagine that you're far too young to remember the last time the Aumanii graced our homeworld, but they were indeed trying times," he said, forcing a laugh at the end. "Trying times indeed. Most worrisome are the new Aumanii political elite who - as my collegue the esteemed Professor Geronimo Shaw of Tocano University put it - 'Have their heads up their asses.'"

"And the Norse Empire?"

"...will have changed by the first of the new year."

This got a laugh out of Tanya and set the barely-there sparkling black kerchief top she was wearing into a quick forward-and-back wave. This in turn sent a pulse of blue up the ArAreBeen's face, filling out his cheeks in a full blush as he nervously adjusted his jacket; "Yes, well - indeed. But these sentiments are more than countered by pro-immigration sentiment in the greater Republic. Particularly in the Core-ward regions where excitement over the rapid introduction of several new States is building."

"Speaking of - several of these new States are in a race to gain full Federal State status before the election, particularly Ceruchul, Acarid, Vuth, and several of the so-called 'Setting Civilizations' on the Circlets. Where do you think this is going to take the Republic in the long term?"

"Much of that depends on our success in integrating these new cultures into the greater body. It has long been true; We are intolerant of intolerance. If our government and civic institutions can successfully spread our core values into these civilizations then the future is bright. However, if we are not? Raw numbers dictate that there will be a long-term shift in Republic politics as a response unless preventative measures are taken."

"Such as..?"
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Postby Sunset » Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:57 pm

Hurn, Or'Hurn System, Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 2175.998...

"...if someone finds my testicles, please tell them I loved them."

It was a poor attempt at humor by the green Lieutenant with a white stripe on his uniform but judging by the hands-tucked-under-armpits posture of the rest of Perry Crater's away team it would be no surprise at all if they found they were missing various bits and pieces when they finally got out of their thick winter uniforms; If they ever got out of them. If they didn't freeze to death first. Already they had been standing in front of the thick wood and stone door for nearly an hour, waiting for whoever was hopefully on the other side to let them in.

"Maybe they're asleep..."

Captain dePlann raised his fist to knock again, but it was a distinct possibility that whoever had made the remark was right. The locals were the victims of a particularly long orbit that resulted in just over a decade of frigid winters and then another of tolerable summers with a pair of extended storms between. That had resulted in that rarest of evolutionary traits - a sentient species that hibernated. But they also lived behind thick doors and deep inside intricate and monolithic mountainside cities and so it was possible that his mitten-clad fist wasn't being heard. It didn't help that as soon as they'd landed a vicious snowstorm had blow up and continued to howl in their ears even as he looked around for something solid to use as a knocker.

Shuffling around in the snow, it was then that his foot caught on something half-buried in the ice. Stooping to brush at it with mitten'ed hands, he found that it was exactly that; A heavy stone ball with a rope tied through it. Tracing that out with his hand he reached a ragged end - likely it had hung next to the door until the ice had managed to successfully conspire against it. Hefting it in one hand he smote the door a mighty blow, knocking a dense layer of frozen snow to the ground. Then another and another and then perhaps one more than needed - a scrape through the door alerted him that someone was raising the bar.

With the stone knocker held in cupped hands like a gift basket, he waited patiently until the door was yanked aside and a face that was nearly indistinguishable from the dirty white fur-trimmed hood that surrounded it appeared. Tiny black eyes were nestled in the depths and if they had nose, mouth, or any other features he couldn't tell; "Herro?"

"Herro! Your door knocker broke," dePlann replied, pushing the rock forward and using it as an excuse to crowd into the doorway. Translation was provided courtesy of an existing codex, though it had been nearly seventy years since the last Republic representative had contacted the locals. It could not be said that the Tujerg was staring at him - that would have taken more body language than the puff-clad local was capable of. Like the newcomers, they were wearing a thick jacket and trousers of some sort though the fur inside and out was likely natural rather than high-tech synthetic.

"Hew are you?"

"We're... Not from around here;" Obviously, though that hadn't put the Tujerg off. Instead they'd opened the door wide to allow the four inside. Horn had a strong 'guest' culture with the idea of leaving anyone out in the snow - or the heat - unthinkable. "We're from the Republic of Sunset - another planet, another star - and we'd like to talk to your leaders."

They'd chosen that specific city carefully and for that particular reason; During the previous contact it had been referred to repeatedly as an important center of culture. That was apparent as soon as they got further inside. Though the entrance itself was a simple square door set in a massive cut-stone frame, beyond was an enormous city cut into the mountain or built across the face with thick stone built into a looming curtain wall. This too was dotted with structures cantilevered out on wooden beams. Most of these looked like workshops and similar. According to the survey report there would be a network of gardens either dug into the mountain or built in whatever natural caverns existed.

"Fowwow me," and the Tujerg walked away, beckoning them to do just that with a trailing hand. "Be quiet - many still asweep..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:32 pm

Setting V, Circlet I, Gen Celet System, Far North-Northeast Delta Periphery... Republic Date 2176.001...

Zero-Zero-One; First day of the New Year. Election Day. Independence Day - and also the only Federally recognized holiday across the vast expanse of space and soil that collectively called itself the Republic of Sunset. Most locals had begun their celebration the night before - night being relative - but the most appropriate time for polite dinner parties, a rollicking night at the pub, entertainments both adult and juvenile, and the nearly obligatory fireworks displays that lit up the sky and space for miles around nearly every major population center. Even the 'sky' above the Circlet had been lit up with great bursts of lightning crawling across its primary's vary-color atmosphere; Hundreds of thousands that seemed to collide and burst before fading back into the titanic bands of gaseous clouds.

It had been an awesome sight but now Hannah was distracted by a more immediate sight and a more pressing question - that of hundreds of diminutive Svari stretched out along the forest path that ended, for the moment, in the polling booth manned by her and her alone. Behind her sat the tent where she'd spent the previous four nights collecting ballots, explaining the process to those curious, and then preparing the next day's ballots. Out this far into the wilds of the Circlet the technology that would have allowed all of this to be done near-instantly was mostly missing and so she had volunteered to take four days off from her job as a Corporate Defense Pilot in the simulated space-everything environment of 'Far Flung: Galaxies' to make sure the Svari had the opportunity to vote.

She eyed the line again.

There were definitely more of the point-seven meter humanoids than there had been the day before, or the day before that. To a regular voter, that in itself would have been strange. Each day of the four-day cycle typically brought a measurable drop-off in the number of ballots cast with a return rate that barely nudged over thirty percent on the last day in a high-interest year. This was such a year and she had already voted but by the numbers she'd been provided there were nearly as many 'voters' here as there were Svari in the local village.

Which was a mathematical improbability.

Only twenty-five percent of the Republic's population voted in the Federal elections every year and while this was her year it was highly unlikely that the entire population of the village was in that twenty-five percent. Most would be waiting until next year or the year after or the year after, but in her short time among the Svari she'd already picked up a good guess as to the reason why her polling station was currently under flood conditions. On the table in front of her was a stack of paper ballots - PAPER! - with the last round of candidates listed as well as a random sampling of their answers to the various questions that had got them on the ballot in the first place but also a clamp-shaped device that would 'chip' those interested with their Federal Voter ID Number.

...and the Svari were a cargo-cult. Looking down the line she could see direct evidence of that. Most carried some kind of tool or artifact taken from the interior of the Circlet - the Svari had been able to penetrate the normally impenetrable structure by a combination of guile and tenacity - as well as more recent additions from the Republic. Many knew broken Standard, a few here and there already had an implant of some kind, and there were a large number that wore a Constabulary uniform or a locally-made knock-off of that or the Defense Force uniform. They had also been quick to apply for Republic citizenship, seeing the documents provided as proof of their pseudo-religious piety.

Even those who couldn't vote would take the chip that she would inject into an offered body part or fix to a Plasticine card to be hung on a chain or carried in a pocket as a show of the divine's favor - even though Hannah was definitely not divine. She did have a t-shirt and jacket though and both wore the atomic sunburst of the Republic across the front and back. She'd had two more of each but someone had snuck into her tent during the night and made off with one and then the other; They'd been wise enough to not wear them in front of her or else she would have had to say something but she expected every bit of Republic-marked paraphernalia to be gone by the time she left tomorrow morning.

Even the tent.

Especially the tent.

"...alright, next?" The previous voter disappeared, having placed his ballot dutifully in the box and then staring at it for a second like he hoped it would spit it back out as a potent symbol of veneration. He still had the stub though; Each ballot was in two pieces with the top being a self-marking sheet that showed the candidates with a mark for where they fell in the voter's preferred instant-runoff ranking and the bottom stub showing the voter's own information, their choices, and likely most pertinent the official seal of the Republic as well as the signature of the Secretary of Justice; Never mind that he didn't have hands to sign anything.

The next in line was a typical Svari female. Pleasantly curvy and even a little top-heavy except this one wasn't, her belly curved with expectant life. She was wearing an actual Constabulary uniform and her Standard was excellent - likely enough she was a pilot except for her maternity leave, a constant issue with the reproductive-minded Svari. The species was just small enough to pilot the various Krȃng artifacts and they took to the task like ducks to water though there weren't even close to enough to fully man the millions upon millions that had been left behind.

...upon millions; Her own transport had been provided by a refurbished Helios gunship and it sat nearby idling - the pilot was from this village.

"...and are you voting this year;" The little woman held up her arm and Hannah ran a scanner over it. There was a chip there and yes - she had been randomly apportioned into the twenty-five percent for this year. With one hand she handed her a ballot and the other she pointed to the small row of folding private voting booths. Not everyone used them - the Svari didn't care, for the most part - but she stepped out of the way so that the volunteer could serve the next in line...
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:10 pm

RDF-Pompeii, A Long Way From Union, Canis Major II Galactic Segment... Republic Date 2176.002...

The concept was simple; Any civilization capable of faster-than-light travel had at its disposal an effective time machine capable of viewing - though not interacting with - the distant past. Simply park a ship, platform, station, or probe at the desired distance-in-the-past-equals-time and move back towards the objective, recording the incoming light and radiation as they go. At extreme distances the available information will be fragmentary thanks to diffusion but with a large enough receiver a more complete picture could be obtained.

Pompeii was that ship and mounted that receiver. Its assignment was determining just where the massive mega-structures dubbed 'Circlets' had originated - been constructed - and the best first guess was the star system that now played host to Union. This expanding helicoid - and a mega-structure in its own right -was the home of the i'Halalaentariel or at least the electronic remnants of those who had once called themselves 'i'Halalaentariel'. In all likelihood it had also been the former home system of the Krȃng, to which the i'Halalaentariel had declared themselves nemesis, but there was essentially nothing left of the system that would be useful in making this absolute determination.

Thus the time machine.

And the answer.

On the forward display Captain Pilate - Pontius, as his parents could be politely described as history buffs - watched as the Krȃng met their end. Only a few short minutes ago fleets in a scale beyond imagination had departed the system, each through their separate gates to arrive at the eight corners of the galaxy proper in abortive invasion. Weeks earlier - minutes again when one held the remote control of time - the Circlets themselves had been sent away, traveling across the vast gulf by conventional and slower faster-than-light transit. Almost as soon as the last ship slipped through the system's surrounding gateways the i'Halalaentariel arrived, WarSpheres on a scale unseen literally surrounding the gateway complexes to ravage them with fire.

Except for one. Here the vast weight of the armada waited in ambush just beyond sensor-return range and as soon as the first Krȃng fleet returned to take their revenge on the desecrators they too were demolished in turn. By now the massive WarSpheres had finished their first order of business and these now turned on the planets and stations that surrounded them, demolishing them one-by-one in an inferno of righteous vengeance. The same was true of the returning fleets. Forced to divert to the one active gate, they too were destroyed one-by-one...

"Until we get to the end and the important part. Nice and slow now, Lieutenant..."

What the Pompeii was specifically looking for was the method by which the Circlets were constructed. A foundry, a crucible - a factory. Whatever it was, it would hold secrets that the Republic would want to acquire - secrets that the i'Halalaentariel had been unwilling to give up. The greater likelihood was that whatever method the Krȃng had used had been destroyed along with the system. Already countless stations had met their fate; Station-keeping drives offline, they had plunged into the star or the gas giants where they orbited. Since only the first still existed the second would be unavailable for inspection. There was something missing though.

No station, no installation - nothing with the individual size and scale to manufacture the Circlets; "Let's go back again."

There it was, way back at the beginning. The Circlets had arrived in the system, each spread out over a number of years. Arrived - not built. There was another important detail in there too; All of the Circlets and in fact all of the planets they orbited were essentially identical. That wasn't the work of an artisan workshop but a manufacturing system. Possibly one of enormous size and scale.

"Which means that whatever they were built by could still be out there." Looking up at the holo-sphere that spread out across the ceiling, he drew some lines in his head, "That gives us a radius of eighty thousand-odd light years. What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. And get on the horn with Fleet - hell, the Secretary-General. If this thing exists, we're going to need to put every eyeball we have on the job of finding it..."
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Sunset
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:46 pm

Republic Defense Force Research Annex, CORE IV Deep Space Station, Somewhere in the Galactic Abyss... Republic Date 2176.005...

With an arm stock-straight ahead of her, Heidi Ballenger pushed her way through a pair of doors, pausing only to make sure her companion was still following along. They were an odd pair; Too ornate for the otherwise simply-decorated station - if lots of stark gray slabs broken up by virtual windows, alcoves with mysterious machinery, and other people walking by counted as 'decoration'. This one had a cluster of warning placards, dormant lights, and possibly some sirens worked into the frame as well as two thick panes of real but opaque glass set into them. There was a sign to either side of the door that presumably read what was just beyond but no one she'd ever met could tell her what it said.

"...all of these ships are an expression of the gateway itself, right?" Just behind her Katryna Silaco - Director of Special Projects and only on-site as a holographic projection (Which was why Heidi was opening all the doors) - nodded in agreement; "Yes, basically."

Ahead the floor dropped away to a set of stairs and at the bottom a pair of doors that looked like they should belong on an elevator instead whisked open, numbers worked into the edges counting down to '1' just as her first foot hit the deck, "So my thought was - why not leave a little bit of the gateway with the ship? Two birds, one stone here."

Two heavy swinging metal doors opened wide at their approach, an array of visible laser beams formerly hidden by the hinged panels sweeping over one body and through the other to paint a pattern on the opposite wall that just might have said what the sign next to the previous-previous door said if you watched it over and over.

"The first bird is security. We've been working on a way to make our ships snatch-proof. Sure, they already have internal defenses - nothing like thinking you've taken the bridge only to have four-to-eight power armor troopers burst through the walls - but those can still be defeated in detail by a determined opponent. I was thinking..."

This time it was a pair of heavy sliding bulkhead doors that parted with a rumble. Along the outside frame were set a quartet of flashing yellow klaxons and as they opened and then shut again they whirled to life before shutting off again as the door heaved itself shut with a '*KLANG*.'

"...if we were to make the ships themselves part of the gateway, we would be able to remotely any ship that was somehow stolen. And, if the ship was destroyed in combat, then presumably the gateway encoding would be destroyed as well. Without the encoding the ship would rectify with the Prime and a couple minutes later..."

Ahead the corridor seemed to end in a blank wall but as she closed to within her own body length invisible seams first appeared and then the wall slid back before splitting to either side and vanishing into the wall as though there had been an archway there all along.

"...so that's your first bird - what's your second, Heidi?"

"The second is that the ship is still, technically, a gateway. If it was born from an interface, it can be reborn from that same interface to spread itself anew on wings of fire! Simply - it gets within spitting range of a star, activates the gateway's boundary generation function, then repairs itself as the gateway re-expresses the missing parts of the ship," and what had once been a virtual window split from the floor to drop one-third into the floor while the other rose into the ceiling before dropping back into place behind them.

"Clever - though it would take some time for the boundary generation function to grow to enough coverage to make more than minor repairs. Days."

Heidi was ready for that one with her own counter, "I've looked at the numbers. Statistically speaking, it's light damage or nothing. As in there's nothing left. This isn't some epic space fantasy where a heavily damaged ship pulls out against the odds. Take that first big hit and then its two more and you're done."

A dozen hexagonal bars split the corridor floor to ceiling now and at their approach they began to retract right and left from top to bottom, each leaving a thick blue beam that she broke easily with her body before continuing on as they closed again behind. Ahead the path opened up into an open space with only a small booth standing alone at the end.

"And in the end, it won't matter if the system never ends up being used. The gateway instructions and coding are essentially flat. Kilograms. What eats up your mass is the energy required to create the boundary interface in the first place and the ship itself can provide that from its reactors or backup batteries. So - what do you think?"

Accordion doors opened and she stepped inside, picking up a sleek black bar attached to the wall by a curling cord. Her thumb paused over the reader and she looked at the Director's face for confirmation; "Sounds great - good work. I'll get a team on it right away..."

"Thank you, ma'am," and she put her thumb down to instantly drop into the floor, the reader bar falling only slightly to dangle unattended on its curling cord. With a suddenly preoccupied nod the Director turned and her feet took her back the way she came as the hologram rippled apart from bottom to top...
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Sunset
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Mon Dec 10, 2018 3:01 pm

Sengrin Customs Centre, S 45 68-03 System, United Imperial Kingdoms of Macisikan... Republic Date 2176.009...

"...because that's our outside estimate. Tell me - what do you know about the Druth'Haari?"

The answer was, as with most people in the galaxy, not a lot if anything at all. It may have been an odd rejoinder but a necessary one and Katryna launched into an explanation that would, over its course, slowly drained the color from her counterpart's face. It was not something she particularly enjoyed; If she wanted to unnerve someone she had both kids and a husband set aside for that purpose.

"The Druth'Haari are a post-Singularity species-civilization of numerous 'flavors' that lives inside a series of artificial boundary interfaces that disguise themselves as black holes throughout this galaxy, several others that we know about, and possibly spread out across the entire universe."

This she backed up with a series of projected holograms showing the black holes - which weren't very interesting visually - but more important their various technical data, "And the really important part is here," she highlighted a block of text across each. "Very nearly identical. If you look at them against the wider catalog of known black holes they would look like average noise but they're actually an advanced form of holographic boundary manipulation - one that is manifest in both the Prime universe and its own interface manipulation."

Or at least it had been advanced. Both the Republic under her auspices and the UIK under her counter-part had made incredible strides in turning this understanding to their own uses. At the moment the Republic was ahead, though that seemed to be almost a question of time zones and how quickly the other could pump out research papers. If she were to tell the truth, the Republic's discovery of the Druth'Haari had led them down this particular path and so it might well be with others following in their collective footsteps later.

"I can't tell you a lot about 'them' as a civilization because we don't know a lot about them, but we do know a few things and have a suspicion on a few more. The most pertinent to this read-in is that we are ninety-nine percent certain that the Druth'Haari are not from this universe - they're from the previous iteration of this universe. And possibly the one before that. Which... Shit!"

A thought had crossed the Director's mind and she jumped out of her chair and began to work. The first order of business was a virtual whiteboard that she generated with a flick of a finger and the second was a simplified hologram of a telephone, currently ringing on the hook, "I'm calling Doctor Brilla. She's one of our top minds on..."

The handset fell off the based and the hologram was replaced by another, this time of a fully fleshed out woman wearing what looked like combat armor and what probably was combat armor, given the patches on both shoulders as well as the full helmet and collection of pouches, containers, and affixed items, "Hello?"

"Hey Saryan, its me," which the other undoubtedly knew but the first was in a rush and not particularly thinking through basic phone etiquette, "And this is Sir Tamlen Sabariel, United Imperial Kingdoms of Macisikan. I'm reading him in on the Druth'Haari..."

"What a coincidence! I'm right in the middle of trying to figure out what they are up to. Can it wait?"

"It will only take a second," Katryna looked back to the Minister, who was staring at her as though she'd grown a second head, and then back to the physicist. "I think. I had this thought about the Druth'Haari and it comes back to just what I was talking to the Minister about. Or about to. If the Druth'Haari are scattered through the universe, how did they get there? Big place, the universe."

"Moped. They have time."

"...possible, but not what I'm thinking. You see Minister, we had an incident with one of the Druth'Haari's outside 'representatives';" She put the last word directly into finger quotes, "A couple years ago. A break-in, a giant purple space kraken - I'm sure it made the papers. But what didn't make the papers was the reason for the whole thing. Possibly the reason why the Druth'Haari made an appearance in the Prime universe to begin with. They were after information - likely information that they had once held but that somehow had gotten out."

"Our - my - informed guess as to the nature of that information? How to destroy the universe. Or at least reset it. You see, our cosmological models matched your own. Not with a bang but with a whimper. A hundred trillion years is a long time, but it isn't true immortality either. To pull that off you've got to find a way through... Or push the button yourself."

"...and get to the point?"

"The point is that if you can push the button, you can also determine what the button does. The Druth'Haari are spread through the universe because they planned it that way. They've been ready for the next cycle ever since the beginning of this one."

"That is a most extraordinary claim," Sabariel put in, skepticism in his voice. "We would want extraordinary proof."

Katryna's finger had started to scrawl across the whiteboard before she even started to speak but in the middle of a sequence of chicken-scratch numbers and symbols she stopped, "You're right. We're going to need proof and more than some statistical manipulations. As soon as Saryan gets done with her thing, she'll get to work on it but I've got a couple ideas as well. But there you go - that's why our models are different."

"At some point in the next fourteen trillion years - before the tipping point between Big Crunch and Big Gray - the Druth'Haari will trigger the next cycle. Or maybe not," she admitted. "They didn't seem too keen on having that information sitting around and I locked it away where it will be really hard to get back. And if they don't... Well, that's a long time to not figure out another solution, isn't it?"
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