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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 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:58 pm

Identification Clarity & Standards Whiteboard Meeting, Special Projects Research Complex 19371-A, Ju-Docri, Docru System... Republic Date 2176.013...

This was a meeting - of sorts - and meetings needed managers - of sorts - and so the first self-selected 'Facilitator' for the first official meeting of the Identification Clarity & Standards Working Group was a dumpy looking woman of middle-middle age named Eleanor Rosencranz. In a fit of optimism, she'd chosen to dress up her baggy sweater and loose-fitting jeans with a hair clasp she'd decorated herself - all of which had worked in her favor when she'd put herself in the for the position and none of which indicated any competency in it. Still, she had a clipboard across her lap and that had to count for something as far as organization went, right?

"...so we have..." She counted down the list again, "Twenty seven different acronyms that the Director has asked us to make better," she began and in a fit of technological awareness the entire list scrolled down the air behind her to perhaps indicate it was not just skill with a hot glue gun that had gotten her into the Working Group. "And a bit of a problem. I've checked," she looked around the table from face to already-bored face, "And none of us has the security level to know what they are going to be used for."

A tentacle went up, "Do we at least know what they mean?"

She pushed an invisible button on the clipboard, "Hmm - yes and no. Some of these appear to just be words that someone decided to capitalize without actually creating an acronym or backronym for. Like REDSHIRT or RATING." Another swipe and press and those acronyms that had some manner of word soup in the can expanded to show what they 'meant', letter by letter.

"VASSLA? That guy was fucking lazy..."

"Could be worse. Could be HBIEMA. Sounds like something my girlfriend had..."

For the next few minutes the Working Group was all sarcasm and savagery, each poorly-considered capitalization eliciting its own insult and in a few cases the few minutes was punctuated by a few more as the most egregious examples were given the dead-horse treatment.

"...like an egg salad sandwich had sex with the avocado first."

Which was enough for the Facilitator to drop her clipboard on the table with a meaningful 'click' and clear her throat, "Alright. Now that we have that out of our system... The Director gave me these in priority order, so let's start at the beginning. RATING. Which doesn't mean anything, and there's a note here... "'Damned Aumanii, taking the good ones...' Which doesn't really mean anything as far as our job goes. For those who aren't familiar, the RATING is the replacement name for the REDSHIRT, which also doesn't mean anything besides a reference to an old television show. Since I don't watch TV..."

A half-dozen pens pelted her and it was to her credit-or-not that she ignored them all, "The REDSHIRT is the Defense Force's replacement for the 'average' crewman and 'average' soldier," and she added a hologram of the REDSHIRT to the table, the little holo-figure standing at braced attention on the glass. "So - who's got an idea?"

"RATING is the replacement? That doesn't sound so bad."

"Sounds like ratting. Like rats."

"A 'rating' was the old blue-navy term for the lowest-ranking or enlisted sailors. It is appropriate," the gray-bearded man with more belly than belt sitting at the far end of the table added, "But it could be better. What did the Aumanii do?"

"ARC. Autonomous Robotic Comrade? They don't look at all the same though. But I like the name. Nice, short, to the point... We could steal it. Who came up with the idea first?"

Eleanor checked her notes, "The Blishi'i - We're borrowing from their MD-Sm/s Type Drone. Though I'm sure someone else has had something of the same idea before. "Autonomous Robotic Comrade doesn't really... It doesn't fit our idiom," she decided.

"We'll change it. ARC is nice and tight. Autonomous Republic Crewman?"

"...ugh, no. That's pretty much 'a person'. These aren't supposed to be people. Advanced Republic..."

"Until they aren't advanced. Something Republic Something Something."

"Something Something?"

"ARCC?"

"Android Replica Crew."

"Android works. I'm not sure about Replica. Or Crew. Android Republic... Sounds like they're trying to form a government. Android Replacement Complement. ARC unit?"

"We'll mark that as a 'maybe'," Eleanor decided, writing the name on her clipboard where it then appeared next to the original in the hovering matrix. "Any other suggestions?"

"Android Something Complement. I'm not sure I like 'replacement'. Sounds like they are only there for emergencies when they're actually there all the time. Android Ready Complement? Rating? Redshirt? Kinda self-referential though. Android Rating Complement. It is hiding under the better 'ARC' though, so..."

"Another possibility. Let's move on to the next - whatever an HBIEMA is..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:04 pm

On the Ground, Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Minutes Later...

"...set up a patrol perimeter within easy visual range of the pod. Coordinate with Ojeni," Kami ordered, possibly unnecessarily. "I want to know the moment anything alive crosses that line, especially if it even looks hostile. And especially if they look like those slavers. Or a Druth'Haari. Understood?"

The RATING returned a salute - more useful under the faceless helmet it wore - and a sharp-and-subtly electronic 'Yes, Ma'am,' before turning with its fellows to trot out towards the horizon, the tiny drone spheres on their armor detaching to zip ahead. They'd found the units stowed in the escape pod after they'd made their landing and while the ad hoc team had been hunting for the armor they'd need to survive on the surface. While not strictly necessary, it was good practice and so Captain Blaine had spent the thirty seconds necessary to turn them out into their squad before dispatching them into the ruins.

Which left her free to rejoin the party, who were already pouring over the closest piece of ruined something-or-other.

It was definitely a ruin, but what it once had been was hard to tell. Using the tracking data passed back by Lieutenant Commander Ingersol's replacement on the bridge, she'd put the pod down almost on top of where the trail had gone still. That had put them in the near-exact middle of an open ring of ruins with a single cluster of something just off to their left. To first appearances she'd call it a city, but it wasn't like any that she'd ever seen.

There wasn't enough room, first off - though that was clearly her own human perception. It was like someone had sown a field of dragon's teeth in a ragged ring around the corpse and they had cropped up into curving fangs and great talons. Most were bunched into a tight or open circle, as though the massive claw itself lurked just below the useless baked-brown surface. Moving at her own trot, she quickly got close enough to make out more details - at least of whatever sat in the center.

If this had been Earth, Mars, or any of a thousand other Human-touched worlds she would swear it was a monument. Or a fountain. There was a mathematical precision to their near-random layout with the exception that all of the claws were pointed inward where they would - in theory, and given a large enough dragon - touch in the middle. Under a layer of dust that had settled in times past into the various cracks and crevices, she could see the glint and sparkle of silver metal and perhaps something more.

"...looks like writing," Timmons confirmed, wiping away a great streak with his hand. The explorer was stooped at the largest of the five, one hand now scraping away more and more while he held a hand scanner close with the other. Just behind him Thomas was doing the same but to the whole collection while the Doctor was standing outside the perimeter, a wariness in her posture.

"I don't like it. Reminds me of the... I guess you could call it 'capture-cage' on ePyrk. You don't see any purple crystals, do you?"

"No - but that would make sense. At least as far as a reason for coming here goes. But," Timmons waved his scanner around experimentally, followed by a confirming shake of the head from Thomas, "I'm not picking up the huge spike in Hawking radiation that I should be if these were somehow Druth'Haari ruins. I am finding something else though."

Kami crossed the last few strides to come to rest next to her senior science officer, "What's that?"

Silent conversation passed between the two men as they decided between themselves who would explain it with the younger winning out by virtue of expertise, "It's these ruins. They're old," and he demonstrated by setting the functions on the scanner and putting it right next to one of the talons, "Very old, judging by the isotope decay. But they're also older than the planet."

"Uhhh..."

"Yeah, it doesn't work that way," he went on, demonstrating again by walking away from the ruins, scanning the ground, and returning to show her the two averaged numbers. "It does if they were moved here, but the scans show that they are fixed to a base somewhere under this," he stamped a foot meaningfully. "Now, it is possible they were moved here of course, but there are certain isotope markers and they match those of the planet, plus about a very, very long time. I'd say these were built here but..."

They were momentarily interrupted by a call from Lieutenant Yu, still on duty aboard the orbiting cruiser, 'Captain - Springboard has arrived. Rear Admiral McCopper sends his regards and his ships have moved to assist in securing the prizes and begun landing Marines on the settlements. He would like to know if 'Ya'll want me down there, or iff'n yer okay fer the time bein' ah'n just want me to take care o' tha' mess.' Ma'am.'

"...but its possible they were moved here. Thank you, Lieutenant. Relay my regards to Titan and tell him to fuck off - this is our dig."

"Possible, but very unlikely. I don't have an exact date range here, but we're talking a long-ass time. Hundreds of thousands. Without another planet in the system to compare it to, it's going to be very hard to pin down. Unless this can give us a clue," and he pointed to the writing. "We got lucky. When the star stripped away the planet's atmosphere it also removed the usual methods of decay. Otherwise they'd be long gone."

She bent to look at the delicate lettering, "Shouldn't they be gone anyway? I'd guess it takes a lot of energy to strip a planet of its atmosphere, even for a star."

"Engineered materials. Which means we're looking at the remains of a fairly advanced civilization here. Or their outpost. A lot of cities for an outpost though."

"I'm wondering where they lived. No doors, no windows;" At least, not that any of them could see from here. "How about we go take a look at the city proper? Might be more we can learn about them... Actually, we're forgetting the point," and she turned to look behind her. "Where did he land? We should look there first. Maybe we'll run smack into an invisible jet with a stunning Amazonian on board who's secretly into bondage."

Thomas turned to point, his finger coincidentally landing on Doctor Brilla as well. Since her earlier comment the physicist had been quiet, but with attention accidentally focused on her she jerked suddenly as if woken; "Captain Blaine..."

"Hmm? What?"

"...I think I know why the dates don't match up."

"Oh? Why's that?" Kami replied, though her tone and action seemed to almost be ignoring the woman as she began to jog past, eager to hit her head on something unseen.

"The iWe - they're able to manipulate entropy."

The Captain stopped dead in her tracks...
Last edited by Sunset on Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Dec 13, 2018 1:43 pm

Republic Defense Force Research Annex, CORE IV Deep Space Station, Somewhere in the Galactic Abyss... Republic Date 174.020...

"...so how did your conversation with the Director go?"

Heidi looked up from her station and cocked her brow at the assistant researcher who asked the not-quite-question; "That was a couple days ago... Fine, I guess? She said it was a good idea and said she'd put a team on it."

A few days and a couple thousand years, if the heading was anything to go by. One of the first pieces of legislation to pass the newly seated Senate where it had been proposed and sponsored by a Princess of the Zeer'Gen (Something about pheromone-based voter manipulation that was now also on the Senate agenda) was a proposal to modify the Republic's dating system on the basis that the current-and-now-past-previous 'year' of 2176 was culturally insensitive and should be replaced with a date that reflected the founding of the Republic and was thus inclusive to the many species, cultures, civilizations, worlds, and constructs that held themselves to it.

It was an easy pass and the file system proved robust enough to handle the transition, though there had been a few very old (and a couple very cranky) clocks that had been confused or replaced the next morning.

"Oh. That..." She drew out the word, watching the lead's face to try and gauge the next appropriate word. Without a particular clue offered, she settled on the negative-neutral. "Sucks. Right?"

"Nah. Not really. See... I had another idea;" The assistant breathed a sigh of neutral relief. "Have you ever heard of a Nicoll-Dyson Laser?"

"Sure. The collected collimated output of a Dyson swarm used as a weapon. I would point out that we don't have a proper Dyson swarm though... Right?"

It was a reasonable question. Even for a researcher with higher-level security access there was always a level above that, and a level above that. She couldn't then be sure that in all the great expanse of the Republic there wasn't hidden away a box somewhere labeled 'TOP SECRET - ARMY INTEL 990653 - DO NOT OPEN!' with a full-on proper Dyson swarm inside. Possibly around a very small star.

It could have even been in the next room over.

"Right. But we do have a couple something's close, at least in terms of energy output. In fact, based on some back of the napkin calculations, we've actually got a surplus of them."

"What's a surplus?"

"About a hundred times more than we currently need. Which - okay - its good to have some reserves. But this is over-kill. Now notionally there are a whole bunch of Maxims that deem that 'false'," and she pointed to one of the laboratory bulkheads where a framed long poster of the effective maxims in question hung prominently, "but since they are not currently being used as weapons of some sort Maxim 37 does not currently apply. But Maxim 24 does."

A couple quick steps and the technician rocks up onto her toes to reach the entry in question, "'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun.' Someone in the chow hall said they think that might be what's printed next to the doors - so the idea is to make another big gun?"

Somewhat coincidental in that the Research Annex itself was located in what was essentially a spare closet attached to one of the biggest guns of them all; CORE IV's 'NEMESIS' Strategic Delivery System.

"That's right - check it out." Luring her assistant back with a wave of the hand, she conjured up a hologram above the workbench, "This is my demonstration - Michael Bay style."

The demonstration appeared to be a ship - a common-but-stupidly-advanced Ascendant-Class Dreadnought - that was rocketing through open space so quickly that an enormous gas giant passed as a flicker. The image zoomed in to show the forward torpedo tubes and then 'swam' up the extended rails into the heart of the Cyclone launch magazine where thousands of oblongs churned in a stomach-wrenching spiral. There was a slow-motion pause to focus on one of the torpedoes and then the action sprang back to full speed as it raced down the accelerator tube in the midst of a few hundred of its peers.

Their targets were the gathered fleet of some unmarked but definitely prepared rival, enormous hulks that looked from this distance as though they dwarfed the smaller WarShip utterly. The reasonable response was that the churn of torpedoes would be annihilated by the massed point-defense of the waiting fleet, though at that moment the recording swung away to show a distant ring-shaped object floating in far more serene circumstances at the outside edge of a star's corona. In the center of the ring a great point of light was building and then with a flash it was gone...

...replaced again by the speeding torpedoes. Already a crackle of long-range fire had opened up among the distant fleet and in moments the torpedoes would be close enough that the math would be on the point-defense systems side. Instead the torpedoes began to go up on their own, each 'flash' being over-laid with a composite of a different interface surging to power and then discharging in an instant.

Despite the intervening distance the fleet never had a chance as the second-long output of an entire star burst among their number. Ships simply ceased to be as the flash hit one, two - a dozen - at a time and washed them away to nothing. Within moments the entire collection had disappeared and the Dreadnought sailed through, its own shields crackling as the dissipated remnants of the semi-sorta-blast waves rippled outward.

The demonstration hologram came to an end and the assistant found herself standing there, a tub of popcorn in hand; "Pretty cool, right?"

"Uh - yeah! So you're designing..."

"A Nicoll-Dyson Torpedo, right! The warhead is a one-shot link between the fabrication emitter on one of our HBIEMA's and the volume of space just ahead of the warhead. Now, if we only had one HBIEMA you might call that a waste; Why not build another ship instead? But we don't have one. And of course we couldn't do that with just one either. But in the grand scheme of things re-routing the energy output from a couple hundred for a second or two isn't a big deal - not when you're getting a confirmed kill on an equivalent number of enemy warships... Big ones too!"
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Postby Sunset » Fri Dec 14, 2018 1:02 pm

Verbenaniak Floodplain, Thesulia VI, Beta Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.024...

"...you know, I'm not sure I should have accepted this assignment!" Lae shouted, dodging aside at just the last moment before an enormous gray-brown foot would have otherwise squashed the already-lanky Cyar flat. "Are you sure you feel safe leaving the kids at home?! Maybe we should check in..."

Lieutenant Falk would have shot him a look over her shoulder but she was busy dodging as well. It wasn't that the Kotolathi were aggressive; Instead they were the biggest sapient species she'd ever laid eyes on. Each of the monstrous amphibians was nearly fifty meters from tip to tail, which they dragged behind them while propelling themselves forward on two huge arms that dug into the muddy basin and would have left her sticking out of the churned-up slop like some kind of cartoon character, "They'll be fine. Mom loves watching them!"

'We'll see how she likes it after a month,' she thought to herself as she raced up a long-fallen log in a valiant effort to keep up with the herd.

It was the classic example of kids behaving one way at home and another in public - or at least with their grandmother. To call either an unfit parent was overly-harsh, but to label either as ready? That didn't fit either. Instead they were both doing the best they could under the circumstances though it was with notable relief when they accepted the offer of a short-term field assignment assisting a diplomatic team in their efforts to recruit the Kotolathi into the Republic. After a few weeks or even days the kids would see Grandma - Admiral Falk - as they saw their parents (slightly inconvenient speed bumps) and run over her accordingly.

Somewhere behind her her partner struggled to keep up. Normally it would be him in the lead; He was naturally athletic and the Cyar physiology lent itself to this kind of open-field obstacle course. He had gotten off to a poor start, however, as they tried to follow the herd - a casual swing of the tail had sent him flying face-first into a muddy hole and bits and pieces still clung to his armor.

"Should have brought the hovercycles!"

She was about to answer that it would have been a bad idea, but one of the Kotolathi chose the perfect moment to demonstrate. One of the colossal flying insectoids that plagued the flood plain during the spring picked that moment to get too close and with a flick of its great sticky tongue the croksus disappeared into the nearest gullet. Not that the Kotolathi would have intentionally ate them - they were simply near-sighted as a species and any flying-buzzing thing was more than likely food.

"...maybe not! Are we close!?"

The herd was slowly making its way from the lake where they had spent the night to the next lake where they would again spend the night. The Kotolathi spent half the year migrating from the warm shallow seas where they could give birth to the cold but also shallow seas further south where they could find the abundant food they needed to make it through the winter. It might have seemed a strange joke that they had evolved to intelligence but it was not so; At the head of the great migration both could hear the matriarch bellowing as she chatted back and forth with the diplomatic team.

Did they built anything? No - but they loved to gossip.

"Can't even see it yet, lover boy - get your butt moving..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 15, 2018 1:31 pm

The Gray Chamber...

"...simply put, a device of this usefulness - if it is a single device or even an amalgamation of related systems - is too powerful and too dangerous to risk falling into Fated hands. Certainly it would be to our;" and by that the Secretary-General meant the Republic, "benefit to control such a thing but the potential for misuse and abuse outweighs that. The risks are manifest; Such a system - if it exists still - undoubtedly holds many of the technological secrets of the Krȃng Empire and likely many more of their traps and tricks. There is also the question of the hunt. This is no mere system-by-system or sector-by-sector search - the distant fringe of our galaxy encompasses more volume than the galaxy proper and fewer stars. No matter the means by which this construction was accomplished this scarcity complicates the search..."

----

CORE VIII Deep Space Station, Near Sol, Alpha Quadrant... Republic Date 174.028...

"...TRIPWIRE won't help us here - unless we simply get lucky. But thinking about the method I've had an idea - we look for the missing star," Admiral Huynh said, staring steadfast at the sprawling holo-sphere that dominated the operations center. His experience as an astronomer was exactly why he'd been appointed by the Secretary-General directly to lead the Republic's portion of the hunt for the Krȃng Empire's missing industrial complex and despite the decades that showed deep on his face, he was still fascinated by the swirl of the galaxy as it slowly circled inside the projection.

"The missing star?"

"A Dyson sphere, Dyson swarm, or complete stellar disassembly. To make that much PTU;" Each of the Circlets contained in and of themselves more of the engineered element than most Fated star fleets displaced - let alone massed, "Would require a similarly enormous amount of energy, raw materials, or both. The most optimistic numbers coming out of Special Projects indicate that PTU-557 requires approximately twenty-three thousand times the raw material that whatever process involved yields. Running those numbers gives us appropriately one average star's worth of material for all eight Circlets."

Again the Lieutenant asked, almost raising a perfunctory hand before consciously realizing that the Admiral still hadn't turned to face her, "And the Krang fleets?"

"...make that an above-average star. A survey of the Krȃng fleets destroyed at the Battle of Union indicate a far greater number than those fielded by the i'Halalaentariel. The remains of those at least are known - swept in their entirety into the system primary. To emphasize the point," he nodded towards a side display where the battle recorded by RDF-Pompeii was again playing out, "the addition of so much material notably altered the star's spectra."

"So what about the missing star?"

"Assuming the mechanism was one of those three - Sphere, Swarm, or Disassembly - we might be able to find the star the Circlets were constructed around by doing a time-lapse survey for 'missing' stars. The risk is that the Krȃng may have gone to greater measures to secure this facility and hid it in the void. An examination of the stations orbiting their home star strongly indicates that they could have been resource extractors and a formidable network of these could have combined together to supply the needed materials with assembly taking place in deep space and thus bypassing those methods."

"What about the planets? That the Circlets orbit? They are artificial too, right? Should we be looking for missing planets as well?"

"It is a possibility," he admitted, "Though it would make the search even more difficult." This time he anticipated her interrupting question before it was asked, "How did the i'Halalaentariel know about the Krȃng fleet movement into the Circlet systems? Special Projects has a team working on that one but there's your answer - somehow they are able to track Krȃng activity across galactic distances. What that exact method is we haven't been able to determine. I can tell you that it isn't related to TRIPWIRE. Special Projects has already ruled that out though this being Special Projects they have some truly whack-a-doodle ideas on how they might be doing it."

"But if they are - and were during that time period..." The Admiral paused to consider it, "Whatever method they used to construct the Circlets would have also been among my personal primary targets during the war. That is the way we fight, after all - an enemy fleet is of secondary concern to the infrastructure that manufactures them. It is completely possible that the i'Halalaentariel simultaneously destroyed it as well. But the Secretary-General does not care and thus I do not care - if this thing is still in the wild we will either find it or confirm its destruction..."
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Dec 18, 2018 9:17 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 16, 2018 3:32 pm

On the Ground, Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Not a Minute Later...

"You're saying the iWe did this? Why?"

"Why?" Saryan stopped in her own tracks, "That's... I don't know. We'll have to keep looking, right? But I'm saying that they could have done this. And that makes me worried because we know they are in communication with the Druth'Haari. I dunno - maybe this is a trap of some kind?"

"I'd say you're thinking too hard, Doc. Right now Occam's Razor says that the most likely scenario is that these buildings were moved here from somewhere else. That's certainly more plausible than them randomly fast forwarding time on some random-ass planet in the back end of nowhere. Even if they do have a penchant for meddling."

And with that sorted - or at least firmly shoved to the side - Captain Blaine continued on her course, mentally checking the coordinates provided against her own as she walked across the open space and right smack through the middle of, "Nothing." She put out a finger and poked at the air, expecting there to be a little bit of squish or maybe some resistance. "Okay. No invisible ship. Thomas, get over here. I'm going back to the pod!"

Because there was a shovel in the pod and a few minutes later she broke ground on the Kamilia Blaine Memorial Hole to Nowhere. It was not a very long dig either - just a couple spades of hard-pack tossed aside and she hit the whatever-it-was that lay just underneath. More shoveling to either side and she had both uncovered what looked like an ordinary concrete'ish slab etched or stamped with a regular geometric design that would have looked reasonably fetching when combined with the talon-and-claw structures around it.

With the tip of her shovel she gave it an experimental tap, then much harder and a chunk broke free, "Be a really crappy trap door, but... So, any luck translating that writing?"

"Nope. There's nothing to reference it to - could be a recipe for butternut squash, could be a monument to their hatred for Aumanii."

"Random reference there. How thick is this?" She knocked the butt end of the shovel on the slab meaningfully. "Or should I go straight for the grenades?"

He stooped and put the scanner in front of him, nearly touching it against the concrete, "Grenades. Its thick, and it looks like it has reinforcing structures. Filaments, structural steel - good old reinforced concrete. But I can see through it and there's just more regular dirt on the other side."

She speared the shovel into the dirt and left it there, a white flag to personal defeat while she pulled out a grenade and adjusted the settings. Placing it upright in the middle of the largest clear patch of grey she looked around, "I'm setting it for thirty - unless you want to have a foot race?"

That prompted a general retreat back to the monument in the center and as soon as she pressed the button she withdrew herself, just making cover before it blew. Her haste hadn't been needed; True to its settings the grenade went off as a shaped cone, blasting the concrete out in a mostly-neat circle below it. Gathering around the dig, they could all see exactly what they'd been expecting to see - more dirt.

"Okay, well - why here. Why did he come here and stop," she turned to spin in a slow circle, taking in the whole of their surroundings, "Here? Right here. Just to fuck with us?"

"I'd say it was to tell us something;" Everyone turned to look. Lieutenant Commander Ingersol was kneeling at the edge of the hole, his hand and scanner down inside. "The concrete? Also older than the planet - at least by the isotopes. The dirt below the slab? Also older - the first couple centimeters at least. But get your hand really down there and it's back to normal. With a transition layer between. So, this concrete was poured here. Which makes me think those structures were built here. Which makes me think something or someone aged both of them artificially for some reason. Why?"

"I have a hunch that we're looking at it."

The word alone was enough for everyone to turn and look at Commander Timmons, who was pacing his way in and among the rising talons of the group-labelled monument in the center.

"He - they - want us to look at this specifically. Sure, we can't read it yet - but we're also one of the very few with the capacity to track them here. So that says to me that they want us to be right here, right now, looking at this. Which means that we just need to get enough samples for the computer to create a translation matrix," he ran a gloved hand across the etched surface, "Or stumble across our own Rosetta Stone..."
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Dec 17, 2018 2:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Dec 17, 2018 5:50 pm

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System... Republic Date 174.035...

"...alas, poor Yorick."

"You knew him?" Site Director Krieger asked, looking pointedly at the metal skull the Doctor was currently tossing up and down.

"No - not well. He was - is, is! - a volunteer. Seemed rather delighted at the idea, really," Kraus mused, a hint of a question mark in his tone. "Could have been what he was in for - or maybe who was after him. Or the lysergic acid diethylamide I slipped into his breakfast cereal..."

"...you didn't." Francine snatched up the paperwork that was laying there on the workbench next to the Doctor's spare hand as he continued to juggle the skull with the other. A brief thumb through the file brought her some relief, "You didn't. Thank god."

"Well, I wasn't just going to leave him there to rot. Corporal punishment - even confinement - is a terrible abuse and only leads to higher rates of recidivism and a continuing burden on the state and civil society. Not our state, mind," he gave her a wink, "But you know... If you can't be the galaxy's cop, you can at least be their jailer... Speaking of god..."

Francine didn't look up. Instead she was again thumbing through the file, trying to find out exactly where the man in the skull had come from. 'Volunteer', yes - good, 'Prisoner', no - no reference at all there. Which was was less of a relief than one might think - the comment about dosing the man with LSD might very well be true. With no clear indication as to just where he'd gotten his volunteer, she snapped the file closed with a sigh. It looked like her relationship with Jack Daniels would continue.

She'd been warned. Fucking dammit, she'd been warned. Why did she take the job back?

"...but they fired the other guy..."

Or did they? Her gaze snapped to the skull and just for a moment she was tempted to open the file again, check the name again... Yorick... Who names their kid 'Yorick'?

"...started calling it 'Heaven' because most of the people - not this poor fellow though; He'd go straight to Hell - most of the people who've expressed interest in the KrausCortex are believers of some sort. Hypocrites too - looking for eternal life through technology when still waiting for some bearded guy in the sky to come save them from all the evil in this life. I mean, I took the liberty of leafing through this guy's porn collection and he'd be visiting each circle in sequence for eternity. Actually, I should suggest that in my report - why not a literal Hell? We can put the bad people there. You know, lawyers, accountants, tax cheats, clowns... Monkeys."

Taking a deep, careful breath Francine tipped her head back and stared at the ceiling before closing her eyes and wishing to whatever deity stood in judgement of such things that the day might end, "Alright - I'm not going to ask about the clowns or the monkeys. Everyone knows you hate monkeys. But why a skull?"

"Because it looks cool? I mean - imagine you somehow make your way past all the security, fit your self through a hole just slightly bigger than this guy, don't get mangled by an annoyed robot arm, and find yourself in one of the stacks. Wouldn't it be cool to look up and see layer after layer of metal skulls nestled among the cables and flashing lights? I mean, not that it would ever happen. I mean, I've tried, but there are just some holes a man of my girth cannot fill!"

"Anyway," he tossed her the skull and she caught it with both hands, narrowly displaying the natural athletic talent she hadn't been born with, "The skull makes a good chassis. The backup and-slash-or transport life support unit is in the left eye, there's a power supply in the other, and a sub with a hundred watt amp in the trunk. I've been playing around with those fusion-on-a-chip-chips we bought from the Phoenixi and there's some really interesting ideas rattling around in the ol' brain pan..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:28 pm

A Bedraggled Settlement, Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... At Nearly the Same Time...

"...any of y'all speak Standard? No? Quito? No?" Rear Admiral McCopper listed off a dozen more, some pronounced correctly and others infected with his folksy drawl. The only answer was a shake of the head from the assembled settlers and he gave up to turn and talk directly to a short but thick figure similarly dressed in a set of Republic field armor though the patch on her shoulder instead indicated she was part of the Karmabaijani Tactical Intelligence Service, "You sure they kin hear me?"

"They're shakin' their head, ain't they;" And one could practically hear the Dwarf rolling her eyes through the link. Ginger could hardly blame the old man for his consternation though - The situation was just as weird as he thought it was. "I don' think they want to talk to you."

Hopefully it wasn't a question of fear. Marines had swarmed the settlement rounding up the few slavers who had gone to ground in short order and he'd ordered a few of these to be held behind, pinned between the guns of a pair of Marine power armor while their gun drones circled vigilantly. By his reckoning that ought to persuade the locals that he was on their side and to his favor they didn't look particularly fearful. That had left him free to sort out the particulars though without anyone talking it was proving hard for the Admiral to pick out what those were.

Titan looked around the little settlement again. It was a small collection of pre-fabricated shelters, really - and recycled at that. Nearly all were of identical construction and all had been decorated with graffiti and other forms of urban art though again in a style and language his AR couldn't recognize. The buildings took advantage of the ruins where they could and most were linked by flexible tunnels - some of which had been perforated by the slavers, "Easy trick, thet."

There was something wrong with the scene though and after a moment's consideration he realized what it was, "Where'er the chillen?"

"The what?"

"You know, the chillen. The wee ones, tha little kids. Lessen' they don't have any or don' have none."

That was exactly it. Without taking one apart or having the question answered, it was easy to guess that all of the locals that they'd encountered were adults. The average of the species was a bipedal humanoid just over two-and-a-half meters tall and rather lanky. Through the transparent visors of their space suits one could pick out a face that seemed over-small with a folded chin that ran into something like a nasal ridge and two eyes that were too close together. There wasn't a nose proper and nor was there a mouth. The average follicle was black but there were some that had gone entirely gray or were speckled with salt and pepper.

He couldn't say if there were any women - or men for that matter - among them. This wasn't like back home where every female seemed to have a pair of half-cantaloupes hanging off their chest.

"Whal, hopefully one oh' ya'll 'll get to talking or else we's gonna be at an impass, Ah'ight?"

'...Admiral,' the voice that broken in wasn't Ginger and it wasn't one of the locals. Instead it was the Captain of the Esti'Ilwe, one of the ships pulled together to form the impromptu Taskforce Springboard. 'Admiral, we have a problem.'

Waving his hand for someone - anyone - to continue trying to work with the locals, Titan stepped off to the side and behind the shelter of one of the Marines still standing there, "A'ight. Since no one's shootin' at us, I figure you got time for details. What's up?"

'One of the captives is talking, Admiral - and that's the problem. According to her, they're not slavers - they're law enforcement. She says that these people are members of an illegal religious sect and that they were authorized to arrest them and return them for punishment.'

The Captain paused and so did the Rear Admiral, ferociously rubbing at his head as though his hard armor helmet wasn't in the way. It didn't take more than a few seconds for the old prospector to come up with a relevant observation, "Than why'd they shoot at Cap'n Blaine? Thet' jus' don' make any sense. Well, the part 'bout them bein' monks does. Locals ain' said 'boo' but now Ah figure it's some vow oh' silence."

'She put it far more crudely, Admiral. She's also speaking a particularly obscure dialect of Quito;' One of the more localized 'galactic' languages, Quito had a following measured in the millions and mostly only in the nearest trade ports and lanes. It had been a lucky guess on the part of the Admiral. 'One with a lot of swearing involved. She has informed my executive officer that if they are not released and if we do not then surrender to them, they will 'dance on our entrails while wearing our genitals as trophies.''

"Sounds lovely. Ah'ny chance 'o thet happening?"

'Not according to the technical crews. They report fusion reactors and incandescent bulbs. We're keeping a close eye out for lots and lots of faster-than-light signatures though, just in case.'

"Ah'right, yeah - keep me informed. A'hn tell Fleet too. Meanwhil', thet give me a good idear." Silencing the link for the time being, Titan returned to his former spot and shuffled around in his armor for a few seconds before finding something that would work. Sinking into a hunker he began to draw out the words on the ground as he followed the words written in Quito across the inside of his eyeballs, "Ah'right fellers - now's yer chance to tell me about Jesus..."
Last edited by Sunset on Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:05 am

Identification Clarity & Standards Whiteboard Meeting, Special Projects Research Complex 19371-A, Ju-Docri, Docru System... Republic Date 174.045...

One of the nice things about a four hour work-week (that's four hour - not four day) was that it meant that those four particular hours could be spanned out across as much of the week as one might like or not like. Combined with the Republic's decimal calendar that put a 'week' at point-zero-two-five and the team hadn't even hit their limit as to how long they could stretch things out...

"HBIEMA," Eleanor repeated, picking up just where her electronic minutes indicated the last meeting had adjourned. Today's meeting would have to be a long one but the last one had been interrupted by her son's soccer practice and a session with her tantric naturopath. And then some hot carrot soup. "And a HBIEMA is... A 'thing' that makes 'stuff'."

"That's useful," one of the other team members remarked, setting his coffee cup down on the table and squarely missing the coasters she'd set out just for that very purpose after someone hadn't wiped up their mess last time. That had cost her a whole two minutes watching the robot clean it up and Elanor shot a withering glance down the table that missed completely and took out his tentacled neighbor instead.

The coffee cup stayed where it was.

"It isn't, is it? It is classified - whatever it is - and so I guess we get to... Make suggestions?"

"...MAKER."

"Wait, no," she held up a hand as she'd found what she was looking for and read it off. "It is classified, but HBIEMA stands for Holographic Boundary Interface-slash-Energy to Matter Array. No idea what that is."

The tentacled one, having pulled himself back to the table edge, held up one of the purple pseudo-pods, "I know. There's a whitepaper on it," and he listed off the catalog number only to finish again with, "It's a thing that makes stuff. You should read it - interesting work."

Eleanor looked at the clock. "That sounds like a good idea. Let's call it a half-hour break to read the whitepaper so we know what we're talking about?"

There was a chorus of nods around the table; Time to run out the clock a little more.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:32 pm

A Dusty Country Road, Somewhere on the Southern Continent of Ares, Ares System... Republic Date 174.049...

"...poor girl locked up - fainted - and keeled over, right there in the office. They got her up and on her feet again but I'll bet she won't be volunteering for anything for a while..."

A bump in the road pushed the nose of the battered-looking grav-truck up, then down, and the cabin and cargo followed to toss the driver and passenger around inside their restraints while the cargo in the back dropped back into the bed with the solid 'klatter-klang' of metal-on-metal. It wasn't the first or the last they'd encounter; Out this far from the arcology that dropped steadily below the far horizon, the road markers had disappeared to be replaced with a worn strip where the drives of previous travelers had stripped away the prairie grass and kudzu down to bare earth. On either side the chaparral spread into the distance and the occasional cabin or built-out campsite could be seen here and there.

Closer to the arcology there had been great factories on either side of the road, enormous plants where the everyday goods demanded by the hordes of consumers on the inside were made on assembly lines that spun and rattled all through the day and night. That was why they were there, of course. Tended by robots and supervised remotely from some virtual environment or control panel inside the arcology they could then be as noisy and as dangerous as they wanted to or needed to be. Out here though, where the road swung aimlessly to the left and the right, most travelers were once again interested in peace and quiet and a bit of isolation from their fellows.

"...got a date out of it," Friday finished, looking back over her shoulder through the small window between the cab and cargo deck. "So, what do those do, anyway?"

'Those' looked a lot like graboids - if one was familiar with the motion picture franchise - though their tapering, tube-like bodies were metal and composite as were the spikes that drove them along while their three-pronged head was a complicated-looking rotary drill. For those that knew a little more, their kin had seen recent use on the scattered planets of a would-be slaver empire and both were descended from a much smaller autonomous plumbing unit that had been used to carve pipes through the solid marble of a world that had dubbed itself 'Atlantis' long before it had succeeded from the Republic.

...where it had proceeded to falter and collapse before the wealthy residents against dispersed to the four winds. But that wasn't why they were there, as Agent Madison explained to her furry companion in a round-about manner.

"You know how some civilizations just seem like violence is the only reason they exist? Huge armies intent on invasion and conquest, no matter the most-tenuous of reasons? 'Invade, conquer, and tax the locals,' as if that's the way economies really worked?"

"...sure;" The Hauyht couldn't name a dozen off the top of her head but that wasn't the type of Agent she was. She was more along the lines of killing things and blowing people up and with a current lack of either to do, she'd been assigned to take the role of an ordinary weekend camper to assist Agent Madison in her task. Agent Madison could though and did before continuing; "Well, to invade you've got to land. Put boots on the ground. Intel has taken a look at the capabilities of our most probable opponents - the biggest idiots - and come up with a series of invasion plans predicting where they would put down forces if they were to invade."

"Okay - so we're going to defend these sites with plumbing robots?"

"Officially?" Ivy tugged the wheel over and the grav-truck slid gently to the side, pushing the vegetation to the side or flat under the truck's mostly-flat undercarriage before it sprang up again to discharge a small cloud of pollen, seed, and chaff into the breeze, "No. Intel has mapped out the most likely sites in order to use them in the preparation of counter-invasion plans. Great waves of grav-tanks appearing from thin air to roar towards the distant enemy, great guns burning with heat as they carve a swath of dead and destruction through foes little-prepared for what fighting a post-Singularity really means. Nope - we're here to unofficially..."

Pulling the door handle, she swung it open and hopped out to walk around to the back of the truck while Agent Friday did the same. A lever next to the tailgate dropped it with the hiss of pressurized air and the canopy door similarly swung up to show their cargo laying there under a tarp that looked a little fancier than one might find at Harbor Freight. This was to mask their cargo from anyone who might be watching - not that it was likely anyone was. A dusty old Ariaska Industries Delta-77 stopped by the side of the road was unworthy of anyone's attention unless the hood was up and a half-naked someone was leaning under there desperately trying to get the generator online again. Since both agents were dressed for a sensible weekend hiking and camping in the hills the effective chance of that was 'zero'.

"...make sure that anyone who lands gets to experience first-hand the suck of losing their entire field army to a force they can't see, hear, or stop."

Agent Friday looked at the worms hesitantly, "Because these are going to pop up out of the ground and eat them?"

At a meter-and-a-half they didn't look particularly up to the task but still she helped by pulling a shovel from the back and digging out a shallow hole just behind the tail gate where they'd have some overhead protection from the raised canopy door. Meanwhile the other had retrieved a device from inside her jacket and had plugged it into a port hidden in the joint between body and head. On the little screen programmed instructions raced by and then came to a halt - her signal to disconnect the device and tuck it back into her pocket, "There we go - all ready. Step back..."

A hasty one and then two and Friday was just clear as the beast came to life, rippling spikes propelling it forward with surprising speed as it slid out from under the tarp, over the edge of the tailgate, and face first into the hole with an altogether unpleasant grinding noise. Then it was gone and - taking her hands from her long ears - Friday stepped forward to shovel dirt back into the hole.

"Nope;" She tossed the shovel back inside and the door and gate swung shut again. They'd repeat the process another dozen times - mirrored by hundreds of other teams playing out some variation on the scheme near other major cities and their luscious but ridiculously clueless tax-and-civil manufacturing bases - but Ivy kept talking as they climbed back in, "These are mounting chassis for second-generation dual-mode EBDs - Elemental Bonding Disruptors. This size they'll wreck electronics within ten klicks and kill everything biological within fifty. Grass, insects, people, robots - dead."

And then anywhere from immediately to a couple seconds after the whole area would go up in a massive explosion as some spark or open flame detonated the suddenly-liberated hydrogen and oxygen from what had been moments before the impressive but now useless might of a field army about to get its carnage on...
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 22, 2018 5:39 pm

Director Silaco's Office, Special Projects Research Complex, The Outskirts of Landor City, Terra Incognito... Republic Date 174.052...

"...I wonder - are we taking this too far? I mean... Have you run the math? I have, and there's the potential that within the year... If we don't figure out a way to make the year faster or slower or just turn time back on itself altogether..."

Katryna shook her head. It was quite unlike the Director to get even the slightest bit anxious about the potential results of this project or that. In her experience bad results were because bad people were working on them. Caution and care were not completely tangential to discovery and it was only the true crackpot that was bound to find that something was going to come back and bit them in the ass.

"Speaking of, we haven't heard from ol' Doc Ambrose in a while. I wonder what he's up to." Reaching out with a finger, she gave the hologram in front of her a spin and let it slowly come to rest again while she looked past and through it to the crystal-clear sky and the distant horizon. Being this close to the equator there was never a 'bad day' in Landor City, though the monsoon season was coming which mostly meant occasional bursts of torrential but still comfortably warm rain. Her mind was a million miles away though doing exactly that; Checking for any hint of trouble from the still-absent madman.

"Anything?" Amaril asked. Unlike his wife, the Elf was sprawled out in a squared-off armchair in the corner next to her desk and protected from the sun's intruding rays by an extension of the office wall. This didn't leave him in darkness; He was wearing an awful holiday sweater over his jeans as well as a jaunty and possibly ironic elf hat, all of which glowed various colors of the rainbow as letters spelled out on his chest flickered between 'Naughty' and 'Nice'. Hovering above the armrest where he could comfortably see it was a holographic gift catalog, "...huh. A polymorphic solar-powered self-inflating tent. With a Jacuzzi. What will they think of next? Speaking of - what are you working on?"

"...nothing."

Which sure sounded guilty of something and so - after bookmarking the tent for further consideration - Amaril pushed himself out of the chair to wander in her direction, blinking sweater lights guiding his footsteps until he was standing just opposite her, hands in his pockets as he studied whatever it was.

"...what is it?"

"ENDPOINT Cannon."

"Ah wha?"

"An ENDPOINT Cannon;" He looked again. It really looked more like a fancy electronic donut, but the torus was so common to many modern systems that the shape suggested nothing more specific than that. As he did, she grew antsy, shifting back and forth from foot to foot until he was convinced she either needed to pee or a confession was forthwith; "So you know how I was just grousing that we're kinda-sorta leaning on the holographic stuff a bit too much. Well, I might be a giant hypocrite."

"Might? Our collective hypocrisy runs wide, deep, and cold. What does this particular example do?"

"It's basically a holographic long-gun. Instead of using a worm hole, it instead sets the adjacency of the boundary interface to wherever one might want. At that point it can be used as a remote emitter for whatever one might want or," her eyes flicked away and her body followed until she was standing with her back to him, arms crossed so he could barely hear her voice as she made the confession, "Use it like the HBIEMAs to absorb whatever wavelengths one might want. Like say the neutrino emissions of a matter-annihilation plant... Look, at least I already have a good name for it. Those slackers in Identification Clarity & Standards would take forever - even if we put them inside a holographic fast-time boundary!"
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Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 23, 2018 7:09 pm

The Tipsy Squire, County Lynnwood, The Kingdom of Elwyd, EverRealms Online... Republic Date 174.055...

"Where does your next adventure take you, my lord?"

The hulking brute sitting on the rough wooden plank that itself barely held together a pair of crude log trestles looked up from the plate of spiced potatoes and stopped, pewter fork half-way to his mouth which was just as Rikki intended. Thin of waist and busty to a deep shadow, the tavern wench stood still in a slight curtsy, her hands holding the hem of her skirt wide while her suspiciously well-coiled blond hair fell over over her shoulder to just obscure the depths of her décolletage. A charming smile spread across her lips and she stayed still, waiting for his brain to grind out his thoughts.

"I... My adventure? What makes you think I am on an adventure?"

The ornate greatsword leaning up against the bench? The pectorals that were as large as her boobs? The ripped half of a mostly legible map hidden under the edge of his plate and now covered with grease? Or was it the half-grown dragon tied up by itself outside while all the horses eyed it warily, putting aside their own disputes to stay shy of the dagger-length teeth and claws?

"Because what else could such a mighty warrior as yourself be doing here? County Lynnwood is far from the City and little visited except by those seeking fame or fortune in the old ruins."

"The old ruins?" His eyes drifted to the window beside the table where a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Rising up like great ragged fingers through the sun-dappled canopy were the bones of a realm far older that both Elwyd and the Empire that had fallen before it. His hand slid over the shred of map and just at that moment a flight of crows decided to depart the tallest spire, raising a cackle that could be heard even at this distance. "What do you know of them?"

"Oh, much! My father would take me for walks in the forest when he was alive and he would tell me tales while we picked berries. Now that I am alone, I often dream of returning there. He told me there are secrets hidden there that mortal eyes should never uncover but also treasures vast and worthy of so great a warrior as yourself!"

"Would you tell me these stories?"

"Oh, and more," she promised, dropping again into the slight curtsy. "If you would but spare me a little gold, I would be happy to and if you could but spare a little more, I would even accompany you!"

The warrior looked her up and down again and the deal was struck. She would accompany him into the ruins and he - like a dozen before him - would die in some terrible way before her very eyes if it was not her own death that led to his. In the modern economy there was little restriction in what an individual did for work and this was her chosen profession; willing if not very competent companion to other players in this particular game. She would take him to her room, tell him stories that she may well have made up on the spot, sleep with him if his advances were not too clumsy, then ride out to the ruins on the back of his dragon only to die in some trap or snap some twig and alert a horde of fel creatures to his presence.

Did she care? No. It was likely he'd bought his account anyway - the professionals who were able to do things like tame dragons did their research before they even logged in. To her it was simply a job and a job she could do while saving up her resource credits towards her dream of owning her own island and a small stable of real horses to ride on the beach every day...
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Postby Sunset » Mon Dec 24, 2018 1:50 am

Triumvirate of Yut Combined Services
Field Survival Manual
Revision 478.90
'How to Rebuild Galactic Civilization With a Rock'





With each revision of the Field Survival Manual, the Combined Services brings increased capabilities to the soldier or officer in the field in need of guidance and support in a survival situation. The following is only an outline of the manual and its contents; See Pages 2 and Page 6 for more information.

The Front Cover: Bearing the roundel of the Triumvirate of Yut as well as the previously listed information ('Triumvirate of Yut Combined Services - Field Survival Manual - Revision 478.88), the cover of the manual now provides an additional resource to the reader. The lower right hand corner as-marked with a RED triangle can be detached and pulled with 10kg of force into a single length of high-test flexible cable measuring 200cm in length and 2mm in average diameter.

Page One (Preface): Similar to the Front Cover ('Cover'), Page One can be detached at the BLUE triangle on the lower right corner and separated to yield 800cm of high-test molecular line.

Page Two (Table of Contents): As with Page One, but yields 1600cm of high-test mono-molecular cutting wire. The GREEN rectangles along the top and bottom of the page (Marked as 'Safe') are safe for detaching and handling of this wire. A secondary table of contents can be found in the small print on Page 61.

Page Three (Table of Contents Part Two): This page has four knife-shaped cutting implements contained within micro-perforations as indicated by the ORANGE outlines. These implements have micro-serrated edges and should only be handled by the GRAY indicated safe areas.

Page Four (Marked 'Lens'): This page is a micro-lens. Bending the page appropriately can be used to focus light, allowing it to be used to start fires or read the print on Pages XX-XXX. Each whole edge of this page is also marked with a ruler marked in centimeters (10cm x 20cm x 10cm)

Page Five (Marked 'Frequencies'): This page lists all the common sub-light common and emergency communications frequencies in use among the Triumvirate of Yut, allied and friendly states, and recognized civilized powers. This page also contains micro-perforations suitable for filtering contaminants out of suspect water supplies. To use, remove the plastic covers on both sides using the marked PURPLE triangle in the lower right hand corner and lower left hand corner. Each whole corner of this page is marked as a protractor and angle finder.

Pages Six - Sixty (Marked 'Basic Survival Guide' along the top in RED): These pages contain basic survival information applicable to most terrains and environment and concentrate on the immediate needs of water, food, and shelter. Pages Six - Sixty are also photo-voltaic cells ('PV Cells') and can be detached from the spiral binding and linked together using their corner tabs (Marked with a lightning bolt) to provide solar electric energy corresponding to Specification PV23.97, found on Page 78.

Page Sixty One (Marked 'Table of Contents - Detailed): Page 61 is printed on both sides with a detailed table of contents in micro-print and covers all preceding and subsequent sections. Page 61 is also marked with PURPLE triangles and can thus be used as a water filter. Exposing the short edge of this page to a particular water source will give a visual indication of the presence of various contaminants. See Page 47 for iconography reference. See Page 132 for specific determinations.

Page Sixty Two - Ninety Three (Marked 'Advanced Survival Guide'): These pages contain advanced survival information, such as tool manufacture and creation. These pages are also PV cells as indicated by the lightning bolt icon at their binding corners.

Page Ninety Four - One Twenty Seven (Marked 'Civilization Concepts'): These pages contain fine print (See Page 4) detailing the methods, laws, and regulations useful in establishing an Industrial-Age civilization. These pages can also provide ballistic and edged protection equal or superior to Specification BE77.21, found on Page 78. These pages can be removed from their spiral binding and sewn together (See Page 1, Page 3) using the provided perforations on each edge.

Page One Twenty Eight - One Forty One (Marked 'Industrial Processes and Designs'): These pages contain fine print information (See Page 4) on Industrial Age processes and design, such as the refinement of various chemicals, elements, manufacturing techniques and concepts, and industrial and infrastructure designs for systems such as coal and oil-fired power plants, electric transmitters and generators, and introductory ground and air vehicles. These pages also correspond to Specification BE77.21 and include the needed perforations.

Page One Forty Two - One Fifty (Marked 'Electronic Age Processes and Designs'): These pages contain micro print information (See Page 129) on Electronic Age processes and design, such as the creation of integrated circuits, transistors, and manufacturing equipment required for the same. They also contain etching templates and instructions suitable for small-batch creation of radio-on-chip and similar single-function electronic elements.

Page One Fifty - One Sixty (Marked 'Electronic Age Concepts'): These pages contain micro print information (See Page 129) on Electronic Age methods, laws, regulations, and similar civilization concepts. These pages are also PV cells as indicated by the lightning bolt icon at their binding corners.

Page One Sixty - One Seventy (Marked 'Space Age Processes and Designs'): These pages contain micro print information (See Page 129) on Space Age processes and design, such as the creation and establishment of space stations, stellar and interstellar capable ships, advanced power generators, and faster-than-light communications and travel. Also included are weapon systems and designs that correspond to 'non-threat' level systems. They also contain etching templates and instructions suitable for small-batch creation of necessary components. These pages also correspond to Specification BE77.21 and include the needed perforations.

Page One Seventy One - One Eighty (Marked 'This Page Intentionally Left Blank'): This pages function as particulate filters corresponding to Specification PF33.9. Perforations provided along the short edges allow them to be fixed in place using cord, wire, or other methods. Areas marked in BROWN along the long edge will activate to indicate the presence of common or group toxins, pathogens, chemicals, and other airborne hazards. See Page 48 for iconography reference. See Page 132 for specific determinations.

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Last edited by Sunset on Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:27 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Tue Dec 25, 2018 11:24 am

Christmas Morning, All Across the Republic and the Galaxy...



Demi & Erika's House, Botany Bay, Chuh-Yu...

Gathered together in their own living room where a tree sparkled from the balcony above and a pile of presents had been hastily dashed apart by young hands eager for the treasure they contained, Erika and Demi sat together on the couch while on the floor Nathyn switched from present to gift and back again while Alex waited for her own opportunity to nip in and snatch up some bit of loose wrapping paper. Toys of all shapes and kinds played with each other as he treated packages as ramps while a fluffy white cat clawed and pulled unending ribbon under the couch.

'Have yourself a merry little Christmas; Let your heart be light...'

There was a moment when her wife was distracted by the play and Demi used it to retrieve a last gift from where it had been secreted away, presenting it just to the other when she sat up to find it placed in her hands. With an unasked question and a mischievous grin from her partner, Erika tugged at the bow to reveal a box. Jewelry, perhaps, but as she opened it her face went still and the lid tumbled from her fingers.

'From now on, our troubles will be out of sight...'

"Does this mean," she held up a pair of miniature pink socks pinned through and through with an elaborate broach. Demi smiled broadly, a sparkle in her eye and her reply an enthusiastic nod as the music played on.



The Maric Cabin, Under the Snow, Cayv...

'Have yourself a merry little Christmas;' The song played quietly in the background, competing with the low crackle of a log in the fireplace as Alwyra sat sprawled into one corner of the curved couch that wrapped across the front of their living room, her husband Kedo similarly placed in the other with their tails just twining together at the middle. The first had a book on her lap - a travelogue to plan their next adventure - while the second stared melancholy into the flickering flames.

'Make the Yule-tide gay...'

A whisker twitched on his cheek and just at that very moment the doorbell rang, a careful series of chimes that brought both to awareness, though it was his own feet that hit the floor first as he held up a hand for her to remain at her place while he tended to the unexpected caller. Outside the eternal blizzard blew fierce but someone had decided to brave the weather and knock on their door. That their nearest neighbors were on the planet's lone moon meant that the chimes were entirely unexpected and the elder Maric approached the door with the same question on his feline face that his wife had on hers as she watched him disappear into the cabin's foyer.

'From now on, our troubles will be miles away...'

Just as he was about to open the door the chimes came again and this time the question turned to mild exasperation. With a tug, he turned the handle and pulled the door wide to find their visitor a shapeless figure wrapped in gray with a great fur-trimmed jacket obscuring their features. For a moment the two stared at each other before the visitor stepped forward to sweep his cowl and the accumulated snow off to reveal a face that was as young as Kedo remembered it but somehow still older and stronger; "Dad..."

"...Amao;" And the younger son stepped into his father's arms, the door open behind them and the winter storm outside forgotten as they embraced.



Roundtable Station, The Ozlukar Quarter...

It was early morning on the cylindrical streets of Roundtable station and from an alley or perhaps imagination a most unusual figure appeared. Short and squat and clad in red with a great belt around its middle, it was humming out a familiar tune as it crept along the street with a huge red felt bag across its thin shoulder, "Here we are as in olden days, Happy golden days of yore..."

Door after door fell behind as it slunk along, turning this way and that to glare down the street and check through beady black eyes for any observers before stopping at one in particular, a monolithic entrance with a crudely lettered and garishly bedazzled sign hanging from the lintel. Shrugging the bag from his back, Ambassador Penguin carefully slid it into position at the very center. A gaily wrapped package or two fell out but these he kicked into place alongside the main with a webbed foot before stepping back to observe his handiwork.

"Faithful friends who are dear to us," though there was more than a trace of sarcasm in his tongue as he sung that line and the next, "Gather near to us once more..."

A last adjustment and he pulled the ribbon on a particular present before turning to run, arms waving wildly as he careened down the street. Behind him the first flicker of flames emerged from the bag and then the delightful odor of burning shit before the whole thing exploded in a halo of flaming feces, charred ribbon, and shredded pieces of felt that slowly rained down across the entrance of the Ozlukar embassy.



Katryna & Amaril's Condo, Landor City, Terra Incognito...

'Through the years, We all will be together, If the Fates allow...'

With a flick of Aviandri's wand the star danced to life, lifting from its place nestled among the tissue to paper to drift across the room seemingly in time to the music. Or was it the music that found itself harnessed to whatever forces the young elf now manipulated? Whichever was which, it hovered for a moment above her brother's head before she teased it the last little bit up the tree to place it on the highest bough.

'Hang a shining star upon the highest bough...'

While her mother Katryna watched eagerly, a hand scanner recording every moment in flagrant violation of the Christmas spirit, her father sat in front of a huge stack of presents sorting through each one and handing it out as appropriate until he came to the biggest of all and which bore his name on its colored tag. Disregarding the other smaller packages and their careful unwrapping by his wife and children, he tore into his own to reveal...

"A SunLabs Solar-Powered Polymorphic Inflatable Tent with Jacuzzi! Just what I wanted... How did you know?!"



'And have yourself A merry little Christmas now...'
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Postby Sunset » Wed Dec 26, 2018 7:05 pm

RDF-Kyong Tae Lee, At the Very Edge of the Galaxy Proper, More Near Alpha than Beta... Republic Date 174.066...

"...not really useful, but it catches the eye, doesn't it?" Captain Tslbikora declared, right over all the available evidence to the contrary. He'd advanced from the usual place for a Ship's Captain to the very edge of the floor-to-ceiling-and-back-again forward display to stand nearly toe-to-pixel with it, looking over the star at a distance that would otherwise create double-vision if the Captain had been possessed of more than one eye.

With all of the species mixed in among the Republic's tangled population, it made sense that there would be a cyclops or two in there but Captain Tslbikora was rarer still - he and his family had been among those 'purchased' on the planet Lethon before it and its vast slave market had been leveled by an over-zealous officer who sincerely did not give a fuck about the intelligence gathering opportunity he then ordered wiped from the face of the galaxy. Hundreds of thousands of in-transit slaves - as well as a relatively minor population of slavers, mercenaries, pirates, and of course informants - had been killed for the purpose of nearly nothing.

Tslbikora's story was no miracle, however. His family had been bought up by the slave trader Jero Heron nearly fifteen years previous and resettled on a Republic core world just nearly as long ago. As soon as he'd been able he'd entered the Academy, eager to repay the debt his family felt they owed the Republic, and he'd caught the tail end of the last Fleet scale-up to end up as Kyong Tae Lee's Executive Officer at her launch. Captain-now-Admiral Zacha had come up for promotion first and he'd swung into the next seat over as a familiar new head to the ship's extended family.

With his mitten-like hands tucked at the small of his back - the Pusc had evolved along an amphibian lineage - he looked the star over again, noting every detail from chest-to-crest level on the displayed image. Out here at the extreme edge of the galaxy proper and facing a sizable gulf between itself and the tenuous threads of the trailing arms casually referred to as Canis Major, the star was only interesting to the rest of the bridge crew because it wasn't much of a star at all. If it had been a little smaller, if it had spun a little slower or a little faster, if it hadn't contained as much helium and a little more iron, it would have been a lifeless ball of nothing like the billions of other not-quite stars that either roamed between or found themselves leashed by gravity to their more active companions.

"Anything interesting, Captain?" Lieutenant Agresta asked from the helm console, directing his question towards the thin line of nostril-like holes that ran down the back of the Captain's head. These were his ears and they were especially sensitive to the point that the helmsman knew that talking directly towards them was like talking just a little bit louder than strictly needed to get his point across.

"Mmm - no;" Or at least if there was, he kept it to himself. "Enter the coordinates for the next target;" Their 'discovery' of the star had been tangential to their assignment of surveying stars for the still-deploying Wave 2; "And engage as soon as I find my seat..."



Erika & Demi's House, Botany Bay, Chuh-Yu, Ares System... Republic Date 174.067...

"Director... What a surprise. Come in, won't you?"

In fact it had been a surprise; The first that she'd known that the Director of her own Anathema service was coming to visit was when the Kal-En-Vesho had set off one of the perimeter alarms after managing to ghost her way through the previous few invisible cordons. Doubtless she'd be receiving a report on the 'deficiencies' in her personal security large, but for the moment she met the Director's twin vertical rows of eyes with genuine interest.

"Thank you," and the Trilat swarmed past, moving as much along the frame and wall of the door and entry as she did the floor. "I have a question I needed a direct answer to, and one..."

There was a pause and both fingers and toes as well as her broad, arrow-shaped head peaked around various corners all from a convenient point at the center of them. Something must have then triggered further silence because she then cocked a finger towards the Secretary-General and, with unerring steps, led her through the halls and rooms of her own house and into the upstairs office. There was a shelf of various curios and oddities collected from among her experiences across the galaxy and the Director paused to quickly play a game of checkers with them before the bookshelf slid aside to allow access to the tightly spiraling staircase that took them down to Erika's basement laboratory.

"How did you know?"

"The Reversed Sicilian. You had the board sitting on your side table in your office when you summoned me in one-five-three-point-zero-zero-eight for the end of the year review. Your daughter was playing black. I would place the outcome in your favor; She is an intelligent but hasty woman. You have been too busy and should take a vacation - it is dusty down here."

Erika looked around, admitting the Director's point. She had liked to tinker on her equivalent of the weekend but with her duties, Demi, and now Nathyn, she hadn't been down in a few months.

"Especially with Demi pregnant again."

"Oh fuck you - how did you know that?" Erika asked, accusation in her tone. Her immediate thought was that the Director was spying on her, but the answer was somewhat more disturbing; "The scent of her hormones. My species has an exceptional sense of smell when it comes to their own creations."

"...alright, so," Erika laid that particular tidbit aside for later, "What brings you to my home?"

"RDF-Kyong Tae Lee added a new star to the catalog within the last thousandth. I would like you to use your authority to purge it from all existing records. A mistake," she suggested, moving her arms and hands in a gesture that Erika didn't quite understand. "A catalog entry made in error."

Erika didn't bother to pull the ship or record in question. The answer to her question would be far more interesting, "Why?"

"Because while we both look at the same board," her three arms sketched out a quick grid in the air to suggest the brown-and-beige of a chess board, "It is my pleasure to think along smaller lines where others may consider fleets and armadas against the backdrop of systems and sectors. We have need of more queens and this star has enabled me with an idea..."



The Parking Garage, Bayshore IV Condominiums, Landor City, Terra Incognito... Republic Date 174.068...

"...aahh!" Katryna shouted, nearly jumping out of her synthetic skin as a dark shadow within a shadow appeared from the ceiling in front of her. A half-dozen weapon systems built into her chassis had already begun deployment by the time her vocal cords had finished moving and just as many sensors had confirmed the 'intruders' identity but still she finished with, "Geeze - you scared the shit outta me."

"Apparently so," the Director replied, dropping from her position with feet locked around a conduit to the ground with a rolling, tumbling motion that would have induced motion sickness if the android was capable of it. A sideways shuffle and she was at the passenger door of the other Director's car with one hand on the handle, "May I accompany you?"

The simply objection would be that Katryna hadn't planned on driving, but there had to be a reason why the Anathema Director had chosen to test her defensive readiness in the parking garage of her own condo and so she turned to the side to unlock and open her own door before sliding into the seat. As a point of fact, she was dressed for her morning jog - sleeveless cropped sport top, too-tight running capris - while the car sat idle nearly all the time except for the odd family vacation to a distant island. Smoothly pulling out of the garage, there was a 'click' as she activated the door locks and the windows went to transparent mirrors, at least to the few pedestrians they passed.

"So... What can I do for you, Director?" That was an easy one at least, though Katryna still took the occasional sideways glance or momentary look into the rear view mirror in a vain attempt to gain some insight into why the Trilat had chosen this particular morning to pop up out of nowhere. In fact, 'How did she even get here?'

CORE III was currently half-way across the galaxy and there were no scheduled transits between the super-station and the tropical world which meant that the Director must have smuggled herself onto the planet by some roundabout method.

"I have been following your progress on Project ZEBRA with considerable interest. It appears that you and Doctor Brilla have managed to create a stable living holographic manipulation. Taken together with the capabilities of the deployed holographic extrusion arrays and I would ask a favor of you."

Was it strange that the Director of Anathema was following something so esoteric as the Republic's progress in deploying a system of boundary manipulations that could, by rewriting the laws of physics themselves, turn the energy output of an entire star to producing whatever the Republic had need of? Which was mostly more ships - lots and lots (and lots and lots) of ships. Which was convenient for someone who liked to make casual improvements on the weekend, but as far as she was aware the Director was not that woman, "What's the favor?"

"It is complex. I would like you to craft for me a special gateway manipulation. One with specific limits but advanced capabilities. It will be an interesting challenge. Perhaps before lunch and sex?"

"Okay... Tell me what you're thinking."

It was only when they had reached the parking garage at the Special Projects Research Complex that the Director finished and as Katryna stepped out of the car she set the Trilat's expectations appropriate to the request, "More like late night snack and sex, but I'll do it - you'll have your gateway."



SS-Jalapeño (No Registry), At the Very Edge of the Galaxy Proper, More Near Alpha than Beta... Republic Date 174.072...

As an off-the-books intelligence apparatus reporting directly and often covertly to the highest civilian military authority in the Republic, it was only natural that Anathema would have its own fleet of ships tasked with doing whatever might need doing in the most covert manner possible; The Jalapeño was one of those ships. But instead of extraordinary as was possible with the technological prowess of the Republic, it was completely the opposite. In fact to the casual observer it might have been judged to be just capable of spaceflight as its hull looked to be the likely recipient of Harbor Seal mating season in the San Francisco Marina.

But capable it was and after only a few minutes in the system - if a lonely and underwhelming star without planets or ambitions counted as a 'system' - it moved close enough to the star to where the accumulated offal on its hull began to turn black with carbonization. A cargo bay opened and a group of crewmen dressed in the most generic of vacuum-capable suits began to maneuver a particular-looking framework out of the hold and into open space. As soon as it was a sufficient distance from the vessel an automated system took over and it uncurled into something not-quite-ever-seen in this galaxy.

The shape was angular but curved, edged with strange collections of this and that that likely didn't have any particular use while the whole thing resembled two razor-thin crescents laid together to almost but not entirely form a complete circle. Here and there on the framework were small pods - capsules - of similar design and perhaps two-score in total number, each positioned entirely at random so that they appeared to be just as much growth as design.

With the construct in position, the crew returned to their vessel and the hatch was closed. A last look around the system for any observers and the ship turned on its axis in a flare of antique thrusters before igniting the mains and heading directly into the star. In a minute or less it was gone - completely incinerated by the just-barely star. That left the oddity alone, invisible manipulations slowly extending out to envelope the burning sphere. By the time its work was complete and the capsules full for the first time the Jalapeño would be declared lost, another ill-fated ship in a galaxy full of unfortunate accidents.



IKS-DaggerStar, At the Very Edge of the Galaxy Proper, More Near Alpha than Beta... Republic Date 174.363..

Not all of the ships that sailed under the unofficial banner of the Anathema fleet were insurance write-offs bought at auction from shady dealers who may well have stolen them themselves off the very docks they had sold to the week before. DaggerStar was one of those ships and for the observant - there were none and the ship's commander had been very careful of that fact before entering the system - there would have otherwise been a distinct similarity between the ship and the construct it was now quickly approaching. Angular but curved, the ship looked like nothing less than a taloned hand extended to rake and tear.

That was its job - though not at the moment; To do awful things to those horrible in and of themselves while preserving the reputation of the Republic as a place of laws, justice, fairness, and opportunity while worlds burned and civilizations fell into long-deserved ruin. But since it had been a slow week the ship had instead been tasked to the recovery of the contents of the capsules instead. Without a hint of thrust or external means of motion it came close to the near-closed crescent, inserting itself just inside the circle with a gentleness that might have brought a giggle to those of a particularly salacious mind.

From somewhere inside the multitude of likely pointless machinery that hung from the inside curve of the talons a manipulator extended and one by one plucked the capsules from their place to press them against the glossy gray-black hull for a moment before returning them. All, that is, except for one which remained un-plucked after a moment's strange hesitation by the manipulator. After a few seconds thought it moved on and a minute later the ship departed, disappearing into the void with a destination of parts unknown...
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Postby Sunset » Thu Dec 27, 2018 11:58 am

The Hidden Moon Kyupuu, Beyond the Auracexian Sector, Orion Arm... Republic Date 174.070...

"...so who'er those jerks?" Meli asked, indicating with a thick thumb a long row of cages laid out along one side of the temple compound. Each was crowded with people but unlike the usual traffic these were nearly all human and wore clothing that would have put them in fine company on the streets of the Republic. Certainly some were dirty and there were tears here and there but this was in otherwise stark contrast to the usual parade of rags or nothing at all that most of the slavers preferred as their default. There was another difference as well; While almost all the slaves that came through wore a shock or control collar of some kind, most of these wore collars that indicated they were explosive and thus more typically used when a species was fundamentally dangerous to others.

"Scyllians," Jero answered, the reptilian-humanoid Slave Lord rolling the first 'S' into a pair of syllables. Along with the newly arrived murderess, he too was walking the compound and inspecting the new wares before the formal auction would be called into session. "Their Empire has found itself undercut by the weight of the Star Empire's might and some few have found themselves swept up by those of a less... moral disposition."

"Ah'n those fuckers?"

Across the compound and just about as far away from the first row of cages as one could get without being outside the ancient stone walls was another smaller set of cages with a few people inside - again, mostly human. Like the first, they too were dressed in what the Dwarf would call regular clothes but these were a cut above; Tailored and fitted and definitely not off-the-shelf. Unlike the first set, who were often pressed up against the bars and shouting insults across the space, the occupants were mostly slumped back against the furthest wall or gathered in small groups of two or three but all were doing their best to ignore the hurled insults.

Jero smiled, an odd tooth-bearing expression that looked perhaps more predatory than intended, "Those would be those of a less moral disposition."

"Ah'm guessin' there's a story there..."

"Indeed. As it happens, the Star Empire has been remarkably 'restrained' in their demolition of the former Scyllian homeland. An 'orderly withdrawal' has been the term used in my hearing. But orderly is not the same as 'with all of their wealth on their backs'. Which is where those," he indicated the second set of cages with a talon-tipped finger luxuriously and carefully extended from the sleeve of a robe bedecked with intricate traceries in gold and silver, "of a less moral disposition entered the story."

"You see, those 'fuckers' were the corporate officers of a particularly large shipping company within the empire and something of a nobility as well. Perhaps you heard of the slaughter of the Scyllian parliament? Well, they survived that but the Star Empire was even less concerned about their social standing than the cage is. Thus they were forced to abandon their homes as quickly as they could - but not before coming up with a plan. My sources inform me that they decided to take as much wealth with them in the form of the 'passengers' they would take with them as they abandoned the Empire."

"Good Samaritans," Meli nodded, her words dripping sarcasm. "Go on."

"Their plan promptly fell apart as those gentlemen," he turned to look towards a group gathered at the end of the longer row of cages and more distinctly important outside of them. They more closely resembled the typical impression of a slaver; Hard looking men and women of various species - many of which sported their own natural armaments - wearing an assortment of body armor from across the galaxy and decked out with as many weapons per-person as there were people in the group. "Promptly turned on them as soon as they were beyond the reasonable reach of those attempting to enforce law and order in the chaos of the Empire's destruction."

"Hoisted bah their own petard?"

"I do not understand the reference," he answered, to which she shrugged, "Nahval reference. Don't know mahself. But they betrayed them and now both oh' them are here fer sale."

Jero turned and began the slow walk back towards the central temple, a pair of towering Maiorca guards flanking him as he did while Meli trailed just a few paces behind, his words reaching back over his shoulder, "Betrayed is the wrong word when used among our friends here. This was simply business..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Dec 28, 2018 5:07 pm

On the Ground, Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Maybe an Hour Later...

With enough monkeys and enough typewriters you really can reproduce the works of Max Barry.

Or, at least with enough words and enough processing power you can sort out those words into something that looks like language. It had taken a lot of words and a lot of processing power though with every member of the ground team circling first around the monument and then the 'buildings' around it, their hand scanners taking in everything that even looked like writing to build up a database that was then sent all the way back to Fleet and pushed through a computronium sieve before being sent back as a translation codex. That process had left the four with some time for speculation...

"They must have been really small. Like - I don't see any doors or windows!"

"Mmm - I don't think they lived in these," Timmons countered, adding more to his argument a minute later. "At first I thought that whatever civilization had built these," he thumped a gloved hand against one of the talon-like structures he was currently surveying, "Must be electronic and these would have to be some kind of storage or computational module where they 'lived'. But that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. First - why write on the outside then? Decoration? Maybe, but that would also imply having a reason to look at the outside. But these structures aren't computers, are they?"

"Not like any electronics I've ever seen," Lieutenant Commander Ingersol agreed, stooping to run his scanner over a line of script etched into a band around the base of his chosen task. "But that doesn't mean they aren't. These are - were - complex structures with some odd internals but time or deliberate damage has made it really hard to know what they are or what they were for. I'm with you here though - someone or something lived here at one point and they had a reason to decorate the outside of these structures."

"So you think it could have been the iWe?"

"You know, I'm starting to think that's not their real name. I've heard the justification - 'I are We' - that implies they are some kind of connected consciousness, but its also some scatological wordplay and just the kind of childish thing they've been known to butt in with. Speaking of butting in..."

"Yeah," Kami stopped to look around, first checking that the patrolling REDSHIRTS were still keeping to their appointed rounds and then that the distant speck that was Ojeni still hung in its place in the sky, "I've been expecting them to put their two cents in too. Kinda weird that they haven't. Usually they know when someone's throwing shade their way and they'll pop up to argue the point or make it worse."

"Which makes me think they're a kid who's been caught with an adult website subscription. There's no real defense but silence," Timmons answered. "Or we're barking up the wrong tree and they're having a laugh."

Captain Blaine was able to respond when an indicator flashed in the lower corner of her vision and brilliant green began to crawl across the surface of the closest structure. The translation codex had arrived and their augmented reality was now turning what they had been able to see but not understood into something they could know. Or had an approximating of knowing; The indicator was still flashing and listed a percentage only in the high seventies. Still, "Alright! Let's see what we've been reading!"

Jogging back to the monument in the center, it turned out to be exactly that - a monument to an empire on the rise. Bits and pieces still rewrote themselves as she walked around the outside looking for the place to start but even before finding it she'd taken in the general gist; 'Taken from the Dranahovi in this Fourth Year of the Emperor-Covenant Xyu... Let all who read it take in our power... Death... Death... More death...'

"These guys don't seem very nice."

"Neither do whoever they were fighting," Timmons answered, calling out from around the backside of another rising fang. "It reads like two empires headed towards mutual extinction. A lot of threats, a lot of promises kept, a lot of wrongs avenged."

"Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra - we could use some context here. A lot of names, an epic story, but what does it mean to the Druth'Haari or iWe?"

"Could these people have been the iWe? Not the Druth'Haari - too young for that, right?"

Thomas double-checked his hand scanner for perhaps the thirtieth time, "It is plausible. The date range for how old all this is varies widely, but what we know about the construction of the iWe star in the Memuru nebula puts it right in the same range. There's a couple ways of getting a more precise date, but I'll need some cooperation from Fleet. Meanwhile, I'm going to take a look at some of these other structures..."
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:30 pm

Republic Defense Force Research Annex, CORE X Deep Space Station, Somewhere in the Galactic Abyss... Republic Date 174.077...

"...well, there's a few problems with that idea," Admiral Cusciato said evenly, his tone about as blunt as his squared-off face. At first he'd been sitting behind his desk with something appropriating a pleasant expression on his face but as the petitioner had progressed through the various stages he'd risen and now stood, braced on the black glass with his jaw set.

Which didn't mean he was going to reject the proposal outright; The Admiral was one of the rare officer-scientist hybrids and he'd been put in command of the sprawling station because it would similarly put him close to the science being undertaken among its many laboratories, annexes, research hubs, and containment facilities. It did also mean that the man wasn't purely about the science though, which was what the head of Sub-Section Twenty-Three Alpha (Theoretical Power Generation and Use) was about to learn.

"The first problem is finding one of these black holes. The second problem is 'what if we find one of these black holes'?"

"What do you mean?"

"The second first," Cusciato decided, stepping out from behind his desk to pace over to a wall that he then activated to turn into a floor-to-ceiling display of the slow-spiraling galaxy. "You're familiar with Sagittarius A? The black hole in the center of our own galaxy?" His petitioner nodded and the Admiral went on, "Well, we have plans for it. The problem is that several other Powers do as well - some of which happen to be friendly to us at the current time. So we're hashing things out, deciding what we want to do - all of which could fall apart the minute something big enough happens to where we or they need to fire up a galaxy core dynamo."

"Which is why I want to find one of these cast-offs..."

"Right - but what if someone else already has? For example the Druth'Haari. A CGD would be very useful, but the problem is that it is right in the middle of all the action. Everyone is looking that way, or looking at something on the other side of it. Going in there right now and grabbing it would put the whole galaxy up in arms - some with us, some against us. But one of these," he poked at the image, drawing a circle around nothing in particular far out beyond the edge of the visible galaxy, "Well - not a lot of people are going to know you're out there doing your thing. Or are out there doing your thing. If I was a particularly cautious post-Singularity civilization who we already know has a habit of hiding away when and where they can - and one that has likely existed since the beginning of our universe - then I would have been around long enough to be there when one of these galaxies collided with our own and then I'd grab one and hide it away."

"And," he fixed the man with a solid glare, "I'm not so sure I'd want anyone coming to look for it. If we could even find it. Which brings me back to the first... How to find a rogue galactic core. It will be hard - very hard."

"But it can be done."

"Of course it can be done," the Admiral barked, taking his statement as a question instead of confirmation. "That's what we do. But there's a lot of problems even there. The first is that we know there was one of these collisions about ten billion years ago so that would be the best place to start - send a ship out ten billion light years and take a few pictures. Watch the whole thing happen. But I'll ask you a favor..."

"What's that?"

"Take a look through our current fleet roster and find a ship with a ten billion light year under-way duration. I'll give you a quick hint - we don't have one. We don't need one either. A QFD can pull off a galactic crossing in two, two-and-a-half hours. A six-month underway duration charted against the galaxy would leave it looking like a garden visited by a hyper-active hummingbird. Since most of our ships can now report back for refueling over lunch, we don't need to have even that long of under-way duration and so we don't. Could we? Of course - I'm sure even the bare mention of a ten billion light year trip would have someone higher up drooling within the hour."

"That said," his tone dropped to a muse, "It might be a good idea to do it. We're not going to get square-meter resolution on something like that, but big picture? Absolutely worth the effort. It would also nicely avoid the second problem - taking a few pictures from that far out isn't going to alert anyone to the fact that we know what they've done. Well, or it might. If we can track a ship under FTL then I would assume they can, and a ship booking it for the ass-end of nowhere in particular is going to look suspicious. Still, 'they' didn't throw a fit when Pompeii did its thing..."

"So yeah," and with that it was decided. "We'll throw some resources at this, see if we can't find a few of these rogue cores. If we can find one that isn't being used, you can set up an experimental generator there..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Dec 30, 2018 3:51 pm

Republic of Sunset Special Projects Facility Tahoma (Epsilon), Devil's Picnic Basket... Republic Date 174.081...

"...more work fer me, eh?" Doctor Bhinri took the offered folder and flipped it open, the hologram responding to her touch just as the real thing might with the exception that the loose pages inside never seemed to flutter away in the wind or drop themselves to scatter on the floor, the Dwarf forced to bend over and gather them up while her young, handsome assistant paid careful attention...

"Ah need a young, handsome assistant. In fahct, I'll probably need a handful o' them for this particular project," she decided aloud, turning one of the enclosed pictures sideways to study it closely while the folder diligently hung in the air beside her. "Ya realize the problem, don'cha?"

"I realize that there are several problems," Deputy Secretary Fazzi said, carefully adjusting his glasses with one hand before tucking it behind him again. "That is why I came to you - Admiral Belén included a glowing recommendation as to your work on the Trelmakier Project and I expect you can repeat it."

The Deputy Secretary was an odd one but not the oddest she'd met. 'Careful' was a good way to put it; Always one hand in his pocket and the other tucked at the small of his back where it was out of the way. A cleanly cut black suit without a speck of dust. Glasses that he probably didn't need but that made him look just a tad more intelligent than he probably was. Not a hint of facial hair even though at least a little hint of something was back in fashion at the moment. She didn't like him but she didn't not like him either; There was just enough to his character to give a cardboard cutout a moment of pride.

"Least yer not askin' fer it by tomorrow."

"No. This is simply a contingency. Other people's problems and these will be there if they become our problem before other people solve their problem."

"Which is why you're the Deputy Secretary of Contingency Services. Well Fazzi - Faz - ya got yerself ah'n interesting problem even if you don't quite need the solution jus' yet. A purely biological killing machine capable of goin' toe-to-toe with a modern military. Tha first problem bein' that metal is better than meat, at least in the areas that matter fer' killing people ah'n blowin' things up. But..."

She flipped through the pictures again. They were gruesome, certainly, but this was also a problem to be solved.

"Ah think Ah got some ideas. The first problem is that biological organisms have biological imperatives Ah'n you might not be surprised to know just how much o' our biology is dedicated to makin' more oh' us. But we don't need tha' here, so we'll cut that out with the useful side effect of not having to sterilize the lot o' em. We'll also need to up-armor em a bit; Don't you worry, Mr. Faz - A'h got you covered!"
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Postby Sunset » Mon Dec 31, 2018 4:06 pm

Republic of Sunset Special Projects Facility Tahoma (Epsilon), Devil's Picnic Basket... Republic Date 174.084...

"...given the threat profile detailed in the request report, I'm ready to make the following proposal."

Once again Doctor Bhinri had a row of holographic projectors laid out, individual platters on the floor with a rising control interface sitting at roughly waist level away from the viewer. Unless you were the Doctor, in which case it was more like chest level. Aside from the proposal itself she'd been quick on the draw in other ways; This time a small cluster of research and design assistants stood off to one side watching intently, their own virtual tools hovering at their fingertips. A row of chairs occupied the space between the projectors and the door and various figures stood or sat around these; These were the potential end-users and the design team watched them just as carefully.

"Pure biology would normally be a hindrance to the objective, but I've come up with several novel ways around that. The first is to carefully note that this will be an engineered species and more than that it will be completely 'grown' as needed. It will also be transported and deployed in stasis-like conditions, also adding some options. The base proposal is," she activated the first display, showing off a hovering, hunched over animal with strangely non-mammalian features, "For an insectoid quadruped with felinoid morphology."

"The insectoid portion brings a number of advantages to the design. First, as they already have an exoskeleton, this would allow us to imbue that exoskeleton with advanced materials to render it highly durable in combat and to allow that same exoskeleton to support a more powerful musculature. I'm using 'imbued' quite purposefully - since these will not be 'grown' but instead 'assembled' we can use materials which would otherwise be impossible to supply as nutrients."

"...such as?"

"Such as PTU-557," Bhinri answered. "We have significant stockpiles, and it meets the requirements ideally. It is strong, durable, and has several abnormal properties that add desirable abilities to the species' roster. It is highly resistant to directed energy weapons and notably directed electricity weapons cause it to gain an additional reflective property. The second advantage to an insectoid base is their particularly robust neurology. Instead of complicated stasis systems being required for transport, we can simply ship them in vacuum and thaw them on arrival. Freeze-dried xenomorphs. The current design calls for moving their primary neurological bundles into areas of the torso that are more protected - useful as we have plans for the head."

Another projector lit up, this time with a much larger and close-up view of the creatures head. Here the insectoid appearance was more readily apparent though the shape was unique to say the least. There was something of a face with the usual assortment of large, multi-faceted eyes but above these was an odd circle of what was by the Doctor's suggested design 'PTU Chitin'.

"The head - minus the primary neurological centers - would contain the primary regular senses. High-resolution compound eyes with a wide range of vision, olfactory cavities - no mouth though, so no sense of taste. This species is designed to live off its own energy reserves until it is no longer needed, providing a useful automatic kill switch in case of subversion. In fact, we've completely eliminated the digestive tract though they will secrete some chemical waste in the form of the nutrient storage medium. This is intentional," she added, to the appearance of some raised eyebrows.

"Michael Chang," she indicated one of the assistants, who stepped forward and gave a slight head-only bow before stepping back again, "Suggested that this waste be formulated to act as a marker that can be used for tracking purposes. It will be slowly secreted through glands on the paws - feline, for exceptional stability and mobility - and allow them to subtly communicate with other units as well as allow tracking in case of a disrupted landing or subversion. Back to the head though..."

With a telescoping pointer, she indicated the circle that then highlighted automatically in response, "This is the species' primary weapon. Essentially, it is a biological version of the anti-electronics field employed by the neo-Graboid developed by..."

"Doctor - neo-Graboid?"

Nodding to one of her assistants, she stepped to the next projector and activated it. The projected image was one of a tube-like construct with a three-pronged head that was clearly some kind of grinder or digger while the body was lined with spines that slowly extended, flexed backwards, and then retracted again.

"A new design out of our own Division. Highly classified. It is essentially a mobile land mine that can loiter or burrow under enemy positions and 'detonate' on command. In this case the detonation is the disruption of several key elemental bonding points common to most electronics. This generally results in an immediate systems failure. The neo-Graboid also mounts a variant affecting biological systems but as the proposed species is itself biological we're not mounting that as a primary system. That isn't to say we're not considering using it; Mr. Chang has also proposed using a 'runaway reaction' biological variant as a 'technology cleanup' system in case of platform failure."

"The species would also be 'armed' with two secondary systems. The first - the simpler of the two - would be teeth and claws. While not as useful in open terrain, the primary combat environment is expected to be an urban variant. This also allows for stealthy 'kills' as the emitter does make a notable 'Thwooom' when operating. Interestingly, we're considering using an engineered version of the 'battery packs' found in electric eels to power the system, meaning that the more active the species is, the faster the weapon will cycle. But on to the third system..."

The last emitter lit up to show a close detail of the animal's back and shoulders, which had a distinct mantle-like hump spread across them. This was in turn studded with a score or more small protrusions, "Which are chemical rockets - missiles, properly, since they are guided. Again, because we are assembling these creatures rather than growing them, we can make design decisions that would normally run counter to biology. Each missile has a biological guidance system that is connected to the species' own neurology until the moment of launch, after which it has been effectively programmed. The warhead is a high-energy shaped charge that is effective against similarly sized opponents."

"What about larger opponents," a voice asked, coming from the depths of a particularly dark chair. "Right now you've given us foot soldiers, Doctor Bhinri. Certainly the conflict profile suggests these will be the primary opponent, but field intelligence suggests these may be required to engage regular forces - tanks, fliers."

"I would again note the careful use of 'assembled' over 'grown'," she answered, returning to the first projector and making an adjustment at the control tower. Immediately the projected morphology was replaced with an indistinct human for scale and then a series of progressively larger versions of the same xenomorph. "While there is a certain efficiency range that is roughly one-point-five to point-one of the proposed design, simulations show that they will be combat effective up to twenty times their current dimensions. All we need is a big enough assembler and some minor modifications to the neurology..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jan 01, 2019 7:35 pm

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

"...and what is that? Those," Y - a lot of the site's junior researchers had taken to calling themselves by single-letter code names; They thought it made them sound cooler than they were - asked, pointing to the objects scattered across the workbench, some in the first stages of disassembly. "Did you take your father-in-law's advise and get into plastics?"

Clyde looked the collection over, mentally debating whether to tell the young man the truth or lead him down the fairy tale path to dark oblivion. It was tempting and the whole 'Y' thing was only a symptom, not the disease. Beta was where a lot of people who wanted to be researchers but who had no solid grasp of what that meant were sent instead of subjecting the real R&D sites to their idiocy. One in a thousand might turn out to be a Fredrick Kraus but the odds were much more tilted towards them being idiots who would blow up the labs at regular intervals - along with themselves.

"No? These are BattleBuddys."

Short, simple, but it didn't work, "What's a BattleBuddy? Looks like something my kid sister would bring home from the mall," he finished with a laugh, "Ha!"

"Actually, I did get them at the mall," Clyde offered, his tone confessional. "New Dornie place there on the corner across from the Waffle Shoppe and the erotic massage parlor. Little pricey though, so I stole em."

"...you didn't."

"You're right. I blew the guy behind the counter. Gave me twenty percent off."

"...you didn't," and that was enough to convince his fellow 'researcher' that they - and he - was not worth his time. With a snort of disbelief Y shrugged out his lab coat and moved on, disappearing around the nearest corner and from Clyde's further consideration. That brought his attention back to the BattleBuddys and his on-going cataloging of their features; It was a little known fact around the halls of Site Beta but real science tended to involve a lot of bottle washing and button sorting.

Each of the units was essentially the same except for their scale; One was about the size and shape of a reusable water bottle and apparently designed to fit in the mesh pouch common to a lot of field packs. The next up was more the size of a lunch box and again designed to be kept inside the bag. The last was the largest and about the size of a sleeping roll and thus engineered to fit in the roll carriers on the top or bottom of the bag. Each also mounted a holo-projector, a power source, a gravity field manipulator, and their control module. The benefit of all this was that they could project a holographic 'BattleBuddy' that could assist the soldier in various ways - right up to fighting at their side.

"Which would make them a fantastic issued upgrade for our ARC4 units;" A mumbled thought Clyde had repeated a half-dozen times.

The New Dornalian military called theirs the 'M99', which was a lost opportunity as far as he was concerned. 'M8' would have been about a dozen times better and given them plenty of justification to give all the holograms Australian accents. But then someone had figured out that they would also be fantastic virtual companions for kids and the elderly - the smallest set by default to a dog or cat while the largest projected a fantasy avatar from this or that cliche holo-vision series. It was these that he'd bought and was now in the process of dissecting.

"Which is fine. I'm more interested in the application than the tech," he reasoned aloud. "I'm sure there's plenty of classified goodies that we can do the same thing with, but better. And maybe - just maybe - this little side project will be my ticket out of here..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:53 pm

Muldoon's New & Used RV Sales Super-Center, Chuh-Yu, Ares System... Republic Date 174.145...

"...well, we're looking for something with room for six," Erika said, looking to Demi who replied with a nod of support. "My wife and I, our two kids, our butler, and an extra bed if we have a guest."

"Right, so," the saleman - 'Crazy Eddie' according to his name tag - spun in place before settling on a non-cardinal direction and walked away, talking back at them over his shoulder, "This way. Mid-sized - and are you looking for new or used? What's your budget?"

This time it was Demi's turn to open her mouth, but no sound came out; Just a half-chewed response that would have sounded downright arrogant if she hadn't caught it in time. Instead she looked at one of the closer recreational vehicles for sale, tacked a couple zeroes onto the end, and supplied that as their answer. This in turn made Crazy Eddie's eyeballs flip over into actual dollar signs and his feet to come to a sudden halt that sent him sprawling face-first on the concrete path.

Both women rushed forward, the blond reaching him just a moment before the brunette and it was her hand that hauled him back to his feet, "Are you alright?!"

"Never better! Just a..," he brushed at his face and chest, dislodging dust, small pieces of rock, and a small chunk of his nose to reveal shiny metal underneath, "Just a small mathematical malfunction. Guidance error. Seems I should be showing you folks to the VIP portion of the lot! Which is," he spun again, left foot very nearly trailing wide as he ended up with an outstretched arm pointed right at the side of a particularly impressive looking vehicle, "Right this way!"

With that, he led the pair right through a narrow door about halfway down the vehicle, up a short flight of stairs that bent at the fourth step, through a seating area that was as large as some apartments, and down another set of stairs, and asking questions all the way, "Six people - Two kids, four adults. And did you say a butler? What about accessories? And where do you see yourselves using this vehicle? And have you considered the outrageous costs of parking it at your home? Muldoons' operates an extensive chain of seasonal RV storage locations - we'll even deliver your vehicle to another one so you don't have to drive so far!"

"No," and a suspicious shadow moved over their heads to throw the entire lot into temporary darkness before moving away again, "But we already have a place to park it. We're mostly looking for something that we can use for camping - young kids aren't as thrilled with the idea of roughing it. And we'll need something that can make orbit!"

"How much did you say your budget was again?"

Erika reeled off another number, both different and higher, and Eddie ran smack into a lamp post to cost himself half his cheek and one ear, which he left dangling on the pole. This time they didn't even bother to help and in a moment he was on his feet again after hauling himself up the shaft, "Well, okay - orbit. That changes things a little. But still," he set off again, "This way. And here we are!"

Because they were now standing in the middle of a circle of vehicles, their various cabs or driver's compartments facing in towards the trio. From this angle it was difficult to tell how large each was, but most bulged out in wedges and curves and several had wings or engines hanging in large pods off shallow beams. Nearly all had their model name written across the nose in stylized letters that usually matched that of the vehicle's chosen personality.

"Now, these are all fine vehicles, but I'm going to go right to the point - the one that fits all your needs and a little more. Which is," he walked over to one and slapped the hood, "This one. Next year's model too. The Mark-Twelve;" this was written out in thick Roman numerals just below the model name, which was more flowing as befitted the vehicle's curved styling; "Mythic Adventure. Beds for eight, full kitchen, full entertainment lounge, surface-to-orbit, attached garage for bikes, personal watercraft... And of course, secret hyper-jets."

'But how are they secret if you're advertising them;' Which would have been Demi's question if she hadn't caught a glimpse at the price in the window, "Did you say beds for eight? I'm not sure we need eight," she gulped, thinking more of the price than the convenience.

Crazy Eddie shook his head, "It's not just room for eight! Let me show you its features," he continuing, opening the front door and conveniently hiding the price tag. "Now, two of the bedrooms are fixed, but two are double bunks that fold up to allow more room for the..."

"Hot tub?! It has a hot tub..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:42 pm

RDF-Zluepdot, Kliani I Orbit, Beta Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.148...

"...and we're sure they're sentient?" Commander du Frank asked, the same skepticism written on his face that was present in his tone.

The Sanglanti stood at the back of the bridge, leaning against the horse-rail while the two junior officers at their duty stations alongside continued to work - or at least pretend to work - quietly. There wasn't a lot for either the tactical or the sensor officer to do; The Kliani System was smack dab in the middle of several major-but-friendly powers-with-a-P who would treat any roughhousing in their neck of the woods as an excuse to kick some ass. It had also been surveyed nearly fifty years ago, and a small research team consisting entirely of a retired university professor, his unmarried daughter, and a bumbling assistant had learned all there was to know about the locals until the bumbling assistant had run off with the professor and the daughter had called it quits.

"As much as you or me or anyone else," Captain Uyeeth - Graec, to pretty much everyone - answered.

"So they've invented the grenade?"

Both the science officer and the Lieutenant at tactical choked back a laugh while Graec turned one of his heads to look over his shoulder, "Huh? The grenade?"

"Mmhmm. There's a story floating around the spacer bars;" As the Commander was a Sanglanti, regular heavy drinking was not only suggested but required; "That there's this civilization out there claiming to be the origins of humanity. Turns out they've never invented the grenade though, so most of the speculation runs towards them being an evolutionary dead-end. If it's true, of course."

"Of course."

Captain Uyeeth had been to a spacer bar or two in his lifetime, though he'd proposed to avoid them after learning why two-headed projectile vomiting was more than twice as bad as one-headed projectile vomiting. Nowadays his tastes pretended to the refined and never ventured near anything from Fenvaria. Especially the Dracoian whiskey, "So, about our new friends..?"

"Just seems like they don't have a lot to be sentient with," du Frank replied, motioning towards the image floating in the middle of the bridge just below the central holo-sphere's circular projector. "No mouth, no nose - they can talk, right?"

Which brought up the question of just what they looked like; A fleshy, veined brown tube that ended in a bulge at either end with one - which was up - notably smaller than the other. Both ends held what might be an organ or possibly a really neat looking round rock with again one being larger than the other. There wasn't much more to them than that and that explained entirely the Commander's skepticism.

"In a manner of speaking. They're actually quite fascinating if you dive into the details a bit further. The depression on each end of the limb is lined with incredibly sensitive nerve endings as well as muscle analogs. They use the muscles to move around, rolling themselves along the ground with the bottom end and using the top end to sense things. If they want to taste, they roll the ball on whatever it is and when it comes around they can taste it. They can touch the same way - they can feel vibrations, variations in texture, all of that through the ball. Both ends. Smell... They know its a smell because what they are 'tasting' is distributed over the ball. Changes the taste of the entire ball. Seeing is pretty much the same thing as touching."

"Do they make the balls?"

"No..." Graec touched his chair controls and an image from the professor's last and only book came up. This showed a selection of the spheres in close detail, noting their differences as well as the details of who they'd been borrowed from. "They grow them like pearls. Sometimes. Usually when they fissure - reproduce, splitting in half to grow a new bowl on each end - their friends will have cooperated to grow them two new, smaller pearls. There's no male or female, though they have a specific word for the big end and the little end and someone who's spawned from one end or the other.

"Why don't they just use their... Bowls to do things? Why bother growing the pearls?"

"Because there's another interesting question," the Arenja answered, shutting down the hologram with a click of his clawed fingertip. "They use it as a tool. Or, as it happens, a weapon. In fact we're just in time for their Season of Battle and if we can talk them into joining up, there won't be a reason for another..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:13 pm

Director Silaco's Office, Special Projects Research Complex, The Outskirts of Landor City, Terra Incognito... Republic Date 174.155...

"...could we..?"

"Of course we could," Director Silaco answered without a pause. 'Can't' was hardly ever in the Director's vocabulary these days - the better answer was the more complex 'Should we? Or will whatever miracle you'd like accomplished today be better extended out to tomorrow, next month, or even a couple years from now because it would be more efficient, productive, or useful then for this reason, that reason, or let's just do it right now!' The question had set her mind towards calculations though and her fingers moved as she mentally calculated volumes, increments, and masses.

Though given the eventual numbers behind all three? If she had really been using her fingers she'd have notably decreased their service life, "But should we?"

The question had come up to a singlet in the news about the Star Empire's desire to restore the planet Ataster to its former glory after it was rudely demolished by another (now former) local player in a bid to destabilize the Empire. Faint musings called for the assembly of an international effort but any question of the Republic joining the effort had already been squashed; It would have simply poured enough resources into the project to accomplish it in a fortnight and then fucked off to play Fortnite and that was deemed politically useless.

Other than as a means to impress people and since the powers that be didn't really give a damn about doing that; "About eight days, give-or-take. Depending on if we put the full output of everything behind it."

Why restore when you could just drag the old one off and replace it with the '75 model? But that too had been nixed by the Powers that Be.

"But you know, just because we don't do this thing doesn't mean we couldn't do another thing and you've given me an idea."

Doctor Thott closed the article with a 'snap'. The little Mecce had now known the Director for longer than some fledgling interstellar civilizations had been able to call themselves that and when she got that particular glint in her eye - that one, just now - he knew it was best to just hold on to something solid and hang on for the ride. All it would take is some minor gesture and he provided it, bobbing his head on the end of his camel-like neck just once and not even adding a 'go on...'

"There are," her fingers moved through the air and a hologram of the galaxy appeared, rapidly zooming in to show a rough triangle between Sol, Sagittarius A, and the middle of the Beta-Delta border highlighted in Republic atomic orange, "A lot of stars in this area - and the galaxy as a whole - that don't have any planets, asteroids, comets, or whatever in them. All that energy just going to waste, tossed out into the universe to maybe brighten some astronomer's telescope a few thousand years from now. But useful to us - but not immediately useful. Sure, we could flood the entire triangulation with QDs;" she pronounced it 'cuties'; "And produce ships on a scale to give the wankers an erection lasting for months, but at least right now..."

She stopped and looked around, searching every dark corner of her office with violet eyes that suddenly glowed phosphorescent, "We don't actually need more ships. I can't believe I just said that and you won't breath a word of that to anyone, right?"

"Erum, yes," Thott agreed, under the sudden impression that she might just sprout a cape and clam-shell helmet before force-choking a bitch.

"But what we could use is material storage as well as preparation for the day when we might just need more living space. So what if we were to put up QDs in these empty systems that we've programmed to make planets? Slowly, yes, but this is the kind of long-term thinking that people that know me are surprised I'm capable of. The idea would be to have each star..."

Fingers again manipulated empty space until another hologram appeared, this time of a random star in a random place in what might not even be our galaxy. It did look rather lonely though without even a single comet to mar its otherwise perfect brilliance and then a single thin sliver of silver appeared a suitable distance away, barely visible except as an infinitesimal crescent of white where the light caught it just right.

"A 'Filament', if we're adding yet another appellation of mega-structure. The QD converts the star's cast-off energy to matter and installs it molecule-by-molecule into a slowly increasing band at whatever orbital distance is appropriate for that star. And since we can be as wanky as we want... Son-of-a-bitch!"

"What?"

"Nothing," she held up a hand, waving him off but summoning a virtual sticky note from the ether to slap it on her shirt as though she was a particularly negligent convention attendee, "We'll get back to it. Another something for the galactic treasure hunt. But so we format those molecules so as to be perfect for use in the Penrose Process somewhere down the line when we might just need to harvest energy from natural black holes to keep the lights on. Essentially, we'll set these otherwise-useless stars into making batteries for later. But while we're at it..."

And here came the part where the Director turned it up past 10, the Mecce readying himself for whatever mutation she was about to put on her own idea; "We can also direct the growth of the Filaments towards eventual habitation. Sure, they'd only be a few molecules thick to start, but months, years, decades... Eons down the line? And why not make them interesting at the same time?"

Her finger slide along the bottom of the second hologram and time raced along. First the barely visible line became a thick thread and then it began to move, wriggle, and distort out into a wider set of traceries, spirals, and whorls that wrapped themselves around the star like a lace garter on the thigh of an old-fashioned bride, "A Filigree. A full biosphere hundreds of billions of kilometers long but only a tiny fraction of that wide. At least until it is fully filled out and then..."

Material began to grow from the edge of the threads, spreading across the gaps until the creation resembled textured cloth and the star was a shadow of its former self.

"Neat, huh?"

Thott bobbed his head, shaggy hair flapping like the flanks of a puppy due for the groomers, "Yes, very. But what about your note to yourself?"

She plucked it off her breast, turned it over, and looked at it for a second, "...What if someone else already did this? Actually, someone else should have already done this," she half-repeated, turning the question into an altogether different question. "There's a twist on the ol' Fermi's Paradox. No matter what that guy thinks," she jerked a thumb over her shoulder, pointing to the fourth wall, "I'm not the smartest wizard out there - there's always a better wizard. You'd figure that the Druth'Haari or someone else would have figured this idea out before and put it into practice. We should be seeing mega-structure-storage-structures all over the place. Why not?"

"Why not?"

"Because its a short gap between 'Why not' and 'Let's find out 'why not'? Especially when you have a shed-ton of ships and crews just waiting for something new and interesting to look for. I'll whitepaper it and post it to the Fleet, put some other assets on it - we should ask the Nameless One - and maybe someone will turn up a reason why not - or why."
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Sunset
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Sunset » Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:15 pm

Secretary Tormakk Jin's Office, The Path of Stars, Silverstar... Republic Date 174.0159...

"...what it will mean is a massive intrusion by the government into the private sector; the guarantee of a universal basic income will doubtless cause significant disruption across every sector of the economy. There are, however, several ways in which we can mitigate that disruption. The first is the simplest - a gradual introduction of the scenario I will now lay out."

"Too start with, we will introduce the idea of the Basic Resource Allocation, which will take the place of the Guaranteed Basic Income. This will be presented as the bounty of a civilization that no longer struggles to meet the everyday needs of its citizens. We will start with a BRA equal to twenty percent of the average citizen's yearly resource requirement - which is the same as the current GBI. This will increase at ten percent a year. This should minimize disruption as employers and individuals pare back their unnecessary efforts - an elimination of duplicate functions, automation of functions, and a focus on individual service rather than market share."

"When the BRA reaches the full allocation, we will then eliminate direct payment between employers and employees - under the guise of simplifying all tax structures - which will then allow the government to add specific motivators. The first will simply be employment itself; while the BRA is designed to meet the average needs of the average citizen, we will want the citizenry to remain motivated and engaged. Employment is fundamental to that - a sense of purpose. This motivation will apply in several distinct tiers."

"The first will be the self-declared job. An individual will declare themselves employed, declare what that job is, and thus receive a bonus to their BRA of ten percent. The second is verified employment; Individuals declaring they have verified employment through a licensed business will receive a bonus of twenty percent to their BRA. The third will be government work in all its forms. These will receive a BRA bonus of twenty-five percent, signifying their contribution to society as a whole."

"Individuals not in government employment can earn a larger BRA through a profit sharing arrangement with their verified employer. Of course, an employer can engage in various manipulations to make 'their' particular share larger, but without the threat of destitution hanging over their heads, employees who find themselves in such a situation will be free to leave or join together to demand a better arrangement. Since these profit sharing arrangements will be handled through the government, they will be an open contract of record; An unscrupulous employer will not be able to hide their intentions behind obtuse agreements."

"Businesses and market competition will also benefit from the BRA though this will be a significant point of disruption. The government will - has - the ability to radically undercut the cost for all basic resources. This will put several major players in the resource sector out of business, though that is not necessarily a bad thing - nor will they particularly suffer. Once the BRA is fully in place, businesses can requisition needed resources on a 'shall-issue' basis. This will also allow competing businesses to easily arise and displace inefficient operations. With the BRA in place no one will be left destitute."

"It should be noted that we will want to create elements of competition in the system - or leave those elements in place. Competition in the private sector is good for the individual citizen and good for the government as well. Whatever inefficiencies it introduces into the system are, in my opinion, more than offset by the ability of competition to keep us honest and involved. The temptation to erect a system and then never examine its flaws is great and so we should make all efforts to avoid this scenario..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:29 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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