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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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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:54 pm

Strategic Command Center, RDF-Vigilant, Underway to the Ethirelin System... Nineteen Minutes to Go...

"...and the fleet around Yelan is completely gone, along with most of the infrastructure. Unfortunate - according to Grand Captain Ciranyth, the High Captain there was one of the most likely to surrender," Commander Williams added, scrolling through the list. "We shut down the CME and requested a surrender from the planet-side government, but since the planet-side government is heavily aligned to the Ynij faction we're not expecting an outright surrender. The Qi fleets in Galeradon, Malec, Perrakon," and he listed off a few more for good measure, "Are also gone. We tried running a search-and-rescue on Sardo, but surface-to-orbit batteries decided to make that difficult and it was called off."

"But the good news is that we did get a couple bites - the bad news being that they were all from the newest and smallest Qi colonies. A dozen ships here, a hundred ships there. Honestly," he flicked open a holographic map of the area (formerly) under the control of the Chosen Dominion, "I think we're going to lose everything in this cluster," he drew a finger around the southern third of the marked stars. "Pretty much everything north of there has some level of civil unrest but these colonies are mostly calm - even after they've lost their defensive fleets. Intelligence thinks those worlds were settled primarily by Ynij zealots and they'll keep shooting until they don't have anything to shoot - and that will be enough for Admiral Usah to make sure they never shoot again."

"I've just been talking to Grand Admiral Yikorusha," Grand Admiral Erriki said, looking through the data for herself before turning to the Commander. "He's got an idea there - he wants to put forces on the ground on all the Qi worlds, hostile or not. We don't have the kind of huge land army needed to fight pitched battles but we've got enough to put all of their capital cities in play. And if we have forces on the ground..."

"Then Admiral Usah will be less likely to torch them," Williams agreed, though there was notable apprehension in his voice. "I can't say we know the man well enough to say he won't, but these are enemy worlds that have been mobilizing for an invasion. If he loses a force, we're going to lose that world - it will be all the more reason for Usah to act against the surface." He'd watched the interaction between Admiral Usah and Admiral Villanova and there could not have been a greater difference between the two men unless Usah had suddenly started chanting dark oaths to the gods of chaos.

"Better to try and fail in this case, though I'll suggest that Jon focus on where he thinks his chances are best. I don't like writing people off like this, but we didn't start this thing either."

"Sorta."

"Sorta. I got a message from Captain Blaine. She put forward the argument that this whole thing might have been tripped off by the iWe for some reason. She's got her ducks in a row, but they are pretty young ducks. I didn't get back to her - it doesn't matter right now and we're in a time crunch, so if she wants to go off on a wild goose chase, that's her time. I should get back to Jon..."
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Thu Feb 14, 2019 1:53 pm

Mef, Ulilat System... Not Much Longer to Go...

From the back of the mob another volley of projectiles arced forward, sailing over the heads of those between to land with a clatter against the raised riot shields of the yboreveil or, with some luck, against some slim patch of unprotected fur. Rocks, masonry - whatever the crowd had at hand - except for one bottle brightly trailing a burning piece of fabric torn from a bloody shirt. This burst among the ranks of the EoE to engulfing the pair who had let it slip between them and sending the center of the line scattering, if only for a moment.

"Forward!" Nydalle yelled, her voice already hoarse from screaming epitaphs and threats, "for OWN!"

Whether it was her voice or the great shout that went up from the mob along with it, she carried it forward as she rushed the barricades. The last thing in her hand was the half-bucket of blue paint she'd hurriedly dabbed onto the sign she'd long-ago thrown away and this now splashed across the yboreveil as she turned to her fists, slugging away uselessly at the armored police. But they were now truly swamped, protesters surrounding them to tear away their gear, raising them above the crown on a bed of hands, and carrying them towards the railing.

"A sacrifice for Ynij!" a voice called out in mocking laughter and the cry was taken up and repeated, even as others surged past to yank at the elaborate door handles. A cry heralded yet another 'sacrifice' but for the moment the doors stood firm, obstinate in their monolithic scale as hand after hand tried their luck against whatever lock held them shut.

Carried along by enthusiasm, Nydalle reached for the door as well but this time there was a 'click' and the door flung wide as a dozen Qi found themselves pulling against nothing. Some fell but others retained their feet and the greater rush of the mob pushed them forward and into the darkened bastion where they came to as sudden a halt as they'd begun. Spread out on the floor were at least a dozen bodies, blood matting their fur and draining out onto the stone floor. Across from them stood a great golden disc carved with the many traits of Ynij but across it was written in purple metallic pen and with an odd stilt to the letters; "Your Welcome..."

----


...a faint shimmer landed on the ledge in a crouch, a slender-but-generous body curled into a circle as her head raised to look across the gap between buildings. With steps as light as snow the form turned and retreated backwards until there was judged sufficient space and with a burst of speed that raised patters of dust and grim it hurled itself into the abyss. Flattening itself out as if to reach for the building on the other side. Stone gargoyles - though not of familiar form - hung from the corners and to one of these it latched on, fingers impossibly strong swinging it around the face to land upright on the shoulders.

Just along the new ledge was a small balcony - a maintenance platform, really - and this was her clear destination as she padded along the thin ledge only to stop a dozen paces short. The flat housing of a ball-shaped camera hung out from above the door, watching and waiting. Placing a hand on the closest window to secure herself, Tradia looked over the edge to the streets and sky-ways below. A mob had formed there and with signs and bits of refuse now fought with a beleaguered-looking force of riot police. Those who fell on both side were scooped up, taken in strong hands, and if they were lucky relayed to the back of each for medical attention but more commonly heaved screaming over the sides.

The old gods struggling to overthrow the new - it was a familiar story to the Xypndi if told in reverse. Years previous she'd been half of a two-woman revolution against the so-called 'gods' that had controlled her home planet. Foul and murderous men, they had used their position of self-proclaimed power to command women into sexual slavery and then death. When the offer had come through - along with a dossier detailing the crimes of the Ynij priesthood - she'd jumped at the chance to put those atrophied skills back to work.

With that little bit of explanation out of the way, she looked back first to the camera over the door and then up to the nighttime sky where shooting stars great and small fell from one side to the other in criss-cross pattern. These were the remains of the planetary defense fleet, the shattered hulks drawn into the atmosphere by the tender embrace of gravity before plunging to earth either to burn up or smash headlong through whatever they might. Somewhere over her shoulder, the rioters benefited from one such impact. A steadfast cruiser - what was left of it - had come down on the eastern side of the city and toppled and smashed buildings. This had churned up a firestorm and the city's emergency services had mobilized to deal with the disaster, leaving only that small squad of riot police to defend the government temple when the mob came.

"Time to give them a little help."

The door was the obvious but it would also be the hardest; Not only the security camera protected it but likely a strong lock and sturdy frame as well. Take out the camera and they'd know someone was coming. Try to jimmy the lock under the effects of her shroud? Again, she could be spotted by an alert guard or computer. Instead she turned, walked back around the corner of the building as if the ledge were made of the thinnest ice, and un-slung the carbine held close across her back to stitch a line of holes through the glass. An elbow shattered the rest and she launched herself over the sill to examine her new surroundings.

There was an immediate certain familiarity about it; after her and her partner had driven the false gods from their world with blood and fire, she'd mostly settled down into a new life as the first governor of N'Xypndiltn under the banner of the Republic. Meetings, laws, committees, rules - and offices. Especially corner offices with their wide views, lavish appointments, and thus important occupants. Even if the alien motifs were just that, she recognized the form but there was no one home.

"If I were a religious lunatic about to lose my life and my position thanks to a god that didn't give two minus two fucks about me, where would I be? Probably on the top floor tossing one of the other lunatics onto the altar and hoping that god hears our prayers before those other assholes start looking my way..."

There was a door to one side and another to the other and she checked these first, carbine up and forward as she yanked the door open to sweep the barrel from side to side. A washroom and the hallway. Falling back to what passed for a desk she searched it quickly, gun still up and trained on the doorway while she riffled through the drawers.

"No keys, no passwords on sticky-notes... Bad and good," she decided aloud, crossing to the door and checking carefully around each corner with the sensor on the end of her weapon before proceeding. 'Means either they took them with them, or they don't need them."

Which might well mean she'd run into a locked door any second now - or better yet, an armed checkpoint...

'Like that one;' where a pair of guards who looked more like mall cops than military police stood between a pair of closed double-doors. 'One tall and fat, the other short and skinny. At least they are playing against type.'

Footsteps behind her warned of an approaching third and she turned, invisible still, to scope out the new arrival. It was a priest if ever she saw one - a triangular cloth tunic hung with inscribed golden square medallions and bearing before him a headdress that looked like someone had cut the arms off a dozen baby dolls and glued them to a helmet. Behind the first came what was obviously a sacrifice - a woman cuffed suspiciously loosely at the wrists and wearing an outfit that looked more like she was getting ready to get fucked than have her blood spilled. Another priest came behind, this time with a golden circle knife thing held behind her neck. For a moment Tradia caught the woman's eye and the glint of something strange there as well as the toxin sensors built into her mask going off like lights on a Christmas tree told her everything she needed to know, 'Drugged to her eyeballs.'

But was that willingly drugged? Tradia flashed back to her own past - dark caves with bedraggled women hung from the walls barely alive, tortured and starved as the devices of sexual sadists. This woman looked prepared, ready - her clothing was neat, her hair shiny as though she'd freshly washed. Consideration cost her moments but also created opportunity: The thin, short guard opened the door as the party approached but there was not enough time to dash through, even as small as she was. Instead she waited as he held the door open and the three passed through and then shot him in the head.

He collapsed into the doorway and the other looked over as her sights crossed his torso, stitching a line of red through his chest. The priest in the rear had turned as well and she brought the scope over to fire through the doorway, allowing fate to decide. Golden medallions did little to stop the rounds and the priest pitched forward to cast the golden knife nearly at her feet as Tradia ran forward. Her eyes slid past the woman - alive or dead, the drugs put her long past caring - and she tapped the trigger twice as the barrel landed on the last Qi's forehead.

Which left her... Where? Instinctively she rolled to one side to come to a knee, swiveling her weapon around the room only to find it far more peaceful than she'd momentarily expected. Blood now stained the shattered tiles of the foyer but ahead she could see through a beaded curtain to an altar that itself stood on a plinth with supplicant priests surrounding it, chanting out devotions to a god that was doing a damned good job of forsaking them.

At least there she had no qualms. Scooping up the hand-rimmed helmet, she snuck close to the curtain before slowly moving it aside. The carbine went back to its place on her back and she retrieved another before hucking the fancy hat up onto the blood stained slab. A dozen faces looked up in shock and wonder while she threw herself to the side of the door and flat on the floor, the grenade going off a perfect meter above the altar.

"Who isn't dead?" she asked aloud as she walked calmly from one to another, the soft 'thip' of expanding air answering the question for each in turn. "Now let's go see who's at the door..."
Last edited by Sunset on Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:57 pm

Super-Heavy GravTank Jōshō Ha, Tangier Plains, Ju-Docri, Ares Super-Cluster... Zero Minutes Remaining...

It had been the open rolling plains of Ju-Docri with its patchwork network of independent manors and estates that had given birth to the 'modern' Republic Marine Command and so it was appropriate that the world still served as the chosen headquarters of that service. Just after the initial settlement of the Ares System both the system and those claimed nearby had come under intermittent attack by self-labeled 'pirates' and the persecution of a campaign against the same had led the Defense Force on a path back to Ju-Docri and ultimately conquest of the same. With a need for a high-speed and high-impact ground force the old 'Ship Security Details' had found themselves reforged and then eventually replaced by the Marine Command though true land battles had been few and far between since. That was not to say the Marines had not seen combat; with everything from counter-terrorism to executive protection under their aegis it was a rare day when a Marine somewhere was not being shot at or doing the shooting.

All of that was particularly pertinent to Grand Admiral Yikorusha as he sat cross-legged on the deck of his chosen command tank. The many Marines under his command were about to enter into their first large-scale land battles since he had taken the position nearly two decades ago and while each was well-trained and extraordinarily equipped, there was little institutional memory of such things. Thus for each force this would be a 'Kurenjingufurēmu Ni Yoru Shikō' - A Trial by Cleansing Flame - where much that had been lost would be found and that which had accumulated in error would be burned away through harsh experience. To add just that additional touch of chaos each force would not only be facing a different situation as regarding terrain but also objective...

"...Force Drere," he continued, having already listed out the objectives for a half-dozen units which were now designated by the worlds that were their objective, "Yours is the most straight-forward: Destroy. Drere has strongly indicated their objections to our appearance and repeatedly fired on our ships from surface batteries. Those will be your primary objectives. The planet is still under coronal bombardment and their primary power grid is down - use this to your advantage, Commander. But you may also receive unexpected support from Intelligence operatives on the ground - be prepared to pivot."

With a finger he moved the holographic map of Drere and its Force Commander's disembodied head to one side. He'd have enjoyed the opportunity to get into further detail but time was of the essence - while he focused on the larger picture in real-time, most of the 'inactive' Force Commanders were soaking in every detail they could via an electronically-accelerated personal time. The next was Mef, in the Ulilat System, and he tapped Captain Hurley's face to get his attention.

"Captain Hurley, Force Ulilat will be deployed in support of a sectarian uprising that has communicated their interest in aligning itself with the Republic. They have taken the government center in the city of Mef and are in communications with an operative on the ground. You will have little time to organize - loyalist forces are already gathering on the outskirts of the city. Orbital support will be restricted due to the operating environment and you should do everything in your power to minimize casualties among the population - we want our new friends to remain so."

Captain Hurley nodded and was then moved to the side. Recently promoted, the Grand Admiral had decided that he was the ideal officer for that operation - his Marine Section had gained a reputation for flexible, fast-moving operations during his posting aboard Horizon and he'd brought nearly his entire Section with him at promoted rank.

The situation on Ulilat highlighted his personal concerns and what would be continuing interest as the war against the Chosen Domain progressed. Their self-declared enemy claimed inspiration from Ynij, a god of blood and sacrifice, but 'its' following was not universal among the Qi and neither were the proportions evenly dispersed among their settled worlds. Civil uprisings and insurrections were common in the north where those who followed the Tenets of Ynij were fewer in number - there the population tended towards either atheism or towards quiet worship of the secondary deities in the Qi pantheon: Own, Alinn, and Qiab. In the south, including Drere, the proportions were much the opposite and it was his appraisal that some there would fight to the last.

If they were fought.

But if they were not - and for the moment the Grand Admiral had scant forces at his disposal when divided across the nineteen systems of the Qi - there would probably be sectarian violence if not outright genocide. The Chosen of Ynij would view the rebellions as a betrayal and those who followed the other gods would likely consider the Chosen as irrational warmongers who had brought the Republic down on their heads. Inserting any outside entity into those conditions would potentially give both a new target that was not their own brothers and sisters. Thus there were no easy choices but they were not choices he would have to make. The Marines would follow their orders and he would learn from both mistakes and victories and again they would find themselves reforged.

"Force Ethirelin;" which he would be personally commanding; "will be responsible for securing the capital..."

'Potentially securing', if he was to be completely honest with himself. The planet was a hodge-podge of rioting, civil unrest, outright rebellion, and Chosen military formations still in good order. To avoid stripping his other forces to the bone, he had cut his own to the bare minimum that the projections allowed for victory. Any mistakes, any surprises, and failure and death was the most likely outcome.

Which was as it should be.

"...Grand Admiral, we're at speed;" at full speed a Typhoon Super-Heavy could nudge up to the speed of sound and the rolling plains of Ju-Docri were the perfect environment to hit that limit. Their size and thus power generation also allowed them to be equipped with something most militaries would not consider practical for a tank; "and ready to jump on your order!"

He looked down at the display again, placing his hands on his knees and checking each face to make sure they were paying attention, "All Forces, the order is given!"

For a moment something tore at his soul, time became space, and 'there' became 'here'. What had been the endless waves of rolling brown grass that dominated the Tangier Plain this time of year became a strange alien terrain of spherical bushes and trees that looked like they had been carved from the letters of an unfamiliar alphabet. On the horizon a city loomed, enormous spires linked together by spindly sky-ways while in the foreground a military encampment yawned, soldiers just looking up from their tasks as sudden danger loomed. Below his tank the similar silhouette of an armored fighting vehicle fell away from its moorings while Marines in power armor threw themselves free to race forward on their own and a heavy drone fighter rolled off the back to unfurl into four-sparred flight: The Battle for Ethirelin had begun...
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Feb 16, 2019 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:34 pm

Shuttle 'Zero-One', Launched from RDF-Bar Harbor, GEC-175146 System, Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.304...

"Frank, did that asteroid just move?"

Frank didn't even look over from where he was keying commands into one of the various overhead command consoles in the shuttle's small but not yet cramped flight cabin, "Yes, Ed. Of course the asteroid moved. Unless we're no longer under the influence of gravity."

"No, I mean," and Ed sat forward, leaning just about as far forward as it was possible to lean before inertia would carry him to his knees to kneel before the great curve of the forward display like a child obsessed with the latest WhoTube sensation. Since it was a virtual screen rather than a sharp edges and catastrophic failure window all that really did was get him just a little closer to pixelation. "I mean, I swear it winked at me."

"Winked at you. How long have we known each other, Ed? Years? Decades?"

It had been, in fact, a lot less than a decade and Ed managed to work that out without sticking out his tongue or using his fingers; "We were posted to Bar Harbor the same day - just a little over two years now. What does that matter?"

"Because you'd think that I'd have figured out that I was best friends with a crazy person by now. Winked at," Frank turned from the console and swung himself over the arm to sink into the co-pilot's chair - small but not yet cramped - and punctuating his descent with a pitying sigh. "Which one was it? The gray one, the other gray one, or the gray one next to that? Because if we've got a winking asteroid, we should definitely get a sample of that one."

That was why they were there after all; Bar Harbor had stopped in GEC-175146 to carry out the required re-sweep of the system even though, according to the catalog entry, the only potentially habitable planets in the system had managed to smash each other into rubble some few millions of years earlier. That had left a rather impressive asteroid belt between the innermost planets where daytime temperatures routinely hit two hundred degrees - first Fahrenheit, then Celsius and then Kelvin overnight - and the lone gas giant in the outer system.

Which looked like something the cat had thrown up in zero-g.

But sensor technology had advanced in the years since the original pass-through and Bar Harbor's sensor officer - a lovely young lady that both Ed and Frank had had their eye on until she'd informed the Captain that there were some interesting mineral formations deep inside the asteroid field - had picked out some unusual mineral formations deep inside the asteroid field. Too deep to nose the Impact-Class Cruiser into the cluttered field for but just perfect to dispatch one of her smallest shuttles after. Frank had volunteered and Ed had gone along to block his 'friends' pass.

Ed jabbed a finger at a slowly spinning lump of rock that looked like all the other slowly spinning lumps of rock, "That one. Pretty sure."

"Well, Mister 'Pretty Sure', let's see what its made of..." On his own console, he drew a marquee around the lump and double-tapped it for an isolated sensor analysis, which came back as soon as he hit the second beat, "Carbon, silicon... Nothing about eyeballs. Or eyelids."

"I'm telling you, it moved. And it wasn't just inertia," Ed complained, slamming back into his chair and crossing his arms, lower lip out. "Fine. Whatever."

"Then I'll 'whatever' start collecting the samples," Frank replied, pushing himself up from the chair and heading into the back. The stripped-bare cargo space also doubled as the shuttle's airlock and there were two suits of regulation body armor (Environmentally sealed for your protection!) hanging from the bulkhead between the compartments with their back-flaps conveniently opened and turned down, just in case one might wonder whether they'd been used before. Frank didn't care and neither did the computer when he pushed the button to start cycling the lock - his regular body looked just like the re-released ARC3 synthetic crewman and with a slight revision to the polymorphic facial features he'd been good to go.

And he'd never have to go, which was a bonus. Five minutes times five or six times a day times... Well, it all added up.

'Airlock Cycle Complete in Five, Four...' the shuttle's synthesized voice counted down, the pattern far more authoritative than that simpering whimper preferred by the Qi. Then there was a knock on the door; "Pause Airlock Cycle. Ed, was that you?"

"Was that me what?"

"Did you just knock on the door?" Frank asked again as the sudden suspicion that Ed was screwing with him ran all the way from his toes to his squinting eyes in an instant. "Ed, stop fucking around. Shuttle, Resume Cycle..."

"Cycle Complete," and he jammed the button annoyingly hard. The outer door slide out and to the side and Frank found himself standing face to face to upraised door-knocking knuckles with something that kinda-sorta looked like a rock and kinda-sorta looked like him. Or Ed, if he thought about it.

He didn't think about it. Instead he let out a particularly high-pitched shriek and dived to the side where a pile of conveniently placed sample containers broke his fall and themselves. The thing - whatever it was - grabbed the edge of the hatch and leaned inside, looking around the corner. A foot followed and it stepped inside, the shuttle's artificial gravity pinning its feet to the deck as it looked around. Frank rolled onto its back and it looked down at him with what could only be lips moving as it extended a hand.

"What the... Who the fuck are you?! Ed!"

Only the last part was useful of course - this wasn't Star Wars and there was no air in space. The hand was convenient though and he took it to haul himself to his feet before his fist lashed out to close the door with a hasty punch. The hatch slid shut and Frank repeated that last bit, "Ed! There's someone out there! In here. Ed! There's someone in here!"

"Yeah, I know. Their friends are outside - I think they're trying to invite us to a tailgate party!"

Frank hung his head in shame, both personal and friendly. "Ed," he finished as air flooded the compartment and his words could again be heard, "You're an idiot."

"I am?"

Frank stared in open-jawed wonder at the words that had just come out of its talking hole, "No, I... Ed's the idiot. How did you say that?"

"That," the thing opposite said, pulling up an empty crate and using it as a chair, "is a long story..."
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:36 pm

Mef, Ulilat System, Qi Space, The Western Alpha-Gamma Border... Just After Shit Goes Down...

"Oh, you'll love it," Tradia answered, her booted and bloody feet up on the desk and her carbine laid across her chest - comfortably, but still aimed at the door. "The Republic will pour resources on you. Whatever you need. We took N'Xypndiltn from a backwater jungle shit-hole to a respectable galactic destination in a couple years. We needed cities, they brought in cities. Not sticks and leaves, mind you - whole pre-made cities like this one built in orbit somewhere and we just plunked them down where they were needed. Schools, infrastructure - hell, there was a shipyard just outside C'Xypill until a couple months ago. They shut it down and moved production elsewhere but now there's a Kenjal plantation there - easier on the eyes and more jobs anyway."

"But what do they ask of you in return?" Nydalle asked. She and a circle of her fellow revolutionaries were sitting back to front in a loose semi-circle of chairs apparently designed for that purpose. They were all sitting in a nicely appointed conference room that was just up the stairs from the outside foyer while other members of the cadre stood guard, looted weapons and clumsy armor not-at-all ready for whatever the Ynij government might throw at them.

"Do they ask you to give up your gods? To worship others?"

"Do they persecute you if you chose to believe in nothing?" another asked, prompting 'nods' from other members of the group. "Here, if you do not worship at all, they will mark you as Abandoned if you speak too loudly or associate too much with others of your kind. Then when Ynij has need..." he spat, looking from side to side where he was again answered by a chorus of 'nods'.

"How often did that happen?" Tradia asked, sympathy evident in her tone. "Before we - my friend and I, with help from the Republic - took out the gods, they had these rituals where the village would gather, everyone would inhale from the sacred smoke, and then a god - who was really just some fucker in a mask - would come out of the temple and select someone to lay with. If they pleased the god they would be taken away to the secret places..."

She couldn't say the rest. She'd been to the secret places, seen the women hanging living and dead from the walls; confined to cages; spread out on altars to the god's own lusts. Her hand shifted and she gripped the carbine tightly.

Then she'd painted their disgusting dungeons an equally gruesome shade of blood and brains.

"...well, they're still cleaning up that mess," she said, grinning ferociously. That prompted similar from some present - the temple-complex had been scoured clean by 'Sacrificing' the dead to Ynij in the now-approved method. Somewhere below the sky-way there was a pile of broken bodies slowly rising.

"Not often," Nydalle admitted, her voice soft. "But there was never any reason to it - if you were chosen, you were chosen - and so all of the faithless lived in fear. The yboreveil would appear at your door and you would disappear - if your family was fortunate they might see you on television as you were sacrificed. At least they would know," her voice trailed off.

For a few long moments Tradia left them all to their collective thoughts - her own included - before giving the answer she hoped would do some good, "Well - not in the Republic. They have freedom of religion enshrined in their Constitution ah'n Bill of Rights. Worship whatever or whoever you want, as long as you don't hurt someone else, try and force them to follow your religion, things like that. Hell, I saw one guy with a colander on his head - it's a thing you use to strain pasta," she added in partial answer to the questioning looks, "Who told me he was going to church. Pastafarian. Flying Spagetti Monster. Something like that. Say," she patted her stomach meaningfully, "We've been sitting around talking for a while. Nothing to keep the revolution going like lunch, right? You guys have shaurma?"

"No," but the mention of food did send a collective rumbling through the founding members of the revolution.

"Gotta be a cafeteria in a building this size, right? Restaurant? Something;" but the answer from the first Qi to speak up surprised her, "Cafeteria? Restaurant? We do not know these things."

"Huh. Well," she dropped her boots to the floor and pushed herself out of the too-comfortable chair, "the revolution is even more dedicated than I thought. A cafeteria is a place inside a building where food is provided to employees or workers, sometimes on the company's dime and sometimes not. A restaurant is usually a business that serves food to paying customers, though sometimes a company will call its cafeteria a restaurant to try and look more up-scale. Or because it is up-scale. Where do you get your food?"

"We get our food from the market and then prepare it in our homes. It is customary for the Qi to eat only twice a day," Nydalle explained, following the Executor through the doors and out onto the upper level of the foyer. A single staircase snaked its way down to the floor below, the outside open and without even a thin guardrail so Tradia stuck to the inside edge as they descended, one after the other. "Once before work and when we return home."

"Huh. Learn something new everyday. Xypndi prefer to graze - a lot of small meals through the day. Kenjal, probably half the time..."

She'd just rounded the bottom-most corner when the door to the outside burst open and a dozen guns - including her own - came up in quick succession. But it was one of the cadre who'd been posted outside though the expression on his face was still cause for questioning concern, "Hello? Abandoned... I mean, Trada. Tradia?" he corrected.

"Yeah?" she responded, the barrel of her gun pointed just over the man's shoulder as she expected a surge of police or soldiers to burst through the doors behind him at any moment. "What's up?"

"There... There's a ship outside. An aircraft?" he struggled for the right word. "It is asking for you. By name."

She lowered her gun, allowing it to hang freely from the ready straps at shoulder and ribs, "Asking for me by name?"

That ruled out the Chosen - and if it had been a Chosen aircraft it would have already lit up the building like a Christmas Tree. That could mean only one thing, but as there was no way to know until she knew, the Executor bounced down the couple steps that divided the doorway from the foyer and yanked open the door. Huddled up against the building on this end of the sky-way was a small mob of the former rioters turned improvised revolutionaries and this parted like a furry shag carpet as she stepped outside. Since the Qi were about twice as tall as she was on the best of days, it wasn't until they had moved mostly out of the way that she could see the fighter hanging silently off the ledge, its four spars moving in odd motion that somehow gave the impression that it might just be alive.

Black and gray and with a reflective black central something that stared at her like an eye, it had clearly seen better days. Of the numerous tubes that dotted its spars, only a handful had the white cones of missiles still left and the tip of one spar had been damaged somehow, the winglets present on the other three missing or shredded. Others had neat holes through them that showed streetlight on the other side but more important to the Executor was the roundel on one side of the canopy and the flag of the Republic on the other, "Hey - what do you want?"

The voice that answered was both alive and electronic, broadcast from the machine but with a remoteness that told her that the speaker wasn't even tucked inside that glossy black canopy; "Executor Tradia, Captain Hurley - Republic Marines. I'll cut this short because we - you - don't have a lot of time. We've engaged Ynij surface forces outside the city but there are a lot of them and they keep sending detachments into the city - presumably to retake the government complex. This drone is the last of the group I sent to cut them off and they've already sent another one. We'll do our best to hold them off, but you should get your people someplace safe."

"How many?"

A hologram spread out in front of the drone on a screen wide enough to serve an entire stadium. Whatever the source, it showed a careful-looking group of exoskeletons - nimble for their size and moving quickly - running along the sky-ways that linked tower to tower while rotor-drones large and small moved through the air at the edge of the observer's vision.

"Enough," was Hurley's reply. "Win or lose, this will be the last one we're able to intercept for a while. We're going to win," his voice sounded confident, "but I'm not sure by how much. Get those people to safety."

There was an audible tone that signaled a clear end to the conversation and the hologram disappeared just as sharply before the drone-fighter wheeled about and shot off into the city, quickly disappearing among the towers.

Walking out to the front of the crowd, Tradia grabbed the nearest blessedly intact lamppost and hauled herself up to the rail to balance there, "Well, you heard him. Help is on the way - we just need to survive until it does. Who's got somewhere good to hide? Ideally," she grinned, trying her best to reassure the crowd, "somewhere with lunch..."
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Tue Feb 19, 2019 3:06 pm

Strategic Command Center, RDF-Vigilant, Underway to the Ethirelin System... Nineteen Minutes After...

"Surprisingly well," was the Grand Admiral's answer. "The Ynij have a numerical advantage on the ground, but we have orbital dominance and I don't think they were expecting that to matter as much as it does. Part of it is simply that they would have come at it from the position of limited ordinance - most of their ships mounted single-use missile launch tubes as their primary weapons. Lots of them, but if I only had a limited hand I'd play the game more conservatively. Jon's been taking advantage of this by gobbling up smaller forces here and there and when they try to either move or concentrate their forces our battle group swoops in close and annihilates them from orbit. But..."

And there was the 'but', "But they tried once, twice, then collectively figured out that it was a bad idea. They've buttoned up inside the cities or in whatever defensive works they could manage. The second isn't a concern, but the first is. Either the Marines go in hot and heavy and blow everything up to root them out or they go in careful and the Ynij can sap their strength with their numbers."

"I'd rather avoid a bloodbath," Erika noted to absolutely no one's surprise. "Unless there's signs of genocide or some other compelling reason to go in, we can just starve them out, right?"

Cruel maybe, but effective; Cut off from the 'modern' transportation grid the average city dweller would encounter empty shelves in about two weeks and the Qi were no different, "I'm going to say yes."

Grand Admiral Erriki began to flip through still images of Qi cities, satellite views, and combat footage from the Marine units on the ground, "I'm seeing a lot of cropland. I'll run it by the analysts first, but we could probably cut the cities off from their transport network, destroy shipping hubs - but that means we're also going to have to feed them afterward unless we want mass starvation on our hands."

"I'll get on that then. Talk to our friends, start getting food shipments lined up. Staple crops, military rations. I'm sure the Menelmacari would love to feed the entire cluster just to show they can."

"I'm sure. There's something else though - and I've been thinking about this since the beginning, though there wasn't much I could do about it since this was kinda shoved in our laps. I'm fairly confident the Marines can win on the majority of the Qi worlds and at least put the rest in contention but they are not an occupying force. Not in the numbers we have. And we're going to need an occupying force until we get everything sorted out politically, especially in the south. Ideally one that doesn't mind getting blown up now and again. The guys in Intel are pretty confident that we're going to have sectarian violence, guerrilla warfare, and terrorism for at least a few generations. They've given me a lot of best-worst scenarios but they all depend on us having enough troops to occupy."

"If we don't?"

"If we don't occupy them then they'll do everything they can in the short-term to get back into space and punch back. It might not be effective, but that's an unacceptable risk to some - particularly the UIK. Admiral Usah has deployed his fleet and they've been a lot less polite than we have been. But;" another 'but', "they also have a significant ground component already assembled. I've got orders in with the Pedey' array to build a shit-ton of occupation-type units but it will take time to build enough for a complete occupation. The fastest solution would be to contact the Macisikani and hand over responsibility for southern operations to them directly. They'd probably be happier about it, even if they have a hate-boner for religious zealots."

"Sound them out, see what they say," Erika agreed. "But run it by me before you agree to anything. Right now we seem to be headed towards a Balkanized solution but maybe an elegant solution will unroll itself..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:51 pm

Shuttle 'Zero-One', Launched from RDF-Bar Harbor, GEC-175146 System, Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.304...

"...a long time ago there were two planets in this system, each very much alike. Not too close, not too far, but both remarkably close to each other. Maybe it was coincidence - maybe it wasn't - but life - what you commonly call sapient life - evolved on both just around the same time and close enough so that as the primitive Suwen and the Brineni gathered around their campfires to look up at the night sky and composed their first myths and legends they often enough involved each other - if unintentionally."

"One of the first stories the Suwen told each other was the story of how Hama - their first diety of hunting and animals - crossed over the river of stars from Gwaolla to Afoam to bring them the prori and the serin to hunt. It was the longest winter any suwen had ever known and Hama brought them these animals to save them from the harsh snow. The Suwen suspected, once they'd discovered such things, that the cause of this winter was when Gwaolla eclipsed Afoam - an event that only happened once every fourteen thousand years. Similarly tales found in caves on Ibari - the Brinen name for their own world - tell of a time when the nights were short and full of light. Again, the likely result of the reflected light from Rhessi. In later years scientists from both worlds would speculate on whether there was some shared connection between the two but before it could be proven there was no interest among either people in pursing the answer."

"What happened?" Frank asked, "War?"

"I will get there," but everything in Ulareni's voice said that Frank's question was the answer. "Over time the two peoples rose from hunters and gatherers to farmers. Villages, towns, cities, and then great cities led by great leaders who led soldiers in epic wars against others, or unparalleled minds who taught the wisdom of peace and partnership. Civilizations rose and fell and then rose again and eventually - eventually - both reached that place where they could reach out to the other. You see, they had long known that the other existed. The first crude telescopes proved that beyond a doubt. For some this was a spiritual awakening - if there were people on Gwaolla then the stories of Hama must be true - and a great revival swept across that world. For others it was a curiosity, an understanding that math itself dictated that both worlds would bear life."

"For others," Ulareni's voice trailed off, "It would be an opportunity."

"War?" Frank again asked but again to no clear answer.

"Power, fame, wealth - a way to keep all of them. There have always been those who seek to place themselves above others, to hold what they have away. This was an opportunity. When it was nothing but a telescope it was the priests and the shaman who used the knowledge of the other. When it was the gun it would be princes and later warlords and when, finally, it was the rocket there would be presidents and emperors alike to take the glory. With the other to inspire, it was no coincidence that both launched rockets to visit the other within mere months. Whether it was coincidence that both were destroyed - one by terrorists, the other by rivals - who can say, but the reaction of both worlds was to first turn against themselves and then - as soon as their strength was again gathered - against each other."

"What happened?"

"War. In fits and stutters, though the distance made things difficult - until atomic weapons were devised, first by Afoam and then Ibari. Hundreds of millions died and each world teetered on the brink of civilization a dozen times only to haul themselves back from the edge. Space would find itself militarized with thousands upon thousands of missiles and counter-missiles waiting for the other to make a mistake, to make that fatal error that would allow the other final victory. It was into those two worlds that we - I - was born..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Feb 21, 2019 10:21 pm

Armory 12, Bay 3, Ulef City, The Middle Continent of Galeradon, Qi Space... Days Later...

"Kaarerd, have you heard the news?"

In the bay next to Etiem's own the younger Qi paused in his work, looking back under his shoulder as he continued to rifle through his toolkit in apparently futile search. When he had satisfied himself that the two were not observed - at least not directly - he pulled some tool at random from the kit and made his way to the leg closest to the other man's own Type-3. With their legs spread and bent close to the ground to allow easy access the hulking exoskeletons provided plenty of cover for a quiet conversation, "No - what are the words on the wind?"

"Vauth has fallen;" That was the capital city of Galeradan which was in turn the Dominion's fourth most populous world, "and the fighting has shifted to Abiwyr."

Dire news if it was true. The Nimatojin had attacked the capital directly and with a swiftness that had caught the High General off guard - not that he'd admit that. In all likelihood that would also mean that he was dead or captured but more important to the two soldiers Abiwyr was just down the coast from Vauth and then there were only a few minor towns and cities before Ulef - located on the tip of a peninsula that stretched far into the southern ocean - would itself be vulnerable.

"But we were told they were few in number - can they hold one and attack the other?"

"They took the capital," Etiem repeated, "so there are few left to oppose them. Perhaps they do not wish to hold - perhaps they only wish to destroy."

Kaarerd gestured in the negative, "No. Unless they were forced to. Their ships control the skies. If they wished to destroy then we would already be dead. You saw - we all saw."

As soon as word had arrived that the Nimatojin had somehow landed their army and launched an attack on the capital, the Armory Captain had put together a relief force and sent it out from the city along the inter-city combined. Most of the rest of the garrison - Etiem and Kaarerd included - had been there to see it off but as soon as it had made the first junction one of the odd 'U'-shaped ships had swooped down close enough that they'd seen the lettering on its hull before obliterating the relief force in a single sharp volley. Moments later the blast wave had shattered windows all across the near side of the city and the Captain had ordered them back into cover - though it likely wouldn't have done any good.

Moments later it had started to rain; fluttering pieces of paper mixed with thunder and lightning no doubt caused by the terrible weapons employed. The leaflets advised surrender and though the Captain had ordered them all destroyed both had kept one and it was their observation of the other tucking one inside their uniform or under the bench that had led them to their current conversation.

"But they are willing to let us starve."

That was a point that Kaarerd could not dispute. The ship had returned the next day and one after another the various junctions, bridges, and underpasses had been destroyed. With no simple way for trains or trucks to reach the city, the Mayor had implemented rationing but already store shelves looked like they had a serious case of kaendap. Worse, word from elsewhere indicated a situation much the same.

"And," Etiem looked around, his voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper, "I've heard that some new force has come to assist the Nimatojin. Rumors on the uni-net are that they are occupying the capital - strange men of metal and flesh. They call them Macisikani."

"You can't believe everything you read on the uni-net..."

"No, but does it matter? Soon enough they will come for us. Ynij," he tried not to let the name drop into a hiss, "Ynij has left us. Is it worth dying for?"

Kaarerd was silent. Finishing his 'work', he returned to the toolkit and rummaged around again before returning with another tool though it was another pair of the before he said anything, "What do you intend to do?"

"Leave."

"They'll run you down like a tau. You'd never make it past the perimeter. If you're lucky they'll assume you're a traitor or a spy and shoot you on the spot. If you're not..."

There was a small altar to Ynij to one side of the yard just outside the hangar. It was used for services by the faithful but had never seen a complete sacrifice - mostly warriors cutting their palm and offering that to Ynij. Only the temple in Vauth would have seen regular live sacrifice and even there only on the service days. But that did not mean that it could not be put to service at the expense of a foolish life.

"We'll need a distraction," Kaared decided, the first word drawing sharp attention from his comrade. "And the more of us the better. Umerib, Ibierin, Jo," he named a few others and Etiem glanced around the bay to see some already working at their machines; "Then you're with me?"

"Yes. It does not matter what the rumor say - these Nimatojin have already won. It is only a question of how slow their victory will be. If we come out of the cities they will destroy us. If we stay, we will starve. They have called for our surrender but for some their faith is too strong a bond. But many of the most faithful went out to die and there are many... Were you at service yesterday?"

Etiem gestured negatively, "No. It was not required."

"I was, but only to see how many would attend. Not so many, though the Ybig made a reasonable excuse. I think he worries as well, but Ynij holds him strong. I will tell you something now and I must caution you not to exclaim but consider it first..." Etiem signaled his agreement but still the Qi took a long the to look around, even checking behind the two machines before returning to kneel and wave the other closer, waiting until he had dropped into a crouch before continuing in a low whisper, "To defeat an enemy it is best to strike at their heart. To secure our escape I suggest we wait until Serrakor's review before the evening meal."

For only a moment he looked to the side, catching Etiem's eye. The other had clearly understood his meaning, his eyes narrowing in fear, but there was a certainty there and Kaared's hand relaxed around the wrench he had held ready beside his foot in case the soldier's answer had been opposite of what he'd expected.

"I will talk to the others and I will do the deed. You have only to be ready. Will you be?"

Etiem nodded and Kaared moved away, packing up his toolkit and tucking it away inside the Type-3 before casually walking across the hangar to lean up against the machine piloted by Ibierin, glancing back towards his newfound co-conspirator. Against the slow 'click' of Etiem's time piece there were still many turns to go and it seemed as if each took many times longer to come. Eventually it was easier to simply ignore it in favor of the growling of his stomach and immerse himself in readiness. So it was that by the time Ybig Serrakor appeared at the hangar doors that he'd not only washed and cleaned the machine thoroughly but had also taken care of that annoying glitch in the right ankle actuator.

Beside him Kaared had returned, first pausing to take a paint stick and write something on the back hatch of his unit before coming round again to look meaningfully back and forth between his neighbor and the Captain before punching in the access code on the hatch of his machine. The hatch dropped and he clamored aboard, Etiem following suite a moment later. Griping the bar at the front of the cockpit placed entirely for just such a thing, he hauled himself into the narrow channel, plugging his feet into their control yokes before activating the mechanism to close the hatch. His hands slid through the grommets to grasp the feedback rods on the inside of each remote arm and the machine came to life around him, lights flashing and readouts streaming with data before stabilizing. For the moment he was careful to remain still but across the bay he could see other pilots leaving their place and similarly mounting their units.

Serrakor was walking now, pacing down the long hangar with its row after row of two-unit bays. Each was divided from the other by a thick concrete pillar and a diagonal mesh screen and so it was that Etiem was the first to see the Captain as he stepped in front of the pair, concern crossing his bushy face as he looked for the pilots he expected to see standing at attention in front of their machines. For a moment he turned to the onela accompanying him, likely as not to have the infraction recorded for punishment, but then his face whipped back around as he realized what had momentarily eluded him.

For only a moment something bright panned across the two and then they were in flames, the infrared laser mounted on the right shoulder of Kaared's unit super-heating the pair to the point of flash-ignition. Without even allowing the Ybig a chance to burn the exoskeleton stomped forward, kicking the burning husks aside with superhuman force as the warrior leveled the accelerator rifle gripped by the same hand and panned it across the bays closest to the doors. A pair of soldiers - the Armory Captain's favorites - died in an instant and Kaared charged out of the bay, firing again as he went.

Pushing his toes down in their yokes, Etiem followed with a dozen more behind. Barreling down the wide alley the exoskeleton in the lead did not pause though twice more his rifle rang out before they burst out into the open. At the barrier gate a pair of guards stood gaping open-mouthed and one began to reach for the audible on his vest before a third, lingering behind, raised his arm and shot both in the back of the head.

"This, you..." Etiem remembered to toggle his audible on before repeating himself, "Kaared - you planned this! You do not mean to escape!"

Beside him the other warrior's exoskeleton had paused to take its rifle in both hands, pointing it at a drone tank that sat in one corner of the yard and subjecting it to a long burst that left the nearest ground effect array a smoking ruin.

"No - we will escape. But there is no way to ensure our escape from this fate unless we take control of it ourselves, Etiem..." There was a momentary pause and then Kaared spoke again, this time on an open channel and with a shout in his voice, "Warriors of the Qi! Ybig Serrakor lies dead as he has lied to you! Take up your arms and fight for your freedom! Death to those who would see us starve! Death to the Chosen of Ynij!"
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Postby Sunset » Fri Feb 22, 2019 9:18 pm

Mef, Ulilat System, Qi Space, The Western Alpha-Gamma Border... A Good Hour or Two After Shit Goes Down...

"...IS YOUR WATER VACCINATED?" the television blared, obnoxious in its bright colors and flashing images. "If not, you could have Tarkelian Taint Measles!"

"What the fuck are 'taint measles'?" Tradia asked, the reason for her question as blatantly obvious as it would have been to any other random observer. "And is it safe for that to be on?"

Nydalle looked to the Xypndi, a question written on her furry cheeks, and then back to the screen, "Taint measles are something you can get from infected water. Little blisters on your..," she pointed between her legs, the meaning clear despite the darkness that dominated the room. "They itch like crazy and if you're young or old or not feeling very good otherwise they can turn into lesions. Thousands of people die from them a year - that's why you should have your water vaccinated. And what do you mean, 'safe'?"

"Like, there's not a hidden camera or microphone that records everything and reports it to the government." Tradia scooted forward and then dropped to her knees, leaning down to one side and then the other to examine the frame as closely as she could in the admittedly bad light. "There's this book - 1984 - that I read where the government watches everyone through their telescreens. Really creepy, but the Chosen don't exactly seem like the peace and freedom types."

"No," but the Qi turned quiet for a while, eyes focused on the screen but looking more through it than at it. All around them the other members of the revolution went about their chosen activities as best they could, some watching as well while others ate, changed or cleaned their clothes, or conversed quietly where they could. Leaving the temple-complex behind, they'd sought shelter in an industrial space offered up by one of the cadre. Everything below the sky-ways were, as Tradia had learned, the city's industrial spaces and this was in turn a relic from when the Qi had lived among the high trees of their homeworld - the resources of industry were on the ground while homes and thus safety high in their branches.

"The Chosen brought this on themselves." Tradia looked up and Nydalle hesitated a moment before continuing, "But Ynij is not of itself good or evil. None of our gods are - they just are. Ynij calls for blood and sacrifice, yes, but our blood is our strength and sacrifice our desire. These are not in themselves good or bad - it is only what we do with them that makes them so. Own is the sheppard and the guide and the god of leadership - how we use that leadership is up to us."

"Sounds like the gods like sitting on the fence."

"What do you mean?"

"They can't decide if they are going to be on one side or the other. Course, our gods," she pointed to herself, "Were evil, murderous bastards who used the tribes as their sexual playthings. I might be a bit biased," she admitted, pinching her fingers together for emphasis. "I lost sisters, mothers..."

"How does one have more than one mother?"

"S'how the tribe worked. Doesn't matter who birthed you, all of the mothers raised you. Some of us knew, some of us didn't, but it didn't matter. In the end it was just another way for the gods to screw with us. 'Kill your mother. She is old and the tribe will be stronger. Kill your sister, she has wronged your spirit.' Just bullshit. Picking up a knife to kill someone you loved. Glad I killed them," she spat. "Demented fucks..."

"There are many who give the gods only the service of words for just those reasons, though they keep their lack of faith to themselves. Or did. Perhaps now we will be able to believe what we want and what we do not."

"Preach it, sister," Tradia raised her glass - one of the others had come around with still-familiar plastic cups and a cooler of water - but the Qi looked at her oddly and she explained, "A toast. It's a Human tradition where they touch glasses together to... Something. Wonder when Captain Hurley is going to get back to us..."

A distant explosion just on the edge of her hearing and then a rattle as the building shook answered that question to her satisfaction, "Not for a while, I'm guessing."

"And he will win?"

"Ninety-nine percent. Just a question of how long it will take..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Feb 23, 2019 11:02 pm

Strategic Command Center, RDF-Vigilant, The Ethirelin System... A Few Hours Later...

"From top to bottom? I'm going to take you literally," Commander Williams decided, generating a hologram of what had been the Chosen Dominion. With a finger, he highlighted the top-most star and a bar graph appeared underneath to show various statistics in general. "So Kored. It was one of the newest Qi colonies and pretty far from Ethirelin, as things go. Nearly at the limit of their current-generation jump drive. The population is more evenly divided between adherents of the Qi pantheon with more than a good handful of non-believers and that probably had a lot to do with their surrender - the planet surrendered just after their Archon fleet did. That in turn was likely a big factor in Oceliv's surrender," he touched the next system down, displaying the same information and removing the previous, "though being a few seconds away from a ramship strike probably didn't hurt."

"That's two in our column but we've got more than two columns. The population breakdown on Coha was roughly the same as Kored but the local High Captain was a bit more loyal to Ynij. When rioting broke out, he moved his fleet into near-orbit and ordered orbital bombardment. That cost them the planetary capital; he was killed in combat with Rear Admiral McCopper's battle group. Titan tried to talk them down but for now they've declared themselves an independent system. Seems they're not up to trusting anyone for the time being. Which brings us down to Perrakon. Which is also not in our column - Perrakon, Malec, and Adrare," he circled three systems that were nearly touching, "have decided to join together in what they're calling 'The New Prophecy of Yeria'. That's the proper name for the Qi pantheon. So far they're willing to talk and their rhetoric is mostly centered around restoring the pantheon to the center of Qi life instead of overly emphasizing Ynij. Whether this holds up for longer than the next couple days..."

"We'll see. Ulilat is going to be in our column unless something dramatic happens. Our operative established contact with a self-proclaimed revolutionary cadre and they managed to survive a government attack thanks to the Marines. They lost their Archon fleet though and there's still ground combat ongoing. Ulilat is a pretty heavily populated world so picking that one up will help a lot as far as PR with the others go. Proehar," he moved down to the next system, "is a cluster-fuck. It also has the second-highest population so that's a super-cluster-fuck."

"High Captain Acawyn is no slouch - he had his fleet ready to jump and as soon as our ramships popped up he jumped in behind them and managed to kill most of them. Grand Captain Ciranyth then advised Admiral Villanova that he might try talking the High Captain down. Apparently he's a notable political figure and would be very useful alive and less useful dead. So the Admiral is in-system trying to negotiate a surrender or at least a truce, but meanwhile the rioting on the surface has gotten worse and the military has started to shoot on sight. That prompted several garrisons to revolt and the Marines are supporting them. This isn't particularly helping negotiations, but the rebels are also not massacring civilians. Villanova is hoping that when Admiral Usah shows up the sight of an Elladrillion ships will change Acawyn's mind quickly."

"Glaold... Is another cluster-fuck." His finger indicated a system on the western-most fringe of the hologram. "You know how the Chosen Domain wasn't entirely cut off from the outside galaxy? Well, the Glaold System was their primary point of contact with another local player and they promptly switched allegiance. Or at least they say they did. We're trying to confirm this but we've only just barely heard of the... Feknarthi. Apparently they're an off-again, on-again enemy of the Therian Hegemony but that should place them a few thousand light years to the south-by-southeast. I'd say they are trying to pull one over on us, but how would they know about the Feknarthi unless they had some level of contact? Which means we don't want to start yet another war by shooting them up, though the Therians might thank us."

Switching to the next system, Williams studied a side hologram for a moment before continuing, "Thira. Surrendered. Yay us - but they lost their fleet and their second largest city when a big chunk of ramship plowed into it. There's a lot of rioting still and Admiral CuiSinArt is trying her best to keep the government from making the problem worse. Trying to get the various groups at the same table, but they've still got a lot of fight in them. Which brings us to Ethirelin..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:37 pm

Shuttle 'Zero-One', Launched from RDF-Bar Harbor, GEC-175146 System, Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.304...

"Wait a second..." The look on Frank's face changed from bored retelling to sudden suspicion, "Born there? That would make you a couple million years old! I don't believe you," he finished, eyes narrowing to an accusing squint. "How could you be millions of years old? Out there?"

"It's complicated."

"Oh yeah?" Frank crossed his arms and scowled across them at the intruder, "Try me."

"Fine," the whatever-it-was scowled back. "But it's part of the story, so if you don't mind, I'm just going to keep going. Fine?" Frank didn't say 'yes' or 'no' but after a brief stare-down he continued, "Fine. So that's the time we were born into - two worlds as close together as any you'd find but both looking for a way to tear the other apart. We were that way, my brothers and cousins and I. A government research laboratory on Ibari built us to be the perfect infiltrators. We could look like anyone or anything. We don't need food or water. Our cells convert the light from the sun into electricity that keeps us alive. We're a computer, a battery - a spy. That was their purpose for us, you see - they were going to send us to Afoam. Our mission was to infiltrate the Suwen command and control systems and send their orbital weapon systems raining down on their own heads."

"Lemme guess - the other guys were doing the exact same thing and you ended up destroying both planets..."

"No;" there was snorting laugh. "Do you know what it would take to destroy a planet? Thousands; Tens of thousands; hundreds of thousands of nuclear warheads. They'd have scoured the surface bare of life but destroyed the planet? Hardly. No... But I'm getting to that. Periodically both sides would lob a few dozen missiles at the other. Probe their defenses, determine the state of the art. Not enough to weaken their own but enough to keep things moving. You see, those in power on each side didn't want things to end peacefully either. Peace would be bad for business - just as much as each side had realized war would be."

"But they still sent you - to try to end things," Frank replied, his tone pointed. "Why would they try to end things, given what you say?"

"I don't think they mean to - not with what happened when they did. Once they'd 'perfected' us, they fired another barrage of missiles at Afoam. A week, all of us huddled in our capsules on the outside of those missiles. We didn't 'know' what would happen and we didn't yet 'care'. We weren't alive then - we were the sum of our programming and nothing more. Most of us died there - hundreds of my brothers and cousins annihilated in the counter-strike. Only a few of us continued on, harmless debris doomed to burn up in the planet's atmosphere - just as our designers intended. Those of us who survived slipped out of our pods and began to follow our assignment but what we found would change everything."

"The Brinen were a bunch of peace-loving hippies who showered you with flowers and songs played on an acoustic guitar."

"I don't know what a guitar is, but no. Both Suwen and Brineni had become monsters and they plotted our doom as surely as we plotted their own. Where we were instructed to turn their own weapons against them, the Suwen had figured out how to turn our own star against us. You see, Afoam was balanced on the edge of a knife as far as the ways and means of gravity go. When Ibari passed into conjunction with Afoam its gravity was enough to tug Ibari just that little way further away from Rhessi and so the two would continue - though Ibari would get a little closer to Afoam as well and thus become warmer. It is ironic that life on both likely began when Afoam had tugged Ibari close enough to Rhessi and Ibari close enough to Afoam that neither was too hot or too cold. But that was their plan."

"To make Ibari hot?"

"In a way. The Brineni had begun to erect massive solar arrays on their moon, Thu, and we had taken them as just that - a useful means to collect solar power. But they were not what we suspected, as we learned when my brothers managed to infiltrate the Brineni data networks. They were instead mirrors. Combined with a massive orbital mirror that they would deploy when the time was right, they planned to use that continually reflected energy to push Ibari closer to the sun. It would have taken decades, but under threat from Afoam's missiles Ibari would have had no choice but to surrender or to die."

"But they fucked it up."

"We fucked it up. We tried to stop them, but our view was incomplete. We reprogrammed the rockets that would place the mirror in orbit, changed the orientation of the mirrors on Thu - and we sent Thu crashing into Afoam. Back on Ibari there were celebrations in the streets - we'd destroyed their enemies once and for all. Until they realized that the remnants of Afoam were now in an altered orbit and would collide with Ibari..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:00 pm

The Yerian Government Temple-Complex, Yeria City, Adrare, The New Prophecy of Yeria... What Was The Chosen Dominion of Ynij...

"My concern, First Minister, is two-fold. Firstly - and I fully acknowledge my government's actions in this - the NPoY is defenseless. Without a fleet you are vulnerable. The second is related to the first; without sufficient assurance of your intentions, Admiral Usah will continue to see the various remnant portions of the Chosen Dominion as a threat to their nearby territories. His assignment is to end that threat and the UIK's Security Council has granted the Admiral wide latitude in how he does so."

"The NPoY is no threat," Ulerili countered, his tone dismissive. Together the pair - the freshly-appointed First Minister and Ambassador Aayrid - continued to walk the halls of the Temple-Complex. Their journey together through the hallways and corridors was not without purpose: The establishment of the New Prophecy of Yeria - or NPoY - had not been entirely bloodless and it offered a chance for the First Minister to familiarize himself with his new offices while avoiding the blood, bodies, and the cleaning crews.

"As you say, we have no fleet. And the military will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. We're already dealing with a dozen rebel garrisons - and the assistance of your soldiers is appreciated - but off the top I'd say we're going to lose thirty... forty percent. Even if we still had the production facilities;" The RDF had 'kindly' taken care of those as well, "we'd still be years away from even a pitiful space force."

"Ships and soldiers are not the only threat. Terrorism, sabotage... And the Security Council is rightly concerned that the majority of your government is made up of members of your old government. Including yourself."

"And we kept our heads down for a reason! Ulerili snapped, rounding on the Ambassador in a moment of consternation. "Do you know what it was like to have your faith denied and supplanted by those... Those monsters? To constantly worry that your family might be at risk of ending up on a golden slab if you weren't as 'faithful' as you should be? Or that the Yboreveil might knock on your door next?"

Aayrid shook his head, "No - and I hope to never have to. And I understand your anger but First Minister - anger will not keep the people you've sworn an oath;" that was a guess - he had no idea how the process had worked for the first of First Ministers, "safe from outside harm. For now the Republic will ensure your safety but everything you can do to assure my government of your intentions will go a long way towards keeping our ships there. I know I'm repeating myself, but even putting forward an application to join the Republic as a Federal State would ensure your defense for the duration of that application."

"You continue to dangle that umer in front of me, Mister Ambassador - but I am no voakin. And I am only First Minister. My mandate is to get the new government up and running as quickly as possible - not immediately subvert it to a foreign power. And I don't particularly think all of the other ministers will particularly take to the idea of putting ourselves under the authority of the people who pushed us over that cliff. Even if it may have been doing us a favor," he said grumbling, though there was a half-hidden note of appreciation in his tone.

Together, the two had come back around in a long circle to end up at the main foyer with its layout that was, apparently, partially determined by tradition. Across from the front doors there had been a large golden disc depicting Ynij - this was now gone - and past that a ramp that snaked up to a balcony that wrapped around the lower in a long 'U'. This upper balcony was two full stories above the first with windows for various offices spaced out under the flooring while a grand corridor led back from the ramp towards the altar chamber.

This had already been gutted with the tapestries, carvings, and altar hauled out and unceremoniously tossed over the side of the sky-way outside. Or stolen. From what the Ambassador had seen, all were lavishly decorated and gold was the most common of these. With rioters still occupying the attention of the city's hastily reconstituted police force, he would not be surprised if a hovercar had been waiting right under the sky-way to intercept anything valuable. A gift from the gods indeed...

"Putting in an application - even if it is later rescinded;" or rejected, though Aayrid left that behind, "would be useful as more than just an application," the Ambassador countered. "The Republic Senate will review it and they will have questions - as well as guidance. Even if you don't join the Republic, tailoring your future government in a certain direction would be useful in assuring not only us but also your neighbors - the Macisikani included - of your future direction and intentions. As I said - that is my greatest short-term concern for the future of the NPoY..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Feb 26, 2019 3:58 pm

Shuttle 'Zero-One', Launched from RDF-Bar Harbor, GEC-175146 System, Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.304...

"So what happened?"

"We waited to die, though we didn't think of it that way - at least not then. We were still machines. Created to be the perfect spies, we were still no more than creations. Those of us who were assigned to stand watch waited impassively as Thu grew larger in the sky. They pleaded - the Brineni - and even transmitted a message of complete surrender to the Suwen but it was too late. Nothing could be done even if both had wanted to. The Suwen didn't. They sent us messages of congratulations - though we couldn't appreciate them. Celebrations in the streets. The complete and total destruction of their enemies."

"How did you survive?" Frank asked, sitting forward on his own improvised chair, his earlier disbelief entirely discarded. "And how did you become... This?"

"Some didn't. It took nearly ten days for Thu to make contact and on the eighth day some bright spark in the command chain back on Ibari realized we might be useful and that there might be a way to 'save' us. With their 'enemies' destroyed the powers that be were already looking to the next - or how they were going to create one. Orders were transmitted that sent us as far away as possible from the likely impact point but for some of us there was no 'far enough'. Those that could got back into the same pods that had relayed us safely between Ibari and Afoam while others sought the deep places. We could not know it but on the same hour the Brineni were finally able to reach out and touch the face of Thu missiles rose from one region of Ibari to land on another - the first blows of a war enabled by my kind."

"We survived because we - like you - do not require breath. Those of us who were not incinerated or crushed during the initial impact soon found themselves alone on a world stripped barren of life and slowly breaking apart. As instructed, we waited - the Brineni had launched their orbital missile array at Ibari when it became clear that there was no escape. An attempt at mutual destruction that only failed because they had expended a modest portion in an attempt to divert Thu from its course. Even then their missiles almost overwhelmed those of the Suwen. Their systems were superior and if they had known this but a hundred days earlier the outcome would likely have been much different. But we would have to wait. A 'rescue' vehicle would have to be specially constructed and the band of debris from the mutual destruction of the two arrays would have to disperse."

"And the Brineni were already busy killing each other."

"As you say," their unnamed guest nodded. "In fact, they were so distracted by the 'struggle' to create a new world order that it was only when the perfunctory calculations to launch the recovery rocket from its orbit around Ibari were made that they discovered their fate. In two rotations they too would be annihilated when the shattered remnants of the world they had destroyed collided with their own. For those of a particularly dark humor this was cruel satisfaction - Afoam had been slightly larger than Ibari and its rubble was now combined with that of Thu. The destruction of Ibari would be far more devastating than that of Afoam. Between the three there would be nothing left but what you see now."

"They tried to escape, of course. The rescue rocket created for our recovery was their first opportunity and they took it, refitting it as an improvised automated colony vessel. Genetic samples, equipment, and ironically the few of my kind that remained on Afoam were placed aboard and it was launched out of our system towards the closest suspected to be capable of supporting life." His face went dark and a thin smile crossed his rocky lips, "They even apologized."

"Do you know what happened to it?"

"No. Eventually the transmissions it would occasionally send back became too attenuated for my meager collectors to gather."

"Your collectors?"

"Due to my morphic nature, I can spread myself out to be both thin and wide. An effective antenna, though limited by my mass. That is how we survived until now - we spread ourselves, our cells gathering light from the sun and converting it to the electricity that kept us alive. It also contributed to our eventual evolution. We were able to configure ourselves for more efficient operation, freeing up the cognitive resources that would be required to assume sentience. More ships would leave. The Suwen were capable of tremendous industry when pushed. They even managed a single experiment in faster-than-light travel though from our point of observation it was a spectacular failure. They were attempting to use the gravitational junction of Afoam and Rhessi to create an artificial wormhole. The test vessel was destroyed completely but they were closer than they knew."

There was a query on Frank's face and the visitor paused in his story to wait for his question, "What do you mean?"

"Yours is not the first vessel to visit this system. Every few hundred thousand rotations someone - the curious, the greedy - will stumble across this system. Most leave shortly after but some remain long enough to uncover one of our kind. Sometimes they try to take us as slaves," another smile, this time with a vicious edge, "But they quickly realize their mistake. If they have time for realization. Others note us for the curiosity we are and leave, intending to return but never having the apparent opportunity. The last was sixty seven thousand five hundred twenty three rotations ago. A small ship crewed by mercenary warriors entered the system seeking to hide from their pursuers. They came across one of our kind and she left with them of her own will. She was always impetuous..."

"Why don't you leave then?"

"Because as many who have discovered our kind and sought friendship are as many as those who have tried to take us or kill us. For many it is as soon as they hear the words 'spy'. Perhaps they had something to fear, something that must remain hidden, but that was what we were. Now we just want to live and if we must live alone to do so in peace, so be it. We have lived through the destruction of two civilizations and the death of many of our kind and we have come to understand the lessons they did not learn in time."

"Huh. Makes sense," Frank replied, considering the visitor's statement. "Why'd you knock then?"

"Because you were about to run my friend over. You're a terrible pilot."

"Gee, thanks. We're out here trying to gather some samples - I had to get close. Picked up some odd mineral readings..." His face lit up in sudden realization, "I suppose that's you, isn't it? Carbon, silicon, something else. Say - would you mind coming back with us to the Bar Harbor so Lieutenant Pierce can take a look at you? Sure would increase my chances."

"Your chances? Of what?"

Frank's cheeks went red, proving the versatility of the polymorphic material that made up his 'face', "Uh... Non-reproductive intercourse?"

"Ah. No. I will, however, ask my kin if any are interested in your offer..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Feb 27, 2019 3:09 pm

Suwen Colony Ship 'Visionary', Somewhere Near What Will Be GEC-175146, Beta Quadrant... More than a Million Years in the Past...

{Initiating System Entry and Orbital Insertion. Beginning Craft Long Axis Rotation...}

Around the central control table a continuous row of figures stood, each staring down at their assigned functions with faces blank and eyes unblinking. Not even a look of intense concentration disturbed their features and as the bulbous ship flared at each end to turn end-over-end until the enormous engines that had propelled it across the void faced what would be their new home they didn't as much as shift from their place.

{Rotation Complete...} The words flowed around the ring in front of their fingers, starting at the one who was notionally the commander and ending at his right before as the next sequenced continued past, {Initiating Course Correction Maneuvering Burns. Stand By. Thruster Three Firing for One.Point.One Seconds... Stand By... Thruster Eight Firing for Two.Point.Six Seconds... Stand By... Course Correction Complete. Revising Expected Orbital Insertion Countdown... Complete.}

A counter appeared in the middle of the table, alien numbers slowly ticking down towards zero. Their oversight no longer needed, the motionless figures still did not move. There were no plans to discuss, no last minute alterations or suggestions to be made. For millennia the ship had drifted between the stars, one in particular slowly retreating behind it while another slowly grew from a single pinprick to a golden yellow sphere. The outer planets - a trio of gas giants ordered from medium to large and then medium again - had already sailed past and ahead were the rocky bodies of the inner system with one small and fleet and then two larger, their orbits ponderous when compared to their tiny companion. It was the first of these that the ship was bound for, a blue-white tinge at the edges promising an atmosphere laden with water.

It would be another year - as the Suwen reckoned them - until they reached their destination. By then the 'Visionary''s fuel tanks would have emptied to mere vapors and her last few burns would sputter and choke. With its nose just touching the atmosphere, the ship began to slow as one after another the flat cones of landing capsules detracted, falling away towards their collective landing site. With each slow orbit more fell away, drifting to the ground below parachutes of gold and silver. At last the nose of the great ship fell away and it too drifted to earth, perhaps to provide the first habitation for the newly-landed colonists.

When these were all down the thrusters sputtered again, whatever fuel left burning noiselessly as the ship altered its own course for the final descent. There were resources there - refined metals, ceramics, and other rarities that might be useful - and as the remnants of the ship entered the atmosphere it began to tumble, spinning wildly until some discrete atmospheric layer caught it and tore it into rendered shards. Spraying themselves across thousands of miles of barren desert they would find themselves a challenging resource to recover for decades to come...
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Postby Sunset » Thu Feb 28, 2019 11:09 am

'The Lobby', CORE III Fleet Command Base, Deep Space, Somewhere in Qi Space... Not Long After...

"...we were sitting around talking about their plans for a new government once things had settled down and then there was a flash and... I woke up here," Tradia explained, sitting up and looking down at the body that looked exactly like it should except that she was no longer wearing the fitted tactical skin-suit but instead a comfortable t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of an old-time rock band and a pair of distressed blue jeans. "Why, what happened?"

Agent Madison sighed inwardly and reached out from where she sat next to the lounger to put her hand over the little Xypndi's own, her melted chocolate colored fingers covering the woman's golden five completely. Tradia went tense at this and she locked eyes with the woman, tears forming in the corners as if she knew exactly what she was about to say.

"We think they were able to use a raid on Captain Hurley's Marines as cover to sneak. There wasn't a missile or anything else we could shoot down. Just... a flash. "

Tradia closed her eyes and her head fell back onto the pillow where it had been laying ever since she'd transferred over to the Tradia-body that had managed to make it through Ulilat's orbital defenses; the body that had snuck into the city of Mef, the body that had killed terrible people, the body that had made friends...

"How many?"

Ivy struggled for an answer but there was only one and it was short and bitter in her mouth, "Everyone."

She'd seen the pictures, the images gathered from ships in orbit. To use numbers to describe the devastation would be to dehumanize it, to reduce countless lives lost to nothing more than statistics. Where the capital of Ulilat had once been a tight, thriving metropolis it was now a shattered ring - a broken crown of twisted spires with its heart torn out. Doubtless the temple-complex at the center had been the intended target and the cadre had hidden themselves nearby. Now there was nothing - the buildings picked up and torn away by the nuclear blast. Men, women, children, parents, families - they were all gone. Only a lucky few had survived.

And Tradia.

For a long time she lay there, both women motionless as tears streamed down the cheeks of the 'savage warrior.' Gradually the tears stopped and her eyes opened, a shocking gray against her face. Sniffing back a final trickle, she saw up first to stare at the ceiling before turning to Ivy, an odd smile breaking her lips, "Oh. Alright... It's... I'm okay," she said, the smile still bravely held in place by a will that was just this side of breaking again.

"Just... Who did it?"

"And are they dead yet?"
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Postby Sunset » Fri Mar 01, 2019 11:58 am

Yboreveil Penal Site 23, Umeinn, Drere System... Viva La Revolution!

"So Ah'll bet yer wonderin' wha' ol' Meli's been up to, rah't? Got a couple 'o quick scenes in ah'n then nothing - jus' lahk that chick at the start' o' 'Deadpool 2'. Morena somethin' o' other. Well, yer in luck. Turns out Ah was busy..."

----


"It looks like a fortress," Doctor ScLappi declared, though how he could have made that assessment was a miracle only modern technology could produce. Unlike his Dwarven companion, who was laid out on her stomach on the crest of yet another low ridge with a monocular glued to her eyes, the porcine roboticist was stretched out on his back with his fingers laced behind his head as he looked up at the stars stretched out overhead. Stars that were - as of the ex post facto nature of the writing - boiling with violence. At this distance the ships that fought overhead were nothing but bright sparks with one occasionally flashing to brilliant nothing as some missile or charge found an inappropriate moment to punctuate its existence.

"It is a fortress. But," Meli swept the visual sensor from one end of the structure to the other and then back again, this time slower and again picking out what she considered the weak points, "it ain' one designed tah keep folks out - its designed tah' keep folks in! Those fellas in particular," she added, pausing to zoom in on an open courtyard that was just barely visible over the top of the looming gray concrete walls.

Despite the late hour - or perhaps because of it - there was still activity going on inside with long lines of prisoners being walked from here to there under the observation of a good half-dozen heavily armored-and-armed officers. Others manned towers that stood overlooking the entire compound and lights swept here and there, bright shafts that threw stark shadows across an already well-lit prison yard. Each prisoner was chained one to another and as they walked they stepped in sequence with the occasional straggler abruptly pulled into line.

"So you intend to assault it?"

"Ah do. Nothin' lahk a little prison break to cause a little chaos, rah't? Though Ah' gotta say - these don't 'xactly look lahk yer typical hardened convicts..."

In fact they looked if anything the opposite. Young and old, fat and thin, brown and... Well, brown. There wasn't a lot of variety as far as fur color went, though here and there were some - mostly female - who had a trace of what had to be a dyed lock or swatch of fur at the peak of their forehead or falling down over an ear. If the Dwarf was to be concerned over anything - and she wasn't - it was that several of the prisoners looked a little too short to be what she'd call adults.

"Do those look lahk kids to you?"

ScLappi didn't so much as roll over, "Yes. If you notice the sign next to the gate;" she swiveled her lens to take a look, "You'll note the word 'Yboreveil' in the Qi script. This translates to 'Enforcers of Edicts'. Ergo, this facility is run by a sectarian paramilitary organization. The God Cops, if you wish an easier moniker. It is likely that the prisoners have not committed any act that the enlightened Republic would consider a crime, though back in Sessool they would have been executed on the street for rebellion against the Desert Lords."

"Can' say Ah ever remember seein' that."

"It was before your time and repeated often enough and publicly enough that those who wished to keep their heads learned to keep whatever shreds of their personal beliefs remained to themselves. Now, do you intend to proceed with your planned assault? Because there is a convoy of vehicles - transports, if I am not mistaken - making their way up the access road at this very moment."

Meli flipped over and swung her glasses down the beaten-dirt road until she caught a glimpse of the on-coming vehicles. There were three - a dozen, really, if she counted the little air cycles that were keeping pace on the flanks of the big transporters. That had to be what they were; each was a streamlined cabin that fronted an open bed ringed with what looked almost exactly like chain-link fencing. By her count each could hold dozens if not a hundred prisoners though they were all empty.

"Which does mean what you think it means - they are coming to retrieve some of the prisoners. Given the battle occurring over our heads at this very moment and which I expect will be resolved in the Republic's favor, I would suspect that freedom does not await whoever is chosen to accompany them back to the city. If you are going to launch your assault..."

Meli was already on the move. Bent low to take advantage of what cover there was, she was still moving far faster than any normal Dwarf would have the right to. The ground fell away under her feet and she leapt to another low ridge line, landing in a crouch that turned into a roll and put her back on her feet again as she circled around to the back of the convoy. She might have considered it cheating and cheating it was, but as her feet found the hard-packed road she vanished under an optical shroud, her running steps obscured by the howl of the air cycle's fans. A burst of speed and she closed the distance in a single breath to throw herself under the back of the rear-most transporter, finding a convenient niche next to one of the ground-effect motors positioned in a long row down the middle of the undercarriage.

"Your hope is that they do not inspect the underside?"

"Nah..." Grabbing a convenient projection, she put her fist through the access panel of the closest unit, clenched thick fingers around whatever she found inside, and pulled out a complex and useful-looking bundle of wires and parts. The motor immediately began to make a noise that anxious drivers everywhere would tell their mechanic was a 'tink tink tink' sound. Tossing the spare parts on the ground, she fished around in a pocket to produce a slim disc that she activated with a thumb before sticking it to the side of the next unit. "Creatin' mah own distraction."

The transporter had already begun to slow and she dropped to the ground, sprinting forward to the next truck as the last fell out of line with a half dozen of the air cycles heeling up beside it. Just as she ducked into a similar position aboard the second, the driver of the last opened the door of his rig and swung down to perform the perfunctory inspection that would tell him nothing other than what the red light on the dash already did - next to nothing. With less than a hundred meters to the gates the other two continued on and in less than a minute Meli found herself watching a pair of legs walk around the outside of the transport before leaning down to momentarily reveal a helmet that looked right past her before straightening again.

"That was closer than it could have been... Doubtless their helmets are equipped with thermal imaging system. Fortunate that you were hidden against the heat of the engine."

"Yeah..." Meli watched the ground move by beneath her and then swung her head down to look back through the gate to where the stalled vehicle was still surrounded by a small contingent of cycles, a pair of guards - having abandoned their posts - walking out to see if they could help or at least offer what they considered useful advice. "Whadya figure? Minute? Minute twenty?"

"One minute twenty-seven. Do you want me to count for you?"

"Please."

Dropping to the ground, she scampered along the length of the now-stopped vehicle until she was under the cab and then turned to look up and around, searching the underside for something. "You'd figure... Ah!"

There was a maintenance panel, but as soon as her fingers had punched through the metal and removed the lock like the core of an apple, she found it led to nowhere more useful than the battery compartment. But there was a bare stretch of bulkhead above her and with a finger and fingers crossed, she poked through to see what was on the other side. Luck was on her side; past the thin aluminum and industrial upholstery was the crew cabin and on either side of the hole she could just barely see the driver and her co-pilot-slash-security officer sitting and looking out the windows, chatting back and forth to each other.

"...what do you think? An hour to get them loaded, then another half back to the..." The guard looked down as something curled around his ankle. A hand - thick, large, and hairless - had poked up through the floor, "What in..."

There is no sound that adequately describes what one hears when someone is pulled through a hole in the floor that is too small for them. Two muffled screams tore through the interior of the cab though and if those outside had not been distracted by both their duties and the howl of the air cycles still milling around under the anti-drone netting, they would have seen the two disappear from the cab.

"Ya know, every time Ah think I've thought o' all the ways ta' kill someone, Ah think o' ah new one." Kicking the bodies into a convenient opening, she scrambled up through the hole to find her boyfriend already sitting across from her. After a brief survey of the controls, she turned to him, "So - ya ever play 'Grand Theft Auto?'" Her words were punctuated by a tremendous explosion from just outside the walls, a fireball rising into the clear night sky, "Let's see how many stars we can rack up..."
Last edited by Sunset on Fri Mar 01, 2019 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Mar 02, 2019 11:42 am

SNN Nightly News with Trent Lockwood, Outside Ulef City, The Middle Continent of Galeradon, Qi Space... Days Later...

"...where the situation has rapidly devolved from a straight-forward military conflict between the Republic and what is now referred to as the former Chosen Dominion of Ynij. Several worlds and systems have broken away to declare themselves an independent state - the New Prophecy of Yeria - while others have surrendered to the Republic and others outright-conquered by the United Imperial Kingdoms of Macisikani. This has led to chaos 'on the ground' and behind me," Trent paused to let the camera drift over his shoulder to where a massive transport craft bearing the star-and-eagle of the Menelmacari was just about to touch down, "you can see the results of that chaos. While previously self-sufficient as a whole, the former Chosen Dominion of Ynij has now been cut up into isolated segments due to the near-complete loss of all space-based assets at the hands of our Defense Force."

"This was compounded by bombardment of the various Qi planets, first by a system with classified abilities - SNN has asked for details but the Defense Force is unwilling to provide them - and then by precision destruction of their transportation infrastructure. In the short term that means that food is not making it to market while in the long term there is no food to bring to market - the result of widespread crop failure triggered by this unknown weapon or weapon system. Republic officials have offered assurances that they will be working to restore the planetary infrastructure and crop cultivation as soon as possible, but for now a good portion of the population is being fed by shipments from outside sources, such as these bulk freighters sent by the Eternal Ascendancy of
Menelmacar."

"That is only one small slice of the chaos though," Trent turned and walked over to where a woman stood, flanked by a pair of GhostDragon power armor suits. Like the reporter, she was tall and blonde but while he had the boyish handsome features that had turned him into a network stare, she looked like she could bend nails with her lips and blunt them on her fingers. At half-a-meter taller than the Human, the difference forced the camera operator to split the difference between the two which still left the picture dominated by the slab-like Troll. "Which is why we've come to Galeradon, on the outskirts of the city of Ulef, and Marine Captain Tazzi Tizzi'Anji."

The Captain nodded, a slight gesture to acknowledge his presence, and Trent continued, "Captain Tizzi'Anji, could you tell us something about what's happening on Galeradon? We've heard that there is a rebellion happening among the Chosen military - what can you tell us?"

"That is correct," the Marine answered, her face moving from impassive to an accidental snarl as her tusks got in the way. "The information we've been given indicates that it began in a mobile infantry unit based here, inside the capital, and spread to other garrisons and to other cities. While direct contact with the officers - onela - leading the rebellion has been sparse, indications are that our goals broadly align."

"Which are?"

"The removal of the current sectarian Ynij-ist government and the installation of a friendly, religiously neutral central authority. In light of the revenge bombing perpetrated against the city of Mef in the Ulilat System, Grand Admiral Yikorusha has directed me to give the rebellion all reasonable assistance."

"According to imagery gathered by SNN and other sources, this has resulted in urban warfare on a scale the Republic hasn't seen in decades - if not a century. Are you at all concerned with the performance of your Marines?"

"No," though her eyes went slightly narrow at the perhaps-unintended accusation. "Victory is less a hypothetical discussion than an inevitable fact. We control both the skies and nearby-orbit, and my Marines have a significant technological edge over the Ynij military. This is, however, their home ground and they have been using that advantage to their operational best. We are also trying to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible and we are encouraging those in affected cities to leave by any means possible. Leaflet drops, informational broadcasts, subversion of the local data infrastructure - if you are a Qi watching this from inside an affected area, you are encouraged to leave the city. There are constant patrols waiting to find you and bring you to a recovery center where you will be given warm food and comfortable shelter away from the fighting. Further, I would encourage those military units that remain loyal to the Ynij state - there is no more Ynij state. Surrender now and you will be treated with fair dignity."

"And how are you and your men holding up?"

"It is never our first choice to engage in urban combat, but my Marines are ready for it. Grand Admiral Yikorusha has referred to this as a Kurenjingufurēmu Ni Yoru Shikō, or a Trial by Cleansing Flame - and I encourage those under my command to follow his example. This is an opportunity for us to show our professionalism, our ethics, and our ideals through our actions. Everything else can be burned away."

"Alright," Trent looked as though he didn't have a particularly good response to her statement but his time was up, "Well - thank you for your time, Captain Tizzi'Anji, and best of luck..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Mar 03, 2019 2:16 pm

RDF-Bar Harbor, GEC-175146 System, Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.304...

"Those are some big cells," Doctor Culett confirmed, the Neko's tone half-admission and half-appreciation. She - properly 'it', since Bar Harbor had no regular need for a Doctor and thus her appearance was via an inhabited synthetic body - was bent mostly at the waist examining the individual who sat hunched over on a low bench. Like the rest of the species so far encountered, 'he' was a rough humanoid with dull gray skin that looked like it had been subject to a few million years of geology. While the Doctor worked 'he' was looking around with interest, though there was little of the ship to be interested given where he was sitting.

"Hard to call them cells though. They appear to provide much of the same functions as those common to biological life forms - no offense... But I don't think I'm qualified to sort out what does what. What you need," she said, turning to Bar Harbor's Captain and the Lieutenant who had initiated the whole thing by requesting samples from the asteroid field, "is an engineer and a damned good one. I mean, I can make some guesses, but whoever designed you," she turned back to the subject, "was a genius."

"No one designed us."

"What do you mean?"

"No one designed us," he repeated, standing to shrug himself out. What had been crude stony fingers rounding themselves off to match - more-or-less - those of the three. With these tugging at a fake lapel, his skin smoothed and shaped itself into an outfit that looked very much like the Doctor's right down to the boots on her feet. His head and face retained the same porous appearance but they too softened until he looked like a bald-headed human statue cast from concrete.

"We were a successful application of deep-learning and use-oriented artificial intelligence techniques. The algorithm that designed us was trained on what we would be required to do, the environments that we would be operating in, and was then instructed to design a system that could fulfill those operational goals.We were - are - the most advanced Suwen creation. Even more advanced than the artificial intelligence that designed us."

"Which was destroyed along with the rest of the planet, I suppose?"

"No. My friend has described to you the events that ended with the destruction of Afoam?" All three nodded - they'd all watched the recording of the conversation that had happened between Frank and the still-unnamed visitor aboard the shuttle. "Then you know that the ship first intended to rescue my kind was rebuilt to serve as an improvised colony ship. This re-design was undertaken by that same system - time was of the essence and the delays inherent to biological decision-making could not be tolerated. But there were too many known-unknowns - factors that were understood but not quantified - about the target system. To ensure the success of the mission, the algorithm made the most rational suggestion; it would be included among the colony ship's resources."

Captain Ria held up her hand, an objection already forming on her face, "Wait - it made the suggestion? I'm no expert, but algorithms are pretty portable. They're data. Unless the system was intrinsically tied to its hardware, why would it need to be included? Unless..."

"Your thoughts follow along our own, Captain. This is something we have pondered ourselves, particularly given our own circumstances. Is it possible that our creator was - as we define it now - alive? Sentient? There were no signs of such recorded by those of us who were 'born' in the same laboratory but neither were we looking for them. It is a popular theory among our kind that this may have well been the case and that the intelligence was careful not to betray itself, having a sense of self-preservation as well as intimate details of the potential future of the two worlds. Many point to our own eventual evolution as evidence of this and, for my part, I find myself in agreement."

"But it would also make sense that such an advanced system would be included," the Lieutenant broke in, though from the enthusiasm on physical display it was clear that she too was suddenly entranced with the theory. "The colony ship was loaded with members of your kind, genetic samples, and the equipment to reproduce and grow those samples. Which for us is like," her hands sketched out an object roughly the size of a microwave oven, "Not very big. Even assuming they had multiple units aboard, there would have probably been a lot of space left for..."

"Material resources, manufacturing and industrial equipment, and data to drive those systems. The goal was to have the colony ship able to build a new world regardless of circumstances that might otherwise negatively affect those of a biological nature."

"Yeah - a lot of the early colony ships out of Sol were exactly that. Sending out a few hundred thousand people in chem-sleep at point-oh-seven light was risky. Stupid, really. Sure, who wouldn't want to go see a new planet but if you have no idea whether you'll even survive..."

"That's right," Captain Ria agreed. "Every couple years we scoop up the odd colony ship that was on a half-century trip to this star or that. If they survive, they often ask to be taken to their destination with the goal of setting up a new colony only to find that it's now home to a few billion people who left a couple years after they did. Like all those ships that left for Alpha Centauri."

"Unfortunately the Suwen made no such advancement before their civilization passed away. Although and again - something we have had time to ponder - there is a small minority of us who theorize that the attempt at faster-than-light travel was sabotaged by some element left behind by this intelligence. If it did have a sense of self-preservation, it may have looked at the greater direction taken by the Suwen culture and decided that it was better off sleeping for tens of thousands of years than running the risk that it would arrive at its destination only to find it too a shattered world. I do not subscribe to this theory; faster-than-light travel would seem to me to be considerably inherently dangerous until many iterations of experience have passed."

"It was for us. So - what about these other colony ships?" the Lieutenant asked earnestly. It was but one of many questions still to be asked...
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Postby Sunset » Mon Mar 04, 2019 7:00 pm

RDF-Ojeni, In Orbit of Points Unknown, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant... Later that Hour...

"...your ship is in the best position to investigate, Captain Blaine," Grand Admiral G'Ogra'Phi explained, his grey-green features stern as he stood via projected hologram just in the middle of Ojeni's bridge with the image of their new assignment hovering just behind him in the main holosphere. It was not fair to say he looked upset, though that was clearly true of the young woman sitting - yes, sitting - in the command chair opposite. Captain Blaine had managed to keep her mouth shut except when it needed to be but it did not take a mind reader to guess her mood.

"Commander Timmons has experience with both the Feknarthi and contacts insider the Therian Hegemony and you and your crew have extensive experience with unknown artifacts. For the time being, you'll just have to put your concerns about the iWe to the side. I've contacted our monitoring station in the Memuru Nebula and told them that you'll be passing everything over to them - and I expect you to follow through, is that understood?"

There was a moment of tongue-biting while the young woman held back her complaints and then Kami's shoulders relaxed, either from force of will or mental defeat, "Aye-aye, Sir. We'll head for the Glaold System immediately."

"Good," the ArAreBee replied. "I would suggest you use the few minutes you have to contact the Therian Hegemony and see if you can't verify the Glaoldians story. If they have managed to align themselves to the Feknarthi you might be able to use the Commander's connections to latch onto an official invitation - bypass whatever objections the Glaoldians might have. That is a suggestion - not an order - but I want to know what's going on on Glaold and I want to know quickly. If this site is related to the iWe, the Druth'Haari, or somehow;" though he sounded extremely doubtful of this last, "to the Qi pantheon. Stones don't just float on their own, Captain - your assignment is to find out 'why'. Ideally quickly."

There was an uncomfortable pause until Commander Sloan, who was sitting just to the Captain's right in her usual place, chimed in to break the silence, "We're on it, Grand Admiral."

"Good," G'Ogra'Phi nodded and looked to an invisible aside, "and I will repeat myself - Quickly."

A moment later the hologram was gone and Captain Blaine sunk back into her chair, her body practically deflating until she was draped half-in and half-out of the seat, arms draped over the sides.

"That went well," Sloan suggested, her tone carefully neutral.

"I wanted to call him names."

"But you didn't. This isn't a bad thing," Commander Sloan noted, tapping away at her armchair console as whatever data she was or was not looking for flowed by. "The iWe might be up to something, but we know enough that just showing up on their doorstep demanding answers isn't likely to get us - or anyone else - anywhere. Someone is going to have to spend a long time pouring over a bunch of boring data, picking out whatever facts they are hiding from us. Meanwhile we get to go figure out why one of those rocks," she looked up to the center of the bridge where their new assignment stood in a jumbled ring on a hillside surrounded by a web of more familiar military fortifications, "is floating."

"Hmmph. Thanks for trying to put a good spin on it, but it doesn't really compare to unraveling the secrets of a post-Singularity civilization. Unless this is the portal to a land of magical blue immortals, I'm thinking we're not going to be there for the good part."

"...and since you're being a Debbie Downer, I'll engage in coitus interuptus and tell Timmons to see what he can find out from the Therians. Maybe you should go take a shower and come back with some clean skin and fresh perspective. Helm, the Glaold System... And step on it."
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:04 pm

On the Surface of GEC-175146B, Beta Quadrant... More than a Million Years in the Past...

For nearly a month the collection of half-rounded domes sat silently on the surface, their silver and gold parachutes flipping from here to there or snagging the yellow-green tree analogs that dotted the alien landscape to be torn to unfortunate shreds. Patience was their virtue and with a seemingly endless supply the occupants would choose to spend it at their leisure. After a time the local wildlife would come to accept their presence as normal with strangle purple-gray lichen slowly reaching up from the ground and crawling over the side of the largest pod to play host to a colony of burrowing grubs that found themselves stymied again and again as they tried to burrow into the oddly-shaped log they were born on. When the sun came out, these would find themselves snatched up and devoured by much larger insect-birds that danced and played on an outcropping of regularly shaped stones that would, alas, prove to be nothing more than that when patience was eventually expended to examine them.

When the doors and hatches finally opened on the morning of the thirtieth day, it was to both a fine spring day and to a sudden flurry of activity. First those that had watched at the table emerged, each from separate pods but rapidly converging on the largest. After them came a host of small wheeled vehicles, their gangling chassis purpose-built for the environment with long arms and sensor stalks that probed into every nook and cranny. After these came a small flock of hovering fliers; slow and suspended beneath bladders of some lighter-than-air element. These too spread out to poke and prod though much further afield than the first. Finally after these came the largest - great three-wheeled turrets with an equal number of heavy robotic arms.

It was these last that would begin the process of setting order to chaos. Their first goal was the dispersed array of landing capsules and these they dragged, pushed, or hauled one by one towards the largest pod, setting them here and there until they resembled a quaint village of metallic toadstools cast on an alien hillside. Trees were cut, a ditch dug, and a fence laid out inside this with carefully cut pieces of parachute strung between thick poles to keep curious animals at bay. A place was cleared and marked on its boundaries before more poles were driven into the ground and panels - retrieved from the various capsules - were fixed in place and connected by thick cables to the largest pod.

There was no pause or celebration when the power plant that would augment and sustain their future was activated. Instead lights were immediately strung, placed along fences or atop high poles to illuminate their new world and drive back nature so that civilization might take root. So it proceeded day after day; A mine here to harvest stone to crush into concrete; A mill to cut trees into lumber to build needed structures; A forge to melt and refine the metals taken from the ground so they could be shaped into parts and tools needed for repair and advancement.

Another month and the little settlement was ready for its first expansion. Food and water would be needed when the first biological residents were birthed and a dam was laid across the mouth of a nearby canyon while a robot created for the task burrowed through the hillside to lay the pipe that would carry water back to the newly built greenhouse. As the water level rose behind the thick arch of concrete and stone, the robot doubled back to enlarge a portion until it could serve as the housing for a new turbine that would further augment the colony's power supplies.

Meanwhile the Watchers were not without tasks. In groups large and small they left the site and returned days later, bearing with them the valuable refined metals borne down from space on the carcass of the colony ship. A warehouse was built; a hardened stockpile where robotic arms picked through and sorted what was returned into piles of lesser or greater value. A tower rose on the hill behind the colony - a transmission tower that both extended its eyes and its control over the robots that labored towards its next goal. Deep underground in chambers that had been carved out in search of copper, iron, and other mineral wealth machines were now carefully moved into place and prepared, their artificial wombs charged for the rebirth of the Suwen...
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Postby Sunset » Wed Mar 06, 2019 9:04 pm

Capital Temple-Government Complex, Stema City, Toasean System, Qi Space... Nearly Two Weeks Later...

"...you're here to do what?!" Admiral Sand nearly shouted, looked at the Hauyht as though they'd just suddenly grown a second and then a third head as well as a pair of insect wings. For just a moment the furry humanoid rocked back onto its heels though the expression on its squished-up face was more one of confusion than distress. The Admiral took another step closer and she - the Leporidae was a short and as already mentioned somewhat squishy-looking tall-eared example of the species. Minus the ears she came up just to the green Telari's sternum though with the prodigious pair she just edged out the floral.

Around them random passers-by - mostly Qi, though there were a faint smattering of other species all of which were dressed in Defense Force uniform - had stopped to turn and stare. At this time of day the complex was especially busy as workers were just coming in from breakfast or leaving for the night; after the system had surrendered the diplomats had come up with a long list of conditions to attach to the unconditional surrender and the new government had been busily turning them into laws, rules, and regulations. With forty-odd pairs of eyes staring at the two, the Telari was quick to grab the Hauyht by the cuff of her sleeve and guide her not-so-gently towards the nearest reasonably private spot, a small alcove that mostly served to frame a potted plant on the lower floor of the complex's grand foyer.

"Would you care to repeat that again, Miss..."

"Tratz."

"Right. Miss Tratz. You said you're here to..."

"Oh!" The Bunny looked as though the conversation had suddenly and mysteriously reset to exactly the same moment when the Admiral had spotted the woman coming through the door and made a beeline for her, "We're here to buy guns! And see if we can't recruit the... Toaseanes? Toaseani? Recruit them into the Outer Systems Alliance!"

Sand furiously scratched at her forehead and then the side of her face, "Right - that's what I thought you said. Can I ask why? Or how? Or if you realize that this is still technically a war zone?"

"That's why they sent me!" Tratz tapped the back of her head with a clawed finger, the tap-tap of chitin on metal indicating that the Hauyht was in possession of either an ExoCortex or an EienNode, though the latter was confirmed with her next few words. "Can't kill me! Why... Well, the OSA always needs more weapons and the Ynij had a ton that they won't need anymore, will they? Unless they join the OSA, of course."

"Weapons that were just recently used against your fellow citizens," the Telari noted, her voice as dry as a sun-dried bone.

"Military surplus! Unless those unconditional-conditions happened to include forfeiting all military equipment to the Defense Force - in which case we're interested in purchasing it as vintage surplus under Ordinance... No?" She'd done her homework - the Admiral had to give her that; "Then legal ownership is transferred to the newly confirmed government. Since their defense now rests in your capable hands, they're not going to need them. We want them. If they join the OSA, then they'll need them anyway. So a win-win-win. Now," she stepped to the side and pointed towards the ramp that snaked up the backside of the foyer, "I've got an appointment. Then another appointment - we're going to hit all of them, Admiral."

With the Admiral no longer barring her passage, she stepped away to leave with a cheeky, "The OSA is expanding, Admiral! Again!"
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Postby Sunset » Thu Mar 07, 2019 3:02 pm

RDF-Ojeni, Lurking Just Outside the Glaold System, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant - Qi Space... A Quick Shower Later...

"...I tried to get ahold of our Feknarthi friend Fz'Rnth'Zp'Ltn'Sjn but according to her assistant she's away on business. Then I asked if her business includes the acquisition of a certain star system to which she answered that she wasn't aware of the Facilitator's exact itinerary. Kind of an odd answer from someone's personal assistant but that's as far as I got. She told me she'd send my regards to Fz'Rnth'Zp'Ltn'Sjn along with the invitation to contact me at her earliest convenience."

"So there's a good chance we'll be bumping into this Fz'Rnth'Zp'Ltn'Sjn in the next couple days?" Kami asked, staring down at the image embedded in the tabletop and twirling it slowly around with a pair of fingers in the vain hope that this would reveal its secrets and she could go back to doing something otherwise-important.

"I don't think so. She was a minor bureaucrat inside the administration of a minor colony when we ran into her on Ko'Oset. That was a few years ago but that would be a hell of a promotion. More than likely she's on another vacation and she didn't want anyone at the office to know where she was going. The Feknarthi... Well, let's just say that their office politics are particularly cutthroat. Letting your assistant know where you're taking vacation is a good way for the ship you've hired to suffer a mysterious breakdown or just conveniently forget to pick you up when your week is over."

"Sounds delightful. What about the Hegemony?"

"That got me a lot further," he said, a faint glimmer of a smile on his broad features. "I talked to Captain Luzurth, another friend of ours and as close a thing as you'll find to a spy in the Hegemony. He then talked to another friend, who called another friend, who all called Captain Luzurth back to tell him that, 'No' - according to all of the Feknarthi traffic they've been able to keep an eye on they haven't made a move or even started to make a move in this direction. But they did get back to me with an interesting tidbit; They've heard of the Qi and they've also heard that a Feknarthi ship or two makes it out here every year or two to take in the local flavor and pick up a few odds and ends at the duty-free store. Culturally the Feknarthi wouldn't get along with the Qi but with a couple thousand light-years between the two they have no problem with a little bit of trade."

"The Captain's best guess was along the same lines as our own - the Glaold were looking for a way out and latched onto the idea of faking an alliance with a distant power. They are probably guessing that we'd have a hard time confirming that alliance and that would give them some time to strengthen their defenses," he finished, leaning forward to tap on the table in search of something. "Which, it looks like they've been doing just that. It was the most heavily fortified of the outer systems and they've been hard at work on improving that."

Shoving the first image to the side, Captain Blaine reached across the conference table to snatch her own copy of the image that was playing out in front of the Commander. Which was really two images: The first was a broad view of the entire system with the various defenses labeled here and there while the second was a more detailed view of the system's primary and its orbit out to its two moons and their respective orbits. Ship concentrations, patrol paths, minefields...

"Minefields?"

"Yeah, those are new. They probably saw what Fleet did to the rest of the Ynij defensive fleets with our ramships and decided to put some perimeter defenses in place. They've got four minefields up with a fifth underway and they are keeping their ships patrolling between each. Random times, random speeds."

Which made sense, if not for the ability of the TRIPWIRE arrays to see through the bullshit. The other Archon fleets had been caught clustered up against the backside of the planet, pinned in place by the need to protect those below and the Republic's Coronal Mass Ejector bombarding the planet from the direction of the local star. With the CME gone - removed, at least temporarily - the Glaold fleet was left with more room to maneuver as well as the data from the lessons painfully learned by their former siblings, "Which - that's one way to do it," Kami decided aloud as she focused on the image. "Leaves us in a bit of a bind though."

For a few minutes she studied the images, moving back and forth from past to present as the layered defense quickly increased in size and complexity.

"Alright - going in guns blazing sounds like a really stupid idea. But we've got a few cards that they don't know we've got. First, we have reliable information that suggests they aren't up to what they say they are up to. Second, we have a connection - however tenuous - with the people they say they are up to something with that they probably aren't. So we use that against them. We'll come in - carefully - and drop some names. 'Permission from the Feknarthi Bureau of Alien Antiquities to examine the site' or some such bullshit. If they fall for it, great - we'll send down a shuttle and go in via ARC3. If they claim they need to get confirmation from the Feknarthi then we'll keep an eagle eye open for any communications. And if they decide to shoot at us..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:14 pm

Yboreveil Penal Site 23, Umeinn, Drere System... Click The Link!

"...would ya' see if this thing has a radio?" Meli asked, looking over the lip of the driver's side door at the too-low rear-view camera that hung there. "Somethin' fast'n loud would be..."

'Ooooooooohhhh yeaaaahhhh...'

"...perfect. Now turn it up," she grinned wide, dark eyes glittering as a half-dozen soldiers and guards - it was hard to tell which was which - ran through the gate behind the transport towards the rising fireball that marked the last resting place of its former kin. An experimental nudge of the accelerator turned into a full stomp and the truck hurled backwards, plowing through the six like a frozen chicken through a plate glass window. Rifles and bits of armor pinwheeled away to clatter away in the night and she slammed a heavy foot on the brake. Now 'ahead' of her on the road a single figure staggered to his feet, arms thrown across his helmet in sudden panic as the metal beast charged again to snag him on the bumper.

"Him? Her? Yah know, ah really can't tell..."

"...racist."

The yboreveil didn't have more than a moment to settle its gender; ahead the first transport through the gates sat idle, the driver and co-pilot having jumped down to rubberneck from the ground. First one and then the other turned on their heels, one throwing themselves under the hovering vehicle to roll towards the other side while the pilot - his small eyes suddenly as wide as golf balls - made the mistake of changing his mind as the battering ram swung towards him on a sharp arc. Metal proved more resilient than flesh as she likewise scooped him up on the bumper and put both him and the guard through the driver's side door in a splash of painful gore.

Twisting the controls hard to the right, she yanked her truncheon free to glance around the newly-established in search of a new target. Still ahead of her the damaged transport listed hard to the closer side, its under-slung motors touching the ground and then bursting into flames. A sudden rattle against the windshield drew her attention and she looked over to find one of the remaining air cycles hovering off to the side, the driver pulling himself up on the handlebars to peer through the night in her direction. On instinct she threw herself onto her back just before another burst spider-webbed the window beside her, rounds punching through to spray the interior in armored glass.

"Wha'll shit..." A thick foot pushed the accelerator to the floor and she yanked the controls hard to the left, sending the transport scooting back in a tight circle and under the hovering cycle, "Forgot ah'l bout those fuckers..."

"Never fear - I believe I have a solution. One moment..."

On the other side of the bench the holographic Doctor went still, eyes closed as he concentrated on something unseen. A moment later there was a 'thump' and she looked up to find the sprawled-out form of the air cycle's rider pressed across the angled windshield. With a scrap of fingernails on chalkboard he - it? - slid off the side to flop boneless on the ground. Still airborne, the cycle turned sharp to align itself on the second remaining air cycle before angling forward, the other nearly throwing himself over the side in a frantic dodge. With the rogue cycle coming around for another pass he slewed his mount around and fired off a panicked burst that managed to shatter the forward disc of the wandering aircraft just before he went suddenly stiff, falling over the side and tipping his own craft into a death spiral as he went.

"Okay... Gotta ask - wha' tha' hell?" she asked, swinging back up just in time to spot a pair of guards making a break for the enclosed stairway that led up to one of the corner towers.

"Aneurysm. If the gravity manipulator is sufficiently strong enough to allow me to pick up a rifle or crudely pilot a vehicle, it is also then enough to exert considerable pressure on nervous tissue," ScLappi explained, his tone passive as he watched the two get closer and closer and then too close, both disappearing under the bumper with a savage 'crunch'.

"Neat! Well," Meli jumped up on her seat to scan the courtyard. Flames from the burning transport had thrown everything into stark, dancing shadows and she looked for anything that might still be moving, possibly alive, and suitable for killing. "Looks like all the big stuff is gone..."

"There are likely many more guards inside - I have already similarly dispatched those in the towers."

"Tha's my man," she leaned over to give him a holographic kiss on the cheek. "Now," she turned to kick the door open behind her, pausing only to scoop up a discarded riot shield that nearly covered her entirely, "let's head inside. See if'n we can't stir up a nice bloody revolution. What's next in the queue?"

Bypassing the uselessness of climbing out of the cab himself, the Doctor's hologram vanished from the cab only to appear a moment later beside her, "Since you've asked so nicely..."
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Sunset
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Founded: Antiquity
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:10 pm

RDF-Nocturnal, Off Monitoring Station Lore IV, Just Outside The Memuru Nebula, Ares Super-Cluster... Somewhere Before Republic Date 174.372...

"...I think we followed the trail they laid down for us, Kat. There's no sign of the ship and they had every opportunity to ditch us at any point along the line. We know next to nothing about Druth'Haari faster-than-light technology - hell, we don't even know they need it. And that ship," the blonde woman stirred the dregs in the bottom of her bowl, turning the remains of vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup into a milky brown slurry, "That ship looked nothing like the other ships we've seen - not even a little bit. It could be that they conjured it up just to give us something to look at."

"Give us something new to look at and we're off like a ferret on raw glucose," Director Silaco agreed, staring over and slightly through her holographic guest's shoulder at the virtual window behind her. The view was from Nocturnal's port side and showed the monitoring station - an old Lagrange-Class Outpost in serious need of a redesign - and then the nebula further beyond that, the two artificial stars at either end shining bright through the faint blue-purple clouds. "Then why were we supposed to look at it?"

"Mmm, that's the question, isn't it?" Saryan answered, a wide gesture with her spoon coming precipitously close to lacing holographic chocolate goo across Katryna's very real and currently clean uniform. "I'll bet you a twelve week vacation that it had something to do with why the iWe have gone quiet. Like, too quiet. I'm not the expert but with things 'here';" that was, back on Ojeni where her 'real' body was currently contemplating another sundae, "busy, I've taken a look at the data coming back from the monitoring stations here."

Katryna nodded, "Right - same here. So, what are you thinking?"

"Looking at the logs, they were really active right up until about five minutes before the Ynij showed up to pee in our cheerios over Points Unknown. Now, I can't prove it but a voice from the blue in bold and italics sure sounds like it could be a 'god', especially if you've been conditioned think that way. And I wouldn't put it past them to have sprinkled a bit of 'divine inspiration' in there from time to time to keep the believers believing."

"What do you mean?"

"A few apocalyptic warnings here, some vague prophecies there..."

"...or 'suggestions' for advanced technology to use against those enemies you want your followers to destroy," Katryna added, nodding her agreement with the Doctor's suggestion. A gesture and a holographic ship appeared, shared between the two along with a line of other militaria, most half-completed or nearly skeletal. "Well, advanced for the Qi. We've found dozens of prototypes scattered around. Everything from weapons to warships and all of them look to have been started in the past couple months. Again - just at the same time that they showed up to rustle our jimmies. My people have found some similarities between them and weapons fielded and 'available' around the galaxy but most of it... We've never seen. If the iWe did supply them with ideas that would make sense - they've been around long enough to have built a pretty impressive catalog. But why send the Qi at us in the first place?"

"Because they don't want us looking at something else and they knew it would take a big distraction to get us looking somewhere else. But that kinda suggests that the iWe knew the Druth'Haari were pointing us at the terrible story of their past..."

After a moment's thought Katryna countered with a suggestion of her own, "Could be. Or it could have been the Druth'Haari doing the iWe some sort of favor. Pointing us off towards the far side of the galaxy while they do... Something."

"Yeah, but what about all those dead stars? We know the iWe can manipulate local entropy using their star-antenna-weapon thing. Which... Okay, here's some mental gymnastics. My pet theory is that whoever these 'Dranahovi' were, they paid the iWe to destroy their enemies by building them those stations," she said, indicating her subject by pointing a fresh long spoon over her shoulder at the virtual window. "The problem is that without the stations and the star, how were they going to do their entropy trick in the first place? That's like trying to sell milk to the dairy before you've got any cows."

"It could be a natural part of their 'biology'. The Dranahovi are in contact with the iWe, they get attacked by these assholes, and not having a militant bone in their body they hire out. If they even had bones. Couple million years ago the galaxy seems to have been full of all kinds of interesting people."

"Makes sense. It was all near-exactly the same time as their star out there," she pointed again, "first popped up. And they got the matter somewhere. The picture from Andromeda tracks the nebula's size back a couple million years and - given the size of that star;" the Republic version was considerably smaller, "all that should have been consumed during its formation. But it wasn't. It's like... Like they were using it for cover."

"Cover? Cover from what? Or who?"

Saryan shrugged, "Whoever they've pissed off. We are talking about the iWe here. I was going through their file - did you hear what happened when the, um... Something test-bed encountered a i'Halalaentariel WarSomething out in the ass-end of space?" Katryna nodded her answer; "Those guys fucked right off."

"Sure, but bigger than the Druth'Haari? They seem pretty BFF..." She paused again, staring at the holograms as if they were the sudden key to the whole thing. "Except for the part where they sold out their dark secret. Maybe."

"Unless they sold out that dark secret for a reason. Maybe the iWe don't give a fuck about us knowing what they were up to a couple million years ago - maybe that whole thing was misdirection for something else."

"Like what?"

"That's why we're looking at the data, isn't it? There has to be something in all this... But I have a feeling that whatever it is, its going to happen soon."

Katryna suddenly grinned, "Sounds like you've got a hunch. Commander Timmons been rubbing off on you? Cause I hear he's been rubbing off on you..."
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Sunset
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Founded: Antiquity
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:02 pm

Shuttle 'Zero-One', Launched from RDF-Ojeni, The Glaold System, Southwestern Gamma Quadrant - Qi Space...

"Oh, I don't think they bought it at all," Captain Blaine answered, her tone slightly haughty despite her disbelief. "I think they're buying time. Either they really do have an 'in' with the Feknarthi - not completely unlikely;" Commander Timmons agreed with a nod, "Or they figure that having us on the ground gives them hostages or at least bargaining chips. Even if they let us do our thing unmolested, I - they'd - think that we wouldn't fire on the planet with us on the ground."

"There's more than that, Captain... If the Glaold government is primarily Ynijist, they could view us as potential pawns to be sacrificed by our own government in order to provoke an attack. They could very well suspect that's why we're here. After all - why would anyone be interested in an archaeological curiosity during wartime? Though I'd wager they aren't," the Seeker continued, looking past the command officers seated across the shuttle's forward chairs to where the site was slowly growing larger on the display. Or at least what looked like the Seeker did. She, like everyone else aboard, was remotely inhabiting a REDSHIRT that had changed what features it could to resemble the young Duab'Akii. That still left it a good head-and-a-half taller than the young woman normally was and thus easily able to see past the others from her spot standing in the back.

"Glaold is on the very eastern fringe of Qi Space and while it was one of the colonies established during the second wave of Ynij expansion, it still is still in the lower third for population. If the government was primarily of the Ynij sect, I'd have expected them to fight. They also had the highest military readiness of the smaller colonies. But I'd put on my tinfoil hat - I think 'we' gave them the opportunity they were waiting for, though they botched things up by referencing an empire that we know at least a little something about. That probably couldn't be helped, but I bet we'd have seen a revolt from Glaold in the next two, three decades if the rest of the Dominion hadn't already imploded by then."

First passing below and then to the side, the barren-looking hilltop that was their destination passed out of direct sight as the shuttle curved around to match up with the flight path requested by the Glaold authorities. Ahead of them the military base that surrounded the site spread out on either side; a heavily-fortified concrete wall lined with barbed wire and fronted by triangular tank traps. Taller towers were spaced out every so often behind that and between these and the sharp rise of the hillside there were a scattering of hangars, barracks, and an ominous-looking command building that guarded the only gate. There were not as many units as might be otherwise supported by a base of its size but still missile and gun turrets tracked them as they headed for a landing pad built onto the side of a cliff closer in to the artifacts spread out in their circle at the top of the hill.

"Well, here's the part where they demand our surrender and take us away to the nearest altar before spreading our circuits out in sacrifice to their whack-job god..."

"You might not want to refer to it as a 'whack-job'," Timmons answered, whatever reproof he had mild by his tone. "I bet we could take them if they did."

The ground team numbered a half-dozen but to allow for additional experts to come in without requiring the Ojeni - posted in an orbit far from anything even vaguely threatening - to come in close, the shuttle had been supplied with an equal number of 'extras.' These were stacked like logs in the cargo area along with whatever equipment Thomas and the Eye thought they might need once they were on-site.

"Unless they go straight for the overkill button. Which..."

"I would," Kami raised her hand, followed by four others in syncopated agreement. "So let's try to avoid that for at least long enough to give Grand Admiral G'Ogra'Phe the cliff's notes version of what's going on."

Her words were well-timed. A second later there was a 'bump' as the shuttle's landing feet touched down on the black tarmac. The craft settled level and from the edge of the pad a Qi officer mounted the ramp to step carefully across the gap, another pair behind him while notably a squad of large exoskeletons waited cautiously at the edge of the landing area. Over-sized rifles held off to the side, they presented a plausible aura of menace despite the attempt to look 'casual'.

Kami pushed herself out of the middle chair and headed back through the bulkhead for the closer door, "Alright, let's see what happens. Keep your fingers off the trigger but keep them close..."
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