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Sunset: Then, Now, Tomorrow (Nation Maintenance)

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

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Sunset
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Postby Sunset » Fri May 17, 2019 8:08 am

The Eastern Rangelands, Juniper, GEC-74209, The Coreward Fringe, Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.607...

"We'd started building them before the Retreat," the Hauyht explained, leaning up against the leg of his own walker while he watched the Type-3's pull themselves to their feet and start arranging themselves on the parade grounds. Most of their operators were Qi, though there were a scattering of his own people among them, but all of the exoskeletons were of Ynij manufacture. The OSA had aggressively bought them up and in many cases their former pilots as well with multi-year contracts putting them and their units into service with the Outer Systems Alliance.

"Hand-crafted, each and every one of them. Unique. We managed to put up... I want to say about a dozen before the fall of Jer'Don City. When the Ferals came their pilots took them out into one last, big fight. I'm sure the numbers eventually took them down but they made a hell of a fight of it."

"Ferals?"

"That's what we called them. They weren't really feral - wild - but we didn't know that. They were like us," the rabbit-like humanoid pointed to his ears, which shared a distinctive 'kink' one with the other, and his nose and muzzle. "They'd been poisoned. Some kind of toxic heavy metal in their food. They'd go crazy and wild. Feral. Turns out that they were being intentionally poisoned and used as a weapon against us."

"The Republic? These... Sunsetters?" the Qi standing next to him asked, his tone and posture suggesting he was already looking for an answer in the affirmative. It took him by surprise when the Hauyht shook his head in the negative; "Who then?"

"They're gone now," was the pilot's answer. "You've got to get it through your head that just because the Republic kicks your asses doesn't make them your enemies. They're not like that. Doesn't mean we don't have our differences..."

Which was why both were wearing the new OSA uniform instead of that of the Defense Force.

"...like their refusal to post defensive forces in our system. We're out here on the edge, a new colony - last of our kind! - and what do they tell us?" 'Uncertainty Doctrine.' Uncertainty my third nut. We've gotten lucky so far but at some point someone is going to show up and give our fleet a good fucking and then it will be up to us," he patted his towering mecha with a broad paw, "to defend our homes."

"And you want to build more."

It was a statement rather than a question, but the pilot still answered, "That's right - and I think the Qi are the right people to help us get the program off the ground. We think along the same lines," he gestured towards the walking exoskeletons as they made their way out the gate. They'd be out the entire morning on combat drills, facing off against one another or against simulated opponents until they came back tired, dirty, and happy. "The Warrior Ethos. It is the duty of the individual to prove their worth. One man, one machine."

"Have you ever fought the Republic? Their Marines..."

"Have you?" the pilot countered. "You're still alive. I'm not worried about fighting the keep-your-hands-off-our-technological-wonders-Republic. I'm worried about fighting the next blithering space slob. Your engineers, our resources. What do you say?" he said, putting out his hand for a perversely-Human handshake and the Qi took it.

In the end it came down to the simple facts; The OSA was paying and that meant meals on the table...
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Postby Sunset » Sat May 18, 2019 11:53 am

Captain's Quarters, RDF-Ojeni, Ethirelin Orbit, Qi Space, Far Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 174.611...

Captain Blaine peeled off her uniform with a sticky sigh, leaving it abandoned in a pile as she stepped into the tub. Even the brief contact with the hot water made her feel somehow clean despite the dirt and grime that had managed to work their way between fabric and skin. Stepping out to the middle, she slowly sank into the fat oval until only her neck and head were visible. Under the water slow jets began to push water against her, neither hard nor soft but enough to keep her slender body just off the slick surface of the tub.

Another long sigh - this time of warm contentment - she allowed herself to sink further into the water until only her face and nose remained and then with the slightest motion these too disappeared before emerging a moment later as she scooted back until her head rested on the edge. Unnecessary, perhaps, but after nearly two weeks planet-side with only the decontamination shower in the shuttle it was needed. A few more minutes to relax and it was time for the unnecessary but needed;

"Start Captain's Personal Log. Captain Kamilia Blaine, Commanding Officer RDF-Ojeni, Ethirelin System... Whatever the day is."

'Current Republic Date is 174-point-611.'

"Works for me. So... We've been working on this thing for a month now, with a couple interruptions. When we were in the Glaold System we... Maybe some background first. Lesse... Ojeni was dispatched - actually, we were told to go though I didn't want to - go investigate something in the Glaold System. Probably to keep us out of someone else's hair. I was more interested in heading back to Points Unknown. Actually - I wanted to head to the Memuru Nebula. I'm pretty sure we were damned close to figuring out what was going on there before everything else happened, but that's not what G'Ogra'Phi wanted so... Yeah. Missed out on that whole thing. Would have been good to get a couple questions in on the iWe before they left. So long - I'm not sure anyone is going to miss you though."

"Anyway, while Saryan - Doctor Brilla - was gone, we put things on pause and did some socializing and snooping. Commander Timmons - who I'd really like to keep if I could - wanted to follow up on the question of whether or not the Glaoldians were really looking to hook up with the Feknarthi. Something big like that, he figured that details would be all over. Preparations, instructions, that kind of thing. So he heads down to the party and starts asking around. Good time for it - the Qi like alcohol just as much as everyone else, apparently. A few innocent questions and he's got his answer or at least one that satisfies his curiosity."

"Pretty much there's no way - nothing more detailed than 'We're signing up with the Feknarthi' has come down the pipe. Most of them didn't even know what a Feknarthi was. The consensus among the command staff is that the Glaoldians are just keeping the Republic off their back. Which... Whatever. All the briefing stuff I read - and no, I didn't read all of it - says that Glaold was a peripheral system. The colonists weren't exactly Ynij sectarians. We'll keep an eye on them but they'll probably just end up as a little spin-off unless someone comes up to them with a good offer. Since diplomacy isn't my department... Whatever."

"So, back to the ruins. As soon as Doctor Brilla popped back in - she said she didn't have long, so we hurried - we started trying to 'recharge' some of these objects but she was pretty sure that wasn't going to work. Basically they're not all 'here' - part here, part 'there'. Wherever there is. But we took a stab at it with some of the small artifacts - just in case they blew up - and didn't get anywhere. Then Saryan had to go and we got a call from Admiral Falk who got a call from Trent Lockwood. Seems that Mr. Lockwood had decided to go for a scoop and went searching for a similar site on Ethirelin and guess what? He found one!"

"Which was useful and not useful. Apparently he'd been something of a geography nerd back in school and he picked out the deformation the site had caused in a local glacier. Neat - Thomas was impressed. So they nerded out for a while on that and between the two of them they picked out a couple other sites on other planets which confirms that whoever these people were, they were spread out all across this area of space. Thomas thinks they were the Dranahovi, which were mentioned on the monument we found on Points Unknown. He thinks that the Dranahovi figured out how to build these gateways or portals to somewhere else and then moved inside to escape whoever was causing them grief. Something something glaciation time-frame something. It should be in his report."

"And then we spent the next week digging out the site. Which was loads of fun because of course it was under a glacier and we couldn't just go blasting our way in. Turns out that the standing stones at this site are mostly dead as well - no idea how long. If it was the Dranahovi, they probably came and went until the power was gone and at that point they'd lost interest in whatever was going on outside anyway. Hundreds of thousands of years is what Thomas said. Now, why they went and built all their sites in the mountains where they'd get buried by glaciers... Maybe that was intentional. Good way to let nature hide them? But why not just build them in a cave? I asked Saryan but she said geography shouldn't matter to the technology so..."

"Or maybe they knew that after a few hundred thousand years they wouldn't want anyone to be able to follow them. I don't think we'll ever be able to get a good answer. Maybe if we could move a complete circle of powered-up stones together we'd be able to get inside, but Thomas doesn't think so. He thinks the stones are keyed to each other and to the site. So even if we could, it wouldn't do any good. Which is good security, I suppose. Not very good for archaeologists though. At least for right now we're going to keep looking around, digging up the various sites, and seeing if there are any that have all the stones with some power left. I'm doubtful, but I've been proved wrong before..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue May 21, 2019 8:47 am

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System... Republic Date 174.621...

"Are you sure this is... appropriate, Director?"

Site Director Francine Krieger stared flatly across her desk at the sprawled-out lanky figure who half-occupied the customary uncomfortable chair on the other side, "What do you mean, Doctor Kraus? This is your yearly personnel evaluation. You've had others before, haven't you? How could it be..."

With an angry mental sigh she stopped herself, leaning forward to first take a stiff slug of coffee that she'd wisely-or-not spiked with an even stiffer belt of whiskey in preparation for what would in all likelihood be the most difficult portion of her day. With the double-burn still sluicing its way down her throat, she tapped at the desk controls where her lead researcher's documentation was already spread out below the sleek glass surface. A tap, a quick comparison, and she groaned inwardly. Years and years of reviews and aside from a few irregular numbers right at the beginning of his career they had all taken exactly fifteen minutes.

Exactly. Fifteen. Minutes.

"Well," he answered, drawing out the word into nearly its own sentence. "We're alone in your office..."

The door - previously open behind him - slid shut with a hiss and a click and she looked at him sharply as he smoothly shifted out of his chair to sit on the corner of her desk. With a single hand he swept everything aside - carefully arranged personal items, office supplies, virtual files - and sent them raining onto the floor in a clatter. Then he leaned forward and cocked an eyebrow at her, gazing deeply into her own steel blue eyes with his own, "I could seduce you..."

"...you could," she admitted, reaching up to calmly pull the bun out of her hair, letting it cascade down across her back and shoulders as she pulled her glasses off. Folding them carefully, she opened the drawer in front of her and placed them inside, her hand lingering for a moment as she looked up to lock eyes with him again. He leaned further forward and his hand reached for the collar of his shirt just as she jammed the stun gun into his chest. For a moment he paused, mouth open wide, and then his body began to writhe and jerk as she held the trigger down and pushed it and him forward until he fell off the desk and landed in a heap in the chair from whence (wince) he'd came.

"...or," she tossed the stunner back into the drawer, pulled out her glasses, and began to swirl her hair back up into the tight bun it had previously occupied. "Or you could list out your accomplishments for the past year. Ideally in the next," she looked past him to check the clock that hung above the door, "Seven minutes."

Which would put them at fourteen minutes and just long enough to send him on his way before she regained the temptation to apply the stun gun to his testicles. Shoot him, stab him - kill him. That pain was only temporary. This pain - she put her hand in the drawer and pressed the button to produce an audible crackle - could go on for quite a long time.

"...owwww."

Reaching to the edge of her desk, she pulled the files back across with her fingertips and began to read aloud, "Seventeen patent applications - up three from last year. Seven projects successfully completed. And your work has been mentioned nine hundred and thirty seven times in reports and dispatches. An impressive body of work, aside from your many character flaws."

"...owwww."

"Which is why you are still here, Doctor. If you could somehow manage to clean up your act you might find yourself re-assigned from a Sigma facility to one with more resources, more access - maybe even some of those grad students you keep going on about. And then," she reached down, retrieved her mug, and turned it up to slurp at the last lingering drops before pointing it at him, "I wouldn't have to deal with you either."

Putting it down on one side of the desk, she began to tap away, making or adjusting one entry after the other with an occasional glance up to check for any sign of recovery. In less than a handful of minutes she was done and with a 'tap-tap-tap' the files were closed and whisked away to wherever such things were kept. A glance at the clock behind him and she rose to her feet, "Thirteen minutes. A very efficient meeting, Doctor. Let's do it again next year."

A hand on the pad next to the door and it stubbornly refused to open.

"Well," she turned and grabbed him by the collar and belt to haul him bodily out of the chair, limbs dangling limply, "let's see how quick your mind works!"

Lining him up on the closed door she began to swing him back and forth, "One... Two... And Three..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun May 26, 2019 12:04 pm

Erika & Demi's House, Botany Bay, Chuh-Yu, Ares System... Republic Date 174.638...

"...the idea was pitched to me as more 'ascendant transhuman shitwizardry'," Doctor Wilt explained, the wrinkles on her face lining up in laughter as she continued. The smell of something fantastic was drifting out of the kitchen and while she tried to keep her focus on the mother-to-be sitting across from her, her nose and thus her eyes lifted every so often to look past her shoulder to the dining area and thus the kitchen beyond. "It's a phrase I'm hearing more and more of out of the product development units."

"The way it works is this; You'll continue your pregnancy normally right up until you're ready to give birth - following the diet and exercise instructions from your obstetrician, of course - but when you've entered labor you'll partially or fully disconnect from your Extension..."

Which was a very clinical and still weird way to put it: What Demi and an increasingly large percentage of the Republic population thought of as their 'body' was not. Instead their consciousness was removed and locked away behind layer after layer of connections, routers, boundaries, and manipulations while what had formerly been their mortal body was now a temporary Extension (thus the term) of a remote operator. For those of a more ephemeral understanding the body was, for all intents and purposes, a drone except that the user interface and thus the control and feedback were seamless.

Right up to the point where you didn't want them to be, which was where Saint Medical's new service stepped in.

"...and our expert engram matrix will step in. Essentially your body will be inhabited by an intelligence that will then guide it through the entire process, using its expert knowledge to ensure an optimal outcome. It will regulate your body's breathing, heartbeat, muscular contractions - whatever is necessary to ensure a smooth birth. It is similar to the old concept of an epidural pain inhibitor except that had the side-effect of not providing the mother with the proper feedback, requiring those in the room to supply instructions based on partial information."

"And you said she can disconnect partially or fully from her Extension?" Erika asked, one hand on her partner's knee. "So she can observe from the perspective of herself or..."

"However you like," Mona nodded. "We've had some mothers sit inside their partner's 'head' to watch from their perspective, others have attended via projected hologram, and others have even had temporary bodies cloned. Actually, there have been a couple who have had new bodies engineered that they then used as their new regular Extension, discarding their previous - no stretch marks, no recovery time. They were back on the horse - literally - or in the bedroom the same day."

In her head it made sense but in her heart it didn't and the uncomfortable look on the Ambassador's face said it all. This wasn't her real body, after all - though she had come to think of it as such. Her first body had been destroyed over a year ago and despite how close this one was to that one, it still somehow felt different. Better, in some ways - but unfamiliar in others. If she admitted it, the differences were one of the reasons she'd decided to get pregnant again and she looked over at Nathyn, who was curled up on an overstuffed bag chair playing some noisy game while the three adults talked.

"I think I'd like to go with the partial option," she said after a few more moments of consideration. "I want to be there, even if I'm not feeling every pain."

"Understandable," Doctor Wilt's tone was sympathetic. "And you're not alone. Ninety percent of new mothers and seventy percent of second-plus mothers choose the partial disconnect."

There was a sound from the kitchen and a particularly strong smell of something gustatory brought all of their heads around. After a moment a freckle-faced head poked out of the doorway, "Ten minutes, then lunch will be ready."

"Do you want to eat outside?" Erika offered, looking towards the towering bay windows that looked out over the bay. Outside the weather was riotous with rain splattering against the glass and wind-driven waves pushing the sailboat docked at the small pier surging up and down at its moorings. Every so often there was a flash as the beam from the lighthouse at the end of the adjacent peninsula swept past, unneeded but romantic in its nostalgia. But just above the deck and its collection of chairs, tables, and lounges an invisible barrier sent the water sluicing off to either side, leaving the space high and dry and - if the old-fashioned Galileo thermometer sitting on a table was to be believed - nicely warm.

"A chance to show off your own shitwizardry?"

Erika shook her head, "Not mine - something my daughter cooked up. But it is ascendant shitwizardry..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue May 28, 2019 11:53 am

Isolation Bay IV, CORE XIIX Deep Space Station, Somewhere between the Monoceros Ring and the Galactic Disc... Republic Date 174.645...

"...new bodies? No," the Director answered, her black eyes fixed for the moment on the one that had asked the question. There were twelve people standing in a ragged line in front of her and eleven standing behind her, each one a mirror to the other except for the last. It was not the last who had asked the question but it was her that received the occasional sideways glance - 'Why is she here, and why is she not standing there?'

"Your current bodies are colloquially referred to as 'Extensions' - a remote extension of the self treated as though it was the same for most intents and purposes. They are yours to do with as you please - to abuse and misuse as the requirements of service demand. These," she indicated but did not indicate the row of identical figures standing behind her, "Are Expressions. They are the local embodiment of a holographic boundary manipulation that has been specifically crafted by our friends in Special Projects to my specifications. Your current bodies are quite useful, are they not?"

The twelve nodded or otherwise indicated so and the Kal-En-Vesho continued, "But they are still limited. You are faster and stronger than those biological but you are still limited by a certain factor and that is mass. You are - to twist the phrase - the sum of your parts. Against a foe of equal intelligence but higher mass the most likely victor is the one possessing the higher mass."

Here there were answering grins as well as the occasional grimace. The first part of that last bit was important and Anathema operators were often highly aware of the fact that while they were in the Future there were those who seemed determined to stay firmly in the Past. Tanks that still relied on biological operators to command, train, and fire their guns; Security guards who relied on the Mark I Eyeball to verify an identity; Soldiers who carried axes into battle and seemed determined to use them. The 'reasons' given were many but all flawed - in the end, they were simply a way to tie that civilization to the glories of the past by those who didn't realize that the past wasn't really that glorious.

Thus the Director's words were true and not true. Equal intelligence was, by their general reckoning, not always to be had.

Which didn't mean that it was impossible to find - or that arrogance occasionally led to mistakes. Which was why the twelfth was there though the Director had not yet gotten to that point.

"These Expressions will give you that higher mass. Between them, they share the collective energy output of a small star - dark, forgotten, but still very much alive - and thus the corresponding mass. For the purposes of today's exercise that output will be somewhat throttled - I wish to avoid damaging this new station."

That provoked a few raised eyebrows and shared looks. A CORE Station was enormous in scale as was the room - if it could be adequately labeled by a word so small - that they stood in. In other circumstances and aboard other stations it would be expected to house an entire fleet of warships, thousands upon thousands in number. Here the titanic bay was mostly open though here and there it was scattered with odd bits of piping, gantries, and other miscellany that turned the interior into a tactical obstacle. For those that had been paying attention to the schedule the space had been used earlier that same day for live-fire exercises between two groups of opposing starfighters and the various structures bore the testifying damage.

"Ah'n what will today's exercise be?" the figure on the end asked, her mealy drawl immediately exposing her identity."

"That is why you are here," the Director said. "You are the control. Your peers will engage in a tactical exercise where they attempt to destroy or disable each other while you will attempt to destroy or disable them."

The expression on her broad face was dubious, "But Ah don' get one of them fancy new Expressions? Thet ken punch-out starships? They ken punch-out starships, raht?"

"Conceivably. Their exact capabilities have not been established. That is one of the secondary functions of today's exercise, except in your case," she mentioned but did not look at the Dwarf. "My suggestion to you all is to not let your physical power impede your intellectual consideration. Otherwise you may well find yourselves on the wrong end of your co-worker's creativity..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:07 pm

RDF Training Academy 2, Peabody (Colony World), Far Western Fringe of the Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.662...

"...did anyone survive?" Quunto asked, looking around the assembly hall where - one by one and two by two - cadets had been dribbling in for the past hour to take a seat and stretch out while the events of the past 'hour' played out on the screens arrayed across the front. After a moment's searching he found his friend and hopping down a couple rows he took a seat next to the young Xypndi, "Got you too, huh?"

The golden-skinned man nodded, "Yep - didn't even bother trying to take us back. Just shot us as soon as they caught us. Looks like our friend is still going though..."

The scenario had been taken straight out of the movies; That same morning they'd plugged themselves into the simulator to find themselves in a prisoner-of-war camp staffed by tight-lipped guards with a list of regulations that touched their toes. The punishments had been just as explicit and demonstrated in bloody detail as one cadet had been executed after he'd attempted to steal an extra slice of bread at breakfast. A slice of bread, a cup of water, and an apple. It had been the start of a particularly grueling training scenario where the cadets had first been forced to figure out how to survive and then how to...

Well, that was the trick, wasn't it?

They hadn't been provided with any instructions, really. According to Defense Force regulations it was the duty of every officer to attempt escape but that was complicated by their own existence - in the real world they could just punch out and leave their body behind. Here they were in a scenario and as one of the cadets had passionately - and quietly - argued it was plausible that they were there to provide some unknown function for which their meat bodies were considered an acceptable sacrifice. That had led to his own death as he'd made a futile if careful attempt to break into the camp commander's office to search for something.

Whatever it was, he'd found it at the end of a bayonet but one of the other cadets had come to the realization that they were not alone - at least virtually. There were other prisoners there. Men and women with virtual families, children, and relatives back home. All caught up in a war of aggression and with little hope of escape except for what they could make themselves. Some had fallen into melancholy, others had turned collaborator, but most wanted to escape, to leave, and to make their way back home to fight again or at least give their families the comfort of their presence.

An escape then, carefully formed and organized and that was still playing out on the screens. They'd spent days assembling a careful model of the camp, figuring out the terrain, the coverage of patrols and searchlights and how quickly the guards could react. And just like the movie they found themselves inside they'd turned to a tunnel carefully dug right under the guard's feet. Three, in fact, with the intention that two would be 'pointed out' to the guards while the prisoners made their escape.

Here at least the cadets had been aided by their particular make-up. While all the guards and other prisoners were Human, many of the cadets were not and several were capable of digging very quickly. When the guards burst into the secondary tunnels they found that they were not in some simple shaft leading towards freedom but in a complex network of caves and galleries.

One of which was under the camp commander's house.

He hadn't been there to see it, of course, but Quunto's imagination filled in the details as the ground sagged and then suddenly collapsed as the support columns were removed. That had cost the guards dearly in numbers and leadership and had been enough to send nearly the entire population of the camp fanning out across the countryside in search of freedom. Some - like his friend's group - had been caught early but others had made their way to borders and hiding places. They had finally found him by accident, deep in the forest where he'd been determined to hide until the war was over.

Meanwhile the Duwerli was in Switzerland.

From the slices of time that cropped up on the big screens he'd managed to make it over the border with a significant number of other prisoners and they were in the process of blending into Swiss society. Except for the timer in the corner that was rapidly counting down to the end of a thousand hours, that fictional world was about to be changed forever...
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:02 pm

HBIe Research Complex, CORE VII Deep Space Station, Deep Below the Ares Super Cluster, Just Outside the Milky Way Galaxy... Republic Date 174.665...

During the previous century, it had been observed by many that the larger an organization became so too the less agile it was. Instead of the rapid pace of development and innovation common to its early days the new mantra was slow and steady, with the seeming goal to produce through careful duplication what had previously been created through inspiration. Thus a small company that had created an industry worth billions would - over time - transform itself into a cancerous mass only capable of increasing in size by devouring its host.

For those that remarked on the innumerable small teams, outposts, centres, and similar employed by the many, many sub-divisions of Republic Research & Development this was often pointed to as the analogy of choice; by maintaining many small concentrated knowledge teams with the freedom to move quickly, break things, and just try shit, the state of the art was able to race ahead. The sarcastic pessimist would then note that the cancer has simply spread throughout the body...

True or not, Hiram Tolstrup was not exactly the kind of person to continue the argument. In fact it was uncommon for the short, mousy man to engage in conversation at all even if the chance was offered. The tiny realm of one of the innumerable research pods that branched off like alveoli inside the cavernous lung of one of the station's encircling bays was all he desired and here he reigned as Prince, free to pursue whatever passion drove him without an eye towards results or metrics. That was not to say that he was not without court or audience though they were of the green variety; carefully cultivated flowers that listened without interruption.

"...would be a concern, wouldn't it?" he supposed aloud as he reached to the base of the stalk to trim away a new sprout that would otherwise rob the main stem of nutrients. "If FTLi;" he pronounced the letters as though they meant something; "will cut off someone in the Eien from their Prime Extension, then it should have the same effect on an Expression. But interference is one thing..."

He pushed himself to his feet and surveyed the next pair of pots before skipping them altogether and kneeling again in front of the third to poke among the orange and brown petals with his shears, "Normalization is another. If you know the secret you could - perhaps - cause the thing to evaporate merely by reimposing the normal rules on it. That would seem to depend on the rules under which it operates, of course. We'll have to ask," he paused to brush a frond aside and scowled as the source of the discoloration made itself apparent.

Reaching inside his jacket he pulled out a small vial, shook it once to emulsify the contents, and then carefully sprayed a small amount along the infestation before returning it to his pocket.

"We'll have to ask," he repeated, letting the frond drop to bounce and weave while his sharp eyes searched for other examples of that particular pest to eradicate. "Since it would seem that if the expressed object operates under the same physical rules as the regular universe then normalization would not affect it. Do they? But interference would at least cut the supply of energy, if the Expression is being used in that manner. Which again - there is the risk."

The next supplicant was a brilliant example of dipodium roseum - the hyacinth orchid - which had wrapped its woody stems around a small artificial stump to droop its vivid lavender blooms into an artful self-arrangement. Here his inspection was the soil itself - not too moist, loose and with plenty of room for the invasive roots to spread.

"But such things are carefully used, are they not? As I understand it, if one were to impose said interference then the same faster-than-light communications which the modern civilization relies on would also fail. Though... They certainly seem to talk a lot while saying little, don't they?" he asked, raising a bloom like one might touch the chin of a child to catch and hold their gaze.

"We might be doing them a favor."

"But the solution..." He pondered his own question for a moment, sitting along and hunched among the riot of color. "The solution would seem simple. The vessel - the ship - should remain a subject of this Universe, operating under its laws and its rules. But a conduit could be created and energy expressed for use. If interference is imposed then the ship remains..."
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:43 pm

Pahn-Tang, GEC-2199066B, The Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.672...

"...they are quertquertor," the Abbot answered, Lae's translator adding the gisted meaning an instant later; The Sun and the Moon. With a flat hand he reached up to indicate the star that was now slowly sinking towards the western horizon to cast long shadows across the courtyard where three score and four students practiced. "They are the duality of life. On one end the sun that brings life and the other end the moon that foretells death," he finished, his hand drifting down to the earth and the moon that lay somewhere on the other side.

To the Cyar the weapon that hung through the man's wide belt and twirled in elaborately woven circles around the students certainly looked like it would hurt but whether it was effective was another question entirely. Consisting of a pair of spheres with a short length of chain attached and then a wider leather thong linking the two, they were an almost entirely offensive weapon with most relying on their own agility to avoid attacks. The common pair looked to be made of stone or iron while the Abbot's were brass and intricately decorated.

The practitioners wielded them with a single hand, holding one end to spin the other around in various orbits before snatching them across the middle with the opposite hand to shorten their length and step inside their imaginary opponent's reach.

Lifting his broad hands - the Ifin broadly reminded Lae of a terrestrial paddlefish, right down to the sagging mouth and tendrils that hung down like a mustache on either side - the instructor clapped them together and let out a sharp bark, "Gort!"

Instantly the quertquertor spun to a stop, snatched up in the middle and tucked into their belts at the back while each student retrieved a second set from their waist and paired off, turning to the left or to the right as though they had practiced the pairing a hundred times. Another clap and this time the translator was spot on, "Begin!"

"Each student begins their training by constructing their own pair," the Abbot explained as he led the Cyar through the combatants, stopping here and there to consider a pair or a particular student. "They learn to weave - and so serve their school - and stuff each ailm with huath, which serves us in many ways," he added, pointing to one side where a shallow murky pool was surrounded by tightly packed rushes. "Their fibers can be woven into cloth and cord or allowed to grow old and thick and thus used to make many useful things. Then when they die, their roots are torn up and ground to treat many maladies."

Here and there Lae could hear the soft 'thud' as a ball struck home and then the slap-pad of the defeated Ifin walking to the outside where they joined a steadily growing collection of kneeling students. Sixty-four became thirty-two and thirty-two became sixteen and the kneeling circle contracted even as its number grew.

"And the students make their own robes?"

"Yes," came the answer, "With each dying them or embellishing the weave as to their ability. When I judge them to have bettered themselves then they graduate to the hardened stalk of the huath, carving their quertquertor and training with it until they are prepared for stone. Here too they prove themselves useful," he raised a foot and slapped it down on the cobblestone. "This courtyard was crafted by the earliest students and I too have a stone here, though now most are used by the villagers to lay the foundations of their homes."

"Do they mine their own iron?" Lae asked again, though his tone suggested he knew the answer. There had been a narrow cave cut into the mountainside when he'd been walking along the well-beaten path towards the school and while there hadn't been anyone around to answer questions he suspected that perhaps under his feet lay the tunnels and workings where the ore was extracted.

"Very good. It is good for their bodies as well," the Abbot supplied. "Hard work makes a hard man who is well able to provide for his family when he leaves. And fight - if he must. Though such things are rare now."

Sixteen had become eight and eight four and the skill of those remaining was self-evident as their padded quertquertor blurred through the air as they danced in and out of range. One bout ended in a winch-inducing blow to the side of the other's face while the other seemed to be a draw until a clever - if unorthodox - move sent the weapon snaking around his opponent's neck to be snagged with two hands and drawn tight into a chocking noose. The last two took their place in the now-closed circle and the Abbot led Lae to one side while the last two began their contest.

"Why is that? On my way here I came across many fortresses and walls. It would seem like the Ifin understand war and conflict."

"We know them all too well," was the answer. "We have learned to understand ourselves and in that live with ourselves and each other..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:04 pm

RDF-Bar Harbor, Outer Rim of the GEC-175146 System, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.675...

"...multiple incoming contacts, Captain - intercept trajectories!"

Captain Ria was about to turn and look over her shoulder at the sensor office, a dozen questions ready, but the greater mass of sensor contacts already spread out on the holo-sphere answered most of them. Even though Bar Harbor had come into the system along an oblique angle so as to miss the obvious intercepts near the various planets there were still a random spattering of high-energy contacts - ships - within the smaller patch of space laid out in the sphere. A few were moving now, turning or curving away from their previous course towards the tiny oversized representation of the pronged ship at the center of the sphere.

"Looks like we have some time;" A couple minutes, really, if she took potential firing ranges into account; "Let's see who we're dealing with. Put the closest on-screen and Comms? See if you can't establish contact..."

"That's going to be tricky," the Lieutenant at the sensor console said, fingers moving over his station as he completed the request. A moment later the forward display was filled with stars and a dark circle that had to be one of the incoming vessels.

"They're doing everything they can to avoid active detection," he noted, touching the controls again. A green outline appeared around the craft, sketching out its dimensions and hinting at its capabilities. The ship itself was a regular sphere with a number of sunken ports scattered across the surface in a configuration that suggested weapons of various kinds. The bow - or the side of the ship facing them - mounted a single large apature with a half-dozen smaller but similar ports arrayed around it. Along the cardinal flanks were row after row of smaller hatches that could have been missile or launch bays.

"They're doing everything they can to avoid detection. Every regular spectrum we're throwing at them is coming back blank - or isn't coming back at all. Even the mass and gravity sensors. Enertia-less drives. We can see them because we can't see them but shooting at them - at least with conventional acquisition and tracking systems - would be difficult. As is teasing out their capabilities."

"It's an efficient design," Ria noted. "The other ships are of the same design?"

"Exactly. There are some variations in size but they could be broadly divided into function or class from there. I'd suspect these are picket ships - and there are a lot of them."

"...as in?"

"Millions. They're pretty big too - hundreds of meters long but that's a sphere so they have a lot more volume than the usual space penis."

"That's a lot of 'them'."

"They've got a lot to work with - or had. I'm not picking up the usual stuff. No moons, comets - decorations. The large bodies are still there but they're like our friend there. No atmosphere and they've been completely paved over. Just what you might expect of a mechanoid or AI civilization."

And, if this system had been the final resting place of the colony ship sent out by the Suwen, they'd had plenty of time to do it in. A million years - minus a few. More than enough time to express whatever curiosity it might have had about its new home before re-purposing it. If it could even be curious.

"Comms?" But she could practically hear the officer shaking her head. "What about you? What's your thoughts?" she looked to the stone-faced man sitting next to her. "Think this is it?"

He'd been motionless since they'd arrived, seemingly content to observe the comings and goings of events around him, but now he spoke with a slow, measured tone that suggested the stone he appeared to be made of, "It would seem so - but it would also seem it does not desire visitors."

"Agreed. Helm, let's get out of here before something happens that can't be taken back. A nice long loop, put us about six light out on the other side of the heliopause and we'll call home and see what Fleet wants to do..."
Last edited by Sunset on Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:39 pm

RDF-Ojeni, In Far Orbit of GEC-2310653D, Far Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 164.678...

From orbit the site - and in fact the planet - didn't look like much. The atmosphere was a light muddy gray, streaked through with brown, white, and the occasional patch of pseudo-chlorophyll green where life had somehow found a way. As a point of fact it had found a very long way; the micro-flora that made up the high altitude bloom had been accidentally transplanted to this world by an exploratory expedition launched by the former Chosen Dominion of Ynij. It was the artifacts of this expedition that had been seized by and cataloged by UIK cultural archivists that had pointed the Ojeni and her crew towards this particular world. A few of the small oddly-shaped stones, a set of coordinates, and notes that indicated that this was the only uninhabitable world where these had been found.

There hadn't been much more than that. The Qi of that time period had mainly been interested in those worlds that they could colonize directly and with little additional effort and even in the decades since their terraforming technologies had advanced only slightly. That had left their former Empire scattered across a relatively large volume of space with the side effect of leaving this world with its oddities... Well...

"...essentially untouched. It looks like they landed, got out, found what they were looking for, and left," Lieutenant Commander Ingersol said, looking over the data streams and direct images that were laid out across his console in a panoramic collage. "They even left their ship behind. Looks almost familiar," and he threw the remote image up on the larger display above him. Behind him the Captain was leaning against the horseshoe railing that ran around the backside of Ojeni's bridge while Commander Timmons lurked to one side, just barely leaning around the corner and into Thomas' station.

"Like an old Apollo lander - but bigger," another voice answered the question. Instead of crowding herself into the space she'd pulled up a duplicate of the sensor officer's feeds on a secondary station and the avid consumer of Old Earth culture had identified the visual immediately.

"Yep - two-stage chemical rockets and everything. Nice of them to mark their landing spot for us," he added, another image showing the planet swirling quickly by while a tiny white dot marked the landing spot high in the northern (galactic) hemisphere.

"Yeah - sure - but how did they know to land there in the first place?"

"What do you mean, Captain?"

"I mean," Kami stepped forward and stopped the spinning image and zoomed in until the cloud cover parted and they could see the terrain spread out on either side of the lander. "Why here? Of all places? It makes since but only if you're looking for these sites like we are. How were they supposed to know that there was - maybe - a bunch of ancient standing stones set up by who-knows buried under a meter of... What is that?" she asked, deferring back to her sensor operator.

"Temperature erosion. The freeze-thaw cycle slowly broke small pieces of rock off the surrounding cliffs and buried the glacier;" The site and thus the glacier rested in a shallow 'bowl' between two now-heavily eroded mountain cliffs; "Insulating it and - with a bit of luck - keeping it from moving very much over the past however many thousands of years."

"Neat. So, how the fuck did they know to land here?" she asked again, disbelief in her voice. Everything she knew about the sect dedicated to Ynij told her that they were a bunch of bloodthirsty religious fanatics and not exactly the type to go poking around on an uninhabitable world after nothing more than funny looking rocks. Unless they could be used to kill someone, which sparked a thought in her head but she held her tongue to wait for an answer.

"Because someone told them to look there."

Kami looked back over her shoulder to where the Seeker - barely visible - was looking over her appropriated station at the Captain, "Told them?"

"Told them. I've been looking over the entries as the Macisikani keep adding stuff to their archive. They're pretty through - every scrap of paper, how thick the dust on the paper was... Obsessive but useful. Same museum where they found the stones they also found a book that our 'friends' in the NPoY would probably be very interested in. It's a collection of Her;" Yeria was one of the two 'gendered' gods in the Qi pantheon and represented guidance and knowledge; "Prophecies and teachings. The prophecies are laid out like old Nostradomus - quatrains that make all the sense you give them. Unless, of course, they're being cross-referenced against the Galactic Exploration Command database."

"Which you're doing;" she nodded and Timmons continued, "Okay, so Yeria told them to come here and look. Except it probably wasn't Yeria - it was probably the iWe. So why did they tell them to come look here and why should we be worried about that? The only thing that makes me less worried about this scenario is that the iWe are gone."

"Might have been nice to be able to ask them..."

"...and then they would have lied to us," he countered. "Or at least told us what they thought would lead us down the road they wanted us to follow;" the big man had never been a particular fan.

"Then you're going to hate this part. It wasn't just a set of coordinates - there's about thirty quatrains here, most of which read just like the kind of stuff we love to poke our noses into. Ancient sources of knowledge, wisdom of the ages, counsel from the stars. If I didn't know who the author was, I'd be down there right now with a shovel."

Timmons grunted but the Lieutenant Commander laughed, "And some clothes, I hope - average daytime temperate is just about in the freeze-your-tits-off range and subtract another thirty at night. From here," he looked back to the remote image that he'd been studying while they talked, "it looks like they tried to excavate..."

"...According to the Ynij archives, most of the expedition was later sentenced to hard labor or sacrifice - seems they were secretly followers of Yeria..."

"...who should have told them to bring a Tagra-X Mass Excavator in her quatrains. Fortunately I picked one up at the shoppes."

"Hold your horses there," Captain Blaine ordered. "Unless you want this to be like a bad play-through of Dwarf Fortress. We've got time, so let's take a long look at these prophecies before we start digging. And anything else you two can scrounge up," she added, looking between the Lieutenant Commander and the Seeker. "I'd love to go rushing in and get things done but... Gut instinct - we play this careful..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:59 pm

"Girls, if you ever run into a guy in a bar who tells you he's an alpha... He's a beta."

~Iliza Shlesinger

"A lion does not need to tell you he's a lion."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:00 pm

Fort DixZon, The Eastern Rangelands, Juniper, GEC-74209, The Coreward Fringe, Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.682...

"It's not a 'mech," Colonel AshTog decided aloud as the craft laid out on the tarmac rose off its oddly-shaped landing gear and into the air, the turret swinging to one side with the rest of the vehicle following as it headed slowly towards the gate and the open range land beyond. Another full score stood in a line, technical crews going over last minute details as their pilots excitedly clambered aboard and warmed them up for the first time.

"You sure about that?"

The Colonel turned to the Qi standing just behind his left shoulder, squinting at him under the tight brim of his uniform beret, "We asked for 'mecha. You gave us tanks. I'm pretty sure..."

His voice trailed off as the 'tank' that had just cleared the gate suddenly turned, rising slightly as the four pylons that presumably housed the hover drives spread wide and broke in half to drop their feet to the ground. With a jerkiness born of inexperience, it first put one forward foot and then the other up on the berm to scale the concrete barrier and nearly drop the barrel of its main gun right into the razor wire that ran across the top. With its turret poked up over the edge like an inquisitive child, the operator swung it from side to side to 'look' towards the Colonel and then the other 'tanks'.

"...Huh. Okay - you got me there. They can walk. How useful is it?"

"That's what we're here to find out, Colonel. The problem with normal hovertanks is that they can't really hover on the side of a mountain, or underwater, or... And the problem with normal 'mecha is that they are slow. Best of both worlds here - over regular terrain these will nudge up on a couple hundred onil. Or they can drop the legs and perch on the side of a mountain hull-down. And with that gun," the furry humanoid pointed towards the closest idle tank and the rounded-off rectangle barrel that protruded from between two boxy missile launchers, "you can hit an evasive moving target over the horizon. Adaptive projectiles. Up to three degrees off-bore."

"That doesn't sound like a lot."

"It is when the round covers that distance in a fraction of an on. It can't quite shoot around corners, but the guys in Munitions have some ideas there. We'll send this batch out, let your boys destroy them, then come back in a couple weeks with a better design. Speaking of..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jun 09, 2019 2:12 pm

RDF-Bar Harbor, On the Other Side of GEC-175146, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.675...

"Fleet shares your assessment, Captain Ria - if they were going to do something hostile, they've had a million years to do it."

"Precisely," Captain Ria agreed, ignoring the off-camera wave from the sensor operator. If it was important he would have broken in and so whatever it was could wait the thirty seconds until she was done with her conversation with the remote Admiral. "It is our guest's hypothesis that they destroyed the Suwen colony ships to eliminate them as a future threat both to itself and others. We haven't found any evidence of expansionist tendencies beyond the domination of their own system despite their clear ability to do so. And long-range scans," she finally looked back over her shoulder to the Lieutenant, "show that the ships that attempted an intercept have returned to their previous positions. They were content to chase us out of the system, sir."

"Makes you wonder what they have been doing..."

"...Ma'am!" The moment's attention was enough to finally merit an interruption from the sensor officer, "Captain! I've got something interesting here?"

"What?" and the unspoken, 'Is it worth bothering the Admiral about?'

"While we've been sitting here, I've done some sweeps beyond the nominal edge of the system and... Well, I think I've come up with something interesting, Ma'am," the Lieutenant finished, only shrinking slightly under her gaze; "What is it?"

"'What are they?' actually. I've found six and counting - all out here. Large structures but it looks like they've all got the same general purpose." A finger on his console and the central holo-sphere lit up with a large-scale representation of what was now only somewhat-local space with GEC-175146 sitting in the center. All around the periphery contacts began to pop up, each highlighted with a different color as opposed to the solid mass of red that represented the charted positions of the spherical ships closer in to the system's primary and its orbiting worlds.

Manipulating his controls further he isolated and enhanced one in particular until it hung large above all the rest, "They all have a different look to them, but the design is similar. Communications or monitoring arrays - not a lot of difference between the two, really. Lots of very large antenna, and all pointed into the system. Old too - really old."

"How old?"

"Well," he touched the controls again and sections of the current example were highlighted and then compared to a scrolling gallery of harvested images from around the galaxy until a half-dozen near-matches came up, "How about a million years or so? Sections of this particular station match observed examples of Kal-En-Vesho engineering."

"Trilats? That makes sense - their empire dates from around the same era and they were active in this area of space."

"Exactly! There are others, and I'm still trying to match them to known civilizations, but I'd say that this gives us a good reason to leave them be."

"...because no one else did either? Good work, Lieutenant. What's the status of these stations? Can we talk to them? Skip the whole rigmarole of setting up our own monitoring station?"

"We'll pay them all a visit," Ria decided, sitting back in her chair and turning first to her guest and then to her executive officer, who supplied their approval with a nod. "If they've been sitting out here for however long, they could be worth more than just a handshake protocol. We might even be able to establish a solid timeline for the region."

"Do that, Captain," the Admiral agreed. "But be careful about it. Chances are that if they've been watching this system for however long, the system's been watching them too. I'll forward the question of that Kal-En-Vesho station to our outpost on Rime as well. Maybe we can get a half-way straight answer from our ancient friend there..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:10 am

Somewhere Below the Ice, Rime (SEC-24D), The Western Expanse, Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.676...

"Yes."

It was at last a straightforward answer. It didn't explain anything though and so Commander Meadows asked another question though along the same lines, "Do you know anything about the entity that controls that system? We suspect it is - or was - an artificial intelligence created by a species who called themselves the Suwen."

"Your suspicion is possibly correct. It was early in our Empire that we stumbled them during our own explorations of the galaxy. A threat..;" Three arms moved in a gesture he didn't recognize; "So many. There were no survivors and so we had questions. Answers..." Six dark eyes slowly opened and closed, the flaps that covered her airway opening and closing in the gentle rhythm he'd come to understand meant she was contemplating something. "No. When a child is young they crawl and the world looks large to them. Then when they are grown many things look small - unimportant. So it was with us. For a time we asked and were not answered and when we no longer cared we did not listen."

Meadows looked up at her, studying her again as she hung from one of the strange outcroppings on what might have been either ceiling or floor, "Would there be any records? Anything aboard the station?"

The Nameless extended a hand and one of her drones scurried out from where it had been hidden to perch under her hand, "You may try. It might recognize one of the Resurrected;" one of the Kal-En-Vesho who had been cloned and brought back as a species to now populate the Republic in reasonable numbers; "but it may not. Such things do not last forever..."




RDF-Bar Harbor, On the Other Side of GEC-175146, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.677...

"...which means we're waiting, I suppose?"

"RDF-Hummingbird has already been dispatched, Captain. It didn't take long to find a first-generation that was interested in trying. They'll be there inside of the hour."

Which was quick but that didn't mean there wasn't time for poking around elsewhere. Careful work by the curious Lieutenant had added up to nearly a dozen stations or arrays and she leaned forward to take a close look at their scattered positions, "Thank you, Admiral. Can you instruct them to rendezvous with us at," and she read off the coordinates of the station closest to the now-established Kal-En-Vesho outpost. "We'll head there momentarily and get a closer look while we're waiting for Hummingbird."

"Sure;" the link vanished and a moment later Bar Harbor did as well, her faster-than-light drive moving her around the system's periphery to within a respectful distance of the station. Array, really. A lanky amalgamation of antenna, structure, and even old-fashioned dishes spread across a couple hundred kilometers resulting in something of a spider's web with the spider still perched in the middle.

"Any ideas who this one belongs to, Lieutenant?"

"Not a clue. But it has been here a while." Remote images flashed up on the screen and he zoomed in on particular areas. "It's dusty."

"Then we'll take a look," Ria decided. "Engineering, you have five minutes to have a team out the door and about thirty to take a look around before Hummingbird arrives. Give me a reason to let you stay..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:41 pm

RDF-Ojeni, In Far Orbit of GEC-2310653D, Far Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 164.695...

With a sigh Captain Blaine pushed herself back from the screen and put her fingers to her temples to rub them slowly. Even with her eyes closed quatrains still swam in front of her, their text making just as little sense now as when she'd been focused on them, "Alright - I'm convinced. The iWe wanted someone to come here and find something. Because the rest of this stuff?"

A hand on the desk and she spun her chair to one side and pushed herself to her feet, "Because the rest of this stuff is just touchy-feeling religious mumbo-jumbo. Like they cobbled together a bunch of crap from other holy books and made sure it rhymed. I need a drink," she decided, stepping towards the far side of the room where a small cabinet held an even smaller reserve of the good stuff.

"You're not wrong," Sloane said. She'd been reading the same text that the Captain had - scanned and distributed courtesy of the Macisikani archivists - but despite a couple days in front of a screen she still seemed markedly fresher than the Captain. "Not that you need a drink - but have a drink - but you could be right there. I noticed the same thing too and while its not close enough to call it plagiarism I'd have a little office chat with them if I were grading their work."

"So they cribbed a little. Which means 'what' though?"

"It means what you said it means - they really wanted someone to come here and find that specific place."

"Why?"

"...well," Sloane led with a pause, pulling her thoughts together, "Let's just say that whoever built these things is - or was - the Dranahovi. And at some point in time the iWe did some dirty work for them. The Dranahovi pay them for it by building the stations they need to kick-start their artificial star. Maybe that's where they get the idea, maybe it isn't, but now they've got a business relationship. Maybe the Dranahovi decided that the risks were too great - maybe they just don't like the climate. But they decide they're going to jump into another dimension. But they want the possibility of someone eventually unlocking the door from this side. Someone who isn't a violent jackass."

"So they leave - or pay the iWe - to leave a note in a holy book supposedly written by the goddess of wisdom that otherwise reads like someone took the wrong medication. My problem with that idea is that its also a good trap. Find some peaceful sucker to open the gate and out come the minions of hell."

"Wheels within wheels. If that were true, why would the iWe have sicced the Qi on us in the first place? A lot easier to be a peaceful sucker when no one is shooting at you."

"Be nice if we could ask them."

"I think half the quadrant's said the same thing now. We can't, so..."

"We dig," Kami decided, slopping another shot of ol' thumbsucker into her glass and considering it sharply before tossing it back in a single swallow. "Carefully, but we dig. We can speculate all we want but if all of the stones don't have power it doesn't matter anyway. If there is power then we can tell Fleet, they'll have the same suspicions, and then... I dunno. They'll point a super-weapon at it before we try to activate it or something..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:14 pm

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System... Republic Date 174.699...

"Doctor - Fred! - are you sure that's how you're supposed to use an angle grinder?!"

Fredrick - Doctor - Kraus looked up from behind whatever he was working on, releasing the trigger of his power tool to let it whir down with an off-center wobble, "No? I mean, its not like they have a class or something. Maybe at the learning annex? Do we have a learning annex?"

"No, but..." The lab monkey drifted closer before edging up on his toes to look over the back of the workbench and down at whatever the researcher was working on at the moment, "What's that? A spear?"

"In fact that's just what it is." Kraus pulled the trigger again and lowered the blade to the stone tip and began to cut again, shouting over the noise as he allowed the nosy young man to continue watching. "Maybe - I dunno - you should put safety glasses on or something? That's what the fucking sign keeps saying!"

The intruder looked around, both for a pair of safety glasses and the sign. Inconvenient to anyone coming into the lab the second was hanging right above the door along with another dozen or so placards that listed various hazardous conditions present along with near-comical illustrations of what might happen to the individual exposed to the same. One after the other he read the warning and studied the effects until his eyes settled directly on the eye protection placard.

"Wear Your Safety Glasses!"

"Hey, did that sign just..."

"What did I say?" Kraus repeated. "That's what the fucking sign keeps saying!"

The assistant looked at it again; "Wear Your Safety Glasses, Stupid!"

"Huh. That's kinda neat."

"Not when you've forgotten to wear your safety glasses for the tenth time in a row. Then it gets downright abusive. It'll insult your work, make bizarre implications about the nature and origin of your genitalia, give you helpful suggestions as to who might be willing to mate with such..."

"Did Site Director Krieger put it up there?"

It was a guess but not much of one; the love-hate-rage relationship between the two wasn't an open secret - it was just open. There was a betting pool on who would leave first, how they would leave, and a spread to cover between when the last Director had left and the current would leave.

"No! Invented that one myself. I was sitting there thinking, 'You know, no one ever pays attention to the safety signs. I should...' Shit."

The tech turned around, expecting to find a broken blade or that the spear had been somehow marred by the Doctor's mishandling of the grinder, "What, did you..."

Instead he was holding up a bloody hand with three fingers missing in a particularly unlikely configuration, "Well, I guess you're right. I should have taken a class!"
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:52 pm

The Director's Office, Special Projects Research Tower, Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System... Republic Date 174.702...

"Well, you've finally done it - you've made the Death Star," Amaril decided, flopping into the corner chair to bake in the mid-afternoon sun streaming in through the office windows. Outside the clouds were gone and the sand was sparkling white and judging by the elf's lack of a shirt and colorful shorts his plan had been to drag his wife outside in a vain effort to prove she was not a vampire; doomed to vanish in a puff of dust borne away by the wind as soon as the light of day touched her.

"It..." Katryna reached out to touch the hologram in front of her, zooming in on this and altering that, "...is not the Death Star. It's a project for Mom."

"You know your mom is just the kind of person who would ask you to make the Death Star, right?"

Katryna paused, her finger half-way between altering some tiny feature and mentally arguing his point, "...you're right. She would. Which means I should add a super-laser. But it isn't the Death Star. What she asked for was a way that we could reward those who are engaged in various things we like without tipping our hand - either that it was us or our capabilities. Like how to drop a few billion tons of refined metals on someone's lap without them knowing that it was us or without someone else knowing that it was us. Also important."

"What, you mean not everyone loves us?" he replied, mock surprise dripping from every syllable.

"No. Something about meddling ascendant transhumanist shitwizards."

He pushed himself up from the chair and walked the circumference of the projector, tracing his finger along the top of her backside as he passed, "So what's the plan?"

"The plan is to make a moon - a small one. Or more properly a rogue planet;" there were, as it happened, plenty of those to go around. By some estimates there were nearly as many rogue planets wandering the galaxy as there were of the regular sort. Apparently stars weren't very good parents; "that just happens to be made out of the mineral resources that the entity we're looking to support needs. Then we move it outside of one of their systems - a nice quiet border colony, for instance - and give it a shove. They pick it up on their early-warning system, go take a look..."

"...and what do you know - enough material to make thousands of warships. But;" the 'but' held the beginning of an objection. "But we might as well just sling one of the however-many thousands of rogue planets we know about at them then. They're still going to have to refine the materials. Which is a good thing if we're trying to boost their economy but not if we're trying to prop them up during a conflict. All that takes time."

The timing was perfect - his finger had just completed another pass across the top side of her ass and she leaned back over her shoulder to pull him forward for a quick kiss, "Which is why I love you. I had exactly the same thought. The metals need to be refined and it would be even better if they were immediately useful. Now we could just make a matryoshka sphere out of refined metals but that would be pretty blatant. Might as well paint labels on it at that point. But we've found a few interesting things out in the void..."

"An alien world?"

"An alien moon," she agreed, taking a step back to take in the fullness of her creation. "Every detail from language to ships created by an algorithm so it doesn't look like our shit or anyone else's. As far as they're concerned it will look like a cosmic accident - the tomb of some ancient civilization that just happened to wander through one of their systems. We can mix it up of course - titanic warship set adrift eons ago, the remnants of some stellar laboratory, or even just a plain old moon if there's no time crunch."

"And if they don't particularly like the idea of using some dead not-really-people's ships they can always break them down for scrap. So - who's on the target list?"

"Mom's got a list, but she suggested we test the idea on the Fenvaria Republic. Not quite sure why - she might just like people with tails..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:24 pm

Shuttle 'Zero-One', Launched from RDF-Bar Harbor, On the Other Side of GEC-175146, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.677...

"Alright, preliminary scans show she's still airtight," Frank noted, adjusting his collar before tucking the armored helmet down over his head and checking the seal with his fingers. "So we're going to mate directly to the hull. Put the expansion collar around something that looks like a hatch and cut through there. With any luck there will be a proper airlock on the other side."

And without it? Well, a forced decompression of the station might damage sensitive systems and cost valuable data. The shuttle and her engineering crew would definitely have to stay in place long enough for a temporary airlock to be assembled and installed and that might take hours or even days depending on the configuration of the monitoring array's hull. Which would mean Frank, Ed, and their team of transferred engineers wouldn't have to explore the interior of some messed-up bio-organic whatever-it-was.

Safe within the confined of his suit, he let out a small shudder.

Frank was an old hand - even if he was a particularly mediocre one. He'd been around since the days of the Martian conflicts with the Snel and the Pilonese and the Dargonese... At least the last one hadn't had vagina hatches. Bio-ships yes, but enormous dragon-like vessels at least had that element of 'cool - it's a dragon' about them. Re-birthing on the other hand... Well, that just gave him a serious case of the heebey-jeebies.

A glance towards a virtual display with a feed from the forward view showed that they were getting close. Ed was piloting - for what little difference that made when it was effectively telling the shuttle to 'go here and do this' - and he'd be staying behind to act as the liaison between the engineering crew and Bar Harbor. The rest of the team was made up of engineers from across the Republic who'd transferred into ARC4s for the duration - the ultimate 'working from home' scenario.

"How thick is that hull?"

"About a centimeter," he answered, the man with the cutting unit nodding in the affirmative. "So go easy. There's interior insulation and shielding though."

Again the technician nodded, though now he brought up his own holographic representation of the hull and studied it closely, adjusting the settings on the cutter as he did. Of course not all sections of the hull were equal and if this really was an airlock then he'd expect at least a little more resistance to the intense beam.

"Wonder why they bailed," another speculated aloud. This time the voice sounded more like a woman who was talking through a mouthful of gravel and a quick check of the virtual roster indicated that 'it' was in fact 'she' and she normally had four legs and a horn the size of his forearm on her face.

"Lieutenant Calloway says it's something like a hundred thousand years old," Frank offered. "That's a lot of time to go do something else. Or forget about this place."

"Hmm." Her answer was non-committal but Ed chose that moment to break in from his seat in the flight cabin; "Hull contact in thirty... twenty-nine... twenty-eight..."

"A thirty-count? Seriously...?"

There was universal grumbling from among the crew but Ed had gone quiet; "Ed?"

Frank turned to look around the partition and into the cabin, "Ed? What's up? Why did you stop?"

Ed didn't reply but instead pointed up towards the main display where the side of the station loomed large, their chosen docking point in the center and surrounded by a number of pale orange lights that threw long mixed shadows across the flat surface. Based on the distance counter at the top-center of the screen the shuttle had come to a complete halt and Ed toggled the link to Bar Harbor with one hand while keeping the other near the flight controls, "Bar Harbor, this is Zero-One..."

"I hear you, Ed - what's up?"

"Check your sensors, Bar Harbor. I've got hull lights here. They just lit up. A couple were erratic. Could be motion-activated and I'm not seeing any increase in the station's power signature from here. What do you have?"

"Just a second..."

"Hull lights huh?" Frank looked at them again, now realizing their possible significance.

"Yeah, but a couple of them were pulsing. You know - flickering. Like they're about to burn out."

And with that, one did just that. A few brief flickers of orange strobed across the hull and then the light went out to come back on once and then extinguish seemingly forever.

"Emergency lighting then - proximity activated. Its a wonder the sensor still works, much less the batteries..."

"Nothing here, Zero-One," the link broke in. "'Less than a couple double-As', according to Calloway."

Frank studied the lights and the hatch again, "Just emergency lighting. Unless someone says 'stop' we're keeping going..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jun 17, 2019 5:29 pm

Pahn-Tang, GEC-2199066B, The Coreward Expansion Zone, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.712...

"It's tetherball," Trinya - Lieutenant Falk - decided as she watched the two locals play, their flattened hands slapping the thick leather ball between them to send it spinning around the pole that had been set into the middle of the monastery courtyard. "Sorta..."

"What's tetherball?"

She'd forgotten that the Cyar hadn't grown up in the same world that she had. Back on Mars, Ares, and nearly every other Human-populated world she'd ever set foot on there could be found a tetherball pole in playgrounds, schoolyards, and backyards across the planet. A medium-sized ball was attached by a flexible cord to a reasonable pole of slender dimensions and batted back and forth between two players. In most cases the only danger came from missing the ball and then possibly taking a whack to the face.

Again - 'sorta'.

This was not strictly that. The woven-cloth covered ball was attached to the top of the pole by a length of chain that sparkled razor-sharp along the length while spiraling triangular spikes studded the pole in regular symmetry. Like the Ifin's quertquertor there was considerable symbolism involved with the ball being 'fate' or 'doom' and the 'match' being used to decide serious disputes between two equals. Winning - wrapping the chain completely around the pole so that one competitor could push it no further - decided the matter in their favor though continuing past injury was seen as the greater victory.

"In the most serious matters, the winner may then demand match after match until the loser dies," the Abbot explained, thought the two who were playing now seemed more concerned with not hurting themselves or the other. "Submission means death at the hand of the other - the chain is wrapped around the neck and the legs kicked out from under them so that they cut their own throat."

"How often does that happen?"

"Not very. It is a particularly gruesome way to die and also fraught with risk as the accuser may find themselves subject to the same fate. The last time it was a young man who felt that another had defiled his mate but could not prove it. The other accepted the challenge and won - though when the two mated that seemed to confirm at least half of the first's suspicions..."
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Jun 17, 2019 5:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jun 18, 2019 1:05 pm

The Danh-Jahn Lowlands, Juniper's Southern Hemisphere, GEC-74209, The Coreward Fringe, Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.716...

Under his fluffy backside the Dragoon surged to life, the massive triangular feet pushing out ahead one after the other to leave meter-deep impressions in the crisp morning snow. With lots of ground to cover Sergeant HanKok extended the legs higher and the extended stride settled his 'Mech into an easy forward lope that sent the super-heavy rapidly towards the treeline and the first nav point. Ahead and to either side a pair of smaller Cavaliers - his lance mates for the morning - advanced at a run, their smaller legs churning up the snow as they sought to maintain the required distance.

It was a good time for a training exercise. According to the weather forecast streaming across his heads-up display the morning would stay clear if cold while a thunderstorm was scheduled to roll through the mountains in the late afternoon. Scanning the horizon he was momentarily blinded by the sparkle of sunlight off the bare glaciers high in the surrounding mountains and he reached out with a paw to adjust the screen. It was something the computer could handle itself if he wanted it to but that was part of the point of training; to learn to do these things for yourself for the day when you had to do them for yourself.

"Alright," he triggered his radio, pushing the slider over to the lance-only channel. "We're coming up on the first nav point. Keep your ears straight;" both of his wingmen were Hauyht and for the leporidae the expression was the same as 'keep your eyes open'; "cause I'm sure they'll throw a twist in here somewhere."

In fact it generally took a completely sadistic drill instructor to not throw some kind of random encounter into what was otherwise supposed to be a straightforward 'go here and circle back' training exercise. Not that the OSA didn't have those on the payroll - they'd been poaching talent from wherever they could find it and there was everything from Defense Force washouts to retired Blishi'i United Space Force officers crowding their ranks these days. Quality thus varied but as far as the Sergeant was concerned the Hauyht were the heart and soul of the OSA.

"Roger;" "Roger," they replied one after the other, the first a deeper voice that put the Lance Corporal at a couple years older and the second a higher pitch - one of the rare female Hauyht in the field services. There was no official policy regarding gender but recruits had to meet the same physical standards and this tended to wash out both females and a lot of the weirder species that inhabited the larger Republic.

On the transparent display that sat between him and the virtual windows that showed the outside world the nav point came and went, a gold dot answered only by the call-outs from each 'Mech as they passed the first objective. Beyond the armored behemoth the thick forest that dominated the southern hemisphere rolled by, thick trunks and conical hats of needle green swaying slighting in a steady breeze running east to west. HanKok checked his display again, momentarily easing back on the pedal-boots that would send the war machine forward or back at the slightest touch.

"Nothing here - anything on your scopes?"

"Negative," followed shortly by, "Nothing here, Lance Leader."

Up ahead the forest path narrowed, another gold nav point sitting dead in the center of a canyon where two mountains shouldered together and the forest climbed slowly up the sides to leave a bare, rocky defile with no cover on either side. It was the perfect place for an ambush and he called a halt, sending Bravo One forward to the very mouth while he and the second Cavalier circled back and forth, watching their sensors as well as the high tree line for any sign of enemy or unknown movement.

"Training Alpha One, what's your hold up?"

That was Command back at the base and the Sergeant was instantly on the alert. A real asshole would do exactly this - distract the Lance Leader with some bullshit while whatever his chosen fucking snuck up on them from behind. A quick re-sweep of the nav screen showed nothing but he toggled through the sensor filters with one hand while the other switched on the channel to Command, "Potty break, Command. Bravo Two had to take a pee."

"Uh huh. Get your tails moving, Training Alpha One. You're behind schedule."

"Zero fucks given, Command. Training Alpha One, out."

Unless something popped up, there would be plenty of time to make up the time in the clear ground on the other side of the pass. Another sweep of his surroundings and he pulled the two smaller 'Mechs in, putting One in the lead and Two in the rear before ordering them through, "Open 'em up - full throttle!"

Snow rose in blasting clouds as they charged through the gap, three sets of eyes switching between the trees, their nav screens, and their lance mates. A hundred meters, two - five, seven. Then they were through and the trees flowed back down to the valley floor as they emerged into the open plain on the other side. A nav point sat exactly in the center and all three raced towards it, Two pouring on the juice as she sought to take up her previous position on his forward left flank.

Nothing - there hadn't been, "Sergeant! Contact! Contact!"

He glanced up at his nav screen and then past it to the point on the upcoming mountainside where the glowing blue dot had just appeared. Something had been lurking there in a shallow bowl - probably with its engines off and its exhaust ports covered with a thick layer of snow to throw off his sensors - but now it began to rise into the sky, turning slowly towards them. It was big, whatever it was - larger than all three of his 'Mechs put together.

A touch at his controls and he saw a new IFF tag, "Command, we've got a contact out here. IFF reads;" he read off the alpha-numeric. "Contact shows OSA."

"Correct, Training Alpha One. IFF is OSA," but there was a cackle of maniacal glee in the drill instructor's voice, "but IFF is now notionally hostile."

Notionally - imaginary. It was play-fighting but as far as the exercise was concerned the outcome would be real. The contact on the nav screen went from blue to red and simulated weapons locks began to appear on his screen.

"Well... Fuck." HanKok slid the channel over, "One, Two - target is notionally hostile. Engage - engage. All weapons free..."
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Jun 18, 2019 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jun 22, 2019 5:33 pm

High Energy Weapons Engineering Labs, CORE XIIX Deep Space Station, Somewhere between the Monoceros Ring and the Galactic Disc... Republic Date 174.728...

"...well, if you want wanky - I've got wanky right over here," Captain C'sgove replied, the Erae's tone mild despite the Director's interesting request. Gesturing first with his hand, he led her around various workstations where various researchers, scientists, and engineers were similarly working on various projects all of which involved - again - various weapons in various stages of development. These ranged from paper napkin sketches in crayon to complex holograms all the way up to completed prototypes that were being carefully discharged into barrels of water, lead shot, or in one particular case (and the label may well have been fallacious) an artificial black hole.

Given there weren't more than a handful of adult Erae in all of Republic space Katryna paid him more attention than she did them - at least until they reached their destination among the maze of cubicles, workstations, and industrial equipment. His species had been rescued from among the drifting remains of an enormous world-ship that had been constructed in an attempt to rescue themselves from a solar-scale disaster. The world-ship had destroyed itself but thousands of Erae had survived the destruction, sealing themselves away and slowly re-building a small society among the drifting wreckage. C'sgove had been one of the scientist-leaders who'd helped keep things running and after contact and rescue he'd pulled a double enlistment, first attending one of the Republic's many prestigious institutions of higher learning and then entering the service.

"Here you are."

The twisting passages had opened up into a kind of courtyard except this one was filled with what was clearly his personal office space. A loose collection of equipment, workbenches, and a desk or two all sat in a circle around a holo-projector in the middle. Ushering her inside, he stepped up to the display and activated it with a wave of his hand, "And here you are."

She didn't look impressed, "It's a rifle."

"Is it?" He reached out and took the holographic weapon off its display, turning it over in his hands and holding it up as though it had actual heft. It looked very much like one of the rifles that was available for issue to un-augmented individuals - the basic service weapon. Highly effective, lots of features, capable of fighting a battle on its own, but still - at least for the Republic - a rifle. Perhaps a little bit sleeker, though that was always a matter of personal taste.

"Sure looks like it."

"Something of the point - looks can be deceiving. It is not. This is in fact just a shell. Mostly constructed of PTU-557 for exceptional durability. All of the engineering," he curled his hand around a tapered drum just forward of the grip and gave it a spin, "is in here."

"Okay, so what's the wank?" she asked, closing in on getting tired of the song-and-dance. "Why isn't it a rifle?"

"Because it is a variation of one of our Nichol-Dyson HBM torpedoes. Which," he'd noticed her eyes going wide, "is why this is only a hologram. Too dangerous to keep the real thing here. This shell is also a self-contained boundary regulator. Inside here is a boundary manipulation that has been 'charged' with a one-second power draw from one of our stellar boundary manipulations. The boundary manipulation has then been programmed - by the gateway," he again tapped the weapon, "to release that energy in the specific configuration of a variable charged particle beam."

"With a yield that can strip a planet bare of life..."

"Not quite!" he clarified before she could list off any obscene numbers. "It is rate-limited - though still quite high. Equivalent to the main gun throw of one of our Typhoon grav-tanks."

Which was in the megaton range - and not some 'wasteful' explosive burst, either. Though often enough the results of that many highly-charged particles slamming into something else at that high of a percentage of the speed of light was typically enough to induce low-element fusion and thus a secondary explosion of its own; "Hookay... Tell me more."

"Other than that? All the usual bells and whistles with the addition of a little something new. Automatic yield determination. Engage the rifle's automatic target identification and engagement protocols - pull the trigger - and that sub-routine will determine just how much power to put into the shot to ensure a complete platform degradation. Infantry? Just a little. Power armor? Little more..."

"Low orbiting spacecraft?"

"Possible. It would have to be very close or you'd need relayed telemetry. But yes - though I'd expect anything aside from standard cardboard to be able to take at least a few shots. But that does mean a squad of Marines could effectively bring one down. It would be interesting to see."

Then the really important question, "So - what happens if someone happens to shoot one of these with a weapon capable of punching through however much PTU-557 and disrupting the boundary field generator?"

C'sgove shook his head, tendrils waving vigorously, "Don't do that. All of the energy left inside the boundary would be released at once, in every direction. Very unfortunate. In all likelihood the planet one might be standing on would be reduced to lifeless ash - and of course one should consider that any other nearby weapons would be similarly breached..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jun 26, 2019 12:11 pm

On the Ground, GEC-2310653D, Far Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 164.712...

"So. We've got a big hole in the ground, we've got eight standing stones, and we've got power?"

Digging the big hole in the ground hadn't been as easy as saying it had been - or giving the order. Nestled in a shallow bowl high between two mountains there was both the glacier itself and the glacier itself to contend with - as well as the standing stones. The simplest approach would have been to invoke Maxim 44 ~ If It Will Blow A Hole In The Ground, It Will Double As An Entrenching Tool ~ and hit the site from orbit with the ship's particle cannons on an appropriately low power. But there was the question of whether that might do something to the stones and thus that idea was discarded. Instead many hands made light labor and a large contingent of ARC3's had labored overnight to remove the ice and gravel from the site.

Robotic precision had left a perfectly cylindrical hole exactly one hundred meters in diameter and with a depth of twenty more and - as an afterthought - a set of stairs cut into one side that spiraled down to touch the floor just a quarter-turn after they started. Captain Blaine was standing at the top of these while her crew was mostly spread out around the base, instruments set up and pointed towards the standing stones where appropriate.

"We do have power, right?" she asked again as she began to trip down the steps one after another.

"We do have power," Lieutenant Commander Ingersol agreed. "Though I wish we had more light."

This far up the atmosphere 'was only' as thick as soup, a murky brown that seemed to cling to everything and leave a nasty film that slid off with one's fingers. Further down it would be near-impenetrable - not that most people would want to live there, seeing that the brown was also poisonous - but here they had beat back the gloom with a battery of lights arrayed around the upper rim of the pit and spaced out around the stones themselves. Further back from the edge the shuttles had their lights on as well and this cast long shadows all the way to the other side where the abandoned Qi lander sat looking muddy and forlorn.

"All the stones have - based on what we've seen so far - something around twenty, twenty-three percent of their original power left. I'd say we're good to go - if you want to go that is."

She reached the last step, stopped, and looked skyward though it did her no good. There wasn't anything to see and even if a miraculous hole appeared in the clouds she wouldn't have been able to see it anyway. After they'd appraised Fleet of the situation another ship had been dispatched and as the android workers were digging out the hole the RDF-Noctural had arrived all the way from the Ares Cluster. Something had happened then - strange goings-on with technical terms she didn't understand being thrown about - but after a few hours the Dreadnought's captain had declared the location secure.

Probably.

Probably would have to be good enough, "Okay - let's see if we can't get things started. But... I want to try something first. A hunch."

Thomas looked up at her, and across the space under the floating stones she could barely see Commander Timmons turn his head at the mention of that word, "A hunch?"

"Yep!"

Under her arm she was carrying a flat case, just manufactured to her specifications by her lead engineer. The Skri had doubted it would work - and so did she - but the request and idea was so unusual he'd pushed it through. Walking out into the middle of the circle of standing stones and looking up at them as they in turn loomed back at her she was made once again aware of how ridiculous the idea was. But; "It's worth a try," she said aloud as she placed the case square on the marker that her science officer had already prepared.

Inside the case was a modern reproduction of an old-fashioned record player and sitting on that turn-table was a reproduction of a particular old-fashioned record; 'Africa' by Toto. Maybe it had been left behind as yet another weird joke, maybe it was the key to another lost civilization. Mostly it just didn't make any sense. Even for the iWe.

"Unless, of course, they were Toto and they decided - for reasons stupid - to somehow include the key to unlocking the gateway between our universe and... whatever or whoever... in the lyrics or tone or harmonics or whatever of their song. Just so down the line a bunch of..."

Yeah. It didn't make any sense at all, but still - she pressed the play button and stood back as the record began to spin. Four minutes and thirty-five seconds later...

"And nothing happened. Well - worth a shot." She pressed the button and the record stopped, the swivel arm moving over to one side to click securely into its housing. "And now I have a record player. Actually," she held it up, "I don't want a record player. Deanna," she walked out of the circle to where the Seeker was sitting, "Seems like your thing. Go ahead - get your hipster douchebag on. Thomas?"

"Right... So, let's start with the fifth quatrain," he opened a case sitting among the others and took out one of the small artifacts that had been originally retrieved from the site by the Qi expedition, "and try this one..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:32 pm

Millochau Base, The Eastern Mangalan Border, Mars, Sol System... Republic Date 174.745...

"You know, there's something wrong about this," Captain Hurley declared as he stood on the turret of his command tank, eyes skyward as he watched a swarm of small dots at the far edge of the Martian atmosphere grow larger and larger.

"What's that?" his second-in-command asked as he too looked towards the approaching flock. "It makes sense to me. The OSA is supposed to be civvies. We're military. This is a civilian thing and its not like they are running around doing much police work. Gives them something to do, right?"

"No no - not that..."

The nearest of the approaching craft was now large enough that it was possible to just make out the white-gray-blue hexagon emblem of the Outer Systems Alliance on the side. It was an enormous gunship - dropped from a transport in far Martian orbit - and behind it were scores more like it as well as transports of a similar make. Like a flight of birds they were following the lead craft as it swept first to the south and then north again, heading for a group of lighted beacons that set out their assigned landing zones. These in turn had been set out by the 173rd, which was now arrayed across the western edge of the based with their fighting vehicles pointed politely east.

"...the OSA is mostly Hauyht, right? Rabbits. Look like them, breed like them - eat like them too. That's like sending the fox to guard the hen house. There's every chance they'll eat the MC out of house and home if they go in..."

His second held up his hands in mock objection, "Or - or! Hear me out now - the MC could get their collective shit together and sort this whole thing out before..."

The two collapsed into laughter and thus missed the first transport make its nearby landing, hatches swinging wide as first a pair of enormous hands gripped the side and then a blocky torso shouldered their way through to emerge onto the red soil of Mars. From the compartment beside it another emerged and then another while smaller bipedal robots and then a small horde of rabbit-form androids emerged. Forming up into a tight if lopsided formation, they stood at robotic attention while the first plodded towards the two at a measured pace.

Hurley stood, wiping a tear away from his eye and flinging it to the side, "Must be their CO. This will be interesting."

Interesting for more than a couple reasons. The briefing had backed up what he'd already known - the OSA had been heavily recruiting from the former-Chosen Dominion of Ynij military and so there was a high likelihood that there would be a good number of Qi among the OSA's volunteered 'civilian first responder' forces. His Marines had returned not too long ago from the war between the Republic and the Chosen Dominion and - depending on who they were and where they were from - friction might be inevitable.

And that was putting it mildly.

Hurley's division had rampaged across an entire planet and left a lot of dead behind. He was a soldier and war was war but staring across at someone who'd personally killed one, two - hundreds - of your friends, family, and neighbors would not be an easy thing. Drawing himself up to attention as the 'Mech got close enough to pick him out of a crowd he tucked one hand behind his back and crossed his fingers. The Dragoon - there'd been technical illustrations in the briefing - drew to a halt before sinking onto its haunches.

Atop the towering war machine an unseen hatch slid open and a second later a pair of ears poked up above a curl in the armor. Another few seconds and a form was visible, white-blue-and-gray uniform in motion as it bounced from one section to another until it - she - reached the nose and with a final leap made the jump onto the near pontoon of his Typhoon. Another few hops and she'd gained the summit of the turret, pulling herself up to the same formal stance as the captain; "Captain Hurley? General CusTer, Outer Systems Alliance."

"General," he put out a hand and she shook it, perhaps a bit too eagerly. "Welcome to Mars..."
Last edited by Sunset on Thu Jun 27, 2019 5:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Sunset
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Fri Jun 28, 2019 10:37 pm

Dr. Saryan Brilla's Condo, Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System... Republic Date 174.712...

"So I've gone over every scrap of sensor data we've got like a thousand times," Saryan said, her voice nearly rising into a whine at the end. "And with the Admiral's re-appearance adding some confirmation and a smidge more data, I'm convinced there wasn't any 'stealth' involved in his disappearance from Casablanca. More like..."

"Misdirection?"

She wiggled her hand palm down and fingers spread at Tithral's suggestion, "Eh, sorta. I think he - they - traveled directly to wherever they keep their giant space squid at the edge of Casablanca's atmosphere - right where there's a natural surge in radiation. Looking at the sensor data from their visit to the nebula, their FTL is really low-impact even when its impressive. Like they are going out of their way to keep a low profile."

"That makes sense," he answered, settling back onto her couch before stopping himself short, suddenly aware of a sticky patch of something that might once have been edible right where his neck would have rested.

"Which makes ya wonder why. Who are they worried about? Us? They have the means to deal with pretty much any civilization, near as I can tell. Which means whoever they are worried about is someone we don't know."

"Possible. It seems like every time we learn something new we also find someone who is already there. But back to the question of stealth?"

"I think they laid down that trail on purpose. Part of it was a distraction - so we wouldn't mess up the iWe ascension - but part of it was... Well, we don't know that part yet. Don't know the full story of the Dranhovi and the Qi and whoever it was that they were fighting. I think when we do we'll know why the DH pointed us in that direction. Speaking of which," she raised her wrist, though she wasn't wearing a watch. "Time to get back. Telecommuting. Nice to sleep in your own bed..."
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:02 pm

RDF Training Academy 2, Peabody (Colony World), Far Western Fringe of the Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.587...

"...what is a formal?"

That had been the first question asked as the gathered cadets had hastily assembled in their dress whites before boarding the array of buses that had been pulled into the academy quad. It was a question many had been asking silently as they'd searched through closets and drawers in search of the dress uniforms that they'd been issued for what would likely be a single event in their academy career; graduation. Thus most had been carefully folded and put aside where they would not suffer the indignations heaped upon their regular uniforms even by proximity.

"...it's a dance, I think," an unknown cadet answered as Quunto dutifully shuffled up the steps and down the center aisle between the double-row of seats to fill the first available spot. In all their haste to prepare themselves for the suddenly announced outing he'd gotten separated from his usual companion - now seated at the very back of the bus - and he found himself near the opposite and sitting just across the aisle from a familiar reptilian face.

He turned to look over his shoulder in the direction of the answerer and then towards the Duwerli, expecting the former teacher to come up with a more precise answer, but he was silent and oddly fixated on the front of the bus.

"Basically they're taking us into town to entertain the local government. Dinner, slow dancing - your best manners, no cussing, use the right silverware, that kind of thing."

Now Quunto was sharing the Duwerli's odd expression. If they were actually about to embark on some formal - Human - ritual designed to impress the local government with the cadet's poise and precision then they should have at least distributed some information on what to do and what not to do. Like how to dance, and what silverware even was. Taking a quick look around the back of the bus again, he tried to catch his friend's eye but failed before hunching down in his seat and then leaning over as the doors closed and the automated bus whirred into motion.

"I'll bet this is an exercise," he said in a half-whisper, catching the man everyone now referred to as Teacher's attention. The reptilian turned slightly in his direction but his eyes were still on the front of the bus; "It is - but of what nature?"

Quunto already had his guess ready, "Diplomacy. They want to prepare us to rapidly adjust to a new set of rules for interacting. Like if we'd just made contact with a new civilization. I think they call it 'not putting your foot in your mouth.'"

"Yes, that would be..." Teacher had glanced down to where Quunto's boots were resting on the floor. "You're wearing the wrong shoes."

Quunto looked down and sighed inwardly. He was exactly right - he'd grabbed the wrong pair and while everyone else was wearing polished black he was wearing something that looked okay with the uniform but wasn't exactly regulation dress whites.

"However, I do not think it will matter," he continued, craning his neck to look up to where the windscreen afforded those looking forward a sprawling view of their surroundings as they rapidly moved through the countryside. "Look - the lead vehicle is slowing."

Which would be the bus that the Commandant and his staff had boarded while the buses behind them had been stuffed to the gills with...

"Unsupervised cadets," Quunto breathed as Teacher nodded agreement. "It's a set-up."

"Precisely. Quickly now," he asked, glancing around at his few cadets, his voice still low. "As soon as the bus comes to a stop..."

No sooner had he said it than the bus did just that, pulling to a steady stop until it was piled up just behind the bus in front of it and the bus in front of that. Through the rear windows he could see cadets on the bus ahead standing up and then barely through the curve on either side he could make out the bipedal forms of their instructors and the Commandant as they walked away from their bus in a loose semi-circle.

"...now," and the Duwerli was already in motion as a hologram of the Commandant appeared shimmering in the air at the front of the bus. He ducked under it while Quunto spared it a glance; the Pyrk was wearing his own dress uniform, the only incongruity a holstered sidearm.

The voice was loud as it spoke and instantly all attention was on the front, except for that of the Duwerli as he knelt at an access panel that sat where a driver would otherwise be if the vehicle wasn't perfectly capable of getting safely from here to there without input otherwise; "Attention Cadets! The lead vehicle in your convoy," he paused dramatically and Quunto poked his head up just in time to watch as all the instructors fell over, sprawling out on the ground in either simple or dramatic fashion as was their personality, "has just been destroyed by an explosive. That leaves you," she pulled a pistol of a manufacture he didn't recognize from its holster, "without the leadership of your senior officers and in a potentially hostile situation!"

"...that's a stun pistol. Treznorian manufacture - it'll take down anything," a voice from beside him said as he looked over to find his companion just arrived. The golden-skinned warrior was looking up at the hologram even while he glanced down in an attempt to figure out what the two were doing."

"He's being nice. I wouldn't have mentioned the hostile part. Or given us this long to react." Under the Duwerli's pointed fingers the panel had come to life and he was now rapidly punching in instructions, "There had to be a reason why we were boarding civilian vehicles..."

"The exercise begins," he pulled the trigger and promptly fell over as a jolt of excruciating-looking energy surged through him; "Now."

The bus surged forward just as a fusillade of similar shots began to rain down on the convoy from the surrounding wilderness, rapidly cutting down those cadets who had ventured outside to either observe or help. Swerving around those fallen, the bus accelerated away from the ambush as Teacher reached out to grab the pole next to him and call out over the sudden screams of panic, "Stay away from the windows! The stun effect might still..."

A cadet who had been pressed up against the glass suddenly jumped away, their body twisting spasmodically before falling into a messy heap along with two others who had tried to catch them.

"...yes, that. The city is only twenty kilometers away - hopefully they have not been enrolled in this scenario..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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