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Sunset: Then, Now, Tomorrow (Maintenance & Role-Play)

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

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Postby Sunset » Thu Apr 21, 2022 12:54 am

Defense Force Academy 26, Ares... When..? Doesn't Matter, One Supposes...

"...Dunbar's Number refers to the number of other people that an individual can maintain a cohesive set of relationships with. Or, as he himself put it, 'the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar;" there was a moment of laughter at this and the instructor smiled before continuing. "Now, there are some caveats - Robin Dunbar was a Human anthropologist. First caveat. Second, he lived in a time and place where first the internet and then social networking - and then social media - were just coming out of their infancy. These three would have a huge impact on what Earth-origin Humans consider to be the manifestation of a relationship. No longer would friendship or fellowship be in large part defined by physical proximity but instead by shared interests."

"One hundred fifty. Or so," and she wrote this out on the board shortly followed by the number '5' with another five '5's quickly joining that in a circle around the first. "Five groups of five groups of five. Five, twenty five, one hundred twenty five. Can anyone guess where I'm going here?"

"You like simple mathematical progression?" someone called out from the back.

"Yes;" again, scattered laughter, "and No. It is a convenient progression - especially if you have to use your fingers and toes when doing math - but add them together. Five plus twenty five plus one hundred twenty five gives you one hundred fifty five. Dunbar's Number, 'or so'. Another question for the smart-ass in the back... How many people are there in a squad? Marine, if you're looking for a specific."

"Five?"

The answering voice was a question but she circled the '5' in the center regardless, "That's right, five. Anyone else have a guess as to the average number of crew aboard a starship these days?"

"Twenty five..!"

It wasn't really much of a guess as the answer was just under her pen and she drew circled these as well, "So on bridge duty you'll generally have... Five to seven other officers. Then you'll have the other twenty five members of the crew. Now a 'group' will have... That's right, five ships. Combat group, patrol group, exploration group. Which means - if you need some time for your fingers to cool down, I'll give you the answer," and she quickly wrote it out, "around one hundred twenty five people. Now, this is not a certainty - everyone is different - but for most of you I can near-guarantee that this," she tapped the '150' meaningfully, "will be the hundred and twenty five people in your immediate command group and about twenty to thirty people on the outside. Friends from before you joined up, family members."

"Now, Dunbar also supplied two other numbers. Five and ten. On average we - again, Humans - seemed to devout about forty percent of our available social time to the first and another twenty percent to the second. All in all, all of fifteen people occupied sixty percent of an average individual's social time. Can anyone tell me how long a bridge duty shift is?"

This time no one bothered to guess.

"Now, this arrangement seems to shift depending on just who you are. For a flag officer, it might be the Captains of the hundred and twenty five ships in your task force, the twenty four other flag officers in your area of operations, and then the five senior flag officers you report to. By and large this potential arrangement is maintained up and down the organizational structure because of this number. It is also a useful number for those of you who might end up on the organizational command side of things some day - or it could be a useful point of analysis."

"Say you're fighting an opponent who puts a single flag officer in charge of a thousand separate commands. Now, again - not everyone has the same number - but experience suggests that such an officer will unconsciously favor first that fifteen or so and then that hundred and fifty or so. The rest? Fuck 'em. Maybe this means they won't make effective use of the force under their command. Maybe they'll tend to use the same elements over and over again. Something to think about - maybe something useful."

"For a lot of people, this number here," she tapped the '150' again, "Is just about the number of people that we're 'okay' with thinking of as people. We know their names, we know their stories - again, we're okay with grabbing a random drink at the bar with them. And often enough everyone outside of this number... Well, we don't really think of them as 'people'. Unconsciously, of course. Some people have a really easy time shifting people into and out of their 'tribe'. Others?"

"...not so much."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Apr 23, 2022 11:32 am

Anathema Operations Center, CRUX 143 Station, Deployed Near The Kayaj System, In the Central Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy... Republic Date 177.951.153... Under New Management...

"...alright - yeah, we can do that," Bolton decided, tabbing through one of several screens until he found one that was no longer useful. While he began to type, Charlie squirted her chair across the gap and looked between the three to ask the obvious; "Do what?"

"Xex here wants to run for office," the first answered distractedly while the two saurionoids looked over his shoulder with apparent interest. "Ilails too, right?" he asked, sparing a half-glance up to confirm a nod before continuing.

It would certainly give them something to do. For now the question of the 'Gods' origin story was at something of a dead end. Or at least parked off to the side somewhere, waiting for the right part from a very busy supplier. Similarly, the extraction operation had been refined and streamlined until neither needed to be directly involved. On worlds like Terra Incognito, Chuh-Yu, and Zephemo communities of Kayajoren refugees had become well-established - to the point where most were no longer considered 'refugees' under the Treaty of Gathol.

"But we do not wish to cheat," Ilails put in, again with a confirming nod from his friend. "To truly change our society, it must be legitimate! To begin such a thing based on a lie would be offensive."

"...and if anyone found out - hoo boy," Bolton muttered. "Hell to pay. But there's already a bit of a problem. See, the Regime is supposed to be a technocracy but as near as I can tell," he gestured to the screen where the results of his search were displayed in all their very brief glory, "there's no modifier there. How does one become part of the technocracy? How did the original members of the executive committee gain their seats? Claims aside, this looks to be just about as technocratic as the old USSR was communist - hammer-and-sickle socks but little else."

"...no elections?" It wasn't really a question but Charlie followed it up with another, "What about some kind of testing?"

"Most importantly, what happens when a member of the executive committee dies?" Ilails put in.

"Well..."

There was a few moments of watching and waiting as Bolton again ran a search through the Regime's extracted archives. This time a number of results came up - three, in fact. A brief skim of all three and he had their answer, "They die. There's been three members of the executive committee who have died since the Regime was established. All were original members and there's no mention of a replacement. Looking at the voting records..." Again, a pause and then, "That's it. The seats are eliminated. If the entire executive committee were to die, there'd be no more executive committee."

"And no more Regime. The bureaucracy would probably keep rolling along until some major crisis and..."

"Another government would rise up to take its place," Xex suggested. "Just as they replaced the hereditary theocracy."

"Which - we could make that happen." Charlie pantomimed working the bolt on a very old-fashioned rifle and taking aim at an imaginary target on the back wall. "Bang. The old Soviet method. These aren't exactly good people - they went along with the whole thing with the torture and the terminations and the sweeps. But you two don't want to cheat;" they both shook their heads, "So... I think we're still going to have to cheat."

Bolton shoved himself away from the desk and Ilails squeezed past him, taking the opportunity to read the messages in question for himself, "I agree. At least a little. Or you two can wait twenty, thirty years for the rest of the committee to die off. They're not exactly spring chickens. I'd suggest we cheat - just a little," and he held his thumb and forefingers just this far apart to demonstrate, "by passing another order down from the Supreme Executive Committee - part of the same process that established Directive 58008 - that establishes a proper order of succession and criteria for membership. If you're willing to go a little bit further," again, the fingers spread to several centimeters, "We could take the opportunity to pare the numbers down, push some of the members who've basically fucked off to their private sex mansions into 'retirement' - make the whole thing more streamlined and give you two a better chance to be the change you want to see."

"What would you suggest?"

"Well..." He turned around and gestured Ilails away from the keyboard, "I was looking at the map of the Thoqraen Sprawl the other day. Bored, nothing better to do."

A few manipulations and a large image appeared in the air. It was the city as seen from space - a huge organic sprawl (thus the name) along the eastern seaboard of the sole northern continent. Multiple factors had come together to mostly restrict the Kayajoren to that single strip of land. What few settlements there were outside it were small and typically remote. On top of this were marked out the borders of the city as well as the internal borders of the various administrative districts.

"Seventeen districts - Sectors, officially - and there's something like thirty-seven members of the executive committee..."

"...a committee being an organism with... uh... seventy-four legs and no brain," Charlie joked.

"Yeah. Which is way too many. So, each district selects one member of the committee... But we need something different. Something that sounds 'technocratic'. How about each sector elects a 'challenger' who will then face off against the current seat holder in a... 'test of knowledge'. These guys are supposed to be scientists, so something like an academic test. Math, science..."

"...engineering, biology - medicine," Xex suggested with a nod. "The winner takes or retains the seat. Or replaces a member who has died or retired..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Apr 23, 2022 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Apr 24, 2022 8:20 am

RDF-Edge of Glory, Docked at Sahlstrom Station, Mid-Central Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy... A Day Or So Later...

"...no one seems to know who made them, Captain. I can tell you this thought - the UIK seemed especially keen to make sure we knew it was not them. Gave us a whole list of reasons why not and in fact I think that's the only time I've ever seen one of them with some trace of emotion. In their view, these things are too high-tech to be drifting around the galaxy and according to our experts they're right. Whoever made these things has put a lot of technologies that we'd rather not see widely used and abused out there."

The Captain and the Admiral were almost but not quite two of a kind with Admiral Narlnel Yril'Lysane having the same black skin but in the matte coal ash coloration common to the Drow. Instead of the vestigial sensory tendrils of the Coatlique and thus the Captain, she sported a long mane of raven-black hair with a net of tight braids holding it firmly behind her pointed ears. Both were in their respective offices with only a few personal effects altering the mirrored appearance of the two spaces.

"But no one has ever seen these before?" Calindra asked, glancing over to where a plus-sized holographic representation of one of the cartridges slowly rotated between her and the Admiral. "That seems unlikely."

"Pretty much all of them noted that they could make such a thing, but again some were more careful than others in noting that they wouldn't. The only people we haven't heard back from yet is the Great Civilization and we pretty much expect the same answer from them. So at this point I think you should proceed under the presumption that these were a one-time production. What about the crew of the smuggler?"

"Airtight, Admiral... Multiple interrogations, questions against their logs - at this point they know they're screwed but they've all got the same story. Either they're the best liars we've ever seen, we're the worst interrogators ever, or they're telling the truth. The captain says they took those containers on as a one-time haul. Move them from here-to-there, no questions asked. The rest of the crew either didn't know they were aboard or just did what the captain told them."

Narlnel nodded and put down her cup of coffee. Yes, it was coffee - in the secure environment of her office, the holographic link wasn't just capable of light and sound but of scent and aroma; if Calindra put her hand close enough, she could probably even feel the heat off the cup even if she couldn't actually touch it, "Which means they're not slavers - unless you can come up with proof that they knew that these chips were people."

The Coatlcue shook her head, "There's nothing on the crates to suggest it and according to the captain they'd have refused the haul if they'd have known. Other than that, it's all just sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll - that's what Lieutenant Abyn called it." The Drow answered that with a bit of a grin and Calindra went on, "Which aren't illegal, as far as we're concerned. Which does beg the question, Admiral - why did we stop this ship in the first place? And gummy-bears in the plasma conduits? That doesn't seem like something Fleet Intel would do or even come up with."

"Good guess. Yes - we were keyed into this particular ship by Special Projects. Not sure how they knew about it, but I'd assume they were also the ones that gummed up the works. Which is also why they wanted things to go down like they did. According to the intercept request, all they knew was that this ship was moving an unusual cargo from Point A..."

That was a literal 'Point A' and the Captain knew it; 'Point A was an aptly-named shadowport on the right side of the Alpha-Beta border at near the southernmost point. It was a popular meeting point for scurrilous types, mostly consisting of an old H3 refueling station someone had abandoned around a gas sub-giant someone else had taken to calling 'Urectum'. She'd never been, but it was now likely to be 'Glory's next destination.

"...to Point B. Which was..."

"Varn's World;" which was again one of those out-of-the-way places that no one really cared about too much. With an environmental profile that crept up to 'barely habitable' and kissed it on the nose before shyly retreating and no notable resources, it was mostly a rest-stop for the previously-mentioned 'scurrilous' types. "Where someone else would pick them up. At this point though our smuggler is going to be late."

"And there's probably a watcher on 'Sahlstrom who's already passed the fact that this ship and this crew has been hauled in. Information like that can run from one side of the DarkNet to the other pretty quickly, Captain. I'd suggest that either the next leg of the journey has already left - can't make any money if you're not hauling cargo - or has been warned off. Still, your choice. If you want to try to run the route down through Point A, I'll put someone else on 'Varn's World or vis versa."

"Or the smugglers," Cali mused. "Turn them loose, see if they try to contact someone to try and get their money. Thomas would say that's a long-shot..."

"And I'd agree. I'll put 'Solaukoph on that one." As the newest ship attached to the Admiral's diffuse command, the 'Solaukoph was going to get the left-overs; those assignments that none of the other four ships wanted and that might not need to be done - or that could be done via one of the TRIPWIRE arrays and were thus just make-work, "Give them something to do."

"Then we'll head for 'Point A," the Captain decided, pushing her chair back from her desk and standing with a bit of a stretch. "Unless someone's standing around 'Varn's World with a cardboard sign that says 'People Smugglers' on it, I suspect we won't find anything there. Bad people tend to forget things when ships like ours show up..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun May 01, 2022 8:21 am

Republic of Sunset Special Projects Annex, (Echo Puce) Security Wing, Camp R, Titan, Sol System... Republic Date... That's on a 'Need to Know' basis and you don't need to know...

"...Ta-da!" Kraus swept the cloth away from the pedestal with a flourish and took a low bow, a cloud of glitter and streamers shooting up behind him. As thought they'd come flying out of his... Well. Again - you don't 'need to' or really 'want to' know, do you? "I call it... The reconfigurator!

It took the technician less than six words to sully the moment, such as it was, "It looks like a sex toy."

It was, in fact, a sex toy. Just sitting in the middle of the display pedestal with pink light from the panel below it giving it a bit of a 'mysterious' appearance. What type of sex toy? Well, we're not going to say. Let's just say that some people don't like accurate descriptions of things - size, shape, color, modes, functions, after-market exhaust, secondary appendages, methods of reproduction, pronouns, verbiage, paint schemes, or branding - and move on.

"Actually, this," and again Doctor Kraus flourished, stepping forward to wave the red kerchief just bare inches in front of the technician's face, "Is the reconfigurator!;" how he managed to bold his own words is a question best left to the noted philosopher Wade Winston Wilson; "and that is the test object. Testing object? Test subject? Hmm..."

And he tossed the kerchief up in the air where it drifted for a moment before being snatched out of the air by the at-least-somewhat interested technician. Or at least somewhat cautious...

"...I'll have to work on that bit. Bit of brain fog recently. Can't say I feel altogether here. Though one supposes as I am not really here-as-in-here..."

"...alright, so what's it do Doc?"

"I am glad you asked!" He whirled suddenly, rounding on the technician with a gleeful expression on his... Well, the display light was still on so let's just say his normally-pasty complexion was cast in an odd shade of pink. Like someone aged six had drawn him with a box of (eight) crayons. With his strange blue eyes and widow's peak, he kinda-sorta looked... Well, stupid. He looked pretty stupid as he returned to snatch the kerchief out of the tech's hand and hold it up, flipping it from one side to the other.

"The reconfigurator takes one thing and makes it into another thing. Pretty convenient, eh?!"

"Why?"

"...the letter or the word? Why are you asking such a dumb question?" The scientist seemed to settle on that as the best possible answer of the two and stalked across the floor to the door before suddenly realizing he lived in the twenty-second century and calling out, "Lab lights up - two-thirds, daylight. The pink was giving me the heeby-jeebies," he added as an aside as he went over to one of the workbenches, the technician following after him.

~Now some might ask the question, 'Technicians normally assist the scientists and engineers in their duties, right? So why is Doctor Kraus always introducing these guys to some new invention? Shouldn't they already know what he's working on, having assisted him during the development process with various tasks and processes?'

The short answer is that Fredrick Kraus preferred to work alone.

The long answer is that he was often forced to work alone due to the clever combination of a nefarious personality and his wife's species preference for a legume-base diet. This...

As thought they'd come flying out of his... Well. Again - you don't 'need to' or really 'want to' know, do you?

...was not wholly farcical in its assumptions.~

"As I said, the reconfigurator turns one thing into another thing," he answered. "Hand me that, will you?"

He was pointing to the sex toy and the technician dutifully-but-carefully picked it up, resorting to a pair of salad tongs he had made a habit of carrying with him at all times. Placing it gingerly in the Doctor's outstretched hand and then taking a loooong step back, he watched in nervous yet eager anticipation as Kraus cleared the chamber and inserted the plastic flag that indicated that it was, at least for the moment, incapable of accidental discharge.

"For instance," he put the cucumber in the middle of the napkin and wrapped it tight, "Let's say you want a sandwich and all you happen to have is this twin-turbo, dual-overhead cam, high-flow exhaust purple people-pleaser. Well, the reconfigurator... 'Make me a sandwich'... Can do that."

After a suitably dramatically dull wait, he uncurled the now-napkin and displayed the contents which were indeed a sandwich; a Reuben, actually. Once the author had finished regretting he had not purchased the ingredients for the same on his last trip to WinCo, Kraus folded the cloth it and took a big bite, "Shee? A shanwich. Pretty good too. Thick toashted rye, jush melted shwish," he chewed. "'kraut. Delicious. Want some?"

The technician waved him off before the offer could be fully extended, "But that was a sex toy..."

"Yeah, but they're both mostly CHON," was the counter, delivered with a good amount of gesturing, crumbs, and scattering of sauerkraut. "Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen. That's what the reconfigurator does. Some nanotechnology, some microtechnology, a micro-fusion reactor here in the corner," he flicked at a slightly thicker corner of the napkin, "and there you go. Couldn't do solar - not enough juice," he added, dabbing at the corner of his mouth before taking another big bite and ruining the effort.

"S'fanstashtick. The shanwich and the reconfigurator. 'Figure every field agent will be carrying one in shichs days. Sheven."

"...sure, Doc. But who wears a tuxedo these days..?"


The Casino Flagrante Delicto, Sahlstrom Station, Mid-Central Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy... Shichs Days Later...

...the little black ball bounced and rattled around the wheel as the golden balls spun counter to it, the smooth-polished wood a tasteful accent to the red and black rectangles that blurred together before coming to a slow stop. In the background there was the constant chatter of patrons cursing their luck or the fortune of others, the whirl and click-clack-click of slot machines taking the coins of the unwary, the ring-and-flash of the occasional winner, and the steady calls of the dealers as they slapped cards onto green felt to the eager anticipation of the players. Here and there waiters circulated, offering liquid refreshment and lubrication to those yet unwilling to part with their wealth while burly types stood here and there watching for those who might try to separate the casino from its own ill-gotten gains.

It was a delightfully intoxicating atmosphere, all hurry and caution.

At the oval table sat the final three, the dealer having watched over them as they had winnowed their ranks from seven. Now they were an ace - a young woman in a crisp white shirt with just two buttons open and a pair of sunglasses that hid every flicker of her dark eyes - and a spade - a country-looking fellow who had survived more because of the size of his stake rather than any skill with the cards - and...

"...Penguin. James Penguin," the last answered, delicately edging up a single card before turning to the woman with a blank smile, "...and you..?
Last edited by Sunset on Thu May 05, 2022 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Thu May 05, 2022 10:43 am

Shadowport 'Point A', In Orbit of Urectum, The Ass-End of the Alpha-Beta Border... Republic Date 177.985.660...

...because bad people tended to forget things when a ship like hers showed up. That didn't mean Captain Calindra was all that happy about leaving 'Glory in someone else's admittedly-capable hands, even if she was technically only a body-jump away from the chair. Still, approaching Point A as just another insignificant part of the criminal element that called at 'Point A would help her much further along in her assignment than would showing up with a beyond-the-state-of-the-art warship under her butt would.

All of which went a long way in explaining why it was a disgruntled-looking YT-2220-series light freighter that made touch-down on the deck of 'Point A's largest landing bay. With something like a certain drunken ease, the rear landing pads touched first, skipped a step, and then all four settled down with a hiss of pressurized something. In just as much time as it took her to free herself from the grasp of the harness, a pair of 'docking officials' - in heavy quotes - had meandered their way across the bay to stand at the foot of the boarding ramp as it descended, warning lights spinning yellow and orange.

"...twenty-two by thirty-four," one of the two said to herself as she punched something into the awkward-looking computer she wore on her arm while the other waited patiently next to her, hands tucked into the pockets of his grubby coverall. A stencilled 'Arrow-A' on the chest and shoulder at least suggested - in faded orange - that they were somehow associated with the station. This gave the small party hope enough to pause as they waited for her to complete her calculations, "...so seven hundred forty eight. Divided by ten... Docking fee will be seventy four point eight credits a day..."

"...or its equivalent in precious metals, product, or labor," the second put in helpfully; "Yeah. That. First day is payable up front," she held out a hand, "subsequent days are payable before departure. Try to run and we'll tractor your ship, shoot it full of holes, and pay off the fees with whatever's left."

"I..."

"...as a side note," the second again interrupted, this time before Calindra could drop a credit chip into the woman's hand, "we have a wide selection of nearly-new and gently-used ships for sale," he pointed to one side of the bay with a used-car salesman's smile. "If you're looking to trade up or down."

Neither of which were completely accurate. Most of the ships in the lineup were in nefarious states of disrepair with cowlings missing or crudely taped in place over what were doubtless empty spaces where vital equipment that could be sold on at a good profit had been. If there was a bargain in the lot it was well-hidden but neither was the Coatlique apt to do more than cast a polite eye over the offerings. More interesting was the rest of the bay.

Ships from all over the galaxy and possibly beyond stood here and there. Some were being attended to either by their crew or by technicians hired from the port staff. Others were silent while still others were clearly long silent, with a couple having been draped with tarps or converted right there in the bay into more-or-less impermanent housing.

"Thanks, but this should cover," she thumbed a hidden button on the chip that in turn displayed the amount present on the chip, "Today and the next three or four days."

"Unless she mysteriously grows a few meters," Thomas suggested with a grin. "She's a healthy eater, after all!"

"Yeah, right. Fueling and maintenance services are extra," the woman answered before jerking her head towards a small office built into the bulkhead between the bay and the station proper. "If you're interested, ask them. Not my job," and she took the chip with a sharp 'snatch' before turning on her heel and stalking off, the sales weasel in tow.

The voice of Lieutenant Markina whispered in her ear, "Alright, Captain - how do you want to do this thing?" The blond woman looked edgy. Like the others, she was dressed in mufti with embellishments that presumably established her as some manner of smuggler, scavenger, or pirate. In her case it was a pair of ugly-looking pistols, one in a low gunslinger-style holster on her thigh and the second in a cross-rib holster just under her breast. Even with an artful tear to expose some cleavage, the security officer looked more like she was looking for a bar brawl than fornication.

"We'll split up to cover more ground," she said, returning the sideways whisper after a moment's consideration. "Thomas and I will head for the bar..."

Places like this always-but-always had some kind of drinking establishment which was a prime source in turn for rumors and speculation of all types.

"...and you and Gargamel will take the hangar bays - but try to stay close to the ship. If something goes bad, we'll try to meet up here and bail."

Which might seem an odd idea coming from a person who wasn't in her real body but there was method to the strangeness. If they simply bailed out if things got rough, the subsequent collapse would be immediately suspicious. That in turn might clue others in on the fact that the Republic had sent operatives to the station. That in turn might lead to evidence disappearing and that would of course be bad. Better to play the role, even if that meant sticking around to get shivved in an alley before 'dying'.

"Yessir," and the Lieutenant abandoned her normal impulse to salute, instead peeling off from the pair with a look towards Gargamel and a nod towards a ship where the crew - such as one might misapply the term - was 'busy' 'making repairs' by lounging around a tarp where the various parts of some damaged something had been carefully strewn around.

"To the bar?" her remaining crew asked with an answering nod; "To the bar..!"
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Postby Sunset » Sat May 14, 2022 2:19 pm

The Anidia Sea, The Planet Kayaj, In the Central Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy... Republic Date 178.011.503...

"...hell of a day for sailing," Admiral Hal'Sey noted dryly as yet another wave broke over and then temporarily submerged the bow of the battleship. Foamy water puddled and then ran, draining from where it had momentarily turned in on itself behind bulkheads and gun casements. The decks were clean of all except the sea and that disappeared only to be replaced again and again by the waves.

Dryly; except for a small trace of a smile under his furry upper lip and hard pink nose.

Sailing along the equator, the question of whether the storm was a hurricane or a typhoon varied by the hour. It had wandered mercilessly east to west and the eye had passed over the fleet not an hour previous. That had given the sailors a chance to secure what hadn't been but they were not now idle.

Trapped inside? Yes - that worked nicely!

Hal'Sey had ordered a series of drills with the waves pounding their hulls merely adding a touch of realism. Then when they would be right in the middle of something he'd call out a different scenario with a theoretical higher priority. The Elves called it 'Advanced Training Fuckery' - and given the number of times he'd been greeted with that particular curse, it was spot-on.

He was just about to reach for the brass bell that hung next to his battle station - a movement that would have surely brought a groan from the deck officers - when one broke in on his malice; "Captain..."

Captain Rob'Ers perked up, glad for any interruption. To say that the Admiral would be unwelcome on the bridge of his own flagship would be a step too far but today of any day Hal'Sey was pushing it. The Hauyht stepped over to the call-out's station and the Admiral bent an ear to listen in.

"Sir, long range imagery. One of the local fishing boats..."

More-or-less the native saurians kept close to the great sprawling cityscape that was their only major population center on the planet. Fishing and thus fishing vessels were one of the very few exceptions. Even these boats though were far out of their typical ranges - both why the Admiral had taken note and why they were keeping an eye on them. Perhaps they were after some seasonal catch; there were nearly a dozen spread out across the eastern shore of the equatorial sea and they'd been there since before the storm blew up.

"...looks like they are in distress, Captain. Thermals are dropping rapidly;" which meant it was likely a fossil fuel burner, coal or diesel; "and she's changed course to run with the wind. Adrift, Sir."

"...hmm," Rob'Ers turned and shot a squint back at the Admiral. According to their contract they were to 'avoid contact with the locals'. The OSA was there to assist with the recovery of specified artifacts, nothing more. The only reason the fleet was still there was because there didn't seem to be much else to do. Or at least much else that required a blue-water task force.

"Adrift?" Hal'Sey asked, his tone carefully neutral. "Or would you perhaps say, given the state of the vessel and local weather conditions, that it is on the verge of floundering?"

Adrift was bad, of course. But a vessel could more-or-less safely drift for a while - unless it was about to run into something - while floundering was another thing entirely...

"Captain!" This time the call-out was more dire and clearly more directed at the two rather than at the one. "Short-wave radio! Distress call!"

The bridge went silent and the Lieutenant cranked the volume until they could all hear a voice repeating a familiar sequence if not in a familiar tongue.

"...I'd say floundering, Sir!" the first officer put in after the message began to repeat.

"Very good;" well, bad, but the Admiral didn't bother to correct himself as he headed for the hatch way. "Prep the ready flight for launch, rescue divers and corpsmen," he reached for a weatherproof parka hanging next to the hatch that was decked out in this season's colors of safety orange and reflective yellow striping. On the rear deck a crew of water-logged sailors would already be prepping the ship's grav-rotors for launch and he was clearly intent on joining them.

"Tell them I have a minute thirty," which similarly meant they too had a minute and a half to get their craft unlashed and into the air, "after which they are to leave with or without me..!"
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Postby Sunset » Thu May 19, 2022 12:53 pm

The Anidia Sea, The Planet Kayaj, In the Central Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy... One Minute Twenty Six Later...

"...terrible day for flying, Admiral," but some might casually suggest that aerospace pilots are born crazy and the woman at the controls seemed to be no exception. As soon as Hal'Sey had scrambled aboard - with only an ear's length to spare - she'd yanked open the throttle and shot away from the deck nearly horizontal. The battleship had been heading into the stormwinds and with a hurricane tailwind they were soon rocketing along at an unsafe pace.

This put them right above the waves, the nose of the grav-rotor drifting up and down as the pilot rose for the highest and dipped again into the following trough. Seated behind and between the pilot and co-pilot on one of the spartan jump-seats, Hal'Sey switched between looking over his shoulder towards the storm-beaten grey of the oncoming horizon and back into the cargo compartment. Behind and in front of him the rescue divers and corpsmen waited, dressed like neon orange popsicles in their survival suits and wearing expressions that ranged from nervous to eager. Outside they had outpaced the winds but not the rain and the craft shuddered under their feet as they hammered through one wall of rain after another.

"Winds are at one hundred twenty knots at twenty five meters," the co-pilot added as though that meant something. That put the storm as a Category 4, at least according to the old Earth reckoning. The aircraft was moving faster though; "Time to target, three minutes."

"Any change in the ship's status?!"

In answer to the Admiral's question, the co-pilot reached forward and turned a knob on his console and for a moment they could all hear the voice of the distant radio operator repeating his call. Then a corpsman slapped a pair of headphones into his hands and the message cut out as he turned them on and adjusted them over his ears. A moment later it returned as an echo before the co-pilot cut the speakers.

"...no change, Sir. They're listing and taking on water. Doubt they'll sink - no reported hull damage - but they're not going anywhere;" except where the wind might take them. Hal'Sey nodded. That actually was a significant change but one he'd missed in his dash from the bridge to the 'rotor pad. There was still a risk there though; the eastern coastline was mostly shallow, tropical waters. Any number of reefs and small atolls dotted them and the storm could blow them right over the top of one before they could do anything about it.

"No one in the water though - good thing," the pilot added. "They don't look like they'd be strong swimmers. Minute and twenty out," she added and he spared a glance over his shoulder at the screen - but even without the storm they were still too far and too low to see the fishing trawler over the curve of the horizon.

Turning back to the compartment, he settled into his seat and crossed his arms. As interesting as it was to watch the crew work, this was and should ultimately be their show. For a moment he considered crossing to the very back where there was an awkward space without a seat but the corpsmen and divers were in the last seconds of their own preparations. Already the crew chief - in yellow instead of orange - had laid out a coiled cable and harness as well as some brightly-colored floats. Nothing good could come of throwing them off at the last instant; not when lives were on the line.

"Coming up on the boat now," and here was where he wished for a better seat. The rescue team was looking out the windows or forward past him to the cockpit glass but all he could 'see' was what the co-pilot announced. "Two rafts in the water, crew on the deck. She's listing hard to port and her bow's below water."

"Hang tight," the pilot ordered, her tone as serious as the storm. "They're under their rigging;" one of the deck cranes. A convenient place to hold on but trying to keep the grav-rotor steady in this wind would be near-impossible and there was the risk they'd get tangled in something if she drifted too close. "I'm going to park her over the bow!"

"Roger," the crew chief called forward, moving to the port hatch controls and sliding it open with the flip of a switch. "Everyone into the pool..."

"...'How'Ell One, this is 'Norris One and Two. We're inbound in two with additional personnel," a new voice crackled over the headset and the Admiral swiveled his head around to try and catch a glimpse of the incoming craft. 'Chuck Norris - it was best to just not ask why?! and roll with it - was one of the task force's destroyers and had apparently launched its own air wing in support. It wasn't under his orders but it was the right initiative and he kept his hatch shut.

A good thing too; failing to catch sight of the grav-rotors, he turned back to the floundering ship just as a sneaky wave flung itself over the side. Cresting over where the crew had taken shelter, it flowed away to leave four where there had been six.

"Bodies in the water!" the crew chief shouted, leaning out past the door. "Divers, go!"

As quick as that, two of the orange-suited rescue divers had reached the door, taken a quick look to see just what they were jumping into, and dropped the ten-odd meters into the waves. Feet pointed and arms crossed over their chest, the two hit the water nearly together and with barely a splash. Moments later they surged to the surface and headed for the nearest sailor, arms churning against the waves. Above them the chief followed up with a pair of flotation bars before tossing the free end of a lift seat as well.

"'Norris One, this is 'How'Ell One," the pilot called out, gingerly pushing the control column around to center her aircraft between the splashing sailors. "We'll get the pair in the water. Suggest you hover over the bow and put your divers down there for recovery of those still on the deck. 'Norris Two, suggest you circle. Three might be a crowd, over..."

"Roger;" "Confirmed, 'How'Ell One. Circling with eyes open."

"You know, Admiral," the co-pilot spoke up, his tone almost conversational as he scanned both his instruments and the cockpit display for any sign of the two incoming, "I seem to recall that the locals believe in gods sent from the stars. From below, we probably look just like a star - or angels. You might want to be ready for an interesting question or two..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sun May 22, 2022 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun May 22, 2022 9:56 pm

Anathema Operations Center, CRUX 143 Station, Deployed Near The Kayaj System, In the Central Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy... Republic Date 178.008.100...

"...so, what we have is a government that calls itself a 'technocracy' that doesn't have either a method of succession or continuation. Kinda sounds like the old People's Republic of China," Bolton tossed the ball again, bouncing it first off the wall and then off the desk and then back into his hand. "Which wasn't a Republic, wasn't governed for or by the people, and was really just an overly large rogue province. That happened to like wearing communist socks under their autocratic pajamas."

"So you don't particularly like your idea of setting up elections?"

"Yes and no. Yes, because that's what we do and it works pretty well. Winston Churchill, et cetera, et cetera, yada, yada. But it feels a bit too blatant. At least here. If I were down there and suddenly they're holding elections after an un-elected hereditary theocracy was supplanted by an un-elected 'technocracy'..." He managed to put his fingers up to add the air quotes as the ball bounced from desk to wall and up again to an outstretched hand, "I'd be looking real funny at whoever told me about these elections things. Have they ever had elections? It really sounds like they've never given anything other than two more-or-less benevolent forms of autocracy a chance."

"What are you thinking then?"

"Well, a technocracy is supposed to be governance by technical experts. To spin that around, experts in a particular field are supposed to manage particular areas of the government. We're somewhat technocratic, by a loose-y-goose-y definition. The Secretaries are confirmed by the Senate, which is elected, but they are generally culled from either the existing bureaucracy or seconded from academia or business. And yes, I used 'culled' on purpose. It's not like we have some moron whose qualification for government office was selling a course taught by himself on how to get elected to government office being elected to government office."

"Someone you know?" Charlie asked, leaning back at her desk with her fingers laced behind her head and through her hair; it did seem a little on-the-nose.

"Just something I came across. But. So. A technocracy is supposed to be governance by technical experts. Which would then mean there should be a group of individuals whose expertise is in... selecting technical experts for specific roles in government. As near as we can tell, the current government selected itself and not really all that well. You could argue that a generic scientist is a 'technical expert' but a technical expert in what? Nose picking? That doesn't make them an expert in transportation - maybe in mining, though..." he mused before another pitch sent the ball bouncing again.

"So what we do is... Do the Kayajoren already have such a beast? Does such a thing actually exist anywhere? Most of the 'technocracies' I can think of are either like ours - some form of representative government with technocratic elements," she emphasized, "Or autocrats wearing circuit board sneakers. Socks? Socks or sneakers?"

"Sneakers. With lights on them. Like you sometimes see on the kids."

"Then we'll go with sneakers. But now that I think about it, I seem to recall reading somewhere about someplace where they have a system specifically for educating judges. Not really-truly the same thing, but it would be something of a place to start. But it isn't going to be something done next week. I mean, except that there's literally no one that is currently an expert on selecting technical experts so if even one Kayajoren showed up claiming to have a BA in... Technocratic Government? ...it would be hard to call BS on them."

"Though neither Xex or Ilails have any kind of higher education. They're both blue-collar workers, or were. Smart enough, good people, but..."

"...not qualified for something along those lines. Meanwhile, if we foist off elections on them... Yeah - our guys 'might' get elected, but it's still a subversion of the existing system. Which is working 'okay' - 'for now'."

"Inertia," Bolton agreed. "The current government is working because the previous government did a good job except for that whole 'dying early' part. So - do we want a revolution? Or do we want to set up a school of government, wait a few years, then see how it all goes?"

"Depends. Are you willing to run this by Xex? And what do you think he'll say..?"
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Postby Sunset » Tue May 24, 2022 11:53 am

The Anidia Sea, The Planet Kayaj, In the Central Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy... The Story Continues...

"...say Chief," the co-pilot called back, his gaze lingering at the starboard edge of the cockpit display, "you see anything in the water? Dark shape? About three hundred meters out?"

They were still in the air, the first sailor to be plucked from the water dangling from the end of the cable as the crew chief winched them aboard. From his perch at the edge of the cabin door, he had an excellent view of the ocean and glanced up just long enough to confirm what the pilot suspected, "Yeah - something big out there."

Twisting in his seat, it was the Admiral's turn to confirm the call-out. For those who might have been raised on Earth or any number of other worlds the species had been imported to the immediate recognition would have been the same; shark! And a big one at that. Hal'Sey had been raised elsewhere but the efficient shape and purposeful movement suggested a matching word; predator. With the crew chief busy and added impetus to get the rest of the sailors off the ship and out of the water, he left his seat in a crouch and scurried back to the little alcove at the base of the tail.

"You're busy - I've got it," he suggested, though it was as good as an order. Yanking a lever on the ceiling, he pulled down first a seat and then a console, flipping a switch on the second as soon as he'd hustled into the chair. Below his feet on the belly of the grav-rotor a hatch split and a gun dropped down to swing and pivot as it cycled through the arming sequence. Slapping the switch to put fire control on manual - large predators being somewhat finicky for the auto-tracker and warning shots more-so - he swung the barrel over and put the aim point a few meters in front of the thing.

"See if I can't scare it off. Short burst across its nose - firing!"

Outside the continuous pounding of the rain and roar of the wind was momentarily pierced by the sharp crack of the accelerator. Ahead of the monster water jumped in a quick line with the hypersonic projectiles no doubt breaking up as soon as they hit the surface. Still, they seemed to have his intended effect and the shadow turned to the side to double back on itself, "I'll keep an eye on it. Call out if you see any more!"

Then the first saurian was aboard and he tried his best not to be distracted from his task as a Pagani corpsman went about his task of assessing and then treating what injuries he could while the Chief lowered the rescue rig again. A few more shots in the water here and there but whatever it was, it seemed to sense the opportunity had passed as it kept its distance.

A third man was brought aboard - one of the few who had made it into the liferafts before the grav-rotor had arrived - and then 'How'Ell One pulled away to circle while 'Norris Two ducked into its place. This gave the Admiral a chance to swing his seat half-around and observe the goings-on while keeping an eye on the gunnery screen.

"...nothing major," the horned corpsman commented, half to the crew chief and half to the medical staff back on the battleship. "Some cuts and scratches, mild chilling - not hypothermic. There might be a couple sprains," he added as an afterthought.

It all sounded less than thrilling but leave them in the water for a couple hours and with the storm and predators circling it could have been a different ending. The rescued sailors seemed to be handling the whole thing reasonably well and those that could were sitting up and looking around the cabin while only one was restrained, his leg braced to a backboard while the corpsman cleaned and bound a long cut he'd picked up. The short stiff feathers that covered his leg made the process more exacting but with the doors closed and the cabin isolated from the storm outside there was no reason not to take it slow and do it right.

"I'm logging out," Hal'Sey called forward. That would leave the co-pilot to take over the aft gunnery controls but he wasn't busy and this gave the Admiral a chance to talk to their guests. Still, he left the station deployed as he crouched out of the seat to crouch between the two closest - just in case.

"What's your name, sailor?" he asked, looking from one to the other, his tone respectful and soft. Neither seemed surprised that he was speaking the local language though neither answered immediately and he added, "What's the name of your ship?"

"Newte;" the first answered, followed by, "Ken - the 'Polis. You're the new star gods, right?"

"The new star gods?" Hal'Sey looked back to the first, who made something like a nod. "No - Admiral Hal'Sey, Outer Systems Alliance. You don't seem surprised," he assessed as a simple statement of fact.

"No. There have been rumors and talk for many months;" sailors being sailors and apparently prone to rumor mongering the galaxy wide. "We heard that one named 'Zex' escaped and made contact with the star gods..."

"Some say he fought single-handed through a government blockade," the other inserted, rolling over on his side to fully join the conversation.

"Others say he slipped though their watch as silent as night," the sailor still strapped to the backboard put in. Clearly they all had their own preferred account of Xex's escape and rescue, though all apparently had that most fundamental of facts - his name - wrong.

"...while others say he used a spell taught to him by the last arch-priest before her death to summon the gods directly."

Which, that at least was a new one. From what he knew of the local's religious traditions, they were essentially atheists with the term 'star gods' closely invoking Clarke's Law. Neither Xex nor Ilails had mentioned anything like 'magic' or even the supernatural but the curve of speculation had to end somewhere. "I can't say they're all that far off the real story," Hal'Sey offered. Each had their own little grain of the truth and setting the matter straight wouldn't matter anyway - each of these three would add their own little spin to what had happened here.

"What happens next, Admiral? What happened to the others?"

For a moment he paused meaningfully, his fingers on one side of the headset listening to the supposed chatter. Then, "For now, they're safe and whole. We're pulling the last of them out of the rafts. Then we'll transfer you back to the 'How'Ell and the 'Norris, let the doctors poke and prod you until they're sure you're healthy," he added a reassuring smile there, "and then we'll drop you off wherever you like."

Perhaps more than that. A couple over-eager captains back in the fleet had already asked if they were ready to begin recovery operations. There were a pair of ocean-going tugs among the logistics element and righting the 'Polis would make for a good training operation...

"...Chief, Admiral - portside aft!" the pilot called back over their headsets. The grav-rotor had just completed one loop and had now turned back on itself to vary the routine as the last aircraft to arrive completed the extraction. She eased back on the throttle and brought her craft around as four sets of eyes - then five, one of the rescued sailors following their movements to sit up and look - stared out through the wind and rain.

"You seeing that?!"

As before the shapes under the water were lean and predatory and this time not alone. A dozen long shadows slices back and forth through the water while another example much larger than the others lurked in the middle. Just now passing under the tightly circling grav-rotor, it was about as long as the aircraft in the main while a quartet of fins or tentacles trailed back again as long from either side.

"What is it?" Hal'Sey asked, watching the beast disappear below them and then turning to Ken, who had propped himself up beside them to watch through the bottom of the hatch. There was more than a hint of trepidation in the reply, even as high up as they were; "Yuv'eas. It means 'task mother'," he clarified for their benefit. "Their packs follow the roaming shoals of phasnu," which they in turn took to mean the harvest that the fishing fleet had been following before the storm had arrived.

"Usually they stay away from the boats," the backboarded sailor put in. "We have harpoons and nets and they taste as good as the phasnu, though they are dangerous and hard to catch. But they will not hesitate to attack someone in the water or even a raft."

"Tasty? Too bad the sea is a little rough for fishing. How are you doing, 'Norris Two?" he asked into the headset. "You've got a dozen large predators coming up from your port side."

"Last one," and the call came back quickly if calmly. "We see them and we're finishing up with haste."

"No reason to have some fun then," Hal'Sey replied, mostly to himself as he looked down at the deck. "The thought had crossed my mind to call in a fire mission from the 'How'Ell... You boys ever seen battleship guns in action?" Both shook their head. "Not today, I think. Lieutenant, get us back pronto. Let's make our new guests welcome..."
Last edited by Sunset on Wed Jun 01, 2022 8:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jun 01, 2022 8:53 am

Shadowport 'Point A', In Orbit of Urectum, The Ass-End of the Alpha-Beta Border... Republic Date 177.986.110...

"...tall and thin - real scarecrow looking motherfucker," the bartender decided, taking a hard swipe at a nonexistent spot on the stainless steel counter. "Don't worry about looking too hard for him though," the gaunt young man with a head full of tussled black hair added. "He hears you're looking for him, he'll come looking for you!"

"Why's that?" Calindra asked, keeping her tone casual. It wasn't that she was particularly worried; in fact she was the opposite - she'd been asking around for nearly a day and her jaw almost ached from asking the same questions over and over. At this point she'd rather be found than have to keep looking.

"It's one thing if you're interested in doing business," he answered with a shrug. "It's another thing if you're interested in his business. How long have you been on-station?" he asked, turning to make his own appraisal in the mirror behind the shelves as he made motions towards arranging the bottles. Her species was rare enough that he'd never heard of them and 'Point A got all types through its airlocks.

Or out them, if they weren't careful.

"Just this hour - and I'm looking to do business. I'm from up north;" which would go a little ways towards explaining why he'd never seen her type before, he thought with an understanding nod, "where I've got some buyers who are looking for something better than the usual trash."

She mentioned a few names - 'large' interstellar 'empires' that didn't do much. Which then meant in turn that they were unlikely to turn up at the shadowport to defend their reputation - or ask after her's.

"He's the guy then - tell you what, some of his... 'associates...'," he added the meaningful pause while turning to clean a glass that already sparkled, "usually come through for lunch. Take a seat and I'll introduce you," he offered genially, though his voice was low and his tone discreet as he glanced around the patronage. Of course, this would also give him a chance to sell her lunch as well as whatever beverages she might imbibe - as well as gently extract whatever information he could about her to pass on to those who might be interested.

"Yeah, sure," and she took her own look around before settling on a seat at the bar. Down at the very end, it sat next to the 'tender's gate and provided a useful view of the rest of the room and the doors. "And two fingers of peach brandy."

His eyebrows went up at this but he nodded and bent to retrieve the seldom-ordered liquor from its place at the back of the cabinet while she settled into her new home. She didn't have time to unpack. Less than a minute after the hard pink liquid had threatened her throat, the saloon-style double doors swung wide. Three beefy types; one in the lead - who had opened them with his shoulder - and two more behind who were arguing between themselves and holding hands. With a quick glance around the room, the first led the trio towards an open table along the wall while the bartender scurried out onto the floor, nodding towards the three as he passed her.

What followed was a quick round of orders and then a brief whispered moment between the bartender and the thickest of the three. A passing suggestion that she should join them led to a careful back and forth exchange that established that if this wasn't who she was after he at least was likely to point her in the right direction. Picking up the check put her a few points ahead and a generous tip advanced her down the field with the bartender. The food wasn't bad either, though it had clearly come through a late model replicator. A trip to the ladies room and the three were still there when she returned; a good sign, as things were.

"How about dinner," one of the two love-birds suggested, his voice flat. For a thug he was surprisingly boyish, with a soft face and dimples. An incongruous touch of grey at his temples suggested he was older than his looks or profession suggested though this amplified rather than diminished his youthful appearance. "Maybe..." he looked across to the first, who.gave a subtle nod of approval, "You might try Konstantino's."

It was an awkward suggestion but she nodded agreement, "Thanks, I will."

With that, the three - none of whom had introduced themselves - pushed away from the table one after another and headed for the doors. Once again the largest pushed his way through with his face while the one who had spoken turned at the last moment, scanned the room, and caught her eye for just an instant before disappearing. This left Calindra with the obvious question and she returned to the bartender as the doors slowly swung back and forth behind them.

"Konstantino's?"

"Nice place," though his tone suggested a more neutral opinion. "Immigrant family - they call it 'New York Pagan', whatever that is." He reached under the bar and pulled out a tray scattered with plastic cards, ruffling through them. "Here - this will get you there."

She flipped it over in her fingers. It was essentially a business card with the restaurant logo printed on the front and a touch chip on the back that would direct the holder through the station maze. More important were the characters written below it, directing her to an entirely different but nearby address. Tapping the card edge-on on the bar, she slid another credit chip across the counter and watched it disappear with a sweep of the cleaning cloth...
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jun 01, 2022 6:24 pm

RDF-Christiaan Huygens, In Orbit Over The Great Principality of Don A Lucc and The Planet Rins, On the Southern Fringe of the Milky Way Galaxy... The Late End of '183...

"...welcome aboard, Director."

Vermir paused at the airlock door. It wasn't a question of politeness - instead he was momentarily taken aback. Though he had been out-and-about - seen the galaxy, as it were - there were still new experiences to be found everywhere it seemed. Even aboard what he considered the now-somewhat familiar confines of a Republic starship, "Ah - thank you," he gave a little half-bow though he didn't bother extending a hand.

It wouldn't have done either of them any good.

"I'm Captain Kayaveola;" which altogether failed to establish whether they were male, female, somewhere else on the spectrum - and especially what species they were. Two legs, a broad, tapering head, and... No arms. Fur covered everything that wasn't under the uniform and a short trunk and tasseled ears moved expressively as they spoke, "and this is Cleon Belriose," they half-turned to indicate a man standing almost invisible just to one side of the door.

Here at least Vermir was on familiar ground and he stepped forward to take the other's hand in his own, clasping it and adding a hearty shake, "Cleon! It is good to meet you in the flesh!"

"...from the Imperial Institute of Technology & Science," the Captain finished. "It seems you have already been introduced."

"Yes - I wouldn't say 'old friends'," Cleon replied, taking a step to one side so that the three stood in a rough circle while the shuttle pilot - who had been trapped behind the Director's impressive girth - squeaked past with a quick nod. "But colleagues?"

"Oh yes! Mister Belriose here was one of the first to take interest when I shared my discovery in the Mind Meld. That's, ah," he'd caught the Captain's look of... Well, something. Hard to be sure at this point, wasn't it? "That's the chat system we use. I'm not precisely sure why it is called that," and he sounded apologetic.

In fact there had been an answer given when he'd asked but that had been even more confusing. Officially the system was named something else entirely - an acronym of nearly a dozen words with several impressive syllables each - but it had acquired the nickname 'Mind Meld' in reference to a fictional character on a recorded theatre program that was itself now somewhere over two centuries old. Despite that, it still retained a wide following, particularly in the galactic scientific community. It had not actually helped that the explanation had been accompanied by multiple pictures of a singular individual engaged in various ordinary-seeming tasks along with an oddly-phrased caption.

"Yes - it caught my attention immediately," the Khenalian put in by way of distraction. "And given my government's interest in keeping a careful eye on the horizon, hitching a ride on the 'Huygens seemed like an opportunity not to be missed."

"Speaking of..."

"Speaking of," Kayaveola held up their trunk, spreading the four pseudo-fingers at the tip wide. "Your luggage will be taken to your room - but do you require any rest before we leave?"

"Ah, no;" "It is still mid-day for me," Vermir declared, shaking his head. "Astronomer, you know. My day is your night... Well, perhaps. If I might be so bold, Captain..." Kayaveola paused in the middle of taking a step back; "Yes?"

"What species are you? And, if I might be even more courageous, are you male? Female?"

He was vaguely aware that there were far more than either but by-and-large one of the two was broadly representative of the majority of the population - even if the appearance of either/or varied from species to species and even within said; he was not to be disappointed.

"Hrleweth - and I was one of the first to leave our homeship so it is unlikely that you will encounter others of my species. I am female, though I am..."

"Homeship? You'll forgive me for interrupting, but you mean to say that your species... Well," Vermir clasped his hands together behind his back and rocked forward onto his toes before settling back onto his heels. "You'll have to excuse me. There always seems rather a lot to learn, doesn't there? But we're here about the occlusion, aren't we?"

She blinked, "Yes. I will tell you about myself and my species at some later point. If you remind me. As neither of you seem to need rest, I'll take you instead to the bridge and we'll depart. With the help of the Imperial Institute," she nodded politely to Cleon, who returned the gesture, "we've narrowed down the possibilities. At full acceleration we should be able to begin the search within the hour.

"Fantastic!" he enthused. "But the possibilities?"

"...are numerous," Cleon declared, following the Captain's lead as she turned and half-led them down the hall with the much wider Director just a step behind and between the others. "As you know, the star you were observing was twenty-three thousand, six hundred fifty two light years away from Rins when the occlusion occurred. At least from your point of view. Triangulating that with another observed occlusion - GEC-2858385, also in the galactic halo..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jun 14, 2022 8:57 am

TYCS Task Force Daisy Chain, GEC-567453, North of the Galactic Republic of Arkasia, Near the Rim of the Milky Way Galaxy... Nowhere Near the End of the Story....

'...as quiet as the grave' was one of those overused cliches that just so happened to be perfect for the moment in which it was being used. Nothing moved of its own accord - nothing breathed - except for the pulsing, pale blue glow of the approaching warships' waste heat radiators. The naked heart of the system beckoned but this merely served to turn caution into apprehension. Upon this, the multitudinous ships of the task force were spread out into a seemingly random but carefully self-supporting bubble millions of kilometers in diameter. At the core were the great battleships and carriers, angled dreadnought prowls cutting silently through the night while the smaller ships spread out around them, ready to party or thrust as required.

"There's nothing alive here," Commodore der Voss commented out of the corner of his mouth, his words just reaching the curled ears of Admiral Anoranthe. The two were adjacent but not alone on 'Cephalopod's observation deck. A great curved space that appeared to be standing over the stars, it was ideal for observing the careful progress of the task force into the system. Scattered handfuls of other officers stood here and there, some talking quietly while others were alone in their duties.

Nothing alive but neither was it empty.

Here and there - presented as being far closer in the magnified simulation spread out around them - constellations of many-pointed warships drifted free alongside star-shaped stations and yards. Some had already lost the battle with gravity to drift lower towards some noxious atmosphere. Others were moving with chaotic grace - some few had collided to leave trails of glittering debris between them while others were drifting apart into an abstract zodiac.

More worrisome was that it was here at all. While the GRA and her allies had been fighting among the planets and on the surface, 'Daisy Chain had been searching for the source of the conflict. This had been presumed from the beginning to be a suborned Krȃng Fabricator; a world that had been impregnated by means foul to serve as a potential womb for the rebirth of that species. This lined up neatly with the fact that many of the ships that had fought in the conflict were of the distinctive star-shapes preferred by the Ver-Un-Gunn. As that 'civilization' - to place it in quotes was doing it a considered favor - had made a habit of meddling with the traps left by that mostly-vanished species, the first hasty assumption was that this had been a rare raid towards the heart of the galaxy. While such a thing was unheard of, their warlords were independent characters open to independent action...

"If it's a trap, it's a very patient one," the elf-like Admiral replied. "And they were willing to sacrifice much to maintain the deception until the proper moment. This is something different," he decided. "And I don't like it."

The fleet's arrival in this system was no random encounter or chance intrusion. 'Daisy Chain was among several of the Triumvirate's blunt instruments which were in turn directed by a vast network of sensor arrays that had combed this portion of the galaxy in fine detail looking for what shouldn't be there. This particular system had in fact been swept multiple times and then, within the past hour, had been swept again only to find there what should not have been - and what appeared to already be vanishing.

Here a station drifted too low in its orbit and was caught by the atmosphere to be pulled apart into a fire storm of disintegrating shards. There a great dreadnought, rudderless, plowed into a small moon at an angle sufficient to send it flipping away, debris flying this way and that. A new navigational hazard that was duly noted along with all the rest by the software but that supported the Admiral's premise neatly.

"It's the same thing everywhere, as far as we can tell," Anoranthe continued, referencing reports from the GRA and elsewhere. "Soldiers dropping lifeless in the field, ship's crew dead at their posts..."

"As though whatever entity was behind all this just suddenly pulled up stakes and moved to California," der Voss added.

"...which frankly scares the fuck out of me," the Admiral continued, ignoring the side-comment. "When a force goes into retreat, it pulls out - not drops dead. Not just dead, Empty," he shuddered. "Those soldiers - they're alive but well... They're not 'people' - not anymore."

"Yessir. They weren't exactly losing, either. Certainly we were putting more forces on the field but I'm not sure they would have turned the tide all that swiftly. The Roanians... By their own admission they haven't fought a military peer in millennia. Real ugly, real fast."

"Possibly," Anoranthe demurred. On one hand, the Roanians would have had sheer numbers on their side. On the other, they tended to be as creative on the field as a half-brick in a sock. On the gripping hand, this 'Static' seemed no better, at least regarding the disposition and ultimately the disposal of its forces. "So the Static quit the field with lots of pieces still in play. Or prepared the most complex ambush I've ever seen..."

If it was to be an ambush, it had either failed to materialize or had simply failed. The leading elements of the task force had made contact - in military parlance - with the nearest ships and rather than risking an up-close inspection were simply vaporizing their distinctive finned drive sections from stand-off distance. If there was an effect it wasn't visible from here. Aside from some added inertia in one direction or another, the disabled ships stupidly continued along their previous course. This was illustrated nicely as they all watched a four-pointed cruiser shift course slightly after taking fire from a nearby 'Puma and plow gainfully into an orbital station, spearing it neatly.

"If they quit the field, why?" It was the question on nearly everyone's mind now and the Commodore was not the first to ask it.

"Exactly. We know precious little about what this 'Static' is or what its goals are. The possibility suggests itself that it accomplished them," Anoranthe answered, uncertainty in every word.

"Which, again - if we don't know what its goals were, we won't be able to get a solid grasp on what we can do to prevent all of this," he gestured broadly, "in the future. Is this some unknown manipulation of the Krȃng? Did it specifically target the Ver-Un-Gunn? Was this some new terror that they unleashed, first on themselves and then on the rest of us?"

It was lot of unknown-unknowns, to harvest the ancient phrase. For the longest time there was only consideration and then der Voss spoke quietly before turning to leave, "Maybe we'll find some answers here," though he had the sneaking suspicion that the answer to 'maybe' would be 'no'...
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Jun 14, 2022 9:24 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Wed Jul 13, 2022 10:53 am

A Dingy Improvised Lock-Up, Kovoll Township, Somewhere on the Planet Mikiko, Tratz System, Milky Way Galaxy... Republic Date 178.182.958...

"...you know, 'fer the 'greatest mercenaries in the galaxy', you all weren't thet hard to catch," Suatos grinned as he looked the three over. Unlike him, they were sitting on the wrong side of the bars though he could swear none of them looked particularly put out by that fact.

They'd been brought in earlier that day; an 'elite counter-revolutionary team' (put together on the spur of the moment and mostly consisting of whoever had been standing around when word had come in from the spotter at the spaceport) had pulled their guns on the three mercenaries at the hotel check-in. There was only one good reason for three brutes from the OSA to be there - the arrest, capture, or execution of Colonel Fazzi. Long Live the Glorious People's Revolution...

...Etc, etc.

Suatos was a true believer, sure - but he knew where his bread was buttered. When Fazzi's band of rag-tag freedom fighters and revolutionaries inevitably managed to overthrow the cowardly republicans cowering in their ivory senate, those who had stood with him would be right there too. Just natural. The guard spit in a corner of the grungy half room that had been horridly converted into a jail and looked them over again.

Basically identical, all three sat in a row on the bench opposite. One sat hunched forward, one sat back, and the other sat straight with his paws on his knees. They were all the burly sort that one might expect for elite mercenaries - biceps the size of hams, scars crisscrossing their bodies - and the one in the middle had tied his long ears back into a boonie-knot. They even had the required tattoos, though how they had managed that when fur covered most every inch was a curious question.

Not that they'd answer if he asked.

They hadn't said so much as 'boo' since they'd been captured. Even stripped to their boxers and left in a room with no windows and a single bare bulb they had refused to answer even a single question. They didn't even look at him, didn't even look at each other. Aside from the occasional shift - the one on the right leaned back and the one on the left sunk forward - they hadn't so much as moved from the time they'd been shuffled into the make-shift cell.

That was about to change. Fazzi himself was on his way to interrogate them, though all it would take is a quick look at the hexagon logo tattooed or painted or whatever onto the inside of their wrists to establish their extra-solar credentials. Well, and the fact that they were bunnies. Mikiko was one of those long-ago Human diaspora colonies except for the most part things had turned out dandy and there hadn't been a good reason to poke their noses into galactic politics. Aliens? Whatever.

They'd make for good video though. Alien mercenaries hired by the dastardly republicans to assassinate the brave Colonel Fazzi. Add a few clips of mothers and children playing, a few fades to clean neighborhoods with soldiers of the revolution helping old ladies clean out their garages... And then he'd demand the government step down. They might even get a few fresh recruits out of it and maybe - just maybe - Suatos would be the new Senior Guard with a couple of his own men to order...

There was a rumble outside and a drizzle of dust and plaster drifted down from the ceiling.

...around. He sneezed, waving his hand in front of his face. When he looked up the three mercenaries were looking at him and grinning.

"Big Truck," one of them suggested chalantly, an emphasis on the first letter of both words.

"Oh, yeah," Suatos agreed, looking around. "Sometimes there's a delivery or..." but the dust was still falling and now there was a deep rumble just at the back of his head. He reached out a hand - not to steady himself, as he told himself - but the wall was shaking under his hand. Big flakes of plaster landed on his second-hand uniform sleeve and he shook them off to look up just as a huge crack spread across the ceiling.

"...really big truck," another added.

"Huge."

Then there was something else. A sound he hadn't heard since a parade he'd been to a few years ago. It was a sound that carried - instantly identifiable over even the continuous deep rumble that was shaking the building.

"...bagpipes?!"

They didn't answer but all three sat back, folded their arms, and gave him the biggest shit-eating grin as floating dust began to fill the whole room. Above his head the bare bulb shook back and forth and that was enough to send him sprinting out into the hall. He wasn't alone - revolutionaries were running everywhere but mostly towards the outside doors and he followed them. A quick sprint and he was standing in the bright sunlight, looking around for the source of the sound. A fellow was standing beside him and he turned to ask but the man was standing there, head back and hand up to shade his eyes.

Suatos turned his head to follow.

Bait. They were god-damned bait. A long torch of flame speared from the bottom of not one but four titanic spherical forms, each one larger than the entire building and spread out around it so as to surround it on all sides. Already gunships and ground attack fighters were boiling from hidden launch bays while small dots dropping rapidly towards them had to be paratroopers. Suatos raised his rifle - hunting rifle, truth be told - but the man next to him pushed it back down.

Shaking his head, words unheard over the roar of the dropships and the wailing buzz of the bagpipes, he pointed over to where a small knot of men stood. One of them was Fazzi - and like the others, he stood carefully with his hands in the air.

The Colonel had surrendered.

Whatever thoughts the now-former jailer had had were jolted from his mind and he was nearly thrown to the ground as a jolt ran through his knees. Behind a copse of trees a great grinning skull-faced robot stood straight, reaching out to part branches and trunk before stepping through, its knee just above his head. A single step and it stood over him...
My Colors are Blue and Yellow

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