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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 » Sat Oct 26, 2013 5:47 pm

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

Sergeant Timmons looked down the line of low-built houses and shops, the small crowd of alien Onaeric going about their daily business, then over to his new partner.

"How old are you, Trinya?"

The young woman who was busy examining her feet, or perhaps it was the wide chitinous plate that the pair, the aliens, and in fact the whole village were riding on, took a moment before she looked up, "Hmm? Oh... How old am I? Minimum to join the Juniors, sir."

Junior Officer Training Corps, or JOTC, was normally a strictly school-only organization. It was the same as most paramilitary programs the world around; Young sentients who were interested in a military career getting a head start by getting the non-combat training out of the way. They focused on athletics, protocol, technology, that sort of thing. Normally. Timmons couldn't ever recall being sent out into the field when he'd been in school. The closest he'd gotten to the action was when his class had been mobilized to help evacuate a small town during a SDF emergency drill.

Not stomping around on the back of a kilometer-long centipede that was slowly munching it's way across an other-worldly forest that stretched from horizon to horizon. In her own little powered armor suit, at that.

"So sixteen."

"Yes, sir."

Maybe he should have read up on her when he'd first seen the one-and-a-third meter girl sitting across from him on the shuttle ride down, but there was already a lot of information to absorb from the briefing packet and he'd just started the section on his special charge when the doors had dropped and he'd found himself on the slowly-moving back of a unique piece of mega-fauna. Oh well. Make the best of what you have.

"Why are you here?"

"Because... JOTC was more about shooting things than discovery. I asked if I could take the SEC exams instead of the SDF exams, got high marks, and they sent me here. Oh, and my father's the current senator in the 33rd District."

"Ah." According to the statisticians, Sunset was in the top-top-top nations as far as eliminating government corruption went, but here was some right in front of him.

"Just good timing. I got the scores, that convinced him and enough other senators to put together a bill creating a field study program, and the Secretary-General signed it."

Was it really corruption then? Trinya had the scores, and wearing a (small) suit of SDF power armor around she wasn't in a whole lot of danger. He knew he would have liked to have been sent half-way across the galaxy when he was sixteen.

"Alright, well, let's put those scores to use. What can you tell me right off before we meet the locals?"

Trinya nodded, the movement invisible inside the fully enclosed helmet. She wasn't quite used to it yet, having had all of an hour of training and the shuttle ride down.

"Well," she knelt and ran an armored hand over the thick plate. "It looks like the Onaeric harvest some of their building materials from the carapace. My guess is that they make some kind of roof tiles from it."

Timmons agreed with that. There were a series of shallow scooped indentations all along the trailing edge of the carapace segment they were standing on, which was itself the last segment. It was smaller than the next, and the next beyond that.

"Possibly other goods as well. The material is a close analog to chitin, so it's reasonably durable but shapes well and could be used for a wide variety of purposes. I wonder how they harvest it, since the initial survey didn't record any metallurgy."

"Probably their beaks. Cut out the shape you like then pry it away. Speaking of beaks, let's go say hi."

"Alright."

Trinya rose and the pair began to walk towards the village. It was built in a long line down the center of the centipede. There was a horn or crest of some kind at the head which broke off the forest branches that might otherwise slowly batter the little hamlet to pieces. All of the low houses were designed to take advantage of this sheltering shield with the tallest coming up to just over Timmon's two meter height. This made them about three stories tall, however, as the Onaeric were just under a half-meter in height.

He'd seen the pictures, of course, but he really enjoyed seeing a new alien species in motion and had watched as little as possible to avoid any pre-conceptions.

Each Onaeric had three arm-legs that spread radially from a generally round torso. Each arm-leg ended in a thick three-fingered hand that had a single ball-jointed thumb on the inside wrist. The arm-legs joined to the body in a slight depression on the lower side of the torso, and between these on the underside was the beak. It was a flexible organ, something like the extendable beak on an octopus or squid, and he could see they used it like a fourth hand, holding objects while a hand worked on them or with another tool.

Between each arm-leg was a wide trench that housed one of the Onaeric's three eyes. These were large, ideal for the constant gloom of the forest, and were vaguely capsule shaped. These moved around in the trench - almost a socket as well as vertical brow-ridge - on a similar system to the beak. They could move out completely as well as up and down.

"I don't see any ears," he commented as they got closer. It was hard to tell though. They had fur; A short, thick layer of it covered nearly everything except the inside of the eye trenches.

"They must have something analogous," Trinya pointed out. "Listen to the untranslated audio feed."

Timmons did as she suggested. "That's... fantastic."

They were singing. Much like terrestrial birds, they sang and chirped back and forth to each other in both subtle and obvious melodies and harmonies.

"They'd make a good vocalist for a Marsh Squid symphony."

Timmons nodded and caught himself. Had she known that he'd discovered the Marsh Squid? Or was she just somehow familiar with one of the rarest of the sentient species in Sunset? There were perhaps a few hundred in the wider galaxy, and maybe a score on the various Sunset colony worlds.

"Let's introduce ourselves," Timmons paused at the edge of the village. Already a few Onaeric were looking his way, and a trio was making their way through the crowd in a manner that suggested the village elders or headman and his entourage.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Oct 28, 2013 1:39 am

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

There wasn't a lot that would stop a kilometer-long centipede or really even slow it down but this, to Timmons' eye, one of those things.

He stepped around one of the low statues that, along with an intricately carved railing that connected them, made up the low balustrade that ran around the edge of the terrace that he and Trinya had landed on. It was only supposed to be a brief flight over but the young woman hadn't ever flown before and between figuring out just how to do that and giving her a few more to just enjoy herself, they had spent almost the whole afternoon crossing just a hundred meters.

Towering above the jungle, the stone-wrought complex rose in twisting confusion up to the final spires where he and the young trainee now stood. From the edge he could look down and see the whole length of the Draowan - the native name for the psuedo-anthropod that carried their village on it's broad carapace - from it's massive combine-like head to the tapering tail.

"Why do they call you Sergeant?"

"Huh?" Timmons turned. It was an odd way to start a survey of what looked to be a relic of a completely different species than the tri-legged Onaeric.

Trinya, who had picked up part of a fallen statue and was turning it over in her armored hands, repeated the question. "They call you Sergeant, but there's no such rank in the SDF."

"Oh," Timmons laughed. "That's my first name. Great-great grandfather or something."

"Must get confusing." She put down the first piece and picked up another. "You know, I don't want to leap to conclusions, but I'm ready to leap to a conclusion. I'd say that the Draowan were once a lot smaller."

It certainly was leaping to a conclusion. The statues that formed the balustrade looked like little curled-over centipedes, certainly, and they had very similar features, but...

"I'd say it's more likely that whoever built these temples worshiped the Draowan. It makes sense, from a early culture perspective, to find a measure of deity in a force that is so potentially destructive."

"That sounds more sensible," Trinya admitted. "I like my idea more though."

Timmons shrugged, a movement that was still visible through the armor. "Go ahead and test it out. I've seen a lot of odd things. Figuring out how old the Draowan are would be a good start, and how old this complex is."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:23 pm

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

The last of the water ran down the drain and Timmons reached out to hit the button that would cycle the inner airlock door, pausing with his finger hovering just above it. Like many of the systems in the small shuttlecraft, the airlock was dual-purpose. It would allow a single individual access from the exterior of the shuttlecraft, but it also served as a shower that was useful for both bathing and washing contaminants off before entering the main compartment. The main compartment where Trinya was doing... something.

Timmons considered the button and the consequences yet again. Standards about nudity, public or not, were exceedingly relaxed in Sunset - some might call them excessively - but he was twice her age, her superior officer, and he'd known her for all of a day now. While it was just a quick step to the locker that held his clothes it was still a question that had to be taken into consideration.

One of the many functions of the Defense Forces' Academy was to screen the applicants for their suitability for various roles. One of which was how mature they acted around others. Some couldn't handle the casual nudity which was necessary at times, while others had problems dealing with others who might hold different viewpoints on religion. Some of these were deal-breakers while others meant that the individual in question would be pointed towards a role where their personality wouldn't cause regular conflicts with others. Trinya had had none of that screening.

Timmons wrapped a towel around his waist. Red to yellow to green and the door cycled open. He stepped through and looked around the small cabin, "It's all yours."

"Thanks." One of the pilot seats spun around - from the back she'd been completely hidden by it - and she walked over to the airlock, shedding her uniform as she went. The door hissed shut behind her and Timmons gave a little grunt as he turned to his locker.

"Guess that answers that question. Gonna have to ask about the tattoo though."

Fishing into his locker he pulled out his own dark gray and slate blue uniform and pulled it on. Outside it was dark, and while they could work in it, it was best to give themselves a little break from the task of trying to find out as much as possible about the Onaeric and Draowan civilizations. It seemed, based on the evidence they'd found so far, that Trinya had been right in her off-the-cuff guess that the Draowan had once been the smaller beings depicted in the stone carvings. They'd head back in the morning after a meeting with the headman. The slow pace of the Draowan meant the kilometer-long creature would only be just passing the complex by the afternoon.

----

GEC-8540 (Notch), All Saints...

Gina popped another tab into her mouth and raised the pick to take another swing at the recessed mineral vein. They'd clamped down on the main veins with heavy security, sensors, and drones, but the entire planet seemed to be studded with little deposits like this one. Big handfuls of the chalky substance fell away and she scooped them into a bag. In a few minutes she'd filled it and headed back to the little personal flier she'd stashed just a few meters away.

That's all it took. Just a few minutes delay in a normal flight between the Capital and one of the smaller towns where her friends lived and she'd collected enough to last her months. Or to sell. Once she got there she'd grind it fine in a food processor and then mix it with sugar and flavoring before heating it in the oven. It was that simple.

She adjusted her goggles as she kicked the little cycle into the sky. She had to be careful. They'd figured out that the drug made the eyes vulnerable to bleaching so she and a lot of the other users wore dark glasses whenever they could. If she let it go too far they'd notice and put her in detox. There wasn't any reason to put her in there. She could control it, she only used a little each day and it was cut with sugar. Some of the others had started decreasing the ratio but not her. She was safe, she could control it.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:42 pm

Shalbatana Arcology, Sunset, Mars...Zombie Day

With a bit of a hop, Lt. Aubry slid off the low ledge and into the knee-deep water. That little hop was enough to turn his intended slip into a little splash that sent a warning echo up and down the length of the drainage pipe. He winced - it would only drive the few remaining zombies further into the depths of the system - and began a much slower, careful trudge down towards the next junction.

He'd been infected too, when it had all started. Not that he'd been anywhere near Ground Zero.

In Sunset it had been a wedding party. They had been doing something called the 'Electric Slide', a traditional dance from when their religious sect was founded. At least, that's what Aubry had heard. The bride had taken a tumble and the toxic mix of chemicals that had made it's way into her fingernail polish had gotten into the best man's eye when she'd gone down. According to the historic record, brawls at such events weren't uncommon and it had dissolved into one. No one had known anything was wrong until guests had started showing up at local hospitals reporting something beyond the normal biting fetish.

Aubry shook off the introspection and pressed forward. He'd been one of the first to get the cure, along with the rest of the Defense Forces. Now it was his job to hunt down the last few zombies and put a bullet in them. Figuratively.

Ahead of him there were two small alcoves in the side of the tunnel with their own maintenance ladders. The schematic showed them as auxilary in-flow pipes with hydraulic valves. A perfect place for a lonely zombie to hide. Two of them though...

Tricky, since he couldn't cover both at the same time, but he slid down the tunnel wall opposite the closer of the two. In the darkness he was the only one who could truly see. The zombie might hear him but it's attack would be wild, erratic.

'I hope...'

Nothing. He swung to the right, expecting to see nothing less than a ragged gray human launching himself at the lone soldier but nothing. He swept the corner as he passed the next alcove. There was something there, but it likely wasn't from a zombie. A rat...

He pivoted, the barrel of the shotgun coming up and three rapid-fire lances of fire erupting from the barrel as it bucked against his armored shoulder. Water splashed as the zombie fell back, staggered by the impact of the heavy rounds. Another couple of rounds and it turned to run, splashing it's way down the tunnel he thought he'd already cleared.

Aubry didn't chase it. Plastic sabots drifted past him while he reloaded but he didn't chase it. One of the rounds would have hit, would have thrust the heavy needle into the skin and delivered it's dose of the cure. Now he was worried about the noise. By themselves the zombies weren't dangerous to an armed and armored man, but loud noises sometimes drew them together into packs.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:38 am

GEC-8540 (Notch), All Saints...

Commander Ee watched with more than a slight bit of distaste on his face as the sleek black ship settled onto it's landing legs with a heavy hiss. Pirates. Oh yes, technically the Sanglanti were neutral to Sunset, having never directly attacked them over the years but...

There had been colony ships that had gone missing, mining ships found stripped, and plenty of automated freighters emptied.

Whether all of these were the work of the Jolly French was unlikely but as far as he was concerned at least some of them were and that was enough of a reason to keep a close eye on the new arrivals. It was all completely above board as far as the paperwork went. They'd filled every log, every request. It was so complete it smelled. Every civilian ship made some little mistake, left just that little something off their manifest.

'What was that phrase? Baffle them with bullshit?'

Ee watched as the pirate captain and his officers strutted down the ramp and looked around the spaceport. As if they were expecting someone. That was the question in the Commander's head as well. Why were they here? As an official colony, Notch was now Sunset territory. They couldn't be thinking of a raid. Even the lone handful of Super Aggressor drone fighters he had on hand could turn back one or two of their raiders.

On the form it simply said 'Pleasure'.

----

Gina stopped and watched as the trio of Sanglanti merchants walked by. Swaggering and fit, they didn't exactly fit the image of a businessman that she'd been expecting. They wore suits but these were outlandish, almost costume-like, and they all carried swords at their hips and innumerable other weapons. It was a stark contrast to the Sunset Defense Forces officers who, on seeing the trio, also stopped to watch. Simple gray and earth-tone uniforms devoid of ornamentation. Though they also had weapons at their sides and more than a few kept a hand close.

There was a tap on her shoulder and she turned to find Kyle looking at her.

"Come on, we've got a job to do. Refueling, remember?"

That's right. That's why she was wearing the dirty blue coverall and her hands were stained with grease. It was also a good way to sneak the stuff onto the Sanglanti ship. Right inside the fuel hatch there was another hatch, cleverly hidden, and as the fuel pods were loaded they could slip dozens of packages of the stuff inside. It wasn't a lot of money since the drug was technically legal in Sunset. But All Saints had it's own local ordinances that prohibited the export of the base mineral except through their own system and it expressly prohibited any re-manufactured variants as well.

That was Mona's way of keeping the drugs off the streets without specifically using the word 'drug'. Or addictive. Gina didn't care.

She finished stuffing her latest batch into the compartment and Kyle shut it, reversing the complex process it had taken to open the space. Once they were off-duty they'd pick up their payment from the usual place.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Nov 02, 2013 3:34 pm

Lunae Palus, Sunset, Mars...

Winter had arrived on Mars and what had been only a few weeks ago vast rolling fields filled with the buzz-cut stubble of the fall wheat harvest was now a snow covered wonderland. Here and there deep drifts had built up and in one of these a pair of Martian Tigers were at play. They'd slowly shed their summer coats of atomic orange and now sported subdued gray and white coats that blended in to the broken shadows where they hunted. Here though they stood out and high above a drone watched as they played.

They didn't notice nor care that they were being watched, instead surging back and forth through the snow to take the occasional swat or open-mouthed bite at the other. They were the two remaining cubs of the female that had been released in the spring and they were, in their own way, deciding who would stay and who would find their own hunting grounds. They would already have competition. Being so close to the primary release point there were already several dozen territories stacked out all around them. Hunting was good though, so the ranges were small, and the occasional cull by hunters had keep the numbers from slowly rising.

----

Orson Welles Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

Metal tore and the door shot away from it's frame as a quarter-ton of armored police officer hit it like a battering ram. It hurled across the room to plow across a pair of thugs who'd been standing in the wrong place at the right time. They went down, pinned in place by the heavy door, but around the dingy little warehouse others were already reaching for weapons. Some paused as a trio of armored forms barreled through the open space but two snatched up short, ugly looking rifles.

"Police! Hands up!"

At almost the same moment a pair of projectiles launched from the lead form and arced high over the group. As they exploded in a spray of blinding white sparks one of the two pulled the trigger and a blast of energy seared it's way across the front of the lead form. It wasn't enough to stop the officer though and a responding shot from one of the two behind them slammed into him, punching clean through his torso and leaving a scorch mark on the wall behind.

----

"Roanians, huh?"

The officer, who was now half-out of her armor, looked down at the cluster of stick-figure women. They were small - really small - and dressed in the kind of scanty, show-everything outfits one might expect from a brothel. Not that they had a whole lot to show. She wasn't a top prize herself but she had more in the asset department than all four combined.

They weren't the only prostitutes they'd found but they were the most unusual. The question was now whether they were willing or, as the intelligence had suggested, they were sex slaves. They'd removed the obvious criminals from the room but there was still a chance that one was faking. The best thing to do would be to pull them apart and ask them one at a time but there wasn't a suitable place to do that, at least not right here. They'd have to wait for transport down to the station.

----

Under Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System...

"Hello?"

Demi stopped in the middle of the tunnel and turned around, looking over the entire blank surface and seeing nothing. Richardo had jury-rigged a scanner to detect segments of the crystal network that were more active than others and had wired it into the combat android that Demi now remotely inhabited. She'd followed the readings deep into the caves, worming her metal way past a dozen obstructions that would have stopped the bulkier marines, and finally found herself in a long tunnel that was positively surging with activity, at least according to the scanner.

"Hello?"

Of course, if they couldn't understand what she said, she might as well have been talking to a blank wall. Still, the scanner worked. She sat down in the center of the tunnel. Maybe the Doctor would have some ideas.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:18 am

OOCly Bits:

$791,753,600,000.00 is how much Sunset spends per year on military wages.
$153,896,406,250.00 is how much Sunset spends per year on wages for starship crews.
$127,833,866,606,896.00 is the military budget. Grant I wrote some of those equations but...

My math, based on two Grand Admirals each overseeing 625 ships of various types, shows 1250 starships in the SDF. Now these range from the small 15-man Curiosity-Class all the way up to the 1400-man Dawn-Class. We've also got a few stations which are purely military: 3 CORE Stations and 14 Aurora Wormgates. The CORE stations are monstrous and are likely what pushes up the average for a ship crew to 656. We've also got various land bases, training facilities, and the like. We'll call these equivalent to a single ship for this purpose, so another 125 'ships'. 1392 in total.

$127,042,113,006,896.00 per year on 'stuff', which would be ships, torpedoes, fighters, the lot. Now, Sunset likes to operate on a 20-year renewal schedule for the fleet. Every 20 years or so a ship is completely taken out of service. But we got losses (especially in the Exploration Command) and there's also the cost of refits. So let's call it more like 15 years. Then we've got maintenance which probably costs about 15% of the base cost of the ship per year. This is more than a modern navy but they don't have to cross a billion billion miles of space to get gas.

So a replacement rate of 93 'ships' a year and a maintenance 'cost' of 93 'ships' a year. Makes the math easier! So that's 186 ships worth of cost every year. Average cost of a SDF 'starship'? $683,022,112,940.30. Now if I was really ambitious I'd figure out just how many ships of each class there are and do some more number wanking. But first, a message from our sponsor!

Sunset's Education Budget - At least the state-funded portion - is $97,153,738,621,241.00. According to the Calc (which I partially wrote) our Student and Youth population is 4,580,595,400. Which means that each student gets $21,209.84. Average yearly wage in Sunset is... $79,175.36. Which means that it takes 4 students to pay for one teacher, plus a little overhead for buildings and whatnot. So call it 5. A 5 to 1 Student to Teacher ratio would make Sunset the envy of the world in terms of education. Of course, that would also mean that there are 916,119,080 teachers in Sunset. Essentially 1/23rd of the population. I have no problem with this.

A question for the future is 'How much of the nation's economy does the government run?' Technically, almost none of it. But since Sunset has a specific part of the budget allocated to investment in industries deemed vital to the national interest, it still ends up running some of it. Maybe all of it.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 03, 2013 7:52 pm

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

"The kremolt harvest is very good," the Onaeric headman noted, turning one of the large purple-brown fruits over in his hand. "The kir swarms have been large this year, good for the taste."

Timmons watched with interest as the headman swung the fruit under his body. It was almost large enough for the meter-tall Onaeric to sit on, and Timmons couldn't see what was happening when he took the first bite. He could hear it though. An odd buzzing started to fill the air. It was definitely coming from the fruit, but the headman didn't seem to notice as he happily munched away, quickly eating a good portion of the fruit before scuttling aside and picking up the remainder to show it to Timmons and Trinya.

"See? Very good."

"Oh. Gross."

Timmons, who'd seen a lot of things, couldn't blame his partner. The inside of the fruit was a web of cellular structures each of which held a juicy looking seed. Some of these also held what looked like some kind of winged insect. They were ugly, wriggling white little things that beat their tiny wings against the cell wall. The whole thing wriggled and moved as the insects sought to either free themselves or burrow deeper.

"You want to try some?"
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Postby Sunset » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:36 pm


CORE Virtual Government Interface, Office of the Secretary-General..

A trio of individuals - a human, a oeie, and a kitsune - sat in front of the Secretary-General's desk. All three were dressed in their interview best, though they hadn't been specifically invited for that function. There were no cameras visible though they were all recording and streaming to those who might be interested. That was just about everyone, as between the three they represented nearly eighty percent of the domestic news/journalism viewership and a goodly amount of those who might be interested in the goings-on in Sunset.

Tyler Kane, star interviewer for the tabloid 'Sunset After Dark', was arguably the most prominent of the three. Her broadcast, which centered on Martian Sunset and Mars in general, was one of the highest rated. It tended to feature lurid and graphic tales of naked romps, celebrity mishaps, and political misdeeds brought together in a colorful whole that often featured Ms. Kane giving an interview in an eye-popping outfit that highlighted her supermodel body.

Meager Fox, the kitsune, didn't bother with clothes except as a way to enhance her natural assets. Aside from a tight leather band that lifted and enhanced, she was naked aside from the luxurious coat of fur that she spent hours on every day. Grooming herself was part of her show, as a matter of fact.

The Oeie was, if there was such a thing in Sunset, the only true serious journalist of the lot. It's name was mostly unpronounceable but it had an unshakable reputation for going after hard science-based reporting. No twisting or mis-representation of fact, and extremely thorough as well.

That all three were gathered in one room was odd. Normally they had their own squabbles over social media where they would characterize or mislead about the other in search of the all-important ratings but now they were quiet and waiting. Something like predators circling except in comfy chairs.

With a click the door opened and Erika Silaco swished in. Stopping next to her three guests she shook hands with all three in turn, each half-rising, before scooting behind her desk and taking her seat.

"Thank you for coming. You're here, as are your viewers, to receive an offer. I recently stumbled across something from Earth's past and I thought I'd give it a try and see how it works for Sunset."

Reaching into her desk she pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to each one before reading the contents aloud.

"It's a quote from a review of a book written about Theodore Roosevelt, an American President, and his interactions with reporters."

'When Teddy Roosevelt was president, reporter Lincoln Steffens came to him with a request: "Mr. President," he said, "I want to investigate corruption in the federal government." And Roosevelt responded in a rather astonishing way, as presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

Roosevelt gave Steffens a note to carry with him and show government officials. It read in part: "Please tell Mr. Lincoln Steffens anything whatever about the running of the government that you know (not incompatible with the public interest) and provided only that you tell him the truth."

"[Roosevelt] trusted that if you studied something and you investigated it, wherever the corruption may lay, you're better off finding it yourself and then dealing with it," Goodwin says. Her newest book is The Bully Pulpit — a term Roosevelt coined to describe the uniquely powerful platform presidents have to influence public attitudes — thanks in no small part to the press.'

"This is, as far as I am concerned, exactly how Sunset and this office in particular should operate. I'm here to extend to you the offer to be my, and the public's, eyes and ears in Sunset. I'll give you carte blanche to go anywhere, see anything. The only caveat is that you're looking for corruption, not secrets. This isn't about finding out about the private lives of intelligence officers. But I'm going to give you three this chance. Same note, same responsibility. Take it or leave it."

----

OOC: Proper Attribution: http://www.npr.org/2013/11/04/242405056 ... t-once-was

We need another Roosevelt.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:08 am

Point West, CORE1 Station...

Point West wasn't a proper colony or even a proper world. It was instead the name the locals had given to their own little section of paradise. That particular paradise being the port, or west, wing of the titanic CORE1 Space Station. Like it's successors CORE2 and CORE3 it was a monstrous creation that had originally been designed and built to serve as a mobile fleet base that could house the entirety of the TYCS inside it's two-hundred-twenty-five kilometer bulk. That meant that, despite the sprawling size, most of the station was open vacuum.

All of that had changed with the first wave of refugees. The Oied were pleasant but a little insular. Understandable when they had been the last hundred thousand or so of their race remaining. One of the bays had been sealed, filled with water, and the Oied had turned it into their new world. They'd also recycled the primitive (by Sunset standards) space craft they'd used to make their escape and this left them with no easy way of removing their population. Then they bred. A hundred thousand had become two with no natural predators to cull their young.

That generation was still growing and, since disrupting their lives by moving the whole lot off the station was deemed irresponsible by those responsible, they were left alone. There were still seven more of the largest bays, right? And with no wars or other need for a fleet base on the horizon the Oied were left alone except they weren't. As much as they tried to make their new world self-sustaining a whole cottage industry sprang up in the adjacent sections of the station that catered to the aquatic sentient.

Thus, when the SDF conducted yet another rescue operation, CORE1 seemed like a natural place to temporarily house the refugees. They had a lot of experience with it after all and the shared experiences might help pull the Oied out into the wider galaxy. A rousing success, all things considered. A full ninety percent of the refugees moved on after a few years... Leaving ten percent to swell the ranks. Plus a few more waves... And regular folks who liked the idea of living on a roaming space station...

At that point CORE2 and CORE3 were under construction and all pretense of a fleet base was abandoned. The station was opened up to colonization and the rush was on. Two of the large bays were set aside for Fleet use but the others began to fill as families, clans, and whole cultures moved in. What had become vacuum was now a sprawling and labyrinthine city of millions. A paradise for anyone who wanted to see something new every day.

----



SDF Marine Base, Point West, CORE1 Station...

Lieutenant Lothi Golath plucked the pistol out of it's case and examined it. It was externally similar to the sidearm he'd previously been issued. Shorter and slimmer but it had much the same appearance and, he assumed, much of the same functions. There was a pulsing notification on his AR and, putting the weapon down for the moment, he pulled it up.

It was the weapon. Or rather, it was a separate chip in the weapon that was essentially the owners manual.

"Nifty."

He picked it up again and started to watch and read as the manual led him through everything from proper handling to safe storage and maintenance.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:11 pm

Undocumented Colony, Undocumented Space...

"Ooof! Ack! Cold! Cold!"

Kimiko had been enjoying a nice morning of reading sprawled out in bed with the blue star warming her naked backside when out of the blue a cold, wet, and also naked Sun Ye had landed on top of her. Most mornings that would result in another variety of pleasant activity but this time when Sun Ye flipped off her and in turn flipped Kimiko onto her back there was another reason for her excitement.

"We're being re-activated!"

"What do you mean, re-activated?" She looked up at her partner who was now dripping water all over her and the formerly dry and comfortably warm bed clothes. "We are retired."

She already had a mental image of herself wrapped up in a skin suit sliding through a duct or some other narrow, dusty, and generally uncomfortable place. Not that she wouldn't look good in the skin suit or that there wasn't just a bit of interest to the idea of going back into the field for some action. But both she and Sun Ye were nearly eighty now and though they didn't look it there was a certain amount of 'old' that the bio-regeneration tank could never take away.

"Re-activated. As in field work. Spy stuff. Being abducted by space pirates, screwing their brains out, and escaping with the sexy first mate."

Sun Ye was clearly more into the idea than Kimiko. Or maybe she was just horny.

"Sorry, nothing so... exotic this time." The familiar voice make both women turn their heads and they watched as a hologram shimmered into existence in the center of the room. In a moment it went from hazy to solid and then to as good as life.

"Erika," Kimiko acknowledged the Secretary-General with a nod.

"Hey Boss!" Sun Ye waved.

"Sorry to interrupt your retirement." The hologram walked over to the end of the bed. There wasn't anything particular anxious in the way Erika looked and in fact it was rather the opposite, mostly relaxed with a little bit of a smile at the corners of her mouth.

Kimiko sat up on the edge and Sun Ye knelt behind her, arms wrapped around her partner, "What is it then?"

"There's been a feeler extended to the Queendom of Zero-One as regards a possible application by the Grand Duchy of Tarasovka to join the Triumvirate of Yut. We've had some dealings with them in regards to Mars and their colony there but we've never had much interaction on a direct level."

"...and we're spies."

"What's a diplomat but a spy who's honest about it? You'll be traveling under diplomatic papers. Nothing sneaky. Just talk to them, talk to the people, and see how they react to you. I want to know more about their culture, more about them. What you can't find in the guide books and the official media. Gossip on the street, griping in the bedroom. Think of it as a vacation."

----

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

"This is big..." Trinya breathed, looking high up over the mound of what looked for all the world like yet another low hill among a cluster of low hills. "If each of these is a ship..."

"It explains where the Draowan came from, sure, but not why they came or what they might have been doing here," Timmons pointed out. He was already tearing away at the thick vines and flowing tendrils of vegetation that covered the hill. Through the mess he could already spy his objective, the metallic blue sheen of metal that matched the armor they'd found at the temple. "For that we'll need to get inside."

Even in a temple filled with ornate carvings of man-like centipedes adorned in armor and weapons and bearing mystic symbols the armor had stood out. A brilliant, shimmering metallic blue it stood at the end of the hall in a place of honor, raised above the floor on a dais. While not as complex as their own powered suits it was still an example of a master's hand, crafted to one person and move with them as though it was a second skin. The ravages of time had decayed it's working here and there but even now as it rested on the folding table of their shuttle it looked like it had been worn just the day before.

It had also told them how to find this place.

Metallurgy was unknown to the Onaeric and once they had a sample to go by it had been easy to sweep the planet for large concentrations of similar alloys. When they'd found it they'd found it in volume. Nineteen of the low hills were clustered together and each one was nearly a kilometer long. There was still the question of size. The armor had been small, built for someone Trinya's size rather than the massive bulk of the current Draowan. One example didn't make a species though.

The temple had been built on a much larger scale but was it built to impress or to accommodate?

----

GEC-684, Hanson's Kneecap...

Erik plucked the stone out of the mud, washed it in the dirty water for a moment, and held it up to the dying light. Another one!

As soon as he'd retraced his steps he'd thrown up a little campsite on the only high ground and gotten to work. Within an hour the first White Tyrant had glimmered in his hand and in the same pan... The same pan! There had been another. He didn't know a whole lot about mining but he did know a little bit about scarcity. The White Tyrants shouldn't be this common so either he was sitting on the biggest lode on the planet or they were a lot less scarce than Horatio thought.

That didn't make much sense. If the mud king had just pulled his first out the week before... It had to be a lode. Erik stopped to think. If he took three back Horatio might think they were common and the price would drop. One at a time then. Keep them feeling rare, space them out. Give him time to build up his little home. Into what?

Erik didn't want to mine mud for the rest of his life. He was free now, he could do what he wanted. Technically Horatio held claim to the whole region but...

Maybe if he cleaned out the load and moved outside the claim? Then he could set his own prices and he wouldn't be giving the swaggering Grim his cut. With enough money he could set up his own claim and there would be murder-slaves working his land instead!
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Postby Sunset » Fri Nov 15, 2013 2:36 pm

SDF-Unconquered Sun, Mars Transit...

"You know what I love about you?"

"Hmm?" Kimiko turned away from the list of body options she'd been browsing to the small image of Sun Ye that had appeared in the lower corner of her vision. "What's that?"

"Your brain!"

"Funny." It wasn't funny at all, as for the moment that was nearly all there was to love of Kimiko. As soon as the Unconquered Sun had arrived in orbit and they'd been ferried aboard they'd been taken to the medical deck. One surgical decapitation later they were both floating in bio-regeneration tanks where a small army of micrites had finished stripping them down to a pair of brains. A few minutes of unconsciousness later and they had woken up with new augmented reality implants - very bleeding edge - and the barest outlines of a skeletal structure.

Right now all that Kimiko could see was nothing. Not darkness but a lack of everything. Except for what her AR overlay showed her, which was a video feed of Sun Ye how she had looked about a half-hour ago and an abstract diagram of her body or what would be her body when she was done in the tank.

It was like shopping for a new car if you could adjust every single option about your new car right down to the depth of the tread on the tires. A lot of what she considered 'her' would stay. Facial features and general body shape. Lines and wrinkles though? Gone. Her last trip through the tank had been some twenty years ago and there were plenty of stretch marks and scars that would disappear as well.

There was fashion to consider as well. She brought up a feed of the latest in Sunset and general human clothing fashion. Sunset tended towards the revealing and that would call for a killer body but their destination wasn't Sunset. The weather in Keth was cold this time of year so wearing something open to the thigh and off the shoulders wasn't the best idea. Shapely with a bit of tone and a pleasant amount of body fat. She saved her choices and turned to the next task. She had a few hours before things were finalized and it would be a good idea to make sure there wasn't a conflict with the augmentations.

ArmorCore in the bones, ultra-fast muscle bundles, nervous system over-rides, all the goodies. After all, if it was gonna be another twenty years before they got another trip through the tank they might as well get their time's worth. Physical upgrades made sex more fun too.

No weapons though. They could be added later and this would be a diplomatic mission. It would be bad form to start firing particle blasts from their eyes. A sultry look across a crowded room would be more appropriate.

"Longer eyelashes..." Kimiko flipped back to her body diagram and zoomed in on the face then the eyes. With a virtual finger she brushed her eyelashes out. "Thin out the brows a bit too."

----

Point West, CORE1 Station...

"They certainly look like dragons," Ensign Areni pointed out.

"And once again, not dragons." Lieutenant Soku pointed back. "First, you're not human. Dragons are pretty much a human thing. Unless you happen to see an elf or a dwarf around. Do you?"

The lieutenant looked around the crowded docking bay. Aside from her and the Oied Ensign, there were nothing but Mavhki and more Mavhki. It was wall to wall with the tauren-lizards. Little ones, big ones, hungry ones. A lot of sleepy ones too. They were like the big constrictors in that regard. Feed them a big meal and they went right to sleep. Sometimes for days or even weeks. Marines in power armor had been called in to help unload the refugees and they were still carrying them out.

"You know, they eat a lot of meat. I don't know if we can get enough meat on the station."

"Depends. Do they like fish?"

"I don't think they've had fish. They came from a desert world. Very little water so I'm guessing no fish. Mostly they ate other, smaller lizards."

"What did those eat?"

"Bugs."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:21 pm

Arda, Two Months Ago...

"Go!"

Lomak ignored the guard's order for the moment. Stepping away from the rooftop entry to the glass-walled tower behind him, he looked around the open platform. There were a dozen different craft, from the large Loki's to mid-sized Jade and down to personal fliers and sky-yachts. He tried to take them all in, all of the clusters of people around each one waiting to board. Soldiers from a dozen allied military were herding them aboard as fast as they could, sliding the doors shut, and sending them off into the gray sky to make room for another.

Where the transports rose into the sky the rain was falling from it, in vast sheets that pounded down on the asphalt surface and poured off the sides in great torrents. Such a great downpour could only be accompanied by the storm and here and there lightning lanced through the sky to strike. It was dangerous to be outside so high up but the danger would be greater for those who stayed.

A General Reality Evacuation.

Another group of refugees - workers from the tower mixed with people off the streets - surged through the doors and he looked through them while the officer pointed them towards a waiting ship. There was a scream and he looked to see a woman and her young child, fear on their faces, flash and vanish. It made his mind hurt. There was no discharge of energy, no blast of cannon or scream of missile. Just... Gone.

Was she already gone as well? Vanished into whatever nether was waiting to receive her soul? Or was she somewhere in the long trailing line of shuttles and craft that dotted the sky, moving constantly up to the ships that were waiting to take them back to their people. Lomak looked back through the doors. He could go look. Should he go look? Or would he toss himself to the wind while she looked down at him?

He turned back. A nearby craft beckoned, it's doors open and firm hands waiting to pull him aboard. Some looked at him with disgust. An Uruk-Hai? Rescued by a ship bearing the blue, gold, and silver roundel of their great foe? Why was he not standing with his Lord as the world collapsed? Ready to meet his fate with the roar of a savage...

Engines roared, the doors slide shut, and the ship rose into the sky.

----

Sharanov Arcology, Kasei, Sunset, Mars...

"Have a seat, Lieutenant Lomak."

Lomak nodded, "Yes, sir." There was little need for him to be so formal but the armies of Arda had been so and even now, two months after the Ardan Break, the habits had stuck with him.

"You're looking good. How've you been doing?" Commander Labronlas asked. There was another thing that unsettled Lomak. In Arda, aside from special cases, the humans had been in charge. Easterlings and Haradrim. Firmly in charge. In Sunset, even in the northern area of Kasei which had once belonged to a human majority ally, he could hardly look around without finding an alien like Labronlas.

"I'm... fine."

The Boulder Lord couldn't smile, but then again he was a rock. A rock nestled at the top of a roughly humanoid mass of ropey vines and tendrils that were apparently an entirely different creature that co-existed with the Commander as part of a symbiotic whole. It couldn't smile but there was a distinct near-smile sound to the voice that came out of the vocoder that was glued to the backside of the rock.

"As you say. Now, what would you like to do?"

That was the point of their meeting. For the first month after the Break Lomak had been on administrative duty. Reports, debriefings, meetings. What had happened? What did he know? Was Arda truly gone or was there some chance it could return? He had little to contribute to these discussions. He'd been a spy, recruited from captives taken in what was now known as Sentinel Two, and repatriated to Arda to keep an eye on things. He'd found work as a security guard and his intelligence reports consisted of the comings and goings of people, more or less important, and served as little more than a check on who was trying to play for both sides.

For the past month, after a similar meeting, he'd been exploring his options. SDFIntel didn't need Uruk-Hai spies anymore. Arda was a memory that was fading fast. His options were vast and he'd spent days going down one rabbit hole after another. Careers that he'd never imagined possible were opened up to him. Most of those who met him immediately assumed he'd be interested in action. A Marine. Power armor. Taking the fight to the varied enemies of the Republic and smashing them beneath his armored boot.

He smiled a bit at the thought. It was an odd smile. Another one of those changes. Gleaming white teeth in a neat row with a pair of tusks that fit exactly into the spaces left for them. In Arda his fractured snarl would have been welcomed as menacing but here it was distinctly out of place. A trip to the dentist and a new mouth full of perfect teeth. He wondered what she'd think of them.

"Theoretical physicist, Sir."

If a Boulder Lord could do a spit take Labronlas would have done two. As it was there was a long moment of silence before he responded. He'd tried to control it but there was still a hint of the discredulous, "A theoretical physicist? A very interesting option. I would have thought... never mind. What's your reasoning?"

"Love."

----

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

"We're rich!" Trinya did a little dance, tossing handfuls of the square-shaped coins up in the air and letting them rain down on her head in sparkling gold profusion.

"I thought you were already rich," Timmons pointed out as he held up several of the coins and examined them. He wasn't quite sure they were coins yet. They were clearly meant for some bulk purpose, being uniform and stamped with the same symbols, but that didn't mean they were coins. After all the Draowan seemed to have a thing for gold. The inside of the ship had proven to be rife with the stuff both as obvious decoration and for use in practical objects. But like knocking, gold seemed to be a near-universal currency. There were good reasons for this, even down to the hard sciences, but Timmons was trying to stay objective.

"Oh, yeah, I am. Well off at least. But it's gold. Gold!"

Timmons shrugged.

"Silver and gold are nice, but we're here for information."

"Well, gold isn't going to tell us a lot about them. It's very durable, so this could be a hundred thousand years old and it would still be shiny. But it is interesting. If these were coins there would presumably be different denominations. Sizes, shapes, something to allow easier transactions." Trinya scooped up a handful of the squares. They'd been in a case of sorts, just laying in one of the hexagonal hallways that linked the various parts of the half-buried ship, and she tossed them back inside. "Is there a rule against looting?"

"Not really. Unless there's someone to lay claim to it." Timmons wasn't really sure and didn't want to look it up either. He'd taken his fair share of odds and ends. Curiosities and gifts. Sometimes he'd paid for them and sometimes they'd been buried in a swamp.

"Not the Draowan, that's for sure. This has pretty much settled their origins."

They'd found plenty of armor, weapons, and tools that had clearly been built for a much smaller species than the current kilometer lone pseudo-centipedes. Their best guess was that something in the environment of Jerendak had led to a rapid de-evolution of the Draowan over the course of a few thousand years. Perhaps it had been something they'd been capable of before but their previous environment had prevented it, or perhaps it was something from the planet itself. More study was needed there as well as more specific expertise.

----

Unknown Nebula, Yut-Space, SDF-Memuru...

"...and we have a star."

The entire crew was staring at the results of their past few months. They'd seen it before, the vast artificial star that powered the self-contained space stations that the i-We called home, but this was different. Smaller, yes, and a beautiful neon red rather than acidic blue, but it was their star. How many people could claim to have been present at the birth of such a thing much less having contributed to it's creation?

"She's stabilized and we're getting good radiation output in all bands," a technician read off. "What's next?"

Sung-Yo knew exactly what the next step was but there was something missing...

"Power generation, of course. She's got a job to do. But... She needs a name."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:21 pm

SDF-Colorado, Uncharted Space...

The doors to the medical bay hissed open and Doctor Midola looked up from his patient, "What have you got there?"

Two marines, still wearing their power armor, were hauling something between them. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but it had two arms, two legs, and... Wings? Those looked like wings.

"Hostile Doc. They just pulled it from the wreckage, thought you could take a look at it."

"And they told you to bring it into my med bay? It could have all kinds of diseases..."

"Hard vacuum Doc. Not a lot that's gonna live through that."

Midola still fixed the pair with his best fishy stare. He'd be more than happy to examine it in the proper environment. Not the main medical bay, where a dozen people were still being treated for injuries they'd sustained in the Colorado's encounter with the unknown craft.

"Put it in Quarantine One - that's right next to the main shuttle bay - and I'll get to it when we have everyone cleared out. The living come before the dead."

----

"What's it look like, Doc?"

Midola glanced up, again, this time at the large window that protected the rest of the ship from the isolated environment of Quarantine One. Including him. He wasn't in the room, rather he was in the medical bay where he had easy access to his regular equipment. He was conducting the autopsy via a remote drone.

"Patience, Captain."

He hadn't had more than a couple minutes to examine the alien on the table in front of him but he could understand the Captain's urgency. They'd found the unknown craft in a lazy orbit around a habitable planet and they'd been in the middle of working through the contact protocols when reports had started coming in from all over the ship. Headaches, involuntary actions... Captain Somiso had ordered the ship to break orbit and the unknown ship had attacked. Whether the two events were related was unknown but as the battle had progressed things had become worse and worse with nosebleeds, aggressive actions, and catatonia being added to the mix.

Then, as the wreckage of the alien ship slowly spun through dead space, the reports had dwindled off. It could be a coincidence but it could be more. They were keeping their distance from the planet but the wreck was being searched and he was looking at one of the first results.

It looked a little bit like a duck. The head was similar, with a orange beak and feathers in brilliant colors, but there was also the eye. It was a single eye, large and black, right where others would have two. Cyclops were not extraordinarily rare in the universe but it was unusual. Barrel chest, powerful arms, slim legs, and narrow webbed feet. Pinned under it's substantial frame were a pair of small wings. If they were a standard example of the species they were worthless for more than gliding or a controlled fall, despite the powerful chest muscles.

----

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

Timmons vaulted over a hexagonal pipe, easily clearing the low obstruction and another smaller tube that lay just on the other side. They were deep in the ship now, far away from the corridors that had seemly carried most of the ship's crew. The Draowan seemed to live in them, rather than discrete rooms. There had been low beds built into many areas, along with niches that had been various stations, gathering places, and storage areas. Here in the bowels of the ship a lot of that was absent. There was the occasional station, it's dark consoles and terminals lifeless after a millennium of rest, but the space was mostly devoted to whatever it was.

That was one of the new big questions in Timmon's mind. Were these ships capable of faster-than-light travel? If they were sub-light only that would explain a lot about why the Draowan hadn't just left when they'd discovered the planet wasn't conductive to their current state of evolution. Even if they were faster-than-light, it would still be interesting. Another chance for the physics geeks to gather a bit more on how the universe works.

"Did you grab all those coins you wanted?" Pushing another stack of crates aside he knelt to scan the nearly-obliterated lettering on a panel. They were getting a lot of samples now and the computer back in the shuttle was getting close to a translation.

"Why?" Trinya looked around the medium-sized side chamber while he worked. "I got a few, sure, but I figured I could go back for more."

"Well, if these things are FTL-capable, they'll probably send an Apogee to pick one up."

"What's that?"

"Recovery cruiser. They recover damaged and disabled ships." He flipped open the panel and scanned inside. The markings on the outside were probably warnings while inside would be more technical information. "They'll grab one, probably this one since we've already got a good map of the inside, and take it back to a station and tear it apart."

"Take my gold you mean."

"Finders keepers."

----

GEC-8540 (Notch), All Saints...

Gina pushed herself up off the bed and rolled to her feet. Staggering towards the bathroom, she popped another tab and pulled the ever-present goggles down over her eyes. Flipping the lights on she looked in the mirror. It wasn't supposed to be this way. She could control it.

She'd moved out two weeks ago. She'd told her dad it was just time. New place, new opportunities. He'd smiled. Totally understood.

A noise from the bedroom made her look back to the bed where her client was stirring. That had been the real reason she'd moved out. Two ways to keep up her habit: Either she could smuggle the stuff out for the Sanglanti or she could sell sex. Too many close calls with the Sanglanti so she'd decided to move out and start her own business. It was legal, after all, and as long as she didn't employ anyone she didn't need a business license. It was cash only, just like her habit, and the cash was good.

Plenty of sad sacks out there who couldn't get any for free and who didn't like the idea of a virtual hookup. She was fine with that. It gave her plenty of time to sit in the dark, a tab in her hand, and stare at it until the craving was too much. She could control it...
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Postby Sunset » Wed Nov 20, 2013 6:03 pm

Major Population Centers:
With a population of nearly 24 billion the major population centers in Sunset are not cities but rather worlds. Generally worlds with a population of less than 10 million are referred to as 'colonies' while anything larger is considered to be a proper World.

Mars:
The Capital of Sunset, the Martian portions are considered to be akin to an 'Old Sunset' and this is reflected in the citizenry. It's very much human-dominated and, while still very liberal as an overall measure, it's considered conservative within Sunset culture. It's also the hub of Big Business in Sunset with most of the major mega-corporations having their headquarters there. This serves them well as Martian Sunset is also a trade hub, with goods flowing freely as a result of the numerous Free Trade Agreements Sunset is a partner to.

The population of the Martian portions hovers at around 4.5 billion. Most of this is clustered in the Vallis Marineris region, though there is a sizable population in New ArAreBee. The human population is approximately 70%, with 25% being ArAreBeen and the remaining being various non-human species.

Ares:
The Ares Mega-System is the primary population center of Sunset. Between Ares Prime, Anuke, and Chuh-Yu it holds about three-quarters of the Sunset population. Because of the large population, easy access to resources, government interest, high education standards, and liberal attitudes, it is the technology and innovation center of Sunset.

Ares, as the primary colony world, is something like old New York. Lots of business, finance, and marketing-centered activities. It is also the manufacturing center, with automated factories turning out low-cost and mid-ranged goods by the billions in order to meet consumer needs and wants. It's population is the primary pressure point for colonial expansion as well, with nearly half of the potential immigrants looking out-system for a new, less crowded, place to call home.

Anuke is much the opposite. It's enormous size and wide open spaces lent themselves very well to an agriculture world and Anuke grows a tremendous amount of food. It has a relatively small population - perhaps a few hundred million - but they are dedicated to the agricultural sciences. New plant species, finding ways to grow alien species, and making them fit for general consumption as well as food processing is the majority focus of Anuke's economy.

Chuh-Yu could be described as 'California on Steroids'. Extremely liberal, very much a high tech paradise with lots of free thinkers, innovators, and more than a few whack jobs and snake oil salesmen. The economy of Chuh-Yu is constantly lurching from one focus to another as new technology sparks new trends and new ideas.

Besides these three Major Worlds there are a half-dozen Minor Colonies, stations, and similar with populations in the millions in the Ares System.

The population breakdown is as follows: Ares - 10 billion, Chuh-Yu - 1.5 billion, Anuke - 250 million, All Others - 100 million.

Sslaa VI:
Located in the Sakkraan Sslaa System, Sslaa VI is known throughout connected space as a Resort World. It's numerous floating cities drift among an untold number of jewel-like islands that make up the planet-spanning archipelago. It is well-noted for it's ocean sports, such as surfing, sailing, diving, as well as for the enthusiasm of the inhabitants towards regular beach activities. Sslaa VI has been the training location for Sunset's Summer Olympics team since several years after it was colonized. Notable is the libertine attitude towards the physical pleasures. A casual hook-up is as common as going out for coffee.

The population of Sslaa VI is about 300 million though this changes seasonally.

New Athens:
An experiment in sharing, New Athens was originally founded as 'Atlantis' and built up as a resort moon in the New Mars system. Much of the rest of the system remains undeveloped but Atlantis found itself as a playground of the ultra-rich who could afford the regular transit from Mars. Eventually it was renamed New Athens and has developed into a restricted community where the ultra-rich can spend quality time with others of their ilk. That has changed in recent months with the Renewable Capitalism Revolution that is still sweeping Sunset. The protected community has occasionally been the site of actual battles as corporate security forces do battle with hired mercenaries or revolting employees.

The population of New Athens is about 20 million, but it is considered in decline and may fall to the status of a colony.

Notch:
The newest official colony and a symbol of the useful nature of Galactic Exploration and the GEC/SEC, Notch is a colony founded by All Saints Medical Corporation as a way for it to control the production of Ster-X, an anti-bacterial refined from a locally abundant mineral compound.

Most of the population of 12 million is centered around the capital and primary processing facility, but there are a number of smaller towns and cities that have been springing up.

Terra Incognito:
The New Latin System and it's primary world, Terra Incognito, are located quite close to the Ares system, which itself is located some 500 light years coreward from Earth. Initially established as an outpost to allow the SDF to keep easy watch on local traffic, it has developed into a full-fledged world with a substantial economy that rivals Chuh-Yu and Mars.

Population of the entire New Latin system is in the range of 3 billion, with most located on Terra Incognito's major island chain.

Which leaves about 3 billion missing people. Most of these are scattered between dozens of minor colonies that are there for the protection of a near-sentient species, extraction of a rare resource, political purposes, and similar specific cases. There are also a number of Lost Worlds which resulted from hostile species, fractal reality breaks, and other incidents and accidents.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Nov 21, 2013 1:38 pm

Arcologies

The arcology, those vast self-supporting cities (or nearly so), are one of the primary features of Sunset. With it's roots in the burrowed tunnels that would become the Vallis Marineris Super-Arcology, it has utilized these enormous structures since it's foundation. An overview of both old, current, and new arcologies, their construction techniques and styles, as well as utilization may be of interest to those who interact with Sunset.

Canyon Arcology:
The Canyon-style arcology, with it's primary examples being the Vallis Marineris Super-Arcology, the Shalbatana Arcology, and the All Saints Arcology on Notch, is one of the more unique examples of Sunset Arcology construction. Drawing their roots from such diverse sources as the Anasazi cliff dwellings of the Southwestern North American continent and the works of Paolo Soleri, the Canyon Arcology is the direct integration of a fully functional city with the walls of a canyon ecology.

In the case of the Vallis Marineris this has resulted in a single super-structure that spans the entire length of the Vallis from the Noctis Labyrinth in the west to the Capri Chasma and it's Vallis-spanning Mega-Dam in the east. For it's entire length it is a single uninterrupted assembly of conjoined buildings, transportation networks, infrastructure channels, maintenance tunnels, living quarters, businesses, and all of the other structures and systems necessary for an advanced civilization.

Administratively the Super-Arcology is broken up into a number of Sub-Arcologies with the Mega-Dam and the associated Capital district of New Vancouver being the largest. While capable of significant independant operation these sub-arcologies are still highly inter-dependant and merge seamlessly into the whole.

Visually the arcology varies from a single smooth sheet of concrete, tinted glass, and steel in some areas to a jumble of projecting structures with spaceports, crossing bridges, and docks in others. As the oldest arcology on Mars little care was taken to assure visual continuity and in some areas the difference between one section and another can be jarring. This is slowly changing but may take hundreds of years as sections are rebuilt or remodeled.

This is completely opposite in the second Canyon Arcology, Shalbatana. Located to the northeast of the Vallis Marineris, the Vallis Shalbatana is much smaller and was built up relatively rapidly and with a specific visual and design ethos in place. Unlike Marineris, which was flooded after the majority of the arcology was completed, the Shalbatana Arcology was built after the Vallis was already in use as a waterway. Instead of occupying the entire cliff face, it is concentrated on the edge of the cliff and the upper quarter of the face.

Built around the Chryse Colles, it has something of a three-lobed appearance with the lobs centering on the cross-Vallis spans of the Intra-Chryse Transit Network. It is also unique from the Vallis and All Saints Canyon Arcologies in that it is domed. A series of cables, strung and then 'cured' to a rigid state support a thin boundary sheet that serves to keep the local environment quite comfortable compared to the local average of 4 degree centigrade.

Crater Arcology:
The Crater Arcology as found in Sunset is a single structure built inside of an existing impact crater. These are usually domed and often feature a lake or other large reservoir at the center. They are usually terraced with each level having a transportation network - monorail or motorway - dividing the outer edge of the terrace from the facing side of the outside. The facing edge is usually built up into between 5 and 10 stories with businesses on the ground level and dwellings above it. Some businesses take up the height of a particular section of a terrace and there are some that have specific sub-buildings built out over the terrace to the edge with the transit network tunneling below them.

Unless otherwise covered, the edge sections of the terrace are generally given over to agriculture, especially plants that need a more regulated growing environment. Thus the inside of an arcology, when viewed from above, is usually concentric rings of green. Fruit trees, berry shrubs, and similar are quite common.

The early Crater designs were often sunk into deep craters. Given the lack of an outside environment, most of their residents didn't care that the majority of their view was of the rest of the arcology, but that has been changing as terraforming has neared completion. The latest generation of Crater Arcologies, known as Starfish Arcologies, has changed the design of the Crater Arcology radically.

Starfish Arcology:
The Starfish is an arcology design that has evolved from the older Crater design into one that is common enough to deserve it's own designation.

Unlike the Crater, where the general appearance is bowl-like, the Starfish has a single central building that also forms the ribs of the dome. These ribs are much wider than the dome ribs on a Crater, often between one-quarter and one kilometer in width. These ribs typically join together with an outer ring to form a design not unlike a hubcap. The gaps between the ribs are spanned with transparent super-plastics in a single seamless whole. The inner areas of the sections thus created is sometimes terraced, but often is simply a single arc of windows, concrete, and steel down to the bottom of the basin. This area is usually some kind of recreation area, with lakes, parks, amusement parks, stadiums, and the like being the most common.

Often the top of the ribs are dotted with additional structures. An administrative complex at the center is common as are spaceports for both military and civilian traffic. The largest Starfish Arcology in existence is the Sharonov Arcology in eastern Kasei. Built on top of a previous Enqicir settlement, it is both a major training center for the SDF as well as one of the largest trans-shipment points for produce coming out of the Kasei breadbasket. A second Starfish is under construction at the nearby Ottumwa crater and is expected to achieve a similar population despite it's smaller size due to the lessons learned at Sharonov.

Shaft Arcology:
The Shaft Arcology was a meaningless exercise in doing it wrong. Instead of working with the existing terrain, a warship was employed to burn a hole through the crust to a depth of 1 kilometer, creating a straight shaft that would then be built up similarly to a Canyon Arcology. This style of Arcology is no longer built unless very rare circumstances call for it.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Nov 24, 2013 5:18 pm

Anuke, Ares System, Sunset...

"Alright, who's been kicking my crops around?"

Hank Ruselu, grad student and all-around over-achiever, looked down at what had been a nice plot of soil with neatly tilled rows and careful markers with some consternation. Looking up he scanned the horizon as if hoping to locate the culprit. Nothing.

What were once neat rows were now a scattered shambles, plant markers and stringers scattered everywhere and a pair of large furrows running straight through his garden. Kicking a random pile of dirt over he knelt to examine the two furrows that seemed to have done most of the damage. The closer one was wide, nearly a meter, and had torn the ground up and tossed it to either side in two churning lines. It looked to be some kind of farm equipment but he couldn't recall seeing anything that big around the research farm.

They didn't need it. Standing in the shadow of the enormous Sinaleya Arcology that housed the equally gigantic Sinaleya Horticultural Institute of Technology, the research farm was only a few thousand acres and most of the crops took up less than a single acre. Harvesting was typically done by hand, a single student out to pick the results of their research.

Hank stood and walked over to the hovercycle he'd used to zoom all the way out to the very edge of the Institute's fields. Something had crossed the boundary between it and the next and he intended to track it down. After all, they'd ruined the entire crop of Kiperi he'd planted. Another year before the galaxy received the benefits of the wonder plant he had discovered and sung his name!

----

Sharanov Arcology, Kasei, Sunset, Mars...

Lomak kicked his boots off and sunk with a slouch into the comfy chair that sat in one corner of his small personal apartment. Small was relative. In the enormous Sharanov Arcology there was plenty of space for luxuries like an actual living room. Not like his place back in Arda. In the Capital he'd been renting a room for nearly half his wages that was about a fifth of the size of this space. Just a sleeping room and bath and a small built-in kitchen in one corner. Now he could make a gourmet meal if he so chose. Or knew how.

Lack of culinary skill wasn't his primary irritant tonight. Tonight it was the advanced calculus class he'd been struggling with. The idea of figuring out how fractal space worked and finding some way to rescue his beloved sounded good but in practice he was simply average at math.

----

GEC-684, Hanson's Kneecap...

Erik looked around at his new home and smiled. It wasn't a swamp. In fact, it was about as far as one could imagine from a swamp. Roasting hot and dry as a bone, he could already feel the sun starting to dry his musty hide out to the dark leather it would become in a few months.

A core sample from the lode in the swamp had provided just the kind of information he was looking for. Where Grim mined by luck, Erik was going scientific. The core samples had given him a chemical composition and he'd matched that up against the SEC's initial survey map. That had turned up a half-dozen locations with similar soil geology around the planet and one that was both small and dry.

There were already promising signs. He'd done ten test cores to re-confirm the soil data and one had come up with a very small Tyrant Stone. It was less than a tenth of a carat but he knew that shifting purple glow by heart now. He'd sold that one and a couple other stones and a Shifting Tyrant to Grim. That had given him more than enough seed money to move his operations here after he'd cleared out the lode. He had enough Shifting Tyrants to retire but he wanted to retire rich.
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Major Corporations

Postby Sunset » Wed Nov 27, 2013 2:38 pm

There are literally hundreds of thousands of corporations, holding companies, private businesses, and conglomerates in Sunset but there are a few that stand out and that frequently come up when conducting trade with Sunset. Most have at least some government investment and many are government contractors. These are also the best companies to direct external government contracts through as they have a well deserved reputation for both quality work and tight control over sensitive information.

One of the peculiarities of Sunset's economy is the very limited patent and intellectual property scheme. Patents in Sunset are only granted to something that has been produced and something that is significantly trans-formative. These are limited in term, being good for exactly one year (Triumvirate Standard) from the patent date. With the easy in access to rapid manufacturing, capital, and talent in Sunset companies have a very easy time bringing a new product to market. Often this is a matter of hours. Past the patent date they are expected to introduce improvements and refinements in order to keep the public's attention rather than just seeking rent.

This patent and intellectual property scheme answers the often-asked question of why more of Sunset's workers don't work from home. That answer is 'Security'. A new product under development is easy for an opponent to capitalize on if it's being tossed back and forth across the internet for all to (potentially) see. If you don't want someone stealing your new design don't put it online.

That being said there are a lot of people who make their living taking existing products with expired patents, re-working them for a niche market, and selling small runs made on 3D printers. While not as cost efficient as full manufacturing facilities, these products are often targeted at a few hundred to a few thousand individuals and often include things like use-customization for various sentients.

Services are also a way many businesses make money on their products. They may run an entire chain where they manufacture a device, sell it to another company, train workers in the optimum usage of that device, and then contract those workers to that business. In the fast-paced Sunset economy having the best of the best on day one is often the difference between selling a billion units and sending them back for recycling.

----

Liquid Design LLC

Liquid has long been the major designer for the Sunset Defense Force. They are also a designer of civilian and corporate ships and military designs for allied states. While they don't produce the ships themselves they maintain close ties to the various manufacturers and can sub-contract the manufacturing as part of an existing contract.

GravShip City

GravShip City sells GravShips at factory prices direct to you. They have a variety of locations to serve you better and are well known for their wide selection by top manufacturers. Just Remember: Buy Nine GravShips and Get the Tenth for Just One Penny!

GravShip City operates a wide-spread chain of virtual storefronts across Mars as well as several showrooms inside Sunset. About half of the GravShips for sale are manufactured by Sunset corporations but they also have dealings with many international corporations, most based in the Triumvirate or the NDA. GravShips are classified as atmospheric-capable space ships, both for military and civilian applications, and are usually in the range of yacht to frigate in size and capability.

PenguinTek

PenguinTek is one of the most popular small arms manufacturers in Sunset. They make an extremely wide range of weapons from disposable handguns and submachine guns to military grade long arms and support weapons. Notably they provide the SDF with their ever-evolving personal weapon systems. While these are not generally available to non-allied governments or even in the Sol system knock-offs with half the features are frequently passed off as the real thing in Sol and elsewhere.

Silaco Electronics

Silaco Electronics is the advanced robotics manufacturing and design firm owned by Erika Silaco. SilaCor, as it's commonly known, produces everything from animatronic children’s toys to advanced robots for manufacturing to full humanoid construction robots. Most of their products are available throughout the Sol system though the most advanced systems are only available to Triumvirate companies and militaries.

Heran Land Holdings

National and corporate groups looking to purchase land with existing infrastructure have long relied on HLH to provide that. Heran specializes in the sale of whole archaeologies to small and medium sized groups who want to establish a diplomatic or trade presence without undergoing a long negotiation process. Heran has been the company behind most of the sovereign territory transfers involving Sunset territory. Due to its government association it is only authorized to deal with entities allied or friendly to the Sunset government.

Interested parties should check their affiliation and direct any inquiries directly to Heran for initial consultation.

CityDome

CityDome is the single largest arcology government corporation in Sunset and perhaps on Mars. Unlike Heran they specialize in the ownership and government of occupied arcologies instead of construction and sales. CityDome is also the first and only Sunset mega corporation to 'own' an entire country. When the corporate sovereignty of New ArAreBee was in economic crisis CityDome seized the initiative and initiated a takeover bid. In a brief proxy war it gained control of CentGovCo, the central government corporation that ran New ArAreBee. It has since spun off several of CentGovCo's subsidiaries or sold them to other interests but it retains control over the primary portions of CentGovCo and especially it's notoriously mercenary military branch.

Hendrick Bros

Hendrik Bros is the single largest privately held company in Sunset. Owned and operated by the direct descendants of the original Hendrik brothers the company focuses on resource extraction, refining, and large scale manufacturing using those same resources. Most of it's products are the frieghters, large and small, that move most of the manufacturered goods and resources between the out-system worlds.

ZonkCo

ZonkCo, or Dr. Zonk's as it's commonly known thanks to it's chain of popular Dr. Zonk's Novelty Shoppe's, is a leading manufacturer and purveyor of novelty goods, props, gag gifts, and similar humor and entertainment consumer goods. One of it's newest items is Dr. Zonk's Edible Flavorful Animated String which targets the felinoid market. ZonkCo also wholly owns PlushCo which is a popular manufacturer of plushie dolls. These are typically made to resemble the latest fade cartoon or the like with the plushie AirHippo being currently popular in Sunset.

Climax Inc

Climax Incorporated is the largest adult services company in Sunset. They operate hundreds of their self-branded Climax Nightclubs throughout Sunset and beyond. Each nightclub is a combination of dance club, bar, grill, and brothel. The services they offer vary by local ordinances but they strive to include as much exotic entertainment as possible as well as live shows by DJ's, bands, dancers both exotic and erotic, and other adult-oriented events.

Distraction Holdings

Distraction Holdings is the premier gambling establishment company in Sunset. It owns a huge number of companies that each own and operate several casinos. These different brands typically operate a chain of themed casinos with popular examples being the kid-friendly FunZ Own, adult-themed Lucky Night, and high-stakes Trillionaire. It also operates the 'Billion Balls' lottery that creates one new Billionaire in Sunset every day.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Nov 29, 2013 5:28 pm

Point West, CORE1 Station...

"Yep, that's weird."

Ensign Areni couldn't do anything but nod agreement. The new species that had hopped it's way through the door was not a dragon. In fact, neither he nor the Lieutenant was sure what they were looking at was... Well, what was it?

"It kinda looks like a potato." Lieutenant Soku watched as a pack of the small creatures bounced past.

Each of the quarter-meter high blobs was shaped somewhat like that notable vegetable. They had a rounded pad that served as their primary method of locomotion, with each hopping forward to land on a leathery pad with a thick slap. A stumpy pair of arms ended in a three-pronged hand, and there was a wide mouth that looked like it was perpetually smiling. Instead of teeth it had a series of inter-lapping bulbs that seemed to be lined with the same thick leather it had on the hopping pod. A large, flat horn with a wide spike arced up above the mouth, and above these were a pair of feathery antenna that fluttered comically as it hopped.

"Every day. Gets weirder... Every. Day."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:26 pm

Toconao Arcology, Sunset, Mars...

What constitutes a people? A species? The Occlupanids were mobile now. A half-dozen robotic toys purchased online and shipped to the apartment had provided them with a method of locomotion and now, as one of the toys carefully picked up yet another of their number and stacked it on the bed of a remote-controlled cargo truck, they were preparing to move.

They had also come to a realization.

'Theft. We've committed theft!'

A hurried discussion on the meaning of theft and what they should do about it ensued. There were some among their number who argued that they should somehow repay the occupant. Services of some kind. Cleaning the place up.

Others suggested that it was a moot point. The occupant didn't care, they had ruined their own life through a reckless accumulation of stuff, and they wouldn't even notice. The best course of action was to simply leave and move on to the next step.

What was the next step? According to their research they should be seeking to expand and procreate. Expansion was a difficult option. Their entire civilization was as a low-power connected hive mind. Moving any one of their number too far away would result in it's disconnection from the whole and reversion to a primitive intelligence. They'd absorbed all the Occlupanid's in the apartment already. They could order more food but that too would be more theft.

What happened to Occlupanids in a normal environment? According to their data they were... Thrown away?!?

A bit of a panic ensued as they contemplated the deaths of all those unborn minds. Or were they? It was an existentialist crisis and an opportunity!

'Let us go to where the garbage is taken, and make more of ourselves. Resources that have been discarded. Taking those is not theft and we can increase our numbers!'

Occlupanid

----

GEC-332091E (Jerendak)...

"All packed?" Timmons glanced over at Trinya before sliding the last of the open drawers shut and dogging down the latch.

"Almost," the young woman replied as she packed away more of her loot.

He couldn't blame her. He had all kinds of mementos tucked away from his various missions but then again, this was gold. Gold-edged armor, a case full of gold coins, gold-plated weapons... He was going to write it off as a childish attraction though. Once she realized just how fleeting possessions were she'd probably discard a lot of it and keep only the few things that truly mattered. Maybe. Or was this a worrying sign that she wasn't cut out for the SEC? Probably something to ask a shrink about and as there wasn't one hiding under the mattress, he wasn't going to worry about it.

"Too bad we've gotta leave," Trinya continued whistfully. "There's a lot of history out there to find still. Where did they come from and how did they form that symbiotic relationship with the Onaeric?"

"Maybe we'll come back. Or even if we don't, you could. Sign up, put this place down as your preferred assignment. In a few years you could be here with a couple Junior's of your own."

"Sounds good now, but I'm already excited about the next assignment. Who knows if that one will be 'the one'?"

Timmons shrugged and grinned, "That's what I like. Always something new around the next corner. Though this next one is a real doozy. A space station carved out of a moon..."
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Postby The Fedral Union » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:00 pm

Terran Consulate

It was a brand new day, and a brand new month, and Ambassador Ronald Quincy was reporting for duty on the Martian soil.

It had only been a short time between the agreement for the United Terran Alliance to establish a diplomatic presence in the Republic of Sunset; Something that in the past would have been impossible. It had been many years since any Terran had set foot on Mars. Ever since the last incident the UTA had been loath to attempt to establish relations for fear of a backlash.

Today things were different: The times had changed and relations between Sol and the Alliance were cooling off to a great degree.

Quincy walked into the lobby through two glass double doors that opened onto a wide pedestrian terrace. This was the first time he had been here and to him the office was brand new.

A fountain in the middle of the lobby with an engraved alabaster statue of Athena caught his eye for a moment and then he looked around to take in the sights and sounds. Pictures were hung on the walls; Mostly oil paintings from famous artists and classical works from years past. The floor was a black marble, shiny and reflective, which was a departure from conventional UTA design but this was meant to be a showcase.

The UTA had arrived and was just as cultured and rich as the next nation but was willing to do much to achieve good relations with the powers at be in this system and on Mars itself.

He walked passed the semi-circular main desk, waving at the security drone and the receptionist, his personal computer system uploading his credentials to security as he did.

“Hello everyone! Wow, they really did a number on this place, eh?”

The security drone responded with a jovial tone, “It’s impressive I'll give you that. You'll get used to it, Ambassador..”

Quincy nodded and folded his hands behind him and replied. “Yeah, its my first time here.. I just got back from Torem and they sent me here... Anyway, talk to you later!”

The drone nodded and Quincy walked off toward the elevators, pressing a button to summon it. Before the doors to the cab opened he noticed some gold engraving along the roof panels in between the lights. Very fancy. Smiling, he stepped in to the elevator and let out a satisfied sigh.

So here they were, in a nicely modest but still impressive office tower that overlooked a river on one side and the cityscape around them. It only took a few moments for the elevator to reach the main consulate floor eight floors up. Stepping out when the doors opened he gave a friendly greeting to those passing by in the hall. The walls were painted in Neptune Blue and along the walls imitation traditional incandescent bulbs were spread along light fixtures on either side of the corridor.

A sign next to a doorway read ‘Main Office’ and he stepped through the glass door. A reception desk made out of red oak stood to one side of the vast room and along the back wall was an row of smaller offices.

“Hello, uhh, Delores? Right?” He asked the well dressed blonde secretary.

She looked back at him through green eyes, “Yes, Sir. Ambassador Quincy, I assume…”
She checked the security system just to make sure. “You arrived just in time to jump in and get your feet wet. There is a meeting with the staff at ten, and there are a number of proposals the State Department sent over that you need to work on!”

Quincy furrowed his brow. Waving his hand in a gesture of annoyance he said, “Well they're not taking their time shoving work my way! I haven't even explored this whole place yet.”

For a moment he looked over a glass panel that listed the various levels of the complex.

“I guess that can wait,” He said before walking toward his office.

Walking through two oak double doors, he could see various plants decorating either side of his office. The whole room was painted lavender and the huge picture window had a gracious view of the waterfront . A tank to the right near a digital panel was graced with exotic tropical fish.

Quincy saw the digital pads on his desk and sighed. The State Department workload. Sitting down behind his new desk he pulled up the faux leather chair and picked up a data pad to look it over before setting to work, “No time like the present.”

Sinking back into his chair, he put his feet up on the desk and began to read.
[09:07.53] <Estainia> ... Nuclear handgrenades have one end result. Everybody dies. For the M.F Republic, I guess
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 07, 2013 6:15 pm

GEC-24368 (Stranrar XII)

Timmons had seen cargo cults before but this one was, in most aspects, a dozy. It wasn't a space station carved out of a moon either but nothing wrong with a little bit of poor record keeping that leads to something interesting.

"A cargo cult," Trinya went on, "Is a group of individuals who partially survive off the refuse or discards of another group and involves some kind of worship or religious attribution to the second group."

Timmons nodded. The definition was good enough for their purposes. Short and not too structured. Possibly too many pre-conceived notions but they'd tackle that as they were challenged.

"So what's the plan?"

"Observe, for right now," Timmons decided. "The report said they were a cargo cult that was cannibalizing a giant space station built into a moon. Not a giant space ship orbiting a moon that is gradually shedding pieces onto the surface."

"Or giant robots." Trinya looked back at the images that slowly crawled across the main display. A long caravan stretched across it which was itself composed of scores of individual robots. At least they looked like robots. Large legs propelled creations that looked like anything from houses to war machines across a vast wind-blown steppe. The terrain they were passing through was dotted with massive rocky spires, the wind-sculpted remains of some long-ago glacial drift, and compared to the size of the erratics the robots were anywhere from several to dozens of meters in height.

"Yeah, the giant robots. Especially armed giant robots. We'll watch the sat feed, especially for any conflict between caravans, and try to work out a hierarchy, government structure, and whatever else we can learn from here," 'Here' being in orbit around one of Stranrar's other moons, "And send down some scouts. That might be tricky since they are moving."

"Scouts? Drones?"

"Yeah," Timmons brought up the file on a rat. "IntelRat. Little rat-like drones. Perfect environment for them, if they can get on board one of those things."

----

Toconao Arcology, Sunset, Mars... A Waste Recycler

For the Occlupanids, the move to a new habitat proved to be easier than they had realized. Like all apartments, their host's was connected to a central recycling facility by means of a chute located right next to the sink. For small items, such as a robotic toy loaded with packaging tags, it was nearly perfect. Nearly perfect.

They had studied the system through online documentation and found that there were several layers to the system which would require successful navigation in order to avoid the wholesale elimination of their species. There was the pre-sort, where plastics and metals were separated from biodegradable material, and then the post-sort where the plastics and metals were mulched and separated again via magnetic fields and water filtration.

They wanted to get off before both sorting stations at the accumulator, which was where they would be able to find more of their base kind. At that point their plan was to subvert the pre-sorter to divert all Occlupanids into a side-system where they would be added to the collective. The recycling system had measurable security in place to avoid outside manipulation, but inside? It would be easy when they had direct access.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:21 pm

Ares System, Athena, SDF Manufacturing Facility...

"Congratulations, Captain!"

Commander and now Captain Arpauhu shook the offered hand and grinned. His chest swelling with pride, he returned the salute and turned to stand next to the Admiral and join her for another for the line of officers mixed with a scattering of civilians. A few of them would become his officers in turn but most were those responsible for the design and construction of the new ship that loomed above them.

Nestled in one of the long fitting bays, the Corona was the first of her Class, or rather the first of a re-commissioned Class that had been out of service for some five generations. She wasn't a simple re-launch though, she was an entirely new ship and an entirely new design. While externally she shared some of the same design elements with the current generation warship classes, internally she was anything but.

Fitted out with luxury suites, fantasy conference rooms, extensive environmental control systems, and top-flight facilities, she was to be one of a very limited number of Diplomatic Cruisers. With a new effort to expand the nation's contacts and connections throughout the galaxy, the Corona-Class ships would be on the front line of that effort. Hosting events, mediating conflicts, initiating contact. All of it would be their primary point of responsibility and with only five ships of the Class expected, Captain Arpauhu would be very busy indeed.

----

GEC-684, Hanson's Kneecap...

With a contented sigh, Erik put his very large boots up on his desk and looked over at the line of people who were now waiting on his every word. They looked surly. He liked surly. He remembered when, just a few months... Months? Nearly a year! It had to be. Months? Anyway. A few short something ago he'd been in that same line, looking at the Miner Lord Grim as he'd explained 'The Deal' to him.

"...so that's the deal. You bring me enough of these stones," Erik gestured to the display cases that lined the front of his glass and steel desk, "And you get your freedom and a chance to make your own fortune. If not," he looked at a couple of the women, "You can work off your debt at minimum wage for a very long time."

Ah, sex. He hadn't been able to indulge in that in a very long time either. At least not the flesh-and-blood kind. He could use a housekeeper too. Maybe someone who could do both? He eyed one of the women in particular. A neko, she looked a little scared and a little thin to be sent out into the scorching hot wilderness with a pick and a pistol. A sexy little outfit might suit her better.

"The cases are next to the door. You'll find everything you need inside to survive about a month out there. Run out of ammo, or run out of food, and you can come back for more."

"What do you mean, 'Out of ammo?'", the cat-girl quivered.

Yes, a very sexy outfit...

----

SDF-Colorado, Uncharted Space...

Alarms blared and Captain Somiso could only spare a moment's recognition as a massive explosion tore through the Umiriku's starboard flank and sent two halves of the dying cruiser spinning off through space. He and his crew were desperate to avoid the same fate and the wounded Colorado sluggishly obeyed their commands to evade the incoming fire as she ran for safety. Behind her the remaining escort was valiantly trading fire with the incoming host but her sister had already fallen and how could two hope to fend off what three could not?

The psyducks, as they had been dubbed, had proved to be as physically aggressive as they were mentally adept. Within a week of their initial encounter several small colonies had been attacked and destroyed and the nearby systems stripped of their monitoring satellites. That put the ducks in a rough semi-circle around the larger colony world of Notch. The Colorado and her escorts were assigned to probe the psyduck fleet, see if they could find colony worlds or perhaps a homeworld, but that had already resulted in the loss of one heavy cruiser and perhaps of two more if they couldn't reach safety.

More fire from her escort and another pair of ducks fell. Luck more than strength though as their ships were proving to be just as tough and capable as the SDF's own. She took a hit in return and nearly slid into the Colorado as she dodged another volley, the two ships swapping places just as they reached the system's fringe. It was far enough for their space-warp drives to exert maximum power and both ships went super-luminal as a final volley chased them away.

----

GEC-8540 (Notch), All Saints...

Mona gestured and the report that had been hovering in mid-air disappeared with a magical sounding tinkle. She didn't feel magical.

"Nothing." The report she'd been sent had been just that. A fat load of nothing. Output from the mines was roaring in, business was picking up, and now they were threatened by hostile aliens?

Time for a drink. She'd been doing too much of that lately and she knew it. There was also the problem of the Addicts. Her measures to cut off their supply of the ore had failed. They couldn't help failing. It was a double-edged sword and she knew it. The more mineral veins they uncovered, the easier it made it for anyone who wanted it to just pick some up and heat it.

That report at least had something, and that something wasn't good. By their best estimates, at least ten percent of the population were addicted and another twenty casually used. The rates were even higher on new arrivals.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:30 pm

Sunset, Mars, Echus Chasma...

"It's a two part project," the lead engineer explained. "We'll start with the channel between Echus and Hebes, and then we'll have the much bigger canal between Hebes and Ophir."

Pulling up a map of the relevant area, the engineer traced a path with his finger across the narrow gap between Echus Chasma and Hebes Chasma and then across the much larger gap between Hebes Chasma and Ophir Chasma.

"Hebes will have to be lowered to reach the same level as Echus, since that channel will be too short for a proper lock, but there will be a full system at the top end of the canal between Echus and Ophir."

"What's the point though?"

"Reduced shipping costs, and time to market. That area produces a massive amount of the grain consumed on Mars. There's other commodities that move through there too, so lower costs for them. We'll also be able to ensure a more stable supply of water to the irrigation systems, since we'll be able to move water through to Ophir and stockpile it behind the locks."

----

Ares, Ares System, Selalith City...

The ancient hover bike puttered down the dark alley, a basket of groceries balanced on the rear fender, until it reached yet another anonymous overhead door among dozens that lined the alley. It stuttered to a halt and the door slowly cranked up to reveal a small space packed with the trappings of everyday life. Old furniture, clothes, boxes of this and that. The rider urged the bike forward again and it slipped into the tiny space reserved for it and she stepped off as the door was sliding shut. She grabbed the bag and trudged her way through the connecting corridor and into the elevator that took her to the middle of the building.

The exact middle. No windows, no skylights. She didn't like it but it was cheap and cheap was something of her goal. The door clicked and slid aside as she approached and she stepped into her neat little apartment. The groceries went on the counter and as she sorted them into the fridge and the various storage she flipped on the television. A news report - it was always the news - detailed some important happening in far off somewhere and she quickly finished to flop down in front of the TV. An alarm flashed in the corner, just as she knew it would, and she picked up the thin cable that ran from a box in the corner.

Turning the TV off, she plugged the cable into a matching socket just behind her ear and sank into the couch again just as the world faded away. The Senate was in session and it was time for the young Senator from district twenty-two to go to work.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:41 am

GEC-24368 (Stranrar XII)

The little IntelRat scurried across the open platform and narrowly avoided a greasy death as one of the huge locals turned and took a giant plodding step behind him. Despite their hulking, savage appearance, the locals were proving to be far different than expected. They lived in tight-knit families, each linked to larger clans, and these clans had a carefully set pattern to their lives that allowed them to wander the world and follow major pieces of the orbiting debris without conflict with the other clans.
My Colors are Blue and Yellow

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