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Sar Rithril
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Postby Sar Rithril » Fri Jul 11, 2014 3:21 pm

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WHATISTHECOMPENDIUM?
The Compendium is a repository for various creative works by the members of the NationStates Future Tech roleplaying community—those works which do not fit the traditional mold of a roleplay post. This specifically focuses on serials and short stories, but can include other formats from drama plays to poetry and prose. Content can range across a diverse spectrum, from all quadrants of the prime community galaxy to parallel universes and all manner of special sub-communities, with the caveat that all stories and submissions fall under the umbrella of the overarching Future Tech community. All stories and submissions will be categorized by the posting author to create a canon of work that may be used both as a reference to one's larger mythos, or to the writer's work independent of other civilizations created in the Future Tech roleplaying community. The story registry will be updated frequently.


WHOMAYCONTRIBUTE?
The Compendium is an open collection of work from authors throughout the NationStates Future Tech roleplaying community. Any story that may be broadly classified as a part of the Future Tech style is permissible, either through standalone entries or through work that assists in the creation or promotion of a writer's Future Tech group or groups.There are no initial restrictions on who may or may not participate by submitting their work; however, habitual violators of the Compendium's rules (or those of the content policy in the NationStates forums) will have any offending work removed and further be asked not to continue participating with content submissions. All content posted to the Compendium will be updated as regularly as time permits; questions may be forwarded to the OP, Sar Rithril|New Azura via telegram, and any requests for help may be directed via IRC to the folks at #NSLegion.


THECOMPENDIUMRULES:
1. All content, be it serials and short stories or other forms must conform to the stated content standards of the NationStates forums, pertinent to the possibility of Moderation intervention or content deletion. Content of an edgier nature should be submitted with a '[Mature]' tag to be included at the top of each post, aligned to the right and enclosed by brackets, with the text appearing in a shade of red in large font size. The following code is provided as an accepted general standard for usage with all mature submissions:

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[floatright][box][size=150][ [color=#BF0000]Mature[/color] ][/size][/box][/floatright]

2. Submitted work to the Compendium should be included with a discernible title, centered at the head of each submission in large text for easier categorization purposes. Stories or submissions without a given title will not be added to the catalog until rectified.

3. While characters and themes may reoccur in unique works, the Compendium is not a repository for whole roleplays or collaborative works between players [though exceptions may exist for civilizations or races controlled by multiple players]. Please do not use the Compendium to carry out large-scale roleplay efforts. Other nations' characters may only be used with their consent.
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Postby Kyrusia » Fri Jul 11, 2014 3:46 pm

Awake
[ MATURE ]

Nikole brushed her hand across the featureless surface of her wrist-bound computer; the counter read "88:28:aC12" and a myriad string of otherwise nonsensical alphanumerics. It wasn't as if she'd expected something else; by her best estimate, the counter hadn't displayed anything worthy of note - much less actually useful - for the last thirty (thirty-two) kilometers. She was just surprised and, if but to herself, admittedly thankful that the oxygen counter and eugeroic charge indicators hadn't malfunctioned or, worse, flooded her environmental suit with a toxic mix of hydrylsulfine and pure O-two.

She much would prefer not to be found bloated, foaming - in addition to lifeless - face down in the blue-green dirt of... wherever she was suppose to be.

With a heavy sigh, she tossed the traveling pack off her shoulders, allowing it to crumple and fall with a faint thump, rolling amidst the roots of the leafless, indigo-barked tree she had stumbled across. Inhaling slowly, trying to conserve what bit of her air supply remained, she glanced up to the twisted, knotted, harrowing crown of branches and thorns which hung low above her and, briefly, wondered if the tree itself was alive - or whether it, like herself, had approached its own brink, worn down and exhausted, and simply decided "enough".

The thoughts flashed through Nikole's mind about whether this was to be her grave, beneath the indigo tree with its crown of bramble-hair in a seemingly endless valley littered with little more than the reddish, rust-toned grass she'd come to despise.

She pushed the thought from her mind with a grunt, letting herself crumple and fall back to the tree before sliding down to sit amongst her pack and the roots which she had let it fall. By her best guess, she'd been traveling for forty, perhaps forty-three kilometers since she last stopped to actually rest. The eugeroics ("Wakey-takies" her fellows in the Foundation called them: keep the doctor awake so he can keep taking samples.) had kept her going for at least three days, she imagined, without meaningful sleep or respite. Perhaps an hour, perhaps two, was the longest she recalled actually being unconscious; but like many, she didn't like sleeping after taking a waker. Bad dreams.

Tossing her head back, beneath the polymer-glass of her hood, Nikole looked upward to the sky, momentarily entertaining the notion of an intriguing cloud formation or, maybe, even a bird. Only the dull, orange haze gazed back at her; were it not for the lifelessness and the utter isolation she felt, that sky would have reminded her of the light-polluted heavens of her home. She'd despised them, once; now, she thought, she'd much enjoy seeing them again.

The expedition had been a failure from the start. Either the project director was incompetent or the epitome of malevolence; Nikole hadn't quite decided which. For all intents and purposes, she wasn't even suppose to be there; not really, at least. She was an anatomy illustrator and biology technician; little more than an assistant in the overall ranks of her employer. She'd hoped the expedition would give her a chance to improve her standing, perhaps get attached to a project with some real promise; some interesting observations about life, much less their illustration, went a long way in some circles in the Foundation. It had become readily apparent, however, that the alien landscape she and her fellows had found themselves on lacked virtually any life that wasn't flora.

Then again, even the flora was rather dim. All gray and bruised - a world of blemishes and cankers and sores. Sure, it had been charming, even intriguing, at first, but not anymore. On the fourth day, when they discovered that whatever day-night cycle the world had was overblown and distraught. "Run down," Mark had called it; regardless, Nikole simply knew it wasn't working properly, because she hadn't seen a star, a moon, or even anything but that blanket of cloudy, dim haze which hung above her, above the trees, and above the sooty, basalt out-croppings that served as the only points of reference on the otherwise listlessly flat and featureless plain.

Nikole closed her eyes. Razor-glass lips against pale, dead thighs; sweat and tears over amorphous bodies writhing in ecstasy; blood seeping through desaturated cloth, pooling, and alive. Just as unconsciousness began to take hold, despite the relentless onslaught of macabre imagery which assaulted her, the high-pitched wail of a beeping alarm jerked her back.

Waving her fingers against the featureless plateau of her computer, she read the flashing warning: 'Oxygen reserves low. Critical level. Current reserves hold three percent of initial volume. Initiating rationing.'

She would have sighed had she not thought better of it; already she felt her chest tighten, trying to adjust to the change in volume of the pure oxygen being pumped around her features. By her count, at three percent, without further exertion, she'd have twelve hours; with walking, she'd have six - at best.

Reaching aside, Nikole hoisted her pack gingerly into her lap, unzipping and unbuckling its main compartment. A composition notebook; a few charcoal pencils; her emergency ansible - its batteries dry; then, at the bottom, a small, polymer cylinder. The object glowed with a faint phosphoresence, showing a vectorial cut-out of "O2". Thirty-minute emergency supply, she recalled; they were an act of desperation at best, meant to help personnel survive in the event their primary reserves were ever compromised. The assumption had always been, of course, that they were merely meant to last until a team-mate could re-configure or add fresh reserves; to say the least, they didn't do much good for a woman on her own in a world she didn't recognize.

Even so, thirty-minutes. Thirty extra minutes of time. Thirty more minutes until asphyxiation.

Turning to her left - a direction her computer told her was south-southwest, though she was suspect - she looked into the distance. For a moment, through the dim haze, she thought she glimpsed the faint silver-sheen of the expedition's deployed shelters, but knew better. To her right (north-northeast, her likely malfunctioning compass said), in the distance, she could only slightly make-out a stone, seemingly stepped edifice; it was black, gray, almost sooty. It was the coordinates for her emergency extraction point; her supposed point of rescue, as it were. So said the robotic voice on the other end of her ansible. So it had said through garbled and broken static, countless days before.

With a click against her helmet, a dull blue glow abruptly filled Nikole's field of vision; across the interior of her shielded helmet, various bits of information - warnings and alerts, mostly - were displayed. She ignored them, focused instead on the rapidly fluctuating line of numbers as she pointed her forehead to the basalt out-cropping far ahead of her.

'Two-eight-point-two-two-two... kilometers' the range finder estimated. At five kilometers an hour, it would take her just under six hours to reach the destination; she thought she could make it as she briefly recalled the state of her reserves. If she didn't run; if she walked, as slow as possible, she might just make it. Even so, all conditions fair, she knew she'd have just under forty-five minutes of oxygen left - including the emergency cylinder.

Six hours, forty-five minutes - give or take, she knew - until asphyxiation. Six hours, forty-five minutes.

In her mind, she told herself 'No time like the present, Niki,' but didn't speak: waste of reserves.

With a faint lurch, using the indigo-toned hide of her brief home to steady herself, Nikole stood-up, donning her pack once more, looking out to her destination with more than a bit of exasperation. She felt her eyes burning; they had been for hours. It was a side effect of the eugeroics - that and the itching. Yet, looking down, she activated her computer, sliding from one screen to the next, before pressing the final reserve of her wakers; immediately, the faint scent of lavender filled her nostrils. Pupils constricted, the heart lurched, the chest tightened, and Nikole felt as if she'd slept for ten hours on the most comfortable bedding in the whole of creation, bound in the arms of a lover forlorn.

She paid no mind to the lascivious desecration and humiliating, terrifying, and macabre mutilation of her memories that flowed across her eyelids with every blink.

As she walked, the distant out-cropping of grayscale stone growing more and more defined even as the slow creep of exhaustion kept fighting to retake her, only the waker keeping her lucid and upright, she tried to maintain her focus. For a while, she managed to find the music player in her wrist computer; for nearly two hours, the constant polyphonic symphony of a pre-loaded sample kept her frustrated enough to maintain, before she finally was forced to turn it off and return to the steady rhythm of her slow, droning breathing.

After nearly four hours, Nikole briefly entertained the notion of sitting down; the momentary pause in her journey, however, lead her to realize the futility of such an act. Wakers had rapid, near instant onset, but only typically lasted for approximately four, perhaps five hours before degrading into waste. A rest meant she'd sleep, whether she wanted to or not; her bones, aching and creaking, told her such a slumber would last the better part of a standard day - were she not to be roused by her own gasping cries for air.

No. No rest. She didn't know how many more hours until the Foundation's extraction team would arrive; she could miss them asleep. At least awake, she'd be able to scream and wave as they landed, even at nearly fifteen kilometers out. The featureless landscape, at least, afforded her that benefit.

Walking. Keep walking.

"Oxygen reserves low. Approximately ten minutes of oxygen supply remain. Please replace," blared into Nikole's ears as her helmet screamed into life without summons, filling her field of vision with its artificial, blue halo. Scrambling, she dug her gloved hands into the green-orange soil on the passable slope of the basalt plateau, bits of rock and violet-gray grass flung aside as she climbed. The plateau itself was nearly three meters from the floor of the plain; it was more troublesome to surmount than she initially had expected. Exhaustion, she thought, was a pain.

Tugging herself up, she rolled, finally, listlessly onto the summit of the low elevation. Exhaling sharply, breathing heavily even as her computer informed her of the less than six minutes of rationed reserves remained. She had made it, even if her calculation were off. She'd thought about running the last kilometer or two - or, in the least, attempting it. Nikole thought, her back bent over her tumbled and dusty pack, that she was lucky to not have made that mistake: there would have been no air left to climb, free of her emergency reserve.

Even so, for a time, she rested, her eyes drifting through the azure glare of her projected warnings up to the hazed skies above, hoping, demanding for them to abruptly be washed aside by the intakes of the extraction team. As the two minute alarm sounded, however, there was no such luck.

A broken seal and a toss pack later, she slammed the emergency oxygen cylinder into the small port on the side of her helmet, filling thirty minutes - approximately - worth of air back into her suit. The incessant alarms stopped after informing her of only twenty-two minutes remaining, despite the cylinder's assertion to a full half-hour.

Not that it mattered much, she surmised.

Tugging her pack beneath her head, Nikole leaned back against the alien grass, resting her head as best she could within the confines of her helmet. She closed her eyes. A dark blue suit, torn apart, ripped, shredded in lust; a chiseled jaw pocked by bruises; a breast ripped free from its seat; lips engorged by blood. She opened her eyes and stared, openly, into the haze above her; the alarm had awakened her.

Four minutes.

Nikole released a heavy sigh, almost instantly causing her suit to begin blaring about the critical two minutes of air left within it. She ignored the alerts wholly as she stood, wiping off her thighs more out of habit than that of concern, before she tilted her head upward again, squinting desperately into the dull, orange haze above. She waited. She watched.

With a sigh, she smirked, shaking her head as she reached to silence her wrist-bound computer. The flashing light of her helm caused a similar response as she flipped it off as well. For a moment, her hand lingered above her shoulder, then she smiled.

With a whisper, she flicked the locks on her helmet, tugged sharply, and removed it. It took but a moment - less than the time for her to drop her discarded equipment - before she felt her skin tighten and her eyes begin to burn anew.

The last words on her lips were, 'I love you'.

A breeze blew away dust and soot atop a low elevation in that empty plain, leaving behind a traveling pack and an empty environmental suit. No reserves left, only sleep.

Sleep at last.
//409:teknogeist//
FT ADVICE THREAD // NSFT DISCORD

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Postby Rethan » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:04 pm

Never Heard, But Seen

I

It was in some distant corner of space that Hanna Engstrom had been found, with her eyes clawed out and her ear drums shattered beyond any hope of repair. Floating in some horrid and musky shuttle she had been quite willing to die and, by her own admission, was disappointed in the extreme that she had not. That the grievous wounds her eyes had suffered were self inflicted was obvious even to those without a medical background, but what awful sound beyond human tolerance had so utterly destroyed her sense of hearing and had robbed her of her life’s purpose remained a mystery. Hanna certainly had no desire to speak of it, at least at first. Though she willingly allowed implants to be administered to her aural cavities - and in fact demanded her ears be fixed before anything else was tended to - she refused any attempts to correct her eyes. Hanna Engstrom had no desire to ever see again and refused to explain her motivations.

Upon her return to the world of Oberon and the claustrophobic hallways of the Lisaturic Conservatory however, Hanna Engstrom finally found herself willing to speak. The doctor which had attended her, a kiith by the name of S'jet Iilhem luun-Neeshma with considerable skill in cybernetic repairs, and the huerdaen pilot which had found her both made sure to be present. They had remained on Oberon long enough to make sure the young girl was comfortable and well looked after, the kiith doctor in particular teaching the Conservatory staff on how to manage her cybernetics in the event of rejection. As such, they did not have to travel far when she contacted them with news that she was finally willing to speak. The huerdaen Siriyuchi Numai reached her first, and found that the young musician had already prepared a small amount of drinks for her guests. The doctor followed mere minutes later and, thanking them for their care and speed at attending to her, began her story though not before advising both of them to sit.

It was known to both that Hanna Engstrom was quite the musical prodigy and an early graduate from Lisaturic Conservatory. At the age of a mere twenty three she had exited the college with a torrent of requests from every corner of Oberon. In time private interests from beyond her home planet, each of whom knew of the brilliance that flooded so constantly from the Conservatory, contacted her and she found herself whisked away on yachts and cruisers to stars she had dared only dream of. Her renown as a digital musician was second only to her love and skill with ancient stringed instruments made of sheep’s gut and maple wood and it was for this talent that she made her name and riches. For three years as her world measured time she was whisked from system to system, from station to station and played for a dozen or more alien races in symphonies of her own design. She had never been happier and for a moment paused in her story to savour the memory of success and fame she clearly held so dearly. At a gentle nudging from the huerdaen pilot she excused herself and returned to her task.

In due time she found herself back home, the constant travelling and playing having taken its toll on her. She had more than enough money for a break and rested with her family and friends back home for a full year before she received another invitation. Though she was tempted to turn it down, something about the message - hand delivered and hand written on a most luxurious paper - intrigued her and she gave the letter her full attention. An anonymous benefactor was promising to grant her a great deal of money, more than enough for her to live on for the rest of her life, if she would only agree to play at his holiday home in a distant star system. She would be gone no longer than two days of her local time, and she would have complete artistic freedom to play for the man’s audience. At the urging of those she held closest, she accepted and by sundown of that very day found herself on board a luxury yacht of the most exquisite and comfortable design she had ever seen or would ever see again if the man’s promises were true. The trip was, true to the letter’s word, exceedingly short and in no time at all Hanna was striding through some station’s monstrous ball room. All manner of creams and blues decorated the walls, and her escort hurried her along to a staircase carved of a stone she could only assume was marble where she was asked to wait. Alone with the parting of her escort, Hanna examined the balustrade closely and marvelled at the texture of the alien stone. At the thin veins of green and amber that gave the otherwise cream coloured marble a truly hypnotising design. She had never seen anything like it in all her travels and found herself tracing her fingers all along the veins of colour, discovering that the colourings were in fact carvings of such minute and perfect detail.

The sudden appearance of an aged man frightened her, almost causing her to fall. His wrinkled hand caught her however, and she thanked him even as he apologised for frightening her. As kindly as his voice was, once the young musician looked up to see his face she was overcome with a feeling of unease she could not adequately explain. The man continued speaking, crowding out her discomfort with words of praise and gratitude and she quickly found herself deep in relaxed conversation with him about all things musical. He explained the plans for the ball he was throwing, reaffirming the invitations declaration that she could perform however and whenever she liked so long as she gave him firm and advance warning. A room had been prepared for her within the mansion-station, and he offered to walk her there himself. Her luggage, he declared, had already been brought there and would be waiting for her. The walk was a short and pleasant one, and the man left her to prepare for the first evening of guests who would be arriving over the course of the next few hours. There would be no music for the first night, and she was free to mingle and socialise as she desired. He bade her farewell and moved to leave, pausing only when a sudden thought took hold of her and she called after him.

“How rude of me, sir. I never asked your name.”

He smiled and once again that sourceless sense of dread and unease clogged her mind so that she almost missed his reply.

“My name is Perrier. Matthew Perrier.”


II

As expected the first night came and went without much cause for concern nor remembrance. Hanna had spent the time moving from one group to another making small talk with individuals who did not know who she was, and engaging in long conversations that consisted primarily of compliments when she found those who did know her. What little music there was to accentuate the evening was tended to by a young digital artist that Hanna recognised from her travels. At a lull in the evening the pair left the main ball room and made their way to the bar. With a sad smile and a choked sob Hanna said that her name had been Lee. She took a moment to recover, Siriyuchi and Iilhem awkwardly glancing at one another and wondering whether to leave for the night or remain, before apologising and returning to the tale.

Lee, Hanna said, was a perfect specimen of musical talent. Unlike Hanna herself, Lee had no formal training and used instruments and software of entirely her own design. The two musicians spent a long time talking, trading stories of their past performances and comparing their opinions of Mister Matthew Perrier. Both agreed there was something off putting about the aged gentleman but could not decipher what it was. Eventually, as the clock ticked on and the bar eventually dried up (in no small part due to their own efforts), they wrote it off as simply the aura of an eccentric and left for their rooms. Lee, surprisingly less capable of holding her own, could not remember the way to her room and leaned on Hanna for support. Somewhat frustrated, but far too drunk to let it truly bother her, Hanna instead brought Lee to her own room and laid her down to sleep. The bed was, after all, large enough to fit four people of Hanna’s size and Lee was smaller than Hanna by a significant margin. Changing into her night gown, Hanna lay down beside Lee and fell asleep.

It did not last long.

Hanna, having always been a light sleeper, was awoken only hours later by a subtle scratching. The repetitive, painful noise was coming from above her and try as she might Hanna could not ignore it. She took a moment to marvel at Lee’s still sleeping form before standing and changing into her normal clothes. Perrier had explained that the ball room was always open to practice and, unable to sleep, Hanna decided to practice the piece she intended on playing that night for the guests. Retrieving her instrument of choice, an expertly constructed cello, she quietly left her room and made for the ball room making sure not to wake Lee as she did so. It took her bare minutes to be set up and prepared and soon the dulcet tones of her music danced around the silent and bare hall, a slow and delicate piece that flooded the chill air of a simulated night with a majestic warmth. And then the scratching began in earnest.

No matter how loudly or vibrantly she played, the constant scratching would not be drowned out and she was forced to stop her performance. Closing her eyes, she tuned her classically trained ears to try and find the scratching’s source. She stood clutching her cello for several minutes before a deep and choking fear took hold of her and stole the breath from her lungs, for the irritating scraping had no source. She moved about the hall, and no matter where she stood it was always at a constant volume. Just loud enough to be noticed, but not loud enough to be deafening. Concerned for some toxin in the air, or some mechanical failure aboard the station she fled to her room to call for Perrier but as soon as she entered found a smothering tiredness creep into her mind. The next thing she knew was Lee’s gentle nudging at her arm to rouse her into consciousness. She had apparently collapsed asleep just within the door of her room. The noise, whatever it had been, was gone.

She explained in hushed tones what had happened the night previous and to her great relief Lee was fully understanding. She had woken with a start herself when she noticed in her sleep daze that Hanna was absent and she too had heard the scratching noise, that awful sound which made her teeth itch and sounded for all the worlds like rats climbing through the walls - a fact they both knew impossible. Further Lee had described a foul smell accompanied the increasing volume of the rat like clawing, the smell of burning hair, of ozone and a taste of rust on her tongue. They both agreed to raise the matter with Perrier that morning, and so Lee left for her own room with the matter - apparently - settled.

They met after breakfast outside Perrier’s private room. Their employer was busy with another guest, so they busied themselves with idle conversation to distract from the curious disturbances of the night before. Hanna remarked to Siriyuchi and Iilhem that Lee was filled with a manner that was simultaneously crass beyond reason and yet charming beyond belief that made her a delight and a challenge to speak to, something Hanna had found impossibly endearing. The door had eventually opened, and both Hanna and Lee had lapsed immediately into silence. The figure, the guest, which exited was a man of apparently human origin that had frighteningly sickly skin. He was an ugly thing to look at, even with the majority of his body and head covered in some robe of deep black that shimmered in a way that reminded Hanna of the staircase and its enigmatic stone. His skin was deathly pale, transparent even, and littered with sagging skin and ruptured boils to such an extent that Lee had to turn away lest she gag and offend the man. It was his eyes though, his eyes that Hanna shuddered to remember and could not properly describe save to say that they were filled with a madness that made her sicker even than the boils to witness. An ancient and intangible madness lay behind those eyes, and she prayed the man would not be present at the night’s festivities.

The duo quickly hurried inside Perrier’s room without invitation and left the awful man behind them. He was sat behind his desk, staring out beyond a window into the featureless dark that lay outside the station. Lee, clearly shaken by her encounter just moments previous, exploded into the reason for their visit and intrusion. Hanna found herself having to apologise for Lee’s crass and expletive filled rambling, but Perrier simply laughed it away. He explained that they were right, there had been a slight malfunction with the air scrubbers which had lead to the appalling smell and the sound was simply the tell tale symphony of repair nanites that tended to the air while the scrubbers were being repaired. Nothing at all to worry about, he insisted though neither Lee nor Hanna seemed convinced. He asked them both to sit, offering each a drink of whiskey that Lee accepted all too readily. The talked for many hours, Perrier eager to get to know his musicians and the pair of them willing to waste away a day for which they had no engagements. The offer of free and constant drinks was certainly helping their willingness to stay, and soon Lee had collapsed into a tipsy delight leaning heavily on Hanna for support that Hanna was not entirely sure the musician needed.

How Hanna was not quite sure but the topic soon turned to Perrier’s love for all things ancient and alien.

“Do you believe in gods, Miss Engstrom?”

She shook her head that she did not.

“Neither do I, but the topic has intrigued me nevertheless. I have aboard another station far from here a massed collection of antiquities that I hope you will one day come to see. Relics and statuettes from dead civilisations, the majority of which speak of religions and beliefs that would be forgotten if I had not the money and inclination to dig in the quiet, blighted corners of this galaxy. And the more I find, the more I am forced to believe, Miss Engstrom.

Not in gods. But in older things, wiser things. Vaster things. For religion is so common in every civilisation, alive or dead, surely there must be some reason for it all. Some small glimpse that we, on our placid island of ignorance, mistake for the existence of the divine. I often wonder if these older things live yet, just out of reach, or if they have died with the faiths that worshipped them - however unknowingly. Perhaps I shall find out one day.”

Hanna found the topic interesting but was unsure of Perrier’s motivation in bringing it up. She thought to ask him, but a quick and sultry wink from the old man forced her to catch her tongue. Time was ticking on, he reminded her, and she had a performance to give. He waved them both out of his chamber, offering what remained of the bottle to Lee, and wished them good luck with the evening’s festivities. Although the alcohol had ever so insidiously clouded her mind, Hanna could not shake the unearthly disturbance that seemed to follow Perrier and grew fat and oppressive the more he spoke.

It was only when she had dropped Lee to her room, and returned to her own quarters to prepare for the evening that a curious thought struck her. The station she was currently aboard lay in the middle of deep space. There were neither planets nor stars within fifteen light years, nothing to wash out or obscure the myriad decorations of the Milky Way that one would glimpse on a clear night.

Why then were there no stars in Perrier’s window?


III

Lee collected Hanna from her room promptly one hour before the ball was due to begin, wearing the same gown she had worn for the previous night - a fact for which Hanna playfully chided her. Lee helped the cellist carry her equipment to the main stage, and Hanna found that the ball room was already packed with delegates and guests from across the galaxy. Far more than the night before. She recognised a number of the species present - the tendril like hair of an Imperial Maekari (whom, as was typical of their debaucherous kind, was already disgracefully drunk), a man she had met the night before who had claimed to be something called a Yarithma, and many others that she could not see clearly or simply did not recognise. Casting aside her curiosity, Hanna ascended to the centre stage and with Lee’s help in setting up was finally able to play what would almost certainly (if Perrier paid the agreed upon amount) be her final private performance.

It went fantastically, Hanna playing an array of rich and emotional pieces that moved the crowd and drew out more than one round of applause. Alone on the stage, for the pieces that required more than a single cello she found herself backed by Lee who so expertly used equipment that Hanna usually had some difficulty with in her performances. The night carried on for many hours, and Hanna broke for water numerous times but was loving every minute of the evening.

And then came the scratching.

At first she ignored it as best she could, choosing to believe in Perrier’s lacklustre excuse from earlier but as it soon rose beyond merely irritable to outright disruptive she began to see murmurings in the crowd and knew that they too could hear it clearly and loudly in their ears. She ceased playing, calmly putting down her cello and bow and comforting the crowd. She would find Perrier and have the matter tended to as quickly as possible. What Hanna felt inside however, Lee made all too plain, her face contorted into a diabolical rage that Hanna thought did not suit her features in the least. The pair clambered the stairwell in a hurry, leaving behind them a crowd of elites who were quickly growing more and more displeased. Save the maekari who had so rudely fallen unconscious in a seat near the back. Lee and Hanna together navigated the path to Perrier’s room, following the twists and turns of the corridor for far longer than they should have before turning a corner and finding themselves, to their abject horror, back at the top of the stairwell.

It was impossible, they had been to Perrier’s earlier that very day, less than six hours previously. Yet here they were, entering the hall from the very same passage they had so recently left it through. In their bewilderment they did not notice the maekari at the back of the room begin to twitch and turn a most hideous shade of black and blue until a woman screamed. There, several dozen feet above the crowd they heard cries from one gentleman to another, wails from the female members and unspeakable sounds from the less humanoid members of the audience.

“The wine! There is something in the wine!”

“No! No! It was in the gin, I knew it tasted rank!”

The murmuring, the fearful wailing climbed higher and higher yet all the while that infernal scratching accosted Hanna’s ears and she remembered wishing she would go deaf there and then. A wish, it seemed, she was quickly granted as the main doors to the ball room opened and the crowd screamed all at once. The bloated, balding figure of the abomination Lee and Hanna had seen earlier entered the room, his legs bent horridly out of shape and a foul smell of ozone bleeding out from his form. Then, all at once and without warning, the sound was pulled forcefully from the room. Nothing, not even her own breathing graced Hanna’s ears although she could well see several of the guests screaming and clawing at their faces. Yet all the while, the silence suffocated every effort to make their fear known. So pervasive, so heavy was the silent air that Hanna wished for even the persistent scratching to come back. Anything to save her ears from the eldritch and deafening quiet.

At the back of the room, the maekari bubbled and melted and finally, without any gore or show of dismemberment, split open to release something foul.

Lee grabbed at Hanna then, pulling her back to the top of the staircase and into the impossible hallway to make their attempt at escape. Their footfalls made no sound, and Hanna’s head was filled with the strange and kindly voice of Perrier.

“Perhaps I shall find out one day.”

They ran until Hanna collapsed from exhaustion, having not even found the main hall again but having found every other room besides. Her own bedroom, Lee’s bedroom, the bedrooms of a hundred other guests and hallways which led to locked doors and galleries. Every inch of the station had been visited while running through the twists and impossible angles of the infinite hallway. Lee did her best to haul Hanna to her feet, not willing to leave her behind but Hanna would have none of it. The hallway would never end, and at best they would find their way back to that ball room. To the man with the sagging, rotten skin and the twitching, frothing maekari and the toxic drinks. Had the water been poisoned as well, Hanna remembered thinking. Did it even matter? She was willing to die there and then until Lee, still grasping Hanna’s arm tightly, let out a gasp. It was the first sound Hanna remembered hearing since the rotting man had entered the ball, and she almost cried with joy at hearing again.

But instead she screamed, for Lee was being dragged away by something Hanna could neither see nor stop. She held tightly to her friend, begging with a voice that would not come for the invisible thing to let her go. Lee was screaming, that Hanna could hear, and Hanna closed her eyes in a futile effort to better focus what was left of her stamina. She felt herself being dragged then, and her eyes snapped open just in time to see...impossibility.

Lee was disappearing, but not all at once nor in any discernible pattern. Pieces of her simply vanished, leaving gaping holes in her form that revealed every private and enclosed part of her body, every organ and bone yet nothing spilled out. As more and more of Lee vanished into some other place, Hanna could see through the gaps in her friend the colour leaving the world. A creeping, crawling chaos of grey and monochrome spilled upon the hallway towards the pair before even that too vanished into an all consuming white that filled Hanna’s view. Then, with horrified realisation, her own arms began to fill with holes and vanish.

“There are places,” Hanna said, taking a break from her story, “that only mathematics can explain to us. We’re too small, you see? We exist in such a small and easily defined way, but there are geometries and spaces we can never see nor experience. Directions, dimensions…. We’ll never see them, never know them...until something brings us with it.”

She could not properly, nor even adequately, describe what she had seen then. A maddening display of lights and colour, geometries and angles which made her nauseous beyond her endurance and she found herself vomiting into the empty space. She could not move, she could not swim or crawl or twist. She could not even lay eyes on her own body, only on Lee in front of her who was now complete and colourless and screaming. But she was not whole for long, pieces of her began to vanish and slip away again and Hanna called out Lee’s name, begged her to stay. Lee let go, her hand ripped forcefully or willingly opened Hanna would never know. So there she floated, her ears overpowered by a sound she could not properly hear and a silence that hurt to bear. She assumed that was when her ear drums had ruptured, not out of some cacophony but because of an alien silence. She opened her eyes one final time...and saw madness. What she had though was alien architecture construction of an unfathomable number of dimensions moved, and twisted. It was dark and empty and seemed to drain the alien lights from around it. She could feel her mind aching, desperate to comprehend what her eyes were seeing. This ancient beyond reason thing, this vast and unknowable being was twisting and contorting before her as if trying to reach into some place she couldn't see. She thought, for a moment, that she could see the wretched and torn form of the drunk maekari in its grasp but when she blinked from the overpowering pain in her eyes and in her mind it was gone. She desperately, madly turned away and beheld a sight infinitely worse.

There was thousands. Each vast beyond reason and impossible for her to behold, made of twisting wires and razor edges and dense fields of obsidian darkness and each one had tendrils, thorns, limbs reaching into the dark depths and beyond her meagre sight. With horror and animalistic fear she watched as a number of these old beings tore apart pinpricks of light that she realised with a suffocating dread were stars from her own planes of existence. The vision, the field of eldritch and broken shapes that fed on things from her space ruptured blood vessels in her eyes to see, the field of living black stars she was never supposed to witness. As Hanna felt the overpowering pain of incomprehensibility torture her mind she felt a cold, clammy hand grasp her from some direction she could not perceive and fell back onto the floor of that endless hallway.

The towering, rotten man stood beside Perrier throwing the cellist to the floor. Perrier, still smiling so kindly, so terrifyingly, knelt beside her and mouthed his silent question to her.

“What did you see? Did you see God?”

Her mind ached to remember, the pain was unreal and as she felt the cosmic entity claw its way back in front of her mind’s eye she did the one thing she thought might save her from the pain.

She tore out her own eyes.

She sat back in her chair, her story over, and cast her empty sockets to the floor. Neither the huerdaen nor the kiith could speak and for a long time they sat in silence. The girl was mad, she had to be and eventually the huerdaen enquired as to this. She laughed humourlessly.

“I am only human. Even the maddest human could not imagine what I saw. The dimensions which aliens move in and which we never see.”

Achingly, and with haste born of serious concern, Siriyuchi and Iilhem made to leave, Hanna Engstrom still babbling behind them.

“I didn’t, couldn’t even see all of it. There are more than four directions, there must be...where else could they have taken Lee?”

Siriyuchi had already left, no doubt to find some doctor of the mind to tend to the young cellist, but Iilhem stayed a moment longer.

“Perhaps you should rest, have someone see you in the morning. Perhaps you are ill from cybernetic rejection and it is affecting your memory.”

Hanna shook her head, her shoulders shaking in barely concealed sobs and she looked with unseeing sockets at the kiith

“No, I am not mad. I am quite well, I assure you. I feel almost in perfect health. Save this damned headache.”
Last edited by Rethan on Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
As Was Devoured Shall Devour | As Was Buried Shall Bury

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Simbanchi
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Posts: 16
Founded: Apr 02, 2013
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Simbanchi » Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:43 am

Terrible Luck
[ Mature ]

Damiron was a simple man who had the misfortune to be born in Kaborer, one of the worst areas to live in fringe worlds of Samalu. War was an ever present threat that wracked the planets in its entirety. Some areas that were under the thumb of a warlord were more stable than the lawless zones, most of the time anyways. The Kaborer area was ruled over by a particularly nasty sociopath by the name of Rhama Bokossa. He had earned the nickname “The Decimator” from his policy of wiping out entire villages of people if even just one rebel to Rhama’s rule was traced back to them.

The people of Kaborer tended to try and quietly live their lives under the thumb of the tyrant as most people are want to do, they did so not out of cowardice but out of necessity to exist a little bit longer on a planet rife with famine, drought, and poor access to medical treatment. The people of Kaborer endured their conditions as much as possible and complained as little as possible, if it wasn’t Rhama ruling over them it would be another despot just as eager to gleefully put people to the sword.

Damiron had spent the better part of the day down at the river trying to pull fish from a river rife with crocodiles that could sink boats, snakes that could pull a full grown buffalo under, and several species of fish that either could pick a man clean in seconds or swallow him whole. Even the danger from these monsters paled in comparison to the biting insects that swarmed from the stagnant pools of water that were prevalent along the edge of the river, as a stop gap measure the fisherman that frequented the river covered their bodies entirely in mud to prevent the bugs from biting them and spreading their fatal diseases.

The hardened mud chips flaked off of Damiron’s body as he walked along the well worn trail that led back to his village. His pace was somewhat fast, he’d had a mildly successful day and wanted to get back so he could sell the day’s haul to the man that took the fish to the larger market in the city. Damiron had had a reasonably good day, his last net had captured an fierce and aggressive fish called the barantu fish. The eggs and meat of the barantu were considered a delicacy in the more affluent circles of Samulu. If Damiron had been able to catch it he could have had enough money to survive for over a month easily, maybe enough to even consider trying to find a safer place to relocate to, unfortunately Damiron didn’t have the proper equipment to pull in the monster of a fish, the barantu averaged in at roughly two meters long and usually they weighed more than a man did, they had a series of razor sharp bone plates that ran along the ridge of the back and a wicked set of teeth that was used to rip and tear flesh from anything foolish enough to get in the water that they lurked near. The net Damiron had was of a plant fiber design, it was home made and designed to catch small and timid fish, words that were generally not used to describe the monster Damiron had landed in his net. Initially Damiron didn’t even realize he had the fish due to the muddy nature of the river. Once it surfaced though and saw it was going to become dinner the powerful fish exploded into action, the razor sharp plates on the back of the fisj made short work of the fiber net and ended the fishing for the day. Damiron walked along the trail, his eyes were focused in front of him, his ears perked and listened for any unusual sounds, those that weren’t alert either were bitten by some sort of venomous death creature, or they were eaten by some sort of eating things alive creature.

A twig snap stopped Damiron in his tracks, a second later a rustle helped him hone in on the source of the sound, a small band of men carrying rifles were trying to move towards the village he called home. A dull brown sash told Damiron they were members of the Free Kaborer Front, they styled themselves as freedom fighters who were trying to overthrow the tyranny of Rhama, the truth of the matter was they were no better than the warlord’s death squads. Often times they would move in on a village and kill the men and underage children right off the bat, the women suffered a far worse fate though. While the ‘freedom’ fighters took up residence in the village and used up every bit of food and supplies they could they would abuse the women in every way imaginable before selling them off to a slaver and moving on to the next village. Fear shot through Damiron when he saw the men, he dropped everything he was carrying and took off at a sprint towards his village, he threw caution to the wind and hoped he wouldn’t run afoul of an adder or some other nasty poisonous beast. His lungs screamed for air as he pushed himself to run harder, his barefeet were beaten and cut as he gave little regard to where he stepped, branches full of thorns tore at his clothes and skin as he pushed through.

For a second time though fear gripped him again as he entered a village and was confronted by the barrel of a machine gun that sat perched atop an APC that idled in the center of his village.

“Hands in the air now.” ordered a loud and stern voice.

Terrified beyond reason Damiron through his hands in the air as he was ordered, his chest still heaving from the half kilometer sprint he had done.

“Who are you and what’s your buisness here?” inquired the voice as Damiron trembled, fearful he and his family were going to be killed.

“My name is Damiron and I live here, you have to do something though, there rebels heading here!” Damiron said excitedly.

The mention of rebels grabbed the soldiers attention, the man behind the voice appeared in Damiron’s view suddenly. Fear gripped Damiron again for the umpteenth time that day as he gazed upon what was the apparent leader of the soldiers, he was head taller than Damiron’s one point eight meter height, his broad and well muscled frame stretched out the drab olive uniform he wore, the scariest part was his face though. A long scar ran from his forehead down to his chin, instead of an eye though a blood red cybernetic implant was present. Everytime Damiron looked at the eye he felt as if it was peering into his very soul, something that unsettled Damiron greatly, his body quivered as the man looked him over before.

“How is it that you know this?” the leader asked sternly, his gaze seemed to intensify even more.

“ I was coming back from the river when I saw five of them coming from that direction.” Damiron said as he tried point the way he came from and keep his hands in the air at the same time.

The leader man nodded and turned towards the APC, as he was getting ready to issue his order a pop was heard and the leader collapsed to the ground, a large red stain quickly appeared on his lower leg, he cursed out in pain and grabbed his leg, his troops looked astonished for a moment. Machine gun fire from the brush line broke the silence as the rebels opened up on the soldiers in the village. Damiron threw himself to the ground and crawled away from the insanity as the heavy machine gun atop the APC opened fire at the treeline on the edge of the village, its huge bullets ripping chunks the size of man’s head out of tree trunks and vegetation seemed to rain as more soldiers in the village regained their composure and took cover. Damiron crawled past a soldier who had been shot in the neck, every breath he exhaled induced a squirt of arterial blood from the gash, his chest heaved quickly as panic had set in and his breaths came in quick shallow wheezes.

Crawling past the doomed soldier, Damiron headed for his small hut inside he heard the cries of his wife and daughter. Climbing to his feet but staying in a crouch he moved quickly into the bedding area of the hut and immediately let out a cry at what he saw, held in the arms of his wife was his son who had unfortunately caught a bullet in the ribs, Damiron’s son’s eyes stared lifelessly at the ceiling, his departure a swift and brutal shock to Damiron who collapsed to his knees and as a pain tore at his heart.

Several more bullets whirred through the hut, and Damiron tore his wife and daughter away from the body of his oldest offspring. Grabbing them and forcing them into a crouch he forced them outside right as a mortar round fell near the APC, the concussion from the blast knocked Damiron and his family down, each of their ears ringing from the explosion. Sorrow gripped Damiron’s heart again as he saw his neighbor, a man he had grown up thrash around on the ground, his legs blasted away by the explosion, his life blood slipping away from the stumps below his waist. Another explosion ripped into a hut and fire quickly consumed it and again Damiron had to turn away and move his family away from the carnage as he heard horrifying screams come from inside the flame engulfed hut.

Damiron pushed his family towards the opposite edge of the village, he ordered his wife to stay put while he ran the distance towards the treeline, as he neared though a face appeared and a gun barrel poked out from the vegetation. Damiron stopped when he saw the brown sash peeking through the foliage, he stopped as fast as he could and turned. As his legs hit full stride he heard the bark of the gun and bullets were by him, still in a full sprint he saw his wife cowering behind a pile of baskets when a blow struck him in the back and knocked him face first into the ground. He was able to move his head and arms but for some reason his legs wouldn’t respond, unbelievable pain burnt through his body everytime he moved and tried to crawl closer to his wife. He looked at her face and fear shot through him as he realized he was powerless to help her, Damiron coughed and blood covered the earth in front of him. Damiron raged inside at the unfairness of it all, he screamed at the gods, cursed the spirits of the village and swore revenge in the afterlife for those responsible for the death in his village. He looked up one last time as blackness began to creep in on the edges of his vision and mouthed the word RUN before his vision faded and his last breath left him.
Last edited by Simbanchi on Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
PMT/FanT- The Great Saharan Nation of Simbanchi
FT- The Border Worlds of Samulu

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Lotrabme
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Founded: Sep 03, 2010
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Lotrabme » Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:09 pm

THE HIVE'S CARGO


Chapter 1: Got up on the wrong side.

Commissioner Olin Heuron breathed a sigh of fatigue and slight annoyance as he spoke to the chirping Nebulan Baron who was supposedly this transport's newest liason to the government, he could hardly believe that the Ministry of Commerce even approved him by the attrocity of his translation.

"It is goodly" said the Baron Toth Rotholm "that your mishoncom has been given to we. Heuron will you follow, I drinks have fridge in."

"I'll come with" said Heuron as he slowly got up, letting the Nebulan walk first out the door. He would follow behind slowly. One of the worker-caste Nebulans, much shorter than the Baron, motioned its hand towards the Commissioner and pointed to the room where the Baron was pouring drinks for Heuron while sitting on a comfortable looking couch. Heuron gladly sat next to the Baron and took a swig of the blue stuff he poured, he was more tired than annoyed, he had been kept up all night by a Yorm brood's conflicts getting on board the vessel.

"mishoncom Heuron, say yu more?" said the Baron briefly, having taken a shot of the blue drink.

"It's Com-mish-on-er, Baron Rotholm, I appologize for any rudeness but I wanted to let you know... ugh lets just say I got up on the wrong side of the bed today, and things havent been going my way, so I'm not in the best mood."

"Problem no." said the Baron nodding his head, through his motions Heuron could tell he was alright with it, and understood the situation. "New at translationing I am, better sister Roatha are. Call Roatha should I?"

"Could you? Feel free to stay though, I do like you." said Heuron nodding and holding his glass up slighty towards Toth.

"I stay, on Roatha way is." said Toth as he leaned back and sipped his second glass of the blue stuff.

The vessel the Commissioner had been assigned to view was called the Ossonan, named for a province on Nebulon from which this hive hails. Rothon Hive has the charter manangement of this N-1 class vessel, and the daughters of the commanding queen all lodge in it's bowels. They are not a large cartel hive like Zulon, Ythlon, or Xulyon but Rothon has a clean slate when it comes to merchandise and fair play, with no piracy or smuggling on their record.. at least so far. The Ministry of Commerce is always on the hunt for any illegal privateering and smuggling, as it may pose a threat to the security of the Empire or to the Merchant Guild's stable economy. Commissioner Heuron, who has travelled through Hame, Tao, Yorm, Natron, and Nebulon rooting out underground activities and scams in the trade world. has now been given the task of observing the trading practice of Rothon Hive, to be sure that the reports of no foul-play are true.

The Ossonan is heading into the territory of the Kalodo Ecumene, who's people have only been uplifted in the past century, and are still very much system bound mainly by choice. The Nebulan Hives and the Ecumene remain on good terms due to a common sharing nature in their policy, though both have been noted as possibly unscrupulous in neccesity. The Mind Empire is cautious about the Kalodo still, as they are a young race, full of promise for both good and evil. The Ossonan's Manifest upon leaving Nebulon was mainly agricultural and culinary, several Yorm chefs came on board and plants from Nebulon and Natron for both foodstuffs and decoration have filled the cargo bays, and with any luck, Heuron may just have a safe trip these next few weeks.

Commissioner Heuron rose as he saw the Princess Roatha enter the room, he bowed at the waist as all Hamans do in greeting a superior or compatriot, and said to her. "My lady Roatha, I am pleased to meet you at last, how is your mother?"

Roatha spoke through telepathy "My mother does well, and I appreciate your warm welcome Commisioner, I see my little brother has served drinks."

"Yes Sister" said Toth telepathically "My skills in translation prove lacking."

"You will improve dearest brother, Commisioner how well did he do?"

"He needs practice" said Heuron out loud, his own telepathic response was not well trained as he was not a psychic practitioner. "I know he can get better though, he is a good host." He said it with a smile and a nod toward Toth.

"Please sit down" said Roatha as she took a seat across from her brother and the Commisioner, she and her brother would speak through telepathy more than anything, as their mouths were not truly designed for speech like those of the Hamans, though with races who could not respond or pick up telepathically they had to invent the translator chips, which prove difficult to master as Toth showed.

Roatha spread out her fore arms and her wings as she leaned back on the couch and said through her mind "As you know Commisioner, our goal is to reach Ecumene space and deliver the plants and foodstuffs to the Magnate BoroGoro's ship. The nearest portal path to the area of his ship's range takes us into the Yom Gliese System, after which we will require our personal warp drives to take us the rest of the way. This trip should take about 1 week to complete."

Heuron nodded in approval "sounds good to me mi'lady, though why don't we warp straight to Kalodaro itself? We do have a portal there."

"We do" said Roatha "but BoroGoro isn't there, he is located outside of the Ecumene's Home system."

"He's outside the system? Where is he living then?" said Heuron with one of his vestigial eyebrows uplifted in curiosity.

"He's managed to settle a rogue planet about 5 lightyears from Kalodaro, and he's got a mining operation there. It's near to a red dwarf star with a potentially colonizable world in orbit" said Roatha plainly, her thoughts gave her no inflections that detected unease or uncertainty.

"You're telling me the Kalodo are actually starting to move out of their system?" said Heuron a bit alerted, "I haven't heard one word of this from the Magnates who have spoken to the Ministry."

"Thats because Magnate BoroGoro is what you might call.. an outcast." said Roatha, now showing a bit of apprehension, "his holdings were disbanded 20 years ago on less than pleasant terms, and since then he has used his remaining funds to operate outside of the Ecumene's view. We believe he means no harm to the Mind Empire."

"Hm" said Heuron folding his arms "I guess I'll just have to see what he is up to when we reach his new Rogue World, whats it called by the way?"

"Borotopia is the rough translation in your language." said Toth with a humorous tone through telepathy.

"Typical" chuckled Heuron, picking up his blue drink and swigging back a second shot.

---------------------------------------

Chapter 2: Hidden Holds

Having reached Yom Gliese, the arrival at the Starbase was unneventful, with the eldest daughter of the Rothon Queen, Roathaza, stopping at the station to go found a new hive branch of her own, and several Yorm privateers and five new Male Nebulans borded, the former as cooks and merchants along for the ride, and the latter as mates for the Queen and her 2 remaining daughters, Roatha and Yoanla.

The Commissioner saw no acts of foul play on the starbase, and now they were halfway to the Rogue Planet 'Borotopia'. Heuron did take a look at the Yorm privateers who followed the Male Nebulans on board. They looked like a rough bunch, and the way they spoke to the Yormish chefs on board seemed a bit suspicious. The Commissioner knew he had to investigate.

He waited for a few hours, and when it was time for him to eat he decided to go into the Yorm quarters on the ship and listen in. He entered the part of the ship designed to hold this diminuitive species, designed more with them in mind and less catacombed like the rest of the vessel. He ordered cold water and meal of glow-worms and soylent algae from the chef, and sat down at a table that was ultimately too small for him. The busboy brought him his meal within 5 mintues. He sat in silence eating as he listened to a rougher looking group of Yorms with tatoos speaking to eachother.

"It aint non of your buisness what I brought with me, we all brought something along."
"Yeah but you've got ammo to give up, theres no risk in you loosing your cargo, I've only got 2 to my name and brought one of them!"
"We all have to pitch in or we don't get the cut." said the biggest one, leaning back with a wide brimmed hat "It aint our place to complain."
"You know that aint true boss, we got every right to complain!"
"Shut up you maggot, or I'll stuff your face!"

Realizing that there was something going on here the Commissioner quietly walked out, and waited for this group of Yorms to walk out. He followed them silently for a while, keeping about 3 meters behind them. Eventually turning one corner, he found the wide brimmed hat one turned around facing him.
"I know ya been following me man." said the Yorm, placing his lower arms on his belt. "Ya must be the Commissioner, I'm Tylo"

"Tylo, I need to know what you brought on board this vessel" said Heuron in a stern voice, sounding like an official.

"Fraid the bosses won't like that, the Males brought us ta bring the goods themselves." said Tylo as he shifted his weight to another hip and foot, sort of relaxing with a grin.

"You know the Merchant Guild pays highly for legal privateers, and you know how they feel about illegal ones. And as far as my records show, your liable to be illegal." said Heuron looking austerely at the Yorm.

Tylo stood for a moment, the grin gone from his amphibious face, his antennae straightening out and his eyes somewhat squinted. "Ya better not be trying ta start something Commissioner..."

"It's my job" said Heuron breathing out lightly "Please help me out here, I'm willing to pay more that what you are being payed."

"You sure about that?" said Tylo "I knew I didn't like this mission anyways, but ya know how the Nebulans can be. Just follow me man." he said as he motioned for the Commissioner to follow him towards one of the Cargo holds.

Tylo turned to Heuron "Look, we've been actin as mercenary merchants for these Males for about 4 years now, lots of running into Luudspace and other dangerous spots. Now we've been asked to give up some of ar weapons for them as they make a deal with the Rothon Queen." He opened up a locked door to the holds with a small keycard. "Here what we brought" he said turning on the light in the hold, revealing a large stockpile of rifles and grenades.

"Thats enough firepower to take out a Malluman legion, this doesn't look good" said Heuron.

Tylo said "I ain't gonna get in trouble for this am I?" Suddenly a buzzing sound through some nearby tunnels could be heard. It was coming close fast

"Not from me at least" said the Commissioner as they were surrounded by 16 worker Nebulans and handcuffed.

------------------------------------

Chapter 3: The Queen's deal

Heuron and Tylo were brought before the Rothon Queen Rothonoa in her broodchamber, she was surrounded 12 workers and had five males resting on her thorax. She had her daughters Roatha and Yoanla and her Eunuch son Toth sitting around her, the daughters with their new mates, 2 for Roatha and 1 for Yoanla.

Psychically she said to the two who had 4 workers surrounding them "Tylo you have betrayed our trust, and Commissioner we cannot allow you to interfere with our dealings."

"Your dealings are illegal" said Heuron "These weapons were not guaranteed by the official manifest, and for all we know BoroGoro could be amping up to start a war."

"That is not our concern, our Cartel is small, and would remain unnafected by any conflicts in the Ecumene. All we are concerned with is profit, and BoroGoro asked for plants, and weapons, with confidentiality required."

"Was it a sum so handsome you would betray the Mind Empire?" said Heuron "I lead Tylo in this action so I ask you not to punish him, but I also ask you to listen to reason, if this Magnate proves to be unstable he may well take action against all of you, and you know the Kalodo are your main trade competitors, if they gain more of a foothold your profits could easily go down."

There was much chirping and clicking of mandibles and claws as the Nebulans spoke both audibly and psychically to eachother. The Commissioners reasoning was quick and rushed, with desperation making him say whatever he could to get these miserly bugs to side with him, he hoped it would prove enough of a window of error that the Queen would change her mind.

Rothanoa calmed the room and spoke to Tylo first. Heuron did not hear it, the conversation was personal, and Tylo then left the room with no guards. The Queen then turned to Heuron and said "You may yet break our chance at higher profit, and you risk our clean record by being here."

"You have broken your clean record" said Heuron to the Queen solemly. "Me recording it now does not change that fact."

"You have given us reason to investigate the psychology of our customer" thought the Queen to the Commissioner "Roatha and ye will travel to the ship of the Magnate when we arrive, and you may decide weather we should give him the original manifest, and determine weather the weaponry would be a 'safe' trade."

She paused for a moment. "You may do this, and we will report the true manifest of the ship, if you allow our record to remain clean."

Now Heuron paused. As a legal and loyal agent of the Mind Empire Ministry he felt it was not his right to do something such as this that clearly showed signs of illegality. However since the hive had come clean, and he had little support on this ship, he decided to take the queen up on this.

"I assure you Queen Rothanoa" said Heuron bowing his head "My deals with you are of a sound mind, I shall determine the credit of this customer."

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Chapter 4: Pleasure and Pain

BoroGoro's Yacht and two Kalodo freighters came into sight as the Ossonan came out of warp in far orbit of the Rogue Planet. The ships were primitive but well kept, with solar panels reflecting the starlight of the distant red-dwarf, and the repulsor engines slightly aflair as they drifted closer. The hull was silver and dull blue-grey, much inspiration had come from the hulls of the Mind Empire.

Commissioner Heuron and 'Princess' Roatha entered small Nebulan transport and flew quickly to the airlock port of the Yacht. The trip was silent, with Roatha saying only "I hope you are wrong about our client".

Entering the vessel head first, Roatha and Heuron were greated by two Kalodo servants, with their heads shaved completely and their white pelts colored in various markings, wearing leather bands across their heads and limbs. They would lead the two to the luxury room of Magnate BoroGoro, where he was being attended to by 3 Kalodo 'floozies'.
"Your Grace, Roatha of Rothon Hive, and Commissioner Olin Heuron of the Commerce Ministry" said one of the guards as he stomped his foot.

"Enter" said the Magnate "you may go ladies and gentlemen" he said to his fellow Kalodo as they exited the room. "I am glad that both of you could make it, I was not expecting a Commissioner but it seems like it is a pleasant surprise."

"The pleasure is ours Magnate" said Heuron "I am here because as far as I know you are the only Magnate to have a pressence outside your home system."

"A distinction I am quite proud of" said BoroGoro. "Mi'lady" he said turning his head to Roatha "are ALL the suplies here?"

"Everything" said Roatha mentally. "He knows" she said briefly.

"I am also here to inquire about what you need with so many weapons" said Heuron bluntly but with a slight grin and a raised eyebrow.

"Well.." said the Magnate through his translator "as you know space can be dangerous, especially in an uncharted system." He typed with his small manipulator arms onto a pedestal to bring up a hologram of the rogue planet and the nearby system. "I ordered the mass ammount of foodstuff and plants so that I could begin the terraformation of this world here." He said pointing one finger towards the 3rd world in the system. "We have founded to be habitable but currently uninhabited. However, I have not sent my reports to the Ecumene officially, and I fear that someone else may come and try to take my new planets away from me."

"You think someone might steal your planets? Planets that you don't even have a legal claim to?" said Heuron curiously.

Roatha said also "It is mysterious why you would choose our hive's transport networks rather than requesting aid directly from the Empire. Though we do appreciate the sum of money you have offered us."

"Lets just say I don't have many friends on Kalodaro who would take kindly towards my new exploits" said BoroGoro "and I want to be sure that it doesn't get out of hand."

He turned around, facing his antennae toward them "now if you don't mind, I grow tired. Please deliver the cargo to my two freighters, and we shall take them in for processing. Thank you both for your time." BoroGoro kept his back to the two of them as he went to a large circular bed and layed down to rest. The two were escorted out by the bouncer Kalodo promptly.

Back on the Ossonan, as the cargo was being delivered. Roatha, Heuron, Tylo and Toth sat in the Royal lounge outside the brood chamber "I don't like the way he was speaking" said Heuron "something about him seemed off."

"I sensed it too" thought Roatha "his mind was very closed and somewhat off kilter, I have a feeling he is paranoid."

"What do you suggest we do?" thought Toth. Tylo said "I don't want to have given up my people's guns to a madman."

"This will be sorted out shortly" said Heuron, thinking that there was a look of pain on the face of BoroGoro, perhaps a sign of stress. "Roatha, would you mind accompanying me to his yacht tomorrow? I have some questions I would like to ask him."

"Certainly" thought Roatha "the transport is at our disposal."

Later that night, the Commissioner would use his archive access to dig into the earlier past of BoroGoro, to see just who he might be preparing for.

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Chapter 5: Uneven odds.

Intrigue and duplicity are not at all foreign to Kalodo politics, though they are shrewd and honest traders. As Commissioner Heuron investigated the archives, he found reports of one Magnate Nogon exposing Borogoro for embezzelment and for covert monopolization through multiple brands and offspring companies. Borogoro likewise exposed Nogon for biotech manipulation and trading with rogue Luuds, and thus a company war was started. It ended with Borogoro's massive holdings being drained but for his personal wealth and one of his teraforming technology firms. Disgraced, and with Nogon being promoted to an Ecumenical Councilor, he was forced to flee the planet.

Heuron wasn't going to take any precautions today, he took a larger shuttle of the Nebulans over to the Yacht and brought along with him and Roatha: 7 Yorms and 12 Nebulan Soldiers. If things wen't badly, they knew the yacht wasn't manned enough to withstand a full fireteam.

Only Roatha and the Commissioner exited the craft at first, being lead by the bouncers to the Magnate's chamber, meanwhile the 19 strong fireteam exited the craft in secret in active camoflauge and followed behind, with the Nebulans scaling the walls and ceiling for added stealth.

Inside the luxury chamber the two spoke to the Magnate. "Your Grace, if I may" said the Commissioner "are you stockpiling weapons to prevent another company war? Or do you plan on starting one?"

"What are you getting at?" said the Kalodo, raising his antennae straight up and starting to vaguelly puff out his fur.

"What I'm getting at is that I think your purchases preclude possible provocation, and its my job as a commissioner to prevent such intent."

"Are you threatening me?" said the Kalodo starting to breath heavily "ARE YOU WORKING FOR HIM?!" he shouted loudly getting up into the face of the Commissioner, his black eyes and his large probiscoid nose close to the grey and stern face of Heuron.

Roatha spoke next "Magnate, Nogon has been dead for three years."

"Likely of the same disease he gave me, tell me have either of you gotten the Xeenic Plague?" He said lifing a leather strap from his abdomen, showing several scars, and then lifting his hair showing the scars on his upper head. "The disease is rampant, and was traded to him by Rogue Luuds. He used it on me and my family to try and get rid of me. I caught him, and sent him the disease in return. Now his associates are coming back for me! YOU'RE HERE FOR ME!" The Magnate was yelling and stomping his forefeet on the ground.

Just then the 7 Yorms lead by Tylo stormed in rifles in hand, while the Nebulan Soldiers had cornered the pilot and the two bouncer guards outside.

"As the Commissioner representing the Merchant Guild and the Ministry of Commerce, I hereby revoke your right to own these weapons, your cargo ships will deliver them back into the hands of the Rothon Hive. You can keep the plants." said Hueron into the now shocked and still Kalodo's face. He could do nothing but type the order to his cargo ships, sit down on his matress, and stare blankly in silence as the cargo ships returned to the Ossonan to give back the guns. The Commissioner, Roatha, and their team left the yacht without incident.

In 2 hours, the Ossonan was turned around, and in the brooding chamber the Commissioner sat with Rothanoa and Roatha, as well as their mates. Tylo stood by the door with Toth and several other Yorms.

The Queen spoke "You are allowing him to terraform? Even without the weapons? Are you sure that is wise?"

"The way I see it, the project might calm him down. He won't be thinking about killing or competition, he will have a whole planet under his control" Heuron said to the queen with the slightest grin.

"I see, then you think he is not a potential threat without arms."

"Well to tell you the truth your majesty, this is a tricky situation. As the Kalodo are technically independent from our rule this issue is somewhat out of our control to begin with. However this Magnate is an outcast anyway, and his plan was most likely to re-ignite an old turf war with the surviving people of Nogon's business. Now that he's got no weapons to start a war, there should be no war."

"I see" said Rothanoa lowering her head "Your help has been grateful Commissioner, hopefully the situation will remain under wraps, and the commerce will flow."

"I hope so mi'lady" said Heuron with a slight nod, "I hope so."
Last edited by Lotrabme on Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Xiscapia
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Postby Xiscapia » Sun Jul 13, 2014 3:04 pm

An Abridged History of Ferra, Part I


Forward

Though excavation work, field research and the recovery of lost and buried documents in the old Ferran government is revealing much about the past of Ferra and its people, anthropologists and historians still know very little about how the humans of the world came to be there or what their antiquity was like. Complications and obstacles are twofold. Primarily, many potentially valuable sites to science and the humanities are still too dangerous to visit; even after the fall of the old Federation and the liberation of the planet by Coalition forces during the 13th Danaversian War in Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 19 (2402 Alversian calendar), sectarian violence and pervasive criminal activity threaten any scholarly expedition to the planet, thus the heavy restrictions on travel there by the People’s Republic. Additionally, some of the most extensive and promising locales are inaccessible at this time, due to either their ownership by private entities who refuse to authorize operations on their land or because the exact locations and methods of entry are held in secrecy by nearby communities whose members are ritualistically and traditionally sworn under oath to protect them, a practice that emerged in modern times to prevent the government from looting valuable relics and national treasures. The answer to the advancement of Ferran anthropology and history lies in the stabilization of the territory, but given the lack of progress made thus far thus solution appears unattainable and therefore the scientific community must make do with the knowledge available for the time being.

However, breakthroughs have been made in some areas. In Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 25 (2408 Alversian calendar) an expedition composed of AXIS scientists backed by the Xiscapian Scientific Advisory Board and headed by the esteemed Doctor Ginta was able to negotiate with the Ferran mountain people of Uttero for access to their lore sites, with the agreement for their safeguarding enforced by private contractors from Valoria’s Shield Security. Previously Ferran history was only know back to Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 2 (2385 Alversian calendar) based on Alversian interactions with the state and people, but the new artifacts uncovered reach to Y.O.O.R. Emperor Teitatsu 195 (2208 Alversian calendar). This brought previously unknown information to light and patched many of the holes that previously gaped in Ferran chronology. Time will tell if more successes like this can be achieved.

Rise of the Hegemony

The earliest known Ferran accounts come from an exact date dubbed “Year Zero” on the Ferran calendar, beyond which only fragments of data are known as all records before Year Zero seem to have been destroyed. These surviving texts indicate, with much fanfare, the beginning of history and a united, modern planet under a leader identified only as the Hegemon of the First Ferran Hegemony. Pages are spent emphasizing that the last remnants of the old, quarreling nations have been swept away and that a bright and happy future full of peace and prosperity awaits the Ferran people if they work hard and obey their new and supreme government. Following are what seems to be a series of decrees under the broad plan of “Self-Sufficiency” that calls for massive agricultural expansions, a return to “traditional values” and “a Ferra built by Ferrans, for Ferrans.” Attached is a list of names and residences that are to be investigated for persons including scientists, academics, businesspersons and “undesirables” to be detained and transported to “reeducation centers.”

Enforced by the new Hegemonic Peace Bureau (HPB) and aided by elements of the Ferran Army, people were systematically relocated en masse out of the cities and into the vast tracts of arable land across the planet to be placed in charge of farms, homesteads, ranches and into small, isolated villages. Records indicate that most property and businesses were confiscated, as well as all higher forms of technology, and those that resisted were imprisoned to be shipped to work camps and reeducation centers. Quotas were issued to all blocs for the production of foodstuffs and organic by-products (wool, lumber, medicinal herbs, etc). Several large uprisings were quashed by what seems to be the first references to gravitic gunships, energy weapons, drones and power armored soldiers and other new weapons that abruptly appeared in Ferran hands, depopulating rebellious communities overnight “in the name of the Hegemon.” Command logs state that all traitors who fled into the wilderness were tracked down and captured or terminated, but as this seems unlikely it is assumed that some Ferrans were able to escape the reach of the “Self-Sufficiency” program.

Given pieces of private journals of officials and officers who were close to the Hegemon, it is apparent that the man was once the ruler of just one of the major nations on Ferra engaged in a global war with relatively primitive technology –firearms were still chemically powered, no significant A.I. existed, space programs had not extended beyond orbit and cybernetics was still the stuff of science fiction. The Hegemon’s state, the Ferran Empire, was on the backfoot, battling invading forces and attempting to shore up its own defenses to repel the attacks. However, he was contacted by a being who called himself Captain Konran, who appears to have been a kitsune based on the physical description provided, and offered some form of deal on behalf of “the Avaritia Marauders.” The exact details of the treaty, if there was a formal agreement, are not known, but diary speculation seems to point to Konran offering the Ferran and his nation assistance in their conflict in return for “sanctuary for his space fleet” as one writing puts it. The Hegemon accepted and Konran, undoubtedly a pirate, used his Marauders to bombard the other countries of the world into submission or outright destruction.

When the smoke cleared the Ferran Empire was the only government left standing, and with supplies from Konran it expanded swiftly, taking a mere ten years to bring the entire planet under its heel. The Marauders apparently took their dues in landings where they pilfered foodstuffs, valuables and especially slaves from Ferra, taking what they pleased with the blessing of the Hegemon. Raids ceased with the declaration of the formation of the First Ferran Hegemony and the initiation of the Self-Sufficiency program, which the Hegemon took credit for. Given the construction of the first orbital shipyards in Ferran history, it seems that the Avaritians were mining resources from the Ferran system and using them to build yards and new ships; they would train Ferrans to crew them and in return the craft would join the Avaritia Marauders for an extended period of time before being returned to the so-called Ferran Navy. This relationship benefited both Konran and his Marauders, who some sources claim had over a thousand ships at one point and was one of the most feared pirates in the galaxy, and the Hegemony, which could both rule the world with an iron fist and protect its own planet and system from other outsiders.

On the ground the Hegemony’s plan to solidify control was going smoothly. Cowed by the power of the government’s enforcers and moved to fulfill agricultural quotas least they be shipped away to a dreaded reeducation center, the majority of the people of Ferra fell into line and labored tirelessly at the behest of their leader to make Ferra the breadbasket of the sector –and ensure that the Marauders were always well-fed. Meanwhile favorites of the Hegemon, including his ministers, military officers and select Marauders, made their homes and lived lives of luxury in the cities of Ferra, separated from most of the planet as technologically advanced, wealthy and doing little to no real work. Military families became the norm as the children of officers were assured their parent’s place in society, and government positions became effectively hereditary, based on bloodlines and loyalty to the Hegemon rather than skill or talent. Most of the opulence they became accustomed to came from either automated factories in orbit or from other parts of the galaxy, supplied through either legitimate trade or piracy.

The way most of the citizens of Ferra were forced to live then would be unrecognizable to the people of most modern nations. Power was generated almost exclusively by windmills and waterwheels, the only transportation available was on or by horseback and smiths were limited to forging simple iron and steel tools and weapons by hand. Most families were engaged in farm work, endlessly planting, growing and harvesting crops or breeding, raising and slaughtering animals, and those that weren’t generally worked in professions that supported these industries. Population centers were generally hamlets or small villages centered in farming communities rarely over a few thousand strong, and the average man never travelled more than thirty miles away in his lifetime and died in the same shire where he was born. Literacy was very uncommon, academia almost nonexistent and what religion was either a primitive kind of spirit worship based on superstitious fears of faeries and pixies living in the woods or a cult-like devotion to the Hegemon or later equivalent leaders.

In general the tiny communities of Ferra essentially ruled and policed themselves, electing or appointing their own magistrates and mayors and obeying the laws enforced by the Town Guard. Deference to the Hegemony and its forces, by it HPB officers, Ferran Army troops or otherwise was vital, as resistance was often viewed as traitorous and blasphemy and it was well-known that towns that tried to resist were leveled with no survivors anyway. However, usually the only contact the common folk would have with the armored men in their seemingly magical airships would be at the annual quota and tax collection time, done quickly and businesslike. Otherwise life was slow, monotonous and short for those 90% of people not fortune enough to be born into one of the privileged families of the urban Ferran elite, given that the only thing that changed was the seasons, the mortality rate was so high that a mere one in five children would live to see their first birthday and most people only lived into their fifties. Speaking about the time before the Hegemony was strictly forbidden and punishable by reeducation.

The Ferran Civil War

In Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 32 (2260 Alversian calendar) the first major shakeup came in the Hegemony when Captain Konran, excessively rich, powerful and commanding the loyalty of one of the largest pirate fleets in the galaxy, left the Avaritian Marauders with a few ships and an enormous amount of treasure and disappeared, naming no successor. As various lieutenants vied for command of the armada the Marauders splintered sharply into several factions, descending into infighting and civil war with the focal point being the Ferran System. The Hegemony, now with a large and powerful Navy of its own, backed the most numerous group under one Captain Culver, and together the Ferran Navy and Culver’s Crew, as they were known, destroyed or ran off the remnants of the Marauders. While Culver’s pirates did get choice spots in the Ferran System and were shown favor by the Hegemony this marked the end of the influence of any one brigand group over the Ferran government and territory as Culver’s Crew were whittled away by encounters with rival raiders and hostile warships and could no longer replenish their numbers from the cities and dockyards of Ferra. In time they were replaced by a variety of other pirate bands that serviced the Hegemony and were at its beck and call, solidifying the government’s dominion over the system.

On the eve of Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 37 (2265 Alversian calendar) the Hegemon died of a heart attack, attributed by his personal physician to the man’s “abundant lifestyle.” Rather than a time of mourning, his death provoked a crisis in the Hegemony government. The Hegemon had three sons before he died; the eldest, Ivan, was the Supreme Command of the Ferran Army, while the middle son, Benedict, was the High Inquisitor of the HPB and the youngest, Geoff, was an Admiral in the Ferran Navy. The Hegemon had long favored Ivan over his brothers, and he named him as his successor and heir to the Hegemony in his will, but Benedict, disgruntled, also laid claim to the throne on the basis that Ivan was too friendly with pirates and would drive the nation to destruction. Only Geoff remained relatively uninvolved, declaring his neutrality and disinterest in the position not long after Benedict contested his father’s will.

Intent on crushing the upstart before the conflict could escalate into a full-scale rebellion, Ivan sent a contingent of Army troops to the HPB headquarters to arrest Benedict and see him imprisoned. Aware of his brother’s movements, Benedict escaped while loyal Bureau officers fought with the soldiers, drawing his supporters to him in Intros City, where he was joined by elements of the Army and Navy. Infuriated that the High Inquisitor had escaped his clutches, Ivan personally led an army from Ferros City to Intros, engaging his loyalists with Benedict’s own in a month-long battle. After twenty four days of fierce combat Ivan had pushed deep into the metropolis before he was killed by a HPB sniper, stalling the advance and encouraging Benedict to declare himself the new Hegemon and order the Army troops laying siege to his position to cease and desist. Instead, angered by the death of their leader, the Ferran troops pressed forward and Benedict committed suicide just hours before they captured his bunker.

With the two older brothers dead, the youngest having given up his claim and no clear path forward, the ministers and military commanders of Ferra ordered martial law declared while they held emergency meetings. All were well aware that there were many high-ranking officials and officers who had been close to the Hegemon and could claim they were taking over with his blessing, not to mention those men who were simply power-hungry and couldn’t care less about the legitimacy of their actions, and that if these claimants were allowed to act then it would result in a costly and devastating civil war that would threaten all of their positions, much like the one they had recently seen tear apart the Marauders. In order to completely destroy the ambitions of any one man to rule all of Ferra and satisfy those working purely in their own self-interest, which was most men in the Ferran government, the proclaimed Council of Ferra declared the dissolution of the First Ferran Hegemony and the creation of the Ferran Federation, promising change, prosperity and freedom for all. With this done the Council elected one of their own to the post of President of the Federation, answering to them, and the new leader immediately took command of the Army. He disbanded the HPB and, using Ferran troops as well as a number of off-world mercenaries and bounty hunters purged the government and greater society of the supporters of both Ivan and Benedict, as well as those who were closest to the late Hegemon; the Hegemony had fallen and now the Federation had risen just as quickly in its place.

The major change between the Hegemony and the Federation came in the alteration in the structure of government. In the Hegemony the regime was extremely centralized and actually relatively limited, governing from Ferros City and generally not touching the outside world except when it came time to collect the agricultural quota and taxes or to put down the occasional peasants revolt. Citizens were taught to be loyal to the distant and seemingly untouchable Hegemony and to appreciate how their lives were enriched by the aloof state that endowed them with so many freedoms. When the Federation came into power land was divided up among the wealthy and powerful so that ministers, officers and the like actually owned sections of the planet and the people and crops on them and were permitted to govern them, leading to the rise of baronies. While most chose to stay in their modern and ornate metropolises and interact with their subjects in the traditional manner, some moved into the countryside or at least had homes constructed on their land, and in theory had the ability to raise troops for their “house” though few actually did, in deference to the well-established military families.

The flight of the Red Hand

For the moment Geoff and his corps of friends in the Navy went untouched, but this was not to last. In Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 40 (2268 Alversian calendar) it was discovered by Federal Commissar Officers that Geoff had been using his position to smuggle slaves –not for his own profit, but stealing them from their owners and freeing them, with the help of likeminded Naval officers and some secretly hired contractors. Army troops were sent to arrest him but Geoff, alerted through his own network, was a step ahead of them and fled, taking with him a small but elite naval group known as Task Force Eight, along with numerous freed slaves and mercenaries. Together they formed a rebel group called the Red Hand, which hid out in the Ferran System and conducted raids on slaving ships and Ferran military patrols, quickly becoming well-known for their skill, audacity and give-no-quarters attitude to slavers. Slowly but surely, Geoff and his followers swelled their ranks with freedmen and disaffected Ferrans and their firepower with captured slaving freighters and naval corvettes.

Being stuck with hit-and-fade strikes like this was new for the Ferran Navy –in the past most pirates knew that Ferra was much more valuable as a place to trade and a safe port than as a raiding target, and those that were foolish enough to attack were always quickly destroyed by the Ferran Navy or other pirates. The Ferran Head Admiral, Adcox, attempted on multiple occasions to find and pin down the Red Hand, but they were generally able to evade his forces in frustrating games of cat-and-mouse across the light-year-sized expanse. The truth was that Geoff’s desertion had taken many of the Navy’s best officers with it, and the organization was wracked by purges as Federal Commissars tried to arrest commanders thought to be sympathetic before they could defect, further reducing its combat effectiveness even as the Red Hand ghosted through the system with Adcox’s warships seemingly powerless to stop them. Things came to a breaking point in Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 41 (2269 Alversian calendar) when a Ferran scout finally located Geoff’s base on a moon of one of the system’s gas giants and Adcox, eager to end the threat once and for all, committed an enormous fleet to annihilate the installation including his own flagship, the battleship Deathhound. Upon arrival Adcox sprang a trap in which the moon’s hidden anti-orbital batteries and silos opened up in conjunction with laser mines and snubfighter attacks, ripping apart the Deathhound and over a dozen smaller capital ships in an orgy of destruction, after which the Red Hand pounced and routed the rest of the armada, capturing or destroying fully half of its numbers including all of its heavy warships.

With the Head Admiral dead and the Fleet in shambles, the Federation acted quickly. Drawing on the reserves of its sixteen-figure Treasury, the Ferran government offered a reward equal to one billion Ferras to any single group that could find and wipe out the Red Hand. Pirates and mercenaries from across the galaxy responded, flocking to the Ferran System in great numbers until there were more brigand craft in the Ferran System than freighters or warships. As hoped Geoff and his forces chose to quit the Ferran System, withdrawing for parts unknown and soon pursued by the legions of raiders once it became clear that their quarry was no longer present. It is not clear if Geoff and the Red Hand were ever hunted down, though the Federation does not appear to have had to pay the huge bounty it issued, which may be because Geoff and his people escaped or simply because by the time the rogue officer was killed the Federation had rebuilt its Navy to the point where it was comfortable in refusing to pay out.

The establishment of Division 39

Regardless, what the entire saga of the Hegemon’s sons proved to the Council and President was that the Ferran Army, Navy and other quasi-independent organizations such as the HPB could not be relied on to carry out its needs effectively. It was concluded that a competent security apparatus could have prevented the two crisis’s before they happened by arresting or killing each of the brothers before they could flee, but previous forms like the HPB were far too susceptible to becoming loyal to leaders rather than the government. The Federation needed a force that could deal with domestic problems that it could control and would not fall to ambition or the ideologies of its senior staff. At the same time, it had to be one that was also relatively closed to outsiders so as to avoid being compromised and yet pervasive and, most importantly, not too expensive. So the Federation reassigned its Federal Commissars and placed the political officers into a new department: Division 39.

On the surface Division 39 was the agency responsible for reducing crime, graft and corruption in the Federation, but in practice it did just the opposite. The job of the Division was threefold: Ensure that the government had material available for extortion and trial purposes on all major political and military figures as well as important merchants and pirates in the system, factual or doctored, operate the work camps and reeducation centers formerly run by the HPB and oversee the new state-sponsored Ferran mafia, which would do the bulk of Division 39’s legwork in addition to bringing in a hefty profit. Given all the pirate traffic that Ferra had received for decades crime was nothing new to the Federation, but apart from peasant bandits who never strayed near the cities and the occasional thief of a servant or runaway slave lawbreakers were virtually unknown in Ferra proper until the introduction of Division 39’s mobsters. Endowed by the wealthy Federation and provided with all the tools they needed to rule their new underworld, crime lords sprang up virtually overnight, carving out minor empires of their own in the metropolises and orbital stations of the Federation with their numbers drawn from the likes of the footsoldiers of the Ferran Army and supplemented by outsider criminals drawn in by the power and wealth of the Ferran mob. The Federation publicly denounced the presence of such outlaws and pledged to eradicate them, but with a lax police force made up of Army reserves, many of whom were gangsters themselves, and no intention of doing anything about the problem to begin with, no progress was ever made.

Given great numbers, vast reserves of wealth and all the technology they could want, the Ferran mafia dominated the criminal underworld of the Ferran System, keeping tabs on everyone of importance and keeping the pirates in line under the guise of protecting their own territory, with only the highest bosses aware of their government connections. Over time this separation would erode until there was no longer any real distinction between the mafia and the state; mob enforcers were on the same level as police officers, and most authorities had criminal connections anyway. To resist or attack the mafia was to do the same to the government. Formerly military families slowly turned into such in name only, as young men joined the Army for the primary and often sole purpose of getting into the mob and making it as a criminal. The rule of law in the Federation was as strict as ever out in the fields, but for the urban elite practically anything was possible and permissible. Meanwhile the top ministers and officers just grew richer and lived ever more leisurely and decadent lives as the Federation entered something of a golden age.

The War of Resistance -Background

By the beginning of Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 70 (2298 Alversian calendar) Ferra was prospering intensely. With 90 years having elapsed since the founding of the First Ferran Hegemony the previous generations who remembered a time before a global government had died off, giving rise to billions of peasants who knew only their farms, quotas and simple tools, with only inklings of the likes of aliens, starships and space beyond their planet. This put an end to both fear and fact of widespread rebellion as the crushing terror of technologically superior eradication was replaced by superstitious fear of what would happen when quotas were not met, the leveling of disobedient townships fading into myth and legend. Instead most Ferrans now toiled in almost complete ignorance of why they worked and who they grew their crops and animals for, cautioned by elders and traditions against prying curiosity and instead infused with the virtues of hard work, obedience and contentment. For the Federation they were the most perfect kind of slaves –those that could not see their own chains.

Outside Ferra and indeed the wider system other factors contributed to the strengthening of the nation. Ferra’s major export, foodstuffs, was in high demand in a sector that was being wracked by intense, periodic warfare between the Danaversian Empire and the Alversian People’s Republic, disrupting trade in the nations and thus creating an opening for Ferran merchants. The pirates that brought their ill-gotten gains to the Federation also benefited from these times of instability as not only did it become easier for them to raid but their gains were also far more substantial as they were now able to net the likes of Philospher class superfreighters in the hands of Alversian-aligned traders, bringing in enormous hauls of goods that enriched the Ferrans and brigands alike. At the same time the strength of the Ferran Army and Navy falls dramatically, as the Federation’s leaders know that their system is too distant and isolated for any of the greater powers to take notice of but too heavily defended and valuable to pirates to be attacked, and this decrease in defense spending creates a windfall for the government. Most of the surplus is used to boost the wealthy of Ferra to previously unimaginable heights of luxury; many of the richest men and women in the galaxy reside on Federation land, while the peasants of the planet live and die in ignorance without ever seeing a penny of the quadrillions of credits flowing into the coffers of their lords.

The end of the Tenth Danaversian War in Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 103 (2331 Alversian calendar) frees up Alversian naval forces to protect their merchants and campaign against the pirates that the Federation relied on to make much of its profit, and thus brings the best days of Ferra to a halt. Only lengthy combat with the large raider fleets of the sector, combined with a desire to focus on the ever-present threat of Danaversian invasion and a wariness of cutting off a potentially useful source of food prevents the Alversians from bringing military power to bear on the Ferrans. However, diplomatic contact is established for the first time in Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 124 (2352 Alversian calendar) which results in the Baily Treaty in which the Ferran Federation pledges to rigorously inspect and halt illegitimate shipments into their territory in return for Alversian financial and material aid. Unsurprisingly Federal troops make only token arrests and impoundments, often doing so for show before releasing ships and pirates with new identities provided by the Ferran mafia, while the Federation takes Alversian grants and supplies hand over fist. The policy is completely abandoned by Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 137 (2365 Alversian calendar) with the commencement of the disastrous Aborted War, diverting Alversian attention to their Aluminan allies and the looming Danaversian menace once again.

Only lack of public support for an invasion of Ferra due to shipments of Ferran food keeping Aluminan troops from starving, combined with indications that the Danaversians, thirsty for Aluminan blood now that they had gotten a taste, were gearing up for war again, stopped the People’s Republic from enforcing the terms of the Baily Treaty. As it was the intervening five years between the Aborted War and the Eleventh Danaversian War saw a sharp and distinct cooling in relations between the Ferran Federation and the People’s Republic marked by tense diplomatic meetings, trade disputes and finally outright sanctions from the Alversians aimed at the Ferrans and increased patrols near their space. However the embargoes placed on trade did little to hurt the lifestyles of the highest Ferrans, given pirate support, and counter patrols by the Ferran Navy were sufficient to prevent Alversian warships from encroaching far enough to threaten the illegal shipments that the Federation relied on. The Danaversian invasion of Alversian space in Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 143 (2371 Alversian calendar) forced the People’s Republic to concentrate on throwing the amphibians back and so Ferra was relieved of pressure for another year. Trade and pirate numbers surged once more and though they fell again after the end of the war in Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 144 (2372 Alversian calendar) it was enough to assuage the fears of the Federation.

Unfortunately for them, the relationship between the Federation and the People’s Republic only grew worse. A series of treaties numbering almost one per year until Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 154 (2382 Alversian calendar) were made and broken in swift succession, with the Ferran government simply unwilling to believe that the Alversians would ever invade their world no matter how badly diplomacy went. There was the common perception that the People’s Republic would never act aggressively towards a nation that did not directly threaten them, and that in any case cheap Ferran food shipments, and almost constant Alversian preparations for war with the Danaversians would make attacking the Federation more trouble than it was worth. Indeed, while the idea of liberating Ferra was a popular one in Alversian military circles and every Alversian ambassador and politician who had come into contact with the Ferrans had attitudes towards them ranging from distaste to outright disgust, the Alversian public was still far more concerned about the Danaversians and shoring up Alumi however possible, including ensuring that the Pridelands got all of the Ferran consumables that its troops needed. The Ferran Federation simply seemed too small and far away to bother with in comparison to the gigantic Danaversian Empire that sat right on the proverbial doorstep of the People’s Republic.

That all changed in Y.O.O.R. Empress Tami 157 (2385 Alversian calendar). The Twelfth Danaversian War was winding down after the defeat of the Danaversian forces occupying Vieira with the Alversian Army pushing the enemy back to the inevitable conclusion of yet another peace treaty, and a unit of troops was on its way home to Alversia for some well-deserved rest after saving the bulk of the planet’s garrison from destruction. Unknown to the convoy, a raid force of Serpent Clan pirates out from the Ferran System were tracking the freighters and, thinking that the trade ships were full of military supplies, attacked in overwhelming numbers. While the battle went poorly for the Serpent Clan frigates as they were engaged and destroyed repeatedly by naval escorts, the damage was done by the time heavy reinforcements arrived to save the convoy: A troop ship full of Vieiran veterans had been lost with all hands. With the battered transports making port at Alversia soon after the battle, news of the deaths of the “heroes of Vieira” at the hands of the Serpent Clan was not long in traveling from the docks to the papers, people and all the way to the Prime Minister’s office.

An outraged public screamed for pirate blood, and in the words of the journal kept by one brigand captain at the time, “it seemed as if the PRA was spitting fire in eight different directions, and its wrath incinerated all it touched.” People’s Navy cruisers did not even wait for the formal signing of the peace treaty with the Danaversians to go on the hunt for the rest of the Serpent Clan raiders, storming pirate dens and breaking up pirate fleets on the mere suspicion that they might be harboring Serpent Clan members, capturing or destroying dozens of ships and arresting or killing thousands of pirates, including Serpent Clan thugs. Aware that they were being hunted, the remaining Clan vessels fell back to the one place they knew to be a safe haven: the Ferran System. Tracing the perpetrators to the Federation via the Internal Security Service, the People’s Republic attempted diplomacy a final time by issuing an ultimatum to the Ferrans –open the system to Alversian warships to search for the Serpent Clan or face the consequences. Aware that a People’s Navy presence in their space would drive all the pirates away and thus deprive them of one of their main streams of revenue, the Federation refused.

The War of Resistance -Invasion and Occupation

That was all the Alversians needed. Armed with the political capital needed to order military action by high public support for harsh measures against the Ferrans for harboring the killers of the Army troops, the Prime Minister did so a matter of days later and the People’s Navy and Army were only too happy to oblige. An invasion of the Ferran System quickly commenced with a force of over 250 warships fresh from the Twelfth Danaversian War with seasoned crews and transports full of battle-hardened soldiers from across the People’s Republic, with all force aimed at hitting Ferra itself and occupying the planet and its orbital stations. Forewarned of the Alversian approach, pirates, slavers, smugglers and other criminals fled the system by the thousands, though a number stayed behind either in vain hope that they could assist in repulsing the oncoming fleet (and be handsomely rewarded for defending Ferra) or simply because they lacked the transport necessary to escape. Bolstered somewhat by brigand and mercenary support, the Ferran Navy started to move to set up a defensive perimeter around the planet, with the objective of establishing a blockade to prevent any fighters or landing craft from making it to the surface.

The cordon never materialized as the Alversian fleet, much swifter than their Ferran opponents, struck with a vanguard of XX-38 fighters, Scimitar corvettes and Ramirez destroyers, smashing through the half-formed picket shields and throwing the Ferran maneuvers into confusion. In many cases Ferran warships were destroyed where they were still docked and carrier vessels were torn apart before they could launch their fighters, so fast and sudden came the attacks, and because of this the Ferran Navy was completely unable to mount an effective defense. Ironically the pirates who remained put up a better fight than the Ferran regulars, giving the main Alversian force some trouble while the vanguard wreaked havoc on the enemy rear, turning next to targeting stations, docks and orbitals and even landing limited numbers of People’s Marines on the static structures to take and hold vital points and pave the way for reinforcements. By all accounts the boarding actions were no more difficult than the combat outside with marauding Alversian space troops describing Ferran security officers being cut down where they stood or surrendering without so much as firing a shot –in one case a fire-team of six People’s Marines took no less than fifty Ferrans prisoner. Once they realized their position was hopeless the brigands in the system turned and ran from the Alversian fleet as quickly as their engines would take them, along with elements of the Ferran Navy; those pirates and Ferrans that were left all surrendered on the spot.

With orbit secure and People’s Marines sent to clear out landing zones the action turned to the accompanying People’s Army troops as their carriers descended through Ferra’s atmosphere, avoiding the anti-orbital and anti-air defenses of the cities and setting down a number of klicks outside. Supported by armored, mechanized, aerial and artillery divisions, the infantry pressed forward over the flat expanses of Ferran fields, taking a few peasant farms and villages without resistance as the overawed commoners, unable to readily distinguish the Alversians from their Ferran overlords, rushed to procure their quotas of food early to appease the enormous quantities of troops moving through their land. It was only when the battalions began to draw close to individual Ferran cities that they encountered Ferran Army units that had established fortified positions where they could shell and mortar the incoming Alversians, using city walls to house snipers, spotters and anti-armor guns. The careful application of air strikes, sharpshooting teams, armored rushes and a creeping advance of infantry under the cover of artillery fire saw the Alversian armies battering down the Ferran defenses, swiftly overwhelming their fortifications and breaking the morale of Ferran troops, who had never had to fight anything more than peasants before. As in orbit the bulk of the Ferrans were routed or surrendered, and the Alversians gained easy access to the glittering metropolises of the Federation.

Sadly, there were three things the Alversians had not counted on in their invasion: The slipperiness of the Ferran elite, the extent and loyalty of the Ferran mafia to the Federation, and the lengths that the government would go to hold on to power. The first came into view as Black Falcon commando teams or elite People’s Marine units struck into the towers of top Ferran officials and military commanders and found them deserted, their targets vanishing before they could be brought to justice. In particular the raid on the President’s Palace proved to be a uniquely tough fight in the Ferran War as Black Falcons went up against the feared Federal Guard units tasked with protecting the Ferran President, with the battle wearing on for three hours until the Alversians finally overcame their opponents and discovered that they had been fighting advanced combat synthetics no doubt furnished to the President through his criminal connections. Despite efforts by the ISS, defecting Ferran troops and mercenaries familiar with the Ferran elite and even the odd Alumina psychic, most of the High Value Targets were never found, including the President. This allowed the Ferran leadership to continue directing the war from the safety of their boltholes and safehouses without exposing themselves to being captured or killed by Alversian forces.

A major mistake made by Alversian Army commanders as their troops moved to occupy the cities was in assuming that with the crumbling of the Ferran Army resistance would be light and scattered. In fact the criminal element on Ferra, in particular the Ferran mafia as secretly directed by Division 39, engaged the invaders with far more tenacity, skill and firepower than any People’s officer would have given the criminals credit for. The total lack of support by the urban populace for the Alversian garrisons meant that the mobsters-turned-guerillas were extremely difficult to track down and the Alversian Army, not having dealt with asymmetrical warfare since the Carvite War over 600 years ago in the 18th Century, suffered horribly in Ferran hit-and-run raids, bombings and sniper attacks. While some crime “families” could be pinned down and destroyed, the cellular nature of the mafia made it difficult to deal the organization as a whole a singular, crushing blow, and the mob was never enticed out into open battle with the People’s Army. These factors meant that the morale of the Alversian garrisons declined sharply in the months following the invasion, further reducing their combat effectiveness.

Worst of all was the propaganda that Federation officials, using contacts across the planet, were able to seed among the peasant populations of Ferra. Fabrications of Alversian atrocities, often given teeth by secret massacres performed by Division 39 or Ferran Army troops, spread quickly through the agricultural towns and villages, as well as stories of strange and horrific customs –that Alversians ate their own dead, hence their disregard for the quota, for example- and a general fear of the “Alversian giants” and the non-human Silarians, Carvon and Aretians that they brought with them. Alversian troops on patrol in the countryside found all doors closed to them, or worse would be outright attacked by the Ferran peasants who were desperately trying to defend their homes and families. While these ambushes were always in small numbers and made with clubs, swords and arrows, and therefore did little physical damage to the Alversian presence, they were deeply demoralizing to both the Alversians on the ground and to the general public, which was horrified at footage of these backwards people dying haplessly at the end of Alversian rifles and bayonets. Outreach efforts were not helped by the presence of Ferran agent provocateurs and “freedom fighter” troops hidden in the wilderness, against whom the sum total of all Alversian firepower was useless.

The War of Resistance -Winding Down

In less than a year the support of the Alversian civilian populace for the “Ferran adventure” had completely dried up. Alversians were sick of seeing their soldiers fighting and dying for a people who didn’t seem to want them there in the first place, and so the war was rapidly becoming politically untenable as the grumbling of families who had expected to have their parents, spouses, children and otherwise home with the end of the Twelfth Danaversian War combined with the complaints of taxpayers at the additional financial burden being placed upon them. Some military commanders in the hierarchy on Alversia insisted that they could still pull a victory out of the Ferran quagmire if only they had more time and more troops to hunt down the old regime and its insurgents and pacify the populace, but their words fell on deaf ears. Naval operations based out of the Ferran System against pirates in the surrounding sector had been highly successful, including the complete annihilation of the Serpent Clan, and with that accomplished most Alversians simply didn’t see the point of throwing any more money, resources or lives into the pit that was Ferra. The Federation was toppled and the raiders suppressed, went the common perception, so bring our boys and girls home already!

Only reluctantly taking the advice of his Generals, Prime Minister John Valour ordered a withdrawal of all Alversian forces from the Ferran system. Garrisons were packed up and moved out, soldiers shuttled back to carriers and warships gathered in orbit as the Alversians prepared to depart from the system, leaving a shaky democratically-elected government behind them. When it was finally confirmed that the invaders were gone for good there were mass celebrations across Ferra as the new regime was toppled immediately and the old leaders came out of hiding to resume their rightful places in the Federation. The day the Alversians left was declared a national holiday to commemorate victory in the “Resistance War”, a number of monuments were commissioned and history was generally distorted to cast the Ferrans of the Federation in a favorable light and the enemy as cowardly and incompetent. By Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 4 (2387 Alversian calendar) interstellar criminals of all stripes had flocked back to Ferra and the government began to rebuild on the back of slave labor, money once again pouring into a national treasury that had been nearly exhausted by the war.

[End of Part I]
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Postby Xiscapia » Sun Jul 13, 2014 3:04 pm

An Abridged History of Ferra, Part II


Secret Negotiations with the Danaversian Empire

Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 5 (2388 Alversian calendar) saw the beginning of Alversian involvement in the Korr Wars, first contact with the Kitsune Empire of Xiscapia and thus a total shift of attention away from the Ferran Federation that the Ferrans happily exploited to go back to their old ways. Yet the government did recognize that it was vulnerable to foreign invasion, that economics and distance were not a great enough deterrence and that while Division 39 had performed exceptionally well against a power many times the size of the Federation, it could not be expected to carry the war again. While the obvious solution was a ramping up in military spending to build a large and powerful Army and Navy, the President and Council also agreed that the Federation needed a benefactor state of some kind that would be willing to protect them and lend support, perhaps in return for access to Ferra’s lucrative black market. Over the next ten years, from Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 7 to Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 17 (2390-2400 Alversian calendar) the Federation expanded its diplomatic program even as it built up its military, reestablishing an embassy with the People’s Republic while also putting out feelers to the likes of the Xiscapians and Greali Empire and even, covertly, the Alliance of Imitated Worlds before they were eradicated and the loose confederation of Xiscapian, Alversian and Calaverian rebels and pirates known as the False Rebellion under Sakakibara before they were likewise destroyed. Finally, in Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 17 (2400 Alversian calendar) the Federation secretly entered into negotiations with the Danaversian Empire, counting on Danaversian support to render them untouchable to the Alversians.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Imperials and the Federals hit off rather well; the Danaversian representatives were very pleased by their luxurious accommodations, the grandeur of the architecture of Ferros City and the expensive gifts of finery and slaves that their hosts lavished upon them, while the Ferrans in turn appreciated the physical power of the imposing Danaversians themselves, the great expanse and strength of their empire and their powerful weaponry. Even before negotiations began the Ferran President, Ma-Tan, was convinced that an empire that had stood for hundreds of years and never showed any appreciable signs of weakness even in defeat was a surefire choice for a benefactor, and the Danaversian representatives were at the same time impressed that the Ferrans had actually managed to defeat the Alversians in battle in spite of their numerous advantages. When the first meetings began the Danaversians made it clear that they were not interested in Ferra’s black market or criminal connections, but with the system’s valuable strategic position close to Alversian territory, and so sought to broker an agreement that would allow them to use Ferra’s surface and the surrounding space as a base for incursions into the People’s Republic. Using Ferra to launch invasions would not only provide the Danaversians with an unexpected point to strike from but would also shorten their supply lines, making it more difficult for Alversian privateers and the hated Aluminan commerce raiders to disrupt Danaversian shipping and provide Imperial fleets and armies with encampment and docking space that was sorely lacking outside of the empire proper. It should be noted that, as a tertiary consideration, the Danaversians were in fact interested in the Ferran slave trade, and plans for the future pegged the Federation as a major hub through which Alversian and Aluminan slaves would pass through on their way back to the deepest reaches of the Danaversian Empire.

For the Ferrans there were numerous rewards to be had in return for their cooperation. Primarily the President and Council desired to house Danaversian troops and harbor Danaversian fleets because it was felt that doing so would protect the Federation; after all, as it was frequently pointed out (though not in front of the Danaversians themselves) that the only Danaversian world to fall to the Alversians in the last twelve wars was Gerral, and the People’s Republic had suffered heavily for it in a way they would not likely do again for the sake of Ferra. In addition the Danaversians promised to supply the Federation with weaponry, equipment and material and to support it directly against the ISS-armed and trained rebels who had been inflicting minor but troubling damage on the government’s forces out in the countryside. Only adding the addendums that Danaversian forces were not to interfere with either the illicit trade in the system or the harvests on the ground, President Ma-Tan agreed by authorizing the use of the lightly-populated continent of Tritar as the main staging area and the treaty was signed. Neither side suspected that the pretty redheaded slave girl that had been serving them was actually an undercover ISS agent who swiftly reported her suspicions about the meetings to her superiors on Alversia.

As the Danaversians lost no time in making good on their promises, the effects for the Ferrans were immediate. Ma-Tan had his lost Presidential Guard replaced by Boolean-made war drones, and Ferran troops and mafia members found themselves endowed with Danaversian weapons and technology even as new stations went under construction in orbit and installations were raised across Tritar in preparation for the arrival of the imperials. Though the exact details were not widely known, Ma-Tan made sure that all the right people knew that he had finally secured the Federation from foreign aggression, and this prompted a spike in trade as assorted criminals felt more confident in bringing their drugs, guns, slaves and other goods and services to Ferra. Better supplied than they were before and encouraged by the prospects of Danaversian support, the Ferran Army increased the pressure on the isolated rebels known as the Free Ferrans, and so the guerillas were forced to go to ground to avoid being wiped out. They did, however, provide one last, critical service to the People’s Republic and the Internal Security Service in agreeing to help smuggle a small team into the Federation.

Mercenaries Wreck Havoc

This team was comprised of two groups of mercenaries known by the Xiscapian Imperial Intelligence Department by loose acronyms based on the names of their members: KA-rtosh-Skyler-Tara (KAST) and Chloe-Her-Idiot-and-Katie (CHIK). The former was of some renown as Kartosh and Skyler were the pair of Xiscapian contractors who were well-known for their involvement in the SASM War in which they were instrumental in destroying the synthetics’ flagship, and their third partner, Tara, was regarded as one of the most seductive kitsune alive, a talent she was known to use to her advantage. Chloe, also a Xiscapian, was partnered with one Nathanial T. Barnes, an Alversian ex-military spacer, and together they and their KDY-made A.I. “Katie” formed the other half of the team that, while not as experienced or well-known as their counterparts, complemented KAST enough to be considered vital to the completion of the operation. The ISS contracted the six to infiltrate the Federation, locate the documents that detailed the contents of the meetings and treaty with the Danaversians, and bring the evidence back to the People’s Republic. Though they were warned that the insertion was possibly high-intensity and long-duration with little support and no possibility of extraction, the mercenaries happily agreed, taking half their payment up front, and were spirited onto Ferra by elements of the Free Ferran rebels.

Far from the secretive and stealthy operation that it was intended to be, the plans enacted by KAST and CHIK carved a three-day path of destruction across Ferra from the capital at Ferros to Intros City all the way to President Ma-Tan’s secret mansion in the Ferran countryside. In spite of the best efforts of Ferran mobsters, Army troops and even other foreign mercenaries the six soldiers-of-fortune blasted and exploded their way through government compounds, urban high-rises, military bases, mafia bars, a docking port, several warehouses, a university and two safehouses in their quest to find, keep and get away with the documents. At long last Ferran gangsters were able to capture Tara but they made the mistake of bringing her to Ma-Tan himself, and when the rest of Tara’s friends followed they showed even the Federation’s President no mercy. By the end of the spree KAST and CHIK had gunned down, blown up or otherwise killed or injured over two hundred Division 39 officers and Ferran Army troops, razed six buildings and caused an estimated 1.2 billion Ferros in damage and assassinated Ma-Tan, leaving the Federation in chaos. Though the evidence was provided to the ISS too late for the agency to do anything about it, the knowledge that the Alversians were now aware of their plans –and the shock at how easily their upgraded defenses had been penetrated- threw the Federal Council into a panic and drove them fully into the arms of the Danaversians; they begged the Empire to send troops as soon as possible.

The Thirteenth Danaversian War and Ferra -The Federation chooses a side

By the time the Thirteenth Danaversian War began a year later in Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 18 (2401 Alversian calendar) the Federation found itself torn over whether it should keep up its end of the treaty and allow the Danaversians to garrison fleets and troops at Ferra. The next elected Ferran President, Shamhala, had been assassinated by the Free Ferrans, whose numbers and sophistication were growing daily with the support of the ISS and now the Imperial Intelligence Department (I.I.D.), which spoke of Coalition desires to destabilize the Federal government in preparation for an invasion before Danaversian forces could arrive. Some believed that they should fully reject the agreement and throw in their lot with the Coalition, negotiating an end to rebel attacks and support via economic support of the Alversians and their allies, while others viewed the Danaversians as the last hope of the Federation and the only way to maintain the status quo. In particular officers of Division 39 supported keeping up with the agreement, viewing that as the path to economic prosperity and an easy way to crush the Free Ferrans, while members of the Ferran Navy especially desired to side with the Coalition. The fact that Division 39 had been lavished with support from the Danaversians and that the organization was a favorite of the Council, while the Navy had been sidelined and staffed with “lower class” persons since its humiliating defeat during the Resistance War, undoubtedly contributed to the drawing of the lines.

The Disaster at Havalia with the major Coalition defeat there, followed by the successful Danaversian invasion of the Alversian world of Miller and the same of the Calaverian-controlled planet of Pamp, caused the Council to welcome the Danaversians in with open arms as the clear and inevitable victors in the war. Emboldened, the Danaversians lost no time in placing a Shoal armada in the Ferran System and landing an army on Tritar, intending to capitalize on their successes by using Ferra to launch further raids. Indeed, Danaversian ships and troops went from Ferra to Gerral to assist in the siege of that system, able to arrive intact thanks to the shorter distance, but the eyes of the amphibians were always on the most prestigious prize: Alumi. Massing fleets and armies began to gear up for that most glorious of all invasions, supported as much as possible by a Federation eager to show its loyalty to the empire that seemed destined to conquer the galaxy. In their single-minded determination the Danaversians never seemed to notice how their presence alone made the ranks of the Free Ferrans swell, and they completely ignored reminders from the Council about their obligations to crush those same rebels.

The Thirteenth Danaversian War and Ferra -The Coalition Invasion

In Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 19 (2402 Alversian calendar) the Coalition, acutely aware of the build-up of Danaversian forces at Ferra, invaded the system with Alversian, Xiscapian and Setulanite warships and troops. As before during the Resistance War most of the criminal ships fled before they could be targeted, but in a surprising move the Ferran Navy refused to sally out against Coalition forces, keeping its warships docked and fighters grounded in a stand that was ideologically motivated for some officers and simple act of self-preservation by others. This left the Danaversians facing down the enemy alone, and their Shoal was destroyed in record time by the Coalition fleet, beginning with the obliteration of the Danaversian flagship, a Marlin class supercapital, by the Xiscapian Korr-made battleship Fury. With orbit clear the Coalition began to land forces to link up with troops of the Free Ferran Army, whose numbers had reached enormous proportions as the peasant class took up arms against their government and the Danaversians among them outside the urban centers. Thus the first mistake of the Resistance War was avoided as the Federation found that it could not rely on billions of fanatical peasants to fight and die for it.

That did not mean Federal propaganda did not reach many of the common class however, and millions of farmers and villagers did run out to oppose their FFA brethren and the Coalition invaders, while still millions more were conscripted by Ferran Army troops and forced to fight. While the professional soldiers of the Ferran Army and their Alversian People’s Army, Xiscapian Imperial Army and Setulanite Republican Army opponents were relatively well-matched, neither most of the troops of the FFA nor the Ferran Army conscripts were trained or prepared to fight in anything like modern combat. The vast majority of men and women on both sides had no armor or equipment of any kind, armed with only a rifle or pistol and a few magazines of ammunition and wearing civilian clothing that offered no protection to the body; most had never seen a tank, a non-human or a hologram before. While Coalition and Danaversian forces made the most territorial gains and losses in the invasion and ultimately decided the fate of the planet, it was Ferran peasants on both sides who did most of the fighting and the dying in the various battles. While Coalition casualties never exceeded five figures for the duration and Danaversian dead numbered a few million strong, it is estimated that over one billion Ferrans –one in ten- were killed or wounded during the war, mostly from disease and starvation.

As the Coalition rapidly achieved aerial supremacy, putting down the few Danaversian fighters remaining to challenge them, any large formation of Ferran troops were bombed out of existence, leading to the scattering of Ferran Army troops across the countryside. Without air cover most Ferran armored vehicles and artillery batteries were neutralized in air strikes before ground forces ever reached them, leaving Federal troops an almost entirely infantry force. Much of the difficulty in the Coalition advance came not from the resistance of Ferrans holding strongpoints or lines but because of Ferran ambushes in woodlands and fields, leading to Coalition forces, and the Xiscapians in particular due to their frustration at the Alversian ban on the use of chemical weapons, resorting to “slash and burn” tactics to destroy cover and force the enemy out of hiding. While this strategy worked well against the Ferran Army, it also eliminated tons of crops and contributed to the widespread starvation rates and food riots in the aftermath of the invasion. Reports of cannibalism among the populace were common, though never substantiated.

In general the Ferran Army conscripts would only offer token resistance before surrendering, and as the battles wore on Coalition snipers learned to spot and take out Ferran Army regulars before targeting the militia, as the presence of Federal soldiers was often the only thing preventing the civilians from fleeing or surrendering. Indeed, scattered, deprived of support and facing large numbers of well-equipped Coalition troops, not to mention legions of fellow Ferrans, the bulk of Ferran Army personnel either gave up in the first few days or fell back to the cities, obeying the orders of their commanders in an attempt to force the enemy into an urban meatgrinder. While few of the regulars ever made it back, enough had been held in reserve, combined with Division 39 agents, to make the urban combat on Ferra the toughest of the campaign for all involved as the ability of the Coalition to bring numbers and firepower to bear were severely limited. This time, however, Alversian, Xiscapian and Setulanite troops had friendly Ferrans waiting to assist them, and they were able to help the Coalition soldiers navigate the cities of Ferra and slowly but surely wear down the defenders even as the massive towers of Ferros, Intros and the rest were torn down by shellfire and air strikes. It wasn’t long before only the most diehard radicals and fanatical supporters of the regime were left to continue the fight.

The untold story of the Ferran Campaign is the work of Coalition Special Forces, including Alversian Black Falcons, Xiscapian Ascians and Setulanite Ghosts as they targeted and went after the Ferran elite in government officials and top military commanders. While most Ferran HVTs did flee and go into hiding, and a few were able to escape the planet entirely, they were inevitably found again by Coalition commandos, supplied with much better support and intelligence than the People’s Republic had been able to furnish their teams seventeen years ago. Whether the Ferran ministers and officers were captured or assassinated, their arrests and deaths broke the last of the resistance by the Ferran Army, and so the last holdouts were finally cleared, making Coalition control official. Setulanite troops, who were the first into the capital of Ferros, hung the corpses of the bodies of the Ferran Council and President from the capitol building. Over the next four years Ferra, in an ironic twist, would end up being a base for Coalition forces going the other way into Danaversian space, with the system being primarily a waypoint for Setulanite fleets and convoys as Alversian troops on the ground sought to solidify peace and back up the new Ferran Federation as a democratically-elected institution. At the end of the war in Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 23 (2406 Alversian calendar) Ferra was given protectorate status under the People’s Republic of Alversia, with its own government for domestic affairs but foreign policy following the People’s Republic and defense controlled by Alversian military forces. Following instability in the new government, Ferra was formally annexed into the People’s Republic.

The Thirteen Danaversian War and Ferra -The Aftermath

Despite the heavy presence of Alversian troops on the planet, the creation of a legitimate Ferran police force and even the deployment of Setulanite M.P.s to train and back up Federal officers, Ferra has hardly forgotten its criminal roots. While the planet is no longer a port for pirates and slavers it remains a popular destination for smugglers from across two galaxies and the cities are rife with gang violence from the criminal bands that rose up out of the remnants of the Ferran mafia after the war. Military-grade weapons and equipment left over from the war or hidden away in secret caches across the planet mean that guns and ammunition are extremely common, adding fuel to the fire. To make matters worse Ferran radicals still exist who want to bring back the old Federation, forming terrorist cells that resist the new government and its Alversian troops, and there are definite and extensive links between the terror groups and criminal organizations, mostly in the trade of weapons, equipment and drugs. Oddly, since the Xiscapian Syndicate has seen fit to set up operations on Ferra the areas where they have the greatest influence also tend to be the most stable, as Ferran gangsters and terrorists who enter Syndicate “turf” usually don’t leave it alive.

As what economy Ferra had –mainly agriculture and black market trade- imploded during the war, unemployment remains high as food production has yet to even approach its previous levels, given that much fertile land has been destroyed. General education levels are extremely low, to be expected given that 90% of the population lived in ignorance of the outside universe until the war, and school systems are slow to start due to economic depression and the dangers of living on the planet. As a result criminal activity of various types is one of the most popular occupations on Ferra, ranking with agricultural work, though many Ferrans are leaving their home planet, either seeking menial work on freighters or becoming mercenaries, security officers and soldiers, drawing on wartime experience. A major industry that has formed on Ferra is salvage, with teams going into still-ruined cities or out into the countryside to scavenge scrap metal and abandoned equipment left over from the war to sell off or locating and interring remains for a fee from the government. Given the presence of unexploded munitions, irradiated areas from leaking reactors and chemical spills from rundown equipment, salvage hunting can be a dangerous job.

Despite the grim picture painted by Ferra’s postwar status, there is hope for the planet yet. The People’s Republic does seek to help its new territory and large aid endowments combined with anti-corruption initiatives are steps in the right direction, as are the deployment of Alversian troops to quell criminal strife where possible. A number of Xiscapian corporations have taken an interest in the planet and its people, and the laxer laws regarding the establishment and behavior of companies have enabled them to set up operations mostly as they please. The Asmira Conglomerate has outsourced some of its factories to Ferra, building on otherwise useless land to house production centers for starship components and offering courses to employees to learn how to pilot and crew the same vessels. Faldren Industries is a Ferran start-up that was invested in by Xiscapian shareholders that has managed to do extraordinarily well for itself both on and off Ferra, amassing a significant amount of money and power in a short amount of time, which for the moment has been enough to deflect inquiries into some of Faldren’s more shady deals and business practices. A corporation known as the Dawnstar Storage Firm has constructed a number of warehouses in Ferran cities and introduced new techniques for the storing of foodstuffs to ensure that they keep for longer and taste fresher, increasing profits for the Ferran farms. Genetics Incorporated has made a task of harvesting Ferran DNA for research and sponsored the building of schools in orbit and the free transport of students to them, Eucaria Agricultural Farms has become one of the biggest employers on the planet as it has purchased many of the farms still in operation, the Ascension Cultivation Dealers have bought out land abandoned during the war to grow their own crops and the terraforming company Rift Planetary Engineering is known to be in talks with the Federation over a proposal to terraform Ferra’s moons, Merra and Lerna, into tourist attractions or resorts. Even the infamous Vixen’s Den chain of bars, clubs and brothels is doing well on Ferra by bringing exotic entertainment and comfort to a people desperately in need of it.

Closing

The conclusion made by many of those who look at the planet today is that infrastructure spending, law enforcement and especially education are the keys to getting the Ferrans back on their feet and properly a part of the intergalactic community. It must be acknowledged that these changes will not come quickly, as time must be taken to build for, train and teach the next generation of Ferrans. But for most of the men and women living there today, the general future of Ferra is brighter than it ever has been before; life may not be good for them today, but they know that with hard work and dedication, their children can have better lives. Our own work in uncovering the history of Ferra and contributing to the anthropological knowledge of the Ferran people can be a small part of that as we help the Ferrans avoid the mistakes of the past and look more confidently to the years to come. It must always be remembered that the science at the heart of our discipline cannot be diverged from the very sentience that allows it to exist.

-Doctor Ippolito, University of Lune
-Y.O.O.R. Emperor Rose 26
Xis quote of the week: Altaria Almighty: how are you not just a race of sexual predators? Like who needs power armour and gauss rifles when you have leather and whips. –Karaig
The Kitsune Empire of Xiscapia's FT Factbook (V2.5)
R.I.P. Shal - 1/17/10

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Xiscapia
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Founded: Mar 13, 2007
Democratic Socialists

Postby Xiscapia » Sun Jul 13, 2014 3:07 pm

Now, I am Xiscapian


[ Mature ]



The neophyte in liminality must be a tabula rasa, a blank slate, on which is inscribed the knowledge and wisdom of the group, in those respects that pertain to the new status. The ordeals and humiliations, often of a grossly physiological character, to which neophytes are submitted represent partly a destruction of the previous status and partly a tempering of their essence in order to prepare them to cope with their new responsibilities and restrain them in advance from abusing their new privileges. They have to be shown that in themselves they are clay or dust, mere matter, whose form is impressed upon them by society. -Turner, Victor. 1969. The Ritual Process

They came late in the night.
It was sometime after 0200 hours, well after curfew, and I was curled up with my roommate for warmth in our tiny room. I remember it well, the epitome of close quarters, so small that with our bunks on either side there wasn't space for either of us to stand and extend arms without hitting the other, let alone tails. Windowless, cold and dark, conditions they told us we had better get used to, because that's how every bunker and troopship was; so we did. It was not too different from home anyway, not for most of us, and there was no energy to complain anyway after the daily regimens they put us through, too tired to read or talk or even so much as masturbate, not that you could hide that from your roommate anyway -if you can smell it, so can they, or so the maxim went. So we were all fast asleep when the hammering sounded at the door.

"Cadets! Open up! Now!"

Confused, blurry-eyed and exhausted to the bone, we roused ourselves, my roommate and I shooting each other incredulous, exasperated looks. More drills? Now? A week before graduation? As I tried to wipe the sleep from my eyes he walked across the room, making it to the door in a few steps. He tugged it open, letting the light from the hallway spill into our room in a shaft of yellowish illumination, and was immediately pulled out with a yelp. Startled, I darted over, suddenly wide awake, and looked out into the corridor suddenly filled with people.

All along the narrow passage other first-year cadets were emerging from their rooms as well, blinking in the harsh light, distinguishable by fur color in an array of oranges, tans, browns, blacks, whites and grays but all otherwise uniform in gray A-shirts and blue shorts. Facing us, two or three to a room, were upperclassmen, all in fatigues and mirror-paneled glasses or visor helmets, standing with arms folded or akimbo. Where there were two they flanked the door, one to each side, and if there was a third he or she stood directly in front of the entrance, right up against the first-years who had just come out. When I glanced from left to right I could see more of them at each end of the hall, blocking the exits, not doing anything, just watching. My heart began to beat quicker.

My roommate was just being released by an orange coated vixen flanked by a pair of toms, he stumbling back into me, tail lashing, shocked. I stared up at the other kitsune, seeing myself reflected in her shades, a tiny, disheveled-looking representation of myself that I felt could not be my true reflection. She couldn't have been more than an inch or two taller than me, even in combat boots, but she seemed to tower nevertheless, imposing her will on us by her very presence. There was no name tag; in fact, I realized that none of them had any way for us to identify them, not so much a smell detectable from the heavy amounts of shampoo they'd all seemed to have washed with. Between the thick clothes and their glasses, they were as good as anonymous.

"Cadet, are you one of us?"

Before there was general hubbub in the corridor, but it quieted to a dead silence as the question was posed. The vixen had a powerful voice, one that overrode everything else, so everyone turned to look at her. She hadn't addressed it to any of them, but was looking straight ahead, at me and the twin images of the little, frightened cadet that showed up in the glass. I recognized a loaded question when I heard one, but I was prouder than I was smart. I said the only answer I could.

"I am a cadet of the Xiscapian Imperial Army -I am one of you."

"Wrong."

That single word rang strong, cutting across my sentence like a lash. I blinked, only just remembering to close my mouth, and shared a bewildered glance with my roommate. No one laughed, or spoke up to contradict her, or so much as coughed. Looking back to her, I felt my tail curl, questioningly. Who was she to say...?

"You are nothing," she told me plainly. "I am a cadet of the Xiscapian Imperial Army. You are the dirt under my heel. In fact, you are worth less to me than my tail dandruff. Your first year isn't even up yet, and so, you are worthless. You are not even Xiscapian. Now strip."

The order came so soon after the shocking statements that nobody moved.

"I said strip," she repeated, fingering the handle of her combat knife. "Or I'll strip you myself."

Slowly, we complied. There is no such thing as a nudity taboo in our culture, but there is a difference between being willingly naked and disrobing because someone else has just ordered you to for no discernible reason. Lifting my hands, I grasped my shirt by the collar and, leaning, pulled it over by head and dropped it to the floor beside me, where it joined my roommate's shorts. Sliding hands down my hips, I pushed my own shorts down as well, letting them drop the rest of the way before stepping out of them, entirely nude. I didn't even have time to adjust to the change before she was on me.

Her arms wrapped around me, holding me tightly in a vice-like grip accompanied by the whir of servomotors, irresistible in suddenness and power. My snout pressed against her chest, crushed into her breasts, and I struggled but she held firm and I felt her grab my tail at its base. I yelped, plume whipping as she pulled it up, ears flattening at the cries from my fellow cadets as they were similarly assaulted. Before I knew it she had procured a rope from somewhere, yanking it tautly around my tail in a tight knot before using the slack to pull around and bind my wrists until I could only move them a few degrees in any direction without pulling my own plume, the very act of which made my eyes water in pain. I was too distracted by my ridiculous predicament, arms held out awkwardly in front of me to give myself as much room as possible, to notice the collar until she'd clipped it around my neck.

At once I swallowed, feeling the leather press against my throat, constantly reminding me of its presence. My eyes dropped to it, enough to notice the little silver bell hanging from the front that jangled whenever I moved. Moving up, they followed the end of the leash until they traced the end of it to the same vixen's hands, where she stood watching me. In a single motion she pulled hard, and I fell to the floor, dragged down and only kept from going completely prone by my own hands, forced into position to catch me at the expense of leaving my tail raised as long as the rope was around it. I could feel my face already starting to burn; a lifted plume is a sign of submission in our culture, the higher the lower, and mine was leaving me completely exposed.

It was little consolation to know that I was not the only one. In front of me my roommate had been forced into an identical position, and ahead of him every other first-year cadet was likewise. Only the upperclassmen had been left standing, holding leashes or walking alongside us, stern. Near the end of the corridor, opposite of me, I could see and hear cadets being led away into the bathroom, and a faint, coarse buzzing noise that I couldn't quite identify. No one dared ask what or why this was happening.

I had no way to track the passage of time, no way of knowing how long I sat there on all fours, staring at my roommate's ass and trying not to think about how the cute tom from next door was behind me, staring at my own derrière. The line moved slowly, they were apparently taking us two at a time but whatever they were doing with the ones they took had to be taking a while. Second and third-year toms and vixens prowled up and down the ranks of naked, collared first-years on the floor, eyes probing us from behind masks as if seeking any wrongdoing even as our handlers watched as well, reflecting our humiliation back at us in their visors. For my part, I kept my eyes to the floor, tired of looking ahead but trying not to attract any attention. The vixen was watching me all the time.

At last it was my turn, my roommate and I shuffling into the white-tiled bathroom, making hard points on our palms and knees as we were led in. There were four people already crammed inside, all more senior cadets, but the first thing I noticed was that the floor was covered in clumps of hair of all different hues from deepest black to purest white and all natural colors in between, enough to practically carpet the place. I could feel it sticking to my arms and legs when I crawled. My stomach lurched, and when I looked up and saw the tom with an electric razor in his hand there could be no questioning it. I now knew what the buzzing sound had been.

With the realization I pulled back on my leash, the first sign of disobedience I had shown to my "mistress" as I tugged, defiant and scared, tail straining against its bonds. In a second three of them were on me, her, the other tom, and the male with the razor, holding me down against the tile with the ropes and their hands, ignoring the commotion from the other side as my roommate fought for freedom. As the former two secured me I heard the latter started in with the trimmer, running it along my back, and felt the tears gather in my eyes as it sunk into my flaxen coat and bit away the fur there, snarling as it sheared away that final covering. I had never had my fur shaved off before, they had cut my hair when I came here but they hadn't touched my coat, it just wasn't done in our culture, but here they were, taking my last pride from me. What I thought about it didn't matter, and the awful hum of the device continued.

They were very systematic about it, turning me onto my side and my back as needed, never letting me go an inch, and eventually I stopped thrashing and just gave in. Their thoroughness was one of military precision, going down my back, rear and legs, along my tail, over my front, chest, belly, between my legs, up my neck and face -nothing was spared. He wielded the razor like a cutting laser, getting the hairs between my toes by spreading my pads, inside my ears when he pulled them inside out, even on my taint when each my legs were grabbed and parted. By the end of it I was bald in the most literal sense except for the way that one might normally mean, as all my fur was gone, joining the piles on the floor, but they'd left my head of hair intact. I was released, if you could call it that, since they pulled me to my feet and swung me around, arms held behind me as the vixen busied herself with the ropes again, taking my hands and directly connecting them to the knot at my tail so they were behind me.

All but held upright, I could see myself in the mirror behind the sinks, life-sized this time around. A kitsune with a tear-stained face stared back at me, barely recognizable as such. I was pink, too pink, like a human, all skin and virgin flesh, like a newborn kit. Now I seemed even smaller than the clothed, furred upperclassmen that surrounded me, objectively lesser in every way, as the vixen had said, dandruff, dirt, nothing. Impossible that I could be like them, that I could ever have dreamed that I was on their level.

Then the blindfold came on, blocking out my vision as it was tied around my head, cinching tightly. A clinking noise sounded, letting me know that they were at least taking the leash off, though the collar was still heavy on my neck. Submerged in darkness that not even my nocturnal vision could penetrate, I felt the fingers hook under my collar and allowed myself to be led away, more naked than I had ever been in my life. Metal clunked against metal, a frigid draft brushed over my body, and I was pushed forward, feet meeting hard dirt as I stumbled into the outside, goosebumps immediately rising on my exposed skin. A heavy slap landed on my rump, making me yip in surprised pain, jumping, and the vixen yelled:

"Run, bitch!"

Tush stinging, I bolted. Never before had I tried to run while naked, hairless, blind, and with my tail and arms tied behind my back, and it proved to be harder than I would have expected, the uneven weight making me bend over slightly so I could run faster. The ground was at least flat, but I had other problems as I soon felt when I heard the first crack of something whipping through the air near my chest. Squealing, I dodged to the left, away from the assailant, and went right into what was definitely someone's rolled up belt that cracked over my hip. I howled and sped up, as if trying to outrun the pain, but it was little use as I sprinted right into the gauntlet, entering a perfect storm of towels, belts and suspenders striking across my vulnerable form, leaving welts and making me scream out my torment with every blow.

It didn't last long, perhaps twenty seconds -the lines of upperclassmen couldn't have been very long- but it felt like an age in and of itself. My entire body smarted fiercely, having spanked me from ankles up to my neck, and the burning pain was almost enough to negate the chill wind that flowed over my abused and surely ruddy skin. Almost before I could realize that it had stopped something grabbed my collar, arresting me, and I nearly fell as I fought to keep my balance without my tail, more held up by whoever had caught me than anything. Quick hands righted me, putting themselves on my shoulders so I stayed firmly in place, then slipped away, leaving me. "Easy there, do ngu," a vixen's voice said. "Hold still. If you run we beat you."

"O-okay," I gasped, sides still heaving, barely able to speak between being out of breath and teeth chattering from the cold.

"Now, cadet, why don't you jiggle pop for me?"

My brain froze up for a moment as I tried to comprehend what I was being asked. "You...what?"

"Jiggle pop, you dumb fuck. The dance. From the band Jiggle Pop? Lots of girls, jumping around? That one. Do it."

I tried. I'd seen the dance before, though never done it, and my aching, shaking body put on the best alluring performance it could at the moment, which wasn't much. The snickering from nearby upperclassmen reached my ears as I wiggled my hips, and I was sure they could see the blush on my face from ten meters away, with how hot it felt. The same couldn't be said for my dance, but they let me go a while longer as I eked out an approximation of the movements, knowing I looked like a fool. She stopped me with a word.

"Enough."

Gratefully, I settled.

"Now sing, 'Send Me an Angel.'"

I balked. "B-but that's an A-Abhuman song! I-I don't even k-know the words!"

"Shut up. You first-years sing it every night in the barracks. You don't need to know the words. Now sing."

I swallowed hard. That was true enough, but I didn't know that more than one or two of us actually knew the words in the strange language. We just liked the sound and imitated them as best we could, mostly relying on each other to carry the song. But now I was expected to do it alone. Opening my mouth, I croaked out what I knew, haltingly, knowing I was mangling every word.

"Sh'lach...li-mal'achsheyikach...sheyikach...oti...lelev..."

"Stop. You piece of shit. I've heard Clak-Tok sing better than that. C'mon, on to the next part. No, walk forward," she grabbed me by the collar. "You can't even follow directions," she hissed in my ear. "How do you expect to survive in combat, huh?"

It seemed like we'd only gone a few paces, her leading me along almost without touching me, when we halted. Hands on my shoulders sat me down, and I yelled, high-pitched, as my ass touched something ice-cold. Shifting around, I figured out that it actually was a block of ice I was sitting on, and it felt like it was already giving my genitals frostbite. Feeling myself beginning to shake uncontrollably, I wished I could hug myself for warmth but my arms were still tied to my tail; I couldn't even wrap my plume around my waist. There was nothing I could do but grimace and bear it.

"Now," said the same voice, somewhere a meter or so off to my left. "How many cubic meters of volume are there in a Wasp class Heavy Cruiser? You get three tries."

I blinked invisibly behind my blindfold. Obviously someone had to know the answer...but that someone wasn't me. It wasn't as if we were tested on that kind of thing. Hell, that was KIN stuff anyway, for the Navy! How was I supposed to know?

"I..." I stopped myself before I could say something I would regret. "Um...ten thousand?"

"Wrong. Two tries left."

I gulped. I really did not want to find out what was going to happen when I used up all my tries, but I was pretty sure I was going numb down there. "Fifty thousand?"

"No, idiot. One try left."

"One hundred thousand!"

There was no way I could have been prepared for it. She must have had a stun baton, because she hit me in the chest with it and the jolts blasted through me, enough to make my hair stand on end, or it would have, if I'd had any left. I shrieked, jumping up from the sheer, literal shock of it, and the ice tore at my bare skin as I wrenched myself up, making me scream louder and longer as I keeled over into the dirt. At one with my kind, I thought was I writhed, limbs jerking. I remember drooling a little down the side of my face as they picked me up, someone grabbing my arms behind my back and the other holding my legs, lifting me away.

There was the barest hint of a warning, a foul stench right before they dropped me. I fell into a shallow depression full of cold, slimy liquid that smelled so bad I could all but feel my nose shutting down, trying to protect itself from being damaged. The stuff clung to my naked, tortured body as I turned over in it, inadvertently coating myself in the goo with my wallowing, slimy and hideous-feeling. Not knowing what I had been thrown into, I yelled, turning over again, trying to get into a position where I could stand up and climb out. It seemed hopeless -my feet couldn't find purchase on the bottom, so I just fell back into it.

"Please! No more!"

"Shut up! You fucking scut ba tam. How do you expect to fight anything if you can't handle getting a little messy!? Huh? You think one of those Exile War Priests is afraid of a bunch of slime? What about a Black Claw Raider, are you just hoping they'll be even prissier than your begging ass? Maybe you'd rather go ask a Vipran to make you her bitch than try to fight her?" The tom above snarled. "You don't deserve to fight for the Motherland! Take it like the Xiscapian you're not. You either fucking deal, or we break you. Your choice, con di."

Rolling over again, I lay still, trembling. My eyes were watering from the sheer putrid odor of the liquid, wetting the blindfold, but I didn't say anything. It was strange, I felt low, yet not defeated. There was hope. I could make it out. I had to make it out. The other choice was unthinkable. I would not wash out. Not now. Not after all I'd been through.

After a while, I never knew how long, they pulled me out, dripping, covered in the goop, quivering, but I was able to stand when they put me on my feet. That was fortunate, because they went right back to yanking me along, and I staggered onward, not thinking much anymore, just trying to get to the end. Whenever that would be, whatever that entailed. I was stopped by someone poking me in the chest with a hard, metal object, and I swayed where I stood, dazed, until I felt fingers working at the ropes tying my limbs back. They were untying my hands! Hope sprang forth within me. I had to be close.

"Start climbing."

Arms and tail free, I stretched them, one ear cocking quizzically. Climb what? Reaching out blindly, I stepped forward and my aching hands bumped into the bitter metal of the ladder right in front of me. Only know what I had been told to do, I put both feet on the bottom rung, reached up, and was immediately blasted by a spray of glacial water from below. Screeching, I climbed for all I was worth, desperately maintaining my hold as the ladder became slick and raw, endangering my ascension. It did me little good, with my stance like it was my legs had to be parted and whoever had the hose was deliberately aiming right between my thighs, spraying the polar water right onto my genitals. Somehow, no matter how far up I went, that infernal jet followed me until at last, soaking wet, shivering and wheezing, I hauled myself up onto the roof.

More arms came for me, pulling me up on to me knees, and I lackadaisically allowed myself to be propped up, just trying to breath normally again. In a single motion my blindfold was torn away and for a long moment I just stared at the floor I found myself on, sitting on hands and knees again, huddled against the wind that toyed with my defenseless figure. At last I looked up, and there I was, reflected in the panes of that same vixen I had met originally. I had never seen anything more pathetic than myself at that moment, looking for all the universe like an animal with the collar on, pink skin bruised, trembling and soft. I only had a moment to be taken by that before I noticed what she was wearing.

It was not so much her clothes, for those had not changed, as her new...attachment. Someone had designed a harness that, impossibly, poised a 12.7×108mm IMP-4 Anti-materiel rifle slung between her legs. The stock ended somewhere around where her tail would be, so the barrel of the weapon stuck out from just below her crotch like a massive, erect metal penis. She seemed quite comfortable with it, though I stared for several seconds as I sat back on my knees, open-mouthed, struck dumb. There were no words, and then I couldn't say anything at all as she jammed the end of the barrel into my mouth.

Almost reflexively, I bit down, ending up with the very tip on my tongue, held in place. Horrified, I looked up at her, and she gazed down at me, expressionless.

"You know what this is," she said quietly, stroking the barrel in an oddly masturbatory motion. "Improved Material Penetration 4 Anti-materiel rifle. One shot from this hits you, and it boils your blood in your veins. They say you survive it just long enough for it to hurt." Reaching down, she slapped the safety off with an audible metallic noise, and I felt my eyes widen as large as dinner plates.

"Yes," the vixen murred softly, scratching me behind the ears. "You ever sucked a cock before, cadet? Get your lips around it and just start moving up and down the barrel. Get it nice and wet for me." Letting my tongue press against the bottom of my mouth, I opened wider to allow as much in as I could, feeling the cold, hard metal stick to the warm, damp flesh in my mouth, tasting smoke.

"It's important, what you're doing here. This is death," she touched the gun again as I lubricated it, the barrel shining with my spit. "As real as anyone can make it. This is what we all deal with, every day. Death on a personal, intimate level, like it's your lover. Always near, faithful, just a call away, never leaving, never dying itself. We all fellate death, you see, whenever we step out into combat, daring it to shoot its load into us. Maybe from a weapon like this. Maybe from something like a knife, or a mine, or something we can't even imagine. You have to embrace it. You have to be ready to do dirty, nasty things with it, if you only want to keep it with you, and not have it consume you."

Taking my cue, I pulled back slightly, sticking my tongue out, just rimming the inside of the barrel. "Good. You understand. You have to love death, and not just for the enemy. Death isn't a jealous lover, see. Death is a whore. It'll sleep with anyone, for the right price. If you're good, and careful and lucky, you can keep making the other bastards pay that price. But if you're not," she took a half step forward, ramming it into my mouth, "then it'll come for you. And you have to accept that. When it comes calling, when it's been paid, you can't refuse. You can only let it happen."

I gagged a little, and she eased back, letting me breath. "You can't love death too much. You spend too long with it, it'll take you over, and you'll be dead. Remember: Death is a whore. There when you need it, and to be kept away when you don't. It'll never leave, not entirely, because you and me and all those other poor furfags down there, we're marked toms and vixens. Death knows. It'll come for us eventually, if you see what I mean, and we'll give as good as we get when that happens. That's what it means to be an Xiscapian soldier. You've heard the jokes all those foreigners like to make. How we'll fuck anything. Do you think they'd guess that we'd fuck death?"

Backing up, she pulled the rifle out, letting it sit there, coated with my saliva as I panted. "You have to be a little crazy, to be one of us. You have to go through all of what you just did; all of us did, at one point. We broke you down, made you nothing, less than a kit, and you were reborn, naked, hairless, wet, screaming, in pain. We showed you your ignorance, your helplessness, your arrogance. But now you've been remade. Strong. Worthy. And you fucked death, and got away with it."

Her tail drifted around and pulled the trigger before I could react. Click. Nothing. Empty barrel. No magazine in the gun.

I gave a weak smile. "T-Thank godlessness for erectile dysfunction."

She laughed aloud, looking down at me, and for the first time I saw her eyes just over the rims of her glasses. "I like you. Here," reaching down, she undid the straps and let the rifle fall to the roof before extending her other hand, helping me up. "You're one of us now," she told me, pulling my collar off and tossing it aside. "You passed our ritual, so you're ready to graduate. And don't worry," she shucked off her coat, wrapping it around me, "we grow fur back fast. You'll have a full coat again by the time the ceremony rolls around."

Inhaling, I let out a long, shuddering exhale of relief, tugging the coat tighter around me. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it. Really, don't. This is not to be spoken of outside these walls. But there's one last thing you need to do." She looked at me seriously.

I stared back, dread rising in my heart. "What?"

"Repeat after me: Now, I am Xiscapian."

I smiled.

"Now, I am Xiscapian."
Xis quote of the week: Altaria Almighty: how are you not just a race of sexual predators? Like who needs power armour and gauss rifles when you have leather and whips. –Karaig
The Kitsune Empire of Xiscapia's FT Factbook (V2.5)
R.I.P. Shal - 1/17/10

User avatar
Vipra
Diplomat
 
Posts: 773
Founded: Jan 04, 2007
Compulsory Consumerist State

Postby Vipra » Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:53 pm

Surviving

[ Mature ]



Allurus, seventy years before Vipran Unification

The artillery rained down relentlessly, the boom and thoom of exploding shells having changed from psychologically jarring to white noise over the course of days while Yizinni Vevemiman scrambled through the sewers. At first it had just been an immediate respite, the young atoran girl having managed to pull open a manhole and throw herself down into the filthy network of tunnels before a tank could round the corner, but had since grown into her little network. There were others down here too, having the same idea to escape the worst of the shelling, and every now and again she heard the echo of stomping boots and gunfire as soldiers cleared sections. At first she had been terrified, any twelve year old would be, and vomited the first time she had had to pick through the gore and remains of fellow partisan for such basics as rations and bullets.

Yet it became her home sweet home, vile and filled with disease, the girl losing some of the colour to her blue skin while under the shaking roof of the sewers. It was a foul and putrid place, bodies unceremoniously dumped through manholes after being stripped of their kit by both sides as feasts for the insects while they festered. And yet the catacomb of filth was Yizinni’s saving grace, nooks and crannies for her to hide in around every bend and tunnels small enough for the child to fit through without being followed. And she had to hide, for whenever the artillery broke there would be the trundling grind of tracks overhead and the thump of boots that signalled new arrivals. Though they wore markings of the nations they served, all Yizinni had to see to know their allegiance was their facial features and the colour of their skin. The Farthii and Krachii were as bad as each other, both having attacked her people before, but now it seemed they were set on turning the Horusii lands into extensions of their own realms and leaving her people as one of the many exterminated ethnicities. So she fought them both, as her mother had told her to do.

Yizinni was huddled around the decapitated and hollowed torso of a soldier woman, picking through the empty pockets of the atoran body’s torn shirt in the vain hope that maybe those that had hacked her up had missed something. Before she could finish searching, the artillery stopped. Casting her head up to one of the drains, catching flickering light, the child soldier abandoned the body and yanked hands black with blood from sticky fabric, stomping through puddle and huffing the moist, squamous, air as she started to bolt through the sewers. Even as her worn boots sloshed through puddles of urine and decayed meat, she could hear manholes being opened and soldiers dropping down. Turning a corner into a darker part of the sewer, she saw a glint in the distance and froze. There were already soldiers here, walking past her favoured cubby hole. She hadn’t been fast enough.

Panicking, knowing she couldn’t turn around, the partisan child hid behind the corner and fumbled at her jacket, leaving her carbine leaning against the wall as she fished two grenades out of pockets she had made with a staple gun and loose fabric. They were ones she’d found on her first day, and she had hoarded them for something like this. Pulling a bundle of cloth out of her pants’ pocket, she began to tie the heavy spheres together while footsteps drew closer, the splash of water under the feet of heavy soldiers making her heart drum in her ears. Fumbling the knot she almost gave up, wanting to run and hide, but she knew there was nowhere to go, marching boots echoing from the other end of the sewer tunnel as she redoubled her efforts. She begged and pleaded for a god, any god, to help her as she finally tied the knot and tried, in her head, to guess how close the soldiers were. They were definitely close, very close, she swore she heard their breathing but they couldn’t be that near yet.

Pulling the pins, counting, and then turning the corner ready to hurl the bundled bombs as far as she could, she instead nearly slammed head-first into the stomach of the Krachii soldier leading a fireteam. The woman looked down at her, shocked as the Horusii girl shouted, dropped the bundle at the soldier’s feet, and then leapt away as though her feet were on fire. Reaching out, attempting to grab Yizinni by the arm, the soldier didn’t have the chance as the grenades, which had looked more like a bundled shirt, exploded. The detonation reverberated inside the tight confines, bouncing off the walls as the concussive shockwave and shrapnel ripped the soldier’s thighs, groin, and stomach apart despite the best protection kevlar armour could provide.

Yizinni was thrown off balance by the blast, already in motion as the grenades had gone off, spinning as her exposed arm was caught in the explosion. Chunks of hot metal burrowed into her right arm, cutting through skin and muscle, a sharp fragment stabbing into the bone and remaining stuck there as she fell face first into the river of sewage that splashed between the wide walkways. Facedown and dazed, the gills underlining her five headstalks did their best to extract oxygen from the bilious water as she was pulled along by the current and added more red to the stew of black and brown. That kept her alive until hands grabbed her by the shoulders and hauled her from the water and threw her against a wall. Gasping as she slammed into hard stone, choking on a mouthful of rancid water and nearly paralyzed at the pain searing through her arm, cracked ribs, and a headstalk crushed between her shoulder and the wall, she fell in a heap as an enraged Krachii soldier grabbed at her combat knife.

Looking up with scarlet eyes too pained and tired for fear, Yizinni had the odd thought that the knife was sort of pretty as the soldier shouted at her in a language she did not understand. Realization that the woman meant to end her, that the knife was meant for her body, struck the atoran child as quickly as the shrapnel had and she began to struggle as a strong hand grabbed her wounded arm. As fingers dug into gouged flesh, grinding shrapnel across bone, Yizinni managed to scream and struggle. She beat her good arm against the woman, shaking her head and trying to yank her blood-slickened arm free to no avail. She could not make any peace with this being her end. Her mother had told her to fight, to survive and to kill, she could not die. Not here, not now, not below the burnt houses and ruined shops she had called home.

The blade drew back and she screamed again, kicking against the ground as hard as she could and pushing herself onto the woman, towards the blade, the sharp edge cutting a red line along her ribs as she tackled onto the soldier. More pain was inconsequential to her at this point, the hand gripping her arm and fingering open wounds had made her numb to it, all she had was the need to survive. So she glommed onto the Krachii soldier, mouth open wide, and slammed her teeth into the wet flesh of the neck. Momentum caused her to break the skin before she bit down, and she bit hard as the soldier struggled, yanking on her arm and shouting as she tore the preteen away and threw her onto the ground. Thumping against the floor Yizinni coughed again, a lump of flesh slopping out of her mouth along with a tooth as she scrambled to her hands and knees.

Skittering away, yowling as she foolishly tried to put weight on her sundered arm, she didn’t look back to see if the soldier was chasing after her, if she was dead, or if she was simply staying alive. It didn’t matter, she had to get away, as far away as she could. There were more footsteps and raised voices in a language she did not know coming from the tunnel behind her, so she had to crawl and when she could no longer do that she dragged herself, kicking with her legs and pulling on whatever she could grab with her good arm as she tried to reach her hideaway. It was so close, almost within reach, the lip of the large pipe a few inches from reach. Stretching her arm out, her fingers touched the edge, scrambling for purchase.

It slid away, her fingers slipping over slimy stone as a hand wrenched her back by her ankle. She tried to shriek, an automatic reaction, but her hoarse throat only manage a ragged coughing yelp. Yanked away from asylum, she desperately tried to grab onto something. Yizinni dug her hand into crevasses where mortar and cement had been worn away only for the strong grip on her foot to pull harder, the skin of her finger chaffing while her nails splintered and peeled back as her frantic holds were broken with forceful tugs. With a final pull she was flung back two feet, slamming down beside dark boots. Droplets of red spattered down on that leather and out of the corner of her eye she saw the figure from before holding a hand to her neck. A boot rose to swing back and Yizinni tried to curl up, to roll onto her side make herself small, but that did nothing to help as hard rubber and leather rammed into her stomach. Spewing, acid burning the empty hole where a tooth had been, Yizinni’s whole body throbbed. The boot swung back again and Yizinni brought her knees up.

Purely by accident she locked her legs behind the soldier’s foot, the kick scraping along her tibia and flinging out. Swaying, trying to get her balance, the soldier tried to right herself. With barely enough awareness left to realize this was her last chance Yizinni grabbed around the kicking leg with her arm and pull herself together as hard as she could. Boots slipping on algae slick brick, the Krachii soldier shouted as she toppled over, head-tendrils falling behind her as her hands reached out for a handhold while she fell backwards over the sewer channel. With a single wet clonk the woman’s head collided first, meeting the edge of the stone walkway and making her last words fall to silence in an instant as the rest of her tumbled into the water and began to float away. Coughing, hacking up blood and phlegm, Yizinni rolled over onto her knees and began to crawl away.

The voices and clomping feet were still coming, closer now than ever, but she was only feet away from her refuge. Pushing herself, the last of her adrenalin making her ignore the pain that stabbed at her from every direction, the child soldier scuffed her knees and bleeding hand across the bricks until she was at her salvation. The feet had turned the corner and the voices had spotted her, they were shouting as she began to wriggle and slither into the pipe, only barely able to slide her shoulders in but finding it remarkably easy to shimmy inside as she slid inside, kicking with her legs and using both her arms to leverage herself deeper, rounding a corner even as she heard the voices and feet catch up with her, tromping and shouting outside the entrance to her safe haven.

Every part of her wanted to stop there and rest, but fear of a grenade being lugged in after her made her press on. Pushing against the walls of the stone tube, she inched deeper into the lightless depths, plumbing further than she had in the rest of her time using the tubular hole as a hideaway. She couldn’t make it too much farther though, her body shaking and stomach clenching hard as the adrenalin wore off and the blood she had lost clouded her vision. Pain returned anew as well, but she was too tired to cry or weep. So she just laid there as her chest throbbed, her hands felt like clubs, the wounds on her right arm were caked in scabs that cracked to leak blood now and again, and the rest of her was little better. Closing her eyes, head laying against hard stone, she panted and rested.

She would wake later as pain shot up her wounded arm, flailing her left hand in the blackness and squealing as something hissed and skittered around on her arm, long chitinous legs poking at her as one of the vermivorous centipedal insects decided to start on her early. Smashing around blindly, crying and shrieking despite her dry and cracking throat, she banged her arms against the walls and heard a crunch, felt something hard agonizingly press against her lacerated skin, and then run away on legs that sounded like a dozen pins tapping against the stone. Weeping as her wounded reopened and bled anew, Yizinni sniffled and gritted her teeth before bracing against the walls and shoving forward. There was no going back, they’d be waiting for her, so she had no choice but to push deeper into the claustrophobic darkness despite the fear that bulged in her throat.

One arm and both her legs set against the pipe, wounded arm held tight against her chest to avoid brushing the walls, the young atoran managed to make her way ahead slowly. Carrying on for what felt like hours, she made agonizingly slow progress. Only when her muscles burned more from exertion than abuse did she stop and rest, coughing and sniffing up snot as her whole body felt like it was on fire. Closing her eyes again Yizinni tried to sleep but found no such solace as her body ached and phlegm began to clog in her throat. Groaning, body still recovering, she pushed ahead again. This time, after at least an hour of slithering, she stopped before she was exhausted as her fingers brushed against a metal surface.

Throat tightening, she pushed ahead until she could run the whole of her sore hand across the obstruction. It was covered in dips and lumps, lines of hard edged metal running out from a central stud while the edges sealed solidly against the stone pipe. Breath catching in her throat in a panicked cough, she pressed her hand against it and ignored how her split nails stung and bled in protest, praying aloud because wheezing coughs for divine intervention, for someone to help, for her mother. It remained solidly set and she scrambled forward, leveraging her arm against the wall to push harder while her breath came in short gasps and her chest felt like it was going to collapse. It gave a little, the metal squeaking ever so slightly.

Crying out for joy, she shimmied closer so she could press her shoulder against the metal and plant her legs and arms, even her wounded appendage, against the walls. Pushing, shoulder and neck feeling like they would break apart as she awkwardly rammed herself against the metal plate, Yizinni crunched her jaw tight and ignored the pain that shot through her whole body as she felt the metal begin to move, twisting upward and squealing. In a few seconds she could see light from the bottom edge of the plate, then the top, pouring in as the obstinate cap opened up. Then she could smell fresh air and she gave a last surge. That seemed to be all the cap could take and it swung open halfway before the hinges ground to a halt again. Blinking, staring out the half-foot gap, Yizinni couldn’t see anything while she blinked and coughed, her eyes stinging from the bright light.

When she could look out of the drain without having to squint she saw mud. It was beautiful. She tried to laugh, but it turned to a hacking wheeze partway and she had to swallow a gob of mucus. Cringing at the sensation, she grabbed the lip of the drain outflow and pulled herself out. Slipping out awkwardly she had to wriggle to fit with the rusty drain cover catching on her shirt, tumbling out as soon as her shoulders were free and rolling into sloppy wet dirt. Rolling over onto her back, painted brown over her ordinarily dark blue skin that was a instead sickly pale, she stared up at the sky. It was clear day with the sun high in the sky, warm rays of sunlight pouring over her. It felt so good to be out of the sewer, out of the pipe, away from the fear of death. She almost forgot her wounds for a brief moment as she lay there, listening to bugs singing their lazy songs.

For at least an hour she laid spread out in the middle of the mud puddle before rolling onto her knees and standing up, walking through cloying and sucking mud with unsteady feet before grabbing onto the shrubs at the edge of the bank and climbing up. Head poking up over the ridge cautiously she was met by an odd sight. There was no shelling, no tanks rolling through, only soldiers in body armour loitering about and picking through the ruins and dragging people from the rubble. That was not the oddity though, what was strange was what they were Farthii and they were pulling wounded Horusii from te crumbled houses, giving them water and food. An immediate fear set in Yizinni’s mind that the Farthii were in fact more debased than she thought and they were going to fatten her kin up and take them away to eat them. She knew that soldiers did that, carving up the dead and eating their organs or licking their blood. Before she had had to flee into the sewer, days before the fighting reached her home, she had watched a dozen of her mother’s friends ambush team of Krachii scouts and they had nailed the soldiers to the trees before tearing into them, hacking their bellies and ribs open to rip the heart out of their chests and devour it between them. They’d said it gave them the strength of the fallen soldiers, and they had made Yizinni take a bite. It had tasted strange.

Watching carefully while the drying mud that covered her provided an excellent accidental camouflage, the atoran girl’s eyes widened as the wounded were carried away, soldiers laughing and patting the injured Horusii on the shoulders as they left. It was terrifying that they could be so jovial and high spirited when they were doing this, sending her people to camps or taking them out of town so they could dispose of them or fattening them up or- She slipped, mud sliding underfoot and only the shrub she held onto stopping her from rolling down the bank, Yizinni looking down at her footing as her heart thumped a little harder. That was when she noticed the lumps covering her right arm, having been so intent on escape and then on seeing what was over the verge that she hadn’t even taken a peek before. Puss and plasma leaked from open sores, a shard of metal jutting a centimeter from her flesh and surrounded by flesh that had already begun to necrotize. Biting her tongue to stop herself from hyperventilating or crying, pain returning anew at the realization of her wounds, Yizinni closed her eyes and let hot tears run down her cheeks while leaning against the mud bank.

She had to do something, find some medicine, maybe see if her mother’s friends were at one of the hideouts. And water, she needed water. Her throat was dry and every breath hurt, tongue lead in her mouth. Pushing up from the ditch she scrambled over the edge and stumbled to a wall that was only half standing, crouching behind the bricks while her vision swam and her body swayed. Putting one foot in front of the other in a deliberate motion with each step, supporting herself by balancing her scraped and bloodied left hand against the wall, she walked half crouched to avoid being seen, scurrying across alleys whenever she had to and slumping against burnt out houses and shops whenever she heard soldiers digging or talking, doing her best to ignore the groans and pleas of her trapped kindred as she tried to reach the old pharmacy.

Rounding corners while keeping her head down, stopping and crouching as low as she could as soldiers passed by while complaining about something or another in their foreign language, she arrived at the back of the clinic quickly. Sticking her tongue out as she concentrated on making as little sound as possible, she reached for the back door, every scoot of her shoes a terrible cacophony in her ears as her finger glanced painfully against the doorknob. Finding purchase on the handle and leaning against the wall, Yizinni waited one last time for any signs of the enemy before opening the door. It swing open with a little creak and she slipped through in a hurried huddle around the corner, only to freeze and she looked out the front of the store. There was no wall to the front of the building, the inside had been ransacked, and there were two soldiers sitting playing card at a crate they’d turned into a table. The two women stared at her and she looked right back, all of them dumbstruck for different reasons.

Rising to her feet and spinning around as the soldiers likewise clambered up from their seats, Yizinni fled out the door and back into the alley, running as fast her she could. Stumbling, legs near numb and her infected arm throbbing painfully with each step, she could not run very fast. But she managed to swing down an alley and throw herself beside a dumpster before the soldiers turned the corner. Her vision was covered in blurry dots and her stomach felt like someone had made her eat a bag of gravel, but she managed to stay crouched in the shadow of the trash, resting on the balls of her feet as the soldiers rushed past. Pouncing out of the shade just as the soldiers noticed her in the corner of their eyes, Yizinni managed to tackle around the waist of the atoran soldier and yank the atoran’s bayonet from its sheath. A hand came down and grabbed her by the wrist as she tried to jab the blade towards the belly of her enemy, so she tried to bite that hand, managing to scrape her teeth against blue skin and tear at it before the two more hand pinned her, one holding under her shoulder while the other wrapped around her chest and crushed her against the female soldier’s body while the bitten woman cursed and pried the bayonet from Yizinni’s tight grip.

Her weapon taken, her entire body feeling as though it had wanted to die hours ago, and her breath coming in ragged wheezes as she was held tight by her captor and raised aloft, Yizinni figured this was the end. They trudged through the street, speaking back and forth in harsh words incomprehensible to the child as the soldier she’d bitten cast glares down at her. Not that she noticed them all too much, everything was blurry and she was having a hard time breathing. They left the alley and the two Farthii soldiers chattered again, Yizinni hanging in the air and holding her bleary eyes open to look out at her town in the open. Nothing was left untouched, the statue in the town center was only a pair of feet and piles of dispersed stone scattered through craters, houses billowed pillars of black smoke while some soldiers threw buckets of water on those still burning. No building had four walls left, only those structures that had been built to be fortresses still stood without worry of collapse and yet most of those had been gutted as well as teams of soldiers used shovels and picks to pry free chunks of brick and concrete. Everything was a devastated mockery of what it had been before the fighting began, before she had opened the manhole and fled into the sewers.

Her eyes refused to stay open to see more though, lids heavy and her sickly arm seeming heavy enough to drag her down despite how she was being carried. Blinking as her eyes ceased to focus on any one thing, she nodded her head forward and noticed nothing. She was not asleep nor was she awake as they carried her away. There was the vague feeling of being laid on her back, the light above her changing from blue to white, of a hand pressing on her head and needles poking in her skin. After that, everything fell to black.





As she opened her eyes, everything seemed to swish and melt together in her vision as the field of white above her swayed, flicked, and shivered. Yizinni blinked and groaned as she lolled her head against a hard pillow. Looking to her side she saw people from the town laying in beds, metal gurneys topped with thin mattresses and adorned with pale sheets, most still while others made horrible noises. There were doctors here, clad in their iconic red smocks as they walked between the beds and checked on wounded women along with the occasional man that was interred in what seemed to be a large tent. As one of the clinical women approached, Yizinni could feel awareness returning, her fugue-like state passing as recollection returned. Her breath tightened and she swung her head around, trying to move her arms and legs. She couldn’t, straps holding down her legs and left arm, but she could feel her right arm moving and yet it was not coming into view.

Choking in worry and confusion as she raised her head as far as she could with a leather belt holding her chest down, the twelve year old stared in disbelief at the empty sight that met her. Her arm was gone, simply not there, not even a stump. Yet she could feel it, it had to be there; there was no way it could be gone. She cried out but her voice was only a pathetic croaking gasp as she struggled against the bonds, weakly pulling and tugging at the straps with as much strength as she could muster but only managing to make an alien presence in her remaining arm feel large and alien. The approaching doctor showed no emotion, a Farthii woman clad in a prcedure mask and goggles that hid any expression as she stopped beside Yizinni and fiddled with bags of liquid attached to a pole. Tapping the sacks with gloved hands and muttering to herself as she checked the lines that flowed from the bags and down to needles pressed into the child’s arm, the doctor stopped after making a few minor adjustments and looked down into her face.

Then she said something Yizinni could understand, “How are you feeling?” Yizinni worked her mouth, unsure what to say. The foreigner, the instrument of her death, was speaking in the Horusii language and asking how she felt. “I said, how are you feeling? Can you understand me?”

Yizinni tried to speak but only a phlegmy squeak came out at first and she had to cough and swallow before she could make any words, “Where am I?” her own voice sounded odd to her, as though someone else spoke using her mouth, every syllable so anemic, “what are you doing to me?”

“You are in triage, I am giving you painkillers and antibacterials,” the doctor crouched down and placed a hand on the girl’s head, pulling an eye open and shining a flashlight at her pupil, watching for dilation as well as the reaction of her nictitating membrane as the almost fully transparent flesh slid over her eye, “Now, how are you feeling?”

“I want my mother, is she here? And where is my arm, did you eat it? You’ve eaten my arm haven’t you that is why you cut if off, why would you do that to me!” She started to scramble against her restraints, babbling as the doctor held her down with a single hand.

There was a moment of silence from the doctor as she placed the flashlight aside and stared at little Yizinni, her expression unreadable as the feeble girl became incoherent. She just waited for Yizinni to tire, allowing the youth to gibber until she was having to gasp for breath and fight mouthfuls of phlegm. “We do not know who your mother is, but it is safe to assume she is dead,” there was little mercy in the Farthii woman’s words, “we removed your arm because if we had not you would have died from blood poisoning. It is amazing you are still alive. How are you feeling?”

Sniffing back runny mucus, Yizinni looked up at the doctor. She suspected her mother was dead, and for her to be written off so quickly was not a surprise. Death was hardly a shock when all war was a matter of extermination. Whether she lived or was with the gods did not matter in the end, though her heart ached Yizinni knew she would never see her again and simply believing she had died was less pain than carrying hope. Eyes puffy and lips cracked, skin entirely too dry for a normally slimy atoran, Yizinni made her peace with death, “I don’t hurt.” A bold faced lie, her everything was sore, but it wasn’t the agony of the day before.

“Good, you have a long trip ahead of you to Bathurdul,” what the doctor said confused Yizinni, why would the Farthii take her to their capital? But the woman explained in her next breath, “you’re going to a hospital and will thereafter be assigned to an adoptive family. Sadly the military schools won’t take you with a missing arm. Looks like you won’t be returning to the front in a decade and a half.”

“You aren’t going to kill me?”

“If you had been Krachii I would have euthanized you,” the blunt words made Yizinni swallow hard while the good doctor carried on, “but you do not have their jawline or eyeshape, your skin is not their teal green, and your nose is the aquiline of the Farthii and Horusii people. Our ethnologists and physiologists have attested that the Horusii are in fact a related to us, and thus the Imperatrix has joined in the defense of your homeland from the Krachii,” the doctor stood up, “Until such a time as the Krachii are eradicated and these lands reclaimed you will be integrated into our society. Ambrori.” She slammed her fist over her heart as she said the short Farthii adulation of the state, hand thudding against the rubbery smock and her breast, and then walked away to check on other patients.

Yizinni lay in the bed silent and wondered as to her fate. At first she closed her eyes and smiled; despite all the suffering and emotional pain she was alive. Then her smile faded as she felt her right arm ached and throb, and yet when she looked down it was nowhere to be seen, reminder that she would not be returning. There would be no revenge for her loss, no taking a bloody toll from those that had harmed her people. As the doctor had said, she was crippled and no army would take her. So she wept. There were no tears for the loss of her own flesh and blood, flowing instead in anger at the knowledge that she could never come back and make them bleed as they had made her, that there would be no retribution by her hand.



Cilistia Novaren says: Look, I cant read while eating, your posts usually end in my having a strange feeling of dread, nausea, or slight arousal, or all at the same time.

Vipra says: In the Grim-Darkness of my spare time, there is only War... And cat-people boning...
Foxfire Rose says: I am Xiscapia and I approve this message.

Kostemetsia says: The atoran: a walking interplay of sex and violence.

Valinon says: Rule of cool does not equal a defense against wanton stupidity

User avatar
Lotrabme
Minister
 
Posts: 2447
Founded: Sep 03, 2010
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Lotrabme » Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:27 am

NEW WARMASTERS, OLD WARS PART 1

[ Mature ]


Chapter 1:

The ride was silent, the light rain sprinkled down on the windshield of the Monorail now traveling from the space elevator towards the Admiralty. After inspecting his new Leviathan class vessel the Gungnir, Yonamee wanted to get to his mission immediately, but to his reluctance he had been called to the Admiralty Headquarters to receive his mission.

Skrlxya Yonamee, a 36 year old Malluman top of his training group and one of his clan's elite, had been promoted from Colonel to Warmaster in the past week by the Sage Council. Balazar V himself oversaw his awarding of the Gungnir and his promotion. He knew he would be more in touch Chamber of Admirals but he hoped they would just mail him his assignment rather than call him in.

In any case, he knew his place, and bad first impressions are not good for a brand new Warmaster, so he was awaiting the next station where the Pyramid of the Admirality stood above the surrounding buildings, like the other pyramids and towers surrounding the elevator of the Capital City.

The monorail pulled into the station, its automatic doors slid open and groups of Hamans, Mallumans, and various droids stepped out to go about their way. Yonamee followed behind a group of Malluman Officers, Firsts and Seconds of their various divisions, heading towards the Pyramid in question.

After a walk past various trees and flowers, towering buildings, stands, signs, and other people, Yonamee finally made it to the lobby of the Pyramid, in which he spoke to a floating service droid: "Excuse me, where might I find the Admiralty's assignment bulletin?"
The floating droid responded blandly: "State your name and rank"
"Skrlxya Yonamee, Warmaster"
"You have the clearance, please proceed to Thirteenth level, room A."

Yonamee said thank you and walked on, going to the room indicated. The elevator ride was rather quick, with some light music playing on the way up. Heading a couple of steps down the large hallway of Level 13 he approached the double doors of Room A, doors upon which he found a large list of names and assignments.

"This must be what the droid meant" he said, he took a look at the list trying to find his name, of course he was near the end of the list of "Warmasters" which was short to begin with, only had about 20 people. "Warmaster Yonamee, Assignment: Malluma Mondos, Briefing Time: 15:00" said a deep voice from behind Yonamee, who jumped and turned around to see an Older Malluman in light but decorated armor plating.

"Patriarch Qornamee" said Yonamee bowing to the elder "I had no idea you would be here."

"Rise" said Qornamee, "let me have a look at you" he said peering into the Mallumans eyes, the two were about the same height, but Qornamee had an air of command and wisdom, being almost century older than Yonamee, and incredibly old by Malluman standards, who usually only live to be 60. "You must be one of my kin through a fertilized line, you have the eyes of one of my sons" said Qornamee laughing.


"You do me honor by that recognition" said Yonamee "Any Malluman with the blood of Qornamee should be honored to have the association".

"Honor comes moreso through action, which you have proved for your own clan, Warmaster" said the Patriarch with a pat on Yonamee's back. "Its nearly 15:00, we should be getting in there, I'll be giving your debriefing along with Admirals Skrlxya III Fjkee and Hon Dolamee, as well as Warmaster Dotanon."

The elder and the new Warmaster entered the room together, Yonamee was still awed to be in the presence of such a reknowned Malluman Commander.

--------------

Chapter 2:

Yonamee had returned to the Gungnir without incident, walking to the bridge he remembered the briefing for his mission...

Warmaster Dotanon, the only Haman in the room, spoke first: "Your mission will take you to Malluma Mondos, the World Controller has informed us that in the Agricultural region of Yarno, the clan Togan has risen in revolt against the manufacturers of clan Holtan. It is your job, Yonamee, to see to it that these two clans end this issue before it exacerbates."

"Forgive me Warmaster" said Yonamee in a more silent tone "But isn't this a job for the world controller himself? Why send a warmaster when the local security and oversee the clan-feud?"

"The situation" said Admiral Dolamee "is more explosive than you realize Yonamee, according the World Controller's own reports, the Togan clan has reinforced themselves with aid from the other agricultural clans of Malluma Mondos and of Terra Grande, not to mention the Ombroj of Andaios who are looking for recruits for their fleet, and the Hotlan's have recruited their company allies the Merchants of Kistar Moon, as well as the Hive Thulyl Cartel from Kuhammar. This web of allies could infact deal a heavy blow to one of our major worlds if this errupts."

Seeing the gravity of the situation, Yonamee understood why he was assigned to this mission. "Understood, what do you require of your Warmaster?" said the Warmaster bowing his head.

It was Admiral Skrlxya III Fjkee who spoke next, very bluntly:
"Kill Lord Toganee, we cannot afford to allow a new clan leader disable the Holtan Manufacturers, but the produce is guaranteed to be stable by any leader coming from the Togan clan."

Patriarch could see doubt in the eyes of the Warmaster, knowing the only course of action for any Malluman. Thus did the Patriarch Qornamee speak: "You may duel him honorably if you wish, as it is the proper thing to do. We are however sending an escort with you to bomb them out if things get out of hand. This is all."

.... Sitting down in his command throne, upon the walkway that hung above the other control stations and looked into the simulated window of the bridge, Yonamee thought on the Patriarchs words. Duel him honorably. The Warmaster had a difficult decision ahead of him, either to bomb out the Togan Keep, and eliminate the threat to the Mind Empire at the cost of his honor and possibly his life, or to duel one on one with Lord Yylya Toganee, one of the more renown duelists on Malluma Mondos, who lost his left eye to Lord Vilxya Yulanee and has an army of heirs ready to exact revenge. The second choice's only plus was that honor for both men would be retained, and for that moral well-being, Yonamee was prepared to put his life on the line.

Yonamee's other concern about full on warfare was that he might loose his crew, who he had managed to hold together and implement in his new fleet. His lieutenants and officers meant more to him than anything else.

There were some issues with the mission that bothered Yonamee to some degree, the first being the pressence of the Ombroj, who were reknown for their deciet, what aim could they have other than conscripts for their pirate fleet with this instability? Could it be that the volatile situation has them ready to devour the wealth of the Malluman Homeworld? If this was the case then Yonamee knew why he had been given the fleet suport he had.

Which brought him to the second potential threat, Yonamee had the Gungnir as his personal ship, with 12 Nimloths and 36 Stings riding along as a deploy-able battle fleet, however the Warmaster had been given command of 6 B-5 Battlecruisers with their own accompanying fleets to follow along. One B-5, the Bojangle, was commanded by one First Vizier who had a troublesome connection to the conflict, being one of the 10 Eldest sons of Lord Toganee. Yonamee hoped that clan loyalty would not overshadow loyalty to Commanding officer.

The 7 vessels engaged their ion engines and began to accelerate towards the edge of the Hame Gravity well. After a fleet role call, the Crew Commander and First Vizier of the Gungnir approached Yonamee. The Crew Commander being Commander Ezra Rikaron, a bright and steady flag officer who the Warmaster trusted with his life, and holding himself straight in posture with a broad chest and shoulders. The First Vizier was called Ron Bolamee, who was a distant cousin to Yonamee, and though he didn't talk much he was a dependable fighter and a silent stalker. For is tactical knowledge, Bolamee was made Senior tactical officer on board the Gungnir.

Commander Rikaron spoke his his dulcet tone as he pulled up a data sheet on his holo-wrist-display: "Warmaster, all systems on all ships are ready for Warp to Malluma Mondos, full fleet rolecall has been completed and all autonomous systems are functioning at 100%. And most importantly, the Ale is still cold!"

Turning in his chair Yonamee laughed at this Commanders remark "If everything goes according to plan, we are sharing a bottle of Malluman Black, the first drink on board our new ship!"

"Yes Sir!" said Rikaron grinning widely.

"Malluman and Battle-droid regiments all accounted for, munitions in tact, our warp vector is green and safe" said the First Vizier in monotone voice.

"Riveting" said Rikaron.

"Tell me Bolamee, you don't think that Vizier Toganee on the Bojangle has any intention of mutiny does he?" said Yonamee showing his sincerity to his First, saying it softly.

Bolamee said with little inflection in his gravely voice: "I have men on board the Bojangle, if Toganee mutinies it wont be for long... I'd keep my concern aimed at the Ombroj."

Yonamee nodded "Very well, to your stations men, we are preparing for warp!"

His men bowed at the waist and turned towards their stations, walking quickly as their Warmaster turned in his chair to face the false window. The Holographic orb came up over the Command throne, and Yonamee viewed the trajectory before initiating the warp drive. In a flash the 7 ships disappeared into the black of space.

------

Chapter 3:

As the warplight flickered across the false window, a female Haman, lieutenant Kalia Eon, stepped up to the walkway of the Command Throne. "Warmaster" she said, "The World Controller of Malluma Mondos is requesting our mission, he says we are trespassing."

"It should have been informed of our arrival by the admirality" said Yonamee in a confused but unalarmed voice, he told his officer: "Keep me informed if it messages us back Lietnenant."
"Yes Sir" said Lieutenant Eon. Commander Rikaron went up to the Warmaster and spoke softly to him "I can tell your worried about it".
"Really? Didn't think you could after 20 years of service" said Yonamee with a toothy grin.
Rikaron rolled his eyes in amusement "We have the firepower to take out any immediate threats, but I've been watching feeds about our Entry Zone and as far as I can tell, no gun satellites or are in range."
"The World Controller should have been informed though, you don't think they replaced him?" said Yonamee with a bit of disbelief.
"It wouldn't be the first time a world controller has been replaced illegally, though it is a rare occurrence." said Rikaron shrugging.

Yonamee thought for a moment. "How long till we drop out of warp?" he called out to Commander Alia Naon, the Haman engineering officer.
"Phasing will be completed within the hour Warmaster."

We don't have much time: Thought the Warmaster to himself. He turned back to Rikaron "I think we should keep guns at the ready, go tell Bolamee to have the turrets and the drone swarms online."
"Will do sir" said Rikaron turning around to go and fetch the tactical officer from his brief nap.
"Alia" called Yonamee to the Engineering Officer "I want the Debris shields to remain deployed when we exit, I have a feeling we might need the extra firepower."

--------

Chapter 4:

The warp phase never takes very long, only ever about an hour to fully phase from one location to another thanks to the relative proximity of the systems to one another and the number of stabilizer beacons placed in orbit of the planets. The main issue of the process is acceleration and deceleration on sublight levels between phase points. Yonamee was taking a risk by not taking down the debris shield, as without it down, deceleration was a more difficult process.

Coming out of phase, the seven vessels flung past a solitary asteroid on their way to Malluma Mondos, which hung in orbit of Mangaios, a great red gas giant. Luckily, the deceleration process was going smoothly for the vessels, and Yonamee relaxed for a moment, before Lieutenant Eon called out "Sir! We've got a blip, its an Ombroj Corsair!"

"By itself Lieutenant?" Called out the Warmaster

"Yes sir, looks to be that way, its on a trajectory course to fall in line with our formation."

"Keep your eyes peeled Kalia, Scryers patch hailing frequencies through to the ship, lets discern their intent" said Yonamee as his men got to work.

Lieutenant Halmon said "They are hailing us Warmaster".

"On screen" said Yonamee as Commander Rikaron and Vizier Bolamee entered the room and took their places standing beside their Warmaster.

In stark contrast to the blue and silver and very clean bridge of the Gungnir, the Ombroj vessel seemed dank and not well lit, though a dim light shone from above onto the Mammalian mug of and Ombroj mercenary, who had signs of brawls on his snout. His weak eyes characteristic of his race were barely open as he spoke, "Greetings Warmaster, I am Tilud."

"Greetings Tilud, I am curious why you are coming into formation with us."

"Do not be alarmed" said Tilud raising his clawed hands "I am harmless, I am a scavenger of carrion, and I ask your permission to follow you in your campaign."

Yonamee sighed and said "I'm afraid I cannot offer you carrion as I do not intend to make war upon my homeworld, I am here as an enforcer of peace."

"Then we are at an impasse, as I demand flesh and spoils of war!" said the Ombroj rather slyly.

"You are hardly in a position to argue" said Rikaron with a proud grin "you lack the firepower to take on a Leviathan and 6 Battlecruisers".

"That may be, but I want compensation if you are to pass" said the Ombroj with a very direct tone. "Toganee will not pay me if I did not put up a fight".

"What has he offered you?" said Yonamee.

"12,000 Gold, and a 6 man team of conscripts every 20 years" said the Ombroj plainly but being very matter of fact about it, changing his tone to sly he said "If.. you are willing to raise the price, I'd be willing to overlook his payment and not impede your progress."

Yonamee had to think, he turned to his officers, Rikaron said "We have 100,000 Gold in our treasury, we could offer him half and still have plenty to spend on neccesities." Yonamee nodded in agreement, turning to the Ombroj on the screen he said: "We cannot supply you with men, but we can grant you 50,000 Gold, which I'm sure would be enough to hire some men on the side."

The Ombroj's nose sensors curled, and he showed his teeth in a toothy grin, "Very well, the price is worth it, thank you warmaster." The Ombroj turned off his screen and fell in line. He messaged the Warmaster "I am prepared to recieve the money within the hour."

Yonamee ordered Bolamee to oversee the transaction, which was completed immediately, and the Ombroj quickly went out of sight. Yonamee was still suspicious, though he figured the Ombroj was most likely sated by the gold he was provided.

----------------------

Chapter 5:

Now the fleet was in a closer orbit of Malluma Mondos, whose white/lavender clouds clashed with those red and brown swirling clouds of Great Mangaios, with the Kistar and the other moons arrayed all around the gas giants well of gravity. They were but 200,000 kilometers from the planet when 12 orbital defenders followed by 20 Stings began to approach them from the planet.

Yonamee ordered his crew to Yellow alert, and had 5 of the Nimloths and 15 of the Stings released from their docking bays as a show of preparedness to attack. It was then that Yonamee received a message from the World Controller AI.

"Greetings Warmaster, your trespassing violates Military Protocol. Are you prepared to die?"

Seeing that the World Controller's Emblem had changed, Yonamee said "You are not Volatile Wind, who are you?"

"Volatile Wind has been disposed for failure to recognize the true Arbiter of the Mallumans, I am Swordsman's Glory, installed by Arbiter Yylya Toganee."

"Arbiter?! Who made him Arbiter?" shouted Yonamee "It is heresy to become Arbiter without the will of the Sages."

"The Sages are irrelevant, Toganee is Arbiter" said Swordsman's Glory.

"BLASPHEMY!" shouted Yonamee, as Bolamee roared in the background. "You will be erased for your transgressions, and tell your False Arbiter that I will face him in Single Combat for his!"

"Your defeat is inevitable, your choice of death is irrelevant, but I shall inform his grace of your offer." said the World Controller who went off screen.

Yonamee turned to his officers, seeing the disbelief in the eyes of the Hamans, and the religious fervor of the Mallumans that a False Arbiter has appeared. Bolamee stood brooding with his sword drawn "I will tear his head from his pitiful body and throw it into the clouds of Mangaios!"

"Bolamee, I must challenge him, I am Warmaster."

"Your not going down there alone" said Rikaron showing his own displeasure at this turn of events. "Leave Bolamee in command of the ship, but let me accompany you."

"Very well Commander, Vizier, you have the bridge if we are accepted to the surface, and Lieutenant Eon, send a message to the Sage Council, and inform them we are going to eradicate a heretic."

The World Controller came back online
"Your requested execution has been granted Warmaster, you may come to the surface and face the Arbiter."

"Thank you, heretic" said Yonamee as he and Rikaron went to their shuttle craft and prepared to take it to the surface. Suddenly, Yonamee heard the alert for a message on his wrist-display, it was from Vizier Toganee on the Bojangle.

"Warmaster, Forgive me" he said, and Yonamee feared the worst.

"My father has disgraced the Togan clan, and has made heretics of us all, I shall end my life and offer my command to my second for my fathers actions. I only ask that you give him a good death."

"You will do no such thing" said Yonamee, surprised to hear the loyalty of this new Flag officer "Your father's heresies are not your own, blood is not the carrier of merit, action is, and your loyalty is something to be treasured." Yonamee could see the eyes of this Vizier well up as he held his sword in sheath and bowed to the floor of his ships bridge, surrounded by his own crew stunned at the scene.

Rikaron whispered into the Warmasters ear, and the warmaster agreed with the proposal and said to Vizier Toganee: "You may accompany me and Commander Rikaron to the surface, we together shall face your father."

--------------

Chapter 6:

Captain-Vizier Toganee was grateful for the mercy of his Warmaster, and gladly took the shuttle down to face his father. The three rode in silence as Yonamee bowed his head and rested it on his fist, thinking and praying to himself that he might slay his foe before he is slain himself. "Balazar the Blessed, Fjkthr, give me your combined strength and will that I might banish the foes who seek to sully your names."

The shuttle, coming to the surface with a whiz through the air, landed in a field near the Keep of the Togan clan, where thousands of Mallumans were gathered to watch the duel.

The beetle like carapace of the shuttle opened in the bottom, and through a grav-lift dropped the three. Yonamee wore a black and red trimmed suit of light power armor, underneath which he wore the standard grey skinsuit. The iridescent armor glimmered faintly in the orange light of Rigel Kent B and in the dim red reflection from Mangaios hanging in the western sky. The power armor of Toganee was a similar color, while Rikaron had blue stripped black light armor built for Hamans. The Captain-Vizier's eyes were red with rage, while the Warmaster and his Commander had eyes that shone full of purpose.

As the trio approached the crowd of Mallumans, an opening formed in the cluster, with an 8'5" tall Malluman approaching wearing armor he had painted silver and gold and wearing a great War-bonnet. He carried his energy sword in his belt like the Warmaster come to slay him. The False-Arbiter Toganee called out "Who is this? Some young pup of the colonies come to try his hand? You will fall."

"You are a heretic, your blasphemy will not go unpunished, I carry the authority of the Sages." Yonamee called back.

The False-Arbiter chuckled "You are a tool of dishonorable beings" his deep voice rang out like a bell of dread "The Hamans have kept us in bondage since time immemorable, even after the 9 months war when Fjkthr ceded what would have been his victory."

"That is a lie, the War ended as a truce and a covenant of equality. We have been one nation with the Hamans for 400 years, even before that when we were slaves! To caste them out along with your clan enemies is fools-work!"

"Your position is that of a jester, and your Haman officer is your hidden master."

"The Warmaster is my Master" said Rikaron "You are false in that assumption, Yonamee has my full loyalty."

"LIES, do not speak in my face vermin! And My Son! Ulyso! Why do you stand with these deceived? Will you not stand with your father! The head of your clan!"

"The Warmaster is my leader, and I am ashamed to call you Father!" shouted the Captain-Vizier.

"Then you will be culled" said The False Arbiter as he lunged at his son with his sword drawn, during which Yonamee activated his own sword and parried with the gargantuan reptile. "You are a traitor, and a murderer of your own blood!" yelled Yonamee at Toganee the elder "You will be silenced in our duel."

"Very well, your fate is sealed." said the False Arbiter as he kicked the Warmaster across the field, and the younger Toganee and Rikaron backed up, giving the two room to battle. Yonamee rolled and stood, charging at the False Arbiter who parried his charge, with several clashes of sword on sword succeeding. The Warmaster dealt a scar to the False Arbiter's arm, who laughed and socked the Warmaster in the sternum, and then attempted to decapitate him in one swoop. The Warmaster was quick, and in the swoop managed to swing his own sword at the torso of the False Arbiter, cutting him in half and dropping him back. The False arbiters sword did hit however, cutting into the side of the Warmaster's face, giving him a large scar across the left side of his snout and his lower lip.

The False Arbiter, bleeding out profusely, spoke his final words "This.. always.. to Tyrants" before his head fell back and the life left his living eye. Yonamee cried out so loud that it could be heard for 10 miles, half of the crowd of Mallumans dispersed at the scene while the other half cut down the others, or cut themselves down, in signs of their return to the side of the Mind Empire. Those who might have managed to escaped would not be a threat for some time.

-------------------------
Chapter 7

At the Capital of Malluma Mondos, Volatile Wind was restored to World Controllerhood while Swordsman's Glory's memory was wiped, and he was stored in the isolated processors. The Restored World Controller spoke to Yonamee who stood before him, his wounds cleaned but the scar remaining.
"The False Arbiter Toganee was able to defeat Clan Holten and their Merchant allies on the surface, it required the Ombroj Corsair and Swordsman's Glory to push out the other merchants and their Nebulan cartel allies to Kistar. Toganee had agents here in the Capital Spaceport who I was not able to detect. I will require further security subprocessors to handle such threats."

"Are there remaining members of Clan Holten?"

"They have been caste out to Kistar, but will likely return soon. Only the Junior line remains with the Senior line and all their peasants wiped out."

"Has another loyal heir to Togan been found? My Captain wishes to remain in the fleet with me."

"There was another heir who has been found to be loyal, he had aided Clan Holten's cause."

"Excellent, then my mission here is done I presume?"

"The Sages have contacted me through Ansible when I was restored, they recommend that you stay in the system for the time being, to route any possible threats from rebel remnants, or the Ombroj. I recommend the same, so I can have some additional help in cleaning up what my would be successor started."

"You may tell them World Controller, that I will remain here for some time and do what they ask, I have no intention of leaving immediately. You will have your help."
Last edited by Lotrabme on Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Lotrabme
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Posts: 2447
Founded: Sep 03, 2010
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Lotrabme » Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:42 am

NEW WARMASTERS, OLD WARS PART 2

[ Mature ]


Chapter 1:

Malluma Mondos... Yarno Province.

Yonamee had indeed remained on the homeworld of his people, and he chose to take the time he wasn't spending routing out the remaining rebels to enjoy the view of his homeworld.

He was walking across the plateau of Grcsai, where the shore met the rocky cliffs below, and as the wind rushed across the blue-grass plains Yonamee looked out to the sea, with the murky water crashing in the wind. Mangaios still hung overhead, taking up about 30% of the sky, it looked as though it were some great red dome in the distance. The air was cold, there was the slightest frost on the wind here, it was the aphelion of Mangaios's orbit, and the long winter chill had set in. Luckily the change was never too drastic, at least for Mallumans.

Commander Rikaron walked up behind his Warmaster, coming from the land-car they had taken out to the cliffs. He had put on a light coat over his skinsuit uniform. His breath could be seen as he breathed out.

"It's freezing here Sir, how did you guys survive here?" Rikaron asked holding his arms to his chest even with the coat.

"It's our home, we are adapted to rapid change in climate with the long winter and the burning weeks. Mangaios has ever been a more powerful source of light than our native star." He also said turning towards his First Officer: "Our climate adaptability was also quite exacerbated by Haman manipulation."

"True, all of it" said Rikaron still hugging himself in the cold "The Hamans manipulated ourselves as well, we are mutants all of us. I guess we weren't adapted for Malluma mondos anyway, at least not me."

"Ben, You don't think that the False Arbiter's words might have been true?" said Yonamee turning fully to Rikaron, "Are my people slaves to the Sages?"

"I doubt you'd be talking to me if you believed the same as the False Arbiter" said Rikaron smiling just somewhat. He could tell his Warmaster was only somewhat beginning to doubt his position in the Mind Empire, a sentiment which he was not alone in.

Rikaron said: "Though, if the Mallumans are slaves, the Hamans must be just as much slaves. You do know how much the World Controllers have dominion over the worlds they possess, and how automated our government is?"

"I do, is it even our place to ask such questions?!" Yonamee began to speak louder, he turned from Rikaron, and looked back out towards red Mangaios, the purple clouds underneath its orb blustering in the distance, the frostbiting wind flying through the arms of Yonamee. What little armor he wore here shone in the light of the Red Gas Giant, and the Shipmaster's cape he wore flew back in the wind.

"We may be slaves but we are free to speak our minds" said Rikaron "Sir, if you feel that you really need to speak to the Sages you have the authority as Warmaster to request a more immediate audience."

Yonamee turned back to his first officer, the same doubt he felt he could see in the eyes of this man he trusted, his friend. He walked towards him and patted his slim back. "You I trust" said Yonamee "I only hope the Sages trust me enough, the situation at hand, they might fear we have been... polluted."

Rikaron nodded, and the two drove back to their lodgings in silence. They would not speak of this again, that mutual understanding was clear.
-------

Chapter 2:

Yonamee stood at an encampment in the sparse forest dotting the contryside of southern Yarno. Here Mangaios was almost invisible (Malluma Mondos was tidally locked towards the gas giant in its orbit), but the low orange sunlight managed to come through. Bolamee was out in the field, leading a Holten loyal spec ops team to take out the remaining rebellious Togan clansmen.

Bolamee radioed in, his gravely voice distorted by the radio: "Sir, we are within site of the encampment."

"How many are there?" asked Yonamee.

"Theres about 30, I can see one of the False Arbiter's younger sons among them. We are still in camouflage."

"Very well" said Yonamee, who paused for a moment "You may commence the attack."

Without a single word from Bolamee, the Warmaster could tell the attack was on the way. After a few seconds of waiting, he could hear sniper rifle rounds booming through the air, no silencers. After 15 minutes of waiting.. Bolamee radioed in again.

"Victory has been achieved, our remaining: 22/25, their remaining: 0/30"

"Return to the encampment Bolamee, let nature dispose of the bodies" said Yonamee.

"On my way" said Bolamee, his radio cutting out as he began saying orders to his men. His inflection never changed aside from slight annoyance or slight amusement or plain blandness.

After about 20 minutes of loading the encampment back into the Shuttle, Bolamee and his men appeared across the plain and returned to Yonamees position. "I am here sir" said Bolamee "what is our next assignment?"

"I have some business to discuss with the World Controller, I want you and our men to return to the ship, I have a feeling we will be leaving this world."

"So be it" said the First Vizier blandly.

Once the team took off in the shuttle, it didn't take long to get to the Spaceport city of the World Controller. The others disembarked for the ship, while Yonamee alone went to see the Governor AI.

Entering the room where the Brain held itself, Yonamee knelt. "World Controller, You requested my presence?"

"Indeed" said Volatile Wind "Rise, I have been informed by the authority on Hame that you are to travel to Lucia as your next assignment. I believe it has to do with outfitting your fleet and giving some of your green soldiers some training."

"Very well" said Yonamee

"I have also been informed that Patriarch Qornamee will be on Lucia, and he will be expecting to speak to you."

"That is good news" said Yonamee, happy that the Patriarch who took interest in him has now decided to meet him at his next post.

"That is all that I wished to inform you of, but I also wanted to extend my metaphorical hand in gratitude for helping to quell this rebellion".

"I appreciate it Controller, but it is my duty to serve the Empire."

"A duty you do quite exquisetly" Volatile Wind said sounding like he meant to flatter.

"If I may ask your grace, is the Ombroj pressence now considered a non threat?"

"For the time Warmaster, the singular corsair aiding the false arbiter has been paid off, so the traders on the moons of Andaios will be innactive for a time. However, I believe your mission to Lucia will detail any further missions concerning them."

"I understand, is that all World Controller?"

"Indeed, You may leave Warmaster."

Yonamee left, and took the teleporter up to the ship. He liked how quick it was but the scrambled feeling he always leaves the platform with makes him ultimately prefer the shuttlecraft. Back on the bridge he looked to his crew and said: "Now hear this! Our next assignment takes us to the fleet Headquarters on Lucia, there our newest recruits and conscripts shall recieve their proper battlefield training. After all, the universe is a dangerous place, and its our job to stand as a wall behind which the Mind Empire will thrive in safety, and then we will strick back at the foes of the void."

The crew cheered, and the 7 ships would warp within two hours.
-----

Chapter 3:

Lucia was a black and grey mercurian ball of iron orbiting close to the Yellow star Rigel Kent A. Its dayward facing side was constantly scorched, while the outward facing side had small pockets of ice within the deepest craters. In orbit of Lucia was a fast network of shipyards, not unlike those of Edom or New Hame, as well as several cylindrical starbases full of citizens and laborers for those shipyards and repair bays. One one starbase in particular was the Lucia Military command, and at that one, the 7 ships of the Warmaster's fleet docked themselves within its holding bays.

Yonamee and Bolamee organized their troops to go into the battle simulators for training, while Rikaron remained onboard and commanded the crew in need of training to head to the flight and fight simulators. Rikaron was left on bridge command while the two Malluman officers went to the World Controller of Lucia's Sanctum on the starbase. There they would meet Qornamee, as well as the First Vizier of this planet's legion, Olmyti Klaanee. Yonamee wore a non-armor black uniform of the Mallumans, with his clan's crest embedded in a diamond shaped hole in the chest. All the Malluman officers on board the station including the two they would meet would be wearing these if they weren't in battle. The only exception it seemed was Bolamee, who continued to wear his helmed armor suit, completely covering his face.

The two entered the room, seeing the three eyed orb that was the World Controller hovering in a stasis field as Qornamee and Klaanee spoke to one another. Qornamee turned and said: "Warmaster, it is good to see you here." Qornamee as predicted was wearing the black uniform of the Mallumans, his skin blotched with yellow with increased age stood out from the solid black and grey leather. The First Vizier of the station on the otherhand was young and dark skinned, and fit more with his uniforms color.

Both Mallumans who had entered the room bowed. "Patriarch" said Yonamee "it is an honor to be in your presence yet again. May I present my First Vizier and spec ops commander, Bolamee."

"I am not worthy" said Bolamee blandly.

"You are plenty worthy, both of you rise." said the Patriarch. Klaanee stood still looking at the new arrivals. "Greetings Warmaster, it is nice to see another Malluman of Terra Grande every once and a while."

"You are from there too?" said Yonamee surprised "what provice?"

"Klethla Province, Klaan keep, I am in line for the Lordship."

Bowing his head Yonamee said "Of course, I am of Yonam Keep in Thotla Province, not in line for Lordship though."

"We are of the same homeworld, we have common blood among ourselves, and where are you from Bolamee?" asked Klaanee.

"Andaios Moon" said Bolamee removing his helmet as he doesn't often, showing his light skin, compared to the darker Mallumans making him look almost blue or periwinkle. His eyes being red stood in stark contrast to his skin.

"I never thought I'd meet one" said Klaanee.

"We don't get out often" said Bolamee with a slight smile.

"Lets get down to business then shall we?" said Klaanee "The Patriarch has supplied me with the specs of your last mission to Malluma Mondos, the heretic forces were dispatched?"

"They are eliminated" said Yonamee plainly "I doubt they will rise again, the False Arbiter was slain by me." He held out the energy sword of Lord Toganee that he took as prize from the fallen heretic.

"Good" said the Patriarch. "I recall you paid off the Ombroj, correct?"

"That is correct" said Yonamee "Do you not think that was wise?"

"Rather I believe it was the wisest course of action!" said the Patriarch nodding his head "you thought like the enemy, which is a skill of a good commander, to know yourself and your enemy you will find victory."

"However" said Klaanee "Knowing the Ombroj, the money you provided will only sate them so long before their greed consumes them again. Malluma Mondos may rebound, but I fear we may face an incursion if they were so bold to side outright with us."

"You think they would try to invade?" said Yonamee, very clearly concerned by this revelation.

"Not at this point, though I do think they might take advantage of our open trade policy to gain a larger pressence in the Empire's territory. Your mission will take you to Andaios after the training of your men is complete in two weeks. You must find a Ombroj warlord or leader of some kind, and interrogate him. I recommend taking a psychic inquisitor along with you. Majestic has a presence here, so if you don't have one already, it would be a good idea to hire one for the mission."

"I will take that to heart Vizier, is that all I should know?" said Yonamee.

"I believe so, dismissed Warmaster" said Klaanee.

Later on, as Yonamee was walking back to the Gungnir, the Patriarch appeared before Yonamee and spoke to him "Hello again young one, how are you holding up on your first tasks as Warmaster?"

"Decently patriarch, thank you for asking. I am not that young though, then again I suppose everyone is young to you." chuckled Yonamee.

Qornamee laughed as well "I suppose your right! Well, instead of hiring one of Majestics psychics I do have one of my own who is wiling to come along, her name is Ravana, a nice Haman girl, shes got plenty of psychic skill."

"I've already sent Bolamee out to find a Majestic agent, he found one named Naxx Syon" Yonamee said "though I suppose more the merrier wouldn't hurt, after all, I'm going to need to get used to more psychics at this point."

"Of course you will" said the Patriarch "take it from me, you can't go anywhere in the Mind Empire without running into at least 10 in your lifetime, especially when you reach my age!" he laughed.


One the ship, Ravana and Naxx Syon were waiting on the bridge, speaking to Bolamee who sat in a couch on one side of the room, while Rikaron was standing near to them as he spoke. In contrast with the skinsuit uniforms of the two first officers, the psychics wore more flowing style clothing, very subdued and dark colors of iridescent purple and blue and green. Syon wore a hat over his bald head, while Ravana had her black hair down to chin-length, with no hat, but her robes were hooded and could be drawn up. Naxx Syon stood about 1 foot taller than Ravana, and both were shorter than the Mallumans. Rikaron at about 6 feet tall stood right between the two equally.

"These must be my new psychics" said Yonamee seeing the two. "I am Warmaster Yonamee, welcome on board the Gungnir."

"Thank you Warmaster Yonamee" said Ravana bowing her head. Syon bowed saying "Indeed, thank you for hiring us Warmaster. I hope our mission will be underway shortly."

"It will, we are preparing to warp to Andaios to track down an Ombroj warlord, with the intent of interrogation."

"And what are we searching for exactly?" said Syon.

"We are looking for any signs of Incursion plans aimed at the Mind Empire" said Yonamee. "That is the goal."

"With all do respect Warmaster" said Syon, who had all this time been speaking in a somewhat prideful tone "I hope you realise the Ombroj are divided as a people, and hardly share plans among one another."

"Any knowledge pertaining to a threat we will seek out and investigate Inquisitor" said Yonamee "even if its not an incursion but its posses a threat to the Empire, we must route it out."

"Very well" said Syon nodding his head.

"Have you anything to say Ravana?" said Yonamee noticing the female had said little.

"Nothing now Warmaster, if I must speak to you I will request your audience".

"Feel free to request mine too" said Rikaron, trying to put the moves on this new female, Ravana just looked at him with a smirk and a shake of the head.

"You are dismissed for now Inquisitors" said Yonamee as he went to take his seat on the bridge.

As the Inquisitors left, Rikaron went to the Wamaster and said "I like the female, though something kinda tips me off about that male."

"Indeed..." said Yonamee, trying not to think, he knew, and Rikaron knew too, that an inquisitor such as this one could be dangerous as much to them as well as to the Ombroj. They only hoped Ravana was on their side.

------

Chapter 4:

About half way to Andaios, when the warp phase turned on, Yonamee took his off shift and went to his quarters to rest. He sat down on his bed when he arrived, taking off his black uniform and laying down in his skinsuit, falling asleep quickly soon after. He had not slept in 4 days.

After a few seconds it seemed like, though it was 30 minutes, he woke up and found himself pinned to his bed, with Syon standing over him sternly and smugly.

"So, Warmaster, we are on our way to Andaios... home of your loyal Vizier Bolamee. It is also the home of the ombroj you payed off, an ombroj on the side of the False Arbiter."

"What is this Inquisitor? You know I am no heretic! I slew the false Arbiter and his followers!" shouted Yonamee, trying to move his limbs but feeling the psychic restraint.

"So you did, but might it have been only a ploy to disguise your own intent? I can sense your feelings, you feel that the words of Lord Toganee may have been correct, and your First Officer thinks so too, that you are slaves to us."

"That is a lie." said Yonamee sternly.

"Don't lie to me Warmaster I can tell remember?!" spake the Inquisitor, very condescendingly.

"You have no proof of descension among any of my men, we are loyal, and we serve the Empire. Any doubts are only those of a free mind allowed to wander, but one that will not stray from the righteous path."

"So smug and full of lies are you, you filthy reptile." said the Inquisitor leaning down where the eyes of the two creatures met, the almond-shaped dark orbs of the Haman eyes meeting the crosshair pupils and the red-yellow lenses of the Malluman.

At these words Yonamee was ready to bite of the Inquisitor's head, when suddenly Ravana rushed through the door and with a telekinetic blast disarmed the pinning of Yonamee and knocked Syon to the ground.

"Warmaster! With me now!" said Ravana holding down Syon, who managed to keep his head moving, and as the two left the room Syon said. "Please, release me! I was only testing his resolve! I had to be sure."

Yonamee turned around to look at Syon, whos eyes showed a slight level of fear for his own life. The Warmaster turned back to Ravana, who only looked at him confused as he was. "Speak, Syon" said the Warmaster.

"Lord Warmaster, I was commanded by Majestic to test your resolve, to see if you were still loyal to the Sages."

"I am still Loyal to them, I would not have given the better part of my life to their service if I was not." said Yonamee.

"I know that now, the mission was a success, now release me, please." said Syon who sat now in fetal position and looked quite afraid.

"These words need not be your last" said Yonamee, "release him Ravana" he said softly. The female released the Inquisitor, who stood but remained low bowing his head to the Warmaster.

"But..." said Yonamee stopping the inquisitor with one hand on his chest, "If I find out you have other plans for me, there will be dire consequences."

"I understand" said Syon, who walked away.

"I am glad you are on my side Ravana" said Yonamee to the female Haman. "I feared for my own life, but it is clear this man is a coward."

"The Patriarch thought that Majestic might be concerned about your loyalty after facing the heretic, he on the other hand knew your loyalty and sent me to protect you."

"He must have some faith in me then." said Yonamee "Dismissed Ravana."

"Yes sir" she said walking down the hall in the opposite direction of Syon. Yonamee would try to sleep for another few minutes before returning to the bridge.

----------------

Chapter 5:

Around the cold blue orbs of Andaios and its moons, Ombroj weren't hard to find. Though they were a migratory and seemingly worldless species they seemed to like the worlds of the Mind Empire which had a colder climate, particularly the Andaios moon. The Mallumans there weren't always fond of their activities, but others managed to appear who were more apt to trade, such as the Nebulan and Kalodo merchants.

Finding a warlord on the other hand would be a more difficult issue. The inquisitor was right to say that the Ombroj were divided, Yonamee knew he would be hard pressed to locate the boss here, and even if he was willing to talk, it would be doubtful that he would know the plans of other Ombroj tribes.

Yonamee sat on the bridge, the dim lights of the room only illuminated so much. If it wasn't for the faux window taking up one whole wall the room would probably be very dark. The lights of the holograms around Yonamee would reflect on his light armor and on his scaly skin. He tapped his finger on the arm as he watched feeds of radio signals and ships going too and fro from the moon. He could see there were about 20 Ombroj vessels, among them 3 Corsairs and the rest were simply cargo vessels. It was then he noticed something interesting as he saw 2 more Cargo ships appear from behind a small asteroid moon. Taking a closer look at the moon, he ordered the computer to identify the potato rock. "Unidentified Lunar body" said the ship's scanning AI.

"Lieutenant Kalia, check for Ansible signals coming from that rock" said the Warmaster pointing his finger towards the moon, which was within a great distance from the ship but still visible.
"Sir" said the Lieutenant "Ansible signals detected going in and coming from the rock."
"Very good" said Yonamee as he turned on his fleetwide communications. "All ships, prepare to move into formation near this Asteroid" he said sending the coordinates of the rock to his fellow Captains. "Do not fire unless I command it."

The psychics would come on board the bridge with Commander Rikaron leading them. "Ah Inquisitors" said Yonamee turning in his chair "I want you to scan that asteroid, would it be possible."

"We can attempt it" said Ravana "I imagine you want us to find their leader?"

"Yes" said Yonamee "I believe he may be hiding within, proceed."

The two psychics began channeling their thought projections out towards the asteroid. They're heads glowed slightly as they did, and they held their hands in meditative positions. They could detect thoughts inside, both those of adults and of infants, and they could tell who the leader is easily as the Ombroj were now scrambling at the sight of seven heavily armed vessels approaching.

"Warmaster, they are expecting us" said Ravana "but I have found the leader, I think this is a colony ship sir."

"Indeed, thank you for your help." said Yonamee "Kalia, open a channel to the asteroid."

She did as he asked and sure enough, an imposing Ombroj was on the screen, looking enraged. "What is the MEANING OF THIS?" shouted the Ombroj Leader "Why are battleships approaching our home! We have done nothing."

"It is not what you have done, but what you might do." said Yonamee.

"I will not treat with you unless you have something to offer me!" shouted the Ombroj as he pounded one of his paws on the table he was sitting at.

Yonamee silently ordered one of the rail-guns to graze the asteroid. The round destroyed a chuck off the outside, revealing part of an interior hull.

"I offer you the chance to live if you tell me what I want to know" said Yonamee looking directly at the Ombroj with his stern reptilian eyes.

The Ombroj was silent, checking the damage reports, and seeing that the blast could break through to the inside. "... I'm listening" he said calmly but suspicious.

"The Sages and the Admirality are under the impression that an Ombroj incursion may be underway, that a colony ship over Andaios may be a precursor to an Ombroj flood on Hame. This we cannot allow."

The Ombroj gesticulated as he spoke, doing arm motions of disbelief and of emphasis."We have no intent of invading you, that would be futile and unprofitable when we can buy and sell from your merchant guild and expect your protection if we are compliant."

"He is telling the truth sir" thought Ravana to Yonamee. He seemed unphased however, saying to the Ombroj "How can I take you on your word? And how can I be assured that you speak for all Ombroj?"

"On the first point" said the leader, raising a singular claw "You are outside my home, and I intend to protect my young, if that means not invading the Mind Empire I will gladly do so. Profit at any price is our means of protecting our people and ensuring our survival" he paused for a moment thereafter, sighing. "On the second point, No Ombroj speaks for all the Tribes, we are all not united as your peoples are. But I assure you that the Tribes of Othak, Thildak, Horishk, and my own tribe Yothask have no intent on invading, as we enjoy the stability the Mind Empire offers, and I know this because I trade with them and speak with them."

"Again he speaks the truth" said Ravana in the mindspeak, Syon remains silent.

"There is Iron in your words" said Yonamee, bowing his head in recognition of the truth "how might I show you there is Iron in mine?"

"Do you offer more than our survival?" said the Ombroj leader.

"I can assure you that as long as tribe Yothask does not invade our territory and attack our people, I will only visit you as a friend, rather than as an enforcer."

"So be it" said the Ombroj "You have the trust of Yothnildan" he said outstretching his arms.

"And you have the trust of Warmaster Yonamee" said the Warmaster to the Chief Yothnildan.

----------------------------------------

Chapter 6:

Having sent his mission report to the Admirality, assuring them of at least 4 tribes intents not to cause an invasion, the Warmaster had decided to return to Hame. As of now he had some business to attend to.

Syon's continued silence was to be expected but was somewhat eerie to the Warmaster and the Commander. Ravana said she would keep an eye on him for the Warmaster, but she warned that he was trained by Majestic while she was a fresh graduate of the psychic schools, Yonamee figured it would be his task to defend himself anyway.

Remembering the conversation between himself and Rikaron, the two requested an Audience with the Sages, who were quick to oblige. After all, Balazar V had overseen and approved Yonamee's appointment to warmaster in the first place, it wouldn't make sense that he wouldn't want to speak with him on his progress.

Entering the circular dome of the council chamber, Yonamee and Rikaron both dressed in their dress uniforms and light body armor, would approach the seats of the seven Inner Sages.

Balazar spoke: "Welcome Warmaster, and Commander Rikaron. Why have you chosen an audience with us this day."

Yonamee looked around as he walked to near the center of the circle of thrones, seeing about 100 Battle droid guards in the room. "Forgive me for my almost blasphemous tongue my Lords and Ladys" said Yonamee, as he and Rikaron both knelt upon reaching the center of the thrones.

"I have come to you" said Yonamee "to ask wether or not all citizens of the Mind Empire are slaves".

Balazars eyes opened wide, the other sages were in shock to some degree, but the realization came upon them as well of the truth.

"Warmaster" said Balazar "You know all citizens have the freedom to speak and think as they wish, so long as their action do not imperil the Empire they are free to do as they please".

"But our freedom to decide our leaders is limited yes? Distribution of resources is ultimately dictated by the Merchant Guild, which is operated in conglomeration with the Cartels and the Imperial Government. Our system of bureaucracy and the election process is controlled by automatons. Is is as though we are like robots of a large machine" Yonamee was uncharacteristically at the brink of tears at speaking such words, though to his surprise, he was not berated, but rather coinciding with the emotions felt by the Sages.

Balazar himself who was usually a man of great composure sat with his hand to his face, covering his mouth, with tears in his eyes. Suddenly though, the room went black, and Yonamee and Rikaron were alone in a stasis field. They could not see what happened to the Sages.

Suddenly two protocol droids appeared and the Stasis field dissipated. The Sage council had vanished. One of the droids had a humanoid model while the other was a standard ball model, though with a much different look to it than the normal ones.

"I am Blue Shade" said the humanoid one "I am one of the IL series in charge of maintaining and Advising the Sage Council."

"AND I AM OMNIUS EVERMIND" said the Ball one in a deep, loud, and flagellated voice: "I AM THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE MONITOR OF THE TRANSCENDED, AND THE MAINTAINER OF THE HOLY LIBRARY."

"Holy ones" said Yonamee as the two bowed lower, kneeling on both knees and prostrating themselves on the ground "where are the Sages? And why have you appeared."

"Because the question you asked, we can answer" said Blue Shade. "Rise".

The two rose and followed the droids out of the room. They teleported by Omnius's power to the Brain Machine.

"We are in the holy place?" said Rikaron looking around "The mountain of the Transcended?"

"CORRECT" said Omnius "YOU HAVE COME TO THE REALIZATION, AS MANY HAVE IN THE PAST, THAT YOUR "FREEDOMS" ARE LIMITED BY YOUR INABILITY TO CHOSE A LEADER, AND BY THE PARTICULAR ORGANIZATION AND AUTOMATION OF OUR GOVERNMENT. HOWEVER, THE SUPPOSED LIBERTY OF LEADER SELECTION IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO CORRUPTION, AND WHILE THE SYSTEM WE HAVE IN PLACE IS MANIPULABLE, OUR MONITORING OVER THE YEARS HAS PREVENTED CASES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DISASTROUS. AS FOR THE AUTOMATION OF THE BUREAUCRACY AND OUR RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION, THESE THINGS WHEN NOT AUTOMATIZED AND MAINTAINED AS WE HAVE DONE WOULD HAVE FAILED ON A SINGLE GLOBE, LET ALONE ACROSS A DOZEN STAR SYSTEMS".

"I'm awed, and I do not know what to say" said Yonamee "The False Arbiter believed that the Mallumans were still slaves to the Hamans, and when I spoke to Rikaron of this, he believed his people were like slaves as well."

"THE INSTITUTION OF MALLUMAN SLAVERY WAS NEVER IN TRUE EXISTENCE, THOUGH YOUR EMANCIPATION FROM MERE UPLIFTED ANIMALS TO FULL CITIZENS DID OCCUR AFTER THE 9 MONTH WAR. THE INSTITUTION OF ARBITER WAS ESTABLISHED SO YOUR GRIEVANCES COULD BE MET. THE INTENT OF LORD TOGANEE IS CLEAR POWER HUNGER AND RAGE OVER BELIEVED SLIGHTS."

"It is true" said Blue Hue "That the Hamans are often more machine than biological, and the machines built are often almost alive in truth, such as myself." He brought up a hologram in the vast Orb of the Brain Machine room, the slowly spinning gyroscope in the center lit with the hologram, which showed the bodies of the Hamans, showing their implants.

"The intent was to make the society coalesce and become more than it was in the deep past, the changes made, the modifications and the implants, all with the intent of raising psychic awareness and the unification of the race." Blue Hue then brought up Malluman bodies. "Your race's disposition Warmaster made your people the perfect warrior race, and we worked on modifying those traits. The positions the bulk of your people hold are simply what they are best designed and what they most want to do."

"I see" said the Warmaster, looking to Rikaron who had the same look of now understanding. "Your explanation had made us understand why it is you have done this, but do you think it was the right thing? My Lord Balazar V cried I saw upon the realization of what we said."

"HIS DISTRESS WILL BE CURED AS HAS YOUR CURIOSITY" said Omnius Evermind "IN TRUTH, OUR CHIEF SAGE HAS BEEN DISTRESSED AS OF LATE, THOUGH THAT IS NONE OF YOUR CONCERN. IN TERMS OF WEATHER THE PLAN OF BALAZAR THE BLESSED IS THE CORRECT PATH TO HAVE TAKEN, EVEN HE SAID WHEN HE MADE US THAT IT MIGHT NOT BE FULLPROOF, BUT VIGILANCE AND MAINTENANCE ARE THE PRICE OF A STABLE SOCIETY."

"I think I understand" said Yonamee "Your Lordships have given me insight that I could not have even hoped for."

"I will return you to the Gungnir if you wish" said Blue Hue, to which Yonamee replied "I would be glad to return to my ship, though I ask that you keep Inquisitor Syon here on hame, and remove him from my crew, I have no further need for him."

"It will be done" said the humanoid android as the Warmaster and the Commander found themselves in the teleportation bay of their ship. The two went to the ready room and sat in silence for a minute. Rikaron after 15 minutes was the first to break the silence.

"I guess the slavery that we thought we were under was infact a blessed plan of our forebears."

"Perhaps, though maybe it is not only there intent."

"How do you mean sir?" said Rikaron a bit confused.

"Balazar the Blessed set forth the plan, and the Sages and Omnius and the World Controllers attempted to keep it in power, but ultimately I think the people had to accept the position they were given in order for it to have survived as long as it has."

Rikaron was shocked "Are you saying our people have actually wanted slavery for themselves all this time?"

"Is it truly slavery though?" said Yonamee "We can basically do whatever we want, though we are monitored and our systems monopilzed by the government we still have a right to choose what path we take in life." Yonamee thought for a moment "Maybe the price of a stable society is the mechanization of government, and the loss of political freedoms. I think at this point we must listen to Omnius and to Balazar the Blessed."

"How do you mean?" said Rikaron.

Yonamee turned towards a painting of Hame on the wall of the ready room. "Vigilance Commander, that is the Price we must pay. We don't have political freedom, but that we can live without, but let us remain vigilant against loosing our civil freedoms, the freedom to live our lives as we choose. This the Mind Empire has guaranteed, and as they are Vigilant to uphold their own standards, so too must we be a check for them, and speak out when we fear our own freedoms are imperiled, and the principle of our Empire is faltering. I can think of no Inquisitor or Sage who would deny that in that manner we do the work of Balazar the Blessed, and do so for the welfare of the Empire."

"Syon's 'interrogation' of you didn't seem like he was too fond of that principle" said Rikaron in a tone of annoyance at the actions taken against his Warmaster, his friend.

"Some people you just have to tell, not everyone thinks in the same manner, and some I fear do not think at all." said Yonamee "Weather Syon is prejudiced against me, or weather he has been brainwashed in a wrong manner I cannot determine as he is now off my ship, but I doubt he will get far in life with his cowardice."

"We can only hope he doesn't end up a Sage" said Rikaron "He is a Majestic Inquisitor."

"Balazar V is not a man Syon would side with, if he gets there, it would be through some degree of intrigue. Unfortunately" said Yonamee turning to his first officer with a smile finally returning to his dull purple saurian face "I am afraid it is not our place to deal in court intrigue, Warmaster is a field position after all."

"You do hold a special place in the Mind of Balazar V though, and with Patriarch Qornamee as well, perhaps you could keep in touch with him to monitor anything that happens in the Sage Council?" Rikaron knew that despite their own particular ranks, they could keep tabs on power positions.

"Indeed, I will send the Patriarch a message to keep me informed about the Council as soon as I return to my quarters, I think after all the work over the past few days a long sleep is in order." Yonamee yawned and stretched his arms out.

"I'll have any missions from command sent to your mailbox" said Rikaron smiling "sleep well sir."

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Vocenae
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Posts: 1093
Founded: Jan 19, 2006
Compulsory Consumerist State

Postby Vocenae » Wed Jul 16, 2014 10:55 pm


[ Mature ]


Ding.

The sound was like a hammer to his skull, a striking blow to the tone of "HEY DUMBASS. WAKE THE FUCK UP."

Jesse already knew where he was before he finally pried his eyes open. It was the smell of the sheets, the unwashed grime that nestled against his cheek that made an audible rip as he pulled his head away from whatever had once been a pillow case to cast a bleary stare out into the dark and shadow filled room before collapsing once more into the filthy embrace of cheap, overused pseudo-cotton.

The Winning Hand.

It wasn't the first time that Jesse had been there. Another wild night of partying in Thyrsus, bar hopping and dancing with fine ladies who gave him exactly what he needed until his credit chip ran out. Sitting up on the uncomfortable bed he tried to piece together what happened next as he kicked his shoes off somewhere into the shadows. A picture slowly appeared through the pounding siege on his gray matter; electric blue hair, nice enough breasts, the reddest eyes that seemed filled with wild sparks. Pigtails. A hand that took far too long to reach his face accompanied the thought. The goddamn pigtails. The dancing girl had given him a pat on the cheek and a sad smile as she turned to wandered off after his credit chip had buzzed against the reader in her belt, and a combination of far too many drinks and some other illicit substances gave him the idea to use the pigtails as handlebars. Jesse pulled himself to his feet and stumbled his way towards the restroom, ignoring the several soft, wet objects he stepped on during his short journey there. He didn't bother with the light.

"Would probably finish the job the bouncers started anyway. " Jesse mumbled with what may have seemed like sad familiarity Jesse maneuvered into the small closet sized room, kneeled, and voided the contents of his stomach into what he assumed was the toilet.

Several long minutes passed as Jesse purged his body of the sins from the night before, his hands digging a unwelcome but unavoidable rut into the sticky grime that covered the porcelain throne as Jesse finished, pushing himself upwards as steadily as he could in the near pitch black darkness. Another far too slow hand swept towards his face on instinct and Jesse caught it at the last second; there was no need to make this experience any worse than it already was. Something bright green flashed from the left and he winced as his watch's auto-adjust worked its technological magic. Jesse was too tired to care what time it was though, and with a grunt, made his way out of the acrid smelling closet . The hung-over soul made his way back through the motel room and collapsed as softly as he could back onto the thing that apparently passed for a mattress. Nothing moved in the dim and dark, nothing that Jesse could see or hear, anyway, and he was thankful that despite the filth, the Winning Hand was at least quiet.

At least this time I didn't get a room with the broken air unit, he thought as his exhausted mind and body drifted into sleep.

Ding.

Jesse's eyes snapped open at the sound and he lunged upwards with a swiftness that he instantly regretted. Although the worst of the hangover had passed, Jesse's body was still reeling from the effects and he clutched his shaven head as the world tried to rearrange itself and Jesse's brain properly rebooted. The drinks. The drugs. The girl. The beating. Voiding his stomach and then FORGETTING TO WASH HIS HANDS. Jesse groaned as pulled himself from the bed as quickly as he could. He picked his way through the small minefield of roach corpses until he was in the bathroom once more. His filthy hands searched in the darkness for the light switch until finally Jesse's world was filled with dim light from the single bare, dying bulb in the bathrooms ceiling. He tried not to stare at the mess surrounding the toilet as he reached for the handle of the small sink. Pipes gurgled, groaned, and for a moment Jesse feared that he may have gotten a room with no working water.

"Oh you have got to be fucking kiddin-" Jesse muttered before the pipes finished complaining and were replaced by the soft hiss of slightly brown water spilling into the sink. With an annoyed sigh, Jesse began washing his hands, reminding himself that the color of the water Usually didn't mean anything. He was in the Furnace after all, perfect water was usually reserved for more profitable businesses. He finished and wiped his hands dry on his once clean pants as he finally stared at himself in the dirty mirror. His face was gaunt, enough dark circles under his eyes that he could have started a hoax on some primitive planet. The tell tale track marks of Glam along his neck.

"Never again" Jesse told his mirror self, but the both of them knew otherwise. And that he'd have to find a shower somewhere else; Jesse may have gotten a quiet room, but he certainly didn't get one with a shower. With a grimace he flushed the toilet and banished most of the mess to the Winning Hand's sewer system. He didn't care enough to clean up what had spilled over onto the floor, just his addition to whatever unseen layers of biowaste already covering the cheap tile. He made his way back to the bed, fished his shoes out from under the coffee table, checked them for unwanted passengers, and slipped them on before heading for the flimsy door. He caught himself as he reached for the old fashioned door knob.

Where was the key?

Hitting the nearby light-switch that brought to life another bare bulb, Jesse looked around the small room for anything small and shiny. Roaches scattered into any dark recesses they could find and a dark stain on the wall drew his eyes for only a slight moment before he began searching the filthy rags on the bed.

Clink.

With a sigh of relief the small piece of forged metal tumbled out of the bed sheets and to the patchy, stained carpet of the room. Frowning, Jesse quickly grabbed it and once again made to leave the dirty cell he had been dumped in. His stomach grumbled loudly, and he knew that he needed to find something to eat and quick. A quick glance at his watch told him it was 3:58 PM, still too early for any of the local clubs and he certainly wasn't dressed for anything other than slumming it.

Maybe that flat cake place a couple of blocks down...

The warm, almost stuffy air that reeked of poorly filtered exhaust filled Jesse's lungs as he closed the door behind him. Below him was the courtyard and parking lot of The Winning Hand, a desert of cheap-crete that was in dire need of repair that would never come. Low, dented tables were bolted to the ground though there were no chairs around. In the parking there were two vehicles, both of which had long since seen better days.
Screaming metal deathtraps most likely, Jesse thought to himself, but he quickly lost interest. The walkways of the Winning Hand were, like all the other times Jesse had been 'deposited' there, empty. In fact, Jesse had never seen the motel so dead.

"Maybe its the middle of the work week. Or something." He thought as he made his way towards the nearby stairwell. Though despite how deserted the motel and local area may have looked, Jesse could feel eyes on him was he walked. It could have been many eyes watching him; junkies looking for an easy target to rob, those strange alien bugs he knew lived nearby looking for a easy fight or meal, or a paranoid criminal who thought that everyone who moved was a cop. But Jesse knew the source of at least one pair of those eyes and he tried his best to avoid their source as he reach the bottom of the stairwell. If there had been an alternate route out of the motel he would have taken it, but the only way to get onto the street was past the front desk.

Ding.

Jesse ignored the sound and kept his eyes locked straight ahead as he passed the front desk. If there was one thing he absolutely hated, it was looked at the thing behind the counter. He picked up his pace as he stepped into the almost otherworldly bright light from behind the counter.

Just keep your head down maybe he'll just let you go

Ding.

Goddamnit.

Jesse paused and turned towards the tall figure that stood behind the front desk. Jesse's eyes traveled up the full body gray coat, counting each of the three buttons before his eyes traveled up the long, skinny neck and stopped at the large head that sat on top of it like a spider in a web. Two thin, vertical slits that led up to two oceans of black pinpricked by two tiny white islands that seemed the bore into Jesse's skull. A outstretched hand with three spindly fingers as long as Jesse's forearm was hovering motionless over the counter top.

"No. I'm staying. I'm just going to get something to eat down the block." Jesse said, diverting his eyes from the creature's own, glancing at the old flip clock on the back wall next to a faded blue door that read 4:06 PM.

It wasn't a whole truth, but it wasn't a lie either. As filthy as the motel room may have been, Jesse knew from experience that he'd already been charged a full day's lodging fee, courtesy of the management of whatever club he had gotten himself kicked out of last. And since he had already paid for it, Jesse figured that maybe there was no harm in riding out the rest of the night here. After all, it seemed peaceful enough. The being behind the front desk said nothing as its had slowly withdrew back behind the counter, its eyes never leaving Jesse as he slowly backed up a step and then quickly hurried past towards the street. Jesse shuddered until he swore he could feel the being's eyes stop following him. No one knew what kind of alien it was. No one that Jesse knew of had ever heard it talk, least of all himself. The only name he knew that was associated with it was 'The Concierge', and that every day at 4:47 PM it would leave the front desk and disappear into a back room until precisely five minutes later at 4:52 PM. During that time there would be a almost comically small sign sitting on the front desk that read 'Back in Five Minutes!'. In the grand urban fiction of Losieda, no one knew what the Concierge did in those five minutes, though the current running theory was that it was all just an elaborate hologram that used hard light to interact with the environment.

But whatever it was, Jesse knew that you always gave it your key before you left. Always.

The dull sign of the flat cake house rose above the low urban clutter up ahead, and the sweet smells of food and syrup cut through his thoughts. Jesse's stomach rumbled again, and suddenly all he could think about was food. He practically raced through the doorway and, ignoring the startled, suspicious glares of some pale looking biker-dwarves with bad hair, took a seat at the bar. An alien woman, Jesse didn't know what species, looked up from the glass she was cleaning and slid towards him with a cute, fanged smile. Before she could begin to ask, Jesse slammed his fist on the bar.

"Just give me some pancakes."
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Sometime later, he stomach full and already feeling a bit more human, Jesse sauntered out of the flat cake diner and took a deep breath of the Furnace's warm air. Jesse's watch read 4:36 PM.
Still too early for the local clubs to be anything other than expensive ghost towns, Jesse thought, and for a short moment he simply stood there, pondering his options. He could always call for a shuttle home, of course, but again the thought of leaving the unused bill of his Winning Hand room made him think twice. Besides, the alien waitress seemed into him and would be getting off work around the time the clubs started opening up. As trashy as it was, if there was anything the Winning Hand was good for, it was anonymous fuck sessions. Jesse turned back towards the motel, it's faded, unlit sign hanging there missing most of the words from its faceplate. With a half-hearted nod Jesse began the return trip. Maybe he'd see if he could talk the Concierge into letting him switch over to a room with a shower. Or maybe find a unlocked door to one. The trip back was just as uneventful as the trip from it. But Jesse stopped at the main gate of The Winning Hand. The Concierge was staring straight back at him, as if it had never moved the entire time he had been gone. He made his way across the court yard, watching it from the corner of his eye as the tiny white pupils tracked his every move. Jesse stopped as he passed by the front desk and opened his mouth to speak; but he couldn't think of what to say. All he could see were the two white pupils staring at him while his mind went blank. time seemed to slow to a crawl as the human and the Concierge stared at each other until the ancient flip clock behind the Concierge flipped once more.

4:47 PM.

The strange creature's sudden movement snapped Jesse from his trance as it moved it's right arm beneath its gray coat. With a mechanical grace the Concierge lifted a small plastic sign from beneath the front desk and set it down perfectly centered on the counter. Without a word and only the slight rustle of the fabric of its coat, the Concierge tore it's gaze from Jesse and exited through the faded blue door next to the flip clock.
Jesse stood dumbfounded for a moment before an idea struck him. He may not have been able to talk to the Concierge, but maybe he could switch keys without it noticing! Seizing the moment Jesse hauled himself over the counter and into the Winning Hand's front office. He flopped onto the cold cheap-crete floor as he lost his balance, but now that his body had been fed he recovered quickly. Pulling himself to his knees Jesse looked at the dim area under the counter. It was filled with small key hooks, many with keys one them , several without. There were no numbers identifying what key went on which hook.

Shit, he thought and he racked his brain trying to remember the room he had had that had the full shower in it. He drew a blank as the flip clock behind him flipped over to 4:48 PM.

Fuck. There's no time, just grab a key and make a break for it!

His hand shot out and grabbed the first key he saw and yanked it off its hook before hurriedly placing his own key onto a empty hook. Jesse stood and began to climb out of the small office when he looked over at the faded blue door. He was, by his knowledge, the person to have EVER gotten behind the front desk. He was certain that he was being watched, not by the Concierge, but by other customers. Surely he was already becoming part of the urban myth by doing this, right? Maybe he could make the story just a little bit more exciting...He'd just have to be quick about it.
Lowering himself back to the floor, Jesse reached out and grabbed the knob to the door the Concierge had disappeared into. A part of him screamed to just make a break for it, but it was small and insignificant. This was his moment, just in and out, a quick peek was all he needed to do and then he could haul ass out of there. With a twist and a turn, Jesse was inside.

The door clicked shut softly behind him.

The room was painfully white. Jesse could almost feel it cutting into his skin. He couldn't see where the lights were, but he could see the towering, silent figure of the Concierge looming only a few feet in front of him. It's eyes started at him as they always did though this time Jesse felt truly frightened. Jesse checked his watch.

4:50 PM.

Maybe if he could just wait it out the Concierge would just go back to the front des-

There was a muted snap from the direction of the Concierge as it started moving towards Jesse on several previous hidden pairs of legs. It bounced towards him in a almost a low gravity gait until it was less than six inches from Jesses, a unblinking tower.

"L...Listen. I'm sorry! I-I just wanted to give you the key back!" Jesse yelled as he fumbled for the tiny piece of metal in his pocket. His fingers found purchase and he ripped the key from his pocket and held it as high as he could reach.

"Take it! It's yours!"

A long slender hand reached towards the key and for a moment Jesse was filled with relief...Until the Concierge's hand wrapped around his own and Jesse could feel the strange rubbery flesh tightening around his own with a strength that seemed impossible. Another muted, wet snap and the Concierge rose another full meter as its second hand deftly undid the button on its jacket. With a flourish the Concierge's chest burst open, it's jacket fluttering behind it like a cape as it's chest expanded outward on either side and within Jesse would see thousands of small finger length...things waving in unison in his direction. And then the Concierge lifted Jesse upwards and inwards. In an instant Jesse could feel the stinging sensation of the thousands of..things and he screamed in pain as the Concierge's impossibly strong hand forced him deeper into the pulsating mass. Jesse tried to fight back, but he couldn't move, he couldn't do anything as his scream died out as the stinging appendages did their work. He cried out in mental anguished as the tips of the appendages began frothing over with a bubbly white acid, and Jesse felt his skin, and his left eye, being to bun. And then a shadow fell over him as the Concierge's chest cavity closed in around him, and he began burning all over.
Before the acid ate through his remaining eye and Jesse was plunged into darkness for the brief remainder of his life, he saw the dim glow of his watch between the dim squirming mass.

4:52 PM.

And then it was gone.

Jesse's last conscious thought was of pancakes.

4: 53 PM.

As silently as ever, the Concierge returned to the front desk of The Winning Hand and slid it's meal's key back onto the vacant hook beneath the counter. With eerie precision it removed the small sign and placed it beneath the key racks and with a single slender finger, rang the bell.

Ding.
Last edited by Vocenae on Wed Jul 16, 2014 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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18:34 <Kyrusia> Voc: The one anchor of moral conscience in a sea of turbulent depravity.

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Kiruri
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Democratic Socialists

Postby Kiruri » Thu Jul 17, 2014 6:27 pm

The Reason Why Girls Always Go to the Bathroom Together


[ Mature ]


Mia reached for a pink box on the table in front of her. There was no fluffy white tissue popping out of it, so she sluggishly dug her hand into the box's little slit in search of one, but alas, she pulled out nothing.

My life's one fucking cliché right now...

She grasped the pink tissue box, slightly deforming its cardboard body, and threw it at a framed picture resting on top of a wooden bookshelf. She meant to use all her force but could barely muster enough energy to lift the damn thing, let alone throw it. Instead, it landed right behind the table, knocking over the hollow remains of what was once an unopened gallon of strawberry-flavored ice-cream.

Oh fucking great. That was the only thing I had going for me right now - that I didn't binge on ice-cream...

Mia glanced down at her chest. Her white pajama top was slightly damp, stained a light brown color and smelled faintly of mint and chocolate. Below, on the floor, next to the couch upon which she laid, was the remains of a different gallon of ice-cream, one which was once filled with a chocolate-mint mix.

but I did binge. I binged and then forgot that I binged. How does one forget they binged on ice-cream!? I don't fucking know...

She looked up at the picture again, the one resting on top of the bookshelf.

"YOU'RE WHAT FUCKED ME UP, DAMMIT!"

She instinctively grabbed the empty gallon of chocolate ice-cream below her and flung it at the picture with all the force she could gather. She missed it and instead hit a few expensive-looking ornaments next to it. Those ornaments fell down on the floor, hard, immediately shattering upon contact.

She wailed bitterly at her second failed attempt, hitting the couch in anger before slouching back onto it, teary-eyed and ready to start crying again.

The guy in the picture was Mia's "one and only true love", as she herself had stated over and over throughout the entire duration of the relationship, but it turned out she wasn't his 'one and only'. Mia caught him read handed, dick-in-whore, fucking some slut's brains out three or four days ago, yet it seemed that Mia couldn't get it through her skull that 'life is suppose to go on even after shit like this happens', or at least that's what her best friend and confident, Kara, told her. Kara also told Mia she should " stop wallowing like a little bitch and set his crap on fire before going out to a club or something to get laid". Mia, however, paid no attention. She was still stuck somewhere between heart-broken and ice-cream binges. Unable or perhaps unwilling to get over the fact that she went from being in what seemed a happy relationship with the man she loved to living alone and being alone.

I should have probably listened to Kara...

Mia wiped her eyes dry with the back of her hands and picked up the blanket which had previously fallen on the ground. She snuggled herself into a comfortable position, giving up on the option of going out to a club in search of a good 'dicking' (as Kara would have so eloquently referred to it). After all, she was just a blubbering mess that couldn't stop crying at the movies she insisted on watching even though most of them were comedies and, in fact, the last one was a documentary on illegal alien trafficking.

There was a sudden loud banging noise. Mia barely noticed it, deciding instead to pull the blanket over her head, but again the loud banging noise was heard. This time, she realized it was someone at the door and unwillingly rolled off the couch, groggily making her way to the apartment door, dragging the blanket along behind her.

She heard a muffled voice from the other side of the door;

"Open the fucking door..."

It was Kara, without a doubt. Mia heard yet another muffled curse word before reaching for the lockpad. The door swooshed open, sliding to the left and there stood Kara, looking slightly annoyed. She quickly looked Mia up and down before shaking her head and pushing her way into the apartment.

"Seriously, Mia! What the fuck's wrong with you?"

"I.."

"Exactly! I knew you'd be fucking crying your eyes out pigging out on gallons of ice-cream..."

"bu.."

"And you're probably watching movies, aren't you..."

Nidia glanced over at the Holovid projector unit and saw a few disk cases scattered around it on the floor. She went over to pick up a case and waved it at Mia.

"What the fuck's this?"

She turned it around to get a look at the title,

"A Kiruri Lost in Xiscapia!? This shit better be some furry porn or something..."

She glared at Mia seemingly awaiting an answer, but Mia just stood there. She was long accustomed to the whirlwind that was her friend and to be frank she was half paying attention half weeping inside. She didn't respond, but Kara didn't give her much time to do so.

"Ok.. and what's up with your look? Bitch I told you you can't pull the hobo-chic style. What, did your shower break? Or did you forget how to use the sink again? "

Mia didn't even bother with answering that one and she just plopped down on the nearest chair. She looked defeated, she looked exactly like someone who had given up on life. Kara sighed before coming closer to her.

"Okay. Hun, I know this is hard, I really do. Remember Miro, the Kiruri male? He cheated on me after three years together. Of course I get it! But you can't let all this bring you down like it's the end of the world or something. I mean, look at you, look at the state of this apartment, it's pathetic. Mia, I love you way too much to see you like this. So, look at me, what are you going to do about it?"

She looked at Mia expectantly but she just blinked at her a couple of times before shrugging and slouching back on the chair, laying her head on the table in front of her.

When did I become this person?
Is this what depression feels like?

Kara suddenly yanked Mia's blanket off her and pulled her up from the chair. She dragged her down the hallway, loudly complaining that she was always the one forced to pick up the hot mess that was Mia. She shoved Mia straight into the bathroom and turned on the shower's knob. The water poured out but Mia just stood there, looking very much lifeless.

"Mia! Wake the fuck up! If you're not going to clean yourself up then I'm gonna do it for you. Get your ass in the shower, right now dammit! And when you're done all this moping around is over, understand?"

Mia glanced over at her, taking a deep breath and nodding at her command.

I don't understand what she expects me to do. How does a shower fix this? This is just too much for a mere bottle of soap and hot water.

"Kara.." Mia looked down at the ground. "I don't think a shower makes everything all better."

Kara just rolled her eyes and pointed to the bathroom window.

"Do you see why you need a shower?"

Okay, so a shower can fix 'that'...

Mia glared at her reflection.

"Fine..."

Kara nodded and just before heading out the bathroom, she whirled around to get one last look at Mia.

"Get it all out in that shower. You can cry, yell, cuss, hit the walls if you have to. Do whatever makes you feel better but get it all out in there. You can't move forward unless you release it from your system. You'll be fine, babe." She winked over at Mia before continuing, "I better see you come out of that shower squeaky clean and ready to fucking live again, otherwise, I'll drag you kicking and screaming otherwise."

Mia did just that. She yelled, screamed, cried her eyes out once again, she hit the shower walls with all her force. Of course, that didn't really help her much overall, but she did get that fresh feeling one always gets after a long hot shower. She at least felt clean and that was the first step in starting anew.

Mia clean herself up good, too. She went the extra mile, pampering her body with lotions and powders and other assorted cosmetics, and even matching her bra with the nicest panties she could find. She was ready, at least ready to take on the day.

She stepped out of the bathroom, still fidgeting a little with her hairstyle as she walked back toward the living room. She was surprised to see what Kara had accomplished. The house was spotless, more or less. The scrunched up tissues that littered the couch area were now gone, and the sink was free of dirty dishes. The blinds were opened and sunlight poured in. The room even smelled nicer and Mia wondered if she sprayed some air-freshener or even lit a candle.

"Ah! There she is! My beautiful Mia"

Kara was sitting at the table across the room with two mugs of what seemed some hot Mogoho, Mia's favorite beverage. She went on over to the table and sat in front of Kara. The two girls talked as they enjoyed their hot beverages. They caught up on a few things such as Kara's promotion at work. The conversation seemed like any normal Mia-Kara talk. There was no oddness to it, despite what had happened. Of course, that subject, the unfaithful boyfriend one, was left untouched. Kara and Mia both forgot the whole incident and the talk with her best friend managed to give her a little boost.

Before Kara left, she offered or, rather, commanded Mia join her tomorrow for a girls' night out. She agreed, not that it mattered anyway, and accompanied Kara out the apartment building.

Mia woke up the next day feeling better. She went to work like normal, managed to do her laundry, ordered new clothes online imported directly from Meto Kiruria and even booked one first-class ticket to Rasumia to visit her sister in about a month or so. Mia finally realized she was well on her way to moving on.

Her phone vibrated soon after lunch. It was a video-message from Kara, * "Hey girl, don't forget about tonight! You better dress like the hottt bitch you know you aree!!" * It seemed as if she had sent the message from a cubicle at a public toilet, which wasn't odd, keeping in mind that it was Kara who sent the message. Mia giggled, and decided it would be in her best interest to do so as Kara commanded.

Hours later, Mia's showered and dressed into one fine fitted black mini dress. She decided to go with the heels as well, for that extra 'something' knowing that more likely than not her feet would be hurting like hell later.

Kara finally arrived, looking stunning. They quickly left for the club, meeting the other girls along the way. Mia began to realize that perhaps this was what she needed after all.

They finally reached the club but it was busy as fuck with an endless line at the door that stretched a few blocks, or so it seemed, but that didn't matter. Kara knew the right people and, more importantly, the right people knew Kara. She managed to get her entire posy through the booming club door without waiting in line.

The drinks were first on their list, and, thanks once again to Kara, they were complimentary. Mia ordered first, going with a top-shelf cocktail. She was pleasantly satisfied.

Looking around the club, Mia noticed the mix of people, Kiruri males, females, humans, dagomei, hotusians, the club had it all and, more importantly, it just oozed sex. Hell, people were practically fucking on the dance floor. Mia had never, in her life, not even with Kara, ever been to this particular club before. You could tell that, without a doubt, everyone was looking for one thing - hot sex.

Mia starts to question if perhaps she had chosen the right attire. After all, she wasn't really looking for a hookup, but her dress stated otherwise. She was practically wearing an "I'M OPEN" sign, which, in this club, was totally fine. Kara and her friend grab Mia's hand and drag her through the crowd straight into the middle of the dancing mob.

Song after song the girls dance together, and Mia finds herself getting particularly close to Lya, Kara's other friend. Mia's not one for over the top girl-on-girl dancing, that was usually Kara, but she just went with it when Lya pulled her in. Kara laughed at the two of them, or rather, specifically at Mia as she danced with Lya, but she soon stopped her laughing as a guy rubbed up against her. Kara had bigger things to worry about, now.

It didn't take long before Mia felt a set of large hands grab her by the hips and a male's body rub up against her back. Lya continued dancing in front of Mia and the two didn't mind at all the random guy joining in on their fun. Mia tried to look over her shoulder to get a glimpse of the man that held her hips, trying to get past all the darkness and pulsing light to see who was the mystery man, but she couldn't. The monotone pulsating lights and the overall darkness of the dance floor prevented any good look at him. She only managed to gather that he was a Kiruri, a rather tall one at that.

Oh screw it! It's just dancing and if he knows how to move than who cares what his face looks like.

Mia and the Mysterious Kiruri continued their dancing. In fact, Mia's was so into it that she completely forgot about Lya and instead start to really move with this guy. Their hips find a rhythm and his hands start to wander away from her hips. They first move around to palm her flat stomach. Once they're there, his hands pull her even closer. Mia can't help but grind against him some more and she starts to feel him growing beneath his pants. She grinned.

Mia looked up, trying to spot Cara and the girls as the mystery man behind her continued to move his hands upward but they were all gone, out of sight. The only one she did spot was Lya, dancing with some guy but he seemed more into it than she did. Lya caught Mia's gaze, and she gave her a smile.

Mia's mystery man, all the sudden, cupped one of her breasts. She tilted her head back against him and continued to move with him.

This isn't like me at all and I don't care! Screw being prim and proper!

Mia pushed her breasts into his hands and wrapped one of her arms up behind his head. At the same time, Lya watches her and the hands of the Kiruri stranger.

I can't decided.. do l like this guy's hands all over me Lya watching me so intently.

Mia turned around in his arms, finally, to see the guy's face and freezes as soon as she looked up.

Rio!?

He grinned at her, winking at poor Mia before she slapped him across his face.

Out of all the goddamn people in this club, no, on this fucking planet, why did it have to be him?

Mia pushed him away, heading straight for the ladies room.

I can't believe I was letting him rub up against me. I can't believe I was letting myself rub up against that guy!

He was Mia's only one night stand ever, from two or so years ago, the worst sex she had ever had. Mia knock some drunken whore as she made her way into the toilets. A few girls cussed her out and banged on the door. She completely skipped the line and locked them out.

Suddenly one of the doors to a stall swung open and out stumbled a girl unable to notice Mia's presence. She bypassed the sink and headed straight for the door, unable to comprehend she had been locked in. Mia grunted heavily, moved to unlock the door and pushed the bitch out. She was about to shut the door once more when Lya appeared, and, of course, she let her in.

Mia was surprised to see Lya there. She made her way over to the mirrors and fixed her hair up a bit.

Why did she even want to come in here? Looking around the place, it's not really somewhere I'd like to be. Lights are bad, there are random pieces of toilet paper on the floor, and stains of dubious origins all over.

"So..this night really fucking sucks!"

Lya turned around and gave Mia nice little smile, she shrugged and said, "I'm pretty sure it's worse for that guy you bitch slapped out there."

Mia snorted out a laugh, "He's lucky I didn't knee him in the balls."

Lya laughed too and Mia realized that she blurted out something instead of just thinking it. She laughed along with her.

Before they even knew it, both Mia and Lya talked it up in the restroom. Mia was the one who did the talking, spilling out everything that had been going on with her the past few days and Lya just listened intently. Mia told her about catching her boyfriend with some whore's legs wrapped around his neck.

"Can you believe he never did that with me? Do you know how much I would have loved that? But no! We did boring sex. It was always the same position, the same thing over and over again and you know what? It sucked! I admit it! It sucked and I faked all my orgasms. I should have screamed that at him when I kicked him out, see how he liked that. Damn bastard."

Mia rambled on but Lya kept listening.

"Just when I decide to let go and have some fun it blows up in my face! That guy I was dancing with was my worst nightmare come back to haunt me." Lya gasped, eyes widening, "I was with him before, once. His name is Rio and he dances like a fag. That guy should come with a warning label – worst sex ever! But the worst part, wanna know what the worst pat is?" Lya just nodded, "The worst part is I haven't had an orgasm in over two months!"

Mia slumped against the counter and looked up at Lya and she gaped her. "It's really been that long? But... I don't get it. what about vibrators, you know. that's what they were made for, sweetie!" They both laughed. Mia explained she didn't want a battery and a quick buzz, she really wanted something real. Mia shrugged at the subject and went for a change of topic. "What happened with the guy you were with?" Lya flashed her a smile saying that he simply wasn't the one she was interested in. "Just for passing time" she said.

So I was right, she wasn't into him. I wonder why she doesn't just go after the guy she does want. She looks fantastic in her tight jeans and top. Any guy in here would be all over her given the opportunity.

"I'm not sure the person I want is interested, however."

Wha? Well, I guess everyone gets those insecure days every once in a while...

Mia told her she should just go for it and that she didn't need to hide out in a bathroom with her.

It was then that she realized there were women outside pounding the door so hard it was probably about to burst.

Mia sighed and started to walk toward the door, intent on opening it when Lya grabbed her hand and pulled her back, pushing her against the wall by the sink and saying, "They can wait." After the slightest pause she kissed her. It was a soft kiss at first. Mia didn't know how to respond. A part of her want to push her aside and run out the door, but another part of her wanted to keep on kissing her soft lips. It felt fantastic. Mia kissed her in return, without even consciously deciding to.

I know I'm far from drunk and well, perhaps she's a little drunk too... I don't know what this is and we'll both probably completely regret this later but wow can she kiss!

Lya's hands moved closer to Mia's head and she held her locked onto her mouth. Mia's hands find their own way toward Lya's hips and once there pull her closer.

Abruptly, Lya pulled away, looking at Mia. Neither one's hands moved, and it seemed both were waiting for the other to say something.

"I..I didn't know you were...gay."

"I didn't know you were either."

Touché.

Lya started to let go of Mia's face, slightly pulling away, but she pulled her closer and kissed her again.

Her mouth tastes so sweet and it seems like I can feel every stroke of her tongue all over my body. I haven't been kissed like this is a long time. Maybe never!

One of Lya's hands slowly slid down the side of Mia's neck to the skin just below her throat, continuing down her chest, skimming over the top of her bra, just above the edge of her dress. Mia's skin prickled at the contact while Lya's fingers continued their back and forth path around the edges of her bra. One of Lya's fingers dips below the top of Mia's dress, between her breasts. She gave a very quiet moan.

I can feel her smile against my mouth. Oh this is good. Simple yet so good.
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Vocenae
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Founded: Jan 19, 2006
Compulsory Consumerist State

Postby Vocenae » Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:00 pm

Joyride.

[ Mature ]


The small craft hovered outside the patrol cruiser's restricted flight zone for a moment before it shot forward with a blast of energy from its three main engines. The pilot's ears were filled with warning klaxons as the Aurora's computer registered an immediate target lock from the law enforcement ship's main batteries, but she ignored them with a laugh as she angled the craft into beeline right past the cruiser's bridge. Her control console lit up with a bright yellow light as the cruiser hailed her. A tiny voice in the back of her head said to turn around and head back to the space dock. She could get her thrills buzzing the lazy asshole in THAT control tower. But she'd never hear the end of it if she backed out now, not to mention pissing away all the money she'd spent...

No fear.

The pilot grinned and flicked the hailing frequency to open as she pinned her engines beyond the 'recommended safety zone'. The sound of a surprised and pissed off flight controller filled the craft's cockpit as...whoever it was demanded that she immediately reverse course. Another flick of the console and music flooded the channel and the pilot could hear the flight controller swearing at her. After that she merely cranked the music until she could no longer hear him and rolled the craft over into a dead dive.

BOOM.

The Aurora's small frame shook as the cruiser's point defense system fired several warning shots around her craft. The only ones she'd get before they decided to just hit her. Even at maximum range a single military grade round would shred the tiny Aurora like wet tissue paper. The pilot grinned. IF they could hit her. She reached over and tapped the red button on the box that occupied the co-pilot's seat and broke into an even harder laugh as the spoofer suddenly generated hundreds of sensor ghosts that proceeded to, quite nicely, fuck with the warship's targeting system. She spun her craft into a wild roll as she corkscrewed across the cruiser's firing solutions as the warship bulk grew with every passing moment until it filled the cockpit's viewport entirely, the heavier anti-capital turrets swiveling back and forth as they locked target with a sensor ghost before the targeting programs corrected. With the Aurora groaning under the stress, the pilot pulled the tiny craft to a near standstill over the small bump of the cruiser's bridge, depolarized the cockpit's viewpoint, and gave the warship a wide smiled as she one-finger saluted the ship's crew. Running a hand through her short red hair, she gave whoever might have been watching through the hull cameras a playful kiss and a wink.

And then she was gone, a screaming bullet past the warship and towards the red bulk of the planet below. The spoofer program bleeped once and shut down, and a slight twinge of fear spiked in her racing heart, but she shook it off.

Whatever! Besides, they wouldn't fire AT a planet with, not with a very large and productive colony sitting right below. They'd have to come after her personally. Even better! She thought, and then her eyes widened as the Aurora's small sensor display registered two new contacts screaming in behind her at almost double her own velocity. Warning alarms screamed again and she jinked wildly to the left right as a stream of bright bolts shot through the area of space she had just inhabited. The Aurora's computer kept screaming as it's insane pilot seemed intent of murdering it and herself as the craft spun out of control, the woman spinning the craft's Omni-directional thrusters in an effort to gain control of the spin and NOT get shot in the process.

There was no time for second thoughts. No time for ANY thoughts beside instinct. The pilot stabilized and dove into the planet's atmosphere, a falling star on a trajectory that no sane navigator would ever recommend. The flight computer made one final objection to the course before the guidance system snapped off from the intense structural stress. Silence filled the cabin as most of the ship's computer systems died with a sad bleep.
She wondered if anyone was making a wish on her tail. Or the tails of the two very pissed off military pilots that were right behind her. Heat rose in the cabin as the three craft entered the atmosphere and the angry sky of the planet swiped at the three small craft with fiery claws, hungry for the life inside. Her world shook and became a messy blur of light and sound from the almost impossible angle of entry. The pilot did her best not to bite her tongue off. A large crack shot through the viewport and the pilot remembered to flick the polarization seconds before fire and light washed over it. Even so, she had to clench her eyes shut. The Aurora screamed and bucked as something heavy tore away from the hull. A long instant passed, and then they were in freefall, hurtling through the upper cloud deck of the planet with a wing and a prayer that somehow kept the tiny craft from ripping itself apart at the seams, but the pilot's fling with death wasn't over yet. She was blind and she still had two military craft right on her tail, and she was falling at speeds that she wasn't even sure the pilots behind her, with all their fancy technology could recover from.

No time to worry. Instinct.

Fighting gravity in the dying craft was like trying to lift a dead bull, her arms screamed in pain as she poured every ounce of her strength into leveling out, the O-D-Ts on her wings sputtering and coughing black smoke as the high altitude winds shook her from side to side. The pilot pumped the controls for the main engine but there was no response.

No fear.

She wasn't getting shot out, which meant the flyboys behind her were either still in their dive, recovering, or possibly dead. There was no way to know and no way for her to care as the ground rose up at her like Gaia's own rusty-brown fist, determined to smack her out of the sky. The ODTs sputtered once again as she cycled what was left of the coolant into their overtaxed and tortured casings. The pilot glided in silence for a moment before the wing-mounted engines moaned back to life and she shot upward with a triumphant scream.
It died within seconds as a sleek, if heavily burnt, frame of a military fighter rolled in from the right side of her viewport. The cockpit was depolarized and she could see the helmeted head of the pilot craned sideways, staring at her through a emotionless visor that made her feel like she was being stalked by vultures. A large black hand reached up above the flyboy's head and jabbed a single finger (she couldn't tell which one) down twice.

Land. Now.

The pilot put on a sheepish grin and toggled the viewport's polarizer. Nothing happened. She flicked it again. Still nothing. She glanced upwards at the deadeye visor of the flyboy as he jammed his finger down one more time and banked out of her field of view.

Comply or die.

With as much care as she could, the pilot gently rocked her disintegrating craft's wings side to side; the universal sign of 'copy, loud and clear'. And in this case 'please do not shoot me with your fancy guns'. The pilot steadied her craft and began gently angling her nose towards the ground and waited. Hopefully the flyboy (or his wingman) had seen the gesture and were kindly going to spare her life. Moments passed as she cruised closer to the ground at a much more reasonable speed, banking slightly to angle towards the colony's spaceport where there was no doubt her own private party of corporate security and military tough guys waiting to haul her into a black van. And then prison. No shots from the flyboys, and, as far as she knew, she wasn't a fireball hurtling downward, and she suddenly realized she was holding her breath. She closed her eyes and exhaled.

Breathe deep.

No fear.
The pilot's eyes snapped open and she fed what little fuel remained in her craft to the ODTs and twisted the Aurora into a hard downward corkscrew. The two shadows of the military fighters screamed over her, but she couldn't look. The ground was flying at her once more, and she corrected her spin as best she could as she went sailing past the colony's star port and over the city proper. Gray, utilitarian buildings replaced the rusty brown earth as she thundered past. The Aurora cried out as the craft began to die, the craft's wings disintegrating in mid-air as the pilot pushed the ODTs beyond the point of no return, slowing her inevitable descent to something that she hoped wouldn't kill her. A large plaza opened up before her.

"Any landing..." She muttered to herself as the Aurora bucked one last time and dove into the ground.

The impossibly hard ground finally snatched it's prize as the Aurora slammed into the plaza, the Aurora's battered, broken frame disintegrating on impact. Concrete, dirt and metal flew into the air, showering the mass of civilians that were running for their lives, shopping bags, food and other miscellaneous items adding to the cloud of debris. Inside the Aurora the pilot bit down and felt the warm coppery taste of blood filling her mouth as she prayed that the viewport held.It didn't.

The pilot closed her eyes and ducked in her seat as the viewport shattered into a million pieces of formerly reinforced silicate that washed over her, slicing the pilot's clothes and flesh. She tried not to scream too loudly.
And then there was stillness. The pilot raised her fiery red head and hesitantly opened one eye to the carnage she had caused. Metal and glass was everywhere and in the distance she could hear emergency response sirens as their parent vehicles rushed towards the crash site. The pilot ripped at what was left of her flight harness and fell onto what was left of the control console. She coughed once, thick red blood splattering into the debris as she picked herself up and staggered as fast as she could away from what was left of the Aurora. She cast a bleary upward as two shadows roared over the crash site. Her flyboys, her dance partners, her jailers if they had anything to say about it. She picked up her pace and almost collapsed into the closest alleyway as the first emergency vehicle screeched around the corner. The battered pilot cast one last look back at the Aurora, or what was left of it. Only the fore of the ship had remained intact, the shattered canopy of the cockpit staring at her like the accusing stare of a metal cyclops. The wings had snapped away at their base and there was no sight of the main engine or the fuel tank. A long trail of debris stretched across almost the entirety of the plaza. Another emergency vehicle appeared and she was simply out of time. She blew the ruined Aurora a kiss and disappeared down the alleyway.

She had to get as far away as possible, maybe find someplace to lay low and clean up. She staggered onto the adjacent street, ducking between the mob of curious citizens cautiously making their way to her crime scene. She was thankful for the cover, but she took to ducking between the stalled traffic . More cover, but she was less likely to get grabbed by some cash hungry do-gooder who wanted in on the obvious bounty that she would have on her head. She was confident in her escape until her right leg decided to buckle under her and send her crashing to the asphalt in front of a dingy looking compact car. As hard as she tried, her muscles just refused to listen to her brain as she flopped on the hot asphalt, her battered frame struggling to push herself back to her feet but it was no use. Much like the Aurora, even the human body had limits.

The vehicle's driver side door opened and she flicked her green eyes upwards. A older man stepped out, his clothes looking like they had seen better days and his gray-bearded face gaunt as if he hadn't eaten right in years. With a grunt, the older man reached down and cupped his hands under the pilot's arms and lifted upward.

"G-get of me, f-fucker" the pilot huffed, her breath heavy, flecks of blood splattering on the man's clothes as he dragged her beaten body towards the passenger door and quickly flipped it open. With a groan, the old man shoved her inside and with a swiftness jumped back in the driver's seat.

"That was some flying. But I think we both know what happens next." The old man's voice was emotionless, hard as he stared straight ahead into the stalled traffic. The pilot tried to push herself into a upright position, but her arms just throbbed painfully in response. She shifted to face forward as best as she could and fixed the old man with the best glare she could.

"Oh yeah? T-tell me then, you gonna wait for them to put...to put the bounty up first or are you going to be Dudley and take me right to them now?" Her voice was shaky, her breath labored as the adrenaline rapidly drained from her system.

"I might, but I need a pilot, batshit crazy as you might be, more than I need money right now. And I'm sure that whatever career you had before this stunt is laying over there in the wreckage. So, sign on with the Slim Pickings, and you stay out of prison with a job that I can promise you is better than hauling freight around in an undercutter with no legs. Refuse, and you disappear into a black van and I pay my orbital parking fees and maybe treat myself to a nice steak." The old man said as he turned to look her.

He was right, of course. She had just traded her life and career as a cargo pilot for a few minutes of cheap thrills. And with the military grade spoofer that was still sitting in the cockpit...The old man was right, she could either take his deal, or she would spend the rest of her life (or afterlife) inside a small box, never seeing daylight again. She hadn't thought it all through. Had it really been worth losing everything?

"Miss?" The old man frowned with uncertainty.

With every last bit of strength that she could manage, ignoring the screaming pain of a thousand different cuts and bruises and what she was pretty sure was a couple of broken ribs, the pilot slid an arm forward into the old man's line of sight and stretched out her dirty, bloody palm. The old man turned in his seat and slid his leathery hand into hers and clasped it. The pilot gave the old man a bloody grin.

No fear.

"The name is Faora."
_
Last edited by Vocenae on Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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18:34 <Kyrusia> Voc: The one anchor of moral conscience in a sea of turbulent depravity.

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-The Unified Earth Governments-
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Founded: Aug 25, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby -The Unified Earth Governments- » Fri Jul 18, 2014 4:58 pm

Key: Speech within Memory

The Object In The Center Of Everything


[109050.11.13.06.02.60]


Within the hallowed Halls of the Ecumene's capital, as busy Forerunners traverse along the grand walk ways, above them flies past a specifically elaborate Monitor, its light shines through the halls as it floats from location to location, using the buildings elaborate design to its advantage to beat the Forerunners below to its destination without hassle, even other Monitors and Sentinels stayed away, for the Monitors speed assured to others it was in a rush, and its designation as the Contender Class gave it a aura of authority when present.

"It seems no matter how much I try to resist, the call for adventure and learning keeps drawing me in. For as long as I remember my greatest pleasure sin life was analyzing the great monuments of our predecessors, those we call precursors."

The Monitor continued on to its path until it entered a circular room, nearly clear of anyone or anything excluding one entity, one who was of a grand stature, and whos armor commanded obedience, the entity was the Master Builder, Faber. The room itself was hollow and bare, yet it had an uncanny etiquette in its build, the floor was connected to the halls, and was separated by a magnificent arch, and much like the rest of the room, it had a uniform silver gloss, with a blue shine flowing through the small indentation of the structure.

"I have always taken a optimistic stance to research, no matter the potential dangers they have, this one was no different. My Master and dare say friend called me to the Council Chambers to speak to me of a dire request."

The Monitor descended from the heights it has traversed to, it slowly stops in front of the figure there, who quietly motioned with his right hand a graceful wave, and thus calling a blue dome to pop up at the rooms center.

"Ah, there you are Master Builder, I heard you required my presence within these chambers?" The monitor asked, and to this the Forerunner tightened his hand, creating an image of a Black hole from the dome before him.

"Yes, I require you to help me analyze this, installation." The Master Builder responded, with this he loosened his hand into the fine point with his index and middle finger, the Monitor turned to the image before him to se a strange object be revealed around the black hole.

"Oh my, what is this structure?" The Monitor asked once more, with a hint of child like astonishment.

"I do not know, however this could prove an important asset to our Ecumene." The Master Builder replied, the Monitor looking back.

"I should hurry then no? If we do not understand it soon, then-" The monitor was interrupted

"I understand your worry Solace, but do not. The Installations are currently just a dream and so long as the Prometheans stand united they will not agree to their construction, they must be removed." The Master Builder turned around, and under his helmet a face full for scorn.

"You know I can never agree with such, you already have the Lifeworkers and Builders in agreement, is that not enough?"

"It never is Solace, it never is." The Master Builder turned around. "You know what to do, this data could potentiality aid me in my campaign for dominance, or at least give our people a greater treasure, this Precursor structure, it is our birth right, and I will have it!"

"Little did I know at the time, this was to set me up to indirectly to be a part of something greater than myself."

The Monitor floats away as the Master Builder remains where he stands, and while they may have separated, they both mirror each others actions, contemplating on the events that are unfolding. As the Monitor flew back the way it came, it is stopped by a Sentinel which intercepted his flight, just briefly however, as it is just a messenger. From the sentinels strange mouth piece, came a strange static sound, which quickly cleared up to reveal the voice of a woman calling to the monitor.

"01-072 Uncharted Solace, it is good to speak to such a gifted monitor again."

Solace responded. "Librarian, it is an honor, if you don't mind me asking, why do you call me?"

"I wish to ask you of something important, I am planning something once my husband has finished his campaign against the Humans." The Librarian spoke once more, and Solace was now intrigued.

"My current protocols have me required to reach Centerpoint immediately, ancient artifacts and all that require quite the effort to analyze and understand."

"Solace, dear." The Librarian speaking as calmly and softly as she could. "I just require a small time to talk to you, I won't hold you up to it, but consider my proposition at least."

Solace looked around, trying to figure out what to best choose.

"Very well Librarian, what exactly is your proposition."


I'm going to write a few more of these, these are simply small tid-bit stories not as big as what I am going to write later, but they are simply to get some sort of connection ready for me and Federal Unions stories, I am not sure if he is going to do something himself to set up a tone, I myself am going to write a couple of small Terminal based stories, nothing large, though they will get much longer (Around average for what has been here so far.) when they get closer to the point of where me and FU's RP take place. Sorry if this is too short, if you want I can add them all up into once post.


Note: I'm going to add more later to make it longer and to give my next tid bit a greater understanding.
Last edited by -The Unified Earth Governments- on Sat Jul 19, 2014 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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/// A.N.N. \\\
News - 10/27/2558: Deglassing of Reach is going smoother than expected. | First prototype laser rifle is beginning experimentation. | The Sangheili Civil War is officially over, Arbiter Thel'Vadam and his Swords of Sanghelios have successfully eliminated remaining Covenant cells on Sanghelios. | President Ruth Charet to hold press meeting within the hour on the end of the Sangheili Civil War. | The Citadel Council official introduces the Unggoy as a member of the Citadel.

The Most Important Issue Result - "Robosexual marriages are increasingly common."

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Kyrusia
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Founded: Nov 12, 2007
Capitalizt

Postby Kyrusia » Fri Jul 18, 2014 9:04 pm


The hull screamed in discord; somewhere, something heavy broke free, sending a dull, cascading echo through the central spine of the frigate. A crewman - his name didn't matter - screamed about the shield's integrity dropping below eighty percent. His words were punctuated by a volley of missile impacts and the klaxon of signature painting. In the great, debris-littered black beyond the cacophonous sanctum of the vessel, ill-doers danced through point-defense clusters and launched interceptor drones to counter-act the automated defense screen their beloved, lauded Karachk-class continued to bloom. In the distance, that bastard sat upon some glittering, metallic throne, no doubt shouting orders through spittle and flapping jowls, demanding recompense; demanding a halt to the day's festivities - demanding whatever pieces of her might remain once the photon-fire fizzled-out and the relativistic drives of the torpedoes finally wound down.

It wasn't meant to be this way.

Through a snarl of bestial tears, she ground her teeth - white-to-white. A molar shuddered, then cracked, splitting. The wince of pain that ricocheted along her jaw did little to satiate the welling agony that twisted in her gut, turning and rolling like a day's old meal gone sour. She tasted vomit; it was welcomed. Something, anything, to try and pull away, to break free. No such luck - not even when nuclear fire washed across a portion of the bridge's omnidirectional virtual displays, fizzling their photo-sensors into waterfalls of black and gray static. More shouting about the shielding and defensive envelope; someone was crying over the engines refusing to cycle. He hadn't been able to fix that.

No. No! Dammit, no; it isn't!

The communications station - unmanned - lit-up into life; a man with garbled speech came across the line, shouting in broken Atokai. They were curses, vulgar atrocities of the tongue decrying the crew of the assault frigate and her to whatever infernal afterlife of torment they chose to believe existed. It was cut-off by a shorted fuse; the whole of the communications station fell silent. Someone informed the bridge the ansible had taken damage; no one - especially her - seemed to raise their heads. Each member of the crew were far more involved in the steady Morse code of kinetic fire that pierced the vessel's shielding, sending almost play "tick-tack" orchestrations reverberating through every corridor and across heavy bulkhead.

It wasn't that they didn't wish to return fire; each one, in some way, damned their former employer. For many, it was personal; for others, it was a matter of bad business practices. Their condemnations were irrelevant, however; the computer didn't care. No matter the beatings the fire control station took, none of their batteries came online, no missile rack, no torpedo hexa-pod. They were lucky he had managed to get the point-defense radials online. That was the only thing keeping the most potent bands of the maelstrom outside from getting in, from soaking them in its irradiated death.

This isn't what I dreamed.

Digging her fingers into the small pedestal in front of her, the frigate bowed and shook; sirens and klaxon calls of hull penetration somewhere in a maintenance line filled the bridge, managing to drown-out the furious shouts and wails of the crew. Even still, it did not shake her; only rage dwelt behind those pale, blue eyes. "Bombardier's eyes" he had called them; the eyes of determination and decisiveness, of fortitude and leadership. As she stood, grease and grime staining her face, only then trails of sorrow exposing the pallid white beneath it, she couldn't imagine such to be true. No leadership; no determination; no courage. Something was broken, and no amount of her will or the pure abhorrence which scoured her veins could call such praised characteristics from beneath the muddied depths of misery that consumed her very being. Something? She was broken - shattered, all parts cast to the winds and left to fall where they may, never to be found, never to be reconstituted.

I can't do this. I can't.

More shouting. Corvettes were dancing in the defensive envelope outside of the craft; they were getting closer. They'd be able to board soon; a high-powered or mounted disassembler could pierce the hull, given time. The point-defense arrays simply couldn't hold them off forever; even if they could, that bastard would, no doubt, sacrifice every man, woman, and child within his retinue just to get that ship back, just to see the brigands whom had commandeered it bleeding, just to see her groveling for penance and paying whatever price her body could bear not to meet his killing pistol. That bastard, sitting in his battlecruiser, sitting in his high-powered toy, clawing, fighting, trying desperately to get back the one some other had managed to snag from his toy chest - greedy, avaricious, the norm.

Hellish pillars of gaser-light bloomed, narrowly missing the Karachk-class, spilling illumination of a nigh-blinding tenacity onto the bridge through the projected battlescreens; someone - current or former crew, it didn't matter - had curled-up in the corner. They sought solace in weeping into their own groin; they prayed to some god whose name no other man knew. They were getting desperate; that bastard himself was taking things personally and had begun to take drastic measures. Someone called that the cruiser's spinals were cycling-up. Desperate. Soon, both her and the mismatched crew of co-conspirators would be little more than carbonized particulate, plastered across the proverbial windshield of retributive justice. The bastard didn't care about seeing them anymore, didn't care about the ship, didn't even care about personally taking his pounds of flesh out her; he just cared for the problem to be gone, and - apparently - he intended to spare no expense in ensuring such a fortuitous outcome.

It's over. We've failed. I can't do this.

The sirens increased their wail and several red-glow fixtures shattered along the periphery of the bridge. Gaser fire had pierced both shielding and armor; the hull glowed with direct, structural damage. It was a lucky hit, but those weren't difficult when the engines refused to turn over. All it would take was one C-beam impact from that bastard's spinals, and she knew it. One solitary blow, and they'd be gutted - one side to the other, like a fish on a spear. That's all it had taken before: one choice, one error, one stupid fucking rookie trying to play hero. She could feel the pain in her jaw growing intense; she knew she didn't care and never could have cared. Never would. There was no point; her dream - their dream - was gone. All that remained was a broken corpse and a broken ship that couldn't even cycle-up for a chance at escape. It was over, and she knew it.

It's over. I can't do this. I can't do this without you.

"I am here," a voice broke-out over the bridge, seemingly killing the shouts and cries of the crew in the same moment it silenced every blaring klaxon and dimmed every flashing sparkler. "I- I am here," it said again, the voice wavering and terse - stressed and broken as if speaking in an unfamiliar place to equally unfamiliar people.

Finli's eyes - her eyes - jerked open abruptly. For a moment, she resisted the urge to laugh; she knew she was dead - passed and drifting in the aether. No doubt the C-beam had stuck one of the jauntcores and pumped it into criticality. They were all dead; there was no other explanation for hearing his voice.

"I- uhm... I managed to flash my myself before," the silence in his pause seemed to draw on longer and longer, "Be- Before the computer managed to defend itself. Uhm... I think I can get things working. But... Well... There's no easy way of putting this..."

"Break her back," Finli stated, seemingly to herself. Someone was speaking to her. "Break her back," she announced again, louder. Again, someone was speaking to her. "I said: fucking break her back!" the shout broke-out over the bridge, causing her crew to turn to her. For the first time, she looked out onto the visual displays projecting the battle and relevant information before them. Shield integrity was approaching nil, the armor was holding, but the damage from the gaser fire had damaged the hull itself causing a depreciation in its overall effectiveness. It seemed, by some miracle, that the point-defense arrays had managed to keep the boarding vessels on their toes; such in combination with that bastard's impatience and constant missile and torpedo barrages had spooked many of the corvette's helmsmen, causing them to flee once one approached. It had bought them time.

"Finli", a large, middle-aged man spoke; his tone was soft, but stern, and the faint gravel of a whiskey-torn throat seemed to give his speech an almost soothing rhythm, "The key."

She looked down. In her hands she held the key to Wildfire. It was a small, flat, red, rectangular hulk of metal; another like it - a twin of titanium tone - was placed and locked into the pedestal before her - a pedestal supporting the man-with-no-face whom she'd pummeled in a fit of berserk ferocity for both the key and out of some misbegotten, blinding fury.

"Y- Yes," the wavering voice stated once more, the faint synthetic lull it carried before fading as he spoke, "That would do it - I think. The powerdrain, I mean. It'd force a shutdown. It... It could work."

Finli - captain of the Karachk-class, Atokai assault frigate, a mundane hull fashioned around something known as "Wildfire" which, soon, would harken the name of the Sittin' Pretty - looked back to her hands. They were bruised; at least one knuckle was broken, shattered by the neck-guard of the poor soul she'd seen fit to release her desperation into what seemed like an eternity ago. She felt the misery, the torment, the agony of his loss within her; yet, as she stood, noting each face of her crew which stared at her, begging her to act, she felt them subsiding, those characteristics he adored so well selling to the surface.

With a single, fluid motion, she drove the key into its port and turned it. Then... nothing.

Several moments passed. Someone announced that the battlecruiser's spinals were nearly fully energized, that another missile volley was quickly approaching. Yet, all would be well. Softly, over the speakers reserved for the use of the navigation and primary control computer's intelligence agent, he said: "I love you."

In less than a passing second, many actions occurred which seemed wholly unprovoked by the crew. Every terminal and station - at least amongst those which had not shorted or been damaged in the fire-fight undertaken to seize the vessel - abruptly flashed red, their visual displays changing in tone, displaying flashing locks and large, striped bars of orange and scarlet, indicating a complete lock-out of personnel from their consoles. Groans filled not merely the bridge, but every nook and cranny of the Karachk-class; crew members stopped their duties, looking up and around, trying desperately to ascertain the source of the anguished moaning their vessel had suddenly seen fit to exude. It was as if the very heart of the ship was quaking, and the whole of its body saw fit to tear itself asunder.

With echoing screams throughout the interior of the frigate, large coolant pods exploded outward along the spine of the vessel, spewing forth steaming coolant into the blackness of debris-littered space like geysers of blue-glowing vulcanism. The missile volley from that bastard's cruiser impacted and struck head-long into the shielding that, despite its stated integrity, seemed to wholly absorb their impact; a crewman echoed that telemetry wasn't even indicating baleful radiation had managed to paint the plated hull. Yet, just as celebration began to break-out - premature as it might be - consoles across the craft began to dim, flicker, then switch into inactivity, shutting down. Just as all electronic life seemed to escape from the bridge, someone shouted that all six of the primary jauntcores were approaching full criticality. Disaster, certainly, was on the minds of most; a cognitive dissonance - a disconnect - from their survivor's, premature jubilant folly.

Though few knew aside from the sudden stillness that filled the inner corridors of the frigate, in that moment, shielding fell to zero and they all stood defenseless to any barrage that might approach...

From the forward bow of the Karachk-class, a wildfire bloomed. Numerous arrays of coolant pods jerked out from the hull of the craft as two, massive bores - the maws of that massive spinal - began to ignite and glow in irradiation release. Pods and ports sprayed coolant in a single solitary wave stretching from the very back of the craft, expanding forward with increasing speed and viciousness, before the gates of heaven opened and seemingly-divine grace blew free from the Atokai vessel.

Two mutual beams erupted from the face of the vessel, directed solely at that bastard's battlecruiser - massive as it was by comparison; streaming through the expanse of space, they obviated at least three boarding corvettes merely through proximity, sending them flying in bright, sparking plumes of gas and emission. These menial craft did little to stop its advance; as it barreled onward, a locomotive without an engineer, they grew tighter, more focused, each twin slowly growing smaller and closer to its partner. Just aft of that bastard's center, they struck, before flashing away. What followed was catastrophic, though somewhere deep in Finli's vessel, a small switch flipped, and it vanished wholly from the field of battle, consumed in the glinting, dark opalescence of a jaunt-field, lifted-off somewhere unknown - no doubt, much to the chagrin of that bastard whom had first sought its commission and, with no small degree of his fortune, specifically sought the design of the weapon which had just struck his vessel.

Along the battlecruiser's hull, rivets broke free and plates cracked. In a flash - a devastating eruption of one of the vessel's spinal capacitors - a yawning, colorless maw of a black-body, horizon singularity blossomed out from the center of the craft, cleaving it almost cleaning in two, siphoning internal atmosphere, structure, coolant, people, even light into its heart, only the electro-gravitational attraction of such a relatively small, if but densely energetic region managing to keep the vessel from falling apart and drifting. Even so, the calamity was brief, and a mere thirty seconds following the kugelblitz's ignition, it decayed and evaporated, leaving naught but that bastard and his lackeys to float and drift along in the two, hulking masses that had once been one.

That bastard cursed them in futility, ignorant of the vexation they already had been forced to bear.
Last edited by Kyrusia on Fri Jul 18, 2014 9:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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-The Unified Earth Governments-
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Founded: Aug 25, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby -The Unified Earth Governments- » Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:21 am

Key: Speech within Memory

Dark Propositions and Light Demands


[100000.07.04.12.10.02]


Erde-Tyrene
01-072 Uncharted Solace


From the calm lakes, to the robust mountains, the serene view of the local was perfect, Past the various trees and sitting just a hundred meters away from the tranquil lake, was a base, a Forerunner bunker of sorts, and from it came the monitor Uncharted Solace. The monitor flew up into the heavens, above the tall pine trees of the forest below, looking outwards to the world below it. Various small deer were grazing within the outskirts of the forest, calmly eating grass and caring for their young, feeling a slight ascension in boredom, the monitor moved to watch over the deer itself, slowly taking its time to look at all the wonders this world has brought it. As the monitor continued its journey it turned slightly to the lake, which was connected to the rushing river, just as he viewed a salmon being engulfed by the maw of a Bear, a sudden jolt came to him, a skip in his programmings flow left him slightly confused, just before a spark came to him, after a few minutes of stating still, Solace noticed he hasn't moved since, and with that, he started moving, picking up pace to make up for lost time.

"I remember so much of my past now, I know not if it is a fix within the errors I have accumulated over these long stretches of time, of if the inflicted run times have self deleted after exhausting all other alternatives. Now that my memory core is finally freed up from its former constraints, I can clearly remember why I have been placed into my role, I don't recall why I have forgot, a part of me wonders if my sympathy has grown to this planet to much, especially since its end is coming so soon."

The monitor has finally made its way towards the deer, some look up to it but do not worry, probably because their understanding of it is below primitive. The Deer go back to eating the grass below them and the mothers finish feeding their children which start to hop around near their parents. The joy they expressed, so simple, so primitive, in fact primitive is an overstatement, these animals were probably not even self aware, Solace never took the time to test the various intelligence of the animals of this world, only one species here was truly worthy of being called intelligent, even if their old legacy has been demolished, and their land reverted to its old state. As Solace enjoyed the presentation and joy of life before him, his sensors picked something up, and he moved to see various dots.

"Oh my, and they must be here now, oh how I remember their fall, and more ever I am saddened by this, I don't know why really."




Forerunner Capital - 101000.06.02.10.08.33
01-072 Uncharted Solace


It has been many years since Uncharted Solace has last talked in person to his master, it it was now that he could finally see his great masters plan reach fruition. As the monitor flew through the halls once more, it came upon the same route it took centuries ago, and after using a small port it entered a room, unlike last time it was not barren, it was now sporting an entire congress of Forerunners, with a Forerunner representing a rate standing within the center, and within that center, was the plans for Halo.

"I assume my sadness can place its origins in this conflict, and as well the reason why all life will now cease to exist, if only temporarily, it was during a Council meeting in our capital, where Faber followed his words, it is only that what I expected, and what happened were different results, and it was this that made me question the Master Builders sanity, as well wonder why he wanted me to check that installation, the data was useful yes, but for this? I simply do not understand where Faber was going with it."

In the center, the Master Builder, one of the moderately sized Forerunners began to speak with a commanding voice.

"My fellow Council, it is clear now that the Prometheans and their Warrior Servant rate is no longer able to fulfill their role. We can see here now they will not budge on their decision to vote against the construction of Halo, an series of rings that will benefit our people immensely, thus I declare we should end their service in our society, and force them to change, recede, or die!"

A small applause came from some of the Forerunner sin attendance, most of them builders. A slightly larger Forerunner with a much more sinister and an even more commanding voice was about to kill the Master Builder, at least it seemed as if he was going to use his might to choke the life out of him, but the graceful hand of a much smaller Forerunner, the Librarian calmed him down, he spoke.

"Faber..." The use of his name angered the Master Builder. "Your arrogance has not surprised me yet, instead of accepting our denial of participation with the construction of this...Halo, you instead demand our immediate condescension not only as a rate, but as a participant within our culture and society. If I had it my way, you would have been casted aside already, yet the cowardice within your own rate has brought you to grow in power even more, and your usefulness must continue to be questioned."

"The builders are necessary Didact, the Warrior Servants are not." The master Builder retorted.

"May I remind you who won the war against the Humans, without us, they would have striped us of our worlds one by one, as unprofessional forces tried using tools they are not properly rained to use, without me, without my Prometheans, our society wouldn't exist." The Didact responded.

"Whether you like it or not Didact, our society is at peace, and your usefulness as long ended upon the dirt apes secession from space!" The Master Builders description of Humanity made the Librarian cringe, however it was all aside the Didact who focused on his rival's words.

"What you are proclaiming and running for threatens the stability of this Council and our civilization! Know this Faber, I will kill you if you do anything to try and force our destruction, and this is no empty threat, this is a declaration." The Didact hissed, his furious expression hidden beneath his helmet.

"See how this so called leader of a caste threatens my life for wishing his rate at least converted to something else, perhaps we should wipe them out instead!"

At this the Didact started to motion his hand, ready to use this constraint field to kill Faber, but a sudden energy came from the air, and a couple of Sentinels flew down to restore order. The Librarian was about to speak, but she held her voice as more Sentinels poured in, she held her hands to herself and looked around before leaving her Husband and Faber, Solace saw this and flew towards her.

"Oh my, now I remember her specific predicament, now I remember why she needed me."




Erde-Tyrene
01-072 Uncharted Solace


From the edge of the small clearing in the forest, movement can be detected. Small rustling can be heard and spears line up from to grass, what appears to be animal pelts slowly rise up from the tall grass before dipping back into the cover. Like a hungry predator, the stalking creatures move into a formation to corner the deer, the spears starting to pint forwards as they make their way towards the edge of the grass. As the deer continue to graze, the hunters stop slowly just before the edge of the grass, the spears visible now layed flat on the ground, as the deer turn around in their activity, several entities appear from the grass, and Solace now observes the beings arriving from cover.

"Ah yes...Humanity, how far the mighty have fallen."

Without hesitation the Humans run out towards the deer causing the to scatter and retreat into the woods, one buck however has an injured leg and is trailing behind, the Humans easily catching up, Solace observes the chase as the injured deer runs with all its might, but it is not enough and the Humans get too close for comfort. Without hesitation one Human throws their spear into the back of the deers hide, stopping it right away and causing the poor animal to squeal before another thrown spear impacts its ribs. As the deer comes to a stop, slowly dieing from the impacts, a final human walks up and thrust his spear into the deers face, killing it and ending the animals suffering. Solace watched the entire thing, a small breeze called to the Humans hunt being successful.

"Oh my, I have forgotten how brutish hunting was, it appears Humans are still quite deadly despite being primitive hunters and gatherers." As the Humans begin to skin the deer, and as the sun began to set, Solace reminisced once more into his past.




Center of the Galaxy - Unidentified Precursor Structure - Forerunner Observation Installation
01-072 Uncharted Solace


So many years ago, I remember my initial imperatives that have been asked of me by my master.
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/// A.N.N. \\\
News - 10/27/2558: Deglassing of Reach is going smoother than expected. | First prototype laser rifle is beginning experimentation. | The Sangheili Civil War is officially over, Arbiter Thel'Vadam and his Swords of Sanghelios have successfully eliminated remaining Covenant cells on Sanghelios. | President Ruth Charet to hold press meeting within the hour on the end of the Sangheili Civil War. | The Citadel Council official introduces the Unggoy as a member of the Citadel.

The Most Important Issue Result - "Robosexual marriages are increasingly common."

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Lotrabme
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Founded: Sep 03, 2010
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Lotrabme » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:14 am

The Parasite:
#1 The Converter


[ Mature ]


Chapter 1:

The light of the nearby sun Rigel Kent B made the bridge glow in orange-yellow light through its faux-window. Warmaster Yonamee in his fur Warmaster cloak and black and red bodysuit sat upon the command throne, bathed in the orange starlight which made his eye ridges and cheek bones cast a horned shadow on the door behind him. Commander Rikaron entered the room behind, squinting slightly at the brightness of the sun through the false window.

"Does it need to be so bright sir?" said Rikaron coming towards his Warmaster.

Yonamee turned to face his friend: "I wanted to really feel my native sun. Bask in its warmth and light."

"I do need to show you something if you want to turn it down, apparently the Admiralty has messaged you in the past hour" said Rikaron glancing at the Warmaster, to which he said: "Decrease solar intensity by 25%, return viewscreen to normal parameters."

"Normal parameters achieved" said a robotic voice as the room went back to its normal indigo and white lighting and the orange star became dimmer and showed its true distance of 185 million miles.

"Show me Ben, what does the Admiralty want?" said Yonamee looking to the data-pad that the Commander carried. "Its on a priority channel, apparently they want to speak to you alone."

The Warmaster was slightly concerned now, and stood up from the throne. "Have it patched to the Ward Room, I'll speak to them there."

"Very good sir" said Rikaron, commanding some of the other bridge officers to make the proper connections for the Warmaster.

Reaching the ward room Yonamee sat down in one of the chairs at the table, turning in it to face the screen, which showed the 8 point Compass of the Mind Empire before turning into the face of a seated Haman and a Malluman behind him.

Bowing his head the Warmaster said "Minister Wamron, Patriarch Qornamee, what do you require of me?" in a humbled voice.

Orson Wamron, 2nd Minister of Xenobiology, answered: "Warmaster, the Patriarch has informed me of both your loyalty and your skill, and thus, I have need of your assistance in this matter."

"Tell me Minister, and I shall complete your task" said the Warmaster looking up at the aged Haman on the screen.

"In the past 2 months" began the Minister in a slow and methodical voice "5 cargo ships of our Merchant fleet, and 2 of the Nulolm Cartel's vessels have gone of the radar, with only trace signals of their distress beacons left." After a long pause, the

Minister said: "Tell me Warmaster, are you familiar with the Parasite?"

"Accounts from the expedition fleets are required reading at the academy Minister" said the Warmaster "but that is all I know".

"Then you are as well armed as I can make you" said the Minister with a solemn look on his ancient face "Your task is to travel to the system designated Cyrano, as the distress beacons lead us to there round the 3rd world. We believe the parasite is behind the disappearance, and we need someone to take a look. If it is another Parasite wave, I want you to collect a sample of one of them, and try to dispose of as many as you can and warn us of their intent. We are already making preparations but we have to be sure we aren't chasing a ghost."

With a stern look of no emotion, only obedience, Yonamee said "I am at your service Minister."

The Minister left the screen, and the Patriarch said to the Warmaster "Good luck Warmaster, you will need it."Nodding at the advice, the screen went back to the 8 point compass, and Yonamee returned to the bridge, to inform his flag officers of their possibly grisly fate.

------------------------------------------

Chapter 2:

The psychic adept Ravana and Commander Rikaron each sat beside the Warmaster as they phased to the Cyrano system. It was 85 lightyears rimward from Hame, so the trip was difficult to triangulate but was achievable without a stabilizer.

Vizier Bolamee entered the bridge-room, not wearing his helmet and showing his icy blue scales. His deep red eyes met Rikarons, both shared a quick moment of understanding before Bolamee spoke in his gravelly tone: "If I may say so sir, I don't think this is the wisest idea."

"An order is an order Vizier" said the Warmaster "and though I concur that this order lacks logic, I cannot but obey the Admiralty."

"Sir" said Bolamee in disbelief "No one has survived the parasite in a single vessel, even the Leviathans may fall prey to them. You should remember from the vids and the reports that Octavian I's and Baylock I's fleets were nearly annihilated and we had to glass the Minor moon of Gummatarse and abandon Alpharon and Omegon's planets for a century before the Berqaanjiwas starved to death, and even still the beacons remain!"

"The threat against us in this mission is great Vizier, I and you and everyone on this ship knows this" said Yonamee turning in his chair and standing to see his Vizier, Rikaron and Ravana stood as well. Yonamee continued "Though we walk through death's own ambush we cannot have fear of these formless spawn."

"We will surely die" said Bolamee. "which would impede upon our service. I for one am not ready to retire."

"Where is the Bolamee I knew on Tao? Where is my Vizier who helped me in my duel on his home Andaios moon?" said Yonamee raising his arms in the air to shrug, looking at his Vizier. "If he is not strong against the parasite, than what hope can we have."

"I will stand by your side Warmaster" said Bolamee "I just wanted to be sure you knew the ramifications of your actions, and what we may be walking into."

"I face that reality every day of my service for the Empire Vizier" said Yonamee returning to his seat, and as he turned he said "Though I appreciate the sentiment."

Bolamee sat and with a slight grin on his face shut his eyes.

As the ship came out of warp the image of a planet in the distance appeared, probably 600,000 miles in the distance, with its native sun shining its yellow light, and a small moon in close proximity to the planet was visible.

"Sir" said one Haman adjuncts monitoring the radar "the vessels that have gone missing as well as several unidentified vessels have been detected orbiting the planet. I'd say a total of 359 as far as my scans go."

"Indeed" said Yonamee, looking at the planet. "Magnify view of the world" he said in a command as the planet came into a closer view on the screen. The world seemed to be mostly land and desert, with wisps of clouds in the air, and a large black sea encompassing the planet.

"Why do I get the feeling that's not water" said Rikaron looking at the ocean.

"Ravana, can you detect any mental activity on or around the world?" said the Warmaster turning to the psychic woman.

Holding both hands to her head as she sat in a cross legged position she said "There is one massive signal with many derivations, it is hard to make out, but there is similarity to the Hive minds of the Nebulans to some degree. I believe I am sensing the mass minds of the parasites." She looked distressed for a moment, saying "There is one who has broken the chain, it is powerful and it is trying to speak to us."

Soon every Haman on the bridge could feel it, and visible or concealed mental annoyance came over them, some experienced pain, others only felt a small buzz. The Mallumans reacted in a similar manner, but as they were less powerfully psychic it did not harm them as much.

Suddenly, as everyone began to recover, the screen flickered on, and a black mass appeared before them on the screen. The Mass of goop seemed to shout and growl before forming a humanoid head, looking like a black statue of a pharaoh of Old Aegypt, and spake: "Who comes before us?"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 3:

"Who, or what, wants to know?" said Yonamee, stern at the sight of this new apparition on the screen. This Ooze seemed intelligent, and it made everyone viewing it feel off. Especially since the face wasn't entirely right.

"Nyarlathotep, I speak for us" said the black pharaoh shaped ooze "I am but a drop in the ocean, and the ocean has become the drop"

"So speaker" said Yonamee "why have you taken our vessels?"

"All these vessels are part of our Ocean now, part of our being, and you have not answered my question Malluman."

"You know my race? Then you shall know my name" said the Warmaster "I am Warmaster Skrlxya Yonamee of the Mind Empire. Those ships are our property, and the lives of our people are dear to us, if they live yet may you give them to us?"

"They are with us now" said Nyarlathotep "part of the Ocean, all become a piece of our body, you would make a good addition Warmaster."

"I must reject that offer" said Yonamee sternly, looking at the black pharaoh with eyes of will.

"If you will not come willingly, you will be devoured by force. I have offered you peace but you have rejected it" said Nyarlathotep taking on its gooey form. "WE WHILLL DEVOUUUAR THEM AWLLLLLH" it said as it seemly melted and his image vanished from the viewscreen.

"We have incoming contacts!" said an adjunct reading the radar "the ships around the planet are beginning to come towards us, and they've launched something, fighters or drones it looks like."

"Magnify" said Yonamee looking at the screen. Upon closer inspection it seemed these drones were in fact spores of the Parasite, approaching at a high velocity. Yonamee in quick thinking said "Immediate acceleration, activate! Prepare to warp us to Alpharon." He said this as he hooked his head up to the Pilot interface of the Gungnir and the ship thrusted forward out of the direction of the spores, which soon changed their course towards the ship, which began to fade out of their current location and into the Alpharon system. The spores closed in fast, one attaching to the ship, but the ship made it through before more could latch on.

-----------------------------------------------

Chapter 4:

Appearing 600,000 miles from the grey orb of Alpharon c, the Gungnir came into reality. Its 3 mile long hull reflected the red star along its silver body as the frontal thrusters brought the ship to a halt. As the ship began to park and spin in place Warmaster Yonamee looked up at the screen which was flashing an alert.

"What is it Gungnir?" He asked the ship.

"Engine tether hull has been breached in compartment 127, from the scans, we have been latched onto by the parasite."

"Vile fluid!" said Yonamee in anger that his ship had been attached. Clicking on the ship speaker he said "All hands, we have a breach and an infestation on our hands. The Parasite must be eliminated. Plasma burners will be required for your defense of this vessel."

"Ravana" said the Warmaster to his psychic adept "I want you to keep us in battle meditation, I don't want the crew to be unnecessarily frightened."

"Of course sir" she said as her eyes began to glow white.

"Rikaron, you have the bridge. Bolamee, Alia, activate the drones, and then I want you with me Vizier, with your picked men" said Yonamee as he left the bridge.

"Yes sir, said Bolamee pressing some buttons alongside Lieutenant Alia and donning his helmet, the eyes of which lit up green.

---------------------------------------------

Chapter 5:

Yonamee, now in full black and red body armor and wearing a green eyed helmet like Bolamee's making him look like an insect of some kind, took the gravlift down to the engine levels. The way the ship was built made it look like an elongated and tumorous tower, with the forward thrusters and the shield/reflector on top, and the main engines and heat radiators and fuel compartments on the bottom. The crew quarters, the docking bays, the command center and the habitats were all located in the central bulb between the two tethers. Yonamee was now traversing one of the tethers, having passed the docking bays. As he approached the area the gravlift stopped him and he stepped off, only to see Bolamee and two Battle droids standing at attention.

The Vizier said "Your not going to like this sir" in his characteristically deep and grating voice.

"Try me" said the Warmaster sternly.

The Vizier said blandly: "Several of our engineering drones have been downed, and my men aren't holding out as best as we thought, I've lost 3 already."

"Lets just try to get this thing contained" said the Warmaster "I don't want another ship lost to the Parasite."

"I have a feeling its winning" said Bolamee as they turned a corner only to see a large black mass of liquid consume two Malluman Warriors like a squid and take down 3 battle droids. 17 Others were barraging the fluid with flamethrowers. The mass of blackness seemed to extend for several yards down the hall. The flames kicked up gasses and made the room feel like it was burning entirely, yet the Ooze continued to show its strength
by crawling ever closer at a snails pace.

"Damnation!" Yelled Yonamee through his helmet into the heated room "Get out of here, seal the doors and jettison the compartment, I will not let this spread!"

The battle droids backed out following the retreat of the Warmaster and his Vizier, still blasting the ooze with their flamethrowers as the door sealed. Climbing the Grav-lift again, Yonamee jettisoned the compartment, which flew out into space and after exceeding 400 miles from the ship, it was destroyed by plasma bolt.

After the destruction, several sentinel drones flew out to the wreckage, and finding a small orb of black fluid contained it in a stasis field jar and brought it back to the ship.

----------------------------------

Chapter 6

Now en route back to Hame, Yonamee sat on the bridge with Rikaron and Ravana and brought up the communication feed to Minister Wamron.

"Minister" said Yonamee, still wearing his armor yet without the helmet.

"Ah Warmaster" said the Minister delighted "I am glad to see you are still alive".

"It was indeed the parasite Minister, they have amassed a fleet around Cyrano d, and would have taken the Gungnir but for my mens' sacrifice." said Yonamee looking at the minister in slight disapproval, for having to loose his men for this ministers needs. "I have your sample, 1 milliliter of the Parasite has been collected and is in a stasis field".

"Splendid! And now that we know the threat they present, we can properly defend ourselves. Your mission is complete Warmaster." The minister seemed more concerned about getting the sample of the Parasite.

"One thing I must also bring to your's and the Sages attention minister" said Yonamee pausing a bit.

"Oh? Do tell me" said the Minister, whose interest shifted to this.

"The Parasite tried to... convince us to join it. A mass of the fluid took Haman shape, and spoke to us as though it were a Sage who demanded our loyalty."

"Indeed" said the Minister, "I will study your complete record thoroughly then, it seems the parasite has more up its proverbial sleeves than we imagined."

"On that Minister, we are in agreement" said Yonamee.

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Xiscapia
Postmaster-General
 
Posts: 12822
Founded: Mar 13, 2007
Democratic Socialists

Postby Xiscapia » Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:16 am

Malthana Blues


[ Mature ]



Bone shifted and crunched to make the ganger's ugly face deform even further, cheek caving as his eyes rolled in his head. He dropped gracelessly. The man groaned once and lay still among the wreckage of what had been a table. The word BITCH had been impressed into his forehead, chin and across both cheeks in twisted flesh. Studying it for a moment, the black vixen snorted and stepped over the comatose body, boots crunching broken glass underneath to the tune of the bar's conversations quickly resuming. She dumped herself onto a stool, paying no mind to the thug who was sagging into the counter, head surrounded by the scarlet shards and brownish puddle that had once been his drink.

"Y'know 'dat table and glasses're gettin' put on ya tab, right?"

She waved a hand, dismissing that as the Zillar bartender refilled her glass. He knew she couldn't pay, but he also knew better than to force the issue. Things tended to happen to people who tried to force issues with the kitsune who they called Yo. Violent things. Watching the swill pour into her cup, she slowly removed the stained brass knuckles, right hand first, then left. A blood cloth made for a katana appeared out of her back pocket and she began to clean them, lovingly going over each letter. The U was traced and padded at by deceptively delicate fingers, soaking up the ichor that covered it, along with the R and the Y-O-'S that made up one half of the knuckle, and the B-I-T-C-H for the other. The lettering was oddly shaped to get all of it onto the space provided, but the knuckles themselves were well-made and the vixen never parted with them.

Behind her shapes were moving, either friends of the gangers edging in to collect them or possibly opportunists looking to strip whatever they could off the bodies. They moved warily, and she could feel their eyes on her when her ears swiveled in their direction, but she ignored them. None of the Greali rogues would bother her ever again. Curling her tail around, she used the limb to lift her cup up to her muzzle, drinking deeply. She wasn't drunk yet, but she wished she was.

"Your handiwork, I take it?"

The corpse toppled out of its seat with the scrape of glass and a thud and another kitsune slid in beside her. Where she wore her typical tight-fitting trousers and an A-shirt he was better dressed in a blend of furred leather and strategically positioned ceramic plates for an outfit that was both warm and protective. Under the bronzed skins and ebony armor the tod himself was a handsome silver-gray with confident orange eyes. He wore a Sennai Clydesdale heavy pistol on one hip but neither of his hands strayed near it as he brushed the glass off the bar to sprinkle onto the dead man. In moments he had a drink in hand.

Finished with her knuckles, she inspected them a final time before sliding each weapon into a front pocket. "Not really."

"Come on, Yo," he laughed. "Six men dead and you with blood on your knuckles and you're not claiming you did it?"

"They committed suicide."

"Oh yeah? And what led them to do that?"

"That one jostled me," the vixen named Yo kicked at the body. "Then he jostled his head into the counter."

"And the rest of them just jostled their faces into your knucks, huh?"

"Yup. Ask anyone here."

He made a show of looking around, ears perked. "This lot all look like the kind of upstanding people I would trust with suicide details," he said as one of the shapes behind them knelt down over a body with a pair of pliers.

Her drink was already empty. Sighing, Yo pulled out a roll of gauze and started to wrap her knuckles, watching the off-white stain itself red where she was bleeding through the fur. "What do you want, Uruk?"

"Hey, is that any way to treat an old friend?"

"I seem to remember you leaving me high and dry during that scheme of yours out on Benedict," she turned and finally looked at him without stopping the wrapping. "I almost did time for that after you fucked up the ledgers. Easy money, you said. Nobody ever looks into those little coastal hotels, you said. It'll be like a vacation, you said. And there I am, bent over a squad car with a Silarian cop shoving her fingers up my ass."

"Well that sounds like a vacation to me-"

"Fuck you." Having wrapped the one hand, she flexed her fingers and started on the other. "I'm lucky they let me out on probation. Meanwhile you're way the fuck off somewhere else, spending that money. So no, we're not friends."

"Alright, alright. Business associates, then?"

"You still haven't told me what you want."

"I just wanted to know how you're doing. As a concerned business associate."

"I was a security type for a Boolean merchie out of Rennas until a week ago. Fool decided he didn't want to put me down on his expense report, so he left me here for the last leg home, with no pay. If there's any justice in the universe he's getting skull-fucked by pirates right now."

"You've always had a way with words, Yo," Uruk was grinning. He was always smiling, even at things that weren't funny. "So you're stranded."

"Do I look like I've got a thruster hidden up my ass?"

"No, but I like the look of what you did to those guys," he jerked a thumb over his shoulder and leaned in. "I've gotten a small team together to go planetside. We're looking for a bit of equipment from the Dan War, and we've managed to narrow it down to a pretty small area. I've got a good pilot, a guide, a veteran who knows what we're looking for, somebody to handle all the heavy lifting and a guard, and myself of course, but we could use somebody else on security. I don't know this girl real well, see, but I know you, Yo. You can fuck shit up."

Yo tapped her claws on the bar counter, for once ignoring the alcohol in front of her. The crack of pliers fitting themselves around a tooth made her ears flick. "And you're not going to just up and scram on this one."

"I've sunk a good bit of credits into this. Already got a buyer lined up and everything. Just have to find the damn things."

She grunted. "So what's the catch?"

Uruk gave that razor grin she knew so well. "Just a little thing called the Danaversian Civil War. They don't really bother this station, they're more interested in the even bigger shithole down planetside. Fuck if I know why, but there's two clans down there duking it out, and this isn't Republic-sanctioned space. If we go down there then we're on our own, no rescue if we get into trouble. And from what I've heard they're still taking prisoners. For the flesh market, you know."

"How the hell is this worth it?"

"Well, for one, we're going down to a part of the planet with no big military bases, outside of the war zones. Very isolated. For another..." He named a figure.

Yo stared at him. "That's how much the buyer's taking the stuff for?"

"That's how much your take would be. After a seven-way split. More or less."

Inhaling, she blew out through her snout and drained her glass in one gulp. She still wasn't drunk, or at least not drunk enough to fool herself into thinking that this was a good idea. But she looked back at him. "Deal. I'd punch the Empress in the tits for that kind of money."

Uruk grinned. "I'll see you in docking bay 94."

----

The bay was a sorry affair. Cramped, dimly-lit and with a deck that was scraped and burned from many drunken and inexpert landings, it hardly looked enough for the average drone, never mind an entire starship. But there was a ship there, and a half dozen people besides. Uruk greeted her with a wave of a hand. "Yo! C'mon over, I want to introduce you to the team before we get started."

Padding over, she twitched her nose at the strong smell of coolant but didn't say anything, regarding the group through narrow yellow eyes. It seemed the tod had his pick of all sorts from across AXIS space, as he usually did. A Zillar in a flight suit was leaning against the starship and reading diagnostics off a wrist computer while an Alversian woman with deep, golden mocha skin stood politely from a crate and gave a little bow that Yo nodded at. A painfully thin man with almond-shaped eyes looked over his shoulder at her as he carried a space heater from the hanger and up the ramp of the ship. Off to one side a third kitsune with bone-white fur and a wakazashi sword at his waist shared a bottle of port over a barrel with a Setulanite woman dressed in bronze power armor who's skin shone like obsidian off a shaved head.

"Everyone, last-minute addition and old friend Yo," Uruk introduced her. Aside from the Alversian woman the stares were none too kind. Doubtless nobody liked the idea of getting their payoff reduced by her presence. Well, they could kiss her's. The Zillar was openly glaring, and Yo scowled right back.

Uruk must have caught the exchange, because he indicated the alien first. "This is Graham Kader. He's the pilot for our little expedition. The ship's his, the Mani Clipper." The ship was an ugly thing, boxy, off-white and stained with graffiti, and her owner wasn't much different. Graham was more lanky than boxy and his scales were gray, but what were visible was covered in tattoos ranging from a targeting reticle on the back of his head to a Steel Yard ganger tattoo of a bloody knife curving up from his collar and he shared the Mani Clipper's looks. His greeting was a sneer, and Yo's smile bared her teeth.

As the pilot went back to his computer Uruk nodded to the attractive Alversian. "And that's Necole Jammer. She'll be our guide. It's pretty mountainous down there, but she grew up out on Pascen as a tour guide so rock climbing's her thing." The woman was still smiling, not in Uruk's way but with genuine cheer as if she was just happy to be here, and even her nod to Yo was warm. She could see how Necole would be been popular with tourists, if only for the opportunity to watch her stretch her long limbs above them. Still, she had to wonder what would make a woman like that leave a comfortable life on Pascen to come all the way out to the armpit that was Malthana.

"Charmed," Necole said, crossing the hanger to shake her hand. She smelled of cinnamon.

"Sure."

"Nolan Hartjen," their leader said as the man came around the corner of the Mani Clipper's loading ramp. "Our roustabout. Picked him up off Ferra out of a crowd of people wanting work. Wanting a ticket off-world, more like. Don't mind him, he doesn't talk much on account of getting his tongue taken by a Terminus type at some point." Nolan was ignoring them as he picked up the crate that Necole had been sitting on and carried it away. Uruk pointed out the band that the Ferran was wearing on one wrist independent of his jumpsuit. "He's got a little text-to-speech job if you really need to talk to him, but mostly just tell him what to do and he'll do it."

"Gotcha."

"Over there is Numiya." The kitsune looked up from his conversation with the Setulanite, ears perking. "Six years in the Alversian People's Army in the 610th Guard, that one. Knows a thing or two about most everything, especially the Dan War. If Necole gets us to it, he'll be able to actually find the thing." Like most Xiscapians Numiya was short, and Yo had a few inches on him. He was wearing a suit of light security armor overlaid with a cloak that was hanging over his back like a cape, and she could see that the interior was lined with pockets. The ex-soldier nodded to her and she nodded back, one warrior to another.

"Last one's Maris Sladek. She's the other guard for the lot of us. Not been in any wars she cares to tell me about, so I don't ask where she got that power armor from." Indeed, the suit was scuffed and charred, no doubt having seen its share of action, and there were burn marks where the insignia would have been. Maris herself looked entirely unscathed, and eyes so brown they were black looked Yo up and down, measuring the sable vixen up. An enormous shotgun was strapped to her back.

"I passed her over when I was scouting this place out for you, Uruk," the Setulanite said, taking a swing of port before handing it back to Numiya. "Didn't think splattering a man's brains all over his boots was the kind of skillset we needed."

"You might thank me for the support if the Dans find us." The kitsune looked back to Yo. "So that's them. Any questions?"

"When do we get started?"

"Soon as we're all loaded up," he glanced over at Graham. "How we looking?"

"Nolan just put the last crate in. We're good to go."

"Alright," Uruk clapped his hands together. "All aboard, everyone. It's time to go make some money."

----

Malthana was getting bigger on the scopes as they fell away from the identically-named station. Increasing its size didn't make the planet look any better. Swirling gray clouds flared with lightning as storms the size of continents rotated their way across its face, occasionally parting to give glimpse to the barren surface below. It was as inhospitable as Uruk had described, all jagged mountains and ravines going deeper than the highest summit that looked black even from orbit. Why anyone was fighting over it, Yo couldn't guess.

The vixen was sitting in what passed for the common room of the Mani Clipper, looking over the cold-weather gear that Uruk had provided for her. It was a bulky thing that came with its own skinsuit designed to trap heat, keep out moisture and have a water and windproof shell, and that was just the innermost layer. Another had a water reclamation system integrated ("We'll be drinking our own sweat and piss" muttered Graham) while the boots and gloves were heated and had retractable climbing claws. The full face mask had a heater as well, with a full uplinked HUD on its polarized, no-fog goggles. Most of the size came from the hooded parka that went on top, which had its own thermal dampening suite and could be folded out into a cold-weather sleeping bag. It also floated, though she had no idea why that would be necessary up in the mountains.

She'd been just about to start when the hatch hissed open and Necole stepped through. Glancing at her, Yo let her gaze linger for a moment before looking back down at the thing she was expected to wear. "Coffee?" the Alversian offered, holding out a mug to her. Nose twitching, she glanced at it, tail curling. The woman gave an earnest smile.

"Did you put a shot in it?"

"A shot?"

"Of alcohol. That's a no," she waved it away and pulled her shirt over her head. They didn't have enough space to give her a cabin to change in, but she didn't care. Necole quickly averted her eyes and sat down in the alcove by the observation window, which was really just a camera monitor put up on the wall. Ship designers usually didn't like cutting holes in their hulls unless they absolutely had to. Kicking off her boots and stepping out of her pants, Yo looked over her shoulder. The guide was staring down at Malthana as it steadily got bigger and bigger.

"Have you ever been here before?" she asked without looking at her.

"No." Pulling the skinsuit tight on her body, she looked down at it. Like most skinsuits it lived up to its name, clamping as closely as a second layer of skin, but it completely negated the chill of the common room. That was something.

Apparently a little put off, Necole waited before trying again. "Uruk said you killed six men on the station. Beat their heads in just for bumping you."

"Uruk's a scoundrel, a rake and a con artist. You shouldn't believe everything he says."

"So you didn't?" When Yo looked over she could see that the dark-skinned woman's eyes were wide in the reflection of the screen.

"It was eight. There were two before them. And the bump was intentional."

"Oh." She paused. "I never understood that. Why bumping someone could start a bar fight."

"It's not just in bars," Yo pulled her gloves on. "People can disrespect you anywhere."

"But what if it's accidental?"

"Then I expect an apology."

"Did he apologize to you?"

"He tried, after a bit. It's hard to say much when you've lost all your teeth."

She went quiet, sipping at her coffee. Pulling the parka on, the Xiscapian looked at her again. She was still watching Malthana, so obviously out of her element. For a moment she felt sorry for her. But she'd signed up for this gig, and if it all went according to plan the woman would be walking away with enough cash to live on for at least a year, even in a place like Pascen.

"You said Uruk's not to be trusted," she said finally. "Have you known him long?"

"A fair while. We were brother and sister, once." Yo could see in the reflection that Necole didn't understand, but she didn't care to explain. "And you can trust him. To a point. He'll do what's best for Uruk."

Malthana had grown to fill the screen now, all of their vision taken up by the gray, storm-wracked world. Necole had put her coffee down. Having pulled her boots on, Yo was fully dressed, and she stood there watching the girl for a moment. She was quite young, she realized, younger than anyone else on this crazy trip. The question passed through her mind again, and she figured it out. He got her between the sheets. Small surprise, that: he was as much a womanizer as he was a grifter, and his tongue was just as silver when he was using it for things other than talking.

"We hit planetside in five," Graham's voice came over the intercom.

Yo turned away. "You'd better get suited up."

The seven of them trooped down a ramp into a howling maelstrom of snow and ice. There was just enough visibility for Yo to see across the compound that the ship had landed in, seeming hemmed in by walls of gray. It didn't help that the buildings themselves were gray, consisting of four towers that formed the perimeter of the base that had a gnarled, almost twisted look to them, as if they were rocky spires that had sprouted tree-like from the ground. Between them sat several long buildings painted in a mottled gray and brown, including one with enormous hanger doors, all with snow piled high around them. No lights burned in any of the windows.

Stopping short, she glanced back at her companions. It was difficult to tell each one apart under their heavy clothing and blank visors, which one was Uruk and which one was Numiya, or whether the one in back was Nolan or the short (for an Alversian) Necole. Maris was the only one who really stuck out, thanks to both her armor and the sheer size of the woman coupled with the shotgun she gripped. Similarly it was impossible to read their expressions, but more than one body tensed. They, like her, recognized this place for what it was.

"A Danaversian base," Maris growled.

"Don't worry, there's no frogs here," Uruk was leading the way. "Abandoned a long time ago. Fill 'em in, Numiya."

"This was an air defense base during the Thirteenth Danaversian War, under House Traditus," the kitsune explained, voice Alversian accented. "At the end of the Thirteenth they started the civil war by rejecting the treaty with AXIS and declaring Emperor Chankost XI a heretic. House Guppuran invaded Malthana against them and Traditus evacuated this station to bring its troops and elite Congar fighters to the front. We're interested in this place because of what it did during the war." He pointed up at the closest tower. "Those used to house surface-to-air missile platforms."

By that point they'd trudged through the snow to the first building and Yo was relieved to get inside. Even with the hood up, mask on and thermals operating the wind was frigid, and the walls made it bearable as they all piled through the door. It was hardly warmer inside than out excepting for the wind, with the interior dark and dry as the shadows of rushing snow played across the floor through the windows. As her eyes adjusted she saw that they'd come into a foyer area with a barracks just beyond. A large, empty room with nothing in it but a bare armory locker in the back was to their left, followed by a passageway down the middle while the right was full of drained pools in the floor.

"What kind of weapons did they store here, tank cannons?" Maris was looking at the locker. "That locker looks big enough for a body or two."

"Anti-air missile launchers. Big ones."

"Are those Dan hatcheries?" Graham had flipped up his mask to look the other way, but he looked like he was considering pulling it back down again at the sight.

"Relaxation pools," Numiya was already walking down the hall. "Strictly for officers. Probably kept them to get in quickly after being outside, I doubt this climate agrees with them. They'd let their personal slaves wash them down in swamp water, pick the parasites off them and massage them. Their C.O. might even have had a Danaversian female to tend to him, if he was strong and lucky."

Necole laughed. "It's like a spa for frogs."

"This will be our base for the duration," Uruk was saying. "Nolan, get the generator out of the Clipper, we need some heat in here. Everyone else, bed down wherever you feel like. Numiya says this place was made for a company-sized force so there's plenty of room." The kitsune himself disappeared through a side door, and when she glanced through Yo say he'd claimed a vast officer's quarters for himself.

After putting her duffel down in one of the spare quarters Yo found Numiya in what passed for the kitchen of the barracks. It took her a moment to realize that all the dusty glass tanks must have once held whatever creatures the Danaversians ate for food. The kitsune was rooting around under a counter, stacking packs of some sort of stringy, deep green plant onto one of the tables. "Kelpi," he explained, coming up with another package. "Danaversian field rations. It's actually quite good in a stew."

"You never finished telling us why this place is so important."

He stood, folding his parka in his arms. "You would be the only one who hasn't gotten the full story by now. This is the base that shot down an Alversian transport during the closing days of the war. It was extracting a group of Black Falcons who'd just assassinated a Traditus admiral to keep his task force paralyzed here. The base detected it leaving and hit it with a volley of missiles, and it crash-landed on the summit of this mountain. The naval flotilla backing them up managed to rescue the survivors and recover the dead, but they couldn't collect all of their equipment. Uruk got a lead on some of their weapons that never made it back. It's here somewhere, and he wants to find it."

"Black Falcons..." Yo folded her arms. The Black Falcons were the People's Republic elite special operations unit, on the level of Setulanite Ghosts or Xiscapian Ascians. It was said that there was only about two hundred of them at any given time in the entire nation. The idea of facing one of them would give even her pause. "They never came back?"

"Too badly needed elsewhere. They probably figured that it was all lost, and the Danaversians have no idea that there's anything here. But we do."

There was a footfall and Uruk stepped inside. He jerked his head at Yo. With a nod to Numiya, she followed her old business associate back to his room.

"Glass of ocean wine?" he asked once the door had shut, holding up a sea-green bottle.

"Trying to poison me? Stuff tastes like pond scum. I don't know how Numiya even eats that kelpi shit."

"It's awful, but I'm saving all the good stuff for the end," he laughed and tossed the bottle aside to shatter in the garbage hole. Most of the room had recesses for storage rather than furniture, cubbies cut out of the walls and spaces with empty racks that had no doubt been for weapons. The bed looked and smelled like it was made of moss. Tail swishing, Yo stepped over to look at one of the things that had been left behind, a cup that looked like it had been made out of a Danaversian's skull with opals shoved into the various holes. She couldn't decide if this had been an honored enemy or a particularly foolish subordinate.

"I bet they left in a hurry. I wouldn't leave something like this behind."

"You want it? Take it. I'll buy something a lot prettier when this is through."

She put the skull under one arm and turned around. "Numiya was good enough to fill me in. Unlike you."

"Hey, I've filled you in plenty of times."

Yo was unamused. "On what this whole thing is about. So you can save your breath. Thanks for the cup." She made for the door.

"It's not that." He smiled, shaking his head. "I did some poking around on Graham's ship. Turns out he's been talking with some friends in the Talon Band. They're a local pirate group, Zillar, connected with Shadow Cell." Shadow Cell was part terrorist group, part spy ring, working on behalf of the Zillar Stratocracy. "Needless to say, they've taken an interest in what's going on down here."

Turning around, she scowled. "I knew I didn't like that one. When are they coming?"

"From what Graham suggested they're going to wait until they know we have the weapons, then swoop down and grab them. Off our dead bodies, if we're lucky."

She cracked her knuckles. "Want me to kill him?"

"No, he still might have his uses. And I'm not sure that he doesn't have other friends."

"What do you mean?"

"I already told you I don't know that Maris woman. She insisted on coming out to Malthana beforehand, supposedly to scout it out. That's a lot of time and money spend for a merc just to see that a shithole is a shithole. Even Necole is a little off."

"I think she's realizing she just made a mistake in coming here."

"I didn't actually think she'd follow me." There was almost a pained look in his eyes. "One night I joked that she should come on the expedition, seeing how there's only one rock-hard thing I know how to deal with. Might break my neck otherwise. But she liked the idea, and I couldn't say no. But she's no merc or smuggler or whatever the rest of us are."

"You're worried she might sell us out. Tell the cops or something."

Uruk gave her a look. "I'm worried that she'll get hurt. But...yeah, that too. She's in way over her head, and she might try to get out of it."

"Do you trust anyone you hired?"

"Numiya's just after what's his. Apparently he did time plus a dishonorable discharge for shooting some Ferran officer in the face when he was with the 610th. Lost all his benefits and pension. Hell if I can tell what Nolan's ever thinking. But he's got that starved, gaunt look I've only ever seen from desperate men. So I trust a sniper ex-con, a hungry, angry man and a homicidal thug of a business associate as much as you can trust any of those people."

Yo smiled. "You find the best people, Uruk."

"Don't remind me. Look, all I'm telling you is, watch your back. I'm pretty sure half of them would push you over a cliff to get a bigger share of the money, and the other half wouldn't stop them."

"I'll be careful." She opened the door.

"Good. I need somebody I can count on to be a vengeful, bloody bitch on my side. We move at dawn."

----

It was still snowing lightly when they set out the next morning. With much of the fog gone Yo could see that the base was set on a cliff, with steep slopes above and below. Mountains rose up all around, peaking further than she could see, and they didn't seem to have bases so much as they faded into chasms below. "We are astride infinity," Necole said, and the vixen just rolled her eyes. All she saw was death. One misplaced foot or hand and no one would ever find the bodies.

"We can't risk a big heat signature that the Dans might pick up, so we're on foot," Uruk said as they gathered at the bottom of the slope. "Necole estimates fifteen hours to the crash site if all goes well."

"You should probably let me stay with the ship," Graham told him. "You guys might need a speedy pickup if something goes wrong up there."

"If something goes wrong then we come back down the same way we went up, one way or another." Uruk's mask was down, but Yo knew he was grinning. "You bring the ship up there and they will know, I guarantee it. It'll all be for nothing if we bring them down on us."

"At least let me pick you all up once you have the stuff. Save you a climb back down."

"Doesn't change a thing. The buyer's meeting us at the base and they won't like it if we bring a patrol of frogs as a welcoming gift."

The Zillar shifted where he stood. "I'm not afraid of no Dans."

"Y'know, the way you talk, it's almost like you don't want to make the climb with us. You know something we don't, Graham?" The tod's tone was light, but Yo smelled the knifepoint there.

"Fine." Graham knew when he was defeated. "But don't complain to me on the way back down."

"Don't worry about it."

The incline was steep but it was level enough for them to at least trudge up the mountain's face. There was nothing but endless white interspersed with gray rock here and there, without so much as a dead tree to compete with the cold emptiness. For what seemed like the hundredth time, Yo wondered why anyone would bother fighting over it all when the whole planet seemed to be this way. She tuned her commlink to Numiya. "What do the clans want with this place anyway? I've never seen a freighter go either way in orbit so I don't think it's resources."

"It's not. Malthana was strategically valuable once, when there were fleets stationed here. The civil war knocked those out. Now I think the clans are just fighting to save face. Retreat isn't the Danaversian way, so they'll keep throwing armies at each other until one of them can't anymore. It doesn't matter that this place is worthless."

"Fuck's sake."

"As long as they don't bother us I don't give a damn what they do," Uruk broke in.

They came to their first real obstacle soon enough. The icy wall seemed to loom suddenly out of the gray, stretching upwards at an angle until its heights were lost in the fog, craggy and pockmarked by untold millennia of storms. Necole took the lead readily enough, stepping up to examine the rock face. "Climbable," she announced after a moment. "You all need to follow my lead like we're going in single file. Put your hands where my hands go and your feet where my feet go, nowhere else. It's going to be slippery, but our climbing claws should help and there's plenty of hand and footholds, so we're lucky in that. Don't be afraid to stop if the wind feels too strong or if you get tired. Better delayed than dead."

The Alversian started up first, a coil of rope, hammer and a bag of pitons on her waist. Maris went after her, then Uruk, Numiya, Nolan, Graham and finally Yo. Watching the Zillar grunt and grumble his way up above her, she imitated him as he was copying everyone up to Necole, hands where he put them and feet the same. It seemed like they'd only climbed a few feet before the wind tore at them, howling and lashing like it was screaming at their intrusion, and she was forced to stop as Graham clung to the side of the mountain, cursing Uruk and Necole and all the rest. Those bitter blasts of air cut right through her despite all the heating technology, and it wasn't long before she was swearing at him herself, wishing he'd move if only so she could work a heat back up.

It was slow, hard going even so, and they stopped frequently as Necole searched for the safest way through or someone ahead had to take a breather. Clambering up in fits and starts, Yo had to admit that the side of this nameless, Emperor-forsaken mountain wasn't like anything she'd ever seen before. She clambered over tiny shelves that held icicles as big as she was, crawled up the surface of ice sheets so deep and old that their glazed innards were twisted around stones that gleamed and shimmered and once passed beneath a frozen waterfall, a great stream of water suspended in midair as a clear, crystallized arm stretching out from the side of the mountain. It had its perils too: cracks wide enough to swallow a whole arm or leg, jagged outcroppings that had to be scaled to leave her hanging in the air as she pulled herself over them and a nearly constant rain of ice shards and pebbles from the others above. Once someone shouted and she watched a rock the size of her head dislodge itself and tumble past so close she could have touched it, plummeting down into the fog. She never heard it hit bottom.

Her muscles were burning when Numiya called down, and it took her a moment to understand what he was saying. "Halt. Halt. Now. Nobody move." Graham froze above her and she did the same, claws half buried into a plane of ice, ears flicking inside her hood as she looked up. Then she heard it, the high, burbling thrum of thrusters, and even her tail stopped moving, drawn between her legs as she moved only her eyes. The ship appeared out of the fog for just an instant, showing its curved, spiny shape for maybe a second before it was gone, the sound fading as quickly as it had come. For a long, tense moment no one moved, or spoke, or even seemed to breath.

"That was a Congar," Graham said. "Uruk, you fuck, you said there wasn't any frog activity in this area!"

"There isn't. I mean, there's not supposed to be."

"Do they know we're here?" The tinge of fear in Necole's voice was unmistakable.

"Can't be," Numiya was as calm as ever. "If they did they would have blasted us off the mountainside."

"Maybe they were Guppuran?"

"They were. That was their house sigil on the side. They still would have shot at us if they knew. We're here illegally, remember, and Danaversians are known for being the shoot first and never ask questions types. Even the pro-treaty clans."

"Let's keep moving." Uruk sounded as confident as ever, but Yo knew he was shaken. "Thirty six hours, people."

Her HUD told her that it was late afternoon when they finally pulled themselves over a great granite shoulder that stuck out of the side of the mountain, but nothing about her surroundings seemed to have changed. It was still windy, gray and unbearably cold. The shoulder was black and slick and cracked with little ridges and holes, but it was shielded from the wind and it was more-or-less flat, so that was where Uruk called for camp. The seven spread out over the stone, staking their claims to various spots though no one went too far from the center. Even Yo didn't want to be sleeping too close to the edge, and it was warmer when you huddled closer to other bodies.

"We made better time than I thought we would," Necole said as they sat in a close circle, a ring of bulky, faceless ghosts in white. "I thought an uncharted mountain like this and a team of inexperienced climbers would make things slower, but I've gotten to the top of worse than this on Pascen and you lot follow directions better than most of my tourists." Yo reluctantly lifted her mask to get at a nutrient bar, grimacing at the sting of the cold as she wolfed down her meager meal. Uruk had forbidden any kind of heat source from heat lamp to old-fashioned fire. No one else seemed much inclined to talk.

"So we cut down on the time a bit?"

She nodded. "If we keep this up we should hit our destination mid tomorrow morning."

"Right. Well, we couldn't have done it without you, so as far as I'm concerned you should get some rest. Maris, Numiya, you're on first watch. Yo and Nolan, second. Graham and I will take third."

It didn't take long for the those not on watch to climb into their tents and pull their parkas over their heads, Yo included. Inside the tent and under her parka sleeping bag she could almost remember what it felt like to be warm, but as she curled up the kitsune found herself staring into the darkness. The anger that was always with her coiled in her chest, ignoring the cold and the way her muscles ached, and as usual she dealt with it without questioning where it came from. Her hands curled into fists with a nearly inaudible whir of servomotors and she glared at nothing. "I'm not afraid," she said, though she had no idea who she was saying it to.

----

It seemed like just a minute later that she was sitting up without knowing why. The tent flap had lowered, letting in a wave of cutting air, and Maris was framed as a black shape against the outer darkness. She laughed when she saw Yo. "Good instincts. You're up for second watch. Leave a warm spot for me?"

Outside Nolan was already sitting on an upraised stone, staring up the slope, and Yo settled beside the mute Ferran. The anger snapped inside of her again. "Why in all the spawn pits of Danaversia do we need a watch anyway? If it's Congars he's worried about then there's not much we can do. Just warn everyone so we can have enough time to scream before we die." She wished she'd picked up a bottle somewhere.

As if he'd read her thoughts, Nolan held out a small flask. Staring at it, she glanced up at him. The man looked at her, expression unreadable even with his mask open, then turned his dark eyes back up the slope. Taking the flask, Yo tossed her head back, pulled her mask aside and took a swing. It was watery and burned all the way down in the way that only moonshine could, but it made her feel warm. She handed the can back, and he took some himself. She wondered if he liked it because he didn't have a tongue to taste how bad it was.

A minute passed without reaction to her outburst before he turned back. When he "spoke" the voice came from his wrist, synthesized and without emotion. "Uruk says that you were once in the Syndicate with him," he tapped out.

Ears twitching, she stared at him for a moment. "Yeah," she said finally. "What about it?"

"Why did you leave?"

Her plume swished within its folds. "Why do you want to know?"

"I'm considering joining."

His bluntness surprised her. That was unusual for a Ferran. "There's better people to talk to than me. Uruk, for example. He can point you in the right direction."

"But I know his story. I do not knows yours." Nolan's eyes were black pools. "If you tell me, I will tell you how I lost my tongue. It is fair."

She hadn't asked, but it was better than just sitting there in silence. "Fine. It's nothing dramatic, though. Too many rules." She shrugged, broad shoulders moving underneath her parka. "I ran with a street gang as a kit, back when there was such a thing as street gangs in the Empire. Before the Syndicate and the cops wiped them out. I crack heads because I'm good at it. But the Syndicate runs itself like a business. It's right in their damn code of conduct. 'Have meetings to resolve conflicts' and 'don't drink too much' and 'be businesslike and personable' and all this other shit. I mean, they say right in the code that if the cops come for you and you can't get away then you give yourself up unless they're trying to kill you. Or the part where you're supposed to hold a legitimate job," she spat. "If I wanted all that shit and a boss I'd go join the military."

"Did they kick you out?"

"I left before they could. Made sure to keep on good terms with them and all, of course. You don't piss off Syn, at least not in Imperial space, especially not if you had ties to them. They know where you live. So if they need work done I do it, but on my terms, as an Associate. It works."

"Uruk says they all consider each other brothers and sisters. Like a family."

"I guess. Was never a fan of that ether. Just love and tolerate that fucker in the suit even if you can't stand her stupid face. Fuck her."

"It is better than most gangs."

She glanced at him. "Like Terminus?"

"Yes." His fingers stopped for a moment, and he stared up into nothing. "I was like most Ferrans after the war. Hungry, confused, doing whatever I could to survive. This was in the later days, after the Alversians stopped trying to prop up the provisional government and just annexed the planet. One night I was walking back from the yards when I saw two men loading garbage bags into the back of a van. They were bodies. They saw me, and my hand went to my holster. I had carried a pistol just like everyone else, but this was after the Alversians took over and confiscated all of our guns, so I had nothing. I tried to run, but they chased me down. They cut out my tongue, sliced my hamstrings and left me in the street. I could hear them taking bets on how long I would be able to crawl. I think it went up to fifty Sedar for twenty meters.

"Someone brave enough to stop picked me up, or at least that's what the doctors told me. I don't remember. I was in a hospital when I came to. They fixed my legs, but they couldn't do anything about my tongue. The gangers didn't see fit to leave me with it. I left as soon as I could and went to a different city. I couldn't pay the medical bills, and I knew Terminus would be looking for me. Uruk found me at the docks."

Yo was quiet for a long time. "And now you're here."

"Yes. It got me out of reach of Terminus. And I hope, maybe with the money from this, I can find a replacement for my tongue. I hate speaking like this. But I do want to go home, and I know that the Syndicate is much more powerful than Terminus. Perhaps what I do here will impress them."

She gestured for the flask again, and he handed it over. "If you're fine with rules, why not just go to the Alversians? They've got plenty. Could make you a cop, or even a soldier."

"Most of the police on Ferra are corrupt. One way or another they die nearly as often as the gangers. And do you think the Alversian military would ever take the likes of me?" He pointed to himself. "I will have a criminal past now, which they will probably find out about. I don't think I could pass their basic training anyway, with their standards. No. I won't fight for the people who took my own ability to fight for myself away from me. They left me for dead as much as those gangers did."

"If that's how you feel about it." She gave the flask back, but despite her words she could feel that rage that never left where it tightened in her breast. "I could probably put in a good word for you with-"

A scrape of metal on rock from above and Yo's ears twisted at the noise. Sniffing the air, she tensed, one hand pressing her mask down again. Her HUD's sensors found the forms just as her eyes did, highlighting them on infrared: two shapes picking their way down the slope. Nolan was looking at her, unaware, but at least he couldn't shout when she dragged him to the ground beside her. Putting an unnecessary finger to his lips, she narrowed her eyes, never having looked away from the intruders.

There was no mistaking Danaversians. Their size at eight feet high was one thing, and that distinctive iron-black armor marked them for soldiers, as if they could expect to find any other kind of Danaversian. Both had rifles slung across their backs, leaving their hands free to keep their balance as they picked their way down the slope with all the gracelessness expected from the giant amphibians thoroughly out of their element. They hadn't seen them yet, since the little camp had no lights, but sooner or later they'd blunder right into it. Baring her teeth at them, she tapped Nolan.

"I'll take the one on the right, you get the one on the left," she didn't take her eyes off the enemy. "Don't bother trying to take 'em alive."

They'd just gotten level with the camp when she launched herself at the leading alien on the right. Boots slapped against stone and she slammed into him with a yell, putting her shoulder into him with both arms wrapping around his waist. He had three feet and a couple hundred pounds on her, but the Danaversian stumbled back as she drove him, caught off guard. He'd only just gotten his wits about him when she hooked her climbing claws into his gut and thrust up with a bellow, bodily flinging him into the air, and the darkness swallowed him in a second as he went sailing over the edge, scream fading. Blood dripping from her claws, she turned back.

Nolan was standing over his Danaversian, a Calidum blaster in one hand. The weapon had left three smoking holes in the amphibian's torso, and Yo saw that the soldier had never even managed to get his rifle unlimbered. Lights flared behind him and they both turned to see Uruk trotting up with a flashlight, the rest of the group not far behind. "Fucking hell," the Xiscapian exclaimed when he saw the corpse. Numiya knelt by the body, checking it while Maris stepped past, looking up the slope. Graham, however, turned to Uruk.

"You said there was no military around here. You said we'd never even see a Dan. What the fuck is this then?" The smuggler kicked the dead Danaversian.

"I don't know." His voice had gone flat. "Nolan, Yo?"

"They came down the incline," the Ferran said. "Yo threw the other one off the mountain."

"They're Traditus," Numiya stood from where he'd been inspecting the trooper.

"You said no Dans, you fucker," Graham stabbed a finger at Uruk's chest, with an edge of hysteria. "You fucking liar. You knew they were going to be here but you came anyway-"

"Yo."

She took Graham by the shoulder. "Get off of me," he tried to shrug her off, and a quick pivot sent the Zillar sprawling onto the rock. Grunting, he rolled onto his side, going to rise and she was there, standing in front of him with her fists balled, past ready. She looked up at Uruk. All it would take was a nod and there'd by a third corpse on the mountain.

But Uruk was looking down at Graham. The others were gathered in a loose circle, looking at one or the other, tense. "I didn't know they would be here. The information I bought was solid. This has to be a recent development, I wouldn't have come otherwise." Shaking his head, he looked around at the others. "But I'm not turning around now. We made it this far. I'm getting what I came for."

"Fuck that," Graham struggled to his feet, though he was watching Yo warily. "I'm getting the hell out of here."

"You think you can climb your way back down and make it out without getting shot down?"

The smuggler deflated almost visibly. "I better be getting a bigger cut for this shit."

"I told you, don't worry about it. You'll get what you're owed." The tod looked past Yo to Numiya. "Go with Necole up the slope. There's bound to be more Dans. I want to know where they are and what they're doing."

"Understood." The old soldier and the Alversian vanished into the darkness.

"You two watch the perimeter," he told Yo and Maris. "If they come down on us I'm not dying without a fight."

But the only ones who came back down were Numiya and Necole, appearing out of the night as suddenly as they'd gone after twenty minutes. "There's a camp of them on a cliff up above," the kitsune said. "Estimate a unit of twenty or so, minus the two dead. They were probably scouting. Most of them look to be asleep, but they've posted sentries."

"What I couldn't figure out is what they're doing here," Necole said. "There's nothing up here except the crash site. Were they looking into it?"

"I doubt it," Uruk said, but Yo smelled the edge there. "Maris, get over here."

Once the Setulanite had joined them he looked between her, Numiya and Yo in turn. "I'm not turning back, so I need to know what our options are for going forward. Can we sneak past them?"

"I doubt it," Numiya shook his head. "The camp takes up most of the slope, and it won't be long before they notice that their scouts haven't returned. They'll be on alert by the time we're ready to move."

"What about fighting our way through?" Yo cracked her knuckles.

"There's only seven of us," Maris pointed out. "Three with real combat ability. I know you and Graham are fair shots and Nolan can handle a blaster, but Necole's dead weight. We've got a shotgun, rifle and a handful of pistols and grenades between us, versus twenty or so of them at least, and if we attacked it would be from uphill. We might kill a good number of them, but they'd overwhelm us."

"Could an ambush work?" Uruk asked. "Hit them once they start moving down the slope?"

"Not much in the way of hiding places. I guess we might be able to get ourselves onto the sides of the shoulder once we knew they were coming, hoist up once they passed and hit them from behind, but that doesn't change the lack of cover up here. They'd shoot us up, or worse close in and then we'd all die."

"Cause an avalanche?" Necole suggested from where she'd been listening in. "I saw them do it in an old Gerral war movie once. Shoot a rifle at a mountain and dislodged a whole sheet of snow to bury the Danaversian army underneath."

"And what about us?" Maris snorted. "It's not like it would just stop when it got to us."

"We could sneak in," Yo nodded to the other two soldiers. "Just the three of us. Kill them all while they're asleep and vulnerable."

"There's four guards though," Numiya looked back up the slope, as if he could see the sentries. "Each of us could take one down silently, but I don't think any of us could get two before they sounded the alarm. Like I said, no cover. As soon as one goes down the others will know unless they're being taken at the same time. Could take somebody else with us, but I don't think anyone else is trained for this kind of sneaking and silent killing." Uruk just shook his head.

"You said there's four of 'em. How are they positioned?" Yo prompted.

"There's one at either side of the cliff and two in the middle," he knelt down and drew a line in the circle, marking the perimeter and where the guards stood along it. "The outer ones are patrolling steadily, but these middle two have a heat lamp they're sharing. It's easy enough to wait until the outer two come into range and hit them, but one or another of the middle two is going to know about it when they and his buddy go down. It only takes one of them to sound the alarm and bring the rest running."

"I can take the middle two."

She couldn't see Numiya's eyes behind the mask, but he was staring along with Maris and Uruk. "Is that a fact?" the black Setulanite demanded.

Yo looked at her. "You want a demonstration, bitch?"

"Just go demonstrate on them," Uruk broke in before things could get ugly. "If Yo says she can then she can. I don't question her when it comes to violence. Just get them out of my way, whatever you have to do."

"They're as good as fucked."
Last edited by Xiscapia on Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Xiscapia » Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:17 am

Malthana Blues, Part II


[ Mature ]



----

Snow eddied and bolted past her vision as Yo climbed the slope. Numiya was in front, leading the way while Maris brought up the rear, each bent nearly forty five degrees against the wind that howled around them. They were following the tracks that the Danaversians had made coming down, which were huge and obvious. No one spoke. The thought that they might be walking to their deaths crossed her mind, but she pushed it off. If she was going to die then she'd take as many with her as she could. If there is a hell then I'm making sure I won't burn alone.

The Traditus camp was set up on a shoulder much like their own. There were five small domed structures that were the same mottled green-brown that she'd seen at the base. "Their version of tents," Numiya said softly. The four sentries were easy to see above them, highlighted on the ledge: one to the far right looking into blackness and another on the left, and two in the center huddled around a heat lamp that served as the camp's single, dim light. Both kept looking over their shoulders to the rest of the camp.

Even as they watched, crouched in the darkness, the two ledge guards changed out with the center ones, trading places with guttural grunts and shifting armor. Either way they have complete coverage of the incline, with no way around them on foot. She realized that the four were in some kind of collusion: only an idiot would have a light in their camp when the enemy was patrolling the skies. It seemed that these troopers cared a lot more about being warm than about keeping hidden. Good for us.

"We go now, while they're all nightblind," Numiya said, and was gone. Maris split away to the left and Yo was left with the middle.

Creeping up on the pair by the lamp, she studied them as she got closer. There were no features to be seen with the armor covering them from head to toe, though all Danaversians looked more-or-less the same to her. The one on the right was a little taller than the one on the left even sitting down as they were. He was looking at a holo of something in his palm while the other stared down the slope right over Yo's head. The idiots had the lamp in front of them, throwing the light into their faces.

They never saw her coming. She appeared right in front of them, lunging over the lamp, and their heads slammed together before either could so much as shout. Her climbing claws proved their worth again as she skewered both of them, stabbing through their necks and watching purplish blood seep out as they sagged, heads lolling. Yo pulled both hands back with a shink and they crumpled. The holo lay in the snow -an endlessly looping image of an Aluminan dancer, tail weaving with her arms above her head. Numiya walked over as Yo stared at it, calmly cleaning off his wakazashi and leaving a decapitated sentry behind him, while an entire side of Maris's armor was black with ichor when she stepped up.

"Each of us to a tent. We'll take them quietly and then radio the others."

They split up, creeping towards their assigned tents. Her sensors told her that one was empty and another only had two of the orange blobs that represented slumbering Danaversians, so she picked the third she found. The entrance was a slimy membrane that sucked her in, enveloping her in its wet warmth before she stepped through into the interior proper. Four of them were asleep on cots with their armor strewn around though their rifles were kept close, the huge aliens all in skinsuits with great mossy blankets thrown over them. Their snores sounded like four garbage disposals all going at once.

Standing over the first, Yo looked at him for a moment. She'd never actually seen a Danaversian in the flesh and outside of armor. He was repulsive, with leathery brown skin, bulbous eyes and a wide, flat mouth that smelled foul even closed. Her snout twitched as she stared. During the war the Danaversians had been known for their love of drugging prisoners and keeping them as nearly mindless slaves, with officers trading them between each other or throwing them to their men to use. If things had been different she might have been chained naked to this one's bed, with his fat, disgusting arms around her while she bled and shook. Yo inhaled and in the next moment he was dead, neck broken from a single blow, the creature writhing and gasping soundlessly as he died with eyes wide open and staring up at her.

The next one had his skull crushed as he turned over, snore gurgling into nothing out of his ruined face. Pulling her hands back, she flexed her fingers, turning her eyes to the third in line. As if he knew something was wrong he shifted where he lay, turning to face her, which just made it more convenient for her to drive her claws into his throat, tearing it out in a spray of blood and loose flesh that splattered her front. A grunt made her turn to see the fourth rising, alerted, and she lunged, one claw driving through his wrist and pinning it to his belly and the other jutting up through his jaw. Staring down at her, he sagged, death rattle escaping his mutilated mouth. She pulled back and he was dead before he hit the floor.

Outside Numiya was emerging from his tent, two longknives slick and shiny with blood. He hadn't gotten a speck of it on himself. They came together just in time for Maris to join them, methodically scrubbing brains from the butt and stock of her shotgun. There were four notches atop the barrel, with a fifth crossed through them, surrounded by older, faded scratches of the same kind. "I'll let the others know to come on up," Numiya said.

Maris looked at Yo, nodding to the last tent. "You wanna do the honors?"

Tail lashing, Yo entered the last tent. There were only two of them here, but it was only when she entered the close confines that she realized what was wrong. She stank of Danaversian blood, and while their noses weren't nearly as strong as her own it was a hard stink to miss. One was already lifting himself out of his bed, wits dulled by sleep, and she rushed him, seizing the alien around the neck and bodily swinging him off the cot. His legs kicked against the floor, muscles straining as he pulled at her arms, but for all his strength her cybernetics were better, and she held fast on his throat, fingers digging in. The amphibian choked and spat, straining and twisting, and she held him all the tighter, growling. Finally he went slack, breath leaving him in a sigh, and she felt along his limp wrist. There was no pulse.

A whine made her ears flick and she looked up. The other Danaversian was on his feet, towering over her, with a stubby pistol clutched in both hands. It had powered up and was pointing directly at her, and she knew in that instant that a weapon designed to penetrate power armor would go right through her dead shield and into her. Could she make it to him? Yo stared him down, but there was nothing readable in those huge yellow eyes. The instant passed and she let go, sending the corpse thudding to the floor, and he tensed, finger on the trigger-

A roar deafened her and he vanished in a cloud of misty purple, painting the interior with gore. It sprayed across her face and suit, making her blink, and she turned her head to where what remained of the soldier was splattered against the far side of the tent in two pieces. Maris stepped fully inside, pumping her shotgun, and looked over at Yo. "I'm sure you had that handled," she said dryly, helmet folding itself back to expose her head. "I just had it handled better."

Yo shrugged. "What do you expect? A medal?"

"I think I should get what knights in shining armor usually get," the woman bent from the hip, turning her cheek suggestively.

She stepped forward and thought about punching her. Taking Maris's head in her hands, Yo dug her fingers in and turned it to kiss her hard on the lips. Her tongue found its way into her mouth and pinned the other's, mouths pressed together. Groaning, the Setulanite took one hand off her gun to pull her close. It was all padding against armor and both were covered in blood, but there was nothing sweeter to Yo's nose.

When they broke away Maris was panting. "Damn."

"Damn yourself," Yo slapped her rear and ducked outside.

She and Numiya had just tossed the last of the dead over the cliff when the other four clambered over the ledge and into camp. "Good work," Uruk said, looking around the site. "Any trouble?"

"Nothing worth telling about," Maris was armored up again, washing the blood away with handfuls of melted snow.

"I did find this," Numiya held up a datapad. "If I can crack it I might be able to find out what they were here for."

"Do it. Otherwise I'd say we can bed down here for the night. No sense in letting these good tents go to waste. Graham, you're with me on watch."

Now that she wasn't focused on killing Danaversians she noticed that it was warm inside the tent, even balmy. Like a sauna, she supposed, though she'd never been in one. Stripping out of her blood-stained parka, she laid it on one of the cots and dropped her bag on top of it, stretching. She didn't look around at the noise behind her, even when a hot, hard body pressed against her's and two hands laid themselves across her breasts. "If you want the truth," Maris's husky voice whispered in her ear, "I couldn't stand seeing that great ass of yours go to waste."

Leaning her head back against her for a moment, she turned around. Maris could get out of all that armor awfully fast. "I just want to see your tongue doing something other than kissing," she shoved her, and the bigger woman went down right on that same ass. Yo climbed on top of her, grinning down at the ebony Setulanite as her tail waved. The tent seemed even warmer now.

----

It was still dark when they assembled in the middle of the camp. Yo stood with Maris, and Uruk with Necole, while Numiya was consulting the Danaversian computer near them. Graham had his hands stuffed into his suit, bad-tempered as always, and Nolan completed the circle, silent as ever. Their packs were slung across their backs, ready to move. Uruk had gotten them all up, but it was at Numiya's insistence, and the kitsune looked up at them all now.

"This contingent was moving to occupy the old air defense base. They had orders to arrive tomorrow and reactivate it for duty. They were on foot for the same reason we are: Guppuran patrols."

"Motherfucker," Graham turned on Uruk. "You led us into this-"

"Don't start," Uruk looked at Yo, and Graham did too. That was all it took. "How's it looking for us, Numiya?"

"They'll have already missed one check-in. My impression of Traditus forces so far is that they're not very disciplined, at least here, but they can't ignore it forever. When they don't report that they've reached the base then their superiors will have to make some kind of response. They might very well damn the patrols and send in an aerial unit themselves. We're only going to have a limited window to get out of here."

He nodded. "We'll have to pick up the pace, then. We're close to the crash site, so we'll get up there, find the stuff and haul ass back down the mountain. It'll be close but we can do it."

"We don't have much of a choice," Maris said under her breath.

Dawn was breaking as they got underway, which showed itself on the horizon as a tinge of gray light opening as roiling fog. Under that they mounted the slope, climbing above the Traditus camp. The snow was thick on the mountain this high up, and Yo could hear her mask start to labor itself in the thin air, working hard along with her stiff muscles and aching lungs. No one spoke much as they scaled the sparkling alabaster expanse, pulling themselves up the cliff face on Necole's lead as a ragged line of seven. Yo's thighs twinged in protest every time she anchored herself onto a foothold, and for the first time she actually thought she might have been too rough in bed, if only for her own sake.

The sky was the color of slate by the time Necole stood on the ridge, pulling Maris up by the hand after her. Turning her head away at the shower of ice chips and pebbles that Graham kicked off, Yo took the veteran climber's hand after him and was the last up. Glad for a chance to rest her arms and legs, she turned and looked out across the rise. The mountain range unfolded below them, clear to see with the peak just above the otherwise endless fog, white-capped behemoths stretching as far as the eye could see. It was surprisingly bright from the sun shining down out of the cold, steel blue sky, but Malthana was still a world shrouded in shadow everywhere below.

Turning away, she followed behind as they started walking, this time with Uruk out in front. Compared to the trek of the past day it was easy going to walk on an almost level plane, boots crunching into the snow, and it wasn't long before she heard the Xiscapian give a shout. Her ears twitched at the sound of him running down the slope and as she crested the ridge she could see it too. The navy blue ship was half-buried in the ice but its stern was still visible sticking out of its grave, rear hatch yawning open and battle damage visible from where one wing had been completely sheared off, leaving a jagged, burned hole the size of a mattress in the side of the shuttle. Yo could practically feel their spirits lifting as they all scrambled down after Uruk.

By the time they got there he was already climbing into the back of the transport. "Numiya, with me. The rest of you, start looking in the surrounding area. Use the metal detectors and the thermal shovels, anything you pick up on, dig for it. They're around here somewhere!"

As they all spread out Yo walked around the side of the shuttle, looking down its length. Apart from the ship itself there was no wreckage or even holes visible on the summit, though she supposed they would have been long buried and frozen over after however many years it had been since the end of the war. Glancing out across the rest of the group, she watched as Necole put her detector aside and planted the end of her thermal shovel into the snow, flinging it aside until a small pile had gathered only to reach down and unearth a twisted piece of metal debris. She threw it aside in disgust and Yo turned away as Uruk and Numiya jumped out of the back of the transport. His tail was whipping back and forth, while Numiya's remained still.

"I can't believe they burned everything out. All the control panels, the sensor bulbs, even the seats for Emperor's sake. Ripped out or blown all to hell."

"The retrieval team had to be thorough to make sure the ship couldn't be dug up and repaired by anyone else. Like how you were probably thinking about doing."

"I just wanted to do a little scavenging is all." He looked at Yo. "Any luck?"

"I think Necole found a part of the wing."

"Fuck." He pulled the collapsible shovel off his back. "I'll have to get digging myself."

It was Nolan who finally found it. The mute was over the next ridge, so he clicked his radio twice and waved his shovel when Maris came to look, a large hole in the ground beside him. They had all gathered around by the time he dug it big enough to pull the case out of the ice and set it down in the snow to chip away at the frost that had gathered across its surface. It was gunmetal gray and unmarked, and could have been any equipment locker or storage trunk. "Don't look like much," Graham said, nudging it with his boot.

"Not supposed to. Black Falcons aren't usually the type to go around stamping everything with a giant logo," Numiya shook his head.

Uruk crouched down as the ice melted off the lock. "But we know what it is."

With a bit of jiggling from him the lid popped open and everyone leaned in to look as he reached inside. There were several different objects inside, including cleaning kits, lines of packed ammunition and different attachments, but the main pieces were the pistol and rifle that lay inside the foam spaces cut out for them. Uruk lifted the long gun almost reverently, holding it in both hands up to his face as if he about to sacrifice the weapon to some long-forgotten god. It was a beautiful thing, almost more work of art than killing machine, white and smooth with dark lines cut into its body to delineate its different parts, but there was no mistaking it for what it was. Sleek and subtly curved, it rested in Uruk's arms as if it belonged there, its long, wicked barrel giving the impression that it could shoot down the very sky. The sidearm was no less gorgeous, small, jagged and deadly, the kind of gun that was shark-like in its dread singular purpose.

"They're just guns," Graham stared. "We came all this way for some dead soldier's rifle?"

"They're not just any guns," Uruk handed the rifle and pistol over to Numiya to inspect. "These are Black Falcon weapons. The rifle's an SF-80, production run of maybe ten a year. They're made of a certain kind of bone. What kind is a secret, but they're durable as hell and they don't show up on weapons sensors. No detectable discharge either. You could fire one of these in the middle of the Prime Minister's house and no one would know until they found the body."

"Assassin's weapons," Maris grunted.

"Damn right. And now they're ours."

"Seem to be in working order," Numiya handed the guns back over to Uruk, who lovingly replaced them back into their box. Once they were snug inside he nodded to Nolan and the Ferran hoisted it onto his back, securing the case there with a strap across his chest. It almost seemed anticlimactic, but Yo reminded herself that they weren't out of this yet. No one's face was visible, but she stared at Graham, trying to imagine what he was thinking. What kind of person sold out his whole team to a bunch of pirates? A greedy man, without honor. She decided she was going to enjoy it when his time came.

----

They passed back through the Traditus camp before the morning was done, walking around the empty, silent tents. There was still a little blood frozen on the ground at the other end of the slope where they'd killed the sentries, but otherwise they were nothing that told of the Danaversians that had been there just the night before. Maris wondered about trying to take back some of their armor and weapons, but Uruk nixed that quickly. "They're hardly worth anything," he said as they trotted through. "The armor's crap and doesn't fit anyone except Dans anyway, and their guns are too heavy and inaccurate to do anyone good. The best any armorer might do is melt them down for scrap."

Numiya agreed. "Danaversians are not known for their craftsmanship. It will only slow us down."

The climb down seemed more perilous in some ways than climbing up. The way was more familiar now, and the snowfall was light for Malthana, but this time around Yo had to thrust her feet and then her whole body down the side of the mountain one step at a time, where gravity pulled at her whenever she swayed in the wind. Before she'd been fighting her way up, pulling away from the falls, but now it was all about precision to keep herself from going down in a much faster and more terminal way than she cared for. The others felt it too, and their grumbles followed them all the way down as they swore oaths against the mountain and the wind. By early afternoon her muscles were burning again, but when they finally stopped on a ledge there was a certain electricity in the thin air.

She sensed it as they stood together under the rocky outcropping in a loose ring. Nolan was checking the straps on the gun case, Necole was leaning to look over the edge at the climb ahead and Uruk consulted the time, but she noticed how Numiya flanked him on one side and Maris was on the other. The old soldier was staring out into the gray and the big Setulanite woman was looking over her shotgun, but they stood like a solid wall behind Yo...and in front of Graham. The Zillar was digging a stone out of his boot and didn't seem to notice, but Yo looked over her shoulder. All their faces were covered as ever, but Uruk nodded to her.
Turning away, Yo slipped her gloves off. The wind bit into her hands with icy needles, but her brass knuckles were warm from where they'd been held against her body.

"Graham, what do you plan to spend your share on?" he asked.

Having succeeded in dislodging the pebble, the pilot tossed it over the side and looked up. "Upgrades for the Clipper. Expensive booze and even more expensive women. Some kind of vacation to go with it. Maybe Shez. Why?"

The kitsune shrugged. "Seems to me that with a million credits you could do better than that. Especially with the five hundred thousand you'd get after you sold the six of us into slavery."

"Million credits? Slavery? What-" Yo could imagine how his eyes were widening behind the mask. She was on him before he could do anything, slamming her body against his in an impact that sent the breath rushing from the scaled alien's lungs. Ripping the pistol from his holster, she threw it behind her even as her other hand pulled him to the ground. The Zillar struggled weakly, wheezing as he fought for air, but she was on top of him with her claws tearing through his suit, feeling for any more weapons. A knife in an interior pocket was kicked over the cliff, and she yanked a holdout blaster from his boot and smashed it on the rocks in a single blow, snarling. By the time she stood his parka was shredded around him, his suit had a dozen holes ripped in it and he was rolling onto his side, gasping when she took his mask away.

"Call her off, call her off," he managed to sit upright, one arm out to fend the vixen off. Yo glanced to Uruk and he jerked his head back, so she retreated a few paces, though she kept herself between Graham and the rest of them.

"So you admit that you were planning to hand us over to the Talon Band?"

"What? No, no," Graham shook his head, shivering. "I'm no pirate Uruk, you know that, I never raided a ship in my life-"

"Didn't stop you from letting them know all about this expedition of ours." His arms were folded as he stared down at the smuggler. "Numiya cracked the files for me while we were aboard your ship. Turns out he's just as good with Zillar computers as he is Dan ones. I guess the Talons outbid me for you, and promising the rest of us to those pirates was just icing on the cake."

"Uruk," his steaming breath was coming out in short little gasps now as he raised two placating hands to the Xiscapian. "You don't understand. Just listen to me here. I had no choice, they were going to get me otherwise, I had to give them something. What else was I supposed to do?"

"Not betraying us would have made for a nice start. When are they coming?"

"I told them to come down when I gave the signal, but they're already here in the system. There's a cutoff tomorrow when they'll come whether they get the signal or not-"

"Yo, hold him over the edge."

She started forward and Graham was up quicker than she would have given him credit for. He threw a wild haymaker of a punch that she sidestepped, seizing his arm and cracking it at the joint. The Zillar screamed and she smashed a knee into his belly, cutting him off as he choked before she wrapped a hand around his throat and thrust out. He was heavier than she was but her cybernetics held up easily as she dangled him into the void, watching him kick and gag and spit as he writhed. Below them was only gray.

"Tomorrow," Uruk said softly, almost lost below the pathetic noises Graham was making. "Fifteen hours each way puts us back down at the base tonight or early tomorrow. And you expect me to believe that they'll only put raiders down after we've already gotten back, rather than trying to ambush us? Pirates are cowards by nature, that's why they survive. Attack suddenly and with strength in numbers and it's easier for you to take them without much of a fight. They don't want to come roaring out of the sky loud and proud, they want to hit us before we know what's happening. So no, I don't believe that. Yo, knock some of his teeth out."

She swung a fist and Graham's head cracked around with a spray of blood, U R YO'S imprinted on the side of his snout. A tooth did come loose, flashing briefly before it vanished over the edge, and he shook his head, sputtering. "Tonight, tonight! They're coming tonight, gods damn you, I told them to wait for my signal so the Dans wouldn't see but they didn't want to wait. They're desperate."

"Lie to me again and I will hurt you," he told him, as if he hadn't already. "How many?"

"I don't know."

"Give me an estimate, then."

"They've got eight ships last I knew. A few armed freighters, a few warships. Hundreds of pirates. You'll never be able to fight them off."

"I don't intend to. I'll leave under the cover of the fort's batteries."

"But that base doesn't have any working weapons. You said so yourself."

"A little bit of a fib," she could hear the smile in his voice. "It didn't, but the missile launchers are still in their towers, with munitions to spare. There was just no power to them, but I fixed that. Well, Nolan fixed that. Remember when I told him to rig up the generators? That was for all of the base, not just lights and heat."

Graham gaped at him. Yo could feel the muscles in his throat working as his words stuck there. "That won't stop all of them. They'll still get through."

"It'll keep them occupied long enough for us to escape."

"But you still need me! You need someone to fly the ship, don't you? I'm the only one who can get you out."

"As it happens, Necole here is a fine pilot herself," Uruk gestured to the wide-eyed Alversian. "She'll see us through."

"W-wait," Graham choked as Yo tightened her fingers around his neck. "You don't have to drop me. You could sell me, the Vipran flesh markets-"

"Hit him again."

Another blow sent him reeling, adding BITCH to his face. Graham's head sagged to the front, a line of bloody spit dripping from his mouth, but Uruk leaned out next to him and tilted his chin up to look at him. "Unlike you, I don't deal in slaves," he told him. "But I did tell you that you'd get what you deserve. And here we are."

"Don't let go of me," he clung to Yo's arm with both of his, trying to bring his legs up. It looked like he was trying to do a pull up. "I don't want to fall. I don't want to die. Please. Don't drop me."

"Bring him back onto the cliff," Uruk turned away as Yo stepped back, setting Graham down on the edge. The Zillar fell to his knees immediately, claws scraping on the rock.

"Oh thank you, thank you Uruk, I'll never-"

"Now kill him."

He was too stunned to so much as cry out as she swept his feet out from under him, deftly turning the Zillar over onto his belly. Graham didn't even seem to realize what was happening until she pressed his mouth against a upraised lip of stone, forcing his jaws open. A half groan, half wail escaped him as he tried to pull back, but Yo stood on his back with a foot against the back of his head. His scream was muffled when she kicked the first time, but blood gushed across the rock and his shrieks grew higher and shriller as she stomped again and again, the screams of a coward. She kept slamming her foot into his head until he stopped making noise and moving and her foot was covered in blood. He lay still when she stepped aside, and when she looked around she saw that Necole was covering her ears in a vain attempt to block out the cracking noises.

"Grab the transponder for the Mani Clipper. Then over the side."

Kneeling, Yo picked up the controller for the freighter that also served as its passkey and stuffed it into one of her pockets. She kicked the corpse, and it left a bloody trail before it went tumbling off the cliff. The fog swallowed it like it had swallowed everything else. Her hands were cold, so she slipped off her brass knuckles and put them away too, pulling on her gloves. She tried kicking her boots into the snow a couple of times, but there wasn't enough to wash away the blood, so it just stuck to the hard surfaces.

No one said anything as they continued their climb down. It went faster without Graham, as he'd always been one of the weakest and most vocal about his complaints, but it seemed like everyone just wanted to get back to the base in time to avoid the Talon Band. Or just to get warm again. Or maybe just to put distance between themselves and the cliff where the smuggler had met his bad death? Yo couldn't tell anymore. She wasn't even sure which she wanted.

----

Dusk was falling by the time they reached the series of ledges overlooking the base. Night came quickly on Malthana, with the rotation turning the air from gray to black all around, and the fresh storm brewing didn't help matters. Peeking up over the lip with Maris beside her, Yo had to use her suit's sensors to scan the grounds of the facility below, but nothing seemed out of place. "It's as dead as when we left it," Maris commented. "There's no pirates here yet."

"Means Uruk still has time to meet the buyer and do the exchange."

"Yup."

"And I still have time to fuck you."

Maris laughed. "And what if the Talon Band comes down on us in the middle of it?"

"Ever see a man's face get punched through the back of his head?"

They weren't long in letting Uruk know. "I'll signal them. I didn't trust Graham from the start, so I'll use my own comm array, not the one on the Mani Clipper. I wouldn't be surprised if they're set up to intercept any messages that come off that ship."

The last few scrambles down seemed to go by in seconds, and before she knew it Yo was following the rest of them through the door and back into the base. "Get into the Clipper and use her sensors to watch the skies," he told Numiya. "If anything comes, including the buyer's ship, I want to know about it." He went off to set up the array, bringing Nolan with him, and Necole vanished into the room that she and Uruk had shared. Yo were left in the front area as Maris went down the hall: her boots were leaving bloody footprints all over the floor.

The kitsune had her boots off and was pulling the parka over her head when the sable Setulanite reappeared, dressed in a tank top and shorts over her skinsuit under armor. "Uruk says the buyer will be here soon. No more than ten minutes, no less than five. You think you can wring an orgasm out of me that fast?" A wide grin split her face as she pulled the shotgun off her back and propped it against the wall.

Yo grinned back, stretching in her skintight bodyglove. "What, just one?"

When Maris pressed her body up against her's it was like being hit by a bull, but her mouth was as soft as satin and Yo stood her ground. The taller woman had to lean over to kiss her and Yo slung her arms around her neck, pulling her closer in to keep their lips connected. Tongues intertwined, she felt Maris pushing and let her, walking awkwardly, almost drunkenly backwards without even coming up for air until her back hit metal. It took her a moment to realize that it was the doors to the armory locker, but when she did she grinned into the kiss. Using her tail to open the doors was child's play, and then she was pulling Maris in on top of her as the doors swung shut to leave them in darkness.

Having finally broken off, she squeezed Maris's breasts, hands creeping under her top in the gloom. The other woman grunted and shifted, rolling over, and Yo found herself underneath her. Annoyed, she squirmed, trying to get back on top when someone cold and sharp pressed itself against her neck. She thrashed, actually throwing Maris off of her, but even as she tried to rise the strength sapped from her arms and legs and she fell back, limbs thudding gracelessly beside her. Then Maris was there, pulling her up against her chest.

She'd managed to hike her shirt up over her breasts, and Yo could feel her stiff nipples rubbing against her face. "I'll miss this," she told her, reaching down and plucking the pistol from her hip as easily as she'd done with Graham. "You were fun to fool around with, I admit it. But it is a nice, long trip back to Setulan." Maris pushed her breasts together, forcing Yo's snout into her cleavage before she let go of her, letting the kitsune simply flop over onto her side, yellow eyes staring up at her, able only to blink and shift those vulpine orbs from side to side. "We'll have plenty of time."

As if she could read her thoughts, Maris laughed a little as she tugged her shirt back down. "Yes, the Blades. They've got a policy, you know: an offense against one of them is an offense against all of them, to be repaid with disproportionate retribution. Their first problem was that you got off-world and out of their reach before they could get you. Their other problem is that you burned down a bar full of them for, what was it? A roofied drink? I don't know how they'll top a dozen charred corpses with all their teeth knocked out with just you to play with, but I'm sure they'll figure something out." She smiled. "Unfortunately for you, what I put in you is a bit stronger than some club drugs. You should be nice and relaxed until I've got you safely in a cage on my ship."

Getting up, she walked on her knees over to the doors before looking over her shoulder. "So I'm going to go out to meet the buyer, make sure I get paid my share and then sneak off with you under Uruk's nose. Fool never knew I put my own ship here right down the slope when I was 'scouting', just for you. Just want you to know that this is nothing personal. Like I said before, I hate to see a nice ass go to waste, but they're paying me good money for you. And I'll make plenty of use of that ass before then, believe me. Don't go anywhere." She blew her a kiss, opened the doors and stepped out, letting them swing shut behind her.

From her position on the floor Yo tried to get up. It was impossible: neither her muscles or cybernetics were even responding. She could still feel everything, but all she could do was breath, blink and move her eyes. Anger raged inside of her, at Maris and the implants that were supposed to purge toxins and most of all at herself for bedding someone that eve Uruk had warned her about, but for all her fury she couldn't so much as lift a finger. Her eyes were just at the crack in the door that Maris had left, and from there she looked out into the room and hall beyond.

Uruk was standing just inside the foyer area past the hallway, having shed his parka and put on a loose tunic over his skinsuit. Nolan stood beside him with the case, still dressed in the full parka, while Maris was across from him with her back to the locker, shotgun held easily in both hands. She towered over the other two, but neither of them were paying her much mind and her eyes were looking the same way as theirs: the outside door. Where Necole was Yo couldn't say. She tried to shout to Uruk, to roll over, scratch a claw, anything to make a sound, but she was as paralyzed as ever.

When the door opened it brought a blast of frigid air and howling wind that she felt even inside the locker, making her shiver involuntarily. Someone came through and the door slammed shut a moment later, heralding a tall figure dressed in a long black cloak with the hood up. A gloved hand reached up and peeled it back to reveal the face of a stunningly beautiful woman. She was almost as pale as the snow outside, with features that managed to both be delicate like porcelain and betray a certain sharp inner strength, a combination of elfin gracefulness and handsome confidence. Her auburn hair was tied up in a bun, and when she swept her cloak back her black tunic was devoid of insignia, leaving no hint as to what organization she might belong to.

"Hello," Uruk bowed to her in the tradition Xiscapian way, which she returned. "I am Uruk, the one who originally contacted you. These are my associates, Maris Sladek and Nolan Hartjen. It's a pleasure to meet you, ms...?"

"Ms. Johnson will do, Uruk," she said crisply. Her voice had an Alversian accent to it, high and fluid. "You have the items?"

"Of course. Show her, Nolan."

Opening the case, Nolan held it out to her for her inspection. The woman who called herself Ms. Johnson craned her head slightly, looking over the two guns inside without expression. "They do seem to be in excellent condition. I trust they are in working order?"

"I believe so, Ms."

"You believe so." She seemed to roll the words around in her mouth, as if tasting them. If she was then she didn't like their flavor. "Do you mind if I test them, then? You seem to have ammunition here."

"Go right ahead. Just, ah, time is of the essence, Ms. Johnson. I'm afraid we may have attracted some unwanted attention, so it would behoove us to move this along as swiftly as possible."

"Don't worry," she picked up the pistol, which seemed to mold itself to her palm. "This will only take a moment."

Ms. Johnson raised the weapon, pointing it away from all of them and into the spa room. Yo never saw her pull the trigger and there was no retort when the gun fired, just the flash of a force field just beside the woman. The projectile must have deflected, because blood burst from Uruk's chest and the kitsune crumpled where he stood, hitting the floor in the blink of an eye. Before anyone else even moved the red-haired human whirled, something in her other hand, and Maris dropped, a second red smile cut across her throat that had her thudding down to join Uruk without having fired a shot. A hilt was in Ms. Johnson's hand, but the blade that extended from it was as thin and silvery as spider silk, and Yo had no idea where it had come from.

Nolan lifted a leg, about to take a step, hand lowering itself to his pistol. That was as far as he got. The Ferran made a horrible rasping noise when the woman turned, her weird sword flashing, and blood welled and sprayed from a dozen wounds across his arms and torso like a magic trick before he fell back against the wall and slid down, jaw slack as he stared glassily into space. He left a long crimson streak on the wall behind him, but no ichor was on the blade. The entire sequence had taken three seconds, one for each of them.

The would-be buyer took a moment to examine her handiwork, then slid into the next room as smooth as silk, pressing herself back against a wall. It was esoteric to Yo until she saw a pistol gripped in two hands extend out from the hallway, slowly followed by Necole. Like Yo she was wearing just her skinsuit and a grim look on her pretty face, but her gun never wavered and she stepped forward slowly and carefully, in a practiced firing position every time she paused. Yo wanted to shout to her, to warn her of the woman lurking in the other room, but the Alversian seemed to sense it. She pushed away from the wall quickly, pivoting with her back to the locker and stepping away so she could see into the next room, pistol still leveled.

There was a hologram of some kind of badge being projected into the air in front of her. "Internal Security Service! Lay down on-"

Ms. Johnson lunged. Blood gushed and Necole screamed in agony, falling to her knees even as something hit the ground next to her, and Yo realized with a lurch that it was both of her hands still wrapped around her gun. Another flash and the agent's body toppled, the corpse falling one way while her head rolled the other, mouth still stretched into an O of pain. Ms. Johnson hadn't so much as lifted the Black Falcon sidearm in her other hand. Seeming to realize this, she tucked it away into her tunic.

Numiya looked like little more than a shadow to her and didn't make a sound as he raised his rifle from the hall, but the woman turned and by the time the bullet exploded against the wall she was gone. She appeared by him as suddenly as if she had teleported, and even as he dodged away she gave a lazy flick of the wrist and sliced his weapon and arm in half, going through metal, flesh and bone as if it was nothing. The kitsune staggered away, managing to yank his wakazashi from its sheath with his other hand, and when she struck he parried, the blades bouncing off each other. He swung and she ducked, and another slice severed his hand, followed by a kick that knocked him against the wall. He slid down as his sword clattered to the floor, thoroughly dismembered but not yet dead, looking up at her even as he sat in a pool of his own blood.

"Where's the pilot?" she asked him, sword at her side. "Graham Kader?"

"Dead," the Xiscapian managed. "We killed him on the mountain. Uruk found out that he..." His face contorted in pain, but he kept talking, "sold us out."

"One less for me to deal with." Ms. Johnson seemed to shrug, though it was difficult to tell under her cloak. "Anyone else?"

"All the Talon Band men about to come down on you. And probably Traditus troops."

"Thank you," she said, and stabbed him in the chest. Numiya stiffened around the blade, choking, and then sagged, head bowing until his chin touched his collar. Pulling the sword out, she flourished with it and the weapon seemed to vanish. Turning away, she pulled something out of her clothes that Yo recognized as a shaped charge. Her other hand picked up the case with the SF-80 in it, and she walked down the hallway. She never gave any of the bodies or the locker a second glance.

It was utterly silent after she was gone, and the only things that moved were the shadows of the snow as it flew past the windows and the slowly expanding pools of blood from the five bodies sprawled across the floor. After a while Yo found that she could move the tips of her fingers, the end of her tail and even twitch her ears a little. She stared at Maris's body, who's head had lolled back with hazy eyes staring eternally at the locker she had trapped her would-be prey in. "I'm nobody's...hard merchandise..." Yo grunted out, but the dead woman didn't say anything. For a moment Yo hoped that some kind of hell existed, just so Maris could burn in it.

After a few minutes she was able to sit up, with effort. It felt like half her body had fallen asleep, pins-and-needles crawling across the skin under her fur, and that was the good half because the other half more resembled a stroke victim's, with no movement at all. Her implants were purging the substance, but Yo pricked up her ears, listening. Ms. Johnson was out there somewhere, and if she ran into her in this state then she knew she was dead.
Then the rumble came.

The whole base seemed to shake, or maybe it was just the building, but either way she could hear its supports groaning in protest as they twisted underneath some force. The bitch is collapsing the barracks. Whether or not she was still around didn't matter: if she stayed here then she was dead anyway. Dragging herself forward, Yo knocked the locker doors open and immediately tumbled out, hitting the floor hard on her stomach. Biting back a groan, she gritted her teeth and pulled herself forward by her functioning arm, tail trailing uselessly as she crawled through the blood. It soaked into her suit and into her fur, the scent rising into her nose until she couldn't smell anything else, and it splashed as she put her hand into the still-warm puddles and inched her way through.

Stopping by Maris, she shoved a hand into one pocket, came up with a wallet and tossed it away with a curse. The other held what she was looking for, and she pulled out her ship's transponder. Many of them had an autopilot function, and she knew she might need it to cover her own escape on the Mani Clipper. Raking a bloody hand up the wall, she pulled herself up in time for the building to wail again as a support gave way and a shuddering crash told her that an adjoining room had just collapsed in, but that was eclipsed by the howling noise of incoming thrusters and the fwoosh of missiles leaving their berths. A burst of light flashed through the windows and war erupted outside.

Ignoring it all, she pulled herself over to the door. There was no point in checking the bodies, she knew that no one that moved like Ms. Johnson did would be so sloppy as to leave any of them alive. Leaning against the door, she did glance over her shoulder. There was no shortage of guns to pick up, but whether she could use any of them was another matter. Ultimately she picked one set of brass knuckles out and slid them over the fingers of her good hand. She tried with the other, but her fingers refused to curl into a fist to hold them, so she dropped them back into their pouch.

Yo looked up, and the door crashed open even as the building trembled again and part of the ceiling caved in. A screaming Zillar leveled a shotgun at her, and she crushed his snout with a reflexive blow, growling as he stumbled back and dropped dead into the snow, a BITCH leaving its telltale sign on his snout. Beyond him it was chaos. One of the towers had crumbled away, simply gone as some weapon had sheared most of it away from its base and down the slope, but the other three kept flinging their missiles into the sky as fiery fingers, including one just behind her that was lighting up the whole scene every time it shrieked another barrage of rockets into the gray. Even as she watched a squat dropship took one to its belly and blew apart, scattering bits of flaming metal and body parts across the slopes.

On the ground the complex swarmed with Zillar pirates and Danaversian soldiers. Bodies already carpeted the ground and aliens were diving every which way, taking cover behind buildings and wrecked ships or twisting and falling as lasers and bullets found their marks. The hanger bay was aflame, Yo glimpsing fire dancing between its door even as smoke rose from a huge hole in the roof, and the Mani Clipper was similarly on fire, cracked open by some internal explosion that hadn't stopped a group of Talons from using it as a shield from Danaversians who were shooting at them from the roof of a supply depot. Screams, roars and called commands in Danaversian, Zillar and Common ripped across the complex as frequently as gunfire, and shapes shifted and flitted through the snowy darkness, only to be lit up whenever they fired. Ms. Johnson was nowhere to be seen.

Turning away from the landing pad, Yo limped down the slope, keeping close to the wall of the barracks even while it collapsed in on itself. A Danaversian appeared out of the darkness, rifle pointing over her head as he searched for foes, and found one too late as she reached up and smashed his head against the wall. He pulled back, bellowing, and she kicked in one leg to his scream, then pivoted and cracked his skull between her palm and the metal. The amphibian collapsed dead and she stepped one foot over him, dragging the other, eyes set forward to the slope that wandered down beyond the base where her freedom lay. She was only a few meters away from the barracks before it finally went up, but she never looked back.

----

The woman with the auburn hair stood in the tiny communications chamber. She was no longer Ms. Johnson, for all that she'd ever been her. The connection was as secure as it could possibly be, but even so she knew she didn't have long. The Director was not one for long-winded speeches, especially remotely, where there was always the chance that a message could be intercepted, cracked, traced. She knew they were connected when the light went on at the corner of the screen. No more. The Director was not wont to show his face either.

"I recovered the items," she said. "Everyone involved in the retrieval operation has been eliminated. I made sure of it."

"Really?"

His tone was neutral, was it usually was, but the mere question itself was enough for her to raise a single bright eyebrow. "One of my probes found the pilot. His DNA was matched to our samples exactly. I insured that his Mani Clipper was destroyed as well. He is neutralized."

"That is not to who I refer. This ship was seen departing the site of your operation shortly after the battle between the local Danaversian clan and the Talon Band pirates commenced." The holo appeared, displaying the bentnose shuttle arcing through the atmosphere before coming into orbit, gathering energy, and vanishing into the ether. It looped back to the beginning, just a few seconds long in all from some other ship's sensors, but more than enough for his purposes. She stared for a long moment, mind racing.

"That is the Calamity. The ship of Maris Sladek. But..." Her brow furrowed. "I terminated Sladek. There is no way it should have been able to retrieve her. How did it get there?"

"It was already present, she was indeed in no condition to pilot it. Sladek hid it there in advance of her arrival, telling no one as far as I can tell. The only reason I know is because I traced it back through various logs after this footage was uncovered."

"So someone from the battle stole Sladek's ship. What of it?"

"They were the seventh member of Uruk's expedition." Another hologram appeared, this one of a scowling black vixen in a prisoner's jumpsuit. "Again, traced back through our informants on Malthana Station. She was there when Uruk passed through, then vanished. Now the neutralized bounty hunter's ship leaves, and I have found a history between this one and Uruk." His eyes weren't visible, but the woman knew they were burning into her. "Did you encounter an Xiscapian called Yo?"

"No. I never even saw her."

"Then she is a loose end who must be tied up."

"I will-"

"You will return to Alversia. Someone else will deal with this one."

Her fists clenched. "The Internal Security Service will be looking for her. It won't take them long to realize she's the only surviving member of the group that their undercover agent was inserted into. If they find her before we do-"

"Then they will have a story from an unreliable thug about a woman who she cannot prove the existence of, if she ever knew of you at all. That does not change that she will need to be terminated. But not by you. That she remains at all is a failure on your part. A failure I will not forget."

The woman's face went blank. "I understand."

"Indeed. Return to Alversia. You will need to be treated more extensively. I will not tolerate this kind of failure again."

There was a millisecond of hesitation, but then she nodded. "Yes sir."

"Good."

The light went out. Both holograms still floated where they'd been conjured. Her eyes locked on the yellow vulpine orbs of the Xiscapian who she had missed, and then been denied. I will have you, she vowed silently. You were my mistake. I pledged my whole self to the Director and his mission, and I correct my mistakes. Enjoy what time you have left, Yo. The clock is ticking.
Xis quote of the week: Altaria Almighty: how are you not just a race of sexual predators? Like who needs power armour and gauss rifles when you have leather and whips. –Karaig
The Kitsune Empire of Xiscapia's FT Factbook (V2.5)
R.I.P. Shal - 1/17/10


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