The Martian Anthology [Maintenance][Closed][FT]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Lady Scylla
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The Martian Anthology [Maintenance][Closed][FT]

Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:51 pm


Laconia, Martian Conglomerate

They called it the Great War. I call it the end of an era. For a hundred and thirty years, the Martians have existed against all sense and odds in an otherwise rational and sane universe. Their spite fed them, their resilience made them, but their actions defined them. To the Martians, they weren't just the future of mankind - they were the definition of it and all of its glory. They forged an empire across a galaxy, moving in a confusing amalgam of politics, corruption, war, and death.

Eventually, our arrogance caught up to us.

Spanning four quadrants and billions of people, it was not the Nyteborne nor some other foreign power that spelled our downfall. An empire of lies only lasts for as long as those lies can be maintained. And the Conglomerate was built on nothing but lies. And now that our cities are in ruin, and the empire has since drawn its last breath, we only have a cold reality to keep us warm at night.

I walk through the streets of the capital, and find myself reflecting on areas of the city still in ruin. Reconstruction continues but some scars just cannot be easily repaired. Laconia, like many cities, will forever bear the marks of our sins for generations to come. Our days were always numbered - we were fools that couldn't see that. We were blind and held captive to our own hubris. It is a heavy price to pay.

The last days of the empire were swift. As we ate each other alive - the Nyteborne overran our Gamman colonies. By 2178, all of Gamma had been lost. In the confusion, the Beta colonies under the Nalar League pressed for independence. Meridian (Separatists) was eventually defeated, they never recovered their losses after the battle of Sol. To this day, a cold war exists between MarCong and Meridian in Delta, where the last of our colonies remain.

The Security Council of the Martian Forum, composed of the nations on Mars, enforced measures on the Conglomerate following the war. Post-war reconstruction has begun, funded by Martian neighbours. As the economy and the Conglomerate's people recover, we all have had to pay a price. Hawking was ceded to the Menelmacar as reparations. A 'contraction' of many corporate colonial worlds has been enforced, with migrations moving inward towards Mars as territories are re-consolidated. The new post-war government is now under my command at the discretion of these powers.

It is a post I never wanted, but one I must dutifully fill. I do not know what future the Martian Conglomerate will have, but I know its past. An era has come to a close, and a new one begins. The old Conglomerate is no more, its government disbanded, its politics and society shattered. Ashes to ashes.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:14 pm

Laconia City, New Martian Empire

''Consider me old fashion,'' Nerys stated. The Admiral-turned-Empress deposited a rolled up blueprint on top of her desk that she had taken from a cabinet moments earlier. She made room for it on her desk and then unrolled the parchment to reveal the heavily detailed drawings of a new battlecruiser. Along the top of the blueprint read in large white letters, 'Endurance-class'.

''It's a complete redesign by my engineers that replaces the Nergal-class entirely,'' she gestured along a few different points of the vessel. Unlike the Nergal, the Endurance came with rear-facing hangar bays, a spinal mounted mass driver, two larger and more sleek retractable railguns compared to the Nergal's non-retractable eight, and an overall more sloped and well-thought out design to maximise point-defence coverage for incoming projectiles. Writing along the aft of the vessel showed armoured and independent engine housing to increase survival, and a modular design to quickly replace or modify large sections of the vessel such as engines, batteries, and quarters.

Most interesting was the armour layout, which while maintaining a citadel for the vitals of the ship, saw greater attention in thickness and angle applied to the front and along certain slopes to help slow physical projectiles or deflect them off the hull along the bow and sides. This layout meant that shells could strike a slope, and deflect over the vessel's guns or engines entirely. The outermost plating looked to be quickly replaceable with special fasteners. Along the bow and away from major vitals were inset missile bays.

Essentially, the Endurance was more specialised to be the main bulk of a new Martian fleet, compared to the Nergal's swiss-army knife design. She was outfitted to engage with other capital ships and support major ground operations, likely relying on other specialised ships like destroyers and cruisers to protect her or complement her armament. She had a larger, more efficient energy construction composed of smaller power-plants built into series that could be cycled individually to the needs of the ship, and at only 1028 meters long, she needed just 815 crew to man properly but had enough room to carry up to 1970.

Nerys pulled some other blueprints and laid them out though she didn't unravel to reveal their contents. However, the writing on them suggested more in-depth designs of the railguns and other systems aboard the vessel. She rested her hand on the small stack and looked at her guests. ''It's an entirely new ship built from the ground up that solves a number of glaring problems from our previous vessels,'' she said.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Apr 21, 2020 8:18 pm

''You wanted to see me?''

''Have a seat, Ria. We've something to discuss...''

// Laconia City, Mars, Martian Empire //

Nerys carefully put away an armful of rolled up documents inside a secured cabinet. She locked it up as Ria, the ambassador for the Martian United Nations, sat awkwardly on the other side of the large mahogany desk. The Empress' office looked more like the home of an engineer or a scientist than anything. A telescope was setup by the window, and amazing little trinkets stacked the shelves in between entire volumes on military theory, government and economics, and history. The large glass doors leading to the balcony were left open to let in the summer breeze which gently rustled papers on the desk.

''You're probably wondering why I asked you to come here,'' Nerys said while taking her seat.

''If this is about my work as an Ambassador during the war...''

''It's not. You can relax, you're not being reprimanded for disobeying orders of a government that isn't even in power anymore. I trust your judgement and you were vital to the help we needed,'' the Empress stated as she leaned over to type some things out on her computer. ''You're actually here to be commended for your efforts and receive a promotion of sorts.''

''A promotion?'' Ria asked while she picked at the skin around her nails. ''I don't - I don't understand.'' She was belated that she was allowed to maintain her post at the Hellas Installation after the war, but now this talk of promotion made Solomon's stomach roll.

''As you know, I've been busy putting together a post-war administration and will need a General Secretary to oversee government functions. I've selected you if you choose to accept it,'' Nerys neatly organised her desk and stacked some papers on the side. She called in her secretary who came in briskly and gathered the paperwork before departing just as quickly without a word. To say the atmosphere of the office area was uncomfortable would have been an understatement. This entire wing of the palace was quiet, so much so that Ria could hear her heartbeat thundering away under her breath.

''Ms. Solomon?''

The ambassador snapped out of her trance and looked at Nerys with an almost blank expression. ''You want me to be the General Secretary...'' she mumbled. The Empress nodded and leaned back in her chair with a creak as she fumbled with a pen between her fingers. The woman's face barely made any expression, in fact Ria couldn't remember her making any sort of facial expressions at all in the time they knew each other. Nerys always had a very stoic look on her face.

The Empress stood up abruptly to look out over the balcony but startled Ria in the process. ''The nation that we knew is gone, Ambassador. We were at the top of our power nearly fifty years ago but were in decline ever since. Propagandists of the Van Allen era up until recently fed their lies to the public about our unique position and power - we didn't even eclipse our neighbours - but it was all a distraction to hide the truth from everyone, even though they knew it.''

''What was that?'' Ria asked.

''That we were on the verge of collapse. We were never a superpower and were never going to be. We were an annoying backwater to just about every astropolity that was weak but also frightening. The pre-war administration didn't function, it hadn't functioned for decades. Between corruption, the wealth concentration on Mars at the expense of her colonies, and our totalitarian solutions that became more and more extreme -- anyone with some intelligence would have seen that what the administration portrayed as strength was just the death rattle of a failed state gasping for air,'' the Empress spoke.

She came off the balcony and put the pen she was messing with back into the cup where she had gotten it from and looked at the ambassador. ''We all believed a lie, Ms. Solomon. We paid the price but now we must live with our consequences. The Mars we knew is gone and this is the new world, and we're both relics of a different era but at least we are in a position to actually achieve something. We have no post-war government, we lost sixty-percent of our territory, we're under the thumbs of several nations, we're facing a massive refugee crisis, extremely high unemployment, and crime. I need someone that I can trust to manage the nation I am trying to build, trying to keep from eating itself alive. So what say you, Ambassador?''

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Apr 22, 2020 5:43 pm

A government was convening for the first time. They had all gathered in a meeting room with a large table. The Martian Empress sat at one end, and the new Secretary General sat at the other end. After introductions had been formally made, they were down to business. Nerys' new government involved a board of advisers, Secretaries, that were experts in their respective field. Their role was to keep the Empress informed on matters of state so that she may act on them.

Discussions involved recent unrest in Delta, food shipments and aid, the refugee crisis, unemployment, the military, and more. Nerys had taken the time to meticulously craft herself notes about what the Secretaries were most concerned about. She would be able to look them over at the end of the meeting to decide a course of action. This was her new government. It was simultaneously proactive and reactive to the whims of the empire, she was both planning for the future of the nation and dealing with its past. And these meetings would be a recurring asset to her authority.

As the last official addressed his concerns, the room fell silent, all eyes were fixed on the Empress. She clicked her pen and sat it aside to review her notes. ''Secretary Marshal,'' she spoke while glancing to the new Secretary of the Exterior, ''I'm going to authorise an MCN deployment to the Caldera system in Delta. You can notify the United Systems Federation that they'll have the backing of the central government while they deal with the unrest. I do want to make myself clear, however.''

It was no secret that Nerys could exude dominance when she needed to. She was a career Admiral and had spent most of her life in the MCN. To say that the way she spoke and how she conveyed it with authority was nothing short of impressive would be an understatement. ''Force is to be a last resort. I want these units to cooperate and engage with local governments to aid them. As such, I'll be assigning command of these units to the Federation's General Secretary for a period of six months. I will need routine reports on the situation as it evolves and you to make sure that the Federation's General Secretary heeds my concerns. Is that clear?''

James Marshal, the Exterior Secretary nodded and agreed. ''Excellent. Secretary Tadeyoshi,'' she then looked to the Foreign Affairs Secretary, ''as you're aware, I am going to be signing a directive tomorrow authorising the unshackling of funds to launch my infrastructure initiative. Part of this plan is dependent on foreign lending and I will need to reach out to the Phoenixi for assistance. I want you, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary General to attend a meeting in the Hypatia system with the Domain's counterparts to secure a deal.''

''Yes, your Majesty,'' Mizumi responded.

''I understand there's reservations among all of your about this initiative but I'll make this point clear. As it stands, we're effectively under 'friendly' occupation by the Sunsetti and Menelmacar - while their help in maintaining order has been beneficial to us, and their monetary injections have helped cushion the burden of the recession, if we wish to get out from under the shadow of these two Solarian states, we must begin planning for the future,'' Nerys spoke as her gaze slowly scanned their faces.

''An empire requires many things, but most prominently: Communication, Control, and Commerce. The war severely disrupted our ability to effectively communicate with the colonies making news slow. We need to begin an infrastructure plan to construct more communication buoys across the galaxy to re-establish connection and improve on our communication.''

Secondly, we must restructure our fleets. That means scrapping ships we don't need, mothballing others, and spending the money on engineers and designs for the new astropolitical landscape. We must be able to project ourselves both at home and in the colonies more efficiently and effectively.''

Thirdly, establishing trade connections will be vital. As we increase stations and open up business loans, this will start building returns for us down the road, we need trade corridors and deals with foreign powers, and a fleet to protect our domestic and foreign capital moving along them. By focusing on developing these three, the likelihood of us coming out of this recession stronger greatly increases. This is our long-term goal. For the short-term, providing food aid, stability, and continuing with our citizen consolidation project will greatly improve our chances that we get to that long-term goal.''

The demographics are changing as millions move to more stable, centralised systems. We must be in a position to support the urban centres growing out of this so that they can support us later. Infrastructure projects will bring in jobs, and our resettlement program needs to be pushed to the front of our priorities in the short-term so we can continue to consolidate. If we continue to turn our backs on colonial development, we will lose them.''

As Nerys finished, the plan had been laid out for them all. If there was to be a resurgent Mars, it needed to focus on these tenets. The Empress covered a few more concerns of certain sectors of the government before finally dismissing them to their duties. The many officials left the room in higher spirits than they had entered it. Nerys, meanwhile, stayed behind to finish her paperwork.

''Your Majesty?''

Nerys looked up at Ria Solomon, the new Secretary General. She smiled. ''How are you doing, Secretary General?''

''I'm doing well, thank you, your Majesty. I have a question, if you don't mind.''

''Alright,'' Nerys said while closing the folder with all of her paperwork.

''D'you think this will work? I know the Treasury Secretary isn't very fond of your plan,'' Ria commented as she leaned against the table.

Nerys scratched her brow for a moment and sat her pen down. ''It will have to. I'm aware of Beckham's reservations, but he's a career bureaucrat. Outside of everyone else in this room today, he's the only one from the previous administration that I didn't replace. He has good insight and advice, and his loyalties are pretty solid to what he does. Martians are stubborn, and he is definitely one of those. We've lived in a century of short-sightedness and thus anything long-term that costs the government money is antithetical to Beckham's personal philosophy. Don't get me wrong, his concerns aren't invalid - I am driving this nation billions into debt but rather than thinking of it as debt, consider it as more of an investment.''

''How so, if you don't mind me asking.''

''Think of an economy as the amount of people you can sit at a table. What's on the table is the product of an economy, and everyone that sits at the table can bring something they want for everyone else. The chairs they sit on and the table are the infrastructure. The bigger the table and greater the chairs, the more people you can bring, and thus the more product can be exchanged. By spending on our infrastructure now, we will be expanding the economy in turn by giving more room to expand. It's more complicated than that, but that's the general principle. Sometimes it takes money to make money,'' Nerys answered.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Apr 26, 2020 6:55 am

MCS Dagger // Caldera Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant

''MCS Dagger, you are hereby in violation of the 2178 Sedition Act. Stand-down and return to port or be black-marked. Over.''

Myla leaned over the chair to watch the pre-recorded message. The feed showed Captain Vorsec of the USFN Westbridge in his dark blue uniform staring sternly at the camera. She chewed on a bolt with a deviant grin, it was so nice that they sent a Captain to handle the matter. A captain herself of a small scav frigate, the twenty-eight year old Chiron Station-borne native had already racked up quite the sizeable reward. She eyed the number on the market: £1,200,000,000. She danced giddily for a moment.

She was a tall, slender woman with dark skin. Her black curly hair was permed and hung around her head. A tattoo of two blue tapered lines and three dots beneath her eye displayed proudly that she was a spacer from Chiron. She wore a mechanic's faded orange coverall with the shirt-half draped and tied around her waist, exposing a grey undershirt and the darker orange straps that held up the uniform and went over her shoulders.

Beside her, more stoic, was her current flame - Marcus. He was also a spacer but from Themistocles Station. ''Cai d'you, Myla?'' he spoke in the typical spacelanger. She hadn't realised Marcus had come into the bridge but was excited to show him as she took his hands and played the message again. His reaction didn't change completely, but his eyes burned more lividly at the screen of the USFN commander.

''Check it, Marcus. Dem thassa senda mav fer me-wa.'' Mav was short for 'maverick', it was a derogatory term used against the officers of the MSN or USFN. Most notably it was used by the spacers and some outlanders. Thassa, of course, was the local slang for the navy in general. It wasn't inherently derogatory in nature. Though the outlanders that made up the Martian colonies often said it like they were tasting something bitter.

The pair exchanged a gentle kiss as the door to the bridge slid open. Tamos was standing in the doorway. His more aged face spoke well of the years he had weathered aboard ships like the Dagger. Myla seemed irritated at the intrusion, but Tamos' face told them it was urgent.

''Dem others have arrived, lah'' And so they had. Several other ships of similar class to the Dagger had entered the system and were in retro-burn to its location. Marcus pulled away from Myla and put up the LIDAR on the bridge's holodeck. They were spacers as well. Not the navy. The party had begun, and thus why the Dagger had found the isolated system fitting for a mooring.

''Me-wa gonna head down-a hangar, bossman,'' Marcus said. He quickly departed with Tamos leaving Myla alone in the bridge. She left the bolt resting in her teeth and tapped the record button on her station's keyboard.

''Oye, Thassa. Dis be Captain Myla of dem Free-Citizen Ship Dagger comin' at you live. Me-wa denyin' dem order a-stand down. Senda me-wa your best,'' she spoke before blowing a kiss to the camera and killing the feed. A grin slowly crept across her face as the transmission was uploaded and dispatched over the galnet. With that task completed, she hurried down to the hangar as well to prepare for their guests.

USFN Westbridge // Hypatia Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant

The Westbridge was currently docked at the Syracuse Dockyard above the Santa Palma space elevator. They had been here for several hours in receiving as supplies were offloaded into the cruiser's hold. Captain Vorsec, its commander, had been enjoying himself some early morning coffee in the chow-hall, and reading over a newspaper about the local politics when his subordinate approached the table. There was a momentary salute while the Captain sipped his cup of comfort, though he did not return the gesture.

''Lieutenant,'' he said instead with a subtle nod.

The Lieutenant dropped the salute and went to parade-rest. ''Sir, we've received a transmission from the MCS Dagger.'' The Captain held out his hand to take the tablet from the lieutenant and played the message. There was a faint pitiful smile on Vorsec's face as the clip finished and he handed the tablet back. He sat his newspaper aside and gestured for the officer to have a seat with him.

''Sir, if I may, paper is generally expensive and you're reading it? Why not just use a tablet?'' the lieutenant inquired. Admittedly, the officer was newer to the ship than Vorsec. He wasn't aware that Santa Palma was the Captain's favourite spot to shore up for some food and relaxation. He slid the paper towards the lieutenant and tapped on it.

''Hypatia is one of the few places in the empire with an abundance of trees. Its cheaper here than elsewhere. I can get a newspaper for about £5? Versus the £15 on Mars. Besides, it helps the locals out. They also have interesting news - much less dramatic than the typical rabble. Santa Palma has a new mayor, in fact. Some outlander from Orpheus named Dyllard. Supposedly he's a nice guy, and he likes apple pie. That's points in my book,'' he grinned.

The lieutenant smiled and there was a soft chuckle that followed. ''Okay, okay. I get it,'' he responded and pushed the paper back. The Captain picked it up with a grin and opened it back up to read something else within the pages. The chow-hall itself wasn't very busy, there were a few stragglers but sailors were allowed to be up late while shoring. Of course, this was all going to come to an end - things had to be made complicated and while paradise was nice for Vorsec, it just didn't seem to fit his demeanour.

''Y'know they're going to send us after them, Raineer'' the captain said to the lieutenant. He sighed for a moment and then finally rolled the paper up and sat it down on the table. ''Command tells me there's six more ships that have raided convoys these past few days, all civilian retrofitted frigates and corvettes. With the war over, the military hardware on the market is a new hot commodity - especially with the piracy. Locals and the MCN have tried their best to squash it, but well, we have this shit-show.''

''D'you think it'll become widespread? What the Dagger is doing, I mean,'' Raineer asked.

The captain gave him a shrug and sipped from his coffee. He may as well have been drinking cardboard - ship coffee was never the best, and it was one thing that was too expensive in Santa Palma. Perhaps Vorsec's one complaint about the place. After he got over the drink's soured taste, he sat the cup down and spoke frankly, ''I don't know, to be honest. The spacer woman is a new anomaly. We're not unused to rebellions out here, they happen about as often as you'd expect, and there's a new... atmosphere about the whole place. You'd figure we'd all be tired of them and just pack our shit and wander our sorry asses home.''

''Atmosphere, Captain?''

''Can't you feel it? Times are changing - the Conglomerate is gone and the tension is running hot in everyone's blood. The new government gave us autonomy only because they can't enforce their laws on us like they used to. Sure, the war is over - thank God for that - but I have a feeling there's much more to come. We're no longer the big dogs on the block here. Nobody is. But I have a feeling that we're very quickly becoming irrelevant. You've got this spacer here, and she's already running her mouth - think about it.. six ships suddenly joining this 'Free Citizen' bullshit. Someone like that, even from a backwater like this place, with little to no prominence - they can make all the difference in the world,'' the captain answered. He grabbed his hat and slit it on, making sure the fit was snug before standing. He gathered his paper and tapped the table by his coffee. ''Things are changing around here, we adapt or we die.''

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Apr 26, 2020 8:08 am

MCS Dagger // Caldera Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant

The hangar doors opened and allowed a shuttle to board the craft. The rusty looking vehicle was otherwise unimposing, being little more than a basic shuttle. Yet, the amount of weaponry present in the hangar showed just how little trust there truly was between the spacers. Once the hangar doors had closed, the Dagger's crew began to remove their helmets and the all-clear was given to allow the passengers of the shuttle to depart. Naturally, they had their guns drawn as well.

''Spacelanger, lah!'' one of the Dagger's crew called out. Indeed, the five emerging from the shuttle were spacers. It appeared they had a leader of their own, another woman, of Asian descent, sporting a long set of dreads and a different eye tattoo. She wore a black exosuit and carried a helmet by her side in one hand, and a rifle in the other. She walked only so far from the shuttle, and took in the room as she did.

''Me see you greet your friends like your enemies,'' she spoke.

''Bettah to greet dem like dem thassa,'' Myla said as she emerged from the crowd. The tension in the room shattered as Myla leapt towards the woman, and the two tightly embraced. ''By Chiron, look at you! You sportin' dem spiff of a Captain now, cai?''

''Aye - Me dem Captain Soo of dem Free-Citizens, at your service,'' the arrival said with a playful bow. Myle laughed before Soo took her by the arm and guided her to the shuttle. Soo's crew had begun working on unloading something large from the rear of the vessel. After a few moments, they had it out on the deck and were prying open the crate.

''Me figured I bring ya sometin' fer me wee sistah,'' Soo said with a grin. The crew managed to get one side free as it slammed to the ground. The shape of a barrel was exposed under a tarp within the crate. Myla's eyes widened to the amusement of Soo as they uncovered the weapon fully, still bearing its Martian livery. ''Behold, a five-inch short-muzzle Marslander railgun. We have twelve more on me ship fer you, sistah. A gift, lah!''

Myla was at a loss for words. She ran her hand along the cold steel and pressed her face against the barrel in awe. ''How d'you come by dis, Soo? It's amazin', lah!'' she exclaimed happily.

Soo crossed her arms and contentedly leaned back as Myla marvelled at the weapon. ''Found it in dem Angmar Station from dem Scav. He sold it fer a pretty penny,'' she answered. The gun itself was likely taken from a derelict destroyer of the MCN. The weapon featured a rotating cylinder near the base to quickly cycle rounds that could be belt fed from a conveyor. The best part was its small size made it adaptable in a yard to be fed via a container of ammunition instead, something the spacers could manage with the right equipment. It made reloading the ship more tedious in dock without a central feed system, but allowed them to more quickly interchange weapon systems.

Ships like the Dagger had already undergone some refits to enable this container system. It was just a matter of welding and attaching the guns to the spots on the hull and then feeding the ammunition into the containers and making sure the thing cycled and pulled rounds properly. The question was whether the ship could handle the power drain of the guns - they would need to find a ship to raid capacitors from, if Myla hadn't done so already. It was the best way to go about it without risking draining the ship. It just mean they would have to manually charge the capacitors from something else.

''Me can't believe you got dis, me so happy! Dinka, sistah. Me-wa are grateful fer dis gift,'' Myla said happily.

''Me-wa much a'discuss, Myla,'' Soo said, finally bringing up the main reason for their visit. As it turned out, the other ships had already elected Soo to represent them for the talks with Myla. And much to discuss there was. Notably, a base of operations - there were plenty of spots in the Martian Delta to hide. But they needed a good location that was close to the trade corridors and starways, and secluded enough to evade the MCN and USFN. There was also the question of leadership.

''Dere is dem problem, sistah,'' Soo said as the two sat in a small side-room leading from the ship's central corridor. ''Dem others want me to lead 'em, but me don't dink dem right. You should be bossman of dem Free-Citizens. So me-wa came a-agreement. You be dem bossman, and me be dem subordinate, cai? Y'know, second, maak'' Soo suggested. That was something that Myla could agree to, and she did. The two shook on it, and before long, it was time for Soo to depart.

The shuttle left the hangar and headed back to the fleet of ships that had entered the system earlier. The cargo Soo had brought as a gift had been unloaded in the time they were holding the meeting and crews were already working on the hull trying to get them attached. The task was proving to be more difficult than anticipated, leaving the Dagger - the new flagship of the Free-Citizens - out of commission for the time being.

USFN Westbridge // Hypatia Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant

The Westbridge pulled away from the Syracuse dockyard. The RCS systems helped orient the ship as a small naval tug got it into position and began to push the vessel out to the free-engine zone. Vorsec had started working on paperwork in the bridge as officers among him carried out their duties. Raineer, who was the comms officer, wasn't among them currently - not unusual for this time, as the comms could be handled by the Captain directly until they were under their own power.

''USFN Westbridge, you are now in the free-thrust zone. Maintain burn at current heading at 10 mike acceleration and gradually increase until you are clear of the well. Mind traffic at 15 degrees of your bow - MCN Victorious is entering free-thrust zone to dock. Thank you for visiting Syracuse Industries, and godspeed. Syracuse, Out.''

''Roger that, Syracuse,'' the Captain said, repeating the rest of the message over the comms. Once it was verified, the ship could now move on its own power. A blue halo resonated from the Westbridge's large, central engine bell. It grew in size across the bell until the entire cone was shining a bright blue colour and the vessel began to move.

As the United Systems' vessel pulled away from the dockyard, the full immensity of it began to fill the holo-screens of the Westbridge. The cruiser itself was about six-hundred and thirty meters long, but was dwarfed by the titanic construction it had just been birthed from. Syracuse was a large circular station that could support a hundred and twenty vessels at one time. It had its own living quarters, construction and service yard, prison, warehousing, and food processing areas such as plants and biodomes. The whole structure rotated along its axis to provide gravity to its nearly ten-thousand inhabitants and was tethered to the massive city of Santa Palma below.

As the ship departed, the MCN Victorious came into view as well. Crew members stopped to take a look at the historic battleship which was no longer under escort. At nearly twice the size of the Westbridge, she served in both the Great War and the Colonial Wars and had undergone two modernisation in her nearly forty years of service. ''Jesus,'' Raineer said as he stopped by the Captain's chair and stared at the holo-feed from the Westbridge's exterior cameras.

''That there is Big Vic herself, lieutenant,'' Vorsec said as he flipped the page of a book he was reading. He didn't stare up at the screen.

''I've heard the stories,'' Raineer said.

''I bet you have. Big Vic is full of them - nice goodnight stories to tell your sailors before they go beddy-byes,'' the Captain teased with a glance and a grin to the lieutenant. ''Hero of New Salamis. Faced down three Meridian battleships and survived despite losing one of her main guns and suffering a partial meltdown. It was Grand Admiral Granger's flagship before he got sacked. Turns out that insulting the big wigs even if you're commanding one of the most powerful battleships in the empire, can still get you canned for slag,'' he chuckled and flipped another page.

Raineer seemed less amused, ''Is it true what they say about her though? Rta?''

''We don't talk about that, Lieutenant,'' the Captain scolded. This didn't satisfy Raineer's curiosity though who was still standing by the commander and waiting for an actual answer. Vorsec sighed and rested the book in his lap. ''I wasn't at the Battle of Rta, Lieutenant. I was busy stamping papers and sending orders from the MCN Ferocious during that. Whether or not the Victorious under Granger really did fire that warhead on Rta - it remains to be unknown. Should know better than to listen to rumours.''

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Apr 29, 2020 7:51 am

USFN Westbridge // Nakamura Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant // Aranea Regis system

The Westbridge had arrived in the Nakamura sector and stopped in the only system with a refuelling star. The system known as Aranea Regis was a quiet and beautiful star system nestled near the middle of the Regis Nebula. The system's bright neutron star shined extravagantly against the backdrop of reds and purples from the nebular cloud. From a great distance, Aranea Regis was the brightest star in this cluster, and the central jewel to the crown that made up the Regis Nebula's constellation.

For nearly a century, freighters traversed the Hermes Starway, the empire's lifeline, to provide the colonies with everything they needed. Aranea Regis was an important part of that lifeline. They could come into the system and refuel before making their final leg into the Hypatia region. And at one point, these freighters and their crews may have stopped for some R&R at the glamorous Albatross - a now abandoned but once luxurious station in the system.

The Albatross was indeed very famous. Known widely for its casinos and restaurants. Its botanical gardens were unmatched on this side of the Martian Delta. The inside of the station was filled with pearly white walls and gold trimmings, beautiful mosaics and painted glass murals. At its height, it was the place for vacation. But now it is a drifting station nearly forty years past its prime. After the Great Crash of 2149, Reiko Corp, the Albatross' parent-company, shuttered the station and left. While Aranea Regis still remained an important stop on the starway. Even now quiet systems like this were no strangers to the changing world around them.

The Westbridge made a fly-by of the station, mostly to scan it for any signs of life. But it gave the crew a glimpse of a bygone era. The once white station had fallen into disrepair. Meteor impacts had damaged much of the station's exterior. There were signs of some limited scavenging as well. Bio-signs could still be detected but looked to be nothing more than what remained of the botanical gardens that hadn't been breached. These gardens would have turned into small terrariums just barely able to self-sustain themselves. With the reactor nearing the end of its life-span, these momentary glimpses of life on the ship's scans would be consumed either in the subsequent meltdown or the cold grip of space.

The Westbridge moved on from the station and headed for its staging point. A communication buoy was still functioning in the system and would provide valuable data about its visitors. With that data and the data from the LIDAR sensors aboard the ship, the crew could piece together a picture of the system's traffic and even design a three-dimensional hologram for the ship's holo-deck that sat in the planning room. They would be able to monitor all traffic in and out of Aranea Regis for the next several hours.

Captain Vorsec had three places he could usually be found. If he wasn't on the bridge, then he was in the chow-hall and if he wasn't there, then he was in the planning room. This circular room in the middle of the ship was its nerve-centre. Its holo-deck was vital for providing scale and scope to the cruiser's operations. Surrounding the holo-deck were consoles staffed by intelligence officers. From here, the commander of the ship could issue orders via the secure network it provided.

''We are now in position, Captain,'' the room's intercom announced. The voice was that of the ship's navigator, Lieutenant Charlie Gaverick. The Westbridge had flipped and burned its way to a stop. It was now way out on the edge of the system but had an almost entirely unobstructed view with its LIDAR. They had positioned themselves opposite of the communication buoy, but in a position where they could still quickly access it without interference from the star.

While the Westbridge would be unable to detect vessels on the other side of Aranea Regis, they could use the buoy to 'ping' them in the ship's LIDAR blind-spot. The Westbridge's AI would map this data to the holo-deck to provide a visual reference of that side of the system. And while Vorsec toyed away with the hologram, logs of the last few days of traffic were being uploaded to the ship's mainframe. Some anomalies were detected - but nothing that gave them what they were looking for.

''Cara, how's the data-dump looking?'' Vorsec asked. Lieutenant Cara Summers was the Intelligence First Officer aboard the Westbridge. She was a petite woman with red hair tied in a bun. She had been going over the buoy's logs and matching ship registration IDs with the MCN's registry database. It was a very tedious task. The Meridian Empire had damaged or destroyed so many of the buoys in the region during the Great War that it limited communications with Mars across the galaxy. The registry could take up to fifteen minutes or more to respond to any inquiry, and there were thousands of ships needing tagged.

Despite all this, Lt. Summers had managed to sift through a lot of it. A few vessels didn't have registration at all or had incorrect registration but none of the data pointed to Free Citizens activity. She sighed, ''There's nothing unusual in the logs, Captain. A few vessels without their tags but none matching the MCS Dagger or the other rogue vessels. It doesn't help that this damn system is slow.''

Vorsec zoomed in the hologram on a freighter that had come into the system. He read over the information on the vessel while speaking back to Summers, ''Well, we'll only be here for a few more hours. I know it's frustrating. You're doing good though, much better than the monkeys that run the Naval Corps of Engineers. You'd figure they'd have built these things better.'' Vorsec turned and flashed Summers a smile.

''D'you think we'll get any leads, Captain? Seventeen freighters now have been attacked,'' asked Summers concerned. She couldn't help but feel frustrated while staring at the loading screen on her console. The telemetry readout was up to fifteen minutes for this block of inquiries to the registry. She heavily sighed and balled her fist up. Vorsec must have noticed because he had come up to the console to stare at the screen as well.

''I honestly don't know,'' replied Vorsec. He knew that every second they waited meant more ships could be attacked. Seventeen was a major escalation from the last few weeks and it made the whole crew frustrated. He could sense that. It seemed like they were fighting a war more with time than a bunch of wannabe revolutionaries. ''We have to keep moving forward,'' he reassured her. He returned to the holo-deck and looked over some more of the information while Summers waited for a response.

At last, the registry's response had been received and Summers was surprised by what she saw:

MCS Pathway // REG MV-379021 : Michael-Volani Corporation // TRANSIT COMM #135-A SHORT-BURST // MINERVA-CLASS FREIGHTER

The latest freighter to be attacked by the Free Citizens was on the buoy's logs. Just two days old. Vorsec had stopped what he was doing to see what Summers had called him over for. A grin crept across his face, ''I'll be damned. You just found the smoking gun. And lookie here.'' Vorsec pulled the list down to reveal another entry. An unregistered frigate of the same class as the Dagger.

''It looks like they had trailed the Pathway by a few hours. The next stop on the Starway is this system... here,'' Summers tapped on the screen over the name 'ARS Gemini-3'. The system was an unincorporated system on the Hermes Starway. There were no refuelling stars or stations, and thus no reason to stop. The perfect location for an ambush.

Vorsec walked over to a panel in the wall of the room and slid his ID into a slot. The lights flickered for a second before the bridge was alerted. Gaverick quickly answered the call. ''Yes, Captain?''

''Gaverick - prepare the ship. We're heading to a new system, I'm already sending you the coords.''

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Apr 29, 2020 7:12 pm

USFN Westbridge // Ferdinand Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant // ARS Gemini-3

Gemini-3 was home to a red giant. At some point, this system probably had inner planets but they had likely been eaten by their host millions of years ago. The remaining jovian worlds were now the last planetary bodies of the system. Their vibrant colours ranged from rich red-oranges to greenish-blues. But they weren't the only thing in this vast field of gas giants and rock.

The Westbridge materialised in a momentary flash that bent the light of the distant stars around it. The cruiser quickly launched scans of the system and fired up its supercruise engines to quickly power through the system. There was no buoy here, so no data they could conveniently track. Instead, they would have to scan every object that seemed likely to be a ship.

''Captain, we have arrived in Gemini-3,'' Gaverick announced on the ship's intercom. Vorsec departed the planning room to the bridge while the IFO gathered data with the ship's AI to piece together a new map of the system. This was helped along quite easily by predictive star-mapping. They could run a simulation to the current time based off of a previous star-chart in the ship's logs. This would place all known bodies in their current location, which was pretty accurate, and thus reduce the time it took to render a three-dimensional map of the system. It also ruled out a lot of the objects they would need to scan.

The next task for Summers was establishing a dynamic coordinate system. They chose three slow moving asteroids far out in the system to use as their three-point reference for their navigation. Inevitably, the asteroids' drift would affect the accuracy of the coordinates but this could be compensated for based on calculations by the ship's on-board AI. It would keep track of the time and the movement of the asteroids and amend any calculations needed with that data to keep an accurate reading. Thus the coordinates they had would print both 'real' and 'simulated' positioning.

The task took just a few minutes and once finished, the Westbridge was now ready to move forward with its mission. Summers contacted the bridge, where Vorsec should have arrived by now. ''Captain, we have our grid. We're analysing unaccounted for objects in the system now,'' she announced. Only a few hundred objects hadn't been added to the star-chart since it was last updated.

''Captain,'' greeted Gaverick. He had received the data about the new dynamic grid and was powering the ship towards its staging point. Vorsec glanced over the console at his own personal station to get a sense of where they were. Everyone else had already gone to their stations when the ship arrived in-system. Raineer was scanning for comm signals. The Master-at-Arms, Sierra Gunthrey, was stationed at her console awaiting orders. Feran-sha, the head engineer and a Nalar, was at her station as well. And finally, Marine Marshal James Santiago had also come onto the bridge and was waiting for the game plan.

''Gunthrey. I need point-defence up and running. Keep the railguns cold for now, we don't want to alert anyone to an energy spike,'' Vorsec commanded. He swiftly turned to his Marine commander. ''Get two boarding crews ready. I'll have logistics prep a some shuttles for them. I need your men on a critical stand-by, Marshal,'' turning to Feran-sha whose water-filled helmet bubbled away, Vorsec instructed her to start deploying repair drones into the ship's ducts and crawl spaces.

The white body of the cruiser was dotted with small fox-holes hiding entrenched point-defence cannons and Gatling turrets. Across the hull, these weapon systems were raised from their fox-holes to get a better angle on the ship's surroundings and provide effective coverage. Diagnostics were run on them and some simple manoeuvres and spin-ups were performed to ensure everything was in working order. Beneath them, the conveyor system had come alive. Deep within the ship's citadel, crates of ammunition were quickly loaded by the ship's AI and then emptied of their contents onto a complex conveyor that began feeding tens of thousands of rounds into the PD system.

From engineering, the small spider-like drones commanded by the AI were activated by Feran-sha. Little red lights appeared on their mechanical bodies as they shook themselves awake and started to march into the ducts and the crawl-spaces of the vessel. The sound of their legs clanking in these vents and areas was unsettling even for the crew that had lived with them for years.

Down in the small hangar bay, two shuttles were being prepared by a team of men and women. They quickly loaded munitions and counter-measures into the vehicles, ran diagnostics, and tested control surfaces and systems like the RCS, gymbal-turrets, and the vectored thrusters. After everything had been done on their checklist, they quickly evacuated the chamber and vented the atmosphere.

Boots clamoured in the ship's armoury. The marines had been called into action and given their objective to prepare for boarding operations. In all, twenty four men and women rushed through the armoury. They put on their Environmental Operator Suits (EVO) which were self-contained ballistic hazard suits needed for space combat but also standard issue for the marines. Quickly they checked each other to make sure everything was fitted and latched properly and raided the armoury's weapon racks for their rifles.

It took less than five minutes for the two teams of twelve to suit up and head into the adjacent airlock. Their suit AI ran its own diagnostics on suit-systems, quickly checking their visor's sonar, UV, IR and Anti-Flash Modes. It scanned cameras, tested seals, adjusted suit-pressure, and its life-support. The airlock they filed into was quickly vented and the heavily armoured doors before them opened in silence to the hangar.

With the the ship's acceleration, they didn't need to worry about gravity for the moment but as a precaution they went ahead and activated their mag-boots. The teams assembled by their respective shuttles and went on stand-by. The Marshal alerted Vorsec to their status, and at last the ship was now completely ready for a fight.

''Captain, I've detected a distress beacon. It's a wide-field local transmission. I'm guessing their main transponder was damaged if they can only broadcast locally,'' announced Raineer. He sent the transmission from his console to the bridge's operations hub. Vorsec stepped over and pressed a button on the hub's console to play the audio aloud to the bridge. It could be what they were looking for, either a freighter or a pirate masking as a freighter.

''This is an automated message by the MCS Pathway of the Martian Conglomerate. All systems critical. Crew status unknown. Requesting assistance.'' The transmission was the typical recording of a on-board AI complete with its crackling, static voice. The officers on the bridge exchanged glances while Vorsec let the message repeat just once more before shutting it down. He looked to Raineer, ''Do you have a location for this?''

Raineer shook his head, ''No, sir. The local is too wide to pinpoint exactly. We could try to triangulate it with the planning room's data. Maybe if we bounce signals from our navigation system off of the nearby asteroids in a short-wavelength and measure the interference we could get a reading.'' Vorsec grimaced. It seemed they had stumbled on the prize but they still weren't certain if it was the Pathway. The likelihood of it being a trap laid by a group of pirates couldn't be tossed out the window.

Using the navigation system to find the signal was ingenious and Vorsec smiled ever so faintly at the idea after his grimace had faded. However, there were other problems. Sending out constant bursts off rocks exposed them to detection. The Westbridge was a large cruiser, but she was also twenty years old. Vorsec was confident his crew could take on a group of pirates but whether the ship could withstand such an assault was the question. Furthermore, would her old instruments even be able to detect such interference? The signals would have to bounce off asteroids of the right composition to perpetuate their transmission and then the ship's sensors would need to be sensitive enough to pick up disturbances in the frequencies from those signals it got back.

Vorsec rubbed his chin in thought for a moment. ''Raineer - get with Summers. See what you can do to calibrate the sensors. I'm going to call General Quarters. We need to plan for the contingency that we're not alone in this system.'' The bridge's crew went into action as the order was given. Klaxons began to flash red across the ship as her small crew of a few hundred sailors were forced to abandon their tasks to prepare for combat.

With that command, the ship's railguns would need to be brought online. Gunthrey activated the capacitors to them and began their charge. Large doors on the outside of the vessel pulled back and an elevator raised the two large weapons from their hold. They swivelled about and the conveyors beneath them quickly cycled in rounds. The vessel now needed to stay on the move. The auxiliary thrusters around the three main bells burned brighter as the main engines warmed-up. Finally, a glow began to grow in the main bells before quickly engulfing the cones in light.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Apr 30, 2020 8:26 am

Ferdinand Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant // ARS Gemini-3

The Westbridge was on the move. Summers and Raineer were busy trying to calibrate the ship's ageing sensors to implement Raineer's plan. All the while, the ship continued scanning with its LIDAR for any ships in the vicinity. They hadn't detected anything so far, and while they were still receiving the Pathway's distress signal, they hadn't found the freighter either. Every moment without something to show for it was putting Vorsec on edge.

The former MCN Captain was standing in the middle of the bridge as his officers toiled away. It was times like this - in the silence - that he could reflect on things. It had been a long thirty years. Two navies, two lives, two wars. Vorsec had seen a lot in his tenure, perhaps too much. Most would have retired by now. But not Vorsec, it went well beyond just a sense of personal duty to his nation. It was deeper.

''We've triangulated the signal!''

Vorsec turned and glanced at Raineer who had come back from the planning room. As the Westbridge rounded an asteroid, the ship's cameras settled on the wreckage of the MCS Pathway. The crew stared at the screens of the battered freighter. It had been cracked open and spilled out its cargo in a large cloud of debris. ''My... god,'' said Gaverick as he stood from his station and removed his hat.

''Run a scan on the vessel, search for bio-signs,'' ordered Vorsec. As the Westbridge drew near, the full extent of the damage could be analysed. The freighter was a good nine-hundred meters long, and was split in two by some sort of weapon. As the scan finished, the ship's on-board AI detected an anomaly. A 'phantom' image on the scanners. They were not alone.

A sleek, black ship uncloaked itself next to the Pathway. It sprayed thousands of rounds into the USFN cruiser, then fired its engines and dipped underneath the warship. The Westbridge's dorsal railgun fired but missed. Chaos erupted on the bridge of the Westbridge as high-velocity rounds zipped through the room and sent everyone scrambling for cover.

The enemy warship then banked hard and dumped a few missiles into the underside. The Westbridge's point-defence system quickly dispatched two of them, but the third tore into its hull. The underside rail gun swivelled and began to track the enemy ship as the cruiser adjusted its position. It fired a round that shook the Westbridge to its core.

The slug slammed into one of the aft-engines of the enemy warship. It started to spin violently before regaining control. It had shutdown the opposite engine and returned fire with more missiles. Gatling turrets on the Westbridge created a bubble of out-going fire against the volley, taking them down quickly. The cruiser had finally come around and was now facing down its attacker.

The Westbridge's mass-accelerator fired with a bright flash. The slug careened down range into a hail of point-defence fire and punched through the centre of the warship. The crew in the Westbridge's bridge erupted in cheers. This didn't stop the enemy warship though. It fired its engines again and quickly made a break for it. Dozens of missiles were hastily dumped at the USFN cruiser.

A cloud of rounds extended from the cruiser against the volley. Several missiles broke through and exploded just short of the hull, spraying the underside of the warship with a deadly rain of shrapnel. These pieces of metal cut through the Westbridge's hull and dug their way into the underside compartments. Inside the hangar, several pieces plunged into one of the shuttles and cut it loose from its mag-locks. Fires erupted in other compartments from the damage. And power was knocked out for an entire section of the vessel.

The barrage had distracted the cruiser just enough to allow the enemy warship to escape. It fired its FTL drive and slipped from existence. The Westbridge had undoubtedly done a number on the craft, and taken a beating herself in the process. Yet, as luck would have it, Raineer announced the presence of a second vessel escaping. The Westbridge swung herself around and aimed its recharged mass-accelerator at the target. The weapon fired and they watched as the aft engine cluster of the escaping vessel went dark. The USFN cruiser fired its own thrusters and gave chase to the disabled vessel.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Apr 30, 2020 5:47 pm

Ferdinand Sector
2180 // Delta Quadrant // ARS Gemini-3

''Get the extinguisher!'' The flames lapped at the walls of its prison. Bodies were strewn across the deck. ''We need to go!'' An explosion erupted from the compartment, tearing and rending metal. The sailors rushed to get a hose ready as smoke filled the corridors of the Westbridge. The holes throughout the ship's underside was pulling air down the passageways and feeding the blaze.

''We need to vent the compartment, c'mon, get the wounded!,'' one man shouted. The firehouse was opened up by about six sailors as they carefully held onto each other against the water pressure's recoil. They sprayed down the fire to keep it at bay so their compatriots could quickly search the bodies. Samuel was among those searching for survivors. His friend, Ruth, was also helping him.

The pair, among others, began to dig through the debris. So many had been caught underneath pipes and structural beams. Many didn't survive it. Yet they frantically searched anyway. Every moment counted, but the sailors on the hose could only hold back the fire for so long. ''Sam!'' Ruth shouted as she tried to pull back a metal panel, ''Sam! Can you hear me! I've got someone over here!'' Samuel rushed over to her and they both lifted the panel off of the man trapped beneath.

He was badly hurt. Blood ran down his face and his leg had a piece of shrapnel jutting from it. ''Hey buddy, listen to me, you're going to be okay,'' said Samuel. The guy was panicking and murmuring because he couldn't see, so Samuel began to wipe away the blood and grime from his face. ''You're going to be okay,'' he repeated. Ruth went to pull the shrapnel but her hand was caught by Samuel's. He shook his head and carefully wrapped the man's arm around him.

''Get out of here! We can't hold this any longer! All of you, go!'' shouted one of the sailors on the hose. The smoke had choked the room and visibility was now down to just a few feet. They had no choice. Samuel and Ruth picked up the injured man and headed for the bulkhead. While those carrying the wounded headed for safety, those that weren't ran the other way towards the blaze. Samuel and Ruth cleared the bulkhead and sat the man down carefully. He watched more of them disappear into the haze to help the original six before the door was finally shut.

''You need to vent it! We'll lose the ship if you don't! Fucking vent it!'' He looked through the door's porthole as he pulled open the panel beside it and yanked the lever. The commotion on the other side of the bulkhead went silent. The glow of the fire disappeared. All that came through the room's intercom was a momentary whooshing sound and then - nothing.

This scene repeated throughout the ship's underside. Little by little, the fires were snuffed out by the crew. In the hangar, the free shuttle jostled around inside. It knocked loose tanks that went off like rockets across the room. Engineers in hardsuits braved the room to try and wrestle the thing out of the hangar. They fired cables over the ship and pulled it towards the door. The ship shifted and careened into one of them, crushing them against the deck. They couldn't stop though. After a tense few minutes, the shuttle was drifting out into space.

While the Westbridge gave chase to the disabled ship. The situation on the bridge wasn't great. Vorsec put a clipboard over one of the holes in the room that was venting air. Several of the consoles had been damaged. And Raineer had developed a nasty cough and finally fell out of his chair. ''Lieutenant, are you okay?'' the Captain ran over. Raineer's skin was pale and sweat poured down his face.

''I'm sorry, Captain,'' the lieutenant said. Vorsec knelt down beside and took his hand. A round had gotten him through the abdomen and blood pooled around the white uniform. Gaverick jumped over his console to join them. ''Did we get them? Did we get the bastards?'' the lieutenant asked with a cough. Vorsec shook his head with a faint smile.

''We did, Lieutenant. You gave them a damn good scare,'' Vorsec said as he tightened his grip on the lieutenant's hand. Raineer smiled with his bloody teeth and even managed to get out a chuckle or two.

''Don't bullshit me, sir. You were never a bullshitter,'' Raineer weakly said. He looked up at Gaverick, Vorsec, and now Gunthrey who had also joined them. ''I can't wait to go home. Looks like I got my free ticket. Can see my wife finally after this, this shitty deployment. That'd be nice. That'd be...'' Raineer's grip weakened as his head slumped over to one side.

Vorsec squeezed Raineer's hand tightly as he looked out over the room. A tortured look swept over his face. ''God fucking dammit!'' Gaverick shouted, startling Gunthrey. He picked up a chair and threw it across the room. There was a crash as it hit one of the broken consoles. The Captain didn't say anything but just looked up at Gunthrey. Gaverick continued in his rage.

''Gav..'' the Captain said finally, ''Gaverick!'' He stood and stared at the navigator. ''What's our range to that ship?'' Gaverick looked at him dumbfounded for a moment. He swallowed hard and eyed his station. They were only a few hundred meters out now. ''We still have a mission. Gunthrey, I need a damage report. Have the tethers primed,'' Vorsec ordered. He stepped over Raineer and checked on the Marshal. Santiago was also gone. The Captain heaved a sigh and radio'd Summers. ''Cara, are you okay?'' There was no answer. He tried again.

''I'm here, Captain!''

''Glad you're okay. I need you to run specs on that ship we just got into a scrap with. Something tells me they weren't just pirates,'' Vorsec said. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he thought about it. The Westbridge closed its distance with the disabled ship they did have and two harpoons were fired from its bow. They clawed into the hull of the enemy ship and began to reel it in so they could launch a shuttle for boarding.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed May 20, 2020 6:09 pm

Eye of the Storm

Sol Prime
2180 // Alpha Quadrant // Laconia City, Mars

Typhoon Mikkei was bearing down on the city with large fifty foot swells and heavy rains. As high winds swept the city streets, most had already taken shelter from the coast in the city's central dome. Unfortunately, Laconia's dome only covered the Central and Echelon Districts. Coastal areas like Fujita City and the Bay District were left at the mercy of the storm, having to rely on their flood barriers, trenches, and other groundwork to hold back Mikkei's wrath.

Such typhoons of this magnitude were not unusual and Mikkei was by no means the first Category 5 Laconia had faced. Much of the city's operation had ground to a halt, however. Planetary and orbital transit systems like the city's jump-shuttles had stopped working. Air traffic, while still permitted in some areas, was tightly restricted and most often reserved to just the military or police use. And even they weren't very keen on flying in it.

Markong Trading Company CEO Wyatt Takeshi was busy on his phone talking to some execs as he stared out the window of his office. He watched the neon lights of the city flicker and the waves of rain sweep rooftops of the buildings around his. ''That's what I'm saying, look, calm down. I can promise you earnings are going to be higher this next quarter,'' he pinched his nose as the call was ended rather abruptly. ''Bastards.''

Takeshi dimmed the lights of his office, got himself a glass with some whiskey, and reclined in his chair with a sigh. Everyone else on the floor except for his secretary had gone home for the night. ''Mia,'' he called out.

''Yes, sir?'' the intercom on his desk chimed back.

''How much longer til my helicopter arrives?''

''I'm sorry, sir. They were delayed because of the storm. They're waiting for priority clearance from Transit Authority to fly.''

Takeshi wiped his brow and sat his glass down on the desk. He loosened his tie and headed for the thermostat. ''Damn thing,'' he cursed staring at it while it read a modest 25C. ''Mia, do me a favour and have maintenance check the A/C, I think it's broken again.'' There was no answer. ''Mia?'' Takeshi walked over to the intercom and pressed the buzzer to call her attention.

''Mia, can you schedule maintenance for tomorrow to check the A/C?'' There was silence as he waited but then she finally answered that she would. ''Thank you, Mia. Also, cancel my meeting with the execs from Yuri-Gale. Seems I won't be needing that meeting now,'' he sighed. Takeshi took his tie off finally, there was little point being 'professional' with the office empty and headed back to his seat.

He stopped halfway around the desk though when a sound caught his attention. Papers or something had been knocked from one of the desks outside his office. ''Hello?'' he called out but there was no answer. He walked to his door and flipped on the lights to the floor but didn't see anything. ''I need sleep,'' he said, flicking them back off. He settled back into his chair and took a long needed drink from his glass.

''Sir,'' Mia spoke on the intercom, ''I'm going to head for the restroom if that's alright. Do you need anything first and foremost?''

''No, thank you, Mia. In fact, why don't you pack your things up and head home after that. No point keeping you here this late,'' Takeshi responded.

''Thank you, sir.''

Takeshi saw the light cut across the office space from Mia's door, though he couldn't see hers directly since it was beside his office. There was some odd shuffling about before the door closed. ''You alright, Mia?'' he asked, but didn't get a response. He shrugged it off and took another sip of his glass and stared out the window. His attention was again pulled from the vista by his door creaking, which he had left mostly open from earlier.

''Dammit,'' he sighed and went to close it. He clicked it shut when he felt something cold press into the back of his head. His eyes widened as the office space around his was filled with lasers trained on him. A woman's voice just behind him, gravelly and low, spoke with absolute clarity and meaning - Don't move.

He put his hands up carefully at her instruction and was forcibly turned around to see an empty room. ''What do you want? I don't have any cash on me,'' he said. The crew turned off their thermo-optical camouflage revealing the black EVO-suits of Civil Defence. There were six of them in the office with him alone, more beyond the glass divider, and a helicopter had swept up to the floor and flooded the space with its light.

''Wyatt Takeshi,'' Reagan said, keeping her gun firmly on him, ''You're under arrest by order of Empress Nerys Harlow and Civil Defence Director Nakamura.''

''What? What is the meaning of this!?'' Reagan grabbed him by the shoulder, swept his leg and drove him to the ground swiftly. He struggled against her grip and continued to shout. ''I am the CEO of the Markong Trading Company! D'you have any idea what you people are doing? I have rights!'' Reagan grabbed him by the hair and smashed his face into the floor before pressing her sidearm's barrel into his neck.

''You're wanted for both the conspiracy and acts of terrorism and sedition, supplying a foreign enemy power, supplying terrorist groups, and violating the Corporate Military Act,'' Reagan said as she placed him in cuffs and pulled him to his feet. ''You have no rights. You'll be tried in front of a tribunal for committing crimes against the State and its people.''

''I think you broke my nose! My nose!''

''Archangel 3, we have the package,'' Reagan said over her radio as they dragged him out of the office. Mia was seen standing against the wall with two agents keeping guns on her as well. Takeshi tried to wrestle from the grip of Reagan as another agent joined her to keep him in line.

''She didn't do anything! Leave her alone!''

''For fuck's sake, do you want me to break your god damn legs next? Shut up already. She'll be fine. You two, take him to the bird.'' Reagan passed Takeshi off to some other agents and approached Mia as she holstered her side-arm. Takeshi kept raving as they dragged him out until one of the agents finally hit him in the head with their rifle and the room went quiet again.

''You're not under arrest, Mia,'' Reagan said, gesturing for her men to stand down that had guns on her. ''However, that can change depending on how well you cooperate with us, d'you understand?'' Mia nodded her head. ''Good. You'll make no word of this or what happened here, d'you understand? If you do, we will come back, and we will find you. I understand you have some special access to Takeshi's personal vault. We could crack it open, but why do things the hard way?''

Takeshi slowly regained consciousness as he was dragged towards the helicopter on top of his office. The agents placed him in the back next to other civilians much like him. He looked out over the rooftop and saw the bodies of his security detail strewn around the place. He never heard so much as a shot earlier. Reagan had also joined them on the rooftop. ''We've got what we need! Spin it up!'' she shouted.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Fri May 29, 2020 12:25 am

Nerys sat down at her desk, taking a moment to look out the small window beside her that hung over the courtyard like a door into another dimension. A soft breeze playfully danced with the lilac flowers on the trees lining the cobblestone walkway, and a woman in a long brown coat could be seen casually walking beneath the lamps that dotted the path. The Empress picked up a pen and slowly began to write.

Tomorrow, I will watch a nation die before my very eyes, by my very hands. Many in this position, just hours before the last breath of a loved one, may take advantage of that time to say a few sentimental words, or simply just take advantage of the situation to their benefit. I'm being dramatic, of course. Nothing quite catches the eye so well, and nothing puts that hook in your mind so maliciously as a good opener.

However, it is a serious matter. It is weird to imagine that just years ago I was merely an nondescript officer in the Martian Navy. I poured every bit of sweat and blood into my career because it was my life, they were my family, and my nation was my home. Now I must watch it die to thunderous applause and cheers, and look back at my house to see if it is truly as ugly as many say it was. We are all so easily led blind by that which nurtures us.

I could easily enforce my will on them - make them see that the house is as beautiful as I know it to be. Anyone that disagreed could be banished, put to death, imprisoned - silenced by the collective delusion we all lived, endured, for so long. But I won't - I can't, not because I don't have that authority, not because I don't hold literal billions of lives in my hands as it grips this very pen; but because I know what it's like to live in a broken home.

Is it civic duty that I bring such melancholic news to the masses? That everything they cherished, cared about, and believed has all been a lie? Maybe it's a saccharine revenge, like biting into a Nalari apple, that I so effortlessly and deliberately dispel the fantasy that we all have lived. To be honest, I'm uncertain myself.

I dedicated my life to a cause I genuinely believed in, and saw my share of the atrocities such causes can bring about on the less fortunate - those who did not bend, did not bow, did not break to our way of life - our prosperity. The very lies that even myself have lived under, have told from my position as I carried out the execution of so many lives - faces forever unknowable to me, we all believed them.

It is poetic. I'm sitting in a decrepit wooden chair with a candle, writing a personal memoir on the eve of one of the most momentous moments of our lives, but in the quiet of the night everything seems so peaceful. This duty has been bestowed on me to burn the facade the Conglomerate built on the dead of millions, and in doing so set us free. Am I optimistic for our future? Not personally. I've seen such bloodless affairs be embroiled in pools of it. It takes considerable effort to maintain a functioning state of affairs, to replace a century of thinking, to control a fire you just put out but still need to burn just enough to keep you warm.

All I do know is that I will be abdicating my post as Empress of the Martian Colonial Empire. And I will be placing the future of billions of lives within their own hands. I just hope that whatever choices they make, they are done so freely, and without fear of reparation.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:18 pm


"What happened?" Dr. Sierra Lin was standing in the middle of the control room surrounded by her colleagues, and not one had a better clue than her. Everyone was very still as the klaxon sounded and red lights flooded the room. Just moments before, there was a corvette in front of the observation deck, and then it disappeared in a flash. Had they just vaporised a dozen of their colleagues?

"Lin!" A sweaty, panting man appeared as the door was slung open, startling them all. It was Dr. Fujikawa, the communications supervisor. He had climbed two flights of stairs to reach them. "It-it worked, Lin! It worked," he rested against the doorway. There was some cheering and a wave of relief swept the room, though Lin felt for a chair behind her and sat down silent. Hawking was right, it seemed.

Ten years they had spent researching this. Lin remembered when she was still just an intern when she was taken under Professor Yoo. So many tests, failures, and now it seemed they had finally done it. "The gate is still operational, everything is nominal," Dr. Oh stated, while everyone was celebrating, he had been running diagnostics.

Lin looked out the control room's thick metallic glass, towards the observation deck. Beyond was the vacuum of space, and a brilliantly lit ring. Ten years ago, Yoo and another scientist, Professor Kusanagi had investigated a lead by the penrose-matrioshka they had named Hawking. They had scoured a number of systems looking for something that had supposedly disappeared, Awarinath.

Not much was known about the Scythians that had vanished when the Red Abyss opened up in the Delta Quadrant. What the Martians had to go on was second-hand from the Eridani. Rumours of an intelligence far beyond even Hawking had supposedly been at the centre of it all. It was then that Lin was allowed to work aboard the Kusanagi Corporation's Yamamoto, a research and exploration vessel designed to travel in the Red Abyss.

Kusanagi was a business magnate, who had many ideas about where he wanted to take his company, and humanity for that matter. Yoo needed Kusanagi's vast capital to explore a hunch, and so an alliance of two titans had been formed.

The way Lin heard it, Kusanagi was not difficult to convince. Though Yoo got more than he bargained for given Kusanagi's insistence they'd use the Yamamoto and he would personally lead the endeavour. Yoo reluctantly agreed.

The Yamamoto left the Kusanagi-Busche Station in the Martian Delta in 2170. Lin remembered the energy of the crew, how excited they all were. They were making history. They were going to change the Conglomerate for the better. The Colonial Wars had just ended, and hopes were high.

The departure was filled with parties aboard the Yamamoto. Kusanagi was a gracious host who had no problem showering his guests with luxury. A strip-bar, maids and butlers, it was five-star living for many of them. It wouldn't last.

The Yamamoto was left waiting for clearance for a month to enter the Red Abyss. Archimedes Station was the last stop for them, and the whole trip now was in jeopardy as their mission was tangled up in red tape. Kusanagi's mood had especially soured during that month. Calls after calls, meetings with half a dozen different government departments, it looked as though their plan to make history had been dashed.

But finally, the Yamamoto got its clearance and the large research yacht was allowed through. The trip wasn't as smooth as most had hoped. After entering the Abyss, the Yamamoto's sensors began to fail. LIDAR and traditional navigation was useless. The ship was left to sit for days at a time and wait for functionality to be restored.

Less than a month into the trip and they had hardly made any ground. It was then that they got to experience what the Eridani and Archimedes described as 'nebular storms.' These phenomena were common and chaotic affairs that threatened everything that was near them. It was during one such storm that the Yamamoto sustained a direct hit.

Lin had been working on some papers and avoiding the rest of the ship the last few days as Kusanagi's frustration was on the prowl. The simulated thrust-gravity had been harder than usual as the Yamamoto was making up lost time, and it had left Lin feeling ill. The Yamamoto's staff had distributed medication for this, and Lin downed some and went to bed.

That night, she was awoken to the sudden shudder of the ship. The shift nearly threw her from the bed. There was a lot of frantic footsteps outside in the corridor, and shouting. Lin quickly got up and opened her door to a completely dark deck. The power had gone out.

The Yamamoto, in its bid to make up for lost time, had ignored warnings about the incoming storm and found itself right in its path. The ship had been hit by a discharge. Not only had this event knocked the reactors offline, but the ionised plasma had stripped the ablator off the vessel's starboard side and melted several panels. C-Deck's bulkheads had activated and cut the bow off from the rest. That night, Lin recalled, was one of panic and peculiarity.

Smaller holes were sealed up by simple things like a binder. Larger ones like what was beyond C-Deck would need dedicated repairs. It wasn't clear immediately how many of Lin's fellow crewmates they had lost in the event, but most distressing was Kusanagi's disappearance. Was he beyond C-Deck's bulkheads when they closed?

Kusanagi's first officer of the voyage, Fredric Alspach had taken command. Under him, they managed to get the reactors online again, and life-support restored. As the night dragged on though, many odd occurrences were being reported. Relying on radios to communicate, crewmates reported seeing people that weren't really there. And there were unexplained voices and other noises on the intercom system and radios at times, Alspach assured everyone that it was likely a side-effect of everyone's stress and residual energy from the storm.

Lin hadn't seen these events herself though. She had heard the voices in the radio, however. They were chilling. One such event was when she was working down in the maintenance duct with two others. The radio crackled, and the three froze waiting for a transmission but nothing. It did it again minutes later, but this time there was a voice of a woman clearly saying, softly "Help me, it hurts."

After that night, Lin heard that others had seen odd things. A woman in white walking down the decks and then vanishing. Faces in the walls. Hearing things. One man, Minsook, reported that he had noticed the clock had been ticking backwards in the galley by C-Deck. Though, when later checked, the clock was still on time. Alsoach was adamant that it was a combination of gravity sickness and stress. But many wanted to turn back.
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Jul 26, 2020 6:01 pm

Gateway II

The Yamamoto was moving again. Limping, more like it, according to Lin. The crew used some maintenance drones to investigate the damage on the otherside of C-Deck. The damage was substantial, with entire rooms having vented. Though, there weren't any bodies they could find. With entire compartments exposed though, there was no way they were going to open the bulkhead.

The next month was uneventful. Kusanagi and the other unaccounted for crew were presumed dead, and a memorial was made in their honour by the galley. Despite some agitation among the crew, the majority still wanted to continue.

Alspach proved more level-headed than Kusanagi. And so the Yamamoto was much more cautious around nebular storms and other hazards. On the plus side, they were gathering mountains of data about the Red Abyss. It seemed that they had travelled into an open volume within the nebula where the gaseous medium was thinner and calmer. Alspach likened it to the 'Eye of the Storm'.

Better yet though, there was evidence of planetary bodies in the volume. Many of these were ejecta from a violent event, and had been cracked open by some immense forces. They were, as Lin's colleague Don Schmidt put it, the last remnants of supernovae. Planets not close enough to be engulfed entirely by the blast but thrown from the system nonetheless.

During this month, Lin delved into information regarding the Scythians. They were an advanced civilisation in this region, and had engaged in a widescale conflict with the Eridani long before the Martians. And then one day, they vanished. Literally. The Radiant Nebula that was home to them had changed into the Red Abyss. Everything about the Scythians was gone.

Sometime after the month of calm, the Yamamoto was forced to breach the eye-wall once again. Which meant that the tranquil bliss the crew had enjoyed was now gone. The journey was back to being bogged down by the harsh environment. The crew needed to stay vigilant bow more than ever.

One evening, Lin was working on some papers and had left her door open. Everyone else had either wound down or headed to the lower decks. So her deck was quiet. She was investigating the Scythian word 'Awarinath' that head frequently appeared during xenoarchaeology digs by previous expeditions. What it meant though was lost on her. It was that night though that she didn't feel alone.

Several times she had gotten up and found that her deck was dark and empty. But she couldn't shake the feeling that she was somehow being watched. This repeated for several nights, and Lin grew increasingly uneasy. It wasn't until many nights later that she would finally understand why.

It was nearly a week after that first evening when this all began. Lin had stopped leaving her door open and continued to work. There came a crisp knock at the door that startled her. But when she opened it, noone was there.

"Hello?" she had called out. Silence. She shut the door and had taken a moment to collect herself when she noticed her papers had been knocked off the desk. There wasn't a draft that she could remember when she opened the door. Was she alone?

"Is anyone there?" she had asked quietly, but there was no answer. The air was chilly suddenly, as she stepped over the papers and headed for the thermostat. It was then that a loud sound followed from her small kitchen area, a pan had suddenly been knocked off the counter. She yelped and flipped the light on, only to find a small rat.

There was a wave of relief as she slid down the wall and chuckled. She felt like she was losing her mind. Though the person sitting on her bed hadn't made a sound.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Jul 26, 2020 6:52 pm

Gateway III

Lin's scream could have been heard from Mars. The figure hadn't reacted to her shouts but only sat and watched the backwards ticking clock Lin had on her desk. "Who are you?" she asked between frantic pants as she pleaded not to be harmed. She was petrified.

The figure murmured something inaudible, like a low hum. Lin slowly stood and carefully reached for a knife on her counter. It was then that the figure stood and turned to face her. It was Kusanagi.

The knife hit the floor with a clank. "Lin, have you seen her?" Kusanagi said. He was looking in her direction but he had this thousand-yard stare. Lin moved carefully and though his gaze followed, it wasn't directly on her.

"We thought you died," she said.

"No. We, the others, we've seen it. Seen her, Lin," he said dispassionately. Lin carefully felt her way around the room towards the door.

"Kusanagi, who's her?"

His gaze finally settled on her directly, and it stopped her cold. She could feel the blood pumping in her neck and the chilly bite of the air. The button for the door was just inches away but she couldn't move.

"Awarinath, Lin. The All-Mother. The Great Seeder of Life. Child of the Glyrrans and their Demise. The Great Chaos. The Harbinger. She sees all. Knows all. She knows you, Lin. She has sent me to find you. You have been searching, and she knows," Kusanagi slowly smiled.

"Awar— The Scythians' leader?"

"She is much older than that, Lin. She has the answers of what you seek. Follow the signal, Lin," Kusanagi said. There was a flash and a distinct 'zap' as he disappeared and Lin was left alone. That night would forever haunt her.

Days later, the Yamamoto was abuzz with chatter. Alspach had made the announcement. And many of the too researchers had gathered. A broadcast had been detected. The sound was like a beacon pinging every three-minutes. It was the first sign of civilisation in the Red Abyss. The debate raged on about what to do. It was Lin that spoke up and urged them to find its source, the problem was that it was through an ongoing storm unlike anything they had seen.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:11 am

Gateway IV

The argument was loud, so loud that others had gathered outside the bridge. Lin argued for following the signal, and many were against it. But the opportunity to finally make a breaththrough after months of disaster teased them like a fresh apple on a branch. Between them and the signal was a thick, nebular medium with readings that the Yamamoto could barely handle let alone decipher.

Many were also confused. It was unlike Lin to be so assertive, she had, for most of the journey been a recluse. And she was still just an intern, only allowed in the meeting because she was Yoo's personal choice. They had already come this far, she figured. Why stop now?

Despite the tension, enough had been won over, even if begrudglingly so. Alspach had the final word on it, and he had been known to be very democratic. So the decision was made, they were going to pursue the signal.

The next day, the crew prepared the ship. They were taking no chances this time. They sealed the bulkheads to the outermost corridors and sections closest to the hull, and stacked up crates of water near the cafeteria where they'd all sleep, and the CIC. They also pulled the evosuits and exopacks from the armoury and had them ready in case they needed them. Once preparations were made, they were off.

The Yamamoto pierced the veil as it slowly slipped into the maelstrom. Immediately power began to fluctuate and the ship started to moan and whine. High energy particles and dust was pelting the vessel, creating an aurora over its hull as the ship's dischargers fired occasionally to dissipate the effect. Every pulse though cast the crew in darkness and made the ship shudder and whine more.

For two days, they travelled like this. None could get very much sleep. Watches were set up to keep an eye out for any problems and ensure everyone was doing okay. That was when the strange began.

A woman known as Miles had gone missing one night. She had been assigned to watch the boward corridors to the CIC with three others. They had split up to keep an eye on each section and used their radios to keep in touch. Everything was fine, and on the hour past midnight, a pulse had been performed and the ship shuddered and groaned and Miles had disappeared after the lights came back on. Her radio was silent.

"Check-in, Miles," Amanda Huang had clicked her radio. She waited for a moment, but nothing came back. She tried again, silence. "Hey Nguyen, have you seen Miles?" Nguyen answered back that he hadn't.

The watch searched the corridors for Miles along with Lin and some other volunteers. But she was nowhere to be found. They had checked security footage, but much of it had been corrupted during the pulse. What they did have was Miles moving towards C-Deck and then gone after everything came back on.

Against the orders of Alspach, Lin and Nguyen had decided to cross the bulkhead of D-Deck which had been sealed to see if they could find Miles. The ship was eerie in these parts, as everything had been removed such as the vending machines, and the section was powered down to conserve energy. The pair were left to their flashlights to search the deck.

"We're going to need to split up, Lin," Nguyen explained. He had briught a bag with him, and placed his flashlight in his mouth while he fimbled with the zipper. Lin wasn't exactly enthused with the idea, however. "We've got a lot of ground to cover, we'll find her quicker." Lin reluctantly agreed as Nguyen handed her a transponder.

The air was chilly in D-Deck. Frost had gathered on some of the ventilation grates and would sparkle under Lin's flashlight beam. Sealing the bulkheads meant sealing the vents. She held herself as she walked around the starboard side, occasionally stopping to rub her hands or call out for Miles.

"Doing okay, Lin?" Nguyen's voice over the radio made Lin jump. She dropped her light and heard it crack as she was left in the dark. She cursed him, and took a moment to breathe before sounding the all clear. She picked up her flashlight and tried to slap it, turn it on and off, but to no avail. It was then though, that she noticed a pale blue glow from a room at the end of the hall.

Lin called out for Miles as she carefully navigated her way to the door. She got no answer. Instead, as she drew closer, her radio began to pop and crack. She pulled it from her belt and tried messing with it but the sounds continued. She was just feet from the door now as it whistled and made all sorta of loud noises. Finally she turned it off, and took a moment to try and relax.

She looked at the glow under the door, and carefully wrapped her hand around the knob. "Miles..." she whispered hesitantly as she opened it. Her heart pounding in her head. The door creaked, and Lin closed her eyes as she took a breath. She counted in her head, and on one, threw the door open finally.

"Did you find anything?" Nguyen asked iver the radio as Lin looked at the empty room, save for a television running static. She breathed a sigh of relief and pulled her radio off her belt with a chuckle.

"No, I didn't find anything, just a room with a TV... on..." she held the radio from her face and looked at the power dial, which clearly read 'OFF'.

"That's funny, Lin," Nguyen said over the radio, "Because I found you." Lin dropped the radio and backed up, bumping into something. There was a low growl behind her, and the feeling of something wet slowly dripping on her shoulder. She froze.

"What's the matter, Lin? Are you not happy to see me?" Ngueyn said over the radio as it crackled and again began to whistle. "Don't you want to know what happened to them?" She turned around ever so slightly and caught a glimpse of the creature. It was tall, several feet taller, with ungulating folds of skin and tendrils and a concave sort of shape along its abdomen. Atop this creature was a long, skinny neck of several feet with a large eyeball in a fleshy crevice that made up its head.

Lin whimpered as she stared. The creature slowly brought its neck around and looked at her with its enormous eye. Tendrils around its head slowly reached out and felt over her face. She dared not move. After a moment, the creature stepped around her and slowly walked into the room. It had a tail like a centipede with legs that tapped across the floor as it moved, and feelers across its body reached out and felt the environment. Lin carefully backed up.

"Don't be afraid, Lin. It can't hear you. It can't see you. But it can smell your fear!" The monster quickly turned around, its tail climbed up the wall and dig into the metal as it lifted itself onto the ceiling. Its abdomen opened and exposed rows of serated fangs dripping with fluid as it stared at her and slowly made its advance.

"I would run, Lin."

She rushed out of the room as the monster lunged and crashed into the wall. The metal buckled against its weight and the sound of scraping now frantically echoed behind her. She didn't know where she was going, but it was not far behind. She rounded a corner and tripoed over Nguyen, knocking them both to the floor. She screamed as he grabbed her, startled himself and trying to understand what she was panicking about.

"Lin. Lin! Calm down! Stop! Speak slower," he said. She pointed towards the dark, empty hallway she had come from but nothing was there. Nguyen shined a light in the direction as well as she continued to mumble, and after finally freeing himself to get up, looked down the corridor she had ran down. "There's nothing here."

"Thats odd," he said as he checked his watch. It was running backwards as he looked at Lin. "I think it's broken, probably got knocked up when you ran into me," he said and held out a hand to help her up. She stood and brushed herself off as she calmed down. She gathered her things and decided that maybe it was time for them to leave and head back to the Cafeteria. But Nguyen had stopped moving and was standing still.

"Nguyen?" Lin called out. She walked up to him, still shaking some as she grabbed him by the shoulder. He had this weird dust on him that caused her to pull her hand back. She stepped around and screamed. Stalks of red fungus had sprouted from him, and there was a distint sound coming from his body as it cracked open and dumped spores into the air in a nauseating cloud. She ran as fast as she could down the hallway as his body disintegrated.

She found the bulkhead to D-Deck and began to bang on it and scream. She tried the access code but it just returned an error. "Please! Somebody open the door!" She sobbed. At long last, the door finally opened and she stepped back to take a breath. Rather than safety, though, she found something else as she stepled inside. The walls, floor, and ceiling was covered in fleshy red fungus.

She carefully navigated the odd landscape, and made her way to the cafeteria. The door opened and she stepped inside to find the bodies of her crewmates frozen in place, engulfed in the fungus. She dropped her things and fell to her knees.

"Why are you crying?" A familiar voice asked, as the figure stepped over the fungal stalks and vines towards her. She looked up and saw that it was Kusanagi. He knelt down and gently touched her face, wiping a tear from her cheek. "There's no need for any of that now,@ he said, taking a taste of the salty liquid on his finger and grinning.

"Why are you doing this?"

"Oh, I am not doing this, Lin. Oh, no. This is the beautiful work of Her," Kusanagi said as he stood and marvelled at the res forest of spores, emaciated bodies, and fungus that had overtaken the room. Lin began to cry again, softly this time as she sat on the floor.

"No, no, no! Sweetheart! We still have soo much to show you," he said, grabbing her by the hand and helping her up. The pair walked to one of the exits and the door slid open, but not to a room. Instead, they had walked out into a beautiful landscaped plain of grass with pale blue star high in the sky.

"This! This is the beauty of Awarinath!" Kusanagi explained with outstretched arms. Lin looked back but the door had vanished. "You see, Lin. She does not want to hurt you, oh no. She wants to help you," Lusanagi exolained as he walked towards her. A sickening cracking sound could be heard from his back as he talked.

"Oh yes, all she wants is for her beauty to be everywhere. But she doesn't want to pay the price to get it! Oh no, Lin. But that's okay. I won't lie to you, she won't hurt you, but I will!" Kusanagi's bodies contorted as Lin stepped back horrified. The sound of his soine snapping sent chills through her as his body was split in half and a creature covered in fungus emerged.

She felt the wall if the hallway and the panel to open it behind her. She hit the button and the door slid open as Kusanagi lunged. She screamed and rolled out of the way and into the arms of a woman. Suddenly everything stopped.

The woman that embraced her spoke finally, and her voice was pleasant, soothing even. "It's okay, child. Turn around and look," the woman said, and Lin hesitantly did so. Kusanagi, the creature, was frozen in time, still mid-lunge in the air. Lin looked around elsewhere, and everything had frozen in place. They were stabding in the cafeteria but it was back to normal. Crewmates were all around her, but paused in their movements.

"Close your eyes, Lin," the woman said, "Open them when I tell you." She felt the woman step back and then heard her say, "Open."

They were now standing in a dark room that had strange metallic walls and floors riddled with alien glyphs. Channels carved in them were filled with a white, glowing liquid that ran towards a sphere floating atop a pedestal. The woman stood beside it.

"Where am I? What is going on? You're Awarinath aren't you?"

The woman nodded and gestured for Lin to come over. She did so cautiously and stopped a few feet from her. "I mean you no harm, Lin," the woman smiled as she gestured a hand over the sphere. The object looked like a solid block of metal, but morhed in shape at the woman's gesture like a liquid. The room suddenly shook and one of the walls vented steam as it slid into the floor. Awarinath held out a hand for Lin and the two walked towards the door and stared into an empty vault that looked as though it went on for miles with faint lights and streams of liquid far off in the distance.

A bridge began to materialise and much like the sphere, moved like liquid but once it settled was as hard as stone. They stepped onto the platform and began to walk. "I was created 250 million years ago, and in all that time, only your kind has been so bold as to disturb me," Awarinath said. She spoke in a very motherly voice, soothing but firm, and Lin couldn't tell if she was displeased at her and her crew or was admiring their efforts.

"That's impossible, how could you live that long?"

"Live? I am far beyond such things, Lin."

They had stopped walking when they arrived at an island of metal. This platform was flat and seemed to float in midair as Lin examined its edges. "You have much to learn," Awarinath said as she brought up a new pedestal from the floor. It opened and revealed a strange object that she plucked and brought to Lin. It looked to be heavy but as Awarinath dropped it into Lin's hand, turned out to be remarkably light but hard as diamond.

"What is it?"

"I imagine its what Hawking told you about when he dared send you here," Awarinath said. Lin looked the material over carefully but that was all she could do. She maybas well have been handed a rock.

"What are you?" Lin asked finally. It seemed to be the one question Awarinath had been waiting for as she stepped back. Lights began to appear in the darkness like billiins of stars shining brightly all at once. Lines of fluid ran between them and as they did, the structure they were standing in began to be illuminated and revealed its true shape. Black walls of metal made up the sides and converged to a single point high into the sky, but below remained as dark as ever.

"I am a construct of scale you wouldn't be able to imagine, designed by a now extinct civilisation," Awarinath explained. "When your own first encountered me, they had but one word to describe me." Awarinath stepped off the island as a bridge materialised and Lin began to follow.

"I am the Singularity."

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Aug 02, 2020 7:10 pm

Marto-Californian Transit Treaty

Preamble: In order to further a common commercial interest, and to bring together both the Californians and Martians into an economically favourable partnership; both nations have agreed to establish a mutuallly prosperous arrangement, in the form of this treaty, for the general welfare of their citizens and businesses, and to hasten the strength of both nation's diplomatic and economic ties.

Article I — Definitions
1. The Californian Empire, shall hereby referred to as CE, and the United Republic of Mars and Martian Colonies, shall hereby referred to as UR; both for the purpose of this treaty's provisions.

2. Transit Gates shall be construed as the installations required of this treaty as the megastructures designed by the Martians to intiate faster-than-light (FTL) transit from one node (Transit Gate) to another by entrance of that node's aperture by a spacefaring vessel, and of the installations as a part of the Transit Gate outside of its aperture but required for its operation.

3. The aperture shall be construed as the initiating device of this FTL transit, and the centre framework for which the Transit Gate is designed.

Article II — Lease

1. The UR shall lease a TransGate to the CE for a duration of 99 years, established as the leasing term, or for as long as this treaty shall remain in effect.

2. Should this treaty be revoked by either party, the UR shall reclaim the TransGate and remove it from the CE.

Article II — Operation

1. Both signatories agree to manage and be financially responsible of all maintenance and repair of the TransGate.

2. Both signatories shall have access, in accordance with the free trade agreement, to the use of the TransGate, and shall not, in accordance with the free trade agreement, enforce import duties, excises, or tariffs on goods or services operating through the TransGate; nor impede upon the traffic or operation of the TransGate, with the exceptions listed in Article III.

Article III — Security

1. Both signatories shall be responsible for the maintaining of security and defence of the TransGate, within their respective jurisdictions, and of traffic operating through the TransGate within those jurisdictions, for the duration that they remain thereof.

2. Both signatories agree to neither weaponise nor target the TransGate, nor use the TransGate in such a manner that is hostile to the other signatory, its commerce, or its citizenry.

3. The TransGate may be deactivated for periods of maintenance or in cases, if necessary, to safeguard the national security of the signatories. But shall require that such deactivation is announced and reasons provided by the CE.

Article IV — Termination of the Treaty

1. Either party may withdrawal from this treaty, thus rendering it null and void.


United Republic of Mars and Martian Colonies:
Secretary-General Ewan Roth
President Cora Rowland

Californian Empire:
President Selena DeWinter
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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Aug 11, 2020 6:18 am

Fire and Iron

Ewanport, Martian Delta

The small frigate had been in its deceleration burn for several hours. Its arrival was unexpected for most, especiallt since its transponder was identifying it as a freighter. But this was no freighter. The appearance of the ship was so sudden that security with their stealth corvettes scurried in the background of the void at a safe distance before someone quelled them. The nest was undisturbed for now.

The thrusters of the black frigate disengaged and the ship slowly made its way towards the tug zone. A few small tugs departed their berths and latched onto the arrivee with their magnetic clamps, and in a fluid dance of excellent coordination and skill, manouevred the warship into the tunnel of the planetoid.

The frigate was deposited at one of the bays inside the large cavern, and eager teams of workers quickly assembled on the platform leading to the ship. Chatter broke out among the workers about who had arrived, and there were just as many suggestions as there were stars in the galaxy. But to their disappointment, the appearance of fully suited personnel from the frigate with opaque helmets and no discernable markings made for a lacklustre reveal.

Cargo was quickly removed from the ship as this entourage was met by the Warden and his security. They were shown the way into an elevator and disappeared into the depths of the cavern. As the lift descended, the group watched sparks fly as engineers worked around the clock on scaffolding to reinforce the cavern. A bore-machine could be seen anchored to the side that dwarfed any other machinery present. What the Martians were doing was anyone's guess.

The elevator travelled through an airlock into a new, sealed off cavern that was far larger than the first. The Warden hadn't said a word up to this point, and only gestured at the assembly of new warships docked along the massive scaffolding and bridges before them. Lights flashed in the distance along a large circular door that began to open. Behind this monument of steel was a tunnel illuminated with lights and a derelict station being brought in by tugs.

As the elevator made its stop at the bottom of the shaft, the group departed and were accompanied by their hosts to an office. Once in the airlock, a female computerised voice announced the decontamination procedure followed by pressurisation. At last, the crew of the frigate unlocked their helmets and slid them off, taking a breath of the recycled air with satisfactory grins of relief. They wiped their sweat and fixed their hair which had matted against their faces as they filed into the office area.

"Welcome to Ewanport, Master Secretary and Admiral Serano," Warden Beaufort greeted as he fixed his greying handlebar mustache. He was a chubby and jolly fellow who stood a foot shorter than the 'mainlanders', and seemed to just naturally exhibit a genuine smile at every moment when he spoke.

"Thank you, Warden," Roth said as she continued to unravel her hair. Serano paid little mind over her appearance as she focused her attention on some reports pinned to a bulletin board nearby. There was a list of the warships being constructed, where they were sourcing materials, and some other information.

"Ah, I see you have found the fleet manifest!" Beaufort bellowed as he hobbled over beside Serano. They were joined by Roth, who had also taken an interest. "We are ahead of schedule, pumping out a medium class ship a day. As you saw, we're also expanding a new cavern for further shipbreaking."

"Through fire and iron, the Martian State does rebuild," said Director Nakamura, as the old woman sauntered in with a cane. The Director of Civil Defence laid her brown eyes on Roth's peculiar appearance with a fanciful gaze as the three stopped admiring the bulletins and faced her. "Master Secretary, if only I could so easily look so young," she chuckled. "I trust that your replacement is busy taking the real you for a joy ride then. Come, come! We have much to discuss."

Nakamura disappeared into the hallway with the others just behind her. She stood at about half their height, but was well over twice their age. Noone really knew how old the Director was, but it seemed she only grew more ornery with each year. She led them into a meeting room where a few androids had gathered with refreshments. Nakamura sat into a chair with a sigh and nudged her cane at one of the androids so that it would set the conference device down on the table.

The others seated themselves around her and one by one, they pulled the cord from their neck and plugged in to the device with Nakamura being helped by her android. The room fell silent as they accessed the virtual room held inside the device.

"Welcome! Welcome," Nakamura materialised last as chairs had appeared around them to sit. Their avatars were more themselves, with Roth once again a male, Serano sporting blonde instead of red hair, and Nakamura — well, the Director chose an anthropomorphic rabbit for some reason despite being a human.

"Feel free to debrief us at anytime, Warden," Roth said as he reclined in his seat. The Warden had remained the same with his avatar, though he was sporting a red tie and sweater vest instead of the EVO suit they were wearing outside of cyberspace.

"As I mentioned earlier, we are currently ahead of schedule. We're receiving more scrap by the day and are expanding two new caverns. Cruisers used to take weeks, but with the new automated upgrades and iterative designs, we're pushing one out everyday now. We will be needing more specialised material soon though. The foundaries are working overtime and we're reaching excess in unprocessed scrap."

"How has security been?" Serano asked as she crossed her arms and stared almost accusingly at Beaufort.

He paid little mind to the intimidation and smiled gently as ever, "We've had no problems."

"So it seems the refugee problem is working then," Roth said as he and Nakamura exchanged glances.

"I woukd say so, yes," the Warden replied.

Serano brushed her chin for a moment, "I have to hand it to you, Roth. I am impressed."

"It's taken more time than I would have liked to get this far. But Menelmacri arrogance is something you can count on. While they're focused on the refugee crisis and the OSA situation, we can make our next move," Roth grinned.

"How is our little Admiral doing?" Nakamura asked.

"Last I heard, she was meeting with the Admiralty to discuss the OSA."

Serano looked at them and raised a brow, "Do you think she'll accept the nomination?" There was some silence that followed as the others mulled it over. Roth spoke finally, relaxing his demeanour and running his hand through his hair.

"She'll have to. Once I tank the UCP enough, and the Marshals push the referendum, she knows that there'll be no situation that'll end well if she doesn't. She's someone devoted to duty. And lets face it, she was very capable as a statesman. She's admired. She's calm and collected. She is who we need. She'll come around."

"How long til the refugees are moved into Laconia?" Nakamura asked as she fumbled with one of her ears which had come down in front of her face.

"Not long. The Menelmacari have large ships to move them," Roth answered.

"So we'll need a new crisis soon."

"Development in the Delta is moving exceedingly fast. And the Consolidation Plan has given us manpower to add to our forces. Refugees are leaping at the recruitment option to get citizenship, especially amputees because of the medical. We've been able to devote resources elsewhere while they foot the bill, so reconstruction-wise, we're doing very well. Once the gateworks start coming online, we should be able to secure vital systems rather quickly. The Martian Delta will finally be secured, and the Niceans won't know what hit them," Roth spoke.

"And the Reaches?" Serano looked at the Secretary-General inquistively, "What about the region surrounding Sol."

"That'll be the first real test. We had a hicough with the Aoroqetyari, but that has worked in our favour. The Menelmacari are concerned about us pressing a sphere of influence. That much became evident when they summoned our ambassador. But they're unlikely to be much of a threat."

"Doesn't mean we should underestimate them, either," Serano growled.

"You're not wrong. The problem with the knife-ears is that they're stagnating, and they don't know it. They believe everyone else is beneath them and can comfortably ignore any upstart but as we've learnt ourselves with the Eridani, once you're out of the game long enough, your tactical advantage suffers and it doesnt matter how big of a stick you carry. We held a technological and strategic advantage over the Eridani for fifty years. But we weren't training like we should have, we weren't modernising, and our forces were no longer battlehardened. It's no wonder Arwig was a disaster," Roth rubbed his nose for a moment.

"And how would you say the odds are now?" Nakamura spoke up as she leaned on her cane.

"Our new fleet doctrine has the Menelmacari in mind. They have larger ships like the battleplates, but we can adapt more easily in combat. It's a David versus Goliath situation. Van Allen's reasoning that weapons like the Apophis Array would be useful against the Menel was misplaced. Speed and communication kills, and we have both on our side."

"And the Nimatojin?" Nakamura followed.

Serano was the one that answered this time, "They're a harder nut to crack. They're expanding at a fast rate and have experience and the manpower. The OSA is just smallfry."

"We're in an industrial arms race. The Laconium breakthrough and the mining operations by Yokohama are feeding our economy currently, and the refugees make a cheap workforce. Once the infrastructure in the Delta is large enough, we should see a boom in enterprise. We'll be able to dial our megastructures up and pay back our loans. We're nowhere near Menel or Nimatojin construction yet, but thankfully this process is iterative. The Domain has been a huge help with DuVal's bioframes and we've learnt new techniques from Awarinathi construction. Using megastructures like our foundaries and shipyards to produce more materials for further construction will continue to stack."

"The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the exosnding bureaucracy," Serano grinned.

"Sounds like a feed back loop," Nakamura suggested.

"It is. We've amassed capital the Conglomerate only wished it had at this point. The nationalisation of corporations like Yokohama has aided us, alongside the investments from trade, and the assistance from the Solarians," Serano sdded.

"What we need now is intel on Meridian, Director. Our old foes have been quiet, and I think it's time they're visited from old friends."

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Postby Lady Scylla » Tue Aug 11, 2020 8:21 pm

Fire and Iron II

Director Nakamura flicked her hand, the motion caused the program to materialise some starcharts. The images depicted the Meridian Empire along the northwestern periphery of the Martian Delta. It was a clump of only a dozen systems, and there was noticeable disgust among all present as they stared at the name.

"We've gathered some intel from Valkyrie about what our old foes have been up to, and it hasn't been much," the Director stated drily. Screens appeared showing some of the recent traffic moving within Meridian systems. Roth leaned in to get a closer look.

Serano was also intrigued, but she could see something the others couldn't with her experience. "They never recovered. And here," she dragged a screen away and expanded on it. They were staring at a battlefield of some kind, with debris and derelict ships of Meridian and freighters.

"Pirates?" Roth inquired as he stood from his seat to rotate the hologram. Serano shook her head and sifted through some of the other feeds, pulling up captures of other Meridian ships.

"Meridian has had some civil unrest, it seems slaving aliens doesn't work well when you're ill-equipped and they out-number you," Nakamura said.

"I wish we could take advantage of it," Roth commented and fell back into his seat with a sigh. The rearmament was moving along, but it was slow going. The Republic couldn't get involved yet. Ewanport needed to pump out ships faster than what the current rate was.

"Mm. They'll get what's coming to them, sir. What we need to focus on is intelligence gathering. Warden, you said you're producing about a cruiser a day, what's holding you up currently?" Serano looked at Beaufort, who had mostly stayed out of the conversation since it was above his paygrade.

"Well, efficiency increases every few weeks. We've got part of the yards building ships, and part of them building components and machinery to expand the overall structure. There's a hundred-and-twenty berths at the moment for ships. That's about twenty-four medium class ships a day, and twice that for the frigates and corvettes."

Serano rubbed her chin, "So around twenty-four cruisers and forty-eight frigates and corvettes a day?"

"Roughly. We're not producing battlecruisers, battleships, or carriers yet. By next month, the number will double. Most of the construction is automated, and the new designs by Nerys have made it easier. We've learnt a thing or two from the Menelmacari equipment produced during the war as well. Shields will be a new addition," Beaufort explained.

"Speaking of the Menel, you're not seriously considering war, Roth?" Nakamura asked bluntly. Her ears perked up as she waited for an answer.

Roth shook his head, "We do need to shift our priorities and consider both the Nimatojin and Menelmacari as astropolitical rivals. Not a Van Allenist kind of rival. So no, I don't want a conflict with either."

"Our priority is colonising the Reaches, and pushing our interests around Sol. The Conglomerate's lack of focus on home was criminal. We're expanding into a region with already established spheres of influence so butting heads is inevitable," Serano added.

"For now, things will continue as normal."

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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Aug 12, 2020 7:55 am

Fire and Iron III

President Rowland slid into the backseat of her car and shut the door with an exasperated sigh. An android driver was at the wheel sporting a basic black suit and red tie. There was nothing else remarkable about the model, as it looked like any other blonde, basic featured android. Rowland herself was wearing a red blazer and skirt with black heels. She had her black hair tied in a bun.

"Where to, Madame President?" the android asked without moving. Rowland relaxed in her seat as best she could, but pinched the bridge her nose between her fingers as she waved the android off.

"Just sit here for a moment," she said, and pulled her purse over to search for some painkillers. The day had been long, too long for her liking. As she popped some pills in her mouth, the passenger door flew open and in came Secretary-General Roth. "Roth! What are you doing here? Get out!"

Roth grinned and shut the door, "Now, now. Don't be like that Cora, we have much to discuss! I'll even buy you dinner." Cora glared at him as she dropped her pill bottle back into her purse and peered at the time in the corner of her HUD.

"You've got until we arrive at Fujikawa Square, Roth. At which point I want you out," she said coldly and tapped on the android, "Android, take us to Fujikawa Square on 14th." The car started and pulled away from the Rathaus' pavillion.

Roth helped himself to Cora's wine, setting a glass down for her. The cork popped as he pulled it off and filled himself a modest glass and began to pour for Cora. He watched her as he filled it, expecting her to say something, but her soured face didn't change until the glass was almost full. She picked it up without saying anything and deeply drank from it for a moment before setting it back down. "What do you want to discuss, Roth. I can see your heart rate is elevated," she commented, staring at his biomed readings in her HUD.

"Y'know you creep me out when you do that. Do relax though, I'm only here as a friend," Roth said, reclining back in the seat and bringing a leg up to rest his glass on while he held it.

"There's no such thing with you, Roth. Get to the point. Please."

Roth's smirk grew. He took a gentle sip of the wine, a porter no doubt, and sat the glass aside. "We had to get you re-elected, Cora."

"And break every ethics rule we have doing so, Roth," she growled. "Seriously, Roth? The Marshal Party referendum? We've spent two fucking years building this government, and you have decided to make a deal with the Marshals? Why not the NLP? Enlighten me!"

Roth brought his leg down as they crossed over the Kawasaki Bridge over the Ruelle. The glimmering water was beautiful with the afternoon sun and solette. Little boats could be seen fishing and a cargo ship was passing under the bridge. "I'm thinking about the future, Cora. And you should too."

"What the hell are you talking about, Roth? I tolerate you for the sake of politics but you do know you drive me nuts, yeah?"

"Always so blunt. Tsk, tsk. She is the future of Mars, Cora. This little experiment with republicanism — it just doesn't work. We've entertained it long enough, but it's time to see the bigger picture here. We're recovering, we're getting stronger, Cora," Roth said as he sipped from his glass.

Cora raised a brow and stared at him in silence for a moment and then leaned back in her seat. The brow twitched as she closed her eyes and continued to sot quietly. "The whole point of this government was to get away from two centuries of authoritarian rule. Now you want a despot. What then, Roth? Have you gone turncoat against your own party? Your country? You want to create a military autocrat and let her loose and you're okay with this? Do you not love Mars?"

Roth stared at her coldly and sat his glass down, "I love my country, Cora. I've set aside my personal ambitions for the greater good. Look around you. We've rebuilt so much already, but we lack the strong leadership we so desperately need. I can't provide for the people like she can. Mars will flourish with her."

Cora placed her hand against her forehead and sank in her seat, "My god, your idealism. Roth, let me put it to you this way: what if they don't support the referendum? What if the Assembly doesn't recognise it? What if she doesn't follow through? What then, Roth? What then!"

"It's a risk. Either I stay Secretary-General or I don't and she takes the reigns. But consider this, she's popular, she's a national hero. Plus, the Assembly isn't going to want to start another civil conflict after seven years! Do you remember the protests when she abdicated? The only reason they dispersed was because she asked them to. And she will accept it — she knows she has to. The MP will find someone else, and I can't imagine who they'd choose from the Admiralty. She's the only sane one."

"Jesus, Roth. You've lost your mind. You may as well have enslaved her at that point, she gets no actual say in the matter. She'll have no control!"

"It's more like we're simply nudging her in the right direction — a suggestion, if you will."

"You're forcing her hand, Roth. And for what? A puppet? What do you get out of this?" Cora practically shouted the question at Roth as the car stopped at a light. Roth sighed and poured himself a second glass. He opened the cooler and pulled out an olive that he had impaled with a toothpick and took a bite as it feel silent.

"Like I said," he followed with a second olive, "I love my country, Cora. I simply understand what it needs right now. It's a shitty thing to do, but it's necessary. She is perfect for it, and we'll reach whole new heights with her in charge. The question, is what are you going to do?"

"What do you mean?" Cora asked, shutting the mini-fridge as Roth got his fifth olive.

"We'll need a level-head in charge of the Assembly, someone familiar with it," he said, taking a sip of his wine and then dipping the olive in it before eating afterward.

"Assembly? There's not going to be an Assembly with a dictator, Roth," Cora snidedly remarked as the car pulled into Fujikawa Square. The android announced they had arrived and Roth opened the fridge to steal a few more olives. He drank the rest of his glass and opened the door.

"I wouldn't be so sure, Cora. You need to decide. What side of history would you like to be on? Think about it," he said. Roth stepped out and buttoned his jacket as he munched on the olives and peered into the car. "Y'know where to find me." He shut the door and watched the car as Cora pulled away.
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Postby Lady Scylla » Mon Aug 17, 2020 2:00 am

Rathaus, Laconia City, Mars, Sol System
Martian Empire
Winter, 2182

"Marshal," the woman sat down some folders on the desk before Harlow. She was wearing a grey uniform like the High Marshal, though it lacked some of the finer accoutrements of her superior. She gave a bow and went to a state of attention as Nerys looked over the documentation. The High Marshal finally looked up at her secretary with a musing glance and sat quietly for a moment while she twirled a pen between her hands.

"Rambeau, I want you to notify the Secretariat of a meeting," Harlow said as she closed the folders and slid them into her desk. "You're dismissed."

"One more thing, Marshal, Roth is here to see you," Rambeau commented as she stepped back towards the door. The High Marshal waved her on to let him in. Rambeau opened the door and soon enough the former Secretary-General bursted into the room with a grin, giving the secretary an icy glare for a second before smiling heavily at Harlow. Rambeau paid no mind and shut the door behind her as she left.

"High Marshal Harlow, Your Excellency," Roth chipperly greeted with an over-exaggerated bow. "I trust you're finding your accomodations to your liking, though I personally would have chosen the palace," he said as he walked about the room, curiously poking the wing of a bronze model airplane on a shelf of the bookcase. "Of course, the Rathaus has served Laconia City for generations as the townhall and now the seat of the federal government after the Senatehall fire all those years ago!"

The High Marshal leaned back in her leather chair with a noticeable creak as she clasped her hands together. "That was quite the performance, Roth. Siding with the Marshal Party and getting the referendum through. I don't believe anyone else could have done it," Harlow said. Roth smiled and walked back to the centre of the room.

"Well, of course, Your Excellency. I was only doing what I thought was in the best interest of the country. The people love you — just look at you — hero of the Great War, saving us from total annihilation by giving those bastard Kadrians an ass kicking. All thanks to you, Marshal," Roth grinned widely as he sat his hands on the back of the chairs in front of Harlow's desk.

"Mmm," Harlow spun in her chair and looked out the window towards the courtyard, "You did the country a great service, Roth. One that can't easily be repaid, actually."

"Well, I mean, you don't need to pay me for anything, Marshal. The duty of doing it was enough, and besides, I'd hate to trouble you," Roth spoke. Harlow could still see his grin in the reflection of the window. She turned back around and stood from her chair and walked to the cubby in the bookshelf where a kettle with some fresh tea was sitting. A gift from the Menelmacari.

"Care for a cup?"

"I would love some," Roth said as Harlow poured him some and handed it over on a saucer. The High Marshal gestured to the two recliners in the corner with a table for them to sit. Once they had situated themselves, and Harlow had sat the tray down of the creme and sugar, she prepared her cup how she always did.

"It would be a disservice to not recognise you for your national service, Roth," the High Marshal explained as she dipped some sugar in her cup and began to idly stir it. She opened up a box of small biscuits and took one, taking care to lightly wash over it with some tea to see if it was palatable. "There's no need for a Secretary-General over the Secretariat, though."

Roth raised a brow, his grin lessened as he watched the High Marshal take a bite of her biscuit. "I'm afraid I don't understand."

"Well, as High Marshal, I don't need a middle man between the executive and myself. Surely you understand. But that doesn't mean we can't find something deserving of your achievements. I mean, you got me back in office, and you've already been rearming our fleet. I know! A promotion!"

Roth's expression had notably soured. Harlow took another biscuit and sipped her tea after tapping her spoon on the rim of the cup and setting it aside. It was her favourite kind of tea, Wulong or Oolong as it was sometimes spelt, an Old World delight. She especially enjoyed it with some creme and only enough sugar to make it slightly sweet — the Elentari had spoiled her.

"A Governor. That would be an excellent use of your talents, Roth. You'd needn't stress yourself anymore with all of this work here in the national government. It'd be like an early retirement, you'd be managing the Caracalla Stellarate in Delta with a sizeable pension to boot. I've heard the Governor's Mansion overlooks the Rainbow Mist Falls."

"A Governorship?" Roth asked, a smile flickering on his face and fading to a frown and back again with a twitch. "You want me to be a Governor?"

"Of course. Your dedication to national duty and the people would be great for the Caracallans. You'd be close to them and be able to do so much from your position. I've already arranged a transport for you, it leaves later today," Harlow smiled and stood. Roth slowly came to a stand as Harlow gave him a handshake. "I trust you'll serve us well, Governor Roth. Farewell and safe-travels."

Roth stared blankly for a moment as his hand was shaken and his saucer and cup taken from him and sat down in the table by the High Marshal. Rambeau had opened the door now, and called for him. "Mister Roth, your ride is waiting for you," she said. Roth turned and walked past the secretary without a word, disappearing into the hall. Rambeau closed the door behind her.

"What do you think?" Harlow asked, looking to the phone in the cubby next to the tea. A woman's voice came on over the call, it was Director Nakamura of Civil Defence, the nation's central intelligence agency.

"Y'know he's going to be a problem," the Director commented. "I've notified my people in Caracalla, as you requested."

"Good. I don't need another thorn in my side, it's too early to do much right now. How are the ships coming?" Harlow asked.

"We're on schedule," Nakamura answered.

"That's good to hear," Harlow said as she rounded her desk and slid into her chair, "I'm assembling the Secretariat to discuss redirecting resources from our shipbreaking of the older ships to the infrastructure in Laconia's east. It's about time we put the refugee issue to rest and clean up the mess. I'll hand it to him, leaving most of it on someone else's dollar was an interesting strategy. It was a matter of time though until someone noticed, so thank you, Director."

"My pleasure, Marshal. Do you still want to authorise the State Security Bill?"

"You'll get your funding once I can convince the Secretariat. That way we can mobilise State Guard forces. I'm expecting some growing pains, and we can't have anything getting in our way."

"Understood, Marshal."
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Mon Aug 17, 2020 2:16 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Mon Aug 17, 2020 1:49 pm

Rathaus, Laconia City, Mars, Sol System
Martian Empire
Winter, 2182

"Where are we with the Gateworks?" Nerys asked, taking a moment to look over her notes. The Secretariat had assembled around an elliptical table with the High Marshal sitting at the one end. The room was slightly warm as winter was in full swing, and Martian winters in the Southern Hemisphere were known to be especially frigid. The meeting had been called by Harlow, who knew that setting an agenda and doing so quickly after she'd taken power was paramount.

"Yokohama is currently constructing two different designs that'll need to be approved by the Gatework Transit Committee. They've already tooled up their factories in the Delphi system to construct more next year once a design is approved," the Infrastructure Secretary said as she shuffled papers.

"Why are we wasting money on these things? We've managed just fine with the frameshift drives we already use," the Commerce Secretary protested. Everyone's eyes focused on Harlow, who returned their gaze. She leaned back in her chair and tapped her pen on the table.

"Miles," she spoke finally, closing her notes and looking at the Commerce Secretary, "Do you know how long it took me to travel from Gamma to Sol to defend it against the Grand Coalition?"

"I don't see how that could be relevant," Miles grumbled with a shake of his jowls as he looked away from the High Marshal's piercing gaze. The others sought distractions or methods to avoid Harlow's irritation.

"Two weeks. At the fastest jumps we could make, Miles. No battleships, no carriers, just medium-class warships covering a hundred thousand lightyears. Two weeks. I arrived just a day before the Kadrians arrived. My decision cost us our Gamma territories because there was no way I could make that trip back after the Battle of Sol to defend it against the Nyteborne, Miles. Now you tell me why we need these gates?"

Nerys looked at the others. The room fell silent. "We need these gates to maintain control of our territories. We cannot rely on other powers to do it for us indefinitely. At the Conglomerate's height, we managed hundreds of systems but our communication and force projection was too slow to respond to the Grand Coalition and Meridian. We cannot allow that to happen again. Now what about our infrastructure plans?"

The Infrastructure Secretary sifted through her notes, "We're still constructing ports and shipyards in Delta. Hypatia is still growing thanks to the Consolidation Plan. They've surpassed Laconia's population by about ten million."

"Alright. I want a comprehensive infrastructure and labour plan on my desk by the end of this week. We need to expand our production output, we need more housing, more services, and more employment. These people have waited long enough, if I don't get a plan on my desk, then I expect letters of resignation. This meeting is adjourned," Nerys spoke.

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Postby Lady Scylla » Sun Aug 30, 2020 6:07 pm


Issued 2200, Rishabha, 06
1600 GST
Travel Restrictions on the citizens of the Fenvarian Republic and Tezeki Imperium




Given the recent developments in the Tezeki Imperium, the Fenvarian Republic, and within other nations across the galaxy, it is by my authority as Empress, that I must consider such actions to safeguard and protect our national security and the general welfare of our nation's citizens.

The 'Welded', as they are variously known, have presented themselves as a real and present danger to galactic stability and astropolitics in general. According to reports provided by the Martian Forum and the intelligence services of nearly a dozen nations, the Tezeki suffered great catastrophe with a toll in the billions as they attempted to fight valiantly against this new threat. Tezeki refugees are now travelling across the galaxy in mass on levels not seen since the Great Migration. It should be noted that the galaxy has not faced a threat of this calibre since Karax or the Rethast Pathogen.

In the Fenvarian Republic, cultists have taken to these 'Welded' and their infiltrators and have subsequently revolted on Sror. Early reports indicate that the conflict currently engaged in, and one that the Eridani are also party to, has become stalled in trench warfare with massive casualties. While 'Welded' infections have been determined to be low or non-existent in the Fenvarian Republic, there is still a risk associated with those that would seek to enable such threats.

A number of nations have been fighting the 'Welded' across the galaxy with varying success, but not without great cost. Thus, actions have been considered, and now are being taken to prevent the spread of the 'Welded' threat to Sol and the Reaches. Using my authority under the Imperial Prerogative such as the right to manage the borders; to issue citizenship, visa, and passport; and to sanction or embargo foreign states — and invoking the Security Act of Foreign-based Epidemics (SAFE), I issue this directive to the Secretariat and its Executive Departments as follows:

ALL travel to and from the Tezeki Expanse is hereby forbidden.

ALL persons originating from the Tezeki Expanse such as citizens, species, migrants, and refugees shall be barred from entering the Martian Empire.

ATTEMPTS to bypass these restrictions by any ship or person may result in harsh criminal penalties including and up to the use of lethal force by System Security and/or the Imperial Martian Navy.

ALL Tezeki currently living, travelling, or residing within the Martian Empire whether by species, association, or citizenship shall be subject to Civil Defence's monitoring guidelines under the SAFE Act including confinement, if necessary.

ALL travel to and from the Fenvarian Republic MUST be declared to Transit Authority and Civil Defence.

ALL persons originating from the Fenvarian Republic shall undergo mandatory 15 day quarantine and screening.
Last edited by Lady Scylla on Sun Aug 30, 2020 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Wed Oct 07, 2020 2:43 pm

Queenstown, Mars

The Empress was busy toiling away in her office, a stack of papers sat beside her as she wrote down a few notes. Their was a crisp knock at the door, and so Nerys looked at the time, the Prime Minister had arrived as previously scheduled. ''Please, come in, Rowland,'' Nerys spoke, taking a moment to finish her notes.

Rowland entered and shut the door behind her with a click, nestled in her hand was a folder. This was common in the Martian government — while electronics indeed made things easier, paper was still a sought after tool to maintain some secrecy. The Prime Minister stepped in and gave a polite bow, then stared quietly at the Empress.

Nerys had her black hair in a bun, though a few strands hung loose. Her glasses rested gently on the tip of her nose as she wrote down with determination something on the paper before her. She was now in her forties, and the stress of her job was slowly starting to carve its way into her face. Canyons formed across her skin, and grey peeked through the roots of her hair. It was an odd thing to Rowland, who was used to seeing cyborgs, and while Nerys had implants, she was not sporting a fully prosthetic body like her.

''I apologise for the wait, Madame Prime Minister,'' Nerys said finally, closing the folder she was working in and setting it aside. ''What news do you bring me?'' she gently smiled as she pulled her glasses from her face.

Rowland stepped forward and handed the Empress the Manila folder, which Nerys delicately took and opened. The Empress gestured towards one of the chairs sitting in front of her desk, which the Prime Minister took rather gladly. As she waited, she looked around the Empress' office. It was quite small, and always very moody. It was also very plane save for a small bookshelf and a few trinkets on some hanging shelves.

''Well, the budget looks good. I'll make sure to send it off to Parliament,'' Nerys said as she signed the document inside. She sat the folder aside and looked at Rowland, ''Where are we with the Martian Delta?''

''Piracy is a major concern for the colonies,'' Rowland answered.

''You mean the Eridani,'' Nerys said, giving a pensive look as she leaned back in her chair.

Rowland nodded, ''The Imperium is becoming a major regional power, their independence has emboldened them.''

''The colonies do understand the complexity of our relationship, I would hope.''

''They know the IMN can't strike targets in the Imperium, but it does leave other options. We've maintained a sizeable force in the region in case the Eridani broke the treaty, it can be put to use. We have the authorisation for the police action, but what I'm suggesting is very coordinated. We engage these pirates across the quadrant, we track them down, and we destroy them and any installations they have. You and I both know the Eridani government has ties to these groups,'' Rowland said.

''Yes, because negotiations went well the last time,'' Nerys rubbed her head.

''We can force them to the negotiation table with no other option. The Eridani hit targets across the galaxy, if we can't go for the head, we take aim at the kneecaps. We methodically destroy their revenue via these connections in Delta and it'll have an impact on their raids elsewhere. We have them publicly acknowledging and on record that the government has no ties, and that these raiders are independently operating. To defend these raiders publicly would damage their legitimacy,'' Rowland reasoned.

''It could also invite a cold war. Where are we with Project Titan?''

''We've managed to make a breakthrough on the Nicean powerplants they use. We're still a ways off from applying that knowledge,'' Rowland answered.

''Do they think it could work?''

''Theoretically,'' Rowland answered, adjusting in her seat. ''It'd give us the power we need to fire the main gun according to the Defence Minister. I think your hunch was correct. Why do you ask?''

Nerys stood from her seat and looked out the window behind her at the courtyard, ''Times have changed, Rowland. If we can get this technology to work, it'll mean levelling the playing field. You're aware of the lend lease?'' The Empress turned and searched Rowland's face for an answer. The Prime Minister was, by comparison, younger than Nerys by about a decade. Her features were chiselled and clean thanks to her prosthetic body, Nerys wondered if that was how she always looked.

''I'm aware. It's worrisome, to say the least,'' the Prime Minister responded.

Nerys stepped around the desk and leaned against it beside Rowland, she folded her arms and looked out over her office with a sigh. ''Even in peace, we are always at war. There are no allies, everyone is always adapting. We must catchup and this project will ensure that, especially if my concerns turn out to be true.''

''I see,'' Rowland said, looking up at the Empress.

''I'll have to consult the Security Council about your proposal. We definitely need to apply pressure, them wanting exorbitant fees for an agreement tells me just about all I need to know. If we can hit them hard where it hurts, I think you may be right. It'll also greatly improve our position. The Empire can be isolationist no longer, and the frontier must be secured,'' Nerys said.

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Lady Scylla
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Postby Lady Scylla » Thu Oct 08, 2020 3:27 am

Hypatia City, Republic of Hypatia in the Martian Delta

Ayaru was but fifteen, and no less different than many other girls her age. She dreamt of boys and thought about clothes, she loved to explore her city, and she was always vibrant. Today was Sunday, so there was no school for the young explorer as she hopped along the paved stones singing some new fashionable song to herself. The sounds of the city bled together in the streets of Hypatia. Rockets could be heard overhead as ships came and went, the idle chatter of vendors and those off to work filled the pavement as they waited for traffic to move along, and the smell of roadside food gave the air a pleasant and welcoming aroma.

Ayaru had but one thing in mind as she stepped in line behind the adults. Kotani rolls. Alfric always made them taste the best to Ayaru, they were crunchy and warm, and they smelled so good when you bit into one. It was the perfect fusion of foods and a staple from Kotaniyama, a city back on Mars. As she waited, she accessed the Hive, what the Martians called their internet, because like most Martians, Ayaru had cybernetic implants. She could see things that weren't really there thanks to a HUD in her bionic eyes.

Now, not every Martian had bionic eyes. Some just had implants inserted into them. But Ayaru was unique in this regard, she had suffered from a congenital disease that had made her blind at birth and required extensive treatment. Like many children, sometimes the best course of action was prostheses. So she got new eyes at a very young age, and thus was leagues more accustomed to the technology than many adults getting them for the first time.

She checked her social media, and quietly became giddy at word that Westland was going to hold a concert in Hypatia soon. She didn't have the money now, but she was saving up for the tickets to go if her parents allowed her. She didn't see why not though, she had done extra chores in the meantime and kept her marks up in school.

''Ayaru! What shall it be today, kiddo?'' Alfric said in his deep, bellowing voice as he gave the girl a big smile. Alfric was not from Hypatia, rather, he was Caracallan and had a funny accent to Ayaru. He was also very tall, even by Martian standards, and very large. Ayaru was a routine customer and Alfric's favourite one at that. She would stop by just about every morning on her way to school to get some food.

''I need two Kotani rolls! One with extra nacho and beans, and the other with rice and some wasabi,'' Ayaru chimed, holding out her wrist. Alfric scanned it and the payment was processed, a prompt came up in Ayaru's HUD to accept the charge. A whole £7, which she did, and the amount was deducted from her account.

''I'll even throw in an icecream one, it's a new item. On the house,'' Alfric smiled as he got off to work on her order. Kotani rolls were immensely popular in the Empire. They were, essentially, eggroll burritos. Naturally, Ayaru could have gone to the shops for one, or one of the innumerable vending machines that dispensed hot food, but Alfric's were special. It was the combination of personality and food that made people come here, why they chose the human over the machine.

''So tell me, kiddo. What's the news?'' Alfric asked.

''Well, papa is still looking for a job. Mama has been doing house-cleaning still. Did you know they have androids do that in the inner colonies?''

Alfric shook his head as he fried the rolls with a loud sizzle, ''Oh yeah, they have them do a lot. It's why so many have come out here, but times are changing.''

Ayaru tilted her head, ''What d'you mean, Alf?''

Alfric slid the kotani rolls into small wraps of paper and put them in a bag. He handed it off to her which she took gleefully and stepped aside so he could make an order for another customer. She pulled the bean one out and took a bite with a satisfying crunch. There was a pleasant mixture of the nacho cheese, the beans, and the mealworm. She smiled and took another bite as Alfric finished with the other customer's order.

He wiped his hands with a towel and then used some sanitizer to clean his hands, ''You're probably too young to remember,'' he started, reaching under the cart and into the compartment to get a rag and wipe down the cooking space. ''Hypatia back then was just a little dustbin. Empress changed all that here, all these tall skyscrapers you're so familiar with, it's all recent. Empire is growing, and the old colonies like this place are becoming like the inner colonies. No work because of the automation, massive expansions, already starting to see more androids on the streets.''

''D'you think they'll take your job?'' Ayaru asked, she climbed up on the foundation of the building beside them as she continued to munch on her food.

Alfric shrugged at this question and was silent for a moment, ''I don't know, kiddo. I was already having trouble finding work. Basic is nice, don't get me wrong. But we're not meant to sit still, yeah? I had to go out and do something so this is what I do. I'm just happy people enjoy it,'' he smiled gently.

''All papa wants to talk about is the war,'' Ayaru said, kicking her legs idly, ''Mama is trying, but he refuses to get us on Basic. Says it'll make us weak.''

Alfric put the rag aside and placed a small sign on the cart that read 'Closed'. He climbed up on the foundation next to Ayaru and sighed, ''Your pops is old, he still remembers the days before the war.''

''What were those days like, Alf?''

''Not great. I mean, yeah, we had jobs then. Places like Hypatia were the scary frontier back then too,'' Alfric shook his head, ''There's a lot of changes happening that are very fast, and it's got people scared. Noone wants to be stuck on Basic. I think that's why so many are moving out here or signing up.''

''You mean in the military?''

Alfric nodded, ''Which that's all changing too. When I was in the Thassa, there were more jobs to do. Automation is taking over everything, kiddo.''

Ayaru came to the last kotani roll, the icecream one that Alfric had given her. She looked at it quietly as a cloud moved over the suns and cast the street into a cool area of shade. Alfric looked up at the sky and could barely see the yellow and red stars peaking through. He was interrupted by Ayaru nudging him with half of the icecream kotani roll, which he took without arguing, he knew better.

''Thanks, kiddo,'' Alfric said as the two quietly ate.



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