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

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

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Postby Sunset » Thu Jan 22, 2015 10:58 am

SDF-Unconquered Sun, En Route, Deep Space...

"Supporting Alwyra would benefit us on a couple of levels," Demi offered as the roundtable discussion continued. "She's young, independent, and innovative. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty and, let's be honest, she's a Neko. While we don't have a diversity issue," she looked around the room to where at least half of those present were non-Human in some way, "It will help keep our reputation as a bastion of diversity and inclusiveness."

"By having a murderer as the Secretary of Industry," Grand Admiral Glafka eyed her from across the room.

While the Secretary-General's office, including as it did both the carrot-and-stick functions of diplomacy and defense, wouldn't have any say over the final choice or the Senate vote on the matter, it could both make recommendations and have individual discussions with the Senators in an effort to sway them in one direction or another. It would not be the only Secretariat to do that; Justice, Education, and Industry would also have their opinions and be making them known.

"She's done her time," Demi replied, "If we want to be seen as a civilization devoted to justice and the law..."

"...for that one," the cyborg interrupted darkly.

"Rumors aside!" Now it was time for Grand Admiral Edge, there in holographic form, to put in his two cents, "What are the other departments saying? Who are they supporting?"

"Industry is supporting an insider," Erika ticked off, "One of their own. Under-Secretary EriWiGo; She picked up a lot of the slack when L'la went to Earth and she's pretty much running the department as it is. I kind of like her, personally. She was in charge of Industry investigations;" Investigating companies for potential government investment wasn't very high-profile, but it was vital, "And she's worked with Intelligence a lot so she's got a lot of inter-Departmental experience. Actually, that's the position of both Law and Education as well."

"Was she on the List?" Edge asked, sitting back.

"She was," Erika nodded. She was one of the few people who had full access to ex-Secretary G'hrnla's list of recommended replacements and it's opposite, the list of those who should never, ever, be considered. "The top five were Ateyf al Saleef, Alwyra, EriWiGo, Constantine Nirat, and Ambassador Forsteri."

"I was!?" The penguin squawked and jumped down from his seat on the couch, running around in a tight circle and rubbing his flippers together, "Finally, a chance for some real power. Oh, I'd make them pay..."

"He was?!"

"He what!?"

"Why?! In god's name, why?!"

"Hey, aren't I on your list?"

"Well, yes, but only because you asked," Erika answered. "And I'll be honest, it's a short list. The top five were the only five. The other list was a lot longer and your name was also on it."

"Ah well," he threw his flippers up and flopped back onto the couch to sit with them crossed across his chest, "There go my hopes of pillaging the treasury. I'd deserve it too. A lifetime of service and they pay me in herring..."

"...right," Erika sighed. Even from one AI to another, the Ambassador was weird.
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Re-Ordering Some Things...

Postby Sunset » Fri Jan 23, 2015 9:38 am

SDF-Unconquered Sun, Queen of the Valley, The Periphery...

"...award Ensign Ybari with the Medallion of the Republic," Erika said as she pulled the flag-draped coffin down and placed a velvet-lined box containing a sunburst surmounted by shining stars on the lid. "She chose sacrifice that others might live."

Kami couldn't agree with it but she could understand and she stood beside the casket with her head bowed as the Secretary-General stopped at the head, bowed for a long moment, and moved to the next.

"Ensign..."

She tuned the rest out. There were many medals, too many names, and it would be nearly three hours before the ceremony ended and she retreated to the comfort of Sloan's arms wrapped around her as she remembered the carefree holographic girl in sandals and shorts who had graced her ship for the past few months. There were others there as well; The stout Captain of the Khasim, who showed no emotion as he shook her hand but held it, perhaps, a little longer and softer than he would have otherwise.

They were all there, survivors and warriors unscathed, as well as civilian leaders who provided words both sympathetic and grand. The first she took with gratitude and the second in silence. Those who had not served would never understand her loss.

"Lieutenant-Commander;" Kami looked up to find the Secretary-General standing in front of her with a dark haired woman at her side. Like her and Sloan there was an intimate comfort to the way they stood together but after a moment the barely touching fingertips parted and the blonde woman wrapped her arms around her for a long hug. "I'm sorry," she whispered in her ear.

"There's nothing I can say that will bring them back and nothing I can do. There is one thing I will do and I ask that you remember it always in this moment and for these reasons," she stepped aside so that Kami could see the long line of caskets stretched out across the floor, each draped in the flag of the Republic and many bearing some momento of their service, "Captain Blaine."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jan 24, 2015 3:00 pm

Special Projects Facility, Denali, The Yukon System...

"Fascinating!" Kraus stepped back from the microscope - the instrument was purely for show; It helped him focus - to swipe his hand across his eyes before returning to the device and the images displayed, "Absolutely fantastic!"

While otherwise he would have been talking to himself in the empty laboratory, a familiar figure chose that moment to walk by the open door just as he was making his proclamation. Pausing at the doorway, Director Tibowski looked through and just for a moment there was a sigh on his face before he stepped through.

"Alright, what's so interesting this time?"

It certainly wasn't any of the projects the Doctor was supposed to be working on. Holograms for various modules of the CME project spun away in one corner while a whole row of cloning tanks bubbled along the near wall. Those weren't as important; High-resolution scans of the frozen foods that the Ixutsangi had discovered on the dark shattered world of the Shun'Jan Crescent. Republic markets were already crowded and adding another new product was simply adding another niche market. The CME project was, however, important especially given the news coming from Queen of the Valley and its aftermath. The only saving grace, and thing that saved him from screaming at the Doctor, was that the Akashan team was making considerable progress without him.

It seemed that someone on the team had a fondness for monkeys.

"Ah, Adam," once again Doctor Kraus stepped back. "Well, if you want to take a look, and I doubt you do, I think you'll find it interesting." Since the Director just stood there, he assumed his assumption was correct and proceeded, "I'm looking at Alinya's DNA;" that was the name Meri had chosen for their daughter, "And I've come across something expected and unexpected. That is, while I expected the portions of her DNA that reflected my own ancestry to potentially contain the encoded information that would lead to the ship we discovered, something else that is truly remarkable has happened."

"It's not there?"

"Oh, but it is, but it is not the same information. And this is where a friend of mine would say that this flies in the face of all of the known laws of genetics; The way the information is encoded has been changed to reflect her majority parentage. As you know, the DNA of a child is mostly inherited from their mother with only scant contribution from the father. Still I expected the encoded information, if present, to be reflective of her human ancestry."

"Are you sure you're not just looking at the wrong section and seeing what you want to see?" Adam asked. "How would DNA reconfigure itself to..."

"...be coded for the majority language of the Kaissi? I do not know, but in response to my friend, I would then say that we need to find some new laws. I know it's the same information because enough of the sequence still matches - specifically those areas related to mathematical descriptions of parameters - that I can effectively isolate the rest of the string. But how would whatever it is know the language? How would it be able to recode it? That makes no sense at all, unless somehow it has access to the language..."

"What?" Kraus had sat down on a stool with a sudden speed that might suggest he was having some kind of attack. Adam walked over and stooped down to look in his eyes, "Are you alright?"

"The language centers of Meri's brain. An external factor of some kind... A virus? Bacteria?"
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:44 am

SDF-Ilunaia Keral, Silverstar Orbit...

"It'll be a transport," Sloan stated without a trace of teasing in her voice. "Zenith-Class if we're lucky, but probably just a converted civilian transport. Possibly a few second-hand salvaged laser cannon welded onto the side. Not that they'd do any good, not with a hull made of wet tissue paper."

"It better not be..."

But Kami went silent as the lift car vanished into the darkness that was an intervening bulkhead. They'd been riding across the interior wall of one of the station's - a titanic Singularity-Class - equally massive construction and maintenance bays. This in turn was only one of a half-dozen that made up only half of the station's construction capacity. Most of these housed Horizon-Class Frigates and Eclipse-Class Destroyers that were undergoing final assembly but some had other smaller ships as well with several incomplete space-frames occupying a single sprawling bay. Robotic arms did most of the work and as they passed by, they watched as one moved and rotated to swing an enormous section of hull plating into place with micrometer precision.

"Remember when we were here?" Kami looked over to her partner; The thin, willowy blond was standing in the same semi-parade rest as she was, her hands tucked behind her. "This is where we met, when they were commissioning the first Horizon-Class."

She'd been fresh out of the Academy then, graduated as a Lieutenant and sent to Silverstar to help with the final construction and shakedown of what was supposed to have been her first placement. Ilunaia Keral had still been under construction then and they had met when they'd been assigned to work together aboard one of the orbiting stations of the Path of Stars. Sloan was a couple years her senior and while a promising officer, she wasn't the ambitious and driven type that Kamilia was. But she was pretty and the Freodian with the boyish figure pushed the right buttons and she'd asked her into bed. Satisfying sex had turned into fulfilling friendship and the two had remained together and risen in the ranks together since then.

"Remember when we went to Ilumo?"

"Remember rummaging around in those ruins on Hanson's Kneecap? I loved that table..."

There were mutual sighs; They'd lost all of their collected household goods when the Sailfish had been destroyed. They'd lost a friend there too and, in some ways, it was good that they'd lost most of their connections to that ship. Not all though. The chevrons that each sported on their sleeve - two silver, two smaller gold for Commander Sloan and two gold, one large and one small, for Captain Blaine - were both reward and responsibility for lessons learned both aboard that ship and throughout their careers.

'Remember it always in this moment and for these reasons,' Kami whispered, thinking of what the Secretary-General had said just before drawing her attention back to the long line of flag-draped caskets laid out in one of the Unconquered Sun's hangar decks.

Sloan had been there too and for just a moment one hand slid along her partner's back before she stepped away as the last bulkhead separating one bay from the next approached. It was the moment of truth and her new life was only moments away. Then they were in darkness, nothing but the soft blue lights on the door behind them to light the space, and both held their breath in collective anticipation. The light from the bay washed over the car like the breaking of dawn and there she was. This time, Kami didn't have to ask; Information began to flow down the glass wall of the car as they headed towards the small station where a wide boarding tunnel ran out to the side of the ship.

Her ship.

Last edited by Sunset on Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:44 pm

The Doctor's Lab, Under the Art Annex, NeoVancouver University Campus...

Dr. Ambrose grinned maniacally, "Judicious application of a cattle prod will do that. Though I do not think that was the only reason you're still alive. Was there anything else he said or did? Even the smallest gesture may give the clue I need to unravel this mystery and gain some advantage from your tribulations."

Whatever the reasons Shatterblood had conceived of or been subjected to before releasing her, the ordeal had very nearly left her dead. In a more heroic idiom she would have crawled bloody and bleeding through the portal in the containment vault but instead a strike team of generic minions had found her unconscious not far from the tree where she'd hung impaled. Neither had they been sent to rescue her but instead to recover the various recording devices she had both implanted and worn. That she had survived the ordeal?

"Oh, and Miss 16? You can dump tank one," he glanced over to where his assistant stood, perpetual clipboard in hand, taking notes or looking up some bit of required information. He didn't really care which. "It doesn't look like we'll be needing it."

She nodded curtly and walked, ponytail bouncing, over to the long line of cloning tanks that stretched along one wall of the lab and pressed a control button. The bottom fell out of the tank and a rush of purple fluid slid through the grate below to leave a grotesque looking figure scrambling at the air. Another button and the grate slid back and she pushed at the monstrosity with one pointed toe to nudge it over the edge and send it sliding into the unknown depths.

"...ugh, I hope that doesn't stain leather."

Pulling a shoe off, she dabbed at the purple blob that her effort had left behind and the Doctor turned back to the prostrate Agent 16.

"Well? Anything?"

She'd already related what she could remember of the strange lecture by the alien Shatterblood but she began again, repeating what she could recall and trying to fill in the blanks where she couldn't. By the time she'd been released she'd hung for several days and delirium had set in.

'Was it days?' Her voice was barely a whisper. 'Time flows oddly in that place. I saw three suns but one was invisible and the other two were male and female. The moon was born of their copulation every evening and the woman's afterbirth fell to the ground. Where it fell, the earth burned and a man fully formed emerged clad in armor.'

"Like this!?" Ambrose scrambled at his console and a moment later a hologram appeared, taken from inside a larger construct. Rolling terrain slid past, a union of metal and rock, and here and there smaller figures could be seen. He manipulated the controls and highlighted one to zoom in and show her a still image, "Like him?"

'Yes...'

"Fascinating! One must wonder how these... Dulyani... connect to the Far Realm? A dimension where everything is mutable and shapes itself according to yet unknown laws. Did they originate there? Stumble across it? Or did they perhaps create it? Questions that must be answered! Oh, and Miss 16?"

"Hmm?" The young woman looked up from where she was still attempting to remove the last of the smudge from her footwear, "Yes, Doctor?"

"I like the ponytail. And charge my cattleprod," he paused to cackle dramatically, "It may be in for further use today!"
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:48 pm

Fernethon, The Sessool Empire, The Fringe...

"Our Master would never accept such an arrangement," the Servant protested, his voice rising to a near-whine.

He was using the proper formal Our as a reminder that his Master was also, in theory, her Master but she was having none of it.

"But My Master will, and he will insist if need be."

Ivy recognized the clear threat and though she couldn't see the response - she was casually holding up a wall around the corner and out of sight of the audience chamber - she could clearly hear it even without augmented hearing. The sharp hiss of the tongue as the Servant sucked in his breath and held it, either afraid to counter her or too confident to abuse his counter-part of the idea. From what she'd observed of the situation here it was most likely the first.

The planet and its mysterious Prince had proven to be a good, though not ideal, choice for their intelligence gathering operation. Dangling the potential for trinkets from afar and the association with the notorious pirate captain Sasura had gained the band some measure of acceptance by the local Factor. However, as evidenced by the conversation at hand, the Prince was considered weak by both the other Sessool and their Servants to the point where implied threats would not warrant immediate execution.

"I will appraise my Master of your offer," the Servant continued, trying to salvage the situation but his position was such that the visitor was willing to push the issue.

"And I would suggest that you encourage him to take it. You will never get another offer equal to it, not with..."

Ivy focused, ready to catch the useful tidbit, but the Servant trailed off to leave the details unspoken but acknowledged. Admittedly, knowing the weaknesses of this particular Prince would not equal a major intelligence coup; Based on the rag-tag fleet in orbit and the seeming impotence of the Factor, she would put him near the bottom of the totem pole in terms of personal power and respect. But knowing what the other Sessool, or at least their Servants, considered weakness would be useful if push ever came to shove. They had already seen that the Sessool were willing and able to take advantage of each other - witness the battle that had occurred around Gasroul - but knowing how to push those buttons was intelligence gold.

"Finally, while I remain here, I wish to be entertained in a manner befitting the Servants of the Sessool. This place..." The visiting Servant paused. The demand was clear but Ivy could only guess at the outcome though the audience chamber was a dump with garbage scattered here and there and the inevitable result of a guard force that mostly loitered around instead of standing watch. "I have heard that you entertain several here who come from a far-off realm. I wish to taste their flesh. Choose one who looks succulent and have them prepared."

Ouch. Clinically Ivy knew the reason for this beyond sustenance; It was likely that either the Servant or the Master wanted to tweak the nose of the local Prince or his Factor by denying him of something useful. Would the Factor try to weasel out of it? Or would Ivy need to make her team scarce for the duration? Ivy listened carefully, both for the answer and for the sound of footsteps, just in case the Factor decided to make her the entree.
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Feb 02, 2015 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:21 pm

SNN Nightly News with Tanya Zaldano...

"It's the first day of the New Year and, depending on who you are, there's good news and bad news. Since it is the first, we'll start off with the obvious! Happy New Year! It's Twenty-One Seventy now and that also means Senate elections have come and gone! And, as usual, most of you didn't care. Which is good news for," Tanya stepped to the side and two holograms appeared, one of the Secretary-General and one of Senator Thong, or at least the more familiar look of her male Senate avatar. "The Secretary-General. Among those who did vote, the overall sentiment was in a more pro-military and defense posture than in the previous election with after-election polling showing that a majority preferred decisive action to secure the nation against outside aggression. But this is also good news for Senator Thong and her small but now growing conservative cadre. While she hasn't reached the thirty percent required to play a blocking role in any new legislation, there are between fifteen and twenty three Senators who share her views depending on what the issue is."

Tanya stepped forward between the two images and made a broad gesture, a line-up of planets appearing under her hand and the studio backdrop fading away to a chaotic nebula. This left the anchor standing on a platform in deep space but her outfit was designed to match it. An ultra-skin tight unitard was the foundation with a deconstructed jacket and what looked like space-age chaps over the top. These were held in place by high-tech looking fasteners that gave the outfit a somewhat tactical look. A gorget around her neck hovered over a cluster of what could be called venting between her breasts and a similarly styled rigid belt hung at her waist.

"Going down the line;" the first planet was highlighted, "We have the unresolved attack on the Ghost Island colony. Rumors, born out of the attack on Queen of the Valley," she touched the next world, "Suggest that the two events are not unrelated and the first may have been a warmup for the second. Detractors would note that neither aggressor resembles the other and that strong evidence has already been found linking the attack on Ghost Island to the Federation of Nygilla. The Tetheri Republic has begun an offensive against the Federation, but the official Defense Force report on the incident is still forthcoming. Which takes us to the next..."

Ghost Island shrank a little and Queen of the Valley enlarged as she moved to stand behind it, "While the Secretary-General's office hasn't supplied us with any official notice, it hasn't been hard to see that the Defense Force has begun re-deploying ships and material along the eastern edge of Republic space. Whether this is offensive or defensive is the big question and much of it depends on," she touched the next planet, "Dulyani. The Dulyani Empire might consider this an internal matter but given whoever is attacking them is willing to kill several hundred Defense Force personnel who get in their way, it might not remain that way. They do say the best defense is a good offense."

"And last, but not least, is good old Mars," the familiar world grew larger. "The Senate elections are complete and it's time for the twenty-one seventy-three budget to be determined and for the next Secretary of Industry to be selected. While she might not be the capital, one name that keeps cropping up led us to select her and that is Ateyf al Saleef. While the Secretary-General's office seems to be favoring Alwyra and the rest of the Secretariat Ms. G'hrnla's protege, Under-Secretary EriWiGo, a notable faction in the Senate seems to be leaning towards Mrs. al Saleef as a compromise between the two. Has it reached that seventy-percent that is the magic number for confirmation? Stay tuned..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jan 29, 2015 10:57 pm

Meniver Delta, Moon of the planet Dulyani...

"Archeology in a museum," Lae stopped, the realization that he'd been in this moment before ending his observation before it had been said. They had been there before - poking through the artifacts of the past in a place dedicated to them - but that had been on a dead world inhabited only by frozen spectres while the halls of this museum were still wandered by the living. It wasn't crowded by any means but there was still the odd visitor to be found among the exhibits. The four explorers were the largest group; With the Capital under military lockdown there were no school groups and most of the visitors seemed to be singles or couples using the objects of the past to distract from the events of the present.

"Don't trust anything," Timmons noted once again, leaning forward to examine a display and a digital panel describing both the object and its history closely. "I doubt they would have purposefully lied about the details but by the information we have, they may have lost much of their history in similar conflicts. We," he was referring to his own group, "Like to fill in the details with our own suppositions until we get more facts. I doubt they are much different."

"I think for the moment we should ignore the written information," the big man continued, "Concentrate on look-and-feel. We've already got a lot of physical evidence, at least compared to what they had, so lets see if we can find anything that matches it."

As soon as the Fleet had finished mopping up over Queen of the Valley, they'd swept up as much of the debris as possible and it was now being examined in laboratories scattered all over Sunset. The notable exception, and one of considerable interest to both researchers and military minds, was the complete lack of bodies. While the recordings avaliable showed some kind of humanoid crew, nothing of the sort had been recovered. This had led to some amount of head scratching and was high on the list for all parties investigating the matter.

"Think tangentially," he moved down, eying a collection of daggers from many millennia past. "One thing could lead to another."

With that parting bit of advice, the foursome became two and two and then one, one, and two. Lae and Trinya split off to wander down one of the wings while Timmons and Daenia moseyed around the main exhibit until something caught the Seeker's eye and she too disappeared.

"Find something interesting?"

Timmons looked up to find an elderly Dulyani had snuck up on him and now the old woman was hovering beside him, the expression on her face broadly readable as interested and friendly.

"Not often we have an off-worlder as a guest, hmm? Or a military man, if I don't miss my guess, hmm?"

For a moment he looked her over before returning to the display; She was wearing a much more comfortable version of the cream-colored outfit that seemed to be standard for those of House Meniver. A loose robe, with a sash and long tassels, as well as a loose hood that rested down on her shoulders to drape down her curved back.

"Not yet, ma'am, no."

"Then what are you looking for, hmm? I've wandered these halls for sixty years, every weekend, until my bones told me not to. Well, today they agreed with me and with things outside," she glanced upward, "Perhaps I've come to share my wisdom, hmm?"

It flew in the face of his own advice, but something about the woman and, well, he had a hunch.

"I'm looking for something. Something to connect what's happening now with, well, wherever it came from. Where the beginning of it all was. Why whoever these people are have come to attack your people."

"Why?"

"The short version? They killed some of my people and I'm here to do them justice in the best way I can."

"Ah! So yes, a military man," she smiled, reaching up to put a hand on his shoulder. "I had a son, a long time ago. He was in the service too, though, hmm;" the smile was still there though there was a sparkle of a tear in the corner of her eye, "When he died it was not the noble end a mother might have hoped for - just an accident. But don't let me dwell, hmm? You're looking for whatever brings them here, hmm? Likely enough it doesn't exist, but I'll be glad to try."

"Well, if it doesn't exist, maybe you can tell me why it doesn't," he asked, moving to sit on a nearby bench and gesturing for her to join him. "Why does it seem like the history of the Dulyani is constantly being lost?"

"Not all of it," she noted, though there was still agreement in her voice.

"But enough of it that there is only this one museum," he countered. "It made planning our itinerary easy, but doesn't leave us with a lot to work with either."

There was a bit of errata to go with that, but Timmons didn't need to explain Dulyani politics to her. This was the only museum they had access to; The other Great Houses had systematically denied the Ixutsangi access to their orbital space and it was only the intervention of Ambassador Love with the Prince on Queen of the Valley that had gotten them permission to approach the House's stronghold on Delta Meniver.

"That has always been the way of it ever since the Great Houses came into power. When they go to war, they seek to remove the history of the Great House they want to extinguish. Even if they are not successful, they remove the basis for the traditions of that Great House. Things start again and maybe, hopefully, the reason for the conflict will have been wiped away, hmm?"

There was an inkling of something in what she said and Timmons followed up on it, "When the Great Houses came into power, who did they replace? And did they wipe out that history as well?"

"Yes, and completely. Oh, there are a few things here and there," she pointed to the ancient stone daggers, "But there is very little left. When I was a child..." Her voice trailed off, growing quiet, and she looked around and even over her shoulder for a moment, "When I was a child, there were stories of secret orders. A Great House, unknown to all outsiders, who hunted down and destroyed every trace they could find of whatever came before. Wild stories, hmm? A friend of a friend dug up something in their garden and the whole family vanished. Likely moved away, hmm, but always talked about in private. Even a drunkard feared to tell the stories openly, hmm?"

"And no one knows who or what the Great Houses replaced..."

"If anyone would, it would be them. But children's stories, and rumors traded by men who should have been old enough to know better. Me, I haven't heard such things in... Sixty years. Though you could say that's what brought me here. I was curious, like you, and I thought I could figure it out. Well, I can tell you that the answer doesn't lay here. There's nothing but shadows here..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Jan 30, 2015 5:57 pm

Special Projects Facility, Denali, The Yukon System...

"Nope, I was wrong," Kraus went on, detailing out his failure. "It turns out that the information is in the Kaissi DNA but it is, effectively, hidden. I searched high and low for some kind of external factor and I was on the verge of going crazy when I decided to take a look and see if there was anything I missed. What I missed was, as it happens, just as interesting."

Producing a hologram of the Kaissi DNA helix and the Human DNA helix, he began to point out the similarities that had led to his find.

"Essentially, we're cousins. While I can't explain why that is, I can explain why the encoded information manifested itself in our daughter while it was hidden in your DNA; My DNA contains a key, if you will, that causes it to become unlocked. Which possibly means that there is a similar key somewhere in a male lineage among the Kaissi. It is a puzzle that is growing more odd and confusing the more I think about it," Kraus confessed, scratching his chin. "There are several facts which seem to conflict, come together, and yet when they do, they just create more questions. If both Human and Kaissi DNA have the same encoded information, it must have a single source. But where, along the timelines of our two respective civilizations, was the code introduced? Is this limited to only Human and related species?"

"Perhaps we should look," he suggested. "Let's see... Human, Kaissi, and there are the various meta-Human species. Centaur?" He scrolled through the list. "Here's one; The lost colony on Sakaldale. Northern European ancestory, which would put them close to my own family line. No DNA on file of course, so I'll have to put in a request with the local government and wait on it."

"Wait, go back to the 'key' part," Meri stopped him before he could move on. "What do you mean? How would that work?"

"Well," he gestured and the two small versions of the DNA double-helix exploded up to man-sized. "It is a take on the classic recessive gene. Normally recessive genes - like those that might indicate a widow's peak," he gestured to his own hairline, "Or an uncommon genetic disorder - are fairly uncommon among the majority of a population if that population maintains proper genetic diversity through a semi-structured breeding program. Avoiding the selection of close family relatives as reproductive partners either through cultural standards or a determined campaign. Some recessive genes are more common than others and some are less harmful or more than others. In this case, the recessive gene seems to be very common in my family line but not in others. Even more common, unless there are very few Kaissi, is the gene sequence in your DNA that acts as a host for that key."

"So, the same key works across many different species?"

"...I hadn't considered that," he paused. "Yes, that would seem to be true. Which might suggest a simple test. Since we know that my DNA contains that gene, we can run a sample batch against the various near-Human species and see which manifests the code. Though that still doesn't answer how it got there in the first place." While he continued, he began to work. The samples he had were queued up and virtually combined with his own to start the process that had been suggested. "It would suggest that the notion of panspermia - that life in the galaxy originated at one specific point and was spread from there via various means - is not all that farfetched."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jan 31, 2015 6:21 pm

GEC-39992, The Fringe...

Lieutenant Collins watched and time became fuzzy.

There was nothing he could do but watch as his mysterious captor went about its work. Was it work? The heavy robes, made of the skins of local animals and, though it seemed grisly to admit, what could only be the hide of one of the locals, were removed and packed away in a crate to reveal the true form of the monster. It was not as much monster but metal, plastic, and ceramic as familiar as the power armor that he had trained with and as alien as anything he'd ever seen. Organic and smooth; rounded joints that moved together cleanly despite appearances to the contrary. Slimly humanoid, whatever was concealed inside had the shape that had been his.

Time became fuzzy.

----

"Fix them!"

The voice that came from the speakers of the suit sounded almost child-like, whining and crying in protest as two of the Marines held it fast, arms wide, hard up against the bulkhead of what had been its home. Another stood back just a short distance, their large rifle raised, to cover it with the enormous-looking barrel. Struggling against the two, the head in its scalloped housing twisted back and forth as it protested against the intrusion.

He didn't know yet whether it was man or machine but something told him it might be both. Under the baggy robes of hide and fur had been a smooth, organic-looking machine that could either be a robot or a protective suit somewhat similar to those that held him. These were gone now, tossed aside in the violence that had erupted when the Marines had stormed the room. Unlike their suits, all armor slabs and weapon systems, this one had any number of obvious external ports where cables and hoses had and could be connected and traces of liquid stained the exterior.

His position was strange, as strange as his perception of time and events. Had he been there a week? Months? Minutes? Without the accustomed sensory perceptions of skin and taste and touch he knew only that which the limited sensors connected to his disassociate body gave him. He could understand the words that the thing spoke but he did not know their meaning but he understood the meaning of the words the Marines shouted though he could not understand them.

"Maintain!"

The voice was plaintive, as if it was being denied something important. Air or water, that which would sustain life. What was it after? They wanted to know why it was there, what it was doing, and what had become of him. Why it had fired on the shuttle. Why had it killed?

With only a small sample, there was no translation to build up and there would be no resolution. Restraints bound the arms together and the door, hastily forced, was pulled wide as the strange suit was led outside. More Marines came in and began to search the chamber and finally one turned to him, looking at the odd collection of boxes and containers carefully arranged on a shelf. After a while, another came in; A regular sailor in body armor and running a hand-held sensor around until she centered on him. The words and gestures were shock and disgust but carefully they gathered him up, putting all the parts in a crate and then darkness as the lid was closed and sealed. Did they know it was him? That his essence still lived in that tangle of hoses and cables?

Time became fuzzy.

----

Once again, he sat on a shelf but now it was the familiar. The medical bay aboard the Niagara was a comfort to the severed soul and he watched. Doctors and engineers came and went, tests were conducted. He could hear and then he could not, see and then was blind. Then he could hear again, see again, and somehow time became less confusing.

"Lieutenant?" Doctor Rasmussen knelt so he could see her face. "I know you can't say anything, but we know you're in there. They're working on a speaker so you can talk, but we've already got a body coming, rush order. Just be patient..."

----

"What is it?" Commander Waretram asked, looking down at the thing that was laid out, asleep, on one of the tables in the medical bay. "Any idea?"

"It," Doctor Rasmussen supplied, "Is appropriate, but it is also human. Or very close to it. I'd call it a highly-modified meta-human species that has been extensively modified for long-term survival in space. Androgynous as well, not even a trace of sex organs. Based on that and other modifications, I would guess that it is an engineered sub-species originating with a near-Human species that has been built for maintaining orbital infrastructure. There's a lot of similarities between this species and the Sanglanti; That's actually where I'm basing a lot of my speculation. There's no way the two are related but designed around some of the same goals?"

"Sure," he nodded, and she continued.

"But it's not that smart. Despite the size;" it was more or less the size of a very thin Human of average height, "The brain is less developed in many key areas. It is, at a guess, at the level of a highly trained animal."

"Enough to take a man apart?" The Troll looked over to where a technician was working on the series of containers that held the remaining mortal pieces of Lieutenant Collins. "That seems pretty smart."

"Smart at doing certain things. An expert system, just in a flesh-and-blood body."

"Do we think these things built that thing?" Waretram shifted his attention to a window that looked out over the moon and the wrecked ship that was scattered across its irregular surface. "Or that its builder built them?"

"Uh, no, definitely not," this answer came from Lieutenant Commander Grazul. The Orc had been sitting off to one side working on something at a virtual console and now he looked up to put in his twenty-five cents. "Now that we've had a chance to dig around, that thing down on the surface was a little spaceship. A tug, I'd guess, based on the size of the engines. But the whole design isn't even close to similar."

"Any idea where it came from?"

"Still working on documentation, but so far? Not a clue. Hopefully by the time this guy wakes up;" the pale form on the table had been heavily sedated, "We'll have a translation up and running. Take the computer apart, etc. But from that thing? I'd wager my right tusk that these guys found that thing, sent this guy to investigate, and something happened between here and there. Given his penchant for taking things apart and doing weird shit with it, I'm gonna say he messed with the FTL or navigation system or... Whatever. Boom, shipwreck."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Feb 01, 2015 12:18 pm

SDF-Ojeni, Sakaldale, The Periphery...

"Welcome aboard, Lord Jatori..."

Kami - Captain Blaine - paused while the tall inky-skinned Coatlicue crossed the threshold of the airlock and bowed before stepping forward with a hand out for the more traditional handshake, which he returned. He was wearing his Defense Force uniform under the traditional trappings of a Lord of his people and the thick gold rings rattled while the red-feathered mantle rippled.

"Thank you, Captain. It is a pleasure; The Ojeni is a marvelous ship and none deserve her more."

"Thank you," she finished and he turned to Commander Sloan while she stepped forward to greet the group that followed behind him. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard. I'm Captain Blaine and this," she turned to Breoho, who was still in conversation with the Lord-Lieutenant, "Is Commander Sloan, my executive officer. Your officers will show you to your quarters and give you a brief tour. Dinner is in an hour."

She nodded to the several ship's officers that were standing at the back of the airlock bay and one by one the new crew members stepped forward and she gave them all a handshake or a salute in the local fashion as they passed. Most were either Coatlicue or the local thickly-built Human stock but there were a couple outliers as well; A sharp-faced Pyrk and a fur-covered Nwlyan who constantly shifted between a quadrupedal and bipedal stance as seemed comfortable in the moment. A few she recognized and one she had taught during her time at the Academy on the planet far below and these she greeted by name. Behind these a final new arrival remained and this one she stepped up to with the same greeting.

"Welcome aboard, Chef Y'taril..."

This one had been Sloan's idea. Kami had determined that, as soon as she'd received orders to pick up the last of her crew here, she'd invite the Lord Jatori aboard for dinner and a bit of showing off. To keep the menu interesting and to supply dishes appropriate for the noble visitor, her second had suggested inviting a local chef to join them. It was a brilliant idea; Y'taril would work with their own galley crew to prepare the meal and give the ship some positive press with the locals. It was good practice for her as well since public relations would be important for the Explorer as it began its mission.

A seaman came forward to take the chef's crated cooking utensils to the galley and, with the Chef and Lord Jatori in tow, the Captain took them on a tour similar to those being given to the new crew members - their paths often crossing in the corridors - like a proud parent showing off a new arrival. It was roughly a straight line between the boarding lock and the lounge at the top of the saucer section with the engineering, medical, and research bays passing by before a swing through the bridge and then up to their destination.

"And what will be your first destination?" Jatori asked as they walked along. On either side were glass-walled laboratories where the various embarked researchers could conduct whatever research or investigations they wanted to perform. Most were empty now though there were a couple that were lightly populated by one or two who had already begun work of some kind. "A new world or a fantastic stellar phenomena?"

"A little more boring, though we should some chances to gather useful data along the way," Kami admitted. "We've been assigned to escort the Chuh-Yu Sān to her destination in the Liu Xiu system. It's a long trip, but it will give the crew a chance to shake things out, get to know each other, and start to mesh together into a team."

"What is in the Liu Xiu system that is of such interest that they would send one ship that is accompanied by another?"

"The Chuh-Yu Sān isn't a ship, she's a station. The Vocenae Star Empire is attempting to turn Liu Xiu into a crossroads of the galaxy and the Chuh-Yu Sān will be stationed there as our representative..."

Turning a corner, the small party found themselves outside the Ojeni's bridge and for the next few minutes they made the rounds of the various stations with Lord Jatori talking to each of the bridge officers and asking each where they were from.

"It is good to see that you have a broad representation of the worlds of the Republic," he finished, after talking to the Tactical Officer, who had been a graduate of one of the Martian academies. "I would like to see our own among their number, here and elsewhere," he noted as they left for the lounge and the attached dining room.

It was both a stated goal and a suggestion and Kami took it for what it was. Their skill in education was extremely important to the Lord of the Coatlicue and the nobility in general. To see officers educated by their local academy standing duty on the bridge of a Republic vessel would be both high honor and a matter of personal prestige.

"I'm sure some will, and when they do, they'll have earned it," Kami finished with a note of frankness in her tone. "You sent me the best of the best and I'll give them the chance to prove it, I promise..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Feb 02, 2015 3:50 pm

Fernethon, The Sessool Empire, The Fringe...

"Ouch! Watch that!"

"Hush, missy, ahn tone it dawn," Meli instructed, her own voice a true whisper instead of the Pirate Captain's sharp falsetto. "Ah ain happy to be shoved in a cabinet with you either. If ahm gonna be pressed up ag'in someone in a small place, they should have a lot more meat between their lags thahn you."

Sasura grumbled but the Dwarf still managed to move the offending dagger into a less-uncomfortable position. The outside observer would have thought that Captain Sasura's cutlass, which had slapped up against her supple thigh as she'd graced the corridors of power for the past week, would have been more unwieldy in the low storage space the pair had forced themselves into, but in fact it was the assassin's profusion of weaponry, both obvious and concealed, that had been the culprit of the woman's discomfort. As soon as Ivy had overheard the instructions for the Factor to prepare a meal she had ordered the team to make themselves scarce. The Human and the Neko had slipped out the front to shelter in the city outside but Meli and Sasura had been deep inside the palace as the black-armored goons had spread out in search of dinner.

"That better?" Sasura nodded and Meli looked around the small confines of the space with a silent sigh before continuing, "Last time I was in a pinch this taht, we were in exactly the same circumstances. Ahd gone into the Prince's Palace on Gasroul tah pull Marie out."

With one hand, she wiggled around until she could get the fingers into a pocket and pull out a little cylinder, which she held up beside the door.

"That was fun times. Kahled a lot o' them bastards. Grabbed this one guy by his ahm and - you shoulda seen the look on his face," she chuckled darkly, "Drove it bahk through his ribs ahn into his heart. Aht least ah think their haht's are there," she looked down to her own chest, which was half-wrapped in an armored jacket though there was enough cleavage showing to keep the boys interested. "But anywah, we were fightin' but they was gettin..."

A noise outside made her pause; It was a goodly distance away, picked up thanks to augmented hearing, but she waited til she was certain whatever it was had moved away.

"...ahn they was gettin' close to overrunning us when a door in a cabinet just lahk this opened up and out popped one oh' our furry friends. Turned out there was a network o' tunnels that ran all through that place. Kinda embarrassed that a good Dwarf lahk me didna think of that. Speaking of..."

Squirming around again - an act of wiggling that many outside observers would have enjoyed as the two hourglass women were forced into the most uncomfortable looking positions - she began to poke and prod at the back wall of the cabinet as well as the floor.

"Ya never know, raht? So, he pulled us into the tunnel with Marie fahst and then I was to follow. Well, that would have left the entrance wide open and it would have been a turkey shoot from behind with my juicy butt filling that shaft. So the next guy around the corner," one finger slipped under a seam and something gave. Meli's eyes lit up and she practically giggled as she pulled the panel aside to reveal a small space. "Ah grabbed him ahn folded him in half - the wrong wah, mind you - ahn pulled him into the tunnel behind us. Just hearin' his bones crack prolly gave us a good minute head start raht there!"

Slipping through the opening, she found that it wasn't quite as small as she'd thought and she stood, stretching her arms above her head to limber up for whatever else they might find. Behind her Sasura inflated as well, her poor abused body falling and bouncing back into position as she stooped to look through and past the Dwarf's wide hip.

"Huh."

"Yah, huh is right," Meli looked around. The small space was more of an alcove that had been built to connect the back of the cabinet to a thin, but purposefully built, corridor that ran off into the distance in both direction. There were no lights but the small trickle that bleed under the cabinet door was more than enough to highlight the thick dust on the floor. "Now wat do we have here..."
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Feb 02, 2015 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:29 pm

Defense Force Academy, Chains of Jade, Ares Local Cluster...

"To put a bit of a crass spin on it," the Instructor began, with Calji and the rest of the Cadets listening if not watching attentively, "There are two types of opponents; Dumb fucks and exterminators."

Holograms of both people and places began to populate the stage around her and she walked through them, using them as both props for a point and illustrations to keep the student's attention.

"I'm going to call them dumb fucks because they are. Space is incredibly huge. Infinite, really, and if you need something it's out there and there's a ninety-nine percent chance that you can find what you need without taking it from someone else. That was different in the time before faster-than-light travel where a civilization would be limited to the continent;" A hologram of old Earth with the Asian continent highlighted, "Or the planet, or the solar system where they originated. But as soon as a civilization reaches that point where they can travel between the stars inside a minor portion of an individual lifetime, the resource equation changes. At that point waging a war between any two spacefaring civilizations generally comes down to ego-stroking or some kind of internal issue where that civilization's powers-that-be are using a supposed external threat for some purpose. Which is, again, being a bunch of dumb fucks."

Calji snickered at this. It was especially pertinent to the Arenji; A particular sub-species of the Arenja was well-known for being larger, stronger, and yet having an ego that seemed to need soothing more than any other.

"Show me a circumstance where a civilization has decided that it needs to wage war against a neighbor and I'll show you where one group - or more - within that civilization is attempting to manipulate the rest of the population to their own ends. Arms manufacturers, politicians seeking to secure a legacy," her voice dripped with sarcasm at that notion, "A religion seeking to maintain its position of power and dominance. All a buncha short-sighted dumb fuckers. The problem is that there are plenty of people out there who fall for that crap and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we still have jobs. We're the Defense Force. We're here to be the big stick in the Secretary-General's pocket so when that dumbass who thinks they need to reinforce their position back home because the public is about to learn about their affair..."

For a moment she paused next to a hologram of a large, very stereotypical-looking man who was wearing a uniform dangling with medals and with more spit and polish than a high-class bar before opening. A woman appeared, wearing a silky and revealing outfit, and for a moment the instructor blushed and she covered her mouth; The woman looked exactly like her.

"Well, what can I say? I just love a man in uniform."

More laughter but after a few tolerant moments her face went sober.

"And then there's the exterminators. Sometimes, thank god not very often, but sometimes there are civilizations out there that are so different, so horrendous, that they seek the end of all other life in the universe because it is not their own. Out there among the stars are beings that destroy whole planets on a whim, because they do not know and do not value the life that exists there;" An image of a giant thing, vaguely squid-like, slowly pulling a planet apart with enormous tendrils of energy, "That is also why we're here."

"Fortunately, there's a lot more of the first than the second and for that we have a very simple rule that we use on the international stage;" A hologram of a vast fleet of ships closing on a defenseless looking planet and she wandered among them as they began to fight with another fleet in orbit. "Our rule is simple; We - you and me - are proxies for the people we protect. As long as they come after us, we'll treat them like the dumb fuckers they are. Diplomacy;" a bunch of people in suits and dresses standing around talking and shaking hands while holding daggers behind their backs, "Education, sometimes bluster and threats, and occasionally punitive strikes will resolve most of these problems before they even begin. Sometimes it's as simple as going up to the leader of Dumbfuckistan and explaining to them, in very small words, how they can make a billion dicoins ruling their people well rather than a million dicoins treating them like crap. There's a lot of ways of dealing with this type of moron before they reach that one-percent."

"But right up front, every time, we make this one-hundred percent clear. We - you and I - are the proxies. We stand between and for the people we protect. But if they ever go after the civilians, the brothers, the sisters, the mothers and fathers or the little old lady who lives down the street, we'll exterminate them. We have offered the proxy, we have drawn the line. Don't cross it or we will end you."
Last edited by Sunset on Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:19 pm

Erika and Demi's House, Botany Bay, Chuh-Yu...

Alex sat up in bed, the blankets pulled up over her bent knees to provide a convenient resting place for the book she was reading. The pages, real paper, slowly turned as she read through the contents as a small holovideo, hovering just above the folded covers, played beside her. They were the same thing - one a cookbook and the other a cooking show from an archive website - but she had found that she enjoyed both cooking and learning about the art. It had given her some valuable insights into biological existence and while half of her employer was as timeless as herself the other was as full of examples as her cookbooks.

It was one thing to assemble a dish by the instructions and quite another to create it and sometimes the two resulted in fundamentally different dishes. How the ingredients came together - the tools and methods used - often resulted in a different texture and ultimately flavor to the food. From the perspective of a high-precision machine those techniques changed how and when the various chemical compounds and textures reached the senses; Folding cream into fruit was different than just mixing it all together. Mix a lot and she'd end up with a smoothie. Which was okay as well, but not when you wanted a fruit trifle.

The same was true of their interpersonal interactions and this was something that she had a bit of personal insight into that someone on the outside of a relationship, even if they were in one of their own, was largely ignorant of. For someone in a relationship who was trying to gain some insight into their own actions there was a tendency to justify their actions. But she was a butler; To do her job effectively she had to spy, as it were, on her employer. To meet their needs she had to be able to anticipate them and while the technologies of the modern world - augmented reality, the Internet of Things - gave her a lot of tools that her predecessors didn't have, she still had to listen at keyholes occasionally.

Erika knew about it, of course. The Secretary-General's survelliance systems were quite extensive and Alex had access to most of them. Besides the half-dozen IntelPets that roamed the area in various disguises, there were the usual collection of sensors both obvious and concealed. The weather and navigation radar on their sailboat - moored in the boathouse for the winter - was vastly more powerful than it appeared and the car that she had evolved from mounted a military-grade system of its own. With the overwatch provided by the Unconquered Sun, when Erika wasn't away on government business, there were plenty of obvious ways for her to keep track of the two.

Even some of the flowers in the planters outside the windows, lining the path, and up near the road had eyes thanks to Erika's daughter Katryna.

She listened in while they talked, while they argued; Surveys said that most couples ended up arguing about money but they mostly squabbled over larger questions such as who to support for the open Secretary of Industry position. Sometimes, but not always, this led to the next.

She listened in while they had sex; The more voyeuristic might find the idea of listening in interesting but for her this was just yet another way to anticipate their needs. Her own relationship with the builder had ended after a couple weeks and for the moment she wasn't looking for anything - physical, emotional, or voyeuristic. Fresh clothing and laying out a frosty beverage by the bedroom door were the most common.

She listened in while they chatted. This was, to her, one of the more interesting times to pay attention. By virtue of their hardware, she and Erika were cousins and this was reflected in their mannerisms and what they talked about. But one of Demi's pet-peeves was the AI's ability to drop a conversation and then pick it up again days or even weeks later as if it had never ended. She wanted to finish a discussion, or at least settle things, right there.

Alex flipped the page. The cookbook was on the many uses of chocolate and while it might results in Demi running more laps around the bay - which she despised and Erika enjoyed watching - her results in the kitchen had been positive thus far. It was also a useful lesson; How one got the delicious treat from tree to table mattered just as much as how much of the various ingredients were mixed.
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Feb 03, 2015 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Feb 04, 2015 9:26 pm

CORE VirtuaGov Senate Proceedings...

As a complete virtual environment, the Republic Senate interior was essentially mutable; Those who viewed the proceedings could set the appearance to whatever they wished from a decided bland but factual field of scrolling text akin to the combat log of an old-school online game or to any sort of fantastic setting from the icy depths of the ocean to the transient surface of a distant star. There was, however, a default and for most this ended up as the preferred.

A grand chamber of two rows with fifty seats sweeping around a nearly complete arc surrounded a raised platform with both a lectern and a wide desk in front of it for the use of whomever might be presenting legislation for consideration or, on rare opportunity, subject to the Senate's scrutiny. All of these were made of a white non-reflecting material so as to make whatever additional information was displayed - translucent holograms and the like - show up readily. Since it was a virtual environment there was no cleaning needed and so the white was acceptably spotless. What otherwise would have seemed sterile was improved by surrounding walls of glass which displayed an outdoor scene from the presenters planet of residence or their own selected locale. A viewing box above the lectern filled with randomly generated spectators from across the Republic served to remind the Senators who they represented as well as provide a starting point-of-view for any spectators.

On this particular afternoon, relative to the time-frame of the observer, the landscape outside was the terraformed red rock landscape of Mars. To all appearances the building was perched on the edge of a vast canyon, a wide ribbon of water far below and the cliff faces studded with more structures that only hinted at the vast arcology concealed below the surface. A hundred years previous the exposed rock would have been bare but now hints of green and purple draped down the cliff face. Traffic could be seen both darting about and moving along both recessed and raised tracks as well as massive spans that crossed the expanse. While this was indicative of the home planet of the individual seated at the desk it was also appropriate to the proceedings; Mars was still known as the Patron of Strife and His presence had already stirred the Chamber.

"...even if I kept such a list, I would not provide it to you, Senator. And I definitely wouldn't entertain any attempts on your part to be added to it!"

"Ms. al Saleef..."

Laughter interrupted the speaker before he - who was really a she, though both avatar and physical body shared the same hatchet-faced dour expression and generous signs of age that had prompted the woman's put-down. It would be fair to say that many would have sought membership of the list suggested, if it had existed; Ateyf al Saleef was dressed in her typically provocative style with a tightly tailored button-down shirt fastened with a single button over her chest and the intricately detailed lace bra which, by virtue of the tight triangle of shirt fabric, formed a sort of border on both top and bottom. Over this she was wearing an equally tight pinstripe suit jacket that, by virtue of some modern fabric, clung tightly to and framed her hourglass waist and chest. Her Middle Eastern looks - a slender, dusky face with dark eyes and suggestive lips - was crowned by a flowing mane of shining black hair with a series of lace ribbons woven into the underside.

"...Ms. al Saleef;" the laughter faded after a moment and Senator Thong continued, his tone exasperated, "Your... proclivities are well-established. This body is charged with establishing whether or not you would be a suitable Secretary of Industry. Part of that charge involves the question as to whether or not you would allow these activities to influence your decision making process! Therefore, the best way to determine whether it would is to determine if it has in the past!"

"And I suppose when the Senator does anything for fun he reports it as a potential conflict of interest? Going out for dinner disqualifies him from voting on the next budget? My personal affairs are just that; Personal. McGrader-Dougal has won and lost any number of government contracts and it has done so on the skill and innovation of our employees and of our competitors; If anything other than that had any influence on the government contracts we've received, I can guarantee you that the media would be all over us."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Feb 05, 2015 7:04 am

SDF-Niagara, GEC-39992, The Fringe...

"It was," The Chief's emphasis was distinctly on the was, "A small tug or maintenance craft, probably deployed from a larger craft. There's something of a universal docking clamp on the bow and two specialized units on the ventral side along with the boarding hatch."

A hologram of the reconstructed vessel slowly spun above the table top, along with a number of others, particularly one of the pilot and of the crashed ship.

"The weapon turret, here on the dorsal," he pointed it out on the hologram, "Is probably there for destroying asteroids and other small navigational hazards. That would explain both the power of the weapon and its limited firing arc. It doesn't need to move very fast since its not intended for combat, but its powerful so it can pretty much obliterate what it hits. Enough to drop an unprepared shuttle, unfortunately."

"And that jives with what we think this guy is," Doctor Whimpsy followed up. He was one of the many researchers aboard the Niagara; A specialist in xenobiology, he'd taken over from the ship's medical staff while they concentrated on Lieutenant Collins. "Everything agrees with the theory that this is an engineered species, something of a super-maintenance-technician. There are specialized organs and implants that allow easy interface with the technology on the tug, his suit, and even various hand-tools. Like our own cybernetic implants but more specialized. A few generations behind our stuff."

"So your best guess is..." Waretram looked at the two, the Troll prompting them for more speculation.

"Whoever built this tug either found the ship or uncovered the location, same as we did," the Orc suggested, "Sent the tug over to investigate and something went wrong. There's not enough left of the city-ship to really know, so from here I'd suggest we keep following the course suggested by Captain Taev."

"What about the species down there?"

"Forward them back to Exploration Command for follow-up," Whimpsy shrugged. "They are interesting, but I'd give them ten thousand years before any research opportunities expire."

----

Around the low dirt hill where the odd tower had once stood - engineers from the Niagara had removed it to one of the ships cargo bays for study - shaman and priests from the nearby villages began to gather. Dressed in a manner otherwise indistinguishable from the other villagers aside from the odd carved trinket dangling on a leather thong, they began to circle the hill and gather up baskets full of dirt and rock. As the strange shape in the skies above departed, they trudged up the hill to where the ship had been. There was a crater there and basket after basket slowly filled it as they worked through the day. When the damage had been repaired a strong group of the youngest pulled aside a large rock at the base of the hill and the oldest among them ducked into the narrow tunnel beyond.

Inside, laid to rest in niches dug out of the hill, were the bodies of their dead. Some were buried with particular honor in robes and with items from their life surrounding them while others were only a skull, their body devoured for the sustenance that was their only useful contribution to the village. Here and there the elders stopped to fill their basket with more debris that had fallen from the unstable ceiling and walls but their destination was deeper under the hill. For many hundreds of meters the tunnels wound downward, gradually becoming larger and more refined as they reached a level where only the most worthy would find ultimate rest. Here there were stone slabs, carvings, and even paintings in rough inks mixed from animal fat and plant tissues.

At the very bottom was a door - a door made of metal and glass - and it was this that had led the villagers to accept the odd newcomer as their master. For many years it had laid unopened but now the elders pulled it aside, twisting the lock in a ceremony that had been evolved as a way to remember the sequence. Beyond was a chamber and in there, as guidance for their own rituals, sat a row of coffins. Inside each was one like themselves but not. More refined perhaps; The Gods themselves.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Feb 06, 2015 4:56 pm

Meniver Delta, Moon of the planet Dulyani...

'Hey Timmons? I think I've got something here but;' And then the Seeker said those five words that any field commander dreaded, 'I'm gonna need a distraction!'

Sigh.

Timmons looked over to the old woman, who looked back with the same interested smile on her face that she'd held all along, "I've got a call," he motioned to his ear, "Can I..."

"Oh, go ahead dear. I'm sure that whatever she needs I can wait, hmm?"

That should have tripped alarm bells but he was already back to the Seeker, 'What do you mean? What did you find?'

'A distraction,' she replied, her words hurried, 'I figured that there might be something of interest in some of the areas closed off to the public so I followed a janitor through a security door...'

'You what?!'

'And there's all kinds of stuff back here in a storage area and get this - the display that housed the stolen artifact is back here and there's a bunch of pictures as well as some... Hold on;' The connection went static for a moment and Timmons held his breath. He could imagine a squad of security guards descending on the young Duab'Akii and he was just about to call Trinya and Lae when she came back, 'Sorry, someone was coming and I had to hide. But there's this display and another they were putting together right next to it that has some stuff from the same time period!'

'Show me,' he ordered, and the young woman peeked out of hiding to quickly glance over the display so that he could see what she was seeing before ducking back into cover. There it was, just as she said, a second display with a collection of objects inside. The tools and other items in the case didn't share all the details of the artifact but they were close. In some ways they were more advanced but there was a resemblence between the script tooled into the handles and heads and the metal tracing worked into the inner ring of the missing stone arc. To Timmons eye it was as if they were both parts of the same tongue but with widely separate purpose.

'Just wait for the janitor to come back,' he suggested as his focus shifted to the plaque below the contents. ...recovered by a dig team led by the noted House Meniver archeologist Lady Scabatti V'Vari on Dulyani Prime, these implements are estimated to be between seven and eight... Which was a lot younger than the dates he'd been given. 'It wouldn't be the first time', he thought, but his reflection was cut short by the Seeker.

'He already came and went again,' more than a hint of nervousness in her voice. 'Can you come watch for him? I'd try to find a way out on my own but there are a lot of workers back here.'

'Alright,' he pushed himself up from the bench with a sigh. 'I'll be right there. Where's the door?'

While Daenia supplied her instructions, he excused himself, "Sorry, gotta go rescue someone from herself."

"That's alright," the old woman smiled again, "I'll just wait here til you get done, hmm?"

"Sure," and two minutes later he was standing next to a display just a few meters away from an innocuous looking interior door with the usual warnings about 'Staff Only' and 'Private' written in the Dulyani script across the face. A few more minutes of waiting and he was joined by Trinya and Lae as the pair wandered past.

"What's up?" Trinya asked, looking at the display. "Something interesting?"

"No..." But in his head he was quickly explaining the situation the Seeker had gotten herself into. 'Keep an eye out for the janitor or a maintenance guy,' he instructed.

'Like those two?' Trinya glanced past him and Timmons turned to see two men walking towards them in dirty pull-over jumpsuits.

'Or those two?'

Again he turned to where Lae was looking and there were another pair, 'Uh oh...'

One of the two nearest the door stepped up to it, waved a passcard over the reader, and pushed it open with one hand while the other reached inside his jumpsuit and Timmons turned to seek escape only to find their group truly flanked and with another, familiar person standing between the two further men.

"As I said," the old woman said, now standing a bit taller and with a pistol in one hand, "The answers don't lay here. Now, inside, if you would, hmm?"
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Postby Sunset » Sat Feb 07, 2015 9:22 am

SDF-Ojeni, Delta Quadrant, En Route to Liu Xiu...

"Captain's Log, January 9th, 2170," Kami began as she stripped her uniform blouse and trousers off, as well as her duty boots, to stand in her underwear and a sport bra as she tucked the outer garments into one of several storage cubicles in the alcove opposite the officer's quarters. Pulling on a pair of running shoes, she took the opportunity to stretch with her foot high on the shelf while she fastened one shoe and then the other, "Today is our first real chance at some science and exploration and everyone is excited about it. We've been underway for a week now; We came through the transit gate at the Menelmacari colony of Galithrawen four days ago and we're still another six days out from Liu Xiu. Since we're in Delta and it's on the way, Fleet has diverted us to investigate the singularity at GEC-S2294 for any sign of Druth'Haari activity."

A quick pause in her recording, she set a timer and began to run. Even for the Captain, the physical fitness standards were arduous and she was expected to set an example for the crew as well. Since pacing one species - out of dozens - against another wasn't realistic she was instead competing against herself. Her own goal was to improve her average time by a few seconds and the deck flew past as she pushed herself.

"I've had some experience with the Druth'Haari," she picked up the recording again as she rounded a corner, "Back on Hanson's Kneecap I was assigned to monitor the activities of one of the three known Druth'Haari, a woman named Kristina, who wanted to learn about our culture and civilization. I'm not sure what became of her but when I left she was an internet cam-girl with a very odd twist. She made hats, on request, while people watched. No sex, just hats... On your left!"

There were other joggers and runners out as well; Joggers for endurance, runners for speed. She could afford to do both, as well as narrate her daily log, thanks to her physical augmentation. It was rare for a Fleet officer to have but it was what it was and she blew past one jogger like she was standing still while another runner tried to keep pace with the Captain for a bit before falling back. She got a warning sign too; While the main corridor that ran around the saucer section was the most popular location to run, there would have still been plenty of chances for a collision if the ship hadn't tossed out a 'Fast Mover' warning to the augmented reality of anyone entering the corridor ahead.

"I don't know a lot about whatever they have to do with a black hole though, but there will be a briefing this morning by the head of the astronomy section. According to Commander Sloan, somehow the singularity could be a fake, a creation of the Druth'Haari or whatever created them. We'll outrun the Chuh-Yu Sān for a while;" The Lagrange-Class was much slower at faster-than-light speeds than the Ojeni, "Which will give us a couple hours at GEC-S2294 to investigate."

Now it was Kami's turn to be cautious as a warning flashed up in her own reality; Training Exercise Ahead.

"Well, shit, there goes my time..."

Up ahead she could see what was going on; A pair of Marines alternately stood and crouched with their backs to her, their massive rifles just poking around the edge of a bulkhead as they engaged another pair down the hall. Energy flew between the two groups - harmless light and sound - but they were treating it like the real thing as they maneuvered their heavy powered armor into cover and across the corridor in dashes that put her own speed to shame. She was still coming up on them quick though, and then she faded away as the ship projected a hologram of nothing but air around her as she passed through. While they knew she was there - one of the massive suits hitting her would crush even her augmented body like a ripe banana - she was invisible for the purposes of the fire that was passing back and forth.

"I'm excited as well," she finished up, "This will be my first up-close encounter with a black hole and it should be quite a sight, or lack of one..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Feb 08, 2015 8:31 am

Dr. Ambrose's Lab, Under the Art Annex, NeoVancouver University, Sunset...

For the Doctor, the easiest ways were often the simplest and best and so it was with some glee that the spindly white-haired man burst into the chamber where the gateway was kept. The smell of cheap whiskey was on his breath and the barrel of the shotgun he brandished wavered between the archway, the startled guards, and back and forth again like a jittery stock ticker.

Blam!

Buckshot whined around the enclosed space and the Doctor racked another shell with some drunken hesitation; Ker-chink, Blam!

Another, this time smoother, and he threw the weapon aside to be caught with laser precision by the lab-coated assistant just behind him.

"Was that strictly necessary, Doctor?" Miss 16's tone was nearly neutral, almost passive, but her expression revealed her own answer to the question.

"Yes, yes it was!" Stepping up to the gateway and past one of the two minions, who looked carefully sideways at him, he stooped to pull a pair of kitchen tongs out of a coat pocket and scoop up a chunk of shattered stone. "I blame myself, really. I've been so interested in what might be beyond the portal that I've forgotten about the door itself. You don't have a hardened security door on a private residence unless you're paranoid;" Sunset was a remarkably safe place thought the days of leaving the front door unlocked were long past, "So why does this portal need to be bathed on the blood of those who live beyond to regenerate?"

"I'm sure you'll find out..."

"Oh, yes, certainly," Ambrose agreed without a thought. "Brilliant but misunderstood genius and all that. In fact, I've already got a few ideas kicking around. But first, back to the lab. Lets see if we can figure out what makes it tick!"

A few minutes later the chunk of stone laced with metal filaments was suspended below the scanner and he was perched behind his console while Miss 16 slowly circled it, familiar clipboard in hand.

"I already have a working theory and I think you'll appreciate it." Ambrose touched the controls and a heavy robot arm, the tip bristling with sensors, began to move closer and swing around the fragment in a delicate dance. "I started by asking myself a simple question; Where, in this universe, do the laws of physics allow for the very nature of a place to change so fluidly? The answer is that there isn't. The laws governing our universe are so constant and important that changing any of them might have a knock-on effect that would ripple outward and destroy everything."

He pause and a startled look crossed his face, "Write that down," he instructed. "Remind me to make that into a gun. Anywho... Where was I?"

"The fluid change of the Far Realm," Miss 16 prompted, lowering her glasses to look over the rims at him.

"Right! So, if our universe cannot change the possibility is that it is another and that the archway is a portal between the two. But that does not make sense and again for the reason stated; If the portal connected the two, there would be bleed-over and eventually the nearby areas of both universes would be destroyed."

What if the designers had anticipated that?" Miss 16 questioned. "The portals break down after a period of use;" Sometimes weeks, months, or hours, "Perhaps that is a safety mechanism?"

He nodded agreement, "A very good point and we shall investigate the idea. However, my idea is a bit more interesting if extraordinary. That is that these portals are not portals but interfaces, scanners if you like, that allow use to interact with what I am calling a Fake Universe. Have you ever heard of the holographic theory of the univese?"

"String theory?"

"Exactly. The idea is that, in this case, the gateways provide the boundary to this holographic universe as well as allowing access to it. If I am correct, this would explain the mutable nature of the Far Realm. Literally anything can happen there because there is no real substance to the place beyond that which is ascribed by the portals themselves!"
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Postby Sunset » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:03 pm

Special Projects Secret Facility, Denali, Yukon System...

"So what we seem to have is confirmation," Kraus continued, "But of what? Either this information has been hidden in the genetic code of a dozen near-Human species for millennia or someone or something has inserted it at some point, visiting all of these species that are spread across the galaxy."

He'd added another to the list just that morning. A big data file had arrived from the distant Niagara and the first thing he'd done was check the contained genetic information for evidence of the encrypted code. With confirmation in hand, he'd gone to Director Tibowski's office to bounce some ideas around.

"You know," Adam leaned back in his chair, fingers laced behind his head, "Maybe it's some kind of post-Singularity civilization that is trying to foster peace and stability in the galaxy. They give every Human-compatible species one of these ships and put them all together to form some kind of galactic United Nations. We are kinda one of the more violent species we've encountered..."

"It would explain why the ships aren't armed, but I think we'd end up trying to kill each other anyway. I'm thinking... Galactic Ark."

"Galactic Ark?"

"Yeah," Kraus paused for a minute, mentally gathering his thoughts and some illustrative pictures. Then a hologram of the gathering point appeared along with a city-ship and pictures of the various species. "With a solette, or a small moon to provide resources, or both... Huh. Maybe a particle fountain? That would be really cool."

"What's a particle fountain?"

"Very rare... They are a point in space where various quantum fields come together and produce a significant volume of new particles. Everything from photons to mesons to bosons. Harvest them, combine them, combine those, and you get regular matter. The problem with that idea is that most of the fountains we've found produce a trickle compared to the material needs of even a small household and they are usually located near various singularities."

"Black holes, wormholes, that kind of thing?" Kraus nodded and Tibowski continued, "Yeah, I can see where that might be an issue."

"As I said, cool, but even if you could engineer one the energy needed to keep it going might as well just be used as raw materials instead. And let's face it, good ol' F-E and A-L are easy to come by without stripping atoms down."

"Wasn't the Ark supposed to save people from a giant flood? Are you suggesting there is some looming galactic disaster that we'd need to be saved from?"

"It would have to be one hell of a disaster," Kraus mused, rubbing a finger along his chin. "Like, the mother of all disasters. The problem is that I'd think we're advanced enough by now to see it coming. Plus, you don't see all of the post-Singularity civilizations running for the hills either. Unless the i-We are suddenly about to bugger out..."

'Nope;' The voice came out of the air and was all around them, 'And you put the emphasis on the wrong phonic...'

"Sorry;" Neither man seemed particular perturbed by the odd event and Kraus continued, "But they have to be gathering Human-compatible species together for a reason, right?" He looked around, focusing on the corners of the room, as if he was expecting an answer but nothing came. "There's not a lot of people out there, whatever the civilization, who just build kilometer-long city-ships for shits and giggles."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Feb 10, 2015 8:45 am

Meniver Delta, Dulyani System...

"They'll know we've gone missing," Timmons said, suddenly breaking the silence as the four explorers were being led through the back storage area of the museum. "They'll come looking for us."

That wasn't exactly true, though Timmons was fairly certain on the second part. It was more likely that the Ixutsangi already knew something had happened and were now trying to figure out what. In a world of constant data, there were always streams flowing between the ship and those on the ground. Timmons knew they'd been jammed and likely those above knew something had happened. They'd start by contacting the local House Meniver officials and work their way to the museum but already he could see the loading dock doors ahead.

"That's why they call it an International Incident, hmm?"

"So you know, you know what's going on?" The gut instinct was as sure as he'd ever had. "But you're not behind it..."

"Very good, Commander." The smile was back, though she seemed more pleased with herself than him. "Broadly, hmm, and you're going to help us with the specifics."

There was an unmarked hover van just outside and the four were hurried aboard with the old woman taking the last seat.

"Oh, running around like that. Not good for my ancient back. Now, I can't tell you everything. Not here, not in front of them," she looked to the men in the jumpsuits. "They understand compartmentalization, hmm?"

There was no reply from either Timmons or the anonymous agents and the van continued in silence for the next few minutes. Noise outside - the sound of a door opening under the power of an electric motor - indicated they'd arrived and a few moments later the back opened. There were more agents, this time with long arms and uniforms more appropriate to a presumed secret organizatoon rather than janitors. Leading them deeper inside, she took them to a small meeting room and shut the door after handing her weapon to a guard outside.

"Even in my prime, I wasn't a field agent. Taking on four trained soldiers?" She laughed, "No, not me. But you'll want to know what's going on, or do you have a guess, hmm?"

"You hope by kidnapping us that you'll force Sunset to defend you while they hunt for us."

"Partially, yes," she admitted. "But not entirely. As you guessed, we do know what's happening and we need your unfortunately unwilling help to stop it."

"Who's 'we'," Trinya asked. "Not House Meniver..."

"No," but she didn't answer either. "As I explained, before the Great Houses there was something else. A single government founded on terror and violence. Eventually the Great Houses rose up and replaced it and we've been trying to erase what came before ever since. Sometimes with too much success."

Now it was Daenia's turn to ask a question, though it was more of a statement, "So you don't know what you're dealing with now because you destroyed all of the information about it. Was this all a trap? Lure us in and... Why do you think we can help? at least you know something. We don't know anything."

"Because we do know something, but perhaps I'll just show you. You'll be seeing it soon enough, hmm?"
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Postby Sunset » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:04 pm

Fernethon, The Sessool Empire, The Fringe...

"You are in a maze ah twistin' passages, ahl ahlike..."

Meli ran her fingertips over the smooth wall and looked up to where a network of conduits ran in a thick bundle that branched off here and there to disappear into the wall or less commonly into an open hole to pass into the unknown spaces beyond. "That was in one ah the trainin' modules ah did. Kilt ahl them damn Grue too."

"Fascinating..."

The sarcasm ran through Captain Sasura's voice like a ninja; Barely there except for the odd ghostly shadow in the corner. While the Dwarf looked up high, she knelt to examine the floor.

"Not a trace. I'd think something like this would be used for the servants..."

"The servants o' tha Servants?"

"They do have them. Even if it's just for maintaining the palace, I'd expect them to duck in here to escape their masters ire every now and then. Only thing is to follow it."

The cutlass slid free and she pointed it down the tunnel into the darkness. Meli nodded and drew a dagger, the dark blade not even flashing for a moment, and in the other hand she held the odd cylinder. Pressing forward they found themselves swinging through a rabbit run that seemed to, by a guess, follow the outline of the rooms outside. After a time in complete darkness a trace of light said they were coming up on something.

"How can you even see?" Sasura asked as the Dwarf knelt and fiddled with the panel.

"How ken you? Ah got cybernetic eyes."

"Tip of the sword. A trick I learned from an blind pirate. The things he could do with his sword..." She grinned in the moment of near-darkness before the panel slid aside to slowly flood the passage with filtered light. "What's out there?"

"Huh. Not what Ah was expectin' or hopin'. Ah little mayhem, chance to use this think," she flashed the cylinder in a cupped palm, "But looks lahk the motor pool."

If it was the palace motor pool none of the vehicles inside the short row of bays had seen the ground or sky in a long time. It was easy to see why; The large door at the end of the main chamber was askew and beyond they could see the backside of a built-out wall. Unlike the metal and concrete of the bay, traces of the adobe look typical of Sessool palaces could be seen through the hasty looking construction.

"These don't look like their craft either;" For the most part, the planetary vehicles and even spaceships preferred by the Sessool had an interesting asymmetric appearance with a central pod, a lopsided engine cluster behind, and a long extension ahead on one side that would either be a control surface or a massive talon of weapons. "Motley. What do you think?"

"Ticket out of here?" Sasura suggested, looking over one rig that looked vaguely tank-like. "Plow right through that wall, a little mayhem..."

"Ah'd lahk that, but nah."

Instead the Dwarf went to the door and began to push it open, her hard body bulging as the metal protested. A wider gap and she went to the side and balled her fist. The wall fell to her punch with a neat Dwarf-fist hole in it and she peered through.

"Just lahk Ah though; Back o' the palace. Lets go!"
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Postby Sunset » Thu Feb 12, 2015 8:44 am

SDF-Ojeni, Delta Quadrant, En Route to Liu Xiu...

"What do we have?"

"Ship of unknown design," Sloan was leaning over the navigation console as Kami walked onto the bridge, looking over the shoulder of the Lieutenant on duty and the Captain focused on her slim posterior for a moment before looking up at the craft on the main screen. "She was there when we came out of warp, no lights, no movement, and no response to hails."

That last wasn't unexpected. This far into the galaxy's Delta Quadrant there were a lot of unknown civilizations that hadn't had any experience with the more common communication methods used near Sol. But to Kami's eye the ship was clearly adrift, slowly orbiting the single moon of the rather unimpressive looking rocky planet that was in turn the only large body present around the nearby star.

"Anything else nearby? Colonies, trade routes?" Her thoughts had turned to pirates and others who might use a disabled ship as a lure but either there was nothing suspicious or if there was they had decided to lay low when the Ojeni and her charge had stopped in the system. "Anything about the planet?"

"Nothing in the navigation database," Sloan answered, mirroring the Lieutenant's shake of the head.

"Nothing interesting about the planet, or the moon," the sensor officer added. "Nearly textbook lifeless rocky body."

"We'll get a little closer then," Kami decided. "Helm and sensors, do your thing. We'll keep equidistant between the target and the station."

Which would naturally slow their approach. The station was dreadfully slow at sub-light speeds and a guess put them at nearly an hour before they would make orbit, much less get to within close range of the drifter. Plenty of time for a careful look.

"Yes, ma'am..."

Looking back to the screen, she began to manipulate the image while the broader progress of ship and station was tracked in the holo-sphere in front of it. The ship was nearly wedge-shaped but with a large cut-out along what she thought of as the back half of the wedge. Forward of this was a large drive cluster with a dozen-odd nozzles visible.

"There's your problem!"

Kami turned to where a mostly unfamiliar but decidedly unique figure had just come onto the bridge. This was the chief engineer and to say he had a good eye for all things mechanical was an understatement; He was a Skri and the giant eyeball on stilts came equipped with a set of cybernetic arms on his back that made him look like a comic book villain.

"Looks like they had a reactor blow," he continued, calling her attention to an area of the drive cluster just forward of the nozzles. She couldn't make it out but he explained, "See those ports? There's signs of thermal shock all around them and some buckling of the outer hull plates. I could guess what they are using for a power plant but if it did that to the ports, it's probably a lot worse inside. Even in a catastrophic failure they should have been able to dump whatever it was - coolant - through those without that kind of damage. Major disaster!"

"Is she safe to approach?"

"Lady, this hull is designed to laugh off Hellbores. We'll be fine. But I'd send some UHCVs across first just in case they had a major radiation breach."

"Alright," Kami called the play, turning to the helmsman, "You heard the Eye;" It was even Commander Eye to most of the crew, "Put the peddle down. Prep a unit of UHCVs to head over there, first destination that drive cluster. Marine boarding team is to prep with an engineering team to head over next, depending on what we find."

The Ojeni shot forward under the steady hand of the helmsman and Commander Sloan moved to the Captain's side.

"What do you think?" The blonde woman didn't really wait for an answer. "Possible first contact - in Delta - seems like a good reason to delay our arrival."

Kami agreed with a nod and her hand slid down to rest comfortably on her partner's waist, "I'll talk to the Commander of the Chuh-Yu San but I'm sure she'd rather be in on this than setting up diplomatic shop."

That conversation took a few minutes and by the time they were done the first team had been dispatched across the void. A Flare-Class shuttle carried the drones over and it arrowed down between the two outside bulwarks to aim directly for the damaged section.

"Captain!" The sensor officer called out. "We've got activity! Lights flashing in a bay facing the interior."

The main display showed the area; A recessed bay built into a protected area amid a clutter of equipment. Rows of lights along the interior upper and lower walls were flashing in a regular sequence.

"Analyze it," she instructed; It could have been an attempt at communication but she suspected it was just to draw their attention. "And route the second team there as soon as the UHCVs are done with their survey."

"Already on it..."

Minutes later the lights stopped and the bridge officers huddled; "I'd guess they are trying to conserve whatever power they have," Sloan offered and the Eye agreed. "We should send the engineering team over early though," he seconded, "They could also be suffering from radiation illness. I'm hoping on the first."

"Do it," Kami nodded. "It's not much of a risk. Keep that bay within line of sight though;" the helmsman nodded. That would put it under their guns and she reinforced this with her next order, "Bring the lateral tubes up and the secondary batteries to stand-by. Don't be obvious about it," she instructed the tactical officer.

"Shuttles away," and they all turned to watch another pair of Flare's sail out from under the Ojeni towards the disabled ship. A couple minutes later, the Marine shuttle in the lead, they just barely kissed the deck before the doors slid open and the Marines jumped out to fan out. Reasonably assured they weren't walking into an ambush, the engineering team followed and these headed for the visible pair of airlock doors.

"Keep a sharp eye out," Captain Blaine looked to the holo-sphere and the representation of the solar system that sprawled across it.

This would be the perfect time for an enemy to jump them, but it was also the moment when she most wanted to be on the ground. If there was someone aboard, someone new, it would be the Lieutenant leading the two teams who got the privilege of introducing not only himself but the Republic to a new civilization. It was a moment of envy but this was her ship, her crew, and in the end she wanted nothing more than to be right there in that moment.

"Doors are opening," the Eye called out, "Looks like they know we're here."

"And willing to welcome four unknowns in power armor," Sloan murmured - two engineers, the Lieutenant, and one of the Marines had stepped inside. "Desperate or they have experience with it."

Kami couldn't be there, but she could certainly watch; "Video feeds from the suits, if you would."

Live feeds from each of the suits popped up to flank the main display, each showing a nearly identical scene of a mostly-familiar looking airlock with a sequence of lights moving across the top of the inner door. It slid aside and there was a couple gasps as those on the bridge took in the scene. Beyond was an open antechamber with a control panel for the airlock to one side. Sprawled on the floor was a winged Avian wearing a fitted uniform and looking up at the Marines through watery eyes. She blinked and her head fell forward onto her chest as she slid further down the wall and the officer rushed forward.

'...radiation levels are at mid-term lethal,' one of the engineers was saying as the Lieutenant scooped the birdwoman up and headed back into the lock. 'A couple days...' Outside the bay the shuttle pilot was already moving it closer to the door. A flexible collar extended out to mate the two together while the officer cycled through, puffing up as it filled with air. '...she doesn't look good.'

"Sān, Commander Goclya," Kami addressed the distant commanding officer of the following station directly, a hologram of the Elven woman popping into existence, "Prepare for medical casualties, radiation poisoning. Estimate..." The ship wasn't that big; At around three hundred meters, it was less than half the length of the Ojeni but that didn't mean a lot as far as crew density went. "Two hundred to four hundred potentials. All medical staff prepare for mass casualties!"
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Postby Sunset » Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:28 am

The Doctor's Lab, Under the Art Annex, NeoVancU...

"I had not considered the technical implications of blood as a regeneration medium until now," Doctor Ambrose explained. "When Shatterblood revealed his name to me it had simply been an intuitive leap to attempt treating the portal stone with his blood. I had assumed that it was simply the component of some voodoo charm."

His tone was matter-of-fact rather than confessional; The notion of magic or other supernatural phenomena wasn't altogether strange to him. His own work had often been described as strange and/or abnormal and thus the idea didn't give him pause. It merely meant he didn't understand the science yet and often he didn't intend to - dabbling in the arcane was often just as interesting because of the mystery as the result.

A touch of the console and the heavy robotic scanning arm swiveled around to focus on an interesting section of the regenerating ring. Like before it sat in a low glass container on top of the pedestal in the center of the lab, the darkened lights at the edge and the trio of spotlights giving the scene a holy or perhaps unholy quality.

"I've already made a bit of a breakthrough, " he explained further, looking up from a smaller holographic display that showed the interaction point between blood and stone in fine detail. Miss 16 lurked at the junction of light and shadow, her hourglass figure fading at the edges, and he spared her only a glance before returning to the subject at hand. "Both the blood and the stone of the archway are largely made of the same material. Even the less common elements are those used in the wiring or circuitry if you will."

"Which one is the building block and which is the finished product?"

His assistant spoke for the first time in nearly an hour and he looked up sharply; "An astute question, 16. Very astute. It is possible, based on my working theory, that it is both. Or that they are both."

"A symbiotic relationship. "

"Exactly, yes. The portals act as transportation for those inside or, perhaps, projected by would be better, while those outside move the portals themselves and rebuild them via their own substance."

"Why build or design such a complex system," Miss 16 asked, stepping forward. "The spaceship or even the horse work very well and are much more flexible."

"Too true and, I suspect, one half of this system might have been created by the other. But which half and to what end? That is one of the questions I am attempting to answer."

The cattle prod, as it turned out, hadn't been as useful as he'd hoped...
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Founded: Antiquity
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sat Feb 14, 2015 8:57 am

Special Projects Facility, Denali, Yukon System...

"I knew it."

Dr. Kraus stood up straight, eyes wide, and filled with the fervour of sudden revelation. The results were right there in the lenses of the microscope both as clear as day and as sudden as a lightning strike.

"They are coming..."

"Who's coming," Meri asked.

Bright, bubbly, beautiful Meri. She was standing there right next to him working on some project or another and for some reason she was wearing nothing but a lab coat and a pair of very small panties.

He disregarded that for the moment; "The people who wrote the code. Who created the ships. They know we're looking for them;" Suddenly she was at his side, body pressed up against him, "And now they are coming here. If I can build this."

A hologram appeared over the counter of a device that was easily familiar. He'd built something just like it on one of the city-ships just a few months ago.

Why wasn't he wearing a shirt?

Meri clung to him, pushing her chest against him and running her blue hand over his thickly muscled chest and tight abs and his hands flew from drawer to cabinet. Parts came together by instinct and he was pulling a custom housing from the printer and mounting the various parts with an altogether amazing level of confidence.

"Nearly done," Frederick pronounced, his voice deep and confident. "We'll need a lot of power..."

He had an image of himself stripped to the waist shovelling coal into an enormous furnace while Meri stood on the iron railing above in a rediculously complex dress but it faded without even a shake of the head.

"Ha!" His laugh was hearty and boisterous. "Our new friends wouldn't be impressed by coal! No, only the annihilation of the very building blocks of creation will do!"

A black box, covered with warnings not quite legible, sat on the counter and he plugged his new device in and gathered the whole thing up under one thickly muscled arm. The other scooped up his blue bride and she giggled as he strode through the facility and up to where a hidden door yawned wide over a spectacularly picturesque mountain valley. Striding up to the tip of the ledge, he held the device high towards the brilliant mid-day sun with Meri sprawled at his feet, her blouse hanging loose from one shoulder.

"Look!" She pointed to the sky where a vortex of clouds was forming, "They have come! You did it, my love!"

It was the worst dialog ever but he didn't care. The clouds continued to swirl and then the skies parted and they were no longer alone high above the valley. A ship hovered there, a rounded triangle, with lights slowly flashing on the underside as it rotated. Lower and lower it drifted until it stopped just above him and a light flicked on to surround him in a circle of white.

Why was it midnight?

A ramp lowered, unfolding in a manner that was unnecessarily complicated. Feet appeared in the shadows at the top and one by one they stepped forward. There was something familiar about them; Broadly human, their facial features reminded him of the pictures he dimly recalled hanging on a wall. Muscular men and trim women with strong faces and three bold eyes that caught his own and held them like a...

"Wait, three eyes?"

Sleep fled him just as suddenly as it had come and he sat up, "Was it real?" Meri slept beside him, a sheet pulled over her, but she slept on as he leapt out of bed to pace the floor. His hands sketched out the device but the details were already flittering away...
My Colors are Blue and Yellow

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