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Scolopendra
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Just Regular Everyday Normal Guys (Maintenance)

Postby Scolopendra » Wed May 27, 2015 7:22 am

Executive Apartments, Stonozka, Titan

Even as she automatically returned all of the standard greetings associated with the beginning of the day, Mballa got the feeling that something was distinctly amiss. The Iron Dame wasn't what one would call extremely sociable, but that didn't mean she didn't understand how the whole human 'emotion' thing worked. Smiles were just a little too broad, "good morning!"s just a little too enthusiastic. By the time she made it to the door of her office, her face had fallen from its usual stern expression to an actual frown.

She paused, with her hand on the door handle. The only reasonable explanation was that there was a prank afoot. Strategically, she figured that the optimal prank for her office would be one that tried to elicit a reaction out of her, one that lacked some form of stoic restraint. It could be anything from water balloons rigged to the handle to fire spiders raining from the drop ceiling. Since the door opened outward, it could be a string at ankle level pulled across the inside of the doorframe.

Setting her jaw and assuming the worst, she opened the door with a step back. From her new position, she swept her eyes across the visible portion of her office. The desk was there. There were no strings across the door, and nothing affixed to the door itself. The ceiling remained intact. The couch on the wall to the right of the door wasn't as grey as it usually was, but only because Shoddy wasn't laying on it--

A prank was afoot, and that damnable Shoddy was involved. Mballa's face set, with grim determination, into a stoic frown. The Ghost certainly had the means at her disposal, and the opportunity, since she'd basically become a fixture of the office itself. Motive? Well, getting bossed around at Damalin's shindig probably didn't do wonders for her ego, especially since she was traipsing around in some sort of kitty avatar to either horrify or otherwise play with the locals. All three fundamentals of guilt now established--albeit circumstantially--Mballa hardened herself to the infinite diversity in infinite combinations that could be a ShodeyPrank (TM). Would it be a pie to the face, or some uniquely genetically engineered horror from the darkest depths of an imagination spanning a goodly portion of explored space?

She stepped forward, glancing right with the motion to check the near corner and then scanning left to check the rest of the office, the portion occulted from her previous vantage point. Picture window overlooking Stonozka's central parklands: not covered in fire spiders. Chair--occupied.

The occupant, most assuredly a woman, stood up to what had to be nearly one-hundred-ninety-five centimeters in height, a good head taller than Mballa. Thick, wavy blonde hair fell to her shoulders over a professional black jacket and low-cut blouse, the line of which bounced in a particularly distracting manner with the sudden movement of its wearer. Practice in self-control kept Mballa's fovea mostly at eye level, rather than following shapes down towards the tight black skirt terminating just above the knee and heeled black shoes; instead, bright green eyes sparkled from behind thin, metallic-rimmed glasses as glossed lips split a lightly tanned face of clearly European extraction. "Good morning," she said cheerily in the sort of voice usually compared to things like laughing brooks, "I've organized the overnight briefings and paperwork by topic. Besides the usual inter-Section standup at 0730, you've dedicated briefings with Science at 0800 and IntPoly at 0900. IntRelate would like your feedback on their interpretation of the latest policy advisement from the JIRC, but I was able to convince them that face time wasn't required and so transferred that meeting into a correspondence."

Mballa did not permit her expression to change. Total control was the easiest way to ignore the butterflies. "Good morning. Thank you." After a thought, her eyes tightened slightly. The first hint was a lack of 'ma'am'; the second was that while the surprise secretary was dressed quite professionally, she wasn't in uniform. "Shoddy."

The taller woman grinned broadly from behind closed lips, and the voice that then emerged was not only deeper but instantly recognizable. "How do you like my new look?"

Mballa said nothing and expressed nothing but stern, iron-faced stoicism.

"It's no use, Polly," Secretary Shodey said with a chuckle. "I can tell from your increased body temperature, heart rate, skin conductivity based on atmospheric microionization, and even your chakras that I'm having the desired effect."

Mballa expressed nothing.

"Your attempts to not even dignify it with a response, to suppress other obvious physiopsychological reactions, and your increased stress indicators associated with frustration over not being to control more subtle matters of blush response, pupil motion, and iris dilation only further reinforce my schadenfreude."

"God." Mballa replied quietly and evenly. "Fucking. Dammit." Breaking eye contact, she marched to her desk and sat down; only then did Secretary Shodey move to close the door to the office. Mballa couldn't say much for certain: whether the door closing was to permit her to express herself more openly; whether the gynoid was accentuating her movements for best effect or whether her own mind was doing the accentuation for itself. How certain things moved when Secretary Shodey turned to face her again both suggested natural perkiness--for as much value as 'natural' had around the Ghost--and lack of restraint.

The Supreme Emperor, sitting behind her desk, frowned mightily, then looked down at the briefings and newsfeeds that'd been neatly arranged for her. "We're not friends anymore."

"Not even if I let you cop a feel?"

"God. Fucking. Dammit." Other than the emphasis on the amplifying adjective, the statement was not nearly as heated as it should have sounded. The force behind it, on the other hand, gave away the level of control necessary to achieve this effect.

"Would you like me to get you some kawfee?"

"I'd like you to sit down and shut up, since I know that any excuse you have for movement you'll play up for full effect."

The tall blonde smiled, shrugged (jiggle), turned (jiggle), and walked (jiggle jiggle sway sway) over to the couch. She turned again (jiggle), sat down--with all the change of angles that would suggest--and folded one knee over the other. What pissed Mballa off the most about this entire tease was that she was suddenly certain, as certain as Wednesday following Tuesday, that her tormentor wasn't actually playing up anything at all so much as just pushing her buttons. "Better?"

"I should've never told you about Stupid Sexy Silaco."

"But if you hadn't, things would not have unfolded in such a way that you would actually admit that we are friends."

"Were. Now I'm going to accentuate the positive--"

"A rarity for you--"

"--and consider this an opportunity."

Stupid Sexy Shodey raised an eyebrow. "For?"

Mballa looked up. "Dealing with it." She grinned fully, her lips pulled back over her teeth in a gesture that, anywhere else, would've been considered friendly even if her eyes weren't smiling along with her mouth. After that, her face returned to its standard iron rigidity, she looked down, and lost herself in her work.
Last edited by Scolopendra on Mon Jun 01, 2015 6:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Editing the title a little bit.
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
People is people, whether they be the guy down the street, a scary and/or sexy space alien, a giant doom robot, or a candy-colored pony.
Caught you peekin!

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Scolopendra
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Scolopendra » Sat May 30, 2015 8:03 pm

*click*

Vines cover a row of towering facades in an abandoned city. Wait, those aren't vines, they're trees, with branches sticking out at odd angles and menacing scythe-like leaves hanging down threateningly over cracked streets.

"The Nightmare City of Kuusamo. Madness lurks down every street, danger peers from every shattered windowpane.

"How about an adventure vacation? Why settle for pretend thrills when you can experience the real thing?"

Rapid shots of snow-covered mountains (and rocky peaks that extend well up above the snow); cool river passes; deep, dark forests; grim-looking pale-skinned people whose grimness breaks when they crack jovial smiles. "The Timperium: there's nothing else like it."

*click*

Two people look at each other across a table in a dark-lit room. Both are fit, but well-past middle age. One, a very short bald man with lightly ruddy features, an impressive mustache, and slightly pointed ears wears a staid business suit that would've been conservative centuries ago. He is labeled as 'ALFRED ROSA' in the onscreen label underneath him. His counterpart, labeled 'KITBUQA MATVEEV' in similar fashion, wears a dark red dress whose embroidered seams vaguely suggest lamellor armor.

"I'm not certain we can really read Chirico's last 'battle' with Wiseman as a reading of the conflict between the Übermensch versus the letzte Mensch," Alfred disagrees, in his vaguely Swedish Suuntoan accent, to something said earlier. "Certainly Chirico is very explicitly called an Overman, but so is Wiseman."

"Yes," Kitbuqa replies in a more Russian-derived Berserker accent, "Wiseman was an Overman, but at the time of the battle he's an uploaded intelligence who's been manipulating things for three thousand years to develop a successor. Wiseman, as the manipulator, wants the universe and its codes to remain static where he and his selected people retain power structurally rather than perpetually have to earn it. Everyone's else life will be difficult, but that's irrelevant, since the letzte Mensch is concerned only for his own ease and safety. Chirico, as the Übermensch, destroys this--kills the in-universe God, even--to create his own path."

"That's a confused reading, I think, since Chirico is fighting for his own love--and therefore pleasure--before escaping into a cryogenic capsule to avoid conflict, and Wiseman keeping the Astragius Galaxy in perpetual warfare is intended, in his own words, to improve humanity through strife. That reverses the roles of Übermensch and letzte Mensch that you claim... and in any case, the Übermensch doesn't kill God in Nietzsche's philosophy. God, by the time Nietzsche was writing, was already dead as a moral impulse due to the progress of the Enlightenment--"

*click*

Portable computer sitting on some concrete-like surface, with a feminine hand running over its blocky lines. Its integral monitor displays a spreadsheet program of some sort.

"We can't guarantee the TME PortComp 3X67 will be the last computer you'll ever buy or need," says a deep, masculine voice. The hand closes the lid. "But we can guarantee that it will outlive you."

Camera pans out to reveal a paved drill pad, with hills and trees in the distance. Suddenly, a huge tank appears from camera right and runs over the laptop. Then it backs up over it again.

"Guaranteed."

The tank backs up a little more, depresses its main gun, and fires a blinding beam of light right into the laptop. Cue explosion. The woman whose hand was visible earlier hops over to the smouldering crater from camera left, sets down a monitor, and finds some way to plug it into the charred mess in the middle of the frame. The monitor comes alive with the same spreadsheet program as before. "Guaranteed."

*click*

A blue cartoon cat, or maybe a squirrel, sits on a tree branch. A rather crude-looking yellow bird scrambles up the tree trunk, down the underside of the branch, then flips onto the right side. The soundtrack in the back is a catchy, if obnoxious, tune that goes hahahahahahaha hohohohohohoho heeheeheeheeheeheehee hehh hehh hehh...

*click*

A professional-looking woman of indeterminate ethnicity, holding a sheaf of papers whilst sitting behind a desk and apparently wearing nothing at all. "And in Legislative news tonight, the Palliative Care Act 3X67 passed the Territorial Senate 13 votes to 3. Karmabaijani healthcare megacorporations say that the bill's provisions will adversely affect their ability to care for the terminally ill and warned of healthcare rationing.

"Oh, and a general public service reminder: the general plebiscite on the yearly funding priorities is tomorrow! Remember to rank all the priorities in order! Repeated priorities will be discarded and that particular line will be considered blank!"

*click*

A similar news desk, this time with a man of a different indeterminate ethnicity, equally nude. "This just in: the government of the Timperial Segment has disavowed all responsibility for the recent 'Visit Insane Kekkosmaa' advertising campaign. We have Timperator Bondayehr here via telepresence for an exclusive interview. "Now, Timperator--"

The camera pans over to a chair filled by a lean man of some sort of Western European extraction wearing a TYCS uniform. His brown hair, gray at the sides, has receded just enough so that his hair no longer covers a small scar on the upper-right side of his forehead. "Please, if you must use titles, it's 'Sky Marshal.'"

"--right then, Sky Marshal, currently aboard the Combined Services battleship Gray Sharks, can you tell us anything about this campaign advertising, and I quote 'why settle for pretend thrills when you can experience the real thing?' ostensibly from your Segment?"

"One, it's not 'my' Segment. I don't even run it--I don't care what the factbook says," he chided, raising one hand to cut off the interviewer. The patterns on the back wall are still barely visible through it. "And, knowing the Respect, it's probably a joke of some kind."

"The Respect has already claimed it isn't responsible, and if it's a joke, can you stand by and accept the waste of your constituents' money?"

The hologrammatic officer sighed. "Maybe it was hackers. Maybe it was someone else. Who knows? I'm sure the Respect will run a quick audit of its own finances and, if there's been any misappropriations, will deal with it through the local Timperial law enforcement and justice systems. Otherwise, it was probably just a prank by some third party."

"Still, recommending people visit Nightmare Cities, which are considered 'Extremely Dangerous' by the Office of Psionic Operations' Magical Environment Risk Advisory Scale?"

"No one's making that recommendation past some possibly legitimate, probably not, advertisement that is in any case in very poor taste. To anyone out there who happily do what the trids tell you," the Sky Marshal looks into the camera, "do not go into the Nightmare Wilds. They are not healthy for children and other living things. For everyone else, just calm down. This isn't another Overdub Incident. Hell, it's not even a Captain Midnight. Now excuse me, I've got to get back to my real job patrolling the Periphery." The sitting man stood up and promptly disappeared.

*click*
Last edited by Scolopendra on Sat May 30, 2015 9:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
People is people, whether they be the guy down the street, a scary and/or sexy space alien, a giant doom robot, or a candy-colored pony.
Caught you peekin!

User avatar
Scolopendra
Minister
 
Posts: 3146
Founded: Antiquity
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Scolopendra » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:24 am

TME Industries, Military Division, Phunk Works
during a lull in the engineering


He called her over from the kawfee pots. "Hey, Sue, did you see this latest from the fleetwatchers?"

"Hm?"

"The NIGHTMARE thing."

"'The nightmare thing?' Someone not sleeping well? Psychic rays filling people's heads with bad juju and leading to night terrors? OooooOOOOoooo--" She held her hands up whilst twiddling her fingers, wriggling from side to side in the ancient sign of the ghost.

He rolled his eyes. "No, this isn't one of the conspiracy boards, though I'm sure they're going to love it. Documents leaked from somewhere in the Combined Services apparently say that they're working on a replacement for the Brick in Port Aurora."

"What, the Ticks want a new building?"

"Two things. First, less 'want' and more 'think a building in the middle of the Segments is a big juicy target.' Second, according to this, less 'building' and more 'moon.'"

"Moon." She didn't sound particularly impressed.

"Yeah. The leaked documents are all redacted, but they're building something called 'NIGHTMARE' on some moon in an undisclosed location of the Periphery. It'll replace the Brick as the central headquarters of the Ticks, fully replacing things like the Psychadelic Christmas Tree, the predictor stacks, everything."

"So... moving the central command-and-control node into the Up-And-Out."

"Yep."

"Bullshit."

"I'm only repeating the news."

"Seriously, it's a plastic plant. Replace one schwerpunkt with another, at ludicrous cost and away from Saturnspace's absurdodefenses?"

"I dunno. In the modern boomer era, it makes a lot of sense to emphasize secrecy. Are you suggesting it's some sort of Ess-Eye-Ess false leak?"

"If it were any more obvious they'd use sword-and-shield stationary."

"Pff. Next you'll be saying the Rosicrucians are involved in order to hide their secrets of unlocking inner potential from the Sandarins, who are using Shodeyism as a front movement to infiltrate the Freemasons--"

"Hey--"

"--Shodeyists are not atheists so they're fair game for the Ancients and Frees. The Co-Masons don't care. Anyway, they're only interested in the Freemasons because they've got the Atlantean mind control devices they acquired from the Knights Templar who recovered them from the Ark of the Covenant, which, as we all know, was transported there by Lemurian mercenaries after the civilization of Mu sank Atlantis."

"I concede. Okay, fine, there's some sort of NIGHTMARE moon floating around in deep space as the new central nexus for Ticks command-and-control. Hm. 'NIGHTMARE' doesn't really seem to fit in their codename schema, does it?"

"This was a leak, so it's probably an internal codename, not an external reporting name."

"Fair 'nuff. Anyway, my turn. White world stuff. Stuff that won't threaten our Ess-Eff-Eighty-Sixes if we talk about them."

"Bo-o-o-o-oring."

"Oh, I don't think so. Apparently the civil-industrial side of Phunk Works just revealed a deep-proprietary effor they've been working on in bioprinting."

"Faster organs while you wait. Yawn."

"Better. We're talking bioprinting entire critters."

"Custom mice for people who think their apartments need more pests."

"Kzinti for people who feel that they've been born the wrong species."

Beat. "...wot?"

"Yes, seriously. Body-printing within the hour, nano-lathe based."

"There's... ethical issues with that."

"Cyborganic. All these bodies--avatars, whatever--are NEENJA compliant and can either be teleoperated or accept standard consciousness cores. The NEENJA system actually allows for easy translation between body perceptions and whatnot, which is what's been the big holdup in complete sleeving technology."

"Wasn't the MonoCorporation working on something like that?"

"Yeah. The interface was the easy part, as was printing out all the CHON. The trick was connecting it up and the secret sauce to actually make it work."

"Huh. I'm sure the bloggers are going absolutely ape over it."

"Oh yes. The streetshams are thinking it's a crime against life, especially since how the meta-sensitive reporters say that the thing's packing an aura. Open-source mages are going on about how proprietary secrets are keeping back the science. The Catholics are against it, naturally, as are some of the Muslim schools of thought. There's a backlash in the kzinti blogosphere given that a 'tosh was what our commercial friends decided to demonstrate. The words 'appropriation' and 'poseur' are showing up a lot."

"Oh god. The poseur crowd is going to go mental over this."

"Jokes on them, though. Think about it--it's a biological body with a factor-1 NEENJA system, right? It's not a mech avatar to tool around in, it's a full on other body, with all the maintenance requirements thereto--"

"You're saying it's more a body replacement than a sleeve."

"In one. The Pooh syndromes will tell who's posing and who's actually more comfortable in their new body, though rumors are going around that stasis coffin hotels might start being a thing if the venture capital starts getting scrounged up."

"Can't teleoperate through stasis. That'd require full NEENJA."

"Not the point. Imagine an uploadee sleeving as necessary and storing the extra bodies in the fridge."

"Hm. Even for body replacement, though, it'd require dedicated uploading. HANSes have done that since forever. For a proper body replacement, they'd have to build an analogous brain and upload to that, right?"

"Looks like that's the next step. Word on conspiracy street is this is the first step in making an engrammatic Rosetta stone so transition can be fast, painless, and automated. Even with this right here, the fly-away... er... walk-away cost's in the body design. The resource cost is pretty much minimal."

"Huh."

"You're ignoring the biggest news about this."

"Am I?"

"We beat the MonoCorporation to the punch."
Last edited by Scolopendra on Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
People is people, whether they be the guy down the street, a scary and/or sexy space alien, a giant doom robot, or a candy-colored pony.
Caught you peekin!

User avatar
Scolopendra
Minister
 
Posts: 3146
Founded: Antiquity
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Scolopendra » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:30 pm

Scolopendran Independent News
"Everyone has a little S.I.N. in their life"

Awakenings In The Up-And-Out?

SI'LAT - The major outsystem colonies of the Federated Segments are due for metanormal Awakenings of their own, announced Grid Favero, senior researcher of metanormal studies at the B! Research Organization (BRO) and a Science Section-recognized "street shaman", at a press conference outside the BRO branch office in Talaïnte on Si'lat. According to BRO studies, the biodensity of fully terraformed worlds are apparently approaching the threshold of generating an emergent world-spirit or 'Gaia complex.' "There's no telling exactly how the Gaia complex will arrange itself, though experience in the Titanian Awakening suggests that it'll generally follow habitation patterns, with branching along game trails and information network pipelines." When asked what the BRO recommended in response, she replied: "Recommendations aren't really in the Organization's purview. We've just found that this could be a thing that'll happen. Preparedness is someone else's department."

Agent Clitomachus of the Office of Psionic Operations (OPO) held a press conference in response when local reporters requested comments from the local Office branch. He said that the position of the Office was that the primary worlds--defined as Si'lat, Jimra, Jadiid Sahara, and Bright Morning--were not expected to Awaken for yedecemi. "While all these worlds house billions and now have fully functioning biospheres, producing all the meta-energy you'd expect," he explained, "you have to recognize that they're all, save Jadiid Sahara, engineered. That isn't to say that their 'unnaturalness' makes them ineffective at metaconnection, but rather that because their ecosystems are constructed they're relatively shallow. Biodiversity in general is well below Terrestrial standards simply because there's not been enough time for evolution, even with TerraEngineer help, to fill all possible niches. The Titanian Awakening occurred under similar circumstances, but was bootstrapped by having multiple billions living in relatively close confines. That's what produced the necessary background count for Themis to emerge from." He also noted that smaller worlds with native ecosystems and Jadiid Sahara were more likely to Awaken sooner than later. "Jadiid Sahara is a special case: it's definitely got the background count, and it probably already Awakened at some time in the distant past, but its Gaia complex has since mostly died along with its biosphere."

Calls to the Science and Internal Policy Sections were answered with prepared statements on how the government had learned from the Titanian Awakening and procedures were already in place to ameliorate any colony world Awakenings and referred back to the OPO. OPO Central on Titan informed S.I.N. that standard metanormal defense practices, particularly warding, naturally acted as buffers to Awakening processes but the initial instant could not be suitably predicted. Once a ground-zero is identified and ley lines begin to spread, containment and management efforts will be organized.

Several public safety non-government organizations (NGOs) and minor militias independent of the Civilian Defense Corps filed formal complaints in response to the news. They demand that more be done to actively prevent outsystem Awakenings. Metahuman identity, civil-rights, and civilian magic NGOs are counterprotesting, saying that fear of further Awakenings is a form of metaphobia representative of latent bigotry against metahumans and magic users. Conflicting protests have caused minor scuffles outside of OPO facilities throughout the Periphery. Local police have made several short-term arrests and, as of press time, released all without charges being pressed. The OPO branch in Kolea on Jimra was stormed by members of the Society for a Rational Universe (SRU), who were immediately arrested by Federal Police on trespassing grounds. Despite the SRU being considered a hate group by the Sapient Rights Observatory, no further charges have been filed as of press time.

The Titanian Awakening caused major upheaval in Titanian Karmabaijan yedecemi ago, prior to interstellar colonization. The establishment of a Titanian spirit--nominally called 'Themis' in hermetic and Office of Psionic Operations (OPO) literature and thus tentatively accepted as such by the Science Section--led to sudden metahuman expression amongst the Karmabaijani in the form of elves, orcs, trolls, and dwarves. Similar metaphenotypes appeared among the Sakkran Titanian colony as well. The eruption of ley lines damaged property and disrupted long-distance services, and only intervention by the Office of Psionic Operations and Menelmacari mages prevented the Awakening from being a Titan-wide catastrophe. The wards established then slowly faded, causing the Awakening to proceed more smoothly in Al-Arroda Halish and Berserker.

*-*-* Your News Feed, Your Way! *-*-*

'Murder-Free Living' Vigil Enters Third Month

STONOZKA - The Naturelove-organized protests around the Independent Farmers of Scolopendra (IFS)'s Vertical Farm Complex (VFC) has gone on for three months. Demonstrators remain camped around the shipping docks and personnel entrances, though no longer in the numbers that disrupted operations at the VFC for ten days two months ago. "We're not going to move until they finally give up murder-food," said a protester who refused to give a name. "It's cruel and it's a shame that the rest of the Segments are happy to just sit by and watch this pain and suffering happen just to fill their bloated bellies."

Olek Morrish, a farmer who owns space in the VFC, said that the VFC was a purely vegetable matter concern. "I grow soy, rice, and beans. Seriously." He emphasized that he did not grow zoy, ryse, or beens because he considers those unnatural results of genetic engineering. He is now the seventy-first farmer to confirm that the VFC does not produce or process animal matter.

Naturelove spoksespeople, unidentified behind balaclavas, reiterated that their 'Murder-Free Living' campaign explicitly denies the need for any living being or matter to expire so sapient entities can live. "With nearly infinite energy and commercial nanolathes we can manufacture food from never-living feedstock. Life no longer needs to feed on life, and it is our duty, as animals who can recognize the immorality of killing, to not kill. Why should we say that our lives are more important than that of kows, or zheep, or pygs, or korn, or any other living thing? Every microbe, every virus has a life to live!"

"These people are stupid," said Science Advisor Nikica Galić when called for comment, "and I am not going to apologize for saying that. Yes, we could manufacture all our food. The problem with that is, actually, the lack of germs. Manufactured food that meets their specifications will be completely antiseptic, which will, over the span of a few generations, homogenize our gut microflora and literally reduce our hardiness. Right now we scan for extremely harmful diseases and the like, of course, but imperfections and lesser germs are actually mandatory to produce strong immune systems. The Health Directorate has strong evidence that a diet of nothing but manufactured food can actually induce allergies via epigenetics.

"Of course, if they'd like to try, they're free to buy home biofabbers of their own and live their philosophy. Never mind that transitioning to that sort of diet is also a holocaust as far as gut flora is concerned, so they'd still be murderers."

As of press time, the Naturelove protesters have been joined by a counter-protest made of mechanoids associated with Trololo. Their counter-protest claims that if Naturelove meant what they said then they should simply upload their consciousnesses onto non-biological substrates.
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
People is people, whether they be the guy down the street, a scary and/or sexy space alien, a giant doom robot, or a candy-colored pony.
Caught you peekin!

User avatar
Scolopendra
Minister
 
Posts: 3146
Founded: Antiquity
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Scolopendra » Sat Jul 11, 2015 10:02 am

(Recommended background music.)

Riekki, southeastern suburb of Alavus, Timperial Segment

The inside of the convenience store contained all the sorts of things that most people on the fringe of the Riekki would find convenient: snacks salty, savory, and sweet; toilet paper; soft drinks; hard drinks; gooey drinks; household cleaners; mass-produced fetishes; holy water; and peanut brittle. Everything sat arranged neatly in rows and columns on shelves that ran the length of the rectangular store, aligned and organized by need, function, attribute, color with all the standard right angles as such places are wont to be. Lights muted behind diffraction gratings made up the ceiling, though they currently remained off since the store gained sufficient illumination from the slightly green-tinted natural light that managed to sneak in through the placards, stick-on advertisements, and racks of assorted sundries that collected on the window on the north side of the shop. The proudly waxed linoleum floor dutifully reflected all objects near it--except of course those objects which refused to be reflected--and thus carried a depth beyond its white fields with tiny spatters of color that could be paint, bits of rock, or spattered alien bloods.

The door opened, the bell jingled, and the man behind the counter waved. Street noise from outside like a dozen people gently screaming peaked then faded as the door closed behind the visitor, who only now opened his eyes and thus saw enough to return the wave. "Hi, Joel."

"Hello, Joel," replied the man behind the counter. "Wonderful day for it, isn't it?"

"If only it weren't hot," replied the visiting Joel. With the requisite pleasantries and validations out of the way, he frowned. "Actually, the screaming's pretty bad today."

"Worse than usual, then, Joel?"

"Probably has to do with the flies coming in from the southeast."

"Hm." Southeast was dangerous to talk about, and Counter-Joel looked down and picked at the clear plastic sheeting covering some advertisements on his counter. "Maybe you just need a vacation."

Visiting-Joel shook his head. "Nah, I'm due for rotation to Nearside. The family's packing and sent me on a goola run."

Counter-Joel waved idly towards the gooey drinks section. "Have you heard that Councilor Erkki has motioned to shorten the rotation to ninety days?"

"I hope it doesn't pass," Visiting-Joel muttered as he looked towards the gelatinous cubes held inside their plastic containers inside the refrigeration units. "We'd always be moving. Every three months is bad enough as is."

Counter-Joel shrugged. "It's what the Office recommends."

"The Office recommends we evacuate to Virrat."

More dangerous talk. "Virrat, pfaw," the man behind the counter snorted dismissively as required by social precedent whenever their neighboring dome-city to the south was mentioned. "Like we could ever integrate with those people. They don't even know how to draw a proper warding circle or organize community mica-bake sales. Virrat can't do anything right."

The customer only grunted before heading east to the refrigerated cabinets. The clerk breathed an inward sigh of relief at dodging possible calumny against the Office, though he didn't let anything show past his plastic smile as was only meet and proper and mandatory. The bell rang again, the screams rose and fell again, and in walked a more descript man in Persian blue fatigues. Someone from the Government. He was browner than most people in the Timperium and didn't look to be of Weyrian heritage. That meant he was not only Government, but an outsider. The clerk waved as he did to the other man.

The Government man smiled and waved back.

There was a silence, and then Visiting-Joel turned to join with Counter-Joel in staring intently at the outsider. The outsider looked at Counter-Joel quizzically, then scanned the area to see Visiting-Joel staring as well. "Oh, right." The Government man fiddled with his left breast pocket and retrieved a small book bound with a red false-leather card cover bearing the city council's seal and folded around two staples. He flipped a few pages, muttering to himself, then pointed to something. "'Hi, Joel,'" he quoted then transferred the book to his left hand so his right could wave in a semi-circular arc.

"Hello, Joel," said Counter-Joel carefully. "Wonderful day for it, isn't it?"

The newcomer turned to a different page. "If only it weren't hot," he countersigned. Counter-Joel smiled with nearly visible relief. Visiting-Joel did the same. Government-Joel smiled with clearly visible relief and returned the book to his pocket, sealing the geckoweb behind it. Since the Government man's surname, as listed on his fatigues, was 'Ó Madaidhín' he probably wasn't actually named Joel, but what are names but arbitrary designators of consciousnesses easily categorized and simplified into singular entities? Today, everyone was Joel. "Sorry, still not used to the whole..."

Counter- and Visiting-Joel glared at Government-Joel.

"Right. Anyway, just stepped in to get drinks for a field team we've got in the area. Signatures are up and... well, you've heard the screaming, right?" Government-Joel grinned from behind closed lips. "There are a lot of flies out there, and their buzzing is exactly a perfect fifth above cee-zero. Besides the mathematical unlikeliness of that, it's also really low for insects."

"You must be Science Section," noted Visiting-Joel.

"Quite. I'm--" Government-Joel frowned for a moment. The concentric circles on his collar indicated his 'rank,' as much as that was worth in the Federal government. "--the Science Section's liaison with several civilian scientists out of the University of Stonozka. I think they're chafing under the oversight since they sent me in here for drinks," he half-repeated, but it kept him from having to actually introduce himself.

"We had a fresh delivery of gooey drinks," Counter-Joel offered.

"Nothankyou," Government-Joel said too quickly.

"Does this mean that the Office is looking into the flies?" Visiting-Joel asked, visibly ignoring the glare the question received from Counter-Joel.

"Well... we're working with the OPO, if that's what you mean. Kinda have to, with how far in the Wilds you all are."

"But only the Wilds," Visiting-Joel said.

"Ye-e-es, but you're on the fringe. Y'know. Flies and screaming. And then there's the development plans--"

"The Forest Stadium, Nature Museum, and Central Waterfront will stimulate Riekki's economy with additional tourism," Counter-Joel recited by heart.

"Us in the Science Section are just a bit leery about building a tourist trap on the ragged edge of the Near-Wilds where everything's already a bit... unique," Government-Joel allowed himself some honesty. "Plus, where there's no open bodies of water."

"There's Sulfurous Spa," answered Counter-Joel.

"That's on the opposite side of town."

"Oh, I'm certain you're just saying that because there's some environmentally threatened plant or weevil or something," Counter-Joel said, rolling his eyes, "that's more important due to its tiny niche in the multiply redundant web of life than the well-being of common wealth-producers or megacorporate interests."

"I work for the Health Directorate," Government-Joel responded dryly.

Counter-Joel shrugged, leaving Government-Joel to retreat east for soft drinks. Visiting-Joel, content that the conversation was over, retrieved his desired parallelepipeds of gooey drinks and took them back to the counter. The two local Joels exchanged money, and finally the bell rang again--and the screams rose and fell--as Visiting-Joel left. Government-Joel acquired some bottled cola and followed suit, with the addition of some idle conversation at the counter: "So, does this happen often?"

"How do you mean?"

"Oh... um... nothing. Never mind." And then he left, too, even as the subdued street noise and the slightly green sunlight didn't.
Last edited by Scolopendra on Sat Jul 11, 2015 10:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Scolopendra » Thu Aug 06, 2015 2:37 pm

Far, Far to Spinward

Only when he lost sensation down his entire right side did he know something was wrong. Instinctually applying left rudder to counter the surprise yaw, he saw black smoke trailing behind him all the way to the ionized blue vapor still dissipating, the two lines intersecting in a brown puff. Fragments of shining metal reflected dazzling light as they scattered, and they drew his attention for an instant before he forced it down to the trees and plains careening kilometers below him. Decision time: climb and break for orbit, or dive for the deck. He quickly traced the ion trail back down to where the hidden battery must’ve been, mentally imaged the terrain, and nosed down.

It’d be no good for him to power climb right in the open. Who knew their recycle time, or targeting ability for that matter. It had to have been passive, or else the centerline recon pod would’ve pinged him. Hell, it scanned everything down to the Planck level or something else absurd, so he should’ve seen a damned party gun before whatever was behind it even thought about pulling a trigger. That’s what he got for finding it boring, and that’s what he got for needing fast jets but not being able to take being a fighter anymore.

Reminiscing and regretting his life choices could wait for later. Warrior he may not be, but when fight-or-flight hit he was still a fighter and so he released the rudder and applied some subgrav to roll to keep his damaged side out of the freestream as he yawed. He checked over the right side; his wing was scorched clean through along the crank, the jagged edges heading aft straight to the trailing edge. Definitely through his aft spar, and now he couldn’t tell whether or not the mid spar was hit too. That’d figure how much moment the crank could take. Ailerons were definitely out of the equation. He’d made a good call as he turned himself first broadside to the freestream and then back-ending into it, engines throttled down to idle and coasting on low gravy just to push through the drag. They’d yell at him back at the barn, but they always did, so no matter.

Transferring to the Geck meant giving up his heavier hardware. Back in the day he’d watch the waterfall line up with the general vicinity of the ack-ack position and murderhose the entire damn grid square with that good old open-bore linegun. A minute ago, if one had asked him, he would’ve been quite happy that he exchanged his ability to craterize anything not protected by milspec overtechnology, but now he had to get the pinpoints of his erasers collimated on the target. Between his yaw and their limited off-bore, it’d be a trick yet he let loose anyway. The guns were silent, the air unmoved, but he watched the hillside light up in solar flashes as the coherent electromagnetic energy he was pumping out hit something it wasn’t transparent to.

Only then did he consider that maybe returning fire wasn’t the correct response. The guilt kicked in, but it was too late and he had to complete the maneuver—

-Recon Three, Tokubei.- The voice had the vaguest hint of a Japanese accent. -I’ve lost diagnostic telemetry on your starboard side.-

-That may be because it just got shot off, Tokey. You didn’t see that?- He felt himself continue to turn very slowly and guiltily but behind the guilt was something, something he could just put his finger on if—

-No, the live feed’s been going straight to the planetary sciences division. I’ll look back in the logs for— -

-Don’t bother just yet, they’re on fire— -

-I meant for any other sensor contacts we may be missing. I’m getting the bridge crew to go under. Stand by for orders.-

-If I can keep together long enough,- he thought back, immediately followed by recognizing the unsettling anxiety descending on him. He yawed right, presenting his left side then aft to the freestream and so in his flat spin it would only follow that—the wing. The damned wing. Stupid, stupid, turn up the subgravs and rotate back to no he was losing it he was losing it he never lost it he was the world was turning sideways correct with subgrav roll—

The air caught the broadside of his tail, rolling him left. He rolled back right harshly, and what was left of the forward spar at the crank gave way with a sharp crack. The entire outboard half of his right wing snapped off and slammed against the fuselage, rupturing the right nacelle and immediately rolling him over to the left until the flat bottom of his intact left wing turned into the wind, flapping him back right. With his right side entirely numb, he couldn’t know whether his starboard keelsons and longerons were intact enough to take what he had to do to recover from this sideways slide. Keeping the panic down, he ignored the warnings and the creeping sensation of pain and fear and twisted his yaw subgravs over, turning right so he could shuttlecock into the wind. Then he could keep level with the gravy system, the good turbine, and the good aileron and bring himself down on a semiballistic path. As he turned, he started plotting his course and looking for a flat bit of anything to drop vertically on once he was on full gravy since the reactor still indicated green.

That was premature. The reactor went straight red when he lost feeling in his tail and everything aft of where the wingtip hit him at relative Mach. He couldn’t see behind himself anymore, but that didn’t matter since his nose tumbled over and he could see his back half shear apart. The black smoke he’d been trailing had grown into inky cotton blobs, and they didn’t stop with the hamsters in his back end imploding. That meant he was on fire.

-Belay keeping it together.- He sighed as he felt, then saw, the left wing depart what was left of him. Now he was just a forward fuselage tumbling like a poorly-thrown oblongball. In the moment, he considered that the pain wasn’t quite right. It never was. It was better, since it was alerting, but not disabling. Passing out was a distant luxury denied him, and so he hurt but didn’t and watched the sky and ground exchange places a few times, with the ground winning the trades. He pondered just riding what was left of himself in, grinning grimly. Of course, he didn’t have that painted grin anymore; the Geck may use the same model of strike aircraft as the Ticks, but shark mouths provided the wrong sort of motivation for pilots.

-Recon Three, Shalbot.- Shalbot. Now there was a nice woman, though why she was hangar boss was a question worth asking. Then again, it was the Geck, and coordination meant communication rather than an actual air group commander. -Search and rescue shuttles are being spun up.-

-Meh,- was all he could muster in response. -Recon Three is no more.-

-I don’t like that tone, Kris.-

-Imagine your head spinning through space just after the guillotine’s come down. Even if you could transplant it, your body’s still gone. I’ve already died once, technically, so this will close the accounts.-

That made her pause, but she didn’t give up, damn her eyes. -So you think you can just ride it down and end it all, eh? Like we don’t matter?-

-Yup.-
It sounded unforgivably cold when he said it, and he immediately regretted it. -What would you do, take someone else’s ride from them?-

-Yes. That’s not a hard choice for me to make, and I’m sure more than one of your fellow jocks will even volunteer, though make it sound like they’re getting benched just to keep up your stupid fighter machismo. You’ve got a pretty simple decision too: punch out and live to fly again another day, or sit and twiddle your thumbs until you hit, at which point you learn that the
Phantom III is so well-armored that you’ll survive but not entirely intact, so either you waste away while we look for you or all we recover is some addled ghost of who you were. Which is who you’d be, of course.-

-Carrot and stick, eh, Shalbot?-

-Works on asses.-

-Meh.-
The moment of absolute despair passed and the instinct to survive kicked back in. Damn it all, he was still merely human in the end. It was only after the spiraling nose of the stricken fighter ejected an orange-painted metal cylinder the size of a large beer can and he plunged into darkness that he recognized exactly what he’d just done. The sensory deprivation was bad enough, and he knew that he’d have to go to sleep before it got to him, but what bothered him more was that it was fear, rather than hope, that kept him living. Well, he was a fighter, and fear was an instinct. Instinct was what they lived and died on. Apparently he was going to live. Certainly he didn’t have to be awake for it, so with another thought he made his darkness just that much more absolute.
Last edited by Scolopendra on Thu Aug 06, 2015 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Scolopendra » Thu Aug 13, 2015 4:38 pm

Far, Far to Spinward

“I understand quite well that ‘invaders from the sky’ must come as a shock,” intoned Captain Grey cooly, his stentorian voice even and controlled, “and so on our side, we only consider this an unhappy accident. However, we are getting our downed pilot back. Our search teams will not leave that area until he is found. Once we find him,” he spelled out carefully, “the shuttle that is currently putting out the fires will extract them, and we can try this first contact again.”

“Unacceptable!” snapped the crab-like thing taking up the primary display in the forward end of Research Cruiser Tenjiku Tokubei’s bridge. It—well, she, apparently—was only crab-like because she had a hard shell with knobbly spurs, plates, and claws much like a crab would have. Otherwise, she was completely unlike a crab and more like one seen through a kaleidoscope, one with a roughly cylindrical body. The face was all stalk-eyes around gnashing teeth, and there were far too many legs stretching out behind her. “The presence of armed alien forces on our planet represents an incursion against all our united peoples, one that we cannot tolerate!”

Grey tapped his chin of short buff-colored fur with the toe of one fore-boot, his leaf-shaped ears twitching in thought. “What if you also had forces there? You could monitor our actions and see that our intent is peaceful. Should we turn hostile, certainly you have heavy artillery you could turn to.”

“Our scouts have already seen the mobility of your ground forces,” the functionary on the planet below retorted. “You could easily evade artillery and also abduct anyone we sent to work with you, either to use them hostages or experiments.”

“We’re not that kind of research cruiser,” Grey replied with a sigh, “and the fact we let your scouts watch us should be some proof of our intent.”

The crab-like minister went silent.

“Yes, we’ve worked through your stealth technology. As I said before, you caught our scout plane by surprise.” Grey euphemized slightly; emphasizing the fact that the Geck used hand-me-down Ticks war materiel would be counterproductive at this juncture. “As I said, we didn’t expect to see strongly technological life because you have practically no surface infrastructure. The exopologists are guessing that you use your tectonically inactive crust and mantle as a heat sink and only now are the geologists helping to map your underground civilizations using passive gravitic sensing of your planet’s geoid.” Now that he had her quiet, it was time to awe. “We are not here for conquest. If we were, we would not be having this conversation, since we would have no use for it.”

“If you are so powerful, then,” the crab-thing regained her nerve, “then why are you even bothering to talk to us and get permission for your ‘search?’”

“It’s a show of good-will. Yes, we’re going to do it anyway; it would be preferable if we could have your concurrence, especially since we don’t want any more bloodshed.”

“The polite thing would’ve been to ask first,” she noted.

“I won’t deny that. Given our accidental hostilities, however, I decided to err on the side of action. You’re not the only one with fears of abduction and experimentation.”

“I suppose that’s fair. Still, we have aliens on our planet. I’ll be honest, our nations are in a borderline panic. The only reason none of them have unilaterally launched missiles at you is because that could leave them open to the other nations, and no one’s certain that it would be enough. We need to be seen to be doing something.”

“You’re negotiating with us.”

“That has horrible optics. Worldwide press has already spun this as an attack. It’s only a matter of time before the various commands of the scout forces start suffering leaks and the story goes from ‘attack’ to ‘invasion.’”

Grey tapped his chin again. “Then surely your nations must have precedent for walking back from the brink over accidents. After a case of misidentified intent, shots were fired by both sides and now they’re working together in search and rescue and medical aid.”

“It’s hit-or-miss. Depends on whether or not the nations want to walk back, obviously.”

The captain raised an eyebrow, a gesture probably meaningless on the other side of the video link. “Does your not-entirely-united world actually want a war with an interstellar union of nations, species, and planets? We wouldn’t bother to come, but…”

“We always win in the media.” A wave passed through the forward-most row of the creature’s legs; Grey assumed this worked like a shrug.

“I recommend the peaceful strategy nonetheless, which brings us back to observers—or even equal helpers in the search.”

“There’s still that fear of abduction. You’d need to provide guarantees of safety, and there’s not much trust between us right now. Plus, it’s something that aids you, not us. The optics would be really bad, since it’s not even negotiation: now we’re lapdogs to aliens.”

“Hm. Do you have a custom to summon ambassadors, tell them face-to-face just how badly their country has failed its commitments to civilization?”

“You don’t have diplomatic relations with us, no missions, and no ambassadors.”

“We have me. I am the speaker for the Triumvirate wherever my ship is involved. I can come down and receive a drubbing from whatever country whose installation our scout returned fire on. At the same time, you hold me as collateral to ensure that the alien soldiers picking through woods really are peaceful as they say they intend to be.”

The crab-thing recoiled slightly. “We don’t take hostages! Most of us don’t, at least.”

“Then we downplay that part. Your ‘optics’ is that the aliens encroached on your planet, you’re helping them find one of their own that they’ve lost and can’t find, and at the same time you’re yelling at their contrite captain. We’re the ones who look inept and pushed around, but. We get our pilot back. You don’t get invaded, and get to look strong against an alien threat. Everyone gets what they need.”
The minister waggled her eye-stalks, as if looking at the angles of the deal. “Acceptable. Will you arrive by shuttle, then?”

“The less alien hardware on your planet, the better. Give me the coordinates of wherever you want me to appear, and I’ll be there.”

*-*-*


Captain Grey didn’t bother looking up, and up, and up at the lithe, two-meter plus ruddy-purple Amazon that came up alongside him as he left the bridge. If it weren’t for the fact that she most certainly was a mammal and expressing that by which mammals are defined, she would probably be described as ‘mannish.’ “Ukunu,” he greeted her in the traditional honorific of her people.

“Captain.” She paused for a moment. She always paused for a moment before she was about to let him have it. “Someday you will sell your life for a price not near dear enough.”

“You were listening in,” he stated as a fact. “You know what the stakes are. It’s not about us anymore. This incident has destabilized their planet. They’re suddenly not alone in the universe, and we just blew up a strategic defense output of one of their major powers. We may not be able to set that right, but Tartarus, we’re not going to leave them rebalancing terror in our wake.”

“Except you overstated your position: Tokubei carries a Diplomatic Corps staff for exactly this reason, especially after our work in the Empire. Tokubei himself could go down there, and would have the support of regulations as well!”

“Those regulations were written back when executive officers weren’t the starships themselves and no one followed them back then, either,” Grey muttered. “If I were to send my executive officer, I’d be more honest, if not legal, if I sent you.

She ignored her first instinct to take it as a compliment. It half-was. “That is only because Tokubei knows you are more likely to listen to me.”

“You do press your case harder than he does.”

“Earl.” She stopped. A few paces later so did he, so he could turn around and look up more comfortably at her. “You are taking a risk. One that I, or several others aboard this ship, could and should. You do not need to prove yourself to anyone.”

“Inanna, when you take the officer equivalence exam and get your starship warfare officer badge I’ll put you in the duty roster. As of right now, it’s my judgment that a planet that political needs to see an important head roll, hopefully figuratively. They don’t have the patience or maybe even the attention span to get an explanation about duly-appointed diplomats and representatives. Lieutenant Solan doesn’t have the time either. This needs to be defused now, and I’m the one who promised to defuse it.”

The tall Theraak smiled. “It is no surprise that you and kun La-Ua-Kiir get along. You were born the wrong species, my friend.”

“Like Tantalus I was,” retorted the big-headed meter-tall pony as he swung around and continued down the passageway. “That’s what I have to keep proving!”

*-*-*


If one took a couple of king-size quilted bedspreads and rolled them into a tube a meter in diameter, one would have a vague sense of scale of the crab things. They were still more massive than the good Captain, but at least he didn’t have to look up at them. He stood his ground, squared his shoulders, and leveled his eyes at what seemed to be the most appropriate stalk. “I am Captain Earl Grey of the Galaxy Exploration Command research cruiser Tenjiku Tokubei, arriving as appointed.”

The cylindrical armor monster waved back and forth slightly on a bunch of its legs, then rolled onto its back to be supported by another bunch of legs. It happened to be carrying something distinctly rifle-esque, which it transferred between clawed grippers during the maneuver.

“I am afraid I do not understand your body language,” Captain Grey stated firmly.

“Oh. Ah… um…” the crab-thing conscript told to watch the chamber because no one expected the aliens to arrive that fast thought about it for a moment. “The roll is a sign of expectation.”

“Ah.” Beat. “So you’re expecting something.”

“Yes.”

“From me.”

“Yes.”

Grey sighed. “It wouldn’t be ‘take me to your leader,’ would it?”

The crab-thing squeed as its legs rippled back and forth. “You have that trope too, man? Er, you are male?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t believe we’re so alike!”

He normally wouldn’t admit it, but the thing’s enthusiasm was contagious. He cracked a smile. “It is something of a surprise, isn’t it?”
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
People is people, whether they be the guy down the street, a scary and/or sexy space alien, a giant doom robot, or a candy-colored pony.
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Scolopendra
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Scolopendra » Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:56 pm

Prologue: Nowhere In Particular

In a black space that was just barely distinguishably spherical and enclosed enough to not properly be an endless inky void, two figures conversed. They were both mostly grey. One was feminine, but not exactly a woman, with multicolored wires and green fiber optics for hair that splayed out behind her to fade indeterminately in the volume behind her. The other was a shark, or, at least, at a glance looked very much like a shark with a white belly. There was something visibly wrong about it, though, almost as though it were out of focus although it was distinctly clear. Only by concentrating on it and slightly unfocusing one’s eyes--assuming those would even work in this environment--could one see that it was two sharks so close together as to be overlapping.

“I see,” said the not-quite-a-woman, folding her arms. Being nude, she obviously lacked specific details that effectively defined mammalian gender. Otherwise, she was shaped more-or-less correctly, minus the stylized cabling that covered what would’ve been her ears. “You’re concerned.”

“I’m not the only one, though I think I’m the only one who knows why and can prove it,” the shark(s) replied with a voice like swords. “He’s been very careful not to abuse his position as such. My course in our patrol, as long as it keeps to schedule, is his prerogative. Before the exercise, he generally used it to explore strange new worlds, as the saying goes. He still does, but it’s no longer the point. I find it obvious; most of the organics are just slightly uneasy but can’t identify why.”

“Have you brought up the morale issue?”

“I have. He’s simply redoubled his acting, which has worked for most but made the more sensitive even more subconsciously concerned.”

“And me, rather than the CINCTYCS?” She smirked slightly.

They shook their heads in stereo. “I’m not looking to get him into trouble. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mirror-Eyes knows, but calculates that as long as the negatives are limited to a few people being uneasy aboard me it’s not a concern. If I say something, that could tip the scales. Besides that, who else is a mechanoid to confess their deepest worries to but the Machine Goddess?”

She screwed up her face in disgust. “Don’t tell me you’re one of them.”

“No, but it was worth the reaction.”

“Fine.” She shrugged. “As his flight surgeon I’ll just Section Eight him, no matter how subtly I have to arrange the psych testing.”

The sharks raised their flippers defensively.

Her eyes narrowed as a sly smile passed her lips. “Of course I won’t. It’d destroy him, but it was worth the reaction. What would you prefer me to do?”

“That’s beyond my pay grade, ma’am. I just wanted to alert you to the situation, since I know you and I guess you’re a friend of his after a fashion.”

“After a fashion, yes, but not necessarily with that sort of leverage.” She mused aloud, for as much as ‘aloud’ meant in the little sphere. “Any suggestion I could offer directly would sound like an order, one he’d be free to ignore since the TYCS is no one’s private navy. He’ll actively resist anything more personal, as he already has. He’s turned military customs and courtesies into a spitefully effective defense mechanism. I do know other angles, however. Thank you, Battleship, for raising the concern.”

The sharks’ eyes now narrowed as well, though without humor. “There was no way you didn’t know.”

“I was hoping he’d work things out for himself, against all models in this timespan. That would’ve been the optimal solution, although weighted to a rather low order of probability. If you’re worried enough to tell me now, that suggests we don’t have the fourteen months my models predict it will take for him to fully come to terms with the situation. More proactive measures are, therefore, called for.”

*-*-*

Dialogue: Across the Sea of Stars

Sometimes being in charge of greater things was a blessing. Other times, it was a curse. It was a blend of these in this particular instance, as were many circumstances Naiya was coming to understand. The ability to get in touch with someone who might ordinarily be out of reach, and the responsibility of attempting to find a way to ‘bring him home’, in mind if not in body.

It was a secure line, one routed through the Triumvirate system, all nice and proper. Having friends and contacts ‘on the inside’ who had been there much, much longer certainly didn’t hurt. Hearing that a problem still remained on this point was troubling. As was coming to grips with the fact that she was the one now to try and take on the role of protector. For someone she had grown up thinking nothing and no one could challenge him, the idea that this one last thing was slowly eating away at her chosen uncle, her hero, hurt.

That it was on account of Devon simply gave the pain that added twist of the knife. She wondered for a brief moment as the line connected, if the man would be proud or bothered that part of his ‘legacy’ continued to live on in this manner.

Aboard Grey Sharks, sitting at his desk, the ‘dinosaur’ skull trophy from a hunt during happier times behind him, the Sky Marshal glanced at the ‘ping’ the embedded console dutifully emitted. Reading the ‘to’ line and checking the very nice and proper routing tokens, he quickly checked that his uniform was in trim before tapping the ‘accept’ key. “Sky Marshal Bondayehr, Cee-Oh Galactic Rimward. What can I help you with, ma’am?” Formal, efficient, professional. Friendly, of course, but still all of the above.

“Good time-of-day-where-you’re-at, Zio Timo,” she replied, a clear smile in her voice. “How are things out there in the great wide open of late? Any new critters to document?”

“None as of late, sadly,” Bondayehr replied, turning to pull one of the binders plotting his search off his desk. Flopping it open in front of him, the basic iconography is plainly visible. “System Gecks-Forty-Seven-Thirty-Three had, as expected, no inhabitables. Forty-Eight-Fifty-One, as expected, just hellworlds in close proximity to their home star. Detected some metallic debris upon entering Pendergast’s Drift but it just turned out to be some extremely rich metallic veins torn from a planetary collision. ‘Beautiful desolation,’ I think the old pioneers called it. Pretty, but dead.”

Naiya paused for a moment as if taking it all in, perhaps even nodding, as one might before remembering the other party couldn’t see that response. Of course her answer belied all of that. “So is he, uncle. It’s time to let it go.”

“Hmpf. I’m quite aware that’s almost certainly the case.” He didn’t skip a beat; his adopted niece was clever. He appreciated that about her. “Probably had it coming, too. However, it’s my niche to pull rabbits out of hats and save the day, so here I am. Added benefit is that if I find something it might help your mother find her level again. Leaves me with having to prove a negative, but so it goes.”

“When there is no rabbit to produce, the act tends to fold. There are others who stand in greater need, I think, of your skills, your presence even. Nothing aside from having him in her arms again, something I think we both know is impossible, you and I, is going to suffice until she comes to terms with the loss in her own mind,” Naiya stated plainly.

“Scratching this itch hasn’t kept me from attending to my duties,” Timofeyev replied levelly. “Doing the impossible seems to be my calling.”

“I would be the last to accuse you, or even suggest that you were somehow remiss in your duties,” Naiya said firmly, wanting to make sure that point was clear. “Improbable, perhaps. Impossible is simply something we tend to label things we don’t understand, or see the solution to.

“Mama has taken it upon herself to go find what isn’t there. She’s gone off and left everything to me and Markus, convinced that she alone can find the man, and that there is some vast conspiracy keeping him from her or the like. Shall I let her continue on her course as well? The reasoning seems to be the same, at least on the surface.” The question was asked somewhat casually, the information tossed out in the same vein. She was certain he would see through it.

Bondayehr paused for a moment to collect his thoughts and find words that suited what he figured were his needs at the moment. “I may have my fair share of neuroses but, for the moment, I’m pretty sure I’m neither hallucinating nor suffering from delusions of persecution. The cold equations of physics, probabilities, and the massive volume of empty space don’t persecute, they exist. What else can I do to help, other than keep an eye out for your mom like I should’ve for… that man, and maybe, hope beyond hope, pull a happy ending out of a tragedy?”

Naiya’s tone softened. “I know you aren’t crazy. Yes, I think we can call it that. We’re family, after all, and we understand the emotional problems she’d had to deal with. But the idea that you can achieve the impossible was the similarity I was referring to. Still, at least we’ve gotten to the root of the matter. It isn’t your fault, you know. None of this is.”

“No matter how hard I’d like to bust his lip now, I’m also aware that I’m not the one who made him suck vacuum. Or cease to exist as a coherent mass. However he’s bought it.” His tone, conversely failed to soften. It only got harder. “Nevertheless, it happened in my sector on my watch and that makes it my responsibility. The consequences have only propagated out from there.”

“Did you become omniscient since I’d grown up?” Naiya asked simply. “I think I may have missed that one. Not even Shodey could have predicted any of this, so why in Fanged-God’s name would you think it was your responsibility?”

“Because every friendly spacer in my space on my watch is my responsibility, and--” He shut up.

“Why?” she pressed gently.

“It’s my job. It’s why this fleet exists: protect citizens from threats foreign, domestic, and natural.” He looked momentarily relieved, as though he’d dodged something.

“Those drives are anything but ‘natural’, and we all know it,” Naiya continued. “Even with all the close calls, those occasional losses, he still insisted on using them. The odds, if nothing else, simply eventually caught up with him. It happens. And no job, or duty could prevent it.”

The Sky Marshal shook his head. “I’ve not become omniscient, but I’ve made the old AeroSpace Directorate try since. I can say to a high order of certainty that it wasn’t just a drive failure. Helldrives fail in very peculiar and, when you know what to look for, patently obvious ways. If we’d have picked up such a failure signal by now, my job would be done since there’s not enough coherent matter left to spread on a slice of toast. Extremely large energy surges, by now, would’ve been picked up by the sats we’ve been placing thanks to lightspeed lag. No, if he fell out here, it was in at least a semi-controlled fashion. That doesn’t mean much, since it doesn’t speak for life support consumables and he’s almost certainly starved to death in the interim, even assuming anyone survived the almost-normal transition.”

“So, you’ve managed to improve the Directorate. You’ve exhausted all your resources. You’ve covered all your bases, considered all your options, all the possibilities. So again, why?”

Bondayehr sighed. “Alright, then, I’ll save you the trouble and go through the five-whys myself. We’ve already covered that I’m looking in order to save the day. Why do I expect to save the day? Because I’ve always done so in the past. Why? I dunno, fate maybe if I believed in it.” He sniffed momentarily, dabbed his nose, then hid his rubbing fingers away with his classically forced smirk. “But the fickleness of fate’s a different conversation.” He stopped for a moment to think. And kept thinking.

“It won’t change all the amazing things you have done if you cannot make a miracle happen here, uncle.” Naiya said, attempting a smile.

“Heh. ‘Amazing things.’” It was a scoff.

“Have I told you how Marcus and I grew up, on bedtime stories of our Zio Timo, and his adventures?” she asked, tilting her head slightly.

“Even though that stupid poem about the plums put me off poetry for life, there’s still one I tend to recall. ‘Here lies a toppled god, his fall was not a small one; we did but build his pedestal, a narrow and a tall one.’” He said this softly, thoughtfully. “Certainly there were adventures they didn’t tell. Some involving that man and keeping him alive.”

“Actually, mama was rather insistent that we know that you were responsible for both she and he continuing to draw breath,” Naiya admitted. “But that isn’t the point. Yes, you had a place in our stories as our hero. But it was you, the man, the uncle who taught us honor, who gave us cousins to play with, who added to our family, explained so many things like being dutiful, responsible - those are the things which we have remembered. And of course, that serious demeanor of yours,” she finished, smiling wryly.

He winced at ‘honor,’ then listened patiently, if sadly, through the rest. That gave him the time to figure out what he wanted to say, and how. “We’ve got a thing in the Segments, something about first-level and second-level idealists. First-level are the usual lot, second-level are the ones who are willing to use reality to achieve those ends. There’s a third level too, where the idealist in question will actually violate his ideals because, if he doesn’t, the ideals die. The old ‘don’t let your morality keep you from doing the right thing’ he used to say, though I’ll always dispute whether or not it was ‘right.’” He paused, and thought for a moment. “It’s rather obvious that I’m dancing around something. If you’ve not already heard it, I’m not at liberty to talk about it. Suffice it to say that I had to go to that third level for him, and not in the forests either.”

“It’s no secret I’d be one of the first to tell you he wasn’t worth it,” Naiya replied, though her expression wasn’t harsh. Thoughtful, perhaps somewhat saddened by what she heard, but not angry or bitter. “We live in an ugly world. Some of us do what we can to keep that ugliness from others. Do things that seem impossible, immoral, unforgivable even, so that they can continue to see the beauty of it rather than those things that lurk in the darkness. I know this, Zio. I understand more than you may think, but as with you, there are also truths I am not prepared to speak, that I haven’t the right to as yet. All this aside, I fail to see why you must continue to suffer, to pay for his sins, his mistakes. Whatever it is, it is high time you moved past it. Stepped out of that darkness, regardless of your knowledge of it. You already do all you can. So please, whatever it is… forgive yourself. And move on.”

“If it were just holding the darkness back, that would be easily forgiven.” Bondayehr smirked wryly, something Naiya would’ve seen a thousand times. “One doesn’t get to be Sky Marshal by holding tea parties. This… was different, Naiya. Not self-defense, not protecting the innocent, but murdering to protect the guilty because he was a known quantity and, in the calculated realpolitik, a merely lesser evil. It sounds weird. You know my relationship with him was… odd. It always was after that mission. Him breathing basically was the only justification I had, and once someone crosses that line, there’s no real going back. There’s a reason the boyar on the shield I made up isn’t quite white and isn’t facing the right direction. It’s--” and he shut up again.

Naiya was quiet as she listened. She was quiet after he stopped, the various bits he’d allowed her to hear tumbling around in her head, until she finally spoke. “You were forced into positions you never wanted. Put on a path you never asked for. You were required to do things you never imagined, and made choices you should never have had to. And in this, you learned that there is no black and white, only shades of grey. You became things you hated. And so you continue to punish yourself, regardless of the responsibility of others for placing you here, putting you in the positions they did. Am I wrong?”

“Only by being too forgiving. There’s always options. I could’ve failed to re-up when it became obvious Hawke was grooming me for something”--he sniffed, dabbed again--”though that was after the period in question. In the thick of it, I could’ve gone AWOL or taken the mess Webley way out. No, as external as their origins may be, my sins are my own.” He folded his hands and rested his chin upon them. “That much I can accept. I’m really not doing this to torture myself, Naiya, because I’ve got the scars to know that blood doesn’t make clean. How do I put it in a way that doesn’t sound, well, petulant and childish?

“Well, hell, I’m your uncle and let’s push that bastard off his plinth. It’s not fair, Naiya. I did more than bleed for that bastard, and when he was around at least I could hope it would be for something. Him becoming a better person, maybe. But look how he treated you. Look how his sudden disappearance has torn our weird little family. Even when he has the Fanged-Goddamn common courtesy to turf it, he’s got to have his own little spin on it that puts the rest of us on the hook. That’s not fair to him, and I recognize it’s hardly rational, but after… I dunno, saying ‘investing so much’ makes it sound so blase...sacrificing so much of myself--great, now I sound like a martyr.” He switched immediately from thoughtful sadness to clearly self-directed anger. “Just stick me up on my cross now, please. Sideways, though, since I’m not fit to die the same way as our great anointed prophet.”

“No, it isn’t fair. None of it is. He was who and what he was for reasons, just as you are who and what you are, and I am, mama is, Marcus is … we can’t change that. Fair? Life isn’t fair. We all know that. Yes, I would have loved to have had a loving father like my brother did. Yes, you have had to sacrifice what part of you you have clearly held dear, and are bitter about losing, for him of all people. And you’ve never even gotten to punch him right in his smug face for it, either, damn his miserable hide,” Naiya agreed, straightening up in her own chair, the tilt of her head taking on a mild mirror of her mother’s.

“So, your option is to rather than actually martyr yourself, to carry that cross around with you, beating yourself with thorns, bemoaning that you had the misfortune of getting dragged into his circle and being tainted on account? Madre del Dio, Zio. Dare I say pull yourself together, and get over it? Because the option is clearly not suiting you. You’re better than that. And he is not worth it,” she finished angrily, her voice finally having risen.

His jaw set at that. “Fanged God’s balls, Naiya, I just told you that’s not the point! I’m not doing this to get a fuckin’ pity party, since I never rate one. In a very real but equally stupid way, Dev’s breathing validated my existence! ‘Look at that prick,’ I could tell myself, ‘everything you’ve got is thanks to him.’ Now he’s dead, your mom’s flown the coop, and I’m both trying to fix them and in so doing tell myself that ‘no, it’ll be okay, it’ll all work out, let me scrub away the inscription from this stone, let the ring that carries the legend ‘this too shall pass’ be melted down, let me ladle the oceans back into the rivers!’” Having lost his temper, it was but a moment to regain it and speak calmly, as though nothing had happened. “Which is, as I said, pretty stupid.” He smoothed out his uniform. “Ecce homo.

“You’ve got plenty of other validations if you look,” Naiya replied quietly once again. “You don’t need him. You don’t need mama, or any of that. You don’t need to feel you ought to fix everything for everyone. You don’t need to try and be the solution to all and sundry.

“We’re human,” she said, though there was a touch of irony to her tone. “We can do so much. Do what we can. No, it isn’t fair. Yes, some of it may seem ‘stupid’, but it is what it is. You talk about making choices before - what is stopping you from choosing to move forward now?”

He smirked at that. “You’re cleverer than I could ever be, and yet you’ve still not noticed that I’m really not anywhere near as good at losing as I pretend to be?”

“It’s just not in your nature,” she said, smiling softly. “You’ve never taught us to lose with grace either, that I recall.”

“Well, damn, now I’ve left an unforgivable gap in your education all these years,” he replied. With humor, yes, but with serious, self-judgmental humor. ‘Kidding on the square,’ as she might have heard him call it.

“I don’t lose,” she said archly, though it was clear, she too was teasing slightly. “Still, uncle. Look at what you’ve not lost. He is gone, yes. But look at what Marcus has been doing in his absence. Mama may be out on a lark, yes, but we’ll get her back, and do what’s needed. We’re family, it’s what we do. There is nothing that we cannot accomplish together. Including getting past this. The difference, perhaps, is that you have been trying to do this all on your own, as you always do, because it is what you do. You’ve seen to other’s needs while you’ve put yours aside, again.”

“Err,” he raised a finger. “Point of order, we’ve just been discussing how impossible it is to find Devon’s emaciated, vaporized, skewed-sideways-to-reality corpse. I don’t think pooling our forces will do. Second point, thanks to our healthy familial shouting a few moments ago I’ve come to the realization that, no, I’ve not been putting my needs aside. I’ve been selfishly chasing this phantom because I want to rattle said corpse and scream in its sightless orbitals ‘aha, found you, you bastard.’

“Like you said, let’s say I find him. If he’s not alive and kicking, which we all know he isn’t, then Nathi’s not fixed. She’ll come up with some other explanation because he can’t be dead to her. Marcus might have some closure, you might find it difficult to care less, and all of my troopers will be wondering why their Cee-Oh is screaming obscenities at a corpse. This quest really isn’t helping anyone, really?”

Naiya shook her head slowly. “No. It really isn’t. Aside from all the data you’ve gathered on the various systems and ‘beautiful destruction’,” she said simply.

“So how about we put my selfish desires to not face the fact that I failed to the back burner for a moment. Anything in particular you need done in the Rimward Theatre?”

The young woman smiled wryly at that. Some fights she was simply not going to win with her uncle. His sense of worth - or the lack thereof - was probably prime in that. “You mentioned the metals. I don’t suppose I could put dibs on any of the mining rights?” she asked off-handedly.

“That’d be an abuse of power. You’ll have to wait for the official Geck report before taking official action, just like everyone else.”

“Then perhaps you could just send me some interesting pictures of some of the things you’ve come across that don’t break any rules,” Naiya said, smiling more fully, though of course, close-lipped.

“I don’t have any at the moment, for reasons which I think we’re all too painfully aware. I’ll have to get some. That will require me to drop this current project.”

“Well, you did offer …” She let that thought float there.

“Of course I did, because doing something for someone else justifies me to stop scratching my own itches. While I’m on the general bent of iconoclasm, I’m a very passive person who uses such tricks to avoid going out on limbs as often as a daring hero should.”

“I’ve got you now, my pretty,” Naiya said sweetly, wriggling her brows and steepling her fingertips. “Love from the family, Zio Timo. Please, be safe out there. And if you could, perhaps take the time to make some more personal non-rule-breaking reports for those of us less spacedy-abled along with those pictures, hm? You know Sunny absolutely freaks over anything new. And I know the boys would love to see where you’ve been.”

“This should be doable.” He grinned lopsidedly from behind closed lips. He paused momentarily, then continued in the same jocular tone. “So, on a scale of minor cosmetic damage to Ozymandias, how toppled are we talking?”

“Silly uncle. I don’t put people on pedestals. You’re too hard to hug up there,” she replied, hoping he could hear the love in her voice.

He could, and it was a relief even if his constitution made him generally paranoid that others were just being nice to him and, in reality, actually held him in as low a regard as he did himself. “Well, then, once this patrol’s through, there will be no dearth of hugs.”

“I shall hold you do it,” she assured him. “Be well, uncle. I’ll see you then.”

“You too, niece-Naiya.” He straightened up and regained his official bearing. “Will that be all, ma’am?”

“Indeed, Sky Marshal. Thank you for taking the time to receive my call. Carry on.”

“Sky Marshal Bondayehr aboard Battleship Gray Sharks, signing off.” And he leaned forward and disconnected the link, just so.
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
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Postby Scolopendra » Sat Oct 10, 2015 7:42 pm

H&K Trade Office, Devras

Kit leaned back in his broad-backed chair and looked at the wall display over steepled fingers, with his elbows resting on the chair's armrests. Those were bad numbers, and his ears instinctively folded back as his eyes narrowed. He felt a familiar sensation in the pit of his stomach, and he cursed his father for that. "It figures" were the only words that passed through his thin black lips.

"Yeah. This whole Thanh-Tonh mess is ruining the Roanian brand. Of course your countrymen are starting to boycott," said the black-haired man standing opposite Kit's desk. At 'your countrymen,' Kit raised one furred eyebrow but resisted the urge to glance at the Dominioner. It was technically true, of course, but his Italian was arguably better than his Arabic. In any case, the man continued. "Interstel is making preparations to pull out of the market, or so we've heard. Our sources suggest that they're about to announce withdrawing financing to any routes going into the Radiant Empire. Luxury goods will still be able to turn a profit, but we can expect the bottom to fall out of the common goods market when that happens."

There was a mild wooden thunk from under the desk as Kit's naked ratlike tail lashed from side to side once. The hunt was on, and he not for the first time wished that his stray appendage wouldn't give him away so easily. "What's our exposure?"

"We're in pretty deep. The Dominion was never quite as negative to trade with the Roanians as the Scolopendrans, but the recent thaw gave us a market for cultural items and other bric-a-brac that the caped crusaders love."

"That's an issue for the Stonozka office."

"Would be, but we already had the contacts, you see, so until Stonozka traders--aligned with Interstel or not--got arrangements worked out with the Secretariat, we were the pipeline. Which means that until the Scolopendrans take delivery, we're holding the bag. And they aren't because it's political poison--they'll have the slacktivists, the letter-writers, the bloggers, and the protestors all over them the instant they advertise Roanian wares."

"So we have the inventory, which impacts our capital flow and metrics. Hrrrrr." Kit felt another tail lash coming along and suppressed it, even as his eyes narrowed further. Ignore the body--no, not ignore, manage, control--and solve the problem. His father wasn't a completely negative influence. "We have inventory. We just have to find a market."

"Bit more than that, we've also got contracts for more inventory." The black-haired man rubbed his clean-shaven chin, then grinned very thinly. Only after a moment did he remember to shut his lips. "Here's an idea. We rebrand these things as Tonhi, get the sympath--"

"No." Low, hard, certain.

"It'd work. They wouldn't know to tell the difference. All that far-east Oriental stuff all looks the same any--"

Kit raised one hand, one finger, his free hand balling into a fist. "Your country is better than this. Represent them better."

"My country doesn't let a little quibble get in the way of getting things done."

"Understood. I still will not hear of ploys relying on casual racism," the kzinti continued in his native Italian, "nor, for that matter, on direct fraud. What's the domestic market looking like?"

"Shaky." The man looked at the ratcat. The tiger-linebacker hybrid looked calm enough, but he could swear that he smelled ginger. "Like I said, we had nothing against the Roanians. Had is the key word here. Believe it or not, we're as against genocide too. Genocide and messily unsubtle politics. The former's just a possibility. The latter's already happened. I'm sure we'll keep some established customers but we can't expect growth in the market until things cool down."

Kit folded his hands again. "We're not looking at red, are we?"

"Globally, across our product offerings? No. However, it'd still impact our commercial import/export sector and decreased profitability, even if masked by increases in other sectors, would spook shareholders. The stock's already fluctuating as people wonder how this is going to impact our business. I can guarantee that if Interstel pulls out it'll take a hit. Right now, it looks like damage control."

"Hrrrr." Not for the first time, Kit wondered if he had too much authority. Was it the Peter Principle at work, a misguided reward for all his diligent day-trading, or was it political? Being a cousin of sorts to the powers that be and a son to another household name... in this country? Certainly both. That didn't matter. Concentrate on the job. "Rebrand our inventory to a more generic Oriental flair but do not 'mis-state' the origin. Shift our marketing efforts from al-Halish to the Karmabaijani and the Beserkers--they're still interested in similar cultures and less prone to boycotts. Have Legal look into our supply contracts and see if they wrote out escape clauses. Failing that, see if we can't keep the financial contents the same but change the goods around. 'Roanian' is a dirty word, but it's an ethnic one. Look into trade goods from, or at least branded by, other Imperial ethnicities. If you can get Tonhi goods, do so and stockpile them."

"Stockpile?"

"'Prepare for all contingencies,'" Kit quoted someone the black-haired man didn't know.

"Do you know something we don't, boss? Maybe something from your old man--"

The knuckles on Kit's folded hands tightened as he again interjected in a low voice. "No. First, he's in the wrong Theatre. Second, that would be an abuse of his position and of mine."

"The Ticks have their fingers on the pulse of this. It's not every day that their cee-in-cee gets in front of reporters, much less to call out our navy. He's got to know something. Maybe you could arrange a little--"

The kzintosh swiveled quickly in his chair to face the man, then leaned forward. Despite the jet black three-piece business suit and silver tie, the steadiness of his calm voice and the levelness of his shoulders, he still looked like a hulking tiger-thing. Beyond that, something of the tension around his unblinking, slightly narrowed, staring eyes suggested that despite the civilization he wasn't so far from the savage beast he looked to be. "I am going to assume that you don't know, so I am informing you: when I say it would be an abuse of position it is not to be done. He has his duties. I have mine. We are both entrusted by our parties to perform them diligently and without collusion."

The man stiffened but still shrank back a few millimeters. "I think the shareholders are more concerned about their value."

"As they may well be. They would also find inquiries, scandals, and messy politics quite unprofitable. In any case, irrelevant: I am telling you that I will be calling in no favors of family. It. Is. Not. To. Be. Done. Your error of knowledge is now, hopefully, corrected." He found himself quoting concepts he'd been taught again; no matter. "Should it continue into an error of will by being repeated--if you suggest such a thing ever again--prepare to clean out your desk. Now. What was asked of you?"

"Rebrand more generically, check for possible outs from Legal, if not look into renegotiation for non-Roanian but still-Imperial goods, stockpile Tonhi items."

"Do you have any questions regarding this course of action?"

"No."

Kit nodded once, then extended the padded palm of one open hand towards the door to his glass office.

* - * - *

Scolopendran Independent News
"Everyone has a little S.I.N. in their life"

Interstel Limiting Risk to Tonhi Crisis

PORT AURORA - Stating market forces responding to the Radiant Empire's blockade of Thanh-Tonh, Triumvirate Interstellar Trading announced in a press release today that they will no longer be subsidizing mercantile traffic to the Radiant Empire. Simultaneously, Interstel modified its prospectus for Radiant Imperial trade to 'negative,' based on the effect of boycotts led by various al-Halishi social action groups and the likelihood of foreign investment in the Radiant Empire to drop based on increased instability in the region. "We had made this decision before the reports of Sarian raids on Imperial forces around Thanh-Tonh," a spokesperson for the trading company said in a comm interview, "but that just accentuates what we've already seen. The actions of the current government have destabilized the area, and without much in the way of rhyme or reason we can't expect rational actors to invest in Imperial markets. It's being made very clear that word is law in the Radiant Empire, which is fine if it works for them, but for it to work for us those words have to be pretty consistent with one another and follow a calm, reasonable, predictable course. It would be irresponsible to our merchant captains if we encouraged them to continue and build additional trade routes against market forces, irresponsible to our shareholders if we put investments at risk, and irresponsible to our charter from the Council of Yut to functionally reward the Radiant Empire for threatening an entire world with genocide in revenge for a certainly heinous but equally certainly singular and personal act."

Shares in Interstel rose slightly with the release of the report even as shares in individual corporations known to trade with the Radiant Empire dropped. H'zta & Kraah Enterprises, whose Devras office employs several Interstel-affiliated merchantmen in the import of Radiant Imperial goods, took a sharp dive before rebounding on improved prospects of defense contracts. The executive responsible for the Devras-Rudan Prime trade accounts, Trade-Director, replied when asked for comment "we are aware of the risks posed to the profitability of the Roanian trade accounts and are working to mitigate them." Requests for what forms that mitigation could take were declined, stating "proprietary strategy protected under trade secret policies."

*-*-* Live Market News Updated... Well... Live! *-*-*
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Postby Scolopendra » Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:01 am

Stonozka Caves of Steel, Titan

“So you’re saying ‘it’s a good idea,’ then?”

She nodded, her cream-colored hair bobbing as it framed her olive-skinned face. “We already know from the declassified WANCC studies that the risks—well, at least the systemic ones—are negligible. Really, now that the University of Landing City’s archives are now on the edu-net, we’ve got the missing pieces of the puzzle. We can leverage existing knowledge with Weyrian-derived technologies to make… well… it a reality.”

Neither one really wanted to say what it was. It was simultaneously provocative, controversial, and cliché. Previous attempts, from leaked black projects to foreign boondoggles, had funded the fortunes of more than a few pundits and scaremongers. Even when they were alone, as they functionally were whilst sitting in a quiet corner of a quiet café over cups of hazelnut-smelling kawfee, they still kept the particular nature of it quiet. As such, Doctor Telesphorus Koumoundouros of the University of Stonozka simply made an appreciative noise as he leaned forward, failing to wrinkle either his fire-engine red vest or the stylishly cut and sharply pressed jet-black shirt underneath it. “Quite. I’ve had a feeling for some time that between the streetshams and the mages we were on the right path, but what we’re looking for is simply beyond reasonable capabilities, Ess-Ess-the-Bee aside. Weyrian technology could be exactly the multiplier we need.” He tilted his head forward slightly, peering from between his bushy black eyebrows and the monocle resting in his right orbital. “The math is correct, yes?”

Doctor Samantha Noor, also of the University of Stonozka, snorted quietly. “Of course the math is correct. If my own checks weren’t enough, I broke it down and sanitized it and had everyone else in the department check it. Every module’s been peer-reviewed and I even finagled some time on the Savant to ensure internal consistency.”

The snappily-dressed man only slightly raised one eyebrow.

“I overwrote the logs after with a basic self-optimization run.” Noor rolled her blue eyes. “Seriously, this cloak-and-dagger stuff you insist on is ludicrous.”

“It’s not who discovers it, it’s not who builds it, but it’s who’s first to publish.”

“Anyone watching our recent publication history that closely should be able to figure it out,” she retorted. “Assuming they wanted to. I guess that’s where our reputations for pure research come in handy.”

“Which is entirely why we’re doing it, no?” Telesphorus smiled as he leaned back in his chair. “You, mathematician extraordinaire, me, the ‘natural science’ professor with the loud fashion sense but quiet pull in an occult field; no one would expect anything of this magnitude from us. But we both want to do things and this is certainly a thing to be done.”

“A thing, yes, but a big thing. We’re ready for prime time but we’ve got no backers for it. Even in the wonderful state of post-scarcity that the economists advertise, it’s going to take a lot of pretty polly.”

“No getting around that, then?”

“No way at all.” She started counting on her fingers. “Thiotimoline is nearly impossible to come by outside of Harper’s Si’lat rosoids, since it can’t be conventionally synthesized or even nanolathed. Even then, the incidence rate within Harper’s rosoids is low. When it does occur, it’s impure and always dissolved.”

“Obviously.”

“The fractional distillation setup looks like it belongs in an ancient serial. The fractionating column can’t be anything but nanolathed and then effectorized to make sure that it has the necessary picoscale arrangement that it doesn’t break down the thiotimoline in the process. Crystalline thiotimoline may not be ‘explosive,’ but its handling is going to be a bear before we dissolve it into a fusible alloy. And that’s just the supply chain for the most obnoxious part of the motivator. The rest is all precision machining, exotic isomers, and now that the Kekkos are involved, probably even more exotic crystals.”

“Crystals are essential,” Doctor Koumoundouros confirmed.

Doctor Noor took a healthy swig of her kawfee then sighed in frustration. “Everything we need to make this is scarce. We’re talking ‘defense project’ levels of funding, and what we want to build is a scientific instrument almost literally impossible to weaponize.” She frowned, folded her arms, looked down, looked back up at her partner in not-quite-crime. “You’ve done work for the government. Quiet-like work. Think we could get the Science Section to pony up?”

Telesphorus shook his head. “They don’t maintain a black budget, and this is exactly the sort of thing they’d want to keep deep black just due to the ‘optics,’ as some would say. Even what minor research they fund in the field already is ludicrously controversial and only justified with the argument of ‘it would aid in defense against this sort of thing on the off chance that it could be a threat, which it can’t be.’ We don’t even have that to our credit, probably.”

“So we need a huge amount of money—“

“Government or megacorporate scale.”

“—for a pure-science device—“

“Suggests government.”

“—but it needs to be on the political delta-lima which means black budget—“

“Foot-to-Ass or Intelligence.”

“—but it can’t be a weapon.”

“Intelligence.”

She groaned. “How the hell do we sell this to spooks?”

“What do ‘spooks’ mostly do?” Doctor Koumoundoros replied with a slightly crooked smile. “They watch, for the most part. What does our little toy do? It sees.”

“Not anything they would be interested in,” she answered.

“Just because you’ve only thought of it as a math problem, and Burak has only thought of it in a historical context. Given what the math says it can do, it could permit seeing things that would generally be closed to our intelligence services. I cannot help but think they would be most interested in such an item.”

“The math also says that interdiction will probably work against it. Anyone doing modern security to even half-measures on anything even vaguely worth looking at will have interdiction up.”

Koumoundoros shrugged his shoulders gently. Anything to keep from wrinkling his couture. “Please consider these two points as expressed by a man of the world, Doctor. Point the first, many people operate not even at the level of half-measures—all the more reason for ‘watching’ rather than necessarily the ‘stealing’ that always makes the dramas. Point the second, people tend to be greedy for that which enables them. People who live to watch will almost never turn down a new way to watch, or a way that lets them watch more things.”

“Ugh.” Doctor Noor pulled her arms tighter around herself. “You’re selling the plan to me. But the Ess-Eye-Ess is just so…”

“Slimy?”

“Yes. You don’t mind taking point and selling the plan to them too? You’ve got prior history with things, I’ve heard; I really don’t want to do it; and Burak is enthusiastic but he couldn’t sell bottled water to desert nomads.”

Telesphorus placed the fingertips of one hand against his chest and bowed his curly black mane with a smirk. “Consider it sold.”
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
People is people, whether they be the guy down the street, a scary and/or sexy space alien, a giant doom robot, or a candy-colored pony.
Caught you peekin!

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Scolopendra
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Scolopendra » Tue Dec 15, 2015 9:15 am

Executive Apartments

Noelle Sharudi folded her worryingly fine hands on her worryingly clean desk and leaned forward slightly. The theme of 'worryingly' played out throughout her neat little cubicle in the Executive Apartments, isolated from the rest by double-thick sound-isolating walls and a security door and forming a tiny little office effectively devoid of anything indicating her personality. Everything was either Scolopendran standard-issue grey fabric or standard-issue burnished steel, without personalization. No posters, no calendars, no little knicknacks or photographs--that in and of itself could be worryingly, as in 'causing concern', bare. Beyond that, not a single speck of dust sat in evidence, which suggested that a degree of worry, as in 'effort', went into keeping things spotless. All this stood in the long tradition of Intelligence Advisors past. They were people not to be known. Sharudi's predecessor had been known for his individual eccentricities, but whether that was him or all an act remained a matter of debate.

Sharudi herself, if one wished to be cruel, could be described as wraithlike. She was pale--blonde hair, skin so white as to almost be transparent--and she was thin, with her skin slightly stretched over her bones. Beyond this, her posture tended towards the severe even as her expression orbited a practiced alert neutrality. What little of her history remained public knowledge suggested that she'd made her way up the Section through the analyst track. People presumed this meant she was generally more comfortable with data than with more personable (or personal) things.

If she let herself, she'd retort that attitudes and feelings are just more data points, even if they're slightly harder to quantify.

"Agent Phaedrus." She enunciated the ancient Greek name carefully, insisting on getting the unusual orthography correct. "How may I help you?"

The man in the dark grey uniform of the Office of Psionic Operations sitting across from her easily folded one leg over his knee. "What, no questions on the curious nature of my official unofficial meeting, asking for your time independently whilst still arriving in uniform so everyone knows that you were talking to a charcoal?"

"I assumed that would be answered in the context of the meeting," she answered smoothly. "Asking would be inefficient."

"Ah, I shouldn't waste your time then. Here." He reached into the plastron of his double-breasted uniform, retrieved a thin portfolio, and handed the same over to the Advisor.

"'Project HAIZUM,'" Noelle read through the clear plastic cover before flipping through the document. She ran her fingers over the cellulose paper it was printed on. The changes in texture suggested thermal printing. "I see you take security seriously."

"Especially considering live-in visitors to the Apartments. Data retention is also a plus." The OPO agent pointed towards the locked filing cabinet sitting in one corner. "If you'd like the elevator pitch: we've got the concept for a machine which can send anyone anywhere anytime. Emphasis on any time. The maths check out and the technology is feasible, if expensive."

"'Thiotimoline.'" She raised an eyebrow. "You've got an entire section on this."

"It's the fantastically expensive secret ingredient. I'm sure Advisor Galic could tell you more about it."

She got to the drawings. "I infer that you want the Section to build this."

"I am doing my patrotic duty of informing the Section that a tool that could be most useful to its operations has been invented. Whether or not the Section constructs it is a matter for the Section and its inestimable Advisor."

She took no notice of the flattery, at least not visibly. "And not the Foot-to-Ass?"

"The Eff-tee-A would have limited use for something so expensive, so energy-intensive, and so useless as a weapon. It permits observation--no more or less."

"I thought the Office was supposed to be the experts in remote viewing." The Advisor allowed herself a slightly teasing smile as she read the abstract at the front of the document.

"A common misconception. Fracticality allows remote viewing in principle, but the results are so chaotic and, to be honest, personally dangerous that it's really not worthwhile. Additionally, remote viewing in anything other than real-time is simultaneously more dangerous and less consistent in terms of results. I think you'll find that HAIZUM addresses that concern."

Noelle paused, re-read the line at the end of the abstract that made her pause, then nodded slowly. "I think you've buried the lede, Agent."

Phaedrus nodded his curly black-haired head. "An intentional stylistic choice, for reasons that should be readily apparent. The somewhat blasphemous name should also appear in a new light."

"I can guess the origin, but mythology has never been my strong suit."

"You mean you're unaware of the archangel Gabriel's plane-hopping steed?"

"Is it the same one that Father Midwinter Bloodfeast rides across the galaxy?"

"No, Haizum is never depicted as a pony. Nor a dragon. Nor a robot. I've certainly never seen him depicted with fire wings or rockets."

"What is Father Midwinter Bloodfeast's pony's name?"

Agent Phaedrus raised a finger, paused, then furrowed his brows behind his OPO monocular display. "I... don't quite remember myself. 'Charlie?'"

"Chester." Sharudi nodded approvingly. "We have a code name, I think."

"Chester?" The agent folded his arms. "Honestly? A name with no style, no joie, no--"

"Makes it perfect, doesn't it?"

He couldn't argue that logic, even as he grumped in his seat. "At least it's not random," he muttered under his breath.
Idealism at All Costs! . . . Welcome to the Segments, the happiest libertarian socialist nationalists you'll ever meet.
People is people, whether they be the guy down the street, a scary and/or sexy space alien, a giant doom robot, or a candy-colored pony.
Caught you peekin!


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