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

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

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Postby Sunset » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:08 pm

SNN Nightly News with Tanya Zaldano...

"Continuing with today's big story, tonight I have with me two experts to offer their opinions. Thirty years ago, Major James Donaldson was supposedly killed in an accident when his ship hit an asteroid near Menhit;" A hologram of the gas giant, a swirling purple-gray ball with a trace ring of large asteroids and minor moons interspersed girding its turbulent middle, "And was destroyed. A fortunate accident because that same day the Major was due to present his report on the thermonuclear bombing of the planet Zeta Irregularis. Presented as an internal act, it was rapidly determined to have been initiated by the Major and he was unknowingly on his way to be arrested. Or not;" Another hologram, this time of an older man now dressed in the modern Defense Forces uniform but bearing an antique rank badge and escorted by two armed Marines.

"Major Donaldson was discovered living in hiding on the planet GEC-152885D by an Exploration Command survey team and taken into custody by the crew of the SDF-Ixutsangi under the command of Captain Aaron Turbell;" More holograms of the ship and its captain followed but these faded away quickly to leave the host standing in front of the original backdrop of Zeta Irregularis as seen from orbit. "The Secretary of Justice and the Secretary-General's office have both released matching statements indicating he will be tried but the question is; With what? To answer that question, and to give us some insight into the man himself, I have with me retired Judge Sammi Bethany and noted criminal psychologist Doctor Rudolf Smart..."

The set faded away and Tanya was now standing between her two guests, who were seated in comfortable-but-modern chairs that seemed to be on the balcony of a twisting spire of a city overlooking a verdant green jungle; Zeta Irregularis as seen from the upper levels of one of the manufacturing spires that had come to dominate the landscape. On either side of her, Judge Bethany - a stern-faced woman in her mid-60's who was wearing an essentially stereotypical black pantsuit - and Doctor Smart, who was perched on the edge of his chair in a button shirt and fitted vest, waited. Taking her own seat, Tanya first leaned over to the Judge while the Doctor shifted just that much closer, razor-focus his clear manner, "Judge, we'll start with you. What do you think the Major will be charged with, and how do you think the case will proceed?"

"Well, to start with, let me make this clear; We don't know how it would have turned out without his actions, but we do know his actions crafted the current workable situation. That is, I feel, the primary point on which both the prosecution and the defense will turn. As the prosecution, I would put forward the argument that he disobeyed direct orders, made an end run around his superiors and the laws of the Republic, and did happen to kill untold millions of people without anything but a gut feeling. As far as what they can charge him with, based on that scenario... Well, they could try for a lot; Insubordination, Dereliction of Duty, even Murder. But that last one especially will be difficult to prove. The inhabitants of Zeta Irregularis were not citizens of the Republic and thus not subject to its laws. While they were, as a matter of theory, accorded with the same rights as all sentient beings, they were also essentially guilty of violating those same rights. It is, legally, a wash. What I think they will charge him with, and what they can make stick, is Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Insubordination. He willfully acted outside of the military chain of command."

"And what would be the punishment?"

"That's what the Doso are not going to like, Ms. Zaldano," Bethany answered, her voice still hatchet-stern. "Because the offense did not come during wartime, or in an active warzone, he can be dishonorably discharged and stripped of all pay and benefits."

"Which would put him in a better position than he was in when the survey team found him," Doctor Smart pointed out. "Assuming he can find a job, he would be an everyday citizen again. I think that says something about Major Donaldson; He is clearly feeling remorse and has realized the enormity of his actions and sought to atone for them."

"There has been some suggestion that what he did could be made illegal..." Tanya suggested, turning back to the Judge.

"His actions, while abhorrent, must be viewed in the same frame of knowledge he possessed at the time. We cannot condemn him using our current knowledge because that would be a travesty of justice. And the Constitution is particularly clear on this; The law can be changed, but it cannot be changed retroactively."

"What about on the defense?"

"As his defense attorney I wouldn't argue innocence. I would argue mitigation. The Doso were not subject to our laws, nor was their world under our control."

"But murder is murder, isn't it? He ordered the attacks, he commissioned the crime..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:01 pm

Special Projects Development Laboratory, Landor City, Terra Incognito...

A drink and a celebration does not a successful design and complicated manufacturing process make...

"The lovely thing about building these things in a workshop the old, old fashioned way was when they didn't work you could take a hammer to them and start over," Amaril remarked, his voice the dry and near emotionless tone of his Elven ancestors despite the rather more lively notion he had presented.

"Elves practice percussive maintenance?"

This was the question of the engineer in charge of the project, a younger man of average Human origins. While the Director's husband had been tasked with keeping an eye on it, he intended to keep his hands off with the exception being honest suggestions of physical violence against recalcitrant hardware. He had his own projects and this one was, to one of honest appraisal, essentially simple.

Each of the buoys would consist of a measuring device, a station-keeping drive, a power plant, and a communications node. Wrapped up in a protective shell that looked like a particularly odd legume, they would be manufactured in the hundreds and deployed to the deep space hinterlands to watch eternal.

The devil was in the precision details.

Each buoy would need to be accurate in three of those four details to trillions of places. What they were measuring and where they were staying was positively enormous and to apply the term galactic was doing it fair justice. When the design was completed manufacturing would be parted out to a half-dozen different entities - the Kajali had volunteered quite a bit through their mysterious links with Dr. Leeson - but neither was the Republic alone in its desire for the system. The prototype TRIPWIRE field deployment would only cover Republic space while those further afield - such as the Kajali - would need their own platform network and this would require the same manufacturing capacity they were volunteering. In that regard the precision design was only half the matter; Manufacturing facilities capable of such precision were less and less common as the needed precision increased.

"It is an old family secret, but the War of the Ring was actually a warranty dispute," Amaril replied by way of answer. "Sauron refused to service the One Ring on-site and required it to be sent in. He was hoping it would be lost in transit."

"...you're shitting me."

"Probably. But I have, from time to time, taken a physical approach to an obtuse problem until it became acute thus rendering it not my problem. In this instance, I would suggest finding a proxy for the recalcitrant obstruction so as to not damage a system that is currently unique. Sleep on it, take a few days off. Did I ever tell you the story of how I met my wife?"

The engineer shook his head, "No? What does this have to do with that," he looked over to where the prototype for the buoy rose in the corner of the lab. All around it other technicians and junior engineers worked. In keeping with the developing multinational aspect, a good percentage of the team was now from as far afield as the Federated Segments.

"We were on a team-building retreat. A beautiful sun-drenched world that has, sadly, been yet to be rediscovered. According to her, she found some satisfaction in my appearance during a game of beach volleyball and decided at that point to pursue me. Something about abs that she could ski down..."

"Uh huh..."

"My point being; Take a few days off and take a fresh approach. You never know who or what might inspire you."

----

Mentoring duties aside, the Elf returned to his own work; Namely finalizing the design for a new shuttle that had been requested by the Exploration Command. To expand the range of a limited number of Explorers, they had latched onto the idea of a space-warp capable shuttlecraft. Thus the Transit-Class had been conceived and born. It would be slow - barely able to make one light year a day - but this would still extend the coverage of a single Explorer considerably. By replacing their Jade-Class shuttles with the faster-than-light capable craft, they could target a cluster of nearby systems and deploy teams to all of them. At an idealized five-to-one ratio this would speed the Command's assignment to completely explore the Coreward Fringe.

"...but why do they always have to make it so complicated?" Amaril complained to himself as he looked over the design.

Someone else had seen the design, and then someone else, and now someone further down the chain wanted a stealthy variant. With a crew complement - as well as space for - only five, it would be a perfect infiltration platform. Or at least someone thought so, and thus he was now trying to shoehorn all of the masking, dampening, and absorbing technologies he could into the hull. One saving grace was that very slow space-warp drive; Sacrificing size and speed, it was very efficient and thus required very little additional work to make 'stealthy' - he had added the air quotes himself. It would still show up on something as sensitive as TRIPWIRE was supposed to be, but it wouldn't show up as much, either.
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:15 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:39 pm

Ambrosia, Southern Anuke...

"A weather machine..." Stephen leaned back, crossed a bony leg over the other, and shook the newspaper once before folding it in half and bringing the article in question closer. "'Government Bankrupt,'" he read aloud, "'Forced to allocate entire budget to wild scheme to build a weather control machine!' I prefer 'Weather Dominator' myself, but I always had a fondness for grandeur. Let's see, 'Secretary Jin responsible for the greatest misuse of...' But nothing about how he's a grub from the waist down? If I were writing this copy, I'd have thrown in some kind of maggot reference..."

"That seems unnecessarily xenophobic," the voice of Agent Sixteen was audible, but muffled, while she herself was nowhere to be seen. While the Doctor relaxed from a long day in the lab on the veranda of his country estate, his head minion lay out on the flat roof above him. Masked against the gray-black shingles, the only plainly visible part of her body was the long bare slash down her back where her armored jumpsuit spread wide from shoulders to rounded bottom. A thin sheen of sweat covered her bronzed skin, evidence of the blazing sun that drifted high overhead. Snug up against her shoulder, a heavy sniper rifle barely moved as she looked out from her vantage point across the sprawling fields of Southern Anuke.

For the most part it was exactly what she was expecting to see; Amber waves of grain, orchards and vineyards in long rows, and the occasional greenhouse or drone depot where one or more of the little buzzing robots whined in or out on some errand or another. Occasionally, and less-so since she had taken up her post, a mound of dirt would move and a furry arrow-shaped head would emerge to push a spray of dirt out onto the surface until she dropped the crosshairs on it, breathed in, held it, and squeezed the trigger. Crimson blood had splashed across the crops five times so far but the escaped rats were rapidly catching on and if they even dared, they only just broke the surface to kick their pay dirt into the air.

"Only slightly;" the crack of a rifle shot interrupted him and he looked to his left in vain attempt to check her success. "The back-and-forth politics of the front page is a dirty business, my dear. Comparing your opponent to flora, fauna, mineral, or household appliance is a time-honored tradition."

"If you say, Doctor..."

"Justified? No, but when a nation and a people believe in the concept of free speech reprehensible statements are bound to occur in the course of punditry."

He didn't particularly believe in the concept himself. Intelligence was a bell curve and his intelligence was the finest point on the upper end. Allowing those with lesser intellects to share their opinions was only a waste but that was the world he lives in. At least, for now.

"What is there to politicize about a weather control machine? Such a thing only seems positive in nature."

"Because it is," he looked up at the ceiling above his head as though he could peer through to her recumbent form. "About Nature, that is. There is a minor minority that feel any modification to the worlds that we live on somehow spits in the face of Nature. Even though every world we live on has been terraformed to a lesser or larger extent and thus they would not enjoy the life they have if it weren't for the manifest perversions of nature that surround them. Never mind that as the products of the universe themselves - unless they are Elves - they are the defacto agents of change appointed by Nature."

"Why Elves?"

"Because they are not of this universe. Fascinating paper on just that very subject... Holographic Theory. But as I was saying, it is interesting that they strike so close to the heart of the matter for once. A weather control machine..."

His network of spies had fed him information that the Republic was now in possession of just such a singular device. And just such a single device. Rare and expensive, he had considered making plans to steal it but when informed that it had been invented by Dr. Kraus, he had abandoned them. His opinion of the German scientists' work was not very high.

"I've dabbled in such of course. If one wishes to boil one's enemies alive, that might be construed as weather of a type. Perhaps an innovative sort could use it to freeze them as well by removing the upper layers of a planet's atmosphere in order to take away the warming effects of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapped there. Neither is subtle, but sometimes it is the grand display of power that is necessary... My dear, speaking of displayed power, have you dealt with those rats yet?"

"Several, but I confess I am worried Doctor. They are rapidly adapting to our methods of extermination and seem to have an intelligence to their actions." She was watching one - or at least what she could see of one - do exactly that. It had dug out a trench and was now using that as a launching point for a volley of dirt that was slowly creating a berm between her and the concealed earthworks. Against the sniper rifle, it would prove effective as long as they kept their heads down, "Perhaps a rocket launcher..."

That would pose other problems. Hao AgriCorp, the owner of the field, had indicated no reluctance to her use of the conventional weapon for what they were informed was 'pest control' but explosives tended to do rather more damage to their surroundings than low-caliber high-velocity jacketed slugs. Eliminating what they had been told were off-world pets was one thing, quite another to dig up the field with a rocket barrage.

"Dispose of what you can," Stephen waved a hand dismissively, turning back to the newspaper. A strange smile spread across his face and he finished, "A minor nuisance at best, practice for you and the Minions at worst. There are more important tasks to undertake than the extermination of mere rats..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jul 02, 2015 3:04 pm

GEC-99791B 'Alice', The Coreward Fringe...

"Ah kan't bahlieve this is mah job!" The bunny's eyes widened in sudden shock as Meli drove a knife-edged hand between its ribs and elbow deep into the mottle-furred rabbit's chest. It gasped, lurched, and flew back as the Dwarf planted a heavy foot in its gut and shoved it off the impaling limb. "Ah mean, really... They pay us to do this, ahn get benefits too?"

"Amazing benefits, such as possibly dying sometime between when we wake up and when we go to bed?"

Praise pulled a heavy pistol out of a holster slung at the small of her back and pointed it, head-height, at the corner doorway that led into the room. In the slow-space of electronic acceleration, she could hear the thick bounce-step of four more guards coming down the hall at a dead run. The first came into the open, his head just turned to look into the room and begin the momentary assessment of what the source of the alarm was when she pulled the trigger. Even under acceleration the blast was instant as it tore the man's head and upper shoulders away to let the rest of the corpse continue on. She began to duck and the next, startled but still in motion, began to trip over the body as she drew the barrel down and fired again. Half went one way and half the other while the two behind back-pedaled furiously. Mental orders went through and the next shot punched a small neat hole through the wall, the next wall, and the hare beyond with just enough force that he might survive the punctured lung if anyone else survived to treat him.

The last was indistinct now. The sounds that would have betrayed his location were washed out by those of falling bodies as they continued to tumble down the hallway past the open door. Her feet shifted and she dived for the open space, body twisting as she counted on that half-instant of time before she hit the ground to line up the shot. He had turned, taken two or three steps, and he was young. So young. Barely more than a boy...

"We need to find another solution," The Pyrk pushed herself to her feet, the pistol drifting over to fire once, twice and finish the job. "Sowing chaos will only take us so far..."

"But it's fun!"

"One day fun is going to get you killed."

Meli shrugged, bending to rifle through the pockets of the dead men, "I died a long time ago. Declared dead twice. Formally dead a couple more times. I'm surprised I'm not some kind of clone by now but here I am. Not our job to think of solutions, is it?"

"Not our job not to," Praise pointed out, dropping the clip from her pistol and replacing it with a fresh magazine. It might seem wasteful to reload after only a few shots but those few shots might be what she needed to finish the fight. "Didn't someone tell us not to create our own army of murder bunnies? Well," she cocked her head to the side for a moment, listening to something just on the edge of hearing, "I think we might have to. If we don't take over, someone else will. Is that amoral enough for you? Do the dirty job before someone else comes through here and pacifies the planet with a nice orbital bombardment?"

"Not as much fun, either," the Dwarf agreed. "But how do you propose we do that?"

"We don't," Praise dropped the pistol and shot the squatting Dwarf in the back. "I do..."

There was a ripple of flowing skin and a rabbit identical to the dead one on the ground was kneeling next to her and pulling a black tube from a pouch on her leg. She wrapped it around the woman's neck with a 'click' and there was a terrible grinding sound as the head rolled away. Flipping the body over, she put two more rounds through the chest and then propped it up against the wall.

"Sorry, you're just the wrong size for this. But you'll make a good trophy," she plucked the head up by its hair and turned it to check the status lights. "Seventy-two hours to change the world. Sounds dramatic, doesn't it?"
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Postby Sunset » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:35 pm

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

Eyelids fluttered and for a long moment there was no recognition that she was awake or even where she was before Demi moved. Rolling her head to one side, she looked side-on at the form of a stomach and chest with a particularly familiar set of curves to them. Familiar but there was still another minute before she could put a name to them and yet another few more before she could push herself up on one elbow and instantly regret it.

“Ugh, what time is it?”

There were visual clues, of course; Light filtered through the curtains to dapple across the bedspread that she was laying across rather than under. That would mean that the sun was high enough in the sky to come in through the windows that faced south from their bedroom across the upper deck and out across the bay towards the lighthouse and the distant ocean beyond. Accounting for that would have taken more mental processing than she had to spare at the moment thanks to the steady drumbeat that seemed to interrupt every passing thought.

“The better question is what day is it?” Erika replied, shifting around to half-kneel next to her partner and put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you feeling okay?”

Just about to answer, Demi was interrupted by a knock at the door, a half-pause, and the unanswered entrance of the butler with a tray. Carefully placing it in front of her, Alex kept a firm hand on the edge to ensure that the glass of orange juice did not move an iota as Demi sluggishly flipped and sat up. One hand pressed to her forehead, she reached for the glass only to be intercepted by another which pressed a pair of pills into her fingers.

“These will help, Ma'am,” Alex promised as she gently guided the Latina's hand towards her mouth. “In a few minutes, with some fruit juice.”

“Mmm,” Demi swallowed and closed her eyes, accepting the glass without looking at it. “Thank you. What do you mean, what day is it? What day is it?”

"Sunday," both said nearly in unison, though there was a bit more of a playful exclamation mark at the end of the butler's response.

"Sunday," she paused, trying to remember why that was important. Then the lightning struck and she remembered it was important not because of some function that came between then and now but rather when then was. "Sunday?! What about Saturday? Or most of Friday?"

"Friday began with lunch with some old friends and your parents at a restaurant downtown. La Maison Rouge, if you're wondering. Then it was drinks at a bar with some old friends and, if the new contacts in your AR are to be believed, a good handful of new friends. Some of which are labeled 'very cute' and-or 'fuckable';" This last didn't seem to offend as Erika announced this very matter-of-factly.

"Ergh, how much did I have to drink? And why are you poking through my private contacts?" There were boundaries, after all.

"Not many, but you placed your order in R'Tenja and I was surprised that they even served Kloset Duranjal. It was a very nice bar though. And these weren't your private contacts. I fixed that though;" Which had required some hacking, but she wasn't going to mention that.

"Kloset Dur..." She tried to pronounce the word and found she could not due to a spongy object that seemed to have taken the place of her tongue. "Ah, Arenja."

She'd been trying to learn the language of the two-headed canine-humanoids and it was a particular challenge due to her lack of a second head and their unique split nervous system. But a few drinks had apparently made her bold enough to try.

"Which roughly translates as headache in a bottle."

"Why did you let me order that?!"

"Well, as it's my fault either way... I may have been taking the opportunity to field-test an Inebriation sub-routine. I can't get drunk myself so I wrote something to simulate it. I did warn you against drinking the Duranjal that fast though, but you were... Let's call it goaded into it. Something about keeping up with your old college roomie."

"...asshole."

Erika looked taken aback until Demi finished taking a swig of the orange juice and wiping her mouth with the back of her arm, "Sorry, not you. I didn't drink in college."
Last edited by Sunset on Fri Jul 03, 2015 9:22 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jul 04, 2015 3:46 pm

The Slayer's Fang, ArcB Orbit, The Arcanite System, The Western Expanse...

It was a rare gathering and one made all the more rare by the presence of an outsider among their ranks. Six of the largest ships - the exceptionally rare and titanic WorldShips - in the Therian Home Fleet cruised in a hexagon formation around the green-speckled planet below with the assembled guardian fleets spread out all around them. In the lead, and with the singular outsider trailing behind, was the enormous Slayer's Fang. Curved to resemble a scything claw, it was the largest ship present and thus was playing due host to the gathering of the leadership of those who called themselves the Kinslayer Clans. At the very apex of the ship, in the vast chamber known as the Heart of the Fang, the Master of each Clan had come to pay their respects to the other and to set their hands to a singular question; The fate of their people.

"...and I honor you, Master of the Bloody Harvest," the Master of the Slayer's Fang ended in turn. Each of the clan leaders was known the same as the WorldShip they commanded and each bore about them some of the character of that ship and of that Clan. The Master of the Slayer's Fang was small, for a Therian, but to take his Clan's aspect he was slim and muscular with a predatory build and stance. Two straight daggers, heavy and made to pierce even the thickest hide, hung across his chest and at his waist were pistols and other short-range weapons of the killer's trade. This was practically mirrored in the Master of the Bloody Harvest; She was arrayed as a sniper with a large rifle adorned with hide wrappings and the trappings of a dozen individual kills hanging from stock and fore-grip.

With that the straightforward ceremony welcoming the other Masters aboard ended and he turned to the outsiders, "And we welcome you, Commander Timmons."

The welcome clearly was not universal, but it was tolerated. Two of the lesser Masters - the hulking Shattered Path and the shadowed Betrayer's Hand - did not seem particularly pleased that those not of the Kinslayer Clans were present but neither said anything with the Master of the Shattered Path looking to one side rather than meeting the Commander's eyes and the Master of the Seeking Blade half-catching them before placing a meaningful hand on the curved sword at his waist.

"And I thank you, Master of the Slayer's Fang and Great Leader of the Kinslayer Clans," Timmons replied, the big man sticking to the formal and protective response. There were no bows; For the tailed reptilians, they would be an awkward gesture that would unbalance them before a potential foe.

A nod and the Master of the Slayer's Fang gestured to a seat, which Timmons took before the rest moved to their own chairs on the high dais. In the middle was a throne unoccupied, the symbol of their missing heritage and the Primarch who would take it. Where the others were simple affairs, each the same solid metal with a keyhole back where the long tail could easily rest, the throne was a great affair with two great serrated talons forming the split back and intricate bone-work inlays fashioned deep into the black-iron of the frame. Thick hides lay over the wide arms and seat and to one side sat the skull of some great beast as an easy footrest.

"It is a rare occasion that finds the Kinslayer Clans gathered together and a singular question that has caused that gathering. We have faced this quandary for many years and it is tales of your ability that have given us hope that the question may be answered," the Master of the Seeking Blade began, sitting forward in her chair and fixing Timmons with her stare.

"And it is only our great friendship and long alliance with the people of Sunset that has even allowed us to consider it further," the Master of the Bloody Harvest continued. "To entrust outsiders, even the most honored, with such a quest has taken many days of heated discussion and further a Great Call among the Clans themselves to allow it."

"I am honored."

"And more important willing. It is no small task we would assign to you." The Master of the Reaping Talon looked to his fellows. Most nodded agreement though the same two only continued their unenthusiastic gaze. "And one impossible to ourselves, for we ask you to determine the fate of our people."

"Impossible because if any of us were to seek the answer we would die before the question was complete. The doom of the Kinslayer is ours now and it is not a burden we dread to bare but instead one taken willingly."

"Perhaps it would be best if we told you the story of the Clans departure from our people," the Master of the Bloody Harvest suggested in answer to that of the Scything Claw. "It will be a rare telling," she warned. "Only a very few in the history of the Clans have heard even a small portion of it and it is only the importance of your task that allows it to be considered. Many assume it to be secret but it is not. We are a people of heritage and honor and to be placed with the role of preserving that is a great honor beyond that which we bestow on you."

"I understand..."

"Do you?" She laughed, "I do not think you truly do. Perhaps when the tale is finished you will reconsider your answer..."

She sat back and to the surprise of the Commander, it was the Master of the Seeking Blade who stood and stepped up to place a talon-ed foot on the skull and adopt a pose of authority.

"Long before your Republic was established, our people were a Great People. One that held many worlds under our blades, protected from those who would harm and producing for us that which we could not and that which we need to serve them. For that is the nature of the Therian people; Warriors, Guardians, and Protectors. It is only those of us who are called Kinslayers who must provide these things for ourselves and this through the WorldShips that serve as an enduring symbol of our heritage."

"For many hundreds of years we continued and preserved our honor and the culture of service that had drawn many to gratefully take our mantle over their own. The many Masters of the Clans served the Primarch and the people well, ruling with temperance, holding their hand away only to promote justice and peace. But it would be from their number that the Betrayer would arise. She was one considered mighty among us, a warrior bold and without peer on the field and a mother of many clutches. Where it came from, we do not know, but her spirit changed and within a night she took challenge to the Primarch. Worse still, she laid claw on her kin, killing many in her desire to supplant him. It has long been forbidden to us; Rites and rituals must be observed and even the worst of crimes could only be punished by exile. But some Clans rallied to her cause, the most willful laying aside their honor to slay their Master and toss their lot in with the Betrayer."

"But the hand of the Primarch was stayed. It has always been the worst dishonor for the Throne to war against itself. It has always been the responsibility of the Masters of the Clans to bring their disputes before the Primarch but it was against the Primarch that the Betrayer strode. Worse, she attacked the worlds and the people of those we protect. Not greater Betrayal could be conceived but she went beyond; Weapons terrible were unleashed on those planets that stood with the Primarch. Many died and he yet stayed his hand, such was his sense of honor."

"And so it fell to us to consider the unthinkable; To slay our kin willingly, to lay blade against blade and drive them into the grave and thus we did. We six Clans willingly took on the mantle of Kinslayer and we put the Betrayer to the dagger and spilt out her blood on the ground she'd despoiled. Willingly we took up the mantle of Kinslayer and went into exile to preserve that which we hold dearest."

"And it is that preservation which we ask you to confirm," the Master of the Slayer's Fang said as the previous returned to his place, "For we cannot. Our exile is eternal and the only answer we will receive is death."

"And this will not answer the question for we will not know whether that which created the Betrayer has returned. This we ask you to discover; Find our people and reveal their fate then return. Allow us to take solace in our exile!"
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 05, 2015 4:21 am

Penthouse Suite, Outpost Sixty-Nine, Chains of Jade, The Schuman System...

"This stuff is officially going to cost me ten kilos," Alwyra declared as she looked down at the annoying numbers floating just above her cute little toes. "And I'm not sure that it's such a bad thing."

She turned to look in the bathroom mirror. Her thin body, fueled by the engineered high metabolism common to the Neko sub-species, had been dealt a brutal blow by the suggestion of Supervisor Doyle that Syn might pair perfectly with various otherworldly foods. Fruits and vegetables, as well as mushroom-analogs, were the easiest to procure but the Amirah was wealthy enough to abuse it and shortly a shipment of various meats and other more exotic and unfortunately calorie-heavily delights had arrived. This had led to a bit more cushion than she liked and her profile was just a bit more hourglass than it had been.

"I like it," Kedo declared as he slid past to toss a towel over the glass wall of the shower. It hissed on and he stripped bare to step under the head. "But you might want to watch your portions. Unless you want to leave the taste-testing to your employees."

"I know," she sighed, and it was only going to get worse. She'd been talking to Lieutenant du Clairmond and he'd made the suggestion of augmenting their food selection with a little liquor. Being something of an expert on the subject he'd volunteered to send her some of his personal best with an agreement to split future profits.

And that would require taste-testing.

"I'm going to buy a personal trainer," she decided, swiping away at the air as she left a note for herself.

"Not required;" the door to the shower half-opened and he left it that way as he went back to his cleansing ritual. "And I'm not sure you'll be able to find one who will live at my place, even if you buy them."

"I was thinking a robot," she countered. Kedo's house under the constant snows of Kayv was the perfect retreat for about three months but then she and presumably any mortal needed to escape the cold and driving winds for someplace warm and not just the artificial warmth of virtual worlds. "The four of us is just about perfect."

"Three."

"Pretty sure it's four," she stepped into the shower behind him and grabbed a bath sponge to begin scrubbing his firmly muscled back. "Grr, how can you still look like this? Especially with how much we've eaten?"

"An ancient secret taught to me by a Welsh monk."

"The hell are the Welsh?"

The Neko laughed and turned back to the shower, putting his face right into the stream, swinging it back and forth as he scrubbed it with open hands, "I have no idea. The real answer is about two hundred crunches every morning while you're sleeping in. But yes, three. Amao is applying to the Young Explorer program and if he doesn't get in, he's going to apply to the Academy before the next term."

Alwyra paused. She'd almost asked, 'Well, he didn't ask me!' but then she wasn't his mother, either. "You're alright with this?" she said instead.

"He didn't ask," he answered, itself an explanation. While his daughter was often indolent, Amao was nearly his father; Ruggedly independent and a strong thinker who knew what he wanted. "He wants to do it, and that's enough."
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Jul 05, 2015 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 05, 2015 6:42 pm

SDF-Heart of Gold, GEC-S4251, Alpha/Gamma Border Region...

"First time out with a new ship under our feet and we get an odd one, eh Captain?"

"That it is," Waretram agreed, a trace of a smile crossing his thick lips. The Troll liked the man, though Commander Daynwin wasn't strictly a man. A ugly robot in the simplest expression, the AI walked the corridors in an asymmetrical and brutal chassis that a mother wouldn't have built, let alone love. One arm was a heavy manipulator that looked as though it could tear through a bulkhead while the other wasn't; Two appendages sprouted from one shoulder with the first being a combination of heavy particle beam rifle, projectile launcher, and combat sensor cluster which then orbited the second snake-like tentacle that split near the tip into five finger-like digits. Both legs were the same, at least, but the head was a single off-center red monocle and a row of sensors down what might have been a thick neck on a body builder - or a Troll. But his personality was jovial and while he took his job seriously, he didn't seem to take anything as more than what it was.

It was a good way to start off. As the Commander had mentioned, Captain Waretram had a new ship under his feet and a new assignment to test her against. An Element-Class Science Vessel, she wasn't the far-ranging Explorer that the Niagara had been but instead a 'go here and do science' class of starship that made it perfect for doing exactly what they were going to be doing. Smaller than his last command, it might have been a bit of a step back but he felt at home aboard her and she was already starting to feel like home for the rest of the crew as well. It was a new crew, too. Lieutenant Huang was now Lieutenant Commander, Lieutenant Collins had retired as soon as the promotion to Senior Lieutenant had come through... Even though they hadn't lost a tremendous number when the Explorer had been ambushed and destroyed, his old crew was now effectively gone.

Scattered to the winds.

A new ship, a new crew, and a new discovery. It all made sense on a cosmic level but something on a cosmic level was just what they were there to understand and Captain Waretram turned from his executive officer to the main display and the cluster of stations looking towards it and the large holotank that sat in the center. Right in the middle, at the very center of the screen, was something that reasonably shouldn't have been according to the most basic theories of physics but, by going a lot deeper, had to. But the existence of the singularity and understanding it were two different things and now it was time to try to understand it.

"Lieutenant," he looked to the slim blood-red Therian sitting at the Science and Sensor Console, "Give us the run-down. What do we have?"

"One of the rarest and most interesting sights in the galaxy, Captain," Taupi began, populating the holosphere with an image of the singularity in the middle and a host of numbers streaming out in a radius along with colored markings. "A white hole. The inverse of a black hole, it instead throws out new matter in the form of various particles in a constant stream. But they are only a theoretical object..."

"But here we are..."

"Right, Captain. But here we are." The Officer began to list off various metrics; Mass, charge, angular momentum with the numbers around the object changing to formula as he went through them one by one. "Which, if Schwarzschild was right, means that this one should be even less than theoretical. It is a young white hole and there should be no such monster. Either they exist from the beginning of the universe or they are the result of a time-reversed black hole. Astrological surveys of this region going back nearly twenty-five thousand years;" Which was approximately how far the region was from Sol, "Show no black hole in the area and not really anything at all. We did some time-dilated visual observation on the way in..."

The main screen changed to show a recording of the area, as taken through the Heart of Gold's telescopes, as they approached over a distance of a few thousand light years. It was an advantage to the near-space travel of the space-warp drive; They could literally re-wind and watch what was happening over by jumping ahead of the light that had been reflected by the event and zooming through it at fast-forward speed. On the screen - the entire forward wall of the bridge - there was nothing but empty space until, about one hundred and twenty years ago by the counter at the bottom, there it was. A brilliant jet of white that burst out of seeming nothing to begin spewing what would eventually become a giant nebula across a formerly empty region of space.

"...and thus a star is born," Waretram sat forward and sunk his chin into his palm. "Fascinating."

"Give it enough time," Daynwin added, "And you'd have exactly that. Enough matter, enough gravity - she's got mass, after all - and add a heaping helping of pressure and you have a star. A whole lot of them, if she keeps pumping out matter like she's doing."

"But where did it come from?" That was the first question, with the second question being, "And why? There have been particle fountains discovered before, but they have always been a lot smaller. An oddity of quantum mechanics. Just enough new stuff in the universe to blow your nose. This isn't that."

And that was what the Heart of Gold was there to figure out.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:39 pm

SDF-Ixutsangi, En Route to the Primarchy, Alpha Quadrant...

"How's the new head, Doctor Phil," Deania asked as she breezed through the archway that led into the open space of the workshop laboratory from the corridor outside. It wasn't a very busy space at the moment - they were less than a day out from their last stop and the source of the Seeker's comment - and only the Solonic kept up his lonely watch, reading on a floating display as he perched on a stool.

"My head is in an interesting place now," he replied, closing the hologram with a snap. "I was not an introspective person before the Phoenixi procedure but now I find myself more-so; I am the most available example for study into the long-term results. Thus I now find myself examining my own person which is a method that cannot be considered very scientific since I may change the results I give myself through my attempts to observe them. As confusing as that sounds."

He was also now truly Philus, in addition to being a recipient of the mind-altering procedure. Previously he, or what had been presented as he, had been a copy of the static persona transferred to and stored in one of the many cores on Solonic. The memories generated by the sub-routine had been sent home to be recorded but not absorbed; No matter the revelation his personality had remained unchanged. With the personality matrix now implanted in the chest of a newly cloned body he could grow and experience a life he had been locked away from for over a thousand years.

"I should have sexual intercourse."

"It has been a while, hasn't it?" Deania smirked but she found him looking her over, "Hey now..."

"Just appraisal, but there lies a question for the sociologists. By the terms of the existence of my consciousness as a single continuity, I am forty-two times your senior but by the measure of biology my body is now less than a week old. But yet while I would thus be considered experienced - in not just the sexual arts," he continued with a straight face, "But in many areas, I did not receive the benefit of these until now. I am, as it were, a old man with a young man's body and the mental pliability of a child. Doubtless that will fade as the drugs that allowed this body," he looked down to his new form, "To rapidly grow are flushed out but that presents an unprecedented opportunity for personal growth. The link between mind and body may be growing more tenuous as technology advances but it is still present."

"Ladies Night is Thursday."

"Then I shall search my closet for my... What is the old Earth garment called? I saw it referenced in passing," The Solonic began to flick through a holographic database but the Duab'Akii was faster; "Leisure suit!"

"I believe that was it, but no. While physical pleasure is enjoyable, this time may be better served with re-learning how to get to that point. Solonic culture placed a high value on ritual and deliberate match-making. There were few couplings that were not arranged in some way, even if by friends for the purposes of casual sex. Aboard this ship, and across the Republic which I now consider myself a citizen of, those specific forms are not observed but there does seem to be a rhyme and reason to the process of making a casual acquaintance."

"Ladies Night, and," she clapped him on the shoulder, "I'll even be your wingman."

"But you are female... And it no longer matters, does it? Another change; Gender roles were very strictly observed in my old culture. It will be interesting to observe the changes that take place in Solonic culture over the next few years. While my transition, as a man of science and interest in the world around me, would seem to be an easy one it may not be so for all of us."

"You could say," Deania left his side and half-slipped out the door before pausing, "That they'll have trouble... Coming out of their shell?"
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:18 am

SDF-Heart of Gold, GEC-S4251, Alpha/Gamma Border Region...

"Actually, I've already got a few ideas," Doctor Tithral interrupted, cutting in before Captain Waretram could finish his introductory question. The Bajoni was sitting at his desk with a hologram in miniature of the seemingly enormous singularity outside spinning away on the other side from his high-backed chair. "Courtesy of a generous colleague."

He gestured to a picture of himself and several others standing up at the corner of his desk, some in the military uniforms of an unfamiliar nation and others wearing Marine field dress. The scientist was standing next to an extremely generously endowed woman with blonde hair and all were covered in dirt and dust and clustered in front of a dark tunnel entrance that looked like it had been carved out by bullets.

"Saryan is working on something called TRIPWIRE. Very classified, very interesting;" Captain Waretram nodded; Both men had the security clearance to talk about it but the Troll had only seen the acronym in passing. "Which is a method and system for detecting faster-than-light traffic through Republic space. Revolutionary for the Defense Force, but perhaps something we can use as well. As you know, it is apparently impossible to measure some aspects of the white hole directly. Like a black hole absorbs everything that crosses the event horizon, a white hole has an inverted event horizon; Anything that comes too close is pushed away. But not everything. By setting up our own small-scale TRIPWIRE array, we can measure the effects of the singularity on local space very accurately over a given length of time."

"Without touching it."

"Without touching it," Tithral confirmed as the Troll leaned back against the wall, his thick arms crossed across his chest in contemplation.

"How long?"

"Depends on the efficiency of our untested engineering department. I've already made subtle inquiries as to the availability of certain components and, if they demonstrate sufficient curiosity, they may already have something in the planning stages."

The Bajoni manipulated the controls of his desk and a small constellation of stars appeared around the Singularity.

"This is what I'd be aiming for," he pointed to the points, "Though ambitious. The more data points, the more accurate our models will be. The sensors on the Heart of Gold can do some of this - all of it, as an individual data line - but not with this level of accuracy."

"Heh, and all of this to..." Waretram paused. Something about the scene had suddenly reminded him of a period of high traffic in the skies above Neo-Vancouver. Aerial travel had nearly eliminated the concept of a traffic jam but not completely. With the network of buoys in place and the long jet of ejected matter shooting right up the middle, the scene was there but so was something else.

"...Skip some heavy traffic."

"What?"

"Nothing, it's just that this reminded me of home. Night time traffic. But there's something else too. Some kind of weird deja vu but I can't quite put my finger on why. Or what."

"Odd," though the way Doctor Tithral cocked his head sideways made the Captain think that he might be talking about rather than agreeing with. "Well, I was considering asking Doctor Brilla to consult on this as she is something of an expert in both areas and I believe her side of the TRIPWIRE project is nearly done. It would also be nice to see my colleague again."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:53 pm

SDF-Ojeni, Outside the Capuchin System, The Delta Quadrant...

The signs of a dying civilization...

Wherever the little mouse-brown IntelRat looked there were the signs of decay. Paneling hung loose from the bulkheads and where bundles of wire and conduit poked through some of it had clearly been cut, stripped, and salvaged for some other purpose. The few lights that illuminated the cluttered spaces were either improvised, intermittent, or harshly bright from a lack of shrouding. Grease and dirt were everywhere and there was nothing that had the shine of newness. That wasn't to say there wasn't life or growth but even here there were the signs of a slow downward spiral; Children large and small ran fallow with some clearly living without guardians. Small shelters made out of whatever had lain at hand had been built into corners and between stacks of old cargo containers and these served as the private places for those who found themselves without family.

"...outsiders/strangers..."

Slipping past the maintenance crew in the hangar, the various mobile assets had found themselves deep inside but they were still limited in their translation to what was discussed by the radiopathic aliens aboard the re-captured raider. Here and there a tidbit of modulation became speech but often this was a best guess rather than a firm commitment. What was clear, to those back on board the Ojeni, was that something had to be done...

----

"But what?" Kami sat on the briefing room table, idly twisting her finger through the virtual hallways that were being drawn out as the rodents explored. People walked as well, appearing and then disappearing as they passed in and out of the rat's vision. "How many of them could be in there?"

There were at least twelve of the half-cobbled ships and ships needed crews and crews needed places to sleep and maintenance and all of those other things that added up to an unknown number living within the walls of a single eggshell piece that could be measured in kilometers. Presuming that was the only outpost left, that alone meant a population from the hundreds to the hundreds of thousands. If it were hundreds, the Ojeni could house them all for a week. A few hundred thousand, she could only bring the chaos of struggle. Even that was ignoring the chance that the population would want to leave; They had blindly attacked the starship when it had arrived and while that might be explained away by the fact that the Republic explorers hadn't considered trying to communicate radiopathically...

"Oh, that sucks..." Realization had dawned and she turned to the Eye, "Uh, what frequencies are they talking on? Could we have been shouting at them when we tried to contact their ship when it attacked?"

"Ouch, yep. Could have," he listed off the frequency ranges and compared them to a conjured hologram of basic 'try these' communication methods that the Communications system would have ran through.

"Great. Now we look like assholes."

Commander Sloan, who had been playing the straight man at the table and sitting attentively despite the casual gathering, sat forward and clasped her hands on the table, "The way I see it, we've got a few broad options. Two, really. Do it ourselves, or go get help. I'd suggest we go get help. Head back to Liu Xia and round up whatever willing hands we can find. That will give us time for our agents here to work as well. Give us a better idea what we're dealing with."

"It would be a hellova lot easier if we could talk to them," Kami sighed. "But let's do both. Eye, since this is mostly a technical problem, see what you can do about getting us in a position to talk to them. I'll call ahead, warn the outpost that we're coming back, but an in-person showing will give some substance to our appeal."

"I'll set up a relay here," the Skri nodded, his hammock-torso rocking forward in imitation, "And yeah. Shouldn't be that hard to get things set up to reverse the flow. Just do some rat-wiring," he chuckled at the pun.

"We should also get the nursery ready to off-load;" The trade system was only a day and a half away, at the Explorer's maximum acceleration, "We don't need kids on board and putting some sprouts out there will help our case," Sloan mused.

"Oh, I see what you did there. Lesse... Who do we talk to? I guess I'll handle that part," the Captain decided, sliding down off the table and heading for the door and the bridge beyond. "We're going to be cutting things to the wire here though. We need to make all the puzzle pieces fit. If they don't want to leave, if they won't let us help. It's a lot of 'ifs' so let's make them not iffy."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jul 09, 2015 4:34 pm

GEC-99791B 'Alice', The Coreward Fringe...

There was little time to think and even less to act; A quick mental run-through of the not-plan in her head and Praise was looking around the room. There were bodies everywhere and soon enough there would be more hopping mad warriors coming down that hallway. The bodies were the first big problem and if she was to imitate their fallen leader for longer than a couple minutes she'd need to dispose of them. Whitey Pete provided that answer with a grenade snatched from one of Meli's now-useless collection. That set a merry blaze burning and she retreated from the building as smoke started to billow and flames flickered in the hallway.

Right into the arms of her reinforcements.

More soldiers had arrived; A guard patrol that they had slipped past on their way to their erstwhile objective. Now that their - her - objective had changed they had changed as well. Instead of a potential foe they were the foundation or at least they would be if she could pull the next part off, 'Here goes nothing...'

Taking Meli's head, she held it high by a scruff of her short hair and stepped forward, the slowly-kindling building behind her providing a suitable dramatic backdrop, "Know the face of our enemy! Know the face of the off-worlder and those who come to kill us! This one came to take my life and I have taken hers!"

It was bad - she knew that - but just maybe bad was good. Who would expect the leader of a bunch of vicious killer space rabbits to give an idealized inspirational speech? The patrol seemed to be buying it at least, and if she could keep them on her side the rest of the clan might fall into line. She could see them too, just over the shoulders of the motley dressed warriors with their rugged rifles and rags tying their long ears down. High-wheeled vehicles come to investigate the rising smoke from the center of their widely-dispersed encampment.

"Now I know their name;" she left that part out though, as the only thing that came to mind was Hue-something and that sounded kinda fake, "And they will know ours. They hunt us... Now let us hunt them!"

She raised her stolen rifle high and the warriors didn't hesitate. Their own cries filled the sky and as more arrived they kept up the contagious chanting as she gingerly sought her way forward. They had pressed close now, eager faces with a disturbing blood lust in their eyes, and she was certain only the smell of smoke and flame was keeping them from sniffing out her unworldly nature.

"Seek out our brothers in arms! To crush a mountain, we must become a mighty hammer! A clan of clans! We will come together, crush them, and take what is theirs! A clan of clans, and we will be at its head! You and I, brothers!"

Seventy-two hours...

She looked up at the head. She'd considered putting it on display but suddenly that time frame to get Meli back looked a lot less likely. There was just too much to do, if she could even pull it off.

'Dumbest idea ever...'

Still there wasn't anything she could do but run with it. If an opportunity to get the Dwarf back to Ivy presented itself, she'd take it. But now she was in the thick of it and it might end up being her head in someone else's furry clutches if she messed up.

'Definitely...'
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Postby Sunset » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:55 pm

SDF-Wilson, GEC-99791B 'Alice', The Coreward Fringe...

"What do you mean, gone rogue?" Lt. Commander Huang laughed and threw up her hands in mock despair. "Haven't they been watching the news? This throws my entire plan out the window!"

She flicked a finger and the wall lit up with a flattened presentation of a current news program. In the weird mirror-on-mirror world, the news anchor and commentators were watching their own holographic display that showed a man, neatly shaved and wearing the uniform of a Defense Force officer, sitting behind a table with a line of similarly dressed officers at the table opposite.

"The Donaldson trial. Pre-trial - they're deciding what to try him with - but we don't need another one of those."

"No, we don't," Ivy agreed, though aboard the warship she was only known as Agent. "I'm not sure what's going on but I'm working on pulling them in. Field operatives have a wide degree of latitude..."

But it didn't sound convincing to any of them. There was nearly a minute of silence and looking around the table wondering whether anything else should be said.

It was Huang who broke the audible staring contest, "Alright! Well, you've got that handled, right? So I've got a plan and its a better plan that doesn't end up with us on the evening news."

"Oh?" The Agent crossed her arms and rocked back on one heel.

She'd been warned about the newly-minted Lt. Commander but this was her first time dealing directly with the woman who was, at a glance, half her age and an eighth her experience. Not that that experience was doing her a hell of a lot of good at the moment. The two missing field agents were a potential problem but not one she didn't feel she couldn't solve. Huang, on the other hand, was in someone else's chain of command and that made any problems she caused a lot harder to deal with and that meant Ivy was expecting her plan to immediately blow up in her face.

Her own face. It never seemed to quite work out the opposite way.

"What's your plan?"

"In an amazing turn of events, I am going to advocate the long view! No planetary bombardment, no orbital Marine drops! No murderous, mysterious government assassins from an unspecified agency doing... You can't tell me what they are doing, can you?"

Ivy shook her head, though the truth was that at the moment or for the next few hours she wouldn't know either.

"Right! So, this is gonna sound weird coming from me but the sociologists have found a few bunny burrows;" there were choked laughs at this, "That are interested in something a bit more progressive than the occasional intermittent murderous rampage. It's called... And you're gonna love this, unless you're the Space Pope... Birth control! That's right, we're gonna give the little fuckers condoms and the pill! Family planning! Sure, we'll toss in some basic industrial assistance, make sure their neighbors don't overrun them, but in thirty years when they are an industrial powerhouse full of überhasen and my face isn't plastered all over the evening news... Actually," Janice stopped and thought about it a second, "I kinda want my face on the evening news. For being some kind of sexy badass. But not for starting an interstellar race war that ends with me standing on top of a enormous burning pyre of dead rabbits in a ripped tank top. Cause," she looked down at her chest and back up to the gathered officers, who had sub-consciously followed her eyes, "These girls are gonna sag in thirty years if my mother has anything to say about it. Gotta plan these things when you're young!"
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jul 11, 2015 12:18 am

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

The sky was different here.

Demi looked up at it from where she lay wrapped in the embrace of a stripped hammock that slowly swung in the light breeze of a cool summer evening and remembered the stories written about it by those who had come before her. The founders and forebears of the Republic who had looked up to the stars with an utter and unbounded desire to go there and to see them. It was a beautiful sky to see; A slow scattering of puffy white drifted across blue turning to deepest midnight with the brilliant pinpricks of stars here and there. Here, away from the city and the reflected pollution of the lights that lit its still-busy streetscape she could see perfectly all the way to the heavens.

But the sky was still different here.

Here and there brighter lights moved. Pillars of burning orange flame from the roaring inferno drives of robotic freighters destined to deliver their vast cargo of manufactured goods all across the system. The cool white of a passenger liner headed for the lensing shadow of the transit gate and worlds beyond. An acid blue streak of a starship crewed by the descendants of those first souls who dared to dream and who now dared to do. It was the same sky but it was now their sky.

Their sky to go see and go do.

But what lay beyond that sky to go see and go do? Just as those early, earliest founders had laid the stones on which she could now go and had gone and did those things which they could only imagine, she was now doing the same for those that would come after her. What stars would they look up to the sky and see?

The evening breeze slowly rocked the hammock and she turned from the lingering night to the world around her. All around the ring of the bay houses still glowed with light and inside each of them stories were starting, reaching their second act, or gently ending. Dreams and endings of love and desire, power and greed, lust and even need. Stories that might end up there, among the stars or on a world far from this one in a million, billion different ways. Each one unique to its owner but shared across all by the commonality of life.

Shifting from star to sea to self, she thought about her own decisions and her own dreams. Did they lay among the stars or somewhere else? The constant touch of a presence she had grown to love? The promise of a life with that strange and wonderful and erotic and delightful and loving person always there? She ran raised fingers down her chest, between the two mounds of her breasts, laid the hand on her stomach, and curled the cloth between them.

Or was there something else?

Something to put between them that would bond them as tight as forever? That which had brought people together since stories had been told and histories laid out as the many-runged ladder of generation after generation. Two became one but not through the intimate they shared but through the life they brought to another. The dreams they brought into the world. The skies they set out to be explored and looked up at on wonder and desire.

Soft warmth spread under her hand now and she lifted it to look at the place where it had laid. In months it could be round and full, filled with new desires and dreams and places to go and see and do. Would it? Should it? It had always been a small miracle and perhaps, she decided as her eyes returned to the heavens to behold the arrival of a new and expected and beloved star, that was the way it would be.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:05 am

Defense Force Academy Seven, Northern Ares, The Ares System...

The courtroom was a roomy affair; A re-purposed lecture hall with a wide arc of stadium seats that flowed down to an open walkway before rising again to a raised platform and an enormous window that looked out into the central courtyard. An enormous sunburst with surrounding decoration and the motto of the Defense Force worked into it made an appropriate backdrop for the events unfolding before it. A row of three desks, one for each of the tribunal officers, was positioned in front of it with a fourth right at the crux and just at the edge of the two-step platform. Additional flags hung from poles set in their stands to each side to mark the various divisions of the Republic military services. The stage was brightly lit; Natural light from outside augmented by hidden sources that made it the centerpiece while the rest of the room remained dim.

Every chair was filled; The audience had filled in first with representatives from all over the Republic having found their way to the Academy. More - who knew how many millions - were watching remotely as well, their seat on the couch just as real as a seat in the front row. Then had come the judges in their crisp white dress uniforms. Foremost and first was Grand Admiral Glafka, who took her place behind the center desk to wait for Admiral Tichenor and Admiral Villanova to join her before all three sat together. The presence of Villanova caused a bit of a stir in the crowd and heads turned to discuss the ex-President's presence with their neighbor before quieting down as the sharp rap of a gavel fell across the chamber. Tradition held that in a case of such magnitude, the highest officer on the tribunal would be from the accused own service while the other two, of lesser rank, would be from two others but Villanova was of a special circumstance due to his former position. Once, long ago, he had placed the rank now worn by Grand Admiral Glafka on her own sleeve.

The last to enter the chamber was the accused, called forth by the sound of the mallet on the block. From a sunken doorway at the bottom of the audience seating he emerged alone. He too was dressed in the same formal white with a small array of bars across his breast to indicate his years of service and ranks achieved. Straight-backed and deliberate, he crossed the short space to mount the steps and stand beside his chair while two Marines in power armor stepped through behind him and stood to either side of the door. They were the only two visible armed in the room and they now couched their rifles and stood at sharp attention with their cyclopian helmets fixed dead ahead.

Once again, the unseen gavel fell and the Grand Admiral spoke, "The court martial of Major James Winston Donaldson will now come to order with officers Glafka, Tichenor, and Villanova presiding. As per agreement, this tribunal is called to issue a finding of facts and a verdict. Is the accused present?"

"I am, Ma'am," Donaldson's voice was clear, if momentarily dull.

"State your name and rank for the record."

"James Winston Donaldson, Major, Sunset Defense Force."

"Major," she nodded, "You may sit." As soon as he had she continued, "Major Donaldson, you stand accused by this court martial of misappropriate and misuse of government resources, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, insubordination, and conspiracy to commit mass murder. How do you plead?"

There was no pause, "Guilty, Ma'am."

"Let it be noted that the accused has entered a guilty plea. Major Donaldson, do you affirm that you then enter this plea in sound health and having had no coercion or undue influence from any source other than your own desire, taking full understanding of the particulars involved with regards to the potential punishment, especially given the severity of the crimes of which you stand accused?"

"I do."

It was a simple answer but the low buzz of conversation filled the courtroom and the Grand Admiral was content to let it continue for nearly a minute before a single rap called the room to silence.

"Having reviewed the evidence, the enormity and certainty of the crimes of which you admit to is damning. Your plea, straightforward entered, seems to be the only mitigating point put forward and a credit to your honor as an officer. Is there any other circumstance or evidence which you might offer which would absolve you in any part of these criminal acts?"

"No, Ma'am."

"Then again, let it be recorded that the accused, Major James Winston Donaldson, has entered of his own free will a plea of guilty to the crimes of which he is accused. With that plea in hand, how do the members of the tribunal find in the court martial of Major Donaldson?"

"Guilty on all counts," Admiral Tichenor stated, the voice of the Kal-En-Vesho an odd, slippery oil that slid through the ears of those gathered like a secret long kept. The Grand Admiral then turned to Villanova on her left, who sat forward as well, "Guilty on all counts."

"Taking the advise of the two second members of the Tribunal, as well as having reviewed the evidence and the plea as offered, I also find you guilty on all counts. Thus the verdict of guilty with the accused unopposed shall be entered into the record. Major Donaldson," she paused and fixed him directly, "The crimes of which you now stand guilty of would be horrendous even if you had offered extenuating circumstances. You abused your position, operated outside of the proper chain of command, and overstepped your authority to willfully take the lives of million of individuals. No matter that, by the chance result of your actions, the people of that world now stand as citizens in good standing of this Republic, there can not be any punishment suited for such a crime other than death. Tradition dictates that this come at the hand of your fellows and, as it is still some time before noon, that your execution should thus then be ordered. Do you have any last words before this order is given and this court martial adjourned?"

"Ma'am," Donaldson slipped from his chair and stood, "I have spent the past thirty years seeking atonement for my actions and I have realized there is none. I accept the court's judgement and await my sentence."

"Very well," she nodded, and gestured to the two Marines who then stepped forward to place themselves on either side of the Major. "Major James Winston Donaldson, you have been found guilty of crimes which carry with them the sentence of death. As the lawful head of this tribunal of court marshal, I sentence you to be executed at noon of this day. Marines, removed the officer from the courtroom, allow him to prepare himself, and then present him at the parade grounds of this Academy ten minutes before noon."

"Yes, Ma'am," both read out. Neither stepped closer but Donaldson looked from one to the other before back to the Grand Admiral.

"This court martial is dismissed..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:39 pm

Shadow Port Sahlstrom, GEC-2949491Ba, Two Weeks Out from the Hegemony...

"Now remember," Timmons repeated, "We're here for information about the Hegemony. Anything you can find; Locations, persons, trade routes, politics. I don't care what it is but I don't want to end up walking into a hundred-year old civil war or worse, whatever comes after one."

The big man was moving gracefully through the crowd that filled the central marketplace of the city but it was not like any Shadow Port Deania had envisioned. Instead of a grimy, dark nightmare on the edge of civilization crowded with pirates, thieves, and murderers, Port Sahlstrom was a bright, airy, and colorful corporate enclave built under a sprawling series of pressure domes on the sun-ward side of the ash-gray moon. It was a city of water as well, fed by the many primordial glaciers that could be found here and there among the craters and crevasses outside of the domes. The origins of these might well interest the four explorers - and a team from the Ixutsangi had set down outside to investigate just that - but it meant that sparkling clear water was everywhere. Canals were braced by open walkways and crossed by bridges that themselves played host to sheet-thin waterfalls or fountains that shot carefully carved streams at each other. Most every one of the low buildings that clustered around the high points of residential high-rises had a pool or cascade somehow incorporated into it and all of these flowed into a grand reservoir that ringed the spectacular tower that served as both the center of government and as the headquarters of the corporate state that ran the Port.

Whether it was the welcoming atmosphere or sound governance, business was clearly good. Their starship had been welcomed by a one of a small fleet of identical customs cutters that would have easily put paid to any pirates that dared attack and the many security guards were of the cleanly groomed and proudly uniformed variety rather than the gang or band that might happen to have the most members at the moment. These too were smiling and welcoming and while they were armed these were slung aside to allow them to point out a route to an inquiring visitor or wave a friendly greeting.

"It's like Space Disney World," the Seeker pronounced as she approached a merchant working his street-facing shop. "They even have balloons!"

"They have a Space Disney," Trinya pointed out; She'd been there, as a child. Located on Luna it was just one of a chain of similar theme parks.

But these weren't balloons and the Ensign was quite certain they didn't have these at Space Disney either. Attached to a strong cord and bracelet, what at first appeared to be wildly colorful latex inflatables were on closer inspection an animal of some kind. Instead of a novelty shop, as she'd been anticipating, it was a pet store instead!

Each one of the small ten to twenty centimeter animals looked like a oblong double-cone with a pair of secondary egg-shaped bulges on either side. A fringe of tendrils hung down from what looked something like a chin and there was a small flap-like mouth just behind them. Two large eyes - or rather, hundreds of tiny eyes in a compound arrangement - sat on the outside edge of the two egg shapes and a set of folds and wrinkles made the whole look something like a face or a floating head with a wispy beard. Each color of the rainbow was represented with some having various stripes, spots, or patterns across their skin.

"Txatchels," the shopkeeper explained in Standard that was as good as their own. "Filled with helium, they're wonderful pets. Very docile, and they made a little..." He reached up to stroke one just behind the eyes and it made a mutted cooing sound. "Just that!"

"Wow!"

"They are cute..." Trinya took one of the cords and pulled the animal closer. It bobbed around and she followed the example to stroke the patch of skin just behind the eye, "What do they eat?"

"Flying insects. Folks on colony worlds like to keep them around to keep the pests down." Reaching behind him, he pulled down a packet of what appeared to be freeze-dried bugs, by the label, and pushed it to the edge of the counter. "I haven't found a whole lot they won't eat if its small and crawly."

Both girls turned to look back over their shoulder. They could just see the large form of Commander Timmons in among other patrons at an outdoor eatery where he appeared to be deep in conversation with the perfect distraction; A rainbow-haired woman of delicate beauty with colored patches that extended up from her hands to her elbow and sparkled in the sun from specks of reflective mica. Lae, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen and even if he'd have been there it would have only taken a moment of the same attention Timmons appeared to be courting to get the Cyar to acquiesce.

"How much?"

"Depends on where you're from," the merchant looked at them with a bit of interest. "What kind of money do you have?"

"Hmm," Trinya concentrated and triggered a sweep for an augmented payment point with the expectation of disappointment and the same result. "Little chance of that here;" Even though the man spoke Standard, it was clear that the language had spread further than the Augmented Reality technology in everyday use in the Republic. "Let's try this." Digging around in a pouch, she pulled out a small wallet and opened it up to spray a handful of cards across the counter, "Maybe one of these?"

"You know, this is a good chance to gather some intelligence," Deania interjected as the shopkeeper flipped through them and passed them back one by one. "If we had any currency from the Therian Hegemony, would that work?"

"Therian?"

Reaching under the counter, he pulled out a tablet and began scrolling through. Leaning over, Deania watched and he didn't seem to object as he went through screen after screen of various civilizations with a small rundown of each. She couldn't quite catch the whole thing but they focused on economic data; Their currency, volatility, and of course a prominent list of exchange rates. Some had pictures or graphs and the whole thing seemed to be a slickly produced magazine for local merchants.

"Hmm, well, it would but the exchange rate is honestly terrible. Not a lot of demand, so I'd have to charge you nearly double. But this," he held up a card with an eight-pointed red star on a yellow background on it, "Will work fine. One hundred twenty three credits, with the food."

Putting the wallet down on the counter, the Ensign reached over to a display carrying a selection of various accessories, "Only one twenty five?" She fingered a bracelet and cord made of a decidedly nicer material and with a colorful pattern that matched the blue and purple Txatchel she'd chosen, "Do you want one too?"

Deania nodded and neither noticed the small hand that slipped over the edge of the counter to grab the untended wallet. But the shopkeeper did and in an instant he was between the two, looking over to where a small slug-like alien had snuck in between the pair to put a three-fingered hand over the edge. A quartet of eye-stalks stared up at the three and then retracted as the alien turned to run, "Thief!"

The response on the street around them was nearly instant. Those who were clearly locals hit the pavement and those who were with them were tugged to the ground as the shopkeeper kept up his cry. Both explorers watched as the short thief gave a shriek, threw up four hands, and ran full-speed towards the only thing even close to a dark alley - a small slip of a walkway between two tall buildings. It didn't make it. With the deck cleared the security guards had un-slung their rifles and twin forks of lightning crackled across the square. One lanced into the ground in front of the fleeing alien while the second, a half-moment behind, struck the stalled criminal square in the back. Static linked him to the ground for a few spastic seconds and coursed over his body before he pitched forward. Another guard ran up and snatched up the fallen wallet and raced back to the waving merchant and the shocked explorers.

"Is this yours?" he asked, a pleasant smile not at all falsely etched across his face, "Sorry about that, ma'am."
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Met a guy on WoW, had an awesome name... Sorry. Maybe.

Postby Sunset » Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:51 am

SDF-Willamette, Venture-Class Heavy Explorer, The Coreward Fringe...

"You're naming them... After yourself?" Captain Valdymire fixed Lieutenant Tsugen with an odd stare. "You know, Lieutenant, most new species we come across prefer to name themselves."

"Yes, Sir, and I would understand if that were the case but in this case their name for themselves is the same as their word for people. It would make things confusing..."

Which was a bullshit answer if the Captain had ever seen one, but bullshit and cocky attitudes were often upwards of eighty percent of the typical Lieutenant. The first went up the ranks, the second was spread all around, but there was a certain combination of genuine talent, charisma, leadership, bullshit, and attitude that was required to make that often-reviled rank and Tsugen might have been pushing near unity for the last two. It certainly wasn't skill; He had made his discovery by an essential accident of navigation.

He'd nearly landed on one.

"And it says here you're also naming this other species after yourself."

"That's right. I put it to my squad and they suggested it, Sir."

"And the Tsugeni plant; I'm guessing that's because these furry little guys with the huge brown..." Noses. They had giant brown noses that looked, according to the hologram, a little bit like a curled up piece of dog poop. It all made one hundred percent perfect sense. He closed the hologram with a snap of his fingers and drew himself up to a parade rest, carefully looking away from the Lieutenant and trying his best not to laugh, "Looks good. I'll forward this off to Fleet with the rest of our work. Good job, Lieutenant Tsugen. Dismissed..."

"Yes, Sir! Thank you..."

Captain Valdymire watched, out of the corner of his eye as the young officer nodded and turned to walk away, heading off down the corridor towards whatever his next bit of work was. It was only after the Lieutenant was safely around one corner and hopefully another before he collapsed, sagging against the nearest wall with a laugh-broken sigh. Doubtlessly the suggestion that the newly-discovered sentient be named after him would be discarded and they would, like many thousands of other species, end up being known by the word they use for 'people' in their primary tongue. In fact, he'd include a note to that effect in the out-going file, though he wouldn't mention it to the Lieutenant.

The second and third? Those would stick. And he'd make sure of it.

One hundred percent sure.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:33 pm

SDF-Heart of Gold, GEC-S4251, Alpha/Gamma Border Region...

"Not bad, not bad at all..."

"No," Doctor Tithral agreed as both he and Commander Daynwin watched a team of engineers and technicians load one of the ugly-looking instruments into the back of a small Flare-Class Shuttle. Lumpy and clumsy, the units didn't need to be pretty but the odd protrusion and dish-shaped antenna as well as an enormous loop of exposed bundled cables that gave the impression of a carrying handle made the suggestion of putting them inside a torpedo casing and simply shooting them out of the Heart of Gold's single launcher just that. Instead they would have to be ferried to the specified location and (almost literally) tossed out the back by a EVA UHCV.

"But there were only enough spare parts for four. So we're going to set them up in a big pyramid around the Singularity. This is where Dr. Brilla's help will be key; We'll need to compensate for a variety of outside influences as well as their relatively imprecise manufacture. If we had a few dozen, we could cancel things out by dual-channel error checking and calibrating analysis, but we'll have to do this one on-the-fly."

----


Special Projects Research & Development Facility, Landor City, Terra Incognito...

"Everything solid?" Ignoring the technician's answer, Rae Scukanec verified this for himself by swiping a quick hand down the holographic interface for the naked buoy, looking for anything that showed yellow or red or even seemed too far out of bad. "Great! Looks good!"

His praise didn't smooth any ruffled feathers and the technician still shot him a dirty look as he turned to the wider space of the test chamber. It wouldn't have phased him even if he had noticed; Amarith's suggested long weekend - a glorious five days - had had their desired effect and the whole team had come back rejuvenated. A few more days of hard work and they had exactly four of the buoys up and ready to go with all four set some ten meters apart in the limited confines of the test chamber. They were arranged in a perfect triangular pyramid with the principle point being the measuring instrument built into the tip of each unit.

"The pyramid formation," Rae explained to no-one in particular, "Is important because we can then use any three as the basis for precision measurements since we'll always have the same distance between the three measuring units. Even if, in the full-scale deployment, we have one go down for maintenance..."

----


"It will give us some measure of error-checking," the Bajoni explained as the bridge crew watched the central holosphere.

Spaced out around the point of white light and its slowly expanding nebula, the four instruments were ready. The shuttles that had laid them were now returning to the Heart of Gold and this eliminated the last of the outside influences on their limited station-keeping abilities.

"Everything looks good but we'll have to calibrate them for at least a day - ideally it would be longer, but we can re-calibrate after the initial monitoring series - to account for any particular variances in the local space-time tensor. I anticipate there being a lot of these, which is why the first set of data will be especially suspect in its reliability. It will give us a particularly good set of exaggerated numbers, however, and with those we can begin designing the next set of experiments."

"Then start the calibration," Captain Waretram ordered, turning to the Engineering Station at the very back of the bridge. "Let's see what we've got..."

----


"I don't expect to see much of anything with this small of an array," Saryan explained to the rest of the assembled guests, most of whom were merely a holographic shell of their other-worldly selves. "And this is just calibration data," she indicated a large display set up in the center of the test chamber. "With all the FTL traffic in and out of here, it will be cluttered as fuck."

Dr. Brilla was at least partially responsible for that traffic. Leaving the Apexis in the Elysium System, she'd taken a Halo-Class Fast Courier to the New Latin System along with the Kajali Doctor Lesaan. They were both en route to the Heart of Gold but Terra Incognito made a convenient stop-over as well as a chance to see the results of their mental labor in the flesh. So to speak.

"But it will be a good chance to see what she - TRIPWIRE - can do. We'll likely see all the big spikes from the arrivals and departures, and a big 'ol hole where the Transit Gate is drilling a hole," she jabbed a fist for emphasis, "Right through the universe. Which, I'm sure you like that," she nudged one of the assembled scientists, a Reploid from the Shogunate, with an elbow and the sharp action caused the busty scientist's chest to swing from left to right alarmingly, "Right? Enseki ni fukanō to kikku no riyū o koete ikimasu! Yeah, that's what I'm talking about..."

----


"Hmm, not exactly the best, but I'm sure Dr. Brilla will be pleased when she arrives," Doctor Tithral pronounced, looking over the display that had been set up at one of the spare bridge stations. A technician was manning it and he paced around the officer in a manner that was clearly growing annoying as he looked it over. He reached out a long arm and traced a finger around the various data points, "The local space-time tensor is almost universally expanding outward, which is just what you'd expect for a region of space where reality is, essentially, being created every second. But there are some anomalies..."

"And?" The officer shrugged his shoulders, pushing his body back in a fake stretch so that the Bajoni would have to back away from the broad Orc. "Do you want me to run another local re-calibration?"

"No..."

Three had been enough and was another annoying factor. Lieutenant Nakor was a man of action - even scientific action - and endlessly perusing the data wasn't exactly a bold experiment that would reveal more about the nature of the universe.

"Let's focus on them, however. We have enough mainline data for the calibration, so let's do something with it. Isolate one of the regions - your pick - and let's see some details."

----


"Huh," the voluptuous blonde woman poked at the data on the smaller interface display with a gorgeously decorated fingernail; She'd had time for a pedi-pedi-pedi on the trip over. "That's funny. Pretty much everything else this thing is seeing can be explained. A ship leaving, coming in, moving through the wormhole... But this right here is..."

---- ----


"Weird..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jul 14, 2015 5:13 pm

Ambrosia, Southern Anuke...

"Did you hear that?" Minion 47 paused, stopping at the corner of one of the winding concrete-encased tunnels that snaked their way deep under the earth below the Doctor's plantation and conveniently missing the elaborate pre-Colonization alien facility at every opportune moment. "I thought I..."

"No, I..."

Implanted triggers clicked over and the two separated, moving far enough apart that they couldn't be conveniently grabbed by a single individual and brought together in a head-clonking blow. Lights flickered on and they swung their heavy rifles around, the huge maws following the beam to probe every dark corner and pipe-obscured cranny.

"...better call it in. Control," he spoke into the half-ball shaped unit fixed to his thick breastplate, "This is Patrol Three. Possible contact with unknowns. Audible only, investigating with caution."

It was exactly how the Doctor had designed the system to work. Instead of hapless doofs that could be easily overcome by any casual do-gooder who happened to penetrate the facility, his Minions were competent warriors made more-so by superior firepower, brainwashing, and chemical conditioning that made them do certain things on certain triggers or suffer excruciating pain. Most preferred to follow the implanted orders as it was both less painful and less likely to lead to either their pacification or timely death at the hands of a super-hero or amoral hand of vengeance, depending on their idiom. There was a small group - three or four, really - who had fallen to the dark side and who now enjoyed the pain but as they were all female and at least reasonably attractive, the Doctor let them have their little kink-cult.

Subject to careful monitoring, of course.

It was also exactly what the rats wanted them to do. Just as one of the hulking Minions swung around a corner, cutting the slice like a New York Pizza Man, a tail disappeared and he ran forward to stomp down on it with bone-crushing force. The carrot exploded and orange goo flew everywhere but he only turned to trace the path of the string that tugged it along with the beam of his rifle to a tiny hole in the wall and that was as long as it took.

With the two distracted, a swarm descended from every nook and cranny and fell not upon the Minions - still suitably distracted by produce and hemp - but on the door to one of the underground storerooms. The raid had been carefully planned and now executed; One, two braced themselves on the wall under the card reader while the third raced up their shoulders and slid the pilfered over-ride through the slot. Red went to green and five more, positioned with clawed hands grasping the edge, pulled the door open before the last tossed a stick into the track. More raced through the opening in pairs and trios to grab anything that came to hand and that could be passed through the opening. The door strained against the stick and Control was alerted but it was too late. Guns, thick power cells, crates of emergency rations, survival gear; Everything that one would reasonably stock in an emergency cache was out the door and flooding towards their pre-planned escape route before 47 and 53 could come running back to stop them.

The last tail - this time real - disappeared around the corner and the only thing 47 could do was kick the stick out of the door before the unsubtle pain prompted him to report in.

"Control, this is Patrol Three! It was an organized raid! They looted Cache 15," he looked at the number on the door, but the red light told him he couldn't get in. "In pursuit!"

But it was a worthless attempt. As soon as they had passed their fairly-won treasure through the hole in the wall and into the convenient escape route of the alien tunnel network, the rats had pulled the sticks to collapse the tunnel behind them. Even if the bulky Minions - or worse, Agent 16 - could have fit inside, they would have been trapped and at the rodents mercy and it was this that the Doctor, some few minutes later, chuckled at as he surveyed the damage with the later by his side.

"Well, well. Getting smarter every few weeks. Every generation, I'd say. But I wonder... This does not seem my doing, despite my brilliance. Have any of the other batches shown this particular aptitude?"

"No, Doctor," Sixteen agreed, bending over to run a hand into the loose dirt and coincidentally pull the armored fabric of her jumpsuit low enough to leave half her hind cleavage exposed. "This was careful work," she pulled out a stick with a bit of string - knotted string - attached to it. "Not expert, but far better than one could expect of rats."

She broke it in half, a small spray of dirt and splinters hitting her exposed chest and she wiped them off with a delightfully bouncy finish.

"You know, I wonder if there is a female version of myself," Ambrose switched gears. "Who maintains a coterie of muscular male minions with Adonis-like physiques and large genitals."

"I do not know, shall I put Miss Seventeen to work on the answer?"

"No... No!" There was a moment of panic in his voice, "She'd bail on us in a heartbeat. No, better to leave that as speculation Agent 16 and, err, refocus on our rat problem. Or is it a problem?" He tapped his narrow chin with a finger before resting it in the hairs of his goatee. "Perhaps we should treat this situation in a different manner. Our efforts at extermination have failed, so let us experiment instead. Place the Minions under orders to trap them, Sixteen. Then we will see what can be divined from an obnoxious plastic ear tag!"
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:53 pm

Special Projects Research & Development Facility, Mars, Sol System...

"A drum magazine..."

The weapons technician picked up the design prototype, pulled the lever to eject the magazine, and caught it one-handed to hold it up while the stock of the rifle balanced the weapon on her opposite hip. It looked cool in a middle-aged-woman-with-a-couple-kids-behind-her-but-a-sexy-pair-of-glasses way, but the weapon was essentially a prop with everything made out of lightweight printed plastic.

"And you think you're going to be the one who solves the drum magazine problem?"

"I'm going to try..."

The problem with drum magazines was that, like an angst-y teenager, the looked cool but they had a hard time fitting in. The round shape meant they used up a lot of often-precious space or required specialty pouches that were then useless for nearly anything else. Not entirely but that was just one reason why weapon designers kept coming back to them. Just a little bit of wiggle room was enough for one to give the idea another go-round. The weapon would pass one or two levels of scrutiny - made possible by the fact that these preliminary assessments were made by weapon designers who also thought drum magazines were cool - and then inevitably failed when the usual problems with the design were encountered during field testing. Then the drum magazine would be shelved for another ten to fifteen years until the next replenishment cycle and another bold designer would again say...

"But not this time! Nope, I've got some ideas that will make this baby work."

Snatching up another drum from where it sat on the broad matte-steel workbench, he flipped it over to show her the reverse, "Geckoweb. Instead of putting it into a clumsy pouch that will be useless once it's empty, we're going to do away with the pouch altogether."

Geckoweb was something of a Triumvirate standard; A hermaphroditic cloth that, as the appellation implied, only stuck to itself. It was commonly used for pocket closures, uniform blousing, or anything where one surface would need to adhere strongly to another without picking up extras like cat hair. The version that the Triumvirate used was especially advanced and was both a vacuum-capable seal and able to casually hold many kilograms of active weight while being easy to separate if a single, consistent force was applied. Thin strips could be used as uniform closures and thick to stick on things like external pouches or packs. It was also used as the backing material for uniform patches, rank insignia, and other details that might need to be removed or switched.

And apparently the backside of the drum magazines, which were fitted with a U-shaped section of cloth that fit around the locking pin and ammunition port.

"So instead of carrying a pouch, just carry the drum. And if you don't like or can't have the bulk of a drum," he picked up a regular box magazine and slid it into the receiver on another prototype. "There you go. Carry as many or as few as you like, in whatever combination you like. The advantage of a drum is volume, though, and I've got a nice design one of the other guys worked up that can empty the whole thing in milliseconds. With the smart projectiles and a networked combat information system, one guy can put ordinance on twenty targets with a single trigger pull. As opposed to only eight - which is still two more than the current model - with the box mag."

"Do you think it will pass Round Three?"

Round Three was that mythical third phase of testing and evaluation that would see the weapon put into the field. Hundreds of designs and modifications of designs made it to phase three every cycle but less than a handful went past that. To dare to dream...

"Yes. I wouldn't be working on it otherwise, would I?" He smiled. "It's even got a cool name, though I don't know what the acronym will be. LINK. Hopefully not LYNK. I want a properly spelled acronym for once. Just... once. Its all I'm asking."

"With a drum magazine."

"Gotta roll boxcars sometime..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:28 pm

The Poor Man's Debt, Gamma Quadrant, En Route to the Therian Hegemony...

"...it's a new one on me, but," Timmons plucked at the collar of his uniform tunic and began to pull it off to reveal a massively muscled chest and sculpted abdominals as well an odd brace of markings that might have been mistaken at first for tattoos but on anything like closer inspection were long scars of some kind, "First time for everything. Even fishing."

Only of a sort; The deep pool that dominated the wide expanse of the chamber was home to neither rod nor reel but rather to a varied assortment of moss-covered rocks, boulders, and other places where whatever passed for fish could easily find some place to hide from the beefy Pinnipoids that lounged around the edges. The vaguely walrus-like aliens were all stripped to the waist but retained their pants and a thick breech-clout and the Explorer followed this example even as he waded in after their host. While he did, the rest of the team sat on a dry rock away from the water while a young Zsenyu explained what and why the Commander was stalking fish through the muddy waters.

"We ask outsiders to gather a meal with us so that they may prove they are self-sufficient," he or possibly she - there had been no sign of something that might be considered female or even feminine among the wandering merchantman's crew - explained. "Those who work for their living are more highly viewed than those who only tell others what to do. Soft hands are a sign of sloth and we do not trust what those who have them propose. They will often take the easy way rather than properly fulfill a bargain made."

"Cutting corners, shoddy workmanship, cutting a little off the top," Deania offered.

"All of these things, or even stolen goods. Many approach the Zsenyu as a way to ensure their ill-gotten goods wind up on markets far from where they were obtained."

Which was, in part, why they were there. The wandering merchant ship had been recommended as a possible point of contact with the Therian Hegemony by one of the merchants in Port Sahlstrom. Noted for their veracity, the Zsenyu were widely trusted throughout the area and establishing a relationship with them would give the Explorers more options when it came time to enter Hegemony space.

"The scars of battle speak well of you, Commander," their host, Ibbenx, grunted as he bent to probe under a rocky lip with a massive hand. "You are willing to face danger."

"Scars of..." He looked down. They weren't, but he wasn't going to disabuse them of the notion. They were in actuality the lone reminder of a former lover and bad decision and he was content to let them fade rather than have them healed artificially. "Ah, yeah. Its been many years though. Back before they were with me," he looked over at the three youngsters. "So do all your trade partners do this?"

"No," Ibbenx replied simply but then went on after a couple minutes of carefully feeling his way under the water. "Those who have helped us, those who lack the physiology. Some cannot bring themselves to dirty their clothes. But for those who seek the most valuable items in trade it is a must."

"Is this a must?" Timmons asked in a particularly canny moment.

"Find a fish," the Pennipoid smiled, his massive teeth flashing white, "Then you'll know. Or don't, and then you might know even better."

----


It was a reasonable fish and thus, by the standards of the scale, a reasonable answer. That all four were able to dine while the negotiation as to the value of the information exchanged continued made the experience less tedious. Purple-pink in flesh and laid out on a thin rock where it had been cooked over an open flame, the smell was encouraging enough and the taste matched it. It was being consumed in a smaller chamber that sat just off the much larger space that contained the pool and through a curved window they could see out through the enormous ribbed half-dome to open space beyond and the distant lights of their own ship and the others of the trade flotilla.

"How much for the fish?" Deania interjected, taking advantage of a slow point in the discussion.

Ibbenx, and the younger Zsenyu who had been introduced as his son Albenx, both smiled widely, "More than you could afford. They are a vanishingly rare species from our homeworld that are only kept for the ritual of trade. Many have commented on the flavor and texture of their flesh and exactly one has left here with a sample," the first supplied.

"A great deed he did for us. You may have heard of it, for he is a great hero among your kind..." Albenx rose from his seat, a thick saddle-shaped leather arrangement, and went over to a cabinet where various knick-knacks were on display to return with a worn paperback book, "See?"

Deania leaned over to read the title, "Magnus Hesche and the Assassins of the Foresworn..."

A sputtering noise and the clatter of silverwear made them all turn to find Timmons grabbing for his utensil. He'd dropped it into the diminishing remains of the fish and was still staring wide-eyed at the square-jawed and unmistakably familiar face on the cover.

"...I don't think I've read this one," she carefully wiped her hands with a napkin before taking it and flipping it over to read the back cover while Trinya peered over her shoulder, her mouth still full.

"Keep it," Ibbenx waved a hand, "We have many more. A whole crate of them showed up shortly after he left and many have left in the hands of visitors. Back to the question of the Therian Hegemony," the Pinnipoid turned to Timmons, who had recovered his near-fork and a bit of his composure. "As I was saying, I'll write you a letter of introduction but take care; Beyond their few trade posts, they have defended their space with far more vigor recently than in the past. Those who know them well are still welcomed, but newcomers are given short notice to make their case. I cannot say for certain why, but it is suspected that they are under pressure from another source. In fact, it may well be these mysterious Foresworn. They don't talk about it and those who have pressed them on the matter soon find themselves ejected from their territory."
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Jul 17, 2015 12:52 am

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

"You know, something seems familiar here..."

The image floating in the main holosphere, chopped up to show a dozen different districts highlighted by approximate population density, was that of the large remnant section of the former World Ship but it was an entirely different structure that had tickled the Captain's memory. It was there that she had met a particular willowy blonde officer - one that now leaned over the back of the chair above her - as well as received her first ship-board posting. A few taps at the controls and the image moved to the side to be joined by that of a fanciful shield shape; Aerca, the capital city of the orbiting Path of Stars above the planet Silverstar in the Northgate System.

"About half the size;" Lines and measurements appeared, showing the dimensions of each.

"But not even close to the same population," Sloan noted, and that was the important part. While the cryogenic chamber on the Aerca had held just over ten thousand colonists in deep freeze, the rats that were still sniffing their way through the interior of the shell fragment had come to the conclusion that there were hundreds of thousands of the purple-hued aliens spread out among a handful of different settlements with numbers ranging from the hundreds to the tens of thousands. The first of these was the largest; Based around the docking complex where the few spaceships they had were maintained, a network of variously maintained conduits led from one to the other. "Or in cold storage. That would make this a lot easier."

"Purple Popsicles can't shoot you," Kami nodded. "What about the other variables? Eye?"

Taking his cue, the Skri jumped down from the upper deck to walk up to the holotank, "That would be the question of structural integrity, which is important as part of the answer to two questions; Can we move it, and how long will it last?"

Aerca disappeared and the first hologram returned to front and center. More numbers and measurements joined the dimensions and the prong-legged eyeball walked around the tank, looking up at it with his single huge eye and silently shoving numbers around.

"Can it be towed? Yes, if you can get a big enough ship to do it or you have a long time to do it. I can think of... Well, CORE Station. Which would both solve the problem all by itself, since we could just evacuate the entire population, but is also completely unavailable. I don't think Fleet would ever authorize moving a major installation half-way across the galaxy especially given the answer to question number two. Which is a long time. Yes, it's falling apart. Yes, I'd love and hate to send my guys in there for a few years of tender loving care. But there are still areas that are essentially untouched and have the kind of salvage that can keep other vital systems running for decades. It's not ideal and it's a slow death but its good news of a sort."

"We've got plenty of time," Sloan agreed, looking down from her perch. "Time to do it right. No reason to rush things."

"Eight hundred pound gorilla," Commander Astrid interrupted, the Centaur breaking into the conversation. "We still can't talk to them, and we still don't know if they want to be rescued."

"If we had a prisoner - my fault there - we could play the pointing game now that we know they are radiopathic. But we don't so... Can we get another one?"
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Postby Sunset » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:54 am

Special Projects Laboratory, Landor City, Terra Incognito...

"...that's weird." A few taps of the display interface and some Augmented commands and a series of representational images overlaid the hologram depicting local space. It was a mix of blobs, spikes, and lines that showed an indistinct rendering of the changes in the system-wide space-time tensor over the past few minutes. Labels began to appear next to or over the various entities; Ships arriving or departing, residual fluxuations from the Transit Gate, and a radiating star shape that showed the flow of FTL communications out from the gate towards the other Major Worlds.

"And then there's this," Saryan finished, the other scientists gathering round or summoning virtal consoles of their own. "Which looks like it's coming from..."

"Spies! Its gotta be spies!"

Saryan didn't quite recognize the young man but a glance at his badge told him everything she needed to know; Sneaky Bastards.

"The planet," Dr. Lesaan finished. "Its very faunt though. It could just be the planet's mass. There's not enough sensors in the array for the kind of resolution we'd need to pinpoint the origin - if there's an origin to pinpoint - and these four might as well be touching each other given all the noise from the various FTL sources."

"Then add more sensors," the young man suggested, appearing just behind Dr. Brillas arm and giving her a chance to get a closer look at his name tag.

"...how would we do that, Mr. Kyato?"

"Ships, of course. An ad hoc array, but anything that..."

For those of a non-technical nature, eyes began to glaze over and a sort of timeless fugue state transpired as the scientists launched into a discussion that verged on the esoteric and then boldly threw itself over the edge. By the time she'd pulled the ripcord on her parachute there had been several casualties with two of the military officers disappearing for coffee and a government type later found under a desk rocking back and forth and mumbling that it might never end.

"...its no TRIPWIRE but," Saryan finished punching in the connections. It wasn't pretty; The closed and air-gapped internal network that handled the test system couldn't directly communicate with the various ships so they'd had to rig up a kludge. Several unwilling technicians later and they had something more precise. "Within a couple kilometers is close enough to give us an answer and two more free questions."

"Yes," the Reploid swished their tail with cat-like interest, "What's on this end..."

They all looked at the hard spike that showed something doing something that was mildly affecting the tensor far below the planet's surface and a clear, if faint, line that shot away through the planet, out the other side, and onward to the edge of their expanded array.

"...and what's on the other?"
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:30 am

Heaven, Varion City, Chuh-Yu...

"Ms. Maric, Mr. Maric," the Maître De gave a little half bow, the crisp white menu with its silver metal casing and intricate scroll-work covering the back clutched just under her arm, "Follow me, your table is just here..."

Following the pretty young Oeie woman, the pair were escorted through the open restaurant with its sparse minimum of tables and booths to a semi-private alcove that was just open enough to be seen - and who wouldn't want to be seen at Heaven? - but quiet enough for an enjoyable dinner out. Sliding one chair silently away from the carefully laid-out table, she seated Alwyra first though Kedo looked a little bit less comfortable when the slender blue woman repeated the gesture, "Thank you."

"Of course. Chef Maruen wishes me to tell you that she will be out with your meal in a few moments; It is her finest work and I am sure you will enjoy every moment of it."

Another half bow and she left, backing out of the space before turning to return to her station at the front. With the Maître De gone, the two had a moment to look around. Evocative of its name, everything was decorated in the same white and silver motif with a suitable mount of exacting scroll-work but plenty of open spaces to pull the eye to the careful details. Even the wait staff followed the pattern; Angelic-looking young men and women from a half-dozen species, they were either dressed in flowing tunics or in a length of wrapped cloth. All had the same sculpted and exquisite body but their nudity wasn't sexualized but rather evocative of the form though all were hairless other than a neatly kept haircut. The whole contrasted well with the view outside the window of the gathering darkness that was creeping over Varion to leave the rooftop restaurant the only point of glowing light set far above the city.

"Alwyra, Kedo," Chef Maruen swept around the corner, greeting the two as though they were old friends and followed by a waiter with a tray bearing her special dishes. A four-armed Ju-Docri, she was wearing the more traditional garb of a chef; Carefully buttoned tight white jacket and sleeves that looked just barely like they had been unrolled. Her hands showed signs of the kitchen with a fair number of burns where hot oil had splashed on them to leave pin-sized welts. "Thank you for coming tonight. I have, as you have suggested," she looked to Alwyra and gave a half-bow, "Incorporated your new ingredient into tonight's dishes and I am eager for you to try them out."

The waiter lowered the tray to just above the table edge and she began to take the dishes off one by one, introducing each as she went, "First, we have an Appetizing Story;" this was a long white dish with four single bits of different appetizers and as soon as she had placed them in front of the pair they both took one while she continued, "With the idea being that as you progress through them, and thanks to the properties of your new spice, you will experience a complete story on the plate. Love, drama, conflict, and a rousing conclusion that will leave you ready for the next course."

This was a salad with nuts and berries as well as a cheese of some kind that she introduced as being from a planet neither of them had ever heard of. This was set to one side and then joined by the main course, a carefully sliced cut of meat with a sauce and trimmed with another, "And with it, at Mr. Maric's suggestion, we have a fine wine that has been carefully laced so as to give just the hint of the vine. Then to cleanse your palette;" a few pieces of bread with some light herbs and butter, "And finally, there can be no Heaven without Syn..."

A cover was swept off a plate to reveal an intricate cake, sliced thin and with a layer of icing and sugar work that would crunch only slightly before dissolving in the mouth.

"Mr. Maric, Ms. Alwyra, enjoy..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:50 pm

SDF-Heart of Gold, GEC-S4251, Alpha/Gamma Border Region...

"...that is weird," Lieutenant Nakor agreed. It wasn't a technical description by any mean but both the data and the circumstances were unusual enough to warrant a non-technical response.

As predicated, local space was being compressed - subtly - by the constant stream of new particles being spewed from the White Hole. Drawn as a topographic map, the image on the display looked like the peak of a very tall and slender mountain with each concentric sphere slightly larger than the one before it until they grew very wide as the volume of affected space grew large enough that the overall effect was negligible. For the four little impromptu instrument buoys, this was the furthest extent to which their measurements could reliably - and even that was a stretch - be used to extrapolate the shape of local space. Thus at the furthest extent of their range the rings were fuzzy and constantly shifting while those closest to the Singularity were tight and well drawn. Fuzzy because as they periodically re-sampled the area, the average was constantly shifting and the line went from here to there.

Except that it wasn't a perfect circle.

"These four spikes," Tithral manipulated the controls of a side display, showing one of the protruding regions. "Not to put too much of a guess on things, but it looks something like the ejected particle stream from a conventional Black Hole. But in reverse..."

Unlike a Black Hole, with its near-symmetry, the four spikes were distinctly not and neither were they visible. Instead they only appeared as compression lines on the space-time tensor topology map with the provision that, unlike the wavering outer lines of the furthest edge of the field, these were stable and distinct. Each varied in depth and intensity but there was no denying their effects other than that whatever they were affecting was invisible to the naked eye. Tithral turned to the main holosphere and the Singularity there; A single brilliant white light that appeared remarkably stable. There didn't seem to be any indication of the phantom compression though there were the usual thin and thick areas of the surrounding nebula where, given enough time, stars would begin to form along with planetary systems and perhaps even life itself would evolve.

"Reduce the scale of the holodisplay. One hundred lightyears," the Bajoni waited and the brilliant light faded away to a pinprick surrounded by a wide sea of stars. "Connecting lines between the nearby mass objects and the Singularity, Mr. Nakor..."

The thing to do was to rule out external factors. Perhaps the spikes were the result of a confluence of local effects; Three or four stars in particular alignment producing a strong mass shadow on the tensor. But immediately it was apparent that this was not the case. It was no perfectly spaced sphere but there wasn't any kind of cosmic billiard cue pointed right at the Singularity either. At least not on the local scale.

"Past that, it would take something with the..." A light flashed and the Bajoni smiled, a white slash across the near-black of his face, "Perhaps Dr. Brilla will not be necessary to solve this mystery! Lieutenant... Scale change, galactic distances. Singularity map only!"

And that was it. The same triangulation showed four distant singularities that lanced straight as an arrow through the heart of the White Hole.

"But why? Why those four and not this one?" He indicated another and then another with a finger-tap. They were both closer - much closer - to the White Hole and should thus should also be projecting their influence. "An unknown aspect of Black Holes?"

"Perhaps different types? There's still a lot we don't know, Doctor," Nakor volunteered with a nod from the Bajoni. "The laws of physics as we know them break down..."

They did, and even those new laws were somewhat understood now. But it was layers within layers; While some of the discoveries that allowed them to understand what was going on in that second layer also allowed the Heart of Gold to effortlessly cruise the galaxy on a mountain of negative gravity, there was another layer under that and presumably beyond that.

"And perhaps this White Hole is an expression of that," the Doctor mused, bracing his hands on the curved railing that divided the upper and lower bridge. "Or perhaps not. The data is still unclear; We need more instruments. More eyes on the information so we can be sure of what we're seeing. Captain?"

Waretram, who'd been paying half-attention as he worked on the virtual paperwork that dominated much of the time of a ship's Captain, grunted and turned to the pair, "Mmm, not sure I completely caught that, but talk to Engineering. See what they can do. This is what we're here to study, so get what you need to do that by hook or by crook."
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