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Sunset: Then, Now, Tomorrow (Nation Maintenance)

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

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Sunset
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:18 pm

Electrical Power Generation Engineering Labs, CORE XIIX Deep Space Station, Somewhere between the Monoceros Ring and the Galactic Disc... Republic Date 174.759...

"It is a refinement of Captain C'sgove's EienRifle prototype, but instead of a weapon my redesign is intended as a power generator. What we've done is incorporate the exotic matter catalyst into the boundary itself - or rather, programmed the boundary to act like an exotic matter catalyst. As the matter stored inside passes through the boundary it is converted to electrons and passed to the electrical power system on the outside. If the boundary is disrupted and the contained volume normalizes there's no explosion - there's just a large block of whatever we want to put in there," Doctor Manda'u explained, showing off a completed prototype with all the beaming pride of a new parent.

To the casual observer - including the visitor from one of the other labs scattered across the sprawling edifice that was CORE XIIX - it didn't look all that complete. In fact it mostly looked like a plug, just like one might find inserted into a wall socket with a cord and an appliance of some type attached to it. Since most appliances smaller than a clothing washer/dryer/folder/sorter were induction-charged these days the plug was at least an indication that there was something with a fair bit of juice involved. Even if the cord was missing and replaced by a set of small indicator lights.

"Huh. Like what?"

"Well, the catalyst is more efficient the higher the mass is so lead is a good choice. That's what I've got in here," the Dwarf explained, picking up the device and showing off its lack of heft by bouncing it up and down on his wide palm. "Don't weight nearly anything though. All of that mass... Well, there's only about a hundred kilos in this one. I'd considered some kind of non-baryonic matter, but it don't mass nearly anything so you'd need a lot of it to do a little."

"But the interior volume of the boundary is of arbitrary size, isn't it? So we can just define it to be large enough to have whatever through-put we want, right? The efficiency doesn't matter," the visitor objected. "Some form of dark matter would be ideal, since you wouldn't end up with a huge chunk of lead if the boundary is destroyed."

"Okay - so what's your idea?"

"These things would be used to power our ships, right?" Manda'u nodded agreement. "Usually the power generator is behind a lot of armor and shielding - not exactly something you want to have taken out by a lucky shot. So if the boundary interface is destroyed you've already got complete or near-complete platform failure."

"Makes sense," the Dwarf again agreed, waiting patiently for the point.

"So what if we," she drew an invisible circle around the generator with her finger and then put an arrow on the end, "put something else in there too. Some kind of a final fuck-you to whoever or whatever destroyed the ship. Like say... A VDA! Very Dangerous Array..."

"Ah, I'm familiar with the concept. Breach the boundary and you're sucking a face-full of torpedoes. And they can sit in there forever if we go with dark matter - the boundary will suck off that for electricity generation while the ordinance... A lot of ordinance..."

There was a gleam in his eye and he paused for a moment, "See, one of the things is that as we ramp up to Wave Three and Wave Four, we're actually kinda running out of things to do with our ships. Not like we're going to go off on a wave of galactic conquest and the amount of on-demand construction means we can just bury darn near anyone under new construction alone. So I was thinking - well, I was going to suggest to the Director when I do my presentation - that we slow down ship production and put a lot of that extra capacity into these things. Drop ship production by a factor of one hundred, each ship would have a hundred times its mass in lifetime power."

"Ninety-nine."

"Well, yeah. But say we crank that up another couple notches. Hundred and eleven. Make the mass ratio a solid hundred and then another ten of VDA waiting inside..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:40 pm

Doctor Ambrose's First Class Suite, SS Wayward Zephyr, In Far Orbit of Hachiman, Ares System... Republic Date... Sometime in the Past...

...three minutes later - precisely - the slender-yet-voluptuous shadow of Miss Nineteen appeared in the doorway. She'd disappeared on the Detective's approach - a fact set aside that would now be explained - and stepping inside she quickly checked the suite for any other occupants before walking to the bed and standing at the foot, tapping her own three times as though she was impatiently expecting something or someone.

Or, as it happened, signalling someone.

A moment later the sheets ruffled and out from under the mattresses emerged the Doctor, his still-white suit an immaculate testimony to the skill of Zhang's tailoring and to the persuasive effect the cleaning staff's vacuum cleaner had on the underside of the bedstead, "Exactly on time, Nineteen. Exactly. And the Detective?"

"Gone to see the captain, presumably," she said, reaching into her suspiciously large purse. First came two sets of clothing that had been sealed away in plastic bags marked with the ship's name and some random-seeming set of serial numbers. Second was a large chrome wrench wrapped in several layers of napkins that had been removed from that same captain's table during the previous evening's dinner. The first she laid out in a pair on the bed and the second she held carefully by a pair of fingers as she dropped it into the nearest waste chute.

"Where they will find the officer responsible for such things unconscious at his station, the logs clearly tampered with though they show no evidence of such. Assumptions will be made and the Detective - possibly with Master Jolene in tow - will embark on a wild goose chase that will undoubtedly end up with her arriving on our doorstep in a year's time both bedraggled and with a certain begrudging respect for her foe. Well done! Now..."

"Yes, Doctor..."

Picking up the closest of the two packages, she ripped the seal away and tumbled out the contents on the bed; a forgettable blue coverall, a cap, and a vest marked in various fluorescent colors and warning badges as well as a generic surname embroidered across the back. Unrolling the first, she held it up while he stepped inside and then zipped it up before holding out the vest for him to pass one arm through and then the other. The cap followed, though this he placed himself with some personal fuss.

"It has been years," he said as he adjusted the brim and the fit. "Did I ever tell you that I was on my university baseball team? That would have been the last time I wore one of these miserable contraptions. I was, of course, the all-star bench-warmer. A physical education credit was desired of me and unlike many of those cretins I at least knew which end of the bat to swing."

Meanwhile she had followed suit and it had to be admitted that her interpretation of the three garments was much more appealing to the eye, with the top of the cover-all unzipped to show a creamy line of cleavage that did not - somehow - still seem unprofessional or apt to become tangled in some piece of bone-chewing machinery. A final touch and she pulled a tag out of her purse, hastily filled in the entries in a style that looked both sloppy and important, and twisted the wire bracelet around the control stick on the Doctor's prized GZ7-Y Model 96F Full Spectrum HydroAnalyzer.

"Evidence," he read the large word on the top of the tag aloud, "Collected by... Blah blah blah... Remove to... Very clever, Nineteen. We shall see if it holds up to scrutiny. I would hate to lose possession of this marvel. A lot of memories here," he patted the side of the case fondly. "But we shouldn't tarry - at some point the Detective will return and we should be away."

A last adjustment of his cap and he stepped across the room to the door, opening it just far enough to peek through before stepping outside and looking both ways as though he was a child about to cross the street. With all safe, he took the left and she followed, the two walking at a measured pace so as not to subject themselves to the extended scrutiny of the occasional passing traveler. Since their first class tickets were the only reason the Wayward Zephyr had ventured this far from its regular route the only such was a dark-skinned woman in a leather outfit who barely spared them a glance through her peculiar green sunglasses as they passed.

"Now... I know it is at the last minute," Ambrose said as they approached their destination, "But I feel a change of plans is in order. You see, the next phase of my great work seems to me to call for a certain anonymity that I have not enjoyed for the last few seasons. The ability to work without pressure and without concern for the prying eyes of others. Because that will require... Miss Nineteen, could you hand me that?"

She turned to look in the indicated direction with a question on her face and he clubbed her over the head with the most convenient heavy object at hand. Dropping the dented fire extinguisher next to her silent form, he stepped into the little maintenance pod and closed the hatch, "Goodbye, Nineteen. Consider this your severance package..."
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:17 pm

On the Ground, GEC-2310653D, Far Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 164.712.5...

"Wait - hold on a second. What do you mean, you survived? You - the iWe - destroyed entire systems. Didn't you win?"

"Win? That implies victory, Captain Blaine. No - we survived..."




"...we've definitely got something here, Captain," Lieutenant Commander Ingersol called out as soon as the curiously shaped artifact was deposited in the center of the circle by one of the helpful (and possibly disposable) ARC3s. Pulling the stack of containers forward that served as an improvised stool, he hunched down over the control console to focus on the data feeds that flew past. "As soon as it hit the midpoint the power levels spiked - that same 'handshake' routine we saw on Glaold. Now we've got... Saryan? You seeing this?"

Beside him the remote version of the physicist had crowded in, her allocated body crouched down to look over the lower edge of the console from a point where it wouldn't interfere with the sensor officer's movements, "Yep?"

The obvious thing to do was to look to the center of the floating stone circle where the artifact was sitting alone on the crate but there was nothing to see - at least from her perspective, "What is it?"

"So what these sensors do - among other things - is measure the space-time matrix in the selected area. Like... Measuring the temperature of the air, but much, much more precise. The matrix itself is composed of various discrete components that have their own energy states and directionality. What I'm seeing here is more of those components. Additional layers, if you want to think of it that way."

Which didn't make sense to her but that's why he and Saryan were there but there was still a question she could ask, "So... How many?"

"Still counting. This equipment... It wasn't designed for this. This is already a bit of a kludge so it is taking some additional time to process. Hundreds?" Again he looked at Doctor Brilla for a confirming nod. "And there's something else interesting. Normally the matrix is kinda... Smooth. Like water. The directionality flows here and there and that's how you can, say, tell that a ship is coming out of faster-than-light - those directionalities will change very quickly. Like a splash. But that's not true here. If water is the matrix's low-energy state, this would be plasma - directionalities and energy states are all over the place."

"Is it dangerous?" she asked, suddenly aware of the orbital threat posed by whatever it was above them. Doubtless what they were seeing was also under observation by the crew of the Nocturnal but so far they'd held their questions and their fire. Maybe that meant something and the Lieutenant Commander confirmed that with a glance to the side; "No - well, I don't think so. These readings are confined to the circle. There's very little change outside it."

"You know, we've seen something like this..." though there was a catch in Saryan's voice as she spoke up. "Looking at the vectors - they are starting to look coherent. Not just random, like you'd see in a plasma, but there are areas that are static and others that kinda-sorta look like they are moving. It looks similar to what we saw inside the i[b]We star when it was going wherever they went. They were able to make plasma mimic electronic functions - this almost looks like the same thing but with the space-time matrix."

"Okay - is that dangerous."

"Not to us. Maybe if you had a few hundred spare components like we're seeing here..."

"...Captain." The call had come from Commander Timmons, who was sitting cross-armed on a pile of crates along with his team, the Seeker sprawled out beside him while their caninoid companion sat at his feet, muzzle on the ground. "Look..."

She turned to look and every eye either followed her or went first to the Commander and then to where his gaze had settled. Where the open space in the middle of the standing stones had been 'blank' before - nothing more exciting than slightly muddy air - there were now columns and reflective streamers of something interspersed between them. These came and went, sometimes vanishing only to appear again a second later and other times thinning out or opening wide. Each had the shimmering surface of oil spread thin on water, a rainbow iridescence that seemed to distort something that was just beyond their vision.

"What is it?"

"It's... something," Thomas answered, barely touching the controls as though worried the slightest touch would cause the effect to disappear. "It looks like the additional components are becoming more stable. More complex too. Its hard to tell for sure - the system is trying to catch up."

"Uh huh. Well, tell it to catch up fast," she breathed, her eyes still focused on the center of the stones and in particular on the few square meters surrounding the smaller artifact, "Because something's happening."

Dozens of the floating streamers had come together suddenly, knitting together as though they were skeins of yarn, and there was now a clear something there, surrounding the curiously shaped stone like an effervescent hologram laid out over the real world. It could have only been her imagination but she thought she saw things more familiar there; buildings, structures, trees, bushes... People. A person. The shape of someone walking towards them with two more close behind. They were people but they were not, their shapes familiar but indistinct.

"...look at the local matrix;" she heard Saryan say from off to the side. "There's something there..."

And there was something there. Humanoids - bipeds at least - and wearing clothing of some kind though it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended just as it was hard to say whether they were in this universe or whether this universe had somehow crossed over into theirs. If the largest patch in the center was a portal then they had stopped just over the threshold, their heads and perhaps eyes moving as they took in their new surroundings. Every moment they seemed to be more solid - more real - until the one in the front stepped forward again...
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jul 09, 2019 4:25 pm

Director Silaco's Office, Special Projects Research Tower, The Outskirts of Landor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System... Republic Date 174.786...

...point-one-seven-four. Not quite a palindrome but getting close!




A whole minute of stupid giggling later and Katryna was finally done, "Doctor Manda'u, you've outdone yourself. I should have you cloned..."

"Well," the Dwarf demurred, "It wasn't all my idea. I had a visitor to the lab that kinda kicked the idea into motion. So... That's a 'yes'?"

"That's a yes," she nodded affirmatively, standing up to walk around her desk to where the researcher's demonstration model sat along with a raft of supporting technical and illustrative holograms. "I'll have to run it past the Secretary-General, but right now you're right - we don't need this many ships this fast. But you've got something else here - something that's been knocking around the old silicon for a while now."

"What's that?"

"Waste energy. And I don't mean waste heat but all the energy that's being flung off the stars that just goes nowhere. This system is a battery - a very efficient battery. And safe as well - if one of the boundary devices is destroyed all that happens is that a lot of non-baryonic matter normalizes back into our universe. We'll use it to power the next generation of Defense Force starships, sure - and the VDA on the 'inside' as well - but we can also use the same system as a storage method. We'll want to distribute it, of course, but..."

"Put up a boundary manipulation around the star of an inhabited system that has an extension localized to the inhabited areas - like these plugs," he suggested, "And we can both store and use the spare power. Have ya reviewed Captain C'sgove's work? The EienRifle?"

"I have - are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"

"Ah am. It's always been one of the problems with planetary defenses - they're a lot of investment for something you'll probably never need. Unless yer a warmongering piece-oh-shit, of course. But better to have two fleets instead of one fleet and a planetary defense network. A lot more options. But the Captain's little rifles... Well, they can hit as hard as you like. And if we're storing years and years of stellar output as non-baryonic matter in planetary storage batteries. Well - it would suck to be the first jerk to find out those planets aren't as undefended as they look. A few thousand emitters the size of Plexus nodes aren't even going to be noticed on the production schedule."

"Ohhh, yesh," she clamped a hand first over his mouth and then over her own before looking around the room as if checking every corner for the spies she knew had to be there. "Plexus. Let's not go mentioning that. Cause... This doesn't go beyond this room, but we used the Plexus network to 'liberate' a whole bunch of slaves. Reprogrammed their gateway conditions to extrude and encapsulate their ExoCortex. It wasn't exactly nice, but slavers... Fuck em. But why even make specific items? We could - in a pinch - just express the neutral particle beam through anyone who happens to have a Plexus node. Course, it will utterly disintegrate them, but hey - it's just a body, right?"
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:25 pm

In the Den of the Serpent Queen, GEC-2451994E, Coreward Expansion Zone... Republic Date 174.789...

"Snakes... Why'd it have to be snakes?!"

"I didn't know you were afraid of snakes," Lae commented, his own tone abashedly unafraid as he knelt in front of their new host, studying her face as unfamiliar words formed on her lips.

"I'm not. It's a line from an old movie. 'Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Kinda appropriate given he was an explorer and archaeologist and these are kinda snakes."

Kinda.

There was more than a certain similarity in their long, sinuous, scaled form but there was plenty of differences as well. The first was the size - every grown S'hul'i'xej'i was nearly three meters long and as wide at the midpoint as Trinya's forearm from elbow to wrist. They were also a flattened oval with a braided pattern to the muscles visible under their scales that gave their body the appearance of several thick cables woven together. The head was an elongated oval somewhat like a cobra with the wings on either side containing a dense network of sensory organs akin to motion sensors that allowed them to accurately detect and identify their prey in the underground environment they favored. This particular example had scales of onyx black with a delicate pattern picked out in copper down its back and ending in a swirl of gold on what both explorers considered her nose.

"So how do they manipulate their environment?" Trinya asked, watching from a step back as Lae continued his conversation.

It was a key question. The path to sentience took many winding routes but all seemed to involve the ability to not just hunt and kill but the ability to interact with and manipulate their environment - tools, weapons, shelter from the elements. The S'hul'i'xej'i were clearly capable of this; the interior of her den was both decorated and furnished with draperies dividing it into sections and furniture serving various purposes. The door had been opened from the inside however and Trinya had missed her one opportunity so far to directly observe any such manipulation.

"Watch," and Lae continued the interview, steering the conversation towards their surroundings until he could ask to see something that sat on a nearby shelf and she obliged, slithering closer before rearing up about a meter off the ground before opening her mouth and extending a particularly dexterous-looking tongue that split into four equally nimble fingers at the tip to pick up the object and place it in his hands.

"Is it?" Slimy...

But it wasn't. It was a clay vase, its surface smooth to the touch and not at all slick with saliva as she would have expected. It was also richly decorated in an irregular geometric pattern with highlights that suggested - no, were - scales. In fact looking around the room she could now pick out numerous other examples of re-use with shiny black and glittering gold worked into the draperies, set as accents in the furniture, and clustered together as wall decorations.

"Are they her scales?"

Lae and the S'hul'i'xej'i chattered back and forth for a moment, "Yes and no. They are her scales, those of her mother, and those of her children. They pass them down or gift them to others as keepsakes and tokens. This vase was made for her by her son, who died years ago."

"Right - the males have a much shorter life span. Only a few years..."

"It will be interesting to come back in a few years and see what happens. They're used to the idea of their sons dying well before they do - what will happen when their sons never die...?"
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:13 pm

The Old Martian Duma, Northern Coast of the Hellas Sea, Mars... Republic Date 174.803...

"If you've got manpower then use manpower, I suppose..." Captain Hurley commented as he cut a wide path around yet another work-gang. Like the others they had passed before, they were mostly Hauyht and all OSA with everything from 'Mech jockeys to regular infantry represented. Here and there were a few of the other Outer Systems' member species - Pagani, Sanglanti, and now Qi - but for the most part the furry rabbitoids made up the majority.

"If we're going for adages, I'd suggest 'many hands make light labor' or 'idle hands are the devil's plaything'. Especially that last one. If the MC doesn't take their offer..."

Hurley glanced at his second-in-command, "You don't think they'd invade the MC, do you?" he asked, his voice nearly a whisper at the end.

"Nah. Just... Aggressive recruiting? You'd think the MC would know that they're about the same throw as one of the OSA's member systems but..."

"Yeah - Little Dog Syndrome. Here we go," the Captain pushed through another pair of double-doors and the two were finally standing outside, a broad view of the Hellas Sea spread out in front of them. Their shuttle had landed on one of the old Duma building's upper landing pads and they'd walked their way down floor after floor for curiosity's sake.

From where they'd landed they'd just been able to catch a sparkling glint of the new Martian Duma which floated out in the middle of the Hellas as its own little island. With this building - now nearly a century old - as serviceable-but-antique surplus the OSA had swooped in with a load of cash and bought the place to serve as their Martian headquarters-slash-recruiting offices-slash-paramilitary base. Then they had turned to the restoration with a passion and semi-organized teams of officers and regulars swarmed over the building doing everything from polishing the floors in the lobby to refitting the old diplomatic offices into barracks and even cleaning out the old waste recyclers.

One of the former Ambassadors had been a Cetagandan and that was more than enough said.

Outside, however, was a different matter. The ring of flagpoles that had once hoisted the banners of a score of Martian nations had been replaced with those of the OSA member systems while the surrounding parkland had been less graciously and rapidly converted into a military staging area. Beside the doors and looming over the Captain and his second were a pair of chicken-legged 'Salvo'-Type BattleMechs which - along with another half-dozen staged out across the front of the building - formed an honor guard of sort. On the east side of the building rows of gunships, infantry fighting vehicles, and medium hovertanks were lined up in neat parallels while maintenance crews swarmed over them while on the west there were similar formations of the various 'Mechs that had been landed.

In the center of these a quick-and-dirty duty tent had been put up while a more permanent structure was under construction next to it while around both a number of workout stations had been set up for the convenience of those on ready-active status. Like the building behind them these were swarming with Hauyht and the Captain scanned them, looking for the somewhat familiar face of General CusTer; "There she is..."

He followed his second's finger to where someone hung from an exercise bar, one hand clasped around the other wrist and legs bent as they hauled themselves up over and over in one-handed chin-ups.

"I'm not sure I'd want to get in a bar fight with her," the second offered, himself no slouch when it came to physical fitness. Wearing only a cropped exercise top, the General was muscle on top of muscle that stood out despite the layer of fur that covered everything. Tossing herself up high, she switched from one hand to the other with a quick release-and-grab that didn't even risk touching the mat before she was hauling herself up for another set.

The reason for her fitness was well-known to both officers. The OSA wasn't exactly sexist - its charter with the Republic made that clear - but it wasn't exactly inclusive either. The easy way to adhere to the machismo mentality still present in much of Hauyht society was to set the physical standards to certain levels that favored certain a certain physique. When one took a glance around the training yard, that resulted in a biological male-to-female ratio that was in the high twenties.

"General!"

There was a pause in her rhythm and then a sudden burst as she snapped off the rest of her set at an eye-watering pace before dropping to the ground and reaching for the convenient towel, "Captain! You're early. I saw your shuttle come in," she glanced up to the landing pads and then back to the Captain, "But you made better time through the construction than I anticipated. You'll have to give me a minute for a quick shower unless you want me smelling like wet Nwlyan..."

"...yeeep. Let's get her attention. From a safe distance..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:01 pm

Prudence, Northern Ares, The Ares System... Republic Date 174.806...

Not every city on the planet Ares was a sprawling megalopolis, home to umpteen teeming millions or even billions, neon lights buzzing long into the night to light the seedy byways of some towering super-arcology. Some were not even cities - towns and even villages there were aplenty. Prudence was one of the latter and the latter of the latter if the abbreviated Wikipedia entry was to be believed. Founded not too long after colonization it had less thrived than settled and even from those first days it had been an overlooked destination for those looking to retire.

To settle down.

To hide.

A bony finger reached out to ring the doorbell but Doctor Stephen Ambrose needn't have bothered; a face had been visible past the curtain through the window next to the door of the well-kept little cottage as he'd made his way up the immaculately kept walk and as soon as it chimed the door opened - though just a crack; "Hello?"

"Hello there - Miss... Rodriquez, wasn't it?" he asked as though guessing, though the voice was as familiar now as it had been when he'd hired her all those years ago. "You wouldn't happen to know if my parents are around? I've come round to collect some things and I thought I'd say hello in person..."

The door opened a little more and the woman standing on the other side stepped out and into the light, stopping first to squint up at him before her eyes widened in surprise, "Mister Smith! It is you! I thought it had been you but I wasn't sure! How long has it been?!"

"Too long, of course," he admitted, putting out a hand for her to first clasp and then shake. "Too long - and my parents?"

"Oh no - they are not here. They are away on their vacation still. But you came to get something? Here," she opened the door to usher him through but he held up a hand but objected with a smile; "No no - just something I left in the shed around back. Do you still have the key? I'll just fetch it myself and then come in for coffee? We'll catch up."

"The key?" The short round woman patted her apron starting around the middle of her chest and ending her search near her waist where a pocket held exactly that very thing, "Ah! Here you are. Coffee then?"

"Yes," and his voice changed tone as he repeated, "Make some coffee. We'll catch up."

"Alright, Mister Smith - you let me know if you need some help. I'll be here. Making coffee..." Taking a step back from the door she closed it and retrieved her broom from where it had been leaning next to the door. Moments later she was again sweeping the already-spotless entry, all memory of the conversation she'd just had completely obliterated.

He wouldn't be back, of course - and neither would his parents. They'd been dead long before he'd hired her to watch and clean the house while they were 'away.' That she'd been nearly blind and blessed with the mythical memory of a goldfish had only made her all the more useful; she arrived every morning, cleaned the house all day, went home at night, and told any visitors the same thing - the owners were away on vacation with no idea when they'd return.

"Altruistic of me, really," he declared half-aloud as he stepped around the side of the house to where a small, neat yard stood fenced in by what looked like a carefully painted white picket fence and what was, in fact, a carefully painted white picket fence. Every few years one of his preferred 'contractors' sent their nephew Thomas - Tom; something like that - around to whitewash it in the traditional Southern style. "Why, if I hadn't hired her..."

The key clicked in the lock and he placed his hand on the doorpost before giving it a turn. A hidden sensor confirmed he was who it said he should be and the neighborhood was not reduced to an atomic wasteland. Instead the door swung open to reveal the average, everyday contents of an average, everyday garden shed. An idle and rusting lawnmower - Miss Rodriquez paid a local wastrel to mow it with his drone - as well as a collection of garden tools that bore the dirt of everyday use though there was not a vegetable to be seen stood along the back wall while a collection of bagged fertilizer that had been doped with the results of his first experiment into chemical explosives was piled haphazard next to the door. A low wheeled recycling cart stood lonely in the opposite corner and he closed the door behind him before stepping over to the lone window just above it.

The glass was filthy, of course - just the way he'd left it - and with the cuff of his jacket he scrubbed at the dirt to no avail - there was no chance of even the determined peeping tom noting his next move or that his useless motion was activating yet another hidden sensor. Stepping up to the recycling container he lifted the lid - a layer of grass clippings decorated the bottom but he ignored these as he stepped inside and placed his arms carefully at his sides; "Going down..."

In an instant the gardening shed had vanished to be replaced by smooth concrete set with intermittent lights that flicked on as he sped past. It was nearly a minute before his descent began to slow, lights clicking on at a more and more exaggerated pace until the grass-strewn platform dropped through the ceiling of the floor below him and came to a sudden stop in front of a wall that was obviously not a door but yet clearly was. Fishing around in his pocket he again found the key and knelt, placing it just so in one of the seams between the floor tiles. Putting one hand to his ear he let it go, counting the seconds until he heard just the right 'clink'.

'Welcome, Doctor...'

Sliding open ahead of him, he strode forward into a room that seemed to be nothing but windows - even the floor and ceiling were made of transparent panels with nothing but darkness beyond. A moment later there was another 'click' and the first set of lights came on, one after another to reveal the space beyond the glass-enclosed hallway. Along the top of each wall lurked the usual collection of automated turrets, ready to perforate any unauthorized visitors. Below was another glass wall - this time one side of the hallways where offices, laboratories, workshops, and of course his personal quarters adjoined. Below these were rows of cells waiting for whatever he might enclose within - and again unleash on the unwary.

And at the end of the hallway? Just visible through a doorway that again slid aside at his approach? The rows and rows of cloning tanks, of course - each with some nascent element of his reborn empire already gestating inside. There would be work to do, of course, and he spread his arms wide as he reached the center of the room and spun in a slow circle, taking it all in, "Oh the comforts of home - how I've missed them. Where oh where to begin?"

A bony finger tapped at his chin as he fell into a contemplative pose, "I'll need an assistant, of course..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:47 pm

High Energy Research Complex Θ, CORE XVII Deep Space Station, Safely Out of Harm's Way, Just Outside The Galactic Disc... Republic Date 174.810...

"'How did it work?' Well, that's not the hard question to answer - the question we really need to answer is 'how did they start it.' We've already got a pretty good idea of how it worked when it was working. Extremely precise management of spin states, energy levels... Magic on an atomic level. Well... Not magic to us, of course. But the question again should be 'how did they start it.'"

"Well then - how did they start it, Professor?" Katryna asked, phrasing the question according to the researcher's wishes. "Is it something we can reproduce?"

"In a one word answer? No. Not unless you managed to capture a few iWe before the rest of them left for greener pastures. From what we've been able to tease out they were integral to the process, though whether it was during the star's creation or afterward is a key question we're still modeling answers for. The first part of the problem is the stations - which you kindly collected for analysis. Except they didn't tell us much of anything that we didn't already know from our own construction and the subsequent construction of the Martian Ring."

Essentially the two constructs - the Republic's version of the artificial star built by or for the iWe and the multi-purpose Ring built around Mars - were the same thing; an enormous series of very powerful artificial gravity generators. The first had used them in concert to compress the local nebula and kick-start the fusion reaction that was on-going to this day and the second was used for a number of useful ventures, such as the artificial magnetosphere it maintained around the Red Planet and its dead core.

"So we know how they put the basics together but we don't know how they managed to get the details going. Or we have a guess. From everything we know, the iWe were able to manipulate local entropy. Move it around, speed it up, slow it down. Now for a while we've been thinking that this was a function of the star itself, but we've run out of hallway on that idea and we've looped around to the idea that this was something that they were capable of doing as a function of their being. If they were - and we're not sure - then we think they may have been able to create an initial state that cascaded through the star."

"Self-replicating?"

"Exactly!" he nodded his head approvingly. "Self-replicating. Remember that the stations are only there to keep the plasma confined, harvest energy from the reaction, and regulate the lamellar flow. Everything else that it was capable of doing - like creating a new boundary interface and the accompanying conditions - it was able to do by configuring itself to do them. Which means it had to be able to maintain those conditions, which means there was a support structure present inside the star. A support structure that had to come from somewhere and - likely as not - was in some manner self-replicating!"

"After a kick-start from the iWe. Have you found the support structure?"

He shook his head, "No - but that's what we're concentrating on. If we can find it in all the data, work our way back to it, then replicate it in the lab... Then we might just be able to pull this off ourselves. Now," this was a question for her, "Just what would we do with it? A good question for you, I suppose?"

"Learn something," she shrugged. "But here's a key question I've been thinking about - why did the iWe do this instead of just build something like a Matroishka Brain? Why fiddle around with organized plasma when what they did could have been done using conventional electronics? The first thing that springs to mind is 'because that's all they could do' but I don't think that's the answer. They were clearly capable of interacting with electronics - they read some of our files, after all - so there must have been a reason why they did what they did."

"Too bad we can't ask them."

"True... But maybe there's someone we can ask..."
Last edited by Sunset on Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Jul 20, 2019 8:48 pm

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System... Republic Date 174.818...

"Bored bored bored," Fredrick Kraus repeated over his own forearm as he slumped at the edge of the granite workbench staring at or through the pencil that sat there by itself. "Bored..."

With a pair of fingers he reached out to pick it up by the blunted tip and let it fall again to clatter and rattle before it came to rest again, "Bored."

The same fingers - stained slightly gray at the tips from exposure to the real lead that the researcher preferred to suck on - picked up the implement again and he tried in vain to balance it on the well-chewed eraser before it toppled again, "Bored. Bored bored bored. I haven't been this bored in a loooooong time. It reminds me of when I was young and I'd complain to my mom and she'd tell me to go play in traffic. Those were the days," he said with a sigh. "Hard to be bored playing in traffic."

"So... You're bored. Don't you have a whole list of projects you could be working on?" the technician asked, looking over the Doctor's shoulder to where a holographic display showed exactly that, right down to the long-expired completion dates pitifully blinking away at the very end of each entry. "How can you be bored?"

Kraus picked up the pencil at the band and waggled it back and forth, "Because none of those projects inspire me. I'm an artist - I can't just create because someone says I have to create. I have to find my inspiration! My desire! My muse!"

"Go fuck your wife?"

"Mmm - can't. She's off looking for her homeworld or something like that. I'm not sure. She left a note and some instructions. Something about making sure the kid gets off to school in the morning and how I'm a great father and how she'll miss my enormous..."

The technician held up his hands in objection, "More than I needed to know, Doc. Something else then. How about you go play in traffic?"

"Tried that," the researcher objected morosely. "Ran through four or five bodies before I figured out my heart just wasn't in it. Well, it was in it until it wasn't in it and all over some guy's bumper. You know what I mean. But they started catching on and threatened to call the cops so... Yeah," he tossed the pencil up and it fell, snapping off what little was left of the tip before rolling off the workbench and disappearing into the darkness where a pair of tiny red eyes quickly devoured it.

"Hmm, well..." For a long minute the unnamed tech appeared deep in thought until he snapped his fingers, "Got it! A few months ago - wasn't there some thing where you were abducted by a powerful trans-dimensional entity? Purple capsules?"

"Hmm? Oh - yeah. Turns out I used the wrong stall in the men's room. They - he? - was trying to grab Joe. You know - Joe from Accounting? Purple skin? Yamaka?"

"You mean Yosef. He's Jewish."

"Huh. Really? Jews? In space?"

The technician shrugged, "Hey, if we can have Space Nazis then we can have Jews in Space. Anyway, didn't you come back from that with some kind of thing up your ass? Some kind of worm-person? Whatever happened with all that?"

"...huh. Yeah. Larry. Was it Larry? I forget, but now that you mention it, I think I left them in another body... I should check up on them. Don't want some nosy technician opening a random supply closet on orders from their superior and getting devoured by a writhing mass of purple-brown tentacles, right? In fact," Fredrick pushed himself to his feet, pulled open the drawer just in front of him, and retrieved a menacing-looking sub-machine gun that he checked and armed with a careful pull of the charging handle before dropping a tactical sling loosely around his neck and shoulder. "Let's go check right now. I'll check the body storage on levels three through seven, you check on level two. Room two-twenty-two, specifically..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 21, 2019 1:17 pm

Secretary-General Silaco's Office, RDF-Unconquered Sun, En Route to Circlet V, Crossing the Delta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.826...

"It's nice to see you again, Doctor Tithral," Erika said, rising from her place behind the desk to extend a hand across. The Bajoni replied with a nod of acknowledgement and a polite handshake before turning to the woman who would notionally sit next to him and offering one in turn though after Katryna had completed the required social nicety he remained standing. "Though I usually don't have an appointment to approve a research project on my calendar. Why is that?"

"There are security implications," he answered, taking a step or two back into the clear space between desk and door while mother and daughter watched and waited.

"Should I ask about those specifically or will you be including them?"

"They are part and parcel of this line of research. A proposal has come together through several expert groups for what is being called the 'transistorization' of holographic boundary manipulation technologies. As you are doubtless aware, on September Twelve of the Terran Year Nineteen Fifty Eight, Jack Kirby demonstrated the first successful integrated circuit. That crude prototype would have far-reaching implications for Human history - including your own. What is here being proposed is essentially the same thing; the development and integration of a boundary manipulation transistor."

"Enlighten me on why that would be special, Doctor."

"Because currently all of our boundary manipulation technology is based on specially and specifically designed and constructed interfaces - the 'interface' being the term for the physical hardware that creates the boundary manipulation and sets the rules of the manipulation. These take various forms but they all operate according to a fixed set of rules. Where those rules are to be changed the interface must be physically changed. Your daughter - Director Silaco," he looked to the younger woman, "was present and responsible for the first of these changes - the alteration of the Dulyani artifact to permanently lock the criminal Shatterblood away."

It had been but one in a series of discoveries that would lead to the establishment of holographic manipulation technology as the leading new technology of the current Republic but an important one. The original gateway had been constructed as an inspired trap for the authoritarian and increasingly criminal Great House that ruled over the Dulyani but the trap itself had been imperfect. Though Shatterblood and his lineage was trapped inside, they had learned to manipulate the boundary itself to express themselves into the prime universe - connected to but not strictly present in. Their weakness had been the limited amount of power contained inside the manipulation and this had been turned against them when the Director had altered the interface by simply putting more power into it than those trapped inside were able to muster.

At the time the process had seemed arcane and near-magical but intense research - long abandoned by the Dulyani - had resulted in exceptional progress over time with certain notables - Doctor Tithral being one - in possession of the concentrated expertise needed to enable new developments in the field.

"More recently, the same method was used to free a large number of slaves from their noxious masters - again, by direct alteration of the Plexus interface. Certainly, some interfaces are more complex than others. Our ship construction interfaces, as well as those created for the 'living' boundary manipulation project undertaken by Director Silaco and Doctor Brilla. While these interfaces allow for simply 'flipping a switch' to change a particular manipulation from the production of one class of ship to another, they still require direct interface access and alteration to then change those designs."

"This project would create radical new possibilities by allowing for remote and complex manipulation of the interface. Instead of physically altering or selecting pathways, we would create a 'transistor' that would - in the subtle language of holographic manipulation - allow direct manipulation of the boundary interface. This in itself would be a very intense project as we are not simply talking about the instruction of a zero or a one but the alteration of many thousands of variables - right down to the very core of the laws of physics. But what this would allow would be incredible; no longer would boundary manipulation technology be reliant on the alteration of hardware but on the creation of software. This would be much the same as the years before the creation of the integrated circuit where 'programs' - software - was written out by hand or on punch cards and often laboriously entered into the computer by teams of operators who would flip massive banks of switches to enable a single mathematical operation."

"Sounds positively Ellian - go on."

"The possibilities are enormous and endless. Software-driven devices could make alterations to an interface as well as move data and material through it. The example I was most intrigued with would be a sensor network where every piece of software connected to a particular interface would then act as one node of a vast array similar to our existing TRIPWIRE arrays but far larger in scope and potential. Tens of thousands of nodes would be billions, and instead of requiring new nodes to be deployed when a new circumstance arises the existing network could be rewritten through the interface itself. Just one potential application and that word is important - we would move from the age of physical hardware to the age of software applications. To pull an example from the annals of history, we would move from the telegraph to the smart phone."

"But there is the security consideration. It is the axiom of the security professional that all software must be considered compromised. It is not a question of when it will be but that it already is. The same would be true here. There would be some useful protections; to continue the analogy, we would no longer be programming in binary or flipping the switches ourselves but instead using a programming language where the actual hardware functions are fundamentally invisible. But to the clever hacker they would become visible and boundary manipulation technology could leak out into the greater galaxy. I should not say 'could'," he clarified, "but 'will'. Either in its current form or as software, eventually the realization will be made and others will copy our innovations."

"So you're saying we should do this because if we don't, someone else will? Despite the risks?"

"Those who invented the atomic bomb only invented the method - the physics were there all along. So yes. We should pursue this as quickly as possible, despite the risks. Certainly we should act to mitigate those risks and there is our great advantage - we are not a people who stands still. By the time others manage to copy even a tenth of our efforts we will have pushed the boundaries out so far as to once again appear magic..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:11 pm

Deep Under the Gardening Shed, Prudence, Northern Ares... An Inspired Thought Later...

"...but who? Or rather 'what'," he asked himself again a moment later, tapping his chin thoughtfully as he turned to survey the banks of cloning tubes and their attendant mechanisms and equipment. A thick, viscous liquid of a purple-green hue bubbles ripe inside each and while they were otherwise empty he could already see distorted shapes floating in their depths through the eye of his mind.

"Of course I could order in - genetic samples from across the galaxy delivered at my beck and call! But that would defeat the purpose, would it not?"

Jabbing a finger into the air he began to pace back and forth, the leather of his soles slapping the luxurious Italian gray marble that he'd had laid all those years ago. The contractors would be long-dead of course, either through age or through one of the wide variety of custom genetic time-bombs he'd slipped into the drinking fountain. Beside him the filter on one of the tanks 'burped' and he paused for a moment to watch the collected gaseous effluvium rise through the murk before continuing.

"The purpose, of course, is to cut myself off from the trivial distress of the outside galaxy while I revive the fortunes and strength of my empire. Those shortsighted fools will rule the day they disrupted the plans of DOCTOR Stephen Ambrose!" he cackled, utterly ignoring the fact that it had been he - not the ephemeral 'they' - who had been by-and-large responsible for his latest series of defeats.

"Rue!" he again declared, circling his hand at the wrist as he went back to his pacing. A sudden whiff of something cause his nose and he wrinkled the appendage at the appropriate tank as he passed, "And so on and so on. But yes - an assistant, a few henchmen, and if course a moderate army of well-trained and thoroughly brainwashed minions to throw their lives away at my whim. But what? 'Who' will come later," he decided aloud.

"To maintain the strictest secrecy it would be best to marshal my forces from the local environment but there-in lies the problem..."

Looking carefully into every dim corner and even stooping to look under the odd device, he already knew the problem before he'd finished with his impromptu tour of the dark places of his laboratory. When he had ordered this facility into long-term solomonce he'd also ordered it sterilized before hand - no point in returning at the chosen hour only to find that evolution had indeed found a way and was now climbing the glass. Even the dust hadn't followed him inside as a series of destructive sweep measures had seen to that. No... There was nothing alive inside these walls except him.

His fingers went to the back of his skull and brushed the metal protrusion that marked the site of his forced cybernetic conversion, "And even there not as alive as I'd like. Damn that... Whatever she was. But let us see what other options are open to us!"

Back through the door, through another door, a hallway, an electric barrier, and a gauntlet of light artillery in the Huerdean fashion and his feet took him to an open operations center looking out across the open space to the glass galley beyond. Across the front stood a row of monitors, each nestled into the desks that would someday be manned by one of his many minions but now glowed silent. A small panel in the very middle stood open and ready and he reached inside to twist the exposed bare wires together. For the first few seconds they would be nearly harmless - as shocking as touching a cattle fence - but after they would carry enough juice to instantly carbonized any mortal that attempted to cut the power, stealthily or not. He stepped back and as he watched the stations lit up in a sequence he'd choreographed himself to trigger certain mimetic blocks in his minions that would then any anomalous visual effect foisted on them by some clever intruder.

A touch at a specific control at a specific station - the keys were not marked - and he stepped back to look up at the bank of overhead monitors. Hidden cameras had been sewn like wheat from the hand of a peasant maiden across the sleepy little town of Prudence and he swept from one to another until he came across the cluster grouped around the garden shed. It was just as he had left it only a few minutes ago with the sun shining high in a baby blue sky while a squirrel...

"...a squirrel," and an evil grin spread across features suddenly brightened by the gleam in his eye. "Perfect."

Outside and on the monitor the rodent continued to gamble and play as the Doctor hurried from here to there, retrieving first a pair of thick gloves then a long-handled net and finally a much larger than needed tranquilizer gun. This he tucked into the waistband of his pants at the small of his back before stepping back onto the lift and rising rapidly towards the surface as the bushy-tailed invader went about their soon-to-be interrupted business...
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Postby Sunset » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:04 pm

The Ruins of Yniva City, The Former Qi Territories, Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 174.827...

"...what a shithole," Lance Captain PenJoi declared, forgetting for a moment that his mic was still live before an answering chorus of agreement from his unit reminded him to cut the feed and the chatter.

It wasn't the city's fault. Yniva had been a provincial leader before the war and even a lazy eye could pick out the signs of architectural brilliance and economic clout scattered throughout the wreckage. Then the war had come and instead of fighting in the dense wilderness or just plain surrendering the local garrison had pulled back into the city, fortified their positions, and held on like a tick until the Republic's Marines had rooted them out. The city's gleaming spires and latticework of elevated pathways had fallen from the sky to punch ragged holes through the industrial zone below. Already the wilderness was reclaiming its own with vines and creepers crawling over piles of rubble and twisting their way up shattered beams. For a moment the Hauyht questioned just how they had managed to keep it out when the city was whole before motion caught his eye and he refocused on his own cleaning duties.

A month previous the planetary government had reached the laborious decision to rebuild Yniva and then it had taken two more weeks to put a survey crew on the ground to figure out just how much of a problem they had decided to sign themselves up for. Another day and the survey crew had made high velocity contact with some locals and the survivors had returned with enough footage to convince the upstairs leadership that the 'locals' were Cultists who'd survived the War or moved in after the Marines had moved on. Trouble was, the planetary government didn't have the means to kick them out short of orbital bombardment.

Which was why Lance Captain PenJoi was here.

A couple days later his and a whole gaggle of OSA and NPoY drops ships had put down on LZs they'd daisy-cutter'ed into the woods just past artillery range. With logistics sorted and the city scouted from above, it was time for the armored fist to begin scratching through what was left of the city. The movement had been a NPoY drone emerging from reverse cover just long enough to flit to its next way-point, a sturdy-looking section of fallen facade that would hopefully give a Ynij sniper a clear target to shoot at before the infantry behind it moved up. Here on the outskirts it was a game of hopscotch; the drones went first and then a section of infantry, a hovertank, or one of his own 'Mechs would move ahead so as to keep a potential ambushed wary of just what they'd be facing.

Deeper into the heart of the city?

All the Intel suggested that's where the Cultists would be concentrated. Fresh litter, barely-there heat signatures, a snatch of whispered conversation on the amplified mics. It was also possible the encircled fanatics would try a break-out or a mass ambush which was why the going was slow and nearly boring.

He toggled his mic, "QinCey, you're up," he ordered, tapping the tactical wireframe on his dashboard. "Take that rubble mound and put a couple rockets into that building when you get up there."

It wasn't gut instinct but a couple explosions might twitch a nervous trigger finger or two - if there was anyone hiding out there to begin with. Across the street the Lance Sergeant's smaller Salvo picked up its drumsticks and picked its way forward, passing a section of NPoY infantry that was probably delighted he hadn't sent them up twice in a row. Twisting its torso back and forth, it had barely settled into position when two jets of smoke and flame erupted from the box launcher worked into its shoulder and two explosions rocked the distant building, one as close after the other as they'd been between launch and impact.

For a moment dust shook from the walls of the building and smoke drifted away before the entire building exploded. The force was enough to send a nearby drone pinwheeling away and even the much heavier Salvo took an uncertain step back as unidentified objects spread from the carnage to spin wildly on jets of flame and gas. Chatter filled the radio and his eyes flickered to the target lock indicator; nothing.

Or at least nothing that his Henchman thought looked like something aiming something in his direction. He slapped the wireframe again - this time on an actual hunch - and toggled over to the labelled diagram the government had provided them with after some whining and too laborious searching and the answer was right in front of him. Just as he was about to toggle the mic and inform his troops another voice cut through the clutter, "Captain PenJoi, this is Command. What's going on over there? We have an unscheduled explosion..."

He toggled the switch over and up, putting his reply on both channels, "Chemical plant cooking off. I had L3 put a couple missiles into it, figured it would rattle the locals."

"...cool. Spread out your unit, Captain. The 21st picked up a couple Qi trying to sneak past their lines but put bullets in them before they could be questioned. Consensus here is that they might be trying a distributed ex-filtration..."
Last edited by Sunset on Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Jul 28, 2019 12:03 pm

Republic Defense Force Logistics Command, Facility One, D'Ver'Xorix, Deep in the Gulf Between Stars... Republic Date 174.850...

"...well, we've got a bunch of big projects on our plate right now," Grand Admiral Edge replied when asked, gesturing towards the row of circular holoprojectors that sat on the second tier of his bowl-shaped command center while he walked the periphery of the very lowest, looking up to the officers that moved among them to occasionally catch the eye of one or another who answered his unspoken query with a nod or the shake of a suitable appendage. "And of course all the little ones."

Those were on the third tier and as one might expect of a circular chamber there were far more stations and thus far more projectors but fewer officers. Most of these were continuations of projects that might have once been big but for the Defense Forces' Logistics Command they had grown so routine and so automated that they had been relegated to the upper tier where an occasional glance was spared. Exploration and Fleet Command might have had more ships and more personnel, but Logistics covered a lot of ground and there were stations for everything from new Academy construction to the procurement of fresh produce. Paperwork; and the software that handled each station had grown to be very good at doing yet more of it.

"Your coreward expansion project means that we're building a lot of new stations and a lot of new transit gates. Every inhabited world gets one of each. Which means we need to staff them appropriate to the amount of traffic they'll be getting. Then we've got all the new TRIPWIRE arrays - more planets, more space to watch, more arrays needed, more arrays to build. There's nearly a dozen under construction," he pointed to one station, where a holographic slice of the Milky Way all the way from Sol in the south to the middle-edge of the Delta-Beta border and edging up towards the Core was highlighted. "Sprinkled around in the Zone."

"We're also working hard on getting the ramship flocks up to the numbers Alyndra requested. One-for-one doesn't sound like a lot, but we keep finding new ships to add to the total. And there's the Rapid Response Groups. Even though Wave 2 is almost done, your daughter is still finding new ways to use my resources when she doesn't have enough of her own."

"But you're fulfilling them?"

"Of course. The crazy shit just gets put on the back burner for a few days, especially if its 'build me a planet so I can throw it at someone I like'. The immediate needs of the Fleet and Exploration Command come first, then resource renewal requests, then expansion projects, then crazy shit..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Jul 29, 2019 6:52 pm

On the Ground, GEC-2310653D, Far Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 174.Yeah Face It I'm Lazy...

"...Captain, I'm picking up something that looks like a handshaking protocol..." Lieutenant Commander Ingersol studied his console again, occasionally glancing up to where the three figures were still standing quietly on the edge of the floating stone circle.

Though 'standing' wasn't exactly the correct word; All three were floating indistinctly between earth and sky, their forms either not yet fully realized or exactly as they should be. It looked to all present as though they were doing something but what that something was could have been anyone's guess except for the readings running across his sensor console.

"Are we leaking something?" Captain Blaine asked aloud, looking around as though she expected to see a nefarious figure crouched behind a pile of crates pointing an antenna at the figures and glaring back at her from behind an over-sized raised lapel. "Or are they leaking something?"

"They're not leaking anything. It's deliberate," he decided. "But it stops right at the edge of the circle. I can see it on the sensors - I should be able to turn it into something we can understand."

"No, hold on..."

Kami stared at the three for a minute. Right now whoever it was was trapped inside - or at least appeared to be - and if they could talk to the sensor network... Maybe even compromise it... They'd have a way out, 'And if they aren't trapped in there or don't want to get out...'

Her decision was made, though she gave everyone a chance to object, "Okay, here's what I'm thinking. We'll have one of the redshirts go in. Sever its external comms, act as an interpreter. They talk to it, it talks to us - if that's what they want to do. That way the whole thing is air-gapped. At worse we lose a redshirt and that's what they are there for."

She looked to Thomas and Thomas looked around to shrugs; No immediate objections.

"Alright, then... Five Four Seven?" She turned to the closest 'blank' ARC3, reading off the number printed on the side of its torso, "You're going to be our C-3PO. Eye? Can you tell this unit what sub-systems to disable so that it can't talk to us by any means but audio but it can still talk to them by... Whatever Thomas sees them talking to us by?"

"Sure Boss..."

It was a short reply but it took the engineer longer to do the work and while they waited the Lieutenant Commander kept looking over his console, nervous that at any moment the attempted handshake would disappear and the three would walk back into whatever dimension they'd emerged from and disappear forever. But it was not to be - the ARC3 was re-configured and as boldly as a non-sentient robot could be it stepped inside the circle to stand just opposite the three, rattling off the results of the handshake as it began to reply in kind. Then...

"You are not Qi, nor are you Ver'Lithil. Nor are you Yelac. What is your species and civilization?"

"Straightforward," Captain Blaine called over her shoulder to the sensor officer, who nodded agreement. "I like that. I'm Captain Kamilia Blaine, representing the Republic of Sunset. We're a multi-species civilization. We've encountered the Qi. We've never heard of the Ver'Lithil or the Yelac though - who are they?" she asked, keeping her face towards the three.

"We have not heard of you. We were expecting the Qi, the Ver'Lithil, or perhaps the Yelac. Though it is good that it is not the last;" and she thought she detected something of a sense of relief even in the ARC3's translation. "The Yelac are those who pursued us until we found safety here and the Ver'Lithil are the one who assisted us in our time of greatest need."

That was enough for a guess, "The Ver'Lithil - energy being? Can't see them? Can suck the energy out of things?"

"Your description is correct, if not complete."

"Yeah - they told us they were the iWe..."

There was a moment's pause and then the ARC3 began to laugh, "They told you that? According to the dictionary supplied by your translator servitor, that is an indirect reference to a bodily function!" There was an awkward silence and then the ARC3 spoke again, "Do not worry, Captain Blaine - they told us something of the same thing when we first encountered them. In your preferred language it would be 'iWank'. So it would seem we have both dealt with the Ver'Lithil."

"Was that their own name?"

This time the ARC3 shook its head, "No. That is the name we gave them. The name they supplied to us was considered too crude to be used. Was it the Ver'Lithil that pointed you to us? Or the Qi?"

"That's..." She hesitated. Even the short version of the events that had led up to this moment had some elements that could be uncomfortable, depending on who had been friendly with who at what point in the distant or immediate past. Of course, the Dranahovi were seemingly trapped so the worse that could happen is that they could stop listening and give her the hyper-dimensional finger. "It's kind of a long story. We're not interrupting dinner or anything, are we?"

"No, Captain. We are the Greeters. That is our role. We will listen to your story regardless of length."

"Then here goes and I'll try to keep it short but its kinda round-about. We were led to a nearby star system by the Druth'Haari, where we found a monument created by the Yelac... Emperor-Covenant Xyu? Celebrating their victory over the Dranahovi. You. That system had been destroyed a long time ago by the Ver'Lithil. I'm guessing that's when they saved you? There was also a group of Qi on the planet - religious refugees who had fled the Chosen Dominion of Ynij, which is what the Qi were calling their empire. They were being rounded up by the Qi religious police. We tried to contact them but they attacked us first, so we defended ourselves. I thought they were slavers - we don't like slavers - but by the time things were clarified they'd already attacked us."

"You know of the Druth'Haari?"

"Yeah - they are - were - friends with the iWe."

"That is one way to describe them. Are you unaware that the Ver'Lithil were the children of the Druth'Haari? As far as such things can be assigned..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Aug 01, 2019 8:27 pm

Plexus News with Tanya Zaldano... Republic Date 174.863...

"...and in more local news - at least if you're living in Sol and on Mars specifically - the Martian Solette will be taken offline for maintenance on one-seven-four-point-eight-eight with service restored on one-seven-four-point-nine-two." Behind the anchorwoman, who seemed to be striding barefoot along a red sandy beach while a distant sun burned high in the early evening, holograms began to appear to pick out important data points as she listed them off. "For those who haven't visited the Red Planet, the Martian Solette is an artificial sun that was put in place by the former NationState of Eniqcir to increase the amount of ambient stellar-type radiation falling on the planet's surface and compensating - in part - for the planet's distance to the Sun in comparison to the Earth."

"As you can see," she turned, seeming to hold the Sun with her hand and the exaggerated pose adopted doing marvelous things to her healthy assets, "without the Solette temperatures would plummet..."

Around her, ice began to crawl across the beach and the slowly lapping waves went still as the sea behind her quickly froze over. The star also went dim and after a few seconds she was left in near-twilight except for the white flash of her teeth and the glitter of jewelry at hip and navel.

"...and those venturing out into the cold would need to bring a flashlight. Fortunately for the Martians, this outage is expected to be brief and beneficial; New systems installed will allow the Solette to bring both the light and temperatures up past previous levels to Earth-normal, and will also reproduce the Sun's Earth-normal radiation spectrum far more precisely. Don't like it? That's fine too - the rebuilt Solette will feature an array of emitters that will allow local governments to vary the levels within a certain range depending on local needs..."

----


Special Projects Research & Development Site Beta, Mars, Sol System...

"...'within a certain range'," the lead designer snickered as he watched Tanya turn and walk away as her next story began to unfurl behind her, holograms dropping away like the sarong that was slowly uncoiling itself from her hips as she went. "Let's see who was paying attention to that part and see who makes the connection first. After all," he nudged the engineer next to him. "What's one man's artificial sun but another man's death ray?"
Last edited by Sunset on Thu Aug 01, 2019 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:51 am

Over the Hellas Sea, Southeastern Mangala, Mars, Sol System... Republic Date 174.867... A Few Days Before the Lights Go Out...

One after the other the two dart-shaped aircraft zipped along above the surface of the water, their odd boxed-off engines throwing back a huge plume of spray that the second was forced to dodge or plow through. Sunlight glinted off its golden canopy as the first slipped back and forth, every move predicting the efforts of the second to duck out from under or otherwise escape the jet wash coming off its tail. For nearly the length of the longest straight segment of the southern border the two danced back and forth until finally - mercifully - the first rose high enough that their drives were no longer tossing off the huge plume. This seemed to be the signal for one game to end and another to begin as the pair turned parallel to the next segment, the second pulling up near even with the leader.

"Flight control, this is Buccaneer One," the Hauyht on the lead stick of the now-named patrol called out as she looked over her left shoulder to check the position of Buccaneer Two before twisting left to check her own fighter's position relative to the border, "we've reached the first nav and are running parallel to the MarCong border. Should be coming up on the next nav in five-point-five."

"Roger, Buccaneer. You stay sharp on that line - the Congos are itchy."

"Understood, FC," the flight leader replied with the biggest shit-eating grin on her furry face as she nudged her Super Mamushi sideways and even closer to the harsh red hologram that marked the border in her fighter's heads-up display. Under her cockpit a long linear accelerator hung like a phallic representation on a fertility god of old and there was the urge twitching through her arm to reach out and flip that switch that would take the new-generation fighter from patrol green to combat red.

"We'll stay well away, right wingy?"

"Roger, Buccaneer One," and if there was ever a moment when one might be able to somehow make out a 'wink' through both the silvered canopy and mirrored visor of her wing-man's flight helmet then this would be that moment. A gentle hand on the stick and both slid over just again, her wingtip now close enough that she could have reached out and touched the border with her hand if she'd been willing to crawl out onto the wing. Underneath the water and waves flashed past and here and there she could see the bottom of the vast artificial sea start to rise up as they approached both the nav point and the beach that would mark the border's next turn.

Checking her speed and vector again, she let her eyes wander for a moment. There wouldn't be anything directly ahead - the border itself was too tense for anything other than military (or in this case, OSA) craft to be venturing too close - but out across the sea to her left there was a smattering of sea-going traffic. The Mangalans were the fruit-loopy type and in the relatively shallow waters of the Hellas Sea they had built enormous aquaculture pens where heart-healthy fish and other aquatic life were raised in vast numbers to feed the inland population. Most of those boats would then be harvesters sent out to reap the bounty while a few would be pleasure craft - friends and family out to enjoy a day on the water before the Solette would dim for a few days and temperatures would drop into the too fuckin' colds.

"Nav's coming up, 'One," her wingman called out, breaking her revere and pulling her wide brown eyes back to the front. Ahead at the horizon she could see the border hologram as it jogged left and with a little bit of caution she twisted the stick over to readjust, letting the maneuvering thrusters on her wings ease the fighter into its new heading. Another quick stretch and they'd be power-sliding around the Corner and then heading for home, leaving the eastern border to the suckers who had drawn the short straw...
Last edited by Sunset on Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Fri Aug 02, 2019 4:45 pm

Derelict Deep Space Monitoring Station, Adrift Near RDF-Bar Harbor, On the Other Side of GEC-175146, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.677...

"You know, this would be kinda creepy if there was a damned thing anything here could do to us," Frank intoned as he swung his wrist from side to side, the projected beam of light from his palm following the motion as he played it over their surroundings. Where one might expect a thin or thick layer of dust built up over the fullness of time there was nothing but immaculate metal, dull brown in color and lit here and there by the emergency lights that hadn't succumbed to the millenniums since the station was last occupied. The airlock they had found themselves in was a fat truncated triangle and that theme had continued after the team had breached the inner door, leading Ed to comment that the previous inhabitants must have been pear-shaped - literally.

The dust though; "You'd figure the atmospheric systems would have been the first to go. Filters get clogged, particulates get into somewhere they shouldn't be - damage builds up. Bang, something blows. With no one here to replace it..."

"I don't think there ever was anyone here to replace it," Ed answered, swinging his own hand up to run it across the narrow ceiling. A convenient if small alcove caught his hand and he grabbed the rim to haul himself up until he could get a good look inside, "Another dead light. How many Fenvarians does it take to change a light bulb?"

"How many?"

"Forty. One to change the light bulb, the rest to hold the position till they can call in heavy fire support."

Frank paused in his tracks for a moment to consider if he even found light bulb jokes funny and Ed continued to explain his theory, "I think this station was unmanned. Automated. Why post a bunch of people here for however long to keep an eye on a system that doesn't seem to be doing much - or have done much. Nope - I'd say its robots. And how do I know?"

"How do you know that, Ed?" Frank asked, genuinely curious. While Ed - and Frank - seemed to often be a donut short of a dozen there were times when he was capable of amazing insight. Or he just got lucky; "You said it Frank - there's no dust. There aren't any air vents either."

"Huh."

Frank cycled through a few readings before repeating himself again, "Huh."

"What's that?" Ed had moved head now, his path taking him further into the depths of the station and hopefully - presumably- towards whatever control center had been installed there to run the whole thing.

"Just checked the atmospheric gas composition. I think you're right. If I was trying to limit oxidation, they're just what I'd fill the place with. No moisture in the air either..."

But Ed had stopped and was now looking over his shoulder at Frank, "No, I meant 'what's that'," he repeated, stepping back from the gentle corner so Frank could see his extended arm pointing at something. "You know, like 'what is that weird looking thing that I'm pointing at because I don't know what it is'?"

A sigh formed on artificial lips and Frank stepped around the corner to repeat himself a second time, "Huh."

Whatever it was, it was glowing but not in that way that would light up the corridor in slow amber pulses that threw everything into shadow but glowing in that way that told him whoever wanted it to glow wanted it to be plainly visible against the darkness. It was pulsing though, and he knelt to examine it, moving one hand and the collection of sensors buried under the artificial blue skin just a few centimeters above the surface. The shape fit the space; a squat truncated cone that reminded him of a long-forgotten baby toy where one might stack fat rings on top of each other. Every second or so the next ring lit up...

"Ed..."

"Wha..."

The explosion was very pretty.
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Postby Sunset » Sat Aug 03, 2019 5:12 pm

Ahnjica, The Planet Cuus, GEC-259873, The Coreward Expansion Zone, Alpha Quadrant... Republic Date 174.866...

Ahnjica was picturesque in the manner of most small seaside towns with a tumble-down of small, cozy looking houses nestled up against the cliffs and split by the coast road running through them. On this particular mid-summer morning the fog still lingered from where it had rolled in off the bay and the village denizens were out in numbers, going about this task or that as the two newcomers walked among them. Most were engaged in the necessary habit of securing their next meal, cleaning out the traps, baiting them again, or repairing the woven fiber nets that would be used to snare a species of local crustacean that looked disturbingly similar to those who would take them. More than a few who were not engaged in the fisheries seemed to be gardeners, moving around an odd plant that neither had seen on their hike into the village.

As the two stood and watched one of the locals stooped down near the base of the plant they were tending, carefully cutting out the weeds that had grown there in days before with their claw-like hands. For the two explorers- possessed of hands similar in most ways to you and I - these too were of considerable interest. Betraying their owner's evolutionary origins, they were at once hand and claw, a four-digit combination of the two that had left the inner ridge of the forefinger and thumb with a sharp, serrated edge. As it rose it must have caught their attention because one eye extended from the four that lined the brow of its carapace-head and looked back over its fellows as it gathered up a rope-handled bucket from where it had been sitting on a window ledge. Dipping into the pail it began to scoop out handfuls of scraps - perhaps the remnants of that morning's meal - and scatter them close to the base of the plant.

"What do you want, strangers?"

Lae was surprised by the sudden question, though there was some excuse. In most cases their translators provided a voice-over to what was being said; the same words said just a moment after the previous. Here, however, he heard nothing - the local tongue ranged high into the ultrasonic, useful for hearing and being heard underwater - and after another momentary hesitation he replied, "Nothing. I - we," he gestured to Trinya, "were just admiring your plant."

"We didn't see any like it outside the village," she added, seconding his own thoughts. "What is it?"

The villager turned, following first their eyes and then his own as all four emerged from their sockets to split into a broad semi-circle as it searched the presumed direction they had been looking. After a moment - and without finding anything - its eyes went down and its gaze settled on the shredded trimmings now scattered around its four claw-like feet, "These?" One orbed eye stalk flipped back over its shoulder to stare quizzically at them, "These are just gafaja. They grow all over - pests."

Trinya glanced sideways at Lae and Lae glanced back, the taller Cyar ending with a very Human shrug. "No, I mean," she pointed directly past him at the thick-stalked plant with its collection of faded red-and-orange topped spines that made it look something like a particularly ornery cactus, "this plant!"

The correction had been made but its translated voice turned angry as it replied, "That is not a plant!" Without turning it scuttled sideways through the door of its house, sweeping the woven vine curtain that served as a door aside and then back into place as it passed. "That is my brood!"

After a few more cautious conversations the two were to learn the answer to their confrontation. While the Ocoredus looked in many ways similar to the crustaceans of their homeworlds' oceans, the species reproduction was closer to that of jellyfish; an egg-like spawn would be hatched from the corpse of a sexually mature adult. This then would be planted in suitable soil and tended as it grew into a polyp - the plant, as they had first mistaken it for. As it grew the individual stalks would thicken until the carapace burst and the juvenile growing inside detached. These would then return to the sea for several molts - the final melting being the sign of a sexually mature adult. During the full moon a mating orgy would occur and most would emerge essentially pregnant, a spawn in their thorax waiting for the hormones that would be hatched when the adult in turn met their end...
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Aug 03, 2019 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Sun Aug 04, 2019 8:33 pm

Deep Under the Gardening Shed, Prudence, Northern Ares... The Mighty Hunter Returns...

Triumphant?

Holding his prey ahead of him in a gloved hand, Stephen returned to the laboratory where a table - far too large, but still useful - was waiting for the subject. With something that seemed almost like care he laid the squirrel out, arranging it on its side before strapping the animal down. That the Doctor had on hand the smallest of leather buckles and straps might have been concerning but one must remember that despite incipient madness he is a professional.

"And now for some numbers," he proclaimed aloud, though the only one around to hear him was his recently obtained sample. "After all, science without numbers is simply screwing around, is it not? The sample appears to be," he lifted the closer of the hind legs, "a male Eastern Gray squirrel - sciurus carolinensis - weighing approximately five hundred fifty grams. Twenty seven centimeters from nose to hindquarters and forty eight from nose to tail. Judging from the amount of body fat and its lustrous coat, the subject is in prime physical condition for one of its species and genus. Based on the tranquilizer dosage and the size of the animal, it will awaken in two to three hours. No harm done."

Searching through a drawer his hand uncovered a razor of the appropriate size and with great care he proceeded to shave a small patch of the animal's fur until the skin underneath was bare. With the aid of a bulb of warm water and a sterile towel he washed the site, explaining as he did, "Because this animal has been outdoors - presumably for the entirety of its life until this point - I cannot simply assume that any sample taken will, in fact, be that of sciurus carolinensis. As I intend to begin the cloning process tonight, I am taking great care to made sure that I will not wake up in the morning to find my cloning tanks inhabited by a particularly vicious species of humanoid tick. That was an unfortunate incident best avoided."

With the site as clean as could be reasonably made in the time allotted, he next fetched a scraper and dragged it gently across the animal's exposed skin before carrying the instrument over to a rather plain-looking machine.

"You may wonder why I am not simply inserting the sample into one of the many machines that could do all of this for me; the answer is 'practice'. That and I am still somewhat concerned as to the status of the facilities here. By doing the simple tasks myself, I should be able to cross-check their work against my own intellect. Now..." he pressed a button and the machine sprang to life, "let us work the magic of LIFE!"

Taking a step back he waited patiently while invisible somethings whirred, unseen mechanisms sputtered, and spectral fluids pumped. A chime and he stepped forward again to drag his finger across the panel, an entire row of indicators lighting up in response. Behind him there was an unconscionable churning and bubbling and the various lights on the matching row of cloning tubes lit up while green fluid flowed overhead before splitting into the various chambers.

"And that, as they say, is that. Now - a cage. And then? Dinner. We shall see if the commissary is in the same sad state as I last left it..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:54 am

The Old Martian Duma, Central Mangala, Mars, Sol System... Republic Date 174.875...

"Alright everyone - listen up!" General CusTer began, her voice rising almost to a yell as she made her presence known over the babbling of the crowd below. Perched on the left-side torso of her squatting Dragoon, she had a commanding view of her division's officers and enlisted spread out on the tarmac below. An old-style Union blue cavalry officer's hat was perched between her ears - minus holes for the same - and she pushed the brim back with a pair of fingers while she waited for the majority of faces to turn her way. To say that the OSA didn't stand on ceremony was no stretch at all; even she managed to garner only a half-dozen salutes across any given day.

The hat had been a gift from one of her more historically curious officers who had told her that the hat fit the name. She hadn't yet bothered to look up the reason but she felt the look suited her and much better than the chrome-plated helmet General PatTon was always lugging around. Another glance around the crowd and she pushed herself from almost-reclining to carefully-standing, one hand braced against the 'Mech's center torso while the big rotary drum of barrage rockets framed her from behind, "First order of business!"

Or was it 'point'?

She shrugged to herself; it didn't matter now, did it?

"Orders from on high. Starting today, our patrols are to maintain a minimum distance of one kilometer from the Congo border excepting cases of emergency!"

Congo. She liked the word though she wasn't exactly sure where it had entered the vernacular. It had more than a hint of a slur to it and it was much better slang than either Martians or MarCong, the first of which was presumptuous and the second sounded like something she'd find at a Chinese buffet.

"Now that mostly applies to you fly-boys and since you're all a bunch of show-offs I'm going to repeat myself until you've got it firm between your ears - keep your wings at least one kilometer away from the border! Even if there's an emergency, the first thing I want you doing is calling into flight control so they can warn the Congos not to get their granny panties in a twist! Everyone got that?"

She looked towards the section of the assembled division where the pilots had congregated, eyes fixed on a few in particular. Her gaze was answered by both feigned expressions of outrage or innocence and she called out again, "I want to see some nods, fuckers! 'Yes, General, absolutely, General!' Or some of you will be out sweeping the tarmac instead of riding that rocket you like between your legs!"

That last earned the pilots a chorus of cat-calls from the rest of the assembly and she caught enough nods to be reasonably confident she'd only have to punish one or two of them before the others fell into line.

"Now, second point of business..."

There would be no discussion. She was of the mind that meetings and thus discussions with more than two or three people were useless, even for posturing. That in mind she adjusted her own and continued, "I'm sure you're all sentient enough to have noticed the planes behind me! They're new - brand new - 'Gryphon' ground attack fighters from the six-six-sixth air wing. Unless you're one of the pilots or one of the technical crew, you're cordially invited to keep your dirty hands off them! As of now they're attached to the 23rd until we're rotated out and they'll be integrated into the war games next month."

There was no use, of course, in turning to either look or point towards the stretched-out rows of straight-winged fighters that were spread out on the edge of the tarmac behind her. Not only would she be pointing at armor plating, but as she'd already stated it would take a moron to miss the perfectly-aligned rows of planes with their red munitions banners fluttering in the slight breeze. Nor would it take much more smarts to notice that the pilot camp was now divided into another little clique, this dominated by officers wearing armored vests over their regular flight suit.

"Which brings us to the third point of business - we're having war games next month. The 23rd will be facing off against a 'Pendran Colonial Militia division. Not front-line boys from the TYCS - apparently they don't think we've up to the task! Well, this'll be a chance to show them otherwise, right? So, time to cut out the beer rations and hit the simulators. I want everyone fighting ready and ready to fight come the first. Don't worry though, you'll get your chance at the hooch. Last point of business. Middle of next month will be the annual armed forces and military reserve jamboree."

"It's a special shindig put on by the Pointies and the RDF up on the Carnil coast and because we're technically military reserve and stationed on-planet, we're invited to attend. There'll be all kinds of fun shit and all kinds of boring shit, but mostly it will be comrades-in-arms and plenty of beer on the beach. There'll be more information posted on the intranet, but I can promise you this - whoever wins next month will be the guests of honor. Do you want that to be the 23rd OSA?!?"

There were a few half-heart'ed shouts of approval and so she asked again, "I said - Do You Want That to Be the 23rd?!?"

Again the response was half-heart'ed and she muttered to herself before starting her climb down from the podium, announcements and thus assembly over, "Sometimes I swear I'd have to shoot someone to get a response out of these idiots..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Aug 06, 2019 3:52 pm

On the Ground, GEC-2310653D, Far Western Gamma-Alpha Border... Republic Date 174.Something...

"Their children? Sorry if it's a little flippant, but they don't seem to have their mother's nose or their father's eyes. Are we sure we're talking about the same Druth'Haari? Really into crystals, enigmatic conversations, and recently associated with a giant purple space kraken that answers to 'Dayaamn'?"

"It is good to hear that your civilization has managed to retain its sense of humor, Captain Blaine. It had often seemed like that was one of the first traits to be discarded by evolution as many took their first tentative steps into space. Yes - the same. Though it seems you are not completely aware of their history..."

"We're working on it," she shrugged and this time the being responded with something that might have been an indescribable nod; "Understandable. Much of what we know about them is unknown and while we have had the opportunity to theorize since our seclusion even that has only raised more questions. What we do know is that the Ver'Lithil proceeded the Druth'Haari into this universe - created as part of it while their precursors were still trapped in the previous. Their natural ability to control some of the most fundamental forces of existence - did this not strike you as curious?"

"I can't say it did, but I'm not a physicist or a biologist. But," she turned to look at the sensor station and then waved, motioning for one of the two behind the console to step forward, "I happen to have one on staff. Doctor Saryan Brilla, physicist. I think it's your turn at bat, Saryan..."

The ARC3 stepped forward, face and hands configured with the features of the blonde woman though it was missing other more notable elements. When it became apparent that the three were unwilling or unable to move despite their position nearly a third of a turn around the circle she walked over to stand just next to the Captain, "Howdy."

"A regional or ethnic dialect?" one of the three said aloud, though it was only possible to determine that one of the other two spoke when the first answered what seemed like their own question; "Yes. According to their translation servitor, their civilization still retains many local and species-specific languages and dialects. Again, this is good, Captain. Your civilization has not yet descended into intellectual monotone. Flexibility is a key trait that will be required in times ahead."

"I will repeat the question," and everyone present got the distinct impression that it was now the one on the right who was talking. "Did this not strike you as curious?"

"Shore - but we've had a lot on our plate. Y'all mind cutting to the chase?"

"The Ver'Lithil were created by the Druth'Haari and imbued with their fundamental nature in other to serve as the engineers of first the Druth'Haari portion of the universe and then of their arrival into it. A gateway was required between the two and the Ver'Lithil were its builders."

"But that was also what trapped them here," Saryan blurted out, realization on her lips. "They were part of the creation so the rules of this universe are - were - integral to their existence. At least until they figured out..." Her voice stopped and she appeared to chew on her words for a moment until, "Seems someone don't want me sayin' that. And I'll bet you half a pesky violet-eyed brunette I know who."

"You did say 'were'," one of the three replied, something like sympathy in its translated words. "Does this mean the Ver'Lithil have removed themselves from this universe?"

Saryan tried her tongue again, "Yes... Thanks for that at least," she ended, raising a fist to the sky and unrolling her middle finger at something unseen.

"Good. Then they will not suffer in the trials that are to come..."
Last edited by Sunset on Thu Aug 08, 2019 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:46 pm

Fort DixZon, The Eastern Rangelands, Juniper, GEC-74209, The Coreward Fringe, Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.883...

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'The first question you should ask when someone asks you to do the impossible is 'How much are you paying?''

~An Engineer's Corollaries to 'The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries'

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"You know we've tried this before," the Qi engineer pointed out, skepticism plain on his features despite the fur that covered his face. "I'm not going to say its impossible, but the trade-offs... You'd really just be better putting the time and money into designing an aircraft and a ground craft with the same mission profile and fielding both."

For a long minute the bunny stood there looking at him, arm still resting where it had been on the tall cubical wall when the question was first asked, ears relaxed... As though the engineer's answer had passed right through his head without even stopping to bounce off a spare neuron. The silence stretched on to uncomfortable and the Qi spun around in his chair, rapidly punching commands into his computer to generate a stack of the hovering holograms the Republic seemed so enamored with, "Here..."

He pointed to the first, "We've done this before. We ran the numbers, did some mock-ups. All of those extra moving parts are going to end up adding to the maintenance you're going to need to do. They'll also make the thing a bitch to repair - and don't even think about trying some cut-rate field tech's patch job. We're talking not twice the normal maintenance but more like three times, with costs to match."

The Hauyht moved just far enough to take a sip from whatever noxious substitute for coffee he preferred. No question, no shrug, just... Siiiiip

"...okay. How about this?" A couple keys in combination and the second image came to the front, stretching out to show a wire-frame diagram of one of the proto-prototypes they had on file. "Your boys - they're all about having more guns, right? Here's the problem... All of those mechanical systems that we'd need to integrate in order to transform from one 'mode' to the other? Those all take up space - weight. Mass. Again, not twice but more like two and a half times as much as we'd need to get either a walking robot or an aircraft moving. That's space that could have been used for weapon systems, ammunition, feed systems, armor. We've even got an example," he tapped the keys again and another image flipped to the side, this time showing a transforming aircraft that looked like it had just leapt out of a cartoon.

"This one even works. But all those joints? All that movement? That's pretty much the entire machine. It can carry... One," he pointed a finger, "one gun. And a couple head laser things. If you want more than that you have to strap on all these separate packs that mean it can't do the whole 'transforming' thing as effectively. And again - you might as well just field a couple heavy hitters instead. You'll get more bang for your buck."

Another slow sip, this time with attached question, "So... next week?"

The engineer leaned back in his chair, sighed, and rubbed his eyes before looking over to the calendar that hung on the cubicle wall over the framed d-picture of his family, "Next week? Try next year. Actually, hold that," he reached out and flipped through the catchy witticisms until one caught his eye. "How much are you paying?"

----

'The second question you should ask is 'Can I work from home?''

~An Engineer's Corollaries to 'The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries'

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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:19 pm

RDF-Bar Harbor, On the Other Side of GEC-175146, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.677...

"...that's one way to narrow our options," Captain Ria decided as she sat watching the explosions continue to bloom across the surface of the derelict monitoring station from the comfort of her command chair. Whoever had mined the station had decided to do a thorough job; nearly a minute had passed and the surface of the abandoned property was still rippling with multicolored blooms like the title sequence of a Dornalian summer blockbuster. "So, who was it?"

Lieutenant Calloway, who was sitting behind the Captain and to her right, considered the question for a moment before deciding, "Ed. Though Frank was right there too."

"No - I meant 'who mined the station?'"

"Oh. They did," though her eyes went back to the console before she continued with her declaration. Various streams of data were gliding past and there was a collection of still and video feeds but she focused on one in particular, "The station is radially symmetrical and while the explosions are going off seemingly at random their placement is not. I'd bet you that the sequence was primed the moment they cut through the hull."

"So whoever it was probably set them out to keep whoever that is," Ria looked past the station to the nearby star and the invisible collection of former planets that still circled it, "from.going through their stuff. Why not just tow it away though? Or scuttle it yourself?"

"I believe Frank and Ed explained it adequately," their gray-faced guest answered. Like the rest, he had been listening with half an ear to the transmitted conversation from the engineers right up to the moment the line had been so precipitously cut.

"The station was fully autonomous, likely to prevent any number of scenarios from hostages to intelligence leaks if the station was attacked or compromised. For a civilization with those capabilities, abandoning the station - and leaving it in place for possible future events - represented an insignificant outlay of resources."

"Fair enough. Engineering, have Ed and Frank clean up their mess. Recover the shuttle if they can, destroy it otherwise, and let's refocus on that Trilat station. There's a couple minutes until Hummingbird gets here and I'd rather we not look like a bunch of doofuses when they do..."

Hummingbird was not long in arriving. One of the Defense Force's new Resolution-Class Frigates, the elegantly sculpted ship was designed for speed and in the declared time she streaked in from behind the Cruiser, her drive envelope collapsing in a cascade of cyan lightning. Just as quickly her commanding officer was centered on the bridge's main screen, the Ewkoo Uh Va preferring the serenity of her aquatic habitat to the disconnect of a projected hologram.

"Captain Ria - I have a guest for you. Two, actually. It took a while to find the first and the second is a loaner..."
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sun Aug 11, 2019 3:03 pm

Deep Under the Gardening Shed, Prudence, Northern Ares... Republic Date 174.879...

The cage was open.

"Which - of course it is open!" the Doctor declared, one arm wrapped around his side while the opposite finger tapped at the few days stubble on his bony chin. While every manner of antiquated piece of lab equipment had fallen in tears before his intellect and experience, it was the auto-groomer in his quarters that had still defeated him. But no matter - the problem at hand was the wire cage and its gently swinging door.

"Complete- I would note for the benefit of the future generations that will no doubt rapturously study my many works - a five-button electronic lock. No matter! Sciurus carolinensis is well-known for its cleverness and in many ways this is a fortunate stroke! By virtue of its ability to bypass this mechanism it must then be one of the more intelligent members of its species and this is a trait I intend to exploit..."

A noise caught his attention and he turned, the large tranquilizer-slash-revolver he had once again taken to wearing tucked into the waistband of his trousers suddenly in his hand. Furry movement betrayed his enemy and he tracked it with the barrel as it darted along the top of a line of shelves, something odd caught up in its mouth. For a mind as keen as his it was no oddity and he recognized it immediately, "Ah - my lunch."

This he'd placed absently on the counter when he'd entered the lab, intending to finish the spring roll - one of the few foods that the commissary could produce in a quality to satisfy him - when he'd finished his survey of the cloning tanks and their products. That had led him to the open cage door and while he had been contemplating it the grey shadow had snuck up behind him and made off with his lunch!

"No matter!" he decided suddenly, turning away and returning the weapon to its place at the small of his back with a flourish of his lab coat. "Pitting my genius against his natural talents in a contest of traps and treasures will both provide me with suitable diversions while I wait on my experiments and allow me further insight into the nature of said skills! Skills that I fully intend to make use of..." he added, his voice trailing off.

After appropriate safeguards, of course.

Brainwashing. Genetic conditioning. Neurological overrides. All of these and more would have to be put into place given the demonstrated capabilities of his intended subject. He'd already laid out two of his proposed classes and they hung on the wall of the lab, displayed as classic blueprints on tall vertical monitors. The first would be a generic minion, able to perform all the general duties required in the complex while the second would be an overseer - charged with organizing those under it while not itself having their skills. Past this two more were rattling around in his head though not all the details were yet set in stone.

As this was his next self-declared task for the day, he turned from the escape to the design console sitting on its slightly raised platform at the back of the lab. Buttons, dials, levers - the Doctor preferred a physical touch rather than the new holographic interfaces- and of course several keyboards and displays begged his attention and he sat to work with the posture of a maestro before the orchestra.

"The simpler of the two will be my new assistant," he explained aloud, talking to the thief as though there was any way it could understand him as it are noisily in a dark corner. "Ms. S - as I have determined to call her - will be shapely, petite, and buxom as well as possessed of a sharp, analytical style and the ability to predict my every need. In the laboratory, that is," he self-corrected.

If he was willing to admit it, sexual frustration was his particular fetish. His long-standing desire was that a particular partner would recognize his intellectual brilliance and throw herself willingly at him and his comely-but-disinterested assistants were a major element in that fantasy.

Thus their exquisite sculpting and the nature of his greatest triumph; SEXYE and its variations.

"Though one must not rest on one's laurels," he said to himself as the first prototype of the proposed third class appeared in its proper place. "And the last shall be first in glory!"

A press of a button and a holographic vault lit up in the center of the room to cast an eerie, multi-colored light over the room. The spiral contents were undoubted the DNA of sciurus carolinensis but almost immediately complexities began to arise as he continued to work and relate the details aloud to his new companion, "You see, I was paying attention during my last series of misadventures and while I could not safely retain a sample my memory is especially keen."

"The invaders who successfully disrupted my work on the moon Minamoto had managed to do so by using their own genetic code - far more complex than yours or mine - as both storage medium and manufacturing facility. While the lack of transcription will hinder my ability to replicate their wonders, this may well be for the best as later information indicates that these 'Krâng' were especially pernicious and included multiple traps inside the code designed to ensnare even the wary..."

"...which is why those of sound mind burn them out as soon as they are discovered. My intention is to use their methods in something of a similar method in creating a class of infiltrators, spies, assassins, and rogues. Encoded in their very biology will be the tools of their trade with everything from explosives to weapons to armor encoded away beyond the ability of any foe to permanently remove them. Or them, as it happens..!"

"For I," he jabbed a finger into the air in his signature pose, "intend for them to be able to conquer death itself! Barring certain unfortunate circumstances and certain unusual people, of course..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:53 pm

Commerce Port Thruksa'an, The Synways Conglomerate, Southwestern Alpha Quadrant... Republic Date 174.900...

"And your reason for visiting? Business?" the customs officer growled, looking down across the counter to where the latest in a long line of out-system visitors stood patiently waiting, "Or pleasure?"

He doubted immediately that it would be the second, though he had no idea that for that particular visitor 'business' was also pleasure. Such a diminutive individual would find most of the accommodations - sized for him and his kin - overwhelming and near-impossible to use, given there was often more space between the bottom of a door and the lever than there was between her and the tip of her up-stretched arm. She was dressed strangely as well, though as a trade port open to galactic commerce Thruksa'an saw a lot of strange dress every day. As long as their money was good and they weren't carrying any weapons...

"Business."

He glanced over at the security scanner. She wasn't armed but she wasn't exactly what she appeared to be on the surface either. A good portion of her body had been replaced with various artificial systems or reinforced or both. Even without those he'd guess that she spent every morning in the gymnasium with muscles piled on top of muscles until they were apparent even under the relatively bulky jumpsuit she wore. A backpack that was all straps and buckles was slung over one shoulder and she'd tossed a heavy-looking black duffel up on the counter - both were clean as well, with little more than clothing and personal care products to clutter the scanner's penetrating eye.

"And your business?" His clawed fingers paused over the keyboard, ready to enter her response; "Extraction specialist... Mining. Ah'm a geologist."

"Mining?" His claws tapped away, making the appropriate entry on her entry permit. Nothing particularly suspicious about that, he decided. The Conglomerate was a growing corporate power in the region and outside expertise had helped it get that way. Mining was a dangerous business too - which explained all the augmentation. That was good enough for him and he gave a shrug-equivalent before pressing the button to finalize the entries and print out her entry card. There was a whine and a click and it popped up from the counter in front of her, complete with a picture and bio-metric identity chip.

"This is your entry permit. It is good for ten days and you can have it extended by visiting any customs office within two days of its expiration. Keep it with you at all times. You must present it to any representative of the Synways Conglomerate. If it is lost or stolen you must report the loss to a customs office within one hour or you will be expelled from Conglomerate space. A holo of the laws and regulations you must follow while in the Conglomerate is encoded on the card - follow the instructions to access it. Next!"

The woman nodded sharply, snatched up the card and her duffel, and stepped away while the next person stepped up to the counter...

With the paperwork haggled, Meli slung her bag over one shoulder and tucked the card into one of the many pockets of her jumpsuit to promptly forgot about it. Ideally she wouldn't need it but for the moment she was just glad to be back on the ground again - such as it was. As mentioned, Thruksa'an was a commerce port and it hung in geo-stationary orbit over a similarly large surface-to-orbit complex built out into the sea on the planet's equator. For the Conglomerate the only way down was by retro-rocket lander and another one of these was due to leave shortly.

"Where Ah'll bet there's more standin' in line."

At least the departure bay was easy to find. Signs outlined in slowly flashing lights and marked with arrows hovered above the crowd and these were conveniently marked in the local language as well as GalStandard West. A counter next to her destination told her that there was only a few minutes or whatever they used here until the next left and so she set off through the port at something of a rush, dogging whoever might step in her way as she plunged through the crowd.

Most of them were ursinoids of various forms - the Conglomerate was dominated by the bear-like humanoids - but there were more than enough 'others' to keep things visually interesting. It wasn't the biggest station she'd ever been on but it was big enough and crowded enough that by the time she'd navigated the teeming masses there were only a few local numbers left on the counter as she hurried up to the hatch, boarding card in hand. Handing it over to the attendant she was rewarded with a disaffected glance and exactly what she should have expected...

"Entry permit..?"
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