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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 » Tue Aug 13, 2019 12:28 pm

Special Projects Practical Applications Lab, Boundary Manipulation Annex, CORE XI Deep Space Station, Somewhere Between the Monoceros Ring and the Galactic Spiral... Republic Date 174.903...

"Now, keep in mind that this is only a demonstration system," Ellis said as she led her supervisor's supervisor - one Doctor Ka'Yenn - over to the first part of the test system. "So not all of the functions are enabled yet. Some of the others are still in development too - but the fundamentals are all here, I assure you!"

Doctor Ka'Yenn looked and sounded skeptical, even for a large eyeball perched between two pointed legs. The Skri looked the junior developer's device up and down then turned back to the teenager, "Alright - let's see what it can do."

Or not do. Or blow them all up. Or work, but not particularly successfully. As mentioned, Ellis was a teenager - and a Human at that - and while Special Projects had a long history of recruiting such wunderkin there was always a risk that one of their ideas would turn into more of a 'boom' and less of a 'bang'.

"It all starts right here," Ellis started, her voice shaking a little. On one end of the room was something that looked like a door frame without a door, the inside covered with sensor panels and the outside a coiled mass of cables and wires. "This is a high-resolution first-pass scanner. Step through," she did so and a light bar at the top flipped from yellow to green, "and it takes a very high resolution snapshot of whoever steps through. That snapshot..."

Walking the half-dozen steps to the other end of the room, she stopped at what looked like a similar doorway except that there seemed to be nothing inside to the point where that nothing hurt the Doctor's eye to look at too long.

"...is sent to this device, which is the boundary interface for a small-scale boundary manipulation. One of the test systems."

There was a small console bolted to the side and she pressed the lit green button, stepping back as she did and this in turn prompted the same action from the Doctor. For an exact second nothing happened and then as the yellow light came on the toe of a sensible pair of sneakers began to emerge from the nothing to become a pant leg, a thigh, a t-shirt, and then a heart-shaped face with a touch of baby fat before taking a half-step forward and then sprawling out on the floor of the test chamber in a position that looked extremely painful.

Doctor Ka'Yenn winced but Ellis was quick to object, "That was supposed to happen! The body that comes through on the other side isn't alive or that would be clone-murdering."

Which would be bad. Even in the experimental and thus risk-amiable environment of the Special Projects laboratories there were rules and one of those rules was there was to be no creation of 'disposable' sentients. Even the creation of non-disposable sentients was mostly off-limits unless they were the intended by-product of an after-lunch bonk in the supply closet by consenting partners.

"In the production model the idea would be that the body - extension - created would be immediately connected to the user's mind without any latency. Here, when we're tested with sterile engrams, there's a second or two of disconnect because there's not a lot of energy in the boundary..."

There she was incorrect, though the Doctor didn't adjust her misperception. The test manipulations had a useful amount of energy in them but they were purposefully rate-limited as to avoid the unfortunate scenario of someone blowing up one of the sprawling super-stations. While there was a usefulness in locating some of Special Projects high-security sites alongside one of the many-armed hydra that was the Republic's strategic force, there was also no sense in the two getting especially frisky.

"Right;" "So the user would just step from one place to another as if there wasn't anything between. Now, here's the neat thing."

There was another button on the console, this one red and slowly pulsing beneath a transparent plastic safety cover. Flipping this up, she pressed the button and in a few seconds the still body had dissolved away into nothingness.

"Since the extension is an expression of the manipulation, when the user is done it simply disappears. No dust, no ash - nothing. Here's the trick; I had the test manipulation set so that it is very similar to the Prime in certain ways but very dissimilar in others. Mostly water - since most of us are mostly water. So what you end up with is a trace of quickly dissipating Hawking radiation and a small jump in humidity as the extension rectified back to the Prime. No interface, no gateway. Nothing to hack."

"Can they be disrupted?" Ka'yenn asked.

"Easily," she answered quickly, pointing to a device hung from the high ceiling between the two doorways. "Any FTLi system will do the job, though that's not what I used."

The device looked both familiar and mundane, like any number of other sensor or instrument masts in use around the department and beyond - though this one had obviously been tinkered with, "And that is?"

"One of Doctor Brilla's BOOBYTRAP pods. I needed a way to track the extension so it could be disrupted and they were the perfect choice. Then I figured 'why build a second system?' to do the actual disruption when the BOOBYTRAP pod is already half-way there? It uses a distributed space-time matrix super-sampling method so... I built a matrix injector module that briefly 'normalizes' the space-time matrix in the target area based on nearby super-samples."

Ka'yenn's eye went wide, "Congratulations, Ms. Ellis. You've just weaponized the TRIPWIRE arrays. I'll have a security team round up your prototype later. But for now continue - your status summary mentioned commercial applications. What did you have in mind...?"
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Postby Sunset » Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:10 pm

OSA Destructive Test Facility Two (Thunderdome), Southern Juniper, Ares Super-Cluster, Beta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.906...

"I told you it wasn't going to work," the engineer remarked dryly, hairy arms folded across his chest as he watched the remains of the previous test silently float past.

There were a lot of separate parts to past too, each moving along towards a distant hangar like a chain of small metallic islands painted in grays and blues. A combat forensics team was waiting there to put them back together but he didn't need them to know what went wrong. Like the test platform before it and the platform before that and the one previous to both, the answer was simple.

LAMs sucked.

They'd tried replicating an existing example but it had been hilariously outgunned by an equal-weight 'Mech - and that too said something when comparing them to an equal-weight hover tank. Plus - as predicted - the complicated linkages meant that what armor they could put on the thing was far too little. The result? The first pile of scrap. For the second design they'd taken a long, hard look at those linkages and managed to cut them in half, resulting in a design that was ugly as sin but had then doubled its survival time before it too ended up as scrap.

Towards the end of the islands now and he made the particular mistake of glancing down at an oblong piece of debris that had been shot all to hell. It had once been the cockpit and the sight of the pilot splattered in various directions across the interior brought with it a brief wave of nausea just as the smell hit his nostrils. Of course the real pilot had been tucked away somewhere safe but the sting of defeat had doubtless been very real - at least until their EienNode had been destroyed.

"Carrots for dinner..." He looked away from the carnage but his eyes drifted across a long flurry ear caught amongst a twisted piece of armor, "Or maybe not."

For the third testbed they'd worked backwards, starting at the plane but the results had been the same with a twist; her opponent had caught her mid-transform and a not-even-lucky shot had paralyzed the unit and sent its pilot scrambling across the snow while they casually walked up and put one through the cockpit. That had led to the fourth and well...

Humiliation.

There had been a turn of good luck in the last test though. Another design team had been working on their concept for a medium electronic warfare 'Mech and with the scales so far tilted against the LAM and the weight class near the same, the higher-ups had decided to mix things up a bit and face the two off in a scenario - hunter against prey. The idea had been to see if the LAM would make a good counter-strike platform as well as getting a general handle on the abilities of the new 'Fairy'-Type.

Turned out the Fairy was an asshole.

The pilot had used their new 'Mech's ability to spoof the electronic signatures of other units to draw the LAM into a virtual kill box, surrounding them with false signatures that suggested an ambush before hitting them with a cheap shot from behind. Even with a pair of mid-weight lasers it had been able to cut them apart while the pilot had struggled to decide just which way to cut and run. Since it was really hard to figure out which way lasers were coming from, their last pivot had sent them running straight for the trees where the Fairy had been hiding.

"Yeah, yeah..."

Colonel JakPer was the Systems Alliance's commanding officer at the Thunderdome and - as he liked to remind everyone - a veteran of the vicious battles that had occurred across the southern grasslands of Alice before that planet's death. Since service records from that time just plain didn't exist and the short, dense Hauyht was liable to pull your ears if challenged, the easiest thing was to go along with his feeble sarcasm and lurid tales of fighting off waves of hundreds of Ferals before inevitably bedding the other survivor from his unit. If all the various stories were true then half the population of Juniper had sprang from his loins.

Like the engineer, he'd watched as the previous battle had played out on the remote cameras and satellite feeds spread out inside the command bunker and he'd followed the Qi outside to receive the corpse - always with the same smug sneer twisted across his lips, "Some fancy tricks, sure - but just tricks. Let's see how their toy deals with a real opponent."

Leaning into his lapel, he toggled the channel that would give him an open line to the various (surviving) test pilots, most of whom - like them - had been lounging around in the cockpit of their preferred war machine watching the battle on their own screens, "Stillwell, you're up. Go teach that bouncing Fairy a lesson."

The engineer knew what that meant and with idle curiosity, he turned to look over his shoulder at the line of 'Mechs standing in front of their bats. One in particular began to move and he braced himself against the wall he'd been supporting with his shoulder as the massive 'Savage' began to stride towards them, each step sending a ripple through the tarmac. One forearm had been replaced with an enormous shotgun-like auto cannon and this was further lined with a large bayonet that was still pinned with debris from its last kill. Shaking this out like a pitcher stretching their throwing arm, the 'Mech passed the two and then broke into a jog as it hit soften ground and headed out into the forest in search of its dinner...
Last edited by Sunset on Wed Aug 14, 2019 9:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:49 pm

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

"...this one is quite eager to make the attempt, Captain Ria;" a professed eagerness that was at odds with the Kal-En-Vesho's inscrutable expression, "but this one may have already come across the solution to your mystery."

"What do you mean?"

The comment had come at something of an awkward moment. As the Captain of the Hummingbird was preparing to put her charges aboard separate shuttles for transfer to the ancient station, she'd brought one - Tsufe'a'i, one of the first-generation 'resurrected' Kal-En-Vesho - on-screen to make the polite introduction. The other was a non-sentient drone on loan from the Nameless and as such would go and do whatever was asked of it; any introduction was useless. After the required pleasantries were exchanged, Tsufe'a'i had continued on to volunteer her previous comment, thus putting their departure on temporary hold.

"Captain Ria may not be aware, but this one is an astrophysicist. That is why I volunteered for this mission; an opportunity to see an important stellar event close up and with Defense Force technology at my disposal. When this one was informed of the particulars, I began to investigate and run simulations and I believe I have come to the most likely conclusion," the arrow-headed alien said, her voice somehow dull and oily at the same time.

"That is, we will not find the artificial intelligence that formerly inhabited this system because it has already left. One of my experiments involved simulating the orbits of the planets in the system and in doing so this one noted that several are unstable. In fact, if their condition is not settled, many will suffer calamitous consequences within the next million years. Reversing this analysis led me to the conclusion that there is a planet missing - a moon of the most viable inhabitable planet."

Ria sat back in her chair and appeared to be studying Tsufe'a'i's face, though in her head she was considering the implications, "So you think it's a waste of time to investigate the derelict?"

"No! Not at all," her remote guest's tone was suddenly strident and she shook her head in a most Human-like gesture. "The station may well prove this one's theory. I believe that this departure was no simple matter of applying thrust to the given body but in fact an infrastructure project on a vast scale. The Captain will note that all of the planets in the system have been industrialized. Why do this? I suspect that, in the absence of faster-than-light travel, these were converted into massive artificial gravity generators."

"Gravity slingshots?"

Ria could almost hear Lieutenant Calloway's fingers silently tapping on the glass of her science station as the sensor operator hurried to establish the viability of the theory for herself; "Yes - the Captain is familiar with the idea then."

"The technique would have allowed the system to retain vital mass as well as acquiring substantial velocity. Because of the time differential, my simulation has not yet established the most likely trajectory but parameters suggest the moon would have quickly left this galaxy. Boarding the station will, if this one's theory is correct, give us an absolute answer as it would have doubtless been observed and recorded - and may be the entirety of why these stations were put into place."

"Hmm, well," Captain Ria looked first to the gray-faced humanoid beside her and then back to the Trilat before shifting in her seat to face him fully, "What do you think? Is this something that it would do? Could do?"

He seemed to have already considered his reply, "If the numbers fit the theory, then yes. We are already operating on the assumption that the system engaged in willful deception to escape destruction during the course of the war. Without knowing the ultimate outcome of that event and with it uneasy as to it's own security - especially as numerous others have clearly established knowledge of its location - a further relocation would seem reasonable. The presence of so many ships in the system would also serve as a contra-indicator of the theory's viability as a firm defense would serve to draw attention away from the fact that this 'moon-ship' had already left."

"Then let's work on some confirmation," Ria decided, turning to her Second. "Put everything we can on improving the simulations. See if we can't get some Fleet resources, long-range observations along the likely trajectories - whatever you can think of."

She turned back to the screen and the captain of the Hummingbird, "Captain, I believe the drone is going first..?"

----


For good or evil, the matriarchal empire of the Kal-En-Vesho had seen fit to establish itself as a master of the biological arts, creating and destroying entire species and civilizations on little more than a whim of their complex politics. This also meant that most of their technology was tied to those same distinctions and that the drone - leant to the endeavour by the Nameless and thus a former Primarch - served as the perfect key. Within minutes of its shuttle docking at the mid-point of the twisting witches tower that was the spire-like station, it had begun moving freely through the ant-nest system of tunnels and chambers at increasing speed, honing in on the control center that had to be buried at the center, its spiral of arms and legs proving their design as it flowed over and through passages that would at least pause a four-limbed person.

"It should be there within two minutes, Captains," Tsufe'a'i informed them, taking a momentary break from her own efforts to inform them of the drone's progress. One downside of that 'perfection' was that there was no immediate and safe way for either Hummingbird or Bar Harbor to directly monitor the spire's systems and so it was left to the astrophysicist to act as a relay between the drone and the crew of the two ships. To cite a recent - and especially pertinent example - the drone had determined the status of the station's defensive systems by smell and had ordered them disabled by emitting its own pheromones. So too would it - hopefully - be able to access the station's records when it at last arrived...
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Postby Sunset » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:23 pm

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

"...FASCAM - Field Artillery Scatterable Mines," the engineer emphasized the first letter of the previous four words as he pronounced them. "They're a variation on cluster munitions but instead of multiple small warheads, the secondary ordinance are various types of mines. The problem is that they are just going to sit there. Good if you want to slow your opponent down, not so good if your opponent is willing to just nuke the battlefield ahead of them. Back in the old days they were pressure activated too - not much good against any kind of hover vehicle. Not anymore. Most have their own on-board intelligence and can detonate when a programmed target comes within range. But they are still going to lay there on the surface. That would be a problem but..."

He pointed to the interior of the large terrarium that was built into one wall of the laboratory. The interior had been decorated to precisely replicate the ground conditions outside, with sandy soil and a variety of flora and mineral levels that ranged from extremely dense on one end all the way down to a sandy open rust red at the other. Here and there a selection of flat black discs sat, some laying flat and others stuck into the ground.

"Now, these are prototypes," he reminded the audience. "The real deal will have various low-observation characteristics. Camouflage. But here's the neat trick..."

Reaching out he pressed an invisible button on the glass wall and a large display lit up under his fingers, suitable for viewing by the audience standing on the row of steps behind him. One button in particular stood out; 'Activate', in both all-capital letters and with a background of yellow and black warning stripes. It was garish but noteworthy and it flashed as he pushed it before the display vanished and he re-directed their attention to the terrarium. Sometimes showmanship counted for just as much as the tech...

If there had been anyone inside they would have noted a subtle hum in the air as one by one the mines began to move - vibrate, really. Then a moment later they were gone, burrowing into the ground to leave only a small patch of disturbed ground behind that, after looking away, didn't look like much of anything had been there in the first place.

"Self-burying with a maximum depth of two meters, depending on soil conditions. They also leave behind a small patch of sensor dust a couple centimeters down, and of course they are networked in - though that can be disabled if the network is compromised. We've already laid out a whole family of possible warheads from regular high-explosive and anti-personnel shrapnel..."

"Anti-personnel shrapnel," one of the guests interrupted. "Doesn't seem very useful two meters underground, does it?"

"No sir!" He re-activated the display, bringing up a particular sub-menu. "But they are also self-un-burying, if I can use too many hyphens. Depending on the payload, they'll return to the surface when they detect a target..."

One black disc in particular emerged from the ground, shooting upward almost like a breaching whale before flopping flat and then exploding in a shower of high-velocity fragments that ricocheted off the walls and send a couple audience members a step back.

"...and engage. Since they are networked, they'll know from other mines or sensor sources when a target is close and they can move closer to the surface in preparation. They are very smart, ladies and gentlemen - the best money can't buy."

"And you were mentioning other warheads?"

"That's right. High-explosive, anti-personnel, magnetic limpet, sensor dust - useful for infiltrating information sensors into enemy formations, conversion warheads, and HOBD warheads. All of which are equipped with primary and secondary 'make safe' systems that will render the warhead completely inert."

"Sounds hackable," someone new put in. "Do we want the enemy turning off our minefields?"

"We've got a trick up our sleeve there," the engineer countered. "A new toy provided by one of the other divisions. Can't talk about it, but the security... It's impressive..."

----


The Old Martian Duma, Central Mangala, Mars, Sol System...

General CusTer swept the tarp off the closest pallet and stopped, staring plainly at the contents formerly concealed underneath before her gaze turned suspicious, "Munitions? What's the catch, Captain? Why is the Defense Force giving us missiles?"

"No catch, General," Captain Hurley promised, stepping to one side as another pallet of gift-wrapped nastiness was unloaded from one of the shipping containers now stacked up at the mag-lev terminal just outside the old Duma building. "Call it a bribe - for sticking to the no-fly strip. And a bit of preparation. These are FASCAM rounds - mines. If push comes to shove... Well," he smiled. "Hopefully it won't come to that. I've got the technical specs for your munitions folks but they are your standard assortment - high-explosive, anti-personnel... A couple utility versions in there as well."

Minus the conversion and HOBD variants, of course...

----


Mangalan-Martian Conglomerate Border, Southern Mars, Sol System...

The old utility hover truck looked old - and it was old, as a matter of fact. Even a fresh layer of paint here and there only served to emphasize just how ancient it was with a collection of dents and dings scattered around its angular exterior. Still, it worked and with an obnoxious hum of its engine it was slowly making its way down the border. It wasn't alone either; an entire fleet of the old maintenance vehicles had been brought out of storage to do what didn't rightly seem needed to be done. Every hundred meters - on the dot - the old clunker would draw to a shuddering halt and settle down on its pads while the two women in the cab would emerge...

"Dig the hole," Kimiko complained, hauling the auger into its appointed place before checking the coordinates and pressing the activation stud. Beside her feet the spiral blade began to move, churning into the red Martian soil as it had now done over and over.

"Put the damned post in," her partner Sung-Ye added as soon as it was done, the auger proving just how lazy the two were as it scooted itself off to the side in preparation for the brightly-decorated pole. A centering brace was welded at the bottom and just up from that but she checked the level before driving it firmly into the ground with a foot.

"Dump the concrete in," Kimiko finished, grabbing a bag of self-mixing concrete off the bed of the truck and tossing it over a shoulder that looked far too slender to support it before walking it over and dropping it next to the hole. Bending down - an activity that her partner took an unspecified amount of enjoyment from watching - she pulled the tab on the bag and pulled up on the opposite end while the rocky conglomerate flowed into the hole. Already it was starting to look wet as the included humidifying agent pulled moisture from the air around them.

"And on to the next one!"

It had been years since the border was properly marked but someone had apparently deemed it necessary and so the pole was topped with a placard noting the particularities as well as a beacon, a flashing light, and a small sensor package that would alert someone somewhere if someone somewhere crossed between this particular pole and the next one down the line. It was boring, obnoxious, and dirty work. And no one noticed the circular patch of red dirt under one of the truck's landing pads that lingered for only a moment after it moved on...
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Postby Sunset » Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:52 pm

Juniper Orbital Control, GEC-74209 System, The Coreward Fringe, Ares Super-Cluster... One Day After the Heraklion Incident...

"...shuttle craft matching visual identification Heraklion Zero-Zero-Seven-Niner, what is your destination and haul, over? Heraklion Zero-Zero-Seven-Niner, please respond, over." After waiting a few seconds for the small craft - which was being blasted on every frequency the communications system could think of - the Pagani sitting at the console shook her head, the quick motion sending her shock of lightning-pink hair flipping side-to-side, "Still no response, Sir. Shall I give the order?"

"No, I'll do it," Major du Loc decided, once again turning a watchful eye towards the screen that had displayed the flashing red 'Destroy On Sight' warning when the unexpected shuttle's make, model, and identifier had been punched into the system. He'd been willing to give the crew some opportunity to explain themselves but ever since the moment it had arrived in far orbit of the blue-green world below there hadn't been as much as a peep or a squawk. That made it his dog and it was time to take it out back behind the shed.

A rough patch of luck for the shuttle and whatever crew were aboard - if there was anyone aboard.

"Île Solitaire, this is Orbital Control. Vessel identified as 'Heraklion Zero-Zero-Seven-Niner' has not responded to hails and has been designated 'Destroy on Sight'. Engage and destroy, Captain.'

Unlike many other Republic worlds where the shuttle would have arrived to find a smattering of civilian spacecraft but no real military presence, Juniper was the home system of the Outer Systems Alliance and was thus crawling with warships of all shapes and sizes. Thus within moments of its arrival the tiny shuttle had found itself sitting under the bulbous nose of a hulking Draconis-Class Cruiser. With its thick neck stretched out ahead and drop-wings flanking the smaller craft to either side, the gray-and-blue vessel with the hexagon logo of the OSA stenciled on here and there had kept easy backwards pace with the shuttle as the Major and his shift had given them their chance.

'Confirmé, contrôle orbital;' like the Major, most of the OSA's naval officers and sailors were Sanglanti and thus French was often their first, second, or only tongue, 'engageant!'

For those experiencing their last moments it would have all occurred in slow motion. A gathering of light around an inset dish just under the nose of the cruiser and then a quick flash as a scintillating bolt of energy crossed the void between the two. Energy fought itself across the surface of the craft and it seemed to fade away, consumed utterly by the blast...

----


Strategic Command Deck, RDF-Vigilant, En Route from Qi Space to Sol, Alpha Quadrant... Not Long After...

"...fucking idiots," the Secretary-General's hologram appeared with a curse, occupying the same space it had only minutes previous. That put Erika a few places away from the relocated Grand Admiral, who was now standing at the railing that surrounded the central holo-sphere while a gaggle of officers moved around her. Real or not, they stepped aside for the blonde woman as she came through until she was once again at the Grand Admiral's side, "Anything new?"

Alyndra didn't turn her head. Instead her eyes were focused on the highlighted section of the galaxy between Sol and the so-called 'Red Abyss'. Within the volume thousands of stars were triangle-marked in Republic orange while swarms of smaller green indicators circled around them or flitted from point to point to leave a glowing green line behind that quickly vanished as to not clutter things up. These then were not-at-all outnumbered by a good amount of friendly blue markers and a much smaller number of angry red, "Yes. OSA bagged one in Juniper orbit. I've got a battle group on the way to make sure."

"Great!" Erika's tone was less excited than exasperated. "Just. Great. Tell them to stay on-station there until this thing is over. Maybe it will prevent a few angry calls;" she was not exactly a fan of the Outer Systems Alliance nor they her.

"How'd things go?"

"Good, for a problem that's all their fault," she answered, gesturing towards the red indicators that marked assets supposedly controlled by what everyone was now referring to as the 'Congos'. Supposedly- which was the problem. "Coordinated response. We're going to sweep up after this Heraklion mess and then we're going to take the door off their room. A joint task force into the Red Abyss and some other measures I suspect they won't be too happy with. First I'll need an Admiral and one of the CORE stations - that's what I committed to the task force."

"Already on it. CORE V is preparing to jump to a Domain-held system - Sendaar Tau VII - just outside the Abyss. And I've got your Admiral too," she looked aside and signaled to a blue-skinned woman who had been lingering unobtrusively on the far side of the holo-sphere. Except it wasn't - by the definition of Pyrk biology - a woman. "Admiral Jhira?"

The momentary expression on her superior's face told her that she could skip the introduction; "We've met. He was at my wedding."

And as the guest of the Admiral she'd assumed - wrongly - that the Grand Admiral would have chosen for the task. The name had also crossed her desk more recently; she'd signed the orders promoting him to Admiral just a few months ago. Given his service record both under Admiral Villanova and after, the Pyrk was an excellent choice. Rounding the sphere he put out a hand and the Secretary-General returned it, "Admiral."

"Ma'am."

"Congratulations on your promotion. I'm going to skip right to the point;" there wasn't a lot of time and there was more to be done - quickly, "this is not going to be easy. I'm not talking about the Red Abyss either. You're going to be working with the Menelmacari - arrogant - and the Macisikani - prickly - and the Domain - naive. At least on their worst days," she offered the concession. "But you'll also be working with the Congos, who seem to take delight in doing exactly the opposite of what the adults in the room recommend. Worse than that they are angling to try and 'take the lead'. This is their problem and they should fix it, but we wouldn't be having this conversation if we could trust them to do that, could we?"

"No, Ma,am."

"Then we see eye-to-eye. I suggest you start by making friends with your counterparts. Try to get the Congos on board, but expect them to screw up. I would also suggest not giving them an inkling of what you or your force is capable of. Wait until they're not looking..."

Or dead - she was willing to accept that option as well.

"...before you pull out the rough stuff. I would assume that goes for our friends as well, though you can count on the Menelmacari showing off. I'm sure Alyndra will have further operational details for you, but can I consider this handled?"

His reply was as forceful as it could be, given the outlined circumstances, "Yes, Ma'am..."

----


Chuh-Yu Station, Chuh-Yu Orbit, Ares System... A Short Time Later...

'...and is considering an interdiction of all Martian Conglomerate traffic into Sol, both civilian and military. The incident aboard Heraklion is considered fully contained and this would be a precautionary...'

"What's this?" Steve stopped to glance at one of the displays floating above the concourse as he walk, wife and kid and baggage trailing along behind as they drifted from one gate to the next. A confirming thought was all it took and the bulletin seamlessly transferred from the screen to his augmented reality so he could read it as the three continued along.

"Lesse... Travel Advisory - Martian Conglomerate..." Which meant it didn't very much matter to him anymore, since they were on their way to a family vacation on the lushly forested world of Aethimyr, but he kept reading. At least it would distract him from his wife's inane prattle. "The biological pathogen 'Karax' has been detected aboard the Martian Conglomerate civilian vessel Heraklion, which has subsequently been quarantined and destroyed. Several other vessels suspected of... Click here for more information... Nah..."

'...a special taskforce to Delta; this taskforce has been instructed to conduct inspections of all vessels suspected of carrying the 'malignant biological agent', and to destroy any vessel that does not comply. This taskforce is confirmed to be acting in cooperation with, and in support of, operations already underway by the...'

"...suspected of potentially carrying the pathogen have already been destroyed and the situation is being closely monitored. It should be noted that Karax is a biological agent and only those who do not have a... Again, not us. All civilian traffic from the Martian Conglomerate is being quarantined and travel to the Conglomerate is not suggested. Geeze - over-reacting much? Doesn't sound like this thing is..." A number caught his eye and he stopped to point with a hand full of luggage, "There we go. Gate Fourteen..."

Around the family the greater mass of people continued on, the advisory doing little more than interjecting a brief moment of conversation into otherwise busy lives...
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Postby Sunset » Sun Aug 18, 2019 5:18 pm

CORE V Deep Space Station, Sendaar Tau VII Star System (Phoenix Domain Territory), Just Outside the Red Abyss, Delta Quadrant... Not Long After the Heraklion Incident...

"...well, I guess we're officially stuck here for a while," Commander Global laughed, the Eakhm's tone jovial despite his always-stern expression. "Best make the most of it, right?"

A mock elbow that would have surely swept the orange and purple amphibian standing a physically respectful distance away off their long-toed feet poked at them and the Ojeni replied, "Yessir! I'll contact our hosts and see where they want us to set up!"

Not the station. One second it hadn't been there and the next it had and there it would stay until the faster-than-light drive that allowed the behemoth to move in the first place was done recharging. Since that would take a length of time roughly equal to the square of the distance it had moved, CORE V would be remaining in-system far past the likely end of the operation. That left it and its numerous bays, docks, gantries, and manufacturing facilities with nothing to do until there was something to do - so they might as well get to doing something.

Say, putting up a dedicated TRIPWIRE array to monitor the length and breadth of the Abyss during and after the impending operation.

A flash of color on one of the many consoles spread out across the semicircular command deck caught Global's attention. "Oop - here they come," he said, interrupting the Lieutenant Commander as he was about to step away.

Both looked to the towering main display and watched as a new constellation of stars appeared in the corner. Inside a moment they had grown large enough to resolve into the crackling neon blue corona of Defense Force quantum frame shift spindles, each flowing around the sleek dagger-star shape of a Republic warship. The arcing lightning was the result of the drive spindle annihilating whatever it came into contact with - and a handy shield when occasionally push came to shove, though no one was hoping for that.

"That'll be Admiral Jhira's task force," the hulking centauroid declared jovially. "He'll want to say 'hello' - why don't you go talk to the Phoenixi while I wait for them to make port?"

That was a good chance for the Ojeni to scamper away and while he went about that business the station commander turned back to the screen to watch as the fleet came closer. Everything from battleships down to frigates and destroyers was represented as they slid into place on one of the long spines that jutted away from the station's greater bulk. That left room for only... Well, many, many times their number both on the docking spines and inside the huge bays that made up the vast volume of the station's mostly-empty interior. CORE-Class Stations were designed and built primarily as fleet maintenance and operations facilities, after all - don't bring gum if you can't bring enough for everyone.

"Commander;" the junior officer on duty at the communications station spoke up, "The Daring has docked - the Admiral is on the line."

"Send him over!" and a moment later the Pyrk appeared, standing next to the comms officer as he was likely doing aboard his own flagship. "Welcome aboard, Admiral - Commander Global."

"Commander. Good to see you again. It looks like we're among the first to arrive - are you ready to receive guests?"

"Bring them on," the mammoth officer replied. "We're ready..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:28 am

Practical Applications Laboratory Annex, CORE XIV Deep Space Station, Somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant... Republic Date 174.915...

"...now this one is an easy one," the technician demonstrated, reaching out to give the knob a turn which produced a steady stream of water that splashed cold across the stainless steel basin. "Water. Two of the most common elements in the universe and one of the most common compounds but if you don't have it you really need it."

"So you've configured the boundary interface to convert the stellar emissions directly into water."

"Yep! Oxygen and hydrogen - two of the simplest elements to build from scratch. Put one of these taps on a desert world and you'll have an oasis in no time..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Aug 21, 2019 7:38 am

The Stalklands, Beta Omega Three (GEC-19816C), Coreward Expansion Zone, Alpha Quadrant... Republic Date 174.906...

"...you'd think they'd be easier to find," Lieutenant V'ernia commented, checking the numbers on her augmented reality before listing them off, "Average height of six-point-four meters, fourteen hundred kilograms... I think we're going to need some bigger doors!"

"That's an 'if we can find them'," the Oeie's companion agreed, turning his own stuff neck from side to side as he searched the surrounding jungle. At just over a meter and change the Dwarf might just come up to one of their many knees, assuming they found one in the first place. "Ya figure for somethin' so big, thay'd stand out a bit more!"

Such was not the case. In an environment crowded with predators, the local sentients had taken an odd twist in their evolution, adopting both size and camouflage as their primary attributes - characteristics that allowed them to pursue their own prey generally unmolested by the local wildlife. That 'prey' included a species of bothersome pseudo-insect that swarmed around the two in sufficient number to partially obscure their vision. The impulse to slap or squash the little bites was intense but as they also released an especially foul liquid on death, both had managed to restrain themselves after the first few whiffs.

"Ah'n we can' even cheat," he complained further, attempting to do just that by waving his hand scanner around.

The Nydilird's size correlated to a certain slowness and they were known to remain motionless for hours or even days, tempting their far smaller prey into landing on their sticky tongue by way of an especially pleasant odor given off - ironically - by the larger predator's digestive process. Like their pace, their metabolism was equally sedate and thus there was little thermal difference between a Nydilird and one of the small leafy green trees they greatly resembled.

"Hold on," V'ernia put out a hand, pulling both up short. "Smell that?"

The Dwarf, who had been first to lay waste to the pesky attackers with a flurry of thick-handed blows and who's beard still hoisted both their remains and a refugee camp filled with the survivors, shook his head, "Can' smell nithin' but shit, lass."

"Smells like... warm apple fritters!"

Which might seem like an odd thing for a blue-skinned woman with 'hair' that resembled a sweep of intricate sea shells creating over her head and a pair of thin tendrils trailing down almost to her waist to say. But the Oeie had been rescued many years earlier from an enemy intent on invading and destroying their homeworld - for most the foods of Earth and then Mars were their own now.

"Does it now?"

The Dwarf turned and followed after her as she left the thin trail and began following her olfactory crest instead...
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Postby Sunset » Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:11 pm

Special Projects Covert Research Facility 74-A (Sigma), Denali, The Yukon System... Republic Date 174.927...

"...fact," the telescoping pointer in his hand reached out to strike the holographic whiteboard with a surprisingly solid and thereby satisfying 'thwack.' "In 1940 - two months before the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor that pulled the United States into World War Two - passengers aboard a flying boat traveling between Panama and Argentina flew over what they later testified was a small flotilla of German warships. The plane's navigation logs indicated this was south of Easter Island - even though by this point the Kriegsmarine surface fleet was already on the defensive against His Majesty's Royal Navy. Furthermore, there are no documented Allied encounters with German forces in the Pacific Theatre up to and after that point."

Frederick poked the first sentence with his pointer and a cascade of sparks flowed down the screen, "Vanished, completely and utterly from that point forward."

"...fact;" this time images accompanied the text as it appeared - old black and white photographs of thin-looking workers laboring in underground tunnels as well as a stark image of a launch gantry built just off the coast of an unknown sea. "In 1945, Allied Forces discovered and captured a large underground construction facility used in the manufacturing and ultimately launch of the first successful high-altitude ballistic missile, the V2. These facilities were nearly cities unto themselves, with captured plans indicating the intention to expand them to full self-sufficiency - abet on the backs of slave labor. Schematics recovered indicated that the Nazi's planned to build an enormous network of these 'unterirdischestadt', though some site-specific designs were missing."

One of the lab technicians sitting at the workbench across from him looked up, yawned wide, and gazed fully at the screen for a moment before shrugging his shoulders and sinking his head back onto folded arms to continue his nap.

"...fact - On April Thirtieth, 1945, Adolph Hitler and my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Eva Braun, commit suicide in a private bunker under Berlin. Their remains were then taken to the Chancellery Garden where they were doused in petrol and burned. Their remains were then recovered and removed by Soviet forces, buried, and then exhumed, tested, and verified to be those of Adolph Hitler based on dental DNA."

"...fact;" this time the 'thwack' was loud enough to momentarily rouse both technicians as well as draw the attention of Meri, who had been up to that moment sitting quietly in a corner with little Freddy on her lap and a book on his as she guided his finger word to word. Her state was flat but the pattern that erupted on her cheeks spoke volumes and his voice immediately dropped to a near-whisper, "Sorry..."

"...fact, information gathered after the war from various intelligence organizations would paint a picture of Adolph Hitler as a proliferate drug user and addict, with many prescribed to treat the wound he suffered during World War One and the later injuries inflicted during the failed attempt on his life - Operation Valkyrie. One of the 'medications' proscribed? Methamphetamine, a common side-effect of which is tooth loss. One witness to Hitler's death specifically describes damage to his teeth and jaw, drawing us inevitably into the realm of..."

"...speculation. Burning the corpse would have removed most methods of identification aside from dental records. Destroying the jaw would have made this shaky as well - 'but wait,' you ask. 'Why plant some of the teeth Hitler lost on the corpse due to methamphetamine addiction if the use of DNA testing to genetically identify bodies was not in common use until the late 1980's?' Except that we now know that unknown elements of the German scientific community were even then working to clone my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. Thus the notion of - if not the fundamentals of - genetic testing and sequencing were already on their radar. Which the Germans had invented in 1934."

One of the technicians raised a hand, "Question?"

"Yes Dobby?"

"Are you saying that Hitler isn't dead?"

Doctor Kraus chuckled, "Naw - that fucker's long gone. My point isn't when he died but where - and I'm getting to that..."

He raised the pointer again and brought it down with a sharp 'thacrack', the display scrolling up to reveal another section of highlighted text with accompanying images, "...fact. In 1960 agents of the Israeli Mossad identified, kidnapped, and abducted Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to Israel, where he was subsequently tried and executed in 1962. Documents recovered from American and Soviet archives - as well as Vatican records..."

"I remember the Pope," Meri put in. "He was nice. Didn't he give you his contact information?"

Kraus sighed, "Alright, yes - Vatican records I obtained from the Pope or at least a Pope who may or may not be still fighting zombies in a much darker fractal version of Earth. Probably the Dornie version. These documents indicate that numerous Nazis were smuggled out of Germany at the end of World War Two with many ending up in Argentina where some would go on to found the company now known and still operating as EHMI. This same company- based on examples smuggled out of Germany - produced the cloning units that would be used to clone my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-ancestors and that are still being produced today under the 'Baby In A Box' brand name."

"So... Hitler died in Argentina running a company that was established pretty much to clone you?" the other technician asked, skepticism carved on his face with a chisel. "Nuh uh."

"Nope."

"No?"

"No. Adolf Hitler died under the ice in Antarctica in a city carved out by the members of the expedition observed in South Pacific waters in 1940. According to Vatican records, an individual matching his description and accompanied by a much younger woman was smuggled out of Germany just before the siege of Berlin, through Switzerland, and to the Spanish coast where they were met by an 'unterseeboot' whose crew was dressed for cold weather despite it being mid-spring on the Spanish coast. Remember that Adolph Hitler was an artist before he became a soldier, politician, and massive asshole. He also had a long-standing interest in the occult. He was - in the modern terminology - a nerd. In 1936, the science-fiction pulp magazine 'Amazing Stories' published the serial 'At the Mountains of Madness' about an ancient civilization found on the frozen continent of Antarctica."

"While it is laughable to think that Hitler considered what we now call the Cthulu Mythos to be real, it is possible that - on reading these stories, and considering his interest in the occult, and Antarctica's status as one of the last great unexplored lands - he then dispatched an expedition to that continent to discover the realities of the situation. Possible? Again - the missing expedition in the South Pacific as well as the missing documents regarding the construction of underground cities weave a very compelling chain of evidence."

"You're fucking kidding me," with the other technician nodding in support of the first while Meri clapped her hands over little Freddy's ears; "Language!"

"Sorry..."

"Sorry."

"Sorry but not sorry. And I'm not kidding. Pack your long underwear because the only way to find out for sure is to go! That's right, bitches," he pumped a fist enthusiastically, "We're headed to Antarctica!"
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Postby Sunset » Mon Aug 26, 2019 10:37 am

Katryna's Office, Special Projects Research Complex, On the Outskirts of Landoor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System... Republic Date 174.923...

Amaril held the card between two fingers and a thumb as he looked it over, taking note of the delicate lace-like pattern where a heart had been first embossed and then punched through on the front and set half-tilted over a pink field that was in turn trimmed with gold. Raised letters in silver spelled out a name in careful cursive in the center and he flipped it open to read off the message inside, "'Miss Demi Love and Missus Erika Silaco are pleased to announce the arrival of their daughter, Mikayla Love Silaco, today - December 4th, 174 - to all of those who will love and care for her in the many years ahead.' Cute," he decided as he returned it to where it had been on the corner of his own wife's desk, sitting next to the traditional framed picture of her and his own family.

"Definitely Demi's work," Katryna agreed as she picked it up again, though it was unlikely she'd somehow missed anything given the half-dozen previous readings. "It arrived - by courier - just after Erika got off the line."

"Mikayla - interesting name. Do they have any 'Mikayla's' in their family? Or was this another 'y' name?"

"Pretty sure it's the 'y'," there was a chime from Katryna's desk and she interrupted herself to swing around it and stand between surface and chair before activating the display. It only took her an instant to read off the contents but she stopped for a moment before looking up to meet his eyes, "Interesting. Do you want to hang around for a proposal?"

"A proposal..."

"Not a proposition," she clarified before he could, though there was a grin at the end. "Not unless you want to be sending out cards of our own in nine and a half months! No - a proposal. I've had a design team working on an idea that's been kicking around for a while and they've got something solid. Want to take a peek?"

"Sure," he shrugged and she walked over to the holographic projector column that sat currently idle on the other side of the office from her desk.

It wasn't about stealing their thunder - there was always an element to any project that depended on how well the engineer, designer, or team that had come up with the idea or - in this case - been tasked with it was able to present it. It was something of a signal about how confident they were, both in the design or idea itself and in their ability to take it from conception to completion. It wasn't a pass-fail either; sometimes a good design but poor proposal meant putting the project under different leadership and sometimes a poor design but confident team meant putting the idea aside while they worked on something more useful.

Quick fingers tapped at the controls and after a moment the display lit up with an image that nearly filled that half of the room and left the two standing well inside what would have to be an enormous construct. At the center an orb of bright white glowed hot and this was surrounded by a series of rings - thick towards the middle and thinner as one moved away - with each turned and rotated until the outer-most was at ninety degrees to the first. While each varied in width and thickness, the aesthetic was the same; lines and nodes that reminded him of the printed layers on a circuit board but with some rising and falling to jog under another or jag back out into their own lane.

Another button and the whole thing began to move, each ring spinning at a pace that inevitably brought the same points into alignment time and time again. Whenever the pair would cross there was a flash and a burning streak as bright as the center object would flash between two disconnected nodes of the encircling rings. That prompted him to step closer to one of these events and this brought him close enough to the inner ring that he could make out the smaller details cut into the lines of the circuit patterns; a broad valley filled with forests, seas, rivers - cities.

"Uh oh. Is this what I think it is?"

"That depends on if you think its our own version of... Well, a combination of things. Matrioshka, Ringworld... Krȃng Circlet. The biggest project we've started to date, if we start it at all. An artificial star in the center then four rings surrounding it. The first won't be inhabitable - too close to the star. It will be a combination of solar generator and shade. That's why its wider than the rest, so it casts a big shadow as they rotate past. Each of the next rings is then offset so they'll cast a little more shade on the next ring, and so on, and so on, until we get to the last ring. That roughly divides them up into different general climates with the inner habitable ring being more generally tropical, the middle temperate, and the last being pretty cold."

"Which is why it is the thinnest. Cause who wants to live on the frozen tundra all the time?"

"Not me," she agreed, as evidenced by the bikini top and bottom just visible above her shorty-shorts. "But plenty of member species do, and with the height variations of the circuit lines there's enough variation for everyone."

"What about those?" he pointed to the upcoming rotating intersection of two nearby nodes. "Electricity from the solar ring?"

"They're calling it the 'photo ring', but yeah. It's mostly cosmetic, according to the notes, but it looks cool. There'll be plenty of power sources on each ring - most of the star's output will go to keeping the rings in the proper alignment. Which might sound risky but according to their notes it would take about ten thousand years without a correction for things to start going wonky. If we can't fix things by then..."

"Yeah, bigger problems," he agreed.

"Real big problems. Looks good though - they've already got a spot picked out too. Right in the middle of the whole thing," she tapped another button to bring up a map of the super-cluster super-imposed over the top of the structure, a bright point glowing just as she'd said. "With Wave 4 going out, we're going to have an awful lot of excess capacity. Then someone who is probably me will suggest Wave 5 and it won't take us a million years to build the thing."

"Before Mikayla starts school?"

"That might be pushing it," Katryna admitted. "But maybe. Depends on what else comes up between here and there..."
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Postby Sunset » Mon Aug 26, 2019 9:06 pm

The Lunchroom, Hair-Brained Schemes Division, Special Projects Annex, CORE XI Deep Space Station... Republic Date 174.930...

"...the problem is one of volume," Dentar countered, waving his coffee cup around like it was a sword meant to parry his colleague's thrust. "The 'Abduct-o-Ray';" he included the air quotes with his fingers, which looked particularly funny when accompanied by the same coffee cup, "is basically a faster-than-light gun. Instead of moving the ship or whatever to the target location, it moves the target location to the ship."

"Or whatever."

"Right! But whatever volume you aim it at on the target end is the volume you get back on the receiving end."

"Huh..." Xavos rubbed his chin and for a long moment the Bajoni seemed to be contemplating something. "So if we aimed it at your brain, would it return a fault code or could we use that to produce a perfect vacuum?"

Dentar glared at him through eyelids as narrow as daggers, "No, but consider yourself volunteered for the first operational test."

"Okay! Sorry," Xavos laughed, holding up his hands and moving behind one of the dining tables to avoid a possible java bean'ing. "If the problem is volume - that the volume encapsulated by the Abduct-o-Ray can't be imprinted onto the ExoCortex because the two don't match - then the solution is to break the first volume down into smaller units that can be manipulated."

Dentar keep his coffee cup up and the Bajoni could practically see the thoughts flowing from one side of his head to the other. After a moment he dropped the weapon and stepped over to the radar to pull himself a refill.

"Yeah, okay, but we're talking trillions of volumes here, all simultaneously. Which means you'd also need a similar number of high-precision sensors to target them all. Then they'd need to - instantly - be latched onto the ExoCortex. Which would mean translating the positioning information from the Ray-o-Ray into the new orientation in real time. Changing the vectors and spins of electrons in motion so they'll land right where they were supposed to."

"Not impossible," Xavos pointed out, carefully taking a seat and keeping an eye on Dentar's right hand, which was suspiciously close to the salt and pepper mills. "We start small. Run the Abduct-o-Ray down to that level of precision. Then we'll do two until we can reliably verify they are passing the same electron before and after. Then start doubling. Exponential growth is a bitch. Once we get to cell-scale movement we'll want to put a very simple ExoCortex on the tail end so we can start figuring out those moves..."

Dentar chugged down the last if his mug, "How much do you know about the ExoCortex?"

"How much do you?"

"Just enough to lay this crazy egg," he admitted.

"I'd say the best person to ask is the people who made the thing in the first place," Xavos reasoned, his voice confident. "Put it to whoever it was in the Phoenix Domain who sold them to us. If they don't know, I'm sure they will be happy to sell you the number for someone who does..."
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Postby Sunset » Tue Aug 27, 2019 10:23 am

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

"...so there's our answer - now what do we do with it?" Captain Ria asked, leaning forward to sit chin-on-fist as she considered the image that had filled the holo-sphere under Tsufe'a'i and Lieutenant Calloway's guidance.

It was just as the astrophysicist had suspected.

Some million-odd years ago the smallest of the second planet's three moons had torn itself free of the obnoxious grip of gravity and sent itself across the star system, pulled in and then thrown away by one planet and then another in a sacrifice play that would make any sportsball fan leap out of their chair. It had, in fact, done this not once but twice - sufficiently robbing some of their God-given motion until Tsufe'a'i was actively revising her estimates downward in glee. That had also given them a precise trajectory for the runway - one that they were already actively working to confirm with the super-fast Hummingbird zipping off after it, all sensors wide.

"You know, I've never caught your name," she said suddenly, looking over to their gray-faced guest. "Kinda rude of me. What are you called?"

"Not as rude as you may suspect, Captain Ria. The Suwen did not name us as individuals and even among ourselves we know each other as our frequency identifiers."

"It's bad luck to rename a ship," she noted. "What's your identifier?"

"597-dash-99-dash-428."

"A mouthful - at least to my mouth. How about 597?"

"I will accept it in the spirit with which it was intended, Captain," and there was a trace of humor in his reply. A thought and the material of his chest flowed and shifted until he too bore a label with his 'new' name on it followed by a dash and three alien characters that she decided could mean one or the other.

"Alright, now that that's settled, let's have a little meeting. Commander?" she looked to her XO, "Tsufe'a'i? 597? Lieutenant Rembrandt," she called out the too-young looking officer at the helm, "you've got the bridge."

'Better than Ed or Frank,' she thought to herself as she followed the other three to the back of the bridge where there was a small room set aside for just this sort of thing. 'Or Ed and Frank.'

Holding the door open behind her - just in case - she took her own seat at one of the two chairs that remained. There was a decanter on the table between them and she reached over to pour out a couple glasses before settling back with her own, "So - what do we do? Tsufe'a'i, what are the odds that that world-ship was carrying the Suwen AI?"

It was an odd question for an astrophysicist but the Kal-En-Vesho already had an answer, "Near one. The amount of effort and energy expended along with the trajectory suggest to this one that it sought and has found security in the trans-galactic void. Even a subtle course correction could place it outside all but the most strenuous of searches."

"Alright. Jason?" she fingered her XO, who had finished his own glass and now sat with fingers curled around the perspiring cylinder. "What's your play? What do we do next?"

"Duplicate and verify. There's a lot of stations out there and they are all something we can learn from. Or get Frank and Ed blown up. While the Trilat station is probably the most trustworthy source - given our point of access - even one verification will increase those odds to point-nine-nine-nine-something, right Tsufe'a'i?"

"That one is correct!"

"That's a lot of work," she noted. "Given we'd want to be a lot more careful. Bring in some specialists. But against a million year time frame... No time but patience. What about you, 597? Where would you go?"

"I would go to where the information will most likely be, Captain," he pointed to the false window that ran down one side of the table. "In that star system. My suppositions lie with Tsufe'a'i. All those ships, all those defenses - they are both a lure and a trap. My creator wished to keep others focused on that system while it made its escape but doubtless the information will be there in systems and configurations. Against an average intruder there would be more than sufficient time to ensure its escape. But we have advantages they would not - me and my kind. And Captain?"

"What?"

"I have been reviewing the information you have allowed me access to. This 'internet'. While some is disturbing, disgusting, and revolting - terms I have not had to consider before - your civilization is one of only a distressing few that I would consider joining. Witness the presence of Tsufe'a'i, who is from a species and civilization that engaged in slaughter on a level only dreamed on by some of your contemporaries - now seated at this table as an equal."

"Well thank you;" but he waved this aside, "What I mean to say, Captain, is that this system represents a dangerous level of knowledge. If it is at all within the capacity of the Republic of Sunset, I suggest you take it before one of those who dream do..."
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Postby Sunset » Wed Aug 28, 2019 4:43 pm

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

"...that doesn't sound ominous. What do you mean, 'trials to come?'" Captain Blaine asked, looking from one to another for a clue as to which would seem to answer her question. While they'd talked the space around them, that little that filled the area bordered by the floating stones, had seemed to gradually fill in so that now she thought she could make out buildings, pathways, and perhaps some trace of greenery here and there.

Or perhaps it was simply now her eyes seeing what they wanted to see and her head filling in the missing details.

"I mean that ours was not the first people to suffer against the Yelac, nor are we to be the last. Already we can feel them pressing against this place again, seeking to extend their tendrils even into the place they cannot go."

Though it was clear that only one had spoken there was a distinct impression of confirmation from all three but Kami was quick with a counter, "Already? We're the only ones here."

"That is true because you cannot see them. You have seen their works, their monument to a war that cost the lives of thousands. But you have not seen them and it is unlikely you ever will. Perhaps you will not understand so I will attempt the simplification - we retreated to this place because they could not come here. It is antithetical to their nature. It is also why we were forced to turn to the Ver'Lithil for aid when the Yelac sought to exterminate us."

"Because the Yelac are some form of coherent energy too," Saryan guessed aloud, drawing a nod of agreement from Thomas, who was still seated at the impromptu sensor console.

"And that explains those weird structures on Points Unknown," Commander Timmons added, ambling up beside her. "No windows, no doors - they don't need them. Some kind of... charging stations?"

"Hold on - important question here," Kami held up a hand. "Again, you said 'in the trials to come' - when?" she asked, turning the attention of the small group back to the three Greeters. "Should we be getting ready to pull out so you guys can button up or are we good for the next hundred years?"

"They are already here but they are diffuse, Captain Blaine. As their presence solidifies they will be capable of more and more until they are again a threat. Right now..." One stopped as though concentrating. "They are able to sense. To touch, to feel. To gather information in subtle ways."

"Their bodies are vast," another put in. "Emperor-Covenant Xyu was known to cover several star systems. They flow like water from one point to another."

"Gravity? Stars, planets...?" Lieutenant Commander Ingersol asked, his voice nearly a shout to be heard over the distance. "No faster-than-light travel?"

"No, though we have speculated that they could make use of natural singularities, were one to present itself. These stars," and there was the distinct impression that the lead individual was gesturing to the skies surrounding them, though there was no movement, "These stars seem to be their chosen domain, though we have only heard little about the rest of the galaxy. Perhaps they evolved here. We do know that they avoid the most hazardous of singularities - what you call black holes. There they find the Druth'Haari and if you ever have cause to seek out allies you might try where we failed for in them there is enmity of old."

"So how do we fight them? And how do they fight us?" Kami asked, though the answer was provided by Doctor Brilla rather than one of the three; "Blowing up stars. If these suckers really are that big, we'll need a really big - probably has something to do with their biology, if you want to call it that. A nova will turn everything in the vicinity into electro-magnetic soup. Scramble them like eggs."

"They will in turn put the galaxy itself against you," one said. "As their essence concentrates they will be able to manipulate the places they dwell - the planets, the stars. When we fought them they could produce a sudden solar storm, reverse the magnetic field of our worlds, cause earthquakes, tidal waves, sudden storms... But also more delicate tasks. Here your forewarning is forearmed - these fantastic shapes you have created as bodies can be turned against you. It appears to take them much effort, but they can turn these against you and the more complex they are the easier it is for them to manipulate."

"...which is why you're inside here," Saryan guessed, pointing to the ring of stones. "They're not properly in our universe and neither are you. Added dimensions, hyper-geometry. They can't affect you, you can't affect them. Though sounds like they're gonna try!"

"Precisely."

"Uh - another pertinent question?" A new voice spoke up, this time that of the Seeker, who had been drifting closer along with Annya until the two were standing off to one side but within easy conversation distance. "Do we even have to fight them? You're making it sound inevitable."

This time the three Greeters did turn one to another, talking silently among themselves until the one in the middle answered again, "No. They may fight you, however. For much of our early awareness of their existence we considered them an interesting phenomenon - an animal," he said, the statement tinged with admission and guilt.

This was answered by the physicist, who was more blunt, "Until you poked one too much and they bit ya, right?"

There was a long, guilty silence that answered the physicist's question perfectly, "...their response was disproportionate and our knowledge incomplete. They may well leave you alone or they may see your association with the Vir'Lithil and their masters the Druth'Haari as sufficient cause to warrant your destruction. Perhaps they may talk with you and establish some peace, though we attempted the same when we made ourselves aware of their nature..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:13 pm

Work In Progress

----


Beta Omega Three (Catalog Entry GEC-19816C)
Planet Type: Class M (Tropical) - Economy (Average): Barter - Government (Average): Tribal - Population: Low
Dominant Sapiens - Nydilird (Singular, Insectoid)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery): One of the larger sapients on record, the Nydilird greatly resemble a common species of tree-analog native to their world. This is to such an extent that even thermal and similar sensor types will often confuse the two. Taken by themselves they are often considered pleasant to the eye, especially by those who enjoy the outdoors. They are noted for a particular odor associated with their hunting behavior - that of warm apple fritters. This odor is produced by the digestion of insect analogs and serves as a lure.
General Overview: Generally amiable and conversationalist, the Nydilird were easily persuaded to join with the Republic. They have little interest in adopting outside technology or in developing their economy or government, however. By and large they are content to simply be and the planet has been designated as a Protected Evolutionary Location (PEL).


Cuus (Catalog Entry GEC-259873D)
Planet Type: Class M (Archipelago) - Economy (Average): Mature Agrarian - Government (Average): Communal - Population: Moderate
Dominant Sapiens - Ocoredus (Singular, Crustacean Humanoid)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery): True to their crustacean origins, the Ocoredus take on much of the physical appearance of developed crabs mixed to a certain extent with terrestrial insects. Four spiked legs support a bi-segmented thorax and torso with four arms, two equipped with claw-like hands and the other fine single manipulators. Four eyes are arranged across their head, each an extendable stalk that can be retracted into a sheltered socket under a segmented 'brow'. They are quite dexterous and nimble on their feet, able to use all four arms and legs simultaneously while navigating treacherous terrain and while undertaking complex manual activities. Ocoredus are hermaphroditic and reproduce in a very interesting manner, with mature adults planting their spawn which then grows into a complex plant-like structure that is itself segmented into several 'stalks'. These stalks will then grow and mature and finally hatch - detach - into adolescents, who will then spend most of their youth in the ocean feeding. After a number of molts they will abandon the sea again to plant their own spawn.
- jellyfish/crustaceans with a complex culture where reproduction is highly regimented. coastal people, insular, amiability is moderate, interest in government participation low, interest in technology expansion moderate - economic and quality of life.
General Overview: Like their reproductive cycle, Ocoredus culture and government is highly regimented.


Shu'na'f (Catalog Entry GEC-2451994E)
Planet Type: Class M (Temperate) - Economy (Average): Complex Barter - Government (Average): Complex Territorial - Population: Moderate
Dominant Sapiens - S'hul'i'xej'i (Singular, Serpentine)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery):
serpentine with prehensile tongues. well-developed culture and government. amiability is high, interest in government service high, technology expansion moderate. offworld cultural products made of serpent scales.
General Overview:


Pahn-Tang (Catalog Entry GEC-2199066B)
Planet Type: Class M (Highland) - Economy (Average): Mercantile - Government (Average): Local Theocratic - Population: High
Dominant Sapiens - Ifin (Singular, Amphibian Humanoid)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery):
evolved amphibian mudskippers. codified warrior Male society. amiability moderate, government interest moderate but difficult. cultural tourism. sport ball exports. technological adoption moderate. martial artists. defense force recruiting high.
General Overview:


Ouern (Catalog Entry GEC-198767B)
Planet Type: Class M (Temperate) - Economy (Average): Mercantile - Government (Average): Complex Feudal - Population: High
Dominant Sapiens - Ouern (Singular, Mammalian Humanoid)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery):
ruffed fuzzies. established medieval culture and economy, amiability mixed, government interest mixed. cultural tourism welcome. exotic materials for off world exports. lifting wood. technology adoption varies by province.
General Overview:


Suwen-Brineni (Catalog Entry GEC-175146)
Planet Type: Not Applicable (Star System) - Economy (Average): None - Government (Average): Anarchy - Population: Very Low
Dominant Sapiens - Suwen-origin Evolved Artificial Lifeform (Singular, Amorphic Siliconoid)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery): Created by an experimental artificial intelligence itself created by the Suwen civilization before its self-destruction, the unnamed residents of GEC-175146 are a unique cellular electronic amorphic siliconoid. That is, they are composed of numerous large electronic 'cells' that can then organize into specific systems on an as-needed basis. Their forms are extremely malleable, with most flattening themselves out to form large solar collectors and antennas, which they use to communicate with others of their kind while absorbing radiant energy from the system's star. Designed as an intelligent infiltration and intelligence tool, they are adept at adapting their form to local circumstances as well as rapidly adopting and understanding encountered technologies. Originally what we would deem an 'expert system', this morphic nature has enabled a slow evolution that has emerged into sentience for most of their species, though this is an individual trait. Given the opportunity they are capable of 'reproduction' with two or more individuals donating a collection of 'cells' to the formation of a new individual; this is extremely rare.
General Overview: The danger represented by this civilization is immediate and well-recognized. Their intelligence and capabilities make them capable of anything from government infiltration and subversion to industrial and military espionage and sabotage. Their ability to closely mimic both biological and electronic systems makes them a higher-order threat; that they are immune to several of our most potent anti-personnel weapons increases this danger. It also makes them profoundly useful. Those who can be are being actively recruited while those who have displayed anti-social or anti-government tendencies are being closely monitored. Officially this system is designated as a Protected Evolutionary Location (PEL) but Defense Force operations in this system are authorized to take unreasonable measures to ensure their own security.
While Republic contact with the system is still in early days, several individuals have already been recruited or have willingly joined. The short and medium term goal is to ensure that the residents are safe from outside exploitation and that outsiders are safe from them.
Special Notation: See File (GEC-175146B)


Kliani I (Catalog Entry GEC-9873A)
Planet Type: Class M (Rocky) - Economy (Average): Barter - Government (Average): Tribal - Population: Low
Dominant Sapiens - Kliani (Singular, Exotic Bioform)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery):
Unknown - double-ended ball aliens. extremely simple, tribal culture, no economy, no exports except ball Pearl's. under evolutionary protection.
General Overview:


Thesulia VI (Catalog Entry GEC-199861F)
Planet Type: Class M (Marshy) - Economy (Average): Low Barter - Government (Average): Complex Tribal - Population: Low
Dominant Sapiens - Kotolathi (Singular, Quadruped Amphibian)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery):
- extremely large. migratory amphibians. amiability moderate, government interest high. very talkative. notable off world export is the croksus, a cow sized insect with a savory flesh and chitinous exoskeleton popular with other low cultures as a craft good. technology interest is low, but not for lack of trying. nearly an evolutionary protected system.
General Overview:


Or'Hurn 3 (Catalog Entry GEC-12341C)
Planet Type: Class M (Cyclic Glacial) - Economy (Average): Complex pre-Industrial - Government (Average): Complex Territorial - Population: Moderate
Dominant Sapiens - Tujerg (Singular, Humanoid)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery):
- yeti. hibernating furry humanoids. developing economy and functional government. very amiable with a guest culture. government interest and participation moderate. technological interest high. no exports to speak of.
General Overview:


Ceruchul (Catalog Entry GEC-423145B)
Planet Type: Class M (Savanna) - Economy (Average): Corrupt pre-Industrial - Government (Average): Corrupt Complex Local Representative - Population: High
Dominant Sapiens - Dru (Singular, Humanoid)
Physical Description(s) (See Attached Imagery): Squat and vaguely reminiscent of a Terran rhinoceros. Males and females both have an exagerated cuspid that comes together into a single 'horn' between their side-spaced eyes. This is typically drilled with a hole and then set with jewelry that indicates the individual's social and economic status.
General Overview: Corrupt; multiple emphasis. While the Dru culture, economy, and government is both complex and well-developed, it is notably corrupt with patronage being the most common form and nepotism a close second. That said, it is a genial corruption with most accepting it and embracing it. Those who do not are publicly considered 'noble' while privately there is a concept of 'sport' in the attempt to turn them from their virtue. This applies to off-worlders as well, with the Republic's clear demonstrations of virtue lauded by the Dru political establishment while continually tested in person.


----

Work In Progress
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Postby Sunset » Fri Aug 30, 2019 7:24 pm

Rapid Response Group Two, Somewhere in the Interstellar Void, Alpha Quadrant...

The ship didn't have a name - it had a number. Putting names on all of the ships in a rapid response group would both take up a lot of names and also be mostly (hopefully) futile. That's because the point of the RRGs was to sit there until hopefully they were never needed. Why name a ship when its intended purpose was to show up, kill people and blow things up, then head home? It did, however, have a crew - or would shortly.

"Admiral;" Admiral Woodstock blinked, started to stretch - started to open his eyes - and that alone was enough to pause him mid-stretch, his arms over his head. He'd been asleep, of course. Tucked nicely into bed aboard his own ship, his partner snoring peacefully next to him and now he was sitting in an unfamiliar but familiar chair on the bridge of a ship that looked very... Generic. That and there was a blonde woman standing just a pace away, a shorter brunette with mixed Asian features next to her and another stocky-looking woman next to the first. It took a moment but there was the flash of recognition and the realization that this was not some erotic dream, "Secretary-General, Grand Admiral - Admiral," he said, lurching to his feet and addressing the third by her more-seldom used title.

"Admiral Woodstock," the first repeated, her voice quick - urgent - even if her next words didn't seem to be. "Take a moment to get oriented if you need it. Clear your head. Plenty of time - for the time being."

It was an offer he couldn't refuse and he raised a fist to his mouth before looking closer at his new surroundings and he was not the only one. His regular first-shift crew was sitting at their posts, most also looking around and taking in the unfamiliar and unexpected surroundings. There was something odd about them, though, and he looked from face to face until the realization crossed his own that it was not the faces that were unfamiliar but the bodies. The same was true of the bridge itself; it was the normal layout for an Extinction-Class Battleship but gone were the little things that would have made it home.

No coffee ring on the arm of the chair for one.

"Alright - I think I'm close. It would have been nice to wake me up before shoving me in a new body though;" and without asking. It was something he knew in the back of his head that 'they' were capable of doing but something he'd also never done, 'First time for everything.'

"There wasn't enough time," and this time he cocked his head as the Secretary-General explained. "You're not alone though. Rapid Response Group Two has been activated - Grand Admiral Erriki," she motioned to the stocky brunette, "will be in command, but..."

"Enough time? You just said..."

"You're under time-slice acceleration, Admiral. We all are. We've got plenty of time to talk but there's going to be action very soon," she answered, her voice worried. "A situation has developed - the Congos have managed to activate an old Penrose generator they've been toying with for the past few. We've been hands-off because we didn't want them to know we were capable of watching them, but we're going to have to turn over one of our cards here. Two, really. That we know about their efforts will be the first, and that this group exists will be the second."

He nodded understanding, "And they don't really understand what they've got on their hands, do they?"

"Doubtful. And we don't really know either. All we know is that the TRIPWIRE array tasked with keeping an eye on them picked up a big power surge. Too big for what they're capable of. Since the station is still there, we're assuming they managed to power up the generator. What else they've managed to do..."

"That's what we're going to find out."

"That's right, Admiral. Hopefully you'll get to do all of nothing, but I wouldn't count on it. The Nocturnal will be going in first to scope things out," Erika nodded to Katryna, who nodded in reply. "She's going to go in first, see what's what. And you and the whole Two will be sitting just over the horizon in case we have to roast marshmallows."

"Yes Ma'am..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Aug 31, 2019 1:36 pm

RDF-Nocturnal, En Route to Hawking Station, Outside the Milky Way... Just a Couple Minutes Out...

"...Prime Minister Cora's ship has just arrived at the station," the officer at the sensor console said, looking up for a moment to double-check before turning to look over his shoulder, "...Ma'am."

"Great," Katryna - Admiral Silaco, at least for the duration - pronounced every letter as she rapidly tapped away at the console on the arm of her chair, bringing up the direct TRIPWIRE feed and laying it out across the holo-sphere that sat between the forward screen and the trio of chairs that made up the command cluster. "Which means that whatever happened was super-important enough to bring in either the top bitch or one of her representatives. Let's make the assumption that it's the top bitch for the moment - I'll want briefing files, all the usual diplomatic stuff. Hell," she sighed, flipping a straight lock of purple-tipped hair away from one ear, "I might even read it."

This was not something she was looking forward to. Certainly there was scientific curiosity - the exploration of ancient mega-structures was the Exploration Command's bread-and-butter - but the fucking Congos were involved. It didn't take an advanced pattern recognition algorithm to recognize that something was bound to go wrong. That one of their high muckity-mucks had chosen to get involved... Well.

"Yes Ma'am;" which was followed shortly by, "Coming up on the station."

"Let's see how much they don't like this," she said aloud as the ship began to slow. She was fairly certain that the answer was going to be 'a lot' but she'd been specifically authorized to give exactly zero fucks by her mother. If they had a problem...

Well.

Nocturnal was her ship and she was also the head of Special Projects. The question was not whether the Rapid Response Group that was not much further behind would have to clean up but just how much there would be anything left.

"Full comms as soon as we've dropped to STL. Put me through to whoever the highest ranking person is that's willing to talk..."
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Postby Sunset » Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:21 pm

Vairion Prime Resort Complex, The Planet Aethimyr, The Coreward Expanse, Ares Super-Cluster... Republic Date 174.945...

"...what'd I tell you boys - this place is perfect," 'Captain' Vibelus declared, pausing in his reiteration to watch as a particularly statuesque example of the local wildlife strode past, the long silky tail that hung just above the tight 'v' of her bikini bottoms swinging back and forth to add lingering emphasis to the slow bounce of breast and bottom. If the shimmering blue snakeskin swimsuit wasn't painted on then it had been sewn on earlier that morning with every inch and cord tight enough to reveal every inch of her voluptuous blonde form. A pair of narrow fur-tipped ears pierced the maneuver of gold hair and an intricate tattoo depicting various colorful jungle flowers and tropical fish covered half her body, the artwork particularly attractive to the three pirates, though their own were typically of a less savory nature. As she passed all leaned forward, watching her backside until it rejoined the crowd that surrounded the intricately sculpted pool.

"Lots of money, lots of people - lots of rich folk."

Like many so-called 'pirates', Vibelus and his crew were just as much kidnappers and slavers as looters and pillagers. The rich could afford to pay the demanded ransom and the poor would end up on the block.

"And not a military-type or defense sat to be seen! Why - its like they're practically begging us to hit em!"

"Yep, good call, boss - good call!"

For this scouting trip, the captain had chosen to bring two of his lesser sycophants along and both were enjoying their holiday as much as he was, with loose Hawaiian-style shirts open over bare and now bronzed skin over two pairs of decidedly ratty canvas shorts. It wasn't much of a disguise but they seemed unnecessary - the rent-a-pigs at the spaceport had taken their forged travel documents (bought at a discount from a shadowport on the frontiers of the Star Empire) without a second glance. That had left the three free to wander the sprawling resort complex, sample what they could of the local flavor, and put together a list of ready targets for when the Blood Tide Plunder arrived.

Again there was a halt in their conversation as a trio - a man, woman, and what had to be their young daughter - broke free of the crowd and passed by the lounge chairs where the three were stretched out. There was no point in craning their necks this time and only the captain's eyes followed the three from behind his sunglasses and mojito.

"...you should really put on more sunscreen. Your neck is all red - you're going to get a sunburn and then you're going to get cancer. Here, I have an extra tube in my bag," the woman rattled on, her voice rising to a particular demanding tone as she rifled through an over-sized tot with both hands. There was certainly no need for her to apply any; a one-piece swimsuit already left everything to the imagination and a large floppy hat, white sun-cover, and sarong wrapped around her waist had taken the rest of the inheritance.

"...no - just no. Didn't you read the..." The husband pointed up to where the glittering thin edge of a nearly transparent half-dome could be seen against the cloud-dotted sky. "Blocks out the UV rays. You could walk around naked and..." his tone turned hopeful at the end but his libido was interrupted as what must be his wife missed a step and smashed her sandal'ed toes firmly into the bottom of a planter.

Trade goods spilled everywhere and the shriek of pain was immediate with only an instant to catch her breath before she let fly with a series of accusations that all involved his ability to navigate her successfully around an obstacle she should have otherwise been well-aware of, given the colorful stalk of flowers that jutted up from the pot to spill wide on all sides nearly blocked all three from view.

"...reckon we'll be doing that fellow a favor when we put 'em in their separate cages," Vibelus laughed, turning his wrist over to check the chronometer embedded into the skin. "Which won't be very long now - get ready boys."

While the two lucky lottery winners had been securing their poolside seats, he'd been holed up in the last of a short row of information kiosks painfully typing out an email that would go on to bounce between random addresses before ending up in his first mate's inbox. His reason for secrecy had been two-fold - first to avoid alerting the natives and second because his literacy level was just enough for murder and carnage and writing out even the simple code was an exercise in squiggly-red frustration.

By the glowing blue numbers there was now only a few seconds until the Blood Tide Plunder arrived, jumping in from out-system to hover just above the defenseless complex. She'd put some energy into the spaceport first to get people running then she'd land right smack in front of the three, disgorging his swarming crew from the hold to loot, rape, and pillage before taking as many prisoners as they could and burning the whole place down with the big bell thrusters on the ship's tail as they left.

"...grab your things," he watched the numbers count down to zero and both pirates looked around to grab at the bags full of actual-factual souvenirs that they'd cleverly brought along from their rooms - most printed with the resort's name and logo in schemes varying from garish to chic. "Three... Two... One."

He looked up just in time for a very small dark speck to appear just in the center of his vision and he frowned. Whoever had calculated the jump had done a piss-poor job of it and now the ship would have to spend valuable time coming closer. More time, more risk, but there was a comforting sparkle from the front of the ship as her bow guns opened up on the spaceport before the whole ship exploded in a long lance of flame that stretched from the middle of the sky to the far side of the horizon and left his mouth gaping wide.

"Cap'n..."

"Was that supposed to happen?" the second pirate asked, shading his eyes with his hand as he watched whatever larger chunks remained arc away and begin drifting downward in glittering sparkles.

The crowd had taken notice as well, turning to look up with 'oohs' and 'ahs' as though it was the expected opening to a mid-afternoon fireworks show. Except for one particularly strident voice nearby, "...the fireworks are not supposed to be until nine! Don't look - you need to be wearing your sunglasses if you look up at the sun. Where are your sunglasses?! I have another pair..."

A brief sense of movement behind him and Vibelus turned just as the fur-tailed woman from a couple minutes ago knelt down behind his chair and put her hand on his shoulder. For a moment he was distracted by the deep chasm of a quarter-meter of cleavage traced with flowers and fish and he nearly missed her words as she smiled at him, sweet but somehow lethal. Over her shoulder her tail was now in the air and it lashed back and forth provocatively as she finished, "...looks like your vacation's been extended, captain. Enjoy it."

His mouth flapped but she was gone, standing to turn on one expertly placed foot before vanishing into the foliage with a last twist of her tail above the twin moons of her bronzed derriere. A few more seconds and he'd gathered his thoughts, "Well boys - hope you've stayed out of the mini-bar. Looks like we're stuck here for a while..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Tue Sep 03, 2019 9:38 am

RDF-Nocturnal, En Route to Whenever, Wherever, Alpha Quadrant...

"...not really, Admiral," Lieutenant Commander Huang replied, not even a trace of consolation in her tone. The two women, remarkably similar in both feature and current form, walked together around the circuitous bowels of the ship. They had encroached on the spaces now normally held under the domain of the regular synthetic seamen and from time to time their generic opposites were forced to move aside and temporarily interrupt one task or another as they passed.

"You're not a diplomat - and he's clearly not an officer. He's a monster that the Congos put in charge of one of their most secretive and sensitive installations. Any one of the various atrocities he's committed would have had any of our officers brought up on charges and run out of the service. He might not have read your file, but I read his and here's the kicker - the Congos seem delighted in keeping someone like that around."

"I want to kill him."

Janice looked sideways at her companion, the look on Katryna's face telling her in a glance that the woman was as serious as a hurricane, "Okay. But consider this before you go scrambling his molecules - he's a huge weakness and we know it. And I don't think they care. That's something we can exploit in the future. In fact, this whole thing went down broadly in our favor. Consider Hawking - they put everything they had on display just to try and kill one ship. And believe me - they would have tried."

Holding up a hand, she emphasized her point as she ticked off finger after finger, "They showed us their new super-weapon. Nevermind that Nocturnal is carrying something like ten thousand times the firepower. They showed off their entire power generation and transfer network. They put their defensive and counter-offense plans on display. In fact they were smug about it - 'Look how awesome we think we are.' Who does that? A guy shows up outside one of our secret facilities, knocks on the door, and yells 'I know you're in there!'"

"...yeah."

"What's Special Projects in the case of something like that?"

"Depends. One of the regular sites? We keep the doors locked. A black site? We move it. If Joe Public stumbles across it, well - that's our fault. If they found it then so can the people we really didn't want to find it."

"Exactly," Janice held up the last remaining finger and finally Katryna broke a smile, "and instead of reacting in a rational or reasonable manner, they flipped up a big ol' 'fuck you' to the one person they shouldn't piss off. The Director of Special Projects. Now you've got a personal invitation to hunt down every facility they have, all of their secrets, and figure out how to fuck them over."

"Yeah... Yeah!" Katryna squared her shoulders, "In fact... What I was going to do was tell that asshole to go ahead and try and then watch his face and that station disappear when I re-directed the output of that wormhole cannon onto his ship and then swept it across the station. Don't mess with the bitch that can alter local physical constants. But now... I'm going to take that star. Well, not take. They'd realize it's gone if I just up and took it. But I can easily make it so that it won't work the next time they try to use their little toy. Which would be better..."

Behind her violet eyes thoughts were spinning back and forth, decisions to be made, "Alter the constants in such a way that their next shot destroys the entire system or funnel the whole thing into one of our energy storage arrays? The first would be a lot more visually satisfying..."

"That was a pretty big fuck-up," the Lieutenant Commander repeated. "Showing off your big gun like that? Now we know where all of their stations are, where the power source is, how they intend to use it - and since they showed it off in front of the Nocturnal;" personal ship of the Director of Special Projects and owner of one of the finest sensor arrays, anywhere, period; "we have all the technical specs kicking around too. So - battle plans, technical information, the temperament and bearing of their senior-most flag officer... For no ships and an insult that you'll be paying him back for a thousand times over when you fuck him over? This was a win-lose-lost everything scenario, Admiral. And."

"And?"

"And you're the Director of Special Projects. Your mom sent you because you were the best person to help them - help that they slapped away. The next time it won't be you, it will be a real Grand Admiral - not some back-jungle monster dressed up for the occasion. That sounded wrong," she admitted suddenly. "I was talking about him..."

"Oh, I can be a monster too," Katryna replied airily, waving a hand dismissively. "No offense taken. So, we won. Now to capitalize on it. We know what they intend to do and how they intend to do it. And we're so far ahead of them that it won't take but a smidgen of our resources to negate every advantage they thought they had. One would hope they wouldn't be so dumb as to rest on their laurels, having secured a bloodless victory over a science ship, but if there's anything we can assume about the Congos it is that they are frustratingly stupid."

"And."

"You said 'and' before. What's this 'and' about? Are we going to run out of ship," she pointed ahead to where the sliding door to the crew section was waiting, "before you run out of 'and'?"

"No," Janice grinned, "But you might want to stop cause this is a good one!"

"Alright..."

Katryna looked around for a moment before settling on a small service alcove that one of the ARC4's had just left, likely to not return for some time. There was a pair of thick bulkheads flanking it and she leaned up against one with her arms crossed while Janice took the other, mismatched hands shoved into the pockets of her borrowed synthetic body, "Go. What's the last 'and'?"

"What I was going to do if they'd decided to try and shoot us. You saw the Gorgon - she's heavily dependent on physical projectiles. Missiles. Railguns. The Congos are trying to fight a war in space with blue-water technologies. It occurred to me as we were sitting there looking down the barrels of their little dicks that the abduct-o-beams don't have to target people."

The abduct-o-beam - or ray, depending on who said it - was a technology that she was intimately familiar with. She'd first seen it in use over Verlaliskarriri where it had been used to capture Ambassador Love - Katryna's step-mother-in-law - before she'd disabled the Sh'Dos vessel with a volley of torpedoes that had appeared to miss. With the disabled vessel captured and the Ambassador returned safe, the Republic had torn it apart and taken every bit of interesting technology they could. The usefulness of the abduct-o-beam couldn't be denied and now they were standard issue on all Republic starships.

"Huh. Good idea;" but Huang's grin told Katryna she'd better hold her applause and the younger woman continued, "So I set up a script to substitute them in for the usual particle beams whenever the point defense subsystem would otherwise engage a projectile. Objectively they are better, since they won't leave anything behind to maybe-explode or even do a glancing blow on the shields. But they are a little power hungry and that would leave us running out of room as they filled the receiver room up with whatever ordinance they happened to scoop up."

"Now, before you say anything, I also piped the output through the weapon scanners. No sense moving a live warhead directly onto our own ship. That would be Congo Dumb," she said, her hips twitching back and forth and her arms going high as she rapidly moved into a series of moves while clapping along to an unheard beat that ended with a foot flung high before she dropped into an eye-watering split. "But we'd still end up with a room full of antique ordinance."

"Riiight..."

"So I added another sub-script to pipe the output into the ready matter reserve for the exotic catalyst reactors. They'll just suck the things down."

"You fucker!"

The smile on Janice's face was both satisfying and malicious, "Wouldn't it have been so much fun to see the look on ol' Granger's face as his shots disappeared and came right back at him? And if Woodstock had brought in the whole Two? It would have been a blood bath."

"Yeah," Katryna's own was wide and gleeful. "Now... You said something about how we now have their counter-offensive plans? Those stupid missiles they have aimed at Mars? I say we spread this idea of yours around a bit. Select partners. People who would laugh their stupid asses off watching Congo missiles disappear mid-flight... Huh."

"Huh?"

"Mount one on a Tsunami chassis to provide counter-artillery cover to Marine units. The more they lob at it, the stronger it gets... Come on," she pushed herself up from the bulkhead and headed towards the hatchway and the bridge. "Let's push those engines a bit - we've got ratfucking to do!"
Last edited by Sunset on Tue Sep 03, 2019 9:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sunset » Thu Sep 05, 2019 8:12 am

RDF-Springbok, Near Nichibotsu*, Deep in the Trans-Galactic Void... Republic Date 174.971...

"...an opportunity to try out some new toys," Captain Brown explained, leaning over the shoulder of the frigate's helmsman as he studied the numbers flickering in one corner of the display. Even here, a reasonably safe distance away from the super-massive black hole they'd dubbed Nichibotsu*, the twisting influence of the object could be felt both by the ship's high-precision sensor suited and by the crew themselves. For some it was a certain queasiness while for others it was an 'offness' that manifested as the occasional mistake or second-guess. "Some new applications for existing technologies."

A gift - if one could think of it that way - from their fellow scientists in the UIK. In fact the whole experiment was part of just such a technology exchange with Nichibotsu* being a part of that. Discovered during the Macisikani's survey of the far galactic periphery for other super-massive black holes, the location of this one had been forwarded on to the Republic for exploitation while both the UIK and the Eternal Ascendancy worked on their own similar projects.

Millions or even billions of years ago the Milky Way galaxy had collided with others; some large, others small. These collisions had resulted in some of the odd 'ripple' pattern to be see when one looked at the galaxy edge-on, a particularly large trough or valley the 'marker' where the two diffuse entities had crossed. This had resulted in the complete 'destruction' of several with their stars ripped away by the larger influence of the Milky Way. Then their core - one of the black holes in question - had continued on to orbit the galaxy on its own, a distant mother alone in the dark and bereft of her wayward children.

Nichibotsu* would be alone no longer.

The difficulty in building a Penrose generator was not the question. In fact there were many star-faring civilizations who made use of the notion, creating their own black holes and using them to power their mighty spaceships. This was instead a question of scale with formerly minute effects suddenly having greater meaning and thus greater risk. The normal process would be to surround the entire object with a physical shell, one that would then allow the creator to slowly siphon off some of the singularity's rotational energy as one paired particle disappeared into the event horizon and the other remained free, imbued with new vigor.

"We're going to cheat," he explained, turning from the helm station to return to his own, which was surrounded in a mass of consoles and screens, some holographic and others physical. "Well, not cheat - just do things to regular physics that might earn us a prison sentence in more conservative parts of the galaxy. Building a shell around a singularity of this size..." he tapped at one console to bring up a number that was laughably long, "Well, let's just say it would take a lot of lifetimes for those who have them. Instead we're going to put up a boundary manipulation around the whole thing that will, by virtue of the rules it will operate under, siphon off the rotational energy and convert it to useful energy. And it won't take a few million years."

"If it works," he added, tapping away.

That's because one of the other things in the gift basket had been a method for creating boundary manipulations remotely, courtesy of modified versions of the Republic's TRIPWIRE arrays. Normally these remotely created manipulations of the rules of reality would only last until the array shifted focus - useful for doing things like, say, changing the arrival point of a pirate ship above a resort complex to one more amiable to being long-gunned without putting the people below in danger. Or turning a certain reprobate asshole into ash by messing with the local molecular bonding coefficients. Both temporary solutions to temporary problems.

"The trick is whether the interface we create will be self-sustaining or not and my concern," he eyed the consoles again, "is whether these fluctuations will interfere. Which is why we're all the way out here, rather than just flipping the switch back at the office."

The initial energy for the creation of the interface would be provided by the array itself, of course. There was a fundamental trick to all of this; while the goal was to siphon power from the black hole, the creation of the infrastructure to siphon that power itself required the expenditure of resources, either as energy or as matter - one equaling the other, at least according to that Einstein fellow. The array would create a small patch of altered space-time that would siphon off the rotational energy - or turn someone into delicious gravy; let's not forget that option - and this energy would go into first the creation of a stable interface and then the replication of the manipulation across the entire event horizon.

"So we want to pick the right spot to plant the seed. Not too wet, not too dry - not too much sun either. Then we'll just watch it grow..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:15 am

Erika & Demi's House, Botany Bay, Chuh-Yu... A Few Days Later...

"So... I've been meaning to ask."

Erika looked up from the book she was pretending to read while tucked into the corner chair, her bare legs tucked up under her while she secretly went about digging herself out of the small mountain of paperwork that had accumulated. Demi was sitting on the couch with her shirt off, which might have otherwise been enticing except for the little one currently gnawing on her breast. Awake or asleep, it seemed like Mikayla was always nursing and her wife's breasts bore the scars of many battles.

"Hmm? Meaning to ask what?"

"How'd you do it?"

Erika's answer was innocent, though immediately she was searching her short-term mental archives for anything not-so-innocent that she'd recently been up to, "How'd I do what?"

"The ships - the evacuation ships. You know," Demi pointed a finger towards the floor, "down there. How'd you manage to pull that one off?"

"Oh! Well - clever use of technologies. My workshop was on the original plans," she put her book aside and ran her hand across the intervening space, producing a holographic set of blueprints that then split to divide the house into several floors. Just as she'd said, there was a large basement that had been subsequently marked off as the workshop with all the modifications she'd had made when they'd bought the house. What was missing was the elevator concealed behind the wall panel.

"I built the elevator and shaft myself, or at least put the parts together. Standard model used in a lot of the black sites. They even have a boring machine that comes in several innocuous parts that can be overtly moved into a location so as not to arouse the neighbor's suspicions."

"There's an entire spaceship down there," Demi noted archly, an eyebrow high. "Don't tell me you brought the entire thing in piece by piece. I know we tend to collect stuff around here;" the bikes out in the garage were sorely in need of a ride, and the sailboat hadn't been sailed all summer, "but there's no way you would have slipped a kilometer of starship past me. And how did you dig out the docks? The same machine?"

"No no no. I got them in the same way I got the rock out - tesseract in, tesseract out. Have I ever told you about the satellites?"

"The mind control satellites?"

Erika looked at her oddly for a moment and then rose from her chair to stand over her, eyes alight, "You know too much."

"Really. There are mind control satellites?"

"No;" but Erika pushed herself up under Demi's legs to sit at the other end of the couch, taking one foot in her hands and massaging it firmly. "But there are satellites. 'Strategic Interdiction Satellites' is the official-unofficial designation. All of those supposed 'communications' satellites? They still carry that stuff but its all sitting around a single-use tesseract drive. If someone, say, tosses a missile through a wormhole at one of our cities then one of the satellites overhead will activate and jump the missile somewhere inconvenient. So I brought one of those in, made some adjustments to the volume affected by the drive, and there you go."

"Somewhere inconvenient? What did you do with the rock you removed?"

----


The Crown, Ares System, Alpha Quadrant...

"You know Phil, that's one weird-looking asteroid," Dave enunciated over the radio as he stood on the Flap Jack's hull, watching the odd-shaped rock slowly spin against the backdrop of the Crown's broader asteroid belt. "All sharp edges... Like something out of one of those old video games..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:37 pm

Director Silaco's Office, Special Projects Research Tower, On the Outskirts of Landoor City, Terra Incognito, New Latin System... Republic Date Classified...

"And let the ratfucking begin!" Katryna declared, looking over the array of projectors and projects scattered around the once-open floor of her penthouse office. Where there had once been tasteful carpet edged with imported tile there were now plans and machinations both big and small. Everything from outright destruction to subversion and infiltration was on the table though there were certain centerpieces - the center most of which was the nullification of the Congos' strategic arsenal.

"Which - they really overplayed their hand, didn't they?"

Her 'incursion' into undocumented-and-unclaimed Martian Conglomerate territory had tempted them into putting their best and newest super-weapon on display (one that was equivalent to one of Nocturnal's low-yield warheads) thus revealing both its location and capabilities to everyone observing. That meant that while the Congos were busy dealing with the political fallout, she and others like her were undoubtedly doing their best to make the entire system moot.

"So, let's start with the weakest link - the neutron star. Now, we could put up a remote boundary manipulation and cut off their access entirely, but that might clue them in that there's something wrong. Can't have them running a system test and wondering why it failed," she reasoned. "But those system tests will also give us a chance to observe their network in action, pick up new nodes, and new power sources. To do all that we'll need a new TRIPWIRE array..."

Which were now a dime a dozen. With so many spare resources from pushing out their stellar infrastructure like a donut shop during breakfast at the cop shop, they were ridiculously ahead of the curve.

"And when Nichibotsu* comes online?" she giggled, "Ho boy. But we'll want two arrays. One for monitoring the network and the other to disrupt it. Four, actually. The second weak link is the firing system. Using artificial wormholes like that..."

There again the question was one of power. The standby solution was going to be to selectively block the wormholes from opening. Easily done, really - the modified TRIPWIRE array would simply substitute a 'normal' segment of the space-time matrix for the one altered by the wormhole's opening. But they could also do other things; "Like say, redirect the shot into their own fleet. Or take out their silly launch platform in Sol..."

Or?

"...or we can program a new boundary manipulation to turn the incoming radiation back into matter and their super-weapon pumps out a few new ships for us!"

Ain't she a stinker, folks?

"So," she decided, tapping away at a console that was linked to the material requisition system, "we'll get those started. Since Granger has been put out to pasture..."

Well... She wouldn't take that bet. The Congos had flipped as many pancakes as a short-order cook and if she was going to lay her dicoin down it would be on the old warhorse trotting out as a politician despite every snatch of good advise to the contrary.

"But I can always turn him into chunky salsa if he crawls out of whatever hole he crawled into. Hawking though... Grand Admiral Nerys. I'll give her credit for the science degree but I wouldn't have picked up that baton. Something she said though..."

She turned to a nearby display and made a gesture, the recording from the Martian Forum appearing and then playing through until Katryna landed on a particular segment; "...several data caches still inside the structure..."

"Data caches? What is this? 40k? Just call them what they are - file servers. But I would bet you that we could have some fun there..."
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Postby Sunset » Thu Sep 05, 2019 4:12 pm

Plexus Network News with Tanya Zaldano...

"Tonight I'm on the ground, the Republic's Mangalan territory here on Mars. Recently it had been the scene of high tension on the Red Planet with accusations flying back and forth across the border with the Martian Conglomerate. These culminated in the declaration of a state of emergency on the MarCong side of the border though - as you're about to see - that was not at all reciprocated on the other side."

Scenes from both sides began to play side-by-side with images of children playing outside contrasted directly against stampedes and panicked riots culled from MarCong news sources. The final clip was of the border itself - peaceful, serene, except for odd trails of disturbed earth that wound around on themselves before stopping just at the marked line. Then it cut back to Tanya herself, who was wearing a tan snakeskin top that was more boob than under-boob and yet still plenty of the latter and a matching miniskirt that might have been painted on except for the gap between her pubic ridge and whatever natural or artificial material made up the embossed skirt.

"On one side, chaos. And on the other side, a population just gearing up for the upcoming holiday season. And don't bother telling them about the problems on the other side of the fence..."

"...they should be shifting their budget from the military to the schools," one man said as he stood in front of a busy sidewalk cafe hand-in-handwith his husband. "I'd worry about their future generations..."

"War? Sounds like a joke to me," another young woman - more tattoo than face - said as she paused on the rim of a wildly painted concrete bowl before launching her glide board down the slope. "Yeah. Those fuckin' Congos ain't done nothing but prepare to get their fuckin' butts kicked," her companion agreed before launching himself after her.

"The economic conditions in the Martian Conglomerate are simply frightful," a dapper dressed Neko in a thrice-fanged
monocle said as she leaned on a dog-headed cane outside of a looming marble edifice. "More money on infrastructure - less on politics and posturing!"

"Which brings us to here," Tanya continued, the camera switching back to settle on a mid-range shot that started with the ankles and zoomed in left-to-right until the best part of her cleavage was at the bottom of the shot and she was framed by a building that most would recognize as the old Martian Duma. A new hastily mounted sign indicated that it now served as the OSA's headquarters on Mars and all around the building a commotion was to be had. Enormous bipedal robots dripping with weapons of all flavors stomped past, an articulated cockpit occasionally turning to turn and linger in Tanya's direction, while loose squads of infantry crowded into the open doors of transport craft. It might have looked as though they were preparing for war except most were dressed in civilian garb with only the statuesque Hauyht standing next to her in full uniform - if that statue had been poured out of solid muscle.

"The headquarters of the OSA - Outer Systems Alliance, a paramilitary law enforcement organization based on the planet Juniper - and the former location of the Martian Duma. I'm here with OSA General CusTer..."

"...Ms. Zaldano."

"Who has been kind enough to stick around for an interview. Why is that?" she asked, tipping the microphone to the woman.

"We've been recalled. Our initial orders were to be on hand to receive and coordinate refuges in case the Congo... Martian Conglomerate government collapsed. Our assignment was extended when it became apparent that they might launch some kind of cross-border attack. Now? It seems like they just can't make up their minds, but the Marines stationed here tell me they have everything in hand, so my command is being recalled to Juniper. We'll leave a nominal presence here, of course - our new planetary headquarters will serve as a recruiting and training center."

"Wouldn't the Marines had done the fighting if the MarCong had invaded, General? The OSA is a law enforcement organization."

"Under our charter the OSA can be activated to act as reserve and second-line personnel to the regular Defense Force. Against the Congos?" she grinned wide under the brim of her old-style cavalry hat, "The Marines could have taken a holiday."

"You sound confident, General."

"The Congos don't know their ass from their noses. While they're bickering, we're training. I've run two hundred training flights and twenty combat training drops a day out of here for the past couple months. Far as I hear, they're too busy glued to their screens to even lift a rifle, much less hit the range. Speaking of..."

A gust of wind rattled the platform and General CusTer clapped her hand to her hat to keep it from blowing away while Tanya - if she'd have really been wearing anything before - would have been reduced to wind-torn rags. Just beside the two a massive dropship was touching down on one of the few patches of bare earth large enough to accommodate it and a hatch slide open to reveal a junior officer and just the tip-toe of a very large robot lurking inside.

"There's my ride!" CusTer shouted, jumping up and grabbing a handle next to the door with envious ease before twisting her body to plant both feet on the deck. Swinging herself upright, she waved her hat to the camera before sliding the door shut, the craft pitching slightly upward as it rose into the sky.

"...General CusTer," Tanya finished, looking for all the world as though she'd been through a tornado. "And now - Ț̶̨̭̮̱̙̦͔̲̻̺͛h̶̬͍̄̋̊̈́̌̽̍̽̈̚̚e̸̼̖̭̠̝̞̠̰̝͚̤͎̠̜̾̂̔̃̾͌̆͘̚͝͠͝ ̸̡̨̧̜̣̪͖͚̳͎̭͍͚̩͆̑͂͒̒̈́̇͗͂̏͐̄͘W̷̧͇̥̲̊͒͌ė̴̛̛̗̮̳͙͖̖̠̠̋̍̉̈́̈̃͗̒̽͝͝å̵̡͎͔͈̱̳̞̜͓͑̽ͅt̵̥͕̤̲̫̭̤̗̫̠̘̾̓̀h̶̪̭̰̬̩̺̓͜e̸̡̩̱̻̻͓̲̲͉̘̝͍̗̊̍̂͐̔̓̍̕r̷̛̗̥̘̖͓̣̳͙͑̂̅̌͘͝..."
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Postby Sunset » Fri Sep 06, 2019 1:43 pm

McMurdo Sea, Antarctica, Earth, Sol System... Republic Date 174.986...

"'But we were not on a station platform. We were on the track ahead as the nightmare plastic column of foetid black iridescence oozed tightly onward through its fifteen-foot sinus; gathering unholy speed and driving before it a spiral, re-thickening cloud of the pallid abyss-vapour. It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter. Still came that eldritch, mocking cry—“Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!” And at last we remembered that the daemoniac shoggoths—given life, thought, and plastic organ patterns solely by the Old Ones, and having no language save that which the dot-groups expressed—had likewise no voice save the imitated accents of their bygone masters,'" Kraus read aloud, finishing with a snap as he shut the oddly-bound book sharply.

"A fortunate find," he repeated for perhaps the twentieth time that day as he ran his fingers over the odd stitching and rubbed at the nearly-smooth leather that seemed somehow different than it had on the last handling. Of course, that could be because it still bore the stains of where one of the technicians had used it as an improvised air-sickness bag; strange, given the calm seas and cloud-less skies.

He'd found it in a curio shop in Buenos Aires, between another selling giant slug repellent and another that purportedly perveyed wands and magical sundries. The shop owner had insisted on real gold coin to pay for it though there had been a convenient ATM on the corner. Over another week he'd read and re-read it voraciously until there was no chapter untouched by the South American sun.

"So - that's what we're on the lookout for," he declared, fingers subconsciously slipping back between the pages to move and touch particular words and phrases on their own as a sickly gray light began to emanate from the depths of the spine. "Or not looking for. Giant blind albino penguins and pulsating black oozes the size of subway cars."

"...and mecha-Hitler!" Meri added brightly. She was sitting across from the Doctor and her reading material was obnoxiously more practical; 'Cold Weather Survival for Hot Blooded Aliens, 2nd Edition.'

"And mecha-Hitler," he agreed. "If you see any of those three, shoot first, then collect a few samples, then ask questions. Or run."

"Can we run first?" one of the unnamed technicians asked, clearly aware of his place on the survival totem pole. "Are you sure these guns will stop them?" he asked again, holding up one of the weapons in question.

It certainly looked high-tech enough, with a molded handgrip, foregrip, skeletal stock, a collection of lights and designators under the barrel - which was ominously large - and a sighting cluster that looked like it had come straight out of some gun-porn movie. The whole thing had been decked out in matte white with artic camouflage accents where the hand and body would naturally- and thus uselessly - cover them up.

"I am one hundred percent certain they will stop anything," Kraus declared. "In fact I tested it on Jeremy before we left and from what that last email said he's still lethargic."

"So non-lethal?"

"Did I say that?" Fredrick answered, clearly stung by the accusation. "No - I said 'they will stop.' One hundred percent."

The technician scratched at his head, "So... Non-lethal."

"The Earth rotates at four hundred sixty meters per second," the other technician answered, looking up from his cross-armed nap and showing the kind of insight that would allow him to survive for several more posts.

"Correct! I recommend not standing east of whatever you're shooting. Or was that west? That really should have been in my follow-up report. How about we just all agree to shoot north or south..."
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Postby Sunset » Sat Sep 07, 2019 12:15 pm

An Ancient Forest, GEC-7746421D, Just Across the Gamma-Delta Border from the Esti System, Delta Quadrant... Republic Date 174.987...

"...you and your kind are meat, homuun. Carrion to be tossed to the little ones. Pitiful sustenance for those only a nightfall from their mother's carapace," the one they had dubbed the Envoy snarled, a saw-edged tongue sliding over a mouth filled to the abyss with ragged dark teeth. Muscles bulged menacingly under an articulated spiked shell decorated with the harsh-edged markings that indicated to those that could read them that they were an opponent of great stature and ability. Pushing itself up another full meter, it loomed over the Marine, four sharp eyes staring deep as though its gaze alone could devour the Lieutenant's soul.

"Now," it demanded, eyes narrowing to ichorous green slits and the talented claws on the back of its forearm crackling and popping as they bristled with anticipation, "repeat your mewling words so that I might relay them to the Mother-of-All as a record of your failing."

It was hard to looked exasperated hidden behind the cyclopian face-plate of his power armor but the Marine never the less managed, his suit slumping into a posture that questioned the alien's ability to comprehend their own language, much less relay his words to this 'Mother-of-All' without it turning into a game of junior school telephone.

It had started off as such an easy assignment too. A nearby system - Esti - was home to a civilization of avians that was currently chafing under the rule of an authoritarian military regime. Someone much higher up the command chain had decided it was time to do something about it. The Lieutenant's job was to secure this world and notably the nearby crash site where the Esti'Ilwe's first attempt at faster-than-light travel had plowed in after some government-inflicted sabotage. A Republic starship - the Ojeni - had rescued the crew years ago and among them had been the project's chief scientist and outspoken government critic.

Which was probably where that decision by someone higher-up had originated.

But a routine surface scan as soon as their ship had entered orbit had turned up a wrinkle. The local wildlife was gone; not just decimated but eradicated in a massive circle that extended outward from a swarm of rock-shard protrusions from the nearby plain that hadn't been there when Ojeni had left or when an Esti'Ilwe scout ship had shown up to dust the recon and communications satellite they'd left in orbit. These had been replaced but not quite duplicated by a ring of subterranean hot-spots - a lot of somethings lurking motionless just below the ground. It was a good hiding spot but 'they' could have been anything from the spores of some kind of deep-space plant life to some kind of biological monitoring system to what they actually were - gribblies.

That was the generic term for any sort of monstrous entity or group of entities, with most being defined by their low intellect, savage behavior, malignant nature, and often by a theme heavy on spikes, fangs, skulls, and other juvenile accouterments that more tended to get caught on the drapes than accomplish anything useful. They'd popped out of the ground like seven year cicadas as soon as Henna and his team had put boots to ground, surrounding them with a wall of purple-brown ugly as more and bigger had surged in from the surrounding forest land until it was a sea of slathering maws, jet-coal claws, and glowing green eyes all the way to the limited horizon afforded by the dense canopy of the elder forest. That had put him and his men standing shoulder to shoulder in a shallow arc up against one side of their shuttle with only a token of clear ground between the two sides until the one they'd immediately dubbed 'The Envoy' had stepped into the open.

Which had immediately become a little less open.

It had then put aside their collective differences in height and hygiene to attempt some light conversation before their would-be dinner. This had allowed them to build up a translation codex though it was quickly clear that the basis of the alien tongue was threats, violence, and where their next meal was to be devoured.

"I said, 'We're here to collect the shipwreck located on the plains to the east and personal effects belonging to its crew. We mean you no harm. If we are intruding on your territory, we will leave and negotiate a passage agreement with your... Mother-of-All.'"

"Weak works - this is our place now," the Envoy took a step forward, raising one arm and extending a spike from the end that was as long as the Marine was tall, "and you are prey. You will not leave," it pointed the spike directly at the Lieutenant's 'eye', "and I have declared you sustenance!"

"...okay. One question first," the Marine peered at him, raising one arm as though looking at something and then back to the towering monster. "What percentage water would you say you are by weight? Seventy? Seventy five?"

"Pathetic words for your last..."

The Envoy drew back its arm and swung, the extended spike rushing forward with surely enough power to skewer the man end-from-end but the beast was dead before it finished the lunge. Flames erupted from the standing corpse and in a standing wave from those beyond, surging through tree and scrub until they trickled out into small flares that sent their enemy running in panic or toppling as the bare edge of the effect caught some vital portion of their being. Here and there one of the elder giants exploded, launching massive fragments of splintered flames through the air but aside from the flames and the distant howls of those not outright killed the scene was oddly quiet - those who died had not had the time or breath to scream.

"...okay. That was super-effective," Henna declared, kicking the corpse of the fallen Envoy. The black body disintegrated completely from the strike, drifting away as a gust of ash that he estimated was closer to 25% of the monster's former weight. "Twenty points to Ravenclaw. Think they'll come back...?"
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Sunset
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Sunset » Sat Sep 07, 2019 4:02 pm

Research Presentation, Before the Select Council on Peer Threats (Krȃng Sub-Council), The Gray Chamber...

"...every time we dive deeper into the technologies and methods of the Krȃng, it becomes more and more apparent how much of a threat a resurgent empire would be, not just to the more ephemeral civilizations around us but possibly to our own. Thanks to the realization of that threat and diligent, careful work on the part of that group," the presenter nodded towards the various members of the Council whose governments had contributed to the briefing's source material, "we now have a much fuller picture of the source, history, and construction of the Circlets."

A tap of a pointer against the air and a hologram appeared, showing one of the Circlets at a dramatic quarter angle, its clean white surface moving past at what seemed a reasonable speed until one compared it to the great gaseous planet that it circled. On the other side of the planet and near hidden by the curve the open interior could be seen, great continents with splashes of green, blue, brown, and gray draped across them like daubs from a painter's brush. At this distance the only recognizable detail was the great scale of the thing, capable of housing hundreds of billions and once the great prison-farms of the Krȃng empire.

"The story is a jigsaw puzzle," she began, "so I'm going to step through each piece as we fit them together. The first is PTU-557, which could be considered the building block of Krȃng civilization. Amazingly durable and with interesting and useful meta-properties..."

She tapped another section of air and another hologram appeared, this time of a block of white material apparently under laboratory testing.

"...such as electro-magnetic scattering and absorption, which renders many types of sensors useless, and photo-reflection..."

A robot arm extended from one side to place contacts on the cube. There was a sizzle of invisible electricity and the cube took on a mirror-like sheen. From off-screen there was the 'crack' of laser ignition and the surface of the cube shimmered at a single point until slowly and near-imperceptibly distorting under the assault.

"...which makes it an excellent choice against laser weapons - which, oddly, were the primary weapon of the Krȃng. The working theory that this was meant to make it hard for their captive populations to turn their own weapons against them. Structures made of PTU-557 have been known to be found completely intact after eighty millennia and in the crushing depths of the atmosphere of gas giants - further testament to its usefulness and durability. It is, importantly, a completely engineered material - an important point as we continue to the next piece of the puzzle."

This time the hologram was of an object similar in size to a Circlet but far thinner and shrouded in an atmosphere of murk and darkness. Accompanying this were several structures that could be recognized by the knowledgeable as the atmospheric exchanges that sat floating in the mid-atmosphere of each Circlet's host planet, these serving to move needed gases back and forth between the Circlets and the planet, which thus acted as a reservoir.

"Because of the nature of PTU-557, enormous particle manipulators were required to create it, especially in the objectively titanic quantities required. Each Circlet contains a number of these accelerators, each spanning the entire circumference, but up until now it has been assumed that these were installed to provide additional PTU-557 post-construction but this is not the case. Following excellent time-ranging imagery and then planetary archaeology by our colleagues, it has been determined that these were built first and the Circlets then constructed around them."

Another hologram, this time of a large gas giant with an attractive assortment of moons and rings circling it.

"Location. The discovery that the accelerators were built first changed that calculus. It had been assumed that the Circlets were constructed and moved into place - true - but that this construction was accomplished at more traditional facilities. It should be noted that it was the search for these facilities and the threat they would present if they fell into naive hands that resulted in these discoveries," and again she nodded to certain uniformed members of the Council before continuing.

"As shown," she drew the two previous holograms together, their textural similarities now apparent, "the accelerators were first constructed and placed in the atmosphere of an appropriately sized gas giant - on the scale of Jupiter or Saturn - along with their attending structures. These then fed the accelerators, producing PTU-557, which was then put into construction of the Circlet with non-useful elements subjected to mass annihilation to power the process. Attention was also paid..."

A series of graphs came up and a time-lapse began of the gas giant showing the eventual 'emergence' of the Circlet and the shrinking of the atmosphere played through as the graphs showed a gradual change in elemental composition broken down into various time increments; days, years, decades.

"...to the planet itself, which would eventually serve as the Circlet's atmospheric reserve. Thus complete, the Circlets were ready to be moved to their eventual current home. Except for one missing piece."

Shuffling the images around she took ragged pieces out of each until they fit together as puzzle pieces but with one missing.

"People. What was truly insidious about this process was the location in which each Circlet was constructed. While diligent work has discovered the original homeworlds of some of the species inhabiting the Circlets now, others have remained a mystery. It is clear now that some were residents of the systems that the Krȃng plundered to build them. Again, time-ranging imagery and archaeology has uncovered direct evidence that all eight of the Circlets were constructed in systems that once held their own unique civilization. Some were barely tribal while others..."

More holograms - this time of a lopsided battle between the familiar form of Krȃng warships and a ragged flotilla of boxy mostly-open assemblies that might one day be called proper ships - played quickly through.

"...at least one was on the verge of interstellar spaceflight. Their nascent space fleet destroyed, they were forced to watch from the surface as their future prison was constructed. The remains found on that planet," she nodded to the Menelmacari, "indicate a thriving, peaceful, intellectual civilization that may have been worthy of our number were it not for the Krȃng. All of these civilizations were then relocated to the Circlets to act as initial breeding stock before these in turn were moved to their current locations. Some remain - others extinct..."
Last edited by Sunset on Sat Sep 07, 2019 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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