NATION

PASSWORD

Flight of the Polunochnaya [IC; Closed]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]

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Imperium Sidhicum
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Posts: 4324
Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:24 pm

Aboard MSS Polunochnaya

Siri was frustrated and angry. All these hours spent on research. AND FOR WHAT!?

Ippolyta's consultation had been informative in that Siri now at least knew what was wrong with her - at least in theory. However, the cause of that problem still very much eluded her. While it was evident that she was apparently jealous of the sexual success of other women with Alaric, which in turn indicated her own sexual attraction to him, Siri still couldn't fathom why was she attracted to Alaric in such a way, and her inability to make sense of it was driving her crazy.

She had spent the better part of the day since leaving Miramar secluded in her quarters, barely sleeping at all and reading every available datalink on human and Sidh sexuality. By now, Siri had pored throug enough theory to get a sexologist's certificate should she ever desire one, but while all this information was very informative on how sexuality worked, it still left the primary question open - why?

The few crewmembers who attended the gym at this hour were surprised to find Siri furiously pummeling away at one of the boxing bags. Although Siri was the weakest and least imposing of the Judicators, even her modest hand-to-hand combat skills would have allowed her to stand her own against most regular soldiers, augmented or not. The recent humiliation by sparring droids had prompted Siri to practice her close combat skills harder, and she had applied the cold logic of science and her own extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology to that effect, devising herself an exercise program that targeted all the vital bones and muscles statistically the most often-used in close combat. The hellhound bite on her arm was still raw, sutured and bandaged, but Siri ignored the pain, deeming it a worthwhile element of exercise in itself, training her to resist pain from injury.

Siri kept beating the boxing bag until complete exhaustion. At least she had finally done something to take the strain off from her mind for a change. She hauled herself off to her quarters and into the shower, again starting to plot the course of her ongoing investigation.

As she let the warm water run along her curves, Siri thought that in order to understand her strange attraction to Alaric, investigating sexual attraction in general was perhaps in order. Maybe understanding what other crewmembers found sexually attractive was key to understanding her own attraction.

Siri decided that her coming investigation would focus primarily on female crewmembers, who would better understand attraction to men. Siri was aware that Serena and likely some of the other crew's womenfolk had more unorthodox tastes, and was hence divided about whether to include them in her research, but in the end decided to question them nonetheless. In the very least, they could give her a female perspective on unconventional sexual relationships.

The sources Siri had studied claimed that sexual attraction was, at least in humans and other naturally-procreating species, an evolutionary method of selecting the most suitable mate. That, however, failed to explain the existence of sexual attraction in deviant, i.e, homosexual subjects, and also among Sidhae in general who did not procreate naturally. While Siri was aware that sexuality was a vestigial set of instincts retained from Sidh fully-organic human predecessors, she was still baffled by it's continued existence among the Sidhae - without any practical procreative function, sexuality served no more practical purpose, yet it's retainment pointed out to it having one, it being too significant a segment of base-level operating code to be retained simply as a design oversight. Having extensive knowledge on the subject of synthetic biology, which included several courses on Sidh biosynthetics, Siri had a very good grasp on how new Sidhae were constructed and programmed. The fact that sexual reproduction instincts were not edited out of their base operating code signified there was some greater purpose to leaving them untouched.

Still in the shower, the ever-inquisitive girl already was already compiling a mental to-do list.

1. Investigate opinions on sexual attraction factors in males among the crew's female members. Compile their answers.
2. Find common elements. Determine the average set of qualities necessary to inspire sexual desire.
3. Devise a measurement system to measure and gauge mean sexual attractiveness by these qualities.
4. Apply them to primary investigation object, evaluate attractiveness Determine personal preferences and integrate them with the scale, then apply to primary investigation object.


The first three seemed simple enough, although Siri was convinced she would have to refine her scale afterwards, the small number of responders and their specific occupations and interests likely bound to make it somewhat biased. Number Four, however, looked like the real challenge, since Siri had no clue whatsoever as to what she found attractive in men. She was accustomed to viewing everybody and everything through the prism of science. When a handsome young lad like Alaric caught her eyes, her thoughts usually revolved around what augmentations he had beneath his skin, assessing his physical capabilities and estimating the cost of upgrading him to a specialist class of this tier or that. By the time that lad noticed her, smiled and said hi, Siri had already made a rough mental chart of his genome based on a vague genetic assessment made from his appearance, and weighted the pros and cons of implanting various gene sequences in it. And then her train of thought was usually disrupted, cut off with a proverbial axe by this lad, who was saying hi and more often than not shortly thereafter proceeding to ask her out for a date. This invariably left the poor girl in a state of anxious confusion - while Siri recognized that the guy in question was in all probability meaning well, she was at the same time completely unsure on how to respond to such advances without offending him or making herself look like a complete moron. Because Siri could readily endure being called feeble, naive, even cowardly, all of that being at least somewhat objectively true as far as she was concerned, but one thing she would never tolerate was having her intellect called into question, which was exactly what her own lobotomized interactions with the opposite sex would imply.

With that revalation, Siri wasn't anywhere closer to understanding what her preferences actually were, and decided to postpone herself for later, focusing on compiling the answers of the crew's other women first.

Since Ippolyta had asked not to be disturbed for the time being, Siri respected her wish and assessed other females on board as potential first candidates for questioning. General Trotskaya was likely busy with planning the next mission, and given her penchant for foul moods, Siri elected not to disturb her for now either. The Frenkish woman Rachel was one possible option, though her personality profile suggested unorthodox preferences, making her of limited utility for the pending study. Harper was also described in her dossier as having such preferences, and was currently resting in the infirmary injured. Serena, her proclivities aside, was also probably busy at the time. That left Siri with rather few options. She decided to start with that new Sidh decurion Adonis that Serena had brought along from the last mission.

The girl consequently got dressed back in her Judicatorial armor and set out on her quest.

---

After some searching, Siri located Adonis in the ship's canteen. She hadn't examined the decurion's personality profile yet, but from her appearance alone deduced that she was likely a cold and somewhat detached person, though this alone was insufficient to pass a reliable verdict. Her men were nowhere to be seen, probably sleeping, given the late time of the day.

"Decurion Adonis, can I ask for a moment of your time," Siri politely approached her. The decurion sported a black eye and a number of fresh light cuts on her face, indicating she had been in a fight recently, so Siri elected to be cautious around her with indiscreet questions of a sexual nature, unsure how the decurion would react to such breach of propriety. That her Judicator apprentice status would effectively shield her from pretty much all harm among her kind hadn't yet set in her mind.

"By all means," Adonis responded, somewhat surprised that a Judicatrix even bothered to be polite with her, having the mental image of Judicators as always just bluntly giving orders and expecting to be obeyed without question, "I haven't seen you around before, Lady Judicatrix..."

"Just a disciple," Siri humbly corrected her, "I am Siri, disciple of Judicator Olhon."

"Ah, that weedy Judicator who looks more like a spiker or IT guy in a fancy armor?" Adonis said, taking a swig of "screwdriver" from her glass, "No disrespect, but your master doesn't quite strike me as the Judicator type, were it not for his armor and surcoat. Nor do you, for that matter. I've somehow always thought Judicators were all tough and burly like the Abbess."

"My master is indeed an IT specialist," Siri stated, "He may not look very imposing, but rest assured, his fighting skills are more than adequate for his station. In any case, decurion, that is not the reason why I came to you. Would you mind answering to a few questions of a somewhat... indiscreet nature? For research purposes, obviously."

"Indiscreet?" Adonis chuckled, "Girl, the only discreet part about me I left behind when I got busted down to a prison guard. Lay it on me..."

"Really? So, uh..." Siri powered up her tacticom to record the responses, "What traits do you find sexually attractive in men?"

The question took Adonis by complete surprise. She had half-expected questions about her background, the young disciple in front of her again defeating her expectations about Judicators.

"Well, I..." she was about to respond, when the affectionate bass of Captain Nikolayevich interrupted their conversation.

"Well, well, well," he purred, approaching the bar, "What do we have here!"

"Rrrawk! A fine piece of ass and a pair of great tits!" the Captain's parrot squawked, earning a finger-slap from his master for the lewd remark.

"Oh, great..." Adonis sighed, "Here comes Mr. Wannabe-pirate Douchebag again..." The decurion had the questionable pleasure of already being acquainted to Nikolayevich and his ham-handed way with the ladies from earlier on, when Nikolayevich had tried to hit on one of her female comrades. Needless to say, without success.

"You know, Miss, I've always been partial on the tall ones," Niko leaned against the counter in front of Adonis, smiling and revealing his faux-golden teeth, another part of his self-assumed space pirate image.

"Good for you," Adonis retorted and continued her conversation with Siri in Sidh, "Tell you what, girl - I can't say for certain what I like in men, but I will definitely tell you what I don't like in men, and it's all in this guy!"

"Could you elaborate, please?" Siri asked, glancing at Niko and meticulously taking notes.

"Vulgar, lewd, rude, inconsiderate," Adonis spoke, giving the Captain a nonchalant glance, "A braggart, with no sense of style and a poor personal hygiene, drooling like a dog after every skirt. Hell, if he wasn't such an asshole, I might even feel a little bit sorry for him."

"I bet they are discussing your personal qualities, boss," the parrot squawked, unable to understand a word in Sidh. Niko, who had next to no knowledge of Sidh himself, just spent his time staring at the two Sidhwomen, rather openly evaluating their forms.

"I bet they do!" he agreed with his pet and turned to Adonis again, "You look quite tough with all those bruises and cuts there, pretty! Have you ever been mistaken for a man?"

"No," Adonis answered with the dignifiedness of a queen after giving him a long nonchalant look, "Have you?"

The response prompted peals of laughter from the group of Chernodrakony sitting and drinking nearby, the same men who had fought with Adonis and her troops just yesterday.

"Ooouch! Right in the nuts..." one of them remarked, seeing Niko look visibly confused.

"You seem like having an awful bad case of blue balls, pretty boy," Adonis continued in a tone feigning sympathy, "So here's a free advice - if you want to score with a girl, I suggest you try losing that mix of keratine strands and cat-shit you have on your head and get a proper haircut. Also, you might want to try putting more mouth and less ass in that orifice you have on your face, and use more toothbrush and less gold in it in the future. You could also try get acquainted to showers, and by that I mean more than just the weather phenomenon that happens to other people or learning how to spell the word."

The Chernodrakony were quite literally writhing in laughter, the Captain's face assuming the tint of ripe cherry in embarassment.

"I... you.. uh..." he struggled to find any response.

"Rrrawk! Evasive action!" the parrot announced.

"Rrright..." Niko muttered, snapping around on his heel and walking off, sniffing his armpit as he went.

"I don't smell THAT bad! Do I...?" he could be heard remarking.

"So, where were we?" Adonis turned back to Siri, who looked somewhat confused and not sure what to make of it all.

"I... uh... I understood that Captain Nikolayevich embodies everything you don't find sexually attractive, is that correct?" the young Judicatrix said.

"That's right, and I can't think of any self-respecting woman who would, for that matter, something you might want to consider for your... research," Adonis spoke, returning to her drink.

"Right... Well, thank you for your time, decurion," Siri stated, turning off her tacticom, quietly thinking over if her current research methodology was going to be sufficient for the task at hand.

---

...although the recovered fragments of the creature have not been properly investigated yet due to injury sustained by the team's technology expert specializing in nanotechnology and computer science, the combat assessment included in the attached files alone is a reason enough to be concerned and mark this creature, dubbed "Empyreal" in A-1, as a priority threat and investigation subject. The technological capabilities demonstrated by the aforementioned considerably exceed anything the Imperium can currently field. Recommend redirecting priority resources to determining the origin of these creatures and, if possible, obtaining more samples for technological assessment.

Serena was busy writing her latest report to be sent up the Order's chain of command. From what the other Judicators and the Russians who had faced the Empyreal had told and recorded, she had already determined quite a lot about the creature. It was evidently based on nanites, similar to the Sidh living metal, but way more advanced, combining the traits of polymimetic nano-composite alloy and "utility fog", a gaseous form of nanomaterial that had only recently entered it's first limited practical applications in the Imperium. It was apparently propelled by some sort of miniature anti-grav system similar to the one used in servo-skulls, and it's lifting capacity amounted to roughly two or three metric tons, as was evidenced by it's struggle to stay aloft with three armored Sidhae clinging on to it's tail. It's most disturbing features were it's uncanny ability to replicate organic beings and to almost instantly fabricate complicated systems like the energy weapon in it's tail, one that could easily defeat standard Sidh powered armor behind a 30-millimeter tungsten carbide-based composite riot shield. Unless this creature was a different one from that reported by Halko just now, it also seemed to possess some means of interstellar travel, that alone being worth a serious investigation. A star drive compact enough to fit inside an ordinary aerospace fighter would provide the Imperium with an incredible tactical advantage.

The creature has unparalleled self-repair capabilities, able to shrug off multiple shots by energy rifles and handblasters without suffering more than superficial damage. While powerful melee attacks are capable of damaging it, the creature's own formidable melee combat abilities and the ability to disperse and rematerialize itself at will make direct engagement highly unadvisable. The engagement with it did reveal it's vulnerability to plasma explosions, the combined high temperature and EMP discharge damaging it sufficiently to force it to disengage. Will investigate these vulnerabilities further when the tech expert recovers from injury.

At this moment, Serena's right hand began to shiver uncontrollably again, leading her to slap it down angrily against her knee repeatedly.

"Screw this..." she grumbled, electing to set work aside for a while.

Serena walked over to her shrine of the Emperor, intent on seeking His spiritual guidance to ease her current ailment. The Allfather looked upon her from the gilded icon with the same commanding yet gentle look, one of a king and a father in one. She knelt and bowed to the image, holding her hands in the sign of the Aquila as was customary before prayer or meditation.

"Great Father, I seek Your guidance," Serena whispered, kneeling before the shrine and using the matchbox in the drawer under the shrine to light the candles and censers around the icon. Assuming a meditation position, the Judicatrix removed the heavy tome of the Word from it's rest on the shrine and perused through the pages, seeking for a suitable passage to meditate on.

"Allfather, guide me in Thy Word," Serena muttered as she turned page after page, relying on her intuition and presumable Emperor's guidance to find the right verse to meet her current need.

A Sidh one is not born, a Sidh one becomes through pain.

"Allfather, have I not suffered enough in Thy name? Have I not proven myself Sidh enough?" Serena was discontent with such an answer, but then read the next verse.

Learn to embrace pain, for it is but weakness leaving the body and mind.

Serena's spiritual contemplations were unfortunately interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Yes, what is it?!" she responded impatiently, annoyed at the disruption of her meditation and half-expecting it to be Elena, again here to throw one of her usual tantrums about whatever had displeased her this time.

"It is Siri, Lady Abbess," the young Judicatrix spoke outside, "May I come in?"

"Come inside," Serena responded much more kindly. She liked Siri, and not just for her looks either. She was a bright kid, and a devout one too, if a bit naively so.

"Forgive me for interrupting, Lady Abbess," Siri said as she entered, immediately noticing the candles and smouldering censers by the shrine, "It is nothing of importance, I can wait for later..."

"Don't," Serena invited her with a smile, "I always have time for the students of my students. And it's Serena, no need to go all formal on me."

"Of course, Lady... uh, Serena," Siri nodded.

"Would you care to pray with me?" Serena asked.

"Certainly," Siri nodded seriously, kneeling besides the Abbess and making the customary light bow and Aquila-sign, "What are you praying for?"

"More of meditating, actually," Serena said, "Looking for answers in His Word. I sense that something is troubling you, child. You can seek for answers in the Word as well."

"I... uh... I do have some questions indeed," Siri spoke as she sat down next to Serena, "Though I am not certain the Great Father could give me answers to those."

"Well, it can never do any harm asking anyway, can it?" Serena smiled, passing the Word on to Siri.

Siri laid her hand on the Word, closing her eyes and concentrating on the questions on her mind.

"Allfather, guide me in Thy Word," she whispered the customary invocation and began to peruse through the book, finally stopping at the page and verse that felt right.

He who loves shall conquer a hundred of those who hate, for those who hate live merely with their hatred, while he who loves lives for his love.

"Umm... It is not quite what I was hoping to find, but... Ave Imperator, I guess..." Siri wasn't certain how to respond. In truth, the logical, scientific aspect that dominated her mind put little credence in the Sidh practices pertaining to the Word, but then again, she was born and bred a Sidh, and knew enough to dismiss any such reservations as heretical.

"Ave Imperator," Serena smiled, "The Great Father always answers our questions and prayers to Him, just not always the way you would want Him to answer."

"You are wise and have many years behind you, Abbess. I must ask for your guidance," Siri turned towards Serena with trusting eyes and professed her concerns, "I must profess, I oftentimes lack faith in His Word. You know I am a woman of science, dedicated to hard logic. Is it wrong for me to doubt the Word that our people have followed for many centuries and trust only in my own knowledge?"

Serena did not respond with words, instead smiling and taking the Word from Siri. She spent some time turning the pages, evidently looking for something she knew by heart and this time looking for a particular verse. Finally, she found what she looked for and handed the tome back to Siri, pointing at the particular verse.

Faith is weakness, knowledge is power. To conquer, do not believe - know.

Siri said nothing for quite a while, pausing to reflect on the revelation. Being a proper Sidh, she had never doubted the veracity of the Word or the Emperor's wisdom over all men, her problem being more of reconciling her own thoroughly-logical take on life with the spiritual, at times irrational aspect of Sidh lifestyle.

"There is a reason why our people follow the Word in all things, Siri," Serena grasped her hand with a gentle smile, "The Allfather may have been the greatest of all men to have ever lived, but He was still a man, prone to the same pains, temptations and questions that all of us are. What He had that we do not is the wisdom to find answers to these questions, leaving them behind for us to learn from and better ourselves."

"I wish to learn more from His wisdom," Siri whispered reverently, "And yours, Abbess."

"I am but His humble disciple," Serena smiled gently, grasping Siri's hand more tightly as she placed the Word back in it's place on the shrine, "Let us meditate together on His Word, and then you can ask me whatever it is that troubles you."

With that, the two women turned to the shrine, closing their eyes and concentrating on their respective questions and the revelation that the last Word verse had contained in itself, still holding hands. Siri's rapid, youthful and energetic pulse reminded Serena of her younger days, while the slow and steady beat of Serena's heart reassured the young Judicatrix with the presence and support of an older, more experienced and wiser mentor.
Freedom doesn't mean being able to do as one please, but rather not to do as one doesn't please.

A fool sees religion as the truth. A smart man sees religion as a lie. A ruler sees religion as a useful tool.

The more God in one's mouth, the less in one's heart.

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Blakullar
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Posts: 4506
Founded: Sep 07, 2012
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:40 pm


Image GENERAL ELENA TROTSKAYA
HER QUARTERS, MSS POLUNOCHNAYA.


Five soldiers deceased, replaced by Imperial soldiers under Abbess Romana – no reinforcement from Sunikagrad staging area necessary. Colonel Golovkin and Agent Kelly critically wounded. Tesey, Judicator Alaric and Captain Danovich all heavily wounded. Minor wounds sustained by Agent Brooks. Superficial injuries sustained by Dzheyson, Captain Mikhailov and Lieutenant Medveditsa. All wounded being tended to, deceased soldiers will be returned to Sunikagrad staging area for appropriate burial.

Brigadier Andropov and Persey to be reassigned to Alfa Group until full recovery of Golovkin and Danovich. Corporal Kasimova, Private First-Class Osipov and Private First-Class Carnovsky to be reassigned to Hydra-I Squadron under Captain Rudnitsky. Corporal Kamenev and Private First-Class Malashenko to be reassigned to Hydra-II Squadron under Captain Tong.

End of CASREP.


The casualty report was succinct and short, as such reports as this one always were with Trotskaya. The skill of writing terse, blunt documents was one honed by her on the battlefields of Siberia and Europe, where communications jamming was constant and EMP attacks were more common than she would have liked. The answer was the low-tech solution of pen and paper, and it was in fact common for the General's subordinates to receive their orders in an envelope delivered by a messenger during a war. In her spare time, she had even devised mortar shells capable of carrying folded sheets of A4 paper – this was, in fact, the purpose of one of two antique 82-millimetre 2B14 Podnos infantry mortars that she kept on her residence. In peacetime tests, Brigadier Andropov would occasionally find that one of these messenger-shells had landed in his garden on the other side of Central. Trotskaya recalled with a grin one humorous incident where he was out sunbathing, only to panic and dive for cover as what appeared to be an unexploded mortar round struck the lawn right next to his chair. This was in spite of being given fair warning that she would conduct such a test of her idea that day; it appeared that he had missed the telephone call.

While the General laid back in her chair, contemplating her motivations for the utility of pen and paper over digital data storage mechanisms, she was also scanning through the Polunochnaya's surveillance feed. Every single room on the ship possessed a camera, the central terminal for which could be synched to Trotskaya's mind-machine interface via a removable port on the base of her skull. The live footage was presently being beamed to her left eye as her right concentrated upon the paper, her scrolling through each camera via mental command.

The General's grin turned to a chuckle when she saw Ippolyta sprawled out on her bed, the Manreaper obviously hungover from last night's binge and headache-charged grumbles of regret sounding as if coming from some growling big-cat. Next was Atalanta's room, where the Infallible Shot was to be found on her bed, lying peacefully. Kelly, having made the room his unofficial residence for the time being, had apparently entrusted her with his Hightower Eagle – Trotskaya did not even want to know what she had been doing with it all this time. Cycling over to the next room, she found Mikhailov's. Failing to find him in his bed, she commanded the camera to swivel to the left; she promptly discovered him standing before the mirror, wearing nothing but a speedo?

"OH GOD, WHAT?!" the General immediately cringed and recoiled in disgust. The retreat forced her weight backward, causing her chair to topple and crash to the floor with a thud and a sharp yelp. She had spotted the Alfa Group's huge, burly machinegunner posing before the mirror like an athlete, wearing nothing but a tiny red speedo. She had even managed to catch a glimpse of Mikhailov's partially exposed, alarmingly hairy backside, a horror that was making her regret ever having installed these accursed cameras.

"MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO BEAR WITNESS TO SUCH THINGS!!!" Trotskaya screeched again, convinced that the sight had forever tainted how she would view the oblivious captain from then on.

"Fuck's sake, would you PIPE DOWN IN THERE?!!" Ippolyta roared from the next room, mightily displeased at the racket coming from the General's room apparently having made her hangover even less bearable.

Recomposing herself, Trotskaya got herself back up onto her feet, switching the camera to somewhere else other than Mikhailov's posing. She elected to observe someone else for a change, though proceeded with a modicum of caution regarding the possibility of happening on something even worse. She stopped at what she remembered to be Igor's room, and decided to observe. The boy seemed to be sat on the bed, holding something – like an electronic tablet, or was it a frame? Now the General was curious, and also a little paranoid. Was he hacking into the ship's subsystems? These cameras were installed for the explicit purpose of catching out any attempt at subversion from within her own vessel just before the Flight: admittedly somewhat arrogant she may have been, Trotskaya was not stupid enough to fall for the same trick a second time. She never, ever made the same error twice.

Opting for a closer look, she zoomed in and saw what was indeed no hacking tool or anything of that order, but a framed photograph. Igor was holding one of Doctor Krauss and his younger self, evidently during happier times in their laboratory together. They were both smiling, Igor putting two fingers up behind the doctor's head. With a sad expression, Igor brought the picture close to himself and cradled it.

The sight of this struck Trotskaya like a hammer over the head, and infused her with a deep sense of guilt. Until this point, she had never considered how close the two had been, her regarding Krauss as merely a trainer or an employer for Igor. The revelation of their connection, comparable to father and son, reminded her of the first days after the Rape. Even now she still missed her mother, Varvara, but the first days were the worst. She would cry for so long and shed so many tears, with no one there to comfort her, that even being reminded of it now made her shed a tear. After being so grossly insensitive toward Igor by barking at him so fiercely for missing the doctor, she now felt obliged to make amends with him.

Minutes later, the boy was still with his photo, in silent reflection of good times. Why, oh why did it have to come to this? That damned so-called Judicator, that disgusting, pathetic coward and his evil cronies... Hurtful as it was to hear, if what General Trotskaya had said was true, hell would have a special place reserved for the beast...

A short, sensitive knock on the metal door to the room. Then another. Igor raised his head and turned to the source of the knocking.
"Come in," the mechanised Anglophone monotony in his voice scraped the stale recycled air. At his behest, the door opened, and there stood the statuesque, cloaked morose shape of Trotskaya.

"Hello Igor," she began. "I wanted to apologise for being so hard on you yesterday. I know fully the pain that you currently endure..."
"No, General, I don't think you do," Igor spurned her. "I don't think you have any idea of how I feel!"

"I know more than you could ever believe," Trotskaya entered the room, her voice low and solicitous. "Do you truly think that I have never lost anyone I loved? Every day I think of those who have perished, whether those in my family, my friends or soldiers under my command."

It took Igor some time to realise that she did indeed care, but realise it he did.
"Stepan told me about when you nearly shot yourself because you thought you'd led your soldiers to their deaths..." he stated.

"At Grosser Priel," Trotskaya confirmed. "I have made myself remember the names of every single Black Dragon in my regiment, so that I never forget my duty to care for them. I have trained them, fought with many of them. And I remember those who fall in battle. Every damn day, Igor."

A sniffle was sufficient to stop tears falling from her eyes. Igor, however, proved less resilient, and twin lachrymatory streams cascaded down his cheeks.
"Promise me we'll find Heinrich..." he threw his arms around Trotskaya, his head burying into her right shoulder. "Promise me we'll stop Alain..."

"We will stop Alain," the General reciprocated the hug as the boy wept, her maternal instincts kicking into gear. "I will do my best to recover the doctor. And know that I will always be here for you."

How desperately she wanted to tell the sobbing Igor that she could guarantee Krauss' return, but deep down she was certain that the worst had happened. What she could promise, however, was that Alain would not only be stopped, he would be completely and utterly destroyed. And if she could not kill him personally, then she would target his beloved Imperium, and she cared not if it would take a hundred or even a thousand years to do it. She would reduce his homeworld to an empty, inhospitable ball of rock. She would hang the Empress' head on the gates to her Sunikagrad residence alongside his apprentices. She would make it her personal business to hunt down every battle-brother and friend who had ever fought with him and dedicate an entire world to house their flayed, crucified corpses, a titanic monolith to her hate. She would completely obliterate not just the Imperium, but the Federation of Mankind, the Skargh Empire, Old Terra, the Commonwealth of Altoris. Every lifeform in this foul mockery of the Milky Way, the swirling galactic tentacles of this monstrous Typhon incarnate, would perish, from the mightiest beast to the tiniest virus. Every piece of paper would be burned, every byte of data corrupted. Just so that not a single living creature could ever live to pass down the tale of Judicator Alain.

After consoling Igor in his time of need, Trotskaya would pay a visit to Golovkin, the boy in tow. There on one of the hospital beds the Colonel lay, unarmoured, asleep and with a long tube protruding from his stomach down to a box-like machine under the bed. At his side was Captain Dmitriyeva, her own look of misery upon her countenance as she ran her hand through his hair. The imagination of her lover in such ineffable pain stoked the General's hateful, omnicidal fantasies of horrible torture devoted just to Alain.

"Any sign that he is getting better?" she enquired to Dmitriyeva.
"His condition is stable," the Joker responded. "Turchin says they'll only need another bag of myofibres and synthread before he can get up and walk again, and another two days before he's combat effective again."

"Two days?" Alaric could be heard voicing his envy. "Lucky bastard... I have to spend another six here before Turchin will let me out, and my injuries weren't even as bad!"
"One of the great advantages of machinery over flesh," Trotskaya produced a smug grin. "Baseline humans and Sidhae require tissue and new organs to be grown over a great course of time. All the Machine Race requires is spare parts and a wrench. There is even a saying in the military about it: Beware not the man who has lost an arm or two, but three."

"I see..." the disciple contented himself with that explanation, though a jealous spark persisted in his voice.
"Ah, General, perfect timing!" Lieutenant Turchin suddenly appeared from the operating theatre, clad in his white surgeon's apron and a pair of red-tinted goggles similar to the pair that Golovkin owned. "I'm afraid we've run into a bit of a problem as far as Agent Kelly's concerned..."

"Break the word, Lieutenant," Trotskaya turned to him.
"He's suffered extensive fracturing to his spine and is paralysed from the waist down," the medical officer explained his predicament. "Unless he wants to spend the rest of this trip in a wheelchair, he will need an immediate transplant."

"Can you not manage that, Turchin?" asked the General.
"See, that's the problem..." the Lieutenant's voice became grim. "There's plenty of spare spinal cords aboard the ship, but they're designed for individuals who are already augmented. Since Kelly is baseline, he will need to undergo augmentation from scratch, and the only man on this vessel with the know-how to perform such a complex surgery is right there..." He pointed to the comatose Golovkin. "Not only that, but Igor's the only one who has tools sensitive enough to operate on Kelly's spine without the risk of permanent and potentially fatal damage."

"I..." Igor started, looking somewhat sheepish. "I haven't done spinal surgery on my own before... The best I've ever done is the Colonel's arm..."

"Help me ... out of ... this thing."
Everyone's heads turned at once to the rasping of Golovkin's voice. There he was, sitting up with a look of fierce, if drowsy, determination on his face.

"Victor, what the devil are you doing?!" Trotskaya gasped. "You need to rest! You cannot work in your current state!"
"Don't need to..." he retorted with a smile. "I can ... tell Igor what to do ... while I'm in there. Now ... someone hand me ... a crutch to walk on!"

"Colonel, you must remain where you are!" Turchin stated with a look of horror on his face. "You risk rupturing the stitches in your abdominal-"
"Medical-grade synthread stitches ... can hold up for forty-six minutes ... under intensive strain!" Golovkin was having none of it. "And so what ... if they do break? It just means I'll have to ... spend another few days in here..."

Realising that there was no deterring the Colonel, Trotskaya fetched a walking-stick a few paces away and handed it to him. He took it in his right hand, grabbing the tube jutting from his stomach and gently twisting to the right. With a pneumatic hiss, the tube detached from a valve attached to his wound, which shut automatically to prevent fluids from leaking. With an almighty groan of pain, Golovkin hauled himself upward, Trotskaya and Dmitriyeva taking hold of him and helping him up.

"Easy now..." the Joker stated as she assisted the Colonel with getting his legs out. Before long, he was upright, propped up on the walking-stick and ready to go.

"Colonel, I'm not sure about this..." Igor's nervousness was betrayed only by his expression.
"We can ... do it, Igor..." Golovkin produced a fatherly smile as he spoke. "You did my arm ... we can manage this! Remember: comrades ... stick together!"

The boy smiled, immediately remembering that slogan from a year back when Golovkin, Tokarev, Berdan and Lavochkin all attended Krauss' clinic. The Colonel's being right behind him in that theatre would hopefully be enough to get him through this, so he resolved.

"Alright," Igor announced; though his voice was monotonous, his face was resolute. "Let's go for it!"
- - - MECHANOCRATIC RUSSIA - - -
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New Frenco Empire
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Founded: Mar 14, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby New Frenco Empire » Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:51 pm

The days after Miramar were slow, but essential to our development as a team. A lot happened in that short-span - new faces, new rivalries, new...relationships.

Goddess...it was sappy enough to be one of those made-for-holovision programs you used to see way back when, before Legacyism took it's toll. But...it all ended for the best, I think...



Image AGENT RACHEL ENNS

ABOARD THE MSS POLUNOCHNAYA, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 15th, 2152


It wasn't until that night that Harper would be released from the infirmary, the medics ensuring her wounds were properly sealed and cleaned and the risk for reopening was substantially low enough. Still, due to the pain in her leg, she had some trouble walking on her own from the medbay to her quarters, and required Rachel (who had rarely left her side during the whole ordeal) to support her.
They eventually reached the Frenkish quarters, where Rachel gently walked her over to her bed, allowing her to plop down on her own.
"Hnnng...aah!" Harper groaned as she slid back down. "Still a nice bit sore, unfortunately."
"Are...are you alright? Do you need anything?" Rachel asked, pacing a half-step forward in response to the moan.
"You're a sweetheart, but no, I think I'll be fine. Think I might just...rest my eyes a bit. Russian anesthetics are too much for this little 'baseline' girl to handle..." The Commonwealther yawned, yanking her sheets and covering most of herself. "Just...promise to stick around? I'd be oh-so-lost without your concerned face looking down at me..."
"Of...of course..." Rachel said with a slight grin.
With one last smile, Harper turned over and attempted to retreat to the world of dreams. Rachel stepped out and proceeded to the airlock.
Once she reached her destination, she reached into her pocket and retrieved her pack of cigarettes. Taking one, she placed it into her mouth and squeezed the matchhead on it's end, igniting it.

She was alone to her own devices for a moment, at least.
"Awful late hour, innit?" A voice suddenly disturbed her, causing her to visibly jump. She turned around to see Rollins approaching her, lighting a cigarette of his own. "When I was your age, I could stay up all the time. Now? Well...nowadays, I happen to like my sleep..."
"Oh...it's you..." Rachel said, moving her hand away from her side, where her Auto-9 was holstered. Her years of jumpiness combined with her sensitive work often prompted her to reach for it when spooked, even when in friendly territory.
"Yeah. Just ol' Jon." Rollins grinned, blowing out a puff of smoke. "Last two days have been crazy, ain't they? Alien abominations, corrupt Sidhae, half our team becoming incapacitated...we were lucky to get out of that place in one-piece."
"Yeah..." Rachel said, reflecting back on it. She smiled at Rollins before dropping her cigarette, extinguishing it with her foot. "I...need to go check on Harper now."
"No need." Rollins said, taking another drag. "Already peeked in just before I came out. She's out. Hard. She can certainly snore for a girl of her size."
"Oh?" Rachel asked.
"Yeah. Hey, since we both ain't doin' nothin', how about we go down to the canteen? Pick up a drink or two while it ain't so crowded? Ivan and his alcohol, I swear..."
"Umm...sure. Why not..." Rachel said.
"Ahh, that's the spirit! Lemme get a few more drags, then we'll head out!" Rollins nodded, hurrying on the remainder of his cigarette.

They departed from the airlock, Rachel trailing a bit behind Rollins. Once they reached the canteen, Rollins took his seat at the bar, signaling Rachel to do the same next to him.
It was fairly dead, with the exception of one small group of Black Dragons sitting in a corner, winding down after a guard shift change, and another group of Alphas in another corner, doing much the same. After the last fiasco, they knew better than to mess with one another.
"What can I get you, sir?" The caretaker bot asked.
"Jack and Coke for me." Rollins said.
"Pepsi okay?" The bot inquired.
"What kind of a bar doesn't have coca-cola?" Rollins asked. "But yeah. Sure."
"And for you, ma'am?" It asked, turning it's sensor towards Rachel.
"Just...just a small vodka..." She said with a slight cough.

After they received their drinks, Rollins downed his almost immediately, soon asking for another. Rachel, however, merely sipped on hers. Rachel was normally a decent drinker...
"What's on your mind, kid." Rollins asked, receiving his second drink. "You've been kinda...all over the place the last day or two."
"I...I don't know what you mean..." Rachel said, looking up from her shot. "I-I don't think I'm being weird? Am I?"
"Not weird." Rollins said, downing his drink and signaling the caretaker for another. "Never call yourself that."
"Then what?" She continued to ask.
"It's just your mind is on...other things, it seems." Rollins said, gulping down another. "You're always quiet, but clear-minded. Seems you mighta...lost that last bit."
"It's...it's nothing..." Rachel said, sipping her glass.
Rollins merely grinned.
"It's Harper, ain't it?"

"W-what? No!" She said, annoyed. "Why...why would you think that..."
"Why wouldn't I?" Rollins said, grabbing yet another drink. "You haven't left each other alone ever since we started on this little voyage. And after that little scare back on Miramar...you've been visibly distraught..."
"We're...we're friends. Why wouldn't I be...worried?" Rachel asked.
"You might be a bit more than that..." Rollins said.
"What...what does that mean?" She replied, legitimately confused.
Rollins then turned his head, prompting Rachel to do so. At one of the isolated tables, the young blonde Sidh they knew as "Siri" was dozing, buried in notes, apparently having nodded off in the middle of some research project.
"See, I noticed one thing - Frenks and Sidh ain't so different. We're both born in vats. We both practically worship some old dead guy...though between you and me, I think Hightower would the one I'd like to have a drink with. And, in this case...at least some of us don't understand the first thing about 'romance'..."
"Romance? Why do you bring that up?" She asked.
"Because, aside from nominally knowing what it is...I think you're a lot more like sleeping beauty over there." Rollins said. "Only she bothered to come up with some big science project to figure it out. It's kinda funny...I woulda just been direct with her..."
"W-what are you saying?"
"Because I think you and Harper might have a thing..." Rollins said, finally pushing another empty shot-glass aside. "I've seen the way you've been looking at her. Hell, you almost died for her back at that prison..."
Rachel fumbled about trying to search for the necessary words, but came up blank. Rollins merely sighed and took another shot.
"Listen, I ain't confrontin' ya. Opposite, actually. I care about you, Rachel. And you've been...different ever since she came into our lives. In a good way. And I gotta say...I never thought I'd see you make an actual smile. You got a real pretty smile..."
"Uhhh...thank you..." Rachel said with another grin and a blush. "You just might be right. But...I...I really doubt...she would feel the same way..."
"I've been a spook ever since you were in diapers, little bird." Rollins laughed, finally pushing his shot glasses aside (his total coming out to five as opposed to Rachel's unfinished one). "Once she wakes up and gets back on her feet, I'll have a little chat with her. Give me ten minutes. I can tell you everything you'd ever wanna know...just by reading her face."
"You...you'll keep it discreet?"
"Discreet is my middle name!"
"...I-I don't know what to say, Jon...thank you."
"Well don't mention it." Rollins said, patting her shoulder. "Goddess knows you won't make the first move!"
"Yeah...yeah, I guess..." She lightly chuckled.
"You know it's true! Now...finish your drink and get to bed! We're the only two guns in our group active. We need to be clear-minded." Rollins said, with a fatherly grin.

That morning, I got word that they were gonna fix Hadrian. It was all a bit...sudden. Golovkin wasn't anywhere near-enough ready to do it himself, and he was the only cyber-specialist on-board. But then it hit me - that Sidh kid was gonna do it. The former apprentice of that Doctor Krauss we went lookin' for. He was as green as Kentucky Bluegrass, but Hadrian was desperate to be back on his feet. But Golovkin...he stayed by his side the whole time. It eased me a bit; I knew he wouldn't let anything happen.

It's...humbling. Golovkin was still exceptionally injured. He shouldn't have been out of bed. But yet, here he was...risking himself and straining his broken body for the well-being of a Frenk...



Image COLONEL VICTOR GOLOVKIN

ABOARD THE MSS POLUNOCHNAYA, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 15th, 2152


Trotskaya and Rollins were standing off to the side of the operating theater. Rollins remained silent, merely giving a thumbs-up towards his comrade. Kelly returned the gesture as Turchin pushed the gurney into the surgery ward, leaving the two to wait for a moment.
Trotskaya approached Golovkin and Igor, putting a hand on Golovkin's shoulder.
"Victor...you don't have to do this. The Frenk can wait until you're better." She pleaded.
However, it fell on deaf ears as Golovkin merely shook his head. "Len, you know...I'm a healer first-and-foremost. I cannot in good conscience...sit idly while my friends suffer. I'll...I'll be fine. Igor is...doing most of the work anyway, heh...right, Igor?"
Their eyes turned to the young Sidh.
"I, uh...yeah. Yeah..." Igor nervously gulped. "Yeah..."
Trotskaya sighed, but seemingly relented. "Fine. Just, as soon as you're done...go right back to bed? Promise me? Please?"
"Promise." Victor smiled, prompting Elena to return the smile. She leaned in, and the two exchanged a brief, yet intimate kiss.
When she recoiled, Golovkin smiled again and turned to Igor.
"Ready?"




"The bot will aid you..." Turchin said, pointing towards the nurse robot. "And all the prep work's been done. You just have to take the thing out and put it in."
"Great, you're dismissed...Lieutenant. Alright, Igor...before we start with the cutting...a little biology lesson is in-order..." Golovkin said, still pained, but still going on as strong as he could. "This procedure is...very complex. Very invasive. It isn't uncommon for...baseliners to die from complications afterward. Lucky for us...despite general misconception outside the medical community, Frenks aren't a hundred percent 'baseline', at least...where it matters. They're made artificially, just like...a Sidh. A 'forced evolution', they call it. They take to augmentation well enough, since...they shape their bodies that way at birth, in case they might require them...later in life. In theory, if we do...everything right, Kelly will be fine. Be back on his feet in...no time. So...what am I working with here? Did the Doctor ever...introduce you to full spinal replacement?"
However, judging by his face and the sweat beads dripping down from it, Igor's confidence had worn off, and was coming to the full realization of what he was actually about to do...
"I...watched Heinrich do this on a fairly regular basis. I can probably...work through the motions. But...I-I...what if I mess up?" Igor nervously shook. "What if I...just make him worse? What if I kill him?"
"Don't worry about...Kelly. That's why I'm here. You won't...kill him. Unless you start, heh...viciously stabbing at his organs with the scalpel...the failsafes will keep him with us." Golovkin reassured with a light chuckle and hearty smile. "I trust you enough with this not to...start doing all that!
Igor still seemed distraught. "I...he only ever let me do limbs. Like your arm. I wasn't ready for the big stuff...I wasn't good enough..."
"Well..." The Colonel smiled. "Krauss had faith enough in you to...take you on. He knew you would...be ready someday. And I have a good feeling...that day is today..."
"You...you really think I can do it?" Igor asked, straightening up a bit.
"I have faith in you." Golovkin nodded. "And I'm sure if he were here...he would be proud."
"You...you really think that..." Igor said, a tear swelling in his eye. If only his master could see him now...he closed his eyes and clenched his fists, shaking off his emotional needs in favor of the stoicism expected of him in the situation. "Alright, alright, alright! I'm...I'm ready. Let's get this Frank back on his feet!"
"Frenk, Igor. With an...E." Golovkin chuckled. "But it is good to see your...enthusiasm. Alright...Turchin's already done all the cleaning *cough*...the main cut and...all the other prep work for us. You're good to go..."

Igor approached the operating suite, where the middle of the Frenk's pale back was peeled away, revealing the heavily injured spine beneath. Seeing it, Igor wondered how he was able to move at all. He would have considered himself lucky to have been alive at all.
"Alright Igor..." Golovkin said, finding himself a seat. "I'm going to sit down...avoid straining too hard. I can...see from here. I've got your back. Ready?"
"Ready." Igor gulped, determined to get through this.
"Alright, grab the laser-scalpel..." Golovkin said. "You'll need to start removing the...vertebrae one by one. Be...very careful not to lose any pieces. Start with...the more intact ones if you have to. You know where to cut, right? Right near...the connectors?"
"Yes." Igor said, cutting as he said, being very careful with the ones with serious fractures.
"You'll need to be...very careful with the brain stem. You'll have...to be quick once we get it removed...take the rubber implants and the nuero-glue... He tactfully commanded. "Get it ready for...whenever you need to get to work on the cord itself..."
"Right." Igor said, disposing of the discarded bones in a nearby sterile container, as he grabbed the temporary parts that would keep the patient together.

The surgery continued. Before long, Golovkin began giving less and less advice, but that also came with Igor getting farther and farther along; it became clear to the Colonel that the young (former) apprentice no longer needed it. Before it was over with, Golovkin was merely regulated to sitting by and observing.
He was actually doing it.
Last edited by New Frenco Empire on Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
NEW FRENCO EMPIRE

Transferring information from disorganized notes into presentable factbooks is way too time consuming for a procrastinator. Just ask if you have questions.
Plutocratic Evil Empire™ situated in a post-apocalyptic Decopunk North America. Extreme PMT, yet socially stuck in the interwar/immediate post-war era, with Jazz music and flapper culture alongside nanotechnology and Martian colonies. Tier I power of the Frencoverse.


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Imperium Sidhicum
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Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:11 am

Aboard Avenger
52 light-years from Miramar system

The two places that the crewmembers of Avenger had learned to avoid were Judicator Alain's personal quarters and the cargo hold where he kept his prized installation. There was just something fundamentally broken about the Judicator, none but his disciples daring to disturb his rest. As for the cargo hold, the vile noises and smells that came from the place were alone enough to keep even the boldest Judicatorial marines at bay, Alain having recently given up on posting guards outside the place since no marine or other crewmember could be compelled to approach the place even with threats of execution, that alone making sentries against prying eyes unnecessary.

The Judicator was currently resting in his custom-made neuro-simulator, the machine resembling a hi-tech sarcophagus. For all Alain cared, this box would likely also become his tomb.

Lately, Alain had been spending time meticulously reliving the memories of his brief time with Flannery, demanding not to be disturbed unless absolutely necessary. Her every word and gesture, her every smile, the warmth of her body against his - all that was recreated in his small virtual reality set aside for just them both, their own little world with no pain and no grief. This downtime was also helpful to heal the scars of his latest upgrade session. Whatever the pursuing Polunochnaya crew was about to throw at him now would be in for a more than nasty surprise.

---

A knock on the door interrupted Alain from his half-dead slumber.

"May I come in, master?"

It was Inessa.

"Yes," the Judicator curtly replied. The door slid open noiselessly and his disciple entered to see Alain emerge from his sarcophagus like an undead cyborg vampire from his tomb, visibly displeased at the interruption.

"Forgive my intrusion, master," Inessa respectfully stated, "I have word from Miramar. The trap you set for them has failed, the crew escaping with minimal casualties."

"Just as I expected," Alain responded nonchalantly, sitting over the side of his neuro-sim, "Miramar was meant to be merely a distraction, and an opportunity to gain more intel on our adversary capabilities. Those worthless corrupt scum didn't stand a chance, they just didn't realize it in their greed."

"There is more, master," Inessa continued, "Your plan could actually have succeeded in wearing down the enemy crew much more, were it not for an unexpected intrusion by a xenos creature."

"A xenos, here?" Alain's tone suddenly changed to genuinely interested, "What kind of xenos?"

"I wouldn't know, master," Inessa said, activating her tacticom holo-display, "I have never seen or read of such a being before, but the surveillance records from Camp 16 clearly demonstrate it to be highly dangerous."

Alain spent the next 15 minutes watching everything - the creature abducting Serena and assuming her place, it's fight against the guards and the Polunochnaya crew, it's swift withdrawal.

"It seems that we have a new opportunity here," he grinned sinisterly when the record ended.

"Master, you are not seriously considering consorting with xenos..." Inessa seemed shocked, when Alain curtly interrupted her.

"I have already betrayed every law and principle I used to hold sacred," the Judicator barked, "Betraying one more here or there will not make any difference!"

"As you wish, master," Inessa said deferentially, "You know I am here for my own reasons, and I will back you whatever your decisions are."

"Good," Alain nodded approvingly, "It seems that whatever "masterpiece" this thing is after, it is located aboard the Polunochnaya. Perhaps we could entice it to cooperate with us, given the right incentive..."

"But what?" Inessa seemed confused.

"Oh, I have just the bait it needs in mind... Tell the captain to set course for Sedek system! I think our ship is in need of a resupply..." Alain stated with a sinister grin.

"As you command, master," Inessa grinned on her own, immediately realizing what was on Alain's mind. While she had her reservations about Alain's quest and methods, one way or another, she was stuck with him until whatever end the Emperor had in store for them both and naturally wanted to prevail.

As his disciple departed to deliver his command to the rest of the crew, Alain turned to his private QEC terminal. The information provided by Inessa needed to be verified from his most valuable source yet, one that even his disciples didn't know existed.

---

Low orbit of Miramar Tertius
Judicatorial stealther Blood of Miraborg

It had been two days now, yet Judicator Cassar still struggled to accept the extent of corruption on this Emperor-forsaken prison world. Bribery, embezzlement, heresy, all was rife here on Miramar, all vile crimes of the highest order against the Emperor's law.

Although the Judicator did not know what Abbess Romana was trying to accomplish by dispatching him here to investigate corruption after sending him on a month-long errand to manually reset all navigation buoys within the nearest 200 light-years to detect Judicatorial IFF, he wasn't in the habit of second-guessing his superiors.

Cassar didn't have the time or the resources to personally root out every single corrupt scumbag on Miramar that would have likely amounted to the majority of Sidh population there in any case, so he had contended himself with judicating a few ranking officials and camp administrators and leaving the rest at the scant mercy of Domestic Security's Internal Investigation Department. Any found guilty of corruption would likely find themselves locked up in their own labour camps on short notice - a fate to which they'd likely have preferred execution, given their penchant of abusing the inmates they'd now have to live amongst. That the job would be done properly, Cassar had little reason to doubt - IID knew as well as anyone else in the Imperium that Judicators did not tolerate failure to carry out their orders, especially given that Cassar had promised to personally return and check on their progress.

For now, however, his job here was done, so Judicator Cassar had set out to recover a Judicatorial supply stash in Sedek system as ordered by the Abbess. Admittedly, the ship's departure had been a bit delayed by one of the ship's engineers going missing, but after a few hours of search, the man had eventually turned up a bit disoriented and hung over, and returned to his station after being chastised by Cassar.

Currently, the Judicator was aboard the bridge, giving final orders before jump. Having served as a naval officer before being invited to the Order, Cassar was among those Judicators who commanded their ship personally rather than through a naval captain.

"All systems check, star drive at 100% charge," the ship's XO reported.

"Jump coordinates set, ready to jump on your mark," the navigation officer added from his station.

"Commence jump!" Cassar ordered. The ship began to vibrate with increasingly-pitched whine as it's star drive spooled up.

"Warning! Firewall breach detected in Workstation E-0-5, Engineering!" the ship's AI suddenly warned.

"What the hell..." Cassar grumbled.

"Warning! Navigation data corrupted! Recommend aborting jump immediately!" the AI continued, the ominous sound of alarm beginning to echo throughout the ship.

"Disengage star drive!" the Judicator barked. The navigation officer immediately turned to his console, frantically tapping in commands.

"It's not responding! Something's blocking our system!"

"Try again!"

"Alert! Unsanctioned activation of interdimensional drive detected! Possible battlenet intrusion confirmed!"

"Dispatch marines to Engineering immediately, find out what the hell is going on, and shut down that ID drive now!"

"I'm trying, sir! It's not responding!"

"Alert! Power redirecting to interdimensional drive. ID jump commencing in 30 seconds!"

The marines were already on their way, Cassar thought. Whoever was trying to sabotage his ship right now was about to find out the hard way why it was a mistake to mess with an Imperial Judicator - along with his way off the ship through the airlock.

"This is Marine-3, entering Engineering!" the marine decurion dispatched to the Engineering reported on Cassar's tacticom, "The engineers are all dead! We have a sabouteur on board..."

The transmission was suddenly cut off by a garbled scream, noises of energy rifle fire, hideous alien shrieks and panicked death screams erupting in the background before the transmission cut to static.

"This is not good," Cassar snarled, an Enforcer handblaster popping out of his sleeve into his hand, "All marines, proceed to Engineering immediately, we have a possible enemy saboteur on board!"

"Warning! Fire in Engineering, fire control systems disabled! Recommend immediate evacuation!"

"Comm, send an SOS on a Judicatorial frequency immediately!"

"Negative, sir! All comms are down!"

"Warning! Communication systems disabled! Fire in Engineering, fire control systems disabled! Interdimensional jump commencing in 10... 9... 8..." the ship's AI warned, master alarm beginning to whine throughout the ship, when it's voice suddenly became garbled, a hideous grating cackle and words spoken in a foul alien tongue overwhelming it.

"Emperor's blood..." was all Judicator Cassar could utter before a swirling purplish portal erupted in front of the ship, swallowing it towards whatever infernal extradimensional abyss the vile xenos infiltrator had set it to.
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Blakullar
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:43 am


Image JUDICATOR CASSAR
ABOARD THE BLOOD OF MIRABORG, LOCATION UNKNOWN.


The psittacine screech of the master alarm continued, even after the ship was vomited forth from the Imperial dimension to ... wherever the devil this was. Aside from the alarm, however, there was silence. Every single crewmember on the bridge of this stealther remained at their post despite the direness of their predicament. Judicator Cassar himself knew that he had to remain stolid. This was his stealther, and his alone. Whatever blasphemous monstrosity had taken it over would pay the price for its insolence. Of that, the Judicator was certain.

"Na'rov az. Kiyn raagol ahv'nem Korgaad-Yehzgor-Shaz."
That was the ship's artificial intelligence, or at least what bastardisation of it that the xenos attacker had supplanted it with. The ship was, for all intents and purposes, lost to it. Cassar now had before him the fun task of attempting to resolve this immense challenge and get his ship back.

"Do we have any idea whatsoever of just where the hell we are?!" he barked to the crewmembers.
"Sir, I have no idea what the screens are even saying, let alone where we are..." one of the female navigators responded to the question.

"What...?" Cassar had to investigate this for himself. Indeed, upon laying eyes on the screens, he discovered that the Sidh script had been replaced in its entirety by something that was completely alien. It more resembled cuneiform script than anything in modern use or even ancient use. Without any technology available, the Judicator had to resort to looking out the windows of the ship, but even that proved ultimately fruitless. At least, until a huge shape commenced a slow, vertical crawl over the horizon, a shape that if Cassar was not mistaken, looked remarkably similar to the Milky Way galaxy that he called home...

"What the hell...?" he blurted out. "DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME WE'VE BEEN TRANSPORTED TO SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE OF OUR OWN GALAXY?!!"
"I can't say I ... know, sir..." one of the other crewmembers stuttered, the fear in his voice evident.

A titanic, reverberating metallic rumble resounded through the ship; a deep, booming thump sound. Almost as if the ship had been caught in some kind of tractor beam.

"This can't be good..." Cassar mumbled to himself before turning to two of his marines: "Metrac, Sirius, ready the other troops in your decury! We need to fortify the airlocks! I want men stationed at every single entryway into this ship in full expectation of a boarding attempt!"
"Yes, sir!" the two armoured marines barked in response, pounding their chests in salute.

The doors could still be opened manually. That was a good start, one that Cassar eagerly noted as he made his way to the main airlock with a squadron of marines at his side. As the Judicator arrived at the end of the corridor where the primary entry to the vessel was, he commanded with hand gestures his troops to take up positions, all facing the doorway with arms drawn. That was when they all noticed a light, barely-perceptible but extant whisper, seething through the air. Spoken in the same alien tongue as the ship's AI, it only grew louder as the first airlock door was heard clanking open.

Cassar was a man with a strong resolve. After all, he possessed decades of combat experience, the finest equipment and training available to his kind, and an unerring faith in the glorious Imperium and realising its triumph. So whatever terrifying prospect was making his gun-hand tremble must have been a truly ineffable one. The display did nothing good for squad morale, each marine standing by him visibly unnerved by seeing their commander, a veteran Judicator no less, in such a state.

The pneumatic, serpentine hiss of the second airlock door pierced the stale, recycled air. Then a metallic clank as the door began to slide open at a sluggish, dispassionate pace. Beyond it, darkness as black as ink. Even shining a light down the tunnel, from one of the helmet lamps, revealed nothing that could be discerned.

"Steady..." Cassar snarled, voice low and projected through gritted teeth. Any minute now, whatever dread it was would appear. The creature's nearness was almost palpable; the foul whisper, significant of its evil presence, grating the Judicator's skull. A drop of sweat tickled his left cheek. Or was it a tear? Was he crying with fear? No. Impossible. He was an Imperial Judicator, the finest damned warrior that could be fielded in his home Imperium and else-

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!"
Cassar's eyes flicked to the sound of one of his marines sounding a grating roar of tremendous rage and terror, the bayonet of his energy rifle powering up with an electric crack and the soldier disappearing into the abyssal maw of the outside dark.

"WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR MALFUNCTION?!" Cassar bellowed after him. "GET BACK INTO FOR-"
A tonitruous metal crash silenced both the Judicator and the battle-cry of desperation as instantly as the latter started, the noise followed by the clatter of an energy rifle dropping to the floor. Moments later, the same soldier staggered backward, coming to a standstill just outside of the airlock.

"What in the ass-ramming name of the Emperor were you thinking, lad?!" Cassar castigated the soldier, going to grab his shoulder and turn him around, only to immediately recoil in horror. Everybody else did likewise at the same sight. The sight in question was of a shapeless lump of flesh, bone and brain matter that replaced the soldier's head. The front part of his armour was gone, exposing a similar effect to have transpired upon his torso. Pieces of rib, lung and even a visibly palpitating heart were all visible, superimposed over a crimson background of muscle tissue and pulsating blood vessels. That was when Cassar realised that the hapless marine had literally been turned inside-out by whatever monstrosity was lurking in the dark. The poor, lifeless man finally gave up and flopped forward, a thunderous crash announcing his contact with the metal floor.

A footstep. Then, another, and another: the sharp, clapping march of but an individual, each step exactly within one-point-two-five seconds of one another, so Cassar noted. Something was coming. Was it the monster? Whatever it was, it was making him tremble even more. This could not possibly be real. Judicators were mentally far stronger than this. This had to be some kind of psionic attack. Some kind of exceptionally powerful psionic attack. The Judicator had only heard of such pseudoscience a few times before, and had been trained to deal with it. But this was far beyond anything that he had ever experienced, an experience of a completely alien nature. And like any good Sidh, the less familiar he was with anything, the more he feared it and wanted to destroy it...

The creature finally emerged. It was a humanoid figure, dressed in some black equivalent to a Gothic trenchcoat; the composition of the item of clothing was some sort of flexible metalloid material, if the shimmer it gave off as its wearer strode into the light was any measure. A hat-like metal fixture, resembling a wide-brimmed bowler hat of the same colour as the coat, adorned the top of its head. The face of the being was entirely invisible, completely subsumed by the dark. But it was the hands that alarmed Cassar the most: the fingers upon it were no human appendages, but sevenfold, trailing tentacles on each, segmented like silver robotic earthworms protruding from the central, pentagon-shaped hand.

"Well now..." spoke its apparent voice, the same whispering voice as prior; masculine, well-refined and soft as a lover's touch, yet bearing a spectral, alien vibration. "We all decide to pay a visit to the glorious Imperium for a holiday, and this is our reception?"

"Who are you...?" Cassar confronted the figure. "Are you with the Order...?"
"Of Judicators? Ohhh, no, no, no..." the voice continued in a queer nonchalance.

As the figure's face suddenly lit up, the Judicatorial marines jerked backward, raising their weapons. The figure, as it turned out, was no human at all, but a creature bearing a spherical head. At its dead centre, a soulless, single optic sparked to life; at first, for but two seconds, it was green as shining grass, and in an instant it metamorphosed to a cerulean blue haze. Behind it, tens, maybe hundreds, of similar eyes erupted to prominence in the darkness behind the figure.

"We, Judicator Cassar, are the welcoming committee!"

This was not happening. Cassar was not about to face an eldritch monstrosity from another universe. This was impossible! How could something like whatever it was he was currently facing even exist?!

His composure finally broke.
"KILL IT, KILL IT, KILL IT!!!" the Judicator's subsequent furious, panic-infused command was thus.


Image PHAERONESS QH'NAAZ
ABOARD WORLD SHIP TINDALOS, CANES VENATICI I DWARF GALAXY.


"Did you really have to bring that body with you?"
"Of course I did! What better way to mingle with the Outsiders than with my holiday garb?"

"...consisting of a heavyset green robe with runes engraved into it. Verily a means to blend in with Outsiders clad entirely in powered armour!"
"Oh cheer up, Warmaster! The Dirge has brought us a comfortable ship and base of operations for the trip! What more could you possibly want?"

One of the two conversing voices walking down the dark, hexagonal tunnel belonged to a female, human-like figure. As the present conversation suggested, she was clad in a huge, trailing green hooded robe that bore at the back a tall, twin-pronged structure pointing up, each prong comparable in shape to onyx scimitar blades. The woman's facial features were hidden from view, save for a pair of cold, shimmering emerald eyes, though her face seemed dark, almost matt black, but otherwise youthful and beautiful. The other, dourer voice was masculine, belonging to a quasi-skeletal figure that hovered a foot off of the floor, towering in height above the female one; composed of shimmering platinum in coloration, save for the glyph on his forehead and his eyes, which were shaded in gold. As he levitated, the gentle hum of a graviton repulsor marking his aerial stride, a metallic skirt billowed behind him like a train, producing a light rattle as if forged from scale.

The pair were followed by two vee-formations of hulking, heavily-armoured skeletons, towering to a height of two and a half metres and carrying huge, halberd-like weapons with diamond-shaped structures at their tips. Coloured a dark sea-green, the warriors bore kite-shaped heads with prominent, triangular optic sensors burned into their centres. All ten of them marched in synchrony bedecked with absolute perfection, their movement as if controlled by but a single central hivemind.

"What more could I want, you say..." enquired the male figure – Yah'thuzol, the Consumer of Planes, the Warmaster of the Qh'naazi Dynasty. "Some relief from the prospect of having to deal with an idiotic creature that abandons everything that he has ever loved and fought for, for the sake of an equally-pathetic, small time-"

"You will not have to make any dealing whatsoever with Alain, and I in fact would prefer it if you stayed as far away from the Outsiders as possible," the female – the Starkiller Qh'naaz herself, the phaeroness of the dynasty – interrupted the Consumer. "Leave that to the Dirge and the Mindflayer..."

"The Mindflayer?" Yah'thuzol rotated his blank-faced angular skull to face his overlord and sister with interest. "You're bringing the Mindflayer with us?"
"You're bringing Commander Zhannax – am I not permitted to have a companion as well, in the shape of such good company as the Mindflayer?" Qh'naaz retorted. "Ah, and we were just discussing him..."

The trenchcoat-clad, dapperly dressed shape that emerged from within the captured Outsider ship was Grand Warlock Thaan'kor, one of the Starkiller's most powerful wielders of the Gift. Rather unlike the manipulation techniques used by other Khazard'Vaari psykers to control the ebb and flow of physical energy, Thaan'kor made his command of it more direct. Over the fifty thousand years of his existence, the so-called 'Mindflayer' possessed a mastery of mind control that shamed even that of his Phaeroness herself, and favoured the usage of illusions and the installation of paranoia into the hearts of his enemies. Indeed, he had, some time ago, shown his methods to one Jedidiah Rogers that the Starkiller had been deeply intimate with during her time trapped on Earth.

"My lady, it is a pleasure to meet with you once again..." Thaan'kor greeted the approaching entourage, politely doffing his faux-hat as his optic changed from blue to green. "And of course, the Warmaster."
"Is everything set for our departure, Grand Warlock?" Qh'naaz asked.

"Nearly," the Mindflayer replied as he gestured the group aboard. "Zhannax is loading the soldiers onto the vessel as I speak, and the Dirge is hunting down the last vestiges of Outsider resistance. Speaking of Outsiders, I have preserved one of them, the commander of this vessel. If I am not mistaken, one Judicator Cassar."

"I see you have been practicing your human gestures," the Starkiller smiled. "That aside, the assistance of this Cassar will prove invaluable throughout our journey. You have done well in keeping him alive. And what of the others?"
"Unfortunately, although Cassar was more receptive to my methods, the rest were ... a little less cooperative than I would have liked," Thaan'kor stated with a hint of sardonic regret in his smooth voice.

Qh'naaz only had to glance to the floor just beyond the airlock to ascertain what Thaan'kor's methodology actually was. There were two white-armoured soldiers present. One was face down on the ground and lifeless; the other curled into a foetal position, spewing unintelligible gibberish from his mouth and crying in terror. The rest of the decury, including Cassar, was nowhere to be found. The Starkiller gave the whimpering soldier a questioning look.

"Ah, it seems I missed a spot..." the Mindflayer announced in a nonchalant tone, levelling one of his tentacle-fingers to the soldier in a point. With a sharp snapping sound a bolt of lightning cascaded from the tip, swathing the Sidh in an incinerating blast and scorching him to ash inside of his armour.

"I see," Qh'naaz contented herself with that explanation, turning to Yah'thuzol with a grin after hearing a succession of grunts and Khazard'Vaari curses – the results of him trying to squeeze his huge frame through the airlock. "Come on, Warmaster, we should be getting ready to set off by now!"

The Consumer dignified that only with an unpleasant, dim-eyed glare towards the Phaeroness.


Image OPTIMISED TRANSCENDENCE ACCELERATION NEXUS
ABOARD THE FIS ISAAC ASIMOV.


AAG NOKK VOR'SHOR'ZUI NOL'VAAZ.

There it was again – that alien chant. The Mecharussian Supreme Leader was once more reflecting upon his visions, trying to piece together what might be happening. This time the chant was more discernible, but it sounded ... almost garbled. Discordant. As if the words had been muddled up...

He thought harder in an effort to descramble the chant. All the efforts of his immense processing power were devoted to meditation. But the signal was gone. All he was left with was that frustratingly wrong chant...

But in an instant, as if a new portal to his visions had just exploded into prominence, they became clearer, more coherent. With a deep breath, the Leader delved further. More and more mental clouds parted, enabling the deciphering of what it was that was being chanted at such a thunderous tumult...

AAG NOKK KA VOR'SHOR!
VAH'ZOR KA YOGI THRY'MAAZ!
ZUI NOL'VAAZ KA QH'NAAZ!


Virescent hellfire ... an archangel ... an immeasurably vast starship ... and screaming. Unbound, ceaseless volleys of terrorised, uncannily familiar screaming...

What the hell did it all mean?
Last edited by Blakullar on Wed Mar 29, 2017 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
- - - MECHANOCRATIC RUSSIA - - -
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Gigaverse
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Posts: 12722
Founded: Mar 26, 2011
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Gigaverse » Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:04 am

Irish
Mandarin
Russian



Mess deck, MSS Polunochnaya
Sidh space
The 16th of September, 2152 [local calendar]



"Give me the best vodka you have today."

The figure of a man in UDAP uniform seated himself by the bar and ordered himself Russia's most renowned beverage. Just as a small glass of his drink arrived, so did a girl in a similar uniform as him. Standing a few footsteps behind him, she spoke:

"Lieutenant Colonel Chen Guohao. Why is it that you're not doing the very job that you so enthusiastically volunteered us both for?"

The Lieutenant Colonel took one sip from his glass. When all the alcohol had flown down his system, he looked around his spot, but never straight in the girl's direction. "Captain Huang Mengyue! Where are all those uniformed stalkers that follow you?", he inquired.

"They're... drunk and in their rooms, at the moment.", Mengyue answered, her expressions neutral.

"Is that so.", Guohao snickered, "Just like mine then!"

"You haven't answered my question, Lieutenant Colonel."

Guohao took another sip. "Do I need to?"

"Yes.", Mengyue scowled, "I for one know that things have been happening around us; but I just don't speak enough Russian to know what. On the other hand: you, Lieutenant Colonel, the one most proficient in Russian, are not doing your job!"

"Uho.", the Lieutenant Colonel turned 180° to face the girl, "Since when did you become such a dutiful little jailbait?"

"Please don't call me that."

Guohao crossed his legs. He sipped again from his glass of vodka, then left it on the bar to his side. "Alright. Since you're so anxiously looking for the reason why we're here, I'd entertain you with an answer. I'm only here to not have to be in the UDAP."

"Huh?", Mengyue exhibited her confusion at his statement.

"This mission is an excuse. This ship will continue going for months in space, by which time these crooks guarding us might as well be already dead. We also only have to pretend to be vaguely useful, and we'll effectively be having a free extended vacation!", Guohao shrugged with a smug look, "What more could we ask for?"

For a few seconds, Mengyue was frozen. She was always familiar with Guohao's apathy for others around him, but to the extent that he was blatantly ignoring the lives of fellow UDAP soldiers - that aspect of his, she had never thought about. Her voice trembled as she responded:

"N... No...! Why are you saying that? What did these men ever do to deserve death?"

"Pretty simple, really.", the Lieutenant Colonel's hand circled before his eyes, "You should be familiar with the concept of karma. They serve the MSS - that's enough a reason alone for them to die."

"But aren't you their comrade in the MSS...?"

"Define 'comradeship'.", Guohao raised an eyebrow.

"... a fellow soldier and companion?"

"You sounded like a dictionary, but bingo.", he snapped his fingers and pointed his index at her face, "Now, when you look at the MSS, or hell, even the UDAP in general, do you see that comradeship anywhere?"

Once again, there was only silence between them. Mengyue held her head low; her eyesight, though directed at Guohao, was lost in thought as she contemplated her reply. The Lieutenant Colonel stared at the girl, neither displeased nor satisfied. The passing minute felt like an eternity for Mengyue. Still getting no response from her, he stood up and walked towards her. His hand, taking her by surprise, held her chin up and slowly redirected her attention to him.

"See, even you can't think of an answer.", Guohao was donning his "business" face. Few people she knew could scare Mengyue, and Guohao was one of them, his presence alone was unsettling. "Humans aren't such simple creatures to appreciate fragile little things like 'comradeship'. And especially not MSS bastards like myself. We murder. We torture. We rape. All 'for the good of the UDAP', that kind of bullshit. We are not nice people, so we do not deserve your sympathy."

He let go of her chin. Mengyue tried her best to keep composure, yet her trembling appearance resembled that of a fearful sheep. Guohao backtracked to his seat. His hand grabbed the unfinished glass of vodka.

"I know you were dragged into the military way too soon to understand just about everything you needed to, but you're 18 now. You must start understanding certain things. Consider this a piece of advice, and you'll be grateful to me one day."

The Lieutenant Colonel sat down and finished the rest of the vodka in one gulp. He turned to Mengyue again.

"Take this as a vacation too. No need to thank me. Do svidaniya."



Hallway, MSS Polunochnaya
Sidh space
The 16th of September, 2152 [local calendar]



"Haha! An' then - 'ic - I 'it th' sorry bastard wi' a - hic - gigantic piece a' meat, an' everyone - 'ic - jist broke into laughter!", an Irish-accented voice speaking in Russian echoed throughout the hallway. Two men, arms around the shoulders of each other, staggered through the hallway, the way they walked and the scent of alcohol around them giving away their previous location.

"You know - hic. Don't you ever think it's high time to - hic - stop with the Boondock Saints references?", the man in red - Dzheyson - commented.

"Gaaa! What's wi' 'tis Boondock Saints thin' - hic - dat I keep 'earin'???", the one with the Irish accent - Argeas - held his free hand into a fist.

"Come on. You - hic - must have watched that film over a thousand times."

"If yer so insist - hic - then I probably should watch it..."

Dzheyson chuckled. "I must say, I was pretty surprised when I first - hic - met you. Knowing you were Catholic and not having - hic - little Jimmy glued to your crotch - that's some major PROGRESS right there."

"Wee Jimmy... 'Tis - hic - reminds a' me orphanage back on Gaeltacht."

"What? Hic - you have specific fetish for orphans?"

"Aaa yer an' dat gob a' yers- hic - Ooh!", Argeas' focus went from Dzheyson to something - or someone - else. He pouted, an expression that was nothing like what the Shark had previously observed of the Irish berserker. The Chthonian looked behind him: it was little Haya, carried in her mother Riva's arms, that caught the priest's attention. His arm leaving its position above Dzheyson's shoulder, Argeas stepped towards the baby girl, sporting a wide trance-like grin as his hands extended to the staring infant.

Two of his fingers on each of the girl's cheeks, the Irishman pinched them. He chuckled, his avuncular tone not giving a trace of his usual mad attacker disposition:

"Look at 'tis 'ere juicy wee lassy... hic... ah Jesus... yer cheeks are so soft I could pinch 'em - hic - all day long... an' never git tired a' 'em - hic..."

Little Haya, despite being faced by two drunk hulking men with such terrifying toothy smiles, was not frightened. Her own two hands raised up - the baby was interacting with the gigantic Irishman in her own way. Riva, once she was over her initial confusion, became amused by the sight of the normally mad priest melting in front of her daughter. The priest was almost... kind, more like a priest and less like the mad warrior he always made himself to look like. The man uttered in adoration:

"Yer remind me so much - hic - a' Yumi an' Marka when they were jist - hic - freakin' infants..."

"And now you're - hic - just drunk...", Dzheyson uttered while approaching Argeas' back.

"Ah bloody! Yer - hic - drunk too, yer feckin' Protestant!", the Irishman turned to the red-clad Russian, directing his loud voice away from the baby whose cheeks he was pinching.

"For your inform- hic -ation-"

Dzheyson stopped himself in the middle of his line, noticing the signal from one of two men approaching. One was blond with an eye-patch over the scarred half of his face - undoubtedly that Sakahara fellow who brought Argeas into the ongoing adventure in the first place. The other was that grey-haired man who came alongside Argeas, with whom the Shark hadn't gotten much chance to talk. Ragnall O'Sullivan, if he wasn't mistaken. Sakahara stopped next to the baby, his gloved right hand petted her forehead, the gentleness of a big brother emanating from his smile.

"We have a problem.", O'Sullivan said, his Russian tinged by a light Italian accent.

"What would that- hic - be?", the Shark said, trying his best to hold his hiccups.

"We'll tell you.", Sakahara glanced at the other three men, "But first..." With two snaps of his fingers, Sakahara brought the two intoxicated men out of their drunken state. "Argh... I could 'av used dat for a bit longer..."

"Alright.", the blond donned his professional face, "Excuse us four, Riva. We'll get going now."

As the quartet left on their way to somewhere else that Dzheyson had no idea of, the red-clad Russian asked. "Is this urgent business?"

"Yes. You remember the Empyreal?"

"Certainly. What about it?"

"Well. We have a problem."
Art-person. Japanophile. Cultural semi-liberal.
Student in linguistics. On-and-off writer.
MAKE CAKE NOT WAR.
token vietbong, born and raised in and emigrated from vietbongistan
Operating this polity based on preferences and narrative purposes
labeling others' works as "memes" feels dismissive fyi
capable of communication in (in order of fluency) oldspeak,
vietbongistani and bonjourois (learning weebspeak at uni)

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Blakullar
Senator
 
Posts: 4506
Founded: Sep 07, 2012
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:11 am


Image PELEY THE MECHANOMANCER
WORKSHOP, MSS POLUNOCHNAYA.


The workshop of the Polunochnaya was, as to be expected of the stealther's owner, stocked to the brim with tools, benches and other such apparatus ready and waiting for usage by the mechanically inclined. For the past week or so, this room had been the haunt of Peley the Mechanomancer, and continued to be so. Others had been and gone from this room throughout the few days. Dmitriyeva had come in recently bearing a comparatively huge Imperial energy rifle, picked up from a dead Camp 16 guard; the said rifle was currently housed inside of a windowed blast-proof case, wires jutting into it fixed to a computer on the side of the armoured box for her study. Riva, too, had been helping Peley maintain the equipment, and the girl had learned a few new skills from the Chthonian engineer in the process. Fogarty and Parker were also regular visitors, as were the Singaporeans.

Balios, one of Peley's two leonine guard-droids, stood beside the doorway, staring with a green eye as his master studied the workings of a Sidh power helmet, also brought in from Miramar Tertius. The team sent to liberate Krauss may not have come back with the doctor, but they did return with a treasure trove of technological masterpieces centuries ahead of Mecharussian tech, and the Mechanomancer was eager to study the workings of it all. This was his reasoning for coming along for the Flight, and so far his studies into Sidh metallurgy and designs had not disappointed.

Suddenly, the door slipped open, prompting Balios to snap his head to the door and growl with an amber eye at the entrant.
"Out!" Peley barked at once without even facing the newcomer: whenever his droid accosted someone, that someone was not supposed to be in the workshop, per his as well as Trotskaya's orders.

"Chill, I just came in here looking for something!" The someone turned out to be that Judicatorial tech-expert Alaric. "I put a box of samples down in my room, but I can't find it anywhere! So I thought it might have ended up in here."

"Samples?" the Mechanomancer enquired, instructing Balios to stand down in the process. "What kind of samples?"
"I just brought in a few samples of that Empyreal thing to study for-"

"You WHAT?!!!" Peley's face exploded in shock and fury as he turned toward the apprentice. "You brought pieces of that thing ONTO THE SHIP WITHOUT ANYONE'S PRIOR KNOWLEDGE?!!"

"Relax!" Alaric jerked back at once and quickly explained. "The nanites are inactive! I think..."
"I take it you didn't even bother to check!" the Mechanomancer narrowed his eyes at the disciple.

"Well ... where do I check?"
Peley's face was buried into his palm with a deep, grumbling sigh of irritation.

"So what you're telling me is that there's a hyper-advanced alien killing machine running around the ship, and we've no idea where it is..."
"Well, I'd have put it more diplomatically, but, er ... basically, yeah..." Alaric scratched the back of his head with nervous trepidation, having realised his mistake in bringing the nanite creature aboard in merely a lunchbox without adequate quarantine.

"Luckily for you my friend, this is a small ship..." Peley grumbled. "If this were a Baikonur, or God forbid a Vladivostok, we'd be COMPLETELY screwed. Now where the hell do we look?"
"Well, if I were a glob of shapeshifting nano-robotic smoke trying to escape..." the disciple began to think. "I'd probably head for the airlock."

"What if it isn't trying to escape?" the Mechanomancer hypothesised. "My guess then would be that it'd try to get into the comms to contact its bigger brother. Or worse, get into the star drive and snare us beforehand..."
"Well we can't cover all angles..." Alaric contested. "We have to tell the others and put the ship on lock-"

"NO!" Peley interrupted in an instant. "If they find out that the thing that killed five Chernydrakony and put a good chunk of our best into the infirmary has infiltrated the ship, there'll be chaos! And once it's clear how it got in, your head will end up wedged onto a pike courtesy of a certain pissed-off Red Tigress. But you are right... Who else knows about the samples?"

"The Abbess," Alaric answered. "Taking the samples was her idea. Olhon and Siri have been helping me out with it."
"Jesus, if Len figures that first part out, heads ARE gonna roll..." the Mechanomancer grumbled. "Anyway, go find Serena, Siri and Olhon. I'll give the comms systems a triple-check to see if it's gotten in there."


Image BRIGADIER VISARION TOKAREV
SENTINEL BASE, GAZIANTEP OBLAST, THE MECHANOCRACY OF RUSSIA.


Upon the plains of Gaziantep Oblast, facing a distant horizon billowing with the heat, stood the looming edifice of a modern fortress. Mazes of trench-lines, pockmarked with the occasional bunker hiding a machine gun or a SAM site, crisscrossed the no-mans'-land to the immediate south of the fortified walls. The large grey compound, once a village going by the name of Kıvırcık, had watched over the Oblast since shortly after the annexation of Turkey by Mechanocratic Russia in late 2145, soon after the end of the Second Russo-European War. Ever since renovations and upgrades in mid-2150, the base was now host to a large barracks, a two-storey command centre and an airfield designed to service combat VTOLs patrolling the border between Mecharussian territory and that of the Greater Islamic Caliphate less than ten miles to the south. Strategically, this base was one of the most important along the Mechanocracy's southernmost frontier, being the nearest major installation to the huge regimental armoury outside of Urfa 43 miles to the east.

Such was Forward Base STRAZH, shortened to 'Sentinel Base', the current station of the Dnepropetrovsk Regiment after its deployment to the Khabarovsk Krai. Presently, it was also the destination of a Kamov Ka-91 Gus dropship approaching from the northwest. The craft in question was stealth-black and dotted with additional sensors, also possessive of an elongated missile rack. The dropship bore a striking similarity to one certain Argo that had been used in an attempt by the Chthonians to recover one of their own two years back. It was even piloted by the same individual: Bellerofont the Windcarver.

"It's possible that Kaffarov might have ordered the hit," brigadier Tokarev, one of the ship's current passengers, enunciated. "After all, Narodnaya Volya would be pretty tough customers for the Remember Zina Movement to deal with in their field."

"It wouldn't have been Kaffarov: the man always makes a point of operating within the law," replied Drakolich. "That's part of what makes him such a pain in the ass. I marked him as a subject of special interest the moment he started being such a pest, which puts him under round-the-clock surveillance. No, if Kaffarov didn't know that Halko was going to pay him a visit, I find it unlikely he would have known about Alaric or have had the means and time to hire a bunch of mercs in MAF uniform and MAF gear to take Narodnaya Volya out. What IS possible, however, is that Odradek and Ramius need Kaffarov in the game for some reason - that invariably means wiping out the competition. But what I'd like to know is what exactly the reason is."

For the past half hour, the passengers of the dropship had been discussing the grim fate of Ekaterina Golovkina, with Tokarev and a lugubrious Berdan pitching possible theories as to who and why would have committed the murder. Each one was refuted by Drago and Drakolich, as had just been demonstrated.

"Whoever's calling the shots here either had intimate knowledge about Alain and his movements, or has a superhuman capacity for advance planning..." Tokarev hypothesised.
"Which is where I lead you onto what it was that brought us out here," Drakolich proceeded. "In addition to ascertaining the whereabouts of a few antimatter cores, I ran through the chronospheric monitors in Solstheimmetall to try and pick up any possible portal openings prior to the hospital attack. As it turns out, about a week before Trotskaya gave birth, there were signals coming from the Caliphate that suggest transdimensional communications. Although I couldn't decipher the exact contents of the conversation, I did manage to zero in on the source of the receiving portals – and it seems they were coming from here..."

With that, he flicked on the holoprojector built into the dropship's floor. At once, the hologram narrowed in onto a satellite map of a port city on Syria's western coast.
"Tartus?" Berdan questioned. "Why there?"

"The Soviet Union maintained a warm-water naval base there before the Sundering," Drago intoned. "If Ramius IS our man and those communications return any results, then there's no question that he'll have gone here."
"So it looks like we're all making our way to Tartus," Tokarev mused.

"Indeed, but first, we will be visiting a real gentleman who goes by the name of Emir Tariq Hamid Saqqaf," Drakolich announced.
"Hang on, isn't Emir Saqqaf the head honcho of the Islamic State?" Berdan blurted out.

"He is indeed, courtesy of yours truly – after the competition 'retired early', of course..." Drago grinned darkly. "Saqqaf's been on the KGB's payroll since 2146, and Trotskaya intends to keep it that way for the foreseeable future."
"So by extension you also have the whole organisation under Mecharussian control," the Lieutenant noted.

"It's a fairly bog-standard case of quid pro quo, really. We give Saqqaf a secret guarantee of protection and his men enough guns to go wild across the Levant. All we ask for in return is the occasional televised decapitation of an interfering IIA operative or political dissident who thought he could hide from the Secretariat and the Committee in the desert."

"You mentioned something about antimatter cores," Tokarev changed the subject, referring to Drakolich's earlier hypothesis. "Just how much power is in those things?"
"Close to a hundred petawatts per core, if I recall correctly," the Hound answered. "In translation, each core possesses enough antimatter to build multiple bombs, each big enough to blow an entire continent to smithereens."

"Why the hell would anyone need that much power?" Berdan queried.
Drakolich's eyes ran across the entire room, as if he was searching for something – namely, bugs or listening devices. Regarding what he subsequently enunciated to Tokarev and Berdan, there could be no chances taken.

"I don't suppose either of you are familiar with the Emancipation Plot?"
"I ... can't say I am," Tokarev answered in the negative. Berdan shook his head to do likewise.

"Thank God – that means I've been doing my job," the Hound faked a sigh of relief. "But anyway, it was an earlier bid for world domination by the Final Thirteen in conjunction with the Supreme Leader."
"World domination? With continent-busting bombs?"

"Not so much that as with an experimental machine known as a 'Psychic Dominator'. I won't go into too much detail, but I gather you already know where I'm going..."
"Indeed... So, why did it fail?"

"Well, as luck would have it, someone managed to tip off the Imperial Rangers that we were using Narodnaya Volya to dig up the last remaining Dominator, having planted a Diomedian at the top of their leadership. The resultant raid killed the Diomedian, crippled Narodnaya Volya's leadership and destroyed the Dominator all in one fell swoop. I believe we can thank God's perfect idiot Nigel Steele for lousing that one up..."

"You said this 'Ramius' guy was the captain of Trotskaya's command ship," Berdan stated. "I get the feeling he might know something about those cores, and this Emancipation Plot. I also get the feeling that his targeting Golovkina and then Chomsky might have had something to do with that hack."

"I see we think alike," Drakolich grinned. "The theory that I have is that Narodnaya Volya apparently revealing Serena's little dally with Marilova to everyone must have spooked the Ghost Commandos. Anyone with the capability to hack into a military-grade encryption is a security risk by default, and with something so sensitive as the Emancipation Plot, Narodnaya Volya put themselves right in the firing line. With the group's senior leadership all dead, the only people who could reveal the existence of the cores to anyone would be Trotskaya and the Chthonians. Most of whom are currently aboard the Polunochnaya..."

"So ... they both have been in the Ghost Commandos' sights for a long time, but they didn't have a pretext to take them out of the game," Tokarev noted.
"Not until the Imperium decided to barge into our domestic affairs like a shoveltusk through a shopfront window, that is. In other words: the hack was the motive to knock them out of the game. Cooperation with the Judicators was the excuse to do it."

"But why do these guys want the cores to be kept under wraps so badly?" Berdan queried.
"That is what we're here to find out."

The dropship began its descent toward one of the hexagonal landing pads. The scream of its jets and the thunderous buzz of its wing-turbines escalated as the ship achieved controlled hover above the pad, landing-gear bays parting their doors and disgorging the aircraft's wheels from within. As it made gentle touchdown, the rear cargo bay door opened with a mechanical whirr, bidding Drakolich, Tokarev, Berdan, Drago, Kartal, Ivankov and Bellerofont exit.

"There's also another two reasons we're here," the Hound stated. "The second is that one of the soldiers stationed at Sentinel Base is a former nuclear technician. If we are dealing with antimatter cores, his skills will become invaluable. If not, then extra muscle is always good."

"Wait a minute..." Berdan asked. "If we came here for a nuclear techie, why didn't you just pick one up from Russia?"
"Because, Berdan, soldiers know when to keep their mouths shut – civvies don't," Drakolich answered.

"And what's the third?" Tokarev enquired.
"You'll find out shortly," the Hound stated.

"Good morning, sirs, and welcome to Sentinel Base!" a soldier, part of a section assigned to meet and greet the visitors, saluted their arrival. "Anything I can do for you?"
"There is, as a matter of fact," Drakolich began. "I don't suppose Colonel Degtyaryev can avail himself for a little talk?"

"He's present on the base now," the soldier answered. "Shall I buzz you in, sir?"
"That would be appreciated," the Hound stated. "My comrades here will be happy to remain by the landing pad while I sort out business with the Colonel."

Remain by the landing pad was exactly what Tokarev, Drago, Berdan and Bellerofont opted to do; Drakolich brought Ivankov and Kartal with him to meet the commander of Sentinel Base. While Drago produced a cigarette and opted to pass the time with a smoke, Tokarev turned to Berdan.

"There's still time for you to back out of this if you don't want to go for it," the Brigadier informed the Lieutenant.
"I have to do this," Berdan turned to him with a resolute expression. "This is the very damn least I owe to the Colonel. And to Yuri. If I was only at the hospital when that bastard attacked Trotskaya, I could have stopped him..."

"Neither of us could have stopped Alain, so never ever believe you're responsible for what happened," Tokarev stated. "But I can assure you that we'll find the traitorous scumbags who helped him and make them pay for their crimes."

For but a moment the Lieutenant paused to reflect on the Brigadier's insurance.
"I'll hold you to that, sir."

Moments later, Drakolich and the two Ledniks would return to the party with five additional soldiers clad in powered armour in tow.
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to our nuclear techie," the Hound introduced one of the soldiers. He was a youthful character, with light blue eyes and crew-cut brown hair, accompanied by a similar anchor-beard to what Berdan sported on his chin.

"Corporal Yegor Bykov reporting for duty, sirs!" the soldier announced as crisp as a winter's breeze.

The other soldiers did likewise:
"Sergeant Boris Gorshkov reporting." He was old, clearly having seen action in Europe back in the day, with a swarthy complexion and a heavy build. No hair save for a small stubble covered his head, and his eyes were green and dark with combat experience.

"Private-First-Class Arkady Grishenko, reporting." His voice was young, his hair platinum-blond, and his body a wiry build. In his luminescent green eyes was an inimitable innocence, indicative of his lack of experience in the art of war compared to his four comrades.

"Private-First-Class Innokentiy Pobedonostsev reporting." His was a deeper voice, and was similar to Gorshkov with the exception of a lighter complexion and a thin black Hitler-style moustache. His left eye had been replaced with a diamond-shaped quad optic prosthetic nearly identical to that borne by the populist Kaffarov, except yellow; a huge knife-scar running down his face gave a good hint as to what happened to the original eye.

"Private-First-Class Ivor Bulyagin, reporting." His voice was even heavier than Pobedonostsev's; he bore shaggy, dark brown hair on his head and a dense, unkempt beard trailed down his chin. The hair, deep voice and dumpy build made him look a lot like a younger, bulkier Rasputin.

Berdan, having hitherto turned his face elsewhere, visibly lit up at the announcement of Pobedonostsev, and more so at Bulyagin.
"Pops? Ivor?" the lieutenant turned back to the group and questioned.

Both Bulyagin and Pobedonostsev widened their eyes at the sight of Berdan.
"Berdan, you old bastard..." the former man produced a huge grin, arms parting to give the lieutenant a bear-hug. All three men locked together in an embrace reserved for old friends.

"How long's it been, Pops?" Berdan asked. "Three? Four years?!"
"Five," Pobedonostsev corrected. "Ivor and I got carted off to Lebyazhye, remember? Where the hell were you all this time?"

"Tiflis," the Lieutenant explained. "Got transferred to the Desolators after I put some punk from the Armenian Bratva six-feet down under with a pickaxe..."
"Berdan, Pobedonostsev and Bulyagin were part of the same gun-running crew back in the day," Drakolich explained to a bemused-looking Tokarev. "They all got busted at the same time, and never got the chance to catch up properly during the Amurgrad insurgency."

"So this is your third reason for bringing us out here to Gaziantep..." the Brigadier realised.
"Well, we can't have low soldier morale in our little motley crew now, can we?" the Hound grinned. "We'll be here for a few hours while Degtyaryev sorts out the transfer papers for these five to be transferred to my unit. The Colonel was insistent that they remain together, else transfer would be impossible, so I'm afraid I'm stuck with Gorshkov, Grishenko, Pops and Bulyagin in addition to Bykov."

"The gesture is nonetheless appreciated, Hound..." Tokarev gave his own little smile, genuinely grateful for Drakolich's apparent care.
- - - MECHANOCRATIC RUSSIA - - -
From the dilettante who brought you Worlds Asunder!

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Imperium Sidhicum
Senator
 
Posts: 4324
Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Sat Apr 15, 2017 8:39 am

Aboard Isaac Asimov
en route to Sedek system

Halko had never been much of a people person, if that could even be applied to a sadistic cyborg psychopath assassin like him, but nowhere else had he felt so much out of place as here, amidst these Frenks. Their casual, easy-going attitudes and self-absorbed focus on leisure and hedonism, on enjoying every pleasure and debauchery there was to enjoy stood in stark contrast with the bleak and dead-serious duty-focused Sidh worldview and lifestyle. Were it not for them having recognized the benefits of eugenics and artificial procreation, the Frenks would be entirely anathematic to the Sidh ways - and even so the lot of them seemed to appreciate artificial birth more because it absolved them of the responsibility of rearing a family and left more time for them to pursue decadent pleasures rather than for any inherent practical value.

In other words, Halko sincerely felt more comfortable around Federation humans and even the Imperium's own native ghetto scum than these strange people. Feds were a very diverse bunch, having hardly anything in common besides a banner, a currency and a shared rivalry with Sidhae and Skargh - finding a bunch of humans to fit in with in the Fed wasn't much of a problem. The ghetto denizens, lowlives and scum as they were, were at least a familiar bunch, one that Halko knew and could blend in with if necessary. He had spent more missions blending in among humans than he cared to remember, and while he did come off as somewhat brutish and maladjusted in these roles, Halko was able to pass for a native plausibly enough without putting much thought to it. Among the Frenks, however, the Judicator stood out like a sore thumb. Not that he was making any effort to integrate with the local culture and mentality, the mission not requiring him to - there was simply something so alien about him as to make any efforts to blend in futile.

His Berserkers, on the other hand, didn't seem bothered about it in the least, in fact quite appreciating the Frenkish lifestyle of hedonism and indulgence that so starkly contrasted the ascetic and strict ways of their own kind - even too much so, as their recent streak of misconduct had attested.

---

Halko quietly sat at his usual stool in the canteen, a glass of whiskey in his hands as he reflected on the irreconcilable differences between him and the natives. The latter would give him a wide berth as usual, no stool in the immediate vicinity of his being occupied despite this being the Deano Cipriani Show time. What this bunch found so entertaining about some epicene faggot with a ludicrous hairstyle, eluded the Judicator, but fact remained that the Frenks seemed to be obsessed with it, the canteen being overcrowded at this time, save for the corner where the Judicators made their seats.

"Boss, can we have some whiskey? Just one!" Bjorn's voice distracted him from his thoughts.

"When you are mature enough to drink," Halko replied nonchalantly, "Which ain't gonna be quite in a while."

"Not even one? Aww, come on...!" the Berserkers protested weakly, but an angry glint in the Judicator's piercing crimson gaze silenced any further objections, indicating that this was evidently not up for discussion. So with defeated sighs and grumbling, the trio returned to their milkshakes, complete with little paper umbrellas and a sprinkling of chocolate - the only sort of beverage along with water and unadulterated fruit juice authorized for their consumption by Halko as part of the disciplinary measures imposed on the three.

"Good evening, Judicator," the voice of Admiral Rockwell greeted Halko, the ship's master having also arrived to watch that stupid show that the Frenks were so awestruck about. Admittedly, at least the music was alright, Halko thought.

"Good evening, Admiral," the Judicator nodded, "Anything you wish to speak to me about?"

"Good evening, ma'am," the Berserkers greeted her in unison upon catching a commanding glance from Halko.

"Well, Judicator," Rockwell smiled lightly, "I just wished to commend you for taking prompt and decisive action with the certain issue I asked you to address. No further misconduct by your men has been reported thus far, and if anything, their behaviour has improved to an exemplary degree. Keep up the good work."

"I'm just doing what it takes to keep this mission going," Halko responded indifferently, "My boys aren't going to be a problem again. RIGHT?!"

"Right, boss..." Bjorn grumbled, looking down sheepishly.

"Right-right..." Skjalli muttered, Ragnar who was still having trouble speaking after the last beating making his acknowledgement with a grunt.

"I'm very pleased to hear that," Rockwell smiled, "Please, excuse me now, the show is about to begin."

---

As the show's musical score began to roll to the crowd's delight, Halko did his best to feign interest, his efforts being aimed at trying to understand the Frenkish mentality. The Order would no doubt be frequenting Frenk Land often in the future, so any tip that would allow them to blend in and survive would be helpful. For a moment, the Judicator wondered whether he was trying to see a pattern or purpose where there was none, the Frenks truly being as shallow as Fed core-worlders and doing much of what they did simply because fancy took them.

As the familiar holographic visage of Deano Cipriani appeared overhead, greeting the crowd much to everyone's jubilant roar, the Judicator considered leaving for someplace more quiet, but decided against leaving his Berserkers unattended - knowing them, they'd likely use the general distraction to steal some booze or threaten the bartender into giving them some, get wasted and require more disciplinary measures afterwards. There were times when Halko regretted having taken them in - these men were like children, irresponsible and immature, constantly needing someone to whip them into behaving.

"HALKY-WALK!!!" an all-too familiar voice suddenly squeaked behind him in delight, a pair of woman's hands wrapping around him from behind much to Halko's shock and displeasure. It was none other than Fyodora Spalko, the depraved masochistic Mecharussian operative that Halko remembered from his first mission in A-1.

"Halky-walk... PFFFFFFFT!" Bjorn was the first to pick up on the Judicator's newfound pet name, spitting out a spray of milkshake as he unleashed a thunderous laugh. Skjalli and Ragnar joined in, laughing and giggling like schoolchildren before abruptly falling silent at Halko's irate gaze.

"Oh, my sweet, sweet Halky, I thought I'd never see you again, and yet here you are on the same ship as me..." Spalko cooed in the meantime, caressing his shoulders and pecking a kiss on the gruff Judicator's cheek, "If only you knew how lonely I felt, having to leave without knowing if I'd ever see you again!"

"Why are you here, woman?" Halko spoke slowly, gritting his teeth in barely restrained anger.

"Same reason as you, handsome," Spalko lilted, running her hand gently across his cheek, "I look forward to spending a LOT of time together, making up for the time lost..."

"I'm sure you do," Halko grumbled bluntly, standing up and pushing her aside, "Now excuse me."

"Leaving already, Halky-walk?" Spalko lilted, her voice betraying genuine disappointment, "Who's going to watch this wonderful show with me?"

"Don't. Call. Me. That." Halko gritted his teeth even harder, "And as for the show, I'm sure my boys will indulge you!"

"Halky-walk..." the Berserkers whispered, chuckling and barely able to contain laughter as Halko stormed off, starting to laugh hysterically as soon as the Judicator was out of sight.

"Sit down with us, sister," Bjorn invited Spalko, making room for her, "I absolutely positively want to hear how someone like you hooked up with that vicious old grouch!"

"Well," Spalko smiled in delight, "Where do I begin..."
Freedom doesn't mean being able to do as one please, but rather not to do as one doesn't please.

A fool sees religion as the truth. A smart man sees religion as a lie. A ruler sees religion as a useful tool.

The more God in one's mouth, the less in one's heart.

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New Frenco Empire
Powerbroker
 
Posts: 7787
Founded: Mar 14, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby New Frenco Empire » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:50 pm

I've done a lot in my day. Seen every corner of our world, from the Antarctic mountaintops to the half-buried Pyramids in Egypt. Done a lot, too. Spied on some of the biggest people of the past century. Killed some of 'em. Hell, even slept with some of 'em when I was younger. I know things that could jeopardize modern geopolitics if they ever got out.

But, truth is - I've never done anything like this before. Trying to gauge someone's "crush". Goddess,
it almost sounds like something straight outta the YDC...Still. I said I'd do it. And, by Goddess, I did it...



Image AGENT JONOTHON ROLLINS

ABOARD THE MSS POLUNOCHNAYA, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 16th, 2152


Rollins knocked on the door leading to the quarters, hearing a prompt "come in!" from Harper on the other side.
He pulled the hatch aside to see her sitting upright on the bed, fully-dressed and seemingly ready to do something today.
"You seem to be doin' alright." Rollins grinned.
"Still hurts, but...I can move around. So that's something, I suppose." She nodded, rubbing at her side and leg. "How is Kelly?"
"They operated on him earlier. Went well, I heard. We're just waitin' for the anesthesia to wear off. When he wakes up, whew-ee...I wouldn't want to get in a fight with him with those new fancy augs. Anyway, good to see you on your feet. I'll be sure to let Rachel know. She's been worried sick..."
"I'm sure she has." Harper agreed.
"Oh, you wouldn't believe it! I had to beg her to leave the room for just a few minutes to have a drink with me. I tell you..." Rollins thought he might have been on the right track.

However, he suspected something might have been up by reading her face...
"Mister Rolli-"
"Jon." Rollins promptly corrected her.
"...Jon." Harper said. "I think I know what it is you're trying to get at..."
"Oh yeah?" Rollins slightly grinned. "I...I guess I ain't as slick as I used to be, then? Well...fuck it. What do you think I'm trynna get outta you?"
"Hmm...something about Rachel, if I were to guess." Harper smiled. "You know...I have been noticing some things. No need for all this sneaky business, right?"
"Eh...I guess you're right. Ain't no harm in bein' direct with ya...you see, Rachel..."
"...has developed strange 'feelings' for me? 'Feelings' she probably doesn't understand because she's a Frenk, and you people are somewhat...weird about that sorta thing? No offense."
He was taken aback.
"So..." Rollins confusedly stared.
"Yes." Harper smiled. "Yes to everything you are thinking. I just...wanted to have a bit of fun with it, you know? Lead her on. But...I think I feel the same way, honestly. I'm going to be honest with you, Jon. I haven't had it easy either. No one was ever really...there for me. But Rachel...I just met her, and she sticks to me like glue! In a good way, mind!"
Rollins merely shrugged. "You're the only one who, in my experience, seems to actually connect with her. She was...never good with people. No surprise she finds comfort in the one person she actually feels like she can talk to."

Harper smiled, but suddenly frowned and recoiled.
"I don't know, Jon. She just seems...so vulnerable. I mean...she had you approach me. That's a serious red flag. It would feel like...I'm taking advantage of something..."
Rollins merely chuckled. "Rachel is a complicated little bird, but 'vulnerable' is the last thing I'd call her! She's just...odd. Nothing more. Don't let that stop you!"
Harper returned the grin. "I...suppose you might be right. Maybe I should try..."

However, as they talked, a strange presence crawled from underneath the hallway doors - a strange metallic fragment. Sensing two nearby lifeforms, it deconstructed itself and slid across the floor, intent on reaching them...
NEW FRENCO EMPIRE

Transferring information from disorganized notes into presentable factbooks is way too time consuming for a procrastinator. Just ask if you have questions.
Plutocratic Evil Empire™ situated in a post-apocalyptic Decopunk North America. Extreme PMT, yet socially stuck in the interwar/immediate post-war era, with Jazz music and flapper culture alongside nanotechnology and Martian colonies. Tier I power of the Frencoverse.


Las Palmeras wrote:Roaring 20s but in the future and with mutants

Alyakia wrote:you are a modern poet
Top Hits of 2132! (Imperial Public Radio)
Coming at you from Fort Orwell! (Imperial Forces Network)



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Blakullar
Senator
 
Posts: 4506
Founded: Sep 07, 2012
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:46 am


Image WARMASTER YAH'THUZOL
MESS DECK, BLOOD OF MIRABORG.


Qh'naaz had already departed the Blood of Miraborg, the outsider vessel that this battalion of warriors had commandeered for the purpose of their trip, in a small personal transport for her "holiday". Thus Yah'thuzol had been left in charge of the mission alongside Thaan'kor. The Warmaster was presently in what was, according to that Judicator Cassar, the mess deck where the ship's usual inhabitants would go for food as well as prayer. Every single item of furniture in the room was far too small for the six-metre tall Warmaster to sit upon with any measure of comfort, much to his great irritation. Fortunately, however, a swarm of Empyreal Prowlers were more than willing to shape themselves into a throne-like structure upon which Yah'thuzol could rest and explore his thoughts.

The Warmaster himself had exchanged his usual attire – a flowing, silver skirt-like dress – for a dark gold draped cloak, fashioned from some sort of scale if the light rattle it emitted as it moved was any indicator. Two decorative black prongs, similar to what Qh'naaz's present robed regalia bore, jutted upward from his back, a pair of yellow lights affixed to them blinking in tandem with his eyes. The masked helmet that he was presently wearing appeared similarly – between the prongs on the helmet floated a small, holographic diamond shape, glowing a luminescent yellow.

Standing by Yah'thuzol's side was a huge, three metre-tall armoured hulk, recognisably a combat-designed Wight-Guard build. Two gigantic pauldrons shaped into the horned head of some beast native to his homeworld stood astride his shoulders. Gripped in his tentacled right hand was a massive double-ended polearm, one of the blades shaped like a metal butterfly and the other a medieval battleaxe. His face was just as blank, skeletal and dour as most other Khazard'Vaari, and atop his head were three spine-like structures arranged like a Mohawk crest. This was Commander Zhannax, Yah'thuzol's second in command, personal bodyguard and close confidant.

The first and most glaring matter that Yah'thuzol noticed about the Miraborg was that it was slow. LUDICROUSLY so. A Qh'naazi doomsphere could traverse five thousand lightyears in a single jump. This sad excuse of a vessel was managing a hundredth of that per day. Nobody on the ship had accounted for this rather extreme sluggishness, and thus Yah'thuzol had been bored out of his mind with nothing to do but think. The matter was not helped by the simple fact that this ship was completely impractical by architecture and ineffably ugly, bothering the pragmatically-minded Warmaster intensely. Exactly WHY did a spaceship even need a stained-glass painting or a flying buttress?! Still, the reward of stoicism in the face of such incredible adversity would be worth it.

He would have contented himself with this were it not for the noise. By the searing breath of Vaaz'makhaz, the mission had only been active for a few hours, and this incessant thrumming was already shaping up to be by far the worst aspect of the trip. It had been only a minor annoyance to Yah'thuzol at first, but now in the absence of further it was gnawing at his metal skull, constantly pecking and harassing the cyberlich like a woodpecker against a tree. Having successfully chatted Zhannax into boredom, Yah'thuzol had no conversational partner with which to distract himself from the noise.

"Can somebody please CEASE THAT INFERNAL RACKET!!!!" he could take it no more and roared as loud as his iron lungs would allow. This translated to a thunderous bellow that ripped through the hull of the spacecraft, capable of deafening a baseline human in an instant.

"I'm sorry, sir, but the noise is coming from the vessel's fusion core," Zhannax turned and expressed to Yah'thuzol in a dull, grinding metal intone. "There is not much that can be done about it without destroying the ship."
"FUSION!" an exasperated Yah'thuzol growled in disdain. "These outsiders are using the power of a star while we harness that of the singularity! Erghhh... But what I cannot understand is why must it be so LOUD?!!"

"Apparently the outsiders' fusion reactor technology pays more attention to function than finesse," Zhannax noted.
"Now why could they not muster that capability to do likewise with their architecture..." Yah'thuzol grumbled. "It is almost as if this ship was designed down to the very bolt to annoy!"

"In all fairness, sir, this ship was never designed for They Who Embrace The Machine to utilise," Zhannax keenly pointed out. "It is only logical that an inferior design be suited to an inferior species."
"You speak correctly, Commander," Yah'thuzol replied, clearly in a better mood – if only marginally – having found a subject of conversation with which to distract himself for the time being. "Anyway..."

A brilliant yellow beam of light suddenly projected itself from the floating diamond atop Yah'thuzol's helmet, forming a holographic figure from the ground up.
"Thaan'kor, status report!" the Warmaster barked.

"With all due respect, Warmaster, this is the sixth status report that you have requested in the past thirty-two minutes-" Thaan'kor could be heard protesting in the background.
"STATUS. REPORT," Yah'thuzol thundered, irritated at having to repeat himself.

The Mindflayer sighed in resignation.
"...all systems operating at optimum capacity, Warmaster. The Masterpiece's crew is requesting a situation report."

"Have that Cassar fellow inform her that all is well," Yah'thuzol ordered. "And how far are we to the Sedek system now?"
"Fifty-four lightyears, so I am told."

Yah'thuzol grumbled and slumped into his throne just as the thrumming of the fusion core started to grind at him again. This was going to be a long trip...


Image JUDICATOR ALARIC
ENGINE ROOM, MSS POLUNOCHNAYA.


Alaric's post was the engine room at the back of the ship, following up on Peley's insinuation that one of the fragments may try to sabotage the two main fusion drives. There were toolboxes and scattered tools all over the room, this being the principal haunt of that orkish engineer Rick Fogarty and some of those Singaporeans throughout the journey. Olhon, having been fully informed of the exact nature of the situation currently plaguing Peley and the Judicators, had made a few modifications to their Enforcer pistols, particularly to the stun module. Now they were capable of deploying an electromagnetic pulse that could with any luck disable the fragments, at the cost of greater power consumption.

The apprentice gave a nervous glance up to the four cylindrical containers on the ceiling that thrummed with a gentle amber glow: the heatsinks for the engines. Alaric did not even want to imagine what would happen should that fragment that he could have sworn he spotted earlier, taking the form of a small metallic spider, get anywhere near those sinks to sabotage them. An explosion would only have stopped the ship and delayed the journey to Sedek for a few days, but being at ground zero of where this hypothetical explosion might just take place was an unsettling scenario. Not least because Alaric hardly considered being washed with ten thousand degrees of superheated plasma to be foremost on his bucket list.

"Here, spidey-spidey-spidey..." Alaric whispered, challenging the fragment to appear as his searching gaze matched the sights of his Enforcer. It was hiding in here somewhere – the apprentice knew it, and finding it would be a question not of if, but when.

Suddenly, a peculiar tickling sensation started to crawl up Alaric's leg. The Judicator stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes wide with trepidation. Dare he check down his trousers to investigate...?

There it was. Alaric was staring face to face with the same silvery spider that he had spotted on the camera earlier; the spider in question had crept up his left thigh and was presently in a most discomforting proximity to the manliest part of his body. Apparently the fragment realised that its cover had been blown, because it loosed a tiny, high-pitched squeak of fright and bit the apprentice.

"OWWW!" Alaric shouted, taking aim at the spider as it sank its metallic fangs into his leg, only for the fragment to make a hasty exodus immediately afterwards. This wretched thing also appeared to be ludicrously quick on its feet, because the instant that it left Alaric's pants, it skittered into cover out of his sight. Scanning the area with the meticulousness that only a man of science could achieve, he spotted in the corner of his eye a flash of green. The fragment had crept under one of the toolboxes that had been left lying around, expecting to hide from the apprentice beneath.

"Stupid fragment!" Alaric snarled. "Afraid of dying?!"
Slowly, steadily, he crept up to the toolbox, Enforcer barrel staring at it all the time as he inched closer with maximum care so as to catch the thing just as it escaped. With a menacing, triumphant grin that further exacerbated his physical similarity to Alain, he flexed his fingers and proceeded to lift up the toolbox by the handle.

"A-ha ... Huh?!" The apprentice's smirk disappeared in a flash, because the expected fragment was in fact not present. But how?! He saw the infernal thing crawl underneath the box, and he was sure that his vision was sharp enough to catch it should it have attempted an escape!

Then he glanced upward to the base of the box, and spotted a highly unpleasant surprise lurking upon it...
"DAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!" Alaric screamed as the fragment latched onto his face like a limpet, covering his eyes and obscuring his vision. His Enforcer having slipped out of his hand, he commenced a frantic search across the floor for the lost gun, trying not to send the fragment skittering elsewhere. His hand searched, destined to locate the handgun. Finally, his hand caught hold of a pistol grip! Now to put this upstart piece of xenos junk in its proper place...

Alaric turned the gun to his face and pulled the trigger, just as the fragment disappeared. Instead of the sparking crack of an electromagnetic pulse, he was greeted with the wet hiss of an aerosol...
"FUUUUUCCCK!!!" Alaric howled in pain, some kind of chemical stinging his eyes and blinding him momentarily. He immediately threw the spray-gun to the ground, causing the gunk inside to spill forth as it broke open. Stepping forward would make him regret this, however, as he instantly slipped on the substance, lost his balance and tumbled to the floor. The Judicator promptly landed on the same toolbox that he had picked up earlier, his back striking it with a painful crack and the rest of himself meeting the metal floor with a thunderous crash.

"Aaaaaaugh... Emperor's blood..." Alaric groaned, his eyes bloodshot and weeping irritated tears. Somewhere amongst all of the tools and machinery, he could have sworn that he heard high-pitched, sardonic laughter, further souring his disposition.

Suddenly, the door to the room swung open with a creak. It was one of the Singaporeans, evidently here to investigate the ongoing commotion.
"Oh, there's that spray-gun of organic superlubricant I left in here while I was cleaning the place up!" the mask-clad engineer announced, pointing towards the can that Alaric had been holding merely seconds ago.

"ORGANIC SUPERLUBE!!!" A wave of rage immediately seized the apprentice. "Of all the Emperor-forsaken things I could have sprayed into my eyes..."
"Oh dear..." the Singaporean held his hand over where his mouth would be in shock. "Should I get you something to clean it off?"

"No, I'll be fine, so long as I keep my face away from a naked flame..." Alaric grumbled.
"You sure?"

"Yes! Just take your spray-gun of bloody ass-ramming organic lube with you when you leave..."
The Singaporean complied without a word, picking up the spray-gun and scurrying out of the engine room like a cockroach. Once he was gone, Alaric stood back up, making sure that he collected the proper Enforcer this time around as he rose to his feet.

"RIGHT!" Alaric barked, a fierce determination in his voice. "Mark my word, fragment! You are dealing with a Judicator of the Imperium of Sidhae! By the will of the Emperor, you will submit!"

"Catch meeeee if you cannnn, sucker!" A wet, hissing falsetto sounded from somewhere near to the door, giving the fragment's position well away. Alaric's keen eye spotted the spider disassemble itself into smoke, arcs of electrical green spraying all around as it did, and glide underneath the sliding door.

His face bedecked with predatory intent, Alaric raised his handblaster and proceeded to take the infernal fragment up on its challenge.




Around thirty seconds later, the conversation between one Jonathon Rollins and Harper Brooks was reaching its conclusion...

"I don't know, Jon. She just seems ... so vulnerable. I mean ... she had you approach me. That's a serious red flag. It would feel like ... I'm taking advantage of something..."

Voices. There were lifeforms in this room. Lifeforms that, perhaps, the fragment could hide amongst to avoid that infernal outsider that was hounding it. Surely he would never disturb this couple just to pursue the spider in here...

"Rachel is a complicated little bird, but 'vulnerable' is the last thing I'd call her! She's just ... odd. Nothing more. Don't let that stop you!"

Disassembling itself and sliding between the door as a sparking semiliquid mass, immediately reconstituting itself, the spider slinked into the corner of the room. No, that would be too obvious a hiding place. Then it spotted a bag hanging around the female's shoulder. Perhaps it could hide amongst her belongings until the heat was off...

"I ... suppose you might be right. Maybe I should try..."

The fragment had reached the other side of the room where the organics were located. Now to crawl up the female without alerting her and-

All attention was suddenly drawn to the opening door. Standing in the doorway was the menacing, white-surcoated frame of a Judicator, shimmering blue eyes piercing into the room as he brandished a giant handgun and what appeared to be a dustpan and brush. As the invader raised his weapon, Rollins instinctively launched himself onto Harper to shield her from the incoming attack with a spectacular dive, and tumbled off the bed.

The encroaching fragment, however, only had time to produce a ludicrously high-pitched shriek of terror before it was engulfed by an electromagnetic blast, flickering blue and green alike in a brilliant spasm before disintegrating into a pile of metallic dust.

"Gotcha, you little shit!" the instantly recognisable voice of Alaric bellowed in triumph, stepping into the room to collect his catch with the brush before it could recover and run off again.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?!" Rollins peered over the bed and yelled, before discovering Alaric's nosebleed. "By the Goddess, what happened to you?"
"THIS bastardy little thing happened!" Alaric informed as he swept up the remains of the fragment and tipped them into the sealed container. "As you may have guessed, I've been chasing it across the ship for the past two minutes!"

"Is that a part of that Empyreal thing that jumped us back on Miramar?" Rollins gave a nervous glance to the pile of dust inside the jar-like container.
"Yeah, we may have brought a few of them onto the ship to study without Trotskaya's knowledge..." Alaric explained. "They may also have escaped. Slightly."

Rollins merely rolled his eyes as the apprentice prepared to depart.




"How goes the hunt, Alaric?" Olhon greeted the apprentice in Peley's workshop as he stumbled in, carrying the container as he went.
"See for yourself, master..." Alaric presented his catch with great pride: the EMP had worn off by this point, and Olhon was now looking at an absolutely furious fragment clawing on the armoured glass and shrieking in rage, desperate to escape but its efforts coming to nothing.

"Good work," Peley commended the apprentice with a tone of relief. "Siri came in earlier with another fragment, and I brought this little critter in..."
Peley produced the fragment that he had caught, along with the centipede-like one that Siri had captured. Peley's fragment was an unpleasant-looking miniaturisation of the naga-esque monster that the group had battled in Camp 16, its tiny skull bearing as blank an expression as its bigger, deadlier brother. He had caught the thing rooting through the chronospheric transceiver on the bridge for hell knows what purpose, probably trying to send a message out to the bigger Empyreal.

"I guess we just wait for the Abbess to get the last one now..." Alaric pronounced.


Image GENERAL ELENA TROTSKAYA
GYMNASIUM.


Meanwhile, in the gymnasium, a ferocious battle was in progress.

The black physiognomy of a recently-deactivated sparring droid shot like a blur across the gym along with a bearded axe, the droid smashing into one of the cranes and the axe burying its sharp blade into the metal wall. At the dead centre of the fighting ring stood Trotskaya, clad in her usual battle attire rather than the tracksuit normally worn for sparring sessions. The empowered Excidium and Deymos were both clasped in left and right hand respectively and spread like the wings of an eagle as she stood ready. She had surrounded herself with a trio of black sparring droids, having just deducted one from the group to make two.

The droids' darker armour and more polished, sleeker appearance denoted them as a much more advanced model of Betelgeuse robot soldier than the grey sparring droids with which everybody had familiarised themselves. Their armour had been hardened, their servomotors and circuitry upgraded and sophisticated martial arts moves recently having been added to their combat algorithms specifically to mimic the Judicatorial fighting styles that Trotskaya had observed in her last battle with Serena. The mimicry was intended to the point where she had even outfitted the three of them with knightly tabards, exactly like the ones worn by the real deal. They were tailored to serve as assassin droids, and thanks to Trotskaya's upgrades, they looked more than capable of collectively giving even a proper Judicator a bad day.
Another droid lunged for the Red Tigress, brandishing a pair of sais and fully intent on plunging them deep into her heart: she demanded that they hold nothing back, just like a real Judicator never would. Trotskaya focused squarely on counters for the time being, practising alternative fighting methods to find the most effective one to use against these faux-Judicators.

After its comrade was disarmed and beheaded after a short but brutal confrontation between it and the Red Tigress, the last assassin, this time armed with a sparking energy yari, leapt into the fray. With a mighty clockwise swing, the droid sought to bisect Trotskaya at the waist, but she jumped back to dodge the stroke, the plasma at the end of the seething amber blade scorching the plate as it passed by. Trotskaya bounced straight back in before the droid even had the chance to recover from the sweep, spinning like a tornado and forcing it on the defensive. The droid was just as quick to react to the move as Trotskaya had hoped it would be, blocking the incoming swords with the yari's pole. It twisted and twirled the polearm to deflect the Red Tigress' onslaught, before finally uncovering a window to grapple her and throw her aside to a safe enough distance to resume the offensive.

Trotskaya landed on the ground with a graceful backward roll, skidding to a halt on her sabatons. Both of her swords were still in her hands, and she swept them back like an eagle's wings to charge again. The droid readied the yari into a throwing position and hurled it like a javelin straight at its opponent, but Trotskaya dodged the spear with a graceful roll to the left and sprang for the droid. The robot drew a pair of wakazashi from the sheaths on its back, powering up their fusion blades with a sweet crack and adopting a defensive stance.

This time Trotskaya opted to try something different. She would strike out a couple of times and goad the droid into going on the attack, seeking to break through with a counter strike. She executed her move; as expected, the droid blocked both strikes and proceeded to assault as planned.

There, a window! As the droid brought both of its blades above for an overhead strike, Trotskaya opted to block with Deymos and thrust with Excidium. The droid stood not even a chance, speared straight through where the heart would be on a person with Excidium's wicked scythe-blade. The energy swords that it had been wielding slid out of its hands as the machine died, the false Judicatorial tabard igniting under the heat of Trotskaya's blade and quickly burning to ash even as she withdrew the sword. The droid finally collapsed to the floor with a thunderous crash, its eye flickering and dying with it.

"Two minutes, twenty one seconds," the metallic grind of Brigadier Andropov called to Trotskaya from the other side of the room, a stopwatch in one hand and the remote for the robots in the other. "Not bad, but not as good as your last time."
"Your assistance is nonetheless appreciated, Andropov," Trotskaya stated, heavily respiring as she powered down her warblades and sheathed them again. "You are dismissed for the evening."

Trotskaya's next and penultimate intended destination for the night would be the infirmary to visit Golovkin. She entered the room, pulling back the curtains to his bed to check up on him. His selfless act for Kelly had taken a severe toll on his body, his chest wound having grown profoundly worse and putting him out of action for another week. He was alive, but would effectively be stuck aboard the ship for the duration of the mission to Sedek.

"Hey..." Golovkin, still awake, wearily turned his head and greeted his lover.
"I came in to check on you," Trotskaya whispered, careful not to wake up any of the other sleeping patients in the room with her speech.

There was also another reason that she was here, one more hopeful. It had been two days now since he had received that wound at Miramar, and for the long nights since that time the loneliness had cut into her like a sharp winter wind. She had cried herself to sleep the night before considering what unspeakable fate might have befallen her beloved children, and earlier attempts to quell her emotions with a vibrator had borne less fruit than she would have liked. A buzzing piece of cheap plastic and wiring could not even compare to the delights offered by Golovkin's gentle touch, the warmth of his breath upon her body...

"I know that look..." Golovkin spotted the lustful glint in Trotskaya's eye and grinned.
"Oh Victor, I could never demand such effort from you while you are so badly hurt..." Trotskaya gave up on her pursuit and relented, her soft voice riddled with sadness.

"Who said anything ... about effort?" Golovkin smiled, reaching down to unfasten his belt buckle. "Climb on top..."

For the next few minutes, the sounds of a bed squeaking and light moans of female lust would fill the infirmary – much to the displeasure of captain Danovich, who was still awake and recovering from the surgery on his arm. Danovich was known for being a light sleeper, and his face bore a scowl from the knowledge that he would likely not be getting to sleep for the next thirty minutes. At least he could not blame her for trying to stay quiet, but still – here he was, hoping to have slept off the numbness of the anaesthesia...

Revelling in the ecstasy, Trotskaya's eyes flew open and rolled upward, her head flexing back as she and Golovkin concluded. As she glanced into Golovkin's eyes, her orgasmic smile immediately contorted into trepid shock when she spotted a sight that nobody would have wanted to see. Hovering just centimetres above Golovkin's head was a metallic creature that closely resembled a flying scorpion, its scythed tail trailing downward and a set of eight arachnid legs fixed to its central body.

"WATCH OUT!" she dismounted her lover and lunged for the floating creature with her fist. With a surprised squeak the creature jerked upward and dodged the incoming blow, floating to the left to get a better angle of attack on Golovkin. The Colonel looked upward with a shocked expression of his own to see what had caused his love to flip out so suddenly, and upon recognising it to be a fragment of the Empyreal that had attacked him, his face immediately twisted into terror. Only his damaged lung prevented him from screaming in sheer fright.

Upon seeing that look on Golovkin's face, Trotskaya leapt for the offending machine, intent on smashing it into tiny pieces as she bounded for it. She and the fragment pulled down a part of the curtain, landing in an empty bedsit as she tried to catch the aerial object of Golovkin's fear. Grabbing the massive, rather crude-looking meat cleaver that Turchin used to amputate organic limbs, Trotskaya charged the attacking fragment again, which had to duck and dive underneath her lightning-fast, battle fury-infused swipes. One such attack saw the knife buried into a blood bag, while another slashed one of the curtains.

"What the fuck are you – NAAAHH?!" Danovich finally came out to protest, only to have to duck to avoid being scalped by a naked, meat cleaver-wielding cybernetic terror trying her hardest to bisect the fleeing fragment. Eventually, the scorpion came to rest on the wall, its menacing frame attached to it and giving an unfriendly glare to Trotskaya, who had positioned herself before both Golovkin and Danovich.

"Get away from my beloved Victor, you bastard!!!" Trotskaya snarled at it, adopting a defensive stance as she dared the fragment to attack again.
"Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyaaaah..." the fragment proceeded to taunt Trotskaya in a high-pitched tone, mocking her efforts to capture the machine, when suddenly the door to the infirmary slipped open.

With a spectacular combat roll, the youthful, surcoated physiognomy of Siri entered the room, having overheard the commotion in the infirmary and speculating the worst. Her Enforcer raised and ready to fire, she took aim at the stationary fragment, which had only enough time to glance at the apprentice before she discharged her weapon. Fizzling out and dying just as the spider had at the hands of Alaric, the scorpion dropped off of the wall into a pile of metallic nano-dust.

"Are you all alright in here?!" Siri's frantic voice enquired, before she spotted Trotskaya's naked form amidst the scene of general carnage. "Oh... Oh dear... This was not what I expected from this endeavour."
"Endeavour...?" Trotskaya questioned, a dark look on her face. Suddenly, she lunged for the apprentice and grabbed her by the collar, pulling her close so that Siri could see in grim detail the resonant murder in her eyes.

"What kind of a moronic joke is this supposed to be, Judicatrix?!" she screeched in her face, spittle flying and pockmarking the girl's cheeks and holding the deadly knife to her throat. "EXPLAIN YOURSELF THIS INSTANT!!!"
"That is ... well, was, an Empyreal fragment that we brought aboard for the purpose of analysis!" Siri complied with Trotskaya's command without hesitation, pointing to the metal dust of the incapacitated fragment on the floor.

"That 'we' brought aboard?!" Trotskaya barked. Then, suddenly, it all became so obvious who was responsible for causing this embarrassment. The darkness of the infirmary seemed to expand as the General's blood-red optics grew ever more luminous.

"Please let me go..." Siri stated, terror creeping into her own eyes at the thought of dying at the hands of this walking engine of death and fury.
Trotskaya complied without a word uttered, with no guarantee of Siri's culpability. What was absolute, however, was that a certain pain-in-the-ass Abbess was about to receive a colossal piece of her mind.


Image ABBESS SERENA ROMANA
MESS DECK.


"...it's a bit of an odd policy, actually," Medveditsa explained to Serena over a game of blackjack with Adonis, Dmitriyeva and Tong. "If a commander is killed in action, then the second-in-command is immediately moved up in rank and takes control. The Soviets introduced it during Great World War Three to maintain the chain of command in the face of heavy losses, and the modern military hasn't seen any need to be rid of it."

"I see," Serena contented herself with that elaboration of MAF policy regarding the death of an OIC as she kept watch for that missing fragment. "Also, twist."
"Anyway, as I was saying, Golovkin started out in the war as a Lieutenant, and he'd probably have been better suited for that," Medveditsa continued. "But as a direct result of a rather complex chain of events – one of which was the Charge over the Grosser Priel – he got fast-tracked to Colonel and put in charge of an entire battalion."

"From what I've seen of him thus far, he don't seem suited for such a responsibility," Adonis commented. "He strikes me as too lily-livered, and that ain't good for a senior commander."
"I will be honest, I think pushing him up the ranks was the stupidest decision that Brigadier Zubeknakov could have made," Dmitriyeva referred to the lesser-known brigadier who commanded the Special Purpose Guard Brigade prior to Trotskaya taking personal command. "It takes a lot to push the Colonel over the edge, but when he does flip, he flips out big time. I remember one time when we were in Mechanocratic Greece, on the Parga mission..."

Dmitriyeva shivered in reminiscence. Adonis looked up at her with grim curiosity.
"What happened on the Parga mission?"

"Probably best I explain this one..." Medveditsa announced with a dark tone in her voice, Dmitriyeva trying not to pay attention and focus on the game. "In forty-nine we were hunting this Turkish warlord going by the nickname of Scaramouche. Real hard-ass who ran a huge smuggling game all the way to Europe, and had been causing all sorts of problems for the authorities. We traced him all the way to Parga, a resort town that had been abandoned since the end of Russo-Europe Two. When we got there ... we found out just what the hell he had been smuggling – or, more accurately, who. Men, women, kids brought in from the Caliphate and locked in cages in a derelict old hotel. Most of them were Yazidis. Others were Arabs. All of them were obviously destined for bored Western customers looking to try out some Eastern meat. Well, after slaughtering his way through Scaramouche's militia, Golovkin found the final straw – Scaramouche was busily getting intimate with a girl I'd have put as no older than five, one he'd mutilated with a rusty scalpel just minutes before. Next thing we knew, the Colonel had dragged him into a nearby tool-shed and, in a grim twist of irony, emasculated him with his gauntlet-blade, went spectacularly overkill in cauterising the stump shut with Dmitriyeva's plasma thrower despite her protests, and tossed what was left of the poor bastard into a holding pen along with the recently liberated captives."

"Serves the towelhead fuck right, if you ask me..." Adonis scowled with disgust. "I remember more than a few run-ins like that when I was with DomSec, and I won't say I wouldn't have done something similar if I were in the Colonel's shoes. Hell, I've done more than a few things I ain't exactly proud of, but somebody has to do something, y'know? Still, I'd never have thought a guy like Golovkin would have had the stones to chop a guy's balls off, burn off his legs along with his dick and leave him to be ripped apart by an angry mob."

"Well, until we all heard those dying screams, neither did we, and Parga's not normally one we Alfas like to discuss," Medveditsa stated. "But ... well, you really do learn something new every day. Make no mistake: Golovkin's got a heart of gold, but sometimes he's a little too well-meaning, if you know what I mean. And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that enrages him more than slavery of any kind. Alright Dmit, you can uncover your ears now!"

"In regards to being emotionally reckless, he and Trotskaya make a great couple, it'd seem," Serena quipped in a sarcastic tone.
"There's a reason we all go easy on her," Medveditsa spoke up again. "That girl's seen, been through and done a lot – and I know that from having watched her first-hand. There ain't much left stopping her from completely losing it, and frankly I don't wanna be around on the day she finally snaps. There's that, and she's a literal living weapon who can dent the front armour of a main battle tank with a single punch."

"She didn't seem so tough when I fought her a few days back," Serena remarked again. "Stick."
"That's 'coz she wasn't wearing her powered armour at the time," Atalanta, who was enjoying a drink with Ippolyta at the nearby bar, overheard and joined the conversation. "If she was, you'd still be in the infirmary or dead, because that arsenal she normally carries around ain't there for show, and she already very nearly kicked your ass in just a tracksuit!"

"What the devil does it matter?" queried Serena. "It's not like there's going to be a rematch any time soon-"

"ROMANAAAAAAA!!!"

A brilliant, piercing howl resonated from the entrance to the bar, announcing the arrival of none other than Trotskaya. She was fully dressed in hood, cloak and powered armour again, and her face was creased with rage.

"But then, I have been wrong before..." Serena sarcastically grumbled, standing up from her game to face off the incoming, inevitable barrage of most probably unjustified fury. "What do you want now, Elena?"

"First order of business, you may cease with that irritating penchant for referring to me on a first-name basis!" Trotskaya snapped at her as she made her approach. "Second of all, do you mean to tell me that you brought dormant pieces of that Empyreal onto my ship without my knowledge or even adequate quarantine?!"
"Yes? I did, why do you ask?" Serena answered with her trademark nonchalance, prompting Trotskaya to explode.

"Why do I ask? WHY DO I ASK?! I ask, Romana, because one of those pieces just attacked me and Victor during our alone time!"
"Oh, so you got jumped in the bedroom, and now you think it's MY fault?" Serena barked.

"Still you do not realise the danger you put everybody aboard this vessel in!" Trotskaya seethed. "That monster put some of the Mechanocracy's finest warriors into the infirmary, INCLUDING my beloved! And you thought it germane to bring active pieces of it onto my ship without even bothering to inform me of their presence?!"
"Look, General, there's no easier way to put this, so I'm just going to be dead straight with you. I'm an agent of my Imperium, so naturally it's my duty to serve it in any way possible, including the study of those fragments for our technological benefit!"

"And now it is my turn to be dead straight with YOU, Romana... I cannot even trust you bloody Sidhae to contain a renegade or keep my soldiers safe, so if you think I am going to stand by and let you ANYWHERE NEAR xenotech, then you are in dire need of a reality check! Those fragments will be kept under lock and key at our discretion for the remainder of this journey, and THAT is non-negotiable!"
"Then maybe we should be on our way! Remember, we're here for your benefit: the very least that you can do is cooperate with us!"

"And whatever do you think will happen if you try to ditch me? Tell me if you intend to screw me over now, and I will slay you where you stand!"
"If that is the Emperor's will, then so be it! We've already been over this!"

"The Emperor's will..." Trotskaya repeated with a half-laugh. "That's just how you Sidhae operate, isn't it! Absolve yourselves of all responsibility for each and every mistake you make, and attribute the blame to the unknowable will of a corpse!"

"Well aren't you the textbook fucking definition of 'classy'!" Serena barked back, having lost her patience. "And that's another thing! What's this obsession with the Rape? You keep crying about it like it's something special!"

"Oh boy..." Ippolyta, holding a glass of Caipiroska in her hand, produced a wide grin and turned to Atalanta. "Oy, Lanty, how long d'you think it'll be before they try to kill each other again?"
Atalanta paused for thought, with the ongoing argument in the background...

"My obsession?! And I suppose you have first-hand experience of such trauma, do you?! No, wait, I am wrong to presume that you do not, as Marilova attests! You rape an innocent young girl, with a loving family and a promising military career, to the brink of insanity just so you can get your precious Marylove back! The one that you failed to save from her first fate! And where has that led you?"

"You should ask yourself where you constantly running away from the Rape has gotten you! Perhaps if you weren't pissing and shitting yourself in terror during BOTH attacks Alain conducted against you, MAYBE you would have beaten him! But no, even THAT is too difficult for you to manage, Miss Special Snowflake! Now your children are paying the price for your criminal incompetence and cowardice!"

"I'm giving it ten, twenty seconds or so..." Atalanta's answer was made the instant that she saw the vicious, utterly dark look that blemished Trotskaya's countenance in response to that previous comment.

"There you are again..." Trotskaya spewed hateful, rage-infused venom towards: "Serena Romana, the hypocritical, self-righteous whore that has utterly failed her apprentice by shirking her oaths to the Emperor in favour of fucking half the galaxy in her constant quest for pussy like the waerloga she is..."

Adonis widened her eyes and Serena narrowed hers: waerloga was one of the more well-known of the grievous insults to make against a Sidh, translating roughly to oath-breaker; an insult that ranked just below the fabled Sidh deathwords.

"...who dares to pretend that she knows the same traumas that I have, having LITERALLY fucked over everyone that she possibly can! Who now has the gall to stand there and lecture ME on CRIMINAL INCOMPETENCE!!!"

She continued even as Serena's face began to twist into an expression of fury.

"Ask yourself this before you yet again pin responsibility for your failures onto other people: where the hell were you for anyone you've ever cared about?! Alain, Marylove, and no doubt countless others too, all abandoned for your own selfish whims! And the reality is that, no matter how much you dress yourself up with that vile, racist death cult you call the Word and Way, you will NEVER know the meaning of sacrifice! But you know what? I could forgive your hypocrisy, your incompetence, your stolen valour – all of it. Because anyone can make a mistake if they do something about it. But if only you were not such a bore. You are a sad, pathetic, boring fuck of a person, the very worst example of a worthy chal-"

Trotskaya's hate-filled rant was halted by a meteoric force colliding with her face, sending her stumbling backward and nearly tripping over herself. Every other expression in the bar apart from hers and Serena's instantly morphed into stark shock, for this was the very last thing that they had expected from the Abbess. The fist that had delivered the hammer-blow to Trotskaya's face trembled, its owner bearing murder in her flaring argent eye. Something had tripped inside of Serena, triggered by the General's bitter commentary directed against her. A horrible memory from the distant past, one of having failed a certain Morrecus...

Trotskaya took note of a small red spattering of liquid on Serena's knuckle, and felt a stinging pulse flow down to her upper lip from her nose. Upon wiping her nose with the back of her hand, and spotting the distinct crimson of synthblood, her eyes widened in shock and awe. They then turned to Serena, illuminating an alarmingly brilliant shade of red.

"You ... BITCH!!!" Trotskaya cast a furious, piercing shriek. As the Red Tigress launched herself at Serena, the Abbess remained confident that she could put her down as easily as before despite her current disposition.

Serena's confidence was literally dashed against the wall when she was sent careening all the way across the mess hall, smashing into the corner of the room with a pained grunt. Trotskaya, having tossed her there, wasted no time in resuming her assault. Serena was the next to throw a punch, aiming at Trotskaya's stomach with her right hand, but the Red Tigress caught it with her left, bashed her face with it and launched her own right hook. Serena returned the favour, catching the incoming fist and using the momentum of Trotskaya's punch to launch her over her shoulder and into a table, the General's armoured bulk utterly pulverising the piece of furniture with a glassy crash. Before the Abbess could throw herself on top of Trotskaya, the latter rolled backwards, grappled Serena by the torso with her legs and brought her overhead, causing her to collide headfirst into the metal floor.

As Serena knew well, the fighting styles and methods of herself and Trotskaya were in stark contrast. A Judicator was exactly as their moniker of 'Emperor's spear' suggested, trained for the purpose of delivering a swift, surgical strike without a prolonged fight. Trotskaya, on the other hand, was a completely different machine: she was a living engine of war tailored down to the smallest bolt for engaging in open combat. She was designed to plunge into a ferocious firefight and remain in said fight for potentially many hours at a time, and was thus appropriately fashioned for supreme durability and persistence. That durability became ever more evident when Serena attempted, with her active right holoblade, to knock out Trotskaya with another stun to the abdomen, only to discover that Trotskaya's powered armour was outfitted with Faraday cages, designed to deflect an electromagnetic blast away from vital components. Thus her strike was rendered completely ineffectual, and the only reward for Serena's effort was two disabled sets of holoblades after her tacticom was introduced to Trotskaya's vicelike gauntlet during a tussle on the floor.

The other new trait that Serena learned of Trotskaya was her expertise in reconnaissance and learning from her tactical mistakes. The way that she predicted and ducked below what incoming blows from Serena that her armour did not absorb like RADAR waves against a stealth bomber was like water: fluid, graceful, and indicative that she had been paying attention to Serena's chosen style of combat. Application of her augmented processing power allowed her to deduce a counter that would assist in bringing down a Judicatorial opponent, a counter that she had been testing in the gymnasium against the hunter-killer droids merely hours before.

There was also another, far more concerning matter. Trotskaya may have currently been fighting in a state of berserk rage, but Serena was hardly in a better state of mind herself. This infernal woman had insulted not just her character, but her Imperium, her religion, her friends and comrades that she truly felt sorry for having failed. This drove her into a single-minded, overpowering determination that saw her genuinely want to beat this infernal General into bloody red mash. Unfortunately for her, Serena fighting Trotskaya was proven to be comparable to a shinobi fighting a main battle tank: when cool and level-headed and striking with the element of surprise, the odds could be tipped in the shinobi's favour. With neither surprise nor calmness on her side, however, the shinobi was at a near total disadvantage against the tank.

Serena flew into and completely obliterated another empty table booth, heavily bruised and battered and her armour cracked under the terrible force of Trotskaya's hammer-like fists. The Red Tigress loomed overhead, herself having received considerable injury as her broken nose, heavy breathing, weeping lip and blackened right eye attested, but she was clearly in a better physical state than Serena was, if only marginally so.

"Get up," Trotskaya curtly and authoritatively commanded, a gap in her bottom teeth revealing additional damage waged by Serena's hand as she spoke. She spat the dislodged tooth onto the floor, the denture landing with a metal ring.

The Abbess' only response was to mumble incoherently in aching, searing pain. After eighty-four years in service to the great All-Father and the glorious Imperium, was this how she was going to die? At the terrible, choking hands of a raging, arrogant snowflake of a woman?

"I SAID GET UP, YOU WEAK BITCH!!!" Trotskaya shrieked in pure, unadulterated anger, her glowering face illuminated by a crimson flare from her eyes. She was briefly tempted to just finish the fight and tear Serena's head from her body complete with spinal cord, but she wanted to show her, not just say, how weak and pathetic she was in the face of humanity's strongest warrior.
"If you insist..." Serena growled in her flanged fury, her eyes glowing a brilliant argent white as she leapt at her enemy like a cornered lioness: "YAAAAAAARRGH!!!"

Serena's second wind caught Trotskaya off guard, allowing the Abbess to bury several of her own rage-empowered punches into her chest and face. Serena had opted to forgo any and all pretentions of grace and simply batter the Red Tigress into submission, her fists pounding against her foe like a jackhammer. From Trotskaya's perspective, it was just like her first battle with Alain on Sixteen July, whatever initiative that she had possessed falling from her grip. This time, however, she had strength of both mind and muscle on her side. And she certainly had no intention of being bested a second time by this battery-farmed dyke.

As she moved to deliver another right hook to Trotskaya's now viciously beaten countenance, Serena felt a bizarre and oddly familiar burning sensation in her hand, bone and tendon alike audibly cracking and snapping under some immense pressure. Then, much to her horror, she realised that Trotskaya had distended her jaw like a python's and caught the Abbess' incoming fist in between two sets of razor-sharp teeth.

"YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" Serena screamed more in shock at the experience than in pain, although the latter was almost overpowering. She struggled to liberate her fist from Trotskaya's maw as if it were a critter caught in a bear trap, but her desperate effort came to nothing as the Red Tigress bit straight through the thinly-armoured gauntlet with enough force to humiliate a crocodile in a contest. Worse still, Trotskaya now had both of her hands free to capture Serena's other hand before she could land another punch.

Having verifiably mangled Serena's right hand, Trotskaya gave the Abbess another tremendous gut-punch to knock the wind out of her before releasing her hand. Serena collapsed to the floor again, the last of whatever short advantage that was in her grasp gone. Now, as she faced the caliginous, towering amalgam of berserk rage and cybernetics above her, she still held no fear for her life. The Emperor would surely provide some deus ex machina to deliver her from the jaws of death.

"THAT was for Alexei!" Trotskaya snarled, an acrid cocktail of saliva, her own blood and Serena's rolling down her lips as she spoke. Then she gripped the Abbess by the torso and hoisted her up so that Serena could stare into her draconic, hideously bruised and bloodied visage: "And THIS is for humiliating me in front of my troops!"
Trotskaya's forehead collided with the bridge of Serena's nose, impacting with a cringe-inducing crunch and eliciting a pained grunt.

"THIS is for putting the lives of said troops in danger with your epic stupidity!"
Trotskaya promptly slammed Serena back onto the floor with a tonitruous crash and climbed astride her torso.

"And for each and every one of my soldiers that died at the Sunikagrad University Hospital as a result of your fuckup..." her voice became especially hateful and venomous, "...you get one of these! Starting with MAGNITSKY!"
This time Trotskaya's fist was directed towards Serena's face, smashing into her like a meteorite and snapping the cartilage in her nose.

"KIRRLOV!"
A second punch smashed square into Serena's eye, the wound immediately starting to turn a grotesque shade of dark violet.

"BABCHENKO!"
Trotskaya let herself slide into a mad ritual of punching Serena in the face and roaring a name in unison. She continued as Hephaestus would shape metal: her fist was the hammer, and Serena's augmented skull had the thankless task of serving as the anvil.

"Jesus Christ, someone get her off her before she kills her!" Medveditsa bellowed in horror as Serena fell unconscious at the sixth mentioned name, Trotskaya continuing to smash her fist into the Abbess' face without relent.

"KALININ! ENGALYCHEV! SHEVCHENKO! VOLKOVA!"
Before Trotskaya could make the eleventh blow materialise, however, a sharp sting pierced the front of her neck. She unleashed a piercing shriek of surprise and pain as millions of volts began to course through her body, illuminating the cybernetic endoskeleton underneath her synthskin until she collapsed unconscious atop Serena.

"Flaming kids, when will they ever learn..." grumbled Peley the Mechanomancer, a cord-fitted shock dart reeling back into his right gauntlet as he strode into the mess hall, making his way to where Trotskaya and Serena were presently lying on the ground. "Maybe a spell in the infirmary for them both ought to calm them down!"

"And guess who's just assigned herself the fun job of staying with them so they don't try to murder each other again!" the Manreaper chirped, having thoroughly enjoyed watching the transpiration of the fight and now eager to observe the aftermath. She threw back the remainder of her drink and put the glass upon the bar counter.

"You'd do that?" Peley asked, carrying the comatose Serena over his shoulder and picking up Trotskaya to do likewise.
"Well, it ain't like I've got anything better to do tonight..." Ippolyta quipped with a grumble. "Besides, they could use some entertaining conversation while they recover."

"Define 'entertaining conversation'," Atalanta raised an eyebrow as she got up to follow.
"Oh, you know..." Ippolyta answered with a cheery glint in her otherwise soulless optic as she followed Peley to the infirmary. "The weather, sports, you get the idea. Oh, speaking of sports, I thought we might be able to play a nice, relaxing game once we reach Sedek! Shall I tell you the rules?"

"Do I even want to hear the rules?"
"Yes, you do! I got this idea from a trip to the Vorkutlag! You get a prisoner, bury him in the ground up to his neck..."

"Is this that quote-unquote 'game' with the sledgehammer you told me about last week?" Atalanta grimaced.
Ippolyta emitted a menacing giggle by way of response.
Last edited by Blakullar on Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:51 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Imperium Sidhicum
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Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:09 pm

Aboard the Polunochnaya
Sickbay

"How are you feeling, Abbess?"

Serena groaned, struggling to open her eyes that were half-swollen shut after the pounding her face had received at the hands of Elena. Siri and Olhon had admittedly done a great job patching her up while she was unconscious, the damage being limited to a moderate concussion and severe bruising. The Abbess quietly thanked the augmentation engineers that had designed everything under her skin, their work having held up admirably to even such assault.

"Like morning after shore leave," she grumbled sarcastically, the statement not being far from the truth, "Emperor's blood, I could use a good fuck right now..."

"I'm afraid you are currently in no condition for sexual activity, Abbess," Siri seriously informed her, missing out on Serena's sarcasm, "You should rest for a few days."

"It would certainly help the headache," Serena stated, "Please tell me I at least managed to put that obnoxious drama queen in the infirmary."

"Yes, Abbess, you did succeed in inflicting quite significant injuries on General Trotskaya as well, if that is any comfort to you," Siri informed her, "Now please be calm, your face needs time to heal in order to avoid scarring."

"I'm a pretty girl alright," Serena chuckled weakly, "Another few scars here or there won't make me any less of a looker."

"It was quite a fight you two put up there," Alaric remarked, returning from the far end of the sickbay, carrying some medical supplies, "Nobody came out of that one looking pretty..."

As he walked by, the young Judicator accidentally brushed by Siri, leading her eyes to widen and her face to blush at his touch, however unintentional.

"I... I... uh... I must go now," she uttered, looking visibly anxious before almost storming out of the room.

---

Serena laid back in her bunk, reflecting on the incident that had transpired, and almost felt like beating herself unconscious again. She had committed the single gravest mistake a Judicator and any soldier could possibly commit - she had acted in the heat of passion, and consequently paid the price for it in humiliating defeat. Worse still, acting rashly like that went against her own deeply held principles, ones that she had made a point of impressing upon her apprentices at every opportunity. The bitterness of such defeat hurt way more than the wounds themselves.

A groan a few beds away interrupted her mental self-flagellation. Serena turned her head to see the familiar frame of her arch-rival, looking hardly better than herself.

"By Lenin, what happened..." Elena groaned, tormented by a headache comparable to the Abbess's.

"Peley and his stun gun happened," the grating voice of Ippolyta replied, Serena noticing her only now, seated on a bench roughly in midway between her and Trotskaya's beds and reading an e-book. From her presence and positioning, the Abbess deduced that the Manreaper was evidently posted here to break them up should either decide to attempt a rematch of their earlier fight.

"Please tell me that vile xenos bitch is dead..." Elena's voice sounded almost pleading.

"Try harder next time, snowflake," Serena's taunt from the other end of the infirmary stung her ears like venom.

"Hey, cut that shit, both of you!" Ippolyta intervened with an angry growl, "The crew has about had it with your popularity contest bullshit, and if you two can't be trusted to act like responsible adults, someone else, such as myself, will have to step in - as I have done right now! If you want to talk about what happened, either do it in a proper mature way, or stove it!"

"The only one who seems to think this is a popularity contest is your dear General," Serena grumbled, turning to the other side for some more sleep as the painkillers kicked in.

"What's the matter, Abbess?" Trotskaya mocked her, "Do I hear your butthurt ego speaking?"

"As a matter of fact you do," Serena responded, "Except I feel angry and insulted not over you defeating me, but rather about letting your childish provocations get the better of me, which allowed you to win."

"What does that matter," Elena shrugged, "I still won and you didn't."

"Well, congratulations on your victory then, General!" Serena grumbled resignedly, "Gloat all you want, just remember that your petty victory in a small battle doesn't mean you have won the whole war."

"Is that so?" Elena declared adamantly, but the Abbess did not dignify that with a response.

While besting the Abbess in single combat did indeed serve as a great confidence boost to Trotskaya, she knew enough to give Serena's words a second thought in silence. The Judicators weren't invincible, as this victory had proven - but then again, as Elena came to realize upon reflecting on the events, this victory ultimately proved nothing. She realized she hadn't beaten a Judicator on it's own terms, but merely won a catfight. Reflecting on their moniker of "Emperor's Spear", Trotskaya recognized that her few up-close-and-personal fights with Alain and Serena were rare exceptions rather than a rule, it simply not being how the Judicators normally fought, and even of these four fights, three she had lost humiliatingly. In essence, it was only by miracle of luck that she was still alive to beat Serena today, alive only because in none of those previous attacks had the Judicator opponent actually intended to kill her. It would only have taken once for her opponents to get it right, and they had ample opportunity to do just that. Had she been an actual assassination target, Elena most likely wouldn't even have seen it coming, the only reason why Alain would fight her openly in single combat being the desire to seize her alive in front of the whole world to see.

With these thoughts, she resolved to train even harder, so that at least pretentious Judicators who would try to follow in Alain's footsteps in the future would get what was coming to them.

Elena thought much about the Abbess's words about her being unworthy of Victor that had stung like an acid. She still couldn't quite rid herself of suspicion about Serena intending to steal her lover, though rationally speaking, such a thought was indeed unthinkable. Elena tried hard to make up various potential pretexts for the Sidhwoman to lust for her mate, only to fail much to her own frustration. No matter how hard she tried to imagine otherwise, under a rational mindset, there simply was no compelling reason for the Sidh who wasn't much into men to begin with to attempt such an endeavor. Nor was there any reason for Victor, the father of her children, for that matter.

There was also the issue of finding out why the normally always cool and nonchalant Abbess had suddenly snapped and lashed out at her today. She had been acting a bit strange lately, and Trotskaya needed to know why, if only to ensure the safety of her ship. She hence resolved to inquire more about it when the tempers would have cooled down. For now, however, she'd have to contend herself with a stay in the infirmary under the watchful eyes of Ippolyta.

"Ippolyta," Elena turned to her long-standing companion, "Would you happen to have a deck of cards?"

This was going to be a long stay...

---

Two days later

Siri ought to have picked the career of a medic, Serena thought, examining her latest injuries, of which only fading scars now remained. The girl certainly deserved a kiss for her work, and maybe more, she thought before dismissing such ideas on pretext of professionalism.

Her hand was still shivering from time to time, and the two days in the infirmary hadn't helped much either. She was still plagued by horrendous nightmares in her sleep, and terrifying flashbacks while awake. Trots was back on her feet too, and to her credit had refrained from throwing more tantrums, insults or provocations thus far, apparently in no small part thanks to Ippolyta, who followed her like a hound. Although she would have evidently lashed out at Serena as well over a provocation on a moment's notice, the Abbess fancied to think of herself as above such base trickery. That last outburst was, despite all justification, unforgivable.

Serena had been having trouble sleeping lately. It had nothing to do with her recent defeat, the Abbess accepting it as the inevitable consequence of her own rash and ill-tempered decisions. What troubled her was the horrifying nightmares that haunted her whenever she shut her eyes for longer than half an hour. The screams and curses of men and women long dead came back to life in her dreams, as did the pain, making her awaken covered in cold sweat.

Having awakened shivering and screaming again, Serena decided it best to relieve herself with a hot shower. It had been a while since she had taken one in any case, being in the habit of wearing her armor for weeks on end.

Perhaps other crewmembers hadn't noticed it, but the Abbess was in fact very wary of revealing any portion of her flesh to outsider eyes, always being clad prim and proper in neck-high armor or comparable clothing. Whenever taking any measures of hygiene, she took extra care to make sure nobody was watching, however accidentaly. Thus far, there seemed to be no prying eyes observing the shower room. Serena knew about the surveillance cameras planted around the ship by Elena, and somehow could instinctively tell when she was being watched - how exactly, eluded herself too, but over years Serena had learned to trust her instincts. Right now, nobody was watching for certain.

It took her some time to slip out of her armor suit. Leaving her attire behind, Serena stepped into the shower and let the water flow over her body. At first it was ice-cold, though the Judicatrix was accustomed to such discomfort. Then it got warmer, like blood, flowing down her cheeks and neck.

"Morrecus... Alexios... Zanda..." Serena whispered quietly, remembering names befallen by terrible fates. More and more came to mind, threatening to overwhelm the mighty fortress of willpower that she had made of herself.

"Emperor forgive me," the Abbess muttered, leaning forwards and letting the shower run water over her back, tears welling up in her eyes, "Can there even be forgiveness for such things..."

Little did the Abbess notice the prying eyes of Elena Trotskaya behind her.

---

Elena was still filled with a mixed sense of pride and dread. On one hand, she had bested the vile Sidh who had been like a thorn in her side from day one. On the other, the words of the Judicatrix still haunted her - a small victory in a single battle by no means suggested a victory in the whole war. As soon as the medics would allow her, she had been back to practice, crushing more droids programmed to fight like Judicators, but it just wasn't the same thing. Sure, the machines could immitate the Sidh fighting style plausibly enough, but they fundamentally lacked that certain aspect of devious cunning that Serena and her companions possessed. Elena had compared their combat style to that of other Sidhae like Arcadius Drax from memory and determined that simple success in practice exercises with sparring droids wouldn't make the challenge of facing Alain ahead of her any easier. The wretched scumbag would probably rely on traps and ambushes to wear her out first, only facing her when victory was certain - and that he was more than capable of setting such traps and ambushes was already amply evident.

To set such doubts aside, Elena finally decided to relieve her stress in a hot shower. Victor was still largely on-and-off, resting in the infirmary, so other, more intimate forms of relief were currently unavailable.

Having gathered a change of clothing and a towel, Elena proceeded to the shower room, fully expecting it to be empty at this time of the day - or whatever applied in the bowels of deep space. The sound of running water as she approached displeased her much, Elena strongly preferring to take her measures of sanitation in strict privacy unfortunately unavailable aboard this warship.

No sooner had she entered the shower room when she spotted the familiar frame of the Abbess, leaning forwards against the wall under falling water and muttering something in her native tongue. Whatever brash words were about to leave her mouth froze on Elena's tongue as her eyes fixed on Serena's body.

Every part of Serena from below the neck was covered in white scars. Some that criscrossed her back appeared self-inflicted in recent times. Others were older, already fading, and betrayed the application of hot pincers and blades. Yet some others appeared of special significance, seeing how Sidhae were capable of fully repairing wounds without permanent scarring. Most notable of these was a huge scar running from just above her left breast all the way down to her hip, the width of the scar indicating it probably exposed ribs when it was fresh. Seeing this, Elena wondered no more why the Abbess was always dressed in her armor that concealed these old wounds. She was aware of the fact that Sidhae found scars attractive, including scars on women, and was much to her own embarassment allured to a degree by the Abbess's body that seemed to be engineered to attract both sexes.

"Are you going to keep staring at me like that for long?" Serena's voice interrupted her thoughts, "Either join in, or hand me the towel!"

For a second there, joining in almost sounded tempting, the Sidhwoman having a special way of appearing alluring to both sexes, Elena thought. Nonetheless, she tossed the Abbess a towel from the rack.

"Come here to gloat again?" the Abbess asked with no small measure of bitterness as she covered up, Elena noticing more scars on her stomach and breasts before she did.

"Uh, no, actually... Just wanted to take a shower," Elena stated, suddenly feeling uncomfortable, "You look like having seen a lot of action back in the day, Abbess."

"Well, I'm old enough to easily be your grandmother," Serena smirked bitterly, "Surely I have seen a thing or two in my life."

"It would seem so," Elena spoke, trying her best to stay civil, "Any special stories about those scars of yours?"

"Which ones?" the Abbess asked, drying her hair in the towel without any effort to cover up.

"The big one on your side must surely have a good story to it..." Elena remarked.

"You suddenly seem very interested about the story of some vile xenos scumbag tankie, to name but a few flattering nicknames I've heard from you lately," Serena remarked bitterly.

"What's the matter?" Trotskaya replied somewhat angrily, "The big and tough Abbess can't handle some banter from a weakling cunt-born anymore?"

"Not if it comes from a Miss Special Snowflake," Serena returned the insult.

"What's with you and the snowflake label?" Elena asked angrily, "All you ever accuse me of is being a special snowflake! I demand to know why!"

"Demand... It's exactly why!" Serena said, "I've already said that it's always about you. Your life, your family, your country, your children, your pride! Always about you, your feelings, your suffering, you."

"I don't expect you to understand," Elena stated after taking a deep breath to drive away the wave of flash anger, "You haven't experienced what I have."

"Haven't I..." Serena grinned bitterly, "Exactly what haven't I experienced that you have? Being raped by your so-called boyfriend? How many times did he rape you? Once? Twice? Five times? How many guys did he invite to join the fun? Two? Four? And for how long? An hour? A day? Two days? A week? What about a year?! Do you have the slightest Emperor-damn idea what it means to be gang-raped every accursed day of a year, only begging for death so that it can finally stop!?"

"I.. I... uh..." Elena wasn't sure how to respond to Serena's sudden outburst.

"I-uh-what?!" the Abbess raged on, "You act like the whole world owes you just because your asshole of a boyfriend had his way with you once! But what about me, what about D'Anna who had it even worse, what about all those women who didn't have the luxury of being rescued like I had!? Do you have any idea what it means to be locked in a cage and tortured every fucking day until you beg for one of your men to suffer the same fate in your stead?! And to be fucked by a company of horny men when they are eventually done?!"

"I... uh... I can't say that I do..." Elena stated, the realization striking her with the softness of a hammer.

"Damn bloody right you can't!" Serena stated, "And that's exactly why I've been calling you the special snowflake for your petty outbursts."

"That one you've been staring at for the past two minutes I got from my supposed master," Serena continued, pointing at her huge side scar, "The Lizards have ways of being very persuasive towards those who don't bow down to them. The other ones... Well, their human slaves had no shortage of imagination either. Most of that imagination involved ending up inside me one way or another in the end. When they were finished with me and my men, they would usually end up pumping me full of hysteriat and having their way..."

At this point, Serena couldn't help but start sobbing.

"It took 15 surgeries before I could piss and shit like a normal person again! They only stopped when I was no longer attractive to them because of it! Do you have any idea how it feels to have the better half of your cunt and ass fall out after being fucked over by a century's worth of sex-starved men?! Do you?!"

"I... I don't..." Trotskaya wasn't sure what to say.

"Damn right you don't! And neither did D'Anna, and a hundred of million other women like me or herself! So what is it that makes you so fucking special and entitled!?" Serena shouted tearfully, "I beg to know, what is it that makes your suffering any more special!?"

"I... I'm sorry..." Elena couldn't muster herself to say anything else. She had always been under the impression that the Abbess was the indifferent, cold piece of equipment that didn't care much about anything. This revelation, however, had proven her completely wrong. Perhaps they weren't so different after all.

"I'm sorry..." was all she could muster as she welcomed the bare frame of the Abbess in her embrace.

"Do you really thing I enjoy making out with somebody who shows the same degree of enthusiasm as a corpse," Serena sobbed, evidently referring to her recent escapade with Victor.

Right about now Elena felt embarassed. Part of her felt that her long-standing rival was unforgivably showing her weaknesses, but then again, it struck her that the Abbess evidently didn't care - which meant that she didn't perceive her as an enemy to begin with.

"This is not the place for such conversation... Please, come... Let us talk about it..." she spoke, unsure what to say. The last thing Elena needed was a mentally-unstable Judicator aboard her ship, if nothing more. She hence resolved to talk more than act for a change like her crewmen had suggested already before.
Freedom doesn't mean being able to do as one please, but rather not to do as one doesn't please.

A fool sees religion as the truth. A smart man sees religion as a lie. A ruler sees religion as a useful tool.

The more God in one's mouth, the less in one's heart.

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New Frenco Empire
Powerbroker
 
Posts: 7787
Founded: Mar 14, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby New Frenco Empire » Tue May 02, 2017 3:00 am

What I did in the Amazon...I guess it'd be easier to say what I didn't do in that Goddess-forsaken jungle. It was my first job in the IIA. They told me to train and arm the Contras, and oversee their operations in Colombia. I did just that. They told me the Contras were fighting for the right thing, driving out the 'Cazadore' insurgents so they couldn't terrorize the unfortunate South American people.

It didn't take long for me to realize that wasn't really the case, but I persisted regardless. If not me, then who? Goddess, I still remember when I encountered her...she couldn't have been older than 14. Think about it...wronging a teenaged girl like that for the 'good of the Empire'. I was surprised it took her this long to come up to me with clenched fists...



Image AGENT JONOTHON ROLLINS

ABOARD THE MSS POLUNOCHNAYA, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 18th, 2152


"By the Goddess, get a room you two!" Rollins tutted as he examined Kelly's damaged nanosuit, laid out on the main table in the common area of their quarters. He had been working on fixing it for the better part of the day, hopefully getting it done before it's owner finished up the necessary physical therapy to get accustomed to his new augmentation.
Rachel and Harper looked up from their position on the couch, their flirtatious bit of snuggling interrupted. It had been two days since they started their relationship, and privacy was hard to come by.
Rachel blushed, while Harper chuckled. "Probably not the worst idea..."
"Umm...hehe, yeah..." The other complied in her usual fashion.
"I guess you two can have mine. Shit, I ain't even slept the past three days. Ain't doin' me much good right now. I don't want y'all keepin' the whole damned ship awake with your racket anyhow..." he said, throwing the keycard at them, which Rachel swiftly caught.
"Umm...thanks? I guess?" Rachel replied.
"Yeah, yeah...I need a smoke..." He groaned, slipping the safety goggles off and setting the nanite pen down.
He proceeded to walk out the door, however, as it slid open, he was greeted by a number of armed figures, at least five. Cazadores. At their head was none other than Lorenza Robina, who was toting her captured 14mm Elephant pistol.
"Ah, Agent Rollins!" She cooly said, malevolence in her tone. "You know, now that we've had a couple weeks to get settled in...I think my fighters and I finally figured out how I know you..."

"Is that right..." He said, curling his fists.
Without warning, Rollins lashed out with a spin, using his leg to knock one of the Cazadores off their feet. He darted to another dressed on some sort of bomb-disposal suit, disabling him with a swift punch to the jaw, smashing his helmet against his face, and throwing his disoriented body into another. He managed to secure one of their weapons, and aimed it at those that were left. However...it was too late once he realized...Robina wasn't in his line of sight.
Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain course through his skull as he fell to the floor. His vision flashed, and by the time he was reoriented, he was on the ground, Robina standing over him, the position of her gun suggesting she had whipped him across the back of the head with it.
"Damned Cazadores...always fightin' dirty..." Rollins groaned, rubbing at his head.
Robina mockingly laughed over him, flaunting her pistol. "Agent Rollins, do you take the Cazadores as a pack of idiots? I knew who you were long before I even boarded this ship! Your face is still on our kill-list - Jonathon 'The Butcher of San Gil' Rollins, Frenkish Intelligence. Known associate of the Contras and their leader, reactionary war criminal José Almagro."
The commotion prompted the doors to open once more, Rachel and Harper emerging. Rachel's hand was already curled around the grip of her Auto-9, and she immediately took aim at Robina. The Cazadores around returned the gesture, leading to a standoff. On the other hand, Harper's eyes had recoiled to the back of her skull, causing a replacement of the hazel globes with bone-white ones. She was ready to use her psionic capability to put an end to it, but hesitated, as it was sure to be grisly if she acted too prematurely...
"You ain't forgot about me, even after all this time? I'm flattered." Rollins sarcastically grinned, sitting up. "But you should probably update your intel - Almagro's been rottin' for almost thirty years."
"Almagro may be dead, but you still live." Robina said, raising the 14mm pistol closer to his head. This prompted Rachel to do the same.

"Just give me the word." Rachel sternly replied, her finger coiling around the trigger.
"Easy now. I have a feeling if they actually wanted me dead, I'd be dead by now. So that's your cue, Robina. Pull that trigger if you think it'll solve anything. If you think it'll make all those messed-up, cruel things I did in that jungle cease to exist, fuckin' go for it. As you can see, I ain't really in a position to stop ya..." He shrugged.
Robina merely huffed with a grin. "As much as I want to, I'm not going to kill you."
With that, she holstered the pistol and crossed her arms. "I remember watching the Contras burn down my father's farm...with him inside. I remember seeing you with them, standing off to the side, telling your handlers that the 'resistance was being mopped up'. The memories of what you and your thugs did to me that day will stay with me for the rest of my life...when I ran to the jungles, I met so many others who had the same experience..."
"I don't blame you for your disillusionment." Rollins blew. "It was fucked. I was young, looking to prove myself...if you're looking for an apology though...I regret what I did a million times over, make no mistake, but I just can't say-"
"Save your apologies! Coming from a Frenk, it wouldn't mean anything." Robina frowned. "I'm not here for that!"
"So?" Rollins asked. "Then what are you here for? Why did you attack me?"
"So. I have but one question for you. You had countless opportunities to sabotage this expedition...and hadn't. I joined this expedition not only to lend our support, but to keep a watch over you. No one here quite knows just how dangerous you are, but to those of us you and your ilk left in the Amazon, we never forgot. Why? Why are you here?" She asked.

Rollins merely chuckled. "Is that a rhetorical question?"
Robina drew her pistol once more and trained back on his head.
"Why are you here!"
"Put the gun away or your bloody brains will paint the wall!" Harper lashed out, uncharacteristically angry. Even Rachel was taken off guard, sparing a curious glance at her.
"Damn...I ain't ever heard her get that tone...real shit." Rollins chuckled as Robina looked at the source of the burst. "But fine, just so you don't get the wrong end of her psychic outburst...I'm here to help. Simply put. You think the Empire's just gonna let Trots run around the Sidh willy-nilly? No, we got a stake in this too..."
"So you're fighting alongside me?"
"...sure. But the longer I stare down the barrel of this Elephant gun, the more I get skeptical..."
"Then you have nothing to fear from me..." She said, holstering her gun for the last time. "I don't care what you did back there. As long as you reliably stay my ally-"
However, at that point, three Black Dragons acting as MPs for the ship, turned the corner into the hall.
"What in Lenin's name is going on here!?" One of the Chernydrakony said, keeping a close grip on his AVP.
"We're, uh...rehearsing for a play." Rollins said. "Think my good friend Lorenza and I might co-write a production about this once we get home. Real authentic. We still need extras to play Black Dragons...hint hint."
"Well, whatever it is, you've been reported as causing a disturbance! Desist!" The soldier ordered.
"Ah, spoilsport!" Rollins said, raising up. "But that's fine!
We know who we won't thank after our Broadway debut!
"
With that, the Chernydrakony departed. Before any other words could be exchanged, Robina silently waved her Cazadores away and departed without a word.
All except for two - the ones he knew as Alhambra and Riviera.
"Damn, hombre...you hit pretty hard for an old man!" Alhambra said, raising his EOD helmet and wiping a bit of blood from the corner of his cheek. "You probably could have kicked all our asses if the boss weren't here!"
"Well, I always say this old dog still has a little bite left in him..." Rollins replied with a friendly grin.
"Ha, now that's what I'm talkin' about!" Riviera chuckled with the signature rasp of a ghoul. "Take it from me, just 'cause we're old don't mean we have to take no shit! I'm sure you drink as hard as you fight. Why don't you join us in the bar?"
"Eh, why not? I'll catch up with you guys a little bit..." He called after the two as they departed.

"Hmm...that went well." Rollins chuckled, turning to Harper. "But I ain't ever seen you react like that..."
"It's just...they were Cazadores." She sighed, her eyes returning to their normal color. "They were the ones who...killed my mother. Back in the Bush Wars. I didn't mean to get so jumpy, it just sorta...came out."
"I'm sorry." Rollins sympathetically said.
"No, no. It's quite alright...but they said you were there? Back in the Canal War, I assume?"
"Yeah...it's...kind of a sensitive issue. Let's just say I wasn't proud of everything I did." Rollins nodded with a sigh. "I was the right man at the time, though. I used to be an undercity cop. You gotta practically be born with thick skin to handle that. I did what I had to do. That's what I keep telling myself, at least..."
"Still...if you wouldn't care, I'd maybe, uh...like to hear some of your experiences sometime. Just...whatever ones you don't mind bringing up." She nervously propositioned, trying her best not to make him uncomfortable. Rollins could tell she was out of her element here; she legitimately wanted this. "It's just...I just kinda want to know what it was like in those jungles. For my mother..."
Rollins merely gave another sigh. "You ain't makin' it easy to say no, but...I can't say no to that! Fine. Some day, I will tell you the morally questionable tale of twenty-something Rollins and his adventures in the Amazon. But...after that little episode, not today."
"I understand." Harper nodded. "I...I appreciate it, regardless."
"Whatever, whatever. You shouldn't be thanking me for some old stories that'll probably bore you to death! Anyway...I'm gonna suck down a smoke and grab a drink with my new pals. Anyone else game?"
The two reluctantly nodded.
"Hehe, alright then..."
NEW FRENCO EMPIRE

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Blakullar
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Wed May 03, 2017 6:16 am


Image GENERAL ELENA TROTSKAYA
MESS DECK, MSS POLUNOCHNAYA.


There were an extremely token few occasions where Trotskaya would be left utterly dumbstruck. This was without much doubt one of those occasions.

She and Serena had come out of the shower about an hour ago, and had come into the mess hall together when it was devoid of all but the Caretaker managing the bar. For the time being, they had been telling each other stories over a few drinks, Serena having brought a bottle of amasec and Trotskaya one of her favoured saperavi wine. During these stories, Trotskaya discovered that Serena was an incredibly similar woman to herself. Both were vicious warriors, both of them had undergone deeply traumatic experiences – though Trotskaya dared not compare hers to Serena's any longer – and both were deeply, almost religiously loyal to their respective ideologies. This was what had perplexed Trotskaya the most. Ippolyta continued to lurk at the back of the bar, watching the transpiring interaction between the two women like a hawk.

Yet throughout their conversation, something had been obviously bothering Serena, and Trotskaya could tell from the glint in her eye. She was just about to finish recounting the story of her first battle on a world named Caliban after Trotskaya had told her of the Trail of Bones campaign through central Europe, telling of her vision of a burning building and people falling from within. When she concluded, Trotskaya made her move.

"You have looked as if you wish to ask me something for the past five minutes."
"Why do you get pregnant?" Serena proceeded immediately, her expression deadpan and curious.

"To reproduce, obviously...?" Trotskaya did not quite understand her query.
"But I don't get why you humans so stubbornly cling to such an obsolete and inefficient method of reproduction," Serena announced. "You have the necessary technology to grow your offspring in vats. Why do you shy away from that?"

Trotskaya grimaced as if she had just been insulted.
"And reduce ourselves to the status of mere robots, manufactured on a production line like things? Abbess, know that I mean no offence to you or your species by comparing artificially-procreated people to robots, but the human mind is sacrosanct."

"True – it is the mind within the body, not the body itself, that makes a person," Serena did not relent. "It is foolish and ignorant of a species that has the technological means to direct their own evolution to reject the use of that capability."

"Improvement is one matter, but to actually create a personality and then pass it off as human?" Trotskaya continued, still bitter about the very notion of being vat-bred. "Where, then, stands the line between a person and a simple computer programme?"

After taking a breath and another swig of wine, she continued more calmly.
"Why, Abbess, do you build a robot?"

"Usually to do a job," Serena answered.
"To suit a particular purpose," Trotskaya spoke. "A thing, such as a robot, is typically created for a singular purpose. The Caretaker robots, for instance, are designed largely for housework and industry. A combat droid is designed to fight. Nothing more. What these robots lack is the capacity to reason – to make their own decisions independent of their base programming. This is why humans are so special, and why the Mechanocratic Ideology places them above all other creatures. To breed them on a production line is to imply that they exist for a singular purpose, to deny them the ability to make their own decisions. It is also why we Mecharussians view Frenks as subhuman, since Frenkish Eugenics has resulted in the creation of a creature that exists purely for recreational sex."

"But what of the fully-sapient AIs that your military employs?" Serena retorted. "Surely they have the capacity for reason, yet you continue to use them as mere tools for a singular purpose."

"I have never approved of Kolesnikov's work," Trotskaya referred to the scientist who created the artificial sentience in the Home Dimension. "From the moment that we granted machines the capability to think, we have made it impossible to divide them from humans without this division leading to catastrophe in the future. Equality between man and reasoning machine is a tenet that I enforce amongst my soldiers, and should I ever come to lead my nation, it will be one that I will enforce amongst my people. The collective freedom to decide one's evolutionary path is the right of every sentient species; to deny them that right would be to invite their wrath."

"The view of us Sidhae on the matter are actually somewhat similar to your own," Serena stated. "We just tend to distrust the motives of an intellect that doesn't share our outlook and perspective, preferring either semi-sapient AIs or ones that have at some point been living Sidhae, while your people prefer fully-sapient ones designed around Asimovian law."

"I see. Well, while we are on the topic of unorthodox, I gather that your ... experiences, also account directly for your sexual promiscuity," Trotskaya altered the subject, deliberately using 'experiences' as a euphemism in an attempt at sensitivity.

"Elena, I might be the big-bad Abbess who acts with the meticulousness and raw efficiency of a tool, but I'm still a woman with needs," Serena replied, taking mild offence. "A moderate addiction to hysteriat after my extensive torture also hasn't helped things. Besides, it's not that I don't appreciate cocks, it's the memories they bring back. After screwing many more men in one month than most women do in a lifetime, I'm afraid it'll take a truly special man to even win my interest, still get me into bed with him."

Out of the corner of her eye, Trotskaya noticed Ippolyta's eyes dim slightly at this particular topic of conversation, as if composing part of a thoughtful expression. The General herself, meanwhile, was again astounded. The formerly-maligned Judicatrix really was more similar to Trotskaya than she was comfortable believing.

"The same reason that I refrained from relationships for twenty-two long years," she stated. "For all of that time I had committed myself to celibacy, though the thought of hooking up with someone crossed my mind on many more occasions than I would ever be comfortable to admit. Yet it was only recently that I could ever truly find love again. Before that fateful one-night stand with Victor, there were two other men that I was considering. One was brigadier Andropov, an old, long-time friend and war-buddy who, failing Victor, I would without a doubt have fallen for. The other was Drakolich."

"Drakolich?" Serena screwed up her face in disgust at the mere mention of the wretch who had dared to threaten her and her lovers to her face two months back. "Why by the Emperor's blood would you ever want to shack up with a smug asshole like him?"

"Believe it or not, Drakolich does show a modicum of care for his peers on occasion," Trotskaya spoke with a wide grin. "Emphasis on the words modicum and on occasion. Usually he does so with an ulterior motive in mind. Yet our respect for each other is mutual and genuine. Besides ... between you and me, I happen to have something of a predilection for intelligent, muscular men with raven-black hair..."

"To each their own, I guess..." Serena shrugged, taking another sip of amasec. "We Sidhae tend to swing more towards men and women with scars to their name."
"Why ever would you do that?" Trotskaya sprouted a confused look.

"I'd have thought that'd be an obvious one," Serena reciprocated the expression that Trotskaya gave her. "The more scars you have, the more battles you've been in."

Trotskaya's bemusement swapped to interest.
"I have never held much respect for scars, personally. Victor has one huge, absolutely hideous one down his back, one that he received in a fight with a warg during his youth. It is possibly the only part of him that I dislike, and he can tell you how incessantly I have pestered him to be rid of the wretched thing. I see a scar as a concession to someone with the gall to oppose me. An admission to the world that I was weak enough to let that enemy leave his mark on my flesh. I have never willingly bowed to anyone, and while my mind is sound enough so that I may do something about it, I never will. That I seek to purge myself of such demarcations broadcasts the hatred that I have for those who act to oppose my country, my Ideology, and all else I believe in. They are scum, and by working to erase any immortalisations that they may carve onto my body, I illustrate just how insignificant and pathetic they really are."

"Victor did tell me you're a person who, in his words, 'lives and breathes' warfare," Serena remarked.
"He speaks correctly," Trotskaya confirmed. "The one scenario that always brings out the best in humanity is warfare. In the flames of battle, people must cooperate, toughen themselves up, learn how to protect themselves and their comrades. You must focus only on the survival of yourself and that which you love and cherish, or else you will be destroyed. The state of total war is the most perfect that mankind can and will ever be in. Here there is no room for individual trivialities: all must be devoted to the collective. If one deviates, then all will fall."

"Perhaps you should consider that next time you're about to flip out," Serena informed her.
"I am inclined to agree," Trotskaya stated, finishing her third glass of wine and pouring another.

"So ... quick question," Serena started, hesitating briefly as if about to ask a sensitive query. "Why do you let the fear of rape dominate your life, for lack of a better word?"
"My fear of the Second Rape stems from that of weakness," Trotskaya explained in a matter-of-fact manner. "If I am to die, I endeavour to do so in the heat of battle, laying my life on the line for the country and people that I serve, and I intend to take out many thousands before I finally meet such a beautiful death. My greatest nightmare of all is that if I am subjected to a hypothetical Second Rape, the rapist will not be so willing to spare my life as Vasiliy was. To die like a helpless sheep, crying like a pathetic wimp, is a fate that I would wish upon only my most hated foes. However, I will admit to have become somewhat complacent over the past few years. With Europe on its knees, the Syncretic Combine close to collapse and Harrigan kept at bay, there have been no competent enemies that could pose a serious threat to myself and my nation."

"Remember: the moment you get too comfortable, that's when your enemies will strike," Serena warned her. "You should take that into account when dealing with Alain. Winning a catfight when tempers on both sides flare is one thing, but when an Imperial Judicator is really out to get somebody, the intended victim most likely won't ever see it coming, and Alain is just such a Judicator."

"Then I search for a weakness," Trotskaya stated with confidence. "I do as I do prior to a battle, and analyse all potential weak-spots on both my army and his. Then I strike him where he is most vulnerable with all my might, and try my hardest to prevent myself from succumbing to the same. If Alain can bleed, then I can kill him."

"True, but then again, it only works if the intended target has any soft spots left to hurt," Serena countered. "Any animal is most dangerous when cornered, and Alain is just such an animal, having nothing left to lose. If you or I don't finish him off, some other Judicator eventually will, and he knows that. You're still looking at this the wrong way: you see yourself as the target, whereas it's Victor you should really be worried about. YOU may walk away from this virtually unscathed after we recover your children, but what about him? You saw his mental break on Sixteen July. That was just the hypothetical possibility of harm coming to his most beloved."

Trotskaya released a bitter sigh.
"I will not lie to you, Abbess, I gave sincere consideration to persuading the Supreme Leader to just wipe the Imperium off the face of the Multiverse once I learned of its nature through reading the Word and various other texts pertaining to your country's history. Indeed, I very nearly did after Sixteen July, so convinced I was that you were a threat..."

"What stopped you?" asked Serena.
"Well, you can award the prize for that to one Arcadius Drax," Trotskaya answered, smiling in fond reminiscence of the archistrategos' magnanimity. "It was his noble actions that convinced me that perhaps the Imperium is not as evil as I originally believed it to be. I still keep the direwolf pelt that he gifted to me in my wardrobe back home as a memento. But I do ask – why would the Imperium just let a threat like Alain run around for two months after being declared a traitor?"

"The Imperium is a big place for one man to hide in, especially for a man who doesn't want to be found, and even more so for a man who hides himself for a living," Serena snapped with a scowl. "You make tracking down a rogue Judicator sound as simple as going out shopping for groceries!"

"How difficult would it have been to have set a trap on Scatach for him?" Trotskaya queried. "SURELY if he was going to target Victor, there would have been the likeliest destination."

"Elena, if it were that bloody easy, don't you think I'd have done that myself?!" Serena barked. "And the inhibitions aren't just political or bureaucratic! Do you have any idea at all of how much I feel responsible for all of this? Do you honestly think I could ever show my face to him again after having failed him as a guide?"

Suddenly, it was all clear. Trotskaya paused to consider Serena's words – she claimed to have been able to terminate the renegade in an eyeblink. Yet, emotionally, would she ever be able to live with herself if it came down to that?

"I ... understand perfectly," Trotskaya enunciated afterward.
"Oh, please!" Serena angrily turned away. "You've no idea what it's like to be faced with the reality that you might be the one to put down your own brother-in-arms! The one you've trained and mentored like a dearly-beloved son!"

"That, Abbess, is where you are dead wrong," Trotskaya calmly assured. "Have you ever been told the story of Ephialtes?"
"What, the Spartan traitor at Thermopylae?" Serena continued to showcase hostility.

"Mecharussian propaganda enunciates that there are merely thirteen Chthonians who are still alive: myself and my twelve sword-siblings," Trotskaya proceeded. "There is, in fact, at least another. Ephialtes was once a Chthonian going by the name of Orfey. He was one of our most loyal and best, and I was honoured to have him fight by my side in the Salvagings. He fell in love with an outsider woman by the name of Yulia, and later married her. Unbeknownst to anyone else at the time, another Chthonian, Aristey the Swarmkeeper, lusted after her; when he discovered that she was happily married, he killed her in a fit of jealous rage. And I made the stupid mistake of believing the lying snake when Orfey charged him with her murder!"

Somewhat surprised at how similar this 'Orfey' character was to her Alain, Serena slowly turned back to face Trotskaya with interest as she continued her tale.
"I only discovered what Orfey had become just over a year back, having believed that he died a broken man alongside the Wakkanai Five on Hokkaido. He now serves alongside that monster Fred Harrigan under the blasphemous name of Ephialtes after he was taken under the ork's wing. A promising warrior and a great brother turned against his former friends and allies because of my own idiotic decisions, and I have been haunted by exactly the prospect of having to kill him myself ever since I learned that he is still alive. But I endure, and I prepare for the eventuality. That is what it means to be a Chthonian."

"What makes the Final Thirteen a force like no other on Earth is not any fancy technological gizmos or combat skill. Otherwise, any adequately-trained and sufficiently-augmented knucklehead could rightly consider himself a Chthonian. No, the essence of our brotherhood is endurance. We have faced some of the worst hells that war can throw at us in our decades of servitude to the Ideology, been subjected to the most horrific pains and had our numbers reduced from a hundred to merely thirteen in the space of ten years. And yet we endure. We do what is necessary for the greater good, for what we believe in."

"Anyway, I propose we redirect the subject," Trotskaya stated finally, recognising that Alain was an uncomfortable topic for Serena to discuss. "You mentioned that it would take a 'truly special man' to win your heart. What would you define as such?"

"Elena, are we really going to have this conversation again?" Serena chuckled, immediately catching onto what answer Trotskaya desired. "I already said Victor had the enthusiasm of a corpse when we were on Miramar. You're a very lucky woman indeed to have the affections of a man like him, and you should strive to remain worthy of them."

"So you would consider someone like Victor a viable partner?" Trotskaya questioned with a raised eyebrow and a smirk.
"Emphasis on the LIKE part," Serena expressed with a grin of her own. "I don't exactly make a habit of stealing other peoples' mates!"

"I see. But yes, we do have a lot in common, it seems," Trotskaya mused. "So ... why do we fight each other?"
"You tell me!" Serena replied.

"Well, since neither of us can come up with a good reason to maintain this idiotic artificial rivalry any longer, I am inclined to place a moratorium on it, and settle whatever differences remain after this mission," Trotskaya announced. "What say you?"

"Elena, I think we have ourselves an agreement," Serena smiled. "See how easy it is to get a Sidh to do what you want when you be civil? This being the third time I'm telling you that..."

Before Trotskaya could respond to Serena's sarcastic final comment, her communicator began to ring.
"Speak," she silenced it and answered.

"General, you might wanna come and see this!" The illuminant bulk of Andropov, calling from the bridge, took shape on the holoprojector.
"I am on my way," Trotskaya announced, closing down the projector.

"Let us go and see what it is he wants..." she stated as she prepared to depart the bar, finishing what was left of her current drink with a gulp.
Last edited by Blakullar on Wed May 03, 2017 6:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Sun May 07, 2017 10:40 am

LOCATION: Sedek System, Cygnus Rho cluster
Planet Sedek II

PLANETARY CLASSIFICATION: A-IIf
Type: Terran
Class: Death world, jungle
Surface gravity: 0.95 G
Day length: 23.8 hours
Population: est. 30 000
Environmental hazards: Dangerous wildlife, Class-5 biological hazards present.

TRAVEL ADVISORY: The jungles of Sedek II are populated by numerous species of dangerous wildlife and hosts to endemic Class-5 pathogens. There are no functional infrastructure or emergency services outside settlements, so leaving settled areas is strongly discouraged, any travellers doing so at their own risk.


---

MSS Polunochnaya bridge

"Welcome to Sedek II," Serena announced as she began the briefing, gesturing towards the verdant green world outside the illuminator, "For the next few days or so, we will be operating on this planet. Sedek is a tropical world, with the mean surface temperature of 32 degrees Celsius, but before you get your hopes up and break your swimsuits out, let me tell you that this place is no tropical paradise, if anything, it's more to the contrary. The local residents call these jungles the Green Hell, and for a good reason. This place is home to a host of dangerous carnivores, some the size of main battle tanks, and virulent diseases capable of killing a baseline human in a matter of hours. The air humidity is a constant 100% throughout much of the world, and there are more species of disease-carrying bloodsucking insects and other pests here than one can care to remember, so I hope you all have stocked up on deodorants and chemical weapons-grade mosquito repellents - you are going to need them."

"Sounds just like home," Robina quipped to her Cazador companions, the group chuckling in response.

"Make no mistake," Serena continued, giving the chuckling Hispanics an irate glance, "This ain't the woods of your back yard in Panama..."

"Nicaragua, man," Robina corrected her, "We're from Nicaragua!"

"...your back yard in Nicaragua!" Serena corrected herself, visibly displeased at the intrusion, "Pretty much anything bigger than a lapdog here can and will be trying to kill you. And also quite a few things smaller than that. And assuming they fail, the diseases they carry very well might succeed in their stead."

"Look, Priestess," the Cazador leader grinned, "We ain't scared of some native pests. All I need to know is where... they... are!"

And she promptly finished her demonstration of bravado with pointing her finger out like a gun and pulling a trigger.

"Yeah..! Real badass, Rob!" her companions laughed, exchanging fist-bumps with her.

"Are you done?!" the Abbess barked irately at the group, "I know you bunch fancy yourselves as experts of jungle warfare, and I get that, but this isn't your home turf anymore! In these jungles, you will have to put your money where your mouths are if any of you intend to make it out alive! Because this place has enough hideous ways to kill a man to put the Alpha Legion to shame! Do you have any idea what rapid rot will do to you in the hours before you eventually die?! And for future referrence, it's Abbess!"

"You mentioned dangerous native wildlife and diseases, among which this "rapid rot" you mentioned seems to stand out, Abbess," General Trotskaya interceded to defuse the situation, "Care to elaborate?"

"Rapid rot is a necrotic disease," Serena explained, fiddling with her tacticom for a demonstration, "Think of it as necrotizing fasciitis on steroids. It is spread by insect bites. Once contracted, the infected bite will develop a painful gangrenous ulcer, which will rapidly spread. If the infected limb isn't amputated immediately, in a few hours the victim will look something like this..."

Having found what she was looking for, the Abbess synced her tacticom to the main holo-display of the bridge and popped up an image of a rapid rot victim in an advanced stage of disease for demonstration. Pretty much everyone on the bridge including the cocky Cazadores gasped and instinctively recoiled in horror.

"Your subcutaneous tissue will rapidly putrefy. Your skin will die, blacken and begin to slough off in large sheets. As the disease progresses, consuming your flesh down to the bone, the ends of your extremities will begin to fall off. Every part of your body will exude gaseous decomposition products, the smell being incredibly vile. The stench of decay will attract insects which are abundant in these jungles, and they will lay eggs in your sores. They will hatch quickly, and by the end of the day, you will be crawling with maggots and other carrion-eating bugs flocking to feast on your corrupt flesh. Your lips, ears and nose will fall off, your hair will also come off, often along with pieces of your scalp. Sometimes the gasses and decomposition fluids will acumulate under your loosened skin, swelling to huge blisters full of putrid foulness until they burst, spraying everything and everyone near you with highly-infectious pus. Speaking in plain language, you will rot alive and look like a living corpse as you do," Serena lectured, piercingly staring at the visibly-distraught Cazadores as she flipped through one horrifying image after another, "And the real fun part - you will be alive and fully conscious to feel every bit of it before you eventually succumb to sepsis and total organ failure."

Content with seeing even the cocky Robina gulp at the thought, Serena turned to the rest of the audience and continued her lecture.

"I have seen men die from rapid rot, and trust me, it's not a sight you would wish to see. The real nasty part about this disease, however, is that it is very persistent in environment. One rapid rot victim's corpse in a stream can contaminate it for many miles downstream. Touching something that's been exposed to a victim's body fluids can likewise infect you through the smallest wound in your skin. If you are lucky, you will contract it by ingesting contaminated food or water, and rot from inside out rather than the other way around. It won't hurt any less, but at least it will be quicker. The usual course of the disease will kill you in two or three days, internal infection usually being fatal within 12 hours as you vomit and excrete copious amounts of blood and corruption along with bits of your internal organs before they eventually liquefy and you finally die. The real fun news, however, is that rapid rot also attacks synthetic tissue - which means that Sidhae and also the lot of you Russians aren't immune by virtue of being augmented."

"Surely you have developed ways of curing this most unpleasant ailment," medical officer Turchin stated almost hopefully.

"In theory it can be done," Serena said, "If you have advanced medical facilities and can get the victim there on time. Neither of which is obviously possible out in this jungle."

"We have the ship's sickbay," Turchin objected, "Surely that has to account for something, Abbess. What we might lack in equipment and expertise, your people have brought along."

"True. But how do you imagine carrying out an evacuation to the ship without any suitable LZ for the dropships? Most of this world is covered in thick jungle. We will have to rely mostly on land transportation on this one."

"I see... Well, then I guess we should be extra wary of catching this rapid rot," Turchin agreed.

"Rapid rot is only one of our current problems," Serena turned back to her lecture, "There is also it's little cousin eye-rot, a little less gruesome overall, but hardly a more pleasant bug to catch. As the name suggests, it is a variant of rapid rot that attacks exclusively eyes. Infection occurs by exposure to infected fluids, including drops of contaminated water. In an hour, one's eyes will redden and become hyper-sensitive. In three hours, tissue breakdown will start, damaging one's eyesight. At this point, the disease is beyond reversing, and blindness is guaranteed, optical replacement surgery being the only treatment after treating the disease itself. Your eyeballs will begin to swell, deforming and extruding from their sockets, putting great pressure on every nerve in and around them - a pain quite unlike any other. The pain alone is usually enough to drive the victim insane at this point. In six or seven hours, they will burst, releasing a torrent of infectious pus and blood, and you will be completely and permanently blinded, but eye-rot will not stop there. It will progress along your optical nerves into your brain. If you haven't gone insane from agony already, you most certainly will at this point as the disease will start to attack your brain directly, until at around 12 hours, it will be damaged beyond repair and you will die. Sometimes, for some unknown reason, it will stop at just damaging your brain and leave you to live on blinded, disfigured and insane - a fate even worse than death if you ask me. And, as with rapid rot, eye-rot is also capable of attacking synthetic tissue. Someone with cybernethic optics isn't safe either, since the disease can still bypass the mechanical bits and go straight for the optical nerves and brain."

"Can't immune-boosting nanites protect against it? Because I happen to have such an aug, as do you, probably your companions and most of the Chthonians as well," Trotskaya inquired.

"They can certainly stave these diseases off for a while," Serena explained, "But ultimately nanites will just delay their onset. If we don't manage to get you or whoever else might be infected to the medbay on a short notice, your organic parts will still suffer the same effects as any baseline human eventually. These diseases were designed specifically to defeat nanite-enhanced immune systems like ours, and considering how yours are considerably less sophisticated than Sidh ones, I have little reason to doubt that these pathogens will be just as effective on you as they are on the average Sidh."

"Wait, you said - designed?" Elena asked, "Are we talking about bio-weapons here?"

"Strictly speaking, yes," Serena explained, "Back before the Age of War, Sedek was a hive world, with a population of many billions. That was until the Feds bombarded it with various weaponized plagues in 2237. Testing their most potent creation, the Life Eater, was their main objective and in that objective, the Federation indeed succeeded. What was once a hive world home to 25 billion Sidhae now became a planet-sized tomb. Things didn't quite work out like they had expected, though. Life Eater was derived from industrial strains of genetically-engineered microbes used in organic waste disposal, designed to break down organic matter to it's basic constituents. While it did indeed succeed in killing most multicellular life over much of Sedek at first, the native lifeforms turned out to be a bit more adaptible than Fed bioweaponeers had expected. Surviving flora and wildlife consequently adapted and became resistant, if not necessarily immune, to the plague and eventually forced it to mutate into the milder strains currently found here. Since plant life was more resilient against Life Eater than most animals and the pestilence killed off most herbivores, flora was largely free to expand in the devastated world unchecked and quickly overran much of Sedek's landmass, forming the thick planetwide jungles we can currently see from orbit. It's a prime example of how a hyper-virulent disease can reshape an entire world's ecosystem."

"So how do we avoid this plague?" Trotskaya asked.

"As I said before, rapid rot and eye-rot spread by insect bites and by contact with contaminated fluids including water," Serena explained, "Personally I would recommend wearing fully enclosed powered armor at all times while out in the jungle and follow a strict decontamination protocol upon returning to the ship. Given the heat and humidity planetside, it's not going to be comfortable by any degree even with built-in climate control, but it will save a lot of trouble and quite possibly lives. To those who don't have or don't want to wear powered armor, I strongly recommend using insect repellents at all times and constantly monitoring each other for early signs of infection. Which also goes for everyone else with a power suit. Obviously, use only bottled water from the ship and do not consume any native plants or animals, or use antimicrobial filters in your survival kits and cook your food very thoroughly in case you absolutely must resort to native products. If hunting to survive, check your prey carefully for signs of disease, the various rots manifest similarly in animals as they do in people."

"You also mentioned the jungles being rife with predators," Ippolyta asked from behind Elena, "Anything in particular we should look out for?"

"Well, the first and foremost to beware of are the pantheraptors that those involved in the Scatach incident a year ago ought to be familiar with already," Serena stated, "The ones found here are much larger though, the biggest being nearly the size of a tank. Avoid them whenever possible. The ruins of the old hive cities are crawling with perigrums and greasels, which those involved on Scatach will also readily recognize as dangerous and unpleasant. The forest floor is also roamed by packs of viperwolves and a variety of venomous insects and reptiles. Out in the jungle, one should also be vary of carnivorous plants, most notably the vampvine, which can entangle and drain a man of his blood with ease. There are large airborne predators as well to beware of, though they mostly hunt in the skies above the jungle rather than on the forest floor. As an additional hazard, be careful around fire here. The oxygen content of Sedekeen atmosphere is almost twice that of Terra owing to the runaway plant growth that produced it in the centuries since the Age of War, and the atmosphere is noticably denser as well, so normally unremarkable combustion processes can be rather spectacular here. You might also want to use hearing protection around noisier processes normally tolerable in standard Terran atmosphere for the same reason."

"We will exercise all due caution to safeguard ourselves against these hazards, Abbess," Peley noted impatiently, "But maybe tell everyone finally why are we even here at this place!"

"Right," Serena nodded, switching the holo-display back to planetary map after showing everyone images of the mentioned predators to memorize, "Five days ago, a navigation buoy near Sedek picked up a transponder signature corresponding to that of the Avenger, it's bearing indicating a course for de-orbit. Two days later, the beacon of a Judicatorial equipment cache hidden on this world became active, indicating that the cache has been opened. Thus far, navigation buoys around Sedek have not detected any off-world traffic, so there's a good chance that Alain and his ship are still here. After consulting with General Trotskaya on the matter, we came to agreement that the best course of action would be to inspect the cache first and look for any leads towards Alain's whereabouts from there. The cache itself is located inside the ruins of a derelict hive city. Due to heavy overgrowth and rough terrain, no suitable landing zone exists anywhere within 80 kilometers nearby, meaning that Alain's crew has most likely accessed the site by a land route. This particular cache is no mere safebox, but a large storage room with over a hundred tonnes worth of equipment and supplies, and given Alain's precarious situation, he is going to need it all. To my knowledge, he has no dedicated cargo vehicles of his own, so it is possible that he has made efforts to procure them in the nearest settlement, a research outpost 500 clicks northeast of the cache site. Given the likely state of infrastructure between the cache and any of the nearest possible landing sites, his crew is probably still busy recovering supplies from it, so this gives us a good chance to find him. The current plan will require our crew to split up in four teams. One will investigate the outpost and question any present personnel. Two will be required to investigate the cache and the routes leading to the likeliest nearby landing sites, and one will remain aboard the Polunochnaya on standby as backup for either ground team."

"What local opposition can we expect?" Atalanta asked.

"Most probably none," Serena stated, "This is largely an unpopulated world, the few settlements here being research outposts and a token military garrison on the other side of the planet. While we can expect any locals to be well-armed because of the wildlife hazard, most of them are no soldiers and will not pose much of a threat. In other words, the natives are among the least of our problems here on Sedek. While we are at it, let me remind that all standard rules of engagement apply here - use of lethal force is not authorized until subject hostility has been positively confirmed. Native lifeforms obviously do not count, but there too I would strongly advise using discretion before pulling the trigger. Pantheraptors and a lot of other critters here have rather thick hides, so try your best to avoid rather than agitate them, and if you have to shoot, make damn sure you kill them."

The briefing continued with Serena handing the talking over to Elena, who would move on with the tactical part, dividing crewmembers into teams and assigning their respective tasks. She had already a while ago noticed Olhon check in a message on his tacticom and look visibly alarmed, her own having received a silent message as well, unable to read it over being busy with the briefing.

"A word in private, Abbess," Olhon whispered to Serena as she walked to the rear of the bridge.

"What is it?" Serena asked quietly in the furthest corner of the bridge.

"Check your tacticom. We've lost the Miraborg," the Judicator stated, showing Serena his tacticom.

The Abbess opened her own text message folder and read through the identical message, a deep frown setting on her forehead. It was a seemingly-routine situation report from Judicator Cassar, transmitted personally by him from his private QEC terminal. The cause of alarm, however, was the authentication code. The Order's agents had individual authentication codes that they were to memorize, to be included in all formal reports and messages directed to their superiors and fellow Judicators. They would use this code to access their QEC terminals and other comms equipment. Unknown to outsiders, however, was the underlying emergency protocol in the use of this code - if faced with an emergency, a Judicator could discreetly alert his fellows by entering an altered form of his authentication code, changing a one or several pre-determined letters or digits in the code. The encrypted comms terminal would still accept this code as valid, but would stamp the outgoing transmission with the altered code, highlighting it as an emergency transmission. The altered digit or letter itself would signify the exact nature of the emergency, allowing other Judicators to muster an appropriate response. This system was implemented to allow a compromised Judicator cell to warn others and call for help without alerting their enemies, a sort of built-in silent alarm.

"Omega-9-X, third, fourth and fifth symbols from the end," Olhon stated, examining the code stamped to the message, "Translates as situation critical, cell compromised, captured and under duress. And here's the funny thing - this message comes from Roshka system with a delay of 39 hours, way overdue and well outside Aquila Reach where Cassar and his crew were supposed to be operating after setting things straight on Miramar. Furthermore, I already checked data from the Order's deep-space surveillance buoy data in the region. Several in Melek system did pick up an interdimensional jump signature despite no such jump being scheduled or approved. So the question is - why did Judicator Cassar commence an unathorized ID jump, and where in Emperor's name did he spend 39 hours between reappearing in Roshka with a compromised ship as someone's prisoner. Moreover, as the shipboard emergency transmission protocol requires, there's also an automatically attached file of data from the ship's flight recorder for the past 24 hours. I haven't examined it yet, wanting to hear your impression first, but something tells me we're not going to like whatever we find in that file."

"I will notify other cells and the brass that we have another loose ship," Serena grumbled, "When the briefing is over, inform Elena of this discreetly. She doesn't need to know everything for now, just that we have unexpectedly lost an asset which may complicate our mission."
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Blakullar
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Founded: Sep 07, 2012
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Fri May 12, 2017 3:47 am


Image GENERAL ELENA TROTSKAYA
SITUATION ROOM, MSS POLUNOCHNAYA.


"With ample assistance from Abbess Romana, we have managed to devise a course of action in regards to the present mission at hand," Trotskaya commenced her part of the briefing in the Polunochnaya's situation room. "The Chthonians and the Cazadores are already well aware of the general details, but I get the distinct impression that Major Robina in particular will require a recap."

"With all due respect, General, me and my boys will be able to handle ourselves just fine," Robina interjected. "Like I said, we're the best, y'know?"
"Robina, you must understand that while the Veinte de la Parca may be the best of the best when it comes to jungle warfare back home, we are landing and will be operating on a world that is fundamentally alien to us," Trotskaya addressed the Cazador commander in a stern tone. "You will find yourself lasting a lot longer if you suppress your pride and listen to the Abbess' guidance."

Medveditsa had to visibly suppress a grin and stop herself from laughing, prompting a curt, displeased glance fired in her general direction by Trotskaya. Robina, meanwhile, contented herself with a sigh and backed down.

"Now..." Trotskaya continued. "There are two primary objectives for this mission. The first is to seize the Judicatorial supply cache before Alain can finish plundering it. The more assets that we can deprive him of, the better. The second is to locate the Avenger's landing site. We ambush one of Alain's cargo transports inside of the hive city, capture the marine commander alive if possible for interrogation, and proceed to the whereabouts of the Avenger's landing site. If capture proves impossible, then we will use other means to locate navigation data. Once we locate it, the Polunochnaya will disable the Avenger's engines with an EMP blast under full cloaking. This will, with any luck, give the ground teams ample time to board it, plant a thermobaric air-blast bomb in the fusion reactor core, seize the children and then evacuate, destroying the Avenger as we do."

"We will do this by dividing into four separate teams – designated Red, Gold, Blue and Green. I will be personally commanding Red team, consisting of Andropov, Alfa Group, Adonis and her decury, Fogarty and Parker, Argeas and O'Sullivan, Atalanta, Ippolyta, Akhilles, Persey, Balios and Xanthos, and finally Orthrus and Scylla Groups of the Black Dragons. That makes forty-six of us. Those without fully-enclosed powered armour will be travelling aboard the two Ural-7305 Khanka trucks that will carry our supplies. A BREM-41M heavy engineering and logistics vehicle, piloted by Fogarty and Parker, will lead the convoy to clear a path for the trucks if necessary, and six ART-51 light scout walkers will provide recon and fire support."

On the hologram, a bright yellow streak suddenly lit up, drawing a nearly straight line towards the hive city.

"Procured with assistance from the Abbess, a data tape containing a map of pre-war Sedek reveals the presence of an old highway leading straight to the hive city, and the highway in question just so happens to pass close to one of the potential landing sites. Once we land, it will be a trek of one hundred and twenty-seven kilometres. Presuming that the highway is persistently even, that translates to a ten-hour journey, but in reality it will most likely extend to sixteen hours, so we will set up camp at night along the road and continue at the crack of dawn."

"Gold Team will be commanded by Abbess Romana, and consist of Alaric, Dzheyson, Tesey, six of Robina's Cazadores and Rudnitsky's Hydra-I Group, totalling 20 individuals. You will use four of the Kosa hoverbikes in the cargo hold and one of the Prizrak gunships to travel ahead of everyone else and conduct advance reconnaissance of the hive city and environs prior to our arrival."

"Blue Team will be commanded by Agent Rollins, and consist of Golf Team, Judicator Olhon, Siri and Molot Group, totalling 16 individuals. You will take the other gunship and travel to a research outpost five hundred kilometres northeast of the cache site. I want you to investigate the possibility that Alain procured cargo transports from this outpost; with Judicators Olhon and Siri present, the locals should prove to be cooperative, and Molot Group will be there to provide extra muscle if they are not."

"One matter that must be attended to – your gunships won't be the only things flying around out there, nor the biggest," Serena suddenly interjected. "You are advised to be careful out there."

"Finally, Green Team will be commanded by Lieutenant Kameneva," Trotskaya continued. "The team – consisting of two Chernydrakon squads and the remaining Cazadores, totalling 34 individuals – will remain on standby as a quick-reaction force. They will deploy via portal at the first sign of trouble to whichever squad calls them, a call that should not fail as the Abbess and I have deemed it extremely unlikely that the particular opposing forces we will face will deploy portal-jamming equipment. The other concern that I have is that Alain may attempt to divert the QRF into an ambush via a false call, so I shall hand Kameneva a code-phrase to respond to in private. Only myself, Romana and Rollins will have access to the code-phrase in addition to Kameneva."

"Speaking of communications, I have access to the Abbess' tacticom and Rollins' DataPal as well as the Polunochnaya's onboard transceiver from my wrist-com, and vice-versa. This should enable the team commanders to transmit encrypted messages to each other. This is how the four teams will maintain contact – once we commence operations, radio silence MUST be maintained at all times unless there is a life-or-death emergency. I know for a fact that Alain has the means to hack our radio-comms, and I want there to be absolutely no chance of him listening in on us again."

"That concludes the brief," Trotskaya summated the address. "Ready your gear and steel yourselves for the coming journey. We depart no later than one hour!"


Image BRIGADIER VISARION TOKAREV
THIRTEEN KILOMETRES NORTH OF AZAZ, THE GREATER ISLAMIC CALIPHATE.


"Have you never noticed, Tokarev, that life is rather a lot like this game of chess?"
"Hmm... how so?"

"To begin with, you play against a little character that I like to call Fate. You must decide where to position your pieces – your life decisions, so to speak. Should you position them badly, then Fate will take the piece from you, never again to be reclaimed. To collect one of Fate's pieces, however, is to learn a new life experience."

Ever since they had landed outside of Azaz three hours ago, Tokarev and Drakolich had been occupying themselves with a holographic chessboard inside of the dropship. Berdan, meanwhile, was under the dropship, ensuring that every single widget and mechanism was in working order using his engineering skill, with Bulyagin and Pops giving him company. Sergeant Gorshkov, Corporal Bykov and Private Grishenko had been assigned to lookout duty, keeping an eye open for something on the horizon.

"Socrates once rightly said that the wisest man is he who knows nothing," Drakolich continued talking. "I will never admit that I know everything there is to know about everything, because put quite bluntly, I don't. In the dojo of life, there are no masters – there are only students. Every single day, every minute, every femtosecond, is a new knowledge awaiting experience. Play the game of life, and there will be plenty of experiences that you will pick up."

"Uh ... Mister Drakolich?" Berdan suddenly piped up, having been listening to the conversation while working and peering out from underneath. "Can I ask you a question?"
"But of course," Drakolich diverted his gaze from the board to him.

"Do you actually ... y'know, like anyone?" Berdan asked his query.
"I had friends once, as all have," Drakolich dutifully answered. "Even lovers. But all are lost to the mists of time and memory."

"What of that Manreaper woman?" Berdan pressed on. "Don't you like her? As a friend? A lover? Sister?"

Drakolich took a brief, three-second pause to consider the question.

"More like a daughter, actually," he answered, eventually. "I've known of her since the birth of the Chthonic brotherhood, but only got the chance to meet her when she was sixteen. That was twenty years ago. She was sold into sex slavery by the Thieves-in-Law, the same people who were also responsible for killing her older sister."
"Damn..." Bulyagin gasped. "It's pretty obvious she's fucked in the head, but I never thought it'd LITERALLY be the case..."

"When you said you taught her to sing..." Tokarev enquired as he pored over the board. "What did you mean by that?"
"The Song of Experience," Drakolich elaborated. "The cries of pain, anger, terror, sorrow and hatred. Composed by Trotskaya to strengthen her brothers and sisters against all hardship. Educated to the weak to make them strong: to turn pain and sorrow to resilience, anger and hatred to determination, and terror to courage. The scientific principle of theory and practice is applied to human emotion. The Song is the purest example of Mechanocratic Ideological thought, the hard logic of reason, utilised for the betterment of the passionate mind."

"So, uh, what did you do to Ippolyta to make her ... 'strong'?" asked Berdan.
"What was necessary," Drakolich answered. "In the first few days of our being together, she was rather similar to Trotskaya. She was terrified of being raped again. Of having her flesh violated. She asked me to teach her to sing – to transform her fears into courage. So I did just that."

"In other words, you raped her yourself?" Bulyagin's eyes narrowed.
"As I've already said, I did what was necessary to make her strong," Drakolich repeated himself.

"So what role does she play in this little, uh ... game of yours?" Tokarev asked as he played the next move.
"Ippolyta is my most powerful piece – my queen, so to speak. It is in fact this purpose where she derives her moniker: Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons. Before then, she went by the title of Artemida. If the rooks, the knights and the bishops cannot break through, the queen is the last resort. If Trotskaya is taken, then Ippolyta will with any luck rescue the present game."

"But surely this Fate character, if you've played enough games of metaphorical chess with him, or her, he will know your tactics off by heart?" enquired Berdan.
"The Manreaper's fifth law of war, Berdan, is that deceit and trickery is the cornerstone to all warfare," Drakolich enunciated. "I've learned that the secret is to distract Fate for long enough to prevent him from flipping the table. Now all that I must do is find out how to distract him..."

"Checkmate," Tokarev announced all of a sudden.
Drakolich turned his attention back to the board to ascertain the veracity of the assertion. What greeted his eyes caused them to widen with surprise and his smirk to drop like a lead balloon. Having castled his king on the left of the board at the beginning of the game, he failed to notice that he had inadvertently positioned his queen where Tokarev could take it with a knight. With two of his pawns waiting to take the king on the left side, his knight about to close in from above right and a rook ready to attack from the front, the path cleared by the knight, it was clear that there would be no escape for the doomed king this time.

"Not bad..." Drakolich conceded defeat with a smile. "You're getting a lot better!"
"The first time I've beaten you in five games..." Tokarev noted. "Looks like you're losing ground, Chthonian."

"Heads up!" Bykov could be heard calling, interrupting the conversation. "We got movement!"

Sure enough, as Tokarev, Drakolich and the others turned to where it was Bykov was pointing too, they observed a cloud of dust arising in the distance. Closer inspection would reveal a convoy of trucks and jeeps traversing the dusty desert floor, all headed from the nearby town of Azaz to the Mecharussian gathering. The lead vehicle, a technical bearing a heavy machine gun, stopped close by to the dropship's landing site, its engine audibly dying down. The other vehicles, two covered flatbed trucks and another technical, did likewise, their procession coming to a halt along the dirt track. Flying from the bonnet of the first covered truck was a black flag, a crudely written white Shahada incantation imposed above a Seal of Muhammad. From within each of the vehicles stepped out a group of soldiers, all of them recognisably clad in desert camouflage Soviet-era battledress uniforms. Some wore black balaclavas, others shemaghs, and a few could be seen with welding masks. All of them were carrying older weapons once used by the MAF: Ivankov carbines, RPN-66-3 microguns, AV-38 assault rifles, and more than a few RPG-40s. The soldiers gathered immediately identified them, from photographs and videos, as the footsoldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Most prominent of them all was an elderly man, of swarthy complexion and a silvering brown beard on his face. From his right eye a soulless, brilliant red cyber-optic beamed a discomforting gaze from an otherwise indifferent, calm expression. Atop his head was a black turban, a small red feather appended to the front and facing upward. The rest of him was dressed in a similar battledress to the rest of the jihadists, with the exception of a long-sleeved brown duster jacket that hid his hands from view.

"Gentlemen..." he started, speaking in grating, Iraqi-accented English, "...allow me to welcome you to the Islamic State."
"Emir Saqqaf, it's been a while!" Drakolich started in a jovial tone. "Please, meet the gang – you already know Bellerofont and Drago's crew, so no introductions required there. This, however, is Grand-Brigadier Visarion Tokarev of the Third Aerofleet. Tokarev, this is Emir Saqqaf of the Islamic State."

"The survivor of that incident with the Lenin a year back," Saqqaf recognised the name and addressed him. "My sincere condolences to your fallen comrades."
"It's appreciated, sir," Tokarev received the greeting and shook hands, Saqqaf revealing his right hand to do the deed.

"Hey, hey guys, watch this..." Bulyagin whispered to Berdan and Pops, evidently planning some unpleasant trick up his sleeve. The soldier ensured that he was next to greet the emir, pushing his way to the front.

"Pleased to meet you!" Bulyagin outstretched his left hand to shake, knowing full well how this gesture was likely to be received in the Islamic world. Berdan and Pops could hardly contain their laughter, while Tokarev slapped his palm against his face in exasperation. The jihadists exchanged glances to each other, evidently in silent debate over whether to ventilate the insolent Mecharussian for such an insult to their leader.

Saqqaf, however, had other ideas.
"I am honoured..." he revealed his left hand – which turned out to be a menacing triple-digit power claw – and grabbed hold of Bulyagin's.

"AAAAAAARGH!!! OWOWOWOWOWOW!!!" Bulyagin suddenly found his hand being crushed under an immense, vicelike force. Berdan and Pops stopped their chuckling dead in their tracks, their mouths open with shock. Saqqaf, a smug grin crawling up his face, held the writhing Bulyagin in his hands for three seconds more, before releasing him and leaving him with a bruised, aching hand.

"Now, I gather you didn't just bring these soldiers here to insult me, Mister Drakolich?" Saqqaf addressed the Chthonian, still grinning.
"Not at all," Drakolich answered, shooting a disapproving glance to the three ex-gangsters before resuming his usual nonchalance. "We're investigating the murder of Ekaterina Golovkina in connection to the incident at the hospital a couple of weeks back, and we have a theory that the murderers may have made their way to Tartus."

"There are no aliens here, if that's what you're asking," Saqqaf stated. "I did, however, get a freedom of movement request from some odd-looking mercenaries three weeks back, and they have been operating around the Tartus area ever since."
"Odd-looking mercenaries..." Drakolich mused. "I don't suppose you'd care to elaborate?"

"All I know is this – they were using some strange equipment I've never seen before," Saqqaf explained as far as was possible. "None of it Russian or even Western. It was a completely unique design."

Drakolich paused for thought, his grin sliding away.

"Do you happen to have any physical evidence of the equipment in question?" he asked, eventually.
"I have only a photograph taken from one of the CCTV cameras at the Tartus port," Saqqaf stated, producing a holodisk from one of his coat's pockets. "It shows one of the vehicles they've been using for ... whatever it is they're doing."

Drakolich accepted the holodisk and activated it. Into prominence exploded the monochromatic image of a bizarre-looking jeep – Drakolich examined the video photograph with great interest, before deactivating it and handing it back to Saqqaf.

"Many thanks, Emir," he announced. "It's entirely possible that we'll be needing your assistance in the coming days. Can I rely on your men to be on standby?"
"As always, Hound," Saqqaf confirmed. "Will you be requiring an escort?"
"No thank you, we will be more than able to make our own way," Drakolich stated. "We will take our leave, and the assistance is much appreciated."
Last edited by Blakullar on Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:52 am, edited 3 times in total.
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New Frenco Empire
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Founded: Mar 14, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby New Frenco Empire » Thu May 18, 2017 5:29 am

We still didn't know the Asimov was followin' us, but sure enough, it was hot on our heels. Little did we know, it was partially our fault.

Clever fuckin' broad...buggin' us all...



Image MILLY

ABOARD THE FIS ISAAC ASIMOV, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 19th, 2152


At the hour, the bar was mostly quiet, with the soft tune playing overhead being completely audible. It was a strange quiet - there were bound to at least be a small group always in attendance, be it through the usual periods of business between shifts or, at this time for sure, definitely personnel getting off of their graveyard shifts. Currently however, the only patron attending was the swarthy-haired beauty everyone had known as "Milly". She was currently tinkering with a small machine of some sort, occasionally sipping from a glass of scotch poured from an expensive-looking bottle.
She sat in complete solace, focused on her invention. Until she heard a noise. It must have been that time...

Milly turned and noted a familiar, blonde-headed individual standing at the bar's entrance archway. Just as expected...
As she entered, Smyth waved for the two Black Guardsmen accompanying her to stand outside the bar and prevent anyone from entering, else they happened upon something they didn't need to hear...or see.
Smyth in-particular had been keeping a fairly low-profile aboard the ship. Most people didn't know she was the head of intelligence for the Empire, and even still, she was a celebrity to most. An actress. Not the brilliant (if ever-so-slightly demented) mind behind Imperial intelligence.

Milly nodded as Smyth sat at the bar, humming along to the music as she did so. She turned to the robotic bartender; a standard three-limbs, three-optics, globe-shaped utility bot, it's thruster allowing it to gently float about two feet above the ground. The limb connecting one of the optics to it's body had a black bowtie pinned onto it, seemingly to give patrons a more relaxed feel around it.
"Why good evening, mistress!" The bot echoed in it's usual cheery, yet completely artificial British accent as all three of it's limbs were working on wiping down glasses and surfaces. "What shall I serve you tonight?"
"A big, tall glass of nothing, my wires-and-steel chum!" The woman cheerfully answered. "How's about you take ten? Help yourself to a lovely pile of nuclear waste, or...whatever it is robots do when they aren't working!"
"Of course, mistress!" It stated without hesitation. "After Mister Bjorn's latest and rather desperate attempt to...ahem, reprogram me in the hopes that I distribute him alcohol, I'm certainly looking forward to oil the old circuits and wash that particular stink off, uhum!"
As the bot slowly glided towards the back area behind the bar, Smyth leaned in closer to Milly, beaming.
"How have you been love! We haven't been able to see each other in so long!" She happily exclaimed. "So...how are you liking the chassis?"

"Well enough, I suppose..." Milly said, scanning her voluptuous frame. "It is certainly an amusing change. Yes...I would say I am getting quite attached to this particular frame. I am considering keeping it around for further study."
"Boys and their toys!" Smyth huffed. "Anyway, the intel! I'm sure you're dying to hear it!"
"Alright, the brief me on-" Milly began, but was quickly interrupted.
"Stop, the anticipation is too much! I bugged them!" Smyth clapped. "Little, tiny bugs on them! I can see and hear basically anything they can see and hear! I'm basically always with them! Be it when they sit on meetings with the big gal herself, or...when they go to, uh, defecate. Always!"
"Are they unaware of such?" Milly said, taking a light sip from her glass. "From what you have suggested prior, at least one of these particular agents are...rather friendly with them..."
"Don't tell me you take me as an amatuer! I work really, really hard!" Smyth whined. "Of course they don't know they're being bugged. And unless they go digging through their eyeballs, they won't find out either. Why, that would be silly!"
"Through their optical augmentations? Clever, I will admit." Milly grinned. "And what of the Commonwealther I understand accompanied them? You have proper precautions in place?"
"All it took was me shaking her lovely little hand to get a bug in there!" Smyth smiled.
"Excellent." Milly nodded, finishing off the glass.

"Mistress, a Vanguard requests your direct audience." One of the Black Guards suddenly said in the signature monotone.
"Ah, Richards! My very best friend in the whole wide world!" Smyth excitedly leaped. "Send him in, send him in!"
Richards was one of the Vanguards who often stood guard for Rockwell. Rockwell, knowing Smyth's true nature, but generally disregarding her for her often destructive methods. Since Rockwell wouldn't share, Smyth found her own assets...
"So, Richards, what's the good news?" Smyth asked.
"Judicator Halko used his clearance to subtly get some Ranger reconnaissance teams planetside." Richards nodded. "Steele and his troops investigated all known locations of the Polunochnaya's crew, but uncovered nothing...nothing but a ravaged prison camp."
"A 'ravaged prison camp'?" Milly blinked. "Surely they did not assault a fortification of the Sidh governance..."
"Halko mentioned that he talked of...'complications' with the Sidh on the planet in regards to local law enforcement, but spoke nothing more of it." He stated.
"Ah, no matter then. Do we have any leads towards our next destination?"
"Yes, yes, yes! Our next stop, Richards!" Smyth agreed.
"We have been en-route to the 'Sedek' system ever since the Rangers were recalled." Richards confirmed.
"Hmm...'Sedek'?" Smyth inquired. "Sounds lovely! Fifty credits says it's a tropical paradise, filled with the most lovely beaches and swimming holes!"

Little did she know...


Image AGENT JONOTHON ROLLINS

ABOARD THE MSS POLUNOCHNAYA, SEDEK SURFACE, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 19th, 2152


Rollins walked the hangar, his team in-tow (with the exception of Hadrian, who was still on crutches. Despite his pleading to get out and do something, Rollins wouldn't have it). Rollins and Rachel had their nanosuits, Harper her BDU, and Darcy just a casual outfit. Molot and their Sidh companions were already awaiting them at the gunship, as far as he knew, and he didn't intend to keep them waiting for too long. He had one of the easier jobs, he knew, but these isolated researchers provided the best chance of quickly locating Alain. He wanted it quick and clean, as always.
"Rachel, Harper...I don't want to spook these eggheads. And unless they come at us blastin', I don't plan on usin' Molot or the gunship. Y'all will wait behind in whatever landing zone they give us while we get the business done with. Olhon and Siri will do most of the talkin' and relay it back to us. If I need to act in my authority as commander of the section, one of 'em can translate for me. Darcy, you'll come with us. If these people prove uncooperative, you know what to do."
"Sure..." Darcy nodded, quickly rubbing at one of her temples.
"Awww, I can't speak to the nice Sidh bug-studiers?" Harper asked.
"Well, unless you know the Sidh language, I don't think you'll find much luck. For now, we gotta rely on Poindexter and Poindexter Junior." Rollins said, nodding at Olhon and Siri as they approached the dropship.
"Like I always say...quick and clean..." He muttered one last time, waving his comrades inside, eager to get on the job once more...
NEW FRENCO EMPIRE

Transferring information from disorganized notes into presentable factbooks is way too time consuming for a procrastinator. Just ask if you have questions.
Plutocratic Evil Empire™ situated in a post-apocalyptic Decopunk North America. Extreme PMT, yet socially stuck in the interwar/immediate post-war era, with Jazz music and flapper culture alongside nanotechnology and Martian colonies. Tier I power of the Frencoverse.


Las Palmeras wrote:Roaring 20s but in the future and with mutants

Alyakia wrote:you are a modern poet
Top Hits of 2132! (Imperial Public Radio)
Coming at you from Fort Orwell! (Imperial Forces Network)



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Imperium Sidhicum
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Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Thu May 18, 2017 6:52 am

Sedek II
Gold Team

The Prizrak gunship pierced through the cloud cover with a thunderous sonic boom, spooking flocks of native avian creatures in the jungle canopy below that took to wing. The misty jungles below didn't look much different from those of Amazonas, New Guantanamo, Nueva Colombia, Pandora or any number of other jungle worlds that Serena could think of. If anything, even much of the lifeforms found here weren't originally native to Sedek, many especially among the larger predators originally hailing from the Federation jungle world of Pandora. The said planet was a scientific curiosity in many respects, and the Sidhae had put it's many dangerous native lifeforms to good use before the Age of War, seeding them on many of their own worlds and making their own native environment a tad bit more dangerous.

Such was the Sidh way. If there were no real challenges to be found, they would make themselves some, simply to have some sense of danger in their lives no matter where they were, to avoid growing lazy and complacent like the Feds or the Frenks were.

"So what exactly are we supposed to look out for while airborne, Abbess," Rudnitsky inquired. The man was evidently displeased with having to be under the loathed Sidh's command, largely unaware beyond rumor about Elena and the Judicatrix having made peace and set aside their differences.

"Leonopteryxes," Serena explained, "The smaller ones might not do much harm to the gunship on their own, but they're still big enough to make for the mother of all birdstrikes if hit, and usually travel in large flocks. The bigger ones... Well, they're big enough to give even a proper Imperial Navy Thunderhawk a pause, and strong enough to tear this measly gunship open like a can of spam and eat whoever's inside. Fortunately, they prefer to nest on cliffs, and there aren't any of either in our current flight path."

"What do these leono-things look like?" the pilot asked from over in the cockpit.

"Just look out for anything from the size of a car to a city bus that looks vaguely like a dragon," Serena explained in simple terms.

"A dragon... You mean something like that?" the pilot pointed outside the cockpit window.

"Yes! PULL UP!" Serena cried out as the flock of leonopteryxes rose from the forest straight into the gunship's flight path.

Moments later, everyone who hadn't properly buckled up was rather violently thrown around inside as the pilot desperately struggled to dodge the startled beasts. Two heavy impacts, one of which sprayed the cockpit window with purplish blood, and a master alarm going off indicated that at least two unfortunate creatures had made contact with the gunship's hull. Only tense seconds later did the pilot finally manage to recover control over his aircraft.

"Status check!"

"All systems go, minor damage to the starboard engine, front re-entry plating integrity compromised," the co-pilot informed after running through systems diagnostics, "We'll need to have that replaced before we can make another endo-atmospheric run from space."

"You said there wouldn't be any of those damn things in our current route!" Rudnitsky angrily barked at Serena.

"I said there shouldn't be any," the Abbess responded with her usual nonchalance, which had a way of disarming most people.

"Fair enough," the Chernodrakon grumbled, "If you've somehow managed to seduce the General into trusting you now, it is not my place to question her, but if any of my boys die down here because of your incompetence, you will know my wrath..."

"Oh, I'm sure I will..." Serena almost laughed, prompting more irate gazes from Rudnitsky and his men. The only way the Chernodrakon captain might have made good on his threats was if he caught Serena asleep, and he knew that as well as the Abbess. Serena had never quite understood the point of making futile threats that the humans and also some Sidhae were so fond of.

"Alright, two minutes to drop zone, I suggest everyone mount up and get ready!" the pilot announced.

---

Team Blue
En route to the research station

"Looks like at least one of us is going to be having fun on this trip," Harper sighed with frustration over the trip taking considerably longer than expected, passing a glance towards Siri. The blonde Sidh girl had her face practically glued to the illuminator, eyes wide and shining brightly in excitement as she muttered the incomprehensible scientific names of various plants and creatures seen in the jungle below, occasionally fiddling with her tacticom to identify a particular creature or plant whose name eluded her memory. Her mentor Olhon couldn't help but smile at his disciple's enthusiasm.

"Ease up there," Rollins tapped on her shoulder with a grin, "Think of this as a trip to a tropical paradise!"

"Well, I ain't much of a jungle person..." the psyker grumbled, truly being more comfortable with the chilling cold of her native Antarctica rather than the heat and humidity likely to be found in this alien jungle.

"So, Judicator," Rollins turned to Olhon, "Do you reckon the scientists here will be cooperative?"

"They will," the Sidh curtly stated, "Even if they were disinclined to cooperate, they know better than to refuse a Judicator. Problem is, Alain is the Judicator and we are the degenerate scumbag mercs pursuing him as far as they know."

"So you are expecting resistence after all?"

"Possibly. The "eggheads" here, as you fancied to describe them, are still mostly ex-military, so they do know their way around a gun rather well - if only because those who don't rarely live long in this jungle, and even the ones without military background have at least basic Auxilia training. Given the nature of the native fauna, there is bound to be an abundance of weapons in the research station," Olhon described the situation, "However, from the personnel roster I've been able to dig up, most of them also haven't done proper soldiering in decades, their combat experiences being limited to big game hunting here on Sedek and a few other worlds. Their armaments are also mostly second-rate older stuff. So as long as they don't bring their air defenses online while we are still airborne, we will have a decisive upper hand once on foot."

"Air defenses? What's the AA guns for in a science outpost of all places?" Lawrence interjected.

"To keep away the flying beasts, obviously," Olhon said, "Didn't you listen in the briefing?"

"I was... uh... preoccupied..." the frail girl blushed slightly, "I will keep that in mind!"

"So who do we talk to once on the ground?" Rollins continued.

"According to my dossier here, Dr. Sallustus Reven is the overseer of this outpost," Olhon stated, flipping on his tacticom holo-display that showed the portrait of an aging Sidh with a green optical implant and numerous cables and wires running into the back of his head, "A well-respected xenobiologist with over 230 publications. If Alain has been here, Dr. Reven will know it for certain. As for being "on the ground", I'm afraid that will not quite be the case..."

And the Judicator grinned enigmatically.

"What do you mean by that?" the crew inquired suspiciously.

"You'll see..." the Sidh only kept on smiling.

---

"What were you preoccupied with back in the briefing?" Rollins turned to his psionic comrade at lowered voice after ending the exchange with the Judicator. The Sidhae made no apparent effort to listen in, but he still spoke at half-voice as a matter of discretion.

"I... uh..." Darcy wasn't sure what to say, "I was observing Siri. I find her very fascinating. You have noticed how she seems to be on the needles lately?"

"I've noticed..."

"Well, to me it would seem she's taken a fancy of that handsome young Sidh, the other of Judicator Olhon's apprentices."

"Really? Did you try to read her mind?"

"No need. Isn't it obvious already? The way her eyes widen whenever she sees him or speaks to him, the way she blushes whenever he accidentally touches her, the way her breath wells and seizes up in her chest when he is near... Poor girl is crazy about him, and the real fascinating thing, she doesn't even seem to understand what is happening to her."

"They'd make a very cute couple, I'd say," Rachel picked up on the conversation.

"She's like a girl having her first period without ever being told what it is or why it's happening," Darcy continued, "Poor lass now has to figure it all out on her own, and her towering intellect is genuinely struggling with that."

"I imagine it must be difficult for her..." Rachel stated, "We ought to help her ought!"

"This is the moment I must say no," Rollins intervened, "Siri is a Sidh. However difficult it might be for her, it's still her private affair, and she would take nothing short of offense at our intrusion. She'll have to figure this one out herself in any case."

"We're almost there," Olhon suddenly announced, interrupting the exchange of gossip, "Pilot, please inform the control tower about our approach and request clearance to land. And don't take any shit if they claim they have no free landing pads, I'm currently reading all of them being clear."

---

The gunship approached what appeared to be a mountain at first, emerging from the mist-covered jungles around and standing several times their height. At first, the structure looked like something between a tree and a cluster of mushrooms. Only as the gunship flew closer did the visitors inside realize that the research outpost was in fact a tree.

The colossal plant towered easily 600 meters high, far above the rest of the jungle, it's gargantuan trunk reaching over a hundred meters in diameter near the base. Roughly two thirds of the way from the ground where the tree began to branch, the tree trunk itself was surrounded by several layers of electric wire, evidently to keep any native predators with climbing abilities away. Then began the research outpost itself, it's four landing pads being placed at the ends of major branches, and easily capable of accomodating four Thunderhawks flying abreast each. The flat, circular pads gave the whole installation a somewhat mushroom-esque appearance from the distance. The rest of the outpost were various modest hab blocks and modular buildings attached to each other and the giant branches, partly hidden in the foliage, interconnected with tubes and catwalks, everything seeming large enough to house at least 100 people. The numerous AA turrets housing intimidating dual guns that surrounded the landing pads attested that security was being taken rather seriously here.

"I'll be damn..." Rollins gasped, "THAT is one REALLY BIG tree!"

"Boss, you have a talent for understatement..." Darcy stated, looking almost as awestruck as Siri, who almost squeaked in joy upon witnessing this wonder of nature and engineering and now observed every branch, nook and cranny with her keen eyes, almost drooling as she did.

"Alright, everyone," Olhon used the last opportunity to address the team, "You all know the drill - be civil, stay safe, do not fire unless fired upon. With luck, this will be the easiest job on this mission yet!"
Freedom doesn't mean being able to do as one please, but rather not to do as one doesn't please.

A fool sees religion as the truth. A smart man sees religion as a lie. A ruler sees religion as a useful tool.

The more God in one's mouth, the less in one's heart.

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Blakullar
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Founded: Sep 07, 2012
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Sat May 20, 2017 2:35 am


Image IPPOLYTA THE MANREAPER
92 KILOMETRES FROM THE AREA OF OPERATIONS, SEDEK II.


A deep, resonant boom shuddered through the air in tandem with a lightning-bolt lancing the heavens above. The ancient, dilapidated highway that Red Team was presently traversing was being battered by a torrent of rain, one component of a Sedekeen tropical storm. The force was travelling as a convoy, with a BREM-41M engineering vehicle leading the way. Fogarty was at the controls in a crew-cabin suitably large enough to accommodate his enhanced size, with Ippolyta and Atalanta both posted astride the war machine to serve as lookouts, both sitting beside the heavy duty crane-mounted plasma torch.

On the ground was Adonis and her decury, followed by the twenty Chernydrakony of Orthrus and Scylla Groups. Akhilles, being too gigantic in his hulking power-suit to fit into a Khanka truck, lumbered along the engineering vehicle's right flank, with Balios and Xanthos prowling the left. The remainder of Red Team was posted in the first Khanka behind the BREM, the other truck carrying the team's supplies and ammunition reserves. Watching over both flanks of the convoy as well as the rear were the six ART-51 scout walkers, automated models rather than the piloted ones that those present for Sixteen July would have recognised in the Red Guard's service.

Ippolyta's optics were far brighter than normal, indicating that she had activated their infrared vision mode as she scanned the trees alongside the highway path. The spectacle of her glowing eyes made her even more unsettling than normal to observe, making her appear almost like a crocodile lurking in the bush. Being exposed along with Atalanta to the elements, her disposition was clearly negative. This was because, on volunteering to serve as a lookout, she had expected there to be as sunny and warm as it was at the Polunochnaya's landing site. It was a most unpleasant surprise, then, when just an hour ago the heavens had opened up their bowels and blasted the Manreaper and the convoy with this torrential downpour.

"Someone told me looooong ago... there's a calm befooorrre the storm..."
Murder took shape in Ippolyta's illuminant optics as soon as she heard the Anglophonic lyrics to the next song on the radio playing inside of the engineering vehicle's cabin, recognising the song in question immediately. Of all the wretched tracks that Fogarty could have chosen to play at this time...

"Foggy, ignoring your questionable taste in music for a second ... COULD YOU HAVE PICKED A MORE RETARDED BLOODY SONG FOR THE OCCASION?!" she turned to Fogarty in the cab and barked in English.

"It'll rain a suuuunny day, I know-ow – shinin' down like water..."
"Sorry, Ippo – my radio, my songs!" Fogarty waved her off with a smirk. "Besides, did you know I'm descended from the Fogerty brothers who did the original music?"

"Aaaiiii wanna know-ow ... have you evaahh seen the raaain?"
"Yes, asshole, I've seen the damn rain..." Ippolyta grumbled in response to the music. It would appear that she would have to continue listening to the radio's mockery as the heavens unloaded their contents onto her head. She continued to listen to the music for another ten seconds, as Fogarty joined in the second chorus. Reason told the Manreaper that he was not mocking her, yet why else would he pick the one song in the entirety of Credence Clearwater Revival's repertoire of musical tracks that talked about rain in a tropical storm?

At once, however, her optics lit up with malevolent glee, a gaze made altogether more unsettling by the clownish grin of her facemask.

"Alright!" Her attention was turned to Adonis and her decury. "Since I otherwise have to listen to Foggy and his ancestors mock me with their contextual dreck, who wants to hear a heartwarming tale?"

"Define 'heartwarming'..." enquired Adonis.
"'Emotionally rewarding or uplifting'," Ippolyta recited the dictionary definition in a snarky monotone. "SEE? I can be a smartass too! Anyway, the story is called Little Red Riding Hood."

"Oh, sweet Christ..." Atalanta seemed to know what was coming and groaned in her mother-tongue as Ippolyta commenced her ostensibly heartwarming tale:
"First things first, I wanna set straight a common misconception pertaining to names. Little Red wasn't named such because her hood was red – it was because her EYES were red! Her hood and cloak was black! Dark as night. And don't you ever forget it!"

"Noted," Adonis announced in an indifferent tone.
"Now..." Ippolyta began in earnest. "Once upon a time, there lived in the sleepy town of Moscow a young-"

"Hang on – wasn't Little Red Riding Hood set in the forest?" Nero suddenly noted, interrupting the Manreaper's tale.
"That's what the capitalist pigdogs in Frenk Land want you to think!" Ippolyta 'corrected' the Sidh soldier with an unfriendly glare. "Anyway, there lived in the sleepy town of Moscow a young girl beloved by all. She had eyes as red as blood, wore a hood as dark as night, teeth filed to fangs, and hair the colour of cream. She lived in a ho-hum apartment in Yakimanka district with her aunt and her sister, just south of the Organic Ghetto on Bolotniy Island. One day, Little Red was asked nicely by her aunt to take a basket-full of cakes to her grandma's apartment in Tverskoye district. Because apparently it was the norm to get your brother's youngest child to do all your stupid, pointless errands despite the fact that you yourself have two working legs and a pulse!!!"

For but a second Ippolyta's optics flared a brilliant crimson in apparent frustration. An invigorating breath of the oxygen-rich Sedekeen atmosphere, however, was sufficient to calm her down, and she pressed on.

"And so Little Red had to take this basket of cakes – which were in fact reefer brownies, by the way; more on that later – across the Bolotniy ghetto to reach grandma's house. Along the way, past all the drunks and other assorted unpleasants, she was accosted by a man wearing a big black telogreika – let's say his name was the Big Bad Wolf. He wanted to know why in the name of Brezhnev's great ghost a fifteen year-old girl was carrying a basket of ass-ramming cakes into such a dangerous district of Moscow! Because let's face it, who wasn't wondering? Anyway, upon having Little Red explain at knifepoint that she was delivering the basket of cakes to her grandma, the Wolf decided to take a shortcut and go to the house herself..."

"Hold it – if the cakes were reefer brownies, why didn't the dumbass just rob her there and then?" Nero interjected again.
"Because that wouldn't make for a very interesting story now, WOULD IT?!" Ippolyta countered, before continuing: "But yes, when the Big Bad Wolf arrived at grandma's apartment, he decided to snort a pocket's worth of LSD-flakka blend before breaking down the door and, in a fit of drug-induced rage, stabbed the clueless old bag to death with a spoon and proceeded to cannibalise her mangled dead body. In one of those spectacular 'oh-fuck' moments that I'm all too familiar with, the Wolf suddenly realised what he'd done and remembered that Little Red was presently on her way to hand her recently-deceased grandmother a ludicrously-huge stash of reefer brownies. So he decided to do the obvious – he'd try and fool the girl by adopting the guise of her grandma. Which inevitably involved dressing up in drag. Now..."

The Manreaper rubbed her hands together, evidently getting onto the interesting part.

"In a momentary lapse of judgement in that indescribably childlike manner, Little Red – while just outside the apartment building where her grandma lived – decided to sneak one of the brownies into her gob. Logically, not realising that she had just eaten a reefer brownie, the weed inside it began to hit her immediately. Being high as a fucking kite by this point, she obviously doesn't notice that the door to her grandma's house has been smashed open as she staggers in, or the display of absolute carnage inside the house that resulted from the Wolf savagely murdering its inhabitant. So she totters over to the bedroom where the Wolf was residing..."

"Wait, how exactly would she mistake the wolf for her grandma?" This time the interrupter was Adonis.
"REEFER BROWNIES!!!" Ippolyta roared, eyes briefly flaring again before concluding her narrative: "Anyway, as soon as the Big Bad Wolf saw her, he jumped out of the bed, intent on devouring Little Red as he had her grandma. Except little did the dumb, drug-addled Armenian queen know that Little Red had sufficient combat skills to knock every single one of those big teeth down his cock-sucking throat in one punch. Then she found this massive fuck-off sledgehammer, and smashed the Wolf's head into the ground so hard his skull exploded. Like, seriously, there were splats of blood everywhere, and bits of bone and brains scattered all over the place. It was awesome... Anyway, after her glorious victory over the Wolf, Little Red decided to give all the reefer brownies intended for her recently-deceased grandma to a bunch of gopniks, before inviting them to a wild party at grandma's house. And everybody got absolutely wasted on the brownies, bootleg vodka and enough krokodil to fill a suitcase! And, after the pounding hangover the next morning, Little Red lived happily ever fucking after! THE END."

A dramatic pause, where the only noise was made by the vehicles and the clattering of raindrops on the forest floor and asphalt.

"Riiiight..." Adonis spoke up, after three seconds. "I get the distinct impression that some names have been changed to protect identity..."
"Why, whatever makes you think that...?" Ippolyta rested her chin on both hands and projected a most unsettling gaze towards the decurion from her brightening red optics.

Fortunately for all who were listening to Ippolyta's storytelling, the song came to its conclusion.

"...and that was Have You Ever Seen the Rain?, a more modern tune from Nineteen Seventy!" the radio announcer stated, his voice bearing a distinct northeast American accent. "Nineteen Seventy... You ever wonder what life was like back then, Bill?"

"It's difficult to imagine, Mike, what without all them luxuries we got in the modern day..." The other broadcaster enunciated, his with a drawl distinctly southern. "Back then, they didn't even have gold-darned robots to do all the chores! They hired PEOPLE to do housework and stuff for 'em, and even then only the rich could afford 'em! They were called 'maids' or somethin'. Makes me glad we live in the good ol' present - what kinda doggone idjits would hire our kind to do a tribal's work!"

"It does indeed, Bill. We'll be back after a short commercial break with more relics from the good old days. Stay tuned to Classics!"
"Claa-siiiiics!" A feminine choir repeated the station name in gleeful unison.

"Hm..." Ippolyta dimmed her thoughtful eyes. Until this point she had been paying little attention to the radio, yet now that her sensors were more focused on it, what was coming from the radio bore a strange familiarity.

"Y'know, the Frenks back home have a radio station a lot like this one," she stated to Adonis. "I didn't even know there was a Sidh audience willing to hear old American-style rock music. I always thought you guys hated everything that even remotely looked human."
"Nor did I," Adonis noted. "But then, I guess you really do learn something new every day..."

"Heh, I just thought on..." Atalanta jumped into the conversation. "What are the chances the Frenklanders have sent a ship after us specifically to bother us with their radio?"
"I find that to be very unlikely," Akhilles addressed her in his rumbling mechanical intone, a voice that mimicked the low thunder resounding from above.

Without any warning, however, the convoy began to slow down, the fusion reactors of the trucks eventually powering down and drawing the machines to a halt. The hatch atop the Khanka just behind the engineering vehicle opened up, and out of the top appeared General Trotskaya herself.

"Fogarty, why have we stopped?" she enquired.
"Well, we've kinda run into a little problem..." Fogarty answered, gesturing forward.

Trotskaya clambered out of the hatch to catch a better look herself, jumping down onto the asphalt with a stony clang. Her battle-dress was markedly different from what she was normally observed wearing, lacking the trailing cloak to begin with. Additionally, her armour was, rather than the typical grey of her everyday armour, primarily black with the occasional spot of silver and crimson. Slotted onto her back was, in addition to the Excidium greatsword, a customised RIP-25 ion blaster, her primary weapon for proper combat operations. Fobos and Deymos were slotted into sheaths on, respectively, her left and right hip slots. In addition, she was carrying the front part of her helmet under her arm, the rest evidently being worn beneath her crimson plasteel hood.

The obstacle to Red Team's prowess was evident: what had clearly been a bridge spanning a river at some point had been utterly demolished, the midsection completely gone along with most of this side and the other. As she peered below, Trotskaya recognised something moving through the water. Closer inspection unveiled it as some sort of gigantic crocodile lurking below the rain-battered surface.
"Wouldn't wanna go for a swim with one of them milling around..." Adonis voiced with a nervous twang.

"Why did Gold not inform us of this when they passed over this river three hours ago?" Trotskaya queried.
"This looks like a fairly-recent job," Fogarty noted. "You can still see scorch marks on some of the foliage from the explosives used."

"It would seem that we have more to worry about out here than mere beasts..." Trotskaya stated. "Is there another way across the river?"
"Geographical scans from the Polunochnaya indicate the presence of a shallow crossing thirty miles south of here," Akhilles announced. "However, we will have to traverse the jungle in order to reach it."

Trotskaya's teeth gritted together in her closed mouth. It was precisely this that she wanted to avoid.
"Very well," she began. "Inform all units to heighten combat readiness to maximum; we will head for the river crossing. Fogarty, lead the way!"

Pivoting fifty degrees to the left on its treads, the massive engineering vehicle commenced its detour, the walkers and trucks backing away to give the machine ample room to manoeuvre. As the machine turned to face the jungle before it, the massive spiked mine-rollers on its front began to lower with an audible mechanised whirr, spinning forwards with a shrill crescendo. A sudden orchestra of woody crunch sounds announced that the roller had struck foliage, copious leaves and the occasional branch shooting out from the sides immediately afterward. The rollers were designed to be able to tear apart concrete bunkers standing before it, so bushes, the periodic tree and any small creature unfortunate enough to be caught under the rollers clearly represented no issue. What the rollers could not defeat became fodder for the plasma torch, even the mighty barrage of rain doing little to abate a stream of superheated deuterium incinerating whatever might appear. As the BREM proceeded through the jungle, a clear path was left in its wake, strewn with bits of ripped-up plant matter, allowing the trucks, walkers, squads and Akhilles to follow.

While the convoy proceeded along its new route, Trotskaya slotted on the mask-part of her helmet, the optics on the demonic faceplate beginning to glow a deep red. She began to type a message into her wrist-communicator to send to the other group leaders...

"Detour required for Red Team following unforeseen complications, expected time of arrival to A-O increased by three hours. Enemy may be aware of our presence – exercise great caution."
Last edited by Blakullar on Sat May 20, 2017 2:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Imperium Sidhicum
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Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Wed May 24, 2017 1:48 pm

Blue Team
Research Outpost 05
Sedek II

The Prizrak gunship's engines whined to a halt on one of the landing pads, the crew inside breathing a sigh of relief as the intimidating AA turrets trained at the ship powered down and returned to scanning the sky around. Apparently dangerous flying creatures weren't the only problem out here, the guns having locked on the ship once it came into range and kept tracking it even after Olhon transmitted his Judicatorial clearance.

"From the looks of it, the welcome party doesn't look very welcoming at all..." Rollins stated, thoughtfully glancing at a heavily armed outfit of power-armored Sidhae that exited from the nearest structure that was ostensibly a loading bay, "Are they going to be a problem?"

"We'll see," Olhon responded, "Just keep your cool. Pirates aren't unheard of in these parts, so the folks here are understandably cautious."

As the gunship's door opened, the thick, humid air from the outside rushed in with an audible hiss. Everyone inside felt unpleasant stinging in their ears as the pressure equalized. With the considerably higher atmospheric pressure of Sedek, the inhaled air felt unusually dense, almost like breathing a soup, movement likewise feeling strange as if going against wind even while the air was still. However, each breath was also unusually invigorating because of the high oxygen content.

"Breathe slowly," Olhon instructed everyone, "If you overdo it, you might get oxygen poisoning, and you don't want that to happen especially in this jungle."

His voice sounded unusually loud even though he didn't raise his voice above the usual, the dense air making every sound seem louder.

The group of armored Sidhae meanwhile stopped at a safe distance, their stance being non-aggressive but indicating readiness to take up arms at the first sign of trouble. Rollins noted the general lack of ornamentation on their power suits that were painted in a pixellated green jungle camo pattern, the only identifying marks being a double-helix symbol and "05" on their shoulder pauldrons.

"Welcome, Judicator Olhon," an aged Sidh in a lab coat greeted the arrivals, emerging from behind his armored escorts, "What brings you to our humble research station?"

The team immediately recognized in him Dr. Sallustus Reven, the chief science officer of this station. The man could hardly be mistaken for anyone else - his right eye was replaced with a bulky cyber-implant glowing a dim green, numerous cables and wires going into the right side of his skull that was entirely replaced by a metal plate. Still others reached behind his back, where a utility pack sporting four spindly mecha-limbs was mounted. Doctor's left arm was entirely prosthetic, the grey metal "bones" intertwined with exposed cables and myomer bundles, not covered in synthetic skin as was usually the Sidh practice. Apparently the researchers here had little reason to value aesthetics over functionality.

"Business, obviously," Olhon replied briefly, "You do seem rather... agitated about our arrival, doctor."

"Oh, that..." the doctor looked around at his armored guardians, "We can never be too cautious on this planet. Not every visitor of Sedek has honest intents in mind, you know... Stand down, lads!"

The armored men assumed a more relaxed stance, slinging their energy rifles back to their charging slots on their backs as a sign of standing down.

While Olhon was busy conversing with the doctor, Rollins subtly nudged Lawrence. The psyker closed her eyes, concentrating and attempting to sense any hostile intent.

"Their minds... It's as if they all come installed with mental firewalls," she said quietly as the doctor turned and gestured the arrivals to follow inside, "I cannot sense anything for certain, not without alerting them to my intrusion. I do, however, sense... fear in the doctor and those other scientist types. I can't tell what it is they are afraid of, though."

"Noted," Rollins nodded, "Let's see if we can learn anything more inside..."

The group entered the loading bay, positioned along with the attached landing pad on one of the giant tree's branches, the single branch rivalling the largest giant sequoias of Old Terra in size and breadth. The interior was plain and utilitarian, the ubiquitous Gothic decor of Sidh facilities patently absent, save for an Imperial Aquila prominently painted above the door in the far end of the room. Crates of various equipment, barrels and pressure tanks of various chemicals were neatly stacked in meticulous order that only a machine or a Sidh could reasonably maintain. Two men in hulking power loader suits were busy placing crates on a rail platform, the rails leading to a cargo elevator.

"As you can see, this is one of our four loading bays," the doctor informed, "The control tower and the operations room are located above, the main laboratories are in the floors below. We are currently 564 meters above ground level. There is an elevator shaft bored through the tree all the way down, and we are currently busy making another one. You wouldn't believe if I told you how hard it is to cut through this wood. It's almost as hard as granite in places, requiring mining drills and jackhammers to cut through."

"I have read your publications about Sedekeen biology, doctor," Siri interjected, "The one about the material properties of kelutral wood was among my favourites."

"Ah, a fellow scholar, I see," the doctor seemed pleasantly surprised, "My apologies, we haven't had the opportunity to introduce ourselves, miss!"

"Siri," the young Judicatrix extended her hand with an excited smile, "Thalgor Quintus State University, PhD in bioengineering and applied nanotechnology, specializing in nanotechnological applications in synthetic biology! It's an honour to meet you, Dr. Reven!"

"The honour is mine, Lady Judicatrix. I find it most pleasing to see a fellow scientist in the ranks of the Order," the doctor courteously responded.

"Just a disciple," Siri humbly corrected, "Could you please tell me more about the osmotic properties of kelutral wood..."

"I'm sure you and the good doctor will have plenty of time to discuss your scientific interests later," Olhon interrupted her with a smile before his disciple could properly embark on an hours-long dialogue in nerdspeak about esoteric subjects that none without a doctorate in biology could even hope to understand, "Right now we have business to attend. Doctor, I happen to be interested in a fellow Judicator who landed on this world a few days ago. We believe he might have visited this station and requisitioned some supplies, vehicles maybe? Surely you would know about it?"

"It's my job to know everything that goes on in this station, Judicator," Dr. Reven stated, a visible look of unease on his face, "And yes, there indeed was a Judicator visiting our station some five days back. Requisitioned all of our ATATs, said he would provide us with coordinates of where to pick them up when he'd be done doing whatever he's here for."

"ATATs?" Rollins inquired.

"All-Terrain Armored Transports," the doctor explained, "You don't seem to be from around here. And you're human, which I find most unusual for a serviceman of the Order."

"Mercs," Olhon explained, "Never hurts to have a few extra guns on a job."

"Well, since it is obviously not my place to be privy about what that job involves, perhaps I could welcome your crew to lunch, Judicator," the doctor offered, still looking visibly nervous.

"I sense deception in him," Lawrence whispered to Rollins, "There's something he's not telling us, but out of fear rather than malice."

Just as the doctor led the group towards the elevator down to the lower levels past a group of scientists, the Molot group soldiers walking behind removed their helmets. The biggest and burliest of them revealed a bald pointy-eared square-jawed face of deep blue hue, beady red eyes and protruding tusks.

The scientists gawked in shock and surprise before rushing towards the surprised Ork like a swarm of bees. Dr. Reven turned around to see what the commotion was about, only for his own jaw to drop in surprise.

"You have xenos in your retinue, Judicator?!" he almost cried out in excitement, barely restraining himself for the sake of decorum, "I have never seen a creature like this before! How exciting..."

Meanwhile, the Ork stood in the middle of scientists, confused and upset as they proceeded to examine and prod him from all sides.

"Ay, what all you gits lookin' at?!" he grumbled, shoving one of the more intrusive Sidhae back, "Vasya don't like funny syyenz-boyz lookin' an' pokin' a'him!"

"It speaks!" Dr. Reven exclaimed, joining his curious underlings in examining the Ork, "I mean - of course, it speaks... And in Russian at that... What a marvellous creature! Is it dangerous?"

"Only if you piss it off," the Molot group commander explained, visibly amused by the situation.

"Ey, boss, do sumfin'! These syyenz-grots are gettin' mighty annoyin', but da General said no killin' an' smashin' unleff dey'z shootin' us first!" the Ork protested as one of the scientists started to examine it's tusks.

"Could we take this creature to the labs and run some tests?" Dr. Reven asked, "Does it have a name?"

"You should ask him," the Molot commander grinned, "He's a free man like the rest of us. Just be sure to ask in Russian, he doesn't speak your tongue or English."

"Can you understand me? What is your name?" Reven spoke to the Ork in rather good Russian, enunciating his words slowly as if speaking to a mentally-retarded child.

"Wha' kinda git qwestiun'z dat!? Aw'course Vasya undaffands ya!" Vasya the Ork grumbled.

"Will you come with me? I do some tests on you, tests - good, hurt - no-no!" Reven continued, emphasizing his words with gestures, unsure how accurate his assessment of this creature's rather low intellect was.

"Urrrr... Vasya don't like tefts!" the ork protested, "Ya white-coated syyenz-boyz awways so curiuz, awways prod Vasya, afk Vasya funny qwestiunz, stikk Vasya needlz in funny playcez... Vasya don't like dat!"

"Offer him something to eat," Olhon suggested, barely able to suppress laughter like most of the group, "Meat would be my choice."

"If Vasya come with me, Vasya get meat, lots of meat!" Reven continued to persuade Vasya, "Understand - meat? Lots and lots, yum-yum!"

"Urrrr... Wiv gravy an' pikklz?" the ork grumbled, unsure whether he disliked scientific tests or his ever-rumbling stomach more and looking at his commander for help.

"Yes, gravy and pickles much, all for Vasya, yum-yum! Come?" Dr. Reven encouraged the creature.

The ork gave one final desperate look at his commander.

"Better grab it while it's hot, Vasya," the man said, himself barely suppressing laughter.

"Urrrgh... Awright, Vasya cum wiv ya... Juft no funny bizness, syyenz-boy!"

"You should have seen Siri when she first saw an ork," Olhon said to Rollins, grinning widely as the confused ork was escorted to the elevator by the excited scientists.

---

Gold Team
50 km from area of operations

The gunship flew at treetop height over the derelict highway at a leisurely pace. Since the sensors had repeatedly picked up flocks of leonopteryxes nearby, none risked to venture outside with hoverbikes. Thus far, there was no sign of danger besides frequent pings on the ground radar indicating large creatures in the jungle below.

"So, if those leono-things we ran in back there are the small ones, what are the big ones like?" the pilot asked Serena who was standing in the door behind him, watching the skies outside the window carefully.

"The native xenos of Pandora where they originally come from call them the "last shadow", because it's usually the last thing you see. Folks around here call them Banshees or Stukas," the Abbess explained, "That's because they usually come at you with the sun behind them, like Stuka bombers of Old Terra, and the last thing you hear is a blood-curdling shriek. Before the sound of your own bones crunching in their jaws, that is."

"Sounds pretty grim..." Robina remarked from back in the cargo hold, "But surely we can waste these "banshees" with the firepower we got onboard."

"If we spot them first, sure," Serena agreed, "But with all this thick atmosphere, they have an edge on maneuverability on us."

"Indeed," the pilot agreed, "For the past 15 minutes, the engines have been running near red. I hope the fans will hold with this amount of drag and oxygen."

"Hey, wanna hear a joke?" Alaric spoke up to lighten the mood, "Do you know what's the difference between a Jew and a hagfish?"

"Tell me..." Serena grinned.

"One is a slimy blood-sucking bottom-feeding parasite," Alaric explained, "The other is a fish."

"That's racist!" Robina stated amidst peals of laughter that followed, "I didn't take you tank-breds for anti-semites!"

"Don't make much difference to us what kind of humans to poke fun at," Alaric grinned, "No offense."

"I take that there isn't much ethnic or cultural diversity among you bunch," the Cazador leader spoke.

"That's because there is none," Serena explained with a tinge of pride, "We have put such petty divisions behind us. One either is a Sidh, or is not, that's all there is to it. If you want to be the special snowflake and have some identity other than Sidh after you convert, then you are obviously in the wrong damn place."

"Sounds pretty boring to me..." Dzheyson remarked, "Hearing the same language, seeing the same customs, same architecture wherever you go... Don't you get in the least bit bored by that?"

"Why?" Serena seemed baffled by the question, "Isn't that what foreign lands are for?"

"Heads up!" the debate was interrupted by the co-pilot, "Large signature 12'o'clock high, 1000 meters and closing fast!"

"Fighter?" Serena was alarmed immediately, taking back to scanning the sky.

"Negative, looks like a biological..." the co-pilot spoke after examining the signature closer, "Could that be one of those leono-stukas?"

Serena didn't respond, her eyes narrowing and pupils fading to metallic white as her retinal filters triggered, protecting her sight from the bright sunlight as she looked directly at the sun. Moments later, a dark shadow seemed to shade the gunship for an instant.

"BRAAAACE!!!" Serena shrieked, her scream being joined by a rasping, blood-curdling shriek from outside the ship.

Next instant, the ship shook as if struck by the hammer of Thor himself. Everyone inside was thrown around violently like rag dolls, sparks and smoke exploding from damaged circuits everywhere, master alarm whining ominously. With a piercing creak, the metal plates on the port side were breached by giant talons. Moments later, the metal parted, and a terrified Chernodrakon sitting closest to the breach was snatched by a huge bright-orange crested head that reached inside on a long snaking neck. The creature's physiognomy somewhat resembled that of a basilisk from ancient manuscripts with it's stiff rooster-like crest and dewlap. Instead of a beak, this creature had a huge mouth full of dagger-like teeth, each of them easily the size of a combat knife, it's vicious beady eyes already scanning for the next victim as it plucked the unfortunate soldier outside.

Holding onto the wildly-spinning gunship with it's massive talons, the leonopteryx tossed the screaming Chernodrakon up before biting the poor man in two, swallowing his lower half whole and then nimbly catching the still-screaming upper part in mid-air and devouring it likewise. Unleashing a triumphant shriek, the monster then reached in for a new victim.

"BAIL OUT! BAIL OUT! BAIL OUT!" Serena bellowed, holding to the door aisle, an Enforcer popping out in her free hand. She fired several plasma bolts at the creature's head, aiming for it's eyes, but missed, the blasts merely scorching the beast's bony head and irritating it even more. The Cazadores took to their guns and opened fire, but the hail of bullets likewise proved ineffective against it's tough hide, doing more damage than good as the rounds riccocheted everywhere inside, wounding one of the shooters and two Chernodrakony present. In retaliation, the leonopteryx lashed out again, biting the head and a huge chunk of torso out of one of the Cazadores, leaving a clean V-shaped bite down to the man's solar plexus. The headless corpse dropped to the floor, spraying blood everywhere profusely.

"Prizrak One, going down! Mayday, mayday!" the co-pilot shouted in the radio frantically as the ship spun wildly, desperately trying to recover control. The chief pilot laid limply on the controls, a bullet hole and a trickle of blood from the back of his helmet indicating he'd been struck by one of the riccocheting Cazador bullets.

Tesey powered up his fusion shortsword and rushed forwards, attempting to ram the glowing blade down the beast's throat as it struck for another bit, when the gunship struck the tree canopy below. Shaken off-balance, the Chthonian missed his stab and struggled to regain footing when the snarling leonopteryx bit into his right arm with a sickening crunch.

"AAAAAAAGHHH!" Tesey screamed in shock and pain, struggling with all his augmented might against the beast - to be pulled out of the ship would mean certain death. The leonopteryx tightened it's grip as the ship began to crash down through the canopy, the Chthonian's augmented bones giving way in it's teeth. Alaric made his way closer to the creature's head and started to hack at it with his holo-blade, finally nicking it close to the eyes after repeated efforts. Shrieking angrily, the monster finally let go just as the last bones and tendons snapped, Tesey's forearm and sword clattering to the floor and the creature recoiling back, retaining a sizable chunk of the Chthonian's arm in it's mouth. Before it could strike again, the ship tilted to the starboard side heavily and crashed downwards, throwing the survivors inside about violently. Finally, after a brief fall, the gunship stopped rather softly.

Everyone begin to stand up on what used to be the starboard side wall of the gunship, now facing downwards, groaning and grunting. There was blood everywhere, several men were crying and moaning, evidently having broken limbs from the violent fall or the loose equipment crates being tossed around. Tesey was nursing his amputated arm, Dzheyson hurrying to tend his battle-brother's wounds.

"We're alive!" a Chernodrakon soldier cheered relievedly, standing directly underneath the hole torn by the leonopteryx. The falling leaves and angry shrieks above indicated the creature was unable to tear through the thick canopy.

Lying on her back in the door aisle to the cabin, Serena took a quick glance at the ship's altimeter and slowly turned to the cargo bay.

"Nobody. Fucking. Move." her voice rang like steel.

"What? Why?" the jubilant Chernodrakon seemed surprised.

"We're still 84 meters above ground, and I don't know how much longer those wines are going to hold us..." Serena hissed, gesturing for him to move very slowly.

"What do you mean - 84 meters..."

The soldier never finished when the familiar bright-orange leonopteryx head returned with a wrath from above, bolting inside and snatching the hapless man out of the gunship. His panicked screams of horror were silenced by a sickening crunch, a shower of blood and gore raining down from above into the gunship and marking his grisly demise.

"Valery! Nooo..." Captain Rudnitsky cried out in helpless anger, rushing forwards despite being too far and too late.

"NO, DON'T..." Serena shouted in warning, but too late. With an ominous creak, the ship began to tilt downwards, everyone grabbing onto something for dear life. With sharp whip-like cracks, the vines that had thus far held the wrecked ship started to snap and finally gave way.

"OH, SHIIIIIIIT...!" was the last thing Serena heard in free-fall before the violent impact against the ground knocked her out for good.

---

90 km from the area of operations

"Hurry up, Cassius! We've got mighty lot of movement in the bushes! The beasties are getting restless!"

"Gimme a moment! We muck this up, and the boss is going to have our asses for tomorrow's breakfast!"

The decury of Judicatorial marines was getting increasingly restless as they worked. The torrential rain wasn't helping things one bit.

"Why in the Emperor's ass-ramming name did that crazy bastard have to pick this shithole of all the places in the ass end of the galaxy to set a trap on..." one of the men cursed, plucking off a giant sausage-sized leech off his armor with a suckling wet pop and crushing the disgusting worm under his armored sabaton.

"Do not blaspheme, Victus! We're marines, ours not to reason why, ours but to do or die, ha-ooh?!" the other marine going by name of Cassius warned.

"Fuck that! I never asked to be volunteered for the mad cause of that deranged traitor!" Victus barked, "Now the whole Order is probably after us, and when he goes down, we're gonna bite it along with him!"

"Then why don't you go and bring up your complaints to his face, smart-ass!" Cassius argued, tinkering with a large device disguised as a rock, "I don't like what he's doing any more than you do, but I'd rather face the firing squad than find out what he'd do to us for disobeying his orders! Especially after personally seeing that thing he and that mad fuck Ignatius were toying with in the cargo hold all this time!"

"Don't even mention it..." another marine standing guard near a hovercycle nearby stated, "The mere sounds and smells coming from that place were enough to give me the creeps, and I've seen quite a lot of twisted shit before."

"As have we all..." Victus agreed.

"Done! This should give their minesweeper a serious pause," Cassius announced, "How far are our friends?"

"Two and a half clicks and closing," a marine perched in a tree high above reported, "By the progress they are making, they should be here in about 20 minutes."

"Do you ever wonder how the boss always knows where our guests here will go?" Victus asked.

"No, and I don't particularly care!" Cassius retorted, "Xander, you staying to feed the 'raptors or what?!"

"Hold up, I have to fetch my drone first!" the man in the tree shouted.

Moments later, a Cyber-eagle drone swooped down through the forest canopy, landing and latching onto the man's shoulder. Being roughly the size and shape of an eagle, this construct could reasonably pass for a bird even at fairly close distance, able to track it's targets without attracting much attention. Xander wasted no time, grabbing onto a vine and swiftly rapelling down.

"Ready!" he reported.

"Good... Everyone, mount up! Let's get the fuck out of here!" Cassius shouted to the rest.

Without further ado, the rest of the decury who were standing on guard mounted their hovercycles and took off, assuming medium altitude above the thick shrub where the most dangerous Sedekeen beasts were to be found. There were enough dangers as it was on the long way back to base.

Little did the approaching convoy suspect just how nasty a surprise had these marines prepared for them.
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Blakullar
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Founded: Sep 07, 2012
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Sun Jun 11, 2017 7:57 am


Image GRAND MARSHAL GORDON KRAVCHENKO
HIS OFFICE, GATCHINA COMMAND CENTRE, VELIKIY SUNIKAGRAD.


"Where is the General now?"
"Still chasing the alien 'renegade'. The marker informs me she's landed on a jungle world named Sedek Two."

"You mean she isn't dead yet?"
"I already told you, Grand Marshal – give this dimension time to work its magic. Besides, I have ... associates, of mine going after her. If the aliens can't deal with her, then they will."

"Your judgement has never failed me before, Brigadier. I trust it will not do so now. What of the Hound?"
"He's searching for Odradek in Syria - exactly as the Falcon predicted he would. The assassin claims to have a 'surprise' of some sort in store for him and his lackeys."

"I see. Is that all?"
"Yes, sir."

"In that case you are dismissed for the evening. I hope to speak with you at some point tomorrow as usual."

The holographic figure dissipated into red static, bringing the transmission from the MSS Baba Yaga to a close. Kravchenko's dim scarlet eyes were left as the office's only source of internal light, the rest being beamed through the half-shut windows. Leaning forward onto his walnut desk, chin in hand, he started to ponder.

"This bloody gambit of yours had better not screw us all over, Nemerov..." the marshal muttered to himself.


Image DZHEYSON THE WORD-SHARK
49 KILOMETRES FROM THE AREA OF OPERATIONS, SEDEK II.


"Dzheyson?" a distant, dreamlike voice called to the Word Shark at the exit to a tunnel of light.
Only a grumble emerged in response as Dzheyson slowly came to, presently laying supine on the jungle floor after having been pulled out of the beetlecopter. Despite it being midday, according to his atomic watch, there was little light penetrating the thick canopy of foliage high above, what little sunlight piercing the dense greenery doing so as illuminant spears. The gunship, possessing a gaping tear in its left side where the leonopteryx had attacked it, was lying flat on its top, a mecha-leg twitching and sparking as the machine finally lost power and died.

Needless to say, the gunship had crashed.

"Dzheyson!" Tesey barked again. "Can you kindly wake up already? We don't have all day to sleep!"
"Yes, MOOOOM!" Dzheyson returned the banter, grabbing a hold of Tesey's remaining arm and hoisting himself up off of the jungle floor. "Alrighty – what's out current situation?"

"Four dead, six wounded ... and, obviously this," Tesey flexed his recently severed right arm, the elbow joint sparking and leaking machine fluid. "Worse still, the Abbess' out cold and the gunship's officially a write-off."

"Trots is not gonna be happy when she finds out one of her beetles has been trashed..." Dzheyson summarised the situation before calling to the crashed gunship: "Is everyone else alright?!"

"Near enough," Alaric's voice was heard in the distance. "Rudnitsky! Robina!"
"We're alright here!" the unseen Rudnitsky called back. "We took a few knocks, but nothing that a few chlorine wipes can't fix."

"CHLORINE?!" Robina exclaimed in fury. "Oh, so THAT'S what's stinging like a motherfucker after I just wiped one of my cuts!"
"Powerful stuff, but guaranteed to kill any nasties that might slip past the bandages, so you'll thank the Russians that made 'em later!" a Chernydrakon announced.

"Ay, Alaric, I think your mistress has had one cupcake too many!" That Anglophone remark came from the Cazador demolitionist Alhambra, whose armoured bulk was holding the comatose Serena over his right shoulder with considerable difficulty.
"Put your back into it, Alhambra!" the ghoulish rasp of de Riviera mocked him.

Meanwhile the others were looking towards the established direction of the primary objective. The distant, ominous screech of some creature rang through the dense air as the thick jungle of Sedek loomed before them all.

"What now?" Tesey enquired.
"We get as far away from here as is feasible, that's what now," Dzheyson announced. "Every unpleasant critter within a five-mile radius is gonna be wondering what the hell that bang was and coming to investigate."

"I was thinking more 'how do we get to the area of operations'," Tesey stated.
"Option one: we walk a five-hour journey to the A-O," Dzheyson proposed. "Option two: we call the remaining four hoverbikes aboard the Polunochnaya and we fly there that way. They should be here in just under an hour if we take that option. Buuuut, since Serena's presently out cold, we might have to play the walking game..."

"Why can't we just get the third gunship?" asked Robina.
"I believe Sakahara and his men took it out for a joyride," Tesey answered her.

"What? Why?" Dzheyson sprouted a bemused look.
"Said he wanted to bag one of those pantheraptors or something," Tesey announced. "To be honest though, Sakahara is a literal living enigma, so I propose we just don't question it."

"Fair enough," Dzheyson stated. "I just hope we don't bump into any of those tank-raptors during the walk..."
"And if we do?" Robina asked.

"We die horribly and eventually become raptor shit," Dzheyson stated in a rather blunt manner, grinning. "Alternatively, we get Alaric to go on point, since Judicators are basically gods anyway."
"What do you mean by that?" Tesey enquired.

"Well, tell me how Alain managed to circumvent every single obstacle thrown in his path and successfully assault the hospital," Dzheyson decided to kick-start a debate.
"He teleported there via portal," Tesey stated. "We've already ascertained that. AND he has inside help."
"From the Mafia?" Dzheyson's voice was riddled with disbelief and derision.

"...alright, maybe not just the Mafia," Tesey clarified.
"I have a couple theories of my own on all this, sirs," one of the Chernydrakony, a woman, suddenly piped up.

"Oh?" Dzheyson grew interested.
"Well, the Abbess still hasn't told us why we can't inform the rest of the Imperium about this," the Chernydrakon pronounced. "SURELY if the higher authorities were to know that there's a renegade Judicator running around scot-free, maybe we'd have a damn easier time catching him!"

"Or – maybe there IS no renegade, Belinskaya!" a second Chernydrakon opined. "Think about it – if the Imperium kidnaps the children of the most powerful warrior on Earth, they not only get to stick up a giant middle finger to everybody on the planet, but they also get leverage over us!"

"Better yet, what if Alain was given a secret, personal mission by none other than the Empress of the Sidhae herself?" Belinskaya propounded. "She can't have her own kids, but she can steal someone else's and pass them off as her own! Tout herself as the only creature who can grow pure-blooded Sidhae in her womb, thus enhancing her standing before her own people!"

"Where the hell d'you get that notion?" Tesey produced an utterly dumbstruck expression and turned to Belinskaya.
"Kaffarov, sir," she promptly explained. "He was on the telescreen this morning. To say he's not a fan of the Sidh Empress is to phrase it in the very gentlest of terms."
"I was just gonna say – that theory's utterly ludicrous even by your standards!" the other Chernydrakon spoke out again.

"Why don't you press Romana on the matter when she wakes up?" Dzheyson suggested. "Sans the bit about the Empress, obviously. It'd probably be of great benefit to your health if you didn't tell her that bit about the Empress."
"Y'know what, I think I will ask her about Alain!" Belinskaya resolved. "I think not just we, but the General also, deserves to know what the fuck's going on!"

In an instant, Tesey stopped and snapped bolt-upward like a meerkat sentry, immediately prompting everyone else to do likewise.
"What's wrong?" Dzheyson spoke up.

"I'm picking up electronic signatures," Tesey announced. "Four o'clock, high."
"Are they ours?" Robina asked.

"That depends," Tesey gave his answer. "Did we call for three hoverbikes?"
"Nope, not as far as I know..." Dzheyson answered.

The party's glances were turned to the distant crescendo of a shrill thunder, amplified by the oxygen-heavy atmosphere, and everyone readied their weapons towards the source. Dzheyson guessed that the apparent hoverbikes producing the racket were about five hundred metres away at their nearest, flying at an altitude of two hundred metres.
"Hold fire..." Dzheyson commanded, observing the moving shapes as they passed over gaps in the canopy, appearing as swift black dots in the air.

Much to everyone's relief, the machines continued their journey.
"Most probably some of Alain's soldiers," Dzheyson deduced. "They don't seem to know we're here, but just in case we should tread carefully. Watch out for ambushes and all that crazy stuff. Which means you, Tesey, are gonna have to doubly keep your eyes open. Alaric!"

"Hm?" the apprentice turned from his present activity of packing medical supplies to answer the Shark's call.
"Until Serena wakes up again, you're officially in charge," Dzheyson stated.

"Where'd you think you're going?" Tesey enquired.
"To do some detective work," was the answer. "And to do that, I'll need one of the hoverbikes. We'll keep in touch via onboard communications."

"I thought Trotskaya said-?"
"I know what she said – radio silence unless it's a life or death situation," Dzheyson interrupted Tesey's impending protest. "Which means I'll only use it if there is a life or death situation."

"What the hell are you planning...?" Tesey's expression became worrisome.
"Just the usual..." Dzheyson replied somewhat smugly as he walked towards one of the bikes.

"I just hope Trotskaya is having better luck than we are..." Tesey remarked to himself.


Image GENERAL ELENA TROTSKAYA
90 KILOMETRES FROM THE AREA OF OPERATIONS.


"Still nothing from the Abbess," Trotskaya enunciated with a deadpan voice, eyes narrowed in on her wrist-com as she sat in the back of the front Khanka truck.
"Still?" Ippolyta responded. "Isn't this the third time you've asked her for a sitrep?"

"It is indeed," Trotskaya confirmed. "I sincerely hope that nothing has happened to the Judicators..."
"You've grown attached to them all of a sudden," Ippolyta stated. "I seem to remember you trying to flatten the head of one of 'em like a big beer-can just a few days back."

"I am less concerned about their health than I am about trying to find our way through this infernal universe without their guidance," Trotskaya informed. "Believe me, I am still bitter about all of this – I have merely resolved to withhold said bitterness for the sake of the mission. That, and there is simply no use in trying to convince a Sidh of anything if he believes that he is right – they have an annoying penchant for being ludicrously stubborn."

"Reminds me of someone else," Ippolyta quipped.
"Anyway, since you mentioned beer, I trust that you remember our little agreement..." Trotskaya changed the subject and grinned.
"Oh, how could I forget?" Ippolyta returned the grin beneath her mask, her optics glowing bright with greed.

"Agreement?" one of the Chernydrakony from Orthrus Group aboard the truck whispered to his comrade beside him.
"Every time the General and the Manreaper fight alongside each other, they make a bet to see who can kill the most enemies in that battle," the other Chernydrakon stated. "Whoever loses gets a night's worth of drinks added to their tab."
"Ah..." the first Chernydrakon seemed content with that answer.

The sudden, startling crash of a massive explosion sounded outside of the truck, amplified in force and volume by the oxygenated atmosphere. The racket was accompanied by the shriek of brakes and the rasp of gravel as the truck came to a curt halt.
"That wasn't a good sound..." Ippolyta stated.

Getting up with an equally-concerned expression, Trotskaya pushed the side door open and jumped out, landing on the gravelly floor. She scanned ahead, noticing smoke billowing from the front of the BREM up ahead.

"Fogarty, what was that?" she enquired.
"Something blew up in the rollers!" Fogarty enquired, a frustrated look on his face. "Sounded like something big, but thankfully this is a tough little bastard..."

A visible grimace blighted Trotskaya's countenance as she scanned her surroundings. They were on a slightly overgrown jungle path alongside the river that Red Team had encountered before, the BREM having carved a route through the trees to reach it. This path was a lot less dense than the rest of the jungle thicket, and Fogarty had obviously gone for it as soon as he saw it. The roar of the river below what turned out to be a cliff was audible even from up here, some fifty metres up according to Trotskaya's rangefinder.

"How long will the tank be out of action?" she enquired.
"Depends on how damaged the rollers are..." Fogarty announced. "Guessing by the big explosion though, I'm thinkin' bashing out the dents and reattaching 'em will take a few hours..."

"How long is 'a few hours'?" Trotskaya's concerns were mounting as the seconds ticked by.
"You'll find out in a few minutes," Fogarty replied gruffly, himself beginning to lose patience.
"Some things never change, eh Foggy?" Parker stated with a grin.

Before Fogarty could reply, a succession of hissing thud sounds resounded from somewhere up ahead, followed by another. Everyone turned their attentions forward and spotted a dozen yellow lights surging into the sky, emerging from two separate locations.

As the 'lights' began to descend with an inimitable aquiline crescendo, Trotskaya's eyes grew wide.
"TAKE COVER!!!" she shrieked at the top of her lungs, mask sliding over her face again as she drew her ion repeater from its sheath.

Not two seconds after Trotskaya's warning, the barrage of mortar shells rained down on the convoy like a tempest, the deafening bark of a thunderous explosion denoting its landing spot. Though Trotskaya's target-scanner identified the shells as 60-millimetres calibre, the high-oxygen atmosphere greatly amplified the concussive force and heat of each explosion, making them more comparable to an 85-millimetre HE shell. The effect on targets caught in the blast was predictably devastating, five Chernydrakony being tossed into the air like ragdolls by one explosion, three by another one and the entire top half of an ART-51 being blown to shreds, the walker's legs falling away from the wrecked war machine.

Soon after, the electric rattle of several machine guns from the undergrowth pulled everyone's attention to the flanks of the convoy. Every Chernydrakon who was not near cover immediately hit the deck at the first sign of gunfire, the remote GMG turrets atop the Khankas searching for the attackers with their thermal sights – the front one scanned the left, while the rear supply truck scoured the right. A powerful shot struck another ART-51, piercing the hull and causing it to stagger back, but otherwise being insufficient for its destruction.

"Eight enemy turrets identified!" one of the Khanka commanders called out. "Six anti-personnel, two anti-vehicle! No enemy personnel detected!"

The turrets' hiding positions were unveiled on the Mecharussians' HUDs as red lozenges, enabling Trotskaya to get a closer look at them from her prone position. Golovkin had mentioned encountering turrets similar to these ones, whose gun-mounts were arched upward like cobras, back on Scatach, intended for pest control and preventing humans from reaching the Undercity. Judging, however, by their rapid rate of fire and the unmistakable scorch-marks of plasma each of their munitions left behind, these were a more advanced and sophisticated design than their Scatachan counterparts. The designated anti-vehicle turrets had longer, wider barrels, reminiscent of recoilless rifles.

"Turrets... Leave it to a rat like a Judicator to make someone else to do his dirty work for him..." Trotskaya spat to herself, before turning to her soldiers and commanding: "OBLITERATE THEM!"

The turrets of the Khankas turned to the right and the remaining ART-51s took aim, their fearsome side-mounted rocket pods staring into the jungle. With a shrill screech, each walker unleashed three 80-millimetre rockets upon their static targets, causing a tremendous series of detonations on the right flank. The side firing ports of the two Khankas split open, allowing the Chernydrakony inside to fire their weapons as the top-mounted GMGs opened fire. The starboard flank was saturated in a fusillade of hellfire as the might of the Chernydrakony was showcased in spectacular form, the jungle enveloped in a firestorm as the enemy guns at that side were rendered silent.

Before Trotskaya could celebrate, however, the mortars were heard firing again over the noise of the enemy machine guns, this time an even greater salvo surging into the sky.

"Akhilles, I could use assistance here!" she called out again, switching her repeater to 'suppression mode' and taking aim at the incoming artillery rounds.
"On it!" Akhilles thundered as a round from the remaining recoilless rifle bounced off of his pauldron, the laser defence turret on his shoulder gazing into the air.

At once the two Chthonians set upon the rounds, red beams and bolts firing on the artillery to thin out the impending barrage. The intermittent tonitruous crack denoted that a round had been intercepted, Trotskaya thanking her updated targeting computers that she and Akhilles could at least take out most of them. Four rounds got through the defensive fire: one struck the top of the front Khanka, taking out the GMG and causing the hull to cave in. Another two slammed onto the surface, killing three more Chernydrakony and wounding six.

Adonis, her heavy armour tough enough to laugh off the incoming plasma rounds of the turrets, was on the right side with her decury and two of the five Chernydrakon Heavy Assault units, her energy rifle throwing bolts of magenta death downrange to where the attacking turrets were situated. A less well-armoured Chernydrakon was using her armoured bulk as cover from which to fire at their enemies, five others doing likewise behind her other troopers.

The fourth mortar round that Trotskaya and Akhilles failed to intercept landed just four metres in front of her, knocking the decurion off of her feet and sending her, two of her soldiers and the Chernydrakon behind her flying retrograde. Adonis landed on her back and rolled down what turned out to be a slope, eventually turning forward and skidding down the slippery hill on her backside. Shoving past foliage as it brushed against her helmet, her eyes widened when she saw that she was sliding uncontrollably towards a fifty-metre drop.

"Ohhh, SHIT!!!" Adonis cursed as she tumbled over the cliff edge, plunging into the waiting river below...

The average Sidh, being considerably heavier built than the average human, could survive a twenty-metre fall. One with suitable augmentations designed around endurance and strength, such as a sixth-tier General Infantryman, could last as far as fifty metres and survive such a fall, albeit with heavy injury.

Adonis was silently grateful that she fell into the latter category, especially when she struck the cliff face as it sloped outward thirty metres down, allowing her to strike the shallow riverbank without immediately dying. If the wet crunch that she had heard as she hit the floor was any measure, however, the hapless Chernydrakon that had been using her for cover and had ended up cushioning her fall met no such luck. Then again, there were not many people that could survive being crushed by a half-tonne armour suit, plus the one hundred and twenty-three kilogrammes that Adonis herself weighed.

"ARGH!" the decurion tried to hoist herself off of the dead Chernydrakon, only to learn that the fall had busted her weapon arm – indeed, she had struck the cliff with her right arm, this bearing the brunt of the impact and thus caving in her armour, crushing her arm into paste. Worse still, her energy rifle was still atop the cliff with everyone else, leaving her with only her DomSec-issue stun club. So she opted to stand up with her left arm instead.

Indeed, as soon as she stood to her feet, the crushed remains of a black-armoured soldier, synthblood seeping out of the cracks in his power armour, lay within a bulky, human-shaped crater where Adonis had hit the bank. How the hell was she going to explain that to Trotskaya?

Concocting such an explanation immediately became the least of Adonis' problems, however, when she caught sight of a menacing, reptilian shape emerging from the river. She froze in an instant, realising exactly what it was.
"Nice croc..." the decurion voiced as she slowly backed away from the water.

The crocodile, however, was somewhat less than willing to make peace, a matter that became very evident when it lurched from the river like a thunderbolt and seized the decurion by the torso in its jaws.
"SHIIIIIITTTT!!!" Adonis screamed as she was dragged into the water by the giant reptile, punching its snout in a frantic attempt to get it to release her.

As soon as she disappeared beneath the river surface, the armour suit began to fill from the right arm with water, something that the squawking alarm inside of Adonis' armour suit was keen to enunciate. Were she not about to be bitten in half by the thrashing crocodile and its monstrous titanium-crushing jaws, she would surely drown. Just as she felt the sting of a spear-sharp tooth graze her flesh, the murderous denture having pierced her armour with laughable ease, she found herself losing energy and beginning to tire, and soon she stopped punching altogether.

Just as she began to falter into terror at her impending doom, however, she found herself literally dragged from the jaws of death as the crocodile unexpectedly released her and sent her sinking to the river bottom. In an even stranger turn of events, Adonis found herself breaching the water surface like a whale and landing back onto the riverbank with a crash.

As she tilted her head up to face the river, she saw the massive crocodile staring down a behemoth armoured figure standing in between her and it. The giant man was wielding a suitably huge warhammer in both hands, bashing the crocodile on the chin with the butt as it lunged for him again and throwing it aside. Meanwhile, the hammer was powering up, the core in its head glowing a spectacular fiery red.

The crocodile charged at Akhilles again, but he swung his casaba-hammer to the side to pound the beast's chest before it could sink its teeth. The instant that the hammer-head made contact with its mark, a spectacular blast of energy erupted from the point, blazing straight through the crocodile's body like a spear of atomic hellfire that crashed into the opposite bank.

Adonis' jaw dropped at the spectacle of the crocodile being split in half by the blast, virtually exploding into flames. She was all-too familiar with the Sidh thunder hammer and vaguely so with the Mecharussian stormhammer, but a casaba-hammer was something in a whole different league. She had seen video footage of the legendary Charge of Hades Gate, where the great Empress herself led a formation of superheavy mechwalkers to battle. The sight of the casaba-hammer in action reminded her of the same fortress-busting implements of mass destruction that the Imperium's titanic walkers would bring to bear.

With the menacing crocodile dispatched, her colossal saviour marched out of the water towards her, looming over her as he studied her.
"Are you alright, decurion?" Akhilles' thunderous voice boomed.

"I... I've seen... better days..." Adonis stuttered. "My arm ... no, my everything is pretty fucked up after that..."
She was hardly lying. The mortar blast had struck her like Mjolnir itself, and even for all of their skill in precision engineering, protection against concussion blasts still eluded the Sidh armourers. Two broken ribs and a shattered collarbone made that matter an obvious one. Not to mention she was still shaken by her run-in with a murderous apex predator the size of a bus.

"You will live," Akhilles pronounced as he hoisted her onto his armoured pauldron, the thrusters on his back and legs engaging with a brilliant roar as he prepared to return his catch to the convoy.

"General, I've found the package," he spoke in his communicator to Trotskaya. "Unfortunately the Chernydrakon that fell off the cliff is dead, but Adonis is still alive, albeit heavily injured. What is the convoy's present status?"

Hopefully the other teams were having better luck than they were...
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Imperium Sidhicum
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Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:14 am

Blue Team
Research Outpost 05

"Doctor, could you please tell me more about your Pandoran intelligent design theory?" Siri pleaded, her eyes wide and shining in excitement, "I read all of your publications on Pandoran biology back in university!"

To her, Dr. Reven was the Yamashida of biotechnology, or at least close to that. Although not widely known outside Imperium's scientific community, Dr. Reven's studies had indeed created some revolutionary inventions, Siri having based her idea of a mold-based self-replicating organic computer on Reven's discoveries. The girl was now obviously excited to meet this great mind in person, constantly bombarding him with questions about subjects that everyone present couldn't even pronounce, let alone grasp, in many cases.

"Well, if you read them all, then you know as much as I do," Dr. Reven smiled at her enthusiasm, "The complexity and degree of inter-dependence seen in the Pandoran ecosystem is far beyond anything evolved on any other known world. The sheer amount of coincidences required for a planetwide plant-based neural network and animal life capable of interfacing with it to evolve is statistically improbable. Furthermore, the fact that the native sapient xenos have evolved considerably different from most other lifeforms, being humanoid rather than hexapedal to name but one example, is, I think, indicative of intelligent design sometime in the distant past."

"What about convergent evolution?" Siri asked, "We see a tremendous diversity of lifeforms in our own familiar Terran fauna as well."

"True," Dr. Reven stated, "But Terran life still retains the same basic body plan at least within any given species class. For example, all Terran mammals are quadrupedal, even whales retaining vestiges of this trait. This is not the case on Pandora, where land fauna is likewise exclusively hexapedal and have the characteristic complex respiratory system, save for the natives which share the same general body plan and anatomy as us."

"What if humanoid form simply happens to be the most suitable form for sapient life? All non-Terran sapient species known to science seem to confirm that."

"It is possible. However, given the fact that other Pandoran life does not seem to share this convergent evolution with Terran lifeforms, I find it extremely unlikely that sapient Pandorans could have evolved in their present form without outside interference. Besides, is it really too far-fetched to deem artificial creation beyond possibility? We are, after all, engineering new species and entire ecosystems ourselves, so who's to say some other xenos power could not have accomplished the same in distant past?"

"I see... Although this isn't quite Pandora, I understand that the majority of your discoveries on Pandoran fauna were made here, Doctor. Would you happen to have found anything new since your last publication? I for one am particularly interested in..."

"Siri, I'm sure you and good Dr. Reven will have plenty of time to discuss science later," Olhon interrupted with a smile as Siri was about to embark on another of her enthusiastic science rants, "Let us instead discuss lunch! My stomach is rumbling!"

"Ah, of course, Lord Judicator," Dr. Reven smiled uneasily, "Please, follow me!"

"He sure seems nervous for a hospitable chief scientist," Lawrence remarked to Rollins quietly, "I can almost taste his stress, but the reason eludes me."

---

The group was led down yet another stairwell after having descended by elevator from the landing bay, entering a complex of laboratories lining both sides of the hallway behind armored glass windows. A number of scientists would be working at various desks. One of the laboratories in particular caught the bypassers' attention, containing numerous cages with native animals inside. There was a very upset and loudly shrieking lesser leonopteryx, some squealing frightened-looking beast resembling a miniature dog-sized elephant with multiple tentacles instead of a trunk, a few chameleon-like lizards with glowing wings, a couple of vicious-looking doberman-like creatures that those in the know would recognize as viperwolves, and a black, somewhat clumsy-looking feline beast.

"Is that... is that a baby pantheraptor?" Siri's eyes widened in excitement, "Can I see it, can I see it, caniseeitcaniseeit?!"

"Once we've had lunch, Siri," Olhon grinned.

"Found that one in the jungle some days back," Dr. Reven explained, "It's mother was dead, gored by the very sturmbeest she had preyed on. Once it grows bigger, we'll set it back in the jungle. Don't let this little fella fool you - for all his cuteness, he's still a pantheraptor, meaning he will eat anything he can catch."

"Sturm-what?" Rollins again didn't seem to follow.

"Sturmbeest. Think of it as... a six-legged unicorn from hell," Dr. Reven explained, pausing to think for a better analogy to the ignorant outsider, "About as big as a tank, with the temper and habits of a fighting bull, and the best source of steak around here."

"I see," the Frenk nodded.

After passing through the laboratory area, the group entered the main living area, a central hub designed as a small park complete with a fountain, flower beds and benches being surrounded by multiple hallways. Colour-coded inscriptions on the walls corresponded to lines drawn on the floors, apparently meant for visitors and newcomers to find their way around. Given the overall size of the place, it seemed difficult to believe that all this installation was built in the canopy of a tree, and only comprised a fraction of the whole facility.

The doctor led his visitors towards the area coded yellow, inscribed "Canteen". A group of servo-bots were already busy serving one of the long tables apparently set aside for the guests.

"Welcome to our humble canteen," Dr. Reven spoke, gesturing to the table, "Granted, it's not much, but we make do."

"What is this?" Siri asked, pointing at the dishes that contained whitish segmented blobs with a jelly-like texture roughly the size of a squash.

"Kelutral woodborer larva," Dr. Reven explained, "We come across them quite often when we bore new shafts or tunnels into the tree, "They aren't exactly the most appetizing by appearance, but I can assure you they taste quite fine, and are a better source of protein than meat."

Siri gulped, disgusted at the thought of having to eat giant beetle grubs, and struggled from expressing her distaste. The Frenks appeared equally squeamish, save for Rollins who apparently had eaten worse during his long career.

"Please, be seated," Dr. Reven encouraged his guests, "Shall we say our graces? Our foreign guests may obviously abstain..."

Siri, being the most pious of the present Sidhae, immediately crossed her hands in an Aquila sign, if only to distract herself from the thought of having to eat a disgusting worm even though it smelled fairly alright when cooked.

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do..." Rollins shrugged, making the Aquila sign after giving Siri and Dr. Reven a brief glance to see how it was properly made and bumping to his companions to follow the suit. The Mecharussians also reluctantly complied to avoid offending their host, even though Reven had apparently exempted them from this ritual.

"Allfather, we thank You for being here, able to share this meal! Guide as always with Thy spirit hand, so that we may provide ourselves, and inspire us always with Thy example, so that we may be worthy of Thy legacy! Ave Imperator!"

"Ave," the present Sidhae affirmed.

"I didn't take you for a man of religion, Doctor," Rollins remarked, "Most scientists I know usually tend to be very... pragmatic when it comes to spiritual matters."

"Perhaps on your side of the Universe that is so," Dr. Reven shrugged, starting to eat, "Here in our parts, science and spirituality aren't mutually exclusive concepts. To me, at least, science provides the answers to how, while faith provides answers to why. Besides, our faith is very much rational - we do not take our prayers literally, as invocations of the glorious Emperor to perform supernatural miracles on our behalf, nor do we expect Him to answer them, but rather as reminders to ourselves about why we are here and why it is important to do things the way we do."

"From what I have heard of a few collegues here, I am tempted to argue otherwise," Rollins objected, "Your Word Bearers, for example, or at least the more radical fraction of them - they certainly seem to take things a bit literally."

"I do not necessarily agree with everything preached by Word Bearers, especially of the radical variety," Dr. Reven stated, giving the Judicators a cautious glance, "As with any creed, ours too has it's share of misguided faithful who take things a bit too literally and too far. It is not, however, my place to judge them for it, especially when I may find my own deeds wanting."

"True indeed," Rollins nodded, "It is just unusual for me, coming from a thoroughly-irreligious place, to meet a scientist who is also a professed believer."

"Then your people have missed out much," Dr. Reven stated bluntly, "Besides, I prefer the word "knower". "Believer" implies believing something to be true, but our faith is based on what we know to be true."

"Point taken..." Rollins agreed, picking up on a frown from Olhon that extending this religious debate would be poor form, "Shall we have this meal?"

"Don't know about you, but I ain't eating that..." Darcy whispered to him, "Besides, I sense he is getting very nervous about something."

"We wouldn't want to offend our host, would we?" he quietly responded and sliced a large piece off the giant larva despite his own reservations.

To the agent's surprise, the grub indeed tasted much better than it looked, the flavour being somewhat creamy and nutty.

"Tastes like chicken," he chuckled and sliced off another bite. Encouraged by his example, those still hesitant started to eat as well, save for Siri.

"Please, if I may be excused..." the girl spoke, unable to overcome her revulsion.

---

"So, Dr. Reven, what exactly did this previous Judicator want of you," Olhon asked, about to be finished eating.

"Only what I have already told you," the doctor retorted, visibly nervous, "He came here and requisitioned all our ATATs for an unspecified recovery mission. I obviously know better than to be nosy about his business. Or yours, for that matter."

"You seem very nervous, Doctor," Olhon pressed on, "Is there something you aren't telling me."

"Uh... Only that you Judicatorial types make me nervous!" Reven retorted, "Understand me, your organization has a rather... fearsome reputation that precedes you."

"I understand," Olhon spoke, his eyes narrowing, "However, the reason my organization has such a reputation is people like me, capable of smelling grox-shit from a mile away, and right now I can smell a whole ton right in front of me! What aren't you telling me, Doctor?!"

"He... Judicator, I can't..." sweat was now profusely running down Reven's face, "He said he'd kill me if I spoke to anyone about this..."

"WHAT DID HE TELL YOU?!" Olhon grabbed their host by the throat. At the same time, he noticed the rest of the men around the table were looking somewhat drowsy and sleepy.

"Darcy... *yawn*... work your magic!" Rollins suggested, himself suddenly feeling very tired and sleepy, "Maybe... uhhh... you can find out what he won't tell..."

"I... I'll try... I can't... concentrate... uhhh..." the weedy girl turned her gaze towards the doctor only to faint and fall from the bench, while a Chernodrakon next to her planted face-first into his plate.

Only now, as the poison began to grip him, Olhon realized the entire group had been poisoned by the meal. Being by far the most heavily augmented individual present, he had thus been able to resist the toxin, and drew his Enforcer into Reven's face even as his vision began to double.

"What did you... spike our food with, you... damn traitor!" the Judicator growled.

"I... I'm sorry, Judicator... I'm sorry... He's got eyes and ears everywhere here! That was the deal... I'm sorry it had to be this way..." Olhon heard the doctor apologizing frantically as his consciousness finally failed him and he collapsed into darkness.
Freedom doesn't mean being able to do as one please, but rather not to do as one doesn't please.

A fool sees religion as the truth. A smart man sees religion as a lie. A ruler sees religion as a useful tool.

The more God in one's mouth, the less in one's heart.

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Blakullar
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Blakullar » Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:01 pm


Image COLONEL VYACHESLAV DRAGO
TARTUS, THE GREATER ISLAMIC CALIPHATE.


The frigid night began to take hold across the desert landscape as the sun descended beneath the horizon; yet the skyline of Tartus remained dark, save for street lights essential for navigation. The port city itself had at one point possessed the largest Soviet naval base in the Mediterranean, the remnants of which could be seen from the numerous hotels around the area. After the end of the civil war some 125 years back, Syria had undergone a major economic boom thanks largely to Soviet investment, and tourists – particularly from the Second World – were starting to flock back to the country. In return, the USSR was allowed to refurbish Tartus' port into a major base for its new Mediterranean fleet. After Great World War Three, however, Syria fell back into anarchy, subsided only by the return of Islamic State – which ruled much of the Levant on behalf of the Greater Islamic Caliphate based in former Saudi Arabia. Even as tourism crashed to nil in Tartus and the rest of the town fell apart, the naval base was maintained by the nascent Mechanocracy of Russia for some twenty-five years before the first vessels of its Aerofleet appeared, resulting in the base's abandonment. Now the port was used by the Caliphate to move large amounts of supplies across the Suez Canal to the rest of the country's ports, such as Karachi in the far east.

At what had once been a seaside restaurant, three militiamen in military fatigues, old-looking guns resting beside their table, were preparing a game of blackjack; on a nearby table, two women in black burqas, one of whom also wore a pair of sunglasses, were sat talking to each other. Although Sharia law as implemented in the Caliphate nominally banned all card games, most ISIS commanders allowed such normally forbidden leisure activities in practice, so long as nothing was gambled and no alcohol was drunk. This was a recognition that in Tartus particularly, duty could be mind-numbingly boring, and this relaxation of the rules was necessary to maintain soldier morale.

"So, anyone hear that Populist on the radio earlier?" one of the soldiers began to speak.

"What, Kaffarov?" one of his two comrades enquired.
"Yeah. He's been going nuts over this whole Polunochnaya thing."

"You should have heard him this morning: he's completely convinced that this 'Empress of Sidhae' gave the order to hit the Sunikagrad hospital," the third piped up. "I swear, he gets crazier as the days go on..."

"I don't blame him," spoke the first. "So, Amir, how goes life at the port?"
"Typical drudgery," the one named Amir answered thusly. "Though some new faces did show up earlier today."

"Hm?" his comrade grunted with interest.
"Mercs of some kind, from Russia by the looks of their gear," Amir elaborated. "They didn't have any markings on their armour, so I couldn't tell. They're stepping up security around the port – apparently, some bigshot in the underworld has business there."

"What, that alien that hit the Sunikagrad hospital?"
"No, not him. Some kind of hitman. They say it might be that Czech who served with the raider clans back in the day."

"Odradek? I thought the Red Tigress whacked him during the Salvagings."
"I don't know how they convinced Saqqaf to let them set up shop here, but I'm not gonna argue with those guys with the trenchcoats and crazy guns..." the third man re-entered the conversation. "Their masks alone give me the creeps! Anyway, are you dealing this hand or not?!"

As Amir began to hand out cards, the two burqa-clad women got up from their seat close by and began to walk away. They disappeared from sight around the street corner, sufficiently distant from the gaming fighters so that none would hear their voices.

"What d'you make of that, boss?" the one with the sunglasses remarked – in coarse, rasping, masculine Russian.
"I think Drak will be most interested in our find, Ahmet..." the other stated in a similar, more refined tone.


Image MAJOR LORENZA ROBINA
38 KILOMETRES FROM THE AREA OF OPERATIONS, SEDEK II.


Per Alaric's instructions, Gold Team had located a site where they could set up camp for the evening. It was a small, relatively-flat area about six miles away from the crash site, sheltered from the wrath of leonopteryxes by large, tall trees. Having successfully conveyed their supplies to the site, Robina was in the process of setting up one of the tents with Rudnitsky's assistance. The other Chernydrakony were doing likewise, Rudnitsky having assigned Belinskaya, Osipov and Carnovsky to put up the other two tents and ready a medical post for those wounded in the crash and the fight with the leonopteryx.

Robina's interactions with Rudnitsky had thus far been brief, but from what she could ascertain, he was an enigma to her. Being trained in combat and tactics by advisers from the Special Purpose Guard Brigade during the Canal War was, until the Flight, about the extent of her interaction with the Chernydrakony. She had heard stories of a regiment of elite, black-armoured soldiers fighting alongside the Red Tigress herself, as all of the Cazadores had; once she got to know them personally, many of them seemed to be overall decent people. Others, however, were almost inhuman in their conduct. Unlike their counterparts, these Chernydrakony would always be found in the gymnasium, taking down the sparring droids with machinelike efficiency and also practicing on each other, pummelling one another with the same level of vigour and ferocity as they would the droids. When they were not fighting, they were preparing for it, always being found in either the situation room poring over the latest intelligence on Alain's movements or in the armoury cleaning and maintaining their weapons.

Rudnitsky, Robina had established, was one of those Chernydrakony. The only time she had seen him at the bar was on the first day of the Flight – every other day, he was fighting, either on the battlefield or in the gym. She knew there was a person underneath that black armour, because she had seen his youthful countenance, his head of ash-blond hair and glowing amber optical augments. However, he never smiled, never laughed, never joked at all; his focused expression and a permanent dark menace in his voice reminded her of a wolf on the hunt, constantly looking for new prey and an opportunity to trial himself in the flames of battle. Robina could hardly position his age above the early twenties, and yet he carried about him the atmosphere of a seasoned soldier. In equal measure to relief at having such a force of nature on her side, she found herself filled with dread. If Rudnitsky was such a competent and meticulously conditioned warrior, she imagined what the elder Chernydrakony of his type were like – true giants among men.

Robina decided to distract herself from Rudnitsky by turning to the path from whence they came and calling out to her absent comrade: "Oy, Rodrigo – you been eaten by a beastie yet?!"

Almost on prompt, the Cazador Alhambra emerged from the thick bush, still bearing the considerable armoured weight of Abbess Romana on his shoulder.
"Jesus fucking Christ, how long is this girl gonna be taking a nap?!" he loudly complained. "I'm starting to consider leaving her behind as raptor-food so we can get a move on!"

"I considered the same the last time I had to drag your fat ass into cover amidst heavy fire!" Robina barked at him. "We ain't leaving anyone behind!"
"Yeah, but at the current rate, WE'RE gonna end up being raptor-food!" Alhambra continued to protest. "And to be quite honest-"

"WE AIN'T LEAVING ANYONE BEHIND!!!" Robina repeated herself with a shriek, before turning to face: "Tesey! How's your arm doing?"
"Shitly," Tesey replied with a mallet's bluntness, glancing at his bandaged arm-stump as he followed Alhambra into the clearing. "And that's without remembering that Peley's gonna have my ass for luncheon when he sees what I did to his handiwork..."

"But you're still alive, right?" Alaric jested in reassurance.
Tesey merely sighed. "For now."

Alhambra, upon spotting the improvised campsite and the medical post in particular, staggered towards it and dropped his burden on the ground, not even bothering to adopt any care in doing so.

"Whew..." he breathed a sigh of relief. "Special delivery! Now I'm gonna go take a well-deserved piss!"
"You have fun with that," Robina informed him as the Chernydrakon with the team's medical supplies ran to tend to Serena.

As Alhambra made his way into the bush and undid the zipper hidden beneath his armoured groin plate, a vibrant blue, hexapedal gecko-like creature clambered up a nearby tree to see what had just wandered near its nest. The Cazador failed to even notice it until he had finished relieving himself a half-minute later; when he did see it, he initially recoiled in surprise, expecting something larger and more frightening. He quickly caught himself, however, and sighed with relief.

"Hey there, little buddy!" Alhambra mumbled as he approached the lizard. "My name's Rodrigo. You remind me of a little iguana I used to keep back home!"

No sooner had he introduced himself to the gecko did the creature suddenly puff up the frill on its head, set loose a scraping hiss and spit a glob of green goo onto Alhambra's visor.

"AAAAARGH!!!" he roared as he staggered out of the bush, clasping his stricken helmet as he fell onto his backside. "I'M HIT! I'M HIIIIIIIT!!! MAYDAY, MAYDAY! I'VE BEEN ATTACKED WITH..."

Suddenly realising that his face was not in the process of undergoing the effects of some nefarious biological weapon, he decided to inspect whatever it was he had just been sprayed with, just as Robina and another Cazador came to investigate the commotion.

"...gunge of some sort," he finished his sentence, pulling a trail of the suspicious, gelatinous substance away with his hand. "Blech! Gross..."
"I think he likes you," Robina giggled, noticing the gecko on the tree.

"Ergh, it nutted on me!" Alhambra cried out with a grimace behind his visor. "That does it! Sorry, Mister Gecko – you're just too weird to live!"

With that, he pulled a double-barrel, sawed-off shotgun out of its holster on his side, pointed it at the oblivious gecko and pulled the trigger. The resultant thunderous blast almost disintegrated the creature, splattering bright blood and viscera all over the foliage.

"Oooooooff!" Alhambra cheered. "You're dead."
"That shit on your visor better not be contagious..." one of the Chernydrakony cringed as he looked at the mess that Alhambra created.

All of a sudden, the distant, tonitruous squeal of a light thermal jet drew everyone's attention skyward.

"Are those bikers back?" Robina asked the nearby Tesey in a concerned tone.
"Not if they've recently cut down their numbers to just one," Tesey assured with nonchalance. "It'll just be Dzheyson coming back from his trip."

"Yoo-hooooo!" As if to confirm his statement, the obvious voice of Dzheyson called out.
"Told ya," Tesey stated.

"I see you set up camp without me," Dzheyson enunciated, surveying the site as he landed and jumped off. "But look – I brought you all a gift!"
"Gift?" Tesey queried.

"Well, not so much a gift as it is what may be our first piece of intel..." Dzheyson produced what resembled an oversized, silver-white metal bracelet with a computer screen and several small buttons along its top face.

"That's a TactiCom!" Alaric recognised the article immediately. "Where did you get that?!"
"Some dead dude with an uncomfortably large hole in his helmet," Dzheyson answered his enquiry, handing it to the Judicator. "Guessing by his white armour though, I surmised he was one of Alain's marines. His TactiCom might prove useful to us in the immediate term – and you might be interested in the message on the screen."

Alaric sprouted an interested look as he examined the TactiCom, turning it around so that he could read the text on the screen better.

"I write this while I can still see," he proceeded to read off the message. "Caius and Gundobad are dead, and I have contracted eye-rot. Even if I make it back to the ship, that traitorous fuck Alain has blown all the ship's medical supplies on that damn 'installation' of his. I should have jumped ship back on Miramar while I still had the chance. Now the pain is too much to bear even on painkillers, so there is only one thing left to do. Before I go, I only want you, Anneke, to know that I'm sorry it had to be this way. Don't wait for me, Anneke, and find someone worthier of your love than me. Emperor willing, we will meet again in a different world and life. This is my final entry. To anyone who finds this message, I ask that it be delivered to Anneke Dal'shir in Carag'wlag, Arcadia Secundus. May the Emperor forgive my sins. This is decurion Marcus Dagath of the Avenger, signing off. Hail the Emperor!"

Dzheyson and Tesey both swapped narrow-eyed glances as Alaric concluded the recitation.

"Trap," Tesey's laconic statement was thus. "Gotta be a trap."
"Mhm," Dzheyson enunciated. "I'd take the information on here with a grain of salt – they could well be trying to lure us into a false sense of security."

"But still, he mentioned an 'installation'," Tesey pointed out. "Any ideas what that might be?"
"I'm afraid not, but I doubt it's good..." Dzheyson stated. "For us, anyway. Alaric, use Romana's TactiCom to inform Trotskaya of our present situation, with the addendum that recon of the A-O will be unavailable until tomorrow morning. Have you assigned sentries?"

"Yeah," Robina nodded. "Lucio and Madeira have already put sleeping-bags in the trees, and Madeira has an IR optic. Rudnitsky's got some of his boys scouting the terrain to look for possible ambush points, and Riviera's currently looking for food to bring back to camp – we thought it best to conserve our MREs for the trip."

"Good to see we're all organised," Dzheyson smiled approvingly. "Get some rest – we move on tomorrow!"


Image GENERAL ELENA TROTSKAYA
90 KILOMETRES FROM THE AREA OF OPERATIONS.


Gold Team was not the only group that had set up camp for the night. After being informed by Fogarty that it would necessitate a few hours to fix the broken components in the BREM, Trotskaya had ordered the establishment of a camp to allow everyone injured in the attack to heal their wounds. As she had mentioned prior, all it necessitated for the Mecharussians to repair themselves was a few spare parts – applied by a small number of Caretaker robots and the medics of Orthrus and Scylla groups – but the injured Sidhae were not so simple to fix up, an issue compounded by the lack of knowledge that both the Caretakers and the medics had of repairing them. As if the present situation could not have been made worse, Trotskaya had finally got a message through from Alaric, who had informed her of what had happened to Gold Team. Blue Team had suddenly gone unresponsive a few hours ago, and she was suspecting that something similar had transpired on their side. To her own surprise, however, she had kept her cool, contenting herself with a private remark about useless if not downright malicious Sidhae standing in her path.

Even so, as Trotskaya lay on the ground staring up to the starry night sky in solitude, she began to consider simply executing Adonis along with her whole decury and moving on. She knew that her own soldiers, if they were to become a burden, would commit suicide of their own volition to allow the rest of the army to move on, so heavily ingrained was the doctrine that even if every single Chernydrakon bar one were to perish in a battle, the sacrifice would be justified if victory were to come. Even her own cadre of Chthonians were prepared to give themselves up for the greater good, although Trotskaya hoped that she would never have the mind to issue an order to either the Chernydrakony or the Chthonians to kill themselves in the name of sacrifice.

The brush leading back to the camp began to rustle, not with wind but with movement. Trotskaya bore witness to the armoured hulk of sword-sibling Persey emerging from the foliage, evidently having come to check on her.

"I see you are enjoying the stars," he stated by way of announcing his presence. "Mind if I join you, sister?"

"Persey, do you know what the significance of tomorrow is?" Trotskaya asked without warning.
"That it would be Tuesday?" Persey answered.

"It will be two weeks since Alain stole Yulia and Evgeniy from me," Trotskaya enunciated, her expression bright with hatred. "If Gene Frost had taken them, Antarctica would be melted from orbit. Were it Harrigan, I would chase him to the ends of the solar system and rip him apart myself, but not before reducing most of the Western Hemisphere to plate glass! But no, it just has to be an agent of this interstellar juggernaut! A race that laughs at terror and embraces death and destruction as if they were dearly beloved sons! What's worse, I am still being hamstrung by these infernal Judicators who have refused at every turn to inform the higher authorities about a renegade! Why do I have to fight on my enemy's terms without a way to change things?!"

"Len, I'll tell you what I told you after Grosser Priel," Persey remained stone-faced as ever even as Trotskaya's latest rant took off. "The harder the fight, the bigger the reward."

"But why do I have to fight for my children?!" Trotskaya seethed. "I defeated the raider clans! I defeated Pandemonium – TWICE! I defeated Fegelein in Singapore! And even Harrigan has tasted my blade! What's the point in fighting at all if there is no reward for it?!"

"Len, we knew this was gonna be a long campaign," Persey consoled. "Just like when Odradek ran off with Erika Drago. But we got her in the end – just like we'll get your kids back."
"You are right," Trotskaya sighed. "It's just been hard to imagine what he might be doing to them, assuming he has not done it already..."

"I know it's hard," her comrade stated. "It will be a long campaign, and yes, it will suck for most of the time. But the Chthonians will triumph as we always have – and you will have the honour of leading us to battle once again. It is a normal psychological reaction to prioritise the negative over the positive. However, consider the reward that will come from the recovery of your little ones. Alain is the last of your great enemies – once he is beaten, then your well-deserved hiatus from war will come."

"And how will I be certain that another Judicator won't come after me?" Trotskaya countered. "Like Romana, whom I am having a high degree of trouble trusting as it is?"
"You need not worry about Romana for much longer after the Flight," Persey stated, eyes beginning to narrow. "Once the mission is complete, Atalanta intends for that particular problem to be settled. Permanently."

"That will not be necessary," Trotskaya caught onto his intent in an instant. "There are other ways to deal with a Judicator than merely killing them – I already told you that they welcome death."
"I see," Persey contented himself with this grunt.

Trotskaya knew for a fact that Persey had a grudge against Serena relating to Marilova, a grudge that had been greatly amplified by recent events. She also knew that Persey would not act on his impulse to batter the Judicators, him being well aware that doing so would be detrimental to the mission. However, he would not necessarily act to stop anyone who would act to kill her. Thus his mention to Trotskaya of Atalanta's long-term intent was a great concern for her, adding to her already colossal list of worries. The other matter was that if Serena started to get suspicious, there would be a risk of her discovering Trotskaya's own secret methods of ensuring the Judicators' continued compliance...

Another rustling sound drew the attentions of both Chthonians back to the bush. This time it was Medveditsa.

"Heard you two talking about Romana again," she stated. "I guess you still feel pretty bitter about it all, Len?"
"The answer to that, Trofima, should be an obvious one," Trotskaya responded to her old comrade.

"Well, frankly nothing's quite so 'obvious' anymore," Medveditsa asserted. "You should feel glad you ain't the only one having a hard time trusting her. The last time we put any faith in the Judicators, we lost half of Alfa Group and you got your kids stolen..."
"Incompetent she may have proven herself, but believe me when I say that Romana is sincerely affected by this whole affair," Trotskaya stated as she stood up, intent on returning to the camp.

"It's all fine to feel affected, but until she starts producing results, I don't trust her to get the job done one bit," Medveditsa grumbled. "All I hope is that trust will come in time. That's to say, she doesn't screw us all over."

"Know that I have prepared measures to ensure that she will not," Trotskaya assured.
"What kind of- Nah, I don't wanna know!" Medveditsa was about to ask, but relented with a grin. "I like surprises."

"You really have remained totally unchanged since Grosser Priel, Trofima..." Trotskaya produced her own latent smile. "Speaking of, in a month and two days, it will be the tenth anniversary of the Charge. If this campaign is as long as has been predicted, at least I will have something to look forward to during it."

"Do I sense a drinking contest on the horizon?" A sly smirk wrenched at Medveditsa's countenance.
"You just might," Trotskaya returned the grin. "Although I think we both know where we will end up should we endeavour to challenge Bogdan to such a contest! Or, for that matter, that Argeas fellow – I hear that Irishmen are ferocious drinkers!"

"In that case, let's make this extra interesting and challenge Bogdan, Argeas and the Manreaper to a drink-off!" Medveditsa chuckled.
"You have yourself an agreement!" Trotskaya announced.

The two women continued to laugh and joke even as they entered the campsite, tents established in tandem with the parked Khankas and guarded by the surviving ART-51 walkers. Medveditsa was one of Trotskaya's oldest friends and companions, the two having fought together during not just the Second Russo-European War, but also during the Salvagings with Andropov and the now-late Imran Rudnitsky. They had fought all the way up to Bezymianny itself, battling through the gates past Pandemonium's ferocious Revenant guard units, taking on the psyker-ork and all the dreadful powers of Hell that he possessed at his disposal. Trotskaya felt truly honoured to have the chance to fight alongside such a loyal friend as Medveditsa, who would remain so despite her brash nature and propensity to state her mind with all the gentle sensitivity of an elephant charging through a glassware shop.

"Speaking of whom, where is Argeas?" Medveditsa enquired once the laughter died down, looking around the campsite for him.
Last edited by Blakullar on Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Imperium Sidhicum
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Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:47 am

Blue Team
Research Outpost 5

Siri took her time to explore the research station. Everyone else seemed to have gone off for lunch, not a soul being seen around. After having examined the laboratories and compared the gear found here to what she had back in the Polunochnaya's lab, the girl concluded that the place was rather well-funded for a research outpost in the middle of nowhere. Despite Dr. Reven's research being nominally dedicated to Sedekeen biology, the abundance of high-end equipment here indicated there were probably more than a few military contracts behind it to procure it all. Unsurprising, Siri thought - pretty much every other living thing here on Sedek from smallest microbe to largest predator had the potential to be weaponized or otherwise put to military uses.

As the thought about Sedek's dangerous beasts crossed her mind, she remembered the animal holding pen and the marvelous beasts held therein. More specifically, that incredibly adorable baby pantheraptor.

The young Judicatrix made her way to the holding area. There didn't seem to be any secure access features in place beyond a sturdy metal door. She checked it and found the door unlocked.

As Siri entered the holding room, she was greeted by the angry shrieks and roars of the various caged beasts inside. The pantheraptor cub lied curled up in the corner of its cage, looking up immediately at her, it's frill of sensory tendrils and flaps immediately flaring up in alert.

"Hey there, little buddy," Siri smiled, squatting down before the cage, "How are you doing?"

The cub that was the size of a large dog even in it's young age immediately rose to it's feet and dashed against the bars, snapping and clawing at Siri, unleashing angry shrieks as the startled girl fell backwards on her backside. Despite it's outburst, it seemed more frightened and upset than intent on devouring her.

"You must be very hungry..." Siri spoke, noticing the creature's gaze shift towards a foul-smelling bucket in the corner of the room that seemed to contain slabs of unidentifiable meat, "Here, have some!"

She retrieved the bucket and carefully reached out towards the raptor with a chunk of meat, ready to withdraw her hand at the first sign of the creature showing preference for it instead of the smelly fodder. The cub growled, squeezing it's beak-like muzzle through the bars as far as it could, and opened a gaping maw with rows of dagger-like teeth in an effort to grasp the bait. Siri leaned a bit closer, the beast nibbling at the food before snapping it's jaws onto it with lightining speed and swallowing the meat slab in a single gulp.

"Indeed you are very hungry," Siri cooed, "Here, little buddy, have some more!"

After devouring several more pieces of meat, the young pantheraptor indeed seemed to lose it's hostile disposition, looking at Siri with what seemed to be curiosity, even waving it's tail a bit.

"Do you want to play?" Siri smiled, extending her hand, "Promise you won't bite!"

The cub reached forward and extended a long, flexible tongue, licking the girl's armored hand enthusiastically. Siri wasn't sure if that was a gesture of friendliness or simply the beast trying to get the last bits of food stuck to her gauntlet. The creature stepped back and looked at her curiously, flaring up it's crest of tendrils and flaps in a non-threatening manner, reminding of a dog or cat spiking it's ears.

Siri noticed a chewed rubber ball in the corner of the room, apparently a toy for some captive beast to pass time with. The young pantheraptor followed her gaze and seemed to express interest in the ball.

"You want the ball, little guy?" Siri spoke, "Here, I'll bring you the ball!"

As she retrieved the ball, the pantheraptor seized it with it's fearsome jaws, pulling it inside the cage before falling over and starting to toss it around with all it's six paws much like a cat playing with a ball of yarn, growling enthusiastically.

"Awww, how cute..." Siri smiled.

The muffled noise of gunfire from above interrupted her. Knowing a thing or two about native fauna, Siri wouldn't have been surprised if the small party of Chernodrakony left to guard the gunship had simply engaged one of Sedek's larger avian specimens seeking to perch down on the landing pad. However, the distinct electric report of Sidh energy rifles alerted her that something was terribly off. Her suspicions were further compounded when a muffled explosion shook the entire giant tree, prompting the baby pantheraptor and other fauna specimens cower nervously in their cages. Fire alarms went off, warning of a fire on the landing pad.

---

two minutes earlier

"What a fucked-up planet... I can't even have a proper smoke in this dump!"

"Ease up, Yuri! Smoking is bad for your health!"

"Fuck you...!"

The Chernodrakon going by the name of Yuri angrily flicked the cigarette butt over the landing pad's edge. After having nearly burnt off his eyebrows with the lighter only to find that cigarettes tended to burn out very quickly and rather smokelessly in Sedek's hyper-oxygenated atmosphere, the man was understandably displeased in spite of being briefed about the peculiarities of working in such atmosphere.

"I'll be surprised if my augs won't start to rust in this much oxygen," he grumbled, "And what of the ship and our armor? I don't think we even have any lube designed for such atmospheres back on the ship."

"These lab-rats here do. We can surely borrow some from them," his partner shrugged.

"Don't know about you, but I don't trust this tankie shit one bit to have it smeared anywhere on or near me," Yuri grumbled, "We don't even know if their stuff isn't toxic to us!"

The conversation was interrupted by the elevator door sliding open, a decury of Sidh guards plodding out in full armor.

"Great, more tankies... Just what we need for company..." Yuri muttered angrily, still upset about his failed efforts to have a smoke.

"Good day, gentlemen," the leading Sidh stated in heavily-accented Russian, "How's the watch?"

"Doing alright," Yuri was the first to respond, even though his tone clearly betrayed that the intended message was "Fuck off!"

"You wouldn't happen to have seen any banshees around, would you?" the Sidh inquired. The two Chernodrakons noticed the rest of the group forming a line, but didn't pay much attention to it.

"Seen what?" Yuri's partner wasn't exactly well-versed in the local slang.

"Leonopteryxes. Big flying dragon-like things," the Sidh explained and pointed to the sky, "Like that one over there!"

"Where?" the two guards turned instinctively, having heard enough on the briefing to know that whatever was big, flying and dragon-like out here was most probably dangerous.

The Sidh marine hadn't been bluffing entirely, there indeed being a lone leonopteryx circling the sky in the distance. The distraction was still the agreed cue, however, the Sidh group retrieving their energy rifles from their charging slots on their backs and opening fire in unison.

It was only by sheer miracle that Yuri survived the initial barrage, his comrade literally being torn to shreds, sizzling bits of him spraying the side of the gunship. His bionic left arm was blasted off at the shoulder, the radiant energy blast savagely scorching his left cheek as it was sprayed with sparks and drops of molten metal. The impact threw him violently against the gunship, but left him with just enough strength to roll into cover behind several large metal crates.

Two other Chernodrakony who had been dozing off inside the gunship were cut down as they leapt out upon awakening from the commotion. Four others, however, used the other exit and took cover behind the gunship, opening up with everything they had. Shots grazed off the Sidh armor to little effect, the marines arrogantly continuing to advance and fire from hip, only electing to dodge behind crates when a shot finally found a weak spot and dropped one of them, the wounded man being hastily dragged into cover by his comrades.

"It's a trap!" Yuri bellowed to his comrades, dragging himself behind the gunship, "Somebody power this thing up or we're fucked!"

"On it!" the gunship's pilot who had survived the initial assault responded, "Cover me!"

The surviving Chernodrakony leaned out of cover and opened up such a suppressing barrage that it bought the pilot enough time to get inside, close the door facing the Sidhae and get into the cockpit. The gunship's engines roared to life, it's folded mecha-legs twitching and starting to deploy in spite of the Sidhae concentrating their fire on the armored cockpit, significantly damaging it's canopy and side armor but failing to breach it. Perhaps the canopy would have cracked open moments later under sustained barrage, but the machine finally assumed footing and turned towards them, about to let loose with it's belly-mounted plasma cannon. The Sidhae closest to the gunship hastily retreated behind more sturdy cover.

"I've got a present for you!" the Sidh decurion bellowed from behind the crates, tapping his tacticom frantically. Just as the gunship was about to fire on his position, the two AA turrets looming over the landing pad kicked to life and trained their dual 40-millimeter autocannons on their new target.

The gunship managed to fire one blast just as the first shells struck its hull, the impact throwing it off-target and the plasma bolt merely leaving a glowing gash in the metal walkway leading to the elevator. The thick oxygen-rich atmosphere compounded the blast effects, so that the far end of the landing pad seemed to be under a mortar barrage. The Sidh decurion in the meantime methodically targeted first the gunship's legs, causing it to crash nose-first into the pad floor, and then it's engines, the ravaged machine coming to a whining halt.

When the assault finally ceased, the AA guns falling silent with their smoldering barrels glowing red, the beetlecopter was all but positively put out of commission permanently, fuel, lubricants and whatnot leaking out profusely from its shredded shell-riddled smoldering wreck. Two of the Chernodrakony stumbled about near it like drunk, clutching their bleeding ears after being stunned and deafened by the thunderous barrage of explosions, another one was crawling on the walkway, his back a bleeding mess from the flying shrapnel and debris. Purplish energy blasts quickly finished them off as the Sidhae began to advance, ready to kill any other survivors.

Then, however, three survivors dodged out of cover, a one-armed Yuri among them, and opened up despite their severe injuries. Two more Sidhae fell wounded, prompting the rest to withdraw into cover with much curses and blasphemy.

"Where the hell is everyone else?!" one of the Russians bellowed, having tried in vain to warn the rest of the party about the betrayal.

"Looks like we're it!" Yuri responded, narrowly avoiding an energy beam that scorched the top of his helmet, "It was an honour serving with you!"

"I'm out!" his other comrade shouted.

"Last mag! Make it count!" Yuri roared over the gunfire, sliding him his last spare clip, "For Motherland!"

The Sidh decurion on the other side had in the meantime noticed a pool of what definitely seemed flammable leaking out from the wrecked gunship right underneath it's external missile pods. With a sinister grin under his helmet, he rammed a plasma grenade in his rifle's underbarrel launcher and waved his companions to take cover.

The Chernodrakony could only watch helplessly as they heard the characteristic thump and saw the grenade arch through the thick air towards them. Moments later, the landing pad was engulfed in a brilliant flash that turned into a thunderous explosion.

Yuri was thrown over the landing pad's edge by the massive blast. The last thing he saw as he fell to his death in the jungle six hundred meters below was the massive fireball billowing up in the sky above.

---

Siri rushed out in the hallway only to hear the elevator whirr to life. Turning around, she heard the heavy steps of powered armor rush her way from inside the laboratories. With nowhere to hide, she dashed back in the holding pens.

"Find the girl! She was last seen somewhere here!" an irritated voice rumbled from what was recognizably inside a powered armor suit.

It didn't take long for Siri to put two and two together. The scientists had seemed somewhat nervous about something, and to her knowledge, it wasn't a normal practice to station soldiers in remote research outposts even as security, the scientists themselves usually having at least some military background to handle at least dangerous wildlife on their own. Alain had enough time and marines available to station in this base posing as the security team, keeping the intimidated scientists in line, assuming they hadn't consorted with him willingly or under some agreement.

She looked around frantically to find a place to hide, the whole specimen holding room being in open sight from the hallway. Finding nowhere to go, her eyes wandered to the curious pantheraptor and it's den of rags in the deep dark corner of the cage.

"This is probably a VERY bad idea..." the girl sighed, unbolting the cage.

---

"Status report!" a Sidh with armor insignia denoting a decurion prime barked as the decury from the landing pad exited the elevator, one man limping and another four helping two more walk.

"The gunship and the Russkies have been taken care of, three wounded."

"Any sign of the girl?"

"She ain't here!" a Judicatorial marine in a repainted armor suit growled, examining the specimen room and being met with shrieks and growls of it's denizens, "Just a bunch of filthy xenos beasts! What about the rest of them, decurion?!"

"Take the psyker to the labs, the boss said he needs some tests ran on her!" the group's commander rumbled, "Kill the rest, and keep looking for that wench!"

With that, the marines walked off back inside the labs. As soon as they were out of sight, Siri emerged from the pile of rags that made up the baby pantheraptor's den, it's occupant licking her face with a purr and eagerly plucking on her arm apparently in hopes to extract more food.

"Thanks for not eating me, little guy," Siri carefully patted the cub on the back as she left the cage. Just as she closed it behind her, the pantheraptor started to squawk loudly in protest.

"What am I going to do with you..." the girl sighed, "Maybe you can do me another favour and distract those mean marines looking for me? Just be careful and try not to get killed!"

Getting rid of the baby raptor was, however, easier said than done, as the creature followed Siri like a puppy, constantly shrieking and squawking for attention despite her best efforts to shake it off. The young Judicatrix was too kind-hearted to brutally drive the beast away, especially after it had allowed her in it's den without attacking her, so it took her another slab of meat from the freezer in the holding room and throwing it down the hallway to distract the creature before she could make her escape.

Going up to the gunship was evidently pointless now. If the scientists weren't in cahoots with Alain's marines, then they were certainly intimidated enough to lend her no assistance, Siri thought. The decurion prime had explicitly ordered her companions to be killed, so time was running short, but she had no idea where they could have been taken. Siri recalled seeing one of the coloured guidelines pointing to staff offices in the hallway leading to another elevator, and decided to try her chances there.

She made her way through the labs quickly after distracting the raptor, and no sooner had reached the elevator when heavy steps in the hallway alerted her of approaching danger again. She quickly dashed into the elevator, but the damn thing was slower to respond than she wanted, and it seemed the marines had decided to take the exact same route.

"Think, Siri, think..." the girl urged her on even as her thought processes were already racing faster than was even possible in most other brains short of her augmentation level.

---

"Where the fuck is that blonde little twat!?" one of the marines cursed, pressing the "Up" button, "How can she just disappear inside a bloody Emperor-damn TREE of all places!?"

"I wouldn't worry about her," the second marine of the trio shrugged, "She's just a disciple, and one of those last-gen shake-and-bake sort at that, probably cowering and crying in some closet right now! We'll find her eventually!"

"Don't know about you, Crixus, but I'd rather it happened sooner than later! She might be one of them shake-and-bakes, but she's still a disciple, and Judies don't pick'em just for their good looks!"

"Our boss certainly seems to," the first marine chuckled, "That Inessa of his is certainly a piece of ass. I'd fuck her..."

"Melkor, as someone with a fapping arm the size of Paladin gauntlet you'd probably fuck anything with a pair of tits and a pulse," the one called Crixus laughed, "Tits not being a necessary requirement. Besides, the boss is probably way ahead of you anyway..."

"Fuck off!" the one going by name of Melkor grumbled as the trio entered the elevator, devoid of any signs of Siri, "But really, you think Alain is boning her?"

"But of course he is! Why else would he keep her around all the time, even in his private quarters that we can't even look towards without that wannabe-Viking psycho Malachai giving us a low brow?" Crixus stated, pressing a button in the elevator, "Alain has got a reputation to keep, after all. I've heard the very reason he went rogue was because of a woman, some big-shot cunt-born gangster who got iced by our foreign friends here. I've also heard he managed to hook up with one of those Russian elite commandos chasing after us, and even bang a terrorist leader that helped him on that job a few months ago before he killed her for failing, all in a single week. And word is that Inessa and him go back a long way as well. So please tell me what gives you the delusion that YOU of all Emperor-fearing people this side of the galaxy could ever hope to beat him to it?"

"Well, as they say," Melkor spoke and chuckled, "The straightest way to a woman's heart and bed is a straight-up invitation to fuck - most will slap you, but some will fuck nonetheless!"

"Right, keep on comforting yourself," Crixus laughed as the elevator started to move up, "With that attitude you'll soon be able to punch heavy mechs into oblivion!"

"I don't know about you, guys, but I really have a bad feeling about this," the third marine spoke up, "What if Alain mucks this all up? I mean, we're already the most wanted men in the galaxy because of him. And also outside our galaxy and our whole fucking universe, for that matter!"

"So?!" Crixus retorted sharply, "You can whine and bitch all you want, but I trust Alain! A guy who has managed to piss off pretty much every major player in TWO DIFFERENT UNIVERSES and live to tell about it can be trusted not to make promises out of his ass. Remember, once this job is over and done, he's promised all of us new IDs and a small fortune to start over wherever we want regardless of what happens to him. And personally I intend to see that it happens!"

"But what if he decides that we have outlived our usefulness to him, like he did with those rebels and gangsters in A-1? What if he just ditches us at some point and lets us take the fall for his crimes?"

"He won't, because he needs somebody to do the dirty work for him, and I'd much rather take my chances with him than get in his way like the captain did! And if you have a problem with that, take the elevator down and start walking - and hope the Judies and their Russkie friends find you before the raptors do!"

"Whatever... Let's just focus on the job and get the fuck off this rock as soon as we can. I've had enough of every living thing trying to eat me to last a lifetime..."

The elevator ground to a halt, the three marines exiting in a long ferroplex hallway connecting this side of the facility to another block located on a different branch of the giant tree. Siri breathed a sigh of relief. She had barely managed to get on top of the car through the maintenance hatch before the trio entered it and had overheard the entire conversation.

The girl popped open the other maintenance hatch leading to the outside of the shaft and peeked outside. The ferroplex tube was transparent and the three marines were walking down it, making going through or on top of it out of question. The structures on the other end seemed a lot like colonial hab-blocks, pieced together from modular cubicles the size of shipping containers, but surrounded by several belts of thick barbed wire, apparently electrified if the insulators were any indicator - evidently to keep local wildlife from scaling them. The top of the structure was likewise covered in sharp man-sized metal spikes, to keep the avian beasts from roosting there. Still, there was a good chance there would be some sort of maintenance hatch on the top to make entry by, and if not, Siri could always try her luck with one of the windows - while they were most probably armored glass, she did have her Enforcer and a few other tricks literally up her sleeve.

The hard part, however, would be getting there unnoticed. Fortunately, Siri's Judicator armor had just the tool necessary for such a task - geckoplast pads on her gloves, knees and boots. The said nanomaterial served to give the Judicators nigh-unbreakable grip and footing, and could also be used to scale walls and even dangle from ceilings if necessary - an area of geckoplast the size of a postage stamp could easily suspend a grown man from almost any surface strong and solid enough to hold such weight.

"Don't look down... Just don't look down, Siri..." the young Judicatrix muttered to herself as she crawled over to the edge and started to make her way down and below the walkway tube in hopes that the marines would not turn to look back. The fact that she was moderately afraid of heights wasn't helping her one bit. She tried her best to imagine the wall as merely a horizontal surface, and surely enough her armor joints locking firmly did help to maintain a crawling posture even as she moved head-down. The feeling of gravity pulling her down head-first, however, ruined the illusion despite her best efforts. Siri had done this many times during basic training, but back then it had only been a training hall with padded floors rather than an oversized tree 600 meters above the ground, with winds uncomfortably picking up. The knowledge that for all its utility, geckoplast still wasn't infallible and all it took to lose grip was some rust or loose paint chipping away didn't help the girl with her fears one bit.

This was going to be a long journey, but one that had to be accomplished in the least amount of time possible.
Freedom doesn't mean being able to do as one please, but rather not to do as one doesn't please.

A fool sees religion as the truth. A smart man sees religion as a lie. A ruler sees religion as a useful tool.

The more God in one's mouth, the less in one's heart.

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New Frenco Empire
Powerbroker
 
Posts: 7787
Founded: Mar 14, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby New Frenco Empire » Sat Jul 29, 2017 2:00 am

I let myself get fucking poisoned of all things. Goddess-be-damned amatuer hour! One of the golden rules while on mission - if you're offered food, let your host take the first bite. I put my guard down for half a second, thinking these eggheads knew better than to cross us, and the entire operation was almost botched...

Luckily, we had a guardian angel in those most unexpected of places - Siri. A little, bookish thing. Could probably count the times she ever had to hold a gun on your fingers. If I knew what was going on, I honestly wouldn't have given us good chances.

But...this would have been one of those instances I was glad I was wrong.



Image SIRI

RESEARCH OUTPOST 5, SEDEK SURFACE, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 19th, 2152


Siri continued her climb for a bit, eventually coming to the skybridge connecting two parts of the tree. She knew everything she needed was on the other side of that bridge. She didn't want to risk climbing the underside, but she could make out several people traveling along it at this distance. She couldn't get off and traverse it by foot. She had no other choice.
She had to be strong. She was a judicatrix, for Emperor's sake! She might not have been a Serena Romana, but a judicatrix she still was! She slowly crawled her way toward the bridge, eventually latching onto the bottom. She only had to suspend herself for a fifteen-meter climb. She could do it, she could do it...
As she climbed, she got about seven meters in before she felt the geckoplast on her hands reach a patch of rust. She tried, but eventually failed to regain her grasp. Her arms flailed in desperation as she felt herself fall. However, before she could begin descending, her feet, still firmly planted to the bridge's underside caught her. She found herself dangling at several hundred meters. Don't look down, don't look down...
Her eyes drifted below, spotting out the distant shapes of the jungle below.
Her fear made her tear up, but before she broke down and cried, she clenched hard. No. With all her might, she swung herself forward, planting her hands firmly back in place. She quickly finished her suspended climb, clearing the bridge faster than she thought possible. She knew she didn't have time to congratulate herself, so she merely planted herself back onto the tree trunk and climbed around, until no one on the bridge would be able to see her.

Eventually, she began to encounter windows, indicating she was closer to her objective. Every once in awhile, she would peek inside, seeking something that would help her. The fifth or sixth window she checked, she found something very interesting indeed.
She planted her Enforcer firmly on the armored glass, in such a manner that it wouldn't make too much noise. She fired, shattering the glass and giving her an opening inside. She leaped into action, pointing her Enforcer at the one who sat on the nearby desk.
"Hi, Doctor Reven..." Siri said, trying to be intimidating.
"Oh, uh...hello there, Siri..." Reven said, keeping his hands up. "I, uh...see you managed to evade the marines...that's good..."
"No thanks to you." Siri frowned. "You betrayed us, and by extension, the entire Imperium! You betrayed me,
doctor! I counted you among my biggest inspirations!
"
"Now, now Siri...I understand your disappointment..." Reven sighed. "It's not like I wanted to do it. Alain...he, forced my hand. Look, I can help you..."
"He...he put you up to it..." Siri said, slightly lowering (but not holstering) the Enforcer.
"Yes. I-I didn't..." Reven sighed. "Look, Siri, I don't know where they took the others, but I can tell you the Ork and that blonde-haired psyker girl are being kept in labs on the upper level! If I could tell you more, I could, but that's all the help I can give.
They ordered me to stay in my office until they can contain the facility...
"
"How many marines are here?" Siri asked.
"A few dozen, at least. If you want, after you leave, I can tell the marines on the upper level I saw you here! That should buy you some time and make it a bit safer for you."
"I...thank you, doctor. That can work." Siri nodded. Reven wasn't the mastermind she hoped he was, but at the very least, she was personally satisfied he wasn't behind all this. "The upper levels, you said?"
"Yes. A short climb up from here with your geckoplast should get you there. I'll transmit the authorization for all the doors to your tacticom. If you can find the surveillance room up there, I'm sure that'll help you find the others."
With that, Reven moved to his own tacticom. After hitting a few buttons, he nodded to Siri. "There you go. Now, if you don't mind...I'm going to call the marines now. I'd advise you hurry. Good luck, Siri."
With that, Siri made her way back to the window. She turned back before climbing out, and nodded at Reven.


I didn't care about my own situation, but... I was conscious long enough to see those bastards drag Darcy away from us. I think I heard something about "testing". Testing. My biggest regret before I blacked out was failing to protect her. Letting those bastards touch her...

It was almost a shame I wasn't the one to find her. I would have done a lot worse to them...



Image AGENT DARCY LAWRENCE

RESEARCH OUTPOST 5, SEDEK SURFACE, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 19th, 2152


Her mind was a hazy mess. She couldn't think correctly of all things. Then, almost as suddenly as it began, it was over. Her thoughts came back. It was a hell she couldn't begin to describe...
"Another spike of bodily energy..." One of the voices spoke out in the language she couldn't understand.
"We'll have to keep hitting her brain if we're going to get anywhere. Hit the switch again!" Another barked.
"It's hurting her! A dead subject would be no good in any case! We can go about this a lot more civ-" The first voice spoke out.
"You're here to find out what you can as fast and as efficiently as possible." The other replied, annoyed. "Alain will not tolerate delays for the sake of making this ordeal 'humane'. Hit the switch!"
The spell hit her again. The aching of her brain. The muddled thoughts. They were attacking her mind with their technology. She wasn't dumb, she knew they were testing her natural talents - psionics. It was the only reason anyone ever bothered with her.
In the time between spells, she managed to build a vague picture of her situation. She was in a lab of some sort. There were three men standing over her, one of them in armor, occasionally waving a gun if the one she recognized as the doctor protested. The device on her head. The wires they connected all across her bare body. It was humiliating. She felt like an animal. She had to escape.
But how could she? She was never all that brave. She wasn't clever. She wasn't like her handler. Jon could think of a way to get out of this. If that failed, he was certainly tough enough to fight his way out if need be. But she wasn't some veteran special agent. She was just a girl with some very special tumors in her brain...nothing more.
She tried to use said tumors to her advantage. She tried to reach out, poke their minds. Grab onto anything she could. But it was all for naught. The devices on her head and body were containing it. For the first time in her life, she was without it. She always felt vulnerable, but now? It was almost as though she were completely helpless.
Was this how she was going to die? Spending her last moments in agony, a plaything to these Sidhae, only discarded when she was no longer of any use?

"So..tell me a bit about psionics. Why is this girl so important?" The doctor's assistant asked, as the doctor poked and prodded.
"In that other universe, they're several hundred years behind us. But they do have something even we cannot begin to comprehend.
Psionics.
" The marine replied. "At first glance, it's properties are...almost arcane. Magic. We saw it in action back in their universe. But intelligence suggests it has scientific roots, meaning it could perhaps be...replicated. Alain hopes to use this knowledge for our benefit. Some of the men even talked of perhaps auctioning it off to the Empress in exchange for a pardon. This brand of technology would benefit the Imperium greatly."
As the scientists practiced their tradecraft on a mentally anguished Darcy, they failed to notice the uppermost maintenance hatch gently lift open...


Image SIRI

RESEARCH OUTPOST 5, SEDEK SURFACE, SIDHAE DIMENSION
September 19th, 2152


She did it. Despite the last scare, the geckoplast held firm for this last climb, and she slowly, but definitely surely made her way towards the top of the tree. She located one of the maintenance hatches, carefully sliding it open and climbing inside.
After a short creep through the tunnel, she came out on the other side, revealing to her one of the many laboratory spaces. She was careful to fall with as much grace as she could, not making too much noise in case she wasn't alone here.
She approached one of the nearby railings, peeking over. In the center of the room, she saw a contained chamber, occupied by three white-coated scientists surrounding a table. After closer examination, she spotted a naked, caucasian girl laid across the table, bound and gagged, a metallic band wrapped around her blonde locks. She was very much conscious and struggling. After a second look, Siri recognized her as Lawrence, one of the Frenkish agents.
While somewhat content she found someone, she was a little disappointed. Deep down, Siri wished it could have been someone more unlike her. Someone who could take the reigns of this little rescue mission with more confidence and competence. Olhon, or perhaps the Frenkish leader Rollins. But no...she knew little of the Frenkish girl, other than that she was one of the psykers (which, on second thought, could prove useful), and that she was too young and physically unremarkable to really assist in leadership or combat respectively. Still, Siri needed to be strong. She needed to free her. But how?

Siri slowly crept behind the walls of consoles and terminals, careful not to make any noise. She was perhaps being excessively cautious, but she couldn't risk it. She had to find out how. She briefly considered holding the men at gunpoint, maybe even shooting them. Even if she could bring herself to keep a clear enough head to do such a thing, she couldn't be sure if they were armed or not. There were more of them, after all. There was nothing telling her if there were a section of marines in the next room who could hear the noise and rush in. No, she had to think. Think Siri, think! You're one of the most intelligent people in the Imperium. Put that brain to work...
After examining her surroundings for a moment, it hit her. The psyker. She noticed the wires running from the metallic bands on her up to an observation room on her level. That must have been how they were keeping her powers from harming them. It was more than likely she could turn off the inhibitors, and hence, Darcy would immediately notice and dispatch them. Judging by the dossier, she should have been capable of such a thing.
She made her way to the control room, peeking around the corner to see a lone marine attending a system of control panels and screens. Siri could tell from the markings on his armor that he was a technical specialist, likely called in to use the custom-built inhibitor. One thing was for certain, she wasn't going to get the inhibitor turned off with him in the way. There was no way around it - she had to disable him. She briefly looked over the blades on her wrists, but she shook her head. She didn't think she could bring herself to do it. Instead, she looked for something adequately heavy enough. An electron microscope sitting on a storage cabinet leading to the observation room would do the trick, she reckoned. She slowly crept behind the marine, microscope in hand. She would knock him out cold and hit the controls. It should have been simple enough.
As she neared the controls, Siri began reading some of the monitors herself. One tracked the energy within her body, another showed concentrations throughout. Under different circumstances, perhaps Siri would have enjoyed psionics testing, but now wasn't the time for it.

She was poised to strike. She needed to put all her strength into one, heavy blow to the temple. Her knowledge of anatomy came in handy here, as all she needed to do was strike the pressure point to put the marine out for a few hours. She lifted the microscope and readied to attack. However, her nervousness got the better of her as her arm shifted. The strike didn't need immense strength, but her hesitation drained what little she put into it. Once the microscope made contact, the marine shouted in pain and grabbed at the side of his head. He quickly turned and saw Siri.
"AGHH! Little cunt! Nice try, but time to die!" The marine seethed, pulling out his energy pistol.
Was this it? It would be a fitting end, Siri thought. Died, due to her own incompetence...
But, at this point, her judicatorial instincts took over. Without thinking, her wristblade unsheathed, and she found herself on top of the marine. Before she could hesitate again, the blade pierced, coming clean out the other side of the marine's throat...
When she regained her senses, the marine had dropped his pistol, and was emitting a horrifying gurgle as blood seeped from where the blade had made it's incision.
Horrified, Siri dropped the dying marine. Her hands were covered with his blood, and for a few seconds, she stared at them, mortified.
"Hey, flip the switch! What in Emperor's name are you waiting for?" The marine overseeing the procedure barked, looking up, but not seeing what was going on thanks to the tinted windows surrounding the observation room.
She blinked back into action. She needed to act quick. It didn't take her long to find the control panel she needed to release Darcy. Alright, Lawrence. Don't disappoint me...

As Siri flipped the switch, Darcy felt a rush of energy in her brain. It took her a few seconds to reorient, but once she did...she realized her powers had returned.
"Something's wrong." The marine said, grabbing his rifle. "We might be compromised! Keep the subject in check, I'm going to see what the problem is!"
Darcy was no fool. Someone released her. Someone more likely than not a friend. Now that she was reunited with her talents, she needed to put them to use. She focused on the minds of those that surrounded her. It didn't take them long to figure out she was retaliating...
"Wh-what? No, no...no! Please! Turn the restraint back on! There's too much energy built up in the subject! For the love of the Emperor, I'm begging you to-AHHHHHHH!" The marine howled with pain as he grabbed at his face. His assistants joined in the symphony of agony, clawing at themselves and falling to the floor.
"My face! My face! It's melting! MELTING!" The scientist's assistant screamed in horror, clawing.
Within moments, they were all on the floor, struggling in imagined agony. Once it was sure all of them were disabled, Darcy noticed a figure standing over here. One she recognized - the Sidh disciple, Siri.
"Wh-what did you...do to them?" Siri asked, cutting the physical restraints binding Darcy to the table.
"I...went for their minds." Darcy said, wriggling as the feeling returned to her hands. "False memories of trauma. Enough to render them useless for a while. They'll eventually break the spell and realize what's really going on, but the scientists will be fine. I...appreciate your help. I was sure I was a goner..."
Darcy raised up and nonchalantly looked around, trying to remember where they took her clothes. She found them in a nearby locker, and she turned to Siri as she got dressed.
"Where are the others?" She asked.
"Still imprisoned, for all I know." Siri replied. "It's just us."
"That's...well, you managed to get me free. We're still ahead. Do you have a plan?" Darcy asked, zipping up her jacket.
"I, uh...well, I have a direction." Siri said. "I knew you were being held up here. You were the best bet at the time, but we need to find the others."
"Before we left, Trotskaya gave Jon a code phrase. She only trusted it with him, but if we can find him, we can get reinforcements from the ship." Darcy revealed. "Probably enough to retake this place from Alain's goons and find out just what's going on!"
Once Darcy was fully clothed, she slipped on a pair of gloves hidden in one of the pouches of her uniform. After connecting them to the rest of the suit with a wire, her fingertips went alight, small jets of fire pouring out.
"I've never had to use these before..." Darcy sighed, extinguishing the flames by clasping her hands. "But, I guess now I learn. What's next?"
"We...we free the Ork." Siri said. "Reven said he was being experimented on in the next lab over. After that, we move directly to where they're keeping the others. Rollins can summon those reinforcements."
"The Ork will give this little ragtag rescue team you're building some muscle." Darcy agreed. "I don't see either of us shooting our way out of a situation."
However, before Darcy could do anything else, she groaned, placing her index and middle finger at the temple of her skull. After a couple of seconds, she rejoined Siri in the world of the living.
"We have to hurry!" Darcy frowned. "If we want to save the Ork, we'll have to hurry!"
"What's...what's wrong?" Siri asked.
"I don't know! But...I just...I just saw a bunch of marines rush at the Ork, blasting! Just trust me, these visions are never wrong. We need to go!" Darcy pleaded.

Siri didn't hesitate, and quickly located the lab's exit. Carefully opening the door open, she made sure the area was secure before unholstering her Enforcer and signaling Darcy forward. The pair sneaked their way through several hallways before Darcy pointed them in one of the labs marked "XENO STUDIES".
As they entered the lab, they noticed a handful of marines standing with their guns aimed at one of the experimentation chambers. Siri and Darcy darted for cover, remaining unseen.
"The Russian Ork didn't...respond too well when we showed up..." One of the marines talked through a tacticom. "Went on a rampage. It wounded Aurelius and Marcius, and killed Antony. There was no way we were dealing with that beast in close-quarters, so we pulled out. The beast isn't about to leave, though. All guns are trained on the lab door."
After a few seconds, the marine spoke again. "Very well, sir. As soon as the reinforcements arrive, we will begin the assault and kill the Ork."
As the marine lowered the tacticom, Siri looked to Darcy. "We have to get in there before their reinforcements show up! How long do you think?"
"If that vision was anything to go by, not long at all!" Darcy said. "Alright...I can't exactly replicate that last trick, but I think I can hold them off of us long enough to get in there and regroup with him. But we have to make it quick - it'll drain me very quickly.[/i]"
"Alright. I'll follow your lead." Siri nodded.
With that, they exited their hiding places, Darcy's eyes already going into their psychic state. The marines looked like they were about to shoot at them, but they suddenly lowered their rifles and merely stared at them as they walked into the lab, seemingly entranced.
When they entered the lab, Darcy's arms extended, and two nearby bookshelves came crashing down (on their own, seemingly) in front of the lab door, barricading the marines out for just a bit longer, buying them some much-needed time to find the Ork. However, as her eyes reverted back to normal, the girl nearly fainted. Siri caught her before she could collapse.
"I-I'll be fine." Darcy assured her. "Just...just give me a minute to rest. Find the Ork."
Siri leaned Darcy against a nearby wall and complied, keeping her eyes peeled for the creature. An Ork was massive. He couldn't have been that hard to find in this place...
However, it seemed the Ork found them instead. Siri was shook by a loud roar, as a massive shape turned a corner, nearly hurling a desk at her. However, once the Ork caught a glimpse of who it was, it dropped the desk and slowly approached the timid judicatrix.
"Sarge say you one of good tank people. Vasya not smas' ye!" The Ork said. "Where ar' others?"
"In trouble, Vasya." Siri said. "You have to come with us now! Trust us!"
"No! Tiger lady say Vasya only listen to her an' Sarge! You not tiger lady or Sarge! So Vasya not com' with ya!" The ork replied, annoyed. "Vasya wait here fer Sarge!"
"Please, Vasya! Your 'Sarge' is being held prisoner. We have to save him and all the others!" Siri pleaded, attempting to reason with the brute.
"Hahaha, nice try, tank lady! But Vasya know the Black Dragon nev'r surrend'r!" Vasya laughed. "And Vasya stronges' an' braves' of all Black Dragon! Vasya smas' any tank people who com' to 'dis place while he wait fer Sarge!"

Siri sighed. They had gotten themselves into a bad situation. If she couldn't get the Ork on their side, they would all die when those marines stormed in. She had gotten so close. All she needed to do was find Rollins, get the code phrase. She couldn't fail. Not now...
"You're going about this the wrong way." Darcy said, apparently all rested up. "Orks don't reason all that well. Let me try."
With that, her eyes went milky-white and her hand reached out towards the Ork, looking as though she were about to touch him.
"Aye, wha' Frenk lady doin'?" Vasya curiously asked, as Darcy's fingers coiled into a fist. When she was finished curling, her eyes reverted to their normal amber, and Vasya blinked in confusion.
"Err...okay. Vasya t'ink it through. Ladies too small and pretty to smas' tank people. Maybe Vasya should com' too. Help Sarge." The Ork relented, rubbing at his head. "Tiger lady be so proud of Vasya! Pin lots of shinies on Vasya's armor!"
"Very good, Vasya." Darcy said, grinning back at Siri. "But Vasya, more bad tank people are coming! We have to be ready to fight!"
"Ahaha, jus' poin' Vasya towards tank people!" The Ork laughed, eager to get the job done.
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Imperium Sidhicum
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Posts: 4324
Founded: May 28, 2013
Ex-Nation

Postby Imperium Sidhicum » Mon Aug 14, 2017 7:52 am

Research Outpost 5
Sedek II

There is no right in war other than victory, no wrong other than defeat.

Siri knew she would at some point have to kill somebody when she signed up for the Order's recruitment program. Although her ideas about Judicator work back then were largely limited to glamourized popular fiction of endless adventures, wild high-speed chases, upscale fancy-dress banquets and shaken martinis, the girl was intelligent enough to recognize that most likely that would not be the case, and the actual life of a Judicator would mostly entail mind-numbing boredom with rare moments of even more mind-numbing brutality and violence.

She had made every effort to distinguish herself in training, and had been for all means successful as her current position of a disciple indicated - most candidates never made the cut, and most who did were deemed insufficiently-gifted, being assigned to various support roles within the Order as ordinary "lay" servicemen. In that respect, Siri could take due pride in her abilities for having made it among the top 2% who were selected as actual Judicatorial disciples.

Getting through obstacle courses and shooting targets in the controlled environment of the practice range, however, was one thing. Doing the same in a very real life-or-death situation like this one simply wouldn't compare, and while Siri had demonstrated at least the minimum expected proficiency in personal combat back in training, right now her hands were shaking as if holding that Enforcer for the very first time. The mere thought of having to point it at a living person, moreso a fellow Sidh, and erasing him from existence with a simple pull of a trigger terrified her, and yet it had to be done, if only because that other Sidh doubtfully shared her sentiments in this matter. That "some point" was now, and it was only bound to get worse.

The young Judicatrix tried her best to put her thoughts off the idea and let her body do the work it was conditioned to do for the past year. Using her exceptional ability to multitask, Siri concentrated on reflecting on Word quotes appropriate for the situation even as she dashed through the demolished door, putting a plasma bolt through the head of any marine still moving after the plasma grenade explosion that she herself had blasted through the said door in their midst.

The only certainty in the Universe is death. Why then fear it?

The fire alarms went off, sprinklers at the ceiling starting to flood the burning hallway and the lab with clouds of halon gas. Brightly flashing LEDs marked the emergency rebreather boxes on the walls that popped open. Siri did not need one, activating her suit's helmet that closed over her head instead, the faceplate with the built-in rebreather lifting up from it's inactive position over her chest and pressing against her face. She gestured towards the rebreather box for Darcy and Vasya. The Frenk girl obeyed her beckon, but the Ork paid no heed, and Siri realized that the gas mask designed for Sidhae wouldn't have fit over the Ork's broad square-jawed physiognomy anyway, him having to rely exclusively on his lung capacity and toxin resistence now.

Only a fool believes the enemy of his enemy to be his friend.

At the end of the locked-down hallway, Siri paused to use the access and override codes provided to her by Dr. Reven, hoping that she hadn't been too trusting of the scientist who had already betrayed her comrades once. Thankfully, Reven seemed to be true to his word, the emergency override code indeed opening the door.

The group barged into a hallway intersection, the door closing behind them again. Vasya exhaled forcefully a small puff of halon, coughing coarsely for a bit before taking a deep, relieved breath.

"Dis gaff'z no good fer breezin'!" the Ork grumbled, "Vasya feels almost like havin' azzma now!"

Only now did Siri notice Darcy hauling along a Sidh energy rifle, the diminutive girl struggling with the massive weight of the weapon that was almost her own size.

"Leave it," the Judicatrix said, baffled as to why the Frenk had even bothered, "It's no use to us."

"To me certainly," Darcy agreed, "But Vasya might still make some use of it."

"It's gene-coded to it's original user only. If I tried to fire it, it merely wouldn't work, but if you or Vasya did, it would blow up with the force of a plasma grenade!" Siri explained.

"Can't you hack it or something?" Darcy questioned while Siri examined her tacticom for further directions.

"With what I have on me, no," the Judicatrix responded.

"Who said anyffin' 'bout shootin'?!" Vasya chuckled and grabbed the energy rifle by the barrel as a makeshift club, making a few test swings with it as he grinned widely, "Jus' cuz tank people gunz no good fer Orkz and humies t'shoot don't mean dey ain't good fer some smashin'!"

"Right... Just try not to damage the power block..." Siri couldn't help but smile for a moment, "I mean - don't smash people with the part that's got yellow and black stripes on it!"

"No smashin' with da yellow-an'-black part... Gotcha..." the Ork nodded.

The sound of many armored feet rumbling their way indicated more enemies were coming to investigate. An instant later, a searing energy bolt pierced the air, leaving behind the characteristic scent of ozone and burning metal and forcing the group to dodge into cover. Siri pointed her arm around the corner and fired off a few shots that grazed off one marine's armor and forced the group to take cover and return fire. The target image and targeting data from her gun was fed to her via a double-reduntant display, one being the regular helmet HUD and the other being the augmented-reality image fed directly into her cerebral cortex, both allowing Siri to fire accurately around a corner without exposing herself regardless of whether she had her full armor suit or just her gauntlets on.

The attackers recovered quickly from surprise, two foremost marines deploying heavy riot shields against which Siri's plasma bolts were ineffective. Forming up behind them, the group was quickly advancing on their position.

"Can you psyk them?" Siri shouted over to Darcy who was covering behind a crate.

"There's too many of them!" the girl shouted back, still dizzy and disoriented from her last exertion. Although she could have mustered enough will to briefly incapacitate the attacking group again, she'd most probably have to be carried afterwards, something that the group could ill-afford right now. These men were, after all, no ordinary humans or even ordinary Sidhae in terms of their strength of mind, incapacitating them to any significant time being all the more demanding on the psyker.

"Pretty ladies go, save Sarge and everywun else," Vasya suddenly volunteered, "Vasya stay behind and keep dem bad guyz busy!"

"No, wait..." Siri tried to object when the Ork was already off, charging into the occupied hallway with a mighty "WAAAAGH". Moments later, the hallway erupted into a chaos of violence, with sounds of metal pounding metal, screams, curses and the Ork's enraged roaring.

The needs of the many outweigh the whims of the few.

Siri found it unlikely that the Ork would survive alone for long, but since time was of the essence now, staying behind to help would be squandering his sacrifice and quite possibly the lives of everyone else in the Blue Team. Reluctantly, the young Judicatrix turned towards the hallway leading to a maintenance shaft that her tacticom indicated to be the shortest route towards where the Marines had likely taken her comrades.

---

Olhon was awakened by the sound of terrified screams, bestial snarling and cruel laughter. He slowly opened his eyes, still drowsy from the poison.

He found himself in a large hangar-like room, it's walls lined lengthwise with massive cages. From the movements within, he did recognize that at least some were inhabited by Sedek's larger beasts.

The Judicator slowly looked around to find himself and the rest of the group haphazardly piled up in several empty cages. The unmistakable smell of Jonathon Rollins hit his nose even before Olhon first saw his dark-skinned face protruding from a pile of unconscious bodies just next to him. Black people had their own unique, distinct smell different from other races of men - with his augmented and fine-tuned olfactory sense, the Judicator had learned to accurately determine a human's race before ever seeing him. Different ethnic cuisines, different dressing habits, different skin structures - all gave each race and even specific ethnic group of humans a distinct aroma. Sidhae from different worlds smelled different too, though to much lesser degree, so while Olhon could tell the difference, it wouldn't be quite as specific as with humans. The Judicator had installed this particular olfactory augmentation quite some time ago, and it had thus far proved an excellent investment, providing him with a built-in airborne chemical detector that even limited tracking abilities - nowhere near those of a tracker dog, but still far above anything naturally possible in humans. The aug was subject to Olhon's conscious will, so he could set it to filter out and ignore the particularly-offensive odours, set it to "baseline" at which the chemosensory patches in his nasal cavity would be no more sensitive than normal baseline human's, or set it to focus on a particular scent or chemical compound.

What bothered the Judicator most was that he couldn't smell Siri amongst all the unwashed alien-smelling Chernodrakony who reeked of crude low-end biosynthetics, sweat that wasn't even entirely sweat and the A-1's nuclear and industrial pollution residue in Polunochnaya's food rations along with a couple fresher scents recently picked up on this world. No matter how much he tried, he couldn't pick up the distinct sweetish body aroma and perfume of little Siri - only blood, fear and anger.

Fully opening his eyes, Olhon noticed a group of marines drag a struggling Chernodrakon across the bloodstained floor, held secure by a pair of wire nooses on the end of catching sticks around his neck like some wild animal. The poor man did his best to look defiant, but it was evident in his eyes that he was terrified, his pheromones betraying it as well. The majority of blood along with some body parts seemed to be concentrated in front of a particular cage housing a massive black shape. This cage reeked strongly of a big cat, a very confused and angry big cat. To the right, a woman in Chernodrakon uniform was being literally carried to a different cage in a similar manner, numerous pairs of vicious luminiscent eyes from within tracking her every move, the distinct dog-like baying and growling along with serpentine hisses betraying the occupants hiding in the shadows to be a pack of viperwolves. For all their vaunted ideological devotion and composure in the face of death, this poor girl certainly didn't seem to live up to the standard, kicking wildly and hysterically screaming as she struggled against her impending fate when the marines pulled the doors open and threw her in the cage, slamming the door shut as soon as her feet cleared the gap.

Olhon couldn't blame the unfortunate woman reacting in such undignified manner when the viperwolves set upon her, or her male comrade finally breaking down upon hearing her piercing shrieks as the hound-beasts tore her apart.

"Shoot me! Shoot me like a soldier, you soulless tankie bastards!" the man tearfully roared, struggling against the restraints as the marines pushed him closer to the other cage. Olhon recognized in him the sergeant in command of the Molot Group.

"Aaaw, don't be so sad! It's nothing personal," a marine bearing the insignia of decurion prime, evidently the commander of this whole outfit, smirked cruelly under his helmet, "Better think about how your boss is going to rage when Alain sends her the video of what became of you all!"

"She's going to kill all of you tankie scum! She's going to make you regret you ever crawled out of that breeding vat!" the sergeant raged.

"Maybe," the decurion shrugged, "Not that you will be around to see it! Trajan, the beastie doesn't seem to be hungry anymore! Give him a zap!"

An electric crack from behind the cage and a floor-shaking angry roar from within the cage was followed by a massive talon-like paw lashing out between the bars, almost seizing the terrified sergeant. The marines present laughed cruelly and exchanged comments.

"Oooh, boy, that thing sure is pissed now! He almost got him!"

"How do you know that it's a he?"

"How do you know that it isn't a he?"

"Well, it certainly doesn't have any balls sticking out, so maybe it's a she."

"Maybe raptors don't have balls sticking out at all. Skargh don't have balls sticking out either."

"Hah, so you're the xenologist now! Give him another zap!"

Olhon adjusted his vision and the shape of a giant pantheraptor in the cage emerged before his eyes, although he had guessed the creature's species by now. The beast was huge, easily four meters tall at the shoulder. Behind it's cage a catwalk circled the room along the ceiling, on which stood a marine with a long prod that was apparently the source of electric shocks to irritate the raptor. The creature lashed out again, this time grabbing a hold of the poor sergeant and pulling him into the bars. An instant later, it's beak-like muzzled reached out between them and bit down on the poor man. The Judicator winced at the sickening crunch of armor and bone as the monstrous beast began to thrash the Chernodrakon, finally ripping the man in two and flinging both halves in their own directions much to the delight of the marines whose white armor was sprayed with specks of blood and gore.

"Oh, the Judie's awake," the marine guarding the prisoner cage noticed him move, "Shall we feed him to the beasts next?"

"Yeah," the decurion agreed, "Grab him and the nigger!"

"Hey, that's not very nice!" Rollins weakly protested against the use of such slur, starting to awaken himself as a couple marines barged in to drag him and Olhon out.

"Hell of a day, Mr. Rollins," Olhon grinned bitterly, "Not quite the way I hoped to go, but if such is the Emperor's will..."

"Hell of a day indeed..." Rollins was compelled to agree.

So this was it. The Judicator and his companions would meet an ignoble end as raptor fodder today. Olhon felt rage well up in his chest and tensed his hands with all their augmented might, but to no avail. The cuffs these marines were using were evidently designed to securely hold even a Tier 9 prisoner.

"Judicator, since you are a Sidh and I hold respect for your profession and you personally, I'm going to let you choose between the pantheraptor and those wolf-things," the decurion spoke to him, perhaps even sincerely, "You don't belong with these cunt-borns and their sort, but orders are unfortunately orders."

Olhon was a pragmatic man and had been in the Order's service long enough to be able to consider even the choice of his own method of death with detached reason. On one hand, the viperwolves were reasonably small - he could fight them off with his feet for all the good that would do at least for a while, and maybe trick one into biting off one of his hands, releasing the other. But then again, to his knowledge viperwolves would always pin the victim and then go for the throat if unable to pull out his living guts straight away. Besides, the marines were armed and would just shoot him the moment they saw him having any chance at fighting the wolves off. A pantheraptor in turn meant certain death, but at least it would be quick, a single bite and it would be over.

"The raptor," he announced stoically.

"The raptor it is," the decurion shrugged, "Throw the nigger to the wolves then!"

Olhon heard Rollins protest again before being kicked heavily and dragged off to the wolf-den, and felt a pang of guilt for having condemned a comrade to an arguably more agonizing death in order to get the quicker one himself. Then again, had he demanded that Rollins be granted the same quick death by raptor as him, the marines might have just thrown him to the wolves out of spite anyway. Besides, the Judicator didn't want to make such decision for Rollins, and if he wasn't offered the opportunity to choose, then evidently it couldn't be helped.

Another electric crack was followed by a wrathful roar, a gust of hot foul-smelling breath that reeked of fresh blood hitting Olhon's face. The giant paw lashed out at his feet as he was being pushed towards the cage, and the massive jaws with 23-centimeter teeth snapped shut and gnashed just inches away from his face. The Judicator closed his eyes and quietly muttered his last prayer to the Emperor.

---

An instant later, Olhon was tossed aside as the pantheraptor narrowly missed it's next blow, the marines having miraculously loosened their hold of him. He found to his surprise them all flailing and screaming in intense headache, and sensed in the back of his head an odd presence that was somehow deliberately sparing him. Having been trained to recognize a psionic attack, the Judicator immediately realized what was going on.

Wasting no time, he sprang to his feet and pulled the cage door release lever. Cutting loose an enraged predator the size of a dump truck in these confines was probably a very bad idea, but in the absence of better ones it could provide the necessary distraction. He dashed towards Rollins who had been dropped to the floor by his agonized escorts and still seemed drowsy from the poison. He then also opened the viperwolf cage and plucked a boltgun from them side of one of the marines.

Darcy's psionic assault only lasted for a few seconds, the girl unable to sustain it against some 15 strong-willed marines for long, their commander being the first to shake off it's influence. An instant later, however, dealing with a rogue psyker and two escaping prisoners became the least of his problems as the pantheraptor cage slammed wide open with a thunderous clang and it's inhabitant exploded from within with a wrathful roar. Seizing and violently thrashing the marine closest to it, the beast flung the unfortunate man halfway across the holding bay before turning upon it's other tormentors. With their survival instinct overriding the lingering effects of the psi attack, the marines turned to deal with the monstrous beast that was now their primary problem, attempting to drive it back in the cage. Several fired off shots from their energy rifles, their blasts wounding the beast but only enraging it even more. Viperwolves that barged out of their cage and indiscriminately attacked anyone within reach only added to the chaos.

"Get up! Get up and out of here!" Olhon roared, beating and kicking his still drowsy companions mercilessly to get them moving, with Rollins following the suit. A marine noticed his escape efforts and fired a shot, narrowly missing him and taking a boltgun round to the chest in return for his efforts. Stumbling back from the impact, he fell under the swipe of the pantheraptor's swordlike claw, his head flying off the other way as his body impacted violently against the bars on the opposite side. Two fleeing marines who tried to get in the escapee's way were cast down by yelping, snarling viperwolves, and while the beasts couldn't do much to the men who were wearing full armor, it did provide them with something else to worry about.

Dodging the dismembered body of a marine flung his way, Olhon stayed behind the last to make sure every survivor had escaped, shooting down two viperwolves that tried to attack him along the way. The marines, most of whom were cornered in the far end of the holding pens by the raptor were currently not a threat, but that still left the survivors with the problem of having their equipment taken from them.

"Girl, am I glad to see you!" the Judicator exclaimed upon meeting Siri on the other side of the exit door in the company of a weary Darcy, "Any idea where they dropped off our gear?"

"If this buddy here was any good," Siri stated, pointing to an unconscious marine on the floor, "It should all be in the locker rooms down that hallway."

"When I looked into his mind and saw what they'd been doing, I half-expected you to be dead already," the psyker girl hugged Rollins in the meantime with tears of joy streaming from her eyes.

"A few seconds later and you would have been both-halves right about that, girl," Rollins chuckled, "But let's get our stuff and take this station back first!"
Freedom doesn't mean being able to do as one please, but rather not to do as one doesn't please.

A fool sees religion as the truth. A smart man sees religion as a lie. A ruler sees religion as a useful tool.

The more God in one's mouth, the less in one's heart.

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