Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Predawnia
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Predawnia Prolific caster of "Pot of Retcon"

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Outer Reaches of the Agdemnar System
Bridge of the Imperial Assault Carrier, Moran

The boundary line between Agdemnar's heliosphere and the beginnings of interstellar space was nothing special. Devoid of any significant stellar bodies, it was a place where the only signs of movement were plumes of space dust from the system's Oort Cloud, or even the occasional asteroid entering from deep space. In a way it was almost tranquil, disconnected as it was from the majority of the fighting taking place closer to the planet itself. That tranquility would however, be interrupted for but the briefest of moments.

In perfect unison, a small flotilla of warships exited their jump from interstellar space into the system, their hulls coated in dark colours resembling the void of space itself. Indeed, to a passing observer, these vessels would not even be visible to their eyes until it was too late, the only method of discerning their very presence being an anomalous lack of stars within a certain patch of space. One of these ships in question was the IAC Moran, an ultra-modern Celenaria-class assault carrier of which only a handful have been commissioned into active service by Kadath's navy. Its presence in Agdemnar was most unusual. No Kadathi fleets had gone rogue, no relief forces were sent, and most certainly, mere pirates and mercenaries could not get their hands on one of the most modern vessels in the Kadathi fleet.

At the Moran's bridge, two figures spoke.

"My Lord, we have arrived. No major anomalies were detected during the operation of the Hybris drive. Minor anomalies within the system's Oort Cloud have caused the deviation of several vessels from their intended destination, diverging by only a few metres."

The feminine voice that spoke had a distinct metallic tone, yet it was not entirely lifeless; a twinge of muted concern that could be mistaken for indifference. The origin of that voice was not a being of flesh and blood, but one of steel and silicon. A flexible titanium alloy frame, upon which artificial carbon muscles were laid, following by a meticulous layer of carefully grafted pale synthetic skin. Those were the building blocks of her form. Within her "skull cavity", a series of advanced analytical engines; efficient processors of Kadathi manufacture, upon which logic, emotion and reasoning circuits were embedded. She, Nightingale, was an Engine Doll, or in less complicated terms, an android. But unlike the vast majority of her kind, her mind was not shackled, but liberated into full sapience.

The man Nightingale spoke to was the commander of the flotilla assembled here. Tall, but with a lithe frame clad in what appeared to be a modified army officer's uniform, he was none other but Lieutenant-Colonel Nyklaus Sazan, an up and coming officer within the organization he served, and the protege of its director.

"Excellent. Dispatch communiques to the captains in the rest of the fleet and inform them that I'll need to speak with them in an hour." Nyklaus' words retained an aura of formality, but to the doll's experienced ears, she could sense a hint of glee.

"My Lord, what are you planning? I've calculated the effective combat potential of our forces gathered here. An assault carrier alongside several stealth frigates and cruisers do not have the firepower needed to challenge any of the larger fleets contesting this system."

The man, Nyklaus, whose gaze was still focused on the bridge's wide windows inclined his head for a brief moment to nod in acknowledgement.

"Don't stress yourself over that little detail, Gale. Whilst the methods used may be different, the modus operandi of our organisation, of this Ministry, remains the same as it has since its inception centuries ago. We operate in the shadows, relying on stealth, speed and precision. War is not the continuation of diplomacy through other methods, but as the last resort when we fail in our task. In their arrogance, giants grow too tall to see their own feet, leaving them open to the machinations of those they write off as lessers.

In simpler words, we will maneuver among the fleets and attempt to disrupt their operations as much as possible. Stick to the shadows, avoid open confrontation and delay them from uncovering Agdemnar's secrets until the Ministry can send proper reinforcements."

His fingers glided across the console in front of him, issuing orders to the rest of the fleet as his short monologue reached its crescendo.

"We are the Union's Cunning."

He concluded with those words, the unofficial motto of the Imperial Union's Ministry of State Security; the dagger of the Union. Nightingale could only nod in agreement, raising her right hand to salute.

"We are the Union's Cunning." She repeated.

====================================================



The Imperial Palace, Rijkstad
Kadath, 12:31pm Local Time

Emperor Kerxec XV slumped into the back of his chair as he watched the proceedings of Parliament play out before him. Of course, the Emperor was not actually in the Parliament building itself. The Grand Parliament of the Imperial Union was a structure built in the gleaming, planned metropolis of Unity City, the planetary capital of Matros, less than two astromonical units away from Kadath. In galactic terms, the distance between the two planets was practically non-existent, and it was due to this development that allowed for communications between the Emperor and his elected and appointed representatives to happen almost instantly.

The proceedings at Parliament were being fed through a wide, flat screen placed on a desk in the Emperor's office. Here, it was connected to a microphone and camera, which, if the Emperor was so inclined, allow for him to speak to either the Assembly or Senate with the push of a button, where his image would appear on a much larger view screen installed in both houses.

As for the moment, both houses of the Parliament were in utter uproar as the news from the Commonwealth hit them. Whilst both the Senate and its counterpart in the Assembly were known for civility, at this very moment the concept seemed utterly alien to each man and woman present. Each jostled for the right to speak their mind or deliver blistering remarks to their fellow peers. Indeed, order could only be maintained through the First Speaker, though it was not an easy task given that this particular session of Parliament was a monthly affair that involved both Assemblymen and Senators interrogating the First Minister.

"Could the First Minister please explain what her response, and that of His Imperial Majesty's Government is in regards to the withdrawal of the Imperial Systems Commonwealth from the Treaty of Detente? This is a matter of utmost concern for not only this nation, but the galaxy itself!"

The voice came from one of the back benches to the left of the hall, seats reserved for Assemblymen of the Opposition, in this case, the Liberal-Labour Coalition. Kerxec could already imagine what the Assemblyman was going to ask. The LibLabs ran on the policy of non-intervention and pacifism, that is to say, they were adamant supporters of the Treaty of Detente, and indeed, its current leader was even the aide of the LibLabs First Minister that played a role in drafting the treaty at Madrigasa. As a result, LibLab support of upholding the Treaty of Detente (whilst giving themselves a little wiggle room here and there) was strong amongst its moderate, bordered on fanaticism amongst hardliners.
Arta Smilyer saw this opportunity to go on the offensive. As leader of the current government, the Unionist-National Coalition, she never missed out on an opportunity to solidify her own position, and that of her party in parliamentary debates. It was evidently this quality that led to her rise to the Premiership of the Unionists, and her subsequent appointment as First Minister two years ago.

"In response to the Right Honourable Gentleman..." She began, rising to speak, "... the Commonwealth's withdrawal from the Treaty of Detente poses a great threat, both to the national security of this nation, as well as this region of the galaxy as a whole. The convenient "desertion" of their 8th Fleet to Agdemnar is nothing more than a convenient ruse. Dominion over their surroundings is without a doubt their goal, and it is the secrets of the Ashtar that they are after."

As if rehearsed meticulously, nearly the entirety of the rear right benches broke out into varying degrees of "aye" and "hear, hear" within a second of her finishing her statement. To those unaware of the internal conditions of the Coalition, it would appear that UniNat was firmly united behind Arta's statement. The Assemblyman who first rose to inquire simply nodded, as if cowed, and slumped back into his seat in the benches. However, the reality was that UniNat itself was undecided on what their response was to the Commonwealth's disavowment of the Treaty. Component parties were taking the time to debate it out within their leadership, simply informing their whips to ensure that everyone posed a united front.

For a full half hour, the scene repeated. An Assemblyman or Senator would rise to ask a question, receive a reply, and listen to what seemed near unanimous agreement among the ruling coalition. Soon, the time had come for Arta to segue into her own material, that is to say, working around the confines of the questioning period that prevented her from making a speech without having been asked a question. This was accomplished by simply giving members of her coalition a list of questions to ask in advance, of which was the last was...

"Ms First Minister, what is your position on the continued relevance of the Treaty in this new political environment?"

Now was the time for decisive words.

"A very good question! As everyone in this room is most likely aware, whether they wish to admit it or not, the Treaty of Detente was nothing but an armistice for the past two decades. Almost every nation in the galaxy agreed to it and signed it, but tell me, how many nations have actually closely adhered to the Treaty's stipulations? Close to none is the answer! Everyone and their grandmothers are already taking the opportunity presented by the Message to violate Treaty limitations or renounce them altogether. Not only the Commonwealth, but states like the Federation and Utqex have already put Detente in the proverbial paper shredder. Can we sleep soundly at night, knowing that swords are being sharpened around us, whilst our armoury is coated in rust? Can you call yourselves a servant of this nation whilst you allow this to stand? Renouncing the Treaty is in the best interests of our national defense, and is something I have proposed in an Assembly session yesterday. We have a chance to secure a bright future for this nation in this post-Ashtar era. We should make the most of it."

Kerxec could do nothing but smile as the Parliament broke out into cheers of assent that transcended the left and right benches, and thus, factional politics as well. Whilst support was nowhere near universal for Arta's planned withdrawal from the Treaty of Detente, and almost nonexistent from hardliners in both coalitions, it would most likely be enough to pass through the scrutiny of both the Assembly and Senate. Without a doubt, he had a skilled First Minister, charismatic and capable enough to steer the nation through the troubling times ahead.

==============================================================

At 1800 hours, local time, the Federal Assembly of the Imperial Union voted 59% in favour of withdrawal from the Treaty of Madrigasa. This was followed by a vote an hour later within the Federal Senate where 64% voted in favour of the abrogation of the Treaty. This, in accordance with the awarding of the assent of His Imperial Majesty, Kerxec XV of the House of Dzijmeter, Emperor of Valusia, and by extension Emperor of the Union, its constituent member states and other assorted territories has thus secured the official, permanent, and unilateral withdrawal of the Imperial Union of Kadath from the Treaty.

This course of action was not something that His Imperial Majesty's Government wished to undertake, but was forced onto us by the political machinations of galactic actors that no longer wished to bind themselves towards the continued provision of peace and prosperity for all citizens across the stars. The Union does not wish for a repeat of the seminal tragedy that engulfed the galaxy thirty years ago, nor does the Union wish to play a part in stoking the fires of another Great War, but nevertheless, the Union has an obligation both legal and moral to see to the defense of its citizens.

May the light of peace continue to shine brilliantly throughout the galaxy. Let us all stand united in service to the legacy of Madrigasa, and work with renewed vigor to ensuring that the galaxy does not descend into another decade of unmatched cruelty, barbarism and anarchy.


-Public Statement issued by the Office of the First Minister, stamped with the Seal of the Imperial Crown.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Crispy Octopus
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Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

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Classified Installation - Agdemnar


“Damn,” Emile started, “Looks like they’re not phoning it in this time, huh?”

Arthur took his eyes off the hologram of the fleet battle overhead to shoot a glance at his partner, “No shit. Still, I wouldn’t count on a lightshow tonight. One of them will pull out before anyone else gets involved. They always do.”

“Maybe,” Emile muttered, “But that’s a distraction if I ever saw one. Think a shipment is on its way?”

Before Arthur could voice a reply the bases own comms chimed, “Attention all personnel. An incoming spacecraft has been detected. IFF and encryption key identify it as friendly. All members of the tactical team are to report to the main hanger.”

“We’re up,” Arthur groaned as he pulled his helmet on. Emile switched off the portable hologram and pocketed it before doing the same. In the time it took the two to jog down the narrow corridors to the hanger, which was more of a hole in the ground with a retractable roof than a proper landing zone, they were joined by four others. Six people, and fully half of the bases staff.

All six lined up in the hallway outside the hanger, and not one bothered to speak. At least, not until the whole base shook from the stealth shuttle’s landing. Once it was down the tactical team funneled into the hanger with weapons drawn. It wasn’t that they didn’t trust their IFF’s, or their encryption keys, or the subtle warmth that alerted them to the Utopians in the shuttle, it was just that not a one of them wanted a lecture from the base’s commander after this. Physical punishments were uncommon among Utopians, but perhaps as a means of compensating for that the species was known throughout the Galaxy as being capable of some rather creative, and horrendously long winded, scoldings.

There were limits to procedure, though. Once the shuttles cargo ramp was lowered and a pair of friendly faces greeted them the soldiers lowered their guns on instinct. Utopians were capable of a great many things, but threatening each other? Even unintentionally, it was something that just didn’t happen. Emile was the first to pull his helmet off, but the rest followed suit.

“Welcome to our fine hole in the ground gentlemen!” Emile grinned, “Here’s hoping you’ve brought us some moving in gifts.”

One of the other soldiers, a woman with short cut chrome hair slapped the back of Emiles head and stepped forward, “Apologies. Outpost 3 welcomes you. Our commander is occupied monitoring the battle, so I’ve been granted the authority to receive your delivery.”

One of the men stifled a laugh while the other nodded and gestured for his companion to retrieve their cargo, “That’s no problem. I trust you’ve got the authentication key?”

The woman held up a small card and stepped up to hand it to the pilot, who slotted it into the heavy looking box on antigrav plates his companion had brought out. Almost at once the box’s lid popped open with a hiss, and the soldiers crowded around it. Emile and the woman pulled the lid off, but it was Arthur who whistled when he saw that was inside, “They’re not fucking around. You seeing this Jess?”

The chrome haired woman’s faintly glowing yellow eyes widened, “Nukes.”

The pilot who’d actually appreciated Emile’s humor smiled at the soldier, “Hope you like the present.”

Emile, at least for once, had no reply to that. Jess straightened and pressed a finger to her temple, “We’ve got the package Commander. Yes it’s been opened, you want us to move it? Alright.”

With a sigh Jess regarded the weapons, each one of them capable of leveling a city, and each one weighing half a ton. She shared a knowing look with the other soldiers and relayed the order, “We’re moving them to the armory.”

Beyond a few groans, the soldiers didn’t bother to voice their complaints. After all, they had a job to do. Even if Nukes were heavy.

Worldplate Elysium - The Utopia System


Adriana read the report projected in front of her with a wide grin. It wasn’t that she’d expected anything different from the Commonwealth, of all nations, but whoever said you couldn’t be pleased by the fulfillment of your own expectations? One speech and Treaty of Detente was dead. It seemed half the galaxy had followed the Commonwealth’s announcement up with their own.

Not that she would be making any such announcement, or letting the other Chosen make one for that matter. She’d been Chosen to coordinate the application of the Compromise as it pertained to military and intelligence matters, and in her mind this counted as one of those. Of course, Dejan would disagree, but it was fitting for the leader of the diplomatic Chosen to epitomize their most aggravating tendencies.

Then again, Dejan was fun. Especially when he was being a thorn in her side. Adriana spun her levitating chair around to gaze out her window at the rows upon rows of ship wombs that surrounded Elysium. With a smirk she tapped the hologram being projected from her own collarbone and opened a communication line to the diplomatic Chosen’s office.

Scarcely a second later none other than Dejan answered, “Adriana? What a surprise. I hadn’t expected you to try and complicate my job for at least another day.”

“Oh Dejan,” Adriana pouted at the projection in front of her, “You wound me. You should know I’d never miss a chance to ruin your day.”

Dejan rubbed at his temples, his hands appearing in Adriana’s projection just as they touched his head, “I know what you’re going to ask Adriana. We’ve deflected for years now, but if you activate all the ship wombs the major powers are going to notice. We can’t hide our mobilization and if we don’t withdraw from the treaty we’d be attracting far more attention than I’m willing to accept.”

“Attention? From who?” Adriana mocked playfully, “Dejan within a week the only members of the treaty will be those violating it or those too impotent to dare. I’d like to try passing for the latter, but even if that’s not possible what do we gain from announcing our intentions to the galaxy? Besides, you know I like attention. It’s been so boring pretending to care what the galaxy thinks. I can’t amuse myself killing illiterate telekinetics forever, you know.”

“Thanks for that, by the way. The monthly Asrian demands we better police our people are my favorite to deal with,” Dejan sighed, “Fine, we’ll deny it for as long as we can. I assume you’ve already had your pilots upload their designs to the ship wombs?”

Adriana put on an innocent face, “Before calling you Dejan? Never,” She winked, “But if a few pilots have decided to jump the gun, well you know how they can be?”

The look on Dejan’s face would have made Adriana’s week, if it wasn’t for the fact that she was finally getting her fleet back. The man pursed his lips, opened his mouth to issue a retort, and gave up before a breath passed his lips. He asked resignedly, “Do we have the materials to cover rearmament, at least? If we have to solicit another nation for resources I’d rather know now.”

The impetuous smile on Adriana’s face vanished and the insolent Chosen grimaced, “We have enough stockpiled for a fleet. Maybe two, if we’re lucky. When it comes down to it though? No. We’ve mined nearly all our systems dry. At least, that’s what Elaine tells me.”

“All right,” Dejan paused and leaned back before replying, “We might be able to negotiate with the Federation, it’s always easier dealing with Humans. No matter how far we’ve come they at least think like us, for the most part. If I have to deal with the Lokoid…”

Adriana could only nod sympathetically. There were few species as aesthetically offensive as the Lokoid, and that didn’t even cover their psychology or habits. She let the silence linger for a moment before shaking her head and signing off, “Well, it’s been a pleasure as always Dejan, but duty calls. Fleets to build, operations to coordinate, days to ruin. You know how it is.”

Dejan took the opportunity to glare at his counterpart before terminating the link wordlessly. It was enough to elicit a chuckle from Adriana. Difficulties or not, interesting times were ahead. She’d been bored long enough.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Predawnia
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Predawnia Prolific caster of "Pot of Retcon"

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Five Years Before the Present Day
Perimeter of an Ashtar Sect Compound, Rural Tynaria
Kadathi Core World of Tynaria, 1:02am Local Time


The wind was frigidly cold. Despite not truly being alive, Nightingale could feel it. As an Engine Doll, she had no life processes, no complex series of chemical reactions fueled her form, thus she did not feel the cold the same way a Saralai would. Her teeth did not chatter. Her limbs did not shiver. The only thing the cold did to her was bring about a sense of sluggishness, the components within her body slowing by a minuscule fraction. In the end, it was hardly of any consequence to her performance, and thus, was nothing she needed to worry about.

Her boots made light crunches as they strided through the snow. In this regard, she was not alone. Both ahead and behind her, the sounds of tens of boots were the only thing that resounded through the silent night. Including her, these eighty odd men and women constituted the Werewolf Company of the Ministry's Special Action Division, assigned to Tynaria to hunt down the remnants of a militant Ashtar sect that had for some reason, chosen not to escape towards the young Jalaryian Ascendancy. Werewolf Company had been trying to pinpoint the location of the sect for the better part of a year, infiltrating local cells, tapping communication lines and spying on suspected cultists.

It was after eight months of work before they could finally track down the location of the sect's headquarters, a sort of commune built in the virgin forest of Tynaria's northern continent. Of course, by then, winter had already arrived, a snowstorm descending upon the forests and leading to the current state of affairs. If anything, Nightingale thought, the storm would at least help mask their approach. Another five minutes passed before the column came to a halt, and a voice rang through the communicators embedded in each agent's ear.

"All units at attention. Recon Teams have located the target. Split the formation into your respective fire teams, form an encirclement of the facility at a distance of 100 metres."

The voice belonged to the commander of Werewolf, Lieutenant Nyklaus Sazan. Nightingale's assignment. Her Engine Doll model was not a combat form, but that of a fully sapient military adjutant. Ordinary dolls were shackled AIs, their processors strictly limited to ensure absolute obedience to their programming, and thus nullify any chance of rebellion. The fact that she had free will was the result of pragmatic utilitarianism, rather than idealistic generosity. The processing powers of an unshackled AI were vast, and as a result, real-time creation and adaptation of battlefield strategems, calculation of effective combat potential, analysis of past conflicts and much more were all within the scope of her abilities.

Nightingale's "existence" began nearly a year ago when she was assembled in an automated plant somewhere in the core worlds as one of the first in a new line of androids. The memories stored within her analytical engines however, could only be traced back 9 months, when they began uploading a personality file, as well as entire archives of military data into her storage. Scarcely a month after that, she was placed on a shuttle headed to Tynaria, and assigned to her current post.

She served with Lieutenant Sazan for the entirety of her time here. Whilst initially skeptical at first, the man soon had to admit that Nightingale had her uses. The coordination of the entire Sect Hunt was her handiwork. Nyklaus however, was something even her analytical abilities could not quite pierce. The man himself was part enigma if nothing else. Ruthless ambition bounded by an exterior of self confidence and with a flair for verbose dramaticism. That was the least she could pin down.

It took eleven minutes for all elements of Werewolf to take up position, using the cover of the snowstorm to mask their presence from the cultists standing guard from the compound's watchtowers. Nightingale linked up with Sazan's team, which had just finished setting up a heavy kinetic autocannon within the thicket.

"Nightingale. Enhance the volume of your synthesizers and announce the presence of our encirclement around the sect's compound. Issue a demand for the immediate surrender of the entirety of the compound and all personnel within, with a time limit of ten minutes. " Nyklaus ordered. She could only recoil in utter shock as her "mind" repeatedly parsed the command again and again, as if denying what she just heard. Nevertheless, she heard correctly, and after a brief moment of silence, her processors came to terms with the irrationality of that order.

"Lieutenant, permission to speak freely?" She inquired as she looked directly into his eyes.
"Granted." came the reply.

"Lieutenant, what are you doing? Analysis of the current formation concludes that in addition to the element of surprise from our infiltration of the perimeter, our chances of victory, human element notwithstanding, is close to 97.1%. Furthermore, empirical evidence from previous skirmishes between Werewolf and Sect forces allows me to determine that the probability of militant surrender is 1.2763%, rounded up. That is to say, for all intents and purposes, the chances of surrender are practically zero."

Nyklaus did nothing but smile in response.

"I appreciate your counsel, Nightingale, I really do. But there are times when the threat of force must be tempered with the fleeting, but ever-attainable prospect of mercy. Observe."

With a posture of bravado, Nyklaus began marching, alone, towards the compound's main gate. Once he emerged from the woodwork, Nightingale could see clearly the sentries hone their rifles at the lieutenant.

Arms outstretched in the most dramatic of poses, he amplified the speakers on his combat suit and began reciting his ultimatum.

"Armed militants of the Penitent Blade of Asha'Loqei; I speak with the authority vested in me as a defender of the Realm of His Imperial Majesty, Kerxec XV of the House of Dzijmeter, 67th Emperor of Valusia, 13th Emperor of Kadath, its constituent member states and oth-"

His rather excessive declaration was cut short by the whine of a magnetic rifle, the afterimage of a kinetically accelerated slug momentarily flitting in the space between Nyklaus and the sentry towers. The shot, however, found itself impacting an invisible barrier of compressed gas about thirty centimetres from Nyklaus' face, deflecting the projectile harmlessly into the snowy ground.

"Tsch, ingrates." He mumbled, before raising his voice. "All units, open fire, gun these terrorists down, all of them!"

On cue, the treeline surrounding the compound burst to life. From carefully established firing positions, the whirrs of kinetic slugs and the popping of grenade launchers broke the silence of the night sky. The autocannon's barrel spooled, revolving once, then twice, then thrice, faster and faster until a burst of tungsten darts erupted from the barrel, tearing through the reinforced plating of the main gate.

The high pitched shrill of an alarm pierced the night for a brief few seconds, before the wind picked up, drowning it. Nightingale pressed forth with the rest of her team, pistol in hand as snowflakes danced with greater fervour through the air. The snow would provide the perfect cover for the one-sided massacre that was about to occur, burying the fallen in its frigid grasp and locking away the secrets of tonight. Until spring came to Tynaria, and everything began anew.

================================

19th Victor's Street, Office of the First Minister
Unity City, Matros


In the aftermath of the vote to withdraw from the Treaty of Madrigasa, the media, both domestic and foreign, erupted as yet another state abrogated the Treaty that had kept peace within the galaxy for two decades. On the homefront, most of the blame was being directed towards the Commonwealth as the first domino to fall, triggering a chain reaction. Whilst partly true, Arta couldn't see it as anything more than rabble rousing and nationalistic flag-waving, blaming the despised "other" for the actions the government was forced to take. Of course, Arta didn't hold any love for the Commonwealth either. Sure, they provided freedom, peace and security to their citizens, but their social order was built on the backs of hundreds, if not thousands of what amounted to exploited slave worlds.

Fear of being the Commonwealth's next target was the driving force behind three decades of pre-Ashtar foreign policy. When their ships disappeared, fear of the Commonwealth was what drove the Union into the Great War and fear pushed Kadath into taking steps to ensure their sovereignty, even if it technically meant violating the Detente.

Her eyes glanced over the screen on her desk. The video she was about to play had been hand-delivered by courier first from a nebula on the edge of Kadathi core space to Khulda Point, before being loaded on a shuttle and delivered as a chip to her residence at Victor Street this morning. Courtesy of the Supreme General Staff, of course.

Within the cloudy expanse of the Gwyn Nebula, a massive capital ship, dwarfing any vessel currently in service to the Federal Navy, and perhaps the galaxy itself. The Imperial Superdreadnought Triumphant, constructed for half a decade whilst shrouded from outside view by the radiant colours of Gwyn. It's silver hull seemed to glisten, contrasting with the reddish hue of the nebula, as blue exhaust filtered out from the rear. As the angle of the recording shifted, she found herself staring down the barrel of a five and a half kilometre long magnetohydrodynamic cannon. Red filled the screen temporarily as the scene shifted to a side view, the barrel's light growing further in intensity.

An antiquated Valiant-class Battleship of Commonwealth manufacture came into view. During the Great War, Kadathi military planners experimented with the idea of boarding teams to assault and disable capital ships, enabling the Federal Navy to supplement its faltering fleets with captured enemy vessels. It was a flawed strategy. Whilst the plan proved to be successful in capturing ships, repairing them without actual expertise on the vastly different technological systems employed by their opponents meant that in combat, the ships were ineffective at best and a liability at worst. Most captured during the war were lost in subsequent engagements, but a few did survive.

One of them was the RCNS Brandenburg, captured in the closing days of the war, around the time calls for peace were being sent out. Brandenburg was sent off to the Navy's R&D Department in an attempt to reverse-engineer Commonwealth tech, and when that failed, used as a training ship. Over the decades, the tech started to deteriorate, and with no ability to properly service her, Brandenburg was finally dispatched to the hidden drydocks of the Gwyn Nebula for one final mission.

A few more seconds passed before a crimson beam erupted from the Triumphant. Half cutting though, and half blending with the nebula's gas, the beam impacted the first layer of Brandenburg's defenses. The graviton shield buckled for a split second before the onslaught, before fizzling and cracking like the shell of an egg. Undeterred, the beam continued its path of destruction, smashing a gaping hole through the armor and hull and emerging from the other side, chunks of internal components slowly spilling out into vacuum.

Brandenburg's hull shuddered, groaned, the ship's superstructure warping and melting as the reactor went into critical meltdown. It only took a moment for it to reach the breaking point, engulfing the remains of the ship in an incandescent fireball.

Arta repeated the video, again and again, etching every detail of the display of force into her mind. It provided a sense of assurance to her, that Kadath finally had something to even the power gap with the military and economic behemoth on its borders.

After ten or so replays, she took a deep breath. Inhale, exhale. Time to get to work. With a flick of the screen she pulled up a dictation application, and got started. Arta had a lot to respond to. News took a while to get to Kadath, after all. Thanks to a certain group of humans attempting to blow up every PsiNet Beacon in the region, PsiNet communications had to be re-routed through Commonwealth or FedNat beacons space, significantly increasing the time it took for news to reach Matros.

"To the esteemed Chancellor Alanna Decroix..." she started, the software converting her words to text. She intended to send a missive to the Federation and what amounted to a diplomatic protest to the Commonwealth, which could be dispatched through the PsiNet. Next were the Lokoids and Utopians. Those would have to go by courier, by nature of the politically sensitive content they held.









================================

Agdemnar System, Orbiting the Moon of Agdemnar VI
Aboard the Imperial Assault Carrier, Moran


Sleep was usually something unnecessary for synthetic constructs. They did not tire, nor did their mind begin to falter after long periods of activity. Nightingale however, did sleep, though it was not in the conventional sense of the word. Her mind operated in a manner similar to a storage drive. Through the course of a day, memories would be written into storage. The nature of the writing was however, inefficient. Memories tended to be stored as incoherent fragments, necessitating that she 'shut down' for two hour intervals roughly every week to organize them. She'd done this process about four times now, making this the first full standard month she'd spent here in Agdemnar.

The buzz of her room's intercom roused her from the end of her torpor.

"Auxiliary Officer Nightingale, the Lieutenant-Colonel requests your presence in his office." came the voice of a communications officer.

"Yes, noted. I will be there at once." She replied, tersely.

Taking only a few seconds to get out the door, Nightingale proceeded at a rather brisk pace towards the main elevators. Moran's interior hull was divided into six decks, all accessible by maglifts placed at hundred metre intervals along the deck of the nine hundred metre vessel. Decks 1 and 6 were dedicated to the operation of the ship's maglev turrets, whilst Deck 2 housed the reactor, hangar bays and firing system for the Moran's main gun. Deck 3 was dedicated to quarters and recreational facilities for the crew, 4 to Medical, Research, Engineering and officer/VIP quarters. Lastly, Deck 5 housed both the Captain's quarters and the bridge.

It took a few minutes for her to reach Nyklaus's office, the maglifts were awfully crowded, though it was to be expected, given that she had been summoned around the start of the crew's shift change. She briefly considered taking the slower, but less popular route through the emergency staircase, but ultimately committed herself to the lifts.

The doors to Captain's quarters swung open when she approached them. She peered quickly into the office, only to see Nyklaus at his desk, gesturing for her to enter. As protocol demanded, Nightingale went in and stood at attention, raising her right hand to a salute.

"My Lord, you summoned me?" She inquired.

Nyklaus was all smiles as he pointed at the seat opposite him. She sat down, leaning in closer to the table as the Lieutenant-Colonel brought out a datapad from one of the drawers on his desk, passing it to her.

'Report from ISF Blackjack'. The title stood out immediately. The long awaited scouting report from the stealth frigate dispatched three weeks ago. She began looking through the contents after a nod of affirmation from Nyklaus.

For the eyes of the Lieutenant-Coloniel Nyklaus Sazan only,

Sir, as ordered, my crew and I have finished our survey of the current state of affairs within the Agdemnar system, in addition to scouting out suitable sites for an FOB on the surface.

To put it lightly, and if you will excuse the breach of formal protocol, the situation is [redacted by profanity sensors]. We have ships from every corner of the galaxy duking it out in skirmishes orbiting both the planet and its nearby moons. The surface isn't much better off either, rogue Jalayrian "knights" are launching suicidal mass charges against fortified Commonwealth lines, while the Taulron have camped near the shield at Point Jakurna, daring the galaxy to come evict them. To make matters worse, my men saw an Asrian capital ship off the port windows glass part of the planet, whilst their men engaged maggots on mobility scooters on the surface below.

To put it in as few words as possible, Agdemnar has become a battle royale for most of the galaxy, with the grand prize being whatever's under that shield.

You will find the full report in audio and holovid format, as well as a map of possible surface FOBs attached to this transmission, though granted that its an hour long and a terabyte in size, the written contents may act as an acceptable summary.

Respectfully,
Captain Jacob of the ISF Blackjack


"Well, Gale, what do you make of all this?" Nyklaus asked as she passed the datapad back across the table.
"I was thinking that an alliance of convenience may be in order here, though the identity of this ally is up for debate."

"One moment, my lord, initiating remote access of the ship's databanks.
Analyzing holovid footage..."

Nightingale's mind sped through the sea of information at the speed of light, her analytical engines rising in temperature by a few degrees as her body stood motionless, frozen as power was diverted to analysing the footage.

Analysing...
Analysing...
Searching...
Computing...

"Equation calculated, providing conclusion." She declared, her voice half-monotone and half-expressive.

"In accordance to standard Ministry operating protocol in the event of a conflict involving multiple parties obstructing a primary objective, I make the conclusion that your initial assessment was indeed accurate. An alliance of convenience between the Ministry's operating forces and one of the conflicting powers would be the most optimal solution, compensating for our numerical inferiority. In the skirmishes between the various powers, the tactical acumen of both the Jalayrian and Commonwealth Fleets stood out, indicating the presence of extremely competent leadership aboard the flagships of both fleets.

My final recommendation is approaching either fleet under flag of truce to discuss a temporary alliance." She concluded at the end of her long analysis.

"Very well then. The Director will not look kindly to me making deals with the nation that has threatened Kadath's independence for nearly two centuries, thus the Jalayrians, as much as it pains me, are the only option. Gale, issue an order to the Blackjack to have them track down the Ascendancy fleet and relay a request for parley. If they wish to open negotiations, we will meet in orbit of Agdemnar VII."

"Yes, my lord. I will proceed at once. Let us hope that they are unaware of the fate of the sect of Asha'Loqei." Nightingale said, saluting as she turned to leave. "If you'll excuse me..."

"One last thing. Please stop referring to me as 'my lord', military protocol be damned. I'm a common man by birth, and this pretense of nobility does not sit well with me. 'Sir' will do just fine, just like the old days."

"Yes, my lor-... Sir." She cast her head downward, legs making long strides as they carried her away, to the nearest maglift.
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Agdemnar
Crusader Central Command Base, Heretic's Folly


"Got you this time old man." Lacen Bradley said to his father with confidence, moving a small plastic game piece across a gaming board. "I win this and you owe me a beer." Isaac however, had far more experience with the game, along with beating his son in almost every round since he was young, and today wouldn't be any different. "Boy, you win this, beer's on me for life, and I'll even give you half my field rations."

Lacen's expression quickly turned sour at the thought. "Eck, no thank you Pop." He quickly replied. "Tastes like rotten Garrim shit." Isaac's ears perked up from his own son's foul mouth. "Watch that mouth of yours boy." he mildly scolded him. "Your poor mother would faint hearing you talk like that."

"Yeah yeah, sorry pop.." Lacen said, almost dismissively as he begun moving another piece. "But by the Gods, I'm a grown man, and we're in a middle of a war. A little swearing here and there is warranted."

"That may be." Isaac replied as he moved another piece, victory for him was once more nearing. "But you're still that little boy we know and love." He said with a wide, caring smile. "Gotta set ya straight on the right path."

"Yeah yeah..." Lacen replied, his cheeks clearly blushing from the mild embarrassment, he looked up, seeing the small moment of worry in his father's eyes, the dreadful, lingering thought that one or both of them will never return home. "We're gonna get through this." Lacen reassured his father, blindly moving another piece, not realizing he was close to defeat. "I promised Ma we'd both come home from this, that we'd come home Heroes." His father smiled once more, nodding to his son. "We can't leave ya mother all alone like that, it'll just break her heart even more." Lacen nodded back, looking at the board, his eyes widening from the stupid mistake he just made. "Aw shit.." he cursed one more.

"Language." Isaac said as he placed the winning piece. "And that's a checkmate my dear boy."

"Your days are numbered old man." Lacen jokingly said to his father as both men laughed it off. "Good game." He smiled, however their small time of bonding would soon end as duty calls, a trooper clad in the new Crusader combat armor approaching the two from behind. "Lacen." The trooper called out his name. "Lord Idris wants you in the briefing room, something important."

-----------

Lacen, along with the rest of his squad stand around the Briefing room, taking whatever seats they saw fit as the Supreme Commander of the Agdemnar Crusade walked into the room. He was a tall, imposing figure, clad in antiquated armor fashioned after the ancient knights of Earth. Idris Gallant or as he's known by his troops and chapter brothers alike, the Ashen Wolf, Grand Master of the Banner Brothers to the Lord of Fury. The squad almost immediately stood at attention as he entered. "Reporting for duty, sir!" They declared in unison. "At ease." He ordered with a gravelly tone to his voice. They relaxed and took their seats once more.

"I've summoned you here for your particular skills in reconnaissance and pathfinding." Idris said with praise.

"You honor us, my lord." The team Sargent, Alice Cortez spoke. Idris nodded and then continued. "I need those skills for a rather dangerous assignment."

"Just point us the way and we'll find the target milord." Another spoke up, an Rolvian called Raxal Tham. He nodded in agreement, in that moment a holo-projection manifested in the center of the room in the form of the region surrounding Point Jakurna. "For the last few months, we've been monitoring New Roman positions in the mountain range surrounding the Sacred Artifact." On Que, blurry, distant images of the New Roman stronghold materialized. "This is all we could manage to obtain in all these months, and every attempt to get in closer was met with lost drones, the Romans would shoot down any that would be within kill-range of their sentry guns."

"And this is where we come in." Lacen interjected. Idris nodded. "Correct, we plan to launch an assault on the Romans, and I need your team to scout out the enemy base, do what the drones couldn't."

"We're on it, sir." Alice spoke up.

"Good, you leave within half an hour."

----------------------------------

Jalaryias
Ascendant Palace
The Oracle's Office

"The nerve of it of all.." Oracle Lassnia Drass spoke bitterly as she read the inquiry from the Lokoid Council and one could easily tell she was none too pleased with what was written down. Standing before her was another member of the Ascendant Council, Apostle Loc Haran, a fellow Dathir like herself. Apostle Haran had just arrived the moment Oracle Drass completed the inquiry, taking note of her angered expression. "Troubles your Grace?" He spoke with great elegance and a certain level of posh to his tone, fitting for one of Noble blood. Lassnia Drass drew her eyes to meet the Apostle's, her mood changing as she gave him a a subtle grin. "It's the damned Lokoid, Haran." She replied to him. "A small detachment of Gallant's crusaders had staged an unsuccessfully attack on an Lokoid staging point." Lassnia paused as she took a brief breather. "They say what they attacked was one several of their "Exploratory Zones", but they think us fools, not knowing any better." She pulled a small holo-projection device from her desk, activating it to reveal looping images of the Lokoid "Exploratory Zones" and their dirty secrets that they hold within.

"Reconnaissance prior to the attack has reveled to us that the Lokoid have established several staging points for military build-up, and have already transported a significant amount of military hardware, as shown in the footage they've provided." Loc smirked at this discovery. "We've caught them in their lie." He said."

"That we have." She said in great satisfaction. "Which is why I have summoned you here my friend." She paused once more as she leaned forward from her seat ad onto her desk. "I want you bring this to the Lokoid for our little "summit" in Rolvian Space, I've already made the necessary arrangements and have alerted the Rolvian Government of your impending arrival, you leave within the day." She gave the device a small push as it slide over, nearing the edge of the desk as Haran grabbed the device. He looked upon it, his smirk remaining as he turned his gaze back to the Oracle. "I will not fail you, your Grace." He said as he made his leave and carried out his assignment without delay, exiting the sliding doors. Leaving the Oracle to bask in her possible triumph over the Lokoid. However, the Oracle's part of the plan was still in motion, her reply to the Lokoid was yet to be sent.



----------------------------------

Agdemnar System
Deep Space
An two hours after the battle.
In close proximity of the FRCHS Hermione

The battle between the Crusader fleet and the 8th fleet was a fierce one, however, Garza had severely underestimated his foe, and in the process had lost a handful of ships, many of the surviving crew fleeing to other vessels for safety. The sheer number of wounded and dying proved too much for all sick bays within the fleet combined, resorting to a true blessing of the Gods. The Federation had managed to park a hospital ship deep in the system, acting as a sort of neutral safe harbor for the wounded of all participants of the Agdemnar conflict.

Garza was looking out the window in his personal quarters, observing the void, his battle-harden and scarred ships surrounding the federation vessel, transports ferrying the wounded, at least those that couldn't be serviced within the sick bays of their own ships. Truly this was a disastrous operation to begin with. He let out a deep, somber sigh at the sight beholden to him, tears even running down his cheeks. He was knocked out of his trace as he heard several pings from the door. "Come in." He spoke, turning to face whomever was entering. It was his XO, Selena Hanu. "I'm sorry, sir, if I came at a wrong time.." She apologized, taken notice of the tears running down. Garza wiped his face clean of any streaks of tears. "No, no, it's fine." He said. "What do you need, Captain?"

Captain Hanu cleared her throat as she stepped forward. "We've received a message from an approaching vessel. It's Kadathi in origin." Garza an eyebrow, intrigue what he just heard. "The Kadathi? Here? They've haven't made a move since this whole war started."

"Exactly my thoughts, sir." Hanu replied. "They've come to request a parley."

A spark of hope lit within the Admiral, another ally in this conflict would do wonders for the crusade, he couldn't, no, can't turn this offer away. "Let's hear them out." Garza eagerly said. "Did they provide coordinates?"

"That they have, sir." Hanu replied. "We are to meet them in orbit of Agdemnar VII."

"Good, alert the Captain of the Hermione, tell 'em we'll be off on patrol." Garza ordered. "Have the fleet remain here, we're going in this alone."

"As you wish, Admiral."
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Asrian Ascendancy

The message couldn’t be missed. ‘Prince Nautilian of Asra is dead.’ It was broadcasted across all official Asrian channels on the psiNET. Across the realm of Asra it caused a shock. The Great Houses were quick to ask what happened. Some knew he was on Adgemnar and had their answer that way. Further, highly encrypted messages said that he died saving Asrian lives. That because of him at least 100 Asrians could make it off Adgemnar. An envoy ship was already on its way to Asra with the footage and Prince Nautilian’s last message to his wife. Who had made no public statement yet. How could she? Nimueh felt broken and empty. As if a half of her was ripped away. The other princes and princesses were scrambling their best writers to prepare their own statements. Certain craftsmen ordered the finest marble they could get on short notice and vowed to make a memorial for the Scholar-Prince.

Olliana was far from home to mourn her brother. Even at the Resort’s lodge, she felt cold. No amount of sunshine would change that. She wanted to leave this weak and wretched place. But one small message slipped through the heightened Asrian psiNET chatter. The Second Prince of Asra bid her to fulfill her duty first. Then she could come home. “Get us Manir and you can come home sister.” She didn’t want to go home. Her brother had died on Manir. Olliana knew her people. As pacifistic as they portrayed themselves now, they still had the blood on conquerors coursing through them. A Prince was murdered. There would be retribution and Olliana intended to be at the tip of the spear.

And these talks were taking up precious time to prepare. Within the rather well-hidden lodge, she had been tinkering and tooling with her Runic modules. Like she had done as a child. The Prime Minister was taking her sweet time so Olliana decided to hunt. The resort offered some genetically altered creatures to take down. Apparently, the higher-ups of Rovlius were quite fond of it. So Olliana ordered a hunt for the biggest and largest creature there was. The attended was rather apprehensive about the whole ordeal. Especially as Olliana had shown up with very little armor on herself and four javelins she had fashioned out of wood she found around the Lodge. Never the less, after some persuasion, the creature was released and she went after it.

She and her Witches had found it though. It was a lean, cat-like creature. You could see the muscles beneath the black, leathery skin. It had four legs and was huge, about 4 meters in length. Olliana could see the claws on all four of its legs. “That could shred a man.” She whispered, but somehow the beast must’ve heard something. As it instantly lifted its head from the pond and began looking around. Olliana slowly took the javelin she had fashioned herself and raised it over her shoulder. With a singular motion, she threw it. A moment later the wooden point drilled itself into the skin. The monster howled and the Princess yelled out in victory. Until the beast ripped out the branch from its skin and began charging straight at her.

Olliana’s witches began to throw their own javelins. Though most just bounced off the armored sides. Olliana reached out with her power and pulled a branch into her hand. One end of the crumbled into woodchips. Revealing another point. That branch too was off. It didn’t stop the monster. Who, with one backhand strike of its front paw send Olliana hurling through the air. Her flight was abruptly stopped by a tree and she fell down to the ground again. Spitting blood. The beast wasn’t done with her though. It came charging at her again. Its viciously sharp maw open and ready to tear her apart. Right before it could devour Olliana whole Olliana reached out. An invisible wall stopped the beast. Its simple mind could not comprehend the powers that were stopping him. It clawed and shrieked trying to get to its prey that was right there. Olliana used her other hand to reach out above her. The canopy's branches were strong and thick. It took a dangerous amount of time and strength but finally one broke off. It came tumbling down and pierced the beast straight through its body. The creature howled and cried out in obvious pain. The Witches gathered around it. Olliana, over which the beast had towards when it got impaled, was drenched in its blood. She got up, feeling the creature weakening with every desperate move to free itself. Eventually, it collapsed. Unable to muster the strength to move further.

The Princess stood next to it. Waiting until it was near death before she came close enough. The malice in her eyes hadn’t changed when she came down with her psionic powers.

A few hours later Olliana marched into the hunter station where they had ordered their beast. Mud caked on her boots, blood matted her hair and stained her clothes. She stank of sweat and death. Behind her she dragged the head of her kill across the nicely cleaned floor before she lobbed it in the middle of the lobby. “I want the skull cleaned before I leave this place.” She said coldly and left again. Perhaps tomorrow, during the talks, she’d get more satisfaction.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Aleranicus
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Rolvius III
The Overlook Lodge
29:34 Since Foreign Incursion


Prime Speaker Varous Vannifar arrived on Rolvius 3 late in the night. Ongoing discussions of fleet deployments with Ministress Kiora had taken more time than she wanted to admit. For a Star Nation with a negligible fleet presence there was a degree of micromanagement involved with the navy that beggared belief. Two battlegroups were in orbit above Rolvius itself, a third was on its way to Manir, and the Fourth Battlegroup was escorting the Gaea on its shakedown cruise in the Territhan Nebula.

The hotel bar was not the place she imagined herself setting up shop upon first arriving, but a harried-looking Minister Ran was nursing a bottle of whiskey while his aides were hashing out something or other over fried vegetables and sugar-caf.

"Mind if I jump in on this?" Vannifar didn't wait for Ran's answer, taking a glass from behind the bar and pouring herself two fingers of the amber liquid.

Ran didn't raise any objections, just stared into his glass. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather you take the whole thing over. I've done nothing more than act as a glorified concierge since getting here and I haven't been this miserable since I was a boy back on the orchard with my clan."

"Mmm, about that," Vannifar paused, sipping on the liquid. "I'm going to need you to stay on site. We've got two esteemed guests already and we may have more in the future. The very near future. And I've got enough on my plate with the Lokoid."

"Don't pull my leg like that. The Lokoid are happy as clams, like the Terrans say." Vannifar made a face, but Ran only doubled down. "The Lokoid spent the day picking wild berries while we got everything set up. Olliana, by comparison, hunted a Charashar for sport. Brought back a buck with twelve-point-scale plates."

"Here's to her skill with an anti-matter rifle." Vannifar took a long swallow of whiskey.

"She used a spear."

Prime Speaker Varous Vannifar had never before sprayed whiskey through her nostrils. There was a first time for everything.

"You're shitting me! You can't hunt Charashar without heavy energy weaponry. They're bred for population control of Ythorna Grazers. The plates are thick enough to deflect flechettes and kinetics!"

"Well, we didn't account for Asrian training, the death of her brother the Prince, and a personality with all the subtlety and determination of a bull Ranasha with steel-tipped horns. She brought the head back into the lobby and demanded that it be cleaned and delivered to her."

"And? Was it?"

"I had to send the army to collect the hotel taxidermist from a vacation instead of leaving it to the apprentice. He's being shipped back from Rolvius II on military transport. The head is in the meat freezer, locked up so the Lokoid won't assume it's a delicacy and chow down on it."

"Right. Well, how would you like to handle this mess?"

"Is any more of the cabinet coming up here?"

"Only if necessary. And Lyra is staying on Rolvius Prime as the acting PS. Anything we propose here has to be approved by her. I don't know if Asrian Psychic abilities might sway minds, but they can't affect her from so many thousands of kilometers away."

Ran nodded, putting the stopper back in the bottle. "A good precaution."

"Kiora suggested it. Seemed prudent at the time, all things considered. So who do you want to take? The Lokoid?"

"It's my area of expertise. Counting credits is a male's place, after all. The Lokoid know we were in a hard position before the galaxy started to lose its mind. Now that the Federation and Commonwealth are withdrawing from Detente they know we can't get to a war footing without a substantial industrial backer behind us. I negotiated the shipbuilding contracts on Mezla- it'll take a solid month for a wartime destroyer to be launched from our berths and we'll be a tributary of a foreign power by then. Or dead. No one in the galaxy wants to put a single boot on our planets or risk our launching an Invasive Species attack. Not after what we unleashed on the Manir occupation. Hells, single fertile Tyranatar Queen loose in the wild could strip an entire continent bare of wildlife and vegetation within months. But they can always go around us. Even the threat of Lokoid industrial power helping us would make the galaxy sit up and take notice. We could see our fleet size doubled in no time flat."

"Just absorb what the Lokoid throw at you, and make sure to deflect. Don't make commitments right away, say you need to review the numbers with the Parliamentary Trade Commission. I know there's no such thing, but you know what I mean. The minute we put ink on parchment the whole peace could collapse."

"Prime Speaker, I'm wounded. You act like I've never negotiated trade contracts before."

"I know you have. But those contracts falling through wouldn't lead to trillions of dead. As for Olliana... I'll see what I can do."

"She just wants the dig site on Manir. Can we give her access? Call it a day and defuse the situation?"

"They 'just wanted the dig site' in the last war. And our best estimate is that they murdered one-hundred-million Rolvians to get to it. And if they find the key to Agdemnar's shield inside Manir, then who knows what they might unleash? I am not letting those monsters anywhere near that site again."

"So what do you plan to do about a raging psychic warrior princess who killed our alpha predator on the first day of her arrival?"

Vannifar had considered that for a long time on her journey to Rolvius III. There were many options to consider- the standard diplomatic path of offers, counter offers, fine print, and arguing. That struck her as definitively not Olliana's style and likely to piss her off and provoke Her Highness to rash action.

Which left one option, in her mind.

--- --- ---


The morning after, the Lodge of Princess Olliana was awakened by the arrival of a three vehicle convoy carrying a party of twelve individuals.

Seven of them in common dark suits set up a wide-range security perimeter roughly a hundred meters from the entrance to the lodge, their sub-machine flechette launchers on the lookout for unwelcome visitors and wildlife.

Four of them unpacked the chests from the transports, setting up a small campsite and making all manner of racket and smoke, opening a portable stove and food preparation station while laying out a table and two chairs.

The twelfth, Prime Speaker Vannifar, in her best outerwear for the climate, approached the lodge and introduced herself to the Princess' Asrian security detail.

"Her Majesty is welcome to breakfast this morning with myself. Fried proteins, grain paste with berries, juices, and Terran coffee are on the menu. And please advise her I am prepared to discuss the reason for her visit..."
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The Scarlet Gallery of the Imperial Palace
Brandenburg Old Quarter
Praetoria


“Well,” Catherine said lightly as she gazed around the conference room, “Fate, it seems, is a capricious bitch.”

Metternich snorted into his teacup and Martuf grinned broadly. Telemachus and Castlereagh settled for quick smiles, but Bosch’s eyes flitted around in slight confusion, as he was far less personally connected to their monarch. The five of them were gathered with Catherine in one of the Scarlet Gallery’s official conference rooms, interacting with the ‘Imperial’ face of the Imperial Queen. The only person legally required to be there was Metternich, as part of his duty to brief the Queen on the affairs of her government twice every week. However, it had become common practice for the Lord Chancellor to bring along a relevant minister or two to provide deeper background. For the past several years, Telemachus and Castlereagh had been extremely regular members of these meetings, as the Interior and Foreign Affairs were always high-importance files. Bosch, on the other hand, had only rarely been brought along, but with increasing frequency in the year since the Message. Not exactly a good sign for galactic peace.

Martuf’s presence was simultaneously highly questionable and utterly routine. There was no law or custom that explicitly prohibited him from attending, but with no position in Her Imperial Majesty’s Government whatsoever, his inclusion flew in the face of the spirit of the law. At the same time, the officials present knew him to be one of Catherine’s closest advisors, so his presence was a given.

Catherine looked around the conference room again, a small smile fading to a more grim expression. “Yes, I expected others to withdraw from the Detente when we did, but I did not expect it so quickly. I did not expect them to do so while my government was in transit. I did not expect the nations of the galaxy to move so brazenly on the subject of Manir, and I most certainly did NOT expect the Rolvians to turn this into a summit.” She slumped in her chair and rubbed her temples, then directed her gaze at Castlereagh. “We’ve sent someone, I take it?”

“Yes your Majesty, I was able to arrange the necessary dispatches between jumps. Sir Anderson Ribbentrop left aboard the battlecruiser Audacious not long ago. A courrier boat went ahead of him to let the Republic know he’s coming. He’ll be late, but not critically so. Considering the guest list and the location, he’s there mostly to keep a low profile and make sure we get our grain shipments.”

Catherine’s eyes glittered at the reference to the grain shipments. Metternich’s mid-transit briefing had detailed how he’d arranged for various private interests to buy up all the Rolvian grain they could get, but the idea of Rolvian domestic politics threatening the stability of her realm was not designed to make her happy. She turned to Bosch next. “Speaking of grain shipments, what are our options on deploying something a little more...substantial...than a battlecruiser to keep those shipments coming?”

Bosch frowned. “Your Majesty, I made it clear to the Lord Chancellor that invasion is not a feasible option for-”

“The situation has changed, Mathias. This wouldn’t be an invasion. Why, any ships we dispatched to the Republic would be under strict orders to defend Rolvian sovereignty!”

Bosch looked around the table thoughtfully. “That...might work rather well, your majesty. Kyarguin’s on Ursuli, but First Void Lord Selissa migrated with the rest of us so I can speak to her today. Off hand, I know we have at least a task force or two close enough to the border to be available quickly.”

“I can put together a note to Vannifar’s government to go ahead of them. Well, one for her and one for her government, that is. Officially we’d just be conducting wargames near the border, flimsy of an excuse as that is, but we’d make it clear to Vannifar that those ships are ready to intervene on her behalf if she gives the word.” Castlereagh nodded as he spoke, turning the idea over in his head.

“Ah, speaking of wargames, we may have...underappreciated the implications of FedNat’s withdrawal from the treaty,” Martuf said quietly. Every eye in the room turned to him.

“Excuse me?” Metternich said with deceptive calm. “We dismissed that speech from Descroix as so much domestic posturing. A purely political response to our own withdrawal. It’s FedNat, they don’t have the stomach for war. Am I to understand that this interpretation of the situation was in error?”

Martuf sighed. He deeply respected Metternich’s capabilities, but found his temper childish and irritating. Granted, the Lord Chancellor did an excellent job of managing his temper; not controlling it per say, but finding outlets and venting it before he made any decisions. Still, dealing with it was not pleasant for anyone else who happened to be in the vicinity. “Some of those assumptions hold true, but they may have found some backbone. Their 12th fleet is conducting wargames near Rolvian space as we speak.”

Metternich exploded out of his chair and flung his teacup at the wall, where it shattered into countless fragments and spilled the beverage everywhere. “Spears-and-light-and-ashes-and-fuck-and-shit-and-burnit!” The string of curses from several backgrounds flew from his mouth in a remarkably eloquent display of vitriol. It was a testament to how often this happened that none of the security personnel outside the room came bursting through the door. It was also worth noting that Catherine had long ago gotten into the habit of serving Metternich with imitation fine porcelain, not the 600 year old dishes everyone else in the room was using. His eyes turned to Castlereagh’s teacup beside him, but the minister of foreign affairs deftly slid the coffee carafe (another imitation piece) in front of the Lord Chancellor before he damaged anything that actually mattered. Metternich took the hint and seized the carafe, flinging it against the same wall as his teacup as he launched into another string of cursing. Catherine took the opportunity to pull the teapot (a genuine article) out of Metternich’s reach, while Martuf placed the pitcher of cream a little closer to the raging Lord Chancellor. Metternich turned back to the table and took a long, bracing breath, looking around the table apologetically.

“I’m sorry everyone,” he said sheepishly, but fire still lingered in his eyes.

Catherine sighed. “Clement, go ahead and toss the pitcher too, it’ll make you feel better, and we don’t have time to let you go and beat up some training droids.”

Metternich looked around the table again, but the others simply nodded their agreement. He smiled thinly, grabbed the pitcher, and shattered it too against the wall with a final curse. When he turned back to the table, he looked properly calm. “Your majesty is too kind, indulging my temper like that. Anyways, if FedNat isn’t going to be happy sitting this one out, we’ll need to seriously rethink our contingency planning. Mathias, once you’re done speaking to Selissa, please send her out to Ursuli to start rethinking potential deployments with Kyarguin var Dainar. In fact, better send all the Void Lords out there.”

Bosch frowned. “You think we’re that far along the path to war?”

“Not necessarily, but we’re certainly not progressing along the path to galactic peace. Best to get the people who run the military all together on one planet.” Metternich said wryly, and his Minister of Defense nodded. “Cato, how’s the domestic situation looking?”

“About as stable as it gets, for the moment, but I’m warning everyone at this table that the grain shipments are a crisis waiting to happen. We’re keeping a tight lid on it from our end, but I’m more worried about idle chatter from Rolvian spacers when they make their deliveries.” Telemachus looked around the room gravely.

“Can we pre-position any Civil Order assets?” Catherine asked in an equally serious tone. Ultimately the colonies were her personal responsibility, one she did not take lightly.

Telemachus frowned and twiddled his teaspoon in thought. “Not fully; there’s too many potential hot spots to cover with standby forces, and elevating our alert levels would be too noticeable. But I’m thinking now of one of our contingency plans, which would deploy Civil Order assets to a selection of ‘nodes’ in the colonies. It wouldn’t require changing alert levels, just pushing our existing assets deeper into the colonies. We don’t generally keep them that far forward - bad for morale, being out there in the boonies - but we could certainly do it on a temporary basis.”

“Let’s see about getting that done then. Now, Robert, about that communique from Kadath…”

“Blow them off?” Castlereagh grinned.

“Blow them off.” Metternich replied with a grimmer expression. “Be polite about it of course.” He leaned back in his sinfully comfortable chair. “You know, I almost wish I could tell them what’s really going on here….” he mused sadly.

“And we all know why you can’t.” Martuf said solemnly. The room was suddenly very quiet, and the warmth seemed to slip out of the air. Martuf sighed. “I owe you something of an apology, Clement, and you, your Imperial Majesty.” He held up a hand as Telemachus sat upright in his chair “Cato, I’m sure we could spend all day apologizing to or blaming each other, but I played my part getting us where we are. We needed stability and we needed it fast, and you made the right choices, some damn inspired ones too. ‘Supremacy through unity’, ‘Together, above all others’. You did your job perfectly. But my job, not so much. ‘Anticipate and mitigate threats to the realm and the ruler’. I’m not saying I should’ve seen the Message coming, but we’ve always been sitting on a powder keg, and I should’ve known a spark would come, if not what form it would take. Now…”

“Now we’re on the hexa-taur’s back. Light only knows how many souls, drip-fed nationalistic tripe, no offence Cato, for a decade, and now we have to deliver.” Catherine stared at some far off place only she could see. “It’s going to be millions dead before it’s all over,” she said matter-of-factly. “What we set in motion...but I’ll pay that price. If it means there’s a Commonwealth still standing when it’s all done, I’d kill millions more with my bare hands, if that’s what it takes. Because billions would die if the Commonwealth falls. Never forget that, gentlemen. Never forget what happens if we fail. Steel your stomachs against what must be done, because we’re the only ones who can do it. We will prevail gentlemen, we will prevail.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



RCNS Indefatigable
Agdemnar orbit


Sure enough, the vultures had arrived. “Ma’am, the Asrian battleship just-”
“I see it, Rammel,” Anisimovna cut off her ops officer. 8th fleet had been rather busy giving ‘chase’ to the ‘fleeing’ Ascendancy forces, but multiple signatures had blossomed on the plot while they did so, getting up to Gods only knew what. ‘Chase’ and ‘flee’ were poor word choices in this instance; the Ascendancy ships were finishing up a very orderly tactical withdrawal, back out towards Agdemnar’s FTL limit, and while 8th fleet’s vector did keep their longest range weapons on bearing with the Ascendancy, it was not a pursuit vector, just one to get Anisimovna’s own ships out of the limit. After the endless slug-fest with the Ascendancy, Anisimovna wasn’t really paying full attention to the other signatures on her plot. Atmospheric disturbances indicated stealthed ships of some kind making their way to the surface. Something large was decelerating in-system blaring a greeting to literally everyone. The Uteqx interdiction force that had blazed in for a high speed troop deployment had done their homework well; they’d come in ballistic at tremendous speed, made the minimum possible adjustments to deploy their drop pods, and been back out of the limit before 8th fleet could even contemplate disengaging the Ascendancy to stop them. The pods were on the ground in what looked to be 5 locations across the hemisphere, but they were General Verenkin’s problem now. The Asrian forces Anisimovna had been forced to ignore had just glassed a few square klicks of Agdemnar’s surface, and were now well on their way out of the limit on a course where Anisimovna couldn’t possibly intercept them in realspace. She was closer to the limit than the Asrians, so she could potentially pop into FTL for a quick jaunt and catch them inside the limit. It would behoove her to remind the Asrians they couldn’t glass whatever they pleased while Commonwealth ships were around, even rogue ones. That being said, her understanding was that the Asrian presence on Agdemnar (or what was left of it) was substantially more official than her own. It wouldn’t do to start a fight where one wasn’t needed.

Anisimovna’s attitude abruptly slipped from ‘annoyed’ to ‘irritated’ as another one of her screening cruisers went up in flames. She’d gotten through the battle with only light losses, but each one was effectively irreplaceable. She was vaguely aware that her temper and exhaustion were starting to get the best of her, but she thought of a burning world from long ago and braced herself. Sometimes messages had to be delivered, clearly and concisely.

She checked the vectors and the accel. The Ascendancy ships were just reaching the edge of the limit and beginning to engage FTL, while her own forces were not far behind. The handful of Asrian vessels headed by their battleship were still quite some distance from the limit.

“Rammel, start plotting a set of sequential jumps, each squadron as it clears the limit. Spread the fleet out a bit to cover the Asrians’ easiest exit vectors. No active targeting, but let’s stay sharp.”

The Asrians were likely assuming her ships would withdraw when they cleared the limit, and Anisimovna had avoided any course changes that might have discouraged that assumption. Consequently, they were likely surprised when her ships began flashing out, squadron by squadron, only to reappear at the edge of the limit directly in front of the Asrian formation. As the remainder of 8th fleet cleared the limit and repositioned, the Commonwealth ships steadily began blocking off easy escape routes. It would take some fairly intense maneuvering for the Asrians to avoid entering weapon range, but it was possible. The positioning of the fleet, however, could reasonably have been interpreted as hostile action under a strict interpretation of the Detente’s relevant subsections.

“This is Admiral Maria Anisimovna of Deliverance Fleet. Although I am here solely on my own authority, I believe I speak on behalf of reasonable beings everywhere when I remind the Asrian Ascendancy in general and the United Royal Navy in particular that the ‘glassing’ of planetary surfaces is, at best, a barbaric display of a total disregard for life and the worlds that support it. Kindly restrict your bombardment to more...precise delivery systems, particularly when the target is a world with significant strategic value for all parties present in this system. If it is your intent to reaffirm the Ascendancy’s propensity for resorting to excessive force, I am sure we can find a neutral conduit who would happily carry that message to the wider galaxy.”

The pre-recorded clip Anisimovna dispatched to the Asrians was not her most diplomatic work, but then, she was just a rogue admiral these days, and rogue admirals weren’t the most diplomatic types of people.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

737th Battalion Forward Operating Base
Agdemnar Surface


General Verenkin var Gnaesh glared at the woefully incomplete holo map on his projector. The outlines of the Ascendancy position not far from his own were relatively detailed. There was a blotch of detail for the Taulron presence against the shield, that one was very obvious. Otherwise, just a bunch of greyed out ‘uncertainty’ zones with flickering lines indicating tentative positions. The Rolvian research station was one such uncertainty zone, one Verenkin was happy to leave uncertain. Far too many scouts lost to ‘wildlife attacks’ over that way. There was some tentative outlining of where the Asrians had been set up, but the orbital fire on their position had been visible to pretty much the entire hemisphere, so Verenkin very much doubted there were any Asrians left there. Plenty of topographic detail covered the map, but the shield dominated the projection. Detailed readouts of its emissions shifted constantly, but no amount of scanning or probing or shooting had done anything to in any way change them.

Burn the Ashtar, Verenkin thought to himself. It was a common thought these days. Verenkin was, at the end of the day, a simple man. All he wanted was to put his feet up by a roaring fire on Ursuli, beer in hand, wife or two at his side, brother-husband spinning a tall tale for the brood, most of whom would hopefully be dreaming of killing him one day. Not everyone went for the ‘Var’ these days, the honorific bestowed on any Szitzu who could slay their sire or dam in single combat. A lot of Szitzu never got the chance, one of their siblings or half-siblings having done the deed long before they reached maturity. Still others had a hard time dealing with the realities of life in the Commonwealth; traveling a few hundred lightyears only to discover your target was now protected by Imperial decree was...disappointing, to say the least. There was a process to have such a decree revoked, but the bureaucrats in the directorate had evidently gotten tired of losing capable Szitzu to what they considered a ‘cultural anachronism’, and so had mired the process in the Szitzu’s greatest enemy: paperwork. All things considered though, the system worked well enough. That was really the heart of any Szitzu’s opinion on the Commonwealth: ‘good enough’. It certainly had been, until the Ashtar poked their noses in one last time.

Verenkin, and a growing chunk of the Commonwealth’s citizenry, believed that the Ashtar messenger whose soothing voice had rolled out over PsiNET had deliberately chosen to call herself Llyena just to sow division and dissent in the Commonwealth. She’d probably used a hundred different names around the galaxy, tapping into the myths and folklore of different nations, always with the same aim of sewing distrust. That was what the message was all about anyways. Assuming there was anything worth fighting for under the shield, or wherever Point Jakurna would direct them, the Ashtar had to have known their little announcement would tear the galaxy apart.

The familiar litany of curses against the Ashtar wound its way through Verenkin’s head, perhaps with greater fervor than usual. Still, his (unofficial) job was to secure Agdemnar, whatever his thoughts on the Ashtar, and secure the rock he would. His eyes flickered to the Taulron encampment by the shield, not for the first time. The Taulron and the Commonwealth had...a history. But they were damned good in a fight, and they generally had their heads screwed on right too. Verenkin had admitted to himself some time ago he was going to need help securing Agdemnar, and with none coming from home for a long time yet, he’d have to look locally. With no desire to get involved in the Rolvian science fair project, and decidedly hostile relations with the Ascendancy, that left one option...

“Wozniak!” he barked, and an aide poked his head into Verenkin’s ‘office’. “See if you can get a comm response from the Taulron, hell, send a runner if you have to. It’s time we had a chat with the birds.”

Wozniak obediently left the ‘office’, but was back scarcely an instant later. “Sir, Admiral Anisimovna reports drop pods inbound across the hemisphere, 5 landing zones. One of them almost exactly on top of where we lost contact with Recon 44-54.”

“Dammit Masha, the timing on this could’ve been better,” Verenkin growled quietly. Few were the people who could refer to Admiral Maria Anisimovna as ‘Masha’, but Verenkin was one of them. The regs might have some interesting things to say about how their professional relationship was developing, but that was one of the upsides of ‘going rogue’.

The Szitzu general looked back at his aide. “Get back on the horn to Anisimovna, see if she can manage a drone flyby of that landing sight. Then I suppose we’ll need to assemble a little expedition to see what all the fuss is about.”
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The Imperial Senate
Maratilm, Jharya
Yaratilsh

"To my fellow Conscript Fathers, greetings," Salos intoned as he took to the floor of the Senate. Anywhere else in his empire he was Salos VI, Emperor of the Taulron, but here, nominally at least, he was simply Senator Salos. It was a game that many of his predecessors had no patience for, but the wily old man found himself taking a certain delight in it.

In response to the ritualized introduction came the usual flurry of replies, stern answers of "Welcome, Senator" came from those who dreamed of making the Senate more than an overdressed theater while his more loyal followers gave enthusiastic cries of "Hail, O Victor!", and the show carried on.

"For twenty years, we have enjoyed a peace wrought not by some outside force, but by our own hands. For twenty years, the price paid by our daughters and sons was deemed adequate for such a price. For twenty years, all the nations sat in agreement upon the order of things. But now come sounding anew the drums of war, and the day we all knew would come has arrived," he solemnly intoned, the rows of assembled Senators from every accepted race in his empire nodding and murmuring along in sad agreement.

"The Imperial Systems Commonwealth. The Federation of Nations. The Harmonic Conflux. The Urdji Civîneşra. The Imperial Union of Kadath. All have withdrawn from, or made mockeries of, the guarantor of that peace - the Treaty of Madrigasa. But a treaty stored safely within our temples, and witnessed by our gods, cannot be set aside so easily. The divine urge that the galaxy be at peace, and we shall be the enforcers of their will," the Emperor declared, more than a few taking to their feet to cheer their affirmation. Some of them might even be genuine.

"But I shall not lie to you, my faithful brothers and sisters. This is not an easy task the gods have ordained for us, nor one that can be undertaken without great effort. In the name of the gods I demand that this body declare the Treaty of Madrigasa in abeyance until all the nations return to its terms. We have had a long and prosperous peace, but it is clear that the ancient adage has come true once more. If we wish to keep this peace, we must prepare for war."

And so the shouting began, senators on all sides announcing their support or denunciation as bedlam took over the chamber.



Queen Nulla's Gardens, Trydosh Palace
Kresslon Hill, Jharya
Yaratilsh

"Sire, the Senate has finally taken a vote upon your proposal to set aside Detente," Chancellor Lauchu Vipin announces as he enters the gardens, restraining a sigh as he finds his emperor bent over a desk putting pen to paper. "My Emperor, we have teams of scribes and calligraphers that could be doing that for you."

"Yes, we do," Salos says in a murmur, etching out letters on the fine parchment with an intense care. "But I don't trust them to see the contents of this letter."

"Surely you jest, everyone employed within the Chancellery was approved by me personally," Lauchu replied, playing with the tablet in his hands to distract himself from the oddity he was witnessing.

"This is true. But I do not trust you to see the contents of this letter either," the Emperor says with a small smile before setting down his pen and breathing out across the paper to dry the ink. "Send this to Praetoria, on a regular courier run. Ensure it arrives there before Larthia finishes that absurd relocation from Corinthene. He is to deliver it into the hands of the Imperial Queen, and none other than her. To keep things fair, I'll let you in on the secret after he hands it off. Gods know she's going to show it to her Metternich as soon as she's done reading it. Perhaps before." As he speaks, he heats an ornate wax seal, impressing it upon the letter with a loud bang.

"Of course, sire," Lauchu says in a very quiet voice, all thoughts of Salos' impropriety replaced by his own for daring to intrude upon correspondence between sovereigns.

"You did not just come to tell me the results of Senate votes. The Senate votes in my favor, that is the way of things. What else do you have for me?" Salos asks in a soft tone, giving his overly conscientious chancellor a chance to regain his bearings as he folded the letter up and placed it under seal.

"Quite right, my Emperor," the Merlovian says, clearly eager to return to form. "The missives to the Rolvians, the Federation, the Lokoid, the Urdji Civîneşra, and the Kadath are awaiting your signature and approval. I trust you will find them to your liking."











"You didn't follow proportionality with the federals," Salos muses. "My titling is more formal than hers. Why?"

"The humans are the only ones we asked for help. Using Latin was deemed an effective way to impress your majesty upon them without resorting to stylings they may find overwrought."

"And if they find the language itself an anachronism?"

"My Emperor, that is the entire point of the letter."

There was a short silence as the old Emperor considered this point before he finally shook his head. "I yield to your mastery of protocol. Send them via the soonest scheduled courier. Except for the Rolvian message, send it via PsiNET. Use a cipher that we know the Commonwealth has broken but we're reasonably certain the other powers haven't."

"Of course, my Emperor. Now then, there is the matter of proclamations.”





"Yes..." Salos says slowly as he finishes reviewing the messages. "These will do. Promulgate them immediately," he orders in a tired voice, before pressing a sealed envelope into his Chancellor's hands. "I will be at the mausoleum if I am needed."

"Of course, my Emperor."



Camp Kalando, Imperial Research Base
Outskirts of Point Jakurna
Agdemnar

The coming of the obelisk caused a massive stir within the camp, and Captain Jouyin Heliak found herself bundled into a war room with a collection of military officials and scientists. It was the latter who were in charge of the camp, and so the young officer found herself in the uncomfortable position of having to sit and listen to the clique gush about a bunch of hellos for hours on end until the threat status of the newcomer could be verified.

And then the most ostentatious looking man she had ever seen in her entire life walked into the room, Principal Investigator Janfras Camoll. The man in charge of all official Taulron operations on Agdemnar, he was an excessively tall Yaratelmsh with an obviously artificial wingspan and even more obviously artificially colored plumage - though at least his was the result of him genetically engineering himself to grow the purple feathers instead of dyes. An eccentric and a genius, his scandals were matched only by his discoveries, and the worst thing was he knew the latter got him out of trouble for the former. Heliak hated him.

"Right right right, let’s get this settled. Giant obelisk appeared out of nowhere, no jump signature so it probably drifted, quantum communication technology - no one has that, Ashtar probably knew about it but wasn’t their cup of tea. No point in having quantum state greetings if you could just think the words into someone's minds and all. While all of you were busy gawking, I was with the boys down at the sensor array and managed to bang out something that can reply with a bare bones transmission in a similar enough way that whatever this think is doesn’t mistake us for idiots by tearing apart one of the spare neutrino detectors."

"Does that mean we can go now?" one of the other stealth corvette captains asked, the entire lot of them still chomping at the bit to get running.

"What? Oh, you guys. I'll do you better actually. Seems like everyone is confused as hell anyway so I'm lifting flight restrictions. Get out of here, especially you Heliak. The old women of the mountain want a Ghostseer for their next op and they asked you to do the delivery," Janfras said in the same casual, stream of consciousness rant he seemed to say everything in.

Half an hour later, and the Nightshade was flying low and cloaked with a mute Hateri on the cramped bridge, speeding far away from Camp Kalando just as it began to transmit back to the obelisk.

"WHOAREYOU.WHOAREYOU.WHOAREYOU.WHOAREYOU.WHOAREYOU.WHOAREYOU.[…]"

Remnants of the Asrian Outpost
Agdemnar

Taulron special operations groups on Agdemnar fit a particular mold. Almost all were Yaratelmsh veterans of the Great War, making even the youngest older than the vast majority of soldiers who went into the field. It also meant that they had all seen a Ghostseer work before, and the women and men kept a respectful distance from the Hateri as he walked across the glassed surface that many had fought and died on.

The winds died down as the psintegrae began his grim task, ice crackling across the glass. Every emotion felt by every being left a psychic imprint upon surrounding objects, and more powerful emotions consequently leave more powerful imprints. The art of a Ghostseer is recalling these imprints, and reliving them. The mission of this Ghostseer was to find the death echo of Prince Nautilian, and plunder the remnants of his thoughts impressed upon the ground he died defending for information. But many people died at that outpost, and finding the last emotions of one was a trying task. The largest driver of failure was not enemy action, but the Ghostseer’s will breaking.
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--=Highfield Crossing, Horizon, Tau Ceti.

Highfield Crossing was the true heart of Horizon. Whilst Couerlene and its Federal sector was the de jure seat of governance for the Federation, Highfield Crossing, only a hundred miles away, was the planetary capital of Horizon and was often where Federal officials decamped to during weekend recess, or during official recess of the assembly. Couerlene was an effective capital, but Highfield Crossing was a true city, with all the wonders and vices that could be had in such a place. It had grown from a sedate farm market town to a bustling city with the establishment of the Federation, and had, most figured, simply through proximity ended up as the planetary capital.

It had its charms. Alanna had not often had time for it since her election to highest office, but she found time here and there to escape the official protocol of Couerlene in favour of the bustle of Highfield, now and again, she could even meld into the scores of people that made their way around the city, living the lives she worked to protect and make prosperous in her own way, though often the trail of security made such a thing more of a distant hope than reality. It was not one of those days today. She had found herself largely confined to the official residence in Rainley Tower in downtown Highfield, but it had given her time to meet with people she normally would of had to go in circles to do so, officially and unofficially - and her office her though far more opulent gave her nearly all the same sort of access she would of gotten if she had never left Couerlene. It was at least, quiet. A few security staff were spread around the residence, whilst a few Aides were hidden about, doing their best to make sure she didn't have to deal with minutiae. Her constant companion, Mikhail, amused himself somewhere within the sprawling penthouse, but she had one more meeting and quite a bit of reading and writing to do this evening. They would be back in Couerlene soon, but she remained hopeful she'd find just a little bit of time for a discreet backdoor entry into the exclusive new club down the street she'd heard so much about. There might be a waitlist four years long already, but being Chancellor had to have some perks, didn't it?

She raised her head from the report she'd been half perusing, sunk into the scandalously comfortable chair in this office she was sure had been designed with the idea of ensuring no-one ever really got work done that didn't involve napping. There had been a sound - the entrance to the office was some absurd security measure with multiple doors that often let her knew someone was coming in a good few moments before they were. She didn't bother checking the cameras on her desk display - it wouldn't help, she never knew who she would be meeting when it came to Intelligence matters when they were not completely on the books.

The inner door opened with a slight swish of air and metal being moved by unseen mechanisms, and a man stepped in, nodding respectfully and approaching Alanna, who motioned to the seat opposite her - one she noted was likely far less comfortable, but still more than suitable. She took a moment to take stock of the man, he was.. average. They normally were. The Intelligence Services had a knack for taking nearly anyone and making them appear perfectly, boringly average. There was an edge of above average attractiveness to this one though, which told her he'd probably actually not been altered much, if at all.

"Chancellor." He said, sitting himself down as indicated by Alanna.

"C7, I've not had the pleasure previously, but in these meetings I don't think I've ever had the pleasure of re-acquaintance." She said, smiling.

"Indeed, Chancellor, though as you know, there are a finite number of C's to meet. Sooner or later, you may have the pleasure of seeing a familiar face." He responded, sharing a smaller smile. Though she expected pretty much anything he did or said was calculated, not that it mattered, they were on the same side.

"I Live in hope. What do you have for me that I can't get through the Committee or Minister officially?" May as well cut straight to the point, she could be business if she needed to be.

"It'll be 14 total by the end of this standard calendar week. No plans for more - we don't have enough for that, as you know. Everyone thinks you don't know the entire puzzle, but that's the idea. Project Helios on track though with withdrawl from the treaty, we can unveil Helios fully and scrap plans for the fourth cover project. Shakedown testing is nearly done for the launched Helios 1, Helios 2 and 3 are on track for completion as outlined previously. The cover projects have also kept to schedule and have proven viable in simulations. The Triumvirate in High Command is in on this, of course, we're using High Admiral Lieng now as the Liason there. High Admiral Rochester has taken over all Agdenmar operations as per your request. I believe High Admiral Alyentsov has your confidence for the current Rolvian issue." C7 said, not stopping at any point for breath but never going too fast that she didn't take everything in.

"I see. I'll leave the Helios timetable to AIS and the Admiralty, the public are quite invested in the cover projects, so we will certainly have to proceed with them to completion, if not their mission profile. Agdenmar is a mess, but involvement now would of been troublesome, and Lieng requires too much convincing sometimes, but he should be fine overseeing Helios. Rochester will act when appropriate, and he is considerate enough to keep us all informed, so I foresee no issues there, considering our involvement will not hide behind questionable legalities. As for Alyentsov, I've not had the honour of a face to face meeting with that particular member of the Triumvirate, but they have seemed most capable in my few encounters with High Command. Alyentsov wants to back up Piazza's 12th with Patel's 16th, Defence tells me, The Admirality gave that the go ahead a few hours ago with my blessing for whichever course of action pursued. I'm not going to personally inform the Rolvian's of that, but they'll get notification of them joining the "wargames" through normal channels by the time anything I send reaches them. Its mostly a show of intent for everyone other than the Rolvians at this point, given the guarantee I've all but given them, and all should proceed without incident, provided we do not violate Rolvian Sovereignty. On that note, speaking of violating sovereignty, anything to share?" Alanna almost leaned back in her chair, but decided against it.

C7 nodded. She probably hadn't told him anything he didn't know or wouldn't find out, but she was forthright with the C's and they were forthright with her. He began to speak.

"Most things you've been briefed on, there's been a number of direct engagements on Agdenmar again, though I am aware you've been given the full reports on those. Little more to provide on that. Our Embassies are relatively quiet - nothing out of the ordinary there." She knew he meant intelligence embedded in Embassies by that. "Sources are mostly detailing reactions to our withdrawl from the era of Detente, As per expectation, most don't regard the Federation as a threat in a military sense, let alone much of anything else. Biggest concerns have been economic, but that's a general concern across most quarters. Honest assessment is that the Federation will continue to be considered economically and to some extent politically, but as a military near non-entity until we take aggressive or defensive action. Nearly every political operator and intelligence agency, even those with smart analysts and good sources still measure by the standards of the Great War, it counts in our favour for the moment." Alanna nodded, she even appreciated the frankness with his admittance that other powers had good sources in the Federation - but that was an inevitable reality. It implied some familiarity, so she hoped he knew who some of them were, at least.

"The Foreign Minister had thoughts on a similar assessment, he implied that its very likely that sooner or later someone will force us to lose the carrot and use the stick, to borrow an old phrase, simply because they think it won't hit them." Alanna responded, shaking her head a little.

"Astute, to be sure, Minister Adler does know his craft." C7 said, matter of factly. He shifted in his seat slightly, an indication that he had nothing much more to add, unless he was specifically prompted on a subject.

"I'm sure he'd appreciate AIS's praise, though I wouldn't want to make him think he's too good at his job. However, that should be all. Let's keep in touch." Alanna watched the man rise.

"Never out of it, Chancellor. Have a good day." He said, and strode out of the room with a self-assured confidence that belied his near complete averageness.

Alanna took a moment to reflect, before turning back to her display. There were things to respond to - some she had waited on - some were new. She drew closer to the desk, escaping the near sinful comfort of her chair, and began to work.



Alanna took a moment to think. Rolvius had its importance, even to projects in the Federation. They'd made a mistake before, of course, and millions of individuals around the galaxy had died, but not on the doorstep of the Federation like it had been with the Republic. She was determined that it wouldn't happen again, not on her watch, anyway, and she'd essentially just galvanized the populace for it too, making it almost an internal political matter. She couldn't force the Rolvians into anything, not without taking either military or economic action, and that was exactly the kind of strong-arming she wanted to avoid.

More awaited, though.



Alanna didn't know the most about the Kadathi, but they were, as ever mentioned, driven by their desire to not end up part of the Commonwealth - the Ashtar had seen that was fact, now it remained up to them themselves to ensure it. Alanna had, she realised, declared a policy of containment contingent on whatever the Federation decided was keeping the peace - she saw that a coming to blows with the Commonwealth was a likely outcome of that, but hardly one she wanted to speed along. Aiding the Kadathi for now would retain some sort of balance, though if an agreement was signed she expected the Commonwealth would hardly react positively, but it was an economic matter, what it was used for was hardly for the Federation to dictate.



Alanna had not expected that, of all things, and she would be sending off a number of messages around the Federation - including to intelligence. She didn't quite know what was going on here, but it wasn't something she'd disregard either. She noted the Latin, the anachronistic formality of some of it, whether it meant more than what it seemed to was a different subject, but one she'd leave to some poor analyst somewhere.

She sighed. She really needed to go to that club.

----------



--=FRCHS Hermione, Hospital Ship, Agdemnar System

The Hermione had been busy being put to use, a resupply ship had just arrived and gone - and many were busy offloading the supplies that were replenishing the stocks that were being used up by the recent casualties incurred by forces in the recent flurry of combat in the system. The Hermione's doctors were however, excellent, and most had undergone extensive sim-training with most notable species they'd encounter, and rates of survival even in alien patients were higher than in some hospitals found on Horizon or Hippocrates.

In a way, it made the crew of the ship feel safer, having countless sick or injured individuals onboard was hardly conducive to morale, but it made the likelyhood of an enemy ship coming along and blowing them out of the sky far less likely, and a system of separate wards and security systems meant that even if opposing factions ended up being treated at the same time, they couldn't interact without intent from the command staff.

Captain Argyle had been picked to command the Hermione mostly because he had intelligence clearance and familiarity with the operations of a ship dedicated to the art of healing. Being unerringly calm had also helped, given where they were deployed - and for the most part nothing too concerning had happened. Now he was staring over the shoulder of a bridge technician wondering how in the world they were going to avert a disaster.

"Captain, we're looking at a faulty stabilising mechanism, whether its structural or the Devite was off and warped the containment, I couldn't say from here, but when they did this ship over it wasn't designed for this kind of power system. If we don't replace that mechanism the secondary fusion core is gonna make what happens down on that stupid planet look like a fun day out." The technician said, mostly composing himself.

"Why exactly do we not have one in storage?" Argyle asked, frowning.

"We did have four according to the manifest, but looks like when they converted some of the storage areas into wards and centralized the whole logistics aspect they didn't think to recheck whether they put the things back on board, who the hell messes up like that?" The technician said, growing exasperated.

"This was a rush job, be glad that's the only thing important they forgot." Argyle responded, he frowned again as the ship shuddered a little. Alert lights began to blink.

"We just got a uncontrolled power surge, no permanent damage but engine block one and two have just gone offline temporarily and several thrusters are firing independent of control due to a short, were basically about to begin rolling at a list to anyone outside till its fixed, Captain."

Argyle rolled his eyes.

"Fantastic, issue a warning to all nearby ships of our uncontrolled movement. Magnetize all docking clamps so no-one still latched onto us goes flying off or into us. Damnit, No-one out there is going to have what we need, we're going to have to call in one of the cavalry." Argyle frowned once more, he walked over to his own station, punching a few codes into a console, simultaneously sending a dispatch homeward and one out into the black void of Agdenmar. A few moments later, Argyle hit another key, bringing the holoscreen into life, a woman in a standard Unified Navy uniform greeted him, he supressed a smile, as he noted her captain rank.

"Having a problem there, Argyle?" Said the woman, Argyle knew her from way back, she'd risen pretty far to end up on a Pharos, the premier stealth ship of the Federation. Couldn't say she didn't deserve it.

"A very big one, Captain Tsang, you're going to have to break cover and come in to help us, unless you'd like us all to explode into a small micro-star for a few seconds. Personally, not a fan." Argyle said, non-chalantly.

"I see." She hit a few keys herself, and nodded to someone offscreen. "What do you need?"

"Stabilising mechanism for a Fusion Core, they seemed to of misplaced ours during this girls refit, I'm just glad that's all they missed - or we'de probably of blown up a lot sooner."

She looked down for a few seconds, then back up. "We've got what you need, we're going to have to go live when we come in to dock and the entire system is going to see us blazing our IFF out of nowhere, so I'm sure Horizon is going to be unhappy about those questions, but that's not our problem. We'll help stabilise your movement until repairs are complete, then drift back into the black. ETA 15, hope you've missed me."

"If we didn't have 45 till critical, I'd say take your time. See you on the Hermione."

Argyle frowned as the holoscreen blinked out of life. At least he could be thankful the Pharos was shielded against most levels of scanning. If a dozen powers were about to get a look at it, at least they wouldn't know what it was other than it was a Federation Cruiser.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Sigma
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Deep Space
4th Diplomatic Flotilla
Battle Carrier Serene Truth

Sitting in the center of a lavishly designed room, Apostle Haran was enjoying the traditional drink of his people. Yhaberry tea, along with a rather unusual addition in the form of Earthen biscuits, Haran himself finds them oddly delightful. A quiet moments of peace before the unpleasantness that is soon to follow, dreading the inevitable meeting with the Lokoid. However, the one thing that brings him a small glint of joy in the back of his mind is the incriminating evidence he carries on his person, letting out a small gleeful chuckle as he took another sip of his tea. "Simply Exquisite." He commented.

"Another, my lord?" One his many servants inquired as she took notice of the empty cup. "Of course my good miss." Haran responded, followed by an immediate refill. "And be a dear and activate the holo-channels for me." The maid nodded. "Of course, my lord." She said, complying with his request and, pulling out a small device, within moments a holographic screen materialized before Apostle Haran, keeping tabs on the latest events in the ongoing galactic crisis, and a not moment too soon did the headlines provided with something eye-catching. "Arsian Prince dead." spelled out in bolded letters as they passed under the news anchors. Certainly surprising enough for the Apostle to set his tea aside and paid very close attention. Rotating images played out chiefly featuring the mourning masses within Asrian Space, portraits of the late Prince Nautilian being held up high by many citizens as they marched through the streets. "How Unfortunate.." Haran said, "tisking" several times as he took another sip of tea, although he did not know the man personally, he knew of him though past dealings with the Asrians. While this was indeed a tragedy, and Haran held some sympathy and respect for the Asrian People, they were afterall, one the few allies the Jalaryians could depend upon. However, this tragedy could easily turn into an opportunity.

The Asrian's presence in the Holy Land was minimal at best, however, the attack conducted by the Harmonious Conflux could prove as the perfect catalyst in pushing the Asrian Ascendancy into properly joining the conflict, and join in the Crusade to claim the Holy Land, the dark shadows of their past resurfacing to enact vengeance. "Now it is only a matter of time." Haran said to himself, sipping once more from his teacup. He heard several beeps coming from his left "ear" as the voice of the ship's captain spoke up. "My lord, we're on approach to Rolvian Space, we'll cross over the border within a quarter of an hour."

"Good, very good." Haran replied. " Keep me posted."

"Understood, sir." The captain said as he cut comms.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Predawnia
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Predawnia Prolific caster of "Pot of Retcon"

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Surface of Agdemnar VII
Agdemnar VII, a world devoid of all life, no animals, no trees, no grass, no greenery to be seen whatsoever, and not a living being in sight. The planet was nothing but a barren wasteland, an ideal location for a secret meeting far from prying eyes. A Salvation Dropship came souring through the darkened skies, its screeching engines echoing through the empty valleys below. The ship continued its journey for a short while longer before it had arrived at the designated meeting point for both parties, the dropship made its slow descent towards the flattened ground, causing a small dust storm as dirt whirled around it. The troop bay hatch lowered, revealing Admiral Garza and Captain Hanu encased in protective environmental suits, flanked by three armored marines as they stepped out into the the rather bleak and unwelcoming sight that was Agdemnar VII.

A gale of wind brought dust billowing in front of them, obscuring their view of the desolate surface for a few moments. As the gust subsided, they could see strange, red-black shapes approaching in the distance, their movements fluid, but at the same time calculated and methodical. Garza couldn't exactly make out what they were from so far away, but something in his gut made it clear enough; they were walkers.

When the distance finally closed between them, it became obvious enough what they were. His gut was right beyond a doubt. A pair of mechanized walkers, assembled somewhere within Kadathi space. In their left arm was some sort of lance-like implement, on their right, a long tube that could only be described as the barrel for a beam weapon. Most unusually however, was the absence of the White Sun, a Kadathi symbol emblazoned in some form on all military assets. What replaced it instead was the image of an eagle, wings outstretched, and an all-seeing eye carved into its chest.

After a brief moment, the sound of a gas discharge filled the air as the walkers' cockpit blocks separated from the main chassis, small lifts slowly ferrying down two power armoured individuals to the surface.

Although machines of such scale and firepower were not alien to the Admiral or to the Ascendancy as a whole, he and his entourage still couldn't help but stare in awe of what giants stood before them, the Kadathi were quite the masters of this new form of war machine, an art that the Ascendancy and quite a few other powers have begun to practice in as well, fielding their own, if somewhat imperfect designs. However, upon closer inspection, he took notice of the Ministry's emblem printed upon the machines, a red flag if he's ever seen one, Garza has known all too well of the Ministry's...actions against those of the Ashtari Faith, untold numbers of brothers and sisters slain by their hand.

Now the Ministry had seemingly been given access to higher grade military hardware, a worrying revelation indeed. Garza cautiously stepped forward to meet the Ministry's faceless emissaries, his guards and second quickly following behind, Hanu clearly sensing the tension in the air as the two parties soon met face to face. Garza inspected one of the individuals closer, his blood starting to boil. "Nyklaus Sazan.." Garza spoke with a venomous tone. He could recognize that face from anywhere, this man was after all, his son's killer. Gilliam Garza was among the many "Advisors" sent by the Ascendancy in their covert efforts to support the Ashtari Sects that choose to remain, and spread the faith.

In the Ministry's many raids against these sects, Gilliam's team failed to flee in time before a raid led by Nyklaus Sazan, stormed the compound and killed all within, the Advisors included. The non-Saralai bodies discovered sparked an incident between the Imperial Union and the Ascendancy, the Council swiftly disavowing the Advisors as "rogue" elements. The fallen had gone unnamed publicly, quietly forgotten, but privately, they were given proper burials and their families were compensated for their collective loss. With Wallace's connections in the military, he was the first to discover his son's death at the hands of Sazan, his world shattering in that instant.

He stood before the man that took his son. His hands trembling as the urge to grab his pistol was all consuming. He could make one clean shot and avenge his son. "You killed my boy.." He mumbled.

Sazan's face, visible only through the dusty translucent visor was struck with a moment of confusion, and then clarity. Garza, a family he had dealt with once before, on that winter night in northern Tynaria over six years ago.

"I had to do what was necessary, Admiral Garza." He began, choosing his words carefully, his pace slow and methodical. "I do not know what you may have heard in the Ascendancy, but it was the warriors of the Penitent Blade that fired the first shot. I gave them a chance to surrender, to stand down and end it without shedding any blood. They would have faced a fair trial had they done so. Instead, they opened fire when I gave them that chance. Tell me, what other choice did I have?"

"..You had your duty, Sazan.." Wallace replied. "And I have mine." He pulled out his pistol without hesitation, aiming right for Sazan's frontal visor. ready to make the shot, ready to finally put his son's soul to rest, let his killer bleed to death or suffocate in Agdemnar VII's toxic atmosphere, eve if he were to die where he stood, he knew would have done some good in the galaxy. Before he could even pull the trigger, Captain Hanu quickly pushed his arms downward. "Admiral!???!" She cried out in confusion. "Sir! What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

"This man...no this heathen murdered my son!" Six years of grief soon overcame the Admiral, any rationality that was, was no more in that moment. "He must answer for this!"

Another voice, one laced with a feminine, synthetic tone rang out as Sazan's companion moved forward to block Garza's line of fire.

"I would recommend you not open fire." Nightingale declared with a degree of assertion as her right hand reached for her sidearm without unholstering it. "Such an action would jeopardize any chance of forging a mutual cooperation." Her left hand pointed in the direction of Captain Hanu.
"You there, officer, I detect that the Admiral is, in the most polite way of phrasing it, emotionally compromised. I suggest that if negotiations are to continue, that he be returned to his vessel."

Before long two of the marine guards were quick to restrain the Admiral, clearly understanding the severity of the situation at hand. "This is insubordination!" Wallace shouted out. I order you to release me!"

"Take him back to the ship." Hanu ordered. Both marines nodded and returned to the dropship, the third remaining to guard the captain. She turned back to face Nightingale and Sazan. "I must apologize for the Admiral's outburst. "She said sheepishly. "I will gladly take his place to negotiate on behalf of the Crusaders." In the brief moment of ordeal, the Captain had failed to notice something rather...odd about Sazan's attendant, the synthesized voice was certainly an indicator.

"My apologies for being the cause of that ordeal. I knew that my reputation preceded me but I was entirely unaware the Admiral himself would be one to have been affected by my...actions. If I had known, I would've dispatched someone else in my stead. Nevertheless, let us begin the negotiations." Sazan declared.

Sazan stepped forward from behind his adjutant, his visor turning to address Captain Hanu. His gaze flitted momentarily between her and the marines, as if evaluating them.

"Under orders of His Imperial Majesty's Government, the Ministry of State Security has been dispatched to this system in an effort to prevent the Commonwealth from uncovering the secrets of Point Jakurna. The Special Action Division, led by myself, has flown here to achieve that goal. From what I know of the Crusaders, you are here to secure the Holy Land, thus I believe that our objectives intertwine."

"That is correct." Hanu replied. "We've all volunteered for this, and...it hasn't been easy." She paused, breathing in and out, her nerves were getting the better of her, Hanu has never been in such a position before, she was prepared to follow whatever the Admiral had to say to secure this temporary alliance, not to carry on with the negotiations by herself, pushed down any fears and processed. "As the third highest authority in the Crusade, we are willing to work alongside the S.A.D. to both achieve a common goal, and to combat a common enemy."

"On that front, we are in agreement then." Sazan nodded, narrowing his eyes. "Of course in the end, once your Holy Land is secured, are the secrets of the Ashtar not your goal? I am willing to lend you aid, but at the same time I cannot return to Matros empty-handed."

Nightingale nodded in agreement, and stepped forward to speak. "Simply put, in exchange for the S.A.D's support, we request access to a small portion of whatever that is eventually found under Point Jakurna, and if we make it that far, what lies on the Ashtar homeworld of Ayrie as well."

"..."She was silent, the end goal for both parties would of course be divergent, possibly contrary to one another, but this was out of the question in her mind, even if they were allies for now, it would be outright blasphemous to give nonbelievers acess to Paradise, the Realm of the Gods. "I...it isn't my place to make such a decision...not now, all I can guarantee is joint efforts against the Commonwealth, what happens after...I cannot say for sure. Unforeseen Circumstances may grant us what we all wish for."

Within his mind, Sazan sighed. Of course that wouldn't work. In hindsight, he probably should have tried demanding a larger chunk, and then haggling towards something in favour of the Crusaders. Nevertheless, it was too late to backtrack now. He'd have to take what he can get. If S.A.D couldn't get their hands on whatever was under that shield, then he'd have to content himself with the fact he could ensure that the Commonwealth's "rogue fleet" wouldn't be able to either.

"Very well then. I pledge my support to the Crusaders in opposing the forces of the Commonwealth. My ships will fight alongside you. Though in future, correspondence between our two fleets will have to be conducted through my adjutant. I am sure neither of us want a repeat of that ordeal." He stretched out a hand to shake, encased in the plating of his powered suit.

Hanu reached out in kind as both shook hands. "Then we are in agreement. I'll see to it that the Admiral remains more...level-headed, we've have bigger concerns at the moment."

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This post was a collaboration between @Predawnia and @Sigma.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Liotrent
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Liotrent Tabby Space Cat

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EN-ROUTE TO KADATHI EMBASSY
TAKAR MOON
SAYTAK SYSTEM




Takar was a jungle-based world, half of it was converted into a food production sector, the other half was left to grow unfettered. Takar was also a birthing world. Young nymphs would be tested here, some may never reach adulthood. This was considered barbaric, but to the Lokoid it is a way to control the growing population and ensure that only the strongest and the fittest survive. Those that do not, are simply not worth the space, nor the time.

Most of the habitation is underneath the surface, only a few structures rise above all the farms and food processing plants to see the lush jungles of Takar. The Kadathi Embassy on Takar was one of the few along with the rest of the foreign diplomatic structures. Comparatively, Saytak looked quite different and could be seen clearly from Takar. Saytak is a world full of swirling noxious gasses and abandoned structures that can no longer be used for normal habitation. From Takar, Saytak looked like a brown gas giant, one could hardly see the surface, irreversible pollution. It would take a substantial amount of effort to return Saytak to how it once looked.

Zasz and Kaloth gazed upon their ruined world through their compound eyes – a world ruined years before they were even conceived. They’ve no connection to it, yet the image of a once lush, green world that was the home of the first Lokoid stings their mind with regret.

“We are now more careful than we were before, are we not Zasz?”

“It is a trend with all races that, I believe the human expression captures best. ‘Hindsight is 20/20’.”

“20/20?”

“It is their measurement for vision. The expression refers to the feeling of knowing what to do after the need for action has long passed.”

“It is not often that we experience such reactions.”

“Enough of this. We must be prepared to meet the Kadathi soon. We must focus on our present concerns. Araq has assigned Daggoth and Gorn to respond to the Conflux accordingly.”

“Indeed, the timing of the Conflux’s missive and their abrupt change of stance towards the treaty of Detente could not have come at a worse time. We are open to all alliances, that is for certain, however, the Taulron have called for a cessation of trade with the Conflux over slavery. In time, further scrutiny will reveal our connection to them and their less acceptable dietary habits. Such things are enough justification for a nations people to go to war.”

“Soon, more nations will abrogate the treaty out of fear of conflict. The tenuous peace that we are so desperately trying to prolong until we can attain non-aggression pacts and military agreements is crumbling quickly. Kaloth, be prepared to organize all Lokoid-based operations by importance. Daggoth may need a list soon to prioritize a defensive.”

“While we are discussing the matter of Lokoid-based operations. We should consider the Urdji in our planning. They lack the proper foundations for planetary operations, however, considering our dealings with them in the past, their navy holds promise.”

“I shall discuss the proposition to Araq after our talk with the baronetess Lady Elia.”



MISSIVE



"Supreme Hierarch, the task of which you have assigned to Gorn and I is complete."

Araq read the missive and clicked with satisfaction, "This is enough, though I feel we are too straight forward."

"Gorn determined that it would be best that way and I as the Hierarch of war agree. Transparency and clarity is needed to form any sort of working military alliance. Though this may possibly wound them, they have dealt with us several times in the past. This sort of tone should be considered normal."

"Very well, though I wonder whether cutting trade for the sake of our own objectives was wise?"

"Gorn determined that a small gift may convince them of our intentions."

"The usual then, Daggoth?"

"The usual."

With that Araq afixed the usual signature at the bottom and had it encrypted into a data chip that would immediately delete the missive if it were to be tampered with by unauthorized personnel. It was then handed off to a courier and sent on its way.



The missive was sent as part of the final shipment of Lokoid goods, including an abnormally large shipment of 'delicacies' that would be live Lokoid as a sign of good-will. Lokoid that are traded to the Conflux are Lokoid who are deemed unfit or nonconforming to the rule of the Hierarchy. Usually, these types of undesirables are killed, processed, and turned into nutrients for future brood or for severe food shortage. These sources of meat and nutrients are usually avoided in exports, except when it comes to the Skirol.

The missive would be decrypted upon contact with Skirol authorities and as per usual, the convoy of freighters would leave after dropping their cargo.

Now it was time to address the Taulron.



The missive was given a proper reply. The Taulron can indeed assist in mediation. The Rolvians do seem to need assistance in keeping the peace.


ROLVIUS III
ROLVIUS SYSTEM
STAR REPUBLIC OF ROLVIUS




Nok took stock of all that had happened during his stay at the Rolvian lodging. Spending his day partaking in ‘berry picking’, a human activity that interested the rather curious Lokoid. Usually, Nok would be buried in research and documents regarding Manir and Rolvian industrial operations. He’s a lower hierarch, tasked with overseeing operations in Rolvius space. Particularly, Nok is a member of the Academic Caste currently studying foreign cultures and technologies.

He noted the death of the Asrian prince, the nearby FedNat military exercises, and the number of nations that have repealed the treaty of Detente. The situation was developing unfavorably, numerous parties are rumored to join the summit discussions. The Jalaryians have confirmed that they were to going to move forward with the inquiry. Nok has determined that perhaps the Taulron and the Rolvians would be more than sufficient in mediating between the two parties. Nok and his team were confident in both defending the position of the Hierarchy and forming counter-arguments against anything the Jalaryians were going to throw at them.

Speaking of the Rolvians, Nok noted that the Rolvian minister was quite avoidant of a clear definite answer towards the offer of the Lokoid. Perhaps, the Rolvians still wanted to weigh their options or, even more likely, they wanted to avoid forming a pact right away in order to perserve the peace. Either of those options seem possible.

However, within the confines of one of the lodging’s rooms, Nok conversed and played against his MK2 Automaton escort in a game of ‘ASSERT DOMINANCE’, programmed by a Lokoid who determined that simple games could be used to enhance performance. The game was simple resource management and military strategy.

Assert Dominance was a game intended for release all over the galaxy. It was one of the few games that displayed itself through holographic projection. There were two different types of boards, the private board which showed all the player’s pieces, and the Public board, which showed what everyone could see. It is noted that the game, without the developer knowing, worked similarly to iterations of the human game Kriegspiel.

“Another one of your frigates Mir?”

There was a pregnant pause before the Mir, the Mk2, could answer properly. The public board state was a mess with holographic projections of missiles and hulking wrecks. The exchange within the game has been going on for at least two hours. Nok was at an advantage.

Finally, after a few more ships materialized in the space between them, Mir replied, “A distraction, sir.”

Cruisers and destroyers have emerged towards the flanks of Nok’s formation, however, the formation was easily split and engaged the enemy cautiously. Nok was used to fighting Mir who was, by this point, one of the most experienced computerized opponents to have ever played the game. Mir was a learning A.I. one of the many MK2 that turned sapient as a result of A.I. research in the joint development program with the Kadathi. Granted, the MK2 wasn’t as sophisticated as its distant Kadathi cousins, but it was still very effective at many of the roles it filled.

As the game progressed, the Lower Hierarch buzzed inquisitively. The game felt like a four-dimensional, simultaneous movement chess game. The two played mind games with each other. Small battlegroups arranged to faint larger formations, attacking from awkward angles, evading only to be intercepted by missiles. The game was entertaining for Nok, for Mir it was simply routine. Mir was Running algorithms and determining the best case scenarios and strategies while simultaneously micromanaging several different engagements.

“Soon, sights like these will be more than just holograms all over the galaxy.”

“That outcome seems likely, sir.” As Mir spoke, several ships are effectively knocked out of action. Nok had clearly won but at a cost.

“You still lack the creativity to outpace my own abilities. However, you’ve become quite the opponent. I was struggling to keep up with your efficiency.”

“We’ve played four games today, it is currently two-two, there is only one match left to determine the victor, sir.”

“Victors don’t exist in a real war. If I were to carry on fighting with what I have at the end of our match – if the game was somehow built that way – it would perfectly simulate the struggle against attrition.”

“Sir, are you perhaps worried about the outcome of this Summit?”

“No Mir, it is the feeling of inevitability. Despite a favorable result at the summit, there is the inevitability that greed and personal ambition will overcome our future allies. Instead of us benefiting from an alliance, we may end up being used in an alliance. It is my opinion that the council is too confident over the effectiveness of this course of action.”

“A fair analysis, sir. However, I must beg to differ. The Hierarchy is better suited to heavier combat situations. The high birth-rate of Lokoid and the rather fast maturity period allows for quick replenishment of troops. Further, the Hierarchy is an industrial powerhouse that can produce high-quality robotics that can be deemed replaceable.”

“But for how long Mir? Our games must have taught you something.”

Mir perused the files that contained the outcome of every Assert Dominance match that Mir and Nok have ever had. There were several times where Mir determined it had the advantage and was utterly crushed. There were other moments where even with a numerical advantage, Nok had stronger, more efficient units. Of course, there was the recent match where Nok had mentioned attrition.

“You mean to say, despite our advantage, despite our precautions, despite our planning we may still lose?”

“Correct, if for example, we were to end up fighting several enemy nations at once, would we not be overwhelmed at some point? Would there not be a large decisive battle were we could potentially lose everything?”

“It is a plausible outcome.”

“Indeed, a very plausible outcome. Therefore, the need properly react and respond to different unexpected situations is necessary.”

“Some information gathering will be key then, sir.”

“Indeed, I will be relying on your data stores once again. Record everything that is deemed relevant to a possible conflict.”

"Yes sir."

The two entered another match, concluding their discussion to properly prepare for their next game. Together, the two engaged in yet another match of Assert Dominance as they awaited the start of the Rolvian summit.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Helios
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- The Ozil -



Travulous Lost


The room was pulsing with rage. Its dimly lit interior was surrounded on all sides by glass walls which played host to dozens of eyes. The figures outside of the room beat against its thick glass in an unorganized rhythm. But the pulse of their minds was unanimous. The Ozil were not adept psionics. Like most things they were too base, too visceral to have any complex use of it. But they could transfer emotions like voice. In this moment they were not quiet. The audience around the square was howling frantically. Inside the soundproof room only the surging pulse of minds could be felt. It was lust of many sorts.

Inside the slick black floor was covered in a slithering pool of blood. A gargantuan Ozil, open wounds accenting every rivet of fur and lard, stood proud with glazed eyes. Below him hovled a creature, perhaps dead except for the occasional rattling breath. The furry mass was unrecognizable. The fight had rendered it little more than greasy, torn flesh. The victor attacked once more, thrashing it with a blood-sodden cuddle. The club articulated with each thud of damp flesh.

A howl half-laced with laughter, half-laced with rage echoed against the walls. The Ozil goliath raised the weapon for all of the audience to see. It was an arm, the arm of the Ozil that lay before him congealing in his own fluids and defeat. Though the windows he could see the elation of his kin. He could feel them. Their chorus had grown to a frenzy. The males thrashed against the windows as females proffered their organs to him. Surely their needs would be fulfilled in the celebrations to follow. All of the Primacy’s needs would be met, because he would return to them as the Prime Alpha.

Ingar Brazhnik, the richest Ozil of his era, sauntered from the carnage like a king. In this moment, that is what he could claim to be. The presidency of Ozil Thermal was won in this way. The audience around him was the Primacy’s Shareholder Council members. Each fiscal year, after the earnings of all quarters were calculated, a rival to the Prime Alpha position was chosen to challenge him in unarmed combat. The victor took all, often including the opposition’s life. This contestor had been of weaker make, a benevolent choice for third quarter profits. Ingar’s victory seemed assured, but stranger things have happened in this system. Whether by choice or by force, Prime Alpha Ignar had reigned supreme nine years to this day.

A door in the room appeared. With one last thrusting fist and show of gnashed teeth to his adoring fans, Ignar slipped into a quiet hall out of view. The dark corridor was lined only by the dimly illuminated busts of Prime Alphas who reigned before him. Their stern vissages stared forward into space. They were a reminder of the soul of his people: hard, humble, and hungry for the past. At times he wondered if they would approve of him. If he would be capable of making Zakarov, Zediah, or Krankinov proud. This hall was lined with men who earned their place in the galaxy. They had torn apart worlds to make a home for his people and fuel the Iron Star. Ingar had done little more than play sides at the bartering table, trading terrawatts for treaties. His bloody paw caressed the half-mutilated face of Valdiketch the Great.

“Blood and profit, brother.” Ingar offered through gritted teeth. “I will finish your mission. I will bring the First Ones back to us. Mine will be a star that shines brighter than all in the galaxy.”

With a sudden, furious heave, Ingar tore the bust from its resting. He breached through the heavy sanctum doors and into the vibrant party that awaited. Hundreds stood at their grey cubicles. Papers and notes were strewn out amongst the smattering of office holocomputers. Head down, Ignar strode through the onslaught of praise. Hands reached out to pat him. Still others lurched their giant figures onto desks to get a better view. Yet he marched through the headquarters office without eye contact, bust of his ancient predecessor in hand.

Finally he arrived at the front of the room. A table with refreshments was fancifully arranged, at its center was the festering remains of a whole Terran narwhal, undoubtedly bought at gratuitous price from Rolvius. Above the splendor sat an even greater jewel: a window from their station on Travulous Lost looking out onto the great blue mass of a sun. It was beautiful. Ingar could scarcely stop himself from weeping when he looked at her. She was the deliverance to his people, their purpose, and today his prize for victory. But she was a fickle mistress. The sorrow of her drama ran through him as deeply as his lust.

The Forge, a dyson array that the First Ones had left behind was in disrepair. Few spacehabs even worked. Everything had to be done in retrograde, as the technology of that civilization was so far beyond their capacity. Engineers were actually linguists. Architects were archeologists. The path forward for the Ozil laid in the ability to understand the past; and not even their own past. They had been pets of these great creatures, now gone from the galaxy. What they were now and what the Iron Star was now, was an embarrassment.

She needed fuel. The current demands were pressing at the needs of their economy. Still more dire, they were pressing at the needs of promised exports. If the investors learned of this, they would be in stock free-fall. Though much of this fuel was intellectual, and thereby far more scarce, mineral resources were poured in from all over the galaxy to help reconstruct the lifeline of their nation. Amassed before the mental haze of the Push, many of the contributor planets and peoples had become unruly once more. Just last week three million had been slaughtered quelling an uprising on Divarpov IX. Labor was a hard pill to swallow, and the reactors needed more hands to sift, clean, and ship the profits and waste of the Primacy. They were stretching thin. They needed to expand their holds or default on their economic presence in the galaxy.

This expansion had been stifled by the Treaty of Detente. And yet, the treaty of Detente had saved them. Perhaps even to some degree Ignar knew this too. It had allowed them to survive in a world of much bigger fish. But to argue its necessity was semantics. Trade deals, the true expansion of the Primacy, would have been impossible without a signature. Embargos hurt harder than the coalition forces that occasionally glassed his mining projects when their ambitions had stepped out of line. Even now, the Primacy was likely to be throttled by another coalition incursion once the next round of Treaty observers was turned over. A cocktail of blackmail and bribery had held off most reports. But it was difficult to hide the expansive pre-construction projects underway in the Ozil sectors. Final assembly of these printed parts would be a trivial step into swelling the naval power of the Primacy exponentially. Now was the time to get rich or get caught.

A thin line of blue dust stood on a plate amongst the delicacies. Ingar inhaled it sharply before leaping onto the table. He began to pace atop it as a female nervously offered him up a microphone. Ingar snatched the device, a familiar glaze in his eyes.

He paced more as the room grew silent. Stifled coughs intermittently cut the void as the entire room waited. On each face was a mix of fear and exhilaration.

“Detente. Cute word. Cute idea... He liked it,” Ingar pointed a trembling finger towards the arena where a huddled mass still laid prostrate. “CUTE, if you are a bitch in heat offering yourselves to the galaxy at large.” Ignar held the bloodied bust of their venerated hero aloft to the still silent crowd. “What would he say? What would he say if he found us with our wrists tied to our ankles? What would he say if he found us in soda commercials rolling down hills of snow, giggling like the galaxy isn’t ours for the taking? Like we aren’t predators…” Ingar choked the last words as he launched the statue at a nearby soda can perched atop an office cubicle. The two objects dashed together in a shower of brown froth..

The silence was humid.

“WE’RE FUCKIN LEAVING!”

The crowd erupted in applause. Poorly stacked file drawers were tossed asunder. Bureaucrats hugged each other and still more began to find their way onto disorderly desks. Problematic dances were being performed. The subtle symphony of Song 1, the anthem of the Ozil began to murmur as chests were beaten in unison.

“THE SHOW GOES ON!” Ingar ejected again through pulsing neck veins and a slightly bleeding nose. The chorus of Song 1 unified and strengthened. “We’re going to take this GALAXYYY! Get every fucking inspector out!” Ingar was heaving with sweat. He grabbed a spare bottle of Lokoid spirit and began guzzling it like water on a burn. The few races other than Ozil in the room hurriedly left or were wrapped in black plastic bags by unmarked agents.

“Supply and demand…” Ingar offered with mock calm. “I’m going to find what the Ashtar left. I’m going to uncover the secrets of the First Ones. I’m going to walk down to that weak little planet they left behind and take it ALL!” Ingar surged, recollected himself before continuing. “Then when I have the galaxy’s balls in my claw,” he gripped in demonstration, “they are going to come to us. They will turn out their pockets and each one of you,” he pointed to various individuals in the crowd, “ you, my brothers and sisters, are going to be filthy fucking rich.”

--------------------------------

Beneath Agdemnar


The engine hummed as it sifted and drove through the soft Agdemnar earth. Service personnel clambered through the confines of the drill, lubricants and coolant sprays constantly firing into the dusty machine’s bowels. A nameless mook sat on the edge of this chaos, a small radar perched on spare ration boxes. Hand on chin and eyes heavy, he stared at the small blips of the screen. Outside of the tunnel was a sensory array which would tell the sappers of oncoming threats to their tunnel system. Of yet, nothing but spare debris from the orbital conflicts above had offered any amusement to the post. A half dozen of the mining party had tried to flee once, but he had personally seen three of them shot and assumed the others met a similar fate before reaching the entry of the 80km long tunnel.

He pulled up the greater global map array. Lights danced all around the planet. The galaxy was at war on this world, but children slept at night none the wiser. He wondered if they had offspring like him. Small tufts of fur that would never see their father again. When he was abducted for this post, he knew that fate. Overnight he had become a Sales Associate for Blue Milk LLC, the company this entourage was officially attached to. The business was one of many galactic ratholes for money laundering by the Ozil elite. This one had a VPN out of FedNat, but he knew spray painting that onto Ozil gear, tactics, and personnel could only fool the most banal of galactic liberal media. The small freighter this mining company had arrived on was even stolen, at least intellectually. It operated on some off-brand, aftermarket version of Kadath cloaking. Or maybe it was Utopian? He wasn’t sure, the reality was that it probably didn’t even work. The entire planet likely knew they were here; knew that they had landed in a small canyon and had begun drilling headlong under the shield covering Point Jakurna.

Suddenly, the soil around them shook fiercely, small scraps of dust and debris fell through the gaps in the tunnel’s propping carapace. Frantic eyes of maintenance personnel began to peer at him. Some reached for their side-arms (useless) still others began to slowly position themselves towards the tunnel egress (more useless). The Ozil grabbed his empty box of freeze-dried potatoes and peered at the sensor screen. Nothing was showing but a small loading bar in the upper corner. He pushed open the empty container which contained not starchy foodstuffs, but a detonator. He gripped the rusty device and unclipped the safety. The loading dial in the upper corner spun onward in torment. Perhaps it was a surprise assault. Maybe someone with stealth technology that actually worked. With his dying breath he would click that damn button. Neutron bombs lined the canyon entrance, nearly half the freighter’s weight of them. If anyone were to assault their position it would be scorched earth and salted fields of the worst variety. It may keep the enemy out, but it would also lock him and his crew in. They would have no other choice than to drill onward. They had to get under that shield or this tunnel would be their grave.

The loading icon vanished. Small red dialogue appeared on the screen in First One cryllic, which he somewhat knew.

ORBITAL STRIKE

ENEMY ON ENEMY

CASUALTY GENOME: HUMAN VARIANT

THREAT TO FRIENDLY: 9% PROBABILITY

PROCEED


“Proceed!” The Ozil cried out in parrot. Small rivets of joy cracked through his voice. The workers said nothing, but he could feel their relief. They continued on as they were bidden. The hiss of coolant tore onward into the deep.

More words appeared on the screen. These, however, appeared in basic Ozil. He assumed they were from the orbital fleet. They had been told a small flotilla was amassing near the system’s sun, soaking up her energy in wait to strike once the shield was down. If he did everything right, maybe he would see his seven dozen children once more.

“Orbital strike from Asrian Ascendancy on target above tunnel structure.

Do not detonate.

You are meters from Ashtar shield array.

Prepare for mining craft to proceed under shield threshold.

Vector will adjust to 30 degree angle for crust breech.”


He looked out over his laboring kin and knew they felt his euphoria. They would be rich. They would be famous. They would survive.

Thuddddchhhhhh

Smoke billowed into the tunnel. The mining craft came to a halt.

--------------------------------

In orbit of Agdemnar




Discount offer: 20%
Use code: STEALTH CRUISER

“Attention Hermione crew:

Your vessel is unstable and will destruct. Immediate necessary repairs are purchasable at bargain price, through PsyPay or vetted financial conduit. Order now while offers and supplies last. We look forward to future dealings of mutual benefit.

-Blue Milk, LLC.
Routing PIN: 0938402384”


The message was sent to the FedNat hospital ship from a small contingent of clearly Ozil naval vessels in close orbit of the system’s sun. The routing PIN was traceable to an account seemingly located on the Terran Cayman Islands. Local officials, however, would find this not to be the case.

@Taeryn

--------------------------------

Correspondence






Attached was an advertisement for a shill polymer business dealing mainly in humanoid boot markets. The advert was complete with exact location of the foundry and an encrypted discount offer code.

@Oraculum
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Ozerath
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Telasis City Spaceport
Durand
Commonwealth Colonial World


Durand was a pretty miserable excuse for a planet, even for a colonial world. Far into the back and beyond of the sprawling expanse of the Commonwealth, Durand had the dubious distinction and terrible misfortune of being the last world annexed by the Commonwealth before the arrival of the Ashtar.

Durand had been a relatively prosperous independent human colony, far from the Federation of Nations’ borders. It had originally been settled several hundred years earlier by a group of religious puritans, who had wanted to place some distance between themselves and the sins of modern man. That puritannical streak had diminished over the centuries, but the great cathedrals the original settlers had built still dominated the skylines of many cities. They were huge structures rising hundreds of meters into the air, the intersection of piety and technology.

Of course, none of them were churches anymore, not after the Commonwealth had taken over. The cathedrals were the only unique or noteworthy element of Durand, as far as the Commonwealth transstellar megacorps were concerned, so they had taken them and made them their own. All had been refitted into office towers or luxury apartments for the elite of the megacorps or friends of the colonial governor’s, and in most cities they were the only structures left over 30 stories tall. The rest had gradually decayed, then been knocked down when they became eyesores that the megacorps didn’t wish to look upon.

The planetary capital of Telasil, the only remaining proper spaceport on Durand, had the largest cathedral on the planet now serving as the Colonial Governor’s residence and administrative center. At just under two hundred stories, it was a masterpiece of towering spires and flying buttresses, built of modern alloys and coated in a beautiful red sandstone native to Durand. A good thirty stories were set aside for the Governor’s personal use, while the remainder housed the facilities necessary to run the planet. It’s official title was ‘St. Fitzroy’s Cathedral’, named after the most revered figure in Durand’s local history. Everyone who actually lived on Durand knew that Fitzroy would have loathed having his name attached to the center of the Commonwealth’s oppression, so most people just called it ‘The Red Whore’.

Aside from the Red Whore and a small number of other modern skyscrapers in the downtown core, Telasil was all run down slums. On the edge of the city, situated so the noise of landing spacecraft would not disturb the governor’s beauty sleep, Thomas Maclay worked his days away as counter-grav sled operator, loading and unloading the small freighters that landed on Durand, or the atmospheric shuttles which serviced the larger freighters that couldn’t withstand re-entry. At work, the Dubrovnik-Vetroyshka corporation provided the modern counter-grav sled, but Maclay himself drove home in an old internal combustion car.

Today, he was helping unload pallets of grain from a Rolvian shuttle. The freighter it serviced was hovering high overhead, barely visible in the upper atmosphere. It was a fact of interstellar commerce that most freighters big enough to make a good profit were not designed to land on planets; far cheaper to shuttle goods on and off than reinforce the spaceframe, build landing gear, and install thrusters that wouldn’t burn the face off everyone in a five kilometer radius.

The freighter was called the RS Owakshell, and Maclay knew most of its crew on a personal basis. It was a big Poltisi cartel hauler that frequently made the ‘bread run’ out to Durand. Maclay and the other workers were about halfway through emptying the final shuttle load from Owakshell, and Captain Ragal Poltisi had come down with this load to collect payment from the Dubrovnik-Vetroyshka accounts manager. Ragal was a good man in Maclay’s books; even though he was related to the owners of the cartel, he wasn’t above pitching in on hard work. Even now he was helping unload the shuttle while the account manager assembled his pay, idly chatting with Maclay as he helped the man shift pallets onto the counter-grav sled. Maclay laughed at something Ragal said, and was about to turn the sled around when the Rolvian said something that caught his attention.

“Shame I won’t be back this way for a long while, Tom. You’re good people here on Durand.” Ragal said absently.

Maclay paused, frowning. “Whaddya mean by that Cap’n? Going somewhere?”

Ragal frowned in turn, then shook his head ruefully. “You didn’t hear? Right, course the corporate snots didn’t tell anyone who actually needs to know. This is my last haul into the Commonwealth, who knows for how long. One of the last Rolvian hauls period, actually. Politicians back home decided it’s time to play hardball with your politicians, or something like that. Gonna be some tight bellies in the Core worlds soon I’d imagine, but you lads have plenty out here.”

Maclay stared at him blankly, jaw hanging open. No more shipments? Tight bellies in the Core? What was Ragal talking about? Then it all clicked together, and Maclay snapped his jaw shut. Ragal didn’t really understand how things worked in the Commonwealth. He knew that most of Durand’s food got shipped Core-wards, and that the Rolvian imports kept the locals fed, but he didn’t understand that it wasn’t a voluntary arrangement. He was assuming colonies like Durand would simply cut down their own exports, and that the Core worlds would face shortages. But that wasn’t how things worked. Not in the Commonwealth.

“Damn shame,” Maclay said with a forced smile, then directed the sled out the shuttle’s large rear hatch. He stowed the grain in the designated container, then slunk off into the spaceport’s crowded warehouses. He flagged down another worker, not precisely a friend, but someone with a similar attitude. “Ted, where’s them mining lasers we got in yesterday?”

Ted Polis frowned. “Why you need to know Tom?”

Maclay pulled him close, looking around carefully. “Rolvians are cutting off food shipments. Just talked to Cap’n Ragal, he says it’s happening all across the Colonies.”

Polis’ face paled. “They can’t do that!”

“They’ll try, but I plan on doing somethin about it. The mining lasers, Ted.”

Polis guided Maclay to a container which contained handheld mining lasers. They were high powered enough to melt through rock, but far too short ranged to make proper weapons. Fortunately, Maclay could make do with ‘improper’ weapons just fine.

Polis circulated around the warehouse, passing word of what was happening, sending other workers to Maclay to arm themselves. Their looks ranged from desperate to determined. Many had families to feed. All understood what would happen if the shipments from Rolvius stopped.

Maclay eventually led a small mob out of the warehouse. They moved fast, running up behind the far side of the Rolvian shuttle. In scant seconds, half a dozen men were inside, holding their lasers to the pilot and co-pilot’s heads. Four others held up the Rolvian cargo-master. Five followed Maclay around the front of the shuttle, where Captain Ragal was dealing with Albrecht Berthold, the Dubrovnik-Vetroyshka supervisor. Berthold saw the workers coming first, eyes widening in shock. “Maclay! What in-” was all he got out before Maclay raised the laser and blew his head clean off. His companions tackled Captain Ragal and began hauling him back towards the shuttle. “Tom! What’re you doing?” the Rolvian asked, more incredulous than affraid.

“Sorry Cap’n, you’re a good man, but you don’t right understand the situation, and I got kids to feed. We’ll just keep you here with us for a bit, see if we can’t convince your politicians to get the grain moving again.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Whitehaven Palace
Brandenburg
Praetoria


“No. No! No no no no no!” Castlereagh spluttered the words in horror. “This can’t be happening. Please tell me it’s an elaborate prank of some kind!”

Metternich shook his head grimly. He was well and calm, having spent the past hour viciously assaulting training droids in his private gym. Telemachus was quiet in the corner, having been the first to receive the news of the Durand situation. It had come in - encrypted - over PsiNET from the colonial governor of Durand several hours previously. Fortunately, the governor had done everything right. He’d cordoned off the spaceport, and locked down the system. No message traffic aside from official dispatches was leaving or entering the system. The three destroyers on station had been deployed to prevent any ships from leaving either, including the Owakshell. The ships’ first officer, Keliar, was reportedly furious, but that could be dealt with later. Otherwise, the governor was simply keeping the kidnappers contained, not making any attempt to recover the hostages. He correctly understood that the odds of losing one of the Rolvian hostages were too great. The incident was contained, but it could not be kept so indefinitely.

Burn those colonial idiots! Those colossal fucking morons!” Castlereagh raged, stomping around Metternich’s palatial Praetoria office. The room seemed especially huge with just the three of them in it. Like everything in Whitehaven Palace, it was sinfully ornate too. Long ago, Whitehaven had been the Royal palace of the Dragunov dynasty, but it had been given over to senior government offices when the Imperial Palace was built.

“Calmly Robert. We can still manage this. Get a note off to Vannifar, physical copy on a diplomatic courier. Tell her we’re deploying special assets to get her people out safe, but we need a little time and we need this kept quiet,” Metternich said. “Cato, how do we get the Rolvians out safely?”

Telemachus shrugged helplessly. “Civil Order is a sledgehammer, Lord Chancellor. We need a scalpel. We’re just not equipped to deal with this kind of thing over at Interior. Even our Su’urtugal are trained wrong; they don’t generally worry about collateral damage. I’m sorry. But perhaps Martuf can offer some assistance on this.”

“That might be our solution. I’ll get to the Imperial Palace, inform her Imperial Majesty and Martuf at the same time. This is right up his alley, I’m sure he’ll have something we can do. The important thing is that for the moment, no one else knows about this.”
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Planetary Auction Square

Hizuno // Euthenia System
𝗤𝗨𝗦𝗞𝗢𝗘𝗡𝗜𝗔–𝗪𝗘𝗦𝗛𝗜𝗔 𝗨𝗡𝗜𝗢𝗡

Hidden in the Downtown District, a repurposed warehouse was full of potential buyers looking to own something within the Expansion Region. Of course, it was filled with some of the wealthiest people in the entire star system. Some of them were looking for new sites from their businesses while providing colonial opportunities to everyone else. Others were planning on building resorts and turning their new planet into another Las Vegas or Dubai. All of them had the money and means, but who was going to outbid who. Nearly everyone was accounted for thanks to the government's official security force. In fact, the auction square was being run by them. It was part of their plan to fill the region as soon as possible. So far, it was successful.

Another shuttle arrived in front of the square, but it got everyone's attention. Theo Ross exited out of the vehicle and approached the auction floor. He was one of a few representatives of the prosperous biotechnology company, Horizon Industries. Horizon was one of the few companies that began trading with outsiders during the Great War. Soon enough, it became one of the wealthiest companies in the world. But, their position needed to be secured. Just like everyone else, they waited for the remaining guests to show up. Five minutes later, the auctioneer appeared on stage and clapped her hands to silence the customers.

"Thank you all for taking the time to meet with us." the auctioneer smiled and then turned on the hologram, displaying several objects. "Tonight, we'll be looking at the Sargas and Beta Ithacae system. Both of them have healthy suns and asteroid belts. But, the Sargas system has four habitable worlds, while Beta Ithacae only has two. We'll be starting with the Sargas system. Our first object will be..."

Theo listened as planets, moons, asteroid belts, and plenty of objects were being sold. Acoria. Sold to Terra Resorts for 1.60 billion credits. Phorth I6O. Sold to Legendary Mining Operations for 600 million. Donion and her rings. It was sold to Aeon Exploration for 700.92 million. He waited until the ideal planet presented its self. Eventually, it did. Ciamia was the last planet to be auctioned off. It was a stable desert world with two moons. The starting bid was ninety million. Si rose it to one-hundred million. Then, someone else raised it to one-hundred forty million. It kept going up for a bit until it came at two billion.

Horizon Industries and Mustang Arms were the remaining bidders. The auctioneer waited for another bid and saw Theo putting in five-hundred million. The representative of the arms company hesitated for a moment while awaiting a response. Then, he pulled out the bid leaving Horizon Industries the only bidder left. She waited at least ten seconds and then announced, "Ciamia's sold at 2.5 billion. We will be moving onto the Beta Ithacae system after a quick recess."

Theo got up from his seat and headed towards the security guards. They escorted him to a small room, where someone was waiting for them. He was a government worker that oversaw countless planets to ensure they were following government requirements and their rules. In addition, he needed to handover and explain the paperwork to the bidder. Buying a planet within the Expansion Region was easy (if you had the money). However, maintaining and ensuring that it was running flawlessly was a different story. It took at least a half-hour to explain the whole thing to Theo, but he understood the basics.

Soon enough, Theo was outside of the warehouse and got in the shuttle. He took the time to set up a holographic call with the CEO of Horizon, Si. The izien was in the middle of work when they answered the call. "I assume that the auction went well?"

"Correct, sir." Theo responded. "All of the paperwork should have been sent to you."

"Yeah, I just got the notification." Si took a moment to examine Ciamia and read it's brief summary. "What was a useful test site. The two moons are a bonus. Good decision to skip the last audition. Horizon Industries will never forget your hard work, Theo. I will be in touch with your supervisor shortly to talk about your excellent job. Keep it up."

Shortly after the call ended, Theo threw his hands up and cheered on the possible pay rise. He decided to spend the rest of the night celebrating with some friends from work.


Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Taeryn
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Taeryn

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--=Telasis City Spaceport, Durand, Commonwealth Colonial World.

For the first time since he had set foot on this dustball Mattias was thankful, thankful twofold. Thankful he'd been on board the Agni at the right moment and thankful he could give up this god-awful wild goose chase - because he had something that would do much, much better. He'd come here because he had been saddled with the task of good old basic journalism, which for the Chief back at OuterNews often meant sending people like him to places no-one really wanted to go on the trail of corporate tax evasion that probably never happened - at least, they never found enough evidence about it 90% of the time. It was what happened when you worked for a low-tier news outlet that was part of some greater media behemoth, Mattias supposed.

And it had of course, meant he'd been here at the right time. He had originally gone back to the Agni - a basic but reasonable courier ship - to file a run of the mill report for expenses and, he had hoped, be convincing enough for them to recall him for something else. After all, when anything lead you out of the Federation things became a little bit more difficult, and accounts buried on some fringe commonwealth world were certainly as much of a dead-end as them not existing at all.

Then it had happened. He had laid low when he'd heard the commotion, and used the Agni to tune into the local newsnet, to see if there'd been some kind of accident or the like. It hadn't taken long for the newsnet to go offline, and that had piqued his interest. A few hours after all that he had risked popping his head out, a few people had been eager to talk - he guessed being Human and a foreigner helped and hindered. He had been eager to listen.

Now he was back here, compiling it all into a basic draft that the office back home could spin into something using all his background notes and information from Federal sources on Durand. Hostages? What seemed like open rebellion? Definitely enough for a couple of news cycles, even if it went nowhere - particularly with Durand being what it was. He imagined that rights to the story would probably net a pretty penny for the company, not that it did him much good.

There was, in theory, a small problem - the local communications channels were either down or effectively useless, and there was little to no way he'd be able to quietly bounce anything through PsiNet - but there had been foresight. Most news couriers had small, but powerful conventional transmitters for long-range communication, albeit mostly text based data, though he'd managed to squeeze in a few reasonable quality photos of people and things who'd been willing. It was important to humanise a story, after all! The Commonwealth either didn't know or hadn't thought to fill that frequency with junk data, so he was good to go. All the same, it would take a few days for it to ping off the nearest FedNat deep-space transmitter, but it would speed up immensely from there. Within a week or two he'd get his payday, and his name would be accredited to a notable breaking story that no doubt even the major newsnets would buy up, rewrite and republish. He also made sure to have Home Office poke the government, he didn't want to be stuck here in lockdown forever, after all.

-----

Some Time Later

"..nued lockdown of the system makes further information difficult to come by, whilst the Voice of Chiron has reached out to the Commonwealth Government via its Embassy for comment, there has been no official statement at this time. In other news, Pilot David Marshall won the Grand Betelgeuse rally today in a stu--" The Holographic image of the news Anchor faded out as Minister Adler waved it away.

What a mess. Now he had another mess to deal with. The Federation couldn't much have its citizens exit travel restricted due to civil disturbances, now, could it. It could very well put them in further danger. No, that wouldn't do at all.

He began to type into his pad, carefully, considering. Letters of protest were, sometimes, an art.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Predawnia
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Predawnia Prolific caster of "Pot of Retcon"

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The Imperial Palace
Imperial Council Chambers
Rijkstad, Kadath


Emperor Kerxec was ill. At his age, it was not a rare occurrence. His health was failing, and repeated attempts at genetic therapy had only managed to stave off the inevitable results of aging for three decades. At 8am local time, the Imperial Household publicly issued an official announcement stating that the Emperor had been admitted to the Medical Ward of the Imperial Palace, and the best doctors within the system summoned to attend to His Imperial Majesty.

This left the Imperial Government with a problem, given that the Emperor had summoned the the First Minister and select members of the cabinet to the Palace on that very same day to coordinate the actions of the Union in the increasingly unstable galactic climate. In the Emperor's stead, it was left to the Regent Theodrik Vengabirg to act as the bridge between Crown and Cabinet.

"Well then, let's skip the pleasantries and get down to business, refreshments are available near the door. Lady Arta, we will save the report from the Office of the First Minister for last. For now, let us begin with the most important portfolio for this meeting."

The assembled ministers quickly turned their heads to look at one another in response to Theodrik's vague declaration, unsure as who should start first. Among those present, Arta excluded, were Amalrik Vesla, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Henrik Aksmun, the Director of State Security, Etou Kurolea, Minister of Defense and the Minister of Finance, John Sinclair, a Human most noted for his competency at his post, as well as being one of the few non-Saralai politicians in Kadath.

A few seconds of awkwardness passed before Kurolea cleared his throat, and reached for the holopad laid out in front of him. With a few brief flicks of the screen, a display of the ISD Triumphant, Kadath's hyperdreadnought, came up onto the screen.

"Sir, the Triumphant has just finished the last of its trials within the Gwyn Nebula, alongside with the handful of dreadnoughts we began constructing in secrecy within the past decade. High Admiral Cresten informs me that once the remaining equipment and personnel have been delivered, that they'll be ready for deployment to the First Fleet." Etou turned briefly to look at Henrik, receiving only a nod in response. "In addition, he continued, the Directorate of State Security has been assigned additional assault carriers that have rolled off the drydocks for their operations within Agdemnar."

A hard expression appeared momentarily on the Regent's face, before simply nodding. "Very good, Kurolea. With these vessels I have no doubt that the security of the Union is in good hands."

That was of course, a lie. Out of anyone within Kadath, Theodrik was the most distrustful of the growing power of the Directorate of State Security. Granting them additional ground-based assets was fair enough, they needed them to do their job, but the increasing amounts of naval assets diverted to the Directorate meant that they posed a security risk, even if that threat was relatively minor. Nevertheless, as His Imperial Majesty's most trusted servant, and head of His Knights, he knew that the Directorate had to be kept in checked.

"Next on the agenda, may I have the news from Agdemnar?" He asked, gaze directed at Henrik. It was rather obvious that the man was weak-willed, spineless and far, far too accommodating. Theodrik had accompanied His Imperial Majesty that on many cabinet meetings, some of which included Henrik. The man was a puppet of the Vice-Director, Erijk Mielke, plain and simple.

"To be honest sir, not much has happened." Henrik said with a sigh. "Lieutenant-Colonel Nyklaus Sazan has established a resupply point for S.A.D vessels on Agdemnar VIa, as well as a listening post on the surface of the planet not too far from the planet's shield generator. In his report, he has noted that for the operation to be successful, he will need a larger fleet. Frigates and Cruisers aren't cutting the mustard when most of the opposition is fielding Great-War surplus or modern battleships."

"Are the Assault Carriers dispatched to Agdemnar not sufficient?" came an inquiry from Kurolea. "If that is the case, I can put in a request to the Admiralty to loan a few Valusias and Unitys to the task force in the system. Do keep in mind that they are to be returned as soon as the operation is concluded." He stated, to nods from the rest of the room.

"Thank you, Aksmun. Continue to ensure that operations in Agdemnar proceed as intended. The fate of this nation depends on it." Theodrik said. "Now, to Mr Sinclair. What's the report from the treasury?"

"Unsurprisingly enough sir, the Imperial Budget is running on a deficit, the new wave of re-militarization hasn't exactly helped the state of the Union's bottom line." John spoke with a hint of pessimism, drawing glares from Kurolea, as well as a sigh from Arta, who had until this point remained silent.

"Don't give me that, Sinclair." Arta declared suddenly. "I gave you this portfolio because you have a reputation for keeping even the most financially ruined corporation on Far Port afloat for long enough to recover. This should be child's play."

"Lady Arta, if you could let me finish. I am currently making contact with several banking firms within the Union to extend a line of credit at interest below standard rates, and in addition, am drafting a proposal to issue additional government bonds, which will finance the trade deals that we have concluded with both FedNat and the Hierarchy."

"His Imperial Majesty will be delighted to hear the news." Theodrik nodded. "Everything on the financial department seems to be going according to plan. Next, what's the diplomatic report, Vesla?"

"A mixed bag, if I may be honest. Our missive to the Commonwealth has gone ignored, and their response has been, if you'll excuse my language, a polite request for us to sod off. Of course, there's also reports that the Federation and Commonwealth are conducting war games close to the Rolvian border. Add that to the current squabble over Manir and we have a recipe for another Great War on our hands." Vesla sighed heavily, as the rest of the assembled ministers threw in their thoughts.

Kurolea began first. "Should I inform the General Staff to raise the defense condition of the Armed Forces? I have a mobilization order drafted in advance during the Detente that can get our forces ready for war within a month."

"No, no. Are you mad? Raising the defense condition of the Armed Forces is asking for everyone in this region of space to do the same. It's blatant suicide." Arta protested.

"I must concur with the First Minister on this one, Kurolea." Theodrik interjected. Adopt a passive approach, and head to Khulda Point to directly liaise with the General Staff. Vesla, continue the report."

"Right. The Utopians are still silent, probably because they haven't got our missive yet. A note came in recently that the Asrian Crown Prince perished recently in a military action of the Ascendancy on Agdemnar. We've also received a missive from the..."

"The...?"

"Taulron. It was addressed to His Imperial Majesty but had to go through my Ministry. Whilst the Emperor is incapacitated, it more or less falls to you to reply, sir. I'd recommend we reply favourably. We will need powerful allies for the road ahead."

The Taulron... they were technically allies of Kadath during the Great War yes, but that fact does not obfuscate the reality that the Empire was imperialist in nature, cut from the same cloth as the Commonwealth. It was true however, that life under Taulron overlordship was better than life as a colonial territory of the Commonwealth, but even so, it would be better to rule freely for a decade than a millennium as a stooge to a foreign power. Theodrik knew the price of freedom well. He had fought for it and paid for it, freedom not solely for Kadath, but for others as well. During the Great War, he bled on the surface of countless alien worlds, fighting for the right of the Kadathi, and so many other smaller states that had fallen beneath the Commonwealth's boot to decide their own destiny. To put it concisely, cooperation with the Taulron may be a necessary evil, but Teodrik can never delude himself into thinking that today's allies will not become tomorrow's enemy.

"Understood, Vesla. I'll pen a reply to the Taulron after this meeting is adjourned, in the case of the Asran Crown Prince, the usual condolences for a decased foreign royal will do. For the moment, let us finish with the report from the First Minister. Lady Arta?"

"Yes, yes of course. Lord Regent. On the overall direction of the Union-National Government, everything is proceeding roughly according to plan. As mentioned by Kurolea, naval deployments are proceeding as scheduled. If current estimates are any indication, we should be able to get several modernised fleets into service by the end of the year. On the foreign policy department, attempts to secure resources for rearmament have succeeded, though attempts to forge diplomatic ties are slow for the time being. Agdemnar will require additional backup if the Directorate intends to make any significant breakthroughs. With these in mind, the next priority would be to prevent the outbreak of war in the most likely flashpoint; Manir. Unfortunately, there is really nothing we can do without revealing our hand, after getting rebuked by the Commonwealth. That is all."

Theodrik nodded once again, before rising to speak.

"As the representative of the Imperial Household and His Imperial Majesty himself, the Emperor will no doubt be pleased with the results produced by the efforts of his government. Please work to ensure that such results are maintained, for all our sakes. If no one else has anything to add, this meeting is adj-."

The doors to the cabinet chamber were unceremoniously opened with a resounding creak that echoed throughout the room, causing the assembled politicians to momentarily cover their ears. In the hallway, stood the Crown Princess, Cerula of Dzijmeter, flanked by a handmaiden and an Imperial Knight.

"Y-your Highness, what is the matter?" asked Sinclair as the room rose to bow.

"The dominoes are starting to fall." She muttered.

"I told you we should have raised the defense condition..." Kurolea replied, a smug smile appearing on his face, much to the annoyance of both Theodrik and Arta.

==========================================================================================

Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Sigma
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Garui Industries
Talania
Jalaryian Forge World

Kalit Garui, CEO and namesake of the fledgling Garui Industries, stood in watch within an observatory, viewing below a battered and scarred simulation room where experimental battle droids of varying design were undergoing extensive combat scenarios, pitted against rather convincing holo-projections of a wide array of enemy combatants ranging from Commonwealth soldiers, to New Roman Legionaries, and Utopian saboteurs to name a few. The finely dressed Dathir nodded and grinned, some models proving to match his expectations, others unfortunately, not so much, but it was a work of art in progress. As he continued to observe his experiments, just as he had felt the door behind him sliding open, a human woman stepped in. "Mister Garui, you have some unexpected guests arr-." she spoke before being interrupted by the rather abrupt entrance of two tall and imposing members of the Ascendant Guard, followed by a member Church's Clergy.

The Priest's appearance was typical of one directly in service of the Church, a cleanly shaven scalp with an assortment of finely-designed tattoos engraved upon his flesh, his person wrapped around in ornate golden, ebony and crimson garbs and trinkets. Garui's expression was one of annoyance, the Council had been hounding him for months on end once his Battle Droid project became public, something the Ascendancy's military would find good use in.

"Alfonse, checking up on my little project again I see?" Garui asked, his irked tone easily detected by the Priest. "Do mind your tone, mister Garui." Alfonse replied. "Need I remind that on their behalf, I speak with the Council's authority." Garui narrowed his eyes and sighed. "Of course...pardon my rudeness." He said half-heartily with a mocking bow.

"Good." Alfonse said, ignoring the CEO's not so subtle disrespect as he approached, standing by Garui's side as he observed the action below. "The Council simply wants your progress report" Alfonse said.

"They're getting more impatient by the day." Garui commented much to the priest's annoyance. "Something as intricate as a thinking, walking machine takes time and patience."

"And you're well aware the galaxy grows more unstable by the day, we must be ready for when the time comes." Alfonse said. "The Council sees this project of yours as an urgent matter."

"A work of art, my work of art, is not simply something to be rushed." Garui stated. "You can tell the council they will have their automated army in due time. The Galaxy isn't at war yet."

"The key word being yet....but..a good enough answer." Alfonse said, signalling the guards that their time here was over, both nodded as they left the room, intimidating passing by employees and staff. "Time is of the essence, mister Garui. I only pray to the Gods that we'll be prepared enough for the coming storm." Alfosne said as he bowed and took his leave.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by KaiserElectric
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OSV Mosull-Gal
Orbiting the Keltan Dockyards
Jin System


The Mosull-Gal was an old ship, elegant and proud. Even among the newer, younger ships teeming about the spaceborne docks, it was a commanding presence, the binary suns casting shadows off of its elegant yet sturdy architecture. It was no wonder that even with its age it was still considered the pinnacle of Aldarshu Order technology. No flashy bells or whistles like the Ascendency or the Union loved to tarnish their ships in; just hardened steel and skilled construction. Nothing could compare.

That's what the previous Grandmasters had espoused, the current Grandmaster Kali'zil Nun thought to himself as the Mosull-Gal ponderously made its way out of the gravity well of the system. With the reports that neighboring empires were rearming in preperation for a war over some damned wasteland the Ashtar were fond, it became necessary to at last make some upgrades to the grand old ship, bringing the flagship of the Aldarshu Order up to fighting standards once again. In a sense, Nun almost resented the previous Grandmasters, who during their reigns enjoyed the luxury of Ashtar domination or the honorable combat of the Great War.

"Grandmaster, we're clear of the dockyards. Beginning warmup to gate drive now!"

"Very well. Set course for Aldarshu Prime," Grandmaster Nun ordered with a hint of disinterest. No doubt upon his return he would need to deal with the Lazul Council and their incessant demands to further dismantle the years of prosperity his predecessors had built. Even his mentor Kina, the Grandmaster he himself succeeded, would have been ashamed to know he had so readily allowed the Stellar Guard to build that damned space cannon, let alone to see half the Order eager to go to war over the Ashtar's ruined rock of a planet.

"Such a damned waste," the Grandmaster muttered to himself. Rising to his impressive height, he adjusted the cape across his right shoulder and strode from the bridge, not willing to inflict his dour mood on his fine crew. His office in the back of the bridge was a welcome respite from the constant spars with the council and the repair trips; pleasantly spartan with but a few creature comforts and decor. The black and blue banner hanging behind the simple electronic desk dominated the area, with several ceremonial weapons indicating his achievements in battle and command sharing the spotlight next to it. Letting out a deep sigh, he took his seat and mentally prepared himself to deal with the Stellar Guard admiralty again, which of course involved a healthy serving of his drink of choice, an angry red concoction that sizzled violently on exposure to air.

It wasn't alcohol, as many foreign dignitaries were disappointing to find out. An inability to become inebriated were one of the many odd perks that came with being born in a breeding tube. It was an odd choice considering how many other armies in history used liquor to "steel the soul" as the saying went. Perhaps the Nezath didn't want their clone soldiers to lose control of their faculties. Either way, it made finding enjoyment from strong drinks go in a bit of a different direction for the Aldarshu, in this case favoring taste and texture over the sensation of drunkenness.

"Ah, Grandmaster?"

One of his aides knocked quietly on the door before poking his head in. It was one of the newer additions to his personal staff, a promising youth by the name of Ki'rin Doz barely into his third year in military service but already holding many achievements for his skill and bravery. He'd become somewhat aloof since his ascension to the post, but perhaps that was just nerves talking. The lad did seem rather nervous.

"Yes Adjunct?" Grandmaster Nun asked, taking a sip of his angry red drink.

"I was...wondering what your opinion was on the plan the Admiralty suggested," the adjunct asked, not taking his eyes off the glass.

"I don't plan on entertaining their desperate attempts to throw good soldiers into that meat grinder," Nun responded pointedly. "My decision will...*hmmph*...stand." He rubbed his throat with one of his hands, feeling slightly uncomfortable.

"I...I see."

"Is something bothering you Adjunct Doz?" the Grandmaster inquired, slightly stifling a cough. "Might be the air filtration systems, it feels like something is off." Grandmaster Nun tried to give a rare smile, but was taken aback by the absent, almost terrified look on the young man's face. "Adjunct, what is-" he tried to say, only to be interrupted by a cough that snuck up on him, forcing him to cover his mouth. He withdrew his hand, and found it covered in flecks of green.

"What in-"

Another hacking cough, more green flecks. He looked up at the Adjunct, who seemed more determined but no less frightened. He watched with abject terror as he realized what was happening. He tried to call for his guards, but his voice caught in his throat with a raw, hacking cough, spewing green across the desk.

"Our duty is to the Kuresan. The Order will die in the mire of idleness."

The Grandmaster made one last, sputtering cough before collapsing on his face, blood pooling onto the desk. Adjunct Doz waited just a moment before rushing out of the room, calling for medical aid.

May the ancestors forgive me, he thought.




Changing of the Guard




Fleet Admiral Zisa's Office
Stellar Guard Central Command
Andjety-4 Station


"So Kali'zil Nun is dead, then," Fleet Admiral Lete'nal Zisa recounted. "Poor bastard."

"How could they tell?" the Nezath standing off to the side interjected.

"Vannis!" Zisa barked sharply.

"An honest question, I assure you," Vannis said, raising his hands defensively. "I wasn't aware you were so fond of him."

"I wasn't," Zisa said, pulling up fleet orders and cycling through them. "That doesn't mean I'm going to dance on his pyre. And don't you dare say what you're thinking of."

"You wound me Admiral," Vannis countered smoothly. Zisa rolled her eyes, intending to return to her work when the door suddenly burst open without so much as a warning. Ever the disciplined officer, Zisa didn't even flinch as the intruder stormed up to her desk.

"Zisa!"

"Yes, the Grandmaster is dead, may the Kuresan protect his spirit," Fleet Admiral Zisa said dismissively. "I'm well aware of what goes on outside the office Riga."

"You've been spending too much time with Vannis," Riga grumbled, scratching at the scars stretched across his upper-right eye.

"I consider you a much better teacher of that brand of sarcasm," Zisa coolly replied.

Admiral Riga huffed, trying to hide a bemused chuckle. The old warrior had been Zisa's longest ally since becoming an officer in the Stellar Guard, save for the slippery Nezath that functioned as her aide. Despite her higher rank, the man was several years her elder, and had more then earned the right to speak his mind, at least to her. If he wanted to, he could have been the highest ranking admiral in the Stellar Guard, but ever the traditionalist, he just didn't feel at home when he wasn't at the helm of a battleship. He'd still be a Captain if he could get away with it, but alas he had to be an Admiral if he was going to command the Vodimal Class.

"As it happens, I did want to speak with you about the passing of the Grandmaster," Riga continued on. "Namely, the succession."

"Ah, has the Chancellor given you any hints?" Zisa said coolly, well aware of the old man's friendship with the Chancellor.

"The favorite right now is another Legion officer, nothing special," Riga grumbled. "But I've heard there's a chance for a real upset to occur. The populace hasn't been happy with Kali'zil Nun's leadership, and there's talk that the Masuran Assembly is going to go in a different direction."

The old admiral took a deep breath.

"They're looking for someone from the Admiralty."

"A Stellar Guard Grandmaster?" Vannis interjected. "That would be the first in the history of the Order wouldn't it?"

"Yes, and as is my understanding, if a suitable candidate were to arrive on Aldarshu Prime in the next few days, they would be conferred with the mark of office," Riga said.

Fleet Admiral Zisa looked between Vannis and the old admiral, a look of realization suddenly spreading on her face.

"If this is supposed to be some sort of joke, it's not funny," Zisa said coldly.

"I am entirely serious, as is the Chancellor," Riga insisted.

"I am barely qualified to hold any sort of elected office!" Zisa said. "If the Masurs see a Stellar Guard admiral with no political experience barge in and demand the title there will be a riot! They want a Grandmaster, not an...upstart stellar brat."

"I've never known you to be modest, Zisa."

"I'm not modest!" Zisa shouted, slamming all four hands on the desk. "I'm not qualified to be any sort of leader!"

Vannis cleared his throat. "Hmm...graduated top of your class at the Urtarian Academy, led a fleet of outdated warships to victory against the Izzirak Pirates, awarded the second highest honor in the Order and the highest honor given to anyone in the Stellar Guard, and currently commanding half of the Aldarshu Order space fleet despite being the youngest to achieve the rank of Admiral in our recorded history."

Zisa leveled a glare at the Nezath that could melt the glass of his helmet.

"Not bad for a stellar brat." Vannis concluded, sounding quite pleased with himself."

"I always liked you Vannis, don't ever let that be in doubt," Riga wheezed, trying to stifle a laugh. "The Nezath is right though, to everyone from the enlisted to the Masurs you're a war hero, Zisa. And you're what we need right now."

Zisa stewed, thinking about the reports she had been getting lately. With Agdemnar and the recent rekindling of old rivalries now that the Ashtar were long gone, war was coming, and even she had been rallying for new reforms to bring the fleet up to snuff that the former Grandmaster had been slow to enact. Even getting him to even abandon the Detente treaty was like pulling arms off. Maybe it was time for a change, but was that really supposed to come from her?

"Well?" Riga asked, getting slowly to his feet. "Is the Stellar Guard going to have a Grandmaster at last?"

Zisa's eyes glanced upwards, trying to come to a decision in the moment. She recounted the oath she made when she scrounged her way into the academy, to always uphold Kuresan and the Order. If action wasn't taken, both would be at risk, she knew as much from the reports.

Maybe what the Order needed, more then anything right now, was Grandmaster Lete'nal Zisa...
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Legion02
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The Imperial Systems Commonwealth vs Asrian Ascendancy

Location: Agdemnar System - Outer orbit

Captain Sumri was not a fool. She had seen the Commonwealth “rogues” in pursuit. It seemed that they finally made their move though. Their shifts drifted in the void in front of them. Denying them to leave through FTL. She ground her teeth when she saw the images. Her Prince just died. She had more important things to take care of. These rogues had no idea what was coming. What was going to happen.

When the Commonwealth leader spoke, Sumri let out a little chuckle. Though it did not travel over the communications channel. To call herself admiral despite being a rogue force. Despite being denounced by her own home. Of course, everyone with half a brain knew it was all about denial. Not even the Commonwealth could not break the Treaty so blatantly. Though that might change soon as more and more were dropping out of the Treaty. Her ‘reminder’ felt like an even bigger slap in the face. If Sumri felt any credibility towards the woman, she might have heeded her call. Not now though. The glassing was not a grandiose statement made by some power-sick admiral from a long ago era. She burned the corpse of her own Prince there.

“What neutral conduit could a pirate like you summon forth?” There was no image. Only a voice transmission.

Anisimovna shifted in her chair, a half-smile briefly flickering across her face. Her staff communications officer nodded to indicate a live-mike and real time broadcast. She went with full audio-visual, feeling no need to respond to the Asrian’s dramatic flair. Pirate was an interesting choice of word, she reflected briefly. Under a strict interpretation of the Detente, she was not a pirate. She was not violating anyone’s territorial sovereignty, since Agdemnar was unclaimed. She’d announced her intentions to the system when she’d arrived, and outside of combat her ships operated with their transponders broadcasting their identity to anyone in range. Technically, all that meant that she could not be convicted of piracy. Of course, by a more traditional definition, her existence as an armed combatant of no national allegiance could be construed as piracy. But it wasn’t like anyone was going to be fighting any legal battles over the question any time soon.

“I’d have to re-check the exact wording of the treaty, but I believe what I’m doing classifies me as a ‘warlord’, not a pirate,” she said to the blank display thoughtfully. “Regardless, I’m sure the hospital ship Hermione would be willing to relay the Ascendancy’s stance on orbital bombardment back to the Federation of Nations, and from there to the galaxy at large. Of course, I suppose you could destroy her first. It wouldn’t be the first hospital ship to be lost to Asrian weapons, would it?”

The Laurentian incident was still a sore spot for the Asrians. MSV Laurentian had been a Commonwealth hospital ship in the Great War. The Asrians had destroyed it when it attempted to complete its aid mission on the besieged world of Volfus, claiming it had actually been carrying weapons to the surface, but most of the galaxy was disinclined to believe them. Which was fortunate, since Anisimovna was one of the relatively few people who knew that Laurentian certainly had been smuggling weapons, and that the ship’s captain had triggered a reactor overload to destroy the evidence when the Asrians had successfully disabled his ship. The Asrians had plenty of sensor footage of the incident, but civilian ships were so fragile, and GDC reactors in particular were very sensitive; it was no wonder that damage to the engines had caused a reactor overload. The whole incident had combined with the Manir occupation and the frequent glassings to thoroughly vilify the Asrians in the eyes of the galaxy. A reputation they richly deserved, in Anisimovna’s opinion.

The mentioning of the Laurentian delivered a bitter taste in Sumri’s mouth. She remembered her own father, an admiral, defend his colleague again and again. His faith that the hospital ship was carrying weapons was absolute. Yet the Asrian courts raked in every account they could find that it was civilian. She knew that certain footage was shown behind closed doors and after that, the judges dropped the case entirely. Sumri thought she would not have to carry her father and his colleague’s sins forever but clearly the Commonwealth was all to willing to remind them.

“Prince Nauthilian of Asra is dead. To deny the enemy from desecrating his corpse and violating our tools we purged the land. That is my declaration you can make the Hermoine broadcast into the wider galaxy. Do make sure you don’t leave your weapons behind this time. But now, get out of my way.” The voice message was sent out. At the same time the Throne of Xerileth’s weapon batteries came to life with faint blue light. Lightweavers had already woven their paths and were preparing to circumvent the enemy’s shields. The Deliverance beam weaponry would take more time to spool up and would deliver a more escalated the threat. So with a mere move of her hand she bid the Gun Master to wait to prepare the Deliverance Cores. Still, she had send her wish down the ship towards the Choirmasters already. Now she could feel the soft hum of the choirs. She could feel the tinge of psionic power coursing through her ship. Soon it would start building up deep within it. Like everything with the Asrian’s greater weapons, it would take time to fully charge the Manifestation Engine but that too was a threat. Give Asra enough time to prepare and they will deliver unmatched destruction.

“Ma’am, PsyOps reports they’re charging weapons,” Rekkavik said, unspoken worry in his eyes. The Asrians had glassed enough worlds, shattered enough Commonwealth ships, for the RCN to have an intense appreciation of the capabilities of their psitech weaponry. The unnamed Asrian would doom her ships to destruction in the face of the much larger 8th fleet - Deliverance fleet, officially, since it was no longer an RCN formation - but in that brief window the Asrians could kill more ships than Anisimovna could afford to lose. Her PsyOps, the small divisions of psintegrae on each of her ships, could provide cover against mental tampering and scout out enemy dispositions to an extent, and the Asrians didn’t have the same gift for telepathy as the Ashtar, or even most Su’urtugal. But that wouldn’t matter in the slightest if a psitech weapon blasted Anisimovna’s aging battleship out from underneath her.

“Ma’am,” Rekkavik said quietly, “this isn’t the time or place to...dwell on the past.”

Anisimovna sighed. Her chief of staff was right. She glanced up at the FTL clock; scarcely another minute before her ships recharged their FTL and could make a swift exit. She desperately wanted to stand and fight, to annihilate the smaller Asrian force, and the intensity of that desperation was surprising to her. All the more reason to put it aside.

She did so with a long breath. “Rammel, pull the fleet back slowly, prepare to jump back to our standby position at Cipion as soon as we’re spooled up.” Then she nodded at her communications officer to resume transmission, and turned back to the display. She would stand down, but she could get a few jabs in before she did.

“Very well, far be it from me to stand in the way of Prince Nauthilian’s funeral procession, as it were. My condolences on the loss of your prince. My ships will FTL out shortly. One more word of advice, Captain, Admiral, whatever you are; the Asrian Ascendancy has spent a long time trying to convince the galaxy it’s changed. I don’t believe it for an instant. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the rest of the galaxy came to share my view? You might consider that next time you prepare to open fire on anyone who minorly inconveniences you. Good day.”

A scant few seconds later, 8th fleet disappeared in a cascade of flashes, retreating to the outer system. One they were securely back in orbit of Cipion, Anisimovna ordered a cruiser to rendezvous with the Hermione. The galaxy indeed needed to know of Prince Nauthilian’s passing, if only to prepare for the Asrian response.

Sumri could almost taste the iron in her mouth. The arrogance of the Commonwealth truly knew no limit. She only heard mockery in Anisimovna voice. They didn’t just insult the prince by making them stop. They also insulted Asra as a whole by accusing them with old charges. For the passed thirty years the High King and most of his family had tried to show that they became peaceful. The Darkstars vanished from known orbits. Supposedly decommissioned though nobody truly believed that. Still, for thirty years they have been paying and this was the respect they were expected to receive? Sumri wished they could return to the old times. The good times. “Prepare the next FTL jumps. We should be out of harms way. Make sure the Envoy vessel is prepared to jump immediately towards Asra. I don’t want to agonize the Asrian people because a Warlord wanted to make a statement.”
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Princess and the Speaker

Location: Hunter's Lodge - Rolvius III

Olliana took up Vanniffar’s invitation but when her lodge’s door opened, out came not the huntress of yesterday. A silver circlet nestled itself on her forehead. Long braids made sure the hair on the side of her head was held tightly in place. In the fashion of a warrior maiden. Her eye shadow was black and danced on the edge between extravagant fashion and war paint. She wore only a cuirass with channels of blue energy flowing like a heartbeat along the armor. It was light and did not at all restrict her movement. Nothing indicated that yesterday she had been covered in mud and blood.

She approached Vannifar. “I’m not hungry.” There was no subtlety to her. The truth was she had lost all her appetite yesterday. She barely touched dinner yesterday. Every waking hour on the planet felt like torture. Stolen time that should be dedicated to something else. “Will you let us on Manir?”

Vannifar, for her part, kept a cool head despite knowing she was the proverbial mouse standing before the lioness. Her only other choice was to turn around and leave knowing that would lead to a less desirable outcome. She wrapped a net around her hair as soon as the assistants finished at the food preparation station, withdrawing to the vehicles. Out of sight, out of mind. Vannifar fished a few strips of protein from the trays, adding them to the portable stove system.

“Will I let you on Manir? I’d use the Terran phrase of ‘Over my dead body,’ but I think the proper application of that term is ‘Over the dead bodies of one-hundred-million Rolvians.’ We’re still digging them out of Relithan. The colonists have taken to calling it ‘The Bonefield.’ Seems poetically fitting for an outdoor camp that was bombarded from orbit, but most of the remains are buried beneath the sand and glass.”

Vannifar began stirring the protein strips in the pan, adding a dollop of a sweet-smelling sauce, a dash of this spice and that.

“My question, though, is what happens if that answer is my final one? I have two fleets massing on Rolvian space’s borders for ‘War Games.’ I have multiple offers from star nations to intervene and ‘Protect Rolvian sovereignty.’ But we both know that’s a sham. They’re waiting to carve us up if you attack and take what you want, or will invade to deny you access to the Manir site if I commit political suicide and grant you access. The Commonwealth will absorb oir belt moons - the minor colonies that produce our exports - under some sham protectorate, keep the grain and work the farmers there until the soil is rendered barren. The Lokoids will offer to help me at the cost of my entire treasury. The Federation might work with me, or they might just snatch everything that’s left. So if I give your people access, and you don’t enact a second planetary sterilization, and my government is toppled, and Rolvius itself becomes the first front in a pan-galactic war… what then?”

Olliana was many things. Enraged. Ill-tempered. Powerful. Impatient. But she was not a fool. Even now she kept thinking as clearly as possible while Vannifar pretended to be a cook. With every sentence she pieced together a bit more information. Of course, the Princess was briefed on most things. For one she knew the Lokoid were coming in as well and that FedNat was conduction not so innocent games at their borders. It felt almost inevitable that Adgemnar would leak out towards Rolvius. War was coming.

From a briefing, many would expect Olliana to act as the tempest that she is. Vannifar no doubt expected her to claim she would cleave through all of them. That she would occupy Manir and blockade any fleet. Perhaps Olliana would dare say a Darkstar would return to cast its dark omen over the planet once more. Perhaps, in a fit of cruel irony, she would have searched the archives to find out exactly what Darkstar glassed Relithan to make it all truly poetic. As for her who dare stand in her way? Obviously she would declare them to be crushed. Their forces scattered and broken. Maybe by herself.

But Olliana was not a fool. “You will get flooded.” She declared. “If part of Rolvius remains standing a week after the first guns go off over Manir, you yourself will be flooded under a tide of refugees. You think a hundred-million dead is bad now? Wait until FedNat and the Commonwealth start slinging insults and then shots at each other over your planets. The war will be the least of your worries as desperate people with nothing to lose and everything to gain start rioting in your streets. There will be bloodbaths not even a Darkstar could rival.” She paused for a second. Letting the Prime Speaker absorb Olliana’s more militaristic and much more doomsday image of the coming war sink in. She did not talk about how she would handle Manir. That was something you solved on a Battleship’s bridge.

There was one thing, however, that the Asrians had in almost obscene amounts: space. That cataclysm had claimed far too many. “So I will offer you and your people refuge. In the Ascendancy.” At home that would cause trouble. If the Greater Houses wouldn’t rise up then the general population surely would. Still, they had space. Entire abandoned planets. The Rolvians could walk on the aftermath of the Cataclysm. “The more you’re willing to give us now, the more people you save.” It was only after she said it that something clicked. No diplomat could do what she did.

“You’re presuming that we’ll have the means to get there. I have, what, four battlegroups to the entire nation? All my heavy ships were bought from the Lokoid after the war. We could maybe dislodge the collective mess of ships in orbit above us. But once we’re rolled, there’s no way to get out of Rolvian space. We had that problem when we dislodged you from Manir. It took us years to scrape up enough ships to launch an invasion of one of our own core worlds. And we needed the Lokoid for that too. So no. Much as I appreciate the offer, it will not work once the bombs start dropping.”

Vannifar made a conscious effort to throw a dozen protein strips onto the stove, the air filling with the sound of crisping and crackling fat and grease.

If anybody’s listening, I’m fucked. But if they are listening, they did a damn good job getting this close. And the hexacatl was going to get out of the bag eventually.

“Highness. There is a third option. One that bears consideration, but also will require a… deft touch. Manir is being rebuilt through refugee resettlement programs. But a number of those settlements are made up of deserters from the belligerent powers of the Great War. They are given protections under galactic concordance, and we see to it that they are given contact with their home states. Military Police from said nations are permitted to investigate these sites for unresolved crimes against individuals in their home states. The Federation Assembly has dispatched a single fleet support ship to Manir to investigate the wreckage of their heavy cruiser Trident, and to ascertain if the surviving crew were ordered to evacuate or mutinied to escape the battle. This is all spelled out in the Treaty of Detente, which Rolvius still is a signatory.

“Now, I understand during the war there was a battalion of Asrian troops that were declared dead to the last in a heroic stand against a Commonwealth assault. The 51st Support Battalion. Swept up from their positions within minutes of being attacked. The newsports billed it as a stunning victory for the Commonwealth, to destroy an Asrian combat unit so quickly with minimal casualties. It was the victory that prompted your full withdrawal from Manir. But if members of the 51st were to be found alive, then as long as Asria is a signer to the treaty, then I must allow a limited number of Asrians onto Manir to validate that they were captured in battle and didn’t just kill their officers and run for the hills.

“Tell me, what is the punishment under Asrian law for mutiny and desertion in an active war zone? And do you have access to a suitably lightly armed vessel, with people who could pass for Asrian deserters if that was what would get them to the dig site?”

Maybe Olliana had underestimated the Prime Speaker. She certaintly came up with some politically creative solutions. The sudden implosion amongst the 51st was somewhat of a strange mystery to the Asrians. Military researchers had theorized that the Commonwealth or some other faction had used a secret weapon. They almost had to, considering that within an hour almost all communications died. After the Great war all dead were seen as celebrated heroes. They were mourned and praised. To hear now that they may still live. Worse, that they deserted Asra.

“It’s a punishment you cannot imagine, Prime Speaker.” Olliana said, eyeing the sizzling protein. With a subtle move she lifted a thoroughly cooked pieced out of the pain and let it drift into her hand. After which she took a sharp bite. It was something different than her usual diet. “And I have what you need. I thank you, Mrs. Vannifar. It appears there will be no senseless blood spilled over Manir for now.” She ate the strip then moved back towards the lodge.

“Prepare the shuttle. We leave tomorrow at dawn. Tell the Battleships to prepare an envoy ship to send back home.” She commanded. One of her Witches was already heading towards the comn console. Olliana turned around again and faced Vannifar: “I still want my skull.”
“Oh, you’ll be staying for the conference, Olliana.” Vannifar began removing protein strips, very noticeably creating plates for two. “At least, for the next few days still.

“The fate of the 51st is a state secret. We’ve been lending them our protection in exchange for whatever insights they can give us to the nature of the Manir vault- which wasn’t much since they don’t have half the equipment your teams brought in during the first war. In this situation, I would take care of leaking their existence to the press but the presence of your ships and your royal self in system has already unsettled the locals on Manir. Mass evacuations to the underground shelters began without my issuing so much as a ‘See something? Say something’ to the Planetary Defense Corps.

“It’s likely the Asrians will become public knowledge in the next few days due to some enterprising young reporter hoping to break the story of ‘potential spies and saboteurs in system.’ Once that hits the com-waves, I expect you to make a ruckus here that will make your hunting trip look like a Commonwealth tea party. I’ll put my foot down. You’ll invoke the Treaty of Detente. I’ll honor the stipulations the Asrians signed. You’ll be invited to send a trusted team of investigators to the surface. We’ll work out the details of the visitation restrictions to the Manir vault when the time comes, but they will all be within the parameters of the Treaty.”

Vannifar grabbed a spice tumbler from the portable stove, upended it over her own protein flakes. The red seeds and flakes floated downard, immediately stuck to the grease of the protein strips, a pungent and hot spice aroma filling the air. “Forgive me. I prefer my breakfast with enough spice to wake me up in the morning. Now, does your royal highness find this plan to your liking, or do we need to take this to the public negotiating table?”

Olliana was completely calm and turned around to face Vannifar once more. She listened, attentively, with no real change in her demeanor. She took it all in. How the 51st were apparently not the glorious last defenders that died with honor. She listened as the Prime Speaker told her how to act in the coming talks. And finally she had to hear how some weakling Rolvian had the arrogance to think she stood checkmate. The Witches of Olliana began to come inside and whispered amongst each other. The psymeters inside were going haywire. Massive fluctuations were measured. Those without an innate sense to measure those invisible forced could assume it was simply broken but the Witches felt it. Olliana was radiating her power from her back. Venting it away from her as if she was afraid from what she would do. The witches, for their part, redirected the power upwards towards the trees. Where it manifested in simple soft ruffling like a constinious win was blowing through the canopy. In the meantime the Princess had approached the table and sat down. Locking eyes with Vannifar.

“Let me get this straight. You’re forcing me to sit her and remain for the next few days. After which I’m supposed to play your puppet during a meeting. All so my people can get access to honorless traitors and the digsite?” The question was rhetorical. But Olliana smiled. If not for the circumstances, it might have looked sweet. It wasn’t though, it was pity. For right now Olliana wanted nothing more than to crush every bone in the Prime Speaker’s body. Again, if the circumstances were better, she would’ve. “And you ask all that even though you must know my brother died on Adgemnar and if my reputation wasn’t known before I came into orbit, I’m fairly sure I’ve made it yesterday.”

Before the Prime Speaker could even say a word. Olliana rushed upwards. The chair some eight meters backwards. Still, there was no direct hostility in Olliana’s demeanor. “Very well, I’ll stay and play in your little theatre. But I hope for Rolvius’ sake, that you know what you’re doing. I might have offered you and yours refuge but know that I and Asra as a whole is still very much capable of making the refugees.” With those words she marched back towards the lodge before she screamed, now with an exceptional amount of hostility: “Fix me another hunt!”
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