Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Sigma
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Sigma

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Juralus
Star Port City of Elisa
Neon Tipsy Bar, Upper levels


Malcolm Talis, a tired and worn out human in his early sixties laid against the wall of a moving elevator as it made its ascent to the classiest and most expensive bar you could find in this city. The occasion? Malcolm had just returned from a rather somber get-together, a real close friend, practically a younger brother, had recently passed away from complications. Attending his funeral with his family, friends and surviving members of their platoon, and after that depressing reminder of all their mortality, he needed one hell of a drink. So, Malcolm and rest of the crew had decided to throw a little drinking party in his honor.

The aged Malcolm maintaining his balance as he heard the "bing" sound from elevator. The doors sliding open to reveal bright neon lights, they really wanted to put an emphasis on the bar's namesake that's for sure. Malcolm scanned his surroundings, taking in the atmosphere, jazz-like music was booming in the air, followed by soothing scents of various strong drinks.

The bar was half-full, its patrons were a varied sort, ranging from "fellow" navy officers, though by the looks of them, they were a bunch of coreworlder suits, to suits of the business variety, both shady and legitimate sat in another corner, all drinking to their hearts content. All the while, in the left corner stood a little stage of sorts, two young, quite attractive Misle women had begun to sing in their native tongue, it was a rather calming melody.

Malcolm continued scanning the room until he took notice of a Dathu man hand waving to him, turning to that direction to see a trio waiting for him, the aforementioned Dathu, a human woman, and an Jakai. Malcolm walked over and sat down as he grabbed a glass, he was fashionably late enough to have his drink ready. "Glad you could make it, Suit." the aged woman, Isana Talis, his wife spoke, followed by hearty chuckles from the other two

"Yeah yeah, very funny." Malcolm replied scoffing off the jab, the two then lovingly embracing each other, followed by a short but passionate kiss. "Love you too, darling." She said.

"With that." Caris, the Dathu spoke, raising a glass. "A toast to Sanders."

"May he find peace forevermore." Giddy, the Jakai spoke.

"To the Gravemakers." Both Isana and Malcolm said, the four of them clashing their glasses together and begun gulping down their drinks. An hour had passed, the four, having been separated for a number of years had much catching up to do. "So, how's the family doing?" Caris asked the couple.

Malcolm and Isana looked to one another before turning their attention to their old friend. "Doing well." Malcolm replied. "Called Jade an hour ago, we were going to have a personal holiday together..." Malcolm paused, once more looking to his wife. "...but me and Isana agreed now wasn't the best time...the grandkids were mighty disappointed."

"Yeah..not in a festive mood either." Giddy said, gulping down another glass. Some more time passes as the Gravemakers took it all at a slowed pace, a large hologram screen brightened up as the daily news reports came in, a Petalos Anchor appearing. "Fear and paranoia grips the frontier as more reports of abductions and disapp-"

"Like I need a reminder how shit the frontier is." Malcolm said, chugging down another drink. "As much as I loath the idea. We're going to try to convince Jade to move her and the kids to the New Eden. You barely hear this shit about abductions over there."

"I have to admit." Caris said. "I can't help but be curious. I even hear these wild rumors."

Isana, raised an eyebrow, herself now curious. "Like what?" he asked.

"Some traveling Merchants ramble on that the Black Sun are behind it all."

"Wait what?" Giddy asked. That's a bit of a reach, last I heard, they're just a bunch of smugglers."

"Slavery isn't too far from their profession." Malcolm replied, taking another sip. "Bastards know full well no one's coming to help."

While the Gravemakers were busy chatting some more, they had failed to notice a young stranger approaching from behind, having just arrived from the elevator. "Captain Talis?" the stranger spoke.

The four turned to see a human man in his mid thirties, wearing a fine suit often associated with the Federal Intelligence Service. He extended his hand outward to the captain. "The name's Leon Severis, I'm with Intelligence."

"We know that much." Isana spoke up.

"Could you and your associates come with me for but a moment?" Leon requested of the group. "It won't take long."

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

Some time had past, the group driving around the city in a rather spacious truck, often used as mobile listing posts by Intelligence. The Gravemakers sat rather comfortably one one end of the truck, all the troubling spying gear gutted out in favor of a more comfy seats. Facing them on the other end was Agent Severis. "So, why'd you drag us out here?" Malcolm asked, honestly intrigued by this point.

"Are you familiar with the recent string of frontier abductions?" Leon asked rhetorically.

Malcolm had quickly shifted from intrigued, to confused. "...yes... Why'd you bring that up?"

"I'll get to the point, your country is in need of your services Captain." Leon said. "We've been investigating these incidents for years now, and we think we're starting to see a pattern."

"Oh yeah?" Malcolm asked, the brief discussion his group had on the Black Sun was a bit coincidental. "Let me guess, Black Sun?"

"..that's right." Leon said. "We've been monitoring their peripheral activities for years. Only now have we gotten something concrete. Intelligence believes there's more to the Black that meets the eye."

"And what does this have to do with me exactly?" Malcolm asked.

"You were considered a quite the maverick among your peers in the marines, men and women serving under you have commented on your unorthodox, but efficient command. Such an officer would be-"

"Let me stop you right there." Malcolm interrupted. "I've survived pirates, two-bit warlords and even the free stars, I've done my country a great service as is. "Malcolm paused as he took a breath. "If you're so worried about the people? And are so sure of Black Sun? Why not have the proper authorities handle this? I don't plan on playing interstellar police for you, do you're own damn job!"

"Malcolm..lets at least hear him out." Isana said, gripping onto his arm, locking into each other gaze. "Fine, continue."

"Thank you." Leon said. "An Officer of your talent and skill would be of great use in an operation such as this." He paused a moment, catching his breath. "Any major military deployments in the frontier will make the Core Powers nervous." He paused once more. "So We're assembling a special task force, drawing volunteers from all parts of the military to partake in this operation, to put a stop to the Black Sun's organized abductions once and for all."

"And you want me for..?" Malcolm asked, still skeptical.

"Well to be the Operational Commander." Leon replied. You'll be giving a ship, crew and the additional volunteers to assist you in your investigations, and possible engagements, it is the frontier afterall."

Malcolm remained silent and pondered, he could possibly do some do some good, helping the frontier and possibly hunt down the bastards tearing families apart, keep his own family safe. "Ok, fine" He agreed. "I'll do this under one condition though, you'll pay for the relocation of my daughter's family to the Core Worlds. I don't want them getting caught up in..whatever the hell this is."

"That can be arranged, captain." Leon said, extending his hand towards him, Malcolm grabbed a hold of it and shook. "Glad we can come to an understanding."
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Chairman Stein
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Chairman Stein Some Sorta Seminarian

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Rectory-Town of Lazarus, Gethsemane

"And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?'" - Luke 24:38


He'd forgotten the last time he'd been in old Lazarus, and yet the town hadn't changed at all. Far off in the distance, the grand Cathedral of St. Alphons the Confessor rose like a colossus from its perched cliff side domicile. Seabirds soared from her parapets while interstellar craft hovered low, no doubt delivering the month's supplies to the ever-isolated monks and warriors of the Knightly Order. Yet here, far below the grand citadel in the town of laypeople, Enoch felt small. The salt and smoke in the air filled his lungs, and reminded him of when he'd first come to Lazarus as a lowly seminarian into the Church. He remembered walking these same streets with his fellow initiates, performing sacraments in the nearby chapel down the street, and making the annual pilgrimage up to the Cathedral; praying at each Saintly shrine before performing a final communion before the golden altar in the Cathedral itself.

To think that thirty years later he'd return as the man he was now was comical. Enoch sighed and skirted himself into the shade of a nearby alleyway, fumbling his hands into his jacket and taking his flask into his shaky hands. When the lukewarm liquor hit his tongue it burned, and it still burned all the way into his stomach before becoming a merciful and soothing warm numbness. God knew he'd need a drink before this meeting, and no doubt a handful more after. With luck, the entire homecoming would be a blur.

Pushing himself back into the light, with a renewed spirit he forced himself down the crumbling concrete walkways. Lazarus had never been a populace town, being made up mostly of merchants, pilgrims, and laypeople working for the Cathedral, but now it seemed nearly abandoned. The few vehicles that puttered their way down the streets were ancient mechanisms, no doubt brought in during colonization, and the people seemed just as old. Of course, Enoch couldn't exactly criticize others for looking their age, he himself hadn't exactly aged with grace either. Perhaps in some way a look of decrepitation was the natural state for those thrown to the colony worlds, far from the light of de-aging therapies and other 'wonder treatments' so often praised by Roman socialites and Core World media icons.

"Or maybe I'm just an old cynical bastard."




Enoch quietly welcomed himself into the foyer of the Chapel, the echo of ending Mass welcoming him as he crumpled into a chair and waited. Centered on the furthest wall, on display within a shining golden frame, rested an icon of the Savior. Below it, a simple sign saying:

Christ welcomes you!
Morning Mass at 6 A.M (Coffee Hour at 7:30!)
Dinner hosted in the main hall at 5 P.M (Thank you to Brother Angelo and Sister Maria!)
Evening Mass at 6 P.M
Let us worship Christ and make Christ known!


Like magic, the smell of warm coffee wafted into the foyer, and hushed conversation mixed with the tip-toeing of the congregation as they passed through the foyer. Though he was sure no one paid him any mind, Enoch still sat up and adjusted his jacket, the eyes he felt on him were his own alone.

"Father McClellan! I'm glad you could make it!"

Enoch's eyes widened and a faint smile formed on his face as he looked up and into the eyes of Father Romero. Romero was an older man, far older than Enoch at least, and had easily doubled in size since Enoch's seminary days. Yet his smile was just as warm and his laugh as full and plump as his waistline. For a man no doubt nearing 70, he looked as though he was still in his prime.

"Well I had business on Gethsemane anyway, and after all it's not like these anniversaries come every day," Enoch replied, embracing his old mentor, "Oh and please, just call me Enoch. No need for all the formalities between friends."

For a moment Enoch detected the faintest frown on Father Romero's lips, but his eyes lit up once again and he gave a firm nod.

"Of course, of course. Well come with me and we'll chat in my office."

Enoch nodded and the two men departed through the main hall. This time Enoch knew the congregation's eyes were on him as they passed the coffee hour, he couldn't help but swear he heard faint whispers and feel eyes like daggers on his back as they slipped away into Romero's study.

Like the rest of Lazarus, Romero's study had remained nearly the same as when he'd apprenticed those years ago. A false fireplace sitting over the heating unit; desk littered with old notes, sermons, and countless text cartridges to plug into the digi-reader. Perhaps the only difference was Romero's desk chair, now looking more like a bean-bag on a swivel with more cushioning than seat.

Romero waddled across his office and made himself at home behind his desk, leaning down and, with a wink to Enoch, bringing up an ancient looking cognac bottle.

"It's hard to believe, even to myself, you know. Forty years in the ministry. If you went back in time and told that little runt I was at 28 that I'd be spending my life preaching I'd have called you a lot of nasty names. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn't it Enoch?"

Without asking, Romero poured both of them their drinks.

"I'd certainly say so Father. Though surely you aren't feeling any regrets about your ministry? You did some amazing work in Rome back in the day, I still quote that thesis you wrote on Old Earth Papal encyclicals."

Romero chuckled, "I imagine if His Holiness were here he wouldn't like some of what I said in that one. But I couldn't help myself, I've always felt a tad skeptical of Papal infallibility. Not that it matters too much, we've had the Grand Abbot since both of us were twinkles in the eyes of our forefathers."

"Well, cheers to the Grand Abbot then! Long may he guide the Church." Enoch replied.

Once again, a burn followed by relief. Enoch felt his muscles calm and the ache of his hands subside. The conversation drifted for awhile, questions about how Rome was, reminiscing about seminary, ministry life. Finally, after nearly an hour had passed, Romero's look became more serious and he straightened in his chair.

"You know Enoch, I know about what happened in Rome."

The air became still, and almost instinctively Enoch's eyes fell to his feet alongside his stomach. Yet, he remained silent.

"What happened to that girl wasn't your fault, son. You know as well as I do, ministry is a burden as much as it is a blessing. We minister to the poor, the needy, and those often left behind on other worlds. Sometimes we save them, bring them into the Church and give them new meaning, but it isn't always in our control. We can only advise, give faith and pray that the Spirit works in those we speak to."

"You know damn well that she didn't just fall back to her vices. Samantha had become one of us, she was on her way to joining an order. What happened to her was not natural, Manuel. There was darkness involved." Enoch said, his knuckles white and his teeth grinding.

"But where is your proof, Enoch? I have just as much faith in the goodness of men as you do, but we can't pretend that man isn't just as likely to fail as he is to succeed. It might seem hard to believe, but sometimes people do just fail."

"Open your eyes! Look around you, Manuel. Forty years in the ministry, fifteen in Rome. It doesn't take a seat on the Holy Council to read a headline. People across the Core worlds are vanishing in the dead of night. Mothers, Fathers, children. This... Evil. It is taking anyone, from the selfie-obsessed club-tourists in Rome's under-city to farmers on Gethsemane. We've seen it happen right in this very town. You expect me to believe none of these are connected? I know you, I studied under you for a decade and I know your mind as well as I know mine. You know it's true too. Every damned Cleric and Acolyte on Rome has heard of them, but no one knows a thing. So, if the Church won't look into all this then I will... For her sake."

Romero became quiet, and almost like flipping a switch Enoch saw his age finally start to show. His faded blue eyes, sunken and tired, his lips curved into a thoughtful and anxious frown.

"If you're serious about this Enoch, I won't stop you. But I will voice my concerns about you, my son. Five years ago you didn't drink, now I didn't even have to ask if you wanted to. You don't shave, you smell like the gutter outside a bar, and your clothes don't look like they've been washed in a month. It's one thing to want justice, to want to understand the cruel fate we're sometimes dealt. It's another to become obsessed, to chase shadows and conspiracies where they may not exist... I won't deny the rumors, the Church has certain voices that believe there is more happening in our space than we know. Some say it's cult activity, perhaps some heretics from Zion or Lord knows where in the fringe. Others say Demons, and even more say the Black Sun is behind it. I don't know for certain what to believe, I'm an old man Enoch. My days of asking questions and hunting for answers is behind me, and in truth I'd say they're behind you as well. But if this is really, truly what you want to do. Then as your mentor, no, as your friend, I'm obligated to help you."

Romero reached under his desk again, and after a moment pulled up data chip and a tablet.

"If you want to talk to some of these voices, read what's on that chip. I'll set up a meeting for you on Rome. But I'm warning you Enoch, there is no turning back from this path once you're on it. Few who join ever leave alive, and those that do come back with more scars than they know what to do with."

Enoch took the tablet in his hands, the duroplastic cold to the touch, and placed the chip into his jacket. He looked up at his mentor, more questions now than when he'd arrived.

"Join who?"

"The Inquisition."



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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by gorgenmast
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gorgenmast

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Bushwhacker
Low orbit over planet Socordia


Floating languidly in zero-g at the head of the Bushwhacker's bridge was an aging, bald-headed man barely a meter and a half in height if he were to stand upright planetside. His was a kind and grandfatherly visage, with a thin, resting smile though deep wrinkles and crow's feet radiating from his eyes suggested something other than the passage of time had aged him beyond his years. First impression might suggest that he was merely the father of one of the vessel's crew; proudly touring the charge of his accomplished son or daughter. Difficult though it might be to conceive at first appearance, the kindly-seeming fellow at the fore of the bridge was perhaps the most wanted criminal in the entire Cluster.

Though Rasvan Saroyan's relaxed, calm demeanor was misleading, his authority was demonstrated by the deferential distance allowed by the bridge's guard attache and the nervous glances stolen by ensigns from behind their holographic terminal screens. Between checking core outputs and monitoring the starship's myriad systems, the bridge crew watched anxiously as Saroyan stared pensively into the horizon directly ahead of the orbiting starship, where Socordia's anemic gray-blue atmosphere faded into the pitch blackness of space. From several thousand kilometers up, Saroyan watched as Socordia's surface rolled past under his feet. Vast mountains capped with frosty glaciers rose up from dusty, sun-baked deserts. Even when surveying the planet from the comfort of an orbiting starship, Socordia seemed like a miserable hellworld. And it was. But ten years of terraforming at tremendous expense had made the atmosphere somewhat breathable, and enough liquid water now flowed on the planet's surface to support life as Man knew it. Socordia now was only barely habitable, and that was all that was needed. Saroyan did not need to replicate the garden world of Parravon, not for the crop he wanted to produce.

As the Bushwhacker's orbit took the heavily-armored destroyer over Socordia's subtropical doldrums, Saroyan was delighted to bear witness to his cherished crop. Ribbons of blue meltwater from the planet's high, jagged peaks irrigated the lower valleys and wadis and coaxed bands of lush green from the surrounding deserts. And mixed within those bands of green were blushes of pink and red: poppyflowers blooming in such great numbers that they could be seen plainly from low orbit.

Even now, Saroyan could see the the reaping of this great harvest. Small freighters could be seen approaching to rendezvous with the Bushwhacker, rocketing skyward from depot-fortresses positioned deep in Socordia's deserts protected by hundreds of miles of sterile desert as well as redoubtable anti-orbital batteries. The pirate warlord knew their hulls to be laden with dozens of two-ton pallets of black tar heroin. Once refined into purer derivatives in the Bushwhacker's onboard processing lab, Socordia's fruits would be ready to be disseminated across the Inner Cluster, where the street value of a freighterload of black tar surpassed the yearly output value of entire planets.

The fortunes to be had were vast, but there was also so much that could go wrong. Much of Socordia's harvest - maybe a full half - would be seized at some point between Socordia's orbit and the crack dens of Mendicant. And despite Saroyan's reputation, despite his capacity to cause immense suffering, the lord of the Outer World Pirates still suffered a measure of breakage.

"Two shipments en route from the Belka Depot, sir," one of the ensigns reported to Saroyan as he depressed the mute button of his earpiece with an index finger.

"How much?" Saroyan asked as he watched through the windshield as the freighter ships slowed down for their approach with the Bushwhacker.

"A shade under 42 tons, sir," the same ensign reported. Saroyan acknowledged hm with an approving nod.

"And the Radak Depot should be ready for shipment when we pass over the southern latitudes again, no?"

"Erm, I'm afraid not sir. Radak Depot's output is still low. They're reporting that the harvest in Mbuku's sector was hampered by a wind storm that damaged much of their crop. They sent a memo stating that they can either send up their 26 tons, or we can wait until they have a full load."

Everyone on board the bridge knew at that instant that there would be trouble because of this. Saroyan's reflection in the windshield gave proof that his calm, kindly smile had withered into a frown upon hearing that. The pirate lord spun himself around to face the ensign.

"Twenty-six tons? Did I hear that correctly?"

"Y-yes sir," the ensign stuttered. "Radak Depot reports only 26 tons. If you'd like, I can respond to that memo and ask if-"

"Ask what?" Saroyan interrupted, obviously irritated but still perfectly calm. "If you want to ask them anything, ask them if Mbuku thinks I am a moron."

"Mbuku thinks he can disrespect me: that's it. I don't need to ask them anything, because I think it's clear to all of us what is going on here. I never considered Mbuku to be a clever man. A savage fighter and a capable commander sure, but a clever man he is clearly not. Not if he thinks he can so blatantly disrespect me."

"I regret that all of you had to bear witness to this," Saroyan said as he pushed himself off the deck and floated away from the windshield to the middle of the bridge. "I'm a fair man. My salary to all those in my employ is more than ample. So when someone like Mbuku tries to skim off the top - or in this case, rather obviously gouge - into the product, I feel disrespected. And unfortunately for you all, you're going to have to see what happens when I'm disrespected."

"Put this ship in synchronous orbit over Radak Depot. Once we're above Radak Depot, point every armament this vessel has at the depot. Let them know Mbuku has two hours to submit himself and everything he has before I glass him from orbit."




Ciudad Capolicán
Planet Nuevo Arauco


Gray, polluted rain pattered upon a ratty tarp draped sloppily over a twisted piece of rebar. With gray rainwater dripping slowly through several pinholes onto a floor of street trash and filthy, worn-out clothes, it was a miserable place to call home. Sofia didn't give a shit, though. Nor did she care about the fact that she was going to spend the night on the street, sleeping on a bed of dirty clothes infested with alien bugs. She didn't even care that she had just been fucked by a disgusting stranger in a nearby alley for 40 credits. All that mattered that this moment was that she had her needle full of Vidrio.

Sofia held a hypodermic syringe to the bend in her arm and pressed the hair-thin needle against a pulsing vein in her arm. Scabs and healed-over scars all over the inside of her elbow gave proof that she had done this many, many times before. Sofia grimaced slightly with the familiar prick of the needle sliding into her vein. Once in, Sofia slowly pumped the tiny syringe full of clear-yellow liquid into her veins. She felt the Vidrio mix briefly with the blood in her arm before a rush a of ecstasy washed over her. Her arms, suddenly heavy, fell to her side as she gave a sigh of satisfaction. The spent needle fell from her fingers into the folds of an old sweater as she descended into her squalid nest of filth in blissful paralysis.

This was definitely Vidrio - the good stuff - Sofia decided at once as she stared up at the leaky tarp roof draped overhead. She had been short on money a while back, and tried the product from another dealer that only set her back ten credits. It was a waste of ten credits; a bullshit knockoff that wasn't half as potent as Vidrio. The good stuff had to be brought in from offworld; Sofia's dealer said it had to be smuggled in from an uncharted planet where poppies grew like grapes did on Parravon and cannabis grew in forests as tall as a starship is long. Sofia didn't much care where it came from, all she knew is that the bullshit that enterprising folks tried to cook up on Nuevo Arauco didn't cut it anymore and that she would have to come up with four to five times as much to get the good stuff from offworld.

Electric streetcars roared past on the road just outside Sofia's makeshift tent. Nuevo Arauco was a poor frontier world, and few people could afford the sort of flying personal vehicles that buzzed through the skylines of the cities on wealthier planets. Their plastic tires on the wet roadway kicked up a spray of filthy water that deposited itself in a fine spray over Sofia's nubile - if emaciated - body. Even in her atrophied state Sofia was quite attractive, but when she had just arrived on Nuevo Arauco she was gorgeous.

Three years ago, Sofia recalled as she torpidly brushed away at itching dustfleas - nigh-microscopic, soil-borne zooplankton that inhabited the soil of this miserable planet, things had not been so terrible. Even in her Vidrio-induced euphoria, Sofia was able to remember arriving on this planet as an ambitious and perhaps naive colonist from one the crowded core worlds, hoping to acquire a fortune in the fledgling mining industries on this frontier planet. The mining prospects on Nuevo Arauco were vastly overstated however, and colonist-entrepreneurs like Sofia were left stranded and duped with no resources to buy passage back home. Sofia, having spent everything to get to this planet, saw little recourse but to sell the one resource she still had that could earn her passage off of this rock. But as many in her profession do, Sofia fell into a bad crowd. Her new acquaintances had introduced Sofia to potent offworld heroin, and from that point on her life was ruined. There was no amount of Vidrio, not even in the fabled hashish and opium jungles described by her dealer, that would allow Sofia to forget the optimism and the dreams she had arrived on this planet with: her hopes of making a fortune, owning land, finding a suitor, and one day even raising children. Now her only hope was to score enough credits for the next high and wish that she did not wake up the next morning.

Over the patter of raindrops on the tarp and the passing of cars, Sofia could hear the footfalls of passersby walking around her crude tent pitched in the middle of the sidewalk. Not one of them stopped to check on the torpid woman laying listlessly on a pile of dirty rags. Addicts were so prevalent on the streets of Ciudad Capolicán that nobody could care less. Even the city's gendarmes - the corrupt and comically-incompetent rabble that passed for authorities on this planet - routinely walked past makeshift camps of homeless addicts without so much as batting an eye.

Sofia was aware of multiple people - maybe three - now standing around outside of her tent. She was too listless to even peer outside the tent and see who was out there, let alone yell at them to fuck off and be on their way. A part of her mind was screaming in alarm, trying to alert the rest of her brain that something bad was going to happen if she didn't react at once. But so long as she was feeling the high of the Vidrio, Sofia didn't give a shit. Maybe they would steal what few possessions she had left, maybe they would rape her, or maybe they would go easy and beat her around for fun. Whatever was fine; nothing mattered anymore now that she had her high. She was vaguely aware of mumbling chatter outside her tent over the drizzle now.

"For an adicta, she's pretty foxy," a gruff male said in the planet's Spanglish dialect.

"I've fucked a lot worse in my day," affirmed another male voice outside the tent.

"No shit. Honestly, boys, I think she might be worth something."

"Worth what? What do you want to do, try to rehabilitate her or some shit? Forget it, cabrón. Once they're on the needle, it's like they're zombies. Yeah, their body might be living still, but their mind, in their mind they're dead."

"I'm not trying to turn her into a respectable woman or something stupid like that. Look, I know a guy that has the hookup with some offworld types. I'm tellin' you guys, they'll pay like... maybe 2,000 credits for this bitch. Hell, I'll even give you idiots 200 credits a piece if you help me carry her to the car."

"What if the gendarmes see us?"

"Are you kidding me? I'll just slip them 100 Credits and tell them to take a hike like everyone else does. You lot gonna help me or what?"

The other two men tacitly agreed and tore the ratty tarp off of Sofia's makeshift shelter. Drizzling rain fell upon Sofia's face as she looked upon the kidnappers.

"Fuck off!!" Sofia snarled groggily as the men seized her.

She trashed anemically against her captors, but it was too little far too late. The kidnappers quickly tired of her trashing and shouting, pathetic as it was. Sofia had just enough to watch one of their fists coming down on her head and hope that it killed her just before the blow knocked her unconscious.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Temprary Police Headquarters

Ylaso // Elia
𝗦𝗛𝗜𝗡𝗜𝗡𝗚 𝗣𝗔𝗧𝗛

A holographic drone view of the protesters occupying Elliot Square was projected in the temporary headquarter nearby the park. A dozen police personnel was monitoring the situation while the captains awaited Commissioner Lawrence and General Griffiths of the Ascia Ground Forces to arrive. Each of them took notes and watched the massive protest. Official reports revealed that nearly two million people were camping in the square; however, the numbers appeared higher than described. Personnel kept on scanning news reports, online posts, and live footage to identify as many protesters as possible. It was when the commissioner and general arrived at the headquarters, still talking about the situation.

"The royalty are starting to worry about the protest. They haven't faded out like you originally reported five days ago. Instead, more and more of the common people are joining in this so-called occupation. You have to end this before it's too late." Charlotte Griffiths finished her thoughts.

"And we will, General." Commissioner Harley Lawrence tried to calm the general down. "We need to be mindful of this situation, or my men will get hurt."

"You should've thought of that at the start, Commissioner. You need to strike them now."

"But what about my men?!" Lawrence asked.

"Your men knew the risk of joining the force. They will understand one way or the other." Griffiths answered with a hint of irritation. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to-"

"Commissioner Lawrence," One of the personnel called out. "a large crowd is forming in front of the Airwave Building!"

"What?!" Both the General and the Commissioner said simultaneously and went towards the hologram table. It was true that protesters were surrounding the front entrance of the drone company. Their security was outnumbered and in dire need of protection from the police force. Unfortunately, protesters had blocked the roads with barricades to protect their makeshift camp. Griffiths began texting her supervisors on the sudden update while Lawrence started panicking. The captains were trying to identify the leader behind this protest until the drone malfunctioned. That move caught everyone in the headquarters offline. Until another drone was able to take over, their only reliable source was the news. And it didn't look good.

Ylaso // Elia

Airwave Building

"We need to go now!" Stella Baxter, the secretary to CEO, cried out in terror while the news was playing in the background. Most of the floors were filled with scared workers, trying to pack up and destroy anything significant to the company. Eli Bernard, the CEO of Airwave, exited out of his personal office with personal bodyguards and met with his secretary. Both of them were critical to the company and its assets. Now, it was time for them to escape thanks to the private elevator. All four of them entered the elevator and waited while it started descending.

"Are we safe?" Baxter asked her boss while watching the number of floors decreasing.

"Yeah, we are." Bernard smiled at his secretary until the elevator suddenly grounded to a halt. The doors opened to reveal that they were the first level. Local security was attempting to blockade the door with anything not nailed to the ground. Protesters were slowly approaching the main entrance with the look of anger, shouting at them. And when they saw the CEO was in front of them, things went south in an instant. The bodyguards dragged them into a nearby elevator and slammed the 'thirty-first' button. As the doors were closing, the crowd managed to overwhelm the security and tried to catch up to them. Thankfully, the doors closed in time, and the elevator started going up.

Bernard took the break to comfort his secretary while one of the bodyguards called for a helicopter to save them. Once they reached the floor, they processed directly towards the other elevator avoiding pleads and questions from workers. On the second elevator, the bodyguards overheard that the protesters broke into the security room. On the third elevator, the pilot alerted them to their arrival on the helipad. In the ninety-third floor, workers were blockading hallways while some of them tried to get their attention. But, their calls had been avoided. And after two minutes of climbing the stairs, the helicopter was awaiting them with the pilots ready to leave.

As the blades began spinning around, the bodyguards went ahead with Bernard and Baxter behind them. One of them went to open the sliding door and didn't take into account that someone was waiting for them inside. Before he was able to react, a man kicked him away and shot him in the head. The other bodyguard raised his pistol at him but was gunned down by a masked individual. The pair exited from the helicopter as its blades slowly stopped spinning. Bernard tried to run, but a nearby gun impact to the ground caused him to stumble.

"Going somewhere?" the man asked him while walking over the dead bodyguard.

"Get away from me!" Bernard yelled at the man while crawling towards the elevator.

The gunman laughed at his attempt at escaping and just tugged him off of the ground with his hair. He grabbed hold of the CEO's neck and said in a soothing tone. "Not so fast, Mr. Bernard. You are needed here to answer the question of the century. What's the biggest drone manufacturing company hiding out in the open? Of course, you're an answer. Your secretary... isn't. So you get to decide each of your fates: Let her live, and I'll pry the answer out of you. Or let her die, and you'll be able to leave."

"What's your-"

"Kill her!" Bernard answered quick enough to surprise the man, leaving Baxter horrified and angry.

"What?!"

"Are you sure?" the man pulled out his pistol and aimed it at the secretary.

"Yes!" Bernard replied again.

Baxter's cries got louder while her attempt at appealing the masked man to help failed. He pulled back the hammer. "Last chance."

"Just do it alre-!" Bernard yelled out in annoyance before realizing the gunman pointed at his foot and firing the shot. He crashed to the ground in agony, realizing that he had been tricked. That was when he started to curse out at the man. "You motherfucker! What do you want?! Money?!"

The man laughed at his offer and grabbed his collar. "No, I want something more important."


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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Anyone who disagrees with me is worthless

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b e t t e r t h a n h u m a n


Captain Victor Tarau in The Varangian had responded to the call for aid. The local Uskoks were not up to the task of dealing with local insurgents, apparently. “It’s what happens when you let the first generation emigres run things.” Replied Victor’s aide. It was Oleksandr Kjaro, a man fairly recently demoted to Sergeant according to a quick check through his part of the noosphere. Truth was, given the efficient running of CCN operations he was still more or less fresh from Sol and his crew was all new to him. Kjaro, now that was a name that rung a bell. “Oleksandr Kjaro, Sergeant. You were in the Zionist police action, yes?”

“Indeed, Sir.”

Yes, that explained a lot. This was the fellow who lost his Captaincy a few decades back, brutality being the reasoning. A rather strange reason, given the brutality of all Councillary troops. Yet, he must have done something particularly heinous for the Overseer-Militant to actually go down and strip a man of rank. Yet, his skills must also have been quite something if he was not taken in for processing. “Well, then. Tell me, can we descend soon?”

“Yes, and no, Sir. The issue is the Uskoks have had interference with their vessels, some sort of nonsense interfering with their scanning, comms, the works. Governor’s not lying about that, at least. They seem to have most things under control, though, albeit no thanks to the Uskok troops. Locals snitched on the rebels, caught them early.”

A screen activated, the face of Governor Josefina Clarlyle before the command-bridge. “Ah, Governor, how good of you to join us in our discussion.”

“Indeed. I’m sure you’ve been debriefed of most of what you need to know but I felt there’s one thing they likely didn’t mention. Spending on the world increased almost threefold several months back, when our patrols started. But not immediately after, that was a twofold increase. All this in spite a three percent reduction in productivity. Somebody is pumping money here, Captain, and all this talk of rebellion just… I don’t know. I just think you should be careful. LZ is prepared, I have a unit of local auxilia prepared. We’ve traced the disturbance to a town, it’s called Uracao. Some Uskoks will be with you too, I recommend you just send your crack troops. The governor needs this done fast. Over and out.” She was the governor from the perspective from the CCN, but internationally, the world was de jure independent.

“Bitch.” Kjaro said, having wanted to say something before the line was closed off.

“You really don’t like the outdateds, nor the stains. I understand that, though not to the degree you do of course. But you seem to despise anything to do with them. Anything to say?”

“I’ll tell you another time, boy. I lost much to those… those things.” The Sergeant replied, encompassing all non-Neohumans with a single word. “History, and all. But everything I do is for a reason.”

“Right, then. To the lander.” Kjaro was very human for a Neohuman, at least externally. Supposedly his brain was mostly untouched, and all else he had was sub-dermal, at least for machine parts. But he was also very cold, unforgiving, one could almost call him the spitting image of a Neohuman except for the overdose of his fury and grim cynicism.

Troops were handpicked, and perhaps arrogantly for Victor’s first mission as Captain he decided he would go along with Oleksandr and the rest of the men.

The Uskoks were along with some of the local auxilia in a grand truck, with much more of the local troops walking along either side in a column. After about an hour of marching towards this town of Uracao, they caught sight of it through the dust and early morning mist of the day. The town hall was distinctive, and the two rows of buildings in front of it but most important was the great pillar of blue light coming from the centre. “Interesting.” The Sergeant remarked, his helmet unsealing momentarily so he could spit.

They moved into it, slowing down with apprehension and gradually slowing down — a mistake. A hail of missiles flew at the truck, and the vehicle understandable exploded. Automatic weapons uponed up on the column making the auxilia either duck for cover or try return fire. It was quite admirable how none of them ran, Victor noted.

“There, there!” Kjaro shouted, pointing to a trench it seemed the enemy combatants had dug before instead making defences at the entrance to the town instead. The Reislaufers ran towards it, jumping into it as one.

Bullets and lasers whizzed over the ditch, a rather silly thing but not surprising given the nature of the "rebels", as they declared themselves. People fed a lot of ideologue nonsense given confidence by a gun, they could shoot but they missed when doing so.

The Captain peered over the edge of the earthworks, examining the foe's barricade. Jeers and warcries cycled between its defendants, most notable an occasional "¡No Pasaran!" in a chorus of voices. He took stock of the fighters by his side, counting a total nineteen with poor Legionnaire Cyril just a few metres short of the trench. He was still alive, but he'd be out of commission for almost a month as his cybernetics, organs and limbs were replaced. The entirety of the local auxilia was of course dead. Some of the Uskoks had returned fire, but apart from one who ran away - to presumably report all of this back - all got torn apart by the enemy small arms.

They largely didn’t worry about most of the foe, they knew they could more than give what they got from them. But there were two autocannons they had set up in the entrance to the town and they’d tear through the armour, cybernetics and flesh of the Neohumans.

“Sergeant.”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Did we bring along the experimentals?”

“Yes, Sir. It’s on your display.”

“Of course, Sergeant. But it’s a lot better when I start announcing things like this."

"Yes Sir."

"Platoon! Prepare grenades. Go!"

With a word a series of the little jet black cylinders flew as though shot from a launcher into the first line of the rebels. A black smoke emerged from them, but they were apparently prepared enough to not panic and run. Their mistake. They breathed, and one by one fell down with their nerves giving way. It was an odourless gas that kept the foe alive, but effectively paralyzed for an hour.

The Neohumans stepped out of their cover, walking slowly with a rather unprofessional leisure to the barricades that put oh so much dread into the men of Uracao. They stepped over the barricades, walking deeper into the town, until the Sergeant turned around at a feint voice. "No… Pasaran." a woman hissed, eliciting a low, almost monstrous laughter from Sergeant Kjaro. He squatted by her, the Reislaufer still almost as tall as an ordinary man in this state. His deep grey eyes narrowed, and a humoured smile came on his face that could almost fool a person believing this to be a face of mercy. "Hemos y Pasado." he stated, before in a flash his fist flew at her head, going straight through it in a puff of red and hitting the metal crate behind her, a great dent forming in the thing. A much higher pitched, noticeably sadistic laugh came from Kjaro as he noticed the fearful tremble of the outdateds present. Their best efforts only letting them shake and whine as the man motioned with his head for the rest of the Reislaufers to move on, him alone of them not stepping over the people and instead walking on as if they weren't there in spite of the crunches and squelches underfoot.

Victor sighed. This was Kjaro without any great activation of aggression protocols, this was the natural state of the man. He wouldn't be in the eternal limbo of promotion and demotion from Sergeant to Lieutenant if not for this, he'd have long since been a Captain of his own ship. "Loose formation, squad restructuring inbound." the retinal displays of all Legionnaires informed them of the Sergeant allotting a particular eleven men to himself and another eleven to the Captain. Kjaro took the left side of the town, with Victor the right. The first building on either side was empty, save for a few men taken out of action by the gas. The next one was similar, but Kjaro's team came upon two men huddling by an autocannons with hands over their heads. "Don't." The Captain ordered, just as Kjaro's finger hovered over the trigger. He growled, motioning for another soldier to subdue them with his arc rifle.

In the next building the Captain breached a door, to find a mass of children, elderly and other unarmed people with but a single man holding a rifle. "Drop it." Victor demanded. The man held onto his weapon, in spite of now seven Legionnaires training very big laser rifles upon him. "You can't win this, just put it down." the Captain tried again.

"Why, so you can then just take us all away? I'm not stupid, I don't have a bunch of your damn robot parts but guess what? That means I know when people demand bullshit of me."

"I do not know what you are talking about. Please put it down, I would really rather not have to end you."

"Bullshit."

The man pulled his trigger, and the Captain threw himself forward to grab one of the children to shield with his body. He made sure to catch a bullet in his body to make it more convincing, for he knew the man wouldn't have hit the civilians but all the same Victor knew he had to give himself a heroic appearance for the others present.

With his body shielding the little outdated he raised his pistol and with one shot to the chest ended the man. Placing down the kid, he looked at him and asked "Are you alright?" the little boy was clearly top frightened to speak, and so the Captain motioned to a Reislaufer who walked over to momentarily scan the child. "No external damage."

"Good." with that they moved on. Most buildings had token resistance, a mine and ambush taking three Neohumans out of action. Now either group was on opposite sides of the town, looking to the town hall. Peering through the windows it was clear the time the Reislaufers spent was not wasted by the rebels. Snipers were on the roof of the town's centre, machine guns were set up at windows and an autocannon at the entrance. The Legionnaires made half hearted attempts to fire at the foe but it was clear in any attempt at a shooting match the rebels would win, their firepower far too great.

"What about the other experimentals, Captain?"

Victor cursed, expecting this very thing from the Sergeant. But looking on to the great beam of skyward light, he knew Kjaro was right. The enemy was in eagerness already taking pot shots, and it was a non-option to try wait them out. The trick with the gas wouldn't work again, and even if it did the men here seemed better equipped, helmets and rebreathers with them.

"Alright then. Reislaufers, blades ready, we'll give them what for. Legio, aeterna, aeterna, victrix!

All of the Reislaufers pressed the activation studs on their new chainblades, some had them attached to their rifles as bayonets, some like the Captain had taken theirs as a Sword, whilst Sergeant Kjaro had opted for two large chainaxes in either hand. They repeated the cry, and with an ear-piercing roar they smashed through the walls of their respective buildings. There was a moment of panic for the enemy, but they quickly rallied as someone ordered them to fire. A hail of lasers, bullets and even plasma rained upon the charging Reislaufers. The men at either side of Victor dropped, and a bullet took his right eye. The autocannon was about to fire tearing the Reislaufers apart but the Sergeant threw one of his axes to bisect its operator. The Legionnaires returned fire while running, aiming to suppress rather than kill as more of them dropped. A burst of plasma separated a Legionnaire from his legs, but lying on the ground he effectively returned fire as long as he could until a machine gun took him out for good.

After a few moments they reached the entrance, Kjaro first to ascend its steps with a mad scream. "TIME TO DIE ANIMALS!" he activated his implanted sonic emanator, the words thus making the ears of the humans manning the entrance's barricade bleed. With laughter he swung his axe, maniacally turning the present rebels into a pile of dismembered limbs. There was indeed very little left for the rest, but a few people surrendering or spraying in panic to be cut down. He picked up the previously thrown chain-blade, before running inside the building.

Victor cursed, knowing that one by one Kjaro was activating rage protocols. His brain was now swimming in chemicals quadrupling his aggression and while they didn't reduce his skill, they did reduce the damn sense in him. They didn't know the environment, they should have slowly proceeded through the building clearing enemies as a team rather than quite literally charging in head first. Victor thought it was a really strange first assignment as Captain, as he saw a railgun bearing sniper blow off the hand of Kjaro who proceeded to impale the offending rebel on the stump.

The Captain was quickly thrown out of his thinking as an elevator door opened on the far end of the floor, a heavy gun poking out of its end that tore apart the first few Legionnaires that followed their officers through the entrance. Victor raised his pistol and let off a hail of his own fire at the gunner, Sergeant Kjaro clearly far too engaged in ripping through the men taking cover behind the various furnishings of the hall. As they progressed further into the building getting past offices and other amenities it seemed they were getting more and more well armed professionals. A fellow donning a beret ducked out of a pillar's cover, almost melting the Sergeant with a blast from a plasma shotgun. Kjaro ducked however, kicking the man in his right leg to get him off balance before repeatedly bringing down his axe on the fellow leaving nothing but a red slurry.

It was truly a madness - even if an arguably admirable one - that overcame the Sergeant, but it seemed to be doing well. They reached the stairwell, deciding not to use the death trap that was the elevator. They went to the second floor, and opening the door was in this case a mistake given the prepared EMP at it instantly deactivating three of the Neohumans nearest to it. Screams following a thrown sonic emanator revealed this to be little more than well armed rabble, however. A quick peek revealed nothing there to be the source of the skyward light. They went to the third floor, nothing initially greeting them. The Neohumans stepped forwards cautiously, until one of the Legionnaires pointed starting to shout "Over th-" before being interrupted with a burst of plasma vapourizing his head.

As one the Legionnaires turned to see shimmers of light, at which Victor pointed. "Laser fire!" he called out, prompting the Legionnaires to fire fully automatically. Many of the shots didn't hit, but they reflected off of the stealth suits guiding the next, more accurate shots. Perhaps more importantly the reflections made it easy for Kjaro to rush in and commit butchery. Two low "thwup" sounds made Victor turn, noticing a corresponding amount of his soldiers fall dead. He dropped to the ground narrowly avoiding the bullet with his name on it, though the soldier beside him did not have such luck. Victor turned, following where the hole of the bullet that missed him now embedded in the wall must have come from with his remaining eye. He took two breaths, before standing and letting off three laser bolts. He didn't hit his target but he hit his pistol, and that was good enough. He tried to shoot again, but his pistol was out of charge.

The foe was no fool and took advantage of this, rushing forth with a gargantuan survival knife drawn. The Captain parried and attempted a riposte, which was dodged. A swing was made, a third and a forth until Victor had overextended himself letting the man go ahead with his own strike. He narrowly protected his face with his hand, losing three fingers for his trouble but he made us of the man's momentum to pull at his arm, getting him off balance. A punch to the head took the warrior out of action.

With this there were only five Legionnaires left including the officers, all in varying conditions of injury.

"We can't go on like this, Captain."

"I know. We'll skip the next two floors, go to the top. It's a gamble but I reckon whatever is making that disruption, what that light nonsense comes from is up there."

"I hear you and obey Sir." Kjaro replied, rushing off up the stairs. The rest followed, seeing Kjaro fall down upon entered to the old "wait by the entrance and get them as you hear their steps" trick. But he reacted quickly rolling over to stab the soldier at the door with his stump arm, getting up and yet again rushing into the fray. A machine gun kept the rest of the Legionnaires pinned by the door, until a rad grenade was thrown prompting the fire to be silenced. Rushing through, another railgun armed sniper fired and with one shot took two Reislaufers lives. He was about to fire at the Sergeant, but thinking quick he spat in the man's eyes. It was only a moment of relief but a moment was all Kjaro needed to behead the outdated. Victor's life was narrowly saved by his comrade who fired full auto at another sniper he noticed, but he couldn't save himself.

He dropped, and Victor with him to look at the impact and exit wound. Out of his own grenades Victor unclipped those of the fallen Legionnaire, throwing a three in the general area of the marksman to the sound of convulsions on the ground which meant he hit his mark. Victor and Kjaro were the only ones left, and they knew it. They reached a doorway, and with a nod to each other breached it. A grenade was waiting for them, the blast from which sent Victor airborne with his head getting smashed against a wall, whilst taking a leg off of Kjaro. “Tis but a scratch!” the Sergeant roared, hopping on with only a leg to propel him as if he still had both. He brought his axe down on one of the rebels, whilst a shotgun slug ripped his jaw off. Sergeant Kjaro punished the man with death, before hopping over to help up Victor. “I think this is where I take a break, Sir.” He said - or rather tried to with his missing jaw - before falling down.

“Mad bastard.” Victor said, getting himself upright. He gave a kick to the fallen Sergeant, the man even sans consciousness growling at the offence. Well, he’d done solo missions before, right? This was no different! Of course he hadn’t lost an eye and fingers then, but he was a lot more experienced now to compensate. Hopefully that would even things out….

Victor opened the next door, seeing something amazing. There were three people hovering around a great glow emanating from the floor, one that seemed to go through the roof. This, this was it. “Stop!” he demanded, firing his pistol at the people that were now quite clearly psychics. They had a shield of some sort by virtue of their power, and so he lowered the weapon. He revved the motor of his chainblade, before charging at the nearest one. About to bring the sword down on the psychic he was stopped, he quarry turning around to fling lightning from his fingertips. Victor’s head felt like it was imploding, warnings from every single system flashed in his display and flesh all over him was scorched. But he pushed through, he knew if he stepped back that was the end of him, the end of Kjaro, the end of his comrades. A wail of both fury and pain came from the Captain’s throat, before he took the last step and slashed the psionic man with the very tip of his weapon. It was still enough to diagonally split the man open, and give Victor just for a moment the same squeamish feeling his outdated ancestors got when seeing a still beating heart and smelling the insides of a split stomach. He raised his pistol to blow a perfect hole through the head of one of the psychics, but the last flung his pistol from his hands with a flick of her wrist. She stopped hovering, one hand having arcs of electricity coming from it whilst the second seemed to be holding something. If Victor concentrated, he could just about make out a transparent spear of some sort. “Damn.” He muttered ducking under an attempt to skewer him with it and lashing out with his sword. The woman before him battered the sword away with the weightless spear of psionics, sliding it forward in the same action to try stab the Captain whilst using the electricity from her other hand to make him lose his balance. He let himself fall, catching a gash across his shoulder but falling to her feet. Lashing out with one hand he got an ankle firmly in his grip and squeezed, a crunching noise followed by a shriek. She stayed upright stepping on his head with her good leg but this proved to have little effect on the Neohuman given it had just a simple shoe on it. He rolled aside getting her to finally fall, and both scrambled away before getting themselves upright. Again she tried to stab him but now conscious of the very material properties of the spear he went to grab it… only to have it take off yet another finger. In truth neither party was prepared for this, but Victor reacted quicker sending out his other hand bawled into a fest at the woman’s arm. Pulling it back he saw blood, but he failed to follow it up with another punch as his opponent’s psychic current struck him, and held him in place. She made use of this opportunity and threw the spear, the ethereal projectile leaving a very material hole in the man. He fell, closing his eyes in resignation. Then he opened them, in his periphery having caught sight of his pistol.

The weapon was raised with a joyous laugh from the Captain, training its sights right on the woman’s forehead. “End it.” she said, her head lowering in the resignation Victor felt moments ago. It was now he noticed she was a young lass, no more than seventeen though likely less. A local, not some specialist brought along by whatever commandos were here. “No.” Captain Tarau said. She raised her head, incomprehension all over her face. “No, I don’t think I will. Instead, how would you like it if I offered you a new life? A better one.”

“What?” she exclaimed, confusion all over her voice. “Exactly what I said.” He replied, a grin from cheek to cheek on his face. “Become one of us. A new life. No poverty, no illness, your skills would be used carefully, enhanced. You would be a pillar of society, not something to throw away in a hopeless little revolution.”: She opened her mouth, unable to frame a proper reply which signalled the Captain to continue. “All the other people in this building are dead or subdued. Don’t become one of them.” He said, waving his pistol about meaningfully.

“Okay.” She said, shrugging. Clearly the use of her powers had drained her and removed much of her will to resist; he could see it in the popping veins and paleness of her initially fairly tan skin. Victor laughed ecstatically, almost spasming from joy. “Good, good. My pistol was dry.” He said, and noticing the dilation of her pupils quickly slapped a new magazine in. Just in case.

“Good, yes. If you could then just stop all the glowy blue business?” he continued, motioning to the still present glow.

“Oh, err, yes.” The psychic replied, waving a hand to have the glow disappear. “Thank you.” She said, before collapsing.

With the light gone, Tarau was able to make contact with his ship and call for support, which in moments arrived. Two fighters gently glided down from the sky, and then upon the floors the Neohumans missed let loose a barrage of laser fire through the windows to end any resistance remaining. But Victor wasn’t done for today. He sprinted back to the first floor, looking amongst the fallen for a man he remembered wasn’t quite there yet. Another person with a beret- black and unmarked now he paid attention - was still breathing. He tapped him on the chin, before giving a slap to get him to consciousness. “Who are you.” He demanded. “What?” the man said, all in a state of delirium given by his blood loss that was in minutes going to be fatal. “Just let me die.” he muttered whilst shivering.

“I can’t do that.”

“Well that’s too bad, I’m not saying shit.”

Victor looked down at the hand of the man, before placing a super-heated nail upon one of the man’s nerves. He yelped, cursing before muttering something of compliance.

“Where do you come from.”

“Raygon.”

Victor paused, noticing the slightest tell in the man’s eyes. He wasn’t lying, but he wasn’t telling the whole truth.

“What citizenship do you hold.”

“Federation.”

“Who do you serve.”

“My home, and the people of this world.”

Victor was about to ask another question, but a feint smile on the man’s lips and movement of a hand prompted him to look down. The man had pulled a pin in a grenade, and while Victor got far enough away to not get any harm, he also got far enough away to get a nice free nap for a while. Well his first mission was done, and that was enough. He’d be going back to the periphery for a while, a good break from this shit.
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Airwave Building

Ylaso // Elia

After taking a lift on the private elevator, the trio stood in front of a secured door. The man ordered both Bernard and Baxter to grant them access. They refused until their lives were threatened once again, which made them comply. The door opened up to reveal massive production lines hidden beneath the city, confirming the rumors. Now, there was the matter of the guest since they had outlived their usefulness. Bernard remained silent while treating his injured foot while Baxter was curled up in a ball. None of them were innocent.

For example, Bernard laid off thousands of workers while raking in millions of credits. Baxter got into her current position by having an affair with her bosses and getting others ahead of her fired. The man already had decided their fates. He approached them and ordered them into the elevator while pointing the pistol at them. Bernard looked at him and said with a sigh of irritation, "You already have everything. What do you want now!?"

"Justice." The man answered.

"Justice?"

"Yes." He walked towards Bernard and pointed the gun at his chest. "Justice for those that you have wronged. Those that were cheated. Those that have to live in this world that you and your friends created. And it starts now."

And with that, Bernard was shoved into the elevator and watched as Baxter joined him inside. He made one last attempt to escape, but the door shut in front of him. Then, it started moving up. They thought that freedom was near until it didn't stop. Bernard tried to stop the elevator, but nothing happened. It was when the doors finally opened to reveal the lobby filled with angry protesters. Both of them started to panic once the crowd saw them and began advancing towards them. Baxter tried to close the doors but it still wasn't working. When the crowd got closer, she and Bernard tried to beg for their lives.

But nobody cared.

Ylaso // Elia

Temprary Police Headquarters

Footage of protesters storming the Airwave Building began airing on several screens in the headquarters. Commissioner Lawrence watched smoke coming out of several floors in disbelief as General Griffiths was in the middle of a phone call. He went to establish communication with Chief Superintendent Rory Dawson, who was on the field. But, Griffiths stood in front of him after her phone call. She asked him, "What are you going to do?"

"I need to see what the Chief Superintendent is planning on doing." Lawrence responded honestly.

"I'm afraid that you can't do that anymore."

"Huh?"

"You have failed your duties as commissioner of the Ylaso Police Department. And after talking to the Royal Family, they agree with me and want to personally meet you." General Griffiths explained while two soldiers entered the headquarters with the intent to arrest Lawrence. He backed away and resisted arrest while pledging to do better; however, she ordered the soldiers to take him away. Everyone else in the room was shocked that their commissioner had been fired and arrested. Meanwhile, Griffiths stepped towards the hologram table and announced.

"I will be the acting commissioner until this... protest ends. For now on, I want to be updated on everything and everyone. I promise you that order will be restored, and those insurgents will be punished."

Airwave Building - Underground Factory

Ylaso // Elia

The man turned away from the elevator and went towards the production lines. He started to inspect everything to see if it was going to work. The other man took off his mask and threw it into the bin before following him. He started typing out something onto his augmented arm at lightning speed and then sent it to 'Dusky.' Afterward, he followed his friend further into the factory before finding the office belonging to the CEO. Well, former CEO. Both men headed straight for the computer and began hacking into it. "I hope we find something juicy."

"Even if we don't, we have enough for the sunrise." The man proclaimed before taking off his mask, revealing an early twenties man.

"Liberator! Savior!" A familiar voice called out to them. "Aren't you going to give me the grand tour of my upgraded workshop?"

Savior went to meet their friend, Creator, standing outside of the facility with their arms crossed and a smirk. They were impressed that the rumors were actually true, but it was bigger than expected. Perfect for making a shit ton of drones designed by them. "Congrats on securing the prize, mate. I never thought we would be standing here. Or that the "beloved" CEO would hide something so secretive under us. What a shocking revelation!"

"Good thing you just got here in time to see what he was hiding." Savior guided them to the office and rushed over towards Liberator, hugging him from the behind. It was rather odd that it was easy to hack, but Bernard probably thought that no one dangerous was ever setting foot here. That was he got from not investing in essential cybersecurity for the underground part of his business. So far, he was scrolling pass emails and notes with a lack of interest. Savior asked with curiosity, "What have you found, babe?"

"Nothing exciting." Liberator answered.

"Of course, you would say that." Creator stated to their friend before shoving him out of their brand new chair. They took a seat in it and began reading the emails, realizing that there an exciting discussion taking place. It confirmed that the Royal Family was working with Airwave to deal with the growing protest by producing drones approved by them. One of them was designed to drop gas onto Elliot Square to get rid of the occupiers ensuring their arrest. Another was made for gathering identities of protesters and sending them to the police to guarantee arrest and punishment for going against the monarchy. They pulled out a device from their pocket and set it on the computer, which started making copies of everything.

"Well, I have a lot of stuff to sort out." Creator said with excitement in their voice and turned to Liberator and Savior. "I'll call you guys once I start up the lines, and then I can show you what I have found in this goldmine."

With that, Liberator and Savior headed back to the surface and plan out for the future of this movement.


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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

Member Seen 8 hrs ago

Location:

Raygon 8 - Leisure District, aka. New Macau.

BT-Block K376-001-019 “Laogui” Lane - 250m from nearest HappyBurger™.




Subject:

Name: George Christian Wellsley, aka. G.C. Willy.

Age: 27 cycles around Raygon 0.

Residence: BT-Block L102-071-010, “Moonlit Gardens” flat 10.

Occupation: Drone Mechanic.







The Bottom Tiers - the place where dreams come to die, rot and rise again as nightmarish spectres out for the blood of their makers. Among all adjectives in every language spoken on Raygon 8, there would probably only be about six that could describe this part of the city as even remotely pleasant - and even that would require vastly different contexts. Ancient sewer and water pipes still in use despite centuries of neglect line the walls, the roofs, the pavement - everywhere, bringing the piss and shit of every class both high and low to the waste processing centres riiiiiight over there. Not that it would matter much anyway where it went; most of it ends up on these streets from the looks of it.

However, if you can ignore the stink (or your nostrils have been seared shut by it already), it wouldn’t take long for you to notice what was living in the muck, anyway. For the muck isn’t even close to the worst - that would be whoever or whatever’s rolled so low with the dice of fate that they’d end up down here. That’s right, lining the streets are beggars by the millions, kneeling shoulder to shoulder with their code bricks presented, just in case someone feels generous enough to donate. Fool’s hope, if you ask me.

“Spending money” is a dream down here. Whoever’s got extra to spare after rent and subs would soon hear a knock on the door and be greeted by a pair of grinning mugs, flexing and unflexing their palms in a beckoning manner. I know a couple who’ve ended up sleeping in the gutter for saying no - they’re the lucky ones. The unlucky ones, well… Ever heard of corpse starch?

… But I’m getting off track. Where was I… Right, Hell - I mean, the Bottom Tiers. First rule down here is that there ain’t no rules - non, zip, nada. It’s every ape for himself down here, and to think otherwise is to wave goodbye to any ticket out of here. Only norms exist around here, and they’re for your own safety. First one: Don’t get close to anyone - and I do mean anyone. As soon as you form any kind of relationship, someone’s going to take advantage of it: Girlfriend? Woops, guess she just got snatched up by the mob, huh; family? Hit by a truck; even your employer might just get his head mounted on a lamp in the parking lot for trying to avoid his debt to big Addy. Boom! Out of work, out of love and maybe just out of will to live, too, huh.

Only money means anything down here - it’s your status, your power, your clothes, your house, your motherfucking ID. Not even joking, flashing the cops your card has more value than any interstellar passport. Money gets you love, protection, comfort - maybe even a ticket up. It’ll cost you, but from what I’ve heard, the centre’s actually liveable.

Laogui Lane… It ain’t my block, but it’s more home to me than Moonlit Gardens’ll ever be. Here, booze is cheap and won’t actually kill you from the inside (right away), and the ladies have at least a basic concept of hygiene. Still, I recommend going for Cybes above anything else - they usually got internal cleaning mechanisms that make them pretty safe. Sure, they don’t show much emotion during the act, but some like that, too. Not saying I do, but hey, I won’t judge.

Right, so who am I, exactly? Name’s George Christian Wellsley. I’m technically still a drone mechanic, but I haven’t been much at work lately. The reason? I’m in deep, deep shit.

Okay, so I may or may not have a pretty bad gambling problem. That’s not important right now. What -is- important is that I may or may not have spent my family’s savings down to the last credit. I tried to explain to my wife that I was really sure black was the winning colour, but she didn’t wanna hear it. Last I heard, she’s living with her sister over in block E somewhere. Haven’t seen her for a few years now, actually. Shit. But, uh, yeah, anyway, so I had to win it back somehow, right? Well, turns out borrowing money to win back your money at the casino is a bit of a gamble (get it?), and gambles can be, well, lost. Not saying I lost this one, but I may or may not owe some people a whole lot of credits.

So you might be asking… Yo, G.C., if you’re in such deep shit, why’re you in Laogui Lane drinking your credits away? Yeah? Well, to that I say…

“Ook!” George suddenly whooped angrily and raised his fist high into the air. A passed out Raygonian lifted his groggy face off the bar and scowled at the ape.

“The fuck you just call me, furball?”

George turned and scowled back, not because he was annoyed, but because the grog was making it difficult to see. The booming music didn’t help much either, the sound alone nearly knocking him out. The ape clapped his hands together, grunted, pointed in several directions and ooked again. The Raygonian snorted, his six nose rings dancing around his flaring nostrils.

“Fuck you mean ‘had a moment’? You on something bad, squirt?” he pursed his lips. “... Wouldn’t happen to have anymore, would ya?”

George frowned and shrugged, shaking his head. The Raygonian sighed through vibrating lips. “And here I was hoping for something fun tonight…” With that, he lifted his enormous body off the tortured bar stool and stomped off on his round, flat feet, tankard of grog in hand. George blinked a few times, then rubbed his eyes. How long had he been here, actually? He prodded the band on his arm and watched the familiar holographic display appear before him. After swiping away the ads, he saw the time: 03:49 AM. Jesus, he’d been here a long-ass time. He tapped the bar counter twice and another hologram appeared before him, this one of a beautiful human lady with mechanical augments, dressed in a loose white shirt and suit pants. She stood behind the counter and gave him a small smile.

“Yes, mr. Wellsley, would you like anything else?”

“Ook-ook,” George answered with a shrug and tapped his right middle and index finger against his thumb.

“Very good, mr. Wellsley,” the hologram answered and held her hand. A holographic bill materialised in it for Wellsley to take. The ape peered at the number at the bottom, grimacing a little. He reluctantly tapped the wristband on the bill, sounding a light ‘pling!’ The bartender smiled.

“Thank you for your patronage, mr. Wellsley. We hope to see you again soon.” With that, she disappeared again. George chugged down the rest of his grog and cringed at the consistency. Bottom-tier grog was ironically the most palatable drink down here - at least if you didn’t want to go blind the next day (never try the tequila). Sadly, it had an unfortunate habit of separating, making the bottom less of a drink consistency and more of a chewy gum. Still, at least it helped him forget that he actually lived down here. He hopped off his stool, allowed himself a few moments to stabilise and started heading towards the exit. His intoxicated eyes caught a number of sights on the way: a flock of hookers, a group of stoners surrounding a shisha, the mob…

Oh shit, the mob.

Before George could run, four heavybuilt Quroks had already surrounded him, their faces stern as always. Two of them made very certain to block any and all paths leading to the door. George swallowed - hiring Quroks to serve as your brawlers? That’s expensive as shit - just who had he caught the attention of?

“Heeey! George, right? George Wellsley?”

The sleazy voice was unfamiliar to him, but it couldn’t belong to a friend of his - he didn’t have any! Reluctantly, he turned around to face a human, or possibly a cybe, dressed in a stylish golden suit with a plastic rose in his right chest pocket. He wore star-shaped glasses which glass beamed an intense white light - antishades, as they were called. Those were pretty expensive down here. He sat in a couch, flanked on each side by ladies off different species - one at least fifty percent human and one Cala. The Cala winked playfully at George as she fed the man a gummy grape. Shit, candy? Man must’ve been rolling in dough.

“That’s your name, right? Or is your profile picture a little…” He eyed the holographic display over his wristband, which currently showed George’s Mi-Self page. “... Outdated?”

George frowned. “Ook,” he went and gave him a thumb-up. The man clapped his hands and beckoned him over.

“Oh, that’s great, that’s great! Hey, why don’t you take a seat right over here, mr. Wellsley - I do believe you and I’ve got some business to discuss.”

George stole a moment to eye the door. All he caught in his glance was the clenching and unclenching fist of one of the Quroks. He looked up at the owner, who gave him a challenging frown. He’d be sleeping deeper than the gutter if he tried to get out of this one. Reluctantly, George made his way over to the man’s table. One of the Quroks pulled out a chair for him and the ape sat down. The man extended a robotic hand, palm open in invitation.

“A pleasure to meet you, mr. Wellsley. I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while - shame time’s never been quite right.”

George shook the hand as politely as he could. A moment passed before he frowned, tapped the middle and index finger of his right hand against the same fingers on his left and pointed at the man. The man’s smile tightened into a slightly more polite expression.

“Oh, I’m simply known as Shawn. No need to be polite about it, though - just Shawn’s alright.”

Shawn. Had to be a new player in the game. George had no recollection of the same, and he liked to believe he frequented the exact kind of areas where he’d hear the name of this kind of character. Shawn tapped the right side of his glasses and the intense light dimmed considerably to fit the sorry excuse for lighting inside the bar.

“So,” he began, “I reckon you must be pretty curious as to why I called you over. Well, see, I’ve got a story for you. Would you like a drink, by the way?”

George was quick to wave his hands in denial, but Shawn just grinned. “Oh, come on, what’d I say about being so polite?” He tapped twice the tabletop between the couch and George’s chair. Instantly, the bartender’s hologram popped up next to the table, bowed politely and cocked her head playfully to the side.

“Good evening, Shawn. What would you like me to bring?”

Before George could protest, Shawn raised a finger to silence him, still wearing his eerie smile. “Bring us a flask of champagne extract - I’m thinking the Veuve. The ladies would also like another fruit gum plate.”

“A wonderful choice, Shawn,” the bartender praised with another bow and disappeared. George felt sweat moisten his forehead. Veuve fucking Clicquot?! A single bottle cost more than his whole debt. Even if it was extract, one could almost buy a shitty flat in the centre with the money earned from selling a few of those. Forget his business with him - all Shawn had to do now would be to leave George with the bill and the ape’d be screwed for life. A moment later, a hatch on the table slid aside slowly to reveal a rising plate carrying four champagne glasses, a wide plate of fruit gums, and a bottle labeled Veuve Clicquot. George knew it wasn’t the actual brand that had once existed back on Earth - the patent for the name had long since been given away. A mechanical arm attached to the table uncorked the bottle and poured the glasses half-full. The ladies each took a glass and smiled at each other; Shawn took one for himself and offered one to George, who accepted it with a quivering hand.

“Well, then - a toast?”

“Cheers!” the girls sang out together and clinked their glasses together with Shawn’s. George timidly raised his own and took a sip. Christ, that was good: The fizzy tickle of bubbles pricking the top of his mouth; the gentle sweetness and sour tanginess that lingered in his mouth before he swallowed; the satisfying aftertaste. He could never go back to grog after this.

“How is it?” Shawn asked with a smile. George raised a quivering thumb and Shawn chuckled. “Yeah, it’s not bad. That’s why I really like this bar - it has amazing drinks for being a bottom tier establishment. It preserves the soul of this society without losing the quality of its accomplishments - nothing like the endless noise and booming of the top tier clubs.”

George nearly spat out his drink. This guy was from, from, from the top?! Shawn flashed him another smile.

“Surprised? In truth, I don’t come down here very often, so I don’t blame you for not seeing it right away. For all you know, I could’ve just been really high up in the mob. What’s the name of the local gang? Shadow Moon Triads?”

It was Dark Sky Triads, actually, but his name had a better ring to it, George admitted.

“... I suppose I could’ve been. However, I am not. Can you take a guess as to what organisation I represent?”

The ape shook his head and shrugged. Shawn sighed through his smile.

“Really? Not even going to try? Come on, come on - make a guess.”

George finished his glass and set it down on the table. The mechanical hand filled it right back up. The ape made a fist with the thumb pointing upwards, then flattened his palm vertically with the thumb resting against its centre. Shawn chuckled.

“No, I’m not with Adamantium, you can relax. Come on, try again.”

George made a crescent with his right hand and hammered his chest with it. Shawn shook his head.

“I’m not a cop, either.” He snickered and drank some more champagne. He extracted a silver case from his chest pocket, opened it and took out a cigarillo. He cut off the tip with a cigar cutter, stuck the uncut end into his mouth and leaned over to the Cala lady, who sensually lit the cut end with a rusty lighter. Shawn inhaled, held his breath for a second and exhaled a plume of gray smoke that somehow smelled like smoked vanilla. “Alright, mr. Wellsley, I’ll stop playing around. I work for an organisation called Possible. My job, you see, is to make my clients’ wishes happen. In truth, I represent a client who for now would like to remain anonymous. Worry not, this particular client has no business with you, personally, but his wish requires a certain finesse that’s so hard to find around these parts.”

George couldn’t help but be curious. He grunted, shrugged with his hands out to the side, then tapped his forehead before moving that hand away from his skull, flexing the index finger. Shawn nodded.

“My client’s wish, mr. Wellsley, is rule this part of town by the end of the year. They are quite close already, but a little something remains. Can you guess what that is?”

George shrugged. Shawn huffed.

“Alright. My, still so polite. The remaining facility key to total takeover is the local security drone station - the one owned by Gala-Grid.”

George’s eyes blasted open - any trace of intoxication in his body vanished without a trace, replaced by pure adrenaline. He nearly fell out of his chair, and one of the Quroks reached down to reseat him properly. The ape knew where this was going - oh, did he know. Oh, sure, he knew drones inside and out, especially security bots. Hacking a bunch and overthrowing any station was in theory a piece of cake and happened on and off every year. Gala-Grid, though… No way. No way, no way, no way. It was way too big - the largest company in the country, perhaps even in the sector. If he hacked their bots, they’d know. They’d know, and he’d be a dead ape - no, even death couldn’t adequately describe what would happen to him if he got caught meddling with Gala-Grid’s business. In fact, even discussing this out loud could get him shot.

George looked over each shoulder, then down at his wristband - however, he noticed something seemed odd about it. Shawn waved a hand soothingly and blew another plume of smoke. “Relaaax, mr. Wellsley,” he said and extracted his cigarillo tin again. That’s when George noticed it had a slight dent on the top. Shawn put it back in his pocket and dabbed the cigarillo on an ashtray. “Fancy, right? A cigarillo tin that doubles as a band jammer. Incredible what custom orders can get you.” He drew another lungful of smoke. The two ladies had moved to the end of the couch to chat. “Mr. Wellsley, your reaction is understandable. Gala-Grid is perhaps a few magnitudes above the target of a usual heist…”

A FEW?!

“... But if I am not mistaken, you are in a bit of trouble already, are you not?”

There it was. George had been waiting for it. Nothing ever came for free down here, and whatever dirt someone had on you could and would be used against you. Reluctantly, George nodded.

“How much do you owe?” asked Shawn and tapped the cigarillo on the tray once more.

George swallowed and held up five fingers, then crossed his index and middle finger. Shawn nodded.

“Fifty grand, huh? Wow, you must’ve been confident in your dice.” Shawn snickered almost mockingly. George shrank down into his chair. However, Shawn noticed his expression and let out a single chuckle. “Hey, cheer up, old boy. If you decide to take on this little assignment, you can consider the debt paid.”

George blinked. ”Ook?!”

“Oh, yes. By tomorrow, at the latest. The transfer should be instantaneous, but you never know down here.”

George couldn’t believe his ears. He frowned, held up his palm next to the side of his head and, palm facing his skull, flexed his middle finger. Shawn lifted his champagne glass in a toast and deposited the cigarillo butt in the ashtray.

“Mr. Wellsley, I did say it’s my job to fulfill my clients’ wishes. Consider it an early investment into your future career. Who knows - maybe this will be the first of many jobs you will do for us?” He tapped the table again and the bartender reappeared.

“Yes, Shawn? Would you like anything else?”

“No, thank you, I believe we’re done here.”

The bartender smiled and bowed. “Of course, Shawn. That’ll be seventeen thousand, six-hundred and fifty-eight credits, please.” A holographic bill appeared in her palm as before. George didn’t even know her A.I. could pronounce such colossal numbers. Without even a hint of reluctance, Shawn tapped the bill with his wristband, which sounded the familiar ‘pling!’. The bill disappeared.

“Thank you, Shawn. Have a nice evening!” the bartender said and disappeared as well. Shawn rose to his feet and two of the Quroks approached him from his flanks. One dressed him in a thick coat with furry hems and a thick mane, all made from the hair of alien animals, no doubt; the other fastened a stylish mask to Shawn’s face, tapped a button on the side and stepped back. Shawn took a deep breath with closed eyes and exhaled, his voice autotuned due to the mask. He activated his light glasses again.

“Ah… Fresh air.” He looked back down at George. “I would like to point out, mr. Wellsley, that we do much more than simply pay off debts. If you prove to be a worthy asset to our organisation, then next might be a house in the centre? A personal ship, perhaps?” The man shrugged playfully. “Well, then. We expect much from you. Good luck, now!”

George sat in the bar for an extra period of time - he had no idea how long. He, he was cleared - cleared of debt. Or was he, actually? Could he trust Shawn? And what would actually happen if he refused? What if he chose not to sabotage the station? Would those Quroks come after him and leave him in some ditch?

And what if he chose to comply? How would he live after getting into trouble with Gala-Grid? Would Shawn get him some security? Doubt he would. Was it even possible to sack such a station without the owners noticing the perpetrator?

The risk was immense - and so was the payoff. George reached for the smoldering butt of the cigarillo. He brought it to his lips and took as deep a drag as he could, scowling into the air. As he exhaled, he pursed his lips.

He would need time to plan this.


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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Wernher
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Wernher

Member Seen 6 days ago

Zion Space
Core World of Ascalon
City of Sichem




Zion did not have any official capital, but Sichem was the closest there was to one, it was the first city and in it was the Hill of Zion and on it, the Fourth Temple built by Ysaak and Patrick, leaders of the tribes of Israel and Ireland. It was nothing like the usual capital worlds of the sector, vertical hellholes of poverty that tried to maximize every inch of space available. At one point of course it had been as badly designed as them of course, but a century ago the Federation had bombed and occupied the entire thing. After this, the inhabitants of Sichem used the opportunity to better rebuild their city with a new network of trams and metros, agreeing to forgo the use of individual cars save for a taxi network of ground and flying vehicles ferrying emergency transports for a hefty penny. It was amazing how efficient the whole thing was considering how Sichem was much more horizontal than vertical as said.

Adrian Rubinski smiled widely as he emerged from the underground of the metro after his ride from the space port. He always appreciated his home city more after every trip he took outside Zion but especially after a trip on Raygon! The tall, dark haired man took a deep breath of actual non-polluted air and walked with enthusiasm toward a flower shop near-by.

"Shalom and welcome to... Adrian! You're finally back!"

A red headed middle aged man with thick glasses rose his head from behind a row of flowers. Keith, the husband of the daughter of one of Adrian second degree cousin and also the godfather of his third sister's fourth born. (Someone close, in short.) Both walked toward each other and gave each other a firm and enthusiastic handshake, almost immediately, Keith recoiled a little, an amused and disgusted expression on his face.

"Elohim's grace Adrian, where have you been? You smell like a sewer!"

Damn it, Adrian had changed clothes since he had arrived home but didn't have a spare coat.

"I went to meet someone on Raygon, that why."

The pair exchanged a few words, one about his travels and the other about how the extended family was going. All the while Keith happily prepared a bouquet as he always did when Adrian returned from his travels, a present for his wife to apology being gone for so long. Such however was the life of a Financial Inspector. The Rubinski bank couldn't just loan money on people's words, someone had to go on the ground to make sure certain suspicious individuals, like this 'cult leader' on Raygon, were solvent. In the end when Keith's wife came out to announce food was ready, it reminded Adrian he also had dinner with his family. He took the flowers and left running. He didn't pay but Keith didn't mind, knowing his friend would pay him back next time even if he just had his word that he had ran off without paying.

When the elevator finally stopped on the floor of the flat of his father, Adrian quickly stormed inside. His youngest brother, who was at 16 years of age as old as Adrian's own oldest boy, smiled and was about to call out his name but with a wink and a finger across his lips Adrian signaled him to be quiet as he removed his shoes and coat. Tip toeing to the dining room, he saw facing him his mother and grand mother along with more siblings who's eyes illuminated with joy. The rest had began to turn wondering what it was that their kin had seen but Adrian was quick enough to embrace his wife from behind, presenting her his flowers and kissing her on the neck as he did.

The beautiful brunette turned around to see her husband for the first time in weeks.

"Welcome home, my love."

This was echoed by everyone in the room (grand father, grand mother, father, mother, two sisters and a brother of Adrian who still lived there along with Adrian's own 6 children who were visiting) enthusiastically welcoming Adrian back.

__________________________

It had been hard for Adrian to hold back his tears when he bit down the home cooking of both his wife and mother (His grand mother wasn't in a state to cook anymore), feeling like he had forgotten the taste of real home made food after weeks of a diet of on-the-go processed meals on Raygon. Not only that, but just to see how blessed he was, a happy family, his 8 year old son's biggest concern in life being trying to discard his veggies without being seen... All of them shielded from the horrors in the rest of the sector. Only once did things get awkward, when the subject approached Vincent...

Vincent was one of Adrian's uncle and a man who had always been less... enthusiastic about the current system. He didn't understand how all of this was possible only as long as everyone played their part in the system, without protest. He thus had been made an unperson. One of the grittier and darker part of this perfect world they lived in, but one Adrian was willing to ignore if this meant Zion continued to be an oasis of civility and joy in a dark cosmic sea of despair.

With the meal concluded, Adrian got up with everyone else with the intend to continue the traditions as they were, bringing the dishes in the kitchen for the women to do before going to the living room and talk with the men. As he reached for his plates however an old wrinkled hand reached from across the table. He raised his eyes to see his grand father, 145 year old Reuben, look at him with unusual seriousness. The old man made a chin movement toward the corridor before letting go of Adrian's sleeve. Taking the message, he nodded and moved not to the corridor, but around the table to help the old man who walked around using nothing but a cane while it was obvious he could use a wheel chair.

"Don't you think its time for you to let us help you Reuben?"

Adrian said softly as he allowed his old man to hold his arm for support as the both of them moved away from the group who understood the old man probably had something important to talk about with Adrian.

"It'll be time for me to be burried when Elohim sends me flying down a flight of stairs. What, do I look like an old man?"

Reuben asked with a smirk to his grand son who answered with sigh. He soon led him to another room, the office had had been his and was now his eldest son's and Adrian's father. The old man sat down on the large leather chair and was silent for a moment as he looked at his grand son. Adrian was about to sit down as well but noticed that his elder didn't invite him to sit which was... abnormal. He thus remained on his feet, curious about what this was about.

"Adrian... I need you to go take care of a problem. On Negev."

He raised an eyebrow, incredulous. Negev? As in the frontier world? Adrian had gone on the frontier only twice before, to see family, but his zone of operation was the core really. Another strange thing, Reuben was supposed to be retired it was Adrian's father now who headed the bank. Adrian was about to ask what this was about, but the old man spoke before he could.

"You'll remember Shimon? The sixth son of your great aunt Agatha? Well... He disappeared. With his entire village."

This actually raised more questions.

"This is... terrible news. But, I'm not..."

"An investigator?"

Asked an amused Reuben before continuing.

"We don't have a police you know that. This is an usual situation and someone who knows how to find what's fishy with things is needed. Someone inquisitive who knows how to deal with outsiders and make sure the whole situation in the frontier is solved."

Reuben made sign for his grand son to sit, which he did as he rubbed his temples, not certain of what to say, this seemed out of his area of expertise and above all it sounded dangerous.

"And what is the 'whole situation' as you say?"

Reuben nodded and leaned on the desk toward Adrian.

"Its all unofficial of course, but we have dealings with certain shady organizations. Among them, the Black Sun."

"Black Sun?!" Adrian repeated almost strangling himself saying it as his eyes widened. In resignation, Reuben nodded.

"Yes. You've heard of them as I can see and I have no doubt at least half of what people say about them is true, but you know how we work... better have friendly dealings with someone rather than putting ourselves on their target list. So, they have a base on Negev, I have no idea of the extent of it, but the deal was that while they can do business there and we provide each other with... services, well, they leave our people alone. Now however, people and places just... vanish in the night. Not only that, but I get reports that other people are interested in what's going on in the frontier. The Federation sent a battle carrier with a special investigator of sort on board. I don't need to tell you how bad it would be if we were linked to whatever it is is happening in the deep dark recesses of the sector."

This was bad business, Adrian knew it. Who made that deal? It seemed just so damn risky. But Reuben was right, there was a lot of potential for things to go wrong here.

"So... you want me to go there and... what? Isn't that stepping in the shoes of the Protector Elect of Negev?"

Reuben shook his head negatively and took out what seemed like a worn out white key card, the cheap kind without any company name that a shitty motel would use as a throw-away. It seemed well worn out and something had been scribbled in Hebrew on it but had been removed with cleaning products and a lot of rubbing with a napkin no doubt.

"Don't worry about the Protector, and take this, for funds."

With a surprised look on his face, Adrian reached for the card.

"Is this..."

Reuben waved dismissively but still had a proud smirk on his face.

"A Temple Bank card."

The 'Bank of the Temple' was an euphemism for the entire Zionist banking apparatus working together as one. In practical term this meant that the encryptions on this card allowed for banking transactions being made in every Zionist outlet across the sector. The eyes of Adrian widened as he realized this meant that his grand father, Reuben, was someone very powerful with many more powerful connections. Part of a certain Cabal, one might say.

"You leave tonight."

Reuben knew his grand son would accept but this did put a damper on what little enthusiasm Adrian had.

"Tonight? But I just arrived! My wife..."

Getting up, Reuben reached forward to put his hand on Adrian's shoulder in silence. After a moment, Adrian nodded and got up, shoulders slopped down as he moved toward the Kitchen to look at his wife as she helped his aging mother with the dishes. After a moment, the brunette noticed her husband and the look on his face. Her smile left her face and she sighed, placing down a glass before walking toward Adrian. Mustering her strength, she forced a smile before looking up to her love.

"Come back soon Adrian, ok? I'll make you some beef stroganoff just how you like it next time."

_______________________

TL;DR: Everything is nice and wholesome on Zion, Adrian discovers his grand father is part of the secret cabal, the invisible hand that guides Zion and is tasked with investigating abductions in the frontier while obfuscating the relation between the Black Sun and Zion to the rest of the sector.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by ZAVAZggg
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ZAVAZggg A game is only as good as its master

Member Seen 3 days ago




Location: UIC Space - Hera.





Issoth watched, with mild interest, as the sea of green vegetation below him writhed in irritation from their ships passing. He'd heard a lot of things about this place, most of which was warnings about not entering the surrounding forest lest you find yourself at the mercy of some ravenous beast. It didn't really concern him too much though. He and his partner weren't here to go on a sightseeing trip after all. Speaking of which...

"Qell," he said telepathically. "How far out are we?"

"Couple of miles at least," she replied, her own craft following his in close pursuit. "Though with how fast we're travelling, it shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes at least."

Issoth nodded slowly as he carefully maneuvered his ship around the face of a mountain. It had been months since they'd left Iuris, having been called out by an Adjudicator stationed on Raygon, the client of whom had brought the leader of a local crime syndicate-one Ralor Vrex-before the planetary court, only to have them break free from containment a few days later. Last they'd heard their target had stolen a shuttle and used it to escape to the Frontier, specifically UIC controlled space. Issoth chuckled lightly at that. Perhaps most cluster authorities would have sat back and done nothing, wrung their hands and claimed he had too much of a head start for them to bother tracking, but not an Enforcer. No, he and Qell would follow this man to the end of the galaxy if necessary, and when they finally found him
they'd drag his sorry ass all the way back to Raygon where he belonged. If he resisted... well they had ways of dealing with that.

After all, no one would anyone care if a small time crime boss ended up dead this far away from the core.

As for tracking him, it had been painfully easy. Ralor left little pieces of evidence in every place he'd been. A recording here or a transaction there. It was almost as though the idiot had never covered his own tracks before which, all things considered, was probably the case. Knowing how big and overpopulated Raygon was, the dumb sod probably had people who did that for him. Though now that he'd landed himself in hot water with the Adjudicators, an agency his contacts couldn't threaten or pay off, they'd left him to his fate and cut all ties.

Smart move on their part.

"One mile out," Qell said, interrupting his musings. "I've already signaled the local docking authorities. We're cleared to land."

Issoth nodded. "Good. Lets find this idiot and get him back where he belongs." Flipping some switches on the console in front of him, he aligned his craft with the coordinates they'd been sent and the pair began their approach, touching down on the gleaming steel surface of a docking pad a few minutes later. Exiting their respective ships via a lowered ramp near mid-section of the craft, they moved to greet a man wearing a somewhat faded and stained looking uniform with the emblem of the UIC emblazoned across its chest section in a diagonal fashion. Once the pleasantries were out of the way and their ships secured, however, the pair immediately went about tracking down their quarry.

"Alright," Issoth said, activating his AEGIS armors footprint tracker, watching as it took the footprint they had on record and began comparing it with those in the surrounding environment to find the right set of tracks. "Lets see where you've decided to crawl off to..."



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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Abefroeman
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Abefroeman Truck Driver

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Attack on Duro One.


"Thank you for tuning in, this is breaking news coming to you live from Eden News Network, the premier news provider in the whole of the galaxy. I'm Karen Travers, broadcasting to you live from the heart of the New Eden Federation." The perfectly attractive blonde turns in her chair, smiling at the camera, adjusting her paperwork, before continuing.

"From the frontier world of Duro One, comes reports of a military intervention being conducted by the Kingdom of Orleans. We are being told now, from the Orleans Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this military intervention has been launched in response to the unsubstantiated reports of a military junta that had taken place on Duro One four months ago. They claim that since the military junta, widespread civil unrest, cessation of basic government services, sectarian violence, along with outlandish claims of public executions orchestrated by death squads. Here is the public statement that has since been given to the greater galaxy at the behest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs." The youthful blonde smiles once more, turning in her chair slightly as a graphic is displayed upon the screen for the viewers. She purses her lips, before reading from her own copy of the statement.

"In accordance with the Eden Accord, signed by all members states within the Eden Galaxy, the Kingdom of Orleans hereby notifies all signatory members of its lawful military intervention against the illegitimate governmental regime of President Johnathon Gray. Four months ago, he violently overthrew the democratically elected government of Governor Raymund Goldstone, seizing the capital city of Forsomet, shortly followed by seizing the entirety of the planet. President Johnathan Gray, formerly General Gray, is a brutal dictator and tyrant, having personally executed Governor Goldstone on live television, along with all his cabinet staff. Death Squads roam the planet, committing extrajudicial killings, while his paramilitary militias have taken over power and infrastructure, rendering government services inoperable, as well as having taken hostage numerous expatriates, threatening to kill them if their ransoms are not paid. President Gray threatens the stability of not only Duro One, but the Northern Frontier region as a whole. The Kingdom of Orleans will protect and defend the innocent civilians of Duro One, remove President Gray, and restore peace and order to the planet. We will keep the member states of the Eden Accord abreast of our progress and actions. - Orleans Ministry of Foreign Affairs." Karen finishes reading, turning back towards the primary camera. The bright lights upon her add to her glowing beauty.

"We will now turn it over to our special correspondent on the ground in Duro One, just outside of the capital city, Foresomet. Alan Grenson, what can you tell us all the way from Duro One, aside from how much you are enjoying the quaint nature of the Frontier?" Karen smiles, placing her hands together as the video and audio feeds were being transferred. Her teeth beamed brightly, dazzlingly clean, as the golden blonde curls flowed softly about her face. A few more terse seconds past by, before the feed finally kicked over.

The first thing the audience is greeted to is the tell tale sounds of automatic gunfire, and lots of it. The rat-tat-tat of firearms echos in the background of the metropolitan area, as a disheveled male comes on camera, clearly having been running recently. His voice is scared, tinged with panic, as he begins to speak. "The level of violence here is unprecedented. There are bodies in the streets, Karen... the local militias are fighting against one another as air attacks continue around the clock by the forces of Orleans. We have been running from safe zone to safe zone. Local sources have seriously under-reported the amount of utter devastation planet side. Multiple embassies have been overrun, and the militias loyal to President Gray have been rounding up foreigners left and right." A loud explosion resonates in the background somewhere, as two Orleans fighter planes peel off from their attack run.

Alan tries to keep moving, picking up the pace with his camera crew. Concern is apparent upon Karen's face, before being replaced by horror and shock, followed by the feed being cut, and the broadcast itself being replaced with an "Experiencing technical difficulties." The audience, before their very eyes, watched as Alan Gray and his crew were running, a missle fired from rebel forces slammed into the building right in front of the escaping news casters. Moments later, a truck roars into view, mounted with a crude machine gun, which the gunner uses to mow down the camera crew. As the camera still roles, a massive bomb is dropped on the truck, causing it to geyser into crimson flame and loud pops, right before the news feed is cut.

War on Duro One has begun, and the Kingdom of Orleans is leading the fight to depose a brutal dictator.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by ClocktowerEchos
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ClocktowerEchos Professionally Asian

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PERSONAL LOG
CSECND C. JEKORVA
DATHU, NEW EDEN FED.


Today we have finally arrived on Dathon, homeworld of the Dathu species and member of the New Eden Federation. Despite a minor engine malfunction aboard the AMS Ravenspire, some well-placed donations ensured that we were always queued at the front of any Gate lines for FTL travel. We were greeted by one Mr. Yilam Ras, a Dathu working for the Federal Department of Commerce. As per usual, a dozen or so drones and reporters hounded us for pictures and questions, for use in serious new reports or over sensationalized tabloids I do not know nor particularly care.

We entered the Tatara Towers surrounded by our small army of clerks, advisors and lackies where we were treated a special meal at the penthouse offices before we were to move to the public conference rooms for negotiations. I must admit that while our accommodations aboard the AMS Ravenspire were certainly not lacking, I will never tire of sampling the best the galaxy has too offer. The meal consisted of a Dathon Horned Mugut Steak (a cattle-like creature with a set of four large horns on its head), a light spring salad of local water greens, a Gelberry Custard and Tommy Hawker’s Black Label Reserve Whiskey (courtesy of us of course). I joked that I would be willing to sell him everything I could in exchange for the recipe for that Gelberry Custard, Mr. Ras quipped back that it would take more than my own Stock Share in Atlas for it.

Upon finishing our meals and pleasantries, we moved to the grand conference room that had been all nicely set up with flowers and flags. And cameras. Lots and lots of cameras. Every day I feel glad I paid for those public speaking courses at the academy. Our talks, as largely ceremonial as they were as most of the terms had been agreed upon earlier, where still quite conductive and interesting. In the end, we agreed upon the following conditions:

  • The Atlas Corporation is to finance and deliver materials needed for the construction, expansion and development of the city of Jadara on Dathu until the completion of all major points as listed in the Jadara Development Charter.
  • The Atlas Corporation will provide up to 6 full mercenary divisions under exclusive long-term contracts for use by the Federation of New Eden who may use them at their discretion so long as it does not violate the Atlas PMC Terms of Service or the Atlas Mercenary Usage Contracts. These mercenaries will be paid for in full by the Federation for the length of their service.
  • The Atlas Corporation will be given preferential treatment for advertising within the Dathu system as well as the ability to operate recruitment and mercenary enlistment centers for recruitment of individuals into the Atlas Security Divisions


To conclude I do believe that these terms shall satisfy my superiors and increase our revenue flows for the foreseeable futures. Predictions will have to be adjusted accordingly, should all go well I may expect an increase of my Stock Share. I must retire now to my mistress for the night.

- Chief Senior Extraterrestrial Commerce Negotiation Director Charleston Jekorva
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by gorgenmast
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gorgenmast

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Yerma Polvorienta
Planet Nuevo Arauco


Dappled sunlight shone down on Sofia, filtering through a lush canopy of gargantuan trees as she walked slowly through a meadow of showy red flowers situated between the woods. Sofia tilted her head upward as her eyes went up to the treetops maybe 30 meters above her head where songbirds chittered cheerfully in the lacy, star-shaped foliage that she recognized instantly as cannabis leaves. Warblers and wrens fluttered about the moss-laden branches, skipping up and down the limbs and pecking at little insects creeping among the lacy leaves and resinous trichomes. Sofia's eyes followed a pair of warblers as they dove out of canopy and swooped just over the flowered meadow, bringing her gaze to the flowers she stood amidst.

Surrounding Sofia were thousands of crimson red poppies rising up to her chest on swollen stems. She allowed her bony fingers to brush across the flowers as she stepped through the meadow; their red petals dislodged at the slightest touch and disappeared amid the poppy leaves and nascent flowerbuds hidden underneath the blanket of red flowers.

As she approached the center of the meadow, a breeze blew through the forest and rustled the giant cannabis trees. The wind tousled Sofia's locks of scraggly, greasy hair and coursed through the poppies. With only the slightest disturbance, the poppies shed their red petals into the wind. A flurry of red coursed past Sofia as the flowers were dispersed, exposing the thousands of bulbous green opium pods hidden beneath the carpet of poppies. Out of curiosity, Sofia plucked one of the the opium pods off the stem with a satisfying pop. She examined the round green globe as she spun the pod in her fingers, and was surprised to find a a series of pits, bumps, and ridges on the pod's otherwise smooth surface that made it look exactly like a human face. Sofia's face.

Her likeness in the opium pod had its eye shut firmly, its lips twitched and trembled. Sofia looked down to the other pods and saw faces on the other opium pods as well. She saw the likeness of her Vidrio dealer in one pod, and the visage of her girlfriend that had first introduced her to heroin in another. Every single opium pod in the meadow bore a human face; each one locked in fitful, feverish sleep.

Sofia looked down again to the pod in her hand bearing her own likeness, and noticed tears of reddish-brown opium resin dripping through her shut eyes. As Sofia gazed at the dripping opium pod, the warm, dappled sunlight transitioned to an infernal orange glow. Thick smoke filled the sky as the cannabis trees burned all around her like mammoth torches. Embers drifted from the ardent tree boughs down to the meadow, where they began to fall against the opium poppies and ignite. The faces on the opium pods woke in screaming terror as they were consumed by the fire. Birdsong had been replaced with agonized shrieks as thousands of faces in the opium pods were consumed in wildfire.

She looked down at the opium pod and saw her face boiling away in bubbling opium resin. The flesh of the opium pod's face had melted away to reveal a skull that yawned open and gave a piercing scream.

-

Sofia bolted up out of her fever dream drenched in sweat. She could still hear agonized screaming, but the burning poppy meadow was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Sofia found herself surrounded by the hoodoos and mesas of the dusty badlands that surrounded Ciudad Capolicán, all moving past at a dizzying speed. She was laying in a small stowing platform mounted on the back of a large speederbike hovering a meter up above the dusty surface of the planet. Two other women - one of which was screaming from heroin withdrawal - lay beside her on the cramped platform. It seemed that their captors were not at all concerned with the possibility of escape, for the only kind of restraint on the stowing platform was a short rail crudely welded to the sides to keep any "cargo" from rolling out. Their arms were bound with zip ties, but their captors hadn't bothered with binding their legs together. Not that there was much opportunity for escape. The speederbike was cruising across the wasteland at every bit of 300 km per hour; attempting to jump out at such a speed would be suicidal. And even if escape were possible, no human would survive very long out in the Yerma without provisions. Hot days, cold nights, dust storms, and polluted water in the stagnant pools of dried up arroyos that crisscrossed the badlands would cut life expectancy of a healthy straggler out in the wilderness down to perhaps two or three days; nowhere near enough time to hike the potentially-hundreds of kilometers back to Ciudad Capolicán, El Presidio, or whatever the nearest settlement out here was.

"Aww, did the baby have a bad dream?" The kidnapper in the rear seat of the speederbike taunted over the howling of the wind, noticing that Sofia was awake. Sofia could see his fat, warty face through the glare of the wind visor of his helmet, and noted that he was not one of the emaciated addicts who had originally kidnapped her.

"You missing the needle already, zorra?" She was. It had been less than a day since she last shot up Vidrio, but already Sofia was starting to feel nausea and aching joints. Much longer without a fix, and she too would probably screaming in agony just like her fellow captive. "Well, ya better get used to it. Some rich bastard on Juralus is gonna be mad if his mail-order bride turns out to be a fucking junkie."

Sofia was repulsed. She said nothing, but the disgust on her face was abundantly clear.

"Don't be such a prude," the fat man said, rolling his eyes. "Nothing new for a whore like you. A girl as pretty as you has certainly sucked a dick or three in your day to score some Vidrio. Besides it could be worse: you're not being sold off to the Black Sun. Your homelier friend to the left... she probably won't be so lucky."

Sofia took a glance down at the girl laying silently to her left, still knocked out or sedated. She was hardly homely but she had a mousier face and her nose bent ever so slightly to the left. Sofia would never consider her ugly, but she could not deny that she did not quite qualify as attractive.

"What will they do with her, the Black Sun?" Sofia spoke up at last, concern for the stranger laying beside her written across her face "What do they want with her?" The fat captor shared none of Sofia's concern and gave an apathetic shrug.

"I'unno. All I know is that the ladies that don't cut the mustard for offworld brides get sold off to Black Sun. They pay less, but I guess Saroyan's boys figure it's better to get something than nothing."

"Saroyan's boys?" Sofia asked.

"Offworlders. Pirates. The guys that actually run the show on this shitheap of a planet... aaand there they are."

Directly ahead of the speederbike in the distance was a dropship idling on the valley floor between two mesas. Perched on three landing legs, the spacecraft vented compressed atmosphere in puffs of vapor while the vessel's crew loaded crates up a metal ramp into the hull with hoverjacks. Men armed with laser carbines standing guard around the dropship at once directed their attention to the approaching speederbike. As the speederbike drew near, one of the armed men pointed to a spot a few meters in front of him while his companions readied their weapons in case of trouble.

Sofia's captors slowed the bike to a crawl once they had arrived and came to a stop directly where the armed man had gestured. Kickstands released from the undersides of the speederbike as the craft slowly hovered down and came to a rest on the ground before the driver killed the engine. As the two captors stepped over the seats of their bike, a balding man with wiry gray hair receding from the top of his head stepped down from the loading ramp of the dropship and approached the speederbike. Donning what appeared to be a bathrobe and a dirty tank top over a pot belly with grease-stained cargo pants, he was about the farthest thing from the stereotypical brutish-looking space pirate that Sofia could imagine. Unassuming as the pirate leader was, the giant laser pistol holstered on the side of his robe and his attache of brutish paramilitaries demonstrated that he was not to be trifled with.

"What can I do for you fine gentlemen? Brought me something good, I hope." The pirate smuggler greeted over. It was an offworld accent - distinct from Nuevo Arauco's Spanglish dialect. Sofia had difficulty understanding him.

"Girls," said the fat man, seizing Sofia by the wrist bindings and pulling her up to her feet to show the smuggler. "They'll make some lonely bastard on one of the core worlds very happy. 2,000 credits for the pretty one, 1,500 for the screamer, and 1,000 for the one that got hit with the ugly stick."

The speederbike's driver grabbed the shouting woman suffering from withdrawals and brought her onto her feet. She groaned and wailed as her handler brought her over to the pirate smuggler, who studied her up and down as one might look over an item at auction. He gave a frown as she struggled against her captor.

"Heroin withdrawals," the smuggler noted. "You really dug deep for these girls, didn't you?"

"Half the goddamn planet's hooked on it," said the fat kidnapper.

"Not just this one either. That shit's all over the frontier worlds. I'm starting to see more of it in the core worlds now too. In any case, nobody wants heroin junkies for brides. I can get them off of it, but it takes time and meds and obviously that eats into my bottom line."

"Spare us the sob story and make a counter offer."

"Well, let me just see what we're dealing with first of all," the smuggler said, producing a small plastic device the size of a thumbnail out of his robe pocket. He looked over Sofia before approaching and grabbing her by the wrist.

"Hold still," the pirate smuggler snarled as Sofia drew away from him. Her captor held her still as he pressed the plastic device against her wrist. A tiny spring-loaded needle pricked her wrist and drew a infinitesimal amount of blood. SOfia winced and began sucking on the pinprick on her wrist as the smuggler produced a small tablet from his robe pocket and inserted the sampling lancet into the tablet. An hourglass icon flashed on the tablet's screen for a few moments as the blood sample processed. An auditory chime sounded as the results flashed onscreen.

ANALYSIS COMPLETE...

SPECIES: H. sapiens - 100.0% match
ETHNOTYPE: Caucasoid - 58.4% match
BLOOD TYPE: AB
RHESUS FACTOR: Positive
SEX: Female
BIOLOGICAL AGE: 28-31

PREGNANCY: Negative
ANEMIA: Positive
BLOOD GLUCOSE: 3.9 mmol/L
DIABETES: Negative
LEUKOCYTE COUNT: 3328/L
METASTATIC CANCER: Negative

CONDITIONS DETECTED: Asthmatic bronchitis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis C, HIV, Kadirov's Syndrome, Narcotic Use - Opiates

"Jesus, she's been around the block," the smuggler exclaimed, scrolling through the analysis readout before returning the tablet to his pocket. "Nothing I can't fix, but that takes time and money."

"I'll break even on her at 2,000 credits," the smuggler said as he gestured to Sofia. "But even at a discount, I can't make money on the other girls. Black Sun will take 'em but not for anything close to what you're asking."

"You're not giving me over to the Black Sun!" The woman suffering from withdrawals snarled.

"500 credits each?" Countered the fat kidnapper, ignoring the addict's lamentation.

"Heheh, try 300 each."

"Whatever, 300 for these two, 2,000 for the looker."

"Deal."

"Fuck you!" The woman suffering from withdrawals shouted. "You're not taking me to Black Sun!"

The screaming addict broke away from her captor's grip and immediately began running away from the dropship. Her handler started to follow after her and the pirate paramilitaries looked to their leader for direction. The smuggler said nothing, but drew his laser pistol from the holster on his waist. He took a few seconds to adjust his aim before squeezing the trigger.

The unmistakable report of a laser discharge - a thunderous, sizzling crack - resounded across the badlands as a single pulse of red-hot plasma was loosed at the fleeing woman. The beam ran just over the pursuing kidnapper's shoulder, singing the hair on his head as it impacted nigh-instantaneously on the shoulderblade of the escapee. Her chest exploded in a spectacular spray of vapor, blood, and viscera before she tumbled lifelessly into the gravely soil of the badlands.

"Anyone else entertaining notions of escape?" Asked the smuggler as he lowered his pistol. Only the wind blowing though the valley and the hissing of the dropship could be heard.

"Good. Now get these two girls tranqed and stowed and fetch 2,300 credits for these fine gentlemen. It's time we head back to Socordia. That planet's enough of a shithole; I don't want to spend anymore time than I have to on this one.

The two kidnappers began to protest about not getting paid for the slain woman, but in the presence of the carbine-armed guards, their complaints quickly died out. Sofia exchanged a terrified glance with her fellow captive as she felt a needle of tranquilizer embed itself in her neck.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Anyone who disagrees with me is worthless

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The CCN

Music



Shortly after the battle of Uracao


The Captain and the Sergeant were walking down the hall, one just too long to be considered efficient by the cold mentality of Neohumans. But it was a very old one, a place made by a now unsupported version of Neohumanity. It was lined with hundreds of the National Guard, the air around the blades of their lashalberds distorted by the superheating of the blades and shimmering by the power fields surrounding them.

"So you think it's something serious?"

"Wouldn't have called us all the way here if it wasn't."

"Right. Any idea what for?"

"Nope." the words were followed by the Sergeant launching a globe of spit on the ground, prompting the Guards to bring their halberds to Kjaro's throat. "Bloody hell calm down the bots will clean it!" he exclaimed, raising his hands. After a tense moment, the soldiers backed off.

"I take it you haven't been back home for an extended period in a while."

"Nope. Soldier's life for me."

"I can tell."

"Heh."

They reached the grand gate, which after a few seconds of the two men being scanned was opened. A man sat in a chair, a blazing cigarette in one hand as he stared at the sun of the Sol system. "Captain Tarau, how good of you to come!" the figure said, without a hint of irony given he was ordered to do so.

"...oh, and Oleksandr Kjaro. Captain Tarau's aide I take it mmmyes, what rank are you at now?"

"Sergeant, Sah!" Kjaro exclaimed, slamming a fist on his breast in salute. Victor couldn't tell if it was all a sarcastic display or a legitimate attempt to get in the good graces of

"Yes, indeed, very good. Well I'll get to it I suppose, I didn't prepare any mind games for you so I won't waste time trying to improvise. Events have lined up, such that I shall be leading a flagship to the frontier. They say I've gotten too invested in the theoreticals of war. Too cushioned in the home system."

"I can see that." the Sergeant said, giggling at the more suit than uniform attire of the man sitting in the chair, Admiral Andrej Kessler.

"Your concern is duly noted Sergeant.

“Regardless, other things have been happening in Eden my comrades. Duro has been invaded by Orleans, and the attention of the cluster’s media is upon it. There are many experimental weapons we have to test, and the frontier has a system ripe for the taking — the Nyrene star. The worlds have an untapped source of natural resources, and a grand population for us to utilize. Most interesting perhaps, is the apparent fact the locals have the use of some old-Earth terraforming and gravitational technology, allowing their massive planets with previously vile environments to become paradises far, far faster than even we could do with our Neohuman nature. Oh, and there’s certain… interlopers that have to be punished.”

Both the Sergeant and the Captain understood what the last bit meant, Oleksandr in particular grinning upon hearing this. Victor was less enthusiastic, screens of information rolling through his vision.

“What can we expect from this world.”

“Not too much. It’s a frontier world. Good infrastructure and communications, our biggest threat. Their arms and armour are just up to par for the frontier. There's also a species native to the system, the Nyrene. They're all psychics, though few of them are of any power, in fact a smaller fraction than in humans. Amassed though they have some potential. Attunement with the planet and all, along with each other, some similarity with the Aelon. They are to be deleted." one hologram flashed into existence, and then another.

"Understood. Intelligence?"

"Extensive work has been done by the infiltrators. Piracy and corruption are rife, there is little confidence in the president. Seeds of racial tension have been planted, locations of military installations and places of governance will he relayed to you. The homes of most of the Nyrene xenos have been found. It seems PDF, police, gendarmes, army, and other local defence personnel will outnumber ours more than six hundred to one. But if all goes to plan, a mere percent of that force will mobilize and only a percent of that mobilized force will get to combat before being ordered to stand down. Agents are ready to troll, disrupt and sway any interstellar social media on our favour. Its a very clear and positive picture."

"Understood. Post Operations?"

"Until the Uskoks arrive you will have to do their work. We expect some initial riots, protests. The chaos will be a good opportunity to rid ourselves of journalists and such. Of course we'll have to cover what the outdated will find 'objectionable'. Of course we'll have to feign an exit from the system, lie in wait for our little friends."

"Thank you Admiral. What shall you be bringing?"

"A cube. A very large one. Many cones too, get their defences done with quickly and silently. Some cylinders will come along should resistance be truly heroic. A Reislaufer Legion in its entirety will land, with another one in reserve. I will trust you to lead planetside operations of course, I hope I shan't have to intervene."

"Worry not, Admiral. I was given a more than acceptable rating for my first Captaincy, I will only be better in the next."

"Yes, of course." Kessler said, looking to Kjaro. "Very well, we depart in nineteen hours."

A salute was exchanged, and the duo marched off to their vessel.




Some time later.




Out of the jump gate the fleet exited. First came the cones, gently sailing through the void across the system. Their stealth systems activated to let them happily get into position, timed perfectly with the arrival of The Varangian and Kessler's ship Sikorski. As they drifted to Nyrene Terius, the cylinders followed already spinning in preparation of combat. The cones instantly unleashed drone swarms to attack the system monitors and localized defences. Nobody was killed, in fact, but ships had scanners, engines and comms sundered by little flying machines, whilst weapons had smaller drones fly inside them so that any attempt to blindly fire would be only catastrophic for only those doing the firing. A few more advanced vessels had their crews or at the very least Captains paid off, and one foreign trade ship had a great net fired at it. For a day or so it wouldn't be functional, and when it was cut off it would be too late to learn anything of the events that happened. But of course, for its trouble it would receive suitable restitution!

The two main vessels of the CCN came into orbit, and they tested their first experimental. Drop pods were novel to the Confederation, but upon seeing other armed forces use them it became obvious just how useful they were. Troop landers that carried very few men and couldn't get back to surface, but reached the ground so fast there was little warning of them, and little chance to shoot them down. They hit the ground in key areas. Every single generator and power grid controller, magrails, defence installations, comm towers, local house of governance and armouries all got at least one drop pod.

Giants emerged from them, nearly two and a half metre tall vessels of perfection armed with weapons the locals couldn't fathom. One power grid control centre had a guard raise a rifle, but was promptly frozen with a cryocannon. Quick firefights erupted at the armouries, but only a token resistance was put up with arc rifles swiftly subduing the security of them. The batteries had actual soldiers manning them, and proved harder. Lasers bullets and grenades zinged, and as the battles dragged on long enough to arouse the attention of more people - particularly those with guns - radcannons were made us of, their brutality a rarely reserved thing that in this rare case was quickly let loose despite all attempts to use more traditional weapons first.

With that done sleeper cells were activated, social media inflamed, and a good start on people's hearts and minds was made. All was carefully orchestrated to make this seem like an intervention against a corrupt government that was harbouring pirates – yes, pirates!

Victor himself landed in a drop-pod shortly after in the parliament, with Sergeant Kjaro landing in the district of embassies with several platoons. The Sergeant's men fanned out, quickly announcing martial law. Large devices were placed in the streets that initially looked like boxes but unfolded to be some sort of antennae?

"Everyone inside! You have thirty seconds to comply!"

"What? What the fu-... Hey get your hands off of me, do you know who I am?"

"Scanners indicate your name is John Hurley. Impertinent. You have nineteen seconds to comply, please enter the grounds of one of the embassies."

"You have no right to do this shit you hear me?"

"Ten."

"Listen to me you piece of shit I paid good money to visit and… Why are you covering your face hey loo-... W… AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"

The men exclaimed, clutching his head as the device finished unfolding and let out a vile sound, fluctuating between the highest and the lowest pitches possible for it to produce at a volume that clearly hurt the man. His eyeballs, blood vessels, and organs all ruptured as one before he collapsed, ichor sprayed on the Reislaufer shielding his visor from the liquid.

Victor entered the parliamentary Palace with but six Legionnaires at either side, all in armour dressed to look fabulous as if on parade, but just as good in combat. One of the security personnel tried to radio in, the other to shoot. Both fell with a smoking crater in their chest before they could touch a tool of trade. A guard inside that witnessed what happened dropped to his knees, to which he was told "Rise. Report anyone coming here from outside across your internal system."

And thus, very boldly the thirteen Neohumans strode into parliament. Every single Nyreeni was gunned down, along with the guards that reached for their weapons and the President.

"Does anybody have a problem with what just happened?" Demanded a Legionnaire. A few people rose or raised their hands, and they were gunned down too. The speaker jumped on the table of the dead president, spreading his arms wide majestically. He was about to make a great statement, but under his weight the table collapsed and he fell arse first. Neohumans were cold beings half machine, but each of them present burst out laughing save for Captain Tarau who hushed them into silence. He kicked the president off of his chair and after making sure it could hold his weight, he sat down on it with legs crossed comfortably.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm a soldier and an orator - the union of which makes me a commander - but I am not too much of a politician. It is therefore an excellent thing I have orders from someone with such an education. Your world now works for the interests of the Councillary Confederation of Neohumanity. Your world will become noticeably more efficient, you will receive resources, data, and technology from the CCN. You will be independent, of course! Your own pockets will be further lined, even if you happen to be a person of the sort with no care for your underlings. You will amend your constitution to be of interest to us, we will be a… protected group, let us call it. Your monitors should display the full extent of what you agree to. Any questions?"

The members of parliament all looked at their screens, reading carefully. About an hour passed until one raised his voice.

"The Nyreeni died to a disease brought from a vessel, possibly from the CCN? I'm a pragmatic man I can regurgitate the bullshit to save some hides but you're just killing all these people? That's… T-that's fucking madness! You can't stand for this I-" a Legionnaire's laser bolt brought an end to the speaker.

Victor shuddered and winced, wholly new thoughts coming across him. "Sign this, then gather with me, a recording for Eden's media will be made. Oh don't look so glum, you'll be pocketing money from new paymasters, but the same amount. More actually, so that you don't have to take it from your people!" The parliamentarians did as told, signing and then standing photogenically by the Neohumans. Even though a few steps higher, they were still noticeably shorter than the Confederates.

A drone flew inside the parliament, its camera focusing upon Victor. He looked like a God, and with the perfection both physical and aesthetic so visible in him he may as well have been. Perfect unblemished skin, sculpted features, alert eyes, a warm smile, welcoming dark brown eyes contrasting with his pale Northerner skin, green laurels with a faint golden sheen rested upon his black hair.

"I greet you dear viewer. No doubt you have by now heard of irregularities coming from the Nyrene star, so I will do my best to explain what happened. The worlds of this system have been long partners of the Councillary Confederation of Neohumanity, our trade vessels being one of the first to make contact upon locals establishing a jump gate. We eagerly welcomed them into the international community but it seemed good news wasn't the only thing to come of Nyrene's entry to greater Eden. The system became a hot spot of pirate activity and other criminality, but corruption insured that nothing was done in the long term to combat it. Recently this reached a critical point. The officials of Nyrene invited a Reislaufer Legion to intervene, and oust President Reynolds from his post lest he make Nyrene a pirate state. A contract was made with a Reislaufer Legion, who dealt very quickly with the bought and paid for forces of the late President. At the time of our arrival - perhaps from our vessels - a viral infection spread. It does nothing more than elicit a cough in humans but in the Nyreeni natives it provoked a fatal reaction. It spread like wildfire before our Scientific Corps could react. The disease will be analyzed, and a research paper published on it for Eden at large to review free of charge so such events would not repeat. Peace has been restored to Nyrene, and prosperity will follow. Without the threat of piraxy it is predicted Nyrene productivity will go up fifty-two percent and growth of GDP will rise to eleven percent; a new market and trade partner for all of Eden to bask in. We will now be receiving questions, thank you."

In truth there would be no questions, at least not any real ones. All the journalists that could not be paid off were rounded up and thrown in an excavated pit that was promptly filled up. In case the mass grave was found, there was much evidence prepared that it was the work of President Reynolds disposing of those investigating into his corruption. Questions prepared beforehand were asked, most to the affirmative. Some special ones meant to criticize or agitate the Captain were asked but he had answers prepared to further justify his actions. Nyrene was now another part of the little Neohuman Empire.




Weeks later




It was boring. For people functionally immortal cryosleep was a nonsense, and so the wait for Interlopers was long, and made even longer for those who process things far faster than homo sapiens. Exercise and military drills were had, conversations were made and culture was taken part in. Now before the Captain and the Sergeant some of the staff were having a song and dance. It might seem alien to foreign observers to see this contrast. Here were cybernetic giants, the skin of many a porcelain-like plastic, their eyes glowing unnaturally and their movements… off; perfect but unnatural. Yet here they were with traditional sewn outfits, wreaths of flowers upon hair real and synthetic of the women, shining but rough brown leather shoes of men, all whilst several cheery fellows were playing ancient instruments faster than the eye could track. Yet to Victor and even Oleksandr it was a moment inspiring nostalgia and homesickness. One of the girls reminded Kjaro of his long lost daughter.

"You seem off, Captain."

"I was about to say the same."

"You first, Captain. I asked first, didn't I."

A silence.

"Everything is different now that I'm Captain, Sergeant. Before when I killed I was just following orders. Now that I'm a Captain I'm issuing them. Yes, yes, I get them from the admiral and as Sergeant and Lieutenant and all the ranks in between I both gave and received but it's different now, I have my own ship. Now all those men that died by my hand, all those aliens, they… They don't sit right with me."

"You're a little bitch Captain."

"Fuck off. Don't ask if you don't want to know."

Another silence.

"You told me before Uracao you would tell me why you hate the outdateds so much. Hoe is it you find killing them so easy? They're people, but you swing your axes like sweeping a broom."

The Sergeant groaned. "Alright. I wasn't just at the Zionist police action."

"Oh?"

"Your scans of my cybernoosphere won't show it, but I was there in the war with the Federation."

"What? What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said."

"Wait then-..." A klaxon cut off the Captain.

A sardonic giggle came from Kjaro. "Maybe next time, Captain." he said, slapping Victor on the back before turning in his seat. The image of the Admiral appeared onscreen, the man in full regalia. "An unmarked ship has entered the system. The cone scanner formation indicates that the cargo it is accounting for does not match the size of the vessel. Intercept it."

"Understood."

The Varangian moved in close to the unmarked vessel, which identified as Columbus.

"Columbus, you will have an escort. There is pirate activity noted in system."

"Negative Varangian, I think we can make it on our own."

"For your own security Captain."

"Thank you all the same, but we won't need it." As the words were said the Captain of the ship started turning his vessel ever so slightly, knowing he had much maneuverability upon most CCN ships. If he was trying to prepare for a getaway it wouldn't help him.

"Columbus, you will be escorted."

Thirteen cones deactivated their stealth systems, in perfect formation surrounding the so called trade vessel. It made it to Nyrene's dry docks, at which point it was promptly boarded.

A concierge of sorts was waiting for the arriving troops, the fellow starting to say something about all the vessel's clearances and certifications, and commitments to lawfulness. He only got out half a sentence before getting a Legionnaire's stock to the face.

Reislaufers and drones fanned out, subduing all crew members and scanning hulls. There were the accounted for consumers goods - mostly electronics - but after a few walls were breached the jackpot was found. Crates full of rifles and munitions. Packages of propaganda leaflets, armour, even a few vehicles and stealth suits. Some of these hidden compartments even had men in uniform, more of the same beret wearing bastards Victor saw on Uracao. A few raised their weapons, but arc-rifles got them to drop before they could do any harm. The arcs were set on low power, because these men were needed alive. They were loaded into landers brought down to Nyrene, a specialized pavilion constructed just for this event. Every man was blindfolded and gagged, before being made to kneel in front of a cement block and having their blindfolds taken off. It was a place of execution, every man felt it as a drone flew over to to place weights on their arms and legs. The drone that recorded the Captain the day before flew onto the site, and focused on Admiral Kessler. A naval uniform was upon him, glowing blue eyes contrasting with the black and red of his attire. He was like an older, more grim variant of Victor to the camera having the same perfection of function and form yet also he bore a more mature, authoritarian look.

“Good afternoon, Edenites. I bear bad news. In the Nyrene system the brave efforts of the Councillary Confederation have gone well. The system already has noticed peace and improvements, corruption long a thing of the past. But not all could deal with this new status quo. Forces of violence and hatred reside in this star cluster, and they could not bear to see the success and bright future that is in store for Nyrene. These men are pirates, complicit in the suffering of Nyrene who have long escaped justice. But we were prepared for this villainy. Today, heavy transports entered the system carrying tools of violence and men ready to insure they are used. They were apprehended, and they will be punished before your eyes.”

The drone turned to the first victim, the lens focussing on a man beside which Sergeant Kjaro was standing with a chain-blade. “Each man will have ten seconds for last words.” he announced, before taking off the gag. It was the perfect amount of time for even the cheapest civilian facial recognition software to confirm the identity of a man, with he help of their full name that the Sergeant would helpfully provide.

“Ensign Frederick Stutzer.”

“Oh god, please no! Wait! Please I have a family fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck wait don’t I’ll do anythi-NOOOOOOO” he was drowned out by the sound of the motorized blade revving, the implement brought down upon his face until nothing was left of it.

“Petty Officer Phillip Grey.”

“...Sweetheart I love you so much, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Tell the kids I love them.”

VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVFFFSSSSSSSSSSKHHHHHHHHHHHHH

“Lieutenant Marie Chretienne.”

“Elizabeth, souviens-toi de moi! Souviens-toi de moi! Prenez soin de vous!”

VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVSSSSSSSKHHHHHHHKHHHHHH

This went on for many hours until every single man had met his fate. The Sergeant had begun this business in nothing but trousers, but he was now clothed in red. Dripping, he walked over to the Admiral.

“It is done, Sir.”

“Good. What of the Captain?”

“A little soft, Admiral. He said he didn't want to see this, and had better things to do back on the Varangian.”

“I see. Very well.” He snapped his fingers, and the drone flew over to Kessler.

“These men received their just fate, but we shan’t bring undue suffering to their families. Anyone who wishes to reclaim their bodies may send a letter to any embassy of the Councilary Confederation. We shall process the request in no more than six days, and return the fallen in no more than twenty. Instructions to apply for a claim can be found at the sites of our embassies. I bid you farewell. Legion Eternal, Eternally Victorious.”

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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by ZAVAZggg
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ZAVAZggg A game is only as good as its master

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Location: UIC Space - Hera.

Issoth kept his head on a swivel as he strode through the still peaceful streets and byways of Hera's capital city, flicking his gaze back to the ground every now and then just to make sure he hadn't lost Ralor's trail. Letting his eyes wander over the area, he took note of all the potential places one could use for an ambush, such as the row of stomach high stalls off to his left, or the series of large tree branches growing into the walkway just off to Qell's right. It was a good thing he had too, else he wouldn't have noticed the slight glint off to his left, hovering just above the divider of one of the stalls...

Recognizing it for what it was, light reflecting off of a rifle scope, he dove to the side and pulled Qell along with him just as the sound of gunpowder being ignited and the sharp whizz of a bullet split the air seconds later. Scrambling back to his feet, Issoth charged the stall. Sliding over it as the shooter-a grubby man whose face looked like it had more dirt on it than the planet did-frantically tried to reload, Issoth slammed his palm against his face, sending a small wave of telekinetic force surging through the mans skull, knocking him out. Unslinging his own rifle just as Qell dove beside him, narrowly avoiding a hail of gunfire herself, Issoth flicked off the safety and set the energy output to stun. These were probably locals that Ralor had managed to hire somehow, meaning they couldn't just eliminate them. It would be inefficient, not to mention a potential diplomatic headache for the Arbiters. No, the nonlethal approach would have to do for now.

Glancing over at his partner, he watched as she readied her rifle, causing it to emit a low humming sound.

"Ready?" He asked telepathically, locking his gaze with hers.

Qell nodded, her calm voice echoing in his head a few seconds later. "Always."

"Good," he replied aloud. "Let's get this over with."

Raising their rifles in unison, the pair quickly vaulted out of cover and began picking off their attackers one by one. The first, looking more like a large bundle of rags than a human being, was taken down with a snapped shot to the chest by Issoth while the second, a lithe woman with more tattoos and scars on her than one would think was physically possible, was dropped mid-stride by a quick burst to the stomach from Qell's rifle. And so it went until their attackers, of which there were only six thankfully, were down. Either convulsing on the ground as their bodies were rocked with uncontrollable muscle spasms, or straight up unconscious, the impact having overwhelmed their nervous systems just enough to send their minds careening into the dark abyss of slumber. Flicking the safety's back on, Issoth and Qell nonchalantly slung their rifles back over their shoulders and continued on their way, as though this had been nothing more than a casual bit of exercise for them. Following the tracks once more, the pair paused when they reached a large steel gate that marked the entrance to the jungle proper. Looking to the ground, they saw that the footsteps cut off just at the portcullis mid-section.

Surprised annoyance welled up within Issoth as he examined the area. The son of a bitch had actually gone out there, and by himself no less. Granted it was annoying because that meant both he and Qell had to do the same now, but it was also somewhat surprising as he wouldn't have pinned Ralor as the kind of man who had the balls to run into certain death in order to evade capture. Of course it didn't really matter. Balls or not, that man was going back to Raygon with them, be it on in restraints or a body bag. Turning his attention to a nearby guard, Issoth called for him to open the gate. A bit reluctant at first, the man quickly did as he was told once he'd caught a glance of the armor the two were wearing.

Even out here in the Frontier, the most wild and unpredictable place other than space itself, people had heard of the Enforcers.

Striding out onto a narrow dirt path flanked by thick foliage on either side, their rifles slowly recharging, the pair cautiously made their way deeper into the surrounding jungle as the gate ground to a close behind them. Although they had been in similar locations with even deadlier creatures, they decided to take it slow. Rushing would only make them careless, and carelessness would get them killed.


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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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Location:
Raygon 8-2, the Resort - Aboard the Fantasia, sailing the Silverstar Sea.

Le Petit Chou-Fleur private Orleans restaurant - Mi-Self Rating: 4.8/5.




Subject:
”Lord” Zhang Lintao

Age: 57 cycles around Raygon 0.

Residence: “The Palace of Stars” mansion complex, Gala-Grid Enclosure, the Resort.

Occupation: CEO of Gala-Grid.







“Mmm… MMM! Oh, my, Rexxy, that is an absolutely wonderful wine. Which one is it?” Mrs. Zhang nigh bellowed as she took the bottle and inspected the label.

The mountain of Raygonian fat on the opposite side of the table thundered a chuckle and raised his own glass, which seemed to disappear in his enormous fist. “Why, that’d be the Parravon Red, m’dear - had them crack open the cask this very afternoon.” He parted his car tire-like lips and gulped down a slurp. He smacked his lips together to savour the flavour and growled in satisfaction. “Ah… Worth every credit, every time.”

“Certainly, mr. Og’slough, its flavour is… Beyond exquisite. Tell me, who is your merchant? I would very much like to get in touch with them,” came the voice of Gala-Grid’s chief lawyer, a Petalos named Optima Lux.

Once more, there came a rumble of laughter from Arrto “Rex” Og’slough, CEO of Og’slough Bros. Asteroid Mining. A cybe waiter refilled his glass. “I couldn’t do that, good sir - everybody knows that as soon as I tell anyone about where I get my wine, people’ll stop coming over!”

A wave of laughter washed across the table, ranging from enthusiastic to polite in nature. Rex dabbed his forehead with a cloth and wheezed out the last of his guffaw. His beady eyes shifted to one particular face, this one directly opposite of him. It was one dressed with a small, black mustache, well trimmed brows and a haircut worth six million credits. It wore glasses augmented with constant feeds from every social network, news network and company statistics - or at least, so it was rumoured. The glasses were engineered so only the user actually could see those panels, encrypted with DNA, it was said. The face gave the wine a whiff, wagged the glass around a bit and tilted it to his lips. A small hum followed the nip, further followed by a smile and a nod.

“Truly, mr. Og’slough, your merchant merits nothing less than a mansion on this very moon, if you ask me.”

Some giggles flowed between the guests. Rex himself looked as though a weight the mass of Raygon had been lifted off of him. He dabbed his forehead again as discreetly as he could and raised his glass. “Cheers, my lord - I’ll drink to that.”

“Lord” Zhang Lintao’s half smile was joined by a sharp snicker. He turned his head to the right and patted his wife on the shoulder. Mrs. Zhang at his side nodded to her husband and stood up, clapping her hands. The table fell silent. The lady, twenty-five years Lintao’s junior flashed everyone her most sincere smile and beckoned one of the cybe waiters over, who came with a colourful box on a tray.

“Soooo… As you all know, there is a certain someone here whose birthday is todaaay!” The cybe made its way over to Rex, whose forehead once more began to moisten. Whoops and applause broke out in batches around the table.

“O-oh! S-such an honour, my lord, misses Zhang— my lady, I mean…” Rex dabbed his forehead again and faked a chuckle. His eyes shifted around as if looking for exits. The cybe was next to him now - it bowed forward and held out the box. Most of the onlookers either smiled or forced themselves to. Rex looked nervously at Lord Zhang. “R-right here, my lord? In front of all the guests?”

Lord Zhang merely nodded once, his smile as small as ever. Rex once more blinked down at the box: It was a custom-made giftbox — it was crimson red and speckled with dots of gold; the metallic sheen revealed that the box likely was more of a contraption than a mere container (although one could never tell with the Zhangs). Rex tapped the top of the box carefully, holding his breath. The box slowly unlidded itself, then unpacked itself, revealing on the cybe’s tray a small pedestal which held up a holographic display of the asteroid belt of the Wosmo system, the most profitable piece of Og’slough property. Rex blinked in surprise and took the pedestal in his hand, turning it around to savour the display.

“Why, this… This is splendid, my lord.” Rex tried as he could to bow, though his body didn’t have it in itself anymore to move too much. Zhang Lintao simply nodded politely.

“A small gift is the least we can provide on a dear friend’s birthday.” The man’s eyes scanned the faces of the other guests, all of whom appeared considerably relieved. “So, shall we have the appetiser?”

Rex smiled as genuinely as he could. “Of course. I hope you all are starving - we have ten courses to get through today!”

“Oh, that will do a number on my figure,” Mrs. Zhang whispered anxiously as she sat back down next to her husband. Lord Zhang shot her a strict scowl.

“You know what to do if it comes to that, dear.”

The young woman swallowed and nodded. Cybe waiters came around the table to place down silver plates, upon which lay perched a delicate, mouth-sized, square cake, topped with a mound of pink cream and splattered rustically with a fragrant sauce. They waited until everyone had received their plate before slowly starting to eat.




Dinner had lasted for a total of six hours, during which jokes were told, stories were shared and litres upon litres of wine were drunk. The alcohol really only bothered those who let it affect them, though - at this level, it was uncommon not to have at the very least augmented one’s liver and kidneys to break down any and all forms of damaging substances. Some adjusted the settings so that list didn’t include alcohol - some kept it on the list. Lord Zhang was among those, needing to be at peak performance at all times. To the trained eye, perhaps, it would’ve been obvious that whenever Lord Zhang had spoken to anyone but his wife at the dinner party, it had not been to anybody in the room. In truth, he had been attending sixteen different company meetings through his glasses. He hadn’t been the only one, naturally - everyone had opted out of the party at least four times to attend to their respectively businesses.

Lord Zhang, however, had barely even been present. Sixteen meetings were no simple affair, and even then, he had had to decline two - all costing his company a grand total of six billion credits. The loss had made him furious, and some of the guests at dinner had noticed that his grip about the wineglass was but a muscle twitch away from snapping it.

Even now, after dinner, his step hammered against the carpet-covered marble floor with the rage of an open flame. Following him dutifully and fearfully was his wife, her eyes fixed on the ground. Whatever was foolish enough to come down the hallway in their direction immediately stepped out of the way.

At last, Lord Zhang and his wife came upon their presidential suite. The doors automatically parted to reveal their one hundred square metre chambre, complete with a large jacuzzi, a drone-manned bar, two bathrooms, a dining area and a mini golf course with interchangeable parts. The wall on the southern side, to the left of the door, was covered from floor to roof, wall to wall with wardrobes, each one propped with Mrs. Zhang’s clothes. The doors opening incited also a small growl, and a small, slim, green feline reptilian with a wide, triangular head pawed its way over and rubbed itself against Mrs. Zhang’s leg. The lady smiled and picked it up, holding it affectionately in her arms.

“N’aaw, you’re always so sweet, Bubby… You always know when to come over and cuddle, huh… Yes, you do. Yesh, yew dew. Boo-boo-boo.” Mrs. Zhang affectionately rubbed her nose against Bubby’s and the little animal licked her back before pawing her hair. Mrs. Zhang grinned and turned to her husband. “She’s always so nice to me!”

“Of course, she is. I had her genetically modified to react to you as she would her own children,” Lord Zhang replied groggily and emotionlessly and hung his velvet suit jacket on a hanger that popped out of the floor at his motion. Mrs. Zhang’s smile faded and she forced herself not to frown.

“Y-yes, of course. So you’ve told me.” The creature began licking clean the parts of Mrs. Zhang’s dress that it could reach, seeming a little upset at the flavour of the colour-changing nanobot exterior. The door closed behind them and Mrs. Zhang went to deposit her pet on the king and queen-sized bed in the centre of the chambre. Lord Zhang had already made his way to the bar, hunkering over the counter as if he had had a few too man already. The holographic bartender was already mixing him a local speciality: the Hardworking - a mixture of Arcadia Corp. special brand, dark roasted coffee, Baileys mixed with FSC quality cream, and the finest cocaine in the cluster. In a fell swig, the man downed the shot in a gulp and drew a deep breath. Mrs. Zhang had begun undressing, mechanical hands helping her with her dress’ backzipper. She stole a glance at her husband fiddling with something in his breast pocket. “Aren’t you coming to bed, honey?”

Lord Zhang extracted a small vial finally, uncorked it and revealed the cork to contain a pipette. He squeezed it inside the bottle and watched it fill with a familiar, brown liquid. He dripped one drop in each eye and sucked in a breath through the teeth. Blinking vigourously for a few seconds, he eventually turned to look at Mrs. Zhang with pitch black eyes. Though she had seen him like this many times, she couldn’t help but look away. “... You’re busy, aren’t you?”

“Mr. Polnareff will be up any minute,” Lord Zhang replied with a sniff and a rub of his right eye. He cleared his throat. “If Sustynance decides to cooperate, we may be looking at a grand total of three trillion. That is - if he makes up his damn mind and buys the model seven.” His eyes gradually returned to normal, and any trace of the surly, exhausted man from earlier disappeared. He snapped his fingers and his suit pants switched colour from velvet to gold. A new jacket, this one a blazer in the colour gold, was wrapped about his torso. He took a look in a mirror materialising before him in the form of nanobots and hummed before tapping the side of his glasses, the glass shifting to black shades. Satisfied, he sat down in a velvet sofa and held out his hand. A metallic hand coated with a holographic display giving it some more human characteristics offered him a glass of New Eden bourbon, complete with the perfectly shaped cube of ice. He casually tapped the side of his glasses again and let out a, “Yes, mr. Polnareff - good morning.”

By the bed, Mrs. Zhang sat by her lonesome, caressing somberly the back of little Bubby. He gave her husband another brief glance before tossing aside the velvet bed covers and sticking her legs underneath. The light in her part of the room dimmed, nanobots forming a dark shell around the bed to keep out the outside lighting. She sighed and closed her eyes.

She would be sleeping alone tonight, as well.


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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by gorgenmast
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gorgenmast

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Radak Station
Planet Socordia


Ifoise Mbuku scowled up at the early morning sky, staring intently at a very bright star situated directly overhead. Mbuku knew that the brightest object in the crepuscular sky - save for the planet's sun just now cresting over the mountain range to the east - was no star, but rather a starship. Rasvan Saroyan had parked the Bushwhacker - his destroyer and mobile heroin processing plant - in orbit directly above Mbuku's outpost on Socordia. Even now, the Bushwhacker had it's spinal-mounted laser cannon aimed directly at Mbuku and the Radak Station outpost. Although the facility was effectively a large bunker half buried into Socordia's southern salt desert, even the outpost's thick concrete walls would provide little protection against an armament powerful enough to effortlessly punch through starship armor and vaporize cities. The pirate lord's ultimatum to Mbuku was unambiguous: surrender himself and everything he had to Saroyan within two hours or become the center of a blackened crater a kilometer wide.

"I'll give you everything I got, liddle man," said Mbuku, staring up at the star above him with a malign smile. "Just you wait."

Mbuku stood atop the roof of the outpost's bunkerized compound. Equal parts militarized heroin warehouse, forward operating base, and starship hangar, Radak Station was well armed and more than equipped to launch an attack on the Bushwhacker if Mbuku so chose. Two anti-orbital cannons the size of large houses were mounted onto pillbox turrets on the corners of the building capable of launching hull-penetrating tungsten darts or high-explosive warheads into any orbiting target at relativistic speed. A surprise salvo from such artillery would easily cripple the Bushwhacker, but with Saroyan waiting in orbit directly above watching his every move, Mbuku would not have the element of surprise. He knew that if he wanted to survive this encounter alive, he would have to employ subterfuge.

Killing Saroyan would be easy enough for Mbuku, for he was no stranger to killing men. He killed his first man at 11, fighting against pirate invaders on his homeworld of Katanga. By the age of 15, Mbuku had joined the the pirates simply because they paid better. Over the course of his life, he had fought in brushfire conflicts on six worlds and killed over one hundred combatants, human or otherwise. Killing Saroyan would be easy enough, sure, but then what? Saroyan's franchise of pirates throughout the frontier worlds and beyond would never submit to Mbuku.

But if he could take the Bushwhacker, along with its onboard processing facility, what choice would Saroyan's pirates have?

Mbuku had been skimming off the top of his heroin shipments up to Saroyan since the beginning. But to neglect to send up half of the scheduled shipment, Saroyan would certainly notice that. Mbuku was counting on it. And just as Mbuku had planned, Saroyan had taken the bait.

Socordia's sun had now risen well above the peaks of the massif to the east, and Mbuku could already feel the temperature climbing rapidly. Shimmering mirages were starting to form on the low lying spots of the white desert that surrounded Radak Station. In just an hour or two, outdoor temperatures would rise to a lethal 60 C; the horrendous heat of Socordia's unterraformed salt deserts served as an added defense against maroon bandits and escaped slaves from the opium farming regions. Mbuku navigated the station's maze of rooftop air conditioning units before descending through the rooftop access to retreat back into air conditioned comfort.

The pirate warlord descended a ladder into an open, cavernous space. All along the walls, giant metal shelving held entire pallets full of black tar heroin compressed into huge tacky bricks, not a single one of which was being loaded onto either of the two freighter starships docked in the bunker's vertical hangar silos. One of the the starships was being loaded, but not with heroin. Teams of Mbuku's subordinates directed hoverjacks bearing pressurized metal crates into the hold of one of the freighters. He stepped down onto the concrete floor of the bunker and made his way over to the freighters.

"Shouldn't we be wearing some kind of hazardous material suit handling this shit?" Mbuku overhead one of the pirates steering a hoverjack remark as he approached. "If one of these crates busts open-"

"If one of these crates busts," one of the other porters interrupted, "then we're all dead even if we're wearing spacesuits. That's the thing about fusogenic acid. It fuses - or sticks - to any organic compound. That means it'll adhere and eat its way through any suits, even the rubber fittings under power armors and exosuits, and then it'll fuse to you. It'll eat through your skin and into your bloodstream. It volatilizes into vapor and gets breathed in, and if you get it in your lungs, then it melts your lungs from the inside out. Just a little inside a hazmat helmet will kill you painfully and slowly as it melts your eyes and turns the inside of your lungs into bloody mush. Completely exposed like we are now, if one of these crates were to spring a leak, then we'd be turned into pools of red sludge before you even felt anything. Trust me, you're better off without a suit."

"Jesus..." his companion shuddered.

"Back in my previous life as a merc, we used it regularly in brushfire wars on shitty frontier planets. Unlike a lot of chemical weapons, this stuff actually works better in low-pressure atmospheres like the kind you see on unterraformed rocks. The low atmospheric pressure lets the fusogenic acid volatilize and disperse easier, which means it gets on more people and scores more kills. The core worlds try to ban it, but unfortunately for them and fortunately for ne'er-do-wells like us, it's relatively easy to make. A good chemistry student following a recipe for it could probably whip up enough for a grenade using common lab equipment. It's scary stuff, even in small quantities. I don't even want to know what boss man is planning to do with several tons of it."

"Das enough chatter," Mbuku barked. "We got less den two hours to load dis ship. Keep wasting time, and I'll test dis acid out on you lot first."

"No worries boss man," said the more knowledgeable of the porters. "Only another two crates two go. Then all we gotta do is set up the remote detonators, put them on the crates, and they're good to go."

"Well den get to it. Finish up here, get your guns and report to de other freighter. I want you lot dere in an hour or I'm leaving you."

Mbuku left his porters to finish their work as he went over to the other freighter. The warlord looked inside the hull and did not see any of the pressurized crates bearing deadly fusogenic acid, though his subordinates had loaded an assortment of munitions from around the station: few cases of grenades, some ammunition for kinetic weapons. Few other supplies would be coming with. Mbuku had been asked by his subordinates why they would not be bringing any of the heroin. He replied telling them that they had been promoted and some other chump would get stuck with Radak Outpost; though he had failed to specify just how their "promotion" would be taking place.

The pirate warlord made his way to the freighter's cockpit and took his seat at the helm of the vessel. Through the windshield of the cockpit, only the metal bulkheads of the hangar silo could be seen. But in just a few short hours, this vessel's cockpit would provide a front-row seat to the mutiny that would end the generation-long lull in piracy and threaten billions of lives across the cluster.

Once seated at the helm of the vessel, Mbuku initiated a communications link and hailed the Bushwhacker.

"Mister Saroyan, my deepest apologies for de shortage of product and de delay. Loading of de product we do have on hand is nearly complete. In just a few short minutes I will be departing and I assure you, I am bringing wit me everyting I've got."

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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Airwave Building

Ylaso // Elia

Liberator and Savior stepped out of the private elevator and saw dozens of protesters all over the main floor. Some of them were heading towards the other floors while others were busy inside the security room, coming up the next move. Amalia Hudson, owner of Amalia's Armory, was busily investigating the weaponry used by the former security, Soon enough, both men entered and greeted the former officer while she was inspecting one of the pistols to determine its usefulness. Amalia placed down the weapon, took some notes on her pad, and acknowledged both men. "For some private security firm, they have some quality weaponry. It must have cost a fortune to secure from the police."

"How do you know Airwave got weapons from them?"

"Besides a change of color, the designs look identical to what the police use on-duty." Amalia explained while adding in some final words to her journal tablet. She then gave a short tour of the security room, explaining that everything was in working condition. Video surveillance was still working correctly with a few secrets hidden from Airwave's workers. Several of the protesters were already hard on work to find them in their cloud system. And she briefly mentioned bringing her armory over here before moving on to the building's defenses. That talk lasted for a half-hour before Liberator quickly approved nearly every idea and suggestion.

Before Amalia knew it, Savior and Liberator disappeared from her sight. Both men walked back to the lobby and saw the massive crowd of protesters awaiting their next move. "Good luck, hon." Savior quietly whispered to Liberator before kissing him on the cheek and disappearing into the crowd.

Liberator wasn't able to stop his grinning until he forced himself nearby a handmade platform. Before giving his speech, he pulled out a small square from his pocket and pressed it on his forehead. In a matter of seconds, it transformed into a mask capable of blocking facial recognition technologies. People that were seeing him in person saw the mask as someone iconic from the Old World. Everyone else that was watching through footage only saw black cubes and rectangles spreading all over the screen along with messages. Once the mask was done, Liberator walked up the stage and greeted the protesters as their cheers got louder. He waited for them to settle down before delivering his speech.

"With the occupation of Airwave's headquarters, we have taken the necessary steps towards a better tomorrow where we are finally free—freed from the corrupt capitalist regime where only the elites profited while the rest of us were deprived. And since we found that courage to march for five demands, thousands of our brothers and sisters have been arrested without trial. The Royal Family already found them and all of us guilty of public nuisance charges and being traitors. But we know the truth. We are guilty because we dare to challenge them and stand-up for ourselves. They are afraid of us because we have taken action to fulfill our five demands.

But with today's bold move, a sixth demand is needed more than ever to achieve all of our demands. We must abolish the corrupt monarchy responsible for the inequality!"

Savior's eyes widen in surprise of the unexpected announcement as the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. While Liberator kept on speaking, he pulled up his sleeve and saw messages from other leaders demanding an emergency meeting. Some of them wanted the speech to end immediately, but it was already too late. Savior pulled down his sleeve and kept on watching his lover address the masses.

"Because we are the only path towards prosperity and equality! The only path to move forward towards that better tomorrow. And even if it gets bloodied and blackened, it will shine bright because it's the right direction for all of us! That shining path will be there to guide us―no matter what! We will follow that path towards its end to find that pot of gold waiting for our taking! We are the resistance! And we are the Shining Path!"

Tarlington Palace

Ylaso // Elia

Fomer Commissioner Harley Lawrence slowly awakened to the sound of people discussing the latest reports. He tried to get up from the ground but heard the sound of chains hitting the metal. That stopped the chatting for a moment before someone shouted for Lawrence to open his eyes. And upon opening them, he found himself in front of the entire Royal Family. King and Queen Richardson were sitting on their thrones with their children behind them. Both of them, along with some of the children, were upset over his recent failure. Benjamin looked down upon the arrestee and began addressing him, "Sir Harley Lawrence, former Commissioner of Ylaso Police Force, you are here charged for failure to uphold your oath as Commissioner. In addition, you are also being charged with treason. The punishment for both crimes is death by public execution. How do you plead?"

"Not guilty!" Lawrence responded without hesitation. "If I had more time, then-"

Queen Freya rudely interrupted the former Commissioner by holding up her hand in a halting motion. "Your plead is rescind since you have failed to contain the rebels. Now, they are control of Airwave's headquarters and the CEO was most likely murder. That's why you have been found guilty for treason, violating the oath, and the murder of Stella Baxter. You are sentenced to death by public execution, which will take place tomorrow night. Your family has been informed and will attend your execution. Before death, a small ceremony will be held. After death, your body will be displayed as an example until it starts decomposing. Then, it will be cremated, and the ashes will be given to your family. Do you understand?"

"I-" Lawrence couldn't fully answer the question.

"Guards." Freya called out them. "Escort the traitor away to his cell."

Lawrence remained silent as the guards dragged him away to the dungeon. He took one last look at the Royal Family, who was calmly looking down upon him, and then the door was shut close.


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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Abefroeman
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Abefroeman Truck Driver

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East of Taloset, Duro One: Second Royal Orleans Guards Tank Army, 12th Motorized Orleans Foreign Legion Rifle Regiment, 23rd Orleans Foreign Legion Sappers Regiment, 7th Royal Orleans Reconnaissance Battalion.


Sous-Lieutenant Amand Segal wiped at his nose with his fingers and ordered his driver forward. The fighting on Duro One had bogged down, the forces of President Gray fighting tenaciously, somehow having been supplied arms and armor by an outside benefactor. The view through the vehicle commander's optics allowed no meaningful orientation. Rapid flashes dazzled in the periscope's lens, leaving a deep gray veil of smoke in their wake. The view was further disrupted by raindrops that found their way under the external cowl of the lens block. Segal felt as though he were guiding his reconnaissance track through hell at the bottom of the sea.

The shudder of the powerful artillery bursts reached through the metal walls of the vehicle. Suddenly, the armor seemed hopelessly thin, the tracks too weak to hold, and the automatic cannon little more than a toy. Occasionally, a tinny sprinkling of debris struck the vehicle, faintly audible through Segal's headset and over the engine whine. He could feel the engine pulling, straining to move the tracks through the mud of the farm trail.

"Sous-Lieutenant, we're very close to the barrage," his driver told him.

Segal understood that the driver meant too close. But the Sous-Lieutenant was determined to outperform every other reconnaissance platoon leader in the battalion, if not in the entire Second Royal Orleans Guards Tank Army. "Keep moving," Segal commanded, "just keep moving. Head straight through the smoke."

The driver obeyed, but Segal could feel his unwillingness through the metal frame that separated them. For a moment, Segal took his eyes away from the periscope and looked to the side, checking on his gunner. But Durand was alright, eyes locked to his own periscope. Three men rolling in a steel box, no margin of safety in personnel now; everyone had to do his job without fail. Segal had never received the additional soldiers to fill out his reconnaissance platoon for war, logistical problems unaccounted for by high command, and he had no extra meat, no dismount strength in own vehicle. As it was, he could barely man the essential positions in each of his three vehicles. To himself, he cursed the bastards that were supplying the enemy, every shipment they received prolonging the war that much more.

It was impossible to judge the exact location of his vehicle now. If everything was still on track, his second vehicle would be tucked in behind him, with Sergent-chef Martin to the rear in an overwatch position. Segal laughed to himself. Overwatch. You couldn't see ten meters. He glanced at his map, anxious to orient himself. He could feel the trail dropping toward a valley or ravine. Artillery rounds struck immediately to the front.

"Keep going!" Segal said. "Get down into the low ground. Stay on the trail as long as the smoke holds. Fast now, move. Segal sensed that they were very close to the enemy. Clots of earth and stone flew into the air, hurtling across his narrowed horizon. Segal guessed that, if he moved off the trail, there might be mines, but that the trail itself would be covered by direct fires - which would be ineffective in the confusion of the Orleans artillery preparation. "Lieutenant, we're catching up with the barrage. We're too close."

"Keep going! We're already in it. Go right through!" Segal ordered through the internal comm system. "Sous-Lieutenant..." It was Sergent Bisset, his gunner and assistant. The boy's face was milky. "It's alright," Segal told him through the intercom. "Just spot for targets. If we wait and try to sneak through, they'll get us for sure." Just as he finished, an unidentified object thumped against the vehicle so hard that the vehicle jolted, as though wincing in pain.

"Go faster," Segal shouted to the driver. "Just stay on the road and go as fast as you can!" The vehicle's RPM's slowed for a moment, "I can't see the road. I lose it!" The driver called out. "Just go!" Segal brushed his fingers at his nose. He felt fear rising in his belly and chest, unleashed by the impact of whatever hat hit the vehicle. Suddenly, the artillery blasts seemed to swamp them, shaking the vehicle like a boat in rough water. Segal realized that if they threw a track now, they were dead.

"Go, damn you!" In the thick of the smoke, the lights of the blasts seemed demonic, alive with deadly intentions. "More to the left... to the left!" The tracks seemed to buckle on the edge of a ditch or gully, threatening to peel away from the road wheels.

"Target!!" Segal screamed, but the sudden black shape off to their right side was lifeless, its metal deformed by a direct hit. The driver swerved away, and the tracks came level, back on the trail again. Segal broke out in a sweat, he had not seen the shattered vehicle until they almost collieded with it. He wondered, for the first time, if he had not done something irrevocably foolish. Slop from a nearby impact smacked the external lens of Segal's periscope, cracking it diagonally, just as the vehicle reached a pocket where the wind had thinned the smoke to a transparent gauze. Several dark shapes moved out of the smoke on a converging axis.

"Targets!!! Gunner, right! Driver, pull left now!"

But the enemy vehicles moved away quickly, either uninterested in or unaware of Segal's presence. The huge armored vehicles disappeared back into the smoke, black metal monsters roaming over the floor of hell. None of the turrets turned to fight. "Hold fire." Segal quickly ordered, the enemy were evidently pulling off of a forward position. The fire was too much for them. Segal tried his radio, hoping the antenna had not been cut away. Queuing the transceiver, "Epee, this is Renard. Do you hear me?"

Nothing.

The heaviest fire struck behind them now. But the smoke, mingled with the fog and rain, still forced them to drive without points of orientation. Segal worried because he had once turned in a complete circle in a smokescreen on a training exercise, in the most embarrassing experience of his career. He could still hear the laughter and the timeworn jokes about lieutenants. Trying again, "Epee, this is Renard. I have a priority message."

"Renard, this is Epee." The control station barely came through the sea of static.

"Enemy forces in at least a platoon strength withdrawing from forward positions under fire strike. I can't give you an exact location." Segal let go of his mic, listing to Epee respond back, "Where are you? What's your location?"

"I'm in my assigned sector. Visibility is almost zero. We just drove under the artillery barrage. We're in among the enemy." A tense moment passed, "You're hard to read. I'm getting a garbled transmission. Did you say your are behind the artillery barrage?" Queuing his mic again, Segal spoke clearly, "On the enemy side of it. Continuing to move."

There was a long silence on the other end. Segal sensed that he had surprised them all. he felt a bloom of pride. The the faint voice returned. "Renard, your mission now is to push as far as you can. Ignore assigned boundaries. Just go as deep as you can ad call targets. Do you understand?" He smiled, "Clear, moving now."

Segal switched to the intercom. The smoked thinned slightly, his first instinct was to move for the high ground so he could fix his location. But, he quickly realized that any high ground would not only reveal his presence but was likely to be occupied by the enemy. "Driver, follow the terrain, stay in the low ground. Just watch out for ditches and water." He switched the radio again, this time to the platoon net, trying to raise his other two vehicles. "Trembler, this is Renard." Moments passed with no answer.

He tried again, still receiving no answer. He swung the turret around to get a better view, straining to see through his cracked and dirty optics. There was nothing, misty gray emptiness. Suddenly, the radio cackled, "Renard, this is Bord." Segal heard Sergent-chef Caron's voice. "I can't hear any response from Trembler. My situation is as follows: moving slowly with the barrage. Can't see a damned thing. I lost you twenty minutes ago."

"This is Renard, transmission received. Continue to move on primary route. Watch for Trembler, he may be stuck out there. End transmission." His other vehicle might be broken down or mired. But, he realized that it was more likely they were dead. What was worse, was how little emotion he felt over the aspect of their deaths, shamed to realize that his thoughts dwelt more on the loss of fighting strength than life. "Driver, get on that trail to the right. That one." The vehicle moved sharply now, with the worse effects of the barrage well behind it. Segal's optics had deteriorated severely, the crack in the outer lens allowing water to seep in. Ahead, he called out, "Slow. See the trail into the trees? Slow. Take the trail."

The vehicle eased onto a smooth forest trail that appeared very well-maintained. Segal hoped to find a spot to tuck into for a few minutes so they could clean off all their vision blocks and lenses and tighten the antenna. One barrage had already passed over the forest, and patches of trees had been splintered and blackened. The driver worked the tracks over a small fallen trunk. He drove the vehicle cautiously, with no desire to throw a track in such close proximity to the enemy. Over the intercom, "Lieutenant, I can barely see," the driver said. "Can I pop open my hatch?" Shaking his head, Segal barked, "No. Stop right here. I'll get out and clean the blocks.

The vehicle rocked to a standstill, Segal unlatching his safety bolt and pushing his hatch upwards. The sudden increase of the noise level was striking, the weight of the artillery preparation incredible, with the fires sounding much closer. It was difficult to imagine anything surviving the hellish onslaught. Segal took a breath of unfiltered air, tasting the freshness of the forest intermingled with the stench of spent ordinance. As the rain drops from overhead touched his face coolly, Segal surveyed the area. Just ahead, another trail crossed the one along which they had moved, deeply rutted and black with mud, evidence that several tracked vehicles had passed along it.

Drawing himself back down into the turret, Segal spoke quickly, "Bisset, make sure the auto-cannon's ready to go. We're not alone." Before he could exit, Bisset spoke up, "Lieutenant, let me check the exterior." Shaking his head, "No. You stay on the gun. Just be ready." Segal stripped off his headset, then snaked his way out of the turret. The deck seemed to slide away under his boots, forcing him to grasp the long, thin barrel of the auto-cannon to steady himself. The armament appeared to be all right, with no metal deformities. But the rest of the vehicle had not fared so well.

Stripped paint, dents, shallow gashes, bolt-on armor gashed or even sheared completely off. One fender was twisted skywards, mangled like some wretched claw. An external stow-box was missing, the spare track pads gone, and the shovel shattered into a dozen slivers. A silver lining was the antenna for the high-powered radio, barely nicked, but functionally intact. Sensing the increased rainfall, Segal hurried to clean the optics, hoping the rag he used would not smear them too badly. Wiping rain from his eyes, he got back into the turret as soon as he reasonably could. "The trail looks clear enough up ahead, but you can't see very far. The enemy has either passed through these woods or he's still somewhere in here with us."

"Perhaps we could wait here for a while, lieutenant. See what the enemy does, you know?" Bisset was clearly frightened. Segal hoped the gunner would be able to work his weapon when the time came. Twitching his nose, then rubbing it with dirty knuckles, Segal spoke, "No. We have to get a fix on our location. And if we just sit, the artillery with roll back over us. We are moving, and moving forward." The truth was, Segal realized, that he was afraid to remain motionless, afraid that he couldn't handle the stress of inactivity. Looking out ahead, he spoke, "Driver, can you see all right now?"

"Better lieutenant." The driver called out. "Let's go, nice and easy then." Segal wanted to make sure he spotted the enemy before they spotted his lone vehicle. He knew it would be impossible to detect moving vehicles until they were fatally close, due to the noise of the incoming artillery bombardment. Gripping the mantlet, Segal looked onward as his vehicle dug itself into the peat of the trail, then gripped and lurched forward. He unlashed his assault rifle, while he expected to fight with the auto-cannon and the onboard machine gun, he wanted to be prepared for anything. The open hatch of his turret serving as a shield, weapon at the ready, he left the flaps of his headset open to try and hear a bit of the world around him.

With a sudden movement, the vehicle pivoted into the rutted trail. The rain picked up, slapping Segal in the face, causing him to squint. Nervously, he ejected a cartridge from his weapon, ensuring it was loaded and ready. "Basset, how well can you see?" The young man responded, "I can see the trail." Nodding, Segal scanned the front, "If I duck down and start turning the turret, be ready." The gunner, eyes glued to his sights, curtly replied, "I'm ready lieutenant."

Segal took a deep breath, hearing the nerves in both of his crewmen's voices. He was furious about the lack of soldiers to fill out his crew, wanting all the fighting strength he could muster, but then again, who could have prepared for such a long drawn out conflict. His mind wandered for a moment, thinking of the 'Bastards who were supplying the enemy, enabling tyrants and criminals to hold out..' A short laugh escaped his lips, wishing that his missing vehicles were with him. Gripping the hatch ring, he watched as the tracks slid and plumed mud high into the air behind the vehicle. Behind the pluming mud, the immense roar of the artillery seemed part of reality now, clearly divorced from anything that would happen in these woods.

Black vehicle shapes. Thirty meters through the trees. Like a startled rabbit, Segal dropped into the turret, not bothering to close the hatch behind himself. Taking turret control, he pressed his forehead against the optics, scanning his foe. "See them!? FIRE! Damn you, fire!" The auto-cannon started belching, recoiling endlessly. "There. To the right!"

"I have him!"

"Driver, don't stop. GO!" The vehicle pulled level with a small clearing in the forest where two enemy command tracks stood positioned with their drop ramps facing each other. Two light command cars were parked to one side, while a third track that had been hidden from view began to move down the trail on the other side. "Hit the mover, hit the mover!" The auto-cannon spat several bursts at the track, which stopped in a shower of sparks. "Driver, front to enemy." Segal swung the turret again.

The enemy fired back with small arms, although one man stood still, helmetless, in amazement, as though he had never in his life expected such a thing to happen. The auto-cannon and machine gun raked the sides of the enemy tracks, all good, clean flank shots, punching through their armor. The track that had made for the trail now burned brightly, billowing smoke. The driver's hatch popped up, and Segal cut the man across the shoulders with the onboard machine gun. Looking back, the man who had stood still for so long in amazement slowly raised his hands. Segal turned the machine gun on him.

Fearful that he might have missed one of the soldiers on foot, Segal turned the onboard weaponry over to Bisset, standing behind the shield of his turret hatch with his assault rifle. Just in time, he saw an enemy soldier kneeling with a small tube on his shoulder. He emptied the entire magazine into the man, just as Bisset brought the machine gun around to catch him as well. Pulling grenades from his harness, he primed the first, then the second, tossing them towards the enemy vehicles. He dropped back inside the turret, listening to the flat sounding explosions, inconsequential to the artillery barrage. Shaking his head, he realized his hearing was probably going. "Sweep the vehicles one more time with the machine gun. Driver, to the rear, ten meters."

"I can't see..." Segal hissed through the intercom, "Just back up, damn it. Now!" Popping his head back up, peaking around the hatch, he cursed to himself, willing to give anything to have his authorized dismount scouts now. If there was a price to pay for the system's failure, he'd have to pay it. The idea did not appeal to him, but what else could he do? Working another magazine into the assault rifle, he quickly clambered his way out of the turret, feeling as though it take painfully long. Once far enough out, he swung both legs over the side of the turret, sliding down its side and into the muck below. Boots in the mud, he crouched next to his vehicle, great clots of earth hung from the track and road wheels. He checked his rear, nothing. Nothing but forest and the empty trail.

To his front, the two command cars blazed, one with a driver still behind the wheel, a shadow in the flames. Between his vehicle and the devastated enemy tracks, Segal could see three enemy soldiers on the ground, one moving in little jerks and twitches. None of them made any sounds. Another body lay sprawled face down on the ramp of one of the command tracks, while yet another, the anti-tank grenadier, had been kicked back against a tree by the machine gun, hardly resembling a human being now. The track that had tried to escaped burned, its metal glowing red and orange. Segal could tell it was a foreign import, something supplied by a core-world manufacture. He crept forward, keeping well away from it as he approach the two command tracks. One still had its engine running, humming deeply in the silence of death.

These two command tracks were locally sourced and built, but bore off-world upgrades and overhauls. The uniforms of the dead men looked to be locals, Segal cautiously inched his way towards the rear of the vehicles. Halting, he leaned against the wet metal sidewall of the running vehicle, feeling the vibrations. Above the idling engine, he could hear the crackle of a radio, calling out in a strange language. He wondered if it was a call for the station that had just perished. Someone moaned, almost as if he was snoring. The silence. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself, looking back towards the dead grenadier, his contorted remains seeming to mock him. Shaking his head, Segal turned to the corner, pulling his weapon in tight to his side, and threw himself up onto the ramp. He had forgotten about the dead man on the ramp, tripping over the corpse, flopping over the body and landing on his elbow. He landed with his mouth close to the dead man's ear, feeling the lifelike warmth of the body through its battle dress and sogging rain.

The dead man had fine white hairs mixed in with the close-cropped black on the rear of his skull, and Segal saw the red pores on the back of the man's neck with superhuman clarity. As soon as he could he pushed off the corpse and twisted so he could fire his weapon into the interior of the vehicle. Only that wasn't necessary any more. The occupants were all dead, torn to bits like meat in a stew. The dead lay strewn together, like drunken men who had fallen over after dancing, their uniforms torn and bloody. Segal realized that some of the rounds had penetrated the near side of the vehicle, but not the far side, instead ricocheting back and forth in the interior. The other command track stood empty, save two radio operators, dead at their consoles, a foreign voice calling out frantically.

Suddenly he felt sick, trying to make for the trees, out of some elementary human instinct, but stumbled instead over the dead man on the ramp, vomiting on the corpse's back. As he looked down at his mess, he panicked to see blood smeared over his own chest, before realizing that it had come from his embrace of the middle-aged corpse. Segal felt empty, belly burning with acid and his heart vacantly sick, wanting nothing more than at this moment to be home, in the fields of his family farm.

He wiped the strands from his lips, wondering if his crew had watched his little performance. The taste in his mouth made him feel sick again. Segal realized, belatedly, that the amazed man with his hands up had been trying to surrender, and that it had been wrong to gun him down. But during the fighting, it had never occurred to him to do anything but shoot at everything in front of him. The voice over the radio called again, pleading now it sounded for a response. Suddenly, he braced himself, staring at the silver ornaments on the epaulets of the corpse on the ramp. A foreign advisor, an officer... this was a command post, there would be documents, maps, radio communications data. Stomach twisting, Segal turned to his task.

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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by ZAVAZggg
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ZAVAZggg A game is only as good as its master

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Location: UIC Space - Hera



The two Enforcers make their way through the jungle along a worn down dirt path, sweeping their recharged rifles around at the surrounding foliage, keeping their eyes peeled for any large beasts or creatures that might be stalking them.

"So, what do you think Ralor will try to do when we reach him?" Qell asked, glancing at a bird sitting on a branch nearby.

"Come quietly," Issoth replied. "Surely he knows his little ambush has failed by now, and unless he has any more men to throw at us, I doubt he'd be stupid enough to continue to resist. But that's just my opinion."

Qell nodded. "And should he be stupid enough to resist?"

"Well in that case," Issoth said, chuckling lightly as he raised his gun. "We put him down. Just like the rest."

Qell nodded once more, falling silent as they continued to walk along, following the fugitives trail until it vanished at the edge of a green tinged lake. Pausing a moment to let their suits tracker adjust, the pair continued to follow Ralor's trail through the lake and out the other side, eventually arriving at a small bunker-like structure sitting in the middle of a large clearing. Taking cover behind some tree's nearby, the pair begin to reconnoiter the area, taking note of surrounding vantage points and other strategic positions as a the structures main entrance slid open with a his, revealing two armed humans clad in subpar looking body armor. Looking on with interest, the two enforcers watched as the pair began to patrol the area.

"Looks like Ralor was more prepared than we thought," Issoth said mentally, glancing over at Qell. "Shame it's all about to go to waste."

"Indeed," Qell replied. "Shall we?"

Issoth nodded and moved out from behind cover, rushing towards the guard closest to him and taking him down with a couple of telekinetic reinforced hits as Qell did the same. Dragging their unconscious bodies off into some shrubbery nearby, the two Enforcers quietly made their way into the structure as the doors slid shut behind them with a slight hiss, leaving the jungle none the wiser to their presence.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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Location:
Raygon 8, the Commercial District, aka. the Oasis.

CT-Block I366-104-007 “Sunshine Park” - 30m from nearest Cosmart.

Cosmart’s special offer: 67% off on everything ArcadiaCorp! Limited time offer! Only at Cosmart!

Cosmart - Your store, no matter the system.




Subject:
Name: Lobutos Zigg

Age: 41 cycles around Raygon 0.

Residence: CT-Block I366-104-007 “Sunshine Park”.

Occupation: Advertisement Designer.

Workplace: Gurrpi’s Golly Gunships, a CruiserCorp subsidiary.







Routine. That was probably the most appropriate word to describe the morning activities of the family known as the Ziggs. Mrs. Zigg would always rise first, no matter how tired she was, and then proceed to whip her husband out of bed - God knows the alarm couldn’t do it. Once Mr. Zigg finally rose, Mrs. Zigg would promptly move to their second-(or was it third) hand Gala-Grid Model N7 AutoRobe©™, which by this point barely had the necessary dexterity, or even parts, to dress a still-standing mannequin. The Ziggs usually dressed themselves nowadays, no matter how insistent the machine was about allowing itself to help them. Propping up the doors was always the hardest, for the AutoRobe©™ came with special locks and codes on the doors to prevent thieving. Since Mrs. Zigg was the first to rise, she always had to break the now mutilated lock up with a crowbar. She had made her complaints to Mr. Zigg numerous times before - saying they had to get it replaced soon, preferably with a newer model, like the N9x. Mr. Zigg had promised her an upgrade for her last three birthdays, as well as for Commercial Christmas, Black Week and Daylight Savings Day. However, the price tags had always been a bit too juicy for them - every time.

As soon as the missus was dressed and had left the room to wake up their son and daughter, Mr. Zigg would finally get dressed, too. His outfit was always the same - after all, he owned seven uniforms, and you did -not- want to get caught without your uniform at work. It was a standard issue Gala-Grid Model 61 “Old John”©™ penguin-like black suit over a white shirt, adjusted from its original human proportions to fit the barrel-like form of a Raygonian. Despite the flat, round trunks the Raygonians used as feet, Mr. Zigg still put on a pair of synthetic leather shoes that resembled those a human would wear, with a long, oblong sole (this one filled with cotton to simulate the foot that wasn’t there). It hadn’t really struck Mr. Zigg as particularly odd to wear there, he confessed - such had been the fashion for longer than he’d walked Raygon, and so would likely be the fashion for another, uh… Long time.

Finally, the man in the house exited his and his wife’s six square metre bedroom into their ten square metre living room. The last four square metres of the apartment were devoted to the toilet - the children slept in the living room. Believe it or not - they lived a fantastic life for anyone in the centre. 20 square metres for the price they paid was a one in a billion chance. His children already sat around the dining table (which was part of the floor when not in use), eating breakfast. Mrs. Zigg stood by the retractable stove top, stirring the contents of a smoking bowl with a plastic spatula. Mr. Zigg growled a guttural yawn and smacked his lips. Mrs. Zigg set a plate down on the table at his spot - it consisted of two pieces of toasted carbo-bread smeared thickly with RocketEngine©™ protein butter, a few slices of Happy Belly©™ fruit gum roll and rehydrated compound spinach. Mr. Zigg hummed and spooned a mouthful of spinach into his mouth. He frowned and turned to his wife.

“Honey? This spinach, what brand is it? It tastes different than usual.”

Mrs. Zigg placed her own plate down on the table and sat down. She put a spoonful in her own mouth and hardened her eyes at the plastic back on the kitchen counter. “Can’t quite see it from here, sweety. Think it was some Cosmart brand.”

“Happy Belly? Yum-Bo? Pepperridge?”

“Okay, relax, I’ll check,” she huffed and rose up. Their children, Sambel and Lobona Zigg, sat eyeing their food, occasionally stabbing fruit gums with their forks. Mrs. Zigg took the bag in her hand and offered it to her husband. “Remmizipp Farms, apparently.”

“Remmizipp?” Mr. Zigg mumbled and eyed the brand logo. “... Hang on, I know this one. Isn’t this one at least forty credits more expensive than Happy Belly’s?”

Mrs. Zigg looked away. “We-well… You know the bonus I got last month? I just thought we could--”

Mr. Zigg growled and rubbed his face into his palm. “Christ, Clora, that was supposed to go to our savings.”

“I just wanted one nice breakfast for once, Lobutos!” she shouted back. “Is it too much to ask that we can just have actual spinach for once?!”

“Mom, dad - please don’t fight,” Sambel protested. Mr. Zigg impaled a soggy, sloppy leaf of spinach on his fork and put it into his mouth.

“Son, if there’s one thing any of us can teach you, it’s that the only way out of here is to save up - no matter what the ads tell you. That’s why you eat as cheaply as you can in the hopes that at least your children can eat well in the top tier some day. Your mother here, on the other hand--”

“Oh, -I’m- the bad guy, of course,” Mrs. Zigg snapped and rose from the table. She turned and grabbed her jacket and bag.

“Honey, I’m just trying to teach our kids a--”

“I don’t want to hear it! I’m going to work, and if you don’t clean up those plates after you’re done, I -swear- I will…” She pressed the button for the door to open and nothing happened.

Mr. Zigg frowned. “Will what?”

“Ugh!” she screamed and kept pressing the button. Finally, it opened, briefly letting in the cacophony of advertisements echoing between the walls and she left without a word. The room fell silent again, save for some sad sniffing coming from Lobona. Mr. Zigg groaned and put another forkful of spinach into his mouth.

“Dad? Why did you get angry at mom for what she bought?” Sambel asked after a long reign of silence. Mr. Zigg sighed again.

“Like I said earlier, son, we gotta save every credit we can. It’s the only way you two can get a better life.” He impaled a slice of fruit gum on his fork.

“But, but… What about the ads? They’re telling us to buy, aren’t they?”

“They are - which is much of the reason why we’re, well, stuck here. Listen, it’s easy to get hooked on the sales and the bonuses and the subscription services, but we gotta--”

“Stevonbee’s parents have the unlimited hot water sub,” Lobona muttered quietly. Mr. Zigg grit his teeth.

“And Stevonbee’s dad is in huge debt with the mob -and- Adamantium! He fell for the trap, which I’m telling BOTH of you not to do.” The two children looked down and sniffed. Mr. Zigg took the moment to steal a glance at the small digital clock on the stove. His heartrate skyrocketed. “Aw, Christ, I’m late for work! Sambel, son, mind cleaning up after your old man?” Mr. Zigg had already risen from his seat and jogged over to the door.

Sambel frowned. “Sure, dad, but what about school? Our lessons are starting soo--”

As if by act of God, two SmartyPants©™ education touchpads lying in a dank corner of the room to charge, gave chirrup-like rings followed by a sweet tune. In unison and with broken mechanical voices, they echoed, “Children. It is. Time. To start your lessons in. Maths. Social. Sciences. And economics. Please touch. The touchscreen when. Ready.”

“And there it is,” Sambel muttered, “dad, we really gotta--”
“Yeah, I understand, son. Have fun with school! Just - make sure it’s clean before mom comes home, okay?”

Sambel returned an unenthusiastic thumb-up. Mr. Zigg winked back and donned his hat, pressing the opening button on the door at least nine times before it responded and lead him into the apartment complex hallway.

“... Only 599 credits! You cannot miss it! Only five nine nine credits for a brand new…” the nearest advertisement speaker blasted. Mr. Zigg had always been surly about the fact that they had received the room with an ad blaster right above the door - this one with a motion sensor, too. Down the hallway, he spotted the seventeen other speakers that seemed to turn to him like hungry wolves. As he passed them, one hand on his small suitcase and the other covering one ear hole, they each boomed their message, often backed up by a non-copyrighted track.

“Howdy there - you look like the type who could use a small break…”

“TANG SODA! EXCLUSIVE LIMITED TIME SALE ON TANG SODA AT COSMART! ONLY 39,99 CREDITS FOR A CASE OF TEN -- YES, YOU HEARD US RIGHT…!”

“... It ain’t just the air and soil of Sage 4 that makes proper, healthy grain… It’s love and care…”

“Flyer got wrecked by your neighbour? Did the boss violate your contract again? Call Oatman&Steve Attorneys…”

“Shalom! Be blessed by Elahim, shimshon. If you’re in need of a lil’...”

“In need of a loan? Adamantium Bank’s your ticket out of poverty! Drop by our nearest office today and…”

Mr. Zigg wiped the annoyed sweat off his brow as the advertisements became so overlapped that each message was indistinguishable from the rest. It was all just one audible, bubbling soup of words - taunting him and his family’s wealth (or lack thereof, rather). At long last, he reached the door, which thankfully was on the bottom floor. In the door, he met about seventy others: Raygonians, mostly, their barrel-like shapes wagging from side to side with their every step; sprinkled in between was a Putt or two, their shorter forms nearly drowning between their larger peers; finally, Mr. Zigg swore he could see one or two Shas, too - he had no idea any lived in his building.

“Mornin’, Mr. Zigg,” came a rumble from behind him. Mr. Zigg looked over his shoulder and tipped his hat.

“Morning, Mrs. Imhotr. Heading to work?”

The Qurok adjusted her hardhat, broadened to fit her skull size, and smirked. “Where else’d I go? Sewage pipes gotta be cleaned, lest this whole block’ll stink worse than it already does.” She lit herself a thick cigarette and took an unfathomably long drag. The whole group of workers had exited the apartment building and were moving through the loud streets, hoverers and flyers soaring over them and cars rumbling far below. Advertisements were just as deafening here as inside - perhaps even more so.

“Always wondered - don’t we have cybes to fix our plumbing these days?”

“We do,” Mrs. Imhotr replied curtly.

Mr. Zigg shrugged. “How’s the competition?”

She exhaled a thick, smouldering plume of smoke, her wrinkly features somehow even more pronounced in its shadow. “Eh, it’s manageable. Thankfully, the alloys they use in cybes down here’re still not strong enough to handle the acidity of the sewers. Still, they’ve pretty much outshined us in the finer pipes.” She shook her head. “Worst part isn’t even the competition - our boss’s squeezin’ out every penny he can get from every assignment. The micromanagement’s off the rails, I’m tellin’ ya.”

Mr. Zigg frowned. “Really sorry to hear that, Mrs. Imhotr. Hope the paychecks aren’t too affected. How’s the wife, by the way?”

Mrs. Imhotr groaned. “Ugh, she’s been a wreck lately.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Yeah. Found Vidrio in her drawer the other day. I think she’s reboundin’, man.” She took another long drag of her cigarette, almost draining it dry. They neared the station, which was packed to the brim as always with all manner of workers heading to their respective workplaces. The hiss of train breaks and hum of battery-driven engines nearly drowned out the blare of advertisements. Mrs. Imhotr shook her head. “I dunno what to do, man. I can’t afford to put her in rehab again, and I can’t afford to lose her. Not again.”

“H-hey, look, it’ll be alright, no? Just… Set some spending parametres on her wristband and get rid of the product she’s gotten so far. Where is she now?”

“I told her sister about it and we agreed she’d take care of her for a week or two while I clean the apartment. Her sister’s a good person - she won’t get in trouble there.”

“Well, as long as she’s safe. Hey, when do you get off work today?”

“Seven as always. Why?”

Mr. Zigg thumbed over his shoulder. “Actually, my wife’s pretty fed up with me, too. Want to head to Johnny’s after work?”

“You had a falling out with your wife and your solution is drinking?” she asked with a snicker. Mr. Zigg shrugged.

“In truth, our fight was so stupid. She’d bought some expensive lettuce, or was it spinach? Anyway, I got angry, but only because she can’t save cash for the life of her, Jesus…”

“Hey, HEY. You know how I feel about blasphemy, right?”

“Right, sorry, sorry. Gotta ask, how much big’s the church subscription these days? 99 a week?”

“79, actually,” she replied with a grin as she ducked under the slightly too low doorway into their part of the station. “They reduced it in time for the season.”

“Christ, seventy-nine a week to go to church…”

“Mr. Zigg.”

“Right, sorry. Blasphemy.”

Mrs. Imhotr rolled her eyes and sighed. “No, it’s alright. So, about your wife?”

“Oh, right.” They had arrived at the platform of their train, the time table predicting the arrival of the next train in three minutes. Mr. Zigg sighed. “Yeah, so things are pretty tight nowadays, and the wife decided to blow her bonus on some more expensive food… We got into a fight and bada-bing, bada-boom, I’m sleeping on the couch, I reckon.”

“You have a couch?”

“No…”

Mrs. Imhotr snickered. “Well, that sucks. On one hand, I don’t see what the problem is - a little good food every now and then should be a right; on the other hand, now… Well, I’m actually feeling it pretty hard.”

“Right? Like, what if we had needed the money to, to send the kids to the doctor, or, or--”

“Go to church?”

“Uh, I dunno, maybe? Point is - we can’t afford to buy on impulse, and my wife’s having a hard time realising that.”

“How big was her bonus, anyway?”

“Like, one-sixty? Not a lot, but a credit earned is a credit saved.” The train approached from their right and hissed gently as it slowed down. The doors were lifted up to unleash a river of alien flesh onto the platform, prickled with the occasional human. When the cart was almost emptied, Mr. Zigg and Mrs. Imhotr started wrestling their way inside, taking a standing spot before being figuratively locked in place by the rest of the commuters.

“But, like, it couldn’t have cost that much, right? Unless she bought, like, Remmizipp or something.”

“Exactly what she did.”

Mrs. Imhotr whistled sheepishly. “Ouch. One bag of that’s almost a hundred.”

“Right? And it has less in it.”

“Did it taste good, at least?”

“Oh, it was amazing, but not as amazing as those extra credits would’ve looked in our savings account.” Zigg cupped his face in his hand. “Ugh, talking about this leaves my mouth dry.”

“Did you bring your cup?”

“We’ll see,” Mr. Zigg mumbled and opened his suitcase. He rummaged about as deftly as he could, considering he could barely move. “... Crap, I forgot my cup.”

“Hang on,” Mrs. Imhotr mumbled as she dug around in her backpack. Shortly after starting, she had pulled forth a small, but thick, metallic thermos, which she handed to Zigg. “Here. It’s got the, the, uh, the dark roast sub.”

“The three credit one or the twenty credit one?”

“Three, I think.”

Mr. Zigg frowned and tapped his wristband against the cup. It went ‘beep!’ and said, “Three credits deducted from your account.” The cup then begun to vibrate violently for a few seconds before it gave a gentle sucking sound and sounded a ‘pling!’. Mr. Zigg uncorked it and gave it a whiff, cringing slightly.

“If the band hadn’t already told me, I could’ve guessed this was three credit coffee, yup.”

“You’re welcome,” she replied sourly with a half-grin. Mr. Zigg gave the thermos a slurp and then handed it back to the Qurok, who also gave it a swig. The train began to slow down, the next station approaching. Mrs. Imhotr let out a ‘nn!’ and corked the thermos. “Right, this is my stop. So… Seven, right?”

“Yeah, if you’re still up.”

She shrugged and tapped her wristband. “I’ll let you know if there’s a change of plans. If not, I’ll see you there. Laters!” She then proceeded to wrestle her way back out of the train, her two and a half metre tall frame wading through the masses as if they were water. Mr. Zigg made a half grin and leaned up against the wall of the train to close his eyes for a few moments, the rest of the passengers keeping him comfortably from falling over.




“So that’s the story, sir. So therefore, I wondering…” Mr. Zigg gestured a bit with his stubby hands.

Opposite a large desk made of plastic resembling mahogany sat a guppy mecha-suit, within which dome floated a frowning guppy, specifically Mr. Gurrpi, CEO of Gurrpi’s Golly Gunships. "Mr. Zigg, we're a small company, sure, but I still have 694 million employees here, and you know I like you all, but if I was to give everyone who asked for it a bonus, we'd be bankrupt within the hour."

"But!"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Zigg, but no. If you give it your all for the rest of the year, I'll consider it around Commercial Christmas, alright? Omni, make a note of that."

"Yes, Mr. Gurrpi. Note made to: Consider providing Mr. Lobutos Zigg, employee ID 459-993-101, with a Commercial Christmas bonus amounting to [unspecified] based on the sum of his merits," the robotic voice from Mr. Gurrpi's mecha-suit replied monotonously.

Mr. Gurrpi's suit gave a shrug. "I'm sorry, Mr. Zigg, this is all I can do for now. If you can make yourself worth it, I'll set the bonus to, uh, let’s say 15% of your December-2 paycheck.”

“Note edited: Commercial Christmas bonus set to: fifteen percent of December-dash-2 paycheck,” said Omni.

Mr. Zigg’s eyes glistened with surprised. “R-really? You’d do that for me?” And through the thick glass dome of the Guppy mecha suit, the Raygonian could see Mr. Gurrpi grin wholeheartedly.

“Of course! I appreciate all my workers, Mr. Zigg, and reward those who do a good job. Now, I think you oughta get to it if you hope to snatch the bonus for yourself.”

Mr. Zigg was already halfway out the door. “Don’t have to tell me twice! Thank you, sir!” The mecha-suit gave him a thumb up while the guppy inside had returned its attention to the display on its desk. The Raygonian closed the door behind him and giggled to himself. Yes! He would get a bonus and could make up for his wife’s dent in their savings! This was perfect! A beer with a friend later would put the cherry on top, so when the clock struck half past six and Mr. Zigg was skipping down the street from his office building, it seemed only fitting that all should come crashing down at the hands of an armed robbery in an alley. The masked thieves beat Mr. Zigg to a pulp and left him face down in a puddle of filth, hacking into his wristband to steal his money. They then disappeared into the night.

When Zigg woke up, he was at the last place he wanted to be. He would rather be in the grave, the alley or even the bottom tiers over a place like this. The walls were completely white - as were his sheets and the armless robe he wore. Next to him stood a Petalos dressed in a white coat, holding a touch pad. It gave it a few additional taps before noticing that the patient had awoken. Putting on as good as smile as she could, the Petalos faced Lobutos.

“Ah, you’re finally awake.” She adjusted her silver-rimmed glasses. “Mr. Zigg, is it?”

Mr. Zigg’s eyes darted around. “Who called the ambulance? Which hospital is this?”

“The caller never said their name. As for where you are, you are at Polygon Emergency Hospital, CT-Block A090-001-001, “Gala-Grid Heights”. How are you feeling?”

Mr. Zigg’s heart rate shot up considerably. “Polygon?! Fuck! FUCK!”

The doctor put a hand on his shoulder. “Sir, if you would please calm down--!”

“My insurance doesn’t cover this hospital! Doctor, how long have I been here?! What treatment did you give me?!”

Immediately, the doctor distanced herself from Mr. Zigg and eyed the touchpad with skeptical pursed lips. “... Oh, is that so. Well, I had hoped we could’ve waited with this until later, but since you’re so eager.” She gave the pad a few additional taps. “Your grand total for a two day stay with the addition of a cast for your broken arm and a cybe replacement for your ruptured kidney--”

“Ruptured kidney?!”

“You had been stabbed, sir. It was either a replacement or removal.”

“Christ, you should’ve just removed.” He buried his face in his hands. “... I can’t pay for anti-rejection drugs, lady. I can hardly pay my family’s rent.”

“Well, shouldn’t have gotten stabbed, in that case. Health authorities always recommend staying out of the street at all times to avoid such unfortunate events.”

Mr. Zigg scowled at her. “I have no choice, doctor! I don’t own a hoverer!”

“Again, not my problem, sir. Your grand total is 13 999 credits.”

“Thirteen--” was all Mr. Zigg squeezed out before he clutched his chest, taking deep breaths. The doctor sighed and tapped a few more times on the pad.

“Adding a possible heart surgery to that, making the grand total--”

“NO! No.” Mr. Zigg slowly set his feet down on the floor. “I’m fine. How long do I have to pay?”

“Thirty days, sir, if you don’t plan on doing it right here and now.”

“I’m telling you, doctor, I don’t have the money.”

“Then thirty days it is,” replied the doctor and tapped the screen. A hologram of the bill was sent into Mr. Zigg’s wristband, where it gave the screen a blue-ish hue. “Make certain the amount is paid by this day next month or we will get in touch with the Adamantium Bank. Your clothes and such are in the closet over there. I would get the nurse to help you dress on account of the cast and all, but I take it you wouldn’t want to add more to that bill, huh?”

“Please leave,” Mr. Zigg growled.

The doctor smiled smugly. “Well, then. Have a good day, Mr. Zigg.” She then exited through the automatic slider door. Mr. Zigg stood up, shaking a little to regain his balance. He tapped his wristband and scanned the screen that popped up. His inbox had blown up and he had fifty-eight unanswered calls, mostly from his wife. He buried his face in his palm again.

“Christ.”
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