Hidden 1 mo ago Post by caliban22
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caliban22 King of the badgers

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Frontier Commonwealth (FCW) Mining Colony New Manchester, Capital city Dublin

Day 13 of the yangtze Hegemony's invasion of New Manchester

Dublin Royal college Evacuation Point: three miles from the front

22nd Royal Grenadier's

Local time: 0221

Site garrison dugout.

Corporal Samantha Cho

A group of a dozen well armed FCW soldier's sit around an old Jerry rigged Holo screen playing the FCW's news, the dug out's roof rains down dust and dirt as occasional shells land around it.
"Today Prime Minister Margaret Allen has vowed to retake Manchester, even as Hegemony forces arrive on the Commonwealth world in mass. International response to the invasion has been mixed as some like the UIC have offered humanitarian aid along with a promise of a peace keeping force, other have supported the annexation of the planet, vowing to support the Hegemony should outside forces attempt to interfere. Some sa..."

The Holo screen goes dark as shells begin landing closer and more often. a warning siren begins to wail as the group splits up and goes to find something to do till the bombardment to end. for the last few days the Yang sent a gentle reminder that they were near, normally not that effective but there has been a few casualties. Sergeant Baker was caught outside during the first bombardment, he was evacuated along with the civilians shortly after. The college has since been one of the last remaining sites capable of moving large mass of people from the continent to Commonwealth islands off the coast, to the few remaining orbital defense sites and military sites still under FCW control.
Corporal Cho couldn't stand the boredom, since the initial invasion two weeks ago, she hadn't seen much combat. when it became clear the Hegemony had the upper hand with their orbital bombardments, the remaining FCW forces focused on evacuating the the civilian population. The few stories of civilians escaping the occupied territory told gruesome tales of slavery and execution of military prisoners. None of this surprised anyone, an enemy who was willing to use poison gas and civilians as shields couldn't be treating prisoners well. Not to say there were many who surrendered or that the yang were taking many prisoners, most of the ones who did surrender could be found littered around the burned out city.

As Corporal Cho sat at a desk cleaning her weapon for sixth time, the bombardment stopped. followed closely by the sounds of close heavy gun fire to take its place. quickly the soldiers within the dugout quickly moved to their positions outside the dugout.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Abefroeman
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Abefroeman Truck Driver

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Royal Orleans Orbital Expeditionary Fleet over Duro One - R.O.N. Feu d'âme, Bretagne-Class Battleship, Maréchal Bournonville's Flagship.




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Hidden 28 days ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich 𝕿𝖍𝖊 𝕽𝖚𝖓𝖊𝖘' 𝕲𝖑𝖔𝖜

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Legion Eternal, Eternally Victorious.






The Varangian had been awaiting pirates and other scum for quite some time but it had no luck. Viktor was looking for a simple fight, something to break in the fresh faces rather than going straight to lairs of the foe hidden in deep space and the likes. So they went about their lives in preparation for this. After the scene in the command deck and Viktor’s talk with the young psychic he sent her to go eat something and with nothing better to do she went in to

A soldier sat beside Alyx, finishing the remains of what was clearly once an impressive sandwich before wiping his hands on his pants and extending one to her. "Its a big crew, no reason for anyone to be alone. My name's Danylo, Danylo Vilkul. But you can call me Danylko, Danik, Danko, Danya, Dan, Danny, Danyl, whatever. Biomedical Engineer." he said the words in her native Portunol variant, a smile across his lips.

Alyx turned to face him, raising an eyebrow and giving an insincere, almost vicious return of the smile. "You know it's been about a month and this noosphere thing is hard to get used to. But I see it's merit. For one it's telling me you really like the darker immigrant girls so you can fuck off with the patronizing, you're not getting some from me. You can call me not interested, that bitch, rejection, and some other sassy bullshit I can’t be bothered to think of right now." the reply was in Councillary Pidgin, a rebuffing of the soldier's ice breaking attempt. She had to admit, the language modules within Neohumans was very handy. Back in Uracao she had spent a year trying to learn English, with failure until those nice armed men spreading revolution came along to help her; even then, she could barely form a sentence. Now? She could speak the Fenno-Slavic hybrid language most Confederates spoke.

Danylo chuckled, scratching the bridge of his nose. "That's pretty good! But the noosphere wouldn't tell you that, that there is your psychic input module at work. The noosphere wouldn't give something so personal, you got that information because you were looking for something spiteful to use against me. If you probed a little deeper you would see I've already got a girl back home. Come on, I'm just trying to be nice, at the very least you can pretend to appreciate it."

The psychic rubbed her forehead wearily, eventually shrugging. "What would be the point, with the noosphere you'd still be able to tell I don't like your ugly mug." They shared a brief chuckle.

"Come you got to eat. I'll show you what's good rather than what the Overseers say is good." In truth all the showing was done with Danylo telling her how to better use the noosphere and have her part of it interact with the ship's systems. He did lead her to a table with other recruits though, to which a drone swarm brought ordered meals. She was introduced to several other Reislaufers and very slowly something akin to belonging was found, even if for now only two men offered it properly not to speak of the fact she couldn’t show it lest she be taken for a person of mercurial demeanour. Viktor - the first of the two - walked by, and nodded to the woman. Alyx felt she could finally return a smile.

The Captain walked to the centre of the dining hall, before the floor beneath him pushed upwards to put him in the view of everyone. "Attention, attention please. I know I could have done this over the announcer but this is only my third Captaincy, and yet already I have fresh faces to be acquainted with and so I came here myself. I hope dining together will allow the recruits to become acquainted with the veterans, and vice versa. For experience to rub off, I after this invite you all to the gymnasium for a more practical training session, compared to what you what have received back in Sol. Thank you!" and with that, he was gone.

Alyx frowned slightly, the glow from her eyes shifting downwards. The change in attitude did not go unnoticed in the noosphere. “What’s wrong?” Danylo asked.

“Well, there’s no lies in the CCN, right?”

“Yes. None at all with the Noosphere and all. No crime either.”

“Well then, it’s these… premonitions I get. Something bad’s going to happen from this.”

“Why don’t you tell the Captain then?”

“That’s not how it works, it’ll happen anyway. If I tell them of this then me telling them will be part of why it happened.”

“You’re not in the frontier now, Alyx. It’s far different, we can learn from this.”

“Maybe. Not now though.”

“If you say so — let’s go then.”

It felt… strange. Alyx had only known these people for less than an hour but already familiarity and bond with them was felt. Some of them she hadn't even asked or heard their names, nor did she use her powers to discover them but already she knew them. Without having grown up with the noosphere, its benefits were almost frightening to a person. Siarhey, Ljudmila, Ivan, Karl, Sauli, Nastja, Kuno, Bolko, Lazar, Aimo, all the people on either side were as one with her and - even when doing so from behind - the moment she looked at them they turned to smile brightly. It was as though you had intimacy with somebody before you even spoke to them, as though their worries were yours before you even saw them.

They entered the gymnasium, and it was… well, Alyx had never been to a gym in her life but she still knew this one wasn't right. Men were lifting anything at hand be it a suit of power armour for each bicep to an artillery emplacement with their legs. Most had devices pumping something into their musculature, which after aid from the noosphere she found out was a solution of nanomachines and chemicals to help one tone their muscles. Whenever Neohumans came upon a species physically stronger than them they often felt this very hard in battle, but only for the first time. After that battle regardless of if it was won or lost they would assimilate the genes of that species, and promptly correct that issue on the biological level, and then soldiers would increase their regimens to correct the issue on the level of training. This constant, forced evolution was certainly part of the reason the CCN had such a fierce reputation; any time they failed or made a mistake they would look deep into it, learn from it, and change their very anatomy to adjust to it. The same trick never works twice on them. All this information coursed through the psychic's head, and she wasn't sure if she knew it before or only know had it pushed into her head. She knew it was true but was it her own thought? It didn’t matter, what mattered was that this hypothetically meant she in her body now carried strength akin to that which the Captain had used against her. Experimentally, she with one hand picked up a two handed chain axe that would have been larger than her before she was augmented.

Powerful. In that moment she felt powerful and for the first time in a long time, in control. Giggling like a child with a new toy she balanced the weapon on her palm, and then on a single finger. She hasn't even used her powers yet and already such a feat was as simple as one plus one arithmetic. “You like it?” said a voice from behind her, which without turning the psychic knew was Viktor’s. “This change, I mean.” he elaborated, pointing to the new musculature Alyx had.

“It’s… it’s one for the better.”

“That’s a yes?”

“It’s not a no.”

“Progress!”

Viktor gave the psychic a pat on the shoulder before moving forwards himself, again finding a small pedestal to stand on to address the many hundreds of now assembled Neohumans. The thought that Alyx knew each of them struck again, only harder given the new scale.

“Thank you all for coming. You are for the most part new soldiers, and welcome additions to this vessel. But none of you have real experience, you all have perhaps centuries of combat simulations performed and will out class almost all of the scum this star cluster will throw against our holy cause. So, you will be assigned at random partners to fight, many of whom will be veterans of many conflicts. You will almost undoubtedly lose against them, but worry not for this is how you learn. Perhaps a small caveat, but there shall be no use of your specialized cybernetics, combat or otherwise. Built in sonic emanators, arm grinders, or other powers,” Viktor paused, looking at Alyx momentarily. “Shall not be allowed. Your arms and legs - the most valuable tools given to us by nature - shall be your weapons for today. Good luck!”

As if by a force above, Alyx felt compelled to move to face a rather large fellow, and moments later they were closed off by an energy field from their surroundings. They saw nothing, only each other. The energy field flashed red, signalling the two they were two begin their combat. The person before Alyx was intimidating to say the least being about three hundred centimetres in height — while he had no discernible augments he was almost grotesquely muscular with biceps that looked like they’d beat power armour and many gorilloid simmies in contests of strength. She tried to conjure up some psychic strength, but the energy shield flashed red which upon seeing the counterpart grinned evilly. “Doesn’t work here.” he said, cracking his knuckles.

Alyx frowned, but then smiled. “Sorry, I’m new!” With a running start she gave the man a hearty punch to the throat followed by one to the stomach making him keel over slightly. Though it was a good first strike, she made the mistake of letting the man recover and from there it all went wrong. He swung a leg in a roundhouse kick which the psychic responded to with a duck as anticipated. The fellow dropped the airborne leg before diving on the girl, his weight in conjunction with the bear hug he put on her the fight was effectively over. The energy shield flashed red again and the Reislaufer let Alyx go, brushing himself off. “Not bad for a rookie.” the soldier said, no irony visible or audible in his words.

The energy shield flashed once more, signalling a second round. Taking a stance Alyx decided this time to let her opponent take the initiative. He realized this, and with a nod slowly walked forwards. He lashed out with a fist which she first tried to punch aside, and failing that then grab it, but it had such great force behind it there was no use to all of it. He grabbed her by the ankle, and then like a toy swung Alyx around to first strike one wall with, then another, then one side of the ground, then another. The energy shield flashed red once more, before dropping. Two consecutive fights won was the condition for victory and the Reislaufer had satisfied it. He helped the psychic up, patting her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry too much, there’s not many that can take me even from the veterans. With that he went off to find another fight, whereas Alyx stood looking on through other energy shields to view a few fights. They were brutal, attacks thrown that would leave most people of Eden as nothing more than wet red smears. She knew that she would most certainly not have survived what she just experienced before her processing. A symbol flashed in her vision, which directed her to a new micro arena.

Face to face with Danylo, she was not amused. “Well look at that!” he remarked, spreading his arms wide. The psychic noticed that the man had dried blood crusted around his neck and torso, from the way it was spread it was obviously his.

“No luck?” Alyx queried.

“Not much, no.” he replied.

Again an energy shield formed, and flashed red. Neither party wasted any time rushing at the other. Danylo launched a fist towards the psychic’s stomach with lightning speed, but she was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn’t hurt much nor cause her to be winded thanks to some sort of implants she had working as natural, sub-dermal armour. At the same time this was lost initiative for the fellow and though he reacted quickly to his attack’s failure it wasn’t enough. He raised his other arms to protect his head but it wasn’t enough to save him from Alyx’s kneeing him to the head, and following the attack with a kick to the chest now that he was off-balance. Her opponent was falling, and before he hit the ground she slid under the place he was to be to get him in a lock. The fight was over and the energy shield flashed red. Both Reislaufers parted and went to their respective sides of the micro arena, the friendship they were starting right now invisible as both saw red, the same colour of the energy shield’s flash.

Alyx ran forward, drawing a fist back as if to throw a punch when in reality the arm would be used to strike Danylo with her elbow. He ignored that in entirety, and as Alyx got close he drew his head back before striking Alyx’s brow with it. She stumbled and he repeated the action, and then struck her in the chest with his shoulder. She fell and with a run Danylo jumped, stomping on her head with both feet. Flesh tore off her face but - just in case - the man planted a foot on her throat to secure his victory.

Again they parted, and a third round began. Again both ran at each other, Danyl attempting to kick his foe’s legs out from under her. She jumped over the leg and whilst airborne kicked him in the head. He fell, and as Alyx was about to mirror the jumping stomp her performed he rolled to the side. The woman expected the grab for her legs, however, and hopped back allowing Danylo a recovery. This time Danyl seized the initiative running at Alyx while drawing back a hand and raising a shoulder as though mirroring the feinted punch into an elbow strike she had earlier tried on him. But he instead threw the fist into the psychic’s nose while reaching with the other hand to grab a leg in hopes of picking his foe up and throwing her. She kicked one of Danylo’s shins though, making enough space to avoid such a fate. But he pressed the attack by grabbing her throat, punching a shoulder and then letting it go leaving Alyx off balance. With her augments the state of affairs would last only a millisecond, but that was all that was needed. With both hands he pushed her, and aided her fall by dropping sideways on her. A bit of leg work, and Danyl had won his second consecutive fight.

Grudgingly Alyx took the offered hand of help and they exited the micro arena, the psychic clearly not happy. “It’s just your first fights, don’t worry. You will improve and in perhaps a year’s time you’ll be giving as much as you’re getting.” This came from Viktor who managed to come from behind quite quietly, hands clasped behind his back. Alyx waved a hand dismissively at him, shaking her head. “You can fuck right off. You know, isn’t the whole point of this Neohumanity thing that we get all these fancy toys in our body? All this punching and kicking is stupid, you want to prepare us for fighting out there? Let us use what we have.”

Viktor looked at her unamused for a moment, before motioning to a Reislaufer. “Oh Italmas, would you be so kind as to come here?”

The soldier obeyed, to which Viktor nodded gratefully. He exchanged a momentary exchange through the noosphere with the fellow and again they shared a nod. The Reislaufers hands split up into mechanical tentacles that shot out in a flash and from his nails extended blades just short of Alyx’s throat, eyes, and ribs.

“That’s fine. Set it up.” She stepped into a micro arena, giving the sweetest smile she could to the tentacle man. He shrugged and went into it before Viktor or anyone else could say something to object. Alyx closed her eyes, inhaling as she waited to see the flash of red through closed visors. It came, and she opened her eyes to see the tentacles before her again. But this time they weren’t restrained by the man, rather by the psychic’s mind. Then, frozen motionless he was thrown about before being dropped on the ground. He recovered, and then the second round began. This time the man didn’t show any restraint, clearing his mind and stepping out of his previous position in an effort to avoid concentration of psychic power. He lashed out his tendrils far faster. Alyx extended an arm, and let the blades puncture it. Then she let a strong current run through them, and then gripped them with power granted by her mind. With that done, she forced some tentacles from his other arm back at him. Slowly they flew back towards him, before wrapping around him and slowly squeezing. Flesh tore, circuits were busted, and the energy field dropped. “Enough!” Viktor cried, sending Danylo to aid the injured man.

“That doesn’t mean anything. You beat him, but I beat you and I’ll beat you again.”

“Oh I’m sure dearest Captain. But we can put that to the test; teach this upstart rookie a lesson!”

Viktor groaned. With Alyx had matured somewhat since their last fight, and she had a great new assortment of cybernetics and genetic modifications. He didn’t actually know if he could do it again. He stepped into the micro arena, and Alyx saluted the Captain. “Best of luck!” she said, before flicking her fingers. Viktor was launched airborne and struck the energy shield with his back. Though he didn’t expect this, he was Captain for a reason. He bounced off of it and used this to close much distance with Alyx, slamming his fist down on her head. Sprawled on the floor, Alyx then hovered, dodging another fist from the Captain before turning him upside down. With the man on the ground, Alyx dropped and got him into a hold. The energy shield flashed red, and smugly it was the turn of Alyx to help somebody up. “Point made?”

“Yeah you beat me. But the point stands. Anything could happen and you should be ready for it. There’s a reason that after centuries of testing this is a format we use, your fights with your cybernetics and little power are to be done later.”

“Why? I can beat anyone here.”

With a sense of drama, the Sergeant cracked his knuckles very, very loudly. “Wrong.” he hopped into one of the micro arenas, and with a jerk of his head motioned for the psychic to get in.

Alyx hesitated for a moment, but she couldn’t back off now. Viktor didn’t want the Sergeant to cause her severe damage, but at the same time she needed a lesson taught and thus didn’t intervene.

The Sergeant bowed, and the energy shield flashed red signalling the start of the fight. Alyx wasted no time, throwing lightning at Oleksandr from either hand. He stood still for a long time, almost a whole minute while undergoing this frying. His skin boiled away exposing raw muscle and bone all over him, and finally at such a state he took a step forward, then another and yet another. The psychic increased the flow of the lightning which momentarily gave the Sergeant pause, but then it seemed only to invigorate him as he increased the speed he walked towards her. As they were almost face to face Alyx screamed, lightning now also coming from her head but it was no use. With a fist thrown at her face the Sergeant got her to spin before hitting the ground. Then he grabbed both ankles and much like a person throws a blanket across a bed he tugged both legs into the air before swiftly bringing them down with the consequent slamming of the girl to the ground that one expects. The energy shield went down. “You won, Sergeant. Well done, I think you two are just about done for today.” Viktor said, looking at Alyx who was clearly hurt physically as well as very angry, storming off with a few Reislaufers following her sensing the uneasiness.

“That’s right. Little fancy finger sparkles won’t end me, nothing will!”

“I’m sure, Sergeant.”

Detecting the sarcasm in Viktor’s voice, Kjaro turned to the Captain. “What was that boy?”

“Nothing.”

“I’m detecting a hint of disbelief in your voice there!”

“Well, you’d be detecting right then. But we don’t have time for that, bugger off.”

“No, get in here.”

Viktor raised an eyebrow, but then shrugged. If the Sergeant wanted to fight with his nose being the main constituent of a nearby puddle, that was on him. They faced each other, and after exchanging a salute the energy field went up. Viktor more or less knew what the Sergeant would do. He only slightly changed his stance in preparation for what followed: the Sergeant aimed a single and extremely heavy punch at the height of Viktor’s neck, expecting him to try and duck to avoid it. Instead he lowered his head to protect it with his neck, and while his jaw in its entirety flew off many metres away Viktor now had the initiative by far. He brought his head downwards to sink his exposed upper jaw into the meat of the Sergeant, whilst punching into his armpit with one arm and catching the hand that came to block with the other. But The Butcher wouldn’t go down so easily oh no. Anyone else would have lost balance and fallen, but by unrivalled footwork Kjaro stayed upright and took the hits. He roared powerfully, Viktor’s ears bleeding and blood vessels in his head popping as a result. Superheating his nails Viktor reached into the throat of Kjaro, tearing his cheeks open to fry his vocal chords and audible equipment to prevent the hellish scream. He succeeded, but it was no call for celebration for the Sergeant bit his arm clean off. It hurt, oh God it hurt but it didn’t matter. The Neohuman pain threshhold was absurdly high and - having learned the trick from the Sergeant back on Uracao - he used the stump of his arm as a spike on which he impaled the Sergeant whilst beating him on the head with his free hand. After four punches to the skull Viktor spun, dislodging the Sergeant from his damaged limb and sending him airborne to smash against the energy shield. The Captain ran over and made sure not to let Oleksandr recover; he stepped on either elbow and then pulled either hand upwards with a painful crack to disable Kjaro’s arms. The energy shield parted, Viktor having secured victory. He was missing a good chunk of an arm, but he still won. Looking at the assembled recruits, Viktor tried to speak normally having forgotten he was missing his jaw and thus only unintelligible nonsense coming out. Activating his voice synthesizer, he began anew. “I think we’re done here.” he said, before heading off to the medical bay.




Music

Missing parts and limbs were replaced, while the rest was left to natural regeneration, Kjaro's lost flesh and muscle entirely returning to him in a mere five hours. Viktor had his lost bits replaced with frozen ones and all was as before. All in all, he deemed the day as a success. He managed to teach a lesson to his two most rowdy crew members and the rookies got some fights in. They were now more prepared for whatever they might face in the frontier of Eden and that made Viktor feel satisfied as a Captain. He had a duty to the men he oversaw, and this was a part of that job well done.

Not very much happened in the following interim, for there wasn’t in fact much time. Perhaps this was the true meaning of Alyx’s premonition, for not too long after the training there was something caught on the scanners. Faint, but very certainly present. It was a vessel, a large, in fact a colossal transport vessel of some sort that The Varangian instantly started to approach quietly for further analysis. Transport vessels of an actual commercial nature did not go so far from planets. Though they might deny it, whoever was there was most certainly going to be some sort of ne’erdowell. A smuggler of drugs, people, and other things illicit it seemed for pirates rarely found the need to go in transport vessels. Unless of course, they were hiding really big cannons. The command bridge became instantly afloat with activity for a course of action had to be decided soon.

Viktor checked the ship for identifiers, and was surprised (though somewhat pleased) as he found a record of the vessel. It belonged to an Ulex known as Drella the Swift which - upon downloading and decompressing appropriate records - turned out to be somewhat of a larger name on the stage of Eden. He was rumoured to have been a trafficker of living things, and although all nations looked into his affairs it seemed nobody could actually press any solid evidence against him to lay charges. Lawyers, formalities and a load of money in general prevented any ultimate investigation in what internationally was only considered rumour.

Viktor stopped to think, the processors inside of him as well as his gargantuan gene-augmented brain working overclocked to decide what to do.

“Let’s see if these rumours are truth or conjecture.” he said after some time, looking at his crew. “We’ll fire at the vessel first disabling its communications from our position of surprise, then using our momentum we’ll attack their armaments, scanners, and movement capabilities in equal proportion. Once their vessel is sufficiently disabled we will close the distance in entirety and board them, exterminate all undesirables. Understood?” he looked about, and once he had concurrence he continued.

“Get us closer.” came the order, relayed to the navigator in the depths of the ship. They moved in a straight line, aiming to cut off the transport from the site they assumed it planned to turn towards the system proper. A few hours of silent movement passed, before a notification came from the navigator that they were at the detection threshold and they now had to engage the foe. The Varangian was a large sphere pattern vessel, and it was somewhat uniquely armed entirely with laser arrays. This slightly hindered it’s capabilities of general orbital bombardment but it made it a vessel with nigh unparalleled capability of duelling other ships, and it destroyed planetside or orbital defences with ease. A ship hit by a spinning barrage bearing lightning strike from the Varangian would be easy prey. The sphere slowly began to revolve in preparation for its firing, and once sufficient spin was gained it did precisely that. In near instant succession blast from laser arrays were let off at the communication section of the transport vessel, except they didn’t hit. In fact, they didn’t even hit shielding. It was apparently being screened by a stealthed escort, the debris of which now littered space. Viktor cursed, knowing that this meant several things. For one, there were most likely several other stealthed escorts for one would rarely just get one for such a thing and a real fight was coming forth. At the same time, it also meant that the transport identified as The Kryd would not have damaged communication arrays preventing it from sending out a plea for help, sending out a message it was attacked by a CCN sphere unprovoked. To say the least, Viktor had fucked up.

At the same time though, he was a Captain, and it was his duty to be able to salvage such horrible situations. “Yesaul, how far are the nearest system monitors?”

“Hours away.” the man replied.

“Good. Have the empaths start making up excuses say… say that the destroyed stealth screen fired first. Put the onus on them, have them explaining why the fuck they had stealthed escorts. I’d love to see them try prove their stealth ship didn’t take the first shot here.”

“Very well Sir.” the Yesaul said.

“Right then. Minimum spin, awaken the ship. Activate shields and scanner arrays, deactivate comms, we don’t need them anyway. Prepare all arms facing the cargo carrier for a volley, keep all others charging but in reserve until we know where the escorts are.”

“Right. Target priority?”

“The first volley doesn’t matter, just smash the shields and get in general hull integrity damage. After that focus all fire on the engines.”

The words were said verbally, even though there was no need with the instant thought-relay communication the Neohumans had available. Indeed the spoken conversation went by in a mere few seconds, but it was said nevertheless for the purpose of morale.

“Contact!” the Yesaul cried after some minutes.

“Four escorts on the right above us. They’re carriers it looks like, they’re sending out sorties now.”

Victor drummed his fingers. “The hangars of their flyers, they’re below them, yes? Sending them downwards to us?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Then fire right at them. Regardless of if they’re closed fire at the hangars. We won’t destroy the carriers themselves in time and our laser array isn’t optimized to destroy the flyers themselves. Just don’t let them refuel and rearm, that’s all we need. Let them suffocate in a day when they’re out of oxygen, focus everything other than the batteries you can’t aim on the hangars to the transport vessel.”

“Very well then. Oh, it’s firing, sir.”

“What armament?”

“Rail weapons, sir. Very high power. It’s clearly timed, they waited for the carrier sortie to be in progress so their sublights hit once our shield is damaged. “

Again Viktor drummed his fingers. “We know the firing line, trajectory, timing, yes?”

“...yes?” the Yesaul replied.

“Good, good. To what degree of accuracy?”

“We know the arcs to far less than a degree in error and we know the impact site to within about a metre of error, although given the unknown size of the projectile we don’t know if this will really matter by itself, and the time of firing and impact both to a few seconds.”

A pause.

“Plot the predicted lines and rotate us with the fresh laser arrays facing the transport. We’re going to intercept the sublights; melt them while they still haven’t hit us. They’re not torpedoes but we’ll get them anyway. We can’t stop, we have to keep going.”

The Yesaul was momentarily taken aback, but he saluted and performed the orders.

“You think this will work sir?”

“Who knows. Worth a try. If it doesn’t then we leg it the hell out of here.”

More minutes passed.

“Captain! Three more escorts, this time below from the left. We rotated away too much, there’s no fresh laser arrays facing them. These ones aren’t carriers, they’re traditional mixed weapon array ships.”

“The carriers, are their hangars damaged or disabled?”

“None disabled, but all very heavily damaged.”

“That’ll do. Increase rotation, cut our propulsion in entirety. Hit the sublights then put everything on the damn escorts. Nothing fancy, go for general hull damage but of course with a preference for engines and armaments if you have a good shot. Get the bastards to fear for their lives I know no little mercenary will take death just for a little better reputation. Once they’re on the run go full speed ahead for the transport’s system entry line, ram them if we can but cut them off from escape, leave deep-space their only option. Batter their weapons and engines all the while, I’m still hoping to board them before the monitors show up. I will not let this be a failure.”

“Sir, yes Sir.”

They took several lighter rail hits as well as plasma and laser bursts to the shields against the escorts, but with the spinning barrage that The Varangian returned they were taken out of the fight very fast. But now they had the transport to catch up with, disable and board.

The Kryd had a very wise choice of arms. Its owner knew it was a vessel not intended for combat and so chose a very particular set of armaments. The high speed railguns covering it weren’t meant to destroy ships. Instead, they were meant to overwhelm shields and with surgical precision take out things that might impede a speed escape; engines, armaments, scanners, communications. They wouldn’t destroy a ship, but they would make sure that The Kryd itself would not be destroyed or caught.

But never before had Drella’s little toy had to deal with such a persistent hound. Like a thrown knife the Varangian spun on, it’s laser array never tiring. Councillary ships with their tachyon repulsors used a rather different system of propulsion from the typical dark matter vessels of Eden. Though far less maneuverable, they did have a slight edge in speed and here that was very important. The cargo ship couldn’t afford to go to deep space to hope and wait out the Councillary vessel, cargo ships were never stocked for such hideouts. Thus it somehow had to zig-zag away from The Varangian while also making its way into the system. But it’s run didn’t let it get to the safety of the approaching monitors, the weight of fire of laser arrays eventually first just stalling its engines and then finally busting them. Now slowly drifting through space, the CCN vessel got close much faster before going around it much as a shark circles its next morsel. Avoiding the firing lines of the rail weapons it disabled them one by one and finally the communication of the foe, until it was like a sitting duck, moving simply by the motion it had already built up.

It was time to board. Reislaufers assembled to be briefed, donning their powered armours and loading their weapons meanwhile. They were divided into many teams of twelve, given various missions such as apprehending whoever was commandeering the vessel to finding evidence of the suspected criminality of The Kryd. Each team of twelve was to have precisely three of the fresh recruits, letting the more experienced soldiers give them their experience and guide them in the boarding action. Viktor gave a review of what happened, and what was expected to happen.

“Not going yourself, Captain? A little scared?” the Sergeant jested towards Viktor, clasping a boot around his foot.

“No, no. I just want to make sure there’s a little bit left for you to do!”

They laughed.

“It’s on you to find whoever their Captain is and capture or failing that eliminate them. I’m sending the psychic in, too. She’s going to find whatever they’re doing in there and maybe find the leader of the bastards. Play nice, please, or at the very least don’t be an idiot.”

Seeing that the Sergeant was about to make a snide remark he cut the man off, raising a hand. “Shut up, do your duty.”

“Legion Eternal, Eternally Victorious, Captain.”

The flyers went to the docking bays of The Kryd and lowered their ramps to release a flood of Reislaufers. They fanned out making sure nobody was awaiting them in the docking bay for an ambush, before splitting up down the various pathways leading out of enclosure. The place was not too bad for a pirate vessel. There was no trash laying about, no bullet holes or shitty graffiti. The lights were turned off or flickering ominously but quick analysis of circuitry revealed this was intentional to attempt to frighten and disorient the boarding parties. This brought amusement to the Neohumans, who even without visors or goggles had night vision on par with the best military equipment of Eden and Reislaufers were never scared for it was they who did the scaring.

The soldiers split up into the three main groupings as planned: a Hunter Killer team headed by Sergeant Kjaro aiming for the leader of the vessel hopefully leading to the capture of Drella the Swift, the investigation team focused around the psychic who was to find evidence of any transgressions against Eden this vessel was doing, and generalized combat teams that were to secure the vessel as a whole making way for the other teams.

“Well, where to?” queried a Reislaufer, who Alyx instantly recognized as the massive brute who had previously beaten her. He in one hand carried a PDW of some sort, whilst the other bore a massive chainsaw larger than some men which his hand was in much like a glove. Somehow she knew the man was grinning, realizing her recognition. A little anger flared, the man frowning realizing Alyx was harbouring some negativity towards him. She was about to say something not very nice, until a hand went upon her shoulder — Danylo. This corridor is straight for a while, let’s just get moving and when we get to the end we’ll make a choice.”

In truth the cybernetic and gene modded legs of the Reislaufers covered the corridor in seconds, but even that with the reassurance she wasn’t being rushed gave Alyx the composure to properly apply her psychic talent to the situation. Exiting the corridor they found themselves at a small intersection, large dents where directional screens were previously indicating the crew of the vessel did their best to make sure the boarders could not navigate the place. This was in fact, precisely why they had a psychic. Alyx felt a lot of pressure on her with many gazes right there, but it was good she actually had… well, she could only describe it as a trail. She somehow felt the purpose of the vessel, even if now she could not yet articulate it. At the same time she had something to go after, and motioned the other Reislaufers to follow her with the rifle she was given. They went down a hallway, opening a door which seemed to have a sort of bar-like facility. Several of the ships crew were present, and while they didn’t have pirate or human trafficker written all over them they certainly didn’t look like mere security for a trader’s cargo. They were mercenaries, gear very variable rather than standardized and self interest in their eyes and voices. The entry of the Neohumans took them somewhat by surprise, but they were professional enough to react appropriately looking for heavy cover to take before opening fire. Some of the Reislaufers hit the deck, some flipped tables or hid behind pillars and other cover. The only ones who didn’t do so were Alyx, and the giant. The giant ran towards the bar counter, the large impromptu metal barricade serving as cover for the largest amount of the foe. His PDW in rapid fire spat bursts of plasma, while his chainsaw was held high to make an ear piercing rev as it glowed red with heat. As if a mere sand castle he walked through the bar counter, with his plasma PDW unloading full auto shots to leave the mercs on one side as molten piles of goo while with his other hand he cleaved through the rest. One with power armour grabbed the chainsaw hand with both hands, but this only warded off his fate of being bisected by the spinning teeth by half a second. Alyx for her part threw lightning at a man that aimed a rail sniper at her, before shooting another man while sliding towards a flipped refrigerator that some of the foes used as cover. She relayed a message to one of the other Reislaufers to release the maglock on one of his plasma grenades, and the moment the fellow obliged she pulled the bomb towards herself with her mind. Throwing it over her the refrigerator the explosive was remotely detonated via the Noosphere, leaving the four mercs behind the fridge no time to try escape its fiery wrath. The rest of the foe was mopped up with coordinated fire and once it was determined the room had no hostiles left the soldiers convened. “Casualty report.” a Reislaufer demanded, the Noosphere telling Alyx it was Sergeant Maxim Korhonen, her current leader.

“An arm lost, two legs, an eye, one armour rig damaged and to be discarded, one rifle inoperable. Simo is gravely injured, he’ll make his way back.” Danylo replied, working on some battlefield repairs of one man’s cybernetics while cybernetic limbs closed the wounds in the flesh of another Reislaufer.

“Good. Move in one minute. Reload, rest.” Korhonen gave a look to Alyx that meant while she could use this time to rest, she should be deciding their next step. But a sound distracted her. She walked over to investigate, seeing it was one of the mercenaries. The man was clearly alive, some noise coming from him which after a few moments she realized was speech. It was initially incomprehensible to her, for it was as though it was heavily slowed down. She realized then that it was.

“Happens to everyone, it's called outdated shock sometimes.” Korhonen said, walking over to slap the mercenary’s head to smithereens in one blow. “They’re slower than us. A lot slower. You get used to it. He, for example, was saying it hurt a lot to be lying with his spleen between his legs and he wanted us to end it."

Alyx stood in shock, blood and organ bits dripping off her. Shaking her head clear of this, she pointed to another door. "That way." she pointed, before going off. The very instant it opened a railgun fired, hitting the chainsaw bearing brute right in the head. His energy shield took most of the velocity from the attack but it still penetrated his helmet, and took off a good chunk of his head. His very brains were exposed to the open air but somehow Alyx was not surprised to see he kept going.his eyes flared red and he rammed through his fellow Reislaufers to unleash spinning hell to several unfortunate mercenaries. A rocket was shot at him which in mid air he struck with his plasma carbine; the length of his arm meant the projectile exploded just far enough away to only vapourize his limb rather than him in entirety. The railgun armed sniper again took aim, but seeing him the giant threw his chainsaw blade at the foe to split him directly in half. With that done he picked up an unfortunate mercenary and in entirety bit off his skull, chewing momentarily and then swallowed before falling to the ground.

His comrades wasted no time in fanning out, noting they were now in a mess hall of sorts. They made sure to suppress the enemy with automatic fire while they got to cover themselves, but just as many shots were fired in the enemy's general direction as were aimed ones which met with a result of inflicting both suppression and casualties on the foe.

Several enemies in stealth equipment dropped down from the ceiling all but noiselessly, yet the all but did not save them. Blades cut into them while many carbines turned them to ash, and as if nothing happened the Reislaufers returned to the main battle. Alyx was about to ask for some grenades to repeat the earlier telekinetic trick but looking through the crack in the pillar she was using for cover she noted the enemy was doing this job for the squaddies. A man pulled the pin from a fragmentation bomb and with a little mental effort from the psychic it exploded there and then. With the shock amongst the foe Korhonen was about to command a charge, but then stopped when the covers of the service stands opened, each revealing a heavy machine gun. At once all three of the weapons opened fire, their high calibre bullets very threatening to the Reislaufers even with their Neohuman frames and power armours. Sergeant Korhonen cursed, the rain of fire so great he could barely even peek out.

“Fuentes! Do something about those guns.” he ordered, dust from bullet impacts raining on everyone.

“W...what am I to do? I can’t get into their heads, the gunners are professionals and that’s not where my power is.” she replied, glad her augmented ears could detect what the Sergeant was saying in spite of the great noise.

“Just jam the guns!” Maxim called out, and to Alyx surprise she saw the man take out one of his eyes and throw them to the side. The eyeball twitched momentarily, before turning at the gun emplacements.

“Right, I know the pattern now. I’m sending you the schematics and the parts to target. Just melt a little bit of the feed system that’s all.”

As if they were before her the psychic saw a diagram of the HMG assemblies, and understanding what she had to do wasted no time in silencing their fire. One, then another, and yet another. The enemy was not ready for this to say the least. The mercenaries counting on the fact they had effectively pinned down the boarding soldiers had decided to thus move up, but without the covering fire given by the heavy guns they were largely caught in the open and thus promptly gunned down. Those that were still in good positions were not stupid enough to stay here with their comrades dead and they all retreated through different corridors, making sure to split up so the Reislaufers wouldn’t effectively be able to give chase. They rallied for now, again counting their losses. The head of the fallen giant now acknowledged as Kristoff was sealed to prevent any further loss of brain material, and his systems were made to hibernate in the hope of preserving the man whilst a wounded Reislaufer carried him back to The Varangian. The location of the fallen trooper was transmitted to other nearby teams so they could properly aid him, and thus the squad gathered up to continue on their mission.

“Right, we’re losing numbers, so be careful. The mission will be finished either way, let’s not have it be done at the expense of any lives. Move out.” the Sergeant said, and so they did.

In a single file line they went through a door Alyx suggested, making sure nobody got a chunk of their head blown off the moment they stepped through. This was now the kitchen it seemed, the place once again surprising the Reislaufers given this was a vessel clearly trading illicit matters. At the same time, the Ulex and their buddies owning this vessel were fairly affluent in rumour, so why not have a bit of luxury?

That said, it seemed that what they were previously cooking was not quite luxurious. Gruels of some sort, the cheap shit you gave to people for a penny when all they cared about was making sure their stomach was full. A Reislaufer kicked a pot, and as if that were some sort of queue a door opened revealing several simmies of different varieties. They all bore weapons, and with their typical simian noises rustled in. Fighting them wasn’t like fighting normal people, for even though they were still very significantly slower than Neohumans in movement and reaction they moved erratically, their unpredictable movements making hitting them quite a chore. Besides, while not as strong as a Neohuman (much more, one in power armour) they were certainly far better combatants than the previous mercenaries in melee combat.

The soldiers did not properly get into gear for combatting the apes before yet another door opened, revealing some greenskin variants. Their weapons were crude, but the ideal things for fighting Neohumans. Large brutal axes, clearly improvized assault rifles firing massive bullets on the verge of being classified as autocannons. A third and final door opened revealing more of the same previous mercenaries, whilst vents broke open to drop more xenoforms of all sorts. It became a true bloodbath with bullets and lasers, plasma and blades, and all other tools of death flying through the scene to leave the floor many different shades of red. A particularly large and dark greenskin entered combat, and Maxim Korhonen stepped up to face the thing. It was much taller even than fallen Kristoff carrying a great two handed axe. The weapon was clearly far more advanced than the typical ramshackle thing one could see from a greenskin, very much approaching the sword that the Sergeant drew in sophistication. He flourished the thing, before running at the thing. He went for a slice from the side, except he didn’t for it was a feint! He turned the blade to the side instead for a stab, but it didn’t matter. The beast simply slammed him aside and went on assuming it’s foe was done with. But while Korhonen had underestimated it, the alien had made the same mistake. Rising, Korhonen charged at the greenskin from the side with a simple downwards chop which it turned just in time to parry — sort of. While it had stopped the sword of the axe from cutting it, the great weapon it bore was now cleaved in two. It did have a sort counter-initiative now, however, and punched the sword out of the Sergeant’s hands.

“This is why we practice fighting without our weapons, Fuentes!” he called out with a chuckle to the psychic who - for reason of being busy fighting several simmies - did not find this very humourous. Korhonen punched the thing, but save for ripping some flesh off of its skin it seemed unphased. It returned one of its own, but the Sergeant caught the flying limb, biting a good chunk of the muscle powering it. At the same time he kicked it in a shin just hard enough to break its bone, and leave it unstable. Pulling himself up the dazed greenskin’s shoulders he stood on them for the remaining second it was upright and twisted its head off to show the whole room. It rekindled the fighting spirit of the Reislaufers, whilst demoralizing the whole of the enemy mercenaries.

As if trying to mimick the Reislaufer, an Ulex jumped on the neck of Maxim the moment he dropped back to the ground. It tried to cut his throat open with a surgical tool, but after piercing flesh it found no further purchase for the man’s neck was entirely cybernetic. It tried again, but it didn’t get a third try when Korhonen grabbed the thing, and after a soft squeeze of its bones he dropped the now limp body. He didn’t waste time stepping on the creature as was somewhat customary for Councillary troops, instead moving in to aid his comrades with his blade. Minutes passed, and all the Reislaufers were covered in red from head to toe, but they had nevertheless won the skirmish. With that said, it was a sour victory, the only truly standing soldiers remaining being Korhonen, Alyx, Danylo and Fjodor Ninisto - a simple rifleman.

“Do you think we can make it? Just us four?” Maxim asked, looking to the psychic. He appeared quite eerie with his throat bearing a slice that homo sapiens would long be dead of, and half his face’s skin torn off right down the middle leaving his moustache split into two.

Taking her gaze off of the Sergeant’s mutilation Alyx looked to the remaining squad before shrugging. “If we’re careful.” she said, before continuing seeing the looks she got from her comrades. “There’s a lot dead, not just here. The other soldiers, they’re rolling through the ship leaving nothing alive. But it’s not safe, though there’s far less of them I can feel there’s still some of the mercenaries still roving about.”

Korhonen rubbed his forehead wearily, before nodding. “Alright, lead the way.” he said, sheathing his sword and readying his plasma rifle. The group followed the psychic’s lead, her directions getting ever more confident as she felt they were getting close. “Stop.” she said, raising a hand. “There’s some coming. A lot coming.” she said, pointing to the end of the hallway they were currently in. “From there.”

“What do we do?” Korhonen demanded, knowing from the inflection in the psychic’s voice it was far more than they could take on. She turned to the side and forced her fingers into the bottom of the wall before pushing it upwards, revealing a closet of sorts. “In there, three of us can fit.” She stated, looking to Fjodor. “You, run.” Alyx commanded, before pulling in Danylo and Maxim and closing the cramped space. A minute or so passed, until the rattle of footsteps came and went. After some seconds passed Danylo went to open the closet once more, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Wait.” Alyx mouthed, for yet another small gaggle of mercenaries passed soon. Finally she opened the closet, and again they continued through the vessel.

The trio moved rather quietly given each of them was covered in metal and weighed about the same as four or five outdateds. They didn’t let this get to their heads though for even if the naked ear of most Edenites couldn’t sense the Reislaufers for some distance there were many scanners about the place which could report them, and they’d be forced to run at any moment. “We’re close.” Alyx said, and as they turned a corner she pointed towards a large blast door. “There, whatever this ship is really about is there.” Both Sergeant and Danylo were apprehensive about this. They didn’t have the sense of premonition, nor the general sense of the universe that Alyx did and just couldn’t find the confidence she had. Still, they had nothing to really say against going through the blast doors and as such they followed her.

Alyx tried to open them, and upon failing looked to Danylo who nodded and went to the control panel. From beneath the skin of his arms several small cybernetic limbs emerged which bore into the device and after a bit of noise the blast doors opened. The three went through it to find a small corridor at the end of which were two simple doors, upon seeing which the Sergeant paused. “Don’t worry, nothing… nothing really bad is on the other end.” Alyx said, and dragged the other two Neohumans through the door. What they saw was… well, it was unexpected even to the psychic. It was almost a whole city of shanties stacked upon one another in a favela like manner. Some were clustered around another structure underneath them, which after quick scans were revealed to be reactors and engines. The Reislaufers came to the same conclusion in but a moment: slaves. By the look of a few cargo containers and cages here and there, it seemed that they worked parts of the ship while it was in transit from port to port. When a friendly port was reached, masses of the people would be scooped up and sold. Fear of being sold to a bad buyer was apparently enough of a motivation for the people to do proper work, for there was a look of exhaustion amongst many of the slaves.

Those near enough to properly see the entry of the Reislaufers looked at them in astonishment, and it was only moments before a crowd had formed. The Neohumans were clearly not the mercenaries that Drella had hired, but as armed giants soaked in blood and with chunks of skin hanging off they didn’t quite look like liberators either. Korhonen spoke up, knowing something had to be said. “Everyone here is going to be freed. We have boarded this vessel and are promptly taking control of it. Your slavers are one by one being exterminated, the situation is under control.” Noticing the crowd closing in tighter Korhonen raised his rifle meaningfully, and spoke again before anyone could ask a question.

“Please, remain calm. Soon you will all be out of here, but until then you need to keep quiet, don’t do anything. Please.” With that he motioned for Alyx and Danylo to follow him back to the halls of the ship, making sure to close the blast doors behind themselves. Yes these people would be freed, but they didn’t need a stampede just about now. Maxim opened a line back to The Varangian, getting ahold of the Captain and informing him of the situation.

“We’ve found what they’re doing, Sir. Slaves, a lot of them. We haven’t counter, but it’s a lot, bigger than the usual operation.”

“Excellent work, Sergeant. With the docking bay and surrounding area secured I’m sending in reinforcements, I’ll be joining them and I’ll see this for myself. Make your way back to the docking bay as well, this ship is ours now.”

Viktor closed off the line, and had to bring forth all of his will power to not break into song and dance. Not only had his gambit paid off, but he was going to make a name for himself, a name not associated with the January Massacres. This was his way forwards, this was how he would rise up the ranks of the Councillary armed forces and eventually… eventually… eventually there’d be whole Legions under his command, eventually the worlds of Eden would all give tribute to him and the face of his Neohuman perfection would be etched into every world. But for now this power fantasy could rest, for now he had to save lives and earn the right to that future.

Back on The Kryd the trio obeyed their orders, going on back to the docking bay. The sound of gunfire and motorized blades came from everywhere, and there was thus no point trying to navigate the ship by simply avoiding it. Their progress halted for a moment though, when Alyx again felt something. She felt something very bad. “We’re… we’re going to be surrounded. Down that way-” she said, pointing down a corridor. “A bunch of xenos are coming. We have to go, and the only way is back. They know we’re here they saw us on a camera, we’re easy pickings to them. We’ll keep running, but we’ll just get cut off by some mercenaries running towards the escape pods. We’ll take another turn, and a few more, but eventually we’ll just get caught by the first group that split up to get us. It’s over.” she said, with an eerie calmness.”

“What?” was all Danylo could say.

“And you’re sure of this?” asked the Sergeant.

“Yes.”

“Then run off, both of you. I’ve seen enough old movies to know what I’m supposed to do. I’ll keep them busy, you survive and tell my story.”

Danylo was about to say something, but the Sergeant raised a hand. “I told you, I’ve seen movies. You’re the young idealist that’s going to say something like there’s a better way, but everyone knows there isn’t. Go!

Neither of the Reislaufers was wanting to dishonour Korhonen’s sacrifice and so they ran off. Alyx momentarily turned her head to look at the man, seeing him kneeling with his sword in his lap and pistol drawn in one hand whilst he crossed himself with the other. She’d have saluted the man, if she hadn’t been running for her life. Soon she heard the man’s sword slicing flesh, gunfire, and eventually nothing.

They had been running for about half an hour, the sounds of combat now merely sporadic as they stopped to take in their surroundings.

“What now?” Danylo asked.

“We go another way. Quick, there’s more mercs running about.” she said to Danylo while pointing down another path. They ran down it, hitting another fork. While Alyx was deciding which way to go once more, a Ulex ran from one to another, giggling as it did so.

“Wait that’s… that the Drella bastard!” Danylo announced, running after the thing. Alyx tried to warn him that it wasn’t the way to go, she wasn’t fast enough. The doors he was going through forcefully closed as he was about half way through them, and while they weren’t enough to split his augmented frame in two it was more than enough to heavily damage him.

“Idiot!” Alyx roared, going over to the stricken Danylo. “It didn’t seem silly to you he just leisurely ran along by us, that he was giggling the whole time?” She didn’t let him reply, picking him up over a shoulder and looking from side to side. Already enough time had been wasted for more of the ship’s defenders to be dangerously near and it took all of her emotional regulators to prevent a panic.

She went the way where the Ulex had come from, almost having made it to the end of the corridor when a burst of laser fire crossed her vision. Grabbing Danylo she hugged a wall and kept as quiet as possible, hoping whoever was doing the fighting would just run by. She was somewhat surprised then when from around the corner a rifle was instantly pointed at her, and then a momentarily surprised Sergeant Kjaro appeared. He raised an eyebrow, noting there were only two Reislaufers and one was injured. “We found slaves, we got hit, we’re all that’s left of the squad.” Alyx realized then Kjaro was alone, who noting the look she gave him responded with a shrug.

“Likewise, more or less. Well then, I best be off, I need to find the little Drella bastard. He’s close.”

“Yes, he just ran by us. Used a door as a trap, did this to Danylo.” Alyx gestured to the long gash along the length of the soldier she held.

“What? You should have said so sooner bloody hell!” the Sergeant roared, running down the hallway. The same “trap” sprung on him but he caught the door going to slam him, and with his hands and tore it off before throwing it aside. He turned smugly to Alyx, and gave a soft salute before turning back to continue his chase.

“Wait!” the psychic called out, waiting for Kjaro to turn yet again to face her. “You can’t just leave us like this. Anyway you won’t find the little rat without me, we stick together.” Blood rushed to the Sergeant’s face as his hatred for the entire universe and the psychic came to surface, but there was reason enough in what she said. With a growl Oleksandr relented, motioning with his head for Alyx to catch up. Following psychic impulses and heat signatures from the Ulex they got closer and closer to Drella, finally entering a rather large room. It was dark, illuminated only by a multitude of screens and piles of electronics sparking. “There!” the Sergeant pointed, raising his rifle and firing a burst of laser. The Ulex was furiously typing something in a terminal, but a shield formed around it protecting it. Just as the Sergeant realized this he charged at the vile xeno with his bayonet but it ran aside, jumping inside a chamber which the Sergeant recognized as an escape pod.

“Enjoy!” the alien cheered, as through a window of the pod it pointed to a screen hanging off of a wall. T-Minus 9:59 until self destruct it read in very large red text. At the same time the door to the room closed and from the piles of electronic several robots with clearly violent intent arose. “Bye-Bye!” Drella cried, and the pod shot out into space.

“Captain, the vessel is self destructing, evacuate all troops now!” The Sergeant screamed into his line with the vessel, firing his entire magazine into the first battle robot that approached him before dropping the weapon and taking his chain axes out instead. He split one in twain, and then another, but he was in moments surrounded and beat down. Several robots turned to Alyx who walked back with the not fully regenerated Danylo still hoisted on her shoulders. She flung one robot aside with her powers, and melted the arms of another, and then she dropped Danylo while falling to her knees. Suddenly all the tracking with her powers combined with the precognition and use of them in combat hit her like a truck, and she felt as though about to faint. Everything slowly turned dark, until a very sharp and hot pain struck her in the back. She turned to see Danylo had some sort of surgical tool jammed into her, before the Reislaufer spoke up. “Rage! Your inhibitors, turn them off, now!” But she didn’t have to, Danylo had done so manually. Rather than turning black everything instead turned red. “Oh shit.” She said, “I’m feeling it.” She heard her heartbeat as though it was jammed into her very ear and with each beat it was as though the whole universe shook.

She blinked, her vision suddenly clear. She looked down to see her right leg missing and her scalp some metres away. Alyx hopped to rotate, strangely pleased at the ability to keep balance in this moment. “Well. They’re done!” came her cheerful announcement, before collapsing in front of a stunned Danylo and Sergeant. Around her all the robots were destroyed.

“Bloody hell,” the still conscious duo said in unison, the Sergeant standing up to look about for a way out. “We’re trapped.” Danylo said, shaking his head.

“Wrong again, idiot.” The Sergeant said, in spite of the fact Danylo hadn’t been wrong in front of Kjaro before. Oleksandr had to admit to himself he was a little annoyed that the Engineer too left consciousness and didn’t hear the insult. He went to the wall beside the blast doors, and after a running start smashed into it once, twice, thrice, and then a fourth time going straight through it. With laughter he returned, reloading his rifle and now picking up the two injured Reislaufers onto either shoulder.

Kjaro began to sprint towards the docking bay, again speaking to The Varangian. “Sir, I’ve got the psychic and a little friend. The Ulex escaped, though you might be able to still hit the pod if you’re lucky.

“Affirmative, Sergeant.” Viktor said, long since have decided a way out of the situation with the self-destruction. “Listen, make your way to the slave shacks. We’re using our laser batteries to cut off the rest of the vessel from their holdings, you have to get in there and shut off the Engines and Reactors so the cut is clean and the place doesn’t explode. Hurry!”

Kjaro cursed, knowing he now had less than six minutes to do this. Running through the ship with his unnatural Neohuman speed to get to the actual slave holding only took a minute, but he had to find where the console was too. This didn’t seem to be made any easier by the fact that upon entry there seemed to be some sort of small civil war going on with the slaves. They were divided by the majority of those who seemed happy to aid their new liberators and find freedom, and those who had developed a soft stockholm syndrome. These ones had through work got good positions with the slavers and even the potential to join their ranks, and though these were a minority they were better fed, more organized, and even had some real arms and armour rather than just machine tools, pipe bombs, molotov cocktails and whatever else could be found or jury rigged with the junk they had.

Regardless of if they were for or against him, Kjaro shoved through. The occasional bullets or molotov hit him but they merely tickled, though he realized that some of that which was directed at him instead hit the Reislaufers he carried on either shoulder. Well, they’d have to deal with it. He got to one of the reactors, and rose to the summit of it to find one of the workers cowering. The Sergeant screamed at him demanding where the control panels were for them and found a terrified finger pointing towards a high tower. Given the gunfire coming from it’s roof it seemed that the place was of those still loyal to the slavers. He cursed, dropping Danylo and Alyx to the trust of the fellow and sprinting to the tower. Oleksandr had three minutes left, and depending on exactly how much rabble he’d have to clear the man might indeed not make it.

Sliding off the reactor he jumped onto a passing car before jumping on to a power line and yelling in anger as it was unable to hold his gargantuan weight. Deciding not to try any more tricks Kjaro simply sprinted towards the tower with quite a hail of bullets coming to him as he neared it. He returned fire but there were far too many of the renegades to kill with his laser. Rather than bothering to go up the large stairwell of the tower he ascended it’s walls, digging his fingers deep into the walls effectively forcing new handholds into existence. After going up a few stories a window showed a terminal with several corpses around it: jackpot. Climbing in Kjaro elbowed a man’s neck broken before going to the keyboard. He jammed a finger into an access port to interface with it via the cybernetics in his bones and with a triumphal roar turned off the reactors and engines of the spacious room. “It’s done.” he said to the Captain, and without a reply heard a very loud noise. That noise was The Varangian’s laser batteries cutting out the slave holding from the rest of the vessel, which not long after exploded.

While Neohuman flyers started going to the slave holding to attach it to the Councillary vessel the great amount of noise gave wake to Alyx, the psychic standing up. Even if out of consciousness a Neohuman could take in their surroundings and she was already aware of the cowering slave worker. She noticed something rather odd about him, that being his ears. They were pointed, but quick scans indicated he was indeed wholly human. “What… what is with your ears?” came her query, a gesture made to her own ears to demonstrate.

“What? I just got surgery, that’s it.”

“But… why?”

“I don’t know, it looked alright.”

A strange disgust overcame the psychic, one she had never felt before. She reached out, and took the man by the throat. She squeezed first extremely softly, the man trying to say something of protest and get augment her limb away, but without the slightest effect. Then she squeezed hard, and the light in his eyes dimmed. Something did this to her, something in her augments made her find something so internally wrong with someone choosing to willingly make such a nonsensical solely aesthetic change to the natural body with surgery.

What she had just done hit her just as it happened, and she recoiled from her own action. “What the fuck have I done.” she said out loud, not whispering nor shouting, merely saying the small amount of rhetoric for… well, no real reason she could feel. Again she collapsed into unconsciousness, hatred for her condition and all the belonging she felt mere hours ago forgotten.

Viktor’s along with other smaller boarding crafts docked with this small part of The Kryd, and Reislaufers entered the slave holding in great number. The renegade slaves were all put down with no allowance of surrender. With that said, a great many were still allowed to live albeit not as they would then want; their brains were removed if intact, before being sealed and preserved to convert them into Neohumans in the future when workers were needed.

Viktor using a jump-pack ascended to the highest point of the slave box, watching as Reislaufers handed out foods, medicine, and whatever else the people were lacking. Already the system monitors were informed of what happened with proofs and were now backing off. Communiques were sent across all Eden informing all news outlets and states of what had happened, of how the glorious warriors of the Councillary Confederation of Neohumanity had liberated slaves and they were to be returned to their homes in little more than a week. A Reislaufer approached the Captain, who barely went out of the second daydream he had of the great amount of fame and power this event would bring him. He smugly knew that the faces of many heads of state would soon be looking at a beautiful image of his own. “Yes, Yesaul?”

“Shall I give the order to purge the xenos, Lord Captain?”

“No, Yesaul. We have to win hearts and minds. We’ll take everyone here back to Sol, men and aliens alike. We will of course give the real people an option to be upgraded but only by will shall it be done. All will see that I am… that is to say, the Confederation is a great liberator, and we are the way forwards. The return of the xenos here will be a powerful blow to the narratives spouted by hateful foreign powers, they will be discredited and I shall be shown righteous. It’ll of course be grand when people return with tales of Sol’s beauty, too.” The entire universe was in front of Viktor and he spread his arms. A soft chuckle came from him, that turned to a harsh laughter. Few in the universe heard it, but as a living creature Eden shuddered at the sound. It was buried in the music of the spheres, but all souls of the universe could sense a foreboding in it.


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Hidden 23 days ago Post by Monochromatic Rainbow
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Monochromatic Rainbow Insert extremely witty statement - I'm tapped out

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I was killed near Rzhev
In a nameless bog,
In fifth company,
On the Left flank,
In a cruel air raid

I did not hear the explosions
And did not see the flash
Down to an abyss from a cliff
No start, no end

And in this whole world
To the end of its days -
Neither patches, nor badges
From my tunic you’ll find

-Aleksandr Tvardovsky, “I was killed near Rzhev”


Kurkesta-II, planetary capital of Volynogra

A distant rumbling echoed through the still morning air like rolling thunder. On the horizon, flashes of light lit up the dawn sky, the sound of orbital artillery washing over the position. Were she as blissfully ignorant as she had been but a year ago, Melekhova could have mistaken it for the innocent murmur of something natural. But she had seen far too much to mistake it for anything else. It had been eight months since she’d been deployed to the war zone raging across the fertile world of Kurkesta-II. Compared to the vast megalopolises of Mirvolyudki, the cities upon this world seemed little greater than a small town - but they had been turned into fortified citadels, bombed to rubble through continuous orbital strikes. The tank battalions of Mirvolyudki had swept aside comparatively less experienced defenders in the open plains where once vast bumper crops had been sewn. Now, though, they had been encamped in a siege of this city for months on end.

The occasional crack of sniper fire echoed across the near landscape. At times, she would hear a muted scream or shriek of pain in response, then the clatter of answering machine gun fire. Sometimes they would find their mark, and an enemy sniper would fall from their perch. Mostly, the killer would have already snuck away, quietly laughing to themselves. She could not fault the gunners, futile as their desperate returning fire was - it was impossible not to do something. To sit idly by as comrades fell without answering. She had done the same.

Soon, it would hopefully end. Today, they would commence the final assault. Now, the traitors’ holdout would be eliminated, and the rebuilding of the world could begin. She of course would be redeployed to the next hellish war zone - but at least she would not be stuck in this nightmare of a city anymore. She would no longer suffer in this ditch, unknowing if a sniper’s bullet awaited her around the next corner.

Behind her, she heard the earth shaking tremor of ground based artillery opening up, their salvos of heavy shells joining the cacophony of the warships in orbit. Explosives arced overhead, slamming into defensive fortifications. Clouds of dust rose from the earthworks and reinforced concrete structures that ringed the city as the explosives slammed into their marks. Even as the artillery continued to increase in its volume, vast fireballs bloomed across the horizon, bomber aircraft far out of her sight delivering precision strikes on the enemy fortifications. A small part of her swelled with some twisted pride in the power of her nation, but a much larger part of her was filled with dread at the thought of what would await them.

The almighty din filled the heavens and earth, even as the mechanical whine of tanks and armored carriers began to trundle towards the enemy lines underneath the cover of the apocalyptic bombardment. From the trenches rang the war cry of the Sukhoputnyye Voyska, a deep, throaty cry of “URA!”

Thousands of vehicles burst forward from the line, followed shortly behind by steady streams of millions of foot soldiers. Ahead of the tanks ranged minesweeper teams, sifting through the devastated hellscape of mine and shell craters to clear safe passage for the assault teams. At times, an explosion would ring out and a team would be destroyed, or a tank would strike an undetected mine, going up in flames. From the enemy positions, those brave enough to open themselves to the artillery spotters, a hail of withering fire erupted. Heavy hypervelocity slugs tearing through body armor and the flesh behind, directed energy weapons supplied from the broader cluster burned horrific holes through plasteel and skin alike. At such close range, few shots missed their mark.

Melekhova cursed the Raygonians, the Arcadians, the Halcyon Continuance, every single member of that accursed alliance that fed supplies and arms to the scum of Tretirykh. She cursed the foul beings who had begun the ‘movement’ deep within the underbelly of the Union. She cursed herself, for she had lapsed, and had she not done so she would not be here now. And as it came time for her unit to go over the top, to charge forth into the awaiting maelstrom of the final stretch of hellish urban war that awaited her and her unit, she joined in the war cry that echoed along the entire front as she and her comrades took their rifles in hand and surged out of the trench.
____________________________________________________________________________

A sniper bolt burned through the armor covering starshyna Nalikova’s chest. A spray of blood and viscera erupted from the crater where before had been her chest, covering Melekhova’s face and body in pieces of the woman. The starshyna collapsed in a limp heap as the smell of ozone filled the air. Melekhova stared, her mouth agape at the prostrate form of her commander, then up and around at the surrounding buildings, frantic, desperate to see from where the shot had come.

She screamed at her squad to take cover, pulling her machine gunner from her position overlooking the cratered boulevard.

Her vision shifted into infrared as she ducked behind a nearby wall, and she scanned the skyscraping residential buildings. She strained to glimpse anything out of the ordinary for the devastated metropolis, any stray heat signatures that might give the killer away.

Out of a ruined home, she saw something, a faint glimpse of what looked like the barrel of a rifle, warm from the recently fired shot. Forgetting her own self preservation, she seized the abandoned machine gun from its position, hefting the weapon to her shoulder and squeezing the trigger. The deafening burst of the weapon filled the air as her helmet clamped tight over her ears, shielding them from the worst of it. The bullets tore through the plascrete and anything that might be hiding behind it, kicking up a dust cloud that obscured much of her vision, even thermal.

A dull thud reached her ears, and she cautiously took a step forward, and then another, her eyes alighting on the bleeding, crumpled, bullet ridden form that had fallen from its perch. A strange thing, what of its skin she could discern an unusual greenish, scaly material. The eyes, now dead and lifeless, were small and beady, out of place from the squat, densely built body. A rifle unlike their own lay next to it, a strange device that glowed gently with indicator lights. Hurriedly, she dashed forward, seizing the rifle, or whatever it was.

She stood right over the dead body of the foreigner. It was true, she realized. Wherever this creature… a Raygonian, if she recalled correctly, had come from - it was most certainly from outside of the Union’s space. Most probably sent by the unholy cabal that ruled the hive planet to which the thing’s species had lent their name. The implications weighed heavy on her, and she stumbled back to her squad and sank to her knees next to the dead body of starshyna Nalikova.

“My god, it’s true.” She muttered, looking up at the remaining members of her squad. “It’s true, that… it wasn’t from here. The rumors are true.”

Her comrades said nothing, the gunner gingerly moving towards her and resting an arm on her shoulder, taking back her weapon. Another moved up, grabbing hold of one of the starshyna’s ID tags and yanking the chain free.

Wetness fell upon her chin, and Melekhova realized she had been crying. “Her children.” She whispered hoarsely, “She joined for them, she was telling me how excited they were that mommy was fighting the traitors, that her oldest would turn ten soon. She was due for leave to visit her in just a few weeks. Oh god, what do I tell her? What do I tell them? Little mladshiy was due for her first implant but she wanted to be there for her because she was scared.” Tears came faster now, streaming down her face as she sobbed, pulling the gunner into her embrace, “I’ll kill them all.” She said, teeth gritted, “I’ll kill every single one of them.” She choked back another sob, crushing a piece of rubble to powder with a cybernetic fist, not minding the signals of pain, “Why wasn’t it me? I have nobody, why was it her? She’s not a priztuyvnik like me, she had something to give!”

Out of the corner of her eye, her vision blurred by tears, she noticed something - Nalikova’s arm outstretched before her, a small electronic device in her hand. Gently, another member of the squad pulled it from her fingers, before she too began to cry. Her tears joined those of Melekhova as she slumped against the wall. On the dimly glowing screen, the image of a happy family beamed back at them. Starshyna Nalikova’s eyes filled with life, a broad smile on her face as she held her newborn son, her first child beaming up at her with a face full of wonder. Behind them stood five others, Nalikova’s other mates, one of them pregnant, all beamed at the camera. One of them - Melekhova remembered her name being Nataly - had her hand rested on the starshyna’s shoulder, an expression of the purest adoration on it.

Melekhova clutched the image tight to her chest as the unit mourned in silence.

It felt as though hours passed, but slowly the gunner returned, crouching low beside her. “We need to move on, Corporal.” She pulled Melekhova’s eyes away from the dead form of the commander, “I know you two were close, but we need to move on.” The sounds of urban warfare echoed around them in the distance as she spoke, explosions and gunfire muted by the husks of the dying city.

Melekhova nodded, slowly standing from her perch. “I’ll carry her.” She murmured, “We’ll rendezvous with Kapitan Galina. We can move on from there.” She looked around at her unit, “Pass me the thing’s rifle - I’m sure command will want to get their hands on as many of these things as possible. They go straight through our armor.”

An uneasy look passed between the squad and the gunner stepped forward again. “Corporal, her body is heavy. We’ll be slowed down, we might not be able to rendezvous with the Kapita-”

She was cut off as Melekhova placed her hand over her mouth, “I am not leaving her here.” She said, her voice choked with emotion. “We leave nobody behind. I’m not leaving her here in this godforsaken city. I’m not leaving her to be found by some pack of those… things from the rest of the cluster for them to do… Heaven knows what they might do to her! Yefreytor Filippovnu Madgalina, I will carry every single member of this squad back home myself, if I have to. Is that understood?”

The gunner said nothing, her eyes wide as she took a slight step back from the incensed Corporal. Melekhova looked at her squad, meeting each of their eyes in turn. None raised further protest.

Silently, they turned back the way they had come, crouching low as they dashed between points of cover. Steadily, they made their way to the point of the heaviest fighting, following the sound of explosions and the callouts barked on radio. The ground began to shake once more, and the squeal of tank tracks pierced through the air. The deafening report of field artillery shook loose a small rain of pebble sized rubble from the ruins surrounding them with every blast.

The central city square lay ahead. On its outskirts, a forward operating base had been hastily erected. A primitive hospital and morgue showed the devastating results of the final push to capture the city. The moans and cries of the sick and dying filled the air, the rows upon rows of simple coffins awaiting disposal via composting, were ample testament to the cost. Formality was not stood upon, not now - in short order she and her squad had reported to the Kapitan of the company. They had been assigned on scouting duty, to investigate the quality of defenses and debrief command of possible assault routes. Images flashed between them, audio recordings, and the final moments of Starshyna Nalikova.

“I couldn’t leave her there.” She said, after some minutes had passed without an exchange. “I… you saw the thing that killed her. I couldn’t just leave her out there, we don’t know what they might do!”

The kapitan remained silent for a moment longer before nodding, resting a hand on Melekhova’s shoulder. “I understand. It was dangerous, what you did, but I understand. There is a time to mourn, but that time is not now. I can’t have you if you can’t fight, understand? There is precious little time to waste now, I will see to it that you are given time to mourn and contact her next of kin.”

“With respect, kapitan, there is no time for this.” interrupted the gunner, stepping between the two.

Melekhova nodded, steeling herself. “My unit is awaiting orders, kapitan. We are ready.”

____________________________________________________________________________

A red burst of blood splattered the wall behind the unarmored humans, his strange energy-weapon clattering to the ground as he fell forward. Melekhova stared grimly down the sights of her rifle, her heart hardened to the man’s expression of shock. Another one of the Ragyonians - as she had confirmed they were called - hastily aimed its weapon in her direction, and she shifted her aim, sending another two bullets downrange. More blood painted the floor of the corridor, and the thing crumpled to the ground.

An earthshaking tremor rocked the building, and the squad steadied themselves, well accustomed to the impact of artillery on the remaining defenses. Only a small shrivel of enemy territory remained in the city, and before entering the building they had been able to view the other side of the battle, as the encircling army of the Soyuzka i Mirvolyudkiyska ground its way through the defenses. It was a matter of hours at most now until the last defender was killed, and the world would be restored to order.

Gunfire erupted in the room adjacent to the corridor, accompanied by the erie crack of foreign energy rifles discharging. A tense moment followed as Melekhova and her squad positioned themselves by a doorway.

“Three enemy combatants behind a barricade, 3 o’clock, two of our own and one injured, 10 o’clock.” Reported a squad member, watching through a small crack in the wall through which her enhance vision could penetrate. “Wall is too thick to hit them from behind. Solid plascrete.”

Melekhova grimaced, “Just for this one room, I’d like it if we hadn’t built it to withstand the apocalypse. Federova, you’re on point, flashbang and go in shooting. Our people should be unaffected. Nataliya, suppressing fire while we take position. Now move, move, move!”

As she had ordered, her squad carried out the plans to the letter - a brilliant flash lit up the room as the grenade detonated, and the squad poured through the doorway, weapons blazing. Instantly, one of the enemy went down, another unarmored human, her body collapsing limply over one of her comrades, shielding him from the worst of the gunfire. Another went down in short order, her weapon discharging wildly in all directions as she fell. Outflanked and caught off guard by the unexpected assault the remaining man threw his weapons to the ground, crying out in thickly accented, broken speech, “Surrender! Me surrender!”

Melekhova blinked, unsure how to react. She looked back at her unit, her confusion obvious. Nobody in her squad moved, they remained crouched behind cover. The members of the other unit, however, did move. One of them leapt from his position, sprinting over to the enemy soldier and driving his fist into the man’s face, then his gut, his ear, his chest. Again, and again, and again, as he screamed meaninglessly, tears glistening on his cheeks.

“Heavens damn you!” He screamed, grabbing the man and throwing him into the center of the room, pulling his sidearm from its holster and aiming it in his direction. "Give me a reason not to shoot you right here and now."

Relative silence descended, and Melekhova and her squad rose from their own positions. Cautiously, they approached the two, motionless as they watched each other. Her eyes alighted on the surrendering man, a haggard looking thing, his eyes bloodshot and his leg was wrapped tightly in a dirty bandage. She almost pitied him, but her heart held little room for sympathy for the soldiers of Tretirykh, let alone those who had come from abroad to aid them.

“They killed everyone.” Melekhova’s attention was drawn back to the man from the other squad, his hand trembling as he pointed the handgun at the foreigner. “You killed everyone! How many of my family are left?! Just me? My sister, what of her? My mother, my brothers, my father? How many of them are lying in some ditch somewhere?” He stomped closer, pressing the muzzle to the man’s forehead.

Wide eyed, the captive looked around at the others for help, for salvation, desperate for something to save him. “I- I… I not Trah- Trahterick! From Federation! Not Trahterick!” His breath came in ragged gasps, and he looked between each of the observers, seeking their intervention. “I… I like Mirvolyudki!” He forced a smile, his eyes darting between the gun to his head and the other soldiers standing around him. He began to sing the anthem of the union - or at least, he tried to. The cadence was there, but the words themselves were scattered and confused.

“Nikita, put the gun down.” Murmured the second member of the squad, her eyebrows narrowed. “Put the gun down, and I’ll take him and green over there back to camp. We’ve won at this point.”

The foreigner’s eyes shifted to her, his expression filled with hope. He smiled at her, “Y-yes, surrender! I surrender! I lose! You win! I help!” He edged towards her, “Help carry! I help!” The man was visibly trembling, his emaciated body barely looked as though it could support his own weight, let alone assist in carrying a wounded soldier. He began to speak rapidly to himself in his own language, incomprehensible to any of the assembled soldiers. Melekhova debated intervening as he looked back up, “Pl-please! I have fami-”

The sound of a gunshot echoed through the room. Two dozen more followed in its wake as the soldier emptied his gun into the foreigner.

The man fell to the floor, dead, in a rapidly forming pool of his own blood and brain matter. Melekhova stared, wide eyed in shock as he tossed the empty magazine aside, inserting a new one and emptying it into the foreigner’s body as well. Callously, he slid the weapon back in its holster, delivering a final kick to the corpse and spitting on what used to be his face.

“So did I.”

____________________________________________________________________________

At last. They had taken the planet. As she looked out from the viewing screen at the planet below, Melekhova could not help but wonder at the purpose behind it all. Tretirykh had seized the world, murdered millions, and begun a war that already had claimed in excess of a billion lives. What was their aim? They knew, surely, that their war was futile, that the people of the union would stand strong against their atrocities. And yet, how many wasted lives now lay upon that godforsaken rock? How many broken promises lay upon the plains of the world below? How many children would awake, now motherless, how many parents would have to consecrate the memorials of their children, how many had been robbed of family and friends by Tretirykh?

Behind her, her squad gunner lurked, wordless like she.

“You never told me what happened to your old squad before you were reassigned to us, Lavrova.” Melekhova murmured to her, breaking the silence. “You never told anyone, as far as I know.”

Silence reigned between them again as Lavrova did not respond, remaining soundless as she watched the planet gradually shrink away. They had been spared little more than a few hours before being ordered aboard the transports once more, enough time to visit the dead and pay their last respects before being ordered away.

As the silence lapsed on, Melekhova dug out the small device she had taken from the Starshyna, her lips pursed as she held back fresh tears at the sight of it. She would return it to Nalikova’s family, of that she was adamant.

A sound from her side drew her attention away from the device, and she looked back up at the gunner. Tears streamed down Lavrova’s cheeks, her eyes red from crying. It was evident she had been for some time, her cheeks and nose red from wiping away the tears.

“Artillery shell.” She finally whispered in reply, her voice choked with emotion. “A month after deployment. Some… artillery piece supplied from one of the foreign countries. There was barely anything left.” She wiped her hand along her nose again, trying to clear her face of the signs to little avail. “I couldn’t even find their tags. Ana had a letter on her tablet she wanted me to give her mother if she died. It burned with her. I was helping someone else set up a gun, all I received was a sunburn. But there was nothing left. No bodies. No bones. Not even ashes to scatter.” Again, she drew breath, unable to tear her eyes from the view of the planet. “Nalikova knew, of course.” She muttered, and a fresh round of tears began to well in Melekhova’s eyes once more. “She knew, she never told me, but she knew. She told me I could tell her anything, that she was there for all of her soldiers.”

Melekhova nodded, gingerly placing an arm around the shoulder of her comrade. No more words passed between them as they watched the planet fade away into a distant, blue sphere, almost lost amidst the vastness of space. Another warzone awaited them on the next world, and another, and another.
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Hidden 12 days ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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Location:
Raygon 8, Lower Orbit.

Domestic Commuter Port 111-201

We’re back again with an even better sale! Up to 99% off on ALL imported protein-based products! Keep an eye out for the Sustynance label on the package to participate!

This post and the products listed within have been brought to you in collaboration with Sustynance™© - your food; your health.




Subject:
Name: Lobutos Zigg

Age: 41 cycles around Raygon 0.

Residence: In transit to: Bick 2.

Occupation: Unemployed.

Workplace: Between jobs.

Current Debt to the Adamantium Bank: 15 999 ITC Credits.







Mr. Zigg adjusted his facial disguise somewhat. It was a white clay mask (plastic in reality, of course), marked with the sketches and swirls befitting of an acolyte of Debrontism, a Putt faith with considerable following on Raygon 8, even amongst non-Putts. Behind him, his wife and two kids trailed anxiously as they pushed and mobbed their way through the river of life flowing towards the distant gates up ahead. Mr. Zigg made certain to eye their surroundings often and vigilantly - they weren’t safe until they were off-world.

And even then…

“Lobutos!” came a sharp whisper from behind him. He turned to stare into his wife’s equally masked face head on, and then down at her finger, which she pointed at their youngest, Lobuna, who struggled to keep pace. With four quick paces, Mr. Zigg made his way to the back of their group and pulled his daughter to himself before she could be swallowed up by the living sea.

“Don’t fall behind,” he cautioned her. Lobuna was on the brink of tears, visible even through her smaller mask. Mr. Zigg looked around again. A few strangers had turned to eye them, but most simply ignored them.

“Oi, keep moving,” came a snide grunt from the person behind them. Mr. and Mrs. Zigg, as well as Lobuna and Sambel, all took a moment to stare in fright at an absolute beast of a Qurok. Mr. Zigg grit his teeth, even as every nerve in his body were firing for him to run, and simply pushed his daughter on, along with his wife and son. The Qurok offered another surly snort, but didn’t seem to have further inquiries as long as the line kept moving.

“You’re such a piece of shit, you know that?” Mrs. Zigg whispered to Mr. Zigg as he passed by her. His expression didn’t change much, however; mostly due to the mask, of course, but even the parts of his face that were visible gave little sign of change. He merely sighed and gave both the children another gentle push so that they were a distance away from them.

“Can we not do this right now?”

“No, I think we will. Listen here, Lobutos - not only did you get us in this fucking deep debt, but -then- you decide that we’re running off to escape--”

Mr. Zigg tapped his index over where his mouth would’ve been, but this didn’t seem to deter her. “I should just turn you in, you know.” Mr. Zigg groaned. “As soon as your days are up, there’ll be a bounty on you - and on us. It doesn’t matter where we go, Lobutos - we’re dead when you’re with us.”

Mr. Zigg rubbed his temples. The gates were getting closer and the crowd was thickening even more. “Woman, can this please wait? Chew me out all you want once we’re onboard, alright? Just… Keep it down out here.”

Mrs. Zigg glared daggers at him. “I want a divorce once we land, is that clear?”

Mr. Zigg drew a long breath. “What made you come along if you’re just going to leave me when we land, huh?” She hesitated to answer, and as her voice broke through the mask, it was interrupted by a deafening announcement thundering from the speakers above.

”ATTENTION, ALL PASSENGERS BOARDING COMMUTER SHUTTLE ONE-ONE-FOUR-SIX-EIGHT-THREE TO… BICK TWO. WE WILL NOW COMMENCE BOARDING. PLEASE HAVE YOUR ARMBANDS READY FOR SCANNING.”

Mr. Zigg took a deep breath. As Mrs. Zigg helped the kids prepare, he prayed to every conceivable deity that the Bank hadn’t blocked his right of travel. They four of them eventually arrived at the gate, where bent-necked, somber-looking Cybe servant with modified scanner hands went over armbands.

Sambel and Lobuna held out their wristbands. Pling! it went twice. The Cybe sighed mechanically and gave them each a scan. “Welcome…” it droned sourly.

Next was Mrs. Zigg. The Cybe gave her armband a scan. Pling! it went once. “Welcome…” She walked on by and begun herding the children towards the entrance tunnel.

Mr. Zigg walked over to have his band scanned. The Cybe moved his hand over and, pling!

“Wait…” it droned uncertainly. Mr. Zigg froze. The Cybe made the effort to lift its head and actually look at Lobutos. Inside the entrance gate, Mr. Zigg saw his children pulling at his wife’s dress disguise and pointing in his direction with worried expressions. The Cybe’s scanner hand manifested a thumb, which it licked with a mechanical tongue. It then proceeded to scrub away some muck on Mr. Zigg’s mask. Its expressionless face nonetheless managed to form the grumpiest frown Zigg had ever seen.

“At least keep your attire right if you’re gonna pose as one of us.”

Mr. Zigg blinked. “Excuse me?”

The Cybe curled its nonexistent lips. “Debrontists take care to keep their attire clean. You don’t, so you’re definitely a poser. Anyway, you’re stopping the line, so keep moving.” With a shove, the Cybe cast Mr. Zigg behind itself, mumbling something along the lines of “damn prick”.

Mr. Zigg looked dumbfounded for a second, but couldn’t delay for even a second before the river of flesh pushed him onwards. He looked down the tunnel - his family must’ve gone on ahead. As he followed the hallway, he vaguely picked up the Bickese news being broadcast in the background.

“... and starting tomorrow, DegmaCorp factories will be bolstering local defenses in response to increased rates of worker uprisings on Bick 2. Colonial security encourage all citizens to remain indome as much as possible in the coming weeks, and…”

“Shit, did you hear that?” Mr. Zigg permitted himself to eavesdrop on an adjacent chatting pair. They were both Quroks, dressed in sooty, orange work suits, hems and neck ringed with metal.

“Yeah,” said the other, “I hope Pree is doing alright. She works in that factory there.”

“Really? Shit, how’s she taking it?”

The other one offered a mocking laugh. “What, working under DegmaCorp? She hates every second of it.”

Zigg bit into a nail. Every damn time, there always had to be something.

The door to the shuttle approached, and once more, the river of flesh flowing into it got considerably denser. Mr. Zigg eyed the ticket on his wristband. Had Adamantium Bank really not barred him from leaving Raygon 8? What could they possibly gain from that? Even as he arrived at the economy class seats assigned to his family, he ignored his wife’s scoldings in favour of pondering the questions filling his mind. Before he could reach a conclusion, however, an announcement blared from above.

”Attention, passengers. Interstellar travel will soon commence. Please have a seat and fasten your seatbelts in preparation for take-off.”

It wasn’t the first time Zigg had flown - he had once joined a ship test at his company’s 200th anniversary party. However, he still had to teach his family his to properly buckle up and affix oxygen masks. Economy class masks were one-size-fits-all, which they absolutely didn’t. Being of the majority species, Zigg and his family were relatively lucky, but he took a moment to eye the various passengers whose mouthes were much too small for the Raygonian-sized masks given to them. He shook his head disapprovingly and laid back into his hard plastic seat. Their seats were pretty far ahead in the economy cabin, and ahead, he heard the cheerful chuckle of lower-business class travellers, waited on by a Cybe cabin crew. A green bile of envy filled his chest, but he subdued it in time for one more announcement.

”Attention, passengers. Welcome aboard commuter shuttle 114683 to Bick 2. My name is Raepsol Flux and I’m your captain for this flight…”

Oh, great. A Petalos…

“... We’ll be expecting a relatively peaceful flight with mild solar winds, limited radiation and only trace radio disturbances. Keep in mind that there are bags in the baskets on the seats in front of you for when we reach the gateways - on behalf of the crew, we beg you to please make use of them if you experience nausea, uncontrollable drooling or spontaneous bleeding. On that note, we at X-Pressure Interstellar would like to remind all passengers that we are -not- responsible for any injuries, discomforts or chronic diseases acquired aboard one of our flights. Make certain to keep your leaded blankets handy for when we pass by Bick 0 and have a pleasant flight. And now, a quick word from our sponsors…”

While advertisements blared in the background, Zigg dug up the unnecessarily heavy leaded blankets from under their four seats, keeping them at the ready by his stumpy feet. As the advertisements neared their end, the ship began to rumble with movement. Considering they were still in the lower atmosphere, the craft needed considerable energy to take off. The tickets hadn’t been cheap, but the central space station known as the Belt was known for being a den of outlaws, tax evaders, and indebted scum. The patrolling private police and Bobbies were too many to pass by. Due to the price and rare use, sub-orbit transports were incredibly rare. It had been mostly luck that he had found one, really.

As the ship began to accelerate and the Gs began to pick up, Zigg drifted into a deep sleep. He would likely wake up at some point once they were further out into the Raygon system, but for now, he just needed his senses to relax.

The journey was rather uneventful. His daughter Lobuna had to vomit when they exited the gate in the Bick system, but that was about it. As they approached the sorry excuse for a planet, a buzz indicated the captain was about to speak. Lobuna and Sambel glued their faces to the aisle window, marveling at the silvery surface of the planet below.



Bick 2… Possibly one of the remotest inhabited planets in the Raygonian Triangle. It had no atmosphere to speak of, nor a magnetic field to create one. Its iron core had frozen solid aeons ago, and the atmosphere, which had been speculated to be acidic and lethal, had drifted away as a result. The silvery surface was speckled with enormous pit mines blasting kilometres of grey, glittering debris into space above. The gravity on Bick 2 was but an eighth of that on Raygon - Mr. Zigg could already feel the muscle atrophy kick in. A prolonged stay would make it hard for him and his family to ever return to Raygon. The “planet” itself had a population of 14 million, mostly miners exploiting the enormous quantities of lithium and tritium. The local superpower was, as the news had cautioned, DegmaCorp, a subsidiary of Og’slough Bros. Asteroid Mining.

Mr. Zigg prayed he’d find some form of work there.

“Dear passengers, welcome to Bick 2. We’ll be landing at Amaterasu Space Port in roughly one hour and fifteen minutes, Raygon 8 time. We kindly ask all passengers to please take their seats and fasten their seatbelts for landing. Once again, we would like to thank our sponsors for this magnificent trip, and hope your trips, too, have been further improved by the presence of such wonderful products as…”

While the advertisements blared once more, Mr. Zigg opened a holographic screen from his wristband. After tapping and swiping the ads away, he found that the wristband already had connected to the local network satellite. He brought up a feed on the local news and casually let his eyes scan the page. Network speed was akin to a snail’s pace out here, worse than even bottom tier connections. Videos wouldn’t load and neither would pictures half the time. For the first time in his life, Mr. Zigg had to resort to reading the transcriptions. His brow furrowed as he did.

Local authorities have received a tip from the Extra-Raygonial Bureau of Investigation (ERBI) that a wanted criminal gang leader has arrived on the planetary surface in order to assist local terrorists against DegmaCorp operations. The CEO of Og’slough Brothers Asteroid Mining, Arrto Og’slough, condemns the cowardly and unwarranted actions of the terrorist uprisings and promises to send reinforcements to Bick 2 in response to the arrival of this unknown gang leader.


Mr. Zigg blinked and frowned. He straightened out his back and looked back and forth in his shuttle. From what he had seen back on Raygon, his co-passengers didn’t seem much like criminals.

Maybe except that one monster of a Qurok…

The “bump!” and “clank” of metal arms clutching the ship knocked him off his train of thought. His family were already disembarking and Mr. Zigg rushed after them in a hurry, dragging their luggage behind him.

They exited into a hallway, where the sea of people once again thickened around them. Up above, hanging from the ceiling, TV screens displayed minutely updates on the uprisings, which, according to them, were thankfully happening far away from the space port.

As they approached the customs up ahead, Mr. Zigg noticed the Quroks from the platform back on Raygon; furthermore, he noticed that they had noticed him, too, and were staring quite fiercely at him. Mr. Zigg averted his eyes. What was their problem?

“Hey, daddy?” came a whimpering voice from Sambel. Mr. Zigg sighed.

“What’s up, sport?” He looked down at his son, who was pointing up at one of the TV screens. Mr. Zigg followed the finger and felt his heart sting with fear. Around him, whispers fumed like poisonous gas and eyes aimed their sights on him like guns. The TV screens were all displaying images of him - his face.

“... Authorities have now been informed by the ERBI that the criminal gang leader previously mentioned to have landed on Bick 2 has been identified as Lobutos Zigg, a wanted mass murderer and gun smuggler from the central tiers of Raygon 8. Furthermore, due to the potential danger this individual, Adamantium Bank has announced that they, too, will send monetary and military support to quell the uprisings on Bick 2. This criminal is…”

Zigg’s eyes slowly rolled over in the direction of his family, but Mrs. Zigg had already disappeared with their children. Way behind the crowd, he heard distant shouts for “daddy!”, while the mob closed around him ever tighter.

“Make way! Step aside! ACPD! ACPD!” The mechanical voices of Cybes backed up by gorilla grunts and growls warned that the authorities weren’t far off. However, Zigg could simply stand there, hardly able to breathe.

“... Why…” was all he managed to say before being tackled to the floor by a gorilla dressed in a private police uniform. The tackle knocked him out cold, and Zigg was taken away.


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Hidden 7 days ago 7 days ago Post by Crispy Octopus
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Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

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The Babylon Bar – High Orbit of Parousia – The Halcyon Continuance


“Fuck.”

“Oh please, it's not that bad.”

“...”

“Ok, sure, some people died-”

“Five thousand people, Arthur. Five thousand people died.”

“Pah,” Arthur shrugged, “Not even in the top ten accidents this year then.”

“That's not the fucking point! Do you seriously not have any idea how bad this is? That fucking ship was supposed to be our ticket to a place at the table, nobility Arthur, a god damn legacy! It was the culmination of five years of work. Five. Fucking. Years.”

Patrick pinched the bridge of his nose and breathed deeply before going on, “How the fuck did this happen, Arthur? How the fuck did a prototype stealth ship run into a fucking space station at speed? This isn't some classical fucking movie, that, this doesn't happen. It just doesn't.”

“Well,” Arthur hesitated and emphasized, “Obviously, there wasn't anything left to pick over. Well, anything bigger than your pinkie finger. Best I've got so far is either pilot error, which seems unlikely given the pilot we hired is going to cost nearly a tenth the godforsaken ship if we pay out his life insurance, or sabotage. I'm inclined to go that way myself, given the ITC Conference, our big chance as you wont stop reminding me, is about to kick off.”

Patrick slumped in his chair and uttered a familiar refrain, “Fuck.”

This time his brother Arthur didn't do more than bite his lip. The truth was, this absolutely was a big fucking disaster. Top ten in terms of fatalities or not, the money that had been sunk into the ironically named Splinter, given that was what it was mostly composed of now, wasn't insignificant. In truth, it was a hell of a lot more than they actually had.

Not that Patrick knew that. One didn't borrow money from the largest criminal enterprises in the cluster, promise them access to your proprietary technology, and then go and tell their brother and business partner about it. Especially when ones brother and business partner would have had a panic attack at the mere thought.

Though, in retrospect, perhaps that might have averted Arthur feeling the beginnings of a panic attack coming on now. Yes, everyone knew it was idiocy to take loans from the Cartels and the Triads and all the other reprobates in the Eden Cluster, but guess what? It was even dumber to go to Adamantium Bank. At least Arthur was probably only going to get killed over this.

Arthur waved at a passing server girl and ordered a very stiff drink. Actually, he ordered three.

Patrick eyed his brother, and decided to order two himself. Aware of his impending peril or not, the red haired businessman was absolutely not going to get through the rest of the day sober.

Still, ignoring the problem wouldn't make it go away, “So, Arthur, is there any good news then? We've lost our largest single asset, the proof our technology even works, the ITC Conference is about to start and we have nothing to present, oh and god knows how many lawyers to hire so the accident claims don't sink us further.”

“We still have time to run away?”

“Excuse me?”

“Look,” Arthur met his brothers eyes, “We're done. Fucked. You said it. We don't have anywhere close to the cash reserve we need to survive this and we have no evidence it was sabotage, so any lawyers we hire are going to have a hell of a time deflecting liability. Do you want to spend the rest of your life on the lower levels of Raygon? Or on a factory world? This is a fucking disaster. There I said it, happy? It's a big, colossal, assfucking mess, but there’s one plus here Patrick, one.”

Patrick looked at his brother incredulously, “And what the fuck is that Arthur.”

“Nobody knows we did it, not yet. Nobody has a goddamn clue that it was our stealth ship that hit that station so hard there are body parts strewn across half the system. We have time to liquidate everything and fuck off. We have time to run away.”

As it happens, every living sapient has a point in their life where they're given a choice. Patrick had thought that was a bit of a platitude, but now he found himself in that position. To his, and his species credit, he did exactly what any other intelligent, self respecting, arguably moral, businessman would.

“Ok.” Patrick stood up, “Fuck. Lets skip on the drinks and drain everything. Thank god almighty that mother is dead.”

Arthur nodded, grabbed one of his drinks anyway, and all but took off to the docks, Patrick close behind him. After all, bravery and morality had their place, and that place was absolutely not above an arid Putt infested shithole like Parousia.

Besides, it was only five thousand people. Not the worst disaster of the year. Not even close! It probably wouldn't even make the news in the core worlds. After all, what were the chances that anyone important was on that station? Minuscule. Arthur and Patrick would hide out for a while, a few years, and then when everything had blown over they could come back. Try to forge their legacy again.

It was all going to work out...

Right?
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Hidden 6 days ago Post by Crusader Lord
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Crusader Lord A professional, anxiety-riddled, part-time worker

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Location:
Raygon 8 - The Belt, Raygon 8’s orbital space station.

Foreign Traffic Port 221-010

Traffic Levels: Moderate - estimated wait time for dock space: 63 minutes.







The busy, overcrowded spaceport over Raygon 8 stretches like a fat belt around the whole planet, thus its name. It handles the vast majority of all incoming and outgoing traffic, sporting hundreds of thousands of enormous piers and loading bays for space ships to dock to in order to load or unload their cargo. Hundreds of control towers coordinate the congested traffic into every nook and cranny where there is space to trade, and the private security forces keep a tight regime to make sure smugglers and thieves can’t take advantage of the chaos.

Of course, that job is essentially impossible to fulfill, and the Belt is home to a great deal of mischief and corruption perpetrated by profit-hungry corporations and corrupt harbourmasters. In the shadow of colossal cargo freighters, drugs, weapons and top-secret technology are traded under the very nose of private tax collectors and upholders of company law.

One such emissary of a very powerful company stood leaning against a metallic pillar by the space dock, his helmet active and his body ready for when they would ventilate the room to invite in the ship she was waiting for.

Any minute now.




“We have the green light to land at the space dock, Assistant Chief Engineer Amem.”

The female Ka’thir’s ears perked up as the co-pilot’s news reached her ears, sitting up in her seat and stretching her arms languidly before looking about the cabin. Though in truth she was more than the only other one in the sleek, silvery spaceship of Dominion make. There were the pilots, the staff, and even several undercover elite human troops. There were even a couple of Valkyrians sitting there, their brilliant white hair and red eyes visible, donned in casual attire and their shield-lance combo weapons on their backs. Amem almost chuckled to herself at how common a sight like this was for her...though this was Raygon of all places, and not exactly the proper territory of the Dominion.

Though this was a place of business...and Amem indeed had some important business here indeed. It wasn’t her first time arriving in Raygon space to meet with some clients, after all. As ever, however, a certain level of discretion would be required.

“Initiating docking procedure. Space dock ventilation system has been initialized.”

Amem let out a small sigh, standing up and grabbing onto one of the straps hanging from the roof of the passenger cabin of the ship. Noticing her get up, the two Valkyrians also stood without a word, grabbing onto their straps as well. Soon the rest of the ‘passengers’ would follow suit themselves, waiting for the ship to finish docking as the slight rattling of the cabin indicated they’d be ready to depart soon.




“There you are, finally,” buzzed the emissary’s radio sourly. “I’m not getting paid to wait, y’know. That’s literally in my contract.” The only person to greet them on the dock was a vacuum-suit-dressed Raygonian, helmet still on his head despite now standing in the air-filled plastic tunnel that had been linked between the ship’s door and the entrance further into the station.




Ah, Raygonian contracts and their stipulations never ceased to amaze her sometimes...at least with how precise they could be. Of course that was one reason any paperwork regarding the nation was meticulously looked over by the Dominion. Though admittedly, this little venture was rather “off the books” than those other deals. Yes, and Amem did not want to keep the other party waiting as well. Of course, they had all been through this song and dance before more than a few times~

“Apologies. Unfortunately, it took some time to load the ‘gifts’ we brought with us. I am sure your superiors will be pleased with them, however, so please accept a little…’compensation’ for your troubles, not that anyone has to know~” Amem said with a small smile and a wink to the Raygonian representative, walking up to him down the plastic tunnel before subtly passing him a small but heavy bag of cash, “In the meantime, I will let you lead the way.”

As Amem spoke, her Valkyrian bodyguards stood silently behind and to the sides of her, vigilant and silent as they ever had been. Their height was imposing for many species of the galaxy, that much was certain, but beyond these two Valkyrians the rest of the crew back at the ship was getting to work with their ‘cargo’.

The Raygonian raised the bag up and down, the weight being rather reduced in zero G. He zipped it open and stared at its contents hungrily. “Right, your papers seem to be in order. If you’d follow me…” The creature trundled down a corridor with the guests in tow. Whatever other people they encountered seemed to intentionally look the other way. A gorilla Simmie approached them with its menacing form, the police uniform shining a silvery white in contrast with its fur. However, as it reached their guide, they discreetly shook hands before the police officer continued on as if nothing had happened. A few feet beyond and the group had arrived at a small door, which slid open to reveal a meeting room.

“Wait here,” the Raygonian requested and gestured at the entrance.

Giving a polite nod, Amem walked into the room calmly...albeit with her bodyguards in tow. The two towering Valkyrians’ eyes also continued scanning over their surroundings like watchful guard dogs, looking for anything out of place or that even remotely eked of ill intent. A mere precaution, combined with years of military training and experience. Amem had put her trust in these guards of hers time and time again, after all, and had by now learned to trust their insight instinctively. They’d even saved her life a couple of times, haha!

However, the lack of looks from the crowd along the way was something most appreciated for such an occasion as this, and was indeed a sign of this particular business partner’s power. Yet business was business, and when both parties got something out of it the spoils and profits were all the better. Though with this particular meeting among many, well, a very special gift was inbound for both sides during this ‘auspicious’ occasion...at least based on the reports.

All that was needed was the other side to arrive.

A moment passed before a tall, slim Petalos in a silver suit entered through the doorway with two black-suited and sunglass wearing Quroks in tow. He gave a gracious bow and extracted a small, square box from the hem of his arm, placing it on the middle table and pushing it towards her. “Miss Amem - allow me to extend my personal welcome to Raygon 8’s central station.” He eyed the glass panel walls still showing the hallway and commanded, “Private.” The glass panels immediately fogged over and the door closed automatically and clicked with several locks. The Petalos turned back with a smile. “Forgive the ominous sounds and all that - when our customer requests for us to be discreet, it will be made a priority. I am Lucifer Restaran, by the way.” He walked over to Amem with an extended hand. “A pleasure to meet you.”

Amem gently pulled the box towards herself, a small smile on her face, before looking back to the Petalos before her. Extending a hand in return as was proper, she formally shook the hand of the other representative firmly.

”A pleasure to meet you as well, Mr. Restaran, and...many thanks for your party’s continued discretion. It is one reason this relationship has been able to blossom, after all~,” the engineer said, standing there in her formal engineering attire and big white lab coat as was befitting of the occasion, “In fact, the ‘donations’ we brought today should be arriving at the requested location as we speak. Along with a little something…’special’, which I am sure your employers will most enjoy.”

“Of course, of course - always a pleasure to fiddle under the table. What sort of speciality have you sent them, if I may ask? My employer is not too keen on surprises, you must know.” Restaran’s tone grew sour towards the end and his polite smile waned somewhat.

“Of course, of course. But rest assured, this speciality is something most valuable indeed,” Amem noted, as she reached into her coat and pulled out a well-kept folder...placing it on the table and sliding it towards the Petalos before her, “Last time your employers noted some ’interest’ in how the Dominion synthesizes Umbhite, and other...potential applications of such technology. So we worked on something special just for them as ‘incentive’ for our continued partnership~

In those documents are blueprints and formulae for synthetic thorium production, tweaked to work with Raygonian tech and designed to mass produce the substance. Testing of this technology yielded synthetic thorium in mass and stable quantities, which should cut costs nicely for your superiors on that front. With the plans and blueprints, your people should be easily able to build more, and we have included both the usual lower-quality Umbhite shipment and what synthetic thorium we produced in testing.

Yet the true specialty we bring to you today are the ten of these machines we have made, which as I speak are being assembled by my crew on-site for you as we speak.”


Looking down before her, Amem then picked up the small box she had been slid, opening it to look inside as she again began to speak.

“Though if our special gifts are an unwelcome surprise of any sort, I can of course provide proper compensation and tell the crew to withdraw things for now.”

While Amem had been talking, the Petalos had skimmed through the first few pages of the documents, occasionally casting glances back at her over the tip of the file case. He closed it after a time and smacked his lips dryly. As he put the file down on the table, he said, “A stellar offer, miss Amem. Forgive me for asking though, but… Is there a catch?”

“Just a couple, since you asked~

The main catch is that you will deliver all findings done by your own research back to the Dominion, including the provision of one-to-one copies of any and all prototypes created in the process of this research.

The second is more of an aside, though, but we also want a list of any and all of the useful ‘contacts’ your superiors might have within this sector and beyond...this could include other companies, miners, mercs, drug dealers, and beyond. No questions asked.”


The engineer spoke with a smile emerging onto her face, glancing up at the Petalos once more with a knowing look before returning her gaze to the small box she’d been given. Ah. Before her gaze was a beautifully fashioned platinum ring, wrought beautifully, as well as a business card and a few coupons for some local five star restaurants on Raygon. It was all enough for a fine night out on the town with a special friend or alone...all whilst enjoying the best that Raygon’s obsessive and all-consuming capitalist system could provide at minimized cost. Perfect.

As the two representatives spoke, Amem’s two Valkyrian bodyguards kept their seemingly eternal vigil on the room and its occupants. Even when looking over the black-suited Quroks they did not budge or so much as blink in the face of it all. Of course this was all professional in nature. One could not lose face for their superior, after all, as that reflected badly on themselves and their high-up in the process. They had long served Miss Amem as well, and had become accustomed to…’these’ sorts of procedures that were kept far from the public eye.

Restaran drummed his fingers pensively on top of the file. “My employer will provide a list of the items you ask - however, I believe they won’t be as satisfied with the need to disclose all their findings. A tight link of communication between our two organisations is sure to draw plenty of unwanted attention, and I would need more than my four hands to count the number of businesses that would attempt to sabotage our collaboration.” One of the Quroks gave a discreet cough; the other, a quiet sniff.

“Hmm...well that would be quite the bother, now wouldn’t it?” Amem said, pacing back and forth for a moment before looking back to the Petalos, her smile as confident and sly as ever, though her more formal and polite mannerisms hadn’t been lost themselves, “Then perhaps we can arrange a favorable compromise, yes? I believe in have something in mind that might work~”

The black-haired Ka’thir leaned forward, her eyes gleaming almost devilishly before she began to speak again.

“Rather than your employers provide all of the findings in their research, there is...a certain key area or two my own employers have an interest in most of all. Given the full provision of all findings and prototypes in these specific areas, then I would be able to convince my employers that any other findings are…‘unnecessary’ to provide at best.

This in turn would notably remove the need for such tightly-linked communications, which as you have noted would be a risk, and ultimately create a far smoother and more subtle arrangement which could benefit both parties. I can send this information to your employers to give them the specifics before I depart today, of course, but I would need to know if your employers would be more interested in these terms.”


Amem stood back once more, neatening up her appearance as her jackal-like ears turned to ensure she could hear the answer to come. Of course this statement was not a lie, not one bit. She could talk her ‘employers’ down nicely to these more reasonable terms, but if the other party did not want to accept then they’d have to figure something out. Alas. But such was the nature of business and commerce.

Restaran appeared to force his polite smile, but it was a smile nonetheless. “Ms. Amem, with all due respect, may I ask if you are aware of the number of competitors my employer has to keep an eye out for?” For dramatic effect, he took a slight pause. “Any regular communication will be caught, intercepted, decoded and read. I’m sorry, but it’s simply too large a risk for the both of us.” He tapped the table twice and a screen of light appeared before him, switching to a calendar. “We can meet once every year, at different times and at different ports, where we can exchange this information. That’s the best we can do.” To signify his statement, he started bringing up calendars for every planet and starport in the Raygon system.

“Of course, Sir Restaran, we are fully aware of the situation for your employer and will respect this accordingly. To seek otherwise would be...ill-advised for any future business relations,” Amem said, finishing neatening herself back up and looking back to the Petalos, “Though I do give my apologies if I came off as insistent about regular communications...my intent was merely stating a hopefully more favorable alternate arrangement for the provision of findings and the ilk. And meeting once every year, at different times and at different ports, is a perfectly suitable arrangement!”

One of the engineer’s own Valkyrian bodyguard seemed to let out a small, mostly quiet, sigh in response. This was not the first time her boss had been given such a reaction. For one whose knowledge on engineering and machinery was so high, her own words at times were something that needed clarification and detail. The Assistant Chief Engineer could also have her moments of...eccentricity, to say the least.

“Then let’s make it so!” said Restaran with a snap of his fingers and a wry grin. “Let’s see… In approximately 431 Raygonian cycles, the moon of Bick 3, Tetsugami, will be furthest away from the Bick central system surveillance station. We’ll meet by the abandoned tritium mines, which should be in the radio dead zone of the moon at that point. We will wait for half a planetary rotation. Kindly be there in time.”

Amem didn’t skip a beat, pulling out a holo-tablet and jotting down the details of the meeting place, location, time, and the like as the Petalos spoke to her, before looking over to him and giving a polite nod. Yet she also seemed to be rather pleased herself, the sides of her lips somewhat curled upwards themselves, “Of course, and I shall be at the exchange as well personally. We shall also send a rapid-response team for the exchange, to assess and perform the necessary loading and unloading of goods, prototypes, findings, and such materials in the proper timeframe. Her highnesses expect great things, but do not doubt your employer shall live up to these expectations...such is the reason this has all come about in the first place, of course~”

As the Assistant Chief Engineer began to turn about, however, she suddenly stopped, before looking back at the Petalos from the side.

“Ah, and do tell your superiors I hope they only get the best use out of those synthesizers! If I am correct, their assembly should be done by now if your superiors want to give them a test run.”

“Fantastic - that’s wonderful to hear,” Restaran offered back smilingly. “My employer will make certain to have a scientific report ready by time of the meeting.” He tapped a few keys on his holographic screen. He then turned to the window and said, “End private session.” The windows defogged and the doors unlocked themselves with the ticks and clicks of metal and plastic. “With that, I believe we have come to a conclusion?” Restaran flanked the door and held out his hand for Amem to shake. “It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Amem.”

Amem took the hand of the Petalos, politely but firmly shaking it with a smile.

“Indeed, Sir Restaran, it has been a pleasure. Till next time~” the Ka’thir said, a certain playfulness tinting her otherwise formal tone and manner, before she looked back to her bodyguards, “Vyka, Hella, come.”

No more words were needed, as Amem’s bodyguards nodded and followed behind her out of the door. The deal had been set, the date and time and location had been arranged, and all that was needed now...was to wait.
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Hidden 6 days ago 6 days ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

Member Seen 6 hrs ago

Location:
Shin-Nihon (Sage 2), Sage System, Raygon Space Inner Sector.

Shimazu Conglomerate Headquarters.

Main dojo.

Only X-Pressure Transstellar Shipping can keep bringing you extra-Raygonian posts like these! Here’s a friendly reminder that we at X-Pressure now have a special, limited 60% our loyalty plan - 3 ray-years for only ℭ7 900!

This post and the products listed within have been brought to you in collaboration with X-Pressure Interstellar Shipping™© - your ticket across the stars.




Subject:
Name: Nobuhide Kazegami

Age: 36 cycles around Sage 0.

Residence: Kamurocho Pink Street 83, flat 611.

Occupation: Yakuza.

Rank: Captain of the Seiryu family, patriarch of the Kazegami family.

Workplace: Kazegami Family Headquarters.







It had been a while since the whole clan had gathered. The main dojo of the Shimazu Clan headquarters was large, sure, but it could only barely fit all two hundred leaders, let alone their second-in-command officer staff. Kazegami had been lucky to make it inside to stand squeezed between the officer ranks behind his boss, Okita Seiryu, who, like the rest of the high-ranking officers, had been given space to sit in the characteristic seiza position. Tables had been set before them on the tatami mat floor in four grid-like rows facing towards the room centre, upon which were neatly placed plates of charcoal-grilled, marinated fish upon a small mound of white rice. Hot sake had been provided in tiny clay flasks, presented with small cups for corks. Kazegami felt immense envy bubble in his belly at the sight of the meal - him and his colleagues had been told to eat before they came, and had settled for Mr. Zentenzai’s abhorrent protein paste karaage.

Heavens, he could still taste the recycled cooking oil. It had been a cheap meal, sure, but no amount of saving was ever worth this sort of garbage. Could never tell him, ‘course - mr. Zentenzai’d helped his boys out numerous times when the gutter was the only place to call home. That sewage-like excuse for food had its nostalgic merits in the end, his train of thought eventually admitted.

“EVERYONE RISE AND BOW FOR PATRIARCH SHIMAZU!”

The call snapped Kazegami out of his mind and he, much less by his own agency and much more due to the officers he was squeezed in between moved before him, bowed as deeply as his hips could manage. A mere inch before him, his boss did the same, as did all the others. While Kazegami personally didn’t see it, muffled sounds of socked soles massaging soft tatami painted the picture of a tranquil, yet firm character - one who enshrouded himself in a cloak of harmony and peace to hide the traces of a vile, heartless demon within. The ‘muffs’ eventually came to an end with a series of them in quick succession, no doubt the big boss sitting down. As if they all shared one consciousness, they shouted:

“GOOD MORNING, PATRIARCH SHIMAZU!”

“Good morning,” Shimazu replied. Kazegami noticed a change in shadows before him and looked up slightly to see that Seiryu had sat down. The second he did, Kazegami was forced back up straight by his colleagues beside him. He took a moment to eye the character sitting there at the far end of the rectangular dojo, before the beautiful calligraphy and family arms. Shimazu had grayed since Kazegami had last seen him, which wasn’t uncommon for a man in his eighties, but still left an impression on him. Normally, these high-ranking types would dye their hair to appear youthful and strong - however, Shimazu almost appeared for flaunt his fragility, now that Kazegami looked closer. The kimono the big boss wore hung loosely over what appeared to be atrophied limbs, and his face appeared hollow and empty. The only sign left of strength in the man’s form was his gaze - and his gaze brought low the eyes of every man he aimed it at. Kazegami would’ve analysed further, but the big boss’s eyes and his connected for a minute and he was forced to avert them - none would speculate the reasons for Shimazu’s appearance, apparently.

“Brothers, I trust you all know why you are here.” His voice left aftershocks in the floor. “It’s rare that I have to summon you all, but there are currently a number of matters we must settle as one - three of them, in fact.” He held out a hand and one of the two men flanking him knelt down, head bowed, and offered him a holographic envelope, which Shimazu accepted and tapped. It was brought up over all the leader’s plates and opened to reveal a letter.

“Firstly, there’s the matter of this. There’s been speculations that one of our innermost circle has been moving ahead with the Planetary Avenue revitalisation project without any of our brothers nor my consent. As you all are aware of, this project is paramount if we plan on expanding our sphere of control deeper into the Raygonian business district. Therefore, we must all be ready to act at the same time, and if one link breaks, the whole chain snaps. Patriarch of the Hattori family, Tetsuda Hattori - step forward.”

Kazegami allowed his gaze to scan the hall in search of the name’s owner. The whole clan was mostly human, though there were a fair share of non-humans, too. Hattori appeared to fit the latter demographic, as a tall Raygonian rose from his table, stepped over to the centre of the room and tried visibly not to look nervous.

“Tetsuda Hattori,” Shimazu began, “you’ve--”

“Patriarch Shimazu, I’m so sorry, I--!”

“Silence! You’ve clearly overstepped your boundaries as a family patriarch, and though you sit on the inner council, it appears you believe you are above your brethren. How do you plead?”

“Shimazu, please, I didn’t--!”

“-How- do you plead?”

The Raygonian blinked a number of times, constantly looking back to his lieutenants, all of whom were biting their nails anxiously. “I-... I-...”

“Cowardice is not a quality I would expect of my greatest men. Well? Will you confess to your crimes against your brethren?” A slick, metallic hiss sounded behind Hattori, followed by an energised hum. A suited Qurok, one Kazegami and everyone else in the room knew as Shion “the Tiger of Shimazu” Tenjima, had draw his blade, a plasma-edged katana. The Qurok lifted it over his head and held the pose.

“... Or will you choose the deepest pit of hell?”

“Shimazu, I beg you, have mercy!”

The officers around the room gulped as one. Shimazu’s eyes grew darker than they already were, which at this point was quite the feat.

“Mercy? Would you grant mercy to a traitor looking to make an extra few credits by backstabbing his brethren?”

Hattori was silent, only hulks and sobs making it through his inability to respond. Shimazu clicked his tongue. “Didn’t think so. Tenjima.”

The Qurok nodded. Hattori lowered his head a little further. In the back of the hall, his lieutenants were begging for Shimazu to spare him. Alas, however, the pleas quickly on deaf ears, though Tenjima’s blade fell quicker. In the fraction of a second it took for the hall to blink, the Qurok had parted Hattori from his head. Luckily for the floor, the plasma blade seared the wound to a crisp, so only charcoal dust left its smudges upon it. A pair of suited men grabbed the body and dragged it outside. Tenjima took the head to Shimazu, knelt down and offered it to him. Shimazu nodded and grabbed it by the scalp and lifted it up for all to see.

“Let this be a remind as to what happens to those who betray the clan for their own profit.” He tossed the head aside and it was quickly collected by a servant. “We are a brotherhood - act like it. The next traitor I catch will not be the only one in their family to lose his head. Consider this case an act of mercy.” His glaring eyes fixed themselves on the late Hattori’s lieutenants, both of whom were staring hopelessly at the floor. Shimazu took the chopstick pair from his table and gripped them neatly. “Our next topic,” he said as he ate a piece of fish. “Kamina Yamado, report.”

Kamina Yamado, patriarch of the Yamado family, first lieutenant of the Shimazu family and leader of the New Macau branch on Raygon 8, bowed his head and turned his body so he sat facing Shimazu. “Yes, patriarch. A number of our subsidiaries have made various calls for aid against the increasingly rampant attacks of the Armaioli and the Bengalas. We suspect both of these are receiving considerable funds from Adamantium Bank, sir - it seems they are still unhappy about that court case two years back.”

“Ah, yes, the case of Shimazu-Protonae of April-2, 971. I wish I could see that wilted weed’s sorry little mug every single day before I go to bed, but alas, the recording will do. So you’re saying they’re back with a vengeance?” Shimazu took a sip of wine.

Yamado nodded. “Yes, sir. The Armaioli and Bengalas have never been pushovers, but this is a whole different force we’re dealing with. In the span of under six months, their weaponry has changed from kinetics to laser, even occasional rocketry. We suspect Adamantium may have provided them with an PSMA-19B, also known as a Big Boy.”

There came a pensive hum from across the hall. It was Ira Gamagori, a mountain of a bonobo Simmie dressed in a large white light gray kimono that starkly contrasted his borderline black fur. He scratched at his temple, pulled the finger away, tossed his arms up and turned his palms to all those around while bringing his arms outwards. Shimazu rested his chin in a soft grip.

“It’s evident that Adamantium believes we’ve had free reign of New Macau for long enough. Which groups are particularly asking for aid?”

“The Celestial Dragon Triads are in a particularly poor shape, sir. Mr. Liu has made multiple appeals for monetary aid and additional manpower.”

“Mister who?” Shimazu questioned without really seeming to care for the answer.

“Mr. Po Qing Liu, sir,” Yamado repeated as diligently as he had said it the first time. “The head of the Celestial Dragon Triads. He also goes by the name Uncle Po.”

“Ah, yes, Uncle Po. Forgive me, all these subsidiaries are hard to remember at times. So, they wish for funding and men, is that it?”

“Yes, sir. I reckon they’d also like additional arms, though they chose to leave that out as to not seem greedy.”

Shimazu shook his head. “These damn triads. Can’t trust them with anything on their own. When we demand that they hold the lower tier casinos, they damn well will.” The patriarch scoffed as he took another sip of lukewarm sake. “Make it so, then. Who will travel to Raygon to support our subjects in battle?”

Nearly every officer turned towards Shimazu and bowed forward while seated, all exclaiming different things while all sounding exactly the same: “Me and my family will fight for the Shimazu!”

The patriarch smirked. “Such eagerness is all a leader could ask for, my brethren. However, I cannot risk sending all of you. We still have businesses to run, after all. The fifty of you with the most men will each send a thousand; the fifty of you with the richest accounts will each send a million. That should cover expenses for weaponry, as well as supplies for the war.”

While some disputes arose as to who was the strongest and richest, the rankings within the clan were quite well established. The matter was quickly resolved and orders delegated. Shimazu turned to Yamado. “Any other matters to report?”

“As a matter of fact, sir… There is one.” Shimazu raised a brow and gestured for Yamado to continue, but everyone in the room could see that the man was reluctant.

“... Sources have confirmed that an individual of particular interest has been particularly involved in the conquest of our territory.”

“Yes, yes, I understand. Will you speak his name, then?”

Yamado looked at the floor. “It’s… It’s Shawn, sir.”

The room fell silent. A number of the patriarchs in the middle of eating dropped their food in their laps. A number of them also coughed up the wine they had been drinking. Gamagori offered an anxious ook. In the midst of the silence, Shimazu began to quietly snicker, a snicker which slowly became a hateful laughter. Everyone in the room exchanged worried glances.

“... One would think a man like him would eventually learn the meaning of death.”

“What will you have us do about him, sir?” Yamado asked. Shimazu’s cup was refilled with sake and the patriarch raised it in Yamado’s direction.

“Well, send him back to the grave, of course - and make sure he stays there this time. Preferably in pieces - each hidden inside every separate sewage heap on Raygon. Spare his head, though. I want that mounted on my bed stand.”

Yamado nodded. “It shall be done.”

Shimazu pointed a warning finger at Yamado. “Make certain he is dead this time. If he shows himself again in a year, I will have your head on my bed stand, is that clear?”

Yamado swallowed and bowed his head. “Y-yes, sir.”

Shimazu offered a seething sigh through his teeth. “Well, my mood has been fouled by these ill tidings. Our final matter will pass quickly. It’s the matter of your little loan, Abe Ashikaga.”

A very vexed man, dressed in a green kimono patterned with several golden dragons, turned to face Shimazu. Abe Ashikaga, patriarch of the Ashikaga family, a Shimazu family lieutenant, and also the richest man in the organisation, dressed himself in all the attires and accessories money could buy. He practically didn’t have a single patch of skin not covered by gold and jewelry except for his face. His teeth, however, were all forged in platinum. “Thank you so much, great patriarch, for acknowledging our plea.”

Shimazu raised a palm. “No need to thank me. What is your plight?”

“A Halcyon citizen burrowed a considerable sum from our family, yet it would seem he has no intention of paying it back. Again, we would like to stress that this sum is mountainous. We humbly come before our brethren to request aid in apprehending this thief and scattering his body parts across the cluster.”

Shimazu raised a brow. “Why do you need to ask us? We all know that you are both well-equipped and well-connected enough to handle this matter by yourself. You need no mandate from us.”

Ashikaga grit his platinum teeth. “In all honesty, great patriarch, my family are much too occupied with the turf wars against Og’slough on Ripp-7 and Bick-2. Cumulus is also giving us difficulties on Wosmo-4.”

“I thought you had won that fight, Ashikaga,” Hiroki Awano, patriarch of the Awano family and head of Shimazu activities on Aether (also known as Sage-3), pointed out with a hint of spite in his voice. Ashikaga lowered his head.

“We suspect Cumulus has hired additional mercenaries. We have seen traces of SkullCorp battery cartridges, though their age may indicate--”

“So you’re saying you have neither won the war, nor know what is keeping you from winning it? Is this truly an effort worthy of the Ashikaga name, Abe?”

“Awano, that’s enough,” Shimazu warned. The man quieted down swiftly. The patriarch curled his lips. “Your failures on Wosmo-4 will be dealt with later, Ashikaga. What’s important now is bringing this thief to justice.” Shimazu stood up, turned and took his sword from its mount. While facing the altar upon which the mount stood, he spoke, “We cannot afford to let someone as lowly and cowardly as this run off with Shimazu Clan money. It would make us appear weak and lax - the soul of Shimazu would be forfeit.”

In the blink of an eye, Shimazu drew the blade from its sheath and pointed it directly at Ashikaga. “Very well, Ashikaga - your request has been heard. You have asked your family for help, and a family sticks together through thick and thin.” As he sheathed the blade and remounted it on the altar, he called a name: “Okita Seiryu.”

Kazegami snapped to attention as his boss’s name was called, and Seiryu turned to face Shimazu, bowed while seated. “Yes, patriarch?”

“Your family has a long history of cleaning up the messes of its extended kin. Your talents are many and your track record is flawless. Can the Shimazu clan trust that you’ll maintain that record this time, as well?”

Seiryu bowed again. “Of course, great patriarch. It shall be done.” Shimazu nodded.

“Very well. Convene with Ashikaga about this target’s details. The meeting is adjourned.”

Everyone rose and bowed as Shimazu left the hall with his bodyguards. As he left, all the others shouted, “THANK YOU FOR YOUR WISDOM, PATRIARCH SHIMAZU!” Once he was out of the room, rivers of flesh dispersed through the various paper slider doors that made up the dojo’s walls. Kazegami watched Seiryu walk over to Ashikaga and start a conversation he was too far out of earshot to eavesdrop on. Before long, he was out in the courtyard, where the various families gathered into small cliques and each went to their own. Kazegami stuck a cigarette between his lips, snapped it alight with a lighter and stuck his hands in the pockets of his black suit pants. He found himself a somewhat out-of-the-way corner to lean against and went about his smoke. Before long, he heard a familiar voice greet him.

“Good morning, big brother Kazegami. How was the meeting?” Kazegami’s eyes fell on the innocent-looking face of Natsugi Hanekawa, one of his family members. He blew a plume of smoke in a direction away from Hanekawa’s face and flashed him a wry grin.

“Eh, nothing special. We might get a job soon, though.”

“A job, sir?” Hanekawa’s eyes seemed to light up. Kazegami shrugged.

“Well, it’s either us or Matsuda. It’s the kind of job I doubt Seiryu would be willing to do on his own. Got ourselves a little debtor on the run, see.”

“Big shot?”

“Dunno yet. Uncle Ashikaga wasn’t too detailed in his description. Although…” Kazegami squashed the cigarette stump against the stone wall and flicked it away. “... He did mention that the target’s Halcyonian, which could be interesting.”

“Halcyonian, huh. Could be nobility, sir.”

“Could be, could be.” Kazegami would be lying if he’d said the thought of peeling the skin off a Halcyon princeling wasn’t the least bit enticing.

“Kazegami, Hanekawa.” The two of them turned to see Seiryu, who came over to them with his hands tucked into the hems of his robe. The two of them bowed, Hanekawa keeling much lower than Kazegami, and offered their patriarch attentive looks.

“Yes, big brother Seiryu?” Kazegami offered.

“We’ve got our man. Halcyonian entrepreneur, goes by the name of Arthur Lewin. Last observed skipping out on a bar tab in a space station establishment over Parousia along with another individual designated as Patrick Lewin, who, according to their Mi-Self profiles, is Arthur’s brother. Whether they are in this together or not is not a concern, either way.” Seiryu tapped his wristband and sent the personal files the Ashikaga had managed to acquire on the two.

Kazegami gave the file a skim and scratched his neck. “Want us to just get Arthur, sir?”

“No, get Patrick, too. Brother Ashikaga stressed especially hard that he wanted to make examples of them both. How you do it is up to you, as long as you make it messy and public. I trust you’ve got some tricks.”

Kazegami smirked and shrugged again. “Eh, one or two.”

Seiryu nodded back with a wry smile. “That’s my boy. Good luck to you. Make sure not to leave your family behind, now. They need the experience.”

“Roger that, sir.”

“Well, then. Have a good day.” With that, Seiryu went down the road to the courtyard gates to an awaiting hover-limo. Kazegami and Hanekawa exchanged glances.

“So, where do we start, sir?”

Kazegami tugged at his studded chin thoughtfully, then cracked a smirk. “First off, we’ll need a lot of guns.”


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Location:
Unknown space - outer cluster space.

Aboard “the Golden Rose”, a Raygonian pleasure yacht.







“H-hello?! Can anyone hear us?! This is the Golden Rose, calling in a mayday! Our engine is severely damaged and we are heading for collision orbit with an unknown rocky planet! Please, SOMEBODY?!”

While Jane DeWitt, daughter and heir to the DeWitt Insurance Conglomerate and proud citizen of the luxury moon known as the Resort, stood screaming and crying into the microphone of the beaten communication panel, Vladislav Grigorescu sat in a Halcyonic silk-upholstered armchair which he had pulled over to the minibar and tried to see how much Federation bourbon he could consume before the fear of imminent death disappeared. In the back of the yacht, a small group of four people, respectively named Pajeet Majipandara, Ndenga Sobo, Hernan Lopez and Mei Zhang sat praying in a circle, all while trying to consume the rest of the hallucinogenic drugs they had brought along. While they were simultaneously giggling and bawling their eyes out, Jane tried desperately to restart the engine again. The ship’s lights flickered, eliciting screams from the stoned three in the back, but all the engine produced were a series of decreasingly enthusiastic hums. Broken and frustrated, Jane keeled over the panel. The ship’s velocity was building up as they approached the empty planet now so dreadfully visible through the front windows. Jane lifted her head and took in the gray sight of the dead rock far below. She cast a spiteful look at her crew members. This was supposed to be a birthday trip - it was -her- birthday! Or rather, it had been three days ago. A miscalculated gate jump written by careless drunken hands had cast them waaaay into the middle of absolute nowhere. Now, they were going to die - quickly at best; draw-out and painfully at the worst. If the reactor caught fire on the way down, they would at least be incinerated instantly in the ensuing ball of flame.

“Oi, Dshane,” came a half-gurgle from behind her. Jane spun to see Chad make a futile effort to stand. He waved an unopened bottle in her direction and once more tried to formulate a coherent sentence, but Jane didn’t have the patience. She stomped over, grabbed the bottle, walked back to her seat and strapped in. She uncorked the flask and took a number of gulps. She wondered if death would be as bitter and sickening as this liquour in her hand, or if it would be soft and welcoming like the cushioned chair she sat in. She turned to her friends and watched Chad’s legs drag about the floor in an effort to propel him towards his seat, much like the tentacles of a squid. The four in the far back where now walking around the room to observe the different stimuli of the ship and surrounding space under influence of Halcyonic hallucinogens.

“Strap in, you jackasses,” Jane warned. “Not that it matters, but if I at least get to survive, i don’t want your flashing corpses to hit me at ten G, is that clear?”

“Jane, babe,” went a surprisingly calm Hernan. “... We won’t die. Don’t you get it? We’ve… We’ve been dead since we came out here… Oh fuck, we’ve been dead since we came out here. Oh fuck, ohfuck, ofuckofuckofuck…” While Hernan sat down to properly have a mental breakdown, Mei Zhang came close enough to Jane for her to actually grab her and seat her in the seat next to her, where she remained and stared emptily at the blinking panels under the front window. While Jane strapped her in as best she could, Ndenga stood glaring at her own chair.

“Who the FUCK poured milkshake on my chair?!” he roared out of nowhere. Jane groaned.

“There’s no milkshake on your chair, Ndenga - God, are you guys -this- fucking dumb?! We’re actually gonna die, and you’re just--!”

“LOOK! It’s RIGHT there!” Ndenga exclaimed and pointed at the very invisible spot of the supposed milkshake spillage. Jane pondered for a moment whether to just pop open the airlock. She took another swig of liquour, unstrapped herself and tried to collect Pajeet, who had decided that the blank, snow white wall of the luxurious ship interiour was a very exciting thing to stare at. He came along without much conflict, however, at let himself be strapped in with his only words of protest being a breathy, “Stahp eet…”

Jane felt herself getting heavier. She eyed the panel at the front of the ship and saw ominous blinkings and flashes, indicating the approaching atmosphere, as well as the danger of their angle of entry. Deciding that what could be done, should be done, she strapped in once more and tried to work the air jets along the ship’s exterior. With another swig of liquour to calm her nerves somewhat, she found that the air jets were weak, but relatively unaffected by the engine troubles.

“Okay, guys, we’ll try to fix out angle of entry… Hold on to something!”

“YOU’R’A SOMFINGF!” Chad blurted out before a tug of force tossed him back into his chair, where he got tangled in the seatbelts. Jane ignored his comment and wiped a backhand’s worth of sweat from her forehead. They still had no breaks without the engine, so it was questionable how helpful this maneuver would be. Hernan had taken a depressing shelter underneath the ship’s control panel, where his sobbing competed with the loud hum of broken circuits and devastated machinery.

The Golden Rose entered the planet’s atmosphere, thankfully not catching fire on account of the angle change. The crew was screaming, out of fear, out of joy, out of sheer inability to comprehend what was happening. Despite falling several thousand metres, it felt like it was over in an instant. A final crack of bones contrasted with breakage and bendage of metal was all Jane heard before everything went black.




Curious. The seeker ships, when encircling Zpithi in their nascent flights, did not find any debris that was likely to enter the atmosphere. Indeed, they had found sparse presence of space stones at all, and especially not any of any significant size. For one to approach, and at just the right angle to avoid the worst of the descent friction, something must have gone rather awry in the surrounding gravitational well. It seems most likely that such a stone would be projected from a nearby gas giant, but there were none of those in the Zpithi system as well. The most reasonable theory, then, would be that this particular asteroid had been hurtling through empty space for many years and many more light-years, only to meet its end right here on the Noriscovic homeworld. The drone watched it descend for a few seconds, calculating the velocity and projecting the likeliest place of meeting the earth. Then, it started walking in that direction. At least one drone should be present when the asteroid touches ground, and record this most questionable of astronomical circumstances.

The drone could detect the impact with its vibration detection mechanism long before it could perceive the object with its video receptacle. When at last it reached the destination, it discovered not a bumpy rounded stone, as it had logically predicted, but rather a more angular sort of shape, comprised of pure metals. This was no asteroid. The drone realized it had come across instead a ship, of obviously more sophisticated make than what is capable on Noriscovo. Immediately, it began to interface with the ship’s black box, raising ever more questions.

The ship was a passenger craft. Human by make, under the designation of “Golden Rose”. The engine has been disabled, as well as a selection of other crucial organs. A few designations are recurring in the registry, including “DeWitt” and “Raygon”. While Prime Mind is currently not present with it, it determined that the primary directive in this situation, unorthodox as it is, would be to investigate the remains of the crash and seek passengers aboard, living or dead. The drone approached the airlock doors, and redirected its power towards its arms. Then, it began prying the door open with its hands.

The metal door was torn from its hinges and a ‘pop’ of escaping air sounded as the equilibrium of gases was reached between the inside cabin and the outside. The inside reeked of blood, alcohol and defecation. Across the entire floor at the pilot’s end of the cabin, as well as the majority of walls and windows, the ground-up remains of what had once been people painted the facade a terrible crimson shade. The panels still blinked desperately through the crusts of freezing blood and a weak siren indicating some form of emergency still did its very best to tell the crew something was very wrong. The cabin was otherwise silent as a grave, for it was one, indeed.

Or was it? A weak cough hacked from one of the seats facing the front window.

“Are you able to detect noise?” asked the drone, its audio projection device crackling to life. It had not used its audio projection in at least three hundred Earth years. The experience was . . . decidedly unfamiliar. It suspected that whatever life was on board, it would not be able to interface with it the way it normally would with fellow Noriscovic. “Respond to any noise or vibration you may detect.” The drone spoke in the old communications code of the Noriscovic, which it suspected may not be so widespread as to be understood. It began sifting through the registries, trying to find an alternative. There existed a few files on English, so it repeated the message in that language as well.

With a sharp clack, the drone stepped into the ship and activated its perspector lamp. The fleshy Noriscovic had designed the video receptacle attached to every Noriscovic drone to mimic more closely a human’s flesh eye, and thus its capability to perceive in lower light is limited. Thus, a drone must be outfitted with a light source. Prime Mind has made the preservation of the old technologies mandatory, and thus no upgrade was to come to the video receptacle.

Where the light landed, it could see traces of humanity. Glasswork, once filled with amber colored liquids, now lay shattered about the floor. Behind them, four limbed forms, strapped to a clothed edifice. Certainly humans. The drone walked over to the forms to study them, shining its light down on their faces. Coloration and general shape appear to demonstrate human-like qualities. The subjects seem unable to respond to him, excepting one, who ejected water and carbon dioxide upon its approaching them. That one, most certainly, is still living.

A blonde haired female, by the looks of it, kept alive only by the hard work of a multitude of mechanised and artificial organs - particularly a set of modified lungs made for surviving Raygonian air. Her forehead had received a nasty, but shallow cut, causing blood to cover one half of her face, and scans of her torso hinted at multiple broken ribs, as well as a dislocated shoulder. While she was alive, she was very weak. She unleashed another set of quiet coughs and rolled her head a little to the side.

“Da… ddy?” she whispered.

The human was in need of medical attention, by the looks of it. Unfortunately, medicine had not been practiced in Noriscovo for centuries. Nonetheless, the drone set about its work preserving the human organism. It reached down and tore the edifice from the ground, with the human still attached to it, and carried them out into the open air. Glass crunched under its steel feet surrogates, and occasionally, it’d step in a pool of the strange liquid, sending its contents splashing every which way.

The open air may not, in hindsight, be the most optimal place for a human. The gravity well of Zpithi is admittedly more shallow than that of earth, and that, combined with the relatively sparse vegetation, means that oxygen is slim. If her lungs are weak, then this effort is already futile. Considering this, the drone pressed on towards the nearest autonomous community, Morea. There is the possibility this specimen is augmented, like the flesh Noriscovic were. Even so, there is a better possibility of the drones improvising a solution from their existing equipment and treating her of her wounds than there is her surviving on her own regeneration capabilities.

The familiar sights of Morea were not far away from the site of the crash. Immediately, the drone began interfacing with the community’s central systems, which would then be redirected to the mayor and everyone else. Soon, a link was established. A situation as irregular as this was certainly within the task roster of the mayor.

“Are you aware of how the human arrived upon Zpithi?” asked the mayor, through interface.

“No, excepting that their craft was badly damaged above our atmosphere,” the drone responded.

“Bring her to the wildlife registry. Some of the devices there may be repurposed for human use,” the mayor commanded. So the drone did. The wildlife registry was intended for the census and preservation of the Zpithi native fauna, but in any situation, an x-ray is an x-ray, and a bone setter is a bone setter.

The girl appeared too far gone to notice the aid she received, but it was evident from various scans that the stress levels in her body were reduced considerably. She would likely not be conscious for a short time, but at least she wouldn’t puncture her artificial lungs with her broken ribs anymore.

“I have established contact with Prime Mind,” the mayor said. “They have insisted on you keeping watch over the human by description. Report to me immediately when she exhibits activity.”

“This is an unusual command,” the drone said.

“Prime Mind understands humanity better than we do. Perhaps certain entities present aid in human regeneration. When your task here is done, return to the workshop for testing. If you are in fact a positive presence on humanity, you will be issued a seeker ship. Furthermore, you have been granted a designation from Prime Mind. From henceforth, you are to be called Marina, category girl.” The mayor said. Marina accepted the command silently, awaiting Prime Mind’s arrival. Usually, it takes them a few hours to sift through the drone roster, within which time she expects the flesh human to awake.

Sure enough, a few hours passed and the girl eventually opened one of her eyes, the other one still crusted shut from the blood. Her single pupil darted around, affixing on various point in the room - the odd paintings of foreign trees and mysterious beasts on the walls, the ceiling resembling the sky on the Resort, the medical instruments - before finally settling on Marina’s form. “... You, cybe… Which hospital is this?”

“This is not a hospital. You are in the wildlife registry, within the autonomous collective Morea. I am Marina. What is your designation?” Marina asked, making use of the English file once again. Prime Mind was feeling her out, prodding the various functions with its shared command. They were giving her suggestions, a long registry of phrases that is supposedly more natural for humans to respond to. “I am sorry. Let me rephrase. What is your name?”

“... Wha-... Wildlife registry? Morea? What sector is thi--Ow!” The girl’s attempt to sit had been to painful to endure and she conceded to lay down again. “I’m sorry - this is a foreign port, isn’t it?” She looked around again. “Not Federation, that’s for sure… Alright.” She sighed. “My name is Jane DeWitt. I’m from Raygon. My citizen registration code is TRC-000-000-009-321-114 and my father is Alfred Justinian DeWitt.” She paused for a second. “I’m sorry to be a bother just as we’ve met, but could I ask you to contact the nearest gate authorities and have them send a message for me to my father, please?”

Marina quietly processed information for a few silent seconds, as Prime Mind relayed information to her regarding the nature of fathers, mothers, and human genetic relation. However, the both of them were stumped by the rest of what Jane said. Prime Mind, for all their wisdom, knew nothing of the various designations she had detected audibly.

“What is Federation?” Marina asked. “What is Raygon? What is gate authority?”

Jane blinked dumbfoundedly. “The… The Federation? The New Eden Federation? C’mon, you’re not going to tell me I’m…” Jane’s expression waned and grayed over with despair. “Oh fuck… The comms weren’t broken… There’s no gateway in this system, is there?” Her eyes teared up and she covered her mouth with her palm. “Mommy, daddy, Brendan…”

Marina was not sure whether Jane was malfunctioning. It seemed possible that the impact had shattered her lens cleaning mechanism, and it was now going into overdrive. If so, she should begin preparation immediately for invasive correction. Prime Mind, however, commanded her to leave the flesh human alone, and redirected Marina to other tasks. Marina left the malfunctioning human to her devices, but before she did, Prime Mind stopped her and turned her around to say one final thing.

“Welcome to Noriscovo, Jane,” she said. “We hope to make you feel at home.”

(Collab with @AdorableSaucer. Thanks dude!)

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Hidden 4 days ago Post by Sigma
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Sigma

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Paradiso System
Garden Moon of Nova Angeles
City of Dallas Crossing
Residence of the Adrios Family.



Senator Horis Adrios leaned over his desk in his personal office, almost in total silence, save for the occasional sigh and the ambient hum of the lit lamp next to him. “It’s just a terrible dream…” He thought to himself. “I’ll just close my eyes, and everything will be fine...” But no matter how many times he opened and closed his eyes, that damned news article laid before him. No matter how much he scolded himself, he had no choice but to read the news article repeatedly. With each read, he grew more and more incensed. His talon running against the touch screen. His mandibles twitching with every read. It was a harsh reminder that…this was no dream, but a waking nightmare.

Fatal orbital accident over Parousia.” The open title of the article stated. “Casualties in the thousands. No survivors.” It said. What made it all the worse, he recognized the name…it was the same station his daughter and her husband were staying at. “Avtia…” Horis mumbled her name, burying his face into his hands as his sobs grew with intensity. “Oh god…why her…” The grief built up, slowly morphing into rage In a snap, he shoved aside all desktop items that stood in his way, letting out a furious roar. Horis slammed his desk repeatedly as he tired himself out. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck you!” He cried out the loudest that he could, cursing out those that took his Avita’s life.

All the while, a couple of his in-house servants stood outside the room awkwardly, the senator rarely showing such savage outbursts like this one, it was a frightening experience to be sure. Taking notice of the presence of his servants, Horis calmed himself down, launching himself off his seat and straightening out his suit. “I’m going out for a few days...maybe more.” Horis said to the staff, his voice still trembling. The servants looking to each other with great concern. Mustering up all the courage that he could, one of them stepped forward. “If I may be so prudent….” The young man spoke up. “Where will you be going exactly?”

“Anywhere but here.” Horis was quick to reply with a stern tone to his voice. “And that’s all you need to know.”

“O-of course, sir.” The servant said, doing all he could to not make eye contact.

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


Paradiso, Outer System
Helheim Station


Cloaked in ragged cloths, Horis concealed himself, blending in among dozens of many undesirables. The trip between Nova Angeles and Helheim was not the most pleasant. Then again, he would’ve had to break out of his comfort zone, and reach out into the darkness. In addition to the rather cramped space and horrid odor, those damned Raygon-based ads kept up on a near constant loop over the ship’s intercom, those jingles stuck in his head. Salvation would come at last as the ads were cut short. “Attention passengers.” A feminine voice called out. “We will be arriving at Helheim, docking bay 5 shortly.”

“Oh thank Christ…” Horis whispered to himself as he braced for the eventual departure.

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

Helheim, even in “paradise”, the dark tendrils of the underworld creep their way in one way, or another. Horis, still under heavy cloak, wondered the decrepit streets of Helheim station, it’s interior design long worn out from decades of disrepair and neglect. Never before had Horis so willingly dug in deep into the darkness within the federation. Homeless, drug addicts and the like littering the damp streets, a far cry of his home.

Before long, Horis would find himself in market district of the station. The exact kind of place he was looking for. The district was packed, bustling with life as the air was filled with the delectable scents of street food. “Jarol steak for fifty credits!” cried out one street vendor.

“Finest Halcyon silk in this side of the sector! Twenty credits!” Another hollered. The voices grew more muddled as he went deeper in, getting lost in the crowds. Horis wouldn’t need to wonder for long, he finally found what he was looking for. He turned to left, walking down a dark alleyway leading away from the central market. As he walked down the path, he would pass by more unsavory-looking individuals as they passively watched him go about his business. One of the observers pulled out a small comms device, flickering it on to life. “Boss, got a new customer.”

Horis arrived to a “dead end” of sorts. Well, not really, standing before him was a curtained door, guarded by a heavily armed Putt and Shas. The guards didn’t pay much mind to their new visitor, the Shas pushing the curtain aside. Horis simply nodded to the guards and proceeded inward. As horis walked down the corridor, he passed by an assortment of armed men and women of various species. All gave their undue attention to their potential client. Upon reaching the main office at the end, he was greeted by a middle-aged, dressed in a very lavish-looking suit. With a wide smile, the man introduced himself. “Welcome to Leon’s Armed Solutions.” The man announced. “The name’s Leon O’Brien. please, take a seat.” Leo said, gesturing his hand to the seat in front of the desk.
Horis took his seat, adjusting himself. “So.” Leo begun. “What I can do ya fer?”

Horis cleared his throat. “As you’ve probably assumed. “Horis said with a hint of hesitation, but he’s gone too far now to turn back. “I’m in need of your…services.”

Leon leaned his chair back, folding his fingers. “Well, you came to the right place.” Leon said with pride and a wide smile. “Best bounty hunters this side of the federation!” Leon gave a dramatic pause as he continued. “That is, if ya willing to pay good enough credits, mister…..?”

No use hiding his identity. Horis lifted off his veil, so to speak, much to Leon’s surprised. “Holy shit.” Leon cursed; he was quite well aware who the man before him was. Senator Adrios being the public and beloved face in the Paradiso System. The main force behind the green initiatives, keeping New Eden’s assorted colonies “pure”, or at least not transform into heavily industrialized hellscapes. “What’s a senator of your standing doing in this godforsaken corner of the core?”

“Heard of the Parousia incident?”

” Ahh..I see where you’re going.” It didn’t take long for Leon to connect the dots. “Family? Friends?”

“My daughter and son-in-law.” Horis replied, his voice trembling. “…I want your best people to hunt down the bastards that took my Avita from me.”

“Any particular leads?”

Horis was silent… that was the worse part of it all, he had no clear idea who was even responsible. “I’m afraid I don’t know..”

“That’s going to be a problem.” Leon said. “It’ll cost ya more than extra to do a proper investigation plus the bounty hunting.”

“I’ll do it.” Horis quickly replied. “I’ll pay whatever it takes for you bring the fuckers to my doorstep cold.”

“Jesus Christ.” Even Leon of all people was taken aback by the senator’s…bloodlust. “I never took you as that type, senator.”

"You'd be surprised what tragedy does to a man."
Hidden 2 hrs ago 2 hrs ago Post by Crusader Lord
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Crusader Lord A professional, anxiety-riddled, part-time worker

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Location:
Unknown Space - Outer Cluster Space

Aboard the Military Shuttle "Excelus", which is passing into the planetary atmosphere







To explore beyond the borders of known space, to go beyond where the people of the Dominion had ever gone before...to go into deep space on a great flagship and scout out for other sentient life in the unknown areas of the Cluster. A long-term deployment, but a profitable one to boot...and it had gone well for a time. But now...

"CAPTAIN, THE MAIN THRUSTERS HAVE GONE OUT!"

...now there was this crap.

The main engine was finally after that impact they had on arrival, they were running on auxiliary power, and now had been pulled down from orbit of an unknown planet. The damaged ship was being pulled down through the atmosphere like a hurtling meteorite. The main thrusters were also damanged...and now 'gone'...to boot. It was being one hell of a solo mission, that much was for sure.

"Just pilot the damn shuttle, Private, and look for a location for an emergency landing!" the shuttle force's Valkyrian commander shouted aloud, barking orders at the pilot as she stood in the doorway between the pilot's cabin and rest of the manned shuttle, before turning to look back at the other crew members and troops on-board, "Barton! Make sure the Auxiliary Umbhite Engine is secure, and focus the current power flow to landing and guidance systems before reporting to the central cabin! Seres! Secure all remaining crew and personnel in the central cabin and prepare everyone for an emergency planetary landing!"

Their superiors had been pointing the new deep-space-scanners into an unknown sector, in an attempt to find more sentient life, when the faint residual of a familiar form of communications had been picked up. It wasn't Dominion, that much was for sure, but if they hadn't been pointing the device at the right place in the right time they might have never picked up on anything at all. But once the missioon had been given the crew of the large shuttle had been jettisoned to the calculated location via gate....or as close as possible. Which had been nicely 'close enough' within some reason this time. A very lucky thing. Yet from here they followed their next orders, and ventured farther into the gate-less system to see what they could find.

Or so had been their goal.

"Captain, I see a wide and clear area, with signs of vegetation and-...wait, is that a field of crops?!"

"By the Queens-...never mind! Just land us in it as best as you can if that's all we've got! That's an order!"

Then all of this had happened right after arriving. The dangers of slingshotted gate travel...no matter how calculated, they had been tossed into some form of space debris on arrival and been forced to move along on backup power and a partially-working main engine for several days to get here. Then they'd taken up orbit in the atmosphere of a seemingly habitable planet, hoping to scan it for resources to rig some repairs for their ship, before the remaining parts of the main engine fully and suddenly failed...and the systems keeping them in orbit failed in turn.

But despite the pilot's attempts to slow the shuttle's bullet-like trajectory towards the ground, even Commander Eir herself had to admit that the scene before them was strange. Field of crops, signs of civilization, and yet there had only been one sentient life sign they could detect right before the engine failure and their sudden descent. Though with little time to think about what was going on, the survival of herself and her crew was Eir's top priority. They could apologize to any, ah, 'locals' later.

To those on the ground or observing otherwise, the shuttle was like a falling star shooting towards the ground. Its heat shield kept it from burning up on entry, at the very least, though the ship was visibly trying to pull up and attempt an emergency landing. After what felt like tense moments, however-

*BOOM*


A thunderous crash roared out through the planet's air as the shuttle hit a hard landing, barely at enough of an angle to hit the ground and begin skidding somewhat. Its underside thrusters were destroyed, the bottom of the hull was shredded, and by the time the shuttle came to a stop its right wing had been entirely torn off as it had finally flipped over a few times. Yet the landscape was not much better. Large amounts of dirt and crops had been rent asunder, dust and light debris floating back down like a cloud, as if some celestial projectile had just obliterated them. At the end of the visible streak of farming carnage, however, sat the heavily damaged, slightly smoking due to the heat dissipating across its remaining frame, and most surprisingly "upright-sitting" shuttle.

"...D-Damage report...anyone...alive?"

Eir shakily returned her Umbhite knife to its sheath, the glow that had been covering her enhanced body since right before impact fading away gently. She'd been tossed around like a rag doll...but she knew she'd be fine with her Umbhite abilities. More importantly, however, was the status of the rest of her crew. Struggling and propping herself up in a sitting position, leaning against the twisted wreckage of the doorframe she had once been standing in, the Valkyrian looked to where the human pilot of her shuttle had been sitting. She could see his body still strapped into the chair, helmet even still on, and yet he didn't even so much as move. From the looks of it, his neck had snapped...much like the headrest of his seat visibly had been...though the obvious large shards of glass and metal sticking through his chest and out the back of the pilot's seat would have ensured his death anyways.

Cursing under her breath, Eir then looked the other direction...only to find that the central cabin was at least 'intact' at the very least. It had been built for such an impact, to hide crew and personnel in for an emergency crash landing, though the obvious denting and damage to it from her side was not the best sign. At least the emergency internal doors had shut to keep the crew inside safe. Though while still grunting at the soreness and pain that still wracked her body, Eir pushed herself to barely stand up and walk over to the closed door. She slammed her clenched fist against the dense metal, before shouting-

"Is anyone alive in there?!"

Silence.

"Seres, Barton, report!"

More silence. Eir gritted her teeth.

"...Damn it all-!"

Then a cough, or two. Other small, shuffling sounds could then be faintly heard through the metal door. Eir paused.

"Commander...i-is that you?" the voice of an Antean female called out.

"Seres, you're alive! What's the conditions over there? What about the others?" Eir called out in return in her own shouting voice, anxious thoughts about the rest of the crew racing in her head.

...Silence again.

"Not all of us made it, Commander. Barton is dead, he...he and most of the engineering crew with him never came to the cabin here."

Eir felt her heart drop into her stomach. Barton, the rare male Valkyrian adopted by humans that he was, had been a damned good soldier. He'd been a friend for many, even, after some time serving together, though his behavior could get on nerves. But hell...he'd even head out to drink with the others if they needed an ear to listen. But of course that idiot, that selfish piece of shit, would let himself die just for them to get that extra degree of safety in landing!

"Myself, as well as Privates Cleopatra, Holt, and Denmar, are alive though. I am unsure where the rest were...or...'are', Commander."

Eir let out a long, drawn out sigh...before looking up at the door again. At least they had one left who knew his way around the engine room.

"Acknowledged, Sergeant. I will need help getting this door open, but...even our pilot's dead, so we need to begin salvage and escape protocol to establish our location and the nature of this planet. It seems there are natives, but life signs read only one on this entire planet before impact.

Something strange is going on here, so be ready for anything."


A sigh of resignation could be heard from the other side of the door, before the queen Antean on the other side spoke once more.

"As you wish, Commander."

@bloonewb (and @AdorableSaucer in case they control/use Jane later or something XD)
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