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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Raylah
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The Undefeated

Meanwhile on the planet Ellara


The people were nervous, quiet whispers shivering around every corner. A lot of people noticed the strange phenomena when the Gateway reopened and wilder and wilder theories as to what happened began circulating among the people. As the men from the 8th and 9th divisions, recalled from the front, began returning home to the mainland cities, the rumors only grew stronger. Quiet voices suggested that the Screecher tribes have finally united against a common enemy, a thing which surprisingly didn’t happen over the past 300 years. Others fantasized that the natives have developed new technologies, or even that they have learned to use ours. There was one common denominator in all those gossips. ‘We are losing the war,’ the people seemed to be thinking. And that is something that the Grand General couldn’t allow. Especially when it wasn’t even true. It was time to make an official statement.

Some Guardians suggested that he might have been overreacting a bit, halting the entire war front just because the Gateway reopened. There is probably no one there, they argued. Probably. Wars aren't won on probabilities. Some of his people were cradled to feeling safe by battling a primitive enemy. A rifle versus a spear wins. But what about a rifle versus another rifle? Or versus some more advanced weapons that we couldn’t even imagine existed yet? Nobody seemed to realize that in the next war we could be the primitive ones.

Oscar swiped through messages on his datapad. Thankfully, there has been no activity around the Gateway ever since the Revenant went through. What would we do if a bunch of hostile spaceships jumped through and threatened Ellara from space? Not all of the Guardians seemed to realize the gravity of the situation. Fortunately, Kelsie Blackwood did and being one of the smartest people he had ever met, he immediately chose her for the recon mission. Kelsie. She was always trying so hard to make up for certain things that weren’t her fault.

He looked at the next message and cursed. Perun, one of the most important projects he reopened right after hearing about the Gateway, has hit a dead end. There was only one person that could possibly do something about it, but getting them to cooperate will be problematic, to say the least. Oskar sighed and got up. There was so much sensitive information in this matter that he could not possibly delegate it to anyone else.




The prison below the Citadel was small. Most criminals were shipped off to labor camps throughout the country, leaving this place only for the most dangerous ones. And those, who needed to be silenced, to never be allowed to contact anyone on the outside.

Oscar passed through several security checks before finally reaching the right cell. He took a deep breath before entering, trying to figure out what to say, but came up with nothing. Guess he will have to improvise. The room was plain gray and dim-lit, furnished only with a bed with a hard mattress, a simple table, and one chair. An older woman with short dark hair sitting cross-legged on the bed watched him carefully, hatred clearly visible on her face. “So, you have finally come to finish me off?” she said, testing each word on her tongue. She hasn’t spoken to anyone for months.

“No.” The Grand General leaned against the table. “I need your help.”

The woman burst into laughter, sounding almost maniacal. “Fuck off.”

“I have reopened the Perun project and I need you to continue with it.”

“Has the meaning of ‘fuck off’ changed while I was locked up? How about ‘go to hell’? Fuck you? Get lost? Wait a second. Why now? What changed? Don’t tell me the Screechers suddenly started using spaceships. So what is going on? Did you finally have a rebellion in your happy little country?” the woman asked ironically.

Oskar shook his head. “No, Claire. The situation doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you want to get out of this place or not. I can give you anyone you choose to act as a military leader of the project. Anyone,...” he started, but got interrupted.

“I want her,” the woman’s voice was a bit shaky, but her tone was determined.

“...but her. She is not available.”

“Not available?!” Claire shrieked and jumped up. “What the hell did you do to her? I swear to god…” she waved her hands in front of his face.

“Calm down. Guardian Blackwood is currently on a mission and I cannot recall her.”

“Guardian,” Claire spat the word out. “So you put a leash on her. I guess I should send her congratulations.”

Oskar raised his eyebrow. “I don’t think she would appreciate it coming from you.”

The woman just snorted and sat back on the bed. “You took everything from me. You took my work. You took my daughter. You murdered my husband! You locked me up in this hole. And now you have the audacity to come and ask me for help?!”

“Claire, I did a lot of things, but I did not murder your husband. He disobeyed a direct order and assaulted his commanding officer! There is no other sentence for that than death and Jeremy knew it. I had no choice,” he added quietly, thoughts lost in a distant memory.

“There is always a choice. He was your friend, for Christ’s sake! And you put a bullet through his head. What kind of sociopath does something like that?”

“A good soldier,” Oskar answered, but his eyes sank down. He couldn’t look her in the eyes, even though she was wrong. His only other choice was to end up in front of the firing squad right next to Jeremy. “Look,” he started in a rough voice. “The only reason you have been kept alive all those years was that one day we might need you. Now is that day. So do you want to get out of this cell, or should I lock it up behind me and leave you to rot? Or just take a gun and get it over with?” He realized that he might have gone a bit too far with that one, so he continued with a bit softer voice. “Is there really no one you can work with? What about Hamonga? He has watched over her all those years.”

Claire hesitated. “Fine, I can take Hamonga, but I at least want to see her. And I want all the information about what the hell is going on outside. I don’t exactly get a daily newspaper here.”

The Grand General smiled. “Fine. But you really can’t see her, I told you she is on a mission and I can’t recall her.”

“Don’t give me that bullshit. This planet is not that big, you can just pick the damn comlink and have her in the capital in a few hours.”

“That is the thing, Claire. She is not on this planet.”
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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@GreyGoblin

As the guests were brought aboard the scanner did what they were supposed to. Scan them for foreign bodies, potential viruses in the air around them, the material the weapons and armor were made of. The bigger guests, 3 of them in number, were the most peculiar ones and triggered a few internal alarms.

As they were brought inside the conference room, Hierarch William was looking at a datapad with the information gathered by the scanners.

"Salutations General. In our society it is considered an affront to say your family name openly in front of anyone but our *Priests*. I will let this slide in the interest of positive relationships but please, refrain from using your surname openly.
With that being said, I am Hierarch William. One of the four in command that serve The Goddess Ashevelen.

Behind me you can see my Elite Guards and on your sides, two more of my personal guard. They may be hard to notice, for you. " said William, first with a tone usually used by teachers scolding a child and then one of pride.

"Our people have gone through great hardships until The Goddess took control and Ascended but I'm sure, you're not here for a history lesson. You are here to know if our people can have good relationships or if we are going to follow our ancestors's steps.
The Chosen are, and I'm sorry for boasting about it, masters of genetic improvements. I'm sure you've noticed that the Adepts don't look like our common ancestors --" with a smile, William's eyes turned black and his face changed texture into a scale-like version of itself and then turned back in seconds to it's usual self "--nor I am."

"We can provide your people with food, as we've got plenty and if the Goddess agrees, even Enhancements. I've been given permission to offer 3 vials of our most simple formula. It will provide immunity to most diseases known to humans for sometime until your bodies overwrite it. Just a sample of what we can provide.

In exchange, I've got a question, what can you offer?"

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by GreyGoblin
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“Well, I’m sorry to say this, but, from where I stand I can say our people do not desire these... enhancements.”

Maya was shaken up, she had been able to tell that these people were off but from what she just witnessed they were absolute aliens, truly something beyond her imagination.

“As for what we can provide, there are a number of things. We could provide medicine, which as you’ve said you’re immune to disease which may not be something your people are in need of. We could also provide you supplies, such as exotic foods, water, and natural resources. If this is truly an offer to be made in good will, the council may be willing to trade information about technological advancements we’ve made. We may also lend military support as well as trade weapons. You yourself have mentioned that your people are good at genetic manipulation. It is not within my ability to even suggest this but I could see about us sharing our research with you about gene manipulation, that way our people could… compare notes would be one way of putting it.” she said with her words escaping.

Maya took a deep breath before releasing it, thankful for her helmet's sound suppression so no one heard it.

“Now that I’ve put an offer on the table, I would like to know your intentions with our side of the gate. Would you be looking for possible territory to claim, or for somewhere for citizens to migrate.” She sent another silent prayer out. “If your intentions are for territory expansion I hope to not sadden you by letting you know that there’s no room for expansion here. As for immigration I’m sure our leaders are currently working on a system to regulate travelers.”

She kept reflexively triggering her suits’ marker system, she kept making sure that the five people she brought along with her were still there without turning around. And although she was almost half immune to heat due to her being a Spar she felt her face feel hot. If these people were looking for expansion she had to make a firm claim that they would not yield. She hoped that wouldn’t be the case, if these people were to go hostile they might not survive.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Timemaster
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"I am truly sorry to hear that but I understand why you're cautious. We could've planted any type of mass-reproducing virus in those vials and wiped your planet out. Smart move. " William knew the risks of showing them the Enhancements he had but he had to come from a position of power. Not only due to the whole "meet your neighbours" but as well that's what was expected of him.
Growing up he had to put up with a lot of racism due to his Rejected status but he went up and up in ranks until he Ascended.

"We don't need medicine, that is true. The vial we offered you was a very simple formula our Goddess created in her early days, it's given to our newborns until their bodies are ready for more advanced versions of it.
Exotic foods? What would you call exotic food? From where I'm standing, everything that's done on a different planet can be named "exotic". Even bread."

William took a deep breath and continued, the same diplomatic smile on his face. More sincere this time than before.

"Your people have also engaged in gene manipulation? Wonderful. I wouldn't be the one allowed to accept this, different branch of the Church for that but, I can certainly say one thing. The Goddess would surely love to meet one of your scientists. I'm sure they would have something to talk about. "

One of the Elite guards behind William, approached him and whispered to him something. William took another deep breath, whispered something to the guard back and 2 of the guards proceeded to leave the room.

"I'm really sorry about that, some of the Adepts keep forgetting that there are certain rules that one must follow at all times. Anyways, back to the issue at hand. Natural resources. We currently have a shortage of a certain material, I can send a list of exact specifications on what it is. Maybe your people have it. Nonetheless, I've got something I can go back to the Goddess with and the rest of the Hierarchs. Enough to have a basic treaty in place at least. "

"We have enough space for our people for now. RADX-001 is a big planet, with enough space for everyone. I can say with certainty, immigration for our people is going to cause problems for your people. It's not something I can discuss with an outsider without permission, I'm sure you understand. But, I can make an offer. Have one of your leaders accompanied with one of your scientists and as many soldiers that can fit in a spaceship of yours and bring them to RADX-001 and as I sign of good faith, when your leader goes through the Gateway, I will come on this side. Alone and unarmed.

Do we have a deal? "

An offer like that wasn't supposed to come from William, it wasn't his place to do that but was the best chance for an alliance.

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by GreyGoblin
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Maya was silent for what felt like an eternity for her but could be estimated to about 4 seconds of silence.

“It's not my place to agree to it, but I believe the high general would agree.” It only took half a second for a small green check mark to pop up in the top left of her helmet. She knew the general was watching through her point of view, and she felt the weight lift off her shoulders as she saw the sign. “I believe that our high general would actually like that plan, but I would also like to extend the same offer to you. You may bring a ship with soldiers to dock at our... forward base.” She was uncertain what you would call the mining base turned military encampment.

“I do believe our high general would like to have words with you. It would help to even out the tables if we were to offer the same thing to you.” She said as invitingly as possible for her. “I hope that with this we can come to a greater understanding.”

“I hope you’ll find these terms I’ve laid out acceptable, now if you would excuse me I believe I should leave now to prepare for the journey over the gate.” She gives a small bow as she turns to walk for the door.

_______________________________


Gai was watching everything at only 1 frame per second.

He had his personal team of analysts watching the helmet feeds from all people wearing them. He had taken over general Maya’s helmet so at the simple press of a button he could take charge of the situation. So far he had been surprised by the general's ability to negotiate, although she did have her faux pas’.

They were now scrubbing all video sent to them for any hit of… well anything. They were looking for any information over the weapons they had, the level of their ship technology, their possible architecture, and any cultural objects that may be on the ship.

No matter how slowly he looked at it, there’s a moment where the general's helmet looked directly at a painting of an angelic like being, allowing Gai to take it in at its full beauty. Gai had to admit, he wasn’t an art guy, but he liked the art. He had made sure to take a couple of shots of it and saved it to his data pad. He’d probably find a talented artist who could make him a copy later.

As for the people’s whole mutated thing, he didn’t mind it much, they were like him. Osparians were linked to humans but changed genetically, so from the way he saw it they weren’t different, although the face shifting thing kind of threw him off.

It was at this point he heard the general offering to even the tables that he sat up straight in his chair. He wouldn’t mind dissecting the brains of some of their people, learning what makes them tick and such. As for allowing their soldiers he would hope to be able to do a few small scans on them, learn the extent of their changes, and gain some insight on how they were armed. He was currently forming ways to possibly test his future visitors.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Sigma
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Columbia
Capital City of Argus

Argus, the largest city on Columbia and the Seat of Power for all of the United Republic, a sprawling Metropolis stretching for miles on end, the various lights of the night and celebrations that sprang the city to life added to its immense beauty, for today was a special day for the citizens of the Republic.

Today marked the 20th Anniversary of the end of the Yulzan War, a conflict that saw millions dead, leaving Columbia in complete ruin. A war fought to the bitter end as the Yulzan invaders were sent fleeing into the darkness, leaving many of their own behind, at the mercy of their victims. Some continued the fight, others gave in, many not truly believing in the cause, and saw a chance at freedom.

The time was nearly upon them, time for the Chancellor to make his speech as millions gathered around the Largest Holographic Projectors, others waiting at home to watch the broadcast, and thousands more gathering around the Argus Sports Stadium where he'd make the speech.




Chancellor Constantine inspected his reflection in the mirror, making final touches to his blue suit, becoming quite nervous, the thought of addressing to millions across the planet and above had always gave him a bad case of the butterflies. He turned to face an woman a few years young then him, in a fine white dress, his wife, Alice. "So...How do I look?" He asked her nervously. "Honey, you're just fine." Alice replied. "Addressing live to over a billion people can do that to you." she cracked a joke to him, followed by a chuckle from Julian.

"Relax, you'll do fine!" She embraced him. "Just a small speech, and you're done, and not a moment too soon, I'm starving!" She half-joked, although in truth, she was eager to get on with dinner already. Alice had moved on ahead of her husband, meeting with their children, grandchildren and other VIPs waiting at the stadium's field.

"Hehe, yeah...just a minute or two and that romantic dinner can be my reward." Julian smiled as he walked down the great hall leading up to the stadium field, pausing for a brief moment as he took a deep breath before stepping out onto the field and was greeted by thousands cheering citizens and blinding lights, a small cadre of republican guards standing at attention on both his flanks as they escorted him to the center, there stood a platform, where members of his cabinet sat, and next to them were his family. Julian walked up the short stairs leading up the platform, soon taking center stage as he approached the edge, one of the guards handing him a microphone.

He grabbed a hold of the mic, tapping on it several times as camera drones begun swarming around the platform, hovering around them as they record. Breathing deeply once more, Julian begun his brief speech.

"My fellow citizens, today is a day of both joy, and of grieving. Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the end of the War. For fifteen years we stood strong, even against a foe that sought our total submission and annihilation, for fifteen years even as were pushed by defeat after defeat, we held strong. Our military would not give in, and was all that stood between life and death." He paused for a moment, and continued.

"Some of those brave souls may be among you now, look to them in admiration and respect, for they fought for your very freedoms.....your right to live, and we must not also forget the countless sacrifices our Ukrani brothers paid in securing their own freedoms against the Yulzan.

"Despite the bloody aftermath...we sought to rebuild, and extended a hand of friendship to our former enemies, those that had no choice in the war, those that wanted a taste of freedom. Although relations between our people and the former slaves of the Yulzan are strained, I hope that one day we can leave this conflict behind us once and for all, and build a better future together." With that, He finished as the crowds cheered on, his waving at the people as julian made his exist, the others soon following him, and so the festivities began all over the globe and in orbit.




The chancellor and his family were met with cheering crowds as they made their way towards a pair of limousines. As they made their way to the limos, a loud roar drowned out the noise as a razorwing dropship made a slow descent in proximity of the chancellor, a lone military officer stepped out from the back as he rushed towards the chancellor. "Chancellor Constantine, sir, I apologize for this interruption, but..you're needed at the Anvil. We'll explain later."

The Chancellor was visibly annoyed with this. "Can this wait after?" He asked. The officer shook his head. "I'm sorry sir, this is a very urgent matter." Julian let out an audible sigh of frustration, but matters of state come first regardless of prior plans. "Very well, let's go." Julian turned to his wife. "It's alright dear, you have work to do." She said with a caring smile. Julian smiled back. "How lucky of a guy I am, am I right? I'll see you later." Both embraced one another, followed by a soft kiss on the lips. The chancellor followed the officer to the dropship as it rose quickly, creating gust of wind as it departed.




Anvil Base
Headquarters of URC Armed Forces


An hour had passed since the Chancellor had arrived, waiting patiently in the central command center. The Command center was ablaze with life as staff and personnel ran about, carrying on their assigned tasks, a chorus of incoherent voices talking back and forth. All fell silent as the command staff entered the room. A group of generals and admirals, all led by High Admiral Gaius Bradley, all saluting the chancellor. "Admiral Bradley." Julian spoke. "I do hope you had a reason for interruption my family time."

"I can't be sorry enough, sir, but this truly is urgent."

"Don't keep me in suspense, what's going on?....Have the Yulzan returned?"

"Fortunately for us, sir, no."

"Thank God."

"However..something else has come up." Admiral Bradley said. "Sir, the gateway has reopened." Julian shook his head in bewilderment, and had to have moment to process what he just heard. "Come again?"

"The gateway has reopened. Sentinel base detected it a few hours ago."

"Jesus Christ..." Julian muttered to himself, catching himself as he dropped on a nearby chair. "After centuries..it's open. This is both fantastic and terrifying. The colonies, our brothers and sister, Earth!"

"We know, sir."

"We have to act now!"

"Already ahead of you, sir." Bradley said. "Sentinel Base has a ship in dock, they will soon cross over the gate."

"Good, good...once I return to the capital, I need to address the people, they need to hear this. We're not all that's left of humanity in the cosmos."
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Tortoise
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Collab between: @Tortoise and @datadogie


“Of course!,” Tanaka, who was genuinely excited, sent back to the Zelrio vessel. “We will accept both navigational data and escort to whichever location you desire, Captain Lillith.” Out of the corner of his eye, part of Tanaka realized his two crew members looked less-than-excited about the idea of going under foreign escort. ‘Terrified’ might be more honest.

The young ruler was certain they would do what he says anyway, because he’s an Oligarch and normal people all know Oligarchs are wise and good and you should listen to them, but he still couldn’t help but remember what Savant Heralds always says. “If people are afraid,” it goes, “you can’t calm them. You have to distract.” He says that like it’s the most important thing in the world.

“Hey,” Tanaka suddenly asks his crew, innocently, “what do you think that other vessel is? The one that just came through the Gateway?”

This launches a tirade of theorizing from the two Holographic-obsessed men, which ranges from “probably weird aliens with tentacles?” to “a trick from that Lillith lady to flank us.” But at least for the moment, they were occupied. Huh. He didn’t expect it to work so well.

A reply was soon sent to Tanaka; “We are sending you the data now. Escort will be provided, and the landing pad to arrive on has also been included within the data. Do not worry about sending any docking requests, we have that all sorted out for you for the time being,” Captain Lillith replied. Soon enough, a data packet was sent to Tanaka’s ship, and two corvettes from the gateway’s blocking force moved into escort positions for Tanaka.

"Hey," Tanaka asks his pilot, "Can you interpret that data?"

"...Yeah," Pilot Jonas says after a while, sounding surprised about it. "It's not that different from ours." And then the engineer, a little sarcastically, adds "I guess this doesn't technically count as being captured." He had been the one to propose tentacle aliens.

Unsteadily, the little shuttle follows along with the two corvettes, small by their owner’s standard but large to the eyes of the ECU crew. They had not built such ships. They had not needed them.

“We cannot go to war with these… people,” Engineer Abubakir comments, even though nobody asked if they could. “Tell me we’re not going to fight them.”

“Of course not,” Tanaka tries to comfort him. “Think of them as friends we’re only now meeting.” Abubakir tries to, and is painfully aware he’s not succeeding. He’s thinking of guns and aliens and aliens holding guns and New Hollywood exploding. After a short eternity, they find their destination approaching them.

~~~~~~~~


Featherfall station, their destination, was one of perhaps thousands of stations that occupied space above Oria, though it distinguished itself from the others by it’s size; whilst many other stations were ‘tall’, with a clear top and bottom, Featherfall Station could be defined as wide. It was very elliptical in size, a smooth dome, albeit with some ridges that defined it’s docking locations and crew quarters. Another feature of it was that it was huge; There were other large stations around, but Featherfall was definitely one of the largest above Oria, being several kilometers wide.

And today, it had a few more naval ships than usual around it, a welcoming and defensive party for the diplomats that were due to be arriving. One of the smaller ships, a corvette, was resting just outside of where Tanaka’s shuttle was due to arrive. None of them, however, hailed Tanaka, and as the shuttle got closer to the destination, the two ships that had been escorting the shuttle turned and began making their way back to the gateway now that their job was complete.

The hangar itself was large enough to accommodate Tanaka’s shuttle, as well as two others of its class if it had brought sisters. As hangars usually were, it was quite metallic, with docking equipment at the ready should it be needed. It was surprisingly clean, and had two exits, one of which was clearly for the maintenance crew, but the other primary entrance was larger, and held a trio of humans that were waiting for the shuttle to land.

Inside it, Abubakir was already becoming more frightened, almost panicked, and trying not to show it. He spent too much time watching alien horror holo-programs, but more than that, he once had a more truly horrific experience on a space walk. Abubakir was sent to perform repairs on the outside of the Listening Post after a small meteor collision, and his tether got torn on a twisted little piece of damaged metal.

He was free-floating for fifteen minutes before they could rescue him, and in that short time, his mind had already imagined every terrible death you could meet in out in space. (He counted fifty-seven of them.) He hasn’t trusted the entire place since. Or any people who would try to build so many things in it.

“I’m not going,” Abubakir crossed his arms. “I’ll stay here and… watch the ship. You and Jonas can go.” He hadn’t asked for this mission.

For a second, Tanaka looked like he wanted to say something. Really, he was imagining how Heralds would deal with this- how he could probably get Abubakir to go out of the ship willingly, even enthusiastically. But a look into his engineer's eyes tells Tanaka he won't be doing that today.

With a shrug, the Oligarch tells Pilot Jonas to come with him to meet their hosts. They set down gingerly, and soon after, they're meeting the trio in the hangar.

~~~~~~~~


The one in the center of the trio was a woman with long, brown hair, and a pair of gentle blue eyes. She was wearing a suit, quite business-esk, though neatly worn and obviously presenting herself as the main diplomat that the Oligarch would be meeting. That was in comparison to the other two individuals that flanked her at either side, both of which were in military armour, albeit with helmets clipped at their waist and not on their head, and weapons on their backs and hips instead of in their hands. Despite their armour showing them as strong and military, their faces were just as casual as an average joe’s, lacking the traditional military tough-guy look. Their eyes looked over Tanaka and Jonas cautiously, as if exploring them visually for threats. On the other hand, the woman in the suit kept her eyes on Tanaka’s eyes, with a welcoming smile on her face.

“Greetings, and welcome!” She says, spreading her arms widely. “My name is Amelia Cellica, I represent the Department of Public Diplomacy. It’s amazing to see some friendly faces coming through the gateway,” the woman spoke cheerfully.

“It’s amazing to see some on the other end of it!,” Tanaka, who was wearing a red suit and a cowboy hat that anyone in the Oligarchy would adore, cheered back. “We in the Earth Cultural Union had no idea if any other humans had survived.” He knew where Heralds would want him to press first. He softened his eyes, lowering his head a little bit. “In fact, the Tragedy of Earth shook us so deeply, we took it upon ourselves to carry on the legacy of all human cultures and peoples. We strive to keep the past alive.” Now that the stage is set, time for the important part: “I wonder enough to ask- how have your people gotten along?”

Amelia nods her head slowly. She understood what Tanaka meant; the Tragedy of Earth had struck the colonists of Oria hard. “In the beginning, our people handled things… Difficultly. Oria, the planet below, is a very harsh environment. We tried our hardest to survive down there, but no matter how hard we kicked, it just kicked back harder. Our entire population is now up here, above the planet. We could only afford to build this many stations because of the planet itself, of the materials it provides us. You’d think that we want to go down, to touch our feet to the planet and the ground once more. The truth is, we’re comfortable in space now. Stations like the one that we’re in now fulfill our need to be, well, outside,” she explains.

Tanaka nodded with genuine sympathy. (While behind him, Pilot Jonas tried not to smirk at the thought of how Abubakir would like living here.) “I see,” the Oligarch continued. “It is no wonder you have such impressive ships here!” And frightening. He rarely thought of the bad side of things, but watching his engineer’s reaction had left an impression. It seemed like the ECU had lucked out on their planet, empty and easily terraformed, but the Zelrio had prospered in another way. And then an idea struck him.

“We are fortunate,” he said. “Our planet has never put up a fight. The original populace made themselves extinct through some series of events our archeologists are still struggling to understand. War, we think. What is it good for?”

The key, Heralds says, is to wave a promise in front of someone’s face without telling them when it will be fulfilled. Tanaka never liked that hard thinking, but well, the Savant must be Savant for a reason. So he keeps on: “We have since repaired much of the damage they wrought. Our terraforming technology is believed able to completely restructure a world’s ecosystem, atmosphere, temperature,” he smiled, “and so much more. In the future of our two peoples, I wonder what it could do for Oria?”

Amelia blinked in surprise as Tanaka spoke about terraforming technology. The Zelrio Corporation had thought about terraforming in the past, however with the situation on the surface they hadn’t bothered to try. Even if they did manage to do something, the time it would take to enact such a solution meant it was pointless, as well as the research required beforehand and the damage they likely were already doing to the existing ecosystem with the refineries on the surface, meant that the idea was shot down whenever it was brought up. However, if the ECU already had such technology, deployment on the surface might be feasible. There was just one problem.

“It would likely do great wonders for Oria, however, we do have problems on the surface that extend beyond what terraforming could assist with. You spoke of war, well, the situation on the surface may as well be described as a war, with two opponents; the environment, which terraforming may very well help with, however the second opponent is the wildlife. Specifically, a species we call Vacuarians. Whenever we’re on the surface, we have to be on our guard at all times. Hives of Vacuarians attack whenever they please, in heavy numbers. Nobody on the ground is safe, and our primary groundside facility has defences upon defences piled on it to push back attacks, and even then, there has been reports that attacks come… Too close for comfort,” Amelia explains. “I fear that terraforming equipment that we place on the surface may very well be destroyed before it can do anything."

She's talking about being afraid. Distract! Tanaka suddenly laughs. "Oh, but I imagine you did not guide us all this way to talk in a hangar. Is there somewhere else we should speak? That domed part of Featherfall looks almost like a little piece of Earth…"

~~~~~~~~


The two diplomatic parties walked in pace with eachother, strolling through the park-like interior of the Zelrio station. Tanaka often stopped to admire the grass, the trees, the plantlife, and often hinted that it would be so gratifying to bring that beauty to Oria. Amelia told him about the struggles of the Zelrio Corp, and skillfully dodged some questions about their military capacity.

By the end, a sort of understanding seemed to be reached; they could continue on friendly terms, and Tanaka proposed a more permanent establishment of mutual envoys, to which Amelia agreed.

On their way back towards the Gateway, the ECU shuttle sent a little message of greetings to the Ospa Alliance vessel: a diplomatic equivalent to 'Hey, catch you next time!'
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Shem



Sand must not get lonely. How could it? There's so much of it, it's always together. In fact, if I were the sand, I think I'd get sick of the company. I'd want some breathing room. How could all these trillions of grains stand to be so close, and so small among so many? How does the desert not seperate? The rest of the universe seems to, two stars can't be so close, much less a desert-full. Even the ocean seems like it tries to escape itself, desperately clawing onto shore. So why does the desert think it's special? Why does the desert not explode?

Lev has thoughts like these in the big empties. His rover kicked up the desert's peace as he sped through the dunes, lost in thought. Sweat dripped from his turban and onto his military-issue pants, a boring tan meant to blend into the sand and rock of the Shemi desert. His rifle clattered in the rover's storage-it's always a bumpy ride, and nobody felt it more than his partner and navigator, Roshi. His seat was designed for humans, and even then it wasn't designed for comfort. His metallic rear bounced up and down off their seat with a loud clanging. While Lev focused on driving, Roshi stared at the human.

"Lev," the automaton said in a friendly if not robotic tone. The scout remained silent.

"Lev," Roshi repeated. Lev wasn't much for conversation, which made his pairing to the robot so unfortunate. "Lev...are you...'daytime-dreaming' again?" The scout sighed.

"Yes, I am, Roshi."

"Oh." There was a moment of silence. "May I ask what your daytime-dream was about?"

"That's not really how it works, achi."

"Oh." More silence. "Lev, did you know that tomorrow is a special day?" Lev groaned, wiping the sweat from his brow.

"Yeah, I know Roshi, we've already-"

"Tomorrow is a special day because it is your birthday!" Roshi excitedly clicked his fingers together and turned his optical receptors up to Salome overhead. "It is your birthday and you are turning..."

"Roshi don't-"

"...Thirty years old! My best friend, Sergeant Lev Adami, is turning thirty years old!" Roshi remained giddy while Lev was silent for a moment.

"Yes I am," he finally said. "Thank you Roshi, I'm glad you keep remembering, it's very...kind." It wasn't like Lev disliked his metal companion, but a five hour rover ride on a hot day in the Shem desert could get...tiring. And the fact that he's turning 30 isn't exactly something he wants a reminder of.

"Oh, we will have a wonderful birthday celebration." Lev smirked. Roshi could be a bit like a dog sometimes. A big, metal dog. With a satellite tracking his every move. "There will be food, and music...you will play your oud, and I will gift you a gift, and you will read me my book..."

"Roshi, I'm not reading the book, how many times have I told you that?" Almost every day since the two were partnered up, Roshi's asked Lev to read him a book he had when he first joined the Assembly Military. It's a pretty book, filled with interesting astrological charts and alchemical designs, but Lev couldn't understand a word of it.

After some brief calculations, Roshi replied, "You have told me one thousand, six hundred and seventy three now, if you do not count when you said you could not after your eye surgery."

"Alright, so then why do you keep asking me?" Lev asked bruskly, although he knew what the answer would be.

"In the earliest reaches of my memory bank, I possessed three items. The first-" the robot played a soft dinging noise he had recorded. "-was a bell, and I still very much enjoy ringing it. The second was a statue of a man. I did not enjoy the statue very much, so I have sold it and bought a board game so we could play it, which we often do. The third was my book, and I would very much like to know what it says." Though his voice remained cheery as ever, Roshi clearly cared about this very much.

"Okay, so why can't you read it." Roshi paused a minute. They were getting closer to their destination, and the sun was beginning to set.

"I have read my book 870 times, and translated it into over five thousand languages, but I still do not understand what it means." The silence resumed, Lev awkwardly staring ahead. After a few minutes, Roshi said, "We should leave the rover here." At that, Lev slowed the vehicle down to a halt, sand sputtering out from its tires, and the two disembarked. They opened up the vehicle's storage and grabbed their equipment, Lev slinging his rifle over his shoulders and his goggles around his neck, while Roshi put on his backpack. And with that, the two went about burying the rover in sand, enough to hide it but sparse enough to make it easy to dig up.

"Pin this location, Rosh," Lev ordered.

"I have already pinned the location," the robot responded. Lev didn't know whether or not he was being sarcastic, it's not like his tone changed. The sun set over the horizon, and as the stars overtook the sky, Salome shining brilliantly above, the two marched into the desert.

About an hour later, they saw a craggy rock formation in the distance, firelight and smoke spurting out from the middle of it. Finding a nice dune to act as a vantage point, the scouts went prone on their belly. Lev began watching the formation through his goggles. Askari, as was expeted, and a lot of them. It was good this was only a reconnaissance mission, because Askari soldiers dotted every side of the rocks, the firelight leaking out of a cave in the middle. Berserkers moved in and out of the entrance, kicking along human slaves. Lev could hear their raspy growls from where he sat. It was a disgusting sight, like finding vermin droppings in your pantry.

"What do you see?" The robot asked.

"Soldiers, like we thought...ten, twenty...I don't know, I can't really tell. But Hamigdal's here, for sure." Lev began recording, trying to figure out numbers, patrol patterns...anything of interest. But he knew that wasn't really why they were there. "What's the overhead look like?"

"One moment, please." Roshi slid down the dune so he could sit up without being spotted. And then, his vision was the satellite's vision. The formation was a tiny spot on the Moon's surface, thousands of miles below. He zoomed, and enhanced...he couldn't make out any definitive shapes, but much of what he saw was the same as Lev. "There are...rocks."

Lev rolled his eyes. "How could you tell?"

"The formation is hollow. Perhaps the mechs are in there?"

"Nah, I've seen Askari mechs before, way too big to fit through that small an entrance," The scout replied, still staring through his goggles.

"Then perhaps...wait." Lev looked back at the robot, who had spotted something peculiar in the overhead. "There's a structure, on the southeast side of the formation."

Lev sighed. "Alright, stay here, I'll try and get a better view." Roshi exited the overhead view and nodded obligingly, sitting still on the lower edge of the dune, while Lev cautiously grabbed his rifle and moved around the side of the small mountain. Staying low the ground, he crept along silenty to avoid any suspicion. Damn Askari making me squat, he thought to himself, and, finding a rock to act as his vantage point, fixed the scope of his rifle to the southeast side of the formation.

He saw more riflemen, a couple berserkers wrestling, their water supply and...

Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Mechs. Tall, spiky, scary, mechs. So this is it. This is war, then. Shem asked for surveillance, and they got it. Now there's going to be an invasion of this sector, and the Askari are gonna take off towards the desert, and someone's going to have to track them down, and he knows who that's going to be. He and Rufus are going to be stuck there for months. Just then, he heard a feminine voice come through on his comm.

"Adami?" Lev turned away from the formation, confused. Why would HQ be reaching out to him? Especially when he's on assignment?

"Adami? Come in, Adami?" She repeated. Lev shook his head and spoke back.

"Yeah?"

"Adami, grab Roshi. You're headed back to the fleet." At this, the scout stood up, a shocked expression on his face, his rifle hanging at his side.

"What? Why?" What could possibly be more important than a warlord with mechs? There was a long silence on the comm. Finally he got his answer.

"The Gateway's opened." Lev turned, white in the face. He sat on the rock below him, snapped a few pictures of the mechs with his goggles, and got back on his comm, this time with Roshi.

"Hey Rosh?"

"Yes, Lev?

"I hope you pinned where that Rover is."

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

On all the Moons, the people of Salome were in a frenzy. Has humanity redeemed itself? Is it time to reunite? Or is it worse? Is invasion imminent? Is humanity to be punished again? The opening of the Gateway begged all these questions but answered none. The Baalim, masters of the Mission's sacred texts, debated hotly in the streets of every city, while Teachist monks stressed for their Students to remain calm. On Adama, news anchors debated the issue and reported on every minute detail of the goings-on of the Tifarah system. The latest story-The Assembly will meet, and discuss what actions, if any, to take.

"Personally, I say, let the Gateway be what it is, a pretty light in the sky. Nothing more, nothing less," One anchor said.

"You can't be serious!" Another replied. About five experts weighed in over their debate, from every corner of every moon. "After all these years, we finally have a chance to get in touch with the rest of humanity, and you-"

"The rest of humanity? We're barely in touch with ourselves!" From there, the debate devolved into a screaming match while crowds gathered in the streets of Adama's many streets to watch. The position of Shem was far more clear.

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

"We MUST go through. This much is clear, the idea that any of you could think otherwise is rediculous," Aluf Kazak shouted to the other members of the Assembly. She stood strongly with her arms planted on the table they shared, the standard flair of a Shemi woman. "Human is made to wander, to explore. That the Gateway opens now, when there is peace, when there is cooperation between the Four Moons...that is clearly a sign from God. If you are all too afraid to send a ship, I'll fly one myself."

"Now Aria-"

"Hami." The two heads of state, one of Shem and one of Nereid, looked to each other with an unspoken disdain. Aria Kazak has been Aluf of Shem since Aluf Hahayal's imprisonment at the end of the War, and since then has pursued an aggressive policy of reform, much to the chagrin of Nereid and Adamia's established leadership. Nereid's president, meanwhile, sat back in the finest Alien textiles, letting a condescending sigh through his nose.

"Aria, it's not as if anyone doesn't want to go through, but we are recovering from a massive civil war, which I hope you do not forget..." He trailed off with a pretention that made Aria, a decorated admiral of Shem's fleet during the war, snarl.

"Watch your words carefully, fisherman." The Nereidi president gulped, and shook his head before continuing.

"As I was saying, we are recovering from a war, and we have no idea what lies at the other end of the Gateway. IF we piss off the wrong people, I don't want an invasion fleet coming through from the other end." Observers from around the room murmured their agreement. Aria tisked her tongue and rolled her eyes.

"All the more reason to go through and know what we're dealing with on the other end! It is our Mission has humanity to...I don't know, learn ourselves, and that means learning each other."

"I have to agree with Aluf Hazak." All eyes in the room turned to the speaker, Admiral Eyef, Admiral of the Capital Fleet. "As the only two leaders sitting at this table with military experience, we can tell you, even more than knowing yourself, you must know your enemies. We have the ships to spare, I say we go through."

"Thank you Admiral," Aria said, and the Admiral obligingly nodded. She settled back into her chair, fixing her hair which was neatly pinned into a bun. The Missionary Baal who was moderating their conversation also thanked the admiral, before turning to Adama's president, Kav Benhai. He wore a tailored suit and tailored turban, with his statement clearly having been prepared for quite a while, and he gave a quick smile to all the leaders at the table.

"Assembly," he began, as Aria quietly groaned her disapproval, "Do we have a responsibility to humanity? Of course. But we have an even greater responsibility to our people!"

"By 'our people', do you mean your corporate interests?" Aria shot back. The moderator moved to say something but the Adami President raised his hand in protest.

"Now, now, let us not pick fights, I have my responsibilities as do you, Aluf." Seeing that Aria went silent, he raised both hands to speak to the Assembly. "Why rush anything? We do not know how long this...'Gateway' will remain open, who knows if our soldiers who go through can even go back? We went through to get here and we were lost for...well, three centuries, I suppose. So, it pains me to say it, leaders of the Assembly, but I must vote no." The president gave a nice speech, but everyone in the room knew that his opinion was one that was clearly bought. The corporations of Adami have been hotly debating the subject of whether to go through the gates or not, with many wishing to expand Salome's trade capabilities, but the price of security in the end was much higher, and President Benhai fell into their camp. It was silent for a while, when the moderator spoke up.

"That's two against two...Teacher Qubon, you're the tie breaker." The monk, and leader of Da'lu, sat quietly in a dark corner of the table, lost in thought. Aria assumed that, since the initial Gateway opening brought humanity to the Tifarah System and led to the occupation of Da'lu, Qubon would certainly object, but as she began to say something, the alien raised a finger.

"We exist on small stretch of River of Consciousness." The humans who surrounded him stared at him, perplexed. "To us, the river moves straight...hm?" With this, he made a gesture of a straight line with his hands. "We move downstream, and in short time, must disembark." He paused and look the between the leaders at the table. "When we get back in river, we forget we were there before. And we never see...river not straight at all." He then gestured a circle.

There was a pause, and the President of Nereid spoke up. "So that means..."

"Change is not space between states of calm, but actually, change is state of nature. Calm...only branching moments." He bowed his head, his eye closing in one of the aformentioned branching moments. "Through the Gateway...that is where the river branches."

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

And so it was that for the first time in 300 years, the people of the Four Moons would enter the Gateway in search of humanity. Three teams would go through at first. It was decided very early on that, due to Missionary protest, nobody would go to Earth for now until it was clear there was Divine permission. Instead, three expeditions, each with different focus, would be sent to find human colonies that were separated in the time of Babel. Each expedition would have a military attachment (including scouting teams), and at least one Missionary Baal and Teachist monk. From there, one group would be focused exclusively on discussing religion and philosophy, one would be focused on economic cooperation, and one would be focused on science and technology.

As the ships prepared to leave, Lev looked back at Salome, celebrating his birthday quietly among a crowd of monks, priests, philosophers and alchemists, who Roshi ran among showing his book off. The expeditions, full of fear, anticipation, and excitement entered the Gateways, and in a moment, they were gone. Lev and his religious ship quickly caught a signal-music. They heard music. It sounded quite like the Missionary hymns many of the Baals had grown up with, so they pressed on.
@Tortoise

The trade ship, meanwhile, picked up a second signal, with a wide variety of human and alien languages coming through. Could this be another branch of the Interstellar Trade Route? With hope in their hearts, they set forth.
@Sigma

Finally, the ship of scientists and alchemists stayed, passing by multiple signals until they heard the whirring of engines and machines. They found their destination.
@Irredeemable

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

Elsewhere, an old man looked up to a purple sky, and above saw the open gateway, beautifully shining in every color imaginable. He smiled and began to laugh. A robot standing next to him look puzzled. "Is everything alright, father?"

"Oh...yes, I believe it is." He chuckled once more. "Brilliant, just brilliant.
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@GreyGoblin

"I understand it's not your place, I was asking whoever is watching through the body cams you have. Don't be alarmed, our scans picked up the electromagnetic waves as soon as you've stepped on the ship."

William paced a bit around the room, but always keeping the guests within eye contact pondering the offer. He expected something like that would happen but he didn't know how to answer.

"I will have to double check with the Goddess before I can agree. Please prepare your journey and as soon as you're our side of the Gateway, you'll have an answer if we're allowed to do that. "

As soon as the guests left, William ran over to the pilot.

"Set course home, send a high priority message to the Church. Code-4419. "
Code-4419 The Goddess's eyes only. The highest priority a message could have in the Church. It meant that the message was civilization changing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Meanwhile outside the Queen's palace


"Our Goddess bless us with your light! Make us whole again! Please!" Chanted the hordes of Rejected currently holding a protest. The movement called Choose The Rejected or CTR was the biggest pro-Rejected movement currently in the Chosen. They were fighting for the right to subject themselves to the treatment that would heal them from their blight.

Palace guards kept them afraid enough to keep violence out of the protest but for how long? That was a matter of time.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Tortoise
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(Addressing: @datadogie)


Something different in the air. Neo London is always moving, always bright, always loud. Until now. People stand around in circles, mumbling, staring down at their infopads. Or they stand by themselves, looking up the screens mounted to the sides of buildings, not making a sound. It's like a spell is over the city.

Martina Ward is by herself in the crowd, like always. She hasn't heard the news yet. It launched an hour ago, and every person on New Hollywood from the factory worker to the Neo Bangkok Entertainment Director has already been caught up, already informed, already stunned. Except for her.

She weaves her way through the throng, not brushing up against anyone, but she still hears a man mumble "The Gateways..." and then a woman: "I didn't know space stations could even be that big!"

She'd been out of the city. In fact, she was hunting through the Bezian ruins, trying to find those Mixtists that are supposed to be out there. All she found was dust that made her lungs hurt. But soon, she would find that the ECU had discovered something new itself, this time: they'd met the Zelrio Corp.

~~~~~~~~


"I'm proposing it now!" An excited writer was telling a bored Oligarch. "The next big holo-program: walk aboard the Featherfall Station, touring the forest in space!"

There was a long sigh on the other end of the line. "But... we don't know what the inside of Featherfall actually looks like, do we? Only that kid Tanaka do-"

"We'll make something up! Trees, flowers, a view of the stars all around! It'll be a hit!" The writer exclusively speaks in exclamation points. "Plus- plus- it'll, you know, it'll make the people like these Zelrio boys more! It's diplomacy!"

The Oligarch had to pause for a second. That one was actually true. Heralds had made it frighteningly clear he wants the ECU citizens to accept contact with these foreigners. Essential, he said it was. Essential.

"...alright," she says, and then shields her ear from the storm of happy exclamation marks answering back.

~~~~~~~~


"You have been selected as Diplomat to the Zelrio Corp," a happy holo-announcer cheers him to wake at noon. "This exciting opportunity, presented from the Savant himself, comes with great prestige and benefits, including but not limited to-"

"Hologram: Mute," he says, and it does. The job offer is just a formality. Heralds told Oligarch Antonio he'd be the new diplomat last night, and his few things are already packed. With a hangover the size of New Texas, which is actually pretty small, he pulls himself out of bed, through the closet, down the stairs and out towards the old Launch Pad. It's exhausting. He's exhausted.

But, he does feel pretty satisfied when he sees what he'll be flying out in. The newly christened "Deal Maker," painted gold, is a remodeled asteroid-mining ship with all those ugly practical bits cut off. It's sizable interior- hollowed out, holographically enabled- will let him make the inside of this ship look like anything he wants. An obvious gimmick to impress the new guys, but still fun.

He's only halfway to the Gateway when he finds the wine cooler. Do the Zelrio boys drink? Let's find out.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Irredeemable
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Epsilon-Bouchet turned to face the soused Andrei and bowed deeply. "Hello there. We are part of explorator-vessel 1-Alpha-Thirty-Nine." although he pronounced it 'niner,' "dispatched from the planet Zeta-5. I understand that to someone unfamiliar, our modifications might be... Strange." He smiled pleasantly. "We're the same human beings underneath all the metal, I can assure you." He turned towards the scientist, and quietly, under his voice, offered a joking 'I see somebody has been enjoying their time off a lot.'



Hmm. Communications problems. The Collective's mind set to work. The data that flooded from the planet was gathered and disseminated, linguistic programs roused to life to attempt to crack grammar and vocabulary. For hours, 1-Alpha-Fifty-Five hung in space, seemingly idle. It used the words the planet had sent back and compared their sentence-structure choices, millions of minds attempting to untangle it. Until, at last, four hours after it had started working on the task, the Collective had what they believed to be an approximate pidgin to communicate with. The more they spoke, and the more data from this world they gathered, the more refined the technology would become.

They returned a fresh message towards where they had received the first one. "Will not harm. Desire talk. We land somewhere?"



There was a ship entering Zeta's gateway. No sooner had it arrived than a greeting was blasted at it, two ships that had been left on standby for this exact purpose sailing towards it. Zeta did not arm its ships usually, but the Consciousness had decided that there needed to be a certain level of defensiveness when interacting with foreign individuals. Thus, whilst those leaving the Zeta system would not be armed, anyone entering's first sight would be two standard scientific vessels... Retrofitted with several conspicuous missile systems.

Greetings! The message declared. Welcome to the Zeta system! Please, allow our vessels to escort you to our under-construction diplomatic station! It was overly cheery, welcoming and disarming, to help counteract the show of strength. 'Under construction,' too, was a bit of an understatement. Zeta built their stations by fitting together pre-made sub-sections. Of course, this wouldn't do when the station was supposed to fit an entirely new purpose they couldn't just slap old pieces together.

Thus, their current diplomatic vessel was simply a standardised core that had been cleaned out of all research instruments in order to make for a more welcoming environment to guests. Around this core, EVA suits and robotic workers swarmed, putting in plan the Collective vision they shared. Not only would this be their first impressions for many nations, but this would also serve as a testing ground for the Sol system. A diplomatic neutral ground over their old homeworld only made sense, after all.

The guest ship was lead in to this hive of activity, and several of the docking lines were sent across. Their diplomats stood ready, and although their initial interactions with the Earth Cultural Union and the Undefeated had gone poorly, the Consciousness' eagerness to meet new nations had not diminished. Perhaps the third (or fourth, depending on who you asked,) time would be the charm?


Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Tortoise
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It's high noon. The desert air is sizzling, and the two cowboys are wiggling their fingers around their guns while the clock tick, tick, ticks. The duel is about to begin, and about to end. Only one walks out. Tick, tick, tick...

Twelve o'clock!

The first cowboy, who doesn't look much like a cowboy except for his hat, moves faster. His gun is drawn- trigger pulled- he gets the other one in the leg before he can dive away. He's standing over him now, pulling his best Clint Eastwood impression. His pistol is raised.

"Partner, you've yee'd your last h-"

A buzz goes off at the cowboy's hip. He looks down and frowns. It buzzes again. He frowns, but this time harder. Things in the Wild West aren't supposed to sound like that! (Well except for rattlesnakes, maybe.)

It buzzes again, just to taunt him.

Finally, Oligarch Tanaka quits the holo-program, his mood completely ruined, and checks his infopad. Three messages. Who's bothering him this late? Oh, he realizes. Savant Heralds is.

A new ship has come through the Gateway, the infopad reads out. Early communications establish it as some kind of- religious group. The young Oligarch doesn't need to have Heralds in front of him to know he wrote those words with disdain. And since Tanaka was the first one to speak to another Colony...

"You're being sent out to greet them," the message reads. "You can take the same shuttle. Represent us well."

A list of diplomatic instructions follow, but Tanaka knows them already. He's went over them seventeen times since his trip to Zelrio Corp. That one went so well, Tanaka isn't surprised Heralds is picking him again. At this rate, he'll be his right-hand man by next month! The not-cowboy whistles a tune as he heads out for his shuttle.

~~~~~~~~

(Addressing: @Ekreture)


As he steers the shuttle up to the foreign ship, the Oligarch can't help but think I wonder if they're like the Mixtists? They were the only real religious movement on New Hollywood in its 300 years of history, but from what Tanaka has been taught his whole life, they were insane. Always praying or singing, talking about things that can't be real- no wonder the Savant drove them out. They're supposed to still be living in the ruins these days. Like animals. It sounds terrible.

If that's what religion is, hopefully these people won't bring any of it here.

"Hail!," Tanaka sends to the new vessel. "I greet you on behalf of the Earth Cultural Union, a league of mankind dedicated to preserving the ways and forms of Old Earth." The new official greeting, as per this morning. Things are changing fast these days. It's a little scary.

"I speak on behalf of our elected leader, Savant James Heralds," he goes on. "And I am his student, Oligarch Tanaka. We welcome you to our space, and to the lights and joys of New Hollywood!"

~~~~~~~~

(Addressing: @Irredeemable)


"Ah, ah, you should find somewhere to go lay down- no, it's okay- yes, yes, I've got this. I'll talk to the aliens for you, sir, yes I will. It's okay..."

Scientist onboard the Gateway Listening Post, Dr. Budi, is leading Oligarch Andrei off of the Holographic Suite. He'd smiled politely at Epsilon-Bouchet's joke, but within, felt more than a little embarrassed. Is this the best the ECU could present themselves?

"I... apologize for my colleague's behavior," Dr. Budi says once his boss is gone. The holographic marble floor seems to flip upwards as he tries imitating the cyborg's bow. "Of course, it may not compare to your own modifications, but I myself have a prosthetic. You will come to realize that some in our society," by which he means the ECU, "are somewhat close-minded to such things. It's a by-product of our history. I ask you not to be offended."
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@ClocktowerEchos

The arrival of the ship alone stirred a great panic.

Idle peasantry sat upon rooftops, watching the shuttle move through the air at great speed, astounding with it's technology alone and causing a wonder of imagination at what they could be. Human, non-human or something much more alien, people wondered, curiosity turned to gossip and even arguments- the peasants couldn't stop their minds from running wild with ideas, even if it'd be only for a brief moment before that shuttle landed. None really thought much of the danger they posed, unquestioning of things and waiting for the next order by their leaders...

The nobility on the other hand had entered a full-blown panic, especially those well aware of their ancestors and the past war they waged. To some, it was as if Hell itself had begun knocking at their door, arming up anyone they could find and marching quickly to where the shuttle began to land. With rifles in hand, dozens of soldiers split into different squads- an incredibly small number compared to their usual armies -loyal to their nobles and marching behind or around them as a protective guard. Others brought their servants which carried food, chairs or prized materials that would help relax the nobles in this first-contact event. Others lacked an entourage of any sort, grit and experience calming them down and prepared for the worst with a handgun or sword at their hip.

And so when the shuttle landed and it's crew had arrived, witnessing the gathering before them...the crowd anarchic in clothes, technology and style, a strange concoction of peoples who stood there, silent, mouths shut, watching in amazement, fear and surprise. This silence would persist as the beautiful and captivating guests strode with armed guards, their statue-like movement- or lack thereof -causing a stir among the more armed nobles, eyes squinting with a primal panic amongst them, like animals they shuffled and stirred as if ready to jump into action and start firing.

As the ambassador spoke, the crowd then gasped, yet again the nobles simply talked amongst themselves in quiet whispers, a few seemed a bit entertained by the usage of their language! The nobles became lively in both interest...and obviously those with fear. There were those no doubt convinced it was a lie, so they tightened their grip on their guns and their peasants huddled up and would bear arms with their primitive weapons. Yet again, compared to the Midnight Technocracy, the inhabitants of Vystrallia seemed to be much less civilized and advanced, or at the least much more closer to barbaric humans.

Then, a sudden movement occurred somewhere in the crowd, in front of the recently arrived ambassadors and their guards. The nobility seemingly getting out of the way or, more likely, being pushed out of the way! Those at the forefront of the crowd turned about and as if sighting an unstoppable force, quickly moved out of the way, revealing an all-too mad and disheveled king. He stared forth, right at the recently arrived extraterrestrial guests, with a hostile look on his face. He approached, thoroughly armored and armed with a sword with strange blue lights outlining the sharp edge. He kept one hand on the handle of the sword, though keeping it sheathed, while the other remained idle at his side.

"I speak on behalf of my people and the planet I call home, as both king and a citizen of Augustillia." His voice was loud, though had a striking about of mood and anger to it, as if staring right at his own death. Melodramatic as it was, in his mind, it truly was the end, especially what was once peaceful isolation from the stars "Your arrival on this planet is a sign of great importance, one which is unable to be described in words alone. This planet and it's people have lived in peace, separated from the stars beyond for many generations. We know not what you are or what you bring, but we have no intention of harm, hostility, or war. Augustillia is a nation of honorable people and if you speak of words meaning peace, then we return with peace in kind."

His voice fell silent and so did the crowd. Words promising peace yet the actions of a few indicated something much more violent and complicated, as hypocritical as their usage of advanced technology, Augustillia yet again says one thing but prepares for another. At least of the Midnight Technocracy would be assured of one thing in the reports, this was no simple planet...
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Crusader Lord
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Crusader Lord A professional, anxiety-riddled, part-time worker

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The Xandalian Republic


Senate Chamber, Capital City of Thalus, Xandal





Executive Officer Garand had been having what most might call a 'very long day'. He'd been woken up in the wee early hours of the morning by the most urgent of calls, one that he nor the Senate or anyone else on the planet had likely expected to happen. From there it had been full-stop action from the start, ranging from calls to staff and the rousing of proper military resources and units to the informing of the Senators who were already going to meet in a session today anyways. Upon getting the information, the Senate had declared an 'emergency session' early and called in even the Head Judge and Council of Seven. Ultimately they had naturally delayed the originally-scheduled meeting, but this matter was far more pressing than discussions about the weekly issues. No, those were already being delegated and handled at the continental and lower levels at the moment to keep things moving and ensure the daily matters continued to run smoothly.

All in all, the flexibility and efficiency of the Xandalian System was able to handle this and respond with speed without sacrificing functionality. It was something to be proud of for sure, whether in the minds of any citizen or even as high up as he himself was in the grand scheme of things.

Still...yes, back to the matter at hand.

As Garand walked into the grand, semi-circular auditorium-style Senate Hall he had minor flashbacks to when he'd been called in to be given his appointment as Executive Officer. The floor was a polished marble, great pure white columns carved in ancient Earth style but modern techniques held up the fast domed roof, and yet rows of semi-circular arranged seating in proper order and where those at the center where the podium was could be heard and seen with maximal efficiency. Whilst the 'charm' that hailed back to old Earth was noted, the technology the room was made with and that it continued in the seating and at the podium and so forth was far more advanced. Holographic displays for three-dimensional presentations, proper microphone design that allowed for simple voice projection as clear as crystal, and even personal displays at each of the seemingly innumerable senatorial seats for each Senator to use for clear communication and analysis purposes. That was just the general gist of it, however, as what hit the Executive Officer soon after was the feeling of the eyes of the Senate on him.

As large a man as he was in height, and as imposing as his highly-decorated formal military garb with badges and awards and so forth was, the six-foot-two Garand still felt a light chill down his back as he calmly stepped up to the podium. Soon after, though it felt like much longer than that, Head Judge Marianna von Marua would step up next to him. Whilst Garand himself had quite the tan complexation, complete with a soft, yet kept in a short-military-cut, black hair, Marianna was rather fair skinned and seemed quite pale. This stood in stark contrast to the intricate black Judicial robes she donned, whose collar was golden and woven with fine silver filigree that looked like a 'laurel wreath' design (a plant long lost to Xandalian knowledge sadly) was around her neck...and whose bottom skirt that nearly touched the floor was embroidered with intricate depictions of major Xandalian Historical Events. To some she might as well seem like she was sick, but that was far from the case. Indeed, Garand himself had never seen someone with such raw force of will and good health and a sense of justice as she carried.

Soon, however, the voice of the Senatorial Herald would echo across the room, kicking off the meeting in a rather familiar manner for such an unfamiliar topic.

"Welcome, all to the First Emergency Session in Year 300 of the Post-Colonization Calendar (PCC). Today the Senate has convened to discuss the serious matter of the ancient Gateway re-opening, as they were alerted to by Executive Officer Garand Marks, inviting all major officers to come. Direct Representatives of Continental authorities are also tuning into this session for informative purposes.

At the stand are the Executive Offer, who is joined by Head Judge Marianna von Marua.

Executive Officer, you may speak first."


Garand nodded his head solemnly, and soon the vast open air of the chamber was filled with a 3d holographic display showing himself. It was real-time, meaning as he moved and talked those watching would see it and how he was conducting himself, hearing every word if not breath that came out of his mouth. Quite the pressure, but it ensured clarity and quality of understanding.

"Members of the Senate, representatives listening in by a secure channel, and most honored Head Judge beside me," the man began, gesturing politely with one hand to the Senate and to Marianna (who nodded back at him) as he addressed them before continuing, "As of 0200 hours this morning, confirmation of the opening of the ancient Gateway was received by staff on Listening Station Alpha. Thirty minutes later I received the first call about this after further analysis was done to confirm the initial readings. By 0400 hours, I had sent out all necessary emergency orders for military reactivation and deployment up to 40% total capacity and for forces to secure the Gateway. Anti-piracy forces remain active, however, so as to not compromise the safety of our space.

Listening Station Alpha has kept tabs on the Gateway and area about it for anti-piracy means, but also to keep an eye on the ancient Gateway. This 'artificial wormhole generator', as the 300 year old records recall it as, was left by our forebears who settled this world and fled a dying one to settle various different places. For all of our history here, it has remained inactive and we have not had the means to bring it back online despite attempts to study its arcane technology.

Now...this machinery has returned to an active state once more, and regardless of the 'how' or 'why' we are faced with a serious
matter. To this end I have been asked to speak first here this day, and give my initial recommendation on what should be done. To this end I suggest we maintain a secure space about the Gateway, and send out a mixed diplomatic and scouting mission to begin investigating things with a degree of caution.

I now hand the floor to Head Judge Marianna."


Garand gave a nod, before taking a step back. Marianna's gaze seemed as piercing as those light blue eyes of hers hinted at, though she quietly nodded to him as she took center stage at the podium now.

"This is indeed a most awe-inspiring moment...and also one that inspires tensions to boot," the Head Judge began, her words pronounced with a very deliberate clarity and smooth tone, gesturing out with her arms as she spoke with her blue orbs scanning the audience of Senators for reactions and so forth, "We have no idea what lies beyond the Gateway, whether it be hostile forces who do not remember their origins or perhaps those who have abandoned the ancient definition of 'humanity' in regards to their own actions. Alternately, there might be friends and allies with which we might come to an understanding and greater prosperity as we have come to achieve with our Gusb brethren at the other end of the system.

In this vein, simply tossing a scouting party and diplomatic mission through the Gateway I believe would be too dangerous to consider for a first impression. Too hasty, with high chances of causing fright to either potential friend or foe. Should we take such a rash risk that might tarnish the name of this proud nation and people? Should we really have military forces sitting about as well, bringing tension or perhaps rash actions to any who might enter through the Gateway as well?"


She seemed to glance back at Garand himself for a moment. In turn, it wasn't hard to notice that her words did seem to stir some sense of unease among some of the Senatorial faces Garand could most clearly recognize in the room. Unease at his idea that was. The Executive Officer grit his teeth in silence. Woman could have been a Senator with the way she could direct and guide and capture the attention of those about her. Even so, she had 'some' of a point at least. Yet at the same time...

"If I may interrupt for a moment?" Garand said, stepping forward once more and his holographic projection appearing next to Marianna's as his words began to be projected as well, "Head Judge, with the utmost respect I do wish to note that decisive actions must be taken in some capacity. To leave the Gateway unsecured in its current state would invite pirates to potentially make use, which would leave a far worse impression of us perhaps, and what if something hostile enters our space as well? Shall we take forever to respond, potentially allowing hostile forces to secure our own Gateway?

Would you leave our people and allies in danger over any proper sense of security?"


The military man's voice carried authority and a resounding boom to it that brought attention back to him, and after a minute several heads would nod in mild agreement within the crowd in turn. Marianna didn't even bat an eye at his interruption, however, simply smirking at him alone for a moment despite his attempt to cut back. She then went about returning her attention back to the Senators.

"Ah, Executive Officer Garand does have a point...so perhaps a compromise might be in order? How might we secure ourselves, and yet approach things with a more even hand? To that end, I have a potential solution of my own I would wish to suggest to the Senate as a whole. A compromise, if you will."

Wait a second.

"Let us secure our Gateway, but rather than seek others we shall invite them to meet us. We should invite them forth, and have ships ready with each of the Council of Seven to receive diplomatic parties as they arrive...and the troops to fire if the worst enters in."

Oh that sneaky little manipula-...wait. No. There was only one good way to follow this up, and he had an idea!

"How so, Head Judge? I believe the magistrates would be rather busy with the day to day, unless you mean to use them instead of our nation's finest diplomats?" Garand said, after giving a click of his tongue, "As for the delivery method, I believe we have the solution already.

We program a series of modified automated scouting drones, and send one to each world with care. Each will bear the same message, projected out, as they send us cursory data in return."


Marianna chuckled.

"My, I did not mean any offense to our nation's diplomats. Simply to relieve the pressure upon their station as they perhaps get ready for whatever times are to come, and to make my own proposal as were both were requested to prior to this meeting.

Yet you are correct, Executive Officer, our finest diplomats should be prepared for this,"
the Head Judge responded, before extending her arms out in invitation as she looked back at the Senators one last time, "Then, oh members of the Senate, oh voices of the people, what say you to this plan? To secure our Gateway, sending out messenger drones and preparing a diplomatic welcome on our side for any who might deign to visit?"




~Many Hours Later~


The joint plan had been approved, at least after the Executive Officer and the Head Judge were dismissed as the Senate Floor began its own internal debate and decision-making. It had only taken two hours for them to come to a conclusion, which for the Senate was quite the fast decision indeed. Albeit this emergency situation called for such a fast response...so there would be no week of debate over this thankfully. Still, the extended military forces had been assembled at the Gateway already. A couple of Diplomatic vessels, escorted by a destroyer, a carrier, and a humble swarms of Corvettes. The rest would have to take the time for further deployment, but at the same time the Military-Frame pilots with their 3rd Generation mechs were primed and ready in case of the worst. Two squadrons of them were already deployed into the vacuum of space itself as an 'honor guard' forming a safe channel to the diplomatic ships for any potentially-arriving diplomatic parties...or to intercept anything hostile that came through otherwise.

It was fancy as hell for all involved, but with the two ships each equipped with two diplomats up to four foreign diplomatic parties could be hosted comfortably at the same time. Already Listening Station Alpha would now have a carrier and destroyer stationed there for added response capabilities, all as space crews would be arriving to begin building onto the space station itself to accommodate more staff and versatile capabilities (such as a diplomatic wing and one for stationed troops) using premade space station modules shipped from planetside.

However...one thing was for certain. As the Gateway was operated, sending each of the now-modified scouting drones through, things would never be the same again.

And as each drone would arrive at each of the other Gateways, they would begin broadcasting a simple message in Xandalian, translated Old Earth English, and Binary respectively:

"Attention, nations and sentients on the receiving ends of these Gateways. This modified drone has been sent by the Xandalian Republic, bringing greetings to any and all remnants of humanity's ancient voyage into the stars. You are not alone.

We invite any who wish to engage in diplomatic talks to our home system, where our diplomats await you on our end of the Gateway. Coordinates have been encoded into this broadcasted message in simple binary.

Our military has secured our Gateway site as well, therefore any actions of aggression or hostility sent to us instead will be responded to with decisive force. However, diplomatic missions and friendly arrivals will be safely and warmly received

This signal will repeat for three hours, and the drone will then automatically shut down and begin self-destructive protocols away from yours Gateways and any detectable ships or life signs. Remain away from them, but it will only be a small blast that will dispose of the drone safely and efficiently."


@MetalWeight@ClocktowerEchos@Tortoise@Irredeemable@Ekreture@datadogie@Timemaster@GreyGoblin@Sigma@Raylah

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Sigma
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Sigma

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@Tortoise

Edge of Columbian Space
In proximity of the Gateway
Vaillant Cruiser, CSS Overwatch

Despite the gate opening a few hours ago, Captain Hans Grayson couldn't help but looked in sheer awe of the anomaly right before his eyes, illuminating the darkness of space with its

bright light, the bridge crew joined in as they starred hypnotically at the gate. "Holy shit, still feels unreal." Captain Grayson spoke.
"Couldn't agree more, Hans..er, captain." Grayson's XO, and younger brother Rean, spoke.” Just wish dad was here to see this, wow.” While the two, and the rest of the staff stare, A small holographic figure materializes to Hans' right, the appearance of a woman dressed in what seems to a simple white suit, the ship's onboard A.I., Ava. "Captain, I've checked on all ship systems, and we're ready to depart on your ready, sir." Captain Grayson and his crew were among the lucky few to cross over the gate, a once in the lifetime event, to be the first to venture out in the greater galaxy and finding some trace of humanity beyond this one world.

"Good, good." Hans made a last minute
inspection of the bridge. “I know how eager all of you are, so let’s skip the bullshit.” Hans said. He looked to his left, pressing down a button for the intercom. “All crew to stations! Prepare for departure.” He ordered. “Helm, set a course for the gate.” He followed up with that order.

“Aye aye, Captain.” The Helms Officer replied, the ship tremoring to life as the engines roared. The Overwatch, the first Columbian vessel to venture outside of Columbia, outside their home system to parts unknown. The ship was soon engulfed by the gate, a chorus of lights and colors enveloping the bridge. Within an instant, a mini starmap had manifested before the captain, the map filled to the bring with bright little dots. “This is for real…” Hans mumbled to himself, at sheer disbelief, he scanned through all the names, what stood out to him, was a world titled “New Hollywood”.

“That might be a good starting point.” Hans said. Pressing down on the dot. Within an instant, the ship was hurled out towards a brand new world.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Raylah
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Raylah

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Collab with: @Tortoise and @Irredeemable


Cassius Mesalla was never the one to question orders. But these orders seemed insane. Letting even more possible hostile aliens on board? They might claim they are human, but he has seen the security footage of the first delegation and that is not what a human looks like. But orders are orders, especially from a Guardian. The rest of the team seemed to respect Blackwood more than just as a superior officer, they had a history together, but Cassius had been assigned to the Squadron sometime after she left, so he never knew her personally. But it didn’t matter, he would never intentionally disobey a direct order.

He and Senja Angstrom grabbed their gear and weapons and got to the B-2 airlock just in time to see the ECU vessel dock. When the door opened and revealed the second delegation, only the years of training prevented the Reapers from laughing out loud. The new arrivals looked like they robbed storage of costumes used in the old movies and then randomly put the pieces together. On Ellara, people mostly wore their uniforms, or uniform-like modest clothing, usually of some darker color, nothing fancy was ever necessary. Even the ceremonial uniforms were plain and single-colored. To the Undefeated, these people looked like clowns.

But orders were orders, he kept repeating to himself, and Cassius was a professional. “Welcome aboard the Revenant. The Zeta delegation is already in a conference room. I will show you the way,” he said in a calm voice. He gestured to the guests to follow him.

Kelsie returned to the conference room. “I have just received word that the ECU delegation has docked and are on their way here,” she announced to the Zetans. The door opened at that moment, but it was just Petrova, carrying a large tray laid with various fruits and other delicacies that they had brought from Ellara. “This is Miss Julianna Petrova, she is a member of our science team and will stay for the negotiations.” There. It was an immediate idea, but Kelsie was glad she would not be alone with all these strange people. She intended to have the guards stay outside so the room wouldn’t get too crowded and the foreigners wouldn’t feel threatened. Fortunately, Julianna was smart enough not to look surprised, she just smiled and bowed her head towards the guests, moving quietly into a corner.

Then the door opened again, and this time stayed open for a second as the Student Abadi and her pilot stood in it, shocked.

She didn't even know which one to address. In all her dozens of "Student performance reviews," nobody had ever once described Abadi as open-minded. This was, of course, a great compliment in the Oligarchy, that fears innovation like a cat fears an empty food bowl, but still probably explained why it took her mind a second to process what was in front of her. Until something clicked.

One of the- cyborgs, robots, whatever they are- was wearing a dress. A really nice, old-fashioned one. Like any person on New Hollywood might.

“I am Student Abadi. Are you…” she finally realizes, “our Zetan colleagues?”

“Yes, indeed.” Sigma-Devi responded, performing the greeting with her hand once more. She indicated to her colleagues, re-introduced them, then smiled. “We have actually come into contact with your home system, your holographic technology is very impressive.” She smiled widely.

“You seem to have been… Inspired, by our ancestors. Your dress… Your architecture. It is most interesting.”

Kelsie sat quietly as the other diplomats talked, trying not to grin too much over the ECU representatives’ ridiculous attires. One thing she couldn’t figure out was how the hell was Sigma-Devi getting all that information. The Revenant was cut off from Ellara’s communication network as soon as they went through the Gateway and she assumed other vessels were in the same situation. The Zetan shuttle didn’t move, the Gateway didn’t activate, none other ships came through so far. Plus, she didn’t seem to be actually communicating with anyone, engaged in a casual talk with the young girl representing the ECU. Kelsie glanced at Julianna, only to see that while there was a polite smile on her face, her eyes also kept studying Sigma-Devi and a tiniest frown suggested that the assistant was thinking about the same thing as Kelsie.

Clearing her throat to get attention, she stood up to welcome the new delegation. “Welcome aboard the Revenant. This is Sigma-Devi, representing the Zeta system,” she waved her hand in the general direction of the Zetans, “and I am Guardian Kelsie Blackwood from the Undefeated nation from the planet Ellara. I have to say I am glad that so many other colonies have survived to this day. We haven’t had any contact with our home planet since we arrived here, so I don’t know if any other survivors haven’t come across our Gateway. You seem to be much better informed, Sigma-Devi,” Keslie smiled politely.

All these polite smiles and subtle questions; Abadi just left, and she already felt like she was back home. Never the most social Oligarch, maybe, but everyone of her kind grows up in gatherings like this. (With more drinking. And music.)

“Yes,” she forced a laugh when Sigma complimented the ECU’s holographic technology. “Or holograms are as solid as people. Sometimes I think they’re better than them, too.” This was intended as a joke. “So, do your people not have similar inventions?” And this was not. Her main mission, as she understands it, is to gauge these people as potential threats. Better start by finding out what they know.

She takes an empty seat around the table without asking, and leaves her pilot standing by the doorway. “Perhaps an exchange would be possible, one day. Your cybernetics seem… deeply fascinating.”

The duo behind Sigma-Devi fell back a little, the most human of the trio taking center stage during the negotiations. “Yes, It seems our communication technologies are superior to yours,” she said blandly. The Consciousness had feared that their links would be separated when going through the portal, but they had managed excellency- not even a hint of latency. Quantum entanglement really was a wonderful thing.

Reaching for one of the morsels presented by Blackwood’s team, the Zetan popped a piece into her mouth, chewed slowly, and considered the flavours as Abadi talked. “No- we ventured down alternate routes. Such as our robotics and cybernetics.” She beamed.

“Many of them were made in a direct response to our material conditions: Zeta-5 rather dislikes fragile life like humanity.” She turned back towards her red-eyed colleague, gesturing gently towards him. “But now, they’re part of the fabric of our society. There is not a Zetan alive today made wholly of flesh.”

Not a single one? Abadi tried to stop her skin from crawling. In the holo-tapes her people were all raised on, anyone who said something like that would be revealed as a villain in the second act. Or maybe the third, if they’re trying for suspense. The violins are already playing in her head.

“Does that cause you any discomfort?” The most polite way she can think to phrase ‘How do you live like that?’

“Discomfort?” Sigma-Devi blinked a few times, then smiled pleasantly. “No, no, of course not. In fact, without metal, we’d be left much worse off.” She paused for a moment, contemplating how to explain this best. “The baseline human form developed in direct response to the conditions on Earth. When we arrived in Zeta, we found ourselves in the troubling position of needing to adapt faster than was biologically possible.”

She reached up to touch at the metal that now made up her throat. “This is how we adapted. Zetans don’t undergo large-scale implantation against their will- it’s merely a slow process of changing to fit their niche in society.”

Abadi adjusted her hat for a second. In Oligarch society, this meant one was thinking. Right now, her thoughts are about having her organs replaced with whirring, trembling mechanisms. They’re not very nice ones.

“I… suppose I understand,” she confessed. “In my society, such things have sometimes been proposed, but are never accepted.” Obviously. “As you mention, our culture is inspired by that of Old Earth.” She repeats what she was taught to say from infancy: “We strive to keep the memory alive.”

The Oligarch realized how rude this probably was as soon as the words left her mouth. Remembering the voice of her Persuasions teacher scolding her, she caught herself: “But I believe I understand your situation.” She never felt as elegant as the likes of Heralds or even that idiot Tanaka, and now it was almost tangible. “We have great terraforming technologies in our hands. I do wonder how possible it might be to, uh, help with the situation on Zeta.”

“Hmm.” Sigma-Devi considered the last part and paused for a long time. Internally, the Collective was deciding, disseminating, reacting, processing. Finally, she went with a deliberately non-committal answer. “We shall have to see. As for your own peoples, we can provide some of our enhancement technology. I assure you that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference. Be it noses capable of detecting ozone levels to read stormfronts to lungs that can process liquids, we’ve produced some rather marvellous creations.”

She continued on. “It is good to hear you keep Old Earth alive. Our memory archives still speak of Her, in Her prime, before we ruined it, and turned it into.” Sigma-Devi looked at one of the walls, through which all knew what sat. “Perhaps one day we can recover it.”

When the cyborgs offered implants, Abadi’s mouth actually fell open. She was only just working it shut again when Sigma-Devi mentioned Old Earth, and alright, that did tug her heart-strings a little. But that’s because she still has a heart. Not a lump of metal or a clock or whatever the Zetans use.

“Perhaps.” Abadi said, quietly. “Perhaps we can recover Earth, that is. We wish to…” But. “However, while I will run through your suggestion to the Noocracy, I feel obligated to tell you now that no enhancements will be allowed. I do not wish to offend, but the human form is as sacred to us as the human soul and culture. We could not change it.” Her head shook. And her blood was getting a little hotter than it should be. “Ever.”

Across the room, she noticed her pilot was studiously avoiding everyone with his eyes. Nobody was comfortable here.

Sigma-Devi pulled back slightly. “What does that make us to you then?” She frowned. “Are we less than you, for the material conditions we had to adapt to? Surely you must understand that the human form has frailties and limits- do you also not set broken bones, or stymie the effects of senescence? Should my fellow here have let his eyes grow cancerous enough to consume him, to preserve the sanctity of his human form?”

The answer was yes. Yes, he should have. If you are not human, why does it matter if you live? You don’t care if a thing dies. But Student Abadi realized she should not say that here, on this strange ship.

“Of course, I understand the medical applications,” she ventured. “But there has been a great fear among my people, since our early days- our planet is soaked in radiation, you see,” only a slight exaggeration, “and early settlers feared that the genetic damage may become so severe that, generations later, we would not technically be humans at all anymore. And then what are we preserving? If our goal as colonists was to save humanity, and we give that up to survive, then… what have we survived for the sake of?”

These things were taught to her from childhood. She never heard someone question them until now. Is this what foreign contact would be like? Part of her already feared she was being too harsh, but she knew no other way to think, or to speak.

“Zeta is…” Sigma-Devi paused for a long moment, before turning to her colleague- Alpha-Newton, who stepped up. His eyes blinked off for a moment, then whirred faintly. Projected out onto the table, between the food and the oil stains and scratches, was an image.

A barren, blasted rockface stretched out, the wind howling across it. Snow was visible across the cracked and moistureless soil, without a sign of shade nor life. “Surface temperature…” Alpha-Newton paused. “235 Kelvin. Snowfront of 193 Kelvin just passed, Searfront of 323 Kelvin rapidly approaching. Surface radiation measurements… Unsustainable for human habitation.” From underneath the soil, a creature sprung out. It was low to the ground, a scaly, dirty-brown colour. It scuttled about on six legs, and from its head protruded a strange, flat surface that it set about scooping up the snow with. No sooner had it touched the appendage than it melted, the liquid water greedily gulped up.
Less than a minute after surfacing to drink, the creature vanished back into one of the drought-made fissures.

“This is Zeta,” Alpha-Newton declared. “The Alpha-Asphodel Plain. I was born beneath the ground not far from here.” The cyborg’s projector shut itself off.

“When we thought ourselves the last of humankind,” Sigma-Devi continued. “We had to consider what was more important. To cling stubbornly to an outdated form, or to carry mankind’s torch forward however we could. We like to think we succeeded.”

Abadi nodded seriously. “I’m sure it is a harsh place. But my question is this: if you have cast aside your human form, are you really carrying mankind’s torch forward? Or is it a new one?”

“It is mankind’s. Consider.” She gestured. “Devi. Newton. Babbage. My dress. The Asphodel Plains. Our democratic systems. We stand upon the shoulders of every generation of humanity that strived to send us to the stars, and bring them with us.”

‘Betrayal’ was a word that came closer, in Abadi’s mind. But there was a feeling nagging at her. It’s time to disengage.

She sighed at length. “Well, I will not argue with you. I’m sure we have worn enough on our host’s patience.” What did the crew of the Revenant think of all this? “And you have given my people much to think about, I can say. I will make a full report to our elected leader, the Savant, when I return home.”

Kelsie sat quietly as Abadi and Sigma-Devi exchanged harsher and colder responses. Is this what diplomacy looks like? If so, she would prefer open combat any time. These seemingly polite questions and cryptic answers, several meanings hidden in every sentence, arrogance, and abhorrence hidden behind courteous masks. She was a military woman, for christ’s sake! Put a gun in her hand and point her in the right direction and she would not stop until she won or died. But this? This was like running through a minefield blindfolded.

She didn’t have time to properly think about all the arguments, but making quick decisions was something she was trained to do. And there really was not much deciding on which side of the argument should she join. Yes, she could have stayed neutral, but what Sigma-Devi kept suggesting was just… wrong. Logical, maybe, but still wrong.

“I have to side with Student Abadi here. You can consider yourself carrying mankind’s torch, using Earth words to name things.” And they aren’t real names, just for your information, Kelsie wanted to add. “I even understand the need for such development. But haven’t you strode off the ‘human’ path so far that you deserve to be called something else?” Kelsie realized that she just told her guests they weren’t human enough. What the hell was she doing?

“We have been facing a similar choice soon after landing on Ellara. The planet, while beautiful and seemingly hospitable, hid so many dangers that nearly destroyed our colony before it could start to grow. But we decided to hold on to what makes us human, not change what we are.” Kelsie stopped for a moment. “I think we should pause these negotiations until we have had a chance to talk to our respective governments since our communication technologies aren’t as advanced as yours.” She probably should have kept that last bit to herself, but she just couldn’t help it. These things come here all arrogant proposing to expand their atrocious ideas to other cultures? ‘You are not coming anywhere near Ellara,’ Kelsie promised to herself.

While the soldier woman was speaking, and saying some very comforting things, Abadi had her first moment to think clearly since coming onboard. What would the Noocracy’s reaction to this be? She’d only once met the Savant, but she could already remember his steel eyes just sizing her down, like a puzzle he already solved. And she would need to convince him this had been progress.

But it hadn’t been. This meet-up was an argument wrapped in diplomacy, taking place over the husk of Old Earth, where nobody was comfortable and everybody was offended. And it all sounded like a horrible prelude to… not war, hopefully, but something.

The Zetan and the ECU should be counted as unfriendly towards each other, that much is obvious. But what about the Undefeated? A potential ally? At least, the enemy of an enemy? Time will have to tell.

“So that is how it’s going to be?” Sigma-Devi turned to look at each of the representatives in turn. “I hope the rest of your nations prove more open minded than you have shown yourselves to be here. I would hate for disagreements to arise because we are not considered humans.” Omega-Babbage didn’t have to try to accentuate her veiled threat with a more overt one- there was a crackle, a snap, and then the scent of ozone filled the air as a powerful electrical discharge worked its way out. The Collective would not suffer itself to be backed into a corner and trodden upon for their technological advancements. It is much better, read one Old Earth document. To be feared than loved, if one cannot be both. Then, Sigma-Devi’s demeanour changed.

Although Omega-Newton’s body was still positioned in that forward, predatory stance, and made no indication that the electrical discharge had been a mistake, its companion picked up another bit of food. “I will, however,” the woman offered. “Say that this is quite tasty indeed.”

We must find more reasonable individuals. More sensible ones. Ones that understand that metal does not change man any more than the clothes on their back or the tools in their hands.
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Sentinel Base
In proximity of the Gateway


Another hour has passed since the Overwatch first entered the gate. Station Commander Dennis Grant, sat in his office, looking out into space, amusing himself with the continuous light show provided by the gate, never before in his life had he seen such a thing up close. Although deep down, he has his fears of what the gate may unleash upon Columbia. Would the Yulzan return through such a anomaly? Or something far worse? Even if we find our fellow man, will he be any better than the Yulzan? Or will he be welcoming us to the greater galaxy? Only time will tell. In the background, he had left the radio on for some music, although that had long been interrupted as news spreads of the Gateway reopening, it's been all that's been talked about these past few hours, hearing bits and pieces of the chancellor's announcement.

"My fellow Columbians! I bring you great news! The gateway that has long been closed, has finally reopened!" The speech was cut off as the news anchor spoke. "The Chancellor, in a following statement has made it clear he will lead a personal expedition to discover Earth's fate."

As the transmission cut off, commander grant took notice at the gate, it started acting...strange. Without much warning, a small probe-like device popped out from the other side of the gate, followed by an alien vessel, clearly not Yulzan in design, thank god. Within an instant grant heard the doors slide open as chief of security, Grei Kazon, An Urkani, stepped in. "Sorry to intercept, Commander." Kazon said. "But I thought it would be best to inform personally that-"

"Don't worry, I already know." Grant interrupted kazon. "Sorry to spoil the surprise."

"Makes things easier." Kazon said. "Anyway, what do we do, sir?"

Grant made a wide smile. "What else? Invite our new guests aboard." He turned back to face the gateway, watching the alien vessel currently on approach to the station. "What about the object?"

Kazon pulled out a small notepad as he tinkered with it. "Apparently, a small message probe. Keeps sending a looped message of the promise of diplomacy, and the threat of war."

"My kind of people." Grant noted. "Bet they would've sent the Yulzan packing."

"Of course, sir." Kazon said. "I'll forward the probe's message to High Command, let them decided on the next course of action."

"Good, good, and while you're at it, have a fighter wing up to escort our new visitors. I look forward to see what they have to say."
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Kelsie’s heart was racing, and as soon as the airlock door shut after the last guest, she sent the escort away and then just sat on the floor. Her hands covering her face, she was trying to calm her breath, unsuccessful. What the hell was she doing? Did she seriously side with the unarmed clowns against a clearly technologically superior civilization? But what else could she have done? The Zetans were… she stood by her initial opinion that they weren’t human anymore and she hoped that the rest of the Guardians and the Grand General are going to agree with her. Because otherwise she is in really big trouble. She had to get it together, everyone on the ship was under her command, she couldn’t possibly let them see her like this.

After a few minutes, she walked to the bridge. “Parker, send a message to the ECU ship.” She had to make the most out of this diplomatic mess she has created. “Tell them that we would like to invite them to our homeworld Ellara and they are welcome to send their delegation whenever they see fit.” Kelsie assumed that Abadi would have to report to her superiors first and they would have to make some decisions. She wasn’t exactly sure what their government and decision-making process looked like, but she knew that especially the democratic ones could be pretty lengthy.

“Yes, ma’am. And the other ship?”

“No.” Kelsie didn’t want to talk about the Zetans. She didn’t even want to think about the Zetans. Parker seemed relieved. Apparently the crew of the Revenant didn’t really like the Zetans either, which gave Kelsie a small encouragement. "We can hang around for a few hours in case any other ships show up. Then we will head home." Kelsie turned to leave and nearly bumped into Harding.

“How dare you invite my assistant to such an important meeting instead of me?!” he yelled at Kelsie.

He took a very bad moment to pick a fight with her. “You are way out of line, Commander,” she said in an ice-cold voice. “I am the highest ranking officer aboard this ship AND I was appointed to lead this mission by the Grand General, so I can do whatever the hell I want to. If you have a problem with that, you can take it up to him when we return. But raise your voice on me one more time and you will be charged with mutiny and you know what happens after that,” she scolded him and walked out before he could respond. She had a half-mind of just grabbing him by his neck and kicking him right out of the airlock, but it wouldn’t be the best idea right now. Probably.




There was less than zero privacy in the common bedroom, so Kelsie crawled into one of the storage rooms. This one contained a lot of boxes with god knows what, maybe even the original mining equipment that was supposed to go to the facility on Donut. She tied a hammock to the metal poles supporting the ceiling and was now chilling in it with a well thumbed book. The Long Path to Glory was a really old book, the first edition coming out well over a 100 years ago. Her copy was one of the newer re-editions, but the content remained the same. It was something like a Bible to the Undefeated, a recollection of all that happened when the colonists first arrived on Ellara, about the Elbow fever and, most importantly, the early losses and victories versus the Screechers. Every officer was encouraged to read those parts, to learn about past mistakes, to make sure not to repeat them.

But Kelsie turned the pages to the very beginning this time. She was trying to see what the original colonists, the people from Earth, the ‘real humans’ were like. What did they think, do, like and dislike? Kelsie and Abadi accused Sigma-Devi of not being a human anymore, but what if they were just hypocritical? Surely in 300 years their society has changed, developed. Did the Undefeated also strode away from what it means to be human? Kelsie didn’t think so, but there were no objective parameters to measure it with.


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Near the Gateway and Sentinel Base
Ambassadorial Flotilla

A full day has passed since the gate reopened, the chancellor and many others working tirelessly to assemble teams and ships to cross over the. Already one had passed through, and reports have come in that Columbia is already receiving its own batch of visitors, what an exiting event!

A small flotilla of warships were cruising towards both Sentinel Base and the Gateway. The "flagship" so to speak, was the CSS Alamo, a Defiance-class Battle Carrier, probably not must appropriate ship for the earth expedition, but one can never be too careful, and the chancellor himself was aboard the vessel, so the extra measures were necessary. The Alamo was escorted by two Resilient-class frigates, the Rubicon, and Mississippi, both of which were tasked to cross over the gate and discover their own worlds to contact.

The both the chancellor and his wife were found relaxing in his private quarters, couldn't help by hypnotically stare at the gateway, he felt like a child again, having that old scene of wonder and mystery. "This makes up for that little interruption." Alice said softly. Kissing Julian on the cheek. Julian certainly felt guilty not canceling prior plans for a proper outing, so, despite all the risks involved, he decided to take Alice along on a trip to Earth, a hell of a trade off for sure. "Just wish the kids could've joined us." Julian said. "This is downright historical."

"Well, they have their own responsibilities and families to take care of." Alice said. "But I kinda like it, just the two of us, on a dream cruise to Earth." Both chuckled as they embraced one another. Before thing could get too intimate, the ship intercom blared to life. "All crew brace, Gate travel will commence momentarily." The captain announced. Within moments the window blast shields rolled down.

"Guess that will have to wait." Alice said with a cheeky smile.

"Well, duty calls." Julian said, although he barely had time to get up as the ship, within mere moments was flung halfway across the galaxy, and the chancellor certainly felt it. "Holy shit." He blurted out. "I was not prepared for that.." Julian was losing his balance a bit, but eventually picked himself up.

"And here I thought it would be a nice long cruise." Alice said as she stretched her arms and slowly got up. "Takes the fun out of trav-" Alice was cut off as she took a good look at the outside view, the blast doors rolling back up to reveal a heartbreaking sight. She remained quiet for a good while.

"What's wrong?" Julian said as he turned to see, and was left speechless. Earth, the blue planet that was depicted in old pieces of art, in various media back home, and from tales passed down from generation after generation. It was...dead, a world covered in gray and muck, no life to be seen. "Oh no.." Julian uttered to himself. Small droplets of tears running down his cheek. The two embraced one another as they took solace in such a grim sight. The mournful silence was broken as the door behind them slide open, the Captain of the Alamo, a member of the Janari species, stepped in, his enhanced mind quickly took notice of the chancellor and his wife's body langrage. "I'm sorry, sir." The captain said. "It must hard to lose your ancestral home."

"Earth was something special to our people, almost a mystical, sacred land to return to when the time was right.." The chancellor. "Columbia has always been my true home, but to see the world of my forefathers reduced to this? To ashes? Its heart-breaking.." Julian shook his head, this isn't the end of mankind, we all managed to survive across dozens of worlds all over the galaxy, we not only survived, we thrived like never before. "Bah, enough of the past. You didn't come to hear my sulk."

"Ah, right." The captain almost forgot. "You'll be intrigue to know that we report a few vessels in earth orbit, sir."

"Ah, good, good." Julian said. "Something to take my mind off of Earth. We have our fellow brothers and sisters to greet! Contact them."
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@Sigma

Amir regretted eating something spicy last night. He was just going to eat a yogurt and some salad but his mother insisted he come over for dinner. Now, if he had to pick a last meal, his mother's chicken and rice would be it. But if he had to pick a last meat to violently vomit in a trade ship's bathroom? He'd go with the yogurt. He hadn't eaten since his mother's place, either, because as he was leaving he got a call that he would be on the first three ships to enter the Gateway in three hundred years. And not only that, but he would do so as a representative of RAMA Corporation, the company he'd been toiling his way up since he graduated the Academy. He didn't sleep, he spent so long picking an outfit, and ordering his cleaning robot to iron it about thirty times. And now he stood staring over the toilet, vomit dripping from his neatly drimmed black beard, and he had to clean up quick because he was about to come face to face with humans from a different part of the galaxy. So he washed his face, rinsed his mouth out, and straightened his hair in the mirror. His brown skin was pale with fear, but he didn't have time to apply makeup.

So Amir took a deep breath, straightened his purple suit, and stepped out from the bathroom. The rest of the trade ship looked at him, mostly representatives of the other major corporations and trade companies of Salome, as well as some military protection, including a handful of Askari soldiers, but none of them spoke the Old Tongues. That's why Amir was selected, after all, and, despite not having the same experience as many of the corporate employees present, Amir was to be the main source of communication between the two colonies. He walked to the bow of the ship and looked at the space station in the proximity of the Gateway. It seems as if their visit was expected.

The ship followed the escort to the station, and Amir and the other representatives assembled by the ship's entrypoint, flanked by Askari and corporate guards on either side, to await whatever welcome they would be greeted with. Amir could feel his nausea return and he tried as hard as he could to brush it away. Seeing the fighter ship and the rest of this nation's military prowess certainly did not help him sort his nerves, nor did the fact that he stood to represent for people many years his senior. Swallowing deeply, he shook away his nerves and prepared for what was ahead.


@Crusader Lord

After the Capital Fleet detached a few ships to keep guard of the Gateway, a team was dispatched to keep watch of anything entering. And, sure enough, a couple days after the Gateway opened, a lone drone entered with a message in Old Imperial Tongue, some alien language, and binary. Thank God for the binary, because there were no Old-Tongue linguists on site (which has since been remedied), and the drone exploded only a few hours later. After the message had been brought to the Assembly, it was decided that each of the moons would be allowed their own response.

Nereid and Adama, following their actions in the last vote regarding the Gateway, would not send any response at all. Great Teacher Qubon decided that while Da'lu supported human endeavors of self discovery, the Forest Moon would not be interested in establishing contact itself. That left Shem.

When Aluf Kazak heard of the Alien drone, she laughed. "So this is what we've earned at Shem, eh? A self-destroying robot?" Her aide waited a second for a response while Aria got back to her work.

"What response should we send?"

Aria shrugged. "What have they earned?"

And so it was decided; Shem's response would be a drone of their own, this one bearing a stone tablet with an old saying in the Salome Script and in the Old Imperial Tongue inscribed.

"If you're thirsty, come to the river."

-Shem and the People Shekhehan




@Irredeemable

Ela had eyes glued to the ship's windows, a wide, child-like smile strewn across her face. The woman, now in her fifties, looked excitedly at the whirring of machines below her. "Oh, would you look at that!" It was incredible-this nation's technology had far outpaced anything she'd see in Salome. Once the ship had recieved their greeting, she clamored for the communications and begin to sputter in Old Imperial.

"H-hello! Hello, familiar strangers! I am Ela Altara, of the Great Academy of Ur'daat, I come representing the Four Moons of Salome! We, seekers of science, knowledge, and wisdome, come in peace!"

When Ela first heard of the Gateways opening, she immediately volunteered to go. Her inquisitive nature had gotten her into trouble many times before-the daughter of a respected alchemist, she had many times been caught rifling through her father's laboratory as a young girl. She hoped her inquisitive nature wouldn't get her into trouble now, but she didn't quite care; the fact that she now leads one of the first three ships through the Gateway is enough of a legacy to die on. As her ship moved closer to the foreign vessel, the scientist quivered with excitement as to what she might find. Being a woman, she could never become an alchemist like her father and brothers. Perhaps here, her science could be appreciated more?
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