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Antediluvixen Kemonomimi Dystopia Creator

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The Chosen Ishtari

Previously on The Seraph

Shortly after the Yulzan and FRA admirals left the ship, Ashevelen was in her quarters with Julian.

"What do you think, Julian? Should we keep an eye on them? The Yulzan seemed conflicted when he heard about my divinity. Might create issues in the future if more like him appear. "

Julian just stood there, watching silently. He was the first one to get subjected to the Brute serum and lost his vocal cords in the process. While a way to fix them was available, he refused the treatment stating that he was blessed by the Goddess and doesn't wish for her gifts to be removed. Even if it meant that he'd have to be mute for the rest of his life. Occasionally he would grunt as yes or not but other than that, he was silent.

“And what about William? Has he returned or contacted us back?” Ashe said, quickly changing the subject.


“Templar!” said Ashe in a strong voice.

Almost immediately two Templars that were standing at the door came in and quickly kneed.

“Send a message to Catherine to take a battlecruiser and go through the Gateway. Tell her to be careful. I shan’t lose two of my Hierarchs in a day”...

“Hello survivors of humanity. We are the Chosen. We wish you no harm. Our ship’s weapons are not armed, feel free to send a diplomat or whatever your people use for diplomatic missions. We seek to trade.”

Chaos reigned among the four and a half billion minds that formed the Commonality of New Ishtar. The Ishtari had feared to enter the Gateway after its activation, lingering close by it hesitantly, a veritable armada amassing within its periphery as research and military vessels clustered around it.

Those simple words, and the emergence of a large, heavily armed warship through the Gateway, caused a furor the likes of which had never been felt within the Commonality for decades - perhaps centuries, when the discovery of the survival of the Hive Strain had seemed to herald its doom anew.

The response to the Chosen was a delayed one, despite the armada of research and military vessels surrounding the newly emerged ship. It was only, after some time, that a voice each and every Ishtari knew by heart cut through the maelstrom. The furor subsided as waves easing away from a flood, and the presence of Star-Mother Tiamat made itself known. It was a rare occasion for her presence to be felt, such was her hesitance to use her enormous sway within Ishtari society. A hushed awe rose among the tumult.

It was then that she spoke to the Chosen, “I am Tatiana Iwasaki, also known as Star-Mother 17-430 Tiamat Guides Her Children Into The Future. Citizen of the Commonality of New Ishtar. I… you are human, yes? You mean to say we are not alone after all?” After a moment, she reiterated her statement in the other three languages the message had been dispatched in. Then she waited, and the Commonality waited with her.

What could be called an armada stood in front of the battleship, dubbed Light, alarmed Catherine and the crew. If a fight would break out, they wouldn’t have time to make it out before being destroyed. As such, the message was sent while preparations were made to send a small Infiltrator-Class ship through the Gateway asking for assistance from Ashevelen.

An open hand with a smile on the face while the other one reaching for the dagger that would get you in the back. Such were the ways of Catherine. Upon hearing the name of the leader of this Star-Mother, Catherine and the other crew was silent. Scripture told of someone with the same name. A coincidence surely. Settling on using English to communicate, Catherine sent a message back.

“My name is Catherine Puts Heathens to Sleep. We are not human, no. The Goddess has seen fit for us to elevate us beyond humanity. To answer your other question, no, you are not alone.

Come aboard and convince yourself.”

Another moment’s delay ensued between the two as the Ishtari commonality erupted into a furor at these words. These few words carried with them as much weight as the first message transmitted.

Tiamat collected herself. “I am not present upon the vessels currently surrounding you.” She answered back in English, the words accented and awkward from a lack of practice, drudged up from centuries ago and countless rejuvenations. “A volunteer will enter in my stead and I shall speak through her.”

A clamour arose in the minds of those assembled aboard the vessels present as millions competed for the prestige of the role. At last three candidates were selected. The Azazel Strain Sister-Scientist 3-47 Asirin Seeks The Truth She Knows To Be, the Tiamat Strain Sister-Sage 8-192 Scheherazade Dreams Of Many Great Things, and the Azazel Strain Sister-Artist 1-43 Sachiko Treasures The Beauty In The Universe. The three were each equipped with suicide pills and transponders in case of ambush, but the decision was made not to send armed guards - scores of Ishtari ships surrounded this “Chosen” vessel, there was no need to threaten them with armed personnel aboard their ships too.

And so a small craft detached from the main body of the fleet and trundled towards the Chosen vessel, its three primary occupants waiting with bated breath.

The Chosen prepared for the arrival of the diplomats with a sense of fear and resolve that the Goddess will bless them with her might if these Isharian prove dangerous. The Light was in full motion with Priests, the lowest of the servants of the Church of Ashevelen, hiding various weapons and traps in the corridors that the Isharians would walk. If they are to be dangerous, they will be eliminated even if it meant for them to die as well.

Templars in full armour would escort the diplomats to a conference room deep within the battleship. As they would walk, prayers would be told to the great Ashevelen, different paintings and a constant huuumm could be seen and heard.

As the diplomats would enter the conference room, they’d find it empty. Only one door through which they came in could be seen and a subtle flicker of bended light towards the end of the room. After a few moments of waiting, Catherine appeared in front of them, almost invisible until that moment.

She watched the diplomats and chuckled slightly. Either she met her first aliens or someone else played with human genetics.

“I am High Hierarch Catherine serving at the will of the Goddess. I say to you, welcome survivors of humanity. If you are human that is, if not, care to tell me if any survived?”

The Ishtari delegates reacted with a mixture of curiosity, surprise, and intense curiosity towards the sight of the Chosen as they greeted them - only heightened as Catherine seemed to appear out of thin air before their eyes. Each of them felt the weighty presence of Star-Mother Tiamat as she observed the proceedings through their eyes, and listened with their ears.

Scheherazade spoke first. “I am Sister-Sage 8-192 Scheherazade Dreams Of Many Great Things, and…” despite herself, despite the enormous pressure weighing down upon her shoulders at this moment, a small smile forced its way through, “And that’s a subject of some debate among our own number.” After a moment, she added, “The Star-Mother Tiamat is watching proceedings at present. If she feels the need to interject, I will speak for her.”

Asirin spoke next. “We are human descended, at the bare minimum. As Scheherazade has said we are uncertain of if we count as human ourselves. You say a goddess has elevated you above humanity?” After a moment, she added, “I suppose this is where this near-invisibility of yours comes from, as well?”

“I’ll take that as a yes to my question. You are humans but not really. Look around you and you’ll see the signs of the Goddess in each of us. Look within yourselves and the Goddess will show herself to you.

Yes, we were humans once, after Earthfall. The planet we found ourselves upon was uninhabitable by humans and as our people died, the Goddess took mercy on us. She granted us a part of her divine strength, a part of her very being and for that…we are forever grateful.” Catherine’s face was hidden in the darkness of her hood but as she spoke about Ashevelen’s gifts, anyone with a keen eye could see hers burning with devotion.

With a click of her fingers, a few priests entered the room carrying bottles of diverse liquids and food. Meat of animals from RADX-001 which would prove impossible to eat for normal humans, bread made of modified wheat and other types of food were brought and put on the table.

“Feel free to eat whatever you think you can handle. Fair warning, everything here is safe for us to eat.”

Sachiko remained silent for now, watching carefully as her golden irises flitted between each speaker. Asirin smiled. “I assure you I have the fullest confidence that we can enjoy your fare just as much as you, High Hierarch.”

Sachiko and Scheherazade did not partake at first, until Asirin sampled a piece of meat, chewing with relish. “Excellent flavors. My compliments to whoever prepared it.” She said, smiling. A few moments passed as she closed her eyes, seeming to concentrate on something, before she nodded to Scheherazade and Sachiko. “It’s safe indeed. Enjoy.”

“Apologies for our own lack of hospitality.” Scheherazade said to Catherine, “We were, in all honesty, not expecting anyone to come through the Gateway. Your arrival was most unexpected.”

Catherine watched with interest as Asirin ate. The food was brought as a test to confirm if these Ishtari can survive living on RADX-001 one day, if it is required as
The others that came before wouldn't.

"No need to thank me. The Goddess instructed me to be hospitable to the survivors of humanity and that's what I'm doing. If she'd ordered your deaths, it would've been the same thing. " Catherine let the semi-threat hang in the air for a second and then continued "We were as surprised as you were that the Gateways activated once more. Our scientists have tried making them work previously but nothing seemed to affect them.

Returning to our previous conversation, I will ask you to respect the Goddess when you utter the word. There is no greater sin than not showing respect to her.

You may address me by my name. My position in the Church of Ashevelen is of no importance for now. "

An electric shock ran through each of the three Ishtari present. The mind of Tiamat started at the name. No reply came for a moment as she formulated her response, before, slowly, Scheherazade spoke. “Th- the Star-Mother wishes you to repeat the name you just said.” She murmured, then spoke more clearly. “I, um. Speaking as Tiamat: ‘Ashevelen? Your goddess’ name is Ashevelen?’”

Catherine watched their faces as their confusion was obvious but for unknown reasons.

"Indeed. The Goddess, praise be her name, is Ashevelen. I see that her light has reached your corner of space as well. "

A goddess named Ashevelen. Presiding over a people whose DNA had been enhanced and altered much as that of the Ishtari. A message transmitted in, of all things, Romanian. The coincidence was too much. Scheherazade spoke again. “As Tiamat: ‘Tell me more of Ashevelen. Did she… have a sister?”

"The knowledge of the holy Scripture is not for…unbelievers to know. But, I'll allow one answer about the Goddess. Yes, Scripture taught us about her family on Earth. She had a sister with the same name as yours. I will say no more than this."

It was time for the confirmation to come. Coincidence or a true miracle of the Goddess.

Tiamat reeled. Within the commonality, silence fell, true and total silence. Scheherazade spoke in sync with Tiamat, her eyes wide as the heavy presence of the Star-Mother weighed upon her. “Ashe…”

She looked up. “Doctor Ashevelen Chiritescu? Born in Romania? Sister of Tatiana Iwasaki, born in Russia? Adopted by Tatiana Iwasaki’s family and raised together? Geneticist like her sister? Employee of Iwasaki Group? Passenger aboard the Ark Valiant?”

Scheherazade stumbled back, and was caught by the two Ishtari flanking her. She stared ahead as Tiamat stared through her eyes, in shock at the raw, undiluted emotion she felt coming off the mind weighing upon her own. Tiamat had never spoken of her life on earth at length - it was somewhat common knowledge that she had a sister upon earth, but Tiamat herself was tight lipped about her old life. Now, here and now, in a twist of fate, a defiance of the odds unlike any other, could it be…?

“She… my sister… survived?” Tiamat croaked, and Scheherazade’s lips moved to speak for her.

Catherine was probably as shocked as the Ishari diplomats. They knew her name, her country of origin, everything that the Scripture taught them about Ashevelen’s life. Every single word. It meant only one thing in Catherine’s mind.

“Who told you all this? Have any other of the Chosen heathens arrived in your system? Told you to LIE?” her voice was no longer calm but a full on shout, her body starting to flicker between being seen and not.

Templars quickly walked into the room, guns held down towards the heads of the diplomats. An alarm rang somewhere on the ship and the ship’s weapons were getting primed. They would kill all of these blasphemers even if it’s the last thing they’ll ever do.

Catherine turned to her Templars and said, in a voice full of zeal “Send a message home. Tell them we’ve found blasphemers and they need to be taught a lesson. Send everything you’ve heard in this room. The might of the Golden Armada will be felt today.”

“I-” Scheherazade stuttered before falling silent, staring in mute shock and dismay. “None have arrived! None! We assumed the rest of humanity to be dead!” She looked to Sachiko and to Asirin, frantic and panicked. “I do not know any of this! It was the words of Tiamat - not my ow-” she cut herself off, not wanting to worsen the situation. “I - she-” Another moment passed before her voice hardened, “Kill us then, if you would, zealot. Death means nothing to me. I will return. We will bring no war to your home, for Tiamat would not strike down her own family. But throw yourselves upon the knife if you wish. I have spoken no lie.”

At the other end of the system, Tiamat readied herself for whatever was to come. The formidable fleet of the Commonality scrambled to assume defensive positions. This was not what they had planned for. This was all wrong.

As the exchange between them went on, ships started to appear through the Gateway. The Golden Armada waiting for a sign on the other side of it.

One by one, Carriers and Battleships poured into Ishtari airspace and at the end, the massive flagship of the Goddess. The Seraph. Looking as if it was a light in the darkness of space.

A video message soon came through for the Seraph sent to all the ships in the near vicinity.

Ashevelen stood surrounded by her most zealous servants and a lumbering Julian behind her. Dressed for once, for war instead of her usual grabs. Full golden armour that covered every inch of her body.

“Whoever listens to this. Know that the Goddess of the Chosen has arrived. Know that your lives are forfeit if you have chosen to be hostile to my people. Know that it is your time to meet your Goddess and beg for forgiveness and mercy.”

And then, another message was sent, this one only to the closest Ishtari vessel.

“What your diplomats said to my people…is it true? Tatiana, are you still alive?”

Tiamat almost missed the message as she scrambled amidst the chaos consuming the planet as it prepared for an emergency defence. Tiamat sat, stunned, for a moment, as she processed the words. She reacted swiftly once the initial shock had worn off, replying as quickly as she possibly could.

“Doctor Tatiana Iwasaki. Born in Moscow, Russia, to Yukiko Iwasaki and Aleksandr Antonovich Kuznetsov. Adopted sister of Doctor Ashevelen Chiritescu. Boarded the Ark Ishtar headed by the board members of the Iwasaki Group.” A second message followed immediately after. “I’m alive, Ashe, is that really you? Order your people to stand down, for all of our sakes, before this becomes a shooting war. I’ll order mine to do the same.”

As the message reached Ashevelen, the Ishtari warships that had been powering up their weapons systems paused, though power continued to be routed to defensive systems, the weapons preparations ceased as their crews waited with bated breath.

Ashevelen listened to the words of Tatiana, mouth almost agape. Her own sister to survive this whole…ordeal? Then again, if someone was to survive Earthfall, it would’ve been them two. No matter where they’d end up.

“All ships. Power down your weapon systems. We don’t need to start a war.” a short message sent to all the Chosen ships, followed by another one to the room where Catherine and the diplomats were.

“I apologise for my servant’s behaviour. Catherine, we will speak about this later. For now, go back home and read the Scripture again. Learn for it once more as it seems you’ve forgotten everything”.

Catherine just nodded, sadly and disappeared from view.

“Tatiana. You know a lot of information about my family but I don’t trust anyone who randomly throws words like that. If it is permitted, I would like to see you face to face on your planet. My people won’t try anything if I am there. But, if I find out that you are lying…I will exterminate your people ‘till no one remains alive.”

“Likewise, Ashe, if I find someone’s been using your name to prop up some mad crusader faith long after you’re dead, the heavens themselves will tremble under the wrath I will sow and I will personally fashion a drinking goblet from the impostor’s skull. Just… be warned. I’ve changed, as I expect you have.”

“Agreed. I will bring my personal bodyguard with me. Do you agree to meet me with only one other person? To keep things fair for both parties.”

“I need no bodyguard. If you are who you claim to be, I have nothing to fear and everything to celebrate. If you are an impostor, I will rip the two of you apart with my bare hands and mourn my sister once more. I’ll see you planetside, Ashe.”


Neriven. Capital and largest city of the Commonality of New Ishtar. The beating heart of its bureaucracy, administration, military, economy, culture, and home of the largest synapse node on the planet. A sprawling, pristine megalopolis of 983 million Ishtari, comprising over a fifth of the total population of the entire Commonality. Almost a billion souls inhabiting an endless series of pristine alabaster spires that soared into the sky in spite of the planet’s gravity, and densely packed, elegant housing blocks that rose up from carefully tended groves of bioluminescent trees. An intricate crisscrossing array of maglev trains and monorail lines covered the city, ferrying millions to and from their homes and places of work or play in an elegant dance. The city stretched on to the horizon as the shuttle carrying Ashevelen lowered itself down before one of the largest buildings in the city, a grand central meeting hall and the place Tiamat had chosen as their meeting ground. It would not do to meet her sister in her private quarters. Only the best would do.

From where the shuttle was to land, a hastily erected sealed tube had been constructed around which a massive throng of diverse Ishtari strains swelled, and signs of work to decontaminate the building were evident. The smell of antiseptics and cleaning supplies stung the nostrils as the airlock finally parted, and two Azazel Strain clad in the graceful Ishtari power armour stepped forth, holding ceremonial halberds. “Forgive the smell, sister of Tiamat.” One said, her voice difficult to hear as she spoke barely above a whisper. “The atmosphere of the planet is fatal to outsiders, we have had to purge it and prepare a sterile environment. No precaution has been spared. Please, follow us.”

They lead her through to the central building, the translucent tubing difficult to make detail through. It was evident though that those closest to it were attempting to catch a glimpse of the first non-Ishtari to ever step foot on the planet. The Ishtari guards lead her and her guard briskly, maintaining total silence, though their body language betrayed the nervousness that filled every centimetre of their bodies. At the end of the tubing lay a set of ornate wooden doors inlaid with delicate gold and platinum designs. It was easy to tell, even through the tubing, that the building was nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. The guards opened the doors, inclining their heads to her in a poorly practised bow, before closing it behind her and her guard.

Within the room sat Tiamat clad in an ornate, masterfully crafted outfit of a black bodysuit edged with gold, from which golden chain dangled and a nanoweave golden cape trailed from her shoulders and onto the floor. She had changed herself, similar to the Azazel Strain which she had created, her piercing eyes no longer brown. Instead, piercing golden irises framed by black sclera looked her sister up and down before, slowly, a ghost of a smile appeared as she spoke in Romanian - with the very same accent as she had on earth, “Seems you’re finally taller than I am.”

None questioned Ashevelen’s decision to meet the unbelievers openly, on their planet. None but Julian who let out pheromones of caution but nothing could dissuade Ashe from seeing if this person was indeed her lost sister or an imposter. Orders were given to bring the whole Golden Armada upon the Ishtari if she wouldn’t get in touch with them every half an hour. No half-measures would be taken. Every single weapon of mass destruction the Chosen had would be brought over.

As the ship descended on the planet, Ashe looked with interest at the city. Very similar to their own but without the churches that dominated the landscape. No burning candles, nothing that would scream “Religion”. It was a city as she imagined it before the whole Goddess spiel began.

The gravity soon started to push on them but Ashe just shrugged it off, Julian didn’t. His every move was slower than it should be, his breath shallow as the gravity pressed on his lungs.

“Are you ok there Julian? Do you wish to return? I haven’t taken into account the high gravity of this world?” Her voice was calm and friendly.

Just a grunt was his answer. Most wouldn’t understand it but Ashe knew exactly what he meant. He will never abandon his duty.

Finally they arrived into what seemed to be a massive building, similar to a mayor’s office in Ashe’s opinion at least. The heavy air of antiseptics and cleaning supplies was obvious and stung their nostrils. With a wave of her hand, Julian released pleasantly smelling pheromones in the air, similar to a rose’s smell that could be felt by anyone in the near vicinity.

As they were led into the room, Ashe looked at Tatiana and…stopped. Her words barely made any sense to Ashe for a few moments and then laughed. A full, deep laugh. After a moment, she replied back to Tatiana in Romanian.

“And you still manage to mangle my language. “ Switching swiftly between all the languages that they both knew, she continued “So, you are still alive. After 300 years.”

At once, Tiamat’s suave demeanour cracked. She stared at her sister for what seemed like hours, time passed by as if in an endless stream. A single tear crept down her cheek, and she stood wordlessly, walking over to Ashevelen with a smile on her face. “It really is you after all. Of all the coincidences and…” she too laughed, interspersed with sobs of sheer emotional overload. She leaned back against the table for support, wiping tears from her eyes. “It really is you. I… - wait, what do you mean, only 300?” she frowned, peering inquisitively at her, “Certainly in realspace but… I’m sorry. I… I didn’t think you would be… how did your Ark survive? How did you survive? We thought the rest would have perished when the Gateway collapse trapped us.”

“300 years passed, yes. What do you mean only? My Ark didn’t technically survive, most perished in the few months we spent on the planet. Took me almost a year to fix the issues. Remember that special project to augment humans that we worked on back home, the one I was leading? Guess what? I finished and improved it tenfold. It only needed for humanity to almost be extinct to finish the research.

I fixed the “growing old” bit as well. This body is over 200 years old. My original one, unfortunately died of prolonged exposure to the toxins of our planet. Last one to do so. “

“The… the gateway collapse. The Void, as we call it.” Tiamat frowned, eyebrow raising involuntarily as she listened in growing bewilderment. “You did not… you were not trapped within it? We suffered for nearly six hundred years within its grasp only to emerge to find not a second had passed in real space. Horrors. Nightmares beyond all sense and decency. Apocalyptic monstrosities unleashed upon humanity the likes of which I hope never to see again. So many millions dead. Six centuries. Six centuries of war and death and… you didn’t… at all?”

At the mention of her body’s age she forced a smile, “Glad to see we at least both found a solution to that little problem, at least.”

Ashe looked at Tatiana as she told her story, shock slowly creeping on her face.

At the mention of the monstrosities, the shock on Ashevelen’s face turned into curiosity.

"I am sorry you went through all that but no, our Gateway functioned as it should if you wanna call it like that. They were meant to save the human race but it spit us out on a planet where humans couldn't live. Toxic atmosphere, poisonous animals…hell even the sun's light would burn through our environmental suits in less than an hour.

The idiotic colonial government tried to control our rations and freedom but they slowly lost it as well. My first serum was made shortly after. Full of mistakes as it was, it gave us a chance to live on the planet. They tried to stop me. To give themselves the serum and leave everyone else to their fate.

I…had them all killed. Tortured until their minds broke and then experimented on them. They died better than they deserved. It…was a dark period for us. It got even worse afterwards. Our resources were almost depleted. That's when I made the second serum. I learned a lot from the first one. We were able to eat the food on the planet, breathe the air but we couldn't reproduce anymore. Messed something up with the female eggs.

Eventually, people came to rely on me for everything. I gave them hope where there wasn't one. I gave them life where none could be found. " As Ashe told the story her voice wavered in the darker moments of it and Julian let out a grunt and then another round of pheromones in the air, this time meant to calm Ashe.

A small chuckle and then she continued "My way of going over the age problem is different than theirs. I actually died. This body is just a clone. Better than my original body." As to press her point, Ashevelen’s hair color started to change into blue, then green, then back to red and at the same time the skin colour on her face turned in opposite order of the colours of her hair then changed back to the original one.

Tiamat’s expression fell further as she listened to her sister recount her own trials. “I… we’ve both suffered. Tremendously. I’m sorry you had to go through that - and I’m glad you were able to help them.” Her expression became strained, “I didn’t… well, I can’t cast stones. We call our society the Commonality of New Ishtar - but we’ve only been such for… a century and a half? It was one row of rulers and military leaders after another before that. Before we finally learned.” She sighed, shaking her head. “The tube you walked through to get here is because this planet, too, is fatal to the unmodified. I wasn’t about to take chances, not with you. The air carries parasites both floral and animal and the atmosphere contains lethal concentrations of toxic sulphur compounds, the water is toxic, the algae is carnivorous. Everything on this world is inimical to life as we knew it. I won’t even mention the sapient species that used to live here before us.” She smiled, “But we too adapted. The most obvious changes were… not intentional. But we - in large part I - altered ourselves further. We transformed this world’s threats into our advantages.”

Her smile became strained, “It wasn’t like the void, though. I don’t know how to describe that. What I told you was… it was just the barest hint.” She laughed, a hollow, pained laugh. “I’ve died seventeen times, Ashe. I’ve been shot. Stabbed. Eaten alive. I lived for about fifty years as a disembodied consciousness within a neural net of a hive mind of nightmarish creatures clinging to the walls of the ark in some weird flesh mat. I watched my skin and bone change before my eyes and against my will into forms I didn’t recognize. Altered by some… thing. Something that exists outside the universe as we know it. And it hated us. It spoke to us. It drove us mad and drove us to kill one another in orgiastic frenzy of violence after orgiastic frenzy of violence. We came to worship it for a time. What else was there? We thought we might die. It offered us things. Temptations. We… I….” she gritted her teeth. “I don’t even remember half of it. I forgot my own name for a time.” She sighed. “All of those different appearances you saw? Myself - the diplomats, the something like a dozen other different Strains here? All products of that Void. All of them. And they’re just a drop in the ocean. There were dozens more. Humanity went down… I don’t know how many different paths of artificial and accelerated ‘evolution’. Some of them were truly beautiful, others so horrific merely looking at them made me want to shoot myself to purge the memories.”

She sighed. “And now I know it didn’t happen to anyone else. Just us. That’s… good. It’s good. It means the rest of humanity’s alive. Nobody else had to go through it.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “And here we thought we were all that was left. A bunch of failures. The last echo of humanity. We assumed that… since the other Arks weren’t designed with long term endurance in mind - to act as a generation ship - that their occupants… well… we thought we thought we were left with only empty coffins for company.”

Tiamat’s eyebrows raised as her sister displayed the chameleon-like abilities she had altered herself with, raising her hands in a polite round of applause. “Bravo.” She said, allowing a ghost of a smile. “You finally found the secret to bankrupting the hair dye companies like you always wanted.”

Ashe listened to the sad tale of her sister with bated breath. Occasionally she’d nod, smile and when Tatiana’s tear rolled on her cheek, bent down to clean it off her face to which Julian grunted loudly. A Goddess shouldn’t touch anymore.

“Sorry to hear you went through all that. Honestly, it does sound like you had a hell of a time as well. Generation ships were always a smarter idea than cryogenics and what not but it was deemed too dangerous, as you well know.

This…horror, Void you call it? Anything left of it? Any of those monstrosities?”

Sad as the tale was, Ashe’s scientific mind primed over all other emotions. A Goddess should never show emotion to her subjects after all. Possibilities ran through her mind, what ifs and what not.

“These are just minor enhancements I made for my people. I eliminated skin color, sexual oppression or stuff like that from my people’s mind. Only the…Goddess matters and what she wants.

I wouldn’t call you failures, some of those mutations look useful. Some I haven’t yet managed to make yet and others I deemed…not good enough. You know I was always a perfectionist. I can, if your people want it, check their DNA and see if they consider these mutations necessary or not.

With both of our minds, I’m sure we can find a cure for those that consider their mutations an abomination.”

Ashe’s words came slowly, she learned long ago to chose her words when it came to anything that was close to her Goddess’s status. Even if Julian was a mute and a very loyal servant, even he might find this exchange as blasphemy and if so, others might hear about it at one point or the other in time.
If that happened things would end in blood. A lot of blood. Most of it of those that wouldn’t want blood to be spilled. Innocents with no knowledge of the truth. No knowledge of anything else but the Church and their Goddess.

Tiamat listened as her sister spoke. “A hell of a time indeed, Ashe. A hell of a time indeed.” She shook her head, sighing, before looking back up with a smile. “All the same I… I just can’t believe you’re alive. I went almost nine hundred years thinking you might be dead - then being confident you were dead. And here you are standing before me!” She paused, “Though like I said, a little taller now.”

“We don’t consider ourselves failures for the mutations, oh no no, we’ve… we’ve long since transcended that little philosophical debate. It was more… was the best humanity could do really to only create something half decent after centuries upon centuries of such utter horror - violations of morals and everything we hold dear? Or were we simply a poor sample? Was humanity’s legacy to be carried by its worst actors? That’s what we feared.” She smiled sadly, “But we don’t need to worry anymore. If you’re still around that means others must have survived too, yes? I- we, it’ll be good to meet them too.” She trailed off, thinking.

“All the same though…” she muttered, “It’d be good to work on something with you again, just like old times, hm? I reckon we could each learn something from the other after all this time.” She grinned, and walked forward, arms outstretched for a hug. “But first - c’mere ya shit. It’s been too long.”

Ashevelen laughed when she heard “poor sample”.

“If you’re a poor sample sister then humanity was doomed from the get-go. The gravity on my world is similar to that on Earth, a bit heavier but not much, we just spin a bit faster than it.

I’ve met two more nations, one human and the other one…not human. Aliens if you believe it. They brought their war to my world but I promptly told them to keep it in their system.”

As Tatiana approached Ashe, hand outstretched, Julian made a loud grunt as if to say “STOP” which alarmed Ashe but before she could say anything… Julian rushed to action. Moving faster than it should be possible for a being his size in that gravity, he moved in front of Ashe and with one big arm flung Tiamat across the room as if she was a fly.

Almost immediately, he ran towards her lifting his massive trunk-like leg and aimed it at her head, meaning to crush it as a beer can.

After the initial confusion of Ashe, she as well flung to action. Moving much faster than Julian, she went underneath his leg and stopped his foot with her hands. Initially straining under the enormous weight and strength of the foot but then, the skin on her hands hardened and a chitinous armour appeared forming something akin to a shield. At the same time, her legs underwent similar changes and her feet turned into hooves. With more ground under her feet, she pushed up with her arms effectively throwing back Julian a metre.

His initial rage ending, he looked at the Goddess with remorse in his eyes. He merely intended to protect her and instead, he angered her and made her use her enhancements.
“JULIAN! That is our ally! She merely meant to touch the Goddess. Family she hasn’t seen in centuries. I understand you want to protect me and you shall be rewarded when we get home for it but this is not the time nor the place for it.

Go back to the shuttle and out of this world’s gravity. I think it affected your brain a bit too much. I’ll signal when you can come and pick me up.”

Dejected, Julian nodded. Protection is all he wanted to provide. By the time he would’ve left the room, Ashe’s body turned back to normal.

Tiamat hacked and coughed, bright red blood trailing from her lips and splattering across her hand. “Hell of a friend you’ve got there.” she wheezed, "Damn Ashe - and here I thought you preferred women. Branching out into 'big and jealous' in the past 300 years?" She flashed her sister a mischievous grin, pulling herself upright. “Big guy of yours has a hell of a punch.” She coughed again, more blood staining the elegant outfit she wore, “The hell set him off? He’s lucky I’m built tough - could’ve started a bigger incident than before, that.” She looked at the damage to the floor, “And… impressive.” She coughed again, then smiled, “Very impressive.”

Ashe shrugged off the last bit of adrenaline in her and looked concerned toward Tatiana.

“Are you alright? I’m quite impressed that he still managed to move that fast in this gravity. Looks like the serum works better than I thought. They’re meant to be able to fight in any kind of scenario. Packs a hell of a punch and can withstand being shot with rockets for a bit.

And, yes. I still prefer women. He just did his job. I am their Goddess and he is my personal bodyguard, also the High Hierarch of War. I need a problem solved that my assassins can’t fix, he goes in and no one but him gets out. You approached me without permission, he assumed you meant harm and did his duty.

Your mutations are quite nice as well. Most would’ve been killed by the initial hit. Bones pulverised and all that. Trust me, even my Chosen cannot withstand a full on attack from my Brutes.

Honestly? It was merely a training hit for me. A brute’s strength is bigger than mine but I have almost full control of my own DNA and trust me…it’s spliced with a lot of other types of DNA.“

Ashe took a deep breath and continued. “Are you sure you’re fine? Any medical facilities in the vicinity that you might want to visit? I’d treat you but…” she left the sentence hang in the air while gesturing vaguely at Tatiana’s body.

Tatiana grinned. “That is no mutation, however. You have your superpowers and we have ours.” She forced herself to a standing position, looking down at the dent that had been punched into her chest. “Probably punctured something unpleasant, though. But I can still breathe and it’ll take more than that to put me down.” She hauled herself over to the table. “The way we’ve maintained our own immortality is that, once a year, we regenerate and rebuild our bodies anew. Wiping away disease, injury, age, and more. Of course, in cases of severe injury,” she gestured to herself, “exceptions can be made and can be made quite easily. The younger members of our society are fond of, frankly, incredibly stupid stunts and frequently wind up dead and restored from personality backups.”

She looked up at her from her current seated position, “Now here’s the part where you tell me how you managed transformative effects like that? Some of us have similar abilities - shifting the colours of our hair, skin, eyes - etc. But that was a whole ‘nother ball game. How did you accomplish it? I’ve accomplished some tremendous feats of my own but…” She raised an eyebrow, “And for that matter - have you just been holding out on me? Where was this back when you had me get things down from high shelves?” She teased, grinning.

“But it is a mutation. Combined, I’m assuming with…cybernetics? You were always fond of your machines. Reminds me of that big black machine you hid under your bed…you swore you bought it only to see what a real one looks like.” Ashe chuckled as she remembered Tatiana’s face when she found the machine still turned on under her bed.

“Hmm. That sounds interesting. Haven’t figured out how to transfer the minds of my Chosen to different bodies yet. It was dumb luck that I managed to keep my mind intact when the clone was activated. Got to say, it was weird to see and talk with myself in a younger body again and… GOD it was annoying when there were two of me. I can’t imagine how it would be if I would’ve cloned myself multiple times.”

“Oh’ the enhancements? Long story. This body was made to be able to sustain multiple DNA strands at the same time, most of them are dormant keeping my current one, the Chosen DNA as I call it, active almost all of the time. It’s just a matter of concentration combined with instinct for me to prime one DNA strand over the other, it took me years to learn how to use it and it takes me months everytime I add a new one. Eventually, the body will reach its limit and that will be the end of it.

My Chosen, while their bodies are modified as well, they can’t sustain more than two DNA strands and even then, some turn…bad. We call them Rejected. Their DNAs fight for dominance over one another. Most die, those that don’t…let’s say they are monsters in their own right. Take for example, the Brute serum, the one that made Julian as he is? The Rejected Brutes are bigger but their minds are broken. Think of them as…5 year olds with the power to crush tanks with their bare hands.

Each of my Chosen gets to choose which branch of the Church they want to serve or are chosen to serve under based on their skills. Those that prove themselves will be modified to better serve their branch. Brutes, templars, priests, chameleons, virophages, zealots…the list goes on. They all have a different DNA strand besides the Chosen DNA.

I learned a lot more in a year on RADX-001 about human genetics and DNA splicing than I would’ve learned in a 100 years on Earth. The biosphere is very diverse and we still haven’t been able to catalogue all the animals, plants and insects but I can say, 100% they don’t like humans. We weren’t even prey for them, prey at least fights back…we were just a free-for-all buffet.

If you give me access to your planet’s animals, I’m sure I can cook up a new type of Chosen. Hell, even your people’s DNA will suffice. I am curious what I could learn from it.”

Tiamat chuckled. “You know I did briefly consider the use of cloning, at several points in fact. The Ark suffered catastrophic population loss several times, and it was a near run thing but we did not wish to open that can of worms.” She shook her head, smiling. “God I imagine it would’ve been a weird site to be surrounded by a few billion of me now. Glad I didn’t do it. I hope your little spawn wasn’t as irritating to you as you were growing up? Would hate for it to be inflicted on anyone else.”

“As far as the mind transference… it’s a complicated, intricate process. I can hardly convey all the details here and now. But to summarise it involves the transition of the brain’s neural activity synapse by synapse into an artificial matrix capable of supporting a similar structure. The body is then… digested, essentially, by a wide array of enzymes, and reconstructed anew from a stored template. All cybernetics or any body modding is incorporated. An imprint of the mind is also made during this time, to enable its recreation should we die.” She grinned, “We may not be able to grow horns on command, but we do have a respawn button.”

Tiamat looked at Ashe with a strange expression as she continued her explanations. “Really went and founded a religion on yourself, then?” She asked, “Got how many people doing all this shit in devotion to you? Shit, Ashe - you have changed. I’m in no position to judge - memory serves I was some sort of… high priestess to that damned Void before we found Light, and then they called me a demigod which I put a stop to.” She shook her head. “Few centuries and a hellworld really do change a person don’t they? Not a ton is gonna jump out and eat you on this planet. I mean, there certainly are things that will. But the real danger is that damn near everything is toxic, or parasitic, or will cause an allergic reaction, or WILL eat you but slowly and from the inside.” She sighed. “Guess there were a lot of short straws going around, huh?”

As soon as Tatiana started explaining the “respawn button” function, Ashe started to mentally take notes of everything she said. Maybe there was a way to incorporate the same thing in the Chosen…her mind was running at full speed thinking different possibilities and ways of incorporation. The moment Tatiana mentioned the religion bit Ashe’s face turned sour.

“Look. Don’t put the religion thing on me. It wasn’t me who started it. I’m just playing my role, nothing more, nothing less. When I first started working on the Chosen serum there were some people who said I should stop, that I was playing God and other bs like that. They hated me for it. I found my lab vandalised a few times…even tho’ it was all meant to save them.

So, you know what I did? I allowed them to call me that, soon after the first Chosen serum was made and people were able to go out without a protection suit. You’d be surprised how many of them actually started to believe that I was an actual God. Before I knew it…I had thousands of followers and then that number just grew.

It kept them in line. They followed my orders, they allowed me to save them from our hellhole planet. I’ve tried removing these thoughts from their heads at first, tried to make them understand that I’m as human as they are but they kept it going. After I died and came back…their belief soared. They believed that I have finally shed my human skin and showed myself to them in my Goddess form due to their devotion.
At this point, it’s just a means to an end. They follow my orders when I give them, they follow my vision of society…with minor changes to better suit the Church spiel but most importantly, they are happy. Housing, food, protection, fair laws and punishments…they’ve got them all. Criminality is at 0.1% planetwide. You know what that means? People just don’t want to commit crimes.

Even if I’d want to change it now and I could technically do it, it would end in the death of millions. There are some people, higher-ups in the Church that enjoy the power that they’ve got. They enjoy being able to order people around even if…months before… they were those people. If I would decide that I’m not a Goddess and openly shed it, it would undue 300 years of development and it would anger those that have some power. For example, one of my High Hierarchs, Pontius? He said I should kill everyone we encounter as they don’t serve me. While William, my missing Hierarch? He’s the only one that knows 100% the truth about my divinity and was the first to say he wanted to go out and explore. Catherine and the others are firm believers, some more than others.”

Tiamat grimaced. “Hey, hey. I wasn’t judging you. I was just… taken aback.”

She remained silent for a moment, thinking. “Look. I don’t know what I can do but for whatever it’s worth, if you decide the time is right to try and fix that mess? You have my support - and by extension probably the rest of us too.” She flashed an encouraging smile, patting her long lost sister on the back. “You’ve overcome the death of the earth, landing on a hostile new planet, the limitations of human biology, and death itself. If you want to fix this, I know you can. And you’ll have my help.”

She sighed, leaning back on the table, “Reminds me of when I was indisputably in charge. Granted I… wasn’t seen as a goddess. More…” she shook her head, “You heard what they call me. ‘Star Mother’, hah! As if I had any more clue what I was doing than them. I was lucky. I was well educated, lucky, and didn’t go on an ego trip with the power I’d accumulated fighting against that fucking Hive Strain. Easier sell on my part for sure. As for your… Hierarchs…” she trailed off.

Tiamat stood up, walking a few steps away and beginning to pace. “Yeah. Yeah that reaction is burned clear into my memory. I don’t think poor Scheherazade was quite ready to stare down the barrel of a gun for saying my name. I’ll have to make it up to her and the other two. Being willing to start a war over… that.” She sighed, looking back over to Ashe with an unreadable expression. “I don’t even know how you solve that. Peacefully, at any rate.” She shook her head, before smiling grimly, “I admire this Pontius’ fellow’s gumption if nothing else if he thinks he can take on everyone else. If only it could be put towards something other than worshipping a false goddess who wants nothing to do with it.”

“Thank you sis. Forgot how much I liked our conversations. I found someone to talk to, without all the bs, in William but he will never get up to your level.

I know I’ll find a way to fix this, it was a necessary evil but with the survival of other humans…maybe the Church won’t be relevant anymore. As soon as my people will learn about other belief systems and cultures, they’ll be given a choice to explore. I hope that they’ll take advantage of it and eventually the Church will fade away in the background. Same as it happened in ages past on Earth.

Pontius believes I’m a God. He thinks I’ll bring down the heavens on everyone who doesn’t bow down to me. It is one of the reasons I chose him to be my Hierarch. His willpower and ambition is admirable. That can be said about most of my Chosen. They’re good people, I’ve taught them to be good, they accepted it and spread it between the others.

I admire that you had the power to take control but didn’t. I wish I had the same choice but in that moment, it was either control or extinction.

Please send my personal apologies to Sister-Scientist 3-47 Asirin Seeks The Truth She Knows To Be, Sister-Sage 8-192 Scheherazade Dreams Of Many Great Things, and Sister-Artist 1-43 Sachiko Treasures The Beauty In The Universe. Catherine’s job is to seek unbelievers, traitors and the sorts. She believed that someone spread lies about myself and acted accordingly. You said it as well, if I was an imposter you’d rip me apart. Now imagine if someone told you that your God’s dead sister is alive. A figure of myth that somehow survived. I’ve taught my Chosen, via the Scripture…think it like the Bible, about our family and about Earth. As everyone else, I believed that we were the only ones left which meant, you died.

Of course, I prepared the Chosen as well for the possibility that we weren’t the only ones and that whoever is out there…ain’t friendly hence the “Golden Armada”. A fraction of it is in your system as you can see.” Ashe took a deep breath and walked around the room and then turned back to Tatiana, a serious look on her face.

“Now. I’ll ask you and I’m dead serious about it…please keep up the Goddess ruse. You aren’t my sister for the Chosen, you’ll simply be my very good friend from Earth. Tiamat. I hope you understand that while I was able to stop this conflict from escalating to a full blown war, I won’t be able to stop them all. If one of the Chosen will die at the hands of your people…I won’t have any choice but to retaliate lest’ the people will believe the Goddess abandoned them and things will get worse from there.

You have my word that as long as your people aren’t against the Church, at least openly, none shall be harmed.”

Tiamat remained silent for a time, watching her sister. Golden irises stared unblinkingly as she contemplated what she had just been told.

Maintain this garish masquerade. Do not acknowledge Ashevelen as anything but a friend from earth. Avoid offending the sensibilities of a people that ranged from pious to crusader-like madmen.

She sighed. “We really need to schedule a chat for something less heavy some time. This is not how I imagined the day would go when I woke up. You ever finish reading that fantasy novel you told me about? That one with the uh… dragons and the alternate worlds separated by centuries?” She maintained an innocent smile as she spoke, before letting out a heavy sigh. “I, look. You’re asking a lot. Fuck.”

She took a deep breath, “I learn my sister’s back from the dead, nearly spark a war trying to tell her I’m alive too, learn we both went through absolute hell - and now I’m supposed to pretend she’s… what? Just some friend from earth?” She shook her head. “Ashe just…” She began to laugh, a hollow, joyless laugh at the sheer absurdity of the situation presented to her.

“The fuck kinda universe do we live in? Fine. I don’t like it, but I’ll do it for you. You want them to experience other peoples and cultures? Fine. Let them experience ours. We can share our discoveries with one another. We’ll give them the modifications needed to survive on this planet, you can give us those for yours. Certainly if we cannot be seen as sisters, perhaps, at least, our people can be in their own way. Sister nations against…” she paused, and the eloquence ceased with that pause, “The fuck kinda other nations are there out there actually? Oh - also, you don’t need to use the full name with the numbers and the declarative and th- you get the gist. It’d be like if I called you Doctor Ashevelen Chiritescu every time I spoke of you.”

“Tell me about it. I was looking not looking forward to today’s meetings but looks like this is a meeting I wouldn’t have missed for anything in the world.” Ashe smiled, and nodded as Tatiana kept talking.

“I know it’s a lot. Trust me, it took me 200 years to get my head wrapped around this whole Goddess thing and I still don’t like it but it is what it is. Looking back, if I had to choose again, I still would’ve gone this path. Best option on the table and all that.” shaking her head, Ashe continued “I’m going through the same thing. We meet after all this time but we won’t be able to act as if we are sisters and all that. I get it, but it is better than the alternative.

And thank you. I’ll send you a congregation of my Church, 30 people to set up a church here. They’ll try to convert your people but as long as your people are not openly violent or so, there won’t be any issues. Feel free to send as many as you want over to us. I’ll make sure they are welcome but, as I said, they will have to follow the rules of the Church. “ as she finished talking, she took a deep breath, pacing around the room.

This day didn’t go as planned at all but it turned out to be good, but more challenges will appear in the future. People like Pontius will have to be persuaded that it makes sense for the Ishtari to live on RADX-001 and not RADX-002 while at the same time, the Ishtari will have to be constantly surveyed by loyalists just in case they might start something unwillingly.

“We’ve only met 2 others until now. Some humans and some aliens, they’re at war with each other. Looks like the humans invaded their homeworld and they’ve been fighting ever since. I’m assuming it has something to do with Earthfall. I’ve seen some gene-therapy done on the human while the alien…it is hard to say. They refused to give up some blood and I didn’t want to start an incident with two new nations at once.” nodding, Ashe continued “I wouldn’t have used their whole names, declarative and all that but it felt appropriate for the Goddess to refer to them as such in an official capacity. I’m assuming they are watching this conversation? And what’s the deal with your names? Something to do with your vocation, skills or jobs?”

Tiamat raised an eyebrow. “A fun record you’ve been setting for your first encounters, Ashe. First group you find two sides trying to kill each other, the next your own people nearly start a war.” She smiled, “I can only imagine next time you’ll discover some ancient long lost superweapon and start a doomsday clock that will lead to the destruction of the milky way galaxy and force a new exile to Andromeda.”

Tiamat continued, “You mentioned this William of yours knows your secret and is missing? Is there any way we can help? It might still be a bit touchy but… could be a good early symbol of cooperation.”

“Anyway, fair enough. No, this room is sealed to my people at least and nothing has gotten in or out. I’ll notify them personally after this is finished. I don’t want to risk someone causing an incident.”

Ashe put her hands to her chest, forward facing: “Hey, ain’t my fault. I didn’t expect that you’re still alive. If I did, I would’ve made the place for you in the Scripture and gave an exact depiction of how you looked back on Earth.”

Tiamat raised an eyebrow. “I hope it would’ve been a flattering description. ‘She of long flowing black locks and immeasurable beauty and intelligence’ or something.”

Ashe nodded and smiled “I’m afraid I don’t know where William went. He was the first we’ve sent through the Gateway and unfortunately we lost contact shortly before he went through it. There were a few selections on the screen of the Gateway, so he could’ve picked any of them. He ain’t one to go down without a fight, if he encountered trouble but he wouldn’t provoke it without reason. I’d appreciate your help, I’ll send his details over to your people. If someone finds him or his ship, tell him his ass is in trouble for making me worry for no reason.” she grinned at the end, while there was nothing between herself and William, they were good friends and someone who she learned to rely on in hard times.

“You gotta teach me one day how you ladies communicate like that, it would be useful. Imagine if the Goddess would be able to speak with everyone, right in their own minds. That would be quite something”

“Hah! That’s the one I remember.” Tiamat grinned. “Making people sweat bullets in pure terror purely because she was worried. Maybe it’s good you ended up as ‘goddess’ and not ‘space mom’ hm? Hate to think what you’d have been like as a parent without me around.” Her grin widened and she raised her hands in a mock show of frustration, “Raaawr! Alex, you were up at midnight studying microbiology?! You worried me sick - you could only remember the first eighteen X-linked genetic illnesses we’re trying to treat. Honestly, I’m worried. We’re a genetics lab we have no time for studying protein folding mechanisms in e-coli! I’m calling Tatian- on second thought I’m not calling her! I didn’t grow you in a test tube to be a biochemist or a microbiologist I’m trying to create the world’s greatest geneticist here! Well, besides me, I mean.”

Tiamat grinned even wider than before, restraining the urge to laugh. “Oh don’t even pretend to be offended everyone and their dog knew you only read a fantasy novel for inspiration to try and make dragons real. Anyway - far as the communication goes? It’s also a bit more complicated than I can readily explain in depth here - it’s a good old mixup of flesh and metal like usual. We can’t transfer whole mental patterns, or anything, but we’re able to simulate them within our own brains by wireless transmission. We have more… organic methods but these work better for long range communication, as we can tie them into our comm relays with little difficulty. It’s not quite the same as being fully neurally connected - you won’t be getting the full pictur- shit I never told you about that, did I?”

She sighed, melodramatically wiping her hand across her brow, “We have so fucking much to catch up on.”

“Ha. Ha. Ha. I’ll let you know I’m working as a goddess, mom, scientist and I part time as a know-it-all.” Ashe frowned as she said the words and then laughed, a proper full bodied laugh. It was strange for her to be able to laugh with no worries for a few moments. For years and years, all that mattered was survival, building a society and making sure everyone follows her laws. Even after William was chosen from the Rejected and they became good friends, she would never be able to open herself like that…there was always a problem, always something that needed to be addressed. Something was always there.

“It was scientific research and you know it! FYI, it is possible to make dragons real. I’ve got a serum for my most devout Chosen which makes them explode, think them as living mines, and they explode in loads of flames and acid. If I tweak the formula a bit, it will make them only spit out the flames and acid instead of exploding.”

Ashe waited once more for the explanation of how the Ishtari tech works and made even more mental notes. There had to be a way to organically do that without the metal bits.

“Hmmm. Maybe I’ll try to get some bees and take the DNA from their queen. It should allow them to communicate effectively at a distance, a hive mind of sorts or–” the rest of the sentence was cut short as Ashe continued muttering under her breath about how it could technically be done.

“Much to catch up on? That’s an understatement and you know it. We need to find a quiet spot one day and chat over a bottle of…whatever alcohol we can find that can affect both of us. I’d be surprised if we find any but I’m sure we can think of something.”

“Ashe - you told me at least thirteen times it was possible back on Earth.” Tiamat teased, “Now this may just be me but I might have even wagered you just had a thing for dragons beyond a scientific proof of concept.” She held a serious face for as long as possible before cracking into a smile. “It’s good, though. I mean the rest are great. Some really, really great people here but… not the same being the only one still from earth. I mean, only one who didn’t go insane an- nevermind.”

It was nice just to simply… chat. Chat about nothing important with perhaps the only other person who could understand her. And one of the few who could understand her even on Earth. Separated both by centuries and thousands of light years, by nightmare spawned horrors beyond time and space and by planets hostile to life itself. And yet… it was almost like nothing had happened. After everything she was still who she’d remembered.

“Or.” She said, “You could simply ask me to help alter what we’ve already developed to fit your Chosen. Sweetie you were born an innate know it all, we still love you. No need to develop our own separate systems from scratch when we’ve already done the hard work for each other. See, that’s why you’d be a terrifying mom. Not terrible, mind you, big difference. Terrible, no, terrifying absolutely.”

“Hey, I love my dragons, alright? They’re just awesome. Imagine flying on one. Gods…you’re making me want to create a dragon from scratch. Do you mind if I borrow your mind for it? Would be nice to have a project to work together on. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taught my people how to think and I’ve got some great minds at work day and night but none compare to your mind. “

Ashe then turned towards Tatiana with a playful grin and continued “Oh! I should really show you what I built on RADX-001. I missed home a lot and you, of course, so I asked my people to build me our house. It’s an almost perfect replica. Some things I couldn’t remember how they were but it feels like home. I even had them make your room exactly as it was. Your black friend got a few upgrades but it’s still there.”

“Your systems are dependent on cybernetic stuff, you said it yourself. I need something that works via a DNA link. Technically all Chosen share the same base DNA, it would be possible for that to be altered then again, smallest mistake and the Rejected will appear. Just so you understand, take 100% as the full human DNA…in the Chosen, that 100% is actually only 2% making the Chosen, 98% modified and 2% human. If that 98% goes to 97% then the Rejected make an appearance.

Now, the special Chosen will have a 51% Chosen DNA spliced with a 47% DNA from a different species and the 2% which is the basic human DNA. If any of those numbers are lower or higher, gene failure happens and then the Rejected make an appearance. Sometimes it happens randomly, sometimes it is due to a spontaneous mutation…you get the idea.”

As soon as she finished the sentence, Ashe slapped herself gently over the forehead. “I totally forgot about one important aspect of our collaboration and my Chosen. So, we’ve got the Chosen which are as perfect as they came be and all that…we also have on RADX-002, our moon, a full scale nation of the Rejected. They’re the ones that didn’t respond well to the serums they were injected with as I just explained. The Chosen/Rejected believe that only those that are blessed by the Goddess can get their genes fixed which in part it is true, I can fix their genes–” taking a deep breath, Ashe continued “BUT, for the same reason I cannot call you my sister openly, I cannot fix all the Rejected. They are meant to serve the Church and act as…cannon fodder in case of an invasion.

Your people are not to interfere with them or even set foot on RADX-002. It will give them a lot of power which the Church won’t take kindly to. That will make me have to step in directly which again, makes it seem that the Goddess chose the Rejected as her true sons and daughters causing more issues. Is that ok with you?”

Tiamat laughed. “Really? You went through all the trouble of replicating a vibrator from three hundred years ago?” She raised an eyebrow, “I… no you know what there’s nothing I can say to that to take the piss out of it.” She raised her hands in mock defeat, “I concede. You’ve beaten me.”

“SO ANYWAY,” she continued, clearing her throat, “We have hybrid systems. For long range communication we use a partly cybernetic implant - like much of our technology it’s a fusion of hardware and engineered flesh. We also, however, possess shorter ranged glands capable of transmitting and receiving a signal wholly organically, provided we are within the range of our synapse nodes. It is… difficult to explain - I was only tangentially involved in its creation, was busy assisting with military alterations at the time. I’ll give the schematics a once over and we can get to adapting a version for yours.”

Tiamat remained silent for some time as she digested what she had been told of these Rejected. “I… you’re throwing out landmines left, right, and center, Ashe.” She said at length, “And I’ll be frank with you - I don’t like it and the rest of us won’t like it one bit either. I’m not gonna pretend we’re some perfect little happy union with zero tension where everyone’s content. Only the Hive Strain have that and the less spoken of that abomination the better. But… you ask much. I don’t think you understand how much you ask. We’ve already tried to eliminate hierarchy and inequality in our society. Yours is… so…” she trailed off, resting her head in her hands. “Fuck.”

“I always beat you sis. Just part of my job as a nice sibling” said Ashe while pulling her tongue out at Tatiana.

“That’s good then, a first step towards a good relationship between our two nations. Send them over with your people when they come to establish the embassy. We’ll see how it can be done and implanted to all the Chosen. This will be fun”

“Look I get it. I know. I don’t like it either but I’ve got a plan. My society is based on hierarchies and it makes sense for it to be so. Order is maintained, everyone is happy. Food, shelter, protection…everything one wants, one gets. The Rejected are the exception in that they don’t get a cure for them. Technically one doesn’t exist, it’s just…a miracle of the Goddess that they can get fixed.

So, my plan. In the congregation that will arrive on your world, I’ll send some of the Rejected to act as bodyguards, cannon fodder etc. This will not be seen as a good thing by the Church but I’ll manage to spin the story, not a problem. Now, I’ll send you the cure for the Rejected. Everything that I’ve managed to discover to this point. If your people find a cure for the Rejected, that doesn’t involve using Chosen tech...my people won’t be able to say I favoured one group or the other. Ishtarians will appear as heroes of the Rejected, a strong ally to have.

It ain’t the best laid plan but it will work. How does that sound?”

“Funny memory ya got there, Ashe.” Tiamat countered, “I distinctly recall several instances where I handed defeat to you on a silver platter, need I recount them all?”

She lapsed back into silence as she listened to the proposal. “I… I accept. It won’t be easy - but it’s the right thing to do.”

She remained silent for some time after, quietly contemplating what she had been told before speaking again. “Heh, wouldn’t be the first time I’d been told my skills were the only hope for a bunch of people whose bodies had betrayed them and whose very existence was torment.” She looked over to Ashe with a pained expression. “I will need that data though. Everything you’ve got. Don’t know if I can do it but I’ll give it my damned best shot. Don’t rightly think I could live with myself if I said otherwise.”

She shook her head, “Shit, Ashe. Once again I ask - fuck kinda universe is this?”

“You cheated on those several occasions and you know it. Whoever brings a sausage in a conversation?” giggled Ashe.

“If it would’ve been easy, I would’ve fixed them a long time ago. You aren’t their only hope, we are. Without my research, you wouldn’t know where to begin. I won’t disclose everything about the Chosen DNA…trade secret and all that but the cure research is meant to target the specific mutations that the Rejected have. They all share the same dominant gene which if removed, it makes the DNA unstable and it breaks down. If you find a way using your own tech to either remove it without destabilising the DNA or replace it with something that won’t cause harm then they’ll effectively be cured.

Currently my cure simply removes the gene, reverts the mutations and then the Chosen serum is reapplied. Effectively making a “new” Chosen out of the Rejected.”

A deep sigh followed…”A universe which allowed two sisters to meet after centuries apart and countless dangers to ask that question. One that has a sense of humour.”

“A twisted sense of humour, if so.” Tiamat groaned, resting her face in her open palms. “I… shit. What do I say to that? I got nothin’.” She sighed. “Send me the data and whatever else you can. I’ll get myself and my best people on it. Don’t know how fast we can get it done until we’ve seen the data but… well you know how good I am at least - now add nine hundred years of experience.”

She stood, extending a hand back out. “One way or another we’ll un-fuck this galaxy together. If the Gateways are safe to travel through after all… we’ll be going through at once.” She smiled, “I’m curious to see if anything can top this.”

“You’ll have it as soon as I get back home. I’ll send over someone I trust as well, they’re a bit…weird but I don’t think you’ll have an issue with that. Please, make sure you don’t let them get killed or let them steal something. They’re basically a walking database of almost all of the Chosen knowledge and acts as a decryption algorithm. You won’t have issues with them if you keep them focused. The last of my Fist, my best scientist and maybe the most dangerous person beside myself in the Chosen. Their existence is a state secret, please, make sure it stays that way. From your people and mine. ” said Ashevelen with a grave tone in her voice. Revealing the existence of the last one was a risky move but she knew that Tatiana could be trusted.

The Anchorite. One of a kind. They were initially an experiment to see if one human can hold multiple brains combined with a massive number of DNA strands at once and it worked, technically. Anchorite’s body was made to contain all the DNA which the Chosen have collected and every time a new strand was created it is added to them for safe keeping. One could say that if the Chosen would be exterminated but Anchorite would survive, their nation could start anew.

The main problem with the Anchorite was that while they had multiple brains and they worked well together but their sanity wasn’t guaranteed. Each brain having their own personality, all controlled by an artificial brain created specifically for this purpose. Most of the time, they’re a brilliant scientist with the brain power of multiple people but occasionally snippets of the original people that once owned the brains make their way out and the effects are awful. One moment they are calm, the next one they are a murder machine as they remember their own death and the next they recite poetry. For that reason, Anchorite chose to be kept under lock and key in the most secure place on RADX-001. The Goddess’s palace.

“About the Gateways safety. I can say for sure that they are safe to travel through. The problem is with what’s on the other side. I told you before, I met with two other nations that were at war with each other and I’ve got a missing Hierarch which can mean two things. Either he was attacked and killed by whatever he found on the other side or he was detained by whatever was on the other side. He isn’t one that would disappear just like that.

Whatever happened to him means that other humans or even aliens are out there and they might not be friendly. At all. I’ve already mobilised my Golden Armada in front of the Gate and I can see you’ve done the same but what if we get attacked by someone who has a bigger fleet? What if they somehow manage to attack our planets, our people?”

“Are you sure sending this individual is wise? You cannot get the information through a digital device or…?” Tiamat sighed. “I’ll see what can be done. As for what else you mentioned…”

A moment of silence elapsed.

“If they attack your people, Ashe, then they attack ours. Simple as.” Tiamat declared at length. “I’ll do what I can to negotiate the formation of a formal alliance between your people and mine - and your fleet shall be accompanied back to your home by a cruiser flotilla.” She gave a grim, humourless smile. “If they think to attack you, let them find out the true measure of our fury. As the old saying goes - ‘si vis pacem, para bellum’. War is the last thing I want. So let us put up a united front. Let it be known to all that to attack one is to attack the other, and see who will challenge us.”

“It is as wise as they are. Trust me, you can call them whatever you want. Weird, mad, unstable…but they are a genius. A true genius. If they wouldn’t go raving mad occasionally, they would surpass us both at the same time and many other scientists at the same time. There are 2 other people who are alive and about their existence. You’re the 3rd. I wouldn’t have mentioned them if it wasn’t important. “ said Ashe with a low, serious voice.

Ashevelen put her shoulders back, spine straight, a very serious look on her face. Looking as official as a Goddess should be and put out her hand towards Tatiana.

“Let us make it as official as we can for now. I assume with your reputation, they’ll listen to you…so, here it goes. I, Ashevelen, Goddess of the Chosen, hereby agree with a military alliance between our two great nations. Furthermore, later in the month, we will send our traders to your system and open up a route between our nations and our scientists will share unclassified knowledge with the Communality of Ishtar in exchange for yours. I’ll instruct a part of the ships we’ve brought to remain here as well to protect your system as much as they do with ours.

Do you agree, Star-Mother 17-430 Tiamat Guides Her Children Into The Future, also known as Tatiana…sister?”

“Send your Anchorite, then. I’ll work with them alone. We’ll see if your claim of them exceeding the two of us holds true. I have a few aces up my sleeve now.” Tiamat replied. “I’ll do whatever I can to get this done for you.”

As Ashe’s tone stiffened and she spoke formally, Tiamat corrected her own posture too, subconsciously smoothing out the folds in her dress as she listened. At last, she nodded. “I’ll get our best people on it, ‘Goddess’ Ashevelen. We’ll begin drafting a treaty right away. Just in case we meet any… likeminded nations. A scientific, military, and economic treaty - a vision of a brighter future for humanity.” She walked over to Ashe, smiling. “It’s good to have you back.”

Commonality of New Ishtar and The Chosen of Ashevelen co-write the Allied Systems Treaty.

Creation of Allied Systems Defensive Alliance
Creation of Allied Systems Economic Union
Creation of Allied Systems Research Cooperative
Creation of Allied Systems Free Movement Agreement

Commonality of New Ishtar signs Allied Systems Treaty, Full Signatory
The Chosen of Ashevelen sign Allied Systems Treaty, Full Signatory

Commonality of New Ishtar has entered into a formal defensive military alliance with The Chosen of Ashevelen
Commonality of New Ishtar has entered into an economic union with The Chosen of Ashevelen
Commonality of New Ishtar has entered into a research agreement with The Chosen of Ashevelen
Commonality of New Ishtar has entered into a free travel agreement with The Chosen of Ashevelen

Reunion of Star-Mother 17-430 Tiamat Guides Her Children Into The Future and God-Queen Ashevelen

Beginning of classified Ishtari research into cure for Rejected, lead by: Star-Mother Tiamat, Anchorite

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Sigma
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No Man’s Land
Proximity to Mojave DMZ

Action was swift once the new arrivals staked their claim over the Mojave DMZ, the first wave response was met with disaster as a Janissary Battle Group had been destroyed, the second wave, however, would prove to more prepared than their predecessors. Another Janissary Battle Group was assembled and ordered to assault the Mojave DMZ, however, the battle group was soon to be accompanied by another fleet, and very soon would be graced by the presence of the 5th Throne Fleet, a rare occasion indeed.

Within the bowels of the flagship, the Zarais’ Might, Guard-Commander Morradim marched through the dimly lit corridors as he made his way towards the command bridge, lower ranked Yulzan given him proper respect as he passed many by, his trip would end shortly as he approached the Command bridge entrance, the door sliding open revealing a wide open space, a handful of Yulzan operating the central controls of the ship, his eyes scanning the room until he had found his Guard-Master, Zalos, starring out into the endless void of space from the observational portion of the command bridge. Morradim proceeded into the bridge, approaching the Guard-Master, kneeling. “Report.” The Guard-Master growled, Zalos’ very voice sending shivers down Morradim’s spin. “…My Lord, we’ve arrived at the rendezvous point, and the enemy is soon in sight…..Admiral Goodwin wishes for instruction.”

There was a brief moment of silence from the Guard-Master, the battle-scarred, withered Yulzan turning to face his second in command. “Order the Admiral to commence the operation, we will soon join them.” He paused as a holo-device materialled before him, pressed down a few buttons. “5th fleet, this is your Guard-Master, the foul invaders are within reach, they spit in our faces! And out of sheer arrogance, stake claim to what is rightfully ours! Hold fast my brothers and sisters! The gateway will soon be ours once more! And through it, the Galaxy will know our divine mission!”

Elsewhere, aboard the Janissary flagship Divine Wrath, Admiral Goodwin patiently sits at the center of the command bridge. Eagerly awaiting his masters call to action. The bridge staff were on edge, to fight alongside a single Yulzan was considered an honor, to fight alongside an entire Throne Guard fleet…well it was truly overwhelming, and an event that would be talked about for ages to come. “Admiral! We’ve received a message from the Zarais’ Might!” The name along sent the Admiral launching from his seat, ready to serve at a moments notice. “Open the channel!” Shortly after, a holographic image of the Guard-Commander appeared before the crew, all kneeling before him. “What is your command, my lord?” The Admiral asked.

Morradim scanned the room, all the lesser beings kneeling before his shadow, revering him as much as he had given to his Guard-Master….it was…amusing to him to say the least, to have such power radiating over lesser creatures, even with one of his station. It was a testament to the power and destiny of the Yulzan race, even the most lowliest of their warrior caste would be seen as worthy of worship, Gods made in the flesh, more worthy then what the other lesser races would call “Gods”.

Morradim had enough of his fun, and spoke. “I have spoken with the Guard-Master, he has given you the order to push forward and begin the operation, we will join you very soon, and cast out these invaders.”

“Y-yes, my lord, as you command!” The Admiral said, overcome with a mix of adoration and anxiety. This battle could be a turning point in his career, or be the death of him, time will only tell, and time was clearly running out, it was now or never.

Morradim simply nodded as the hologram dissipated, the Admiral standing right back up, walking towards the command holo-table, connecting himself to the entire Battle Group. “This is Admiral Goodwin to all ships, our orders have been received and we will carry them out. We are to assault the enemy fortifications set up around the gateway, we succeed in what our fallen brothers and sisters before failed to carry out, for the most Divine Yulzan themselves fight by our side! Ready yourselves! For on this very day! We will be worthy of ascension! We will be worthy of the Grand Halls of Dai’khora!”
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Darkspleen
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Darkspleen I am Spartacus

Member Seen 12 mos ago

In the vicinity of HMNB Sentinel of the Void, Kaus Borealis System

Sentinel of the Void had once been a lonely, unimportant, and largely forgotten station in the middle of... well nothing. Now it was becoming one of the busiest regions of space in the Kaus Borealis system and was arguably the Kingdom's most important station. The station had already doubled in size and was maybe a week away from being able to function as an anchorage.

The amount of warships in the area had more than doubled as well. In fact the collection of ships were being called the Expeditionary Fleet by some members of the Admiralty. Officially the fleet was considered part of the Home Fleet, but that was liable to change any day now. Many had wandered who would be the commanding officer of the new Expeditionary Fleet. Those questions had been answered once the HMS Monarch had arrived.

"What's the status of our trade ships?" Admiral Harrington asked. The trade ships in question were two medium sized cargo vessels that were loaded with various goods and tasked with seeing what the markets of the Americana system would be interested in consuming. At least that was the cover story. The trade ship headed to the FRA had some armaments to trade. Obviously not anything in large quantities, just a few pieces that could easily be explained away as being part of the protection details armaments. The trade ship headed to Yulzan space was tasked with collecting intelligence on what the Kingdom was increasingly coming to see as a potential future enemy. Each trade ship would be escorted by a single destroyer, but would otherwise be on its own and at the mercy of the waring Americana factions.

"Both ships report that they'll be heading out within the hour." Monarch answered after a moment. "Their escorts have confirmed their readiness."

"You sound a bit envious." The admiral stated after a moment.

"Sabre," HMS Sabre was one of the escorting destroyers, "was bragging about being the first Royal ship to leave the system." Monarch didn't bother hiding how irked she was about that. "She's been very, very vocal about it." The admiral chuckled at that. After a moment Monarch allowed herself to chuckle as well.

"If it makes you feel any better you'll be the first Royal battleship to leave-" Admiral Harrington never got to finish his statement.

"Something just came up on our sensors" An officer called out.

"Show me" The word's had barely left Harrington's lips before a 3D map was projected in front of him, showing the Gate, station, his ships, and three unidentified blips. They were coming in fast and from the direction of the outer rim. "Swimmers." The three blips suddenly exploded into more than Harrington could count. "Battlestations! Get those transports through the Gate. NOW!"

Admiral Harrington moved to his seat and strapped himself down. Once secure He pressed a button on the arm of his chair, causing a cable to extend from the chair and plug in to a port at the base of the Admiral's skull. With the Man-Machine Link between himself and Monarch established he now had access to a greater amount of information and control over the massive battleship than he could ever have hoped to have otherwise.

He turned the front of Monarch towards a Swimmer the size of Monarch herself, a so-called leviathan class Swimmer. He was aware of the two transports and their escorts slipping away through the Gate, but the bulk of his attention was on the Swimmers.

The Expeditionary Fleet got off the first volley with their spinal cannons. Monarch's spinal particle beam cannon speared through the leviathan, blasting a massive hole through its body. It thrashed for a moment before going limp, momentum causing it to continue to fly towards the fleet. Many Swimmers had been killed, but not enough. Monarch shuddered as return fire, plasma that the Swimmers were literally spitting, struck her armor. Monarch withstood the attacks with little trouble, but several destroyers reported taking heavy damage.

"They're aiming for the Gate." Admiral Harrington said just a moment before the Swimmer's collided with his fleet. Royal Navy ships fired their CIWS and spinal cannons as Swimmers spat at them or struck them with their tentacles. Several Swimmers even collided with their targets, wrapping their tentacles around the warships in an attempt to crush them.

"Admiral" Monarch said.

"I see them." Harrington responded as a pair of cruisers were forced into the Gate by the momentum of being tackled by a Swimmer. "Did our cruisers end up in the Americana system as well?" Swimmers followed the two cruisers through the Gate. A lot of Swimmers.

"They did not." Monarch answered after a moment. "One ended up in New Terra and the other in RADX." Great, so they had been thrown into two different star systems at random.

"I'll take the 1st Task Force to RADX. Admiral Howe, you will take the 2nd Task Force to New Terra. Do not let a single Swimmer slip away. Task Forces three through six will remain here to mop up the remaining Swimmers and protect the Kingdom from external threats."

@Sigma and @Crusader Lord Two transports and destroyers headed to the Americana system

The Gate, RADX System

Collab between @Darkspleen and @Timemaster

First out of the Gate was the Royal Navy cruiser, a massive squid like creature wrapped around it. The locals in the vicinity of the gate had just a moment to recognize the presence of foreigners before over a hundred more squid-like creatures, ranging in size of a human to a battleship, disgorged from the gate. Particle beams from the cruisers speared out at the creatures, killing a few but leaving dozens more alive to swarm it. Its spinal cannon shot out, spearing through two destroyer sized creatures, before the cruiser finally succumbed to the tentacles wrapped around it and crumpled.

And then a small fleet appeared through the Gate, particle beams reached out for the creatures. Each Royal Navy ship launched a handful of fighter craft to help combat the smaller creatures, be even then they were greatly outnumbered. Still the Royal Navy fought well, using finesse and coordination to make up for its lack in numbers. Fighters would antagonize the creatures, causing upwards of ten to give chase. Then a nearby destroyer would take out the whole group with a well aimed shot of its spinal cannon. Most of the creatures seemed content to fight the Royal Navy, but about a third flew off in various directions.

As soon as the Goddess left through the Gateway to assist with Catherine's distress call, two unidentified creatures came through the Gateway followed by a small fleet of an unknown nation. The Golden Armada, while diminished as it was currently, it still counted thousands of Infiltrator-Class ships, 15 Carriers, 5 Battlecruisers and the "Angel", a ship similar to the Seraph in size with almost twice the weaponry classed as experimental to the Chosen. Other ships were getting ready to launch into space and more were being built.

"Admiral Watson, incoming communication from the unidentified ship." said one of the Templars aboard the "Angel"

"Put it through. Let's hear their explanation." answered the Admiral with a tired voice. Barely a day since the Gateway reopened and they already met with two different nations, potentially lost a Hierarch and another one in danger. This was not what he imagined his service will entail but for the Goddess, he will do what he must.

"I am Admiral Harrington of the Royal Navy and Crown Prince of the Kaus Borealis Kingdom," The broadcast originated from one of the larger ships, "this is for all native forces in the area. I promise to explain once things calm down, but for now it is imperative that you not allow a single one of those biological entities to escape into your system. I repeat: you must not let a single one get past you."

"Send a message back to them." taking a deep breath, Watson continued, "This is Admiral Watson of the Chosen. We'll provide assistance but better have a good explanation at the end of this."

Soon after orders were given to the Golden Armada, eliminate all the creatures but also encircle the unbelievers, they shall not escape if they intended to use the creatures as a distraction. The Battlecruisers already in position close to the Gate had a clear line of sight to the creatures and soon after the order was given, they opened fire with all they had. Countless missiles loaded with corrosive acid were thrown at the enemy, each exploding on impact then spreading the acid.

The Carriers followed soon after, spitting Infiltrator ships one by one while their medium cannons battered the creatures with everything they had. As the ships approached they started pestering the creatures with bullets and as they got very close, Chosen Templars were released in space with no suits. Unburdened by suits, they were all armed with rocket launchers, grenades and long range rifles with AP bullets.

With the Royal Navy firing at them from the rear and the Golden Armada from the front, the fleeing creatures found their numbers cut down. Even so they were certainly still a threat. They spat plasma at the Infiltrators and Chosen warriors that fired upon them. And once they got close enough they bodily slammed into warriors and wrapped their tentacles around. The smallest of the creatures were slightly larger than a normal human, but even they were incredibly dangerous in melee. Royal marines, even when outfitted in powered armor, had long ago learned to dread fighting Swimmer's in melee combat, and the Chosen were about to learn that same lesson.

At the same time the Royal Task force focused its attention on the Swimmers that had stayed back to fight. Royal fighters darted around destroyers and cruisers, exchanging shots with swimmers as the warships CIWS picked the smaller ones off. Particle beam cannons tore through swimmer bodies. Swimmers swarmed warships and worked to tear weapons off of hulls.

For the most part the Royal Navy ignored its Golden Armada counterparts, although the movements of several heavy cruisers clearly indicated that they were aware they were being encircled and positioning themselves to counter an attack from the flanks in necessary.

A Royal Navy destroyer fired its spinal particle beam cannon at a cruiser sized Swimmer, the attack severed one tentacle but missed the creature's body. A tentacle swatted the destroyer with enough force to throw it to the side and cause it to collide with another nearby destroyer. Armor dented in two places, the destroyer continued to fire on the swimmer with its CIWS, but to little affect. Then the Monarch's massive spinal particle beam cannon punched through the Swimmer's body, leaving it to twitch and thrash in its final death throes. And with that final kill the Royal Navy had eliminated the Swimmers that had remained behind.

The Chosen that went out of the Infiltrator ships started to be targeted by the smaller Swimmers. Even if they were smaller than the Chosen they still posed a challenge and soon the first wave of Templars were being decimated. Occasionally an explosion could be seen from where one Templar would fall as they'd sacrifice their lives by detonating their grenades just before death.

The other Templars started a slow rout, herding the Swimmers towards the better equipped battlecruisers and Carriers all while taking pot shots at any Swimmer that would try to escape the deadly trap. As they'd reach the targeted area, the Templars pulled away as fast as they could. Soon after the two battlecruisers and Carriers that didn't actively engage the other Swimmers started their onslaught, missiles after missiles were being shot at them until, eventually they stopped.

Finally the Chosen side of the battlefield was cleared out of Swimmers, not without losses. A few of the Carriers sustained damage and one battlecruiser was floating in space, their hull pierced by a swarm of Swimmers. Admiral Watson surveid the battlefield with a critical eye learning how the Swimmers moved, their tactics and weaponry while at the same time, keeping a very close watch on the Royal Navy. In case this turns into a shooting match, they needed to know what they should expect.

"Send a message to Admiral Harrington telling him all the creatures were killed and send a team to retrieve any body parts from them, the Goddess will personally want to run checks on them. Full security detail. That admiral better have a good explanation for this or by the Goddess we'll remove all these heathens from our airspace." said Admiral Watson on board the Angel.

Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers spread out and slowly moved amongst the Swimmer bodies in what was clearly a well coordinated search pattern. Occasionally a Swimmer body would be subjected to particle beam fire. In fact the Royal Navy was firing at things that, at least initially, seemed to definitely not be Swimmer bodies, such as space rocks and smaller warship debris. What was clear was that the Royal Navy didn't seem to particularly care whether or not the Chosen got their hands on Swimmer bodies, as the bulk of said bodies was left unmolested.

"This is Admiral Harrington to Admiral Watson. You'll want to take care that none of our foes are playing dead. They have a habit of doing so or of disguising themselves as something else. I cannot stress enough how good they are at stealth and camouflaging themselves. I'd recommend blasting anything you aren't sure isn't dead." He paused for a moment before continuing. "As for an explanation- well the short version at least: these monsters are beings we call Swimmers. They are natives to the star system we colonized and have a voracious appetite. We have yet to find a living thing they won't eat." Another pause. "The Swimmers made a run for the Gate. My fleet engaged, but they were... very focused on getting to the gate and a large percentage of them chose to prioritize accessing the Gate over engaging my fleet. Two of my cruisers were struck by the Swimmers and forced through the Gate as well. Roughly half of the Swimmers ended up here and the other half in another system. We gave chase and... well you know the rest. Now I know that that explanation will surely leave you with many questions," He sounded genuinely apologetic, "and I'll do my best to answer your questions. Or if you'd prefer I and my fleet can leave your territory right now. We came only to ensure the Swimmers were not allowed to spread elsewhere."

Admiral Watson listened closely to the explanation. So, these creatures were good at hiding and intelligent. Maybe something close to sentience. A fact that would, for sure, interest the Goddess. Orders were sent to the retrieval team to triple check if the creatures were indeed dead and if possible to capture one that is injured to do so.

A dilemma presented itself. The Admiral had no authority over diplomatic matters as those would be reserved to the Hierarchs but with the Hierarchs gone or busy, something had to be done. After a quick prayer for divine guidance he nodded and a message was sent to the Royal Navy.

"We will make sure that the creatures are indeed dead before running our own tests on them. This is the first true alien life we've met and as such, we are as curious as the Goddess made us.

I've got a few questions and then, if you could leave, we would be happy. Once the Goddess is back and proper leadership is restored, diplomatic matters can be discussed in detail.

Who are you? Are you humans, descended from the original settlers? How many other nations have you met? Do we have any reason to consider you as potential enemies of the Chosen? These Swimmers, are they sentient?"

The questions seemed basic enough but behind them a deeper meaning could be understood. Would the Chosen need to get ready for war against yet another nation?

"As I mentioned before," Admiral Harrington began, "we are from the Kingdom of Kaus Borealis. We are descended from some of the Humans who fled Earth. I can actually trace my family lineage back to England. Your country is the third country we have encountered since the Gate has reactivated, though I expect the detachment I sent to chase down and destroyer the other half of the Swimmers who had fled through the Gate to have encountered yet another country. And to be frankly honest I don't know enough about your people to even guess as to what would make us your enemies. We aren't going to be looking for trouble."

"As for the Swimmers..." Admiral Harrington paused to collect his thoughts. "We honestly aren't sure how intelligent they truly are. We assume they have some kind of language, or at least a means of communicating with each other, but have never actually identified anything that could be a language. All attempts at communicating with them have failed; either they have no ability to comprehend our attempts or they have no desire to communicate with us. When they initially appeared they didn't fly in any kind of formation, but other time they started mimicking the formations used by the Royal Navy, and then they started using formations of their own apparent design. We've also seen them change tactics over time, also indicating at least some degree of sapience. Still they continue to be thoroughly alien to us. What their motivations are, beyond eating, are a complete mystery to us."

"Kingdom of Kaus Borealis." said Admiral Watson as to see if the name rolls of the tongue properly and to better commit it to memory then continued talking "We once were humans as well, many years ago but our planet proved to be uninhabitable to humans and as such, in our time of greatest despair when were were close to extinction...the Goddess revealed herself to us and chose us to ascend. May She be praised until the end of time. If your people aren't looking for a fight then pray to the Goddess for your ascension if you are, I'm sure you've noticed surrounding yours but that is your own choice.

These Swimmers of yours are indeed a threat then for everyone who encounters them. If they have the ability to learn from one nation, they can learn from others and your tactics might not work against someone else's tactics. They're dangerous. Once the Goddess is back, maybe something could be worked out between our nations. A defensive alliance or so. We help you eliminate the Swimmer threat and you'll offer us something in return but that's not my decision.

Am I correct to assume your nation is a monarchy?" a king or queen would be easy to control or please if they would have absolute power.

"A constitutional monarchy, yes." Harrington answered. "We'll actually be holding elections for our parliament in the next few weeks, but that's not something I need to bore you with at the moment. As for any agreements between our countries, that'll have to be determined at a later date. While I do possess some say in regards to what the Crown government does, at this time I haven't been empowered to do much more than contain the Swimmer menace."

"I would like to know more about your Goddess" Harrington added after a moment. "I do hope you don't take my... um ignorance.. to be disrespect. The way you speak of her gives me the impression of a being with a... physical body. Is goddess a type of title of rank or do you mean she's a divine being that occupies a physical body of some kind?"

Constitutional monarchy, not good but not bad either. Not that much power over the nation but either way, no one ruler to decide everything at once.

"Elections you say? May the Goddess shine her light on the chosen of your people." Watson said, his voice full of devotion for the Goddess, then continued in the same manner "The Goddess was once a human like yourself from Earth until Earthfall. She ascended to godhood shortly after arriving here on RADX-001 and we, her children, were chosen to be ascended. All who meet her will understand her divinity. All who meet her will bow their heads in reverence and pray for salvation. So, to answer your question the Goddess leads the Church and occupies a physical body." his eyes shined with pride as he spoke about the Goddess.

"Now, I am sorry for cutting this short but as I said, I have no diplomatic power nor training. If you wish to return, you will be greated properly by the Chosen."

"Very well then." Harrington said. "I wish honour and glory for both your nation and Goddess. Till we meet again." With that he cut the communication line to Admiral Watson and gave orders for this task force to return through the gate.

The Gate, New Tera System

Collab between @Darkspleen and @Dog

First came a single cruiser, ensnarled by a tentacled monster. Then a hundred more tentacled monsters poured out. The cruiser managed to free itself from its foe, a CIWS particle beam cut a tentacle clear off and allowed the cruiser to break free. The cruiser began to limp away from the swarm of monsters, but it was clear that it wouldn't be able to outrun them.

Thankfully help arrived just in time. Reinforcements followed through the Gate, opening fire with the spinal cannons the moment they were through.

"This is Admiral Howe to all local defense forces nearby. Help us kill these damned monsters or stay out of our way."

The Terran Navy is...shocked to see such surprise come to their home-gate. Without hesitance in their plans, the enmassed Terran warships quickly lock onto their targets. A few minutes of lull as targeting-solutions are acquired before hell is let loose. The discharge of heavy-artillery is a sight to behold as rounds upon rounds of ammunition are fired relentlessly - a never-ending salvo of kinetic munitions. Before long, the space monsters are met with extreme power.

The monsters were trapped between two powerful fleets; their numbers already reduced due to the short skirmish in Kaus Borealis. They could do just one thing: die. And they died in great numbers. Heavy artillery shells and particle beam cannons smashed into their flanks, some were even struck by both before they died. Soon the beasts had been reduced to little more than space debris.

The Royal Navy was willing to take no chances. Light cruisers and destroyers moved amongst the bodies in a search pattern, occasionally a particle beam would reach out and end the life of a creature playing dead. To the Terran Navy, it would quickly become clear that the monsters were quite adapt at camouflaged, able to make themselves looks like rock or even pieces of metal with ease. And for how good the monsters were at hiding themselves, the Royal Navy was just as good at finding them.

"I salute your steadfastness in the face of an unknown and alien foe" Admiral Howe broadcast to the Terran Navy as he recalled his ships, the fleet slowly making its way back to the Gate.

"We thank you for the comment. Sadly, we must ask you to take your leave. It is a matter of state security," an unknown Terran Admiral broadcasts.

"Understandable." Admiral Howe responded. "We are leaving now." The Royal Navy task force slowly made its way back to the Gate, its destroyers and escorts taking care to destroy as many Swimmer bodies as they possibly could with their CIWS. Once they had all formed up near the gate, the royal ships swiftly left the system and returned home.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Liotrent
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Liotrent Tabby Space Cat

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22:00 HRS

The Elysium system was a host to a multitude of problems, a lot of which was solved with heavy doses of media manipulation, brute force, and underhanded tactics including but not limited to assassinations, torture, and reeducation. The "concerned citizen" today is none-other than one of the sector directors, Vincent Lotte who recently appeared to have had unfortunate things to say about the Directorate as a whole.

"I'm telling you, it's fair criticism!" Vincent struggled against his restraints as usual, but I, Hubert was having none of this bullshit today.

"Listen, Vinnie, buddy- no! Pal! I know you have your gripes, but know your limits okay?"

"I- I- I don't understand-"

I press a finger to his trembling lips, "Shh shh shh... I've heard it all before Vinnie, I don't need another spiel about how you feel about the Directorate, how it's going down the wrong path, how it should be run, etcetera etcetera..." I then remove my finger from his pathetic face. "... Buuuut I don't need any of that, I need you to be able to follow instructions from the me, you know? The big honcho? 'THE' lead Director of New Haven?"

"Wh- What the hell did I do to deserve this?" His face went pale and sweat ran down the side of his face. I turned on a bright light and he recoiled, rattling the restraints on the table.

I take a syringe filled with good ol' nanotech, real good for getting to those pesky neurons in the brain. "Let's see..." I say as I tap the syringe to get the air bubbles out, "... I come back from my two week trip to god knows where after negotiating with two alien races and find that there's this controversial official at the Thesius colony spouting some nonesense about brainwashing and cover up schemes and-"

"B-But Hubert, you and I both know that to be tr-"

"I KNOW THEY'RE TRUE!" I turn to him, my eyes wide with rage, "Do you have any idea how long it took for us to get this very very fragile peace? Only a handful know the truth of how the wars began and how they ended." I took the syringe to his neck, "... Now you'll have to suffer an aneurysm so I can make you forget everything. It's a messy process, I might turn you into a vegetable in the process, but at least you won't blab anymore."

Good ol' Vincent tried to struggle out of it, but in the end I sunk the needle in just like I did with a lot of the other disobedient Directors under my jurisdiction - which at this point is just all of them - and forced him to see it my way.

"I thought I could trust you Vinnie ol' pal..." I pull up a holo screen and activate the process, "... Now I gotta do the ol' snip snip."

Just then one of my more trustworthy interns walk in, "Oh, I didn't realize you were still busy"

"Of course I am! Always! Busy busy busy, Haha!" the smile always seems to unsettle, the joyful facade I give is such a perfect mask, the language I adopt throws people through loops, my mannerisms make people doubt my intentions. "So what brings you around? Not enough morons to throw out the window?"

"I'm not like you Hubert."

"Oh. Come. On." I throw my hands up in the air and roll my eyes, "Dick... Big dick... Wazzinski, my brother... You'd do these in my place so don't tell me you ain't like me yo."

Dick stares at me as usual through his spectacles, pushing them up the bridge of his nose with two fingers, always unamused and unmoved by my jokes - he's not afraid like the others. "I've been your classmate, your thesis partner, your project partner, and now your vice chair. Above all that I'm your friend, and I've gotta tell you that I'm a little disappointed you think that way."

"Awww! Why's that? Are you disappointed cause you luuuuuuv me?" Of course I shoot him with the puppy dog eyes.

He shakes his head, "No..." he then sits down beside me, "... Because we've known each other this long, done this a hundred times, and I still have to remind you to press the execute command button." which he does for me, by the way.

Vincent begins to writhe in pain, his eyes begin to jitter and roll upwards, and he begins to scream like a deaf girl having sex. If god existed, he probably would damn my soul to hell, not that I care, all I care about is making sure this place is safe and that we have the biggest drone stick to wave around.

"This'll take a few hours..." Dick said.

"You're about to ask me to do something and I don't like it so I'll say no."

"Don't be childish, I need to know about that decision of yours?"

"Ah that! Well I need to invite them both over to carry out that little plan of mine."

Dick takes off his glasses and looks me straight in the eyes, "Is this a good idea?"

I pause, of course I know it isn't a good idea, but progress wasn't made by pussyfooting around... Most of the time... "Yes, this is a good idea." I am also a big fucking liar for my own gains.

"So meddling in the affairs of the FRA and the Yulzan is a good idea?"

"At the very least it shows we mean business when we go packing for a fight. Good to advertise that once in a while. I mean you should be familiar. It's 'DICK' measuring at its finest!"

"It would do the complete opposite if we were to falter against our enemy."

"That's why I don't wanna half ass this. Send our more serious ready troops and gear."

"But not before sabotaging the Yulzan war effort in some way shape or form?" Dick raises an eyebrow to the idea, "How do you even intend on doing that by the way?"

"In my opinion, I think those Yulzan think we're so stupid that we'd actually just trust them on their word or that we fear them and will offer some sort of weird tribute or something..."

Dick then pinches the bridge of his nose knowing what comes next, "Please don't tell me you plan to-"

"Yes, it is time to pull off the ol' trojan horse trick I read about!"

"God damn it..."

"Come on, we'll do it with drones and drone operators, minimal risks involved, and if it does fail, we can just fight them how we usually do."

Dick sighs, "Fine... Should I arrange for an envoy to meet with them again to discuss our setup?"

"Yup, let's meet those FRA fellows first. Let's hear their opinions, after all, they've fought them for longer."
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Eldritch Puppy
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Eldritch Puppy

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The space surrounding the Gateway in the Kamenyan system was occupied by a cloud of dormant torpedoes, waiting to be activated by the Navy’s high command. Beyond this improvised minefield, a cordon of starships and patrol crafts constantly combed the area while small civilian crafts owned by news companies lurked just outside of the exclusion zone, their high-power cameras pointed at the Gate in the hope of catching a glimpse of anything that might be coming through.

When the foreign ship emerged, broadcasting its message into the void, it was swiftly relayed to Kamenymir where the media immediately interrupted their regular schedules to display the pixelated images of the Chosen ship, as they called themselves, along with the message. While news corporations made record viewer numbers, the Directorate sent a dry, professional reply. “Unknown ship, you are in Kamenyan space. Please maintain your current position, advancing further will be considered trespassing. A representative will come aboard soon.”

The Chosen’s crew stopped immediately as they passed through the Gateway. The ship’s sensors picked up unidentified starships and a planet that was very much inhabited. As soon as the message came through from the Kamenyans, William gave his own orders to his crew. No insignias, no threatening postures, the representative will be guided into a blank meeting room and no guard will be in said room.

In comparison to the crews of the other members of the Fist, William’s crew was the most different of them all. Theirs armor was black, heads covered by helmets with only the flag of the Chosen drawn on their shoulders. While the other members of the Fist would crew their ships with Templars and Clerics from their own branches, most of William’s crew was hand-picked by William himself from members of the Church from all branches of it making it a jack-of-all-trades type.

“Greetings Kamenyan people once more, please feel free to board us. We aren’t looking for trouble. If you wish to fight, we can schedule one later on but for now, let’s talk.” sent William to the closest Kamenyan ships, his tone friendly.

After a few minutes, a reply came through. “We are sending a shuttle with an envoy on board, it should reach your ship in 60 minutes.” Indeed, Anton Kroll just arrived on the orbital port above Novyras and embarked on a small skiff, determined to meet the intruders in person despite the misgivings of his advisors. Eventually, he exited the airlock and set foot on the Chosen ship. He wore his usual black suit with a red tie and white shirt, echoing the colors of the KDD on the pin he had on his jacket, bearing the triangular emblem. Kroll was short for a Kamenyan, standing at only 191 cm. He had grey hair and typical purple eyes along with the distinctive strong musculature innate to all Kamenyans. His posture and attitude were neutral and calculated, an image that he carefully maintained as befitting of his position.

Templars stood at full attention as Kroll got out of the airlock, with a quick salute at the short man in front of them they quickly guided him to the designated meeting room. It was a white room with nothing distinctive on the walls, a table and two chairs in the middle.

William was dressed in a full black suit covering every part of his body besides his face and hands, his back was turned towards the entrance and was pacing around the room running scenarios and lines to say when Kroll was led into the room.

He turned quickly towards him, his back straight letting his imposing physique and height that was around 2.4m show.

“Welcome to my ship. I am William James Grant, High Hierarch of the Chosen. “ said Willam, voice calm with a smile on his face as he extended a hand towards Kroll.

“Anton Kroll,” the Kamenyan replied as he took the extended hand with a firm shake. “Director-General of the Kamenyan Defense Directorate. We have been expecting a visit from other colonies for some time, please forgive the lack of welcoming decorum. We’re simply being careful.” As he spoke, he noted the height of the Hierarch, who stood taller than even the tallest people on Kamenymir. A kind of genetic manipulation, or physical enhancement perhaps? He tried to not pay it much mind, as disconcerting as it was.

“Director-General. An honor to meet you. If I am not mistaken, your title denotes a high position in your nation’s hierarchy. I’m glad we can meet on the same…level from that point of view.

I fully understand the lack of decorum, we too in the Chosen have mobilized our fleet and placed defenses in front of our Gateway. You never know who’s out there and what their intentions are. But, where are my manners? Please take a seat, someone will bring us refreshments that you shouldn’t die from.” as he said the last bit, William realized what he said and how it could be interpreted.

"Apologies, what I mean by that is that RADX-001, our home planet, is extremely hostile to humans. Toxic atmosphere, poisonous water and all sorts of unpleasant ways to die. My people will bring over some refreshments that were prepared specifically for humans.”

Soon after William finished talking, a priest came into the room, dressed in a long black robe. With a short nod to William and Kroll, the priest put on the table a tray with different types of meats and vegetables and two cups of liquid that resembled coffee.

Kroll nodded, taking one of the cups in hand. “I have the honor of representing the leadership of the Directorate. My duty is to oversee all Directorate decisions and arbitrate between the Departments that compose our government.” He took a sip of the steaming black liquid. The taste wasn’t offensive, at least.

“You said that you had these refreshments prepared for humans. As if you are not.” His bright purple eyes carefully studied William. “Is that the case?”

Multiple departments of the government would mean a democracy and by the number of ships and weapons they had in space, a well-protected democracy. William nodded silently to himself.

“I hope the drink is good. We don’t have coffee plants on our planet and we made those artificially to resemble it as much as possible. Now–” William took a deep breath and continued “--that’s debatable. The Chosen were human after Earthfall but our leader, the great geneticist Doctor Ashevelen changed our DNA to allow us to survive on our new planet. You could say we’re enhanced humans but the term that we use is Chosen. So, we are and we aren’t humans at the same time. For example…” he let the sentence drop as he lifted his right hand in the air. His fingers started to change, uniting themselves into a sharp tip akin to a knife then changed back to their normal form.

“Humans cannot do that, if I’m not mistaken but some of us do." William’s move was as calculated as it could be. It would either prompt Kroll to show his own enhancements, whatever kind they were or gross him out. At the same time, it showed that the Chosen weren't someone to be trifled with.

The Director-General stared at William’s hand, shock visible on his face for a few seconds of disbelief. “That is…” Eerie? Monstrous? Horrifying? “...remarkable.” Kroll did his best to regain his composure, setting the cup of coffee down on the table. Just how far did the other colonies fall from the proverbial tree?

Anton Kroll chastised and forced himself to calm down. Enough gawking. “Remarkable indeed. This Doctor Ashevelen must have been truly exceptional in her field…” Wait. What did this ‘Chosen’ say earlier? “You mentioned that this Doctor is your leader. After three hundred years?”

William studied Kroll’s face for a reaction to his parlor trick. “Pardon my transformation if it startled you. Most of the Chosen cannot do this, my body was enhanced when I joined the military to better suit my role at the time. We’ve cured most diseases known to humans and there aren’t many injuries we can’t heal.” William’s voice was friendly with a genuine smile on his face, even his eyes shined with it.

He nodded a few times at Kroll’s compliment to Ashevelen’s skill. It was true, herself and one or two more could count themselves in the same area as Einstein, Edison, Tesla and Hawkins for their skills. Even before Earthfall, Ashevelen received praise after praise and the only person that could match her in her field was her sister.

“Indeed. She’s still alive and well. While we haven’t found a way to fully stop the aging process, we did manage to slow it down considerably. For example, I am 112 years old myself but I don’t look a day older than 30. In about 100 years my body will start to degrade to the point where I could be called old from a medical point of view.

On that point, we are more than happy to share with your nation as a sign of goodwill something beneficial.”

As soon as William stopped talking, another priest came into the room holding a tray with three vials and put it on the table. Each of the vials was filled with a pleasantly looking blue liquid and if one would open and smell the liquid they’d find that it smelled like blueberries.

“This–” started William as he took one of the vials in his hand “--is medicine. It will cure mostly any disease as long as it ain’t fatal or genetic in nature. You can either drink it or administer it via an IV which will act faster. Got to be used fully otherwise it will not work.” as he finished the sentence, William put the vial back on the tray and pushed it towards Kroll.

“Feel free to take them, get them to your labs or try it on a volunteer. Up to you.”

A sign of goodwill, then? It seemed that the Chosen wished to appear friendly, at the very least. But this scarcely answered the Kamenyan’s questions. He leaned back on his chair, an indefinable expression on his face as he glanced down at the vials, then back at the man twice his age who looked half. Was that even the truth? The way he reshaped his fingers was real, anyway.

“Thank you for the gift.” A few seconds passed. “High Hierarch, you evidently hold a position of power with your people. I ask you frankly: what are your intentions? Your goal here certainly goes beyond giving us three bottles of medicine. Forgive me if I sound rude, but I must know what it is the ‘Chosen’ want with us.”

"You are most welcome. Just one more thing to add about it before I answer that. Don't try to tamper with it. The formula is in a delicate balance, any type of tampering will make it unstable. That and we've got our own ways to secure our technology from potential thieves. " As William said unstable, he mimicked with his hands an explosion, his face still having his very friendly smile.

"Don't worry about sounding rude. Pretty sure you weren't expecting your day to go about like this. The vials are a sign of goodwill from my nation to yours and nothing more. We don't wish for anything in exchange.

My coming here has four purposes–" he lifted a finger up as he enumerated them"--one: to determine if others survived Earthfall. Two: if others survived, if they pose a threat for the Chosen. Three: if they pose a threat, should they be pacified before they can attack us…and four: if they are peaceful, can we establish trade with them?

The Chosen care deeply about knowledge, as you might’ve noticed. Technological advances that the Chosen have made can be shared in exchange for different ones from other nations in the hopes that at the end of the deal, both parties leave smarter than they were before. "

Kroll’s eyes narrowed. “We are a peaceful people, but we are not harmless. I hope, for the sake of your people and mine, that the answer to your third purpose is negative. As for trade, we are willing to exchange goods and services. Technology, however, requires more thought and consideration.” He joined his hands on the table.

“After we learn more about each other and come to understand one another’s culture and motives better, technology exchanges may be on the table. But for now… Let’s say I do not trust you yet. And by extension, neither does the Kamenyan people. Meaning no offense.”

William clapped his hands and stood up, soon after a priest entered the room with a bottle of alcohol, putting in on the table two glasses were produced and filled with the alcohol that looked very much as old Earth wine.

"This, Director, is the finest alcohol that I've got on the ship. Please, have just a sip. " William then followed through and took a few sips of his own.

"I didn't mean to alarm or threaten you. If you would've been a threat, I would've simply poisoned the air in this room or any other number of ways to kill you and then I would've made my escape by the time your people would've figured out what happened. So, don't worry. You haven't attacked us and we aren't looking to fight with anyone that doesn't initiate it.

I understand the caution though. If your people allow it, when I get back home, we shall send our traders to negotiate deals. I'm sure your planet has a big number of plants, fauna, minerals and so on that we don't have. "

William paced around the room for a few seconds and nodded then turned around to Kroll.

"There is one more thing you should be aware of. The Chosen are…pelicular in our ways. Our leader, Doctor Ashevelen, is viewed by most as Goddess and revered as one. It's a view, herself and a few others, myself included…do not share. It was a necessary decision that was taken in the early days after Earthfall. A decision which if revoked now would cause the death of untold millions. Mostly all civilians.

We don't expect you to refer to herself as a Goddess but some of our people might be a bit more zealous. I only ask your people not to dissuade ours from their beliefs. A plan is in place for the dissolution of the Church of the Chosen and the return of true democracy. Bloodshed is something that Doctor Ashevelen wishes to avoid at any cost. "

William took a deep breath, studying Kroll’s reaction and then added "Will that be a problem? I fully understand that it isn't something…easy to accept."

This time, Anton Kroll could not hide a disgusted scowl as he processed the information. By what right does one masquerade as a god to rule over their peers? This revelation was anathema to the very being of the KDD and all human dignity! That this so-called Doctor had the gall to act in such a revolting way was too much for Kroll to maintain his neutral expression.

Predatelskiy…” he uttered with a clenched jaw, practically growling with anger. “This… is unacceptable. We Directors live and die by the will of the Kamenyan people, as the Constitution commands thanks to the selflessness of the Founders. To think that this Ashevelen dares to trick her own people in such a shameful way, and what’s more, to remain in her position for three hundred years!” Kroll was raising his voice as he spoke, almost shouting and getting up from his chair with fury. “On Kamenymir, she would be condemned to death for such a crime, and rightfully so.”

He exhaled a few times, readjusting his red tie. He calmed down somewhat, but his face bore a hardness that it did not before. “You may send your traders, ‘Chosen’. But as long as Ashevelen remains in any position of power or influence over your people, that will be the extent of our relationship.”

William noticed Kroll’s anger and for a brief moment his eyes turned fully black and under his smile, razor-sharp teeth could be seen. With a strong, sharp voice, he uttered the words "Calm. Down. Doctor Ashevelen doesn't deceive her people because she wants that. The people chose it themselves and continued to choose her for the past 270 years. She never publicly admitted to being a Goddess. Not has she ever abused her power. She only played the cards that were given and led our nation to prosperity. I have no knowledge of your nation's struggles but understand this. Our planet was hell for humanity. She did what she had to and now…no one starves, no one dies of curable diseases. No one lives on the streets. We don't have the word poor in our language. There isn't such a thing as death to the elements lest someone decides to die on their own terms. Education for all. Houses. You name it and the Chosen have it." William took a deep breath and his eyes turned normal again, his sharp teeth as well.

"You are free to believe whatever you wish but do not disrespect the Doctor for she saw the death of thousands and she made it stop. For all she knew, humanity would've been extinct if she didn't sacrifice as much as she did and if you don't believe me, you're welcome to visit our planet. See for yourself the monuments of the dead. See for yourself the pain and suffering that the Chosen went through until she stepped up.

Our chosen leaders from before? They made harems for themselves. They had slaves . The Doctor ended them not because it brought her pleasure but because there was no other choice. It was either that or extinction. So, I ask again. Don't. Ever. Disrespect. Her. For she isn't a leader because she sought power but because there was no other choice. If she could leave the Chosen and live peacefully, she would but she's forced to stay. You shouldn't judge us by our leader but by our experiences." His voice calmed down and the smile from before came again.

"Do you understand now?"

“Oh, I do.” Kroll straightened up, looking the man half a meter taller than him in the eyes. “And I need you to understand that I have no patience for an impostor’s excuses while she keeps her people in a gilded cage. No amount of wealth or comfort is a substitute for freedom. This conversation is over.” The Director-General of the KDD stepped back. “Now, you can kill me for my blasphemy, perhaps bite my throat off with those teeth of yours, and in doing so sign your own death warrant. I am a soldier, another will take my place. That is how we endure on the World of Stone.” He turned around and added, “You should do well to understand that as well,” before walking away, leaving the medicine vials and a half-full cup of lukewarm coffee on the table.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Enigmatik
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Enigmatik Overly-Caffienated Thembie Supreme

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Six Months Later

There is something in orbit above Earth once again.

This is not the dead debris left hanging for centuries, lingering on long past when it should have expired, no, this is something altogether different. Messy, incoherent, slapdash, perhaps even ramshackle in places, it is the collective accomplishment of those who fled the cradle of mankind, a buttress against the cold and vast expanse of space that lies beyond it.

And it's filled with arguing.

Of course, those inside the Meeting Place, as it is beginning to be called, would disagree with the idea that what they're doing is arguing. It's something far more confrontational, so much more dangerous, and requiring infinitely more patience and practice- diplomacy. And to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to this 'diplomacy,' the first action upon making your arrival at the Meeting Place is to announce who, exactly, you are. A First Contact of sorts, just... Again, with clarity this time.

Addressing @Eldritch Puppy and @Darkspleen specifically, and everyone more broadly.

Alfonso splayed his fingers out and sighed. This was it. His big event. The time to show what the Gran Republic was all about. Already, things seemed uneasy- there was talk that this 'New Terra' was building up their military, and others had responded. Stormclouds loomed heavy on the horizon, and Azulvista had been all too happy to prepare countermeasures for it. More than these clouds however, there was a very real threat being posed by the alliance between the so-called 'Chosen' and the Commmonality of New Ishtar. Together, they formed a powerbloc larger than any other in the galaxy, and the Senate had almost immediately agreed that such a coupling was a dangerous threat to Azulvista and any galactic initiatives it might persue.

Luckily however, they had potential allies as well. Even as Alfonso adjusted his uniform, his face being powdered and pampered by various makeup artists, other diplomats had hurried to begin talks. Of particular interest to Azulvista was the Kingdom of Kaus Borealis and Kamenyan Defense Directorate, both of whom seemed to be amenable to the Azulvistan way of conducting business.

Now though, it was time for his announcement. Brushing off the last lingering makeup artist, he rose to his feet, strode out from the backstage and flashed a winning smile, taking his position behind a podium marked with Azulvista's seal. Tapping the microphone twice, he began.

"Greetings scattered nations of the galaxy! I stand here as a representative of the Gran Republic of Azulvista, a proud, prosperous and cultured nation!" He offered a brief bow, his medals jingling a little at the motions. "When our ancestors set forth from our cradle, they could not have predicted the hardships their descendents would go through, but despite a planet unfit for life, a most despicable xenos threat and even the foolishness of mankind's own nature, we have persevered, and we have prospered. If you come to us in friendship, you will find no greater friend, but if you come with sword in hand, know that it will be your last mistake." He nodded pleasantly. "Gracias señores and señoras. Our door is always open.

Diplomat Besud Köke1 sighed deeply. There was no reason for him to be worried- already now the Khagnate's hordes swept through various foreign systems, örtöös being erected on foreign moons and goods being extracted at record speeds. In fact, the Khagnate had never had it so good- already the Khagn's account-tellers were recording a flood of resources that would forever mark Tsagadai's reign as one of the most prosperous the Khagnate had ever seen, and yet... Well... If he failed here, he could only imagine his head would not long remain attached to his neck.

Swallowing down his fear, he began his address in the thick, guttural language of the Khagnate. The translators would take care of the rest.

"Hail, fellow travellers of Uzay. We are the Khagnate of the Steppe and Sky, under the rulership of the Great and Mighty Khagn Tsagadai II. We are a humble people and so I will not take up much of your time, instead only using this time to inform you that we are ever hungry for fresh systems and fresh resources. We promise none more unintruisive, and none more capable of extracting value from your systems. Our miners and tradespeople stand ready, and should you wish to come and experience our own system, you have only to ask. Bayartai, and go with the grace of Uzay." He kowtowed low to the camera recording him, and then drew himself back up, offering only a sharp nod as the video ended.

1 The Khagnate places little value on surnames (which come first when names are written.) In fact, many would find the idea of 'surnames' extremely confusing, as they tend to be artificially created for the purposes of foreigners. The Khagnate typically identify themselves by Horde and/or Clan rather than surnames.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Dog
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Before Le Timeskip

The New Ishtari gateway lights up in its usual fashion as space-time bends and warps to allow a passageway for faster-then-light travel. After a few seconds of participation, a never before seen spaceship materializes itself in front - a very sleek and elegant design with multiple sensor arrays and systems attached to its many hardpoints and areas. The engines of the mysterious ship go from bright blue to a dim-teal as it powers down the main sub-light thrusters to cruise mode. A ping is sent out to the nearest Ishtari ship - identifying itself as the New-Terran Viktoria-Class Light-Exploration Cruiser with its namesake being the Leonhardt.

The exploration cruiser emerged into a dense cluster of warships, construction vessels, residential vessels, and scientific vessels, all gathered around the Gateway to observe, defend, and construct new infrastructure for arriving or departing ships.

From one of the few battleships operated by the navy came a reply. “Cruiser Leonhardt, this is the battleship Unbroken Tide of Natyiran. You have entered the space of the Commonality of New Ishtar. State your purpose and nation of origin.”

“I am Ambassador Westly, People’s Union of New Terra. I and my crew are on a diplomatic mission,” a normal response so far. What could go wrong?

Aboard the battleship and other vessels the crews watched with rapt attention. First contact was still a novel thing. A new and exciting occurrence. Contact with another one of earth’s long lost children. The reply came swiftly, “Acknowledged. Further entry into the system is restricted for the time being. If you wish to establish diplomatic relations, please inform us that we may make arrangements for a representative to meet one of our own in the station.”

“If you wish then we can easily take a shuttle to the station,” Westly notes as he signals his staff about the coming event. A diplomatic mission, yes. But also a scouting mission for the future plans of New Terra. The many first contacts done by New Terra have already gifted them the knowledge of their first targets for invasion.

“Understood. Please stand by while accommodations are prepared.”

“Docking procedures cleared.” A voice announced over the intercom as the air seals filled the airlock with a prolonged hiss. A half dozen Ishtari soldiery of varying Strains, four Tiamat, one Azazel, one Shinchu, gathered behind the Sanguine Strain diplomat assigned for the task. Clad in an elegant dress that seemed woven from burnished steel thread and elegant golden embroidery that hugged her form as it cascaded down around her. She smiled at the disembarking New Terran delegate, irisless black eyes gleaming in the overhead lighting and her skin patterning accentuated by carefully chosen makeup. “Greetings from the Commonality of New Ishtar. Please let us welcome you to the station. My name is Sister-Speaker 2-73 Meyiko Sings Truth To The Stars. May I have the honor of knowing yours?”

“Westly Moores,” says the man as he reaches out with a hand for a good ol’ shake. Westly is dressed in usual Terran attire - which was more or less an old-Earth suit with tie, collar, and whatnot. Besides him were his guards - equipped with a light array of armor and arms. They stand idly by. While presenting a friendly smile, Westly is not so happy about his current interactions with the Xeno. A die-hard Terran Unionist, the man had no empathy for the alien - taught to utterly despise them for all their differences from humans. An obstacle to true human unification.

Meyiko smiled more widely, extending a hand in greeting as she looked the assembled New Terrans over. They seemed…remarkably ordinary. “Please to meet you, Westley Moores. Please, follow me.”

She turned, beckoning him and his cohort to follow her into a separate part of the station, a simple but elegantly furnished room crafted to mimic as closely as possible the gravity and experience of a comfortable room on the surface of New Ishtar. That the rotational gravity might be heavier than a normal human would be comfortable with had yet to occur to the designers. “Please, sit.” She said, gesturing to a plush chair. “Let us talk.”

“Of course,” says Westly as he takes his time to adjust to the gravity onboard before he takes a sit on the plush chair - how comfy. He leans forward a tad and folds his arms together. “Please, tell us a bit about yourself.” Meanwhile, one of Westly’s guards whispers to him as Westly himself nods. The guard quickly leaves the meeting room and attempts to catch the attention of one of the Xenos on the station - away from the eyes of Westly.

Sister-Soldier 3-42 Eyris Stands Against The Darkness was as bored as one could possibly be despite the circumstances. She had been in the midst of enjoying a sim, losing herself in the sensation and vibrant colors evoked by the thoughtweavers, when the new arrivals had made their way through the Gate. Though, certainly, there was some excitement about meeting yet another new nation - there was none in standing stiffly in the station waiting just in case something happened. And yet here, now, one of the newcomers was gesturing bizarrely to her. The Azazel Strain soldier raised an eyebrow at the man’s antics. Despite herself she took an intrigued step forward, looking him up and down, “Can I help you, sir? Do you require escort back to your vessel?”

The guard quickly speaks, “Look, the government that these people work for are monsters.” The man points to the meeting room before pulling out a data chip. “Everything that you need to know is in this chip,” the guard says as he places the chip onto the palm of the soldier.

“I’m a part of the Bludish People's Army, a resistance movement on the planet of Bludish. The people you’re talking to right now are human supremacists - Terran Unionists. They hate you for being Xeno and they hate me working with the Xeno. New Terra already enslaved two alien races and I think your people are up next,” the man notes.

Eyris’ eyes widened as she looked at the chip in her hand, then back up to the man in question, then back again. “I- this i-” she stuttered, caught completely off guard by what had just transpired. “I- this is way above my station.” She looked back to the door, “But I’ll make sure someone sees this. Do you n-” she stopped herself, taking a deep breath. “Do you need protection? We can verify the information and provide you protection if you need.”

“I just want this meeting to go smoothly. I don’t want my family or comrades to be in danger nor be killed. New Terra has been mobilizing for months now,” the guard turns his head both ways as a mechanism of his paranoia. “While they’re not fully done, anything bad that happens here might trigger a premature war,” the man notes - catching his breath. The guard is evidently quite panicked - attempting to keep his cool.

“I understand, I understand. Do what you have to do just, let us know if we can help.” Eyris whispered under her breath, casting a glance about as the other guards keyed into the conversation through the net. They would not disseminate this information until it had been examined and verified… but were it to be found to be true there would be hell to pay.

Within the negotiation room, Meyiko stiffened imperceptibly. The discussion was beginning to draw to a close, and with the revelations forwarded to her, she saw no incentive to drag them out any longer.

And so, Westly closes off with a few final remarks before politely removing him from the negotiation room and onwards back to his ship. A “simple” first contact so far with the finer details, ones that are a threat to New Terran national security, utterly oblivious to Moores.

The information contained within the data chit was, after manufacturing an input device capable of reading its contents, rapidly analyzed and disseminated throughout the Commonality. Military and civilian analysts alike studied its recordings for traces of fabrication or alteration, and plans were put in place to create a low-signature probe to investigate the system of this new nation, to verify for themselves these horrific reports.

What the probes brought back sent the entire Commonality ablaze with fury, outrage, and fear. Everything reported in the leak, and more. Almost unanimously the Commonality voted in favor of military buildup, in preparation for pre-emptive strike upon the enemy.

The vast orbital shipyards of New Ishtar reoriented their production towards more modern Type XIX Heavy Cruisers and Type XVI Standard Cruisers. Planetside manufacturing facilities began to churn out armored vehicles, aircraft, assisted-lift rockets, and more. Militia began drilling for possible emergency deployment while biomass reserves were prepared and enlarged for large scale template-soldier deployment. Missives were sent out to all other known nations warning of the threat, though whether those missives made their way to those in high command or were lost within bureaucracy was a different matter entirely.

The war engine of New Ishtar began to spin itself into gear, and their wrath would make the stars themselves tremble.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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6 months later

And so, 6 months pass. 6 months in which Ashevelen had to work hard. For the first time in centuries, it wasn’t about genetics or different other similar issues.

Faced with massive backslash from the many other nations based on their faith, Ashevelen took a number of steps which the Chosen did not understand but not questioned either, for whom would dare to challenge the command of their God?

The answer would be quite a few people. Led by Pontius at the front, many of the Chosen, mainly Pontius's followers, questioned the Goddess's decisions relating to how to best interact with the heathens.

Nothing in front of the public, of course, but whispers in the dark, quiet enough not to attract the wrath of Ashevelen but loud enough to put Catherine on high alert.

What decisions would that be? First of all, the alliance with the Ishtari. Without knowing about the connection between Ashevelen and Tiamat, it was a hard sell but the most inquisitive understood that there were things which they weren't being told.

Eventually over the course of the 6 months, the Chosen learned to accept the Ishtari if not for the benefit of their army in face of so many other nations, surely because it was so commanded by the Goddess.

Ashevelen kept her promise and sent Anchorite alongside what seemed an irrational amount of Rejected over to Tiamat to work on a cure for them and thankfully, it seemed the progress was being made.

What would've taken long years for anyone else, the combination of Tiamat’s unconventional talents and obvious genius when it came to biology and Anchorite's super intelligence, intimate knowledge of the Chosen’s most important secrets practices, even if it was all dulled down by the occasional crazy burst of violence.

The results of the experiments for a cure, seemed to enhance the already enhanced Rejected to a certain degree, making a fully new type of Chosen. Unfortunately, the test subjects would die soon afterwards. 'Thus work would have to continue until a viable solution would be discovered.

Second decision taken by Ashevelen which wasn't understood was their contribution to the building of the Meeting Place. A massive space station that was formed in the Sol system, close to Earth. A place of neutrality where none may conduct hostile actions between each other.

A place of diplomacy and trade or in the Chosen’s case, a place of healing.
The Chosen part of the space station was built similar to a hospital and their services were available to all. Any and all human diseases were treated for free and utmost care was provided for those that weren't human and wished treatment.

The Chosen hospital was accompanied, of course, by a church built in Chosen fashion. A reminder to all that the Goddess watches all and she truly did. All over the Chosen part of the station, security cameras were placed very discreetly.

None may conduct hostile behavior while inside and if they did, the Chosen were more than equipped to protect themselves. Only templars with the latest enhancements, golden armour and human-looking were sent.

William was placed permanently in a diplomatic position on the Meeting Place. Improving the relationships between the others and the Chosen to the best of his ability.

His own crew followed him and while the Rejected were kept away from interacting directly with the public, they were too allowed to join William's crew.

The last but not the least, the decision to allow tourists from other nations, after vaccination against RADX-001's dangers, to visit the homeworld. Under supervision, for their own benefit, but everything was open to the others to see.

From the burning rivers of Avalon, the Chosen’s second biggest city, to the acidic ocean where only Sirens were allowed to swim in as their skin was made to be able to withstand its waters.

Tourists were allowed to see the mass and join in the Church proceedings should they choose to do so, but, understandably it wasn't something that a lot chose to partake in.

Besides all of these, Ashevelen publicly spoke to the masses more so than before. Slowly seeding thoughts of doubt in her own godhood in the hopes of making the transition smoother when it would happen.

The visit on RADX-002 and promising to find a way to cure all was the most controversial action she took with many Chosen asking themselves, what does she mean by that?

The warning that came from the Ishtari about the upcoming war with PUNT, made Ashevelen’s decisions to strengthen the Chosen army correct and a large number of Chosen civilians asked to be transferred to a more militaristic branch of the Church for training and eventually to fight for the Goddess.

The Golden Armada, alongside the Ishtari battlecruisers were on constant alert at the Gateway, prepping either to attack or defend at a moment’s notice. While it took a while for the Ishtarians to follow the commands of Admiral Watson, they eventually agreed and soon the cooperation between the two armies became strong.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Gerlando
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Gerlando The Unchosen One

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For it lived cold and alone, its heart became cold and alone.
Hyginian bedtime story

Seventh Warden Ship ‘Custodian’

Cutting through the immense nothingness a small vessel maintained its usual route, an uneventful sequence of inspectional tasks while circling the dead ruins of an equally dead civilisation, ever watchful.

Inside the floating tin-can a private was running around the halls to deliver a message.
“Lieutenant-Commander, the Captain has called for you on the bridge.”
Great thought Ortiz, wondering what the Captain might want during what was little more than a regular exercise. Ensuring each team was doing its job, or to be more accurate ensuring they were not creating any trouble, was for Ortiz more important than watching the sensors fail to pick up anything new, but his opinion didn’t matter right now so he hurried to the bridge.

”Lieutenant Ortiz, ready and on duty sir!”
The command bridge looked as usual, monitor lights flickering as they hit the cold grey walls and as the doors closed the roaring of the engines became silent, while it can usually be heard from everywhere else in the ship. But something was off, everyone in the room, from the common privates relaying information to the captain himself, was unnaturally attentive and seemed almost worried.

”Lieutenant you’re here, you might want to take a look at this.” Bringing himself to the main desk Ortiz realised what was going on.
”Wha… did you check the secondary spectrometer? Perhaps the primary is malfunctioning.” He asked hoping for a second whatever was happening wasn’t actually happening.
”Afraid that’s not the case, take a look.” The Captain flipped over his personal terminal showing the main camera feed.

Under normal circumstances, sharing classified information in such a casual way would lead to the court martial and possibly imprisonment, even for a ship captain. But these were extraordinary circumstances and the context of the images was plain for all to see, the Gate had opened.


Senatorial Assembly

Thousands of high-ranking officers had arrived at the assembly, admirals from their massive motherships, generals returning from putting down rebellious colonies and governor-commanders from the bustling underground metropolis. Everyone had docked at the orbital station, passed by one of the only four green gardens in the whole system and finally arrived at the large, blocky building that comprises the Senate, on top of it is inscripted Only United we are Free.

The assembly halls had not seen this many people since at least a whole century, and still the Second Star Admiral was nowhere to be seen.
”Did Avetien answer yet?”
“Sorry ma’am, we received no further communications from the Second Star Admiral after he arrived at the possible rebel hideout.” The assistant responded.
It was typical of him so Reecka was not at all surprised, after all very rarely had a Second Star Admiral been more important than the First and Avetien probably took it that he shouldn’t get in her way, even if his absence was a hassle in these situations.

Looking at the mass of people in front of her Reecka knew she couldn’t freely speak her mind, when it comes to speeches there was a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it and even one of the two Star Admirals would be made mincemeat for suggesting the wrong thing to the wrong people.

”Fellow Hyginians, a third light appeared in our skies, one less comforting and much more abnormal.” She spoke, finally addressing the crowd.
”The Gate was made by the same wretched people that destroyed Earth as we barely managed to escape. We don’t know if the terran demons are behind that portal or whether they all died in their filth, we also don’t know if anyone else survived the collapse.” Some officers cheered while others clapped their hands, most of the crowd seemed exultant of the new state of affairs. Perhaps they wanted to get back at the earthborn demons the old stories warned about, but it was much more likely they only wanted a diversion from the internal issues that permeate the politics of Hyginus, using the possibility of war as deflection for their corruption, Disgusting.

”We’re preparing defenses for the Gate, nuclear weapons are already pointed at the entrance and more projects are being devised to boost the defenses. To everyone, Hyginus must prepare, for war is not a possibility anymore, it is certainty.” Applause erupted once again.

”But it is still too dangerous to check back on Sol, for the moment two ships have been sent to survey two different systems and determine the extent of our possible enemy.” The few that might disagree with this exact course of action were overwhelmed with the still ongoing wave of applause and cheering, also the plan was sound so it would not have been a problem regardless.
As the speech was over Reecka realised why she had a minister of speeches.


First Survey Ship

The small ship sailed closer to the Gate, now bright after centuries of silence.
“Approaching target, requesting permission to jump.”
“You’re in the clear, remember to send the encoded signal before jumping back or you will be met with a couple nukes.”

The ship was nothing more than a repurposed Warden ship with few modifications for long-range exploration and limited diplomacy. A radio message had already been sent at least an hour before the ship arrived.
“Hopefully we’re not going to get blown to pieces by whatever is on that side. Jump target, RADX System.”
“Good luck and remember, for Hyginus we live.”
In an instant the ship passess the event horizon of the gate, in a blink it was gone.
In less than five minutes a similar ship would go through the same procedure, their destination the Elysium System.

Message sent to the RADX and Elysium Systems

“To all entities that receive this message, we are explorers from the Hyginian Federation. We don’t desire to instigate conflict, only to explore and establish diplomatic relations. Please receive this warning, DO NOT enter the system we arrived from, our system is defended and unauthorized vessels will be destroyed.”
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Liotrent
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Liotrent Tabby Space Cat

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"Commander, NCV-5 "Astralis" is ready to depart for Earth." The station ensign reported.

The commander nodded, "NCV-5, repeat mission parameters before departure."

The NCV-5 (Nano Construction Vehicle) and its crew replied, "NCV-5 to Zeus, we are to move to the meeting place and relieve NCV-20 "Veritas" and finish up construction. NCV-20 will report back to Orion Platform for routine maintenance."

The captain of the Astralis awaited the response of the station commander. He sat down in the chair of command. The whole ship was geared towards the expedient and efficient construction of buildings and bases. The NCV was supposed to minimize the use of prefabricated structures. However, it still hauled building materials and prefabricated structures to aid in its job.

After what seemed like forever, "Zeus to NCV-5, mission parameters match, all documents check out as legitimate, begin your mission. And one more thing, the people there are testy, don't do anything that'll cause an international incident."

"NCV-5 to Zeus, we copy, no horseplay. We're moving now."

Astralis moved towards the gate. It was now patrolled by several military ships. In the six months, it seemed the military was moving away from self-defense duties, but military movements were top-secret.

12:30 HRS

"THIS LOOKS FABULOUS!" Hubert threw up his arms and danced around for a bit.

Dick pushed up his glasses and looked at Hubert while he held his data pad in one hand, "Lead Director Hubert, please be careful. Our section is nearly finished and fully furbished, but a lot of the systems haven't been turned on in many areas because of the additional changes you requested mid build"

Hubert then spun one last time before stopping to put his fists on his hips, "Oh don't be a stick in the mud! The jacuzzi, the Augmented reality room, the pool, and many other amenities are completely necessary!"

"Necessary how? You just spent some of our defense budget on this, not to mention there's talk of a war-"

Hubert rushed over to Dick and covered his mouth, "SHHHH! We're not the only ones in the station, no talks of war or diplomacy yet! Like you said, we haven't routed power to a lot of the places here."

Dick stared at Hubert for a second, nodded, then slowly took off Hubert's hand from his mouth. "... But that still doesn't answer my question."

"Well, the people we're going to station here are supposed to be diplomats. They need to be in good moods, high spirits, etcetera! Which as you know is pretty hard when you're stuck above a dead world that looks nothing like your own for months on end without any form of entertainment other than mingling with other diplomats and the occasional sexual fling which can turn scandalous..." Hubert paused before taking in air after the explanation in which he did in one breath. He then stared at Dick, before continuing, "... Do you understand now why that's needed?"

Dick nodded, "... Okay, so they're not for guests?"

"Well they can be if they really want to. But you know how other nations are and their diplomacy! They're squares!"

"You know you just stopped me from talking about foreign policy but you're alright with foreign diplomats hearing that you think they're squares." Dick pinched the bridge of his nose.

Hubert then said, "Listen, listen, listen... They think I'm half-crazy and they probably think the same of our diplomats... And you."

Dick then glared at Hubert, "Really Hubert? Really?"

Another man entered the large open lobby, "Directors, NCV-5 Astralis has entered the system to finish up the system maintenance and add the... Um... The swimming pool..."

"Great!" Hubert exclaimed.

"There's another thing sir, we've been contacted by a new nation calling themselves the Hyginian Federation. Their survey ship exited our side of the gate."

Dick then looked at Hubert.

Hubert looked at Dick.

"Do they need either of us?" Hubert asks.

"No, but it might be good for you two to return as soon as possible. There are still things to oversee back planetside..." said the man said, "... Afterall, the experimental program you've put me on still needs some work."

"Ah right... I almost forgot. Sorry Admiral Donnel. I guess it is about time we return." Hubert replied.

Admiral Donnel then said, "I'll get the ship ready then. Oh and be prepared, since you might end up meeting these Hyginians anyway."

"Drats..." Hubert snapped his fingers.

"Be mature lead director. First impressions, remember?" Dick then fixed his coat and tie. "Shall we?"

"Whatever." Hubert replied. They then walked back to the ship and made their departure.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Jeddaven
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Deep within the solar system, not far beyond Luna's orbit, a rift roiled like a wound torn through the fabric of reality. Bright, scintillating colours poured through in throbbing waves, filling the space around it for miles around... Then the lights began to form into shapes. Grey, angular forms like the shape of old world naval vessels formed out of the nothingness, pushing through like the forefront of an explosive blast, a bubble of dozens - or hundreds - of small vessels, formed up around larger, but still relatively small forms. One by one, the ships poured out, each marked with massive numbers indicating something, but most notable of all, visually, were the massive holographic flags projected from the larger ships in the center. A huge, dark blue square dominated the space above them, studded with a few handfuls of shimmering golden stars in the shape of a circle, tops facing outwards.

The tumult of the fleet's arrival, however, was quickly broken by a great noise, filling unencrypted transmission channels all over the system, old feeds long-since abandoned.

The Ishtari cruiser Herald of Asyris’ Burning Fury loitered beside the Sol Gateway, drifting through the black void of space. The two hundred Ishtari aboard the vessel, primarily marines and dignitaries, busied themselves as best they could during their off hours, jacking into neural virtus, sparring, writing, or anything else that could be done within the confines of a warship. Why exactly the Commonality had decided to station a warship right by the Gateway when the space station of the Meeting Place was nearby - was anyone’s guess. To be the first to welcome any new arrivals was the only logic its captain could surmise. All the same, nothing yet had happened on this particular posting, and he was unsure whether or not he would prefer it stay that way.

On the one hand, this posting was dull as could be. Stuck on a warship denied the creature comforts of a proper space station, not preparing for the coming war with the New Terrans, not doing anything of value or interest. The light simulated gravity of the warship weighed strangely on his limbs and discomforted him greatly, no matter how long he spent in it. The showers were short. The recycled water tasted stale. The food was… well, the food was what was to be expected on a naval vessel. Not to mention, being the point of first contact was a daunting proposition, and not one that he particularly relished. In truth he simply wanted to complete this rotation and return to New Ishtar and begin working on something actually beneficial.

The last thing he expected was the arrival of a new vessel of unknown make or origin blaring out a loud greeting on all frequencies. A moment passed before he realized, in the back of his mind, what was happening. Hurriedly, he moved to respond. ”Citizens of the Federal European Union! We, the Commonality of New Ishtar, are honored to welcome you back to Sol. We would welcome you aboard the ship to speak with our representative, or would be happy to provide escort to the station around earth we have dubbed the Meeting Place if you wish to speak with the ambassador herself about matters of import.

The reply, perhaps surprisingly, came in most fluent Japanese accented by the lilting tones of continental French.... At first, anyways.

"I am ambassador Chevalier, first contact representative of the Federal European-" They paused, the voice soft, calming, and feminine.

"Ah! Do you prefer English?" They smoothly continued, speaking it just as easily as they'd spoken Japanese.

The reply came back shortly thereafter in both English and Japanese, by her cadence and the pitch of her words, the speaker evidently startled. “Our representative is fluent in both, as well as the other old earth languages of Esperanto and German. We leave the decision to you.”

"Japanese, then." The voice replied. "It is good to see another friendly face - and here, too. We had feared that, for a while, we were the only humans that'd managed to survive, but it's good to see we were mistaken. We need no escort - but we would appreciate some directions, certainly. I hope you will not take offense to us wearing HAZMAT gear for first contact."

“None taken. Proper precautions are in order.” Came the reply, “Would you like to conduct talks on board the ship, or with the ambassador aboard the station? You are newcomers to the galaxy and… events of a troubling nature have occurred before your arrival. We wish to speak to you as quickly as possible so that you may be forewarned.”

For a brief moment, there was nothing but silence.

"Your ambassador, please. If something so dire has transpired, they you may need our official assistance."

“Nothing dire has transpired.” The Ishtari comms replied, and after a short delay, continued, “Yet. However if you are as you claim, we can only hope you too stand for liberty and the rights of all. There are those within the galaxy who would threaten them, which is why we wish to speak with you at the earliest possibility.”

"Then, with all due respect - there is little time to waste."

As the FEU shuttle closed in with the Meeting Place, Scheherazade waited with a small amount of anticipation for the vessel to dock. The Ishtari had staked first claim on meeting with the representative of the new arrivals, and now a small welcoming party stood in the large hangar bay of the Meeting Place, waiting for the FEU ship to dock.

The shuttle that finally arrived was...

Unusually practical in appearance, perhaps. Though emblazoned with the flag of the European Union on its wings, it had a distinctly aerodynamic shape almost like a small, stubby bomber aircraft, clearly designed for both atmospheric and space-flight. Like the larger EU vessels, it was dominated by sharp, obtuse angles too, designed to deflect radar, painted a dark space-black. The space behind it seemed to shimmer, slowly taking on the colour of the secondary airlock doors behind it.

Slowly but surely, however, the vessel slowly spun around, baring its rearward hangar bay, sleek engines joined with the relatively thick wings firing thin, cylindrical jets of plasma behind them that rapidly powered down and sputtered out before they could bring any harm.

Finally, as the craft came down and its rearward ramp lowered, out came a clear-skinned, brown-haired woman clad in a cream-orange coloured suit, apparently made of some kind of plastic, her face covered by a transparent mask. Just behind her followed a tall, spindly, chittering insect-being clad in much the same way, their helmet fitted for the unusual, almost beetle-like shape of their head, their wide body hidden behind the same orange fabric. Behind him was another apparent human, though his square-jawed, olive-tanned face bore a handful of deep, wicked scars, in contrast to the woman barely three fourths his nearly 2m height, and the insect a few heads above even him.

Beside him were two more, one wearing a face, neither clothed in hazmat gear. The first was apparently human, clad in wheat-brown skin absent of hair, wearing a uniform of grey digital camouflage clad in medals, pulled fairly tight over plenty of muscular bulk.. On their left upper arm, the flag of the European Union - and on the other, a blue shield, etched into it in silver a model of the European continent crossed over by a pair of swords. Uniquely, without any mask, they were perhaps the only one whose eye colour could be clearly made out, while opposite to them hovered a buzzing swarm of grey, palm-sized drones, their rapid buzzing transforming into a low, pleasant thrum as they slowed, as if to stand at attention.

"Our greeting party, I hope?" The woman at the head of the group chirped, offering a warm, disarming smile. "I'll have to ask you excuse our hazmat gear - it's standard protocol to prevent unwanted spread of disease. For your safety, and for ours."

A muted murmur of discussion erupted amongst the assembled Ishtari at the sight of the newcomers. They were, certainly, not what had been expected for a nation proclaiming itself to be the continuation of the European Union of old earth. No hostility or displeasure was felt or shown - but rather surprise and interest. Perhaps these FEU might prove friends after all. The leader of the Ishtari greeting party stepped forward, offering her own warm smile and an outstretched hand of greeting. The glowing tail-like tendrils that hovered behind her were held down low, and her entourage was comprised primarily of Azazel and Sanguine Strain, in hopes of not overwhelming the newcomers with what the Ishtari had come to learn were their highly unusual appearances.

“Welcome to the Meeting Place, and let me be the first to properly welcome you to the galaxy at large. I am Sister-Sage 8-192 Scheherazade Dreams Of Many Great Things, speaker for the Commonality of New Ishtar aboard this station.” Her words carried a subtle oddness, common to all Ishtari speaking the languages of old earth - two sets of vocal cords attempting the same tone, but ever so slightly off from one another. She smiled at the newcomers as though utterly oblivious to her own starkly alien appearance. “May I have the honor of knowing your name?”

"Rachelle Livrémont, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs," she explained. "Admiral Ibrahim Briganto, First Admiral of the Eurocorps Navy," she said, gesturing to the grizzled, dark-haired man,"Vikachikitch, representative of the First Nations of Trappist 1e," they gestured to the insectoid, then the sole unprotected human, "Commandant Lieré Amenábar, 13th Dragoon Regiment, and finally..." they said, pointing toward the softly buzzing swarm of metal. "Captain Copernicus, 13th Dragoon Regiment."

Scheherazade inclined her head in a respectful, formal nod to each of the FEU delegates in turn. “An honor to meet you all. Thank for you taking the time to speak with us first.” She nodded to her escort, “If you permit, I would escort you to our section of the station where we may speak more comfortably.”

"Of course!" Rachelle replied. "Lead the way."

Scheherazade nodded to them once again before turning sharply and marching off, the guards falling in beside her and behind the FEU delegation. Though the initial greeting party had been chosen for as close to a natural human appearance as possible, the facade dropped the moment the group entered the Ishtari section. All manner of Ishtari Strains - Azazel, Tiamat, Gorgon, Shinchu, Sanguine, even Homonculus and some of the lesser known Strains busied themselves throughout the crowded hallways of an enormous addition to the station. The vast module had been constructed over the period of six months that had ensued since the first reopening of the Gateways. Housing many purely functional features, it also stood as a massive statement of the prowess and promise of perhaps the most alien and unusual of the human descendents. It not only showed their immense capabilities - but much of it was open to all.

Not only did it include a diplomatic wing, fully furnished in the finest decor and design conceivable by the Commonality, sleeping quarters for what was projected to some day be a vast staff, and the other expected amenities - it had been modified to address numerous shortcomings, or add what the Ishtari saw as overlooked necessities to life aboard the station. A vast, fully furnished hospital wing outfitted with the finest equipment to hand, built to handle the anticipated growth of the station from humanity’s many far flung descendents. A bar - of all things - stocked with a vast supply of drinks, varieties for consumption both by Perfected and by normal humans. It would be free for all to visit and enjoy. Dueling rooms and recreational halls - private, sectioned off rooms that could just as easily accommodate two people or two dozen for nearly any conceivable indoor pastime. Quiet rooms for meditation. A vast docking area, complete with repair shipyards and ship berths. A troop barracks. Well fortified railgun batteries located away from critical infrastructure, their weapons presently powered down and unmanned. Hydroponic agricultural bays growing a wide variety of Ishtari crops, estimated to be able to keep well over twice the number of the planned full Ishtari delegation well fed and happy - and countless more with careful rationing in case of food stresses. Dedicated embassy spaces not only for those nations that had already been discovered, but for those that had yet to find their ways home. Fully sealed, each delegate would be given full leeway over the room to search it for any suspected monitoring devices - they would find none, for there were none to be found. EMP hardened life support rooms with ample preserved rations and airlocked passages to the hydroponics sections. A grand dining hall capable of accommodating an untold number of guests overlooked perhaps its most stunning feature.

At the heart of this module lay an enormous artificial garden and synthetic ecosystem - a straight line from its main entrance to the wondrous scene. Directly descended from the gardening styles of old Japan, the main feature of the garden were the carefully sculpted gene-modified sakura blossoms, retaining in bloom for the entire year. The orchard in its entirety was a demonstration of the elegance and mastery of bioengineering held by Ishtari society. Over twenty hectares of perfectly crafted splendor. Private, secluded groves for quiet meditation abounded, as well as common areas around artificial streams or within the small traditional constructed Japanese wooden structure built within. A carefully crafted synthetic horizon maintained an almost perfect illusion of being planetside - nestled within a valley in the beautiful Ilyait Mountains on New Ishtar. A light, warm breeze blew through the garden without end, carrying with it the scent of cherry blossoms and the feeling of spring on old earth. The gardens were open to all on the station, and carefully maintained by many of the same gardeners who had crafted it. The entire arrangement was a show not only of beauty to be appreciated by those whose duty placed them within the steel walls of the station, but of power. How many nations could rival such an accomplishment?

Scheherazade lead them to a secluded spot within the garden, within a small building that appeared to be constructed from traditional materials of old earth on the exterior. As she placed her hand upon a discretely hidden sensor and entered the interior, it revealed itself to be a modern, sealed room evidently designed with diplomacy in mind. She turned to the group and spread her arms wide, smiling. “Now we may speak in private.”

"Good," Rachelle said, gently dipping her head. "While I'm sure our peoples would enjoy intermingling, I gather that, by the seriousness of how we were greeted, there are sensitive matters to discuss. I should inform you, then, that while I am acting in an ambassadorial capacity for my people, I am not qualified to make foreign policy decisions beyond a few limited cases... Which we can discuss as they become relevant. Gathering by what we've been told, however..." Rachelle paused, furrowing her brow. "It seems time is of the essence, yet?"

Scheherazade nodded - secretly surprised by the general lack of reaction by the FEU delegation to the Ishtari they had witnessed or to the garden. “To an extent, yes. We simply wish to inform you and… pre-empt any misinformation about us that other nations may seek to present.” She sighed, “I will not waste your time - there exists a nation known as the People’s Republic of New Terra. An imperialist, human-supremacist power that has already subjugated other species within its home system. We have received intelligence from a resistance operative, and confirmed via observation probe, all findings contained within.” She extended a hand filled with a simple folder containing printed documents in English, alongside numerous photographs. “A digital copy is available, but as I doubt our own storage devices are compatible with yours, this should serve as an overview until we can transfer the data.” She paused, “There exist other threatening nations, prominent among them those known as the Yulzan, an aggressive nonhuman race that has subjugated a part of the system occupied by another nation. However they present less of an imminent threat.”

She sighed, “The commonality is preparing for war. We simply wish your own people be prepared as well. Despite what the others may say about us we are no monsters.”

"Fortunately..." Rachelle began, taking the folder and handing it off to the man behind her. "We're ready. Admiral?"

Immediately, Ibrahim stepped forward, hands clasped together behind his back. "That's correct. In anticipation of a hostile presence on the other side of our gateway terminus, we initiated mobilization of the Eurocorps. Currently, that only amounts to approximately thirty percent of our available forces - what your people say exist the gateway nexus -, but we could have most of our armed forces ready for combat in two weeks, the entirety in twenty-four Earth days, give or take a few."

Rachelle nodded, fixing her expression into a dour glare. "If this people are truly as disgusting as you said, then their very existence as a nation state threatens ours. A prompt response, then, is absolutely necessary and automatically authorized."

"Arming and preparation of our antimatter stockpiles will take a bit more time, however..." The Admiral briefly interrupted, a deep frown etched into his face. "But if the threat is sufficiently dire then their limited use is likely to be authorized."

Scheherazade’s expression shifted to one of genuine surprise, then concern. “I– I believe there must be some miscommunication. Our observations indicate this war will be a long, drawn out affair.” She steepled her fingers, looking at the FEU delegates across from her. “I cannot share exactly when it will commence, but we are in the final stages of preparation for a strike against this foe. We have mobilized for full scale planetary conflict and anticipate massive attrition. I wish to impress upon you the magnitude of the conflict soon to be at hand.”

"With all due respect," the Admiral replied, "that does not mean we should not - or cannot - take this opportunity to probe the enemy's defenses. Engage in harassing assaults, or, at the absolute least, prepare the defenses of our allies," he explained. "Our gate is quite literally surrounded by guns, all pointing directly at it. We imagine not everyone else's is."

“Certainly!” Replied Scheherazade, “However we wish to not to be engaged in a protracted, drawn out conflict without adequate preparation. We have been conducting reconnaissance missions routinely along with planning meetings with the other nations for joint cooperation against the threat.” She cleared her throat. “And, on that subject… some of our contemporaries are… less than friendly towards us, I would ask you tell us about yourselves and… what you think of us, so far.”

“Of course. Our intent with this task force is, crucially, to deny the enemy the opportunity to prepare,” the Admiral nodded, offering a grim nod. “To damage their production capacity. DIsrupt their logistics. Jam communications. We intend to keep them on the back foot from day one to the best of our ability.”

“As for what we think of you,” Rachelle interrupted. “You seem like good people. You show adequate concern for the violence of racists and authoritarians. If you show the same concern for the lives and happiness of all your people - and the natural environment - then I don’t foresee any issues.”

As the representatives spoke, the Ishtari Commonality sounded its approval of these words. These FEU, whatever their legitimacy, seemed to speak as true heaven-sent friends among the stars. Allies against an uncaring void. Scheherazade nodded. “We are glad to hear that, all of us, truly. Unfortunately there are numerous other nations who do… not share such an outlook shall we say. There are numerous nations who oppose us and the principles you speak of. Azulvista principle among them. We simply wish to… pre-empt what they might say to try to sway you.”

"Azulvista?" Rachelle quirked an eyebrow, briefly glancing behind her as the Commandant visibly bristled. "That name sounds distinctly Spanish in origin. They haven't yet laid claim to the Iberian peninsula, have they?"

“To my knowledge, none have laid official claim upon regions of old earth as of yet.” Scheherazade replied smoothly, “There are… certainly aspirations towards such, but we have yet to make large organized expeditions to the surface. We believe it to be mainly due to competing interests and the wish to avoid exposing significant resources in a venture that might be blocked by other nations. Nobody wants to waste valuable material in such an endeavor only to lose it.”

Scheherazade sighed. “However you are correct to the best of our knowledge. They originate primarily from the old earth nations of Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and Portugal. They wish to re-establish some control over those territories.” She steepled her fingers, “Disagree though we might on a great many things - and we do disagree strongly - they too are preparing for war with the foe we face.”

"*Yet*. Interesting..." She replied, bringing a hand up to cup her chin. "We can begin evaluating the planet for terraforming, at least, though the presence of the fascists will almost certainly forestall substantial terraforming efforts -- on top of the necessity of ensuring that there are not already thinking beings there that our terraforming operations would disrupt. Those sorts of scans will take an extraordinarily long time, after all, since we'll be surveying both above and below-ground areas where people could possibly survive."

Scheherazade nodded. “Correct, most of our efforts have been in preparing for the coming war. Expeditions to the surface, while certainly desired by many, must be postponed while we ready ourselves to weather the storm that is to come. Surveying the old world, and laying our claims to it, will have to wait for another day.”

A moment of silence passed before Scheherazade spoke again, “There is another matter - allies of ours, known as the Chosen. They are… well, there are reasons for our alliance that are best kept secret for now I think. They, at present, are a theocracy based around the worship of a mortal woman from earth named Ashevelen. I wish to implore you ahead of time to understand that we, and forces within them, are working tirelessly to ensure the situation rights itself.”

Rachelle raised an eyebrow in apparently confusion, the members of her entourage glancing (those that had eyes, anyways) toward each other in confusion.

"With all due respect," Rachelle sighed, narrowing her brows in visible frustration. "We do understand the need for diplomatic secrecy, yes, and we'll respect that -- but I hope you're not asking us to simply ignore their failings and provide them military aid and cooperation in a state that sounds to be, frankly, completely unacceptable." Rachelle said, shaking her head. "We can revisit that if -- and only if -- they fix the situation they're in. Until then, they get nothing but humanitarian aid, and I do mean **nothing** but. We made the mistake of going easy on theocrats before, and we are *not* going to do it again."

“Nothing of the sort.” Scheherazade said, rushing to rectify the situation before it spiraled out of her control. “We simply ask for your patience while we work on resolving the matter. We, ourselves, would not partner with them were we not assured reform is underway. I… let me ask you this, are you familiar with the Iwasaki Group of old earth?”

"I am, yes." Rachelle replied.

“Tiamat, the woman largely responsible for our survival, was on earth known as Tatiana Iwasaki, a member of a small branch of the family that owned the conglomerate. I do not know how complete your records of old earth are, but she had an adopted sister by the name of Doctor Ashevelen Chiritescu, citizen of Romania. Both are, at present, still alive within our respective nations. Our Tiamat met with Ashevelen upon first contact and establitshed the alliance, and the two are working to reform the… many problems within her society. We do not ask you to like the Chosen as they are - neither do we. We simply ask your patience.”

"I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking of us?"

Scherhazade frowned, “I suppose what I am asking is for your patience with us and your willingness to stand alongside us against the oligarchies and autocracies that keep their people bound in subservience and often see us as subhumans not deserving of rights? Our peoples seem to have much in common, I would not want it spoilt by the matter of the Chosen, and Ashevelen’s errors in creating them.”

"Patience, yes, but we do not make blind commitments," Rachelle said, offering a small smile. "Except to destroy fascism wherever it stands."

Scheherazade smiled back. “We can work with that. We can definitely work with that.”
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Gerlando
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Gerlando The Unchosen One

Member Seen 31 min ago

Elysium System

Emerging from the other side the Hyginian survey ship found itself in a completely different system, The defensive Zeus platform waiting for them on the other side, ready with defensive weapons and support ships, the people of New Haven had over an hour to prepare for this meeting after all.

The ship slowed down after seeing the meeting party.
“This ship is from the Hyginian Federation, we come in peace.” the message is sent to New Haven’s Zeus platform stationed outside the gate. It’s a station that specializes in stationing ships for rearming and is brimming with guns on all sides.

“Hygian Federation ship, your ships will be intercepted by three drone fighters, they will be your escorts. Follow the lead to the designated hangar area. You will be met by representatives of the New Haven Directorate.” The transmission cuts and several ships of military make arrive to dock at the Zeus platform. There are transports moving from ship to ship and indeed from ship to platform. Among these ships were three drone fighters from New Haven that came to a stop in front of the Hygian survey ships.

“The drones are at a stop in front of your ship. Confirm?”

“Drone arrival confirmed, proceeding to follow the escorts to destination.”

The survey ship beams a quick report back to the mother base and proceeds to follow the escort drones, on their path the hyginian crew observe this new system they are in. A large yellow star centres the system emitting much more light than the hyginians were used to in their own system, orbiting this star is a gas giant that is quite hard to miss, it can be observed this gas giant has a moon, a blue and green gem which would fit the description of pre-disaster Earth. The crew notes how both them and this nation have settled around gas giant orbiting moons far away from Earth, but also how lucky these people were to have such a beautiful gem to live on, it truly would make sense to call it a New Heaven.

The survey ship is guided by the drones on an approach vector to a large empty hangar with lots of room to land. The two flanking the ship begin to peel off and the fighter leading will also peel off as the ship approaches 0.5km.

Zeus platform then says, “Hyginian ship, maintain your vector, landing within 0.5km.”

The ship slows down as it approaches the hangar opening and begins to extend the landing gear.

“Preparing for landing.” With a last spurring of its engines the ship lands creating an audible ‘thunk’, the ship settles on its landing gear as the hangar door closes.

Once the oxygen starts flowing back into the room the Hyginian vessel opens a ramp on its back, three fully suited people get out, their hands are empty but they carry pistols on their hips.

Exiting their vessel they were met with three representatives from New Haven flanked by automated security bots. The sound of boots and metal stomping on the clean hangar floor reverberated around the empty hangar. The three drone fighters that escorted them earlier came in and docked on the Hangar roof and were taken by some unseen mechanical system, perhaps to refuel or rearm.

The first representative began to speak, “Welcome to the Zeus Defense platform. This section of the station is to receive foreign representatives. My name is Julia Wolver, diplomatic representative of New Haven stationed here in Zeus.”

The second representative followed, “My name is Evan Langley, expert in economy and trade. I will be serving as an assistant as to whether or not we can negotiate trade.”

Finally the third, “I am Lieutenant Rowan Kingsly, military representative and tech specialist. Relay to me any desire to form some military alliance.”

Julia then begins to explain, “Usually, the lead director himself would meet you, but on such short notice the Lead Director is unable to do so. He is currently at Earth overseeing the finalizing construction of the New Haven section in the Meeting Place. A neutral space for all nations. For the time being we will stand in for them.”

The hyginians move awkwardly in their environmental suits and form up with a man in front of the other two.
”Pleasure to meet all of you, I’m the diplomat from the Hyginian Federation, you can call me Ortiz.” saying this he can’t stop thinking how he only just became diplomat, the higher-ups probably only considered them disposable and didn’t expect them to do much diplomacy if at all.

”This is a first contact mission, I’m sure we can agree on some accord, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first things first, would it be safe to remove this helmet?” Ortiz asks while tapping his bulky helmet.

Julia adjusts her glasses, “It is good of you to ask. There’s oxygen in this hangar, as you can see we do not have suits. However, our experience in our early days says that you should first be screened for unknown pathogens. A decontamination room is adjacent to this one.” Julia then points towards the door at the end of the hangar.

“If you’d follow me, we will go through decontamination and you will also be asked to take a nanite injection in order to kill any unknown pathogens we may not be immune to.” Julia says.

[color=006400]”Alright then, after you.”[color=006400] Ortiz motions to the others behind to remain on the ship before following Julia, the weight of his suit making itself heard with each step. The rest of the crew remain on the ship or closeby, leaving the lone diplomat on his own.

Ortiz and the other personnel move into the decontamination area. It was a white clean room with sprays of decontaminants. A dispenser then presents four nanite injections. The three New Havenists took their shots and without a second thought injected themselves.

Julia then turns to Ortiz and hands him a datapad. “Please sign your name here, this is a document for nanite injection treatment. It’s to make sure that you consent to such. If not, then we’ll have to conduct our business here.”

”This is alright.” Ortiz says imagining how many medical tests he will need to go through at home after injecting himself with an unknown substance.

Ortiz removes his gloves, making a sound when the air inside the suit and the air in the room mix, rolling up his sleeve he finally injects himself with the nanites and feels the effects soon after, it’s a weird feeling for him. When he feels the effect from the nanites has finished he takes off his helmet and the bulky centerpiece of his suit, revealing his stunningly short mane of black hair.

Julia adjusts her glasses again and leads him out of the cleanroom. As they entered the station proper they moved through a hallway busy with marines, drones, and non-combatants moving to and from bringing documents to different offices. “As you can see the station is busying itself with self-defense and communicating with other foreign nations about transits through the gates. We pride ourselves in working efficiently and effectively.”

Rowan, the lieutenant, interjects, “... We also pride ourselves in security. There are several systems in place that allow us to monitor all activities happening within the station. Additionally, there are military personnel patrolling in close intervals to ensure maximum security.”

”It’s good to see your people be so diligent and hardworking, even our military officers would be impressed and trust me when I say they have high standards.”

Evan then looks to Ortiz, “I’m sure trade and economic growth is within your best interests. This station sees the transit of several cargo vessels every rotation and it never stops. Communication and smooth transit is key to ensuring that the flow of resources is uninterrupted and goes without incident.”

On their walk Ortiz tried to keep count of just how many people were passing through the hallway until eventually, defeated, he gives up with a sigh, this place sure is busy.

They then come to an overlook of another hangar that’s busy with departures and arrivals. Several transports come and go without incident and smooth operations being conducted at all times. The overlook also passed one of the hangar comms control. There were several people looking over panels and screens, all of them talking and directing ships and drones at the same time and guiding them to the hangar.

One man turned around and said, “Ah, Julia, new arrivals?”

“Yes indeed.” She then turned to Ortiz, “Meet the man that guided your ship in. People in the station just call him Garry.”

”Very nice to meet you, Inmust thank you for guiding us here.” Ortiz looks at Garry, the man seems the jovial type, he also doesn’t seems as busy as basically everyone else in this corridor, perhaps his shift has ended?

Garry takes his sunglasses and places it on top of his cap. He takes off his headphones and says, “Ah don’t worry about it. You actually gave me something to do. I handle surprise arrivals and departures. Basically stuff that’s handed to us at the last minute.”

“Despite our tight schedules there are always going to be a few unscheduled arrivals and departures. Garry is one of many flight controllers that handle those few situations.” Julia explains.

”Where exactly do all these ships come from? How many systems are you connected to?” Ortiz asks, puzzled by how could a space station be busier than a train station back in Hyginus.

“Well it’s not just our system. Six months have connected us to several systems and that has led to the neutral space known as the Meeting Place in the Sol system. We also have several planets in our system that travel to and from places. The Zeus platform is also a repair station and a military installation so it’s busier than it looks because it has multiple functions.” Rowan pointed out towards the hangar, “Look there, that’s a ship that came from deeper in our system here in New Haven, it’s dropping off maintenance supplies.”

Observing the hangar, Ortiz gets the impression the station is somehow larger than it looked on the outside, the large hangar seemingly empty apart from the newly arrived ship and a couple more parked.

”Your gate has been in operation for six months? How did it activate? We have no idea how it works and don’t know who did it.” Ortiz wonders if their gate has been open for six months does it mean there are gates that have been open for far longer? Perhaps these people are relatively newcomers in a decades, maybe century old galactic community.

Julia and the other diplomats looked at eachother, “Your gate has only recently opened…?” Julia asked, “All the information we’ve gathered from other nations is that theirs have been online for about the same amount of time. We don’t have any idea why they opened either.”

Ortiz remained speechless, all these gates had opened at the same time? Moreover it only happened six months ago, of course they wouldn’t know what caused a galactic event of this magnitude. Ortiz recomposed himself.

”That is correct, our gate has only just opened and our mission was to explore other systems and conduct first contact diplomacy.” gauging the New Heavians reactions, new gates opening are rare occurrences, at least as far as they know.
”So exactly how many known gates have reactivated?”

Julia then says, “From the top of my head around fifteen from our official count. Sixteen now including your gate. Out of the sixteen, yours is the only one yet to have opened after the six month mass activation.”

Garry then interjects, “Actually, you could’ve head straight to the Sol system and met all the other nations. We’ve been doing construction there for a while.”

Then there was a ping on Garry’s terminal. “Oop! Gotta get back to work.” He puts on his headphones and sits down by the terminal, “Zeus Platform to Sunsurfer, you’re clear on dock 11. Escorts coming to you…”

“Sunsurfer?” Julia mumbled before turning to Ortiz, “... It seems the lead director heard of your arrival and expedited his return. We should meet him at Dock 11.”

”Alright.” Ortiz followed Julia on the way to dock 11, his thoughts still on the previous discussion, fifteen open gates? mass activation? not to speak of the Sol system being used for diplomacy, is there a Terran empire and these people are their vassals? did they already defeat the demons of Terra or maybe they all killed themselves already? Maybe he’ll get some answers from the lead director.


Lead Director Hubert returned from the Meeting Place with his diplomatic transport, Sunsurfer. He disembarked and saw Julia and the others approaching him.

“As I live and breathe, if it isn’t the beautifully fabulous Julia Wolver!” he threw his hands out and walked towards her as if to hug her.

Julia pushed a hand out and held the Lead Director back as she adjusted her glasses, “Sir, I’m glad that you’ve returned from your trip.”

“Glad to be back! I hear there’s been some interesting developments here!” Hubert says.

Dick, the Director for civil development and psychology, emerged from behind Hubert and said, “It’s good to see that you’re handling yourself well Julia, both in diplomatic duties and keeping the Lead Director professional.”

Hubert then stepped back and fixed his suit, “I’m always professional Dick! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be in this position. Anyways, who’s the astronaut?” he pointed towards Ortiz.

“This would be Ortiz, the representative for the Hyginian Federation.” Julia replies.

Hubert then goes over to Ortiz, takes one hand and shakes it profusely while asking multiple questions, “NICE! ANOTHER NATION! Tell me… What’s your place like? Do you like our place? Are you war-like or peaceful? Do you have contact with xenos? What’s your tech like?”

Meanwhile, Dick then pinches the bridge of his nose then looks at Julia and whispers, “Can you stay with us, I think I’ll have an aneurysm if I continue to accompany Hubert alone on these diplomatic functions.”

“Sure… If you take me out to dinner Director Wazzinski.” Julia winked.

Dick couldn’t help but gulp audibly, he nodded, “Professional duties first Julia”

“Just like in the academy Dick.” Julia said before turning to Hubert, “Sir?”

Hubert turned to Julia, “Ah yes? Jules?”

“Maybe you should give him some space to answer sir.” she continued.

“Ah right…” Hubert took a step back and said, “... Well, introductions first I suppose. I’m Lead Director Hubert Seymour. I would be what you would call the leader of all of New Haven. Nice to meet you.”

While initially taken aback, Ortiz felt somewhat glad this Director was so warm and alive, unlike basically any high-ranking officer back home.

”The pleasure is mine Mr. Seymour, I’m a diplomat from the Hyginian Federation, me and my crew just arrived in this system to check for other life and well, here we are!”

Ortiz looked around the hangar,

”Should we proceed with the meeting here?”

Hubert smiled from ear to ear, “I don’t see why not! Come let’s do some diplomacy! Ask anything, go anywhere… Well almost anywhere… And let us have some jolly cooperation!”

”Sounds good, I think we could start us off by trying to understand each other’s nation and our priorities, just so we’re on the same page.” Ortiz said, trying to gauge the reaction of his interlocutor.

“Well, I’m an open book!” Hubert says, “What do you want to know? We’re a science oriented nation with superb medical technology. We’re no slouch militarily speaking either. Anything you’d want to know about these subjects?”

Science oriented Ortiz thought about it for a second, back in Hyginus they had seen minimal technological advancements in the span of three whole centuries.

”What level of medical technology? You see, our home is very industrious and many people work hard jobs with risk to their health, advanced medicine would be a great benefit for the workers.”
and it would also benefit the tyrants at the top Ortiz thought but made sure not to say it.

Hubert then said, “Well, since you’re here you’ve already received a Nano shot right? Nifty things. Programmable little machines that enter your body and get passed out of it over time harmlessly! All the while getting rid of any filthy things in your body. That’s pretty much the pinnacle of it.”

“... We also have enhanced prosthetics. You may not know it but the lieutenant’s right arm here is actually mechanical. However, we’ve made it so that it is as close to a human arm as we can get it. So much so that some people opt to become fully machine.” Julia follows up.

”That is truly amazing, how did you manage it? How long do these nanomachines keep their effect? I imagine it’s not indefinite.” Ortiz looked at the mechanical arm that until now he hadn’t realized was mechanical at all.

”Perhaps we could arrange a trade deal for prosthetics and such, sure it would take some time but I’m curious to know what you might need in return.”

“Well I’m sure we can arrange something, we’d need to go through official channels and work it out with your higher ups. But there are other things we’d need such as non-aggression treaties and such. It might be good to inform you of things happening on the other side of the gates. Seems like there’s talk of war after all.”

”It might be a bit early for us to jump into a war already, anyway I’m afraid I’ll have to go back to ensure stuff gets through those official channels but I’m glad to have met you, we’ll make sure to send someone over to that meeting place in Sol. Who knows, maybe that’s where we’ll meet again.”

While there were a few more exchanges of pleasantries the discussion was practically over.
Flying away the ship’s crew wondered how lucky they had been but also how many things could be hiding away further from their home system.


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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

Member Seen 23 hrs ago

@Gerlando@Lady Lascivious

RADX System

At the Chosen Gateway a small ship appeared, its arrival anticipated by a message just an hour ago.
Waiting for them is a vast array of orbital defenses and large warships, all pointed at the newly arrived ship.

“Greetings, we are from the Hyginian Federation arriving from the Cygni Geminae System, we come in peace.” The survey ship stopped in front of the sheer intimidating mass of weaponry making the survey ship look tiny in comparison, inside the ship the crew is panicking and decide not to activate their own ship’s weapons, they know they would do nothing and choose to pray instead.

The Chosen were surprised when the message came through the Gateways. A new nation, 6 months after the initial awakening of the gates. Prepped as they were for the upcoming war with the PUNT, they expected all kinds of subterfuge but when the ship passed through the Gateway they realized their fears were unfounded. It was indeed someone new, another group of humanity’s survivors.

The Seraphim, Ashevelen’s flagship, was quick to respond to the ship’s message.

Greeting survivors of the Hyginian Federation. This is Ashevelen Ben’Ghazad and I am the leader of the Chosen. If I’m permitted, I shall get a shuttle and my bodyguard and will board your ship in order for us to speak clearly. ” quickly came back a message from the Goddess.

The Hyginian delegation was absolutely NOT ready to meet a foreign leader after not even 10 minutes of exiting the portal, even more so the leader of such an overwhelming force.

“Greetings Ashevelen, we inform you that this vessel is not properly equipped for such a diplomatic encounter, we will ensure someone arrives to meet you soon.”
The crew is straight up panicking and scrambling to inform the other side of the Gateway of what was going on, and hoping they send help before the foreigner’s patience runs dry.

After a while they received a response from base, an unexpected but welcome one.
“Our leader has been confirmed to be on her way for this meeting, ETA 15 minutes.”

A third voice chimed into the discussion over the radio waves, one affected by a strange, almost buzzing timbre as though two voices spoke ever so slightly out of sync. “This is Sister-Speaker 3-17 Vetrisin Sings The Ancient Songs of Wisdom, representative of the Commonality of New Ishtar. We have stationed a contingent of vessels alongside the fleet of our allies the Chosen, I would join this meeting if you would permit it.”


17 minutes later

This seemed like a bad joke, first the survey ship sent distressed signals of a massive fleet, then they tell us they are peaceful and wish to meet the First Star Admiral, who is quite funnily going to the meeting on a single ship, a large capital ship but still. The Senate didn’t trust to send anyone at all let alone a full escort fleet, they didn’t even consider conducting actual diplomacy.

So the First Star Admiral jumped through the portal on her capital ship, she thought it would have been rude not to show up and if she was to die, well that’s what the Second Star Admiral is for or at least that’s what the high-officers think.

”This is the Hyginian Flagship, we are here to conduct diplomacy with Ashevelen Ben’Ghazad leader of the Chosen and the representative from the Commonality of New Ishtar. Please send a shuttle to the hangar at the front of the ship.”
The Hyginian capital ship sat there after sending the message, alone amongst the swarm of unknown warships.

The survey ship starts moving all the way around the newly arrived capital ship, hiding behind it not unlike a scared puppy.

The Chosen fleet was ready to meet any combatants that might pass through the Gateway as Ashevelen and Julius were getting ready to board their ship. Murmurs against this decision were in the minds of all of the Chosen witnessing it but they knew better than questioning the Goddess.

Sister Vetrisin, we’ll pick you up on the way. Better for them to see one shuttle instead of two. I’m sure Tiamat taught you well, but I feel the need to say it. Expect peace, prepare for war. Between the three of us and our fleets, they shouldn’t try anything but if they do…be ready. ” said Ashevelen to Vetrisin via a message.

The reply came swiftly, “No need to worry, Ashevelen, I expected you might request as such. I have but one guard, as you said there is no need to fear anything from them, surrounded by us as they are.”

The shuttle left the Seraph, went over and picked Vetrisin and together approached the Hyginian flagship.

After a short communication to confirm their identity the shuttle is given permission and lands in the hangar, the foreign diplomats are led to the main meeting room through the short route (that still takes a couple minutes).

As they move along they are the focus of the crew in the hangar as they are not used to such… exotic individuals. On their way is a regular human-sized door that they pass through with some difficulty due to their size.

Ashevelen went out of the shuttle first with Julius closely behind her. His massive size made the Hygianians look like babies in comparison to him. As they let themselves be led to the meeting room where they would meet the admiral a small obstacle appeared in their path. A door. A normal, human sized door.

Julius, do you wish to stay outside? It looks a bit too small for you. I can barely go through that. ” said Ashevelen with a tiny smile on her face. The Chosen have long learned to adapt their architecture to fit all the types, but it looked like the Hygianians…didn’t.

Julius grunted and looked a few times at the door. Half crouched as he was, he went on his side and pushed himself through. His armor scraping the doorframe and potentially damaging it a bit. Ashevelen followed close behind, her eyes straining for a second or two to adjust to the light in the room until eventually, like everything in her body, adapted to fit the situation.

Vetrisin, in turn, watched the two squeeze through the doorway with her lips pursed. The large Gorgon Strain woman, five meters and thirty centimeters from end to end, studied the aperture with an expression of immense distaste. Doorways. Always, these foreigners had the tiniest doorways. Eventually distaste gave way to resignation as she contorted her long snakelike body to squeeze through the opening, momentarily becoming stuck before, after pulling with all four arms, she managed to force herself through.

Behind her, her guard, a Shinchu Strain, simply walked through with a poorly disguised grin at seeing her boss flummoxed by something as simple as a doorway.

The meeting room is bright, maybe a bit too much, the walls are an equally bright white and the room overall lacks most other colors, the only exceptions being two small plants at the entrance, some red coming from the chandelier and the Hyginian leader with her red and purple uniform.
”Welcome, I’m the First Star Admiral of Hyginus, you can call me Reecka. Please take a seat.” Reecka motions to the seats and couches in the room.

Dressed in her golden clothing and Julius’s golden armor, they stood out in the room. Size didn’t matter in this case, most of the other nations looked tiny in comparison to the Chosen.

I am Ashevelen, the leader of the Chosen and this is my bodyguard, Julius. We apologize but we won’t take a seat. Nothing against your customs, but as you can see, your chairs aren’t accustomed to fit us. Behind me, the Ishtarian committee will be arriving soon.

As if on cue, the two Ishtari followed up behind them. Vetrisin’s immaculately pressed dress uniform was ruffled and slightly disheveled from the squeezing she had had to do in order to force herself through. She glided serenely into the room all the same, seeming for all the world not to notice the errant strands of hair in her eyes or how the gentle pulsing of the glowing filaments that grew from her body had given way to a stronger red as her twin hearts beat with the suppressed anxiety and indignance from her inconvenience.

Behind her walked her single guard, primary arms tucked neatly behind her back, and secondary claw arms folded at her side. Where the crisply starched uniform did not cover, much of her primary arms could be seen to be covered in chitinous plates or downy white fluff, while even hidden by cloth the secondary arms were unmistakably natural weapons. Her wide, purple eyes glowed with a gentle pulsing light as did the swirling markings that cascaded across much of her skin. Her mouth seemed human at first glance, but closer inspection revealed a tight series of lines where the lower jaw could split into two pieces, doubtless concealing rows of razor sharp teeth.

“As I mentioned over our comms, I am Sister-Speaker 3-17 Vetrisin Sings The Ancient Songs of Wisdom, representative of the Commonality of New Ishtar in Chosen space.” The massive snake-woman said to Reecka, bowing to her slightly, “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, First Star Admiral Reecka.”

Looking at the foreign delegation Reecka nodded her head ”That is not an issue but if there is something I can do to make you more comfortable please tell me.” she said towards Ashevelen and her bodyguard.
Aliens, probably, could have been worse Reecka thought looking at the weird bunch in front of her, everyone looked from a different race, was it an intergalactic alliance of sorts? Even then Ashevelen looked much more human than anything else.

”I think we should cut the pleasantries and explain the current situation, as you may have deduced from our… hasted explorative mission, a Gateway residing in our system has opened and brought us here. We are not sure whether someone was behind the event and what their intentions might be, we believe this threat might come from a civilisation based around Earth, also Terra or Gaia if these names perhaps remind you of something.”

The Star Admiral took a moment to look at the alien delegates once more, they were attentive and quite importantly it seemed they were not thrown off by what she said, do they know of Earth already?
”We wish to form friendly relations if possible, we still need to discover the rest of the galaxy and trade would benefit all of us.”

Vetrisin nodded. “Correct, both the Chosen and ourselves, as well as numerous other surviving colonies of the Great Exodus, have found our ways back to old earth. We have established a large space station in orbit around it and have begun the formation of an interstellar community of sorts.” She smiled, “We’re glad to find more of our brothers and sisters from earth have survived to meet us. As far as the opening of the Gateways - that is something we have yet to understand. All of us have scientists working to decipher their mysteries, but for now we unfortunately can offer you nothing in regards to that.”

She looked to Ashe for a moment, waiting to see if the leader of the Chosen wished to speak, before continuing. “We would welcome another member of our galactic community.”

Ashevelen nodded at Vetrisin, motioning her to continue speaking.

”I’m glad we all agree to form friendly relations.” Reecka said before thinking of the implications of what the snake-woman just said, they come from Earth!? Does it mean that Vetrisin’s ancestors were both human and snake before… also how can moths mutate to get that big?

”I see…” the Star Admiral said, still confused, at least the issue of a terran enemy might be solved, maybe, but one can only wonder how other survivors of the disaster have become.

”Then we can ascertain there is no Terran threat, correct? Also we will be sending a diplomatic ship on Sol to get in this galactic community, I will personally make sure the diplomats are competent and open-minded.”
She finishes while looking at her personal device to see that the survey ship just jumped back to Cygni Geminae. ”And somewhat braver as well.

Julius studied the galaxy’s newest newcomers, looking for anything that might prompt him to intervene but finding nothing and looking at Ashevelen before making a grunting, Ashe nodded gently and soon his body started to release pheromones in the air. A sweet smell soon filled the room.

I hope you don’t mind the smell. I can assure you, it is peaceful. A sign of trust, you may call it. ” said Ashevelen in a polite voice, making a smell break to breathe in her sweet perfume and then continued “ Before we answer that, I think it’s worth stating the obvious or the not so obvious. Both the Chosen and the Ishtarians are human, originally from Earth. Same as yourselves. Through biological, cybernetic and something else for the Isharians, enhancement we have surpassed our original human forms. In the Chosen case, our goldilocks planet wasn’t that at all. RADX-001 is indeed a good planet, lush forests, a massive ocean and a multitude of lifeforms…the only problem is that everything on our planet is deadly to humans, even the atmosphere. As such, I’ve devoted my life, even before the Great Exodus, to the enhancement of the human DNA and I can say I’ve been successful.

Ashevelen waited a few minutes for the realization of her actual age to sink in before continuing “ I am over 300 years old before you ask but that’s irrelevant. Now, back to the Terran threat. The threat exists currently, just not from Earth itself. There’s another nation out there that wishes to enslave everyone. Kill them if they don’t accept enslavement. Vetrisin, does that summarize it enough? ” said Ashevelen while slightly turning her head towards Vetrisin.

Vetrisin’s expression turned to one of immense distaste at these words, not at Ashevelen or those around her, but of the subject at hand. “Yes.” She said after some delay, “The People’s Union of New Terra specifically. A human supremacist, violent, authoritarian nightmare of a nation. We have obtained footage from surveillance probes of the slave camps in which they work millions to death and where millions more are held against their will for no crime of their own. We, and the Chosen, are preparing for war.”

After a moment, she nodded to Ashevelen, “And on that original lighter note, yes, both us and the Chosen originate from Old Earth just as you. Our people were trapped by the gateway collapse whilst mid-transit, resulting in us being trapped in… what is difficult to describe as a place outside of the universe itself. I do not wish to speak of everything that transpired within but our present forms are largely the result of that time. Much like the Chosen, however, we have augmented ourselves extensively through biological and cybernetic means. New Ishtar itself is… well, a hellhole for those not adapted to it, should your people wish to visit our space they will unfortunately be required to keep to the orbital stations for their own safety.”

Pheromones in the air, this better not have any medical complications, the whole section of the ship has been quarantined anyway and the air is likely to get thrown out into space, but if they find anything wrong with her health statistics it could mean staying stuck on this ship for a while, which is annoying.

”If that is the case we can safely assume most of your people also arrived via a generation ship, correct?” Reecka looked at the camera for a split second, what might be going through the security guard’s mind? Hopefully she isn’t the only one who reached the same conclusion about how the Ishtari… came to be like this. Some oligarchs are probably going to call the footage fake until they see a snake woman themselves.

”I’m sure we can exchange our respective stories at a later moment.” Reecka said, coughing up a little, a bit embarrassed of her own thoughts.

Everyone with certain exceptions arrived via generation ships. Feel free to ask any question you may have of us, Admiral. Both Ishtar and my Chosen are happy to answer any and all questions you may have about us, our nations or simply the state of the galaxy. I’m sure it must be hard from your nation’s POV to meet two great nations so soon after your Gateway opening and not only that, but to find out you are not alone at all anymore. ” quickly replied Ashe.

”It will take some time for everyone to adapt to the new state of, well everything, going to the meeting place and becoming part of this galactic community will definitely help. Then again what is the current state of Sol and the galaxy as a whole? You did say there is Terran threat , just not from Earth itself, that honestly seems to be a complicated matter.”

We’ve got the Terran threat as a major concern. Other than that, we’ve got the Yulzan and the FRA. One alien species with some humans and a human colony alongside other types of aliens fighting each other, in fact, that was the first contact the Chosen had with the other nations. Two battlecruisers, one from each faction, burst into our system shooting missiles at each other. As for the others…” replied Ashe and reached inside her clothes and pulled a data-storage device from a tiny, almost invisible pocket.

We were prepared for this, please accept this gift. It’s similar tech to what was used previously on Earth, it should work on any type of computer. The details of each of the galaxy’s current nations. You’ve got contact information, details about their home planets that are available to tourists etc. ” continued Ashe while leaving the data-storage device on the table in front of them, bending slightly to put it there.

Vetrisin nodded. “If you wish to know the full gritty story, I’m sure many of our people would be happy to talk your ear off for an afternoon and fill you in on everything. The simple explanation of who we are is that our Ark was trapped… elsewhere for a very long time, and we were mutated while within it, and we made some extra changes after that. A more pressing matter, as Ashevelen mentioned, is the People’s Union of New Terra. An autocratic, imperialist nation bent on interstellar conquest. The full information should be contained within Ashevelen’s drive there, but we think you ought to know what you’re dealing with. We expect war to erupt sooner rather than later. You’ve found the rest of humanity at an inopportune time, unfortunately.”

”Conflict was the common state of things in old earth was it not? I can’t make any promises right now but it’s very possible we’ll help you in a war with these imperialists from New Terra.” Reecka looked at the small device on the table, it’s probably best to test it out right now and also find a good place for it where it would not be lost.

”Is there a problem if we try this right now?” Reecka asked, taking the small data-storage device.

Ashevelen nodded slightly and replied “ Conflict is a common state of things between all humans. Earth wasn’t destroyed by people but by greed of a few. Something I sought long and hard to abolish.

Not at all, feel free to try it.
” ended Ashe with a smile.

”Alright then.” Said Reecka trying to plug it into a computer on the wall. ”This is connected to the big screen behind you, right on top of the entrance. Now this is a non-standard plug , for us at least, it’s got internal pins so I’ll just take this converter… Reecka kept fiddling with connectors and a couple adapters for a minute while muttering to herself.
”Aaand we’re done, this should work fine for later as well.” with that the large screen flashed to reveal what was in the portable database, while Reecka controlled it with her device.

On the screen images started to appear and soon the Meeting Place was shown. Each image showing a different part of the station and the nations that have chosen to take part in the project. As soon as an image was pointed at, it would open up a screen with multiple options that could be selected, history, location in the galaxy, known relations with the other nations etc.

Nothing there is secret and they’re taken from public databases, so, feel free to peruse it at your own will. Take it as a welcome package to the wider galaxy, if you will. ” replied Ashe.

Looking through all the different sections there were descriptions and data for over a dozen civilizations that many?, the presence of all these nations within one galactic community is a massive development, surely it’s best not to make enemies out of them, this New Terra will probably discover that soon enough.

”Well then, we’ll make sure to send ships and material to expand the station for our entry, for the time being we will also need some time to analyze all this new information.”

That is understandable. Take as much time as you want. If you need help with materials, the Chosen stand ready to help and I’m sure that my Ishtarian counterpart will say the same. Also, in the Chosen sector of the meeting place, we’ve set up a hospital. Any and all injuries can be healed. Missing limbs, cancer and what-not. If it isn’t something we’ve seen before, our Clerics will devise a way to treat it. Free of charge, of course. ” replied Ashe with a smile.

Vetrisin nodded. “We and the Chosen possess, without hyperbole, the most advanced medical science of any of earth’s children. If you have any sick or injured, old or infirm, and cannot help them - we will take them in and heal them. All are welcome - and we welcome you.” She smiled, “Glad to have another nation join the galaxy.”

”We do in fact have issues treating things like cancer, lung damage and missing limbs, once we get confirmation and the paperwork done we might send them over, even better if we could gain this medical knowledge and treat them at home.” It was sure an odd offer to make in a first contact with another nation, how many would have said no due to how suspicious it is?.

Well this is fortunately not a big issue, sure most Governor-Generals wouldn’t want words spilling out but at the same time a lot of them would probably be happy to rid themselves of those people, and surely they would select the more fortunate and the recently injured. Exchanging human lives has never been a problem, and with the prospect of saving in the long run it should not be even for the few who still have moral integrity.

Raising an eyebrow, Ashevelen smiled and put a hand inside her dress once again, this time, taking out a small vial (for a Chosen).

You’d be asking us to send over tech our people have been working on for over 300 years, you do realize that? But, I do understand the caution. What if this is just a big ruse for you to send your people over and then we’d enslave them or use them for experiments? ” replied Ashe, sharply but not without diplomacy. She held the vial towards the light a second and pretended to look through it, then put it on the table.

This is one of our earlier types of medicine. It will cure most minor diseases, cuts and illnesses. I’m more than happy to exemplify, if you’ve got anyone with something like this on the ship.

Vetrisin nodded, “We are happy to help, but you ask us to simply give you technology and capabilities we have developed over centuries. These are some of our most prized capabilities - would you turn over the blueprints to your most advanced warships to us? I would offer you something smaller, but Ashevelen has beat me to it.”

They were cautious as well, it makes sense but it seemed a bit weird after such a proposal, then again they had a massive fleet outside their gate.
”That is understandable, perhaps we can arrange something different in the future. Now about this, vial? Does it work by injection, consumption? I would be sorry if it gets wasted by someone using it improperly.”

Ashevelen smiled at Vetrisin, " Hasn't Tiamat told you? I'm always prepared. She was the one that would stay locked up in her room while I was the one prepping for the unavoidable. "

Turning towards the admiral, Ashevelen added. " It works in any way you can think of. Contact on skin, injection, consumption. You shouldn't feel bad, this is something we give our babies when they're sick in the first stages of life. We've got more than we need and it's easy to produce…for us. " smiled Ashe as she explained. Truly this medicine was a parlor trick in comparison to the other stuff they had.

" As I said before, if you've got someone sick on the ship, bring them here and see the medicine in action. If it proves that it kills the person or whatever devious plot you may think we have, don't forget you've got the leader of a very-very loyal nation to its leader, in your ship. They won't shoot you down or anything of the sorts while I'm here. "
The truth was that between the four of them, they could easily escape the ship if that was needed.

”Oh do not worry I’m not one to doubt others, unless you really insist on it. Is there anything else you wish to talk about?”

I particularly do insist. I understand the caution, but, give us a chance.

”Alright then, give me a moment.” Reecka said while getting up and walking up to one of the guards at the entrance, speaking low so not to be easily heard but to those with a keen ear, or biologically enhanced hearing, it would sound like a drunk azulvistan speaking gibberish and changing cadence midword.

The guard ran off and sure enough after a couple minutes they returned accompanied by a man with scars on his face and two fingers missing in his right hand.
”In this ship we don’t have people with grave illnesses or missing large limbs for obvious reasons, but it still would be hugely impressive if it can regenerate fingers and such.”

Ashevelen approached the tiny man and looked at him with a doctor’s eye. Looking at the scars, fingers, everything that could determine the medical status of the patient.

Hmmm. Very much deteriorated fingers, bad overall health…not that much variety of food in your home system? This should heal him up a bit and if not, I’ve got something stronger on me…just in case. ” replied Ashe, her voice neutral.

With a smile and a murmured “sorry for the pain”, she took out a syringe, put it in the vial and inserted it directly in the man’s hand, where the two fingers were missing. Initially nothing would happen but then the man would start to feel pain as the body would go into overdrive. The scars were the first to be healed, his face becoming as it was before them.
His hand would start to itch and from the place where his fingers were, a red area would appear which would burn him badly and then, his fingers would start to grow back. Slowly but surely.

In about 10 to 20 minutes, your fingers are going to be back as they were previously. Any other internal injuries should be cleared up as well. Oh’ and for the pain…” said Ashe and then snapped her fingers. Almost immediately, Julius grunted loudly and pheromones would start to flood the room. Anyone in it, would soon forget about whatever pain they had as the pheromones would trick the brain into forgetting that it was there in the first place.

Vetrisin smiled at the two. “Perhaps you wish for a more dramatic demonstration?” Looking to Ashevelen for confirmation for a second, she rolled back her sleeve and held her arm out horizontally. Pheromones flooded the room from the glands on her neck, giving a calming sensation to the Hyginians.

With a moment to process her request, her aide raised one of the bladed secondary arms, the limb flashing through the air in a blur of motion towards the outstretched arm of her commander. Vetrisin gave no sign other than a grunt as the bladed arm shredded through flesh and bone in an instant, the severed limb - nearly the size of many people’s legs - dropped to the floor. Obligingly, she bent down and retrieved the amputated arm, passing it towards her commander, before subconsciously wiping the bloodstain from the natural blade that made up her arm and returning it to its folded position.

Vetrisin looked at Ashevelen with a smile, seemingly showing no pain as she held the heavy limb in another arm. “If you would?”

Ashevelen looked in disbelief at Vetrisin. While she knew very well that she had the means to repair it on her own, doing a move such as this in front of new people that they were to impress…it was just the crazy type of plan that Tatiana would try to convince her of in their teens.

Julius quickly approached Ashevelen and a small hatch opened in his armor, inside were emergency supplies, as Ashe was always prepped for things going awry and just in case she would be injured too much, these would allow Julius to heal her enough for her body to do the rest.

You’re lucky I’ve planned for something like this. ” quickly said Ashe as she took out two vials from the med-kit and one syringe. Quickly calculating how much she should use on a body Vetrisin sized, she took a bit of each vial in the syringe and moved her hands at an inhuman speed to mix them together.

She took Vetrisin’s arm in one hand, noticing that it was heavier than it looked, and injected Vetrisin’s stump with the concoction from the syringe. Holding close the previously detached arm to the stump, the bone, muscles, skin and everything that holds an arm together started to regenerate and link together. In less than 5 minutes, the whole arm would be back to normal. Of course, if it would’ve been anyone other than an Ishtarian with enhanced biology, they would’ve experienced lethal side-effects considering the concoction was made specifically for emergencies.

As the scene was taking place the reactions were pretty much what you would expect from regular humans, a guard went out the door, two more instinctively went for their guns only just stopping themselves and the newly arrived crewman who just got his fingers back stood there in utter shock.
The admiral similarly watched the demonstration with wide eyes and a face of shock and partial disgust, staying almost immobile.

Only when it was over would she shake herself off and speak.
”That was… please don’t do it again, or at least warn everyone beforehand.” at least it was now clear to everyone they not only look weird but they also act weird.

Vetrisin grinned, “A dramatic demonstration was in order. You were doubtful. What better way to demonstrate the capabilities of our technology than a demonstration like that?” She gestured about the room, the freshly reattached arm showing no signs of damage or impediment. She paused, “I sense I have made an error. Are such displays frowned upon where you are from, then?” She asked with genuine curiosity evident in her words. “If so, please accept my heartfelt apologies.”

Reecka nodded slightly ”It is not ordinary for us that’s for sure, but I understand things must be… different where you are from. I suggest you at least give a warning next time, could help in your diplomatic endeavors. Well, are there more demonstrations you would like to show us?” She said a bit worried for what might happen next.

I’m sure that’s more than enough. I assure you, the Chosen are not like the Ishtarians from this point of view but Vetrisin made a valid point. You were doubtful, now you’re not. Technology-wise, between the Chosen and the Ishtarians, there are no others in this galaxy that know the human body as well as we do. I don’t think there’s any need for more demonstrations. You’ve seen our technology and you’ve seen a part of our fleet. What’s there more to say? ” replied Ashe.

”Nothing else for now, the achievements of your technology are clear to us now and I’m sure we’ll get to know more of them with time. We're also thankful for your cordiality and invitation to the meeting place. I sure was not expecting this meeting. Now if you have any more questions or points you’d like to bring up, I’m all ears, otherwise I’d say I don’t have anything more to ask.”

Nothing from me and if nothing from Vetrisin, I shall be taking my leave. Thank you for your time. ” replied Ashe with her usual smile

Vetrisin nodded, subconsciously smoothing out the wrinkles in her outfit as she thought of having to squeeze through the doorway once again. “Likewise, I have nothing more to add. If you wish it we will contact you through official channels at a later date to further discuss that which has been brought up here. If that is all, after you, Ashevelen.”
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Enigmatik Overly-Caffienated Thembie Supreme

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The Azulvistan Embassy: Meeting Place

(A collab between @Irredeemable and @Jeddaven)

"...Well, this certainly reminds me of home." Rachelle quietly said as she stepped into the foyer of the Azulvistan embassy. Empty as it was, she quietly wondered if the dark-paneled wooden walls were just for show, standing out in sharp contrast to every inch of the rest of the station's metals and high-quality carbon fiber. Admiral Briganto nodded, staring up at a television screen showing thousands of soldiers marching down an avenue alongside troops of people on...

Well, she wasn't sure what they were, but they made her think of hoverbikes of some kind.

The Basque Commandant, meanwhile, seemed entirely uninterested in any of the propaganda, merely standing rigidly at attention by the door, clad in a pressed-and-fitted steel grey uniform, much like the darker blue one the admiral wore. At the head of them all stood Rachelle, clad in a more civilian suit, the very same she wore onto the station, a badge of the European flag prominently displayed over her right breast.

Approaching the doors at the end of the foyer, she cleared her throat.

Let's hope my Iberian languages are up to standard. She thought.

"Excuse me! I am Rachelle Livrémont, High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union! I am here seeking a formal diplomatic contact!" She said, speaking in fluent Portuguese, before quickly repeating the same in Spanish.

The Azulvistans had been informed that foreign diplomats were arriving, and had prepared in turn. Alfonso stood at the head of the trio, resplendent in his navyman’s outfit, medals shining on his breast, sword at his hip. Next to him stood Admiral João, a much more stern-faced individual, and to Alfonso’s other side was Maria, the only one of the trio dressed in a business suit rather than a military one, and holding an epad in her hands.

The Admiral perked up at the Portuguese usage, but it was only when she had finished in Spanish that Alfonso responded. “Greetings, Rachelle! I am Duque Alfonso Leoncio Alvarez De Caravajal of Verauga, the formal representative for the Gran Republic here in the Meeting Place. It is a pleasure to meet you, and may I say that your re-introduction to the galactic scene was certainly, well, a scene!” He chuckled to himself, before reaching into a breast pocket and drawing out a fat cigar.

“May I interest any of you in one before we get to business?”

"Ah, well -- that was our intent!" Rachelle smiled, , briefly giving Alfonso a once-over, before glancing back toward Liére -- the woman clad in steel-grey dress. "I don't partake, but Commandant Amenábar does, I believe. Liére?" She asked, and the woman stepped toward, hands folded behind her back at full attention.

"When I get the chance," she said, moving to hold out her hand, "...which, tragically, isn't very often."
Alfonso plucked another cigar out, setting the first between his lips as he retrieved a pocket clipper. It snicked twice, once for the one in his hands, once for the one in his lips, the second for the one between his fingers. He handed it over, then replaced the cutter with the lighter, sparking it to life and offering the flame towards the Commandant.

“So. The Federal European Union.” He said slowly, once smoke was rising into the air. “I, and the rest of my nation, was under the distinct impression that the European Union formally dissolved in 2279.”

“We have records of an attempt to dissolve the European Union around that time period, but our records also indicate that the attempt failed.” Rachelle replied, briefly casting a glance back at the Commandant as she idly puffed away at the cigar.

“If I were a betting woman, I’d say the truth is most likely somewhere in between. We believe we were one of the entities most prepared for the evacuation, for example, based on our records, but data from that time is incredibly fragmentary.”

“We believed something similar. Our colony fleet was equipped with so-called Gaia Seeding technology, designed to build a world up from its base components. We have yet to see another colony that has used the same, or even similar methods.” He turned on his heels, guiding the visitors deeper into the embassy. “So, what was it that brought you to our doors? A friendly hello, or something more?”

“Meeting the neighbors, first and foremost,” Rachelle said, nodding once. “We’ve been informed of the PUNT already, and have expressed that we will be engaging them at the earliest possible opportunity, and with the remaining two-thirds of our fleet once they’re fully mobilized. Furthermore, beyond that, we wanted to reach out to you regarding the possibility of rehabilitating the European landmass,” she paused, briefly glancing back at the Admiral.

“Fully mobilised?” João looked surprised. “You’re going onto full war footing to take care of New Terra? Even with our reports we didn’t think it necessary to go to more than partial mobilisation. Their bark will no doubt be worse than their bite- we have been fighting for centuries, with the largest natural-born military the galaxy has seen. They…” He swept a hand dismissively. “Will be brushed aside.”

“...And, well, I’d be remiss not to ask about the status of the Catholic Church in your nation on behalf of our own Catholic population. Our Archbishops would no doubt have many questions for you, being that they’ve been without a proper Pope for centuries.”

Alfonso guided the group through to a meeting room, still richly paneled, the face of some old Patrician staring down at the group. Coffee was delivered before they’d even had the chance to take their seats and ashtrays sat before the smokers. “La Doctrina has, by all accounts, differed slightly from the teachings of the Church prior to the fall, but… The Church has been fascinated by the idea of reconvening a papal conclave. I believe they desire to see it ‘done properly-’ in Rome.”

"Ah, well," Ibrahim interjected, sharply clearing his throat. "If I may reply to your earlier point, sir, yes, you may be correct that New Terra will be easily swept aside -- but when it comes to fascists such as them, we do not like to leave any room for error -- and more importantly, we do not intend to merely defeat them. We intend to annihilate their military and permanently disable their capacity to wage war, and to erase their ideology from their populace. Thus, full mobilization is not only safer, but ideologically necessary."

"...Well-put, Ibrahim." Rachelle nodded. "As for the Conclave, our Catholic population has been waiting for exactly that opportunity. I imagine there may be some territorial claims to resolve to Europe as a whole, but, generally speaking, we would prefer to share it, and Terre itself, though only after surveys to see if anything sapient has survived. We've already picked out a handful of survey sites -- isolated mountain valleys, extensive cave systems such as the Mammoth Caves, et cetera, et cetera. That said, I can't imagine that restoring Vatican City or at least hosting a Conclave there will post much threat to whatever populations might still exist on Terre." She continued, gingerly reaching down to take a cup of coffee in hand and sip away at it. "Presumably, doctrinal differences between our altered strains of the Church could be worked out at such a Conclave?"

“Bold words,” Alfonso remarked. As they said on Old Earth, “you can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea. Any ideology that has survived the stars and the centuries will likely not see itself quashed by military force. If anything, it seems more likely you’ll only create martyrs. Our goals when it comes to New Terra are far less lofty.” He set the cigar down to smoulder while he sipped his coffee.

“Terre.” He noted. “Francophonic. I see the EU has kept that particular habit around… A brief note on territorial claims- the Senate has already declared the Iberian Peninsula to be of special interest to Azulvista, along with the territories previously belonging to Mexico and Brazil. I imagine you have little interest in the latter, but it bears mentioning.”

The topic of a religious convention might have to wait until there were a few actual priests around.

"In the latter, no -- but in the former, yes. We don't have any particular interest in the Americas, beyond potentially helping to rehabilitate the landscape, free of charge, so to speak -- but a significant portion of our population has Iberian heritage. That said, as I've touched on, we don't make exclusive claims to most of Europe, even where we do make some claim -- aside from a few Federally-owned locations." Rachelle explained.

"When it comes to the PUNT, though, our goals are quite non-negotiable, and our intent is to make it absolutely clear that their ideology is a completely unproductive failure that is utterly non-viable in the ultimate long term. To correct the failures of policy in stamping out Nazism in the wake of the Second World War. We do not -- and will not -- offer amnesty to war criminals."

João and Alfonso shared a look. Fanatics. They couldn’t even see the hypocrisy of their words. So obsessed were they with a war over six centuries ago that they had forgotten that their own system of government was what had rendered Earth impotent to solve the looming crises that had eventually doomed her.

“Well, moving on from our warlike neighbours and our varying opinions on how they should be crushed, I assume you have much to ask us beyond matters of a higher power?” A plume of smoke poured from Alfonso’s mouth, making it only a few inches before the room’s air filtration pulled it away.

"We do," Rachelle nodded, her expression shifting to a diplomatic smile as she realized that, in fact, the Ishtari had probably been correct about the ineffectuality of the Azulvistans. If they wanted to achieve their war aims, they'd have to strike the PUNT hard – and faster than anyone else.

"We're interested in setting up a limited cultural exchange program with your nation, put simply, especially considering our shared origins. In particular, we have a special interest in traditional arts, music, and culinary arts – especially the kind that were lost in the evacuations. Put simply, we want to reconstruct what was lost, and we think you're the people for that. Additionally, we'd like to offer our scientific aid. Our terraforming and environmental rehabilitation programs, if you don't mind me saying so, are top of the line, as if our medicine – and those are technologies we don't like to hoard."

“We’d be happy to participate in cultural exchanges- perhaps we could even arrange for a visa scheme, to allow a limited number of our citizens to provide expertise in relevant fields? Terraforming technology could be of use, but I would have to defend the ability of Azulvistan medicine- I am sure if you wished to collaborate with our mathetes, you would learn much as well.”

Now it was Maria’s turn to speak up. “Additionally, Azulvistan businesses are eager to begin working in foreign markets. We have everything from raw materials to luxury goods to provide- including more of the wonderful Cuban-style cigars that the Commandant is now enjoying.”

"Oh, we wouldn't mean to insult your doctors, of course -- but everyone can benefit from medical exchange, especially in extended contact scenarios. Terraforming technology, however, is a technology I assume you understand, will require plenty of preparation and care, but it's something you have to get quite capable at when you've been preparing for the next several tens of thousands of years of population growth." Rachelle smiled warmly. "Ecological preservation and restoration, too -- though the issuance of visas is something I can personally speak on in greater detail at a later date."

Rachelle paused, smile taking on an even softer, almost apologetic shape. "Now, while we are more than open to trade, we are, fundamentally, a post-scarcity, moneyless society. Now, that certainly doesn't preclude trade, but your point of contact would be the Directorate-General for Economic and Industrial Affairs, and through them, if you so choose, our various Industrial Groups."

There was another shared look between the three Azulvistan diplomats. A slight shifting in their chairs.

This was not going to be an easy relationship.

The Fires Are Lit: New Terra

A message had punched through the many, many layers of bureaucracy. It had come from on high, cleaved through the red tape, and been seen and heard by all within the military. The A.F.U was marching to war. All departments had made ready, the economy stoked, its bloated nature put to the test as it churned out the machinery of conflict.

There was no warning from the Meeting Place. They had declined to participate in that particular experiment. Their gateway powered up, and one by one, ships set out, some together, and some to far-flung corners of the galaxy. This was to be a true alpha strike.

The First Galactic Conflict began.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Jeddaven
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Several days Ago -- FEU Stealth Drones pass into PUNT territory, performing reconnaissance sweeps. After returning, the General Assembly promptly votes to declare war, with all members voting "YES". The text follows below:

New Europe High Orbit, Aboard Supercarrier Strasbourg

Six hours.

Six hours, and the Strasbourg would begin steaming toward the TRAPPIST system's gateway, on a course to war with a fleet of hundreds of ships in tow, and many more on the way.

Drazenka wasn't sure exactly how to feel, staring into the mirror on her bunk's wall, the rumble of the titanic vessel impalpable beneath her. It may have been a military vessel, but it was designed to be comfortable for its soldiers too, from maximally comfortable bedding to reasonably tasty, nutritionally robust food and adequate time for rest and recreation, all made possible by an abundance of resources -- and a relatively low count of actual flesh-and-blood soldiers.

Well, technically flesh-and-blood, she thought, glancing down at the pair of gunmetal grey arms extending from her body, clad in flexible, carbonous weave. They did the job far better than flesh ever could, and they nicely got rid of the aches and pains that used to plague her, all with the help of the intricate piece of technology that reinforced her back, replaced her damaged nerves, and and kept her brain in tip-top shape.

Most of her body below the neck, really, was cybernetic, and even her brain had bits and pieces replaced by powerful machinery, those essential parts holding most of her memories kept from aging by expensive nanites, a typical thing for most FEU citizens.

Still, she thought, staring into a reflection of her artificial emerald-tinted eyes, some small part of her was afraid of the war ahead, even if it was nearly impossible for her to stay dead. She'd done it before. Hell, most of her squadmates had, even if there were a few hiccups along the way. Minor cosmetic defects.

It was well worth the immortality in combat, though.

Pushing herself away from the mirror with one last look at her massive body, clad in a thick, grey bodysuit, she walked out the door of her quarters, down the Strasbourg's halls. Drones deftly darted past her as she walked, some ambulatory, others hovering, and a handful speeding past her on wheels or small treads. Each one provoked a response in her brain, identification numbers and specifications numbly streaming through her mind as her implants analyzed them. None were deemed threats, of course, though each was systematically noted for any possible way it could cause her harm. A few, she recognized, waving at them or greeting them -- acquaintances she'd met on the Strasbourg or elsewhere.

She passed by a few living beings, too humans, insectoids, and a smorgasbord of other aliens that she only recognized ocne her implants told her what they were. Still, they were far fewer in number than the machines.

She finally stopped at a medium-sized set of double doors, three or four times the width of her body, smoothly stepping through them as they slid open to reveal a room full of chairs, most filled with familiar faces engaged in conversation. At the head, behind a small podium, stood Commandant Amenabár, and Drazenka quickly sat herself down in one of the empty chairs.

"You all know why you're here," Lieré began, speaking in the carefully constructed lingua franca of the FEU. "In a short few handfuls of hours, we will pass through the solar gate, and into PUNT-held territory. Preliminary drone reconnaissance indicates that, while their naval presence is relatively reduced compared to normal, we expect heavy resistance the very moment we arrive in-system." She said, calling up an in-colour hologram of the system of New Terra., along with vague fleet arrangements.

"We are, by a large margin, outnumbered, and technically outgunned. However," she continued, "the Signals and Analysis Corps data strongly indicates we have a few key advantages: competency, technology, surprise, and logistical resilience. Put simply, the PUNT military appears so large that we expect their logistical chain to be both weak and poorly managed. Sensor pings show such an enormous volume of transit through the gates that, not only is it likely impossible for them to consistently supply combat units, but it is nearly impossible for them to be trained to a level that would be considered adequate. You are probably more experienced and vastly more resilient than any one of their soldiers. However... We have no such indications coming to their officer corps. Nevertheless, data provided by our Ishtari comrades leads us to believe that, despite having generally skilled officer corps, their fascist ideology will, as history has played out again and again, encourage jockeying for prestige and glory. Therefore, while you are advised to anticipate competent operations at the tactical and strategic level, and extreme fanaticism at the squad level, except from slave battalions, keep clear in your minds the likely attitude of their command structure."

"Next, technology. As you're well aware," she said, gesturing to the few dozen soldiers in the room, "we've equipped ourselves with the best technology available. While we can't know exactly how the enemy's weapons will operate on such short notice, what we do understand is that, likewise based on provided data and our own analysis, we possess substantial technological superiority, both on and off the field. Not only that, but while they do expect retaliatory offensives, what they don't expect is for us to do it. Quite simply, they don't even know that we exist. That is what we will exploit. We breach the gate, strike their fleets with everything we have, and lock down New Terra. Next, we'll discuss the specific role we, the Strzyga, will play in the initial landings..."

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Enigmatik
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Enigmatik Overly-Caffienated Thembie Supreme

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Azulvista System

Mt Sajama

The nurse's face was impassive. He set the IV drip in place, then gave a few tugs at the leather straps to make sure they were secured tight. He took up a position in the rear of the small interrogation room, before the door swung open and a well-dressed OSE operative entered the room. He took a seat opposite the prisoner, before smiling genially. "Hello there." He rummaged through an office satchel, before taking out a few small electronic instruments and a notebook.

"¿Who the fuck are you?"

The interrogator glanced up for a brief moment, before clearing his throat. Then, he pressed a small button on the first of his instruments, the screen lighting up. He paused for a moment, shifted its position on the table, nodding to himself.

"Interrogation 11 with Rebel Prisoner."

"Interrogation 11?"

The operative paused for a long moment, then turned towards the prisoner. "I'll explain in just a moment." Another genial smile, then he repeated himeslf. "Interrogation 11 with Rebel Prisoner, 2/9/2/600. Prisoner is restrained and short-term memory blocks applied."

"¿Short term WHAT?"

"Ahem. Let us begin." He finally turned back to the prisoner. "I feel confident in saying this because I have explained it to you before, but each time you forget." He chuckled a little. "Don't worry, if I disliked it, I wouldn't do this job." He clicked the end of his pen once, then began to scribble down a few notes, the sound of the pen on the paper deafeningly loud in the otherwise completely silent room.

"The IVs that my assistant there kindly applied to you are some of our most fantastic pharmaceutical advances yet. We know Earth governmwents were experimenting with chemically induced mind control as far back as the 20th century. Now, what they wanted to do was impossible, as far as we can tell, but what we can do would no doubt impress them immensely. Narcosynthesis." He tapped the end of his pen down a few times.

"A suggestive and pliant state wherin the subject's ability to generate short term memory is suppressed. I'm afraid we've talked to each other before now."

The drugs were starting to take effect now. The prisoner seemed to want to react with horror, but he seemed quite incapable of doing so. The interrogator scribbled down more notes.

"So tell me friend, what's your name?"


"Interrogation over. Thank you nurse." The man folded his instruments back into his satchel, and rose from his seat, spine clicking into place. With a brief wave to the nurse, he unlocked the heavy, soundproof door and stepped out into the wider facility. He always found sites like this to be so needlessly imposing. It wasn't as if those imprisoned here would not be sufficiently imposed by the guards and enhanced questioning techniques, now would it?

Still. Somebody had to do it. The people in Mt Sajama were terrorists, traitors and enemies of the state. The gusanos ranted about how they swept people off the street in black vans, but that could hardly be further from the truth. The man only saw the worst of the worst. He gave his watch a brief glance, nodding quietly to himself. He had time enough for lunch and some paperwork before his next appointment.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Sigma
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Collab between @Sigma@Darkspleen@Crusader Lord@Lady Lascivious
Six Months ago
A Day Of Drink and Dramatic Entrances

No Man's Land
In proximity of Mojave DMZ

A strike flotilla led by the carrier FRS Orion were on approach towards the DMZ, now occupied by an outside power that neither the FRA or Yulzan know nothing about, that alone was a risky gamble, although reports from scouts were comforting, it seemed the new visitors were only interested in the Yulzan and their Janissaries, and made no effort to make the FRA an enemy. Admiral Eugene Drayk sat at the dead center of the command deck of the Orion, his mind constantly racing as he thought up all possible outcomes of how this could go right or so very wrong. Regardless, there was no room for maybes or hypotheticals, he would put to test if these people come in peace….at least partially, or do they have their own agenda for the Americana System, and if that is something he and the Free Republic should be worried about….

“Admiral!” One his officers called out. “We’re on final approach towards the Mojave DMZ.”

The Admiral shook his head as he was brought back to reality, launching himself from his chair as he strode towards the command table. “Are we in communication range?” Eugene asked.

The officer was quiet for a moment before he could respond. “Affirmative, sir.”

“Good, open up comms.” He ordered; a moment of silence followed before was given the all clear. He cleared his throat then proceeded. “Attention unidentified vessels! This is Admiral Eugene Drayk of the Carrier Orion of the Free Republic Navy! Identify yourselves and state your business, are you friend or foe?”

Within one the Royal Federation stations placed in a defensible position around the Americana Gateway, Commander Arden Orwald had found himself sifting over paper after paper for most of the stellar day. Or whatever time it was at this point, given he wasn't on-planet. Requests for supplies and so forth had been coming in without end, mostly as they tried to get things better and better organized on this side of the Gateways. Comms had begun trying to analyze local comms and frequencies, linguistics being hauled in to try to decipher. Scholars of Old Earth languages, master of current linguistics, and hell even some Dreslan-language speakers to help with the enemy comms. It was all old-school non-entangled comms technology anyways, though their own peopel were kept on alert and watch over their own quantum comms as a precaution regardless. Entangelements could communicate back home relatively simply and fast, even from these extreme distances, and yet the Gateways helped make it even faster. Like they hadn't left the comforts of home. Not everoyne had this sort of technology they had, though, but neither was it impossible for others to have developed it.

The station he commanded was the second, only the second of four total planned military space stations with defensive arrays on this side, was about to be shipped over in modules overnight to boot! It was a headache, as he'd had to tell the crew of the station and ships that they needed to send any special requests for homeside to his office ASAP before the second station modules began to arrive. It would be a big shipment, after all, and the Federation wanted to know what else was needed so it could be handled as quickly as they could send it over. Bah. So much paperwork, and yet if they got it in on time he knew the beauracratic system would have at least half the things requested coming along with the first few modules. Such was the importance placed on their mission over here, to keep the Great Enemy from getting access to their own space....even if it mean occupying foreign territory.

But it meant keeping the people back home safe, at least, whilst they continued to keep the TFCU comfortably at bay until-

"Commander! Emergency report, sir! Top level!"

The door to his office whooshed open without hesitation, one of his assistants barging in with a piece of paper held tightly in one hand. It almost made the exhausted Commander jump, though the station's controlled rotation did enforce a sort of simple but calculated and effective 'artificial gravity' of some description. Enough to feel more like back home. However, the declaration of such a high-level report was enough to snap him somewhat out of his stupor as he rubbed the throbbing in the right side of his head.

"Status report."

"A strike flotilla has approached, but is keeping simply within old-style comms range! They are trying to hail our forces directly!"

It made sense. Keep out of range unless you need to move in on a potential threat. Sound strategy, he respected that much. Hell he respected anyone who could survive this far into a Yulz Invasion, from the looks of things and what the could try to presume was going on here before and since their arrival. Even so, if things went south it would mean war. A careful line to tread.

Arden let out a small sigh.

"Can we decipher any of their language? Not like we can communiucate back if we can't understand each other."

"Roughly, sir! One of the scholars picked up on it first. They seem to speak a sort of warped 'American English', close enough to the ancient language proper we can get the general idea of what they are saying."

"Tell comms to bring this linguist, and anyone else who can help translate, to my office. Stat. I also want my office patched into the older-style broadcast array so we can send word back. Throne be damned if we don't at least try to avoid making enemies.

...and tell my Co-Commander to get their ass ready to take over for their shift. They're over six hours late!"

Such was how a sweaty woman in an ancient-style sweatshirt, as well as two comms officers and three other scholars from who knew where in the Federation, had ended up in his office after he had sent his assistant away and taken a high dosage of generic pain medication. Enough to kill the ache for the time being, enough to help him get through things. Almost took a swig of Braldian Brandy to help him loosen up, but even though he was no diplomat he knew better than to get drunk on a first international call.

Yet as the nearby comms officer gave him a thumbs up, the Commander cleared his throat and began to dictate his message directed at the flotilla. The comms and linguists would be translating what he said in the message alongside what he spoke in his mother tongue. Maybe it would help the locals determine their language better? Maybe.

"Attention Admiral Euugyne Drake of the Free Republic Navy! Only those who fight for the Yulz are our enemies. If you do not fight for them, then we may be friends.

We have fought the Yulz for a long time, and are here to keep them from our own people since the Gateways have reopened. We cannot allow them access. We see you too fight them on this side as well.

I am Commander Arden Orwald of the Royal Federation of Nibiru, and I send you this message that we do not come to blows!"

“Sir! We’re getting a response from the visitors!” The Comms officer called for the Admiral, Eugene quickly stumbling over to the officer in question. “What do we got?” He asked, the officer quite for a moment before he could give a good answer. “Opening comms….now!” At first, the message sounded like nonsense, Eugene or his staff could barely understand, although out of the message something sounded oddly…familiar. ‘Yulz” stood out, almost exactly sounded like Yulzan. Soon a more decipherable version of the message was forwarded through, and it was both eye-opening and somewhat terrifying. “Holy shit…” Eugene let slip. Both he and the bridge crew were left in awe…on one hand, another successful human colony has been discovered, and of course they seem to hate the Yulzan, however, on the other hand, that very fact is also worrying. Apparently, the Yulzan are more than one colony’s problem…

Despite the unfortunate fact that there are more Yulzan on the other side of the gateway, they’ve also made enemies out of the colony there, and much like the FRA’s own situation, they’ve survived and continue to resist the invaders, meaning another new ally to be made. The Admiral returned to his chair, feeling energized, focusing on the bright side. “Open comms again, it’s time we meet our new friends.”

The comms officer nodded as he pressed down as few buttons, giving the thumbs up. “Attention Nibirun vessels! We’ve have received your message and welcome you to the Americana System. While unfortunate that the reach of our Yulzan enemy extends beyond this system, it’s good to know that we are not alone in this fight. If you’ll allow us, we would like to board your station and meet face to face, we have so much to discuss.”

The message ends as the Admiral adjusts himself, making himself comfortable. “Set a steady course for the Mojave DMZ.”

As the next return transmission was sent back, and then translated back to him, the Commander let out no small sigh of relief. It was like the energy in the room seemed to go from very tense to relatively relaxed, if not jovial, in a heartbeat. Two of the linguists seemed to almost pass out, all as the woman in the ancient-style sweater seemed to just sit down on the floor to process it as sweat poured down her brow. The comms officers did visibly loosen up, albeit not as much as the civilians in the room were. It was obvious they felt as he did, however, and that was enough for him.

Yet as they spoke, a hastily-dressed man would hurry into the office. He was of a leaner build but taller size than Arden, but despite the small things to note about his attire it was obvious who it was. Messy, far too late, and yet he was finally here. More than the success of the message, Arden was happy to reach down for his bottle of Braldian Brandy and pull out a few shot glasses.

"Commander Dalteren! I was wondering when you'd get here! I think we all need a shot right about now, but I'll need you to watch over things and help prepare while I go to greet our incoming guests!"

Dalteren simply glanced at the brandy and let out a long, uterly exasperated sigh. How many times since the academy was this? Not the first, and definitely not the last. And yet he'd pulled it off yet again. Man was dedicated to his work and got the results, that much no one could doubt. Hence their joint deployment here. Even so, Dalteren straightened himself up as he looked back at Arden.

"Pour me one shot before you go, a strong one. But you will report to the medical bay before you meet anyone, or I'll toss your ass out of the airlock. They'll get you back in shape, and then I'll take on a few extra hours so you can get some rest after this meeting."

Arden grinned with the biggest shit-eating grin he could as he pulled out, and then popped open, the bottle of brandy without even looking. Yet before he could pour-

"...Just please don't take more than one shot yourself before the meeting. If you ruin this you will wish I tossed you out the airlock!"

The FRA ships were given the all clear signal as they powered up their drives moved at full speed, proceeding past the DMZ line and towards the designated space station, as instructed by the Nibiruns. The collective crews of the strike Flotilla were in awe in the exotic designs of the Nibirun ships, the smooth cigar shapes unlike anything built in Americana. As the Orion made final approach towards the meeting point, the Admiral wasted no time, and assembled his team for the talks with the Nibiruns. Eugene, along with his X.O., Ramos, briskly walked down the corridor leading up to the hanger bay, a shuttle prepped and ready for their departure, and were met with a marine squad, the sergeant stepped forward. “Watchdog Squad! Ready, sir!” He announced with a salute.

Two lead officers saluting back. “At ease, sergeant.” Eugene ordered with a smile. “Now let’s go make some new friends, shall we?” With that said, the marines were the first to board the shuttle, followed by the Admiral and XO, the engines soon roaring to life as the shuttle lifted up in the air, and shot straight out of the hanger bay as it made its short trip towards the docking bay at the Nibirun station.

"Prepare Docking Bay 05 for our arrivals! Clearance has been given for the foreign arrivals to land. Ensure all Dreslan crew are out of the line of travel prepared for our guests!"

Dalteren's voice came out clear and true over the comms, all as the foreign shuttle made its way toward the station. Flashing direction lights would try to guide the FRA shuttle toward the assigned docking bay, alongside a translated transmission cobbled together and sent to them to try to help as well. It was the best they could do in preparation for the arrival. At the same time, however, something had come to the Co-Commander's mind that hadn't to his fellow. Something that, in hindsight, wasn't likely the first matter to come to mind.

The Dreslan. They were valued citizens like any other, but they had come from the enemy. These people had fought the enemy for a currently unknown period of time. Their own trigger fingers upon entering this system had been fast, and they had no idea if this was also true of these foreigners. Better to assume the worst and prepare things to aim for the best. Thus no Dreslan would be seen by the arrivals upon docking or along the way to the meeting with the, hopefully sober enough, Commander Orwald. The other Commander had been informed of these thing, however, and certain preparations for the meeting had been taken into account with this in mind as well...

As the shuttle would, hopefully, make it to the docking bay, it would find itself having to enter at an angle as the station spun. A more basic means of artificial gravity, requiring its own methods, but something that make it work all the same. The guides both nonverbal and verbal would try to help make it as easy as possible for the FRA shuttle though. All as docking bay crews would stare in some awe at the alien-looking ship design, something of which they'd only seen in fiction. Likewise, the FRA personnel would find two squads of RFoN space marines waiting for them along with an officer dressed in full regalia to greet them.

"Greetings! We apologize if any part of your landing was...rough. Our means of artificial gravity have remained limited, but effective, for a number of reasons.

Once you are ready, if you require any time to adjust to conditions here, we can escort you to speak with Commander Orwald in the conference room."

The entry into the station was…difficult to say the least, the Nibirun’s means of maintaining an artificial gravity was something to adjust and get used to, the pilot himself had a hell of a time telling what was up or down, but by some miracle, he managed a good landing. Once the boarding ramp lowered down, the Admiral and his away team came out stumbling a bit, suffering a brief stint of vertigo, he and the rest of his team were very much used to the stationary gravity generators aboard FRA vessels. Eugene fell on his knees, his vision spinning as the Royal Marines picked him up. “N-no time like the present.“ Eugene stuttered. “Don’t mind us…we’ll get used to it soon enough. Lead the way good sir.”

Aboard the CSV Burning Heart of Yusanis

"Holy shit? We actually made it!" Exclaimed a voice from the opposite end of the bridge. "I mean, I know the Star-Mother brokered that alliance and the Chosen are our allies and they told us it's safe but- but wow! I, I was afraid we were going to be stuck back in the Void after three hundred years of freedom!"

"Ensign, silence on the bridge." Came a stern, but likewise shaky order. "Celebrations later. We're no longer in our own system. The Chosen have informed us this system is home to two nations at war. We're here to evaluate the situation, and potentially establish relations with one or both." A moment's pause, "You can still breathe, however."

"Sensors reading numerous signatures from deeper in the system. Looks like the Chosen were right based on what we can pick up from here. Detecting multiple signatures not consistent with Chosen supplied information." Piped in a third voice. "Orders, Sister-Admiral?"

A moment of silence elapsed before Sister-Admiral Ixhuta spoke. "Chart an intercept course." He leaned forward into the ship's intercom. "All personnel prepare for maximum burn acceleration, ready battlestations for possible hostility. Broadcast on all frequencies in English, Spanish, Latin, Japanese, Russian, German, whatever else we can speak on board."

A flurry of activity overtook the ship as the crew prepared their ship for battle before rushing to the onboard limited-alteration chambers. Scarcely ten minutes passed for each crewmember before they emerged in high-g adapted bodies, to survive the rapid acceleration. The message rang out as the engines of the dozen strong flotilla flared up behind them, the armored warships accelerating as fast as the engines could take them.

"Unidentified vessels, I am Sister-Admiral 3-87 Ixhuta Stands As A Wall of Iron of the Commonality of New Ishtar. We have learned of the system from the Chosen of Ashevelen. Identify yourselves."

Being the third ranking officer aboard the Orion. Chief of Security Lt. Christina Cortez was left to hold the fort in place of the Admiral while he would settle the whole blockade issue with the Nibiruns, a simple enough task that thankfully, was devoid of any fierce fighting, these people seemed reasonable enough to not blast the flotilla out from the void. However, things would become a bit more complicated as the ship’s proximity alarm sounded off, the Lieutenant falling off from the Admiral’s chair, startled by the sudden disturbance. “What’s going on?!?” She said.

“Lieutenant! We got a dozen new signatures entering the DMZ!” The Nav Officer declared.

“Shit, just my luck…” Christina mumbled. “Is it the Jannies?”

The bridge officer was quite a moment as he traced their point of origin. “No, Ma’am.” He replied. “They came from the gate…and they aren’t Nibirun ships either.

“Not exactly the best time for First Contact, but I’ll take it..”

“We’re getting comms from the new arrivals.” The comms officer said, as the message was relayed to the Orion and possibly to the Nibirun command ship as well. What came as a surprise was that this wasn’t a happenchance meeting, one of the first colonies encountered by the FRA, the Chosen, had shared intel regarding Americana’s location to another…which in turn may alleviate worries that this was some kind of invasion.

“Open channels with the new arrivals.” Christina ordered, the officer nodding to her as communications were established with the Ishtari fleet. “Attention Ishtari vessels, this is Lt. Cortez, Chief of Secuity aboard the carrier Orion of the Free Republic Navy, my Admiral is currently busy with other matters, so I speak on his behalf, and if you share a mutual relationship with the Chosen, and they invited you here, then we welcome you to the Americana System, so long as you come in the name of peace.”

Ixhuta smiled. A friendly response! That was excellent news after dropping themselves ass-first into the middle of a standoff. Though tension still gripped the crew of the ship, it seemed immediate danger had been averted from at least one side. After some delay the reply to the Americanans came in the stiff, thickly accented English the original Ishtari message had been broadcasted in. "That is correct. The Commonality of New Ishtar and the Chosen of Ashevelen have concluded a formal alliance. We were told of this system and the conflict within by them. We wish to establish formal relations." A moment's pause, before the voice returned, "We apologize for the armed presence, the Chosen told us to be cautious."

Lt. Cortez let out a sigh of relief, these Ishtari only wishing to establish relations with the Free Republic. Why turn down a pointel ally? “The Chosen were right.” Christina replied. “This region of space is what we call “No Man’s Land.” And it’s an active warzone between us and the Yulzan. Besides that, I’m sure the head honchos back home will be more then happy to have another friend to count on.”

Commander's Office
RFoN Station
Americana Gateway

"Commander! Urgent news! More ships have suddenly appeared from the Gateway, all armed warships! They'd in the middle of us and seemingly readying their weapons but have not fired! Out own ship captains, station defenses, and defensive arrays are armed and requesting permission to fire!"

"Tell them to hold steady unless we are going to be imminently fired upon! We don't want to kick off a damn battle while talking to one of the locals here. I want all exterior sensors keeping tabs on things in case of Yulz vessels, as they have been, and the order is to fire on all Yulz vessels that come within range.

Tell comms to also keep a comms channel prepared to call for backup at any time. If this party gets any fuller or the powderkeg blows, we'll need it.

Keep me updated as things develop. I want to know if we can communicate or if we need another hasty translation project to be performed."

Dalteren ran a hand down his own face after ending the call. Not good, not good at all. Multiple first contacts, all occuring at once within an alien space and a position still being fortified against Yulz incursions from outside and other potnetial threats from the Gateway internally? Not good. Not good at all. But they needed to hold steady unless the situation demanded it. Or fire first if it would ensure their survival.


Of course the comms would light back up once more.

"What is it?"

"The newest arrivals are transmitting in muyltiple Old Earth languages! The linguists onboard the station can confirm the presence of Old English, German, Spanish, and more! We can respod back!"

"Patch me over to comms, and tell them I will be dictating a message for the linguists to beam back in a couple of these Old Earth languages."

Ultimately the Ishtari ships would take some time to get a response, but one would come back in both German and Spanish:

"We know of neither your nation nor the other one that has been mentioned, but we will not fire unless fired upon by your vessels.

We are of the Royal Federation of Nibiru, who have secured this station and continue to fortify this position due to the presence of the Yulz alien threat and to bar the threat's potential access to this Gateway and other systems, including our own home system, in full. The Yulz are a menace to all, and are waging war in this system against its proper inhabitants. Said inhabitants have a representative aboard our station at this time as well, seeking to make first contact.

If you wish to come aboard and speak, then we are willing. If not, we hope to maintain a neutrality in this space in regards to yourselves. We will, however, not tolerate any who cooperate with the Yulz threat."

Firm but friendly? Maybe. Dalteren simply hoped he wasn't going to instigate anything. Or, well, hoped at least that the intruders would not be trigger-happy as the Yulz had been so long ago with the Federation's own first contacct with them had come about...to say the least.

Ixhuta steadied herself before she spoke, once again in thickly accented, poorly practiced language she had scarcely known of before contact with the Chosen. This time, in Spanish. She silently thanked whatever statistician was responsible for predicting the most likely languages to imprint before dispatch. "We are the Commonality of New Ishtar, allies of the Chosen of Ashevelen. We know of no 'Yulz' and have entered the system after being informed of it by the Chosen." A moment's pause as Ixhuta gathered her thoughts, refreshing herself on the votes held after the discovery of the Chosen. "It is the policy of the Commonality of New Ishtar to intervene in cases of armed conflict in the interests of the common good. We know not of these Yulz but I wish to extend a preliminary hand in friendship, all the same, against any who would act as you have described."

And that was it. Ixhuta had never been trained for diplomacy. None of the Ishtari had - why bother with diplomacy when humanity is dead and the galaxy hostile and cold. She prayed, silently, that she had said the right thing.

Back on the station, Dalteren let out a small sigh. And yet all the same his right hand tried to massage his temple to deal with the stress. Another people, from another place, arriving with information from a group they did not even know or had even met yet, coming with military-grade space warships that currently seemed to be at a standoff with their own defenses. All in foreign territory occupied to keep a far too familiar threat at bay from their own borders and territory. Had someone told him this would happen, he'd have declined the offer to get sent over with Arden withou hesitation! All they needed was more people or a Yulz attack to really spice this all up to the point of no return...

...all the same, not responding would risk a diplomatic incident, and they were already trying to navigate out of that with the current meeting going on.


Soon, the Ishtari Admiral would get a response message from the Royal Federation Station, translated over into Spanish by the proper linguists currently living out of the Comms Department. Literally.

"We do not know of these 'Chosen' of which you speak.

Our people have simply intervened in this system at this Gateway as a means to keep our own territory safe, especially due to the location of the Gateway on our end. We are currently in a first contact situation with a military leader from the inbabitants here who have not fired upon us or been part of the Yulz threat, and no idea how this will turn out in the end or how talks will go. We pray there will not be open war.

If you claim to intervene in areas such as this, and with good intentions as you so claim, then such diplomatic issues may arise for your people as well. We invite you to come aboard to speak as well, that perhaps our three nations might begin the process of coming to some kind of agreement about things.

Should you have any particular issues or unique physiological needs to address for your arrival please do so in such a case. Likewise, please report of any mutations or alien species among your ranks. It would be helpful to avoid any potential panic."

A long, awkward silence elapsed before the radio crackled to life once more. "So... about that."

The shuttle that ferried Sister-Admiral Ixhuta and a small entourage to the waiting station was one that had not seen use in some time. Accumulated dust from disuse still clung to nooks and crannies within and the entire shuttle felt stirred from lifeless slumber, as if an old, cold statue of marble had been roused to move as if flesh and blood and ached and groaned with each tremulous motion.

In short, the ride was uncomfortable.

Crammed in beside the serpentine bulk of Ixhuta were two marines in dress uniform, both Tiamat Strain, a Tiamat Strain advisor and linguist, available in the event the meeting required further languages Ixhuta did not know, and a Sanguine Strain advisor, available to smooth the interpersonal difficulties of first contact. Ixhuta did not feel prepared in the least, but if nothing else she was not being fed to the sea alone. Each Ishtari carried a sidearm on their person, except for who Ixhuta carried two, one for each set of arms. They would be of little aid if it did come to violence, but if it did come to violence they would be reborn. This risk was insignificant if it benefitted the Commonality.

The shuttle creaked and groaned as it entered the station's docking bay, and the occupants waited in anticipation.

Docking Bay 05
RFoN Station
Americana Gateway

The Old Earth English linguist and comms officers, those who had once been with Commander Arden prior, did their best to translate the officer's words and Eugene's words properly. Not that it didn't come with its hard spots and rough estimations here and there. It was all impromptu after all. Even so, the officer did motion for two of his men to help lift the poor wobbly man up. Reminded him of new recruits for space military forces, all as they went about arriving at their first station.

"On behalf of the Commanders of this station, as well as the Royal Federation, I would like to offer you and your personnel basic anti-nausea medication as we make our way to Commander Orwald. We keep it for situations such as these, for those new to our means of artificial gravity at least, though if there is any hesitation to accept such things then we can understand taking such precautions."

The officer then gave a nod as he looked over Eugene and the arrivals once more, before motioning for them to follow as the Royal Federation Marines began to form a protective escort on each side of the party as they would head off. Most personnel seemed to be held back from the arrivals, keeping a regulated distance as they entered the temperature-regulated halls and made their way to the conference room at the end of what seemed to be the main hall running through the current level of the station they were on. It was a nice little walk to get there, however, but the layout of the station seemed as simple without being sparten in effect. Likewise the officer would from time to time look back or to the linguist and comms officers with him in case the arrivals requested annything along the way.

If all went well, they would arrive at the grand double-doors of the conference room, which would be opened to show-

"Welcome, welcome! I am Commander Arden Orwald, co-Commander of this station on behalf of his highhness and the Royal Federation of Nibiru!

Please, come take the seats nearest to you. If your armed retinue wishes to have a presence, then four may enter with you. The others may remain outside with our marines, however, if that is acceptable with you and your personnel."

Commander Arden was sitting there in the center seat on the opposite side, flanked by two very well-armored and weapon-holding troops with full-face helmets that hide what they looked like. Wardens. Two assigned to the station alongside the other forces, part of a small smattering of them included in the first wave of support sent over with the parts for the station the current crowd were all standing and operating within at this very moment. Of course the two Wardens stood out well from the already well-prepared marines, at the very least. The linguist and comms officers with them came in as well, making their way over and standing on the other side of the table of Commander Arden, translating for him as they went along.

As for Arden himself? Short brown hair, big but formal smile, exhausted eyes with bags under them, a brown beard of small cut but no moustache, and slightly large in size but not some slovenly person as those coming into the room would see him like. His officer's uniform dress shirt was a moderate green with a number of pins and awards on the left side of his chest and stripes and patches on his right arm sleeve's outward side to indicate his tank. That...and he had a large bottle of Braldian Brandy (written on the bottle's label in the Royal Federation's own tongue) and some shot glasses next to him on the table. Would at least be clear it was some kind of alcohol, if nothing else.

Eugene turned to his marine escort. “Sanders, Mason, you’re with me.” He said as the two marines stepped forward. “The rest of you will stand guard.” The marines salute and step out the conference room, the Admiral, his XO and the two marines proceeded to the table, the officers taking their seats while the marines remained on guard, weapons in hand, just in case. The Admiral for a brief moment, surveyed the room, the two Wardens of particular interest, their gear almost reminding him of the FRA’s very own Rangers, maybe a close equivalent to them? Either way, he’s glad that they’re friendly enough and not on opposite sides.

Eugene made himself comfortable and leaned forward, his arms resting on the table, there wasn’t a need to be so defensive, at least for now. “Thank you for having us, Commander.” Eugene said with a smile. “I must admit, with the entrance and impression your people made in Americana, I wasn’t expecting you to be open to talks, yet here we are.” Eugene paused as he took notice that Commander Adren had a bottle of alcohol with him, and some glasses. Eugune wouldn’t mind a drink, could be a good ice breaker. “Not to impose or anything, but….mind if I have a swig of whatever you got there?”

The translation wasn't even finished before Arden's smile widened some. The other man's eyes glancing at the alcohol and glasses was enough to communicate clearly in his mind. Or at least, the mind of a man such as himself if nothing else. He would take the already-opened bottle and pour two shots in quick, eager sucession before sliding one over to Eugene and drinking his own without hesitation. A satisfied sigh would come from Arden's very lips as he seemed to relax slightly more.

Still, he did lean forward on his elbows and became more serious as he began to speak once more. Even so, the formal smile did remain on his face.

"As a military man I felt this Braldian Brandy of mine would be a good icebreaker. Kicks like a mule, but the flavor outperforms the burn. A minor brand back from my hometown, not very popular but still my favorite! Name came from a mispelling of the maker's name, and it stuck."

Eugene took a single gulp making a soured expression, followed by a small coughing fit. “Shit, you weren’t lying.” He said, couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. “Stronger than anything I had back home.”

The translation to Eugene would continue as the two Wardens stood still, almost like statues.

"I am simply happy we can talk as well. Not that it was not perhaps the most diplomatic approach in human history on our part, that much the history books can tell us. However, our Gateway and space is something we cannot simply allow the Yulz potential access to. So we have begun to fortify the position, fire on anything of theirs that gets close. Yulz or humans of theirs or not.

That and we do not wish to grant them access to other potential human colonies that have survived until current times, however many out there that there are. Not that all would perhaps be friendly, but any allies or innocents out there could be left to their whims if we did nothing but stand idly by. Such is our perspective on the matter, though I can't imagine how unpleasant it would be for this to happen in our own system! So in that regard, I can empathize with this most unfortunate flow of events thus far."

Eugene placed the glass down, there was that word again. “Yulz.”, there was no doubt about it, the Yulzan’s reace far extends Americana, who knows how many human colonies suffer under their thumb? Was Columbia not enough for them? Their hunger for Empire is insatiable. “While plenty of politicians back home aren’t happy with your little stunt, I honestly can’t blame you. If what you say is true, you take no chances when the Yulzan are involved…sneaky fuckers. “ Eugene was getting off track. “Anyway, on to business. While we do share a common enemy and appreciate you blasting the Jannies to stardust, I’m afraid we can’t allow this blockade to continue any longer.” He paused as he cleared his throat, that brandy was some strong stuff. “However, maybe we can arrange something that both parties can be happy with?”

Ah. Arden let out a small sigh as the last sentence Eugene spoke was translated, before pouring and taking another shot of brandy.

"Yulzan. I can recognize that word anywhere. We just shorten it to 'Yulz', but it's the same assholes without a doubt that give your people trouble here. We've no idea how long they have been in this system, as ours arrived over one hundred and twenty years ago. Suddenly. Out of nowhere, almost wiping us out.

Took over one hundred years to turn them into ash, and no small amount of lives. Maybe that won't be the case here, I hope. Even got a group of deserters from their ranks. Was no easy road for either of them to cement themselves into our population at first, though, that was for sure. But by now they are a race who have long become citizens of ours like any other. 'Dreslan', they call themselves. Damn good people alongside ourselves and the Galateans and other humans, with many Dreslan also serving on this station that we had to pull from your travel path since we didn't know how you'd react to them. Didn't want to risk a shoot on sight incident in case your people had a trigger finger like ours did."

What Commander Arden said…was a lot to take in for the Admiral. Fighting the Yulzan for over a century? So, the Columbians weren’t the even first, but in actuality, were just the latest victims of the Yulzan. And deserters? Deslan? Were Yulzan even capable of betraying their own kind? And they're are on this very station at this moment? Had he not known, Eugune might've very well tried to gun down one of these "Dreslan". This was quite the eye opener, something everyone back home needs to hear. Eugene remained silent for the moment but still….

Arden offered the other man some more brandy, if he ultimately wanted, though accepting it or not the Commander would take noe more shot before he again began to speak. His eyes seemed...a little more tired for a moment. As if moving mentally to something he was not as much a fan of.

"But the entrenchment of our forces here is not as simple as any of us here giving the orders. I may be one of two top commanders of this outpost, but I can't retract it by a longshot. That is where my own authority ends, and something you'd have to get the politicians and officials back home to talk about on both our sides really begins.

When our first ship arrived to visit, it witnessed battle all around this zone of control. But no decisive control was seemingly held in the Gateway's location either, and that was a major red flag for our government. Not that these things haven't only just reopened, so I do get the idea. Hell, this is all new to myself and everyone back home to boot. But our Gateway goes deep into our territory, and that is unacceptable to leave open to attack on the part of our government and population so far. This is, after all, a more formal first contact scenario neither of us perhaps saw coming.

Yet if we simply left and handed control to your people, singular control or joint or otherwise, those in control back home would have to feel we can trust it to you. Genuinely. I know that much. If we left and the Yulz ever came barging in through the Gateway at some point from here, even just a single small scout ship, it'd ruin any chances of the top dogs and others being willing to hand it over to your people and to frankly respect those boundaries ever again. They'd have us come back and entrench here even harder than we are already, no matter the cost and even if we all came to the point of open war. All to prevent the Yulz from access to our home space and elsewhere....because hell it's been over a third of our history dealing with them. Our war with them only ended twenty years ago, and my own grandfather served and died in the last battle as a Commander.

The anger, the history, and crap all runs very deep, and even if we are frankly intruding on your nation's sovierign territory here it is the lens through which a good many look. That is one big thing to keep in mind about our people. We do not wish war with you, and things like trade and all of that would be great, but our people must be protected and cared for first. It is what kept us alive for so long.

In the end, you'd have to get a hell of a good deal running to get us to send any of this stuff back home. Or at least just good enough of a deal to make it work. That's why I suggest handing it over to those who can talk the details far better, and to let them hash it out over comms or such. I figure that wouldn't be impossible since we both hate the Yulz, so we've at least one thing in common so far that I know of to report back about."

After hearing the Commander’s side of the issue, while this wasn’t exactly the outcome the Admiral wished for, he can at least try to make this work. He let a audible sigh and locked eyes with Commander Arden. “Fair enough.” Is all Eugene said. “I’ve heard stories like this all too often, I know all too well what the Yulzan are capable of, were probably ten-fold or worse in your part of the galaxy. I can sympathize, wanting to prevent any more Yulzan atrocities from ever happening again. I’m not exactly thrilled with your answer, but I can sympathize. And you’re right, all this.” He paused as he jestered his hands to his surroundings. “Is beyond your power and mine. This is something for the politicians and leaders to deal with.”

As the Commander was about to speak, a message to his neural implant hurried in. For the most part he'd kept to standard talking and comms, because it made the place feel more alive, but even so the unspoken system of communication for the people of the Royal Federation had remained used for many things. Including emergency notification while he was in this meeting, as he'd instructed in particular.


Eugene pushed the glass over to Arden. “For now though? I’d like to enjoy a good drink with a potential new friend? What do you say?”

"An excellent proposal." Came a new voice unfamiliar to any present in the room. A slight inflection, a subtle inconsistency, as if two slightly different tones were spoken at once. "That is, if you don't mind sharing."

Into the room came the last sight any present would have expected. Flanked by a set of utterly bewildered guards glided the new arrival, flanked by her two advisors. The gorgon strain woman looked down at the two with an easy smile. Joined seamlesly with what seemed the three or four meter long body of some sort of massive snake was the torso of what seemed a mostly normal albeit unusually large human woman - were it not for the glowing lines that ran down her face, the cobralike hood that framed her head, the reptilian eyes that never blinked as they watched the two men, and the extra set of arms. Beside her walked two short, densely muscled individuals no less outlandish in their appearances. One of them, a man of a build far more slender than the other two, seemed almost a normal - albeit immensely beautiful - human, were it not for the snowy white hair, the featureless black eyes, the pale skin covered in swirling black patterns. Beside him walked a short woman with purplish grey skin, piercing irisless eyes that glowed a lavender hue, an intricate array of luminescent growths or organs arrayed across her body and face, greyish white hair contrasted with finlike ears and tendrils at whose ends glowed more of the same bioluminescent material. She smiled briefly at the two before returning to a cold, professional military stance.

Sister-Admiral Ixhuta smiled - she had not actually considered that their appearances might be alarming or unusual for the non-Ishtari humans encountered, and despite the seriousness of the situation enjoyed the surprised reactions her crew had garnered thus far, assuming them to be due to her entrance rather than her appearance.

The abrupt entrance of these of another group prompted a curious turnaround from the marines, followed by the Admiral and XO. “Jesus Christ!” Eugene cried out; he was more than startled by the distressing appearance of the new arrivals. One of the marines present, sanders, was readying his rifle and was almost tempted to open fire. “Hold!” The XO, Ramos ordered. It was brief and tense minute, the marines front and back haven’t had a clue what to do, before a Nibirun translator came rushing in with a “Wait!” to all parties.

Ixhuta for her part scarcely budged an inch as she stared down the barrel of a gun. Remaining silent, she was caught in some strange combination of defiant refusal to back down from a challenge, and sheer bewilderment and startled confusion at the leveling of a gun. Behind her her aides' hands overed over their sidearms, though neither drew.

The unfortunate Spanish translator who had been sent to meet with the Ishtari nearly fell over as he ran into the room. The yonuger man was likewise sweating badly, as if he'd run a marathon to get there. Heck, the linguist's hasty arrival not even allowing him to don more formal clothing was obvious. Large T-shit and jeans, looking like they'd been slept in down there in comms, was all he had on. At least besides a security badge for identification. Arden let out a long sigh, before pinching the bridge of his nose for a few seconds and then looking back up.

"Comms sent you last second, didn't they? I barely got the message about the new arrivals and their 'unique' nature a moment ago. Just like most of the station did apparently.

You still alive there, kid?"

The tired man nodded as he stood up straight once more, before giving a small salute in an attempt to mimic the soldiers of the station.

"Come sit near me with the others. I'll pour you a shot for the trouble, just don't tell Dalteren later.

Also tell the new arrivals I'll pour them some as well, but to please make room to the left of Eugene here. We don't want to crowd everyone out or too close, mind. Ask them if the trip over was well as well, and if they have any alcohol tolerance issues."

The linguist seemed to let out a somewhat relieved sigh, before carefully translating the message to the Ishtari delegation.

He hen made his way over to Arden's side of the conferernce table, taking a seat on the Commander's left. He almost slumped into it hard before the Commander's firm lft hand helped pull him back up in the seat with a seeing ease. Arden then poured the Spanish linguist, himself Eugene, the English translator plus two comms officers, and frankly the new arrivals all shots. Did not stop him from taking his own shot rapidly and pouring another rapidly before the others had a chance though. He would need it right now.

Heck, half the station probably needed one right now at least. Still, Arden motioned for the translators for him and Eugene to talk for him as he proceeded to speak again.

"Eugene, this is apparently a delegation from a nation called the...'Ishtari', if I can recall right? I just recieved word through a neural implant I possess that they popped in through the Gate. Also with warships, but apparently to come investigate this space themselves. Ah, they were told by some group called the 'Chosen' it seems?

Hell, I have no idea at this point. At this point I wonder if everyone will-"

The Admiral was briefed on the first set of colonies encountered after the gateways reopened, a group known as the “Chosen” was among them. Seemed both the FRA and Ishtari shared mutual contact with them, this somewhat eased tensions as Eugene, and the rest of his entourage withdrew from combat stances. Eugene letting out a cough in shame. “Uh, my apologizes, miss.” He said as he sat back down.

Arden paused as another rapid set of messages hit his implant, putting a sudden hand to his head. Ugh. It didn't hurt, but what the message made him feel was something else entirely. He did motion for the, admittedly sudddenly concerned, translators who had been relaying things to him and Eugene to continue. And frankly the Spanish translator as well.

"Ok. Everyone, another group has just popped in through the Gatway. Going to see how this one turns out, no offense to any here in this room. It's like one thing after another today, so please pardon my sudden exasperation at the matter.

Feel free to drink your shots at your leisure, and if you need more I will pour them out and send someone for something more out of my stash."

Ixhuta looked between the groups assembled with an expression of great bemusement, gradually shifting into one of growing understanding. "I see we beat the news of our arrival." She said in thickly accented but well spoken English, raising an eyebrow. Turning to the Spanish translator she switched back to the other language, "I think you may return if you wish." She told him with the same thick accent as with English, smiling as she spoke, "Though I could have sworn I sent the message out in English as well. Ah, well."

She turned to the remaining occupants of the room, "My apologies for any fright, all the same. I thought the news would have already spread." She offered a slight smile as she spoke, "I hope we can put this behind us and welcome these new arrivals I just heard mentioned." She paused, "Once again you have my sincere apologies. I understand with your war, unexpected arrivals must be a serious threat. It must be difficult to know if someone is friend or foe, I take it?"

Thankfully, for the Admiral, it seemed the new arrivals were unaware what really startled him and the rest of his me in the first place, and that’s something he’ll very much keep to himself. This will be quite the funny story to share with the others back home for sure. “My apologies once again, Ma’am.” He said with a smile, despite their freakish appearance, these people seemed friendly enough and were willing to talk, best to hear them out and possibly find yet another new ally. “The reflexes get the best of me. I do hope you’ll join us for a drink while we settle matters?”

A moment's pause ensued as the Ishtari looked between themselves and the assembled representatives of the other nations, before Ixhuta raised the upper set of her arms in a conciliatory gesture, "No, no, there is no need though I appreciate it. The alcohol you have available unfortunately would be wasted on us, we'd not feel a thing." She gave a small smile of apology before taking a position away from the door, unable to settle into a chair and simply lowering herself further to as close to eye level with the sitting men as she could. "However, settling matters is what we came for. Would you prefer we wait for these new arrivals or begin immediately?"

"Status report" Commander Evans ordered the moment his destroyer, as well as its sister destroyer and the two transports they were escorting, exited the gate. They were the first Kaus Borealis ships to use the Gate and Evans was not willing to let anything go to chance.

"No damage has been reported." One officer reported.

"All systems appear to be unaffected by the Gate." Another added.

"The other ships report that they are all in the green." The communications officer stated after a moment.

"We do have one problem." Sabre, the destroyer's integrated AI that shared the ship's name stated after a moment. "We appear to be in the middle of a large formation of warships. At this point I'm detecting what appears to be three distinctly different design ideologies amongst these ships, indicateing that they are of different origins. One group seems similar to the FRA cruiser that had appeared at the Kaus Borealis Gate. The other two designs do not seem to match that of the Janissiary cruiser.

"Damn it!" Evans snarled. "We just landed ourselves into the middle of a powderkeg!" At least his crew was already at battle stations. "Open up a wideband broadcast. Sabre: translate what I'm about to say in all the major languages of Old Earth."

"Aye aye." Sabre said.

"I am Commander Evans of the HMS Sabre, warship of the Kingdom of Kaus Borealis. We are here on a trade mission to the Americana System and come in peace. I request that the commanding officers of the battle groups in this region identify themselves, their affiliation, and their intentions. Do note that any hostile action taken against this ship or any other ship in this formation will be seen as an act of war against the Kingdom." A wave of his hand indicated that he wanted the broadcast terminated and a moment later his communications officer gave a nod.

"You came on a little strong." Sabre commented.

"The weak get trampled." Evans countered. "Its better that they think we've got a strong hand to play." He turned to his weapons officer. "Is our communication probe ready to launch?"

"Aye sir. Its in missile tube one. Want me to set it off?"

"Not yet. It'll look like we're launching a missile and I don't want to spook any of our friends. But be ready to send it off at any moment. In fact launch it immediately if anyone opens fire. Let's just hope it doesn't come to that."

Once more proximity alerts rang out throughout the Orion, this was becoming quite the busy day, to sat the least. “The hell? Again with this? Who else is out there?” Lt. Cortez demanded, by this point, it seemed like the whole galaxy was here. The officer was quite for a minute as the new contacts point of origin were tracked”…Got it!” He announced. “They’re Kaus Borealian! Both military and civilian ships are currently present. The officer mention civilian ship caught the chief’s ear. “Civilians? Here?” Lt. Cortez asked. “Damnit, the last thing we need is civvies involved, especially if shit hits the fan.

“Chief!” Another officer called out to her. “The Royal Navy ships are sending out a broadcast. Some moments pass as the message is relayed to the FRA vessels. With a sense of urgency, Lt. Cortez took action. “Get me comms with the Sabre ASAP!” She ordered. The comms officer nodded as he linked and open channels with haste, a few short moments pass as he turns back to Christina, giving her the thumbs up and all clear to speak.

She cleared her throat and proceeded. “This is Acting Captain Christina Cortez of the FRS Orion, speaking for my Admiral to all Royal Navy vessels. “She begun. “Do not, I repeat, do not engage the Bogies. They are non-hostile, I repeat, non-hostile.”

Back on the RFoN Station, things were beginning to...burn down. Metaphorically at least. Officers were running from spot to spot with information, silently and very rapidly communicating over their neural quantum entangelement comms channels. Other linguists were speaking verbally and trying to scrawl words down as they debated meanings with each other. Standard workers in the comms department were frankly tryingto sort things out both over everything as data and words and the occasional thrown can of drink or such flew across the space the department inhabitated. Amidst it all, Head Comms Officer Quarak stood with her fifth cup of black coffee in hand next to the door of her office before a messenger ran up to her.

The middle aged woman raised an eyebrow, her somewhat plump appearance and shot, curly brown hair unphazed visibly despite the growing bags under her eyes. Further, the messenger himself seemed to be equal parts dehydrated and red in the face.

"Speak, soldier, and get something to drink."

"Even more new arrivals, mam' sending a message across old-style comms channels in multiple major Old Earth languages. Including civilian and armed military space vessels from what analysists can tell.

They broadcast a....well here's the message mam'. And also below it the response the local military vessels sent back afterward. We informed Commander Arden as well over the emergency entangelement channel he designated for use while he's in the meeting.[/color]

Quarak grabbed the offered datapad and began to look the displayed message over, brows furrowing as she read along. She then placed the pad under one arm, before looking back at the soldier with a rather stern gaze.

Soon, another annoucement over private quantum entanglement channels would move across the defensively-aimed and frankly more and more tense Royal Federation soldiers both on the station and otherwise, though no one else would be able to pick up on it:

"This is Commander Dalteren, with another urgent update and orders. Ensure all of you on the defensive teams on the station, arrays, and ships are in the same loop, and quantum comms will be used soely at this point to keep everyone in the loop.

Report any suspicious actions, and ensure you all remain on standby. Do not fire first. However, ensure key potential enemy craft are in their LoS. Ones that could cause a lot of damage very quickly at this point-blank distance, or otherwise most badly disrupt our position here.

Maintain exterior sensor arrays pointed outward, however, in case all of this draws attention. We will be sending a message homeside to have major backup forces positioned at our own Gateway in case of the situation devolving.

...and above all, remain strong. You are soldiers of the Royal Federation. This is a hard situation, but we can weather any storm. For the Throne and the People!"

Soon after, a return message would be sent from Commander Dalteren to the Kaus Borealis ships using the same major old Earth languages in turn.

[b]"This is Commander Dalteren of the Royal Federation of Nibiru, if you do not fire on us then we will not fire on you in return. You are also not the only party that has arrived today to make contact in the Americana System, and currently the situation has continued to ramp up with each sudden new arrival. It has created a tense situation as it is, and we do not wish for it to boil over.

Talks of an impromptu sort have begun on the station as it is, under the leadership of Commander Arden Orwald, and we would invite you to come speak as well if you indeed come with peaceful intentions as you have so stated on your part."

Why not? Why not invite them over? Arden could handle it, right? Surely he had enough brandy to at least endure it on his end-...actually, no, too much and things would surely devolve. He was already getting feedback from back home that reinforcements were parepared right at their Gateway. Good. If this boiled over he would have to scramble for his own people, much less the other foreign delegates still on the station at that. Joy. Just...joy.

Two out of three had responded to Commander Evans. All in all not bad. It was especially encouraging that the FRA was viewing its guests as nonhostile, though the fact they were reffering to them as bogies did give Evans pause. Just what had he and his men blunder into? And then there was this Royal Federation of Nibiru. Why were they here?

"Tight beam to the Orion," Commander Evans ordered, "Sabre acknoweldges bogies are nonhostile. We are not here to fight and can quite obviously see that we are greatly outnumbered and outgunned anyways. We will be seeking answers from the Royal Federation of... Nibiru directly. Sabre out."

"Ok, now connect me to this Commander Dalteren." Evans waited for this communications officer to indicate that he was ready for Evans to begin speaking. "This is Commander Evans, commanding officer of the HMS Sabre. I would be very much interested in visiting your station to discuss your goals in this star system. I will be taking a shuttle, please indicate where my shuttle may land and how many men I can bring with me."

When the translated message made it to his ears, the brief time needed for translation notwithstanding, Commander Dalteren ran a hand through his hair. If they weren't rapidly-graying hairs by this point anyway. Barely bothered to look in the mirror these days anyways, except for a basic shave and hair combing. He would then ping back the comms department by pressing a button on the left arm rest of his chair. It was time to send a return message.

[b][color=silver]"Commander Evans of the [i]HMS[i] Saber, you may proceed by shuttle to Docking Bay 02. As for personnel, you may bring whatever amount is comfortable to bring with you. From there, an escort will bring you to the meeting room.

Should you have any particular issues or unique physiological needs to address for your arrival please do so in such a case. Likewise, please report of any mutations or alien species among your ranks. It would be helpful to avoid any potential panic."

Perhaps they would make it out of this without getting blown up after all. Or having to blow anyone else up for that matter.

Arden felt no small wave of relief wash over him as the current new arrivals did seem to get along somewhat. Not that he didn't almost have Eugene's same reaction. Having to keep a strong but calm face in front of arguing beauracrats and deal with the occasional horror of Yulz make had their upsides, as it turned out. However, he wordlessly poured two extra shots and handed the remaining bottle of brandy to the now exasperated-looking Spanish translator. Didn't even look him in the eye. Just handed it to him.

At the very least the old English linguist and the two comms officers assisting her were going to be that much more useful moving forward-...ah. As the next message came in, the Commander took a swig of the bottle before handing it back to the translator for the second time.

"Bring the rest of this back to comms as a gift. But if I find out you down the whole thing I wouldn't blame you at this point."

The English and two comms officer translators would not translate this particular bit, but perhaps it did not need to ne. Even so, they would from this point continue to ensure all different parties were at least able to understand each other. At least depending on what the newest arrivals would be speaking in.

The Spanish translator, for his part, would weekly raise his eyes up at the ceiling and utter a soft but very exhausted 'por que' before slipping out of the room is quietly as his tired body could manage. Soon after, Arden would send a quantum comms message to bring up more bottles from his stash. Two more bottles specifically...and an additional command for them to block his stash from his fellow Co-Commander under all circumstances.

Dalteren only had a problem when he got incredibly stressed, as in ridiculously stressed. Otherwise for the most part he had kicked the habit years ago. As for Arden himself? Today was one of the few special occasions he actually did pull something out. Not that it probably looked like it in front of the guests at the moment.

"While we wait for the most recent delegation to arrive, I'm going to have two different bottles brought in from my own personal stash! Special ones considering the occasion. Two with flavors and such more unique to my peoples' homeland, but not too crazy, at least.

The last 300 years seem to have treated everyone a little bit differently here and there. However, in the end how we got here doesn't matter. It is good to see those who do not shoot first and ask questions later. Just 20 years ago my own people ended an over one century engagement against and invading alien power from beyond probably any solar system we know of. The Yulz. Almost wiped all life out."

The commander motioned in a friendly manner for the Ishtari arrivals to sit down. Or, well, get comfortable somehowif they could. No idea what happened beyond their gateway, but at the moment that really did not matter to his mind. As long as they were peaceful. He then looked to Ixhuta, who seems to be the biggest persona of her group in the room. Maybe a bit literally in his mind.

"To give the simple explanation firstly, for the sake of time, my people have an interest in this system specifically regarding the Gateway. It is basically a back door into our own territory, and the enemies of the nation Eugene here and his people are from are the same species that fought my own people for over a century back home just over 20 years ago.

To say the least, it caused quite a stir back home when it was realized that this was the case. Likewise, all of this will have to be something the politicians and bureaucrats will need to sort out more in depth."

He then slid the shots already poured out for the Ishtari party in their direction.

"Shots of some of my favorite Brandy back home. If there is any worry about alcohol tolerances are such though, then I do wish to apologize.

But please! Do tell us where you come from and so forth, how you made your way here, and your interests here. What I mean to say is,these sorts of things to establish the basics for the sake of the friendly discourse here."

Translators would rapidly relay the message, at least as best as they could. It was admittedly easier to translate into the simple Earth English of the ancient past. Even so, they would still make the genuine effort to translate to Eugene's own language as roughly done as it was on the fly.

“I would like to thank you for involving me in this discussion.” Commander Evans said as he entered the room. Two royal marines, one male and one female, entered behind him. Both were in dark green dress uniforms, a pistol holstered on their right hips and a kukri sheathed on their left. Evans was unarmed save for the bottle of wine he carried.

“I am Commander Evans of the Kaus Borealis Royal Navy” Evans continued. His accent was an almost perfect copy of the Oxford English of old Earth. “I bro-” His face blanched as his gaze drifted over the Ishtari. “What in blazes!” His expression shifted from bewilderment to fear to disgust before he finally regained control over himself. The male marine behind him had had a similar reaction, having reached for his pistol but stopped short of actually putting his hand on it.

If one were especially observant they would have noticed that the female marine had reacted well before Evans had even noticed the Ishtari, reaching for her kukri instead of her pistol, but had returned to an at attention stance before the first words had left Evans’ mouth. Interestingly her expression had at no time changed.

“My apologies” Evans said after letting out a small embarrassed cough. “I wasn’t expecting any nonhumans to be present. Not that I have an issue with that.” He was obviously still somewhat shaken by the appearance of the Ishtari, he seemed to unconsciously look everywhere but directly at them. “I… brought a bottle of wine for the station commander. A tradition of sorts in Kaus Borealis.”

Ixhuta was startled by the intrusion and subsequent exclamation, and she in turn reached for her own sidearms in initial alarm before just as quickly returning to a relaxed stance. Her eyebrow rose in bewilderment at his statement, and she looked around the room for a moment. "Nonhumans?" She asked, curious, "I don't recall seeing any whilst entering, though I believe we have been told these Americanans have nonhuman... allies? Citizens? I'm not sure the exact nature of their status." She shrugged, before smiling at Evans. "Strange, that's the second time someone's had a reaction like that. All the same, pleased to meet you, Comamnder Evans."

“What?” Evans asked, looking directly at Ixhuta. He then turned around to look at his guards as he asked “What?” a second time. The male marine looked just as confused as he did. The female marine’s expression had shifted to one of amusement. Seeing this Evans asked “What?” for a third time.

The female marine leaned in and whispered into Evans ear “She looks human.” She quickly continued before Evans could argue the point. “She has obviously been modified: I can’t determine if it's genetic or cybernetic in nature, nor can I determine the purpose of these modifications. Perhaps Sabre will be able to determine that.” She was quiet enough that most people wouldn’t be able to make out any of what she was saying.

“But that’s…” Evans trailed off.

“It's well within our technical capabilities to achieve a similar effect with cybernetics” The female marine stated, gesturing towards herself. “It's just exceedingly rare to choose such an inhuman appearance.”

“Right…” Evans didn’t sound entirely convinced as he turned back towards Ixhuta. “My apologies… ma’am. It’s just that your appearance… deviates from the… conventionally accepted standard of what a human usually looks like.” His face was still somewhat pale, but he had now mostly calmed down. “I dare say it's a tad shocking at first sight, especially since it was unexpected.”

Ixhuta frowned, now, as though her own ears could detect only a smattering of the discussion, the Tiamat Strain aide clued her into the their details, her own more advanced hearing picking up on the muted conversation between the Borealan delegation. In a less friendly, stiffer and more diplomatic tone, she spoke in response. "Ah, I understand. Let me assure you, the 'modifications' are not cybernetic in nature, though we possess such technology." Her eyes narrowed slightly as she spoke, watching the newcomers with apprehension. "While I do not know the nature of this 'Saber' you speak of, I am happy to give a short explanation. Whilst other vessels transited the Gateways instantaneously, the Ark Ishtar was trapped within an unusual anomaly for a period of many centuries." She paused, looking to the others in the room, before continuing. "Whilst within it... I won't go over the details, but every single person was mutated. Some attaining more stable mutations, and of those that survived, they became known as Strains." She drew herself to her full height - or, at least, as much of her full height as could be achieved within the confines of a space station. "I am what is known as a Gorgon Strain."

A moment later, she looked towards Admiral Drayk, "I take it this was why your own people were... alarmed, by my entrance?" She said after some pause.

There was an awkward moment of silence from Eugene and his entourage, exchanging worried looks, and eyeing one another, followed by the admiral clearing his throat, turning his attention to Ixhuta. “To be honest, ma’am.” Eugene begun. “We weren’t exactly ready for your arrival, and to put it as politely as I can....you startled the bejesus out of us.” The Admiral’s polite candidness was met with a few chuckles from his own men.

Ixhuta watched in silence for a moment before her taciturn expression broke and she let out a small laugh. "Well, I suppose in hindsight I can see why. It's not something that occurs to us much but we do look... a bit different from you. Please, accept my apologibaes for the fright."

Arden internally sighed to himself, rather than externally expressing such relief, as the delegates seemed to work some things out. Also as the translators scrambled to make sense of all the different dialects and so forth. Not that the translators weren't working overtime for it all already, but today had already been madness in a sense. Yet if nothing else some semblance of diplomacy existed out there elsewhere, it seemed, though the headache had along already begun with the whole first contact. Then it had been overshadows by rapid second, third, and heck perhaps all the way up to the fifteenth contact today alone at the rate things were going. Even so, he would seem a bit relieved as the door eventually cracked open and two bottles came into the room with one of his subordinates.


"Welcome, Commander Evans! I apologize for the ramshackle meeting going on, as one Commander to another, as if I had known so many would be arriving today I'd have brought more bottles earlier! So please, come take a seat and I'll get some more shots poured out. Local specialities from where I and my people come from.

I believe it is good that ll of us here seem to have preferred this to shooting each other on sight.

Once you are settled, then, I'll begin the proceedings so we can get toward the greater discussion here. After a few little formal introductions for those in the room from each party, if such a thing is acceptable to request."

He hoped he could smoothly segway enough into everyone getting to introduce their peoples a little bit. Then would come Get some Then he could get about to showing the faces of the two Wardens behind him, themselves a Galatean and Dreslan respectively. From here he could make his way into the serious issues once the icebreakers were done. Well, formal icebreakers in this instance.

...By the throne, he hoped this would go well.

After Action Report: Admiral Eugene Drayk.

“I have to say…that was one hell of a day I won’t ever forget. We came in expecting a fight with the new arrivals, the Royal Federation of Nibiru they call themselves, only to find we have more in common then we thought, and apparently…the Yulzan seemed to found themselves in other systems. I do recall reports that the original Yulzan Armada had broken apart due to freak accidents. Imagine my shock when one of those break aways ended up in other colonized system. The craziest of all? The Nibiruns not only won, but they managed to make peace with the fuckers, Dreslan they call themselves now, still processing that one.

Things got more complicated with the arrivals of new group, the Ishtari, who came on the recommendation of a previous contact, the Chosen. A bunch of gene-spliced freaks..but they were friendly enough, and proved themselves much later. Not much later, we get a flotilla of civilian and military vessels from Kaus Borealis jumping right in the middle of the mess. Thank God no one fired at one another. The little impromptu conference between the officers went as smooth as one would expect, complete with some hard drinks. Unfortunately, the Yulzan and their lapdogs weren’t too pleased they weren’t invited. The Jannies and Yulzan came swooping down, the resulting battle was chaotic at first, four different fleets trying to coordinate with each other is one hell of a hassle, especially when you got a large enemy fleet baring down at you. Eventually we managed to beat them back miraculously.

In the end, the battle pretty much help establish a common ground amongst the four groups, and the PR and diplomatic nightmare the Yulzan had to deal with in the aftermath was just glorious. Over the months, our leaders and diplomats did all the talking, being all diplomatic and making compromises. In the end we reached a conclusion everyone can be happy with. The Nibs had to pull back most of their fortifications, but were allowed to maintain a minimal presence around the Gate, the Ishtari also requested to maintain a small garrison, which was also granted. Both were supervised by one of our own garrison forces.

Overall, I just made some history, time to for celebratory drink. End of log.”

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Antediluvixen Kemonomimi Dystopia Creator

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@Keyguyperson and @Lady Lascivious

Haven System

Space warped and crackled as the Gateway activated. The fabric of space and time distorted in a brilliant shimmering display of humanity’s former technological might as the Gateway tore a hole through the fabric of the universe. Through this maelstrom of frothing reality the prow of the warship Tiamat’s Burning Resolve pierced through the void, a powerful statement of Ishtari military might, the Herald class battleship was but one of a few such vessels operated by the Ishtari navy. Flanked by a dozen escort vessels it loomed large through the void, announcing to the entire system its presence, and daring any to challenge its right to sail where it pleased.

Tatiana had grown bored over the past centuries. It had been far, far too long since she had left the planet, let alone placed herself in any actual danger - Ashe’s overzealous bodyguard notwithstanding. She longed for the adrenaline of old times, when she confronted the unknown head on, pistol in one hand and a rifle in another, leading her people onwards to victory and heedless of death, for it had become but an inconvenience.

And yet even so the Commonality had resisted her wishes to explore this new system in person.

Though they knew they could not truly stop her, they had eventually succeeded in pressuring her into accepting an escort, and established her in one of the great battleships of the fleet, one bearing her adopted namesake no less. It was, admittedly, a bit much for her - but she found it easier to go along with than to spend yet more brainpower arguing. The progress on the cure for the Rejected was well underway - but she needed time away from the lab. Time away from the reverence. She almost hoped this system was hostile, that someone would point a gun to her head and give her a chance to let loose once again.

The massive warship blasted an announcement systemwide in myriad human languages, Japanese, Russian, English, German, Spanish, Korean, Romanian, and more. “I am Tatiana Iwasaki, Star-Mother of the people of Ishtar. I hail from earth, and I’d like to personally welcome you to the galaxy at large.”

Admiral Pe'lin had her eyes glued to the sensor readouts, barely remembering to even breathe. The moment the gateway went hot she'd had the crew of the Tavrê, and the expeditionary fleet as a whole, at battlestations. Some of her human crewmen were anticipating a reunion with their long-lost kin, but to Pe'lin anything that came through the gate - human or not - was liable to be a threat. By the time the Tavrê's sensors showed the first vessel transit the gate the Chinvat-Class battleship was already positioned to deliver a broadside.

"Admiral! Radio transmission from the gateway, audio only!"

"Patch it through."

Pe'lin's headset delivered the same message, translated into countless human tribal tongues that she was familiar with and yet more that she was not. Though not fluent in any of them, she could more or less recognize what the intent was. Only one word did she fully understand. Chikyū. Erde. Jigu. Earth. The homeworld of the human exiles - one that their ancestors had gladly forsaken even before the collapse of their civilization upon it. So these interlopers were indeed human.

No matter. Throughout Urdji history her people had met countless species, and only the human tribes of Haven had ever shown themselves to be worthy of the name "friend". She - and the Confederacy - could not afford to assume the rest of humanity would be the same.

"Admiral, we're being hailed. Captain Tahn of the Triskelion."

Pe'lin nodded, and the image of the human Captain appeared upon her glasses. Captain Tahn was in a state of panic, hurriedly barking orders at her men before finally remembering that she'd hailed the Tavrê.

Admiral, this is Captain Tahn of the Europan battleship Triskelion. We know of this tribe - I recommend we open fire before they can react!

Pe'lin ordered her gunners to generate a firing solution on the interloping vessels, before responding to Captain Tahn.

Do enlighten me, Captain Tahn.

Admiral, these humans - if you can even call them that - are nothing less than demons! These corpo bastards killed our homeworld, and now they've come to finish us off! If their leader is who she claims to be then she is the devil incarnate, the demiurge taken physical form to destroy what remains of true humanity! The name Tatiana Iwasaki is a curse! She was among the ringleaders of the global-

Captain, I don't have time for your Europan fairy tales - this Tatiana has been alive since the creation of the gateways?

Yes! I can't believe she has shed her illusion of humanity, she must have the other survivors of the Collapse under her boot! We have to rally the tribes!

Your "devil incarnate" hasn't even powered weapons, and claims to be here to welcome us to the galaxy at large. I'm not going to let you start an interstellar war based on ancient superstitions. Keep your railguns trained on these "Ishtari", but for the love of the gods don't open fire. This expeditionary fleet is under my command and we will do as I say. Am I clear?

... Aye-Aye, Admiral. Just know that this tribe conquered our homeworld not with the stick, but with the carrot. Do not let us be conquered once more. Triskelion out.

"Transmit a response to the foreigners, and try our standard hailing protocols. Maybe they'll work with whatever systems these Ishtari are using. And, uh, translate my message to Europan, I suppose. Must be similar enough still for them to understand."

Attention fleet of Tribe Ishtar, this is Ranger Corps Admiral Pe'lin of the Urdji-Gelderruhê Nanlîkrin Eşîrsaya. We welcome you with pride to the Haven system. Do, however, be aware that we have our railguns trained on your vessels and will not hesitate to defend ourselves if your intentions are hostile. You can surely see our fleet’s position on your sensors - I propose our flagships meet at the midway point between our formations for a proper face-to-face meeting. For now, know this: This system, Haven, is a refuge for the tribes of both Man and the Urdji, and any attempt to disrupt, corrupt, or destroy what we have built here will be met with a resolute response. Admiral Pe’lin, awaiting your reply.

Tatiana smiled, a response! The bridge crew signalled to each other through their network as sensors picked up countless signals - warships great and small, heat signatures, power sources - the system was lighting up across the board as weapons systems powered up, trained on her and her ship.

Despite the peril, she grinned. Meeting Ashe had jolted her from her stupor - but this? Ah, the adrenaline rush of imminent death was like nothing else. The message was somewhat garbled, but she could make out the gist of it. Without pausing for thought or for counsel, she grabbed the hailer once more, raising it to her lips and speaking into it with the language that seemed closest to what they spoke. “Greetings to you, Admiral Pe’lin! I’m glad to see you’ve rolled out the red carpet and I’d be damned disappointed if you didn’t! It’s been too long since someone pointed a gun at me, let alone actually killed me. Too long! I’ll do you one better, Admiral. I’ll leave my ship with a small ceremonial guard and we can meet however you want. I’m certainly not here to disrupt, corrupt, destroy, desecrate, despoil, demolish, loot, vandalize, desp- no, wait, I already said that. I’m not here for any of that, and I’ll leave this battleship to prove it on my honor and that of my children. How’s that sound?”

Her words rang out through space with an unusual buzz to their timbre, as though two voices spoke in unison but ever so slightly out of sync. Her cocky, irreverent speech garnered many a look of horror or bewilderment from the Ishtari around her, many of whom seem shocked from their normal reverence of the ‘Star-Mother’.

Heh. Kids. She thought, smirking, and signalling to her second in command. “You take control of the ship. Don’t fire until I give the order or they shoot. If I don’t give the order and go totally silent for too long, leave the system and reprint me. Won’t be the first time and I hope it won’t be the last.” She grinned, moving for the hangar bay to board a shuttle, “Fuck, I’ve missed this.”

Admiral Pe'lin to fleet of Tribe Ishtar. We accept your proposal, my ship the Tavrê will advance to the previously indicated point with escort as a show of goodwill. Docking protocols will follow this message, as will drive plume profiles of our planned escorts - the tribe Europa battleship Triskelion and tribe Neurdj systems vessel Peveiliet. I apologize in advance, as my vessel is not exactly equipped for a diplomatic function and the Triskelion is not authorized to receive dignitaries on behalf of the Confederacy at this time. Pe'lin out.

Pe'lin remained deeply disturbed by the characteristics of her new command. Or rather, the lack thereof. The Tavrê was at full burn on the second leg of its transit to the meeting point, and yet she couldn't feel a thing. No vibration, no soft humming of the engines, not even a hint of movement beneath her feet. The Gelderruhê could build some damn fine inertial dampeners, but did the Ranger Corps really need the luxury of not feeling their drives? The shipboard AI system didn't give the ship any more character either, no matter how often the humans claimed it did. Thing was just a pretty holographic face that happened to be an excellent gunnery officer.

"Admiral, another signal light sequence from Triskelion. Message reads, er, 'Nice way to save face, Admiral. Not currently authorized, are we?' ... are we sure that Captain Tahn is actually a Europan, Admiral?"

"They're more than a bunch of superstition-obsessed hardasses." Said Pe'lin with a sigh, "For better or worse, Captain Tahn is what they'd consider an exemplary military officer. In fairness, nobody else has foundered that many pirate ships. Transmit a response; 'Be appreciative that you are invited to this meeting. It is against my better judgement.' End message. You know, I can't help but worry that Tahn is right about all this - who in their right mind would agree to a meeting on these terms?"

"With all due respect to her, Admiral, the tribe Ishtar Chieftain did not sound like one who is in their right mind."

"Perhaps so. There's no telling what those ships are capable of though."

"Response from Triskelion, Admiral. Message reads 'Fine, we won't push our luck. I'm bringing my saber for when the demon springs her trap anyways.' Message end. Who the hell orders such verbose signal light messages?"

"Captain Tahn, apparently. In all honesty I think I was less worried about the alien tribe listening in on radio comms than I was hopeful that communicating via signal light would make that fool shut up for once."

Pe'lin turned back to the center of the CIC, and stared at her station's own sensor readout. The Triskelion and Peveiliet flanked her own ship, and she could see the tiny blip that was the interloper's shuttle streak towards the three warships. Her wings drew close to her torso, wrapping themselves around her legs as she tried to collect her thoughts. Human history, just like that of the Urdji, exists mostly as oral tradition - and here is a demon from Europan mythology just dropping by to say hello. She had to admit, it was absolutely not a coincidence. This tribe had once been enemies of the Europans, and plenty of other tribes' tales mentioned it by name as well. Were they really so evil, or did it all just boil down to those who transited the gate three centuries ago being pirates and criminals? Perhaps this Ishtar tribe was their "rightful government" - whatever the hell that phrase actually meant in practice, at least. As far as Pe'lin knew there was no translation into Urdji Standard.

"Hey, you, machine!" She said, summoning the avatar of the Tavrê's artificial intelligence to the border of the sensor readout.

The avatar was quite simply absurd. It took the image of a young but scarred Frekin woman, wearing an elaborate blue costume that was allegedly an old Human naval uniform from their original homeworld - they drew a strange connection between space and water, for whatever reason. Pe'lin just thought it looked like someone who hadn't brushed their damn feathers before bed and woke up after a long night of tossing and turning.

"Yes, Admiral?" It said melodically.

"In the mythos of the Gelderruhê, is there any positive reference to the Ishtar tribe?"

"Yes, Admiral. The Gekokujo tribe has a story wherein an Ishtar warrior spares the life of a smuggler in the Old Belt, after discovering his cargo hold to be full of stolen medical supplies. Specifically, vaccines for the plague of-"

"The tribe as a whole, machine, I mean the tribe as a whole."

"Negative, Admiral."

Pe'lin paused for a moment, before her frown turned into a weary smirk.

"What is your opinion on this situation, machine?"

"Mine, Admiral?"

"Answer the question. Don't give me that old 'I am not qualified to provide strategic input' line again, tell me what you think."

"Admiral, I am an artificial intelligence construct, I do not thi-"

"Humor me."

"... Calculating."

Never before had the machine taken so long to provide an answer. The thing could search the entire mythos of a species, and yet it could not answer so simple a question as "What do you think?" Pe'lin was once again reminded of why she called it a machine, and not a person. Just as she thought it would default a pre-programmed response again, it spoke up.

"In recorded Urdji history, only the Gelderruhê were ever to be trusted. The Frekin had to be converted - the Gelderruhê were immediately understandable and friendly. In thousands, perhaps tens of thousand of years the Urdji were alone. Now you have them, and their myths tell you that this tribe is not to be trusted. I recommend you defer to the judgement of Captain Tahn of the Triskelion."

"Why place so much value in myth? Those are just the stories of a lost, scared, lonely bunch of former pirates. Who is to say that they have not merely demonized their former enemies?"

"Admiral - the Gelderruhê fought the D'jim at your side. They had no more evidence than you do now to support that decision. The Gelderruhê trusted the Urdji. It is only right that the Urdji then trust the Gelderruhê. Imagine if they refused to fight the D'jim. Neither Urdji nor Gelderruhê would still exist - I believe this scenario to be similar."

"You are not helping assuage my fears, machine."

"You requested an opinion. I have complied with your orders. I... I request that you take my input into consideration."

The avatar voluntarily dissolved from the hologram, leaving behind only traces of mist in the sensor readout that quickly dissipated. Pe'lin noticed the confused glances of her bridge crew as they tried to understand the exchange that had taken place - she knew why they were taken by surprise. The machines - the AI constructs - weren't programmed with the ability to provide such advice, but their learning algorithms proved rather versatile after the removal of certain user safety blocks.

"Well?" She said, "Focus, men. We will be receiving dignitaries soon. All we have for accommodations is my portside cabin so we had best appear well-groomed. Good thing both our species enjoy wood paneling though, I suppose"

It had been some years since Tatiana had ridden in a shuttle. Some years since she had stepped foot off the planet. Some years since she had strapped on a sword and ventured forth to meet with strangers wearing human faces. Some years since she had felt this kind of uncertainty wash over her.

She did not know what she would find on board this foreign vessel.

The shuttle’s pilot looked over his shoulder at her as the massive warship loomed over them, silhouetted against the light of the system’s star. Tatiana leaned in, taking the microphone from his hands and speaking clearly. “Triskelion, this is Tatiana Iwasaki. Requesting docking permission.”


As the pneumatic hiss of docking seals filled the air around her, Tatiana Iwasaki stood with her hips cocked, a haughty smirk splayed across her features as she waited for the airlock to open. As it did, slowly, far too slowly for her liking, she strode forth, her escorts struggling to keep up with the long legged stride of their charge. The long cloak she wore billowed out behind her as she confidently strutted betwixt the awaiting guards.

“Hey cute stuff.” She called in German, “Wanna tell me where to go? I’ve a date with your commanders and I’d hate to miss it.”

She winked at him, blowing a kiss and suppressing the urge to laugh. “You wouldn’t want to make them wait now would you?”

Behind her, her guards stared nonplussed. Six in total. Two Akkoro Strain, one Valkyrie Strain, two Tiamat Strain, one Shinchu Strain. All were clad in crisply starched ceremonial uniforms and outfitted with top of the line cybernetics - and yet all seemed to have been physically struck as they watched the Star Mother drop all pretenses of formality or decorum.

The guards looked at each other, one seemingly questioning what the hell the woman had just said and the other knowing the answer all too well. It took the two a moment to realize that only one of them actually spoke the language she had used - and it had changed a fair bit since whatever version she had learned.

“I, uh, y-you can follow me.” Said the one on the left in Europan, more akin to broken German than a proper modern version of the tongue, “Admiral Pe’lin and Captain Tahn are awaiting you in the flag cabin.”

The other guard turned to flank the first as they led the way. The two exchanged a short conversation in Urdji Standard, figuring that if the interlopers knew Europan they’d know any other human language.

“What in the name of the gods are these people?”

“Not human, that’s for sure.”

“But yet they use human names. Ishtar, Tatiana, I mean… the myths are metaphorical. They weren’t actually demons… right?”

“Don’t think about it too hard. That’s for the brass, just shoot them if they try to suck your brains out or something.”

“You have my thanks, gentlemen!” Tatiana responded, beaming with unsuppressed delight. She turned to her escorts, switching to the Ishtari language in turn as she beckoned the. “Come along ladies, let’s not dally in the nice people’s ship. It’d be rather rude would it not?”

“S-Star Mother are you s-” one of them began, a worried expression on her face.

“Never been surer in my life. Oh, don’t tell me your caretakers told you I was some ancient and wise sage who spends all her time in quiet seclusion. I- you know what, all of you will eat well when we get back, my treat. But for now follow me.”

The Ishtari party followed the Confederate guards in perfect formation, the boldly attired Ishtari Star Mother marching with an expression of pure delight not reciprocated by any around her. Despite herself she could not suppress a few giggles and snickers at the shocked reactions of the crew from the sight of her strange band marching through their ship. And, by the time they’d reached their destination, she felt thoroughly invigorated once again.

Tatiana strode through the door of the wood paneled room as though she owned the whole battleship. Her cloak billowed behind her as she moved, heavily augmented body flowing from one motion to the next. Less a human woman than an almost unearthly river of arcane metalwork and inhuman artifice, her irises glowed with a dim golden light matched by the patterns upon her skin. Elegant golden inlay spiraled up the length of the black horns that formed a striking crown, a blood red gem inset in the center. Snow white hair cascaded in thick waves around her mechanical shoulders, and with as much of her body on display as her provocative outfit revealed, every step proclaimed the power within each fiber of finely tuned muscle. Behind her filed in her guards, each of them distinct and jarringly abnormal from baseline humanity in their own way. Their presence filled their side of the room with a mixture of unearthly, inhuman light from the bioluminescent patterns and growths upon their bodies. Each one stared forward, the spitting image of professional soldiers, were it not for their bizarre countenance.

“Greetings, new friends!” She cried to the awaiting Admiral and Captain, “I am glad to make your acquaintance!”

After exchanging mutual, confused glances regarding the alleged human standing before them, the two officers gave their greetings. Pe’lin was sitting stiff as a board in her seat at the end of the table, while Tahn was characteristically sitting entirely backwards and leaning her arms on her seatback. It was almost as if she had sensed the vibrance of their new guest from afar - not that she would ever be so considerate as to practice any level of decorum to begin with.

“On behalf of the tribes of the Urdji, I welcome you to Haven.” Said Pe’lin, bowing her head and ever so slightly opening up her wings. “I am Admiral Pe’lin of the Confederate Rangers. I do hope that there is peace in our futures.”

Tahn stared at Tatiana, studying her features like a painter or sculptor would, looking for any remaining sign that she might actually be the Tatiana Iwasaki. She had to admit that the face was human, but she could scarcely believe that the being before her could have ever been one. The Urdji were closer in appearance to humanity than either Tatiana or any of her entourage, and they didn’t even share a single chromosome with mankind! If it truly was Tatiana before her, decided Tahn, then all the myths were truth.

“And I am Captain Tahn of Tribe Europa, commanding officer of the battleship Triskelion. I represent the tribes of Man.” She said, “Now, Tatiana Iwasaki, there is no use in avoiding this topic. From where did your people come - not beyond the gateway, I mean originally. I won’t bore you with the entire history of my people, but just know now that your answer to this question is of particular interest to the Europa tribe.”

Pe’lin sighed, loud enough that she was sure the interlopers would hear it. She agreed that the question had to be asked, but did not want to share the role of rude fool with Captain Tahn. She chose to voice as much, more or less, to Tatiana.

“Do forgive my colleague’s directness… and unnecessary foreboding tone, but she must ask.” Said Pe’lin.

Tiamat raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s an interesting question. A very interesting question indeed. Well, technically I am from the big bang some fourteen billion years ago. It’s a terribly long story I’m afraid, so I won’t bore you.” She smiled, “Now, why would you be asking such a question? That’s what I’m curious to know. Your friend here is a human being unless she is in fact an alien in human guise. Humans evolved on the planet known as earth, or Terra by some, and made a pilgrimage from it some three hundred years ago. Now, you speak a language similar to the German of old earth and based on our scans there are no properly habitable worlds in this system - though that itself is a matter of perspective really, meaning you survive purely on board the ships of your fleet.” She smiled at them, taking a seat across from them and folding one leg over the other.

She continued, slowly piecing together the elements of the puzzle before her. “We can surmise that in order to successfully survive in such conditions, the Ark these humans arrived on was one equipped for longer term habitation. Rapid transit arks would not have had the food production capacity to enable long term viability of a space born colony to establish new means of production and sustenance. Most Arks I know of crewed by German speaking peoples were of this latter type, and would not have been able to survive. Now, before the Gateway Collapse, a large generation ship type Ark was hijacked by a coalition of disparate human groups. One of these groups professed beliefs best summarized as a unique descendent of neo-nazi ideology. There were others, of course - did you have any Chinese speakers aboard, perchance? If so I’d say with some certainty that your ancestors captured the Ark E Pluribus Unum and carried it through the Gateway to its destination. Based on the ideologies of those groups, and the German-based language spoken so far, as well as fringe undercurrents within the neo-nazi group in question, I’d wager…” She paused for a moment, watching Pe’lin and Tahn with her piercing golden eyes. The jovial expression dropped away, and the two became uncomfortably aware of the fathomless aeons that stretched away beneath those dim glowing orbs.

“Do you wish to know if I am a daemon of the old world, come to destroy your people? If so…”

Tiamat stood from her position, drawing herself to her full height. “I am Tatiana Iwasaki, granddaughter of Iwasaki Keiji, eighth in line for the inheritance of the Iwasaki Group corporate empire. Renowned geneticist and leader of the European Research Division. Star Mother of the Commonality of New Ishtar. Banisher of the void. The blood soaked rose of the endless depths. Slayer of the Hive. Child of old earth.” She looked at them, “I remember when your ancestors stole the ark and condemned millions to a death they did not deserve. I remember as the world died around us and we could do naught but flee. I remember it all. So, Captain Tahn. Have I satisfied your particular interest?”

The Neurdj fleetship will be in here just half a day. Thought Tahn. Stall for half a day, and we could go right through the gate. If I wait half a day…

Tahn stood to meet Tiamat, and placed her hand on her saber’s hilt. She would not wait half a day, nor would she give up the chance to draw the blood of a true, honest-to-gods demon.

“You think we don’t remember what you did to us?” She shouted, “Pah, millions killed by us? Do you remember how many of our own people each tribe had to leave behind to starve to death on frozen fucking rocks? Do you remember how you drove us from our mother planet when she was still lush with life because we were inconvenient for your demonic plans? Pirates, you call us! We were trying to survive! Grasping for the slimmest chance at life! You have the blood of billions on your hands, and you didn’t even lift a finger to slay them! At least we stole our lives with saber and dagger, not like you cowards who leeched it with deception and lies!”

Pe’lin, well aware of what was coming, was trying to decide between hiding behind her couch or throwing her hands up in surrender. She couldn’t decide fast enough, and soon found herself left with nothing but her gut to guide her.

“You gods-forsaken demon! This is for humanity!”

Tahn drew her saber and lunged towards Tiamat, leaping towards her with blade held high and ready to strike at her neck.

Time stood still as Tiamat watched the woman strike out at her. She seemed, to her, to move through a thick morass of cold treacle. Her form was sloppy, at least, in her own opinion. Her grip on the sword was awkward, one driven by blind passion rather than a calculated strike. The threat was minimal. She doubted the blade could even penetrate the armor in her skin. It might not even leave a nick.

Still, there was little room to leave for doubt.

Moving with preternatural speed, Tiamat drew her own sword from its sheathe even as her fingertips split open to reveal razor edged blades springing forth from within. In but a millisecond she stepped into Tahn’s oncoming thrust, parrying it with her own blade and disarming the other woman. Slipping her leg in behind Tahn’s knee, she kicked the support out from under her, grabbing her by the neck as she pulled her into a chokehold in a single fluid motion. In what seemed to the onlookers, Ishtari or Confederate, to be but a split second blur of action, Tiamat held the hapless Tahn in her grip, one bladed arm positioned at her throat, another nearly parallel with her eye, perilously close to blinding the reckless captain, and the sword held in a reverse grip, ready to plunge into her gut.

“You stupid girl.” Tiamat hissed, hard corded muscle both synthetic and natural pressing into Tahn’s body. “You foolish, foolish girl. Impudent CHILD. What did you think would happen? What did you hope would happen? Did you seek to die? I will not be the one to grant such a mad wish. These hands of mine have slain over twelve thousand people, all told. I’ve kept track. I won’t add another today. Did you think you might strike down a demon of the old world in a single blow? Did you think you’d destroy an adversary of your people with your little sword?” Her grip tightened, and her voice took on an almost motherly tone, warm, coddling even. “Poor foolish, foolish girl. Misled by centuries of insanity and lies. It’s almost enough to make one weep, is it not?”

She leaned in, whispering into Tahn’s ear. “I am no demon, Tahn. They exist, oh certainly they do. I have fought them. I have died against them. Time and time and time again. But I am not one of them. I have seen things you can scarce imagine, little foolish thing, impudent girl, brave, stupid, ignorant Tahn. Even if I was a demon, what hope would you have? Would you so readily throw your life away? Oh how brave you were, how reckless, how heartwarmingly selfless you are in your desire to avenge your people. I’m proud of you, you know? You remind me of me, some centuries ago. Impetuous. Courageous. Foolhardy. A brave, noble, stupid girl…” She spoke in a voice audible only to the captain, her tones low and devoid of hostility. They were, instead, almost nurturing, praise dripping unctuous from the venomed fangs that held Tahn perilously at the edge of eternity.

She looked to Pe’lin, her golden eyes hard as diamond. “I will release her now. If she makes another such move, she dies.”

At those words, Tiamat released her hold. Tahn, no longer supported by her, began to fall towards the floor, only for Tiamat to scoop her up and plop her into the seat she had just vacated, perching herself snugly next to her and once more plastering on the same unerringly cheerful smile. She said nothing, merely sliding one arm around Tahn, and fixing Pe’lin with that same cheery face. Your move.

Tahn nodded timidly towards Admiral Pe’lin, and the latter’s hand released itself from the grip of her pistol. Tahn was still, however, not one to surrender without a word of defiance.

“I would be a poor officer if I weren’t willing to throw it away.” She whispered, “If I die here, be my cause right or wrong, I keep my honor. My. Honor. Nothing else matters.”

Pe’lin mumbled a few words of Urdji Standard, seemingly to herself, and then placed her hands on the table before the ineffable alien once more.

“Impressive. The Captain sitting like a trained dog? Perhaps you really are a demon.” She said with a careful chuckle, “Don’t worry, I don’t take the Gelderruhê myths so literally. Indeed, it would appear you know more about the origins of the Gelderruhê than the Gelderruhê themselves. I readily invite you to share your knowledge, but if you think you can drive a wedge between us by doing so then I would advise you to save your breath. We do not particularly care what alleged atrocities the Gelderruhê have commited in the past - they fought valiantly by our side, and we will never forget that.”

What, pray tell, thought Pe’lin, is going on inside this alien’s head? I had always presumed the stories of demons to be metaphorical at most, but this being claims to have watched the ages of legend with her own two eyes. Nobody could ever mistake her for a human either… perhaps the stories of demons ravaging mythical Terra were not the metaphors for self-destruction we have always thought them to be.

Despite the situation, Pe’lin did have something to hold on to. The Fleetship Teyrjixen and her battlegroup were just a few days out at cruising speed, and she knew they were burning much harder than that. If push came to shove the Confederacy could launch a campaign through the Gateway within the week, and though the alien specimen before her was clearly in an entirely different physical league she figured from the long-range LADAR scans that their warships were nowhere near as remarkable.

“Worry not.” Tiamat said, smiling, “Nothing could be further from the truth. I have no quarrel with your people, and I do not seek to drive any wedges between earth’s children - heaven above knows there are already enough. And, truthfully, were the crimes of our ancestors justification for punishment your friend would be well within her rights to destroy myself, and every single one of us.”

Though her tone was jovial, it carried with it a dangerous undercurrent. “I will repeat what I said earlier. I am Tatiana Iwasaki. Granddaughter of Iwasaki Keiji, eighth in line for the inheritance of the Iwasaki Group corporate empire. Renowned geneticist and leader of the European Research Division. Everything I have told you has been nothing but the truth. I grew up on earth in its final days. I remember everything. By your count, I have experienced three hundred and thirty six earth years in realspace. Your Tahn and her people, however, got one detail a little off - I, personally, ran a research division focusing on adapting humanity to live in the mess we’d made. I had no hand in the destruction of old earth. My father did. My grandfather did. They’re both dead.”

She looked between Tahn and Pe’lin, then sighed.

“Strap in, this might take a while. I’ll tell ya what’s what. First off - I’m actually closer to a thousand years old if we count time by how we experienced it. To make a long story ever so slightly less long, when our ark transited the Gate, we were one of the last to leave. ’Ojīsan’ wanted to make sure everyone had left before we did. Why, I’ve not the faintest damned clue and I still wonder to this day. But, there we were. Gateways collapsed, with us still in it.”

She took a breath. “I think I’d have preferred it if we’d just died, truth be told. Just scattered into nothingness, random heat energy and particles drifting about across formerly folded space-time. But we weren’t so lucky. We ended up… somewhere else. Somewhere that didn’t exist, not really. We existed out of existence itself. I remember when I first saw it. The empty void. The nothingness. Except we weren’t that lucky. Something, something horrible lurked there. In the empty nothingness between every realm of possibility. An infinite sea of infinite probability. Tainted beauty. A shimmering ocean of diamond amidst a roiling sea of malevolent void.” She shuddered, a bead of sweat rising on her forehead as she spoke. There was something fundamentally unnerving about the being before them being so shaken by the recollection, and her guards, likewise, shifted anxiously. “You speak of demons, Tahn? There are your demons. Far, far away, beyond where you or I can ever hope to reach. Beyond reality itself.”

“It hated us. It hated everything. It hated existence, for it didn’t exist - yet it did. In our minds, in our hearts, in our souls, in our very DNA. It twisted us, warped us. We became… well, we became many things. Humanity turned on itself, devouring itself in orgiastic frenzies of violence and madness. I remember flesh erupting from pulsating, tumorous growths. Horrific, malevolent, roiling seas of flesh and bone and sinew and blood and eyes. They hungered. We burned them. Burned them until there was nothing but ash and dust and we felt the lack of oxygen claw at our minds even as the demons tore at our souls. Then we simply shot them, until they stopped moving. Some never did.”

Her voice was haunted as the visions of such unspeakable atrocity came back to her, and she stared through Pe’lin, into the far wall beyond, lost in memories almost a millenium prior. “Nobody was unchanged - except those in cryosleep. Ojīsan, otōsan, the others who were too damn self important to spend their time in transit awake. They didn’t change. It was those of us who were awake. We heard it. Scratching. Gnawing. At the back of your mind it never stopped. It never, ever stopped. That whisper. That damned whisper.” Her words came hoarse now, and she trailed off for a moment, before jerking her thumb towards one of the Tiamat Strain guards. “Her, there, we call them Tiamat Strain. I was the first, obviously. I lasted a long time, a good long time. I tried to keep order. I organized fireteams, I tried to find cures for those affected - but there was nothing I could do. I even used some of our earliest life extension technology then. I tried everything I could, and it wasn’t enough.”

“The Hive Strain emerged, I don’t recall exactly when, and I don’t want to. They wer- are, one of our greatest enemies. They started with a scientist named Llykej Henrikson. Seemed like a nice fellow, back on earth. We’d thought him dead but… I’ll tell you how I know in a bit. Just know the hive strain are… ravenous beasts. A pulsating, undulating, torrent of flesh and teeth and… hungry gaping maws, tearing off chunks of meat from anything it can touch. It… I don’t even want to speak of some of the other things I saw. Every worst excess of humanity manifested in this form. It infested huge swaths of the ship. It covered everything in this… mat of nerve and digestive tissue. It would grow more hive strain from those it had consumed, some times in major rooms it had taken over, some times in infested hallways from these pustules that would burst open and release a new monstrosity that it had birthed.”

She sighed, hanging her head low. “Then I turned. I thank god or… whatever’s out there, whatever it was we saw that didn’t hate us, that I didn’t lose my mind. That I didn’t become one of those… things. I was what we call a Gorgon Strain, first. They’re… not here, right now. They look a bit like lamia of old earth. Real big. But that’s not the point. The point is that for a while I helped keep things secure. I- we lost three quarters of everyone we started out with. I saw so many friends die. I saw children eaten. I saw mutilations of the human form and desecrations of the human mind. And then I turned. Tiamat Strain. Used to be transmissible. Like a virus? S’part of how so many of us- them, spread. I don’t need to fill your ears with more stories about war and death, do I? Our population exploded. We used up too much from the ship’s hydroponics. Twenty million of us on a ship designed for six million. We started eating each other again. We went mad. I went mad for a time.”

A tear rolled down her cheek. “Then we rediscovered how to work the cryosleep chambers. We thawed them out, Ojīsan, otōsan, the others - we hoped they might know something. Something to help us. Something to save us?” Tiamat laughed, and her laughter consumed her for a time as she slouched back in her seat, laughing without control or without care, maniacal, scarred laughter. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she brought herself down again, staring at Pe’lin and then at Tahn, “You wanna know what my god-damn father and grandfather ordered? They look right at me. Their daughter and granddaughter - and saw a monster. THEY ORDERED ME KILLED.” She yelled out, now howling with deranged laughter, “On the spot! Ordered me and everyone else fucking killed! Demons! That’s what they called us! Mutant abominations!”

She lapsed into semi-silence again, choking back sobs and deranged laughter, gradually quieting down. “He died giving that order. I shot him in the chest. I shot Ojīsan in the chest. I watched them stare at me, as they realized, finally, who I was. That the monster was their beloved family. I realized, then, that they were the monsters. That no matter what form I took, no matter how beautiful or hideous, it was my soul that made me a monster or not. And I was a monster. I pried their skulls open with the help of a Shinchu Strain. I held their warm, still living brains in my hands. I… consumed them, in a sense. I learned everything they knew. I learned how they stood by and allowed earth to die. I saw how they torpedoed the last chances of salvation to squeeze every last drop of profit from her dying corpse.” She lapsed into silence once more, staring at the ground. “And then I turned to my people and told them there was nothing they knew that could save us, and to recycle the bodies to create more soldiers.”

Pe’lin could have been mistaken as dead, petrified as she was at what had been recounted - and the implications it carried with it. Tahn meanwhile was anything but afraid, and she chuckled lightly before opening her mouth.

“After hundreds of years and a godsdamned speciation event, the truth of Gaia’s death remained - and it was remembered by the spawn of demons at that! Please, forgive my foolishness, it’s thanks to you that my ancestors can now rest peacefully.”

“Binvӑre…” Uttered Pe’lin at last, her voice distant and monotone.

“What was that, Admiral?”

“Binvӑre. An ancient legend of the Qurtel tribe, a world which a D’jim sorcerer opened a passage to in the time of the exodus. The demon within it, Basjined, is said to have laid waste to the planet of our birth. Proper historical study of homeworld artifacts was a death blow to the religion which birthed the myth, but… the similarity is disturbing. Basjined was said to corrupt the living into unnatural forms - animalistic beasts, shambling horrors with charred skin, monsters the likes of which the world had never seen. The time dilation, too - legend says that there was no time in Binvӑre.”

“Hell isn’t exactly a rare concept in mythology, Admiral.”

“And that story has had tens of thousands of years to be told and retold to the point of being unrecognizable compared to the original.” Pe’lin sighed, “What disturbs me more than the eerie similarities is merely the fact that what you describe, Tiamat, is worse than any myth I have heard. It is a miracle you remain sane.”

And a miracle that I stopped myself from saying “as sane as you are”. She thought.

Tiamat frowned, “A moment, Admiral - do you mean to tell me you’re not human?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Of course I’m not.” Said Pe’lin rather incredulously, “Do I look like a human to-”

She paused for a moment, taking in the form of the woman who until recently she had assumed was completely unrelated to the Gelderruhê.

“Ah.” She continued, “Yes, I suppose I do. No, we Urdji are from many thousands of light years away from your original home system. Were my insides those of a human these wings of mine would be just for decoration - and I can assure you that they are not. We have been traveling the stars since before your kind learned to plant crops.”

“Not taking into account relativistic time dilation.” Added Tahn, “Can you believe they didn’t even have quantum computers when we made first contact?”

“Hard to devote effort to theoretical pursuits when you’re being hunted across interstellar space.” Said Pe’lin with a shrug.

Silence was the only response for a moment as Tiamat watched Pe’lin with a calculating expression on her face. Slowly, however, it melted away into a genuine smile. “Well, let me apologize, admiral Pe’lin. I… well, we’re still getting accustomed to things. The Gateways only started back up six months ago, we’d forgotten what a baseline human face looked like until then. Please, accept my most humble apology.”

She inclined her head towards the Urdji admiral, in a symbol of genuine deference. “We’ll make sure to avoid such mistakes going forward. And… ah! Yes. Your people are truly remarkable, admiral. To have set foot among the stars so long ago.” She inclined her head, “Truly, a wonderful accomplishment. You are proud and deservedly so. As for this… Binvӑre.” She sighed. “You are right. From what you tell me the similarity is disturbing. I have yet more history to recall, if you wish to hear it - but it is true that within that chasm of nothingness, no time passed and yet we experienced five hundred and eighty three years. Mutated shambling horrors, hungry beasts, eternity passing in an instant…” She shuddered, “Whatever lead to this I hope your people have never experienced what mine did.”

“Perfectly understandable, I suppose.” Said Pe’lin, subdued hints of a laugh on the edges of her mouth, “In honesty I had assumed you were completely unrelated to humanity when I saw your entourage on the guards’ helmet cams. Makes me wonder if us Urdji looked at all like we do now back when we left the motherworld.”

Tiamat smiled, “Well, if you’d like, I’d be happy to relay the rest of the story, at least as I personally remember it. It’s been many a year since I’ve left my home, and longer still since I met people so interested in hearing my little autobiography.”

Tahn leaned in, resting her head on her arms and her arms on her knees, and turned to stare at the barely human demonslayer sitting next to her. A great, gregarious smile grew across her face. “Please do! Trust me, if you put this onto paper a quarter of the system will be reading it in weeks.”

Pe’lin’s only input was a sigh, a nod, and laying her left wind on her lap for preening. She’d settled in for the long haul.

A cybernetic hand patted Tahn affectionately on the head. “Good girl.” Tiamat purred, settling in as well beside the Captain, “I’ve always wanted to be famous in two systems.”

Comfortably settled in, Tiamat launched back into her tale, weaving a tapestry of horrors and triumphs just as shocking as the first half. She spoke of her time trapped within the mind of the Hive Strain, of her creation of the Valkyrie Strain from numerous others, the eventual success in driving the Hive Strain into hiding for good. She spoke of the creation of technology from her own experimental procedures, of the trials and tribulations that beset her. She spoke of leaving the void, coming face to face with unfamiliar stars in an unfamiliar part of the galaxy, the Gateway behind them yet tens of thousands of light-years from their original intended position. She spoke of the horrors of the world they would come to call home. The parasitic infections. The carnivorous algae that consumed people from inside out. The hostile, murderous native sapients they had encountered. The near-apocalyptic war, and the near-glassing of the world. She spoke of ancient troves of technologies burned and desecrated before she could reach them. She spoke of relinquishing control to her people, and allowing them to guide the way forward.

And at last, she spoke of the present day, finding out that they were not alone. That humanity had not died out in the void, and that their suffering had been but a fluke. She spoke of the mixture of relief and indignation that rose up amongst her people. She spoke of those they had encountered, and lastly…

“And that brings me to you.” She said, smiling, “And my meeting with you and your fascinating peoples.”

Tahn was enraptured by the tale, and had even scrawled some of the more memorable quotes onto her coat - even the well-appointed flag quarters of the Tavrê did not have paper just lying around. Pe’lin had found herself taken by the stories as well, and she had to sheepishly kick the debris she had absent-mindedly picked from her wings beneath the table.

“I always wondered what it would have been like if we had arrived to find a flourishing civilization instead of rubble.” Said Tahn, “... Maybe it’s best that we did not.”

“Thank the gods that we gave you a chance to say hello.” Said Pe’lin, “Your war was fought with weapons well beyond our capabilities, Tiamat, but it doesn’t take much to puncture the ‘pressurized tin cans’, as the humans say, that we call home. I doubt we could have survived such hostility.”
“And whoever did would have had to face them.”

“Indeed. I had never put much thought into just how lucky our peoples were to have met the way we did. I am sorry, Tiamat, for the horrors of your war - and the loss of another civilization, foolish as they may have been.”

“You’re a good omen, Tiamat.” Said Tahn, “After all you and your people have been through, you have conquered the horrors of your past - even the horrors of the world you left. Maybe all the madness of the old world really is behind us now, eh?”

But Tiamat did not respond.

Tiamat stared into an ocean of chaos and madness. She stared in mute, stunned horror as a emergent broadcast broke through the Gateway, garbled signals and interference distorting the images and the outcry that sent her world spinning madly into a yawning, abyssal chasm. She watched her world burn, as mushroom clouds rose over the skyline of Neriven. Defense batteries opened fire and the sky above her home bloomed in a million shades of incandescent, radioactive death. She saw burned, mangled bodies and black human shadows of death. Casualty estimates flooded her mind. Millions. Tens of millions, even. A city of nearly a billion souls, under siege.

Images of the old world were seared into her mind. Museums of death and horror, the atrocity her people had gone through even back then - now revisited upon them once more.

Warships, an entire invading fleet, cascaded through the Gateway, overwhelming its weakened defenses in a decisive first strike. The Ishtari fleet, much of it parked in drydock in preparation for an offensive of their own planned for but a month from now, was destroyed without firing a shot or managed to escape further into the system to shipyards out of immediate threat range.

War had come, and her people were dying.

“I…” She croaked, hoarsely, tears welling in her eyes and a look of horror upon her features as she stared into the void beyond. “No, it can’t be happening. We prepared. We…”

“A-Are you alright?” Said Tahn, placing a hand on Tiamat’s shoulder. “Tiamat?”

Tiamat turned to her, her eyes wide in terror. “I am a terrible omen, Tahn. No sooner did I leave my home than death came to us. Even now, even after all these years…” She trailed off, tears glistening in her eyes. “The madness of the old world followed us, as it always has. I-” she drew a deep breath, “I must leave. My people are under attack. They have bombarded our cities with nuclear missiles, burned much of our fleet in orbit. Millions of my people are dead already. I mus- I must go.” She declared, choking back a sob. “Defend your Gateway, for I fear they mean to kill anyone nonhuman, and they’ve started with us.”

“What? Who?” Exclaimed Pe’lin, “And why? You humans are scattered across the stars and your homeworld is long gone by now! What sort of madmen would start a war - a genocide even - and risk extinction?!”

“Another human nation. People of an ilk I would have hoped had died out long ago.” Tiamat said wearily, “Human supremacists. We were preparing to attack them first, to not give them the chance. And now I know we underestimated them - or overestimated ourselves.” She stood, “I must leave. Guard your Gateway. My ancestors may have brought ruin to humanity before, but I will not stand by and allow ruination again while I can help it. Take care, Captain Tahn and Admiral Pe’lin, if I never see you again please know that it has been an honor.”

“Trust me, ma’am, you will see us again.” Said Tahn, “Transmit your gate’s code as you leave, at the very least I am certain many Captains would be quite happy to offer their service as mercenaries. And frankly there’s always a glut of Lushan-Class cruisers for sale among the Human tribes.”

“I concur.” Said Pe’lin, “These supremacists represent a grave threat to the Confederacy, for obvious reasons. We will be bringing this matter to Bilnd-Sûmangişt Tadokoro and the Peshnia. If they see your people as a target despite sharing genes, then I shudder to think what they would do to what we have built together.”

“I will also petition the Admiral of my tribe to support you in this war. Even he ought to see the danger that this enemy represents.”

Tiamat smiled thinly, “I am glad to have met such people as you two. If such comes to pass, then after this calamity has been resolved may our peoples stand strong together in the galaxy. The greatest of hearts, it seems, may be forged from the hottest flame. Farewell for now, Tahn, Pe’lin.”

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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Antediluvixen
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Let Slip the Dogs of War.

@Eldritch Puppy and @Lady Lascivious

Izanagi System
New Ishtar

It had been some awkward months since Kamenymir and the Commonality of New Ishtar made formal contact, mostly through video calls and other indirect means as the KDD’s Department of Diplomacy was thoroughly overworked. Relations were, on the part of the Kamenyans, cordial enough, and their diplomats engaged with the Ishtari on equal footing. The general population however knew next to nothing of this particularly strange nation, even after the initial confusion of mistaking them for aliens was cleared up.

Mysterious, exotic, and just a little bit frightening. Ishtar was the perfect opportunity for the discerning news corporation to make great audience scores, and as travel visas became a possibility between the two nations, Blue Star News Network was the first to take advantage of it. Very soon, a small shuttle-sized ship stamped with the corporation’s logo carried Nadzieja Finkel, popular journalist and reporter, through the Gate and into the Ishtari system.

The shuttle emerged into the cluster of defensive arrays, diplomatic stations, logistical hubs, surveillance stations, barracks, civilian residential quarters, and more that made up the already sizable and still growing Ishtari presence around the Gateway. The space around the gargantuan structure had, in the span of six months, transformed from an idle curiosity home only to a few unmanned probes to a veritable hive of activity. An estimated sixty thousand people lived in stations around the Gateway now, acting as a convenient intermediary point between the distant planet of New Ishtar itself, and contact with the broader galaxy.

With the diplomatic situation already well cleared between the two peoples, Nadzieja’s shuttle was directed to continue on its course to New Ishtar proper, the massive planet illuminated by its star only dimly visible in the distance through the vast expanse of space.

The true destination of the shuttle lay thousands of kilometers away from the planet’s surface, in the geostationary ring of satellites, dockyards, protruding space elevators, and more that hovered in a dense cloud above the surface. Over twenty million Ishtari lived and worked in orbit over the planet’s surface, spending decades at a time in space helping to establish further dominance over the stars. Numerous stations existed for purely civilian purposes, and it was one of these, a massive rotating ring that dwarfed even the largest battleships, that the shuttle was bound for.

The station had been constructed almost entirely of materials mined from the moons of Ishtar and the asteroid fields deeper within the system, rather than ferrying materials up to space. Its bulk seemed to balloon wildly as the shuttle closed the distance, docking clamps latched to the vessel and guided it in to the massive internal hangar.

A Sanguine Strain attendant waited by the airlock with a bright smile on his face. “Hi!” He exclaimed, his voice carrying the same curious buzzing and accent as most Ishtari seemed to speak with, “Er, that is, hello and let me be the first to welcome you to the Civilian Hub, I understand you’re a journalist from the KDD?”

“Yes I am, from Kamenymir though. The KDD is our government. But yes!” She replied with a heavy Kamenyan accent, giving that trademark news anchor smile as she stepped out of the airlock. “My name is Nadzieja Finkel. This is my cameraman, Nico.” She pointed to the man behind her, busy configuring a large camera and holding several bags at the same time. Both of them were significantly taller and larger than the Ishtari, but the woman with fiery hair in a loose ponytail and wearing a neat shirt and black skirt gave off a very different vibe compared to Nico with his baggy pants and a tank top that made him look like a building site worker. “Hello,” the big man waved at the white-haired attendant with a suitably big smile on his face.

If the receiving Ishtari thought anything of the stature of the Kamenyans, he didn’t show it. Beaming as cheerfully as ever, he inclined his head in a slight bow towards the visitors, “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Nadzieja and Nico.” He said, and by his tone the words were no lie, “If you don’t mind, I need to log the reason for your visit today. Just a formality, I’m sure you understand.” He looked up at them expectantly, still beaming, “So, what brings you to New Ishtar?”

“Journalistic reporting,” Nadzieja answered. “We’d like to film a documentary about New Ishtar’s culture and society.” She fastened a small microphone to her shirt’s collar as she spoke. “In fact, is it alright if we start filming now?”

The man let out a small “Aah..” of understanding, before returning to his normal, peppy self. “I don’t see why not! Though if you wish to go planetside there are… certain precautions we require you to take - for your own safety, you understand. The planet’s atmosphere is toxic to unadapted human life, and there are numerous parasites and airborne threats that can prove just as lethal.”

He gestured them to follow, “If you don’t mind following me, I’ll get one of the clinic workers to explain it to you.”

Leading the duo from the airlock and into the massive rotating space station, the little greeter deftly escorted the two Kamenyans through a crowd of onlookers, many of them waving cautious hellos or calling out poorly practiced Kamyenan greetings in thick accents. The clinic was a small room built into the wall of the sprawling interior of the station.

A voice from behind a small partition rang out in the strange dual-tone language of the Ishtari before another Ishtari emerged, the glowing tentacle-like growths that sprouted from her head in place of hair moving in response to her emotions.

“Oh! Visitors!” She exclaimed, switching to English, then looked to the crew, “I take it he’s come here to make me explain why you can’t just go to the surface without some sort of protection?”

The reporter nodded amicably. “So I’ve understood. Toxic atmosphere and parasites, that kind of stuff right?”

The camera’s little red indicator light was already blinking, the cameraman expertly switching angles along with the conversation, the stabilizers affixed to his shoulder working to ensure smooth camera work.

She nodded. “Correct. At least he got that right. So here’s the basic rundown - we can try to find you two some hazmat suits that will fit you.” She looked them up and down, frowning, “And that… will be a challenge. The second option since I’m certainly not going to recommend full genetic augmentation to people who don’t intend to stay - we developed a short-acting injection that’ll give you… most of the immunity we have for a period of about a month. It’s not recommended to take it more than once or twice in a row, though - can start causing some… side effects. Only good if you’re staying a short time.” She looked between the two of them, “Preference?”

“Well I’m not filming a full-length documentary in a hazmat suit, that’s for sure. I think the injection will be just fine, like a mini-Hekate.” She turned her head to look at Nico, who simply shrugged. “You’re the boss. I don’t feel like spending days in a suit either.”

The Akkoro Strain woman clapped, “Excellent! I’ll just be a moment, if you don’t mind.” She said, disappearing once again behind the partition and reemerging some minutes later with two large syringes. Gesturing to a touch screen off to the corner that seemed oddly out of place with the gentle, sloping elegance of Ishtari decor, she spoke once again. “If you would, please sign the waiver - the injection is still in its early phases, and though we are confident the injection itself will cause no problems, the immunity it offers is not perfect. Therefore we’d like you to sign this form. If you don’t feel like reading legal documents - it’s not our fault if you do get sick, and if you do get sick do you want us to not touch you and send you back home for treatment, or take aggressive action to save you? I- I don’t think you need to worry, but it is a precaution.”

Nadzieja took a moment to overview the document and quickly decided to let the Ishtari treat her in case something went wrong; they made the stuff in the first place after all. After both Kamenyans signed the waiver, Nico leaned towards her. “If I grow a third eye I’ll say it was your idea.” Nadzieja snorted. “Shut up.”

The woman behind the counter waited patiently for them before nodding. “Right, thank you, and apologies again for the hassle, now, if you’ll just roll up your sleeve…”

After an hour’s waiting period for potential reaction, the two were escorted by the same ever-cheerful Sanguine Strain man towards the transport bay for the Central Neriven Space Elevator. “Well, this is where I bid you farewell, let me know when you get back, though - just ask someone for Vetusin. I’ve love to hear what you think of our home.” He beamed at them, then bid them farewell.

A small host of other Ishtari bustled in beside him, giving the Kamenyans looks ranging from indifference to curiosity to a similar open friendliness as they filled the space elevator’s passenger compartment and strapping themselves into the provided chairs, some offering guidance to the Kamenyans on how to do the same - located at the center of the station, the compartment had no artificial gravity from rotation. A curious array of compartments and what appeared to be folding beds lined the walls of the sturdily built room. A voice spoke first in the Ishtari language, then in English, and then numerous other old earth languages, announcing to the riders that high-g acceleration would be imminent, and to brace themselves for the jolt.

“New, eh?” Said one of the Ishtari riders, another Akkoro Strain, “Not sure how it works where you’re from, but it’s gonna take a day or two to get down.” She nodded around the room. “Once we get moving the room will adjust, it’ll let you know when it’s turning, and otherwise you’re free to move around - though you might just wanna sleep it off. S’what the beds are for.” Satisfied the Kamenyans had their answer, she flashed them a thumbs up, “Well, welcome to New Ishtar, then.”

As the elevator finally descended below the stratosphere, viewing screens blinked to life. Below them stretched what at first appeared to be a sea of white and green but was gradually revealed to be a city. A massive, sprawling city that seemed to stretch on towards the horizon.

Neriven, home to almost a billion souls, a city almost the size of the European Union of old earth. Towering alabaster spires and elegantly twisting transit lines crisscrossed the city that stretched on unto infinity. The city was a breathtaking sight - seeming to blend futuristic architecture seamlessly with sparkling rivers and lush forests that even during the day could be seen to glow in dim bioluminescence. Forty-one hours after it departed geostationary orbit, the massive space elevator car rolled to a halt within the soaring pearlescent shroud built to receive it. Tired, cramped, and sore from hours spent in high-g, the passengers slowly disembarked. Many waved farewells to the newcomers they had shared the ride with, and before the Kamenyans stretched a massive arching grand hall, through which thousands of Ishtari moved and bustled about. The Kamenyans stood in the center of the capital city of New Ishtar, strangers set loose in a very strange land.

The pair followed the flow of people to the outside, taking in the sights. The city looked beautiful and chaotic, compared to the neat and orderly streets in the cities of Kamenymir. Nico whistled. “We’re gonna need some drone shots.”

“Yeah.” Nadzieja stretched herself, groaning. “It was a pretty long ride down, though. We should find a hotel before going exploring.”

“Agreed. All this stuff isn’t any lighter here than it is back home.” The two reporters set out to find someone who could understand them, looking for a local to help orient them towards the Ishtari equivalent of a hotel. On a planet mostly populated by strangely mutated humans, it was quite a different experience than what they were used to, the most normal-looking ones being those similar to the cheerful attendant who welcomed them back in orbit. Of course, everyone on Kamenymir knew what the Ishtari looked like now, but it wasn’t the same in person.

As the two reporters meandered through the city, they saw numerous strange and alien sights that could have scarce been imagined back home. Beyond the normal Ishtari Strains most prominent, they saw a smattering of other variations, some of them with brightly colored skin that seemed to shimmer in the midday sun or strange golden designs upon alabaster skin that twisted and swirled with every step they took. A gently sloping path lead to an overlook set against one of the city’s enormous reservoirs. A single pair of people sat atop it, a Shinchu Strain adult and Akkoro Strain child. The child could be seen to throw something small into the reservoir with the guidance of the adult, who caught sight of the foreigners and gave a friendly wave.

The child’s attention, likewise, turned to where her chaperone was looking - as she saw two abnormally tall figures with strange equipment standing lost in a sea of people, she shot up from her position, waddling towards them with surprising speed as her caretaker ran after her.

“Autis!” She could be heard to shout, followed by the name ‘Autis’ once again and a stream of something spoken in the Ishtari tongue. The little girl deftly avoided her pursuer, running up towards the two strangers until she stood in front of them, wide-eyed. In one of the tentacle-like appendages growing from her head where there might be hair clutching a curious brown cone, into which a shining brown substance had been placed. It appeared to be melting.

A moment passed before the Ishtari child wrapped her arms around the legs of Nadzieja, babbling something neither could understand, before her caretaker finally caught up. “I am so sorry!” She gasped in a thick accent, bowing low to the Kamyenans. “Please, I hope I have not caused offense, she simply ran off before I could catch her an- Autis, please.”

As she said these words the little girl had extended the ice cream towards the Kamyenans, stumbling out more words that, while the newcomers could not understand them, conveyed all the meaning they needed to regardless.

Nadzieja laughed amicably, waving her hand at the other woman. “Don’t worry about it, it’s alright.” It wasn’t the first time she had children run over to her, after all. She was about to pat the child’s head, but… Should you really pat a head full of tentacles for hair? Besides, it might not be socially acceptable. So she just gave the child a friendly smile, glued as she was to her leg.

“The star of the show as always, Nad.” Nico said in Kamenyan with a smirk.

“Well maybe I just look more friendly than you do.”

“Fair enough.”

“Is that your daughter?” The reporter asked the visibly embarrassed Ishtari, a little confused by the bowing.

The Ishtari woman looked up at them, visibly confused. Her eyes pulsed a gentle lavender as she raised a finger in question before lowering it. “N-no, why would she be?” She asked, before crouching down and gently trying, and failing, to pry the small child away. “Autis, please leave the nice strangers alone, I don’t even know if they can eat that.”

Autis refused, pushing the ice cream up as high as she could and beaming up at the Kamyenans with wide happy emerald eyes. With visible effort she seemed to dredge up the words she was looking for, “Ice cweam!”

Autis’ chaperone sighed, “I took her for some ice cream since she did well in her- I’m sorry you don’t need me to explain all this. I, um, please let me know if I can do anything to help you, I am very sorry.”

Nadzieja giggled. “That’s right, ice cream! I bet that word wasn’t too hard to learn, huh?” She said to Autis. Reporting her attention to the adult talking to her, she shook her head. “There’s nothing to apologize for, really. We could use some help, though. Do you know if there’s a hotel, or somewhere else where we could sleep and leave our things nearby?”

Nico was not missing a bit of the rather adorable interaction with his camera, the multiple lenses pointed towards his colleague and alternating between Autis and her chaperone. It was great material, but it also felt much better than the run-of-the-mill reporting. Vacations on the job, what could be better?

The Ishtari woman looked confused for a moment, “Hotel…” she muttered, clearly forgetting the words in question before perking up, “Oh! Right, of course, please excuse me. There are official residences for offworlders on sanctioned business. You’ll need to provide evidence of your visa, since the spaces are very difficult to build from what I hear. They have to build them environmentally sealed and with multiple redundancies for the people who chose to stick with an environmental suit. Would you like me to show you the way?” She paused, “Oh! And my name is Siste- no, wait, you can just call me Suvetis, I keep forgetting the big names confuse th-” She was cut off as Autis tugged on her pant leg, pulling her attention back downwards again.

Sighing, Suvetis looked back towards the Kamyenans, “And… would you two like some ice cream?”

“Oh, that would be lovely. Right, Nico?” The cameraman shrugged, the camera’s stabilizers automatically compensating for the motion.

“Sure, I wonder what it’s made from here.” He smiled at the two Ishtari. “My name is Nico, and that’s my colleague Nadzieja. It’s nice meeting you, Suvetis and Autis.”

Suvetis raised an eyebrow, “The ice cream’s made from milk. Cow’s milk, I think? It’s some old earth snack if memory serves, the American parts of the ark kept that little tradition alive. The one she’s got is chocolate. I’ll… well, I’ll make sure whatever you get is safe to eat.”

A moment of silence elapsed before Suvetis crouched down, hoisting Autis onto her shoulders where she now sat eye level with the offworlders. She smiled, flashing them a thumbs up and yelled something in Ishtari, before pointing off in a seemingly random direction. Norilko smiled, “Well, follow along then.”

Leading the group through the gently winding paths, the initially confusing and chaotic nature of the city seemed to grow more familiar with each passing second. It was certainly a departure from the planning of Kamenymir, but it had a harmony of its own, and it seemed only a short time elapsed before they stood before a small temporary structure erected in the shade of a large tree, intricate glowing patterns visible through the cracks in its bark and strange curling growths seeming to sprout from them at the height. A Gorgon Strain stood behind the structure.

“Suvetis! And little Autis! I see you’re back again.” She called, before doing a double take, “And I see you’ve brought friends! Hello strangers!” She paused, then smirked, “I take it Autis tried to offer them ice cream?”

“Hello,” said Nico and Nadzieja at the same time. The Gorgon was quite a sight for them after a long time of being much taller than everyone around. Of course, like everything else on Ishtar, a four-armed half-snake woman was anything but familiar.

Nadzieja nodded. “She actually managed pretty well. So, I understand that you make ice cream the way it used to be on Earth? Which flavors would you recommend?” The orange-haired reporter asked with her usual polite smile, examining the array of unknown types of ice cream.

The Gorgon woman smiled, “Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that. She’s a precocious little thing. So you’re from…” the woman trailed off for a moment, either studying them or tuning in to some mental buzzing, before popping back into reality, “Ah! The KDD! Welcome! I don’t think we’ve ever had many people from there visit. Well, let me welcome you as well - and to answer your question yes we do! I think it was the ah… the Amyerikahi- the people on the Ark from the United States of old earth that made sure it stayed intact.”

Suvetis sidled up, rattling off a sentence or two indecipherable to the Kamenyans, but after which the ice cream lady grinned, “Well, that’s easy. Hmm… that pretty much narrows it down to chocolate and vanilla. You two know what those are I assume?”

“Chocolate and… vanilla? No, I don’t think so.” Nadzieja mused pensively. “We don’t have any plants or animals from Earth on Kamenymir. All of those that our ancestors brought with them died, you see. All of our food is native to Kamenymir.”

“They’re like spices, right?” Nico spoke up, making a visible effort to recall the information. “I remember that from my history class back in high school.”

The two Ishtari raised eyebrows in unison. Suvetis seemed at loss for words, while the ice cream woman simply said, “Oh…”

A moment passed as they seemed to struggle to think of what to say before Suvetis perked up, “Well, I suppose you’re in for a real treat then. We’ve… all sorts of things from old earth. Not everything of course but…”

The ice cream woman grinned, the glow from her eyes flaring brighter momentarily, “Gotcha! One of each for the both of you coming right up.” With a flourish, her four arms deftly worked to scoop together the ice cream for the Kamyenans as Autis beamed. Expectantly, two adult Ishtari watched the foreigners for their reactions.

The journalists thanked the ice cream lady as they took as she handed the iced treats over. Both looked surprised when they tasted it, letting it melt in their mouths for a few seconds, before resuming the degustation.

“It’s like…” Nico began, pausing with a very confused look on his face. “...Nah, I don’t know,” he uttered, finally giving up and taking another bite.

“It is very different from our ice creams. We make them with wheatroot starch, river fang eggs and Mazur’s bell extract… Well, I don’t suppose you know what these are.” Nadzieja smiled. “Yours are very good, though. Completely different texture and taste, of course, but I like it.

“Mhm. Yup.” Nico simply added, giving a thumbs up.

“Well, we’re all certainly glad to hear it.” Said the gorgon woman, “I’d best let you lot get back to… whatever it is you were doing before Autis did… well, what kids do I suppose.”

The residential building built for offworld guests was a jarring contrast to the normal architecture of the city. Instead of gentle curvature and elegant, flowing construction that seemed to follow the waves of some unseen ocean current, it soared above the Kamyenans as a thick, reinforced structure of evidently recent construction. Peculiarly, it had no windows, no apertures. The entire construction was perfectly sealed. An elaborate security system could be seen out front its singular entrance preceding a series of redundant airlocks.

Suvetis, having taken on the informal role of tour guide, explained. “You should be able to take the masks off once you’re inside. Not sure how much they told ya, but the atmosphere here’s got lethal quantities of… various sulfur compounds, ammonia, and so on. You’ve got that injection so you don’t need to worry about the bugs for a while, but we can’t immunoboost you to metabolize hydrogen sulfide. That and a lot of foreigners aren’t like you, they won’t trust anything of ours so they wear those sealed suits. Building’s airtight so that they can take off the suits without dying, and you can take off the masks without worrying as well.”

Autis, perched upon her shoulders, babbled something in the Ishtari tongue that made her caretaker break out in a grin, “And, I suppose, we can accompany you inside if you want.”

“I see no reason why not.” Nadzieja grinned in turn. Her and Nico reached into their pockets to take out their visas which had their names, stay duration and reason for visiting, as well as the name of the company they worked for. The blocky building looked somewhat more familiar to the Kamenyans compared to the rest of the city as they approached the airlocks, although the featureless construction was austere and perhaps a little oppressive-looking. Still, a place to stay the night while they were on the job was welcome.

The guards before the airlock had a different disposition to most of the Ishtari they’d encountered up until now. Stiff, straight backed, standing guard and watching the foreigners with laser focused vision. To the Kamyenans it was unmistakable - these were professional military, as if the assault rifles and the angular bulges of body armor beneath the long uniform coats weren’t clear enough indication. They had seen a few other armed Ishtari, but none as heavily as this, or as severe in their disposition.

One approached, a Tiamat Strain, holding out a gloved hand to halt the little group. “Paperwork.” A moment passed as she scanned Suvetis and Autis, a light red glow alighting in what were evidently cybernetic eyes. “Sister-Caretaker 1-43 Suvetis Sings Ancient Hymns of Beauty, what is the purpose of your visit to foreign national residential building three? For what purpose have you brought Autis 5342 with you?”

Suvetis, for her part, simply sighed, setting Autis down before adopting a similar military posture. “I’m- I am informally escorting the foreigners around Neriven to assist in their purpose of visitation, and escorting them to their place of residence. I encountered the foreigners while escorting Autis 5342 in my duties as a caretaker.”

The guard nodded, her eyes flashing another time as she studied Suvetis a moment longer before simply stating “Very well.” Turning back to the Kamyenans, she held out a hand. “Paperwork, please. We cannot permit entry without proper identification.”

“Here.” One after the other, the two Kamenyans handed over their visas along with their KDD national ID card. The Ishtari soldiers seemed extraordinarily stiff and professional, to the point of sounding a bit like automated receptionists. Nadzieja wondered if it was the impression they wanted to give, or if that was a consequence of their actual training.

“Thank you.”

The soldier scanned the documents for a few seconds, before returning them. “Everything seems to be in order. Please proceed to the first airlock. They will instruct you further from there.”

The guard stood aside, returning to her previous, motionless position.

The group passed through an airlock, next, before entering the next part of the security checkpoint. Though clad in the same garb and similarly equipped, the soldiers at the next station seemed far more relaxed. A Shinchu Strain man came forward, analyzing them for a moment before his face broke into a cheerful smile, “Hello, welcome to Foreign National Residential Building Three, we’re sorry about the inconvenience at the front there. The guards are a bit… stiff - we’re still figuring this sort of thing out, so our apologies for that. We’re gonna need you to turn over your bags for a security and decontamination check. And…” he cleared his throat, “We’ll need you to use the decontamination showers provided, as well. There are private stalls available as well if you wish - our apologies for the inconvenience.”

Expectantly, he held out his hand, before turning to Autis and Suvetis, “And, of course, this applies to you two as well.”

“That’s fine, I think we could use a shower anyway.” Nico cut the camera and unloaded himself from the several large bags that contained their clothes, spare parts and filming equipment, BSNN-issued personal protection gear and emergency snacking supplies.

After a quick but welcome shower in the private stalls of the facility, the pair emerged on the other side and dressed back up with their now thoroughly sterilized clothes. Retrieving the rest of their baggage as well, they waited for their two guides to come out.

Suvetis, for her part, did not bother to duck into a private stall before stripping. She first removed a large framed handgun from a concealed spot inside the coat she had been wearing, along with several spare magazines of ammunition. The coat itself followed, along with the retaining holster, her undershirt, and other garments. The Ishtari guards seemed utterly unbothered by the weapon she carried, and simply placed it and its ammunition into a separate container for safekeeping. Autis, with her help, also undressed, and the two walked into the public decontamination showers, emerging from the other side with her chest fluff visibly soaked, and a towel wrapped around her body.

“Well!” She said, secondary arms tucked neatly by her side, “How’s it feel to get out of the masks?”

“Much better. They’re not that bad, but still, not having something on your face is appreciable.” Nadzieja answered, still drying her long hair with a towel while Nico politely turned away.

“You can say that again. It’s like I’m back in the marines all over again with that damn helmet on my head. Eugh.” The large man quipped, rubbing his face with his hands. “My nose has been itching for an hour straight.”

Suvetis grinned, “And to think you’re the ones who took the shot.” She jerked a thumb at a series of fully enclosed hazmat suits positioned nearby, “The ones who don’t want them have to wear those. Unless they want stuff laying eggs in their lungs, that is.”

She tossed the towel aside, stepping back into her freshly sterilized coat and other clothes, “Right, well, I guess I’ll show you lot to your rooms, since… I guess I’m your tour guide now.”

She hoisted Autis in her arms, beckoning the Kamyenans along with the secondary bladed pair, and set off through the building. The air around them had a faint chemical odor to it, as though the building was routinely cleaned from top to bottom.

“You’re on the first floor - not a lot of foreign visitors right now. You’ll find spare masks in the room, just in case, and there’s some dividers within the wall if you need some privacy.” She turned to the group, stopping short of a blank white door, “Well, this is it. I’ll leave you be if you’d like to get settled. Autis here probably needs to take a nap, anyway.” She looked up at Autis, saying something to her in the Ishtari tongue, to which the young Akkoro Strain fervently shook her head in protest. Suvetis laughed, “Ah, kids.”

“Of course. Thank you for the directions, Suvetis and Autis.” Nadzieja and Nico waved goodbye to the tentacle-haired child and her chaperone, before finally letting down their heavy bags in the room.

Nico took a large metal box out of one of the bags and hooked it up to a portable computer, connecting his camera to it as well and sitting on his bed. “Looks like we still have time before nightfall. Plenty to do some wandering around, see if we can catch something interesting.”

Nadzieja sat down on her own bed, checking her watch adjusted for Ishtari time. “Yeah. I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface, there’s probably a lot more exotic stuff here. Speaking of, did you notice anything strange back when we met those two?”

The cameraman raised his eyebrows. “You’ll have to be more specific.”

“When I asked if Autis was her daughter. It seems like kids aren’t usually with their parents here, given her reaction.”

“Huh. Yeah, that is pretty strange. We should keep an eye out for that and investigate into it.”

“Uh huh. That, or maybe something was lost in translation. We’ll see. How’s the upload?”

Nico checked the computer’s screen. “Just done. All of the footage is up on the ship now, I’m making a physical copy too.”

“Let’s go then. No rest for intrepid reporters!”

A few minutes later, the two journalists were out again, now carrying a significantly lighter load and determined to dig up more footage-worthy tidbits.

The two found Suvetis and Autis nearby, Suvetis crouched low and explaining something to the little girl who folded her arms and stuck her chin up defiantly, to the exasperated sigh of her caretaker. Suvetis looked up in surprise as the door opened. “Oh! Wasn’t expecting to see you again so soon.”

She stood, hoisting up a protesting Autis and walking back over to the two, “Didja need something?”

“Oh, hello again! I didn’t expect to see you there either.” Nadzieja and her companion turned towards the familiar voices. “We don’t really need anything, actually. We were just going exploring a little, see what there is to see.” Besides her, Nico was already setting up the camera back onto his shoulder and testing the stabilizers.

“Exploring, eh?” Asked the Ishtari woman, “Well, I’d be happy to give you some suggestions, or even show ya ‘round after I drop the little one off.” She turned to Autis, who, despite her best efforts to the contrary, sleepily rubbed her eyes with one arm, the other holding on to her chaperone. “Because some of us are sleepier than we want to admit.”

Nico chuckled. “Yep, just like my niece. If it isn’t a bother to you, we’d be glad to have you be our guide again. We got ice cream last time, so I think we’d better stick around.”

Nadzieja rolled her eyes, smirking. “Hey, you do remember we’re here for work, right?”

“Of course, who do you take me for? I’m just saying, nothing wrong with having fun on the job.”

Suvetis grinned, “You may be here for work, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it, right? Tell you wh- oh, no wait.” She frowned, tapping the side of her head as though forgetting something patently obvious, “Alright, so, ask the guards for a digital map, we had to create them for you offworlders - once you’ve got it, wait for me at the Yusanis plaza, I shouldn’t be too long. After that, we’ll see about finding you two some interesting things to film, sound good?”

“Sure, see you there.” After obtaining said map, the two Kamenyans made their way to the designated place. Along the way, a small drone taken from Nico’s backpack followed above, filming panoramic views of the city and circling around like a bird of prey once they reached the plaza.

Roughly fifteen minutes later, Suvetis approached the two, no longer with Autis in tow, primary arms folded across her chest as she watched them. “You know, I heard someone was flying an unknown drone around the city and I was alarmed for a bit, thought some PUNTers had gotten a surveillance drone in on us to look for war preparations.” She drew closer, grinning, “But then I remembered we had two big oafs from offworld stumbling about. Caused quite a stir, your drone did.”

She leaned against a decorative tree, “Get any good pictures?”

“Yeah.” Nico replied with a wide smile. “It’d be a pretty lame way to do war preparations, though. One slow civilian drone flying a few dozen meters up in the air? Sounds like someone’s jumping at shadows.”

“Paranoia or not, better just get it back down before local law enforcement comes to give us a talking-to.” Nadzieja smiled, looking around the plaza. “So, you told us about interesting things to film?”

Suvetis smiled, “Jumping at shadows is a pretty good idiom, yeah. Everyone’s nervous. We’ve been building up for the attack for a while now, locked off comms with them.” She gestured around, “It’s been two centuries since we were last at war. Everyone’s worried. I’ve heard even Tiamat’s concerned about the situation.” She sighed, “But that’s why we’re enjoying things while we can. My number’s not been called up yet, since I work as a caretaker, but nobody wants to see war, y’know? A-” She paused, “Local law enforcement…? Sorry I think there’s a translation error ah...” She looked into the sky for a moment, tapping her temple, before looking back at the two with an embarrassed expression, “What does that mean?”

The reporter raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know which term you’d use… Uhm, police? People in charge of arresting criminals?”

Suvetis frowned, staring at the two blankly for a moment before she snapped back to reality, comprehension dawning after a search through the ishtari net. “I… we don’t really have that, I suppose. I guess we do it communally, but…” She trailed off, “Either way, nobody’s gonna come yelling at you as long as you keep it pretty low. As far as things to film… well, you’re asking about an entire nation, so there’s plenty. Anything in particular you’d like to see? Food? A park? Combat sports? Art installations? Museums? ‘Fraid I can’t show you stuff from our Net which… well, that’s a lot of it, I won’t lie. But you don’t have the…” She trailed off, tapping the base of her neck, “Which limits your options somewhat. Ah, well.” she smiled, “I still have plenty of ideas.”

The next week passed in what seemed a blur of excitement, new sights and sounds, foods of old earth never before experienced by a Kamenyan citizen. The Ishtari welcomed the foreigners into their city warmly, eager to show them, and their nation, the wonderful things they had built and created, to give them and their people a warm welcome with open arms.

The Kamenyans glimpsed barely a fraction of the enormous city they had arrived in, walked through but a tiny shard of its near-endless sprawling spires and gleaming walkways. Suvetis, some times with Autis or another Ishtari child in tow, guided them about the city, but even she thought a natural born resident could offer only a glimpse of the world around them.

On the first day, they visited an amphitheater in the heart of the city, witnessed the crowds cheering for their favorite fighters as players and commanders dueled each other across a holographic chess board. The Kamenyans looked on first in horror at the bloodshed, then in confusion when their chaperone explained that no contestant had died. The Kamenyan reporters resolved to learn more later.

The next days passed in a similar manner. Suvetis, and some times Autis, showing the Kamyenans around the city. Its wondrous sites and gorgeous vistas. Museums, art galleries, resturaunts, and more. The seventh day of their visit, she took them to her place of work, where Ishtari children were raised.

“Aaand here we are!” Proudly announced Suvetis, gesturing to the building in question. Much like with all Ishtari architecture, its pearlescent, sleek exterior seemed to rise up from the ground below as a snow-white blade of grass among many. It flowed together with the city around them, elegant and artistic like with all Ishtari architecture.

Suvetis smiled, “Well, then, shall we?”

“Lead the way.” Nadzieja nodded, following Suvetis towards the childcare center. She and Nico had grown fond of their guide, after spending a good portion of the week exploring the Ishtari capital with her. “I’m curious, and I’m told so is our audience. Are children not raised by their parents on New Ishtar?” She asked, Nico’s camera rolling as always.

Suvetis turned back to them with a curious expression on her face. “Well… no, I suppose. It’s… you and your people don’t have the time or patience for a full biology lesson, I suspect, but it has to do with how our reproduction evolved aboard the ark. While we are still capable of the… ‘normal’ method, we also evolved a few different ways, which is how most of us came to be, myself included.” She looked the two up and down, smirking, “What if I were to tell you I had hundreds of brothers and sisters when I was born, born at the same time as I was?”

The reporter looked puzzled. “Are you talking about cloning? It’s been considered once in our own history, but it wasn’t needed in the end.”

“I- wha- no I-” Suvetis stammered, before comprehension dawned and her knees buckled under her as she began to laugh. She clutched her stomach in one primary arm and supported herself against the walls with another as she laughed and laughed. “Oh, oh no my friends it’s not cloning.” She chuckled, gradually regaining her self control. “No, no, I think a better comparison would be to say most of us ‘hatch’ from ‘eggs’.” She grinned, “Again, it’s a very complex topic and one I am not trained in, but nobody could care for a hundred to two hundred children on their own, and we have no real concept of a close family unit like your people have.” She turned, guiding them into the building, “Instead, well, everyone helps raise the new generations.”

“Oh… I see, that is uhm… quite unusual to us, yes.” Nadzieja cringed. A civilization of orphans? She had trouble reconciling the fact, and could only imagine what the reaction would be back home. Still, she maintained her affable attitude with practiced ease. Besides, what a scoop! Ishtar was more incredible than anyone had predicted, and Blue Star News Network had taken the lead on the info. This would surely allow Nadzieja Finkel, intrepid Kamenyan journalist and news anchor, to reach new heights in her career.

Suvetis guided them through the building, showing them through an environmentally sealed, armored plexiglass partition. Through them, gently glowing incubation pools could be seen attended by masked, suited workers. She gently placed a finger to her lips, and guided them on.

They passed through a nursery wherein numerous sleeping infants could be seen, their technologically advanced cribs connected to a forest of trailing wires and tubes that ensured every facet of the children’s health was monitored at all times. Automated drone-like creatures moved through, performing much of the grunt work of caring for the children, while volunteer caretakers held them. The entire facility was built from the ground up to raise a staggering number of people from birth to childhood. They progressed through, children of different ages attended by a swarm of caretakers and assistant drones. Gradually, the ages of the children approached that of Autis, and it was at length that Suvetis placed her own hand upon a biometric lock, the doors sliding open to permit entry to the room.

Inside were some dozen children, none of whom could have been over the age of six by standard earth years, all of whom ceased their activities and looked over to the sound of the opening door, staring wide eyed at the stature of the Kamyenans. Among them they recognized Autis, whose expression shifted to one of joy. She shouted something and immediately ran past Suvetis, whose expression shifted from surprise, to annoyance, to one of adoration as the little girl clamped her arms around Nadzieja’s leg once again. Autis looked up, beaming, and proudly shouted out the words she had been practicing, albeit with difficulty - “H-hello, miss Nadzieja!”

The orange-haired Kamenyan laughed, effortlessly scooping up the child in her arms. “Well hello, Autis!” She rubbed the little girl’s cheek with her thumb. “You’ll be speaking English better than me soon.”

“It’s good that she’s not learning from you, Nad.” Nico grinned. “Your accent is terrible.”

“Shut your face, Nico. It adds to my charm.” She smirked, turning back to Suvetis. “So, at what age do the children leave this… facility?”

Suvetis frowned, “Well, usually at around… a moment please.” She looked up, pinching her lip for a moment, “Ah, right, usually at around the equivalent of six or seven years by the SSC? We have secondary and tertiary facilities for raising them. Once they leave the final one… twenty one, I think that’s what it is by the SSC, they undergo the implantation of the neuroport, and their first rejuvenation. We don’t let them near it beforehand, the technology’s reliable but… little developing minds don’t need additional risk, y’know?” She hoisted another child up, “I suppose you must think we’re terribly strange for all this, don’t you?”

“Honestly? Yes. You are a strange bunch, I have to admit.” Nadzieja said with a light, neutral tone. “I’m still wrapping my mind around it, but… Well, I guess I don’t really know how I even feel about it yet.” She said truthfully, without that conciliating filter typical of her profession.

“I mean, almost everything here has been strange for us, really. I imagine you’d feel the same way if you came to visit Kamenymir.” Nico said after making a face to Autis.

Autis giggled, stammering out something in response, and giggling some more.

Suvetis, however, did not respond.

Autis occupied the attention of both Kamyenans, enough that they didn’t realize for a time that the adult Ishtari in the room - Suvetis and one other, an Akkoro Strain man, had gone still, staring up at the sky with an expression of sheer terror on their faces. Suvetis could be heard to murmur, “No, no… no no no, no! No they weren’t supposed to- oh no…”

Outside the building, audible even through its heavy walls, sirens began to wail.

Nico glanced at her, brows furrowing with worry. “Suvetis? What’s going on?” Nadzieja looked over, still holding Autis. Seeing the fear on the Ishtari’s face, something terrible must have been happening.

Suvetis looked back down with her features marred by horror. Before she could speak, the unmistakable sound of missile launches and defensive batteries opening fire filled the air around them, audible even through the heavy walls of their building. A droning, endless cacophony of noise and violence erupted as defensive emplacements, some of them two centuries old.

Suvetis grabbed Autis protectively as she and the other Ishtari caretaker began barking orders to the children to drop everything and follow them. Almost as afterthought Suvetis turned to the Kamyenans, “We need to go. Now.

Both of them didn’t need it said twice, hurrying along with Suvetis. “Scheiße! What are they shooting at?” Nico exclaimed, more to himself rather than asking anyone in particular. He had trained in simulations and wargames enough to recognize that the sheer volume of fire meant an extremely serious situation.

“Missiles!” Screamed Suvetis back to him, her voice trembling with fear. Their feet echoed through the halls, soon joined by the sound of hundreds more as the building’s occupants raced for the exits or towards subsurface levels. The facility was in no way prepared for what was to come as enemy ordnance hurtled towards the planet. “The New Terrans, they launched their attack, and we need to get to a shelter no-

Her words were cut short as the world exploded around them. An all-consuming wall of force rushed through the city as nuclear warheads exploded in the air above them. An incandescent plume of death rose up as, even though the defenses defeated most of the incoming warheads, many still made it through. The building buckled from the strain, its walls caving in and collapsing in on their heads. Suvetis screamed out a warning and hurled herself forward, pushing the Kamyenans along, as the rubble collapsed in around them.

Hard, unyielding debris all around. Sharp pain in the side. The pressure prevented him from breathing. He pushed. Nothing. He would die there. He pushed again, with every bit of strength that his body could provide. Something shifted. Inch by inch, one piece of rubble at a time, he clawed his way toward the light.

Nico emerged from the pile of debris, gasping for air and coughing as his abdomen was finally free. Through the destroyed walls and heavy dust, the outside was barely visible, light from several fires filtering through. “Nad!” His voice was hoarse. “Nad!” A terrible fear grasped him as he looked around, trying to get his bearings. Then, a noise came from under a piece of collapsed metallic alloy. With an urgency close to panic, the cameraman began to lift and push aside the bent metal, until a bloodied hand came out wriggling from underneath. Some minutes later which seemed to last for an eternity, Nadzieja managed to crawl away from the metal debris that trapped her, groaning and whimpering. Her right forearm was bent at an angle, clearly broken.

Gently sitting her down, Nico knelt in front of her after giving her a quick look. “It’s just the arm, you’ll be fine, alright?” He said, hands on her shoulders, trying to reassure her. She nodded, closing her eyes and holding in the pain that began to replace the numbness. Nico got back on his feet, surveying the ruins. “Autis!” he called. “Suvetis!”

As Nico began to lift and drag aside pieces of concrete in search of survivors, Nadzieja gritted her teeth and got up on wobbly legs, desperately looking around the destroyed hallway, calling the two names as well. “Suvetis! Autis!”

Nico would see a heart-wrenching sight. Around him were strewn bodies. Mangled bodies. Limbs torn off and crushed by falling debris. Blood, bright red and brilliant against the grey dust and rubble, seeped from under fallen masonry. The acrid taste of destruction burned in the back of the mouth. Devastation surrounded them. Sunlight flooded the ruined structure from its new apertures, and the horrific, unmistakable sight of mushroom clouds rising into the atmosphere far in the distance.

Some of the Ishtari accompanying them had survived, though many were badly injured. The other caretaker that had joined them as they ran dragged herself free from the wreckage, her leg below the knee a mangled mess of violated flesh. Suvetis too had lived, remarkably unscathed, too - but she sat motionless, staring in mute, stunned disbelief at the scene around her.

The lifeless body of Autis lay before her, chest crushed by an errant piece of concrete, as did those of many other children, and many of her adult countrymen. Suvetis could not bring herself to speak, to move, she could barely breathe as she stared in shock at everything. The first time she had seen death. Had even known a person who had died. As she sat amidst the rubble she felt her world crash in around her. She did not react to Nico’s frantic calling, merely sitting in silently, dead to the world around her.

Nico rushed over when he finally spotted her through the concrete dust. His words died in his throat when the terrible scene unfolded before him. Next to him, Nadzieja gasped and choked, almost losing her footing with the shock and horror of what she witnessed. Both of them stood there, helplessly watching. Nadzieja’s shoulders shook with sobs, her left hand covering her mouth.

Seconds passed, seconds that felt like hours.

“We have to move.” Nico’s mouth was dry. “Come on, Nad. Suvetis!” He clambered over the debris and grabbed the motionless Ishtari by the shoulders. “Suvetis! These people need help. Where’s the nearest hospital?”

Nico, too, was in shock. The unbearable feeling of helplessness and the horror of Autis’ death left him with only one thing: he fell back on his training, following the procedure that he was taught like an automaton. He did not feel or notice his own tears as he lifted Suvetis up and onto her feet in an effort to snap her out of her shock.

Suvetis didn’t move initially, merely swaying limply in his grasp as she stared into nothingness past him. The other adult caretaker had propped herself up against the wall with the aid of another survivor, her mangled leg hanging limply. She looked around in a similar daze - thoughts flashed between them, unheard by the Kamyenans as the reality of their situation flooded in. Imagery of orbital combat glittered in their minds’ eyes as they struggled to collect themselves. Though all adult Ishtari had some military training, none of those present had ever been prepared for this.

The dread realization sunk deeper as the news fluttered between them - one of the primary nodes of stored mental constructs had been destroyed in the blast. Its technicians killed. The minds of hundreds of thousands stored within annihilated in seconds. Though Suvetis’ was stored elsewhere and remained intact, many of them realized that, just as the Kamyenans they were now very much mortal.

The other caretaker hobbled over to them, leaning on Suvetis and whispering into her ear. Slowly, Suvetis seemed to come out of her stupor. Though she still stared in horror and shock at the carnage around her, she was at least cognizant of those who yet lived.

“I- the nearest h-hospital was destroyed. I can’t get anything from them I- oh heaven how many people just died? That was a nuke! D- did they really just…?!” She stuttered, her eyes wide in disbelief. “I- I, right. A shelter. We need… we need shelter.” She said, with more conviction. Her wide eyes still stared straight ahead, but she pulled herself together. There would be time to grieve later. Survival instincts took over, now, and she helped her comrade steady herself.

“The nearest shelter is a kilometer away. They’re still in orbit, so as long as we don’t get nuked again, we should be able to make it. Do you two have that body armor you brought? You’re gonna need it. I don’t think we have anything in your size.”

With shaky steps she helped pull the remaining survivors free of the rubble, heaving aside blocks of concrete with surprising strength for the small height of the average Ishtari. The column of survivors made its way through the newly ruined cityscape, as war descended upon New Ishtar.

Day 1 of First Galactic War
Military Casualties (CNI): 713,000
Military Casualties (PUNT): 21,000
Civilian Casualties: 42,300,000

Forces of the People's Union of New Terra launch surprise attack on Commonality of New Ishtar

Defensive fleet of Commonality of New Ishtar seriously damaged

Major destruction averted by intervention of expeditionary force of Chosen of Ashevelen, permitting withdrawal to deep-system shipyards

PUNT forces launch salvo of nuclear weapons against New Ishtar, destroying significant infrastructure and resulting in tens of millions of civilian deaths

[Emergency transmission dispatched:]
”This is Admiral 1-103 Akari Stands Resolute Against The Dark. We have come under concerted assault by the forces of the People’s Union of New Terra. We have suffered direct strike by numerous nuclear weapons. Casualties unknown, but high. Requesting support against the aggressor. Heaven preserve us.”

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Day 1 of the First Galactic War
EUS Strasbourg
Officers and soldiers bustled about the Strasbourg’s mess hall as it barreled toward TRAPPIST-1's gate, carried onward by magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters, a buzzing swarm of ships surrounding it. Its arrival to the Solar System was announced unceremoniously, by little but the FEU’s unambiguous declaration of war against PUNT, simplying diverting around rather than stopping for anything that got in its way. That was how the Strasbourg’s primary Command AI, Ultima Verba, preferred it, after all -- there was little time for exchanging diplomatic pleasantries when they needed to prevent a genocide.

Still, it couldn’t help but divert some unused sectors of its unfathomably powerful quantum computers to watching the ship’s personnel in the mess hall, occasionally exchanging idle banter with them through the inbuilt PA system. They didn’t seem to mind the conversation, and neither did Ultima, a welcome distraction from relatively uneventful navigation -- most of which was delegated to its siblings in the first place.

Its cameras suddenly shifted focus, drawing in toward the squad of Strzyga waltzing in through the main doors. A handful of artificial eyes turned toward them, too, and Ultima noted a strange mix of both reverence and excitement in them.

Thinking quickly -- and hoping to catch their attention -- Ultima conjured one of its many avatars, a slim, tomboyish athlete clad in the garb of the seelie court, fluttering wings and pointed ears adorning its body. It was clad in practically nothing, a disheveled, half-worn naval uniform, bronze-toned skin on nearly-full display as its curious amber eyes stared at them. “Yoo-hoo!” Ultima hollered, waving daintily. “Over here, c’mon!”

Drazenka was the first one to respond, glancing first toward Commander Amenabar, then at Ultima’s avatar before promptly making her way over to the table, the rest of her five-man squad distantly in tow.

“Ultima! How’s it goin’? Anything interesting on your radar?” She asked enthusiastically, unceremoniously plopping herself down at one of the benches along either side of the small, rectangular table.

“Nothing yet,” Ultima sighed, its holographic leaping up from the table to hang upside-down from the light fixtures above. “Some annoyed complaints from other parts of the Solar System, confused transmissions, the works. I’ve given the agreed-on response, of course -- a polite way of saying ‘fuck off. We have work to do.’” It replied, shrugging lazily. “I suppose nothing is better than something right now, though, boring as it is. We still don’t know precisely what the PUNT ships are up to, or if we’re even going to beat them to the punch, but...”

“The sooner we act, the better.” Amenabar interjected, earning a curt nod from everyone present. “They may as well be Nazis. We can’t afford to pull punches, diplomatic protocol be damned. It’s a good thing that the General Assembly agrees. Not that I’d expect otherwise, I mean. They usually do.”

“It’s a good thing they do,” Leopard -- a towering, broad-shouldered, black-haired man -- interjected, briefly reaching up to scratch his bushy beard. “Because, I’ll be frank; I’m looking forward to pummeling these sons-of-bitches. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be?”

Suddenly, Ultima found its attention wrenched away from the mess hall, a transmission hammering into its processors.
[Emergency transmission received:]
”This is Admiral 1-103 Akari Stands Resolute Against The Dark. We have come under concerted assault by the forces of the People’s Union of New Terra. We have suffered direct strike by numerous nuclear weapons. Casualties unknown, but high. Requesting support against the aggressor. Heaven preserve us.”

“*Oh*. Oh, that’s...”

Without a moment of hesitation, Ultima re-routed the transmission to the command staff, cringing as the Strzyga turned to face it...

And then, a reply, as alarms began to blare, bathing the ship in angry red light. Instantly, the soldiers scattered about the mess hall began to rise to their feet, rushing out of the room, some with lunch trays carried in their arms, while others lay abandoned where they sat.

This is Admiral Briganto. Orders are to immediately divert toward Ishtar, maximum speed. Transmit an encrypted reply.

Thankfully, for a person with such enormous computational power at its disposal, rapid, robust encryption was practically effortless, requiring little more than the digital equivalent of a flick of the wrist.

This is Ultima Verba, transmitting as the primary controlling persona of [i]Strasbourg[/i] and first through fourth of five Naval Action Forces. We are diverting toward your location; ETA in-system in approximately fourty-five minutes. Transmitting targeting datalink codes.
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