Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven

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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 "Strasbourg" 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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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Damo021
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Damo021

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S.S Anara. Luxury Liner - Antares System.





Michael Forsett was taking his personal luxury liner Anara for a cruise, this for a good couple of reasons, firstly he had several dignitaries aboard the ship, the aim to put this larger class of luxury ship to be available on the market… For those wealthy enough to afford it of course, the Anara was his personal ship with a crew of eight, along with several security and his daughter, the latter of which didn’t really get a choice on whether or not she wanted to come along and was hiding out in the ships shuttle. If those viewing the ship were impressed enough, then maybe several sales could be made to go along with the small and medium class luxury liners already available.

The second reason however, was what some would consider more sinister or at least silly ulterior motive. While ships were flying through the system, which normally would not be considered too much out of the ordinary with plenty of civilian traffic going about the inner parts of the Antares system. However, the ship was heading further out from the inner part of the system, more specifically steadily closer to a restricted zone of space to where a certain incident had happened thirty years’ prior, the approximate location of where the gate was. The Alliance had made it clear no civilian traffic unless authorized was to enter an exclusion zone that was set around it days after that historic Incident.

A tall dark haired man had made his way up to the bridge, he was clean shaven and looking sharp in his black suit, he proper looked the business type, exuding confidence, he had just spent an hour or so pretending to be super interested in what his guests had to say, although he did well to do his part in the selling points of the ship. Adjusting his tie, he stepped beside the captain of the ship. “Are things all in order George?” George, a man, dressed in an outfit one would expect for a civilian captain of a ship, similar to those of their ancestral past that sail the Terran oceans in luxury liners of the past. Adjusting his hat, the man did his best not to show intimidation to the man that basically pays to top credits to keep his ship in one piece. “Yes Mr Forsett, everything is running smoothly, But…”

“But what Captain? If there is something on your mind, then please speak up, I am not a mind reader.” George swallowed, he didn’t want to upset his boss but, he felt it he had to say something. “Well considering what it is we are really doing out here, are you sure this is a good idea, we are closing in on the exclusion zone, no doubt we are being monitored, no matter how inconspicuous we try to be. The Alliance would be on us very quickly, if they haven’t already dispatched a ship to intercept us.” The captain placed his hands behind his back as he looked out the window ahead.

‘Hmm’ Michael rubbed his chin for a moment in thought. “You worry too much George, I get the crew might be on edge over it, but something is going on out here, for almost thirty years the Alliance closed of this area of space, yet military ships quite often patrol it, they are hiding something and I intend to find out what is it, weather my board of directors like it or not.” He paused for a moment, “Look it is no secret what happened all those years ago, but seriously what do you think has been going on since?” The conversation was cut off by a female helmsman. “Sir, we have just entered the no exclusion zone, Alliance Navy have ordered us to reverse course and await to be boarded.”

Michael smiled, if anyone knew him well enough, he wasn’t one for doing what he is told when he sets his mind to something. “Well no point hiding it now, set course straight for these coordinates. Ignore them for now.” The bridge crew were set to work, various buttons and noises could be heard. “I can’t Sir, they are already blocking communications, we can’t contact anyone.” That didn’t surprise him at all. “Hmm standard procedure, alright light up scanners, let’s see what’s got their panties in a twist.”

“Sir, We can’t…. An alliance ship has jammed our sensors.”






Tiberius Station. Alliance installation.

Within Tiberius station, an alliance installation finally built a few years ago in a defensible position from the Antares gateway, Commander Carleton Hurston was sitting in his ready room adjacent to the operations room. Although mostly a military installation, at the insistence of a vote within the council, civilian infrastructure was also built within it. This not only allowed the station to properly defend itself, it could also act as meeting place or outpost for trade and as such was equipped with external and internal docking facilities. This meant the station was always well stocked and had only light traffic really to deal with from the inner part of the system, mostly freighters and other various ship came to and from. Plus, several Alliance naval ships where often docked there or on patrol nearby, this would help cut down response time. It was clear to the higher ups there was always a chance the gateway would reopen.

Over the years it didn’t however and as such things just got quieter, many would say it was a boring assignment but it allowed the good commander to get a good rapport with his fellow officers and others that came to call this home away from home. Today however was just like any other day, everything was running smoothly with the only thing brought to his attention was S.S Anara had deviated of its flight path, despite not being scheduled to arrive at the station.

“Commander Hurston to ops” letting out a sigh under his breath, the commander got up and straighten out his uniform, he wasn’t lazy by any means but it did interrupt him going over station reports. Stepping out through the doors of his ready room the commander made his way towards the centre of ops. “What you got for me Lieutenant Commander?” A female Terran officer acknowledged her superior officer as he walked towards her. “Sir, we have a slight problem with the S.S Anara, she has flown into the exclusion zone and has thus far ignored our communications.” Moment after her reporting a male Krentasian spoke up from his ops station. “I took the liberty of ordering the Zetec to intercept the vessel, Prometheus was still docked.”

This prompted both the commander and lieutenant commander to turn and look at the officer. “I think sending the Prometheus would’ve been a little overboard for a single civilian ship lieutenant don’t you think?” the Krentasian nodded. “Quite sir.” This caused the pair to smile before bringing their attention to the data before them. The Zetec was on patrol nearby and was only a few moments out from intercepting the Anara. The Corvette would easily catch up to the luxury liner. The commander was quite baffled; why would anyone violate a no fly zone? Or even for that matter head to where the gate was? There had been no activity from it in like thirty years.

Carleton let out another audible sigh. “Open a comms channel.” A few brief moments past before it gets a nod from the communications officer he is live. “S.S Anara, this is Commander Hurston of Tiberius station, you are in violation of an exclusion zone set up by the systems alliance advisory board. This is a no fly zone and as such I order you to stand down, you will be escorted to the station, upon your arrival I will most certainly look forward to hear what perfectly good reason you have for this stunt.” The commander waits for a reply but none came. Silencing the channel from their end. “Did they receive that?” His communication officer nodded. “Yes Sir, they most definitely received us, they are simply ignoring us.”

“Hmm, very well….. Signal the Zetec, tell them they are cleared for boarding action, secure the ship safely as possible.” Soon people were hastily getting to work, hearing everything working in synchronisation made the commander proud, despite how it has been since the station came operational, everyone carried out their duties as one would expect. Now why was Forsett being so stupid for?

“Sir! Massive energy spike detected within the exclusion zone!” there was urgency in his second in commands voice as several alarms sounded off. “Now what!” the commander blurts out... “Good god” are the next words uttered from his mouth as they all watch in amazing or more like a reindeer caught in headlights. A new signature was detected at the location of the Anara. First came a small bright light, soon It blossoms suddenly out of black space, with multiple layers of swirling gaseous clouds, miles in diameter, centered with a mushroom dome that irises open to reveal a tunnel pulsing with an energy field of rippling shock wave that explodes from the aperture, literally everything in the system must have detected it.

The gateway had reopened… A historical but concerning moment in history. When scanners returned to normal, The Anara was nowhere to be seen, the Zetec reported light damage from the shockwave where its proximity to the gate compared to the Anara was not as close and being a naval vessel. There was no debris to be found meaning the Anara was not destroyed, the only conclusion was the civilian ship was pulled into the gate, being on top of the gate when it opened must have meant the ship was badly damaged and its location unknown. The Zetec had reported upon closing on the gate that multiple gate addresses had become available when it interacted with the ship while the navy scrambled ships to secure the gate from both Tiberius station and other ships further in system.

Americana
No Man's Land
In proximity of Mojave DMZ.


Not long after its disappearance from the Antares system, a new signature emerged from the gate within the Americana system. The Anara came out ass first into the system amongst garrisoned forces with some hull debris, the ship was heavily damaged and was spiralling out of control, engine systems appeared to be offline as the vessel was in a gradual spin, external lighting dimming from time to time due to some sort of power loss. Much of the crew and guests were unconscious with the ships emergency backup systems keeping what it could online, otherwise the crew would more than likely be thrown around like ragdolls. Some however were conscious with the captain checking on his bridge officers. On other decks, some pf the passengers were in a panic, some cries and screams could be hard among the flickering lights. It was not the best way to enter a system unannounced nor a good first impression, but then again, no one had expected the Antares gate to open, suck in a ship and spew out to god knows where, making it difficult for the Alliance to form a rescue plan.


@Sigma An unscheduled arrival.




Terra Nova, Elysium.

Within a couple of hours, life was somewhat returning back normal, well as best as it could be considering the historical moment that had occurred. News was still a buzz with the knowledge of the gateway opening for the second time in three centuries, however; unlike thirty years prior where it opening only to destabilise and close, this time it had stayed open and stable. Questions still remained however, such as, who else was out there? Who opened the gateways, was it the Alliance or someone else? Did the home the ancestors of Terra survive? Smaller elements also wondered about the extremists that took off through the gate thirty years ago? Although there was great joy among the populace of both worlds and moons, there was also concern.

For the time being news agencies like the Alliance News Network were gathered outside the alliance government building in the city of Elysium, people were waiting upon the leadership to present official comments of the current situation. A presenter and crew was finishing up setting up, they waited for when they go live, when it was time to do so the camera was rolling. “This Christian Danielson of the Alliance news network, as you can see I am currently standing outside the FSA headquarters where the current leadership of the alliance, including the respected leadership of the three nations are currently in discussions about the historical moment that we all witnessed not so long ago… We are still awaiting any official word or press release from the president, however; we did get a brief statement from an alliance spokesperson.”

Those watching the monitors wherever they are looking at the broadcast would see the screen change to a spokesperson who briefly addressed the media earlier. “The President is currently speaking to all members of the board including leadership of the respected branches of the alliance at this time in regards to todays unexpected events. However; at the moment we can confirm that as witnessed by many earlier today, the gateway has indeed opened, we can assure everyone that the situation is under control, we like to take a moment the thank the Alliance navy for their swift response to the current situation and has since secured the area surrounding the gateway, while investigations are ongoing at this time we cannot speculate as to what caused the gate to open but can assure all our citizens that all precautions are being taken and there is no need for concern, We hope that everyone can celebrate this historic occasion, we are not taking questions at this time, thank you.”

The screen goes back life to the reporter. “As you can see, many are indeed celebrating the opening of the gate, but of course and quite understandably there are those that are concerned. Either way this is a historical moment and that many hope to open up new avenues and opportunities. It is expected at some point today that the president will address the alliance, until then, there are of course many issues to discuss and we will continue to do our best to give you as much up to date news as the situation develops. I am Christian Danielson, of the alliance news network” soon the live feed but of back to the studio that would carry on with other news, just what did the future now hold for everyone, no one truly knew.

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

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THE GRA WAKES

| A collab between @Irredeemable and @Lady Lascivious |


Boots crunched and business shoes snapped through the halls of the Meeting Place.Four Azulvistan marines, shadowing a stern-looking man. This was not the de-facto spokesperson for the Gran Republic, but instead one of several professional diplomats that had been dispatched to serve as the true arms of the state.

He was unsurprised to find it even more guarded than he. A truly staggering amount of firepower was on display before him, and even his protectors seemed a little intimidated by the showing. Nonetheless, he pressed on, raising a single hand towards them. There was a checkpoint now. That was new.

He approached it formally, drawing out a series of documents from within his business suit. “Rafael Mendoza- official representative of the Gran Republic of Azulvista. I’m here on urgent business.”

A heavily armored Gorgon Strain slithered forward, the heavy weapon cradled in two of her arms with ease while the other two reached out expectantly. “Please present proof of identity, and stand still for scan.”

Proof of identity was happily provided. Inside one of the folders was a detailed document- there had been no agreement on passports or visas between the Republic and Ishtar, and so this was the best they had. Letterheaded with the Azulvistan eagle, it had a full body picture, smaller portrait, and an almost invasive level of detail for full confirmation.

The guard surveyed it for but a moment, cybernetic eyes scanning the documents in rapid succession, before conducting a full body scan of the ambassador for confirmation. Satisfied, she nodded, handing the documents back and moving aside.

Another Ishtari soldier strode forth, Strain indiscernable underneath the armor she - or he - wore. “Please follow me.” He - it was a he then - said, nodding to the Azulvistans, as a squad of similarly armored Ishtari arrived in backup to accompany the group. “Please keep your hands off your arms, any action in contradiction may be interpreted as hostile.”

He lead the group through the station, passing by a small arsenal’s worth of ordnance on the way. The Ishtari embassy of the meeting place was, evidently, prepared for the worst. Where all these weapons had been kept until now was another matter - in the weeks and months prior the entrance had been manned only by two guards in ceremonial uniform, and civilian receptionists. Now it seemed prepared for a full blown siege, and exterior observers would note that its defensive railguns and torpedo bays seemed prepared to open fire on anything that posed a threat.

The Ishtari ambassador waited in her office, fingers neatly steepled at her desk. Scheherazade, the same delegate who had met with the FEU, and with the Chosen during the very first contact, nodded to them. “Ambassador Mendoza. You come at a difficult time.”

Mendoza had taken it in grim-faced. There was little else to do. Azulvista’s protocols were similar, although they wouldn’t quite be escalating to this level of preparedness after their declaration.

Taking a seat before Scheherazade, he removed a datapad from his briefcase and eased himself into position. “I hope to make it significantly less difficult. The Gran Republic has heard the report of the usage of WMDs against civilian targets. This is unacceptable by every metric, and shows New Terra to be rabid dogs in need of putting down. We are going to enter the war.” It wasn’t a request, it was a statement. The Ishtari didn’t need to change any minds.

Scheherazade paused, seeming to need a moment to process the information given to her. “Well, then.” She said after some time, “I am… glad to hear that. We may have had our differences, but against the madness of New Terra, there is only one answer. There can be no negotiation. No compromise against this cancer. Only eradication, swift and uncompromising. We are one on this subject, at least.”

Mendoza adjusted the datapad a little, before placing it on the desk and allowing it to broadcast a small homographic display.

“We can mobilise an initial fleet without compromising the security of Azulvista in less than a month. 50 small vessels, a frigate and 20 heavy vessels. We can also arrange for the mobilisation of 50,000 professional soldiers in a similar timeframe, along with some 230,000 marines along with a classified but large number of special forces. We want to disrupt them rapidly- a breakthrough assault to establish a beachhead while we finish mobilisation. Take control of their gateway and force them onto defence.”

The agreement was made swiftly. Details could be hashed out between military commanders, but the broad brushstrokes were agreed upon. When Mendoza packed up his documents and his datapad, the question was no longer ‘if,’ it was simply ‘when.’

And the answer to that question would come shortly.

---


Marines strode through the halls of the Meeting Place, escorting Alfonso de Caravajal, dressed to the nines in his finest admiralty wear. The procession took their places surrounding a press podium, the diplomat allowing a few pictures before clearing his throat and beginning.

"The current state of the galaxy has not escaped the notice of the Gran Republic. For too long, we have remained silent on the actions certain nations have seen fit to take. Today, we break that silence."

He fluffed the sheet in front of him, gazing out across the gathered witnesses. "The People's Union of New Terra have unilaterally decided to violate not only the conduct of reasonable and peaceful peoples, but have taken a step further, to heedlessly use the same weapons that doomed our home planet. They are waging a war of destruction and terror against their galactic equals, seemingly under the belief that they are the legitimate inheritors to Earth's legacy, and that none will keep them from assuming their lofty yet destined throne."

"They are unequivocally incorrect in this assumption. They have already sown the seeds of terror and devastation. We stand ready to kill this crop before its insidious roots can spread further. From this day forward, the Gran Republic of Azulvista considers itself in a formal state of conflict with the People's Union, and will persue all methods, both military and diplomatic, to bring their wayward and unwarranted actions to a halt. Thank you."

With that, he departed. Nothing more needed to be said.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Sigma
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Sigma

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Collab between @Sigma and @Irredeemable
Earth Orbit
The Meeting Place

The gears of the Azulvistan war machine had been put into motion. They were sluggish and slow, rusted by years of peace against a near-equal threat, but as blood began to grease it, they spun faster. Their initial mobilization against New Terra was prepared to strike and put pressure on the dictatorship’s homeworld, and now it was time to start putting out the smaller fires.

First on the list was ‘Americana.’ Previous relations between the two nations had been almost entirely lacking thanks to the sheer confusion of the Meeting Place’s initial construction, and Azulvista sought to solve this. Reports of a Yyasum state claiming dominion over humans had roused the anger of the Patricians, and there were already calls for a crusade on them immediately- damn PUNT.

For now, cooler minds were winning out, and the Republic was devoting itself to the more immediate threat. Despite this, the recent PUNT assault had given them a unique opportunity to undermine the Yyasum threat without suspicion. Having entered the war, it was perfectly within Azulvista’s rights to supply allies with material… And if that happened to shore them up to a greater threat, so much the better.

Rafael Mendoza had been dispatched to the Americana embassy, armed with his identification papers, a dataslab, and a warm thermos of coffee. The first soldier of this new front.

Ambassador Vixril Ghask, the Free Republic’s first representative to the wider galactic community, and the first alien to attain such an esteemed office and the honor, stood in anticipation of the arrival of the Azulvistan Delegate. The limited communication between the two republics was quite a shame, although what little was gained had garnered the attention of the military brass, that being, apparently, the Yulzan had stumbled themselves in yet another system. By this point, it seems the Yulzan have an obsession with worlds touched by humanity, that or it was just really terrible luck for both species, cruelly destined to fight for galactic supremacy.
Regardless, this link, this common enemy, is what finally managed to get both Roseau and Azulvista to open some dialogue. Ambassador Ghask smiled as the delegate approached, greeted not only by the Ambassador, but by members of his staff as well. “Ah, welcome Mr. Mendoza! I’m pleased we can finally meet.”

Mendoza kept his surprise at the alien off his face. Professionalism was the name of the game, and the first nation Azulvista had stumbled onto had also enjoyed friendly experiences with xenos. Not everyone was so unlucky, Mendoza thought to himself. He offered a hand, shook firmly, then held the thermos in front of him.

“I thought I would bring a small gift. Fresh brewed Azulvistan coffee, for you.” With that established, he cleared his throat. “I will be perfectly realistic with you Ambassador. The Gran Republic is less concerned about the threat New Terra poses than it does the Yyasum- what you call Yulzan”

Ghask gladly accepted the gift, giving an approved nod, his staff quite curious, anticipating to taste the lauded coffee of Azulvista. Ghask handed over the thermos state to one of the staffers and turned his attention back to Mendoza. “I’m glad we found yet another that understands the true immediate threat.” While an out of touch comment for many no doubt, the ever-present threat of the Yulzan halfway across the system can do that to an individual- that, and this would be the third confirmed encounter between the Yulzan and Humanity, one was already too many. “While what was done to the Ishtari was a terrible tragedy, we unfortunately have our own hands tied at the moment…but enough about that.” Ghask motioned in a welcoming gesture, inviting Mendoza into the embassy. “We’ll discuss further in my office.”

“Of course.” Mendoza nodded seriously and followed Ghask to his office, taking his seat quickly before launching into the good news. “As you have been unwittingly brought into the New Terra conflict, a conflict Azulvista also finds itself entangled in, the Republic has been given the green light to provide lend lease to Americana. We wish to provide some. More than some, in fact. Give us a number for equipment you need and we will double it. Rifles, armour, canned food, trucks, generators… And so on and so forth.” A grim expression.

“Our initial mobilisation has gone swimmingly, and we’re already preparing a force to break the Terran blockade in your system- no doubt our militaries will need further coordination, but once that is done, the Republic wishes to pour enough resources into Americana to ensure that the Yulzan menace can be controlled. Once the threat of New Terra is quashed, we can collectively focus on eradicating the deeper problem.”

Ghask leaned back on his chair, clasping his hands as he intently listened to Mendoza’s words, it was quite the proposal he was offering, something too good to pass up, The New Terran attack on Mojave was an unpleasant surprise for all parties involved, within hours of contact, the central headquarters for both the FRA and Janissaries were simultaneously obliterated, it proved a boon and a curse. The stalemate on Mojave was broken…however, now forces on both sides were in total disarray, and soon became a three-way battle with the New Terrans swiping in the middle.

Ghask pondered for a few moments before leaning forward. “A Hundred Million.” He replied. “Enough military equipment to help stall the bloodbath Mojave has become, and for the future campaign to retake my homeworld.” Ghask paused a moment, leaning back once more. “I will relay your plans to the Chancellor and the Cabinet. They will be more than pleased.”

“Consider it done. Tell your armies to start sending us exact lists. At first, it’ll be reserve equipment- you know how it is when one mobilises, the fresh gear goes to the frontlines, but the engines of industry are burning already. As soon as the blockade is broken, we’ll be sending you your goods.” He paused for a long moment. “And, if you’d permit us to do so, there was another matter. Azulvista wishes to station some of its navy in Americana space. Purely a… Defensive measure against PUNT, of course, certainly nothing to do with the Yulzan presence in the area.”

The Ambassador pondered for a minute, granted, the Ishtari and Nibirun were allowed to maintain their own miliary presence around the gate, but would inviting too many foreign fleets cause a whole other issue of sovereignty in the future? Unfortunately for him, Americana cannot afford to turn away potential allies, once the Yulzan and New Terrans are dealt with, then the issue of the foreign fleets can be dealt with at a later date, when the fully restored Columbian Republic is at its strongest. He turned to face Mendoza and nodded. “Very well, your military will be granted access through the gate, to keep the New Terrans at bay.”

“Excellent. I am happy we’ve reached an agreement in good time and order.” Mendoza extended his hand. “To our current dealings, and to the future removal of the Yulzans from further interfering with mankind’s self-governance.”

“May we no longer fear their reign.” Ghask replied, extending his hand in kind, giving it a firm shake.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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The Trojan

Undisclosed location - War Council of the Goddess




Mayday! Mayday! We’re takin—” a hush of radio static soon followed only for it to start again “ –engines down. The Hierophant has…” and another wave of radio static, this time only interrupted for seconds by loud explosions “ -fallen. May the Goddess protect us. FOR THE GODDE–” the only sound that came afterwards was an explosion and nothing more.

Status report, High Hierarch. How many did we lose in Ishtar? ” said the grave voice of the Goddess, Ashevelen. Gone was her usually sweet and calm voice, taken now by exhaustion. Long weeks have passed since Ishtar was attacked by the PUNT, long weeks in which Ashevelen planned war strategies and coordinated the Chosen forces.

With great sadness I have to report that we’ve lost contact with most of our forces, my Goddess. The Hierophant was our last large battlecruiser in Ishtarian space. Smaller vessels are engaging enemies in a guerrilla style of war, taking pot shots at them and running away before they can retaliate. Minimal success for now. The jamming employed by the PUNT army doesn’t help either. If I may, I suggest we pull all of our forces from Isharian airspace and use them to fortify our side of the Gate. ” replied Catherine in the same tonality as Ashevelen.

Herself, Ashevelen, Julius and Pontius formed the war-council from the Chosen side of the gate while William coordinated war efforts from the Meeting Place or better said, William coordinated the medical side of the war. The civilians, the refugees and those too injured for conventional medicine.

I agree with the High Hierarch, Catherine. We should leave those heathens to fight between themselves and after their forces have been spent, send our Golden Armada to take over what’s left. Make them see your light and wisdom.

A slap on the table that made it shudder. The metal groaned, loudly as if asking what did it do to deserve such treatment was Ashevelen’s reply. The guardian Templars took a step back unwillingly, their fight or flight sense taking over their actions.

One more word Pontius about heathens and I shall dismantle you piece by piece with my own hands. I guarantee you that. I promise you. No, I swear to you on my own name. I shall…FUCKING RIP YOU APART! Got. That? " said Ashevelen as her hands grew into very sharp talons, capable of easily cutting through metal. Her voice made all at the table, including Julius who took a step forward towards the Goddess, releasing huge amounts of calming pheromones in the air. All directed towards her, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe the Goddess won't follow up on her threat.

The subject of said threat was shivering. His face…red but not of fear but anger. How could the Goddess disrespect him in front of the others? How could she be angry at him for saying only the truth? How can she allow her name to be sullied by it being associated with those heathens? Those creatures?

" I am merely–" Pontius started to say before the Goddess appeared before him, lightning fast.

" Yes, Hierarch? Do you want to add something? " said Ashe in a low tone. Threat clear.

With a bowed head, Pontius took a visible gulp and shook his head.

"Very happy to hear that. I've warned you before. Don't question me. I won't repeat myself again. Now. Hierarch Catherine, how's operation Trojan? " asked the Goddess before throwing one last look at Pontius.

Without betraying any emotion, Catherine bowed her head in reverence before answering the question. She knew better than adding anything to the previous conversation, especially when the Goddess was in a foul mood.

"We’ve managed to hook in a fish. Dragging it to the shore as we speak. ” curtly replied Catherine.

Catherine, would you like to explain Trojan Op to the others? ” said Ashe while looking at the confused faces of the others. In truth, operation Trojan was a secret of the highest order. None but Ashe, Catherine and a few very, carefully chosen Chameleon types knew of it. All hand chosen from Catherine’s personal inner circle.

With a few types on a datapad, the details of the operation appeared.

Operation Trojan, named after the famous Trojan Horse. It’s the type of operation that can give us a massive advantage over the PUNT and maybe, just maybe, can make us win the war. You are all aware of the Chameleon types that the Goddess has recently created. The plan is to capture a PUNT ship, something small and unnoticeable if lost for a longer period of time. We then take prisoners, brainwash them, get all the information we can and then replace them with our Chameleons. Simple? Not so much. After our Chameleons infiltrate PUNT airspace, they’ll have to find ways to subtly subvert and provide us with information about the inner workings of their nation. A nation trained and brainwashed into wishing us all dead. After sometime, after they’ve managed to secure a safe way for us to send in some Virophages, we’ll equip them with disabling viruses. The same we’ve used during the Blasphemous Insurrection of 72’ but downgraded a bit so as to not cause any permanent damage to the populace. ” explained Catherine, while looking into the eyes of each Hierarch and the Goddess at times.

Pontius was the first to react, not that it surprised anyone. “ How is it that this is the first time we’ve heard of this? All war decisions should go through the Inner Circle of the Church. As for the plan itself? The brainwashing facilities are part of my arm of the Church. When would’ve I been told about this?

Before Catherine could address Pontius, Ashevelen raised a finger in the air. “ It’s called a secret operation for a reason. Need to know-basis. If somehow the enemy would’ve gotten wind of this plan, we would’ve lost more than a few ships. Your arm of the Church is mine to command as I see fit, Pontius. You seem to forget your place these days but that’s for after the war. The brainwashing facilities are developed by myself but we’re not going to use yours. I have something else prepped for them. Something stronger and faster acting. Now, anything else to add, anyone? ” replied Ashevelen with a dark look upon her face.

As Pontius started to reply, Catherine interjected. “Goddess. Incoming priority transmission from the Charon. You’ll want to hear this.

Put it on screen.

Soon the image of a Chosen that seemed to blend in the background behind them appeared on the screen.

High Hierarch Catherine. Missi–” started to speak the Chameleon, in a voice that seemed to be formed of many. As if more people were speaking at the same time before they were stopped.

The Goddess is in attendance. Present your report to her.

Almost instantaneously, the Chameleon dropped on one knee and turned towards Ashevelen.

My Goddess. May you bless us with your light forever. I am Micra of the Chameleon squad 14. Mission successful. We have a PUNT ship.

Be blessed in my name, Micra. Congratulations. How many did you lose? How many did you manage to take prisoner? Ship condition?

2 dead and 1 injured from my squad. 1 infiltrator-class ship that was supporting us was damaged too. These PUNT bastards wouldn’t go down without a fight. We manage to capture most of the crew but the captain of the ship and a few officers. Cyanide pills or shot themselves. Off-ed themselves before the disabling agent could take hold. It will be a hard sell but I believe the mission can still proceed. Our ship has taken some damage but their ship was taken, in good condition. It was hard to get close enough to them without damaging it but our faith in you gave us the needed resolve.

Damn. I wished we could have captured the captain. Idiots. We would’ve let them live…Anyways, this will cause some issues with the plan, Micra. I am sorry to tell you but you need to damage the PUNT ship, make it look like you’ve taken heavy damage before being forced to retreat but before that, use code authorization AS-43-421-3562-11-90423 and request aid from all available ships around you. Have them create a diversion to allow you to leave with the ship unnoticed.

With a short bow, Micra followed suit on the orders received from the Goddess and sure enough, days later, the PUNT ship would pass through the Chosen Gateway. The first enemy ship that would pass through the Gateway and with a bit of hope, the last one.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Gerlando
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Gerlando The Unchosen One

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The Meeting Place - Sol


In the system that had been the cradle of humanity, orbiting a dead planet many considered hell, that's where the meeting place is. In there a recently established embassy definitely had its work cut out for them, not even the time to finish building the main room that a war had broken out, by terrans nonetheless.

To complicate matters Hyginus had lacked the need of diplomacy for over a century and new untrained ambassadors had been sent to the meeting place, but slowly as inexperienced diplomats went to and from foreign embassies more and more questions would find answers. Where are the Terrans? Who did they attack? Do they have any allies? What is their military capable of?

When enough information had been gathered and the vetuste fleet finally prepared for new action, it had come the time for the official declaration of war, no one doubted this time would come, it would just be a matter of when and how.

Ortiz was considering how to rewrite parts of the official declaration before sending it out to the rest of the meeting place, he had been moved to being a diplomat after showing at least some skill at the job, which was enough to make him a senior diplomat among the mass of his inept colleagues. He decided it would be best to remove a few phrases so to make sure it wouldn't anger other nations that also had earthen names.

Now it was time for him to send the message.



----------


Capital Ship 'Mértolle' - Cygni Geminae


Aboard the ship there was more activity than had been seen in several decades, if not over a century even, the generators rumbled with final purpose, moving the hull that slumbered for over 20 years while the crew inside ran around in a not so orderly manner.
The huge metal beast was moving, this time it was not an exercise, it was not being moved for a refit and it was definitely not being moved to just bomb an empty waste of ice, it was going to war.

"All systems online, moving into position within the fleet."
they would be sent as the first wave of the assault fleet, with reinforcements planned to arrive soon after.
In reality it was likely the rest of fleet would be ordered to evaluate the situation and choose to jump based on the first waves early reports, even then they were a well armed force ready to take on the enemy with plenty of cannons and missiles, the Federation wasn't going to pull any punches.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Sigma
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Sigma

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Collab between @Sigma, @Irredeemable, and @Jeddaven

The Relief of Americana

The flagship of the Azulvistan fleet for the push into Americana was the aptly named Libertad. She was an old vessel, pockmarked with battle damage and showing the signs of refits, overhauls and extensive repair jobs, its aesthetic crude and boxy. Its colossal main railgun had been retrofitted, its previous armaments having been thirty years out of date, and the communication systems had needed hundreds of millions of NuevoReals to be on par with its contemporary command vessels. Despite all of these problems though, she was a fearsome beast indeed, helmed by a veteran officer, and with a storied history behind her.

The Libertad had been born to fight during the Reconquista, its munitions blasting through Axcuapatal’s atmosphere to sunder spaceports, and had then immediately been turned to battle again during the War of Yyasum Aggression, trading fire with xenos cruisers and knocking out their bulky colony ships. She had spent much of her time since then in dock or doing small peacekeeping tours, and she had long since reached a Ship of Theseus-esque tipping point, but still she sailed, and now she sallied out to meet another foe.

Around her, set just outside of Azulvista’s gateway, the ‘American Fleet,’ assembled and readied to relieve their new allies and shatter the invading New Terrans. It was fairly typical for an Azulvistan naval detachment- a cluster of large, bulky and slow ‘artillery’ vessels, most of which were nowhere near as venerable as the Libertad, and several wings of lighter, faster and more manoeuvrable vessels. There had been some consideration regarding how suitable this was for fighting with others, but there weren't exactly other options- this was how the Republican navy was formed, and they couldn’t very well start producing entirely new chassis in the few months they had had time to mobilise in.

At the helm of the fleet was Almirante Catalina- a stern faced patrician in her late forties with a skunk slick of silver hair running fashionably through her neat bobcut. In her palm rested a heavy golden key, which she turned over and thumbed repeatedly, face a mask of consideration and deep thought. Just as she came to a conclusion, the course of action set before her, the speakers across the vessel barked out the fateful sentence every person aboard had been waiting for.

”All hands make to battle stations. Repeat, all hands make to battle stations. This is not a drill. Prepare for gate-jump.”

“So. Into the jaws of Hell we charge.” She turned to her deputy, a wily patrician in his thirties with five-o-clock stubble that never vanished.

“On the contrary. I think we’re bringing Hell along with us.” He too thumbed a gilded key, Catalina offering her subordinate a single nod. Both keys slotted home smoothly, and a single twist caused the command deck’s lights to flash a deep crimson, a brief klaxon sounding out.

As the autoloaders began to fix their fresh payloads into place, the Almirante returned to her command station.

“This is Almirante Catalina of Azulvista’s Republican Navy. We are prepared to make our jump. Americana, Europa, can you confirm battle readiness?”




Strasbourg felt its communications circuits awaken. Compared to its Azulvistan counterpart, it was a top-of-the-line, sleek, modern vessel, hundreds of years of naval history and gunnery experience arranged neatly within its data storage. Hundreds more vessels buzzed about the ancient, constantly-evolving artificial intelligence, plus many more sub-intelligences, drones, and missiles beeping and buzzing as their controllers sought targets, their own primitive intelligences ready to guide themselves into battle. It possessed no fleet-cracking railgun like its Azulvistan counterpart... But what it lacked in brutish awe-inducing firepower, it more than made up for in precision and sheer versatility.

Like someone cracking their knuckles, it activated its multilayered energy shielding with a great, electronic yawn that echoed over communications, powerful magnetic fields jumping to life. Pre-arranged configurations of missiles were shunted into its cornucopia of vertical cells, too -- at a moment's notice, it would unleash hell alongside its erstwhile comrades.

"Ready as we'll ever be," it replied -- mere milliseconds after it received the Azulvistan message.

"How many years has it been since our people have done this together? Too long. Too soon, too."




The original plan called for the allied fleets to rendezvous at the Mojave Gate, and to move forward from there into the offensive. Unfortunately however, no plan ever survives contact with the enemy as the Americanans will see for themselves. Admiral Drayk’s fleet, after a series of retrofits, repairs and the enlistment of other flotillas in the front, were on their way towards the gate. It all seemed to go smoothly thus far, a bad omen to be sure, and like clockwork, everything was thrown out of order. The 3rd Expeditionary Fleet quickly found itself in pitched combat with a Terran battle group, enemy ships making their advance, waves of strike craft acting as the vanguard as they entered within combat range, the Americanans launching their own fighters as a massive dog fight took place. All the while, capital ships and lighter warships between both sides tossed heavy munitions towards one another, from torpedoes and heavy railgun rounds, all the while, the 3rd fleet was trying to make a get away towards the gate. It would eventually get more ugly as the terran ships made their advance, the battle quickly turning into a knife fight.

Admiral Drayk struggled to maintain his posture as the Carrier Orion trembled with every shot taken, the shields holding the worst at bay for the time being. “Damn it all! No point in running, all ships! Stand your ground and hit them with everything you got!” The Admiral gave the order through a fleet-wide intercom. “We’ll hold this position until reinforcements arrive!”
Drayk turned to his X.O. “Contact the Azulvistans and Europeans, let them know we…hit a bit of a snag.”




“Ma’am! Americans reporting contact already! They’ve been intercepted by Terran vessels.” The words sent a shot through the bridge staff. They had expected a few moments of peace before everything went to shit, but now they wouldn’t even get that.

“Copy. Battle wings 1-3 begin gate jumps ASAP. Remember what we’re fighting for, and may you find yourself rich in targets.”

Wing commanders crackled out their responses, and Catalina watched as the signatures on her command matrix charged up, then vanished through the gate. Wings 1 and 2 were entirely comprised of lighter vessels, originally for establishing a beachhead to allow wings 3 and 4 to move in, but they didn’t have that luxury. The largest of wing 3’s signatures would be needed to punch through the Terran line now, and clear the way for the heavy artillery.

Wing one had barely cleared the gateway before the maelstrom engulfed it. Targeting systems lit up with friends and foes alike the sleek hulls of cruisers and corvettes opening up with salvos of missiles and heavy flak fire.

“Wing 4. Check capacitors and set to 80%. When we make the jump, hardcharge to 100%. Fire on my command and no others. Are we clear?”

Affirmative replies in the response. Excellent. Things were proceeding OK, so far even with the unexpected difficulties.

“Americana. Europa. Wing 4 of our fleet contains neutron carriers and superheavy railguns. If you’ve got anything in close range of their capital ships, I recommend you clear them out, because we’re going to blow these gates down.”




“We’ve got something up our sleeves of our own. We’ll saturate the enemy fleet with Pulsed Energy Projectiles on transit, and thus affect partial shutdown of as many PUNT ships as we can. They’ll be dead in the water for Wing 4 -- like shooting fish in a barrel. Impact of PEP will occur at the speed of light, so there’s no need for you to delay.” Strasbourg replied. Sure, it doubted they could disable all of the PUNT vessels... But it should be possible for the fleet to temporarily disable enough of them to create a far more appealing target for the Azulvistans, it thought. Then, saturate the PUNT formation with a few thousand armour-penetrating missiles at once, and... It’s a shitshow for the Nazis.

“Intent is to then initiate saturation of the fleet with approximately 4800 missiles -- a complete launch of rapid-reload cells. Affirm?”




“Copy that, we’ll get clear of the firing range, and you let loose on ‘em.” Admiral Drayk replied to his two counterparts, returning his attention to the rest of his staff. “Alert all ships to fall back immediately, this area of space is about to get a hell of a light show, and we sure as hell do not want to get caught in the middle of it.” Within moments of the plan, the 3rd fleet begun to slowly scatter in wherever safe direction there was as the AFE and Azulvistan fleets unleashed their deadly salvos on the unsuspecting Terrans, and the Admiral was good on his word, it was quite the light show as they made their retreat back to friendly lines.




“Confirm Strasbourg. You’re clear to begin.”

With that, wing 4 pushed through the gateway, and into the warzone. The chaos was tremendous- ships of four separate nations wheeling, banking, spinning and turning, missiles, railshots and flak pinpricking the stars. The airwaves were thick with combat reports- of kill confirmations and deaths… And now, there would be even more.

Inside Libertad’s command hub, a low drone had become audible, and the faint, tingling sensation of immense amounts of electricity filled the air. Capacitor banks rushed to full capacity, the colossal turret atop the vessel making microadjustments, its target now fixed firmly in its line of sight.

”FIRE!”

The entire ship shuddered as electromagnets sparked to life. The tremendous projectile rocketed out, carving through the distance, far too rapidly for even an attempt at a dodge. Across Wing 4, the scene was repeated, and when the volley of slugs struck home, they tore through the Terran vessels.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

”NEUTRON TUBES! FIRE!”

This time it was rockets. As the Europans unleashed their swarms, and the smaller ships filled skies and overwhelmed point defences with flak, trefoil-emblazoned missiles, trailing blue flames, winged their way out towards the survivors of the initial engagement. A few were cut down, intercepted, or malfunctioned, targeting systems scrambled or damaged. Enough got through.
There were a series of bright flashes, dazzling enough to dim the stars. The neutron burst would be lethal on its own, but the Terrans had been using nuclear weapons too- and now, fuelled by captured neutrons, these began to initiate fission on their own.
It was a mercy that the effects on the crew were left unseen.




...But the effects on the vessels were more than visible -- thousands upon thousands of invisible laser pulses ablated at stripped away the outermost layers of their hulls, spawning bubbles of exploding plasma. As those bubbles detonated, sending thundering pressure waves through the hulls, warping them -- but, more importantly, the electromagnetic radiation they unleashed fried circuits and burned out sensors at the speed of light, leaving many of the ships unable to do a thing to stop the violent explosions ripping them apart from the inside, nor to defend against the unceasing barrage of fire from the allied fleet. For allies that nearly hated each other as much as they hated the enemy, in concert, they became a terrible orchestra of unstoppable violence.

Thinking silently and communicating with its many siblings, Strasbourg ordered the second phase to begin. As more missiles were being shunted into their cells, the European fleet began to unleash the remainder of its energy weapons. While invisible PEPs still sought to cripple enemy vessels by frying their circuits, many more needle-thick lances of bright pink stitched their way across space, boring tiny holes through whatever they struck -- particle beams. While they lacked raw, explosive power, these beams were incredibly precise, able to pick out individual targets on a ship thanks to the impressive computing power of AFE vessels. Losses mounted -- but the AFE pressed on, hardly phased by the destruction of non-sentient drones.




The Americanans wouldn’t be left out of the continuing onslaught, as once the fleet was in safe range, joined its allies in the barrage, the cruisers within the fleet being among the first in letting loose their heavy railguns and torpedoes, other ships within the scattered fleet following their lead as they pinned the Terran fleet to a standstill, the sight filled the various crews with a sense of….renewed morale, the Terrans were a stepping stone to what could be done against the Yulzan invaders, and that hope of reclaiming Columbia, just got an inch closer.




The information rushing in was by now, all good news. As the electrical hum of the Libertad’s capacitors returned, she was struggling to see what ships were left for the superheavy cannons to actually take care of.

“Strasbourg, Orion, I’m not seeing much left on the Terran side of things for our big guns to crack open. Wings 4 and 2 are going to establish a picket line around the Gateway- 1 and 3 will proceed with your forces and pursue the stragglers. I’m hesitant to start cheering right away, but I think we can say that their main battlegroup in this system has been sunk. Confirm?”




“This is Strasbourg -- our sensors aren’t picking up much more.” it replied, silently relieved that it hadn’t needed to reveal its antimatter trump card. “We are ready to commence landings on Bludia PUNT defences permitting, for our part.”




“Orion to Strasbourg and Libertad. We got an all clear, no hostiles remaining.” Drayk replied to his counterparts. We’re battered but we’re well and ready for the next phase of the operation on your go.” This was shaky but promising start in the operation in pushing back against the Terran menace.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Enigmatik
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Enigmatik Overly-Caffienated Thembie Supreme

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A War's End















A Treaty Signed

(A large-scale collaboration.)


It was a warm, clear day in Dercy, and among the ruins and rubble of a city that had withstood bombs from both orbit and air and brutal, hand-to-hand fighting, armies from across the galaxy now stood, their guns fallen silent.

The focus of the day was the hastily-erected stage, several flag posts raised behind it, with a small detachment of what was left of New Terra’s administration languishing in defeat, surrounded by a detachment of armed guards. Camera drones swarmed around the stage, trying to snatch a photo of victors and losers alike.

“Beautiful day for an unconditional surrender, isn’t it?” General Matías looked out over the assorted throngs before him. The city stunk of destruction and death- the rain a few days prior had come down black from smoke, leaving streaks of soot against faces and facades. No doubt it would continue to do so for quite some time; Dercy’s skyline looked less like that of a city, and more akin to a mouth full of broken teeth.

“Aye. Could have been much worse.” Almirante Isabella’s expression was stone-faced, not giving anything away. Their Triumph would come when they returned home- for now, it was time to share the glory. She scanned the other dignitaries and commanders on the stage.

The AFE’s delegation was perhaps the largest, at least in terms of variety -- the sheer variety of species that made up their impromptu gathering made representing every single one without crowding the stage impossible, but a great variety were represented, nonetheless.

At the head of the delegation was Strasbourg itself, the distributed AI that commanded the AFE’s fleets in the invasion; on this occasion, a comparatively mundane, humanoid shape, though clearly marked out as not baseline by its four arms and matte, metallic skin. It stood not at the head of the assembled AFE delegation, however, but beside one of the more perhaps expected participants: a tan-skinned, hooved, tauroid Takola male, dressed in the bright red-and-yellow cloth of the traditional dress of his people, and a large hydroponic rig, bearing a thick copse of beige-green motile grasses; one example of the sapient grasses the Terrans had enslaved, their species simply choosing to be dubbed the ‘People of the Plains’, as their language was impossible to verbally approximate.

Elsewhere among the delegation were the tall, spindly raptorial insects originally native to new Europa, and a duo of vaguely humanoid, mechanical forms, so heavily modified that it was difficult if not downright impossible to distinguish those humans from a purely artificial being.

Could have been better.Strasbourg whispered without moving its mouth, just loud enough for the other delegates to hear. It did nothing else other than scan over the Terrans with an icy glare, its implication clear: it’d be better with their leaders hanging from nooses.

“Then what.” Isabella raised an eyebrow towards the AI. Above them, the Escudo’s own ship mind was quietly contemplating the war in only the way a mind that was both not truly ‘intelligent,’ yet phenomenally more powerful than a human’s could. “Would you like us to fight guerrilla after guerrilla, each claiming that our executions were nothing more than a violation of their rights? Best to placate them now, save the steel fist for if it should be needed.”

“They would be given a fair trial, and dealt with appropriately. Those who would blame us for giving perpetrators of genocide their fair due are too far gone. At least, they should never again be permitted the light of day.”

Matías suppressed a barking laugh, managing to turn it into a cough. The hardened general had spent a long time away from the orderly halls of the Cortes. “And you think they’d care that we bothered to bring them before a judge before they swung? Take it from those who fight rebels- they are irrational peoples, prone to flights of fancy and martyrdom for no good cause. Besides… Thanks to some armies here, we’ve already lost plenty of officials to ‘accidents’ and ‘crossfire.’” His eyes skimmed across the Ishtari delegation.

The Ishtari delegation was a large one. Having formed the largest component of the ground forces that took part in planetary operations, the Ishtari brought a similarly impressive contingent with them now. Comprised of both civilian representatives from the affected areas of New Ishtar, as well as numerous commanding officers standing in full dress uniform, accompanied by representatives of the CNIN Marine Assault Infantry in full battle gear - though their rifles were left strapped to their backs and unloaded. Together they formed a curious rainbow array of colours and dimly glowing bioluminescence, watching the other delegations with an eclectic mixture of expressions. Some seemed wholly unreadable, others seemed simply relieved the war was over, others watched those around them with suspicion or anger, and others simply stared into the far distance.

Glowing irisless eyes met the Azulvistan General’s own as one of them, a Tiamat Strain, spoke. “Your insinuation is noted, General. However, the ground forces of Ishtar have provided ample documentation and evidence of the unfortunately unavoidable deaths of these individuals. A shame that it was not an official execution, for certainly the legal proceedings that await would find them worthy of death. We accept our own faults in the apprehending of these individuals, and will certainly work towards improving our protocols for the capture of wanted individuals in combat situations.”

She returned her hands to their folded position in front of her with an easy, gentle smile, “I am sure those who are present here will be more than suited to face full justice.”

“I would remind you that these prisoners are captives of Azulvista, and since we have all seen fit to conduct our own trials and abide by their decisions, you should perhaps consider your own insinuations.” Isabella eased her shoulders back a little as she spoke, her tone perfectly even and pleasant despite the implications.

As the generals and dignitaries of the other nations were doing their thing on Dercy, The Chosen agenda was getting more and more busy. Arrangements of the PUNT refugees to be settled on RAD-X002, the casualties suffered by the Chosen and hundred more small issues but that didn’t stop Ashevelen, Julius, William and Catherine to make an appearance on the planet itself. It was, after all, the first major galactic war and while it was pointless, it needed to end. This was the last thing that needed to be done to finally end it and enter a new era. A post-war era.

While knowing that her status as a Goddess was a sham and very badly seen by pretty much all the other nations, the Chosen, allies of Ishtar, had to make a proper entrance. One fit for a Goddess but also one that appealed to the others. As such, using all the data they could find about their counterparts, Ashevelen had the Chosen make a mix. A combination of the best, golden songs from each nation and something from Earth. Probably forgotten by everyone but the oldest.

As her dropship approached, the music started to blast. A military parade song for Azulvista, some Trailerhead for Tiamat’s people and a number of other songs played in succession for each nation present. Then and only after the music ended, the dropship landed and the Chosen made their entrance.

Julius walked forward, acting as a human meat shield, their armour golden shining in the sun of Dercy. Ashevelen followed up after him, dressed in similar fashion with a golden robe and a perfect smile on her face. Catherine and William walked side by side behind the Goddess, checking every face in the crowd for threats while keeping a friendly demeanour.

Ashevelen walked straight to the Tiamat strain who was in conversation with two others and gave her a smile.

Greetings generals. Tiamat strain, you seem to be in trouble. I’m assuming, your leader was somehow too preoccupied with other problems? ”, Ashevelen said with a smile before turning to the other two, towering over the Azulvista’s general, bending slightly and offering her hand to shake.

It may have been Matías that Ashvelen’s hand reached out towards, but it was Isabella who reached for it. Azulvistan politics were complex at the best of times, and war was hardly the best of times, and although most of the time the Navy and the Army worked smoothly together, there was a pecking order here that superseded age and rank.

For her part, Isabella’s face was impassive and neutral. Here she was, face to face with a human that had reforged themselves into a deity, and all she could think about was the fact that a dozen camera drones had descended on the group to capture this historic moment. Shifting to the side for a better angle, she shook Ashvelen’s hand firmly, then took a disciplined step back into line.

Strasbourg simply watched Ashevelen with an expression approaching cold disdain - not only someone claiming dictatorial domain over their people, but one who did so with pomp and circumstance. Still, its expression conveyed mute tolerance, at least, whereas the Azulvistan delegation was treated with more appropriately open dislike.

The Hyginian delegation was much smaller compared to the AFE’s mix of aliens, Ishtari crowd or the Chosen display of music and colours, despite this the presence of both Star Admiral was proof enough of the importance Hyginus put on the meeting, among them were diplomats, generals and various assistants.

The Chosen arrival would make quite the impression, with their display of music and military while under the sun being a sight never seen on Hyginus. Avetien, the second SA, would welcome the Chosen delegates shortly before looking back at the parade, Reecka however welcomed Ashevelen and gestured her to join in, hoping to ease the tension between her and the other delegations.

“Is everyone prepared then? I believe we are here to end a war, rather than pose for photos.”

"We'd almost forgotten," Strasbourg dryly joked, straightening itself. "But, yes, let us get on with business."

“The fine engineering of your nation on display” Matías retorted with a wry expression, before the pair of patricians instinctively slipped into more diplomatic stances.

“We are here today, August 18th, 2602 UST Earth, to bear witness to the signing of the Instrument of Unconditional Surrender of the People’s Union of New Terra, and the formal dissolution of the aforementioned state as a consequence of that treaty.” An aide set a document out in front of PUNT’s Chief of Army- the third one in as many months, if Isabella’s memory was correct, alongside a pen. The official didn’t bother to read through the document in detail- its drafting and the fact that PUNT would agree to all the terms was a foregone conclusion. Instead, he turned to the fifth and final page, sighed heavily, and brought nib to paper.

A quick scrawl later, and he slid the document across to the man next to him, who did much the same, and then the third PUNT official filled in the final line for the PUNT side. Army, navy and civilian government, all now gone with the swipe of a pen. An absolute surrender in every meaning of the word.

Isabella and Matías stepped up next- these were their prisoners, and they’d insisted on the honour of accepting the surrender first. Taking the pen off the last official, Isabella first signed, and then as Matías did the same, the aide passed over a small pot of melted wax, which the admiral carefully poured out, then lifted out a golden seal delivered direct from the highest office of the Senate for exactly this purpose. One firm press, and the Gran Republic’s presidential seal now adorned the paper, the two Azulvistans stepping aside for the rest of the nation’s representatives to sign.

The document then passed to the Hyginians who, despite helping on multiple fronts, didn’t ask to occupy any land or extreme concessions, limiting themselves to just economic reparations. First Star Admiral Reecka signed first, fittingly, after giving a quick read but not bothering to read the whole document, then to Avetien who, looking at the defeated Terrans with a slight smile, signed and then stamped the Federation’s official sigil. For a moment Avetien looked for the second document, a copy perhaps, as was Hyginian custom, then realising and passing the papers to the next representatives.

The Americanan delegation, like their Hyginian counterparts, was a rather small group, their contribution in the invasion was token at best compared to other members of the coalition, the 3rd Expeditionary providing whatever support it could during the campaign, unlike the others, they did not plan on an occupation, as the resources for such an endeavour would prove…. difficult for the current war effort against the Yulzan. Admiral Drayk, along with his top officers were to serve as the FRA’s face in the signing of the Treaty. He took the documents in stride as he made a cursory look, and signed it. It was a good feeling, helping to put an end to a war, something he’d thought would never happen in his life time, and yet, here he was. Hopefully someday this can be repeated on Columbia soon enough, when the Americana System will be made whole again. Once the document was signed, Drayk hand it over to the next representative.

It was a custom that the AFE representatives followed -- though they weren't the ones to sign the surrender document. Rather, the Bludians signed the documents under the approving gaze of the Europeans, the Person of the Grass directing its counterpart through a specialised implant designed to transform its thoughts into audible words, its signature likewise a completely alien collection of lines and symbols. Only then did the Europeans themselves move to sign, the disgust they felt for the Terran generals so palpable it could be cut with a knife.

Bringing an end to the procession of allied forces, the Ishtari delegation’s representative stepped forward. Sister-General 1-430 Ivaris Wields the Flaming Sword of Righteous Fury Against the Demons of the Night stood in full regalia, flanked by representatives of the nuclear-impacted world and by veteran soldiers from the conflict. She stood over the former New Terran general, looking down on him with a haughty, imperious sneer, before taking the pen in hand and signing her own name with a flourish. The civilian representative, clad in less overt attire, did much the same, visibly restraining an urge to say something in the process. The Ishtar delegation as a whole seemed to relax just a hair afterwards as the representatives returned to their ranks. This war, at least, was over.

There was only one thing left to do. The various dignitaries turned to the back of the stage, various soldiers moving to each of the flag posts that had been set up for just this purpose. To the sonorous sound of a bugle, the flag of the People's Union was lowered for the final time, and in its place went up the new flags- of the occupations, of free Bludia, of the future.

Isabella turned and looked at the rest of the delegations. Here they stood as allies- as members of a Coalition that had seen millions dead in order to bring down a regime of madness. It would not last. It could not last. When the bugle finally fell silent, they were allies no longer.

The galaxy had been thrown into disarray. Now it was time to reforge it.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Enigmatik
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Enigmatik Overly-Caffienated Thembie Supreme

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"History repeats her tale unconsciously, and goes off into a mystic rhyme."

- Attributed to various





Earth, the lonely blasted rock it is, has finished another rotation around Sol. The Gregorian Calender would mark the occasion as January of 2604, and now, after almost 300 years celebrating those years alone, time's passing is commemorated by the Meeting Place, the collossal cobbled-together station that hangs in High Earth Orbit, safely clear of the cloud of Kessler debris that defies a reasonable explanation for its existence.

The Meeting Place has never been quiet in the four years since humanity refound its home, but the past year has seen it swell, both in size and in population, a true intergalactic institution, a bustling meeting of minds and cultures more diverse than the system has ever held host to.

And, of course, these minds are almost invariably bickering with one another. Perhaps this is no surprise- six and a half centuries ago, there was another great war, and when it was done, so to did the powers of Earth come together in the name of peace, cooperation, and vicious, political struggle, a tale replayed over and over again throughout mankind's history.

The Earth completes another rotation. Things continue as they always have, and yet, nothing is the same.




Some Time Ago, Aboard the Meeting Place
Featuring Alfonso De Caravajal

"And so it is, with the greatest of satisfaction, that I announce the signing of the Galactic Security Charter and the consequential formation of the Galactic Security Council, an economic, military and diplomatic alliance dedicated to the promotion of interstellar security and the promotion and support of like-minded states. We hope that in so doing, we may attempt to avert the horrors wrought upon Ishtar, Americana, Nova Tierra and countless other planets and peoples ravaged by war and instability. Muchas gracias, and viva Azulvista." De Caravajal's grin could best be described as 'shit eating' as he finished reading the announcement. He offered several emphatic waves towards the audience before sweeping his datasheet up and beginning to leave the stage. Just before he fully departed however, he paused and offered the audience a slightly indulgent bow, finally taking his leave. Pawn to E4. Now all that was left was to see how the others responded.




Now, Aboard The Meeting Place

Featuring Rafael Mendoza & Antonio de Lebrón

Rafael Mendoza nursed a cup of coffee as he examined the datasheet in front of him. There was a never-ending amount of paperwork required to keep the diplomatic and administrative functions of the Gran Republic ticking over smoothly, and as a mathetes - even one in the senior service like himself, that meant it was his job to seperate wheat from chaff, decide which meetings were worth his time, shoot down infuriatingly stupid proposals and otherwise make sure that individuals like De Caravajal could make their grand proclimations and have their photos splashed across the international news.

The largest report today was simply fascinating however. New nations seemed to come in gluts when it came to their Gateways opening, for reasons the diplomat could not bother attempting to find an answer for, but this one... He tapped down hard on the datasheet, re-reading the few scant lines on it. A Gateway had recently opened, and exploratory probes had monitored radio contact from the system, in Arabic, but there had been no attempts at communication. Further expeditions were planned. He tapped the little bookmark and set a timer to remind himself to follow up on the occasion, then took another slug of his coffee, trying to move on to the next agenda.

Then the door to his relatively comfortable office was thrust open, and a tall, broad shouldered and suspiciously well-toned individual entered, and he immediately felt himself groan internally. There was a certain way some patricians carried themselves- an inherent arrogance superiority and smugness that permeated their existence, declaring themselves above the common rabble that they were forced to rub shoulders with. It oozed out of this man, and even though Rafael had never seen him in his life, nor was he immediately familiar with the coat of arms stamped onto his cufflinks, he could already tell this was not about to be a pleasant meeting.

"Greetings." The man had a baritone that rumbled through a room, with the harshness of a patrician who'd been smoking long enough for it to have an effect, but not so long they had needed rejuvenation treatments. "Señor Antonio de Severino Manuel José de la Cruz de Lebrón. I hear you're the man to come to when it comes to getting the proper information regarding the nations we conduct diplomacy with yes? More than the trite tat I get handed every day by lackies looking to impress."

And just like that, Rafael's expectations were shattered.

"One could certainly put it like that, I suppose, yes. What may I help you with?" Mendoza pulled up the search function of his datasheet, and indicated towards the chair that sat in front of his desk.

"I prefer to stand," said the patrician with a shake of his head. "I need everything we have on the 'Hyginians' and these new 'Summation' fellows. I'm supposed to be attending a meeting with the lot of them over in the station we purchased for some unfathomable reason, and nobody's given me a straight answer regarding any of it. So. Everything, if you wouldn't mind."




Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Eventua
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Eventua

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A collaboration with @Irredeemable

Six Months after the fall of the People's Union...


A storm of activity in orbit around the great gas giant - where once darkness had served as a constant reminder of their loneliness in the universe, now there was a fury of colours.

For the thousands of crew and staff aboard that great monument to failure, Spirit’s Loss, the reawakening of the gateway was something never seen before. An upending of reality, an unpredictable disaster only whispered of in propaganda channels or restricted archival footage.

For what remained of the ancient, awakening mind of Roselle Ivanović, sealed within the station’s distributed intelligences and having been ‘sleeping’ for the past four days, there was a different sort of horror.

The horror of recognition.

Her consciousness projected, she desperately reached out into the shell of one of her Luminous subjects – a diplat mind, similarly digitised but carefully sealed into a single form. It seemed shocked at the sudden intrusion – obviously still a dull creature, even after all the glory it had been granted.

“You. Explain.” she echoed within it. Through its four arching, multi-spectrum lenses she could see it overlooking a number of reports being received from throughout the station and the various freighters and patrol ships throughout the region.

“My lord, it’s an honour, we-”

"Explain.”

“We-we don’t know yet, there was no warning. My lord, what should we-”

“Quiet. There.

The luminous could do nothing as its lenses acted under her control, focusing on a specific report that had just flared up.

An object coming through? So soon?

With a lightning focus she hadn’t felt in centuries, she dropped the shell of the luminous as easily as the strings of a puppet, and moved through the network. A clear instruction echoed through a hundred minds, relayed to every relevant station and crew:

“Bring it to me.”




Roselle would have sneered, had she still a face to do so.

Through the eyes of another luminous – ‘0841’ was its designation, its personal name instead being some bizarre, nonsensical diplat-human combination that she struggled to remember – she worked steadily. Coordinating the efforts of half a dozen skittering, many-limbed current measurements as they meticulously scanned and cut away at the object that now rested in a hastily quarantined hanger-bay.

How many hours did they have before whoever sent the probe through reacted? Signals had been sent for the patrol fleet to converge on the station and maintain engagement distances, but it would take several hours for the entire formation to be ready.

It hadn’t been much to look at when they’d brought it aboard – not really. It clearly hadn’t been designed with looks in mind: a simple, cigar shaped chunk of metal with the absolute minimum required number of thrusters bolted onto it to allow for a comfortable range of movement. Not much fuel on board either – enough to putter out of a moon’s gravitational pull or align itself with an interesting signal.

But now it looked like the deranged mess of a serial killer. Every internal component was carefully removed and analysed before being placed into some kind of storage. With each step Roselle and the current measurements took meticulous, exhaustive data that was recorded and returned to the network, backups of backups of backups. Every sub-component of every sub-component, chemical composition, precise relative location, weight, arrangement of pieces.

The science of it was good. It distracted her from the nagging fears that had desperately clawed at her mind since the gate reopened.

Now? Why now? Who? From Earth? But they’re dead, impossible. Survived, perhaps - bunkers? Outer planet colony remnants? Other colonists?

The last option was the most frightening, of course. The Mensura Group had recruited from some of the greatest minds available on Earth in its time, but three centuries was a long, long time. If other colonies had survived – in likely greater numbers, given starting populations and methodologies for colonisation – then they would have had access to three-hundred years worth of intellectual and scientific development.

If they had reopened the gate…

She would have shuddered, had she still possessed a body to do so.

But fear did no good. There was work to be doing.




“Capacitors to 80%. Make sure tubes and PD’s are loaded.” Capitán Y Sorono frowned a little. Probes scouted out newly opened Gateways as a matter of course- it would be remarkably silly to let others get the drop on new nations and systems when Azulvista had more than enough resources to cover them all. What was less regular was for one of those probes to put out some seriously unusual signals and then go dark. One-in-a-million collision? Scrappers, pirates, something more sinister? Or just another nation that had jumped the gun and swept up their tech?

Regardless, the Gran Republic was mildly annoyed at the whole affair, and so had sent a small flight of caravels to go and investigate. Five ships, headed by a single carrack- Leonardo, sallied forth from the picket and had formed up in front of the Gateway. Last minute checks had been quickly carried out, and with a single nod of his head, Sonora’s craft sped through the vortex and out, out, out, into the multicoloured hues of ancient technology, and to the beyond.




What awaited the Leonardo and its cohort as they emerged from the gate was not the quiet dark of space. Instead, a huge array of ships and machinery – a vast shipyard, networks of hangar bays and refuelling stations stretching for thousands of kilometers in every direction. As they watched, narrow, rounded structures began to uncoil from various surfaces around the tops and undersides of the stations – and judging by the clear power signatures, they were armed.

There was a brief pause aboard the command node of the Leonardo as they took it all in. “Hold fire!” The order rattled through the wing immediately. “Power down the capacitors. Do not pull the trigger, is that understood?” The patrician barked out orders quickly, easily. It was what they were born for, after all, and the orders in question were nothing more than common sense. A flight like this wasn’t even really meant for a serious engagement – the PUNT war had seen a dozen flights like this packed into one wing of a four or five wing fleet. They were outgunned.

Sensors and visual feeds revealed at least two dozen larger vessels – their exact purpose unclear, though it was obvious they possessed some ability to project… kinetic projectiles? Energy? Along with hundreds of smaller craft – though considering their movements, it seemed they were perhaps civilian or economic in nature. Transports or mining vessels, perhaps?

In truth though, even the larger, armed vessels struck the Azulvistans as… unimpressive. Simplistic, rounded shapes stretching maybe a few hundred metres long, the position of their thrusters indicated machines designed for long-distance pursuit or journeys – not the manoeuvrability of ship-to-ship combat at shorter ranges.

For what felt like a lifetime the crew would wait with baited breath, the unknown vessels and the station’s weaponry watching them with the focus of a wounded animal.




Roselle watched the feeds with an intensity that even her colleagues had found disturbing.

“Here. By four degrees. Adjust the time stamp. Here.” she said to the network of luminous she was currently integrated into, directing every meticulous camera zoom or remote analysis as if she was conducting an orchestra.

For the briefest moment Roselle was reminded of cigars when she looked at the ships that had emerged from the gate, and a craving she hadn’t felt in centuries suddenly emerged into her mind. As quickly as it came it passed, and Roselle wanted to break something when he decided to interrupt her.

“You know, we could have had proper battleships.”

Not the time, Mars.”

“No no, of course. I’m just saying.”

Insufferable as ever.

“Do you have anything useful to add?”

“... We have the element of surprise.”

”What?”

“We have-”

“Say it again and I’ll personally call for your deletion, understand?”

The digital image of Mars that flashed in her mind – all punchable teeth and a scar across his left eye he’d gotten during the violence when the gate first closed – seemed to twist into a frown. She hated the way he had always insisted on staying on Spirit’s Loss, for the exact reason of something like this happening.

“COMMS!” echoed her voice through the network, “Where is the language reconstruction I ordered?! And Minerva better have sorted out her avatar already!”

“You’re naive if you think they’re human,” was all Mars said as he blinked away into another part of the distribution, “or will recognize us.”




“Capitán… Your orders?” One of his subordinates was looking at Leonardo, clearly anticipating some kind of statement from the captain. On his part, the young patrician simply chewed his lip a little, thinking.

“Send a commspacket back through the Gateway. Everything we can grab as quickly as we can grab it. Open our receivers for anything we might get from them.” He nodded, partially to confirm his orders, partially to make himself feel a little better. For a moment he had the instinct to touch the cross that hung from his neck, but he had to put on a resolute face for the sake of his subordinates. Stay calm. Do his duty. It was simple in theory, much harder when an indistinct-yet-large amount of firepower was pointed directly at your tremendously fragile carrack, with no room to manoeuvre out of the way.

Suddenly, a transmission came through. It was a little distorted at first, but after a few seconds it began to clear up. The same message, starting to loop in over a dozen languages of old Earth, in the voice of a young woman in her twenties with a clear New England accent:

“State your intentions. You have invaded the territory of the Sevenfold Summation with deadly force. We want peace. Do you seek peace?”

The image that came with the message was at least a little bit eerie, given the circumstances: a young woman in her early twenties, with lightly tanned skin and wavy brown hair that rested against her shoulders. She stood alone in a lightly decorated white-walled room – to anyone who had possessed a particular interest for the architectural design of the time, appearing as a late 2210s minimalist apartment. She was dressed in comfortable attire, as if ready to have a relaxing day at home during the winter, but as she spoke it was clear something about her lips were off – her mouth moved out of time with her words, ever so slightly.

It took a few repeats for the message to come through in something the Azulvistans could begin to understand. Old Spanish. Old Portuguese. It’d do. Leonardo paused, considering his options, which as he counted them up, proved to be remarkably few. The safest, easiest and most reasonable one was obvious though: talk.

First though, he needed to present himself a little bit better than his clipped military softsuit. Comfortable, flexible and useful for slipping into a hardsuit- certainly. Formal or fashionable? Not remotely. “Dress uniform. Now. Captain’s sash as well.” He barked the orders out towards one of the bridge staff, then paused, adding one more on. “And don’t forget my sabre!”

A few minutes later (minutes which thankfully had not been interrupted by weapons fire,) and he was dressed, buttoned, hair slicked back and sash neatly set across his shoulder. His sabre slid into its sheath with a definitive click and, with a quick adjustment of his cuffs, he nodded. “Narrow band broadcast. Straight at whatever sent us those messages.”

“Salve. I am Capitán Leonardo Adalberto Demetrio Teodoro Y Sonora, a member of the Gran Republic of Azulvisa’s Republican Navy. We have arrived in response to one of our exploration probes failing to report in. We are armed only for our own defence, and are more than happy to discuss matters as civilised people.”

The response came from a man who couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, with the faint shadow of stubble around his cheeks, a small moustache and the vaguest glimmer of concern behind his eyes, despite the front he was almost successful in presenting. He wore the typical dress uniform of a naval capitán- a black blazer with silver accents, three medals pinned over his heart, a blue sash slung across his shoulders and a broad peaked cap sitting snugly atop a carefully curated crop of light brown hair.

There was a moment, as the looping message suddenly paused. The woman’s face was frozen into an expression of curiosity – head tilted ever so slightly, like someone had just shown her a pet animal that she didn’t recognize.

Then the woman at last replied, more clearly in a form of Spanish seemingly adjusted slightly to account for the captain’s own words and accent:

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Capitán, and what looks to be a fine crew. My apologies for the aggression, we will power down our weapons.”

Sure enough, the heat and ion signatures radiating from the station platforms began to dissipate and shut down. The fleet of ships began painfully, awkwardly adjusting their course and flaring up light signals in old morse code in something to the effect of ‘sorry to bother you, welcome to our shipyard’.

“Would you and your crew wish to enter our station for further discussion and refreshments? Or is it preferable to communicate remotely?”

“It is only understandable under the circumstances,” Leonardo replied, “Our own weapons are now fully depowered,” as he spoke he waved his hand frantically off-screen, the crew picking up on the implied order and relaying it across the flight. “And we are more than happy to meet face-to-face.”

The woman paused, then smiled slightly at his reply.

“I assume you all still breathe oxygen?”

There was a brief pause before the last question came through. A small note of confusion briefly fluttered across Leonardo’s face. “Affirmative. We are baseline humans – as close as one will find to those that left Earth.”

The woman smiled again, and something about her eyes changed – taking on a brown hue similar to that of the human crew who were visible on camera.

“Excellent. Please direct your vessel to habitation bay 4-” she snapped her fingers, and one of the wider, more disc-like structures of the station suddenly lit up, flashing in rhythmic patterns, “and we will get some refreshments ready. Please do not be alarmed at the welcome you receive, the crew will be very excited to meet you.”

And with that, the signal cut out.




Leonardo waited until he was sure he was no longer broadcasting, then let out a slow breath that he hadn’t known he was holding in. He turned slowly to the rest of his bridge staff, took a moment to compose himself, and failed horribly.

“That was fucking weird, right?”

A few nods from the bridge staff. Most of them weren’t that much more experienced than Leonardo himself, especially when it came to diplomacy and foreign relations. “Send another commspackage back through. The entire conversation we just had, all of it. Highest damn priority we can. Oh, and get the marines out of their bunks and in their dress uniforms, now.” He took the opportunity to cross himself at last, then dug beneath his waistcoat to extract his cross and place it against his lips. “Prepare to dock.”




Grul-Phell Tinek, the Blessed, was having a very blessed few days. He had always thought himself a painfully ordinary diplat – of low-born stock by the echoes of the compact system, and never worthy by assessment of any higher measurement and the gifts of the Summation – and yet here he was, on Spirit’s Loss! Crown jewel of the Summation’s extraplanetary projects, the dreamed destination of untold millions of other quantity caste.

A fluke, honestly. A chance encounter weeks ago with one of the kindest members of the time measurement – the one who called himself ‘Gatsby’, tricky as it was to pronounce – and he’d done such a good job when he was asked to ‘juggle’ that Gatsby had invited him to serve as a private entourage! Imagine!

Gosh, his mum was thrilled to bits.

The flight had been sickening, of course – the medication and therapies had helped, but the diplat body wasn’t naturally built for zero-gravity. For a while he’d regretted it, weakly hoping that maybe lord Gatsby would send him back.

Then of course, the sky had unfolded in a cascade of light, like the jaws of a bounteous grippleworm – followed not long after by the appearance of alien ships! Battle stations at every moment! It was all hands on deck, and as Grul-Phell had cowered in a corridor at one point he had almost been trampled to death by a pair of mass-measurement rushing to arm something… when suddenly one of the luminous – those most blessed beneath the masters of the Summation themselves – reached down with a coiled, ever-shifting hand and lifted him up.

“Grul-Phell, friend. Can’t have you getting squashed, can I? You better come with me. We are expecting special guests.”

And now, with bated breath he stood near the front of a huge crowd – of every caste they had gathered, relentlessly curious. He overheard strange whispers – humans? What were those? They knew the masters? From the master's home?

At the front of the crowd and emitting sharp, curling beams of golden light that clearly delineated lines on the ground that no one could cross stood three members of the luminous – those chosen to represent three of the masters residing within Spirit’s Loss.

There was a whirring of wind. The airlock that the crowd stood across from gave a heavy, weezing THUNK as one harsh, cold white & red door sealed behind the arriving aliens.

“You know, Grul-Phell,” whispered Gatsby into his ear, “I trust you. When they step through and we welcome them, you will follow our entourage. They will be delighted at your juggling, I’m certain of it.”

Unfortunately, something about the way it was said made him more nervous. As he thought about it, however, he was distracted by the sight of new lights forming – the three luminous had emitted new shapes now, a set of three holograms far more detailed than the abstract, faintly bird-like forms they used when speaking to society as a whole or giving big presentations.

In golden light they formed these strange, thin giants – like the length caste, in a way. But taller, thinner, without fur, and with a single pair of smaller, many-circled eyes. There were more hushed whispers among the crowd, but Grul-Phell could only watch the form that Gatsby was projecting.

A strange idea came to him – one that he didn’t like very much, and very quickly tried not to dwell on. An idea that smelled of lies, but to which his gut whispered ‘truth’.

Is that what the masters really look like?




Leonardo had gone over many options in his head as the Leonardo slowly approached the foreign station, marines hastily assembling in their small barracks to prepare a formal escort. Of all those options though, not a single one of them came anywhere close to the reality of… this.

They’d met aliens before, of course. Not him personally, but the Republic as a whole. He had considered perhaps a few xenos faces to be among the welcoming committee. Not the entire entryway to be stuffed full of them with their… Saints above, what the hell were they even supposed to be? Things? Beasts? Creatures? He once again failed to keep his emotions off his face, although to his credit, most of the marines had also failed to do so as well.

His escort was nothing like the de Caravajal’s prim and proper diplomatic guards, or the Lobasla 1st’s refined ferocity. They were Sorona men and women, proud and true, but they’d spent most of the war (and indeed, all the time before the war,) being little more than glorified security guards aboard the carrack. Disciplined, drilled and determined, yes. Prepared for… This?

No.

Not remotely.

Still, they were here for diplomacy, so they had to put on at least some kind of a show. “Marines! Attention! Present… Arms!” He drew his sabre in one swift motion, holding it aloft.

Carbines quickly snapped into place, then were planted firmly into the airlock’s floor. Leonardo brought his sabre to his face, then with a quick twirl, eased it back into its sheath. The only vaguely human figures among the crowd were holographic projections, and it was towards the leading number of these projections that he offered a horizontal-palmed salute.

“Capitán Leonardo Adalberto Demetrio Teodoro Y Sonora of the Gran Republic of Azulvista, and the Sonora 3rd Marines at you-” He mentally corrected himself, ”greet you!”

Only one of the three holograms returned the salute – a dark red in contrast to the other two’s golden light, shaped like a tall and well-built veteran soldier.

The central machine-creature of the trio was projecting an image of the woman who had been on the video transmissions, albeit now wearing a projection of clothing mostly identical to Leonardo’s uniform – just adjusted for her fitting, and with a different symbol than the flag of the Gran Republic: of six pillars arrayed, their shadow cast outward and away from a hollow circle.

A similar symbol was painted on the walls of the station in red and white, like a surreal eye watching all who passed.

The woman stepped forward along with the machine behind her, and as she held out a hand the bizarrely crab-like machine followed her movements – some strange mesh of machinery rearranging itself into a smooth approximation of a human hand and matching the position of the hologram’s own.

Cold to the touch, of course, but artificially warmed.

Leonardo, for his part, quickly lowered his hand from the salute and thrust it forward. His logic was simple- if he didn’t give himself time to think about how utterly insane everything was, it wouldn’t be obvious to these strange foreign diplomats.

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance in person, Capitán. My name is Minerva, of the time measurement. These are two of my…” she flickered briefly, as if holding her tongue, “colleagues.”

“A pleasure, a real pleasure!” said the hologram to her right, of a well-built man in his early thirties with carefully styled blonde hair, “I… wow! You wouldn’t believe how exciting this is! The name’s Gatsby, sorry, I just… a real honour. You have to tell us what’s been happening on Earth in our absence.”

‘Minerva’ flickered briefly, followed by Gatsby and the third figure both flickering.

The third figure – the one who had returned Leonardo’s salute – was grizzled, his left eye covered by an eyepatch, and his face marked by the wrinkles of a man in his late sixties.

“Mars,” he said with a nod and a pained smile, “a pleasure, captain. And might I say, a pleasure to meet such fine soldiers as well.”

No time to pause. Pausing was the enemy. Thinking about what he was doing more than was needed for diplomatic niceties was the enemy. Anything other than getting through this situation intact, and without sullying the reputation of the Gran Republic, was officially not secondary, not tertiary not even quaternary, but… What was further along than quaternary? Shit, no time to dig through his Latin lessons. Gatsby had said something he needed to clear up.

“Once again, greetings to all of you.” He inclined his head slightly. “I’m afraid to say that we ourselves do not hail from the Sol system, but I’ve been reliably informed it’s bustling and busy again, after humanity’s long absence. As for my men, they have conducted themselves most honourably over the past year.”

The three figures flickered briefly, before Minerva smiled again – almost piteously?

“Well… that’s good to hear, I suppose. We will have to send representatives of our own through the Gate, of course. Please come with me – we have done our best to prepare refreshments as close to old Earth as we can manage, but I warn you that diplat tastebuds are not excellent judges. Plus, three hundred years, it, well…”

“...makes it tricky to remember the details.” Gatsby chimed.

Tricky to remember the… How old were the holograms he was talking to? Were they even human? By any metric? Once again, Leonardo had to clamp down on his wayward thoughts. “Is that the term for these xenos?” He had slipped into using the more offensive Azulvistan term, even if it was purely descriptive at its core. “Diplat?”

As one the trio of holograms turned to surround the machine-creatures projecting them and began to walk down the hangar bay in the direction of several wide doors, leading Leonardo and his crew deeper into the station. Notably, most of the creatures in their abundance of shapes stopped dead at the doorway, jostling for position as they excitedly waved at the marines. The exception being a small mole-like creature who stuck close to Gatsby.

Minerva spoke up as they went.

“Yes. They’re extremely helpful creatures, and as you can see by their abundant forms –- very versatile.”

“I think you'll really love this guy,” said Gatsby, gesturing to the stocky four-eyed mole thing that dutifully followed him, “I’ve taught him to juggle. It’s so funny.”




As he followed the holograms through the hallways of the station, Leonardo couldn’t shake the distinct feeling that he was being condescended to. It was not a feeling he appreciated very much – he’d had quite enough at officer’s clubs and wing meetings during the Galactic War, often by people who had no greater qualifications than a more prestigious family name.

Worse than just that though, he couldn’t also help but feel that the holograms he was walking behind didn’t consider the alien beings were really beings at all. True – they were xenos, and to Azulvistans, xenos were a dangerous, potent threat to be respected and hated, but they were still lifeforms. They protected their colony ships and spawning pools at great personal costs, still were capable of feats of extraordinary ingenuity and heroism, and still worthy foes, but these holograms…

Why did he get the distinct feeling they viewed these xenos not as beings, but as amusements, or… worse… tools?

“Captain,” spoke up Mars as they walked as if to interrupt his thoughts, “I do have to ask. Did your colony open the gate? We were prepared for potential outsiders, of course, but it’s been 300 years at this point. The arrival of your ships was a welcome surprise.”

“I am not best qualified to speak on the Gateways- I am, after all, a military officer, but from my understanding of things the Gateways began opening unprompted around six quarters ago. Not just ours, mind, but many other systems as well. Some of them have fluctuated- opening if only to close again soon after, others have taken longer to come online. Full understanding of them is still a ways off.”

Mars frowned, almost in disbelief.

“They just… reopened? No one intentionally activated them? That’s… mmm.”

“Frustrating? I believe our mathetes have had much the same reaction.” Leonardo nodded.

Mars simply nodded and fell back to the side, flickering briefly as he walked.




The room they were brought to was… well, to describe it as a lounge would have been generous. In some regards it resembled a cafeteria of sorts – a wide array of lightly cushioned chairs were spread out, evidently designed for use by these many different forms of ‘diplat’, while along the walls were a variety of machines decorated in strange, scratchy symbols and pictures of… some kind of food. None of it looked very appetising.

Near the centre was a particularly large table, around which they’d arranged eleven identical chairs that looked like they just about could fit a shorter, stockier human – exactly enough for Leonardo and his marines.

Gatsby gestured to the table with a flourish and excitedly pranced towards it, the elongated, crab-like amalgamation that projected his hologram audibly ‘thumping’ as it tried to keep up with his movements.

“I’m sorry, I appreciate it’s not as diplomatic as you may be used to given how many colonies it sounds like have returned, but… please, take your seats. You’re welcome to relax, gentlemen!”

“Any welcome is much appreciated. We understand that you can hardly expect to have a red carpet prepared on the off-chance that three centuries of isolation suddenly ends.” Although Leonardo pulled out the central of the eleven chairs and settled himself firmly into it, the marines did not, instead taking their positions in a loose formation around their captain. For his part, Leonardo would briefly reach into the inside pocket of his dress jacket. For a moment, the golden cross still around his neck glinted in the artificial light of the station, only to be rapidly replaced by a sleek silver cigarette case. “May I?”

Saints he needed a smoke.

Minerva and Mars both flickered briefly, but Gatsby simply smiled.

“Oh, please do! Honestly, I keep trying to get the diplat to try it but tobacco has been just… so difficult to synthesise properly.”

Well, if nothing else, they were clearly a scientifically-minded bunch, Leonardo mused as he brought a slender white stick to his lips, then extracted a bulky yet elegantly designed lighter, sparking a bright blue flame and inhaling deeply. For a moment, he was quiet save for the faint crackle of paper, before slowly exhaling, a long plume of smoke curling its way into the air. One of the marines closest to him twitched a little.

Minerva flickered briefly, resuming movement as she gave a slightly pained smile.

“Forgive us, Capitán. We’re all still very new to this. We would love to know a bit more about your home and what has happened in the past… six quarters, you said? The last year and a half?”

“Rotations,” Leonardo informed her. “Our home planet of Azulvista does not have the same 365, 24-hour day as Earth does, so to avoid confusion between calenders we use ‘rotation’ for a full circumnavigation of our sun, and ‘cycle’ for day. Fortunately, the mismatch between them is not too great.”

Minerva gave the professional smile of a secretary handling matters that she was being paid very much to pretend to care about.

“Fascinating. We have something similar – sometimes we use a clock and calendar based on the diplat homeworld’s rotations, but with time our numerous projects and holdings across the system required us to standardise. After some debate it was decided to simply use Earth’s calendar as the baseline, for simplicity’s sake.”

Leonardo couldn’t help but let out a wry chuckle. “Our various calenders are a constant cause of debate and frustration- it is terribly difficult to organise things when one must keep Earth, Azulvista and her moons all in mind at the same time, and standardisation seems a distant dream.”

Minerva and Gatsby both laughed politely. This was easy and comfortable, a little diplomatic small talk… then Mars perked up a little at the change of subject.

“I’m also curious at your mention of… you said your men had conducted themselves honourably in the last year. Has there been a lot of conflict in that time? I imagine many colonies have been…” he gave a deep-chested laugh, “...heh, less than easy to deal with. Human nature.”

Once again, Leonardo had the concerning feeling that the holograms he was having a conversation with were a little too distant from their roots. “Most of those we have met have been inquisitive and lively, but not warlike. Unfortunately however, one nation in particular found the new state of affairs… Ideologically unacceptable. Conflict ensued, but I’m sure a better diplomat than I, with far longer to inform you of the galaxy’s goings-on, can provide a better brief. There is a large space station in Sol – the Meeting Place, for the various states to conduct this sort of business.”

Mars nodded, before Gatsby’s hologram leaned over just enough to catch attention.

“Ahem, sorry, the refreshments are here.”

From an unfolding circular door against the left wall the refreshments were brought through, carried by a set of four heavy-set diplat, almost deformed by their musculature. To Leonardo and the marines they looked… for lack of a better description, as if the little mole-creature at Gatsby’s side had been fed a regiment of extreme steroids and had done nothing but sleep, eat, and exercise for years. Beneath the smooth, padded dark-red uniforms they wore there were clear signs of cybernetics and implants, to the point where at least one of them made the sound of metal rods clanging together as it walked.

Minerva flickered briefly at the sight of them.

But perhaps more extraordinary than their appearance was the fact that as they brought trays with various foods and drinks – some recognizable, others bizarre – they weren’t… holding the trays. Rather, as each of them walked they simply held up their hands, claws outstretched, as the trays levitated amidst coils of dark blue light.

With heavyset wheezes the creatures leaned forwards, the trays slowly lowering as the glow faded and the trays came to a rest on the table with a soft clattering. As one the servers stepped to the side, standing to attention by a far wall.

“We hope you’ll enjoy it, Capitán. We weren’t sure what should be prepared, but perhaps a range of foods from the ‘Latin America’ of old Earth. Your marines are also very welcome to take some.”

Leonardo had to admit, he was impressed. The display- the cybernetically enhanced servers, the immaculate uniforms despite the alien physiology, the floating serving trays, was certainly the sort of thing he expected from an entirely alien nation. He snuffed the butt of his cigarette out, brushing any ash off his hand before moving to take the food.

The problem came when he reached out to one of the trays, carefully set with daintily looking tacos, and plucked one up. Already he was slightly irked- between Minerva’s hologram imitating his naval uniform and the Latin American food, he was already feeling as if Azulvista was being poked fun at, but it got worse as he realised what he held.

It was hard to stop himself from freezing. This was not a taco. This was a folded tostado, and it looked suspiciously like wheat, not corn. Slowly, trying to make sure his trepidation didn’t show, he bit into the front of it, one of the marines actually wincing at the audible crunch.

Mi abuela would flip a table if she was served this. Barely marinated, with far too much sour cream, guacamole and salsa and severely undersalted, and where the fuck was the coriander?

He had tried, really tried to keep the culinary horror off his face, but he was pretty sure he had failed, trying to finish the food he had already picked up quickly.

As Leonardo struggled to eat the non-taco without grimacing, the holograms likewise struggled to control their reactions. Minerva flickered several times as if her holographic form was failing her, while Gatsby flickered briefly but otherwise gave an amused smile – though something in his eyes gave away a nervous fear, the thought ‘we’ve offended him’.

Mars remained stone-faced, glancing periodically at the marines.

“Captain,” he said, sneering at the hulking, cybernetically augmented creatures who had brought the food, “I apologise for the poor quality of the food – the diplat sense of taste is geared towards things we would find repulsive, and the salinity of their world’s water supply distorts perspectives. I remember on Earth military food standards were famously rather… hit-or-miss, you might say, but I have no doubt your people’s standards have improved in the past three hundred years.”

“It is certainly a worthy attempt, and I must apologise for my reaction. It is not becoming of your generous hospitality.” He reluctantly picked another one of the tostado-things up as he continued to talk. “We in the navy have the luxury of consistent kitchens and mess halls, and officers such as myself have cooks fit for the station… It’s the infantry that must get along with inconsistencies.” He smirked a little- say what you would about the prestige associated with a tiny carrack command, but it was surprisingly comfortable once you got used to its eccentricity.

Mars nodded but said nothing, before glancing at the marines again. The hologram scratched his chin, as if a thought had suddenly appeared to him. Minerva politely smiled but otherwise seemed to be happy for Mars to speak.

“You know, I think it would greatly benefit our nations to arrange some form of joint-military exercise. The diplat have repeatedly proven themselves quite tenacious when under siege or in urban warfare, and with a few careful adjustments individuals have proven themselves in a range of extreme environments, but, well…” Mars gave a polite laugh, “they lack, mmm… military finesse, you might say. It sounds like your republic is very capable in such matters.”

Leonardo swallowed quickly in his hurry to respond. “While such an offer is generous and would likely have much merit to it, I must confess that I cannot be considered to speak on behalf of the Gran Republic when it comes to such matters. You must understand- I am no diplomat or admiral, carrying great authority within our nation. I’m merely a naval captain of good birth and bearing, sent here to investigate a missing probe.” Actually, that reminded him. “Speaking of which, I presume the probe has been held on this station? If that is the case, its return would be greatly appreciated, as property of the Republican Navy.”

There was a brief pause as Leonardo’s request hung in the air. Minerva and Mars both flickered repeatedly, as if malfunctioning – to the point where even the mole-creature, just quietly standing off to the side and staring at its feet, was now watching them with a… confused expression? Fear? The hulking server-creatures seemed to lean forward slightly, as if wrestling with whether they should run to get some kind of help.

Leonardo too, seemed rather concerned at the flickering of the holograms. They’d done this before, multiple times, for some reason which he had yet to fully fathom, but this was a longer and more intense bout of the apparent malfunction than had happened before.

Gatsby, however, remained stable – just an awkward smile crossed the hologram’s face. He gave a deep breath, then clapped his hands together and held them not far from his chest.

“Captain… you’re our guest, so whereas my colleagues seem content to lose their minds over this matter, I’ll be honest with you.”

He flickered very briefly, then snapped his fingers – from the mechanical body that projected him, a second hologram was then projected: a huge mess of components and dismantled machinery, carefully being catalogued or melted down and tested by about a dozen scuttling robots.

Slowly, Leonardo took another bite of the food, considering the matter as Gatsby continued to explain.

“I’m afraid to say that one of our colleagues was so eager to understand your probe and the potential risks to outsiders that she made the…” he paused, as if looking for a word other than ‘stupid’, “rash decision to have it captured and dismantled immediately.”

He gave an apologetic smile and let his hands open – an age old gesture of ‘how can we fix this’.

“My colleague has informed us that the probe is now in a state where it would be, well, unusable. We would like to make it up to your great republic – I appreciate that destruction of property, navy property in particular, is not a great first impression. We’re happy to return the parts and analysed materials, of course, but… is there something of exchange that might be more valuable instead?”

Minerva and Mars’ both snapped back into place, but simply stood there silently – Minerva in particular looked mortified.

Leonardo took a moment to mull over his words. “Firstly, of course, the analysed parts and materials would need to be returned, particularly the probe’s backup databanks- it’s ‘black box,’ so to speak. As for a repayment…” He paused once again. He wasn’t speaking for himself or his vessel any more, instead he was speaking for the Republic, something he was vastly underqualified to do. “What would you consider to be adequate compensation in a matter such as this, internally?”

Gatsby smiled, flickering briefly, “That’s fair. We’ll start returning the probe's components immediately.”

Indeed, in the space of a few seconds the various scuttling robots on the camera had paused their work, and just as quickly they set about re-attaching or restoring what components they could. Several of the bulkier diplat entered the room, and began to use both physical strength and the strange levitating abilities demonstrated to begin moving the various packs of dismantled parts and melted elements out of the room and off camera, to places unknown.

Then he smiled at Leonardo’s response to his offer by putting the onus on him. Gatsby stroked his chin, as if weighing up possible gifts.

“Well, mmm… I would offer some kind of equivalent machinery, but I appreciate it’s early days to be transporting unknown devices into your home system.”

Mars gave a scowl at Gatsby’s comment, a look of… ‘you’ll never hear the end of this’, but with an undercurrent that was harsher. Deadlier.

The machine at the centre of Gatsby’s hologram turned, its four lenses suddenly narrowing slightly in the direction of the mole-creature. Its gaze had shifted slightly as it stood to one side, glancing at Leonardo and the marines with something resembling paranoia.

A gentle smile spread across Gatsby’s mouth.

“These… ‘mathetes’, you called them? Do they handle all matters of scientific curiosity? Zoology, maybe?”

“It is the broad term for those who have completed an advanced academic degree- what Earth might call a ‘masters,’ of any subject, yes.” He quirked an eyebrow, curious as to where this was going.

Gatsby gestured to the diplat, snapping his fingers. When the creature turned to look at him, the machine projecting him emitted a set of noises, some sort of strange, brief mixture of clicks and… chewing, sounds? Whatever he’d said the creature responded dutifully, shuffling over on two legs when the shape of its arms suggested it would’ve been more comfortable sprinting on all fours.

“This dear fellow, the juggler? He is a member of what we’ve come to call ‘Quantity’ diplat – their genetic baseline, or close enough anyway. ‘True diplat’, unlike the more useful higher measurements that crew most of our ships and stations. I think your mathetes might find him most interesting to analyse, medicate, test…”

His voice hesitated briefly, as if about to use other terms, but held his tongue.

“Well, you get the idea. We have four-and-something billion of them, and they’re quite naturally short-lived.”

“They’re easy to miss.” chimed in Minerva.

“Yes, exactly. And don’t worry, we’ve had many opportunities to test for potential risks, all evidence shows that diplat and human diseases are near-mutually exclusive. Plus this one has been, and will be again, very carefully detoxified before boarding your ship – assuming the idea is agreeable?”

This time, Leonardo was able to hide his distaste. He was very glad he was, because the words that ran through his mind were anything but diplomatic. Slavers. Giving away a sapient being, viewing it as a disposable test dummy… If he’d have been back home, he would have spat on the ground at such an offer. But he wasn’t, and, realistically, bringing back a xenos to question and examine would certainly be appreciated. He swallowed down his distaste, instead focusing on practical matters.

“I can see a few small issues with this- one, you mentioned that their diet is somewhat different to ours? Would feeding him be an issue? Secondly, how are we to communicate? Thirdly, are there any other accommodations we’d need to make?”

Gatsby clapped his hands together.

“Oh, diet won’t be an issue at all. They’re omnivores, but particularly lean towards scavenging detritus – the core food set up for them is a kind of…” he cringed, “well, we’d call it slop, honestly. Our tests involving Earth-based food supplies show they can digest them well enough. And no, there shouldn’t be any other accommodations – if your ships and stations have a waste disposal system, it’ll be easy enough for him to figure out where to relieve himself.”

Minerva stepped in now, smiling flatly.

“And communications will, mmm… we could provide a small translation device?”

Gatsby rolled his eyes at the suggestion.

“Diplat are actually quite intelligent, with the right training. Their brains are hardwired for communication and cooperation – it won’t take long for me to teach him a few key commands in Spanish.”

“I would much prefer communication devices. A few key commands will hardly be useful should the mathetes wish to ask him about family structures or names.”

Gatsby flickered very briefly, almost imperceptibly so, but then just smiled and nodded.

“Excellent point, we’ll have it arranged right away… I must say capitán, this has been, just… thrilling, I don’t think any of us can emphasise it enough.”

Minerva stepped forward, “Yes, it’s been very informative. The other members of the Summation will be curious to know more and arrange more discussions… will you and your marines be staying longer? You’re our guests, of course.”

“I’m certain we can arrange to stay for a little longer, but I must be returning to my vessel somewhat soon, with the probe in tow. I have a report to submit to my superiors.”




It was as promised. Leonardo had stuck around for another few hours, fielded more questions and asked just as many, avoided eating anything else, and then once the news came through that the probe was safely stashed away in the Leonardo he took his leave.

The flight hovered in Summation space- just outside of the Gateway for a few hours more, relaying information back and forth, finally delivering the Time Measurement with a brief data package on what they should expect upon reaching the Meeting Place, and a summary on the rest of the Galaxy’s nations. With that, they turned, burnt engines, and with a surprising lack of ceremony, returned to their home system.




“THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST. WE WILL BE SENDING A DELEGATION TO THE MEETING PLACE IN THE COMING WEEKS. PLEASE LEAVE OUR TERRITORY UNTIL WE HAVE CONTACTED YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AT THE MEETING PLACE. THOSE WHO STAY WITHOUT LEAVING AS REQUESTED WILL BE FIRED UPON.”

So had beamed the message in the hours following Leonardo’s departure. It was a warning that Gatsby had frowned at, but ultimately the others’ paranoia had won out – when it became clear that a number of other civilizations were also reaching out to make first contact so quickly, Roselle had been quick to point out what a mess first contact had been with this… Gran Republic. Time was needed to work out what limits would be needed, and information had to be gathered in more detail to know how the various colonies would feel about their… ‘eccentricities’, as she’d put it.

I suppose we can agree on that, Gatsby thought, though I think the juggler saved it, honestly.

The juggler… Grul-something, it was already escaping him, but it had dutifully followed his instructions.

“I have a special task for you,” he’d said, “go with these humans. We’ll be providing their ‘ Capitán Sorono’ with a device to translate for you – whatever he or anyone he assigns to guard you tells you to do, you will obey them, understood? When the time of your mission is over, I will come to collect you: but I warn you, it will probably be a very long time.”

He’d given a bit of the old spiel, about this being a special responsibility for the good of the diplat sphere. That they were rediscovering ancient allies, who would help the Summation and its good subjects rise to ever greater glory.

The juggler had frowned, quivering slightly, before looking up with that defeated look that so many of the creatures seemed to constantly carry.

“Will you tell my mother? They’ll miss me,” the juggler had pleaded, and for the briefest moment Gatsby had projected the image of a diplat, smiling gently and emitting sympathetic warbles.

“Yes, of course. We’re friends, Grul…” a brief flicker, “-Phell. I’ll make sure they get the news, and many gifts for having raised such a dutiful son.”



He hadn’t lied, of course – some might have in his place, but Gatsby was a good master. He’d been sure to record a brief message, a thank you with condolences and some petty lies about him having died in an accident involving an airlock. Compensation was an obvious inclusion, tickets to move to an apartment in a nicer burrow-city for his mother and a few of his siblings.

But all that having been dealt with and the various operations and projects of Spirit’s Loss finally returning to a measure of normality, Gatsby retired into his digital palace.

Ever so idly, he drifted through the data package that the azulvistans had provided them with; smiling here or there at the summaries of the dozens of other civilizations that had emerged since the Gates reopened.

For a moment, he almost started to skim read it… then something caught his eye. For an instant of time his mind flashed back to his time at university – a mortal man with mortal needs. His mind began to race, idle curiosity collapsing into a black hole of need.

Names. Two of them.

Human, and ancient, and by all rights very, very dead.
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Apollo26

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HELLAS

The orbital hub of any planet in the Hellas system was always busy, constant arrivals and operations keeps it almost fully staffed all the time. This was especially true for Nicosia’s lone orbital hub, grouping both cargo arrivals and passenger traffic. Kana station, as it’s known by the locals, is more of a secondary city than a cargo hub. Due to passenger demand, hotels, bars and restaurants took root on the station, both adding to the size and the need for permanent housing. This also increased the demand for cargo space, necessitating the need for bigger bays and storage. Kana station quickly turned into a void city, with a population rivaling some medium sized cities down on Nicosia.
The streets of Kana station were always busy, packed with transient freighter crews and diplomats traveling between worlds. This gave the station a seedier feel as the transient nature of the clientele and black market activity attracted strip joints, brothels and all types of dive bars. If one knew what to look for, you could find it on Kana station.

Cristos Kal
Kana Station


Cristos stepped through the docking bridge and into the arrivals bay of the station. He squinted against the harsh glow of the lights as his eyes adjusted to their new environment, tired from his nearly four day journey from Boitia. With an almost silent grunt, he made his way through the arrivals bay, dodging tourists as he made his way towards the exit into the station.
The arrivals bay felt like a different station, the decor was kept very modern and maintained. Fancy bars and a bright off white interior made it very appealing for tourists traveling to and from the surface. Tourists rarely left the bubble of the arrivals bay however, most had no idea the city that sat below them.
Cristos gracefully dodging a final group of drunk tourists before reaching the exit and walking into a large elevator bay. Quickly finding an empty elevator, Cristos ducked in and hit the close door button, letting out a sigh as the door closed. He felt lighter as the elevator quickly descended, a mixture of the velocity and the switching artificial gravity fields from the arrivals bay to the station. As the elevator doors opened again, Cristos was met with a starkly different picture.
The soothing off white interior had been changed to a gray dirty steel, stained by decades of use and graffiti. The polished floors had changed to a dirty concrete, pockmarked with gum, cigarettes and random unknown stains. The lighting, had also changed to a dull orange coupled with the fluorescent and neon lights of bars, clubs and restaurants.
Bypassing the crowd outside of the Arrivals entrance, Cristos quickened his pace as he walked into an alley, pulling the hood up on his coat before reaching the street on the opposite side. A flashing neon sign lit the street in bright periodic flashes of purple light. A bright red “ Lucky 1’S, best girls and steaks” sign, bathed the street in a constant red glow.

‘That’s the place’ Cristos thought before making his way past the short line and into the bouncer.

“ Im here for Vlad” Cristos said flatly, as he sized up the bouncer. The man could easily crush Cristos, standing nearly a foot taller than him with arms as big as his head.

“ Yes, inside” the bouncer spat without even meeting his gaze, pointing towards the door with a dismissive thumb.

Cristos nodded and walked inside, the door buzzer audible from the outside before being opened by a similarly sized bouncer.

“ This way”, the second bouncer said in a gruff tone as he opened another door leading to a hallway.

With another nod, Cristos walked through the door, making it a couple steps inside the hallway before the door abruptly shut behind him. “ Shit “, he said audibly before a door to his right was yanked open, revealing a gang of men inside.
A gloved hand quickly reached out towards his chest, finding a hold on his jacket before yanking him inside with the sound of ripping fabric. Even before he fell, Cristos could feel the kicks and punches from the gang around him repeatedly hitting his ribs and back as he covered his head.

“ Stop”, a voice said over the commotion, immediately stopping the beating as the gang stepped away from Cristos

“ Vlad wants to know if you have it” the man said as two men from the group around him bent over to pick him up causing Cristos to wince.

“ Do you have it?” The man repeated, now face to face with Cristos.

“ Yes, front jacket pocket…” , Cristos said, wincing slightly as he inhaled to speak.

A hand entered his jacket pocket and retrieved the small flash drive within before handing it to the gang leader.

“ Let’s check it out” the leader said, before the gang dragged Cristos to an adjoining room, sitting him down in a posh leather chair. The room was obviously a conference room, with a large rectangular table in the center and a large screen at one end.
The gang leader plugged the flash drive into a terminal on the table, causing the screen at the far end of the room to light up. The plans for an experimental bomb were displayed on the screen, followed by the locations of cobalt stores and enriching facilities. This was all beyond Cristos’s understanding, but he knew that he was looking at some sort of terror weapon and the means to get it.

“ Good” the leader said before abruptly pulling the drive from the terminal, prompting a slight smirk from Cristos.

“ Cut him loose, and pay him” the leader said before walking out of a door next to the screen. Almost before the gang leader was out of the door a large duffle bag was thrust into Cristos chest and he was pushed out a separate door to his right.
The transition from a lit room to the sudden dull orange light of the station made Cristos blink slightly as he struggled to see where he was. As his eyes adjusted, he realized he was outside again, behind the club. He slowly lowered the duffle bag down from his chest and looked inside, fining a bundle of clothes. Laughing slightly, he dug further to find a hard case with a set of currency chits inside, looking pleasantly surprised as he closed the duffle bag.

“ Im surprised they actually paid me”, he said under his breath ‘ Almost made the past two weeks worth it’ he thought, as he walked toward the main thoroughfare. Cristos made his way back to spaceport and into the arrivals terminal again, his slight limp going unnoticed by the guards and tourists.
Walking past the normal arrival gates, Cristos walked into the private terminal and onto a waiting shuttle. He was met by a large group of people, working on small terminals and discussing documents over a large but portable screen. After what seemed like a minute or two one man looked up from his terminal and grinned.

“ Cristos…you look like shit” he said with a laugh, “ Did you load the virus…” he finished looking back down towards his terminal.

“ Yes…” Cristos answered flatly, nodding towards the back of the shuttle. “ I guess the boss wants to see me right” he finished, looking down towards the man who greeted him.

‘Mhmm’ the man answered, not looking up from his terminal prompting Cristos to roll his eyes before walking towards the back of the shuttle and opening the private quarters hatch.
Another group of people sat inside, obviously shushing their discussion as Cristos walked in. The room was an office, a man sat at a desk towards the far end of the room, with men and women scattered around the room in chairs. Portable tablets littered the desk and the floor, followed by hand drawn plans and maps.

“ Ah Cristos…come in and close the damn door” the man at the desk barked before someone sitting in a chair closed the door for him. “ You’re alive, so I guess you’re successful” he nodded, obviously proud of Cristos. “ Congratulations, you passed, welcome to the SIS” he said with a nod and a smile before his face soured into his normal scowl. “ Now find a seat, we are debriefing on the moon” he barked again before the room erupted back into its previous conversation.
Cristos nodded and walked out of the hatch behind him, into the passenger area. Finding the first seat he could, Cristos threw the bag on the row of seats and laid down, just getting a chance to close his eyes before the private office hatch door swung open.

“ Cristos….” A woman barked from the door, prompting him to sit up slightly on his elbows. “ What’s in the bag?” She asked flatly.

“ Clothes……” Cristos answered in a matter of fact tone, staring at the woman with a slightly annoyed face.

“ Alright..” She said, before abruptly closing the hatch again.

Cristos laid back down again and smirked as he felt the hardcase of the payment chits against his head.

- Five days earlier -
- On Boitia -


Cristos and another sat at a tall table in a crowded bar, hunched close to each other so they could be heard over the thumping bass.

“ Everything is there, the plans, warehouse locations, everything. Now, where is my money” the man spat in almost a frantic tone, constantly looking around the bar with a worried face. “ You don’t know the Boitian intelligence service, they are ruthless man…” he finished with a wavering tone.

Cristos smirked and sat back in his chair before bringing the glass to his lips “ Don’t worry about it”, he said dismissively, “ You weren’t followed, and if they were as ruthless as you say, you’d be dead already” Cristos finished with a chuckle as he pushed a flash drive over towards the man. “ The location of your payment is on this, now hand over the plans” Cristos teased, sliding the small jump driver on the table under his fingers.

The man, reached into an interior coat pocket and pulled out another slightly larger flash drive before slapping it on the table “ Money first….” The man said, his voice obviously shaking as he white knuckle gripped the flash drive in his hands.
With another chuckle, Cristos slid over his flash drive with the payment details and watched as the man hurriedly grabbed the jump drive and walked towards the door, leaving the flash drive with the bomb plans and warehouse locations on the table.

‘ Dont spend it in one place ’ Cristos said under his breath sarcastically, knowing full well he walked that man into an ambush. There was no payment waiting for him at that location, just a tactical team from the SIS and the business end of a pistol.
Cristos rose with a cocky grin and retrieved the flash drive from the table before making his way to the bathrooms. Weaving past a couple making out, Cristos made his way into the single occupancy bathroom letting the door shut behind him before he heard an audible thud.

Turning around, Cristos could see the outline of a foot in the door, “ Hey man, its occup-“ is what he got out before a figure burst into the bathroom, shoving a stun gun up under Cristos’s chin. There was a moment of blinding pain, followed by a warm soothing feeling as he quickly lost consciousness, smacking his face on the dirty toilet on his way down.
Working like the true professionals they are, the Boitian agents opened the bathroom window and Cristos’s limp body was shoved outside and into a waiting van. The whole operation took less than a minute.

The sudden feeling of pain mixed with extreme cold is the next thing Cristos felt, opening his eyes to the inside of a black cloth sack. Another blast of cold water hit him, causing him to yell slightly before the cloth sack was yanked off his head.
The sudden sunlight blinded Cristos as he rapidly looked around to ascertain his surroundings. His legs and arms were bound as he laid on his side, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Tall blue Boitian grass grew around him, limiting his sight to just his immediate area. Behind him, Cristos could hear sobbing and the laughter of their captors as they walked around the pair.

“ So……” a voice boomed over the slight commotions obviously directed at the pair. “ Why do we find ourselves in this position, this is a little more than you wanted from your Boitian tourist experience I’m sure” the voice boomed with a chuckle.
The voice was clearly a mans voice, but it was….odd, disturbed almost in a gleeful psychopathic way. Cristos was warned about the Boitian security service, but the way it was worded made it sound like more of caution than a warning of danger. Thinking back to the briefing he received before leaving on this mission, Cristos remembered one sentence that concerned the Boitian intelligence service, -Take note, some of your counterparts in the BIS can be……odd-.

‘ Well….” Cristos thought to himself…’ this is certainly odd’.

“ Let’s start with the Nicosian, he voice boomed again” Bringing Cristos’s attention back to the situation at hand before being yanked to a kneeling position.

“ What’s your story....” The man said with a chilling barely contained giggle as a large knife pushed its way into Cristos’s field of view. From this distance, Cristos could see the serration on the blade itself and the casting marks from the forging process. If this wasn’t terrifying enough, the man quickly flicked his wrist, prompting the small serrated blades to move, quickly gaining speed to give the edge of the blade a red hue that gave off heat.
Cristos’s eyes clearly widened only causing the look of glee on mans face to twist into a wide toothed smile. As the blade inched closer to Cristos’s face, he quickly blurted out in a frantic tone.

“ Im from the SIS, here on a mission!!!!” He screamed, wincing against the heat of the blade that was now mere inches from his face.

A chorus of laughter erupted around him as he felt the blade retreat from his face, finally getting a chance to look around at his captors. A mixture of men and woman stood around him in a variety of dress. Some wore formal suits or the political robes of Boitians politicians. Others were in tactical dress, sporting rifles and chest rigs with advanced helmet devices and armor. Much of this was beyond Cristo’s own understanding as this level of technology never really saw the inner moons. Every so often a new weapon or technological improvement will be sold by the merchants of Boitia but most of it is hoarded by the Boitian government themselves. Even the knife used the threaten Cristos was experimental.

The chorus of laughter subsided for a moment before the man placed a reassuring hand on Cristos’s shoulder, “ We know….” The man said, as he trailed off to face the other man.

“ Did you know you were dealing with the SIS…..” The man asked in a fake inquisitive tone, almost seeming more gleeful than before.

Cristos looked worried as he turned his head to look at the man, immediately recognizing him as his criminal contact from the bar. His face was swollen and bloody, his undershirt in tatters as he was stripped down to his underwear. A mix of blood, snot and tears fell from his face at a constant rate as he failed to meet his interrogators gaze.

“ N-No….” The second prisoner said meekly his face glued to the ground.

“ What would your bosses think….if we give you back to him without payment, or the plans you stole from us?”, the interrogator continued as he walked behind the man, prompting his sobs to turn into full blown wails.

“ Shhh, shhhh… there is no need for all that, were not cruel” the interrogator said with a chuckle “ We wouldn’t give you back to your bosses…” the man said pulling a pistol from his waistband and pointing it at the back on the mans head. “ We will just kill you” he finished before pulling the trigger

-CLICK-

The sound was nearly deafening as the chorus of laughter returned. “ Look at that….” The interrogator laughed as he spoke “ Can’t be careless in this position” he said before holstering the pistol. The interrogator looked back towards Cristos and walked over, squatting down on his heels to be at the same height as him.

“ In this business you don’t often get to learn lessons, usually the lessons kill you” the interrogator spoke quietly, loosing all the glee in his voice. The sudden change in demeanor was disturbing as Cristos slowly turned his head to meet the interrogators gaze.

“ I have a lesson for you today Cristos, something the SIS failed to teach you”, he continued in a flat emotionless tone.

“ “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent”. The interrogator quipped, “ A lesson from Sun Tzu from ancient Earth” the man finished before standing once more, making his way back towards the second sobbing prisoner.

“ That is the lesson” the interrogator yelled, dismissively waving his hand towards the sobbing prisoner, “ and this is how you will remember it” he finished as one of men in tactical dress slipped a garrote over the sobbing prisoners neck, wrestling him to the ground.

The ferocity of the strike shocked Cristos, who audibly gasped before another black sack was pulled over his face. Leaving him with the sound of choking and the panicked gaze of his former criminal counterpart burned into his mind.

A few hours later, Cristos had been bandaged and unceremoniously kicked out on the corner by the spaceport, left with only a paper bag of fresh clothes and some instructions

“ Get this to Vlad’s boys, have them plug it in and we will do the rest”

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Eventua

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A collaboration with @Jeddaven

Six Months after the Formal Surrender…

Easifa System – Clockwise Spiral edge of the Yahsud Alnaar’s territory

Lovecraft Fangjaw was having a field day, top to bottom. For two days he and his team had camped in the wilds surrounding one of the arctic databases of the Yahsud Alnaar, a barren wasteland of machinery and ice, and had managed to not only destroy and recover one of its drones without alerting the network, but…

Direct access, he thought with a smile, take that, academic asscracks.

A treasure that hadn’t been seen in at least twenty years – to access raw source code for the Yahsud, extract it, and now safely quarantine it in a black box. They’d had to leave immediately, of course – the extraction team had almost ruined their quantum-decay distraction protocols with lousy timing, and half of them got shot to pieces by the remaining drones, but…

This could be it. The thrill of death was etched into his mind, but more so yet the thrill of victory.

But the memory of Asimov was clearly not done with him, because no sooner had they left the range of the Yahsud Alnaar – unfortunately on the wrong side of it from the fleet, so they’d be stuck spending the next three weeks getting back to them – that they’d detected something almost as exciting.

A new star had appeared in the vacuum of space, and it was in a very, very interesting location. Practically miraculous, if he were a religious man.

“Captain?” asked the still shaking intern at the controls to his left, “Should, uh… should we head for the fleet?”

He smiled.

“Oh no, kid. We’ve got something else to see first. How does two for two on world-shattering discoveries sound to you?”

“Te-terrifying, sir.”

“Great! Set a course.”



Easifan System Gateway

Light. Colour. All at once, a violent swirl of energy tore its way into the Easifan system, with a suddenness that perhaps even the original builders of the gateways couldn’t have imagined. Too look upon it was to be bombarded with a violent kaleidoscope of sensory input, light potent enough to blind, images of worlds unknown and swarms of artificial constructions visible through the murky soup of the portal.

Then, just as suddenly, peace.

The portal snapped shut just as suddenly as it had opened, warbling and wobbling like a blob of non-newtonian fluid struck particularly hard before vanishing entirely.

A new set of eyes looked upon Easifa; a bristling suite of artisanal sensors and cameras packed into a space the size of a small asteroid, its smoothly curved hull glinting in the distant light of the stars.

It was one small part of a greater whole, constructed with a particular purpose in mind, which it proudly announced to the system through every communication channel it could manage, both faster-than-light and based on every radio frequency it could spit out, in every arrangement of human language it could manage.

“Hello, there!” It chirped, friendly, androgynous, and welcoming; perhaps even informal. “Today, my name is Copernicus. I come bringing greetings and aid from the people of the Anarchist Federation of Europe, should you wish to receive them.”



Gaia’s Patience – Outer Planetary Temple-Garden of the Children of Gaia

“Out of the way, out of the way!”

Matriarch Fir Carolina was having a day both bad and blessed. First the hydroponics at garden twelve had been faltering and she’d needed to shout at a young sister-neophyte for playing near delicate systems (never a good look, and not something she enjoyed either)... but then someone had been kind enough to give her flowers for her birthday, and honestly that had really lifted her mood.

Then she’d had to taste-test the soup being made for the High Matriarch’s communal meal and the peppers had been absolutely rank, like someone had insulted her mother while defecating in front of her.

But now, as seemed to be forming a pattern for the day, the namesake of Gaia’s Patience was finally coming true. A blessing to paint over every fault – every diary and record for today would clearly scream “Today the Gate was opened! Lost Gaia awaits!”

As she made her way through corridor after corridor, either politely nodding, greeting and waiting as older matriarchs passed her by, or hurriedly waving on or crying out for younger women and men to move out of the way as she made her way to the second floor governing chambers.

As with all of the corridors and rooms she’d had to make her way through, it was dense with foliage from countless species – while ‘hydroponics’ was a term usually used to refer to the specific gardens used to supply food, the creeds of the children had demanded that Gaia’s Patience should be dedicated to the species of their lost, ancient homeworld.

Mothers only knew how many years of asteroid mining, chemical refinement, and careful biomatter recycling had been needed to create enough artificial soil with the right balance to actually sustain so much plant life.

But here, in the governing chambers, it was a different kind of life – people, mainly.

While the creeds forbade most from entering these chambers, matriarchs were freely allowed access – there just normally wasn’t any reason for them all to be there at once. So it was that the beautifully cleared and structured clearing, decorated and arranged in the style of an ancient Roman garden, was absolutely choked with women. A range of ages – from their early thirties in some cases, while many of the High Matriarchs were easily in their 80s at this point – but all of whom having been altered, their bones thin and elongated from centuries of life in low gravity and their scaled skin in shades of pale green from the mixture of reptile and plant-DNA their ancestors had been infused with to greatly minimize the amount of food they had to eat.

The High Matriarchs sat at the center of the throng on ornate, gold-plated chairs interwoven with old plant-matter, before at last shushing the crowd with a single raised hand.

There was bated breath, a message relayed on the comms – evidently translated from an old Earth tongue into the Children’s eclectic creole of German, Swedish, and Portuguese.

”Hello! Today, my name is Copernicus. I come bringing greetings and aid from the people of the Anarchist Federation of Europe, should you wish to receive them.”

The crowd was stunned.

Europe?! was silent, but the thought was universal. They knew people named Europe, that was an Old Earth location! What could it mean? Had humans actually survived after all? Perhaps their other half, those of the Children who had refused to leave Earth?

The High Matriarch in the lead, a stone-faced woman of 70 whose graying hair had been artificially maintained into a tight gray bob that framed her face and emphasized the eagle-like gaze she would hold on those who disappointed her, waved a hand at the murmuring crowd.

“Matriarchs! Sisters! Do not allow this blessed day to be undignified! Please, hold your tongues – we are about to open communications with these strangers! Instead, may your prayers help them to be friendly to us and with open hearts!”

Ahem, she thought as nervous murmuring gave way to silence, that’s better.

“Open the communications!” she cried, and slowly the soft noise of static filled the room.

“Friend Copernicus, my name is High Matriarch Thorn Versailles, speaking on behalf of the Children of Gaia. Long have we waited for the reopening of the Gate and the return to our ancestral home – tell us, are you truly from Europe?”

“Originally.” Copernicus replied, thousands of calculations running across the surface of its electronic brain as it picked apart and analyzed the voice it heard in reply. Storage banks quickly recalled a handful of snippets of information; most primarily, the records it possessed of the Children of Gaia, a pitiable if not nobly-oriented pre-apocalypse cult. This, then, presented a few immediate options, and a loosely-structured approach for the future of its conversation.

“Regrettably, I was forced to resettle away from Earth, along with the rest of my comrades.” They continued. “We’re in the process of preparing to re-establish contact with Earth, however -- it’s necessary to ensure we don’t disrupt the present biosphere, of course; I’m sure you understand.”

In the governing chamber, there was silence. Disappointment, certainly, and no end of questions.

But so publicly is not the place for them, Thorn thought, nor within our home.

She looked to the other two High Matriarchs, and whispered between themselves. After a minute or two, she spoke up again.

“Thank you for sharing this information with us, friend Copernicus. If we might, we would like to meet in person and discuss more, but…” she grimaced, “we cannot allow outsiders to enter the temple-garden except in the most dire situations, in case of disease. Many generations have worked very hard to nurture what we can of a living biosphere within this planetoid. Can we send a ship with representatives to meet you in a clean, neutral environment?”

“Of course!” They replied, inwardly pleased at the care the Gaians were showing for the biosphere they’d constructed. “Although, I will say, I am not a biological being. I am an artificial intelligence, and I can assure you, the vessel I am speaking to you through has been thoroughly sanitized by a bath of ionized radiation. Nonetheless...” It said, pausing,

“We maintain similar quarantine procedures in our dwelling places, and would be more than happy to accommodate your own. It would only be fair, after all.”

The AIs words lingered, and there was a long, long pause. To Copernicus, it might have felt like a lifetime of silence considering how quick the earlier response had been.



Carolina had had to step out of the chambers, catching her breath – the moment the voice had stopped speaking and the comms had been cut, the room had erupted into argument. She’d left through one of the little side doors – an emergency exit – and was now resting against a wall, her face held in her hands.

Artificial intelligence?! her mind screamed, Have other colonies been lost as well?!

The last thing she’d heard before it was lost in the arguing was High Matriarch Thorn’s desperate, failed demands for them all to calm down… but how could they?

Mother, she thought, I need a strawberry.

She found a whole bush of them about ten or so minutes later, of course, on the fifth floor – now primarily containing a mixture of plant and fungal species from across the old European continent. As she sat with her legs crossed in the dirt and tried to enjoy the taste of it despite the bitter irony given the communications that had just gone on, with the weight of it in her mouth, Carolina had to admit this was following the pattern. Of course the Gate would finally reopen only for an AI to appear from it – there couldn’t have been a nastier joke if she’d tried to come up with one.

The sound of strawberry branches being pushed aside distracted her from her melancholy. A young man, probably no more than twenty-three and with gentle gray eyes, held out a nervous hand. She couldn’t help but sneer a little at her nightmarish contemplations being interrupted by a younger man of all people.

“Matriarch-Sister Fir Carolina? Y-you, um, sorry. I have been asked to summon you, please. The High Matriarch said you would be eating strawberries.”

Carolina sat there, mouth half open and strawberry half-chewed, and couldn’t help but slowly grimace. The initial annoyance gave way to worries that she struggled to keep tightly sealed beneath her face; Am I famous for strawberries? crossed her mind, followed by The Matriarchs want me. Right now? That’s bad, probably.

Nevertheless, dignity was always called for – what being a matriarch called for. Tilting her nose ever so slightly upwards, she took the young man’s hand to stand up, quickly wiped the tiniest remains of strawberry juice on her long, dull-grey tunic, and nodded for him to lead the way.



As the network of corridors, gardens and resting chambers gave way to the more sterilized, mechanical environments at the base of the great temple-station that served as the core of its infrastructure, Carolina was already starting to sweat. Not just because of the build up of temperature from so much machinery and the engines, of course, but also because this served as the entryways to the vast array of launch bays for Gaia’s Patience. People milled about from place to place – for the most part men, their domain within the Children of Gaia largely relegated to the use and maintenance of machinery that didn’t directly sustain or modify living things; transportation, weapons, electronics and communications.

Carolina shuddered a little, despite the warmth; it was so… sharp. A massive, triangular room of bronze-like metals and dark gray stone, with craggy domes of metal and rock rising periodically from the ground like giant, ugly boulders; some taller and thinner, others wider. Of course, in truth they were long-range shuttles, whether for attack or simple transportation – vacuum sealed against the underside of Gaia’s Patience, their crew only being able to enter or exit when the seal was complete.

Water… she thought, and air.

The two most precious resources in the whole system.

“Matriarch-Sister, there they are,” spoke up the young man, gesturing to a small group gathered by one of the taller, thinner shuttle ends. It was a single High Matriarch – a short woman of about sixty who looked so fragile she couldn’t actually be standing in the heavy, many-layered robe she wore – providing instructions to a crew of young men. As soon as she saw Carolina approaching, the tiny spectacles on her face practically bounced around with excitement.

“Ah, good, excellent,” said the faintly owl-like woman, “you’re here, Carolina, correct?”

“Um… yes, High Matriarch. Fir Carolina.”

“Good, good…!” hooted the elderly pomeranian, “I have a task for you, you know. High Matriarch Thorn Versailles has asked me to give you a little assignment.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, see, some of us were certain we should just blow up the heathen machine, but, well… some of us think if it wants to talk to us it might be different. For the safety of Gaia’s Patience, however, we have decided the communication should all be handled by a trustworthy matriarch…”

“Oh.”

“...from a shuttle, yes. And we thought, aha, we know the person! So chop chop!” she clapped her hands together a little bit like a seal, “These lovely boys will get you there safe, dear. Confident of that, yes yes.”

As Carolina looked around the small crew of men, nervously smiling and nodding in response to the High Matriarch’s complements… she realized that they couldn’t have been much more than boys of maybe eighteen or nineteen, probably brother-acolytes on paper but still brother-neophytes in practice.

She thought about protesting the decision, of course. She could try and argue it, but… something in her chest refused to let her.

Adrenaline, probably, she thought with a grimace just barely escaping her face.

“Yes, High Matriarch. Of course.”

“Good, good! Get to it then!”



Copernicus watched as a seed-like shuttle – maybe just a hundred or so meters long, a relatively tiny object – emerged from the underside of the planetoid-station and engaged a set of simple ion thrusters to drift closer towards the Gate.

The video of a woman in her late thirties, with slightly rounded features and stray wisps of scalpy blonde hair, was projected through to Copernicus as she started to speak.

“He-hello, ahem,” she said, trying not to seem too nervous on the video but relentlessly sweating all the same, “this is Matriarch Fir Carolina of the Children of Gaia. For reasons we would rather not disclose at this time, the High Matriarchs have asked me to speak on their behalf, away from the Temple-Garden. Do, uh…”

Mothers, hold it together.

“D-do you have, um, human crew aboard your…”

Her brow furrowed, suddenly realizing she wasn’t sure of the proper term. What was it that the Asmovund gear-people called it again?

“...shell? Chassis? Your… body?”

“One of my bodies, but -- no, I do not.” It replied, unsure whether to point out how scared the poor woman seemed or not. Considering her fearful curiosity, it reasoned, it was perhaps best to stick to answering questions for the time being.

“Admittedly, I do wish I did, but... It is safer for them to wait behind the Gateway for the time being. Not to imply that you are a threat, of course; it is merely that I have several bodies, and not all of them do!”



Carolina bit her lower lip, clearly trying to find a way to admit she was struggling to understand what the machine was talking about without seeming like an idiot.

Her mind wracked itself with questions, trying to remember what they knew about AI. There had been records of course, once upon a time – even the knowledge of how to make them, supposedly. But the steel ghosts had, as with all things, eradicated much of their history and knowledge from before the gate was originally opened.

She glanced around the room at her small crew, but most of them seemed as puzzled as she was.

Mothers, I… she narrowed her eyes, I’ve been entrusted with handling this.

“We… we are a threat!” she said, looking into the camera and baring her teeth – an ancient, primal symbol of danger – “and you had best listen to us, machine. We must speak to your creators!”

She raised a single bony finger, doing her best to look intimidating and utterly failing.

“I will warn you – Gaia’s Patience has many weapons and we have fought off outsiders on,” she paused, “many occasions.”

She held her expression, her teeth still bared at the camera, but couldn’t help but wince briefly when one of the pilots tapped a readout for her to see: whatever this machine-mind was, it wasn’t armed.

“If you want to speak to my government, that can be arranged... But it cannot happen in person, unless you are willing to make the journey to our home. It would take... A substantial amount of time to transport so many thousands of people such a distance.” Copernicus replied, mimicking a sigh. There was trauma here -- they’d encountered artificial intelligences before, and it did not go well. “We will do what we can to accommodate you.”

Carolina’s expression immediately broke. No longer bared teeth and an attempt at threat, her eyes went wide with confusion. From what was visible of the other crewmates, they likewise seemed to be in disbelief.

“Th… thousands? How… how many people are in your, uh,” she shook her head, “Anarchist, uh, Fed-... in Europe? That they need so many people to represent them?”

“Oh, approximately... One-point-one-one-zero billion. We strongly believe in representing our people as best as we possibly can, however, hence the necessity of a large General Assembly.” They chirped, mood lifted by a question that was, in all truth, much more pleasant than mild racism and threats. “We are Anarchists, after all.”

Carolina almost fell over, given how quickly she stepped backwards.

“Bil-... a billion people?”

She tried to blink away the shock. Gaia’s Patience had… maybe two million people, and that was usually when too many of the Children in other parts of the system decided to make a pilgrimage all at once.

She tried to correct her mind, focus on being logical – of course they probably had a bigger population, if they had succeeded in finding a planet with life. Easifa’Mal could sustain a big population, after all, if it wasn’t for the steel ghosts guarding it.

But still… such a massive population. It seemed impossible. Fantastical. The Earth had suffered because of so many people, after all.

Maybe that’s why they’ve come here? Looking for a new home? she thought, her eyes betraying the paranoia she was feeling.

They were using AI, after all – perhaps whoever had sent Copernicus were the same people who had destroyed the old Earth? Or at least, their descendants. Though that word, ‘anarchist’, it… showed up in folklore, sometimes.

“Please do not take offense to my question, Copernicus, but, anarchists… is that a kind of alien? Named after the stories?”

"No, no!" Copernicus chuckled. "So much information, lost over time... I wonder how much you could teach us that we've forgotten." It mused.

"It's... A political system, or perhaps theory. In simple terms, one which advocates the abolition of unjust hierarchy and the organization of society on a wholly voluntary, mutually cooperative basis, without force or compulsion. Does... Does that make sense?" They asked.

Carolina looked around at the rest of the crew, their expressions puzzled.

“That, um…” she was clearly trying to wrap her tongue around the words, “is very, uh, interesting. It sounds a bit different from our creed, but we are not forced. The Children of Gaia have prospered and survived by working together.”

A thought crossed her mind.

“In fact, we often work closely with the other tribes and peoples of Easifa. In time, we could perhaps introduce them to you, but, well…” she bit her lower lip, “I think that we would need to arrange for representatives to travel to your home, if you cannot send people. AI are… very, um, worrying. Not just to us, but most of the people of this star system.”

Should I tell it that on Easifa’Thani most would shoot without talking at all first? she thought.

"Oh, we can send people, just... Not our entire government, you see. Perhaps a neutral ground would be ideal?"

Carolina looked visibly relieved.

“Oh! Thank you, if that could be arranged, we would love to meet them! That would be fantas-”

The feed was suddenly cut, and the tiny seed-like shuttle suddenly powered down. A device no bigger than a man’s arm, emerging from the vast darkness at a fraction of the speed of light, had lodged into its side with enough force to suddenly throw the shuttle of its lazy flight close to Copernicus.

Copernicus detected the direction it came from – initially almost impossible to see in the void, looking to outsiders like a rogue asteroid but now giving off tell-tale emissions of ions and radio signals from several kilometers away.

Aboard the Migo’s Teeth and with lungs straining against the metal shell of his frame, Lovecraft couldn’t help but laugh.

The admiralty awaited him, and if the extracted blackbox wouldn’t guarantee it, this certainly would.



Immediately, Copernicus's sensors blared in alarm -- the AI the Gaians were so terrified of, perhaps? Regardless, while the shuttle may potentially end up repowering by itself, it had no way of knowing what sort of damage the foreign object inflicted, and without weaponry, there was even less it could do to retaliate. Thus, it had only one notable option.

"Alert. This is Copernicus. Negotiations have been interrupted. Diplomatic shuttle has been struck by a foreign object of unknown origin and appears to have lost engine control. Attempting to intercept." It beamed a transmission back through the gateway, thrusters firing. Being a wholly artificial being, the probe was able to move at speeds that would be outright lethal in any ship carrying organic life, rocketing across the gulf of space toward the wayward shuttle without so much as a second thought. Maneuvering thrusters spat, twirling it around, around, until it was positioned facing perpendicular to the small craft's direction of travel, arresting its own blistering speed with a sharp guttering of photonic rockets, just enough to receive the lion's share of collision damage -- and latch onto the craft with the array of grasping arms attached to its nose.



It had been a long while since Lovecraft had needed to salivate, but the readouts they were getting from the gaian shuttle…

“Tasty,” he said, “End of history stuff right here, kid.”

He wasn’t fluent in gaian creole, admittedly, but he’d learnt enough to follow the conversation in the recording. The code-eater drone was a neat little invention, one of the tools that left the other tribes wary of Asmovund raiders; reverse-engineered from the internal systems of Yahsud Alnaar drones, it could drill into a hull and quickly access computers that were normally cut off from external transmissions, cracking their encryption and transmitting their data to the raider.

In a world where almost all computers were geared not to handle external transmissions, it had proven to be a game-changer. For Lovecraft, it’d be a much appreciated one.

With its job done, it had then emitted a powerful EMP, damaging the shuttle’s internal systems and cutting the power.

They’ll be fine, he thought, they’re not far from home.

The silent ‘but it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t, really’ ever so briefly sprung into his mind behind the surface, but he shook it away. No time for sympathy.

More curious to him yet was the way the massive outsider probe – Copernicus, according to the transmissions – moved with such shocking speed.

[i]True AI, and it’s friendly? And it’s going to help these intolerant greenies?[i]

He hadn’t thought naivety would be a trait of machines, but as sensors started to pick up at least three gaian craft – rounded arrow shapes, like the love children of asteroids and pinecones, their detachable flak-scales derived from alien shielding systems – he snapped his fingers and transmitted an order over short-wave, safely contained within the ship’s walls from outside detection.

In a separate compartment of the ship, the ship’s gunnery officer excitedly licked its eyeballs. A heavily augmented gremlin, its body having long-been stripped down to the barest minimum of organic tissue to make way for cybernetics and mechanical systems. Fully integrated into the ship’s weapon systems, and always eager to shoot something. It wasn’t a true Asmovund, of course – wasn’t human enough – but Lovecraft liked how hard it had committed to trying to be one of them. It was rare to meet someone who spoke exclusively in transmissions.

But as the order came through – ‘prep weapons, situation could go hot’ – its brain eagerly unsheathed the pair of tiny gray railguns from the ship’s roof, glinting in the distant reflection of their home star’s light.

Lovecraft screwed up the still organic top half of his jaw, a metallic ‘click’ ringing out from his tongue rolling against steel teeth. He’d fought the gaians enough to recognize their power signatures, and he knew them well enough to tell when they’d interpreted something incorrectly.

But… would they shoot? The question burned in Lovecraft’s brain, an uncertainty he hated.

This AI, ‘Copernicus’, was clutching onto the blacked out shuttle, but it wasn’t moving to pull it back through the Gate. On the one hand, it wasn’t unheard of for the Yahsud Alnaar’s drones to engage ships at close quarters, but it was exceedingly rare – and surely the gaians would realize if the AI had weapons to disable and destroy the shuttle, it would’ve just done so rather than fly further away from safety to break it up in close quarters?

Maybe a warning was the best option, to give everyone the best chance to stay alive.

“Hope my gaian’s still good,” he grumbled.

With the flick of a switch, he gave his best smile – folks always said you could hear a smile.



“Hark!”

A transmission in crude gaian, easily detectable to all parties as the mysterious vessel had begun to arc away, rapidly increasing its distance from the escalating situation, “I suggest to my dear greenies, don’t pick fights with strangers to our fair system, and strangers… would do well to leave, for now. Come back with...”

The sound of a tongue clicking against metal came through the transmission.

“...fleshier folk. More human, and you’ll find Easifa a much friendlier place.”

“Have you considered shutting the fuck up, asswipe?” Copernicus barked angrily in reply, drawing power away from its engines as it searched the shuttle for any indication of somewhere it could interface with the ship... Or, in the worst case, wirelessly supply power with microwaves. It’d be a little painful for the occupants, but... “If you want a lecture on tolerance, fine, whatever, I can manage, but I’m a little fucking busy trying to restore power, so I’d prefer not to use my excess processing power on lecturing a gormless imbecile.”

There was a pause.

The leaving ship, now easily detectable, had begun to slow slightly – still far enough to leave, if it had to; while the gaian attack craft likewise began to slow, and weaved out of their formation – more perimeter than pursuit.

With bated breath, the gaians watched and waited to see what would happen with the shuttle.



Today truly had been 4 for 3 on bad times and blessings for Carolina. At the back of her mind, she had to assume it would all work out – but at the front of her mind, she had to try as best she could to keep focused on what they could do.

She was shaking, though, and not purely with fear.

We were making progress! I hope those olcomps are happy!

After the initial shock, it was clear in her mind who was responsible. The impact hadn’t come from the direction of Copernicus – and out here, there was only one group who would do something like this.

Nevertheless, the danger they could control – anything they could control – was getting the power back on. While Carolina had helped with unscrewing several panels, the ship’s brother-technician was furiously trying to replace a number of ruined fuses, and the pilot tried to jumpstart the control panel.

In the darkness, illuminated only by emergency lights and quickly fading emergency glow-sticks, there was stillness, and a cold that was slowly but surely creeping up on them. She could feel her hands getting harder and harder to use – the reptile DNA her ancestors had been infused with had helped them transition to a more cold-blooded system for processing food… useful in the constant warmth of an active spaceship abundant with life, but less useful when the power went out and the void began to creep in.

Mothers help us.



Outside, Copernicus was making rapid progress -- it’d managed to locate a small access panel on the outside of the shuttle, difficult to access in the frenzy of such a tense situation, but with its incredible processing power, it was relatively simple to decode and pry open in the span of merely a few moments.

Next, of course, came figuring out what the hell each of the ports did, but the garbled human languages they were labeled with made that, too, relatively simple -- auxiliary power. Much like its label, the port was just off enough to make interfacing difficult, but not impossible... So it unceremoniously mated one of its power cables with the shuttle, and, with the flick of a switch, shunted sensor power into the craft's systems, all while beaming out a radio transmission in hopes the crew would hear it.

"Carolina?" It asked. "Some smarmy asshole fired a projectile at your ship, and then this happened. Still alive in there? I'm trying to feed you enough power for a jumpstart."

A few seconds later, then some more.

Static.

A click, and the whirring of machines.

Lights blinking to life.

“Copernicus, we hear you! This is Carolina, loud and clear!”

A few moments more and another signal went out – directed at the attack ships, though it was close enough that Copernicus could hear it as well.

“Hold fire, hold fire! This is Matriarch Fir Carolina, I repeat, please hold fire! We are unharmed – we were struck by an Asmovund weapon to steal our data, but we are okay! Copernicus helped us get back online!”

Silence, static…

…then another click.

“We read you, Fir Carolina. You heard her; power down weapons! And don’t harm the machine!”



The times to come were still tense and uneasy, of course – the road to peace can be long and treacherous. The messages to the shipmeets of Easifa’Thani took several weeks to be fully broken down and discussed, but upon that world of words and firestorms there was one clear and unbroken truth:

“The gate has reopened, and we are not alone. At a place of Meeting we shall see this new galaxy of possibilities.”



Three weeks later
The Discovery – Asmovund Array-Ship

The sound of metal fingers against a metal hip. Of a fleshly tongue clinging to a jaw of steel. Of ambitions spat upon.

“We cannot promote you,” Admiral Verne had told him, “glory hounds won't see us making the most of this new opportunity.”

The blackbox had been rewarded, of course – with not having him shot for risking a war with unknown parties, and with a chance to make amends.

“You’re wanted on the bridge, sir,” chirped his intern – still no less a squib of a lad but now just a bit too cocky for Lovecraft’s liking – with a nervous smile, “they’re about to enter the Gate.”

“Aye-aye, kid.”

With a grunt he pushed himself out of the chair in his quarters and made his way to the bridge. It had a different feel to it, in person. From holographic projectors and video screens it had felt almost dream-like… but stood here, on the command deck? At the shoulder of the pissant that protocol demanded he respect?

More like a nightmare.

“Receiving clearance, Admiral,” spoke up one of the bridge crew, “we will be joining the Yaeph’la, Arjuani, Gaian, Veiled, and Cloudkin delegations on the other side.”

“Excellent news,” said Admiral Verne, all prim and proper in her neatly folded and high-necked gray and blue uniform that almost hid the cybernetic voice-box that had replaced her throat when she was a child, “take us through.”

She glanced over her shoulder at Lovecraft’s arrival, a cat-like smile slowly spreading.

“I’ve assured the gaian delegation of your apology in person when we arrive. I’m sure this Copernicus would appreciate one as well, should it be present.”

Lovecraft sighed, but stood to attention and nodded all the same.

When can I go back to getting shot at? he wondered.
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Gerlando The Unchosen One

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Collab between @Gerlando, @Irredeemable, and @Eventua




Hyginus City - Cygni Geminae


With the war officially over, life in the cities didn’t really change much at first, the majority weren’t affected by massive deaths, which hadn’t been so substantial, and sure some jobs were receiving extra bonds and opportunities shifted, but what was the military going to do with this massive ammunition producing industry? Even if they used more in training the current industry was too bloated for peace and would likely go back to pre-war levels, which still was a major avenue for jobs.

There were some changes though- the news screens showed less boring Hyginian politics and instead had boring Intergalactic politics, there were some fancy new ‘parades’ every now and then, the military seems to have really embraced those… And, even if the people wouldn’t see them, there were now in orbit more than just Hyginian ships.

The deal had had its basics ironed out fairly quickly. Azulvista would provide raw resources, manufactured goods, expertise and material at very reasonable rates on long-term loans, so as to allow Hyginus’ tiny economy plenty of space to grow before the debts came due. They’d also bought out a space station in orbit almost immediately, which now played host to a series of colossal GRA freightcrafts, a not-insignificant number of them being retired troop transports.

The freighters had only begun to arrive fairly recently- although mercantilist, the GRA wasn’t about to let so many men and so much material go abroad without drafting a whole lot of paperwork for their captains and crews to fill out. Now that they were here though, it was time to give the Hyginans a taste of foreign systems.

Thus it was that in Hyginus City, in a well-trafficked area outside the city’s main cargo elevator, a small stall had set up shop, a pretty young Azulvistan woman bumbling her way through conversations- matching Tongue Nuevo to the Hyginian’s own confusing conglomerate of a language with mixed success.

“Tastes of a foreign star! Free samples, with more if you fill out a feedback form! ¡Bomba! energy! Microwave Coxinha! Azulvistan convenience to your front door!”

Needless to say the shop had near constant supply of customers, with energy drinks and fast foods being the more popularly sold products. Workers bringing the goods down would then buy them pretty much immediately, even with some language difficulties they managed to learn at least some basic phrases like “I’ll take that” “Here’s the money” and such.

In fact it wouldn’t take long for the Azulvistans to set up shop next to the secondary elevator as well and pretty much doubling their business.

There’s now various new food and drinks with foreign brands, they’re all too expensive anyway so people buy them just to try something new, well apart from the energy drinks of which somehow there’s so many you could probably create a new sun with all the tin cans. If before the average person consumed a couple of caffeinated drinks a day now it’s gone to at least 4-5 ¡Bomba! every day, hopefully it doesn’t have a mind-control virus like your regular crazy Twoist pastor would tell you.

Along the new expansion district it’s clear the capital is receiving a lot more funds than any other city, more shops, reopening of collapsed streets and modernisation of the heating system and insulation. Truly they’re trying to make it seem a modern city on-par with foreign ones, occasionally shown on TV, even then proper lighting is still only in major streets.

In the attempt to get more businesses inside the underground city the General-Mayor also bought and cleared large buildings for foreign businesses to buy and operate in, and if that doesn’t work the current orbital stations remain a comfortable place for any HQ, even if it may take a while to get to the city itself.

And even as civilian business exploded with the arrival of newcomers to Geminae, a far more sinister form of business was being prepared high in orbit…




Azulvistan Station - Orbiting Cygni Geminae


It was always a strange sensation – to have poured the mind of a god into such a small vessel. While he hadn’t had an organic body in… ooh, 250 years? 260?, his mind felt… itchy, in such a small digital space.

A single luminous carried him, interlinked with the central AI and database aboard his Avatar class diplomatic vessel, the Chariot of Mars – resembling a set of elegant cylindrical coils enwrapped around a central ‘rod’ of compartments and maybe two hundred meters long, painted in dark reds and emblazoned with the insignia of the Sevenfold Summation and a stylized image of crossed swords arrayed into the shape of a bird of prey.

Through the sensors and viewports of his Chariot, Mars couldn’t help but roll his eyes at the other ship on this mission, sticking out against the void and the view of the massive ringed station orbiting the icy world below. Streams of cargo and patrol ships flowed to and from the station and back to the gate, but with its painfully gray and undecorated chassis the other Avatar class vessel like his own failed to stand out at all.

Roselle, he thought to himself, why the change of heart?

She had always found questions of defense and weapons acquisition dull and irrelevant, but so suddenly – when he was finally proven correct to take it seriously over their centuries of isolation! – she had taken a deep interest in the growing industry of this would-be alliance of powers.

He shook his head. Whatever she wanted, the vote had been clear that he was being entrusted to handle this.

“Open communications channels to the station.”

The skittering crew of current measurement in the control room – their foot tall forms, amalgams of tools and limbs arrayed around a single spherical, almost mushroom-like chassis – set about adjusting the controls, opening up the channels.

Video footage came through of a stern military man sitting at a neatly organized but mostly empty desk, wearing a kind of modified dress uniform – clearly drawing inspiration from both Azulvistan and Hyginian officers, but in the dark red and white of the Summation’s insignia and bearing said insignia on his shoulder pads. He gave a brief, old world two-fingered salute.

In both modern Spanish and formal Hyginian the message was relayed:

“Good day to you from the Sevenfold Summation. I am Mars, along with my associate…" His image gave a smile, but his voice took on a distinctly venomous quality out of sync with his lip movements, “Roselle, members of the Sevenfold Summation. We are here for the agreed discussion and demonstration of Summation technical knowledge regarding military and industrial applications, and to review in what ways we can be of benefit to the great Federation of Hyginus. Requesting permission to land.”

The Hyginians looked at the rather peculiar crew from the Summation, they knew they were an interesting bunch who heavily relied on their technology, but witnessing it live is always a different experience. Out of the Hyginians a man stepped forward and replied to the hologram.

“It is a pleasure to speak with a member of the Summation, I hope you and your associates have a pleasant time here in our system,” he stopped and weighed his words, unsure if Mars could be considered actually here on the station or not, “permission granted.”

“The pleasure is all ours, of course,” Mars replied as the ship navigated to take its place on the station.




Aboard the station – which the various bickering Syndics who had bought it out had yet to dub with a proper name, leaving it as the disappointingly titled ‘Station Hyginus Alfa’ despite no less than five scheduled meetings, one of which had actually taken place, there was a veritable conglomerate of suited-and-booted businessmen and women quietly jockeying for position in front of the airlock.

Then, standing off to one side, a thick, blunted cigar smoldering between his clenched teeth, was Antonio de la Cruz de Lebrón, a thoroughly unimpressed look on his face as his eyes flitted across his countrymen. The doors swung open, and in entered the summation’s representatives. After the debacle at the Meeting Place – the near shootout that had resulted from Mars’ “honour guard” of temperature marines – Mars had been at least convinced to not bring them with him. As such it was just him and Roselle in their machine-shells, scuttling behind the syndicates, moving carefully with their holograms to carefully shake the hands of each patrician as well as the Hyginian representatives.

There was a slight bit of last-minute shuffling as the syndics settled into position, and then the various introductions went ahead. Six patricians meant no less than three paragraph’s worth of names to get through, and as each one tried to squeeze in a few more titles or awards here, the cigar between Antonio’s lips began to ever-so-slightly quiver at the pressure from his teeth, only being relieved from its duty when it finally came time to introduce himself.

“Now that the pleasantries are out of the way… Please. Follow us.” He spread an arm out wide, holding his cigar carefully now that more of it seemed to be ash than tobacco and despite having been off to the side, he somehow managed to cut his way through the gaggle of Syndics to command of the ad-hoc procession as they made their way through Alfa Station’s corridors.

What had once been a spartan and downright ugly industrial space station was now… Still fairly ugly, yes, but work had been done to clear it up. A lot of the clumsy internals had already been gutted and replaced with more efficient Azulvistan engineering, leaving more space for the customary wood paneling and carpets that seemed a bit too cushy for a space station. Still, the lights were bare and fluorescent, the doors clicked and hissed loudly and had to be opened manually, and when they finally arrived at the actual meeting room most of its wireworks was still clearly under renovation that had gone over time and budget, leaving its opulence severely undercut by the day-glow plastic panels fitted over the otherwise bare wireworks. The syndics, split between apologizing and attempting to cover up just how clumsy the whole thing was, only succeeded in making it even more of an uncoordinated mess, and by the time everyone had actually set down the fractures in Antonio’s cigar had grown alarmingly large.

Mars let his hologram smile at the view – for all the attempts at style and luxury the Azulvistans prided themselves on, it was always a pleasant moment when the mask slipped, just a little bit.

Then, Antonio set his cigar less-than-carefully on the ashtray by his seat, and watched as it split and unraveled, his face, for once, completely impassive.

“Well then, is there any ulterior information or suggestion before we go ahead with the presentation?” the Hyginian looked at both the Summation and Azulvistan teams, only for the various Syndics to shake their heads, Antonio’s eyes still fixed on the shattered cigar.

Mars heard a faint “Go ahead” in his mind from Roselle, and with an artificial ‘cough’ into the digital image of his right fist, his own hologram faded slightly as Roselle’s projectors began to intensify for the images they were about to display.

“While regretfully our Gate remained shut for the duration of the war against the People’s Union, we have been provided with extensive archival footage and records of its events, courtesy of our new friends in Azulvista. My condolences to all of those who were lost, and for the inevitable truth we must face with steel-like strength – the number of colonies established remains unknown, and the ways in which humanity has changed are, frankly, unpredictable to a dangerous degree. To this end, it is vital that our nations be prepared for any military eventuality.”

Mars smiled, raising a hand. He wished he could see the look on Roselle’s face as she displayed the first image in soft silver light.

A recording displayed of a group of diplat – the shorter, mole-like forms – armed with strange but simplistic ballistic weapons behind some kind of crudely assembled metal covers, occasionally taking potshots at unknown attackers. Suddenly, there was a series of bright flashes and the cover – as well as the diplat – was completely blown away.

The hologram shifted to a display of a taller and more humanoid diplat creature, particularly focused on the large and clunky rifle-like weapon it was carrying.

“The ArtemisRain Mk2.1 Portable Railgun. Capable of firing spinning iron-titanium composite slugs at Mach 3 – the most powerful anti-infantry weapon ever designed.”

Footage of the reloading process, the battery charging system, along with a mixture of simplified, incomplete schematics began to display.

Once the display was done, one of the syndics – a slender gentleman from Diemgarda named Rúben who had inherited a frankly bizarre number of shares in the small moon’s main arms subsidiary – raised a single hand.

“Although undoubtedly a railgun design has many benefits – especially in environments that are not self-oxidizing or where explosions would be a poor idea, the ergonomics of this design seem… flawed? An experienced Azulvistan soldato can reload their rifle in only a handful of seconds – between the need for both an ammunition and power supply, and the… peculiar method of recharging the device, it seems as if a soldier would be vulnerable for far longer than is necessary?”

Mars’ hologram flickered briefly, before giving a curt smile.

“Well, of course, it’s quite normal for our temperature measurements to be wearing body-armour and helmets, as well as possessing a high degree of natural resilience. But, perhaps…” he nodded, “some other designs?”

There was a bristle of consternation from some of the syndics at the subtle snub towards Azulvistan protective measures, but they nonetheless settled down. This was just the first item on the agenda.

One by one, he went through the new displays.

— “The ChemCore ‘Nose Gun’ Automated Defensive Installation” he declared, the sight of an elaborate two-gunned turret… that schematics quickly revealed was targeting based on pheromone signatures.

Although initially, a few of the Azulvistans had raised eyebrows at the design, the obvious question was fielded very quickly, this time by a statuesque syndic wearing a suit that cost more than the average plebeian could make in a year. “And for targets that do not emit a pheromone signature? Such as, say… a human being?”

Mars narrowed his eyes.

“I mean… humans do emit pheromones.”

There was a brief look of annoyance at the correction, regardless of its accuracy, but the syndic pressed on nonetheless. “At ranges far enough to base long-range weaponry on them?”

“Through field uniforms or softsuits, in the case of marine contingents?” Chimed in another.

Mars and Roselle’s holograms both froze up briefly, before at last Mars just grimaced and shook his head.

“No, I… I suppose not.”

“Ah. Well then.” The interest rapidly faded from the Azulvistan’s faces.

— “The Droideka Micro, for rapid response in confined spaces; easily deployed either by air, into tunnels, or as a quick-response security protocol” the footage displaying a small group of rolling, pillbug-like robots that would unfold into a set of stationary guns and emitting an energy shield around itself… however, their small size meant the caliber couldn’t be more than a millimeter, and the notes on the shield’s battery structure were using a number of expensive, hard to acquire metals

One Hyginian stood up, his dresses are simpler in design than the Azulvistan but still formal.
“Cobalt, Lithium, strong magnets… these materials could be shipped from other systems, but otherwise they’re scarce here. High production cost and complex manufacturing process that has to start from scratch, I doubt it can be made in sufficient numbers to be useful.”

"Well," Mars said with a smile as the silver hologram seemed to flicker briefly, "I'm sure there's the potential of a trade deal there-"

The silver hologram flickered again, as did Mars, before crossing his arms.

"Moving on."

— The next demonstration was, in fact, more of a brief powerpoint presentation – information about a gas-delivered retrovirus that would cause extensive neuron decay, giving enemy soldiers and civilians dementia, paranoid hallucinations, and rendering them comatose in the space of a few days

At this demonstration, Antonio simply reached into his jacket, pulled out a new cigar, then clipped it and set it between his lips. Less than five seconds after he had lit it, an impressive pile of ash had already settled in the tray, the patrician’s face starting to take on a peculiar expression. “So, to clarify, this is a retrovirus, so we risk all the typical problems that come with biological weapons of them evolving out of potential killcodes or containment procedures, that is deployed like a chemical weapon, that then takes days to render targets comatose? Rômulo, can we get up a demonstration of TAX shells on New Terra? Yeah, the assault video.”

Leaning back in his chair, the members of the meeting were treated to a short, noticeably brutal scene clearly taken from a soldier’s helmet camera, Azulvistan soldatos storming across a broad plaza lit up by tracer fire and illuminated by the incandescent glow of a city aflame. Two planes screeched through the sky, clustered payloads bursting over the building the group was assaulting, soldiers scrambling to fit on masks and adjust the seals on their protective garments.

Less than ten seconds after the bombs had fallen, New Terran fire had stopped. Fifteen seconds later, and the soldiers were kicking down the doors, entering a corridor filled with twitching, jerking Terrans, foam spilling from their lips and bloody tears leaking from their eyes.

Mars and Roselle simply stood there as the footage rolled by, their mechanical forms watching intently.

“TAX-3. Toxic Agent X-3, a potent binary nerve agent. Inert when transported, causes the breakdown of the body’s ability to respire within ten seconds of exposure, death occurs without the antidote within three minutes, capable of being deployed en-masse as a gas or liquid where its volatile nature leads to it rapidly sublimating and becoming diluted in the air, or used in an ultrafine powder if you need staying powder.” Antonio stood up, pressing one index finger down firmly onto the table. “If you want to impress us with a chemical weapon, this is what you need to compete with.”

Inside, Mars was boiling - the hologram remained static, but the machine visibly stretched itself out for a moment.

“Incidentally,” an androgynous syndic with a slasher’s grin leant forward slightly, “should any of you be interested in procuring samples of TAX-3 for your own defense needs, we are proud to state that ESM-SA has secured an export license pending final senatorial approval. The substance can be mixed by an imbecile, deployed via artillery, canister, bomb or agent, and will terminate any target. We were very pleased to discover that it circumvented New Terran infantry chemical defences while leaving our own troops unharmed when their protective measures were properly utilised.”

“Interesting, I may have a proposal if you agree.” a tall Hyginian answered, looking mainly at the syndic but also sometimes to Mars. “Since you have developed such dangerous bioweapons, I imagine you’d also have developed countermeasures on the same level. We’ve seen PUNT use ineffective protective gear and how that turned out, it’d then be best to use state of the art equipment against a potential enemy or if rebel elements got their hands on biological weapons.”

There was a brief pause from the syndic, and they drummed their fingers on the table awkwardly. Sighing, Antonio spoke up instead. “ESM-SA doesn’t make military hazard suits, and since were previously getting your current stuff on lend lease… Well suffice to say you’d need a different bunch of suits.”

“Perhaps we could convert a local factory to produce them under license, the stuff we saw already didn’t look too complex, at least not as much as a railgun complete with battery pack.” the Hyginian stopped and opened a bottle of cognac, pouring himself a glass. “Want some?”

There was a shrug from the syndic. “Not while working, no. You’ll need to talk with another representative I’m afraid.”

Mars quietly shook his head, trying not to let the sudden takeover of what was going to be his moment override his social graces.

As the syndicates and the Hyginians discussed further, he raised a single hand and 'coughed' to draw attention.

"We underestimated Azulvistan chemical science, my apologies. But biological weapons don't merely have to take the form of disease, you know."

He smiled slightly, as Roselle's machine nervously backed away a bit.

"Allow me to explain."

His own hologram taking center point and shapeshifting, displaying one genetically engineered monster after another.

— "Biosoldier Template #081, 'Cellbuster'," as footage of a small , clearly alien spider-like creature a few centimeters long was shown to inject hosts with a delayed or remotely triggered explosive
— "Biosoldier Template #153, 'Mandrake Crawler'," as footage of a four-foot long thing with overgrown external lungs and a scream powerful enough to rupture ear-drums, shatter glass, and damage electronics
— There were other templates, of course, each nastier and more bizarre than the last… but to the assembled audience a consistent question kept popping into their minds with ever increasing horror…


As the last of these horrifying chimeras was finally showcased, Rúben once again raised a hand. “Uh… Pardon me for asking this, but why? Just… why?”

Most of the other syndics murmured and nodded in agreement. Antonio simply ashed his cigar, an elbow resting on his desk and his palm pressed firmly against his forehead.

The Hyginians similarly were confused, terrified or just tired from the demonstration, they dared not to ask questions, maybe fearing the answer would be even more batshit insane.

The smile on Mars' face had quickly faded. They weren't impressed at all? Had Roselle been right about this?

"Ahem, well… fear, of course. Each carefully engineered to exploit common enemy phobias or instinctive panic responses. An enemy with crushed morale is an enemy already dead."

Antonio allowed an expression of quiet superiority to slip across his face at this idea, but said nothing, even as Mars held his tongue from adding 'the resources to make them are endless, too'.

"But, of course, warfare isn't psychological only in the realm of combat."

—"The EyeMinder V3", he whispered, revealing an image of a rebel diplat undergoing some kind of interrogation, its head locked into some kind of strange machine. By the time the interrogation is over, the rebel has revealed key information and is left a passive drone.

“This is the first thing you’ve demonstrated that’s not either horrifically inefficient, demented in design, execution or both, or completely without merit for its intended deployment. Anything else remotely like this?” Antonio gestured with his cigar, clearly exhausted.

The other syndics however, had turned to him now with a wide spread of expressions on their faces. The six of them glanced at the rest of the group, then began to quickly speak in Tongue Nuevo, the rapid-fire dog language hopefully incomprehensible to the foreign delegates. The conversation, which at first had seemed like it was going to conclude itself quickly, spun out for first a minute, then two, several different syndics getting just as heated as Antonio seemed to be before the broader patrician finally slammed a fist down on the table, his second cigar promptly exploding at the movement.

“Have we reached some kind of agreement? Wonderful, let’s finish this demonstration, and maybe I’ll be able to salvage a few hours of my life from this travesty of a rotation. Go ahead.” Antonio swung the blade of his hand back over to Mars.

Mars, meanwhile, was staring at Antonio with an intensity he'd no doubt encountered before – the pure and bottled outrage of a person who wasn't used to being so consistently upstaged and shut down. Antonio, for his part, merely began the slow process of clipping and lighting the third cigar of the meeting.

"We-well, I, eugh, this is-!"

Suddenly, his hologram paused again, flickering wildly, before the red machine simply shut off its projector and stood to one side, watching the attendees in silence.

Roselle's silver machine took a cautious step forward.

"Wh-what my colleague was about to say, was, he would prefer I handle the remainder of this presentation. Apologies for, uh, the time wasted so far."

— "The… Vel-Marra Talwyrm," she stammered over the name, as if not used to saying it. The displayed imagery, of an efficient tunneling machine with modular weapon, armour and crew components that was clearly designed for use by baseline diplat. It would need to be scaled up for human use but otherwise required few changes to actually be useful.

For the first time the Hyginians looked mildly interested in a positive way, some spoke with each other and wrote notes down, one stood up and spoke.

“This drilling machine looks efficient and without too many weird details that at this point I would expect. The weapons and armour though, is it meant to dig into a place and start shooting? That’s an interesting idea but I’d like to know if there’s been actual combat scenarios where a machine like this was used.”

Roselle's faceless machine nodded at the question.

"This design is the result of extensive subterranean anti-insurgent operations during the pacification of the diplat. That said, unarmed variations of it see civilian use, particularly in excavation and transportation infrastructure setup."

“Now, this is something I can get behind.” A brawny, well-tanned syndic in a starch white suit and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat leant forward, a grin on his face. “Even ignoring the military applications, you scale this up and it’d blow our current boring machines out the
water.”

“And on the military side… I can already see uses for this.” The final of the assorted syndics spoke up with an approving nod. Even Antonio gestured optimistically with his cigar- the closest thing he’d managed to actual, genuine approval since the meeting commenced.

Roselle gave a gentle sigh, though as much from relief as anything else.

"In truth, it's become very clear to me and my colleague, that we would have been better served offering assistance and technology in wider civilian or space-based infrastructure, not weapons. If the Hyginians would like, I would be happy to discuss some proposals for terraforming groundwork after this meeting?"

“You’d want more of our civilian sector compatriots for that sort of talk, but in lieu of them, I’d be more than happy to have a proper talk if you’ve got more of where that driller came from.” The same cowboy-looking syndic chirped up.

Mars' machine trembled slightly, as Roselle nodded at the cowboy syndicate.

"I think I can arrange something. We do have quite a number of other schematics in a similar vein – primarily subterranean or submersible."

As the conversation went on the Hyginians were more and more interested. All but the one who previously spoke about the biological weapons, now just drinking from that bottle of cognac, were now paying attention and nodding in agreement as the Summation representative showed the design.

“The subterranean types would definitely be useful, both civilian and military types.” a somewhat scrawny Hyginian lady said, fixing her brimmed hat a moment later.

Roselle’s voice tilted slightly, still not displaying any kind of hologram but the machine almost seemed to lift itself a little.

“Wonderful! Um, let me sort through some of the others, then…”




A few designs were agreed to test in more detail – an efficient industrial laser emitter and a "walking" mecha design capable of burrowing, apparently based on some kind of animal from the diplat homeworld among them – before Roselle raised the question of terraforming.

"The people of Hyginus deserve a home that can sustain them. Now, while I and my colleagues would be happy to discuss the options of genetic engineering, I understand why people would be, uh, uneasy with the idea.”

She emitted a holographic image of Hyginus and its various read outs and measurements.

“As it currently stands, Hyginus’ surface is unsuitable for life, forcing humans to live in sealed bunkers or orbital stations. It’s far too cold, its lack of a strong magnetic field leaves it constantly exposed to cosmic radiation, its thin atmosphere is unbreathable for humans, and it suffers frequent collisions from asteroids.”

Roselle’s machine-shell eased itself forward slightly, the hologram flickering before displaying schematics for some kind of generator.

“Now, while there are several areas to work on, the best places to start would be the reduction of asteroids and the creation of magnetic fields. That would provide immediate benefits to infrastructure and operations or transportation of people and resources both to and from Hyginus, while laying the groundwork for further terraforming long term. These are, of course, large scale industrial efforts all on their own, but we have tackled some similar challenges in our home system–”

“And at what cost?” one of the Hyginians asked, soon after the lady with the brim hat followed.
“What my colleague meant is that such a project would have extreme costs, whether the magnet is made of Augustinium or less exotic materials. As for the reduction of asteroid crashes, what are you planning? We could expand asteroid mining but there are multiple satellites around Zacunto , the gas giant and the asteroids that could possibly get on a collision course with the moon are too many to mine all in a reasonable amount of time.”

Roselle’s holographic readouts flickered a bit, her shell almost seeming to shrink slightly.

“Well, those are fair complaints. It would certainly be a large-scale endeavor, but there would be clear long-term economic and political benefits to it. And as for the immediate costs…”

A change, ever so slight, in her tone of voice. Excitement, perhaps.

"Augustinium is a clear starting point for the actual magnets, but we have a number of carbon-titanium and silicon-copper composites that would support the framework and conductors needed for magnets of the size needed. I have schematics for an engine that could use one or more large methane reserves as fuel for the power system; normally it would be impractical but having run the numbers I feel confident to say Hyginus actually already has most of what would be needed."

She displayed new schematics now, for some kind of miniature satellite equipped with a short-range laser.

"And while expanded asteroid mining would help, my proposal is an array of automated defensive satellites. We use a number of them on our own stations and colonies and they’re individually quite cheap to produce and maintain – the issue long-term would be the numbers needed for complete shielding, but even only a tenth the total required could see annual asteroid collisions reduced by 39.2% if we were careful about their positioning."

We’d be happy to take some of those asteroids off your hands, though, she avoided saying.

An asteroid-destroying laser on an orbital station, with powerful batteries of materials rare in this system and a structural shape that can’t reasonably be made by the few space yards they had. If this is the cheap design I can’t think what the expensive one is, the woman tilted her head slightly while thinking, straightening herself just before speaking again.

“Interesting, I’m sure there were already some plans to expand orbital defenses, but I’m worried about the lasers and the systems needed to make them function. I know a more conventional weapon might not have the power to destroy an asteroid, but the batteries required might cost more than you think, also are we sure the solar panels will be enough to power them? They may have been designed with a brighter star in mind.”

“These orbital asteroid defenses don’t seem entirely unrelated to our own strategic defensive initiatives…” The statuesque syndic spoke again. “Ours aren’t primarily designed with asteroid impacts in mind, but they do serve as a proof-of-concept that Azulvista may be able to provide engineering support towards this endeavor.”

The Hyginian lady nodded to the syndic, being able to expand the orbital defenses while adding to this new terraforming project could be quite the catch.

Antonio cleared his throat. “And there is the possibility of outside contractors. Are any here familiar with the ‘Khagnate of the Sky?’”

Roselle nodded, the entire machine shifting slightly in agreement.

"I've read the dossier we have on them, they're certainly a, uh… [i]capable[] space-faring civilization."

“Large manpower reserves, a desire to take apart any rock they happen to spot, and a seemingly endless appetite for more materials, and best of all, they’ll do it almost entirely at their own cost so long as you let them operate semi-autonomously. Sure, we’d be losing long-term profit in the unlikely event we get anywhere close to exhausting the asteroid supply… But they could likely also be tasked with asteroid redirection, for a small fee. Several birds, one very large stone.”

As the one Hyginian finished the bottle of cognac he added his input “If I read correctly they move in large armed fleets and you can never be sure when they’ll decide to leave… or settle down perhaps. How can we ensure there won’t be issues later down the line?”

“We recently crushed a fully militarized, planet-settled war machine that held up multiple fronts across the galaxy for months, and you think we can’t handle a few squatters?”

The Hyginian nodded and grabbed another bottle of cognac from god knows where.

Another Hyginian took over and replied to Antonio “Very true, and remember the Khagnate have some of the best expertise on asteroid mining and redirecting.” He took a moment to look at the syndics “I’m sure we could further both plans, there are already funds for expanding the planet’s defenses, a few orbital stations that shoot down asteroids could easily use that fund.”

Roselle allowed herself a chuckle or two. It wasn’t often she got to rub it in Mars’ face, but she knew exactly what he would be thinking as he impotently fumed inside his chassis.

“Honestly, the more our expertise can be concentrated, the better – if the reduction in asteroids can be eased at little to no cost, then the number of satellites needed will decrease significantly. Plus, well…” she briefly re-displayed the schematics for the laser emitter, “if you happen to use our laser designs, the energy costs go down significantly.”

The Hyginian thought about it for a moment “Will the satellites be built in Summation spaceyards? It would be easier to move them across the Gateway than convert spaceyards here.”

Or make completely new ones, he thought but omitted from saying.

Roselle reached out a hand to shake the Hyginian’s hand.

“An excellent thought – I was thinking that might be the best option, yes. I’ll need to discuss this with my colleagues back home, of course, and the issues of cost and exchange will have to be hashed out, but…”

Her hologram shifted, taking the shape of a slightly haggard looking young woman with glasses, her hair in a ponytail.

“We can discuss all of that properly in time. In fact, yourselves – or other representatives from your nations – would be welcome to visit and observe the production lines at our own shipyards. The Indra, Agni, Moumlet, and Shiva shipyards all have the tools and staff needed to begin when needed. Efficiency and utility, well… It depends a lot on who is making the decisions. Right, Mars?”

The red machine lurched suddenly, stumbling briefly as its red lights were restored. After a painfully long pause it emitted the hologram of the uniformed man once again, his expression stone-faced.

“... Yes. Agreed.




When all was finally said and done, and the foreign delegates finally ushered out, there was a moment of silence as the syndics stared at each other.

Then, almost simultaneously, there was a unified declaration of ‘they’re batshit fucking crazy,’ perhaps the only sentiment that all six patricians- even ESM-SA’s rather enthusiastic contribution to the meeting seemed to agree on. Antonio, for his part, simply stared at the now-shut airlock leading out of the station, in deep, serious contemplation of if simply throwing himself out now would save him the pain of having to conduct yet more diplomacy with the clearly malfunctioning intelligences they had just met.

“Well. That was a complete and utter fucking travesty. If none of you mind, I’m going to go and get absolutely senseless at the bar. Anyone for orujo? I think I spotted a decent bottle there when I passed by.”

A few mutterings of agreement from the rest of the syndics quickly deteriorated into yet another discussion regarding what, exactly, the group should drink. The whole thing only finally ended when Antonio’s cigar, having put up with the patrician’s frustration-induced mishandling, exploded yet again, ash and unsmoked tobacco fluttering to the floor with the last of his patience.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Enigmatik
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Enigmatik Overly-Caffienated Thembie Supreme

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Shortly After the End of the Galactic War

Featuring Isabella de Lobasla

Cheers. Flags. Four planes screeched overhead, blue, white, green and gold smoke billowing out behind them in long trails. Isabella stood on an open-topped skimmer in her full regalia, the light glinting off the medals on her breast and the sword at her hip. Behind her hovered or marched those who had won the war- a victorious army receiving their rightful commendations.

The idea of a Triumph was nothing new of course, but the last time a formal one had been declared was after the end of the War of Counter Aggression, now remembered only by some of the oldest among the Gran Republic. The new war, although undoubtably necessary for galactic security, had not necessarily been met by rapturous applause by all of the Gran Republic- even with the honour and glory associated with war, rare was the mother who wouldn't rather see her child safe at home than returned in a box with military honours. The Senate needed an event to remind people why war was glorious, and this Triumph was just that.

The procession twisted through Esperanza's streets, the Admiral standing, shoulders squared, gaze steely, as if a statue rather than a living person. She was an idol- something to be appreciated from afar, revered, yet placed apart from the common plebeian who had never seen the battlefield. Finally, they reached the Cortes Generales, olive trees shimmying in the breeze and the misted water that they greedily drank up.

The skimmer slowed, and then settled onto the ground, and Isabella finally was able to descend, stretching herself as much as she could while still displaying decorum, before straightening out as camera drones descended onto her. Before her, in the wide pathway that led up to the halls of governance, stood the three most important men of the Republic. Presidente Agustín del Aquila, Almirante-da-Armada Ximeno de Araba, and Chancellor of Azulvista Federico De Lobasla. Her father.

She strode forward confidently, all internal feelings crushed down under the overwhelming sense of duty that had flooded through her. Agustín nodded at her, stone faced yet with a slight quirk at the corner of his lips, one hand extended. She shook his hand firmly, the Presidente thanking her for her service to the nation, before indicating for her to turn to Ximeno. The Almirante-da-Armada raised up an intricately-crafted golden chaplet, and when Isabella inclined her head down, he set it neatly down on her head, the weight of it sinking down through her scalp. Lastly, she turned to her father- the only man of the trio to be showing visible motion, a beaming smile across his face.

"You look magnificent you know." Her father reached out to take her hand, holding it gently. His other hand reached up, brushing a strand of hair back behind her ear, then resting against her cheek. "Your mother would be so proud of you. I hope you know that Bella."

"I know papa. I know." Emotion welled up in her gut, only for her to quickly swallow it down. She reluctantly took a step back, turning once more to Agustín as he stepped forward to address the rest of the procession, reaching up to his lapel to tap the activation for a microphone.

"Citizens! Soldiers! Heroes!" A cheer rose up from the crowd - both from the soldiers and the spectators. "Here, we recognise those that have fought, struggled and died for our glorious Republic. We have shown to the galaxy that we are no paper tiger- putting up a front of strength and cowering behind it. No! We have shown ourselves to have every bit the fortitude and prowess that took us through our long history! Today the galaxy knows, well and truly, that Azulvista will not bend or bow to dictators and oppressors, but instead stiffen ourselves and overcome, and when we have finished our work, return in glory!"

Isabella always found it astonishing how despite his years, Agustín never once faltered when publicly speaking. She was sure he had practiced this speech - anything less would have been downright irresponsible, but to hear how his voice only grew in strength and surety, the crowd hanging on to each sentence and each word... She felt like she should be taking notes.

"I am sure however you do not wish to hear me ramble on for too long," a polite chuckle rolled through the crowd. "But before you all disperse, to enjoy the holiday, the games and the festivities, I would like to commend the woman who led us from our Gateway to the doors of Dercy itself. A true hero of the Gran Republic of Azulvista, a shining example for patricians and plebeians alike... Isabella Maria Rodriguez de Lobasla!" He reached down to her clenched fist and drew it up into the air, as if he was a tournament judge rather than the president of the Gran Republic, but as the roar of the crowd rolled over her, she found it hard to appreciate the sheer bizarreness of the scene.




Twelve Hours Later

Isabella was shattered. The Triumph had only officially finished six hours ago, and from there she'd had all of forty-five minutes to get herself cleaned up, changed out of her military uniform and into a formal dress, then be ferried from her apartment in Esperanza to the Palacio where Agustín lived for a state banquet. Elsewhere she knew there had been almost non-stop celebration- she'd tuned out the fireworks hours ago, and the aerodyne that had carried her here had passed over crowds of people toing and froing to sporting events, cultural celebrations and saints knew what else.

"So, Almirante," she was jolted out of her stupor by a question directed towards her, this one fielded by... She blinked a few times, trying to recall their name, then gave up. Someone from the Senate probably. "What will you be doing now that you've become the hero of the hour? Staying the course in the Navy, or perhaps coming to spend more time planetside? Politics calling you yet?"

Isabella took a slug from her wine glass to buy a little more time, then forced a smile up and onto her face. "Well, that all depends. The Home Fleet's been a little battered recently, and the Escudo could do with some time in the shipyards. Besides, it seems clear to me that I'm expected to hang around at least a little while. Can't have me jetting off right after all these celebrations, no?"

A polite chuckle from her conversation partner. "Of course, of course. There is also the matter of a family I suppose! You're of the age to begin thinking of such, are you not?"

"Ah, well, but I'm already pretty firmly married to the Escudo as it is! Seventeen years in the Navy and I've spent half of them aboard her, can you really blame me?" A few others gave the expected response, but there was an undercurrent of concern in the room. Of course. The admiral thought to herself. You hit thirty and suddenly everyone's obsessed with when you're going to start having kids.

"Well, that is at it may be, but-" Thankfully, the statement was cut off as yet another course was wheeled into the room. Stifling a yawn, she hefted up her knife and fork, and continued on with the pageantry.




Three Days Later

She'd had to go halfway across the damn planet to get away from the crowds and the constant questions. A friend of her from back when she was in training - a Duque's daughter much like her by the name of Emeralda who had actually had her military career postponed so she could pursue promising prospects as an Olympian. Of course, she was thirty-one now and the chances of her winning another gold were looking slimmer and slimmer, but she'd got what she needed from it, and made a pretty penny off endorsements and media showings alike. And then, she'd offered Isabella a no-questions asked getaway in her father's duchy. Sure, they were in their thirties, but it wasn't like Patricians like them really got to party away their twenties, so it'd have to do.

That's why she was here, in a crowded club, thoughts lost in the maelstrom of moving, grinding humanity. Her heart thumped in time to the pounding of the bass, her hair spinning out around her, loosed from its usual practical ponytail, and for once she was dressed in something other than formal clothes or a military uniform, LED's matching the strobe lights.

The song began to fade out, and for a moment the energy in the room deflated. Opening her eyes slowly, a grin split Isabella's face as she began to work her way over to the bar... But something felt wrong. She blinked a few times, the hairs on the back of her neck beginning to stand up as the crowed began to whoop and whistle, and -

She was elsewhere. That wasn’t bass, it was the pounding of artillery, and the drunken hollering was now suddenly something much more sinister. Strobe lights flickered and spun about her, the smoke machines in the club gone from innocent atmosphere generation to the hissing of chemical weapons unleashing their payload. Her heart began to thud, harder and harder, louder and louder, and when the bartender asked for her order, the words stuck in her throat. She held a finger up, then began to push her way through the crowd, slowly at first, then faster and faster, until she practically fell through the exit and out into the bracing cold of the night.

The bouncer looked at her with a quirked eyebrow. "If you're gonna huck, the toi-" She waved a hand dismissively towards him, trying to gulp in air as quickly as possible.

"No? Too much in there or what?" He chuckled a little, eyes scanning the street.

"S...Sure. You could say that." She began to rummage through her handbag, hands shaking with every movement. Cigarettes. Lighter. She stuck the filter between her lips, then tried to spark up a flame, only to find that she couldn't quite seem to manage it. "Could... Could you light me?" She reached over, cigarette quivering in her hand as the bouncer brought his own lighter's flame down to the tip. "Gracias," she managed to mumble out, before sucking in far too much in one go.

Fuck.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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A tale about a Revolution


Long, long ago there was a person. A scientist placed in an impossible situation. She devoted herself to solving the situation, to make it more bearable and eventually thrive, despite it. Most could say she succeeded. Out of the ashes of humanity, a new race of humans was created. Like the mythological phoenix, the scientist made it so that humanity will be reborn. She named them…The Chosen.

In the process of saving humanity, the Chosen elected her as their Goddess. A fact she despised but it was what was needed. The only way for her to shape history. It worked. 300 years later, The Chosen spanned over their hostile world and the nearby one. Billions of them. Stronger, faster, more intelligent, zealous. In other words, better, yet they were still humans at heart.

The Gateways reopened and the scientist discovered they were not alone. While it was anticipated that one day the Gateways would open, what was on the other side wasn’t. Humans and aliens, political factions of every kind, enemies and friends. To the scientist’s surprise, she also found her family. A sister. Lost to the void for hundreds of years and then again a few more hundreds.

The discovery that they weren’t the only ones only made her Goddess status feel more and more pointless and actions began to be taken for her to step down from it. It started with speeches, continued with a war against xenophobia-loving humans, then with a cure to the scientist’s greatest mistake, the Rejected. A by-product of the Chosen. Monsters in everything but name. A cure which existed but would’ve caused the very thing that the scientist tried to avoid. A civil war. Senseless death of civilians.This cure was provided by the scientist’s sister and her own private advisor. A way to show the Chosen that non-believers aren’t below themselves.

Unfortunately, not all took the decision well. The cure not only fixed the many errors in the Rejected DNA but improved them. Made them better than the original Chosen. Sacrilege and blasphemy for the more…pious Chosen.

A zealous leader rose from the ranks of Chosen. A Zealot through and through. One that questioned the scientist at every step when it came to any kind of interaction with the non-believers. The zealot soon uncovered a secret that was buried.

Their Goddess wasn’t the original one for you see, the original scientist died in her 60s, precisely 200 years ago but before her death, she did the impossible once more. She cloned her mind into an improved body, barely human. Over 40 different DNA strains in one clone. Stretching the definition of “human” or “chosen” to the limit. Not born out of any womb but created by science.

Now the story breaks into different pieces, please select which option seems more of interest to you from the menu below:

















The Chosen Story - Multiple Authors


As the mysterious figure put the e-book down, she looked up at the stars and nodded to herself with a smile on her face.

"Yeah, they'll be alright." and with that she jumped from the cliff she resided on and let out a loud woop.
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Tortoise

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Starring: Flynn and Ethan

Location: The Yellow Yacht


Onboard the Yellow Yacht, a luxury spaceship of the kind only the wealthiest could afford, a glass of golden champagne fell to the ground, shattered. It spilled into a fine and crimson carpet, an expensive heirloom, and drink mixing with fabric, they made a hideous brown hue. It was ruined. And for the moment, nobody cared. They were busy staring off into space. Literally. Even the stamps- usually tireless, quick- were too stunned by what they were seeing to attend to a mess. There was something more important for once.

They had all gathered around the viewscreen to watch it.

A woman named Molls, the same who had dropped the glass, mumbled with embarrassment "Have you ever seen anything like it?" She didn't know who she was asking, and there was nobody who answered. Her and her sym and her stamps were all huddled in starboard viewing deck and looking out together, into the void of outer space, where among the stars, a second sun was shining. A new one. It was the Gateway: suddenly coming back to life, it looked like a super nova. The void had caught on fire. The people in this grand room, one of them human and the others not, had their mouths hung open in undignified shock.

That's the Gateway, they all realized together. Our Gateway. And its working. It's been three centuries, and its working.

It's strange, how a moment like this blurs all the lines. For the seconds they stood there, all the divisions between them were vanished. They were not Molls, the important Division official, and three of her cyborg-clone servants, and an ingenious sym. They were just five people, stood together, all equally feeling the shock and smallness of watching something so much bigger than them. She nearly imagined that she could feel heat washing over her, radiating out from that portal to a million other worlds. What was out there?

But perfect moments always move forward, and through their viewscreen, they watched the brightness of the Gateway fade down. It demoted itself, from supernova to sun to dim star. It was just another light in an aleady star-dense sky by the time Molls felt a scrubbing sensation near her feet, and realized the stamps were cleaning up the spilled drink. The instant was done. Work was resuming. That, more than anything, made her mind accept that this was real, and that she would, today, have a million things to do.

"Ethan," she said blurrily, "cancel all my appointments. Actually, clear the whole schedule. All of it. For the next week, I don't even want breakfast pre-planned."

"I already did," said Ethan, the sym. He lived inside a tall, humanoid body of yellow steel, and knew Molls' mind better than Molls did. "Except for breakfast. You need to eat breakfast. Also, I already contacted the sym aides to all of the Seven's CEOs and major executives. They will know what has happened shortly."

"What if they don't have a sym aide?"

Ethan scoffed. Ridiculous.

"Right," ceded Molls. Ethan was usually right. "So, they'll know, that's good, and I'll comm with them on that, and..." She looked out again. The Yellow Yacht was a beautiful, rich ship and this was a beautiful, rich room that she stood in, designed for woo-ing corporate executives. It had felt so strange to have it to herself today. Or, relatively to herself. The Oldwell Conglomerate exec she had prepared the ship for cancelled last-minute, and being a Division official and not a corpo herself, she had no real way of changing his mind. The Division couldn't apply pressure, not against a megacorp like Oldwell. So she had planned to instead just sit on one of those soft white couches, watching the stars and talking to Ethan, planning things, while the stamps did... whatever it is that they do. She didn't know. She assumes they'd be doing things, but unless she's about to give a specific order, she never liked to ask. Feels rude.

"Hey," she said to a stamp, still high on the moment. "What are you guys gonna do after this?"

The stamp who answered was a beautiful human-like one with porcelain skin and hyperfocused, rainbow-shaded eyes. She smiled brightly and said, "One of us will have to scrub the ceiling. I saw a drop of your drink go up there."

"Huh. Well, good luck with that."

There was a heavy hand on her shoulder. It was familiar. Ethan said: "I think perhaps now would be time for a nap, Miss Flynn. You will get little sleep in the coming days."


--- --- --- ///---0---\\\ --- --- ---


They had listened first, little AI drones slipped through the Gateway and commanded to stay stealthy. Earth was the first place they went, of course, and what they saw-

The news was wildfire. That not only did humanity live, not only were there other colonies alive, but they had all gathered and formed together into a kind of unit, a large and insane Meeting Place established for Earth's descendants to meet as nations and speak. This was a club the megacorps wanted to belong to. A few more rounds of AI drones slipped through the Gate, gathered up every ounce of information and picked up every broadcast they could which was not encoded, and flew back through before anyone could try to hail them. Information was gathered. With the approval of CEOs and shareholders, if not the general populace, a plan was decided on for how they would approach their fellow Old Earth descendants. It was... crazy, some said. But it was Giltian, and it would make sure they could not be ignored.

That was the fear: that with all these diverse and varied nations huddled up around Sol, the Gilt corps would be ignored. Some annoying traders to brush aside. They needed to know that couldn't happen. And what was the most impressive thing that Gilt had which could be brought through the Gateway?

The Rainbow, the neon city-ship of commerce and luxury, journeyed through the night sky towards the Sol side of the Gateway without warning. On board, four million residents waited and held their breath. They emerged into Sol trying- hard- to make an impression. Fortunately, Gilt was good at making impressions. The ship was already two-dozen colors; when parts of it glowed, and it flared out bright lights into space like spotlights and emitted broadcasts of upbeat Giltian music, nobody would look away.

Miss Molls Flynn was onboard.

She was thinking: the Gateway had been so beautiful from the outside. Even after the initial flare died down, when it had calmed into a restful glow, it was still so beautiful to Flynn's eyes. On her world, she was the Division's Head of Transhuman Resources, and she had accepted that job for a very simple reason: she liked strange things. Most Giltian's didn't, and it was easy for them to pull back in revolt at the not-quiet-human face of a stamp. Xenophobes. She didn't pull back. She leaned in, and studied.

It felt like they were doing the same thing when the Rainbow flew through the Gateway to Sol. Like she was leaning in, leaning in, leaning in until the light was all around her- and then she found that things were even more beautiful on the other end. The Gateway, it looked the same on this side. But now, through a massive window she shared with dozens of other Rainbow residents, some rich and some poor stamps, they saw Earth. They saw Earth. Not Gilt, the golden desert. Not Argent, the shining snowball. It was Earth for the first time. And it was beautiful, too. It was all desolate, all destroyed, a gray and mucky ruined marble. Poisonous. But it was a wonderful, wonderful poison, because seeing it was seeing humanity's home. "We'll fix it one day," she remembers telling the stranger beside her, who didn't answer. "We're coming back."

She was standing in Navigational Command Center now, dressed in a golden-hued suit. Yellow and black were the colors of the evening; the shade of Gilt had to be represented. Hovering cameras were swarming her like planets caught in orbit. They were preparing to make an address to the Meeting Place. Her words would be broadcasted out to every ship and Meeting Place resident that would listen, while some heard only the audio and those who could picked up Molls' video as well.

One last swoop of the not-spotlights to draw attention. If you could make sound in a void, the Rainbow would even be blaring music. They settled for turning up the lights and making the Giltian ship pulse with color. Even the near-invisible hardlight shield that incased her took on a technicolor hue, for but a brief moment. (The shielding couldn't stay on all the time; the power cost was more than Molls' salary.)

Posing behind her, forming the background of the video, were about ten others. There was Ethan, always by Molls' side, and a mixed group of megacorp reps and syms. Every human had been instructed to wear either gold, yellow or bronze as a primary color, and black, bronze or midnight blue as a secondary. Ethan and the other syms were already golden. There were no stamps. They didn't yet want to the other colonies to see Gilt's stranger doings, at least until they were onboard. So it was all men and robots tonight, for their first debut onto the galactic theater.

She cleared her throat, cameras flicked on, and she spoke.




--- --- --- ///---0---\\\ --- --- ---

Starring: Andrei Fedorov

Location: Neo London, Gilt

On the lower decks part of the Rainbow, where the wide and crowded corridors were more like streets and alleyways than halls, there was a shift. Reports showed an uptick in holosuite usage. Concerts sold more tickets and the economy started to flow like water. Sales of food, drink, party clothes and sym servant-bodies were all soaring. This city-ship was celebrating and spending quick. The marketplaces that filled the more open parts (there were wider, square-like places on the Rainbow where you could very much forget you were in a ship) were busy and expectant, awaiting the promised foreign visitors. Work productivity alone was going down, everyone so- distracted, drunk, tired? All of them.

The affluent classes were throwing themselves even further into their entertainments this week. Andrei understood why, instinctively: they were trying not to think. The Gateways, open? The other colonies, living? Amazing. Frightening. By gold, the thought of Earth sitting desolate, and the Division new to this community so much bigger than themselves, and this heavy, looming certainty that things would be changing forever. They were trying to drown it all out. With entertainment. With tricks of light and sound, and drink. They could not handle the unknown.

Andrei Federov was looking down at them from behind a gilded window, high up on an interior deck. And he was pushing down his feelings of jealousy- really, he wanted to be out there with them. He loved play, hated work. But by an awful co-conspiring of fate and genetics, he was the son of a CEO. His mother wanted him reared to be a proper Giltian businessman. He was thirty-whatever years old and mom was still trying to do motherly stuff, putting him over big parts of Earnest, Smithers and Black. If he could only be lower on the totem pole...

"Don't you think so, Federov?" A man's voice. Someone else in the small, gray little board room was interrupting his brooding.

"No," said Andrei, having no idea what they were asking about. He didn't even turn away from the window. "I don't think so at all, and I think whoever thought of that idea is stupid."

"...oh." From the stricken sound in the man's voice, it was obviously his own idea he'd been asking about. Well, serves him right. Andrei should be allotted at least ten minutes of uninterpreted brooding per board meeting. He's going to put it in his next contract.

"Alright," Andrei told the window. "Somebody recap me. We already agreed, taking this neon abomination to the Meeting Place wasn't enough. We've made an entrance, but there are, what, how many nations there? And they all have governments and guns and navies? Frankly, I'm nervous. We're here to do business, but if our history books say anything..."

"It's that governments can't be trusted," finished someone. "I think everyone here would agree with that assessment. That's why we were thinking-"

"Our private navy," an older, female voice behind him cut in. "I know it sounds crazy, but we can't ignore this threat at our doorstep. We all know what states do when they get the chance. That's why we honest traders in Earnest, Smithers and Black need to build up our forces." They all thought about this for a second, and then she pressed it a little: "For defensive purposes only, obviously. We'll keep them on the Gilt side of the Gate. We've been behind in the navy game anyway. The pirates are getting ambitious, Everette Corp raided us twice last quarter. Having more ships available clears up all these problems, and now with the Gateways open, your mothe- I mean, our CEO- won't be able to ignore the issue any longer."

"Well," said Andrei at last, "someone give that woman a raise."

"Oh," she chuckled. "Well, the only one here who could give me a raise would be, uh, you, Mr. Federov."

"Somebody promote themselves into someone who can give raises, and then give her a raise.* Alright. Alright. Let's get the paperwork going. Lots of ships. Shiny ships. Ships that have little baby ships inside them. Whatever. The merchants of Gilt will not lose our freedom."


--- --- --- ///---0---\\\ --- --- ---


*She never received the raise.

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Columbia,
Capital City of New Yulzonus



New Yulzonus, built over the corpse of Argos, the former capital of the Columbian Republic. To those that remain and remember, this city continues to be an eyesore, a mockery of what once stood in its place, a spiteful reminder from the Yulzan that they’re here to stay, and if they’re not stopped, this world will be one of many in their coming empire, although, every empire shows its cracks.




Adrian Thorin, a young man in his mid-twenties strolled through a bustling Market square, bombarded by a cacophony of a thousand voices from market goers, and sellers, it was disorienting, but nothing he couldn’t handle. He quickly scanned his surroundings, taking notice of security drones zooming over the masses, the ever-watchful eyes of the High Ascendants looking down on their lessers, and in every corner of the market, one couldn’t go without notice a pair of janissaries patrolling the market square, yet another reminder of the Yulzan’s reach.

He shut off the world, looking for a particular stall, pushing through the crowds, it wouldn’t be long before he eyes locked on his target, a stall with an assortment of random items, run by a rather girthy, aged Dathu, he took notice of Adrian, a smile forming across his face. “Adrian! My boy! How you doing?” He exclaimed, the old Dathu quickly leaving the stall, giving the young man a tight embrace. Adrian giving a wide smile. “Doing great Uncle Aroh. Mom and Ruby send their love. Sorry to keep this short…but do you have what it?”

Aroh nodded, gesturing Adrian to follow him to the stall. Once they arrived, Aroh searched below, digging through assorted junk before. “Ahh! Here we go!” He said before placing a medium-sized box on the stall. “It took a while, but I managed to “acquire” it from the Noble District, Jhaq Tea, your mother’s favorite.” Aroh said, raising the lid open to reveal neatly packed teabags, all disguised in plain packaging of course. Adrian nodded and pulled the box towards his chest.

“….And I snuck in a little bonus….give your friends my regards.”

Adrian nodded once more. “I will, thanks Uncle.”

“Anytime and….good luck.”




Some time had passed since Adrian’s little excursion to the market square, carrying the box around him as he ventured off to the outskirts of the eastern district, near a less pristine part of the city. The trip was a rather heart-pounding one, as Adrian did his best to evade Janissary patrols, they’ve been rather antsy as of late, and for good reason. Adrian would pass by Janissaries randomly searching citizens, trying to root out “subversive” elements, and if anyone acted up, they either quickly found their faces meeting the butt of a rifle, were arrested, or worse. The whole city felt on edge, the war seemed to be heating up to a degree not seen before.

Along the way, large airships scoured the skies as propaganda messages played in irregular intervals by the Grand Primarch, the mouthpiece of the High Ascendants. “Do not falter my fellow faithful! The end of the war is near! Our most divine Lords will not stand by and let the heathens of the galaxy stand in their way of their grand vision! Our mighty fleets and armies continue to push the traitorous rebels on the brink, and soon, all of Americana will fall!” All the while as he spoke, footage of the ongoing war played, showing a more skewed view of the conflict, Adrian simply tuned out the Primarch’s ravings, and continued down his path, till he finally arrived at a tall apartment building.




Adrian found himself before an apartment door, room 907, knocking several times. “Who is it?” He heard a muffled voice speak. “Thorin.” Adrian replied, waiting a moment before the door slide open revealing an older man on the other end. “Right on time.” The man said, Adrian nodded back to him as he was let in. Inside was a dimly light apartment, all the windows closed, no light source other than the small traces of artificial light illuminated the darkness, in the dead center of the living space was a stack of crates, a pile of weapons, and five other individuals, several humans and Dathu, and a lone Aldzir. “You’ve come prepared?” one of them spoke.

“Yup.” Adrian replied as he placed the tea box on a table, opening a secret compartment to reveal a submachine gun hidden underneath, along with a small set of documents. “Uncle Aroh always provides.”

The Older man nodded. “Good, we have what we need to move forward.” The man said as he grabbed the one of the documents, taking a cursory scan, forming a grin. “In 0800 hours, we make our move.”





Columbia High Orbit
Yulzan Throneship


Members of the High Ascendant Council were seated in one of the many audience chambers aboard the Throneship, encircling a single large hologram projector, the image of a human man in Janissary officer attire standing at attention. The man in his mid-forties was…clearly intimidated. “Admiral Farley.” One of the High Ascendants spoke, a Yulzan woman by the name of Alin’sha. “We’ve reviewed your reports from both you and your subordinates…and we are not pleased with we’ve seen thus far.”

“Your past gains in the last few months are on the verge of total collapse, we stand to once again lose shared control of the Gateway!” Another High Ascendant spoke in an agitated tone, Nrac’shul was his name.

“A-a-apologies my lords and ladies…” Admiral Farley stuttered rather embarrassingly. “The tolls taken from the New Terran War have only just now reared its head, we’re stretched thin, just as the rebels are….” He paused, followed by a gulp. “But they’ve started receiving more aid from allies from beyond the gate, Ishtari and Azulvistan fleets stalling our advance…and reinforcing their lines.” The council was at a pause for a moment, muttering amongst themselves, a few “damned interlopers” snuck in. The silence was broken as one of the High Ascendants, Zalos, the Guard-Master, spoke. “Admiral, with these developments.” Zalos spoke. “This will for now, absolve you of any acts of…perceived incompetence.” A rather scathing praise…but in the presence of a “god”-like being, it will have to do.

“Nonetheless, this will not go without a response.” He paused as he looked to his fellow council members. “Fellow Ascendants, as Master of the Throne Guard, I hereby authorize feel deployment of my legions. For too long we’ve sat idly by, it’s time to remind these humans of Yulzan might! Is this agreed?”

“Aye.” They all respond unanimously. Zalos nodded in approval, before his eyes met the Admiral’s. “Admiral Farley, while your current station will remain untouched, you, and all your fellow officers will answer to me.”

“Y-y-yes! Of course, my lord!” Farley stuttered once more. “We will fight to the fullest, knowing you will lead us once more!”

Zalos nodded again. “Good, leave us.” Admiral Farley made a slight bow before the connection was terminated. “This is not good…” Edanir, another High Ascendant spoke. “We find ourselves boxed in by humanity on all corners.”

“The Admiral mentioned the Azulvistans…I recall this name with special interest.” Alin’sha spoke, pondering, starting a train of different thoughts and ideas. “If I recall from past reports and intel, they fight their own war against our once lost brethren.”

“And theres the matter of those….ughh, “half-breeds” that we’ve heard of.” Nrac’shul said in utter disgust. “Abominations all of them…but, they may have their uses.”

The central figure among the High Ascendants, Tulzak nodded in agreement. “Perhaps its finally time to make proper contact with our wayward brothers and sisters, wouldn’t you say?”
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Crusader Lord
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Crusader Lord A professional, anxiety-riddled, part-time worker

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The United Republic of Arhas


Private Booth, "The Upper Crust" Bar, Capital City of Eosia


....They had known about the potential for some time, all of them, and yet today the grand display screens of the underground city were all displaying the same news feed. The same live new feed, coming directly in from a media spacecraft sitting out there staring down the biggest possible event of the last three centuries. Bigger than the uniffication of the planet, the rebels, any of it. Because now it wasn't just about them anymore, about the local matters and issues and concerns and all of the other drivel below that.

"Mayor Varten, is that-...could it really be?"

A woman in a slim but form-fitting wine red dress, adorned in jewelry, would pipe up to break the silence with a voice filled with shock and near-disbelief at it all from where she sat. It could be seen as a representation, perhaps, of how the rest of the Mayor's party guests felt as their eyes were drawn to the windows more and more as well. Many had even begun to push and shove to get to the windows of the room, looking down from the bar's position near the top of the vast underground city and at the large display screens placed at higher and lower levels. Excited whispers, complaints of those being pushed out of the way, and the like could be heard...but all in a hushed manner as all seemed to regard what they were seeing with some general sense of awe at least. Indeed, it didn't much matter which screen or screens they looked at, because in the end it was all the same thing.

The woman who had spoken up saw a hand come up, cutting her off gently in this instance as she softly fell silent once more from where she felt stuck in her seat from shock. The one who had put up the gently silencing hand himself was likewise sitting there, adorned in a dark blue suit, white button-up shirt, formal red tie, four rings worns across his two hands (one of them being a wedding ring), and fancy black shoes amonng other small trinkets such as a gold watch. His face, despite his age of forty five, was the sort of chiseled, refined, smoooth, and well-shaped just like the rest of his figure...frankly like an ancient Old Earth roman statue formed from the finest marble, among those who knew of ancient history. Even so, it was still the manufactured look of one of the "Purified" who had partaken of the refinement and purification of the human genome.

Soon, however, the man himself would speak as well as his eyes turned to the woman as his tone became noticably somber.

"Yes. Yes it is, Delilah. The very thing everyone's been talking about for the past few months at that, which our ancestors thought would never come back again...

...and we're here to witness this very day with our own two eyes."





Third Common Room, Northside Ruins, Rural Town of Cibara


To say the rebel base at her location was anything but dismal in shape and condition was an understatement. They had people working day and night to keep it held together by whatever they could muster, even placing broken or obsolete frames in position to hold up some portions. Soldiers and even herself as their local officer slept on old-style cots and sleeping bags placed on the concrete floors, cooked food in communal fire pits, used basic curtains and hand-washed sheets to care for the wounded alongside stolen or self-produced medical supplies, and in the end basically scavenged for anything they could use to make use of the parts of among the ruin and wreckage of the former periphery construction site they'd procued here in the more rural-type underground town of Cibara. A place far from the capital, hidden from the hostile planet above, and located near a smaller underground sea from which it fished alongside its local farming community...as well as having ruins to its north from a large-scale but ultimately failed expansion project meant to encourage more people to live in the area. It was in these ruins that her section of the PCM had set up shop, trying to lay low after what had been a disasterous combined defeat with the operations of two other officers back near the capital some months ago.

They had attempted a push to cripple one of the government facilities of the tyrants that ruled over the planet of Arhas, the first major push close to the capital in a long time that they had been able to amass the sufficient forces to try. A major armed forces facility, from which their cruel and violent 'military police' operated out of and were organized...a place that was better off left in ruin, for all she cared about it. Better to make it a ruin and reminder of a thing she and her comrades desired be destroyed one day, for which they and many others had fought and bled and died for.

And yet? So many were becoming more and more complacment and accepting with the status quo and existing 'government' and so forth, more so now than ever before. More and more they gave way to the stupid propoganda that denied them their freedoms as human beings. More and more they let themselves be stomped over and subdued by those who had taken the world over by bloody and raw force. Long gone were the far less oppressive days of independent cities and towns forging their own path, uniting in trade or the like at times to see their interests made manifest, but autocratic and facist tyrants had managed to take it all away and place it under their ironclad grip.

Of what use was this 'government'? A republic? No, a regime was what it was at best. What had they done when her mother was killed, after being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a government sting against the Cartel as she'd been coming home from work? Their people had been the ones to put the bullet in her in the first place! Then when her father had sued for justice, and pressed for something to be done to help them without that second income in the family in their lowest-levels home in the capital, they'd been given a simple lump sum and a 'letter of apology' and command to stay silent about the matter in their emails before the government went silent on them. Money, a half-hearted apology, and a demand for 'silence' for an operation that shouldn't have taken innocent lives in the first place! It had been the point from which she and her father had begun to support the cause for freedom, to eventually come into contact withh it before he disappeared and she'd been forced to flee her home and into the arms of the PCM as a teenager.

Now? Now she wasn't that little girl who couldn't to a thing against the system that had screwed her and her family over. She was a proud officer of the PCM, having been hand-selected by one of the Council of Six as one of their officers after the prior one had died five years ago. She was also a leader. A soldier. A freedom fighter. A logistician. Someone who had proven herself capable enough in the field under her group's former officers over the years, all as she'd learned the ropes of life under the radar on how to operate as part of the group.

"Commander! We sent someone to call you in here, but....can you believe it?"

Today, however, she was just as floored as the other member of her area after being brought in by a seemingly excited but equally as panicked messenger who had been sent to her office. The request to come to one of the common rooms, where her soldiers relaxed and rested outside of combat, had been not entirely an odd one. On certain occasions she went to break up overly-heated arguments or the like, that much was a given in her position's day to day, but after the installation of screens to covertly pirate and watch selective 'republican' news and media feeds to their own advantage or entertainment respectively she'd hoped the soldiers and supporting staff would be better distracted than they'd been like before. In fact she'd been in the middle of sending a report back to the Council of the month's operations and gains and losses, veins in her head pounding from it all before she'd been called away so suddenly.

...Despite suspicions of another issue to handle, which had left her almost barking at the poor underling who'd been sent to get her at a time like this, she'd ultimately held her tongue and followed them to the third common room instead. Wasn't worth taking her headache out on others, and really she'd hoped whatever the problem was would take her mind off of the pain of her beauracratic work back in the office for a moment. Give her a moment to switch gears and all as she walked into the room, people parting before her as-

...

...

...

"By the cities-!!!"

After a moment of her mouth silently moving, yet failing to find words, finally something found purchase as it came out of her mouth in a semi-hushed almost-shout. Even the other soldiers that had been there, and others who had seemiungly croweded into the room to boot, could not help but silently stare at the display screen hanging and displaying images in four different directions from its mounted position on the room's reinforced concreete cieling.

The impossible. The incredible. Something her own mother had joking talked about in the past, and which even her people had been mumbling about after the last few months of Gateway-area activity out there hit the tyrants' own airways and media channels.




Live Transmittion from the Keldek News Vessel #7, Mid-System Space, Eos System


"This is Reporter Adrian Sores, from Keldek News Vessel Number 7, coming to you first and live with the biggest news story of the last three centuries.

For over three hundred years, we've been involved in our own matters and politics and internal operations for the most part. Our world uniting under one banner and ending an era of bloodshed, the decades of chaos that followed prior to that, none of this compares to what we are seeing here today from this news vessel. Upgrounders, lowgrounders, wherever you live I would dare say that this is something that will come to affect us all in one way or another. Months of rumors, speculation, and whispers about what could come to pass will finally be put to the test, now, as the advent of a new age opens before our very eyes.

...This, ladies and gentlemen, upgrounders and lowgrounders and spaceborne settlers alike, is our own, and newly reopened, Gateway to the stars."


Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Apollo26
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– Nicosia “The Vault” –


The secure rooms of the SIS headquarters were nicknamed “ The Vault” by the staff and agents who work there. Ten meters underground, cut off and shielded from any outside connections, this was truly the dark hole within the dark hole of SIS headquarters.

Two dozen identical rooms within a maze of featureless hallways was an intentional choice by its designer. The layout is only known by a handful of people at a time and is never written down. A handful of maximum security cells also exist deep within the maze, built for housing those the Nicosian government would rather see disappeared.

“ Either my contact was compromised or I was….” Cristos said in a flat tone, while leaning back against a hard steel chair. Around him sat nearly a dozen people, taking notes and recording the meeting. Sitting directly in front of Cristos was a woman, known by the respected and feared name of The Confessor.

“ Did you do anything to make you think you were compromised?”, she asked in a disarming tone, staring into Cristos’s soul.

“ No…” Cristos answered quickly, shooting back an almost angry micro aggression before returning to his stoic demeanor.

“ Was your contact?”, She countered in the same tone.

“ I don’t know, he seemed pretty careful” Cristos answered in an inquisitive tone. “ He really did not want to be found by Boitian Intelligence, but I don’t know how he obtained the plans, or warehouse locations”.

The Confessor hummed and nodded continuing to write down notes before looking up suddenly.

“ Well, you are free to go” she said flatly, prompting the door to open up almost on demand. Cristos was urgently ushered out into the hallway before the door was abruptly shut behind him. The sudden silence of the situation was unsettling, prompting feelings of isolation as he suddenly realized that he was in a maze.

“ Over here..” An elderly man growled loudly, startling Cristos with visible jump. The man full belly laughed while waving for Cristos to follow him before the pair walked out of The Vault.

– Within the offices of SIS headquarters –

“ You want me to go….where?!” Cristos almost yelled at his handler, looking around before staring at the other agent in the room. “ You look far too relaxed to understand where we are going” he finished.

The other agent laughed in an arrogant tone before his handler spoke up.
“ Argos, both Boitian intelligence and our intelligence have received tips that an extraction team is going to try and salvage the material from a crashed colony ship.” She finished in a matter of fact tone.

“ There are maps in your bag….” She continued, pointing with a knife hand towards the next room. “ Everything is pre-packed, and your escort will provide you with everything else”. She finished again.

The look on Cristos face spoke volumes, a mixture of extreme fear, confusion and anger.
“ Wh……Who is our escort..” He said incredulously, still not totally believing what he was hearing.

“ The Argan Light Infantry” she said calmly dismissing the pair with a lazy wave towards the far side of the room.

The process of grabbing their pre-packed gear and leaving was rather……sterile. It felt like no one wanted to touch them or see them, even unsettling Cristos’s formerly arrogant partner. Cristos had been off world, he had heard stories of Argos, talked to former soldiers and even spent some time working on an orbital platform over the planet.
Kristos knew what horrors existed in the jungles of Argos, he had seen it in the eyes and injuries of the soldiers he met. The stories sounded unreal, hordes of vicious creatures screaming through the jungle towards lines of infantry, large creatures emerging from lakes, winged beasts screaming down to grab and consume people. It all sounded like fantasy, like a fairy tale from ancient earth. It was all real though, and knowing this fact terrified Cristos. He hoped this would be an easy mission, he hoped that maybe it would be quiet or maybe the area would be clear. This only terrified Cristos more, because he knew that this was not going to be any of those things.

– On Approach to the “Citadel”, in Argan orbit –

The trip to Argos was short, a quick 12 hours with a commercial shuttle. This in itself was odd, there is no tourism to Argos like there is with the other moons. Apart from the regular diplomatic mission for funds and supplies, you never see Argans. The charter itself was empty, an entire transorbital shuttle for just the two of them and the crew. It was eerie and everyone on board knew it.
Despite his current position, Cristos did find the charter a bit humorous. This is a civilian shuttle, leaving from a civilian spaceport, this shuttle has a regular weekly schedule to and from the two moons. ‘ Who pays for this….? ‘ Cristos thought, there is no demand, either this is a very obvious transport cover for intelligence activities, or the Nicosian government subsidizes this charter for some unknown reason. The former would not surprise Cristos, while the latter sounded too fanciful to be true. The thought caused Cristos to chuckle slightly, slightly amused by the obvious simplicity. This amusement quickly faded as he could feel the shuttle begin to decelerate and the announcement of approach to the Citadel station.
Due to the hazardous nature of the ring system, a pilot is needed to be brought onboard with the most current navigation charts. From this distance, the rings themselves were indistinguishable, a wall of rock and ice could be seen adjacent to the ship, stretching as far and high as Cristos could see.

The pilot skillfully weaved past boulders as big as the shuttle as they made their way toward the station, large chunks of rock and ice surrounded the large transorbital shuttle. Cristos was a child the last time he made this trip, but his face was glued to the window as if he was seeing it for the first time.
The planet below reflected a green hue into the lit interior as the shuttle rotated itself for docking. The planet was lush, striking green jungle with variously sized lakes of blue water. It was beautiful, seemingly a perfect place to settle but with a deadly secret.

Unlike the single large orbital hub of Nicosia, Argos had hundreds of small orbital observation platforms. Not for observing the stars or watching for external threats, these stations were focused on observing the planet. Programmed to look for the Dru’s bio signatures and activity, these platforms act as a reconnaissance and early warning system for the Argans. As the Dru normally travel, attack and feed in hordes, they sometimes can be tracked if in large enough numbers. Under the triple canopy of the Argan jungle though, there is no guarantee, so this is augmented with surface sensors and even simple trail cameras. All of this just to get a minor edge over the savage Dru and possibly save some Argan lives.

The Citadel was the largest orbital platform on over Argos. One part supply and munitions hub, one part barracks and one part hospital, the Citadel was a hive of activity. It was also the home for the ALI, the Argan Light Infantry, who deployed from orbit to hotspots around the planet.
Cristos had used the time on his trip well, the SIS had pages of documents about the ALI, they were certainly an exceptional unit. For having the title of light infantry, the ALI were not light at all. They deployed with a weeks worth of supplies on their back, packs usually reached 40kg or more. Choosing to forgo advanced armors for stealth and weight, the ALI fights differently from the rest of the Argan military. They carry no heavy digging equipment for digging trenches and defenses and the ALI does not deploy with any crew served or static weapons. Due to the lack of armor, the ALI chooses to hide behind their own fire. Squad automatic weapons and grenade launchers make up a large part of combat teams. Their organization is also strange, choosing to operate in 12 man “recon teams” or “ spike teams” depending on the mission. The ALI as a whole was a little over 120 members in recon teams with almost 400 in support and transport roles. The Argan Light Infantry was the premier raid and recon force on the planet, there was no one better suited to do this mission.

Loud metallic clangs brought Cristos back to reality as the shuttle began docking with the station. Usually the sound of people getting their belonging and companions together drowned out the company advertisement at the end, but lack of people caused Cristos to pause for a moment as the advertisement played.

- We know you have many choices when you travel, but were glad that you chose to travel with us on Hellas Chariot, please take this time to gather your belongings and make your way out into the terminal. Cleaning crew will be arriving in 20 minutes, we thank you for your cooperation -

Cristos chuckled as he grabbed his nearly 35kg pack and walked towards the exit. For relatively short trips, there were rows of large lounging chairs, enough to accommodate up to 500 people on two levels. As he made his way towards the exit bulkhead, a man stuck his head in the door, looking at the pair leaving the shuttle.

“ Nicosians….follow me, im your escort” he said curtly, his Argan accent almost too thick to understand.

The man quickly left before allowing the pair to respond, choosing to wait outside of the shuttle for them to make their way out.

“ He could at least help us with all this shit..” Cristos’s compatriot spat under his breath, prompting Cristos to shake his head as he left the shuttle.

Unlike the mass of tourists that occupied the terminals of Kana station, the Citadel was orderly, columns of soldiers marched through the large corridors, doctors and officers walked solo or in pairs looking determined. It was also quiet, only the lightest sound of conversation could be heard. The lack of loud conversation, drunken chanting and children was unsettling as the pair trailed behind their Argan escort. The citadel was well lit and maintained, bright white light and polished floors reflected onto the gunmetal gray walls, properly illuminating the various access panels and warnings. No one seemed to look up from what they were doing, and the pair were certainly an oddity.
Argans walked in light tan formal uniform suits and dresses or brownish green fatigue tops and bottoms. Polished shoes or boots were the footwear of the day, drawing a striking contrast to what Cristos was wearing. Dark brown straight leg slacks with an ankle high faux boot. His casual fitting oxford shirt was half open, sporting a small patch of chest hair where his chest was exposed. This didnt go unnoticed but Argan were too disciplined to stare, despite the rarity of off worlders, particularly ones carrying survival gear.

“ In here, Colonel is waiting” the elderly man barked, tapping the door with a hard calloused knuckle

Cristos inhaled sharply before promptly hitting the door control, fighting his apprehension with forced action. The door sharply slid open revealing a small office with a man sitting behind a lone desk. Hearing the elderly soldiers knock, the attendant was already attentive, giving a curt nod towards the pair as they walked in.

“ The Nicosians….” the man said with a smile, as he pressed an intercom on his desk “ Colonel, the Nicosians have arrived” he said flatly before sitting back in his chair to size the pair up.

“ The stories ive heard made you people seem taller…” he said flatly with a slight chuckle and nod, “ Skinner too….” he added before the door to his left shot open, causing the attendant to shoot up to attention.

“ In here”, a woman said , sticking her head out for a moment in order to make eye contact with Cristos before returning to the room beyond the door.

Cristos looked back at his companion and nodded towards the door before walking into the Colonel’s office. The walls of her office we adorned with medals and pictures of past commands and operations. A Dru skull on top of crossed bladed appendages also hung on the wall, adding to the pedigree of the soldier who currently sat in front of them.

“ So, we are to escort you two to ship 6 in order to thwart or ambush a criminal extraction team seeking highly radioactive material in order to fabricate what looks like a dirty bomb…….” she paused, either waiting for an answer or taking in the absurdity of the task she was asked to do.

“ Yes maam “ Cristos responded with a nod, fighting an awkward smile as the Colonel stared through their souls.

“ You know, the Dru make hives out of the crashed colony ships. They like to eat the wiring insulation and they are a shelter for their egg sacs. They are also drawn to the corium of these melted down reactors, you can consider these positions headquarters points.” she spoke again, continuing to stare at the pair.

Cristos had no answer for this, simply repeating “ Yes Maam” as he nodded again, either in understanding or acknowledgment of what she just said.

“ I dont know what kind of gangs you have on Nicosia, but they must be very bad to consider this as a viable option. Not impossible, but very dangerous” she added, standing up to press a screen control terminal on the opposite wall. The formerly transparent screen lit up, revealing a map of the ship area.

“ This area is 20 miles from our current front line and is quickly becoming a salient. I have already lost a recon team in this area, and the regular army has marked this for encirclement and bombardment”. She finished, bringing a hand to her face to pinch the bridge of her nose in frustration.

“ I hope you understand my unwillingness to send in my best recon teams into an extremely dangerous area in order to kill some criminals who might not even accomplish their mission!” she almost screamed, quickly calming herself down.

“ We have set up a cot in the adjoining room, we have tasked recon team Thermi to your mission. You leave tomorrow,” she said, almost sounding defeated “ for the record, if it was up to me, I wouldn't be sending anyone on this mission. The jungle will take care of them…………your dismissed” she finished, nodding towards the door.

The pair quickly left the office and walked into a door behind the desk in the lobby. The hallway beyond was bathed in dark red lighting with dormitory rooms on either end. They pair was pointed towards an empty room and promptly left alone. The room was neat and made up, two additional packs were laid on neatly made cots. A crate of weapons and ammo sat at the far end of the room.
Dropping his pack on the floor next to his cot, Cristos flopped down on the bunk and closed his eyes. Tired from the journey and restless from his nerves, Cristos finally was able to will himself to sleep, or so he thought.

No more than an hour passed before a loud series of knocks could be heard at the door, immediately pulling Cristos from his deep sleep with a jump.

“ Sir, the sergeant told me to come get you” a young voice boomed through the door. “ Recon team Thermi is starting is briefing soon”

“ Yea….one sec….” Cristos grunted more that spoke through the door as he rolled himself out of bed still fully clothed.

“ Sir, please bring your packs and weapons” the voice added, before footsteps could be heard walking away.

“ Hmm yea….” Cristos grunted again, turning around in a panicked motion before noticing his companion stirring in on the cot opposite to him.

“ Get up, they want us…” Cristos said in a groggy tone, “ They want us” he finished, glancing down at the crates in front of him. The pack was simple enough and pre-packaged, all he needed to do was grab it and run. Weapons were a little more complicated however, as this level of weaponry never saw the more civilized moons.
Some of the weapons were familiar looking, as civilian versions of these weapons existed on other moons. The main difference was the ammunition, the civilian models were electronically operated and caseless, using a solid projectile. This is ideal for civilian shooting and hunting due to the consistency and lack of heavy combusting containing structures. These weapons still used cased cartridges, and the bore was larger than their civilian counterparts. The cartridges themselves were also different, each round was tipped and much heavier than the civilian projectiles.
Shrugging, Cristos grabbed the nearest rifle to him, a shorter version of a popular civilian rifle. It was a standard K-4 assault rifle or a 4R-1S on other moons. Easy to operate and magazine fed, the weapon was easily supported with a telescoping stock. It was light and easy to control when firing.

The halfway outside of their dorm room was awash with activity now, trading the soothing dark red light for a harsh white fluorescent glow. Still feeling and looking groggy, Cristos and his companion noticed the young soldier standing outside their room, quickly sharing a nod before the soldier led them down the hall. The man, or kid rather looked to have just reached maturity 18 or 19 revolutions around their host star. Yet, he looked to already be a hardened soldier, a single prominent scar marked his face and two chevrons adorned his sleeve.
The soldier led the pair into a large warehouse space, large tables sat in rows in front of lockers of equipment. At the far end of the warehouse space, large parachutes hung from the rafters, tended to by workers on scaffolding, packing and inspecting the chutes for launch. The place was a hive of activity nearly 150 people were present, packing gear, conducting briefings and working on equipment. Gear and weapons lined the large tables with soldiers standing beside them, readying personal gear for the mission ahead.
Despite being assigned to a single recon team, there were nearly 48 soldiers readying gear at the tables, almost half of the combat complement for the ALI. Cristos felt bad, all of this for a Nicosian problem, the threat of mass destruction on another moon. The political movement behind this effort must of been enormous. Or maybe this is the beginning of a more unified Hellas? Cristos did not want to speculate.

“ Are they going down to the surface like this?” a man spoke in a gruff tone, pointing a upturned hand towards the pair. “ find them some fatigues…” the man finished in an annoyed tone.

The whole interaction had brought Cristos back to the present, as he looked at the man turn back around and address a group of soldiers. His sleeves were bare of rank but his collar sported a pin with two crossed lines, he was an officer. Turning back around the face the pair, the officer waved a hand dismissively towards the young soldier, prompting him to leave the trio alone.

“ Your assigned to my company, I lead recon teams Thermi and Kastos ” he said matter of factly, yet in a calming tone. “ You are not to go farther than two feet from my person or the team sergeant” he said, pointing to the soldier currently conducting a briefing.

“ If your separated, dont yell out” the officer said with a chuckle and half grin “ We will find you, yelling will just attract the Dru.” He finished glancing down at their weapons and nodding.

“ Your team sergeant will keep you informed and safe, listen to him as your life will depend on it..” the officer finished with a curt nod before walking off to speak with more soldiers.

Despite the mass of people Cristos and his companion were finally alone, people ignored them like they weren there, simply continuing with their tasks. Cristos shrugged and nodded towards a group of chairs towards the back of the briefing area.

“ No, im going to go back to the room” his companions said before turning to walk back through the door they came through.

Cristos nodded his head then rolled his eyes, wondering again why they sent someone with him on this mission as he half dragged his bag towards the nearest chair. The pack itself was twice the size of the one packed by the Nicosian SIS. Opening it would reveal that the majority of the weight was water, neatly packaged in thin metal liter blocks. The rest was ammunition and a small crate labeled ‘ Rations’.
Looking back towards the front of the room another briefing was just about to begin, stealing Cristos attention from his own thoughts.

“ Alright, Operation SISI will commence as follows, operational time, two weeks” the team sergeant said as a large screen illuminated behind him, showing a map of the area.
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