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@BKburke@sntabe

"Varrus. Things were going a little too smoothly recently, figures the Alliance would choose now to release you." Stryker spat, refusing to let up how much seeing the Illithid again had rattled him. He cast a glance over to the amused looking Alliance officer.
"Any chance I can request he not be allowed on the ship, for the safety of the others?"
"Gonna take a wild guess and say that request is denied." Casey drawled "You two have a history?"
Looking back over his shoulder to observe Varrus walking away, Stryker quietly muttered "Something like that."

Shaking the memories out of his head, he turned to greet the other two new recruits, who were patiently waiting off to the side.
"Ryan Rosq and Maviet.. Maza.. sorry, no offense but I'm not even gonna attempt to pronounce that, I'll only butcher it. You go by Mazie it says here? Ok, that's easier. Well, welcome to the party. Call me Stryker. Grab your stuff and follow me, we can get properly acquainted as I show you around the Revenant."

@iTem@superservo27@Silver Carrot

SAL and his mechanically-inclined companions strolled casually through a noisy bazaar of makeshift market stalls. Helios was widely known as a pretty centralized trading post for those travelling through the Deadzone. Odds are they'd find the parts needed to get the Revenant back up to 110% among the scrappers, junkers and scavengers that made a living off the hollowed-out corpses of destroyed ships.

"Perhaps it would be best to spread out and search for the parts we need. Stryker has given me full credit authority, so I interpret that as meaning price is no object, as long as we acquire top-quality parts. Wait, hold position."

As they had strolled past a stall, SAL's ocular scanners had picked up serial numbers that matched some of the parts they required. Even some that matched materials he needed to deal with Tobi's instability. Interesting. He stared down at the name assigned to the stall and processed the proper pronunciation.

"Qoorb, greetings, I believe you will be able to accommodate our needs. My companions and I are seeking an Atom Flux and burn regulators compatible with a TX-750 drive core. We also require carbon-fused transmission piping and a 50-Grade coolant tank, if you have it."
@Gardevoiran@Xandrya@t2wave@BKburke@Rultaos@iTem@superservo27@sntabe@Silver Carrot

39 Hours Later

The Revenant jolted slightly as she entered the artificial gravity field of Helios Station, one of the larger (and relatively speaking, safer) locations in the Deadzone. Primarily known as a trader's market, where the rule of the merchants was law, Stryker had chosen it as a rest stop for a few reasons, though to be fair, it was mostly for the homebrew liquor a tavern down there specialized in.

He confirmed docking with the harbormaster and set the ship into landing protocol. The behemoth ship shivered and shook as she came down onto the landing pad and the engines cut out. The general atmosphere on board was that of a crew itching to breathe some fresh (artificial) air, Stryker included. Grayson and Amy had been checked out of med bay, though neither of them was quite at 100% yet, the doc had cleared them to be out and about, provided they didn't start any bar fights or brawls in the street. Tibulass had checked out in all scans, though heshe hadn't been awake much in the last day and a half. Everyone else seemed good, though they were all in dire need of this little break. Stryker rolled his chair back as he stood up and stretched before tapping in to the ship-wide comms.

"Alright everyone, we made it. So just like I said on the way here, it's gonna take some time to refuel and cycle in fresh water. We've got a complete resupply coming in too, food, med supplies, ammo, and everything else that was requisitioned. And since we're military-ish, I've decided to invoke the ancient military rite of shore leave, so just like the name says, the next 18 hours are yours to do with as you please, all I'm gonna ask is that if you're not coming back to the ship tonight to sleep, ping me on the comms, so we don't leave without you in the morning."

Leaving the cockpit, he almost immediately ran into SAL. The robot must have been coming to speak with him.

"What's up?" he greeted.
With his usual blank expression, SAL replied "The engineers did what they could, but some sections of the engines are still not operating at 100%. The drive core's Atom Flux and burn regulators in particular are approaching critical levels of decay."
"I figured something like that was happening, could feel her shuddering a little ever since I took the wheel. Tell ya what, I'm transferring credit authority over to you, head out into the markets and find those parts. Take Koren and Harrison with you if they want to help."
With a nod, SAL headed off. Stryker was halfway down the hall to his room for some much needed shut-eye when his datapad pinged, a new message from the Alliance.

Attention Revenant Captain,
Got a few more for you, we've shipped them off to Helios Station, so they ought to arrive just before you do. Dossiers attached. They're in the care of First Officer Casey, you should find him at these coordinates...

The message auto-deleted as soon as Stryker tapped the coordinates, he nodded and tucked the datapad into his pocket, sighing as he turned on his heel and headed off to collect the new recruits.
@sntabe@Silver Carrot Just to make it official: both accepted!
@iTem@BKburke@superservo27

SAL sat silent for a moment, analyzing and re-analyzing how his conversation with Tobi had gone. All signs pointed to 'poorly' with probable cause being that he hadn't explained himself clearly enough. He set up an automatic scan of the downloaded combat data and headed off to locate Tobi, nearly running into Harrison and Koren out in the hallway.

"Excellent, I needed to speak with you both. With you taking over most of the engineering duties, I thought it prominent to make a copy of all my reports onto the terminal in the Engine room. Please make particular note to read the latest on the drive core. A full breakdown is within the file but to cut to the root of the matter- it's been leaking for some time, not to a critical degree, but enough that it has affected the ship's maximum acceleration rate. Perhaps with your expertise, you could make the necessary repairs or locate a new one when we reach Helios Station."

As he spoke, he attemped to ping Tobi's internal communicator, passing along a short message containing a simple request to return to the lab.
@sntabe Of course!
@Rultaos@iTem@T2wave@Gardevoiran

"Take it easy folks, give him- sorry.. her now I guess, some room." Stryker said, reaching out to lower Benny's outstretched arm "Tib's been working on this project for a little while now, just a little shocking to see now that it's no longer just a theory. That, and the body you ended up in. Gotta say, when you first started talking about it, I figured you meant just grabbing some sad sack's body off a morgue slab, not a berserker from the Valkyrie clan. That is gonna take a bit of time to get used to. And Matija's right, maybe Dr. Matthias ought to take a look at you, make sure everything worked out ok."

"Well this is all very exciting, but like you said Tib, ship isn't gonna pilot itself all day, and I don't know about the rest of you, but I am dying for a drink that didn't come from an Alliance distillery, so next stop, Helios Station." As he made to walk out, he stopped up for a minute and leaned in for a private word with Harriet.
"Perhaps you should do a more... thorough scan, just to be 100% certain she is who she says" he whispered with a pointed look over to the brain floating in the jar next to Tibulus' former body before heading off to set their course.
@Rultaos@Gardevoiran@iTem@t2wave

Stryker was about to reply to Benny when the mysterious voice rang out over the intercom.

"Sooo... Any otha' secret projects we should be aware of while we're here?" Benny asked.

At a loss for words, he looked around at the others. The look on his face told it all, he was just as confused as any of them.

"Not that I'm aware...... oh wait... No way." The realization hit him all at once. Still talking, but mostly to himself, he turned on his heel and waved for the others to follow him as he marched out of the War Room and down the hall to the med bay.

"He did it, he actually did it." The captain was still muttering to himself as the med bay door slid open and he walked inside. Immediately his eyes were drawn to the drawn curtains around a pair of beds, presumably where Amy and Grayson were resting up. Finally he slid his vision across the aisle to the surgical robot Tibulus had built, the Funganoid himself lying immobile on the operating slab and the redheaded woman staring at herself in the washing basin mirror. The war paint had been washed away, but her build was unmistakably that of a Skaldurm vanguard. Stryker slowly stepped closer and cleared his throat before speaking.

"Tibulus? That you in there?"
@Xandrya

"Yeah, can't wait ta get the green light to go. Much rather spend the night in our own bed than in here." Grayson grunted as he shifted up and turned, leaning on his elbow to face Amy. In doing this, he inadvertently sent a sharp ripple of pain through his side "No need to thank me lass, what kind of man would I be if I didn't stand by ya? Not much of one I can tell ya that, we're in this together til the end Ames... even if it does cost an arm or two."

@Rultaos@t2wave@iTem

Stryker nodded at the comments from both Benny and Matija, measuring his response carefully.

"Yeah, I've got a cover story written up in my after-action report, haven't transmitted it yet though. I'm gonna tell them the truth, just not the part where I ordered the scientists killed and the research destroyed. Here's what I've got."
Stryker picked up his datapad, cleared his throat, and started to read.

"A Skaldurm patrol skiff spotted us shortly after landing, just around the time our undercover operative completed her mission, a task Taleste paid her life to pull off. We headed down into the facility, but technical glitches prevented us from sealing the doors before the Skaldurm raiders arrived en masse. Lives were lost trying to defend the scientists, but ultimately we couldn't save them, the savages killed them, tore into their unarmored bodies like lions on a gazelle. An errant laser blast in the lab cracked the containment cube on the prototype generator, dark matter seeped out into the open air, and in its volatile state, destroyed the entire lab, we barely escaped with our lives."

Remembering suddenly, Stryker looked at Harriet and gestured over to the others.
"You weren't that far off with that joke about a flu shot. Harriet just administered a dose of antitoxin, to ward off any effects of exposure to the poison she used down there, everyone has to get it, can't afford to lose any more of you guys, especially with Amy and Grayson out of commission for a bit. So who's up next?"
@iTem@Gardevoiran@Rultaos@superservo27@BKburke

"Here we go" Stryker told himself as he checked the datapad one last time to make sure all the ship's surveillance gear was disrupted and engaged a ship-wide P.A. broadcast. With a last breath in, he began to speak.

"I want to begin by saying that, thanks to an exploit the AI platform Ren discovered before it left the ship, I've been able to disable the cameras and microphones the Alliance have planted throughout the ship, so we can talk openly about what happened down there, because if anyone knew the truth, we'd be finished. Our current route is taking us through a corner of the Deadzone infamous for flarestorms from an unstable sun in a dead system, I'm gonna blame the electronics disruption on that in my report."

"Right from the start of the mission, I had a bad feeling about it. There were very little good things the Alliance would be developing at a secret lab hidden in a mountain, on a planet at the ass-end of the galaxy. And my fears were confirmed the moment I was taken into the main lab. The men and women working there were under the impression they were working on some sort of new-energy program, a renewable power source for the galaxy or something like that. They were altruistic about the whole thing, completely indoctrinated by the Alliance's lies, because they weren't developing something to make the galaxy a better place. In fact they were doing exactly the opposite."

"There's no other way to say it, they had created a functional dark matter generator. Of course, the head researcher spat out some garbage about converting it into raw energy and harnessing it, but all of us here know the Alliance's true goal was to turn it into a weapon that creates black holes. I don't care about any of your personal stances on that, but I believe that no one in the universe should have access to a weapon that devastating. I mean, imagine having the power of a million nukes at your fingertips. Now multiply it's destructive power by thousands. Entire systems wiped out in the blink of an eye, just gone entirely without a trace they ever existed. And if we had done the job, and delivered those scientists, they would have made us accomplices to the eventual genocide of billions of innocent lives. I wasn't going to let that happen, so I gave the order to Grayson, Amy and Benny to open fire, and kill them all. After that, we gathered up all of their research, everything they had developed, every backup in sight and Benny and myself rigged it and the place to blow. None of it, not a single shred of data was allowed to go back to the Alliance, hopefully we were successful there. Obviously things were complicated by the Skaldurm showing up, Taleste being captured and all of that. I wish things had gone differently, but that's where we stand."

He glanced at the holographic galaxy map at the center of the room and did a quick calculation.
"We've got roughly an hour before we pass out of the flarestorm, after that I'll have to turn the cameras and mics back on, but until then, I'll wait right here in the war room. Ready and willing to talk about anything on your mind after what I just told you all."

@T2wave

Harriet arrived a moment later, an auto injector in her hands.

"Best that I give everyone another treatment. That gas I used isn't something to take lightly."

Stryker nodded and motioned towards his arm.
"Yeah, good call, a few others should show up in the next couple of minutes, and if not, I can flip the intercom back on and tell them to come by for the dose. I wasn't directly exposed like some of the others, but give me a shot if you think I should have one."

@Xandrya

"Wow... that's... wow." For one of the first times in his life, Grayson was lost for words "I mean, what're th' chances really? If she was kin to ya, I mean, the odds of the two of ye crossin' paths like that, millions-to-one at the least. Alright well, stow it away for now, let's get on up to med bay, see what the doc can do fer us."

They made their way up and Harriet made fairly quick work of their injuries, applying salves to the laser burns and setting both Grayson's shoulder and Amy's leg on the road to recovery. After both of them being told to stay in the medbay for observation, Harriet headed off to speak with Stryker, who was nearing the end of his speech by then. Once they were alone, Grayson turned to Amy in the adjacent bed and spoke in a low voice.

"Ya know, I just thought of somethin'. I remember passin' by a few places in my travels, clinics like, promisin' cheap, discrete an' quick DNA testin' maybe once we hit port, we could track a place like that down for ya?"
@BKburke

"Negative, its nothing like that" SAL said "My sensors registered some... distress among the humans at your methods. I'd like to download the combat data for analysis. Please, link your systems to the Framework terminal."

@iTem@Gardevoiran@Rultaos@superservo27@T2wave

Stryker, fresh from the shower, immediately went to his private terminal. He had thought up a plausible cover story and wanted to type out a draft of it before he forgot any details. Once that was completed, he noticed the twenty minutes he had allocated was up. He picked up his datapad and scrolled into the VI controls. Ren had thankfully left some core components of his interface on the ship when he had abandoned them, including the power to short circuit, or edit footage captured by the Alliance's intensive surveillance package. His hair was still damp when he walked down the hall and into the empty War Room, where he summoned up a holographic map of their position in the Galaxy. Tibulus had chosen a route that would take them into an area of the Deadzone that was susceptible to solar flares, a perfect opportunity to kill the cameras and talk openly. As the ship crossed the invisible line, he ordered the VI to interrupt all cameras and microphones on board.

"Time to face the music" Stryker said to himself as he waited for people to arrive.

@Xandrya

"Yeah, wanna get out of my armor too." Grayson said as he started down the hall towards the room. Inside he set Amy down on their bed and jerked his head towards the spare bunk. "Just toss it on the bed, I'll drag em up to the Armory later on and buff out the damage. Now lass, gonna need ya help to haul this off my arms."

They got to work pulling off their respective armor suits, helping each other where necessary to get their injured limbs freed without causing any additional pain or discomfort. Amy stood, holding Grayson's shoulders to keep her balance as he helped her get her injured leg out. A sudden movement caused her to almost fall on him, but he moved quick to keep her on her feet and whispered a few quick apologies if he'd caused her any pain. It was then he noticed a vial of blood had fallen out onto the bunk. Grayson shifted his glance up to Amy and back to the vial.

"What's that?" he asked.
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