User has no status, yet


Some random internet fuck with a keyboard and too much free time.

Most Recent Posts

@Lady Lascivious I've read this "...but most roleplays that I've ran have, at some point or another, had at least one player think of some insane stuff that I couldn't have possibly anticipated when I wrote the rules out" and your name popped in my mind. I wonder why...


Anyway I'm very interested count me in
The year is 1914. The imperial powers hold sway over vast continents of diverse peoples, cultures, creeds, and more. From palaces of old look eyes of ancient dynasties or fresh faced revolutionaries. What they see is a land that has seen both suffering and splendor alike. The empires, new and old, stand in a complex series of entangling alliances with one another, binding them to aid should they face attack. The world stands at the precipice of… something. The end of an old era is at hand, and the beginning of a new. To many it seems as though this is the dawn of a true golden age - the wonders of technology bringing about new and never before dreamed of comforts to the world. Most nations of the world are at an unprecedented stretch of relative peace, international trade flourishes, railroads connect the continents, and the world faces the new century with excitement.

However, many face the new age with less enthusiasm, speaking grim warnings of dark times ahead. Beneath the enlightenment and prosperity is a tension building. A revolution in the east casts a shadow across the age old monarchies of the land. Rumblings of popular sentiments and nationalistic fervour perfuse the land.

The new century can bring enlightenment and prosperity or suffering and death. War is a certainty at some point, for sure. Any little scuffle that might flare up will be over by the new year - no nation would be fool enough to sacrifice their economy and millions of lives in a true war. Still, at times, the pen fails and the sword must be taken up - but, when all is said and done, ‘tis a sweet and seemly thing to die for one’s country.


So with that out of the way, this is an interest check for a nation RP we plan to host on discord. We’ve already got much of our map filled out, and we’re looking for a few more people to join the clusterfuck to help populate it a bit more. If needed, we can always clear up some space held by colonies and the like. The advantage of hosting it on discord is we can be more active and write shorter, more frequent posts preventing the stagnation common in Nation RPs on this site. I’ve attached some maps I’ve created for it, don’t mind the funny placeholder names.

Please feel free to let me know if you’ve any interest, and I will send you the discord link.

Let Slip the Dogs of War.

@Eldritch Puppy and @Lady Lascivious

Izanagi System
New Ishtar

It had been some awkward months since Kamenymir and the Commonality of New Ishtar made formal contact, mostly through video calls and other indirect means as the KDD’s Department of Diplomacy was thoroughly overworked. Relations were, on the part of the Kamenyans, cordial enough, and their diplomats engaged with the Ishtari on equal footing. The general population however knew next to nothing of this particularly strange nation, even after the initial confusion of mistaking them for aliens was cleared up.

Mysterious, exotic, and just a little bit frightening. Ishtar was the perfect opportunity for the discerning news corporation to make great audience scores, and as travel visas became a possibility between the two nations, Blue Star News Network was the first to take advantage of it. Very soon, a small shuttle-sized ship stamped with the corporation’s logo carried Nadzieja Finkel, popular journalist and reporter, through the Gate and into the Ishtari system.

The shuttle emerged into the cluster of defensive arrays, diplomatic stations, logistical hubs, surveillance stations, barracks, civilian residential quarters, and more that made up the already sizable and still growing Ishtari presence around the Gateway. The space around the gargantuan structure had, in the span of six months, transformed from an idle curiosity home only to a few unmanned probes to a veritable hive of activity. An estimated sixty thousand people lived in stations around the Gateway now, acting as a convenient intermediary point between the distant planet of New Ishtar itself, and contact with the broader galaxy.

With the diplomatic situation already well cleared between the two peoples, Nadzieja’s shuttle was directed to continue on its course to New Ishtar proper, the massive planet illuminated by its star only dimly visible in the distance through the vast expanse of space.

The true destination of the shuttle lay thousands of kilometers away from the planet’s surface, in the geostationary ring of satellites, dockyards, protruding space elevators, and more that hovered in a dense cloud above the surface. Over twenty million Ishtari lived and worked in orbit over the planet’s surface, spending decades at a time in space helping to establish further dominance over the stars. Numerous stations existed for purely civilian purposes, and it was one of these, a massive rotating ring that dwarfed even the largest battleships, that the shuttle was bound for.

The station had been constructed almost entirely of materials mined from the moons of Ishtar and the asteroid fields deeper within the system, rather than ferrying materials up to space. Its bulk seemed to balloon wildly as the shuttle closed the distance, docking clamps latched to the vessel and guided it in to the massive internal hangar.

A Sanguine Strain attendant waited by the airlock with a bright smile on his face. “Hi!” He exclaimed, his voice carrying the same curious buzzing and accent as most Ishtari seemed to speak with, “Er, that is, hello and let me be the first to welcome you to the Civilian Hub, I understand you’re a journalist from the KDD?”

“Yes I am, from Kamenymir though. The KDD is our government. But yes!” She replied with a heavy Kamenyan accent, giving that trademark news anchor smile as she stepped out of the airlock. “My name is Nadzieja Finkel. This is my cameraman, Nico.” She pointed to the man behind her, busy configuring a large camera and holding several bags at the same time. Both of them were significantly taller and larger than the Ishtari, but the woman with fiery hair in a loose ponytail and wearing a neat shirt and black skirt gave off a very different vibe compared to Nico with his baggy pants and a tank top that made him look like a building site worker. “Hello,” the big man waved at the white-haired attendant with a suitably big smile on his face.

If the receiving Ishtari thought anything of the stature of the Kamenyans, he didn’t show it. Beaming as cheerfully as ever, he inclined his head in a slight bow towards the visitors, “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Nadzieja and Nico.” He said, and by his tone the words were no lie, “If you don’t mind, I need to log the reason for your visit today. Just a formality, I’m sure you understand.” He looked up at them expectantly, still beaming, “So, what brings you to New Ishtar?”

“Journalistic reporting,” Nadzieja answered. “We’d like to film a documentary about New Ishtar’s culture and society.” She fastened a small microphone to her shirt’s collar as she spoke. “In fact, is it alright if we start filming now?”

The man let out a small “Aah..” of understanding, before returning to his normal, peppy self. “I don’t see why not! Though if you wish to go planetside there are… certain precautions we require you to take - for your own safety, you understand. The planet’s atmosphere is toxic to unadapted human life, and there are numerous parasites and airborne threats that can prove just as lethal.”

He gestured them to follow, “If you don’t mind following me, I’ll get one of the clinic workers to explain it to you.”

Leading the duo from the airlock and into the massive rotating space station, the little greeter deftly escorted the two Kamenyans through a crowd of onlookers, many of them waving cautious hellos or calling out poorly practiced Kamyenan greetings in thick accents. The clinic was a small room built into the wall of the sprawling interior of the station.

A voice from behind a small partition rang out in the strange dual-tone language of the Ishtari before another Ishtari emerged, the glowing tentacle-like growths that sprouted from her head in place of hair moving in response to her emotions.

“Oh! Visitors!” She exclaimed, switching to English, then looked to the crew, “I take it he’s come here to make me explain why you can’t just go to the surface without some sort of protection?”

The reporter nodded amicably. “So I’ve understood. Toxic atmosphere and parasites, that kind of stuff right?”

The camera’s little red indicator light was already blinking, the cameraman expertly switching angles along with the conversation, the stabilizers affixed to his shoulder working to ensure smooth camera work.

She nodded. “Correct. At least he got that right. So here’s the basic rundown - we can try to find you two some hazmat suits that will fit you.” She looked them up and down, frowning, “And that… will be a challenge. The second option since I’m certainly not going to recommend full genetic augmentation to people who don’t intend to stay - we developed a short-acting injection that’ll give you… most of the immunity we have for a period of about a month. It’s not recommended to take it more than once or twice in a row, though - can start causing some… side effects. Only good if you’re staying a short time.” She looked between the two of them, “Preference?”

“Well I’m not filming a full-length documentary in a hazmat suit, that’s for sure. I think the injection will be just fine, like a mini-Hekate.” She turned her head to look at Nico, who simply shrugged. “You’re the boss. I don’t feel like spending days in a suit either.”

The Akkoro Strain woman clapped, “Excellent! I’ll just be a moment, if you don’t mind.” She said, disappearing once again behind the partition and reemerging some minutes later with two large syringes. Gesturing to a touch screen off to the corner that seemed oddly out of place with the gentle, sloping elegance of Ishtari decor, she spoke once again. “If you would, please sign the waiver - the injection is still in its early phases, and though we are confident the injection itself will cause no problems, the immunity it offers is not perfect. Therefore we’d like you to sign this form. If you don’t feel like reading legal documents - it’s not our fault if you do get sick, and if you do get sick do you want us to not touch you and send you back home for treatment, or take aggressive action to save you? I- I don’t think you need to worry, but it is a precaution.”

Nadzieja took a moment to overview the document and quickly decided to let the Ishtari treat her in case something went wrong; they made the stuff in the first place after all. After both Kamenyans signed the waiver, Nico leaned towards her. “If I grow a third eye I’ll say it was your idea.” Nadzieja snorted. “Shut up.”

The woman behind the counter waited patiently for them before nodding. “Right, thank you, and apologies again for the hassle, now, if you’ll just roll up your sleeve…”

After an hour’s waiting period for potential reaction, the two were escorted by the same ever-cheerful Sanguine Strain man towards the transport bay for the Central Neriven Space Elevator. “Well, this is where I bid you farewell, let me know when you get back, though - just ask someone for Vetusin. I’ve love to hear what you think of our home.” He beamed at them, then bid them farewell.

A small host of other Ishtari bustled in beside him, giving the Kamenyans looks ranging from indifference to curiosity to a similar open friendliness as they filled the space elevator’s passenger compartment and strapping themselves into the provided chairs, some offering guidance to the Kamenyans on how to do the same - located at the center of the station, the compartment had no artificial gravity from rotation. A curious array of compartments and what appeared to be folding beds lined the walls of the sturdily built room. A voice spoke first in the Ishtari language, then in English, and then numerous other old earth languages, announcing to the riders that high-g acceleration would be imminent, and to brace themselves for the jolt.

“New, eh?” Said one of the Ishtari riders, another Akkoro Strain, “Not sure how it works where you’re from, but it’s gonna take a day or two to get down.” She nodded around the room. “Once we get moving the room will adjust, it’ll let you know when it’s turning, and otherwise you’re free to move around - though you might just wanna sleep it off. S’what the beds are for.” Satisfied the Kamenyans had their answer, she flashed them a thumbs up, “Well, welcome to New Ishtar, then.”

As the elevator finally descended below the stratosphere, viewing screens blinked to life. Below them stretched what at first appeared to be a sea of white and green but was gradually revealed to be a city. A massive, sprawling city that seemed to stretch on towards the horizon.

Neriven, home to almost a billion souls, a city almost the size of the European Union of old earth. Towering alabaster spires and elegantly twisting transit lines crisscrossed the city that stretched on unto infinity. The city was a breathtaking sight - seeming to blend futuristic architecture seamlessly with sparkling rivers and lush forests that even during the day could be seen to glow in dim bioluminescence. Forty-one hours after it departed geostationary orbit, the massive space elevator car rolled to a halt within the soaring pearlescent shroud built to receive it. Tired, cramped, and sore from hours spent in high-g, the passengers slowly disembarked. Many waved farewells to the newcomers they had shared the ride with, and before the Kamenyans stretched a massive arching grand hall, through which thousands of Ishtari moved and bustled about. The Kamenyans stood in the center of the capital city of New Ishtar, strangers set loose in a very strange land.

The pair followed the flow of people to the outside, taking in the sights. The city looked beautiful and chaotic, compared to the neat and orderly streets in the cities of Kamenymir. Nico whistled. “We’re gonna need some drone shots.”

“Yeah.” Nadzieja stretched herself, groaning. “It was a pretty long ride down, though. We should find a hotel before going exploring.”

“Agreed. All this stuff isn’t any lighter here than it is back home.” The two reporters set out to find someone who could understand them, looking for a local to help orient them towards the Ishtari equivalent of a hotel. On a planet mostly populated by strangely mutated humans, it was quite a different experience than what they were used to, the most normal-looking ones being those similar to the cheerful attendant who welcomed them back in orbit. Of course, everyone on Kamenymir knew what the Ishtari looked like now, but it wasn’t the same in person.

As the two reporters meandered through the city, they saw numerous strange and alien sights that could have scarce been imagined back home. Beyond the normal Ishtari Strains most prominent, they saw a smattering of other variations, some of them with brightly colored skin that seemed to shimmer in the midday sun or strange golden designs upon alabaster skin that twisted and swirled with every step they took. A gently sloping path lead to an overlook set against one of the city’s enormous reservoirs. A single pair of people sat atop it, a Shinchu Strain adult and Akkoro Strain child. The child could be seen to throw something small into the reservoir with the guidance of the adult, who caught sight of the foreigners and gave a friendly wave.

The child’s attention, likewise, turned to where her chaperone was looking - as she saw two abnormally tall figures with strange equipment standing lost in a sea of people, she shot up from her position, waddling towards them with surprising speed as her caretaker ran after her.

“Autis!” She could be heard to shout, followed by the name ‘Autis’ once again and a stream of something spoken in the Ishtari tongue. The little girl deftly avoided her pursuer, running up towards the two strangers until she stood in front of them, wide-eyed. In one of the tentacle-like appendages growing from her head where there might be hair clutching a curious brown cone, into which a shining brown substance had been placed. It appeared to be melting.

A moment passed before the Ishtari child wrapped her arms around the legs of Nadzieja, babbling something neither could understand, before her caretaker finally caught up. “I am so sorry!” She gasped in a thick accent, bowing low to the Kamyenans. “Please, I hope I have not caused offense, she simply ran off before I could catch her an- Autis, please.”

As she said these words the little girl had extended the ice cream towards the Kamyenans, stumbling out more words that, while the newcomers could not understand them, conveyed all the meaning they needed to regardless.

Nadzieja laughed amicably, waving her hand at the other woman. “Don’t worry about it, it’s alright.” It wasn’t the first time she had children run over to her, after all. She was about to pat the child’s head, but… Should you really pat a head full of tentacles for hair? Besides, it might not be socially acceptable. So she just gave the child a friendly smile, glued as she was to her leg.

“The star of the show as always, Nad.” Nico said in Kamenyan with a smirk.

“Well maybe I just look more friendly than you do.”

“Fair enough.”

“Is that your daughter?” The reporter asked the visibly embarrassed Ishtari, a little confused by the bowing.

The Ishtari woman looked up at them, visibly confused. Her eyes pulsed a gentle lavender as she raised a finger in question before lowering it. “N-no, why would she be?” She asked, before crouching down and gently trying, and failing, to pry the small child away. “Autis, please leave the nice strangers alone, I don’t even know if they can eat that.”

Autis refused, pushing the ice cream up as high as she could and beaming up at the Kamyenans with wide happy emerald eyes. With visible effort she seemed to dredge up the words she was looking for, “Ice cweam!”

Autis’ chaperone sighed, “I took her for some ice cream since she did well in her- I’m sorry you don’t need me to explain all this. I, um, please let me know if I can do anything to help you, I am very sorry.”

Nadzieja giggled. “That’s right, ice cream! I bet that word wasn’t too hard to learn, huh?” She said to Autis. Reporting her attention to the adult talking to her, she shook her head. “There’s nothing to apologize for, really. We could use some help, though. Do you know if there’s a hotel, or somewhere else where we could sleep and leave our things nearby?”

Nico was not missing a bit of the rather adorable interaction with his camera, the multiple lenses pointed towards his colleague and alternating between Autis and her chaperone. It was great material, but it also felt much better than the run-of-the-mill reporting. Vacations on the job, what could be better?

The Ishtari woman looked confused for a moment, “Hotel…” she muttered, clearly forgetting the words in question before perking up, “Oh! Right, of course, please excuse me. There are official residences for offworlders on sanctioned business. You’ll need to provide evidence of your visa, since the spaces are very difficult to build from what I hear. They have to build them environmentally sealed and with multiple redundancies for the people who chose to stick with an environmental suit. Would you like me to show you the way?” She paused, “Oh! And my name is Siste- no, wait, you can just call me Suvetis, I keep forgetting the big names confuse th-” She was cut off as Autis tugged on her pant leg, pulling her attention back downwards again.

Sighing, Suvetis looked back towards the Kamyenans, “And… would you two like some ice cream?”

“Oh, that would be lovely. Right, Nico?” The cameraman shrugged, the camera’s stabilizers automatically compensating for the motion.

“Sure, I wonder what it’s made from here.” He smiled at the two Ishtari. “My name is Nico, and that’s my colleague Nadzieja. It’s nice meeting you, Suvetis and Autis.”

Suvetis raised an eyebrow, “The ice cream’s made from milk. Cow’s milk, I think? It’s some old earth snack if memory serves, the American parts of the ark kept that little tradition alive. The one she’s got is chocolate. I’ll… well, I’ll make sure whatever you get is safe to eat.”

A moment of silence elapsed before Suvetis crouched down, hoisting Autis onto her shoulders where she now sat eye level with the offworlders. She smiled, flashing them a thumbs up and yelled something in Ishtari, before pointing off in a seemingly random direction. Norilko smiled, “Well, follow along then.”

Leading the group through the gently winding paths, the initially confusing and chaotic nature of the city seemed to grow more familiar with each passing second. It was certainly a departure from the planning of Kamenymir, but it had a harmony of its own, and it seemed only a short time elapsed before they stood before a small temporary structure erected in the shade of a large tree, intricate glowing patterns visible through the cracks in its bark and strange curling growths seeming to sprout from them at the height. A Gorgon Strain stood behind the structure.

“Suvetis! And little Autis! I see you’re back again.” She called, before doing a double take, “And I see you’ve brought friends! Hello strangers!” She paused, then smirked, “I take it Autis tried to offer them ice cream?”

“Hello,” said Nico and Nadzieja at the same time. The Gorgon was quite a sight for them after a long time of being much taller than everyone around. Of course, like everything else on Ishtar, a four-armed half-snake woman was anything but familiar.

Nadzieja nodded. “She actually managed pretty well. So, I understand that you make ice cream the way it used to be on Earth? Which flavors would you recommend?” The orange-haired reporter asked with her usual polite smile, examining the array of unknown types of ice cream.

The Gorgon woman smiled, “Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that. She’s a precocious little thing. So you’re from…” the woman trailed off for a moment, either studying them or tuning in to some mental buzzing, before popping back into reality, “Ah! The KDD! Welcome! I don’t think we’ve ever had many people from there visit. Well, let me welcome you as well - and to answer your question yes we do! I think it was the ah… the Amyerikahi- the people on the Ark from the United States of old earth that made sure it stayed intact.”

Suvetis sidled up, rattling off a sentence or two indecipherable to the Kamenyans, but after which the ice cream lady grinned, “Well, that’s easy. Hmm… that pretty much narrows it down to chocolate and vanilla. You two know what those are I assume?”

“Chocolate and… vanilla? No, I don’t think so.” Nadzieja mused pensively. “We don’t have any plants or animals from Earth on Kamenymir. All of those that our ancestors brought with them died, you see. All of our food is native to Kamenymir.”

“They’re like spices, right?” Nico spoke up, making a visible effort to recall the information. “I remember that from my history class back in high school.”

The two Ishtari raised eyebrows in unison. Suvetis seemed at loss for words, while the ice cream woman simply said, “Oh…”

A moment passed as they seemed to struggle to think of what to say before Suvetis perked up, “Well, I suppose you’re in for a real treat then. We’ve… all sorts of things from old earth. Not everything of course but…”

The ice cream woman grinned, the glow from her eyes flaring brighter momentarily, “Gotcha! One of each for the both of you coming right up.” With a flourish, her four arms deftly worked to scoop together the ice cream for the Kamyenans as Autis beamed. Expectantly, two adult Ishtari watched the foreigners for their reactions.

The journalists thanked the ice cream lady as they took as she handed the iced treats over. Both looked surprised when they tasted it, letting it melt in their mouths for a few seconds, before resuming the degustation.

“It’s like…” Nico began, pausing with a very confused look on his face. “...Nah, I don’t know,” he uttered, finally giving up and taking another bite.

“It is very different from our ice creams. We make them with wheatroot starch, river fang eggs and Mazur’s bell extract… Well, I don’t suppose you know what these are.” Nadzieja smiled. “Yours are very good, though. Completely different texture and taste, of course, but I like it.

“Mhm. Yup.” Nico simply added, giving a thumbs up.

“Well, we’re all certainly glad to hear it.” Said the gorgon woman, “I’d best let you lot get back to… whatever it is you were doing before Autis did… well, what kids do I suppose.”

The residential building built for offworld guests was a jarring contrast to the normal architecture of the city. Instead of gentle curvature and elegant, flowing construction that seemed to follow the waves of some unseen ocean current, it soared above the Kamyenans as a thick, reinforced structure of evidently recent construction. Peculiarly, it had no windows, no apertures. The entire construction was perfectly sealed. An elaborate security system could be seen out front its singular entrance preceding a series of redundant airlocks.

Suvetis, having taken on the informal role of tour guide, explained. “You should be able to take the masks off once you’re inside. Not sure how much they told ya, but the atmosphere here’s got lethal quantities of… various sulfur compounds, ammonia, and so on. You’ve got that injection so you don’t need to worry about the bugs for a while, but we can’t immunoboost you to metabolize hydrogen sulfide. That and a lot of foreigners aren’t like you, they won’t trust anything of ours so they wear those sealed suits. Building’s airtight so that they can take off the suits without dying, and you can take off the masks without worrying as well.”

Autis, perched upon her shoulders, babbled something in the Ishtari tongue that made her caretaker break out in a grin, “And, I suppose, we can accompany you inside if you want.”

“I see no reason why not.” Nadzieja grinned in turn. Her and Nico reached into their pockets to take out their visas which had their names, stay duration and reason for visiting, as well as the name of the company they worked for. The blocky building looked somewhat more familiar to the Kamenyans compared to the rest of the city as they approached the airlocks, although the featureless construction was austere and perhaps a little oppressive-looking. Still, a place to stay the night while they were on the job was welcome.

The guards before the airlock had a different disposition to most of the Ishtari they’d encountered up until now. Stiff, straight backed, standing guard and watching the foreigners with laser focused vision. To the Kamyenans it was unmistakable - these were professional military, as if the assault rifles and the angular bulges of body armor beneath the long uniform coats weren’t clear enough indication. They had seen a few other armed Ishtari, but none as heavily as this, or as severe in their disposition.

One approached, a Tiamat Strain, holding out a gloved hand to halt the little group. “Paperwork.” A moment passed as she scanned Suvetis and Autis, a light red glow alighting in what were evidently cybernetic eyes. “Sister-Caretaker 1-43 Suvetis Sings Ancient Hymns of Beauty, what is the purpose of your visit to foreign national residential building three? For what purpose have you brought Autis 5342 with you?”

Suvetis, for her part, simply sighed, setting Autis down before adopting a similar military posture. “I’m- I am informally escorting the foreigners around Neriven to assist in their purpose of visitation, and escorting them to their place of residence. I encountered the foreigners while escorting Autis 5342 in my duties as a caretaker.”

The guard nodded, her eyes flashing another time as she studied Suvetis a moment longer before simply stating “Very well.” Turning back to the Kamyenans, she held out a hand. “Paperwork, please. We cannot permit entry without proper identification.”

“Here.” One after the other, the two Kamenyans handed over their visas along with their KDD national ID card. The Ishtari soldiers seemed extraordinarily stiff and professional, to the point of sounding a bit like automated receptionists. Nadzieja wondered if it was the impression they wanted to give, or if that was a consequence of their actual training.

“Thank you.”

The soldier scanned the documents for a few seconds, before returning them. “Everything seems to be in order. Please proceed to the first airlock. They will instruct you further from there.”

The guard stood aside, returning to her previous, motionless position.

The group passed through an airlock, next, before entering the next part of the security checkpoint. Though clad in the same garb and similarly equipped, the soldiers at the next station seemed far more relaxed. A Shinchu Strain man came forward, analyzing them for a moment before his face broke into a cheerful smile, “Hello, welcome to Foreign National Residential Building Three, we’re sorry about the inconvenience at the front there. The guards are a bit… stiff - we’re still figuring this sort of thing out, so our apologies for that. We’re gonna need you to turn over your bags for a security and decontamination check. And…” he cleared his throat, “We’ll need you to use the decontamination showers provided, as well. There are private stalls available as well if you wish - our apologies for the inconvenience.”

Expectantly, he held out his hand, before turning to Autis and Suvetis, “And, of course, this applies to you two as well.”

“That’s fine, I think we could use a shower anyway.” Nico cut the camera and unloaded himself from the several large bags that contained their clothes, spare parts and filming equipment, BSNN-issued personal protection gear and emergency snacking supplies.

After a quick but welcome shower in the private stalls of the facility, the pair emerged on the other side and dressed back up with their now thoroughly sterilized clothes. Retrieving the rest of their baggage as well, they waited for their two guides to come out.

Suvetis, for her part, did not bother to duck into a private stall before stripping. She first removed a large framed handgun from a concealed spot inside the coat she had been wearing, along with several spare magazines of ammunition. The coat itself followed, along with the retaining holster, her undershirt, and other garments. The Ishtari guards seemed utterly unbothered by the weapon she carried, and simply placed it and its ammunition into a separate container for safekeeping. Autis, with her help, also undressed, and the two walked into the public decontamination showers, emerging from the other side with her chest fluff visibly soaked, and a towel wrapped around her body.

“Well!” She said, secondary arms tucked neatly by her side, “How’s it feel to get out of the masks?”

“Much better. They’re not that bad, but still, not having something on your face is appreciable.” Nadzieja answered, still drying her long hair with a towel while Nico politely turned away.

“You can say that again. It’s like I’m back in the marines all over again with that damn helmet on my head. Eugh.” The large man quipped, rubbing his face with his hands. “My nose has been itching for an hour straight.”

Suvetis grinned, “And to think you’re the ones who took the shot.” She jerked a thumb at a series of fully enclosed hazmat suits positioned nearby, “The ones who don’t want them have to wear those. Unless they want stuff laying eggs in their lungs, that is.”

She tossed the towel aside, stepping back into her freshly sterilized coat and other clothes, “Right, well, I guess I’ll show you lot to your rooms, since… I guess I’m your tour guide now.”

She hoisted Autis in her arms, beckoning the Kamyenans along with the secondary bladed pair, and set off through the building. The air around them had a faint chemical odor to it, as though the building was routinely cleaned from top to bottom.

“You’re on the first floor - not a lot of foreign visitors right now. You’ll find spare masks in the room, just in case, and there’s some dividers within the wall if you need some privacy.” She turned to the group, stopping short of a blank white door, “Well, this is it. I’ll leave you be if you’d like to get settled. Autis here probably needs to take a nap, anyway.” She looked up at Autis, saying something to her in the Ishtari tongue, to which the young Akkoro Strain fervently shook her head in protest. Suvetis laughed, “Ah, kids.”

“Of course. Thank you for the directions, Suvetis and Autis.” Nadzieja and Nico waved goodbye to the tentacle-haired child and her chaperone, before finally letting down their heavy bags in the room.

Nico took a large metal box out of one of the bags and hooked it up to a portable computer, connecting his camera to it as well and sitting on his bed. “Looks like we still have time before nightfall. Plenty to do some wandering around, see if we can catch something interesting.”

Nadzieja sat down on her own bed, checking her watch adjusted for Ishtari time. “Yeah. I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface, there’s probably a lot more exotic stuff here. Speaking of, did you notice anything strange back when we met those two?”

The cameraman raised his eyebrows. “You’ll have to be more specific.”

“When I asked if Autis was her daughter. It seems like kids aren’t usually with their parents here, given her reaction.”

“Huh. Yeah, that is pretty strange. We should keep an eye out for that and investigate into it.”

“Uh huh. That, or maybe something was lost in translation. We’ll see. How’s the upload?”

Nico checked the computer’s screen. “Just done. All of the footage is up on the ship now, I’m making a physical copy too.”

“Let’s go then. No rest for intrepid reporters!”

A few minutes later, the two journalists were out again, now carrying a significantly lighter load and determined to dig up more footage-worthy tidbits.

The two found Suvetis and Autis nearby, Suvetis crouched low and explaining something to the little girl who folded her arms and stuck her chin up defiantly, to the exasperated sigh of her caretaker. Suvetis looked up in surprise as the door opened. “Oh! Wasn’t expecting to see you again so soon.”

She stood, hoisting up a protesting Autis and walking back over to the two, “Didja need something?”

“Oh, hello again! I didn’t expect to see you there either.” Nadzieja and her companion turned towards the familiar voices. “We don’t really need anything, actually. We were just going exploring a little, see what there is to see.” Besides her, Nico was already setting up the camera back onto his shoulder and testing the stabilizers.

“Exploring, eh?” Asked the Ishtari woman, “Well, I’d be happy to give you some suggestions, or even show ya ‘round after I drop the little one off.” She turned to Autis, who, despite her best efforts to the contrary, sleepily rubbed her eyes with one arm, the other holding on to her chaperone. “Because some of us are sleepier than we want to admit.”

Nico chuckled. “Yep, just like my niece. If it isn’t a bother to you, we’d be glad to have you be our guide again. We got ice cream last time, so I think we’d better stick around.”

Nadzieja rolled her eyes, smirking. “Hey, you do remember we’re here for work, right?”

“Of course, who do you take me for? I’m just saying, nothing wrong with having fun on the job.”

Suvetis grinned, “You may be here for work, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it, right? Tell you wh- oh, no wait.” She frowned, tapping the side of her head as though forgetting something patently obvious, “Alright, so, ask the guards for a digital map, we had to create them for you offworlders - once you’ve got it, wait for me at the Yusanis plaza, I shouldn’t be too long. After that, we’ll see about finding you two some interesting things to film, sound good?”

“Sure, see you there.” After obtaining said map, the two Kamenyans made their way to the designated place. Along the way, a small drone taken from Nico’s backpack followed above, filming panoramic views of the city and circling around like a bird of prey once they reached the plaza.

Roughly fifteen minutes later, Suvetis approached the two, no longer with Autis in tow, primary arms folded across her chest as she watched them. “You know, I heard someone was flying an unknown drone around the city and I was alarmed for a bit, thought some PUNTers had gotten a surveillance drone in on us to look for war preparations.” She drew closer, grinning, “But then I remembered we had two big oafs from offworld stumbling about. Caused quite a stir, your drone did.”

She leaned against a decorative tree, “Get any good pictures?”

“Yeah.” Nico replied with a wide smile. “It’d be a pretty lame way to do war preparations, though. One slow civilian drone flying a few dozen meters up in the air? Sounds like someone’s jumping at shadows.”

“Paranoia or not, better just get it back down before local law enforcement comes to give us a talking-to.” Nadzieja smiled, looking around the plaza. “So, you told us about interesting things to film?”

Suvetis smiled, “Jumping at shadows is a pretty good idiom, yeah. Everyone’s nervous. We’ve been building up for the attack for a while now, locked off comms with them.” She gestured around, “It’s been two centuries since we were last at war. Everyone’s worried. I’ve heard even Tiamat’s concerned about the situation.” She sighed, “But that’s why we’re enjoying things while we can. My number’s not been called up yet, since I work as a caretaker, but nobody wants to see war, y’know? A-” She paused, “Local law enforcement…? Sorry I think there’s a translation error ah...” She looked into the sky for a moment, tapping her temple, before looking back at the two with an embarrassed expression, “What does that mean?”

The reporter raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know which term you’d use… Uhm, police? People in charge of arresting criminals?”

Suvetis frowned, staring at the two blankly for a moment before she snapped back to reality, comprehension dawning after a search through the ishtari net. “I… we don’t really have that, I suppose. I guess we do it communally, but…” She trailed off, “Either way, nobody’s gonna come yelling at you as long as you keep it pretty low. As far as things to film… well, you’re asking about an entire nation, so there’s plenty. Anything in particular you’d like to see? Food? A park? Combat sports? Art installations? Museums? ‘Fraid I can’t show you stuff from our Net which… well, that’s a lot of it, I won’t lie. But you don’t have the…” She trailed off, tapping the base of her neck, “Which limits your options somewhat. Ah, well.” she smiled, “I still have plenty of ideas.”

The next week passed in what seemed a blur of excitement, new sights and sounds, foods of old earth never before experienced by a Kamenyan citizen. The Ishtari welcomed the foreigners into their city warmly, eager to show them, and their nation, the wonderful things they had built and created, to give them and their people a warm welcome with open arms.

The Kamenyans glimpsed barely a fraction of the enormous city they had arrived in, walked through but a tiny shard of its near-endless sprawling spires and gleaming walkways. Suvetis, some times with Autis or another Ishtari child in tow, guided them about the city, but even she thought a natural born resident could offer only a glimpse of the world around them.

On the first day, they visited an amphitheater in the heart of the city, witnessed the crowds cheering for their favorite fighters as players and commanders dueled each other across a holographic chess board. The Kamenyans looked on first in horror at the bloodshed, then in confusion when their chaperone explained that no contestant had died. The Kamenyan reporters resolved to learn more later.

The next days passed in a similar manner. Suvetis, and some times Autis, showing the Kamyenans around the city. Its wondrous sites and gorgeous vistas. Museums, art galleries, resturaunts, and more. The seventh day of their visit, she took them to her place of work, where Ishtari children were raised.

“Aaand here we are!” Proudly announced Suvetis, gesturing to the building in question. Much like with all Ishtari architecture, its pearlescent, sleek exterior seemed to rise up from the ground below as a snow-white blade of grass among many. It flowed together with the city around them, elegant and artistic like with all Ishtari architecture.

Suvetis smiled, “Well, then, shall we?”

“Lead the way.” Nadzieja nodded, following Suvetis towards the childcare center. She and Nico had grown fond of their guide, after spending a good portion of the week exploring the Ishtari capital with her. “I’m curious, and I’m told so is our audience. Are children not raised by their parents on New Ishtar?” She asked, Nico’s camera rolling as always.

Suvetis turned back to them with a curious expression on her face. “Well… no, I suppose. It’s… you and your people don’t have the time or patience for a full biology lesson, I suspect, but it has to do with how our reproduction evolved aboard the ark. While we are still capable of the… ‘normal’ method, we also evolved a few different ways, which is how most of us came to be, myself included.” She looked the two up and down, smirking, “What if I were to tell you I had hundreds of brothers and sisters when I was born, born at the same time as I was?”

The reporter looked puzzled. “Are you talking about cloning? It’s been considered once in our own history, but it wasn’t needed in the end.”

“I- wha- no I-” Suvetis stammered, before comprehension dawned and her knees buckled under her as she began to laugh. She clutched her stomach in one primary arm and supported herself against the walls with another as she laughed and laughed. “Oh, oh no my friends it’s not cloning.” She chuckled, gradually regaining her self control. “No, no, I think a better comparison would be to say most of us ‘hatch’ from ‘eggs’.” She grinned, “Again, it’s a very complex topic and one I am not trained in, but nobody could care for a hundred to two hundred children on their own, and we have no real concept of a close family unit like your people have.” She turned, guiding them into the building, “Instead, well, everyone helps raise the new generations.”

“Oh… I see, that is uhm… quite unusual to us, yes.” Nadzieja cringed. A civilization of orphans? She had trouble reconciling the fact, and could only imagine what the reaction would be back home. Still, she maintained her affable attitude with practiced ease. Besides, what a scoop! Ishtar was more incredible than anyone had predicted, and Blue Star News Network had taken the lead on the info. This would surely allow Nadzieja Finkel, intrepid Kamenyan journalist and news anchor, to reach new heights in her career.

Suvetis guided them through the building, showing them through an environmentally sealed, armored plexiglass partition. Through them, gently glowing incubation pools could be seen attended by masked, suited workers. She gently placed a finger to her lips, and guided them on.

They passed through a nursery wherein numerous sleeping infants could be seen, their technologically advanced cribs connected to a forest of trailing wires and tubes that ensured every facet of the children’s health was monitored at all times. Automated drone-like creatures moved through, performing much of the grunt work of caring for the children, while volunteer caretakers held them. The entire facility was built from the ground up to raise a staggering number of people from birth to childhood. They progressed through, children of different ages attended by a swarm of caretakers and assistant drones. Gradually, the ages of the children approached that of Autis, and it was at length that Suvetis placed her own hand upon a biometric lock, the doors sliding open to permit entry to the room.

Inside were some dozen children, none of whom could have been over the age of six by standard earth years, all of whom ceased their activities and looked over to the sound of the opening door, staring wide eyed at the stature of the Kamyenans. Among them they recognized Autis, whose expression shifted to one of joy. She shouted something and immediately ran past Suvetis, whose expression shifted from surprise, to annoyance, to one of adoration as the little girl clamped her arms around Nadzieja’s leg once again. Autis looked up, beaming, and proudly shouted out the words she had been practicing, albeit with difficulty - “H-hello, miss Nadzieja!”

The orange-haired Kamenyan laughed, effortlessly scooping up the child in her arms. “Well hello, Autis!” She rubbed the little girl’s cheek with her thumb. “You’ll be speaking English better than me soon.”

“It’s good that she’s not learning from you, Nad.” Nico grinned. “Your accent is terrible.”

“Shut your face, Nico. It adds to my charm.” She smirked, turning back to Suvetis. “So, at what age do the children leave this… facility?”

Suvetis frowned, “Well, usually at around… a moment please.” She looked up, pinching her lip for a moment, “Ah, right, usually at around the equivalent of six or seven years by the SSC? We have secondary and tertiary facilities for raising them. Once they leave the final one… twenty one, I think that’s what it is by the SSC, they undergo the implantation of the neuroport, and their first rejuvenation. We don’t let them near it beforehand, the technology’s reliable but… little developing minds don’t need additional risk, y’know?” She hoisted another child up, “I suppose you must think we’re terribly strange for all this, don’t you?”

“Honestly? Yes. You are a strange bunch, I have to admit.” Nadzieja said with a light, neutral tone. “I’m still wrapping my mind around it, but… Well, I guess I don’t really know how I even feel about it yet.” She said truthfully, without that conciliating filter typical of her profession.

“I mean, almost everything here has been strange for us, really. I imagine you’d feel the same way if you came to visit Kamenymir.” Nico said after making a face to Autis.

Autis giggled, stammering out something in response, and giggling some more.

Suvetis, however, did not respond.

Autis occupied the attention of both Kamyenans, enough that they didn’t realize for a time that the adult Ishtari in the room - Suvetis and one other, an Akkoro Strain man, had gone still, staring up at the sky with an expression of sheer terror on their faces. Suvetis could be heard to murmur, “No, no… no no no, no! No they weren’t supposed to- oh no…”

Outside the building, audible even through its heavy walls, sirens began to wail.

Nico glanced at her, brows furrowing with worry. “Suvetis? What’s going on?” Nadzieja looked over, still holding Autis. Seeing the fear on the Ishtari’s face, something terrible must have been happening.

Suvetis looked back down with her features marred by horror. Before she could speak, the unmistakable sound of missile launches and defensive batteries opening fire filled the air around them, audible even through the heavy walls of their building. A droning, endless cacophony of noise and violence erupted as defensive emplacements, some of them two centuries old.

Suvetis grabbed Autis protectively as she and the other Ishtari caretaker began barking orders to the children to drop everything and follow them. Almost as afterthought Suvetis turned to the Kamyenans, “We need to go. Now.

Both of them didn’t need it said twice, hurrying along with Suvetis. “Scheiße! What are they shooting at?” Nico exclaimed, more to himself rather than asking anyone in particular. He had trained in simulations and wargames enough to recognize that the sheer volume of fire meant an extremely serious situation.

“Missiles!” Screamed Suvetis back to him, her voice trembling with fear. Their feet echoed through the halls, soon joined by the sound of hundreds more as the building’s occupants raced for the exits or towards subsurface levels. The facility was in no way prepared for what was to come as enemy ordnance hurtled towards the planet. “The New Terrans, they launched their attack, and we need to get to a shelter no-

Her words were cut short as the world exploded around them. An all-consuming wall of force rushed through the city as nuclear warheads exploded in the air above them. An incandescent plume of death rose up as, even though the defenses defeated most of the incoming warheads, many still made it through. The building buckled from the strain, its walls caving in and collapsing in on their heads. Suvetis screamed out a warning and hurled herself forward, pushing the Kamyenans along, as the rubble collapsed in around them.

Hard, unyielding debris all around. Sharp pain in the side. The pressure prevented him from breathing. He pushed. Nothing. He would die there. He pushed again, with every bit of strength that his body could provide. Something shifted. Inch by inch, one piece of rubble at a time, he clawed his way toward the light.

Nico emerged from the pile of debris, gasping for air and coughing as his abdomen was finally free. Through the destroyed walls and heavy dust, the outside was barely visible, light from several fires filtering through. “Nad!” His voice was hoarse. “Nad!” A terrible fear grasped him as he looked around, trying to get his bearings. Then, a noise came from under a piece of collapsed metallic alloy. With an urgency close to panic, the cameraman began to lift and push aside the bent metal, until a bloodied hand came out wriggling from underneath. Some minutes later which seemed to last for an eternity, Nadzieja managed to crawl away from the metal debris that trapped her, groaning and whimpering. Her right forearm was bent at an angle, clearly broken.

Gently sitting her down, Nico knelt in front of her after giving her a quick look. “It’s just the arm, you’ll be fine, alright?” He said, hands on her shoulders, trying to reassure her. She nodded, closing her eyes and holding in the pain that began to replace the numbness. Nico got back on his feet, surveying the ruins. “Autis!” he called. “Suvetis!”

As Nico began to lift and drag aside pieces of concrete in search of survivors, Nadzieja gritted her teeth and got up on wobbly legs, desperately looking around the destroyed hallway, calling the two names as well. “Suvetis! Autis!”

Nico would see a heart-wrenching sight. Around him were strewn bodies. Mangled bodies. Limbs torn off and crushed by falling debris. Blood, bright red and brilliant against the grey dust and rubble, seeped from under fallen masonry. The acrid taste of destruction burned in the back of the mouth. Devastation surrounded them. Sunlight flooded the ruined structure from its new apertures, and the horrific, unmistakable sight of mushroom clouds rising into the atmosphere far in the distance.

Some of the Ishtari accompanying them had survived, though many were badly injured. The other caretaker that had joined them as they ran dragged herself free from the wreckage, her leg below the knee a mangled mess of violated flesh. Suvetis too had lived, remarkably unscathed, too - but she sat motionless, staring in mute, stunned disbelief at the scene around her.

The lifeless body of Autis lay before her, chest crushed by an errant piece of concrete, as did those of many other children, and many of her adult countrymen. Suvetis could not bring herself to speak, to move, she could barely breathe as she stared in shock at everything. The first time she had seen death. Had even known a person who had died. As she sat amidst the rubble she felt her world crash in around her. She did not react to Nico’s frantic calling, merely sitting in silently, dead to the world around her.

Nico rushed over when he finally spotted her through the concrete dust. His words died in his throat when the terrible scene unfolded before him. Next to him, Nadzieja gasped and choked, almost losing her footing with the shock and horror of what she witnessed. Both of them stood there, helplessly watching. Nadzieja’s shoulders shook with sobs, her left hand covering her mouth.

Seconds passed, seconds that felt like hours.

“We have to move.” Nico’s mouth was dry. “Come on, Nad. Suvetis!” He clambered over the debris and grabbed the motionless Ishtari by the shoulders. “Suvetis! These people need help. Where’s the nearest hospital?”

Nico, too, was in shock. The unbearable feeling of helplessness and the horror of Autis’ death left him with only one thing: he fell back on his training, following the procedure that he was taught like an automaton. He did not feel or notice his own tears as he lifted Suvetis up and onto her feet in an effort to snap her out of her shock.

Suvetis didn’t move initially, merely swaying limply in his grasp as she stared into nothingness past him. The other adult caretaker had propped herself up against the wall with the aid of another survivor, her mangled leg hanging limply. She looked around in a similar daze - thoughts flashed between them, unheard by the Kamyenans as the reality of their situation flooded in. Imagery of orbital combat glittered in their minds’ eyes as they struggled to collect themselves. Though all adult Ishtari had some military training, none of those present had ever been prepared for this.

The dread realization sunk deeper as the news fluttered between them - one of the primary nodes of stored mental constructs had been destroyed in the blast. Its technicians killed. The minds of hundreds of thousands stored within annihilated in seconds. Though Suvetis’ was stored elsewhere and remained intact, many of them realized that, just as the Kamyenans they were now very much mortal.

The other caretaker hobbled over to them, leaning on Suvetis and whispering into her ear. Slowly, Suvetis seemed to come out of her stupor. Though she still stared in horror and shock at the carnage around her, she was at least cognizant of those who yet lived.

“I- the nearest h-hospital was destroyed. I can’t get anything from them I- oh heaven how many people just died? That was a nuke! D- did they really just…?!” She stuttered, her eyes wide in disbelief. “I- I, right. A shelter. We need… we need shelter.” She said, with more conviction. Her wide eyes still stared straight ahead, but she pulled herself together. There would be time to grieve later. Survival instincts took over, now, and she helped her comrade steady herself.

“The nearest shelter is a kilometer away. They’re still in orbit, so as long as we don’t get nuked again, we should be able to make it. Do you two have that body armor you brought? You’re gonna need it. I don’t think we have anything in your size.”

With shaky steps she helped pull the remaining survivors free of the rubble, heaving aside blocks of concrete with surprising strength for the small height of the average Ishtari. The column of survivors made its way through the newly ruined cityscape, as war descended upon New Ishtar.

Day 1 of First Galactic War
Military Casualties (CNI): 713,000
Military Casualties (PUNT): 21,000
Civilian Casualties: 42,300,000

Forces of the People's Union of New Terra launch surprise attack on Commonality of New Ishtar

Defensive fleet of Commonality of New Ishtar seriously damaged

Major destruction averted by intervention of expeditionary force of Chosen of Ashevelen, permitting withdrawal to deep-system shipyards

PUNT forces launch salvo of nuclear weapons against New Ishtar, destroying significant infrastructure and resulting in tens of millions of civilian deaths

[Emergency transmission dispatched:]
”This is Admiral 1-103 Akari Stands Resolute Against The Dark. We have come under concerted assault by the forces of the People’s Union of New Terra. We have suffered direct strike by numerous nuclear weapons. Casualties unknown, but high. Requesting support against the aggressor. Heaven preserve us.”


@Keyguyperson and @Lady Lascivious

Haven System

Space warped and crackled as the Gateway activated. The fabric of space and time distorted in a brilliant shimmering display of humanity’s former technological might as the Gateway tore a hole through the fabric of the universe. Through this maelstrom of frothing reality the prow of the warship Tiamat’s Burning Resolve pierced through the void, a powerful statement of Ishtari military might, the Herald class battleship was but one of a few such vessels operated by the Ishtari navy. Flanked by a dozen escort vessels it loomed large through the void, announcing to the entire system its presence, and daring any to challenge its right to sail where it pleased.

Tatiana had grown bored over the past centuries. It had been far, far too long since she had left the planet, let alone placed herself in any actual danger - Ashe’s overzealous bodyguard notwithstanding. She longed for the adrenaline of old times, when she confronted the unknown head on, pistol in one hand and a rifle in another, leading her people onwards to victory and heedless of death, for it had become but an inconvenience.

And yet even so the Commonality had resisted her wishes to explore this new system in person.

Though they knew they could not truly stop her, they had eventually succeeded in pressuring her into accepting an escort, and established her in one of the great battleships of the fleet, one bearing her adopted namesake no less. It was, admittedly, a bit much for her - but she found it easier to go along with than to spend yet more brainpower arguing. The progress on the cure for the Rejected was well underway - but she needed time away from the lab. Time away from the reverence. She almost hoped this system was hostile, that someone would point a gun to her head and give her a chance to let loose once again.

The massive warship blasted an announcement systemwide in myriad human languages, Japanese, Russian, English, German, Spanish, Korean, Romanian, and more. “I am Tatiana Iwasaki, Star-Mother of the people of Ishtar. I hail from earth, and I’d like to personally welcome you to the galaxy at large.”

Admiral Pe'lin had her eyes glued to the sensor readouts, barely remembering to even breathe. The moment the gateway went hot she'd had the crew of the Tavrê, and the expeditionary fleet as a whole, at battlestations. Some of her human crewmen were anticipating a reunion with their long-lost kin, but to Pe'lin anything that came through the gate - human or not - was liable to be a threat. By the time the Tavrê's sensors showed the first vessel transit the gate the Chinvat-Class battleship was already positioned to deliver a broadside.

"Admiral! Radio transmission from the gateway, audio only!"

"Patch it through."

Pe'lin's headset delivered the same message, translated into countless human tribal tongues that she was familiar with and yet more that she was not. Though not fluent in any of them, she could more or less recognize what the intent was. Only one word did she fully understand. Chikyū. Erde. Jigu. Earth. The homeworld of the human exiles - one that their ancestors had gladly forsaken even before the collapse of their civilization upon it. So these interlopers were indeed human.

No matter. Throughout Urdji history her people had met countless species, and only the human tribes of Haven had ever shown themselves to be worthy of the name "friend". She - and the Confederacy - could not afford to assume the rest of humanity would be the same.

"Admiral, we're being hailed. Captain Tahn of the Triskelion."

Pe'lin nodded, and the image of the human Captain appeared upon her glasses. Captain Tahn was in a state of panic, hurriedly barking orders at her men before finally remembering that she'd hailed the Tavrê.

Admiral, this is Captain Tahn of the Europan battleship Triskelion. We know of this tribe - I recommend we open fire before they can react!

Pe'lin ordered her gunners to generate a firing solution on the interloping vessels, before responding to Captain Tahn.

Do enlighten me, Captain Tahn.

Admiral, these humans - if you can even call them that - are nothing less than demons! These corpo bastards killed our homeworld, and now they've come to finish us off! If their leader is who she claims to be then she is the devil incarnate, the demiurge taken physical form to destroy what remains of true humanity! The name Tatiana Iwasaki is a curse! She was among the ringleaders of the global-

Captain, I don't have time for your Europan fairy tales - this Tatiana has been alive since the creation of the gateways?

Yes! I can't believe she has shed her illusion of humanity, she must have the other survivors of the Collapse under her boot! We have to rally the tribes!

Your "devil incarnate" hasn't even powered weapons, and claims to be here to welcome us to the galaxy at large. I'm not going to let you start an interstellar war based on ancient superstitions. Keep your railguns trained on these "Ishtari", but for the love of the gods don't open fire. This expeditionary fleet is under my command and we will do as I say. Am I clear?

... Aye-Aye, Admiral. Just know that this tribe conquered our homeworld not with the stick, but with the carrot. Do not let us be conquered once more. Triskelion out.

"Transmit a response to the foreigners, and try our standard hailing protocols. Maybe they'll work with whatever systems these Ishtari are using. And, uh, translate my message to Europan, I suppose. Must be similar enough still for them to understand."

Attention fleet of Tribe Ishtar, this is Ranger Corps Admiral Pe'lin of the Urdji-Gelderruhê Nanlîkrin Eşîrsaya. We welcome you with pride to the Haven system. Do, however, be aware that we have our railguns trained on your vessels and will not hesitate to defend ourselves if your intentions are hostile. You can surely see our fleet’s position on your sensors - I propose our flagships meet at the midway point between our formations for a proper face-to-face meeting. For now, know this: This system, Haven, is a refuge for the tribes of both Man and the Urdji, and any attempt to disrupt, corrupt, or destroy what we have built here will be met with a resolute response. Admiral Pe’lin, awaiting your reply.

Tatiana smiled, a response! The bridge crew signalled to each other through their network as sensors picked up countless signals - warships great and small, heat signatures, power sources - the system was lighting up across the board as weapons systems powered up, trained on her and her ship.

Despite the peril, she grinned. Meeting Ashe had jolted her from her stupor - but this? Ah, the adrenaline rush of imminent death was like nothing else. The message was somewhat garbled, but she could make out the gist of it. Without pausing for thought or for counsel, she grabbed the hailer once more, raising it to her lips and speaking into it with the language that seemed closest to what they spoke. “Greetings to you, Admiral Pe’lin! I’m glad to see you’ve rolled out the red carpet and I’d be damned disappointed if you didn’t! It’s been too long since someone pointed a gun at me, let alone actually killed me. Too long! I’ll do you one better, Admiral. I’ll leave my ship with a small ceremonial guard and we can meet however you want. I’m certainly not here to disrupt, corrupt, destroy, desecrate, despoil, demolish, loot, vandalize, desp- no, wait, I already said that. I’m not here for any of that, and I’ll leave this battleship to prove it on my honor and that of my children. How’s that sound?”

Her words rang out through space with an unusual buzz to their timbre, as though two voices spoke in unison but ever so slightly out of sync. Her cocky, irreverent speech garnered many a look of horror or bewilderment from the Ishtari around her, many of whom seem shocked from their normal reverence of the ‘Star-Mother’.

Heh. Kids. She thought, smirking, and signalling to her second in command. “You take control of the ship. Don’t fire until I give the order or they shoot. If I don’t give the order and go totally silent for too long, leave the system and reprint me. Won’t be the first time and I hope it won’t be the last.” She grinned, moving for the hangar bay to board a shuttle, “Fuck, I’ve missed this.”

Admiral Pe'lin to fleet of Tribe Ishtar. We accept your proposal, my ship the Tavrê will advance to the previously indicated point with escort as a show of goodwill. Docking protocols will follow this message, as will drive plume profiles of our planned escorts - the tribe Europa battleship Triskelion and tribe Neurdj systems vessel Peveiliet. I apologize in advance, as my vessel is not exactly equipped for a diplomatic function and the Triskelion is not authorized to receive dignitaries on behalf of the Confederacy at this time. Pe'lin out.

Pe'lin remained deeply disturbed by the characteristics of her new command. Or rather, the lack thereof. The Tavrê was at full burn on the second leg of its transit to the meeting point, and yet she couldn't feel a thing. No vibration, no soft humming of the engines, not even a hint of movement beneath her feet. The Gelderruhê could build some damn fine inertial dampeners, but did the Ranger Corps really need the luxury of not feeling their drives? The shipboard AI system didn't give the ship any more character either, no matter how often the humans claimed it did. Thing was just a pretty holographic face that happened to be an excellent gunnery officer.

"Admiral, another signal light sequence from Triskelion. Message reads, er, 'Nice way to save face, Admiral. Not currently authorized, are we?' ... are we sure that Captain Tahn is actually a Europan, Admiral?"

"They're more than a bunch of superstition-obsessed hardasses." Said Pe'lin with a sigh, "For better or worse, Captain Tahn is what they'd consider an exemplary military officer. In fairness, nobody else has foundered that many pirate ships. Transmit a response; 'Be appreciative that you are invited to this meeting. It is against my better judgement.' End message. You know, I can't help but worry that Tahn is right about all this - who in their right mind would agree to a meeting on these terms?"

"With all due respect to her, Admiral, the tribe Ishtar Chieftain did not sound like one who is in their right mind."

"Perhaps so. There's no telling what those ships are capable of though."

"Response from Triskelion, Admiral. Message reads 'Fine, we won't push our luck. I'm bringing my saber for when the demon springs her trap anyways.' Message end. Who the hell orders such verbose signal light messages?"

"Captain Tahn, apparently. In all honesty I think I was less worried about the alien tribe listening in on radio comms than I was hopeful that communicating via signal light would make that fool shut up for once."

Pe'lin turned back to the center of the CIC, and stared at her station's own sensor readout. The Triskelion and Peveiliet flanked her own ship, and she could see the tiny blip that was the interloper's shuttle streak towards the three warships. Her wings drew close to her torso, wrapping themselves around her legs as she tried to collect her thoughts. Human history, just like that of the Urdji, exists mostly as oral tradition - and here is a demon from Europan mythology just dropping by to say hello. She had to admit, it was absolutely not a coincidence. This tribe had once been enemies of the Europans, and plenty of other tribes' tales mentioned it by name as well. Were they really so evil, or did it all just boil down to those who transited the gate three centuries ago being pirates and criminals? Perhaps this Ishtar tribe was their "rightful government" - whatever the hell that phrase actually meant in practice, at least. As far as Pe'lin knew there was no translation into Urdji Standard.

"Hey, you, machine!" She said, summoning the avatar of the Tavrê's artificial intelligence to the border of the sensor readout.

The avatar was quite simply absurd. It took the image of a young but scarred Frekin woman, wearing an elaborate blue costume that was allegedly an old Human naval uniform from their original homeworld - they drew a strange connection between space and water, for whatever reason. Pe'lin just thought it looked like someone who hadn't brushed their damn feathers before bed and woke up after a long night of tossing and turning.

"Yes, Admiral?" It said melodically.

"In the mythos of the Gelderruhê, is there any positive reference to the Ishtar tribe?"

"Yes, Admiral. The Gekokujo tribe has a story wherein an Ishtar warrior spares the life of a smuggler in the Old Belt, after discovering his cargo hold to be full of stolen medical supplies. Specifically, vaccines for the plague of-"

"The tribe as a whole, machine, I mean the tribe as a whole."

"Negative, Admiral."

Pe'lin paused for a moment, before her frown turned into a weary smirk.

"What is your opinion on this situation, machine?"

"Mine, Admiral?"

"Answer the question. Don't give me that old 'I am not qualified to provide strategic input' line again, tell me what you think."

"Admiral, I am an artificial intelligence construct, I do not thi-"

"Humor me."

"... Calculating."

Never before had the machine taken so long to provide an answer. The thing could search the entire mythos of a species, and yet it could not answer so simple a question as "What do you think?" Pe'lin was once again reminded of why she called it a machine, and not a person. Just as she thought it would default a pre-programmed response again, it spoke up.

"In recorded Urdji history, only the Gelderruhê were ever to be trusted. The Frekin had to be converted - the Gelderruhê were immediately understandable and friendly. In thousands, perhaps tens of thousand of years the Urdji were alone. Now you have them, and their myths tell you that this tribe is not to be trusted. I recommend you defer to the judgement of Captain Tahn of the Triskelion."

"Why place so much value in myth? Those are just the stories of a lost, scared, lonely bunch of former pirates. Who is to say that they have not merely demonized their former enemies?"

"Admiral - the Gelderruhê fought the D'jim at your side. They had no more evidence than you do now to support that decision. The Gelderruhê trusted the Urdji. It is only right that the Urdji then trust the Gelderruhê. Imagine if they refused to fight the D'jim. Neither Urdji nor Gelderruhê would still exist - I believe this scenario to be similar."

"You are not helping assuage my fears, machine."

"You requested an opinion. I have complied with your orders. I... I request that you take my input into consideration."

The avatar voluntarily dissolved from the hologram, leaving behind only traces of mist in the sensor readout that quickly dissipated. Pe'lin noticed the confused glances of her bridge crew as they tried to understand the exchange that had taken place - she knew why they were taken by surprise. The machines - the AI constructs - weren't programmed with the ability to provide such advice, but their learning algorithms proved rather versatile after the removal of certain user safety blocks.

"Well?" She said, "Focus, men. We will be receiving dignitaries soon. All we have for accommodations is my portside cabin so we had best appear well-groomed. Good thing both our species enjoy wood paneling though, I suppose"

It had been some years since Tatiana had ridden in a shuttle. Some years since she had stepped foot off the planet. Some years since she had strapped on a sword and ventured forth to meet with strangers wearing human faces. Some years since she had felt this kind of uncertainty wash over her.

She did not know what she would find on board this foreign vessel.

The shuttle’s pilot looked over his shoulder at her as the massive warship loomed over them, silhouetted against the light of the system’s star. Tatiana leaned in, taking the microphone from his hands and speaking clearly. “Triskelion, this is Tatiana Iwasaki. Requesting docking permission.”


As the pneumatic hiss of docking seals filled the air around her, Tatiana Iwasaki stood with her hips cocked, a haughty smirk splayed across her features as she waited for the airlock to open. As it did, slowly, far too slowly for her liking, she strode forth, her escorts struggling to keep up with the long legged stride of their charge. The long cloak she wore billowed out behind her as she confidently strutted betwixt the awaiting guards.

“Hey cute stuff.” She called in German, “Wanna tell me where to go? I’ve a date with your commanders and I’d hate to miss it.”

She winked at him, blowing a kiss and suppressing the urge to laugh. “You wouldn’t want to make them wait now would you?”

Behind her, her guards stared nonplussed. Six in total. Two Akkoro Strain, one Valkyrie Strain, two Tiamat Strain, one Shinchu Strain. All were clad in crisply starched ceremonial uniforms and outfitted with top of the line cybernetics - and yet all seemed to have been physically struck as they watched the Star Mother drop all pretenses of formality or decorum.

The guards looked at each other, one seemingly questioning what the hell the woman had just said and the other knowing the answer all too well. It took the two a moment to realize that only one of them actually spoke the language she had used - and it had changed a fair bit since whatever version she had learned.

“I, uh, y-you can follow me.” Said the one on the left in Europan, more akin to broken German than a proper modern version of the tongue, “Admiral Pe’lin and Captain Tahn are awaiting you in the flag cabin.”

The other guard turned to flank the first as they led the way. The two exchanged a short conversation in Urdji Standard, figuring that if the interlopers knew Europan they’d know any other human language.

“What in the name of the gods are these people?”

“Not human, that’s for sure.”

“But yet they use human names. Ishtar, Tatiana, I mean… the myths are metaphorical. They weren’t actually demons… right?”

“Don’t think about it too hard. That’s for the brass, just shoot them if they try to suck your brains out or something.”

“You have my thanks, gentlemen!” Tatiana responded, beaming with unsuppressed delight. She turned to her escorts, switching to the Ishtari language in turn as she beckoned the. “Come along ladies, let’s not dally in the nice people’s ship. It’d be rather rude would it not?”

“S-Star Mother are you s-” one of them began, a worried expression on her face.

“Never been surer in my life. Oh, don’t tell me your caretakers told you I was some ancient and wise sage who spends all her time in quiet seclusion. I- you know what, all of you will eat well when we get back, my treat. But for now follow me.”

The Ishtari party followed the Confederate guards in perfect formation, the boldly attired Ishtari Star Mother marching with an expression of pure delight not reciprocated by any around her. Despite herself she could not suppress a few giggles and snickers at the shocked reactions of the crew from the sight of her strange band marching through their ship. And, by the time they’d reached their destination, she felt thoroughly invigorated once again.

Tatiana strode through the door of the wood paneled room as though she owned the whole battleship. Her cloak billowed behind her as she moved, heavily augmented body flowing from one motion to the next. Less a human woman than an almost unearthly river of arcane metalwork and inhuman artifice, her irises glowed with a dim golden light matched by the patterns upon her skin. Elegant golden inlay spiraled up the length of the black horns that formed a striking crown, a blood red gem inset in the center. Snow white hair cascaded in thick waves around her mechanical shoulders, and with as much of her body on display as her provocative outfit revealed, every step proclaimed the power within each fiber of finely tuned muscle. Behind her filed in her guards, each of them distinct and jarringly abnormal from baseline humanity in their own way. Their presence filled their side of the room with a mixture of unearthly, inhuman light from the bioluminescent patterns and growths upon their bodies. Each one stared forward, the spitting image of professional soldiers, were it not for their bizarre countenance.

“Greetings, new friends!” She cried to the awaiting Admiral and Captain, “I am glad to make your acquaintance!”

After exchanging mutual, confused glances regarding the alleged human standing before them, the two officers gave their greetings. Pe’lin was sitting stiff as a board in her seat at the end of the table, while Tahn was characteristically sitting entirely backwards and leaning her arms on her seatback. It was almost as if she had sensed the vibrance of their new guest from afar - not that she would ever be so considerate as to practice any level of decorum to begin with.

“On behalf of the tribes of the Urdji, I welcome you to Haven.” Said Pe’lin, bowing her head and ever so slightly opening up her wings. “I am Admiral Pe’lin of the Confederate Rangers. I do hope that there is peace in our futures.”

Tahn stared at Tatiana, studying her features like a painter or sculptor would, looking for any remaining sign that she might actually be the Tatiana Iwasaki. She had to admit that the face was human, but she could scarcely believe that the being before her could have ever been one. The Urdji were closer in appearance to humanity than either Tatiana or any of her entourage, and they didn’t even share a single chromosome with mankind! If it truly was Tatiana before her, decided Tahn, then all the myths were truth.

“And I am Captain Tahn of Tribe Europa, commanding officer of the battleship Triskelion. I represent the tribes of Man.” She said, “Now, Tatiana Iwasaki, there is no use in avoiding this topic. From where did your people come - not beyond the gateway, I mean originally. I won’t bore you with the entire history of my people, but just know now that your answer to this question is of particular interest to the Europa tribe.”

Pe’lin sighed, loud enough that she was sure the interlopers would hear it. She agreed that the question had to be asked, but did not want to share the role of rude fool with Captain Tahn. She chose to voice as much, more or less, to Tatiana.

“Do forgive my colleague’s directness… and unnecessary foreboding tone, but she must ask.” Said Pe’lin.

Tiamat raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s an interesting question. A very interesting question indeed. Well, technically I am from the big bang some fourteen billion years ago. It’s a terribly long story I’m afraid, so I won’t bore you.” She smiled, “Now, why would you be asking such a question? That’s what I’m curious to know. Your friend here is a human being unless she is in fact an alien in human guise. Humans evolved on the planet known as earth, or Terra by some, and made a pilgrimage from it some three hundred years ago. Now, you speak a language similar to the German of old earth and based on our scans there are no properly habitable worlds in this system - though that itself is a matter of perspective really, meaning you survive purely on board the ships of your fleet.” She smiled at them, taking a seat across from them and folding one leg over the other.

She continued, slowly piecing together the elements of the puzzle before her. “We can surmise that in order to successfully survive in such conditions, the Ark these humans arrived on was one equipped for longer term habitation. Rapid transit arks would not have had the food production capacity to enable long term viability of a space born colony to establish new means of production and sustenance. Most Arks I know of crewed by German speaking peoples were of this latter type, and would not have been able to survive. Now, before the Gateway Collapse, a large generation ship type Ark was hijacked by a coalition of disparate human groups. One of these groups professed beliefs best summarized as a unique descendent of neo-nazi ideology. There were others, of course - did you have any Chinese speakers aboard, perchance? If so I’d say with some certainty that your ancestors captured the Ark E Pluribus Unum and carried it through the Gateway to its destination. Based on the ideologies of those groups, and the German-based language spoken so far, as well as fringe undercurrents within the neo-nazi group in question, I’d wager…” She paused for a moment, watching Pe’lin and Tahn with her piercing golden eyes. The jovial expression dropped away, and the two became uncomfortably aware of the fathomless aeons that stretched away beneath those dim glowing orbs.

“Do you wish to know if I am a daemon of the old world, come to destroy your people? If so…”

Tiamat stood from her position, drawing herself to her full height. “I am Tatiana Iwasaki, granddaughter of Iwasaki Keiji, eighth in line for the inheritance of the Iwasaki Group corporate empire. Renowned geneticist and leader of the European Research Division. Star Mother of the Commonality of New Ishtar. Banisher of the void. The blood soaked rose of the endless depths. Slayer of the Hive. Child of old earth.” She looked at them, “I remember when your ancestors stole the ark and condemned millions to a death they did not deserve. I remember as the world died around us and we could do naught but flee. I remember it all. So, Captain Tahn. Have I satisfied your particular interest?”

The Neurdj fleetship will be in here just half a day. Thought Tahn. Stall for half a day, and we could go right through the gate. If I wait half a day…

Tahn stood to meet Tiamat, and placed her hand on her saber’s hilt. She would not wait half a day, nor would she give up the chance to draw the blood of a true, honest-to-gods demon.

“You think we don’t remember what you did to us?” She shouted, “Pah, millions killed by us? Do you remember how many of our own people each tribe had to leave behind to starve to death on frozen fucking rocks? Do you remember how you drove us from our mother planet when she was still lush with life because we were inconvenient for your demonic plans? Pirates, you call us! We were trying to survive! Grasping for the slimmest chance at life! You have the blood of billions on your hands, and you didn’t even lift a finger to slay them! At least we stole our lives with saber and dagger, not like you cowards who leeched it with deception and lies!”

Pe’lin, well aware of what was coming, was trying to decide between hiding behind her couch or throwing her hands up in surrender. She couldn’t decide fast enough, and soon found herself left with nothing but her gut to guide her.

“You gods-forsaken demon! This is for humanity!”

Tahn drew her saber and lunged towards Tiamat, leaping towards her with blade held high and ready to strike at her neck.

Time stood still as Tiamat watched the woman strike out at her. She seemed, to her, to move through a thick morass of cold treacle. Her form was sloppy, at least, in her own opinion. Her grip on the sword was awkward, one driven by blind passion rather than a calculated strike. The threat was minimal. She doubted the blade could even penetrate the armor in her skin. It might not even leave a nick.

Still, there was little room to leave for doubt.

Moving with preternatural speed, Tiamat drew her own sword from its sheathe even as her fingertips split open to reveal razor edged blades springing forth from within. In but a millisecond she stepped into Tahn’s oncoming thrust, parrying it with her own blade and disarming the other woman. Slipping her leg in behind Tahn’s knee, she kicked the support out from under her, grabbing her by the neck as she pulled her into a chokehold in a single fluid motion. In what seemed to the onlookers, Ishtari or Confederate, to be but a split second blur of action, Tiamat held the hapless Tahn in her grip, one bladed arm positioned at her throat, another nearly parallel with her eye, perilously close to blinding the reckless captain, and the sword held in a reverse grip, ready to plunge into her gut.

“You stupid girl.” Tiamat hissed, hard corded muscle both synthetic and natural pressing into Tahn’s body. “You foolish, foolish girl. Impudent CHILD. What did you think would happen? What did you hope would happen? Did you seek to die? I will not be the one to grant such a mad wish. These hands of mine have slain over twelve thousand people, all told. I’ve kept track. I won’t add another today. Did you think you might strike down a demon of the old world in a single blow? Did you think you’d destroy an adversary of your people with your little sword?” Her grip tightened, and her voice took on an almost motherly tone, warm, coddling even. “Poor foolish, foolish girl. Misled by centuries of insanity and lies. It’s almost enough to make one weep, is it not?”

She leaned in, whispering into Tahn’s ear. “I am no demon, Tahn. They exist, oh certainly they do. I have fought them. I have died against them. Time and time and time again. But I am not one of them. I have seen things you can scarce imagine, little foolish thing, impudent girl, brave, stupid, ignorant Tahn. Even if I was a demon, what hope would you have? Would you so readily throw your life away? Oh how brave you were, how reckless, how heartwarmingly selfless you are in your desire to avenge your people. I’m proud of you, you know? You remind me of me, some centuries ago. Impetuous. Courageous. Foolhardy. A brave, noble, stupid girl…” She spoke in a voice audible only to the captain, her tones low and devoid of hostility. They were, instead, almost nurturing, praise dripping unctuous from the venomed fangs that held Tahn perilously at the edge of eternity.

She looked to Pe’lin, her golden eyes hard as diamond. “I will release her now. If she makes another such move, she dies.”

At those words, Tiamat released her hold. Tahn, no longer supported by her, began to fall towards the floor, only for Tiamat to scoop her up and plop her into the seat she had just vacated, perching herself snugly next to her and once more plastering on the same unerringly cheerful smile. She said nothing, merely sliding one arm around Tahn, and fixing Pe’lin with that same cheery face. Your move.

Tahn nodded timidly towards Admiral Pe’lin, and the latter’s hand released itself from the grip of her pistol. Tahn was still, however, not one to surrender without a word of defiance.

“I would be a poor officer if I weren’t willing to throw it away.” She whispered, “If I die here, be my cause right or wrong, I keep my honor. My. Honor. Nothing else matters.”

Pe’lin mumbled a few words of Urdji Standard, seemingly to herself, and then placed her hands on the table before the ineffable alien once more.

“Impressive. The Captain sitting like a trained dog? Perhaps you really are a demon.” She said with a careful chuckle, “Don’t worry, I don’t take the Gelderruhê myths so literally. Indeed, it would appear you know more about the origins of the Gelderruhê than the Gelderruhê themselves. I readily invite you to share your knowledge, but if you think you can drive a wedge between us by doing so then I would advise you to save your breath. We do not particularly care what alleged atrocities the Gelderruhê have commited in the past - they fought valiantly by our side, and we will never forget that.”

What, pray tell, thought Pe’lin, is going on inside this alien’s head? I had always presumed the stories of demons to be metaphorical at most, but this being claims to have watched the ages of legend with her own two eyes. Nobody could ever mistake her for a human either… perhaps the stories of demons ravaging mythical Terra were not the metaphors for self-destruction we have always thought them to be.

Despite the situation, Pe’lin did have something to hold on to. The Fleetship Teyrjixen and her battlegroup were just a few days out at cruising speed, and she knew they were burning much harder than that. If push came to shove the Confederacy could launch a campaign through the Gateway within the week, and though the alien specimen before her was clearly in an entirely different physical league she figured from the long-range LADAR scans that their warships were nowhere near as remarkable.

“Worry not.” Tiamat said, smiling, “Nothing could be further from the truth. I have no quarrel with your people, and I do not seek to drive any wedges between earth’s children - heaven above knows there are already enough. And, truthfully, were the crimes of our ancestors justification for punishment your friend would be well within her rights to destroy myself, and every single one of us.”

Though her tone was jovial, it carried with it a dangerous undercurrent. “I will repeat what I said earlier. I am Tatiana Iwasaki. Granddaughter of Iwasaki Keiji, eighth in line for the inheritance of the Iwasaki Group corporate empire. Renowned geneticist and leader of the European Research Division. Everything I have told you has been nothing but the truth. I grew up on earth in its final days. I remember everything. By your count, I have experienced three hundred and thirty six earth years in realspace. Your Tahn and her people, however, got one detail a little off - I, personally, ran a research division focusing on adapting humanity to live in the mess we’d made. I had no hand in the destruction of old earth. My father did. My grandfather did. They’re both dead.”

She looked between Tahn and Pe’lin, then sighed.

“Strap in, this might take a while. I’ll tell ya what’s what. First off - I’m actually closer to a thousand years old if we count time by how we experienced it. To make a long story ever so slightly less long, when our ark transited the Gate, we were one of the last to leave. ’Ojīsan’ wanted to make sure everyone had left before we did. Why, I’ve not the faintest damned clue and I still wonder to this day. But, there we were. Gateways collapsed, with us still in it.”

She took a breath. “I think I’d have preferred it if we’d just died, truth be told. Just scattered into nothingness, random heat energy and particles drifting about across formerly folded space-time. But we weren’t so lucky. We ended up… somewhere else. Somewhere that didn’t exist, not really. We existed out of existence itself. I remember when I first saw it. The empty void. The nothingness. Except we weren’t that lucky. Something, something horrible lurked there. In the empty nothingness between every realm of possibility. An infinite sea of infinite probability. Tainted beauty. A shimmering ocean of diamond amidst a roiling sea of malevolent void.” She shuddered, a bead of sweat rising on her forehead as she spoke. There was something fundamentally unnerving about the being before them being so shaken by the recollection, and her guards, likewise, shifted anxiously. “You speak of demons, Tahn? There are your demons. Far, far away, beyond where you or I can ever hope to reach. Beyond reality itself.”

“It hated us. It hated everything. It hated existence, for it didn’t exist - yet it did. In our minds, in our hearts, in our souls, in our very DNA. It twisted us, warped us. We became… well, we became many things. Humanity turned on itself, devouring itself in orgiastic frenzies of violence and madness. I remember flesh erupting from pulsating, tumorous growths. Horrific, malevolent, roiling seas of flesh and bone and sinew and blood and eyes. They hungered. We burned them. Burned them until there was nothing but ash and dust and we felt the lack of oxygen claw at our minds even as the demons tore at our souls. Then we simply shot them, until they stopped moving. Some never did.”

Her voice was haunted as the visions of such unspeakable atrocity came back to her, and she stared through Pe’lin, into the far wall beyond, lost in memories almost a millenium prior. “Nobody was unchanged - except those in cryosleep. Ojīsan, otōsan, the others who were too damn self important to spend their time in transit awake. They didn’t change. It was those of us who were awake. We heard it. Scratching. Gnawing. At the back of your mind it never stopped. It never, ever stopped. That whisper. That damned whisper.” Her words came hoarse now, and she trailed off for a moment, before jerking her thumb towards one of the Tiamat Strain guards. “Her, there, we call them Tiamat Strain. I was the first, obviously. I lasted a long time, a good long time. I tried to keep order. I organized fireteams, I tried to find cures for those affected - but there was nothing I could do. I even used some of our earliest life extension technology then. I tried everything I could, and it wasn’t enough.”

“The Hive Strain emerged, I don’t recall exactly when, and I don’t want to. They wer- are, one of our greatest enemies. They started with a scientist named Llykej Henrikson. Seemed like a nice fellow, back on earth. We’d thought him dead but… I’ll tell you how I know in a bit. Just know the hive strain are… ravenous beasts. A pulsating, undulating, torrent of flesh and teeth and… hungry gaping maws, tearing off chunks of meat from anything it can touch. It… I don’t even want to speak of some of the other things I saw. Every worst excess of humanity manifested in this form. It infested huge swaths of the ship. It covered everything in this… mat of nerve and digestive tissue. It would grow more hive strain from those it had consumed, some times in major rooms it had taken over, some times in infested hallways from these pustules that would burst open and release a new monstrosity that it had birthed.”

She sighed, hanging her head low. “Then I turned. I thank god or… whatever’s out there, whatever it was we saw that didn’t hate us, that I didn’t lose my mind. That I didn’t become one of those… things. I was what we call a Gorgon Strain, first. They’re… not here, right now. They look a bit like lamia of old earth. Real big. But that’s not the point. The point is that for a while I helped keep things secure. I- we lost three quarters of everyone we started out with. I saw so many friends die. I saw children eaten. I saw mutilations of the human form and desecrations of the human mind. And then I turned. Tiamat Strain. Used to be transmissible. Like a virus? S’part of how so many of us- them, spread. I don’t need to fill your ears with more stories about war and death, do I? Our population exploded. We used up too much from the ship’s hydroponics. Twenty million of us on a ship designed for six million. We started eating each other again. We went mad. I went mad for a time.”

A tear rolled down her cheek. “Then we rediscovered how to work the cryosleep chambers. We thawed them out, Ojīsan, otōsan, the others - we hoped they might know something. Something to help us. Something to save us?” Tiamat laughed, and her laughter consumed her for a time as she slouched back in her seat, laughing without control or without care, maniacal, scarred laughter. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she brought herself down again, staring at Pe’lin and then at Tahn, “You wanna know what my god-damn father and grandfather ordered? They look right at me. Their daughter and granddaughter - and saw a monster. THEY ORDERED ME KILLED.” She yelled out, now howling with deranged laughter, “On the spot! Ordered me and everyone else fucking killed! Demons! That’s what they called us! Mutant abominations!”

She lapsed into semi-silence again, choking back sobs and deranged laughter, gradually quieting down. “He died giving that order. I shot him in the chest. I shot Ojīsan in the chest. I watched them stare at me, as they realized, finally, who I was. That the monster was their beloved family. I realized, then, that they were the monsters. That no matter what form I took, no matter how beautiful or hideous, it was my soul that made me a monster or not. And I was a monster. I pried their skulls open with the help of a Shinchu Strain. I held their warm, still living brains in my hands. I… consumed them, in a sense. I learned everything they knew. I learned how they stood by and allowed earth to die. I saw how they torpedoed the last chances of salvation to squeeze every last drop of profit from her dying corpse.” She lapsed into silence once more, staring at the ground. “And then I turned to my people and told them there was nothing they knew that could save us, and to recycle the bodies to create more soldiers.”

Pe’lin could have been mistaken as dead, petrified as she was at what had been recounted - and the implications it carried with it. Tahn meanwhile was anything but afraid, and she chuckled lightly before opening her mouth.

“After hundreds of years and a godsdamned speciation event, the truth of Gaia’s death remained - and it was remembered by the spawn of demons at that! Please, forgive my foolishness, it’s thanks to you that my ancestors can now rest peacefully.”

“Binvӑre…” Uttered Pe’lin at last, her voice distant and monotone.

“What was that, Admiral?”

“Binvӑre. An ancient legend of the Qurtel tribe, a world which a D’jim sorcerer opened a passage to in the time of the exodus. The demon within it, Basjined, is said to have laid waste to the planet of our birth. Proper historical study of homeworld artifacts was a death blow to the religion which birthed the myth, but… the similarity is disturbing. Basjined was said to corrupt the living into unnatural forms - animalistic beasts, shambling horrors with charred skin, monsters the likes of which the world had never seen. The time dilation, too - legend says that there was no time in Binvӑre.”

“Hell isn’t exactly a rare concept in mythology, Admiral.”

“And that story has had tens of thousands of years to be told and retold to the point of being unrecognizable compared to the original.” Pe’lin sighed, “What disturbs me more than the eerie similarities is merely the fact that what you describe, Tiamat, is worse than any myth I have heard. It is a miracle you remain sane.”

And a miracle that I stopped myself from saying “as sane as you are”. She thought.

Tiamat frowned, “A moment, Admiral - do you mean to tell me you’re not human?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Of course I’m not.” Said Pe’lin rather incredulously, “Do I look like a human to-”

She paused for a moment, taking in the form of the woman who until recently she had assumed was completely unrelated to the Gelderruhê.

“Ah.” She continued, “Yes, I suppose I do. No, we Urdji are from many thousands of light years away from your original home system. Were my insides those of a human these wings of mine would be just for decoration - and I can assure you that they are not. We have been traveling the stars since before your kind learned to plant crops.”

“Not taking into account relativistic time dilation.” Added Tahn, “Can you believe they didn’t even have quantum computers when we made first contact?”

“Hard to devote effort to theoretical pursuits when you’re being hunted across interstellar space.” Said Pe’lin with a shrug.

Silence was the only response for a moment as Tiamat watched Pe’lin with a calculating expression on her face. Slowly, however, it melted away into a genuine smile. “Well, let me apologize, admiral Pe’lin. I… well, we’re still getting accustomed to things. The Gateways only started back up six months ago, we’d forgotten what a baseline human face looked like until then. Please, accept my most humble apology.”

She inclined her head towards the Urdji admiral, in a symbol of genuine deference. “We’ll make sure to avoid such mistakes going forward. And… ah! Yes. Your people are truly remarkable, admiral. To have set foot among the stars so long ago.” She inclined her head, “Truly, a wonderful accomplishment. You are proud and deservedly so. As for this… Binvӑre.” She sighed. “You are right. From what you tell me the similarity is disturbing. I have yet more history to recall, if you wish to hear it - but it is true that within that chasm of nothingness, no time passed and yet we experienced five hundred and eighty three years. Mutated shambling horrors, hungry beasts, eternity passing in an instant…” She shuddered, “Whatever lead to this I hope your people have never experienced what mine did.”

“Perfectly understandable, I suppose.” Said Pe’lin, subdued hints of a laugh on the edges of her mouth, “In honesty I had assumed you were completely unrelated to humanity when I saw your entourage on the guards’ helmet cams. Makes me wonder if us Urdji looked at all like we do now back when we left the motherworld.”

Tiamat smiled, “Well, if you’d like, I’d be happy to relay the rest of the story, at least as I personally remember it. It’s been many a year since I’ve left my home, and longer still since I met people so interested in hearing my little autobiography.”

Tahn leaned in, resting her head on her arms and her arms on her knees, and turned to stare at the barely human demonslayer sitting next to her. A great, gregarious smile grew across her face. “Please do! Trust me, if you put this onto paper a quarter of the system will be reading it in weeks.”

Pe’lin’s only input was a sigh, a nod, and laying her left wind on her lap for preening. She’d settled in for the long haul.

A cybernetic hand patted Tahn affectionately on the head. “Good girl.” Tiamat purred, settling in as well beside the Captain, “I’ve always wanted to be famous in two systems.”

Comfortably settled in, Tiamat launched back into her tale, weaving a tapestry of horrors and triumphs just as shocking as the first half. She spoke of her time trapped within the mind of the Hive Strain, of her creation of the Valkyrie Strain from numerous others, the eventual success in driving the Hive Strain into hiding for good. She spoke of the creation of technology from her own experimental procedures, of the trials and tribulations that beset her. She spoke of leaving the void, coming face to face with unfamiliar stars in an unfamiliar part of the galaxy, the Gateway behind them yet tens of thousands of light-years from their original intended position. She spoke of the horrors of the world they would come to call home. The parasitic infections. The carnivorous algae that consumed people from inside out. The hostile, murderous native sapients they had encountered. The near-apocalyptic war, and the near-glassing of the world. She spoke of ancient troves of technologies burned and desecrated before she could reach them. She spoke of relinquishing control to her people, and allowing them to guide the way forward.

And at last, she spoke of the present day, finding out that they were not alone. That humanity had not died out in the void, and that their suffering had been but a fluke. She spoke of the mixture of relief and indignation that rose up amongst her people. She spoke of those they had encountered, and lastly…

“And that brings me to you.” She said, smiling, “And my meeting with you and your fascinating peoples.”

Tahn was enraptured by the tale, and had even scrawled some of the more memorable quotes onto her coat - even the well-appointed flag quarters of the Tavrê did not have paper just lying around. Pe’lin had found herself taken by the stories as well, and she had to sheepishly kick the debris she had absent-mindedly picked from her wings beneath the table.

“I always wondered what it would have been like if we had arrived to find a flourishing civilization instead of rubble.” Said Tahn, “... Maybe it’s best that we did not.”

“Thank the gods that we gave you a chance to say hello.” Said Pe’lin, “Your war was fought with weapons well beyond our capabilities, Tiamat, but it doesn’t take much to puncture the ‘pressurized tin cans’, as the humans say, that we call home. I doubt we could have survived such hostility.”
“And whoever did would have had to face them.”

“Indeed. I had never put much thought into just how lucky our peoples were to have met the way we did. I am sorry, Tiamat, for the horrors of your war - and the loss of another civilization, foolish as they may have been.”

“You’re a good omen, Tiamat.” Said Tahn, “After all you and your people have been through, you have conquered the horrors of your past - even the horrors of the world you left. Maybe all the madness of the old world really is behind us now, eh?”

But Tiamat did not respond.

Tiamat stared into an ocean of chaos and madness. She stared in mute, stunned horror as a emergent broadcast broke through the Gateway, garbled signals and interference distorting the images and the outcry that sent her world spinning madly into a yawning, abyssal chasm. She watched her world burn, as mushroom clouds rose over the skyline of Neriven. Defense batteries opened fire and the sky above her home bloomed in a million shades of incandescent, radioactive death. She saw burned, mangled bodies and black human shadows of death. Casualty estimates flooded her mind. Millions. Tens of millions, even. A city of nearly a billion souls, under siege.

Images of the old world were seared into her mind. Museums of death and horror, the atrocity her people had gone through even back then - now revisited upon them once more.

Warships, an entire invading fleet, cascaded through the Gateway, overwhelming its weakened defenses in a decisive first strike. The Ishtari fleet, much of it parked in drydock in preparation for an offensive of their own planned for but a month from now, was destroyed without firing a shot or managed to escape further into the system to shipyards out of immediate threat range.

War had come, and her people were dying.

“I…” She croaked, hoarsely, tears welling in her eyes and a look of horror upon her features as she stared into the void beyond. “No, it can’t be happening. We prepared. We…”

“A-Are you alright?” Said Tahn, placing a hand on Tiamat’s shoulder. “Tiamat?”

Tiamat turned to her, her eyes wide in terror. “I am a terrible omen, Tahn. No sooner did I leave my home than death came to us. Even now, even after all these years…” She trailed off, tears glistening in her eyes. “The madness of the old world followed us, as it always has. I-” she drew a deep breath, “I must leave. My people are under attack. They have bombarded our cities with nuclear missiles, burned much of our fleet in orbit. Millions of my people are dead already. I mus- I must go.” She declared, choking back a sob. “Defend your Gateway, for I fear they mean to kill anyone nonhuman, and they’ve started with us.”

“What? Who?” Exclaimed Pe’lin, “And why? You humans are scattered across the stars and your homeworld is long gone by now! What sort of madmen would start a war - a genocide even - and risk extinction?!”

“Another human nation. People of an ilk I would have hoped had died out long ago.” Tiamat said wearily, “Human supremacists. We were preparing to attack them first, to not give them the chance. And now I know we underestimated them - or overestimated ourselves.” She stood, “I must leave. Guard your Gateway. My ancestors may have brought ruin to humanity before, but I will not stand by and allow ruination again while I can help it. Take care, Captain Tahn and Admiral Pe’lin, if I never see you again please know that it has been an honor.”

“Trust me, ma’am, you will see us again.” Said Tahn, “Transmit your gate’s code as you leave, at the very least I am certain many Captains would be quite happy to offer their service as mercenaries. And frankly there’s always a glut of Lushan-Class cruisers for sale among the Human tribes.”

“I concur.” Said Pe’lin, “These supremacists represent a grave threat to the Confederacy, for obvious reasons. We will be bringing this matter to Bilnd-Sûmangişt Tadokoro and the Peshnia. If they see your people as a target despite sharing genes, then I shudder to think what they would do to what we have built together.”

“I will also petition the Admiral of my tribe to support you in this war. Even he ought to see the danger that this enemy represents.”

Tiamat smiled thinly, “I am glad to have met such people as you two. If such comes to pass, then after this calamity has been resolved may our peoples stand strong together in the galaxy. The greatest of hearts, it seems, may be forged from the hottest flame. Farewell for now, Tahn, Pe’lin.”

There'll be art of her eventually I swear I'm working on it

Sup motherfuckers let's do this thang

Ketalis, Overseas Nekatalan

An Ikagai ship escorted by a destroyer of a somewhat dated design lurches into view of Nekatalan controlled territory. Ryuji watches as the coastal dock approaches with every second that passes.

“So we are about to meet the foxes cursed by blood. This should be interesting.” the seven foot oni dressed in a traditional yukata. His swords are worn on one side to signify that he is indeed a warrior.

The city of Ketalis loomed in the distance. Silhouetted as always by a column of black smoke from its bustling factories, the city itself was a bright, well constructed and planned, modern city with an intriciate network of trains and streetcars that carried people to and fro. The massive dockyards held dozens of steel-hulled vessels under construction, new steam powered drydocks and technologies wondrous even without the aid of manarite formed the beating heart of the city’s booming economy.

The arriving warship was greeted out in harbor by a welcoming party of the Nekatalani fleet, flags at full mast and bedecked for full ceremonial duties. On sight of the approaching delegation, the receiving warships fired off a three part salute, and the amplified sound of a trumpet blared out across the waters. The vessel was received with magnificent ceremony. A full military parade stood ready, legions of black-trimmed khaki clad troopers marched in lockstep to receive the delegates. As they disembarked, the ceremony grew greater still, new trumpets sounding as Nekatalan celebrated the arrival official delegation of Ikagai.

The delegates were escorted towards the consular compound, a well built square of the city wherein numerous national embassies to Nekatalan were located - though not as many as in the massive home capital of Tekatal itself. Through plushly furnished interiors lit by modern electric lighting they walked, until at last they came to the office of the Governor-Priestess Livuket.

Livuket was an Enneakata, unlike the majority of those they would have seen. She rose to greet the two, a warm smile on her features as she welcomed them in. “I am sure the ceremony must have made it clear but, let me personally welcome you to Nekatalan, and express my sincere joy at your arrival. I hope this will be the start of a prosperous relation between our peoples.”

Ryuji and his two guards bow towards the governess. “Your welcome was warm and well received by my men.” He straightens his posture and brings out a hand fan, “I am sure you are aware through our correspondence, but I am the current governor of the colonial territory, Yayama. There is much we should discuss between our two territories and indeed our two nations. Though I do not mind small talk before business either, such a beautiful day shouldn’t be wasted after all.”

Livuket smiled, but shook her head. “Nonsense - while I agree that a beautiful day ought be enjoyed, I think it is better enjoyed when official business and matters of import have been dealt with. You are free to enjoy the city at your leisure - but I think it best we discuss these crucial matters now, rather than later. War looms, and it would not do to dally.”

Ryuji brings out a fan and hides his face in a most regal manner, “Much agreed. War does loom on the horizon and my Emperor is keen to bring our potential enemies to heel. I believe it is in both our best interests to see to it that we never meet on opposite sides.”

“I, too, pray that our peoples never raise arms against each other so long as the sun smiles upon us.” Livuket said, nodding agreement, “Though we have many enemies, we are glad to count the fine people of Ikagai as potential friends, please, take a seat, make yourselves comfortable. I can have refreshments brought, if you wish?”

“A warm cup of tea would be nice…” he says as he takes a seat and motions for his guards to take a step back. “Well straight to business, my people would like to negotiate a non-aggression treaty and a military alliance for things regarding these isles. There are too many foreigners on these shores and it would be good to trim the fat as they say.”

Livuket suppressed an audible gasp of surprise. “Th- well, that is a very… forward request of you. We’ll - I mean, we’ll need to weigh this possibility of course, but we are honored that you would make such a proposal of us. Against the enemies that face us on all fronts, we must stand united against those who would defy the will of good and of order.”

She nodded to an aide within the room who bowed his head, disappearing down the hall and reappearing a few minutes later with a kettle of steaming water, several varieties of tea, and numerous sweets and other snacks arrayed upon elegantly simplistic porcelain.

Ryuji closed the fan revealing a confident smile, “We of the Ikagai do not mince words nor do we participate in trickery when it comes to our friendships. Your kind have a reputation of being diseased and cursed. However, to the Ikagai, we know that many of you are more than your condition…” he took a cup of tea with one hand and let the warm wafting vapors fill his nose with its aroma, “I will not patronize your people. We know what you are capable of and in many respects we are envious, but this is precisely why we desire cooperation.”

“Diseased and cursed…” Livuket murmured, standing from her desk and fixing the foreign diplomat with a piercing stare. “Look around you at this city, built in the span of but a decade. Look at it, look at it well. See the steel structures that rise around us, the dockyards, the trains, the bustling industry and the sprawling housing complexes. All of this we have built with our own hands. Perhaps most of us may not live as long as many of you.” She turned from Ryuji, gesturing out to the cityscape that sprawled before them through the office’s window, “But we are not a people defined by our curse. We are a people who have triumphed over it - to say nothing of those like me.” She turned back to him, “I am two hundred and sixty three years old. I have seen horrors the likes of which you can scarcely comprehend. I remember wars fought when your father’s father’s father was nothing but an urge in the loins of his father. I have brought sixteen children into the world and seen twelve of them die in wars or from a curse passed onto us from ancestors long forgotten. The oldest of those who yet live is approaching her end. She asks me if the ritual hurts - what is a mother to tell her daughter when she asks such a thing? I have seen the mangled bodies of other daughters brought back from war, where we slew twice our number in Iakutians and watered the ground in their blood. I have seen all of this, and it is but a small fraction of what we are. You are wise, governor, not to patronize us.”

She sighed. “I do not mean to insult you in this, governor, you have done us no ill will. But I remember when the Iakutians subjugated us and spoke of us as vermin. When they razed cities and plundered the countryside. ‘Feral dogs’ we were called, ‘cursed jackals’, ‘savage hyenas’ - I remember fields of corpses from Iakutian purges. I remember thousands dead from the rampages of those who turned when they could not receive their dignified death. I am not angry at you, governor, but when you speak of us as diseased and cursed, you speak not only of six thousand years of hardship, most of us knowing from birth the year we will die - you speak of the desecration of our home, of propaganda spread of us by foreign conquerors. You speak of the lies that were spread of us when we threw off their yoke.”

She remained silent for a while, save for a single motion to eat one of the candied fruits that lay upon the crystal platter, chewing idly on it and swallowing. “And yet you also acknowledge that we are more than a curse. Not many have done so. For that you have my thanks. When we march to war and the sun drinks her fill of the blood of the faithless of the dual monarchy, it will be my great honor to know the part I have played when our daughters fi- our daughters and our sons fight side by side against them.”

Ryuji takes a sip of his tea and places it on the table, he opens his fan and begins fanning himself. He bows his head acknowledging the passion of Livuket and her people, “We of the Ikagai have made the right choice in friends…” He stops, to take his still sheathed sword and places it infront of him on the table. “... My people up until recently have only known war among ourselves and the foreign devils that sought to subjugate our kind. We knew that your kind faced hardships unimaginable, but all that I knew of those hardships came from baseless rumors. To hear it from you only then solidifies that the Emperor and I have made the right choice in allies.”

He pointed to the sword, “In our culture, the sword of a warrior is akin to one’s soul, one’s being. I apologize if I have offended you or your people. To present the sword sheathed to the other is a sign of respect and trust. Think of this as not just my action, but the Emperor’s for I represent him in the colonies. Let it be known that on this historic day, the Ikagai placed their faith in Nekatala - a foreign power.” He paused, to look straight into Livuket’s eyes, “... This marks the first time Ikagai has ever seen a foreign power as an equal… Perhaps even more than that.”

Livuket smiled. “I am glad to hear that, Ryuji, I am very glad indeed. We are new to this land, and yet we have made our claim upon it. It is with great honor that I extend our hand to you in friendship, and raise a joined fist against those who would stand in our way. You have offered us no offense, for there was no malice in your words. Instead, please accept my apologies for my outburst.” Her fingers trailed along the sword’s scabbard, the cool, lacquered wood smooth against her skin as she stood silent for a moment.

“It is a beautiful sword, for sure. Most of our blades are made for function, these days. There has been precious little time for ornamentation or the sword as an art. It is a weapon of desperate defense. Of blood soaked, hard-scrabbling melees in the desert. Men and women fighting and dying in the sand, the dry grains drinking the life of those who fell. And yet when I look at this sword I don’t see an Iakutian gurgling at the end of it, I don’t see a lizard choking out his last breath in the dirt. I see the work of the smith who created it, I see each brush stroke on the scabbard. I see the appreciation for the beauty in what is terrible. I think we may yet have lessons to learn, or perhaps relearn, from your people.”

“The beauty is in the sheathe, it is peace, tranquility, control…” Ryuji takes another gentle sip of his tea, “... That is why, the act of unsheathing it is as if one is lighting a fire or unleashing an untamed beast. The sword, represents the spirit of our warriors. It is a religious and symbolic part of our culture. We as Ikagai do not pretend to lose sight of what we were, we remember and remind ourselves of our past constantly. We keep the warrior spirit alive.”

He takes up the sword and points the hilt towards her, as if he is asking Livuket to pull the blade out of its scabbard, “That is also why it is a sign of respect to offer it to someone else. It is as if you’re saying that you’re putting yourself in someone else's hands.”

Livuket gingerly took the sword in her hands, feeling its heft and weight and, slowly, gently, sliding it from its sheathe. Holding it with the grasp of one who was well acquainted with swords from a time few others remembered, she felt a surge of forgotten memory fill her for a moment, before exhaling. She admired the blade for a moment, the rippling pattern that ran down its length before the cutting edge where the differential heat treatment had colored the steel. The weapon was a work of art.

Slowly, she slid it back into its sheath, passing it back to Ryuji with a smile. “I’m afraid we have no similar custom, but I thank you sincerely nonetheless. It is a beautiful blade. And an… interesting way to view it. It might take some getting used to, but I can see the value in it.”

“There is no need to worry about that, I understand that in the first place our customs are different. But for both of us, it is good to see with both eyes open. We’ve learned much from each other today…” He slips the sheathed sword back to where it was on his garb, “... The most important is that despite our differing customs, despite what is said behind both our backs, despite our , we are able to work together and respect one another. We are able to see the good things within each other. If we are able to then it is not impossible to foresee that our countries will be able to do the same.”

He finishes his tea before continuing, “I can see that overall this official business that we’ve had is positive. I shall send word to the Emperor upon my return to Yayama.” he then looks to Livuket, “With that, we can move on to more personal matters, that is of course if you’re not too busy. Let us enjoy this day and you can help me learn more about you and your people.”

Livuket raised an eyebrow. “Quick to jump to rest and relaxation, I see. Very well, I suppose the niceties of the treaty can be hashed out later when you are better rested.” She nodded to him, plucking another treat from her tray and popping it into her mouth, “Well, then, what exactly would you like to know about us? There’s certainly plenty of information out there, I’m not sure what you need me for.”

“Hahaha, as I’ve said, a day such as this one shouldn’t be wasted on just business. We of Ikagai do enjoy the little things as well.” Ryuji pondered, putting a hand to his chin, “Perhaps a stroll through the city with less fanfare. I’d like to know more about your people and culture. It is what I’d do for you if you were in my city. Further, I’d like to know more about my counterpart. I’m sure you have many questions for me as well.”

© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet