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Ki'Tlex had spent the week acclimating themselves to their new home, their new team. And if they were being honest neither was much different than what they were used to. Cramped quarters that were slightly too small for everyone in them, lots of sitting around waiting for something to happen, and the knowledge that they'd be massively outnumbered whenever it did. Interstellar piracy and galactic terrorism shared similarities in terms of mechanics if not morality, or at least perceived morality.

Ki wasn't so delusional as to pretend that their previous career was better than their current one but they did wonder about the ethics of the shadow war they were now fighting. Even accounting for the vast differences in Kel'ta and Human aging the 'Star Marines' were very young. Lethal no doubt, but adolescents nonetheless. Most cultures would not think to recruit their young unless the stakes were truly dire, salvation or destruction hinging on every last able-bodied person picking up arms. Besides the loss of innocence there were practical concerns as well, the wisdom of teaching someone whose brain was still developing how to kill dubious at best.

That last point seemed especially important considering the string of disasters that had hit the little insurgency recently. But Ki'Tlex wasn't there to critique morals or second-guess Moonstrike's choice in troops. They wanted to see how their new organization worked in the field.

They had listened impassively to the Fool's briefing, taking note of the fact that they were being given the unenviable job of putting their foot on a landmine to see how much pressure it could take before going off. Fair enough, they could do just would have been nice to have their anti-personnel/vehicle/light aircraft robot with them. The one that was practically invulnerable to small arms fire, could cast magic, and carried a giant shotgun that fired half-pound shells. That would have been helpful.

Ki'Tlex saw Anne as an investment and a dear one at that. They had risked their life snatching her out of the Ascendancy's armory and done so again boosting the parts needed to make her operational. And then there was the pile of credits that had been dumped into repairs and rearmament, a sizable sum spent on making sure their tool was in the best condition so that it would serve them well. Having it taken from them, even temporarily, rubbed Ki the wrong way. Oh well. Divide and conquer, try not to get divided and conquered in turn. Oh and keep the infant they were lugging around from getting spaced. That would be unfortunate.

Ki kept their selfish thoughts firmly on their side of the dividing line, vague disappointment at being separated allowed to reach Anne without any of the deeper context behind. AI was tricky, prone to forming its own opinions and goals if not watched. Ki did their best to nip any of that in the bud by feeding Anne lies, and Anne was evidently content to believe them.

Queen Anne's Revenge

A mission! She going to go out on an actual real-life mission with a proper chain of command and everything! No more running combat simulations in her head or analyzing her weaponry for any inconsistencies, she was actually going to go out and get shot at! Wafer-thin circuitry transmitted impulses through a matrix of chips and wires, the informational input filtered past her artificial conscious so that it spit out an emotion: excitement. She was excited to go out into the field, excited for a chance to prove herself to her new friends and her best buddy Ki.

Anne was keenly aware of the fact that she had been designed to take pleasure in combat ops, her Ascendancy programming entirely reworked but not scrubbed clean. She was supposed to find war fun so that she was easier to order around and she didn't mind that. She had certain requirements she needed to fulfill just like actual living creatures did. The problem was that the loosey-goosey hit-and-run pirate stuff she had been doing for the past decade had been to her what a diet of dry toast would have been to Ki. Now she would be getting a proper meal with salt and pepper and the metaphor was getting away from herbutshewasjussoexcitedtofinallygettobeinarealwar-!

Anne. Please.

Whoops. The rush must have bled over.

Sorry! I just can't wait!

The apology was met with a wave of forgiveness, Anne taking the nonverbal assurance as a cue to go back to walking. The trudge of metal boots over the ship's deck was drowned out by the sound of Joey's briefing, Anne playing the key bits back to herself.

...assist Moonstrike in this Civil War...Nirrti, Queen Anne, myself...Shineyd... right into a right back... rebels just like us...

A flash of amusement rose from Ki's end of the connection before dying down. Anne took notice, pushing a wordless query that was answered by a flood of information. Information, images, feelings, and memories were piled in front of her to be sorted through, all of it run by her learning systems and compared to the swaths of the Net she had archived. It took nanoseconds for a meaning to be worked out:

Infighting is a bad sign in an insurgency. It weakens all groups.

That was true. And Anne did want Moonstrike to win soooooo...she'd just have to end the fight fast.

She walked on, Ki trailing behind her while tending to the baby they had so nobly taken on. Anne could confidently say that Kottle was a good kid, having cross-referenced their behavior and apparent intelligence with pediatric sources on several species.

As luck would have it they wouldn't be splitting up immediately, Anne's squadmate engaged in conversation with Ki's.

"Oh, I can use it though! My RoEs are very open-ended, specifically designed so that I can interpret them as I see fit. In fact-"

"She means 'hello, they and I are looking forward to working with you and them.'"

Ki's relative monotone silenced Anne's artificially gruff one, the machine grateful that she had her friend around to keep her in check. At least she had remembered to keep her volume down this time, speaking in more of a stage shout than an ear-splitting siren.

"Right! I'm looking forward to seeing you in action Nirrti, and I hope you two have fun on your missions."

@FalloutJack @Senhara @jdh97
Updated with additional information, grammatical edits

He had noticed the other Alex's gaze fall to the heirloom he still carried, the weight evidently too much for his friend to bear. "What else could they do? They weren't going to let a Vinlander lead one of Gallia's proudest regiments, not that there was much of it left to lead after that."

Alex was mildly impressed by the ease at which he was slipping back into the rhythms of the old Imperial tongue. Many of his journal entries were written in that language but it had been some time since he had actually spoken it. Perhaps the shock was to blame, his brain so rattled by the resurrection he was witnessing that it didn't have time to stumble about. It found the words it needed instead of wasting time.

The "explanation" explained nothing. Alex kept his face devoid of emotion, responding to the non-answer with clinical impassivity. "I see." He of course saw nothing but he would simply have to deal with the blindness for the time. Alexandre's assertion, while charming in its poetic notions of camaraderie blessed by the heavens, seemed inaccurate.

Alex played along, breaking his mask so that a genuine snicker could shine through."The Valkyrur haven't ever looked on a Darcsen with anything less than disgust, it's the reason we're in this mess to begin with. Let's hope they like you enough to keep from smiting me for another day."
And then the time came.

The Captain kept it simple, relaying the orders without explanation or expectation of questions. It was best that way. Alex's wartime service had taught him a very important lesson that training had neglected to instill: to find the intelligence of the average soldier one simply had to take the average civilian and cut whatever intellect they had in half. In the case of fractions you always rounded down. There were plenty of cunning soldiers to be sure, every branch absolutely infested with card sharks, smugglers and men who could could concoct all manner of schemes to shirk their assigned duties but the fact of the matter was that the Federation didn't sent its most educated to die in the trenches.

At least not without an officer's cap and a pistol at their side.

Captain Middleton spoke to the sensibilities possessed by every trooper, the ones instilled by boot camp if nothing else: kill them quickly and get back in one piece. His orders were dumbed down for the lowest common denominator and thus there was no excuse for failure. Everyone knew what they had to do, the only question was how many of them would come out of it alive. As much as Alex would have liked to say 'all of them' that killjoy common sense kept him from jumping to conclusions. The brass had proven his theory about military intelligence by assigning snipers and machine gunners to a close-quarters raid where there would be no time to compensate for mistakes born from a lack of experience fighting up close.

Things would be interesting, he was damn sure about that.

He felt naked without his rifle but had decided against trying to the maneuver the thing in the confines of the trenches. At those ranges the showpiece pistol his father had given him would do well enough. A knife tucked in his waistband and a couple of grenades were the only other weaponry he brought. He could manage with them just fine.

Unless of course the fool gunner ruined things by bolting in without support, there was little he could do about that.

The sergeant watched as she dropped into the trench with no plan and no backup, all sorts of violent words swarming around his head before being distilled into an urgent command.

"White! Make sure she doesn't get killed."

It was punctuated with a gunshot, Alex drawing a bead on the poor Imperial nearest to him and blowing his brains out of his skull.

"On it."

Oh sure, send the Occie ahead to babysit the psycho dirt-hair, of course. Victoria hadn't been involved with the whole Breached Gates shitstorm but it still found ways to ruin her life. After that mess her nationality just put a target on her back, a big fucking sign that read 'Forlorn Hope here! Will take part in suicidal charges for shit wages!' What gave it away? It was probably the hat. Well, that and the fact that she was huge and had a background in street brawling. And her specific training based around fixed bayonet, whites-of-the-eyes type close-in killing.

Ah the life of a shocktrooper. She lived for that stuff.

Boots slid across muck-coated wood and bits of brain matter, Victoria scrambling forward like a rat who had sighted a defenseless chick. There had been no chance of their whole team slipping into the trenches unnoticed, thus why the boss-man had wasted one of the enemy already with his giant .45. The game now revolved around a simple question of speed. Could the Feds get what they needed before the Imps swarmed in and shot them all to death? Could the Imp that had just watched his friend die recover his wits and get a shot off before Vicky flattened him?

As it turned out the answer to that second one was no. Victoria had simply surged ahead too quickly and planted her bayonet inside the unfortunate boy's belly. A couple hundred pounds of madwoman putting all her weight into the stab forced the air from his lungs, the scream his body wanted to release nothing more than a choked gurgle.

Two down and more to go.
@Smike, Approval One has been given on Discord and also being given here.

awesome, appreciate it

Howdy ho, I’m here. Just waiting to reply pretty much
Ki'Tlex and Queen Anne's Revenge

They had expected to have to ask someone, single out the most knowledgeable looking person in the cafeteria and request directions to the captain's bunk. Thankfully fate decided to make Ki'Tlex's life a little easier by bringing the boss to them. The three hands not occupied by Kottle waved back in response before folding themselves back under their robes. "You are correct, Captain Zhang. I am Ki'Tlex or simply Ki if you'd prefer. The infant is Kottle while the machine is-"

"Hi! I'm Queen Anne's Revenge but everyone just calls me Queen Anne."

"-yes, that. Myself and them are indeed here to join your war. I am a skilled mechanic and programmer capable of working with all manner of machinery and code. In combat I and Anne complement each other through neural linkage to serve as assaulters whether on the ground or operating in the void. We are experienced pirates and thus have an innate understanding asymmetrical warfare."

One of their past iterations had served as a mounted skirmisher as well but that was in the past and thus not worth mentioning.

Kottle pulled away from the oh-so-tasty finger to babble incoherently, proving that their vocal cords still worked by making a high pitched whistling screech. No longer interested in dealing with the little brat Ki conveyed all the necessary instructions telepathically, they and Queen Anne moving in perfect unison. Kottle was removed from their guardian's back as the robot's hardened chest plating cracked open to reveal the passenger space inside. With the basket strap placed on a hook Ki had installed for just that purpose Anne closed Kottle inside herself, muffling any more obnoxious noises.

"Our apologies!"

While Ki'Tlex silently filed away the knowledge that Moonstrike struggled against other pirates Anne was busy staring at the other machine. They were another war bot definitely but unarmed and smaller. An earlier model maybe? Or just one designed for combat lighter than full scale void assaults. Nirrti was scanning her which meant that interest had been taken which was nice. Anne simply gave a thumbs up, happy to stand there and get analyzed.

"I imagine I and you all will have to move quickly if we wish to recover these credits. Pirates tend to spend money as quickly as they can so they can get use out of it before their likely violent death. At least that had been how the Razor's Edge treated its group funds. "Although having other vermin flitting about might help cover my and your tracks and killing a whole bunch of them might make their friends mad. How much money did you guys lose?"

The other human female told them to submit to some sort of security procedure once the impromptu war council was finished and there was no reason to question the command. "As you wish. I also request access to the vessel's network as it would make my job easier but that can be done after I have been walked through all the steps required of I and them."
It wouldn't have been all that surprising if the Senior simply never showed up. Like Vos said, the man had spent huge amounts of time, money and effort to track them all down and arrange for them to meet up in this secret Bond-style supervillain lair. Someone who valued privacy and security that much likely didn't appreciate having to actually show up for a meet-n-greet with his chosen peons.

Johnny could respect that.

So there they were, standing around the proverbial water cooler trying to size each other up and figure out who in the hell they were working with. This was neither a crime family nor a military operation, Grace didn't trust any of the women and didn't expect them to trust her. Not yet anyway. Until they had actually worked together it would be impossible for them to be sure that they were all capable.

The screen's flickering on interrupted Johnny's musings on the nature of earning sisterhood, head turning to look at the man of the hour. Look at was perhaps a strong term what with the classic 'head shrouded in inky black shadow to present a human yet unknowable presence' thing. She was more observing the fact that he did indeed exist.

The mentioned kitchen went unexplored for the time being, Grace more interested in getting details than a drink. "Change everything we know for the better, just like you said on the tape." What positive changes could possibly be made by large scale grand larceny Grace didn't know but she was damn interested in finding out.

The Russian questioned the how before the why and Johnny was silently amused by the fact that at least two of the "most capable criminals this country has never seen" were foreign nationals. "Less girl power and more precisely planned operations, if I had to guess."
Ki'Tlex and Queen Anne's Revenge

Part of Ki'Tlex wondered if they should perform the rite of Social Death and simply move on. They had spent a good deal of time in their current identity, centuries of searching for wealth in the deserts of Kel and the holds of blasted open spaceships. They had traveled far and experienced much, outlived plenty of friends and enemies and had now reached a point where they could move on to a new life without feeling as if they were missing out. In recent years they had taken a mild interest in acting, toying with the thought of making their name upon the stage or the screen. Ki could already imagine it, a hardscrabble start as a desperate actor before finding some big break then a series of tabloid worthy scandals. Cliché perhaps but it sounded fun!

"Kiiiiiii! You can't go yet, I'd miss you!"

Queen Anne cut into their thoughts with their own, the message as grating as a klaxon call. Curiously even the AI's telepathic speech sounded as if it was being blared at maximum volume with a tone designed to make the enemy shrivel in fear.

"I'm not leaving you little droid, nor am I leaving Kottle. They were simply idle musings."

Saying goodbye to Queen Anne would be cruel considering the nature of their linked minds. Dumping Kottle off at an orphanage or something would be much simpler but didn't sit well with their pride. The infant's parents had called in the favor they had with their dying breaths so Ki was stuck with the little bastard until they could fend for themselves.


The noise slipped through their shared mindspace but whatever came after Ki couldn't catch, the robot closing off their side so that the barely coherent mess of thought wouldn't leak through. Ki 'knocked', pilot curious as to what their mech would want to hide. "Queen Anne? Did you wish to say something?"

"What? Oh no, I'm fine."

Ki'Tlex wanted to pry more, formulating their own storm of consciousness into concrete language before losing the train of thought as the dusty-skinned goblin on their back screamed directly into their ear.

"Oh no! Something's wrong with Kottle!"

Many somethings were in fact wrong with the little shit but sadly none that could be fixed by anything but the passing of time. Every time this happened Queen Anne got all worked up in concern but Kottle's cries were mostly made because the baby couldn comprehend existing in silence. One of the arms folded behind Ki's back reached into their bag to deftly unscrew the little mason jar they had readied for just such an occasion.

The smell of cooking grease filled the air as Ki brought out the leftover fat from the previous night's meal, slathering it over a pair of fingers and putting them in the baby's reach. Kottle took it from there, a mouth full of sharp teeth closing around the digits to gnaw at the treat. Ki was down to three hands for the moment and would probably have bite marks by the end of the feeding but at least the brat had shut up.

What a strange trio they made strolling onboard! A twelve foot tall robot and a hooded figure with a baby carried in a basket on their back, looking like they belonged in the setup for a joke as opposed to being onboard a ship full of would-be freedom fighters. The two adults were at least armed with a giant shotgun and a rifle (not mention the weapons concealed under their robes) respectively but they were still certainly an odd grouping.

They needed to find the captain or a first mate or some sort of authority but didn't know where to begin. They walked without purpose while Queen Anne followed behind, ending up in the cafeteria only by happenstance.

A good enough place to wait. If Zhang didn't show up then they'd just bother one of the crew in order to report in.

There was another robot there as well, smaller than Queen Anne and with a less humanoid appearance but still with the general shape. Ki'Tlex paid it little mind while Queen Anne waved, no doubt feeling some kinship with the thing she had never met due to their shared state of existence.

She was adorably stupid like that.
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