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”Differing goals by the looks of it. Apparently it’s got to do with disputed borders and that big old treasure trove we dropped on that disputed border. Basically the same mess as back home, but with centaurs and magic.” Vigdis tried to sum it up to Arancini after retrieving her wristpad from Kerchak, ”He showed up with a platoon’s worth of troops in full kit and they’ve been tense at first sight. Though let’s not pretend I wouldn’t have shot Nellara out of fear when she first boarded the ship if my weapon hadn’t been unloaded at the time.” She added, staring in fascination at Kerchak’s display. She’d give her kidney to be able to do something like that. Just the ability to make her hand smaller would help so much with her work whenever some designer didn’t think about how a technician was supposed to reach something.

”The Running sounds like a hoot, but as I’m sure you realize, we have plenty of our own problems to solve here.” To his credit, Silbermine was a lot more patient than Vigdis expected him to be. Either he was a very good politician, or there was more to him than Nellara made it out to be. ”And nope, never heard of your god. Like I just told Kareet, we’ve had over 2000 gods throughout our history alone, couldn’t keep track even if I cared to. How could we possibly know about your deities on top of ours when we didn’t even know this planet existed a week ago?” By all rights she should’ve been walking on eggshells, scared half to death of saying something that rubbed Silbermine the wrong way. But knowing Nellara - who obviously was no fan of Silbermine’s - was standing right over there provided no small amount of reassurance, even if it was perhaps a false sense of security, not to mention the very real possibility of saying something that angered her. ”Which means we’re really far from home, because if a planet in the star’s goldilocks zone with an oxygen-rich atmosphere was close by, astronomically speaking, we would’ve known about it a hundred years ago and there’d be probes all over this place…” She got a bit lost in her own thought process before snapping back. ”And if you’re suggesting that our ship was created by this… I’m not going to insult you and your beliefs by trying to pronounce this sky god’s name, then that would make me and Dr. Ibarra here parts of said god, along with almost 3000 other people who worked to build it. If you don’t believe me, I could show you the ventral beam where the entire Hull and Structure team signed our names.” She shrugged, swallowing a remark about Kareet, Kerchak and Shirik being the first who found the Jotunheim and therefore the ‘worthy ones below’.

”We don’t yet know if this is safe for us to eat. I trust you understand if we don’t join the feast right away and instead wait for our…” How to say this so it would translate? ”One of our scholars to determine that?” Vigdis explained to Silbermine & Co as she accepted the Glen bread before calling the command channel, ”We’ve got a food sample for Dr. Lambert if she’d like to come collect it. Looks like pastry that’s been left sitting out for a week.” Fuck, she should’ve muted the translator for that bit. The to her unknown knight's reaction to Kerchak was pretty much on track as far as her image of nobility was concerned. She’d seen elements of such a mindset on Venus, in the officers and managers who attained their rank and post not through work, but through nepotism or cronyism, and who were usually the ball and chain tied to the ankle of whatever organization they were settled in while considering themselves the best thing to ever happen to it, although it was interesting to hear that Mythandian nobles competed for positions of power directly as opposed to being assigned land and duties by the monarch based on favor like she expected.

When Silbermine asked about the droids, Vigdis turned to Nellara. ”You see, this is why I wanted him at the previous meeting. Now we have to explain it again.” She said before turning back to the Glen nobleman, ”We are looking for sources of food and materials, as well as learning about magic. In exchange, we are offering some of our knowledge. Our cap- commander” She caught herself, using a word that stood a better chance of making it through the language barrier intact, ”would explain the details of what we can and can’t share better. Personally, I would gladly show off some of our more advanced capabilities if they won’t terrify you, but I can assure you neither side will learn much about our ‘golems’ as you call them. From our limited interactions, I can guarantee your finest minds would need decades to be able to understand them and the underlying principles behind their construction and function, nevermind the actual ability to build intricate machi- mechanisms smaller than the thickness of your hairs.” A late medieval society, however magical, building things on microscopic scale they likely couldn’t even imagine simply wasn’t happening in her mind, unless Silbermine just wanted the mechanical hardware to be given life through arcane means, which - although significantly easier - would still require a metallurgical revolution. The scary thing was, between Vigdis, Zhao and Ibarra, they had everything they needed to set that off. Explain atoms and crystal grids, show them the periodic table, build a blast furnace and a Hall–Héroult cell and they’d be off to the races. Even if they had to power the thing with enslaved lightning and/or heat mages, using human behavior as a template, there was no doubt in Vigdis’ mind they would do it without a second thought if they only knew half of what the new alloys could do for them.
”Just have him stream it to my wristpad, I’ll make due without it for a few minutes.” She told the captain, unclipping the device from its mounting. The wireless connection would keep the translation going, except the device would be speaking from Kerchak’s hands instead of wherever she was standing. ”Kerchak. We can’t let you into the ship at the moment, but I have a way of showing you some medical procedures. We have devices we call ‘cameras’ that record what they see and hear just like eyes and ears do, and store it to be viewed later.” She explained as she set up the remote viewing and handed the device to the birdman, ”If you tap the display once, it stops or resumes the recording. By sliding your finger along this blue bar down here, you can move it back and forth if you want to see a part of it again. Just don’t use your claws, try a knuckle.” She demonstrated the basic media player controls to the bird. The touch screen was one of the heavy-duty, graphene-based industrial ones that could handle being hit with a hammer and was designed to work with gloves on, so she wasn’t too worried about Kerchak damaging it or it not registering his fingers. ”Here it is. Looks like… Okay, I admit I have no clue what they’re doing, I’m an engineer, not a doctor.”

Kareet’s offer was frankly better than anything Vigdis hoped they’d get. ”I don’t think anyone will object to that agreement. Just a warning, there are over 5000 years of history, over which we venerated around 2000 gods and more civilizations past and present than I can recall to cover.” She cautioned the Seeker, who would need a lot of paper or invent computers fast. ”I’m just not sure how much of the knowledge we have with us.” Maybe Ixtaro could help her in that department, she though she remembered Ixtaro saying something about medieval history at some point? Or was she misremembering?

There was clear animosity between Nellara and Silbermine. It was radiating off them like heat from a boiler. Vigdis had many flaws, not being one for solving interpersonal conflicts among them, but she considered herself a damn good engineer and knew that when a machine was misbehaving, sometimes it needed one good whack to shock it into compliance. And a proverbial cold shower could do the same to nip a heated situation in the bud, simply create a situation so awkward it breaks the flow of the argument. ”I'm sorry that our life or death emergency that already took the lives of several people is getting in the way of your political disputes.” Vigdis' voice was dripping with sarcasm which she desperately hoped the locals could understand. For now she refrained from referencing their intent to leave though. She didn’t want to be this close to Silbermine when that was revealed. His next words were a shocker though. ”The what is approaching, who brought us together and WHAT are you looking for?” Vigdis’ tone and facial expression must’ve conveyed absolute disbelief at the last part, even through the mask. It was also the only thing stopping her from laughing at the thought of a centaur nobleman talking to her with the stammer of a high school nerd addressed by a girl. ”Champions? I hope that’s the translator failing or that word having a different meaning to you than to us. We’ve already outlined our conditions for sharing knowledge, and you’re welcome to that agreement, but we’re not here to fight, especially not on someone else’s behalf.” She also didn’t say anything about the impression he’s giving not making many people care all that much about his house, if he was a representative of what they were like.
”Buckshot, which cars should we avoid?” Marit wasn’t sure what she was scared of more: Striking too close to the nuke or too close to Dalton. Though she didn’t say anything on account of the hectic situation, she did wonder why, even if controls were locked out they didn’t just decouple the tractor. Though the carriages’ treads were driven, they relied on external control inputs and power supply and the brakes were designed to engage when decoupled to be fail safe, right? Or could these peasants have enough technical understanding to tamper with it? No matter. For now she’d focus her lasers on the tracks of the rear cars, guessing based on no evidence whatsoever that the nuke would be placed around the middle, like putting VIPs into vehicles in the middle of a convoy. Fortunately Archie had settled into the silt by now and nothing except the undulating land the train was crossing messed with her aiming, unbothered by heat, return fire or ammunition expenditure. Marit could only hope Steel Rain’s DIY smoke screen wouldn’t turn against them, but so far it seemed to be doing its job.

“From the southeast came the second attack; Threat of tomorrow unveiled
11:02 a.m. on the 9th of august; Over the valley, like ball lightning.

The bomb detonates and the land turns to waste; Barren for decades to come
The factories burning, the steelworks destroyed; Surrender your war else you'll perish in flames.

Second attack, B-29s turning back.”

By now the train was shedding shattered and half-melted pieces of armor and running gear, leaving a trail of debris and carved earth in its wake like some slug. Marit was reminded of Völuspá, at first read to her by her mother, edited to be more easily digestible by the mind of a five year old, and later the original text minus the six stanzas worth of Dwarf names. The poem speaks of the end of the world beginning with the sea flooding the world as the world serpent Jörmungandr that encircles Midgard releases its tail from its mouth and comes ashore. From a certain point of view, a rising tide could be thought of as a swelling sea and a nuke certainly qualified as a localized apocalypse, but fortunately the Heavenly Sword didn’t have enough money to bring an actual serpent and had to settle for a slightly overgrown earthworm. ’Maybe if you’d embraced the ways of us capitalist swine, you wouldn’t be poor and could actually afford the check your big mouth is writing.’ Marit giggled as the adrenaline rush from the encroaching doom hit. She just hoped the Knights could take more than nine steps after defeating this thing.
”Yes captain, it’s the druid.” Vigdis confirmed to Zey when she mentioned shapeshifting, glad the translator wasn’t líinked to incoming comms. ”He says he wants to talk to him, I’m assuming he means theoretical knowledge, though if Dr. Feng or his staff wouldn’t object, I’m sure he’d love to observe a medical procedure or two.” She looked to Kerchak for confirmation or corrections.

Once that was handled, unless Zey had more to say, Vigdis turned back to Nellara. ”I will happily explain the detailed function and provide the math useful for development once my conditions for discussing such topics I’ve outlined four days ago are met.” Vigdis replied politely when Nellara asked about batteries, ”But in general, a chemical reaction is used to create electric potential difference between two points, called ‘cathode’ and ‘anode’. We induce the oxidation of the anode and reduction of the cathode to cause the flow of electric current. Our most advanced batteries are so called ‘Lithium-Air’ batt-” Vigdis stopped mid-word when she realized the translator said ‘lithium’ in English. ”And either we missed a word, or you haven’t discovered that metal yet. Lithium?“ She tried again in case the translator simply suffered a brief hiccup, ”I knew we would run into this problem, but I didn’t expect it to happen this fast. The metal with an atomic number- I don’t suppose you’re familiar with atoms and their structure, so that’s not going to work either, explaining ‘electrons’ is going to be interesting too and you have no idea about redox reactions.” In hindsight, Vigdis wouldn’t be surprised if the translator translated ‘oxidation’ as ‘corrosion’ either. She’ll have to ask Dr. Lambert if the electron microscope survived the crash and the captain to get permission to run it for a few minutes, getting the locals to understand that everything was made up of tiny particles would be a lot easier if they could show them the particles. ”Explaining this alone will require a few hours of chemistry lessons.” She summed up her ramblings.

”Hello mr. Barberio.” She greeted the machinist when he arrived in a casual tone as if the radio interaction never happened, catching the awkward handshake situation out of the corner of her eye and seizing the opportunity to explain some customs to the locals. ”Humans shake each others’ right hands as a formal greeting or as a symbolic gesture when agreeing to a deal.” She extended her hand to Arancini to demonstrate. It also served as a better explanation than two crudely drawn pictures. ”Now you know.” She added to Nellara.

Then another figure came into view. A figure she wanted present at the meetings since the start, yet a figure she was increasingly wary of. ”Then talk. We’ve heard the castigator’s side. What are you here for?” She wanted to hear it from the horse's mou- goddamnit.

Vigdis had Nellara repeat the experiment four or five times - a single measurement is no measurement - and did some simple math. A ‘standard’ lightning on Earth measured up to 300 MV and 30 kA. What Nellara conjured up was around 25% of that, which would be usable with some effort, but at the same time apparently wasn’t their peak. Assuming a lightning mage could influence the voltage of their discharge, the ‘charger’ so to speak - essentially just a transformer and some support elements - wouldn’t even have to be that sturdy or complex. If they could either go balls to the wall or nothing, that would necessitate a bigger transformer to handle the excess heat. Either way, they’d need more lightning mages if they wanted to get the reactor going within the scope of… a week? At least lightning was already direct - well, pulsating - current, eliminating the need for an inverter. ”Yes! This can work!” She cheered. It was just the start, but she would take any good news they could get. ”If you could go a bit higher and sustain it for a longer time, the labor of lightning mages might be another tradable commodity you have.” She said in the assembled locals’ direction. While she’d technically accomplished her objective, she saw no harm in letting them show what they could do, checking to make sure the fuse protecting the device from damage was in place and retreating to the indicated safe distance.
”Yes, I can understand you.” She fiddled with the mic settings a bit to clear up some minor oddities, ”We’ve come to an agreement on what is safe to share with you and what isn’t, and now that we can talk to each other normally, I figured we all had a lot of questions.
First, I’d like to apologize for my reaction to Gar’Tan’s magic. Since he was escorted by the Inquisitors, I assume mind magic is as worrying to you as it is to us, but still, I could have been calmer about it.
Second, as a result I haven’t properly introduced myself yet. My name is Vigdis Jonsdottir, although I just go by ‘Vigdis’. I’m one of the builders of the Jotunheim, so I can answer questions about engineering and some sciences in addition to common knowledge about our history and cultures.”

”I can ask, but they might be busy.” She told Kechak and keyed up her radio, leaving the translator running. ”Jotunheim, Vigdis. Kerchak wants to learn about anatomy. Refresh my memory, was that on the allowed list?” Truth be told she hadn’t been paying attention when that was discussed, that wasn’t her field. She’d been too busy trying to figure out how long they could run on the batteries salvaged from the shuttle if they could find it. ”If so, should I arrange a meeting here or tell him to go over when one of the medical staff is free, over?”

She was about to continue her conversation with the locals when she was interrupted by an incoming radio call she wasn’t expecting. Why was the machinist messing with power control? This was a particularly sore point for her, as technical personnel doing things on their own or things they weren’t supposed to be doing was the cause of all three of her lasting injuries from military service, resulting in her tone being more hostile than the situation warranted. ”Fuck are you doing messing with the reactors? Backups don’t have enough power for relight even at full capacity, nevermind after a week, and they can’t release power quickly enough to do it even if they did, that’s why there’s a separate battery for it, which I used up restarting Number 2 after it died during the jump.” It’s almost as if they would’ve done it already if it was that easy. Frankly, having two reactors was seen as enough of a safety net by interplanetary standards. A double reactor failure was simply deemed too unlikely under normal circumstances. Of course these were everything but normal circumstances, but no ship Vigdis ever worked with, even military ones, was designed to restart by itself after something like this, that’s when salvage crews were called. ”Stop poking around critical systems unsupervised before the Chief bites your head off.”

She waited a moment for the agitated facial tic to subside before returning to the interspecies conversation. ”Apologies, technical difficulties.” If nothing else it was a good way to start her little experiment. She started driving the grounding stake into the ground, speaking in between hammer strikes. ”We have a… Small problem with… Some of our machines - bastard!” She cursed as the stake hit a buried rock and refused to budge further, requiring her to start over half a meter away.. ”Nellara, you’ve… Demonstrated the ability to… Create lightning. I’d like to ask… you to hit this… stake as hard as you can. Don’t worry about damaging it, it’s a solid chunk of high grade steel.” Finally, it was in. Attaching the reactor-grade multimeter to the stake with a reinforced cable, she carried the machine some fifteen meters away, beckoning the locals to follow. ”A lot of our technology is driven by the same natural phenomenon that is responsible for lightning. We call it ‘electricity’. Electric current flows between two places of different electric potential. A naturally occurring lightning bolt is such a flow between the storm cloud and the ground. This device will let me measure the electric potential - or voltage, as it’s commonly called - of the lightning you create, and because I know the electric resistance of this grounding stake, I will be able to calculate the strength of the current generated, which will tell me if you can help us with your abilities and how long we’d need to charge a device we call ‘a battery’, which stores electric energy to be used later.” It wasn’t a sophisticated experiment, but it would be a launching pad. Or it’d crush their hopes.
Two weeks ago

”The feelers ‘bout ExoGeni you asked for came back.” Although Venari Quilin was light years away, she could still hear the cigar between the other turian’s mandibles and almost smell the reek, ”Word in the community ‘round here is that EG had somethin’ stolen from ‘em. Opinions are split whether it was product from one of their mines or maybe intellectual property like a patent or somethin’. Keep in mind that it’s all ‘I know a guy who knows a guy who said…’ although one of those guys who supposedly said so is Medant and he hasn’t led us astray yet. I even asked Lantea if she had her merry band of degenerates raid any mines or research stations, which she denied and it doesn't seem like somethin’ she’d do anyway.” That much was true. The ‘merry band of degenerates’ he was referring to, officially the Supernova Mercenary Company, may have subscribed to the ‘Beat the shit out of the problem with the problem’s own femur.’ school of contract resolution, but raiding big businesses or anything overtly illegal like that wasn’t something Lantea would have her goons do.
”So you don’t have anything?” Marivea was disappointed, but not surprised. People who had nothing to hide rarely hired mercenaries with little information about their upcoming task after all.
”Sorta.” He admitted, ”There’ve been rumors ‘bout them securin’ rights to worlds with alien ruins and keepin’ quiet ‘bout ‘em to keep all the goodies to themselves, but name one corporation that works exploration or colony development that hasn’t been accused of doin’ that. Would explain why they’re not tellin’ you shit though.”
”Hmm… Well, thanks for trying anyway. Keep your head down.”
”No problem, and right back at you. Hey, the Avenger is still in dock for refit, but we’ll be back in it in two or three weeks. You’ll throw your buddy a bone if they’re lookin’ for more bodies for somethin’ long-term, right?”
”Sure will. Take care.” She ended the call.

Present day

Marivea was surprised by getting quarters away from the rest of the squad, and not in a good way. Not the best way to build team bonds. “I’m not going to sleep with the enlisted. What am I, some sort of peasant?” Said some human officer somewhere. Probably. It was all the weirder because the position she was hired to take in this team’s hierarchy was akin to her old army position, an NCO - an enlisted soldier. Alas, she just chalked it up to human weirdness and made peace with having to work around it. It wasn’t the first time she‘d been told to make due while running with a bunch of misfits, though no one could tell her that this wasn’t a particularly colorful bunch.

Her fellow turian was bafflingly mad, plain and simple. Marivea could certainly see why the kid was this far from home. The Hierarchy had its rigid ways and liked to introduce nails that stuck out to a hammer, and boy was this nail not even halfway in. The file ExoGeni had given her did come with an impressive list of qualifications though, so there was some silver lining to this storm cloud.

Speaking of nails sticking out and loose screws, people like Elerlia greatly benefited from boot camp, as did everyone around them. As an asari, unfortunately, she didn’t go through one, at best the military summer camp the asari called basic training that even humans laughed at. Otherwise her… spirited disposition would've been curtailed. Her file was fairly thin, indicating either working in the armpits of the galaxy or doing nothing of note throughout her career.

The first human, Antelmo, was definitely the class clown in his earlier days, although he fortunately lacked the chaotic energy Avicia radiated like a busted eezo core. Someone like that was good to have, if they knew when to stop goofing around and be serious. A fellow Anhur Abolitionist fighter and the one who stopped Bekenstein from becoming another Illium according to his file, his track record reminded her of her own a bit. Him she wasn’t worried about.

And the other human, Laine. She could have been wrong, but she was fairly certain had been giving her and Avicia the side eye every time they entered the room for the whole trip. She hadn’t found a good chance to ask him about it, but him being a Shanxi veteran, she could guess. Whatever his reasons, potentially pissing off her CO by her presence alone did not bode well for this shindig. The version of his file she'd been given was sadly little more than a few bullet points - the sergeant apparently didn't need to know much about the squad leader, another human oddity she assumed - yet somehow managed to be impressive even in that form.

The long trip at least gave her some time to get a feel for who the new teammates were, but the equally important part of learning what they were like under pressure was still a few hours away. And some pressure this would be. Taking care to arrive with time to spare, she didn't expect Laine to be there already, nodding with a polite ”Sir.” as greeting. Punctual, good. She'd known even turian officers who thought the meeting time was for everyone else and it actually started when they showed up five to fifteen minutes later.
”Minus 144 degrees, next to no atmosphere and radioactive oil wells.” Marivea summarized several travel advisories and surveys she had opened on her Omni-tool, leaning against a table in the ops room and sighed, ”Why can’t they ever send us somewhere nice, like Oma Ker, or Arvuna?”
Location: The Gazebo
Timeframe Early Afternoon

Interaction(s): Gazebo Meeting

"Incoming." Carson perked up and grabbed his MacGyver hammer.
"Undead?" Alena readied her crossbow, still watching her direction.
"Alive." Carson breathed a sigh of relief after observing their gait and clothing for a moment and both relaxed again. No zombie was that clean and put together after two weeks outside.
"Hello." Carson greeted the new arrivals, setting his weapon down again and turning to the one he recognized the best. "Harper, was it? From the Greenhouse?"

'From the greenhouse' was about as far as Alena got, struggling in vain to recall what her name tag said, only managing to recall the look the other woman gave her the first time Alena ate at the restaurant and forgot tipping was expected in the United States. The other people were simply not connecting at all. "Nazdar." She greeted them cheerfully with a wave. The organizer left her with… mixed feelings. Usually if people didn’t let someone of his age take part in discussions, they had a very good reason. Not to mention the Gazebo wasn’t a particularly sheltered location, half the street could make out the gathering from their windows. She couldn’t help but bow theatrically when they were thanked for “booking the venue”.
While she didn’t have a “plan” so to speak, she took it as opening the floor to suggestions out of which a plan could be cooked up. ”We could start by figuring out who can do what and what secondary specialization you’d like to pick up.” Alena spoke up when it looked like no one else would, ignoring the mention of a talking stick and trusting people to be able to communicate without holding something, ”So that the person who’s, for example, a good cook also learns a little bit about farming. I’d hate to wake up one day to find the only person here who knows how to grow vegetables fell down the stairs and broke their neck.
As for food, I did intend to go hunting, but some jackass found their driver’s license in a box of frosted flakes, so that’s on hold until The Neighbors calm down a bit.”
A bit insensitive perhaps, she thought, checking for any negative reactions as she remembered too late that she was in the presence of people for whom the death lurking just beyond the street were their actual neighbors, ”I’ve got a backup plan for tonight in motion, but I’ll consider a meal for three to be great success.”

Biting his tongue as the “Shut up, I have the talking stick” meme wormed its way into his mind, Carson waited his turn before leaning forward in his chair to talk. ”We could regroup in only a few houses as opposed to being stretched out throughout the entire length of the street. Your message mentioned a fence, that would be easier and less resource intensive if we only had to fence in three or four houses.” He offered his two cents, ”We’d also only have to maintain a few houses as opposed to the whole street, could cannibalize the vacant ones for materials and furniture, we’d burn less wood to heat them when it gets colder and more people in a house means easier watchkeeping.”
”Not too consolidated though. Cabin fever for one, and let’s not lose all of our food just because one house burned down.” Alena cautioned, otherwise nodding along to his suggestion.
”You said you had some ideas yourself?” Carson turned to Jason, extending the arm that held his hammer into the middle of the group to offer it up as the Talking Stick.
Vigdis was glad to hear that at least the commander shared her views on oversharing with the locals and cataloging and putting the civilians to work. Occupying their minds with something would leave them less time to be worried, Vigdis thought. The irony of the thought, as she’d been doing nothing but burying her head in work so she wouldn’t have to think about the very real possibility of something important being busted beyond repair and thus stranding them forever ever since the crash, lost on her in the moment. What job would Darnell be given? A mop and bucket? She just hoped the civvies wouldn’t see being quartered in the shuttle bay as some form of imprisonment - being moved aside while the ‘social elite’ of the actual crew controlled the entrance to the ship and hoarded the comfortable living space and supplies for themselves. She took the news of training the civvies with actual joy, welcoming the option to leave mundane tasks to them and focus on the big things.

Over the course of the fourth day, Chief Zhao finished checking the main distribution conduits and all of the systems they needed to keep running, fixing some issues found. Until they started turning on new equipment, they had minimized any power losses and could breathe a little easier. There were still kilometers of wiring and circuit boards to check, but most of those were useless in their given situation and could therefore be safely ignored until much later. During the same day, Varen and Vigdis went over the three still-attached engines, both cackling about having ‘an office with a view’ while some poor bastards were digging a moat. Although the cowlings were battered, the engines filled with soil and debris, more than half of the compressor fan blades needing replacement and the port side aft gimbal mechanism mounting was bent out of shape, nothing was deemed beyond repair, though neither of the two felt confident giving any sort of time estimate on how long repairs would take.

On day Crash+5, Vigdis had spent no small amount of time huddled over data sheets and the power control console, at times joined by some of the other engineers when dealing with systems they were more familiar with, trying to figure out how to squeeze the most time out of the backups. After hours of deliberations and a few decisions she needed to run by the other engineers as a sanity check, she made her draconian recommendations to the command crew. Dimming lights and switching them off in empty rooms, no heating, rationing hot water, turning off everything that didn’t directly contribute to day-to-day activities, repairs or restarting reactors, not using the galley’s cookers and organizing people to form logging parties for open-flame cooking… Still, just saving power was only putting off the inevitable. Vigdis did attach a note to her recommendations advising that parts of the ship could be dismantled to build wind or man powered generators, but they’d need a miracle or fucking magic to get enough power to keep up the minimum requirements and start the reactors in their lifetime.

Fucking magic…

They had magic now, or rather some frien- not-enemies who did.

Vigdis spent every free moment of the rest of day Crash+5 and day Crash+6 using the ship’s onboard database to research lightning and running through various calculations that might’ve made a non-mathematically inclined soul nauseous. A few times someone walked in on her rubberducking at Fritjof, who probably knew the answer but chose not to share to amuse himself, but she’d been making steady progress. Still, there was no guarantee that it would work. Measurements were one thing, practical implementation would be a different beast to tackle.

And on the seventh day, they rested. Not quite, but with Wodan’s new technical development, Vigdis and maybe some others clocked out early. Armed with the translation program linked to her headset, a grounding stake, a sledgehammer, some man-portable lab equipment she’d borrowed with the permission of whoever she found in the lab at the time - more of a courtesy rather than actually intending to heed their potential refusal, survival came first - the largest tablet she could find loaded with some materials on harmless subjects like astronomy and grade school physics and chemistry, an EVA dry erase board, a rag, some markers and the weapon present every time she went outside, Vigdis set out toward the camp of the locals she somewhat knew, though hoping Silbermine - or preferably someone less pig headed and scientifically literate from his camp - would also join, intending to leave them free range of questions initially before asking her own. Standing some distance away from the camp in plain view, she radioed Ezra - prick as he could be, he was still made responsible for their security - to let him know what she was doing and briefly lifted up her breathing mask to be able to whistle unimpeded to draw their attention before approaching. Friendly or not, they still had swords and a living flamethrower. Time to play teacher and CIA officer in one.

”Hello again.” She started, the wristpad’s speaker spitting her words out in S’toric. ”I hope this thing works as advertised. On a scale from one to… eight,“ She remembered their math exchange, ”eight being good and one being bad, how well can you understand me?”
This guy. Probably for the best that Vigdis wasn't aware of Mallory’s confusion between nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs, else she'd have joined Ixtaro in the 'XO doesn't know his arse from a hole in the ground.' club. Though his thoughts did hold a useful idea in giving Silbermine a piece of radioactive material as tribute, out of spite if the worst came to pass if nothing else. Something with a bit of cesium-137 from a medical radiation source or something, they’d just have to make sure he got buried with it to prevent further contamination. ”Speaking as a bilingual person: No, they can't. Not in a reasonable timeframe. How long did it take you to learn English back when you were a kid and learning a lot faster? Unless you want to have knowledge magically implanted into your mind, if that’s even something they can do, we’ll just have to talk to them until Wodan builds up a dictionary.” She could imagine spending a few days sitting over a drawing board or Ixtaro’s holoprojector with the locals, pointing at images of things and stating their names in English and whatever language the locals were speaking. How this was going so far, Vigdis could see neither Kareet nor Ixtaro would take too much convincing.

‘Not Tyrese, Gar’Tan did nothing to deserve that.’ Vigdis thought privately before remembering her thoughts were not private at that moment. They really needed that direct translation capability. ”Commander, have anyone harmless in mind?” She asked, assuming from her military experience that sorting out the extra crew would be Mallory’s job.

Despite her actual intentions, Vigdis could understand why Nellara thought she was being hostile. ”I’m not trying to be hostile, far from it. I’m just being cautious. I wouldn’t trust any Tom, Dick or Harry after knowing them for a few hours if they were a human either, the fact that you have feathers changes nothing about that.” She tried to explain and ease the Castigator’s concerns. ”And I’m worried for your sake, too. Going by what I’ve seen of you and learned of your systems of government today, you’re where we were about… I’ll call it 800 years ago?“ She looked to Ixtaro for an opinion as the FTL specialist seemed to know her history a lot better than Vigdis. Sure, she couldn’t see them making a combustion engine or a transistor even if they had blueprints and a detailed explanation, but who knew what magical secrets they held that could replace it? ”Suddenly introducing a big change - technological, ideological, whatever - could have unforeseen consequences even if done with the best intentions. Bad enough we already have people claiming we’re divine messengers and massing armies simply because of our presence.”.

The picture of the Ascendancy that Nellara was painting was intriguing. ”As a scholar, as you say, I’d like a second opinion, but if what you say of the Ascendancy is true, then we might have more in common than I thought.” Well, at least it wasn’t a complete lie. The ‘Civilized World’ and those colonies throughout Sol that were derived from it were on paper based in part on merit as well - succeeding on the free market according to your ability, the first few waves of colonists being hand picked according to their skill and suitability and so on. In practice, nepotism, bribery, fraud, politics and other rot of civilisation was rampant, in some places more than others, but Vigdis suspected the Ascendancy in the real world wouldn’t be a paradise as advertised either. Mythandia as described stood on the opposite side of the spectrum. Assuming she was being truthful. And if Silbermine and Mythandia were all they were said to be, Silbermine might even confirm some parts of it if asked - the divine rule bit at least. And as more and more people spoke up, the image of Mythandia she had in her mind morphed further and further into a shithole no sane person would want anything to do with, with the exception of Gar’Tan who, to his credit, seemed to be taking his neutrality seriously. She at least had no problem believing Silbermine could be everything they were painting him to be. God knew Sol had enough people like that peppered throughout its history. ”Silbermine is the space Hitler we know of, Ibarra. Who knows if their equivalent of Stalin or some other nutter isn’t Nellara or Kareet’s superior?”

”If captain Kadıoğlu approves it, we’d be happy to share.” Vigdis replied to Kareet, assuming Ixtaro at least felt the same, ”Although I must warn you that we all have our duties here, so the amount of time available every day isn’t limitless.” Might be a different story while some of them were working outside the ship though, she couldn’t see much harm if Kareet saw the guts of an engine and she could work and answer questions at the same time.

”Close.” She nodded as kerchak asked more questions about engines, surprised he was aware of the concept of pressure. It took humans a bit more time for Pascal to be born and figure it out. ”The engines, which the compressors are a part of, create very fast wind. Now, a physicist named Isaac Newton formulated three statements about motion, one of which - Newton’s Third Law - states that if two bodies exert forces on each other - the acting force and reaction force - these forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. For example, when I push against Eva, I am exerting the acting force on her, and therefore she exerts the reacting force on me, in the opposite direction. And because I am lighter than she is when wearing her armor, I get pushed away even though I am pushing her.” As she spoke, she leaned against Eva’s side and pushed herself off to demonstrate, ”Thank you, teaching assistant.” She said to Eva with a chuckle before turning back to Kerchak, ”The engines are the same. Push air in one direction, the air pushes the ship in the other direction. It’s the same among the stars, except we have to carry our own air because there is none that high.” Well, argon gas, but the periodic table would have to wait.

What Kerchak said next gave her pause. Her mind - used to traveling the heliocentric system - completely forgot Geocentrism had once been a thing. She judged elementary school astronomy to be another harmless subject. ”No. First, planets revolve around their parent stars, not the other way around. Second, the time it takes for a planet to circle its sun is the year. A day is the length of time it takes the planet to make a complete revolution around its axis of rotation. Therefore, Earth rotates faster than Kanth-Aremek” She decided she wasn’t going to confuse them with Solar and Sidereal time just yet.
”We left Earth because there wasn’t enough space for everyone to live and space to grow and raise food for everyone. The planet itself still supports life.” Sure, we fucked it up, but you don’t need to know the details of that either, that topic needs chairs and refreshments for a full explanation. She also glossed over Kolvar’s mentions of creators, leaving that for later and perhaps someone more qualified.
“Any of the civvies. Most of them know nothing about the ship and many probably have a very basic understanding of human physiology. Throw in increased rations for every day they’re translating until Wodan has enough data for a working translation program and we’ll even get volunteers. We don't need an ambassador yet, just a walking dictionary.” At least she assumed Wodan was working on that. As soon as they had a library of words and grammar rules, using headsets and wristpads to translate outgoing and incoming words between two languages wasn’t difficult.
“And it’s not just your FTL knowledge. Teach them basic sanitation, and suddenly one kingdom has far less disease, therefore far fewer dead, therefore a manpower avantage. Teach them to make high strength steel, and they’re unlikely to start building bridges spanning vast lakes. Far more likely the first person they’ll pass it to is an armorsmith. I don’t care if half of them look like something I had for lunch a week ago, I refuse to be the one who hands some space Hitler his wonder weapon, fuck that. Let’s not pretend Silbermine is the only one who showed up here with troops, though at least Nellara and her squad didn’t grow up in a barn and have some manners and common sense.” This was said less to Ixtaro and more to the entire assembled group, speaking with pauses so Gar'Tan would have time to repeat it to his compatriots.

But as soon as Nellara - through Ixtaro’s translation - mentioned Silbermine’s intent on disassembling the Jotunheim, Vigdis flared up. “We didn’t slave over this ship for two years for some dick from a mountain to call finders-keepers and take it apart, bad enough we binned it on its maiden flight.” People often said things like ‘It’s his/her ship.’ when referring to the captain, but any ship was really the baby of its engineering team. Even if Vigdis wasn’t supposed to be part of it, she was now by circumstance, not to mention being one of the builders. Only then did her brain catch up to her mouth, realizing the common Russian phrase referring derisively to a stranger that Venerians adopted along with the language might be misinterpreted as referring to the people who actually came from the mountains, rather than Silbermine. Using the word ‘slave’ wasn’t the smartest thing to do either, they were all volunteers and paid handsomely. Maybe Gar’Tan was still listening to her brain and this would be cleared up. Hopefully. “Though I would very much like to see a gaggle of ponies who’ve never seen an allen wrench in their life try to figure out how to dismantle the Jo without breaking everything they touch.” What kind of tools could they even have? Mallets and hand-forged pliers?

With only a few of them and a lot of the locals, Vigdis turned to Kerchak as soon as his questions were conveyed to her. ”We do use wind, in a way. Except instead of trapping it in sails, we use devices called compressors to compress and accelerate it in a desired direction, which propels the ship in the opposite direction. This is old technology, we've had this type of propulsion for around…
2296 minus 1939 is… ”...357 Earth years. An Earth year is 365 days, which are only a little shorter than days here.” Detailed enough to answer the question, hopefully simple enough to be understood and vague enough not to be useful. It almost felt like she was back home, answering children's questions during Fleet Days, Vigdis thought with a fond smile before answering Kerchak's second question.
”This world, at least around here, is very similar to parts of Earth. But there were too many of us for it to sustain us, and we also wanted to see what lay beyond our home's borders. Other planets we've settled aren't similar at all.
Mercury is an airless, barren world with one side always facing the Sun, scorched by its rays while the other side lays in endless, frigid night. We only live at the terminator line, in areas of perpetual sunrise or sunset, in cities covered in domes that keep air we brought with us in.
Venus is toxic and hot enough on the surface to melt lead, so everyone there lives in floating cities high above the surface where the temperature is survivable.
And Mars is so far away from the Sun and the air is so thin that it's a cold desert covered in rust-brown sand.”

As she spoke of Venus, she unclipped her wristpad from its mounting and turned the screen toward Kerchak and anyone else who was interested, showing the animated desktop background depicting the Venerian city of Mariner and airships coming and going.

Then she had a thought. ”When Silbermine learns we intend to leave, he'll lose his fucking mind, won't he?” She couldn't see a religious fanatic learning that his gift from the gods wants to go back where it came from and taking it well.
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