Hull 721, plot arc the second

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Vianca » 2012-03-06 07:27pm

Say Remnant, while I think it unlikely that you haven´t thought about it, will there be any weighting about were to go for the FTL part of the test-flight/drive?
Looks to me they might want to start a little stocking up away from prying eyes.
Some place they can hid for a little while so that they can lick any wounds gotten and get a reading on the situation, perhaps?

Possibly something either mobile or something that can be made mobile without to much work.
Wouldn´t do to lose it because it can hit FTL.
A ammo and fuel depot comes to mind, besides food supplies.
Nothing like the present.

Eleventh Century Remnant
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-04-28 12:52pm

Hull 721 arc 2 chapter 24

The bomb position was easily spotted from the air- presumably as they had been established on geometric principles, there was little point trying hard to hide it.

Fortunately, it had been set up in a place where the ground was suitable for their purposes- lumpy, hilly, uneven, thin soil over rock with many outcrops, a high horizon and lots of ready things to hide behind.

'Presumably, you weren't trying to kill the bomb squad; you must have made some kind of provision for them not to get fried- mind telling me what it was?' Aleph-1 rubbed it in.

red-1A1 was about to protest that they weren't completely irresponsible, when he realised how strong the case was that they had been. Better to stick to the facts.

'The obvious FCP is there,' pointing out a fold in the ground suitable for a forward command post, 'so there are cutouts and deflector plates on the inside of the flare to create a dead zone there, and a concussion charge to blast the guys actually working on the thing into it. Should cope well with disposal gear.'

'What precautions have you taken against the fact that, by bomb seven, you will have an experienced and probably highly motivated disposal team doing their best to spoil the surprise?'

'Why didn't I think of that?' Red-1A1 deadpanned.

'Epoxy.' Aleph-1 demanded, held out a hand.

'You're not seriously planning to glue me to a bomb just because of a joke?'

'No, I'm planning to glue you to it because your head is so full of kriff you don't know when to stop joking. Maybe four minutes to set up, that thing certainly is lethal if you're standing in the wrong place when it goes foom. What are the disposal team going to be expecting?'

The demolitions squad leader decided survival might best be served by a judicious dose of truth. Although not too much. 'Multiple teams by this point, well there has to be some kind of sting.'

'So what would you have done to them by now?' Aleph-1 said, impatience starting to show.

'Bomb One's a protection- penetrative encapsulated hallucinogen cocktail; two's an overcharged bubble machine, just to get them to expect even worse. Three releases putrescine and various other horrible things, so it'll probably be a different team which tackles bomb four.

That one's more zappy, it's a fireworks launcher- the best colour coordinated plasmas of course. Bomb five is a molecular acid- it'll dissolve everything except skin, so the team would be left bald and naked.'

'Right.' Aleph-1 said. 'After the sanity- deprived bomb squad, the unendurably smelly bomb squad, and the squad tying not to breathe in the fumes of their dissolving equipment, what next?'

'Ah. Hm. Well, bomb six is actually an antigrav generator- large area, should be enough to include the incident commander, and it carries brown note harmonics.'

'After the fourth disposal squad- and their support party and management team- have finished propelling themselves around the sky with their own crap and puke, it would probably be the fifth bomb squad that would be facing this one, then. I hope you're at least giving them a learning experience for their trouble.' The stormtrooper captain tried to maintain an even strain.

'Oh, yes, we had fun with the anti handling devices. Nested traps within traps, multiple layers of antihandling device, shells upon shells- and none of them actually connected to the trigger. Which is a comintercept unit which detonates the bomb as soon as it hears the phrase "that's the last of them" or similar on police frequencies.'

'There's a lunatic elegance to that. ' Aleph- 1 admitted. 'So we could command detonate it by doing that? Good. Hostages and negociator next to the bomb then.'

That was Aleph-3, Severian's cue, she fitted her dress uniform very well but it gave precious little protection. He was actually more worried than she was. Although she wasn't his in the man-woman sense, she was still his responsibility, and he still worried about her.

'So, here we are back at plan A.' she said. 'I distract her, you shoot her, I get the hostages into the repulsion zone and leave Pasiq behind to be incinerated by the flare, goodbye evidence. Scanner disruptor built into the bomb?'

'Good enough to foil anything the police have.' Red- 1A1 said. Fooling the Corellian Navy was another matter, but detonate that bridge when they came to it.

'I don't feel right about your doing this unarmoured.' Aleph-1 said.

'Nor do I.' Aleph-3 admitted. 'No options any more though, are there? One thing that might help preserve surprise, we must be the least likely assassination team of all time- I'm shooting with my off hand, prop the psychological wreck and the criminal idiot up against me and let's see if we can make this work.'

'She won't do anything simple like just opening fire, you're sure of that?' Red-1A1 asked, about an hour too late.

'This may be melodramatic- and putrescine, fireworks, antigravity and custard bombs aren't?- but she has an objective. She needs us alive to use as levers on the captain; needs to draw him out.' Aleph-3 pointed out. 'You, she expects to be able to cut down or mind control easily, you're irrelevant.'

'Well, thank you very much.'

'Irrelevant means you don't get shot at as much. Except possibly by me.' Aleph-1 told the demolitions squad leader. 'Stations.'

They moved to hide positions, covering the scene- the police ship had made reentry and was moving towards them now. Just beyond normal atmospheric gun range (Pasiq wasn't deviant enough to operate to the limits of the weapon rather than the doctrine), the assault transport's jammers went on full.

Pasiq was painfully aware that she had been outmanoeuvred, and left with little choice but to reach into the belly of the beast and find something to strangle before it bit her arm off.

Worse, the beast knew it too. Simply shooting them up was, apart from it being highly doubtful whether a police transport could get the better of a navy assault boat, not a path to victory- it simply meant that Lennart would kill her.

She needed them alive, needed to negociate whatever ambush they had set. I'm out of practise at this, she thought, spent too long dealing with people who think they're far more dangerous than they really are- criminals and goons and New Order functionaries.

The police shuttle's sensor picture of the area was fogging over, dissolving in random twitches of light; it was easier to guess by prediction where they would be, necessary to land visual flight rules.

None of the minions mattered. As Aleph-3 had known, Pasiq expected to be able to dominate or destroy the crew with the Force. She intended to deal with them later.

She guided the shuttle to a touchdown less than fifty metres away from the bomb.

'When the shooting starts,' Red-1A1 pointed out, 'hit that hard. We don't want it deflecting and scattering the wires of the field grid.'

'If she's betting on our reluctance to set the bomb off, we may be ahead of the game.' Aleph-1 said, then it occurred to him- 'what does the danger space look like for people not in bomb disposal suits- is it non lethal for Aleph-3 and the hostages?'

'It...might be time for a new plan.' Red-1A1 said. 'Nonlethal, well there wouldn't be much permanent damage, but the electromagnetic surge would be like sticking your head in a railgun, and the flash, ah, that could be new eyeball time.'

'You bloody lunatic. How many people were you planning to drown with your custard bomb, as a matter of interest?'

'You're the one who let her go out there. And it releases a hundred and twenty thousand tons of instant custard concentrate. Gooseberry flavour. Now stop telling me I'm an idiot and let me think, there has to be something we can do to make a difference.'

Aleph-one looked at the olive grey uniformed woman, long ponytail loose, standing next to the bomb. Why hadn't she put two and two together, the most vulnerable of all?

Same reason he hadn't. Mission. Personal hazard simply didn't matter- they weren't cloned with much of a sense of self preservation, and she was evidently willing to take the risk.

Severian, Aleph-3, certainly was aware of it, and did indeed consider it a risk worth running- she had always given herself to the service, something she did not choose to change and would not thank her team leader or captain for trying.

She was waiting as Pasiq emerged from the shuttle. Immaculately dressed as ever, powder and paint perfect, Severian wondered where Pasiq's life had gone so horribly wrong.

She looked like somebody who ought to have minions, who ought to be snapping out orders and directives from behind an extremely expensive desk, and instead here she was practically a minion herself, doing a doomed, impossible job.

Wait a moment, that might work.

'Good afternoon, Inquisitor Pasiq.' she began.

'I think I would be safer not listening to you.' Pasiq said, and wondered why she hadn't said that, and listened to herself, months ago. This situation had her danger sense spiking through the stratosphere- she had known it would though.

Her opponent, opposite number, what? Danger signals coming off of her too, a glow that did not offer good prospects. Too many wrinkles in the soul, not the smooth geometry of a light sider- but not the barbs of the dark either. Not exactly strong in the Force- but a long way from weak

'Serving two masters is a strange definition of the term "safe".' Severian pointed out. 'Two tyrannical, cruel masters at that. How long has your nose been free of your Falleen lord? Think of all you've done for him and how he treats you- is that safety? Is that love?'

'What the stang would you know about it?' Pasiq snapped. She had thought about it- very recently it had come into very sharp focus, about to be hanged levels of concentration.

Too often, the conclusion was that the only way out of her situation wasn't out, but on. Too embedded in the situation, too endangered by anything changing;

and in the dark hours, as an agent of the dark side, she had more respect- yes, unto love- for his ability to take and keep that hold over her, fair means or foul hardly mattered.

'Much more than I used to.' Severian answered Pasiq's question, knowing that she had to give something personal away to bait the hook. Trying to judge just how much was enough. Not guessing how bad things were.

'Think about what he gave you, what regard he has for you; who he trusts and who he discusses plans and options with- who is in his mind, who is in his heart? Not you, is it? Who's in charge of that relationship- can't you tell you're being used?'

'You were made in a mould, who are you to pass judgement on me?' the inquisitor said, demanded, snarling.

'A loyal servant and a vastly better recruiting sargeant for the dark side than you ever were.' Severian changed lines of attack, and by head count it was literally true, although the absolute numbers in both cases were very low. 'Did you ever succeed in serving yourself, between your two masters?'

Pasiq was in a dubious frame of mind already, and it did not include being open to criticism. She had not expected Lennart's chosen assassin to try to talk her to death. Perhaps she should have- perhaps she should stop woolgazing and seize the opportunity before her.

She reached out and seized the red- headed trooper by the throat with the force, started to choke the life out of her; Severian locked eyes- and wills- with her, ego against ego, soul against soul.

My will to live is stronger than yours, you flop, you cheap nose- slave; what the kriff have you ever done with your talent but whore it out? Severian dug her heels in and fought back.

That struck home- not so much the words as the open contempt, the disgust she felt for an inferior. It's supposed to be the other way around, Pasiq raged.

Not disrupted badly enough by it to lose her grip, although it wasn't working very well to begin with; the trooper's will was unusually- unnaturally?- strong, not nearly as easy a target as she should have been.

'You have no ground, clone; you're one of millions, identical and bred to obey- die, damn you, you worker drone.'

Severian stubbornly declined to do so; being in the blast of Pasiq's will was not the stormfront of hate the inquisitor wanted it to be; she had been up and down so much, led such a dance, that her control was uneven- stabs and spikes of pressure and fire, deflectable, sidesteppable, endurable.

'Might have worked a year ago,' she said, controlled, obviously burdened and labouring but refusing to admit it, 'before I saw myself in a living mirror and realised how far I had come.'

Everything I have done- ordered or not, will or wit or dumb routine, comes from somewhere, comes from a shifting creature who has to come together- who has come together. I am, and I will be.

'Are we so unevenly matched?' the obviously alive Severian taunted Pasiq. 'To meet in the middle I rose out of the mould- and you squandered everything you had. Minion. Have you broken your chains- where's your freedom?'

The stormtrooper was much the taller, heavier and more physically imposing of the two; Pasiq was beyond intimidation, considering some of the moments of her life, but she was probe to making up for that with life's pleasures, while she still had one to seize them with at any rate. She was out of practise in the arena of blood.

Which makes a fair match with my crispy right tit, Severian thought to herself as Pasiq gave up on the force choke, shoved her back with telekinetic power, drew her sabre- and found one in the hands of the enemy, as Aleph-1 threw it to her, one of their trophies; a green one.

Severian caught it and ignited it left- handed, wishing she had had more practising time with the Chief and trying not to let it show. 'Full circle then- intending to end as you began?'

How dare you- what the kriff do you know about that?' Pasiq snarled, then let the cold realisation flow over her, cooling down her temper- it was easier to wrap herself around that ball of cold fury that had settled around her heart, since her last day as a padawan and her first day in the service of the dark.

'We looked you up.' Severian said, as if it had actually been that easy. 'One of the first chosen for the ranks of the Inquisitorius- and still on the first rung. Few friends, no fealties owed or received. Never a lead, never a high, less than never a grand- and often and often hateful acid whispers in the shadow. When was the last time you grew?'

At this moment, no. Time for blades- drew and ignited her own lightsabre, wondered briefly why the trooper chose to fence with words, launched into the attack.

They were not an even physical match- Pasiq was shorter, less reach, out of condition; just as well, because she was seriously trying to kill Severian. No toying, no more intimidation, in with the blade to the death.

All taunting aside, the inquisitor was an accomplished swordswoman- a classically trained one, anyway. Severian was trying to provoke her out of that, into simple brutal moves unworthy of a fencer, get her angry so her anger could be used against her.

It worked to begin with; a flurry of fast brutal attacks, exactly the sort of thing a lightsabre wielder would use to hack their way through a pack of normals. She didn't count as normal any more.

A full blown Sith or close acolyte thereof would know better than this, would be much more able to turn anger into power and speed without letting it turn good bladeswomanship into frantic scrabbly hacking. She should.

It's odd, Severian thought- knowing she shouldn't as she didn't have the time for it; but I fight differently with a blade in my left hand. Slower, thinkier, more like the classical forms. Much more fluid and subconscious- instinctual in the right- in theory I test as ambidextrous, but apparently only under test conditions.

Pasiq was well aware that she was being literally off- handedly parried; that her first trial sequences of cuts and darts of the blade were met with infuriating economy of effort. That she was losing grip on her temper.

That she was trying to maim and kill someone she should be trying to take hostage- and failing. Nothing about this business made sense, which was a good indication that she was not in charge.

A dipping lunge starting for the face and aiming for the gut caught by the green blade meeting it and rolling it high and to the side out of the way- parry this, you sanctimonious cow, Pasiq thought and lunged telepathically for her opponent's mind.

Good, Severian thought as she felt the wave of hate and anger roll in, got her- not a winning move on her part. Although, the pressure mounting, doesn't mean she can't come close.

The inquisitor barraged the trooper with hostile intent, trying to force her to bow, to bend the knee, yield to the greater power in the Force; brute resistance wouldn't work although deflection might.

Insofar as thought had anything to do with it at all, she thought- not for you, or anything you stand for; used her past, thought, I am a second hand droid saleswoman- make a second hand droid saleswoman bow to you. Pulled that mask away and replaced it with another of her past identities as Pasiq started to burn through.

Pasiq was floundering, scratching at one mask, starting to beak it, immediately presented by another- I learned this trick from Jorian, Severian realised; and that was strength- who she wanted to be, to reforge herself into, would not bow. Would not.

Masks started to merge together, as Pasiq pounded Severian wondered with a spare corner of her head why the inquisitor wasn't making use of the ready-made diversion provided for her- or was that it's own answer?

Plarch was recovering from his stunning and fall, and had no idea what was going on; deLante had a better reason for being dazed and confused. They were the hostages she had come to take, and Pasiq was completely ignoring them.

Which led to the further question; would it actually be a good thing to bring them back? deLante was not at all well in the head- Plarch was just a petulant little shit. The only problem with leaving him behind would be explaining it to Rafaella and to Jorian- no, just Rafaella, he'd understand.

As long as she got no lunatic ideas into her head about trying to help, she would be tempted- no, would try to get involved somehow, and do something incredibly rash. Well, that was what the fighter wing was for.

Pounding force headache, deadlock, pressure applied and misapplied to a shifting surface- Severian broke loose with a slashing attack shaped like three quarters of a butterfly's wing, the sort of thing that weightless blades are for; Pasiq had to stop it, had to divert her attention, had to break off the mental attack.

She retaliated with a slash aimed at shoulder height, that Severian caught, Pasiq stepped out to fulcrum on the point of contact and swing the tip of her blade in;

Severian angled her blade up and in, moving the hilt out and down, twisted aside as Pasiq's red blade flashed close- then pushed outwards, able to put more muscle behind her blade than the reaching position the inquisitor was in gave her leeway to;

leant into it, pivoting on her left- forward- foot, bringing her right up form back into a pointed- toe kick that landed just below Pasiq's ribs. The inquisitor tried to get a blocking hand to it, too late, took the hit and tried to reel back.

Her blade was still trapped and it was a matter of who could recover poise first, if Severian could come to ready fast enough to lance through Pasiq's disorganised defence;

the trooper let the Inquisitor's blade go, intending to follow it in, push it past guard position and strike, pasiq out of position with the blade blocked with a wave of telekinetic power, not enough to tumble Severian away but enough to spoil the approach, make her draw back to guard stance in her turn.

Which sequence took about three heartbeats. The speed of nerves, the speed of zen; far less time than it would take to tell, and only the muscles closely involved enough to even remember, thinking during a fight being basically giving an engraved invitation to death.

Both of them had given away several so far; a properly trained swordswoman- or a gifted amateur swordsman like Chief Mirannon- would have carved either of them to pieces in seconds.

Always the way with duels, and what made them interesting and actually about the people involved; not technical perfection, but the mistakes and deficiencies, the places where ego and motive and all the wrinkles of identity get in the way of the pure craftswomanship of violence.

Probably one of the reasons the jedi were encouraged not to have a personality, and, well, if the cockups are providing the proof thereof then we are obviously both very interesting people, Severian thought.

Not that it's entirely true; a professional doesn't just let it all hang out, but concentrates on what's at stake, hides her weaknesses, uses her strengths, and does what's best to win.

Was Pasiq ever, really, a professional? Once maybe, when she was young and only served one master, perhaps- cold, sarcastic and pragmatic. Before she had been shackled by the pheromones.

I'm certainly making mistakes, but not too many- won't be too many until it's more than she is.

I see her main tactic now; get me to flicker around her, overextend, try to make use of my superior reach and length of stride, overuse them and leave myself open.

the drawback for her there is, it's true. I do have the advantage of reach and leverage, and- it is not the mark of a true professional to crow about being more professional than thou.

Wait, that can't be it, she's tried it too often, got me to spread and made moves towards the middle. Like-

Pasiq's blade dipped end on again, coming in for a lunge to the gut; Severian brought hers, infinitely sharp and glowing green, up from low on the left- intending to corkscrew round Pasiq's and hook it back the way she had came; made the touch-

the inquisitor threw a telekinetic blast of dirt and pebbles at her, aiming for the face, to blind or disorient. Crucially, she paused a beat waiting to see the results, to gloat and then move in for the kill.

Severian felt the focus shift out of the scarlet blade, half- turned, avoided most of the dirt- got hit on the nose by a rock. Daft. Reacted blindly- guessing, slashed inwards and upwards- Pasiq leapt out of the way just in time to retain a normal rib count.

The idea that you can get any kind of advantage by fighting 'dirty'- essentially a fable and a myth. The reason not to bend down and pick up a handful of dust is because it leaves the fighter in a lousy position to defend themselves, crouched over with no stance, ripe for a dropping stroke to the head, shoulders, upper back.

Telekinesis made it easier to do all sorts of evil things like that, and the remedy was to stop thinking, to press, to push Pasiq hard enough that she had no time or focus for anything other than conventional sound blade work.

The sizzle, crackle, vommm of the clashing blades would have attracted attention, if there was any to attract. Only the rest of the team, who Pasiq was also ignoring, despite the fact that Severian could spot out of the corner of her eye, Red-1 had mined the police shuttle for removal when the time came.

They were good enough shots to fire into melee, weren't they? Perhaps not the bomb squad, true. I'm holding her, I might even be winning, but not by much- she's still strong even if she is rotten to the core. A bit of help wouldn't go amiss.

A dirt bomb in reverse might be good, not to try her own trick against her but to muddy up her fine clothes, paint and perfume, see how pampered and image dependent she really is.

What might also be good is Black Prince flying close support. We never really got to nailing down this part of the plan, did that was unprofessional.

Plarch gelVaaru was alive, although far short of being with it; as he groggily tried to make sense of the world again, he focused on the flickering bars of light, red and green.

His brain made a leap of logic to nowhere, on crutches, and he tried to attack, launch a diving tackle on Pasiq- she felt his sense that she was bad and evil and nasty, and while under other circumstances she might have enjoyed playing with him, too busy now.

She brought him up short with a blast of nervous energy, flooding him with invisible fire, he spasmed, twitched, stumbled and thrashed on the ground short of the inquisitor.

Pasiq turned to try that on Severian; acting on instinct, on the only thing she had to hand, the trooper moved her blade into the path of the surge of power, and it was actually the right thing to do- caught and blocked, she was about to try to bounce it back-

when Plarch managed to pull himself together enough to hit Pasiq on the backside with a thrown rock. It was a mighty labour of effort for a feeble, comically pathetic result, pushing himself off the ground, a tremendous windmilling of arms that a four year old could have done better, and the throw resulted in a soft plonk.

Which was a good description of the being himself, really. In his mind that ahd been going to work; he looked horrified that it hadn't. Pasiq glared at him; he looked to Severian.

'You're a Jedi?' he asked, looking at the green blade.

'In the dress uniform of a Warrant Officer of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps? Yes, classic Jedi wear.' Severian had time to say.

'Why in space,' voice dripping with scorn Pasiq demanded to know, 'did you think he was worth saving?'

'On the general principle that most people mostly are.' Severian said, trying not to show how closely she agreed in this specific case. 'You could kill him if you like; I promise I won't fillet you while you're facing the wrong way. Much.'

'You're not Rafaella's mother.' gelVaaru manged to recognise things like height and hair colour, and said.

'That would involve possible death and definite time travel-' red and green clashed again- sweeping across low and short, intended to get the trooper's eyes following the blade, intending to draw the viridian blade out-

not working, Severian was watching Pasiq's muscles; at the split second crimson started to curve up and in, Severian flickered her blade up, caught it and smashed it aside, '-and the last thing I want to do is give Chief Mirannon ideas.'

'Another member of your band of deviants?' Pasiq demanded, knowing the name- it had come up somewhere, she couldn't place it.

'My fencing tutor.' Severian said, deciding that there needed to be an end to this- she couldn't keep chasing the odds until that critical error came up. Starting to move towards- to lever and bluff Pasiq away from- the safe spot.

'You learned your swordsmanship from an engineer?' Pasiq demanded.

'If you want logical analysis, method, economy, efficiency-' Severian said, and put action to the words, a series of short, darting feints and threats that drew the inquisitor far out of position, that she reacted and over- reacted to-

realised that she was far out of position, vulnerable, drew back and stepped back- into the beaten zone of the flare-bomb.

'Why do you feel no danger from this?' Pasiq said, obviously meaning the large black cylinder of the flare, actually the first time she had given any sign of even acknowledging it.

'I know it's terms.' Severian said, a carefully noncommittal reply.

I know its, but what are mine, she thought. Does Pasiq actually know anything, mean anything, that could still matter? Are there untapped contents of her head that could be useful if I disable and take, or am I in the same position that Aldrem was in- officially at any rate? Nothing else possible but rough justice?

What would I need to do to her to make a surrender and confession believable, to stop her turning on us? Who am I kidding? She's a servant of the dark side, getting her to break with her second owner and hew to the first would still leave me needing to zap her.

Which may actually be within the realms of possibility, she's not as good as she used to be- hardest part was deciding my own loyalties didn't lie there any more.

What was the old line- between martial artists of equal technique, it is the spirit which decides the winner? Full circle. She's turned almost full circle, back to as the Jedi were at the start of the troubles, sorely out of practise against another blade

Pasiq was losing- that was the only way to put it, and she knew it perfectly well. This was only the first round, too- it would be necessary to change the rules of the game.

She reached out fore the minds of the squad, found fuzzy, inchoate, half trained willpower- but willpower for all that; the inquisitor had to push at them, claw at them, batter at their resistance- and fend off her opponent at the same time.

That was the part she didn't quite get right. Severian saw her half- turn away for intended to be no more than a split second, trying to make eye contact with the demolitions team;

darted inside the Inquisitor's guard with a swift uncoiling stroke, laying the fleshy inner side of her forearm open severing muscle and tendon.

Rage and pain fuelled Pasiq's telekinetic shove, hurling the trooper back- Severian leant into it, not moving her sabre into it just to be on the safe side, braced against it; let it push her but not tumble her; Pasiq retrieved her sabre the same way, calling it to her hand.

Both off handed now, Pasiq close to tears of anger- she needed a weapon, needed someone to use as a weapon; and the bitch had given her two- boobytrapped somehow?

deLante already had clawmarks in her- one claw now, damn the red headed traitress- but she was a wreck, too badly damaged to be of any use, would have to be steered like a meat puppet- and the chances of being able to do that without being cut again were pathetic.

Throw everything into the wind and victory to the strong may have been the sith way, but...

The other one might do.

Plarch gelVaaru was an easier target- a better class of will to begin with, no buried directives compromising the foundations of his head, but less well tempered and much less well trained.

He was more vulnerable, more bendable to her will. What to do with him? He was no warrior. He was an information- head; what could she do with one of those?

Well, they were standing next to a bomb. 'Subvert that for me.' she demanded. Then wondered why Severian wasn't trying to stop her.

The stormtrooper flickered an eye at deLante, who was dithering, reeling, trying to grasp the situation, struggling through the fog of drugs; yes, I do dislike her, Severian thought, but that's not enough reason to leave her to fry.

She was in the zone anyway.

Pasiq wasn't finished yet; she tried to gain another weapon, reaching out and energising the shuttle pilot to her will. That did draw an active response; they blew him up.

Red guessed what was happening and blew the charges- motile shaped proximity protonic, deigned to blast a narrow cone of energy into a target, and vapourise it without doing too much to the people standing nearby.

Designed for use on blast doors, bunker doors, things like that. Here, it shattered the shuttle into the sky in a luminous beacon of vapour and blasted the people standing nearby with a wash of sandstorm air.

Plarch took it worst, being bowled over and tumbled away, bouncing off rocks, lying quite still for a moment before he tried, animated by another's will, to struggle to his feet, and Aleph-2 hit him with a stun bolt.

Dammit, Severian thought, a perfectly good excuse wasted. We'll have to save him now.

She turned back to target to see Pasiq, half blinded by the sandstorm- if you're going to do dirty tricks like that you may as well do it in style- slashing out where she thought Severian was, instead coming lose to- missing- deLante.

The policewoman managed to find some presence of mind, the need to do something called to her, that was the way back. She also managed to find a fragment of the hull of the shuttle that had landed nearby, and slash it across Pasiq's ankle.

Some measure of revenge for the psychic torture she had been put through; cutting tendons and nerves, missing any of the major blood vessels but enough, enough to make Pasiq stumble and shriek, to make her drop her blade towards the policewoman-

Severian, aware that she could be running to her impalement, that it would only take one fast flicker of the hand, darted in, caught Pasiq's blade as it dropped to the attack, pushed it up and twisted-

Pasiq tried to move back out of contact, but not quite fast enough. The green blade of the living force caught her across both her breasts, not biting deep enough to get to anything vital- not to a lifeform rather than a woman- but those it got.

Both of them burst and slashed open, blood and tissue scattering, some burning up in the blade, Pasiq convulsed in agony- Severian had her blade trapped, just as well.

A damnably vicious thing to do to another woman, and even Severian winced in sympathy- deLante snarled happily. Pasiq was beyond human, lost in hate and misery, more than flesh cut away.

Severian pushed her blade down while she was still uncoordinated, twisted Pasiq's blade out of her hand; Pasiq lashed out in the Force. At the bomb.

Three seconds later, Severian was lying on her back, on foam- a crash mat- with deLante face down beside her, and watching the incredible, sky- filling display, a burning rainbow of incandescent wires of the colours of heat;

Pasiq had been killed far more literally than most, the darkness destroyed by about as much light as it was physically possible to get.

Problem solved? Maybe. Spawning a hundred others.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Vehrec » 2012-04-28 01:19pm

Lightsaber fights. Very dangerous, very deadly, and there's going to be a lot of horrible wounds. They have definate thickness, you can't just remove char and put the thing back together.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby jpdt19 » 2012-04-28 01:56pm


I'm still a mixture of flaberghasted and crying with laughter at the description of the various bombs. The custard one still has the others topped, but......


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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Vianca » 2012-04-28 02:44pm

Mmm, wonder how the report of this would look like and if Trawn would even believe it. :P
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby InsaneTD » 2012-04-28 07:40pm


Ahem. I must say old chap, excellent work and I most look forward to the next chapter.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-04-28 07:54pm

A solid ending for a minor antagonist.

(Pasiq was potentially quite dangerous, but this danger never really materialized, so she comes across as relatively low-key)

Vianca wrote:Mmm, wonder how the report of this would look like and if Trawn would even believe it. :P
Thrawn's schtick is to very carefully assess his opponents and predict how they would respond to an unlikely situation. The idea that Team Lennart would lure Pasiq into a trap, baited with the hostages she would predictably want to take... I don't think that's actually going to be hard for him to believe. Given that objective, everything else makes sense except the demolition crew's prank-bombs. And that wasn't critical to the plan which was merely an opportune way of disposing of the body rather than being a core component of Team Lennart's plan. All that would really have changed if they'd done this at a random spot in the open is that they'd have had to dispose of the body a bit differently.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Andras » 2012-04-29 07:10pm

Glad to see the update and Pasiq get hers. Some devious bombs they set up. Can't wait for 721 to get back into action.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-04-30 08:04pm

Perhaps I should have let her get closer, perhaps I should have let her do more damage- but Pasiq's fatal flaw was her divided loyalties, the fact that she did have one foot outside the system, and that actually limited her options; she had to do something that worked for both sides, satisfied her criminal as well as dark side leadership.

The ship's company could afford to kill her (getting her chasing the hostages was from their point of view an attempt to limit collateral damage, and when you think of main gun fire that is limited by comparison), because while she was paperchasing through the protective maze of queep around the ship, they were reacting, probing her, and found enough leads to get to that fact.

Black Sun are going to be annoyed, but how much combat power they have- debatable. Strings to pull, on the other hand- there may be a chance to try out the new main battery before long, at that.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-05-12 07:50pm

Short update- aftermath, really.

Oh, and you didn't think it was going to be white, did you?

'Did you realise it was going to do that?' Aleph-1 said, looking down from some thousand miles' altitude at the fantastic pumped- auroral display ringing the entire planet, flaming tides of red and blue and yellow and green, sheets and sprays of dancing optic glory.

The metals in the flareweb were adding their own burning lines, frozen lightning streams spanning tenuous continents of light, flaring rivers of the far ends of the rainbow.

They had been able to launch- and glad to get out- after the initial burst of the flare, but what it had done was astonishing them all. The surge of power into the planet's electromagnetic field had disrupted it, letting in the wind from the sun.

'No, but the captain did- he wouldn't have let it happen otherwise.' Severian made the mental connection. 'Look away, think about Coruscant for a second, then look back.'

'Ah.' The stormtrooper captain realised it. 'A garden world mostly dark, this is what it ought to look like?'

'And all the lesser incidents- there's virtually nothing that can be traced back directly to him or Mirannon, but think how many of the stunts and pranks pulled over the last two months could be interpreted as social criticism. Apart from the runaway herd of speeders incident, that was just the wing.'

'Yes. It does look like an ecumenopolis- a world dressed in light.' Aleph- 1 realised.

'Only one thing missing.' Sevrian said, anticipating it, and she was only ten seconds out.

A white emergence flare, looking stark and simple as Black Prince jumped in as close to the planet as she dared push her compensators.

Strange how the ship is always female, Severian thought; adding gloomily that she was always going to be a mistress, never a bride, that strangely white ship- what had they done?- was always going to be the first and primary claim on her man's heart.

She's plural, too, so many things in that floating community- my home, for one of them.

'Blue-17, Red-1, Black Prince Actual.' Jorian, but being the captain at the moment. 'Sitrep and further actions?'

'None.' Aleph-1 stated before she could. 'Target eliminated, the serious casualties are all psychological and can wait.' Severian glared at Aleph-1; did that mean she wasn't a serious casualty- or a psychological one?

'Proceed to geosynchronous RV, lat 228. Severian- how did it go?' That was a more personal question.

'I...I'm still running it back in my head and trying to grasp exactly what happened, and why. Most of all why any of it even worked at all- she fought like a criminal.

She had the authority and the resources to do so very much more than she actually did; and yet she made a very personal fight of it, body to body and soul to soul- and the cracks and fissures in hers...

why didn't she think she could have achieved anything within the system? The entire point of her being here, of her being at all, was to abuse her authority on behalf of the criminal powers- did we do that good a job of limiting her options?'

As soon as she had said that, she realised what she hadn't said- that she had been shot and was carrying the scars of it. That for all the times she had faced down the servants of the light, none of them had mattered as much as this.

'I'd like to think so but you know, I'm not convinced we did. We put obstacles in her path, not solid walls- so between those and whatever turbulence is being caused by the larger matter, we can add and subtract and see the difference.

One thing that we have found sifting what we have, she was simply deeper in and more reflexively a member of the criminal fraternity, much more an agent of Black Sun than an officer of the Inquisitorius.' Lennart suggested, knowing it did not sound as if it matched.

'She reverted to type when it came to the last. I-' Severian paused, trying to encapsulate it, as it sunk in.

'Tell me all about it in person.' Lennart said, guessing that. Wondering whether it would be worth revising the current plan.

'Is Rafaella all right, did she try anything?' Severian asked.

'Of course. With so many bad examples to draw inspiration from, how could she not?' Lennart pointed out. 'Tried to hijack a Hunter, you nearly had fighter support- the wing stopped her before she could figure out the hyperdrive.

A much better instinctive pilot than grobule- gelVaaru- which is at least an option. Is he still in one piece?'

'Physically yes, but I don't see good coming of him; he was nearly minionised, and all I think the correctional facility has been doing for him is making him a better criminal.' Severian said, adding 'I did think about it, but with the bad example I had in front of me, I couldn't not try to save him.'

'Let's hope the experience will have shocked him into being less floppy and more worth saving.' Lennart said, hoping indeed that it was even vaguely true.

'Actually, you get the ringside seat for this bit as well- we're going to need to build up a plasma sheath, so hold high orbit and make sure you record it all.' Comms clicked off.

' "This bit"?' she asked nobody in particular.

The shuttle pilot came back. 'Probably the new paint job.' There had been a suggestion box, and while it had absolutely been the captain's decision that didn't mean he wasn't listening to input.

There had also been a lot of side bets, so the actual coating- flash reflecting, sensor- dampening, meteorite- resistant, all the rest- had been applied by robots from Corellian Engineering, new ones suitable for memory- wipe immediately afterwards, and almost immediately covered in duraplast-film by the second set of robots following five centimetres behind.

A forced orbit at re- entry speed through the energised, flared- out upper atmosphere would burn off the film and complete the heat-and-magnetic-field curing process; diving into the waves of the aurora.

'No insider knowledge?' Aleph-1 asked Severian. Not being nasty or intrusive about it- just that she would know if anyone did. No- one else did, that was for sure. He had kept that- and most of the other refit plans- on datapads not connected to the main network, and quite difficult to acquire by other means.

She didn't. 'All I do know is that the captain showed the image he had come up with to Mirannon, and he said "It's perfectly feasible, if you reckon you can swing the paperwork." He keeps his own counsel when it suits him, too.

So it won't be anything straightforward, certainly won't be standard white- that would make perfect practical sense but it just isn't us. Black might fit, but I hope not- and I don't really see him wanting it. Red would be an interesting bluff for him to try to run, I think he'd consciously reject something for immediate use like that though.

This is about the troubles we've been through, about the ship's community, and it's going to have something to do with that. Perhaps not straight out of the suggestion box, but something like, zebra, tigerstripe, something complicated.' she said.

'Soon find out.'

The film outer masking layer had obviously been salted- the ship, apparently heedless of the fact that they were supposed to be in the gentle step at time phase of a shakedown cruise, was running her repulsors at full power.

Corellian close orbital space was too crowded for them to hit the main engines as hard as they would have needed to for this orbit, and the flare would have washed it all out anyway- the glowing and flickering sheets of light, streaks of brightness melting off the star destroyer were the issue.

Thrawn would be proud of him- or horrified- Severian thought; risking the ship to paint an entire sky. The common elements in the duraplast left their coronas, the more exotic elements sparking tenuous exosphere-to-atmosphere lightning, as the predatory destroyer hatched from her chrysalis of electric fire.

The assault boats were set up in a manner that would horrify the traditionalists of the old Corps; full- wall display screens in each troop bay. Vidgame tournaments had already been arranged.

At the moment, divided into quarters- one showing the scan picture of the whole system, one zoomed out to the entire planet watching the aurora, one subdivided again into subtitled news feeds from the ground- various varieties of hysterics, journalists crapping themselves and people looking up and going 'oooh.'

the fourth quarter was focused on the ship herself, and as the masking burnt off, the monochrome- armoured stormtroopers started laughing and cheering.

Colours. Colours and colours and colours, fractal patterns spiralling back from the bow, surging and merging and splashing away, dancing exuberantly from one end of the spectrum to the other, running through the scales of the rainbow as an overture of defiance against the bland and identical.

Look closely and it was pattern within pattern, the classic X-squared plus X spiral away from the bow of madness from order opening out into voids which filled in with other patterns, linked by threads of colour, a purple piece in one pattern transitioning into a violet line in another, multiplying and splitting in a chromatographic kinship;

domes and curves shedding fans, fans spreading thorns, thorns becoming veils becoming symbols of unborn yet possible universes, patterns described by the theorem of incomprehensibility and it's incomplete variations;

no space standing fallow, unless it was fitting that it be so, that it give space to appreciate the next walls-of-the-vortex whirling dance into idiosyncrasy, the next leap into the dazzling precipices of light that deemed to flow into the ship-

an optical illusion of the coating, but a successful one; the shrouds of light around the world now seemed to flow out of the destroyer, and had metaphorically more than literally done exactly that, the crew, the men and women of that ship had given them being.

'It's incredible...' the shuttle pilot said, and he was right.

'Has anyone ever had to worry about the dots per centimetre of a one and three quarter kilometre long ship's paint job before?' Red- 1 wondered.

'Oh, there must have been some customising idiot- but on this scale? What are we going to do when fleet command tells us to stop it?' Aleph-1 asked the obvious question. 'At least we're not going to be missed in a line- up.'

'I like it.' Severian declared. 'It is, it's exactly him, and it's so obvious now I see it. It's not one extreme or the other, they reduce themselves to absurdity far too readily, the glory and the wonder and the joy of life are to be found rising out of the complexities, the intricacies in between.'

'You talk like a woman in love.' Aleph-1 said.

'And why not?' She answered, and realised that she meant it. 'It's an odd sort of a relationship, I'll grant you, both of us first and foremost married to the job and that not about to change, despite the occasional close call.

That, incidentally, is a statement of intent- the path I wanted to take him down, we probably would have ended up painting the ship black and red. With me, frozen in carbonite, as a quasi- living figurehead...I think I prefer it this way.

Although what he means by it instead- it's a challenge, but one I can understand. Did it never get to you, the disconnect, the widening gulf, the amount of not thinking you had to do to reconcile the difference between the honour of a soldier and the laws of Empire?'

'I never spent as much time pretending to be normal as you did,' the stormtrooper officer said, now seriously worried about her, 'and you're aiming for the wrong target anyway.

You can bitch about a lot of the detail, but the republic was falling apart and needed some kind of reformation, it could actually have been much worse- and isn't it the dark side you're complaining about? Which you were always the most fervent about.'

'I know- I think I was looking for something to believe in.' she admitted, adding 'what did you feel when Pasiq tried to push her way into your head?'

'Heat and pressure, mainly- and a sour taste, a bad tooth, the rotten remains of something that was sound and strong once. I could have shot her but you looked far too into it for that, it was definitely your fight.'

'I wish you bloody had.' she said. 'I could have done with it at a couple of points. She tried harder on me, I think, and one thing I definitely felt was that there was no necessary contradiction in her mind, no hard distinction between being a hand- picked agent of the Imperial will and being a bondswoman- hitwoman for an organised crime syndicate.

She may- must- have been lying to herself, but none of her colleagues in the law- who must have known- tried to stop her or cared to help her.

I know you can't always defend the law by legal means, that the enforcement of order isn't always orderly, that justice has to be based on the brute power necessary to see justice done, but that, her position, her existence wasn't practicality, it was a mockery of both sides.

I didn't so much as kill her, I maimed her and she blew herself up, but I could reach to doing that because she'd already been destroyed form the inside out, by a double life that added up to less than half a life in total.

Talents squandered and promises broken, maybe she was one of the victims of the games of power, capable but nowhere near as capable as she thought she was;

a pawn in a greater game when she would have been more effective, and probably more fulfilled as a human being, as a greater piece in a more bounded field, a queen on a smaller chessboard-

we've just torqued off Black Sun on a monumental scale, haven't we? I doubt Xizor really cared about her, he got her too cheaply for that, but the insult and the damage we can and will do with her files, that CorSec can do- I can see the rest of our working up involving a lot of live exercises.

I hope whatever that coating's made out of is durable.'

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby InsaneTD » 2012-05-14 09:42am

That does sound like and intersting and awesome looking paint work. I'd love to see it.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Vianca » 2012-05-14 03:45pm

Remnant, wasn´t somebody trying to make a 3d-mod on how she would look?
Because if so, you just increased this persons workload into infinity or something close. :P

Yet somehow, it´s fitting.
When do we get Trawn´s side of this?

Heh, will that yard-guy start ranting about Mirrannon not trusting his crew it´s painting skill or so?
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-05-14 04:30pm

I know; it was a joke I couldn't resist, for one thing- it's Fractalsponge; how could I not rise to that? [spoiler=]Something definitely more easily written about than done; let it stay merely in words, for sanity's sake.[/spoiler] I've actually been trying to track down images that suit- there's definitely a bit of inthere, but that has too many voids and similarly coloured spaces, so something like emerging from the too- unchanging, is nice too, if it ran through more of the spectrum- you get the idea.

Just a few of the images I happened to come across and like. Mid you, big ship, high resolution, there's room for a lot of them on there.

Caldor has also just set something of a record, remember; realistically Black Prince should have been scrapped. For artefacts from an assembly line method, it's a lot faster and cheaper to bang together a new one than it is to take apart- carefully, without making anything worse- a badly damaged old ship, recondition the bits and put them- in the wrong order, and very carefully- back together again. It's why the phrase 'constructive total loss' exists. Officially he shouldn't have done that- be doing that to any of the three of them, Fist and Admonisher are similarly marginal for repair but being done anyway.

He has already done most of his ranting about that issue, but I suppose that doesn't mean he doesn't have a little more to spare. Also he tried to paint- bomb Black Prince on her arrival in system, so this could be considered Lennart getting one over on him.

Thrawn is, at the moment, quite busy- there are only a few days to go till Hoth. Find out when I write it.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-05-14 04:36pm

If we buy Thrawn's modus operandi from the books (I don't, I think he just used 'argumentum ad art-criticism' as a blind for other methods of analyzing and understanding his enemies)...

Either this tells him so much about Lennart that he could do a convincing impersonation of the man, or it locks him up for six months until his brain quits segfaulting.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby jpdt19 » 2012-05-14 05:41pm

I'm so glad I checked the thread :)

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby fractalsponge1 » 2012-05-15 09:29am

Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:I know; it was a joke I couldn't resist, for one thing- it's Fractalsponge; how could I not rise to that?

Don't tempt me, I might actually do it :)

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Vianca » 2012-05-15 02:58pm

fractalsponge1 wrote:
Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:I know; it was a joke I couldn't resist, for one thing- it's Fractalsponge; how could I not rise to that?

Don't tempt me, I might actually do it :)

Please, don´t tempt us in tempting you, it´s getting harder to ignore.

It would look so pretty.......
Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:Thrawn is, at the moment, quite busy- there are only a few days to go till Hoth. Find out when I write it.

Unless I can take a look on your notes.....
Well, I think I´ll just have to wait.

Bet the 40K version would feel a bit wronged if they ever came across this version. :wink:
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby InsaneTD » 2012-05-16 08:01am


I say this purely because I , A, want to see the results of someone cracking. :P And B, Really want to see the Black Prince painted like that. :P

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-07-02 02:45pm

Latest part, and starting to show some convergence with the main thread of the movies, if it works out like that-

Hull 721 arc 2 ch 25

The shuttle actually descended to meet the destroyer, making a close pass over the dorsal surface of the ship. 'I think I understand now how he means to get away with it.' Aleph-1 said. 'Count the turrets.'

'Ah, I see what you mean. Layered as well- changing facet by angle. Smew,' their pilot's nickname- all the cool waterfowl were already taken, 'are you getting good ranges on the ship?'

'Only from the nav beacon.' the pilot stated. 'Most spectra are hash, multiple conflicting inputs. Targeting disruptive pattern.'

'That's what's going to get passed up the line to Command, then. How well does it work?'

'It's only an excuse, because it works fairly well- as long as the ship's not moving. Under acceleration they could just range on the ion flare, and that's kind of obvious.'

'I wonder how well that pattern miniaturises? I do need a new breastplate.' Severian said, sounding a little disconnected.

'How are you feeling?' Aleph- 1 asked her. They were rolling aroud the ship now, heading for the underside main, now centreline, bay.

'Oddly detached.' she admitted. 'The fight burnt most of the medication out of my system, I think, the adrenalin's fading now and I know that it ought to hurt like stang, but it all seems to be vaguely over there somewhere. It's not registering on my list of things to be worried about, which is worrying.'

'The moral shock of taking down a dark Jedi is greater than the physical shock of the burns or the magnetic shock of being next to that thing as it detonated.' Aleph-1 decided for her.

'Actually for a moment we thought you would undergo the equivalent of a memory wipe- I shouldn't have let you go and do that, should have sent somebody in armour. Why did you choose to go?'

'...personal reasons that I should have realised were a good way to make mistakes.' she admitted. 'I needed to kill that possibility, kill off the dark side feudatory I could have turned into, and she was the next best thing.

Also because I wanted to be the one responsible, needed that like a climbing vine needs a trellis, needed the definition, the mark of having taken a stand against the dark side, needed to prove to myself that I could be against it- and also because I really wasn't thinking about magnetic shock at all.

if I had been, I probably would have been nervous enough about it to make mistakes that could have got me dismembered.'

She said that calmly, so much so that he said 'I think shock's starting to set in now- I don't know how much of this I really ought to be discussing with you though, some of this seems much more like the skipper's business.

Apart from the risks you chose to take in the line of duty; there I am entitled to tear you a new asshole for being a dangerous idiot.' Wasn't part of the advice for shock victims to keep them talking?

'I do need to talk about it, though, and I know the medical advice as well as you do; yes, I was a dangerous idiot, and most of that he'll know by intuition without me having to tell him.' she said.

They had made their way around the ship and were coming in to land in the old main bay, in the space transport wing section, and it was a damned tight fit. That was one thing that had changed as a result of the refit- much of the room for shiphandling within the bay was gone.

The physical room was also the room for error, and that was a change it was sensible to worry about- the captain used to leave more room for the unexpected than that.

On the other hand the unforeseen had probably just happened. It was time to sweat off the fat, to lean down for hard times and work up to maximum efficiency- the chance was that they would need it soon.

The transport barely fitted in it's docking bay, though. The main pad could be used for damaged ships to come in on, there was still room for that, but only just.

They pulled in, powered down and piled out, and the skipper was waiting on the pad. His determination to be professional about this lasted all of two seconds.

He looked at Severian, said 'You're hurt,' and pulled her to him- which should have been more difficult, she was twenty kilos heavier than he was and all of it bone and muscle, but she stumbled towards him and he caught her.

She was looking very pale now, actually worse than she had been when she was shot. Her eyes looked underwater, that was the best description that came to mind; having to try hard to focus.

'More than that. What did Pasiq say, there at the end- Look at me. Be strong. What did she say- not just with her voice, but with her eyes and hate?'

'She cursed me?' Severian said, trying to push back the dark shadows in her head.

'A mutilated, dying, defeated dark sider spits her last breath at you from the gates of hell, you think she might not be able to back that up with something worse? I don't see how she had time and composure for that, but she did something.

You've won, but you have to survive, and you don't have to do that on your own. Focus. You are who you are, you are becoming who you choose to become, she is too dead to make any sensible difference to that, and you have your comrades about you for you to lean on- you can ride this out.'

She nodded, but it was like waking up and realising she was adrift in a black ocean- that had happened to her before, she knew exactly what it was like; had been doing too good a job of pretending to be something she wasn't, so they had burnt her and set her adrift for it.

They? Could hardly remember who, now, assuming she had ever known; it had been something like a quadruple- cross and she had used it as an excuse to do the job she had been sent to do and get out.

They? Could hardly remember who, now; it had been bloody work, anyway- they probably hadn't deserved what she had done to them. Except maybe on general principles.

A hundred faces, a hundred masks- she thought, actually overestimating; the number of identity traps and stings she had been on, the amount of work she had done for various civil affairs teams, didn't add up to anything like that many; it felt many, though, which was the important part.

Enough to get lost in the details, enough to need to try to separate one face from another, find uncommon features to keep them all straight, and behind how many of them was I not a monster?

How can I reconcile them to one, to me, when they had that much in common- that they were all false? No; reflections, permutations, facets- call them what they were, deceptions.

Which is all true- but they were my deceptions. Mine, kriffit- willpower and determination carried me through this before, it should now, through whatever she managed to launch at me with the fires of a dying soul.

Too dead, was there nothing achieved in, achieved by death? Don't be daft- she wasn't a martyr to me, although I have made martyrs before, in the name of the dark side at that; behind how many of them was I not a monster?

Is this the impact of her curse, if there was any formed and formal curse at all- if it was not something much simpler and more primal than that, the echoes of her death?

She did cut me, although not in the physical sense- masks and masks, she tore through some- several- of them, did she not, and I cut her, she had no time for anything complicated, but she left a wound.

She was also looking up at Jorian Lennart's eyes, and that was a trap of a different kind. 'Lean on me as much as you need to, but youare yourself and your own- I will not lay claim to that as the Dark Side demands, be yourself, strengths and weaknesses, but do not doubt that we are with you.'

Rafaella, Mirannon were both there to support, physically and in the force as required- although what form that support would take, amateurs both of them, hard to say.

Damnit, she thought, I am a human being- ish, anyway- and I can wear masks, lay games, pose and act and dance through legends- in the intelligence sense as well as just maybe the mythical- as I damn' well please, because all of that is human.

With focus, and hands and eyes on hers, it was possible to resist, to hold the intestines of her mind in; until the cuts started to heal. 'I feel-' she said, and she was still looking up at his eyes, and both of them were still paying lip service to the rules on fraternisation, so it was just as well they were interrupted.

'Skipper? Flare priority message, originator Death Squadron, captain's eyes only. There's a lot of domestic traffic too, and CorSec want a word with you about a biocontamination incident at one of their facilities.'

Lennart thought about the map, turned to Red-1. 'That would be a facility just downstream from a hydroelectric plant, wouldn't it? Bomb Eight a coded mag pulse generator that knocks out systems in just the right order to blow the floodgates and cause a deluge on the container- loads of concentrate?'

Red-1 nodded, not thinking it safe to say anything.

Lennart continued 'You just flooded out one of CorSec's three main training bases with, hm, four to one mix, half a million tons of luminous green slime, didn't you?'

'We thought about Kor Vella city centre as the target, but the people there wouldn't be ready to recieve, the collateral'

'Well, you don't deserve commending for that; I don't want to encourage you, Galactic Spirit knows what you'd come up with next.' Lennart shook his head, thinking of the press conference he was going to have to hold now.

'I would remind you that CorSec are not actually the bad guys- to a large extent we are here to shelter behind their authority. That, I think you are going to have to go there and apologise for.' He was very calm about it, which made Red-1 very nervous.

'Do we need to take mops and buckets?'

'Cleaning up the mess you made would be a wise move, yes. Just don't do it kinetically and make it worse. Any of your own pay you need to spend on equipment to get the job done would be well spent.'

'Ah. Should we just get back on the shuttle, then?'

'Not until I find out what this is about. You might be lucky, and only have to contract it out.'

He turned back to the stormtroopers. 'Severian, medical- I'll be down soon. We'll have to return deLante to the hospital- where, incidentally, you blew up a Hutt arms dealer; it was one of his goons who shot you.

What he was doing there and if we can somehow turn it to advantage, well find out as soon as we're finished cracking his files.

Rafaella- you're a better pilot than you have any business being, and a remarkably good thief; it might not be a good idea to get too much practise at the last part. I'll leave Pustule with you for the time being- apparently he has not been a model of reform. You know how I feel, don't make me put it into words.'

'Like you've just tried to teach me to be more responsible by giving me a puppy of my own to house- train.' Rafaella said.

While you're admitting it- yes. You need the lesson and he needs house trained.' Lennart said. 'And when I said not to make me put it into words, what made you think I didn't mean it? You're grounded, both senses of the term. All right, carry on, dismiss.'

He found the lift- sure Mirannon had rearranged the ship's turbolift tubes for fun- hit the pad for the bridge and waved his rank cylinder at it, leant back against the wall and tried to let his feelings settle about what had just happened.

Severian going through that had been hard, paralysingly hard to let her find her own way through and out of- but necessary, absolutely essential to hold back from the temptation to try to save her; because the last thing he wanted, consciously, as to have her as someone who would need to be saved.

Subconsciously, on the other hand...there was a problem there, and one that a lift ride was too short to really start coming to grips with. Rafaella, too- and then it was there.

The bridge hadn't moved; there was provision for a fully holographic command bridge in the bowels of the ship, but the main point of command was on an isolated tower for the same reason humans had their brains in their head- easier to shield from the volatile processes of the main body and a short nerve path to the sensory organs.

The bridge tower was lower and more closely faired into the main hull now, but the main command deck was more or less the same, department control points and the main holographic display table in the middle, active- display 'windows' looking out and forward.

One of the side display holotables was showing the message- gibberish at the moment, of course, random lines and fragments in a dozen different alphabets; might be decryptable given time, but probably not in time to matter with the computing resources they had available.

Of course, he had the decrypt codes. Enter them- not bothering to hide the message from the bridge crew; he would have told them anyway. There was another message, in that they had assumed he would.

"Proceed at once-" the message began. It wasn't bad news, just completely ridiculous and procedurally impossible, not actually impractical or anything.

'How much sniffing around have you done about this?' Lennart asked the bridge crew. 'Called somebody who knows somebody who served with somebody once?'

'A little.' Brenn said. 'We're not the only ones- there are about a dozen other ships being called in from all over the galaxy, all with a reputation. We'll be in good company.'

'Nm, you're right- attached, not incorporated. Death Squadron really wouldn't be good company at all.' the message read, shorn of the gibberish, proceed at once to Anoat sector, operate attached to support formations Death Squadron, supercedes all previous operational instructions, Ozzel.

'Fifty days into an eighty day refit, he's not privy to our precise state of condition reports- nobody is, Mirannon stopped generating them because nobody would believe it.' Brenn pointed out.'Thirty days from readiness, and no-bloody-where near Anoat. I suppose it does authenticate properly?'

'Unfortunately, yes,' Lennart admitted. 'Ozzel's not a great spaceman- has a lot of amphibious time, done more fighting on the ground than in the void; and apparently rather badly. The doubts about his courage under fire should have sunk him, but he managed to do enough sucking up in time.

The main reason he ended up in command of the death-is-inevitable squadron was so Vader would kill him off and save the navy his pension; the reason he was eligible in the first place was he was lucky enough to be in command of a few people who were competent and managed to steal the credit.

He's perfectly capable of doing something this stupid. You haven't receipted it yet? lost in transmission is an option, then...on the other hand this might have some promise, as long as we're not operating directly with, only in proximity.

Vader and Black Sun do not get on, for personal reasons between Vader and Xizor really. We should be very far from being Black Sun's favourite people. Inviting them to have a go at us while we are standing in Vader's shadow might have interesting consequences.

On the larger We undoubtedly know too much, about the ranks of the Dark Side and about Vader- sorry, Anakin Skywalker as was- in particular, so we don't want to get within mind reading range, whatever that might actually be. Close but not too close, which promises to be an interesting problem.

We have to decide how this is to be fitted into the larger issue, too; my gut says that the way to the future I want to see and want to fight for is not to be found through him, he may be the lesser evil than Palpatine- but not by much. How to hide that from him, on the other hand, I haven't worked out yet.' Lennart admitted.

'Do we know what we'll be doing there? The tone verges on the frantic, and at a guess this is all being pulled together at short notice- it's not a permanent transfer, just an attachment. Maybe they've actually found something?' Brenn wondered.

'It fits. They've turned up or at least come on the trail of a major Rebel facility, possibly command central again, and Ozzel, knowing he's under Vader's eye and one mistake away from being chopped meat, screams for help.

Uses his position to try to save his life, calling in units from other commands that, as you say, we can get the job done and he can steal the credit. This sounds as if they'd be doing the glory bit, and we and everyone else who might embarrass the pretty- boys would be holding the ring against Rebel escapees- or rescue forces.' Brenn added, theorising.

'If they play it by the book, and I don't expect a showpiece unit to do anything else, the rebels will be given too much time to bug out- and that's Ozzel a dead man. He's trying to use us to cover himself, and he's got the phasing wrong- it isn't going to work.

There'll be rebel transports scattering to the corners of the galaxy- and if they have any wit and guts at all, strategic reserve cruisers moving in for pickup, and hunting the hunters.

That could get tactically interesting. I'd actually be tempted, if it wasn't for the politics.' Lennart said. 'It is above all the politics that are going to matter, though.

Is it safe to assume Ozzel really is as stupid as he seems- that he knows nothing about the games of the dark side, that he's just going through an org chart and picking ships by reputation? How can he serve with Vader, and know nothing?'

'Not that he does not know, or that he doesn't want to know; he desperately wants not to know.' Brenn suggested. 'He'd do anything to avoid facing the fact that he's working for a monster.'

'No, I don't rate him that highly.' Lennart stated. 'Piett, maybe, but Piett's sharper than he is- and likely to get the job over Ozzel's dead body. He's the one with the undead remains of a conscience, who still has to look away in case he thinks too much; Ozzel's got none at all, which is another reason he got the job.

Having no conscience actually makes it easier to think about this, though- and he'd rather play power games than soldier properly. He could be using us to cover himself in more ways than one- setting us up makes him of use to somebody, who might help keep him alive.'

'Recall everyone still on leave, ask the retirees if any of them want their jobs back?' Brenn asked, and Lennart nodded.

The captain added 'This may, indeed, be it. Thirty days too soon; the ship's still a patchwork quilt. Almost everything functions in and of itself, but very little of it integrates. Shielding's not taking fire interrupts- we've been there before; central fire control's patchy and the EW suite is self- jamming.

Hotel functions and propulsion are about all we can have confidence in- the physical engineering's complete if nothing needs reworking, but there's an enormous amount of software engineering still needed.

Most of that we can do from our own resources, though, and it might actually be quite tactful to slide away.

Let's try the stall first. Signal Executor- not to Ozzel personally, reference this, still in shakedown phase of major refit; propulsion eighty percent confidence, weapon, shield, sensor systems unintegrated, ten percent confidence, urgent imperative request RV with fleet support tender Anoat sector if to proceed.

'Hm. Anoat's the middle of nowhere, isn't it? Bring up the sector directory.'

Brenn had it already cued; brought up the sector map, commercial jump lanes, list of the worlds in the sector scrolling by. They all looked the same at first; something the size of a sector was at first glance a confusing, incoherent mass and mess of overlapping spiderwebs.

The trained eye sought out connections and made details, estimated and weighted the flow of trade and information, picked the living shape of the polity and community out of the map.

Not as bad as he had first thought; few wealthy worlds, but most livable, at least. There, that one- 'That name. Stop the list and bring up the file on- Hoth.'

Brenn did, read it through with the rest of the bridge team. 'There's a lot here for such a nothing world. An iceball with a lot of past and not much present. D'you think-'

'How often have we seen the Alliance try to raise the ghosts of the past to fight against the Empire?' Lennart pointed out, rhetorically. 'The world's named for a pre- Ruusan lord martial of the jedi, a warrior- hero from the years before they lost the plot. He may even have died there. The alliance would have been drawn to that like filings to a magnet.'

'Yavin IV, Dantooine- a dozen minor base worlds- there's a pattern.' Brenn agreed. 'Death Squadron are firing off probe droids like they were going out of inventory, though. My contact was an old classmate- nav coordinator for the escort force covering Death Squadron's logistics train. Thousands, tens of thousands of the bloody things, he says.'

'In your classmate's best interest, actually.' Lennart said, thinking about it. 'Death Squadron aren't as good as they think they are, but they're destroyers at least- the log train's a lot squishier.

If the rebels have finally grown enough wit for doublethink, set up near to one of these worlds of galactic historical importance in position to raid the tender- transports while the main force is disturbing the archaeology, covering against that possibility is worth a few droids.

It's also possible that thinking about the past is one of Lord Vader's least favourite things. Can't be much fun in it for him.'

'Yeah- I don't feel very comfortable speculating about Lord Vader's motives. I'm afraid he might have some.' Wathavrah said. 'I liked him better when I just knew he was a monster, instead of having some idea why.

If we're going anywhere near him I want to be able to have all guns on line and tracking. Just in case. Shandon's still adrift, too- haven't heard from him in too long. He took the job on holiday with him, I don't think he went to do anything relaxing at all.'

'Unlike you,' Lennart pointed out, 'and probably just as well. Ergonite fishing is one thing, but proton torpedo fishing, how you got away with- actually, how did you get away with that?'

'Claimed I was shooting at a Gungan and missed.' Wathavrah said. 'Seriously, I couldn't tell you- there were lots of false identities and flying by night, and I met a couple of bounty hunters who might come in handy. Either I got a hell of a bye or there's a thousand page charge sheet on its' way from various Ag and Fish.'

'Or they suspected you of being an arms dealer and were waiting and watching to accumulate evidence- and speaking of thousand page charge sheets, Pel Aldrem had a custom personal weapon made, the ordnance architecture looked a lot like a late generation beam tube.'

'Personal weapons shouldn't need ordnance architecture- what did the lunatic do?'

'Hot fusing injection up to hundred gram charges.'

'Megatons? The lunatic invented an LTL- range hand gun?' Wathavrah boggled. 'Who took it off him?'

'He handed it in, after getting one chance to use it in anger and realising just maybe he had overdone things a bit. Don't worry; it actualy seems quite controllable at the lower yields, and he only shot people who deserved it.'

'I wish you'd let me throw the book at him properly, skipper.'

'We've done that, and every time it comes back with fresh pages crayoned in.' Lennart pointed out. 'Remember, he has already been fined- and if we have to fight the guns in local control we're going to need all the crack shots we can get. Depth charging endangered kraken doesn't give you much moral high ground, incidentally.

Shandon's away playing with the briefcase brigade again, we may have to send a search party out for him; and and still without an exec, which is at this moment a relief- I'd hate to have to indoctrinate somebody into this mess. I was sure we'd get someone dumped on us.

We keep on going as before, then- Brenn, you're tactical deputy, the deputy chief engineers rotate damage control between them, divisional officers take turns at the job of chief disciplinarian. Unless any of you want the job? Thought not.

If we're recalling people we'll be in system for a while yet, no sense going far from where they can find us. Being directly alongside resolves itself into the question of whether we're hiding behind the Corellian planetary defence net or hiding from it, though.

We'd be as well with a little distance; problem is it's such a crowded system- all the obvious places are full. Let's be elliptical about this;' sketching, in the nav holotank, a long thin circumsolar orbit, a cometary at seventy degrees to the ecliptic plane.

'I'm probably going to have to talk to CorSec now, I presume they have been screaming at us?'

'Ah, yes- put them on?'

'What, they're on hold? Yes, you'd better.'

A side holotable faded in from blank to a high ranking and extremely irate police officer; Lennart looked for little spots of green on his dress uniform. None, unfortunately- at least that could have provided an icebreaker. Better to get the first word in.

'The whirlwind of chaos is starting to subside, and it may make sense to start picking up the pieces now; do you have your grievances queued by order of priority, or would you rather start ranting at random?'

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Andras » 2012-07-02 06:29pm


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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-07-02 08:22pm

That's a nice 'backronym' explanation for the EU's habit of taking the random irrelevant worlds the rebels plunked bases on, and turning them into the loci of major historical events: the rebels picked the places for the history, not the other way round.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby sropike » 2012-07-03 04:36am

Nice chapter, as always.
The fractal painting being targeting spoiling is a very nice touch. When the shots start flying every little bit helps. By the way, why do I get the feeling my favourite engineer has something up his sleeve to, hmmm, let's say, obfuscate the ion flare to further ruin the opposition's day? I've got a few ideas myself how I'd do it...
As to the Vader problem: I really think they are not going to have many problems with him as long as they can keep him out of their heads. He always stuck me as the type interested primarily in _results_. I can just picture the scene when Black Prince shows up. There may be quite a nice WTF moment followed by appreciation (or at least acceptance) for getting results. And why do I get the feeling Ozzel just signed his own death sentence by calling in all the competent ships?
I really admire the way you manage to hit just the right balance of fights and character development, and seriousness and funny as hell.

Thank you for a very fine read, ECR, and I'm looking eagerly forward to the next bit.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Rem 12 » 2012-07-03 07:08am

Great stuff, I love the banter with the senior divisional officers and Guns taking dynamite fishing to new and ridiculous extremes.
The point is, they're on the good side, they're a group of (usually) non-heroes, and they are AWESOME.
So... what do you call them?

(TV tropes on Rangers)

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Vianca » 2012-07-03 01:10pm

As if things couldn't get dirtier, wasn't there a investigation going on?
Not that they wouldn't do it if they think tjt they could get away with it or it gets them out off thight spot.
How many of Black Prince her little squadron would be ready for duty?
Nice to read about the narrowing of the main hangerbay. :wink:
All in all, a good update, keep it up.

On another note, my pc died by a nearby lightning strike and was forced to eat to much electical power, luckely I now own a tablet, though I miss my paint program and link files.
Nothing like the present.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-07-03 05:37pm

Ahhh...your comments energise me.

Remember the part about the five wings of the Alliance? There is going to be some considerable debate about that, and I need to put a bit in the next chapter with a senior Mon Cal officer- interested in a better galaxy, not necessarily the republic as was- taking a politico of the Chandrilian wing- bring back the old order- to task for putting their bases on such obvious places each and every time.

The investigation is multidirectional, an alleged plot against Palpatine- which they now have good evidence of- and said ploy trying to do for them. Wires crossed, and the same person was sent by Black Sun and by the conspiracy- that would be Pasiq. Trying to serve two masters, she failed both and got spread all over the Corellian ionosphere. Next time, not so lucky.

How Vader reacts to this is going to be interesting, and possibly indeed quite problematical.

The 'little squadron' is almost all back in Vineland sector (chosen from the title of a Pynchon book in one of the piles of books on my writing desk, by the way); if you mean Fist and Admonisher, they are both too badly battered to commit- being repaired, to conventional template but Corellian standard, and a long way short of readiness.

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