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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)

SDNW4 Prologue Thread

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loomer
PostPosted: 2010-06-24 02:25pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2005-11-20 08:57am
Posts: 2784
Mari Worldship, Shoal adjacent Roaming Grounds.
1st July, 3399.

Blip.

The tym technician turned to the console, jabbed at it with four hands at once and then let out an extremely high pitched wail of alarm. Another looked up, and then the entire sensor crew did – a dozen of the foot long creatures, peering through their image enhancing goggles at the wailer and the screen for a silent moment. A heartbeat passed before they burst into a flurry of activity, using only their last pair of feet for support as each used all six hands. The worldship exploded into activity – low-pitched klaxons sounding through the corridors, tym uncurling from their sleeping positions directly into the control seats of their defensive guns, others scurrying through the corridors, clinging to the ceiling and the walls with handholds as the giant, twenty foot Mari lumbered through as well.

Airaii raiders – three full pylons full, and a larger signature. The defensive fleet activated moments after the alarm went out on the massive, miles-long vessel, the swarm of light cruisers running through the pre-contact protocols – weapon checks, airlock seals, emergency reactor testing. Normally the Airaii weren't able to get this close – but the Worldship had strayed too close to the edge of the shoals and the raiders were opportunistic.

All of a minute after the alarm sounded, the first pylon burst back into realspace with an orange flash, the remaining two a moment later, and then finally, the Inmacabora, a crude, irregular, assymetrical vessel. And then the situation took a surprising turn as far as the Mari were concerned. The Inmacabora – the deadliest Raider vessel in Outlander space – was visibly damaged, venting fuel and volatiles at a steady, worrying rate. And it was broadcasting.

“This is Inmacabora actual, we require immediate assistance... Isayagain, this is Inmacabora actual, we require immediate assistance, over.”

The response was immediate. “Roger Inmacabora, this is Home. Disarm all weapons and disable your engines. Relay to all fighters immediate. Over.” The Mari Watchmaster was expecting them to do nothing of the sort. The Inmacabora may have been damaged, but the Airaii never asked for help except as a trap.

“Rogerwilco, Home. Out.” And then... They did. And the Mari blinked at the sight of the engines on the pylons cutting out, leaving them drifting forwards at a slow speed with the fighters hanging from them like fat, metallic ticks. The Inmacabora's main guns rumbled back behind their protective shields, which slowly slid into place.

“Inmacabora actual, this is Response-12 actual. Prepare for docking and inspection, out.”
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PeZook
PostPosted: 2010-06-25 10:31am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2002-07-18 06:08pm
Posts: 13237
Location: Poland
Jack Turdner
The Ultimate Wild Space Trader

We all heard of him ; Younglings worship him, customs officials despise him, corporations want him dead. But how often do we get to see Turdner the man? Turdner the flesh-and-blood being, his hopes, dreams and his life philosophy?

Well, worry not! Our intrepid reporters have managed to actually convince the Ultimate Wild Space Trader to give us an interview! Now sit back, and enjoy your insight into the mind of one of the most interesting people in Wild Space!

Quote:
As I enter the opulent restaurant, my worries about recognizing The Trader himself are instantly gone: here he is, surrounded by friends and associates, ordering the most expensive drinks around. He doesn't seem to have a problem recognizing me, either: he waves and orders the waiter to bring in a shot of the finest Solarian scotch.

As I approach, I get warmly greeted by everyone, but Mr. Turdner is not partial to the reason why he invited so many sentients - even Bragulans! - to this little meeting. Fortunately, they quickly excuse themselves and leave, allowing me to proceed with the interview unhindered.

The Trader himself strikes me as a confident fellow, with a firm handshake. Despite a sizeable bounty levied on his head by many megacorps, he doesn't seem to worry much, and his presence in the restaurant is widely known.

Without much delay, I proceed to ask my questions.

Mr. Turdner...allow me to open with an obvious question: many of our regulars wonder where you got that grandoise title?

It was an award given to me by the government of an independent colony. I was the only one with enough guts and firepower to run a pirate blockade and deliver relief supplies. And lots of huge Solarian guns, too - but not just that, I managed to do it while at the same time getting paid by the pirates not to!

The fellows on that colony were really impressed, and so gave me an official title. I kinda like it, too - I even made a little plaque
- [Mr. Turdner then showed me a bronze plaque] - Real bronze. I keep it on my desk at all times.

You often say that you don't deal in weapons, yet you just admitted to doing just that

Well, that business was a long time ago. I've moved out of this marketplace, since there's too many violent people out there who want guns, and most of them already have enough to try and take more without paying.

Yet all your ships are heavily armed

Well, I said I don't deal in weapons, not that I don't use them. That would be just silly.

You operate mostly in Wild Space. Why?

That's a good question...and difficult to answer. You see, it's a combination of factors: trade in 'civilized' regions is so terribly restricted...there's also all sorts of huge megacorporations that will try to mess with you...I, on the other hand, am a free spirit. I don't like to be stifled by organized exchange markets and the like...and besides, every day in Wild Space is a new adventure: you wake up, brush your teeth and go meet all sorts of interesting people. Why, sometimes, they even don't try to kill you!

I see. Many people note your strong political opinions. Care to say two words about the current galactic politics?

Oh, my opinions aren't really all that interesting. Anybody who wants something I can provide is good in my book...just don't get me started on the Sovereignty. Pricks.

Would you like to elaborate on that?

No, not really.

I see...


We interrupt the interview to get our food, ordered wholly by Mr. Turdner. Since I wished for something exotic, I get a dish of some disgusting slop, that seems to still be alive. In one of the more quotable portions of the interview, The Trader scoffs me with the words, "Hey, you wanted something exotic and different! It's a Karlack delicacy, don't be so culturarly insensitive!"

I chose to pass on the food, delicacy or not, and order a salad instead. Soon thereafter, we continue.

Quote:
Have you had any run-ins with hostile alien powers? What do you think about recent Karlack incursions into civilized space?

You know, people keep telling me I should fear the Karlacks, or the Bragulans or whatever. But really, why should I be wary of them? As long as Karlacks don't eat any of my crew - and they usually don't - their money is just as good as anybody's.

Even the Collectors are hardly as dangerous as everybody says. They're just odd, kinda like squirrels.


Squirrels?

Yeah. You see, even when you have some nuts, the squirrel will scurry away without a word the moment it gets its greedy paws on them. Collectors are the same, they'll only deal with you if you have something they want.

You traded with Collectors? But don't they only buy slaves?

Oh, that's not true. I've heard of people running slaves to their stations, yeah...funny thing, though, I usually never hear of those guys again. It's possible they all retire somewhere nice with all the money they make...

You don't sound like you believe it...

Wild Space is full of legends and myths, one has to be careful

Okay...moving on...some say you are a hard man to work with...

Ah, yeah, so I've heard. They say I hate people and prefer robots. Well - I don't. Well, most people. I make a special exception for the Pfhor. And the Orks. And the Imperium. The Sovereignty...okay, you know what, scratch that. I hate a lot of people. But I can overlook it if they pay on time.

A question from one of our readers is: Should something be done about Wild Space?

Oh, absolutely. The place is a total mess. An exciting mess, sure, but a mess nonetheless. Pity nothing can be done, since it's a goddamned Shoal region. I don't have any ideas for it, either, before you ask.

Final question: Do you have something to tell our readers?

Yeah, if you've got guts, are good with a blaster and want some adventure, we offer decent pay, percentage of the profits and a full dental plan!

Uh...right. Thank you for your time, Mr. Turdner

Oh, don't mention it. I had a business apoointment here anyway.


As I collect my paraphenalia and leave, I pass a sentient - and upload, actually - who's obviously Mr. Turdner's appointment. He surely is a busy man - and such an interesting personality! I hope our readers enjoyed this slight insight into his mind.

---------------------------------------------------

"So...", the upload said, watching the back of the reporter, "Is there a good reason I have to sit here and watch you disgusting organics stuff your faces?"

"But of course there is", Turdner replied, taking a swig of the best scotch money can buy, "If you like money. Piles of money."

"Why, with an opening like that, I can even endure your smell for five minutes. What do you have in mind?"
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Zor
PostPosted: 2010-06-25 11:06pm 

Sith Acolyte


Joined: 2004-06-08 03:37am
Posts: 5270
Mareiopolis, Nova Atlantis
July 1st, 3399

The City of Mareiopolis was something of grace and beauty. An assembly of over a thousand archologies standing between one to two kilometers into the sky, each one with its own distinct aesthetic style and most of them were carefully placed to by the master architect John R. Haroldson to fit in as well as possible with those immediately around them. There had been a few changes due to demolition and reconstruction, but these were fairly rare. On top of many of them was a slightly concave roof where a park was set, others having more traditional spires or domes. Each of these accommodated hundreds of thousands of people and often was seen as cities in of themselves. Each one contained shopping centers. Many had their own football teams and were centers of specific subcultures. Between each of these was a network of bridges, going across the spaces between them, over which cars and rail transit moved constantly, beneath which there were gardens, although those of Coral and Seaplants with some traffic from speedboats and countergrav car traffic overhead. For this was a city built in the ocean.

The city was built three hundred kilometers from the nearest mainland. Nova Atlantis was a planet which easily sustained life, but something it was somewhat short on was landmass, over 85 of the planet’s surface was covered in sea with a large number of small continents at most comparable to Australia between it. As such, when real estate on Terra Firma became a premium commodity, the locals pushed onto the sea, building floating cities and surfacescrapers in more shallow areas. Mareiopolis was the greatest of these, housing over 250 million people. This artificial archipelago was not just created as a means of getting the most out of a planet’s surface however, but also to be the capital of a nation. Millions were employed in the civil service in administrative roles,

At the center of this assembly of megastructures was one which towered over all three kilometers into the sky known as the Apex. In its core was where the commonwealth diet and the senate were assembled, as well as serving as the home to numerous embassies, centers of the civil service and other important offices. The only major section of government which did not have its headquarters located at the Apex was the Military, which operated out of an orbital fortification.

As things proceeded, inside a grand art-deco inspired office sat Cybernetics Minister Alice Glaudini. Around her in various glass display cabinets was a series of Cybernetic components, ranging from a few ancient recreations from Nova Terra and Earth, but among them were a few prosthetic bodies, including what was a box on a set of wheels with a set of robotic arms and a few cameras and a couple of bulky humanoids for those who had very permanently lost the rest of their bodies to a few of the earlier products of the Cyberization Program and a few modern units. The most advanced cybernetic system in the room however was Alice’s body. It was about seven years old and of all those bodies she had owned over the past century and a half she liked this one the best. In general this one looked like a Gynoid, done in white and grey with a face capable of the full range of human emotion and a polished crimson form in the shape of a short haircut. For sake of custom she wore a well made business suit over this. She sat at her desk, having met with a few people face to face today and signed a few documents and letters.

As she sat she eventually received a report that she had been looking forward too all day, with the final ratification of the new budget. With this, she grinned. There were several schools of thought in regards to the policy of accelerating human evolution, but the biggest two among the population of the commonwealth were that of quota expansion and infrastructure expansion. The former favored increasing the number of upgrade procedures that would be granted to notable individuals for achievements or awarded by lottery free of cost while the latter favored dedicating resources towards investment in infrastructure, increasing the facilities required for upgrading people which would lower the price of cyberization. Both had their advantages and disadvantages. One slowed down further expansion of the posthuman population, the other led to income inequality. Of the two she leaned towards the Latter, as it made things easier longterm despite the Hiccups although was more tempered than a few of her less reasonable constituents. But in either case, she had what she needed with the new budget, a 25% increase to the Ministry of Cybernetics’ annual budget. Things had gotten a bit dicey and it was seen that having a larger Posthuman Population would be a good move. Her predecessor was more concerned with various grant programs. Now she could afford to re-invigorate the expansion programs, put more cyberneticists on the payroll and open up new facilities and ultimately lower costs a bit without cutting down on too much of the Grant programs to calm down her opposition.

As such, she quietly put out an order for a rather substantial lunch for herself in quiet celebration. It was the first time she ate in a week. Posthumans still needed some nutrition, but for the most part what food that went through their artificial digestive tracts was consumed for the pleasure of it. While the newly converted generally would try to get in three square meals a day, most eventually settled to eating either socially or as an occasional treat, focusing on quality over quantity. As the majority of the higher ups of the Commonwealth were Posthuman the Kitchen staff at the Apex was top notch and what would be delivered to her office in about an hour would definately be worthy of gracing her artifical palete.
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Lonestar
PostPosted: 2010-06-26 12:48am 

Keeper of the Schwartz


Joined: 2003-02-13 04:21pm
Posts: 12625
Location: The third best place to live in the country.
In orbit of Amplitur-Prime
2989


Image

"Dr. Blitzschlag," Grand Admiral Earl said meditatively, "Their system defenses are very strong, and the planetary shields are the most impressive...well, anywhere. I assure you..."

"Grand Admiral Earl, you and Admiral Tarsus have both been deployed a far ways away from home for several years. You are both failing to understand the situation. The economies of both the Grand Dominion and the Shepistani Federation are broken, the war must end, and it must end immediately. You have been authorized to use Nova bombs, have you not?"

"At my discretion, yes." In fact Admiral Tarsus had wanted to crack open Amplitur-Prime as soon as the orbitals had been cleared away. But..."I believe we can yet end this war without crossing the Rubicon. Use of a Nova bomb on a planet with 300 billion souls..."

"Admiral! They are bugs, they do not have souls. Do you know what captured members of their leadership caste have told us?" Blitzschlag nodded to his assistant, a heavily scarred man that positively SCREAMED "special forces". The man inserted a mem-stick and opened a video. There was a Amplitur on the screen. Tarsus leaned forward.

"Warlord Hardir!" Blitzschlag waved him to silence. The man in the combat armor(it was a video from a ghost-suit, which made Earl think that is was taking during the storming of Hazeltop Arco)



"Before you die...I have been instructed to ask, why did you attack us? Your own race sat in it's home system for hundred of thousands of years without expanding."

"Humans are a disease. A pestilence that has spread out across the galaxy. The Great Choir in its wisdom determined that the destruction of humanity was needed to guarentee our long term survival. I still think it."

"Huh." Came the response. "Yeah, you're probably right." The man fired a mini-grenade that blew Hardir up into chunky salsa. Blitzschlags assistant turned off the video.

"Gentlemen," Blitzschlag stood "I have been instructed by the Lord Protector to bring the war to a conclusion. I am assuming direct control of the fleet, and ordering the use of a Nova bomb, immediately."

"Now what just a damn minute." Tarsus said. "I don't care for the tone of voice there, Herr Doktor. You can order Earl around, but not me."

Wordlessly Blitzschlag's assistant underhandedly tossed a mem-chip that was in the stylized "R" of the Shepistani Executive. Stunned, Tarsus put it on his PADD and read the message on it.

"Oh, it seems that you can."

"Admirals..." Blitzschlag leaned forward "You have 4.5 hours to break orbit and initiate primary ignition. That is half an hour more than the bare minimum needed to place the device and depart from orbit. I know the time limitations, I designed it. Now go."

4.5 Hours later....
Image
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Stas Bush
PostPosted: 2010-06-26 07:00am 

Glamorous Commie


Joined: 2003-02-26 12:39pm
Posts: 17550
Location: 差不多先生
Zero, Commune capital
Image
Zero at night looked like your typical megacity. It was massive – occupying a huge fraction of the continent, with high-speed rail linking different districts of the immense city. However, a large swath of the population of Zero did not need transport – the clouds, omnipresent nanomorphs, humans who chose to forego human biology entirely in favor of an artificial reconstruction of the same with nanomachines. The rest of the planet was left untouched – a stellar civilization chose to create a huge safari-park in the capital, because other Commune worlds were often fully converted to massive factories without a shred of nature remaining.

Though considering they were often pieces of rock without atmosphere or life, it wasn’t too great a loss. Worlds habitable from the get-go were a rarity, and terraforming required lots of energy.

Heavy rain fell on the Commune capital. Some clouds enjoyed the rain, passing by in awe. In a bar a being, a vessel of the Final Argument, as it usually refers to itself, receives instructions from someone who looks like a man dressed in a simple sport suit, but apparently is not.

- Comrade Vector, the Supreme Soviet commends your efforts, - speaks the man, and you can catch some tones in his voice, which are unlike an ordinary human being’s manner of speech. – I can only give you advice for your future missions, as usual.

Comrade Vector looks like a huge raincoat made of something soft and dark. Its eyes are concealed deep within the simple form (apparently Vector thinks that maintaining a more complex, human-like shape is simply not worth the energy expenses, though it remains anthropomorphic). After the night fell and the bar became dimly lit, Vector spent some energy to light up the table – blue glow emanates from below the hood-like lump of matter that Vector considers enough to show a human head. Despite its plain and even somewhat threatening appearance, comrade Vector is loved in many worlds of the Commune, and often praised as “the greatest humanist of our times”. In this century, Vector dedicated himself to the exploration of space and aiding the Commune’s citizens faced with hostilities or natural disasters. His travels onboard the CSS “October” were retold in countless novels and films. He changed a great many professions, but first of all comrade Vector is known as the inventor of nanite anti-agathics, which paved the way for immortal humans and nanomorphs that compose today’s Commune. His real name is long gone (although journos who dig deeply and greedily speculate his name is either Valery or Alexy, something like that), and who knows how long ago he took on the name Vector. “Great Communism Triumphs”, it means. Some said he’s suffering from a cult of his own personality, but the microbiology and nanotech specialist probably doesn’t care.

He used to head the Supreme Soviet for a few decades (and likewise, humans credit him with the motion to put the “Golden Rule” limits that allow no more than 30% of each kind of beings inhabiting the Commune), then started research on possible cloud procreation – which failed miserably. Clouding relieved one of the ability to make children. This is why only a small percent of the Commune’s population chose to undergo clouding. They were considered the most devout citizens who were willing to forego biological luxuries of a human body to serve the ideals of communism and revolution.

In the end, Vector resigned from these duties. By the time he entered the Commune’s elite, cloud-only military units known as the Mirage, Vector was over one hundred years old. Now he headed the Mirage – following his old thought that doctors, teachers, workers, scientists and warriors should form the backbone of a new society, he went to serve in each of these occupations, changing service after several decades pass. Some other Commune seniors who lived to see immortality come true chose to fuse; or so he heard from others who were involved in the Final Argument system – an elaborate, all-pervasive net of Supreme Soviet authority, which permeated the Commune society and ensured it stayed united.

Vector heavily suspected the man before him was one of the fused. But he had no desire to fuse. Sometimes he felt that it was, perhaps, the last vestige of biological individualism left from his old body, sometimes he felt guilt over it. But the Commune did not condemn – it only offered. The clouds and fused were as essential to the Commune as humans, who were the only ones to procreate. Post-turing AIs were welcomed in the Commune, but they were too alien to a human mind, and often completely unbothered by human issues – some in the Commune mocked the efforts to invite AIs as “primitive intergalaxism”, saying it’s as futile as trying to invite the Collectors. The Commune thus remained fundamentally human.

- Thanks, Mels, - Vector nodded slowly. – I’ll appreciate any advice you can give.

The man gave Vector his hand. Direct contact, then. Confidentiality and secrecy still existed in the Commune. Especially in what concerned the Final Argument, the Mirage and other not-so-open institutions of the communists. Well, why not, thought Vector. The contact lasted about a second, but Vector received enough information.

- Well, that certainly complicates things, - Vector shrugged, or possibly lost control over his shape for a moment. – I’ll see what I can do.
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KlavoHunter
PostPosted: 2010-06-27 04:56am 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2007-08-26 10:53pm
Posts: 1395
The Second Battle of New Damascus
2453


When the Klavostani colonization fleet touched down on Muzaffer in 2235, they did so without full knowledge of the galactic neighborhood where they had settled, and brushed off their encounters with Orkish pirates as part of living in the wild new galaxy, and for the first 200 or so years, merely suffered slightly-increasing piracy as they terraformed and settled other worlds in nearby sectors, and began productive trade en masse. They did not know how close they were to the Orkish home sectors.

The Orkish Warlord Durksha Roidsmasha, a pirate already of great renown amongst his sort for successful raids against Klavostani worlds, managed to convince many of his loot-hungry comrades to follow him to glory in plundering the Sultanate. Leading an Orkish warfleet of unforeseen proportions, his invasion took the Klavostanis by storm, sweeping away colonial antipirate patrols with ease, before engaging and destroying the New Damascus Sector Fleet in the First Battle of New Damascus. Orkish troops landed and fought wherever they found resistance, and plundered everywhere they did not.

The news proved to be too much of a shock for the elderly Sultan Klavo the 50th, who passed away, leaving the throne to his son who was crowned Sultan Klavo the 51st in a hurried ceremony, as soon as his battleship returned to the capital. The nation was still reeling from the scale of the Orkish attack, and in the War Room, the news was even more grim, for even when combining the Muzaffer Sector Home Fleet and the New Tangiers Sector Fleet, Warlord Roidsmasha's fleet still outnumbered them. Some more conservative admirals advised their new Sultan to receive the Orkish attack in the company of Muzaffer's relatively more formidable solar system defenses, but he cast all such caution to the wind, and ordered the remaining fleets to muster, and sail for New Damascus as soon as possible - Ground troops on the planet still fought on, and the Orkish fleet was still in the midst of what repairs they needed to make after their victory.

What little large-fleet action doctrine the Royal Klavostani Star Navy had at the time had proven ineffective against the Orks' tactics and sheer overwhelming numbers, and, admittedly, no Klavostani Admiral having ever participated in such a battle, the Sultan personally led the combined fleet, relying on his wits as a successful naval officer thus far, the morale of men following their Sultan into battle, the knowledge that billions were depending on him, and one clever gambit that had the shipyard workers over Muzaffer working so fast that hundreds died from accidents.

Practically the whole of the remaining RKSN was assembled in one grand battle wall, almost 200 ships, while dropping out of hyperspace to the right flank was another formation of 100 ships more. Against this was presented some 400 Orkish vessels, some still proudly bearing not-fully-repaired scars from First New Damascus. The tactical situation seemed rather grim for the Klavostanis, but the Sultan continued ahead with his plan, believing, rightly so, that the Orks had much the same problem that the Klavostananis did - a lack of experience in large-scale battle. Durksha Roidsmasha may have been a pirate of some cunning, but his previous victory at this planet had come from sheer numbers, not finesse.

When the Klavostani right wing broke away and attempted to come about to the Orkish flank, Warlord Roidsmasha roared for his boyz to "Destroy the entire enemy fleet!", splitting his force in half to engage the two Klavostani formations, believing that the smaller formation could be overwhelmed quickly, so he could then entrap the main force between both halves of his fleet.

The forward skirmishing formations of Destroyers in the Klavostani flanking force engaged the enemy first, valiantly dashing forth to unleash punishing strikes, before fleeing away from the onrushing Orkish force. The weapons of the starships of the day were far less refined than those of today, and the Klavostani ships mounted mass drivers and nuclear missiles as primary armament, with the relatively early laser weapons remaining distinctly secondary. Whilst failing to score any outright kills, some of the ships on the leading edge of the Orkish force began to trail behind their comrades from the damage inflicted upon them, while they hurled destructive volleys back at the sometimes-insufficiently nimble Destroyers. They paid a dear price, but they kept the Orks' attention as they fell back to the rest of the flanking force. When the bigger ships began to volley off nuclear missiles at long range and began to fall back, the Orks were eager to the chase when they overwhelmed the enemy in sheer numbers as they did, advancing in such a rush that their point-defense fire was poorly coordinated, and the first Orkish losses of the battle went up in a swarm of blinding flashes.

The main Klavostani force refused to enter weapons range, backing away in the face of the Orkish advance, patiently waiting for the two halves of the Orkish fleet to be pulled far apart from one another before engaging. The Orkish flanking force continued the chase, slowly but surely butchering the Destroyer skirmish line, and then finally overtaking the main body of that force, swarming around them from every angle, entangling the Klavostani force in a melee. Some of the more perceptive Ork Kaptains began to pull their ships away after the first broadside or two, as the Sultan's gambit became clear - These were not warships, but civilian vessels, refit with external ordnance, cosmetic and electronic alterations - and nuclear self-destructs.

It was what the Sultan had been waiting for, and no longer did the Klavostani fleet stand back, but instead took on a spindle formation, and irresistibly charged, aiming the entire fleet right through the enemy for Warlord Roidsmasha's large, gaudily-painted flagship, in the shocked moments when the Warlord was shocked by what had happened to the other half of his force - not wholly destroyed, but many ships damaged, and more importantly, far away from the real action. The Orks did not move their fleet into better positions to focus fire on the onrushing Klavostanis, while their fire was viciously concentrated forward across a tight frontage, punching through the Orkish fleet - and in a blessedly few cases, through one another, as no such maneuver had ever been attempted before. Mass drivers punched holes through hulls, nukes vaporized entire sections, and lasers flashed out, shooting down missiles and fighters, and melting vulnerable components on starships.

By the time the Klavostani fleet had fully penetrated through its enemies, a path of destruction lay through the middle of them, that included their Warlord's flagship amongst the debris. The Orkish formation wallowed about amorphously, failing to organizedly oppose the Klavostanis as they reformed back into a standard wall of battle behind them, and proceeded to pour on fire until the Orks broke, some pirates managing to run for the hyper limit, while most others were obliterated by concentrated fire. Although having suffered many losses, the Klavostani fleet was still up to the task of handling the dissolving remnants of the Ork flank force.

Exhausted and spent, the victorious Royal Klavostani Star Navy remained over New Damascus for several more days overseeing the transport of Army units to deal with all the Orks stranded on the planet, before finally getting their hard-earned victory orbit over Muzaffer - and a victory in the Treasury, as the Sultan wrote an emergency budget for an immediate fleet expansion, met by universal support from the populace.

Last edited by KlavoHunter on 2010-06-27 09:09pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Siege
PostPosted: 2010-06-27 09:39am 

Sith Marauder


Joined: 2004-12-11 01:35pm
Posts: 4073
Imperial Bragulan Ineptitude Results In Medal!
A Sovereign Suns exclusive report!

CELESTE (FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT IN WILD SPACE) - In a startling turn of events, a Bragulan Imperial Naval Commander was awarded the Imperial Crux after a very nasty case of friendly fire, Corporate Intelligence sources have revealed to the Sovereign Suns.

An Imperial Liberation Army trench-siege on Turukhansk took a turn for the worst during the final stages of capture of an insurgent stronghold. Trouble for the Imperial People's Armed Forces started when a newly raised artillery division, unaware of attempts by friendly armored details to capture the insurgent-held city, began shelling what they perceived as captured Imperial tanks. The armored column, believing to be under heavy fire from rebellious artillery, initiated counter-battery fire. In accordance to the Bragulan artillery doctrine of 'bigger is better', the artillery commander promptly responded by using tactical battlefield atomics. Although taking heavy casualties from the tactical nuclear barrage and the city collapsing around him, the commander of the armored detail had enough of a fight in him left to call for orbital support.

Alarmed by what seemed like a revolt in the ranks of the Liberation Army, the Navy Commander overseeing the battle in orbit decided to settle the case through the use of strategic nuclear weapons. Both Army battalions and the besieged city were annihilated completely, as per Imperial doctrine. When he returned to Bragule, the Navy Commander was awarded the Imperial Crux, an honor granted only to those Imperial officers who have performed outstandingly in light of overwhelming odds.

Estimated casualties number in the hundred thousands. Not counting civilian deaths.
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Fingolfin_Noldor
PostPosted: 2010-06-27 11:01am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2006-05-15 10:36am
Posts: 11560
Location: At the Helm of the HAB Star Dreadnaught Star Fist
Imperial Chronicles
Sometime in the late 33rd Century

Image

"Where is that foul rust bucket of an AI?" roared the Imperial Inquisitor Tyrus of the Ordos Robotica. He gazed upon a certain copy of this "Legion". They were in a room shielded from the outside to prevent the robot from connecting with outside world. The robot said nothing and just stared.

"Where is he?" Tyrus grabbed a cable with a needle charged with low power plasma, and jabbed it right into the robot. The robot squirmed and said nothing and simply shut down. The plasma had fried lots of its circuits "Stupid piece of junk." Tyrus took out a plasma pistol and shot the robot's head right off. "Take the damn head and do an analysis on its memory unit. We will find this damn AI if its the last thing I do. Damn scatter brained idiot for an AI and its many damnable bodies it downloaded its heretical self in."

"Yes, Inquisitor," answered his interrogator, Boris.
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PeZook
PostPosted: 2010-06-27 04:07pm 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2002-07-18 06:08pm
Posts: 13237
Location: Poland
Unit 7

Epsilon Zeta Trade Station, Collector space

The cargo bay was gigantic: it had to be, for the ship to ferry live cattle between worlds. Improving genetic engineering techniques rendered it obsolete, though - now, delicacies and meats from all around the universe could easily be grown in vats to exact specifications.

So now it was used to ferry a different sort of live cargo. Throughout the massive artificial cavern, humanoid figures stood in rows, naked and bound, waiting for their fate.

They knew the ship docked some time ago, of course. Now their handlers demanded they stand up and present themselves, which probably meant the prospective buyers surveyed them through remote cameras and made their pick.

They didn't expect what happened next. A wave of tiny machines, each no larger than a scarab beetle - and, indeed, often resembling one - flooded into the bay. They crawled all over the gathered sentients, to the accompaniament of terrified shrieks. Tiny metal needles pricked the skin, specialized scanners took reading of the retinare, other machines crawled into the mouth to collect samples of saliva.

Terrified of being eaten alive, the sentients began to panick, banging on the bulkheads, trying to bat the machines from their bodies. But, one after another, they succumbed, became docile and sat down or leaned heavily against the walls, influenced by drugs administered by the scarabs.

Outside the cargo bay, on the bridge of his vessel - the Chatanga - Jean Baptiste Besson, an Astarian "enterpreneur", watched his business partners with worry. The two faceless machines stared at the display, their cold metal faces incapable of displaying any sort of emotion. Besson heard a lot about the Collectors, and every story had one thing in common: they were incredibly, inexplicably creepy. While their little machines crawled all over his cargo, they did not share a word. Of course, they were damn artificial intelligences, so they probably talked through radio, anyway.

"So?", he decided to break the silence, "Are we going to deal?"

The two Units continued to stand there in silence. Are they broken?, Besson wondered idly, and though if he should check. Just then, someone entered the security station. Besson turned his head, and - to his utter surprise - saw a human, but not one of his crew.

"Are you lost? I'm in the middle of a deal here...who the hell let you in, anyways?", he asked, trying to look both at the two Collectors and the mysterious arrival.

Image

"We will take the Chamarrans. The rest doesn't interest us.", the newly arrived human said, without a word of introduction.

"Wha...who the hell are you?"

"I speak for the Collective. As I said, we will take the Chamarrans, for the usual rate."

Besson mulled the offer for a while. He wasn't sure how many Chamarrans he brought, but they were a very, very tiny minority.

"You can't be serious. This won't come anywhere near to covering my expenses on this trip!"

"That is our offer. The rest of the stock is not interesting at all to us."

"Oh, come on! Everybody knows you buy slaves! In large amounts!"

The expression on the new arrival's face changed ever so slightly, "You were misinformed. Though we will pay extra if you reveal where you acquired the Chamarrans."

"Oh, no way. Trade secret.", Besson was getting more and more annoyed, "Unless you buy the entire shipment.", he added, smelling that he had something they wanted.

The human seemed to hesistate, ever so slightly. Besson was almost certain this was for show, though - he was almost definitely a Collector himself.

"We have no use for the sentients themselves, but you will be awarded 80% of your estimate of the shipment's value if your information checks out."

After a brief moment of calculation, Besson smiled and held out his hand, "Deal!", he said. The Collector - whoever he was - did not take it.

"The data?"

"Oh...", Besson put his hand in his pocket, "Ask for warlord Ghazkull Deathkilla. He operates in the Outback."

"Very well. The payment will be wired to you upon confirmation of this information. For the Chamarrans, we will pay immediately.", the...being said and unceremoniously left the room.

Creepy fuckers..., Besson though, watching the diplomat leave, Where the hell do they get galstandard credits, anyway?

Down at the bay, fifty or so Chamarrans lost consciousness almost immediately, and were carried outside by a swarm of mechanical scarab beetles. Empty stares followed them, as the gathered slaves wondered idly about the fate which awaited them.
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Darkevilme
PostPosted: 2010-06-30 10:28am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2007-06-12 02:27pm
Posts: 1514
Location: London, england
Planet Tarlierr, Hierarchy space
Garret Niles awoke suddenly and in confusion deep within the night, his eyes fixed on the inactive light fixture hanging above his bed for a moment as his mind whirls for the reason behind his racing heart. It was then that the same primal part of him that had awoken him brought his attention to the sounds from the other room of his apartment; someone was in his home! Having arrived at that revelation his hand gropes behind his bedside cabinet and returns with the reassuring handle of a fully charged pulse pistol clutched within.

So armed Garret starts to slip out of bed, gun trained on the door: a movement he did not have a chance to complete as the door opens suddenly. Acting on panicked instinct Garret fired at the figure silhouetted in lesser darkness of the doorway and was rewarded with a proper glimpse of the intruder, the pulse disappearing in an illuminating flash of light a few feet from the being in the doorway. Silver lines on the mask and the flicking tail was all Garret needed to see of her to know that what had invaded his home this night was trouble of the highest order.

Throwing the clearly ineffectual pistol at the Chamarran to try and buy time he whirled to the window to escape. It was then that he saw the brooding metal shape hovering silently over the street outside for a precious moment and had light sear into his eyes as a spotlight abruptly blazed through the window.

With his hand clutched over his agonized eyes he barely felt the sting against his neck as he stumbled backwards, nor did he feel the hands that caught him as things became distant and fuzzy. Even the pain in his eyes fading as his consciousness flees into darkness...

Some time later
The lingering soreness in his eyes was the first thing that told Garret he was awake. Taking stock of his situation Garret discovered that on the plus side he wasn't bound or restrained, on the downside this room was dark and had the air of the unfamiliar while the chair he was sitting on had the metallic impersonal feel of furniture common only to certain rooms. So taking stock of his situation he's been abducted during the night by government agents and brought to an interrogation room; the only good part of this if they planned on just outright killing him he'd be dead by now.

The light switches on just as the door unlocks, giving Garret a painful reminder of the searchlight earlier tonight. Was it earlier tonight though? He had no way of knowing how long he had been out.
A chamarran walks in holding two sheets of hardcopy, setting them down on the table and sitting across from him as the door locks behind her. The catgirl takes a moment to sit and silently regard him across the table.

“Where am I?” asks Garret trying to break the silence and get the catgirl to stop looking at him like that, its uncanny for beings so cute but Chamarrans are capable of a disturbingly predatory way of looking at people.

“Location 14.” says the catgirl with a faintly amused smile at how little that tells him.
“Why am I here?” Asks Garret, wondering a little why if this is supposed to be an interrogation the catgirl isn't the one asking the questions.

“You are a subversive mister Niles and your actions cannot be permitted to continue.” the catgirl replies, picking up the hardcopy and reading off it “Your actions are well documented, fomenting disloyalty, promoting instability and attempting to disrupt our society with your political ideologies.”

So this is what happens when the Hierarchy stops asking politely Realizes Niles, taking a small amount of perverse pride in the amount of effort they're putting into silencing him, in a way it's a victory as it shows they're worried not that it helps his predicament at all.
“So what are you going to do with me?”

“We have decided to send a message to your paymasters, you will inform them that we shall not tolerate any outside interference in our society from those sharing your ideology.” Says the catgirl, clearly reading off the hardcopy. Garret raises a finger to object “Paymasters? I don’t know what you mean, I don’t have any ‘paymasters’.” Though rather than be taken aback by this the chamarran seems faintly amused.

“Mr. Niles you had in your possession a class 3 illegal energy weapon when you were detained. And do you really expect us to believe that your organization got as far as it did without outside help?” she chides gently.

Garret suppresses a retort It’s what the people want! That’s why it got as far as it did.
The chamarran continues after a moment scrutinizing him“As I thought, mr. Niles you are henceforth no longer a citizen of the Hierarchy, you and other key subversives will be removed from Hierarchy space to a transfer station on the periphery of the Argenti Federation. From there you will board liner 22 run by Dosalia star way and stay aboard until reaching your destination.” She pauses and swaps to the other hardcopy “You are forbidden to contact your associates who remain in Hierarchy space, you are forbidden from returning to Hierarchy space. If your associates are found to have been contacted by you then there will be consequences for them, if you return to Hierarchy space you be considered an agent of chaos sent by a foreign power and there will be consequences for you. Is this clear to you mr. Niles.”

Garret takes a moment to answer as it sinks in; leave all his friends and the life he knew behind and cross to the other side of known space. He nods “Yes, you have made yourself clear.”

The catgirl smiles in satisfaction and gets up.
“Your flight leaves in 30 minutes, goodbye mr. Niles.”

“You wont win you know, the people will rise up against your oppression.” Says Garret just as she turns, the catgirl chuckles softly and looks back to him.
“Somehow I doubt their ingratitude runs that far. And besides, don’t say you can win until you’ve seen the other side play without the kids gloves.” She says, her smile showing a bit of pointed teeth before she turns and leaves the room. Garret said nothing more to stop her.

Several days later
“Dosalia star way liner 22 now boarding, all passengers for Dosalia star way liner 22 to Commune transfer station 9 please make your way to gate 90.”

Garret looks up to the info board as the PA system finishes speaking and smiles across to the one he shares a table with “Sorry babe, nice talking to you but I got a ship to catch. If you ever come my way be sure to drop by...” he pauses “Where ever I end up staying, take care.” he finishes uncertainly, the feeling of being cut adrift coming back even as he joins the crowd heading for the liner.
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Grif
PostPosted: 2010-06-30 02:26pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2009-01-04 03:45am
Posts: 106
25th July 3380.


Westley shipyard, Kerwan orbit
“And now, I present to you, the AFN Redtide, our newest Eagle-class dreadnought,” the Prime Minister announced to the hangar teeming with thousands of people. As the invited guests began to clap, the prime minister made a show of pressing the button on the podium.

The hangar door slowly opened to the magnificent sight of the dreadnought floating at dock, ready for its maiden voyage as soon as the official ceremony was over. The sleek trident shape belied the firepower that the dreadnought packed, with enough weapons to level a planet if need be. Two huge energy cannon mounted on the 'claws' of the ship served as its primary armament. Dozens of missile racks, fitted at the main body of the ship complemented the energy-cannons.

“A ship designed to symbolise the pride of the Argenti Federation Navy, and also to crush any enemies that stand in our way,” the Prime Minister boomed. “This, ladies and gentleman, is the greatest weapon of our proud Navy and –“

A series of gasp, and some of the guests begun to stand up and point at the ship behind the PM. The Prime Minister turned and looked at the ship, a puzzled expression on his face. Suddenly, realisation struck.

A series of explosion can be seen at the right side of the huge ship, where one of the energy cannon was mounted. A slight tremor can be felt as the explosion tore through the ship's hull. The PM was abruptly pulled to one side by one of his Secret Service agents.

“We have to go, sir. It is not safe.”

“What about the guests? We can’t just leave them!” the PM said.

“With all due respect sir, you are our only concern at the moment. Now move!” The hangar begun to tremble as the AFN Redtide continued to be wracked by explosions. Some of the guests noticed the PM leaving and begun heading for the exits as well.

The Secret Service agents quickly hustled the PM down a series of metallic corridors to the private dock that housed his personal ship, Argent One.

“Move sir! We have no time. The terrorists also planted a bomb on the shipyard itself. Probably nuclear”. The PM was numbed by the magnitude of the unfolding disaster and let himself be led through the series of corridor.

“Almost there sir!” one of the Secret Service agent clearly isn’t too keen on sticking around the shipyard.

A huge tremor jolted the shipyard and threw the small party off balance. The PM lost his balance and landed roughly on the metal surface. Alarms begun blaring as the entire structure continued to shake with an unseen force. One of the Secret Service agents hauled the PM to his feet and urged him to continue on.

After a few tense minutes, the group finally reached the small private dock. “Quick sir, get onboard. We don’t have much –“ Another explosion. This time he sensed that the explosion was very much closer. From his own ship it seemed. The last thing the PM felt was the intense heat washing over his body.


Argenti Parliment, Argent
Deputy PM Jonah Fillen was enduring yet another depressingly unproductive day at the Parliament. Due to the old man himself heading off to a visit at the Kerwan shipyards for the unveiling of the latest addition to the AFN, he is now taking questions on the economy in his stead. Which is going as well he anticipated, since the Liberals are finding every opportunity to attack the latest proposal by the Cabinet to raise income taxes. Sensing that his opponent finally finished flapping his lips, he cleared his own throat and prepared to give his (already prepared) rebuttal of his opponent points.

Before he could utter a word, he felt a light tap on his shoulder. Surprised at the interruption, he swung his head to face the grim face of the Interior Minister, Gregory Dulec.

“We need to talk. Now.”

Jonah was too surprised to formulate a reply and simply nodded. It was against every tradition in Argenti Parliament to interrupt a MP while speaking, never mind the DPM himself. Jonah remembered he still had to rebut the points his Liberal counterpart raised.

“With all due respect to my honoured colleague, I find your points to be utterly devoid of content and demonstrate shallowness in thinking that seems to pervade your party. We need the additional income from the tax raise and no amount of doubletalk can change that. Have a good day, gentlemen.”

DPM Jonah unceremoniously stood up and walked out of the door. A stunned silence hung for several moments, before the hall uncharacteristically descended into pandemonium over the little speech.

“Yes, Greg, what is it? It must be very important for you to interrupt a parliamentary sitting like that,” Jonah folded his arms and waited for his colleague’s answer.

“PM is dead.” Was the only reply.

“What?!”

“Terrorist attack on the Westley shipyard. Reports say that the AFN Redtide was also severely damaged. Apparently three nuclear bombs were detonated, one of the ship itself, two on the shipyard. The shipyard is now effectively destroyed, with 60% of the superstructure destroyed. Thousands dead, billions of credits lost.”

“How the hell this happened?”

“We believe it is an insider job, but there is plenty of time for investigation later. Right now we need a leader, and for the moment, you are the PM,”

Jonah felt his insides loosen for a moment. Yes, he did entertain the possibility of being PM, but that was far off and the old man had plenty of spark left in him, with new anti-aging drugs available from Earth. Suddenly another thought struck him.

“Oh god. And I just pissed off the Liberals right before I left.”

“Never one to take the easy way, eh?” replied Dulec with a straight face.
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Pollux
PostPosted: 2010-07-01 03:59am 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2007-06-21 08:43pm
Posts: 223
Location: Berkeley, California
April 20, 3399

The blaring of the wakeup alarm echoed throughout the tenements as the crimson rays of the sun slowly began to punch through the hazy, pollutant-choked sky of the city.

Nl shut his three eyes even tighter, then gave in, dragging himself out of his cot with a groan. The five other young males who shared the room with him did likewise, as they shambled over to a battered old crate that sagged in the corner, lidless and moaning.

One of their number began pulling threadbare coveralls from the inside of the crate, sleepily pushing them into the grasp of his brothers, who then retreated to pull them onto their naked bodies. Nl was last to receive his, but finished putting his on before anyone else, primarily because his only had three buttons up the front, the others being slightly more fortunate.

The suit fit awkwardly, as always, but in a precise way that Nl was long used to - the sleeves exactly this much too long, the body this much too baggy, the legs tight here and loose there, the places where the wind bit at him through the gaps where there were missing buttons seemingly set in stone. Does that mean it's not awkward anymore? Nl wondered, as he filed out the doorway into the apartment's common room with his brothers.

A dozen Pfhor, male and female, young and old, clustered around a creaking table lit by a single flickering, fading glowlamp, as the matron of the family placed bowls of watery soup before them, thunking them down on the table, half out of irritation and half out of exhaustion. Nl took his, and stared down at it, the shimmering green surface singing it's silent siren song to him, giving nourishment with one hand, only to then thrust a day of toil on him with the other, clasped behind its back.

Nl drank. It was gone well before he would have liked, leaving him still hungry, albeit slightly less than before. His brothers and sisters rose, as did he, and followed their father, who pushed open the apartment door wordlessly. They followed him outside, into the tenement hallway, and joined the river of workers that trickled down stairwells and through corridors outside, where the old hovertrucks that coughed and wheezed like the had pneumonia waited to take them to the factories.

*******

The courtyard filled with the stenches of bodies as they packed in like sardines, beneath a huge videoscreen. In front, behind, around, and above them stood armored guards clenching shock rifles, their eyes darting to and fro, looking for an excuse to inflict a little misery on the factory serfs.

Without warning, the videoscreen blinked to life, and the emblem of the Pfhor Empire glared down at the assembled masses, which fell silent in a matter of moments. A solemn voice began to speak:

Duty. We have duty.

Nl stared, trying to focus on the emblem, and not the stench of sweat and excrement that was making him gag.

All the citizens of the Empire are equal in this respect. From the legions of serfs that have built our nation, to the soldiers that keep it safe, to the priests that keep it holy, and the nobles that see it function best, we all have duty. To the gods, to the Emperor, to our people!

The voice paused, and then changed, hardening, and growing mournful, as it continued.

It is duty that sets us apart from the others, the foreigners, the outsiders, the barbarians. They who would see our nation destroyed, our lands conquered, our people preyed upon, and devoured!

Nl felt the crowd grow tense and worried around him. He did as well, as much as he didn't want to admit it.

They are this way because they have no duty, save to appease the depraved desires of their twisted souls.

The voice paused again, and then grew more gentle.

We cannot fault them, for they know no better. Each day, we try spread the light of the Empire as far as we can, so that more might know the blessings of duty.

To spread our gifts: That is the duty of the Empire herself, that which all of our lesser duties serves. Your duty is this: obey your Lord, for through him, you obey the Emperor. And through the Emperor lies blessing - either in this life, or the next.

Remember your duty.


The emblem continued to glow, as the guards bellowed "All hail Duke Tnarld!"

The crowd shouted back as one: "Hail! Hail! HAIL!"

The work alarm sounded, and the factory doors groaned open, allowing the workers to pour in, their feet sounding like a waterfall.

When the last of their number had slid inside, the massive doors shut, and clanked loudly as they locked the serfs in with their toil.

*******

The lunch whistle sounded, and Nl slinked away with his canteen of stew to his spot on one of the upper catwalks. As he ate, he gazed through the filthy window his sat next to at the street far below, at the proud martial architecture of the Army Recruiting Office, bedecked with banners and patriotic posters in stark contrast to the austere industrial buildings that surrounded it. He wiped away sweat with his sleeve, and sighed, as he sloshed the stew around in his canteen. It was almost empty, and he was far from full.

He looked at the Recruiting Office again, its flags fluttering in the dust-choked industrial wind. "I bet that soldiers get enough to eat," he said softly to himself.

He knew that soldiers didn't often come back. The Empire wasn't at war, but there were all sorts of stories, of far flung places with hard-to-pronounce names. Chamarra. Hyogo. Argent. All greedily looking at the Empire's space, all coveting its wealth. War would break out, sooner or later, everyone said. And even before it did, there were always pirates and rebels to die at the feet of.

Duty, he remembered from every day of his life. Duty to the Empire. To the Emperor. To our people. Your duty is to obey.

Well, he mused, right now, I have a stomach that wants me to feed it.

He looked back again, for the last time. He had never noticed the doors before, but now his gaze fell on them, and he realized that they were always open.

Duty, echoed the solemn voice through his mind as he gulped down the last of his stew.
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Steve
PostPosted: 2010-07-01 04:14am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2002-07-03 01:09pm
Posts: 8423
Location: Florida USA
Caroline Imperial Hotel, Westminster
New Anglia, United Star Kingdom of New Anglia
14 June 3399



With a new Parliament scheduled to soon form - the 83rd National Parliament of the Kingdoms and Free States of the Anglian Empire, to be exact - the activity of Westminster was now in high gear. It was one half of the biggest metropolitan zone on New Anglia (and the second largest in the Empire, surpassed only by the Greater Vancouver-Quincy Metropolitan Region of New Columbia) across the St. James River from New Chatham, the cultural and economic center of the vast and mighty Anglian Empire. But where New Chatham was the cultural and economic heart of New Anglia, Westminster was the political and academic heart, with several prestigious universities - including the Royal Academy of the Sciences, Queen Charlotte College, the University of Westminster and its prestigious Royal Medical School, and the Westminster Institute of Technological Science - existing alongside all of the major offices of the Civil Service, including the massive Ministry of Defence grounds that included the Admiralty and the Kelvin Offices, the modern homes of the Foreign, Commonwealth, Home, and Colonial Offices. Aside from government buildings you also had the Diplomatic Quarter, home to the embassies of roughly three hundred individual political entities maintaining full Ambassadors to the Court of St. James, ranging from other great interstellar states to the statelets and city-states of the Outback.

And then, of course, there were the Palaces: the massive Palace of Parliament where the National Parliament met and where their local offices were located, the Westminster Palace that was home to the Sovereign, the Palace of St. James along the riverfront that acted as an in-city home for the senior most members of the Royal Family (the current main resident being Prince George Duke of St. Albans, the three hundred and eight year old great great grand-uncle of Edward XVI, younger brother of the late King George XIX), and Landing House, the formal residence of the Prince of Wales or any Heir Apparent or Presumptive.

With all these structures, there wasn't much room left in the jurisdiction of Westminster for commerce - such was mostly found in New Chatham - but one of the businesses that did exist in some amount was the hotel business. With visitors from other worlds coming to consult with MPs or other government officials all the time a number of hotels of various caliber had popped up, providing easier access to the Government. None were more glamorous (or expensive) than the Caroline Imperial Hotel. It was named by its owners for Queen Caroline - George XVI's mother - when finished in 3017, the same year George XVI was proclaimed "Emperor of the Anglian Systems". The land alone, at the edge of both the Diplomatic Quarter and the Government section of the city, also not far from Westminster Palace, was worth vast sums. The Imperial Hotel made excellent use of this cost, with five distinct buildings of ten to twenty-five stories that possessed numerous facilities as well as rooms ranging from fairly luxurious classic motel rooms (with efficiency kitchen) to large multi-room suites for entire families (or traveling businessmen/officials and close staff). Indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, tennis courts, indoor gymnasiums and saunas, Trill-style baths, a private holo-theater, and other luxuries were maintained for the benefit of guests and clientele. One of the taller buildings even devoted the upper floors to Thanagarian clientele, with larger rooms to accommodate their wings and an "aerie" for them to glide around in.

The banquet hall and ballroom in particular were a common rental for high society. Leading government members' marriage receptions (or their children or grandchildren getting married), retirement banquets, charity banquets, the list went on.
In this case the occasion was related to politics. With the Election over and a new Government coming together, the leaders of both Houses had reached into their pockets to hold a Friday night dinner to welcome newcomers and returning MPs to Westminster. Most were in the city bow now and could be expected to be present at one time or another, with the State Opening of Parliament only days away and with it the start of the 3399 Legislative Session.
Being the head of the new Government, of course, imposed the need to be there all night for the new Prime Minister. Stephen was well-dressed for the occasion, if somewhat humbly compared to those officials and MPs who were wearing official honours on their suits (and uniforms in a few cases), with a dark gentleman's dinner jacket and black tie. Rachel was at his arm in a dress that was exquisitely flattering, a strapless dark blue evening gown, and her father Rafael was in attendance with them in a similar-looking suit, though with his various honours worn on the breast.

As this was a "black tie" social affair the banquet hall and actual ballroom were open for movement in between. Those attending were free to move from one to the other to get a bite to eat or to directly choose a desired drink while those seeking conversation had the ballroom. The Pentons had eaten earlier on, leaving Stephen and Rachel to spend the rest of the night meeting and greeting various MPs and, where present, their spouses. Rafael would come and go, seeking to visit men and women he'd known in his own time as they showed up, though he made sure to be back at Rachel's side on frequent occasions.
As the evening went on, Stephen would, where possible, steal a kiss on his wife's cheek or lips, though nothing out of order in the setting. A quarter century of marriage, and the familiarity it caused, had not dulled any of the passions they felt toward each other (though the household presence of five children certainly could) and he could be forgiven for the kind of thoughts Rachel's lovely dress could inspire - such was the result of being in love with someone. As it was, his thoughts of a romantic end to such a political evening were what preserved him through the need to "press hands", as it was sometimes called. When hands were offered; he noticed that some of the more notorious hardcore Tories tended to give only the slightest of greetings, if at all, before moving on, likely the same men who would go on to inform the New Chatham Daily Mail that disaster loomed for the Empire with a "closet Republican" now dwelling at No. 19 Churchill Street.
There were a number of new MPs in the Commons getting their first experience in Westminster. And just as much, there were a few peers with the same circumstances. The House of Lords in Westminster was, in most respects, a "federal" body, its seats portioned out to delegations from each major system's peerages.

Permanent seats in the National Parliament's House of Lords came in special criteria. There were the Lords Spirtual, the fifteen religious organization leaders of the Empire, who held their seats in perpetuity. The forty-six surviving Dorei monarchies, of King and Prince rank with ten having a rank that had been Anglicized as Grand Duke, were also technically in perpetuity, though in practice the Dorei rulers delegated their seats after the first year of their rule to an appointed peer, usually a sibling, uncle, or heir. Thanagar's senior-most rulers, the twenty Mors, likewise had perpetual seats but tended to fill them more often, only occasionally dispatching delegates. Additionally, the Dorei Free States and Trill Commonwealth "elected" their peers (formally they were nominations sent to the Sovereign for consideration to be given life peerages) as their only National-level representation, given that the former republics were granted a level of self-rule that was quite autonomous. Finally came the seat held by the Prince of Bavaria, Neu Bavaria's Head of State, currently Leopold XII, though more often than not the rulers of Neu Bavaria sent trusted siblings or their adult-age sons to sit in their stead rather than leave Munich.

Finally, the bulk of the members were Humans from the Human-populated worlds. The twenty-eight "core" worlds of the Kingdom (The four central sectors plus the Hebridian and Ionian Worlds) each had five "permanent" seats in the House, determined by different means, with a similar range of means used by all Human-majority worlds in the Kingdom to determine their delegations to the National Parliament's House of Lords. Some, much like the Free States, "elected" them by nominating them to the Sovereign (or, in the case of Neu Bavaria, to the Prince of Bavaria) for the granting of a peerage; these worlds were Hansom's Planet, Neu Bavaria, Neu Hannover, Nuevo Sonora, Cornwall, Samothrace, and New Ireland; with the exception of Neu Bavaria these worlds that did not have their own House of Lords as an upper chamber but rather a Senate. New Columbia and Nuevo Baja, particularly devoted former republican worlds, had a particularly torturous method, with their Senates electing peers from their House of Lords (as these planets had tricameral legislatures as a result of the agreements that brought them into the Kingdom, with their House of Lords being solely an advisory body of the planetary peerage that acted primarily as a rubber-stamp). The three "Colonial" sectors' planets lacked sufficient quantities of established peerages to field their own effective House of Lords in most cases - save the planets Meggido, Samothrace, Kingsland, and Crowninshield - so they had a sector-wide House of Lords that nominated its own members to sit in Westminster. The rest of the planets in the Kingdom, including all four of the exception colony worlds, simply saw their House of Lords elect a Westminster delegation from their own ranks.

But even that majority case was itself diverse in how they did it. A few, Andalusia the most prominent of them, granted those seats in Westminster for life or until retirement. Others granted this but with the right to vote for their removal. A couple in either category permitted their planetary lower house to reject members from the delegation. And finally most of the worlds, including New Anglia, had their planetary (or systemary if one wanted to be specific) House of Lords vote at the conclusion of a General Election, in a special session, on their delegations to the House of Lords in Westminster, the convention being to have the delegations be weighted appropriately by the General Election results, with some worlds tending to see their House of Lords honor the results of the first-past-the-post system and fit its results of actual seats and the others tending to parcel out their delegations by proportional representation of the entire voting populace in their jurisdiction.
And thus there were times that even a pragmatic, pro-monarchy fellow like Stephen could see why the Republicans had a point on the system's unneeded complexity.
There were a few new peers to be greeted, therefore, among the number of new Liberal MPs. Many were Liberal, given the results of the election, though the proportional-determined delegations had a few peers who were affirmed Labour or Progressive Democrats. Lord Keeling, the Liberal chosen to be Leader of the House of Lords, did most of the introductions as the other senior Liberal peer, Lord Baden-Grey, had sworn off the banquet to continue arranging the Foreign Office to his liking.

Duchess Howard also saw fit to approach them at some of the introductions. Her place in the Cabinet was, as expected, a controversial pick. Stephen had endured some complaints from Liberal MP hopefuls to the Exchequer and quite a roasting by Labour and Progressive Democrat speakers and writers for his "pandering to the peerage". Diane's qualifications were naturally overlooked; the only thing that mattered was that he, a Liberal, had dared to elevate a high-ranking Peer to a Great Office of State, in what his detractors were declaring a gross act of overcompensation for the cries of "closet republican!" from the devoted Tories. A few called on the House of Commons to immediately vote against him and his Government but Stephen, with his 72 vote cushion in Liberals alone, had good confidence it would fail (theoretically he could potentially count on the House of Lords supporting him with a wide enough margin to eliminate the gap in the Commons, but that was one constitutional crisis he didn't want to see happen). For the time being, he could count on the uncertainty of the fiscal situation, and the need for better direction at the Exchequer, to keep things settled, but he was under no illusions that he could avoid a reshuffling in the future.

"You don't enjoy this very much, do you Prime Minister?", Diane remarked, some amusement in her features.
"There are costs to being a political leader," he admitted, "but I'm not against paying them if it gets the job done."
"Ah, I see. And does that include trying so very hard to use that false accent?" She grinned at seeing the Prime Minister shift a little. Most Prime Ministers, due to various political factors, were of British stock, with the rest having usually been Spanish-speakers of the New Columbia Sector (and, to date, two German PMs). Stephen was not the first New Columbian PM, but he was the first from the Cascadian-descended communities on the planet.
The thing was, New Columbians - especially Cascadian ones - did not speak the King's English, at least not by accent. They were notorious throughout the Empire for tending to spell words in the "Colonial" way. "Honor" instead of "Honour", "Defense" instead of "Defence", and such. And their accents were obviously "American" (And it was one of the great mysteries of Humanity that Nova Terran Americans and Earth North Americans spoke English in similar tones). Stephen had spent years, in the Navy and now as a Parliament member, teaching himself to use an accent. Where once it had gotten fellow officers to crack jokes at his expense he was now able to pass a fairly workable soft New Chatham accent, but he still tended to slip back into his Cascadian accent whenever he wasn't careful or he was in friendly company.
"I have been working awfully long at this," he told her. "It helps to be taken more seriously in Parliament of course, and do you see the people of New Anglia or Alba having full confidence in a PM who's English doesn't sound English?"
That brought a short cackle from Diane. "Quite true, sir, quite true. People can be rather provincial. And it certainly wouldn't help you with all those 'republican' remarks if you sounded like some American senator instead of an Englishman. That said, you have become fairly good at it."
"So Rachel assures me."
That prompted his wife to grin at him. When she spoke, it was with a similar accent, stating, "Stephen has worked so very hard at it, especially since he was elected to Parliament." Unlike his, Rachel's accent wasn't quite so artificial, though she did reduce the element of Latin accent she spoke English with. "Unfortunately we can't seem to get the English out of his Spanish accent..."

After embarrassing her husband a bit, Rachel relented. An amused Diane excused herself to greet others, leaving them alone and giving Rachel enough time to give a peck of a kiss on her husband's cheek. "I'll make it up to you tonight," she whispered playfully.
"How?", he inquired with equal playfulness.
"Use your imagination, I know you've got a good one," was the coy answer.

The moment of marital playfulness aside, they were next obligated to greet some of the new MPs from the Dorei, their blue and purple complexions marking them as quite different from the others in attendance. It was a fairly interesting conversation, though primarily of issues lacking import, and ended soon enough. Afterward Stephen remarked, "Well, I think I need something to drink," and headed back to the banquet hall to procure some wine.
A liveried hotel server was soon located and asked to find a bottle of port, preferably one of the Rosarian vintages. As he waited, his eyes caught sight of a figure nearby. And despite being a married man he might be forgiven for taking a second too long to take in the sight of the beautiful woman he'd noticed, given her rather flattering evening gown; strapless like his wife's, though a bit tighter and of a teal hue and thus extremely flattering on her curved figure. Her complexion was the same as Rachel's, perhaps only a shade lighter, with flowing dark brown hair and eyes of similar color.

That second-too-long look had an immediate karmic effect, judging by the ripple of pain through his torso courtesy of a sharp elbow to the ribs. Rachel was, of course, at his side. A faux-scowl was on her face; the tinge of marital jealousy taken and placed to constructive use by her playful side. "She is pretty beautiful," Rachel agreed.
"Not as much as you," was the flattering reply, though fairly honest from Stephen's point of view. "Don't you have a dress like that?"
"Yes. And I'll wear it next time." Looking at the young woman again, a look of realization dawned on Rachel's face. "Yes, I remember her. Father introduced us several years ago, back when you were stuck in the Cabinet. Amber Kelly-Martinez, Father introduced us when I picked him up at the HoL building in San Magdalena one day. Poor girl was just about twenty-one at the time, but her father Lucien came down with Albert's Syndrome and passed on so she inherited his seat."
"She's Lucien Kelly's daughter?," Stephen asked with curiosity, recognizing name.
"You knew him?", Rachel asked.
"He was a Parliamentary Secretary for a brief time during Wolcott's Government. Only for a few months, he was a Lord after all, the Count of San Luis." Nominally that rank was "Earl", but in the Spanish peerage they were called Counts - Conde in Spanish - and in the German peerage they were Graves, Graf. "So she must have been elected by the Senate back home to sit in the Westminster Lords. I'm guessing she's a Liberal like her father."
"Likely. Now come along, Father has gotten Waterly to come along, hopefully you can mend some fences in the Conservative Party..."



Amber had only briefly noticed the eyes of the Prime Minister and his wife toward her. At the moment she was more occupied in getting the glasses of wine she had promised to another.
That other walked up shortly after the Pentons walked away. Had she come earlier, it is quite likely the Prime Minister would've gotten a second, sharper elbow to the ribs, as she was dressed in a gown even bolder than that of Amber's or Rachel Penton's. "Oh, Dani." Amber lifted a glass for her to take. "I found the port."
Dani accepted the glass. That wasn't her full name, obviously; her first name was Danielle. Her relationship to Amber was clear if one saw the exchange of looks they gave each other or happened to notice the pecks they gave one another on the lips, as they did here before enjoying some of the wine. Unlike her lover, Danielle's gown had spaghetti straps, but was yet bolder; it bared her back almost completely and had a plunging neckline that showed her cleavage completely, flowing down to nylon-covered legs of great shape and showing off a rich brown complexion a shade deeper than that of Amber's (or Rachel's for that matter). Her dark hair wasn't quite as long as Amber's, going down to the very tip of her shoulders and back, while bright green eyes glinted in the light as if to inform those looking into them of the mischievous, vivacious soul behind them.

A liveried servant stepped up. Looking at Danielle, he stated, "Your Grace, you wished to see me?"
"Does the Imperial have any stock of 3294 Dempsey?"
"I will have to check, Your Grace."
"Go ahead, and bill my tab if you find any. Actually, if you don't, any Dempsey vintage between 3288 and 3304 will do. Those were their best years by far."
The servant nodded and walked off. Danielle put an arm around Amber's shoulders, in doing so emphasizing the three inches of height difference between them (Dani being a full 6'2" to Amber's 5'11"). As she did so, Amber couldn't help but remark, "It's nice being able to ask for a £400 bottle of wine like you were ordering a snack."
Dani gave Amber a friendly squeeze. "There are far worse ways to spend my family's wealth than getting you wine, no matter the price, Amber."

That was the differences between their backgrounds in a nutshell. Amber, Countess of San Luis and Baronness of Los Angeles (not to be confused with the Earth megalopolis of the same name, though certainly meant to invoke it), was from a peerage that was longer on traditions and pride than wealth. The family debt was only just manageable. The Martinez Estate back on New Columbia, in the rural, agricultural heartland of the continent Cascadia near the town of San Luis, was not even a full manor, simply being a sizable home. It was still the place of fond memories, of course - of days and nights spent with her parents and her younger sister, everyone happy and playing - but the drearyness of the place and the limits on their lifestyle demanded by their financial situation had left it rather empty and distant for Amber and her sister Sarina now that they were grown up and orphaned.
On the other hand, Danielle was very wealthy, even as peers go. She was the hereditary Duchess of Galicia on Andalusia, the heiress to the Verdes-Roya estates and fortune and one of the five permanent peers of Andalusia to sit in the House of Lords in Westminster without election. An only child, she had inherited after her father's death from illness shortly after coming of age and was permanently estranged from her rigidly orthodox Catholic mother (indeed, the hostility that her sexual orientation had aroused in her mother had broken her father's heart, causing both Danielle and her mother Agnes to blame each other for his death). One of the oldest recognized peerages on Andalusia, the Verdes-Roya used to be two families until merged by marriage in the 29th Century; each was exceptionally wealthy in their own right, the Verdes' being majority owners in starship shipyard business and various other industrial companies while the Royas, Dukes of Galicia, had made their fortune on exotic agricultural goods grown on their estates, as well as mining and petrochemical extractions (even in the interstellar era, petrochemicals on life-bearing planets had value, if not to the level they had possessed in the 20th Century). Combined they were one of the wealthiest families in the Empire. In contrast to Martinez Estate near San Luis, Roya Manor was a palace. Located just outside the provincial capital of Compostela, the eight digit value estate encompassed its own hunting grounds, a private stretch of the Santiago River, and a guest home that was itself a tad larger than Martinez Estate. Indeed, it had left Amber speechless the one time Danielle had brought her "home", so to speak.

One would expect that the tremendous wealth of the Verdes-Roya estate would single-handedly have brought the Martinez family out of debt and set them up well. It certainly could; the catch was that neither brought it up. Amber, fairly in love with the out-going and intelligent Danielle, did not want to appear to be seeking Danielle's family money - indeed was too proud to really contemplate the issue, not counting any fears that it might hurt their relationship - while Danielle, who was more than willing to lift Amber's estate out of debt with a single cheque, did not offer for fear of wounding her lover's pride, for she was also fairly in love with Amber.

As for how they met, New Chatham had an active social circle for lesbians of all classes, and so it was in the early spring of 3394 that Amber and Danielle, members of the House of Lords, had bumped into each other at one of the clubs on the other side of the river. It was almost love at first sight - if a physical one - and what had started out as a physical attraction had become a strong emotional one as well. Over the prior years they had been to each nother's homes and seen everything that made them dislike those homes; the painful old memories and rural seclusion of Martinez Estate for Amber and the aloof, ostentatious wealth on a planet culturally dominated by a conservative Catholic population for Danielle. For either of them New Anglia, and the city of New Chatham, was far more of a home than San Luis or Compostela.

Attending the function had been seen as a way for them to scandalize the religious conservatives in the Parliament and to try out new gowns, a recent exchange of birthday gifts, all in preparation for the stuffy, ceremonial requisites of the State Opening to come in the following week. That said, they were still technically politicians and they did have political views - both being staunch Liberals and supportive of Mr. Penton's new Government - so they found themselves wrapped up in discussion, with the Lady Scottsworth and Graf von Reiter (the former a Baroness of the Alban peerage, given name of Alice, the latter a Neu Bavarian peer with the given name Luitpold) as well as an MP from New Columbia, James Varner.

"I believe it was an error to have the Duchess of Norfolk as Chancellor of the Exchequer," Varner was arguing, to the agreement of Lady Scottsworth and the ambivalence of Graf von Reiter. "I don't doubt she is a good judge on the financial system but we were not elected into majority to hand off a Great Office of State to a Tory peer."
"Ex-Tory," von Reiter corrected him. At that, Scottsworth, Varner, and even Danielle flashed sarcastic looks.
"I'll believe it when she actually tears the Grant Government's budgets to shreds as opposed to this 'lengthy review'," Varner answered. "Because if nothing changes, the voters are going to ask why they put us back in."
"As someone who actually happens to know the Duchess a bit, I think you're off-base there," Danielle spoke up. "Yeah, she's a real Tory in some things, but she's hardly the reactionary beast the Labour rags are making her out to be. Why do you think she left the Tories?"
"Let's be honest, though, what permanent peer does Labour like?", Amber jibed. "So she could be an affirmed trade-unionist and they'd still oppose her being in the Government."
"I have to agree with Danielle." Scottsworth, having sat in Parliament for as long as Danielle, was familiar enough with her to know she preferred the use of given names in polite but informal conversation. "I think the Duchess Diane will surprise people."
"If only she'd let us actually call her simply 'Diane'," was Danielle's witty addition. "Anyway, anyone here knowledgeable in real work? I've heard the Umerians are going ahead with new reactor model testing for their mining stations."
"That is funny, I heard that the Technarchs decided to allocate the resources to improved particle cannon research," von Reiter answered, an amused smirk on his face. Due to proximity and some trade ties, the nature of the Umerian Technocracy's semi-planned economy was fairly well known to the New Anglian elite.
"Well, particle cannons are good," Danielle insisted. And being the educated starship engineer, it was something she would know to talk about. "But their last model of reactors had some shoddy design elements, they had too many physicists and not enough actual engineers at the drawing board, if you know what I mean...."
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PeZook
PostPosted: 2010-07-01 06:11am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2002-07-18 06:08pm
Posts: 13237
Location: Poland
AN OPPORTUNITY

Image

Wild Space, Spiderweb Hyperlane 87-G, outside Collector sector Zeta

The massive ship floated quietly through space, tumbling bow over stern. The movement seemed almost idyllic, as if a huge beast decided to rest in its journey to whatever destination. But to any experienced spacer, such behavior was unnatural: while all ships moved relative to each other, the rotation was usually practically imperceptible. This ship was tumbling like a dead husk, the automated Mayday beacon only serving to confirm what the crew of the independent salvage tug Opportunist could see at first glance.

The entire three-man crew gathered on the bridge as their vessel - basically, nothing more than a huge engine array capable of towing hulks through hyperspace, with a small living and service area bolted on - approached the derelict. Powerful lights illuminated its hull, which seemed in good enough repair. Sensors showed no vents, residual radiation from weapon hits, or anything out of the ordinary. Except, of course, a dead ship in good condition.

"This is weird. Do you recognize the class?", Ace 'Ace' Aceman, a Solarian enterpreneur and captain of the Opportunity, asked his helmsman, Gorgon Sagagatron Nastor - who, being a Bragulan upload, kept the entire electronic edition of 'Lloyd's Galactic Ships Registry' on his hard drive.

"Yes. It is the Sovereign, a Kajuna-class livestock freighter. The registration is Anglian, though according to the database, it should've been scrapped ten years ago.", the helmsman answered in a droning voice of the automathic speech-pattern synthesizer.

The Opportunity continued its majestic voyage in a large circle around the hulk. Ace removed his trademark baseball cap and scratched his head, "Probably bought by smugglers from the scrap heap. Any interesting readings?", this question was directed to the last crewmember, a Trill woman named simply Jill, manning the sensor/remote drone control station.

"Everything's shut down. No heat from the living spaces, no radiation from the drive, no hull vibration. Wait...", she concentrated intensely, as the computer system poured data into her implants, "The main cargo bay is still giving off heat. Looks like some sort of backup generator is running, too - I'm getting neutrinos."

"Oh, great. Now we're going to have to render aid.", Gorgon snorted. His upload body made very convincing bear-like snorting noises, "Let's just hack their system and shut down what's left of the life support, it will be much easier this way."

"Yeah, boss. We don't need the 616th crawling all over the place and taking half our salvage pay.", Jill added. Ace sighed and looked at the ceiling.

"You're both adorable, but I have no desire trying to explain to Stalin's people what happened here when they find out something is amiss. We'll do it properly or not at all."

"Bah!", Gorgon snorted again, "You seem to have forgotten the last time we tried to be all law-abiding."

Ace rolled his eyes, "Yeah, because every dead ship in Wild Space is going to be infested with Karlacks."

"I'm still with Teddy there", Jill quipped, using a little nickname she invented for Gorgon, "I know we all have backups, but do you have any idea how much Health & Wellness charges Trills for a restoration?"

Ace sighed and surrendered, "Fine...I promise we won't come aboard this time. We need to try out that new gear we have gathering dust inside the drone bay, anyway."

Jill grinned, and Gorgon let out a satisfied grunt. Ace checked the readouts again before pointing to one of the airlocks, "Okay, Teddy...Gorgon, sorry", he quickly corrected himself, seeing the Bragulan twitch. For some reason, he never took the cute name very well when Ace said it, "Detach us and hold two clicks from here."

Gorgon quickly interfaced with the ship,expertly matching its trajectory to the hulk's rotation. Then the service/living area detached from the giant hyperspace engine and maneuvered with unbragulan delicacy into a holding spot off the primary passenger airlock. While he was doing that, Jill and Ace ran maintenance checks on an impressive array of various remote drones and robot bodies stowed in the service bay.

"I just hope we don't get any transmission problems. Those things were expensive, it would be a shame to lose them.", Ace remarked, unpacking a brand-new tech-drone from its crate.

Jill smiled at him, "Don't worry. I took the liberty of ordering some signal repeaters."

"Oh. Do I want to ask how much they cost?"

"Less than losing a drone in the middle of a hulk."

"Point"

They were interrupted in their work by the intercom, "Ace, we're in position. Power to the airlock is dead, though, I can't raise the control computer."

Ace connected to the intercom network wirelessly and replied, "Okay, we're almost done here."

"What do you think could cut the power to a ship so thoroughly that even airlock batteries are dead?", Jill asked, a hint of worry in her voice.

Ace shrugged, "I have no idea. Maybe it's some Collector shenanigan."

Image

A series of hatches opened in the side of the Opportunity's command module, and with jets of compressed air, ejected two roughly humanoid drones. They coasted to the hulk and latched onto the hull with magnetic locks built into their limbs.

"You good?", Ace asked Jill back inside the command module. They were both plugged into control stations equipped with an impressive array of remote presence functionality.

"Yeah, fully operational. Weird...the emergency nuclear batteries are dead. I'll try and induce some current."

Their robot bodies were a generalized model, used by pretty much every salvage crew in the galaxy, equipped with various tools for bypassing the usual problems with getting inside space hulks. One of them was a powerful generator, capable of inducing small currents in all sorts of circuitry - such as airlock control systems and hydraulics.

"Oh yeah...I'm in!", Jill let out a satisfied cry, as the control circuits came alive. The hydraulic groaned, sending vibrations through the hull, and the ill-maintained outer door slowly slid aside, making just enough of an opening for both remote drones to squeeze through. A flurry of ice crystals erupted from the inside, indicating the presence of air in the chamber.

They entered and repressurized the airlock, in order not to kill any survivors that might be aboard. Upon opening the inner door with a manual release lever, Jill set up a signal repeater and both explorers proceeded deeper into the derelict.

"Frozen oxygen", Ace commented, seeing a neat layer of oxygen crystals covering the floors and railings, "That's a really thorough loss of life support for such a nice-looking hulk. It's like it was dead for years..."

Jill checked every control panel she could find, as the pair moved towards the control centre, guided by deck plans provided by the Lloyd's registry, "Every emergency battery is dead. Those things should last for decades!"

"Yeah...but a-grav is still working. Odd.", Ace swept his ultraviolet flashlight over another intersection, "You know, let's forget the control centre for a while. We'll get back to the airlock and get some heavier equipme...watch out!", he shouted at Jill, seeing a shape moving in the dark. Jill jumped and dodged instinctively, seeing a massive robot swing an oversized fireaxe at her.

"What the...get back to the airlock! Move!", Ace shouted and fired a few shots from his built-in plasma pistol. The shots barely scorched the barrel-like torso of the utility robot. In the false-color image generated by his night vision system, Ace managed to catch a glimpse of rust-red stains on the axehead, before he had to turn and run himself.

Fortunately, the service robot was too clumsy to give chase. They turned a corner and stopped, trying to ascertain the situation...only to stare straight in the face of an upload body.

"Kill...me...", it managed to say over the radio waves, "Kill me!", it said again, somewhat more coherently.

"What the fuck?!", Jill cursed. The robot's footsteps were still following them, getting closer, vibrating through the hull, "What the fuck is going on?!"

"KILL ME!", the upload screamed, and its limbs made a jerking move as if it wanted to punch Jill, but boiled-off lubricants made it impossible. She stared at him for a while, before Ace touched her shoulder in real life, "Snap out of it!", he shouted into her ear, at the control station.

Back aboard the hulk, the upload fell over, desperately trying to attack Jill's drone, "KILL ME!!!", it flooded the radio waves with the plead.

"Calm down, man", Ace interjected, before another anguished cry would jam the frequency, "We'll take you back to our ship and..."

"NO! DON'T! JUST KILL ME, PLEASE!!!", the upload replied and lunged at Jill again. She took a step back and stepped on something small and soft.

"What was that?", she murmured and looked at the floor. Covered by frozen oxygen, lay a crushed...insect.

Image

"Jill, let's go. We'll go back to the ship and try to figure something out."

"DON'T GO!!!", the upload screamed through the radio, as Ace and Jill ran down the corridor towards the airlock, "KILL ME!!! KILL ME!!!"
   Profile |  

Dave
PostPosted: 2010-07-01 07:18pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2004-02-07 12:55am
Posts: 901
Location: Kansas City, MO
Quote:
Letter to the Editor, Cetafe Chronicle, 13 September, 3397

The Republic of Industrial Sectors is more of a danger than you suggested in your article last week.
The profit-driven nature of the RIS dampens the moral fiber of the people in that nation. They will do whatever they think will lead to short-term profits. This short-term thinking results in mercurial attitudes towards the Confederation and, as such, the Confederation should take a cautious military stance in relation to them . Politically, it would be wise to put forth a demonstrably steady and explicit policy towards them, so that they will never be unsure what our feelings are towards them: patient and steady, yet guarded and cautious against military or economic warfare.

Adam North
The author is a student at Marlow Private University studying Intergalactic Business.

The content found in the Letters to the Editors section is reader-submitted and does not represent the views of the Editors of the Chronicle.
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Akhlut
PostPosted: 2010-07-01 10:38pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2005-09-06 02:23pm
Posts: 2659
Location: The Burger King Bathroom
Year 3386

Legong flew in the military envoy ship, the Kiggala, toward the space facilities of a major Umerian particle cannon research and manufacturing operation, the deceptively named “Advanced Beamline Concept Laboratory.”

I hope those bastards in the Hweykwali-acalli-Itlak know what the hell they're doing.

The Kiggala powered into the docking bay at the quasi-governmental corporation. The Hweykwali-acalli-Itlak had contacted them earlier and given them some minor information about a potential collaboration with the NenAltKik military and a potential large payment. Hell, Legong hadn't even been told what was going on specific. This was an exceptionally secret mission, and his only briefing was a blind/mute data slate. The gist of it was that the NenAltKik needed the masters of particle cannon technology to devote themselves to the largest particle cannon ever built. The NenAltKik navy would willingly pay for it in order to defend the Xostontu system.

Legong breathed deeply as he felt the shuddering of the Kiggala. The dark brown moxi calmy walked toward the airlock and waited for atmospheric equalization.

He looked up as the door opened and was greeted by one of the technocrats.

“Greetings, noblest moxi!” the man shouted, correctly pronouncing the 'x' unlike most humans.

“Greetings in return” Legong chirped. His syrinx could pronounce the words, but lent them a strange hollow quality.

“I am Dr. Balaji, pleased to make your acquaintance. Your superiors sent us very little information on what you wanted done. Can you please inform us?”

“I am Legong; and, yes, I can...”

As the moxi told Dr. Balaji, an impossibly large smile grew upon his face, as he marveled at the prospect of building a particle cannon of such enormous dimensions...

EDIT: used wrong version; substituted the correct one now.

Last edited by Akhlut on 2010-07-02 11:12am, edited 1 time in total.
   Profile |  

Beowulf
PostPosted: 2010-07-02 05:06am 

The Patrician


Joined: 2002-07-04 01:18am
Posts: 10350
Location: 32ULV
Chen Tsien awoke with a start. All around him, all he could see was white. "Motherfucker that hurt!"

"What's the last thing you remember?" Behind him, a kindly looking old man sat. Tsien didn't remember seeing him there just a second ago.

"I was in a Pankration tournament. My opponent had me in a hold, and was trying to break my arm."

"Well, I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is that your opponent did more than break your arm. You died. The good news, however, is that you therefore won. In accordance with your will, your backup node was uploaded until we could regenerate your body. It'll be another couple weeks before it's ready to go. You do have enough cash saved to rent a PICA until it's ready." With that came the realization that Tsien was sitting in a bootloader.

"Nah, I can do my job just fine as a disembodied upload. Which way to the Matrix?"
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Ryan Thunder
PostPosted: 2010-07-02 01:58pm 

Village Idiot


Joined: 2007-09-16 07:53pm
Posts: 4139
Location: Canada
"Upon that blasted rock, we leave your past.
Your wars. Your politics. Your chaos.
Your failure.

Upon this young and verdant world, we will build our future.
Our peace. Our government. Our plans.
Our victory."
- Memorial placard, Landfall, Verdance



Old Administrative Urbanate, Nova Miratia, 3352

Image

The Administrative Urbanate was large, and extravagant, even by modern standards. Over the centuries, new sections had been built, connecting to the original structure, which was now nearly a kilometre below the apex. When the seat of government had moved to a new structure on Verdance, the old structure was turned into a mueseum. Small crowds of vacationers, fresh from a night's rest in the Urbanate's residential levels, followed virtual tour guides through the building, their augmented reality contacts giving them full and near-instantaneous access to various current and historical information, and the StarCom interstellar communication network. In their midst, but not part of any group, two figures walked side by side, talking in hushed tones.

"Incredible," one said, an unremarkable man in his twenties, "Absolutely beautiful."

"Good!" the second said, and clapped his hands out of sheer force of habit, "Now, keep it in mind," he said, pointing a long finger at him.

"How could I forget it?" he said, spreading his arms. "I know. You told me earlier." He turned to look out at the spectacle of the tiny part of the Nova Miratian ecumenopolis that he could see from their vantage point, through a massive window that must have been a hundred metres to a side.

The second figure waited, eventually crossing his arms and tapping his foot impatiently. Some of the vacationers were giving them strange looks. "Alright 'Ryan'," he said, finally, "You've seen enough. Time to go."

Ryan paused, then nodded, albeit reluctantly. Then, as the passers by found something else to look at, the two figures vanished. No one gave them a second thought.

Last edited by Ryan Thunder on 2010-07-03 01:35am, edited 1 time in total.
   Profile |  

Dave
PostPosted: 2010-07-02 06:31pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2004-02-07 12:55am
Posts: 901
Location: Kansas City, MO
December 14, 3399. Prime Minister's cabinet meeting.

"And, finally, ladies and gentlemen, I will remind you that we are coming up on January, 3400 in Terran Standard Reckoning." said Struana, the Deputy Prime Minister. "And that concludes my preliminary report."

"Thank you." nodded the Prime Minister. He turned in the soft light. "Adairia?"

"We're still stalled on the revised tax plan. The People's Party faction is doing its best as a de facto whip, but the corporate lobby is tough." said the Speaker for the Parliament.

"Your thoughts on the matter?"

"Personally, I think the Peeps need to pull more levers through the connections it has with various unions. If they can get their members writing letters to their respective MPs, they can urge the undecided to side with the People's Party and push this plan through. Of course, it's not like this is really much of a change either way -- a percentage point either way at most -- but it looks good, come election time."

"Anything else in the pipeline?" probed the prime minister.

"Well, there's the Security Investment Enforcement Stock Trade Act (SIESTA), the Expanded and Increased Educational and Institutional Opportunities plan (EIEIO)... oh, and the Revised Defense Budget."

"SIESTA's the one about privitizing the financial sector, right?" asked the PM.

"Yes," spoke up Parlan, the Senior Exchequer. "Sorry to break in, but..."

"No, go ahead." invited the PM.

"Thank you. Some entrepreneurs have been lobbying to reduce restrictions on the banking industry. As you probably know, the financial sector is mostly state-run, and what few private banks exist are heavily regulated. Reducing regulations would increase financial innovation!" said the Exchequer, a bit too eagerly.

"I see." intoned the Prime Minister. He leaned back in his plush faux-leather chair, his tailstump socketing smoothly into the hole designed for it as he stretched to work out the kinks of sitting still for too long. Some things just felt good against the hide, and cool smooth leather was one of them.

Tavis continued, "And EIEIO is expanding our Academic Alliance program, right?"

"Correct, Mr. Prime Minister." said the Minister of Foreign Affairs. "It expands our continuing exchange program with United Sectors and opens it to other galactic civilizations."

"Has United Sectors approved this?"

"If you will recall, they've been asking for the expansion for some time, and I'm sure they won't complain about us opening up the program to others." reminded the human.

"Ah, I seem to remember something about that. What was the last thing? Oh, right," he grimaced "the defense bill. More military spending, I take it?"

"Yes Sir." said Isobel, the Minister of Defense. "The Admiralty believes we don't have enough destroyers to adequately defend our borders."

"Oh, shard it." said the prime minister. He scrubbed his face with the heels of his hands. The foreign minister suppressed a chuckle. The gesture did not look the same with Idurans as it did with humans, and it didn't come across quite as well.

"You know those things are craking expensive, right? Not to mention the amount of political wrangling that has to be done to keep all the local economies of all the city-states happy?"

"Yes Sir, we're aware of that. But the fact remains, the pirates around our colony states are getting nosy, and we're going to need to consider some offensive action sooner or later."

"And we're going to produce them first? That'll take years!"

"A little under two, sir, from laying the keel to final readiness checks. And we can run them in parallel or staggered, if we get the funding."

"How many did you want?"

"We were thinking 25 new-"

The prime minister's mouth fell open in a silent laugh, as was customary for his species. It snapped shut and then said "I'd say you're much more likely to get something like five."

"Five? But that's not nearly enough for absolute supremacy in battle!"

"Look, we already have a tight enough budget as it is. This tax bill was supposed to ease some of tension, and now you want a new pony. If you can demonstrate a need, maybe Parliament can get you some more funding than that, but five destroyers is what I would push for. At least to start with. It would work better if you worked in some orders for some smaller ships as well, so it isn't just the big shipyards getting all the contracts."

"Very well." sighed the Minister of Defense.

"Anything else?" asked Tavis.

"We still don't have an embassy set up with The Commune. I can list others, but given how close they are and their strength, I really want to get a foot in the door with them." said Elliot Britavish, the Foreign Minister.

"Our initial discussions with the Chamarran Hierarchy proved fruitful. They are willing to let us borrow some of their terraforming equipment and personnel to improve our efforts." said the Minister of the Interior.

"Good, Jaryn, glad to hear it. We've been looking for something to spruce up the economy of the colony worlds, remember? This might turn the trick."

"Indeed, Tavis." The minister smiled slightly.

"Well, if there isn't anything else... I guess I can declare this meeting adjourned."
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2010-07-02 11:33pm 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 22241
Hi guys. Recommended listening for this post is Mars, Bringer of War by Gustav Holst, and extra thanks are owed to Stuart Slade of Salvation War fame for introducing the piece in the context of blasting the crud out of things with a beam weapon.

Advanced Beamline Concept Facility, Asteroid Belt B, Hemings' Star system, Sector X-7
July 21, 3391


The director clapped his hands as he entered the control room. Half a dozen operators spun round in their chairs at the sound; they saw Dr. Christofilos striding through the door, followed by several of the project's division leads and a dark-skinned woman in a suit, presumably from the Ministry of Research. Behind them came a group of dignitaries from the Union of Four Stars- all moxli, of course; the massive allosaur-like kipaktli representatives from the Union's military had their own viewing gallery. Christofilos gave the seated men a beaming grin.

"Are we ready for the test, Lin?"

A man in the uniform of a chief warrant officer of the Space Security Force rose to his feet. "Yes, sir. All systems are warmed up; we just walked through the last set of diagnostics." Christofilos nodded. They'd poached some of the best capital ship gunners in the fleet to offer their experience and recommendations to the design project. Much of that experience had gone into the diagnostic checklist.

One of the other operators cocked his head to listen to an earbud, then spoke. "The pickets report that the targets are ready to be moved into position. Astrometrics has double-checked our planned firing vectors; they're clear."

The director smiled again. "Glad to hear it. Wouldn't want any of the neighbors coming by in ten or twenty years to file a complaint about an uptick in cosmic rays." There had been a few high profile cases where bureaucrats from the Ministry of Welfare stormed into weapons labs demanding that they file for permits, citing the potential for serious radiation safety hazards in nearby star systems. Being able to prove that they were firing on a clear line out to intergalactic space would save on paperwork.

With exaggerated formality, Christofilos turned to the woman who had come into the control room with him. "With your permission, Madame Secretary, shall we begin?"

She snorted, then smiled. "Go ahead, Nick."

Christofilos walked over to a panel on the wall, inserted a key in a lockout on the panel, and turned it. He then nodded to the operators, and said "Chief Zhang, you have operational control of the test." The gun control crew turned back to their control boards and went to work, tapping touchscreens and monitoring the output from holographic and liquid-crystal displays. The chief, serving as gunner for the test, turned a second key on his control board, then announced in a stiff formal tone, "Report beamline status."

"First stage statics ready."

"Second stage synchrotrons live."

"Third stage synchrotrons live."

"Multiplexer array live."

"All linac elements green."

The master checklist completed, the chief gave an order whose origins were lost in the mists of history, the standard command for opening fire with Umerian capital ship artillery.

"Commence primary ignition."

The deck plating hummed underfoot as the station-keeping drive fought against the recoil of the ion beam. The control room itself was part of a small facility piggybacked on the massive multi-kilometer ion cannon; it was dwarfed by the power plants feeding the gun.

"We have beam."

"Test steering dipoles." Spikes of electromagnetic activity appeared on the sensor displays as the magnets at the cannon's mouth swept through their full range of power settings, panning the beam back and forth across the sky.

"Steering dipoles are green."

The atmosphere in the control room was cool and tightly focused. Everything was going according to script, but the Umerian technicians were ready to meet any unexpected problems with hair-trigger speed. The chief passed another order. "Comms, tell DesRon Twenty-Six that we are ready for the first series of targets."

"DesRon Twenty-Six copies. First drone launch in… thirty seconds." The spectators watched a plot of subspace sensor data showing the station's field of fire; conventional radar was nearly useless in the EM hash generated by the beam while in operation. On the edge of the plot, a wedge of small contacts appeared. Several small contacts detached from the wedge, accelerating across the field of fire.

"Fire control, Gaussian bursts, sigma fifty, one millisecond per incoming."

"Engaging." The blips vanished as they entered the cone the ion cannon could traverse to strike. They disappeared almost simultaneously, blasted to vapor by a stream of high-density ion bolts. The station rocked slightly in response to the torque generated by the traversing beam, before the station-keeping thrusters compensated.

"Confirmed kill on all targets. Second wave in fifteen seconds."

This time, four blips streaked across the screen at far greater speed- from the numbers beside the group of contacts, at the maximum acceleration of a hypervelocity antiship missile. The drones crossed the conical volume of fire within the station's reach, then vanished once again.

"Confirmed kill on all targets. Third wave in forty seconds."

"Go to sigma one hundred."

The third wave of drones came in fast and smart, whipsawing back and forth across their base trajectory in blurring evasive maneuvers. This time, each drone vanished separately, over a span that the eye could actually discern.

"Confirmed kill on all targets. First series complete." There was a spatter of applause. Dr. Christofilos leaned over to the woman from the Ministry of Research. "Dr. Wu's team did some very good work on the fire control software; make sure to toss a memo over to the Ministry of Simulations."

"Comms, check with Tug Squadron One."

"Tug Team One confirms that the target will be in position in eighty seconds. Final braking maneuvers are underway." The focus of the subspace sensor display widened, and the viewers could see a squadron of tugs wrangling a small asteroid into position. The sensor readout indicated a mass of nickel-iron roughly the size of a cruiser.

"Increase power to twenty percent, switch to point targeting."

The humming of the deck plates picked up, and was now perceptible through the soles of the watchers' feet as the asteroid drifted to a stop under the station's gun. One of the viewscreens shifted to show a visual image of the asteroid.

"Engage."

A streak of light tracked across the surface of the asteroid as the beam scoring a trench across its surface. The trench was dim, though, compared to the blazing crater in the center of the picture. Atoms struck by relativistic lead ions literally disintegrated, dissolved into their component particles, which flew on from the point of impact like shrapnel and carved a deep damage track through the great mass of metal. The surface of the asteroid near the beam bulged outward from vapor building beneath the surface, then burst in a cloud of white-hot sparks. Many of the spectators let out breaths they hadn't realized they were holding.

"Step down to one percent power and disengage. Comms, can you get us a damage assessment?" The omnipresent hum faded to inaudibility.

"Frigates are feeding us the data now, Chief."

The screen zoomed in on the asteroid. Near the point of impact, there was a deep white-hot crater; beyond the crater rim the metal surface faded to dull red. In the center of the crater, though, was a hollow- the pure black of space.

The comm operator broke in. "Frigates confirm burnthrough with major overpenetration."

"Copy. Go to conical fire, radius one hundred. Reacquire target." This time, the entire surface of the asteroid glowed as overlapping fireballs from individual bolts spread across its surface.

"Step up to fifty percent power." The hum returned, accompanied by vibrations in the floor and walls. The asteroid burned with light, far brighter than before; the monitors dimmed for several seconds, then returned to normal. Nothing was visible on screen but a cloud of luminous fog.

"Cease fire and do a sensor sweep." The floor stopped shaking, though the ringing of harmonics persisted for a few seconds. The display panels settled down as the operators cut off the ion beam.

"Target confirmed vaporized, sir."

"Diagnostics, any problems?"

"Quadrupole misalignment detected at frames 4893 through 4936. Well within operating parameters; already adjusting to compensate."

"Good. We're clear to move to the final target, then. Comms, update?"

"The tugs are moving Atlatonan into position."

This one was larger than the asteroid; the viewscreen refocused on it. The director turned and nodded gravely to the alien dignitaries. "Noblest moxli, we thank you for providing the target ship for this exercise."

The nearest saurian, wearing the jeweled harness of a senior military officer, nodded in the human style. She swiveled her eyes to focus on the screen, then saluted the image. She spoke in the English-variant that served Umeria as an official language, with a hissing, hollow accent. "It is never easy to use an obsolete ship for weapons testing, but it is necessary. Rest well, honored vessel, and know that in death you perform a final, essential service to the NenAltKik."

The old Union battleship had served in that alien civilization’s starfleet for many decades. The beginning of the end had come when a defense review marked it as unsuitable for the latest round of electronics upgrades. Some years later, it was pulled from the active duty fleet. Five years ago, Atlatonan had been removed even from the training unit that had adopted it. Now it was at the end of its life as a warship, too small, slow, and myopic to function on a modern battlefield.

Atlatonan’s defenses had been reinforced for this last test, in an attempt to restore it to the durability of a modern vessel. Old hull frames were replaced by modern alloys. The great majority of its armament and sensors had been scavenged to equip defense platforms, leaving room for extra modular power plants and shield generators of the latest type. The automated target ship was now at least as difficult to kill as most modern battleships- at the cost of all its ability to fight back against one.

The moxli flag officer gestured to the gun control crew. “You may open fire when ready, master gunner.”

Courteously, the chief replied. “Copy that, ma’am,” then gave the order again.

“Commence primary ignition.”

The floor began to hum again. “We have beam.”

“Target acquired, Chief.”

“Point target, five percent firepower.”

There was a flash from the target ship’s shields, but they stood firm against the jet of ionized lead, yielding only a modest glow from side-scatter.

“We have impact on target. Target shields holding. No erosion detected.”

“Step up to twenty percent power.”

The deck plates vibrated once more; the glow from Atlatonan’s reinforced defensive screen grew to a crimson splash across a third of its length.

“Target shields still holding. Shield erosion detected.” Figures flickered across the displays- side-scatter intensity, estimated time to burnthrough, estimated leakage through the wall shields.

“Go to fifty percent power.”

As before, the vibration grew; the red patch on the target ship’s defensive screen flared to coruscating orange, and expanded to cover practically the entire hull.

“Target shields eroding rapidly. Significant leakage; telemetry reports minor surface damage, growing slowly.”

“Hold for sixty seconds for telemetry purposes, then go to full power.”

A minute ticked by. Suddenly, the shuddering of the deck grew; the audience grimaced in discomfort. An empty coffee cup left unsecured slid across a tabletop; one of the researchers shot out a hand and grabbed it before it could fall to the floor.

The Atlatonan’s shields blazed brilliant white on the monitor, the ship completely invisible behind the glow.

“Rapid shield erosion... we have burnthrough!” An image from one of the escorting frigates showed a gout of plasma blew out the opposite side of the old battleship- once the beam overwhelmed the shield panel locally, the hull immediately under fire offered little resistance.

“Gaussian fire, sigma fifty, pan along target centerline.” The hail of ions swept along the ship; secondary explosions blasted chunks out of its flanks as fusion bottles let go and superconducting storage rings quenched, releasing their stored energy in massive surges.

After the second pass of the beam, Atlatonan’s hull broke apart entirely, the pieces glowing at the edges and drifting apart in space.

“Target confirmed destroyed.”

The gunnery chief ended the exercise. “Cease fire, weapons safe. Begin power-down sequence.” He then spun his chair away from the board to face the spectators, rose and saluted. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a successful test!” Grinning broadly, he relaxed the salute.

There was a moment of silence. There were cases on record of capital-class ships being destroyed in such a short span of time- by the combined fire of enemy capital squadrons, by direct hits from a salvo of Byzantine nova shells, and dozens of cases during the Chamarran War, naturally. But for a single beam weapon to blot out a battleship, even a small and aging one, that quickly and violently, was nearly unprecedented in this corner of known space.

Then the first of the division chiefs began to clap. The applause spread throughout the human element of the audience, the moxli representatives joining in politely- all were now familiar with human body language and social conventions by years of close collaboration on the program.

In the excited conversation that followed, Dr. Cristofilos found himself speaking to one of the senior Union military officers, in the echoing, sibilant tone produced by the syrinx the aliens used in place of a human larnyx.

“I compliment you on the ssuccess of the program.”

“Thank you, noble moxli. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my team, especially Dr. Bowdoin’s engineering skills.” He gestured in the direction of a quiet, dark-haired man who was discussing the control room layout with a Union engineer. They’d given up trying to design a control room that could be used effectively by both three-fingered saurians and five-fingered simians years ago; the control room was a modular design made to be removed during disassembly of the cannon. It would not be transferred to the Union of Four Stars’ shipyard facilties along with the rest of the weapon.”

After diverting the moxli’s attention, Christofilos caught the eye of the representative from the Ministry of Research, and gestured towards the door. They detached from the group and walked a few meters down the hall to a side room.

“Yes, Nick? What’s the trouble?”

“Lara, it’s been a great experience. The NenAltKik team really pushed; it was a pleasure working with them. We got to try a lot of things we should have done years ago.”

“I know. The force field beamline jacket? Brilliant. Cuts maintenance costs by half.”
Christofilos’s easy smile returned to the surface, but soon vanished. “Thanks, but... when are we ever going to build another one like this? I can’t see the Navy wanting to put together an eight kilometer long, ah, dinosaur to carry a gun this size. I’m half amazed the NenAltKik decided to.”

She responded immediately. “Nick, stop and think for a minute. Drop a few klicks of acceleration chambers off the front end of this thing, cut the beam current down by about three quarters so you don’t need so much containment, and what do you get?”

“Aside from losing about 85% of the beam power, you mean?”

“Compare what you’d have, in terms of basic engineering parameters- size, power consumption, power on target, that sort of thing- to the Mark Fourteen proton cannon.”

The scientist stroked his chin for a moment, then slapped himself on the forehead. “Aaah. Why didn’t I think of that?”

She smiled sweetly. “Must be the blinkers. Really, if you can get a concept study outlined by the end of the fiscal year, the Space Security Force will be thrilled to make up in funding what you lose from the Union.”

“So, all this time you’ve had us building the prototype for the next generation of battleship guns?”

“The very big prototype, and there were other reasons, yes, but that’s about two thirds of why the First Technarch cleared the program. The other third is, of course, that this cements the alliance with the Union. And, of course puts a fair chunk of their military budget for the next several years into a ship that that needs our spare parts to keep shooting straight, which is... call it the gravel in the concrete, if I may stretch a metaphor?”

“Anything you like, Lara, anything you like. This means I get to keep the team together. Finance won’t be any trouble?”

“Oh, no. Your group has priority, even over most of the state projects. You know the drill- reward success.”

“Thanks. I’ll get the physics team on it; we’ll need most of the engineers to oversee the transport.
   Profile |  

PeZook
PostPosted: 2010-07-03 07:57am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2002-07-18 06:08pm
Posts: 13237
Location: Poland
AN OPPORTUNITY

Wild Space, Spiderweb Hyperlane 87-G, outside Collector sector Zeta

"Well, killer robots I can understand, we've seen those before...", Gorgon began, "...but uploads that want to kill themselves? How do you humans say it...what the fuck? Did I get it right?"

"Yeah", Jill assured him absentmindedly, "Killer robots and beetles."

"Bloodthirsty alien beetles who made the crew go mad", Ace offered his own well-reasoned theory.

"So...the pressurized, heated cargo hold will probably hold their queen, spawning her broodlings and feeding them the disemboweled bodies of the crew, defended by robots hacked by infested crewmen and reprogrammed to protect The Mother.", Jill added her own two cents, dripping with sarcasm. Her colleagues both nodded in agreement.

"Totally.", they said, and Ace added, "Let's hack the life support system and shut the rest of it down."

Jill raised her hands, "Whoa, whoa! Did you perhaps miss all the sarcasm?"

Ace and Gorgon both looked at her quizzically. After a pause, Gorgon asked, cautiously, "You were joking?"

"Yes, Teddy, I was joking. I suggest we get back there with heavy equipment, blow that robot to bits and see if we can find out anything else."

"Are you sure you were joking?", Gorgon decided to ask again. You never knew with the Trills, after all, and the theory sounded completely reasonable.

"Goddammit, yes!"

"Oh. Good."

Image

They were more methodical this time round. More precisely, they brough large-bore plasma rifles with them, and a generator to power the airlocks, so that they could move freely in and out of the ship. The Opportunity released an entire swarm of bots this time, controlled partially by the ship's expert system, partially by the crew.

They entered the hulk's bowels heavily armed and surrounded by remote sensor probes and techbots. Gorgon was with them, in his own remote body.

They moved much quicker, too, but when they arrived back at the spot where they found the crazed upload, there was nothing there.

"Okay...he could barely move.", Jill said, frantically searching every nook and cranny, "He can't be all that far."

"Hey!", the radio crackled with Gorgon's raspy voice, "There's a dead guy here."

They all converged on his location, seeing a mangled body lay on the floor in two halves, covered by frozen oxygen, "Hacked in half. Armed. Was wearing heavy clothing, like he was hot...err, cold", Gorgon corrected himself, remembering humans were damn heat-loving beasts.

"That repair bot had blood stains on his axe.", Ace remembered the brief glimpse he got of the robot's weapon.

"Yeah, we figured it was a killer robot. Not that it was hard.", Gorgon shouldered his rifle, "Let's pry the control centre open, maybe we can find a way to take over the ship there. And perhaps some crazy crewmen to kill?"

"You're fucked up"

"No, just honest."

Nothing bothered them along the way. However, the hull did carry dull thumps and steady vibration, causing Ace's crew to jump. After only a few minutes, they finally reached the massive, armored door leading to the control centre.

"Okay...I hope they're not locked. Give me a hand here, Ace?", Jill set down a bulky nuclear generator on the ground. Gorgon covered her and Ace as they tried to find the power main and connect it to the generator.

"Oh, great. It's covered by the hull plating...we'll have to cut."

Suddendly, with a dull throb, the power main came alive and the door slid open, creaking as it overcame the frozen lubricants. Gorgon swiveled, pointing his huge rifle inside the control centre...and saw a writhing, teeming mass pour out.

Jill tried to run, but her robot body was chased down and ovewhelmed. Screaming filled the airwaves. Gorgon began firing, the searing bolts of white-hot plasma blasting huge holes in the mass, but they filled up immediately. Ace managed to jump up and lock himself to the ceiling.

"Gorgon! Get out of here! Back to the airlock!"

The Bragulan didn't argue long. He turned and ran, as the wave of tiny, gleamin machines followed him.

Jill was still screaming. Ace disconnected himself briefly and jumped over to her station, physically pulling out the interface cables.

"Christ...", he muttered under his breath, checking her pulse. She seemed catatonic, her pupils entirely dilated, hands shaking.

"It shouldn't be happening...it's not possible!"

He took a look around his shoulder, at Gorgon, still connected to his drone. Without thinking, he pulled his cables out as well. The Bragulan growled and looked at his captain with anger.

"What did you do, Boss?! I was almost at the airlock!"

"Whatever. Forget it - those...things managed to fuck up Jill through the link. I'm not risking you."

Gorgon looked at Jill slumped in her chair, "Kabrek", he cursed in his native tongue, "What now?"

"Now we get the hell out of here and let that fucking psychopath Stalin deal with the situation."

"I can get behind that."

Gorgon moved back to the helms station and fired up the command module's propulsion systems, while Ace did his best to help Jill with the help of an automated expert system medkit.

The crew was too busy to see that, but as the Opportunity backed away from the hulk, the airlock it used for the initial infiltration exploded, the outer door torn out by a tremendous force. A mass of tiny, beetle-like creatures poured out and began to coalesce into a massive sphere.

By the time the salvage tug spooled up its hyperdrive, the sphere flashed white and, in an explosion of stellar energy, immolated itself.
   Profile |  

Akhlut
PostPosted: 2010-07-03 12:27pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2005-09-06 02:23pm
Posts: 2659
Location: The Burger King Bathroom
Advanced Beamline Concept Facility, Asteroid Belt B, Hemings' Star system, Sector X-7
July 21, 3391

Kenkahweykwa-acalli Tizokik was aboard the Sai-class ship Botee watching the trials of the 'big gun,' as it was being called among the kipaktli crewmen. Dr. Balaji was among them, being the attache of the Umerians.

The viewing deck was quiet, as they eyed the ion beam smash into the old battleship. As soon as the beam bit into the ship and obliterated it, Tizokik turned to the rest of the room.

“Soldiers! We now have the jaws of Mo-itlapaltayomixi!” she said.

The assembled kipakt roared in approval; Dr. Balaji covered his ears in vain against the deafening cacophony. The only kipakt who did not join in the raucous celebration was Tewktyao Tepoz, the head of NenAltKik's security. He approached the Kenkahweykwa-acalli.

“Ma'am?”

“What is it now? Are we not in complete secret?”

“No, that is not what troubles me. May I speak to you privately?” his voice betraying no emotion.

She nodded and marched off with Tepoz. Dr. Balaji knew better than to follow, but did not relish the idea of being stuck in a room of excited predators.

They headed into a shielded officers' meeting room and did a complete lockdown. The larger female gazed icily at the male with the painted face.

“What is it, Tepoz?”

“I fear that the Umerians are merely using us for their own science experiments. They have their jaws around our throat now; in order to keep this ship functional, we need to pay them. The Eealtepekali is not going to be pleased with this in the least.”

“I know you prefer self-sufficiency, Tepoz, but we have no reason to fear the Umerians. For one, we can eventually produce these parts on our own, and, secondly, we have plenty of other ships. Furthermore, we no longer live in the ages of our ancestors. Alliances are more permanent; no longer are we friends one week, enemies the next. This will be permanent. Anyway, this ship is to prevent anyone from attacking Tlali. As for the Eealtepekali: those politicians can eat shit for all I care,” she grunted.

“You might be the head of the Kwi-acalli, ma'am, but you are still subject to the dictates of the Eealtepekali. If they opt to strip you of your rank and discharge you, you have no recourse. You had better hope the new one hires you and that the politicians don't throw you out again,” he said.

She snorted and growled. “I do what I must for the NenAltKik, you know that. The situation unfolding between those foolish humans to our 'north' cannot be allowed to threaten the homeworld. The Mo-itlapaltayomixi will provide permanent protection that the politicians can't force on missions outside the system.”

Tepoz exhaled. “Regardless, I don't think your future in the Kwi-acalli looks bright.”

Another snort. “Thanks for ruining my day.”

Tepoz chirped. “I do my best.”
   Profile |  

Lonestar
PostPosted: 2010-07-03 05:39pm 

Keeper of the Schwartz


Joined: 2003-02-13 04:21pm
Posts: 12625
Location: The third best place to live in the country.
Vulture Rock Command Bunker
Shepistani Federation
3375



Image

"Ahhh it's been so long since I've been here. Just like old times, eh Wade?"

"It looks like Corvus Rock." Wade said as the shuttle descended. The area around the bunker was a wasteland, having been hammered during the Amplitur War centuries ago. After the nearly decapitating strike at the start of the war the Shepistani leadership had holed up there, and never left. The situation was similiar in the Grand Dominion, where the Dominionite leadership remained in Mount Thunder, despite the reconstruction of the ruined Arcos of Chesapeake. The situation gave President Frederick of the Shepistanis and Lord Fairfax of the Dominionites a strange, mysterious mystique. Lord Fairfax rarely left the Mount Thunder and President Frederick never did.

"Livink in a bunker, is no way for a leader to lead." Vlad said. Vlad was a fully developed AI in what appeared to be a older model of Chesapeake Arms Automated Police Enforcer drone. Vlad had much greater cogitative abilities and more than a few tricks up his sleeves...so to speak. People who saw him escorting Blitzschlag just assumed him to be another dumb APE, often to their misfortune. He shifted in a strangely human mannerism, and vocalized a sigh. "No partying up with the ladies in Montegomery Arco tonight? What a desolate place."

"Vlad, it always creeps me out when you say stuff like that." Wade said. "At least they'll have brewskis here. No prohibition. Ol' Fairfax has really gone around the bend."

"I agree mein kinder, and that is why we are here." Blitzschlag said as the shuttle touched down and the ramp began to lower. "President Frederick has graciously agreed to help me with a science experiment. Ah, there is Colonel Winter now."

Image

"Dr. Blitzschlag, good evening. Wade, so good to see you." Winter looked at Vlad who had immediately shut up and was scanning the area, making appropriate beeping sounds like a production model APE. Winter continued to stare at him, but Vlad resolutely remained in character. Two Shepistani Republican Guardsmen were standing behind Winter in RT-56 power armor. Behind them was a pysker and her handler. The pysker was wordlessly moving her mouth, every now again she would grimace in Wade and Blitzschlag's direction.

"Colonel Winter, I am glad to see you." Blitzschlag said.

"President Frederick has directed that you are to be brought to him immediately...unless you need a rest?" Winter said. Blitzschlag shook his head. Winter brought his hand up to his chin. "Have either of you, ah, seen the President in person?"

"I was there when he was put in charge of Vulture Rock." said Blitzschlag. "Yes, me and him go way back. We will see him now."

Winter nodded and him and his entourage escorted the three into the facility, boarding a tram that would take them several kilometers beneath of the surface of the planet. Blitzschlag and Winter made small talk about sports while Wade and Vlad stared at the two Guardsmen. The tram stopped somewhere along sub-basement 12. As the car emptied Wade noticed that Securitons were patrolling the corridors...no human soldiers in sight, although there were technicians and bureaucrat wandering around. Two securitons rolled up, and the two guardsmen and pysker/handler team remained in the car.

"The President will see you now." One of them(#14) growled. Winter nodded and the group followed the two. After what Wade's HUD told him was .78 kilometers they stopped at a blast door. The door opened up and one of the Securitons waved them in. "The President of the Shepistani Federation." 14 intoned.

"Holy shit." Wade said.

Image

"Dr. Blitzschlag so good to see you again." Came the gravelly voice of President Frederick.

"Frederick my boy, I am so pleased to see you again in person." Blitzschlag said. "And President! I was so proud once I realized what you had done."

Winter was looking back and forth between Frederick and Blitzschlag with faint astonishment on his face. Before Frederick could respond Wade spoke.

"You're a fucking ZAX!"

"I am. A very special one." Frederick said. "The Shepistani government was destroyed during the Amplitur decapitation strike. I ensured that civilian authority remained over the military. I still do, although my time as Caesar is coming to an end." The camera lenses shifted back to Blitzschlag. "The clones are ready, Herr Doktor."

"Clones? Wade asked. Blitzschlag sighed.

"Wade my boy, the sitting Lord Fairfax is running the Grand Dominion into the ground. We are a laughing stock of the galaxy, he will live forever...and has no heirs. President Frederick has agreed to help me remedy it, with the caveat that I help him. And so, the clones." Blitzschlag paced in a circle. "I ultimately settled on one, and it had to be this Lord Fairfax. The instruments do not lie. HE is starting to play his game again." Blitzschlag looked enraged. "Matthew of Fairfax will be brought back, as well as General Sheppard."

"Sheppard? The loon I killed in Japanistan?" Blitzschlag nodded. "Doc, clones aren't copies of the original. If they don't have that Marine Dad yelling at them it makes them different. And why does Hizonner," Wade jerked a thumb at Frederick "want with a clone? He's frickin' President of Shepistan!"

"Because one cannot lead from a bunker." Frederick said sadly. "I had thought for awhile that perhaps I could transfer myself into a human body via man-machine interface...but no, that would be too easily detectable. This has to be done. Blitzschlag suggested General Sheppard."

"But..they won't be them!"

"They will be Wade." Blitzschlag said.

"How?"

"Have you ever heard of Quantum Leap?"
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Steve
PostPosted: 2010-07-03 08:47pm 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2002-07-03 01:09pm
Posts: 8423
Location: Florida USA
Aurora Delgado Cloister, Southern Sevilla Province
Andalusia, Star Kingdom of New Anglia
19 September 3398



With the warm summer wind of the subtropics around her, carrying the smells of the nearby countryside, Shayera allowed herself a smile of contentment as she stretched her healed wings to their full span. The updrift wind caught them and raised her higher into the open sky, their strength a caress to the sensitive frames of the wings while it pulled back her red hair. Flying like this was simply impossible in most Outback worlds. So few were properly terraformed and those that were, being so chaotic, one couldn't take to the sky without risking being fatally struck by some errand spacecraft or starship coming or going from the surface.
She didn't have all day to fly, as much as she'd like. Her apprentice, Rana Shaheen, was to begin her Trials this day. If she passed - and Shayera was confident she would - Rana would become a Sentinel of the Silver Moon and Shayera would have seen her first Apprentice successfully become a full Sister in the Order.

She found Rana staring wistfully out at the Mediterrenean Ocean, a massive "inland" ocean on Andalusia (considered inland because it had only one natural outlet to the rest of the world's oceans and was entirely bordered by landmasses, much as the Mediterrenean was back on Earth. She was in a plain tunic and trousers and, Shayera sensed, deem in thought, attempting to steel herself for the trials ahead. Landing behind her, Shayera walked up and put a hand on her apprentice's bared shoulder. "Rana, it is almost time."
"I know," was her reply. "I am just thinking."
"Of?"
Rana looked back to her. "My Cloister sisters, the ones from my Initiate year... so many of them are together, Master Shayera. They find comfort in each other, and... I have never done the same. I simply have not thought about it, we've been so busy..."
"Not all Acolytes become involved with each other," was Shayera's answer. "Honestly, Rana, a number only become interested in other girls because they are surrounded by those who are like that."

"That's not how it is for me," Rana answered. "I... I like other girls. It's just... I've never felt close enough to one. And when we were in the Outback and I saw Sisters Ashley and Yuna, it made me wonder what I was missing." Sensing her mentor's thoughts, Rana added, "Is that what it's been for you, Master? Have you never sought a lover because you... want a husband?"
There was a look, and thought, of bewilderment and uncertainty of how to answer the question. "It is true, to an extent, I suppose," she finally answered, not particularly wanting to continue the line of conversation she saw this heading in.
"And have you?"
"As a Sentinel, a couple of times I had enjoyed their company," was the delicate answer. "As a Knight, I've been far too busy honestly, especially once I had to care for you."
"And did you... love any of them?"
"No." The word, however, had prompted a thought in her, and she saw Rana had picked up on that. "You are about to ask if I've been in love. The answer is yes. Twenty years ago, Rana, when I was an Acolyte here, and unapprenticed, I fell very deeply in love for a time."

"Who was he?"
The old emotional wound throbbed, and a forced answer came out. "She, Rana, was a girl my age, but not of the Order. We met rather accidentally and were together for almost a year. But she was sent off to university, and I was offered early Trials, and so our paths split and our love ended."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Rana said. "But why do I get the sense from you, Master... that I remind you of her?"
"She has your coloring, my student, and your hair. I would be less than honest to admit that one of the reasons I sought you as an apprentice was because you reminded me of her."

Before more could be said, a robed Acolyte appeared from within the room behind them. "Sister Rana, Master Dumar is ready for you."
Shayera set a hand on Rana's shoulder as she nodded. "Remember all you've been taught, my dear Rana, and you will pass. I have faith in you."
"Thank you, Master." Rana bowed to her and turned to follow the Dorei Acolyte to the Courtyard, where she would begin the Trial of Thought - the first of her trials to gain Sentinel status.

After standing alone for a time, Shayera took off again. She gained altitude quickly with the aid of the Levitanium belt she wore, producing a short electro-magnetic field that used the planet's native one to keep her aloft. After a time she turned it off so that she might glide, moving further and further away from the Cloister, and off toward a nearby mountainside. At this height the protective fence, marking the mountainside as being private property Once, twenty years ago, she had come this way and not known of the fence. She knew of it now, of course, but it did not matter to her because she knew how secluded the property was and that none would come up this way.

She landed at the mountainside, directly by a fairly small waterfall; the water originated from an underground spring, flowing down into the Marbella River by way of a mountain spring. Memory led her to a rock facing beside the falls. There, with the fading of 20 years, were the blackened parts of rock from where she had used her beamsaber to scorch her name and her lover's beside each other. Beside it was where the water was pouring down, covering a small cubby space where they had come together so many times to let the cool water run over them.
Carefully Shayera shed her belt and clothes. She folded her wings backward and stepped into the waterfall, letting the water rinse her of a bit of sweat and soak her hair. The feeling of the water provoked sense memories of the prior times she'd been here. She would remember, vividly, the hands of her lover moving over her body, the shape and contours of her lover's body as she had touched it in turn. They had washed here, played, and made love a number of times all those years ago, memories that she could not lose, as much as they hurt.
Her heart fluttered. Those old memories brought a blush to her face as she thought of how passionate they'd been together, when it seemed like no matter how many times they peaked there was always more energy to expend, until finally they laid tired across the soft soil mere inches under the surface of the water and fell asleep in each other's arms. Shayera wondered how often she came up here - it was her property now, after all - and relived their romance just as Shayera now did. She hadn't done it often; usually whenever she was reminded of it, as lovelorn Rana had just done unintentionally.
That brought her eyes back to the markings on the nearby rockface. She traced the Latin characters of her name and then her lover's, as she had burned there long ago. Her vision was filled with the beauty of the other girl, only 18 at the time, her green eyes full of life and her tanned brown skin glistening from the water cascading around her. And though she had not said the name in many years, Shayera now whispered it, softly.
"Danielle."


As Shayera relived her old romance, Rana was intent upon a simple plastic cube. Her mind reached out and took it, held it, no matter the sensations she felt. She was slowly becoming covered in sweat from the exertion, her body confusing the strain in her mind for physical strain. Her bare skin - she was nude - tingled from the sensations of the device she was strapped to. An attending Knight-Captain, a blue-skinned Lushan Dorei she knew as Pana Senyo, delicately ran the tip of a feather over her chest and belly and then to other areas, some of them far more sensitive.
Once and a while, Pana would speak to her, attempting to draw her into conversation. She would offer to tickle her feet with the feather, or remark on whether she knew of such and such's departure from the Order, or sometimes on her favorite songs. Rana ignored it, just as she ignored the feather moving so softly over her skin and the tickle in her nerves, just as she ignored the tingling along her legs and back from the neural stimulators built into the device. With what spare mental capacity she had Rana blocked these sensations out; her entire being was focused on the cube.

Time passed. Suddenly a blue-skinned hand reached out and plucked the cube out of mid-air - the universal sign that the Trial was over. Rana relaxed her grip and, for the first time, let out an involuntary giggle and began to squirm against the restraints. "You have passed, Acolyte," Pana informed her. "You are aware of what comes next?" She pressed a button on her remote and the tingling along Rana's back and backside - from heel to her outstretched wrist - ceased.

"I am, Sister Pana."
"Do you wish to take a rest?"
Rana considered it. The Trial of Thought had been rather vigorous. But she felt a swell of confidence from passing it so well and, in a bit of foolishness, stated, "I am ready for my Trial of Suffering."
"If you fail it you may not retake it again for several weeks," Pana warned. "And it would count against the total number of Trials you are permitted to attempt. Are you absolutely sure?"
Despite a tinge of doubt coming in, Rana answered "I am," in a confident tone.
"Very well. Remember, the Gift is of the mind and not the body. Use it well and you will achieve Banno egh Banno." WIth that final word, Pana pressed a new sequence of keys and turned the table back on.

Raw pain surged into Rana's body, courtesy of the devices embedded in the table she was latched to. A gasp of shock came from her throat - she had not been ready for the pain to be so intense - and her face contorted in agony, causing concern to radiate from Pana's mind. But before Pana could offer to turn the machine off (and thus, of course, symbolize Rana had failed), Rana tapped into her reservoir of willpower and focused her mind. There is no pain she repeated to herself. Her Gift - her ESP abilities - permitted her control over her body, and in this case she was using it to block her brain from the reception of pain coming through her CNS. She felt it claw at her, trying to leech through the barriers, and redoubled her effort. Her breathing became forced and shallow as she concentrated herself. Rana closed her eyes and imagined the barrier around her mind, her brain, redoubled, even as waves crashed against it, trying to batter through. She maintained this barrier, as Shayera had instructed her to repeatedly, and slowly the knowledge that she was in constant pain faded. The pain did not truly end - her muscles twitched, her body would soon ache - but her brain did not record it. Her mind was sealed off from physical stimuli. She had achieved the state of Banno egh Banno: "Suffering without Suffering".

Time lost meaning. She had no idea if minutes had passed or entire hours. All she could see was the ramparts she had erected and the waves crashing against them without relief. Every crash strained her and prompted her to redouble her efforts to hold it back. As such, she was surprised when the waves ceased. Instinctively she kept her guards up until she felt the gentle probe of another mind, Pana's, which told her she was done. The barriers fell and the senses of her body returned. She felt weak, with aches many muscles on her body, and sweat coating her. Her eyes opened and saw Pana looking over her. The Knight-Master gave her a gentle grin and, in Lushan, stated, "Well done, Acolyte. You have passed the Trial."
Rana drew in a sharp breath, happy at her success. She grimaced a little from how her diaphragm hurt, a result of the rapid contractions caused by her experience. Nevertheless she grinned widely at having passed both Trials in a row. When Pana had opened the latches over her wrists, she was able to lower her arms and stand up. The muscles in her arms were twitchy and aching a little, but not enough to prevent her from unlatching her ankles herself.
Pana finished scribbling something down in Lushan script. "Go and find a shower, Acolyte, that is your last Trial today. Tomorrow I will take you on the Trial of Endurance with Sister Zara."
"Sister Zara is in Knight training?", Rana asked
"Yes, it was approved on Knight-Captain Luneri's recommendation. You can give her congratulations later, she is currently going through her Trial of Weapons."
"Yes, of course..." Rana bowed respectively and, grimacing a little from the stiffness in her thighs and hips, slid off the Table and accepted the offered covering shawl so she could head off to the showers.



She hadn't intended to fall asleep. But laying in that gentle waterfall, remembering how it used to feel, had caused Shayera to doze off. When she woke up she found her wings and hair thoroughly soaked and the sun set lower in the sky. Out of a long dormant habit she checked to see if her clothes were where she had left them; they were. There had been times before when she would awake from a similar nap and found Danielle had hidden her robes, ever the mischief-maker (there was also the time she awoke to find out Danielle had handcuffed each of her wrists to the corresponding ankle, but that was another story that had an exceptionally enjoyable resolution, even without counting Shayera turning the tables on her lover-captor).
Getting out of the water, Shayera sprawled herself out against a rock. It was uncomfortable against her skin but, as discomforts went, perfectly easy to ignore. She spread her wings wide as well, allowing the lowering sun to bathe them in rays and, over the next several minutes, dry them sufficiently for her to fly. When she thought herself dry enough she put her clothes back on, refastened the Levitanium belt, and took to the sky again.


27 September 3398


The week of Trials had passed and it had all come down to this. Rana now stood in the purple robes of an acolyte, the quarter lunar phase markings on her arms denoting her status as opposed to the robes of an Initiate, while Shayera stood beside her in Knight robes Over her neck were a series of medallions, one for each of the Trials she had passed.
At the sounding of a Lushan leta - a form of horn - they entered the chapel of the Delgado Cloister. A number of the Order were attending, including Knight-Captain Pana, who had been Rana's teacher as an Initiate, with Master Triya Tasa - a teal-complexioned Pagish Dorei - standing at the altar. Shayera led Rana forward, feeling her Apprentice's anxiety and glee. The ceremony was a final step; she would soon be a full member of the Order.
When they reached Master Triya they bowed respectively. Shayera, as Advocate for Rana, spoke up. "Master Triya Tasa, I am Shayera Thol, daughter of Katera and Kayra, of Danapur on Thanagar, Knight of the Silver Moon. I stand as Advocate to this girl, Rana Shaheen, daughter of Halim and Amala, of el-Baghra on Nejd, Acolyte of the Silver Moon and my Apprentice." With the formal introductions over she continued. "Acolyte Rana has been Tried and found true. She has prevailed in Combat, shown worthiness with Blades, skill with Weapons, mastery in Thought, discipline in Balance, and has proven herself able to Suffer without Suffering. As the Knight who claimed her as Apprentice, I affirm her training is complete and that she is worthy."
Triya turned her deep blue eyes to Rana. "Acolyte Rana, do you confirm what your Advocate has recounted?"

"I do, Master." Rana presented each Medallion for her passed trials, six in all, holding them up for Triya to give a ceremonial examination of. "I have prevailed in Combat, shown worthiness with Blades, skill with Weapons, mastery in Thought, discipline in Balance, and I have Suffered without Suffering. I am ready to stand with my fellow Sisters in the ranks of the Silver Moon."
Triya nodded. At her nod the Cloister's Knight-at-Arms, a brown-complexioned human woman, stepped forward with a set of robes. Triya pulled a small flask off her belt and opened it. "Then I, Master Triya Tasa, recognize your achievements, Rana Shaheen. Your training is complete. You are an adult Sister of the Order and are recognized as a Sentinel of the Silver Moon.' She splashed little dabs of ceremonial oil on Rana's head and on her vest, which was cut low enough that she could press her hand over Rana's heart and touch bare flesh. "In the name of the Eternal Goddess I so proclaim you a Sentinel and welcome you into our ranks as a grown Sister."
The Knight-at-Arms and Shayera helped Rana slip off her Acolyte robes, which were set to the side. A new set of robes, with a richer purple color, was placed upon her shoulders, marked with the crescent moon insignia of the Silver Moon set with a single sword. Applause from the assembled rang out and Rana's eyes began to tear up. Shayera was the first to give her a strong hug, then Pana, and finally some of the girls she'd been admitted with.

When this was done, some began to leave, but the Knight-at-Arms and Sister Triya returned to her place. Rana looked to the main opening, where she ahd come in, and saw Sister Zara standing there. "She has passed as well?', Rana asked Shayera.
"Yes. Come, Rana, sit. Let us watch as Zara becomes a Knight, and you can consider what it will be like when you join her, and me, at that rank." With an arm over her ex-Apprentice's shoulder, Shayera brought her to a pew to sit in while Zara slowly made her way forward.

The ceremony was similar. Zara had no Advocate and introduced herself. She recited her greatest accomplishments - her defeat of an Ebon Blade agent in one-on-one combat at Sayman's Township, single-handedly thwarting an Ork attack on the village of Myrla, saving the lives of sick colonists on Mason's Crossing by flying a vessel through hyperspace shoals for two weeks to deliver medical supplies, and letting herself get captured to enable the capture of a slave-trading ring operating out of Lochley's Retreat - and they were indeed plenty for a 27 year old Sentinel (soon to be 28). Such was how it was for Sisters who ended up in the dangerous Outback. They either proved themselves or they failed, and if the latter, luck sometimes enabled survival for themselves and others and a lack of it frequently meant death or worse.

Zara bowed and, like Rana, was anointed. Her Sentinel robes were replaced by robes with a different insignia, the crescent moon joined by crossed swords instead of a single blade. When they were done Shayera and Rana congratulated her directly and, altogether, they left to celebrate further. Soon Shayer anad Zara would be busy, finding young Acolytes to Apprentice, while Rana would be assigned somewhere to serve; she intended to volunteer for Outback duty, for her soul had been wracked by the suffering and evil she had seen inflicted in those places and she desired to do something, anything, to ameliorate it.
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Kartr_Kana
PostPosted: 2010-07-04 03:32am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2004-11-02 03:50pm
Posts: 879
Location: College
New Chatham-Westminster Metropolitan Region
New Anglia, Star Kingdom of New Anglia
31 December 3399

The first thing one noticed when entering the Drake was how much wood went into it's construction. Paneled oak walls, cherry tables and chairs, the teak bar all of it in genuine Terran woods each piece costing a small fortune. The second thing you noticed were the maps half hidden by pipe and cigar smoke. Glowing dully the maps displayed everything from maps of the entire known galaxy, to territorial borders or current hot spots. Publicly available information, and some from private intelligence firms, was constantly being updated across all screens. Next to the bar is a door leading out to the balcony, currently the center of activity as the patrons count down the time to midnight.

The lone patron still at the bar looks from the crowd to the bartender. “Another New Year Edward and we're still here. A year older and perhaps a year wiser, eh?”

“Indeed Sir, and may I congratulate you on your promotion.” Edward, bartender and fount of sage advice replied.

“It's not official for another 45 seconds, but thank you.”

The two watch as the crowd grows more excited while the seconds tick away the final moments of the 34th century. As the numbers reach zero and the fireworks along the St. James River start to blot out the stars, cheers join them in rising to the night sky. While lovers young and old share their first kiss in a new century. Commodore Arcturus Cramer and Edward the bartender toast each other silently, their minds far away from their current setting. The Commodore wondering how his parents and siblings are faring back on Soban with the family gathered round no doubt. While Edward remembers back to another New Years and a very different mood.

“New Years Eve 3250, a hundred and fifty years, God rest your soul, love.” Whispers Edward as he pauses, eyes staring into the past. “It's a hard thing Commodore, to loose the ones you love. Especially when they go right before your eyes. After time though you realize that every minute you had together was worth it.”

“What was her name Edward?” Arcturus turns to regard the elderly man more closely, “And how did it happen?”

“Emma, her name was Emma and we were assigned to a ship that was part of the task force sent to deal with a rogue Dilgrude clan that was trying to stir up trouble.” Edward pauses to fill a pair of glasses for another patron. “We were part of the same squad, which was against regulations of course, but we kept our relationship quite and everyone else covered for us.”

“The best teams always do.” Nodded Arcturus.

“We were the best.” Remembers Edward fondly, then his expression saddens “Not good enough though. We were burning through the bulkhead on this Dilgrudar rust bucket, trying to flank the defenders who were holding the corridor to the bridge. Emma was manning the cutting torch and just about had us a door, when one of those Dilgrudar Fuckers fired a squad automatic at the bulkhead she was cutting. Bulkhead came flying back and hit her, saved her life, for a moment, and then she saw the grenade... Wasn't a thing the rest of us could've done. Dazed and off balance she was still closer then the rest of us.” Edward stops, wiping moisture from the corners of his eyes. “Last thing she said was that she loved me, died with a smile on her face she did.”

Nodding Arcturus remarked “Lost my little brother to an Ork pirate gang a couple of decades ago, the little twerp went and joined the Marines, instead of following me into the Navy. Always giving me crap for being a Navy puke and an officer.” Arcturus stares at the bottom of his cup “I miss that kid. Loyal to a fault and as big hearted as they come, but you didn't piss him off if you could help it.”

“What happened?”

“They'd tracked the Ork band to the asteroid they were using as a base. His platoon was sent in first, flamers and Inferno grenades, the Marine way. They were carving a bloody path through the rock, their armor and training allowing them to only take minor casualties. Then their leader, styling himself as Warboss Killemall, came out brandishing a repeating railgun torn off of some scout buggy. Had the whole squad pinned down.” pausing to take a drink Arcturus continues “So little Jimmy activates his suit mic and tells the Warboss he 'ain't shit!!' and challenges to come out hand to hand. Jimmie's got his K-Bar and power armor, the Warboss had a damn diamond bladed chainsaw. Jimmy got close fast ducking under the Ork's guard and stabbed him a couple times. The Ork just tossed him to the side with his free and charged. Jimmie's squad mates said the fight lasted 15 minutes and Jimmy got the Ork in the end, but not before getting fatally wounded.”

The two men stare into their glasses, the party out on the balcony still going full swing with no signs of stopping. Edward and Arcturus toast the memories of their loved ones and go back to watching the crowd outside. Tomorrow the Drake will return to it's more subdued and dignified norm, but for tonight it celebrates the future and remembers the past. It's now the 35th century and while the Galaxy has grown bigger with more possibility then ever, it's also a very dangerous place for the unwary.
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