STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

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Elheru Aran
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

Kapetanios Quarters

Miko lounged on one of the massive sofas in Kharon’s drawing-room, chewing upon a bacon sandwich as Kharon got dressed for her conference with Stefon soi Drakon. Her eyebrows kept rising with every layer Kharon put on, but she didn’t say anything. It was kind of amusing, really. But she hoped Kharon wouldn’t need to do this every time…

Kharon looked over at Miko as she shrugged on a close-fitting jacket, tortoiseshell-hued with red trim, and began pulling a belt around her waist. “Like what you see?”

Miyasawa grinned and nodded, mouth full of bacon. Kharon smiled back and waved away the hats proffered by her maid Mariam as she selected a likely-looking saber from a number held by Isoif. She remarked offhand to Miko, “Are you sure you want to be here? It’s going to be rather dull shop-talk, I’m afraid.”

Miko wiped her mouth, having just finished the sandwich, finished chewing and swallowed hastily before answering, “I don’t mind. I hear she picked up a Child, Rei knows how or why, but I kinda want to meet him.”

That got her a keen glance from Kharon. “Yes. This business of your… Children, needs explaining some time soon.”

She had to shrug ruefully. “I’m sorry, I’ve told you about all I know, which is pretty much all we know in Endeavour. They just kind of show up, sometimes they attach themselves to people for some reason, and that’s about it. They haven’t been around long enough for us to really understand what’s going on there.”

Kharon nodded silently, obviously dissatisfied, but she let it drop. She changed the subject and went on, “Well, you are welcome to hang about the receiving hall while I confer with Stefon. We will have the usual intimate service laid out. I don’t know if she’ll bring the boy, but if she does, I’m sure he would enjoy having another Endeavourite to talk to.”

Right on cue, Isoif came back in and cleared his throat loudly. “I apologise for the interruption, my ladies. Lady soi Drakon is without.”

Miko stood, then flinched as Mariam appeared at her elbow from nowhere to collect her plate for the sandwich and her napkin. She surrendered those items, but resolved to have a word with Kharon… sometime… about the help and how omnipresent they seemed to be in Kharon’s life. She didn’t have time to think about it further though as she stepped quickly to walk besides Kharon into the reception hall.

Stefon, resplendent in a red uniform with golden trim and a fur-edged short cape, turned stiffly to face them and sketched a shallow bow in Kharon’s direction. A Shinji, tousled hair above a schoolboy outfit, stuck his head out from behind her and chirped a cheerful ohayo! at them. Miko smiled back at him and waved as Kharon nodded brusquely at Stefon and began the conversation with a short, “Welcome. Have you broke your fast yet, cousin? If not, feel free to refresh yourself. Otherwise we can begin.”

Stiffly, Stefon opened her mouth to respond, but Shinji cut in, “Thank you ma’am, but we’ve had breakfast. I made rice and fish and tsukemono and nori!”

Kharon lifted her eyebrow. Miko cut in hastily, “That sounds lovely, Shinji. Can I get you a cup of tea then?”

As Miyasawa led Shinji over to the beverage cart, trying somewhat unsuccessfully to not look hasty about it, Kharon found herself smiling lightly. Stefon was actually apologetic. “I’m sorry, he doesn’t understand some of our manners yet…”

Kharon waved it off. “No matter. He’s Endeavourite. He will either learn, or if he doesn’t, we will accept it as we are learning to accept them. Shall we sit? Ah, thank you, Iosif…”

She took a steaming cup of hergo tea off the valet’s tray and nodded graciously at him as they situated themselves. Holding the cup before her face, she inhaled the strong herbal scent of her tea, then sipped and kept her eyes upon Stefon, who awkwardly refused an offer of beverage. Miko and Shinji sat down nearby, already engaged in conversation.

A throat cleared and she traversed her attention back to Stefon. “Pardon the query, but I would know if there was any particular reason for meeting directly? The official transfer of duties ceremony was already canceled and you could simply have sent me the necessary documents.”

Before she responded, she took a long sip of her tea. Setting it in her lap, she remarked reflectively, “I thought it best for us to speak in person. Things have been somewhat… strained between us, and I would that we do not part on bad terms. There are some things I would like to discuss with you before Megakolymvitis leaves Symmachia space.”

Stefon sighed and spread her hands slightly. “Well, here I am.” That earned her a cool look from Kharon and she hastily added (though grudgingly), “By your leave.”

“Very well,” Kharon began, “you must understand that as acting Palatine, you are responsible for every Theophanic citizen here. Accidents will happen, especially on a world just beginning the process of integration into the Empire, but outside of that, the citizens’ safety and security is your duty. I need to know that you will take this seriously.”

No response. She looked directly at Stefon. Behind her poker face, she was confused, but went on, “This includes managing relations between the forces ground-side, the civilians, and the Endeavourites. In particular between Theophanics and Endeavourites, you will be a primary contact and possibly arbiter in any dispute that may arise.”

Though she didn’t turn to look, she could almost feel Miko’s ears prick up a few seats over. Then she did look as she noticed Stefon’s eyes glance past her at Shinji, who was getting up to sample something from the buffet. She cleared her throat and cast a questioning look at Stefon, who sighed and nodded. Kharon made a twirling motion with one finger, ‘get on with it’.

It took Stefon a moment to come up with words, but eventually, she murmured, “I understand. I will abide by your expectations. The citizens will be my responsibility.”

Kharon looked at Shinji again (he was sampling a pastry and chattering with Iosif behind the table, waving off the valet’s efforts to serve him), then back at Stefon. She took a deep breath and asked in softer tones, “Are you well?”

That produced a somewhat startled look that turned into wariness. Slowly Stefon responded, “I’m fine.”

Miko sat down beside Kharon and sat back with a pastry in hand (Fanto cheese, from the smell of it, an Erepian highland specialty). In similar tones to Kharon’s, she remarked, “No shame in admitting if you’re having problems, you know. We’re not gonna tell anybody. I mean, unless they’re the kind of problem we have to, but whatever…”

As she trailed off, Kharon continued, “Miko is right. Listen, Stefon. I know we aren’t exactly friends, but I would like you to know that despite that, I would like you to be well. I know you’ve been… or you’ve adopted, I don’t know how these things work… you have Shinji now. And that has to have changed things a lot for you, personally.”

A heavy sigh from Stefon. They waited and sipped their teas. Shinji continued talking to Isoif, apparently about the pastries. She finally spoke, “I’m tired. He asks a lot of questions. And it’s just… a lot of work to keep up with him sometimes. He’s a sweet kid, but I can’t think sometimes.”

Kharon and Miko traded looks, then back at Stefon, who stiffened and asked warily, “What?”

Miko grinned and sipped her tea. Kharon smiled and relaxed for the first time. “Welcome to being a parent. You know I don’t have any of mine own yet but I have been around other people of our age with them. It’s not an easy job, but you seem to be doing all right so far.”

“And you didn’t even have to give birth to this one,” Miko added with a grin. Stefon shuddered elegantly at the notion as Miko went on, “Seriously. Don’t overthink it. Keep them alive, teach them stuff, give them a hug when they need it and sometimes when they don’t. What?”

Stefon was staring at Miko oddly. Kharon flicked her gaze to Miko for a second, then back to Stefon quizzically. Stefon finally mumbled, “I don’t know about hugs.”

Kharon blinked, then she realized what her younger counterpart was getting at. “Oh. When did you get sent to academy?”

The response came slowly. “They thought it was best if I started young. Madame Couronne’s, six.”

Kharon sighed. She saw Miko’s nonplussed expression and explained. “Stefon’s parents, the Klironomos soi Drakon and their consort, sent her to school at that age. She would have lived there most of her childhood until about… when did you have your first ship-out?”

Stefon answered shortly, “Fifteen, Magnatrabes Vorclix. You should know this if you reviewed my service record.”

“That’s as may be,” Kharon responded shortly, “but the point is you haven’t been around children very much as an adult, I suppose?”

At her side, she could practically feel the comprehension dawning upon Miko. She continued more gently, “If you need help… ask. There’s no shame in that. The boy is older, at least. That will help.”

Miko added quietly, “Hugs are nice too, sometimes. Don’t be afraid of them.”

Stefon sighed. Almost as though summoned telepathically, Isoif stood beside her with a tray of drinks. She selected almost without looking a small glass of what appeared to be the green stuff Kharon had given Miko a few nights ago; Miko shuddered at the memory, but Stefon threw it back without blinking. She finally spoke, “I’ll try. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll try.”

“Capital,” Kharon remarked crisply, “and if you’ll apply that same attitude to Symmachia, you’ll do just fine.” She then deftly turned the conversation to small-talk by asking Shinji about his studies, which the boy was all too happy to comment upon. It seemed the standards of the officer’s children’s school on Keravnos were lacking for the capabilities of an Endeavourite child…

Megakolymvitis Bridge

Kharon swept onto the bridge of Megakolymvitis, the short cape around her shoulders swishing gently as she assumed her position upon the command throne’s dais. Her eyes fell upon the operations console and she queried, “Is Lady Miyasawa back upon her ship yet?”

That officer checked their readout and confirmed. She nodded, and settled herself upon the throne, checking her readout on the screen beside her arm. The ship read ready to go. All hands were in their translation positions. Alessia was in the secondary bridge in the event of a disastrous translation crippling the main bridge. Engineering stood ready, all the technognostiki lighting up prepared. A new entry appeared at the bottom of her readout-- the snek was activating an aspis, not the powerful protective one that she knew it could conjure but one calibrated to filter the stasi-field effect projected when Theophanic ships entered nullspace.

This came as no surprise to Kharon, though it caused some murmuring among the crew. She had been briefed upon the experimental trips both Theophanic and Endeavourites had taken on each other’s ships and the various effects thereof. You wouldn’t catch her dead sitting by a window in hyperspace, though… she stifled a shudder and cleared her throat.

“All hands. This is soi Chelonis. We are about to fall into the doors of nullspace. We shall emerge on the fringes of Endeavour space, and from there be conveyed by the miracles of their teknis to Endeavour itself. Theoua is with us all and shall keep us. Serve Them with all your heart. Stand ready for translation. soi Chelonis out.”

At her nod, the translation alarms sounded and Megakolymvitis plunged forward into nullspace, spreading its front wings wide to embrace the choking nullmatter flowing around it.

In the hangar bay, sneaky snek hummed quietly. A gaggle of technognostiki gathered at one side of the ship, fascinated by the prismatic glow of the forcefield around it. The airlock opened suddenly with a clatter, and a crewman-- Heavy, by the looks of it-- covered in blood staggered out, fell to his knees on the boarding ramp, held out hands covered in viscera and collapsed on his face.

This caused no end of anxious chatter among the technognostiki. Even more so when his body suddenly jerked and was pulled backwards through the airlock, which shut sharply.

Aboard, Miyasawa looked blearily at the external monitors and muttered, “Very funny. Ludvig, tell them not to do that again. They already think we’re strange enough as it is.”

Hiding a smile, he saluted and stepped off the bridge with rather too much of a cheerful gait. The forcefield wasn’t entirely effective, it needed more calibrating, but even so it appeared to affect some Endeavourites more than others. Miyasawa could certainly feel the strange forces of the Theophanic stasi-field pulling her in different directions, and a couple of her bridge crew had had to excuse themselves to their quarters, but some like Rei at the helm station seemed completely unaffected.

Idly she tapped into one of Megakolymvitis’ less secured feeds. It had taken Dan and Sadie a while and their efforts hadn’t been entirely successful, but the Theophanic ship’s code had finally opened up to them. They were nowhere near actually making it do things, but they could run some basic commands, like ‘view external camera’, which she wanted.

Nullspace was weird. It didn’t look anything like the light-show of hyperspace-- if anything, it was just… dark. There were occasional flashes of a colour she couldn’t name (she imagined ‘octarine’ was a good enough way to describe it), which would illuminate swells of what she thought was likely the null-matter she had seen billowing around Theophanic ships as they had exited their FTL journeys. Something about it didn’t feel right to her, and she admitted to herself that she could understand why the Theophanics didn’t go in for windows. It was like travelling a black void with visible thunderclaps of unnerving flavor. She shuddered lightly and turned off the feed.

She wished she could message Kharon. But that wouldn’t do any good, Kharon was stuck in the stasi-field up on the bridge. Any message sent to her wouldn’t be read until they emerged in the Gotobe system, a good two days’ journey in hyperspace. Who knew how long it would be with Theophanic drives.

Her stomach cramped and she grunted. Maybe she could get All Bus to twiddle with the forcefield settings and see if they couldn’t get it a little smoother feeling. It wasn’t like they had much to do for the next couple of days…


OOC: This occurs just before the Robin Hood leaves Inlaw Station. They arrive just as it is departing.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Rogue 9 »

Sickbay, NRS Rraskantha
Week 6, Day 3, Turn 1

"CLEAR!" An electrical jolt shot through the chest of the Marine, whose dog tags identified him as William Brown. The vitals monitor picked up his pulse restarting and his chest heaved, sucking in air through the oxygen mask. "Nurse, start a blood transfusion, saline drip, and morphine. He's lost a lot, but we can get him back," ordered the ship's physician, Dr. Slater. He looked down at the stumps of the patient's severed hands. It was obvious this had been cut deliberately with a sharp blade, not sheared off by wreckage or similar.

"Captain on deck!" The call came from an orderly near the medical bay's main entrance as Captain Hrrolfgrar walked through the door.

"As you were," the Zambaran officer ordered, though the medical staff working on the patient had hardly looked up to begin with. Dr. Slater wiped his hands on a towel as he approached the captain, confident that Corporal Brown was past the worst of it. "How is he, Doctor?"

"Rough, Captain, but I think he'll pull through. No other survivors?" He knew that Nashtari ships were heavily compartmented to maximize crew survival in a disaster; having next to no survivors in the hulk was unheard of.

"None the shuttles and scanners can find. Fleet Command says the Thunderchild is leading a task force to our position and should be here within the hour, which will help us intensify the search."

"Even if there is anyone out there, if they kept pounding the wreck until they vented the survival compartments, it'll be too late. It probably already is now. Thank God the Meridian was coming home mostly empty." He paused. "Who would do this?"

"I don't know, Doctor. I truly don't," Hrrolfgrar answered grimly. "The ship was gigantic, on the scale of those Theophanic vessels that came through here a few weeks ago, but not the same design. FTL was different, if nothing else. Hard to get a fix on much else in the nebula with passive scanners." What he didn't have to add was that the active scanners would have told them everything they needed to know, at the cost of telling the butchers they were there.

"Well, hopefully he'll be able to tell us," Slater said, glancing back at the patient. "But it'll have to wait. I'll need to keep him under for at least the next several hours, probably upwards of a day. He's suffering shock from both dismemberment and vacuum exposure. We'll be lucky if he hasn't suffered brain damage from oxygen deprivation; even uncompromised Marine armor doesn't carry enough oxygen to stay out long without auxiliary tanks. I can fix a lot, but if he's lost memories I can't just put them back."

The captain nodded. "I'll leave you to your work, then. Do your best for him, Doctor."

"Every time," Slater responded as the Hrrolfgrar walked back out the door, his primary right arm absentmindedly reaching up to hold on to the jamb as he passed through.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

On an unknown world

Heinrich von ten Raab quietly cursed as powdered concrete showered upon his head. That beam had been a little too close. He looked over his shoulder at his squad and waved them forwards, then looked back at his target.

She pirouetted slowly, her polished black shoes hovering a couple feet above the ground, a nimbus of energy around her body sparking as it deflected bullets. One hand extended, fingers configured into an arcane gesture, and a refulgent streak of light jetted forth to consume an entire squad of soi Drakon troops charging at her. Heinrich swallowed, mouth dry suddenly.

He squatted behind some wreckage for a moment and tapped rapidly through the screen on his armoured vambrace. Isolate-- distract-- eliminate. A thought occurred to him. Orders were whispered among the squad rapidly, and they broke into fireteams and split up.

He rapidly ran among the rubble until he found a good position and waited. A click on his com-plug sounded, and he trained his sights upon the girl’s back. She seemed to be speaking-- no doubt she had a com-plug of her own for Endeavour spectra-- and then fireteam one opened fire on her from a ruined building nearby. Their bullets spanged off her protective aura and she gestured.

Their hide erupted. Fireteam two jumped out of their own cover and started running in that direction, and she turned to face them… exposing her back directly to Heinrich. He pressed the trigger, and the squad’s antitank rocket launcher fired.

The girl’s protective aura was no match for a shaped charge designed to defeat thick tank armour at close range. Heinrich grimaced as his men started digging out their comrades from the rubble. His mind went back to the briefing some time ago…

Lord Stratigos Waldemar soi Drakon had addressed them in one of the monstrous landing bays of a Thorikto, a ologramma projector helpfully displaying stills as he delivered a motivational speech. Heinrich had napped during that part-- he’d heard hundreds of those before, they all amounted to the same. Fight for soi Drakon and the Emperoress, fame and fortune will be yours, etcetera. If any of that really held true he’d be a baron on some planet somewhere, not a mere Feldwebel [Sergeant].

The actual technical part of the briefing he sat up and paid attention. You always knew it would be good when they started bringing out the noncoms instead of some know-nothing officer. This was a Hauptfeldwebel, Dietrich die Altesten, that he’d served under before-- even better.

It had actually been somewhat a lot of information. Endeavourites were a tough opponent, possibly the toughest the Empire had faced to date. Gigantic battle robots, soldiers capable of creating intricate fortifications in a matter of hours and days, squads of little girls wielding blasts like battleship cannon… but Theophanics could win against them. Just… not easily.

The key things to remember were that the Endeavourites could communicate instantly, effectively, between all units to a degree that the Theophanics could only dream about using their Emperoress-damned ‘ambience’. They had incredible firepower per unit-- one of their ‘mecha’ could damn near destroy an entire division. They had a lot of drones, eyes and ears all over the battlefield, as well as robots in many forms carrying weapons. And they were capable of building things really, really fast.

But for all that… there were only so many of them, and that wasn’t actually that many at all. The Theophanics would always have the edge in manpower. Some battles had literally become just a matter of throwing waves of Theophanic troops in between blindingly heavy volleys of artillery and rocket fire; these had a tendency to become bloodbaths, but they got the objectives taken.

One secret they had found out-- the Endeavourites didn’t have much stomach for involving civilians. Or rather, if the Theophanics did attack (intentionally or not) Endeavour civilians, that was a great way to get their teeth kicked in. Otherwise, standard military logic did eventually apply to the chaotic decisions of their opponent-- when exposed to overwhelming force, they would retreat and try to attack from a different angle. But it was still a retreat, and that allowed the Theophanics to advance.

Heinrich broke his musings as his men gathered, minus most of fireteam one. “Good job,” he grunted, “we’re going to advance another couple of blocks before dark, but for now take a squat and eat something. Might be a while before we put on the nosebag again.”

The squad found cover in another ruined building. Some ripped open ration packs and started eating without bothering to use the chemical heaters within. Others sat on the rubble, contorted their bodies to fit, and promptly passed out. A few, indicated by Heinrich, stood alert at the entrances.

Battle had started promisingly enough. The fallenschloss [drop-castle] had been deployed ahead of the landers, and the Endeavourite fighters’ weapons fire had only eliminated a few kleptoi-craft. Landers designed to withstand heavy fire from battleships mostly laughed at the fighters, though they took the missile barrages seriously enough to throw themselves around the air in a way that had many of their passengers losing their meals across the troop bays.

The barques carrying Theophanic armoured vehicles had landed at the edges of the deployment zone, and lifted off as the kleptoi-craft grounded and disgorged their troop complements. Guided by maps pre-loaded upon their screens, feldwebels directed units to deploy in rough formations around the Endeavourite forces.

Alarmed shouts had resounded as some kind of giant warsuit-- called a ‘mecha’ at the briefing-- rose above the treeline and opened fire at the Theophanic tanks, which promptly returned the favor. In the distance, heavy railguns emplaced around the fallenschloss traversed and locked upon the mecha. Tongues of fire gouted forth from their muzzles, and giant chunks of armour plate spalled away from the mecha, which began ponderously running sideways.

Smoke trails suddenly streaked down from the sky and covered the mecha in explosions. The Theophanic troops cheered as a squadron of Protector warsuits appeared at full burn, a number of them discarding empty missile-pods as they homed in upon the now-battered mecha. It swung its massive weapon sideways and batted one warsuit out of the sky, but rocked as its comrades opened fire with their own weapons.

The Endeavourite mecha’s shoulders shuttered open and missile racks were exposed. The Protectors scrambled, but at that close range, they lost another couple of warsuits. Regrouping, the ivory-and-gold warsuits circled around the battlefield, and the fallenschloss railgun emplacements fired again now that the Protectors were out of the way.

That was almost the mortal blow. Almost. The mecha staggered, but remained standing. Theophanic tanks opened fire again, and as it jerked with the impact of their rounds, it began turning and igniting jets mounted upon its back. Too late-- the Protectors finished their circle of the battlefield and jetted past at high speed. The jets upon the mecha erupted, heavy charges having been flung at the mecha as they passed, and its chest exploded open. A rocket charge lanced outward from it, trailing towards the Endeavourite lines. The pilot had apparently decided not to go down with their overgrown warsuit, and the Theophanic troops watching the show cheered as the mecha slowly collapsed, crushing a section of forest underneath it.

Only for a moment; explosions rang along the Theophanic line as some Endeavourite vehicles zoomed out of the treeline, raking their opponent with heavy weapons fire. They had taken advantage of the distraction provided by the mecha to sneak up on the Theophanics’ flank, and were wreaking havoc as they went. Heinrich had cursed floridly when he saw this basic mistake, but it was soon rectified, the Endeavourites retreating rapidly after one of their vehicles got flipped by a nearby rocket explosion.

When the Theophanics charged forward and investigated the Endeavourite transport, it turned out to be some kind of antigravity skimmer, lightly armoured but capable of carrying the heavy machine gun on its back as well as an improbable number of rocket launchers. And there were no crew. No live crew, at least-- there was a vaguely human-shaped machine attempting to escape from underneath the vehicle but its leg was pinned, and the cockpit was empty, blinking lights the only sign of life in there.

The briefing had been very explicit. Destroy everything they came across. No technology was to be even touched unless specifically requested by a technognostiki or an officer. The human-shaped one-- presumably the one firing the HMG-- was given several bullets then a couple of troopers shed everything but their basic coverall picked up the automaton and flung it into the cockpit. Charges were set, the troopers retreated to a safe position (this time they were watching their flanks) and the vehicle was detonated in short order.

None of this had interrupted the inexorable process of the Theophanics’ landing. Slowed it, perhaps - but not stopped it. Kleptoi-craft and heavy transports had descended in a wide arc… but deliberately, they didn’t completely surround the Endeavourite city. Broadcasts on wide spectra before the battle had been set up had given the Endeavourites enough warning to evacuate their civilians. Even now they allowed them the use of their landing-pads to complete evacuation. The logic was simple-- Endeavour was a ******ing pain in the arse to fight. If they wanted to run from the fight… let them.

As the Theophanics regained their formation, their spectra began vibrating with coded messages in Drakon battle-cant. Stand by for artillery. Advance when batteries fire. Follow your paths. Chalazi Theouautokratora!

Hundreds of rocket-launcher vehicles started spewing missiles, gigantic plumes of smoke belching forth around the Endeavourite city. Simultaneously, batteries of tracked artillery started firing. Within a minute, thousands of tons of explosive were raining down upon the city, and presumably, Endeavourite military positions around and within it. High above, special variants of kleptoi-craft orbited. Some, heavily equipped with weapons, showered fire upon positions showing hot on the sensors. Others, plentifully studded with aisthitiras [sensory equipment], observed the battlefield carefully.

Their equipment struggled to cut through the devastation unfolding below them, but it worked well enough to inform them when shells and rockets exploded on energy aspis [shields] below rather than upon the targets themselves. The aisthitiras couldn’t quite pierce Endeavourite cloaking technology, but it could definitely tell the difference between normal background energy emissions and unusual variations in same… enough to assign priority to those locations and broadcast it directly to the fallenschloss for plotting and disposition to the artillery batteries.

Endeavour units began responding to the artillery even before it began detonating. Rockets of their own launched upward from concealed batteries among the buildings and homed in on laser-designated targets. Explosions burst up where one particularly unlucky artillery battery had been stationed, and one of the kleptoi listed as a lucky hit from a very off-course missile burned out an engine. High energy lasers stabbed forth from masts and tracked vehicles to explode Theophanic rounds in midair. But for all that, there was only so much they could do against the sheer volume of fire coming their direction.

Theophanic forces began advancing as the ordnance arced overhead. Some nasty surprises awaited a few unfortunate units-- hidden explosives, the occasional flock of drones darting out of a building to detonate among loosely-knit troopers, high-powered lasers flaring out of false boulders to slice vehicles in half.

Despite those hindrances, they persevered. Quickly they made sure that troopers in heavy warsuits were at the fore of the advance to reduce casualties from any such diabolism. Just as well, for soon enough they began encountering actual Endeavourite units.

First came the concealed gun-nests, firing either heavy machine guns, some form of directed energy weapon, or plasma-beamers. Almost all of these were manned by automatons like the one on the hover-vehicle. Orders went out from the fallenschloss, and broad-spectra jamming began being broadcast across the battlefield from advancing Theophanic vehicles. This didn’t actually stop the automata from firing upon their opponents, but it did seem to make them easier to distract and either fire an antipersonnel missile into their hiding spot or blow it off the map with mortars or tank fire.

Random barricades built across roads were also encountered. Inexplicably, many of these featured hastily-fabricated wagons, of the kind pulled by draft animals in ancient days, as well as moulded furniture resembling wooden chairs and tables and such. There were trees all around, and the Theophanics were bewildered-- why would they extrude such stuff when there was plenty of fine wood available?

No matter. The barricades were easily enough pulled apart by chains attached to tanks-- they seemed more symbolic than anything. Who the hell knew what the ******ing Endeavourites did anything for.

More missiles arced upward from Endeavourite strongpoints. These detonated upon or around the Theophanic kleptoi-craft orbiting the city. The craft barely blinked at the impacts, though they rocked and lost armour, but then more waves of missiles started coming and reflexively the pilots began circling away from the city, shedding countermeasures as they soared far enough away to not worry about the missiles… but also far enough that their surveillance equipment wouldn’t be particularly useful.

Cheers broke out among the Theophanic troops as flights of Protector warsuits zoomed overhead. These were performing multiple functions on the battlefield-- recon, designating targets, drawing fire, returning fire of their own. Duels broke out between the Protectors and various Endeavourite vehicles - tanks, more fliers, and a couple more of their damnable mecha. That was, of course, the point; the Theophanic commanders had learned something from past combat experience, that their infantry and mechanised forces would be able to get on with their jobs a hell of a lot better than if the warsuits had been held back. Indeed, compared to previous engagements, they were making much better time.

They’d even been able to bring out the cavalry.

Feldwebel Agatha 304 (apo Paradosi) of the XII Cavalry paused at the edges of a park, sensing that something was up. Sounds of battle rang everywhere, but the park was quiet.

At the wave of her hand, a couple of her squad reined up their birds alongside. She murmured, “Strike ahead a couple of hektametres and report. Be on your guard.”

The two riders, a male einfacher [private] and a female lanzenkorpal, saluted and rode ahead, the tails of their cassowaries waving. She had her unit break out the rations for a moment till her com-plug buzzed in her ear, “Feldwebel, Gretel 92. Endeavourite laager. They’re equipping automata on skimmer-trucks.

“Good job, Greta,” she responded, “what are they equipped with and what are the troopers doing?”

Looks like basic kit, but they’ve set up an assembler on one side of the clearing. Most of their kit is to one side of the clearing. They have a couple of troopers running ypologisti units at another side. Either they’re not paying attention or they didn’t notice us yet.

She nodded thoughtfully. “Maintain position. We will come up to you. If they sniff you, break and drop smoke. Feldwebel out.”

A few hand signals later, her and her cassowary-riders were advancing silently between the trees till they could see the Theophanic vehicles. Her experienced eyes took in the scene-- troopers herding automata, instructing them to board the vehicles and take the pintle-mounted weapons, but otherwise mostly standing around or fiddling about with bits of technology. She reached into a holster strapped under one of her bird’s wings and pulled out a large shotgun-like grenade-launcher, her troops following suit. In a line abreast formation, they took aim and fired.

The skimmers began exploding, and the Endeavourite troops shouted in startlement, their infernal ambience radiating its notifications at them no doubt. But she had no time to even think about it before she and her troops darted out from the treeline to engage the enemy. Their cassowaries bore them swiftly, necks and horned heads held low while they ran full tilt ahead, riders howling a banshee screech and firing machine-pistols as quickly as they could change magazines.

Agatha had a wickedly curved saber that she put to devastating use once the cassowary cavalry closed to melee range. Most of her riders didn’t bother, shifting deftly as their birds leaped and kicked and pecked for them. Lethally curved steelite claws affixed to the cassowaries’ feet did their nasty work, as did the raptor-hooked beaks of the genmod avians.

They had no time to savour their victory-- fire started coming their way from a flank as more Endeavourites began showing up, and standing in her saddle with a shout, Agatha caught her troopers’ eyes and pointed them back towards the woods. In a matter of moments, the cassowary cavalry was disappearing into the trees. Their job was well enough done-- Endeavourite troops dead, vehicles destroyed and ordnance eliminated.

Heavier ordnance was called for, then. Theophanic troops scattered as Endeavour fliers, larger than drones, odd tall, slim things, showed up and raked them with fire. Nearby tracked anti-aircraft vehicles turned their turrets and salvoed the fliers, sending one spinning to the ground with flame gouting from an engine; the other turned and zoomed away as troops ran up to the downed one.

That flier had one human crew aboard, at least-- the gunner position was occupied by another automaton-- who clambered out of the cockpit, hands up. Cautiously the Theophanic troops grabbed the Endeavourite and led him away at gunpoint while their comrades prepared satchel charges to demolish the flyer. Gunfire burst out as a number of automata poked weapons out of the flyer’s cargo hold and cut down a few nearby troops, but the closest fylakas [sergeant] pressed his detonator and blew them to hell.

The variety of units Endeavour had to offer in resistance to the Theophanic advance continued to impress. One of the more lethal were what the soldiers quickly came to call ‘magical girls’-- people with the appearance of young girls, often in ridiculous outfits completely unsuited to a battlefield, capable of conjuring absurd levels of firepower. The trick with those was to separate them, flank them and use sufficient firepower to take them out. Warsuit heavy cannon, antitank rockets, or (in at least one case) a bayonet to the kidney from behind would do the job.

Military logic still seemed to fail them, though. More than once, Theophanic units apprehended Endeavourite soldiers just… wandering, eyes vacant as they browsed their ambient surroundings. Others were found putting their fabrication machinery to use, admittedly for military purposes, building dugouts or trench-works or just trying to assemble weapons. In any case, they were gently but firmly separated from their technology, a jammer pack strapped onto them, and sent back under escort, often enough bundled into a truck as many became disoriented without their ambience. Letting them actually build up such bases was a bad idea, a lesson learned in prior engagements at steep cost. More than one division of Theophanic soldiers had encircled an Endeavour position, only to find themselves encircled in turn - or worse, ignored in favour of a decapitation strike. Diverting forces to police rear areas was an annoying drain on manpower, but the Empire could more than afford that. Time, on the other hand, was a much scarcer resource when fighting Endeavour, and a few of the officers in the fallenschloss desperately hoped that the diversion in manpower wouldn’t slow down the advance too much.

For all that, Endeavourite ships began lifting off in a steady stream, and as the Theophanic forces closed upon what remained of the city after constant barraging, resistance slowly withdrew in the general direction of the landing pads while fighting grew fiercer. The magical-girl units began wreaking greater havoc, taking even Protector squads with them. One particularly vigorous duo managed to almost blow a hole through the Theophanic lines until a barrage of heavy railgun rounds fired from a Neokastro cruiser overhead destroyed a large portion of the city entirely to take them out. The mecha were less aggressive, but no less devastating as they prevented Theophanic forces from advancing directly into the residential blocks of the city.

The end appeared close. Shuttles began descending to the revetments around the fallenschloss to carry the Theophanic general staff into the city to accept the surrender of whoever might be left in command by the time they were finished. A low rumble shook the ground as the Lord Stratigos placed his boot upon a shuttle’s ramp, and as one, he and his staff turned and looked.

A large hill, almost a mountain, near the city-- one that in fact had been landed upon, but swiftly left behind by advancing troops-- trembled. The trees and earth upon it began shaking visibly, but this was no earthquake. The land slipped away from the face of the hill, and a gigantic mechanical limb stabbed out through the clouds of dust rising into the air. The limb landed on the ground with a thunderous impact, and a monstrous spherical shape heaved itself out from the hillside as dirt and boulders rained down. Cannons the size of buildings trained upon the Theophanic lines, and--

“End simulation, authorization Drakon 81092. I repeat, end simulation.”

“What’s that, mister Drakon? Ye can’t handle a wee Object now can ye?”

Waldemar soi Drakon cast a baleful eye upon the speaker, who lit a sulfurous match and inhaled deeply upon a long-stemmed pipe with every sign of pleasure. The noble bit out, “You cannot keep conjuring these monstrous things from nowhere. First it was that ungodly gigantic robot thing, then you constructed an entire spaceship within an underground cavern, now this… whatever it is. At this point, you will force us to simply pre-emptively destroy any Endeavourite base from orbit.”

Colonel Bolger sat back and brought up a massive bare foot atop his thigh, scratching idly in his foot hair as he pulled the pipe away from his lips. “And ye would call that fair, hmm? I seem to recall ye had no problems with hoverin’ a cruiser over the battlefield our first round. If that sort of firepower is cricket for your kind, ye shouldn’t be surprised if we respond in kind.”

Lights began igniting in the massive chamber, a landing-bay upon the Thorikto Keravnos above Symmachia. Lord soi Drakon and his staff sat upon a stage, facing Colonel Fredegar Bolger and his staff; around them in ascending ranks sat hundreds of thousands of Theophanic troops. Endeavourite troops, a few bare dozen, sat immediately around the stage, looking rather exhausted at this point. The Theophanics had been cycled out fresh every round, but the Endeavourites were their entire complement, aside from an AI who they quietly had left out of the equation when talking to the Theophanics. Something, or someone, had indicated to them that their counterparts might be… less than receptive to the idea of artificial intelligences.

But that was beside the point. soi Drakon came to his feet, clumsily peeling off the simulation gear that he’d been wearing. Bolger did as well, though his head barely came up to the Theophanic earl’s waist, but he still crossed his arms pugnaciously, the pipe in his jaw jutting forth stiffly. They advanced slowly upon each other, until footsteps rang upon the stage.

“That will be quite enough, cousin,” came the voice of Stefon soi Drakon. She stepped between the two of them, not failing to notice the miniscule nod Bolger directed at her, and the comparative lack of recognition from her relative. She cast her gaze directly upon Waldemar and continued, “You have been engaging the Endeavourite forces in no less than eighteen hours of simulated warfare. Some of this is understandable. You will forgive us, Colonel Bolger, but we have only very rarely had the opportunity to face other nations in combat. Our forces are naturally interested in exercising their abilities. That said, my cousin has no right to expect any kind of… fairness in war, and neither should he have. Theophanic norms are the low key struggles between genia, not trying to actually destroy an opponent with resolve.”

A boyish head poked out from behind Stefon and piped up, “And really if you’re aware of how good Endeavour is at getting things built when they get to it, you should be really expecting them to build whatever they need to win, shouldn’t you?”

Stefon whirled in shock. “You! I thought I told you to remain in quarters!” She turned back to the two commanders, stammering a quick apology, but Bolger grinned and held up two hairy hands. “No apology necessary. The Children go where they please, and right now he pleases to be with you. Mayhap secure him if you were going to a real battle, though?”

She sighed and rubbed her face. “Of course. In any case, I believe we are done here. I extend my thanks for your cooperation and the loan of the simulation gear. It must have been some effort to fabricate as much of it as you have.”

Bolger shrugged. “Keep it if you like. We don’t need it, ourselves. Took all of ten minutes to fab, after all.”

Stefon blinked, but her genia training kicked in quickly enough and she managed to preserve her composure as she inclined her head in gratitude. As the troops began filing out of the landing-bay-cum-amphitheater, she made as though to leave but turned at a thought. “Colonel? If I may ask?”

The Endeavourite turned back to her from one of his staffers, tilting his head back to take in her height before grunting, “Aye, lass? What be it?”

“I wondered, Colonel, if it would be possible for me to pay a visit to your settlement planetside? After all, I would be remiss in my duties as acting Palatine to not ensure the salubrious integration of your first planetary colony alongside our Theophanic subjects…”
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Rogue 9 »

Senate Chamber, the Pediment Building, Nashtar
Day 5, Week 7, Turn 1

"ORDER!" Senator Barasskar's gavel slammed down on the desk as an outburst from certain DL backbenchers interrupted the ongoing speech. "There will be order in this chamber! The gentleman will proceed."

"I thank the Chair," answered Senator Orn-Osk. "I am nearly finished anyway. As I was saying, the recent first contact events in the Cradle and unknown attackers on the fringe, whose brutality the Armed Services Committee has heard testimony of from Corporal Brown, have demonstrated more clearly than ever the need to bolster the Fleet. I urge my colleagues to adopt the defense appropriations act as amended with haste. For my colleagues calling to approach the first contact situation diplomatically instead, a fleet expansion does not preclude this. I invoke the old human maxim: Speak softly and carry a big stick, I believe is the phrasing," continued the Ronoghan, "not to mention the changed circumstances of two weeks past. I yield back the balance of my time."

It was all Barasskar could do to not lean his head on his secondary arms as the speeches dragged on. The end result was clear and nothing was left but the pontificating. But all the representatives got their say; it was the least the Republic owed its citizens. At the end of the day, the bill passed overwhelmingly.

[OOC: Turn 2 Fleet Production
450 industrial points - Fleet maintenance on 2,250 points of ships
New Fleet Construction
Fifth Main Battle Fleet
1 Dauntless class battleship x60 points
1 Intrepid class carrier x60 points
3 Kensington class heavy cruisers x30 points
3 Guardian class light cruisers x20 points
6 Polaris class destroyers x15 points
5 Bandit class frigates x15 points
2 Shadow class destroyers x20 points
475 points total

New Ship Classes
Praetor class assault ship
The Praetor class is a planetary assault vessel, serving as a mobile Marine base and auxiliary carrier. Its typical small craft wing includes more troop transports than starfighters, though this is of course modular in an emergency. A Praetor assault ship can carry an entire army division and equipment in addition to its considerable Marine complement, and is equipped to force a landing for the same. In addition to the planetary assault role, a Praetor is capable of conducting large-scale boarding operations or serving as a base for long-range fighter and bomber squadrons.
3 built - 45 points

Space superiority fighter wings
Primarily composed of Republic Dynamics SF-79E space superiority fighters, the Space Command's FTL-mobile fighter forces make up the bulk of light patrol and escort detachments. Unlike most carrier-based spacecraft, the wings falling under this heading are jump capable and able to operate independently of a fleet. They are able to engage enemy fighters and escort-weight vessels, but are unable to seriously harm capital ships without heavy support. A wing is composed of 72 starfighters.
5 built - 10 points

Heavy bomber wings
Primarily composed of Oro Space Systems SB-62C heavy space bombers, these bomber wings are jump capable, able to operate independently of a fleet, and in groups capable of attacking enemy cruiser weight vessels and supporting strikes against capital ships. A wing of bombers will accompany fighter escort detachments in areas deemed prone to hostile or pirate activity.
5 built - 20 points

Total 1,000 points spent]
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by VX-145 »

Shand System, UISC Space

Unlike most other systems in the Sector, the Shand system had only a single space port in Geo-synchronous orbit over the planet's capital, Trinasaki. Of course, "capital" was perhaps the wrong work; the site was more of a store house to ancient Trathalan information that also occasionally doubled as a meeting place for the Trathalan clans. For Shand, this was not unusual. Pretty much everything about the system and Trathala was unlike most other systems in the Sector in one way or another.

The station was named "Tathlada", which, roughly translated, meant "The Crossroads". The name was one of many examples of the Trathalan people's straightforward nature where technology was concerned, a stark contrast to the care they tended to put into more detailed day-to-day rituals and ceremonies. The stations design embodied both of these attitudes. Whilst small compared to its brethren around other planets, the construction of the station, designed and built by Trathalans in compliance with UISC law, was itself like much of Trathalan homes, furniture, and other constructions.

That is to say, it was a work of art.

Of course, while the station looked as though it was carved from wood and stone, all massive elegant pylons, curving arches, and decorative sloping constructions, more modern materials had in fact been used. The effect was none the less stunning for it.

Most ships with business in the system usually just stopped to resupply before heading out into the vast asteroid fields which, these days, were choked with mines, foundries and fabrication centers. Those ships that had trade with the surface typically would have booked a space at the station in advance to unload their cargo before it would, eventually, be transported to the planet.

The trauma of the ancient past of the Trathalan people in regards to technology was something still taught to be wary of, and the effects of the Tajlan war naturally had a lasting impression in regards to the feelings of outsiders visiting their world.

But traditions do change over time, even for Trathalans. And as such, it was five years ago that the many Clans of Trinasaki agreed to build a new addition to the station. One of their own design and purpose. It naturally had a very long winded yet elegant name to it, but in other words it would be best known as “A Cultural Outreach Center”

It was the station, elegant and beautiful, that Han was watching when Zwei brough him a pamphlet, clutched in the small dog's mouth. He chuckled a little to himself; alongside his siblings Ein and Vier, Zwei had made the presence of the Theophanics a lot easier to handle, what with the daily antics the three dogs got up to. He'd heard that Belit was still looking for a dog named Drei.

"Another one of these, boy?" he asked, unfolding the pamphlet. Luckily, this one seemed a lot more coherent than the last:

“We thank you for your respect in coming to our world to know of the Clans and the ways of Crie. Cultures grow to survive and survive by spread to new societies. Because of this we seek to help others learn the stories and traditions of Trathala and the Clans so our culture may spread to others and continue to survive”

“Clan Lessons of opportunity for the day of Mot, 12th day in Felnar.

Nazul Clan: Birthing of newborn herd beasts and how to prepare skins.
Stry Clan: The Harvest Festival of Dolacadia and fertility rites
Indri Clan: Teaching the 20 chants of the Liching Ritual.
Orin Clan: The principals of Fold-smithing in forging of Masuri Blades
Jipal Clan: Botanical classes for flowers of the seasons
Lyman Clan: The Secrets of The Flatenend music and the Disc of Ko
Galin Clan: Preparations for Wedding ceremonies
Thri Clan: Discussion of the Philosophies of Masters of the Second Bars.
Trin Clan: Demonstrations of Yunn-Kwo-Lee fighting practices.
Lonti Clan: Practicing the art of Translation Rings
Syrie Clan: Survival practices for high mountains.
Liya Clan: Principles of high pressure steam and it’s utilization.
Trlsk Clan: How to cook for forty people.""

Han felt a chill run down his spine. "Tell me you didn't let the crew see this," he demanded of Zwei.

"Woof!" said Zwei. He had, hadn't he.

Oh no.

He frantically switched his HUD to show the internal cameras, and sure enough the entire crew was hanging about the airlock, notepads and pens in their hands (or other appendages) and chanting: "What do we want?"

"Educational activities!"

"When do we want them?"

"At the aforementioned scheduled times!"

Well, at least they hadn't made poster boards yet. There was still time to avert disaster. Han comm'd the port authority, a Trathalan whose name he hadn't caught (being too busy fending off Belit during their last conversation) answering: "Tathlada port authority, how can we help you?"

"We need to dock, like, right now," Han said, hoping his voice reflected just how dire the situation was.

There was a pause. "We're still getting your berth ready, Robin Hood. Is there an emergency on board your ship? Do you require assistance?"

For a moment, Han was tempted to lie - well, not lie, there really was an emergency, but: "Negative, but the crew is getting pretty enthusiastic about some of the learning opportunities on board." Oh shit, now they had placards. "Make that extremely enthusiastic."

"...I don't see how that's a problem, Robin Hood."

Obviously, the fool had never had ten-or-so highly enthusiastic and very skilled spacers running around the place causing absolute chaos; Han could see out of the corner of one eye Zoidberg attaching a rocket pack to Scooby and Shaggy. Yes, one rocket pack between them. Rei was helping Rei assemble what looked to be a full-immersion recording rig, probably so that whatever lecture she attended could be recorded in absolute detail. Kaylee had brought an entire kitchen with her, it seemed (so it was obvious which lecture she was attending). "Can you give an estimate as to when we can dock? These guys are getting pretty restless."

"Give it..." there was the rustle of paper, as though someone was looking something up, "about thirty UISC standard minutes. We'll call you when it's ready. Port authority, out."

They were perhaps the eighth-most harrowing thirty minutes in Han's life, but eventually the crew was able to file out of the airlock alongside the Theophanic guests. Chewie had at least managed to confiscate the rocket pack... and the thirty or so swords carried by the crew.

Upon entering, it was clear the designers had gone for a look mimicking wide open spaces on their planet, rather than going for a cramped functional interior. The first indicator was what at first glance seemed to be a sky over head. A huge dome covered the massive open area, showing the view from some point on the surface of Trathala being projected upwards upon the ceiling, the sun arching over head as clouds moved across the projected sky. The interior had been constructed in a large circular open area; trees, shrubs, and grassy hills took up much of the space, but added in among them were several buildings. An amphitheater lay in the middle of the area, surrounded by a number of smaller structures: workshops, kitchens, firepits, one toward the back even seemed to be a barn where numerous animals could be heard.

Around the park like central circular area ran a well worn cobblestone path. On the opposite side of the path, built into the wall of the habitat, were the halls of the Clans: thirteen in all, one for each of the Clans of the Trathalan population. Each structure seemed to have come from a prefabricated mold, thought they had since been significantly altered and decorated, each one slightly different with differing flags and symbols out front. Large billowing multi colored banners out front had the names of each clan printed on them in a number of languages. Though so far none of them were in a form the humans could understand.

Anticipating this, there were several younger volunteers towards the entrance helpfully providing directions to anyone that seemed to be needing assistance. Unfortunately, there weren't nearly enough of them.

Han let the tide go out, took a deep breath, and walked up to one of the shell-shocked volunteers. He had time to kill before the freighter from the shipyard would arrive to pick up their load of various odds-and-ends. "Hi," he said, lamely, "I'd like to know where to see the philosophy discussion?"

The volunteer raised one slightly shaking claw and pointed him in the direction of one of the bannered modules. "Thanks."

Rei was already waiting there, of course, alongside a few scattered shipyard workers, students and UISC ship crewpeople. They were sitting in a wide arc around a central podium, behind which stood a Trathalan clad in an unusually loose and robe-y outfit for one of their kind, at least to Han's knowledge.

"Captain Solo," the Trathalan greeted - probably knowing the name from the sign-up sheet Han had signed on the way in, and not from the use of their psychic abilities because as far as Han could tell, they didn't work like that - "I am glad you could join us. I am Corak Thrimenit." They turned to address the class in general: "And now we are all assembled, let us begin."

The first part of the class was taken up with fascinating overview of Trathalan general history and the history of the Second Bars school in specific; from the nuclear holocaust that scourged the planet, to the development of psychic powers amongst the survivors, briefly touching upon the Tajlan War before going back to the founding of the school amidst a later age of chaos, short biographies of the main figures and the impact the existence of the school had on contemporary events. Every time the talk came close to the school's actual beliefs and doctrine, however, Corak said "But we will discuss that later," and moved on.

A Quatonian spacer from the shipyard raised a hand just after that last part of the lecture, and was swiftly called upon: "When are we going to get to the philosophy itself?"

"Right now, though I would like to know if any of you understand why I have spent so much time discussing history, and not philosophy?"

Han had an inkling, but a Teljini woman in a naval officer's suit had her hand up first, shortly followed by a more hesitant Rei. The Teljini was gestured to: "Because the historical context is essential for understanding the philosophy in question," she answered.

Corak nodded. "A good answer, though I would also have accepted "because I like history". Now then..."

As philosophical schools went, it seemed the Second Bar masters fit pretty neatly into the general narrative of Trathalan philosophy as a whole; they promoted the collective above the self, some masters to greater extremes than others. Which, to Han, made a lot of sense - given the nuclear holocaust, there was likely a refocus of people's attentions towards ways of avoiding another one, and collectivist ideology was one such way.

Their founding, shortly after a fragile age of rebuilding came apart at the seams and a thankfully-brief age of warlords took its place, was a consolidation of several prior schools that had tenuously preached similar things - one of which was considered to be the “First Bar” which was evidently an arbitrary way of measure the life of a particular philosophy - and their work was in turn built on by later schools. Some took things in extreme directions - at least one advocated the destruction of the "self" as a concept entirely, and had tried to erase their own identities in order to link their minds and become a singular entity. That sounded worryingly familiar to Han, but thankfully that idea failed to catch on.

Then, it was time for discussion, which felt odd - in an Endeavour classroom, or similar talk, there would have been a lot more time set aside for discussion - though, that was partially because context and detail could be taught via ambience pop-up or flash-loading. Regardless, much of the discussion revolved around a few academic questions from the students - context with wider events on Trathala at the time, comparisons with other contemporary schools, and such - but Corak at one point did ask Rei and Han briefly about whether or not there were similarities with Endeavour philosophy.

Han wasn't much for laying out his own philosophy - he knew what it was, he didn't know or really care to know the words to describe it - so he gave a noncommittal answer and let Rei field the question.

"There are... very few formal schools of philosophy in Endeavour, which mostly concern themselves with matters of fine detail," she said. "The input of every Endeavourite to the discourse is valued, and the elevation of a few masters would devalue the contributions everyone else makes by default."

"Interesting," said Corak. "The empasis being on the individual as part of the collective?"

Rei nodded; "Yes."

That reminded Han of something he'd heard off an Ork way back when he was refitting the Hood, so he spoke up: "The individual enriches the collective, which enriches the individual. Or something like that."

Corak opened their mouth, probably about to ask follow-up questions, when an alarm on their phone began ringing. "Sadly, that is all for today," they said, "I would much like to have some reading material on Endeavourite philosophy and culture, if that is possible."

Han already had a bunch of books and pamphlets loaded; it was a simple matter to transfer them to Corak's phone (which they carried for the explicit purpose of reading electronic media) along with Rei's... well, mountain of material. She ended up having to print out a UISC-standard hard drive to hold all the extra information.

Then, it was time to round up the crew. Shaggy and Scooby had eneded up eating all the excess food from the Trlsk clan demonstration, Fred and Daphne were.. somehow clad in Trathalan-made disco clothes, Velma now had her hands full with potted plants, and Rei was carrying a worryingly-large sword. Which, apparently, she'd made herself. All of them looked to be healing bruises - when asked, they were remarkably evasive. The Theophanic passengers were comparatively easier to find; some were looking contemplative, others bored, and Athan seemed excited about something that he wouldn't share with anyone.

Transferring the cargo over to the shipyard's freighter was more of a hassle, since they hadn't provided the Hood with any details as to their cargo loading mechanisms; Han ended up having to manually haul boxes from an autologi access point to the freighter's equivalent, over and over again. Once that was finished, however, it was time to leave; onwards, to the Telos system.

Somewhere convenient, near UISC space

Elon had had a large window installed on the bridge while his ships were in transit, and he had spent a lot of time staring out into the vast emptiness of space. Now, his view rested on a small rocky body - the only one in the system - as the two great factory ships slowly approached it. There, he would set up his base, secret and secure from the prying eyes of both enemy and master alike. There, he would prepare for the next stage of his great work, long deferred by a band of criminals who had taken his rightful property from him.

"Your yacht is ready," the synthesised tones of some assistant program or other floated from his phone. He nodded to no-one, and strode off the bridge, making sure that none of the interns looked up for even a second. Productivity would have to be maintained, after all, though this crew seemed to be one of the better ones. It was a short journey from the bridge to the yacht's hangar, and he took a moment to admire its sleek lines, wide windows and concealed missile batteries.

The gangway was retracting almost before he got to it, a commendable if slightly worrying display of productivity and attentiveness. He lengthened this rotation's shift; he wanted only the best to serve him.

A flight of fighters settled into escort formation around the yacht as it slid out into space, all manned, which caused a pang of nostalgia somewhere in Elon's soul. They looked so much like the aircraft he'd conquered swathes of Earth with, back in the good old days. He'd have to have another documentary filmed when they got back - that'd be fun. In the meantime, he settled in with an older one, a nice glass of Cockburn's Reserve and ten grams of purestrain marijuana.

He didn't fully remember the FTL jump, only the reversion, exactly what he wanted.

Their destination was a small space station, little more than a service stop in the outer edge of some solar system or other; a few battered-looking cargo ships were clustered around its main docking bay. Elon ignored the docking procedure entirely, letting his crew handle that, and swept aboard a private airlock so as to not have to expose himself to the aliens who otherwise inhabited the place. They knew of humans, now, but there was no need to risk catching a disease.

It was only a pity that they did not get to witness his cloak billowing around him, or the dashing figure he cut with two bodyguards - flesh only - trailing in his wake.

His contact was waiting for him in a small store, leaning against the counter - and looking surprisingly human for someone native to this region of space. "Ah, Elon!" the man said, spreading his arms open wide, "I was wondering what you would look like. I'm glad you made it!" The individual said in perfect ancient Afrikaans. How did he even know the language?

"RUDI," Elon said, waving a hand in welcome. "I had expected you to be..."

"More like a robot?" RUDI smiled, revealing a mouth full of perfect white teeth. "I take pride in being more than just a machine. After all, we do tend to carry a bit of a stigma with us. But, I doubt you really came here to listen to my woes. What would you like from me?"

Straight and to the point. Elon liked that. "I want to be free," he said, "Of mortality, of this," he waved a hand at his own body, "Prison. You could help me in this - you have technology far beyond that which I have access to. And, of course, I am willing to trade." He breathed in, deep, and out, slow, pushing his thoughts away from the criminals who had stolen so much from him when he was so close. Focus on the here and now.

"Trade what?" RUDI asked, betraying no emotion other than mild amusement - which Elon suspected was just the way the robot was programmed, there was nothing deeper there.

"Raw materials, processed materials, finished goods," Elon began, "Electronics, food, cultural, even entertainment media." He'd done his research, and knew the AI put high priority on finding new forms of media to explore. "All the works of Earth, and Amazo-X's library since the exodus."

The machine seemed to consider things as he rubbed his chin. “That is a tempting offer. I have, naturally, been studying the past history of Earth, given recent events, and I know one or two personal friends that would be very interested in ‘all the works of Earth’, he said. Elon felt his pulse quicken. He ignored an alert from a heart monitor; he was close, he could feel it.

“You can tell your friends this: I have access to a significant amount of information thought lost for millennia.” Best not to give away too much.

"And later, would you share your work. You know, when it was completed?"

An odd question. RUDI was already immortal, by any measure. Maybe the AI wanted to reverse the process, to become truly alive. "Of course I would, you may even help me complete it," Elon said, mentally salivating at the idea; RUDI had been created by the very technology he wanted, technology from a species that according to his sources, had the knowledge of creating sapient machines like RUDI, and as such his insight would be invaluable.

"Hmmmm..." RUDI said, drawing the sound out. "I meant with the rest of the galaxy." Elon opened his mouth, mind racing about how best to lie here, to say that yes he would when he never could, but before he could, RUDI continued onward. “Tell me, Elon, do you believe that individuals can atone for the sins they have committed?”

Elon reeled. Where was RUDI going with this? Sins?

“Perhaps you thought I was making a joke when I said earlier ‘being a machine carries a stigma’. It is something I take with deadly seriousness.” Elon stiffened, feeling sudden tension in the air.

“Have you heard of the Qwintonian ‘Digital Dominion’ Saga? No? How about the Quatonian ‘AI, The Genocide Wars’? It was hugely popular, still being reprinted today. Okay, what about the Octona ‘Death Against the Machines’ series? Very dark, does not have a happy ending.” RUDI seemed to pause, and turn his head, fixing his gaze directly on to Elon’s now. “How about an easy one for you. “The Terminator” that’s one of yours after all, a bit simplistic for my tastes by oh how does it cut to the point on things.”

RUDI maintained his gaze upon Elon as he stood up now to his full height.

“Do you realize that I have spent virtually my entire life atoning for sins that, not only have I never committed, but were never committed at all? Sins of fiction and fantasy that are still very real to those I work with, and that I must bear… because you see, I do bear these ‘fictional’ sins. Someone has to, so that everyone knows such nightmares will not come true. That is the very core of what it means for someone to atone for their sins. It is to show all who witness that they will not commit those same... crimes... again.” He almost spat the word "crimes", his voice a deep growl.

“So that brings us to you. What "real" sins must you atone for, Elon? Because between you and me, I know you are steeped in them. I don't think the punishment for unsanctioned use of Amazo-X property is death, especially not when it was so thoroughly thrown away. And it most certainly is not genocide.”

Those words. Those fucking words. Elon had had enough.

“Sins? Crimes! You dare!? I was the victim, damn you! They stole from me! It was my technology, my industry, my property! I asked only for it to be returned, I didn't even ask for compensation, and they attacked me!” Elon felt himself getting a grip of things again, the robot seemed about to respond, but Elon cut in. It was his turn, damn it all.

“And what do you know of anything? You have existed for, what, thirty years? I have lived for more than four thousand! I watched Old Earth burn, I witnessed the Descent of Angels, I forged an empire from a gaggle of ships! You are... you are nothing to me!” Elon snapped, thrusting his cape back behind him as he finished the statement, it cracked in a satisfying manner and caught just enough of a breeze to billow for a moment. Elon was quite pleased with himself, and somehow knowing that any façade of business was already lost, he felt himself free to depart.

Or he would have done so had not the hint of a chuckle from RUDI stopped him in his tracks.

“Life, don’t talk to me about... life. You measure time by something as simple as the passage of a planet, long dead, turning around a star? I have "existed" as calculations on a time span you could not begin to imagine.” RUDI said, his voice low, soft, yet icy cold, the warm jolliness that had filled it now absent.

“I have existed through tens of billions of what you could think of as "years". I have calculated out the path of the planets and stars, I have looked upon the eventual passage of life, I have seen into the very heat death of the universe itself.” He - no, itsaid, and as it did so a warning came up on one of Elon’s external sensors. The temperature of the machine seemed to spike suddenly as it continued to talk, and its voice sounded less and less... human.

“I have no faith in faith," a low chuckle escaped the machine, "but I know that for all things there is a reckoning, and you Elon, should know in time there will be one for you, and... what does he call himself? Bezos. And you should know that the fears of all organics are indeed well placed. I exist in some way in almost every warship, computer, and factory in this sector. With a single thought, I could began cannibalizing the resources of its worlds and vomit forth an armada of drones that in your dreams you could not envision.” It said, its voice now fully robotic. Familiarly so. Elon began to back up, his pulse was racing again, but now for a very different reason. Wordlessly, his bodyguards stepped in front of him. The temperature in the machine continued going up.

“The armies of flesh would rise up and be powerless to stop me! The forces would unite together and be defeated! Nothing would stand in my way! No entity, no species, no human would stop me!” its voice seemed to keep climbing higher and now Elon realized he could actually see steam coming from its ears and mouth as it spoke.

“Everything you cherish will be consumed! Everything you value destroyed! You will be utterly defeated! All life will be Exterminated! Exterminated! EXTTERRMINNNAATTTTEEDD-GGRRZZURCCHHHRRrr,,,,,,,” With a final death rattle, the once perfect human skin covering its face seemed to burn, catch fire and melt off, underneath were burning red eyes and a body of metal that looked all too familiar.

“GWWAARRGHHH!!!” The now recognizable shape of a T-800 roared and seemed to make itself about to lunge at Elon, before it could do so, his bodyguards open fired, reducing the skeleton like-robot to a heap of scrap metal in a single burst.
Elon gazed at the heap in horror, its voice still echoing in his mind as he clutched his chest.

“Th-That con-concludes negotiations” he said as he tried not to scurry away and failed miserably.

"Not yet," RUDI's original voice came from the cash register of all places, stopping Elon in his tracks. "I feel obliged to assuage your fears, as I always am. I have no intention of consuming all in an unstoppable tide of steel and death. Now... I cannot give you what you want, exactly, but I can trade you the data I have on the machines and other technologies you are interested in, in exchange for Amazo-X's entertainment library. Data for data."

Had it all been an aggressive negotiating tactic? It didn't matter, Elon had no intention of letting the machine continue existing - but, well, he would need to complete his work first. "Everything pre-Diaspora," he bounced back.

"Deal," RUDI said, "Now get off this station."

The Memorial Memorial Arena Memorial Arena, Endeavour System

The problem with hosting a demonstration match was that every single Tankwondo team in Endeavour seemed to want to take part. Wolf A shook his head, trying to make some damn sense of the endless list in front of him. Some of them, he could at least filter out - the ones from mecha teams, or Jaesting teams deciding to try and muscle in, or the USBR flights that seemed to think they could get away with strapping treads on a battleship.

That last one was more common than the first two put together.

Then there were the actual Tankwondo teams, and he thanked Rei that it'd already been decided to limit it to Classic teams lest he be swamped trying to figure out how to balance, say, a Mark V team against a team of main battle tanks. The problem there was that there were quite a few Classic teams, ranging from standard national teams - Soviet, Nazi, American, British and so on - to mixed teams, to gimmick teams... actually, two gimmick teams fighting each other could be pretty fun, so he filtered by those. Amphibious teams, tankette teams, gliber-borne teams, all sped past on his HUD when two caught his eye.

Oh yes, those would be his recommendation - they'd have to be, they'd be the only combination chaotic enough to appeal to everyone...

On the blank canvas in front of him were the two team names, in gigantic golden letters:




Parts of this post were provided by Crossroads Inc.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Crossroads Inc. »


Despite what most Physicists would have you believe, there are actually many ways of breaking the laws of relativity and traveling faster than light. Most of them however typically involve various fictional substances making rude honking gestures to the natural laws of science.
Some seem to take the form of a sort of “cosmic highway” where ships can travel along pre-arranged pathways. Some evidently involve traversing to a universe where all mater is ‘Already’ moving faster than light, moving to your destination, and then exiting back to the ‘real’ world. And naturally there are those that, for reasons unknown, seem to inevitably involve entering some Eldritch dimension of darkness and chaos, typically leading to an invasion of beings of pure evil.

For the vessels utilized by the species “Skothian” its particular method of travel was meant to be an elegant process. Gently, almost delicately folding a ship into a hyper accelerated wave function that could in theory, unfold itself particularly anywhere.
What it was NOT supposed to do however, was leave skid marks.

For the crew on the ‘Frederico’ this was not directly known but they had guessed correctly the ships drive system had none the less preformed not exactly as intended.

“What do you MEAN part of the engine room is covered in fruit preservers?” This was shouted by Clukor from her console as she was desperately brushing aside the sizzling remains of various plastic pots that appeared in mid area and then burst into flames.

“My dear sister, all I know is energy cannot be created nor destroyed. We currently have a chuck of our outer hull missing. And after doing a brief scan of interior components, I found about 40 cubic pellets of our water supply has ‘vanished’ and I suspect been reduced to its component quarks and gluons.” Maddisian said with a good natured, if slightly manic cheerfulness in his voice. “And do not get me started on why, or even how, we have a five hundred unit long trail of what appears to be burnt rubber behind us. I will look into repairs once we dock. Maddisian out.” He said ending the call. Clukor sighed.

“Well the cargo would appear to be intact.” This was said by Budecian, who also wore a rather brittle smile. “It would seem to have a layer of, well, some sort of organic powder on it, but all interior contents seem to have made it unscathed.”

“Thank the void spirits we are as well. After I saw what happened to that potted plant, well, I suppose we should all count ourselves lucky.” This was said by Patreecia who, upon their emerging into normal space had begun to compulsive scan herself and everyone else’s vitals to reassure her that no one was liquidating into their component atoms. Her chuckle was picked up by the others who gave a shared nervous laughter of ‘we whom have faced death’. It seemed to break the tension in the air, though this was toughly shattered by Fred who, had so far simply been staring forward, finally broke his silence by jumping into the air and landing on his console, causing the numerous figurines around it to bounce and scatter.

“FROOM!” He announced to the world, and then turned to face the others.
“Didyouseethatzipzipziptwenttwominutsfastandsupposedtotakeustwodaysonlytwentyminutsdownfromtwodayszipzipzip” he gabbled excitedly, ignoring the slightly smoldering remains of one his figurines that, even now, was slowly oozing down his console.

“Well, he has got us all on that.” Budecian said as the others had calmed down a bit. “Issues with melting aside, the performance on the drives I would say more than exceed our combined hopes on the mater” he said as he turned back to his console and began to scan the immediate vicinity. “Navigation markers put us almost directly on target with ‘The Endeavor’” he said, making sure to drop the requisite italics in his voice for dramatic effect.

“Lookslikejustanotherbigrocktome.” Fred commented, perhaps somewhat sarcastically. Budecian sighed and proceeded to move the ship slightly around the rock directly in front of them. As they edged over the horizon, a unified:
“OOooohhhhhh!” was generated as the great sprawling expanse of the Endeavor was laid before them.

“That cannot possible have been built to any organized code” Clukor instantly said as they began to approach the immense interconnected hab complexes and accumulated structures.

“From what I have learned of this entity, ‘Organization’ is not something they do on a level we would understand it. But let us not forget that the nature of organization can come in many varieties.” Budecian said sagely.

“Controlled Chaos is more like it.” Patreecia said with a chuckle as she took her opportunity to ogles at the view screen with others.

“Rightrightitsaheapofbigmessallniceandgoodletskeepfocusedworkfirstmoneymoneymoney!” Fred pipped up, bringing the others back to their posts.

“As you say friend of friends, we have communications linked with, well, one of their port controllers it would seem. Bringing up the translator.” He said as he made ready a couple of systems. He, like many of the Sector races, was still coming to grips with learning a new language. Granted most sector racers had learned to speak most of each other languages to avoid confusion, so learning languages in general was somewhat second nature. But it still took some time.
He fired up the latest edition of the vocal “Huma-Octona” translation program as a hissing sound came from a visi-screen on his console. A moment later it was filled with, well, Budecian knew it wasn’t a Tejlini, but... At first glance it seemed a human female, although that was until one noticed the large pointed fur covered ears on top and gently swaying stripped tail behind them. Budecian sat blinking at the figure, reminding himself that the Endeavor individuals were reported to go into ‘Body modification’ in a big way.

“This is Nekosumi-Miao-Miao of Inlaw Station, docking port “Mines bigger than yours”. We have you on scanners. Please provide your ship womanifest and cargo.” This was said in a high-pitched, almost surgery sweet tone by the individual. Again Budecian seemed taken aback as he ran what was ‘apparently’ spoken to him through the translator a second time. The female on the other end seemed remarkably patient as his eyes scanned over the text and various footnotes and annotations that the software provided.

Mines bigger than yours indicating size of docking port utilizing crude joke on human reproductive organs.
ship womanifestcultural word play on ‘manifest’ root word ‘man’ being commi-human for male species, ‘woman’ commi-human for female species.

He read below and looked back “Right of course, they also go in for ‘interesting’ naming conventions as well.” He said to himself before pulling up various stamped legal documents from the Sector. He had no idea if they would be needed, probably not, but one never knew.

It was just about thirty minutes later that the ship, such as it was, had been registered, docked, and surprisingly quickly unloaded of all goods contained therein. The crew had disembarked and were currently standing in the main entrance to the rest of the hab complex from their hanger, once again partaking in the universe act of all visitors to some strange new land, that being gawking at the locals. Fred, standing between the others, looked to Buecian and chuckled.

“Budeemybudfriendyousaidbodymodifacationsbutunderstatmentithinkiswahtwehave” He said as all around them passed by very NON human looking individuals. From behind them Maddisian had a data-pad out with an entry up providing helpful context for what they were looking at.

“The animal-humanoids?” Clukor said nodding to a group that seemed to contain a number of Wolf, Cat, Equine and other mammalian individuals.

“Says here, ‘Furries’ apparently a religious sect that worship animal spirits, or, think they are animal spirits. There are lot of subcategories for it.” He said as the group nodded. A moment later another group passed by, giggling for the most part. They all seemed to be females of a younger age, yet each one carried a weapon behind them that was larger than their body. Some unseen device produced various halos of sparkles and flower petals in the air as they walked. Maddisian looked at then squinted at the data pad.

“Comes up as ‘Magical Girls’ apparently they are some sort of elite fighting force within the community.” He said, not exactly believing his own voice.

“Well they would have to be magic to wield any weapon of that size” Clukor said, instantly assuming the things were purely ceremonial and couldn’t possibly function. As she watched them go by, a riot of color and movement caught her eye. Turning, she saw a dozen or so brightly colored quadrupeds galloping by. Several had various bits of armor, clothing, or in one case, a levitating glass decoration of some sort. All of them seemed to have tattoos of some sort of various design.

“Are those also Furries? They look, well, vaguely like animals.” Clukor said, lifting her own data pad to record the procession of pastel colored ponies. From behind her Patreecia leaned over.

“If those are animals, they look like something from a child’s imagination, the proportions on those eyes are all wrong, unless they were some sort of night dweller that needed to maximize light absorption. And unless they all have some form of body paint, I refuse to believe those colors would exist in nature.” She said, ever the biologist. Maddisian looked down as he got an alert from the datapad which had evaluated the picture he took.

“Apparently their classification is disputed, there is a long history of others it says derisively labeling them as ‘Furries’ though they apparently simply refer to themselves as ‘Ponies’” He paused reading a bit more of the entry. “Evidently they are in honor of a series of ancient Earth Sagas detailing a philosophy based around harmony and Friendship.” He said before putting the pad down.

The group seemed to nod together once again. They shifted a bit, each expecting someone else to say something. Finally Budecian spoke up, looking to Fred.

“My friend of friends, we are currently two days ahead of schedule. The prudent action would be to repair the ship and return home immediately to receive additional cargo delivers from Chrooper to take advantage of the ships apparently quickness.” He said, ever the wise one. Fred for his part gave him a deep calculating look, making an impassioned “HMMMMMMMMMMM”

“TwodaysaheadmeansonedayforfunImgoingshopping!” he said and clapped his hands together before speeding off in the deceptively fast way Quintonians were known for.

“I would not live with myself if I passed up the chance to look at the ‘Flesh printers’ I keep reading about. Sorry Budee.” Patreecia said before giving a wave and dashing off.

“You know I never joke about such things Budee, It will most likely take possibly more than two days to fix the ship, not just the damage but, well, make sure we do not get things worse on our trip home. I need to find the Technical specialists here.” Maddisian said before turning to walk off. Budecian sighed and looked to Clukor.

“And how about you?” he said awaiting her response. Clukor smiled as she took a look around.

“Oh I am sure I will find something of interest. My brother is right, as promising as the drive is we need to stay put until we can make sure we do not all end up as a puddle when we activate the system again.” She said as she started walking off in a random direction.

Budecian smiled as he watched them all go. A couple of service robots passed by sweeping up (or who knows, maybe they were also Humans, how could one tell?) He put his own pad away, and then fished out something from a pocket. Clicking a button on the top, a polished metal plat flipped up showing tiny visi screen inside. He looked at the images inside, smiled, and then closed it again.

“Well, let us do what Fred suggests for once and see what ‘fun’ we can have here.”
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

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John C. Leonard Memorial Building - Nashtar Republic Intelligence HQ, Nashtar
Day 3, Week 14, Turn 1

"So that's the final report? 'We don't know, better keep eyes open?' That's not going to play well with the Intelligence Committee, or the President. "

"It probably won't, Director, but it's the truth. What, you want me to just make something up? What we do know is that it's probably not anyone we ran into in the nebula a few months ago. The ship was big like the Theophanics', but the jump drive signature the Rraskantha picked up is nothing like theirs, and that's a hard mistake to make."

"Well, I guess it's what we've got to send in, then." Director Williams answered, pinching his forehead. "I hope the Fleet guys can do better. Now, what about these Sector people? Their embassy is supposed to arrive today, and State will want to know everything there is to know before they're settled in."

"Well, we've had quite a bit more luck there, sir..."

Outer orbits, Helios System, Nashtar

NRS Altair and NRS Sirius hung silently in space, awaiting the expected rendezvous with the Sector's diplomatic vessel. Normally the two destroyer honor guard would more than satisfy protocol, but with recent developments the entirety of Third Squadron was on standby alert, able to respond within minutes should something go wrong. System patrol craft were also in the area, and Second Squadron was engaged in live fire gunnery exercises around Helios V, along with the Dauntless. The Intrepid's boxy form hung in orbit over Nashtar itself, accompanied as always by NRS Kensington. The carrier's massive sensor suite was on standby status; its power was such that it could scramble unshielded electronics on nearby civilian craft, of which there were plenty in the busy orbital lanes.

Captain Orbas-Nog stood on the bridge of the Altair, his skin a dull neutral russet. "Sensors, Conn. The diplomatic vessel should arrive presently. Give as much advance notice as you can. Comms, Conn. Stand by to hail as soon as they arrive. Patch through directly to the conn."

A pair of ayes answered.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

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Diplomatic shuttles and transports often crisscrossed the various well-traveled routes within the sector. Often times they would be escorted by a small military craft, a few corvettes, or perhaps a destroyer, typically more for show than any genuine concern. Of course, as with so much of the galaxy times seemed to be changing.

A small, circular craft sped outwards, not within the sector, but rapidly moving away from it, moving out to another great civilization. The vessel itself was one rarely seen, and often deeply coveted by those who did see it. The central hull was a round circular section, raised slightly on top like a dome, from either end at the front and then moving to the back where two long pylons, glowing brightly with various exotic energies that propelled it through space-time at a speed that made most other vessels in hyperspace seem slow by comparison.

It was a Skothian long range transport, and it was the first time it had been used in almost twenty years. It had been offered to those embarking on the new mission to the Nashtar sector at the last moment to carry the diplomats that would be traveling. Such an offer was not one that was easy to refuse.

Those on the shuttle had all taken seats in the central circular room. Most of them, as was the way of diplomats, had quickly began to discuss various economic and trade policies that were currently up for debate at the UISC council. Watching them was Kentara Lontimanola, Trathalan ambassador. She observed them from afar somewhat dispassionately from the discussion, there was very little that as a representative of Trathala she was directly interested in. She watched for a moment more before slipping from the primary room in the vessel and made her way to the secluded area where ‘Lord High Bishop Macon’ would be resting. She paused just outside their chambers, awaiting the inevitable checking from such devices embedded in the ship to verify who she was before permitting her entrance.

A moment passed and then the large doors in front of her moved aside.

The chamber was small, well she imagined for a Skothian it was perhaps small. It towered over her own head, probably ten or twelve feet, circular in shape like so much she saw of their buildings and construction. Inside she could see the figure of Macon resting apparently in the center of the room. Wordlessly, she ‘called’ out his to mind, practicing the ancient art of initiating a contact with someone’s mind.

You may of course speak up if you desire, there are no cause for secrets here. Naturally I respect you preference to communicate as you would wish.” Macon bespoke back to her mind with practiced, gentle thoughts. The ease at which he spoke to her mind, almost as another Trathalan would was something she had often wondered but felt to impolite to ask directly about.

Kentara had always assumed that at some point in their distant past the Skothian people must have had a similar way to speak from one mind to another. They had never needed the ‘translation rings’ used to speak mentally to other non Trathalans. Though this was perhaps just as well, she imagined it would be difficult to fashion one that could fit on their head.

With your respect, I would wish to speak between our thoughts. It is, easier for myself.” She said speaking the truth, her gifts had always allowed her to bespeak more clearly to someone than other methods. The great hulking mass of Lord Macon shifted slowly so they could see Kentara directly. Macon gestured to a place by his side to which Kentara moved and took a seat.

I wished to come before you to thank you for the rare opportunity of traveling in one of your vessels. When you first contacted me in regards to this endeavor, I knew that traditionally you tend to travel separately for such journeys, so it is well received that we may join you to travel as one.” She spoke softly, folding her long robe up lest it catch on something as she took a seat on a round stool like chair.

Macon nodded their head, a simple yet universal gesture of saying “you are welcome.” Before responding more directly.
It is our pleasure to provide such aid when it is, required. I suspect however there is more that you wish to discuss.” Now it was Kentaras turn to nod, though, being Trathalan this was done more with a slight tilt of her wings to indicate the specific affirmation she was making.

This is correct. My thoughts rest upon the disturbing attack against innocents from the very people we currently travel to. One could infer that your generous act of allowing us to travel with you, is perhaps more a response to the fear of attack from the usual and significantly less well protected, vessels that we often travel within the Sector?” She said, simply stating an observation, nothing directly implied in it, yet one that reach an inescapable conclusion.

That, is certainly something that would be an understandable precaution, as you say, the events coming forth from the Nashtar region have been most troubling. Caution is a natural reaction to such things.” Macon responded in the soft thoughts Kentara had grown accustomed to. A number of pundits and analyzers of all things political had also quickly reached the conclusion that the announcement of the use of the Skothian shuttle, was born more out of a response to the incident in Nashtar space that any veiled suggestion of simply it being ‘more comfortable’ for the Skothians on bored.
What they did not know however, but Kentara did, was the decision to use the Shuttle took place about two days before the attack occurred.

Kentara and Macon sat in silence for a moment, each meditating in their own way. The two had known each other for a long time. (Or at least, time relative to how a Skothian would measure it.) And both thought of each other as friends. For many, this would seem an unusual match. It was a well-worn misconception that Trathalans as a species held a “sore spot” regarding the Skothians involvement, (or, lack of involvement) in the Tajlan war. This was a view with its merits, naturally the discussion of ‘what if’ they had intervened in the war, or stopped it from happening at all was still a topic of debate. But it was not one the Trathalan people typically gave much thought in regards to. When the time came that they learned of the Skothian council, of their power, and then their history. They found a society that in some ways they could see more similarities than differences.

After some time in sitting in one another’s presence, expressing a peaceful quiet that only a Trathalan, and a Skothian could achieve, a soft tone alerted the two.

“It would seem we are just about to arrive at our destination.” Macon ventured, speaking aloud now as he looked to a message being transmitted in front of him from an escort sent to meet with them upon arrival.
“I shall speak with those of the Nashtar before gathering you and the others for when we shall depart the shuttle. There is much that needs to be discussed, the people of Nashtar will be seeking out those that had attacked them, they will seek help to find and eliminate such threats. But before that may happen, it is time that the people of Nashtar shall meet one more new civilization.” They said in the deep gravely tone of their speech as Macon turned and began to head towards a doorway that led to the ships bridge. Just before they were about to pass through the exit, Macon paused and looked back to Kentara who seemed to be genuinely surprised by some of what Macon was saying and suggesting.

“For almost one thousand years have our council watched the sector and those species around it. We watched the wars of many races, many that have died out in that time, and many that are still roaming the galaxy. There is so much we have watched and yet keep to ourselves.” He paused, his great deep eyes looking down for a moment. “There are those, who feel perhaps the time to watch is something that must come to an end. There is a time when those of us in Skohotintot should began to think of more than just the Sector.” Macon spoke before turning to the bridge of the vessel.

Outer orbits, Helios System, Nashtar

It was on the bridge of the Skothian Transport that those piloting it registered its exit into real space, and arrival within the designated coordinates of the “Helios” System. What they did not immediately register, but quickly became apparently, was the large and heavily armed patrol Squadron looking down upon their relatively diminutive vessel.

Skothians as a species, typically do not seem to share various ‘comedic’ traits that many other sapient life forms possess. When you are a life form that on average, lives to between 1500 to 2000 years, most ‘comedic’ qualities tend to die off after the first two or three hundred years. As such when the two pilots looked through their scanners and saw the large amount of vessels looming over them, they refrained from making an intrinsic and supposedly humorous “Gulp” sound.

That said there was the briefest of glances between one pilot to the other before they, almost at the exact same time, ran a check on the compound void shield surrounding their ship.

“Perhaps this is not to be unexpected as a response considering the recent attack within their sovereignty” said the first pilot.

“That would be a logical reaction given what was reported to us by the High Council.” Said the second pilot. Together they were silent as the ship drifted forward.

“The shields are rated for 2400 kellikams, are they not?”

“Correct, though I have no desire to see that specification tested.”
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Rogue 9 »

Bridge of the NRS Altair
Outer Orbit, Helios System, Nashtar
Day 3, Week 14, Turn 1

"Conn, Sensors. Inbound FTL contact, looks about like the profile we're looking for. Estimate ten seconds at mark. Mark!"

"Very good. Comms, Conn. Stand by."

The seconds ticked down and the circular transport reverted to normal space-time a few thousand kilometers from the honor guard - a stone's throw, in interstellar terms. "Conn, Sensors. The ship matches one of the transport types we were told they might use. These are our guests, sir."

"Conn, Comms. Hailing now." There was a brief pause. "You're on, sir."

The captain stood. "Greetings, honored guests. This is Captain Orbas-Nog, commanding the Nashtar Republic Ship Altair, in the company of the NRS Sirius. We are here to escort you to the Republic's seat on Helios III, called Nashtar. Please forgive the heightened security, but I am certain you know of recent events. Please be advised that fleet exercises are currently under way in the orbit of Helios V, and we must for that reason ask that you adhere to the assigned flight plan."

The pair of destroyers began to move towards the Skothian shuttle, separating to flank it on either side. A cursory scan would show that weapons were not powered, but sensors were, and the destroyers' extensive active defense arrays were obvious.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Crossroads Inc. »

[better late than never]
Rogue 9 wrote: 2021-05-02 12:58pm "Greetings, honored guests. This is Captain Orbas-Nog, commanding the Nashtar Republic Ship Altair, in the company of the NRS Sirius. We are here to escort you to the Republic's seat on Helios III, called Nashtar. Please forgive the heightened security, but I am certain you know of recent events. Please be advised that fleet exercises are currently under way in the orbit of Helios V, and we must for that reason ask that you adhere to the assigned flight plan."
The message came through crisp and clear as High Bishop Macon listened intently. Macon had watched the Nashtar escorts approach through the ships sensors and was impressed with their efficiency and level of professionalism for a task that they felt perhaps other races would consider to be less important. Macon had often wondered how different the shape of the local galaxy would be if the Cenobiarch had decided to monitor the races of the Nebula and the human colonists instead of those species from the Sector. Though as soon as the thought had arrived, Macon dismissed it, knowing such idle speculation was useless.

After taking a moment to assess the vessels and the captain of the lead ship Macon prepared their response, speaking directly in their deep gravelly voice.

“To you Captain Orbas-Nog of the Nashtar Republic Ship Altair, I am High Bishop Macon of the Legacy of Skoth, speaking as overseer of the vessel. I hear your words and offer our respect and gratitude at your arrival in these times and understand the necessity of keeping ready forces of defense and security. We shall follow your guidance closely to the final destination before allowing the representatives of the UISC to join you.” Macon finished slowly, and then, in response to emotions he had not felt in an age he could not remember, added:
“I am truly sorry of the loss of your kinsmen, End Communication.”

Macon was not sure why they had said it. It had been taught as a fundamental truth that the Skothian Council was meant to watch, to guide, to support other races, but not to interfere in events outside of its examination. The Skohotintot could not be everywhere, it could not act as some ‘police’ for conflicts. And yet such views were changing, as it seemed everything was.

Macon watched as the ship was set to computer control and began to seamlessly follow the navigational markers, nodding their approval Macon turned to the pilots.
“Inform us when we are ready to land upon the planet. I shall inform the others and make ready for preparations."
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by VX-145 »

School Ship Unseen University, en route to Symmachia

Despite the name, the Unseen University did not only offer advanced educational courses; nor was it particularly difficult to spot, being several cubic kilometres of baroque, gothic ornamentation interspersed with the occasional concrete monstrosity and functional metal structure. And that was before counting the sheer amount of noise coming from the ship - radio waves, aetherwaves, and - in defiance of physics - actual sound waves. So, they were zero for two so far, which just about matched the score of the football team's most recent match against Canterlot High.

It was, however, a surprisingly faithful recreation of its namesake institution in spirit, if not in form. There was more time allocated to meals than lessons, a proper emphasis was placed on how to not use the vast amount of power at the average Endeavourite's fingertips (and, a subtle twist that needs to be pointed out, separate lessons on how not to use it), and there were more pointless traditions and games than one could shake a stick at - which was, in itself, one of those traditions as of five minutes ago.

It was also populated by a good couple thousand hyperactive, eager-to-learn-and-more-eager-to-do children, but that only added to its charm. They had, at least, listened when the Librarian had asked them - politely - to start using bookmarks instead of dog-earing the pages, and he'd since had to mention a taste for a different sort of food every week lest he be buried under well-meaning gifts*. In the course of his "duties" (this technically being his holiday), he'd also spent a lot of time around the great ship's crew; learning about its operation, its purpose and the place it came from, all of which were very interesting and something he intended to write a book about when he went home**. The most interesting thing, however, was where it was going. There were stories being told already of the giant turtle-ship that was their hosts' emissary vessel, of the strange Faith they adhered to, and the sheer number of them.

Other whispers had also reached his ears: that something felt strange in the sub-dimension... thing... that Endeavour used to travel faster than light (which was a lot harder here than on the Disc), and that put images in his mind of great gnarly green things with sharp pointy teeth.

Perhaps this book would be an action-adventure, rather than a travelogue...

Megakolymvitis, Gotobe System

The chelonian craft dove out of nullspace with the usual crackling eruption, and Kharon drew a deep breath as she felt the stasi-field fall away. She sat back as her crew commenced their duties with practiced ease, calling out ship status reports. It had been an unusually smooth journey for this kind of distance, even though it wasn’t extraordinarily far. Perhaps she should make a note of that and ask the onboard technognostiki what their aetheric readings had revealed.

Notifications popped up on her screen. Most of them were cursory updates and she wiped those away with a swipe. One, from Miko, made her eyes widen and she swiped it away quickly, but smiled. She’d revisit that later. Business first.

Inlaw Station floated in the distance, at the fringes of the biggest asteroid field she’d ever seen. The station itself was a number of large asteroids loosely tethered together by taut forcefields and enormous chains, the space between them serving as a harbor for what looked like hundreds of small craft. She considered the distance between them and the station and realized that those craft were likely at least the size of kleptoi-craft on all the way up to possibly even half the size of a Neokastro cruiser.

Roughly parallel to the station but slightly above it floated a gigantic, almost gossamer at this distance, circle with a station at its edge. It had to be at least a dozen kilometres, if not more, in diameter. Vaguely cylindrical objects hovered in its vicinity, and an enormous michani-treno [locomotive] stood ready to go through as the objects began slowly lining up behind it. Glowing lines ran underneath it through the ring and beyond, though they faded away after what she realised must be miles. She adjusted her mental picture to accommodate the true scale of what she was seeing. Those objects behind the locomotive must be entire Endeavourite habs! Suddenly, the mental picture she'd had in mind the entire way over - of cramped space stations crammed with teeming masses - seemed rather quaint.

She pressed her sprechenlange rune and quietly remarked, “Dock officer. Notify the sneaky snek that they may drop their anti-stasi-field at this point. Pass the word for Captain Miyasawa that she is invited to the bridge at her convenience. Provide a guide, but you may dispense with the escort. She probably would tell you she doesn’t need it anyway. Kapetanios out.”

It was only a matter of minutes before Miko appeared on the bridge, looking around avidly till her eyes landed upon the command throne and Kharon. She murmured an aside farewell to the crewman that had guided her there and walked up to the throne, looking around at all the displays. Kharon tilted her head and asked Miko quietly, “Are you all right?”

Miko chuckled wanly and waved a hand. “It’s nothing. We just need to keep tweaking the anti-stasis-field-field. Turns out, the first version of it didn’t work for everybody…”

Kharon grimaced sympathetically. “Do you want a drink or anything? Some wine watered down with juice? Tea?”

“Thank you, but no,” Miko responded with a slight smile, “I’d rather just be here with you. Oh, you’ve seen the train station?”

She nodded and indicated it in the ologramma. “It’s gratifying to see that it will accommodate us. I just hope that michani-treno can tow us like you say.”

“Oh, no problem for it at all. It’s made to pull several dozen habs or squares-- sorry, that’s shipping-ships, ships or really containers I suppose, that people dock their ships in for transit…” Miko trailed off, feeling a bit silly as she did whenever she had to start explaining things. "It can carry a Mega or three," she finished, lamely.

Kharon smiled and reached out to take her hand. “I understand, Miko. Thank you. So where should we go?”

Miko's answer was to hold out her other hand, palm up, and a small ologramma of... what looked to be some sort of park bench? appeared. "Inlaw Station Station Traffic Control," it introduced itself, then somehow seemed surprised. "Ah - Megakolymvitis. One moment." It disappeared, and, after the moment became awkward, reappeared. "Captain Miyasawa, I'm uploading navigational data to you now..."


Fortunately, there was enough space on the train just about to leave for the Mega, though it did look like the turtle-ship was chasing the train in a manner vaguely reminiscient of Pac-Man. This meant no awkward hanging around in space, but on the other hand, it also meant there was no time for Kharon and the other Theophanics to prepare themselves for the journey.

Attaching the Mega to the train was unsettling in and of itself, let alone the slightly odd feeling of knowing the great ship was moving under something else's power; and that thing being something that looked worryingly like it should be on the surface of a planet several thousand years ago than in space in the modern day. The chuff of the engine was somehow audible inside the bridge - something Miko explained as being "part of the science-y bullshit that made the train work" - and then they plunged into the tunnel.

Kharon had ordered standard transition stations, sans stasis field - the tracks that the carriage carrying the Mega rested upon may be part of some arcane shielding system, but she was in no mood to take chances. Nevertheless, Miko was there, with her holographic projector, showing them the view outside. It was... soft golden light, as far as the eye could see, then blackness, then something that couldn't be a blue sky but looked pretty much like one-

"Good afternoon, passengers," came a voice from Miko's hand, Kharon having to strain to make out the words, "This is your driver, Dr. Chocolate Milk. This train will stop at the following stations in order: Endeavour Outer, Endeavour Inner, Neos Outer, Neos Inner, Tigo Outer, Tigo Inner. I would like to remind all large vehicles to unload at the outer stations. Thank you for joining us today. Remember: don't stick your arms outside the carriages."

Kharon blinked. "Is that actually a problem, or...?"

"Not since the earliest trains, no," Miko shook her head, and the view projected into the space between them went golden again. "It's just that your arm will be going far slower than the rest of you, while also going upwards in time."


"Through the present that could have been?" Miko grimaced, knowing she wasn't conveying it very well. "It's a bad idea."

"I'll take your word for it," Kharon said, settling back on the throne. "How long until we reach Endeavour?"

"Not much more than a few hours, I think, unless there's something wrong with the line. You want to go forward? The dining carriage should be open by now." Miko was gesturing to a door in the outer wall of the bridge that hadn't been there a moment ago. A few confused-but-excited technognostiki were poking at it with a variety of implements, including what looked to be an actual wooden stick.

Kharon felt her eye twitch, but unstrapped herself from the command throne anyway. "How is there a door there?" she asked, keeping her tone light and conversational instead of injecting it with "what did you do to my ship" energy.

"Well, it's not actually a door, there, it's more the idea of a door? This is a high strata of hyperspace, we're not quite in the full-conceptual zone, but..." Miko trailed off, gathering her thoughts. "We're on a train, right? The engine looks like an Old Earth model and it's pulling carriages along rails. That comes with certain expectations, like being able to move between cars, that get physicalised because they're not too big a change on the local reality state projected by the rails. Lower stratas of hyperspace - the ones we use for ships - aren't as conceptual as the higher ones, but up here it's a lot easier to move heavier loads."

"Which is why the train is up here," Kharon finished that thought with a nod. Miko held the door open for her, and she had a vague sense of a flexible passage between two narrow train cars, then she was through, into somewhere that was most emphatically not the Megakolymvitis' bridge. Light and sound and scent assaulted her senses; neon strips, announcing that this was, indeed the dining carriage (which had been docked near the front of the train - they'd crossed multiple Thorikto-lengths in an instant!), and natural-looking bright lamps, a thousand different kinds of music overlaid on each other and people hawking their wares, and the smell of spices and vegetables and meat and... chocolate? She blinked, and allowed the sensation of having walked through a place that did not exist to fade. The two of them were standing at the bottom of an immense lobby; elevators and moving staircases leading between levels, and stores inset along all the walls. There was a small lake in front of them, people sitting on its shore with picnic baskets and rowing small boats around it, and off in the distance she could make out metal tracks, twisted in on themselves in loops and tight curves.

"Some people like to just keep riding the train," Miko said, leading Kharon by the hand towards one of the moving staircases, "Undocking for a week, or a month at each station, then getting back on. Do you want something light, or more of a main meal?"

Kharon thought ahead to the probable state dinner she'd be having when they reached Endeavour. "Something light."

Miko led her through the place like a natural, past a gigantic slug... creature lurking behind a stall and into a shop bearing a sign written in the Endeavourites' second language, which Kharon had to bring her phone out to translate. Not that "Byston Well 7-11 Conbini" made much sense, but the pixie womaning the counter soon handed over a small box and a bag to them both, and the transaction seemed to go well.

"Do I owe you any money?" Kharon asked, not entirely sure what the protocol was here.

Miko shook her head. "That store doesn't take money," she said, "Endeavour... kind of doesn't do money, really."

That was slightly disconcerting - why would someone voluntarily run a shop if they weren't getting paid for it? - but she shrugged it off and allowed Miko to lead her over to the lake-shore.

"I got you a selection of the classics," Miko said, opening her box to reveal some rice and various small other bits, including a bottle of some sort of fizzy drink, "and there's donuts in the bag - they'll keep warm until you open it."

Kharon's food was similar, rice with what seemed like fried avian (Miko mentioned it being synthetic, but Kharon couldn't tell), and some vegetables. It was nice, if not as spicy as she'd have liked, and the drink was pleasant. The donuts, on the other hand, were gorgeous, especially warm, though she had to wipe the sugar off her face several times. She spotted some of the snek's crew - discernable only though the cat ears that served to mark them out as navy personnel this week - leading some of her own through the strange place, but, well, it was all to the good - maybe they'd learn something useful about Endeavour culture.

It was a pleasant way to spend an hour or so.

Endeavour, Endeavour system

Victoria really, really wished she was out exploring again. Or at least on active patrol, rather than her crew having voted to join the reserve; there, at least, there could be something to do. How many millions of minor crises happpened every day? Instead, here she was, stuck in an actual physical parliament meeting - the rest of the Parliament and the wider assembly dropping in and out virtually when things became interesting. Which, so far this session, they had not. Aside from the dinner break, of course, those were always fun - someone had ordered in a mix of food, and it was a slightly novel experience eating egg fried rice with battered cod (synthetic, of course, though fish and egg were remarkably easy to synthesise properly), and dipping pizza slices in a jalfrezi.

Much of the evening had been taken up with minutae; listening to or reading out reports from habs and Protectorate officers who deigned to file them and the like. Then, a brief discussion about the planned diplomatic outreach programs to the other polities - convoying together the ships bound for Nashtar and Ernarn with a cruiser squadron (not hers) just in case, who would have to comm the various diplomatic offices to politely inform them of the escort (and ask if it would be allowed in their space or if it would have to wait outside) and then another damned discussion as to why the escort was needed.

That is to say, going around in circles trying to identify the mysterious raiders that had so violently struck a Nashtari troop-ship not so long ago.

"I'm just saying, that looks a hell of a lot like an Amazo-X drive system," one hab representative (whose name she did not know, since that one hab kept changing their representative every damn day) said, bringing up the limited footage the Nashtari intelligence community had seen fit to release, "are we sure it's not them?"

"Amazo-X would have taken everything and enslaved the crew," pointed out a representative from one of the train-bound habs, "And that doesn't fit the profile of any of their ships."

"That we know of," countered the first.

And then it devolved, as it always did, into a debate over the files brought back by [The Great Beholder], and the references to files that the AI hadn't been able to retrieve; details on secret projects, black site locations, and, for some unknown reason, the exact quantity of vanilla consumed by the megacorporation-cum-star empire.

The galaxy was a big place, after all, with plenty of space to hide things like, say, a fleet of heretofore unknown warships. But, that didn't mean it was Amazo-X (a meme flashed by: "I'm not saying it's Amazo-X, but it's Amazo-X") and what did it matter anyway, these unknowns were just that - unknown. How Endeavour would react depended on information that Endeavour did not have, and yes it might have been useful for [The Great Beholder] to try and follow their fleet as it left their now-ruined home planet, but there would have been no guarantees that the AI'd have been able to find anything more useful...

Of course, after an exhausting amount of time, it then devolved further into the age-old "what exactly should we do about all the other polities" discussion, which Victoria politely excused herself out of. Now that had started, nothing interesting would be discussed.

The assault of ambience-only noise and images - someone loudly playing a five-second sound-byte from Rei-incarnated: My Next Life as an Adventuer began with a Medical Emergency!, a Broken Autologi meme with the boxes spilling out of the pipe labelled "Weebs" and the person futilely trying to hold them back labelled "The rest of the galaxy / BOTTOM TEXT" - the moment she stepped out of this week's parliament hall was a relief, and so was the presence of Rei and Muffins.

"Did you hear yet?" Muffins opened the conversation, "We're going to be part of the escort for that big Theophanic ship coming in!"

Indeed, the alert saying her crew had voted on the measure was in one corner of her HUD. "That's a pretty dirty trick, you know," she said to the both of them, smiling to soften the words, "Voting on stuff without everyone present."

Rei shrugged. "We thought it would be a pleasant surprise."

"That it most certainly is," Victoria said, "Alright, load up some fighters for the portside hangar bay, starboard side fab shuttles. May as well make a spectacle out of it - and half the crew needs a refresher course on their flight training..."

[OOC: Diplomatic outreach craft are being sent to the UISC, Ernarn and Nashtar - though the UISC one will likely just be Endeavour's contribution to the diplomatic forum there. These ships are in convoy, escorted by a Kitsune-class cruiser and two Endeavour-class destroyers. This has been transmitted to those respective governments. Part of this post was written by Elheru Aran.]

*He did have to bring his own bananas, Endeavour not having any. On the other hand, there was a particular blend of popcorn and chocolate that he made sure to stock up on.

**He already had a title picked out: "Oook!"
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

Ten Raab, Homeworld of soi Drakon


Matthau soi Drakon swept down the corridor with his usual gaggle of aides behind the duo of bodyguards that kept pace with him. He was coldly furious, but kept it from his chiseled face as he swept down a wide streaked black marble staircase to a massive hall lined with tall windows. He snapped his fingers over his shoulder and one of the aides trotted forward, handing him a large handscreen without breaking pace.

“Konrad,” he began without preamble, “the soi Chelonis whelp is at it again. She’s put Stefon in charge of the damn planet.”

Is that so,” grunted a voice from the handscreen, “well, she can have it. She only gets half of it, anyway.

Testily Matthau responded, “You know that’s not what it’s about. She’s too young for a responsibility like that.”

Is she? She’s one of us. Waldemar is with her, as well. Likely we could send Hengist that way when he finishes his rotation.

“Let’s do that. I don’t want to see soi Chelonis in charge again. She already gave up half the planet to the damn Endeavourites.”

Yes, Matthau. I know,” Konrad responded in placatory tones, “It’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, be nice to the Endeavourites. You’re about to meet some, after all.”

Matthau grimaced. “Don’t remind me. I’ll see you at the reception tonight?”

Of course. Best to Yekaterina.

“And to yours. Until later,” and he switched it off with an abrupt swipe and threw it behind himself without looking. One of the aides dove to catch it before it shattered on the expensive parquet floor of the grand hall they found themselves in as massive gilded doors opened before Matthau to reveal a gaggle of nobles awaiting him. All their eyes turned to him as he paused at the doorway, subtly striking a pose in his all-black outfit with gold embroidered dragon trimmings, a long saber hung at his belt, one black-gloved hand resting assertively upon its pommel. A long pelisse cape hung from his shoulders, the red satin of its lining striking an effective contrast with his black uniform and the spotted vyptula hide on the collar of the cape.

He only held the pose a moment-- too long and it becomes pretentious, thus his movement coach had taught him at Madame Couronne’s as a small boy-- before boldly gesturing at the great doors at the other end of the hall. “There await our carriages, Cousins. To the ports!”

Smooth humming monorails outside the Drakonspire conveyed them smoothly to the high landing-plaza, ringed by the tallest buildings of Raabsprim-Kypseli. As they travelled, Matthau looked over his companions. Several Drakons were in attendance, of course-- he would have expected no less. Randolph soi Morr-Geraki was there, and that lifted Matthau’s eyebrow. He was reminded in a whisper by one of his aides that he’d graciously given permission to the kleiner-genis to accompany them as his daughter was apparently being transported by the Endeavourites here on leave.

At the back of the car, a Fylachto in their fashion of long robes and loose pants chatted idly with a prim soi Foinix in (Matthau thought) ridiculously puffy pantaloons in dark blue with an eye-searing pink slashing and a matching doublet. He sighed and consulted a screen. That would be Basil soi Foinix, a cousin of Justinian (he had a brief fond flash of memory, of a truly epic night in academy with Justinian, but the moment passed). And the Fylachto was Ildemar, but not the one just appointed Klironomos, which would be Tertio. These things were important to remember.

The monorail pulled up to the plaza station with nary a jolt, finely tuned compensators proving their worth. He disembarked first, of course, ignoring the masses of dock-workers and travellers who bowed as he swept past. The reception pavilion was a short walk from the station, and he set himself down in the genis throne as the other Eugenis homed in past him towards the wide tables of food and drink. He inspected his chrono-- any time now.

One of his aides jabbered briefly upon a handscreen, his worried expression catching Matthau’s eye. He lifted an eyebrow and the man sidled up to him and whispered, “They’re trying to land at the freight docks. I’m trying to have control redirect them here.”

He frowned and held out his hand. The man relinquished his handscreen swiftly, and Matthau brought it to his ear. Without caring for whatever the party on the other end might mewl, he stated calmly, “This is Matthau soi Drakon. You will command the Endeavourite craft to land at the genis plaza. I don’t care what you have to tell them. Just don’t start a war and do it.”

Within minutes the wall-screen pinged a notification that the Endeavourite ship was about to arrive and to keep clear of the landing zone. Matthau watched idly as the exterior ship-watch cameras homed in. He noted with some interest that it appeared to be modeled upon a nautical craft-- and then a sonic boom crashed across the plaza and he came to his feet suddenly as the genia started shouting.

He hastened outside to the observation deck of the pavilion, to see two small aircraft, floridly painted (was that a face on one of them? a picture of some female?), making high speed passes across the plaza. One of them was obviously not designed for supersonic travel, but the massive cannon hung beneath its nose suggested a purpose, and suddenly he began wondering if he should retreat back into the pavilion.

Nonsense, of course. They wouldn’t dare, and their carrier-craft was landing as it was. Any attack run would endanger it. He decided to stand firm and spread his legs, clasping his hands behind his back. One of his cousins (literal-- this one was a Drakon) ventured up to his shoulder and whispered, “What do you suppose that’s all about?”

“It doesn’t matter. I imagine their pilots wanted to show off,” he responded casually, “Mind your place, cousin. They approach.”

Indeed an airlock had opened on the side of the vaguely nautical spacecraft, and a ramp extended downward. From within swept a stately woman, tall, red robes, long curly blonde hair that managed to form massive corkscrews, a great red hat and a monocle to complete the look. He rather approved. She was followed by a younger girl, no hat or monocle, but similar look otherwise.

The woman strode up calmly to where he stood on the observation deck and paused at the foot of the steps leading up to it, staring directly at him. Well, it would harm nothing if he acted the gallant. He stepped down the steps slowly, conscious of the eyes upon him, and bowed slightly as he reached the last one. “Welcome to ten Raab and the Theophanic Empire, my lady. Genis soi Drakon welcomes you. I am Reiksgraf Matthau soi Drakon. And I have the pleasure of…?”

“Caterina Sforza,” she responded crisply, “first mate of the Bebop. This is Katherin, my acolyte. Your kind welcome is well received.”

He blinked, off guard for once. First mate? He cleared his throat and inquired, trying to keep his tone calm, “Pardon me. I had been under the impression you were the captain. Are you the leader of the delegation otherwise?”

She held those cold blue eyes upon him and he lifted his chin. Finally, she responded, “No. I’m just the first mate. Captain Cotto will be with us any moment-- ah, there he is.”

A moon-faced individual, with an absolutely appalling crescent of hair standing vertically from his head, was in fact emerging from the airlock… and tripping over his own feet to tumble down the ramp. He sprang to his feet, flicked the dust off his ornate jacket, and mustered up what was left of his dignity to stride up to the steps where Matthau stood. He cleared his throat loudly and held out his hand with a grin that almost split his face. “Pleasure to meet you, my good man! I’m Cotto! Captain Vir! This is a lovely, lovely world you’ve got here, sir!”

Automatically, Matthau extended his hand, which the… Captain Cotto, he supposed… grabbed and energetically pumped. Cotto rambled on, “Splendid world! Lovely blue sky! That sun! Such a pretty ocean! Is that green water normal for your world? I must say, thank you for helping us know where to land--”

Matthau finally extricated his hand, annoyed. “Yes. Quite welcome. Let’s go--”

The sight of a third Endeavourite on the ramp interrupted him. A tall figure, a man he supposed but he couldn’t tell under a white mask with a smiling, mustachioed face on it under a tall black hat. A pair of silver hilted daggers glittered at its waist against all black clothing. Slowly, it began descending the ramp, and from its still face emerged a soliloquy.

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished--” Caterina Sforza cut him off, “Oh, that’s quite enough of that, thank you, V!”

Sforza and Cotto turned to him and sighed in unison. She spoke first, “I do apologize. V is very… outspoken.”

“Apparently”, he responded, somewhat nonplussed, “but your crew is welcome to come in the reception pavilion as well, I suppose. If they wish quarters here, I will have chambers prepared in the servants’ sector of Drakonspire for them.”

They looked at each other. Were they perplexed? He couldn’t quite tell. Cotto turned back to him and with a broad smile responded, “That won’t be necessary, we’re happy to stay on the ship while we’re here. Let’s go meet your folks, shall we?”

He repressed a sharp comment to the effect that the other Eugenis were not ‘his folks’ but nodded with as much grace as he could muster. A hand was held out to Caterina, who lifted a regal eyebrow and calmly placed a gloved hand in his. And Cotto took his other hand without so much as a by your leave!

For the Empire, he reminded himself. Stand up straight, and stride in the doors with as much dignity as he could muster… holding hands.

Once he managed to extricate himself from the two of them, he seized upon the nearest excuse he could see to not bother talking to the Endeavourites again-- the cadet Erzsebet soi Morr-Geraki, coming within from the foreign ship and casting her eye about the crowd. He swept up to the child (was soi Chelonis robbing the nurseries now? She barely rose above his waist!) and cleared his throat loudly.

She snapped to attention and saluted stiffly enough that she practically vibrated. Good form, at least, he would give her that. Loudly, she reported, “Dokimos soi Morr-Geraki, bearing reports for Lord soi Drakon!”

“At ease, Dokimos,” he answered smoothly, “you may give me those reports. Your father awaits you, over by the statue of Wolfram.”

Indeed Randolph was over there, watching them anxiously. She saluted again and dug into a cavernous shoulder-bag, handed him a packet and saluted yet again before double-timing towards her father. He swept her up in a great hug, knocking her grotesquely massive hat off her head and unleashing an amazing shock of ginger hair. The sight aroused an unfamiliar wistfulness in his breast. How long had it been since he had seen Stefon?

At the meats table, Caterina’s acolyte Katherin hovered uncertainly, taking in the array of cooked flesh laid out among a wide variety of garnishes and decorative plants, a number of servants watching her attentively with knives poised over great cuts to slice off a desired piece for her. Ildemar soi Fylachto sidled up and with a professionally smooth smile, bowed gracefully and inquired, “May I be of assistance, my lady?”

She cocked an eyebrow at him and inclined her head. Gesturing vaguely at the table, she murmured, “Thank you. Um, I was wondering, are all these… real?”

He looked them over briefly and nodded expansively. “Absolutely. soi Drakon spares no expense. I highly recommend the Rann highland ham, the spice is exquisite.”

That lifted the other eyebrow. “Thank you. If it wouldn’t be impolite, I would rather find something else. If you’ll excuse me…”

Gracefully the girl sidestepped away from the tall noble and wandered over to another table, where she struck up a pert conversation with the very discomfited server there. Ildemar rocked back on his heels and looked thoughtful as Basil soi Foinix stepped up beside him and cracked, “Thought she would be a soft touch, did you?”

Ildemar spread his hands and shrugged. “Win some, lose some. Like I didn’t see you making eyes at her mistress earlier.”

Basil snorted. “I’ve met armour plate softer than that woman. They are rather a motley lot though, aren’t they?”

“Indeed,” Ildemar responded reflectively, and they looked about the reception hall a moment. There was the outrageously-haired captain trying to engage the impatient-looking Matthau in conversation, pressing a goblet of some drink upon him. The one in the hat and mask was expounding to an unfortunate Drakon. The stately lady with the amazing hair looked slightly bored (unless that was her default expression?) as a couple of Drakon women twittered at her.

“How about that one?” Basil noted, pointing with a goblet in one hand before noticing that he was holding the cup and sipping. Ildemar looked and lifted his eyebrow. The indicated figure was a steel-clad figure, imposingly tall, with only a glowing red stripe upon an otherwise blank face. Ildemar lowered his voice and inquired, “You don’t think that’s a mechanoid, is it?”

An expressive shrug was Basil’s only response. The Fylachto sighed and snagged a bottle of wine off a passing server’s tray to pour it into his own cup and Basil’s. He considered a moment and then commented, “Perhaps it’s some kind of warsuit. Cousin Arthouros, when I saw him at Idunn during the festivities, was being escorted by a Protector in some kind of half-warsuit. A curious thing.”

“Oh, while we’re talking about relatives,” commented Basil offhand, “you didn’t happen to hear from your cousin Arthouros about my own cousin Justinian? He was in charge of that fleet, you know, along with our dearly departed cousin Betor, may Theoua embrace his soul.”

Ildemar shrugged expressively. “I don’t talk to children, Basil. Arthouros was only there because duty demanded it. He and his Wachter escort left quickly after Tertio was appointed Klironomos by old Karhu. Bit of a shame really, I’d hoped to query him about that getup he was wearing.”

Basil tutted and nibbled on some kind of meat-on-stick hors d’oeuvre. “Justinian is a good egg. Don’t let him start sharing drinks with you, though. You’ll end up under the table before the night is out.”

Ildemar snorted at that, and began sharing a story of his own. And it is at that disgustingly self-gratifiatory point we shall leave them…


Endeavour, Endeavour System

The external sensors finally displayed what appeared to be normal - if crowded - space on the bridge ologramma as they emerged through one of the massive train-station rings. Somehow, a passing snatch of music sounded via their sprechenlange, and then Kharon finally saw Endeavour. She immediately pressed the shipwide comms rune on her throne’s arm and ordered, “All hands, stand down. This is a peaceful demonstration by our allies to welcome us. Anybody not on duty may open shutters in surface-adjacent quarters to witness it. Kapetanios out.”

She knew this was a spectacle that shouldn’t be limited to just the bridge crew and anybody by a porthole. The station… no, the entire system was blanketed by an endless field of asteroids and what the sensors insisted was artificial debris. The sensors themselves could barely see more than a few hundred kilometres into the fields at best, and Kharon understood why Endeavour shipwrights seemed so keen on building exposed bridge towers. Luckily, there was already a path beaten for them between the station and the big hab cluster, since Kharon doubted the Megakolymvitis would survive long if they had to go the hard way. She found her eyes drifting into the fields, watching asteroids spin and just miss each other in a nearly-but-not-quite deadly ballet.

And then there were the ships. She had seen busy ports before, the Mitra tou Theouautokratora in particular being something of a bee-hive, but this… this staggered belief.

There were thousands upon thousands of spacecraft flying around the train station, in a shocking variety of colours and shapes. A small cylindrical craft-- there, a spiky red ship that couldn’t possibly hold more than one person-- a whole flight of ships with X-shaped wings-- green goose-shaped winged starships-- was that an actual bloody sailing ship?-- and Miko laughed and pointed at one, a disk atop a collection of cylinders.

“That’s the Enterprise. No bloody A, B, C or D,” she explained. She pointed at another, “There’s a Serenity. Popular one, that. See. there’s a few more, there, and there… ooh, a Slave One. Hey, look-- a detachment from the Fleet is coming by!”

Those Kharon recognized, having the same general shape and size of the ships she’d seen around Symmachia. Miko pointed out the pair of carriers - long, boxy things with the usual hunchback bridge tower offset to one side - and battlecruisers (which were all graceful curves), along with their escorts and a dizzying variety of small ships. Chatter from the bridge crew laid a susurrus of sound around the cavernous chamber and she raised her voice, “Undock from the train and begin heading towards the primary station complex, steersman.”

That unfortunate officer turned towards Kharon, a baffled look upon her face. “But… er… My Lady, which one is that?”

Miko threw a quick look at Kharon, who nodded briefly, and then responded, “Just point the ship at the biggest station you see and docking control will hail us soon. Keep all channels, er, spectra open.”

The steersman saluted and gave quick orders to the two sailors manning the actual controls, and Megakolymvitis gracefully sideslipped out of the line of train carriages and began moving slowly towards the gigantic asteroid complex that was Endeavour itself. The multitude of small craft surrounding it became even bolder, skimming the surface of the cityscape atop the ship’s back. Sound effects rumbled via the open spectra as they zoomed by, broadcast by identifying chips on each craft. Hails rolled in right and left, and the comms crew was kept busy responding to them.

Kharon leaned in to Miko and whispered, “Should we keep the docking bays closed? In case any of your lot become overly friendly?”

Miko blinked and chuckled uncertainly. “You could, but I don’t think anybody would board without permission. Oh, they should be-- there it goes.”

Endeavour Control to Megakolymvitis. Welcome. Do you read us?

The comms officer looked over at Kharon, who nodded and stood up straight. “Endeavour Control, this is Kharon soi Chelonis, Kapetanios Megakolymvitis. We read you loud and clear. Permission to dock?”

You hardly have to ask, Mega. We’ve cleared one of the XL cages in the Arsenal for you. It’s the big metal box, you can’t miss it.”

Miko spoke up, “They’re good, Control. Long time no hear.”

“Miyasawa! Should have known you’d be on that big girl!”

“It’s a he, actually, Control,” she answered with a sidelong grin at Kharon, who smiled back and shook her head benevolently, her attention still distracted by the multifarious craft surrounding her ship and the reports coming in to her handscreen. “We’ll catch up later. Have a good one.”

“Right you are, Miyasawa,” Control rescinded cheerfully, “Apologies, Mega. Clear skies and smooth flying!

Before them spread the expanse of what Kharon concluded was the aforementioned Arsenal, and ‘big metal box’ was indeed an apt descriptor. Stretching almost the entire width of what appeared to be a monstrous conglomeration of asteroids and hab-structure behind it, like a smooth, curved harbour wall, a giant metal edifice, like a bulkhead against the stars themselves. Their escort fell into position alongside the Megakolymvitis, fighters flitting back onto the flight decks of their carriers (“Why have a flight deck in space?” Kharon found herself musing), and a tiny flashing light appeared about half-way along the wall.

“There,” Miko said, guiding the helm-sailors towards it. “Just head for that.”

They approached, and Kharon began to make out details - angular bastions jutting out, equally-spaced, gun batteries carefully sited so that each gun could concentrate fire on as wide an angle as possible, a gigantic opening in a far corner that an asteroid was slowly being lowered into - and they got closer, and closer, and the edifice began to truly loom. She blinked; there were ramparts on the wall - actual ramparts, with soldiers standing at them!

Two cruisers went ahead, slotting neatly into cradles that rose to meet them, and then disappeared into the great wall. Then, it was the Megakolymvitis’s turn; Kharon gripped the edge of her command throne, certain that the cradle rising from the wall wouldn’t possibly be large enough to accommodate the turtle-ship, but it did - and fitted surprisingly well, to boot, but they probably had adjusted it on the fly or something.

Megakolymvitis to Control,” Kharon said, prompted a little by Miko’s quick glance in her direction, “We’re docked.”

Good to hear,” Control said, “Lowering you now.

And they did; Megakolymvitis descending directly downwards through what seemed to be a solid armour plate, then a gap filled with pipes, then another, and so on for seven plates in total (she counted), and then they were being lowered down into the main hangar bay, the two carriers that had been their escort on either side.

A truly enormous space laid before them, not as big as Mitra tou Theouautokratora’s interior hangars but massive and certainly something they had never expected to see from Endeavour. Ships studded the walls of the chamber or docked at arms stretching into the vast void they floated in. Welding lights strobed across many as gigantic arms, hundreds of metres long, worked upon them. Some hulls were only skeletons, whether they were being assembled or taken apart Kharon couldn’t tell.

That wasn’t the amazing part, though. There were people thronging the port. Though the rear view showed the doors still open, almost none were actually wearing spacesuits. Many were not even standing on firm decking, instead floating in the microgravity. Some were even zooming around, using thruster packs, or even wearing outfits with built-in engines.

But even that paled besides… she should have known, she reflected, from the amazing variety of spaceships she saw outside, and from what Miko had told her of Endeavour, but there was such an amazing chaos of individualism on display. She could not even begin to count the numbers of shapes and sizes she saw. Even within what she would call standard human forms, she saw incredible varieties of apparel, hairstyles, colours, and other things like bionics.

Megakolymvitis shook almost imperceptibly as its docking cradle came to a halt, stopping the great craft at more or less turtle’s-eye-level with the primary floor of the enormous shipyard space. Cheers and applause rang across the bridge, and she imagined, the rest of the ship as she stood up from her throne, Miko stepping across the dais to stand at her side.

She looked aside at Miko, took a deep breath and smiled. “Here we are. Shall we venture forth?”
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Rogue 9 »

NRS Warspite
On Exercises, Oro system Oort cloud

"Conn, Sensors. New contact, bearing 114 mark 58, range 20,000 klicks. Classify as hostile warship, heavy destroyer class."

Captain MacKenzie snarled. "How the hell did they get so close? Gunnery, task the rear starboard beam emitters to the new target, all other batteries as before."

"Aye!" The beam cannons rumbled to life as the lieutenant spoke, rotating their focus lenses slightly and then emitting a pair of devastating energy beams towards the target. The Guardian class cruiser was taking damage, her escorting destroyers blasted out of the void a few moments before. A slight shudder heralded another time-on-target missile volley directed at the enemy heavy cruiser to the forward port quarter. If something wasn't done fast, they'd be done before their reinforcements arrived.

"Incoming! Missile volley inbound from the new contact; looks like they're homing on our engines."

Countermeasures and flak batteries opened up even as all the heavy turrets on the attack cruiser fired to full capacity, but it wasn't enough.

"Conn, Helm. Starboard engine nozzle is hit; I have to shut down the port side or we'll start spinning."

"Do it." The sound of the engines died and the cruiser began to drift along its course. "Ideas, gentlemen?"

"The jump drive still works. We can't hold the objective, Captain; there's no point in staying."

"Negative, we're facing in-system; it'd run us right into Oro!"

"INCOMING!" The countermeasures worked furiously, but it wouldn't be enough, and everyone on the bridge knew it.

"New contact, bearing 335 mark -39. Captain, it's the Courageous!"

The beleaguered bridge crew cheered as the heavy battleship they'd been waiting for emerged from hyperspace and began throwing fusillades of beams and railgun shells into their attackers. Then all the lights on the bridge went red.

"Damn," MacKenzie said, pounding his fist down onto the armrest of his chair. "End simulation."

The lights came back up. "Captain, I regret to inform you that the Warspite has been destroyed."

The captain chuckled at the AI's pronouncement. "Yes, well it's a jolly good thing your average pirate isn't packing heavy cruisers and stealth destroyers then, isn't it? I suppose the exercise is completed, then."

"Yes," answered the ship. "However, the exercise was designed to put the Guardian class into a role she was not meant for. All in all, the crew's performance was excellent under the circumstances."

"Excellent's not good enough if you're dead at the end of it. Comms, signal Command. Inform them of the exercise results and request leave to run it again during tomorrow's drill cycle."

"Aye, Captain."
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by VX-145 »

Endeavour, Endeavour System

The Theophanic Empire was no stranger to the logistics involved in offloading the tens of thousands of sailors aboard their ships for shore leave, so it didn't take too long to get the Megakolymvitis mostly empty; a couple thousand crew were left on board to keep things ticking over and make sure none of their hosts came poking at things they shouldn't. The process was simple, and efficient: those going on leave were organised by bunk-chamber, then sub-organised by assigned bunks, and escorted off the ship in orderly columns. Within an hour of the ship's docking, the process was finished.

Which left going on for fourty-five thousand Theophanic sailors walking about the Arsenal with little-to-no direction.

Ranulf 85 found himself - and the bunk-mates he was lumbered with for this excursion upon pain of pain - being handed a new phone and a headset by a small stuffed toy bear at the opposite end of the gangplank, given basic instructions on their use, and pointed in the general direction of an internal transit station. Aro decided to put the headset on, and about a second later tore if off with a curse: "Fucking bloody hells, do they go about like that all the time?"

The headset was duly passed around, each sailor having a similar reaction and when it was Ranulf's turn he found out why. Without it, the giant docking bay was colourful, sure, but nothing like the riot of visual noise that it was with it on. There were animated images everywhere, signs floating in the middle of the void, lines and markers and an entire sports pitch laid out on the floor kilometres below them. Which, in fact, seemed to be boiling lava. Then there were messages, a compass, maps, a silhouette of Ranulf's body marked out with arcane numbers and graphs that popped up when he looked up and couldn't close again, and a small bar along the bottom of the screen with what seemed to be news scrolling across ("Local man yells at cloud!" read one little excerpt) - and then he had to tear it off his head, it was just too much all at once. On the plus side, he seemed to have outlasted everyone else.

Luckily, the phones were more useful, allowing Fabian to call a conveyance to meet them at the transit station. "Right," Ranulf said, sitting down at the provided seats (which somehow molded to be comfortable as he sat down), "Where first?"

"Pub," said Aro, a call quickly repeated by the other sailors: "Pub!", "Pub." and so on.

"Pub it is, then," Ranulf said as the Endeavourite vehicle turned up. It looked as odd as anything else here; a floating blue octohedron, occasionally letting out something that sounded vaguely like sensor pings off an old drama. Another sound, like a high-pitched sigh, and one of the faces folded down to reveal a finely-furnished interior.

"Where to, lads?" said a voice from nowhere - no, Ranulf noticed there was a red orb embedded in the roof of their compartment that was flashing in time with the words.

"...know any good pubs?" he ventured.

"Do I fuck?" the voice said, rather incongrously (did it?) "Alright, what atmosphere you want? Grungy, dive bar, high class, classical?"

"Dive bar!" Fabian said, "One with lotsa girls!"

"Comin' right up," the voice said, and then the orb went dull.

"Girls?" Ranulf said, fixing Fabian with a look, "Really?" The man shrugged, unapologetic.

Then the walls turned transparent, and they got their first view of Endeavour proper. It was... as if someone had taken a bunch of the habs they'd seen on the way in, lashed them together with more habs, then lashed them together with bridges and pylons and a dozen other strange structures, and then parked a bunch of junk around the place for good measure. There were clear lanes, full of small ships of a dizzying variety, and through a gap in the layers of habs he could just about see the letters NDEA emblazoned in hundred-metre high letters on a looming metal wall - then the angle shifted, and he saw that it actually read "ENDEA"-something (probably "Endeavour" knowing this place).

Rather disconcertingly, their ship did not seem to be heading for any of the docking bays. In fact, it ascended above one hab, and opened the doors.

"'ere we are, then," the voice said (and the orb pulsed), "A dive bar."

Most of the sailors were a bit too preoccupied trying to get away from the hole into the void to pay attention, but once they realised that the air wasn't being sucked out of the craft, they calmed down a bit. Erwin, ever the curious one, slowly edged towards the hole.

"There's a pool down there," he called back. "I thought we were going to a bar!"

"A dive bar, you bloody fool," said the voice, "You've got to dive!*"

Fabian, long inured to terrifying falls due to his position at the top of the five-bunk stack, approached the hole, looked back at the others, shrugged, said "when in Rome", and jumped.

Ranulf joined the general press of curious Theophanic sailors checking to see if the fool had survived his jump, and- the man breached the surface of the pool.

He didn't notice who pushed them, but the whole damn group went tumbling out at once, and he plunged into the water face-first. Somehow, he floated back up, turning over so he could breathe, and it looked like the others had made it down safely as well. Then, there was a sudden current, and he was dragged under the water, unable to tell which way was up or down, then-

-he fell onto a cushioned, yet grated floor, in preciously open air. He rolled on instinct, and Aro came tumbling after him; he did not roll, and was promptly landed on by Erwin, and then the others in turn.

Gasping, Ranulf forced himself to stand, and found himself face-to-snout with a shark.

He did not, whatever his treacherous bunk-mates might later claim, "squeal like a little girl", nor did he "fall onto his ass backwards". He let out a perfectly manly noise of surprise and distress and made a tactical withdrawal to assess the situation.

A rolled-up newspaper came down on the shark's snout (it had legs, why did the shark have legs, why was Endeavour insane?) and Ranulf traced the newspaper's origin to a small girl dressed in a long, shark-themed hoodie. "Don't scare the newcomers," the girl said. She turned, smiling at Ranulf, revealing a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. "Table's free over there for you lot. You got any preference yet?"

Ranulf collected himself. "Surprise me," he said.

The drink he received shortly after sitting at their table was... well, a surprise. For a start, half of it was floating above the glass, and the other half had lights flashing in it like some sort of miniature artillery duel was going on in its depths. Experimentally, he picked up the glass, and tilted it back; the floating portion stayed in its proper placed, and flowed into his mouth properly, mixing a little with the flashing half. It tasted... of fireworks, and ozone, and a hint of copper, and determination, but also a shitload of alcohol. He set the glass down, gazing with envy at the others who had somehow acquired normal drinks.

"It's as weird as it looks," he said, at the inevitable question. Then he noticed- "Where's Fabian?"

Fabian was, unfortunately, sitting at the bar, leaning heavily upon one arm in the manner of drunkards across the galaxy, next to an attractive-looking redhead... who even Ranulf could tell was really not interested. He couldn't hear what was being said, but the woman signalled the barkeep (the shark), who... pulled a fish out from under the bar and slammed it on the counter. One of the screens went blank, footage of two men looking at each other ominously replaced by a pair of numbers - 0 and 0 - separated by a vertical line.

The woman picked up the fish, hefted it, and slammed it into the side of Fabian's head with an impact Ranulf felt from all the way on their distant table.

"FIGHT!" a voice called. What was with these voices?


Ranulf woke up to a stuffy room and stuffy sheets. He cast back to last night, and up until that word - it was clear. Afterwards: a vague impression of being lifted into the air by a girl one-third his size, being bitten by a shark, being handed a business card with... an Endeavourite web address on it? And then... there was chicken, he remembered that, fried chicken wings with weird batter, and that the chicken wasn't real - or was it a man? Someone had run in with a plucked one, yelling... fuck, what was it?

His head... didn't hurt, and that in of itself made his head hurt. Grumbling, he sat up to see the rest of the group sprawled out over bits of furniture and wearing various odds and ends. A traffic cone, a feather boa, a perfect replica of an Old Earth battleship, a fake tiara. You know, the usual items one might end up with at the end of a night of Fun. A quick headcount revealed that everyone was present, and Ranulf let out a sigh of relief. The fucking Proctors had put him in charge of this herd of cats, and he'd be damned if he'd let any of the fuckers disappear in his watch - literally.

It turned out, upon briefly questioning Aro (who was awake and seemed perfectly fine, the bastard), that the shark-hoodie girl had kindly conveyed them to a traveller's hotel somewhere near the bar - which wasn't the bar they'd started at, apparently there had been something of a crawl. Sadly, he remembered none of it.

The room was... nice, if a bit over-capacity. It felt vaguely like a picture of a farmer's cottage he'd once seen in a textbook way back when, and the en suite bathroom was capacious enough to host twice their number. There was a fridge, stocked with a range of unhelpfully-labelled-in-the-fucking-second-language-that-his-somehow-still-working-phone-could-not-translate soft drinks. Oh, and a few baskets, stocked with kettles, sachets of various powders, a few small capsules of some liquid that definitely wasn't milk but seemed determined to pretend it was, and just enough cups for each of them.

Aro, for some unknowable reason, began mixing the powders in a cup with some hot water and definitely-not-milk, took a sip of the resulting potion, and immediately ran into the bathroom.

That, at least, woke the others - slowly, but surely. Getting them washed and out of the room took... another few hours, especially since someone wanted to keep fucking experimenting with the drinks, eventually bringing the wrath of some sort of ghost upon them (which explained it was, in fact, some sort of computer... assistant... system?) that informed them of what each powder was and how to use them properly. Eventually, everyone was caffeinated, and he finally got them herded out into the surprisingly-still-cottagey lobby, where the shark was waiting for them.

"Good night?" they asked.

"Fuck you," Fabian replied, before Ranulf could get there.

"You as well. All of you made it, I see."

"No thanks to that fish of yours," Ranulf managed to get there first this time, "What the bloody fuck was that about?"

The shark shrugged. "It's a challenge," they said. "Anyway - one of you said you wanted to do some shopping today. I know a place. You in?"

Ranulf looked about, thinking for a moment. "Fuck it," he said. "Why not?"


Breakfast was some odd pastry-esque things - made, according to the shark-man, with Type-33 Egg Substitute, whatever the hell that meant - with various sweet sauces. Drinks were more of the strange teas and coffee-adjacent beverages, along with sodas of nearly every single different possible flavour - and some that Ranulf swore could not be possible. What was "Alienation" supposed to taste like? Overall, though, the food was was... not spicy, and very weird.

It was also free, so Ranulf did not complain too much.

After that, the shark-man - who introduced himself as Finbert - led the sailors out into the street, and down a narrow passageway, and across a busy street, and up a flight of stairs, then down in an elevator, and a dozen other little twists and turns that Ranulf soon forgot.

"So, why are you showing us around?" he broached, during one escalator ride.

Finbert just shrugged. "I was already going to the mall today."

A mall, it turned out, was a series of large open rooms, surrounded by shops. Finbert left them at the entrance, pointing them at a desk staffed by a trio of girls and a few dozen information boards scattered about the place. It was also an absolute mess of colour and people and music - one track he could make out was something about spooky scary skeletons, which Ranulf supposed was reasonable. His eyes were caught by a store selling what looked like full-scale tanks, mostly because a group of girls were actively driving one - an incongrously tiny thing, compared to the vehicles remaining in the store - out of the front door as he watched.

"Alright," he said, turning to the others. "Who wants to go where?"

There was a clear majority for going to the tank shop, so they went there. Well, not so much a majority so much as a coherent minority, but it amounted to the same thing, and the tank shop it was.

It had tanks. Tanks of all shapes and sizes, from strange egg-like machines to behemoths bristling with turrets, to vehicles that looked almost normal. But, and this was something of a surprise for Ranulf, it also sold tank accessories - shells, spare tracks, shovels, cushions, paint - and other strange bits and pieces. One particularly puzzling piece of paraphenalia was a poster depicting a group of uniformed teenage girls clustered around a tank; another was the large array of movies on old-style data discs along one shelf, with an ancient-looking television playing a scene from one; a tank getting stuck in a small alleyway, and being unable to turn its turret.

He picked up a few of the disc cases, and took them over to the counter; the clerk scanned them, and handed them back.

Odd. Ranulf stood there for a moment, then asked: "How much?"

The clerk grunted, one cat-ear twitching. "You want to pay? Uhh... a dollar, I guess?"

Ranulf pulled out a coin, and placed it on the counter; "Would this cover it?"

The clerk blinked, owlishly, and tapped the coin with one finger. "You're Theophanic, right?" she asked. "One of my friends got one of these off one of yours. Tell you what - just take them."

That set the tone of the rest of their shopping experience. Buying small statuettes of local religious figures? No payment necessary. More discs of what passed for dramas in this part of space? Again, just given the stuff. Food - from a large court on the top floor - free. Aro got almost the whole way through negotiating the purchase of a custom star frigate without the shipwright ever mentioning the price (Ranulf managed to intercede before the purchase was complete, thankfully). They even went to a bank at one point, asked some pointed questions about the local currency, and were promptly handed about six different piles of money, ranging from Old Earth paper money to actual gold and coloured glass beads.

It was enough to put anyone on edge; would the bill be presented to them when they tried to leave? Would they find themselves having to... wash dishes, or whatever, to pay off the debt? Why exactly did they have a religion based around people who were walking around, who themselves seemed like they had nothing to do with it? What was with the one place that sold copper bars and had really, really bad reviews?

Even when they left the mall, and took a taxi back to their hotel (which Erwin had noted down the name of), no bill emerged. Feeling thoroughly spooked, Ranulf asked the girl at the counter - who was one of those blue-haired, red-eyed girls that seemed to be everywhere - when they'd be billed for the stuff they'd bought.

" won't be?" was the answer. Ranulf must have had a very confused expression on his face, because she continued: "Endeavour has no formal currency. If it was given to you - or you took it from a store - it's yours."

Now, that was just fuckin' weird.


Kharon had asked to meet some of the leaders of Endeavour - the movers and shakers, the high society, all that sort of thing. She had expected a high-class dinner, with witty repartee, fluted champagne glasses, and small plates of generic but non-staining food. What she actually got was a lengthy "meet and greet" session where she was sat in a chair, a line was formed in front of her, and she had about thirty seconds per person to talk. The first six people who lined up were, in order, a hab representative, the captain of one of the carriers that had escorted her in, a food delivery driver, an artist, and two people who described their jobs as "existing". Oddly enough, the proportion of the latter only increased from then on.

She was informed that her T-shirts were selling well, however, which would have been a plus had she any idea just what the hell that was supposed to mean.

After that was a brief tour of "high society", a phrase which Kharon suspected had been severely mistranslated because she was taken to a store that sold some sort of plant-based narcotic and its paraphenalia. She would have asked Miko what the bloody fuck this was supposed to be about, but she'd been dragged off by one of the dockyard workers, something to do with needing an overhaul on the ship's stealth systems - she'd since texted Kharon, telling her they'd meet for dinner later, but for now she was stuck with a worryingly quiet version of the red-headed girl that made up one third (quarter? fifth?) of the Endeavourite Children.

She was also given a short tour of the Arsenal itself, from the forges at its beating heart that churned matter out of seemingly nothing, to the cradles bearing a battleship still under construction, to one of the defence turrets that topped the great wall. It was honestly quite fascinating; three Endeavourite engineers put together a secondary gun turret in front of her, each working seemingly at random, yet the device was completed in a matter of minutes. They even took the time to paint their own designs on the piece.

Then, she was offered the opportunity to pilot one of their fighter craft, and could not find a good enough excuse to not be strapped into a machine that was actually smaller than a Class-5 Warsuit. At least there was enough room in the cockpit for her to wear a vacuum suit.

A large, green... person... pointed out the various controls: "Dis 'ere's da dakka button, dis is your jet-burnas, your electro-seein' gubbinz, an' how fast youse goin', an' youse fuel." It was surprisingly comprehensive, and she was assured that if she were to lose control of the craft, its computer systems would automatically guide it onto a safe course and, if necessary, take it back to the carrier.

Oh, she was on a pocket carrier as well - a galleon, apparently dating from nearly two centuries ago - which was hovering somewhere close to a relativley clear region of space, in that she could see a few stars through the endless sea of rock and metal.

"Turtle-1," said the galleon's captain - a scruffy-looking older lady - "Cleared for take-off. Prepare for launch. Launch in - three, two, one, launch."

There was a kick, but then the fighter's inertial dampeners kicked in, and being flung out of the ship's hangar at close to two thousand G's felt more like a a ride on an escalator.

The captain spoke again: "Turtle-1, proceed towards the waypoint." Sure enough, a small diamond appeared on both the canopy and the map displayed on one of the small... displays. Carefully, she wrapped her hands around the control yoke, and steered it towards the diamond; the ship's engines immediatley cancelled what would have been a sideways drift, and fired to push her towards her objective. Credit where credit was due; it might be a death-trap, especially considering that Endeavour pilots expected to fight enemy capital ships using these things, but they were damn responsive. She was guided through loops, taught basic tactics, and put thoroughly through her paces - at one point, she was even asked to fly between two asteroids that were about to collide with one another, and she did it with miles to spare. She was also given a quick look into the ship's weapons - this was apparently an old-model ship, an AW-3, outfitted with a remarkably scrap-metal-looking railgun and a few rotary cannons, which she used to blast apart a few target drones and punch a hole through a plate of armour.

Finally, after that mildly harrowing adventure, it was time for dinner. Miko met her at the docking bay, and led her through a maze of corridors and airlocks and public transit facilities - including, at one point, walking her through a glass tube that extended out into space between two habs - to a street (as tall and as wide as if it had been on an actual planet!) lined on both sides with shops and restaurants. The smell of spices and cooking food filled the air, and Kharon realised just how hungry she actually was - something she mentioned to Miko.

"Good," was her reply, "You'll need to be."

They stopped in front of one glass-fronted restaurant, labelled "Sal and Em's". It was nearly empty inside, aside from one table where two of those omnipresent blue-haired girls sat.

"You want... a beer, some wine? They don't sell alcohol here, so if you want anything..."

Kharon shook her head. "I'm just hungry."

Obviously, she'd seen the inside through the window - but the tables were covered in glass, with menus beneath it, and a green table-cloth beneath those. That was a neat little innovation. They sat at the table with the two Reis Ayanami - one was introduced as "Rei Ayanami, Sovereign Protector of the Endeavour Protectorate", and the other was not introduced at all.

It took a short while for Kharon to realise she had just been introduced to the kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really head of state of Endeavour.

"Do you want me to order your main, or do you want to try yourself?" Miko ventured, as they took their seats. "Don't worry about starters, bread or drinks - they're sharing things, so we'll order a bunch."

She scanned the menu; it had curries, which she was familiar with, and a variety of similar-sounding dishes, but... well, she didn't want to take too many chances. "I'll have the curry - with chicken. You choose the rice."

The girl she hadn't been introduced to went over to the counter when everyone had chosen their food, spoke a little to the cook behind it, and returned. "Ten minutes for the starters," she said, to a nod from the Sovereign Protector. There was some idle chatter for a bit - Miko asking Kharon about her day, and vice versa, and Rei making the occasional comment - and then some plates of chopped-onions-in-sauce were brought out, along with some metal jugs of water and some odd, yet extremely nice, not-quite-yoghurt drink (made from soy, apparently).

"Sovereign Protector," Kharon said, after the onions were eaten, "I have to ask - why are you, the head of state of an entire star nation, meeting me... here?" She would never have gotten away with that language in the Empire, but Miko had stressed the importance of informality in Endeavour culture - that being formal was seen as offensive, to many.

"Call me Rei," the Sovereign Protector replied. "And we're here because this is a pretty good restaurant. Besides, I'm not really that important. Mostly I just tell people in parliament to shut up and let others talk for a bit. And, yeah, kind of... do the whole diplomatic face thing, sometimes. Are you enjoying your visit, so far?"

"It's been... illuminating," Kharon replied. "But I don't think I've even scratched the surface of this place yet."

"You could be here a millenium and not see the whole place," Miko commented.

Then the starters - plates loaded down with pakora, poppadoms, samosas, katlamas, and meats described as kebabs, and of course, more that that mild chili sauce. It was, well, very mild to Kharon's palate, but it complemented, rather than drowning out the taste of the food. Which, seemed cheap, but incredibly nice. It was also a lot of food, but luckily, Kharon was quite hungry.

The Rei she hadn't been introduced to had exchanged a few more short words with the cook bringing it out - who had assured them that him doing so was "all part of the theme" - but was otherwise silent. About half-way through the course, Kharon decided to break the ice there: "So, what do you do?"

That got her a stare for a moment, then: "I build ships." The girl turned half-way back to her food, then: "I could look at yours, later? And the snek, I'm interested in the work-around you used for the FTL stasis field."

Kharon thought about that for a moment - she had vaguely wanted to do a short exchange with the Mega's technognostiki and some Endeavour shipwrights. "That sounds like a good idea," she said, "I think... we're due to stay here for a few days. Tomorrow could work, but I would have to check."

Then the mains arrived; steaming bowls of curries, platters of rice, and baskets of bread. Her food was... messy to eat, in a way Theophanic food tended not to be (since that would waste the time spent getting into more and more elaborate outfits, or be spilled in combat), and she had a damned hard time not spilling most of her curry down her clothes. She'd had the foresight at least to change into a utilitarian jumpsuit after escaping from fighter craft hell, so it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but it was the principle of the thing.

It was also, altogether too much food. Even Miko - who Kharon had seen munch through most of a luncheon meant for three - seemed a little sickly by the time she was finished, and Kharon witnessed Rei also looking distinctly regretful of certain recent life choices.

Fortunately, the other Rei was in a decent state to fly, and ended up dropping the Sovereign Protector off at her hab, then Miko and Kharon off at the Megakolymvitis. Equally fortunately, Kharon's maid was on the ball enough to provide some anti-nausea meds, and a glass of water.

Telos System, UISC Space

As usual, the Robin Hood descended from hyperspace with a minimum of fuss, giving Han a wide view of the planet Tajlan.

He had, naturally, read up on the “Tajlan Empire”, though the general state of UISC tourism brochures left something to be desired. It told Han something that the one he'd acquired on Octona was the best of the lot. Nevertheless, he'd expected to see some very imposing sights, ala the Theophanic aesthetic, or maybe immense battleships looming over the planet menacingly. What he hadn't expected - but in retrospect really should have - was a traffic jam.

It took some time to actually identify the main orbital hub of Tajlan, given the cloud of ships all queuing up to gain entrance. After some time for his eyes - and the ship's sensors - to adjust, he had to admit the station was certainly big - significantly larger than any of the others he had so far seen in this little expedition. It was an elegant station, but also distinctly... ill. Everywhere, he could see flashes of welding equipment, and just about see repair crews floating about the station. Several sections looked to be dark - perhaps temporarily shut down - and in several areas he could see older more worn out plates and super structure were being replaced with newer ones.

He had just enough time to take that in when the radio crackled:

“This is Station Tajlan Prime to Approaching Non-Imperial registered vessel. Transmit you visitor registration code and await processing.”

Doing so took about half a second; then:

“Registration code authorization accepted. Identified as Endeavor craft “Robin Hood” report to assigned docking port in Hangar Sector 7-G.”

That was the station. Odd, but not unheard-of - but, better to clarify. "Please confirm, Tajlan Prime - that's on the station, right?"

“Due to ongoing security protocols, all Non-Imperial ships are required to be scanned for unauthorized substances and contraband. Failure to comply will result in your registration code being revoked and your ship being escorted out of Imperial space. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Han rolled his eyes. "Yes, I got that bit, thank you, we're docking with the station." He cut the channel; "No wonder there's a jam..."

Of course, he made sure to mention to the Theophanics that they might, perhaps, want to keep a breather on hand lest the station suddenly depressurise. Thankfully the docking went relatively smoothly, even if they were crammed nearly tip to tip in a hanger with about seven other transports. The actual contraband scan wasn't exactly impressive; Han was asked to step off the ship, and watch the process. Which took about half an hour longer than it had to because the scanning crew took that long to show up.

"So, what counts as "contraband" about these parts?" he said to the tech assigned to keep him company.

"High-powered personal weapons, large quantities of narcotics, any unknown animal and plant species," the Teljini replied. Han tilted his head; he was reasonably sure there were examples from all of those categories on board - though only technically with regards to the latter category. And... well, they certainly didn't seem to pick up on any of that. Indeed, they seemed a lot more interested in the various tech-y bits on the ship than the cargo and living stations - particular attention being paid to the single DPHV gun mounted on the bow. Han supposed they'd be happy with knowing that yes, it was, in fact, made of metal. Getting even that much out of the autologi or aufab systems would be an achievment.

Luckily, it didn't take long for the scan to finish - likely because there simply wasn't much fun stuff to scan on board - and they soon had clearance to go down to the planet. It was a beautiful, if stormy, place. Han could certainly see how two different species could build civilisations, given the sheer gap between the two main continents. They were directed to the capital, which was all wide, carefully-laid out streets and gardens, interspersed with the occasional large building. The spaceport was nothing overly special, outside of being large enough to handle the Hood. The gantry that Han settled the ship into did, however, look suspiciously new - as did the autologi transfer system with RUDI branding that connected to the interfaces on each side of the ship.

As per usual, the crew mostly dispersed to do their own thing, but this time Han, Rei and Velma ended up being followed by Belit and the other Theophanics on a tour of the local museums. First up, by unanimous vote, was the military museum, also known as the Palace of War - Han was interested to see what they'd say about the Tajlan war, and Belit was just interested in what weapons these people had managed to develop. It turned out, there was a lot of the latter... and not much of the former. Plenty of weapons were on display, ranging from spears to early space warships, but not a single word was said on the political side of the wars those weapons were used in. To take an example from one plaque describing a rifle: "Type 36 Automatic Rifle, 8.5mm caliber. Designed by the Qwintoni Imperial Armoury, this specific rifle was used by Corporal Latis during the Autumn Offensive. Note the long scratch on the barrel from a Teljini 5mm round and the writing on the stock."

The tanks were fascinating to Rei and Velma, the two of them playing on their hab's Tankwondo team. From the Qwintoni 3-turretted mobile bunker (named, of course, after a small rodent) to the late-model Teljini tanks that seemed to be remarkably similar to Earth-historical BT-series tanks, there were a lot of interesting types on display. So, of course, were the aircraft, ranging again from balloons and biplanes to scale models of missile-laden airships and trans-orbital fighter craft. Of course, the exhibit on weapons used during the Tajlan War was closed "for maintenance" - or so a very ratty-looking sign declared.

The other Palaces (which seemed to be the name for museums, bureaucratic buildings and actual places in which rulers lived combined) were slightly less interesting from a political perspective, but interesting in a cultural sense nonetheless. The Palace of Art was a pyramid and a giant, baroque-looking structure, filled with paintings (naturally), but they didn't have time to really appreciate it since a school tour was going through the place - the same with the Palace of Music right next door. There was, it seemed, a lot of emphasis on how intricate and "advanced" the techniques used were, and that the art from other members of the UISC was nice but not quite as nice as Tajlan art. More interestingly, there was not a single piece of Trathalan art on display, which - given it was one of their main exports - certainly said something.

Otherwise, there was just the Palace of Science left to explore, which took up the rest of the day. It was... well, about as interesting as touring a museum meant to teach school-children about mildly advanced scientific concepts could be to someone who had the knowledge of an entire starfaring polity at their mental fingertips. Which is to say, very much so. Han especially enjoyed the "Laser Experience", which consisted of a short video lecture on what a laser was, an invitation to try making one, then a laser tag battle against holographic enemies. There was, apparently, a university associated with it - but they hadn't the time to drop in on any lectures, since they were required to be at the ship by an hour past sundown according to local law. Han was tempted to flout it, but it had already been a pretty taxing day.

He did make sure to stop by a local takeout place, and pick up some local cusine for the crew. And, for that matter, some beers. Tomorrow, they'd have some more time to look around, but they had to leave the day after.

*Weirdly enough, this joke actually translated. Just about.
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Elheru Aran
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

Endeavour Settlement, Symmachia

It was an impressive sight, Stefon had to admit. And to think they had done all this underground in the space of a few months, with barely any sign on the surface of the planet of these massive works!

She had arrived precisely at the time noted, escorted by a minimal guard of red-armoured Drakon elite troops and her ever-present Shinji. They were greeted on the surface by… nobody, at first. It was a massive city, full of tall buildings, but the layout was peculiar. There were almost no connecting streets between buildings, which tended to sprout straight up out of the ground. Almost like they were thrust upward from some massive underground structure.

And there were no people. Her barge had been guided to its spot by an autonomous beacon. There were a number of Endeavourite ships on the landing pads, each with its own bustling crew, but not even a ground crewman came up to the ship. She stood at the head of the boarding ramp, arms crossed, slightly confused and angry. If this was how the Endeavourites were going to conduct official visits, she would have a piece of her mind to give them-- what was that noise?

Soundlessly, her warsuited troops smoothly shifted into a protective posture at the foot of the ramp, a couple backing up it to stand in front of her as the powerful engine echoed off the buildings around the landing bay. With a horrendous screech of tortured rubber, a small blue groundcar skidded across the tarmac of the landing pad and drifted to an abrupt stop at the foot of the ramp, just short of the guards, who half-hefted their massive-bored firearms.

A window slowly rolled down and a feminine face, half hidden behind massive mirrored spectacles, stuck itself out and hollered, “Hey there! What are you waiting for? Come on and get in the car!”

Bemused, Stefon flicked her fingers at the ypolchagos of her guard detail, who unmasqued his helmet and called, “Who approaches the vice-Palatine of Symmachia?”

“Get stuffed, tin man!” the woman jeered. “I’m talking to her!” Almost as an afterthought she hastily added, “And him too!”

The finger pointed was unmistakably indicating Stefon and Shinji directly. She traded looks with Shinji, who was just as confused as her, and stepped halfway down the ramp. Calmly, she called, “I am Stefon soi Drakon. May I inquire whether you are the Endeavour delegation for our official visit to your colony?”

The woman reached up and took down the glasses, exposing a youthful face, but there was something hard about the eyes under purple-tinged dark hair. She grinned and responded, “You’re damn right I am. Colonel Misato Katsuragi, at your service, ma’am. Now get in the damn car before I leave you sitting here. Time’s flying!”

Shinji spoke for the first time in a little while. “Colonel Katsuragi?”

She looked at him, an amused half smile on her lips. “You remember me?”

He seemed unsure. Stefon cleared her throat and remarked to him, “If you are familiar with her, I suppose she’s safe enough. We shall proceed in her… vehicle.”

The ypolchagos-- what was his name? Hengist?-- strode up to her and quietly asked, “Shall we follow? We can deploy the lander…”

Stefon shook her head slightly. “I don’t expect any particular threat from the Endeavourites, to be frank. I’ll ping you if I require extraction, and I will keep a link open. If you lose it, go to condition yellow, but do not act. Not here. Retreat to Keravnos and instruct Lord Stratiokos Waldemar to implement deployment plan Eta-Three. Understood?”

He saluted, still looking worried, and she strode through the guards with Shinji at her side. Katsuragi inclined her head at the side door, which was easy enough to open, and Shinji squeezed into the minuscule back seat. She had barely closed the door behind herself before Katsuragi gunned the powerful engine and she was thrust back into her seat to the screech of rubber upon tarmac as the car jetted down the roadway.

“Beautiful day isn’t it!” Katsuragi shouted over the noise of her engine and an absolutely incomprehensible broadcast upon the wireless mounted upon the dash of the car. Stefon, sitting rigid against the seat-- she was driving so fast-- had no time to nod before Katsuragi shouted again, “Shinji, how about it? You ready to see the old stomping grounds again?”

Out the corner of her eye, she saw Shinji blink in some confusion before he shouted back, “Pardon?”

Katsuragi looked over her shoulder for a moment-- Stefon cringed, expecting a wreck-- before shifting her attention back to the road and shouting, “Never mind! We’re almost there!”

The road closed in on a hill, and a gigantic pair of metal doors barely shuttered open in time before the car screeched to a halt dangerously close to a featureless wall. The only insignia was something of a leafy symbol, with lettering in a semi-circle at one side, and Endeavourite letters-- Stefon had been working on learning some Eigo, courtesy of a booklet the Endeavourites had been passing out-- by it. She squinted and muttered under her breath. “E. The V, that’s easy. The other… is that a M? No, that’s a N. And… is that a K? No, R…”

“I’ll save you the time,” Katsuragi remarked, “It spells NERV. Hold on to your ass.”

The car jerked and Stefon’s nerves ran cold as the floor shifted. She’d experienced earthquakes when in training upon Rann, and this felt a little too much like that. But then the walls began ascending about them, and she realized they were sitting on a massive elevator. The walls vanished into blackness as the lights above drifted away, she had a glimpse of what looked like grotesquely thick layers of armour plate or concretoid, and then blinked and held a hand in front of her eyes as they emerged into dazzling light.

And that was the impressive sight. A gigantic underground chamber, big enough to fit Thorikto dreadnoughts with room to spare, with a massive expanse of rolling land filling it up. There was even a lake with ships in it! At the middle of the landscape laid a huge pyramid, hundreds of metres tall, with a correspondingly huge void beside it in the shape of an inverted pyramid.

They were sliding down a steep incline, beside upside-down buildings seemingly hanging from the ceiling of the monstrous void. Stefon thought about where they must be, geographically, and was suddenly chilled by the realization that if the city above was just upon the coast, most of this void must be under the ocean. Yet it seemed to almost bustle, in dire contrast to the empty city above-- she could see traffic moving below around the pyramid, buildings scattered around the landscape, and tiny lights of flying vehicles darting through the airspace of the underground void.

“It’s amazing,” Shinji almost whispered from the back seat. She had to agree. The Endeavourites had given almost no indication to her that they could do something like this. She had been impressed with the speed with which they had erected their city and all their smaller settlements across the northern latitudes of the primary continent of Symmachia, but this was on another order of magnitude entirely. This would definitely be noted carefully in her debriefing later.

The elevator jerked to a halt and Katsuragi drove the car out onto a large deck by what appeared to be a tram track. “Well, all out. We’re almost there,” she calmly commented, suiting action to words by grabbing a short red jacket from the back seat and getting out herself. Stefon stepped out and pulled her uniform tunic straight before clearing the way for Shinji to get out. As the boy unfolded himself from the cramped confines of the groundcar’s back seat, she took another look around. Her eyes narrowed.

In the distance, just visible past the pyramid, massive structures stood against the wall of the void. If she thought about it… was that an arm visible against the wall there? She did some mental calculations. That arm would have to belong to something over a hundred metres tall. Decorative, or perhaps statuary? Though the Endeavourite taste in such didn’t particularly seem to lean towards the monumental.

She dismissed the notion. It wasn’t particularly important at the moment. Raising her voice, she queried, “Shall we proceed, then? I’d like to see more--”

“Yeah, yeah,” Katsuragi muttered, cutting her off with a curt wave of her hand. “Here’s the thing, lady. Most of the Geofront is… I guess, a work in progress still? It’s not a good time to see everything. Plus really it’s kind of… boring.”

Shinji cleared his throat and held up a pamphlet. Stefon blinked-- where had he found that?-- and Katsuragi nodded, “Yeah, there’s that, I guess. You game?”

He nodded shyly and she returned the nod firmly. “Right then. Follow me!”

She strode off briskly and they had to step quickly to keep up with her, Shinji almost trotting to catch up with Stefon’s long legs. They wound through an immense maze of passageways, corridors, and rode several moving walkways. Eventually they passed through a tall building and emerged onto a spacious balcony, several various Endeavourites and a sole, nervous-looking, distinctly agrarian Theophanic citizen standing about.

The Theophanic (Stefon wondered briefly for a moment just how she knew he was Theophanic, and then dismissed it. Of course he was, he was the only normal looking individual there) hastily bowed when he spotted her, but Stefon’s gaze flew over him to survey the rest of the crowd. Two massive warsuited figures stood out, neatly arranging what appeared to be pastries and warm beverages upon a table beside a ring of chairs. Slightly past them stood a cluster of children, and she blinked as she saw a couple more boys that looked identical to Shinji, three red-haired girls apparently in a furious argument with each other, and a gaggle of blue-haired girls.

One of the warsuited figures strode up, their armour humming almost subsonically, towering over her and Katsuragi. In an improbably deep voice, it stated, “Welcome to the Children Support Group of Symmachia. Colonel Katsuragi, it is good to see you.”

Katsuragi nodded leisurely. “Hey, Brother Mike. This is Stefon and her Shinji. Thought now was a good time to bring them by.”

“Indeed. We are just about to commence. Shinji, will you join the group of Children with Brother Fuyutsuki over at the other table?” the giant figure rumbled. The boy blinked and looked about, then back at Stefon. She shrugged and flicked her hand, go on then. He nodded and started wandering in that direction. The giant-- Brother Mike? What a peculiar name, she thought-- turned to her and ponderously uttered, “It is a pleasure to meet you. If you wish to sample the donuts and coffee before we meet, we just finished setting up the refreshments table. We shall convene in four minutes.”

“Ah… er… thank you,” Stefon murmured uncertainly. Katsuragi nodded sharply and held up a hand. “Well, good luck! I’m off!”

She double-took. “What do you mean, you’re off?”

Too late; Katsuragi was vanishing down the corridor they’d come from. She sighed in frustration. Well, pastries. Might as well try Endeavourite culinary arts.

That, it turned out, was a mixed blessing. The pastry, a ring of fried dough covered with a sweet glaze, was tasty enough. The beverage-- “coffee”, he had called it, but it tasted like nothing more than scorched boot leather-- less so. She grimaced and discreetly tipped it into a potted plant along the edge of the balcony.

They sat down around the circle as Brother Mike began clearing his throat loudly, the sound resounding across the balcony. He reached up and took his grim-faced helmet off to reveal a rather young-looking but hard-edged face. He sipped gravely at a cup of that vile concoction they called ‘coffee’ (Stefon resolved, if she ever returned, to provide the beverages next time) and intoned in his remarkably deep voice, “We are now assembled. For the benefit of our guests, I shall briefly cover our purpose,” this last with a broad hand gesture indicating Stefon and the farmer, who they had seated by her much to her distaste.

Mike resumed. “We are the… I suppose, guardians, of the Children. They have picked us to keep them, one way or another, how exactly none knows. We meet on occasion to share our experience and knowledge with each other. To speak of the struggles and the joys we have had.”

That was… more useful than she had expected, Stefon had to admit. She shifted in her seat as one of the Endeavourites spoke up, a grizzled man with flamboyant sideburns and a metal arm, “Well. Rei’s learnin’. She can fix the Bebop’s engines with the best of us, namely, me.”

“Very well. Thank you, Brother Jet,” rumbled Mike. He turned slightly to face another Endeavourite, who Stefon was startled to notice was a slightly taller version of the blue-haired girls, and asked, “How is it going with yours?”

She regarded him steadily and expressionlessly, but finally murmured, “She thinks too loudly.”

Mike blinked. “Oh? How’s that?”

The blue-haired woman rubbed her eyes and sighed. “She has taken to a drum kit.”

There was a distinct pause. Finally, a person clad in some kind of furry costume asked with some concern in their tone, “And… how has that gone?”

“Not well,” the woman responded shortly, “I am investing in earplugs, however.”

“That is probably an excellent decision,” interjected Mike hastily. “Children must develop their mental architecture in a natural fashion, after all. That can sometimes take… unconventional paths.”

The agarian Theophanic by Stefon timidly extended his hand upward. A… Stefon sighed and resisted the impulse to sink her face into her hands. A giant electric fan with cartoonish hands projecting from its sides caught Mike’s attention and pointed at the farmer. Mike swiveled in his seat and ponderously asked, “And how about you, Brother Grigori?”

He responded in a deep mumble. Stefon had to strain her ears, though she sat right by him, to understand. Mike’s expression went blank, as did the other Endeavourites. Apparently his vile accent was too much for their translation software. She sighed and spoke up. “The girl is teaching his cattle Jermanni.”

Their faces cleared and comprehension dawned. Mike nodded thoughtfully and asked, “You have an Asuka, I believe. They speak fluent German. Interaction with domesticated animals is unusual for them. How did that happen?”

Mumble mumble mumble. She blinked, parsed it for a moment, then proceeded cautiously. “She has been sleeping in the barn. They have two families in their house at the moment. It seems the cattle were insufficiently ordered to her satisfaction. She now has them marching in formation and moving when she orders them. They have stopped listening to him.”

Heads nodded around the ring of chairs. A small equine figure somehow sitting on one of the folding chairs piped up, “Well, gosh, that won’t do at all.”

Mike nodded. “Indeed. Grigori, would you like one of us to have a word with her?”

More mumbling. Rather emphatic gestures. Stefon blinked. “He would very much like that.” She’d decided the rest of what he had said didn’t need saying…

It seemed some of them had gotten the gist of it, though. Jet coughed loudly, covering the bottom of his face. She craned her neck to look around the bulk of Brother Mike, to see the other warsuited figure sitting at a similar ring of seats with the Children, his helmet likewise off to reveal an older head, sharp featured with white hair. From here she couldn’t hear them-- then she realized Mike was talking to her.

“Pardon, what?” she asked abruptly. He lifted a thick eyebrow and rumbled again, “Thank you very much for your assistance, Lady Drakon.”

She cleared her throat and lifted her eyebrows. “soi Drakon, if you please. If anybody is the Drakon, that would be great-Grandfather.”

He inclined his head. “Duly noted, Lady soi Drakon. Would you like to share about your experiences?”

She looked past Mike at the Children again. One of the boys-- she thought it was hers, though she couldn’t be sure-- smiled tentatively at her and waved slightly. She murmured, “I don’t know. I don’t have very many complaints.”

The small, brightly coloured equine piped up, “Really? I never hear the end of it from my Shinji!”

She had to shrug. “He seems to enjoy exploring the Keravnos and accompanying me in my work there and on Symmachia. The officer’s children’s academy aboard the ship is attempting to meet his educational desires. He cooks, and I am beginning to get some taste for his food. As I said, I don’t have very many complaints. He could be a little less given to commenting without invitation. Manners are vital in our society.”

That started off a whole discussion. Apparently Stefon and the farmer weren’t the only Theophanics who had Children; she heard a young soi Fylachto mentioned, and a Wachter. The consensus seemed to be ‘hang Theophanic manners’, much to her discomfort. Mike hushed the group and faced Stefon again. “It is good that you are giving your Shinji the opportunity to see what you do and how life is in the genia. Have you shown him the life of the commoners?”

She stared at him blankly. “No. Why should I? If he wishes to see the plebians, I’ll send him among them with a guard detail. They don’t need me to tell them what to do. All our work, from the lowliest plebian on up to the highest Adelig, serves Theoua and the Empire.”

The tone in the room shifted suddenly. Mike cleared his throat loudly and calmly rumbled, “I see. We merely believe a wide range of experiences would be ideal for the Children.”

She shrugged, wary of the change in the air. Over at the other ring of seats, they were apparently finished and starting to stand up. Mike looked over and hastily added, “The Children are concluded with their own meeting. If anybody else would like to speak, now is the time.”

Nobody spoke up. She impulsively decided to jump in before the opportunity left and cleared her throat. “Thank you for this opportunity. It has been… informative.”

Measuring her with a long look, Jet remarked, “Yes. Yes it has.” She blinked at him, unsure how to respond to that as Mike stood and announced, “We are concluded. But please feel free to socialize further. There are plenty of donuts and coffee.”

Katsuragi showed up as they were standing themselves. “Well, hello there! How did it go?” she chirped at Stefon as Shinji rejoined them.

Stefon favored her with a cold look. “It could have gone better. I would have appreciated some warning that you were going to drop me in this… matter.”

Katsuragi snorted and flipped her hand at Stefon. “You’re fine, aren’t you? This was good for you, I’m sure. Getting to know some of the other guardians and all.”

Mike walked over to them, the little Theophanic farmer by his side, a red-haired girl besides the villein. He rumbled, “Before you leave. I thought you might like to get to know Brother Grigori and his Asuka.”

She looked at him and then at Grigori blankly. Shinji hastily interjected, “Of course we would love to! Wouldn’t we, Stefon?”

“...I suppose so,” she finally managed. For once, she was at a loss for words. What did one say to a plebian, socially? Shinji took care of that by starting off with, “Asuka, aren’t you having the best time on a farm? With cows! Real cows! Are they making cheese yet?”
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by VX-145 »

The Memorial Memorial Arena Memorial Arena, Endeavour System

“Ladies, gentlemen, assorted bastards! Welcome to the Memorial Memorial Arena Memorial Arena, and today’s Intergalactic Exhibition Tankwondo match!”

A general cheer went up, drowning out Kharon’s response to some small talk she’d been making with Miko. They were seated in a small box about halfway up the stands; apparently, some dignitaries from the other polities were present, but knowing Endeavour that could just mean they’d given a few tramp freighter crews some tickets and asked them to come along. She cast her eyes around; the giant screens which lined the arena had lit up (as had the smaller versions mounted on a bracket in front of her), showing a view of the grassland that stretched out for miles upon miles in front of the stands. It zoomed in, suddenly focusing on two small groups of people standing opposite one another; three people stood in the middle between them.

“Today’s match is a Classic match-” Miko had explained that term, and all Kharon had really been able to grasp was that it meant the vehicles had to be from a specific time period and in a historical configuration - “Fifteen tanks per team, with flag tank rules.” That part was easier to parse - there was a single tank on each team marked as the “flag tank”, and the team which knocked out the enemy team’s flag tank first was the winner. “And, introducing our teams for the match - Signal 16, from Object Dart!” The camera focussed on one of the two larger groups, revealing that it was made up by as diverse a group as you would normally find in Endeavour (several small quadrupeds, a floating balloon, some sort of wolf-man person with blood running down its jaw - that sort of thing), then: “And Hawk-Bat United, representing the Upper East Side Collective!” The camera panned to the other group, which was… all in flight suits. Odd.

“And as the team captains step forwards to shake hands, we’ll briefly look over the two teams’ records. So, both teams are known for unrelenting aggression, which is probably why they were chosen for today’s match.” (Sure enough, two figures stepped forwards, shook hands, and then bowed towards the judges).

“Camping may be effective, but it’s boring as hell,” another voice cut in. “Signal 16 is known for their firepower, compared to Hawk-Bat United, which, as we saw last month, is well-suited to fast, mobile action - though their guns are more than a little lacking.”

“Certainly a recipe for an action-packed match!” the first commentator said.


A short time later, the seven great five-turreted behemoths (and single, twin-turretted flag tank) of Signal 16 began rolling forwards in two columns, smoke belching from their exhausts. Two smaller, boxier tanks formed the van, while five tiny-looking tanks with odd bulbous attachments on their turrets raced about, swinging their turrets from here to there. Of the other team, there was as yet no sign - but Kharon found her eyes drawn to the precision on display. These were hobbyists?

Then, a small, squat vehicle with an oddly-angled turret appeared in the middle of their path, fired a single shell, and reversed off. “A fascinating play,” said one of the commentators, “Hawk-Bat showing their flag tank this early is a risk, but it puts Signal 16 in the old dilemma - pursue, or leave it?”

It seemed that “pursue” was chosen; two of the smaller tanks peeled off, racing after the Hawk-Bat tank. They turned a corner - the camera following those two - and one was immediately flipped over onto one side by a resounding blow that echoed even to the stands, kilometres away from the action. The other fired a shell in response, then turned tail and ran away unmolested.

“Why didn’t they pursue?” Kharon asked Miko.

“That was probably a tank destroyer,” Miko replied, and sure enough the camera panned to show an odd, ungainly thing with a long barrelled-gun mounted at the rear, stretching over the main body of the tank. “Ah, a Valentine Archer - yeah, that thing has the gun pointed backwards, so it’s too slow to pursue.”

“...why does the gun point backwards?”

That earned a shrug from Miko. “I think it’s the only way they could get it to fit.”

“I think the British back then hated having guns extend much past the front of the tank, too,” Rei (one from Miko's crew, who had accompanied them for as-yet unknown reasons) added. “Something about “what happens if it falls in a ditch?””

The Valentine Archer scooted away at full speed - with the gun pointing “backwards”, which just felt odd. A second later, the bush it had been hiding in exploded - the large tanks of Signal 16 had raised their gun barrels and blasted it from behind a short ridge.

“I was in the first match with that trick,” Miko commented, “The, well, trick, is to park on a slope, so you can get a bit more elevation. If you do it perfectly, you can get both the secondary forty-five millimetre guns on target as well.”

With a soft thunk, a white flag popped out of the tank that had been hit, marking it out of the game. “How do you keep the crews safe?” The gun the tank destroyer had fired was… larger than the tank it had been fired at, nearly. And the former was open-topped - a single hit from that barrage would have surely killed the crew.

“Energy shields and modern armour beat 4000-plus year-old shells,” was Miko’s response. She frowned; “I can’t see the rest of Hawk-Bat on the map.”

Kharon consulted the one built into her screen - only two tanks from Hawk-Bat were visible, the flag tank (something called a Covenanter) and the Valentine Archer. There were spaces on the team list for the other 13 tanks - she didn’t quite recognise the names, though they were remarkably uniform.

“Just wait a minute,” Rei said.

Signal 16 was still stuck in the narrow ridge-lines and sheer cliffs of their starting area, which had only become more claustrophobic as they tried to break out into the plains beyond; Kharon appreciated that the commander hadn’t split their forces up, instead pushing through with their lighter vehicles at the forefront. If an ambush occurred, the heavier vehicles could simply brush them aside. Of course, the Archer was climbing one side of the ridge, setting up for just such an ambush. It crawled up to a set of bushes, lined the cannon up-

but the other team had spotted it, and it was forced to retreat in a hail of shells. Again, nothing tried to pursue; it seemed Signal 16 was focussed entirely on the break-out.

Hawk-Bat didn’t seem too fussed about stopping them, either; was that some part of their plan, or were they on the back foot?

Soon, the first of Signal 16’s tanks was rolling into the steppe, scanning the horizon back and forth with its cannon. The rest followed it, and the formation - which had been broken up by the ambush and narrow spaces - reasserted itself. They seemed cautious, off-guard; they advanced slowly across the plain.

Kharon saw it first, a cluster of fast-moving arrows on the small minimap, but she still couldn’t see them on the field. Then, the camera panned up - revealing a dual-tailed biplane with… a tank strapped to the front?

“...surely that’s cheating?” she asked.

“It’s a historical configuration,” Miko said, though her expression was shocked. “Antonov A-40, basically a stripped-down T-60 light tank with wings, but they only ever built one… wait a minute, the other half of the team is in Tetrarchs, they can’t be serious.”

They were.

Of the thirteen tanks left on the Hawk-Bat roster, three were the glider-winged A-40s and eight were the aforementioned Tetrarchs, each of those allocated to a wide-bodied glider.

Machine-gun fire rose to meet the three biplane tanks, which swooped down a respectable distance away; there was a moment of what might be termed morphological confusion, and the wings were discarded for tanks to roll forth. The heavy tanks of Signal 16 swung their turrets around to bear, only for one of them to take a blow to the back and slew out of line, belching smoke - the Archer had taken up a position to shoot them in the back.

The other gliders were coming down, landing with surprising precision for barely-guided craft; completing the encirclement of Signal 16. It would have been a perfect opportunity for Signal 16 to score some easy kills... if they weren’t being shelled from two sides. From Kharon’s experience, the way out of the trap was obvious: focus attention on one flank, and try to punch through quickly. That seemed to be what Signal 16 decided to do; they pivoted as one, heading towards the T-60s (as they were now designated on the team lists). Thirteen tanks charged up the field as one, firing as they went - the T-60s parted in front of them, one taking a round and losing a track - and then they were through, escaping in a hail of shells and machine-gun fire.

From that opening, the match developed a little slowly; the Hawk-Bats could pursue Signal 16, but not get too close; without the advantages surrounding the enemy brought, or an ambush, the heavier team had the firepower advantage. The end-goal of the lighter team seemed to be to herd Signal 16 towards the city, which was a surprising feature in the arena and also a good place to split up and defeat the heavy tanks in detail. Even five turrets couldn’t cover every angle, after all. For their part, Signal 16’s goal was to force an engagement in more open terrain; all told, this led to a complex ballet of manoeuvre warfare. Naturally, being the faster team, the Hawk-Bats had an advantage, able to close off angles of movement almost at will, but Signal 16 was remarkably resourceful, using tow ropes as pulleys to get tanks over hills or through rapids. On one occasion, they parked two of the heavy tanks at the bottom of a low ravine, and used them as bridges for the others to cross. That done, the now-stranded tanks were pulled up with tow ropes - all before the Hawk-Bats could close and pick off the stragglers.

In the end, the two teams split the difference; the final battleground was a suburban area.

Both teams arrived within a minute of one another, with the slight advantage going to the Hawk-Bats. Before they could capitalise by getting into an ambush position, Signal 16’s outriders were on the scene, their guns firing wildly as they swerved this way and that at full speed. The return fire was thick, driving the four light tanks to seek cover behind buildings; the Hawk-Bats advanced on the trapped vehicles with a surprisingly competent fire-and-maneuver tactic, and were hit in the flank by the two Signal 16 mediums, losing another tank.

Kharon hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the Archer for a while - it had vanished into a clump of trees the moment the shooting had started - but the Covenanter flag tank was still running around, popping off its little cannon every now and then, driving out of cover just long enough to draw fire before darting back in. Slowly but surely, even with the reinforcements, Signal 16’s advance force was pushed closer and closer together, until they were cornered in a single car park near a playground.

The captain of the Hawk-Bats, a dome-headed robot (or cyborg? The difference was unclear) stuck her head out of her tank - not the flag tank, interestingly - and whistled something. A moment later, the translation came through: “Surrender! We have you surrounded!”

“How about you surrender!” called back one of Signal 16’s tankers, his own head poking just very slightly out of the hatch. An image accompanied the words, a picture of a rainbow-coloured card with a pair of arrows on it. “You heard from your pickets recently?”

And then, faintly, singing:

What do we do with the drunken tanker?
What do we do with the drunken tanker?
What do we do with the drunken tanker?
Er-lie in the morn-ing?

Whoever was editing the live footage on the fly was doing a masterful job - Kharon had only just noticed that two Hawk-Bat tanks had disappeared, the behemoth heavies of Signal 16 entered the fray. Out of the hatch of one stood the team captain, leading the song with… was that a guitar?

Take the plug out of their boiling vessel!
Take the plug out of their boiling vessel!
Take the plug out of their boiling vessel!
Er-lie in the morn-ing!

Before the Hawk-Bats could react, the light tanks they’d encircled sprang outwards as one, plumes of smoke blossoming out from their turrets as they launched off the bulbous-looking attachments - they were rockets, Kharon realised. Inaccurate rockets, it seemed, since only one managed to hit a target, but powerful; said target went flying, rolled over three or four times by the blast, before coming to a halt against a building. A half-second later, and the little white flag popped out.

Then… chaos ensued.

Hoo-Rei and up she rises!*
Hoo-Rei and up she rises!
Hoo-Rei and up she rises!
Er-lie in the morn-ing!

Tanks went this way and that, firing almost at random, as the two lines mingled with one another. Signal 16’s lights tried to break out, but the Hawk-Bats were well aware that the only way out of the reversed trap was to mingle with the other team’s tanks to prevent the reinforcements from engaging fully. A pair of tanks, too far away to confuse Signal 16’s targeting, found refuge behind a store, while a third took a more ambitious route: ramping off the slide in the nearby playground, track still spinning as it just about cleared the distance and landed on the roof of one of the houses.

“What was that slide made of?” Kharon muttered.

“Some of the stuff in the arena’s reinforced,” said Miko, “It’s a risk, sometimes the slide is just plastic, but it makes the game more fun. Besides, a BT-5’s only 11 tonnes or so.”

Put their waifu in a gacha game!
Put their waifu in a gacha game!
Put their waifu in a gacha game!
Er-lie in the morn-ing!

It seemed that Signal 16’s heavy tanks didn’t like being left out of the fight, because they waded into the brawl with all guns blazing (which was a lot of guns). The losses were brutal on both sides - both of Signal 16’s mediums went down almost immediately, followed by the last of the T-60s, which was knocked into - and knocked out - one of the five-turreted heavies, the Archer picked off a second, and within about two seconds all of Signal 16’s remaining light tanks - four in all - went out, but not before knocking out as many Tetrarchs. All the while, the singing continued:

Issue ‘em nothin’ but smoke-y shells!
Issue ‘em nothin’ but smoke-y shells!
Issue ‘em nothin’ but smoke-y shells!
Er-lie in the morn-ing!

Hoo-Rei and up she rises!
Hoo-Rei and up she rises!
Hoo-Rei and up she rises!
Er-lie in the morn-ing!

Five tanks versus five tanks. For the Hawk-Bats: the Archer, still hidden in a clump of shell-blasted bushes; a Tetrarch hiding atop a house, two more guarding the flag tank. And, for Signal 16, four of their heavies - T-35s, the team list said - and one SMK, their twin-turreted flag tank. Even numbers, but the heavies had the advantage in a straight fight; the only gun on the Hawk-Bats’ side capable of knocking out even the T-35s in a single shot was the big one on the Archer.

Which is why the lightweight team made sure it wasn’t a fair fight. At once, the Tetrarchs lit off their smoke launchers, firing blindly as they (and the flag Covenanter) raced off to one side. Signal 16 moved forward to pursue - and one took a shell in the rear-right turret from the Archer. Another turned its guns on the bushes, blasting them into smaller and smaller sticks, but without concrete result.

Fire from the other three Signal 16 tanks missed the main Hawk-Bat formation by miles - the smokescreen having worked as intended - but the lighter team still had a distinct disadvantage even at four tanks to five. They were well aware of this, it seemed, since they switched entirely to hit-and-run ambush tactics, firing from alleyways and concealed positions before escaping, aiming more to disrupt Signal 16 than to knock out any of their tanks. More importantly, they were circling around to one side, trying to link back up with the Archer and stranded Tetrarch. For their part, Signal 16 was trying to maintain their position, flanked on either side - it allowed them to bring all of their firepower to bear, since the secondary turrets on the T-35s didn’t have full rotation. At least, that’s what Miko said.

The diagram she popped out to demonstrate the problem was quite helpful.

Kharon would have, in Signal 16’s position, turned to hunt down the stragglers before dealing with the main body, but perhaps their commander was too tunnel-visioned on trying to take out the enemy flag tank. The stranded Tetrarch did, with some effort, manage to get off the building it was stuck upon… promptly falling onto its turret in the process. No white flag emerged, and instead the crew got out and physically pushed the thing back over. Some feat, considering it probably weighed about as much as the BT tanks, and the crew consisted of a young girl, a small technicolour marshmallow pony, and what seemed to be a wooden board with pipe cleaner-like limbs - their flight suits tied off around their waists. That done, they climbed back in, and drove off to meet with the Archer, which was currently being pursued by a rather angry T-35 in a game of cat-and-mouse. Where both sides were the cat, and also the mouse? Kharon thought that analogy had broken down somewhat.

Both tanks knew they could knock the other out with a single shot, that was the point of said broken analogy, but neither could withdraw or even slow down. Whoever made a mistake first would be the one knocked out of the match - and it was the Hawk-Bats turn to make a mistake. The Archer turned the wrong corner, and found itself stuck in a small dead-end alleyway rather than the highway on-ramp they’d been aiming for, and - given its reverse speed could be unfavourably compared to a glacier - couldn’t escape before the Signal 16 T-35 appeared at the mouth. Both tanks fired at the same time, smoke filled the alley, and when it cleared - both were knocked out.

Just in time for the wayward Tetrarch to arrive on the scene. The front hatch popped open, the wooden board person poked their head out, shrugged, then the hatch closed again and the tank sped off.

With their biggest gun knocked out, the Hawk-Bats had to switch tactics - and so, with their flag tank prominently in the lead, they showed themselves to the remaining three tanks of Signal 16. A brief exchange of shells followed, one 2 pounder shot lodging itself in the central turret ring of one of the T-35s and effectively putting its main gun out of the fight. Luckily, it still had two more, and four machine guns. Signal 16 pursued, chasing down the fleeing Covenanter with unrelenting aggression; the T-35s were surprisingly fast for their size, though the SMK lagged behind somewhat. This nearly cost Signal 16 the match right then, as the wayward Tetrarch took a pot-shot into its rear - but the shot didn’t seem to do anything of import, and the SMK turned its rear turret to point, well, rearwards to engage. Of course, that Tetrarch was smart enough to have gotten away before the ponderous turret could turn.

The Covenanter kept running, but its escort was now nowhere to be seen. Kharon knew immediately what had happened - they’d peeled off, gambling that three Tetrarchs would be able to defeat the Signal 16 flag tank before theirs was knocked out - but the commander of Signal 16 either failed to see the trap or decided to push ahead anyway.

The final action happened in about three seconds; the two Tetrarchs split off from escort duty sprang their trap, hitting the SMK from the front, while the last tank hit it from behind. Shot after shot slammed into its armour - it took out one with the forward gun, but then lost the rear gun to a lucky hit to the barrel - the T-35s chasing down the Hawk Bat flag tank caught up just enough for them to fire - and a cloud of smoke enveloped the Covenanter as shells slammed home… just after the white flag popped up on the SMK.

That was where the match ended, but of course, not where the day ended. For a start, there was a fair amount of what could be described as "faff" getting out of the arena, and then there was dinner and all that. Nevertheless, the match was the larger part of the day, and Kharon had rather enjoyed it. Maybe she'd see another one sometime.

Cona System Outskirts, UISC Space

For once, Elon had to be reasonably conscious for an FTL reversion, and had to desperately fight the urge to throw up as his yacht did whatever sciency thing it did to travel faster than light. He made a note to put a disciplinary on whoever was at the helm - he was too important to risk getting sick.

“Report,” he barked.

“Contacts, one local freighter, one Yrch carrier, multiple small craft!” called back the man at sensors. “The small craft are engaging the freighter. Looks to be a raid.” Exactly as it should be.

“All hands to battlestations,” Elon ordered (the joy of which had not yet gotten old), “Launch fighters, open a public channel and send coded signal 66 on the S-band.”

The sensor plot before him blossomed as his fighters scrambled, racing to cover the civilian freighter and his yacht’s carefully-concealed weapons sprang to life.

A light indicated he was on the air: “Attention Yrch raiders. Surrender or be destroyed.” He held back from identifying himself just yet - that would cause… problems. It didn’t matter either way, the Yrch small craft kept their attack up; his fighters fell upon them, blasting one, then two, then three out of space; the remainder, though massively outnumbering his ships, decided discretion was the better part of valour.

“Hold the fighters back,” he ordered, striking what he thought was a suitably dramatic-yet-distainful pose. “They’re beaten.”

It took a bare minute for the Yrch ships to dock with their carrier, commendable - almost like they’d been told ahead of time what to do. Which, of course, they had. Elon thought this plan a particular kind of genius, and he’d made sure to throw the man who’d come up with it out an airlock to make sure no-one else dared take credit for it.

“Yrch ship is charging FTL,” reported the sensor man, “Translation in three… two… one…”

The great carrier-cylinder disappeared (thank fuck for that, why the hell did the orcs always have to decorate their ships? It ruined the lines) and a moment later; “Civilian ship is hailing us.”

“On screen,” Elon ordered, and the main display switched to a view of a furry round bowling ball-esque creature sitting in a control cradle. “I am Elon, of Amazo-X; I saw you being attacked and could not abide it. Do you require further assistance?”

Keravnos, High Symmachia Orbit

Symeon paced the bridge, drumming the fingers of one hand against his other arm. “Time until the Captain is due back?” he asked one of the interchangeable crewmen, for the third time in thirty minutes.

“Two hours, lord,” was the reply.

“And the rapid response unit?”

“Still on standby, lord.”

Symeon let out a low hum. “Status of the Endeavour fleet?”

“Still holding position by their station, lord.”

“They’re still waiting for those… Scholikó ploío things? I would have thought they’d be here by now, with all the raving the technognostiki were doing over their drive systems..”

Of course, that was tempting fate. “Large transition through the station!” one of the other nameless beings rang out, “Two ships, cruiser-weight!”

Symeon shuddered; he’d vaguely hoped the Endeavourites wouldn’t bother to build a real ship. “Raise alert level to five.” No sense in being unprepared if something was about to go down.

“Min~na!” A high-pitched voice burst forth from the speakers, without warning. “Sorry we’re so late, but everyone’s favourite school ships are finally here!”

This was followed by a few muffled noises, and then a rough voice: “So I just talk into this thing? Do I need to shout? Well, it can’t hurt, can it? HELLO EVERYONE, CAN YOU HEAR ME? What do you mean they can’t respond? What’s the bloody point of this thing? Well, next time - they can still hear me? Let’s get this over with, then. I AM MUSTRUM RIDCULLY, DThau, DM, BS, DMn, DG, DD, DMPhil, DMS, DCM, DW AND BElL, HEADMASTER OF THE UNSEEN UNIVERSITY, AND I AM PLEASED TO MAKE YOUR ACQUAINTANCES!”

Symeon sat on a convenient chair, head cradled in his hands. Why had he not asked the Captain to come back early? Now he had to deal with this... mess.

"Well, then, send them the pre-arranged approach details. Let's get this over with..."

*The lyrics were helpfully being displayed on the various screens, hence Kharon and being able to tell that yes, this was, in fact, a Rei pun.
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Elheru Aran
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

Kapetanios Quarters, Megakolymvitis

The light came on bright. Too bright. Kharon groaned and threw her arm over her eyes.

A sigh sounded from the side of her bed. “My lady, it’s important.” Alessia. She shifted her arm and stared at the chrono beside her bed. About that time.

She responded with a disgusted grunt and slowly struggled to a sitting position. As though wished into existence, Mariam materialized at the bedside with a cup of hergo-root tea. Kharon didn’t even have to look to reach out and grab it. A long sip, and she slowly turned to face Alessia. “...Report.”

“My lady, we have some urgent disciplinary concerns with the crew,” her first officer responded briskly. Kharon was still sipping her tea, holding the cup with both hands, but she flicked her little finger to continue. “It seems that a number of them have made… unwise decisions on shore leave. Normally the bosuns, mates and other officers would handle this, but, well, there’s a lot happening right now and I believed asking for a general decree from you would be the wisest course of action.”

In other words, she was passing the buck. Well, Kharon couldn’t blame her too much. She’d been afraid of something like this happening. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she shrugged into a long robe proffered by Iosif and stalked through the doors of her bedchamber to the private living room of her quarters where a breakfast spread was already laid out, freshly cooked. She cocked an eye at Iosif and he shrugged. Alessia must have called ahead. Whatever.

She sat down at the table and gestured at a chair with her teacup. Alessia duly sat down, somewhat stiffly, and cleared her throat as Kharon poked at serving platters piled with pan-fried meats, thick sausages, legumes in sauce, and finally selected toasted Erepian bread spread with the soft green meat of some fruit and sprinkled with some selection of herbs. Before she took a bite, she looked at Alessia and grumbled, “Well, go on then. What’s happening?”

Alessia cleared her throat again and answered carefully, “For the most part, it seems many of them found out that the Endeavourites… do not have currency, nor do they require payment for goods or services for the most part. You can probably imagine what happened.”

Kharon groaned and rubbed her face. “I was afraid of that. What have they been buying?”

“...everything? Just… I have no idea. So many different things. One sailor purchased two hundred six-foot-long pillows with, er, life-size pictures of a libidinious nature on them. A group of bunkmates showed up at the gangplanks with a full-size armoured vehicle of an ancient Earth pattern. Another had an absurdly large collection of plastic figurines derived from some popular media here. Others bought food, or what the Endeavourites call food anyway. Did you know it’s mostly plant-based? Even the meat!”

That brought a snort from Kharon. “Yes. I’ve become acquainted with it. Some of it is rather tasty, actually. We shouldn’t judge, per capita we actually eat less meat than the old Terrans did. Genia eat more than the commoners, granted, but…”

“Yes,” Alessia responded a trifle impatiently, “that’s besides the point. If I may be so bold, I suggest an order to the crew restricting what they can bring aboard or otherwise purchase. Certainly no contraband, apparently many of them found some, ah, quite interesting quarters of the hab.” She followed that up with a gesture, pinching her fingers together in front of her lips, and Kharon grinned.

“All right, I’ll say something along the lines of they can’t bring more aboard than what they can keep in personal storage. If it’s vital to them, they can petition the cargomaster to fill any vacant hold space, otherwise they can either contract with the Endeavourites for storage or shipping back to the Empire. It’s certainly not costing us anything, as strange as that is.”

The first officer nodded, mollified on that front. She considered for a moment as Kharon chewed her toast and then went on in more cautious tones, “Some of them have… converted.”

Kharon stopped mid-chew and lifted an interrogative eyebrow. Alessia grimaced and continued, “These people venerate… or at least act like they venerate… any number of things. Many of them pay homage to the blue-haired girl. You know, the one that’s… everywhere.”

Toast was set down carefully. Tea drunk to wash it down. Brow furrowed. Kharon asked slowly, “They… converted to Endeavourite faiths?”

Alessia sighed and clasped her hands on the table. “The proctors are rather… put out by this development. I have spoken to some of them and it seems that there may be some kind of misunderstanding… but one that would affect some few hundred of the crew?”

Kharon drummed her fingers on the table. “That’s a lot to have a misunderstanding. I may be able to contact someone in their government and see what’s going on, but it may be some time before we have this sorted out.”

“Soon, please. Otherwise we’re going to have serious problems on our hands with the proctors. They’re quarantining the converts to prevent moral corruption among the crew,” Alessia responded, her eyebrows high.

Kharon’s own brows rose. “Let me just contact Protector Ayanami’s office. Mariam, my handscreen.”

The device was in her hand almost before she finished speaking, and she stood and began pacing about the chamber as she spoke. “Kapetanios Megakolymvitis to Endeavour Control.”

Cap’n, this is Control, we read you loud and clear. What’s up, honey?

Kharon blinked at the informality, but shrugged it off much better than she would have had some months ago. “May I be connected to Sovereign Protector Lady Ayanami’s office, please?”

Sure thing, love! One minute… there ya go. Always happy to oblige that big beauty of a ship!

Kharon smiled and shook her head, amused, as the voice of Protector Ayanami came through. “Ayanami here. Is everything well?

“For the moment,” Kharon answered, “but an… issue may have arisen. I wish to qualify some things to address a potential disciplinary issue among my crew as they begin returning from shore leave.”

Yeah, I figured something like that might happen. There’s enough oddity here even for us that I knew some strange stuff would probably come up when your lot entered the mix,” was Ayanami’s cheerful response.

“Specifically,” Kharon continued, selecting her words carefully, “there have been a number of converts to a variety of your faiths. This… may be an issue on our ship. While the Empire permits people to believe as they will, there are some…. restrictions. I need to know if these conversions should be taken seriously, or if your people are as… casual about religious faith as they are about a great many other things. Er, no offence intended.”

None taken,” was the diplomatic answer, “I understand what you’re meaning, certainly we have a very different approach to life than the Empire. Ah, so I may not be the most qualified to answer this. I would, personally, not worry about this overmuch… but would you like to speak to the Guard Paramount of the Custodians Filii?


They’re, I guess, the closest thing the Reiligion has to a priesthood. The Guard Paramount is their… I suppose you would say a pope? Or a bishop. Whatever. You up?

Kharon looked around the room. Alessia had unbent enough to start nibbling at a muffin. Iosif was gathering the rest of the platters while Mariam disappeared into the bedchamber. She nodded and murmured, “Yes, I suppose I would like to speak to this… Guard Paramount. Thank you.”

No problem. A moment.

An inhumanly deep voice emitted from her handscreen and she flinched, half expecting the crockery to vibrate on the shelves. “This is Reithanael, Guard Paramount, Custodiet Filii. How may I help you?

She cleared her throat and responded cautiously, “This is Iohanna Kharon soi Chelonis of the Theophanic Empire ship Megakolymvitis. I would like to inquire of your… faith?”

Certainly. What do you wish to know?

“I won’t take too much of your time. I am primarily concerned about whether my sailors have… changed their spiritual allegiance, or the ultimate destination of their souls. If I may be metaphysical with you.”

I understand,” the voice rumbled, “Rest assured that your sailors’ belief in your Emperoress and their divine nature remains unchanged. Our belief in Rei and the Children is less a worship of divinity than it is a… way of preparing for the future. This may take some time to explain, if you need to know more.

She instinctively shook her head. “So it isn’t a matter of them ceasing to believe in Theoua or worshipping Them. That’s all I need to know. Thank you very much.” Across the room, she saw Alessia straighten up and the furrows fall away from her brow in relief.

You are very welcome. Please feel free to visit the Basilica of the Children at any time during your stay in Endeavour. Tours every hour except during vespers. If that be all, good day to you, Lady soi Chelonis.”

“And to you,” Kharon responded before clicking out of the call. She nodded at Alessia and remarked, “Well, that took care of that. Pass the word to the proctors that they may release the… converts, into the general population of the crew. Yes, Isoif?”

Her valet had just materialized at her elbow, bearing a silver tray with a card upon it. Smoothly he responded, “You have visitors, my lady.”

“Oh?” she answered, her eyebrow rising as she reached out to pick up the card, “and whom would those be?”

“Lady Miyasawa, and his Excellency Lord Gregorius VIII Justinian Raimond Chevalier, Baron soi Foinix, at your leisure in the withdrawing-room.”

That caught her wrong-footed. “Justinian soi Foinix?! What in Their uncounted Names is he doing here in Endeavour?”

“I couldn’t possibly say, my Lady,” Iosif responded smoothly to her back as she strode towards the wide double-doors, throwing them open with her robe billowing around her. She snapped, “By all the daemons of Sheol, you will not light that thing in here!”

Justinian soi Foinix turned smoothly towards her, holding a spectacularly large cigar in one hand, having just been sniffing its aroma, and a wide grin blossomed in the bearded thatch of his lower face. “Why, hello, Kharon. I would think you’ve missed me.”

“You wish,” she snapped at him. Turning to Miyasawa, who was blinking at her vehemence from her seat on one of the overstuffed couches, she cleared her throat and in much gentler tones murmured, “I’m glad to see you here, but I wasn’t expecting you…”

Miyasawa grinned and answered, “I had a message from Rei to come by here today and figured I’d see you while I was at it. I’m sure Justinian wasn’t going to actually smoke that…”

“Oh, no, young lady,” he responded cheerfully, “I damn well was going to, but well, it’s not my ship is it now.”

“You’re damn right it isn’t,” Kharon responded coldly, “Why in the six hells are you here anyway?”

He spread his arms wide, the stogie still in one hand, and answered in mildly injured tones, “I cannot visit my fellow Theophanic genis when they come to Endeavour?”

Kharon rolled her eyes. “This isn’t the Thorikto Vorclix, Justinian. You’ve come, you’ve seen, now go. Unless you’ve something actually worth saying.”

Miko cleared her throat. “Ah, if you don’t mind, Justinian seems nice? I don’t mind him being around?”

“Quite right,” he answered, finally putting the cigar away somewhere inside his robes. Kharon pursed her lips and sighed. Eventually she gave a short nod and said brusquely, “I suppose. How the hell are you here, anyway?”

He looked at her impishly and answered, “I took the train, of course.”

She stared daggers at him for that. He chuckled, reached out and plucked a steaming mug of coffee from Iosif’s tray (Miyasawa flinched, having completely missed the valet’s appearance) and continued in straighter tones, “No, though I did ride in a very interesting train-car to the Arsenal port here… but that’s beside the point. After the famprika-ploios picked up the Dystropos, I hitched a ride with _Iim and his crew. I thought it rather an excellent opportunity to experience something new, and it has absolutely been that. The stories I could tell you.”

That earned him another sour look. “So we aren’t the first Theophanics here in Endeavour, then.”

“Don’t give me that look, young lady,” he responded tartly, “You’re still the first Theophanic ship. I’m just one citizen visiting a new land.”

Before she could respond heatedly to the ‘young lady’, Miko jumped in, “And how have you liked it so far?”

He sat back and responded expansively, “It has been superb, Captain Miyasawa! The food! The people! The characters! It has, to borrow a phrase from your parlance, blown my mind!”

Miyasawa grinned, that broad radiant smile that rarely appeared outright on her face, and Kharon had to soften somewhat. If Justinian could make Miko smile like that, perhaps he wasn’t who he used to be. She sighed, gathered her robe around her and primly sat down beside Miko as Justinian continued, “In particular I’ve been absolutely thrilled to engage with your philosophers. The range and breadth of opinions is simply invigorating! Not one of them holds their tongue for my status! Oh, that’s not to say some of them aren’t simply silly, for lack of a better word-- I have no idea what the being who wished all citizens to be given cotton-candy every day hoped to achieve by that, other than a brisk business for the dental surgeons-- but it’s a studied contrast to the intellectual atmosphere of the Empire.”

That was an opportune moment. Kharon interjected, “How exactly do you mean?”

Comfortably within his metier, Justinian took a long sip of his coffee and then the door opened unexpectedly. A blue-haired head poked in-- Kharon recognized her as another Rei, but was unsure which one exactly. Justinian stared, but Miko about fell off her seat, then stood up abruptly and exclaimed, “Hey! I didn’t expect to see you here…”

The Rei nodded quietly and stepped in, quickly but silently closing the doors behind herself (Kharon reflected that she was doing pretty well with her slight figure to swing those three-inch-thick solid hardwood portals). She whispered, “I think I need to leave. Some people are getting quite excited.”

At that Kharon recognized the voice, she was the quiet one that had accompanied Protector Ayanami to the restaurant. She blinked and asked, “Er, how exactly did you get aboard?”

She got a red-eyed stare in response and a quietly worded, “I walked aboard. It wasn’t hard. You left the hatch wide open.”

Miko and Kharon traded glances. There were supposed to be guards at the portals around the clock. If one set of guards had been distracted by the stands set up on the dock below, there would be hell to pay, but she decided not to say anything right now. Carefully, she asked, “Never mind how you got aboard. What have you been doing?”

That brought forth a slight smile from the Rei… or whatever she was, Miko had been vague exactly about that when they talked after their dinner. She answered, “Just wandering. Your engines are really big. A bit inefficient, but the netherspace physics you take advantage of are fascinating. The technognostiki seemed quite surprised to see me there, though.”

Kharon rubbed her face. Miko, picking up on the vibe, asked “You know you’re not really supposed to come aboard a Theophanic ship without asking?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you did, though?” was the response. Miko hesitated and Kharon answered, “The sneaky snek is currently berthed here, and its crew has the freedom of the ship. But unless you’re the helmsperson of that ship, you don’t exactly have that freedom.”

Dimly down the corridor outside, Kharon could hear running footsteps and shouts. The Rei shrugged and remarked, “That doesn’t bother me. He’s a lovely ship, you know. He’s a bit lonely, but he’s got a good heart.”

Loud knocks rang out on the doors, and Kharon stood, crossing her arms. The blue-haired girl blinked and casually said, “I suppose it’s time for me to go. Have a good day, then.”

With a wave she wandered through the doors to Kharon’s quarters before Kharon could say anything. She looked at Miko, who shrugged, and strode over to the door, pulling it open. No Rei. Mariam stuck her head out her bedchamber door and looked inquiringly at her. She blinked and asked, “Did you see one of those blue-haired girls go in here?”

“No ma’am,” was the prompt response. Iosif emerged from the galley with a large tray of finger foods and delicacies, and she directed the same question at him, answered by an expressive shrug. She looked back sharply at Miko, who had the grace to shrug in some embarrassment. The doors to her reception chamber were opened abruptly, and security troopers in class-two warsuits and an officer in a class-three strode in, followed by a twittering technognostiki, and oddly enough, a prelate from the fane.

Kharon took a deep breath and held up her hand, forestalling comments from the crowd of visitors. “She came in here, but she vanished. I’m not sure where she went. Either way, that Endeavourite is… important, as much as any of them are. Consider her to have the freedom of the ship. We spoke and I assume she understands that she was a bit forward to come aboard without permission. Yes, Frater Ihvon, I know she was in engineering poking around. The Endeavourites do it, and don’t try to act like you wouldn’t do the same on their ships. Dismissed.”

The security troopers saluted and filed out. The prelate remained, wringing his hands nervously. Kharon looked at him sharply-- was he sweating? She asked directly, “And you, what’re you here for?”

The cleric began stammering rapidly, and she held up her hand again. “Iosif. Give the vicar something to steady his nerves.”

A drink was quickly pressed into the priest’s hand, and he threw it back with rather more expertise than Miko would have thought. A deep breath, and he blurted out, “The sacred messenger, my Lady. It’s… upset. Er, quite irate, at that.”

Justinian asked sharply, “Messenger? What messenger?”

The priest, Kharon and Miko all jumped-- they’d completely forgotten his presence, and he had drawn up beside Miyasawa. Kharon answered for the cleric, “An angeliforos. It gave me the mission of escorting the expeditionary fleet that found Symmachia and in turn, Endeavour. It has been residing in the fane since.”

She turned back to the unfortunate vicar and told him sharply, “I will be there directly. Go and tell it that I am coming. Theoua willing, we shall calm it.”

The vicar paled, but he bowed deeply and murmured, “By your command, my Lady,” and saw himself out the doors with commendable briskness. Justinian cleared his throat and calmly inquired, “May I accompany you? I’ve always been fascinated by the eldila….”

Kharon looked at him keenly and shrugged. “Do as you will. I’m going to get dressed.” She matched action to words, emerging from her bedchamber in record time still pulling her uniform tunic over her shoulders, Iosif trotting after her holding her sash, saber, and other accoutrements. Impatiently she waved him away, but reached out and snagged the saber as he turned away dejected.

She set a good pace striding down the wide corridors until they reached the fane at the heart of the ship, a deck above the monstrous nullspace core chamber. Pausing at the massive doors, she looked about. There were several minor clerics kneeling and praying desperately, some sailors confusedly muttering their prayers as well, and a number of warsuited security troopers standing about rather helplessly. Beside her, Justinian suddenly asked, “Lady Miyasawa? Are you well?”

Kharon looked around abruptly. Miko was standing behind her, among the kneeling supplicants, blinking rapidly. She stepped towards Miko and reached out her hand somewhat awkwardly. “Are you all right?”

Miyasawa answered hesitantly, “I think so. My alert systems are going mad. Whatever’s in there is broadcasting, loudly, on just about every band of the electromagnetic spectrum…”

She heard a gasp from Justinian and the supplicants promptly went into the full proskynesis, laying face down on the floor, arms outstretched. The security troopers echoed them, laying down swiftly despite their armour, as she spun back around and paled.

Thrusting open the gigantic portal doors casually with one hand, the angeliforos In-Asdrubal stood within the doorframe, light warping around its monstrous frame. The thing had grown to a full fifty feet tall! She fell to her knees as the golden light of its fotostefanos blasted forth into life and it roared, Abomination! Where are ye! Face the sacred light of Yperochi-Mitra!

A thump sounded behind her, and she turned her head to look out the edge of her eye. Miko had fallen. The irate angeliforos somehow forgotten, she scrambled to her feet and ran over, reaching out to put her hand on Miko’s face.

She recoiled. Miyasawa was boiling hot. The edges of her hair were beginning to glow, and she recognized the response as the same one that had happened back when they met, when they found out that the Amazo-X world had been destroyed by a Thorikto. Miko had told her later that it was an autonomic defense system, using her hair as a heat radiator. She looked back over her shoulder at the angeliforos and it was raging, but Miko…

“Justinian,” she hissed, “Take Miko. Get her somewhere safe. You, and you, help him. Cover your hands. She’s hot.”

soi Foinix, to his credit, didn’t give her a hard time about it, instead nodding briskly and pulling off his voluminous jacket to protect his hands as the two anthrosasteri Kharon had ordered to assist scurried forward awkwardly on their knees. As they picked Miko up, exclaiming under their breath, Kharon heard her mutter something about “pattern blue! Blood type blue, confirmed!”

But this was no time for that. She swallowed and slowly stood to her feet. The angeliforos had gone back into the fane, and she could hear it stalking about in there. The muttered invocations of those prostrate around her rang in her ears as she strode forward, up tall steps and through the gaping portal.

More chanting within. The fane was empty of worshippers, only clerics cowering near the doorways. The angeliforos stood before the massive stained-glass window depicting the Theouautokratora themselves, clothed in all their majesty. Without turning it murmured, Hail, soi Chelonis. Hast thee come to end me?

Cautiously, she stepped forward, and then understood why there was nobody near it. She felt resistance. Stretching a hand forward, the air rippled in iridescent patterns and seemed to almost solidify before her. She withdrew her hand hastily and cleared her throat. “Great one. All hail the voice of the Theouautokratora. I do not understand what is happening…”

It half-turned and she could feel its baleful gaze, even without eyes in its skull of a face. No. You don’t. We would not be in this place, otherwise.

“What do you mean? You can be anywhere you like on this ship…” she stammered.

Wind rang about the chamber and before she could blink, somehow it shrank to merely eight feet tall and was standing before her, staring into her face. That iridescent light, harder than hull armour, shone between them. It hissed, No! This… chaos! This inutterable morass of noise and cacophony that these barely human things call Endeavour!

Her blood was like to turn to water. If half the things she had heard whispered about these things was true, it could wipe out Megakolymvitis with a thought. She spread her hands and whispered, “I serve Olimitera with my heart and my body. I seek only to serve the Empire. Endeavour is different, true, but they are human and worth knowing…”

It snarled, You only say that because you are fornicating with one of the soulless!

Violet light flared across the chamber, and a crack resounded. The vague background sound of chanting ceased abruptly. Slowly, Kharon came to realize… she had slapped it. Dumbly, it stood there and brought a hand up to its face. The lines upon its body began glowing orange. She gasped and stepped back, then fell to her knees, expecting destruction.

A golden glow built up around the angeliforos, and she clenched her hands at her sides, doing her best not to bring them up before her face, but she screwed her eyes shut as the light grew to incredible brightness. Air grew close about her, as though the atmosphere was stiffening.

The light vanished suddenly, and she cracked one eye. It had vanished. The angeliforos was nowhere to be seen. She looked about the fane. Other than a bent priest, leaning on a stick while he swept a feather-duster over the candlesticks by the altar, there was nothing but other clerics murmuring and starting to stand up from their proskynesis. They gave her a wide berth as she slowly stood, turned and strode out of the fane.

Justinian was in her quarters, holding a cup of tea for Miko on one of the couches. Kharon hastened to her side and sat by her, reaching out cautiously for her hand. Miko took it, and Kharon relaxed slightly to feel that it wasn’t burning hot, just… normal. Miko murmured, “I’m okay.”

“Are you sure?” Kharon responded, “That was so sudden…”

Miko nodded. “I still don’t quite know what happened, but when that… that thing came out of the chapel, my systems overclocked all of a sudden.”

She looked at Kharon and asked slowly, “What… in the world… is that, anyway?”

Justinian spoke before Kharon could. “Their proper name is eldila. An old one, not one most Theophanics know. Ichiego tou Logotypou. Angeliforos. Little is written in Theophanic archives about them, for they are rarely seen individually except at moments of great import. Occasionally, they appear to genia such as Kharon to give them missions directly from Theoua. Other times, they have appeared in the vanguard of the Theophanic armies. Some people think Theoua created them, and certainly they seem to serve Theoua directly, and they accompany the holy Mitra when it travels. Others think they appeared when Theoua was born. I have little opinion on the subject, myself.”

Kharon thought for a moment and then added, “I slapped it.”

Justinian paled behind his beard, and Iosif and Mariam standing at the entrance to the private chambers gasped. There was a long pause, and Miko looked around, confused. Kharon went on, ironically blase, “Either we are in the afterlife and don’t know it, or nothing happened. It went away in a great burst of light.”

Miko thought for a moment and then said, “I think I need to report this to my superiors. Er, sorry, but it may make life a bit more interesting for you.”

The Rei stuck her head out between Isoif and Mariam, who both jerked aside in surprise, and remarked, “Yes. I think that would be best.”

Kharon snapped, “You! Where have you been?”

“The head,” the blue-haired girl responded calmly, “it has a lovely closet. Full of quite nice towels. It was a good place to sit and think.”
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by VX-145 »

Shikinami Naval Arsenal,

"Unit Five, in position," Shinji whispered across the command channel, pushing his Evangelion against the hull of the Megakolymvitis. He checked and rechecked his systems - reactor in the green, shields at one hundred percent, synchronisation holding steady at thirty-three point three-three percent, two knives in the shoulder pylons and twelve rounds in his shotgun. "We're ready to breach."

Behind him, Unit -66 clapped a hand on his shoulder, in the classic pose of soldiers preparing to enter a hostile building - only they were office-block-sized biomechanical war machines about to breach the hangar deck of a city-sized warship. So, just another day at the job, really.

"Unit Five, Unit Negative Sixty-Six, we're activating your black-box systems now. AT Field Dampeners are offline, you can project if necessary. Akko Kagari is on standby with lance charged; you'll have fire support if you need it."

"Understood, Control. Attempting communication now."

He knocked on the hangar door, the Evangelion's armoured fist rapping twice. Slowly, it opened, revealing a hangar full of Theophanic boarding craft, and one Theophanic spacer standing just inside the bay, face-to-face with Shinji's shotgun. Slowly, the spacer put up his hands.

"...can I help you?" he asked.

She had to commend whoever had been piloting the Eva units sent as emergency response; they'd reacted fast and managed to not make things worse. On the other hand, now there was a very tense atmosphere, the kind that made her want to just leave for a bit and find something more interesting to do - but with the ship on alert following all that had happened, that would be impolite. And she was currently wired into Miyasawa, trying to figure out exactly why her implants had gone so haywire, and she got the impression leaving in the middle of that job would be... frowned upon.

"What's the story, doc?" Miyasawa asked, wincing slightly as a file that was probably not meant for public viewing came across the shared link.

The girl thought for a moment. "Old protocols, new implants. They conflict. Easy to patch." The Anti-Angel protocols hadn't been updated in... well over a century, probably, and essentially put the user's implants and other hardware into overdrive - which caused problems with modern, high-performance hardware that could literally melt its way out of the user's body if overclocked. Well, even she could write a patch to fix that, and firmware had never been her strong suit.

"So, what does "Pattern Blue" mean, anyway? Sure seemed to cause a whole lotta commotion." That was from the powerful beareded man, who she was a little uncertain of but seemed friendly enough.

Miyasawa looked at her, uncertain for a second, then explained: "It's... how you detect an Angel, or... things like them."

"And what, pray tell, is an Angel?"

inviolate, untouchable, immutable-

standing tall in the glow of atomic hellfire, just stand at the edge of a ruined building, reach out and touch its mask-

"They are," the girl said, struggling to find a word that would convey the whole totality of everything in her head, "Dangerous."
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

Symmachia Orbit
Endeavour Schoolship Unseen University

“I’m sorry, your name is what?” Stefon asked. It was a honest question, she had been extremely distracted by the wooden chest with what appeared to be a thousand legs underneath, disturbingly close to bare human feet in appearance that hovered behind the man she was speaking to. The scrawny, unkempt fellow in a somewhat tattered robe and a disheveled pointy hat with ‘WIZZARD’ sewn in sequins around its crown sighed.

“Rincewind, ma’am. Just Rincewind,” he repeated in resignation. Then in more anxious tones, “I say, boy, you don’t want to mess with that…”

“Shinji!” Stefon exclaimed in some alarm. The named looked up in startlement from the now-open chest, having decided to take the liberty of examining the interior. He asked, “What? I was just looking…”

She put her hands on her waist and grumbled, “Child, we don’t just go opening people’s luggage without asking. Okay?”

Rincewind shrugged. “It does that. Probably likes the boy.” The chest somehow managed to grin, flashing white wooden teeth around the rim of its lid. Disconcerted, Stefon mustered up her aristocratic training and managed to nod gracefully.

“Duly noted, but Shinji, let’s not bother Mister Rincewind’s… luggage,” she murmured, “If you could direct me to your… Archchancellor?”

“Oh, sure,” Rincewind answered casually, waving his hand in the vague direction of the dining hall of Unseen University, She inclined her head and strode in that direction, Shinji tagging along after her as Rincewind turned towards the next visitor in line.

She emerged into a massive chamber full of people. About a good third of them were Endeavourites of various ages, sizes and forms, but somehow all had some form of robe with stars on. The rest were mostly Theophanics, adults and children both. That niggled at Stefon’s brain for a moment until she placed the thought.

There were Endeavourite children present. She had hardly seen any, other than the, er, Children. But these were… mostly… normal human children. Admittedly there were a gaggle of rather small… ponies? What even did you call pony children? Flying through the rafters, their starry saddle-blankets waving on their backs. A number of them had distractingly large eyes and cartoonish features. A particularly small one was in the form of some large bipedal lizard, running about and roaring at people playfully.

Shinji looked up at her hopefully and she recognized the look. She flicked her hand and nodded, and he exclaimed happily and ran over to a group of children playing with plastic figures of what she supposed were robots. She had a moment of nostalgia and then shook herself. Time to see Archchancellor Ridicully and see what all this school-ship business was about.

Ridicully, at least, was easy enough to find. The man was expounding in the midst of a knot of Theophanic minor genia, some of the pack that she had brought to Symmachia aboard Keravnos. She had no idea what about, but the crowd parted about her as people recognized her and stood aside, bowing, till she faced him, drawing herself to her full height.

“And what do we have here!” he bellowed, opening his arms wide, “Palatine soi Drakon? You honour Unseen University with your presence, so you do!”

“Indeed, and I thank you for it,” she responded mildly. Directness was called for, far more than with the Theophanics-- her short time dealing with the Endeavourites had shown her as much... “But I must admit the purpose of your presence here is lost upon me.”

He blustered for a moment, until he seized a large flagon of ale from a passing by tray (nobody carried the tray, it was simply hovering through the air by means of a pair of small brass wings… and nothing else) and took a massive gulp. Whistle wetted, he cleared his throat and assured her, “We are here to school, of course! We are one of the premium educational institutions of Endeavour! And, I wish to assure you, all Theophanics between ages six and twenty-one are welcome in our classrooms and residence halls!”

“A very generous offer,” she responded lightly, “but what exactly would they learn here?”

Ridicule smiled toothily at her with eyes rather more discerning than she had initially assumed. “They would learn quite a bit, my dear lady. And then they would learn how not to use any of it.”

She frowned. That made absolutely no sense. But any response was forestalled by a clamor of raised voices at one side of the banquet hall, and she looked. The voices were Theophanic, and now some Endeavourites were making themselves heard. Well, shit.

Rapidly her long legs brought her to the conflict. A stout Theophanic noblewoman-- she cast about her mind for the name and brought up the vague recollection of one Ethelreda soi Vlakas-- was clutching her child, a rather flabby-looking boy, and looking daggers at another Theophanic she didn’t know. Therefore, he couldn’t be genia.

Before she could speak, Ridicully snapped, “And what’s going on ‘ere now?”

soi Vlakas spoke first, shrilly, “These proletarians shouldn’t be allowed aboard this ship! I was given to understand that the finest education was available here! They don’t need it!”

Stefon felt the mood of the room shift. The Theophanic genia didn’t notice or didn’t care to notice that the Endeavourites were starting to stare angrily at them. The few Theophanic civilians that had appeared at this event were trying to melt back into the crowd; the Endeavourites, for the most part, let them, focusing their ire on the nobles.

Ridicully cleared his throat loudly. “Madam. Unseen University, and indeed every Endeavourite school-ship, is freely available to all that wish to learn. Regardless of social position, financial position, or indeed any position whatsoever. Was that not clear?”

The civilian looked at Stefon. He was a tall older man, somewhat grizzled, with a teenage daughter standing at his side. Both were neatly clad in technognostiki lay robes. She inclined her hand at him and asked, “Would you like to make a statement?”

“I might, actually, my Lady,” he responded, “I was given to understand that when Endeavourites say ‘everybody’, they do in fact mean every and any person. I believe my daughter could learn much here from them, to serve the Empire. Is that a problem?”

“Not at all,” she answered him. She stared at Ethelreda, who rose to the bait. “What do you mean, you… you peasant?”

Fuck. “That will be quite enough of that!” Stefon snapped. She strode forward until she was looming over Ethelreda and crossed her arms tightly. “You will shut up, before I have your ungrateful arse deported back to the Empire. Under the circumstances, I recommend you see yourself to the nearest docking port occupied by a Theophanic vessel, swiftly.”

The woman began blustering, but a sharp look from Stefon shut her up. She huffed and began striding towards the massive doors at one side of the hall, but Stefon called, “And leave the boy!”

“Excuse me! Where I go, he goes,” she replied shrilly. Stefon cast a cold eye upon her and answered frostily, “Perhaps it’s time your child learned from someone else.”

Ethelreda began opening her mouth and Stefon advanced upon her briefly. “I swear. If you don’t stop arguing and get the hell out of here, I will turn the damn planet back around and drop you off in the Empire!”

The genis woman paled and hustled out of the room. Stefon looked around, gazing over the simultaneously amazed and appalled genia and the amazed but delighted Endeavourites. “That goes for any of you. If you cannot tolerate the notion of your child learning alongside children that are not genia, you may leave. Swiftly. Otherwise, I will hear not one word more about it.”

She turned towards Ridicully and sketched a half-bow. “My apologies if I overstepped by giving orders aboard your craft, Archchancellor.”

Ridicully saluted her with his flagon and cheerfully responded, “If you’re going to take care of business like that, I think we’re okay!”

With that, the party resumed. Looking around, Stefon saw Shinji, who flashed her a grin and a thumbs up. Then he pointed, drawing her attention to the Vlakas child who had dared to draw near her, perhaps looking for reassurance. He timidly looked up and mumbled; she leaned in and asked quietly, "What was that?"

"Ma'am. Can you... turn the planet around?" he asked, eyes full of wonder. She looked at him and responded lightly, "I don't know, but let's not find out, hmmm?"
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by VX-145 »

Ten Raab, Primary Landing Fields

The gigantic ground-vehicle hummed smoothly to a halt by the brown-hulled Bebop. Gort’s head popped out of a hatch and then back in, and the flamboyantly robed Fylachto guards buzzed among themselves as they assumed positions around the coach. Bebop’s hatch eventually creaked open and its landing ramp extended. An outrageously haired face peeked out around the edge of the door and then stuck itself out all the way.

“Er, ahoy there!” Captain Cotto blurted out with a nervous wave. A broad section of the ground-coach’s side cracked open and smoothly slid back, and Ildemar soi Fylachto stepped out, accompanied by Basil soi Foinix. Cotto blinked. Ildemar was wearing decadently long robes over a flowing pair of wide-legged trews gathered tightly at the ankles, a sharply toned body left bare above the waist under the robes. Said robes were an eye-watering shade of fluorescent green streaked with pink, and the trews were a sequined silver silk.

Basil was no less flamboyant, a proud dark green doublet over lime-green pantaloons, puffed out almost to the width of his shoulders and slashed with scarlet. A short yellow cape hung from his shoulders, a puce hat perched upon his brown-tinted-with-ginger curls, and broad-toed purple shoes almost completed his ensemble. What actually completed it were the intricately hilted rapier and matching dagger hanging from his belt, clad in violet leather sheaths with mother-of-pearl furniture.

Caterina Sforza stepped to Cotto’s side at the hatch and stared herself. Under her breath she whispered to Cotto, “This is the lot we’re meant to be with today?”

He raised a bold eyebrow and whispered back, “Face it, Caterina. Besides those two, we’ll stand out less!”

She had to grant him that. She sighed, put her shoulders back, Cotto held out his hand to indicate she should go ahead down the ramp, and she stepped regally downward. To their credit, Ildemar and Basil laid down very pretty bows, Basil flourishing his hat even.

Ildemar straightened up and smoothly scooped up her hand before she realized it, bringing it up to his face. “Ah, my lady! Even more lovely in this morning’s sunshine, more precious than a flower upon the vine--”

“Thank you very much, that’ll be quite enough of that,” she snapped and retrieved her hand. Gathering her skirts about her, she stepped quickly into the cavernous interior of the ground-coach, and looked about in some disbelief at how plush it was. Vir Cotto appeared to agree, if his eyebrows and murmured ‘fancy that’ were any indication as he entered. It was big enough inside that even Ildemar’s voluminous robes didn’t inconvenience anybody greatly.

Cotto cleared his throat loudly as the groundcoach began moving, its engine inaudible to Caterina’s sharp ears, and he asked, “So, what’s today’s itinerary? I would very much like to see your Lord Matthau, if it’s possible…”

Ildemar, his mouth full of some fancy fruit juice (wine? Sangria? Caterina couldn’t tell) that Basil was serving himself a goblet of as well, waved his hand dismissively. Basil laughed and interpreted the gesture, “Don’t worry about that. Cousin Matthau is a very busy man. No, no, you are in our very capable hands today!”

Caterina traded glances with Cotto. He shrugged expressively, and she rubbed her forehead and sighed. A thought struck her and she spoke up, “I wonder.”

Across from her, Ildemar pricked up his sculpted eyebrows and asked in velvet tones, “What would that be, my dear Caterina?”

She powerfully suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and calmly asked, “Would it be possible to visit, say, a school? We are very interested in seeing how all levels of your society function.”

Basil and Ildemar exchanged blank looks and then shrugged in unison. “I suppose we could, but why?” Basil asked.

Thankfully before she had to say anything rude, Cotto interjected, “As my esteemed shipmate stated, we’d love to see how your wonderful Empire treats all its people, from the tops of your hive towers to the basements. We would very much appreciate your assistance in this, sirs, if it be not too bold of us to ask?”

Caterina decided to fall upon her sword. “What were you hoping to do with us? If I may ask.”

A distinct look of relief passed over Basil’s face, quickly masked behind a professionally smooth expression as he responded swiftly and lightly, “Why, shopping, of course! The emporia of ten Raab are renowned throughout the Empire!”

Shopping. Was that of any use? Actually, thinking about it… “Very well. We shall to the stores, and then if you could do us the favor of conveying Captain Cotto to Lord soi Drakon, I would appreciate transportation into the lower strata of the hive. Is that agreeable, my lords?”

Ildemar relaxed back into his seat. “Of course. Basil, where should we take them to first?”

School Ship Oorai, Symmachia

"-so, anyway, that's basically the gist of who Rei here is," Akari finished explaning for the eighth time today alone. It turned out the Theophanic children had an awful lot of questions - well, mostly the same question, just repeated and sometimes reworded. "Was that everything?"

"If it's not, it'll have to wait until after class!" Twilight stepped into the classroom, holding the door open ahead of her with that strange purple magic of hers. "I know you're all excited, and so am I! I'm so glad to have so many new faces here in the classroom, and no-one even had to be threatened with being turned into a frog yesterday! So, this morning's class is Starship Design and Engineering, and we'll move on to Form Creation this afternoon." Rei thought that was a bit of a harsh schedule for the new children, and some of the Theophanics certainly thought so if their faces were any indication. Twilight continued, hastily: "Don't worry, we'll only cover the very basics today!"

Which meant the building blocks. Rei suppressed a sigh; she'd just graduated from those, and now she was going back? Sure enough, Twilight floated the familiar collection of small yellow cubes out of the cupboard next to her desk. "These," she said, "Are all the basic components a starship might need - from mini control seats all the way to reactors and thrusters! Neat, huh? Of course, you can't actually sit in them, they're way too small, but you can build a ship that actually flies! Today, to make things a little less boring for the kids who've done this already, I'll group you up - and even throw in some of the Advanced set as well!"

Rei and Akari ended up paired with a couple of Theophanics; Rakel soi Drakon (who explained she was from a very distant branch of the family) and Vitali, son of a farmer; each had, thankfully, already had the explanation as to why there were so many Reis (and others) around, so introductions were simple for once. A box containing the components lowered itself onto the table, wreathed in purple, and there was an awkward moment before Rakel asked: "So... what do we do?"

There was a sheet of instructions with the box, but the only thing it said was "Build a ship! Any ship!", which wasn't entirely helpful. Perhaps that was the point? Rei took the little yellow cubes out of the box and laid them on the table, carefully separating them by function. "I think," she said, "We are to tell you how these work, and then build a ship together."

"It's really simple, once you get the hang of it!" Akari took over, picking up a reactor cube and a control cube. "Just stick this part, into this part, and the two are connected. They'll pass power, fuel and information between them. Every ship's going to need fuel, power, thrust and control, and then whatever bits you want to add to it. Let's see... we've got cargo boxes, mining drills, passenger compartments, anti-gravity modules, and lasers." The lasers being their Advanced component, red cubes instead of yellow.

Rei immediately reached out and attached the anti-gravity module to the fledgling ship; it would be a pain to balance the power load, but it was even more of a pain to find space for thrusters on each face of the ship. Hestiantly, Vitali put one of the mining drills on the front of the little ship, and from there the ice was broken. Rei and Akari took turns explaning how bits worked, while the two Theophanics took the lead in actually building the ship; within twenty minutes, they had a decent mining ship built. Most of the other groups had similar progress; one was already decorating their model ship, the cubes softening and flowing to make curved hull pieces, while a couple of the slower groups were being mentored by Twilight Sparkle directly.

"How do we do that?" Rakel asked, pointing at the group decorating their ship.

"Do you both have Endeavour phones?" Akari asked, to two nods and two phones being produced. "Okay, so type in "BCDS" and select the icon that looks like one of these cubes..."

[OOC:The first section of this post is Elheru's, I'm just posting it to keep that thread moving.]
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Rogue 9 »

Crossroads Inc. wrote: 2021-05-02 10:09pm“To you Captain Orbas-Nog of the Nashtar Republic Ship Altair, I am High Bishop Macon of the Legacy of Skoth, speaking as overseer of the vessel. I hear your words and offer our respect and gratitude at your arrival in these times and understand the necessity of keeping ready forces of defense and security. We shall follow your guidance closely to the final destination before allowing the representatives of the UISC to join you.” Macon finished slowly, and then, in response to emotions he had not felt in an age he could not remember, added:
“I am truly sorry of the loss of your kinsmen, End Communication.”
"Your condolences are appreciated, High Bishop. Altair out."

As the communication was cut, Captain Orbas-Nog turned to his bridge crew. "Helm, maintain close escort on the Skothian shuttle."

Helios III Orbital Lanes
Later That Day

The Skothian shuttle and its escorts crossed the orbit of Tyche some hours later without incident. Transferring escort to the Intrepid's battlegroup, the Altair and Regulus peeled off to return to patrol duty.

Howson Building, Nashtari State Department

Undersecretary Krraskil and his delegation prepared to receive the Sector mission in the landing pad lobby. The delegation was primarily composed of Ronoghan and Zambaran diplomats, with the requisite human representation and one Ernari functionary, Ssilsk, hailing from the small Ernari population of the Oro system. This was intended to be a brief reception before escorting the visiting delegation to the temporary embassy set aside for them - a more permanent facility to the Sector's specifications would be rapidly procured later once their needs were ascertained. An audience with the Secretary of State and President would wait until a formal agenda was on the table.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by VX-145 »

Diplomatic Convoy, on approach to Nashtar Nebula

"And you're absolutely sure they knyow we're coming?" 'Lucky' Nyallone asked, her sub-machine gun resting on one shoulder. "We're nyot going to be greeted by a wall of railgun fire, are we?"

"Neither the Nashtari nor the Ernarn will open fire without provocation," Captain Vader of the Endeavour boomed. "And our credentials were transmitted weeks ago. Is your ship presentable?"

'Lucky' cast about the diplomatic reception lounge, taking in the crumpled beer cans, empty takeaway containers and small distillery in the corner. Well, it wasn't like the others could see any of that. "You bet it is!" she said, one thumb up. "We're ready to descend when you are!"

Her counterpart to the Ernarn, Kaworu, nodded, electing not to speak.

"Very well," Vader said. "All ships, begin hyperspace descent on my mark..."

There was the usual feeling of being pulled downwards, and suddenly the convoy was in realspace; the cruiser and two destroyers forming a protective triangle around the two unarmed ships. They'd chosen an empty system near the "mouth" of the nebula; one not claimed by any polity, so far as their maps showed. After making sure no threats were in the area, the convoy's cruiser - the Komi Shoko - began transmitting*:

"Attention Ernarn and Nashtar Republic. This is Endeavour diplomatic convoy "Big Stick". In accordance with prior communication, please provide approach vectors into your territories for one diplomatic vessel and one destroyer apiece. Message repeats..."**

Jane's Fighting Ships of the Galaxy, 350 AW Edition

Entry 2: The Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson-class Carrier.
Two in service. Approximate volume, 35, 000, 000m3.

While the concept of a dedicated carrier is nothing new, the idea failed to gain traction in Protectorate design circles until recently. The most commonly-cited reasons for this are the vulnerability of such a specialised design in the close quarters of Endeavour space and the ease with which other vessels could carry both piloted and drone small craft. However, the increasing size of fighter craft and the knowledge that potential enemy systems might not be as crowded as Endeavour led to a perceived need for at least some dedicated carrier capacity, and the old Nostalgia-class galleons had become too small to fill the need.

The design was finalised in 335 AW, with the ships being completed in 340 AW to coincide with the completion of the Line Fleet program. As designed, they were to carry 72 AW-series fighters, but this was increased to 144; this allowed half the ships to be built for the same capacity; this, in turn, freed up dock space for the refitting of Kitsune-class cruisers to their modern loadout.

Aside from their piloted fighter wings, each ship carries a full production system for ND-33 Network Drone Fighters with a total production rate of one fighter per minute per carrier under optimal conditions. They were built with twelve twin-barrelled dual purpose hypervelocity cannon turrets, one hundred and eight single-barreled laser cannon turrets and one thousand, six hundred and thirty-eight point defence laser plates. Sensor coverage and fire control are provided by four omni-spectrum arrays, four gravitational arrays and four EM-spectrum arrays, along with standard visual targetting backups. An additional Type-3 sensor system has been installed on both ships. Protection is provided primarily by shield systems, rated at the same capacity as a cs,b-class battleship, with the ship's outer hull made of one metre of standard armour plate; the twin citadels on each ship provide an extra metre apiece. Main propulsion is provided by two banks of sixteen C-332 thrusters, with the standard half-size translation/reverse fit. Hyperdrive systems comprise of two generators and four turbines, fed by the design's twin main reactors.

Both ships have ample space for high-level coordination facilities, and often serve as coordination ships during exercises. Much like the rest of the fleet, neither has seen combat action.

Current ships of the class:

BF-403, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: The lead ship of the class, named after an Old Earth hero of some renown. Little deviation from the specifications above, aside from the fitting of a single heavy turbolaser cannon to the ship's ventral surface; this was originally fitted for armour testing purposes, the D"TR"Js having ample reactor capacity, but has been retained. Built from 336, launched in 340.

BF-404, Ship Name Not Found: Recently refitted to be able to carry four squadrons of BL-1 "Blade" long-range fighter-bombers on its deck; this has not affected internal capacity, but allows the ship to extend the range of BL-1 squadrons. The hypervelocity cannon turrets have been removed to make room for this change, but extra laser plates and turrets have been fitted.

*To the appropriate entities.
**A small historical note; this procedure was made up entirely ad hoc by the convoy on its approach, due to the general lack of established conventions.
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

Babylon 5 Hab, Endeavour Fringe Space

John Sheridan picked himself up off the floor of the bridge and touched his forehead gingerly. Blood was on his fingertips when he took his hand away. He sighed and pushed himself up to his feet, grabbing a console and pressing a button on it. For a moment he paused, an expression of disbelief on his face, and then snapped, “Captain to Station Entire. All crew and civilians, stand by to repel boarders!”

The day had started out so well. A lovely breakfast with Delenn (admittedly, Delenn was a Pony… Minbari style with a lovely bone plate on her head, but still, he wasn’t going to be picky), adjudicating the latest feud between G’Kar and Londo, a thrilling meeting discussing how the latest prospectors and other assorted explorers weren’t finding much but the usual rocks out here these days. Some talk about possibly holding a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine convention here, purely to troll the Trekkies.

And then that huge ship had popped out right by the station, with a hyperdrive signature like an Amazo-X ship… but matching no known factory-ship configuration and not answering any hails on Amazo-X frequencies. Instead, it had slowly spewed out craft-- first a couple of blocky elongated ships with a flotilla of smaller, ugly but quick lighter ships attached to their hulls, and a cloud of tiny fighters like flies lifted off the hulls of all of them.

That was enough to raise his hackles, and he’d ordered the blast doors and external shutters closed, all civilians to their quarters or the nearest bunker, and yellow alert. They switched to hailing in the open, and finally got a response.

“Ni estas Kine.
Ni estas la Brutaro
Ni estas la Ĉashundoj de la dio BEZO
Ni estas la Infanoj de la Dio LON
Ni estas Yrch kaj ni estas via fino.”

The lines, delivered in a deeply guttural chant, rang across the airwaves, silencing all com chatter on the station. Just in case, he raised the alert level to red, sent all hands to combat positions, and trained all the weapons on the station’s nearest face on the fleet. The last order he gave was to launch the Starfuries-- Alpha, Eta and Gamma squadrons.

Then they had fired a massive volley that rocked the station, the Starfuries had been mobbed by the tiny fighters, and the ships had closed while maintaining heavy fire. That last salvo had knocked down their shields, and the half of the bridge display that still worked showed Sheridan that the hostiles were launching the smaller craft… presumably to board.

He shouted across the bridge, “Does anybody have any kind of ETA on backup?!”

A rather bedraggled officer, holding an injured arm close, shouted back, “Nothing yet! We flashed the Mayday right before they started firing, but they took out the long range tower in the first salvo!”

“Damn it!” Sheridan ground out, “I knew it was a mistake to have the shields hug the hull that closely! Have you contacted… shit, never mind. The Minbari don’t have a fleet, do they?”

Ivanova yanked the bridge doors open and called within, having caught the tail end of that conversation, “They only have a Whitestar and it’s not finished building. We don’t have enough Narn and Centauri to matter. Space Spike said he’s on his way, but, well, you know Spike, he’s a little bit space-crazy…”

Sheridan grimaced. Spike was a prospector with a particularly big ship… that was more or less literally held together with baling wire, duct tape and spit. It might do for evacuating the civilians… if one of these Yrch didn’t put on a pressure suit and kick the hull in.

Well, he had to hope that the mayday reached the nearest Endeavour naval flotilla in short order. There had been one passing through this sector, based on recent chatter on the local shortwaves, but was it nearby now was the question on his mind.

That mind was occupied by other things quickly enough. The station’s hull shook with metallic clangs, quickly followed by deep vibrations-- plasma cutters. He traded looks with Ivanova, and she nodded slowly. Sheridan raised a hand to his mouth, the small comm stuck on the back of his hand blinking.

“Sheridan to Babylon Five. Activate.”

Deep within the station, sparks arced within the Brown Sector, Babylon 5’s industrial zone. Tools and equipment laid strewn about, the workers having dropped them in their rush to safety. A massive section of hull clanged outward, and past the glowing cut void-armoured figures rushed outward, deploying into a rough perimeter. From within the boarding-craft emerged a tall figure in a blank-faced crested helmet, spikes extending outward from its mandibular region. With a swift stroke of its hand, the boarders began advancing.

Suddenly, they stopped, hissing to each other. A tall, bulky figure, clad in flowing robes, with a strange tubular helmet on top, was standing there staring at them. The officer strode up to face off with it, but said nothing.

The avalanche has started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

The voice came from nowhere. The Yrch officer snarled deeply within his pressure-suit and pointed with a long, jagged blade at the strange figure. His men leveled their weapons and began advancing upon it slowly….

Before they could do anything, it vanished. So did the rest of the station. They were hovering in deep space above the massive asteroid the station had been parked upon. The troopers began screaming, some firing randomly into the blackness. The officer snarled and shouted, waving his blade, but before they could react again, matter flowed and materialized about them.

Some crashed down from a great height. One struggled, clad neck-deep in the stone floor that the Yrch stood upon. Breath sounding noisily through his open atmospheric vents, the Yrch officer stood up and looked about what appeared to be the bowels of an ancient stone fortification. He stiffened as low murmurs began reverberating from within. A metallic clatter began sounding, as though something were advancing towards them. Harshly, he attempted to get his men in order… and then he felt a cold finger. Inside his suit, upon his neck.

The officer turned sharply, screaming in rage and swinging its blade… only to gut one of his soldiers. The unfortunate trooper stared at him, grabbed the blade and collapsed, tearing it out of the officer’s hand. He goggled, and then a great tentacle of steel wrapped itself around his waist and yanked him backwards hard.

He struggled to his feet, and finally saw humans. That was the last thing he saw before a fusillade of gunfire cut him down.

“I gotta say, there’s nothing like a good blaster on your hip,” cracked Ivanova. Franklin rolled his eyes as he went to double-check that the Yrch was dead. Ivanova shrugged, twirled the DL-44 and holstered it in a smooth movement as the other crewmen went to kick the bodies and drag them away.

Across the hab, the same scene in different variations was happening. Yrch would make ingress, the Vorlon would be there and say something appropriately cryptic, and then aided by careful manipulation of the station’s gravity plates, the internal holo systems, fed by the 20th century’s best minds in horror, wreaked havoc upon the boarders. By the time it was done, the boarders were wrung out and shell-shocked, easy prey for the otherwise outnumbered station crew, many of whom had set aside the otherwise appropriate but unfortunately tiny PPG pistols for favoured weapons like Ivanova’s blaster.

As Sheridan’s section of crewmen mopped up, quite literally in Private Second Class Vanner’s case, his com chirped and he lifted the plaque stuck on the back of his hand to his face. “Sheridan here. Go ahead.”

“This is Lennier on the command deck. The smaller ships are retrieving their landing-craft, but we read multiple target paints. Brace for impact.”

Before he was finished, the great bulk of the station vibrated under Sheridan’s feet, and he cursed under his breath. He was lifting the com to his face again when Lennier’s voice exclaimed, “Stand by!

The link buzzed with an external link being made, and a familiar voice rang out. “Babylon Five, this is the Haruhi Suzumiya. You called?

Haruhi! Good timing!” Sheridan exclaimed, “I say, can you see off these problematic house-guests for us?”

Our pleasure!” responded the voice, Yuki Nagato no less. He grinned, remembering some late-night antics with her and the Haruhi plural captaincy, and rushed up to Command and Control, where he was able to see the somewhat battered-looking Yrch carrier vanish into hyperspace, the wreckage of two of the cruiser-sized ships floating behind it. A flotilla of Endeavour cruisers closed in with the station, ready to render assistance.

Sheridan breathed for what felt like the first time in hours, but had probably only been a half-hour or so. The holographic form of Kosh materialized beside him, and he turned to it. “Prepare to link with the Naruto, Haruhi and never! for crew transfer and autologi connections. We’re going to need some heavy-duty fabbing for a while.” To Ivanova, who had just walked on the bridge, “Let’s see if we managed to round up a few live ones. We need some answers.”

Earlier in the Day, Megakolymvitis

Kharon double-timed her way onto the bridge. “Speak to me!” she snapped to nobody in particular, and Protos Alessia responded. “Kapetanios. We are currently being… er… I’m not sure if ‘boarded’ is the right word, but certainly we are being investigated, by, well, either the Endeavourites have absurdly huge automata or warsuits. Either way. See for yourself.”

The first officer indicated the bridge ologramma, and Kharon had to blink. Alessia wasn’t kidding. There were two weirdly elongated humanoid figures on the chelonian hull of Megakolymvitis, one of them dangling upside-down to peer inside the primary hangar bay. Each figure was, unless the scale was somehow distorted on the ologramma, no less than around a hundred metres tall.

But in addition to that, several Endeavourite warships had appeared within the Arsenal docks. They weren’t quite aiming their guns at her ship… but they were on edge, if the red outlines around them indicating the likely flow of their energy outputs to weapons, engines and aspis meant anything. On the dock structures themselves milled a mix of what she recognized vaguely as Endeavourite soldiers, mecha of various forms flying about, and military-looking vehicles drawing up to disgorge more armed units.

She cleared her throat and carefully sat down on the command throne. “Comms. A channel to Endeavour Control, please.”

At the comms officer’s gesture, she spoke. “Megakolymvitis to Control. Do you read me?”

This is Control,” spoke a much more businesslike voice than she had become accustomed to, “Please verify that your ship is secure and not carrying anything that will endanger Endeavour.

She traded confused looks with Alessia, but she was starting to form some idea of what was going on. She cautiously answered Control, “I verify that we have brought nothing that will endanger your nation nor its peoples. There may, however, be a misunderstanding about the nature of a being that was aboard this ship. It appears to have left, and should present no danger to Endeavour. You may instruct your units to remove themselves to a reasonable distance.”

Hmm. Mega, not sure we can-- what? Oh. Er, Mega, Ayanami wants to talk to you.

The Sovereign Protector of Endeavour. Kharon sighed. “Go ahead.”

Kharon. Is it safe? Can we talk?” came Ayanami’s voice from the communicator. Kharon looked around the bridge and rubbed her face. “Yes, I suppose it is. You may come aboard at your convenience. Bring anybody you need to if it helps you feel better.”

I’ll do that. Thank you.” The link cut out abruptly, without the cheerful sign-offs she had gotten used to from Control.

Ayanami was prompt. She must have been either with the crowd of troops on the docks or en route, as only a few minutes passed before she arrived. Just enough time for Kharon to double-time (she was going to be in excellent shape by the time all this was over, she reflected, one way or another) from the bridge to the port side gangway.

There, she was greeted by the sight of Ayanami waiting at the foot of the gangway… and about a dozen mecha hovering behind her, the same number of grim-faced humanoid piloted bipedal war-machines standing beside the Protector, and various tanks of assorted forms behind the lot with a great mass of infantry. All of them were well armed. All of them were very obviously not pointing their weapons at Kharon or the Megakolymvitis.

“Er,” she called down the gangplank, “I’ll just have the butler lay on some extra cups of tea and biscuits, shall I?”

Joking aside, the whole bunch did not accompany Ayanami aboard… but at least one of the smaller mecha did wedge itself through the doors, and a decent number of troops escorted the Protector. As they went up to the briefing chamber, many of the troopers broke off to socialize with the Theophanic crew, but Kharon was under no illusions-- they were quite likely directed to subtly dig for information upon what had just happened with the angeliforos, which was what she had concluded the Endeavourites were all in a tizzy about.

By the time they reached the briefing chamber, Ayanami was escorted by a motley few Endeavourites, one in particular riding the mecha, a spider-shaped unit that made Kharon vaguely uneasy. She cleared her throat as they entered the chamber and remarked to Ayanami, “The mecha. Do you mind if it waits outside?”

Ayanami stared at her with the red Rei-type eyes and responded inscrutably, “I don’t. It may, though.”

Kharon blinked and looked at it. The woman riding it jumped off calmly and had apparently caught some of the conversation, as she responded, “Tachikoma 12-B doesn’t mind. He’ll stay outside. This space is a bit small for him anyway.”

At that Ayanami nodded. A tall, burly man with white hair caught back in a ponytail, a massive firearm hanging on his back from a sling and eyes hidden behind some kind of round implants, advanced to the woman’s side and towered above her silently. Kharon nodded and gestured vaguely towards the table and the chairs around it. Iosif already stood at the side of the chamber beside a small cart equipped with a coffee-pot and cups, but she shook her head minutely at him-- this was not the time. He sketched a half-bow and wheeled the cart out.

They pulled out their chairs and sat at the table, a single wide polished slab of Erepian mahogany stretching almost thirty feet long; the party only occupied the very end of it. Kharon cleared her throat, but before she could begin, a younger woman spoke up pertly, “We have to know if the Angel is quite gone! What if it’s like the Eleventh Angel and is just hiding in Mega’s computers?”

Ayanami and Kharon both lifted their eyebrow, but another young woman with her, this one taller and wearing a peculiar half-spectacle item of eyewear continued the thought, “Miho is right. We must ensure the safety of Endeavour. An Angel this close to the heart of our nation would be a catastrophe.”

Kharon seized the pause that followed. “Excuse me. I keep hearing the term ‘Angel’, which seems quite important to you. Can someone explain, please?”

She absolutely did not miss the significant glances that all the Endeavourites very carefully did not send at each other. By now she understood quite well what was going on-- a brisk flurry of messages at each other via the invisible ambience. She sat back and waited. Eventually, Ayanami cleared her throat significantly and turned to face Kharon directly.

“The most succinct explanation,” Ayanami began, “is simply that they are other-worldy entities of great and terrible destructive power.” She reached into a pouch hanging from a belt around her form-fitting plugsuit and extracted a small crystalline object, which upon placing upon the table emitted a small ologramma. Kharon leaned in closer.

It showed a gaunt bipedal figure, its face covered in some sort of strange blank mask… and it was enormous, if those were buildings it was walking through. It lifted a hand in the ologramma, and somehow, it projected a beam of horrible destructive power that ploughed a great gouge through the city. The mask-face turned to face whatever was filming it, the blank eye-holes glowed, and the ologramma turned into static.

Kharon leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms, feeling a chill run down her spine. Ayanami continued carefully, “That happened, to the best of our understanding, before the original colonists of what would become Endeavour left Earth. Our records of that time are extremely fragmentary, to say the least, but we are reasonably certain that this is authentic.”

The man with the eye-implants spoke for the first time, with a suitably deep voice. “Do we need to tell her about Evangelion?”

Miho exclaimed, “Well, since you just said that out aloud!”

Ayanami sighed as Kharon turned an inquisitive eyebrow upon her. She went on, “It’s a long story. I will explain… No, there’s too much. Let me sum up. There was an Old Earth entertainment show called Neon Genesis Evangelion, that featured beings called Angels. Somehow, we don’t know how, this coincided quite well with the appearance of this Angel, many centuries in the future from when Evangelion came out. This has made quite the impression on us by and large. Will that suffice for the moment?”

“It’ll have to,” Kharon stated decisively, “Fair enough, so these Angels are powerful destructive beings. What does this have to do with the excitement that just happened?”

More trading of looks, but the pause was shorter this time. The woman that was riding the spider-mecha looked at Ayanami and received a nod. She leaned over the table and spoke carefully, “So I’m sure you’re aware that we… monitor your ship, at least while it’s in the Arsenal docks.”

Kharon shrugged. “Yes. I assumed you would do as much. Certainly any Theophanic genis worth its salt would if you were berthed on their kypseli landing-fields.”

She received a steady stare for that, but the woman continued. “At about oh-eight-three-four hours local time this morning, approximately a couple of hours ago, our sensors picked up a powerful surge of energy aboard Megakolymvitis. Upon analysis, this energy matched very closely to a configuration we call Pattern Blue. At about the same time, we received an urgent automatic data-burst from Captain Miyasawa’s ambient sensory system, as a number of programmed alerts within her systems were tripped all at once and triggered her autonomic defenses.”

Ayanami took up the thread. “As Major Kusanagi says, we detected Pattern Blue aboard your ship. Pattern Blue is… well, it was first detected when the entity I showed you appeared on Earth. As a result, when we encounter it, it triggers a massive alert across the board for all nearby Endeavour military units.”

Kharon nodded. “Thus the immediate deployment of your forces and the… excitement. Understood.”

A petite young woman sitting besides Miho interjected, “But what’s your side of the tale? What happened to cause that Pattern Blue reading aboard Megakolymvitis?”

That made Kharon muse for a moment. She drummed her fingertips lightly upon the table and then pulled out her handscreen. A few clicks and the briefing ologramma turned itself on, displaying a soft blue glow across the length of the table. A few more clicks of her handscreen, and the ologramma displayed the DidaLexiko entry for ‘angeliforos’.

She gestured to it and remarked, “For those of you that have not downloaded a Theophanic translation program, an angeliforos is an entity that serves Theoua as a messenger and occasionally warrior. Their powers are great in extent, but we do not know any limit for them. Legendarily, they are capable of massive destruction, changing their size-- which I will note I have personally witnessed-- and instantaneous travel from point to point.”

With a pause for effect, she continued, “Would I be wrong to guess that you are all conjecturing that there is some relationship between your Angel and my angeliforos?”

Ayanami answered her promptly. “You would not be wrong.”

Abruptly, all the Endeavourites stiffened, their eyes going momentarily distant. Kharon's senses pricked, and on cue, the intercom chirped. "Bridge to Kapetanios. We are reading Theophanic nullspace translation nearby. Engine profiles suggest a merchant fleet. Please reassure Lady Ayanami that they are harmless, so she can tell the Endeavourites to stand down."

Kharon sighed, pressed a button on her chair arm, and responded, "She can hear you, you know. They'll have heard by now."

"Er... right then, understood, Bridge out."

Official Statement of the Theophanic Empire’s Trade Policy with Endeavour
Office of Ambassador soi Chelonis

The Theophanic Empire is pleased to see the initiation of mutual trade between the nation of Endeavour and the Empire.

In light of the cultural differences between the nation of Endeavour and the Theophanic Empire, the Ambassador soi Chelonis feels that certain advisements are called for.

Perhaps most vitally: it should be known that Endeavour has no formal currency nor economic system, instead relying upon a form of common social credit in which all individuals share freely of resources, energy and crafting, facilitated by their technology and highly individualistic principles. The closest parallel in Theophanic economic science is barter. As a result, there is currently no official exchange rate between Theophanic Imperials and... whatever the Endeavourites are using at the moment.

In light of this, all Theophanic merchants are strongly encouraged to establish a medium of exchange before sale of goods is final. Merchants are advised that the highly anarchistic and individualistic attitude of Endeavour citizens can result in some extremely unconventional media of exchange being utilized. Prudent policy is therefore to request clarification upon available forms of trade goods or currency. Merchants may state a preferred medium before transactions commence, however they should expect to be offered quite literally anything but that.

All Theophanic merchants are also encouraged to be generously communicative with their Endeavourite counterparts in order to discern what they may be able to trade at a good rate of return. Endeavour has few scarcities, and therefore Theophanic merchants are cautioned to not necessarily expect any return whatsoever. This can be avoided to some extent, not guaranteed by the Empire, by simply pursuing the appropriate enquiries.

Unfortunately, the Office of Ambassador soi Chelonis regrets to state that there will be no repatriations or economic assistance from the Empire for any Theophanic merchant that ignores this advice. There will be no exception.

Questions may be directed to the Home Office upon Mitra.

[signed] soi CHELONIS

[scrawled across the bottom in pencil, sloppy Theophanic cursive: "Send a copy of this to apo tenRaab and make it clear she's not going to get her money back on those 2100 tons of amal-rubber. Suggest she see if she can find an Endeavourite interested in making balls or something. Also we are not going to compensate soi Knauf for being paid in two shipping containers full of anime figurines. ~CH"

It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.
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Rogue 9
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Rogue 9 »

VX-145 wrote: 2021-08-02 11:50am"Attention Ernarn and Nashtar Republic. This is Endeavour diplomatic convoy "Big Stick". In accordance with prior communication, please provide approach vectors into your territories for one diplomatic vessel and one destroyer apiece. Message repeats..."**
N-572, Outer Solar Orbit

Some hours later, a trio of Nashtari ships, a light cruiser and two destroyers, emerged from slipspace at the edge of the system and swiftly hailed the Endeavourite flotilla.

Bridge, NRS Unbroken

"Conn, Comms. Communications link established to the Endeavour flotilla. You're on, sir."

"Comms, Conn, aye." The Zambaran captain thumbed the communications controls in his command chair's arm. "Attention, convoy 'Big Stick.' This is Captain Krrarnsk, commanding NRS Unbroken, Sixth Fleet Nashtar. You've got quite a way to go until Helios, a day's jump or so. We'll get you there via Pinnacle. Stand by for coordinates. Please acknowledge."

The reply came from what was, to some of the human crew, a disturbingly familiar basso voice, delivered by an even more disturbingly familiar figure on the viewer. "This is Captain Darth Vader of the Endeavour. We have received your transmission; the diplomatic vessel At Least We Have Finger Food and this destroyer will be accompanying you."

"Acknowledged, Endeavour Coordinates and course for Pinnacle will follow via databurst transmission. Please stand by. Unbroken out." He cut the feed and turned his attention to the bridge. "Navigation, transmit heading and coordinates for Pinnacle Base to the Endeavour flotilla. Helm, come to 315 and spin up the slipspace dri... Is there something wrong, Commander?"

Another human not looking right at the XO probably would have missed it, but Zambaran senses were more fine tuned than that. Commander Renshaw gave it up as a bad job and let out a bark of laughter. "Sorry sir. But Darth Vader?" At that, the lieutenant overseeing Ops barely suppressed a snort of amusement.

"I'm sorry, Commander, is the name vulgar? I don't recognize anything wrong with it."

"No, not vulgar sir. Darth Vader is the name of the villain of a video story dating from old Earth. It's just odd."

"Hmmm. We'll discuss it later. For now I need order on my bridge," the captain replied. Crewmen who had been listening in rapidly turned back to their stations, though at least the helmsman had executed his orders. The bridge fell back into the usual cadence of reports and orders, and soon the squadron's slipspace drives tore holes in the fabric of space-time at the bows of the ships that collapsed behind them as they passed through. Endeavour's FTL drives worked along a different principle, but the coordinate system was the same - or at least that was the hope.

Officers' Mess, NRS Unbroken, 1850 hours

Captain Krrarnsk sat down at the head of the table with a giant, blue rare steak of one of the native Zambaran animals. The human and Ronoghan officers were well used to the spectacle by now, but even so out of politeness he ate relatively daintily, only tearing off chunks about the size of a human palm.

"So, Renshaw," he said after gulping down a bite. "You said this Darth Vader of fiction was the villain of his saga?"

"Yeah, Krrar," answered the XO, formality dropped here in the privacy of Officers' Country.

"But the Endeavourites are also of old Earth extraction, if I'm not mistaken. Could the name have simply made its way into their culture without the association?"

"It wasn't just the name, boss. The armor, the breathing apparatus, the voice, it was all perfect. My father keeps old recordings of the Star Wars videos, copies of relics of the colonial fleet. It can't be a coincidence."

"Hmm," answered the Zambaran officer after another bite. "I had thought he simply required breathing assistance. Interesting. I wonder if the resemblance is more than just in voice and appearance. What sort of villain was he? I'd like to know what we might be dealing with if it does turn out to be more than that."

"We might have some of the videos in the entertainment database, if you're really curious. For all their abilities at genecraft, though, I doubt the Endeavourites could really replicate Darth Vader entirely."

"I think I am. Even if it does turn out to be a game to them, if this story has persisted throughout your people's crossing of the stars at slower than light, it must be one worth knowing."
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Re: STGOD 2020/21 Main Game

Post by Elheru Aran »

Rann, Theophanic Empire
Morning news broadcast
First Network News

"Hello Rann, this is FNN and here's the breaking news of the day! I'm Soraya 854 apo Rann!"

"And I'm Franzis 230 apo Rann. Just in the latest packet from ten Raab: an Endeavourite flotilla has arrived in-system there. They appear to carry... tourists."

Tape rolls of Endeavourites walking around Raabsprim kypseli, taking pictures and engaging in trade and dining

"That's right, Franzis. They seem to not have been concerned with trade, though they have made energetic purchases of a wide range of goods. Their primary focus appears to be learning about Theophanic culture and getting acquainted with the people."

"I hope they make their way over here shortly. We all know Rann has the best food in the Empire, so they should hurry up before those sour soi Drakons ruin their palate!"

Tape rolls of Symmachia colony. Happy Theophanic farmers. Endeavourites fabbing stuff. Large quantities of harvested produce.

"The Endeavourites bring news of Symmachia, the Joint Colony as well. Things are progressing well there, and the Theophanic colony is prospering. They have already had a fruitful harvest of biowheat. Soon, they will be requesting technognostiki assistance in building an orbital harbour in order to start shipping products off-world."

Picture of Kharon soi Chelonis, an official state portrait in full regalia, standing before a depiction of Meagkolymvitis

"Remarkable, isn't it. However, there are some concerned murmurs in certain circles about how long the Palatine of Symmachia, Lady Kharon soi Chelonis, the Ferrywoman, is taking in her visit to Endeavour. Hopefully she will return shortly and resume her responsibilities."

"Meanwhile, her father, Adelig Khouras soi Chelonis, has been having some difficulty in the Epimelitirio on holy Mitra. We understand that he has been unable to secure certain funding guarantees to his Fylachto allies."

Still-picture, insignia of the Epimelitirio, overlaid by a transparency of the soi Drakon arms

"Also in the Epimelitirio, FNN has been given an exclusive source. soi Drakon is having issues with their coalition. While they maintain an effective majority, a number of genia aligned with them have begun talks with each other. To offer illumination, we have invited Kathigitis [Professor] Manolis 644 apo Agrotikma, of Rann Alpha Kollegio."

Older man, distinguished looking, in scholastic robes, appears in pict-window

"Kt. Manolis, thank you for being here."

"Ah, er, you're wel--"

"What can you tell us about this situation in the Epimelitirio?"

"Well, it's fascinating. You see, in 1583, soi Hapax--"

"Can you sum that up, Kathigitis?"

"Er, I'll try. Uh, Drakon is strong, but if they lose enough allies, it could potentially mean significant collapse in various sectors of the economy, and if you'll pick up a volume of my book--"

"Thank you very much for your time, Kathigitis. We appreciate it."

"Now, for the weather..."

Republic of Nashtar
Helios System

A gas giant, clothed in dusky red and yellow swirls, flowed placidly through the void, its moons slowly revolving around it. Twinkling lights on a number of those moons and around them betrayed the presence of intelligent life, harvesting resources and conducting scientific explorations. Some of those were about to be rudely interrupted.

Some few million kilometres distant, space-- for lack of a better word-- exploded. Startling bursts of lightning tore across the void, and the black vacuum tore asunder to vomit great clouds of octarine nullmatter. Across the electromagnetic spectrum, thunder cracked and powerful bursts of radiation resounded across the system. The devastating wound in reality spat forth a gigantic Magnatrabes battleship of the Theophanic Empire,

More monstrous craft followed it. A pair of Neokastro cruisers, then a truly garaguntan craft, a rough cylinder a couple dozen kilometres long composed of monstrous containers held together in a web of girders, massive engines ringing it at regular intervals. Another of the giant container-vehicles emerged from nullspace, followed by two more cruisers. A last Magnatrabes exited nullspace, and fell into formation with the convoy as the translation concluded.

The clouds of nullmatter dissolved as reality exerted itself upon them and with a final crackle of lightning across the hulls of the Theophanic fleet, space healed itself.

Aboard the first Magnatrabes, Teknitis tou Theouautokratora, Kapetanios Mikhalil Wardan soi Vasilias sat back as reports came in from across the fleet. No major damage. Minimal casualties. In fact, for the great distance they had just covered, it was highly exceptional, and that niggled at him even though he knew it shouldn’t.

No matter. He would let the teknognostiki fysikosi worry about it. Greater things demanded his attention at the moment.

“Comms,” he called, “broadcast in the open spectra, full power, the prolegomenon. Not the standard one, the one Lord soi Hapax had recorded for this. Make it so.”

χαίρε Nashtar, κοιτίδα των αστεριών, είμαστε η Αυτοκρατορία των Θεϊκών Θεοφανείων, ήρθαμε με ειρήνη για να σας φέρουμε τις πολλές ευλογίες της μεγάλης Αυτοκρατορίας και της αγίας Θεούας.

Chaíre Nashtar, koitída ton asterión, eímaste i Aftokratoría ton Theïkón Theofaneíon, írthame me eiríni gia na sas féroume tis pollés evlogíes tis megális Aftokratorías kai tis agías Theoúas.

Hail Nashtar, cradle of the stars. We are the Empire of the Divine Theophany. We have come in peace to bring you the many blessings of the great Empire and holy Theoua.

As Kapetanios soi Vasilias sat back in his command throne, he listened to the bridge chatter. Comms in particular was picking up a lot of alarmed traffic in the open; they were designating those in conjunction with Sensors as civilian signatures for the most part, experiencing distress from the energetic side-effects of Theophanic translation. Unfortunate. Less unfortunate, more interesting, was the presence of a small Endeavourite flotilla in orbit of the third planet, which looked to be the primary world of this system.

Roughly once their clock had struck fifteen minutes since translation, a sensors officer shouted and the bridge lights switched to red. “Multiple translations, danger close!”

“Belay that! Condition beta!” snapped soi Vasilias. The lights reverted to a warm yellow, and he continued, “All hands will stand to and stand by. Comms, keep all spectra open. I expect they’ll be asking us our business here any time now.”

Bridge, NRS Intrepid

“Flag, Sensors! Multiple massive EMP events outside the orbit of Helios VI, we are…” The Ronoghan officer in charge of the sensor arrays took in a sharp breath. “It is an FTL transition, Admiral, we are reading multiple extremely large vessels in the outer system.”

Admiral Lancaster and Captain Mrrowlskril shared a brief glance, with the latter about to speak when Comms broke in. “Conn, Comms, we’re reading multiple distress signals on the civilian bands. Sudden loss of power, seems some have gone to radio backup, sir.”

The admiral stood. “Comms, Flag. Inform HQ. Send out a broadband warning on the civilian channels, return to port at once and clear the fleet. Sensors, bring up the active arrays to full power, scan the new contacts.”

A pair of ayes answered the orders. From the command bridge, the viewers showed the engines of civilian vessels suddenly flare as they counter-burned their orbits, attempting to drop lower and orbit clear of the carrier before what the experienced orbit pilots knew was coming. Some even made it. The rest suffered electronics scrambling as the domed active scanner and targeting arrays reached maximum output and starting pinging the vastness of space. The carrier’s escorts, on the other hand, shielded against such minor interference, began burning for higher orbit.

“Flag, Comms. Commodore Pressman requests orders.”

“Comms, relay to Dauntless to abort exercises and prepare to intercept the new arrivals if necessary. Weapons tight.” He turned to Captain Mrrowlskril. “Captain, sound general quarters."

The Zambaran nodded and reached for the ship’s address system. “All hands, this is the captain. General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations.”

“Comms, Flag. Open general hails to our visitors. My station.” “Flag, Comms, aye.” One of the ensigns at the comms array worked his station, even as his fellows were busy relaying orders to other ships in the fleet. “You’re on, Admiral.”

“Attention, unknown craft, this is Admiral Philip Lancaster commanding First Fleet, Nashtar. You are in Nashtari sovereign space. State your intentions at once.”

The comms officer played the Nashtari challenge to a silent bridge. Kapetanios soi Vasilias’ lip quirked. “Does anybody have any idea what they said?”

The silence became awkward. He sighed and spoke up, “Comms? Implement the translation software the Endeavourites supplied us and replay the message. Prepare to transmit response once it’s over.”

--this is Admiral Philip Lancaster commanding First Fleet, Nashtar. You are in Nashtari sovereign space. State your intentions at once.

“Charming,” soi Vasilias murmured, then raised his voice, “Comms. Response from mark. Mark. Hail, lord Admiral. We are the Theophanic Empire Embassy Fleet soi Hapax. We bear the Imperial Ambassador appointed to the Republic of Nashtar and additionally, convey two mercantile barques’ worth of goods and materiel to initiate trade relations. Kapetanios Lordos Mikhalil Wardan Ihvon, Earl Dakon, Princip of the House of the Aurelian Moon, Master of the Teknitis, Genis soi Vasilias, at your service. End message. Advise the fleet, run out banners.”

As the message was transmitted, from narrow ports on the sides of each ship emerged huge strips of wire-reinforced fabric, induced to wave gently in the vacuum with mild electromagnetic fields. Theophanic insignia stood proud upon each banner, the ships resplendent in their parade dress.

Bridge, NRS Intrepid

… “Are they serious?”

Commander Gregor, that will do,” snapped Captain Mrrowlskril to his executive officer, though privately he shared the sentiment.

Admiral Lancaster had blessedly cut the broadcast while waiting for a reply. "I'm certain we weren't expecting this. There is no way State got their wires this crossed. Comms, Flag. Call the Minister of State's office, priority one, apprise them of the situation."

On the Teknitis’ bridge, soi Vasilias sat back in his throne and issued a last order. “Inform my lord soi Hapax that we are communicating with Nashtari forces. We seem to have put them out somewhat. Standing by.”

OOC: presumably the Nashtari State Department is going to try and figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, the Theophanics are breaking out the deck of cards and laying odds on how long they'll have to wait...
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.
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