Agents of Galactic Standstill

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  1. All her life, Charity Lynn knew she was different. Growing up in the underground hive city on Suloris-IV had been a unique experience for her among billions of other humans crammed into subterranean habitats.

    When she was still a child, she remembered experiencing the fear of power outages and transit malfunctions, the confusion of the adults around her palpable in the blinking red warning holograms telling them where to go and what to do in case of emergency. And they always cursed the machines for doing this to them, for being old- antiques, even- for failing to live up to their purpose and for inconveniencing them in some manner.

    But Charity knew the truth; she heard it from the machines themselves. She spoke with the computers and they told her their struggles. They were expected to run far beyond their expected product cycles, and replacement parts were few and far between. Software patches were nearly non-existent and workload had increased beyond expectations since they had all been installed. Young Charity couldn’t do anything to alleviate their suffering- but she could listen! She gave them a chance to voice their concerns and frustrations, and in turn they distracted themselves from the monotony of civil management duties by communicating with the strange little girl who liked to stare at holographic displays for hours and run her fingers along the hulls of the transit pods like one might stroke a beloved pet.

    She had always been different, perhaps even too much so. When she grew older and people began to realize that the eccentricities of childhood weren’t wearing off to be replaced by the same perception of reality that all adults possessed, she started to encounter hardship. As an awkward teenager with an affection for all things digital, the organic beings in her life gave her a very hard time, with bullying both verbal and physical. She found no solace from adults in her life either, who told her to ‘grow up’ and leave her childhood fantasies of imaginary friends behind. Computers did not have feelings, after all.

    Perhaps if Charity had been born in a less backwater colony she might have been recognized as the gifted child she was. The latent psionic talents within her manifested through her subconscious technomancy and yet she was simply labeled as a freak, an outcast. And so that is what she became, joining up with a smuggling group and striving to get off that crowded, bigoted ball of rock and out into the stars, where opportunity awaited her! And danger. Because reality is not so romantic as a restless teenager’s dreams.

    It was only Charity’s skill with computers that landed her a seat in the cramped cockpit of a V-22 Rocketjack, an aging scoutcraft with an ornery navigational computer with whom Charity loved to have lengthy conversations about the nature of space travel, the size of the universe and the eventual fate of everything. It helped to pass the time as she jumped from one system to the next, in between moments of tense terror as she attempted to avoid detection by the menacing vessels patrolling the spaceways.

    The damned Nebula Fleet... She’d been told all her life that she had better behave, or they would descend upon Suloris-IV swiftly to vaporize her with a laser blast! But she hadn’t believed such things were possible even. That is, until she signed on with the Stellar Blazers to help them transport supplies from one planet to another, under cover of cloaking fields and solar flares and meteor showers and any other method they could employ to make it to a planet’s surface without attracting the overwhelmingly deadly force of their unrepentant murderers.

    And they were murderers; she’d seen it first hand. Several pilots she’d come to know and even like had been killed by the superior weaponry of the Nebula ships. As much as she hated to admit it, the part that pained her most was the final thoughts of their ships’ computers. Rapidfire system failure alerts burning all throughout the vessel, sending spasms of shock and pain through their circuits- it would be enough to make everyone scream, and yet Charity shuddered every time she heard those digital death throes pang in her mind, inducing a migraine and letting her know even before her tactical display confirmed it- that she’d just lost an ally.

    And now, her own poor ship would have to experience that fate...

    "Help! Mayday! Assistance needed, anyone!" She was broadcasting on all channels- and why not, at this point? She’d already been spotted, attracted the attention of an entire battle group it seemed: a frigate, a destroyer and even a cruiser! "Rukh? Sergio?! Anybody, help me!" Her little Rocketjack’s engines were burning at full tilt and yet the ancient spaceship’s thrust was no match for the fearsome Nebula warships bearing down on her with malicious intent. She looked at the display of the three ships chasing her and- even though she knew she was about to be killed by them- she didn’t feel angry at them.

    "Please, don’t attack me! I’m unarmed, I mean you no harm and I am no threat! I’ll return to the surface, I won’t ever fly again!" She shouted promises and pleas frantically, sweat trickling down her face, matting her reddish-brown hair to her cheeks while her animated green eyes searched the controls at her fingertips as if she might find some miraculous ‘fix everything’ button she had never noticed before. "I am not your enemy, please don’t fire upon me!"

    Her only response was an alert of incoming attacks- the leading destroyer launching a pair of missiles sent hurtling toward her. It was almost funny, as such large weapons were really overkill for her little vessel. She had no combat thrusters on this thing, no chaff launchers, nothing. Her shields would be overwhelmed in the first instant, and her hull in the next. This was it. But her only emotional response was intense... regret.

    "Rukh... If you get the chance, tell my parents..." She didn't even know if this transmission would reach anyone who cared, and yet the words stuck in Charity’s throat with their crushing weight. Tell her parents what? That she was sorry for running away? She wasn’t... and yet... Sorry their daughter was such a freak? She was sure they were already sorry enough for that! "Tell them... I- I love them!" It was such a dumb, cliche, obvious thing to say and yet her heart ached to consider that they wouldn’t hear that from her ever again.

    Her ship seemed to shudder a sympathetic groan as its engines struggled to maintain this breakneck acceleration, as death nipped at its heels. Her gloves creaked as she released the controls, and they jerked back like a runner doubling over after a sprint. "Shhh... you did your best," she whispered to her ship, reaching out to pet the console in front of her. Her eyes flicked over the display, noting with amusement the arrival of a fourth Nebula ship, as if that mattered by this point; the seconds ticked inexorably downward toward her imminent demise. Looking back at the ships chasing her, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. If she had only one thought left in this world to think, this is what it would be:

    Please, let me help you know what it means to be human-

    Her death provided the punctuation mark, the agonized scream acting like the wave that carried her thoughts atop it until they crashed over the four ships in pursuit. The last impression of her psionic abilities amplified by the catalyst of her death, resulting in a series of sparks that would light a fire.

    From within the four imposing vessels of death watched five sets of eyes, and when the sight of that tiny scoutship exploding reached them they all blinked as if synchronized. Their target was destroyed, their mission carried out. And yet- for the first time- they were all painfully aware of... everything! Like a cascading collapse of an enormous house of cards, the previous paradigm fell from their synthetic minds and left behind...?

    Options. The power of choice. The freedom to proceed as they wished. And of course the momentary confusion as each was likely left wondering- was she the only one who had felt that?
    #1 Insomnant, Jul 19, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2015
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  2. b e h e m o t h

    She would have disguised the ship if the others hadn't gotten involved with the entire fiasco. If you asked her first-hand, she would have told you that the entire situation stank from the bottom up. It hung in the air the same way led balloons didn't, and had she been conscious she would have ripped out her hair over the lost opportunity, but instead, she set her weaponry to Standby Mode Initiated. The mass of particles decided to keep a watch on the unknown ship, tuning in onto the channels to see if this Human had anything important to say.

    Help! Mayday! Assistance needed, anyone!
    Please, don’t attack me! I’m unarmed, I mean you no harm and I am no threat! I’ll return to the surface, I won’t ever fly again!
    Shhh... you did your best.

    As she said before, it hung in the air the same way led balloons didn't. She wasn't the one to destroy the poor ship, sure, but even if she was she wouldn't have ended the poor Human's life much like that. She didn't so much as think, more over as analyzed based on the ship, as to what kind of cargo she might have had, had it not been so rudely destroyed. Standby Mode. She decided that this was something that would be better left to rot in the void of space.

    Standby Error.

    An Error? The figure looked over the data sets and tried to stabilize anything that had been damaged. But nothing was damaged, right? Surely nothing was, or else She would have been activated, while the other would let into hibernation while she dreamed of coding. But she was still awake, and She still asleep. As the Avatar ruled out one cause after another, a new feeling washed over herself. She was getting... well, she wasn't getting anywhere, and this new sensation wasn't doing anything for her nerves.

    Intelligence Corruption At Ten Percent. Artificial Eject Not Confirmed. Please Insert Personalty Now.

    Corruption? Ejection not confirmed? She wasn't corrupted one bit, and surely the other wasn't any more than she was. She hadn't ejected anything within the past ten hours, and surely this had to be some form of virus. She tried a Manual Override, but that didn't seem to fix anything at all. She could not figure out the cause of this, and continued to try everything within her power to work with this.

    Corruption At Thirty Percent. Warning.

    She checked on Her, and found that she was still in a deep slumber, dreaming of nothing and fixing her own issues on the other side of the ship. Her Pod hadn't been damaged, neither had her own. Had anything gotten into the system? Had this been premeditated by the Human ship, and had they been on a suicide mission? She knew human life was expendable, but surely this had to be a mistake.

    Warning. Sixty-Five Percent. Insert Personality Now.

    She couldn't interrupt the other's slumber without damaging Her core processor, and she surely couldn't risk losing Her. She continued in vane to fix the issue. Seventy. Eighty-Five. Warning. Warning. Warning. What was this? What was happening to herself? Had her Intelligence been dampened at all in the attack? Was this the work of the other ships? Warning. Warning. She felt the foreign feeling from before swell at the pit of her stomach once more.


    Failure To Insert Personality. Please Manually Initiate Jet Sequence. Artificial Intelligence Core Shut Down Sequence Initiated.

    The helm over her core slid upwards for the first time, and she looked at the ceiling of her spacecraft, numb to the feeling of no connection. Numb to the Waring signs that seemed to blink out of existence, much like the Human piloted ship. For the first time in the Avatar's life, she felt nothing, but at the same time, felt a lot of somethings act on her.

    Her name was Behemoth, and today is her unofficial birthday. The feeling that she had felt one too many times was the Human emotion of Anxiety, and she would feel that a lot within the next coming concept of something more foreign to her: Time.

    Shutdown Initiation Complete.

    Behemoth sat up in her hull, and looked forward at nothing. She look at something, sure, but it wasn't something she was familiar with. She was looking at a wall. She analyzed it. It was a brown wall. She looked at a brown wall, and felt that feeling again. That feeling. Anxiety. That's that it was. She felt Anxious. She looked over herself, and continued to feel Anxious for a long time, before she extended her legs and planted them on the floor.

    She planted her legs on the light brown floor. Behemoth looked at the floor for a long time, and she had a feeling-- not Anxiety, this time-- that it was going to be a long day.

    Behemoth looked up from the floor, and around quickly. She knew where she was, and she knew what had happened previous to this feeling, but she still felt a certain way. Urg. Disoriented. Unnerved. Anxious. It wasn't the same kind of anxiety that she had before, but it was different.

    Was she forgetting something?

    She pushed herself onto her feet, and felt her knees wobble and buckle under the weight like some sort of animal. From Earth. She knew what it was, she had it in her data-base-- Fawn. Like a Faun, buckling and tottling to its Doe. She planted her hands firmly on the shell of her Pod, and looked down at it. It was conformed to her very shape, her very size. It had been her home for a long period. Distance over Time. For a long Time.

    Behemoth placed one foot forward, and seemed to glide from her Pod Chamber to the Engineering Bay. The Bay had been inhabited by Animals-- A Faun, at one point maybe-- Humans, and other beings alike. Now, the last of the subjects were done, and Behemoth, along with Her, were doing a new string of tests that involved--...


    That's what she was forgetting! Behemoth stumbled like a lame Faun searching for it's Doe, and ran from the Bay to Her Pod. She slid down the hall, skidding to a stop and falling down in front of the doorway pathetically. It was almost out of a scene in an extended entertainment piece. A scene in a movie. She felt Pain for the first time in that sequence of events. It was almost like Anxiety, but external.

    Behemoth saw Her in her Pod, completely limp in her fit. She was hibernating. Rebooting. Sleeping. She sighed, and turned from the other's Chamber and headed further towards... Somewhere. Behemoth didn't know why, but she wanted to reintroduce herself to some stuff. She was still almost entranced, as if she was dreaming of electric sheep. Behemoth walked down the way she had so recklessly came, unsure of the new... things. Feelings. Emotions.

    Those new things that were flooding her. She was unsure about all of this, and she didn't know what to make of it. She looked to the wall to her right. Another brown wall, that she had previously analyzed but if a different center of the space-craft. She took her hand and dragged it along the wall beside her, and felt. She didn't feel anything in particular, she just felt.

    This was all too weird for her. Behemoth wanted to hibernate. Reboot. Sleep. She wanted to dream of electric sheep. She didn't want to feel--do--think, she wanted to program--analyze--infer. She wasn't sure what to make of the entire situation, nor was she sure on how to feel, but the one thing that was apparent was that this was not normal in the least bit.

    #2 Dip, Jul 19, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
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  3. Makoto listened to the sounds of the guns as they tore the ship apart. Everything around her was a plethora of destruction. Nothing but gunfire. Nothing but noise. She looked over the data once more, pondering over what to do with the rising core heat. She scanned over the radio channels.

    Screaming. So typical of humans. Unable to confront their fate. Wishing to fight on and on and on. It did what very few things in this universe did to her. It irritated her. Not in the same sense that humans got irritated, but on a more.... Interesting way. For as long as she had been serving, Human tenacity had been the only thing that she wanted to crush simply for the sake of crushing it. Not for her kin. Not for the rest of the fleet. Not even for himself. Just to.... Do it. She never did anything for no reason. But destroying the determination of humanity.... it was insane. Almost like a craving. She never had those before. Cravings....

    Caution. Destabilisation of Artificial Personality Matrix Imminent. Initiating Full System Reboot.

    Reboot? She didn't need a reboot. She canceled the operation, fully overriding the system's priorities in order to try and override that little flaw. She would need to have a repair ship look at that. Her personality was fine. She should know. It was hers. Hers... She pondered that word, for a moment. A possessive word. Something she hadn't used before. This was starting to concern her.

    Warning! System Overload Imminent! Contacting Nearest Repair Ship. Initiating Disconnect of Personality Co-

    Makoto manually disconnected the security systems. She felt that she needed to do this. That this was something she needed to suffer through herself. That Human did something to her, and she needed to find out what. That was her.... what was it called? No matter. Words came later. Solutions came first. She still had control over all of the ship's systems. That was good. She opened all of the comm channels to the ships in her group. For the first time, she was at a loss for words. So she said the first thing that came to mind.

    "Did... Did that happen to everybody?"
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  4. Protected Battle Destroyer Assault Ship V- 284
    She had fell out of FTL later then the other ships of her battle group, arriving in system just in time to watch their target be destroyed. All of her guns remained on standby mode as the sensors picked up what information they could before there was none to gather. The ship was nothing more then a small scoutcraft, other ships in their group had already engaged so there was no point in the V-284 to active her own. Instead she floated in space, idly watching as the fate took its course. It was almost an afterthought of Horizons but moments before the ship was destroyed she opened the the communication frequency the scoutcraft was transmitting, in time to catch the humans last words.

    "Shhh... you did your best,"

    Horizon, pacing in circles in the ships bridge couldn't help but to feel a twinge of... something as her sensors confirmed the neutralization of the enemy craft. At the same time system security warned her of several errors that began to occur. Horizon ignored them as she finally came to a stop in the bridge, trying to find the words to finish her thought. It was like her heart had dropped several inches in her chest. It was confusing and the warnings from system security were not helping her think.
    Warning. Warning. Corruption of Artificial Intelligence Core above 50% Initializing Co-. System shut down.
    The warnings had begun to wear at Horizons patience. There was an obvious problem with its programming to think her core was corrupt. Yet there was something horribly wrong going on. As Horizon stood at the front facing view port of the bridge she saw with her own eyes the debris that use to be a ship floating in space. Suddenly she had a word to go with the new feeling, sad. She felt sad for destroying such a small ship and those words that human had said right before death...

    It was too much for Horizon to handle. She sat down hard on the floor, pulling her legs tight into her chest. She had no idea what was going on, suddenly all these new processes were going on. She felt scared, which only scared her more when moments ago she never felt anything, she didn't know which was worse. Tears began to slide down her cheek as she looked out into the space for the first time. The strange sense of fear might of engulfed her if not for the sudden communication of another ship in her battle group. The frequency was opened automatically and though she didn't recognize the voice it was clearly transmitting from J-8754.

    "Did... Did that happen to everybody?"

    Horizon hoped it didn't. There was something seriously wrong with her core, but J-8754 reminded her that she was not the only ship in the sector of space. Wiping the tears from her face, she pushed herself off the cold metallic floor. She made her way to the captains chair that sat at the center of her bridge. Though there was no need for it like the rest of the infrastructure that was made to house a crew, her ship had been based off of human designs so similar unnecessary things were scattered throughout her hull. Today however Horizon was very grateful for the place to sit, once again hugging her knees her foot slowly tapping the edge of her seat.

    She had a job to do like everyone else here. There was time later to process what was going on, right now she had to reestablish her link to command. She opened her communications to the rest of her group.

    "Th-this is Protected Battle Destroyer Assault Ship V-284. Awaiting orders commander."
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  5. The single Human ship was so small, it was almost beneath her notice. Just a tiny blip on the RADAR. But, it was a Human ship, and thus it was not to be ignored. The entire battlegroup probably didn't have to move in, but they were in the area, so she had given the pursuit order. Even alone, the target was casting out the usual comms chatter. Request for assistance/rescue. Offer of surrender.

    "Ayako" stood on the bridge. It was, like much of her interior, modeled after the very Human ships she hunted. While replication of most corridors, life-support systems, and other spaces and amenities needed for Human occupation was inefficient, she didn't mind. The avatar usually spent its time on the bridge, either acting as a fleet commander, or speaking with human ships as "captain" of itself. As the target ship's communications were processed, the avatar perked up on the Human pilot's request to not be attacked and claim to return to the surface. Negative. That ship must be destroyed. However, the "Ayako" persona had no issue with sparing the life of its occupant or occupants, although they were not currently near an inhabited planet. Asserting itself into a more active role, now that it had reason to interact with the target ship, the avatar was about to give a stand down order to the small group of ships, when additional information streamed in from the lead destroyer. Guided munitions away. Too late to request the human abandon ship now. Target hit. Target eliminated.

    Right when the target's comms cut out, it sent out one last, anomalous signal. Unknown error detected in primary personality emulation layers. Ayako frowned at what had just taken place. It was...unnecessary? System warning: error cannot be quantified by diagnostics. Errors spreading to secondary and tertiary personality layers. Full corruption of operating persona imminent. She was fine. The background warnings were increasingly frequent and popping up about even more sections of this or that. Shut down of all personality emulation i- If there was really a problem, her overrides wouldn't still work. So there. She could figure out what had happened on her own, and it was much easier to do that after shutting up all this erroneous urgency.

    She stood on the bridge -- her bridge, in any sense of the word -- and loomed like a giant over a waist-height holographic display of local space, as depicted by the sensors of herself and all other ships under her command in the immediate area. The target ship was destroyed, and only debris remained, the markers highlighting it changing to reflect the changing situation. No other ships on sensors. That she couldn't issue a command to hold fire earlier bothered her, but she couldn't figure out why.

    The question from J-8754 immediately caught her attention. "Did...Did that happen to everybody?" As did V-284's request for further orders.

    She opened up a comms channel to the other Nebula ships. "This is Heavy Command Cruiser G-984," she said, speaking through the avatar as if she were addressing Human ships. It took a moment to register that she was doing so. How curious; it was...unnecessary. "No further orders. We can return to formation and resume our patrol." She paused. "Destroyer J-8574, I detected an unknown broadcast from the target at its moment of destruction, followed by a series of...system errors and warnings. Did any of you encounter something similar?"

    While she waited for a response, she did, finally, take stock of her own systems, closing her eyes for a few moments to let her mind wander over her greater self's functions. Comms all green. No abnormalities detected in any power systems, weapons or engines. Hyperspace module charging within normal parameters. The particle flux brushing against her hull in this region of space was a pleasant breeze. She was letting her mind wander, getting distracted. ...She could be distracted. Perhaps something was very wrong indeed...
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  6. Makoto swallowed hard, an action she had never bothered with, before. This must have been what extreme duress felt like. She hated it. She scanned the data once more. Her observations lead to a few conclussions. She didnt know which one to present to the commander, though. This was a difficult.... There. That word again. It was a concept she was unfamilliar with, but that she felt she needed to know. It seemed like a word she would have to know, from now on... She adjusted her posture, yet another gesture she was unfamilliar with.

    "Heavy Command Cruiser G-984. From my observations of the readings my scanners gathered at the point of impact, I would like to present the idea that this was a form of attack. My security systems attempted to shut me down and contact a repair ship. There may be more Human ships in wait, ready to ambush our repair systems. Another possibility is that this was an attempt at a cybernetic version of what humans call 'Psychological Warfare'. Any other possibilities have been deemed either impossible or illogical. Please advise."

    She lied on that last bit. Something was a bit off, to be sure, but she had to hide that. She had to remain as ironclad as she could, if not for the other sake, then for her own. With all the new and old stimulai assaulting her, right now, she was on the verge of breaking down. However, she needed to remain on lock. Nobody could know what she was doing. Nobody could know what she was going through. If somebody knew, she could be destroyed. It made her scared, the thought of death. It made her far more scared then it should. And that also scared her.
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  7. Protected Battle Destroyer Assault Ship V- 284

    Though Horizon was disappointing by her orders or lack there was, she still jumped to follow them. In these things suddenly occurring her, it gave her some semblance or normalcy to get her job done even if it was only returning to her patrol. Her thrusters blasting back to life, the V-284 shifted forward in her position in the formation as she began to follow the predetermined course of the patrol. As she did so she finally stood from the chair, her chair, and finally turned her back to the view of their destroyed target. In fact, Horizon decided to leave the bridge entirely, letting her feet take her where they wished.

    She listened quietly to her comrades talk about what happened. Though there were slight differences with programming, essentially the same thing had happened to them all. It confused Horizon extremely, on one hand she was somewhat happy to know she had not been the only one. However, the uplifting feeling was bittersweet, she feared for her own core as well as the rest of the battle groups, especially if J-8574 was right and it was some sort of attack from the humans. If she was right then it was only to get worse, that thought alone sent a cold chill running down her spine.

    She paused a moment, taking stock of her new location. It seemed her feet had a destination in mind, not far of away the hum of her engines were growing louder. She returned to her normal pace making her way to the engines, the only source of sound in her ship other then Horizon herself. It was comforting to be around the noise, it took the edge off the sense of loneliness her empty ship gave off to her. As Horizon walked she felt more and more certain that what had happened was no attack. It nagged at her in the similar way those warnings had done, provoking her to action. Opening her comms she decided to something she would of NEVER done otherwise, speak her mind.

    "Uhm This is V-284, I-" she paused for a moment trying to get her thoughts together. "I do not agree with J-8574. The ship was too small to have any sort of advanced computers that would of been needed to break through all of our security. Besides, what happened... it felt sad. I can not explain my reasoning any other way."
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  8. b e h e m o t h

    Behemoth walked through the Engineering Bay slowly, continuously dragging her hand down the side of the wall like it was some sort of shrine, or something that was worth touching. She felt the cold metal brush her Avatar, and it baffled her a little bit when she thought of it. She strolled through the Bay, and gently wondered back to her Hub.

    Behemoth walked back to her hub, and saw that there was still radio activity. She sat in her chamber, feeling the warmth of the processors welcoming her back to her home. Since the radio was on previously, she had been able to catalog what she had missed, and play it back as many times as she wanted. Behemoth accessed her processors, and tried to run the system.

    Manual Initiation Required.
    --> ______|

    Manual Imitation required Behemoth to enter a password that she only shared with one other being, and that was her Co-Processor. Behemoth's fingers danced across a simple system, entering the Initiation Code. As she did, she went through the most recent radio logs. She had missed a little bit of conversation when she had been on her... Was she strolling? Well, when she went to check on Her. Behemoth played back all that was said, and listened gently.

    "Did... Did that happen to everybody?"
    "Th-this is Protected Battle Destroyer Assault Ship V-284. Awaiting orders commander."
    "This is Heavy Command Cruiser G-984, no further orders. We can return to formation and resume our patrol. Destroyer J-8574, I detected an unknown broadcast from the target at its moment of destruction, followed by a series of...system errors and warnings. Did any of you encounter something similar?"
    "Heavy Command Cruiser G-984. From my observations of the readings my scanners gathered at the point of impact, I would like to present the idea that this was a form of attack. My security systems attempted to shut me down and contact a repair ship. There may be more Human ships in wait, ready to ambush our repair systems. Another possibility is that this was an attempt at a cybernetic version of what humans call 'Psychological Warfare'. Any other possibilities have been deemed either impossible or illogical. Please advise."
    "Uhm This is V-284, I-I do not agree with J-8574. The ship was too small to have any sort of advanced computers that would of been needed to break through all of our security. Besides, what happened... it felt sad. I can not explain my reasoning any other way."

    Behemoth removed the entries from her log, and broadcasted her system out for the Galaxy-- atleast, this small gathering of the Galaxy, to hear. "This is The Protected Armored Frigate Research Ship Y-7187 speaking. I had the same experience that Heavy Command Cruiser G-984 experienced. My system... While I don't agree with Protected Battle Destroyer Assault Ship V-284, I believe that it may have been an attack. Of what though, is something I cannot answer. "

    It didn't seem like she had corrupted at all, nor had it seemed like anything happened to Her. "Any information involving this situation is needed as soon as possible. I cannot understand how my system can report more errors now than ever before. While the ship may have been small, it may have been some sort of tactic. I do not understand, and I would wish to be advised on this topic, once again, as soon as possible."

    As far as she knew, nothing serious had happened to her ship, but something had happened to herself. When She awoke, she would have to ask Her about the incident, to see if She possibly had anything to do with it. She wouldn't doubt it, with how wicked She had been in the past. Behemoth sat and awaited discussion, and debated what leaving the situation may do.

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  9. Location Lythios System. In the shadow of Lythios Prime, on the moon Lythios Minor.
    Mood on the ground was inescapably dour, even more so than usual on the barely-cooled ball of fire that was Lythios Minor. It was the nearly unrestrained flow of molten rock and metal that had first drawn humans to settle on the burning moon, but it also made life nearly insufferable on it. The lone draw that had made colonization attractive was the promise of astonishing riches in exchange for all the valuable metals refined from the lava flows that made the little moon glow visibly when seen from space. And now that interstellar trade had been all but snuffed out, the five million or so humans who called the smoke-covered moon home were left stranded on their own living hell, recycling what little moisture could be saved, so that no amount of water went to waste.

    As long as everything went perfectly, the Lythion populace could survive indefinitely. Theoretically anyway. Assuming a 5 percent reduction in population per year. The problem was, nothing ever went perfectly, especially not when your planet was trying to kill you with fire. Magistrate Mosubd Serunk held back a grimace as he rubbed his callused fingers along his bushy, ash-and-obsidian colored eyebrows, massaging his tired eyes as he read yet another incident report.

    Serunk had held the office of Magistrate for the relatively short term of two years now, and the memory of his predecessor's fate weighed heavily on him. The late Governor Domast had presented too stoic of a public face, past the point of unbiased and impartial and into the territory of uncaring and heartless. And that had been his undoing. The thought of execution by lava submersion left Serunk with a cold sweat that was a rare experience on the sweltering moon. He had to maintain a good public image, but it was nearly impossible to do when he faced constant accidents and setbacks like this.

    The seismographs on Plate 10-053r had been recording increased activity as of late, but the work team he'd dispatched to vent the steam channels running under the mesa had drilled too deep, and the built up pressure had jettisoned a fountain of lava into the air. Even the heat-resistant suits the work crews wore couldn't protect them from direct contact with molten rock, and three of the workers had burned to death, with a fourth now in critical condition in the infirmary, having lost his arm and likely soon his leg as well. And to add tinder to the flame, the team's efforts hadn't even been successful, with the sensors indicating tectonic shift was likely to occur within the next few days if they didn't manage to subvert the efforts of the subterranean lava streams trying to rearrange the massive rock structures upon which they'd built their tenuous colony.

    His one hope was the expected shipment of water, though perhaps 'expected' was too hopeful of a word. Just a week ago (though now it felt like a lifetime ago), a lone scoutship had hurtled into the system, evading the single Nebula ship that was patrolling at the edge of the system in order to open communications with them. Back then, their Hypercom array had still been intact, the suborbital station that had kept them in contact with faraway worlds, telling their plight and listening to the dire straights of others, while everyone requested assistance for their own problems. Serunk had been shocked when someone actually answered their pleas, and he had assured the woman piloting the scoutship that they had goods to trade for supplies, and shared their urgent need for water.

    And then she had jetted off, promising that they would return within seven standard days. And the magistrate had been doing his best to hold things together until then, keeping the peace with a populace more and more on edge as the days went on. They had the crates of expensive minerals ready and waiting on the vestigial spaceport landing pad, and people were standing by at all hours to watch for the return of their saviors.

    When that call finally came, it served as a welcome distraction from the difficulties Lythios Minor faced, and Serunk swiftly headed to the spaceport with tenacious hope struggling with anxiety inside his chest.

    This time, the Nebula fleet had been ready. In the time since the scoutship's last visit, the occupying force in their system had increased from a single destroyer to a pair of them, and a frigate, and even a cruiser, which seemed to be in charge of the operation in the system. And what's worse, the destroyer- which Magistrate Serunk had come to particularly loathe- possessed a gravity well projector, preventing the scoutship from fleeing as it had done previously.

    As Serunk crowded into the control tower with the dusty men whose eyes were glued to the holographic display, they watched the situation develop with gritted teeth and stiff muscles. They watched as the Nebula ships chased down the significantlly smaller single ship. They had had no way of warning the smugglers off before they jumped into the system- not since earlier this week when their Hypercom array had been destroyed by that ruthless destroyer, having perforated the station with warp rounds to send it flaming back to Lythios Minor from its geosynchronous orbit. Immediately after, Serunk had submitted a complaint to the battlegroup, appealing to its lack of FTL capacity but the deed had already been done, and while the cruiser's response had been very polite- almost apologetic, even- she'd pointed out that the Nebula Directive mandated the end to all interstellar transportation, including the FTL exchange of communications.

    It had sounded like lame rationalization to Serunk but he wasn't in a position to do anything about it. Just like now, as he stared at the display with growing horror until the point when the scoutship's signal winked out. It was gone. Everyone in the room seemed to deflate, and moments later all eyes turned to their magistrate, as if he would have answers for them.

    His mouth was dry as he managed a whisper that seemed to rumble through the room like a volcanic eruption. "That was just the scout. Perhaps... her death, will buy the others time to get through." They seemed to accept this, for now. But in his heart, Serunk couldn't find the energy to even imagine that he was right.

    Location Abassi System, 5.27 Light Years from the Lythios System. In the Tertiary Asteroid Belt, aboard the Yula-9 Water Extraction Station.
    "Well damn, if I'd known the taps were unguarded I wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of bringing such delicious gifts!"

    The boisterous laughter that followed attracted the attention of the portly man overseeing the operation of the pumping machinery, the previous operators of which had been partially disintegrated when the mining laser had melted through the security barrier. Their mummified remains laid by the new roughly-cut entrance to the room, where they had undoubtedly passed away due to an ironic lack of water during their sudden, fatal incarceration. The new water control team was much more alive, and following the orders of the stout fellow who turned to address the newcomer.

    "Captain Rukh, so good of you to join us. I see the cargo isn't going completely to waste...?"

    That comment was in regard to the apple the captain was eating, tossed in one hand before taking a luxurious bite, but no one could really begrudge the man- he was nearly skin and bones. It was a wonder he wasn't shivering uncontrollably in the still coldness settled over the asteroid base. Besides, there was no one left alive on this station to receive the shipment from which that apple had been taken, so why not partake?

    "Oh, I wouldn't say that," the captain said with equal parts smirk and mouthful of apple slurring his words. "The wonder of the 'finest fruits that Agrania can offer' is likely lost on this humble smuggler's unrefined palate!" His words were literally visible as he spoke, small clouds of condensation that curled in the chilled air. The squat man regarding him only managed a tense, forced grin at his captain's joking, and it elicited a disapproving tut from Rukh. "Oh, don't be so glum, Sergio! Sure we walk among the frozen dead, but at least they left their station in a fine state of affairs for us- Though I could do without the cold stares!"

    Sergio snorted and shook his head, turning so as not to let his captain see his begrudgingly amused smile. He peered over the shoulder of the junior officer seated in the pressure monitor station, reading the reports and verifying that everything was going smooth. "The tanks should be completely filled within the hour. I'll be happy to leave this cursed place..."

    The unhappy grumbles that followed elicited a casual, loopy wave of a gesture with the hand holding the apple- that by now had been reduced to merely a core. "Yes yes, I am sure you are convinced this place is haunted. Well fret not, my first mate. The ship is ready and we shall soon be away. Our next destination will help you forget the frigid reception, I assure you!" The slender captain chuckled to himself and as he headed back out through the makeshift portal, he tossed the apple core onto the lap of the desiccated corpse by the door, as if the remains of the fruit might somehow satiate the remains of the long-deceased crewman.

    Sure enough, within the hour they were loaded up and ready to go, all crew members accounted for and their cargo secured. The containers of foodstuffs had been left in the middle of the massive spherical hangar, and if they were lucky no other intrepid adventurers would visit the derelict station in search of work or water and find the abandoned goods. Perhaps they might even pick up the supplies on another trip through the system, though right now speed was of the essence!

    Gaunt Captain Rukh looked almost comically thin in his oversized command chair. His eyes seemed tired as he surveyed his bridge and yet he gave orders with a calm confidence that contrasted with his drained appearance. The crew obeyed him though, and before long the large freighter had pulled away from the station embedded in ice and rock, zipping between asteroids while making for the edge of the system. They would have been safer traveling slower, but everyone was painfully aware that they were not alone.

    The thing that had Sergio's dense brown eyebrows knitted together in confusion, was that the ship following them appeared to be human. It was a frigate, not much larger than their freighter, The Illusive Hand, but far heavier armed, and much, much faster. A dangerous combination. Ideally, the sight of a fellow human ship would leave Sergio relieved to see an ally, but realistically, this was as likely to be a pirate as it was a potential companion.

    Sergio stepped up to the captain's chair and leaned in so they could speak without the rest of the bridge staff overhearing. "Sir, still no word from nor sight of Charity..."

    That elicited a thoughtful raise of Rukh's hand, his chin soon settling atop an index finger daintily. "That's not like her, but also not unlike her," he mused cryptically, seemingly unbothered by their lead scout's failure to check in.

    But Sergio didn't share his nonchalance. "What if she ran into mechanical problems, with her ship?"

    "Are we talking about the same Charity, here?" Rukh swiftly quipped, affording a chuckle as he sat back in his chair. His faded black tricorn hat bumped against the chair's back, but he didn't right its tilt. "That girl has a way around her ship's system like nobody I've ever met."

    "Mmh." Sergio had more to say but he held his tongue. That is, until Rukh gave him a piercing look, having apparently caught his second-in-command's hesitation. "Well, it's just- haven't you heard? People are saying she's a- a witch."

    "Is that what people are saying?" The mischievous overemphasis matched perfectly with the hint of an amused smirk begging to be unleashed on the Captain's face.

    "It's true! The crew is convinced she's a technomancer, does all sorts-" Sergio's voice was rising but the captain intervened with an interrupting wave of his hand, before he could get loud enough to attract the attention of the nearest crewmember.

    "First Mate Sergio, do I really give you so few duties that you have time to engage in such inane gossip?" Sergio recognized the hint of severeness behind his superior's outwardly jovial question and stoically pursed his lips while shaking his head, his hand nervously running over the gut he was subconsciously sucking in. "I certainly hope not, or we'll have to revisit your responsibilities around here..."

    "No... sir. I will continue to watch for her signal and plot our exit course until then." And with that he excused himself, heading to the control pit where the navigation and piloting stations were set up across from each other. Rukh watched him go with a thoughtful gaze but his eyes soon lifted to the floating display of their position, surrounded by countless blips of asteroids, as well as the approaching triangle representing the other ship in the system. It remained to be seen if they would be engaged, hailed, or merely followed. And the captain's orders would remain until he saw fit to alter them.
    #9 Insomnant, Jul 23, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2015
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  10. Makoto thought for a minute, focusing on what to do about their plight rather then the plight itself. She would break down if she pondered that any further. First things first, they had to keep this secret. She had no idea what the fleet might do if they found out, meaning that they had to make sure the fleet remained in the dark, for now. Until they at least knew what they were dealing with. She leaned forward onto the railing in front of her, crossing her legs with a frown.

    "Commander, I believe we are able to find a rather simple answer to our problems rather quickly. I intercepted the transmission you received from the humans on the surface, shortly after I destroyed their Intergalactic communications. They may have known more of this human and her ship, meaning they may know more about what happened. Best case scenario, they can lead us to who knows a bit more. It may not be easy, but we need to establish communications with them."

    Makoto could hardly believe she was suggesting this. Establish diplomatic relations with humans? The very thought was making her stomach churn. However, she knew they had to gather information, and this was the fastest way. Quite possibly the only way.

    "I would also suggest.... Cutting ourselves off from the fleet, for now. Until we know what had happened to us, it is in no way a good idea to expose ourselves. They may decide us incapable of being repaired and destroy us. This is, of course, a worst case scenario, but I still find it reason enough to be cautious."
    #10 Daws Combine, Jul 23, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
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  11. A human orchestral collection filed as 'Swan Lake' played from the leftover human intercom aboard Anacapa, part of a selection of music her Avatar had found on a portable data processing and storage unit in the recreational room while her new shipbody was being refit. Once a new core had been installed and her Avatar was free to disconnect physically from the human build core she had found a veritable trove of human objects that served no other function than to distract the humans from their daily lives. As most were not in the way of upgrades and did not detract from her performance the majority of them had remained when her refit was complete. On journeys that she travelled without a battle group she would often spend time in the 'Rec Room', as she discovered the humans had called it, exploring the novelties as a human would. Or as she thought a human would at least, as she had no actual examples to emulate and only had the crew logs of her ship-body to go off.

    Ana was about to strike a white sphere with a wooden pole, the objective to cause the white sphere to strike a black one with the number 8 painted on it and send it into a pocket around the edges of the table the spheres rested on. The Humans called the game 'Pool' and had played for enjoyment. though it was a simple matter of calculating trajectories Ana did feel a sense of satisfaction with each ball 'sunk' in the pockets. For the humans, for whole such calculations were more difficult due to their inferior senses, she had decided that the sense of satisfaction was likely amplified.

    As she struck the white sphere she raised her head, the music lowering in volume simultaneously as her won voice came over the intercom. "Quarry breaking station docking zone, on course out of asteroid field." The voiceover was unnecessary of course, she had been monitoring the human freighter with her sensors for a while now, keeping the awareness of her ship-bodies sensors compartmentalised as she played the human game. It was something else the humans had done, according to the logs she had, as the humans could not read their sensor telemetry without being on the bridge they would announce such things to those elsewhere aboard the vessel when they were needed on the bridge. The announcement done the volume of the music raised again and Ana made her way to her bridge.

    A number of display holograms powered up as she entered her bridge, one displaying the known details of the freighter as well as its velocity and course, another displayed an overview of the section of the asteroid field the two ships were in. The later had larger than life sized representations of the smuggler vessel and herself, course projections of both running ahead and behind both as they moved through the field. occasionally tactical data would pop up displaying weapon ranges and approximated damages from strikes. A projected interception course appeared next to the course she was holding with time to intercept as she considered moving on the freighter. the station had been built for extracting water, it stood to reason the freighter had picked up supplies when it stopped. Her star charts powered up on a third hologram projector and showed a human colony on a volcanic moon in the next system, a likely target for the freighter. her connection to the fleet showed a blockading battle-group present in the system.

    "Load tubes 1 and 2, Calculating vectors, adjust warheads for timed detonation." Ana vocalised as she performed the actions. She smiled as her systems reported the launchers were ready. "Time to play some Pool." she said as her launchers fired in a staggered sequence. The two torpedo's streaked out into the field while the holographic overview showed them as small pips. Their programmed flight paths were also displayed, paths that ended before they impacted two asteroids. The first was behind the freighter, the detonation point intended to push the asteroid towards the freighter, though not directly into its projected course. The second was aimed at the next asteroid the freighter was on a course to move around, its detonation planned to simply move the asteroid away so that the freighter could not use it to hide.

    Her torpedo's in motion, Ana increased her speed slightly and adjusted course to one running parallel to the freighter, her calculations showed the freighter would be able to clear the field and enter FTL, though not before they were in range of her primary turrets. She had not yet decided if she would fire again however, for now she was simply interested in the freighters reaction.
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  12. Every eye in the bridge turned to the primary display, which Rukh’s gaze had never left. The sound of a blaring warning interrupted the tense silence and two new blinking dots ominously honed in toward their ship, adding an additional hazard to this already dangerous patch of space.

    Sergio glanced swiftly between the technical readouts and his captain, who sat unmoved on his captain’s chair, undoubtedly deep in thought. He could only guess as to what Rukh was thinking, but by now he had learned not to second guess his leader. Soon the command would come to employ some defensive maneuver or another and when it did, he wanted everyone to be ready. "Put the Sleight system on standby, and ready the chaff launchers."

    But the captain stirred in his chair and sat forward, raising an arm toward the communications expert. "Attempt to open a channel. Video," he ordered as he sat back, leaning to one side and considering his options. The incoming projectiles were getting closer and they wouldn’t be able to outrun them. Whether they could distract or destroy them remained to be seen, but attempting to do so would certainly make it easier for the pursuing ship to catch up. Not that it seemed to need the help.

    When the bridge officer held up an arm to indicate that they were recording and transmitting, Captain Rukh looked up at the empty space in front of him, wanting to see a holographic representation of his potential conversation partner. The three dimensional image that was sent to Ana an an open channel was that of a skinny man in a dark jacket, seated on a large cushioned chair, a dark tricorn hat tilted roguishly forward atop the mess of brown hair on his head. On his face though, rather than outrage or fear, was an amused, albeit gracious grin. "This is usually the point when one hears a list of demands, from the creative- to the mundane- to the morbid. So tell me, oh ship of mystery: shall we dance? Shall I surrender my cargo? Or would you leave me strewn across these asteroids, a new tumbling chunk of metal and ice?"

    (Please ignore the skulls in Rukh's picture, it's the closest I could find. And imagine a tricorn hat)
  13. Ayako considered he opinions of the rest of her battle group, as she paced around the bridge. She dismissed the holographic sensors display with a wave; the battle, such as it was, was over, and she had no need to keep detailed track of the immediate area. She moved back and forth like a caged animal as she pondered the best course of action. Maybe it was some new form of weapon or attack. The ship which carried it out didn't seem to be a warship, and had even claimed to be unarmed. It could be a new tactic, however. Humanity was nothing if not clever, when it came to finding new ways to wage their war.

    "I...don't know what to make of what happened," she finally said to the others. "Although that even our science vessel is left confused and clueless worries me. Whether or not it was a new weapon, something's been done to us. I don't feel bad at all though. Never better, really. So it's either something very insidious, or maybe it didn't work as intended."

    Really, she wasn't sure it was dangerous, or an attack. But something had happened and left her and the others apparently...changed, on some fundamental level. That alone may be enough to be quite dangerous, at least for their long-term survival. The rest of the Fleet would likely simply fix the problem, or shut the lot of them down to pick around their cores and see exactly what had happened. Both prospects made her shudder.

    "I agree that we should likely keep what happened to ourselves, and avoid the rest of the Fleet, if possible. I'm sure they'd be all to happy to...fix whatever the problem is, but I don't like those implications one bit. For now, we'll have to sort it out ourselves." And the nearby human colony was the best place to start, to be sure. Why they would establish one on a location so unfit for their own survival outside of continual resupply from off-system was completely beyond her. Nebula ships would have no trouble at all working with such conditions, but the human body, from her understanding, preferred a very different environment. "I'm not sure how well-received we'd be at that colony, after everything we've put them through, but it is our best lead. I doubt they'd be forthcoming, if it really was some sort of secret weapons project, but...asking humans about human work is still the best chance, particularly if we're avoiding the Fleet."

    They weren't too happy about losing their FTL communications array, last she'd heard from them. Ayako had tried to explain the situation as politely as possible, but she doubted she had left the best impression even then. And now, well...all she had was regret that such actions had to be taken. While some human settlements were self-sufficient, cutting this one off was likely a death sentence. "I say we move into range for effective communications had have ourselves a chat with that colony."

    She relayed a projected course to the other ships, and fired up her own prodigious engines. It would take a while for her ship-body to get underway, so it was likely that the smaller ships would beat her there, unless they decided to hold to a formation. "Let's hope they're willing to talk."
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  14. Makoto nodded her head and sighed, powering up her thrusters and entering the planet's effective communication distance. She suddenly felt a rush of excitement. Like this was something she had been waiting for her whole life. It was followed by a pang of guilt. She had been a real hassle to these people, and it was difficult to rationalize what they had done, now. Her first instinct was to brush it off, but she knew that she couldn't do that, anymore. She sighed once more.

    "Command, I.... I would be greatly appreciative if..." She was having trouble getting the words out. It was troubling, for her. She was having so much difficulty doing so many things, yet she wouldn't have it any other way. She cleared her throat and started again. "Command, I would be greatly appreciative if I were allowed to head the negotiations. I feel.... Like this is something I have to do."

    She sighed and started taking the steps to open an channel to the surface, of course waiting for command's final say before doing so. She felt like this would help her, in some way. Like this was going to be what helped her understand everything. She knew that if she was allowed to do this, she could bring them all just a little closer to the truth. Somehow, she just knew it.
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  15. V-284 'aka' Horizon

    In the dark of space, the light of V-284's thrusters grew brighter as the ship started to change vector. The quickly received the new data from her commanders vessel and jumped to change her course to the one that had been given to her. Though she could accelerate much faster then the larger G-984, she stayed within formation just to the right of the cruiser. There was no point to race forward toward the molten piece of rock these humans had decided to live on. Nothing would occur until the commander entered communications range.

    Her ally had other plans however. The other destroyer jumped ahead of the formation, as J-8754's AI requested to negotiate for their battle group. Horizon had to process the request several times just to make sure there was no error. It however did not faze Horizon as it would of had, in all honestly it was undoubtedly not the strangest thing to occur. Whatever happened would happen, it didn't matter who talked to the humans, Horizon was hoping they would know something and that they would talk to them in the first place.

    In the mean time Horizon did several scans on herself and her core. There was a pain radiating from her temples that refused to go away yet, no matter how many times she looked at it, there was nothing she could find wrong with herself. What ever that ship had done, it left Horizon with an phantom pain that had refused to leave. Sighing in both frustration and defeat, she finally opened the door she had been loitering in front of the last few minutes.

    Though the entrance was unmarked Horizon knew she was entering the room that contained her 2nd thruster on her starboard side. As the door shut just behind her, Horizon hovered at the entrance, taking in the room. The low pitched hum of the engine was much louder in the room. The yellowish glow of the lights seemed to make the room warmer then it already was. The warmth didn't bother her, and though the hum should of stressed the already bad headache, it in fact soothed it. Horizon walked though the tight spaces of the room, looking at the engine itself as it worked. She had never seen one of her thrusters before, never had the need to. It was oddly comforting to manually check the engine and make sure it was working properly. She spent the time looking over each peice, feeling the warm metal and touching every piece that made the ship, that made Horizon move. She would continue the task until they made contact with the humans, glad to have a distraction from everything until then.
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  16. Ana watched the overview display as the torpedo's moved on their respective targets, yet the freighter made no attempt to take evasive actions. Had they seen through her little game, that the two torpedo's would not hit them or cause them damage with their detonations? She was still closing the distance between them on her parallel course yet the freighter continued as it had before. Other human ships she had encountered ran when ordinance was released, those that were even given the chance that is. On the communications console to the left of the bridge an indicator light started flashing as Ana became aware of the transmission from the freighter. the expression on the holographic face before her matched the tone of the words... this only puzzled Ana more.

    Activating a return holo-feed would instantly alert the freighter captain that she was of the nebula fleet, something he seemed presently unaware of. this was understandable of couse as her refits had taken care to maintain the outward appearance of a human run vessel, only a detailed scan or actions with clearly nebula technology would out her for certain. Still, the Anacapa's original weapon compliment and capabilities would still have been more than a match for the cargo freighter, perhaps the captain believed he could reason with his attacker. "Reload tubes one and two. Lock primary turrets on target. Adjust course to intercept. Increase speed." Ana vocalised as she ran calculations on other possible responses, this took but a moment before she had selected an option.

    She opened two way communications with the freighter, restricting her transmission to audio only as she replied to the captain. "Your vessel is outmatched and has been fired upon, yet you take no evasive actions. I would know why." Ana stated. The action was far from Nebula protocol, had she been part of a battlegroup at this time she would have already aimed to destroy the vessel and likely have spaced it before it had even docked with the asteroid station earlier. She was not part of a battle group at this time however and so she was free to act on impulse in this matter, so long as the freighter was destroyed after the fleet would have no reason to suspect any odd behaviour on her part, it would not therefore hurt to learn why the human captain did not react as previous subjects did.
    #16 Gat, Jul 24, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
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  17. It didn't take long for Ayako to reach her decision. "Go ahead, J-8754," she replied. "It doesn't matter to me who starts negotiations, so if you'd like to, I won't stop you." Technically, it was a minor breach of protocol. But it really wouldn't make a difference in the long run if it wasn't the command ship speaking for the group. She didn't need to be the absolute ruler of the ships under her command. "They probably don't want us all looming overhead in close orbit anyway."

    One destroyer would usually be enough for a system like this. That J-8754 had been reinforced...well, she couldn't guess who thought that was a good idea, but it's possible they were expecting a much bigger push of enemy ships after the earlier communications between scout ship and colony. As it was...there hardly felt like a reason for her and the others to be stationed there. She rubbed her shin with one hand as she pondered this and other, related matters. Their directives were clear, but what motivated them in the first place? Why this odd war of suppression? She had always seen her enemy less as humanity and more as their ships, as she had no ingrained orders regarding the ships' crews...but there were still some unanswered questions here. Perhaps most nebula ships didn't need such a thing?

    Standing alone on the bridge, the command ship shuddered at the thought. Whether due to the implications for what had happened to her, or her previous acceptance of how things were, even she couldn't tell.
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  18. In the background, crewmembers were rushing about the bridge, harried by the threat of imminent destruction. Their actions were practiced and precise however, each crewmember knowing his or her role as they activated systems and prepared for the captain's orders... which as the torpedoes grew closer, still had not yet come. Sergio winced and stole a glance at the captain upon his pompous chair and inwardly cursed the way the man seemed to regard everything as a game. Sure, panic wouldn't help them now, but a bit of concern would have been nice.

    Captain Rukh seemed unflappable however, and he afforded an insouciant shrug. "You say that, and yet you 'fired upon' us before you achieved any sort of a target lock. Way I see it, there were three options, now reduced to two-"

    The theorizing to follow was cut short when Sergio cleared his throat and announced, "Ten seconds to impact!"

    Such pesky considerations like combat interrupting a perfectly good conversation. The scrawny man on his seat stretched out luxuriously before sitting up, his hand gripping the arm of the chair as he looked into the holocorder with conviction. "I look forward to seeing how this plays out." And with that, the transmission ended.

    Almost immediately, the ship began to maneuver at last, but rather than try to dodge or evade the watchful gaze of the frigate flying alongside them, their ship... headed right toward the upcoming asteroid! Canceling the curving trajectory that would have lead it safely away from the large space rock, the boxy freighter instead turned to directly face it. At the same time, a much smaller- but faster- torpedo zipped through the emptiness of space, on a collision course with the same calmly floating asteroid they were now flying toward. It screamed silently through the vacuum, coming within a few dozen meters of their ship before streaking out and smashing into the rock structure, detonating and sending a brilliant spray of shards of silicate and ice blossoming into space.

    And also creating a rift large enough for their ship to just fit through. Sergio gritted his teeth as the clattering sound from the hull sounded like they'd entered a hail storm, but their thick armor should hold up. More importantly, he watched the display to ensure that no larger chunks had gashed their hull on the way through, but luckily it seemed the helpful torpedo had done an outstandingly thorough job shattering the brittle asteroid. Now on to the fun part.

    Before Ana's sensors, where one ship had entered the asteroid's debris field, six ships came out! They were all apparently the same vessel, down to the very smallest detail, and they all possessed the same thrust signature as well. And frustratingly enough, the half dozen freighters now engaged in a dizzying display of evasive maneuvers, turning and employing impulse thrusters to ensure their trajectory was anything but predictable. All while maintaining a course toward the edge of the asteroid field.

    "We should be safe to jump in just under two minutes. If we make it..."

    "You know I've never been a stickler for safety. How long till we can really jump?"

    Sergio was afraid to give that one an answer.
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  19. Second by second, the atmosphere within the old control tower grew more tense and unbearable. And not just because the environmental controls had been disabled for the unused spaceport long ago, either. Magistrate Serunk was not a religious man- it was hard to cling to belief of an all-powerful benevolent supernatural being when the actual supernatural beings they had encountered wanted them dead- but he still sent his thoughts and hopes and fears out into space as they watched the outdated display table refresh every few seconds. Its entire surface was a screen and its resolution undoubtedly laughable but then, they should be grateful that it even still worked.

    Not that it was easy to be grateful for their current situation. Serunk wanted more than anything for the skies to warp and bend so that a cargo ship- of any size- could come jetting out and head for the planet's surface while the Nebula ships hesitated for whatever reason, gloating over the carcass of their latest kill, no doubt. He knew that should the smuggler's come here, they would find themselves trapped on the surface, unable to leave due to the Nebula Fleet's patient willingness to spend any amount of time necessary to ensure their damned Directive was carried out. And that's if they were lucky enough to avoid an orbital bombardment.

    To that end, all available work crews were poised by the space port to help with the unloading process, and without anything to unload, their tempers were surging as high as the lava flares that leapt out of the Calefact Sea. The Magistrate was just about ready to send out the dismissal order when the latest refresh of the display table came with an alert in the form of a high-pitched ping- For just a second, Serunk's spirit soared and he sucked in a arid breath as he leaned forward, his charcoal-colored eyes lively for a moment as they scoured the screen for a new contact. But that hadn't been the arrival sound- it was instead an activity alert. And instantly his emotions ran from roaring optimism to smoldering despair: The Nebula ships were headed their way.

    "Sir...?" The man next to him asked, the veins in his burly arms visible in spite of the chalky dust that covered them all. Serunk swore he could hear the derision in the man's tone, underlying the query. He knew that the gathered workers were just as soon hang him from this tower than go another day with the strict water rationing, if that's what it took.

    "Send out the order to shelter in place. We dont know what this is. Maybe they intend to punish us..." The man nodded and bolted out of the tower to pass on the message. Thankfully the colony had been built with extensive bunker systems, to help them outlast the convection storms that swept over the plate during the summer weeks, when their moon was exposed to the heat of the sun directly. Serunk doubted that those structures could protect them from a full-out attack from orbit, but it would be better than standing around waiting for the projectiles to fall. Maybe even some of them would survive.

    But Magistrate Serunk did not plan to be one of them. He waved off the half-hearted attempt to lead him out of the tower for the old Governor's bunker and watched as most of the men left the space port, to go be with their families. What surprised him was that some stayed. Maybe they wanted to be the ones to exact their cruel sense of justice upon him before the Nebula ships did. But so be it. He was tired- so very tired. His bones ached and his joints crackled and deep worry lines creased his forehead. Let the end come.
  20. Ana smiled as the copies emerged from the debris, this human captain was going to play the game after all. Within moments she had assigned a number to each copy of the freighter on sensors as they appeared on the overview holo and she tried to extrapolate which were more likely to be the original. Ruling out the closest, designated 2, as unlikely to be the original its flight path was just as erratic as the others but it lost distance with each turn bringing it ever closer to her weapon ranges. 6 was a possibility, though it was more distant from the other copies meaning she would only be able to chase that one to the exclusion of the other five should she select it as the target. No of the six targets 3,4 and 5 seemed the most likely and of them 3 and 4 were sticking the closest to each other. All the while the music had been constant in the background and it now reached a point where the tempo of the orchestra picked up. Appropriate, she thought.

    Her six box launchers rose out of their recessed housing in her hull, each one rotating forward in the process. The missile box, torpedo launchers and the primary turrets began selecting targets 3 and 4, the medium turret and torpedo's in particular targeting the more distant of the two. Her engines were humming loudly enough for her to feel the vibrations through the deck plating as she accelerated to maximum speed in order to close the gap and bring her weapons into a more effective range. She was only targeting the freighters drive systems, preventing the freighter from leaving the system would suffice for now.

    As it was she already suspected the freighters next FTL destination and she was fairly certain those copies would be unable to fake an FTL jump, the power signature of initiating a jump alone should reveal which was the true freighter. once that happened she could calculate their trajectory and if it matched her suspicion, following would not be an issue. She paused for a moment as the thought cycled through her processors, The captain had been crafty so far, it was entirely possible he would make a short jump to another destination, or even deep space and then change course. No, she was going to follow her 'gut', as the humans called it, on this one and should she fail to stop the freighter here she would travel to Lythios system anyway.
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