Recuperatio: Moonwings

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Asmodeus, Oct 10, 2011.

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    Prologue: Jumpstart


    It scuttled through the darkness, finding its way on twelve little legs that made a chittering sound on the decks. It was the only noise, save for the drowsy bleep of idling systems as the slow ticking of the AI kept the ship afloat. Lights flickered on as it moved, their sensors picking up the motions of the tiny creature, and with each door that opened the artificial gravity kicked in, powered by the noisy spin of gyro-machinery. But the creature crawled on regardless, over old pipes and vent shafts, finding the shortest route through the ghost ship that was slowly waking to its presence.

    It was an hour later when it dropped from a vent and landed before a grand door overlaid with gold-etched symbols. It scuttled up to it before turning. And as the light flickered on, it caught upon the carapace of the creature's back.

    It was a mask. A metal face scuttling on mechanical, insectoid legs.

    The creature reared up and pressed its back to the surface of the door and there followed choral hissing as the locks disengaged. The massive doors parted and through a cloud of cryo-gas the mask skittered inside. Scaling a flight of stone steps, it circled the throne, hopping deftly over the rivulets of draining ice. Then it found the foot of its master and crawled upwards, scuttling along the length of his leg and onto his lap. Next it clambered up the chest, finding footholds on the defrosting fabric of his robe, before scaling his neck.

    The mask manoeuvred itself into position and clamped over the man's face, the legs spreading out like a twelve-pointed star before curling suddenly and snapping inwards. Each metal tendril penetrated a port in the man's skull, interfacing metal and flesh, piercing the brain and pulling the mask tight. It was golden now, cut by streams of gemstone black... a visage angelic yet grained with darkness.

    And beneath it, the eyes opened from their sleep.

    In a single motion the captain of the ship rose from his throne and took his first step forwards across the... "WRAAAAGH! OOPH!"

    Asmodeus fell down the stairs in front of the throne and landed in a heap. He laid there, mask-first in the water, and a slow moan escaped him. "I hate cryosleep."

    Getting up again, the pirate captain staggered from the chamber and started down the corridor, swaying from wall to wall. The mask shifted slightly as it got comfortable and little crackles of energy darted across its surface as the neural interface began to focus. It took him a few minutes, but eventually Asmodeus was walking upright through the empty halls of the Legacy Flagship.

    His hand slammed a button in the next corridor and the shutters lifted from the starboard viewing port.

    The voyage had gone perfectly. The Legacy (or the cargo freighter it was disguised as) was docked with the Pilgrim's Reach Jumpgate and the access shafts were now extending. He could see a few other ships similarly engaged, and they too would soon be granted access to the famous space port. No doubt robot ambassadors or automated messages would be powering up. Through the distant windows of the jump gate he could see signs of liveliness - robots and aliens rubbing shoulders in the corridors and bars lit by neon strips. Pilgrim's Reach was a truckstop, transport hub, outpost and entertainment venue all in one.

    And... most importantly... the only safe way to get through the Tacaton Nebula and into Moonwings Space.

    The jumps weren't cheap, and the paperwork wasn't light. But Asmodeus had amassed a small fortune in his Iwakuan days, and he had plenty of antiques and toys to trade with.

    Speaking of which...

    The captain continued down the corridor and over to the port side, halting before another chamber with doors similar to his own cryo-pod. This one had blue symbols though, and the glyphs were of a different language entirely. As before, he pressed his mask to the recess at the centre and with a resonant hiss the doors parted.

    "Rise and shine, sweet star of mine."

    He peered through the cryo-gas into the chamber, looking for his companion.

  2. The Iwaku fast cruiser Agamemnon was once part of a fleet of all new ships built as a show of force just before Moonwings fell. At the time there were rumors, suspicions and a fast and capable navy was thought a necessity to prevent moonwings anarchists from invading Iwaku space. Still they had served well when the spiders came.


    Now however she was out an outdated ship, more retrofit than original hull and a part of the reserve fleet good for than reminding people of Iwaku's glory days. It was perhaps fitting that the a ship of the fleet Asmodeus had built was now in station close to Pilgrim's Reach.

    "Attention shuttle Deshnek. Final checks are complete, preparing to release docking clamps."

    Overalled figures jogged awaw from the shuttle towards the awaiting airlocks as with a low hum the clamps withdrew and the airpumps began emptying the berth. The sound died as the air drained and from his seat next to his pilot and bodyguard Vay spoke into the shuttle's microphone.

    "Very good control, we're all set on this end. Thanks for the lift."

    The main doors began to slide and the full wonder of the nebula came into view. "Theres something you don't see every day.."

    The shuttle shuddered as the rail beneath them began moving them forwards propelling them out of the bay without the need for them to fire their thrusters.

    "Good luck commander."

    Even before the Deshnek docked at the station the Agamemnon was already making it's way back towards Iwaku space.

    * * *​

    Pigrim's Reach was not a military installation and so did not have the bulky armored bays for shuttles and auxiliary craft, instead the Deshneck was docked at an external berth a bridge extending and locking onto the outer hull. And now under artificial gravity Vay moved at the head of his group as they merged with the crowds. There was no official welcoming party, no dignitaries and a naval uniform was just another color in the wash of cultures and species that made up the temporary residents of this commercial hub.

    The reason they had opted to stop here instead of continuing strait to Moonwings was simple: If there was something going on over there, even if it wasn't part of the usual dangers of visiting the station, they could find out about it here. Moonwings was not a place you went to unprepared, even the inhabited zones.
  3. She had customized the settings in her room so that the gravity had to be turned on manually whenever she woke from stasis. This way, she would not have to waste precious calories on movement. She would float about her chamber as her muscles slowly adjusted, the synthetic parts of her brain synchronizing with the organic. It was always during these few moments that Tegan would dream awake.

    To the crew of the Legacy Flagship, cryosleep was an annoying trifle at worst: a long, dreamless sleep that preluded clumsy, atrophied muscles, thoughts that slowly penetrated the muck that surrounded the mind. Just a necessity to traverse great distances. For Tegan it was death. Countless years spent in a darkness that slowly ate her away. That invisible flying worm that gripped her innards every time her chamber filled with the freezing gas, crystalizing the fear with her. What if she didn't wake up again?

    "Rise and shine, sweet star of mine."

    Translucent lashes parted, optic nerves triggered by the sound of his voice, something sparked behind her right pupil. Captain Asmodeus would never do that to her. He would always wake her up. He had to promise her that, every time, in order to convince her to sleep.

    She had remained completely still up to this point, lying suspended midair just below the ceiling. Now she had rolled over to face her captain. She was smiling. ”Good morning, starshine.” One by one, the coin-sized silver domes, tipped with strange crystals, began to light up. The spinal implants began at the base of her skull and continued on down to the small of her back. The blue flourescents in her quarters brightened in response.

    Her muscles tensed for a moment, building just enough force to clear the distance between herself and the Enochian. Her red hair, boyishly short, stuck straight up as she floated, upside down, her face level with his. Asmodeus was still standing in the doorway, his feet firmly rooted to the floor. “I guess it’s time to get to work, huh?” She grasped the top of the door frame and, pulling herself forward and over the captain’s head, vaulted into the dim corridor. Tegan landed on in a low crouch, the only sound she made was a low hiss of discomfort as her body adjusted itself to gravity’s sudden assertion.

    “Tegan...” It was the tone he used with her when she was forgetting something important.

    The cyborg paused. Hm?” She followed the line of the Captain’s gaze down her body. She was naked, save for a set of black briefs and a nylon band that kept her breasts bound. “Oh, right.” Modesty was a concept she still had difficulty grasping.

    After Tegan had dressed herself, the two companions had made their way to the bridge in silence. Though his face was concealed, Tegan could tell by the change in his breathing, and the slight tension in his shoulders that the captain was deep in contemplation. Out of respect, Tegan had abstained from her usual chit-chat. lnstead, Tegan spent this time accessing the Legacy’s database, the schematics for the Moonwings station displayed in her right eye.

    It wasn’t until Tegan spotted Asmodeus, studying the same schematics, on a consol, that she decided to break their silence. The tension in his shoulders had gotten worse. Whatever it was that he was thinking about, it was unpleasant. "You're not gonna wear that on the station, are you, Cap'n?" Tegan had to stand on the tips of her toes, Achille’s tendons straining, in order to tap his mask with the point of her index finger. "What if someone recognizes it?"

    Despite the cybernetic portions of her cerebral cortex, which allowed her access to over a hundred variations of proper speech, were functioning properly, Tegan still insisted on speaking colloquially. She found it appropriate for her adolescent form, and she enjoyed the slang, the intentional slips of grammar; willful deconstruction of language to suit individual purpose. These were things she had to learn on her own; puzzles and exercises to keep her organic brain matter, the remaining shreds of her Broca’s Area, functioning.

    The cyborg dug a foil-wrapped object from her pocket, and took a sizeable bite, before holding out the rest to him in offering. "Chocolate?" Ravenous as she was, she had not forgotten what little etiquette she knew. Except that wiping her mouth part. The chocolate-smudged corners of Tegan's lips quirked into a grin.
  4. In space, aerodynamics do not matter. This was just fine, and in fact, perfect for a ship that would never feel the drag of air, for it could be constructed in a functional way without any spatial constraints. Nevertheless, the cuboid, angular block still somewhat resembled something that could, with effort, fly through atmosphere. Its arrival at the stardock went completely unnoticed for one simple fact - it was black. Blacker than black. Energy simply seemed to sink into its depths, a singularity upon which all electromagnetic radiation was absorbed and funneled into the star drive system. Over long distances and times, the impulse granted by an engine did not need to be sudden and powerful. For this reason, solar sails and ion drives were the ideal mechanisms for long term, and range, travel.

    The inside of the ship was equally black. It only consisted of an ellipsoid, which had a person within. His eyes were wide open, and wires protruded from open ports on his knuckles, plugging into nothingness along the curvature of his cocoon. The only sign of the approach was a red pentagram that blinked on and off, only once. It looked hastily drawn with watery ink, drawn on a surface that had no affinity for the paint and had thus allowed it to run until it dried off. In fact, it really was not a indicator at all - the ship had merely allowed light to pass through in the pattern of the insignia before once again going black. The electronic pupils spasmed and contracted against the sudden influx of light, but returned to their wide aperture afterwards.

    "$$$tunning." The occupant closed his eyes, wishing to imprint the snapshot in his memory before discovering that he did not appreciate what those words actually meant. He found though, to his delight, that he had the image of it on his mind.

    This was soon quickly folded into a continuum of images - vision - as he stepped out of the ship in the small personal docking stations. No one had cause to notice his boarding of the station, and if they had they would have seen him simply emerging from space - as if he had drawn back a curtain and stepped, like an actor ready to play his part, onto the airlock. His actions certainly spoke of confidence.

    The ship was never seen again. Blue static and lines flickered along its body as it disengaged from the lock and flitted away into the void.
  5. [​IMG]

    "This is the Musume preparing for docking procedures." Her voice echoed out, almost sing-songy as she flipped a few switches and made sure her docking course was correct before letting the autopilot finish the docking procedures on it's own. She quickly stood from her piloting seat and headed down to her personal chambers and dressed quickly. She wanted to look nice for her first sortie at Pilgrim's Reach. She felt Musume shift and begin to dock itself as she dressed and prepared herself.

    Quickly returning to her pilot seat she helped guide Musume into the last bits of docking and locking procedures. "Welcome Miss Alexandros, to Pilgrim's Reach." The scratchy docking assistant's voice came through her comm device and she could hear the airlock connecting to her ship from the lower deck. It was time to meet the benefactor that had sent her a message just a couple of days ago.

    Stepping out from her ship she quickly blended in with the rest of the crowd, making her way to the area that she was instructed to meet with this shadowy person. "Zypher Alexandros, I was called here for..." She spoke aloud, trying to figure out what she was going to say when she got to the meeting place.
  6. [​IMG]
    Something had been dripping steadily from the exposed metal piping in the corner of the room onto the floor below; long since Ophelia had entered the room, and probably would continue to do so long after she left. Thankfully, the time remaining now crept into hours instead of days. The accommodation she was currently in, supposedly the most "easy-on-the-credit" station closest to Pilgrim's Reach, was in fact not just at least averagely priced but also retained all the perks and disadvantages of a hostel found on the wrong side of the nebula. For two days, Ophelia had gotten used to the issues that came with the temporary accommodation, the unidentified liquid leaking from an unidentified place… at least the noises that came muffled through the walls, although unpleasant, were bearable. The benefits, however…


    No-one gave a shit if you were bored and started helping the hostel with their infestation problems. She nudged the lifeless furry thing under her bed with the toe of her boot to sit with the others.

    At first, guilt and apprehension had overwhelmed her as she waited for the manager to show at the door and enquire about the shots, but as the hours passed and life continued past the small box room, she had realised that there was no real consequence to her actions, apart from watching her ammo chip away. The release she received from idly counteracting her boredom did little to fill the restlessness in the pit of her stomach, but provided enough distraction to stop her thinking too much.

    Ophelia pushed back the copper curtain of hair that had partly fallen over her face, then slotted the gun back into the holster at her side. Newly dressed, the smell of her clothes still retained that intangible scent of her home. It had been five days since she had received the summons. She got the sense that her superiors either knew more than she did and were not letting on, or were clueless about what the terms of hire actually were. Either way, in the briefing there was a solid feeling of you're in this on your own that she relished more than feared. The next day, she had said her goodbyes to family and friends, and left Baccalao in one of the planet's four ships capable of visiting anywhere further than the nearest station. Her pilot had agreed to take her to the station but not to Pilgrim's Reach itself- vague excuses were given, but Ophelia knew many people from Baccalao generally disliked travelling further out than necessary. She wondered how long it would be before she felt the same homeward pull.

    Bzzzt. Bzzzzzzzzzzt. A bulb flickered into life on the far wall, lighting up half of a "call" sign.
    "Oh, at last." She muttered to herself as she threw her nightclothes in the small luggage case. The call, she assumed, would be from the reception, telling her that her lift to Pilgrim's Reach had just docked. Casting one last glance over the bare room, Ophelia pulled the case into the hallway and shut the door after her, thankful to be out of the cell.


    Her fingers danced nervously around the edges of her identity card as the pilot finalised the docking procedures. She kept herself silently occupied by counting the blinking pattern of the furthest left light switch, until the uniformed man swivelled over and shut it off altogether, breaking her reverie. Ophelia rose from her thinly-padded seat, jumping a bit as the ship juddered to a stop.
    "There you are, miss- sorry for the bumpy landing." The pilot, who had spent most of the flight swooping back and forth across the dashboard in his motorised chair had now turned to face her with a kind of dopey grin on his face. She supposed he wasn't all that unhandsome, considering his age, and had been reasonably courteous. She'd contact her superiors and tell them to leave him a tip.
    "Thank you, sir." She replied with a smile, and took the handle of her case. "Safe travels."

    He laughed, and for some reason, it set her on edge.


    The module flashed blue. Please wait. An operator will be with you shortly. Ophelia exhaled heavily. One of the problems of docking with hired ships was the more lengthy validation process that awaited you at the other side.

    Suddenly, the speaker crackled with static and a cheerful female voice greeted her.
    "Miss Helios! Welcome to Pilgrim's Reach. If you'd like to place your card on the scanner… thank you. One second." The solid metal doors shuddered once, and slid effortlessly open onto the main deck, despite clearly being very big and very solid.
    "We hope you enjoy your stay." The static crackled again and the speaker fell silent.

    Without missing a beat, Ophelia picked up her case and began to walk to the pre-determined meeting point set in the message.​
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  7. [​IMG]

    The grey and blue Pilgrim’s Reach shuttle slid easily into the small docking bay. Worn docking clamps extended out of the deck and from the ceiling above, locking the shuttle securely in place as atmosphere was pumped rapidly back into the bay. Nigel Kendall stood behind a large viewport arms crossed, watching as people exited the craft and made their way across the deck toward the arrivals checkpoint. Most visitors took the shuttles to the station. Occasionally there were a few ships, mostly Afta military transports with crew changes and supplies. However, for most of the year the massive freight docking bays stood cold and empty, the smaller shuttle bays seeing much of the activity. Double checking to insure his sidearm was in its holster he descended down a flight of stairs to work.

    "Welcome to Moonwings, Afta controlled Sector 9. Please proceed directly to Sector 9 Customs. Please have your identicard ready to give to the security officers on duty…"

    Nigel half ignored the broadcast as it repeated in other alien languages. Of course nearly everyone arriving on station was processed by the Pilgrim’s Reach personnel, especially shuttle passengers. Still protocol was protocol and it had to be followed. Nigel stepped through a security door and was at the beginning of the Customs checkpoint. Already some of the passengers from the shuttle had arrived at the checkpoint and were moving into some of the lanes. Security officers were checking them as they filtered through, swiping identicards through scanners.

    "You can always recognize security officers by their grey uniforms and red berets with the AFTA badge..."

    Nigel Kendall opened up another lane, preparing himself for another dull shift...

    "Is there something wrong, officer? I was told I was to be expected."

    Nigel jerked his head up from the scanner.


    The identicard told him that the man was human and an extremely important diplomat with Afta, but the way his cold eyes analyzed and pierced through Nigel made him feel small and deeply uncomfortable. In fact Nigel had been warned ahead of time by his superiors there would be certain VIP individuals that were to be redirected and not detained or searched. The security personnel weren’t told how or why, just to comply with orders. Nigel swallowed and spoke.

    "No sir, nothing wrong," Nigel weakly offered the identicard back to the man whose gaze never left his. Unnerved, he stumbled over his next set of words.

    "J-just not expecting your arrival to be so early, uh… thought you would be on the next shuttle sir. Just please follow that corridor toward the Security Office. You can use the first Conference Room on the left, room er… SC-11. Please let us know if you need anything." Nigel was relieved when the man simply turned his gaze away and left down the corridor he had been directed. Nigel muttered a curse under his breath.

    What the hell was going on? No way was that an Afta official…

    Looking up at the next passenger he accepted their identicard with a weak smile.
  8. Asmodeus's right hand swept along the console, an alcove responding to the pass and opening like a blooming flower to present a napkin. He snatched it up and brought it to Tegan's mouth whilst his other hand relieved her, delicately, of the chocolate. His gaze was intent on her lips as he dabbed away the chocolate stain.

    "They won't." he replied, and on cue the mask shifted and broke into quarters. Four digital images: a blue eye, a green eye, a clean-shaven mouth and a stubble-ringed mouth. It was a bizarrre collage, each eye moving in a different direction and two tongues flashing as he spoke. "You are to refer to me as Lamord. I am a merchant-inventor from Semile with a passion for Third Generation robotics. You are my cyborg companion, for data recording and menial tasks."

    Having cleaned her mouth he dropped the napkin into another recepticle then pressed a button. A small dish rose out of the console and he dropped the remainder of the chocolate bar into it. There was a brief fizzle before the chocolate was transmogrified into a layer of fine, grey ash.

    He bent over and snorted it through the nose-holes of his mask.

    * * * * *

    Having exited the docking tunnel and swatted aside the Welcome Droid that tried to tell them about the history of Pilgrim's Reach, Asmodeus and Tegan strode down the main corridor. They were holding one another's hand, the pirate pulling her along and giving her no time to take in the ambiance. As they moved they rubbed shoulders with all kinds of characters: traders, mercenaries, noble tourists and space-hitchhikers. All shapes and sizes - alien and android together in the hub's melting pot. But Asmodeus spared them no second glance.

    And of course, the hand-holding had a dual purpose.

    "Is it big?"

    "Very big."

    "How big?"

    "City size. Moonwings was built to accommodate a whole civilisation. And I use the term loosely."



    Tegan shifted her hand in his grip, adjusting the synaptic connection by which they were communicating their thoughts. "And this... employer... wants us to go to the core?"

    "We've been hand-picked from the hen-pecked, Miss Doolittle. The message was relayed in subspace under Class 4 Chimera Modulation. There's only a few people in the galaxy who could have decoded it. Our mystery man wanted the best."

    "Could be a trap."

    "I'm not one to bring a knife to a gunfight."

    Turning onto the corridor that would take them to the shuttle bay, Asmodeus slowed as he removed an object from his pocket. It was Metatron, his lazer-sword, dormant for now and resembling a short telescope. Turning it, he thumbed a button and took a reading. "Hmm," he said out loud, then suddenly turned and pushed Tegan into the nearest alcove between the bulkheads.

    In the shadows he severed the synaptic link and placed both hands on her breasts, and Tegan gave the briefest gasp as he squeezed. There was a click and then her chest opened, the breasts swinging out to reveal her internal workings. Asmodeus's mask was bathed in a soft crimson glow and he pressed a hand to the nearest organic interface so that he could communicate once more.

    "If the readings are right, we'll need a few tweaks to get you through the scanners."

    The four parts of his face sharpened in concentration as he put his hand inside her chest and began making some adjustments. His fingers moved nimbly, and Tegan's eyes flickered in time with him, and after a few seconds he was done. He closed her chest again, took hold of her hand, and continued with her towards the shuttle bay.

    This was where the others would be converging... for the shuttle ride that would take them to the Wonder of Wonders.
  9. [​IMG]

    Sebastien had considered himself special. He supposed that perhaps it was his desires that set him apart. He had a raison d'etre. A reason for living. He desired to foster action. To possess consequence. To seek out what was visceral. To inhale that which brought colour to life. To touch and to be touched. To create and sustain an authentic connection with another human being. And yet, for all that, he was lost to the world. He was just a shade of humanity. He was nothing more than a whisper on the winds of time. And he knew it. His lust for life had been exhausted. Gone were the pleasures of being controversial and igniting reaction. Stolen by exploit and by those whom he had therein encountered. In the same moment in which, like the conductor of an orchestra, he charmed an entire room into a crescendo of laughter and rapturous applause, he now also slipped deeper into the void. Sebastien had once considered himself special. He could barely remember why.

    Herein lies the story of his last days.

    An aircraft sailed along the AFTA capital's midnight skyline. It joined the currents of city traffic and cruised there for a while. Drifting. Then, almost without warning, the vessel soared up into the skies. Far above the hustle bustle of the city traffic. Up, up, up into the heavens. Up towards the Senate Palace.

    "Requesting permission to dock".

    "Permission granted. Welcome back, sir".

    The vessel touched down on a marble docking bay and was immediately received by a group of soldiers and engineers congregating around the vehicle. The doors opened and the pilot exited. "Agent Menorain, welcome back to the Palace, sir", saluted one of the palace personnel. "Indeed. Now, explain the situation please", Menorain enquired. Confused; the soldier's vision transferred to his fellow colleagues. "Useless", Menorain muttered under his breath.

    "Agent!", shouted a young woman who was running to meet Menorain. Upon closer inspection, Menorain recognised her as a Senate aide. She would run errands and the likes. A modest job. "Finally. Do you care to explain why my presence has been requested here?". The woman's eyes widened. "Well, I haven't been fully informed. I MEAN- um, the Senators are holding a meeting. Very last minute. They'll need you to debrief-". Menorain interjected, realising that she was running into sensitive information, "Very well. Show me the way". The aide nodded and complied.

    Menorain had just returned from a mission at Pilgrim's Reach. He had been meeting with an agent stationed at Moonwings. The agent had relayed information regarding plans to enter into the core of the structure. At first, Menorain had found the idea amusing, but then his imagination had run wild. What treasures, he had thought. Still, it wasn't without it's dangers. The subject weighed on his mind as he was directed through corridors upon corridors. Why would the Senate be interested in information relating to Moonwings? The aide had implied that he had been summoned to an emergency meeting. Had something happened? Was there a connection between his mission at Pilgrim's Reach and the summons? He surmised as much.


    "Here you are, sir. Good luck", the aide turned on her heel and ushered Menorain inside. He entered into a large, dark auditorium. There wasn't a soul in sight. He looked over his shoulder to see if maybe the aide had followed him in; she had not. A projector on the ceiling was shining an imageless light onto the wall behind the main stage. "Hello?", Menorain asked, his voice rebounding off the walls. "Hellooooo?", he asked again as he proceeded further into the room. Nothing. "Excuse me?". He finally decided to climb up onto the stage in order to better scan the landscape. "Hello?", he continued. The projector light flickered and Menorain lifted his eyes to the wall behind him. Just dust.

    "Mr. Delacroix", a voice boomed from the back of the room.

    Menorain turned on the spot. Blinded. His arm shot up in reflex to defend his eyes from the harsh light of the projector. "Whose there?", Menorain managed. "Who do you think?", the man quipped. A smirk developed at the corner of Menorain's lips. He relaxed. His arm fell aside and he allowed the light to wash over his porcelain skin. "I wonder who it could be?", Menorain exaggerated. His eyes focused. There, by the door he had just passed through, stood a shadowed figure. "What's a young man like you doing wandering the halls alone at this time of night?", the man probed. "I can look after myself", Menorain responded, holding back subdued laughter. "It's unsafe, no?", he slowly approached the stage. "I guess that I just believe in living dangerously". "Oh do you now? Hm... how interesting", the man snorted. He stood at the bottom of the steps onto the stage. Menorain's eyes had adjusted the light. He could more or less make out the face and figure of the person who was harassing him with this sarcastic gabfest. Not that he would need a face to recognise the source of such irritating conversation.

    "Senator Pascal".

    "Sebastien", the white haired gentleman greeted the agent as he finally joined him on the stage, his dark blue robes shifting in the projector lights as he took each step. There were only about three or four meters between them now.

    Valéry Pascal. Once upon a time he had been widely regarded as the Queen's wisest advisor. Perhaps also her most contentious, too. However, now in his late sixties, he had settled in his role as an AFTA senator. The man stopped by Sebastien's side, raising his fingertips to Sebastien's face. Menorain flinched. "Enough. What's the meaning of all this?", he demanded as he took a step back. The light shown over the Senator's face. Sebastien realised that the Senator was staring deep into his eyes. It was disturbing. What a creep. "...Please", Menorain pressed, concentrating his vision on the floor. "Sorry, my son. Of course". "That's fine", he replied, not wanting to create any further awkwardness.

    The Senator took a deep sigh and put his hands behind his back. He was ready for business. "Well, the matter is actually quite serious". "Is this about my mission?", Sebastien asked, his tone consumed by curiosity. Pascal nodded. "I believe you may be in grave danger". Time stood still. For a moment it seemed that only three things existed. Sebastien, Pascal, and an overwhelming feeling of dread that hung over his head like a dark cloud. "I-I don't understand", he managed. He was speechless. Thinking was impossible. There wasn't an opportunity to wonder about why he was in this predicament. Sebastien was doing everything in his power just to keep himself from falling over in shock. Pascal put his hand onto his shoulder and, surprisingly, Sebastien felt that he had been brought back down to earth an inch. "Don't fret, my poor boy. I have a plan". He was in danger. Great danger. But Pascal had a plan. What was the point? He would be hunted. He could die. Someone would be sent after him. He would be murdered. He would cease to exist.

    "Sebastien, get a hold of yourself!", Pascal squeezed the boy's shoulder. "I-I'm sorry. Go on", Sebastien shook his head and tried to concentrate. "Wait. What went wrong? On the mission". "I don't know for certain", Pascal responded eventually. Sebastien had expected as much. Such was the way in politics. In a game were information is power, all the players must be on an even keel. "Regarding the mission at Pilgrim's Reach, Special Branch have communicated some concern to the Senate". Pascal looked down at his wrist. "Damn", he muttered under his breath. "Ok, listen. The Senate haven't asked for you yet. I personally made the order for you to report back to the Palace upon your return from the mission. As far as they are concerned, only Special Branch and a few select senators know anything about this. That doesn't include me". That Pascal had knowledge of something far beyond his own network didn't surprise Sebastien. However, he was taking a risk in revealing such details. In the eyes of the Senate, he was basically admitting to treason. "Go on". "Well, officially, it will look like you're here under a separate matter. It is then that I will offer you a new mission. At which point, you shall accept and return to Pilgrim's Reach". Sebastien gasped in disbelief "Pilgrim's Reach? With all respect, sir, what are you talking about? That's suicide. I can't go back there now", he snapped and for the first time, he had raised the tone in his voice. "Trust me. It will look like I've sent you away for my own reasons. You'll be out of harm's way". Sebastien considered the Senator's plan. "One problem, Senator, I'll only be in Pilgrim's Reach. It's not exactly a million miles away". Pascal's mouth twisted into a grimace. "Well, that's the other thing. The mission will require you to travel to the Moonwings station". "Moonwings?", Menorain laughed. "You can't be serious". Pascal was walking in circles around Menorain. His arms were folded and his head heavy. His face was wrought with purpose. "I'm completely serious. AFTA and Moonwings are separated by the nebula. It's the perfect location".

    "Very well. What would you have me do?". "My aide will explain the details. Clarice!", Pascal shouted and the same aide from before darted through the door and over to the stage. "I'll handle everything. By the time you're underway in Moonwings, this will all have blown over". Pascal looked genuinely concerned. Sebastien was aware that the Senator was fond of him, but he didn't expect Pascal to put his own neck on the line. "I'm not sure", Sebastien whispered. "This is your only option, son. It's now or never". Suddenly, the aide piped up, "Sir, I've received word that Special Branch have forwarded the official request for the Senate meeting". The aide was clutching onto her PCCD (portable communication and computing device) and frantically scrolling through pages upon pages of information. This was it. Now or never. "Right. Ok. I trust you". "Good boy", Pascal smiled and patted Sebastien's shoulder. "Clarice, escort the young man to my private dock", the senator turned and began spouting orders. "You can take my cruiser. It'll get you out of AFTA without interference from Special Branch. Oh this is perfect!", the senator cheered. Despite his age, he reminded Sebastien of a child when he smiled. "Clarice, you can brief Sebastien on the mission on your way to the cruiser". Clarice nodded. "Sir, you need to come with me now", Clarice explained to Sebastien. She left the stage and began walking towards a different exit. "Sebastien, be careful", the senator managed. He wasn't sure if he should hug him or not. A handshake wouldn't be appropriate. "Senator...". "Just go". Sebastien nodded. "Um-thankyou, sir".


    Clarice bolted down another corridor. Menorain dragged a short distance behind. A security camera caught his eye. It suddenly dawned on Sebastien that Special Branch were probably watching his every move. He didn't worry too much. No doubt it would turn out that all of the audio and visual security along Sebastien's path would be non operational. Pascal's handiwork. "Are you listening?", Clarice asked, interrupting his concentration. "Obviously I'm listening", Menorain snapped. "Good. Now, one of our departments recently translated some radio interference that had been floating around in cyber radio". "I'm not even going to pretend to understand", Menorain sighed. "It turned out to be an invitation to an excavation mission on Moonwings. Ordinarily, Pascal would have waited for a more advanced agent to become available, but circumstances being what they are-". Menorain sneered. "All I'm saying is - this mission is still important. Remember that", Clarice further clarified. Unnecessarily.

    They had arrived at Pascal's hanger. The cruiser was much larger than Menorain's standard vessel. It was covered in plates of black, reflective glass. Exponentially more slick looking. "It's been prepped by the engineers so it's all ready to go. You can drive? Good. Now, take this PCCD", the aide handed over the PCCD. "I've configured it to agent level access. You can find all the relevant info on it". Menorain held the PCCD in his palm and pressed a button that caused the pad to morph into a pocket sized cube. "Impressive". "Use it sparingly. It's a piece of official AFTA equipment. It would only take the wrong person seeing you using it and your cover would be blown. But, if you're in a dire situation, I suppose that you can use it to identify yourself as an AFTA agent". "Will that be all?", Menorain asked as he boarded the stairs to the cruiser. No reply. He turned around to Clarice, but she was already running back in the direction of the Palace.


    Menorain tightened his grip on the satchel. It's contents included the PCCD and a laser gun. He had escaped AFTA and returned to Pilgrim's Reach without incident, but he was going to remain cautious until he was on the other side of the nebula. According to the PPCD files, he was running late for the shuttle to Moonwings. "Welcome to Pilgrim's Re-", started a soldier. "Yes, yes. Whatever. Now, where can I find the shuttle to Moonwings?", Menorain barked. The soldier did not appear to be particularly startled by the remarks. "You're here, sir. Boarding will commence shortly". Menorain realised that the area was filling with an eclectic group of people. Yes, this had to be the place. "Well, that was easier than expected", he whispered under his breath.
  10. Ilico had been leisurely walking towards his destination, one hand swinging at his side, the other holding some sort of foodstuff he had purchased earlier. The vendor had mild objections when he interfaced with the payment machine via his intrusion snakes, but on the other hand had not seen fit to advise him that he was paying double. Ilico had not been educated on monetary restraint, and as far as he was concerned moving numbers from one place to another was simply one of the many ways he had learned to accomplish a given task.

    His contemplation of the foodstuff (He could not tell whether his chewing motions or something else caused the food to move. Once or twice he stopped chewing and the stuff slopped briefly in his mouth before coming to a standstill. Hm.) was interrupted by the exchange between Asmodeus and his little cyber companion, up to the point where they both disappeared into one of those nooks that decorated all modern architecture. He stopped and stood in one place, one hand folded behind his back, waiting until they reemerged.

    "$trange." The warble in his voice synthesizer was out of place, sprinkled with digital noise, and no doubt would cause a few heads to reflexively turn. Regardless, he was not phased by his apparent admitted witnessing of such an event, and strolled past both of them before they had exited the alcove, also making his way towards the shuttle bay. He found, that when he looked into his memories for what to do, that this was what he should be doing.

    This delighted him.

    [Addendum, circa Oct 30 2011]

    Although his instructions (or 'feelings') on what to do next was not very clear, he still figured out a way. Strangely enough, at the shuttle bay no pilots were willing to take him, and when he was about to transfer numbers from one account to another a smalling tutting voice came into his head, chastising him for not finding a more elegant and discrete solution.

    He descended a flight of stairs near the side of the bay, a maintenance path, and came to a grimy docking station used for small craft that were meant to fly around the surface of the station. He stood outside the airlock, staring into space. Click. A few registers flipped themselves on, and off. Click.

    The cocoon shimmered into existence in the airlock. Authentication systems, old and forgotten, whined upon registering new unfamiliar input, but put no up real resistance.

    He stepped into the inky black void and let it carry him to the Moonwings.


    How he appeared at the rendezvous point on the space station was unclear, but from one of the many corridors snaking in and out like a spider's web he emerged and stood, leaning against the wall, arms crossed, face neutral.

  11. It was business as usual in the Pilgrim's Reach shuttle bay. Bathed in the blue light of the Tacaton Nebula, work crews serviced the daily rotation of shuttles bound to and from the Moonwings Station. It was a conveyor-belt process of refits and patch-jobs, since the Nebula was particularly effective at corroding or pressure-tearing anything that flew through it. ...Yet another reason why Moonwings had become so cut off during the Dark Ages.

    Beyond the forcefield layers at the far end of the bay, the nebula was a swirling sea of blue - a backdrop against which other ships were moving towards the docking arms. Asmodeus could just make out the rear-most part of the Legacy from here, and for a moment he felt a flicker of sadness... a fleeting thought that he may never see the old girl again.

    Perhaps he should have brought at least one of his pirates with him... to watch over the ship. Of course, that would require a level of trust that was in short supply. He had kept his mission secret from his own followers precisely because they were too incompetent to pull off a stunt like this.

    Plus... it was more dramatic this way.

    With his hand entwined with Tegan's, Asmodeus crossed to the long queue of travellers that stretched towards the security gates. Beyond it the next shuttle had been prepped and was powering up its impulse engines. It was a glorified tin-can as far as he could see - barely big enough for thirty passengers. But he guessed this was how the Moonwings Administration liked it - small, manageable tour groups.

    A bureacratic contempt that would play in his favour. His forged ID card proclaimed him 'Lamord the Merchant', and the guards would offer no second glance to this trader and his pleasure-bot. He peered slightly at Tegan as he stepped into line, the digital eyes on his mask blinking independently as he continued their synaptic discussion.

    "The scanners may tickle. But I've protected all the naughty stuff."

    With his other hand he removed his lazer-sword and handed it to the security guard at the gate.
  12. "Pretty sophisticated design for a regular Pleasure-bot." The security officer turned his eyes from the scanner reading to regard the petite cyborg, still standing on the platform. He flashed her a friendly smile.

    Tegan's brow furrowed with in obvious annoyance. She did not like this man. “Define ‘pleasure’.”

    The officer fell silent at the cyborg's odd behavior, before glancing at his fellow officers, busy frisking the merchant Lamord for some sort of help.

    "You see, I've been designed to carry out a multitude of tasks for the purpose of my owner's 'pleasure.'" Asmodeus was holding her in one of his long, hard stares from behind his mask. She could feel it. Since her small display of rebellion had been a success, Tegan's face melted into an impassive expression as she turned back to the security officer.“I mean: Correct. Gemini Class Pleasure-Bot. Registration #060587 .” Then, sullenly directed at 'Lamord'. “beep boop.”

    "Er...right." He swiped her identicard through the scanner, it gave a nice little 'beep' before the metal doors swung open for them with a deafening buzz.


    "That was pretty easy."

    His hand tightened around hers as he lead her through the shuttle's narrow corridor. A silent, put-upon attendant admitted them into the sparse cabin. There were not yet many sitting in the scuffed polyurethane seats. They were the first to make it through security.

    “My cover story was much better. Me, an orphaned heiress looking for the key to her past, and you, my imposing, laconic bodyguard.”


    “Why not? It has all the elements for a good story: adventure, mystery--”

    “A willing suspension of disbelief.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean, Cap’n?” Tegan paused their connection for a moment, her head tilting from left to right as she looked about the cabin. The red light behind her right eye blipped for just a moment. "Thirty-one seats, total. Three exits; front, center and rear. There's only enough room in the cockpit for two. Two lavatories. One small galley. They've got a stun-phaser hidden inside..." She went down the standard laundry list of describing their surroundings to the captain. She knew that he was observant of such things, but she carried on with it, anyway. It was one of the many things Asmodeus had learned to simply let her do, so that they could sooner carry on with their conversation. And besides, the habit had proven useful on more than one occasion.

    Once he was sure that his companion had finished, Asmodeus resumed their silent bickering.

    “Most wealthy heiresses have a sense of refinement to them. They remember to close the door when they are in the lavatory, for example.” One side of his digital lips turned up in a grin that only she could see, the other side, the side facing the other passengers, remained stoic. He paused to allow Tegan to slip into the cramped row of seats.

    “Hmph! And you never listen to anyone. You’d make a terrible bodyguard.” Finally, their hands came apart as Tegan easily slipped into the window seat. She rummaged through her small knapsack, before withdrawing a worn, dog-eared paperback. Her blue eyes began to move rapidly over the text.

    The captain never let her have any fun. She would have to wait for him to let his guard down before she could do any kind of 'proper data assemblage.'

  13. [​IMG]

    "Shuttle zero-seven will be departing for Moonwings in a few short minutes, Will all passengers wishing to travel to Moonwings please report to the shuttle bay for transfer. Shuttle zero-seven will be depart…"

    The voice was soon loss as more passengers and late arrivals filled the shuttle to capacity. Once the last person quickly entered the cabin door was sealed with a hiss. Dull noises from the exterior informed the passengers that the docking clamps had been disengaged and engines had been started. A new male voice now filled the cabin and an icon with the imagery of a seat belt flashed on at the front of the cabin.

    "Hello, this is your captain speaking. We are now making the transfer to Moonwings. Unlike Pilgrim’s Reach which has artificial gravity our transfer shuttles unfortunately have no such luxury. Some passengers may find the zero-g conditions uncomfortable. We recommend for your comfort and safety that you remain fastened in your seat harnesses for the duration of the flight. Estimated time of arrival is sixty-three standard minutes."

    Looking out the shuttle’s windows one could see that they had already started moving across the shuttle bay. A sensation of weightlessness was felt by all as the transfer shuttle accelerated into the blue light of the Nebula.

    “Ya know the Tacation Nebula wasn’t always here” Muttered loudly an old man toward the front of the compartment to his companion.

    “It was said the old empire created it in order to slow the advance of the warships of the rebellion and protect the homeworld. Not that it did any good…”


    An hour later the shuttle was making final docking procedures. Moonwings loomed into the darkness above and below the shuttle as it made its way to a small docking port. In all appearances the massive station looked silent and derelict. The outer hull was peppered with deep jagged craters and scorched marks from a battle long ago. The old man was once again talking, but his voice was drowned out by the other passengers who were chatting away in excited voices.

    "Once again this is your captain speaking. Shuttle zero-seven will be docking shortly with Moonwings. Once the docking clamps have been engaged it will be safe for you to remove your seat harnesses. Please proceed directly to the customs area from the shuttle bay. Any weapons and/or baggage will be returned to you in the customs area."

    "We would also like to remind you to have your identicard ready for presentation to the security officers upon arrival. Afta officers and military personnel have access to command sections of Sector 9. If you have diplomatic status you have access to ambassadorial quarters and sections. All other passengers may visit the public and commercial areas of Sector 9 only. Thank you and we hope you enjoy your visit."
  14. "Shuttle Zero-seven now closed for boarding."

    Vay was unphased, he had his own shuttle and a docking bay booked on Moonwings, his compatriot on the other hand was taking his time on the shadier areas of the way station.

    "Are those grenades?" he asked giving Torsty a reproachful look as the large man approached there the commander sat leaning against a bulkhead the silver handle of his pistol just visible as a warning to the throng to stay back, as if the badge of office wasn't enough. Iwaku for all it's reforms still had not shaken the reputation of expansionism it had gained under Asmodeus' rule. And not even Vay could deny it was growing not faster even than back then then he had first don't one of her uniforms.

    "What? These?" Tosrt asked holding up a bunchof small spheres. "Naw, these are fruit. Though we could eat them as we pass through the nebula. the 'pedia calls them squick and says they're safe..."

    Vay didn't drop his gaze keepign hsi eyes on Tost's..

    "Oh you meant these... yeah.. low yeald concussion grenades made for shipboard combat. Will make a mess of your enemy ut not the plating between you and hard vacuum."

    Vay nodded standing. "Those may be useful but customs will be difficult seein as I don't have paperwork for them. They stay on the shuttle..."


    "... at first. I may get special dispensation as we search the unsettled sectors."

    Vay to hadn't been idle. He had gathered everything he could from AFTA news archives to rumors and sent them all in a report to Rory. Most of it was already known, unreliable or inconclusive but one piece of information was suspicious and had been excluded from the report. Before the fall of Moonwongs there had been a lot of communications between it's leader and someone high up in Iwaku, one packet pointed to and admin but Vay was yet to decode the contents beyond the IP layer.

    "We'd best get going. I have a feelind we're going to need help."
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