muffinphobia

dancing witch
BLASTER

If this lady was trying to piss him off it was sure as shit working! Yeah, maybe he blew more stuff up than the average crew member, but someone had to keep things interesting around here! He bristled when the security guards who had shown up started subtly eyeballing him as she mentioned the chaos and “problems” he caused. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said through gritted teeth. And then she was saying something about Gabi deciding to give him the boot. Yeah, right! She would never do that! The captain valued his abilities…but hey, wait a second, how the hell did this lady know so much, anyway? He’d never seen her before in his frickin’ life! Either way, he wanted to put his shortsword through her stupid face. He’d just about had enough of her assumptions and condescending chatter. The opportunity presented itself in the form of her rushing at them. The guards fell back and kept firing at her, but Blaster charged forward, his shortsword aimed at the place he’d just been daydreaming about cutting through. After all, there were two other intruders somewhere. The captain didn’t need all of them.

 

Presea_cousin

Edgebabby
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The Chosen Hand
The Messenger of Ink and Blood
The Herald of the Holy, Destined to Sail the Stars~~



~A bit before the attack~

People were staring. It was always stares here. People staring and shuffling out of the way as Harli walked through the halls of the Resistance base towards the docking bay. It wasn't because of her white pale skin or her long, dangly fingers that were twice the length of most other humanoid races. It had everything to do with that look on her face. Her wide eyed, too-big grinning face. But she just couldn't stop it. Especially as she entered the docking bay and she laid eyes on what she had only heard legends of: The Cotopaxi. Her people's savior. A sacred ark.


"As I live and breathe. And breathe in the air of my god.." She murmured to herself as she walked closer to the Cotopaxi, gazing up at the ship as she took it all in, burning its silhouette into her memory. Standing close to the ship, she reached out with her long fingers to touch the hull. "Ahhh!" She shuddered as she placed her hand against the hull. One would think she might've been shocked or the hull burned her. But no, nothing. Her hand was completely fine. She was just feeling elated at having touched what she considered a holy relic. "Alos enff anim hala coto einnn.." Harli murmured, praying in some of her native tongue.


A dock member moving some supplies on board spoke up near her. "'Scuse me ma'am, but can you please move? You're in the way-"


"SHUT UP!!" Harli screeched, turning to face the simple worker. Her face had turned from a serene smile of elation to a contorted face of an anger. The worker didn't even respond and shuffled away immediately. Harli flipped back to the hull, continuing to pray as everyone else in the dock gave her a ten foot berth.


Eventually Harli managed to peel herself away from the hull of the Cotopaxi to instead walk inside its sacred halls. The hallways were crowded with personel and cargo moving in all sorts of directions. Everyone was hustling to get this ship up and running, some looking like they had 50 things on their minds, others looking like they just picked up a box and were told to run in a random direction. Harli meanwhile was the exact opposite to all the busybodies, instead walking at a slow, graceful stride, like she was in the middle of ballet instead of the halls of a warship. Her hands were clasped in front of her, her lips rapidly moving as she kept murmuring prayers of admiration and awe as she walked along the metal corridors. To her, every light fixture was a promise of bright futures, every ding and hiss of machinery and repairs was holy cacophony to usher in peace, every rivet and solder was a message of unity and healing. Many of the other workers had tried to tell her to get out of the way or to speed up, but Harli was too stuck in her own mind to even yell at them, and soon everyone just resorted to skirting around her. Harli's slow pace did eventually get her to the bridge. Her smile only grew as she stepped into what she would consider an epicenter of a holy crusade. Even the captain's chair was regal looking.


Harli walked to her given station, the Head Communications/Navigation workstation, and relieved the temporary member who had been firing everything up and making sure all the equipment was ready for her. Harli spun in her chair for a bit, just to get a look at what she would be seeing from now on aboard the holy vessel. She grinned as the bridge had been designed perfectly so she could still see much of it from her own station. She turned back to her desk and reached into her robes, pulling out a journal. She then also pulled out a pen as well as a long vial of ink and set them aside on her console. Picking up her pen and filling the ink reservoir from her vial, she began to write in her journal.


'Amid hums and din of machine,

Amid the whispers and chatter of the living,

On this day, a Holy Star will plunge into a dark galaxy once more,

Showering the worlds in its trail with blessed peace.'



Harli was so engrossed in her authoring of new scripture, that she entirely missed that the Captain had come up onto the bridge. What she did not miss was someone broadcasting a message through the Cotopaxi, calling out 'fugitives and renegades.' Harli nearly snapped her pen in her hand, her face contorting with anger. "HOW DARE THEY! Who are these HEATHENS called Akkanar's Blood!? They dare spout their filthy words in this hallowed ship!! By the four moons of my home planet, they should be purged and purified in the fires of X-Chasm's sun!" Harli was now standing, arms wide as she was damning the intruders, which certainly wasn't helping the other bridge crew that were scurrying in confusion. Only when their captain spoke did Harli shush and turn to listen to orders. Gabi Burnett. How dare anyone name her a renegade or fugitive. To Harli, Gabi was about to be the brave captain that would soon lead a ship of destiny into a dark sea of stars. Ooh, that was good, Harli would have to write that into her scripture later.


Harli sat back into her chair and got to work. First she made sure all communication channels were opened and given command to Gabi, then began hailing Dr. Meadows on the comms. "Dr. Meadows, come in. The exalted Captain has given orders to prep the Med Bay. There may be incoming patients." Harli waited for a response from the doctor, as well as repeating it for good measure. Harli kept it going, but then noticed something odd. It wasn't any alarm or notification, but as she was keeping an eye on all the other communication channel readouts, it looked like some messages and reports were coming in slightly slower than when she had first sat down. "That's not right. The holy vessel is too new(ly reconstructed) to be experiencing such problems already.." Harli began opening different diagnostic tools and started examining the communication channels in higher detail. There was something in here, and Harli wasn't going to stop until she had purged the intrusion.
 

Pigiron

Shipcutter
Original poster

// And what do you want // I want to change //

Gabi had looked so damned confident. So confident. Like she had done this all before. Like her life wasn't hanging in the balance. Good lord, she had started barking out orders like a drill sergeant while the rest of the bridge had been asking if it was all a drill!
Gone was that hesitant woman that she had let slip to him. This was Gabi's game face. This was the captain of the Cotopaxi.
Perseus' heart grew warm with pride and adoration. He wanted to follow her, to do what he could to help-

Then she was gone.
And the alarms continued.
And Perseus realised he had absolutely nothing to contribute.
He stood there as informatics crew battled in cyberspace, as the security squadron erected barriers at defensible positions and prepared to lay down their lives to defend the bridge, as the non-combatants filed out, rushing to the canteen-
The canteen. The ship's large, defensible canteen.
Perseus joined the other non-combatants.

By the time Perseus had passed through the command corridor and reached the canteen through hastily erected security checkpoints, Perseus' heartbeat was loud in his ears, and he felt his breath shake in his throat. Grinding noises and emergency klaxons reverberated through the hull. Perseaus heard, far off, the tell-tale grinding of bulkhead doors sealing themselves closed.
This wasn't right. This wasn't right.
The ship was still in dock! There were no damage reports coming in for Perseus to see to or atmosphere alarms for him to check on. Everything he had expected regarding combat on the ship had gone out the window the moment the alarms had started blaring.
The canteen was a cacophony of action tinged with panic. People were getting behind ballistic cover hastily erected by the security amongst upended tables and scattered chairs. Everywhere he looked, people were asking each other how these boarders hit them in the heart of Resistance space, before they had even got off the ground.

Perseus gulped and headed toward a cluster of engineer-orange clad crewmembers, before realising that now was the time to show leadership. Perseus hastily tuned his comms to the engineering and maintenance channel and sent an all hands transmission to the people that were in his department, praying his voice didn't sound as shaky as it felt.
"Engineers, stay away from all reports of combat and congregate in the canteen. We'll only get in the way of the security teams if we interfere with repelling the boarders. Buddy up and look after each other with your shift-partners. Assist if you can with the construction of ballistic cover, but don't take any risks." Perseus finished, swallowing fear. Thankfully, the bulk of the security team was here, so the perimeter should be a tough nut to crack. Of course, that's not to say he wasn't putting everyone in danger simply by being here... A knot of guilt twisted in Perseus' stomach. Was he subconsciously using these people as human shields? Should he give up, to prevent his crewmates from being harmed?

The moment it looks like it might be them or me, I'll give myself up. No human shields. Not if I can prevent it.

// And what have you got // when you feel the same //
 
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Verran

Illogical
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The Good Doctor
Reginald looked over, for the fifth time, the staff members who had managed to make their way to the medical bay. All told, four members. Dr. Kilshaw, Nurse Meganin, Nurse Colb, and Orderly Maverly. Non-department members added another three. Two marines by the names of Dot and Dit. Twins, apparently. And Mr. Macklimara who had crawled out of the service access port at an incredible speed, screaming about a horrendous silver monstrosity that was oozing at blinding speeds through said service ways. Nurse Meganin had successfully calmed him down and Dot had sealed the service hatch off. Though ensured that its immediate interior could be remotely monitored in case any other crew members came that way. Reginald had a sinking feeling as to who the silver "ooze" might be. However, dealing with the agent of chaos would have to wait.

His communicator rang and he responded to Ms. Harli's relay of the captain's orders that he, and what staff he had, were indeed more than ready to accept potential patients. That the assigned security had reached them. And they were awaiting further instructions. With people in the office and a task to do, Reginald was able to suppress his own fears. Harli's voice was suddenly distracted. Referring to some problem. Dr. Meadows said his farewell and closed the line. Let the head of Info. do their job and he'd get back to his. Which was, unsurprisingly, waiting for casualties to stream in.
 

muffinphobia

dancing witch
The Jackrabbit Chronicles, Chapter 1
Co-written by Verran, Quake, and muffinphobia


Velshia’s brain was rushing. The guards and the hulking Rauncorn had moved in. El was just around the corner and completely oblivious to what she was about to stumble in on. Both I-6 and Elazar were getting into gear. But, oh, she thought, that delicious tidbit of information! So wonderful! So perfect! Who could have foreseen it? Again, Cassadrel showers her blessings in such beautiful ways.

She now had her hand. Stacked against her opponent. Now it was a matter of playing the cards correctly. I-6 and Elazar were raring to start the brawl. Too soon. They needed to get closer to the Jackrabbit. To prevent, or radically decrease, his time to start hopping out. So, how to do it, how to do it. Oh but of course, she thought, it’s a matter of changing the narrative.

After all, if she had been made by the Jackrabbit, all one had to do was own up to it. Just, not in a matter they expected. She whispered, “follow my lead.”

Immediately, Velshia changed her position. Uncurling somewhat into what was undeniably a lounging position. Her tears were gone. A soft cat’s smile was playing across her face that she flicked towards the mercenaries. “Really now,” she purred, “it took your boss this long to act? My, my, he must be losing his touch.”

“Valkorav,” she gave Elazar a meaningful pinch on his back, “give the nice big one our banking iterant. You’ll find 400,000 credits on it that should serve as my opening bid on Mr. Lang’s…item.”

Velshia enjoyed the confused glances the guards began throwing each other. If she was lying, then they would want to attack all the more. But if she was telling the truth, well…it would certainly get the big rabbit’s attention.

Elazar shot Velshia a withering glance - Valkorav, honestly - and removed his arm from around her waist. He leaned forward and grasped the handle of the briefcase that I-6 had been carrying when they’d walked in, his eyes on the guards as he did so. In one fluid movement he’d left his spot on the couch and now stood directly in front of the shorter guard. He wordlessly handed it over and resumed lounging on the couch beside Velshia, his arm casually draped over the back, though the look in his eyes was anything but relaxed.

Fortunately, one of the mercenaries did have a security scanner on him and, after they ran it over the case, delicately opened it. Connecting the iternant to his pad, big-boy gave a curt nod. Velshia’s smile broadened. They would need to check on the situation. She rose, drawing Elazar with her. “Well then, shall we go see your boss?”

“We’ll need to check first,” the man replied. The guards gripped tightly to their shocking, and paltry, weaponry. This was already not going to their designs. He contacted the Jackrabbit while the others kept wary watch on the party. The big brute had turned away, not letting her even a chance to read his lips. Unfortunately for him, Velshia could read his body language. The bunny-boy wasn’t buying it. He had somewhat shifted his pistol to easier access. Likely, the Jackrabbit was ordering the mercs to take them out back, gun them down, and take the money. How crude. How predictable.

He turned back, gruffing out, “boss wants to keep deals private. Says he’ll meet you upstairs. Come on then, I’ll bring you.”

“But of course,” Velshia purred. The big man didn’t even ask their names. And they wouldn’t even go all the way outside it seems! Not to mention that Jacky was planning on slinking into his little bunker. Ah, the price of information. Velshia casually mouthed the words: I have you. Do it.

One of the mercenaries cocked his head, reading her lips and trying to understand. An instant too slow. His head jerked sideways under a sudden blow, distracting his fellow. Unnoticed and completely forgotten by everybody, save for Velshia, El had come close. And had heard the entire conversation. Her face was completely different from the bubbly cheer she had greeted the agent with. It was feral, desperate, and wholly committed into this course of action. Velshia could admit that she was wrong in her first reading of the girl. It was not innocence or ignorance that kept that face smiling, but raw desperation to find a means of salvation. Of escape. And Velshia had so casually dropped such figures and displayed such an attitude change that El’s little mind had come to the conclusion that she was a big roller. One that, if El could find a way of being of use, might just get her out of this hellhole.

In that instant of distraction, Velshia surged forward, hands whipping like water snakes to the skulls of the two guards. While her psionic skill lay chiefly in delicate operations and the picking apart of brains, applying it with the brute force of a sledge hammer led to a, usually temporary, catatonic state. Both men’s eyes rolled into the back of their heads and collapsed to the floor. As they did, Velshia’s other two hands slipped free one of the men’s pistols and grabbed the suitcase of cash. Wasting no time, she ordered, “the Jackrabbit will be making a play for his bunker first. Elazar, stop him. I-6, throw Elazar up there to give him a head start. Then let’s get clearing a path.”

"But of course."

Cold steel clamped down on Elazar's shoulder, scrunching up the hunter's sleeve tightly under its iron grip.

“Warning: Medical advisory recommends bending your knees for this next part.”

Taking a large step forwards, the ERAD cranked its arm back momentarily, servos spinning up with a shrill whine before the INS Ophelia’s weaponmaster was rocketed high into the air towards the club’s second level. A perfect throw; I-6 had stifled its strength perfectly to just barely avoid launching Elazar through the roof. A faster way, sure, but somehow the bot suspected their team’s grumpy assassin wouldn’t care for it all that much. Or at all.

As Elazar moved out of view, I-6 turned to face El, registering her vitals with a quick scan. She would be added to the system’s Protection Protocol until the mission was over. Although, judging by her recent actions, it didn’t seem as though she would need much fussing over. For now, a more vital issue was rapidly descending upon the trio from every corner of the room.

[Shifting to Combat Phase.]

Turning its attention to the Jackrabbit’s men, I-6’s arm shields came to life with an orange glow; its right hand now sporting the Boltane 004, the drone’s signature firearm. Designed to resemble a six shooter of old, the relic-inspired weapon boasted an unsuspecting yet outrageous amount of firepower; its first three shots blowing searing craters through its targets the size of softballs. Opposing shots rang out in response, but I-6’s barriers and auto-rapid reaction speed picked them up as it began crossing the dancefloor, meticulously removing the oncoming threats one by one.
 
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muffinphobia

dancing witch
The Jackrabbit Chronicles, Chapter 2
Co-written by Verran, Quake, and muffinphobia

Elazar had had the presence of mind to grab the other unconscious guard’s pistol prior to being launched through the air by his companion. He landed on the catwalk in a crouch and straightened immediately, footsteps pounding as he ran in the only direction it made sense for the bunker to be. As he rounded the corner, there the filth was, frantically typing a passcode into a small datapad by a garish, ornate door that looked to be extremely thick. Elazar raised the pistol and fired at the datapad, causing it to spark and singe the Jackrabbit’s fingers.

He cursed and, in the same instant, flicked his right leg. At blinding speed, he kicked out a cylindrical device at Elazar. A helmet unfolded itself from underneath his shirt just before the flashbang grenade detonated just as it reached where Elazar stood. Elazar made a dive for the wall he’d just come around and was partially successful - he avoided being blinded but the force of the blast knocked him on his stomach. A high-pitched whistle filled his ears, and if he’d had any breath he would have sworn. Not wasting any time, the Jackrabbit shot off as fast as his namesake. Whipping out his own laser pistol, he fired round after round at Elazar’s cover. However, his goal wasn’t to kill, but merely keep his opponent down as he shot for the exit.

Meanwhile, Velshia calmly strode through pandemonium. There were shouts and screams as bullets and lasers flew through the air. Despite how relaxed her gait was, she moved with a striking lithe quickness that saw her weaving about the tables with ease. Keeping to the shield shadow of the powerful machine in front of her. So far, she hadn’t even needed to shoot a single shot. El scurrying on in her wake. “I-6,” Velshia spoke, calm and to the point, “project likely escape paths from the fourth floor that the Jackrabbit can reach. Access to routes where he can lose us in should be prioritized. Move to intercept. Then provide access to your maintenance panel J-7. I will need to input programing to the various systems under my control.”

Acknowledging the orders, the ERAD death machine slowed to a halt, its back ports clicking open with a snappy hiss as soon as the team reached a defensible corner. Bits of blood and flesh now stained the AI's frame; stray rounds snagging and peeling flecks of paint off the bot's chassis.The assault drone had been busy, and now possessed a dancefloor massacre to show for it.Through it all, I-6's defenses had remained steadfast; an everlasting bulwark against a torrential hail of opposing enemy firepower.


"Visible are all known exits leading from this place."

I-6 had summoned the building's floor plans, casting them onto the ground for the team to analyze. "While I am unable to predict specifics, these three exits generate the highest possibility for escape." Paths lit up green as the drone spoke. "The first accesses the roof, where he may try to lose us in a chase.The second wraps around and exits out into a side street; only two blocks from a nearby slum. This third path: a connection to a skybridge splitting off deeper into Camilla City."

As I-6 explained through the noise, a new volley of gunfire ferociously ripped across the club, lurching and knocking it off balance and onto its hands. Immediately, every alarm and notification went off, glitching and sending a violent shock through the system. I-6 knew immediately. Heavy explosive rounds.Their available time had just been cut in half. ERAD shields could withstand just about anything, but even an endless barrage of focused explosions eventually took its toll. Fortunately for now, it would only take half a second for I-6 to recover, its shields surging back to life as it stood upright once more.


Internal Damage Sustained.
Attempting to Repair…
Remaining Shields: 63% and falling.


Above, Elazar was dimly aware of the rounds being fired at him - he could hear them ricocheting off the metal wall he was hidden behind, though it sounded as if they were being shot from a great distance to his still-ringing ears. He scrambled to his feet, a stray plasma ray singeing his abdomen as he did so. He hissed in irritation and, when there was a pause in the firing, chanced a peek around the corner. The sight that greeted him only furthered his vexation: the damned rabbit had abandoned his bunker plan and was now hightailing it for a ladder on the opposite side of the catwalk marked “ROOF ACCESS.” The ringing in his ears nearly gone now, he took off after him. He raised his blaster and fired at the somewhat fragile-looking joints in his mechanical legs. As he did so, he spoke into his comm. “He’s escaping. Roof.”

Velshia hummed her approval over the comms. Taking quick aim, she fired several energy bolts straight at the HE enemy blasting I-6. He dropped after one hit his shoulder and then the other punched his chest. Everything was falling perfectly into mission parameters. Well, her mission parameters. She thrust the pistol into El’s shaking hands with the words, “shoot anyone who even thinks to shoot at us.”

Then she got to work. I-6’s provided access gave her the ability to reach the city’s network. She noted that I-6 had already brought some drones into the area to increase surveillance. Well and good, but she planned to go bigger. Quite a bit bigger. It’d cause a scene but, well, bit too late for discretion anyway. A pleasant smile graced her lips as her four hands drummed out lines of text on the interface. The raging panic, the explosives, the Jackrabbit’s flight were all so thoroughly accounted for that she didn’t even need to pretend to not be nervous. Velshia finished her text and, with a flourished stroke, sent it across the city. Immediately, drones, so easily overlooked by everyone, including herself for a time, changed their course. They flew, with increasing speed, towards the club. Programmed to sort every mobile entity into four categories: non-combatants, allies, enemies, and the hare himself. Non-combatants were to be avoided. Enemies were anyone fighting or shooting at the allies and were to be mercilessly pummeled by the drones at the highest speed they could achieve. The allies were herself, Elazar, and I-6. The hare was obvious and he was to be hammered at a force that was non-lethal. However, they were programmed to wait in as many out of sight alleys as possible for two minutes before striking to build up sufficient numbers. Velshia keyed her comm again, “Elazar, track and attempt to take down the Jackrabbit. Continually relay GPS location. We will join you momentarily.”

Speaking to I-6 directly, “I-6, I must confess that neither myself nor this compatriot will likely be able to keep up with the necessary pace. As such, I must request that you carry us. After self-repairs are complete, of course.”

A bright flash from the ERAD's eyes confirmed the command. The AI's self repair protocols had kicked in the moment damage was sustained, but mission priorities now forced them onto the system operation's backburner. The damage I-6 had received was substantial, but neither Velshia’s nor even Angstrom’s orders could supersede the programming mantra the Empire had installed onto the bot: Mission First, Team Second.There was no self; not in the order of priorities at least, and this meant repairs would have to wait. With Camilla City's drone population now rapidly descending onto the nightclub, the entire district was set to become a warzone; a flooded commotion of bots and bullets. Velshia's programming might’ve ensured their team wouldn't be targeted, but chaos always invited unpredictability; unknown variables the ERAS AI would simply rather not have to plan around.

The fight carried on, with I-6's aim continuing to prove superior time and time again. With each takedown, the drone searched for an opening that fell within its accepted parameters for success. Negative. Negative. Negative. Neg-Positive! The ERAD broke its stationary defense, rushing forwards and hurling a nearby seating booth across the room towards a cluster of enemies. Soaring through the air, the impact saw the seats violently explode, charged by a set of loaded shells from the bot's firearm that had been rapidly stuffed into the seat cracks just moments earlier. As wood flecks, shrapnel and burnt leather rained down, the droid dropped down onto its face, its limbs splitting apart into twelve separate, insect-like appendages. The ERAD had bought a moment. However fleeting, It was time to go.

Scooping Velshia and El onto its back, I-6's four smaller arms interlocked themselves around its riders; its shields creating a protective dome around the pair. There was no time to waste. In a flash, I-6 took off, skittering along the club's walls and ceilings on its way towards the front exit. Resistance had weakened the closer the team got to the exit, with most of Lang's men having been taken out on the dancefloor or nearby. The moment the main door came into view, the ERAD's speed picked up even further, breaching through the club’s front entrance and back out into the city.
 
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muffinphobia

dancing witch
The Jackrabbit Chronicles, Chapter 3/The Finale
Co-written by Verran, Quake, and muffinphobia

Elazar burst through the door leading to the roof in time to see the Jackrabbit climb into a sleek black airspeeder. An open-aired two-seater piloted by a droid, of course. He ducked as a parting shot was fired in his direction, swearing under his breath, and looked up just in time to see the craft speeding away. There was a wide smirk on the Jackrabbit’s face as he leaned back and allowed his droid to pilot him to safety. All hells, where was his jetpack when he needed it most? “He’s in a black airspeeder heading northeast,” he said as he ran to the edge of the roof.

Just then, fate intervened on his behalf in the form of what sounded like a rather large engine starting up in the alley next to the building. He bolted over to the side and looked down to see a freighter-style speeder readying for takeoff. As it rose into the air, he waited until its top was level with the roof and hopped on, bracing himself for the change in speed. It rose high into the air, but unluckily, it turned south and began slowly chugging away. Damn it, he thought, his eyes scanning the faster traffic below. Once he spotted the lane of traffic heading in the direction necessary, he dropped onto the side of the freighter so that he held on by only his fingertips. If he didn’t time this properly, well…at least no one from his team was here to see it.

He dropped and fell through the air, his limbs thrashing wildly…and landed stomach-first with a grunt on the windshield of a smart green airspeeder. The vehicle emitted a series of warning beeps and shook wildly for a moment, then steadied. He looked up into the eyes of a terrified Lustrian and unhooked the stolen blaster from his belt at once, resting it between her eyes. “Do as I say and I won’t harm you,” he said, and once she nodded he scrambled gracelessly into the passenger seat. “Do you see that expensive black one?” he asked softly, pointing at it with his free hand over her shoulder. She swallowed and nodded, her hanks shaky on the steering wheel. “Good. Follow it. Keep your distance.” He reactivated his comm. “I have eyes on Lang,” he said, and relayed the precise coordinates they were following.

Velshia hummed as she drummed out instructions on I-6’s panel as they rushed along. Such a scared little hare. Hmmm, he probably felt confident that he’d gotten away. Time to disabuse him of the notion. First things first.

“I-6” she hummed, “we will have our ride coming momentarily. It will be an armored air-cab. Enter and pilot it in an aggressive pursuit course of the target. I leave intercept at your discretion, but speed is necessary. Can’t have him drum up a gunship now can we,” switching to comms, she continued, “we are enroute. Close at full speed. Keep his, and his driver’s, attention dear comrade! Drive him on his current course.”

As she spoke, her fingers blurred. Quickly, she estimated the mass of the air speeder based upon several models that crime lords favored. Then, she calculated the Jackrabbit’s trajectory based upon the stream of data flowing in from Elazar. Velshia finished her commands with a flourish. Silently, her army of drones set in pursuit courses while a swarm of them gathered along the Jackrabbit’s course. Massing together. She was gambing, true. Gambling that the pilot of the speeder would not register the potential threat until it was too late.

Machines were perfectly precise. Their failures were generally due to mortal error rather than anything on their side. For example, if someone made a cheap, disposable product, no one should be surprised when it broke. And, if said cheap product was so unreliable, it was usually not included in threat assessment subroutines of most basic to advanced security programs. And, judging by the Jackrabbit’s personality, if said cheap product was simply in the way, just running it over would be the appropriate solution. Meaning, his assumed droid pilot might not just register the sudden approach of a massively formed fist of cheap security drones to ram his sky car out of the air. She grinned. Velshia wasn’t betting totally on being right. She had other ideas after all. But it would be utterly hilarious if she was. Ah, if only she could see it. No matter. Time to prep her next virus strain.

The cab arrived, and within a matter of moments I-6 had the team loaded and ready to go. Engines whined and spit as the transport's motor spun up and prepared for its climb into the sky; its chassis pelted by sporadic rounds fired from the surviving stragglers of the nightclub battle. Now just harmless threats, I-6 ignored the assailants, abruptly shifting the vehicle into high gear before leaving them choking on a cloud of dust and smoke; a fate better than they deserved.

Dipping and diving through the sky, the ERAD tore through Camilla City, splitting air traffic and veering through the city skyline on its hunt for the Jackrabbit. A dangerous move; I-6 was pushing the limits of both itself and the cab to the extreme. The Naval drone had hooked into the central PCB of the vehicle on startup and was now overclocking its operations to its limit, skirting the fine edge between maximum performance and total engine failure. While both a definite risk and a temporary solution; the team wouldn’t catch Lang without it. Just as the vehicle’s cabin began to shake even more violently under the extreme load, Lang came into view; his speeder exiting a cloud formation several hundred meters away.

The cloud formation had been positioned just so that the drones had time to converge. Prior to the speeder’s approach, hundreds of the small machines had zipped to Velshia’s designated location from different areas of the city. Now, they formed an interpretable wall of cheap metal that would stop the Jackrabbit in his tracks. Elazar had instructed his captive to stay below the cloudline, so he had a clear view of the moment: the speeder flew from the clouds, leaving a trail of vapor behind it, and hurtled straight into the wall of drones. Even at this distance he could hear the man’s panicked shouting, the satisfying screech of metal on metal, and the speeder’s resulting plummet to the ground.

He leaned over and took the wheel from his captive, entering into a steep nosedive after it. Shockingly, the Jackrabbit’s speeder did not explode into a fireball upon impact; instead, it hit the cement with an ear splitting crash, and a moment later the engine started to smoke. As soon as it was safe enough to jump without breaking a leg, Elazar leapt from the vehicle, not bothering to watch as the woman righted it and flew away as fast as her engines would allow.

He drew the stolen blaster and approached the wreckage, eyes glued to the passenger seat where the Jackrabbit still sat, immobile. The man was at last unconscious, and at last in their custody. He activated his comm as he dragged his body from the wreckage, which was beginning to smoke at an alarming rate, an explosion clearly imminent. “I have him. Extent of injuries unknown.”

Velshia looked up from her program. A happy smile blooming across her face. The backups were not needed. Everything had fallen into mission parameters. There were just two items left to deal with. One, of course, was the pickup of the target and return to the team’s beloved boat. The other… Velshia leaned back. Stretching her arms out of their programmer’s cramp. Flexing her fingers as she trilled out, “we will arrive momentarily with transport. Excellent work everyone!”

Suddenly, her hand lashed out. El, who had been fidgeting the entire time, nervously looking out the cab window, and only somewhat appraised to the conversations, had no time to even think of reacting. The psionic blast sent the girl into sprawling unconsciousness. The blaster tumbled free of her hands. All things considered, Velshia didn’t have much time for fine-tune modifications. A simple scrambling would have to do and was already achieved. The last adrenaline filled fifteen minutes or half hour would be a blur for a while. Assuming she survived the explosive finish of the speeder and even after El could remember the events correctly, it would be far too late.

They landed. What was functionally left of the drone fleet formed a simple barrier to the area. Velshia, after donning simple, plastic gloves that had been tucked into her lurid outfit, casually shoved the unconscious girl out. Of course, her prints, despite being relatively untraceable, were already all over El. Eager to hug, hold hands, so on and what not. Couldn’t be helped. However, disguising the damage Velshia was now inflicting was quite important. She considered the crash. Just enough time. Casually, and without asking for help, she dragged El across the ground. Pausing, she picked up a considerable stone, estimated a good height, and dropped it on El’s skull with a crack. Far from enough to kill the girl, but enough to explain her level of consciousness. Velshia then picked up El and stuffed her into the ruined back of the speeder. Then she impaled the victim’s shoulder against a jagged bit of metal. Satisfied, Velshia returned to the cab and grabbed the laser pistol. Still without explaining anything, she strolled back, fired several rounds into the back of the robo pilot’s head, back, and neck. Then tossed the weapon into the wreck.

“Well, that’s that,” she said as casually as if the trio had simply finished unloading goods from a trip to the store, “let’s go.”
 
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muffinphobia

dancing witch
elAzAr : weApons mAster
The deep, primal satisfaction Elazar had felt at seeing the light leave Lang’s eyes still lingered in his blood as he keyed in the access code to his room aboard The INS Ophelia, his mask firmly back in place. It hadn’t been quick or painless for the Jackrabbit - no, quite the opposite. He’d done it out of view of his comrades, as he wasn’t sure they would have approved, Velshia in particular. But all the suffering that filth had caused…in Elazar’s opinion, he hadn’t repaid him quite enough. Alas, time had not been on his side.

He dropped down onto the edge of his bunk as his thoughts continued to wander, circling lazily around the events of the past few days. The black box…he was certain Lang hadn’t been lying about that. Or maybe he had been, and now the entire ship was off on a fruitless expedition doomed to fail. He reached into his bag and removed his datapad, then removed all notification blockers he’d put in place while they’d been planetside. Distractions wouldn’t have served him well there. He scrolled through the long list of bulletins and news headlines, most of them deleted without a second glance, but one snagged his eye and caused his heart to skip a beat once before thundering in double time.

RESISTANCE GHOST TAKES FLIGHT

Mouth dry, he double-tapped the headline and read the accompanying article so quickly it nearly blurred in front of his eyes.

Late yesterday, above the cloudy skies of Lustre, the famed ship of the old Resistance, the Cotopaxi was scheduled for scrap. The Cotopaxi is most well known for its roles in the Empire/Resistance war 30 years ago as well as taking part in the Paranoia War against the Khivux. After peace summits were held, the Cotopaxi had fallen in obscure mystery, disappearing from the public eye. Many tall tales tried to explain away the disappearance. Some thought it was thrown into a sun. Others theorized it was dismantled to look for cutting edge Resistance tech. And some thought King Regulus Brandt of the Neydis system bought it for his Magic-Galaxy theme park.

All were proven wrong when the Cotopaxi made an appearance at none other than a scrapyard of all places. But just before this fabled ship could be torn apart to be recycled into non-perishable food cans, a wormhole warp was initiated from it and it warped away, disappearing into myth once more.

Is this a sign of a new force? Is this just the work of artifact bandits? Or was the Cotopaxi a ghost all along? Stay subscribed as this intrepid reporter pursues this 'ghost' across the universe.


The datapad flew across the room, its screen cracking as it thudded against the metal wall and fell to the floor. He’d always had an alert set for the damned thing’s name. Just in case. But he never expected…

Elazar leapt up off the bunk and stormed down the hallway, not entirely sure where he was going until he arrived: the training room. He strode inside, barking at the handful of people training to get out, but his tirade of destruction began even before the last few had managed to escape. A boxing mannequin narrowly missed the last man’s head as he disappeared through the sliding door. Most of the simulators they used were virtual and thus un-wreckable, but Elazar made do with what was there.

The rage that always simmered just beneath the surface roared in his chest as he flung a second mannequin. It hit a glass panel sheltering the large simulation pod on the opposite side of the room with a gratifying crunch. He flung a few dumbbells that way until the glass had shattered into thousands of pieces, scattering across the floor. A target was pinned to the far wall, and he took his knife from its holster on his leg and flung it, nearly making the bullseye, but he didn’t want perfection today. He didn’t want that at all. Instead, he strode across the room and used the knife to rip the target to shreds. Once that was done, he took his blaster to the remaining glass panels, his mind empty of any rational thought. All he could see were lines from the article, as if they were branded to his eyelids or stamped into every surface in view.

After peace summits were held…

Made an appearance at no other than a shipyard…

Disappearing into myth once more…


By the time he came back to his senses, the training room was in complete and utter shambles. All of the work he’d done, on the simulation pod especially, gone in a matter of minutes. It was nothing more than a fractured shell of itself now. He took one long look at his surroundings before sinking to his knees on the floor, the strength suddenly gone from his legs. The Cotopaxi had been gone for years. Who in their right mind had tracked it down, and why?

The tight knot in his stomach told him he knew the answer to both.

He shifted his weight so that he sat on the cold steel floor, his legs bent slightly. He buried his face in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees. The rage had burned itself out (for now) and was quickly being replaced by a feeling that was ever-present as well: shame.
 
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muffinphobia

dancing witch
We can plant a memory garden, say a solemn prayer, place a poppy in my hair
the great war
A horrible feeling of deja vu crept over Gabi as she entered the bridge and began running through the pre-flight checks with her officers. Minor damage had been sustained during the “attack,” so she had delayed their departure by 24 hours in order for repairs to be completed. All in all, she supposed the entire ordeal had worked out in their favor. The intruders had been identified and subdued quickly, and she’d had an extremely prickly conversation with the council afterwards. Every time she closed her eyes, the only thing she could see was her crew member’s shattered arm, and no amount of visiting him in the med bay could erase it. The delay was just as much to settle her frayed nerves as anything else.

Even though she knew they’d make it through departure smoothly this time, she couldn’t help but hold her breath, some part of her waiting for the alarms to begin blaring again. Instead, the pre-flight checks concluded with no major issues, and she was on the precipice of giving the order to leave when her eyes suddenly glazed over. To the observer, it would appear that she was gazing absentmindedly at nothing, but then she came back to herself. She immediately strode to the window and peered out through the glass intently, her actions entirely inexplicable to her crew.
There's no morning glory. It was war, it wasn't fair. And we will never go back...
Code by Jenamos
 
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Pigiron

Shipcutter
Original poster
Captain Bernadette Angstrom
Ship time 0300 hrs, 08/01/5032
Operation Red Sands status: Mission Success
Drop-bear squad status: All three agents returned, no injuries of note.
Target status: data recovered. Interpretation in progress.
Imperial deniability maintained to a maximal standard.

Current Route: Dresden's Orchard System, Planetary Lagrange point L1 >>> LEHJ (Low Emission Hyperspace Jump) >>> Naval FOB SOLOMON-GREEN, Pripyat system. Flickering_cursor.gif



Angstrom sat in her office, fingertips steepled, watching news feeds and autoscrolling forums, all reflected in slightly lidded eyes.
The news feeds barely mentioned the incident, aside from one article:

AUTOCOPS PROVE THEMSELVES AGAIN
Once again, the wisdom of the security counsel's mandate to assist our brave officers at the CCPD with state-of-the-art security robots was vindicated...
...leapt into action forming a wall of unyielding steel, shielding a nearby orphanage from harm after a hovercar crash nearby threatened tragedy...
...The crash was believed to have involved a romantic dispute between a local business owner and his lover, both of whom tragically died in the crash...


The local hypernet forums, usually a better touchstone for public opinion, were awash with a dross of conspiracy and rumour (as usual). However, nothing Angstrom was seeing could be even tangentially construed as concerning.
Jackrabbit finally got what was coming to him, tbh. Fucking poser.
---
I hear the Bloodhounds finally got him.
---
Imagine thinking the Jackrabbit wasn't killed by corpos lmao.
---
Nice to know the pig-bots are actually capable of doing some good, though. Did you see how they created a perimeter around the wreck before it exploded?


Angstrom closed the windows with a sigh and leaned back. The term "unmitigated success" was beginning to hold water in her opinion, but one couldn't be too careful. She'd have more work for Velshia combing through the terabytes of hypernet records the ship was passively eating up, after she had taken a well-earned rest, of course.

One day later, 0900hrs, ship time. Debrief of Squad Drop-Bear.

"-Secondary to doing the empire proud, you've done me proud. I cannot overstate the quality of the work you have done. Your actions have been entirely taken as commonplace gang warfare, with the Imperial navy not being mentioned at all in relation to the incident on the local system's hypernet forums. Elazar, the additional processor cycles you requested for the combat simulations are approved. Request assistance from the ICS department for additional and more complex simulations, if you need the help.
Velshia, you have proven yourself once again as an indispensable tool to the empire. I am aware you will likely say that is reward enough, but I have granted you access to clearance level 4 religious texts for research purposes.
I-6, Your success has been marked in your experimental use record. In my next report to sector command, I intend to give my personal approval for additional ERAD AIs to be field tested on other vessels, and for your next full backup to be copied and uploaded as a proven combat-stable version of your software. I have also requested an updated hardware blank be delivered for our next resupply run. We'll see if Imperial research and development has made any improvements to your already stellar design. I will leave it to you to analyse which hardware is better."
Angstrom paused, before a rare smile passed over her face. It was always an experiment, treating an AI as she would a human member of the crew in circumstances such as these, but it had given her good results before. "The new hardware is Imperial carmine and dark grey. A fitting scheme for an Imperial soldier."
The debrief continued for another hour. A full delineation of events was recounted, recorded, assigned clearance level four, and prepared for transfer when a secure channel was next available.
"Thank you for your time. Dismissed."

Once Squad Drop-Bear had been officially dismissed and disbanded back to normal duties, Angstrom subvocally opened a line to the bridge, and her currently on-duty XO.
"Kindler, set a course for Forward Operating Base SOLOMON-GREEN, Pripyat system. Put a three-day resupply and shore leave announcement out, we've been sat behind a stellar shield for far too long. I hear the bars at Pripyat are quite the experience." The pursuit of the black box's location was top priority, but rushing was a rookie mistake. She wanted her people fresh, her ship at peak performance, and any doubts in her mind about the information quelled with additional research on the region in question.

The Captain subvocalized a command to the ship's computer to collate all information possible on the region of space surrounding the Black boxes' supposed destination. Time to do some reading.
 
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Pigiron

Shipcutter
Original poster
And it seems such a waste of time // If that's what it's all about

"FIVE MINUTES, FELLAS. FIVE MINUTES!" Perseus roared out, eschewing comms for sheer volume. The radiation-suit clad engineers were working with EM discharging material, and it could play hell with comms.
Four engineers, including Perseus, had themselves attached to a system of cables, (a poor substitute for zero G, but it was good cable-work practice for voidship-bound engies) and carefully worked their way around the outer shielding of the spherical reactor, performing weekly full shielding checks. The reactor had been put into a low power mode, and the engineers were using field scanners to make sure there weren't any spots where radiation was leaking through, a telltale sign of reactor shielding damage.
Not that brand new shielding is likely to be damaged, the stuff was installed last week, but you never can be sure there aren't crib-death issues, and it's good practice, regardless. Get the team in exacting habits early on, and lead by example. That's the plan.
Perseus checked his HUD's timer again. Four minutes twenty-eight seconds of safe operating time left. One square meter of shielding left to check, then off to see the bridge for the first time since the Captain had stated that all repairs and system checks were to be completed in a 24 hour window. It wasn't an unreasonable amount of time, but it had certainly resulted in an all-hands-on-deck set of shifts. Perseus finished up the scan and nodded, checking the status of the rest of the team on his HUD. They were well within the time window and had completed the checks. Perfect.
"TOOLS DOWN, FELLAS. THAT'S LUNCH."
---
Perseus walked through the 'Paxi, his feet taking him to the main central hallway, looking down at reports on the repairs, printed off on paper from the multimat 3D printers. Yes they could do that, he had ordered the paper-printing software package specially. Can't write on augmented reality. You can't put a to-do list in the margins of a hologram. Can't use a highlighter on a hypertext file... err, scratch that last one, bad example.
The repairs were looking positively pristeen. It helped that the Coto was still in the dry dock. He had even managed to requisition replacements for the spares that had been used.
Perseus sidled through the Drone repair bay, staying studiously behind the hazard tape slapped down on the floor to denote safe walkways. He travelled forth, through the hangar, past the cafeteria (ducking in to pick up something the humans called "chimichanga", that he got in a little paper roll-up and ate on his way to the bridge), ICS offices, passing by the reinforced door that lead to the AI chamber where the great shipmind EVE mediated on efficiency. Onwards, through the command corridor, By the door to the new navcom officer's office, and on, into the bridge.

The bridge was an impressive sight. After the shake-down intrusion, the crew seemed to be taking things a little more seriously. It felt less like a road trip and more like a military vessel preparing to go to war.
Perseus took up his post to the right of the captain's chair, at the chief engineer's console. He smiled warmly across an empty captain's seat to Harli Gesmel, currently sat at the Nav/Comms console. As always, the Xechasm looked like she was about to break into song or fanatical prayer, or possibly both. It was endearing, if slightly worrying. Easy there Perseus. Same as Blaster, she wouldn't be here if she wasn't supremely competent.
Perseus turned, absent-mindedly looking for Gabi. When he spotted her, however, he frowned. She was looking out across the fields of molten rock, her face reflected slightly, overlain with the warm orange of the Zharian underworld beyond. Perseus stood, and walked carefully over to her, standing stolidly beside her, hands lightly clasped behind his back. "'Paxi's at a hundred percent. All repairs now better than new. The engineering team are raring to take her out." Perseus' rumbly voice came to a halt. Perseus looked down to Gabi beside him, trying to guage her state of mind. As ever, she wore that armor of competence. Every line of her form exhibited confidence, certainty.
But there was something else, beneath. Something you wouldn't notice unless you had been there when the wormholes folded and tore and upended the world around you, something visible only to those who had seen her under the blood-orange Zharian sunset.
"You remind me of a guitar string" Perseus uttered, "wound up tight and waiting for things to get plucked up." Perseus put on a serious face, looking gravely at Gabi, before breaking into a warm smile.

"Penny for your thoughts, captain?"


Mama, if that's movin' up then I'm movin' out.
 

muffinphobia

dancing witch
It was difficult to say how long he sat amongst the wreckage of his own temper. Eventually, however, Elazar climbed to his feet and began the slow process of cleaning up. He chose not to utilize the maintenance droids assigned to the floor - no, this needed to be done by his own hand. All of it. It was slow, painstaking work, and as he hauled load after load of debris to the chute leading to the trash compactor his thoughts began to run unchecked again. A scrapyard. He didn’t know much about their functionality, but he had to assume that technically the ship had been someone’s property prior to its disappearance. Had it been stolen or sold? Perhaps tracking down the owner would be a good place to begin interrogations…

As his mind ran through all of the potential scenarios wherein he could destroy the horrid old thing once and for good, the training room was restored to its former cleanliness, albeit missing more tech than before. Elazar would use funds from his own BioBank combined with the grant from the captain to replace it all. He left the training room behind and practically sprinted in the direction of central command, his cracked datapad in hand. For the first time since joining the crew, he stormed into Angstrom’s office without waiting for an invitation and tossed the datapad onto her desk, the article still pulled up. “Have you seen this?” he demanded.

Angstrom paused for a moment as her secretary stood at the door, spluttering about proper process. After giving the officer time to vent his surprise at Elazar's uncouth entry, Angstrom nodded to him, and the door was sealed.
For a beat, she simply stared at Elazar, gauging his behaviour. This was not like him. Elazar's chief weapon was his control. He was a tumultuous storm of rage, anyone could see that, but he reigned it, shackled it to a turbine of dedication and bent his madness to his own goals. It was a dangerous balance, and the captain had, in her own way, gently pushed him towards maturing into a more wise and composed version of himself.

This was the first time she had seen him lose control. She had only just closed the video of his outburst a minute before he had stormed in. The damage report still percolated in the back of her mind. He hadn't destroyed anything that couldn't be easily reprinted, but still, concerning.

"I would like to make a deal, weapons master. I will tell you everything I know about the ship, it's departure, and the parties involved. But in exchange, I would like to know just what about this situation has set you off so violently. I have taken on faith that your being here is the emperor's will, Elazar. I have not delved into your origins, as I was ordered not to. But my finest unaugmented hand-to-hand warrior is unable to compose himself, and this concerns me deeply." The captain's piercing eyes bored into Elazar. Not challenging, not looking for subservience. As if it was not rank that sat her in the captain's chair, but rather as if her place there was a fact of nature. "Do we have a deal, Elazar?"

Elazar’s jaw tensed beneath his mask, but after a beat he nodded his head once. “I defected from the Resistance some years ago,” he said, his voice toneless, but the intensity in his eyes spoke volumes to his feelings regarding the situation. “My family is…rather notorious amongst them.” He broke eye contact and looked away to the wall. “I never wanted to think of the name Burnett again,” he said, spitting it as if it were venom. He looked back to Angstrom. “It is my strong preference that this intel stays confidential, captain,” he said, his thoughts involuntarily straying to Velshia. If the captain were to tell anyone of this, the head of informatics was the logical choice, but for reasons he could not quite explain he did not want this information coming to her from any source except himself.

It was only years of experience and habit that prevented her reaction from appearing on her face. Nevertheless, she was silent for a time.
This was… world-shattering news. What if he was a plant? A double agent? What if he turned coat the moment he saw a family mem- ah. As ever, the emperor’s word holds deeper truth. The Emperor and his trusted advisors clearly knew of the risks involved. They looked into the possibilities Angstrom was considering. And yet here he is. On the ship captained by someone they trust.
It was not enough to obey the Emperor.
To become a true hand of the Emperor, unquestioning trust was required.
Trust that Angstrom had built herself on, from when she was naught but a broken child, watching falling stars come to save her from hell.
Trust that she had leaned on, time and time again.
Trust that had been repaid a million, a billion times over, even after her loss to the Khivux. Even after she had been brought back, little more than a husk.
The Emperor ensured she continued, ensured she was able to continue living in this wonderful, euphonious empire. Continue to help build a better tomorrow, that no little girls would be forced to live and die in the mud.

Angstrom leaned back, a slow breath leaving her nostrils. For a moment, she closed her eyes.
For but a moment, the years weighed on her.
But soon the moment was over. Angstrom’s eyes opened and she slowly leaned forward as she spoke; “You have my word that none of this will leave this room. Not only due to your request, but also because I’m sure it would be the Emperor’s will.” Angstrom paused, closed her eyes, shook her head slightly and waved a quicksilver arm. Shapes dripped upward from the surface of the table, clarifying into multiple squares of light, each showing a different video feed. Two were of security cameras, overlooking a scrapyard. One was an orbital surveillance satellite, showing the great U shape of a salvagers' yard, backdropped by the unmistakeable gold and silver of the Lustrian home world.

There, amongst the broken hulks it sat, long dead yet alive again. A dragon of a darker time. The lord-pirate. The chief war-profiteer. The murderer of the dreams of a generation.
The damned Cotopaxi.

A smudge of colour moved, a bright reflective suit. A square highlighted the smudge as it travelled to the Cotopaxi, moving to enter. The words “SALVAGER - PERSEUS GALATEA” labelling the highlighted smudge.

Elazar’s eyes were intent on the grainy images in front of him, frowning as a name appeared on the screen. Galatea…why did that name sound so familiar? He reached into the dark recesses of his mind, pulling out memories that were best left forgotten and examining them in the harsh light of the office. Faces he hadn’t pictured in years floated in front of his gaze. It hit him then, the shock causing him to go rigid…he’d bet his next pay cycle that he was gazing at a video feed of Orion Galatea’s child. He vaguely remembered his uncle constantly blabbering on about his best friend, his regret at not being able to meet his family. His hands tightened into fists. Of course. How bloody perfect that the person to steal it was…

His brooding was cut short when another smudge drifted suspiciously close to the wreckage and then suddenly changed trajectory, floating away in the exact opposite direction. “Wait,” he said, the words leaving his mouth before he could consider them. “Pause. Rewind 10 seconds and slow the footage.” He moved closer to the screen until his mask was practically touching the images. Angstrom silently complied, scrolling the footage back. Maybe it was a trick of the light. Maybe his eyes were fooling him. Or maybe that slight, tiny flicker was a body launching itself off the debris and into the ship. And if that were the case, well, there was only one person the New Resistance would have sent. Only. One.

He took a deep, shuddering breath, not realizing he’d been holding it, and forced himself to step away. It wouldn’t do to lose control in front of the captain. He nodded curtly, choosing to keep his observations private until the footage had concluded.

The scene fast forwarded for a few minutes, the scene still, beyond the occasional far-off ship, or the steady roiling of the silver clouds below the scene.

A small notification message popped up, separate to the footage:
—----------------------------------------------
- 1148hrs, Lustre Local -
- Hey chief, heads up, I’m taking -
- lunch. Also, I think I’m going to -
- keep this one. I’m all paid up, -
- so should be fine. - Perseus -
—----------------------------------------------
Angstrom spoke up; “The salvager chose to exercise rights to keep the wreck he was slated to dispose of at this point. I understand it’s the way the Lustrians do things.”

The footage fast forwarded another few minutes, before it fell back into a 1x play speed.
After all the time silent and still, the wreck began to light up. Interior lights begin to shine through the broken armour. Exterior spacing lights begin to sparkle into life. The word COTOPAXI was lit by a few functioning spotlights on the exterior hull, as if taunting the viewer.


A crackle of military chatter crackled out of the recording as a new point of view appeared amongst those being shown. This was from a rapid response frigate of some sort. A cockpit view, pointed at the heavens.

“Code Six-Eight-Indigo-One, Emergency launch.-” The sound of thrusters roaring started before the message even finished the word ‘launch’, and the view is shaking aggressively- “I repeat, emergency launch, direct communication from the office of councillor Northstar.-” The sky outside the cockpit window was already darkening from the gold of Lustrian sky into the black of space- “Under no circumstances is the ship marked in attached tactical data to be allowed to leave Lustrian space. Do not allow it to wormhole or jump to hyperspace. Weapons free. See tactical view” Another voice came through the recording:
“Holy shock. Is that…”
Another voice almost breathed;
“It’s the thrice-damned Cotopaxi.”

Almost simultaneously, the view from the Lustrian shipyard crackled with audio, a furtive whisper; "Perseus? … Perseus, as soon as you exercised rights to that derelict, we had a ton of radio chatter. I... I think the local defence force are coming for you. I... I don't know what to do. The foreman's telling us to shut up and get inside, but I-" A firm rumble of a voice responded, full of certainty and clipped with haste: "Thanks. Run."

The next few seconds of footage faded slightly as the Cotopaxi shuddered into life. The reactor was clearly leaking radiation, and it looked like a lot of the armour was being shaken off purely by the motion of the ship, as if it was shedding weight to escape. Then, insanely, with nowhere near the amount of time to properly calibrate, the wormhole drive flared into life. All around the station wreckage was pulled then pushed as the unstable wormhole caused gravitational anomalies. The old ship juddered and lurched forwards, turning slightly with what few thrusters it had left, before, just as the Lustrian frigates got in range, the Cotopaxi disappeared.

The radio chatter picked up, the Lustrian frigates preparing to track and jump after the emergency wormhole, but Angstrom’s mouth formed a thin curt line.
“Our long-range gravitic sensors tracked a number of random jumps before they lost track. They were desperate. If they survived, they’re lucky.”

There was little doubt in Elazar’s mind that they had. It would be far too fortunate if they’d perished. After a moment, when he was sure pure vile wouldn’t spew from his mouth, he spoke. “The Lustrian. How long was he employed at the yard?” he asked.
Angstrom nodded: “Approximately a year. Our sources indicate he washed out of a lucrative job as a shipwright in 5030. Started work as a salvager a year later, after spending a full year missing. We believe he spent the year with his father. Possibly being enlisted into the resistance by his father. There’s a history there… Orion Galatea was quite the figure before the peace summit.” Angstrom looked like she had swallowed something foul. “Using his own son as a way to avoid the results of his mistakes. Disgraceful.”

Or someone else enlisted him, he thought, his lip curling into a snarl. Calm, calm. He had to stay calm. “With respect, Captain, I assume our next objective is to find him?” he asked through clenched teeth.
Angstrom took a slow breath, looking frankly at Elazar and here’s the inflection point. “You are a hunter, Elazar. Hunters must know patience.” These were words she had spoken to young soldiers all too often, now. “He will fall, in time. Our best way to progress towards that eventuality is to trust in the naval intelligence corps and not waver. The Troubadour’s black box is almost within our grasp. It may very well contain evidence on how to get to the Phoenix regiment, a prize you can be sure the Cotopaxi and its crew are desperate to steal.” Angstrom leaned forward. The images disappeared, and the two naval officers were left in the soft recessed lighting of the office, face to face. Angstrom spoke clearly, impressing the importance of every word.
“Trust that the Emperor is putting us on the best road to success.”

Logically, Elazar knew that he trusted the Emperor implicitly. But…it was wrong to ignore so blatant a threat. Of this he was entirely convinced - it went against his every instinct to simply carry on as if nothing major had happened. As if the Resistance wasn’t preparing some kind of…countermovement, if the disappearance of the ship was any indication. When he felt it was safe to speak, he said, “I understand, Captain. May I be dismissed?”

Angstrom inwardly sighed. Wisdom would come with time. She just hoped the young man would learn before he made a mistake that could not be corrected.
Angstrom nodded. “Dismissed,” handing his datapad back to him. However, before letting go of the cracked datapad, she intoned; “Oh, and Weapons master, the next time you enter my office without authorization, I shall throw you in the brig myself.”
 
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Trion Nixarn, Scientist

The delay in the launch was fortunate for the shuttle that came in at the fastest its hyperdrive would take it dropping out just before the minimum safe distance, having to catch up to the much larger ship would have been difficult. It was a surprisingly sleek ship for being a transport, especially compared to some of the flying bricks that got called shuttles. Even from a distance, it was possible to see the large engines and numerous sensors that took up much of the ship's internal space, leaving it with a relatively small cargo and passenger space, again compared to standard cargo or passenger shuttles. It sent the proper clearance codes for docking, marking itself as another Resistance ship. Once it had clearance it came in fast to land itself in the Coto's docking bay, tucking itself neatly out of the way. Three green lights came on one after the other to the side of the cockpit, verifying a safe atmosphere before the hatch under them clicked and hissed, lowering into stairs.
Trion was waiting just inside the hatch to scramble down as soon as it was down, looking around at the people there. He was glad they'd made it in time to rendezvous with the Cotopaxi, he didn't think they would but apparently, there was a delay. From the instructions he'd gotten sending him and his people here in the first place, apparently they were supposed to launch yesterday…He wasn't going to complain, because it meant not being packed into the shuttle like canned fish. Even if there were only four of them on board, the cargo space was small and it was full of stuff they'd thought they'd need…which meant no space to move around. But they were here now, on the ship, The ship. The Cotopaxi wasn't even that old, but it had an eventful history…he would have to see if there were any of the old crew on it and see if they would tell him stories from its last voyages…And they were searching for the Phoenix Nebula it was hard to not grin from excitement as he talked to one of the crew members to get directions to the bridge while his three team members got the shuttle unloaded and a lab prepared. A message had come ahead to expect them, but he still needed to talk to the captain, and pass on a letter from the leader of his people. The old man had been *very* specific that Trion was to hand the written message direction to Gabi Burnett. He was briefly told about what delayed them before he got told where to find Captain Burnett.
Having lived his entire life on a slowly expanding space station, navigating the halls of the ship at a swift walk and avoiding running into crew members going to their jobs was almost unconscious at this point. The bridge seemed strangely quiet when he made it there, and he had to look around for a minute, comparing faces to the picture he had floating in the bottom corner of his vision, projected there by cybernetically enhanced eyes. He spotted her after a moment, standing with another man over by a window. He took a deep breath and straightened himself a bit, walking over and stopping a short distance away, clearing his throat softly. "Captain?"
 
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the great war
Gabi’s gaze was so fixated on the tunnel high above that she failed to notice Perseus coming to stand beside her. When he spoke, informing her of the repair status, she jumped but recovered quickly and nodded. ”Thank you,” she said, glancing over at him with a small smile and doing her damned best to ignore the fluttering in her stomach that his voice always caused. If she got nothing else right as captain, at least she’d done this - put a resourceful and competent person in probably the most vital role aboard the ship.

“You remind me of a guitar string, wound up tight and waiting for things to get plucked up.”

She flushed and opened her mouth to retort, but instead folded her arms and looked away, back to the tunnel. If only he knew the extent of it. Since agreeing to become captain she’d picked up several nervous habits she thought she’d long abandoned, including nail biting of all things. She’d crossed her arms in part to hide her demolished thumb nail, as if he’d be able to figure out what was going on inside her head merely by looking at it. Yes, a guitar string was an…apt metaphor for how she was feeling these days. She was constantly looking over her shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for his arm to be the next one broken or maybe something even worse. Her visions were far from exact, and she was positively terrified that she’d fail to predict the next source of danger, except next time it would be real. One hundred and fifty four people were aboard The Cotopaxi. So, she had one hundred and fifty four reasons to spend her nights stretching her mind’s abilities until it felt ready to break.

But when he asked her what she was thinking of, she said nothing. Captains weren’t allowed to be scared, after all. Instead, she quietly said, ”I’ll tell you later,” hoping that he’d forget it in the excitement of their maiden voyage and that she could continue to build up her walls in peace. Movement caught the corner of her eye, and she looked up in time to see a small shuttle shoot out of the tunnel and towards the dock. She smiled, her worries temporarily forgotten. ”I think you’ll get along with the new head of research,” she said and looked over to Harli. ”Ms. Gesmel, please grant basic security clearance to our new crew members once they’ve docked.” Mere seconds later, communication from the base’s security team came in, echoing much of what Gabi had just said: that a new team of scientists had arrived and that they had been granted clearance to join the crew.

Even with the knowledge that the newcomers were friendly, it wasn’t difficult to see the way the bridge crew tensed when four unfamiliar faces came through the sliding door. An uneasy silence fell as the two groups seemed to size each other up. A man in the front with short, dark hair looked appraisingly around the command center before his eye fell on Gabi and Perseus. She smiled at him as he approached. ”Welcome to The Cotopaxi. You’ve arrived just in time.” She held out her hand to shake his. ”I must apologize. I wasn’t given your names,” she said. Lie. She knew all of them already, but better to play dumb than tell a stranger about her freakish ability.
There's no morning glory. It was war, it wasn't fair. And we will never go back...
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Sorrin has pretty much not moved from the simulator/training area even as word got to him that the strike team was returning, relayed to him by a whining Jlita who told him she was being kicked out of the hanger so they could bring in the strike team shuttle without a hoverboarder getting in the way. Despite the news, Sorrin didn't move to leave the simulator pod. He was a pilot, so that didn't give him much to do for bringing in the strike team shuttle nor to help with debriefing a mission he wasn't even a part of. Instead he kept doing what he had been doing for hours: flight simulations. His boredom had gotten the better of him and instead of working on flight maneuvers or target practice, he was pushing the theoretical limits of what his fighter could do. Steep climbs, dead falls into sudden pull ups, diving through smaller and smaller gaps between buildings and structures. Such exercises were tanking his simulator records, but for him it was valuable data to know just what situations he could and could not take.

Sorrin left the pod after running a crazy simulation where he wanted to see if his fighter jet would survive a slingshot around a giant sun (it didn't), contemplating what he could test next. He went into the adjoining break room and got himself some mineral water while he was in thought. A bunch of other crew members then rushed out of the training room and then went through the break room to the hall, grumbling something about a crazed weaponsmaster. Sorrin didn't think much of it until he heard a lot of stuff breaking next door. He got up, walked to the door opened it, and saw a man throwing and blasting everything in the room. Sorrin watched for about 30 seconds as a lot of stuff got thrown at the simulation pod he was using not too long ago before he closed the door. Time to go find somewhere else to kill time while he let Elazar…do whatever he was doing.

~~~

unknown.png
After eating with the Captain, Runi had resumed bridge duties. She continued her bored routine for a few hours before the strike team finally made it back. Now some action finally started. Well more action than what she had seen for the past hours. The strike team was sent for debriefing, communication channels and news stations were being tapped and tracked for signs of detection or traces, and Runi had the ship start moving away from the star system in case any scouts or investigators started to search Dresdan's Orchard. She let out an audible exhale as the view in the bridge's monitors finally shifted as the ship began pulling away, heading for a dead area of space to sidestep any detection or checkpoints.

She walked along the bridge, dictating more orders to the rest of the bridge staff. "Condense all relevant information and forward it to the captain. Keep our engine emissions low, we're leaving, but no need to do it hastily. Get I-6's damage report sent to requisitions, we'll be making a resupply run soon." Runi could feel her body feeling lighter and not as draggy. This was technically routine follow up that happened after a mission, but it was still nicer than just staying in a holding pattern. Almost like on cue, Angstorm soon opened a line to her.

"Kindler, set a course for Forward Operating Base SOLOMON-GREEN, Pripyat system. Put a three-day resupply and shore leave announcement out, we've been sat behind a stellar shield for far too long. I hear the bars at Pripyat are quite the experience."

"Roger captain, it will be done." Runi turned to their navigator and relayed the order to set a course for the Pripyat system. She then returned to the captain's chair and opened up a video call to be sent to all the crew. She spoke in very formal matter, "Attention Ophelia crew. The ship is now headed for the Forward Operating Base SOLOMON-GREEN. After arrival, the ship will undergo resupply and all personnel will have a three day shore leave. All maintenance personnel please check in with your supervisors for duties upon landing. All crew members please conduct yourself in an appropriate manner.." Runi ended the feed and stared at the closed screen for a bit and then grinned. "And then go wild." She murmured to herself.
 
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The Ą̵̧̫̥̗͉̪̙̱̩̙̺͖͉̘͉͉̪͕̹̣̖͙͂̀̀̇̈́̑͊̔́͒̊̇͒̐̇͆̓̑̚͜͠͝͝͠Ç̴̢̛̛͕̥̥̪̠̜̘̿̑́̌͌̐̅͆͒͋̀̅̃͒̆̏̐͘͘͝͝L̸̢̤͎͓̖̤̖̯͚̭̦̞̩͚̦͙͇̓̉̓͌̑̾̅̈́̈̍͋̊̿̔͜͜ͅJ̶̡̧͈̻̗̣̖̦̥̙̺͓̩͎̱̲͎͔͖͖̩̏́͋͛̈́͛̽̄̇͊̕̕͘͝K̸̡̪͈̲̝̭̦̣̭͖̯̣͙̤̘̘̲͂̀̾͜ͅË̸̡̨̡̛̜̹̣̭͇̯̜̤̥̣͍͕̫͍̖̝́͗̇̉̋͐̉̀̈́̋́̃̅̀͝ͅD̶̛̤̀͘L̶̢̡̨̧̟̲͚͕̪͍̹̲̭͈͈̹̱̳̞̞̥̺͖̻͎̹̩͚̮̏̀͂̐͑́͗̔̊̆̃̒̈̆̋̃͂̾̍͒̓͘͜͠͠ͅK̶̨̛̫̳̖̥̫̟͓̠̣̘̠̱̪̰̣̥͍͙͇̓͊͆̒̌̍̊͆̉͑̓͗̎̂̾͆̔̈́̓̄̍̾͘̚͘͘̕͜͠͠͝





The bulkheads of the MS Sally Lue were once a stock standard grey. But years of only minimal cleaning and significant graffitiing had left them in a state of ore black and brown with splashes of violent or faded color. Depending on when some inspired crew member had felt the need to express artistic creatively. The Old Bear often would roar about the state of the ship but, eh, Aiko figured he must secretly like it. Why else would he bother to not crack down on it? She stepped back to behold her most recent decoration. Looking it up and down to make sure she hadn't missed some detail or left a part unfilled.

"Gotta say," chimed a voice, "that looks absolutely garish, Ai."

A healthy and bright smile spread across Aiko's face as she turned to greet Mysha with her dirty blonde hair and crooked smile. Always claimed that she was truly pure blonde but that all the work had stained it. "What? You can do better?"

"What even is it?"

"A bird."

"Wow," Mysha rolled her eyes, "going for the psychedelic look or just drunk?"

The image was certainly avian in look but was oddly circular. Black center with a radiating rainbow of colors all around its edges. Yet these edges were rounded all over. Crisscrossing circles that gave the painting its odd shape. Spreading up and around the hall. Even under the grated walkway the two stood on. Aiko wondered how she had painted down there, then casually threw the thought away. Not important. She scratched her neck as she replied, "something like that, yeah."

"Hideous!"

"You paint then if you're so blessed!"

"You would think that." Mysha's voice suddenly went flat.

What? Aiko thought. Mysha picked up the cannister of spray paint. Aiko suddenly realized that it was the only can, a matte black. Where had the other colors come from? Her friend began spraying a large circle on some specific section of the wall. Covering over part of the colored bird…thing Aiko had made. She tried to lean back to watch. Tried, because as soon as she got close, a soft metal clank reached her ears.

Wha… Aiko began again in her head. Twisting her neck as much as she could, she could just make out some metal bulge on her back. Silver and reflectively dull. Spread like some plaster over a good bit of her pristine suit. Pristine? Her miner suit had been stuffed into her arms dirty on her first day aboard the Sally Lue. When had she cleaned it?

"I wonder," Aiko's head flicked back to the sound of Mysha's voice, "if you could have saved some of us. If you had maybe tried. For once."

Mysha looked wrong. All wrong. Her face was bulging, bubbling, and breaking apart. Yet freezing and hardening in what seemed to be the same breath. Depressurization! They had to…Aiko had to get her…Aiko was rooted to the spot and could not even strangle a whisper.

"You know?" Mysha finished her circle. Looked back at her friend with already dead eyes. Then the bulkhead blew out, right on the sprayed line. Mysha went with it. The miner suit saved Aiko's life. Automatically. Without need of either desire or thought to do so. Rooting her feet to the corridor. A sudden impact of metal sealed the breech and Aiko was running. Running without thought or heed as the avian circled and swooped. Divided and spread. Plastering all around her. The alarms were blaring, screaming about imminent impact. Blazing heat was searing throughout the doomed vessel. With a grinding screech of metal, Aiko was hurled into the wall and knew no more.

Yet the blackout lasted only a moment. The silver was plastered all over her bits of body. Pain from a million injuries lanced through her body for a moment until a sudden shock in her head eliminated all of it. Aiko tried to stand but flopped to the ground on still broken legs. Numbly she looked herself over. Aiko's body was a disjointed mess. Broken and splintered in numerous jagged directions. This, too, did not last long. Still without pain, her new suit snapped the bones back into their rightful position. Holding them together. Standing up, Aiko took stock of her surroundings. She was not on the Sally Lue. It wasn't anywhere in sight.

The world around her towered in tight domes that dwarfed her and yet crushed her. Spiraling stairs and passages looped up and around and through every inconceivable way. Shadows dripped across flickering silver-grey monolithic walls. It was difficult to make anything out for certain as it all seemed to shift. Phase. Then, suddenly, sliding across the wall, the blasted bird came back. Dominant, powerful. Pushing aside all shadow and flowing over every structure. Aiko felt the same old…old? She knew this fear. It had plagued her nightmares time and time again. Why couldn't she remember? Yet Aiko knew she had run. Always ran away. It gnawed at her still. Sapping at her. However, in her dark hours of brooding and wandering the ship, Aiko had realized something. She was sick. Of a lot of things. Running most of all. She would not run. Not here. Not now. Not this time!

With a roar that was a mouse's mewl in the cavernous colosseum she launched forward. Immediately a gaping hole opened before her and the went crashing down a set of stairs that sent her to the ceiling. Recovering, she rushed back up and up and up around a pillar that seemed to gradually arch towards the avian being with colors waving off it. The next round of the bend saw her running upside down on a bridge. Fury and fear wove a potent concoction of uncertain determination that drove her ferally on. And with each time she sought to draw nearer, the thing seemed no closer. With each bend, Aiko lost sight of the creature, only to bring it back anew. Greater and more terrible to behold. A growing monolith. A Mount Fang. A sheer cunning mind that perceived its surroundings with a casual lack of effort.

Daunted, Aiko ran on without heed. Snarling, Aiko decided that if this expanse wasn't going to play to her, she'd go around it. Vaulting the balcony, she launched towards the being. Immediately, gravity seemed to pull her towards the roof. With a shriek, she plummeted through and erupted out of the ground before gravity decided to right up and down and, with a crash, she slammed into soft grass.

Aiko rushed to her feet. The universe seemed to open up before her as the pantheon of stars was slowly overcome by the encroaching forest. Small towers scattered before her on the ground as blossoms bloomed and bore fruit upon the trees. All around her, the avians watched from their brightly decorated towers while silver automatons toiled at soulless labor. Aiko's own tower seemed dull in comparison. Oozing shadows that touched and smeared over the once-upon-a-time miner as the sheer brilliance of the beings burned into her eyes. But she would not run. Her knees knocked. One approached. She wouldn't run away. Sweat streaked down her face. It reached its beak out towards her. She'd stand her ground. Shaking and shivering all over. Silvery metal formed on it as if to give some form to its shape in Aiko's mind. Gods how she wanted to run! Her breath ran in ragged gasps! Its beak touched her forehead.

Aiko drew a deep breath. Its voice was song. Powerful and overwhelming. Aiko knew this way of speaking. She knew how it spoke. And this knowledge immediately brought her comprehension. Fed into her soul, translated by machine, and produced into results someone else could comprehend. Aiko now knew where to go. Her mind breathed of life and beauty. Of sculpted groves and blossoming fields. Of endless sky and ranges of stars. Of towering machines and manufactorums of ceaseless production. Of death, the first horror, to die upon this material plain and have one's existence possibly even expunged from the entire cosmos inflicted upon her damaged mind a rending shriek that brought tears of blood to her eyes. And it was below these tombs lay the first secret. But birds were buried in the aeries that they lived. Yet, Aiko's mind was dragged down, down, through halls as brilliantly painted and thrumming with machine life as above. Into corridors and storerooms unpainted silver. Here the reaper waited. To fly, Aiko must return. It was time to return. The ooze finally blocked over her eyes and all went mercifully black. Wasn't it time to stop running?

With a shriek, Aiko awoke in smooth darkness. She panicked for a moment, swinging about, before remembering where she was. Softly safe in her armored shell in her room. Which was almost surprising. Apparently, the suit hadn't felt the need to sleepwalk this time. Aiko struggled to control her breathing and silently brought light into her abode. The black birds radiating color were all around her. A scream and an eldritch curse sent her propelling out of her pod, several meters above the ground. Before she hit it, though, her suit deftly and gently caught her. Shifting from the ceiling to the ground. Holding her on a slab of molding silver. No excess of black or color anywhere.

A string of inexplicable swear words spilled from her lips and mind. Aiko didn't even realize that it wasn't her human native tongue. Her mind was drained. Spirit: sapped. Emotions: shot. Skull: pounding. Body: fatigued. It was as if every part of her body had been pumped with a cocktail of drugs and then violently bounced around a metal cube without padding. Her stomach roiled and she tried, and failed, to throw up. Cleaned up before it even left her mouth. Hells, it's getting good at that, Aiko thought.

She reflected she should get as much information on human biology as possible. She'd need it. Regi would be the go-to source. Aiko groaned again. Curling up on her bed. Slab. Platform. Thingy. She just couldn't deal with this at the moment, but she had to deal with it anyway. Forcing herself to her feet, she made her way over to the room's terminal. Technically not needed to speak to the ship's AI, but that was how Aiko played the game of business from her room and dang it she'd stick with it until the end. Punching her login in, this is what she transmitted from Eve's perspective.

Aiko: Eve.

Eve: Takeda-san. How can I help you today?

Aiko: Grimbokctok advel. Advel Harli khadna.

Eve: Takeda-san, what is this?

Aiko: Grimbokctok advel. Advel Harli khadna.

Eve: Aiko, is this another game? Official channels are for official business! You agreed!

Aiko: …

Eve: Aiko? Takeda-san? Wait, Harli? New Harli? What about her?

Aiko: *channel closed*

Aiko paused to think. Try to think. Eve was probably attempting to watch her now. Might even be informing sweet Gabi or the Meadowlark of her newfound lack of Imperial Common. Greeaaat. So needed right now. She really hoped it would come back before she had to talk to anyone else. But she also knew that they needed to get going. Now. Yesterday, really. There was an urgency in her mind that just wouldn't let up. It was the only reason why she wasn't curled up in a ball in the corner. Nothing for it. Forcing her silver laced fingers…silver laced? That hadn't happened in a while. Forcing them to move she manually contacted the Head of Navigations. Her face popped up on the screen an instant later. Aiko didn't waste time on any pleasantries.

What she said was, "Kevix tol corda. Ach ach i. Ach ach kev. Tol ach ach ven. Advel Gabbi brix kem!"

What she typed to Harli was, fortunately, far more legible, "Galactic coordinates follow. 331. 336. 7339. Tell Gabi 'all haste'!"

Aiko repeated the message three times and then immediately closed the channel. She really, really didn't want to talk right now. Sliding out of the chair, she crawled back onto her slab and curled up with a groan. Aiko focused on the pain. A distraction might have been welcome but every time she turned her mind away from that, it began wandering back to her dream. And that was the absolute last thing she wanted to think about right now.
 
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The Sleeper

Three days leave; three days leave! Velshia hummed to herself, what a delightful notion. To find ourselves some commotion. But now that it's done and we found that we've won we can now relax in slow-motion! Hmmm, not brilliant Vel, not brilliant. But it gets the point across!

And having 'public' access to level 4 texts as well! How absolutely splendid! Certainly, on the occasions that she was at Intel HQ, she could peruse such texts anyway. But those were few and far between for a field agent. So, to be allowed to do it for an extended period of time was certainly well worth relishing! She'd need to stop by the Imperial base and get access to the general military network. Then she could plug in the access the new material. Technically speaking, she could access all the necessary channels from the Ophelia. However, using such channels on a Black Ops for personal uses wasn't exactly kosher. Regardless of how others used it. Well, so long as they weren't breaking protocol, she wouldn't crack down over much.

The bridge itself was quiet for the moment. As Velshia lazed daydreams of books and whatever cafes or tea shops could be discovered on the industrial destination, she was sufficiently hard at work. Going through footage and internet forums and news outlets and on and on. Making certain that nobody had gotten a reasonable hint of who was truly behind the Jackrabbit's death. Disappearance was, technically, the official statement from local law enforcement. But people were smart enough to put two and two together and come to the conclusion that anyone who disappeared was not long for the world. All was well though. Outside some deep, deep conspiracy theorists in the web, there was no mention of Imperial involvement. No point in crushing those whispers. They tended to breed under opposition.

It hadn't been too hard to siphon information from the Jackrabbit. For all his mental acuity in managing underground connections, he was rather an open book. The information was already thoroughly documented and preparations set.

A ping on her display brought Velshia to the systems internal security feeds. While what the system saw was not absolutely in her domain, she was responsible for maintaining it. So, she kept tabs on what it picked up. Which made for a very good source of information to fire off to headquarters. What Velshia saw was none too good. Elazar actively razing the training center. Velshia watched in idle fascination for a few moments before shaking her head and returning to work. HQ wasn't being talkative about the man, but this was tilting towards dangerous towards ship operations. She would need to review the full footage once she had the time. After that, however, Velshia felt it was high time to get to know the Weapons Master of the INS Ophelia.
 
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[01000101 01010010 01000001 01000100 00100000 01001001 00101101 00110110]

With the mission over and the INS Ophelia now headed for resupply, the I-6 shell had been retired to its storage pod for repairs; it's digitized mind returning to sync with the naval lightcruiser's security systems. Unlike the other members of the ship's security division, the ERA AI spent most of it's occupancy on the ship in binary form as opposed to patroling the halls, often only awakening it's mechanical host for missions or activities that required a physical presence.

[Message Received.]
[Maintenance Initiated.]
[Maintenance Log Updated.]
[Initiating Shell Repair.]


As service operations began, the lab door slid openSchunk! Nothing too unusual; lab members often frequented the AI's hub in need of one thing or another. The room had functioned as storage prior to the ERAD's installation, and continued to do so now, albeit a bit more cramped. This time it was a pair of young lab hands that graced the AI's doorway.

"Hey, I-6," one of the techs greeted casually before wheeling in a pushcart. "They're saying you're getting some extra stuff when we hit SG, so we gotta make space; move some of these boxes outta here."

"It can't hear you. Look, its asleep..."

"No it's no-...Oh...You think it's dreaming?"

"Machines don't dream, idiot. They don't have an imagination."

"Alright well I don't know! No ones really allowed to work on this thing; even the head scientists are extremely limited in what they can do. How much do we really know about it? Hell, maybe it does have an imagination. We just don't know. Does that not bother you?"

"You know what I think?"

The conversation between the two trailed off as the now-loaded cart was wheeled out of the room, leaving behind a rectangular space in the corner of the room open for the new blank shell. While it was being delivered to the ship without issue, I-6 would have to go out to the offloading hangar to retrieve it. This was the first major shell swap in two years, and ERA scientists were incredibly stingy with their secrets and who handled them. Perhaps in time they would become more agreeable, but for now, this was the way things were done.
 

Pigiron

Shipcutter
Original poster
//

Perseus bristled slightly as the four figures entered the bridge. He hadn't known about the new crew member's arrival, but clearly Gabi was on top of things. He nodded his head in deference to Gabi, nodded his head in welcome to the new crew members, turned and headed back to his post. Perseus began running system calibrations; mostly automated checks that ensured the life support systems were providing the right mix of air at the right pressure. The ship was putting like a kitten. He couldn't wait to get under way.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an alert pop up on Harli's console. A high priority alert, meant for emergency comms. Curious, Perseus wandered over. "Huh... how'd Aiko get high priority comms perms? Has she been digitally knife-fighting the AI again?"

//
 
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Pigiron

Shipcutter
Original poster
Captain Bernadette Angstrom
Ship time 1211 hrs, 08/01/5032
Current Location: Naval FOB SOLOMON-GREEN, Pripyat system. Flickering_cursor.gif




A cry of "Captain on deck!" went out as Angstrom strode forth onto the bridge of the Ophelia, her naval dress uniform impeccable. All hands snapped to attention, with those sitting at consoles hastily getting to their feet.
The First officer was monitoring their flight, her face lit by a starmap showing the ship's trajectory.
"As you were." Angstrom declared, before turning to Ruri, all business. "How's our entry vector?" Turning and saluting Angstrom, a small smile on her face, Ruri responded cheerfully, clearly appreciating her no longer monotonous duties: "Entry vector looks good, we'll be at Atumgrad in good time. Pass codes are ready for broadcast as well." She reported.
"Stellar. Inform communications to prepare for the docking handshake."

And with that, the Ophelia dropped out of hyperspace with the barest rumble. As the blues and purples of radiation faded from around the outside of the ship, the bridge monitors displayed a view of Atumgrad, the main colony of the Pripyat system.
A great space-elevator reached towards the Ophelia, from the far off surface of the planet to almost halfway between the planet and the ship's current location. It reminded Angstrom of a great rose; the flower being the great imperial station that counterweighted the end, and the thorned stem made up of the elevator itself. Great spires, like thorns, extended out perpendicular to the space elevator, each the size and population of a small city. The thorns were used for all sorts of things. Holiday resorts. Viewing platforms. Laboratories. Up and down the outside of the space elevator's "stem" great freight elevators steadily climbed up and down special-built tracks, the aphids on the skin of the great rose.
It was awe-inspiring in scale. A testament to what humanity and its allies were capable of, with the unifying force of the Empire behind them. "It never fails to impress." Angstrom sighed, smiling warmly.
Below the great space elevator, The planet was lit with a scattered shale of lights, the factories and forges interspersed with housing and commercial districts. From up here, it simply looked like a beautiful dusting of golden light on the dark side of the moon.
Backdropping the entire scene was the enormous bulk of the gas giant Exclusia, around which Atumgrad orbited. It was currently bright and full in the sky, reflecting the light of the yellow main sequence star in shades of brown and orange.

"All hands prepare for docking. Handover to local is to start at 1300hrs. The weather on Atumgrad is a balmy 15 degrees centigrade, so wrap up warm if you plan to explore the surface. Thank you for your ongoing dedication and loyalty. Final call for undocking will be at 1300hrs on the eleventh."
 
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