nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 7 - "Golden Triangle"

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Shroom Man 777
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Wed Jan 09, 2019 3:53 pm

You could integrate the callsigns to the cast of characters in the first page.

Jeez, I do appreciate how we get fundamental multiverse-defining information disclosed in this spin-off series. Real heavy stuff. So revelations aren't just because the Chosen Ones in the Aurora happened on all the verse-significant things. And implies that a whole bunch of Alliance vessels and crews may be uncovering all sorts of crazy stuff elsewhere.

Hmmm... your positing of the Earthreign history is interesting. My initial concept had the Earthreign utilize neuromonger psionic controls (with the mongers having to be grotesque slugoids as a requirement!) but with the ruling class not necessarily psionic*... now this idea of esper society ruling and growing corrupt has its own appeal, I like the strange memetic fluidity and variability and subculture formations you described!

Of course in SOTS' canon itself not everything has to be divulged of the Earthreign, to keep things mythic (and convenient!). It's strange but nice to see what you're doing with concepts that we in SOTS haven't fully expounded on.

And for something from SOTS-lore to become crucial in the making of the 'verses of actual franchises appeals to my vanity :P


*Initially the idea was that the neuromongers were warped mutated proto-espers used by the non-esper regime, people turned into instruments of control by the not-necessarily-psionic rulers who monopolized psionic capability, and one of the reasons for the Earthreign's collapse and the conflicts leading to Reignfall was the proliferation of uncontrolled espers in fringe world populations who could contest the neuromonger psi-monopoly of the reign's leadership, in conjunction with contra-psy tech being developed elsewhere (or introduced by alien forces with an interest of stymieing the Reign).
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:27 pm

The subcultures are totally unbounded potentials, too. But you'll see more. We'll let you in on early drafts of the prequel.

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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Invictus » Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:54 pm

Ooh so is that what the mystery spaceship from Steve's Voltron chapter was.

There's a lot I can pontificate about that doesn't necessarily apply to this version of the Earthreign, but I'd say that the biggest mystery about Imra so far is how a survivor from the Earthreign even remembers the Earthreign.

By being in another universe when the final meltdown happens, probably...
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Steve » Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:43 pm

Invictus wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:54 pm
Ooh so is that what the mystery spaceship from Steve's Voltron chapter was.

There's a lot I can pontificate about that doesn't necessarily apply to this version of the Earthreign, but I'd say that the biggest mystery about Imra so far is how a survivor from the Earthreign even remembers the Earthreign.

By being in another universe when the final meltdown happens, probably...
For the first item, I'll let the writer field it.

For the second... that is a possibility, I believe.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:29 am

There was a mystery spaceship in the Voltron chapter?
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Steve » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:47 pm

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:29 am
There was a mystery spaceship in the Voltron chapter?
The ship that Allura's mother was on, that jumped in at the end to shield the Aurora and Castle of Lions (and Koenig) from the Ministry of Fate forces and which opened a jump point back to the Voltronverse for them to flee through.

Actually, we do indicate the ownership of the ship in question in the final part of that episode, the bit that showed the Alekto and the other two Furies discussing what happened.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:33 pm

Invictus wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:54 pm
Ooh so is that what the mystery spaceship from Steve's Voltron chapter was.

There's a lot I can pontificate about that doesn't necessarily apply to this version of the Earthreign, but I'd say that the biggest mystery about Imra so far is how a survivor from the Earthreign even remembers the Earthreign.

By being in another universe when the final meltdown happens, probably...

She was in another universe, from a certain point of view. You are unlikely to find out the entire story until Season 6 of the main series.

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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:14 am

Act 5




Aboard the Huáscar, Va’tor cautiously made her approach to Nah’dur’s office. As the Mental Hygienist and lead Mha’dorn for the ship, she had been Read In, and so, thinking about it, what was happening wasn’t terribly surprising. But it was still disconcerting for all of them.

Nah’dur was curled in her office chair, eating some Tarik-gel soup, with her ytar at her side, looking half asleep. But her eyes shot alert as Va’tor approached, then she relaxed. “Va’tor,” she offered, looking abruptly very alert. “You have come to commence my project? We have enough time to do it now, before the enemy arrives. Even if the original motivation was overcome by events, I do believe it could be useful for propaganda purposes. I’ve selected a subject, one of the originals, who has military tattoos.”

“Ah..” Va’tor was drawn up short. The recovery of the mind of one of the Reavers? Gods, of course that’s what she wants to do, now, of all times. “Not quite. I was going to ask, how is Spacer Michaels? The man that Jubal Early killed.

“Oh, he’s fine,” Nah’dur answered dryly. “Why even ask that question? I finished the procedures and restarted his heart and confirmed brain-wave function hours ago.”

Va’tor leaned against the door-frame. The Dur, and the Jhur alike, were not telepaths. It was not really a surprise. “I just thought you should know, as a point in fact, that the telepaths on this ship can feel it when you bring someone back to life, Nah’dur. It is disconcerting to many.”

“Is that so?” Nah’dur’s eyes perked and she straightened, finishing her mug of ytar. “Can you elaborate?”

“Certainly. Both for us and the human telepaths death is commonly described as a door. It is normally thought that door is one-way, but as you know with sufficient experience, this is not strictly the case. People can come back from the dead.”

“Agreed. There is an afterlife, though there is no data on what it is. Those I have brought back remember the usual white lights, nothing more,” Nah’dur shrugged. “There is also a Hell, which I am more concerned about, for personal reasons unrelated to myself.”

“Does that keep you up at night, Surgeon-Commander?” Va’tor’s voice softened. The girl was not quite twenty, a kit, almost, and she had gotten the impression this subject was rarely far from her mind.

“No, nothing so crass,” Nah’dur transfixed her with a stare. “That is dangerous territory, anyway. To put it simply, Va’tor, I am realistic. The dominant species of the multiverse is humans, and humans permit no allowance for circumstance. They are relentless, committed, sincere, and savage. I love them as much as they infuriate me. They can produce the likes of Zhen’var, as good a Dilgar as we, and Ka’var, a resolute mother in truth; they can produce the likes of Chapel and Brogan and Hauser, who set our people up to die. They can produce these Reavers, this abominable government, Nazis and idiots like the Federation galore, and even a creature like Abebech Imra. There was never going to be an alteration to the end game for Her. Circumstances don’t matter. Just morals. Still, it bothers me that there is a Hell, even if it is an inevitability for Her. Perhaps it is the filial piety of a daughter and perhaps it is the irritation of a scientist with something she thinks it unlikely she can quantify. Either way, it is there. If I am stealing people from it, good. I cannot accomplish the one goal in regard to it I would really like to, but, if it has a Lord who lusts for peoples’ souls, I have wounded him.” She laughed. “Or they have returned from heaven, in which case I am saving fools.”

Va’tor knew exactly what Nah’dur was talking about, knew exactly what she used so many circumlocutions even now. She smiled tightly. “I was going to compliment you on executing what many would call a miracle.”

“Why? Four hours with a pulse blast through the heart? An hour floating in the void? I made these routine at A Bao a Qu. The elongation of this art will carry me to fourteen, fifteen hours, maybe more. I’m working on mapping degraded brain structure to duplicate with cybernetics so I can succeed in recovery of more comprehensively decayed brains. That is a challenge. Is it really so disconcerting, to know that I can bring the dead back?”

“No,” Va’tor answered after a moment. “No. It was just disconcerting for some. When there are casualties in battle, I will warn them to be ready.”

“Thank you. I dislike, immensely, causing discomfort to any Mha’dorn. But I can hardly stop.”

“You can hardly stop,” Va’tor agreed. “Do you fear a Hell yourself?”

“Hmm, no. Mother-Shai’s Dharma is servicable enough. I have not done anything that would cause me regret before the Gods. Though I will have something to regret if I don’t get the chance to bring back those Reavers, Va’tor. Since you’re here, will you do it?”

“The first principle of command is not to inflict on your subordinates what you would not do yourself, the humans tell me,” Va’tor replied levelly. “Yes, I’ll be the one to do the work.”

“Excellent.” Nah’dur jumped up. “Let get my scrubs on and call my surgical team. It’s time to go to war with some true morons, since nobody else would make this ridiculous thing, this Pax! Gods, Va’tor, they’re the same species as the Nazi! I love it! I hate it! It’s glorious!”







Kalista was stirring. Hooded, cuffed, shackled, bound, but on a camp mattress from the marines, in what had been the Captain’s Sea Cabin of the Francesco de Trier. The door opened, and she could hear it. She twisted her head to focus on the individual entering, to see, despite the hood, if she could match them.

It was Abebech. <Good girl, brave and loyal.> They were pitted against each other for a brief moment, and then Abebech was inside of her again, systematically. Their minds meeting. But this time, in a jumble of emotions, passions and memories, and Kalista could see, could see, Abebech, glasses and all, in a white uniform of black trim with gold adornment.

A massive tactical globe surrounded them, and in it, ships were burning and dying. Ships of the Reich. Ahead of them, a star was expanding, guttering, dimming as it disappeared and re-appeared through a steadily less real pulse of separating fractals of space-time. In their minds, it seemed that reality itself screamed and howled, buffeting the cohesion of their very consciousness, the perception of the universe itself. In the hearts of the telepaths around her, controlling their ship by thought, the sight and the feeling alike were putting terror into the hearts, into those hearts who were linked to the minds of the officers who ruled, in fear and pride, trillions of mutes. Abebech, though, showed none of it. She merely raised her hand and manipulated the plot through psionic feedback, as steady as Constantine IX at the Mesoteichion. A vaguely Hispanic man appeared in a sector of it and with a gesture his image expanded to overlay the tactical globe, the holo capturing the sweat beading from his face.

“Admiral Jimenez, the Fourth of Seventeenth shall advance three AUs and pivot forty degrees to port to lay covering fires….”

The vision snapped away as soon as it had come. Abebech ripped the mask off of Kalista’s face and stared deep into her eyes. The woman was abruptly confronted with a hideous presence, a power, an afterburn of something immeasurably dark and evil. It crashed over her like a wave, pounded and roared, until Kalista felt like she was drowning in it.

Then the wave passed, and only Kalista remained, alone in a tunnel. She followed it, confused, heart pounding, carefully scrambling over broken rock, scoured smooth by the power of the water.

She turned a corner, and there she was, in the lab, the ‘Academy’, being modified by the Government of the Union, pitilessly drilled and indoctrinated. Terrified and angry all at once, she continued to advance, looking at herself. But the other-Kalista, the young-Kalista, didn’t notice, the doctors, the guards, didn’t notice.

She reached the chair and lunged for herself, to unbuckle herself from the restraints. As she did, the mind’s eye curled in on itself. The younger woman in the chair was suddenly a slight Asian woman of browner skin, wearing the uniform of the Terran Reich. Dark eyes met dark eyes, and there was a sudden sense of ineffable kinship.

Kalista knew she was looking at the mother she had never had. The restraints would not come off, and she screamed in rage, yanking at them. “Mother!”

The woman strained at the restraints, and her voice, when it spoke, was high and sharp and furious. “I am offended for my great country,” she said, “that my daughter is a slave, and all I have fought for is undone.”

Kalista woke up again, and this time, screaming.

Abebech was systematically removing her restraints.

Kalista’s resistance guttered as she curled into a ball on the thin mattress, tears falling uncontrolled from her eyes as all the memories flooded together in a mad jumble. “Why… Why are you releasing me?”

“Because Leftenant Xin’s daughter is not a slave, and generally, an Esper is not a slave,” Abebech answered simply. “Welcome to the crew of your mother’s ship, Midshipwoman Xin. Revenge, plainly put, is one of the finer pleasures of life. Your mother was one of the engineering officers, I might add.”

“So this was your ship!?” Kalista shouted as Abebech turned and began to leave the cabin, remembering her words just before she had been stabbed.

“Oh, the de Trier was in the Third of Fifteenth,” Abebech replied with a laugh.

Rubbing her wrists, Kalista leapt to her feet and followed her.







“They’ve been gone a long while,” Zoe remarked, referring to Abebech and River and Simon. “So, what’s the plan, Sir?”

Mal shook his head wryly. Watching the preparations to fight the de Trier had been almost dizzying, and against a disciplined and organised military force he felt out of place. “War’s back on,” he answered, finally.

“Is that so?” Jayne almost growled it out. “I didn’t sign up to fight in your damn war, Cap’m. I’m a fighter, not a soldier, not a Browncoat. I do jobs and I get the hell out.”

“Including jobs like sellin’ me out, Jayne?” Mal swung his legs down and rose from where he was sitting, leaning over the bigger man, but far more intimidating. “It was your damnfool decision to come back after leavin’, too, which without the Huáscar would have been the end of all of us. You are lucky to be welcomed back as part of this crew and don’t start gettin’ ideas about double-crossin’ me again or cuttin’ out whenever an opportunity presents itself.”

Serenity ain’t a warship,” Jayne answered. “You think these folks with whatever they’re doin’ are gonna stick around? They’ll leave us in the lurch and we’ll find ourselves right back in Serenity Valley, ‘cept this time I’ll be stuck with ya there, probably wind up dead.”

“We’ve got more than Serenity.

“That girl I helped find you? Maybe some rustbuckets?” Jayne laughed. “Cap’m, fightin’ just don’t make no sense for me. I mean, the Huáscar might just lose right now.”

“And you think we can get away from fifty-six Alliance ships comin’ down on us if we cut and run right now, Jayne, is that it?”

“That just means we waited too long already. Shoulda got goin’ a while ago.”

“Well, we’re not goin’ anywhere, Jayne,” Mal leaned down, eyes narrowing. “We’re gonna fight. Because if we don’t, after this, there is no escape. They will hunt us down through the entire ‘Verse to make sure the story of this ship and what happened here never get loose. Even if Captain Zhen’var leaves They Will Not Rest, you hear me?”

Jayne shook his head and tried to look away.

“You want to end up in an Alliance camp, Jayne? They will put you there, even if they promise you money first.”

“I just don’t know what the hell we’re fightin’ for! What is it, Mal? What are we fightin’ for? ‘Cuz with this ship that River’s got the codes or whatever for, it sounds like we’re fightin’ for her. You’ve heard the star-folk talk about where it’s from, it’s from the damned Terran Reich, some kinda Empire. Empire of Telepaths, people like River, lordin’ over us regular folk, probably lookin’ in our minds whenever they feel like it just like River already does. She gonna make herself Queen of Londinium, Mal, is that it? Is that what’s gonna happen? Is that what we’re fightin’ for!?”

“We’ve been with River and Simon for almost two years now, Jayne, and I ain’t seen any sign of that in them. She’s a good girl and she’s healing by the day. If she has the power in her hands to take down the Alliance, when we don’t have any choice no more but to try, then I say we use it.”

“And you think that power isn’t gonna corrupt just like it has for the Alliance? You think she won’t want to use it for whatever the hell she wants inside of her crazy head?”

“I think she’s got a family, Jayne, and that’s what’ll make the difference.” Mal turned away. “And I think the Alliance, plain and simple, deserves to go down. I did when I fought before,” he forestalled Jayne with a hand, “and I lost that, and I accepted they were our Government now. But since they have gotten worse. They let the power over the whole Verse go straight to their heads and they are gonna keep running with it until they destroy us all or are brought down. Now I would sooner give River a chance with this ship than all the bureaucrats in Londinium. She has done good things, and I ain’t seen one yet out of ‘em.”

“Ai’right, we’re in this,” Jayne was shaking his head and rubbed the barrel of his rifle. “Ai’right. But what’re we gonna do?”

Mal hear the footsteps first and turned to face them. “‘Reckon we’re about to find out.”

River arrived, wearing a uniform of white with black trim and gold fittings. Beyond the Waffenrock, it extended to a knee-length white skirt with broad black pinstripes and black boots and stockings. Mal started.

Abebech was by her side, Simon following along. “Just in case, I resolved we could not say she was an unlawful combatant,” Abebech smiled thinly.

“It’s very pretty that it’s got a skirt, isn’t it?” River laughed, and twirled on one boot to let it flair. Even now she could be purely girlish.

Mal and Zoe looked at each other sharply. “Well, Sir,” Zoe shook her head, “she looks a damn sight better than a purple-belly. It’s got some class.”

“River’s very taken by it right now,” Simon explained with a wry shake of his head and a grin. “I would have never expected to see her in a military uniform in my entire life, but it grows on you a little.”

“Well, it won’t matter to the Alliance, but I understand the principle of it,” Mal answered, shaking his head. “What’s the plan, Commander Imra?”

“Get Kaylee and Emma from the ship and form a blocking detachment to guard access to the main bridge deck, just in case,” Abebech replied. “Their objective is certainly to board us, but we are preparing a surprise for them, and Bea’s Resistance people are crewing up the prizes.”

“Ain’t no place for an infant in a blocking detachment. Or Kaylee, really.”

“There’s no good place at all for them,” Abebech replied, “but they can stay with Simon at one of the emergency medical stations we’ll establish inside the bridge block. If the enemy gets past you… Well, the armoured keel of a Vengeur will be the safest place in this fight, I promise.”

Zoe smiled thinly. “You’re likely right about that. Let’s do it, Sir.”

“Well, she’s the mother. Let’s do it.” Mal smiled and tipped a lazy salute. “Not much longer than that.”

“No, but so much the better,” Abebech shrugged. “I tire of waiting.”








“Warning squadron, this is PriFly Actual. Commence launch sequence.” Stasia took a long guzzle from her coffee, and then added, softly, “Yan tután, aagáa yéi kgwatee.” Word of what Elia and Arterus were up to had gotten around.

“..What was that, PriFly? Over.”

“Have Faith, and It Shall Be,” Stasia smiled grimly. “Launch on discretion, Warning Squadron.”

“Confirmed, PriFly, launching by element. Over.”

Stasia watched the runabouts accelerating out of the main hangar. One after another, the twelve of them went spaceborne. Around them, the four earliest of the Resistance ships, converted freighters, had already arrived or were arriving. Their targets were the rest.

But most of all aboard them were two officers that Stasia deeply respected, and many pilots and other volunteers, going into a mission that most rational people would consider insane. She wasn’t at all pleased about that, but there was nothing to do, but whisper a battle-prayer and wait.

The runabouts ducked behind the de Trier and formed up. From a dead start they accelerated to match the relative velocities predicted for their final destinations, and then activated their warp drives, a moment later--none of the ships were far--deactivating them to slid in alongside. A few frantic messages were exchanged by tight-beam as the plan came together. Two went the shortest distance of all, and came in to meet the prizes.

After dropping off the volunteers, the last two runabouts went to collect more Resistance fighters. Then they leapt back to their muster point, masked by the de Trier. From that, they would be beamed aboard the prizes the Huáscar had taken. Many might be Union veterans, but they still had only five hours to bring the ships to life. It would have to do.








Zhen’var stirred from her hammock, rigged over her old bed in the sea cabin of the Huáscar, and a welcome addition that had been one of the positives about this mission, arriving just in time. Settling in at her desk after replicating herself a bowl of one of her dumpling specials, Laziz Lamb Handi, chai and a cup of raita to dip it. The more she read the reports, the more she frowned. Abebech, what are you up to? You are being too clever, I think… Glancing to the chrono, the Dilgar woman audibly sighed as she brought up her omnitool. ‘Commander Imra, I wish to discuss your intentions, if it is convenient before the action.’

Captain, of course.” An incoming visual on the small persocomp screen resolved itself into the bridge of the Francesco de Trier, Abebech sitting in the Captain’s chair, and a faint image of someone in a white and black uniform behind. “Captain. What do you wish to discuss? I aim to defend the de Trier to the utmost.”

“I agree it is necessary, but… you have other aims, I discern from the reports I am receiving. I would know what they are, if you are amenable to informing me.”

“The de Trier is not our’s to control, Captain. Not the Alliance’s.”

“Then whom is to control her, Abebech?” She slipped into informality, eyes shining with concern.

“The daughters of her crew. The Union Espers, Captain, and in River in particular. They were all intentionally gestated to have telepathy by secret modification behind the backs of their parents, using genetic samples from the mummies of deceased crewers of the de Trier.

“I can… accept that.” Her voice was soft, and her gaze distant. “It is fair, and just. Is that her behind you, in the strange uniform?”

“Yes.” Abebech altered the field of vision to focus on River as well. “I helped set the autotailor to produce the uniform of a Kapitan-de-Fregate of the Terran Reich.”

River waved lazily, her focus on her screen.

A soft hiss escaped as Zhen’var breathed in sharply. “As much of a statement as a Dilgar uniform, I suppose. You have been busy, Abebech. She is to be Captain Tam, then? And she has accepted, by her posture...”

“Kalista is with us, but she can’t be trusted by the Resistance so quickly,” River spoke up.

Abebech nodded. “She is the only one. Captain, I am a historian by education. To an Esper in S0T5, that means I collect things as tangible to me as books to you. Thoughts. One set of them was the encrypted fleet command codes of the Imperial Space Forces, passed from generation to generation as a memetic legacy in those who did not recognise their significance. This ship will not respond to any but a telepath bearing those codes in their mind, by design.”

“So the ship responds and answers to her… I start to understand more clearly.”

“And I.” Abebech coughed gently. “So other than defence against boarding and some damage control teams, it’s River and I fighting this ship in the upcoming battle. And we do have one main reactor, one main thruster block, and those eleven guns operational.”

“I shall keep what detachments from the Huascar you may need aboard, to assist you in fighting her in the coming action.”

“Thank you, Captain. We can discuss the next steps when we have won?”

“Agreed, Commander. Good fortune to yourself and Captain Tam.”

“Thank you.” Abebech dipped her head. “There needs to be no modifications to the plan we previously discussed. The de Trier’s batteries can do their part.”

“We shall be hard pressed, but the valiant way shall see us to the other side. See you there, Abebech.”

“And you, Zhen’var.” Abebech tipped a salute. “By your leave?”

“So granted. Thank you for explaining matters.” Blanking the screen, Zhen’var looked at the overhead. You are not yet telling me everything, Abebech…

The thought was interrupted by the door. “Commander William Atreiad.”

I am going to find a way to tear that speaker from the bulkhead… “Come ahead!”

The doors swished open to her ready room and then the sea cabin. Will stood at attention. “Captain. I’m sorry I couldn’t explain why, but it wasn’t even for a secured channel. Commander Fera’xero and I just recovered a Darglan interuniversal drive from the engineering spaces of the de Trier.

Divine, of course it was not even for a secure channel!” She had barely bitten back an exclamation in Hindi, her eyes widely huge. “That calls into question much so-called history…”

“Don’t I know it…” Will shook his head. “Fera’xero observed that the Reignfall, Swenya’s Darkness War, the scouring of our home Earth, and the end of the Darglan interuniversal era--all happened three thousand years ago. I thought about it for a moment, realised he was right, of course, and it chills me to the bone, Captain. Gods, it does.”

“It should. Some-day, I will be able to articulate what I suspect.”

“That they’re all related? That’s what I’m staring in the face right now, Zhen’var. This Vengeur-class dreadnought of the Terran Reich sitting in our faces with Darglan tech aboard.”

“Not merely related… but we will speak of it, some-day soon, I hope. We have a battle looming upon us, presently.”

“Understood.” Will pursed his lips tautly for a moment. “Point of fact, the enemy will be close enough to commence action with the long-range guns in another forty-five minutes. We should be beginning our final preparations.”

“Indeed, Commander. Call the crew to stations in another fifteen. This will be a hard fight, still, and we are not finished in this system even after that. We will prepare a physical report for Admiral Maran to be carried by courier as soon as we are finished here.”

“Understood. Gods keep us, Captain.”








“Sound General Quarters.”

The alarms again filled the ship. This time, every system was functional, the ship had warp drive at Zhen'var's discretion, and they knew exactly what they were getting into. The trap was ready, and it was time to fight.

“Time, four minutes, thirty-two seconds, Captain,” Lieutenant Orallian, the Gersallian Ops watch officer standing in for Elia, reported. “We are at Material Condition ZEBRA with all shields at full power, all weapons standing, by and full power available.”

The plan was, in a certain way, simple. The de Trier would slowly bring thrust up, creating an ionised drive tail. The Huáscar would pull away, commencing long-range fires from ranges at which the enemy could not reply. The fighters and bombers had already been launched, and were standing by in the wreckage of the de Trier to ambush the enemy when they closed with her to board. Bea’s squadron was standing by in the drive tail with the fireships.

While the Huáscar weakened the enemy, the fighters would harass and drive the enemy squadron toward the de Trier. Then the Resistance ships would lead the fireships into the mass. Staying under thrust, they would cut through and seek to escape. The shuttles hiding on the flanks of the de Trier would get the crews of the fireships off. Including Elia Saumarez, Zhen’var’s best friend.

Ahead the fleet loomed, fifty-six ships: Longbow, Trebuchet cruisers, Victoria corvettes, ELINT corvettes, and two utterly massive, ten-million-tonne Crete-class carriers, as large as the Huáscar. With them, Firefox fighter-bombers, Warhammer interceptors, both by the hundreds, and hundreds of cutters and short-range enforcement vessels, armed with their EMP generating charges, and dozens of assault landers waiting to convey Marines to the de Trier.

May the divine bless us with fortune…de Trier Actual, Huáscar Actual. We are cleared and ready for action.”

“Some of Fera’xero’s scratch engineering teams are still hydraulically jacking blast doors closed, but we have more time before coming under attack, Huáscar Actual” Abebech responded immediately. “I am preparing to bring up Main Thruster No.7.” The first challenge would be seeing if it actually worked, regardless of whether or not it said it was nominal.

“May your sword hold to the last blow,” Zhen’var offered from an old Dilgar benediction. “Huáscar out.”

The channel cut, and as the Huáscar steadily pulled away, she watched, from what had once been an enormous cluster of thirty-two engine bells, deceptively primitive looking, at the back of the de Trier, the multispectral image showing a flare as the gravimetrics kicked on and stabilised, able to redirect the thrust at will, and then a huge column of bright glowing blue ionised matter shot forth, and stabilised into a low glowing cyan, redirected slightly down and to the starboard to balance the thrust relative to the ship’s centre of gravity.

“Great Goddess,” Daria whispered. “She’s really brought power up.”

“Steady, guns. It is a sight no-one has seen in three thousand years,” Zhen’var acknowledged. “But we’ll be in range in minutes.”

“Aye-aye, Captain.” Daria took one last glance at the cylindrical thrustship of a monster slowly increasing her acceleration toward eight gravities, and began targeting with long-range sensors of the incoming fleet.

“Aim for the big ones,” Zhen’var said coolly. “I want to shake them.”

“Going for the carriers first…” Daria selected one of the massive Crete class ships. They weren’t in range yet, but she could start refining her targeting picture… The Huáscar turning to port and speed continuing to increase as their acceleration peaked past two hundred gravities. Having arrived in the local system, the pulse drives of the Union ships wouldn’t help them again, and without those long distance but limited mass-cancelling drives, their accelerations were poor enough that there was no way they could keep up. Hells, the converted freighters in the Resistance force could barely keep themselves in the de Trier’s drive tail as she limped her way up to eight gravities.

“They may not have enough information to realise that we’re going to be ranging on them and think we’re retreating,” Will remarked through the intercom as he watched the enemy fleet continue to fail to manoeuvre or otherwise respond to their actions.

“Perhaps, but I do not want any additional surprises. Disabuse them of the notion once you have the range.”

Will interpreted that literally, as Zhen’var’s command style dictated. “Daria, you are fire free.”

“Fire free,” she repeated, the Dorei woman studying sharply the tactical displays as they counted down the remaining range.

The counter ticked over and the indicators went green. Daria grabbed the trigger and fired a massive rippling broadside of forty solar torpedoes as the main PPCs opened fire on the starboard beam. They lanced across the stars to a target that would be perfectly invisible to the naked eye, now under the guidance of FTL sensors again with the jamming field completely gone.

The pinpoints of lights the flashes represented meant something else entirely on the tactical display, and to the approaching Union Government Fleet. It was a credit to their alert and capable sensor operators that they turned their autocannon on the incoming torpedoes. Even at high c-fractional velocities, they had just enough warning to turn the anti-missile defences on them.

Against the heavy PPCs there was no protection at all. The armour of the carrier was thick, but the immense power of the energy weapons scoured its length like the hand of a god. The carrier staggered, and turned away. As it did, three torpedoes slipped through the defence--which was superb, to take out thirty-seven--and exploded down her side in flashes of fury greater than even an atomic bomb blast of the heaviest type carried by their missiles. The ship lurched and went hard to port, a brave Trebuchet frantically interposing itself.

“One of the carriers has hauled out of formation, Captain,” Orallian called out.

“They’re massively attriting our torpedoes at this range, they have very good point defence, I’m restricting fire to PPCs only,” Daria added, “otherwise we’ll run out without much to show for it.”

The fleet reacted immediately. They started to launch their assault landers early, especially those on the second Crete. The first carrier, in fact, began to launch from her port bays despite the immense internal damage she had suffered. This fight wasn’t going to be so easy. Blossoming across the tactical displays, the Union fleet began to launch their maximal-range missiles in a salvo whose numbers steadily ticked toward a thousand. They were not completely helpless, and they weren’t about to let the distant enemy wound them without reply.

But at this range the Huáscar had plenty of options to attrite the salvo. “They’re launching, Captain. Full strength missile wave to overwhelm us, based on current course with a reasonable prediction cone,” the stocky Gersallian man quickly confirmed, highlighting the tactical display on the screen in sections and expanding them to provide the Captain the information she needed.

“A micro-jump to move clear, or stand and give them fire with our energy weapons, do you think?” The salvo was big enough to where the effort to jump would have been strongly considered in EarthForce. “Can the missiles be re-targeted onto our other ships if we make the jump?”

“...” Orallian frantically worked the computations through the massive computers of the Huáscar. “Not if we wait another two minutes. We won’t be in danger from the lead part of the wave for another three minutes, fifteen seconds. They can be brought back around on the de Trier at that point but they would be flying dead on ballistic trajectories, so any manoeuvring on the de Trier’s part at all would shake them.”

That was enough for Zhen’var’s crew to start getting ready. “Laying in a course at warp. Want me to come in behind them at weapons range, Captain?” Violeta hastily completed the computations. “Engineering, stand by for Warp Five.”

“Warp five at your discretion, helm,” Anna confirmed even as Violeta waited for Zhen’var’s decision.

“Engage in two-minutes, then. Alert de Trier of our intentions. Bring us in behind them at maximum effective weapons range.”

Tor’jar worked the comms. “de Trier Actual confirms, Captain.”

Violeta watched the timer zero out and activated the warp drives. For a moment they were in a blur of motion, and then they lunged out of position. It was worse than that for the Government fleet, which due to its sublight sensors didn’t realise they had altered positions initially, and then saw two of them.

Daria opened fire, targeting the second carrier she had already been hammering. The full forward batteries ripped into it and tore through it. A massive string of secondary detonations tore through the engine block and darkened it, the thrusters guttering out in the night as additional detonations rippled down the flanks of the immense ship. Now it was ironically the first carrier that had initially hauled out that was still limping toward contact with the de Trier.

“The missiles haven’t been redirected. They want the de Trier intact, Captain,” Orallian reported.

Zhen’var growled softly. “They are not fools, our enemy keeps their eyes on the correct objective. Keep up our fire, attrit them as heavily as we can before our wing must come to action.”

“Coming about to starboard to keep us within the engagement plan,” Violeta noted. Daria acknowledged and adjusted the firing pattern to account for it. The Huáscar slowly turned back in on herself, to keep the enemy from being tempted to follow her to the far side of the de Trier.

The enemy squadron was now matching velocity and approaching the ship’s great flanks, even as the long-range PPC fire picked off the first cruiser to be claimed in the action, the Government fleet powerless to reply. This was battle, in all of its grim majesty. For the moment they reaped like Gods, but a minute later their friends and comrades would be in desperate straits. The engines strained up to full power, and the Huáscar’s port batteries thrummed in her deck. “The White”, as her distant ancestress had been called in the War of the Pacific, turned back to close the range.

It was all mathematical now, the fire they could put out met by the Government ships’ ability to absorb it, and the Captain’s face was a blank mask as their fire lanced out. El’sau, please, come through this alive, I ask no more than that of the universe.







Artesia watched the approaching fleet match velocity and acceleration with the de Trier from her position at standby with her squadron, nestled by the docking tractors close up against the hull of the great ship, in amongst the ribs and shattered plates. It was intimidating simply to see the metres and metres of melted and shattered armour plates. Sometimes, now under thrust, some part that was loose and had not been dislodged in thousands of years of drifting brushed past them and tumbled out into a debris trail behind them, a haunting simulcra of how she must have looked first arriving in the system.

IR seekers on her missiles cheerfully began to chime as they locked onto a brace of Short Range Enforcement Vessels, and her micro-torpedo tube began to track a group of assault transports coming in. Still they waited. The Government fleet was de-accelerating above them, finally meeting zero-zero relative the de Trier.

She could see them, now holding position. There were still more than fifty ships, but even as they assumed their positions, turning into a half-globe formation to defend against the Huáscar facing out like a defensive hedgehog, another of the Longbow type cruisers was bracketed by heavy PPC salvoes. Pummeled over the course of a minute with the beams lancing in from the distant Huáscar, a pinpoint of starlight at long range, the cruiser began to come to pieces, fuel stores exploding around the engines in a furious white fusion detonation that blasted the after hull from the central pylon, sparking as plating went flying in a dozen directions.

If their troops retook the de Trier, it would be worth it for them. Mission Complete, regardless of the casualties.

Final target assignments popped up and Artesia grinned. Suddenly, comms silence was broken. “All squadrons,” Lar’shan’s voice boomed over the comm, “Commence the Attack! Rung-ho!

Artesia deactivated her docking tractor, manoeuvring thrusters spitting fire as she brought her nose up. “Epsilon wing, form on me! Full ahead!” She rammed the throttles back, and at hundreds of gravities, the Mongoose climbed like a rocket on takeoff from the hull of the de Trier.

The computer whined with the familiar indicator of tone lock, and she salvoed her anti-fighter missiles on fire-and-forget, then came around and shifted through armament. After she confirmed it was the micro-torpedoes for the transports, she opened fire as her fighter tore through them, pivoting the nose down and briefly cutting thrust to chew through yet another with her main pulse cannon before bucking the nose back around. A line of three enforcers were burning and exploding, and more were flaring up around them, the energies of the Alliance missiles far greater than anything they had been designed to face; it was one shot, one kill.

A squadron of Warhammers descended on her, and she coiled around another group of incoming transports. “Epsies, stay on the transports! I’ll keep the fighters off of you!” She flicked the switch to outboard and made her second kill with guns, and the first fighter, as she skidded across their course after ducking through their own transports.

And then Abebech’s voice cut the night. “All ships, this is de Trier Actual. Stay away from those cruisers! We are fire free!”








There were just the two of them on the bridge for command crew. Abebech didn’t trust Kalista with the codes yet. She’d have to prove herself first. But Goodenough, Ca’elia, and Abdulmajid were there. They couldn’t interface with the computers, but with River and Abebech setting up data-feeds for them, they could monitor the reams of information the computers were now providing and alert them to anything coming up, so they could focus on fighting.

With the sole operational main engine locked down to provide a constant eight gravities, massive banks of red and amber lights glowed around the bridge, indicating failed and critical systems. “Six hots and eight crits in the main weapons feed buses,” Goodenough indicated.

“What about feed-buses eleven and fourteen?”

“Both nominal, Captain,” Goodenough replied. The technical terms were familiar enough that the crash course in New Franconian and some help from the omnitool were mostly enough.

“That will do.” <River, get on it.>

<Routing mains through feed-buses eleven and fourteen,> she answered. <All right. We have mains power to the operational batteries and cannon.>

<Frigate-Captain, port turbolasers, engage!> “We are engaging,” she repeated for the benefit of her mute officers.

Four turbolaser batteries erupted fire down the de Trier’s port flank, with red bolts two hundred metres long flashing through the void. Each battery was a cluster of five cannon in an armoured housing, able to train and engage semi-independently but linked to a single power supply. After they fired, the heavy batteries took six seconds to recharge.

The battle had been shaped according to the plan that they were given with Zhen’var, because the port side was more intact than the starboard, and now Abebech had five of seven and two of four neutron cannon at her disposal to engage with. The turbolasers spake first, and when they did, a Trebuchet-class cruiser simply exploded. At point-blank range, the searing power of the main batteries reached the main reactors and fused the fuel on the ship, detonating her in an enormous fusion reaction which reduced the hull to embers and a brilliant white flare across the night.

Now Abebech p’grabbed the Neutron Cannon controls through the interface and opened fire with them as well. The two green beams lanced through the night, targeting a Longbow each. They had plenty of power on a single charge to scour down the length of the hull of the ships. In the darkness of space around them, she could feel through her powers, the chill of horror and terror spreading through the enemy fleet. If that fire kept up, they were dead by rights.

The beast within relished it. Fear us! Fear us! As it was in ancient days!







Elia had led her cruiser out of the drive tail the moment that Abebech had conveyed she was opening fire. Ahead of her, Bea’s Resistance people thrusted hard with their squadron, straight toward the fleet that heavily outnumbered them. On the screen, past the rack which had once held skulls, she could see that the de Trier really was in action. Longbow-class ships were burning ruins along her flank, neutron beams having done the job, as horrifyingly perfect as they had been against Earth in the late war. One of them was cut in two, just as cleanly as if the Minbari had done it at the Line. But now it was her enemies and the oppressors of telepaths who did it. A savage thrill cut the anxiety in her heart, strapped in as the cruiser and its skeleton crew burned hard on a final mission.

“Steady as she goes.” Ahead of them the eight Resistance ships--two Trebuchet-class cruisers and a Victoria-class corvette captured from the Government, plus five armed freighters--blasted into the heart of the enemy formation, salvoing their missiles. The two ships she was leading, one Longbow planetary assault model sold out to civilian service and captured by Reavers and one armed freighter, looked merely like the rearguard.

Behind her were sixty-eight solar torpedoes.

She activated the ship to ship lasercom. “Leftenant tr’Rllaillieu, take the port group. They’re cleaving and concentrating to bear their batteries against the wedge.”

“Aye, Ma’am. Arm the torpedoes?”

“At discretion,” Elia answered. It was only a small level of safety. “At discretion.” She leaned into her restraints and watched a wave of plasma pulse and autocannon fire converge on the squadron lead.

The nature of the weapons and sensors used by the Union dictated that the engagement ranges were much closer than Zhen’var ever tried for with the Huáscar in normal drill. It was the one thing which made the plan viable.

“The Lord Shall Prosper Us This Day,” Elia whispered as she watched one of the Trebuchet-class cruisers the Resistance fighters were crewing be chewed up from stem to stern by heavy fire of a concentration of the Government ships. Falling out of formation, her systems were killed by EMP bombs.

Elia tapped her omnitool. “Shuttle force, Leather; get the crew off the Achille, quickly now!”

“Leather, we are standing by to--”

“That’s an order, get them clear.” She turned to Lieutenant Ni’vur “Arm the torpedoes!”

“Helm, steer for that concentration of ships.” She patted the armrest of her acceleration couch and reached up, poised for a moment as she watched the final fate of the cruiser, torn apart by fire from a dozen ships until she erupted in a final intense gout of flame.

Now those dozen ships were starting to turn toward her. “Lock the helm!”

“Helm locked, Ma’am!”


“Thirty second timer.”

“Thirty seconds on your mark, Commander,” Ni’vur answered.

“Mark.” Elia tapped her omnitool. “Shuttle force; Leather. Carry us off!”

Static.

Tomyris
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:21 pm

Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:13 pm

Act 6


“Shuttle force, now would be a good time,” Elia continued, pitching her voice to be chipper despite the lack of response.

“Twenty seconds, Commander!”

The Government ships opened fire. “Helm…” Elia trailed off, remembering she had already ordered it locked down. The timer wouldn’t matter a whit if the torpedoes were energy fused by a good salvo punching through the old, deranged armour of the damaged Reaver ship.

Then a blazing flurry of green lances seared at the edge of her retina, exploding outward from the side of the de Trier. The energy bolts connected with their targets, two of the enemy cruisers burning, smashed open…. Rent from stem to stern. Abebech had grown confident enough to split her fire with two batteries laid on each ship. Venting debris, burning atmosphere and seared bodies, the two cruisers tumbled away, hopelessly crippled.

“Ten seconds,” Ni’vur prepared a countdown. “Ni…”

“Oh don’t bother with that load of rot, Combat Master,” Elia shook her head. “It’ll be fine.”

Another enemy squadron converged, guns tracking. Good, come on, get closer, if I’m going to die ten of you isn’t enough you sorry bastards. Shuttle force..?” She asked again.

Beaming, Commander!

“Might be a bit la--.” Mercifully, the word was cut off by the feel of the Darglan type transporters yanking her away from the hulk. She found herself flashing back into existence on the transporter pad of one of the cargo shuttles holding itself against the hull of the de Trier. Her crew would be spread around several others because of their small size, but Ni’vur was with her.

Elia looked to the Dilgar Lieutenant and smiled. “See, look what I told you. No need for that bloody countdown.”

“Err, certainly, Commander,” he answered, shaking himself. “Did we succeed?”

“I’m not sure the sensors of a shuttle masked in a dreadnought can tell us, but we certainly did ride it down their throats,” Elia answered, stepping over to the replicator in the back of the shuttle. “Thanks for the save!” She called to the pilot, before replicating herself a cuppa. “...Fancy any ytar, Leftenant? I shouldn’t want to leave you out.” She was quite worried about Arterus, actually, but as long as there were subordinates around felt nothing else would do.

“Commander Saumarez,” the pilot turned around. “We’re going to beam you with the rest of your crews to the de Trier in case the shuttles come under attack. No need to risk you.”

“Thank you, Leftenant.” A pause. “If I may, do we know if Leftenant tr’Rllaillieu’s group got off as well?”

“They did, Commander.”

“...See, I told you, Ni’vur, it all worked out perfectly fine…” She stepped back up onto the transporter pad and handed him his ytar just before they both again disappeared in a flash of white.







A large flare of white again dissipated into dust before them as a Victoria-class corvette was incinerated by the awesome power of the intact turbolaser batteries converging on it. <Good work, keep clearing the way for Elia.>

<Of course, silly, that’s more important than going for the big ones.> River flashed her a brief grin before turning back to her readouts.

“Captain, power surge on the …” Goodenough’s words were cut off by the tremendous detonation.

The lead fire-ship detonated, and moments later, the second. Immense white flashes as terrible, but worse still, than those inflicted by the batteries of the Francesco de Trier tore into the heart of the fleet, obscuring for a moment the flaring energy and anger of a neutron beam tracking across the battlefield. The beam found purchase nonetheless, and another corvette reeled, tumbling off course with a huge gash of flickering, melted metal across its flank.

It paled as nothing before the terrific damage of the conflagration. The spreading explosions had easily wrecked or damaged a dozen Government ships outright, vapourised some. In the guttering sparks of cooling metal debris across the battlefield, there were also the tumbling wrecks of vessels further out, driven and dashed against each other as pieces of flotsam battered in the surf.

Abebech folded her gloved hands. The thought was too intense to hide, the sentiment River could clear p’hear, hoping that Elia had survived. As the ships tumbled, spewing atmosphere and debris and bodies, twenty wrecks in the void, the shattered heart of a great fleet, it was all they could do.






Artesia snapped another nose pivot back toward an incoming squadron of Warhammers. Tone lock squealing in her helmet, she raked across one, then another, taking both en passant as the groups tore across each other’s courses.

The battle was not going well, simply because of how badly outnumbered they were by the enemy fighters. Even as she killed another two, they had started the engagement with odds long against them. One hundred fighters and bombers and twelve runabouts were going up against more than eight hundred fighters and an equal number of enforcers and cutters. All the technology in the Multiverse hardly mattered at sixteen to one!

She snapped into another violent nose-pivot, but this time laid on maximum thrust to avoid a brace of enforcers coming in close. Once clear of the risk of a collision, she brought the nose up again and fired across the belly of one, the pulse phasers ripping weapons mounts apart and dishing in the thin hull. Air fled in a trail, turning to ice as it did.

“All squadrons, pull back! Pull back!” Lar’shan’s voice echoed across the main channels.

Artesia and the other pilots knew what it meant, and she snapped her nose away from the globe of capital ships and again slammed the throttles to full. A moment later, she flicked shields double-rear as her periphreal vision exploded with white. The Mongoose violently bucked in her hands as Warhammers behind and around her and several enforcers and cutters were also torn to pieces, captured in the wave and buffeted until they shattered and their fuel was detonated by the energy of the blast.

“All squadrons,” Lar’shan was speaking again a minute later. “Form up off the port bow of the de Trier, we need to take advantage of their disorder from the blasts to dress ranks! Engage assault landers only on opportunity while concentrating!”

Artesia thumbed through channels to try and raise her squadron lead, but couldn’t get any response. “Epsilon flight, follow me forward,” she ordered, and there were only three of them now, not four. She cut down toward the surface of the de Trier, dodging around the massive turbolaser batteries lest they fire, and selected one of the bays. Most of the assault landers that hadn’t been destroyed before had already landed.

She made sure the laggards paid for it. Her pulse phasers spoke again, and again, and claimed two more of the transports on her run to the concentration point, the work becoming as sharp and precise, and unfussy, as an old woman strangling a chicken in the rural Catalan of her girlhood. Behind her, the explosions faded like the dying of a star.






On the de Trier’s bridge, the tactical picture updated again. Now it showed the cripples continuing to fall behind as they lost power, the rest of the Government fleet still in wanton disorder. Three-fourths of their strength was gone, annihilated, between the Huáscar, the torpedoes, and the fireships. These were the kinds of casualties which destroyed any military unit, no matter how strong or brave.

Once, this ship had fought in a battle just as hopeless as the one she now inflicted. Again River targeted and fired the turbolasers, blowing a Longbow in two with a violent shattering of hull, gouts of plasma driving the two halves of the ship away from each other. But the enemy did not surrender.

Abebech knew why. They were counting on the troops they had landed to take the de Trier. They would remain focused on their mission until the very bloody end. The promise of victory could yet make troops endure a terrific pounding. She knew it. She had led troops in doing the same before.

And as long as she and River were tied to the command consoles of the de Trier, the threat was real. They could not fight the ship and confront the boarders at the same time.

“Ray-ban, this is Leather.”

Abebech sank slowly back in the command chair, to an extent that she had not realised her tension. “I see, Commander, that Fortune yet favours the bold. Welcome back to the living.”

“Well, it was a nearer thing than I should have liked, but both crews were recovered. I’m here with Leftenant tr’Rllaillieu and, Commander, the enemy is pushing toward your position aggressively. Colonel Fei’nur’s marines are reporting telepathic assistance.”

<Other Operatives. Other sisters,> River paled, where first her face had brightened in relief that Elia had survived.

<Doubtlessly.> “Commander, is Midshipwoman Xin there?”

“She is,” Elia answered. “You want us to go forward?”

“Please. I believe she understands the plan. At all costs, we want defections, not a gunbattle.”

“Don’t worry, Commander.”

“I will trust in the usual reputation of Psi-Corps, Commander. See if you cannot link up to Colonel Fei’nur, but whatever happens, keep them from reaching the bridge.” She switched to the space comm. “Ray-ban to Huáscar Actual. The teams have been recovered, I repeat, the teams have been recovered. Leather and Feanor in the lot. Huáscar Actual, we have the better part of a regiment pressing as hard as it can with telepathic support for the de Trier’s bridge section. Please, we must end the naval battle as quickly as possible. The enemy is broken, they just don’t know it yet!”






On the Huáscar’s bridge, Daria could sense the relief in Zhen’var’s heart. She also realised that the challenge was her’s. Elia was alive, but her responsibilities in battle had usually included management of the tactical picture for Zhen’var. Daria had been more of a gunnery officer than a true tactical officer.

She had to pick that role up now. “Captain,” the Dorei woman said, carrying her voice to a pitch. “BLUF: The enemy fleet is hors d’combat and is now a distraction; the threat are the enforcers and the cutters.”

“Go on, Leftenant,” Zhen’var said simply.

Daria kept the PPCs firing on pre-planned barrages even as she spoke. “Captain, the enforcers and cutters are massing with the remaining fighters to attack our own wing, and they still have a considerable supply of EMP bombs. They probably held off using them on the de Trier worked about leaving her out of control, but they might employ them now. If we don’t prioritise them, Captain, they’re going to massacre our fighters and keep us tied down for long enough that their boarding parties can still win the battle.”

“Can you target them effectively?”

“I’ll need to get in closer.”

“They’ll attack us with EMP charges if you do, Leftenant.” Zhen’var’s claws scoured at the granite.

“Charges have no velocity, we have greater acceleration than any of them, Captain. We’ll launch slashing attacks. We can stand off far enough to guarantee they can’t put them in our course.”

“Leftenant Arterria?” Zhen’var’s cat-eyes sharpened. “Can you do it? Maximum acceleration, maximum de-acceleration, forward, aftwards relative the de Trier, again and again until we master them?”

Violeta turned back and her voice reflected true confidence. “I’ll make her dance, Captain.”

“Then warp us into position for the first run!” She tapped her comm. “de Trier Actual, Huáscar Actual. We are coming in. Stand by to hold fire.”

“Preparing to hold turbolaser fire,” Abebech answered. “We will shift neutron cannon against the cutters, we can range on them.”

“Acknowledged. Make it happen, de Trier.” A pause. “Helm, execute.”

Violeta tapped a single control to execute the warp manoeuvre she had laid in, at a leisurely Warp 2. It was still sufficient to put them right on top of the battlefield.

“Camel, this is White,” Zhen’var signaled. “Form on us, we are making high speed passes. Keep the cutters off.”

They appeared, and Daria’s quick blue hands worked the firing controls, ears flexing. A moment later the medium and light batteries opened fire in earnest. They ripped through the ranks of cutters and gunboats. Against the medium batteries, none of the cutters and enforcers were strong enough to survive even a single hit, and the light batteries were intended as anti-missile units and could track them through any evasive manoeuvre as it chewed them up piece by piece. Twenty of the craft, too large to be good fighters and too small to be as resilient as capital ships, were destroyed in the first five seconds.

They had the numbers on their side, and they had the weapon which had proved most effective against the Huáscar so far, EMP charges. But as they accelerated into attack positions, the great cruiser was moving faster. They knew their plan, they knew themselves, and they knew their enemy.

The Huáscar roared past them at maximum acceleration, easily pushing past them before they could catch up to close the range and use the EMP charges. As she did her medium and light PPCs spat fire again and again and again. Behind the mass of the cutters and enforcers, the de Trier was firing too, two Neutron cannon beams sweeping the battlefield, catching the small craft and destroying them in puffs of fire and air, sparks of molten metal drifting into space and cooling as tumbling pieces remained.

Lar’shan formed his fighters up to follow the Huáscar, staying on the outside and covering her. It was like a bullfight; as the Huáscar cleared the enemy, she de-accelerated and then spun about to accelerate again in the opposite direction. This time, her starboard batteries spoke, the fighters shifted to the opposite side and didn’t even engage.

The commander of the Government forces, the Captain of the surviving Crete which had pulled well back from the action, could just watch in despair as his small craft were systematically annihilated without the ability to engage the enemy. The Huáscar twisted like a fighter at the end of her runs, spinning back and standing on her beam ends through the sharp turn, just for Violeta to bring her impulsors to full power again, and again. Maximum thrust to the redline in acceleration for three minutes, de-acceleration for three minutes, and she kept varying the angle so that the enemy couldn’t predict their course and put themselves in a position for ambush.

It was a massacre, and to combat the demoralisation of the Government crews standing in place to buy time for their Marine comrades, they had only the thin hope that they would succeed, and take the de Trier.







Aboard the de Trier, armour was waiting for Elia. She pulled herself into it before she realised it was not at all of Alliance make, and then shrugged. Strength in metal doesn’t so easily yield over time. Not this ship, anyway.

Kalista arrived, already dressed in it, with the appropriate uniform under it.

<Midshipwoman Xin?>

<Commander Saumarez. Commander Imra told me to report to your position.>

<Yes. This is certainly our last chance to stop a great effusion of blood among telepaths. I’ve already worked with Fei’nur; she’s concentrated the Mha’dorn and we’ll be going to join up with them,> Elia replied. <Come on.> She gestured, clutching her pistol, and started forward.

The Marine detachment had eight Mha’dorn in it, and there was also Ensign Kel’dar who had been part of the group securing the engineering systems. Some of them were quite weak, but even the weakest telepaths could, when gestalted, use their talents against another, a reserve bank in a fight if nothing more.

Lieutenant Koi’sar was the ranking Mha’dorn besides Elia herself, and he came to attention to salute as they arrived at the concentration point. Lieutenant Gha’tir was right next to him; the others were rankers. <All right, where’s the attack developing?> Elia asked, letting it be clearly conveyed to all at once.

<Sector 19, Deck 52,> Koi’sar answered. <Blocking detachment by Serenity’s crew. All other stop points have been driven back.>

Elia pursed her lips. <Four people? Let’s roll!> She doubted they’d last a minute against what was coming down the pike for them.







Mal, Jayne, Zoe, and Inara, armed with a rifle taking from one of the arms lockers on the de Trier, a wickedly functional energy weapon. Mal had never expected to see his girlfriend packing a gun prepared to shoot purple-bellies, but there they all were.

Zoe, still shaky and looking a little sick, was settled in against a crew-served weapon, from the same armoury, with the other three covering her. There was a line of collapsed doors and metal access panels piled up to form a barricade.

Mal waited patiently. Isolated from the comms network they just had their own little battle to fight, not knowing the details of the general engagement. But they knew that beyond them was Simon, a field hospital, Kaylee, Emma Washburne -- and River and Abebech and the command and control apparatus of the de Trier.

There was a rustle down the corridor. Jayne leaned forward, but Mal quickly held up a finger, and he shushed down before he spoke. It was already growing louder; there was no need for a recon, there were troops coming down the pike. They were not friends.

Despite her condition, it was Zoe’s gun that spoke first, and the better for it. Red lances of light shafted their way down the corridor leaving a blur across their vision. They virtually tore the bodies of the purple-bellies rounding the corner to pieces. A group of four were dropped in barely more than a second, to the screams of others behind.

“The hell is that thing?” Jayne stared incredulously for a moment.

“Effective,” Zoe answered with a laconic bit of a smirk.

“An energy weapon, just like the big ‘uns on this ship,” Mal shook his head. “Inara?”

“Well, I’m going to wait for a target to find --”

“They’re comin’ on again!” Jayne shouted, and let loose with Vera. A man toppled in a well of blood, and then another.

Inara’s gun spoke sharp red energy bolts, smaller versions of those from the tripod mounted gun. Mal joined in with his pistol.

Between burns gouged through armour and good hits that left bloody traces across wounded and dead soldiers felled to the deck, they had quickly stopped another push. But from the rustlings down the side corridors, it was clear that they were going to be flanked.

“Zoe, you hold the middle?”

“Gonna have to, Sir, can’t move this thing.”

“Inara, come on, we’ll go left,” Mal said, then. “Jayne, take the right.”

“By myself? You tryin’ to get me killed, Mal?”

“You know your gun and you’ve got an armour-piercer. Do it.”

Jayne rolled out to the right, and the moment he did, there was a sharp crack of fire. He went to ground, bringing Vera up to return fire.

Inara and Mal managed to reach a set of doors the enemy hadn’t. They settled in to wait against them, and Mal took aim as the first of the purple-bellies began their flanking manoeuvre. He was surprised with the precision and surety by which Inara dropped the first with a single shot from the energy rifle.

The second went down to his pistol. It seemed like another probe that would melt away, when suddenly, eight of them rushed all at once. They both opened fire into the densely packed mass, felling them as they tried to press forward.

But behind them came a girl with a shaven head. Mal grimaced, and raised his pistol to take the shot.

Just as he did, she exploded into a pirouetting run straight toward their position, ducking aside both bullets and blaster-shots. A blade glinted in her hand, earnest and ready to deal with him and Inara using cold steel. Again and again they fired, and never quite hit her.

<FALL BACK,> the command echoed in his brain like a hammer. Elia advanced from behind them with her pistol levelled, and pitted herself against the girl, buried deep in her precog.

She was not alone, but represented just one arm of the gestalt. In the mental world she projected, she matched the single sword of the girl with a dozen about the banner. Three lions attacked and tore at her mental shields, while a wave of blood swept over them from above, mimicking the colour and heraldry of the flag of her islands, the Duchy of Normandy. She picked wedges into the shields with the coordinated efforts of eleven minds.

The girl’s shields cracked open. Her wail of desperation, mental, was strong enough that despite the lack of a direct line of sight, her sisters came running. Kalista and the Mha’dorn followed from their side, leaving Mal and Inara to follow that ineluctable compulsion back to reinforce Zoe against the regulars.

Exactly the way that Elia wanted it. She held her ground, and twirled a thought deep into the girl’s mind. <Iris. Kalista is here.> She led her consciousness up and around, surrounded by a wall of the others. Their ‘attack’ was a full disclosure, nothing less, and nothing more. A vision, of this ship, of ancestors they had not known, and of friends they did not know they had.

A vision, of the burning horror of a future where they were known only as enforcers. Where they were hated behind their backs, and feared to their faces. A future as sure as following their current course could be.

When the mass of Operatives ready for battle came around the corner, in aggregate they were stronger than the eleven they faced, all of them except Elia, who as a P9/10 outmatched them, and Kalista, their equal, were outmatched by the Operatives. The Dilgar around her were not strong. Kei’dar was a P6 as the strongest.

But they were united. They were gestalted. It was the telepathic equivalent of a testudo, pitted against a mass of wild and disorderly warriors.

Yet, for all of that, they might have forced it to be an unpleasant ending. The one unitary objective of the telepaths was to end the situation without bloodshed. In the end, their opponents, able to see what the Government had done to them, able to see their own past, now simply had the ability to make a choice, fully informed, of their own free will.

The Standing seemed to stretch into infinity. As it did, Mal found himself covering Jayne as he slowly fell back, and Inara covered Zoe. The purple-bellies kept trying to push for their objective.

Right up, anyway, until River arrived, and sent a dozen purple-bellies spasming to the ground at once. The firing abruptly slackened, even as they could hear it in many other areas ahead, as Colonel Fei’nur’s Marines executed counterattacks.

“Though you were supposed to be flyin’ the ship,” Mal remarked as he looked, even now more than a little shocked.

Behind River, Abebech padded quietly up. “Captain Zhen’var has settled the matter in the void. And we can receive positional updates even here.”

“Please secure the prisoners,” River offered. “We’ve got to... Take care of something.”

It was with an almost uncomprehending nod that Mal watched them go toward the left.

And it was River, not Abebech, that joined the gestalt. River, who greeted her sisters as a sister. River, who reached out and showed them how to not be alone, and form their own gestalt. All fifteen of them.

The brooding, dark presence at the end of the corridor was hauntingly familiar in some ways, even more than Elia and her Mha’dorn compatriots. The Consensus of the gestalt was clear.

The Francesco de Trier was theirs. Freedom was theirs, as it had been for their foremothers so long ago. There was no fighting.

Quietly, as a group, they simply filed back toward the command spaces, unmolested by Abebech’s troops, and with Abebech silently watching, at Elia’s side. That is, until River passed her.

Very deliberately, River stopped, and turned to face her in her Terran Reich uniform, and came to attention and saluted. Abebech returned the salute as a matter of course, like her entire being was trained to do it.

“Surviving crew of the Francesco de Trier fully present and accounted for, Admiral,” River said, a mischievous wink in her eyes. Then she spun on heel and followed her sisters, almost traipsing with delight at Abebech’s response, confirming what she had thought.

“...She’s still a bit strange, isn’t she?” Elia asked, shaking her head wryly and laughing.

Abebech just stood there, staring for a moment. Then she smiled, and nodded. “Good kid, though. I’ve certainly never served with finer.”






Abebech Imra entered Zhen’var’s Ready Room the next morning, fresh from the de Trier. Around them, there were now concentrated eleven Resistance ships that had survived the battle or arrived after it, plus four new prizes that had surrendered. Seven enemy vessels had escaped; forty-five had been destroyed. More than two hundred Cutters and Enforcement vessels had surrendered, as well as a hundred fighters, when it was clear that nobody was going to succor them before they ran out of fuel. Most of them had been moved with tractors into the hangers of the de Trier for want of anywhere else to put them; the logistics of dealing with the surrendered craft were almost overwhelming.

Abebech was still wearing the bottom part of her Alliance uniform, but had an Earthreign uniform top on, from the sports bra and tunic to the jacket, though on that there were no insignia. She came to attention before Zhen’var nonetheless. “Captain, reporting as ordered. My apologies about my state of dress, however, the autotailor we made to work on the de Trier wouldn’t make anything else.”

“It is acceptable in the circumstances, though perhaps you should have gone the rest of the way. The clash is… jarring, shall we say. You had promised me a fuller understanding and accounting, once the battle was over.”

“That is correct, Captain. May I sit?” Abebech’s face was politely neutral, eyes behind a different but no less opaque pair of sunglasses.

“Please, you are welcome to. Free use of the replicator as well, Commander. You may speak freely.” Her eyes studied Abebech carefully; something had happened over on that ship, and she was unsure just what it had been.

Abebech stepped over to the replicator and produced a traditional Ethiopian cup of coffee before moving back to sit at Zhen’var’s desk. “Captain, would it greatly surprise you to hear that I grapple badly with where to begin?”

“You commanded a battleship of the Earthreign in battle. I am less surprised by such a situation prevailing than you may expect, Abebech.”

“I am a specialist in the history of the Earthreign.” She paused. “I became a soldier because I was offended for my people, Captain.”

“I… perhaps understand more of that than you may expect, thanks to my time with Commander Saumarez.” Taking her mug of tea in hand, Zhen'var looked pensive. “As to how you are defining 'people’, I must guess.”

“No need to guess. The Alliance offers the only real hope for the future of Espers in the Fracture, torn between NEUROM and the sundry cults in opposition to it,” Abebech replied. “It was there I found what allowed me to control the ship’s systems. Thoughts, conserved for thousands of years. Encrypted thoughts. That was how security and authentication were handled aboard Earthreign ships.”

There was a slow nod. “From the little and less I know of the Earthreign, that is most logical. Preserved as a memory, a curiosity of the past, as some telepathic traditions pass on imprinted memories? It must have been indescribable to actually be able to use them.”

“A family heirloom, if you will; a reminder that once your family was part of the ruling class of the Reich, that once… You were a King, a Lordly folk, not subject to the madness, the fanatic cults and the pogroms of the Fracture,” Abebech answered, slowly and with great dignity. “I collected many of them.”

“Captain, when we boarded the ship, my objective was to storm her command spaces and take control by coup de main. I had, over the years, worked out what the encrypted memories were. I had a plan. But I encountered Operative Kalista aboard, and allowed myself to be captured to gain access to the heart of the ship, rather than risk her death. You can see that it paid off, as I created a situation in which I engineered the defection of all the Esper Operatives. Being so savagely abused by the Government, they were uniquely vulnerable to the restoration of their memories and my own projections of the story of the Terran Reich. So, once I realised the situation, part of my objective was to make sure that I prevented the deaths of any of those children. Do my actions begin to make more sense?”

“Not only more sense, but I am in agreement with them. I expect that others may disagree, but I am in concurrence with your actions so far. Expect another request for promotion on your behalf. I do. I much prefer defections rather than slaughter.”

“Now, in giving the codes to River Tam, the second-eldest and most reliable, the de Trier has a crew again and can serve as a base for the Resistance to fight back against the government. This allows us to withdraw from the system, Captain, having provided sufficient firepower to the Resistance to give them a reasonable chance -- fifteen capital ships, hundreds of enforcers and cutters and fighters, and a mobile base which no fleet left in the outer systems can overmatch. The overthrow of the Union of Allied Planets can be obtained without risking exceeding our orders or turning the people of the ‘Verse against the Resistance and the Outer Planets by giving them the impression that they are the puppets of foreign enemies.” A tight smile. “We can leave them with all the technology we are authorised to share, help them concentrate their forces, and then give them an excellent chance at winning their independence.”

Captain Zhen’var leaned back in her chair, her expression clouded. “I respect your judgement and counsel, Abebech… but I must disagree. A reasonable chance in the face of such immoral rule as the Union of Allied Planets practices is insufficient. I intend to move on Londinium with Huáscar as soon as practical.”

“Captain, are you not concerned that would exceed the scope of our operational orders for this mission?”

“I am not. I have further orders you are unaware of, Abebech.” Apology shone in her eyes, which she tried to mentally project as well.

“Of course, Captain.” Abebech betrayed no displeasure or emotion. “With your leave, then, I will return to the de Trier and prepare the hyperdrive for a jump in-system. If we are to do this, we will make it as emphatic as possible, certainly?”

“Correct, and I do, where possible, wish the local forces to have utmost control. The Alliance is intending to maintain a presence here in at least the short to medium term, Abebech.”

“I believe I understand.” Abebech could, in fact, directly see the astrostrategic rationale for the deployment. It would give the Alliance a secure base within striking range of Cylon space. “By your leave, then, Captain?” She finished her coffee.

“So granted. I will be relying on you for insight into local conditions. You have more first-hand experience with them than I do… thank you, Commander. Very well done.”






Zhen’var’s next order of business that morning had come when she received an excited message from Nah’dur. “Captain, I wanted to let you know that we are utterly successful. The plan you approved after our first fight in the system has worked.”

It took several moments for her to recall just what plan Nah’dur was speaking of, first, before recognition dawned in her eyes. “Excellent, Surgeon-Commander! Have we learned anything of use?”

“Yes. I chose the most useful of the Reavers as a subject,” Nah’dur replied after a moment. “Her name is Fei Mian and she was a Union officer before personal issues--I suspect related to her sociopathy--forced her retirement. She is from a ranking family and Sihnon and knew what the objective of Pax was; she volunteered in the hopes it would cure her. She has names, Captain. I selected her from a CORTEX site containing information on missing around the Miranda operation on just the anticipation of that and it’s paid off. Would you come down to speak to her?”

“I am on the way.” She rose from her desk, already starting to plan ahead.

When she arrived, the intensive care ward was completely filled with people. At this stage, twelve hours after the battle had ended, those that were still in intensive care were primarily those that Nah’dur had managed to revive. The crew had still suffered a total of forty-one fatalities over the course of the entire operation so far. It would have been eighty without Nah’dur.

The Dilgar Surgeon-Commander was checking over a bed in the isolation ward, which indicated it was safe to enter--she was just using it for privacy. Va’tor was at her side. In the bed was a woman of lean, corded muscle, Asian in ancestry, with pink skin everywhere from freshly healed scarification. She had no hair, it having been removed for the surgery, and Nah’dur was yet to put false skin over several cybernetic segments added to the skull. She was not restrained.

Neih hou.” came the polite greeting. It was not the same dialect, but it was, at least, mostly comprehensible.

The woman looked up and smiled vaguely. She was still heavily sedated. “Hygienist-Commander Va’tor says that she has suppressed most of my memories for my own sake. You must be Captain Zhen’var.”

“I am. A pleasure to meet you, Fei Mian.” It has been a radical effort, but a worthwhile one.

“Thank you… I remember… Starting to lose it,” she added, “You want to know about the Pax project?”

“No. What came before. The Union of Allied Planets… I wish to know more. The current situation is intolerable, but I do not wish to act on incomplete information.”

“The Union was founded fifty years ago on the basis of lobbying in the elites of Sihnon and Londinium that we needed an alliance of all the worlds of the Verse to remove sources of human suffering. It was actively promoted by some of the megacorps--Blue Sun and Weyland-Yutani--on the grounds of their ‘social capitalism’ policy. Sihnon and Londinium maintained the old Anglosphere-Chinese alliance of Earth-that-Was, but the movement was a peaceful unification into an actual government. Since then a combination of economic pressure and war was used to unify the rest of the ‘Verse, and the local governments in the Core have steadily had their authority reduced. And it worked, Captain. Poverty was eradicated in the inner worlds, and crime reduced, both rich and poor became more wealthy.” Fei Mian had never had faith in the government, she had been a sociopath and her memories were the memories of one even if her brain no longer functioned in either of its past states; it ironically made her far more objective in the moment. “Of course, to guarantee a wise policy, those outside of Londinium and Sihnon were required to earn their citizenship, so the voting population is concentrated there.”

“The outer systems have revolted once, and are on the verge of doing so again. I do not wish to destroy what has been built, but I cannot permit what was done with Pax, or the what has happened on the outer planets, or a multitude of other projects, as the Union tries to enforce its’ control.”

“The government is concentrated on Londinium but the main bulwark of support for the Union is Sihnon, which regularly turns out 80% electoral returns for the Government Consensus parties. Londinium still has an opposition based around the old monarchy and the westerners’ conception of individual rights. There isn’t a left opposition because the government co-opts its positions and twists them into meaninglessness as a matter of policy. I’ve heard as much in discussions my parents had growing up. Of course, they considered it a sign of pride that we controlled opinion so well.”

An opposition. That is useful information indeed. “Our old Imperium would have thought the same. Thank you, that is critically important information I was not aware of.” It is much more difficult to overthrow a regime when you actually care about the aftermath.

“Thank You,” she answered. “I will make a broadcast, if you want me to, Captain. I must.”

“You may. It will be a short while before we can get underway. Take the time to rest and recover, please.”

Nah’dur followed Zhen’var out at that point, speaking softly once they got back to her office. “I believe I have cured the sociopathy as well as the Reaver tendencies, but she needs long term care to really recover. The others are going to as well.”

“I know, Nah’dur. It should have proper telepathic and psychosurgery support as well, but that is lacking here.” With an audible sigh, the older woman started to pace. “They will need care, somewhere in the Alliance. The Mha’dorn are advancing quickly in the medical arts, with their sharing of knowledge with the Corps, it seems? Our skill at blending knowledge seems to apply with the mind as well as technology...”

“Yes, I think that best.” She paused. “I may have some useful information for another problem the Corps has been dealing with. I’ve discovered that Pax in theory works on another brain chemical channel. One very similar to the one that the human drug dust in our home universe works on.”

“Let El’sau and Va’tor know, the information will find the way to the right place. “

“It’s more than that, Captain,” Nah’dur interjected. “It didn’t work… On the 99.9%. It did work on the 0.1% -- in a twisted and perverse way. The Reavers actively experienced a kind of telesomatic pleasure from the agony of others. I believe it may be similar to the effect observed in Eubian Aristos.”

“Divine, but…” Her face twisted in revulsion. “It sounds similar, at least. You find matters that… Nah’dur, you are brilliant, but you delve into matters that make me very glad that Fei’nur is on the same ship.”

“Certainly,” Nah’dur grinned, “I’m also extremely happy that Fei’nur is on the same ship with me.”

“As well you should, with your projects. We will be moving into the inner system very soon, now. Be ready for it.”

“Understood. Captain, if at all possible, we should use that opportunity to repatriate prisoners. We now have so many aboard that we will run out of replicator material before we reach Earth again.” They had needed to convert all the empty cargo bays to bunk-space for Government POWs…

“Most of those we fight are not those we aim to fight - they serve an unjust government with good personal intentions.

“Either way, Captain,” Nah’dur smiled thinly, “We need them off the ship before we go home.”






The de Trier’s backup hyperdrive, a ‘Class 20’, was operational four hours later. The crew of the Heermann watched as the screens abruptly flashed into a static projection of the system, parabolics outlined with script indicating positions and coordinate lock-in.

<Make the jump to lightspeed,> Abebech commanded, and River executed the command. It was one of the few systems on the de Trier counted important enough to still require the input of a physical lever from River’s position.

The de Trier fired her stabilising thrusters for the last time and then suddenly accelerated much, much faster than a ship should accelerate. Ships in her home universe using modern hyperdrives didn’t do this; they also still relied on navigational beacons, though the bands of hyperspace they operated in meant they could fix on beacons that were in realspace.

The de Trier needed neither. She flung herself forward in a flicker of pseudomotion and then vanished in a flair of white light.

“What the …” Even Elia was surprised.

Violeta was too, but she remembered they had a lot of comrades aboard the de Trier and brought the Huáscar to high warp as planned to catch up and overtake her slow backup. The journey was a matter of minutes.

The Huáscar dropped out of warp at Quarters over Londinium. The planet was guarded by fourteen heavy orbital combat satellites. The plan that Zhen’var had already briefed her officers on was to engage them and destroy a hemisphere’s worth of defences and then dictate terms to the Government. She didn’t launch fighters, they had taken too many casualties already and would be utterly overwhelmed. Either they knock out the heavies and force the government to talk with a display of shock and awe, or they would have to retreat.

“Detecting signature consistent with… de Trier.

With a flicker of pseudomotion the three kilometre long dreadnought, looking like a ghostly ruin, exploded out of hyperspace and de-accelerated into low orbit of Londinium, standing off their starboard quarter.

According to the plan, Daria had already fired a full salvo of forty Solar torpedoes summed from all the launchers. Now she followed it up with the Mk.1 and Mk.2 PPCs, all targeting a single one of the combat satellites. The massive station was rippled with explosions and fires from top to bottom, massive gashes torn in the main hull and huge chunks blasted away by each successive torpedo explosion. They had been on alert, but they never had the time to bring up their defensive anti-missile batteries in the same way the ships entering battle with plenty of warning had.

Then the de Trier opened fire. Her port batteries targeted one station further afield around the equator to the one that the Huáscar had just eviscerated. Neutron beams tracking across its surface, severing weapons and docking platforms with surgical precision, the turbolasers gutted the hull of the station with a tremendous gout of fire. The raw energy was enough to fuse the station’s reactor fuel, and a moment later the fusion detonation completely consumed the combat satellite, filling the sky over Londinium with a brilliant flare of raw white, the blazing fury of a newborn and short-lived sun.

Her intact starboard batteries were weaker, but the precision fire of the heavy turbolasers deep into the satellite hull destroyed reactor power to the weapons of a third station within the same heartbeat while the neutron beams swept along the docking bays, destroying the fighters, Cutters and Enforcers before they could launch.

“Three stations down, Captain,” Elia confirmed as Londinium shone before them.

“Transmit Fei Mian’s recording, Operations. Stand by to give me a channel.” The message of a very personal account of Pax and the Miranda project was already going out.

Now that the Huáscar had the full codecs for CORTEX and the security codes from dozens of Government ships, with the time to process them, her enormous computational and broadcast power literally took the entire system over. She washed out the entire system with the power of the broadcast.

All firing stopped as the broadcast began, but it hadn’t been soon enough for two capital ships to be unable to finish two more stations, and gut a Crete that had been coming around to launch her fighters. Now, the weapons faded away and the communications warfare began, starting with the recording.

“We have control of all channels and all CORTEX interfaces, Captain,” Lieutenant Tor’jar called out. “The recording has gone out and you are now free and clear to broadcast.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” She straightened her uniform jacket reflexively. “I am Captain Zhen’var of the Union of Allied Systems. The crimes of the present government are intolerable to moral states. It is to resign in entirety, and new elections to be held under free and open franchise of all residents of the Alliance. Finally, all telepathic subjects of the ‘Academy’ experiments will be immediately rendered to my custody without harm to mind or body.”

The command was electrifying, and emphatic. Five stations and a carrier blazed, or were destroyed outright, in orbit, visible to billions of citizens on the surface of Londinium. The crew listened as it sank in to them that yes, they were simply commanding a government to dissolve itself. At gunpoint.

“Any attack on this squadron will be met by immediate and overwhelming force.”

There was no immediate attack, and no immediate reply. Elia grinned wryly from her position at Ops. “Do you think they’ll keep us waiting for a while, Captain?”

“Possibly. Give them footage of the battle at the de Trier to make it clear how hopeless their cause is.”

“Feeding to you, Leftenant,” Elia confirmed to Tor’jar.

“...And, Broadcasting, Commander.”

I can resume hostilities at any moment, Captain,” Abebech’s voice came over the tactical. “However, they are mustering small craft, at a respectable distance.”

“Monitor them.” She paused. “Record for transmitting; You have fifteen minutes to supply an answer to my ultimatum, or I shall consider the reply negative and immediately resume hostilities.

“Broadcasting…”

“We are being contacted,” Tor’jar reported three minutes later. “The identifications are from the House of Government in New Cardiff.”

“Put them through, Lieutenant.” Squaring herself up, Zhen’var raised her chin and brushed her black hair back, eyes level and burning with determination.

“This is Prime Minister Jonathan Zhang,” the trim Eurasian man with grayed hair at the temples sat at a desk, his features sharply and carefully composed. “You appear to control the orbitals of one of our core worlds. And you are asking my government to resign and convene elections contrary to Alliance Law.”

“I am not asking. I am ordering. You have eleven minutes.” Her voice had no give, her face, no flicker of emotion.

“Captain, if it is the situation in the Outer Systems that is the concern, would an immediate withdrawal of all government forces from those planets satisfy you? You are asking me to abrogate the sovereignty of the Union.”

“You surrendered any legitimacy your government may have possessed with the acts performed upon your citizens. This is not a negotiation, Excellency.”

He spluttered. The channel went dark.

“Ensure his people see that exchange.”

“Broadcasting,” again Tor’jar forced the video onto the whole of CORTEX.

With two minutes left, a new signal was received from the surface. “Second broadcast, still from New Cardiff. Shall I put it on, Captain?”

“Go ahead. Record for rebroadcast if needs be.” She had the same calmly inscrutable expression on her face as the screen blinked back to life.

A different man with sandy blonde-brown hair was on the screen, though in the same kind of formal suit. “Captain Zhen’var, this is Speaker Nathaniel Roberson.” He was speaking directly from the House, too, having not taken the time to leave the floor. His expression was pale and taut. “We voted no confidence in Prime Minister Zhang. I am the Head of Delegation for the National League of Londinium, but half the Government Members supported the motion. Will you work with me to de-escalate the situation?”

“If my second term, of a Union-wide vote for the future direction of the Verse is accepted, I accept, assuming, of course, that the third term is met within the next five hours. I have no wish for further bloodshed, or the destruction of the progress the ‘Verse and Union have made since your people’s exodus from the Earth-That-Was.”

“We will hold an immediate floor vote on the franchise and the appointment of a new Prime Minister on those terms,” he answered. “The Academy subjects will be handed over as you directed, within the five-hour timetable. Is that sufficient against your immediate deadline?”

“It is. I shall withdraw to high orbit.”

“We will stand down.” The message again blinked off.

When it did, Elia started to laugh. “Gods, Captain, but if anyone from the Earth Alliance sees me in a video of you doing that, they’d probably die.”

“You seem to think that is not going to end up in an Alliance news feed that ISN will re-broadcast, Commander.” She leaned back, feeling a tenseness she’d held for days finally start to relax. I will hope for a high death-toll, El’sau.

Nobody else on the bridge could really figure out why their Ops officer was laughing so hard.

Tag




Deep inside an ornate, Chinese-style castle on Sihnon, two Union political operatives looked at each other nervously. Neither one wanted this mission. They were both terrified of the wrath of the woman they knew as Lady Seng.

It was only when another figure arrived, sandals pattering down the corridors of the castle in the dim light, cloak billowing, that they decided better it be them than the figure who was approaching.

Together, as one, they opened the doors and pushed their way in, both bowing deeply toward the seat on which the frail woman with sharply done up, lividly black hair sat.

“Lady Seng. We have unfortunate news. Prime Minister Zhang has been sacked, and the government has agreed to the terms of the alien Captain.”

There was silence as Mariza, the third figure, approached from behind.

Then Lady Seng slowly opened her eyes, and the two recoiled from that sight they had never gotten used to. “The plan has indeed been interrupted,” she said softly, “but I am the one who gave permission to the Delegates to vote no confidence in Prime Minister Zhang. His usefulness was outlived by the exigencies of circumstance. We will find new opportunities; Captain Zhen’var is already negotiating for possession of Miranda as an Alliance base. Even if we have lost the Interuniversal Drive on Object Sigma, we will get another chance. And my dears, we will find the electorate in the Outer Worlds as easy to manipulate as that of Londinium and Sihnon. The words will change, but the price of a politician will not. Inform the board of Weyland-Yutani to take care to accept full responsibility. We will declare a reorganisation bankruptcy to protect the assets that we need for renewed operations. That is all.”







Bea, Mal, Simon, River, Abebech, Fei’nur, Elia and Zhen’var were sitting around a table in a conference room on the Huáscar, with the remains of a spread served up from the officer’s mess around them.

Mal smiled wryly. “Captain, we do owe you a lot. I thought you would headin’ out after this, and unlikely to return. But when I got the news of Miranda… Truth be told, I don’t like the idea of the Outer Planets seeing an even bigger power settled next to ‘em. We still got enough trouble with the Core. But it’s pretty clear that if they don’t like how the vote goes, you’ll be there.”

“I doubt it will be… forever, which is good. It means we will be there just long enough to… steady matters.” She was picking her words carefully. “I admit, what I decided upon was a compromise of what you had desired, Captain Reynolds, and I must apologise for halting short of what was deserved, Captain Tam.”

“You rescued all of us, that’s the important part,” River replied. She was in a flowing sundress, not the Terran Reich military uniform, but sitting with Simon at her side, she looked more mature than she had been seen before, even so.

“It was a compromise,” Mal shrugged. “It wasn’t sellin’ us out. I can tell the difference. We’ve still got the de Trier and fifteen warships if things do go to hell before more Alliance forces return.”

“Captain Reynolds is being modest,” Bea added. “I encouraged him to …”

“Don’t even bring that up! I ain’t the man for the job.”

“He really doesn’t like the idea of running for Parliament,” River said in a conspiratorial whisper to Zhen’var.

“One might say that the one who hates the idea of power, but grasps the responsibility, is the best choice of all. I shall, however, not suggest it, Captain Reynolds. It clearly has already been done.”

“Well, I’ve always done what I had to, to keep myself free,” Mal answered after a moment. “I suppose if that’s what I had to do to keep it, then I’d do it.” He glanced at Bea. “But there are certainly people more suited to the politics side of things.”

“We are forming a political party to contest the election,” the woman agreed. “My father fought with Captain Reynolds at Serenity Valley, and died there; I had thought we would fight together in a struggle against the Union government, but maybe, just maybe, it won’t be necessary.”

“That is my hope, at least.” Zhen’var took her ever-present cup. “If it comes to it, then we will fight together, but wars are uncertain and difficult things, as most of us know first-hand.”

“Of all the things you have helped us with though, Captain,” Simon added a quiet moment later, “before we go, the one I want to thank you most for is River. She had such potential, I saw it as her brother, we all saw it, and she deserved to have something more than what the Alliance left her with. You have given her her future back.”

“He’s just trying to embarrass me,” River said a bit sheepishly.

But as she said that, Mal looked almost, not quite but almost, like he was going to tear up. “Yeah.” He finally said, shaking his head. “She’s part of our family. The Serenity family. Giant old starship or whatever, she’s our River. And thank you for givin’ that future back to her.”


Four days later, the Huáscar stood off from the Francesco de Trier, and turned outbound. With Will on the bridge, Nah’dur took advantage of the relative peace and quiet to tug Fei’nur and Zhen’var down to Café Varna for a meal.

The Captain always looked a bit uncomfortable in social settings with the crew, and she often regretted letting herself be dragged along - it had been hard enough to get her down here for her birthday.

This moment was no exception, because she had caught a fair number of her officers in the middle of something. They were clustered around one of the large wood plank tables off in the corner, well, except for Elia and Goodenough, who were standing on top of it with tankards, leading the song.

Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain
For it's we've received orders for to sail for old England
But we hope very soon we shall see you again
We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues


Anna was playing the accordion in the corner, and Abebech was strumming her guitar with a look of bemusement on her face, and Ca’elia was belting it out in true style along with the rest of them, as Abdulmajid tried to keep along and Abel did a much better job. Violeta had an impish grin, and Arterus was laughing and grinning at the table until he saw the Captain, and stiffened right up.

We hove our ship to with the wind at sou'west, boys

We hove our ship to, our soundings to see

So we rounded and sounded; got forty-five fathoms

We squared our main yard and up channel steered we

Elia finally saw the three of them and her dark eyes widened.

“I… carry on. My apologies for interrupting.” Zhen’var waved awkwardly, and hurriedly turned to depart.

Before she could, Elia looked a grin to Jonathan Goodenough and then struck up another song.

Come all you warlike spacers, that to the stars belong

I'll tell you of a fight, my boys, on board the Huáscar

It was of a Dilgar captain, her name was Zhen'var

With courage bold, she did control, she played her part so well!”

Oh Divine, you think singing about me is going to get me to do anything other than leave faster?!

That left the three Dilgar standing outside of Café Varna with Nah’dur looking confused. “Why did we leave?”

“You saw Arterus. The crew cannot really celebrate freely with me there. You two, go, enjoy your dinner, I insist.”

“But, Captain! You have to understand, it means your officers, they love you, Zhen’var!” Fei’nur exclaimed.

“Elia, at least, but you two, go. Enjoy, there is clearly a celebration, and you deserve to be part of it.

“Goodenough was in on it as well, sister, and he’s on the Heermann,” Nah’dur remarked calmly. “I agree with Fei’nur’s assessment.”

“It does not change the awkwardness nor inappropriate nature of my being present at such. Now get in there, you two.”

“And leave you alone? We should all at least decamp to Fei’nur’s quarters and try out replicator selections together.”

“I am the Captain, there is no need.” Zhen’var was starting to look fractionally annoyed at Nah’dur being stubborn, and Fei’nur’s discomfort was growing as she reached for the Surgeon-Commander’s elbow. “Another night, Captain. Nah’dur will not let you escape the postponement.”

Nah’dur sighed. “Yes, Fei’nur, where …”

“Another night, come now, Nah’dur.” The commando gestured the doctor back towards the doors. “I am sorry it did not work out, Captain.”

Zhen’var waved it off as she started to turn to go. “It sometimes comes to be. Do not let it trouble you.”

As she walked away, she was softly singing under her breath.

“I have watched my shipmates come and go, and worked while others died, there are no words to tell you what I feel inside.” Not all of them, after all, were going home. It was the Pilot’s mess which had no-one present at the little gathering. Almost half the fatalities had been theirs. And Zhen’var was the Captain of her crew. Each and every one, even those who floated in the driftless void between the stars of the Verse, having fought and died for freedom.

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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Steve » Fri Jan 11, 2019 5:15 pm

An excellent episode indeed.

Also, I'm curious what Invictus, Shroom, and the others think about what you've developed about the Terran Reich aka the Earthreign for this continuity.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Fri Jan 11, 2019 6:21 pm

But Steve, I have barely developed anything definite at all. It's all being filtered through the attitudes of people with hidden agendas and personal biases.

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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:27 am

Tomyris wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 6:21 pm
But Steve, I have barely developed anything definite at all. It's all being filtered through the attitudes of people with hidden agendas and personal biases.
And the Fracture itself has malleable memetics and history - but of course Imra knowing actual encrypted command thoughts makes her quite accurate. And is she really just a historian, with those memories of being actually there during the Earthreign just inherited memories? Or was she actually there and is some ageless being with some cryptic goals? :P

I liked the epic stuff, the esper characterizations and the celebration of Zhen'var at the end, and Imra being incredible.

But I kinda feel like most of the crew of the Firefly were superfluous, even River while getting fixed and such was still passively following someone else's lead, and so we have the Alliance forces just dictating everything and changing the whole 'verse in one visit while that 'verse's main POV characters get sidelined. At this point, "Alliance cruiser and paleo-Earthreign-vessel slag the enemy fleet" was evident, so I think even the tension of the fireships weren't that necessary anymore since that could've been used for more time with the Firefly crew. While I love the dabblings of the Earthreign stuff too, it seemed that it also overshadowed the in-universe stuff.

It's not quite "Balls!" said Alliance captain Wong as he shot down Satan but, eh. I don't have a problem with a curbstomp per se, just how the Firefly folks weren't even shown as much despite events being in their setting.

Tomyris wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:13 pm
Ships in her home universe using modern hyperdrives didn’t do this; they also still relied on navigational beacons, though the bands of hyperspace they operated in meant they could fix on beacons that were in realspace.

The de Trier needed neither.
Huh. I'm not fully decided on how SOTS hyperdrive works specifically, since various factions have different sub-types and variations anyway. For civilian vessels sure beacons are a thing. But more advanced ships? Probably not.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:52 am

Unfortunately it is really hard to write a profound technological mismatch well. Blending the two plots was intended to mitigate this, and I grimaced a lot and felt like I was undercutting the Firefly characters, but I couldn't write myself out of it. In the end the result was 10,000 words longer than planned and to me not as good as Case Armageddon.

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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:54 am

We will revisit the Verse though with the Firefly crew holding a much larger place in the action. And River also got to the bottom of Imra very cunningly. So, your answer to your Abebech question is right there.

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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Steve » Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:10 am

Tomyris wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 6:21 pm
But Steve, I have barely developed anything definite at all. It's all being filtered through the attitudes of people with hidden agendas and personal biases.
Yes, it is. But even such a filter gives some idea of what's going on, albeit not a perfect one. It's still a fleshing out, and it hints at Imra's goals while giving us more information on what the Reich/Earthreign was like in some respect.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Steve » Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:14 am

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:27 am

Huh. I'm not fully decided on how SOTS hyperdrive works specifically, since various factions have different sub-types and variations anyway. For civilian vessels sure beacons are a thing. But more advanced ships? Probably not.
Those varaiations and subtypes are likely all based on the original technology used before the Reignfall, with three thousand years of divergence based on local conditions, developments, etc.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Steve » Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:19 am

Tomyris wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:52 am
Unfortunately it is really hard to write a profound technological mismatch well. Blending the two plots was intended to mitigate this, and I grimaced a lot and felt like I was undercutting the Firefly characters, but I couldn't write myself out of it. In the end the result was 10,000 words longer than planned and to me not as good as Case Armageddon.
You did it as well as could be managed given what you had to set up and establish. There's only so much the Serenity crew could do in this situation, letting them hold the line against boarders on the de Trier worked for that.

Plus the outcome means I have at least some opening for the Aurora crew to meet them in Season 4. :)

P.S. I really wish multi-quoting was on this board. On my phone so copy-pasting each quote together can be annoying.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Invictus » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:37 am

Steve wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:47 pm
The ship that Allura's mother was on, that jumped in at the end to shield the Aurora and Castle of Lions (and Koenig) from the Ministry of Fate forces and which opened a jump point back to the Voltronverse for them to flee through.

Actually, we do indicate the ownership of the ship in question in the final part of that episode, the bit that showed the Alekto and the other two Furies discussing what happened.
I revisited the bit in question because it's entirely likely that I've missed a connection from earlier, but it's still barely more than a hint, is it :v

I mean, I see similarities in the general visual description, the way they out-mass everything else, the casual inter-universal capability etc., and I'm guessing that the de Trier and the mysterious War Cruiser are both of Earthreign origin, or at least were produced under the same technological basis of the interuniversal Earthreign/Alekto/Darkness brouhaha, with any quantitative differences owing to one of the ships being 3000 years out of date.
Steve wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 5:15 pm
Also, I'm curious what Invictus, Shroom, and the others think about what you've developed about the Terran Reich aka the Earthreign for this continuity.
The first thought being how this Earthreign's starships have a very different distinctive look than the one Shroom and I eventually settled on. Though I suppose the sheer age of the de Trier can mark it as being from a much earlier, not-as-decadent Earthreign...

Though the decision to code the Earthreign as vaguely germanic, in a story where there already are multiversal nazis, is interesting congruent with the meta-worldbuilding environment of this here website, right Shroom? :P
Steve wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:19 am
P.S. I really wish multi-quoting was on this board. On my phone so copy-pasting each quote together can be annoying.
It isn't the cutting-edge Xenforo software, I admit, but you can multi-quote by going into the reply window, scrolling down to the topic review showing the lasts posts in the thread, and clicking the quote button on those posts.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Shroom Man 777 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:02 am

Steve wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:19 am
Tomyris wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:52 am
Unfortunately it is really hard to write a profound technological mismatch well. Blending the two plots was intended to mitigate this, and I grimaced a lot and felt like I was undercutting the Firefly characters, but I couldn't write myself out of it. In the end the result was 10,000 words longer than planned and to me not as good as Case Armageddon.
You did it as well as could be managed given what you had to set up and establish. There's only so much the Serenity crew could do in this situation, letting them hold the line against boarders on the de Trier worked for that.

Plus the outcome means I have at least some opening for the Aurora crew to meet them in Season 4. :)
Hmmm yeah the problemos of mismatched crossovers... though even if the Firefly crew couldn't have done much ass-kicking, they don't need to really do that. Perhaps there could've been more moments with them characterizing how they're lacking in capability, faced with such awesome out-of-context forces (to show how it's like from the perspective of out-gunned locals) and their mulling of the future of the Independents and The Verse and such - and philosophizing and such. The narrative did have moments of such, but they could've been expounded on? Bantering is one thing the Firefly crew is best at (of course that's hard to capture, though I think the glimpses we got here were well-done)! (Hmmm... Jayne being a scumbag is par the course, though did he regress in the Firefly comics? I thought post-Miranda he already had some developments)

Heck, a bit more perspectives from the local forces in the commandeered gov't vessels, with Mal and co. involved in these, would've helped. Or Mal demanding he and some of the crew being part of the rescue op on Zoe. Or more on River and crew during the confused boarding of the Earthreign ship - I mean, that could've been a great moment of them reckoning with their circumstances, maybe eerie moments with River and her realizations perhaps, instead of them arriving at the bridge when it's all done so Imra can tell them everything. I mean, we've already seen the Huáscar’s crew being badass all the time, so lavish details on fireship gambits and bayonet charges might've been less vital (though yes it shows how the Heerman crew loved Imra).

I guess it's something to mull about - like, how can one carry out crossovers even with massive firepower disparities while maintaining balance, without sidelining the in-universe stuff in lieu of meta-plot cool stuff.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Tomyris » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:29 pm

*wink* Neither design actually originated in the Earthreign.

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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 6 - "Meta Incognita"

Post by Steve » Mon Jan 14, 2019 1:41 pm

Tomyris wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:29 pm
*wink* Neither design actually originated in the Earthreign.
:twisted: :twisted: 8-)
Invictus wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:37 am
The first thought being how this Earthreign's starships have a very different distinctive look than the one Shroom and I eventually settled on. Though I suppose the sheer age of the de Trier can mark it as being from a much earlier, not-as-decadent Earthreign...

Though the decision to code the Earthreign as vaguely germanic, in a story where there already are multiversal nazis, is interesting congruent with the meta-worldbuilding environment of this here website, right Shroom? :P
There's a bit of French influence in the language used, I think? Presumably the Earthreign/Terran Reich originated as some kind of Franco-German pact. I'm sure we'll explain one of these days.
It isn't the cutting-edge Xenforo software, I admit, but you can multi-quote by going into the reply window, scrolling down to the topic review showing the lasts posts in the thread, and clicking the quote button on those posts.
*does so*

Huh. So I can. Thank you for revealing that.
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Re: nUF Origins: S1 - Episode 7 - "Golden Triangle"

Post by Tomyris » Wed Jul 17, 2019 2:42 am

Introduction




“I screwed up. Sometimes the regs aren’t enough,” Janice Richards was sighing. “If we had done pat-downs we might have found those grenades and recognised them for what they were, instead of the sensors failing to recognise what they were.” Her face twisted into a grimace. “And we nearly lost several people from it.”

The atmosphere around the table was quiet and serious. After returning to Earth-that-Was, the Huáscar had jumped and ultimately arrived at Doreia and the dockyards there. The sustained high speed running in both directions meant that the Huáscar would spend a week undergoing maintenance for her drives and reactors. It was time for the debrief.

“That’s not on you, Janice,” Will offered, shaking his head. “We all pulled through together. The only question is how to fix it in the future.”

“That’s easy. We go above and beyond the automated weapons-and-contraband detectors. We get actual images. Use the computers to address privacy concerns… Ugh, that puts us back in being dependent on the computers, y’all.”

“As much as it is a lot of effort, pat-downs for anyone except ambassadorial parties and such?” Violeta proposed, well into the spirit of the sessions now, having fully grasped the logic behind how Zhen’var ran the Huáscar.

“We should also task a Mha’dorn to just passively be around entering parties to detect any kind of hostility that may justify further surveillance,” Elia added. “We can set up a rotation among the Marines, it makes sense to keep them busy in regular operations.” She glanced to Fei’nur.”

“The fourth company allows the flexibility to do so, certainly, though we are asking much of the Mha’dorn of late. A rotation of those with such talents in general would help with any possible morale effect.”

“There is a certain esprit d’corps in the Mha’dorn,” Elia answered, “which helps. However, we also have three Gersallian farisa and Leftenants Seldayiv and de Más.” She didn’t mention Abebech since, as a Commander, rank hath its privileges. Really even Daria and Artesia was stretching.

“It’s true. I’ll speak to the contingent and determine if they even want the help.” Fei’nur made a few notes. “You are right, they can be quite closely knit, though a designated reserve will be welcome.”

“Can we do anything to improve upon our performance with the rules for escalation of force?” Elia asked. “I mean, the end result of that was that let those Reaver ships get way, way too close to us before we opened fire. That didn’t have to happen. Or did it?”

“I’m not really sure if we could have changed the escalation rules very much,” Arterus shrugged. “The Alliance, Commander, has made its decisions on what is acceptable and not for warships. We could backpedal, but that would encourage some foes.”

“With limited intelligence on whom we are facing, the existing standing orders cannot be justifiably modified. If we had known that the ‘Reavers’ existed, going astern would have been a logical response to allow completion of the ladder.” Fei’nur offered.

“I think that one is just part of the reality of serving on an Alliance starship,” Lar’shan interjected a bit sadly. “We’re expected to act according to a certain moral course of conduct, and it may impose excess risk against us.”

“Well, that may not have a solution,” Will sighed. “Anything else?”

“I left us temporarily limited to Warp 6 by not being more careful with the drive around the jamming field. It had no negative consequences, but it could have. I’m also not sure that taking the mains offline automatically in such a circumstance would be wise,” Anna added, going next.

“It seems like a specific technical problem related to the disruption field on the de Trier. Did we ever identify what was causing?” Elia looked around.

Fera’xero nodded. “It was a Wave Field Generator which produced powerful distortions in subspace. We are not sure how a Wave Field Generator works yet, however.”

There was some back and forth about that. Next, Will went. “I shouldn’t have pressed for the launch of the assault force as quickly as did. The burst transmission because the doors were open to the parasite bay was unforseeable as being the consequence that came about, but with an incident aboard the ship I should have been more cautious about committing to action even so.”

“Aggression is a valued trait in action,” Zhen’var corrected gently. “I think it was right, even with the consequences.”

Lar’shan was quiet during it, and very composed. He waited for the others to finish. Finally, with his hands folded, he began to speak. “Our fighters are optimised for the way the United Federation of Planets fights wars. They assume very limited numbers of fighters, close range engagement with energy weapons. The micro-torpedo launcher is ineffective against highly manoeuvrable fighters and the failure to increase the number of missile hard-points means we are constantly resorting to guns plane to plane when outnumbered. It removes our advantages. We should be fighting primarily with missiles. The Mongoose is inadequate for the full spectrum of threats we face, and we lost many good pilots because of it.”

“The Warmaster has heard similar complaints from other Dilgar pilots.” Fei’nur spoke, glancing about and shifting in her chair. “But they are what is issued, are they not?”

“Dilgar pilots back home are still mostly flying Centauri marks,” Lar’shan shook his head. “They were, but we are in an unusual circumstance. Still, it’s at least just something to bear in mind.”

“Maybe more than that. Give me a more detailed spec list of what you need, I will see what I can do.” the Marine officer finished.

“Certainly,” he answered, with a shake of his head. “The strategic mobility of warp drive helps, but when you must fight, to defend or attack a particular place, you cannot overcome fighters with warp strafing techniques.”

“It’s something we’ve got to get fixed,” Elia agreed. “The hardest challenge, but it’s hurt us the most.”

“Well, I think that’s about everything. Thank you all for the suggestions, and of course there will be progress updates. Dis-missed.” Will waited for them to file out, quietly shaking his head when the door finally closed. “I almost think Fei’nur and Lar’shan are really planning to get us new fighters.”







The next day, Vice Admiral Lakshamaran commed Zhen’var. He was the new commander of the Explorer Squadron, a Dorei man who had been given the job when Maran had found it too much to stay on top of his CNO duties and also directly order around the Alliance’s tiny fleet of, so far, only seven Explorer-type ships. Basically the same size as battlecruisers and the most prestigious ships in the fleet, they still needed some kind of order and organisation. Lakshamaran, though, still reported directly to Maran.

“Vice-Admiral Lakshamaran.” Zhen’var nodded politely. “Good morning. I have my first after-action reports and analyses ready to brief you upon, at your convenience. A pleasure to meet you, sir.” His appointment while they had been on their long mission had been something of a surprise upon their return, even if the Dilgar woman thought it overdue in hindsight.

“Thank you, Captain Zhen’var. Send them forward to me and provide your brief in summary as quickly as possible. I will then discuss the main reason for my contact, which is your next assignment.” He was level and calm, certainly a suitable subordinate for Maran in maintaining the same style of command.

“Of course. I secured a forward operating base on a planet long abandoned, and assisted in the overthrow of an oppressive government, while making certain discoveries that I will only send by courier. Short operational analysis is that the ship and crew performed reasonably well, but I cannot say the same of the Wing due to materiel shortcomings. Sickbay efficiency continues to remain several deviations above Alliance norms.” She replied in short, clipped sentences.

“There may be a full debriefing later this week. Thank you for the summary.” He paused. “You have a week at Doreia, Captain, to complete the adjustments to the engines. Cut leave as appropriate for your crew, it’s also authorised for yourself. After that, we have a special assignment for you to support what may be one of the first positive developments in reforming the League of Democratic Worlds in A2M6.”

“Of course, sir. I would request as much background brief as possible to start work on planning immediately, around leave blocks.” Zhen’var replied, eyes alert.

“The world of Garatnam has been occupied by the League of Democratic Worlds for the past sixty-two years, essentially as a colony. The indigenous population are the Numeraians, ‘root-building ones’, a semi-specialised pseudoinsectoid species. They have maintained resistance to the League occupation the entire time, and the League decided to bring in Alliance mediation to negotiate a withdrawal as the maintenance of the garrison no longer made economic sense. Our lead negotiator has indicated a desire for a cease-fire force to hold position during the evacuation.”

“Thank you, Vice-Admiral. That gives me a good starting point. I would request the full reports from Intelligence and the negotiating team on scene as well. As much as I would wish this to be a simple presence mission, Huáscar is often in harm’s way.”

“Certainly, Captain. You will see them shortly. Until then, make sure your crew has the opportunity to appreciate their return, and when the Huáscar is ready, I am confident you will go forth with your usual alacrity.”

Zhen’var gave a sharp nod. “Until then, I am at your service, sir.” As soon as the screen blinked out, she reached for her comms panel. “Commander Atreiad, we will be docked for the next week. Leave for all hands is authorized, schedule accordingly.”

“Damn good news, Captain. I’ll get started. The crew was really hoping for this, too.”

“They need it… and, Commander? I shall be taking a leave block, too.”

“I promise the ship will still be intact when you get back, Captain.” There was a grin in Will’s voice. “Go ahead and go first.”

“Thank you, Commander.” Zhen’var’s face broke into a smile as she switched channels. “Colonel Fei’nur, leave is approved, would you care to take an excursion to Doreia…?”

“That sounds like an excellent plan, Captain. Same plan as Gersal?”

“Indeed, Fei’nur, indeed. Would you inquire as to possible destinations?”



Undiscovered Frontier Origins : Golden Triangle
Season 1, Episode 7

Act One


Act 1




“Lieutenant Seldayiv, this is Colonel Fei'nur.” Her omnitool beeped. “Might I trouble you for a personal question?”

“Colonel.. A personal question?” Daria blinked in surprise in her quarters. She had been preparing to decamp to the Temple of Amilra where she had taken training. “By all means, I do suppose.”

“Captain Zhen'var and myself are about to take our leave on the surface. Would you be able to suggest any places of special interest to a pair of interuniversal tourists?”

“Well, the Temple of the Great Goddess in Felunura is certainly considered to be the most beautiful on all Doreia,” she answered. “And the Royal Gardens of Tirambina are open to the public. And there’s the Tirramka Falls, which are three hundred metres high where a great river sharply drops from a plateau--it’s like the Amazon going over a waterfall three times as high as Niagara Falls. And then there’s the Oulanta Bay, which is filled with ship-clans who live on boats around all of these tiny limestone islands left over from erosion which can be a hundred metres high with vegetable on top, rising out of the blue surface of the sea. That’s incredible. There’s arches and caves and such an entire floating bazaar.”

Brilliant! That sounds wonderful , thank you, Lieutenant! Enjoy your own leave as well.”

“Thank you very much, Colonel. I hope you and the Captain enjoy Doreia a great deal.”

“I hope so too. This crew is the most well-traveled Dilgar there have rather ever been, I think.”

“I am sure this is just the beginning. Until later, Colonel…”

“Until later, Lieutenant. Again, thank you. Enjoy your time at home.”

She finished packing and headed to the transporter room. Zhen’var was already waiting. “No Libo Briefing?”

“Will volunteered to do it,” Zhen’var answered. Her grin was distinctly… giddy, in the way a woman with a death sentence lifted might have.

“Well then. Brave man. Let’s go visit Doreia!” Fei’nur, for all her reputation, looked almost ebullient.

“Certainly, one moment. I’m waiting to make sure we don’t have to remove someone from the ship by force.”

Captain ?”

Just that moment, Anna Poniatowska arrived in the transporter room with a duffle bag wearing mufti.

“Excellent! Commander, you are to take five days of leave!” Zhen’var spun about with a grin on her face. “No arguing, they just need you to make sure they actually fixed the engines.”

As they spoke, Fei’nur was checking her omnitool. She had one last thing to follow up on. Nah’dur, you are such a silly kit sometimes for your age, but I think despite the fact your contact is much less than you think, the contact will still matter. Satisfied, she turned to the conversation between Zhen’var and Anna.

“Of course, Captain.” She sighed in an effort to relax. “So we part ways on the planet and I’m free and clear then?”

“Correct, as long as you are enjoying yourself.”

“Alright then.” She took one glance around. “Leave. What is that, again…?” The transporter twirled away the answer.







William Atreiad was standing in the main hangar on a small roll-out podium with a PA connection. Rick Dugan was standing next to him. In front of them were several thousand people who badly wanted to be on leave: Spacers, Marines and Airmen. The Officers, both commissioned and warrant, had already gotten their assignments.

Will read the cliff notes and then read them again. His expression got progressively more dubious. Then he leaned over to Rick and was about to whisper, before he paused, tapped the mic to make sure it was off, and then whispered. “..Do we really have to read them this crap?”

Rick whispered right back: “Well Sir, what if one of them comes back with two DWIs, a thousand credit bar tab, three women knocked up and a venereal disease? You ask them how the hell they did that all in five days before starting their Captain’s Mast, and they say ‘nobody told me not to.’”

Will twisted his face into a grimace, and then shrugged and stepped back behind the mic, and this time turned it on. “ Huáscarenos, ” he began, and everyone was standing at parade rest but the anticipation was bubbling out of control in the room. “All enlisted personnel have been authorised five days of leave.”

WHOOO-HOOO OORAH HELLYEAH! LIBO! F--YEAH!”

The hangar erupted into cheering. Will cracked a grin. “Officers will get eighty-four hours in two rotations and have already received their assignments. Ranks get five days starting now--as soon as we’re done.” That was a hard sell, they all wanted to leave immediately.

“There’s a few things we have to go over first.” The holoprojector behind him flashed with the first holoslide. “Anti-Terrorism Awareness is a critical part of who we are in the Alliance Military. Nazi and Cylon terrorist attacks can occur anyplace, any time. Recently in universe M4P2 there has been a large upsurge in terrorist activity by a mysterious group called the ‘Collectors’. I’ve seen them work first-hand, they wipe out colonies indiscriminately, focusing on innocent civilians. But they’re also involved in sapient trafficking. And sapient trafficking is usually linked to terrorism. There is a strong nexus between Nazi-Cylon operations and human trafficking by the Eubian Concord, for example. Because of that we need to make sure that everyone has the iSee App properly configured on their omnitool before going on leave so you can make reports while on Liberty. Remember, if you see something, say something.”

Next slide. People were already getting shifty on their feet.

“Alcohol is serious business. The Huáscar has had lots of problems with alcohol consumption and I want to make it explicit that we expect you all to come back from Libertysober. Observe a two-drink limit when operating motor vehicles and any kind of machinery. Remember that you should not be seen drinking more than two drinks while in uniform or while wearing identifiable government property, such as an omnitool. Especially remember that a single alcoholic beverage may contain more than one serving of alcohol. Use the buddy system: If someone is having trouble with their alcohol, look out for your shipmate. And remember, lots of spaceport bars are centres of sapient trafficking. If you’re out enjoying libations tonight and you see dancers or sex workers who may be held against their will, file an iSee report.”

Next slide. “Motor vehicle safety is critically important on Liberty. Seven thousand Alliance personnel die a year from motor vehicle accidents; it’s the second leading cause of death after combat. Obey all traffic and operating restrictions on Doreia, familiarise yourself with the local traffic regulations before you get in the driver’s seat, and use public transit wherever possible. Remember that at all times when on Liberty, traffic violations can lead to Captain’s Mast. And most importantly, if you’ve had too much,don’t operate machinery.

Next slide. “Sex is a part of life. Look, Huáscarenos, it’s been a long haul, and I don’t want to get out there and stop you from having fun. But remember that if you’re with a member of your own species or a related species, this can have consequences, even the kind of consequences that Surgeon-Commander Nah’dur can’t fix. Any sexual activity also carries a risk of disease, and there are some pretty nasty space bugs out there. Use appropriate protection for your gender and species and familiarise yourself with the age of consent for a species and the jurisdiction you are in before having any kind of sexual contact with a stranger. Furthermore, again, if you see something, say something. It is a Courts Martial, not just Captain’s Mast, to knowingly have sexual relations with a victim of sapient trafficking. But don’t try to go into a situation where you may be outgunned--don’t be a vigilante if you detect this. Use iSee as soon as you can.”

Next Slide. “Remember that it’s important to keep government information systems safe from cyberterrorism and espionage. Never share access on your omnitool with anyone. Never download programmes on your omnitool from any source except the AllNavy App Store’s approved download list. Do not use your government omnitool to interface with non-government computer systems.

Next slide. Will felt his soul puddling out of his body and draining into the deck of the hangar bay.

“Sailors and Marines are popular targets for financial scams. Keep yourself safe by making sure that you only use an approved banking app on your omnitool. Never pay credits to a vendor for something that you don’t receive at the time of purchase, unless it’s through a bank-authorized app interface. Avoid carrying more than thirty credits of cash at a time. And also remember to store valuables in your hotel safe, and always ask for a hotel room on the middle floors--never stay in the top or bottom floor of a hotel, and make sure your hotel has window bars, security cameras, and is on the Government Travel Approved List.” He manfully avoided a deep sigh, stepping away from the microphone after turning it off. “All right, that’s everything. Chief?”

Rick Dugan grinned at him, and then stepped up to the podium. There were no slides. His hand formed a knife shape as he leaned over the podium, but stayed high. He didn’t need the microphone. “Alright you benighted boys and girls, all that stuff the Commander just said boils down to three things: Headlines, Handcuffs, and Hospitals! You better sure as hell stay outta all three! And remember, the Surgeon-Commander is on leave too, so you need to come back actually sober, not show up staggering drunk to get some Niltox! Now with that said, keep the jackassery to a minimum and if you’re an idiot, I might as well know it now, so go right on ahead and drink and drive and do random alien drugs and knock a ho up and get in barfights, so we can get you in front of the Captain’s Mast and get you the hell off this ship! As for the rest of you, act like adults, do whatever it is that lets you come back here and be awesome again. And if you do have to start a fight, Huáscarenos, follow escalation rules and make damn sure our crew wins it ! Now get out there and enjoy Libo! Dis- miss .”








Nah’dur was still onboard for the first half of the leave, approximately. She had been granted an extra twelve hours that would overlap with Nah’dur and Zhen’var’s vacation. For the next three days, then, she’d be holding down the sickbay for the rest of her staff. She was the only Doctor onboard, but with only half the officers onboard and none of the enlisted, there was essentially nothing for her to do.

With Nurse Ritaram able to call her if someone actually needed something, she wandered over to the Mess. There were not many in it; however, the crew of the Heermannwas busier. Their heavily damaged attacker had actually been fully repaired inside of her bay, using the massive number of spare parts they had stocked for the long duration operation. Now a few jury-rigs were being fixed by the dockyard, but these would also be done within one week.

Still, it was much more involved than for the Huáscar. The enlisted had been given the same leave as everyone else for esprit de corps, but most of the senior officers on theHeermann were staying around to make sure the repairs were completed in time for the next deployment. Nah’dur remembered Zhen’var mentioning that she was plotting some way to make up for that and was still gunning on giving them forty-eight hour passes at the end of the docking because they could run a shakedown from the Huáscar while in transit.

Still. It left them fully on the ship for the moment, and Nah’dur wasn’t surprised to see Ca’elia settling down for her own replicated meal. “Ca’elia,” she offered, padding over the replicator to make her selections, ytar and terama-fish steak with a garnish of acara berries and seshma leaves. “How is the work going on the Heermann ?”

“Surgeon-Commander. Well enough. On schedule, at least.” The young helmswoman looked up at her and blinked widely. “... May I help you in some way?” A piece of Beef Wellington, with what looked to be a small carafe of coffee next to it sat before her.”

“Oh, I just wanted to talk. There is nobody left in sickbay except for myself and a nurse, and most of my acquaintances have gone to the surface,” Nah’dur explained as she sat down. “...You are eating human food, I see. Does it taste good?”

“Very much. Would you care to try some? A few modifications from different human chefs to make it more palatable for Dilgar, but it was near enough to perfectly all right beforehand, Mistress.”

“It looks like beef.” Nah’dur looked around, and then added, a bit softly, “I confess, I think those who take the imitation of the teachings of dharma that far are overdoing it. I believe in dharma, but we are not humans.”

Ca’elia winced sharply. “I apologise, Mistress. I had not intended to offer insult. It is, of course. Beef Wellington, they call it.”

Nah’dur reached out and took a piece. “You misunderstand. I am saying I don’t hold to the same belief about those restrictions. Thank you, Ca’elia. My mother let us form our own opinions of how to integrate our beliefs.”

“I think I understand that. I admit, I’m not very religious, but that wasn’t much encouraged on New Eden.” came the reply from the young woman before her, as she popped another piece of the filet into her mouth and reached for her cup. “Warmaster Shai’jhur seems very wise, an ideal regent for our people.”

“Mother-Shai is a cool hand on the tiller; which was exactly what we needed. She’s said to me in retrospect that if she had been in charge in the days of old, she’d have conquered the Alacans and declared to the people they were another breed of Dilgar so they could be integrated; and Tirrith and Roth and some border worlds from the Drazi, and then made peace and moved a few billion Dilgar. Jha’dur would have been tasked with curing the spores, and her brother given a scouting fleet to explore far beyond us, which might have found Tira and Anakamos. But instead, the Council was made up mostly of idiots, not the wise, and so she could only save scraps. The food’s very good, by the way.”

“If anyone left alive can kill those spores, it’s you, Mistress. I already know that you offer the best chance for the crew come out alive on the other side of these missions they give us if anything goes wrong.”

“I’m working on it, among other projects. I’ve had a few major steps along the way. Maybe another two years? That’s my current timetable, but biology is not rigid like engineering,” Nah’dur answered innocently.

“Another two years? Mistress, that is… wonderful .” Ca’elia remarked with a tone of awe in her voice.

“It’s personal with me and those spores,” Nah’dur answered with a somewhat baleful expression. “I’m not letting them escape alive.” She stretched and looked curiously at Ca’elia’s cup.

“Camp coffee, Mistress.” the young officer offered, to the unspoken question.

“...Coffee? But I have been looking for coffee to drink, and so far I have only found the national drink of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Coffeemilk, and that is served cold. Nothing else really seems tolerable to Dilgar tastebuds. That is hot coffee, Ca’elia. How do you stand it?”

“It’s Camp Coffee , Mistress. Normal coffee…” She made a face of disgust. “They kept trying to get us to drink it on New Eden, as it was in the rations. This, this is different.” She would drain her cup, and refill it halfway from the carafe, adding a bit of cream. “Here.”

Nah’dur took a drink from the cup. “... It’s wonderful! Thank you, Ca’elia. I have finally found a kind of coffee I can like. This is quite amazing.”

The young helmswoman dared a smile. “Thank you, Mistress.”

“You are most welcome,” Nah’dur looked so pleased, so stretched contentedly and then drank more of the Camp Coffee.

Looking over the rim of her cup, Ca’elia grinned openly at her. “So… are there any other human foods you are looking for tolerable versions of? I have quite the experience with trying to find them.”

“That would be amazing. I’m looking for authentic ones. Usually, the Captain has helped with the ones from the Indian Subcontinent, and some from China.”

“Well, we’ll have to synchronize our meal-times whenever Heermann is docked, Surgeon-Commander. I’d be happy to help.”

“Oh, I shall be most enthused. The only exception is when I get a chance to eat with Colonel Fei’nur, but that doesn’t happen often… Isn’t Colonel Fei’nur quite incredible? She’s actually very smart, you know, beyond the whole part of being the last Spectre.”

“So I have heard you say before. She… really is , but you mean she’s… more intellectual than most would expect? It feels strange to be talking about her like this, Surgeon-Commander.”

“Well… She’s been close to my family for a long time, but yes. I suppose, it’s all well and good.” her eyes glimmered. “Thank you so much, Ca’elia. You have shown me a kindness in introducing me to these things.”

“You’re welcome, ma’am. I look forward to our meetings, even if I can’t keep up with you in conversation!” Daringly, she offered a hand. “It’s nice to meet you… Nah’dur, if you will permit me the informality?”

“Oh yes, I do.” Nah’dur smiled. “Thank you again, Ca’elia. I must obtain my own Camp Coffee now.”

“I think I can help you with that.” Inside, Ca’elia thrilled. She’d made a friend on Huáscar!







Nah’dur had plenty of tasks to keep up on, including inspections and operational planning and various paperwork, but she considered this conversation more important than any of the others. Of all the things she was working on, the genophage was the most sincerely challenging, and she relished that challenge, she also relished the comeuppence to the arrogant Salarians who thought they were good at science, and to teach a lesson to those who though the Krogan dead, as people had accounted the Dilgar dead.

Also, it let her boast a little. She was following up with Wrex on her latest developments now that they had returned to Alliance space. She made the extranet connection request and waited.

The scarred Krogan Battlemaster’s face flickered into view. “Nah’dur. Been a few months.”

“We were operating outside of extranet connection range for an extended period. Very interesting set of events, I’m sure you’ll hear some about it eventually. Telepaths to save and governments to overthrow and that sort of thing,” Nah’dur answered cheerfully, waving idly at the screen.

“It’s been interesting here too. What do you have?” The Krogan was a gruff as his reputation implied, watching her carefully. She was remarkably cheerful.

“I have a strategy for correcting the genophage in part, it will restore the rate of viable births to about two-thirds of what it was before. It will require a retrovirus to apply, and is a genetic modification. So it will take time to come into effect. But it has worked successfully at the laboratory scale in all trials over the past months. It doesn’t cure the genophage, it just introduces a small genetic modification into how embryos form to make them resilient to the main mode of effect of the genophage. This should, however, build on the previous work to push you back into a positive population growth.”

He glanced at something out of view for a moment, before leaning in. “That gives us hope. You’ve done good. Now you be careful before someone tries to stop you from continuing your work, got it?”

“I understand. Mother has permanently assigned Spectre Fei’nur to this ship, and there are a lot of Mha’dorn here. I sleep with a pistol under my pillow even aboard theHuáscar, and I carry a top-rated Solarian personal shield. There are people who would kill me for my clan name, Wrex, let alone what I’m doing for you and the Krogan.”

“You are a friend to the Krogran. They won’t like what’ll happen if one of us catches up to them, heh.”

“Well, thank you. I do appreciate the relationship. We distrusted species need to stick together for our own mutual safety.” She grinned. “So, I’ll send the specifications with the usual encryption. However, I really need to go to living embryo trials before we release this retrovirus. For that, we are going to need to meet somewhere or have isolation tanks with sperm and eggs sent for me to work with. If that works, I’m going to have to get close enough to some Krogan to do a full-scale clinical trial. I can take a leave of absence for that, or the deployment schedule will work out. One of our officers has a contact with her own ship, a Rihannsu. She might be able to help.”

“All right. Difference between your homeworld and mine is that rather than the air trying to kill you, it’s the Krogan. I’ll be in contact. Good work, Nah’dur.”

“Thank you, Wrex. I have appreciated the challenge greatly. I am certain the Salarians will not leave it be… But I’ll blow that bridge up when I come to it. Actually, wait. I think I have a plan for spreading the retrovirus to Tuchanka. Do you think you could fund a month’s worth of operations from a dreadnought?”

“Kid, I’m not sure where you’re going with this, but let’s say I could…”







The two Dilgar women, for safety’s sake, were in their uniforms as they explored the planet. It was best to make it clear to those around them that they were Alliance personnel, even here on Doreia where they refreshingly didn’t encounter a single expression of fear or anger the entire time, just like Gersal. Instead, the first day was a whirlwind of temples and gardens, and on the second they had gone to the great falls.

“Divine, Fei’nur, it’s beautiful here, is it not?” Zhen’var marveled, looking skyward, through the rainbow-dappled mist that rose high from the base of the waterfalls.

“All of that water… It’s so wonderful to look at. There are falls just as big on the rivers leading to the great central seas on Rohric, though, as they drop down into the sea-plains. But it’s not exactly tourist territory.”

“Perhaps some-day they will be, when Nah’dur succeeds. Do you want to try the path up-top? It will take most of the day, if we try, and we have that reservation for tonight to try and make.”

“..We should both be able to handle that, since Nah’dur isn’t along,” Fei’nur grinned.

“Still not managing to get sister up to your standards? Your fitness regime certainly transformed my scores. I am all the way up to the top end of Tier Two!” Teeth flashing in a smile, Zhen’var slung her pack of her shoulders. “Come on, then, daylight is wasting, we can call an aircar from the cable station and ride it down to meet them when we are at the top.”

“Certainly!” Muscles pumping, the big Dilgar woman and the smaller beside her started up the long hike across the sheer granite switchbacks--with safety rails long installed, granted--to the top, showing incredible views of the far side of the great horseshoe falls. For the moment, then, they were perfectly happy and as far from Duty as possible.

Zhen’var was visibly exhausted, but triumphant when they reached the top, with the sun hanging low in the sky. “That… was… wonderful!”

Kind of damp, but at least it’s very clean water,” Fei’nur laughed. “It was a great hike.” She took out her camera to capture some 3-D’s at the top, too. For a moment, a pang over the lack of kits struck her. She wasn’t sure it was healthy for a Spectre and the Warmaster had come first. But her smile surged again. The Warmaster’s six daughters were a fine prize to have nurtured and there might yet be time. She took several of the captain, and traded the imager to get some of herself, too - another tourist, up top where the usual landing point of the cable cars was, would serve to get them both in a few shots as well.

“It was.” Breathing hard at the exertion, Zhen’var was feeling remarkably accomplished. “ Worth it .”

“Completely worth it.” Fei’nur agreed with a comfortable laugh, the sheer, staggering immensity of the water just continuously pouring off, the falls stretched almost to the horizon it seemed, they were 10-km wide here with a series of islands along the top dividing them into a series of massive channels. This was an otherworldly sight, as grand as any which could be imagined, a fairy-tale book of clean water and nature’s artistic hand.

A wistful sigh slipped out of Zhen’var’s black lips as she stared out over the landscape. “Until I began performing my work-outs with you, I would not have been able to do that in anything less than twice the time, Fei’nur.”

Fei’nur looked suitably pleased. “I’m glad I’ve justified myself. You’re a nice partner for leave excursions, Zhen’var. And friend.” In that moment, Fei’nur didn’t even stop to think for a moment what Zhen’var had once been. It had passed completely beyond her.

“Much the same, Fei’nur. Shall we linger a bit longer, or begin heading to our lodging for the evening? I confess a sonic shower sounds wonderful at present.”

Fei’nur snapped another Tri-D image and grinned. “We’ll go for sonic showers. I could stay, but then I’d have less time for other interesting things. Let’s go!”

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