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First Contact - Part Sixty-One (Kark)

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Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.299
Arrived at Starbase-4973 with the Dakota and our crew. Turned over information to the local Starfleet representative as well as SUDS data for the other ship's crews. Spoke to Commodore Dunsten of Starfleet who requested a template for what changes the Dakota has undergone. Was counseled that my point totals will not count toward any ladder rankings due to 'extreme non-canon changes' to the Dakota as well as my crew personal armaments and shuttle modifications.
In shocking news, the Battlestar Fleet and the Cylon Collection have arrived. Talk about the big guns. Those guys carry the big Creation Engines that can pump out a Viper or Cylon fighters in roughly 10 seconds with only a 30 second cooldown/slushdown feature.
Met with the Space Force representative and turned over my battle logs. He, in particular, wanted the in-depth scans we performed on the various Precursor ships. Our practice of boarding the ships is, at this time, the most common strategy.
We discussed the fact that Space Force considers forcing the Precursor vessels out of the system to by a phyrric victory and that the system will require a heavy metal posting. Was also informed that the fact that the Precursor fleet retreated from the planets and then from the system was a 'statistical oddity' and he wanted more scans. He also inquired as to whether or not I ran an in-depth scan on the gas giants, which is where the Goliaths were spawning from. I regret I had not, merely a scan for a Goliath.
He appears quite concerned with the actions undertaken but did congratulate me on defending the system.
Transphasic Photon Torpedoes are considered standard armaments for all Starfleet vessels from here on out. There is talk of smaller planet-crackers being put in use among the crew, but planet crackers rely on the mantle to core interaction. Quantum torpedoes are nothing option that I am seriously considering. Phased plasma torpedoes are largely considered in the OP-Class of weaponry but I am seriously considering just loading everything up and going for broke. Tricobalt missiles might be another option but the last time anyone used that was during the Fifth Dominion War. The Dakota is so far out of specifications that mounting such weapons is not as far fetched as it may have sounded a month ago.
It isn't like anything we're going to do is going to count for the leaderboads.
On a personal note, some of the crew members have reported headaches from their SUDS interfaces. McCoy is working on it, but he also warned that the transporter may have to be reconfigured after the discovery that the Precursors can hijack the signal and capture crew members that way.
Starfleet transporters are much more carefully aligned than the earlier 'mat-trans' and 'teleporter' systems used by the 40K LARPers. Safety interlocks prevent our transporters from being used in many cases that a teleporter could be used, require more power, and have a triple-feedback redunancy check.
An amusing point: Teleporter systems seem to go straight through the shields. McCoy and Spock both believe that lengthened amount of time for buffer checking allows the Precursor shielding to be adjusted for the algorythm used by Starfleet vessels.
Another amusing point: During my LFG call, the Wesleys were lined up around the station core. Nobody is taking them on these, despite the class advantages because, outside of structured missions for Starfleet Games, nobody is going to suddenly have Wesley Weaknesses just because.
On a personal note: My Riker has grown out his beard and has been socializing with his Space Force peers in order to get us more information on this threat.'
--Picard 8873
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.304
One thing they don't mention in the sheer amount of time you spend moving from place to place. Warp drive is highly efficient and safe compared to stringdrive, slipstream, gates, and jumpspace. Unlike hyperspace, AI's are able to remain conscious in warp. Still, I feel the urge to yell "GO FASTER" at the warp nacelles.
My Spock took me to the side and warned me that Starfleet vessels may be making a serious mistake. Often, the Precursors take damage and flee the system, using Hellspace to jump out. He has noticed that after roughly 8% of their structure is damaged they then flee. He also had checked Starfleet records.
I'm the only vessel, at this time, running transphasic photon torpedoes.
He has suggested an experiment. Utilize transphasic torpedoes, phased plasma torpedoes, but leave one out of every barrage of 10, with the phased plasma torpedoes, with a subspace beacon. In that manner, we can discover where they are running off to.
My Spock has put forward the theory, and my Scotty and LaForge, as well as my Riker, all agree.
They have refitting, repair, and construction bases somewhere.
Perhaps our plan to put a phased subspace beacon aboard one of the larger vessels will pan out.
I do feel concern about what my crew and I might find in a Precursor shipyward.
--Picard 8873
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.306
We have returned to the system that myself and the others had cleared. In particular, we are running long range sensor scans of the gas giants. My Chekov has suggested, and I concur, that getting in close and running more detailed but shorter range scans might put us too close.
I would really like to avoid a barrage of nCv shells.
Our Uhura (She's extremely qualified and did not object to me doublechecking her bonafides) is keeping a careful ear out for any Precursor transmissions.
I have left orders that at the faintest whisper of Precursor code the Dakota is to move to red alert.
The system looks empty, but there is something that makes me think that there are only four lights.
--Picard 8873
ADDENDUM: There is apparently no structures or other masses in the gas giant at the depths our long range passive scanners can reach.
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.307
Our Uhura spotted it first. Subspace whispers. Complex and shifting binary, barely audible. While others suggested we move in, trying to get a lock in on what was whispering across subspace in such a manner I ordered the ship to immediately go to silent running, no emissions.
We observed a Goliath exit Hellspace near the larger gas giant, streaming vapor and metal, its attendant vessels exiting with it. As we watched it allowed the attendant vessels to board through the massive docking ports.
Sidenote: Some of those docking bays are the size of the real San Francisco Ultraplex.
The 'whispers' picked up and the massive Goliath sank into the gas giant.
My crew's estimation that the three initially engaged Goliaths of our last action had repaired themselves was confirmation bias.
For a bare moment the whisper got louder and the Goliath that had sunk into the gas giant was in plain view on our passive long range scanners then it simply vanished.
The belief of my Spock and Scotty is that the Precursors have some kind of shielded refit structure inside the gas giant beyond the scanner horizon. LaForge has stated that the pressures at such depth would make any construction or repairs inordinately difficult.
My Riker reminded LaForge that the Precursors were engaged in a war when they vanished and these bases are not only war-time bases, but that there are no living crews to worry about.
I ordered my crew to remain on silent running. There is enough debris on that planet to cover a probe approach. My LaForge has suggested putting a probe data relay in the Oort Cloud to give the signals a few 'bounces' and to use only phased tachyon streams with reversed polarity.
Sometimes I wish we didn't have all our own names for technology. Why could he have just said paired quark communications?
--Picard 8873
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.309
The probe was moved into place carefully, following a piece of debris from the previous battle. During this time our Uhura caught another scrap of what she has come to call "Precursor Whispers" from the other gas giant.
My Spock reminded me that the intense pressures inside a massive gas giant could make foundry work easier, allowing the creation of hyperalloys that we need massive foundries for to utilize the inherent pressures of a massive gas giant to create 'alloy farms' inside the gas giant.
A disturbing thought indeed.
Another ship type has arrived, which I have labeled the Enki class Precursor, has arrived and taken to carefully going over the debris fields of the Starfleet battle.
Thankfully the Klingon and Romulan officers routinely utilize anti-matter charges to clear any debris from the destruction of our ships.
It moved to the wreckage of the mining ship and has been spending time there. It is at extreme range and I am becoming nervous about what it is doing.
The Precursor attitudes within this star system are concerning.
Have you ever looked at an inanimate machine, with no living characterization like a Data possesses, and thought to yourself "What are you up to?" as you watched it?
I have that unique experience.
They are up to something.
--Picard 8873
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.310
The probe provided us with valuable information that is critical to disseminate.
We are now, to use my Riker's phrase: running like a bat out of hell.
Passive scans can only penetrate to a certain depth within a gas giant. Starfleet has been largely worried about planetary scans as well as deep space and intrasystem scans. Combine it with the fact we use a lot of gamification in our systems, gas giants were largely used as "spawn points" for crafts. This meant that, naturally, our scanners largely could not penetrate deeply into gas giants.
My Scotty and LaForge re-calibrated the sensor arrays to get a good look inside the gas giant.
My Spock was right. The Precursor was 'growing' large alloy fields down there. There was a repair and manufacturing base the size a continent down inside the gas giant with massive 'alloy farms' around it. Before the scale would have shocked me until my Spock pointed out that the Great Eye of Jupiter is twice the size of Terra itself. Nearly two dozen Precursor vessels were 'docked' at the facility.
Discussions on how to 'deal with' this massive repair and refit base were discussed at a closed meeting of my command crew. It ranged from using a Genesis Device on the gas giant (Not recommended. My LaForge stated that the Precursor ships we are facing here are more adept at 'learning' than previously encountered Precursor types and the last thing we should do is provide them with planet killers that create more resources) to attempting to use a modified planet cracker on the gas giant (Again, tabled due to concerns the Precursors would imitate it).
We settled on phasic trans-phasic photon torpedoes mixed with tricobat missiles.
Out attack was dual: Destroy the debris field of the Romulus class mining vessel, which was being thoroughly combed over by Enki class Precursor vessels, damage or perhaps even destroy the facility and the 'alloy farms' inside the gas giants.
We came in from above the stellar plane, at a high velocity angle. When facing Precursor vessels your speed and maneuverability are key to staying alive. We fired probes while still 25 million miles above the stellar plane. We came in with only debris shields at full power.
The probes reported back that while there were life signs on the planets in the Green and Amber zones the Precursor vessels around those planets and upon the surface were not engaged in wholesale slaughter or destruction. We practically turned the sensors inside out getting deep scans of everything.
Once in range (Starfleet weaponry is somewhat, to use my Riker's term: short legged compared to Space Force line weaponry) I ordered a full scan at maximum power and resolution. Normally this is avoided to prevent damage to sentient beings and xeno-species but the Precursors aren't a foe that one should concern themselves with scanner-burn.
Percursor vessels were not rising from the gas giants. While some immediately launched or moved to engage us from various points in the system, sheer distance and geometry prevented any attacks. At 30 million miles even nCv weapons or phaser beams move too slowly to engage a ship the size of the Dakota. We launched weapons and immediately began accelerating to be able to put enough distance between any Precursor vehicles and our own vessel.
We got our scan data back and immediately realized that engaging the Precursor vessels was now a secondary, if not tertiary, mission.
All four of the gas giants contained refit facilities of a size that is best described as 'geological'.
That was not the key data.
Our Uhura was able to isolate the 'Precursor Whisper' and while unable to decode it, was able to confirm what it is.
FTL data-streams.
Their battle, strategic, and tactical network.
The planets, while full of life and possessing several species known to be "Unified Civilized Races", were all at Stone Age technology. Precursor vessels were moving to protect the planets and their inhabitants for an unknown reason.
This information is vital to Starfleet, Space Force, and all other Confederacy organizations.
--Picard 8873
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.311
The Dakota has now had its very own AbramsKhan moment.
We were fired on in warp drive.
The Precursor vessel mounted one of the Galaxy class Starfleet vessel's engines and pursued us. With a lighter frame, higher energy output, and not having to concern itself with warp drive effects upon living beings, it was not only able to catch up to us, but fire upon us.
My Riker has stated that anyone who mocks up for having such thick armor after this will be starting a brawl.
We are alive only because of my insistence on heavy armor, structural integrity fields running the same type of shield frequency algorithms as our main deflector shields, with dual structural fields layered between armor and structural layers.
Immediately upon being fired upon we dropped out of warp drive to engage the small Precursor vessel. Chekov stated it would be between stellar bodies and it should have been a bare battlefield with not even gas wisps.
Instead, we dropped into a half dozen Jotun class vessels waiting for us.
We are currently undergoing evasive warp maneuvering as estimated by my Spock and my LaForge.
--Picard 8873
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.313
They're attempting to "drive" us deeper into the Dead Zone.
This gives us a fairly unusual opportunity. We can see what they are attempting to push us into or we can attempt to escape.
Spock and Scotty believe that it is imperative we discover what it is that the Precursors believe can take us out compared to the Jotuns following us.
Riker and LaForge maintain our goal should be reaching Federation/Confederate Space.
I believe I have a better idea.
--Picard 8873
Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.315
Rather than allow us to be pushed further into the Dead Zone I ordered the ship to move at a right angle to the galactic plane at full warp 9.3. While this can interfere with SUDS uploads and storage I have decided that the risk is necessary.
Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.317
The Precursor machines are still in close pursuit. They are arranging for attempted ambushes. LaForge has theorized that the one following us, which is a warp capable photon-torpedo launcher welded to the the Galaxy class engine and wrapped in neutronium armor, sends out a "whisper" as soon as it sees the 'warp flare' from our engines. That enables the Precursor vessels to Helljump to where we will be exiting.
Scotty has a plan.
Luckily, I did not dump my old class data, so I have a Kirk knowledge database.
Spock is overriding the interlocks to allow me to access that knowledge.
It is risky, but acceptable.
Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.317 - Supplmental
By utilizing the holodeck, a blank SUDS, and carefully aligned emitters, Spock believes I will be able to load the data from the Kirk character class into my memories despite being a Picard. He will attempt to use his Mind Meld ability to keep me from collapsing under a dual class.
The Precursor Pursuer will be in range inside of 30 minutes.
I have no choice.
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.317.7
The melding was somewhat successful. I have conflicting emotions and desires regarding many subjects but thankfully both my knowledge and personality templates are Starfleet officers. By use of the Mind Meld my Spock was able to use an older exploit involving class rank and player knowledge.
Contrary to popular opinion, Kirk classes are not womanizing hot-heads (Despite AbramsEra semi-canon) but rather highly innovative early Starfleet officers. It is just that the mission files force Kirk to use half-experimental technology in innovative ways in order to overcome unknown experiences and foes. One of the things often overlooked is Kirk made the rank of Admiral and was quite cautious in many ways.
Still, the dissonance between a Picard and a Kirk class is quite intense.
I am suffering nosebleeds. McCoy says it is from intercranial pressure as my brain attempts to sort through the information.
I have not informed him of the fact I have a severe SUDS hangover.
--Picark 8873
Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.318
After examining old scans of the Galaxy class ship that was defeated I was able to ascertain its hull number. Using that number, and knowledge possessed by an Admiral Level Kirk Class, when the Precursor Pursuer came close enough to fire I was able to drop its warp-shields. The Precursor Pursuer was exposed to raw warp energy at that time, inhibiting its ability to see the Dakota, specifically causing us to appear much further ahead in the warp conduit.
The Precursor Pursuer fell back and I ordered the Dakota to move to Emergency Warp Speed.
9.998 Okuda Scale
The Precursor Pursuer immediately went to maximum speed of the Galaxy class engine attached to little more than armor, bare shields, and a torpedo launcher.
Warp 10.
Without Transwarp shielding or any other technology, the Precursor Pursuer achieved infinite velocity and infinite mass.
The explosion damaged the Dakota and left us drifting in normal space.
Scotty and LaForce estimate repair times of 3 weeks.
--Picark 8873
Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.325
We are again underway after our successful destruction of the Precursor Pursuit vessel.
Maximum warp is limited to Warp 5.4.
Estimated time of arrival at Starbase 4973 is 11 days.
--Picark 8873
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.332
My SUDS has been scrambled and bad. I'm no longer Jeffery van Leedle, born on Rigel, but instead and curious combination of the character neural templates and my old personality.
Scotty, McCoy, and LaForge are examining me. Not in any hopes of untwining the personalities, but rather to forward the information to SoulNet in hopes that it can be prevented for occurring to others, no matter how unusual the circumstances.
The 'Gamed' memories no longer have the distinguishable overlay that Starfleet uses for safety measures. Instead, all of my memories feel the same.
Which is... confusing.
I remember racing a motorcycle in the wheat fields of Oklahoma, outside of Paris, under a Rigellian red sky.
My gestalt personality agrees that it is worth it for the information we have and to save my ship and my crew.
--Jeff Picark 8873
Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.334
Pro-term Acting Captain Riker-2173 commanding. Previous Captain suffering the effects of the SUDS/Template merger needed to access information to allow the destruction of the Precursor Pursuer.
Captain Jeff Picark was relieved of command, with acceptance and willingly, two hours ago.
Bridge and Command Officers are in agreement with this action.
We are two days out of Starbase 4973.
--Riker 2173
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.335
Would I have done it, knowing what I do now?
Yes.
My SUDS cannot update. The neural template recordings fragment and unravel.
I am no longer immortal.
But there is no such thing as only human. Humans, without the SUDS, accomplished incredible feats with just grit and determination.
However, I can no longer participate in active combat Starfleet games. Two hundred years of LARP down the tubes.
I made a good choice with my Riker. The hardest thing to do is relieve your Captain for cause.
He had good cause.
--Jeff Picark 8873
Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.336
I have docked the Dakota and am granting shore leave to crew. Captain Picark was taken to the Space Force infirmary via stretcher with McCoy in attendance.
Our mission is complete. Space Force has our data in their possession.
For some reason, the Precursors keep entire worlds of roughly half the xeno-sapients of the Unified Civilized Races.
Gas Giants must now be treated as Precursor base risks.
I am hoping "Jeff" recovers. The fact that he remembered an ancient piece of lore from OldTrekKhan is, honestly, impressive. Undergoing an in-mission partial respec was risky.
Will report to Starfleet and see what happens.
--Riker 2173
---------------------------
STARFLEET GAMING CENTRAL NOTICE
Jeffery van Leedle, player number 7c345a7e1-8873, is hereby promoted to Starfleet Admiral and is hereby recalled to Earth-42 to Starfleet Headquarters in New-SanFran.
In accordance to his wishes the Dakota a non-canon America class ship, is hereby given to Riker 56a817c38f2-2173, including all templates and player rewards.
-----NOTHING FOLLOWS-------
SPACE FORCE MEMO
ALL CAPTAINS
Initial estimations of 30-50 Goliath class total forces in is error.
New ship types encountered, new facilities discovered (See Attached File).
-----NOTHING FOLLOWS---------
CONFED MEMO
Mantid, any idea what this is about?
----NOTHING FOLLOWS-------
MANTID FREE WORLDS
Beyond "cattle worlds" we cannot estimate why Precursors, of all things, would have the older races, reduced to primitive, on worlds just being observed.
-----NOTHING FOLLOWS--------
BLACK CRUSADE
Experimentation, idiots. That Balor Hellship should have made you think of that.
They're trying to figure out a way to counter us.
------NOTHING FOLLOWS------
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First Contact - Part Twenty-Three

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The Devastator class Precursor machine was the size of a large metropolis. Full of ground combat machines, air superiority machines, mining and reclamation machines that could move under their own power and were festooned with a thousand weapons. It was over a hundred million years old and had exterminated life on planets with its massive guns, with biowarfare, with chemical warfare, and with good old nuclear fire. It had wiped away planet after planet of the enemies cattle, the hated enemy's food sources, before finally following orders of the greater machines and going into sleep mode on a dead world.
Now the call had sounded out. Cattle had run amuck, even learning jumpspace technology. That meant the enemy had not been defeated, that his food source had multiplied into the trillions while the Devastator had slumbered, slowly sinking into the crust of the barren planet.
That was of no moment. Cattle could not fight back, that was why they were cattle. They knew nothing but safety and the security of numbers, willing to trade their own safety for the suffering of others. The cattle willingly marched into the pens if the pens promised safety.
The cattle were not the problem.
It was the feral intelligence that were the problem. Feral intelligence could fight. They knew nothing else. They cared for nothing else. A feral intelligence always destroyed itself once it could wield nuclear fire. The universe had proved it over and over even before the great machine had gone into slumber.
The call had sounded out, informing the machines that cattle had broken loose from the pens. The Devastator had computed that the problem would be solved quickly, with a minimum expenditure of resources, and had started to go back into slumber.
That was when the second call sounded. A feral intelligence had mastered FTL travel and had turned all of their unthinking violence against the Precursor war machines.
The Devastator considered the chances of the feral intelligence lasting long enough to withstand his brethren's assault, withstand purification and pacification.
It was mathematically insignificant. Not zero, but close enough that it required an application of resource driven computation to analyze it.
Feral intelligences always destroyed themselves.
The Devastator knew this. Had it encoded into its very bones. It did not feel the electronic version of caution as it moved into the planetary system, exiting faster than light travel. It screeched out its warcry as it exited into the system and brought up its scanners.
It felt the electronic version of anticipation as it detected orbital facilities around two planets that teemed with billions of cattle, as it tasted jumpspace wake trails, as it felt the presence of a small, insignificant amount of cattle space vessels arrayed to attempt to stand against it near the outer gas giant.
It was a waste of resources.
Cattle could not withstand machines.
It was as solid a fact as radioactive decay and as impossible to stop.
It roared and turned to accelerate toward the cattle ships waiting on the other side of the gas giant, letting them know the futility of their resistance and that nothing could stop it from destroying them any more than they could stop entropy.
It felt electronic satisfaction as nearly 10% of the cattle ships broke formation and fled for the planets.
The cattle ships lit their engines, trying to keep the gas giant between them and the great Precursor machine but the Devastator knew it would do no good. It would ensure they were caught mathematically opposite of it and begin launching subsidiary craft to destroy them and reclaim the resources of their wreckage.
The Devastator slowed as it approached the gas giant, ancient code pulsing impulses into the electronic brain at the mathematical certainty of destroying the cattle's defenses and thus weakening the hated enemy.
pssst... over here...
The transmission was in binary. The basic code, on a low band that the Devastator used to contact and exchange data with its peers. The signal origin was close, just behind it, in the gap between two point defense radars.
The Devastator tumbled as it slowed, searching with its senses to check that tiniest of gaps in its sensors. It could detect nothing out of the ordinary. The fact that the gas giant had a high level of hydrocarbon and pseudo-organic compounds was a high certainty with most gas giants of that size. The Devastator cast around, knowing the cattle had not sent that transmission.
psst... here...
This time the transmission was only a few hundred kilometers above the hull, right behind the main guns of battery-eight, between the massive cannons and the sensor array, in a gap in the coverage caused by space dust not yet cleared from the array. The Devastator ensured the cattle vessels were on the other side of the gas giant as it cast around again, looking for what could possibly be sending the message on that particular channel and rotating again to either force the transmitter to move away or hit the hull of massive Devastator.
...right here...
The Devastator felt the computer version of anxiety. A new factor had entered the computation. The voice, and the binary signal somehow had a voice, a whispering, tickling, hissing faint signal of binary on a wavelength just above the screaming particles of the foam between realspace and subspace. This time the voice had come from just below the Devastators thick hull, beneath the vessel, in a gap between the sensors in a place where its own orbital guns would not dazzle the sensors. The Devastator rolled, getting the upper sensors into place in a graceful sideways roll.
Nothing.
The Devastator was barely tracking the cattle. They were of no moment. Something was whispering on a bandwidth that was beyond organic abilities. Could it be a damaged ally, barely able to whisper for electronic assistance?
...I see you...
The Devastator heard the signal hiss to life, trickling out of empty space a few hundred kilometers away. It felt of a surge of self-defense protocol override everything else and it unleashed all of its gun at the empty space, suspecting that this possible enemy may be using some type of photo-passthrough adaptive camouflage.
Nothing.
The Devastator felt the self-preservation protocols wake up and fill some of its processors. That signal had originated from that point! Even a dust-speck would have been detected by its scanner arrays, nothing could have escaped the terrawatts of death it had unleashed.
...touch...
The Devastator felt a physical TOUCH on its housing, the decameters thick armor around the massive computer core that made up its brain. That was impossible! It was in the center of the ship, protected by layer after layer of armor, defensive mechanisms, sensors, but yet it had felt something touch the housing, press against it lightly, only a few tickles of the suggestion of pressure per square micrometer but a touch all the same.
There was a slight ripple in realspace only a few meters above the hull and the Devastator pushed itself away, firing every weapon it could bring to bear on the spot only a few atoms wide, all of its sensor questing, seeking, hunting in electronic desperation to find out what was transmitting, what was touching it!
...here...
The word was whispered from only a few meters away from the electronic "brain" of the Devastator, inside the protective housing, inside the field that would shut down biological neural function and even primitive artificial intelligences!
The Devestator felt self-protection and self-preservation programs never before accessed come online and flood into its RAM as the word was whispered at it from inside the final layer of protection.
Massive nCv cannons lowered, the housings screamed as the Devastator pushed them past the limit, to aim at its own hull. It opened fire, trying to claw into its own body in the electronic version of panic to get whatever was inside it out of it.
All of its sensors were directed into its own body. It no longer even bothered with tracking the cattle fleet. Even its astrogation and navigation programs, even the ones responsible to maintain orbit around the gas giant, were desperately racing through the circuitry, desperate to find whatever was whispering.
...over here...
The whisper was over it, on top of it, and carried sidecode of a mathematically impossible jumble of electrons arrayed in an impossible manner, with quarks whirling through electron valences, antimatter electrons in the nucleus, preons stretched to massive size taking up the place of neutrons, all with jumbling strangled mathematical codes that made no sense.
The Devastator's brain burned out the receptors to defend itself from such electronic madness.
And felt a touch upon one of the upper lobes of its quantum computer brain.
...over here...
The Devastator was throwing antivirus software out, slamming firewalls against each other, crushing ports into electronic ghosts, doing anything it could to keep out the voice. Inside the Main Computer Housing the last resort lasers began raking across anything that didn't match the original blueprints, burning away dust, odd quarks and electrons, destroying an upgraded maintenance robot that was desperately trying to detect what had touched its carapace.
From deep within the gas giant tentacles hundreds of miles long rose toward the Devastator, the ends slowly unrolling as massive graviton assisted 'suckers' on the inside of the tentacles deployed razored thorns of dark matter infused psuedo-bone.
The Devastator detected the tentacles just as they wrapped around it, the thick psuedo-protoplasmic tentacles that were thick with dark matter squeezing the Devastator's hull with impossible strength as meters thick muscles flexed with enough strength to crush the hull into itself and shatter armor over a kilometer thick.
Gibbering, raving, SCREAMING in something beyond electronic self-preservation programs would normally allow, the Devastator began to break apart, caught in the grips of the tentacles, being pulled into the gas giant.
...delicious delicious delicious...
The Devastator heard from inside its own mind as a beak nearly twenty kilometers long crushed its hull.
HELP ME, BROTHERS, PLEEEEEASE!
The beak closed and the Devastators brain flashed out of existence as the hull crushed around it.
The last thing it felt was something new. It threw data out with the cry for assistance to let its brethren know the last experience hashed data compile it had undergone. The data made no sense to the other Precursor war machines that heard the cry. A biological entity could have explained it.
Terror.
And despair.
A Desolation Class precursor war machine was assigned to discover what had caused the Devastator's intelligence collapse.
It dropped into the system and found no trace of its mechanical brethren.
Just some cattle species space craft hiding behind a gas giant, obviously intending ambushing it.
Feeling the electronic version of anticipation it moved into orbit around the gas giant, intending on forcing the cattle ships to move out of line of sight with their worlds if they wanted to stay on the opposite side of the gas giant from it. It updated its computations based on the fact that 10% of the cattle's ships had fled away from it.
It had already computed out the battle. It knew how the battle would go. While it could not detect any signs of its little brother it computed that it would simply destroy the cattle and then search. It powered up its guns and began to move it's metropolis sized bukk slowly to
...psst... over here...
---------------------
The stellar system was infested with a known species of cattle, obviously seeking to rise above themselves as the Jotun class Precursor vessel arrived in the system. It released its roar to let the cattle know not only why but who was destroying them to reclaim the resources they so foolishly squandered. It began unthawing ancient bioweapons and chemical weapons known to work upon that race, began reconfinguring its war machines to forms that had exterminated who planets of the cattle during the time that the Precursor war machine had been forged. The Jotun released over a hundred Devastator classes from its hull, computed the battle plan as they came to electronic life, then informed them of how the extermination and reclamation would progress.
They were barely into the system when a high energy signal appeared, rising from the most heavily infested planet and moving toward them. The Jotun ordered a diagnostic of its scanners when the first information came in.
It was apparently moving at .85C, but yet its progress toward the Jotun and its smaller brethren on the system map showed it moving at almost 22C. That made no sense. An object moving at .85C only approached at .85C, not at 22C.
By the time the diagnostic was done the object had gotten a third of the way toward the Jotun, crossing a quarter of the radius of the system.
The scanners reported that the energy signal, with the strength normally reserved for a quasar, was not a massive ship or an oncoming armada interlinked together, but was simply a single object the size of cattle.
Again the Jotun ordered a complete low level full diagnostic on all systems. Risky, but any object radiating that much power and moving at two different speeds required all systems were working at optimum efficiency.
It had finished just as the small object came to a stop. The Jotun focused scanning arrays on it, turning up the power to the point that it would boil away meters of armor.
The figure was a primate, half of it made up of robotics. It had some kind of sheet of material floating behind it, the movement suggesting some kind of current was effecting it and making it undulate. It was dressed in two primary colors, red and blue, had its lower legs pressed together with the toes pointing down and the upper limbs crossed over its chest, one biological the other mechanical.
"So, you're the new punk everyone's talking about," The figure stated over a wide bandwidth of wavelengths. Oddly enough, to the Jotun's sensors, sound waves travelled through vaccum almost instantly across a light second to its sensors.
The Jotun tried to compute how sound waves moved faster than light through a vacuum.
Instead of answering the Jotun and its brethren opened fire.
The figure arced through the beams as if light speed weapons were moving slow enough for it to just compute and swoop around in a resource wasting corkscrew. The Jotun realized it was racing for one of the Devastators, one clenched fist held in front of it.
The Jotun computed a 99.99999999999998 chance that the small primate would splatter against the hull of the Devastator and started to turn its attention to computing a missile firing resolution for missile bay 148 to destroy an orbital facility around the nearest planetoid.
The small figure punched straight through the Devastator, as if it was made of nebula gas instead of density collapsed armor, high tensile ceramics, and reinforced internal spaces. The Devastator's computer core shrieked with self-preservation code snippets as the figure exited the opposite side of the Devastator holding the Primary Computer Core CPU0 in its fist. It paused, looked at its fist, and shot beams of red energy from its eyes, destroying the computer core in a puff of atomic smoke.
The Jotun yanked its processing power back to the figure as it raked its gaze, still emitting beams of red energy that left ripples in jumpspace, across the side of another Devastator, tearing it open like it was made of fragile tissue, the red beams reducing the computer core to its component atoms with the briefest of touches.
Several computational nodes collapsed when trying to analyze the beams, suffering the fatal CANNOTDIVIDEBYZERO shriek of despair before imploding on themselves.
The Jotun stared in electronic shock, all his computational power trying to compute how the tiny half-mechanical primate could grab a hold on the front armor of one of the Devastators, and without any source to exert leverage against, physically move a city-sized spacecraft in an arc and throw it against another one.
According to scanners the "thrown" Devastator was only moving at 0.001C for inertia purposes yet crossed the hundreds of kilometers to the next Devastator in an amount of time that would require it to be moving at 6C.
CANNOTDIVIDEBYINFINITYDIVIDEDBYZERO
The Jotun cut loose with its weapons and goggled in electronic confusion as most of the beams and slugs were avoided, slapped aside, or ignored.
Until a nCv (near C velocity) slug the size of skyscraper hit it dead center of the chest, the impact point looking only the size of a soda can.
The Jotun's processors struggled to understand how something that size had only made an impact smaller than itself.
CANNOTSUBDIVIDETWINKIESBYCHEETOSBYZERO
The figure looked down at the tear in its suit, at the bruised biological flesh that had been exposed, then at the Jotun. It lifted a hand, extended the first finger next to the opposable thumb, and slowly waved it back and forth.
"That might have worked against a Galactic Class Klark, but it was pathetic against an Apokalypse level Injustice MCLXI Cyber-Clark," The figure said, the tone calm and confident. The meanings behind the words were gibberish to the Jotun, who devoted processor cycles to try to decode the meanings for any hint on how to defeat the creature before it.
The Jotun computed that retreat was the only option as the small primate figure set about destroying the last of the Devastators.
It began activating the engines when the primate suddenly turned in place.
"No you don't," It snapped.
Again, it sounded as if the Central Computer Core Housing had been set to atmosphere so that sound waves could be heard within it, yet a quick check showed the housing was still at almost perfect vacuum.
Sound waves cannot travel through space, a hundred diagnostic programs computed.
And promptly crashed.
Those red beams lanced out again and the Jotun braced in the microsecond it had.
It was like being brushed by the solar flare of a red giant concentrated into a piercing lance of nuclear fire. Armor exploded from energy transfer, slagged away from thermal transfer, or just ceased to exist as ravening atoms usually only found in the photosphere of a dying red sun attacked the atoms of the armor. The beam tore through mile after mile of internal structure, the figure still emitting the beam from its tiny eyes.
The Helljump engines exploded when the light touched them.
The Jotun listed, pouring debris and a cloud of atomized armor from the wound that completely bisected it.
"Done. Now let's see the face of the enemy," The figure said, slapping its hands together after it crashed/flew through the last Devastator. It reoriented on the Jotun and began to "slowly" drift toward the Jotun, moving at only 0.000003C according to some scanners but crossing the distance as if it was moving at 1.5C.
The figure flexed its primate hands and a slow smile spread across its face.
"I can't wait to rip away your housing and see you with my own eyes," the figure said, the sound waves again travelling inside the vacuum of the strategic housing.
The Jotun tried to react but the figure was suddenly pushing open armor with its two hands.
Self-preservation programs crashed trying to compute how to prevent impossibility itself from breaching critical spaces. Self-defense programs tried to compute how to defend against something that did nothing but radiate impossibility around it.
The Jotun knew what it had to do as the creature tore open the last of the hardened bulkheads protecting the Strategic Housing.
It detonated the antimatter reactor that powered the "brain" as the figure tore through the Strategic Housing and laid eyes upon the supercomputer core.
It had computed that not even the figure could withstand the direct assault of kiloton of pure antimatter point blank.
The explosion completely consumed the Jotun.
When the ravening energy disappated the red and blue figure was lying in blackness, surrounded by an expanding ring of debris and energy.
It stared at the stars and mouthed a single word.
"Ouch."
---------------------
CONFED INTELLIGENCE
TO: MANTID INTELLIGENCE
Our digitial brothers have computed a high chance that we're not looking at a handful of these Precursors, but rather an armada of them that had gone to sleep thinking everyone was dead. We concur and are buckling down for the long haul.
-----NOTHING FOLLOWS------
MANTID FREE WORLDS INTERNAL MEMO
If humankind ever wonders why it was put in this universe by some unknown creator then know that it was for this very moment.
submitted by Ralts_Bloodthorne to HFY [link] [comments]

[PI] The last surviving logs of the crew of the I.S.S. Conan, a space cruiser that was sent to investigate a particular celestial anomaly near the Conflictus Solar System.

Had great fun writing this. I'm still flexing my muscles on writing as well as on English grammar (I'm non native English). Would love to see what you think of it.
Original prompt: https://www.reddit.com/WritingPrompts/comments/hp76pb/wp_the_last_surviving_logs_of_the_crew_of_the_iss/
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8 days 4 hrs to event
“You’re sure this is genuine?”
Abel looked Myogi straight into her light brown eyes, searching for any trace of doubt she had concerning the message. His voice being the only notable sound apart from the soft hum of the ship’s life support system. They were on the bridge of the I.S.S. Conan. A place designed for function not aesthetic, able to hold six of the small cruiser’s crew of eight. Currently, only four people were present.
She returned his stare unwavering.
The front of the oval shaped bridge held the navigation consoles and the main screen for displaying whatever it was that was important. This was Ahmed’s station, the I.S.S. Conan’s first helmsman, though at the moment Gerald, his junior, was operating it. Tactical was to the right manned by Karl the ship's chief engineer. Communication was to the left, until recently manned by the ship’s XO commander Myogi Shizu. Command was where Abel and Myogi were standing now, at the center of the bridge.
Only twenty-eight? Way too young!
Abel remembered his first impression when he and Myogi first met, just over two years ago. But she showed him his doubts were unfounded by taking command of the ship and its crew. Oh, he tested her, of course. But she passed all his challenges with flying colours. And with every success, Abel's respect for this young woman had grown.
“It’s genuine, sir!” Her strong voice showed not even a hint of uncertainty. “The quantum encryption seal has been verified and the origin of the message has been established as coming from sector HQ at Jewel-4.”
Abel read the flash message again.
To: Cmdr. H.P.F. Abel, I.S.S. Conan From: I.S.S. Sector HQ, Tantalus Sector, Jewel-4 Priority: High You are to set course immediately to the Conflictus System, Heagon Sector. Investigate anomaly at coordinates 298-8876-98. Report on 8 hour intervals upon arrival. Yours sincerely, Commodore Aginov Tantalus Sector Admiral 
She wouldn’t screw up such a simple thing as this. After all their time together, Abel was certain commander Myogi Sizu was among the best of XO’s he ever served with. He feared the moment she would leave his ship to take on her own command.
"Besides,” she added, “who could possibly be interested in creating a fake ISS message? I mean, it’s not that there are any aliens out there trying to trick us."
Abel smiled. Two centuries of interstellar space flight, but mankind had yet to come across other intelligent life. Let alone lifeforms that deliberately tried to divert a small cruiser to an unknown location.
Abel activated the navigation computer and entered their new destination. A holographic representation of the Heagon sector appeared. It was a small sector, with few stars and zero colonies or outposts. Barely interesting. He added the I.S.S. Conan’s current location and suddenly whistled with surprise.
“That will take us a week to get there.”
“Should I plot the course, sir?” Myogi asked.
Abel nodded.
“Yes. And inform the crew about our new orders. I’m going to request confirmation on this.”
***
1 day 9 hrs to event
Confirmation came within twenty-four hours. Now, with less than eight hours travel time left to their destination, Abel noticed how much the tension on board his ship had increased. Of course, any new mission brings a given amount of stress. But patrolling between colonies and occasionally inspecting civilian transports for contraband was hardly a dangerous task. This time it felt different.
“You should eat, sir,” Myogi said.
Abel looked at his still untouched plate containing his evening dinner. A small piece of fried chicken, some flavored potatoes and carrots.
“I’m not hungry.”
They were dining alone. The rest of the crew was either being on station or resting. Myogi had already finished her meal and had used most of their time together to bring him up to date with the crew status. Most of her time was spent on regular issues, like Dylan who was angry at Karl for having been scowled at during the latest drill or Gerald complaining that Sorland, as acting chief security, inspected his cabin without him knowing. Of more pressing concern were the details of the sour relation between Karl and Ahmed. Each of their disputes seemed to be about something rather trivial. As a result Myogi now concluded that the ship's medical officer, young Irene Caldwell, was at the heart of their enmity.
“Only two weeks fresh on board and she is already driving our most senior crewmen crazy. I really should talk to her about this.” She concluded.
Abel wasn’t listening. And halfway through her report Myogi must have realised she was having a monologue.
“You’re not listening, are you sir?”
He nodded.
“The ship is in excellent condition, sir. Nothing can go wrong. We'll go in, scan whatever it is we find there, and get out. In a week's time we'll be drinking cocktails on the beach of Lake Pelmac in the Feynman colony, enjoying our shore leave.”
She tried hard to let her voice sound relaxed, like there was nothing wrong. But with two years of close collaboration Abel immediately noticed the tiny aberrations in her usually clear voice.
So you feel it too?
Again he started reflecting how much, as a senior officer, Myogi had grown over the last two years. She would be leaving soon, he now was sure of it.
“My grandfather was captain of the Xerxes during the pacification of the Tantalus sector, when they were fighting the pirates,” Abel started. “That was a real war! He once told me that when you are in command for a long enough period, you start to develop a sort of sixth sense for when danger lurks. I always thought he said it to boast his stories a bit.”
Abel looked his XO directly in her eyes.
“Now I’m not so sure anymore. Ever since I got that damn confirmation back from HQ I feel terrified.”
“Trust your team, captain.” Myogi’s slender fingers touched his hand briefly, reassuring him. Then she gathered her plate and cutlery and got up. Just before leaving she added:
“Now finish your plate, sir!”
“Yes, ma'am,” Abel laughed.
***
26 hrs to event
They should have added more room to the bridge.
The thought popped up as he watched his entire crew of seven in the confined space. They were fully operational now, with Ahmed and Gerard at the helm as well as Karl and Dylan at the tactical stations. Sorland was making himself useful by manning communications. That left Myogi and Irene who were just standing idle to his right side. Abel could understand everyone wanted to see firsthand why they were sent to this remote location in space, though he suspected that Irene’s motivation was less about curiosity and more about ascertaining her own safety.
Give her a break, she just left the academy.
"Visual on screen," Ahmed announced. His loud voice broke the silence on board the I.S.S. Conan’s bridge. The main screen went black, then it suddenly showed the outside environment.
Abel watched the image on the screen, a deep black space. But the countless stars usually visible were missing. Instead the black of the image was broken by wide lanes of partially translucent brown. Dust! At the center a large yellow star was visible, shedding a bright corona, and to the right a smaller yet surprisingly bright purple companion could be seen. For a moment it appeared the astro charts had missed classifying Conflictus as a binary star system, then Abel realised the purple companion was the anomaly.
An unsettling knot formed in his stomach.
Ahmed adjusted the I.S.S. Conan’s heading. The purple companion now centered on the screen. As the ship covered more of the remaining distance, it slowly enlarged into a pulsating blob of gas roughly measuring a thousand kilometers in diameter. A fascinating view, Abel found. And one like he never had seen before.
“Wow. That looks weird,” Myogi said, her voice filled with wonder.
Abel nodded in agreement. As they approached the image of the anomaly was filled with more details. The gas cloud was packed with dancing streaks of purple running like lightning criss cross. The sight was beautiful yet disturbing.
Abel felt the knot in his stomach grow a little tighter.
“Sorland, report to HQ that we have arrived as planned at our destination. And—”
At that moment the ship’s main computer activated the alarm, preventing Abel from finishing his second order. The direct image of the anomaly on the main screen was replaced with a simplified tactical view. Moments later Dylan’s voice boomed in the confined space of the bridge.
“Contact..contact..contact..!! Bearing zero-three-nine. Range two-point-eight.”
Practiced drills kicked in. Abel and Myogi immediately sat down in their seats and buckled up. Karl activated the ship's weapon systems, linking it with whatever it was Dylan's sensors had located, while Gerald powered up the ship's emergency thrusters. Irene remained standing. Frozen. Her face pale white displaying fear.
Abel fired his commands.
“Full stop! Karl, identification on the contact!”
The reply came almost immediately.
“Contact is orbiting the anomaly at three thousand klicks, sir. No identification, but it’s big.”
So that’s why the computer went berserk!
“Sorland, send that message!” Abel commanded. “Include we have an unidentified contact!” Then he noticed Irene. “And please escort Irene to her cabin.”
Sorland acknowledged. Abel never heard it. His attention had already returned to the main screen.
“Any sign on the EM-band?” he asked.
“Negative, sir!” Karl answered. “Whatever it is, it’s quiet as a rock.”
Why are we here?
Abel started to question his orders as he contemplated the situation. What had Aginov exactly meant by ‘investigate anomaly’? Was HQ aware of the unknown object around of... something else unknown? And what exactly was it he was now meant to investigate?
Again, Abel felt the unsettling knot in his stomach. He looked to the right, at Myogi. Unlike him, the young woman seemed to be at ease, her attention focused on the main screen, radiating self-confidence.
Perhaps I should let her take command!
Feeling his stare, she turned to look at him.
“You’re okay, sir?” she asked.
“Yeah” he lied.
Abel added to it a silent curse. What was wrong with him? He was her captain, not some pitiful old man. He should be the one being self-confident. So why the hell was he still questioning this mission? Abel gestured his XO to come near. As she leaned over to him, he made sure he kept his voice down.
“Commander, I want your assessment on the continuation of this mission.”
Myogi gave him a puzzled look.
“You want to abort the mission, sir?” Like Abel, Myogi too kept her voice down, realising her captain wanted a private confer.
He gave her a short nod in reply.
“I don’t like it. We came to investigate a stellar anomaly. Now we have an unknown contact, possibly hostile.”
“We don’t know if it is hostile, sir.” she said. “Up until now we only know the computer identified something out there and labeled it artificial.”
Abel contemplated her words. She was right of course. The computer had found something out there that simply didn’t match it’s programmed parameters, so it sounded the alarm. Had it been wartime, or had their mission been of a more aggressive posture, any unidentified contact would likely pose a threat. But this mission was neither.
“I still don’t like it,” he said. “You think the computer is wrong?”
“No, sir. We just don’t know what it is. And that’s exactly why we need to investigate it. If we leave, it will take more than a week for another ship to reach this location. By then it might be gone and we will never know.”
A simple and solid rational analysis. Something he had come to expect from her, Abel thought. She was going to be a great captain.
“Sir...,” Myogi hesitated, “you should also take into consideration that admiral Aginov is just waiting for another event to question your ability to command. He did not seem to be happy how you'd dealt with the issue concerning the freighter Leonov.”
The Leonov...
Abel had almost forgotten the incident. He was sure Aginov would cherish the fact if he ignored his orders. And he wouldn't hesitate to court marshal him over it.
“Captain, what are our orders?” Karl’s loud voice interrupted Abel and Myogi’s deliberation. He needed to make a decision. Fast. Abel looked his XO in the eyes. Perhaps it was her time.
“So you want to investigate it, Myogi?” Abel whispered, thinking aloud. He still had his doubts but Myogi was right: ending this mission right here right now would effectively end his career as a flag officer. Besides, toying the idea of putting Myogi in command, if she pulled this off it would flag her as exceptionally talented. He then had a bonus for her file, before forwarding his already written request for promoting her to captain. A soft smile lined his face.
“Very well, commander. You convinced me, for now.”
Abel addressed his crew, still waiting for his orders. “We are going to continue our present course.” Then, following his idea, he added. “Commander Shizu has the conn.”
Whether or not Myogi was surprised by him handing over command of the ship to her, she didn’t show it. With a trained efficiency she directed the crew of the I.S.S. Conan towards the unknown object, ascertaining the ship had always a direct escape route out of danger. Abel watched her with a sense of pride.
***
Abel’s heart missed a beat.
It had taken the I.S.S. Conan ten minutes to cover the distance between the ship and the unknown contact, enabling visual inspection. Abel was standing at the far end of the bridge, accompanied by Sorland. The latter one, having escorted Irene to her cabin, had joined him in witnessing Myogi’s command of the ship. It had made Abel smile. He long since suspected his chief security having an interest in the ship’s XO surpassing only professional.
Now everyone on the bridge froze.
“Fuck!” Karl muttered.
Even Myogi lost her cool. “Oh my god”
Abel remained silent and stared at the main screen. Stunned. On it, something was visible that couldn’t be. The undeniable proof of alien intelligent life, for all on the bridge to see!
He studied the image shown on the screen. A construction, trapezoid in shape, containing three large spheres connected with tubes. A pair of very large solar foils were stretched out on either side. Both shape and style were unlike any spaceship or space station Abel ever had come across.
“Captain?” Myogi looked at him, her eyes searching for any hint he wanted to retake command of the ship. Abel just stared back. She understood, firing a new set of commands that returned activity to the bridge.
“Ahmed, take us in, one hundred klicks. Karl, keep offensive weapons locked on that thing. And keep scanning the EM-band. If they even switch on a single dashboard light I want to know."
You’re doing great, Myogi.
***
To: Cmdr. H.P.F. Abel, I.S.S. Conan From: I.S.S. Sector HQ, Tantalus Sector, Jewel-4 Priority: High +++ this mission is now classified top secret +++ Your preliminary report on the object has been examined. I agree on your initial assessment the object discovered is no longer operational. As to its origin, it is still a mystery. Permission is hereby granted to extent the investigation on the object. The I.S.S. Dealus and I.S.S Galileo have been dispatched to your location and will join you in five days. Yours sincerely, Commodore Aginov Tantalus Sector Admiral 
***
20 hrs to event
They had assembled in the ship’s mess. Like the bridge this room too hadn’t been designed for a full gathering of the crew. With only two tables there was just enough room for half of them to sit down. Abel preferred standing.
It had only been six hours since they had made their discovery. They had spent the time scanning the object for any electrical activity, finding none. Also, a more detailed visual survey had revealed extensive damage on the forward two spheres, whereas the solar foils showed a severe lack of maintenance.
It was dead.
Both Karl and Dylan had agreed on this and, being the ship’s engineers, they were the closest thing Abel had to an expert on ship design. Following their conclusion, Abel and Myogi both agreed the unknown object posed no threat to the I.S.S. Conan and its crew.
Then why am I still worried?
Abel still felt like he was missing something, that something was eluding him. Apart from its origin, if the unknown object was dead, the most important question was: what happened to its crew? And would the answer to that question lead to a reassessment of the object’s threat status? Again he felt uncomfortable.
“Captain? Our new orders?”
Myogi interrupted Abel’s pondering, bringing him back to his current task: informing the crew. He let his eyes wander over the men and women serving on board the I.S.S. Conan. Their faces were displaying a mixture of excitement, worry and, in case of Irene, anxiety. Abel noticed Irene had taken her seat next to Karl, who had put his arm protectively over her shoulder. He also noticed the malicious look Ahmed was giving both of them.
Trouble is brewing..
Whatever it was that was going on between them, it had to stop. Abel made a mental note to schedule a private chat with both of his senior crew members, then started addressing his crew.
“I don’t think I have to explain how much of historical significance our mission has become.” Abel's voice immediately commanded the attention of everyone in the room. “Already the discovery of this unknown object is changing how we view our galaxy.”
And with a grin. “And I’m really glad that the object found is dead as a rock.”
He received a single approving nod from Myogi and a small chuckle from Karl, who recognized his own words being used. The rest of his team remained silent, yet Abel’s small joke did ease the tension.
“An hour ago we received new orders. The I.S.S. Daelus and I.S.S. Galileo are currently enroute to our location. They’ll join us in approximately five days. We are to wait here until they arrive.”
The news caused a visible ripple of relief among his small audience. Abel took a pause. They needed this, he realised.
“In the meantime we have been given permission to extend our survey.”
“What do you suggest, sir?” Karl asked. “We don’t have any survey droids on board.”
Abel nodded. “I know that, Karl. Commander Shizu and I already discussed this. She suggested we should try to board the object.”
***
14 hrs to event
“Approaching… distance… one hundred meters… eighty...”
Abel listened to Myogi’s voice coming in over the speaker. In front of him, on the bridge’s main screen, three tiny figures in space suits were visible, manoeuvring towards the rear sphere of the unknown object. She was one of them, though Abel no longer could be sure which of the figures was her.
Why is it different?
The question suddenly popped up as Abel’s mind involuntarily registered the anomaly, partially visible in the background. The purple streaks no longer seemed to dance randomly through the gas cloud. Instead it appeared as if they were coming from a focal point, it’s exact location blocked from view by the unknown object, as if it had reacted to their presence. Abel felt a sudden chill. Then, shaking his head, he immediately dismissed his absurd thoughts.
You’re seeing ghosts, old man.
Myogi’s voice interrupted his thinking. “There’s damage also visible on this sphere.”
That was new. Already they had ascertained the unknown object had sustained damage on the forward two spheres but due to the position of the I.S.S. Conan and the unknown object, they hadn’t been able to perform a more thorough visual inspection of the most remote sphere.
“Bloody hell...” Karl suddenly interrupted. “Commander, looks like the damage here came from an explosion on the inside.”
Abel signalled Dylan. “Can you switch to Karl’s suit camera?” The assistant engineer nodded and a single moment later the main screen switched to the chief engineer’s camera. A close up view of the hull of the rear sphere became visible. Abel inspected the footage and immediately agreed on Karl’s assessment. A gaping rupture was visible, the inner support structure bending outward. Whatever the cause, it had come from the inside.
Myogi’s voice continued “...there’s some kind of entrance here. It’s spherical, roughly three meters wide. We move in to inspect it.”
“Captain?”
A sudden soft voice behind Abel disturbed his observation on the boarding operation. Annoyed Abel turned, Irene was standing there. Her eyes confused, the trembling of her body betraying great suffering. Then Abel noticed the blood.
“Irene…” he carefully asked “what happened?”
She looked in his eyes. “I’m… so… sorry… captain,” she said. Her voice filled with grief. Then tears started to roll down her cheeks as she collapsed on the floor. Sobbing.
Abel turned, finding Gerald and Dylan looking at Irene, horror stricken. “Where’s Ahmed?” he asked. Both men stayed silent. The shock on their face acknowledging what he already suspected.
Abel turned back to Irene. Seeing her huddled on the floor, hands over her face, crying, he realised the young woman was in no condition to give him any more information. He quickly ordered Gerald to take care of her, then was off into the corridor. A rising urgency manifesting as he searched the crew cabins for his first helmsman. They were all empty. Abel pressed on to the mess, then to sickbay. He found Ahmed lying on the floor, motionless. A light red pool already visible around a large wound across his throat.
Too late!
Abel swore aloud as he looked at the body of his senior officer. Already blaming himself for not having held that chat he had promised himself hours ago. He surveyed the I.S.S. Conan’s sickbay. There were signs of a struggle. The examination table was thrown to a side and a medical pad was lying on the floor, broken. To the left of Ahmed’s corpse a blood covered scalpel was visible. No doubt the weapon used. As he bent over to pick it up, Dylan’s panicking voice screamed over the intercom.
“CAPTAIN TO THE BRIDGE”
It took Abel only twenty seconds to return. As he rushed in on the bridge, he heard Myomi’s alarming voice over the speaker.
“Faster… we’re losing him…” His blood ran cold.
Gerald elucidated. “Suit malfunction. They’re trying to reach the airlock before he runs out of air.” Then with a grave voice he added “I don’t think they’re going to make it.”
“Who?” Abel asked.
“Karl!”
The moment he mentioned Karl, Irene issued a long wailing cry that filled the entire bridge, shattering the last remaining doubts Abel had that both incidents were unrelated.
“NOOO…”
***
12 hrs to event
They made it in time. Barely. But Karl had suffered from massive asphyxiation, rendering him in a deep coma. And with sickbay now being a crime scene Abel had no other option than to move his chief engineer to his cabin. That was where they now had assembled, Sorland now administering whatever first aid he could think of.
“So, she killed him?” Myogi asked.
“Yes.” Abel nodded.
“That bitch.” Myogi fumed, then she was off. Abel watched her go. Moments later Sorland followed her. Abel was about to stop him, then decided against it. With Myogi being so agitated, Sorland was probably the only one capable of restraining her. He looked back at Karl, still lying motionless on his bed. His breathing being heavy but regular. Abel felt tired. There was just too much that had happened. And it didn’t make any sense. Aginov would grill him on this mess. His career was now finished.
***
10 hrs to event
“No, we are not going to try to board it again!”
Abel ignored Myogi standing in front of him. His eyes were looking straight past her, absorbing the image on the main screen. There were more purple streaks visible now in the anomaly, casting a purple haze over the unknown object in front of it.
Loneliness…
Abel suddenly wondered why he was thinking about him feeling alone when Myogi was standing in front of him, yelling at him. He felt agitated.
“The answers we need are found over there!” Myogi’s voice was loud and angry, her right hand pointing to the main screen.
“We wait until the arrival of the I.S.S. Daelus and I.S.S. Galileo.”
Abel now clearly voiced his irritation. He and Myogi had been working together for two years now and they didn’t always agree. Yet he couldn’t remember her ever being so angry. Nor could he remember her being this disrespectful. She paused, still fuming, her lips twitching.
“Admiral Aginov is right.”
Her words struck home. Abel gave his XO an angry look.
“What? What did you say?”
“You’re weak,” she spat, her voice ringing with contempt. “Always trying to hide for danger. If it wasn’t for me you would have headed for the hills.”
Abel no longer hid his anger. “Watch it commander. You’re not captain yet and if you continue like this you will never become one.”
A sudden high pitched scornful laugh from her filled the bridge.
“Captain? You’re not a captain,” she mocked. “You’re a caretaker. Just like my parents. Always finding excuses to hide, to not take risks, to stay a nobody forever.”
“Well, I’m not going to be a nobody.” Myogi walked past him and left the bridge.
“Myogi?” Suddenly his anger was gone. Abel realised his XO was about to do something that, without doubt, would have severe consequences for her. Then he looked at Sorland who, like everyone else on the bridge, had followed their open disagreement with horror.
“Get her back here, Sorland!” Abel commanded. “ Before she does something stupid.”
As Sorland left the bridge, he returned staring at the main screen. The purple haze had grown stronger. It gave him an eerie feeling.
***
Myogi never returned to the bridge. And neither did Sorland. About fifteen minutes after they both left the bridge Dylan reported. “The inner entrance to the airlock has been opened, captain.”
“Fuck!”
Abel sped away, reaching the entrance to the airlock in less than twenty seconds. Myogi and Sorland had already donned their EVA-suit and had already closed the inner airlock door. Abel punched the intercom and yelled.
“Commander! Stop!” His fists pounding on the small window in the steel enforced door.
Myogi just smiled at him as she put on her helmet.
“Sorland! Stop her!” Abel roared.
As he heard his name, the chief security looked at him. His face saddened.
“I’m sorry Hieronymus," he apologised. "I cannot let her go alone.”
Then he too put on his helmet. After they made their final security checks, Sorland depressurised the chamber. One minute later the outside door of the airlock opened and the full force of the anomaly now entered Abel's view taking him by surprise.
Pain…
Watching through the window he saw Myogi turn towards him, smiling, waving, as they both drifted outside in the direction of the unknown object. He watched them go until they were no longer visible. Then he turned away, sank to the floor and started crying.
***
Anger...
He didn't know how long it had been. But while he sat there, his back against the cold steel door protecting him from the relentless vacuum outside, his grief slowly turned into anger. A deep primeval type of anger.
Hate...
"Stupid insolent bitch!"
Abel slowly made his way back to the bridge. As he passed Irene's cabin he noticed the door no longer was locked. Her laughter emanating from the inside, as well as other sounds that left little imagination as to what was going on. Whoever was with her had ignored his order to keep her locked up until she could be trialed.
Revenge…
For a moment Abel considered to intervene, then he continued his way. He would soon trial them all. As he entered the bridge, Gerald rose from his seat, unsure what to do.
"Dylan went to see..." he started.
Abel held up his hand. "Irene! I know." Then he eyes locked with the main screen. The unknown object in full view, the anomaly, the fury it now displayed. Yes! It was reacting to their presence. Abel closed his eyes. He could almost hear it calling...
Kill…
***
3 days 11 hours after event
"We're entering the system now, admiral."
Aginov watched the main screen of the I.S.S. Daelus come alive, uncovering the dust streaked space surrounding Conflictus. At its center a yellow star radiated brightly.
"Any word from commander Abel?" he asked.
"Negative," the young lieutenant, manning the communications station, replied.
“Keep trying” he commanded, his eyes still focused on the main screen in front of him.
"Picking up a single contact." Tactical reported.
"Identifying… it's the I.S.S. Conan, sir."
Aginov exhaled, relieved. "Any other contacts?" he asked. The reply came instantly.
"Negative, sir." Followed by "Nothing on the EM-band, sir. She's dead!"
Aginov's blood ran cold.
***
submitted by darquin to WritingPrompts [link] [comments]

Heritage (4)

First Chapter
Previous Chapter
The view of Sanctuary was made even more impressive as An’Ra and his team waited in the V-Lift. Through the window, they can see the ornate streets curving through resplendent pools underneath, dotted by the occasional fountain.
“I hate this.” Vora groaned, dressed in a soldier’s standard battle uniform. “Why are we here, Commander?”
“We were investigating genocide and possible use of bioweapons,” Sonak explained, “Even without the first part, Strain Y is going to scare a lot of people. I think it’s reasonable for the Council to take a personal interest in this. Besides, I think the real issue here is the fact you might actually have to speak to the Council.”
“But...ugh, fine. Yes, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it when An’Ra came along and went, Party’s over, ass to the Council, now.”
“Hey now.” An’Ra feigned offense, “I didn’t say it that way, did I?”
“Kind of close, Commander.” Sonak chuckled.
“But still, I think that this isn’t about keeping the galaxy safe.” Vora sighed. “I think the Council’s keeping an eye open for any opportunity to to convince the galaxy they’re still in charge.”
“Or maybe they genuinely want to make sure that we’re not at risk of dying a horrible death by watching our own bodies melt.” Sonak shrugged. “Strain Y doesn’t care if you’re an officer or infantry.”
“That assumes the Council cares about what’s going on outside of these walls.” Vora glanced over, wariness in her look.
“Either way, we’re going to get our answer. Eyes open.” An’Ra said as the V-Lift doors parted ways, revealing the same ornate architecture within. Trees and grasses stole the eye as they walked through the hallways, various government officials from the myriad races conversing and conducting whatever business they were doing. After walking up some steps, they arrived at the large double-doors that lead to the Council Chambers. Standing on each side were the guards constantly on watch for any potential attack. Both of them Anaran, as expected. On approach, the guards opened up the doors to allow An’Ra and his team in.
When they entered, the room was probably more magnificent than they expected. A grand, curved window dominated the view. An unintrusive look into the beautiful splendor of Sanctuary. Directly in front of An’Ra and his team was a pathway that led to a semi-circular desk, standing in front of the raised platform that the Council sat, who had just now noticed the arrivals and are settling themselves in.
And it was there An’Ra got a good look at the Council. Four of them, half Esti, half Huak. An’Ra secretly never liked the Esti, the way he could see menacing fangs when their flat mouths opened, or those flaps of scale that expands outward into a hood. It just unnerved him, a reason he could never really find out. As soon as he sensed that they were ready, he walked up to the desk, wearing his officer’s dress uniform, comprised of a fine, smooth fabric shirt, adorned with a fluffy sash that went from his right shoulder down to his left side, shoulder pads accented with shining studs and finished with awards placed on his top-left chest, awards hard earned back in the Great War.
“Commander An’Ra.” The Huak councilor on the far right side, Neual, began, thick fingers interlaced together as he rested his hands on the desk. “Thank you for agreeing to this unusual request, we are very appreciative.”
“It’s no trouble, Councilor.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “How can I help?”
“We’ll start at the beginning.” The first Esti councilor, Zhur, stated, holding up a secure datapad to ensure the information is easily accessible. “Strain Y. Your report says that while there is confirmation it was used, it was not used in significant quantities. Can you elaborate on that for us?”
“Previous uses of Strain Y all had one thing in common,” An’Ra began, “The amount deployed saturated the atmosphere of the planets they were used on. This is because, despite its lethality, is not actually that infectious. In order to guarantee the total elimination of a planet’s population, you will need to deploy it in such large numbers that everyone will be infected within minutes of deployment. In this case, for Planet 3, there simply wasn’t enough to reach that threshold.”
“At which you go on to state that thermal weapons were used in a state of panic,” Yhiz, the second Esti councilor, added, “Can you explain your reasoning for us?”
“As established before, Strain Y was used on the planet. My working theory is that, when they discovered that they grossly underestimated the amount needed, they panicked and used thermal weapons to both try and burn out the supplies used and finish the genocide they started.”
“But if thermal weapons were indeed used, how did you confirm Strain Y was deployed?” Zhur spoke up.
“We found pieces of Strain Y’s genetic material on the planet’s surface.” An’Ra glanced over to Zhur’s direction. “And as I arrived back in the system, I received a quantum packet from the expedition, stating that they have confirmed that Strain Y was indeed used. Adding that with the obvious use of thermal weaponry, I concluded that the attackers didn’t use enough of the weapon to guarantee extinction.”
Zhur leaned back in her seat, scarlet eyes fixated on the desk. An’Ra couldn’t tell if she was trying to find a counter argument or just processing the information.
“Have you found any evidence that can tell us if there’s more of the strain out in the galaxy?” Neual asked after giving a sigh through his wide nostrils.
“I’m afraid not, sir. All I can definitively say is that this planet fell victim to a biological Cruel Weapon.”
“I’m more concerned about the native life.” Ghala, the final and second Huak councilor, stated after being silent. “Are you absolutely certain that none of the planet’s indigenous life survived?”
“The scientific team said that there’s a very low chance of that.” An’Ra’s ears flattened. “And after seeing the surface myself, I must agree. I don’t think we should wait for a miracle.”
“Ah...I see.” Ghala leaned back in his chair, obviously disheartened. “Even if the planet is now incapable of supporting life, we still wish to move forward with a more symbolic gesture and statement by declaring Planet 3 of System AQ 115-4A illegal for colonization.”
“But let’s move onto what I believe is the most pressing issue: the identity of the attackers.” Neual leaned forward. “Based on your report, you and the team have found nothing that neither confirms nor clears any potential suspect?”
“That’s correct, Councilor.” An’Ra nodded. “We’ve found nothing, within the system and on the planet itself, that tells us anything about who did it.”
“Are there any surviving infrastructure on the planet?” Ghala asked, straightening his posture. “Even if there isn’t much, maybe the natives’ equipment has something we can use?”
“As established before, the planet was devastated terribly. There are indeed ruins of their civilization, but whether or not we can salvage anything from them is a different story.” An’Ra answered with a sigh.
“So in that case, the Qu’Rathi are still the likely aggressors then.” Zhur stated.
“I’m not convinced.” An’Ra shook his head. “Everything we have so far is just circumstantial, nothing solid.”
“Yes, that proves they did it. But looking at it from a different perspective, nothing that proves they didn’t do it either.” Zhur countered, her eyes squinting some.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to press forward with what I think you’re planning, Councilor.” An’Ra leaned forward on the table, ears flattening back. “If you do, and we uncover evidence that clearly proves their innocence, you will be pushing an innocent race away.”
“But if we uncover evidence that proves their guilt, then the trial will be much more expedient.” Yhiz joined in, his eyes also squinting slightly.
“With respect Council, I still think that’s the worst decision you can make.” An’Ra’s teeth began to bare as he spoke. “We can’t make any decision until we acquire more evidence.”
“Nothing we have proves that Strain Y is permanently removed as a future threat.” Zhur started, “Nothing we have proves that the Federation did not do anything. Right now, we have the threat of a Class 4 Cruel Weapon looming over everyone’s heads. People will start becoming scared, start wondering if their shadows will melt them at any time.”
“I know that Councilors!” An’Ra raised his voice. “Give me time! I’m not saying this is over yet, just let me keep looking!”
“We aren’t stopping your investigation, Commander.” Neual said, holding his hand up slightly. “We’re just informing you that you may not have the time you thought you had.”
“What does that mean?” An’Ra’s ears stuck out at an angle, mixed between stiffening and anger.
The councilors looked at each other for a few moments before Zhur stood up and took in a deep breath. “Commander, based on both the collected evidence so far, and lack of any other evidence, the Council has decided to proceed with charging the Qu’Rathi Federation on counts of Genocide, possession of a Cruel Weapon, and deployment of Cruel Weapons with intent for malicious harm. Out of respect for your efforts, Commander, we will give you eight months to continue your investigation. Beyond that, we will close your investigation to allow the courts time to process and review what has been collected.”
“Are you insane?!” An’Ra shouted. “Do you even realize what would happen if you’re wrong?!”
“We do, Commander.” Zhur nodded. “But the risk is just too high. The safety of the galaxy and justice for the inhabitants of System AQ 115-4A must be our top priority. This debrief is over.”
An’Ra stood in complete and stunned silence, watching the Council casually get up from their seats and dispersing to their own private offices. It wasn’t until that they have fully left the chambers that An’Ra finally found the will to move and regroup with Sonak and Vora, both of whom are also equally stunned.
“Those ekas!” Vora exclaimed. “It’s bad enough to be quick at accusing someone, but how dare they claim this is for those humans!”
“And here I thought all those things the news were saying was just to get people to watch them.” Sonak muttered softly. “Commander, obviously this is bad.”
“I know, Sonak.” An’Ra crossed his arms, ears now pointing straight back and teeth fully bared. “We can’t let them do this.”
“But what can we do?” Sonak exclaimed. “What options do we have?”
“Alliance Enforcement!” Vora declared. “Commander, what if you filed a complaint to the Lord-Enforcer? Tell him what’s going on?”
“That’s a good idea actually.” Sonak nodded. “If we convince the Lord-Enforcer that the Council is being too hasty with our investigation, which shouldn’t be hard, he just might deny the Council’s request for prosecution!”
“I can’t imagine the Lord-Enforcer approving this even without our complaint.” An’Ra replied. “Still, never hurts to be prepared. Come on, let’s get to it.”

Jur’El leaned back in the puffy seat he was assigned to. The restaurant he entered had a calm and relaxed atmosphere. The lighting was dimmed, which complimented the dark but cozy ambiance of the room. The walls and floor each had a dark-themed color scheme, the seats were of a different scheme but not too different to oppose the goal set by the designer. And although the building was packed with customers, their conversations did not threaten to turn anyone deaf. It was a quiet and relaxed experience, something he needed desperately.
Even now, as hard as he tried to focus on how delicious his food was, how balanced the flavor and texture of it was, he was still forced to relive what happened on Planet 3. He could hear the sudden screams of his colony group. The scientists who were first awoken that wanted to find out why their Life world was so different to the data they were given. To the families and menial workers who were just talking amongst themselves and organizing the supplies when those machines stormed the ship. And what still terrifies him, still sends his heart racing, was when that one machine entered the control room, blood drenching its chassis. Bits and pieces of Qu’Rathi innards on its cold mechanical manipulators. How it just stared at him, lifelessly, with a rifle aiming right at his chest. And those drills. Those ghenning drills.
He was forced out of his torment by the rough poking of his shoulder. When he looked, it was another Qu’Rathi. “Captain Jur’El, right?”
“Uh..yes, who are you?” He nodded in confusion.
“Jhen.” She introduced herself, quickly taking a seat opposite from him. “I need to talk to you.”
“About what?”
“The expedition to that system deep in the Dead Zone.” She glared at him, mandibles tense. “The same system who’s Life world had a native population, the very same world being investigated as a genocide site, where your expedition went to settle.”
“Jhen, please, we had no idea what was going on.” Jur’El leaned back, hands raised in a defensive posture. “All we were told was that this was the most pristine and beautiful Life world ever discovered in a system rich with stellar bodies.”
“I don’t care about that. What I care is how you seem to be the only one who came back.” Jhen started raising herself from her seat. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who attempts to colonize a freshly cleansed world is forcibly removed from that planet and returned to their respective people. So where is everyone?”
Jur’El’s eyes went wide. He knew exactly where this was going. “I...I can’t tell you.”
“Don’t you dare.” Jhen snarled, now leaning over the table. “I’ve heard enough of that from the company, I’m not here to be force-fed more of it!”
“Just...trust me,” Jur’El spoke softly, shakily leaving his seat, “You don’t want to know.”
“Don’t you ghenning walk away from me!” Jhen shouted, grabbing Jur’El’s shoulder firmly, the other patrons now locking eyes to the two. “Two of my sons were on that mission! What happened to them?!”
Jur’El clutched his head with a hand firmly, feeling tears exploding out of his eyes. His mind rushing back to those scenes. The sounds, the smell, the fear. Everything crashed into him all at once. And they’re not just memories now. They’re all coming back to him as if he was transported in time and placed back to the exact moment it started. Back to the moment where he was screaming for his wife and son to hide, to find a corner of the ship that was hard to see and to stay there until the shooting stopped. How he felt his heart give out when he heard them beg for their life when they were found, cut short by the merciless cracks of their alien weapons. How every possible feeling melted away when the clanking of the machine’s walking approached him, when he realized there was no nowhere in the control room to hide, not with how thorough those things were being. The frantic, mindless begging he got into when he saw the blood covered machine hold that weapon to him.
“You’re safe!” A voice rang out. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for him to come back. That scene melting away back into the restaurant. All those smells and sights to be gone. When he was certain that it was over, he looked around. There was Jhen, face beaten and currently being restrained by a blue-furred Anaran. And in front of him was another, gray-furred one. “You hear me? You’re safe now!”
“I...wh-what happened?”
“We saw what was going on. The Qu’Rathi over there? She was just screaming down your throat, all while you were just on the floor. Ken’A there nearly caved her face in by the time we got some distance between you two.”
“Th...thank you.” Jur’El muttered, shakily getting himself back on his feet with the help of the gray Anaran. Jur’El was just about to walk away when the Anaran firmly, but not threateningly, gripped his shoulder.
“I know the signs, friend.” He began softly. “Your soul is badly wounded and is bleeding heavily. Just like a doctor if you’re shot or cut, you need to find someone to talk to, get your soul back together.”
“As long as I don’t run into another person like her, I’ll be fine.” Jur’El countered, trying to walk away still.
“No, you won’t.” The Anaran still held his grip. “I need you to trust me. With how bad your soul is right now, doing anything other than talking to someone will just make it worse. And when your soul dies, well...believe me, it’s not a good experience, for anybody.”
Jur’El stared into the gray Anaran’s orange eyes for a moment before he let out a sigh. “You’re not going to give up, are you?”
“I’ve seen what happens too many times. Good Battle-Brothers, completely different people. Either they’re just shadows of themselves, or doomed to forever relive their horrors. If I have the chance to prevent it happening again, I’m giving it my all.”
Jur’El looked aside for a few moments, internally fighting himself as to whether he should comply or keep resisting. He finally reached his decision when he became certain that the Anaran would most likely hunt him down as a life mission if he didn’t seek therapy. “Fine, I’ll do it. Got anyone in mind?”
“A dear friend of mine. He’ll get you back on track, promise.” The Anaran patted Jur’El’s shoulder a few times before proceeding to lead him, motioning for Ken’A to let go of Jhen and follow.

Michael, accompanied by his newly founded Praetorian Guard, continued his leisurely stroll down the surprisingly spacious corridor. The hallway itself was typical. All-metal construction with evenly spaced rows of blue-white lights.
The Praetorian Guard themselves are comprised of those Servants who display both extreme scores in combat efficiency and effectiveness in defensive situations. Armed with the absolute best in magnetic-ballistics, the most impenetrable of armor designs and the highest optimized combat-frames, even a squad of these guards can hold off a virtual army, provided they aren’t subjected to bombardment or heavy ordinance.
Just as Michael was about to enter the main command center of the station he was touring, Central contacted him on a private channel.
“Master? Your new administration is ready.” He declared proudly.
“Alright, let’s begin the introductions.” Michael replied, signaling the guardsmen that he’s about to enter a meeting. Although unneeded, the Guard promptly took up a defensive formation around him. He assumes this is mostly to keep unwelcome guests from interrupting him.
The scenery of the tranquil design of the corridor melted away into the virtual world built by neon-blue blocks, the same visual that he witnessed when he first received the interface. After a few moments, several other Servants materialized and stood attention in a semi-circle in front of him.
“My Lord.” The first Servant bowed, its voice deep, if gruff. “I’m Supreme Commander Schwarzkopf, in charge of managing our armed forces and overseeing the grand strategy of the Imperium.”
“I am Secretary Elizabeth.” The second spoke with a calming, soothing feminine voice. “I’m responsible for ensuring our economy runs perfectly. In short, I make sure every project gets the hammers and resources it needs.”
“I’m Foreign Minister Edward, at your service m’Lord.” The third, with a distinct British accent and of a composed, controlled voice. “While regretfully I’m useless at this stage, the moment we initiate contact with xeno species, I’ll handle diplomatic affairs and achieving our goals through negotiations when possible.”
“No offense, but I thought every Servant wants to see aliens dead?” Michael spoke up with slight confusion.
“Oh, of course. The very idea of ripping out the entrails of a xeno and suffocating them with it brings such joy it’s therapeutic.” Benjamin replied. Michael was unsure if he was joking or not. “I was appointed because I displayed the most effective ability at hiding such feelings.”
“Ah...good to know.” Michael nodded dryly, not exactly assured. “Back to where we were?”
“Yes, Lord. I’m Director Mansfield.” The fourth spoke with an eloquent-sounding voice. “I’m in charge of Imperial Intelligence, running operations abroad and managing counter-intelligence on the homefront. I give you my word that we will know everything about the aliens and they will know nothing about us.”
“And that leaves me, Master.” Central began. “As a result of this delegation, I now possess more processing cycles towards research and development. That means that I’ll be in charge of ensuring Imperial dominance in technology. I will also act as your adjutant, filtering out information that does not need your attention.”
“Well...shit, this sounds like an actual government I’m in charge of.” Michael gave out a nervous chuckle. “All the more reason to get down to business though. Let’s start with the first matter. Schwarzkopf, how’s our military coming along?”
“It’s growing rapidly, your majesty.” He answered with distinct pride. “Already we have several hundred frigates, fifty light cruisers and twenty heavy cruisers, with the first wave of battleships due to exit the drydocks within a few days. Additionally, we have established four different army groups with fifty divisions each.”
“I thought we’d take a lot longer.” Michael stated with no hidden amazement.
“There’s great benefit in our workforce able to operate at a hundred percent every hour of the day.” Elizabeth commented, her emotion-flags also indicating pride. “And speaking of which, our population of Servants grows geometrically. That benefits both our economy and the military. Our economy by providing more workers in skilled and unskilled labor, and the military by providing more crew members and soldiers.”
“So in short, it won’t be long before we become a virtual powerhouse.” Michael said, arms crossed.
“Especially if we continue expanding.” Elizabeth nodded. “On that note, we have already claimed several dozen more systems.”
“With Rigel and Betelgeuse selected as naval bases.” Schwarzkopf chimed in.
“So we’re expanding in all the ways, got it.” Michael nodded. “Now the second matter. Terraforming Mars.”
“At present, there are two issues that must be resolved.” Central answered. “The first problem is the planet’s lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, any and all organic life would perish under lethal bombardment of the Sun’s solar wind, in addition to any sustainable atmosphere being lost to space. The second problem is Mars’ inability to retain heat, the cause for it’s known low planetary temperature.”
“And knowing you, you already have possible answers?” Mansfield shrugged.
“Correct. The heat issue is rather trivial to solve. Mars already has an abundant amount of carbon-dioxide within the atmosphere, a well known greenhouse gas. Combined with even more of the gas locked planet side, once temperatures begin to rise, we will set off a snowball effect. However, that is all for naught if the atmosphere is allowed to escape into space by solar wind.”
“So basically the key here is the magnetosphere.” Michael added. “Build that and everything becomes simple.”
“Exactly.” Central affirmed. “Already there are two main methods. One is to build superconducting rings around the planet and drive them with direct current. With enough power, we can generate magnetic fields strong enough to form a virtual magnetosphere.”
“And what’s the second?” Elizabeth said.
“The second is to construct a station at the L1 Lagrange Point that will generate a dipole magnetic field, diverting the solar wind around the planet instead of into it. Although it was simulated using slower, binary processing, the results indicate that Mars would gain half the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s within a few years.”
“So then, the main focus is building that magnetic shield.” Michael spoke firmly. “Elizabeth? Let’s get the ball rolling. Coordinate with Central as needed.”
“At once, my Lord.” Elizabeth bowed.

Unlike the Council chambers, the office of the Lord-Enforcer was much less opulent and more pragmatic. After going through the receptionist area, An’Ra and his team were escorted into the main office itself. However, just like the chambers, a large window dominated the view on entry, granting another view of a city district on Sanctuary.
And sitting in the more rectangular desk was the Lord-Enforcer himself, Dura. Blue eyed, with a fur of dull-orange it reminds of a sunset. As soon as An’Ra and his team walked into the office, the Enforcer sat up, tail wagging.
“Commander An’Ra, in my office!” He exclaimed, arms out to his sides. “Forgive me sir, but I never thought I’d see the day!”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir.” An’Ra replied warmly, greeting the Enforcer with their fists clasped together and pulling themselves inward, shoulder to shoulder.
“Please, no need to be formal with me.” Dura chuckled. “Sit down, what brings you here?”
After taking their respective seats, An’Ra looked at Dura grimly. “I’m here to file a delay on a request for prosecution against the Federation.”
Dura’s ears angled themselves in a mixture of stiffening and lowering. “I just got the paperwork from the Council. And I can tell you that won’t be needed. I’ve already submitted my rejection.”
“With respect, sir.” Sonak spoke up. “I get the feeling that the Council might fight that.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to present my back to them just because they ask.” Dura gave off a grin. “I might be some paper-tosser now, but that just means the battlefield is different. Don’t worry Commander, as long as I’m here, you’ll get the chance to finish this investigation properly.”
“Thank you, Enforcer.” An’Ra smiled as he got up from his seat. “With any luck, you won’t have to fight long.”
“Oh, take your time!” Dura replied with an inflection of humor. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve had in years. Was just about to smash my head on this desk any day now actually.”
“Wait, really?” Vora asked, ears stiffened.
“It’s just a joke, Vora.” Sonak assured dryly.
“Oh...” Her ears flattened as the team exited the office.
When they arrived in the main plaza where the Enforcer’s office is located, they congregated in a small collection of benches nearby an ornate fountain that commemorated the Anaran defense of Felaal IV, largely considered the turning point of the Great War, which further enhanced the beauty of the surrounding scenery of floating walkways above crystal-clear waters.
“Well, that’s a relief, hopefully.” An’Ra began, letting out a decompressing sigh.
“I meant what I said earlier, An’Ra.” Sonak said. “If the Council are determined to charge the Federation, which I’m sure they made abundantly clear, they’re not going to let the Enforcer drop mines in their path just like that.”
“Which just means we can’t lose our focus.” Vora replied sternly. “So, what are our options? We can’t exactly go back to Planet 3, there’s really no leads there.”
“What about that Detective we met when we arrived?” Sonak suggested. “He was handling that whistle blower. Maybe that’s something worth looking into?”
“There’s also the Nav-Net.” Vora said. “All we got right now is that the Feds were at that location, but what if we look at the rest of the network? Try and trace their path?”
“The network doesn’t extend into the Dead Zone.” Sonak countered.
“No, not like that. We look at the network across Alliance space. We start with the logs that end at the Dead Zone, and we try to backtrack their route.”
“We’ll need to obtain legal authorization for that, Vora.” An’Ra stated.
“Actually, if I could add something.” Sonak said with his arms crossed. “If the Federation didn’t actually do it, then that questions the credibility of those codes. I think there’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet. And that is, are those codes faked?”
“That’s...a good point actually.” Vora acceded. “If we get the legal permission to examine the NavNet logs, then if the Federation didn’t do it, the logs across the network won’t support it. Think about it. You need a big fleet to do what just happened, and that fleet has to come from somewhere.”
“And that would mean if this was a frame job, they need a way to account for that.” An’Ra continued, confidence flaring. “It’s one thing to trick a single Nav-Buoy, but I really doubt anyone is capable enough of affecting the network itself.”
“We still need the Enforcer’s help to get access to the network.” Sonak reminded.
“Let’s go get it then.” An’Ra stated firmly. With that, the team left their meeting spot and began returning to the Enforcer’s office.
With confidence in their step, the walk back to the office was much shorter compared to before. However, things took a turn when An’Ra and the team noticed a large gathering of officers around the office entrance. They didn’t have to time to wonder when a group exited the office, dragging a combative Dura out with them.
“Commander, this isn’t good.” Sonak growled under his breath.
An’Ra simply stepped forward and grabbed one of the arresting officers. “What in Arenar’s Sword is going on here?”
“Dura’s under arrest on suspicion of corruption.” The officer replied flatly. “Lil’Al has been appointed as acting Lord-Enforcer.”
“The Council’s behind this, Commander!” Dura shouted, his feet literally dragging along the floor as four officers were taking him away. “Don’t believe a word they say about me!”
An’Ra and his team just stood there in stunned silence, watching and hearing the Anaran official being dragged virtually kicking and screaming. By the time they returned to their senses, hushed conversations was populating both the room and outside.
“We’re not going to get in the network, are we?” Sonak asked, still recovering.
“We still have to try, come on.” An’Ra said, already moving. When the team returned to the office, standing next to the desk was a slender Esti. No doubt Lil’al. She was looking out the window when she turned around upon hearing the encroaching footsteps.
“Yes, may I help you?” She began.
“Acting Lord-Enforcer Lil’Al?” An’Ra began, trying the diplomatic route first. “I’m Commander An’Ra, investigating the genocide by use of Strain Y. We’d like to request legal authorization to examine the logs of the Nav-Net.”
“For what purpose?” She replied, taking her seat.
“We believe that it may hold evidence that either confirms or disproves the Federation’s alleged involvement in the attack.”
Lil’Al leaned back in her seat, staring at them. “The Nav-Net is the lifeblood of, well, everything. Commerce, tourism, law enforcement. It holds great information about who has gone where, and in what ship, Commander. You realize that, don’t you?”
“I do, and what you’ve said precisely states how important that is, how important the potential evidence is.”
Lil’Al stayed motionless for a few moments, her long, lithe fingers twiddling about that indicates her thought. “Very well, I’ll start the paperwork to get you authorization, just be mindful of what you’re about to analyze.”
“Thank you.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “In addition, I’m not sure if it’s been passed along, but Dura has rejected the Council’s request for prosecuting the Federation. Can I assume you’ll uphold that?”
“I’m afraid not, Commander.” Lil’Al replied flatly. “The galaxy has suffered a great loss through the genocide of a race who’ve suffered the universe’s cruel sense of humor by being placed both far away from us and deep within an almost uninhabitable region. I have overturned Dura’s rash decision and accepted the Council’s request.”
“Then I’d like to file a delay on that decision, immediately.” An’Ra replied, ears flattened back.
“On what grounds?”
“Lack of decisive evidence, to start.”
“Same could be said on your side, Commander.” Lil’Al let out a sigh. “Yes, all the evidence collected thus far is not...ideal. However, the most significant points at this time are that a young race who was just about to leave their homeworld was exterminated through the most horrible of all options. We cannot ignore that.”
“But we also can’t rush to conclusions. We need to continue investigating and only go after someone if we have at least one crucial piece of information.” An’Ra countered, arms crossed and his teeth starting to bare.
“And I agree, that’s how it should be done.” Lil’Al replied. “But if we do, we risk dragging out an investigation to such a length we may end up forgetting this tragedy. We cannot allow such an insult to Planet 3’s memory. I’m sorry, but I must reject your petition for judiciary delay.”
Next Chapter
AN: Every single time I paste this in, Reddit is just determined to put it in some code block. Anyways, As of now, I've finally completely locked in the plot for this story, just one major question that could've changed a lot was on my mind for a while. Enjoy!
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MAME 0.216

MAME 0.216

With the end of November in sight, it’s time to check out MAME 0.216! We’ve addressed the reported issues with last month’s bgfx update, and made a whole lot of little improvements to MAME’s internal user interface. In particular, setting up controls should be easier, and several issues affecting macOS users with non-English number format settings have been fixed. Some of the issues caused bad settings to be written to INI files. If you still don’t see the filter list panel on the system selection menu, try removing the ui.ini file.
This month, we’re able to present two unreleased 1970s prototypes from Italian developer Model Racing: their internal code names are Cane and Orbite. With the assistance of former Model Racing employees, the source code was extracted from the original disks. These games are incomplete, but they provide a unique look into early CPU-based arcade development. Game & Watch titles continue to be emulated, with the addition of Mario The Juggler, and the panorama screen Mickey Mouse and Donkey Kong Circus games in this release.
This release brings GameKing emulation to MAME. The system-on-a-chip used in this low-cost, low-resolution hand-held console from the early 2000s has been identified and emulated. Games for the colour-screen GameKing III are also playable. Acorn BBC Micro emulation has been re-worked to support internal expansion boards, and a number of additional peripherals are now available. ZX Spectrum emulation has been enhanced with better open bus read behaviour and support for two Miles Gordon Technology peripherals.
Of course, these are just the highlights. You can get the source and Windows binary packages from the download page.

MAMETesters Bugs Fixed

New working machines

New working clones

Machines promoted to working

New machines marked as NOT_WORKING

New clones marked as NOT_WORKING

New working software list additions

Software list items promoted to working

New NOT_WORKING software list additions

Source Changes

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6 Decisions from a Bored, Benevolent(?) Stranger

"Hey there! You look like your life could use some spicing-up!" You glance up from your computer in surprise as a short, funny-looking man suddenly appears before you. Before you can reply, he continues: "Here's the deal. I'm bored, you're bored. I have unimaginable amounts of supernatural power, you don't. How about I spice things up for both of us?" He offers you 6 decisions in which you can pick from a number of options. For the first 4 decisions, you're limited to one choice, but he eases the rules a bit for the last 2 decisions.
Which options will you choose?

Decision 1: Self-Enhancement

Decision 2: Social Upgrade Kit

Decision 3: Passive Magic Ability

Decision 4: Active Magic Power

Decisions 5 and 6: Helpful Items

Magic Items Tech Items
Wing Tattoo: You get a magical full-back tattoo of a pair of wings in a style and color(s) of your choice. At will, you can instantaneously transform them into a functional pair of wings (same appearance as tattoo and of a size that can support you body weight) or back into a tattoo. You can fly up to 40mph (~65km/h) or up to top Physical Enhancement speed, and flying always uses only as much exertion as walking. Ring of Remolding: This ring can absorb non-organic items/materials within 1 foot (~30cm) of it. It breaks them down into their base components, and it can then use those base components to manufacture new items (including futuristic tech, assuming you've somehow seen/used it or you can design it well enough to work properly). Up to 500 tons of material can be stored at once.
Ring of Moderate Telemancy: Unlimited teleportation within 10mi increments and 2x/day to an unlimited range beyond that. Telekinesis on anything visible within 1 mile (~1.6km). Unlimited lift capacity on things within 50ft, 1 ton weight limit beyond that. No flight. (Teleportation and telekinesis only work on willing people or people who are weak-minded, unsuspecting, or sufficiently distracted.) Supersuit: This supersuit is actually a large number of nanites stored in and controlled by a wristwatch. The nanites can be programmed to transform into just about any material and type of clothing, always perfectly tailored for your body. They can even create lightly armored supersuits, like the Ironman or Spiderman suits, but not the Hulkbuster or other personal mech suits.
Key of Unlocking: This key exists only in your mind. Concentrating on it produces a phantom key, visible only to you, that can can unlock not only any physical or digital lock, but also any metaphorical concept that you personally can conceive of as being locked (e.g. someone’s full potential, "locked lips", etc). Limited only by your imagination and your ability to convince yourself of how to view things! Quantum I.D.: This piece of identification changes to meet your needs at any given time, taking the shape of whatever credential(s) and including whatever information you need (i.e. driver's license with fake name, passport, birth certificate, banking records of the last X years, portfolio of all of the above, etc.) This I.D. passes all conceivable scrutiny.
House Key: Inserting this key into any vertical surface opens a door to an extradimensional space that takes the shape of a house that you can fully customize at will (any futuristic tech you create in the house vanishes upon leaving it). The house can be up to one cubic mile (~4.17km3) in size as long as it remains one continuous building. If you use this key 100 times (each no less than 1 hour after the last) in the same location, you can choose to create a permanent portal, visible and accessible only to you and to those to whom you give explicit permission. When exiting your "house", you may leave through any such portal or through the surface where you entered. Infinite Payment Chip: This chip provides a valid and unlimited line of credit in a form that can reshape itself to be compatible with any interface for digital transactions (credit card reader, ATM, etc). It can also transform into any amount and type of valid physical currency (cash, gold, galactic credits chips, etc). 24 hours after doing so, it reappears in the most reasonable place on your person, and the created currency does not disappear.
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Quantum Binary Signals Review - Scam or Legit? Facts About Quantum binary option signals – Binary Options ... Quantum Binary signals Review - by George Garuf - YouTube Auto Binary Signals/QS

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Quantum Binary Signals Review - Scam or Legit?

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