An Emissary Of Peace

[12:32] <FrontierWarGM> [Sol System, the 25th of May.-
[12:34] <FrontierWarGM> [It had been quiet on the Valletta since its return to berth. On being docked at the Cydonian Fleet Yards, the crews went to work on the vessel, repairing its minor damage, upgrading its systems to full readiness and equipping it as standard.-
[12:36] <FrontierWarGM> [In that time, the staff of the Valletta had time to visit family and friends throughout the Solar System. Kayoko and Liane, for starters, both had birthdays during this time.-
[12:38] <FrontierWarGM> [The same quietude wasn't reflected outside the vessel, however. On Earth and Mars, the general atmosphere became a little electric, a little more alarmed as news of the Federation's first interstellar war reached their ears. A generation who had never known war and a generation who had almost forgotten what it was like shared their anxieties in the informal forum of public emotion.-
[12:38] <FrontierWarGM> [(On the other hand, the mood on Titan was bouyant.)-
[12:40] <FrontierWarGM> [The fleet yards bustled, preparing vessels and seeing fleets off. Ships were transferred from the Home Fleets out to the frontier.-
[12:42] <FrontierWarGM> [But for the first few weeks… No major news came from the frontier. No incursions. No sight of the enemy.-
[12:43] <FrontierWarGM> [Then finally, on the 21st of May, news: a Freepath Devoted battlefleet was detected travelling through the Way a system out of Zeruel. They arrived and engaged the 2nd Outer Sphere Fleet, sending with them a formal declaration of war, swearing that none who would collude with Shrinepath to slaughter their soldiers could be suffered to exist unchastened.-
[12:45] <FrontierWarGM> [And so on the 25th of May, the crew of the Valletta were summoned to assemble in the first hangar, to be addressed- by the Chancellor.]
[12:48] * Liane was ON TIME this time. Early, even. Quite so. 'Drop everything and go straight there and wait' early, and of course this was her at her most presentable. And she waited.-
[12:48] <Liane> Patiently. Attentively.
[12:49] <Kayoko> Kayoko was already there when the first of the crew began to filter in, lingering in the centre of the hangar with her uniform parade-perfect. Her eyes were bright and curious, darting from face to face as new people arrived.
[12:58] * Inara bustled in at the appointed time and not a moment sooner. There was a restless air about her - her uniform badly needed straightening, her hair probably could have done with an extra few minutes of combing, and her eyes darted too and fro in observation of the mass around her. She settled in, folded her arms, and waited.
[13:14] <FrontierWarGM> [The chancellor's yacht sat at the far end of the hangar, leading to a simple wired podium with a blue carpet. A few minutes after the crew assembled- the cargo door opened and Chancellor Zhang Yanmei emerged.-
[13:23] <FrontierWarGM> [The woman known as the 'Mother of the Federation' was a slim Chinese woman of average height, with dark, near-black eyes. Her most distinctive feature- her near-unique purple hair- was tied up in a bun. She wore a formal outfit that had, in decades past, been designed for her specifically and had been copied by many to become a favoured formalwear of the Federation: it resembled an old suit in that it had a clean button-up dress shirt (her's was white) with a tie (black); but instead of a jacket, she wore a robe of spider silk (her's was lavender), worn so that it folded in over itself, with wide sleeves and a hem that fell to the ankle; then over this she wore a pleated silken skirt (a shade darker than the jacket-robe) tied at the waist with a sash of indigo.-
[13:27] <FrontierWarGM> [Chancellor Zhang took the podium, her hands folded neatly together on the top. "Good morning."-
[13:29] <FrontierWarGM> ["Before we begin, I'd like to extend to you, the crew of the FSS Valletta, my sincerest thanks? And the gratitude of the Federation as well, especially those who live on Sisu. Against great odds you protected our people against a fierce foe, and your actions are appreciated and admired."-
[13:34] <FrontierWarGM> ["I hope you've had a chance to rest and recover from your tribulations these past few weeks. Especially since you're now being asked to return to the line of fire, in a way."-
[13:47] <FrontierWarGM> ["These new people we have discovered- the Shrinepath Devoted- are engaged in a civil war, and whilst I have no desire to involve ourselves in such a thing, it seems it has involved us? And so considering all the factors involved, it falls on us to find a satisfactory conclusion with as little loss of life as possible. So we're sending you to the Dominion of the Shrinepath Devoted, to escort a dignitary as well as necessary embassy staff. Once we've established a formal relationship, then we'll do what we can to end this war without a full-scale war."-
[13:48] <FrontierWarGM> ["… That doesn't mean it's not going to happen, though? Take it from me: wars are messy things, especially when you add politics and ideology. There's no guarantee we'll be able to avoid a full-blown mobilisation."-
[13:49] <FrontierWarGM> ["But the only guarantee we have is that the crew on this ship will continue to provide us with the utmost service, just as they have so far."-
[13:50] <FrontierWarGM> ["Soldiers of the Valletta: dismissed."-
[13:50] <FrontierWarGM> [The crew saluted, and started to stream away- but then Chancellor Zhang turned toward Kayoko. "Captain Hyuga, if you, your officers and your Superheavy pilots could remain behind for a moment?"]
[13:52] * Liane had stood at attention for the whole speech, only relaxing when she said 'dismissed'. She was in no hurry to leave, though, simply giving Kayoko a nod of acknowledgment and letting the captain speak. Chain of command, and all.
[13:55] <Kayoko> "Of course, Chancellor," she said with a little smile, bobbing her head. She gestured for the remaining crew to form up closer to the podium.
[13:57] * Kess bwoed her head. "I ca do so."
[14:00] * Inara calmly moved forward on command, arms still folded. She had spent the entire speech frowning thoughtfully, and thus so remained.
[14:01] <FrontierWarGM> [The other bridge crew moved forward as well.-
[14:01] <FrontierWarGM> [Yanmei came out from behind the podium. "Alright."-
[14:03] <FrontierWarGM> ["So!" She clapped her hands. "Here's what we know about the situation: the Shrinepath are traditionalists who used a rigid spiritual philosophy to overcome their inherent natures, the Freepath want to use technology to fix the problem at the source. Honestly, I can understand the motives for both? But the Council feels like the Freepath are that much better an ideological fit for ourselves if we had to choose."-
[14:04] <FrontierWarGM> ["Problem is, the Overseer Empire came along and meddled, and the Council cares a lot more about keeping Overseer puppets off our doorstep than they do making sure all our neighbours share our ideals. I guess you could say we share the major ideal of not wanting to throw ourselves into a war with a galactic superpower after a whole thirty years in space?"-
[14:05] <FrontierWarGM> ["So here's how it goes: you're escorting the Maiden of the Shrinepath back to her homeworld, so she can become Priestess. But I also want you to assist the Shrinepath Devoted as best you can along the way."-
[14:06] <FrontierWarGM> ["If the Freepath Devoted attack you, so be it? But try to avoid going out of your way to pick a fight with them. We're not just delivering a leader back to the Shrinepath."-
[14:18] <FrontierWarGM> [A Devoted emerged from Yanmei's shuttle- tall, full-grown, with a powerful expression and frame. Kayoko recognised Admiral Vlui immediately. "This is Kracel Vlui, the admiral of the fleet you all thrashed? She's not quit on her Freepath ideals, but she's pretty pissed that the Overseers seem to have manipulated her side into a war she didn't want to fight with a whole new enemy- ie, us. She wants to go back with you, with the hope that she might be able to talk to some Freepath leadership and see if they can do something about the Overseers."-
[14:22] * Kayoko grinned and gave Vlui a cheerful wave.
[14:23] <FrontierWarGM> [Vlui didn't respond.-
[14:25] <FrontierWarGM> ["Now I want to make it clear: we're not at war with the Overseers, and we want to avoid being so." Said Yanmei. "The normal protocol of firing only in defense is to be observed, but especially if you encounter the Overseers. Do whatever you can to de-escalate a situation… But don't just roll over, either. It's a lot of responsibility? But I know you'll all do your best."-
[14:26] <FrontierWarGM> ["As Captain, you're our chief representative out there. What you say and promise to other powers can be binding on us, Captain Hyuga." Said Yanmei. "So keep that in mind."-
[14:26] <FrontierWarGM> ["Now. Any questions?"]
[14:31] * Inara peered around at her companions curiously, but didn't speak up herself.
[14:35] * Kess considered a bit. "…Will there be any… special supplies or means to help achieve this?"
[14:35] <FrontierWarGM> ["Good question. You're Questant-of-Inner-Spheres, right? The one who tore a reactor out of a ship?"]
[14:45] <Kess> A bit of what passed for a bashful expression on her mask. "Yes, that's me."
[14:45] <FrontierWarGM> ["Heh, that's great? I once ate a nuclear reactor."-
[14:50] <FrontierWarGM> ["Anyway… We've made a cache of supplies available to you and your ship with permission to pick what's available as you like? You know your own strengths better than command does, after all."]
[14:52] * Liane waited calmly until Kess' exchange was done before raising a question. "Ah… Madam Chancellor, I have a question for Miss Vlui, if that's alright." Was there some deeper meaning to her saying 'miss' and not 'Admiral'? Well, of course, she wasn't an officer of the Federation so…
[14:56] <FrontierWarGM> [Yanmei turned toward Vlui, who walked over and stared down at Liane.]
[14:59] <Liane> Liane looked back at her calmly, as she asked her question. "Do you believe that, if the Overseers' undue influence on your people is eliminated, that the Shrinepath and the Freepath can coexist peacefully?"
[15:02] <FrontierWarGM> ["Can, but unlikely." Said Vlui. "But with the Overseers involved, then peace is impossible."]
[15:07] <Liane> "Then, I ask: with the Overseers not involved, what obstacles are there?"
[15:15] <FrontierWarGM> ["We want to liberate our people by sculpting ourselves as we see fit. The Shrinepath Devoted oppose this." Said Vlui. "That is the core obstacle. Over the decades, the Devoted leadership has become increasingly intolerant to our cause."]
[15:17] <Liane> "So… if the Shrinepath were convinced to let you live as you wish, somehow, there would be no problem?"
[15:18] <FrontierWarGM> ["It would help."]
[15:24] * Liane nodded. "… You have excellent comrades in arms, Admiral," she commented, seemingly in closing - perhaps an acknowledgement of what had transpired aboard the Freepath dreadnought. She looked to Kayoko.. and to Yanmei. "I should hope this is not an impossible goal…"
[15:35] <Kayoko> "Not impossible," Kayoko agreed, "But we have different priorities. We'll return the Shrine Maiden to her homeworld and then let the diplomats and Council do their work. As the Chancellor said, negotiating a Federation position with my limited authority would not be ideal."
[15:38] * Liane nodded. "That's reasonable," she replied, seemingly satisfied.
[15:52] * Kayoko nodded firmly. "The Valletta will be taking the trip alone, right Chancellor? The captured Freepath fleet stays here?"
[16:12] <FrontierWarGM> ["That's right, Captain." Said Yanmei. "That said, though, there is someone going along with you?"-
[16:13] <FrontierWarGM> [Maiden Russkra emerged from the yacht, wearing a more dignified scarlet-and-silver robe, patterns and writing across its surface. But as she emerged, she shot a look back into the yacht and clapped her hands twice.]
[16:17] * Rora stepped out quickly, shooting Russkra a guarded glance before turning with a smile to the group at large. He gave his usual semi-formal cross-armed bow, followed with a meek wave.
[16:18] * Liane waved back cheerfully! "Good to have you aboard, Mist!"
[16:18] * Kayoko raised an eyebrow. "Hello, Mr. Mist. I thought you would've had enough of us."
[16:19] <Inara> "Huh." Inara smirked a bit, clearly amused.
[16:21] * Kess bowed softly, but then noticed Rora's presence. "…Special assignment?" *A sense of what always will be.*
[16:26] * Rora emanated a rosy glow, both literally and figuratively. "Heh, um! Well, yes. I mean, no- er," he pressed a fist to his chin, "It is good to see you all again." A nod to Kess. "Unfinished business, more like. Stories unending; returning to the bookmark"
[16:30] <FrontierWarGM> ["I hired this one to escort me home." Said Russkra.]
[16:32] * Kess then nodded, a smirk forming on her mask. "As is only expected." Lord and escort, like old tales
[16:34] * Kayoko tried very hard to stifle a smirk. "We're happy to have you along, of course."
[16:38] * Rora pointedly cleared his throat, knuckles pressed to lips as he likewise attempted to stifle his mirth. "My thanks. Tale as old as time; song as old as rhyme"
[16:42] <FrontierWarGM> ["Well I'm sure you'll do a good job, Mr. Mist?" Said Yanmei. "The Guardians don't accept people prone to doing a bad one after all. It's not in their nature?"-
[16:42] <FrontierWarGM> ["Well, then." Said Yanmei. "I think that's everything. Wait, no…"-
[16:43] <FrontierWarGM> [Yanmei waved an idle hand in the air, creating a pocket cache; then she reached in and took out a wrapped present, which she sent with a wave of a telekinetic hand to Kayoko. "Sorry I'm late~"]
[16:47] * Kess diiid turn a little, before smiling, amusedly. "Ah~"
[16:51] <Kayoko> Kayoko's expression didn't falter noticeably, but she was slow to reach out and grab the gift as it came into reach. It only remained in her hand for a moment before vanishing into a cache of her own. "… Thank you, Chancellor. Very kind of you."
[16:52] <FrontierWarGM> [Yanmei beamed.-
[16:53] <FrontierWarGM> ["I should get going, then. Lots of work to do!" She clapped her hands once, shot the rest of the crew a final salute, then began walking off towards her yacht. "Good luck, everyone! Come back to me with good news!"]
[16:55] * Liane saluted back. "Safe travels, Madam Chancellor," she called out.
[16:55] <Inara> "Easy for her to say," muttered Inara returning the salute.
[16:58] * Rora had regarded the present with some curiosity…but said nothing, choosing instead to simply offer a farewell bow to the Chancellor as she made her exit.
[17:04] * Kayoko returned the salute, of course, although her head turned slightly at Inara's muttering. As Yanmei departed, Kayoko tucked both arms tight across her chest and waited, looking thoughtful.
[17:10] * Kess performed a proper, formal bow, before… Pering at Kayoko. "…Hm?"
[17:16] <FrontierWarGM> [As Yanmei departed, the rest of the bridge crew began to murmur amongst themselves or drift away. Franco stood to the side, giving Kayoko an inscrutable look.]
[17:19] * Kayoko had turned towards Kess, but for a moment before she spoke her eyes met Franco's. "Hm?" she asked with a little smile. "It's nothing, Kess, just thinking about our little adventure. It should be very interesting, don't you think?"
[17:20] <Kess> "…You should know by now how many cultures count interesting as blessing and curse both, Captain." A cheshire grin, complete with vanishing unsettlingly. Bloody mask shenanigans.
[17:20] <Kayoko> "Exactly!"
[17:21] * Kess nodded. There was no need for anything else. Peak efficiency.
[17:26] * Liane just grinned. "'Interesting' is what I signed up for. Besides, it'll make a great story someday." For whom?
[17:26] <Kayoko> "All those pre-Founding serials written just dreaming about grand space adventures, and we are lucky enough to be able to scout the frontier of known space for real," she said with a little nod. "Something for the history books. Isn't that right, Commander?"
[17:28] <FrontierWarGM> ["That's right." Said Franco. "Best we work to make sure the books say nice things. There's a dozen ways to be a bad explorer, and history's had its fill of those."-
[17:29] <FrontierWarGM> ["It will be a learning experience for you all, I believe." Said Violet, appearing at Kess's shoulder. "The galaxy is a bright place, full of wonders and miracles… I look forward to sharing some of those with you all."-
[17:30] <FrontierWarGM> ["Like space rhinos." Said Gregory, elbowing Inara in the side.-
[17:30] <FrontierWarGM> ["What?"-
[17:32] <FrontierWarGM> [Tran danced past Violet as he broadcast confusion regarding orbital megafauna.-
[17:33] <FrontierWarGM> ["I'm into 'interesting' plenty myself, good or bad." Said Tran, settling next to Liane. "The worst thing you can do with space is make it boring."]
[17:37] <Liane> "Amen to that," came Liane's reply. "It's sadly very possible. Though I guess boredom tends to make sure you'll come home safe to the family, and that's a good thing."
[17:40] <Inara> "We can still be safe and not-boring," Inara pointed out, still smirking from the rhino remark. "It's just a matter of how much caution we use."
[17:44] <Kess> "What matters is how it is done, and what's learnt from it." Kess said with a bright smile. a thousand adventure film subtitles forming upon me
[17:48] <Rora> "…Hmmm." Rora had been staring into the distance, contemplating; now he snapped out of it, nodding solemnly. "May we proceed with due caution then, that we might return and share such knowledge. bracing for back-to-back marathons"
[17:55] <Liane> "I definitely feel more secure with you watching my back, Mist." Liane smiled.
[18:11] <Rora> "Likewise, Mier," he nodded in return, the solemn blues of his AT feathers tinged now with warm green.

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