The Devil At The Crossroads

[12:16] <FrontierWarGM> [It was a quiet day on the FSS Valletta.-
[12:17] <FrontierWarGM> [Now that their mission involved more travelling than warfare, quiet days had become the norm. Travelling through the Celestial Way was relaxing, even tranquil, in that regard: you couldn't be attacked and official duties were mostly a holding pattern of making sure the ship functioned in a basic manner.-
[12:19] <FrontierWarGM> [To occupy the time, an informal habit of telling stories had broken out on the bridge. Today it was Zima.-
[12:21] <FrontierWarGM> ["So there we were, walking through the crystaline forests on the northern continent." They said, their voice slow and hushed yet still able to fill the room. "When we heard it- the sound of tinkle-crinkles as a crystal tree fell over- and we all heard it, and we all cared…"-
[12:21] <FrontierWarGM> [At that moment, the ship shuddered.-
[12:21] <FrontierWarGM> [The bridge went still.-
[12:21] <FrontierWarGM> ["What was that?" Asked Franco.-
[12:21] <FrontierWarGM> ["Captain, we've been rerouted." Said Tran. "The Way-Line we're on has- it's… It's bent itself."]
[12:27] <Rora> "…It can do that?" Rora's holographic visage blinked, vaguely concerned goldenrod light casting from AT-willed feathers.
[12:29] <Kayoko> "Rerouted to where?" asked simply.
[12:31] <FrontierWarGM> ["It's rare, but it does happen." Said Violet, but his eyes were on Tran.-
[12:32] <FrontierWarGM> ["I… Don't know." She said. "The terminus isn't on any star charts. We don't even know if there's an observed star there."-
[12:33] <FrontierWarGM> ["Ensign Spiro." Said Franco. "Do a check of the surrounding systems' data. Even if there's no observed light, we should be able to see a gravitational shadow."]
[12:35] * Kess started doing so quickly… "…There's one indeed. Sufficient mass for a stellar signature, but no observed light."
[12:36] <FrontierWarGM> ["Could be a Great One." Said Violet.-
[12:36] <FrontierWarGM> ["A Great One with a gravity well equal to a star?" Said Franco.-
[12:36] <FrontierWarGM> ["Wouldn't be the first time…"]
[12:37] * Kess thought briefly. "…Given Federation history, i wonder if stopping by to say hello is more advisable than normal…?" Knocking at the door of God
[12:38] <FrontierWarGM> ["We don't have a choice." Said Tran. "We're locked in."]
[12:38] <Liane> "… Sounds like the start of a wonderful day," Liane muttered.
[12:39] <Inara> Inara's holographic projection was only now just starting to look uncomfortable. "It'll be fine. We don't know for sure that it's a Great One…"
[12:40] <Kess> "…Could Astrojaunt and suffer the time gap to get out of the way, if needed." Kess said, if maybe a bit uncertain how far Idris could take the Valetta.
[12:41] <Rora> "It might be better than getting pulled into a supermassive black hole, though…? shadows' sudden chill on a summer day"
[12:41] <FrontierWarGM> [Idris closed his eyes for a moment.-
[12:41] <FrontierWarGM> ["… No. I'm being jammed."-
[12:42] <FrontierWarGM> ["You get jammed more than my kid brother's fingers do." Muttered Tran, overcut by Violet saying- "A dirac jam this far from the system? That's new. And dangerous."]
[12:42] * Kess looked suddenly horrified, both in mask-expression and plumage, the latter reading something along the lines of it comes, crawling and scrabbling from the abyss, waking from sleep even death may die in.
[12:44] <FrontierWarGM> [And so the atmosphere of calm was quickly lost to alarm and worry.-
[12:47] <FrontierWarGM> [The rest of the journey took several nervous hours, before they were dropped into the heart of a system- far beyond the terminus line.-
[12:47] <FrontierWarGM> [There were only a few planets here, cold, barren things.-
[12:47] <FrontierWarGM> [But at the very heart of the system wasn't a Great One.-
[12:48] <FrontierWarGM> [It was a megastructure. A gigantic sphere, perfectly round, its outer hull made of some kind of red, flawless gleaming stone.-
[12:49] <FrontierWarGM> [It was large enough to encase a star. Maybe two. And encase a star it did.]
[12:51] <Kayoko> "A Dyson sphere!" Kayoko said. She sounded delighted.
[12:54] * Liane breathed in. "… What is that?"
[12:54] * Kess stared out curiously. "…Red. Do we know red ultra-advanced materials?" She thought. "…Angel cores were red…"
[12:54] * Inara relaxed. It wasn't a Great One. Just a massive… thing.
[12:55] <Kayoko> "Energy storage sigilite," Kayoko suggested. "Like the core of the Synfront."
[12:56] * Kess slowly nodded. "…Then there might be some way to manipulate it. …Trace it for the dirac jamming, too." Plumage ruffled. Seeing the inner sphere
[12:57] <Inara> "Are they going to say hello? Maybe we can just ask them what they're doing."
[12:59] <FrontierWarGM> [A moment later, Idris collapsed.]
[13:00] * Kess actually chirped a loud warning sound, plumage turning to a deeply troubled stab wound in god's eye.
[13:02] <Rora> "Idris?? ground falling away" Any lines of inquiry Rora might have been formulating had been duly shattered.
[13:02] <Kayoko> Kayoko leapt to her feet and vanished in a flash, appearing next to Idris in a crouch. "Technical and Medical, please. Now."
[13:05] * Kess could be heard yelling to someone in the background. "Heading for it, Chief!" Then the telltale cut-in cut-out of her making constant dirac steps, usually more permissable under such jamming. (Or just the sound of running, if not)
[13:05] <Inara> "Sending a Medical Team now. We'll be arriving in three minutes." Inara then turned away, speaking to something or someone not featured holographically. Then she was gone.
[13:06] <FrontierWarGM> [Kess would arrive in the Evangelion Chamber shortly, to find…-
[13:06] <FrontierWarGM> [… The Evangelion, the strength gone from its limbs. It sagged in the chamber, held up only by the connectors and the harnesses. There was no visible damage.-
[13:07] <FrontierWarGM> ["Captain?" Tyrell's holographic head appeared. "Our power generation is being drained."-
[13:08] <FrontierWarGM> [… And a moment later, every twiceborn on board would feel it. A sudden wave of exhaustion, their bodies weakening as though someone had piled weight on top of them…-
[13:08] <FrontierWarGM> [Followed by a sharp, painful ache in the stomach.-
[13:08] * Liane suddenly looked a lot more serious. "…u-ugh! W-what the hell…?"
[13:08] <FrontierWarGM> [Hunger. A brutal hunger that none of them- save some of the primogens, perhaps- had never felt before.]
[13:10] * Kess was in a panic, frantically trying to analyze it, pulling out devices, checking consoles. "…What's going on with everyone?! …It." But she looked around, seeing technicians no doubt looking hurt and weak. "…That. that thing is siphoning S2 energy!" She exclaimed in noted panic. "We need to find some way to stop it, fast! IT might be the sigilite shell…!"
[13:11] <Liane> "… I know this feeling," Liane muttered, suddenly. "It's… yeah. This is the way things were before…"
[13:14] <Liane> "I know this sounds strange, but the first thing we need to do is to eat and drink."
[13:15] <Kess> "…" Kess understood well. "…We're going to need food resupplies, but. Yes! …Yes. Get the quartermaster to start distributing food. I'll help if needed, or. Or. Violet, maybe your wife in medical should start working on that. …Without S2 organs, us Defectors aren't touched…"
[13:18] <Rora> "…Augh." Rora's image had shifted, showing a figure huddled against a corridor wall, black robe forming a rumpled halo around him. "Why…does it have…to hurt, though…?"
[13:21] <Kayoko> "Because your stomach is eating itself," Kayoko said flatly. She'd managed to walk back up the ramp to the captain's chair, and she looked even paler than normal. "Gregory, get me something to talk to in that thing."
[13:21] <FrontierWarGM> ["I'm tr-"-
[13:21] <FrontierWarGM> ["Fuck." Snapped Gregory. "Captain, we're being hailed."-
[13:21] <Kayoko> "Mm."
[13:22] <FrontierWarGM> [With a trembling hand, she refocused the holoscreen.-
[13:22] <FrontierWarGM> [Barely seen in orbit around the Dyson Sphere, its light dimmed, was an Overseer Dreadnought.-
[13:23] <FrontierWarGM> [Peace. For the last thirty years, the Twiceborn Federation has enjoyed a golden age of freedom and equality- but also one of peace.-
[13:23] <FrontierWarGM> [The Twiceborn Federation, founded to free humanity from its unjust shackles, has flourished in this time. But it is a time that will soon come to a sudden and shocking awakening.-
[13:23] <FrontierWarGM> [Beyond its borders, forces stir, creating a chain reaction that threatens to engulf the Federation in plots beyond its reckoning.-
[13:23] <FrontierWarGM> [Against this stand the Starfleet, protectors of the Federation: people prepared to give their lives for the cause of peace and freedom. But will it be enough?-
[13:23] <FrontierWarGM> [This is the story of the Frontier War.-
[13:23] <FrontierWarGM> ["Well!"-
[13:25] <FrontierWarGM> [Conqueror-of-the-Last-Frontier sat on his throne, a glass of white liquid in his hand, which drained periodically. "For a moment I was afraid that the dyson sphere had dragged only us here, but it seems that this particular web is wide indeed."-
[13:27] <FrontierWarGM> ["I won't waste your time or mine with power games, Captain Hyuga." Said Conqueror. "I want out of this system, and I'm sure you do too. Care to collaborate?"]
[13:34] * Kess looked to Hyuga, holo-wise, but showed a pensive face on her helm, plumage left neutral for now.
[13:36] <Kayoko> "Seems reasonable," Kayoko agreed, careful to keep the discomfort out of her voice. "No point in wasting our time here, hm? I'll make sure we're ready to go when the Sphere has us in orbit."
[13:37] <FrontierWarGM> ["Agreed. I've found an opening onto the sphere, and I'll be leading an expedition myself."-
[13:37] <FrontierWarGM> ["One other thing."-
[13:38] <FrontierWarGM> ["I'm leaving my wife, Architect-of-the-Cenotaphs-of-our-Foes, in charge in my absense. She is not as merciful as I am, captain, so do kindly keep your japery under control."-
[13:38] <FrontierWarGM> [His plumage flared a light red for a moment, or you'll be next. "Conqueror-of-the-Last-Frontier out."-
[13:38] <FrontierWarGM> [The comms cut.-
[13:39] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[13:41] <FrontierWarGM> ["Here are the facts." Said Franco, a few minutes later. "Our power reserves are draining. We've disabled all nonessential functions, but we have enough energy to maintain basic life support for about… Nine hours. We've determined that the dyson sphere is draining all kinds of energy sources, but this is having the most effect on S2 Organs, which is why we're all so damned weak."-
[13:44] <FrontierWarGM> ["The draining effect increases the closer one is to the sphere, so we've determined that any Twiceborn who board the structure will collapse within minutes. To that end, we've assembled an away team ted by Guide Shadowfire, with Ensign Kess and Marine privates Kululikari and Kaycoradi to investigate the sphere and see if we can't find a way to turn it off."-
[13:45] <FrontierWarGM> ["To those of us staying behind, we will be focusing on staying alive." Said Franco. "The more we can optimise our living cycles, the longer we give Shadowfire's team to get us out of here."]
[13:48] * @Liane spoke up, from whereever she'd gone off to with her helping. "And me? I might be able to handle myself a little better than the youngfolk, but I'll defer to your judgment, XO."
[13:58] <FrontierWarGM> ["Our attitude with food is pretty lax." Said Franco. "There's liable to be a significant amount of food on board that hasn't been officially accounted for. I want you to start finding it and gathering it up, Meier."]
[14:00] * @Liane saluted. "Yes, sir. Shall I start with our cargo bays, Sir?"
[14:07] <FrontierWarGM> ["Try the cargo bays, but don't forget quarters as well."]
[14:08] * @Liane gave a nod. "Should I take that to mean that I have clearance to enter the others' quarters, sir?"
[14:08] <FrontierWarGM> ["Try to be diplomatic about it for now."]
[14:09] <@Liane> "Of course, I wouldn't mean to snoop at all beyond locating additional food items. I'll treat that as an avenue of last resort." She was already making her way to the cargo bay as she kept speaking.

[13:46] <FrontierWarGM> [And so Kess would be in the hangar, already strapped into her Superheavy, whilst Shadowfire and the two Warfriends- Kululikari and Kaycoradi- boarded a shuttle, piloted by a holographic Tran.-
[13:51] <FrontierWarGM> [They passed through a small hole in the exterior hull- although the hole wasn't visible from a distance. Indeed as they approached, the hole opened in the hull for them, and closed behind them.-
[13:53] <FrontierWarGM> [Inside, Kess and the others found themselves in… A hangar, of sorts. It was made of similar material to the red hull, but on the inside it was light blue and refractive, creating dazzling coronas when struck by light. It suffused the area with a calm, ambient glow.-
[13:54] <FrontierWarGM> [Here they saw the Overseers' equipment: a single Superheavy, tall, elegant, ornate, with four arms, radiating a sense of danger and threat, as well as a single troop carrier.-
[13:55] <FrontierWarGM> [Kess and the others would quickly land, and make their way through a single door at the end of the hangar- a round door that spiralled open as they approached.-
[13:55] <FrontierWarGM> [Within they would find Conqueror, as well as another Overseer, along with a dozen Warslaves.-
[13:55] <FrontierWarGM> [Conqueror turned. Instantly, Kess would be struck by how tall he was; tall even for an Overseer. "Of course they sent you."-
[13:56] <FrontierWarGM> ["Yes." Said Violet. Politeness a chain around a wolf. "However, I am not here for a fight, Conqueror-of-the-Last-Frontier. I am here to save people. Let's keep our focus."-
[13:57] <FrontierWarGM> ["Naturally." Said Conqueror. He turned toward Kess. "And who might you be, young one?"]
[14:03] * Kess paused, rather visibly, at Conqueror's question. "…I am Questant-Of-Inner-Spheres, ranking Ensign on the Valetta." Her plumage was largely blocked by the heavy armor, and she simply bowed impassively, a proper Seer bow but subdued. "A technical expert, and more logical to send than the Chief."
[14:10] <FrontierWarGM> ["I suppose that's true. No point sending an alien when dealing with Overseers." Said Conqueror.-
[14:11] <FrontierWarGM> ["I am Planter-of-the-Tall-Trees, proud scion of House Grasping-the-Spiral-Truth." Said the other Overseer.-
[14:13] <FrontierWarGM> [Let us describe the room.-
[14:14] <FrontierWarGM> [The hangar door led to a walkway, which led to the top of a 'spiral'. There were three other doors- one opposite the hangar, but another two sat at the bottom of the spiral.-
[14:14] <FrontierWarGM> ["This place is truly gargantuan." Said Conqueror. "I'm not sure where we could possibly begin looking…"-
[14:16] <FrontierWarGM> [Very faintly, they could hear a strange sound- it was chaotic and scratchy, and quickly faded from hearing.]
[14:20] * Kess paused, raising the arm with the sci-glove installed. She was very uncomfortably aware of the wrong-sided family reunion, but thought. Pausing to steel herself, she spoke up. "…That sound is the best clue we have to its operation. Analyzing it would lead to the cause, which could be any number of important systems or networks…"
[14:31] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[14:31] <FrontierWarGM> [The dyson sphere was a dizzying place.-
[14:32] <FrontierWarGM> [Doors would seal shut behind them, only to open, revealing that the path behind them had completely changed. Doors were at odd and inconvenient angles, such as on the floor, in the roof, or hidden in tiny corners.-
[14:33] <FrontierWarGM> [Eventually, they'd come to a room, a room with a dome in the middle on which one could stand. There were a few doors here- one directly above them, frustratingly enough.-
[14:33] <FrontierWarGM> [It was here that Kess's scanners would start beeping frantically.]
[14:36] * Kess checked them cautiously, and made a troubled coo when she saw the results. "The sounds… organics. Tons of them. Moving in on us fast." She started to ready her weaponry, but keeping it lowered cautiously. "We should move to the dome and prepare. Expect hostility but not assume. Be glad at positive reactions." There goes that Kess efficiency-talk.
[14:44] <FrontierWarGM> [Conqueror and Planter rushed to the centre of the dome; the Warslaves formed a perimeter around the dome, plasma glaives lowered.-
[14:47] <FrontierWarGM> [Kululikari clacked a note of disapproval at them before withdrawing his heavy bolter and setting it up.-
[14:47] <FrontierWarGM> [Kaycoradi took out a pair of missile launchers, keeping one on the ground.-
[14:48] <FrontierWarGM> [The sound had grown heavy now, heavy enough for them to discern the individual patterns amidst the noise. Skittering.-
[14:49] <FrontierWarGM> [Planter took out a pair of plasma shields as well as a plasma glaive. With a flourish, Conqueror withdrew four plasma sabres and turned them on, the green light of the plasma causing the crystal blue bulkheads to gleam.-
[14:49] <FrontierWarGM> [After a moment's hesitation, Violet drew his, but deigned to leave them deactivated.-
[14:50] <FrontierWarGM> [Something heavy bashed against the doors- and a second later, they opened.-
[14:50] <FrontierWarGM> [Bugs.-
[14:51] <FrontierWarGM> [They were multitude, in various shapes and sizes, a mess of arms and chitin. Their bodies were generally oval, but glowed blue with bioluminescense. They didn't stop to talk- they just rushed the party.]
[15:03] * Kess …saw this, and sighed. "If this is like the Twiceborn Halo games, I will be deeply annoyed." An indulgent. "Maximum area clearance, check fire as needed! I'll run mobile defense." ,,,and with but a single bow of her head, she raised the ruddy staff, and an AT barrier flowed into being. Then she wasn't there. she was at the head of the largest wave, shoulder to shoulder with the Warslave cordon. "Come, swarm!"
[15:06] <FrontierWarGM> [It wasn't hard to kill one of the swarmers, or even a dozen. The problem was that there were a lot more than a dozen.-
[15:07] <FrontierWarGM> [As the wave crashed into Kess's barrier, the Warslaves lowered their glaives and started to fire them, burning bolts of plasma shredding through the ranks. But the swarm kept coming.-
[15:09] <FrontierWarGM> [The horde had no fear, and no patience, but also little in the way of intellect. They tried their fruitless strategy for a full minute, by which point the number of dead creatures turned the ground into an uneven, slimy mess.-
[15:10] <FrontierWarGM> [But after that golden minute, the horde started to part- larger creatures, their bodies brimming with blue light, charged heedlessly through their smaller kin, and smashed against Kess's barrier.-
[15:10] <FrontierWarGM> [Their bodies flared with blue light- and Kess's field started to weaken.-
[15:10] <FrontierWarGM> [Meanwhile, the door above them gave way, and a tide of bugs fell from the roof toward them.-
[15:13] <FrontierWarGM> [Conqueror stared up at them- then raised an outstretched hand, which crackled with glorious rainbow energies. They coalesced into a ball, which he launched upwards. The ball flitted through the rush, and detonated square in the middle of them- sending burning body parts in every direction, as well as a gout of ichor directly onto the group below.-
[15:14] <FrontierWarGM> [Planter leapt upwards, shield raised, the blood frying against its surface. He crashed into the second wave, his glaive a blur as he slashed them apart.-
[15:14] <FrontierWarGM> [… Meanwhile, Kess's barrier was holding, but barely. A warslave lashed out, caught one of the big bugs with a glaive- and knocked the bug to the ground.-
[15:15] <FrontierWarGM> [The warslave leapt forward, ready to discharge the glaive's beam…-
[15:15] <FrontierWarGM> [… When the glaive's plasma edge suddenly died.-
[15:15] <FrontierWarGM> [A moment later, the other glaives began to die.-
[15:15] <FrontierWarGM> [Planter's shield went next.-
[15:16] <FrontierWarGM> [The horde had thinned considerably, but was it enough? The exposed warslave was instantly rushed, only to be saved by Kess's rebounding AT Field.-
[15:17] <FrontierWarGM> [Planter, Violet and Conqueror kept the roof-falling horde back with their AT Fields-
[15:18] <FrontierWarGM> [When Planter suddenly screeched and fell back to earth. No apparent injury had been done to him.-
[15:18] <FrontierWarGM> [The last properly functioning weapons were the reliable railguns and missile launchers, now.-
[15:19] <FrontierWarGM> ["Get-get some!" Roared Kululikari, unloading another wave of railgun bullets into the horde.-
[15:19] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[15:19] <FrontierWarGM> [A flash of light.-
[15:19] <FrontierWarGM> [In a moment, they were all struck blind, the world around them dazzling beyond belief.]
[15:35] * Kess tried to close her eyes, avert her eyes. She was relying on raw sonar data if possible, on… Anything. Trying to hang on…!
[15:36] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[15:36] <FrontierWarGM> [Her vision danced with blurs and afterimages, but when it cleared…-
[15:37] <FrontierWarGM> [The bugs lay dead around them.-
[15:38] <FrontierWarGM> [Violet stood, trembling with exertion. Crumpled on the ground was Planter.-
[15:39] <FrontierWarGM> [NO- Conqueror fell to his knees by his side and grabbed his brother. "What happened-"-
[15:39] <FrontierWarGM> [The Warslaves and Friends were fine- injured in some cases, but none dead.-
[15:39] <FrontierWarGM> [But there was another being in this room.-
[15:39] <FrontierWarGM> [The source of the great light.-
[15:39] <FrontierWarGM> [It was a small red sphere.-
[15:41] <FrontierWarGM> [Around itself, the sphere generated a translucent golden body, humanoid in shape, about six feet tall and roughly female in shape. This body was, bar two traits, featureless: long, foot-length glistering hair and thin, wide eyes, both the pure red colour of the core.-
[15:42] <FrontierWarGM> [The watcher(?) turned and pointed toward Kess and the other Seers, and said in perfect Seer- manifesting extra arms and light patterns to do so: "Why are you here?"]
[15:46] * Kess spoke quickly and firmly, even though she visibly winced at Planter having fallen. They were still family… "This sphere has drawn us here from the Way and trapped us, and if we linger for too long, we will run out of supplies and perish, our duties undone." The wingparts of her armor flashed with plumage-mimesis. Imploring an Ancient One's thing in respect …After that, she started to move over to Conqueror,
[15:46] * Kess wordlessly passing the Seer-optimized medikit to him, only flashing a quick signal of what is necessary, there are no enemies in the pit.
[15:51] <FrontierWarGM> [Conqueror took it- gratitude and began checking Planter.-
[15:52] <FrontierWarGM> ["So you are the ones that have been drawn here." Said the watcher. "Then you too will die here…"]
[15:54] <Kess> "…We would wish to undo this draw. If you do not wish us harm, and are instead only resigned that it will be our fate…" Seeking to be like a pod in understanding "Whatever you may ask in order to aid us, or aid you would provide either, we would consider earnestly."
[15:56] <FrontierWarGM> ["Follow me."]
[16:03] * Kess bowed, and looked to the others. "We will treat Planter's wounds as can be, and then I will do so." Brief wondering "May I ask a name to call you? Or any insight on what we fought?"
[16:07] <FrontierWarGM> ["You can call me what I am: the Final Guardian of this sphere."-
[16:08] <FrontierWarGM> ["I can't find any wounds on him." Said Conqueror, his voice tremulous.-
[16:08] <FrontierWarGM> ["You will find no wounds. He has been bitten by a small vermin, and it has poisoned him. He will die within a few hours." Said the Final Guardian. "Follow me, and I will take you to a place where you will be safe from the vermin."-
[16:09] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[16:10] <FrontierWarGM> [A short journey through circuitous passageways later, and they emerged- to a kind of observation deck.-
[16:10] <FrontierWarGM> [One of the walls of this room was transparent, and heavily tinted. The reason why became clear: through it, they could see the star this sphere was built around. A bright violet star, glowing with raw heat and energy.-
[16:11] <FrontierWarGM> [As Kess entered, she'd feel something crunch beneath her: a Watcher, now nothing more than a pile of shattered crystal.-
[16:12] <FrontierWarGM> [The Final Guardian glided to the window, and sat against the wall above it. "This place was built a very long time ago to keep watch on a people we called the Harvesters. We sustained ourselves off the power of the sun, and delivered that energy to other Watchers in the sector."-
[16:12] <FrontierWarGM> ["But look… Go and look through the window, and tell me what you see."]
[16:17] * Kess strode to it, and started to notice. Yet, muttered. "Apologies, I had not expected poisonous things…" Regret at a mote in the seer's eye. But on closing in… "So. …So this place is a power relay. And. …Much of it is broken." Logic following She suddenly turned to the Guardian. "…Guardian, is this drawing force, and that which drains our power sources, a means to compensate for the damage whilst seeking those
[16:17] * Kess who might fix it?"
[16:18] <FrontierWarGM> ["Yes." Whispered the Guardian. "But I am running out of time."-
[16:19] <FrontierWarGM> [She pointed through the window. "On the other side of the star is a cracked panel. The very first. There was an accident."-
[16:20] <FrontierWarGM> ["The starlight shone through the panel. There were- elements there. All the elements… And life was made, and evolved, into the vermin."-
[16:22] <FrontierWarGM> ["They were too many. We did not correct for it… They made me alone here."]
[16:30] * Kess nodded her head, a small hoot of contemplation issuing. "…We, if given the means, could possibly repair some damage. My Superheavy is explicitly built for repair operations. But we would need shielding and more understanding of what's wrong." Understanding that there is forbidden lore She paced a bit over. "…But knowing both how to counter the vermin's venom, and what harm they cause to this place, would help."
[16:31] <FrontierWarGM> ["There is a place that provides shielding, but it is lost to the vermin. Dangerous to go." Said the Final Guardian.-
[16:35] <FrontierWarGM> ["The vermin are the ones who cause damage to the power panels. They draw all of their energy from sunlight and electrical charges. There are billions. They crack open the panels and cause breaches to let the starlight in. There are- too many. I do not know enough about how to stop them. I cannot stop them. Soon, they will kill me too, crack open my core and drain my energy…"]
[16:41] <Kess> "…We will be killed by the vermin if we do not act, our ships will drain power and supplies and one way or another, all aboard will die. If the vermin are not stopped, they will continue destroying even what we repair. You will die, as you noted. If this station fails, all Watchers in the Harvester Sector will fail, and this could lead to untold calamity." She signed many messages throughout, ranging from reading the threads of
[16:41] <Kess> the noose
to a grim calculus of what must be and ending with inaction is death. -
[16:44] <Kess> So she thought, plumage warping in all shades as what could be understood in proper Seer as stream-of-conscious babbling. Considered all angles, all priorities, and flashes of more coherent impressions like damned insects and a solution needs be made came along. But then she stopped. Plumage lit up with the pure elation of grasping truth -
[16:45] <Kess> "…Guardian. What other ecological traits do the vermin possess? Environmental tolerances, typical means of attack or manipulating the environment?" A plan grows like aberrant life under a sun
[16:47] <FrontierWarGM> ["High tolerance toward heat and cold. They are mindless, led by hive-minded nodes. They all stem from a single queen creature on the far side of the sphere." Said the Final Guardian. "They inject their biology into machines and erode them with themselves. They are adapted to fight the light of the soul… That is why I cannot kill them…"-
[16:48] <FrontierWarGM> ["They are based on a handful of templates, all spawned by the queen… Each copy of the template is identical and has the same strengths and weaknesses… They do not have much genetic diversity."]
[16:51] * Kess nodded. "…My suggestion then, is to find a way to expel them. The best idea I can imagine, is to somehow convince the Queen to parley with us and we provide some other source of energy for them in exchange, possibly, for improving their templates or some other boon." Uncertainty about alien minds but confident in basic reasoning
[16:51] <FrontierWarGM> ["That's one solution." Said Conqueror. "There's another, however."]
[16:54] <Kess> "I'm going to guess it involves wiping them out. or possibly somehow rendering them harmless genetically." The entire sensation of the Defector-Overseer schism But she folded her arms. "You could guess from my heritage that I find genocide more a shameful last resort than anything viable, but… let us hear it rather than guessing. I'm listening." Patient deference despite disquiet
[16:58] <FrontierWarGM> [Conqueror's plumage was burning a fierce red. "These vermin have evolved in rare conditions. In biology, diversity of experience breeds strength. But these things have evolved around a very tight collection of factors."-
[16:59] <FrontierWarGM> ["They have a single queen, responsible for their entire population growth. If the queen dies, then their species is doomed to extinction." Said Conqueror. "Their entire population consists of a handful of templates, each a genetic clone. That means that they're crippled by a lack of biodiversity."-
[17:00] <FrontierWarGM> ["You see, young one, one of the appeals of sex is that the mingling of genes means a forced introduction of diversity into our progeny. But when you reproduce as this queen does, all you do is replicate the same weaknesses." He raised a hand and curled it into a fist.-
[17:00] <FrontierWarGM> ["Do you really need me to explain myself? A genetic virus will destroy every vermin on this sphere in a few hours."]
[17:08] * Kess pondered that. It was …rather violent and direct, so she instead turned to the Guardian. "…How much time would we have before there is no other option?" balancing adversity against sin. "…I have no genetic knowledge, so I would be useless in the actual sequencing of such a virus. As much as it pains me, I may ask of you, Sector Lord, to proceed with the work as a backup, and allow me my attempt. If I fail, then the
[17:08] * Kess virus it shall be. If I succeed, in the future this species might be beneficial rather than pastilent, on top of saving our lives and the sector's Watchers and the Guardian." balancing more than four plates
[17:21] <FrontierWarGM> ["I can grant you that." Said Conqueror. "But remember well: the alien that isn't subjugated is one that cannot be trusted."-
[17:21] <FrontierWarGM> [He tapped his mask, and focused on sending some kind of message.-
[17:23] <FrontierWarGM> [The Guardian stared out the window.-
[17:25] <FrontierWarGM> ["I do not know when the vermin will finally overwhelm me. It took a very long time for them to take the first Guardian, a less time to take the second, and less time each until finally only I am left alone. I have so little energy left…"-
[17:26] <FrontierWarGM> ["I will not deactivate the energy drain. I cannot deactivate the energy drain. I need the energy from your ships and your people just to sustain myself. That is how close I am to destruction."]
[17:34] <Kess> "Then I will have to work fast." ever-faster desperation "Violet, you're skilled in telepathy, no doubt. …I am not, so I may need to rely on you as a messenger for this, if we cannot come up with another answer." But she checked her gear… "Hmm. I might be able to power hardware longer with the generator I brought, or even simply use it to buy you a sliver's worth more of time." She noted to the Guardian. "…But we must find
[17:34] <Kess> a way to reach a hive node, and fast. It is probably guarded, definitely guarded, and if it fights against the light we may need to find some other means of communication. …I'll try to improvise with my tools in that eventuality." Checking an infinite list
[17:35] <FrontierWarGM> ["Understood." Said Violet.-
[17:36] <FrontierWarGM> ["I know the nearest node." Said the Guardian. "The other options are to recover the shielding, or to reactivate the internal teleporter and take you directly to the Queen… But all are difficult… I will support your chosen path."]
[17:38] <Kess> "…There's a teleporter." She said blankly. "…i had not thought to ask! That would be of immense help and may be the best course. It would likely aid the viral contingency, too. I will take that course, Guardian."
[17:39] <FrontierWarGM> [The Guardian glided over to the shards of the dead Watcher, and picked up the largest fragment. She stared at it for a moment, then cradled it against her. "I can show you where to go."-
[17:54] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[17:55] <FrontierWarGM> [Conqueror walked- escorted only by a pair of Warslaves- into the open chamber. All the doors were open.-
[17:55] <FrontierWarGM> [I'm ready, he sent to Violet, who sent it to Kess. Then he raised his hand toward a doorway.-
[17:57] <FrontierWarGM> ["Come on, then, critters. See how you handle Conqueror-of-the-Last-Frontier, archprince once, and archprince to be!"-
[17:57] <FrontierWarGM> [A swirl of light charged around his fist, which he punched through a doorway. A long, bright beam of crackling electricity shot forth.-
[17:58] <FrontierWarGM> [Kess would see- from her hidden vantage- the vermin react immediately, charging off toward it… Leaving the path to the teleporter power grid sparse.]
[17:59] * Kess …Knew what she had to do, and was swift about it. "No electrical weapons if possible. quickly eliminate stragglers on path. …heading in." …And so Kess took one step, which became a leap through hidden space, and with the aid of dirac manipulation, danced through the path pummeling any bug that dare get in her way, trusting Violet and the Warfriends to keep up.
[18:01] <FrontierWarGM> [They did. Kaycoradi slid to a stop just before Kess, and slung the portatron generator at her feet. "Plug it in-in, quicklike!"]
[18:06] <Kess> "Can do!" she noted, and just… with her other two arms (bolter stowed) and even telekinetic force, she worked with incredible pace. Sci-glove over the workings! Checking how it works! Pulling the portatron hoses nearer. Stitching flaws in the grid plugs! Using a couple of spare parts to jury-rig an Ancestral-to-Twiceborn power interface! Combi-tool flying with grace as she smelted this, welded that, fused this scrap to that part…
[18:06] <Kess> it was a frantic dance and her plumage once again shone in riots under her armor. …But in the end? In the end, the four hoses went into the adaptor, a hastily-made EM baffle 'tent' was put over the whole thing, and… Flick, at the adapter switch. (If you CAN make a cutoff switch, why not?)
[18:08] <FrontierWarGM> [The nearest teleporter pad was only a metre away. It was round, and red, and now gleamed with light.-
[18:08] <FrontierWarGM> [The Guardian leapt onto the platform and held a hand out toward Kess.-
[18:09] <FrontierWarGM> ["Kess, we will stay here and protect the generator if and when they discover it." Said Violet. "Do your best."]
[18:10] * Kess shot a quick bow. "Thank you." May this sphere's maker smile on us. …the nuance suggested a reference to the theory that the Ancestors believed the universe may be within the soul of some ultimate being. …Still, she took the Guardian's hand. "Ready."
[18:13] <FrontierWarGM> [The Guardian closed her red eyes…-
[18:13] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[18:13] <FrontierWarGM> [A moment of tight compression, and then there they were, standing on another platform.-
[18:13] <FrontierWarGM> [Kess's suit instantly sent out a radiation warning. Within about ten minutes, the ambient solar radiation here would overwhelm her suit…-
[18:14] <FrontierWarGM> [And kess could see why. The Queen's sanctum had a breach across one wall, letting the violet light stream in completely unhindered. No atmosphere, no shielding…-
[18:15] <FrontierWarGM> [Here, the blue gleaming crystal had gone dull.-
[18:16] <FrontierWarGM> [The room itself was unexceptional, except that every surface was covered in large, vein-like bioluminescent tendrils, that dug through the crystal and into the raw power circuits, draining whatever they could.-
[18:17] <FrontierWarGM> [And these tendrils fed into a large, seething mass at the middle of the room, which was covered in membraneous coats that periodically gaped open to let out a flood of tiny lifeforms.-
[18:17] <FrontierWarGM> [The Queen…-
[18:17] <FrontierWarGM> [It didn't have a single head. Rather it had many, climbing up the walls, around the odd pillar, staring down at the room below.]
18:31] * Kess thought of this, noting the Queen's speech… then bowing her head. She sensed the syntax in the odd chitters half in her consciousness. Sensed the electrical waves among them, the… semblance of it. Fascinating… But no time to dwell on it! Stretching her throat valves, Kess took only a second to ready. …And then spoke what to anyone else, were horrible sounds. Clacking, multitonal, disorienting warbles of discord
[18:31] * Kess changing pitch and tone with each un-syllable. …But her insight into machines AND the language, was the true secret to success. …She was speaking in a way that the radio signal would be intelligible to the Queen. -
[18:40] <Kess> "From beyond home I come, and apologize for fighting your brood in defense." She began, artfully combining tones to be able to convey concepts a bit out of the queen's norm. "Your home is bright and feeds you, but your feeding harms countless hives in other homes far beyond your sight, and those who are of my hive-of-queens near you were brought here to come to a solution for both the Lighted Things and They Of Violet Brood." A lot
[18:40] <Kess> of near-matches, linguistic knowledge straining: Hive-of-queens to convey individualism, Lighted Things as close to 'Watchers' as she cold manage, and of course, They of Violet Brood had a small note of the queen's own signal at the end - proof that Kess was naming the Queen's kind that. But she continued. "The light here will kill me soon. I will make an offer: We find you another Light to feed from so that the last Lighted Thing
[18:40] <Kess> may do her work to protect distant hives without harm from your feeding; in exchange, I will call on those who know of improving breeds, so that your hive may be more successful, able to feed in more ways so as to be sated, and to possibly think deeper thoughts."
[19:01] <FrontierWarGM> [A few long moments of silence became a minute.-
[19:01] <FrontierWarGM> [……………..-
[19:01] <FrontierWarGM> [Then the Queen answered, a crackling pulsing of electricity crackling from around its 'heads'.-
[19:02] <FrontierWarGM> ["We are willing to deal."]
[19:13] * Kess …audibly sighed in relief over the comms, before bowing her head lightly. "Here is what I shall do, and what i ask for it to be done." She said, carefully picking words. "To make this home perform its original role, I require certain pieces from within it, guarded by your brood. The Lighted One knows where they are. It will protect me and my metal-made second-shell-" A very awkward translation of Superheavy. "-From the
[19:13] * Kess Light, so I can mend some of what has been rended by your brood's hunger. Doing so will make the Lighted Thing more capable of assistance, and release my hive from our peril. From there, I have made brief unity with a rival hive's higher-queen. They may know ways to quickly ease the transition with their knowledge of life-changing-arts. After such a time, we will arrange a means to send you and your kind to a home with a
[19:13] * Kess bright Light, and find ways for your kind to feed from other sources as well, and add that to your castes with such knowledge. It will take much time after the first actions, and I will do my best to hasten and ease the work."
[19:17] <FrontierWarGM> ["So you will relocate us to a different place, where we can all thrive." Said the Queen.-
[19:17] <FrontierWarGM> ["I do not oppose thriving. I agree. But. I want a little thing from you. I have read much. I know things. And I want a thing from you."]
[19:18] <Kess> "Speak of it and I will consider. With hope it is not too much to ask of me." She said with a bit of polite haste.
[19:19] <FrontierWarGM> ["Your genetic material."]
[19:26] * Kess paused. On the one hand, giving over Seer genes to such creatures, would possibly lead to extremely unprecedented and awkward things. On the other hand, this was surprisingly easy, all things considered. …The other hands could rest, this was enough to decide. "A moment, knowing I have little time. I will use a means to transfer it through piercing, if useful." …The combi-tool came out, the woman fiddling with it and
[19:26] * Kess using it with her back to the breach. Hacking into the suit's systems…. so that its medical kit would draw a blood sample. She didn't need to do much, as that was almost within its capabilities to begin with. …The tool stowed, Kess slowly approached the Queen, and with a small manner of Dirac legerdemain, had managed to remove one of the medsystem's syringes - with her blood - from the suit. Carefully shielding it with
[19:26] * Kess her AT Field so the genes would not degrade? …She motioned the tip to the Queen. "It pierces." And if all went well? …That is precisely what it did.
[19:28] <FrontierWarGM> [A vermin emerged from a crevice, took the sample, and rushed back to the queen, throwing it into one of the pools within her abdomen.-
[19:30] <FrontierWarGM> [Another precious few minutes passed.-
[19:30] <FrontierWarGM> [Then…-
[19:31] <FrontierWarGM> ["We are done."-
[19:31] <FrontierWarGM> ["We will begin redigesting much of ourselves to become more amenable to transport. You have your passage."]
[19:34] * Kess gave a proper Defector bow. "I will begin seeking the protective shell and mending this place at once. I will communicate with those of distant homes to come here for such transit after the void near here is once again safe to leave." She backed over to the teleporter pad. "Thank you, Violet Queen. May you come to know what it is to have the Seers' blood in your brood." …and absent anything else, she motioned to teleport
[19:34] * Kess out.
[19:34] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[19:35] <FrontierWarGM> [The temperature was dropping in the Valletta.-
[19:35] <FrontierWarGM> [It had been hours. Many in the cafeteria had fallen asleep, many huddled together.-
[19:36] <FrontierWarGM> [In the hangar, Liane, Inara and Rora saw to the juvenile Great One as it writhed on the floor, struggling just to stay alive.-
[19:36] <FrontierWarGM> […-
[19:36] <FrontierWarGM> [Then they felt it. Almost subconscious, a presence on their skin, on their minds, comforting and familiar.-
[19:37] <FrontierWarGM> [There was a flash of light. A slender human shape fell from directly above Rora, and landed on his feet in front of the Great One.-
[19:37] <FrontierWarGM> ["Alhamdulillah, I am awake!"-
[19:38] <FrontierWarGM> [Idris's entire form glowed with pure white light, a raw aura of power surrounding him- and a moment later, the lights flicked on. The hum of the ship's systems began to pick up again.-
[19:38] <FrontierWarGM> ["That was terrifying." Said Idris. "And I imagine it was terrifying for you, too."-
[19:39] <FrontierWarGM> [He walked past the Great One and placed a hand on its cauliflower-like stalks. "Mmm…"-
[19:40] <FrontierWarGM> [The Great One was stirring. After a minute or so, it started to rise, hovering off the surface of the hangar.-
[19:40] <FrontierWarGM> ["This one is going to spread its AT Field soon. It'll be bad for you all to be here when that happens. You should go back to the cafeteria."]
[19:43] <Rora> "Understood, Idris." Rora smiled broadly to him, perking up despite the fatigue tugging at him. "I am most relieved to have you back among the conscious once more. released from the crushing mountain"
[19:44] <FrontierWarGM> [Idris grinned.]
[19:44] * Liane nodded to Idris. … She was probably looking a bit worse for wear, really. "You okay, Idris?"
[19:45] <FrontierWarGM> ["I'll be fine. I've felt better, but it's an upward trend."-
[19:45] <FrontierWarGM> ["Ohhh, I get it. You're all loitering to say goodbye! You replaced the Idris-shaped hole in your hearts with a Great One, huh? For shame!"]
[19:47] * Liane rolls her eyes. "Like hell! But, uh, gonna do that getting now before I, you know." She doesn't linger further.
[19:48] <Inara> "Tch. There's only one person who can fill that hole." Inara was moving a bit… well, a lot more slowly than usual. She collected her tools carefully and wiped them down before returning them to their case. "Later we'll fill you in on what happened while you were out."
[19:48] * Rora just laughed out loud, already lazily drifting toward the exit.
[19:49] <FrontierWarGM> ["Haha."-
[19:49] <FrontierWarGM> ["Now, then." Said Idris. "My little friend, let's get you back to your mother…"-
[19:50] <FrontierWarGM> ["… Ooh. I see. So he left an impression, did he? Interesting…"-
[19:50] <FrontierWarGM> [Idris laughed.-
[19:53] <FrontierWarGM> [As Inara, Liane and Rora returned to the cafeteria, they found a room full of lights- and people stirring from sleep and half-snoozes.-
[19:53] <FrontierWarGM> ["You there! We have power!" Said Franco, rushing over to them. "Did it work? Is Idris back?"]
[19:55] <Rora> "He currently tends to the Great One we sheltered, but yes: Idris has returned." He was still beaming a mirthful green, even as he rubbed at his eyes with a wide robe sleeve.
[19:56] * @Liane unceremoniously flopped into a chair and mumbled out, "He's fine, yeh." Beat. "… I feel like crap."
[19:56] <FrontierWarGM> [No time for chairs! Liane's chair went flying as a blurry shape flew past and collected her and Rora into a hard tackle. "WE DID IIIIIIIIIIT!" Shouted Tran.]
[19:58] * @Liane falls into Tran's arms instead of a chair, then! And quickly rights herself. "… gah! Yes, yes, we did," she laughed jovially. "Together. We couldn't have done it without everyone, of course."
[20:00] <Inara> "And everyone's going to have to help put this place back in order too." Inara was eying the generator that was currently on loan from Medical.
[20:01] <FrontierWarGM> ["Hell yeah they will." Said Gregory. "Just spent hours doing jack, I feel double-antsy."-
[20:01] <FrontierWarGM> ["But hey, you wrangled a Great One, and helped keep us alive. Put it there." She said, throwing a hand up for Inara to five.]
[20:04] * Inara complied, although she was still a bit grumbly.
[20:05] * @Liane looked at Tran with a smile. "Reminds me of Lena before she got all teenager-y." Wait, who?
[20:05] <FrontierWarGM> ["Khalef." Said Lt. Tyrell, pacing over. "I have a complaint about your stupid robot."]
[20:06] * Rora laughed, sky-blue surprise twinkling for only a moment before verdant joy resumed. "Indisputibly! Each and every one, indispensible. unified parts, far greater than their sum"
[20:06] <Inara> "My robot is not stupid. I will hear your complaint, though."
[20:08] <FrontierWarGM> [Tyrell shook a flask filled with sludgy green liquid at Inara. "Your giant ball of disappointment liquefied my garden! And then tried to make us eat it! What the hell, Khalef?!"-
[20:09] <FrontierWarGM> [Zima, meanwhile, nudged both Rora and Liane. "C'mon Tran, get off 'em. They're starting to babble. Let 'em eat and drink before you go dashing them into walls."-
[20:09] <FrontierWarGM> ["Boooooo." Tran climbed to her feet. "They just went Great One-wrangling. They deserve a hug."-
[20:10] * @Liane cut in! "No, no, really, hugs are fine!"
[20:10] <FrontierWarGM> [Tran was already back in motion before Zima cut in, pulling Liane into a rough hug. "I am glad you're fine. Even though your hair's standing all on end, I guess?"-
[20:11] <FrontierWarGM> [Which left Tran to grab Rora's arm and drag him away. "C'mon, I'm actually hungry, let's eat everything."]
[20:14] <Inara> "Hey, he was just trying to help out and make sure everyone was fed. Let's talk it out. Tell me what the damages are…"
[20:14] * @Liane hugged Zima back, chuckling. "I'll feel better once I get some proper rest, I think. I got a biiiit to close to the Great One, is all."
[20:18] * Rora made no effort to resist, chuckling as he was led away. "That sounds like a capital plan!…Though I would personally recommend against the green smoothie. disaster bottle"
[20:19] <FrontierWarGM> ["I hope all of you bastards liked drinking my coffee plant!"-
[19:50] <FrontierWarGM> [----
[19:52] <Kess> …Hours had passed. Vermin suddenly more cooperative, flying under shields to repair technology older than her own race. Thinking of the strange things the Queen might use her genes for. …she mused, maybe they'll become Good Speakers. Maybe they'll advance genetic science using their own flesh as laboratories. Maybe, just maybe, their Inner Spheres will be more as the metaphor of her name. The time had ticked by, and soon both
[19:52] <Kess> teams were ready to leave. But. -
[19:57] <Kess> She waved to the Overseer delegation, and… turned to stare to the Conqueror. "…I forgot one thing, while we spoke. I believe it will mean something to you, and though it was an enforced truce, your aid was crucial." gratitude that knows no allegiance She lowered into a bow. "I merely want to wish you and your family peace and some joy, even if we may later meet as foes." She walked a bit towards Forgemaster. Paused,
[19:57] <Kess> Serenity of a world lit by the greatest souls. "You deserve as much, Uncle." Preening the finest plumage, for the proudest awkward dance. -
[19:58] <Kess> …She immediately warped into the cockpit of the Superheavy, and set its engines running.

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