To Have Sisu

[13:27] <FrontierWarGM> [There was a tense silence aboard the bridge of the Valletta.-
[13:28] <FrontierWarGM> ["Sensors indicate the enemy will arrive in one minute." Said Gregory.]
[13:35] * Kayoko nodded.-
[13:35] <Kayoko> The flurry of early orders and contingencies had died down minutes ago, and now all that was left was to wait. Her right fist was held against her lips, a thin silver chain snaking out from between her fingers to wrap tightly around her palm.
[13:44] <FrontierWarGM> ["Boarding team- Meier, Mist, be ready. Last minute checks on gear." Said Franco over the comms.]
[13:47] * Kess was, meanwhile, aboard Forgemaster, testing all of the systems, takking away at her systems interface. "…So many guns. Prepped and ready, though." The amount of work she had done fixing up and modding the Valetta's superheavies (…and the Valetta itself!) was extensive, and she was actually 'hopping' in the feranea's cage to get more used to the added mass from all the hardening she had done to it.
[13:48] * Liane closed her eyes for a moment, offering a quick, silent prayer. "Roger that, Commander," she said.
[13:51] <Inara> A much more languid Inara had finished her own weapon checks, and was eyeing the displayed data for her missile launcher with a small half-frown. "Best of luck, infiltration team."
[13:52] <Kess> "We will cover and protect you." Kess insisted. "I have faith in our preparations."
[13:52] <FrontierWarGM> [Liane and Rora's shuttle was only holding two out of the twenty people it could hold, along with a few boxes of equipment. It was empty, yet the air was stifling for some reason. It didn't have a pilot- or rather it did, but it was just Navigator Tran, projected holographically into the seat. She gave them both a thumbs up.]
[13:53] * Rora simply gave a curt nod, unaware of the stern look his face had settled upon.
[13:55] <FrontierWarGM> ["Signature detected, Captain Hyuga." Said Commander Tycho. "We're engaging the slipstream interdictor in three, two, one…"-
[13:58] * Liane looked over at Rora pensively. "You ready for this?"
[14:04] <Rora> "…Hmmh, as ready as one can be." He took a steadying breath. "Not quite the same as subduing xenofauna, admittedly."
[14:09] <Liane> "To tell the truth I'm a bit scared out of my wits," Liane laughed. "I suppose that's healthy though."
[14:09] <FrontierWarGM> [A swirl of discordant white rippled around Frontier Gate Station, before bursting around it into space.-
[14:10] <FrontierWarGM> [Across their ad-hoc minefield were dozens of sudden white sparks, which quickly materialised into craft- enemy starships and superheavies. The Apostate Fleet.-
[14:10] <FrontierWarGM> ["Look at them all." Murmured Gregory.-
[14:11] <FrontierWarGM> ["Activating flare." Said Idris, his eyes closed; he slapped his hands together. A moment later, a coruscating flash of light burst out of seemingly nowhere in the middle of the field, rippling across the enemy fleet- which immediately started to move out of formation in a disorientated way.-
[14:11] <FrontierWarGM> ["Flash successful!"-
[14:12] <FrontierWarGM> [There was the crude flare of engine wash as a handful of asteroids began cruising languidly toward the enemy starships. Within minutes they collided, large plumes of flame and positron bursting around them.-
[14:13] <FrontierWarGM> [On board the shuttle, Tran's hologram leaned forward and grinned; she slammed the controls and the shuttle shot into motion. It cruised around one menacingly rotating asteroid moments before it impacted with the colossal enemy Dreadnought.-
[14:14] <FrontierWarGM> [With a jolt of impact, the shuttle locked against the Dreadnought's hull. "Cutting through now-"-
[14:15] <FrontierWarGM> ["There. You two, you're free to go!" Said Tran, before she vanished. At the rear of the shuttle, a hatch slid open, revealing the red-lit interior of the Dreadnought… It was, of course, gravity free.-
[14:15] <FrontierWarGM> [The mission had begun.-
[14:16] <FrontierWarGM> [Peace. For the last thirty years, the Twiceborn Federation has enjoyed a golden age of freedom and equality- but also one of peace.-
[14:16] <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.-
[14:16] <FrontierWarGM> [Beyond its borders, forces stir, creating a chain reaction that threatens to engulf the Federation in plots beyond its reckoning.-
[14:16] <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?-
[14:16] <FrontierWarGM> [This is the story of the Frontier War.-
[14:16] <FrontierWarGM> [EPISODE TITLE: TO HAVE SISU.]
[14:16] <Kayoko> … Kayoko allowed herself a smile that was all teeth.-
[14:16] <Kayoko> "Idris, please boost my telepathy," Kayoko said, shutting her eyes. "Full broadcast."-
[14:17] <Kayoko> A moment later, every mind in the region found the same simple message resonating through their thoughts. (FREEPATH DEVOTED) Kayoko's voice boomed, cold and utterly confident, (THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING. YOU ARE INTRUDING ON OCCUPIED SPACE. POWER DOWN ALL REACTORS AND DISARM, OR WE WILL DESTROY YOUR FLEET.)
[14:28] * Rora managed a brief, wry smirk. "Well, that makes two of u-" And then he was suddenly braced against his seat at the force of the shuttle's sudden acceleration.-
[14:30] <Rora> Then, just as suddenly, it felt, they'd stopped. Rora stared dumbly at the ominous red light before them, slowly blinking.
[14:33] <FrontierWarGM> [Kayoko's words seemed to have some effect- their formation continued to disperse, and some ships began falling behind.]
[14:36] * Liane swallowed, and gave Rora a nod. "I'll cover you, Mist. Be careful," she whispered, as she stood and moved to the entry point…
[14:46] <Kayoko> "We tried," Kayoko muttered. "Alright, all stations are weapons free. Cripple their command cruisers!"
[14:50] <FrontierWarGM> [Gregory's hands flew over the console commands. A moment latter the Valletta's impact cannon disgorged a mighty bolt of energy, which exploded amidst the enemy's right flank- followed immediately by cannon fire from Frontier Gate and the Bold Endeavour.-
[14:51] <FrontierWarGM> ["Hits landed! Enemy vessels are on fire!"]
[14:52] <Kess> The Forgemaster kicked off of the launch tube, and soon, one of its many guns, all mounted and locked into place. "EMP. Targeting enemy shielder." She said, in a clipped, if determined, 'efficiency voice'. The grenade shot through the field, some asteroids nearly clipping it… but then the surge of energy blasted into the wake of the cannon shockwaves, actually crippling a number of fighters. A tweet of satisfaction followed.
[15:03] <Inara> A strange, bright missile rocketed off to the north, through the asteroid field, and directly into the cluster of superheavies hovering just in front the enemy's flagship. The flashbang that followed was painful to see from the Valletta's position, even with debris and dust half-obscuring it. -
[15:03] <Inara> "Hah! So, good news everyone. The experimental weapon is a success."
[15:06] <Kayoko> "Are you sur-" Kayoko began, only for the long-range sensors to feed her vision of two Superheavies lightly colliding in the aftermath of the explosion. "Well! Right you are. Nicely done, doctor."
[15:06] <Inara> "Why thank you."
[15:19] <FrontierWarGM> [The enemy started to move haphazardly toward them, although the outliers were a single cruiser and a Horus.-
[15:19] <FrontierWarGM> ["Looks like your flare worked, Captain. No incoming fire yet." Said Gregory. "Shall I light up the rest of their right flank?"]
[15:30] <Kayoko> "Mhmm. Coordinate your fire with the Frontier Gate and Wuha's cruiser."
[15:42] <FrontierWarGM> [The three vessels' firepower- aided by Kess's judicious grenades- flew through the haphazard minefield. Superheavies burned, ships tore apart and the remainder smouldered.-
[15:42] <FrontierWarGM> ["The right flank is just about neutralised." Said Gregory. "Their left flank's closing-"-
[15:42] <FrontierWarGM> [One agile Horus opened fire on the station, striking its shields.-
[15:42] <FrontierWarGM> [Directly ahead, the enemy Dreadnought steamrolled forward, smashing an asteroid out of the way.]
[17:35] <Kayoko> "We're almost done," Kayoko said. "Put us between the fleet and Frontier Gate and keep up that barrage. Commander, where are we at with the infil team?"
[17:35] <FrontierWarGM> ["They've reported in, they're close to the target."-
[17:35] <FrontierWarGM> ["They had better be." Said Violet. "That Dreadnought's ready to fire."]
[17:36] <Kayoko> "We can take it," Kayoko said, gripping the chain around her fist a little tighter. "At least for a moment."
[17:54] * Kess nodded. "…If thy're almost there…" She plugged in new telemetry. "Then let's give the dreadnaught crew something to think about." Grenade on course… propulsion targeted. It shot true!
[18:11] <Kayoko> The Valletta drifted to a halt in front of the Frontier Gate, staring down the onrushing dreadnought as a pale silver barrier appeared between them. "We can hold! Brace for impact," Kayoko called, knuckles going white as she gripped the edge of her chair.
[18:13] <Mianplo> [The EMp grenade caught a nearby cruiser in its wake, causing it to drift off directly into a cluster of asteroids, which tore it apart.-
[18:15] <Mianplo> [But the Dreadnought kept coming.-
[18:16] <Mianplo> [Its weapons flashed, a massive salvo streaking toward the Valletta. The AT Field expanded, catching the first dangerous bolts- before buckling, Idris yelping in pain.-
[18:16] <Mianplo> ["Shields down-"-
[18:17] <Mianplo> [A hail of transmatter bolts struck the Valletta, one hitting the bridge square on. The lights flickered- a nearby console exploded in a shower of sparks- and the tactical holomap flickered.-
[18:17] <Mianplo> ["Hull is holding!" Shouted Gregory.]
[18:19] <Kayoko> "Meir! If you're going to stop that thing, now would be a good time!"
[18:22] <Liane> "Captain! Ask their shrine maiden or whatever what kind of passwords they might use!"
[18:24] <Kayoko> "She- They're on different sides of the war, Ensign!" Kayoko snapped, even as she craned around to look back at where Russkra sat at the tacmap. "You said you could break the security!"
[18:24] <Liane> "I can! But a hint will make it easier, you know?"
[18:25] <Kayoko> "oh my god"
[18:25] <Liane> "We're in the room with the thing, you know. It's not like we've barely started."
[18:27] <Mianplo> ["By the Prophet." Muttered Russkra. "Alright, space-vinet, listen up."-
[18:27] <Mianplo> ["When cracking a Devoted console, you have to understand we're an unimaginative people-"-
[18:28] <Mianplo> [Another salvo of shots raked the Valletta.-
[18:28] <Mianplo> ["Please make haste, young one, move it or lose it," Said Violet quickly.-
[18:28] <Mianplo> ["… We use-a-lot-of-the-same-passwords-drawn-from-the-shrinepath-texts-so-try-'absolution of self'."]
[18:28] <Kess> "Just do it and let's be done with it, while the systems are still cycling from the EMP shock…!" Kess noted awkwardly from her holospace. …You could see through the helpfully-transparent plumage parts of her suit something like Dancing over a hand-sized cookie
[18:30] <Liane> "Absolution of self. Okay…!" Tap-tap-tap-tap.
[18:30] <Kayoko> "Of all the idiot ways to die-" Kayoko muttered. "Idris, flood the deflect! We need another minute!"
[18:31] <Mianplo> [There was a loud cranky electronic '-bzzzzt-' on Liane's side; she herself would see a large DENIED message.]
[18:31] <Liane> Liane frowned, and muttered something undoubtedly vulgar in German.
[18:32] <Mianplo> ["Try 'Veneration of the Nine Paths'."]
[18:32] * Kess began to get an idea. "Quick! Russkra, start sending as many sample passwords as you can!" Turn. "Meir, set a rolling bruteforce hash with the words she gives you!" Plumage wild Dancing in a screaming whirlwind
[18:33] <Liane> "Got it."
[18:33] <Mianplo> [Bzzt.-
[18:33] <Mianplo> [Outside, the AT Field flared to life again, blocking another few shots- before another rain of bolts punched through.-
[18:33] <Mianplo> ["Decks four and twelve experiencing hull breaches!" Shouted Gregory.-
[18:34] <Liane> And Liane would set up to do just that! "Keep the terms coming, should make this shit easier to brute-force!"
[18:34] <Mianplo> [Russkra shouted into her communicator. "'Conversion of the Lost', 'To Cleanse the Mind', 'Embracing the Weak', 'Uplifting the Sunken Fanes'…"-
[18:34] <Mianplo> [Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt.-
[18:35] <Mianplo> [The door to the dirac chamber started to pound.-
[18:35] <Mianplo> ["'Swallowing-the-sundowned-bird', 'Chasing the Milky Way', 'The Blade-Faced Serpent'"-
[18:35] <Mianplo> [Bzzt. Bzzt.-
[18:35] <Mianplo> […-
[18:36] <Mianplo> [Click! The console lit up. She was in.]
[18:36] <Liane> "… Shit, we're almost out of time…!" She was quickly entering each of the new phrases into her device, … TURN THAT THING OFF.
[18:36] <Liane> "Got it!"
[18:36] <Mianplo> ["The password is always The Blade-Faced Serpent. Now hit the off-switch already!"]
[18:37] <Liane> "Hitting it NOW!" Beep.
[18:37] * Kess blinked. …Blinked again. "Isn't there some Twiceborn meme, about passwords being the… sword-fish…?" She sounded idly fascinated and calm. Too calm, suddenly.
[18:38] <Kayoko> "Release the incapacitation gas!"
[18:37] <Mianplo> [The Dirac Jammer crackled to silence…-
[18:38] <Mianplo> [And the door opened. A squad of marines ran in, rifles raised, drawing a bead on Liane and Rora.-
[18:39] <Mianplo> [They fired-
[18:39] <Mianplo> [And there was nothing but light. Between them, all around them-
[18:40] <Mianplo> [For a moment all Rora and Liane would see was a radiant shape of raw light in front of them-
[18:40] <Mianplo> [Idris, channelling the power of the Evangelion through his human avatar.-
[18:41] <Mianplo> [With a wave of his hand, the marines went flying back out the door. With a sweep, Rora and Liane vanished-
[18:41] <Mianplo> [And with a clap of his hands, the dimension holes opened all over the Dreadnought.-
[18:42] <Mianplo> [It filled with gas, designed with help from Inara to put the Devoted straight to sleep. And it did.-
[18:42] <Mianplo> [All over the ship, the crew began to fall- not even those in sealed armour were safe.-
[18:43] <Mianplo> [Until finally, only one Devoted remained.-
[18:43] <Mianplo> [Admiral Vlui stood, barely, her legs shaking; yet her mane glowed with a golden halo that made her hair stand on end.-
[18:43] <Mianplo> [Idris appeared before her.-
[18:44] <Mianplo> ["What are you people?" She asked, her voice ragged and harsh.-
[18:45] <Mianplo> [Idris cocked his head to the left, then smiled. "We just are."-
[18:45] <Mianplo> […-
[18:45] <Mianplo> [The Dreadnought's guns went silent. A moment later, Idris reappeared on the bridge with Liane and Rora.-
[18:45] <Mianplo> ["If only human babies went to sleep so easily." Said Idris. "Captain, the enemy ship is yours."-]
[18:47] <Liane> "… that was closer than I prefer to cut things," Liane admitted.
[18:47] * Kayoko grinned in what was obviously part euphoria and part relief. "I owe you one, Ahura."-
[18:48] <Kayoko> And Kayoko's telepathic voice resonated through the remaining ships for the second time.-
[18:50] <Mianplo> ["Captain. Enemy vessels are starting to power down their weapons." Said Gregory.]
[18:51] <Kayoko> "And about time, too," she sighed.
[18:53] <Mianplo> ["We did it." Said Tran. "We saved Sisu!"-
[18:53] <Mianplo> [She stood up and ran over to Liane and Rora; she pulled them both into a hug. "We did itttttttttttttt-"-
[18:53] <Mianplo> ["Chief navigator, return to your station-" Started Franco.-
[18:54] <Mianplo> ["Mmmm, undamaged dreadnought for me." Purred Russkra.-
[18:54] <Mianplo> ["Thanks for the cover, Captain Hyuga." Said Commander Tycho's holographic head. "I thought your plan was insane, but apparently insane in the good way."]
[18:57] <Kayoko> "Naturally, Commander," Kayoko said easily, flicking a few strands of hair out of her eyes. "Not that those are mutually exclusive, of course…"-
[18:59] <Kayoko> "Alright!" she shouted over the minor din in the command room. "We aren't finished yet! Round them up while they're still smart enough to know they've lost, and we'll drop them into the quarantine zone while we disarm them properly. Mist, Mier, if you're able to pilot we could use your superheavies for mop-up."
[18:59] <Rora> Tran's hug broke Rora out of his wide-eyed trance; a wall of AT force snapped into being for a moment accompanied by a small yelp…before he realized just where he was. He glowed a sheepish pink, letting the shield drop.
[19:05] <Rora> "…Er. Mop-up…? opening a dreaded letter"
[19:06] <Mianplo> ["Take them into captivity, Mr. Mist." Said Franco. "We're not about to execute surrendered enemies."-
[19:06] <Kess> "…Herd anyone not complying." tearing off a band-aid - She knew what Rora was thinking and seemed to want nothing of it. "Yes, we're not just killing the surrendered. We have rules of engagement! Well-written ones!"
[19:06] <Mianplo> ["And Chief Navigator, please let him go and return to your station."]
[19:08] <Liane> Liane gave Tran a pat on the back. "Right on it, Captain," she replied with a wink, attempting to disengage from a navigator hug and get right on that launching. Rest was for when the job was done.
[19:11] <Rora> "Oh!…Yes- yes, of course," he sighed, verdant relief shining from him. He blinked, returning the Navigator's embrace with a heartfelt one of his own - albeit now a delayed one.
[19:12] <Mianplo> ["Goddamnit, Guardian, let our Chief Navigator go. Every moment that seat is empty is a moment where I am personally irritated by every thing you do."]
[19:18] * Rora shot Franco a curious glance, holding the hug just long enough for the stern man to notice before releasing Tran.
[19:31] <Mianplo> [Franco's eyes narrowed.-
[19:31] <Mianplo> […-
[19:44] <Mianplo> [Admiral Vlui stirred.-
[19:44] <Mianplo> [She stirred to find herself in a room. She found herself in front of a table. She was manacled to the table.-
[19:45] <Mianplo> [As the fog started to lift, she gave an experimental tug on the handcuffs. They held firm.]
[19:51] <Kayoko> A voice cut through what was left of the fog, light and matter-of-fact. "Yeah, they're pretty solid. I wouldn't waste your effort."-
[19:51] <Kayoko> Kayoko sat on the other side of the table, one knee propped up on her chair to act as a writing surface for an old-style wood pulp notebook and pen. She finished the line she was working on, snapped the book shut and turned her attention to Vlui. "Greetings, Admiral."
[19:52] <Mianplo> [Vlui looked up.-
[19:52] <Mianplo> ["… A vinet?"]
[20:01] <Kayoko> "Afraid not, although you're not the first one to assume as much!" she said as she slipped the notebook into a jacket pocket. "I'm Kayoko of the Twiceborn. This isn't how I'd hoped to introduce myself, but we did try our best to bring you to the table."
[20:02] <Mianplo> ["I see."]
[20:03] <Kayoko> "You thirsty? Medical said you might be."
[20:11] <Mianplo> ["An after-effect of your narcotic gas, I assume. Yes, I am."]
[20:17] * Kayoko reached under the table and came back with a small paper cup of water, which she set down within range of the manacles.-
[20:18] <Kayoko> "The majority of your fleet stood down. They'll be treated with respect."
[20:21] <Mianplo> ["Good."]
[20:39] <Kayoko> "… not much of a talker, huh? It wasn't this hard with the Maiden."
[20:48] <Mianplo> [Admiral Vlui rapidly scratched her neck, her claws a little unsheathed.-
[20:51] <Mianplo> [Then with her other claw she took the paper cup of water and drank from it until it was empty.-
[20:52] <Mianplo> [The paper cup was returned to the desk. "You haven't asked me anything."]
[21:13] <Kayoko> "Neither have you! I'm a bit surprised, if I'm being honest. I happen to know the bones the story of your war from speaking with others - admittedly I'm sure those are biased and partial, but we can correct that later - but you?" Kayoko spun the pen around her index finger in lazy parabolic arcs. "You wandered into an unknown system with a full fleet, only to encounter an unknown species who beat you with one cruiser. I'd have loads of questions if I were you."
[21:22] <Mianplo> ["Fine. What are Twiceborn, then?"]
[21:29] <Kayoko> "Bipedal, mammalian and omnivorous," Kayoko said, counting each fact off on her fingers. "Creators of the Twiceborn Federation, whose territory and infrastructure you attacked. We'd mostly kept to ourselves before all of you appeared."
[21:34] <Mianplo> ["And now aligned with the Shrinepath Devoted."]
[21:37] <Kayoko> "That's a leap of logic. You entered our territory under the banner of war and tried to dictate terms. We defended ourselves," Kayoko said. "Your civil war does not really enter into it, frankly."
[21:38] <Mianplo> ["It does not matter one way or another. As of now you have aligned yourselves with the Shrinepath Devoted."]
[21:39] <Kayoko> "Says you?"
[21:41] <Mianplo> ["It's a simple reading of the situation. Your vessel fought alongside a Shrinepath Devoted cruiser in destroying my fleet. You might think of yourselves as mere allies of convenience, united to defeat a pursuer and an interloper respectively, but now the fact of that cooperation is a very inconvenient situation for you if you think you can maintain your neutrality." Said Vlui. "Your
[21:41] <Mianplo> actions have chosen your allegiance."]
[21:52] * Kayoko rolled her eyes. "Oh please. You'd be saying the same thing whether we'd deployed the cruiser or not. Seriously, this is all so distressingly near-sighted…"-
[21:52] <Kayoko> "You'd really give the Devoted an ally of unknown strength just to be stubborn?"
[21:55] <Mianplo> ["Your alternative is… Letting Russkra return to the Shrinepath Devoted, and us pretending this never happened, so we can go back to our war and you can return to your isolation."]
[22:00] <Kayoko> "Exactly," Kayoko said with a smile. "We just let you get back to being manipulated into religious conflict by an uncaring Overseer empire for their own dark purposes. I'm sure you're all just dying to be turned into a warrior slave caste, and us getting involved would really slow things down."
[22:02] <Mianplo> ["So… You're involving yourselves after all?"-
[22:05] <Mianplo> [Admiral Vlui spread her arms as widely as the cuffs would allow. "My childhood as a Maiden of the Shrine was full of riddling mentors and posturing sages, and I had my fill of it long before I set aside the robe and flail. I do not care about this or that, Kayoko of the Twiceborn. All I really care about is this question: are you intending to involve yourselves in our civil war or are
[22:05] <Mianplo> you not?"-
[22:07] <Mianplo> ["You object to being described as aligned with the Shrinepath Devoted, yet you also seem to decry neutrality. So what? Are you intending to align with us?"]
[22:18] <Kayoko> "Oh no, please don't misunderstand, Admiral; I was being sincere. After three days of desperately trying to stop you killing yourselves fighting us I'm not against letting you go back to your messy little struggle. Maybe that will change when I've had some time to sleep," she shrugged. "I'm only human."-
[22:18] <Kayoko> She sighed. "But no, I don't get to make the call. I've halted your advance, and when my… heh, my betters get here they'll look over the situation and work out where we fall. I'm simply noting that Ruskra is interested in negotiating, while you are not."
[22:19] <Mianplo> ["I can hardly speak on behalf of all Freepath." Said Vlui.]
[22:20] <Kayoko> "You could when you were declaring us enemies."
[22:22] <Mianplo> [Vlui paused, stared up at the roof for a moment and then back down at Kayoko. "Yes, because when you take thousands of Freepath lives, that makes you an enemy of the Freepath."]
[22:26] <Kayoko> "If we'd fought purely defensively and never killed a soul, would you have bombarded an occupied civilian planet to get what you want?" Kayoko cut in.
[22:30] <Mianplo> ["If that's what it took, then yes." Said Vlui. "I was hoping very much that I could find a less vicious option before resorting to bombardment… But you left me with little choice."-
[22:31] <Mianplo> [Vlui rubbed slightly at her wrists. "This could've been avoided if you'd answered even one of my hails with anything besides an automated message threatening violence if I did not leave."]
[22:35] <Kayoko> "…" For the first time since she'd started speaking, Kayoko hesitated. Her eyes narrowed as she tried to think very, very fast.-
[22:35] <Kayoko> "What hails?" she asked, leaning forward. "What did they say?"
[22:37] <Mianplo> ["The moment I entered the system, I broadcasted hails in every direction, announcing who I was and requesting permission to pass through the system. I explained my mission and that the apprehension of the Maiden was of paramount importance. The response was the same recorded message every time: 'Attention interloper: heed this recorded message. Your presence is a violation of our space,
[22:37] <Mianplo> and any further incursion into our space will see us eradicate every trace of you from our territory.'"]
[22:45] * Kayoko let out a long breath, attention focused on her hands. "Well," she said, some of the confidence gone from her tone, "I could tell you that wasn't us, but I imagine that's not going to fly…"-
[22:45] <Kayoko> She stood quite abruptly, pacing towards a one-way mirror behind her chair. She stared into it for a few seconds before turning around and marching back to the table. "The truth vision thing. Can you do it?"
[22:46] <Mianplo> ["Can I do it?" Vlui- she- well. She meowed long and slowly.-
[22:46] <Mianplo> ["I was this close to becoming Great Priestess of the Shrinepaths, Kayoko of the Twiceborn. Not only can I do it, I could probably make you walk on all fours and beg for lice."]
[22:49] <Kayoko> (Only if I let you) came the telepathic retort.-
[22:51] <Kayoko> "But good, good. You're going to do it, then." Her words were coming quickly now, as her mouth tried to keep up with her brain. "If you do anything more than assess my honesty, Idris will reduce you to the finest pile of ash he can. Is that clear, Idris?"
[22:53] <Mianplo> ["Of course, Captain."-
[22:54] <Mianplo> ["I'm not going to try anything, Kayoko of the Twiceborn." She blinked slowly, then stood. "I may be dedicated, but I value living. Now, look at me."]
[22:59] * Kayoko did. She also dropped the psionic shield she'd been maintaining since she entered the room.-
[22:59] <Kayoko> Kayoko had been raised to learn her lessons.-
[22:59] <Kayoko> "We have no such automated message," she began, speaking clearly and - thankfully - slowly. "I have been trying to hail your fleet since you entered the system, and every single attempt has gone unanswered. We have not received any hails from you or your vessels."
[23:01] <Mianplo> [Vlui's eyes shone bright with golden light.-
[23:02] <Mianplo> [For a spare moment, her entire head was framed in a golden gleaming halo-
[23:03] <Mianplo> [Kayoko stood, unable to move, not even to look away or close her eyes…-
[23:03] <Mianplo> [… The room swam, but after a second it was over. The light was gone and Vlui was back to normal.-
[23:03] <Mianplo> [There had been a great deal of force there, more than there had been with Lyka Wuha. A headache was starting to throb behind Kayoko's eyes.-
[23:06] <Mianplo> ["Hm. You're telling the truth." Said Vlui. "Also you're not very good at handling the Truthseeing Eye, so I apologise for that. Best to drink some water and wear something to tint light for awhile."]
[23:11] <Kayoko> The pain was secondary as Kayoko snapped her defenses back into place, her overriding feeling - and expression - was one of distaste. "I'll be fine," she grumbled, and then said something under her breath that sounded a lot like 'fucking hate mindscans'.-
[23:12] <Kayoko> "Well, I… actually have no idea what this means. Russkra wouldn't have beaten our security, and it predates her arrival," she said, raising one hand to her temple as she started to pace again. "Which leaves the possibility of someone on your side of things, I suppose."
[23:13] <Mianplo> [Vlui settled back into her seat.-
[23:15] <Mianplo> ["I wonder why anyone would do that." She shook her head. "Nevermind, motive is only useful for pre-warning. Access…"-
[23:15] <Mianplo> ["…"-
[23:15] <Mianplo> ["Pillow."]
[23:15] <Kayoko> "… I'm sorry?"
[23:20] <Mianplo> [Vlui's lips parted, showing her powerful, very clean teeth. "The Masked Ones sent advisors to many of our ships, to help with translation and offering us insight from their perspective. But the Masked Ones don't go themselves, they send representatives from another species entirely, one that also looks like a big vinet. They're called the Pleasant Maids, and the one sent to my ship
[23:20] <Mianplo> was named… 'A Pillow on which a Weary Master rests Their Dinner Plates'. Or Pillow for short. She had Masked One technology, capable of translating languages. We used her to interpret incoming messages and send outgoing ones… She left the system a day ago, saying she had received an urgent summons from her superiors."]
[23:23] <Kayoko> "… before or after the scuffle for recovery of the Maiden?"
[23:23] <Mianplo> ["After. Not long after."]
[23:24] * Kayoko pressed a hand to each of her temples now. "Fantastic."
[23:25] <Mianplo> ["I shared little with her in way of information regarding that engagement, but she may have had more awareness than I thought." Said Vlui. "I'm not sure of her motivations, however. What reason would the Masked Ones have to provoke a war with you? That just makes things more difficult for everyone involved."]
[23:31] <Kayoko> "I don't know," she said. "I've got to report all of this. Would you submit to a scan to verify your side of the story?"
[23:32] <Mianplo> ["Seems only fair. You should be able to find records on my starship as well."]
[23:34] <Kayoko> "Good. Thank you. It won't happen immediately, because I have to go and quarantine myself for allowing unknown psychic contact like an idiot…"-
[23:35] <Kayoko> She walked towards the door, not looking back. "Guards will be by shortly to move you to a cell, Admiral. I imagine I'll be speaking to you again soon."
[23:35] <Mianplo> ["Indeed."]
[23:36] <Kayoko> And Kayoko was gone.
[23:36] <Mianplo> […-
[23:38] <Mianplo> [About eight hours after the battle, the first forces of the 2nd Outer Sphere Fleet arrived, led by Admiral Archibald aboard the Achaemenes Dreadnought FSS Zhang Yanmei. They found waiting for them a bonanza of captured enemy materiel, including a more-or-less undamaged dreadnought- as well as a bevy of mysteries and concerns.-
[23:39] <Mianplo> [One thing they did not, however, have, was Ahre Khivu and his Horus Superfighter.-
[23:41] <Mianplo> [Under a haze of sensor-scrambling smoke and the magnetic containment fields of crude positron generators slapped on giant rocks, Ahre drifted, painfully slowly, out of the dragnet- and was overlooked. When it was safe, he engaged his Way-Key and leapt to slipstream, beelining directly for the frontier of the system. With Frontier Gate's key still needing repairs after its jury-rigged
[23:41] <Mianplo> interdiction, there was nothing to stop him from leaving.-
[23:41] <Mianplo> [And so he left, heading back towards Freepath space and leaving the dismal system and its burning planet and its mysterious, mighty owners behind.-
[23:43] <Mianplo> [A handful of empty systems passed the incurious Ahre by- systems he'd been in before when he had been pursuing rather than fleeing.-
[23:44] <Mianplo> [After a week's worth of travel, he arrived in a Freepath system. Supplies low and personally exhausted, he let out a sigh of relief.-
[23:45] <Mianplo> [Which didn't last. He headed towards the nearest space station- and within the hour, was suddenly yanked out of slipstream. A moment later his engines went dead.-
[23:46] <Mianplo> [Above him, appearing where once there had been nothing, rippling like the disturbed surface of water- was a very large, sleek, black warship.-
[23:46] <Mianplo> [An unseen force yanked his Horus and pulled it into the waiting maw-like hangar bay.-
[23:47] <Mianplo> [His Horus's cockpit opened without his doing anything. Slowly, he peered out into the great hangar, lined with strange, unfamiliar, oddly ornate craft.-
[23:47] <Mianplo> [Waiting for him were two Warslaves- and a Pleasant Maid.-
[23:49] <Mianplo> ["Hello, Ahre." Said Pillow, giving him a slow blink and a warm smile. "We're very curious to know what happened- but let's get you cleaned up and rested first. Does that sound nice?"-
[23:50] <Mianplo> [Ahre crawled out of the cockpit, his legs stiff and aching- and mewed pathetically.]
[23:50] <Mianplo> -fin-

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License