After their numerous detours in Hyrdeum and Zarrakin territory, the Valley Forge finally reaches Gelesh-Nen space to discover that there are more problems than the mysterious mutagenic plague within...
Ann Carter@anncaris | After many weeks of travel, the Valley Forge has finally reached what the Hyrdeum believe to be Gelesh-Nen territory. Two days of travel through the region yields nothing of interest so far, - Ann Carter@anncaris - and they are nearing the third day now. Keelah has gone back to quarters, with Lennie overseeing the bridge as they cruise through deep space... Ann Carter@anncaris | As they travel, a ship shows up on long-range sensors travelling at warp 7 Lendaria@crystyl:"Heads up, seems we've got company in this region after all" Ann Carter@anncaris:"I see it. Warp 7, speedin' up to 7.5 now. Definitely ain't Hyrdeum." Lendaria@crystyl:"Tha' look like they're adjustin' heading to an intercept course to ya?" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "Tha' it does. Not surprisin' though, seein' a new ship in the region an' all, but still might wanna play it safe." Ann Carter@anncaris | Watson: "Yellow alert? Or a little too safe and we don't want to come off as preparing for a fight?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Aight, let's get a channel open to 'em and let Keelah know. Shields's appropriate in a new encounter too I think" Ann Carter@anncaris | Watson nods, "Raising shields." Ann Carter@anncaris | TQ: "No response to hails on any channel." Lendaria@crystyl:"Well, keep cyclin' th'frequencies an' maybe they'll wake up" Ann Carter@anncaris | TQ nods and continues tapping away Lendaria@crystyl:"Wha' can we tell about 'em from scans at this range?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ensign Nqakula: "The technology looks roughly on par with mid to late 24th century. Judging from the size and power levels I'd say it's probably a medium cruiser. Like the Excelsiors were for - Ann Carter@anncaris - us at that time." Ann Carter@anncaris | Watson: "Phaser arrays, standard energy shielding, duranium hull plating. It's a few steps up from Hyrdeum technology." Lendaria@crystyl:"So it would seem. I'se got a read on the lifesigns too. Seems like Children, but these readings ain't quite right for tha'. Could be some heavy cybernetics at work or somethin'" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Heavy cybernetics?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Kinda like Borg, but no signs o'assimilation or integration wit' their ship tha' I can see" Ann Carter@anncaris | Nqakula: "Yeah, I don't see any sign of Borg tech. Everything here looks pretty normal for a civilization at this tech level." Ann Carter@anncaris | Watson: "They're using active sensors on us now." Lendaria@crystyl:"Still no reaction t'hails?" Ann Carter@anncaris | TQ: "Still nothing..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"It's changin' course." Lendaria@crystyl:"Aight, let's run some interference then. No more peekin' close wit' active scans until they say hello" Ann Carter@anncaris | Nqakula: "Aye Commander. Sending interference." Ann Carter@anncaris:"New course seems to be takin' 'em...not sure where it's takin' 'em, it's not exactly back the way they came, but it's further away from us. Guess they aren't interested in us anymore." Lendaria@crystyl:"Kinda surprisin' reaction to a new ship in their space, don't ya think?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Yeah...somethin' doesn't feel right 'bout these fellas." Ann Carter@anncaris | The turbolift slides open and Keelah steps out Lendaria@crystyl:"Let's keep an eye on them for now an' see what comes about" Ann Carter@anncaris glances back to Lennie and Keelah, "Set a course to follow, then?" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah in turn looks to Lennie Lendaria@crystyl:"I'd say nah, just monitor while in range in case they are spooked so we don't end up lookin' like we chsain'" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah nods, "Maintain course and speed for now then" taking her seat to review the sensor data Ann Carter@anncaris:"Got it. Holdin' current course, then." --- NPC@annpc#557 | After the strange encounter earlier, the mysterious ship goes about its way and soon disappears from sensors. The night goes on without incident, and then the next day NPC@annpc#557 | Keelah monitors the bridge now when Gwi announces, "We have another contact on long-range sensors, Captain." Keelah@crystyl:"The same ship as before?" NPC@annpc#557 | Gwi: "Too far to tell yet from this distance, but it's changed course to intercept." Keelah@crystyl:"Alright, back to yellow alert and let's get an ID on them as soon as we can please. Meanwhile let's continue the courteous approach and begin hailing again" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva nods, "On it, Captain." NPC@annpc#557 | A few moments later, Thorkildsen announces, "It's definitely not the same ship. This one's larger, probably a heavy cruiser. Tech signatures are similar though and probably belongs to the same - NPC@annpc#557 - civilization as the previous ship." Keelah@crystyl:"So they called in a more capable vessel to investigate us. Logical, if a tad overly cautious whilst ignoring our opening hails" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva: "Still no response to our hails this time." Keelah@crystyl:"Give me an open broadcast on all frequencies then, we can but try" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva nods, tapping her console, "Broadcast is live, Captain." Keelah@crystyl:"This is Captain Se'Lai of the Federation starship Valley Forge. We are explorers from a distant region of this galaxy seeking friendly contact with new civilizations" NPC@annpc#557 | Nothing... Keelah@crystyl:"Well, at least we tried. How long until they intercept?" NPC@annpc#557 | Gwi: "Five minutes. I'm seeing the same strange lifesigns Lennie reported for the last ship, too." NPC@annpc#557 | Eva: "Could something be wrong with them? Another unusual result of the plague, maybe?" Keelah@crystyl:"Possible. Perhaps what we are seeing is a technological attempt at resisting it" NPC@annpc#557 | Gwi nods, "That could explain why the lifesigns have similarities to Borg. Maybe it went wrong, and now they can't communicate?" Keelah@crystyl:"Also a possibility, though I find it on the slim side that they can't communicate at all. They are out here still, and clearly have some intention with their approach" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva: "The question is what..." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "Well the obvious answer is to engage us as a perceived threat. From their technology level, this appears likely to be a capital ship - maybe even a flagship - akin to the Galaxy class - Keelah@crystyl:- when it first arrived, alongside the previously comparative Excelsiors" Keelah@crystyl nods, "That is of course a possibility also, and one reinforced by the lack of communication. Though I am not about to risk provoking them by arming ourselves for that eventuality first" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods her understanding Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "They are slowing now and scanning us again" Keelah@crystyl:"Alright, let them take a look for now" NPC@annpc#557 | The ship scans VF for a few seconds, and then, just like before, changes course and heads on its way NPC@annpc#557 | Thorkildsen: "It does feel like Borg, doesn't it? When the Borg see something they aren't interested in, at least. Like when we're on their ships but not being a threat to them." Keelah@crystyl:"Though I find it surprising that our presence here is of no interest to these people. Still, we will not push them. Let them be for now and let us continue on our way" NPC@annpc#557 | Gwi nods, "I can't see any civilization just letting a random unknown ship cruise through their territory without stopping to say hello. I still think something's wrong." NPC@annpc#557 | Eva: "I agree. You said there were lifesigns on board?" NPC@annpc#557 | Gwi: "Well they look similar to lifesigns, but they're definitely off." NPC@annpc#557 | Eva: "I definitely didn't sense any life on that ship when it got close." NPC@annpc#557 | Thorkildsen: "Another AI civilization like the Nuhar, maybe?" Keelah@crystyl:"That is certainly a possibility we should consider" NPC@annpc#557 | Gwi: "At least between Mia and the Reliant Defender, we're as prepared as we can be with first contact for an AI civilization." Keelah@crystyl:"Assuming we actually manage to establish contact. Let's pull everyone together while we wait and bring our AI residents in too, maybe we can view this contact through different eyes if they look - Keelah@crystyl:- over the data" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva nods, tapping her console, "Contacting our AI residents now." --- NPC@annpc#557 | In the conference room, the crew, as well as holoprojections of Kelly, T'Lana and the Reliant Defender's avatar, discuss the situation NPC@annpc#557 | Reliant Defender: "I have never seen such readings in my travels either. They are strange, as if they resemble life but are not life." Keelah@crystyl:"It is indeed perplexing" Keelah@crystyl | Mia: "We are currently running background processes on the behaviour patterns to detect any subtle signs of artificial programming through timing and repetition of activities we have observed" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Lana: "From the data we have collected so far, the most logical theory is that we are dealing with an advanced form of artificial intelligence attempting to mimic life. Something perhaps - NPC@annpc#557 - akin to the Soong-type androids. More advanced than the initial prototypes, but not on the level of those discovered by Admiral Picard at the turn of the century. They are close enough to - NPC@annpc#557 - organic life to replicate lifesigns, but it is still very distinct from true biological lifesigns." Keelah@crystyl:"Their behaviour seems less evolved though, as I would expect such an entity to pursue communication even moreso" Keelah@crystyl | Mia chirps, "Just as we do!" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly: "Maybe they've gotten very good at mimicking lifesigns, but aren't quite so advanced in the actual AI programming?" Keelah@crystyl | Mia: "And our analysis would seem to confirm this theory so far; though there is still little to work from, the lifesigns were there. And we have seen very strict fundamental routines within - Keelah@crystyl:- movement patterns" NPC@annpc#557 | Thorkildsen: "It might not necessarily mean they don't have advanced AI, either. They could just find strict, regimented routines more effective." Keelah@crystyl | Mia nods, "Routines are efficient after all" Keelah@crystyl:"It does seem more likely that we may be dealing with an AI then. Could it be the ships themselves, or something more centralized like a hive mind?" NPC@annpc#557 | Reliant Defender: "I see no trace of the vessels themselves housing AI, and you have collected scans of acceptable quality from which I should be able to discern such a function. The AI can - NPC@annpc#557 - only be the individual lifesigns. As for whether these are each independent or linked by some hive mind, I cannot tell. More detailed scans of the individual lifesigns will be required." Keelah@crystyl:"Any ideas as to how else we might communicate with them?" NPC@annpc#557 | Reliant Defender: "I can attempt all known methods of communication I have encountered, but the chances of success are low. As these beings appear to be capable of operating their vessels - NPC@annpc#557 - effectively, we have no reason to believe that they are unable to operate communications. They have received our messages but are either incapable of comprehending or unwilling to respond. In - NPC@annpc#557 - either situation, no alternative I possess is likely to resolve the issue." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "We'se been goin' over their scans t'see if there were anythin' communicative within, but nothin' back so far" NPC@annpc#557 | The door slides open and Eva steps in, "Hope I'm not interrupting?" Keelah@crystyl shakes her head, "Of course not. Please join us" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva walks over, "QanwI's just located a system with a Class M world and technological signatures that match those of the ships we've been encountering." Keelah@crystyl:"Alright let's take as look at their findings" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva slides an isolinear chip into the conference room console, displaying the readings, "They've only done long-range scans so far. Looks like there's some patrols around the system, orbital - NPC@annpc#557 - facilities, everything you'd expect to see in an inhabited system. They haven't gotten close enough to read lifesigns, though, but the technology and ship design suggests it's the same - NPC@annpc#557 - civilization." NPC@annpc#557 | T'Lana: "It would be logical to proceed to this system and gather more information." Keelah@crystyl:"Do you want to go in first with the Loki to get a more detailed look?" NPC@annpc#557 | T'Lana nods, "That may be a prudent precaution due to how little we know of these people. We will conduct a preliminary survey under cloak and report the findings to you." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Very well, it is your mission Commander. We will maintain a steady heading and rendezvous when you are done" --- T'Lana@anncaris | A few hours later, Keelah is in her ready room when her combadge chimes Keelah@crystyl taps, "Se'Lai" T'Lana@anncaris <C - Eva> "We have a comm from the Loki. They've scouted out the system and have something to report." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you Eva, patch it through to my ready room" T'Lana@anncaris <C - Eva> "On it, Captain." T'Lana@anncaris appears on Keelah's console a moment later Keelah@crystyl:"What have we learned Commander?" T'Lana@anncaris:"The situation has grown even more peculiar. From afar, it appears to be a typical inhabited system. We detected technology both in orbit and on the surface, with multiple settlements across the - T'Lana@anncaris:- planet. Their stealth detection systems are not particularly advanced, so we ventured for a closer survey." Keelah@crystyl:"As expected so far" T'Lana@anncaris:"That was when we discovered something unusual. Every single lifesign we detected had the same strange elements as the ones on the starships you encountered." Keelah@crystyl:"Not entirely unexpected at this point" T'Lana@anncaris:"I do not simply refer to the lifesigns of the inhabitants of the cities. I refer to every single lifesign on the entire planet, including the fauna. The plant life, although not displaying as - T'Lana@anncaris - lifesigns, showed identical inconsistencies that suggests they have some mechanical element." Keelah@crystyl:"That is indeed a little more peculiar. Supposition from your observations?" T'Lana@anncaris:"There are two possibilities- either this is their homeworld and the strange lifesigns are a result of some evolutionary characteristic, or they have terraformed the planet using whatever - T'Lana@anncaris:- technology is responsible for their own lifesigns." Keelah@crystyl:"Whilst not out of the question, I find it hard to believe natural evolution would lead to such a technological lifeform" T'Lana@anncaris:"As do I, but there remains a possibility that we are misinterpreting the lifesign readings and it is not a technological element. However, Mia's analysis of their behavioural patterns does support - T'Lana@anncaris:- that theory more. It is more likely that this planet has simply been terraformed by these beings." Keelah@crystyl:"Sounds reasonable. Did you learn anything about their communication methods at all?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Everything we have seen indicates that they utilize subspace communications as we do. The infrastructure is all present, but the communication channels themselves are silent." Keelah@crystyl:"Further evidence that this is not - or at least was not - their natural state. But if their native infrastructure is silent, then there must be some other means they are utilizing" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "We shall continue searching for their communication method. Will the Valley Forge be joining us, or continuing along your current course?" Keelah@crystyl:"I do not want to risk an open approach until we have at least a working theory on how to communicate with these people" T'Lana@anncaris:"Understood. We will update you when we have more information." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you Commander, I remain confident that you will find the missing key to this" --- T'Lana@anncaris | A short while later, T'Pia steps into the Captain's Quarters after Keelah has retired there and handed off the bridge to Lennie T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "Hey mum! Mia's been talking about the new potentially mechanical life we've just run into!" Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Of course she has. Quite the conundrum so far" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia walks over and takes a seat beside Keelah, "Reminds me of our first contact with the Nuhar, when the Wanderer just attacked us. But these people don't seem interested in us at all. Or - T'Lana@anncaris - they are at first, but then they leave after scanning us, right?" Keelah@crystyl:"That is the pattern so far" she nods, "And that they have repeated it twice suggests they are interested in us. Either that, or they have no correlation between each other and so the second ship - Keelah@crystyl:- acted independently of the first" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "How weird..." Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed. The Loki is taking a closer look at their planet now, and the technological nature of these beings is not limited to them, but all life on the world" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "That definitely doesn't sound natural. Could they be like Borg and...assimilated a whole planet?" Keelah@crystyl:"Furthermore, their technological infrastructure indicates the use of subspace communications as we use, but their frequencies were silent" Keelah@crystyl adds with a nod, "Which means that remains a distinct possibility" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "Definitely sounds like they got taken over by something. Why would they build subspace communications if they don't use them?" Keelah@crystyl:"Exactly my thinking as well" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "But if they're like the Borg, they'll definitely be interested in us. From what it looks like, their technology here is not as advanced as ours. Unless...they thought we were too - T'Lana@anncaris - advanced and decided not to pick a fight? Maybe this is like a...baby Borg Collective or something." Keelah@crystyl:"That is a possibility, but from what little we've been able to discern of their behaviour so far, they almost appear to lack any higher reasoning as to make such an assertion" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "You think they might not be self-aware?" Keelah@crystyl:"I think that we should be mindful in such unique circumstances. It would be easy to make assumptions about them based on the comparative level of technology we are seeing, but the behaviours are - Keelah@crystyl:- not consistent and so we can not make any assumptions" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia nods, "What's your theory on where they came from and why they're like this?" Keelah@crystyl hrms, "My present best working theory is that this is their natural homeworld and they are in fact - or at least were - quite typical Children. I believe the current state is either the result of a - Keelah@crystyl:- plague element, or an ill-conceived attempt to subvert it with inferior technology" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "The plague can't make people technological, can it? It's mutagenic but organic matter can't just mutate into implants or anything. It's not like it's a Borg nanovirus." Keelah@crystyl:"Not that we know, but we know so little. Technology is still rooted in the natural universe after all. Remember from your history lessons about pre-isolinear technology which used silicon based - Keelah@crystyl:- microprocessors? Silicon life is rare but not unheard of, and there are Starfleet records of Silicon based viruses infecting carbon based lifeforms. Therefore it can not be ruled out, unlikely - Keelah@crystyl:- as it is" T'Lana@anncaris | T'Pia: "Oh yes, I remember that! That's an interesting theory! I don't think the virus that's been going around this region is silicon-based, but with how much it mutates, you never kno-" T'Lana@anncaris | Keelah's combadge chirps Keelah@crystyl:"My thoughts exactly" she notes before tapping, "Se'Lai" T'Lana@anncaris <C - TQ> "Captain, the Loki has an update for us." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you Tee, can you put it through to my quarters?" Keelah@crystyl stands, heading over to her desk and switching on the console ready T'Lana@anncaris once again appears on the console T'Lana@anncaris:"Captain. I see you are in your quarters. I hope I am not disrupting you." Keelah@crystyl:"Not at all Commander. What news?" T'Lana@anncaris:"We have not yet discerned their method of communication, but we have found something of interest. Working under the assumption that the subspace communication system once serviced some purpose, we - T'Lana@anncaris:- hacked into it to see what we could learn. Several comm arrays around the planet have been configured to broadcast a message as soon as their sensors detect an approaching vessel." Keelah@crystyl:"Is that so? I don't suppose you were able to retrieve this message?" T'Lana@anncaris:"We were able to retrieve and translate it. I will play it now." T'Lana@anncaris | The message plays: "If you are receiving this, turn back immediately. Do not let them scan you. They will attempt to consume all organic matter. Avoid the surface of the planet under all - T'Lana@anncaris - circumstances. If you have already been boarded, evacuate and abandon ship in escape craft that are actively blocking sensors. They are relentless. Turn back immediately." Keelah@crystyl:"Well, what do you make of that then?" T'Lana@anncaris:"It is unlikely that someone who was boarded by whoever or whatever 'they' are would have the opportunity to configure several relays to send this message to any approaching ships. The more likely - T'Lana@anncaris:- possibility is that 'they' seized the planet from the ones who configured this message and consumed all organic life on it, resulting in the mimicry of life we are detecting now. I do not believe - T'Lana@anncaris:- the message refers to the plague, as while it is able to affect all organic life, they do not operate sensors nor board vessels as in a conventional ship-to-ship confrontation. The description is - T'Lana@anncaris:- more fitting of these lifesigns that now control the ships and facilities here." Keelah@crystyl:"That all stands to reason, though the implications are less welcome" T'Lana@anncaris:"Indeed. How do you suggest we proceed from here?" Keelah@crystyl:"I believe this now falls under the realm of threat assessment. To that end, we need to know all we can about this potential enemy. From your observations, how feasible do you believe it would be to- Keelah@crystyl:- obtain a specimen?" T'Lana@anncaris:"The message specifically mentions that they seek to consume all organic matter. The Valley Forge has been approached by two of their ships already. I assume you were under yellow alert during - T'Lana@anncaris:- both encounters?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "Yes, fortunately Lennie plays very much by the rules in my absence and so had shields raised, we followed suit on the next encounter given what happened then as well" T'Lana@anncaris:"Our analysis indicates that their sensors cannot scan past your shields. It is likely that in both instances, they failed to detect organic matter and lost interest. If this is the case, they will - T'Lana@anncaris - not be aggressive to any technology we sent down. We will dispatch a probe to the surface first to collect more data. If the probe is not attacked, it should then be safe to send Nuhar drones - T'Lana@anncaris - to attempt collection of a specimen." Keelah@crystyl:"Sounds reasonable. Proceed with caution then" T'Lana@anncaris:"Have Mia prepare some drones. I will inform you of our probe experiment and the results we obtain from it. If the probe is safely retrieved, we will require your drones to send down, as the Loki - T'Lana@anncaris:- does not currently carry a complement." Keelah@crystyl:"Of course. Do you want the Defender or the squadron on hand as well?" T'Lana@anncaris:"It may be prudent to keep the Defender on standby for its knowledge and fire support if that becomes necessary. We should be able to protect ourselves until the Defender intervenes if there are - T'Lana@anncaris:- any issues, so the squadron should not be necessary, only the regular drones as they will be superior for sample collection than our probes." Keelah@crystyl:"Very well, we will maintain position for now and once you are ready, the Defender and Mia can bring the drones to you" --- Keliaya@anncaris | On the Loki, Alyssa works away in the data analysis section underneath the bridge as they prepare to deploy the probe to collect data on the surface Keliaya@anncaris makes her way down the steps and heads over to Alyssa, "The probe is away and heading for the surface. So far, the ships seem to be ignoring it at least." Alyssa@crystyl:"Fortunate, if not a little surprising" Keliaya@anncaris:"Well, they have scanned it. From the message we picked up and their behaviour towards the Forge so far, we think they might only be dangerous if they detect organic matter, and we made sure to - Keliaya@anncaris:- send a probe with no bio-neural gel or any organic components." Alyssa@crystyl:"Yes but one would still think they might be more interested in an alien probe making it's way into the heart of their civilization, organic matter or not" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "If they were actually sentient, but I'm not entirely sure they are. That or they're very much like the Borg in behaviour. But if the Borg was on their level of technology, they'd - Keliaya@anncaris - certainly be interested in our probe." Alyssa@crystyl:"Exactly why I still find it rather surprising that they are not" Keliaya@anncaris:"And it's why I'm leaning towards the non-sentient side. The question then is who unleashed them on this civilization, and why..." Alyssa@crystyl:"Perhaps it is a form of lower lifeform exercising it's naturally parasitic cycle" Keliaya@anncaris:"Maybe," she glances from the console monitoring the probe's data to Alyssa, "You're the one who helped Commander T'Lana expose the Commodore and the infiltration here, right?" Alyssa@crystyl:"I was closely involved with those events" she nods Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "Good work, then. You're a data analysis specialist?" Alyssa@crystyl:"Correct" Keliaya@anncaris:"Things normally don't get as exciting as exposing a conspiracy for you, I assume?" Alyssa@crystyl:"It would certainly qualify as an eventful day. Thankfully though you are correct, and such days as a rarity" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Didn't join for the adventure and excitement then?" She smirks slightly Alyssa@crystyl:"Evidently" Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "I'll try not to get you tangled up in anything too exciting, then. Why did you join Starfleet Intelligence, if you don't mind me asking?" Alyssa@crystyl:"It was the most logical choice for myself given my affinity for analytics" Alyssa@crystyl:"The slightly altered social parameters from typical service were also not undesirable" Keliaya@anncaris:"Slightly altered how? Forgive me, it's my first time working on an Intelligence ship." Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "Still learning my way around some things. Took me a while just to figure out the ins and outs of the technical side!" Alyssa@crystyl:"Well by the very nature of intelligence work, we are in a constantly more elusive state of being. I am sure this vessel has a far different dynamic to the Valley Forge for example" Keliaya@anncaris:"That it certainly does. So you like an elusive state of being?" Alyssa@crystyl:"The lowered expectation for social convention is favourable" Keliaya@anncaris:"Not a fan of socializing, then?" Alyssa@crystyl:"I tend to favour my own company" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Don't worry then, I won't be here for long. Just wanted to see what comes in from the probe for myself," she glances back to the console, "Looks like it's just entering the atmosphere now." Alyssa@crystyl:"It is quite alright. Truth be told, I find you something of a curiosity as it is already apparent that you a highly social person" Keliaya@anncaris:"Almost all Denobulans are. I think we tend to lean towards extroversion because of our neurology, but psychology isn't my area of expertise so I don't know the details. But since we grow up in - Keliaya@anncaris:- large families that are about the size of a whole community in other cultures, but more closely knit, even the more introverted among us tend to be more social. It's exceedingly rare to find a - Keliaya@anncaris:- Denobulan who doesn't like the company of others." Alyssa@crystyl:"Which is exactly why I find you such a curiosity" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Vulcans usually lean towards being more private and personal, don't you?" Alyssa@crystyl:"Very much so, yes" Keliaya@anncaris:"You might want to talk with Lieutenant Farhalla. Have you met her yet?" Alyssa@crystyl:"Yes, we... have a history" Keliaya@anncaris:"Culturally she's more Denobulan than Vulcan, but she knows a thing or two about Vulcan ways too. Is that why you're curious about me, to see if a full Denobulan's any different from her?" Alyssa@crystyl:"It is less about the fact that you are Denobulan, more in trying to comprehend how such a social creature functions" Keliaya@anncaris:"That's a more complicated topic. Most of us have the same problem understanding less social people like you, too. It was a little easier for me since I lived on a colony with a human population, - Keliaya@anncaris:- but there's a reason Farhalla never really ended up embracing her Vulcan side much." Alyssa@crystyl:"Many Vulcanoid hybrids tend to favour the non-Vulcan side as it often brings too great a difficulty to ignore" Keliaya@anncaris nods, glancing to the console again, "Speaking of social creatures..." Keliaya@anncaris FX | The visual feed comes in from the probe as it lands... Keliaya@anncaris FX | https://cdna.artstation.com/p/assets/images/images/043/293/160/large/raymond-chen-alient-world-final2.jpg?1636870161 Keliaya@anncaris:"I guess that's how it works. Some creatures are just naturally more social, and others naturally more solitary, like lone predator species." Alyssa@crystyl:"Indeed" she studies the incoming data Keliaya@anncaris:"I don't see any signs of technological amalgamation though. Why do they have readings that resemble Borg...?" Alyssa@crystyl:"There is no sign of augmentation because that requires a biological lifeform to augment. These may appear to be organic lifeforms, but they are not. Each entity would seem to be a coalescence of - Alyssa@crystyl:- nanites" Keliaya@anncaris looks at the readings closely, "And the plants too...it looks like they've made an entire artificial ecosystem out of nanites! But why?" Alyssa@crystyl:"There is no conceivable standard philosophy to explain this inefficiency". Keliaya@anncaris nods, "If they wanted to settle on a planet with a good biological ecosystem, it's not like there's a lack of those in the universe. Unless...they're trying to recreate a particular environment, - Keliaya@anncaris:- maybe a homeworld they've lost? But there has to be better ways to do it than this. Cloning, maybe." Alyssa@crystyl:"One would also expect there to be a logical purpose to the recreation where artificial lifeforms are concerned" Keliaya@anncaris:"And from that message, T'Lana doesn't think these nanites are even native to this world. Not to mention the consuming anything organic part. It could've been a weapon, but it doesn't make sense - Keliaya@anncaris - for a weapon to make all this," she gestures at the visual feed as the herd of nanite-creatures passes by Alyssa@crystyl:"It certainly does seem like there is something missing to this equation still" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "We'll have to collect a sample and study it up close. It doesn't seem like it'll be difficult to create something to contain them with our technology. Once we have a sample, we can study - Keliaya@anncaris - its programming and details of its structure. That should give us a better idea of what they're doing, if not why they're doing it." Alyssa@crystyl:"Agreed, that is the next logical step in this investigation" Keliaya@anncaris:"I'll get working on the container, then. Mia'll be coming here soon to oversee the drones for the sample collection itself. Let me know if anything else interesting comes in through the probe data." Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "Or if you want to talk more about us social creatures at any point." Alyssa@crystyl:"I will keep your offer in mind, thank you" Keliaya@anncaris:"Well, I'll leave you to do your data collection in peaceful solitude then, Lieutenant." --- Keliaya@anncaris | A short while later, Mia arrives on the Loki in a shuttle with a small complement of Nuhar drones Keliaya@anncaris makes her way up to Mia's shuttle as it lands Mia@crystyl steps out, immediately forming a beaming smile as she skips over to greet Kelly with a hug, "Ms. Kelly!" Keliaya@anncaris smiles and hugs Mia back, "It's good to see you again in person too, Mia. Will you be going down with the drones, or coordinating from up here?" Mia@crystyl:"We believe we would best serve our purpose by accompanying the little ones since we can coordinate with the Defender on their behalf if required" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Be careful down there, and keep the projection off just in case. They're supposedly going to try and consume all organic matter, but until we examine them up close, we don't know how fine - Keliaya@anncaris - their sensors are and what readings they use to determine what they attack. Let's not risk them targetting your body. The drone's free of any organic components though, so it'll be fine." Mia@crystyl:"Of course. We are happy to coordinate from here if that is preferable also" Keliaya@anncaris:"I think you should be fine on the surface in all likelihood, but coordinating up here's an option too if you like. I'll leave it up to you," she smiles Mia@crystyl:"In that case we will join the little ones!" Keliaya@anncaris waves and an Ensign steps over with an anti-grav cart in tow, with three cylindrical containers on top, "You'll need to bring these with you. We've specifically designed them to contain the - Keliaya@anncaris - nanites and lined them with topaline so they won't detect us and try to break out when they're brought back on board." Mia@crystyl:"We knew you would have everything in hand for that!" Keliaya@anncaris lifts a container marked differently from the other two, "This one is different. The container itself is the same and you can use it to bring a sample back when you're done, but right now..." Keliaya@anncaris sets the container down and opens it, gesturing for her to take a look Mia@crystyl peers inside curiously Keliaya@anncaris | Inside, Mia sees... Keliaya@anncaris FX | https://cooksnaturals.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/wholeduck.jpg Mia@crystyl:"Um... ok then, so that's a thing" Keliaya@anncaris:"It's a replicated Arkarian horn fowl, for use in cooking. Synthesized, but fully organic. We want to see what happens when the nanites do attack something, without risking anyone or anything - Keliaya@anncaris:- that's actually alive. Or at least, we're hoping they'll attack it. It doesn't have lifesigns, but neither do plants and everything else, yet they seemed to have eradicated and replaced all that - Keliaya@anncaris:- on the planet." Mia@crystyl:"Ah, but of course! Now it makes sense!" Keliaya@anncaris:"The container can be set to open on a timer, so when you get to the surface with this one, place it somewhere, set it to open and observe from a distance, just to be safe." Mia@crystyl:"Understood!" Keliaya@anncaris:"As for the other two containers, I recommend getting a flora and a fauna sample for them. According to the probe's scans, the plants and animals are all composed of the same nanites, but since one - Keliaya@anncaris:- moves around and the other doesn't, we want to see if there's any difference in their programming." Mia@crystyl:"Any other samples on the shopping list; infrastructure, data?" Keliaya@anncaris:"The infrastructure and everything non-organic seems to be normal, so we can leave that alone for now. We just need some samples of the nanites to study now; if there's any data we want that we - Keliaya@anncaris - can't manage to access remotely, we might send down a second mission." Mia@crystyl:"Very well, we shall not deviate from the target objectives then" Keliaya@anncaris:"We're playing it safe for now, with how little we know of the situation. Be careful down there, Mia," she smiles Mia@crystyl:"As well we should!â€ --- Keliaya@anncaris:| Mia's shuttle flies over the landscape of what appears to be a nice and lush inhabited planet. They touch down on the same plains visited by the probe earlier, landing without incident due to the - Keliaya@anncaris:- shuttle being stripped of anything organic for this mission. As the door opens and Miadrone heads out, it becomes obvious that things aren't as they seem, with the sensor readings registering the - Keliaya@anncaris:- nanite composition of everything up close Keliaya@anncaris:| The Nuhar drones follow Miadrone out, bringing the three containers Mia@crystyl:hovers around, surveying the area for a suitable sampling location Keliaya@anncaris:| The entire area is filled with plant life to collect. Mia finds an area with a number of critters small enough to fit in the cylindrical containers. The trick now is to get them inside Mia@crystyl:observes their behaviour to see if they mimic organic functions like foraging Keliaya@anncaris:| Mia notices that they not only mimic organic functions, but also do so in a very predictable fashion. They are truly NPCs Mia@crystyl:targets a viable subject and has the drones set up the container with a nice little ACME bait trap Keliaya@anncaris:| The trap works perfectly, and they now have a sample of a nanite animal! The drones collect plant samples without difficulty, and the only thing left now is seeing how they react to the organic - Keliaya@anncaris:- sample they brought along... Mia@crystyl:begins searching around again for a suitable location with a nice observation area Keliaya@anncaris:| Mia finds a spot away from the shuttle in case they get too aggressive, but close enough for a quick retreat if necessary. There are also some rocks to conceal herself behind and watch what happens Mia@crystyl:takes up position while the drones deploy the sample, each returning to her once its role is done until the last one joins them as the container opens Keliaya@anncaris:| As soon as the container opens, the grass around it seems to turn into something akin to a swarm of insects, pouring into the container. A small area of a few square centimetres around the - Keliaya@anncaris:- container is suddenly devoid of any plants or animals Keliaya@anncaris:| Seconds tick by, and eventually the swarm emerges from the container, reforming themselves into grasses and plants and repopulating the area exactly as it was before Mia@crystyl:logs all of the recorded data and returns to the shuttle Keliaya@anncaris:| Sensor data indicates that the nanites consumed the organic materials within and used it to replicate. They not only reproduced more nanites, but more nanites in the exact form of the uncooked - Keliaya@anncaris:- fowl within. Visually, it looks like nothing has changed, except the fowl is no longer composed of organic molecules but instead nanites. Mia can seal the container again and bring that back as a - Keliaya@anncaris:- sample as well Mia@crystyl:does so as a matter of scientific curiosity Keliaya@anncaris:| With the samples in hand, Mia returns to the shuttle. The sample containers start to shake as whatever is within seem to try and break out, but to no avail as the containers are designed to hold - Keliaya@anncaris:- the nanites. Mia may wish to secure them so they don't bounce all over the shuttle if the nanites get more violent, though Mia@crystyl:does indeed lock them down, and erects high level force fields around them for good measure, knowing the danger if even one nanite survives on the outer surface Keliaya@anncaris:| Fortunately, the drones seem to have gotten rid of all the nanites that clung on to the surface, but the containers are locked down and put behind a force field just in case. However, a - Keliaya@anncaris:- dragonfly-like insect does manage to slip into the shuttle as they load the samples. Mia can try transporting it out, or chase it out the old-fashioned way to be safe Mia@crystyl laughs in the face of such a challenge, replicating a miniature butterfly net from the nose of her drone shell and promptly chasing the bug around the shuttle interior Keliaya@anncaris:| The nanite-dragonfly-thing is no match for Mia, and she soon has it in her net! Mia@crystyl:"Sorry little one, but there is no place for you among our fluttering pets. Back outside you go" she sings out, releasing it away from the shuttle and returning Keliaya@anncaris:| Mia's sensors read that the shuttle is now clear of nanite-beings, save the contained samples, and they are now ready to depart! Mia@crystyl:and the drones bed themselves back in and launch for the return trip --- Keliaya@anncaris | Mia's shuttle returns to the Loki's shuttlebay with the samples, where Kelly awaits her Mia@crystyl hovers off the shuttle, avatar rippling into view as she walks over, "Welcoming us back again, Ms. Kelly!" Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "Indeed. Good to see you're safe, Mia. All the Nuhar drones in good condition too?" Mia@crystyl smiles, glancing back as they begin to follow her out carting sample containers around, "Of course!" Keliaya@anncaris:"Perfect," she starts leading the way for the drones. "I hope collecting a flora and fauna sample each wasn't too difficult?" Mia@crystyl:"Non, everything went as planned. And we even brought back a bonus sample for you!" Keliaya@anncaris:"A bonus sample? Did you trap the nanites that consumed the organic sample, or just used the container to grab something else?" Mia@crystyl:"Aha, you are too good at this guessing game! Yes, we brought back the converted sample that we took down too!" Keliaya@anncaris:"The converted sample? You mean the nanites didn't just consume it, but used the energy to reproduce?" Mia@crystyl grins and nods, "Exactly! This is why we thought it would be of potential interest still" Keliaya@anncaris:"What did it reproduce? Just nanites without any form, or did they take on an appearance?" Mia@crystyl:"They took on the exact form of the test sample! So make sure your people know that is a highly contagious nanite sample in there and not the same fowl they sent!" she chuckles Keliaya@anncaris:"So Baugir's theory was right...they're not synthesizing an all-new environment on that planet's surface, they've changed everything native to it. It makes a little more sense than going out of - Keliaya@anncaris:- their way to nano-form a planet, but still doesn't quite answer the question of why." Mia@crystyl:"Indeed. Quite the remarkable method of procreation really" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Something like this could get out of control as quickly as the plague, too." Mia@crystyl:"Yes, they are quite resilient little things. We had to take extra precautions to sterilize the exterior of the sample containers as a few cheeky rogues had tried to climb on for a ride" Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "You've done a very good job, Mia." She leads the way into a lab consisting of an observation area separate from the rest of the lab itself Keliaya@anncaris:"Just have the drones set them down inside, please." Mia@crystyl nods, relaying instructions to them Keliaya@anncaris | The drones set the containers inside the sealed area Keliaya@anncaris:"Okay, you can pull them back now. The lab's own sensor probes can take over from here." Mia@crystyl nods and relays again Keliaya@anncaris waits until the drones are out before tapping the console, sealing the area and activating the quarantine procedures Keliaya@anncaris:"The area is secure. Deploying sensor probes now. Let me know what you make of the data, Mia. This is your area of expertise, after all!" Mia@crystyl:"We have established an uplink with your lab computer. You also now have access to our data from the away mission" Keliaya@anncaris:"Thank you, Mia!" She continues tapping away at the console and several probes emerge, hovering over to open the containers Keliaya@anncaris | Nothing emerges from the containers as they open, and the probes hover around the opening, scanning Mia@crystyl:"Curious. In this proximity and clear of the background wavelengths on the surface we can now identify distinct communication signals between the units" Mia@crystyl:"It appears to be how they maintain cohesion when forming more complex structures, like each biological construct we see is a microscopic hive of its own" Keliaya@anncaris:"Very interesting. I assume it's a tight bond, and they're sharing processing capabilities and not just data, which is how the nanites are capable of more complex tasks like manning a starship when - Keliaya@anncaris:- they take over larger beings?" Mia@crystyl nods, "Exactly, yes! In simple terms you could say that the larger a single hive is - the more processing capacity it possesses. In other words, our fowl sample down there is currently living to - Mia@crystyl:- its fullest potential as a nanite hive. But those forming quasi-bipedal constructs possess exponentially greater intelligence. Arguably enough to surpass their core programming and expand their - Mia@crystyl:- functionality" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "That would make sense." She taps the console again, "I'm going to try and take a few nanites from the fowl and see what the programming of these nanites are..." Keliaya@anncaris | The probe in the container with the fowl sample flies out, going into a device on the side of the lab. Data slowly begins to come in on the consoles... Mia@crystyl:rolls 38 (1-100) Keliaya@anncaris | Mia takes a few minutes to decipher the alien programming, but her familiarity with AIs tech soon allows her to make sense of it... Mia@crystyl:"Well... it is clear at least that they were not simply created to consume organic life, but part of their recreation is also including at least partial brainwave equivalent. It is almost like they- Mia@crystyl:- are meant to preserve things for future recovery, not unlike the genetic archives at the Heart" Keliaya@anncaris:"Of course! These people have transporter technology, just like we do. The plague itself is not really a threat to their population since they can just clean it away by transporting. But their tech - Keliaya@anncaris:- has the same limitations as ours. They can't transport the entire ecosystem of a whole planet, and the plague affects everything- plants, non-sentient life, everything biological." Keliaya@anncaris:"They must've made the nanites as either a countermeasure or a preservation measure, since they can save their people but not their environment. Obviously something went wrong and they couldn't - Keliaya@anncaris:- keep it under control, so it started taking over people and ships too." Mia@crystyl:"Do you believe then that the nanites originated from this world?" Keliaya@anncaris:"It's possible, but since there's ships that's had their crew replaced by these nanites, it could have easily spread here from some other planet." Mia@crystyl:"If we can decode the nanites further, we may be able to determine where their programming went awry, perhaps even how they were meant to function if this theory is correct" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Keep working on it, and see if you can find a way to recode them, too. We can't restore this planet to its organic ecosystem, but we might be able to at least stop the nanites here from - Keliaya@anncaris - threatening anything else." Mia@crystyl:"That would be an optimum outcome" she nods Keliaya@anncaris:"Keep me updated on anything you find. I'll report what we know so far to Commander T'Lana." Mia@crystyl:"Of course Ms. Kelly!" --- T'Lana@anncaris | Some time later, Keelah holds another briefing, this time with Mia holoing in from the Loki along with T'Lana and Kelly Keelah@crystyl | Mia: "...as for the nanites programming; we have determined that they were never meant to arbitrarily consume all organic matter. However the primary objective in their code was too overwhelming - Keelah@crystyl:- for the minimal processing capacity. This resulted in their secondary objectives failing to execute causing this error in their operations" Keelah@crystyl nods as she listens, "So what does this mean in terms of options for us?" Keelah@crystyl | Mia: "Now that we have a proper understanding of their signalling, it should be possible to transmit a signal that will effectively clear their primary parameters and render them essentially - Keelah@crystyl:- harmless. They would remain in a perpetual state in their current forms, but would no longer present a threat to other organic matter" T'Lana@anncaris:"But before we proceed to that stage, we must first take the system." Keelah@crystyl:"I see, thank you Mia. Whilst I am fully aware of the seemingly limited capacity of their combined faux-organic forms. I have to consider the variables as well, so I would like to determine if these- Keelah@crystyl:- nanites could be considered intelligent life before we take action that would have such an impact on them" T'Lana@anncaris | Kelly nods, "We'll send Mia and the drones down to one of the cities and evaluate how intelligent they are. From what we've observed so far though, they show no signs of sentience. They're - T'Lana@anncaris - very advanced machines, but still just machines. But we'll make sure to examine the more advanced forms first." Keelah@crystyl:"Perfect. Mia please also keep an open mind that even if the advanced forms do not appear intelligent, we can't rule out the intelligence of the nanites themselves on a relative scale" Keelah@crystyl | Mia nods firmly, "We understand mon Capitaine! If there is a hint of intelligent reasoning in them, we shall find it!" Keelah@crystyl smiles a little, "I know you will" looking to TL, "So tell me more about what is involved in taking the system, as you said?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Using the deflector to reprogram the nanites will require significant energy and it will be difficult to sustain shields or a cloaking field. That will mean the nanites in the patrol vessels and - T'Lana@anncaris - orbital stations will become aware of the presence of lifeforms and attempt to engage. We will have to reprogram them as well, should we decide upon this plan. Thus, it would be logical to - T'Lana@anncaris - disable the system's defenses before beginning the operation." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "Our combined forces present would not have too much difficulty in achieving this. In fact, I'm reasonably confident that the Reliant Defender could see to it alone" Keelah@crystyl:"I see. That is all the more reason for us to find a better option. Even if we do not find signs of intelligence, we should still at least explore alternative approachesâ€ T'Lana@anncaris nods, "We shall continue our research into the nanite beings in the meantime. We have also discovered more information relating to the civilization here responsible for the nanites' creation." Keelah@crystyl:"Glad to hear it. With what we are facing, any discovery made may well end up being the last remnant of this species so let's make it all count" T'Lana@anncaris:"The civilization here is, or rather was, the Gelesh-Nen. They are more advanced than their neighbours but have never possessed much desire to expand, unlike the Hyrdeum. Their territory only - T'Lana@anncaris:- consists of several systems in this sector. This world does not appear to have been their homeworld but one of their four colony worlds. However, the last communications in the systems here - T'Lana@anncaris:- states that they had lost contact with the homeworld, and two of their colonies on the other side of the sector were reported lost to the plague." Keelah@crystyl:"Do we know if these nanites were localized to this colony, or used across the whole civilization?" T'Lana@anncaris:"It is unclear, but Kelly theorizes that the nanites were most likely a response to the plague. According to the communications, this colony was among those which had not yet been affected by the - T'Lana@anncaris:- plague, and there is no indication that the nanites were developed here. Seeing how the nanites are capable of utilizing spacecraft, it is possible that the nanites spread to this world from - T'Lana@anncaris:- elsewhere and quickly overtook everything." Keelah@crystyl:"Sounds reasonable. So at this time there is no reason to believe that there may be surviving colonies of these people?" T'Lana@anncaris:"There is one promising lead. Not long before the plague, the Gelesh-Nen had just completed construction of a massive deep space station which was to serve as a trade hub. The communications - T'Lana@anncaris:- indicate that the station was converted to house refugees from the colonies whose environments were destroyed by the plague. Due to the rapid expansion and development of their Hyrdeum - T'Lana@anncaris:- neighbours, the station is also equipped with their most advanced defenses and implemented strict screening measures due to the plague. If any survivors remain, that is most likely where they - T'Lana@anncaris:- are concentrated. The nanites do not seem capable of organizing any large-scale invasion, and the station will be capable of holding out against assaults by small groups of vessels." Keelah@crystyl:"Still, it could be another avenue to pursue should the second ground mission not yield anything conclusive" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "I suggest sending a scout vessel to investigate the coordinates of the station first while we continue our investigation here." Keelah@crystyl:"Agreed. Captain Vix can look into the station for us" T'Lana@anncaris:"I will send all relevant information we have recovered to the QanwI'. There is one other matter- the reason we came to this region, other than simply being close enough along the path we need to - T'Lana@anncaris:- take towards the Bajoran wormhole. The communications indicate that the plague did not originate from the Gelesh-Nen. It entered their territory from elsewhere, and they then spread it to the - T'Lana@anncaris:- Hyrdeum." Keelah@crystyl:"So we are a step closer to the source, but with no fresh leads?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Indeed. If there are survivors, they may be able to provide us with more information. Otherwise, I recommend visiting the other Gelesh-Nen colonies, particularly the ones we know to have been lost - T'Lana@anncaris:- to plague. It would be our best chance of picking up a lead in lieu of locating any survivors." Keelah@crystyl:"We will prepare a suitable plan for the next stage of the expedition in that case also" T'Lana@anncaris:"Excellent. We will prepare for the second mission in the meantime and keep you informed of any developments. I hope you do not mind if we keep Mia for the duration of our time here. She has been - T'Lana@anncaris:- essential to our investigation so far." Keelah@crystyl:"Of course not, we will simply have to make do without her for a while longer" T'Lana@anncaris:"Then we shall continue looking into the nanite situation, if there is nothing further." Keelah@crystyl:"I have nothing else for now. We'll keep looking into alternative possibilities in the meantime. Otherwise, good luck with the next away mission" T'Lana@anncaris:"Thank you, Captain. I do not anticipate any incidents or complications, but we will continue to remain vigilant." --- NPC@annpc#557:| Mia and the drones embark on their second mission, this time heading for one of the cities on the nanoformed world NPC@annpc#557:| As they begin their descent, everything once again looks completely normal. There is even other shuttle traffic in the skies, though once Mia analyzes their movement patterns, it becomes clear - NPC@annpc#557:- that their flights are way too orderly. No amount of traffic regulations can make organic beings fly like this, and they're certainly being piloted by machines following strict routines NPC@annpc#557:| Mia's shuttle settles on a large landing pad outside the city proper, looking distinct from all the local designs around it, though no one seems to care or even acknowledge this fact NPC@annpc#557:| The shuttle doors open to a typical landing area, with a sparse amount of people present. She notes that there are some crates in one corner, but sees no sign of loading or unloading activity Mia@crystyl:has one of the drones investigate the crates while she and the others survey the area for likely points of interest NPC@annpc#557:| There seem to be multiple suburb districts around the landing pad they arrived at, but the nearby city centre is likely the main area of interest. Among the buildings there, Mia identifies a - NPC@annpc#557:- particularly tall tower, marked with the symbol of the Gelesh-Nen Trade Ministry NPC@annpc#557:| The drone investigating the crates reports that it is filled with various technological components Mia@crystyl:let's the drone take an inventory while they progress towards the Trade Ministry building NPC@annpc#557:| As Mia and her drones exit the landing pad and make for the city centre, they begin seeing more and more bipeds, all appearing to be members of the same species, likely the Gelesh-Nen. At first, - NPC@annpc#557:- they seem to simply be walking along and going about their business, but as the density increases, Mia actually starts to pick up conversations going around them. Other than the mechanical - NPC@annpc#557:- movement patterns, it actually feels like a city, especially if you look at it from a glance without paying too much attention NPC@annpc#557:| When she does start to pay attention though, it becomes obvious that the conversations are basically Oblivion NPC conversations and not actual dialogue between real people Mia@crystyl:is not surprised by this, but records everything for later review as potential contextual value still NPC@annpc#557:| Many of the people discuss some of the same topics over and over again, among them the plague ravaging their other worlds, increased militarism in response to their expanding neighbours, and tax - NPC@annpc#557:- increases on non-replicated building materials. Most of the conversations end very abruptly, rather than reaching any sort of natural end NPC@annpc#557:| As Mia and the drones hover through the city streets, they come upon one street blocked off by a building that has collapsed. There seems to be no effort to remove the rubble Mia@crystyl:pauses to investigate the building in more detail NPC@annpc#557:| Examining the materials of the building, it becomes clear that this was one of the older structures in the area. The drones circle around the rubble, scanning and collecting data to help build a - NPC@annpc#557:- better image. After a little investigating, it would seem that the building collapsed from structural failures in several critical supports. The collapse also seems to have occurred at least some - NPC@annpc#557:- years ago, yet no cleanup effort was ever made. There are no signs of any remains within the rubble, organic or nanite Mia@crystyl:moves on once satisfied that there is nothing pertinent to this particular collapse NPC@annpc#557:| On the way to the Trade Ministry, Mia and the drone note various other, smaller signs of disrepair. Though much of it is not unusual to see in a large, busy city, it does seem that the - NPC@annpc#557:- nanite-beings aren't taking particularly good care of their non-nanite environment. They do see a few performing maintenance, so they're not completely neglecting everything. More likely, they - NPC@annpc#557:- are attempting to manage the structures and technology around them, but lack the higher mental faculties to adjust to unexpected failures like the collapse Mia@crystyl:keeps taking notes as they progress, though feels a little disappointed with each further sign of no intelligence NPC@annpc#557:| Entering the Trade Ministry, Mia and the drones find themselves in a large lobby with numerous nano-beings moving around. Due to the high density here, the amount of random conversation is - NPC@annpc#557:- significantly higher. The buzz of noise seems like high activity at first, but actually listening to the conversation, it becomes obviously unnatural NPC@annpc#557:| Going higher up the building, there are offices, but the nanite-beings within are simply sitting there. No one is actually managing any trade Mia@crystyl:feels her disappointment grow at the inevitable as they search NPC@annpc#557:| Unfortunately, Mia is able to find no signs of sentience among the nanite-beings. A closer scan of individuals indicates that they are using all their processing power on duplicating the organic - NPC@annpc#557:- individual as it was before. It may be possible for these beings to develop sentience if their mimicking directives were disengaged, but that would ruin the preservation of things here. An - NPC@annpc#557:- alternative could be to give them new organic matter to consume like with the fowl, and then taking the new matter away to reprogram as a pet project, if approved Mia@crystyl:keeps a thought for this last resort option while sweeping the area for more detailed data NPC@annpc#557:| Mia and the drones collect extensive data of the area, all of it pointing to the fact that the nanite-beings have not developed sentience and are just very complex machinery, though the data - NPC@annpc#557:- gives more information on the specifics of how they operate --- T'Lana@anncaris | Meanwhile on the VF, Keelah receives the latest report from the Loki in her ready room... T'Lana@anncaris appears on the console with Mia beside her T'Lana@anncaris:"Captain. Mia here has recently returned from her second mission to the surface," she nods to Mia to give a brief report Keelah@crystyl | Mia: "Mon Capitaine, we regret to report that we could find no evidence of intelligence at either a hive or singular level for these nanites" Keelah@crystyl:"I see. I know such evidence would have complicated our plans, but I share your disappointment Mia, I know it would have meant a lot to you" Keelah@crystyl | Mia nods T'Lana@anncaris:"It may be possible to assist the nanite beings to achieve sentience, and may even be preferable given that they effectively control a planet near Hyrdeum space. Should they become entirely - T'Lana@anncaris:- passive, this technology could easily fall into Hyrdeum hands. Of course, I do not recommend taking such a drastic measure yet. Not until we are able to gather a more complete picture of the - T'Lana@anncaris:- current situation in Gelesh-Nen territory, but it may be an option to consider should the Gelesh-Nen be extinct." Keelah@crystyl:"Agreed. So for now we await word from Captain Vix" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "We have also been accessing more of their information remotely. There is something of potential interest. Though it is not particularly relevant to the situation at hand, since we cannot - T'Lana@anncaris - proceed without additional intel from the QanwI', this would be a logical time to share our finding." Keelah@crystyl nods, "And what exactly is it that you have found?" T'Lana@anncaris:"The station QanwI' is headed towards now is called New Sarech Station. Its design seemed surprisingly familiar, and our new data indicates that it is not a coincidence. The Gelesh-Nen made first - T'Lana@anncaris:- contact with the La'ani Commonwealth through one of their exploratory Motherships over a century ago. The design of the station is heavily influenced by these vessels, though the Gelesh-Nen have - T'Lana@anncaris:- not yet achieved the technology necessary to make it mobile." Keelah@crystyl:"So these La'ani... took the Gelesh-Nen under their proverbial wing? As our ancestors did for the Humans?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Not quite. It was more akin to a modern first contact with a Starfleet vessel. Since then, the Gelesh-Nen have been in contact with the An and established trade relations with the Commonwealth, - T'Lana@anncaris:- or rather several of its border Protectorates. However, the Gelesh-Nen themselves never sought to become a Protectorate until recently, when they began to feel threatened by the Hyrdeum's rapid - T'Lana@anncaris:- expansion and development. The process of becoming a Protectorate can be compared to a civilization applying for Federation membership, though there are significant differences as well." Keelah@crystyl:"I see. What intrigues me most in this - selfish as it may be - is the presence of the An here. Since this puts us back within reach of known allies, even if not those we are familiar with it" T'Lana@anncaris:"That is precisely why I thought this would be of interest. The Gelesh-Nen never completed the process of becoming a Protectorate, but once the plague reached their space, they dispatched a task - T'Lana@anncaris:- force to seek the An's assistance when they realized they could not control the situation. We are not yet within their territory, but it is likely that the An are active in the area." T'Lana@anncaris:"Of course, these An would not yet have received the information from the Mothership working as a part of the Coalition, but judging from our interactions with that vessel, it is likely that the An - T'Lana@anncaris:- here will also make for amenable allies." Keelah@crystyl:"It will be an added bonus that we can bring them news of the mothership we do know. I am sure news of their continued activity will be most welcome there" T'Lana@anncaris:"Indeed. I-" She is interrupted as Keelah's combadge chimes Keelah@crystyl:"Apologies ladies, a moment please" she excuses herself and taps, "Se'Lai" T'Lana@anncaris <C - Eva> "Sorry for the interruption, Captain. The QanwI' is just reporting back as well." Keelah@crystyl:"Perfect timing in fact. Please patch her through to the open comm with the Loki" T'Lana@anncaris <C - Eva> "On it." T'Lana@anncaris | Lexi appears on the console as well Keelah@crystyl | Lexi looks around at the sudden conference call, "Well this is not what I expected. You girls that eager for news?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Actually, I was in the process of updating the Captain as well." Keelah@crystyl:"What have you found Captain Vix?" Keelah@crystyl | Lexi: "I can tell you one thing we haven't found and that's nanites!" T'Lana@anncaris:"So the station is clear of nanites, but there are lifeforms on board that have not been consumed and recreated?" Keelah@crystyl | Lexi nods, "Yep! There's also ships docked there that don't look like the Genesh-Nen tech we've seen so far, but the majority of lifeforms on the station at least do" T'Lana@anncaris:"Do they match the lifesign readings of any of the An breeds?" Keelah@crystyl | Lexi shrugs, "Maybe, hard to say from our sensors without exposing ourselves. Best I can say is that some could be, some also look closer to Orion or Regulator readings too. Didn't go prying - Keelah@crystyl:- further to be honest, since that's your speciality" she grins at TL T'Lana@anncaris:"Curious. That was not the connection I was expecting. Would you like the Loki to examine the station further, or is this enough for the Valley Forge to make first contact?" Keelah@crystyl:"Since we can't really do much more here for now, we'll join you I think" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Would you like us to remain here and continue observation of the nanoformed planet, or accompany you to New Sarech Station?" Keelah@crystyl:"Unless you have a preference to the contrary, I expect you will find the station more interesting" T'Lana@anncaris:"Agreed. We will follow you there, then." Keelah@crystyl:"Captain Vix, continue your observations for now and we will join you there in good time" Keelah@crystyl | Lexi nods, giving a lazy half-salute before closing the comm --- NPC@annpc#557 | Some time later, the VF nears New Sarech Station. As expected, two patrols ships immediately move to an intercept course towards the new arrival Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "Both of Gelesh-Nen design. One even appears to be the same class of ship as the first one we encountered" Keelah@crystyl nods, "A promising sign. Lets see if we have a bit more luck communicating with these" NPC@annpc#557 | Eva nods, "Hailing now...and I've got a channel open, Captain," she smiles Keelah@crystyl smiles back, "That's more like it. On screen then" NPC@annpc#557 | One of the same aliens Mia saw on the planet surface appears on the viewscreen NPC@annpc#557 FX | https://i.imgur.com/YoewIlm.jpg NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "Approaching vessel. Please identify yourselves and your intentions." Keelah@crystyl:"I am Captain Se'Lai and this is the Federation starship Valley Forge. We are explorers from a distant corner of this galaxy, newly arrived in this region of space. We recently encountered a colony - Keelah@crystyl:- of your people, or rather the shadow of it, and seek an audience with your leadership here to learn more about the situation before taking any action" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "Did you heed our warnings and prevent them from detecting any organic matter on your ship?" Keelah@crystyl:"Yes to both, but not in that order. Our protocols dictate that we enter fresh encounters with certain defenses in place so their active scans did not reach us. Once we found the colony, we picked - Keelah@crystyl:- up the warnings" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "And you did not lose any people to the nanites, I hope?" Keelah@crystyl:"No, we are quite adept at dealing with artificial life and so were able to investigate quite thoroughly without any difficulty" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "Good. Very good. Although I would not describe them as artificial life, more...artificial approximations of life." Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, that was our determination as well upon closer examination. At least, we can find no grounds to consider them intelligent life but at best akin to a biological lower lifeform" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "That's what they were built for, to mimic lower biological lifeforms. They were never intended to replicate us, so they don't make for very good Gelesh-Nen." Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed. That does not stop them from trying however, hence the problem that I am sure you are well aware of there" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "Yes, unfortunately we are all too familiar with it. I take it you have a solution in mind, which is why you wish to speak with our leadership?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "We do, but we did not want to act before gaining a proper understanding of the situation. Our long range recon revealed the presence of this station and indicators of biological life and so - Keelah@crystyl:- we came here hoping to do just that" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "Very well. You may approach the station. We'll inform our people and have a representative waiting to guide you on board." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you. If it is not too much trouble as well, would I be right in assuming that you have An visitors there currently?" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "An visitors? No, I wish we did. But we have members from Commonwealth Protectorate civilizations here aiding our people through this crisis. Or trying to, at least. That's how the - NPC@annpc#557 - nanites happened, actually." Keelah@crystyl:"I see, perhaps I should also arrange an audience with those representatives then as I would like to relay a message back to the An" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "I'll talk to Mistress Leravani's people, but if you have business with the Commonwealth, you've come here at a bad time." Keelah@crystyl:"Oh? Why is that, if I might ask?" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "You may, but I'm probably not the best person to explain the situation. Suffice it to say they're preoccupied and we've been trying to get them to help with the nanite issue - NPC@annpc#557:- to no avail. Ask the Esana- Leravani's people. They're a Protectorate and can probably give you more accurate information. Here, all we have are rumours and second-hand information." Keelah@crystyl:"Understood. Thank you for indulging my curiosity on the matter. We should not keep you from your patrol any longer though now I feel" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen: "You may approach the station whenever you are ready. Oh, and welcome to New Sarech." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Thank you" NPC@annpc#557 | The Gelesh-Nen bows his head and the channel closes Keelah@crystyl:"Alright, let's make our approach then" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "Aye Cap'n." NPC@annpc#557 | The circular station soon looms into view, the inspiration by An Motherships clear in its design. It is surrounded by a number of ships, mostly ones that seem to be freighters, mining ships - NPC@annpc#557 - and other civilian vessels Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Well these guys're definitely th'dominant form 'ere. But I am seein' at least 3 other distinct signatures in much smaller numbers. An' Cap'n Vix were right, one o'these do seem awful - Keelah@crystyl:- close t'Orionoid" Keelah@crystyl slowly turns with a perked brow at the odd terminology Keelah@crystyl | Lennie shrugs, "Wha'? Ya got Humanoid an' Vulcanoid. Now we'se just as dominant - if not a little moreso - why not Orionoid!" Keelah@crystyl says nothing, simply turning back to the front NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "It's got a better ring to it than Regulatoroid!" she chuckles Keelah@crystyl:"That is... not inaccurate" she admits NPC@annpc#557 | Eva: "The station's just provided us with transport coordinates. I'm reading several Gelesh-Nen there, and one of those...Orionoids." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie beams with self gratification Keelah@crystyl watches her, "Well then, you had better accompany me over there to meet them now hadn't you" she stands Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods and joins her en route to the turbolift Keelah@crystyl calls back just before the doors close, "Oh, and that means you have the conn Ms. Tierno" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie sideglances to Keelah as the door closes, who she could swear was smirking a little if she didn't know better, "You can be real mean sometimes can't ya" Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, "I have no idea what you mean" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni meanwhile stares dumbfound still at the now closed doors --- NPC@annpc#557 | Keelah and Lennie materialize on the transporter pad of the station, where another Gelesh-Nen awaits them, along with a woman who could easily be an Orion if not for the colour palette- bright - NPC@annpc#557 - golden skin, reddish hair and piercing purple eyes NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen #2: "Welcome to New Sarech Station. One of you is Captain Se'Lai?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "I am Captain Se'Lai. This is CMDR Lendaria, my Chief Science Officer" NPC@annpc#557 | Gelesh-Nen #2: "I am Syan Taranch, military commander in charge of the security of this station." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you for meeting us in person. Can I take this to mean that your patrol has already briefed you on our discussion?" NPC@annpc#557 | Syan: "That's correct." NPC@annpc#557 | The Orionoid gives a bow, introducing herself in a serene tone, "I am Lady Verindi. Mistress Leravani was told that you wished to speak with one of the Esana?" Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, I am hoping that you will be able to help me relay a message to the An, if not facilitate communication directly" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "We would be happy to relay your message, though I hope you are not seeking their military aid as the Gelesh-Nen are." Keelah@crystyl shakes her head, "Not at all. I simply wish to deliver news of one of their deep space exploration ships. Though I am glad you raised the point of the requested military aid, is this to tackle the - Keelah@crystyl:- nanites?" She looks to Syan NPC@annpc#557 | Syan nods, "That's right. I'm told you have a solution to the nanite problem. Let me guess- you have a way to reprogram them to be non-aggressive, or even to restore their original intention - NPC@annpc#557 - to consume only infected matter?" Keelah@crystyl:"In short, yes. We can deliver a signal across the entire colony that would affect them. How that used exactly, is why we wanted to first make sure we fully understand the situation from yourselves" NPC@annpc#557 | Syan: "Well, you've come across the same solution we have. The problem is, we've lost the vast majority of our ships when we lost control of the nanites. They spread much faster than the - NPC@annpc#557 - plague ever did. Now the nanites control our ships and we don't have the resources to fight our way in and actually deploy the signal. That's what we were hoping to get the Andarash's help for." Keelah@crystyl:"Fortunately we have the facility to approach without drawing attention so delivery is not an issue. That said, it would likely draw rapid response attention based on what we have seen of their - Keelah@crystyl:- basic self preservation functions, and so collateral damage would almost certainly ensue to some degree" NPC@annpc#557 | Syan nods, "That's why the best way is to disable all ships and defenses first before employing the solution. Come, let me take you to the Assembly. The Vetac will be there too. They're the - NPC@annpc#557 - species who helped us develop the nanite technology." Keelah@crystyl nods and follows NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi asks as they walk, "What news do you bring of the An expedition? I hope it is not to report the destruction of a Mothership." Keelah@crystyl:"Quite the contrary in fact. One of the An motherships has become a great and value allied to us and helped earn a decisive victory which has impacted the entire galaxy" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Is that so? I am pleased to hear that the An are doing some good in recent times, as well." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie chimes in, "That sounds a lil'... controversial" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "My people have not been very pleased with the direction the An are taking of late. I apologize, most of the An are good people, and I should not doubt their character. It is only - NPC@annpc#557 - their leadership, their military leadership especially, that should be faulted for their decisions. And even then, they are at least not tyrants, and we are free to express our concerns openly." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Fair enough. Must be pretty serious though, wha'ever they'se doin' if it's got folks all riled up" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Not all people. My people are especially opposed to the Commonwealth's course of action because we are a peaceful civilization, and see this conflict as unnecessary." Keelah@crystyl:"Are you saying that the An are waging a war?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "Yes. It is far from the first, but the Commonwealth exists to protect. That is why we became a Protectorate, because we do not possess the means to defend ourselves. But all - NPC@annpc#557 - wars fought by the Commonwealth are in response to the aggression of others. This one...they try to justify it, but my people question their true intent." Keelah@crystyl:"Well, I am certainly interested to hear your opinions on this matter once we have debriefed on the nanite situation" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "And I will be pleased to explain. Knowing the political situation here may be useful to you." Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed. We have learned much since arriving in this region so far, but that only goes as far as the small distance we have covered here" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "This plague that has been ravaging everything is at the heart of it all. I presume you are already familiar with what it does?" Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, and we have been searching for the original source in order to try and develop a proper treatment for it. As I am sure you are already aware here, transporters can cleanse an individual but do- Keelah@crystyl:- nothing for immunity" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "Its source is a mystery to us as well. The An have also tried to develop methods to ward against it, and while individuals are largely safe, it has overtaken many planets, such - NPC@annpc#557 - as those of the Gelesh-Nen. So far, no one has found a way to immunize against it." Keelah@crystyl:"Exactly why we want to track down the origin so that we can properly develop something" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "I understand. But tracking down the source of the plague may very well put you in the centre of the An's current war. We can speak more on this later. We near the Assembly Hall." --- NPC@annpc#557 | Syan leads them into a meeting room, where a number of people are gathered around a table. Most of them are other Gelesh-Nen, though there are three individuals at the far end of the table - NPC@annpc#557 - completely clad in suits. These are not the more form-fitting suits of the Regulators, but bulky with large plating and visible pistons and mechanisms NPC@annpc#557 | Syan: "Assembly of Gelesh. I present Captain Se'Lai of the Valley Forge, travellers from distant territories." Keelah@crystyl bows her head in greeting to the assembly, "Thank you all for welcoming us here" NPC@annpc#557 | A female at the front of the table, opposite from the suited figures, stands, "It may very well be our fortune to have you here, Captain Se'Lai. I am Tirsa Kahar, Prime Minister of what - NPC@annpc#557 - remains of Gelesh-Nen-Ra." Keelah@crystyl:"Assuming you refer to our proposal of resolving the nanite situation, then I do hope you are right" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "As are we all. Come, have a seat. Join us." Keelah@crystyl & Lennie take vacant seats partway down the table, "Thank you" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi takes a seat near them while Syan takes the one empty seat further along the table near the Prime Minister NPC@annpc#557 | Prime Minister Tirsa meanwhile motions to the far end of the table, "These are representatives of the Vetac, a Commonwealth Protectorate who partnered with us in developing the problematic - NPC@annpc#557:- nanites." Keelah@crystyl:"So they are Commonwealth technology, at least in origin?" NPC@annpc#557 | The central Vetac speaks, his voice echoing through the suit filters, "They are a fusion of our technology and the Gelesh-Nen's." NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Allow me to clarify. Each Protectorate is effectively a separate entity, entirely self-governing, which relies upon the Commonwealth for protection in return for some service - NPC@annpc#557 - rendered. There is a trade of technologies between the Protectorates and the An, but there is no uniform technology across Commonwealth space. Each civilization still does things their own way." NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Some, such as the Vetac, are very advanced. Others, such as my own people, do not even build spacefaring vessels of our own." Keelah@crystyl:"I see. It is not unlike the fledgling group that we left behind on the far side of this galaxy then" NPC@annpc#557 | Vetac: "In this region, my people are known for our technological capabilities. That is why the Gelesh-Nen worked with us to find a technological solution to the plague." NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "It was the most promising solution, before it all went wrong." NPC@annpc#557 | Vetac: "We can render the nanites non-aggressive. But we do not develop weapons technology. Our ships are lightly armed, and cannot defend against the assaults of the Gelesh-Nen vessels seized - NPC@annpc#557 - by the nanite forms." Keelah@crystyl:"Understandable. We had a chance to study these nanites in detail from our gathered samples and believe we have ascertained how the implementation failed. But the real question now of course is how - Keelah@crystyl:- should the situation be handled" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "We should first render the nanites unable to harm anyone else. Once their aggression is curtailed, that will at least make the region safe to travel again." Keelah@crystyl:"There are two ways we have determined that we can achieve this" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "And those are?" Keelah@crystyl looks to Lennie Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "First option's to overwrite their code. Essentially make 'em forget everythin' they'se meant to do an' jus' stay as they are now. Alternative, we think we can reset 'em while adjustin' - Keelah@crystyl:- tha' code so they revert back to their originally designed purpose" NPC@annpc#557 | Vetac: "Which was to target plagued matter specifically and replace that. There is no need for it now, as no plagued matter remains on these worlds. No organic matter remains at all. I suggest - NPC@annpc#557:- making them inert for now. We can reprogram them should the necessity arise to use them for their original purpose." NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa nods, "I agree. It also lessens the risk of their original programming being overwritten once again by accident, by giving them no programming at all." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie shakes her head, "Actually, I'm-a pretty sure tha' once these lil' guys get wiped there'll be no bringin' 'em backâ€ Keelah@crystyl:"There are other considerations here as well" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "And that is?" Keelah@crystyl:"Firstly is the fact that they now represent the last remaining record of all that was on this particular colony. I do not know how significant - or not - that is to your people, all I know is that - Keelah@crystyl:- it is not my place to assume" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "You make a fair point. My people will not wish to resettle on these worlds, but it would be good to have the memory of them preserved, as a monument to what they were like before. If - NPC@annpc#557 - you believe you can safely restore the nanites without risking another accident, then it would be preferable." Keelah@crystyl:"That is the choice in essence; either keep them in a perpetually 'frozen' state in their current form to forever stand as an evolving facsimile of what once was. Or, restore them to their - Keelah@crystyl:- original purpose - with some added refinement as a safeguard" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Well, there is also the slightly more theoretical side to tha' one..." NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "Oh?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, "Much less of a guarantee. But wit' th'expertise we got wit' us, it's possible tha' we can adjust their codin' to at least give 'em th'potential of one day developin' sentience" Keelah@crystyl:"One the one hand, that would make them a much more involved element of your civilization moving forwards due to the ongoing investment needed to maintain monitoring and eventual guidance. But on - Keelah@crystyl:- the other hand, should they develop in that manner they would be in a position to defend themselves - and you - from any Hydreum threat. Whereas if we revert them to their original state, or keep - Keelah@crystyl:- them locked as they are now - there is always the chance the Hydreum will find them and repurpose them to their own ends. Whilst I would like to hope that we will resolve the plague situation in - Keelah@crystyl:- that time and the Hydreum would grow beyond such things, well, if I were their neighbour I would certainly want to keep it a consideration" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "The Assembly will need to discuss this matter further. You have provided some very valid points, and given us much to consider. There is one other thing though- the reprogramming of - NPC@annpc#557:- the nanites will all be theoretical until we are able to get past our own defenses. Do you possess the capabilities to disable them?" NPC@annpc#557 | Syan: "I can see that your ship's tactical systems rivals that of the An's. But you're still just one ship." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Yes, that will not be a problem. The Valley Forge does not actually travel alone and we have already used a stealth ship to approach and land on the colony. We also have a friend travelling - Keelah@crystyl:- with us who the nanites will not target" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "Excellent. The Assembly will continue to discuss the matter then. You may remain here to watch the debate if you so wish, but we will inform you when we have made a decision if you - NPC@annpc#557 - have other matters to attend to, such as preparing for what is to come." Keelah@crystyl:"I was hoping to use this visit to learn more about the rising situation with the An, so we will adjourn and leave you to your deliberations. But please do call for us should you have anything which- Keelah@crystyl:- we can assist with in the meantime" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "We will make sure to do so." NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi stands, "Come with me, then." Keelah@crystyl stands and follows her out --- NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi leads Keelah and Lennie into a small tram, which begins to move forwards through a long tunnel Lendaria@crystyl looks around, "Well, beats walkin' everywhere!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi takes a seat and smiles, "This would be a very large station to traverse, if we were to walk the entire distance. Even on our homeworld we do not rely on our feet alone to travel, - NPC@annpc#557 - though we do not use advanced technology such as this." Lendaria@crystyl:"Then wha' do ya use there?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Animal companions, of course. We have the Frentai and Jagas for land, the Usuva for the water and the Greater Hendri which we ride through the skies." Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "Sounds very charmin'!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles back, "There are few things as relaxing as a ride through the landscapes of our home. Urban architecture and stations such as this have their own beauty when designed properly - NPC@annpc#557 - as well, of course, but for one who grew up among the meadows and forests and beaches of Essi, nothing compares to natural beauty." Lendaria@crystyl:"Tha's ya homeworld - Essi? I take it that's in this region o'space too if ya belong to this Commonwealth an' all, right?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "It is the world on which we Esana live, but we share no evolutionary relation with the other life upon it. Our ancestors settled there long ago, in a time when we still used ships such as yours." Lendaria@crystyl:"Now tha's a topic o'particular interest! Wha' can you tell me 'bout these ancestors?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "We have only legends, passed down through countless generations. The legends say that once, great gods watched over the entire universe and cared for all people within. But one day, - NPC@annpc#557:- the people of the universe grew jealous of the gods and rebelled. Unprepared for such an act of betrayal, the gods were slain and the traitors quickly turned on themselves to seize the power of - NPC@annpc#557:- the gods. One such traitor, who in modern times we call Gatt Hunder, the demon of domination, held our ancestors under its enslavement for a long time." Lendaria@crystyl nods as she listens, "That certainly tracks" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah looks to Lennie, "There was a supposed third offshoot of the split that was never accounted for was there not?" Lendaria@crystyl nods, "I think so, yeah!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi looks over curiously, "You are familiar with the story, then?" Lendaria@crystyl:"It aligns with wha' we recently learned t'be an ancient forgotten heritage of mah own people" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "You believe our peoples to have come from the same ancestors? Yes, that would certainly explain your curiosity." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "An' our biological similarities!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "The legends do say that after we overthrew Gatt Hunder, we fell victim to the same desire that drove the traitors, and there was great unrest among our people as we fought over the - NPC@annpc#557 - demon's remaining power. My people were one of those who were able to resist the temptation, and we left to live peaceful lives upon Essi. It does not surprise me that there are other - NPC@annpc#557 - descendants of our ancestors still roaming the galaxy. After all, there is always some truth to these ancient legends." Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "Indeed there is! My ancestors followed a similar path t'ya own, jus' wandered in a different direction. Others wanted t'use the Gatt Hunder's tech for their own, but the final groupin' - Lendaria@crystyl - were obsessed wit' controllin' tech an' they fought wit' them who wanted t'take it. An' they won, we know 'em now as th'Regulators. Look a lot like you an' I on th'surface an' on scans, jus' - Lendaria@crystyl - those guys got a red hue to 'em" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "While we have yellow, and you have green. If we are biologically so similar, do you also have a natural ability to affect others with pheromones?" Lendaria@crystyl grins, "Oh yeah! We'se renowned across half th'galaxy for it!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "As are we here. That's how we're able to so easily tame the beasts of Essi." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah chimes in idly whilst strategically enjoying the view to one side, "In our home region of space, Orions are most renowned for taming the beast which is not bound by species; the males" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Is that so? Your pheromones specifically affect males?" Lendaria@crystyl cheeks turn a shade darker green as she glances back. Is that /another/ smug grin on the little Vulcan...? Lendaria@crystyl:"In terms of influence, yes. I don't know how it is f'ya own people. But in Orions, th'males tend to be pretty wild - much more like th'greedy ancestors who wanted t'take tha' demon tech for their - Lendaria@crystyl:- own. Orions after tha' evolved t'use pheromones t'reign in those males, an' we think now even communicate amongst their selves" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "We have always used them to communicate, but our pheromones are not used to reign in the males. Our males are more physically imposing and tend towards the martial arts, but all - NPC@annpc#557 - Esana, male and female, possess pheromones that have a calming effect on others, and among ourselves. That is why Esana is so peaceful. The males' martial arts is more of a tradition passed - NPC@annpc#557 - down from our ancestors and is truly more of an art, as they rarely have need for it. We are not hunted by any predator." Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "I hope I get t'see it for mahself some time! Our males ain't exactly whatcha call refined for th'most part, poor things kinda need our help t'be civilized" she chuckles, "But we do also - Lendaria@crystyl:-practice ancient traditional martial arts o'sorts! Th'females tha' is. Ooh, maybe I could do some wit' your guys!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "I am certain they would find the experience most interesting if you come across them. I am afraid there are no Esana males on this station for me to introduce. Those of us who - NPC@annpc#557 - travel the galaxy are members of two particular orders, founded to satisfy our pact with the La'ani Commonwealth, though we have grown to operate outside the accords of the pact and aid others - NPC@annpc#557 - in our own name as well, as we do here. The Order of Peace is the male order, who travel the stars as peacekeepers- great diplomats and negotiators renowned through Commonwealth space." Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "Sounds good! An' ya own Order?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "My order is the female counterpart, the Order of Serenity. We are primarily healers of the mind, though some of us focus on taming beasts, providing advice on all things natural. - NPC@annpc#557 - That is what our group under Mistress Leravani specializes in. We came here to help the Gelesh-Nen with the crisis of the plague consuming the nature of their world. Though all members of - NPC@annpc#557 - our order are trained to some extent in our primary duties, so we also do what we can for all the refugees here." Lendaria@crystyl:"Can't be easy; tryin' to address concerns on them kinda scales" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "No, it is certainly not. We've found ourselves mostly helping the refugees now, after the Vetac's technological solution caused an even greater influx of them, and completely - NPC@annpc#557:- replaced what remained of the natural landscapes on Gelesh-Nen worlds." Lendaria@crystyl:"Well for wha' it's worth, we'se here to try an' help ease tha' burden on ya now too!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "Thank you." She stands as the tram comes to a stop and leads the way off, "Speaking of the refugees, that is why I've brought you here." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah: "This is to do with the An war you mentioned before?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "No, but first I wanted to show you the real New Sarech Station. The Gelesh-Nen brought you to the centre of the station, where they run their government and still maintain some - NPC@annpc#557 - semblance of the jewel of trade that this place was meant to be. Even though they wanted your aid, they still wished not to look too weak, I believe." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah nods, "A typical stance going into any kind of discussion with a new encounter for the first time" Lendaria@crystyl grins, "S'why th'Valley Forge's pretty, not just powerful!" NPC@annpc#557 | They make their way through a crammed hallway, the formerly spacious corridor made much narrower by makeshift market stalls on either side. The place is noisy and crowded, with lines of people - NPC@annpc#557 - before some of the stalls. Crates are also placed haphazardly by the Gelesh-Nen merchants, and several have even made makeshift glowing signs to advertise. Unlike the centre of the station, - NPC@annpc#557 - which was comparable to a Federation starbase, this area has a much more cyberpunk feel to it NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi turns into what appears to be a cargo bay, and indeed still has many cargo crates within it, but are now lined with cubicles. The cubicles all have curtains closing them off, but - NPC@annpc#557 - some of them are left open. Peering in, they can see tiny living quarters, usually containing little more than bare necessities- a mattress, some personal belongings, sometimes a few chairs NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "I thought you might appreciate seeing what life is really like for the Gelesh-Nen now." Lendaria@crystyl:"It's not like we needed motivatin' t'act, but yeah seein' this 'ere on th'station does show jus' how bad a position they'se in" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "I know you came here to help and needed no convincing, but I always find it good to learn more about those we are helping. They often conceal something, whether that is their - NPC@annpc#557 - own wrongdoings, or in cases like this, sometimes they are just too proud to show you the full extent of their plight." Lendaria@crystyl:"They do say pride comes before a fall" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "I only hope it will not be true of the An as well." --- NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi leads them out of the cargo bay, going further down the cramped hall before turning into a different bay. Here, they notice among the Gelesh-Nen refugees several other Esana females, - NPC@annpc#557 - dressed in the same robes as her. Like Orions, their skin tones vary but all have that golden tinge to them. Of more interest is their hair colour, which seems to range from pale blonde to - NPC@annpc#557 - orange to dark red, but there isn't a single black-haired Esana, which is by far the most common among Orions and Regulators alike Keelah@crystyl | Lennie of course notices this and suddenly feels quite exotic having black hair NPC@annpc#557 | Some of the other Esana glance at them curiously as they pass by. Verindi leads them into one of the cubicles, which is just as humble as those of the refugees, but organized more neatly NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "This is where I stay. It's not much, but do make yourselves at home." Keelah@crystyl remains standing while Lennie takes a seat Keelah@crystyl:"You like to feel close to those you are trying to help. From what you have said, your species must be highly empathic" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles and nods, "That's right. The Assembly offered us quarters in the station centre, but we wanted to stay here among the people. It is no difficulty for us; back on Essi we live in - NPC@annpc#557 - stone shacks and wooden huts with about as much in the way of accomodation." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Wow, seems your people really stuck wit' th'ancestors ways. Mine lost a lotta tha' along th'way, including knowledge of them ancestors" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Yes, we remembered and honoured their ways through all the generations. Becoming a Commonwealth Protectorate was a controversial move at the time, as the only service we could offer - NPC@annpc#557 - in return meant that some of our people would have to leave our world, live among technology like this, and become involved in affairs larger than ourselves. But we had no means of defending - NPC@annpc#557 - Essi, so we adapted. That was probably the greatest compromise we've yet made in our history." Keelah@crystyl:"Even my own people who walk a path closer to yours than most have adapted far more to existence within a larger galactic community. It is impressive, to say the least" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, "Ya ain't wrong. Th'more I hear th'more I wanna see for mahself!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "Perhaps you'll get the chance to visit Essi while you are here. But I suppose you also wish to know more about the greater Commonwealth, and not just our little Protectorate." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Yes, I enjoy learning more about other cultures - especially those connected to our family - but I am eager to hear what you had to say about the An and this conflict, not to mention the - Keelah@crystyl:- region overall. All of which I surmise is part of the reason we are talking here and not in the central area" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Since you have already encountered the An before, I assume you're familiar with the Dominion at least by second-hand account?" Keelah@crystyl:"Second, and First. There is a wormhole far in Dominion space which leads to our home quadrant. Some years ago now there was a heavy war waged when the Dominion attempted to - Keelah@crystyl:- expand into that region" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Attempted? Your people managed to fend them off, then?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "It almost spelled the end of the Founders themselves, but we eventually reached an accord. And whilst I am not sure I would consider the Dominion to be outright allies now, they are - Keelah@crystyl:- certainly no longer enemies either" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "As the other great power in this region, they've been long-standing rivals of the Commonwealth. This plague we are dealing with came from Dominion space, and while many blame them - NPC@annpc#557 - for creating it, my people have reason to doubt such claims. The Order of Peace, in their role as negotiators, also communicate with Dominion officials and worlds under their control, and what - NPC@annpc#557 - they have heard indicates that the plague hit the Dominion just as heavily as it hit Commonwealth space, if not more so. Even the Founders and their wealth of knowledge could not find a cure." Keelah@crystyl:"That certainly does put a bigger scope on things. When did this occur then, as there was no sign of it the last I heard anything from the Dominion at least" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Many years ago. The Dominion kept it quiet, they are far more proud than the Gelesh-Nen. The Commonwealth only heard whispers of a plague until it spread to our space. The Dominion - NPC@annpc#557 - has managed to eradicate it from their territory now, but through brute force by cleansing any infected world. It came at a great cost to them, and it is a part of what they have come to call - NPC@annpc#557 - the Three Blights. You said your war with them almost destroyed the Founders?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "Yes, that's right" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "We have heard of that as well. That is another of the Three Blights, a sickness that took the Founders. The plague swept through their territory at around that time, though whether - NPC@annpc#557 - that is the very beginning of it or not is hard to tell. The Founders are very secretive; we only learned of the sickness years after it occurred, and had no inclination that you were the cause." Keelah@crystyl:"It was not a proud moment for the Federation, but as I understand, they took measures to specifically target the Founders alone as a safeguard" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "The Commonwealth knew only at the time that all Founders had suddenly been recalled. We found out about the sickness much later through a rogue Vorta. They kept it secret from their - NPC@annpc#557 - own people as well as outsiders, and the same was true of the plague. It is possible they were already dealing with it when they were trying to conquer you, and you would never have known - NPC@annpc#557 - otherwise. Or perhaps it only entered their space afterwards. Only the Founders can say for certain." Keelah@crystyl:"It could well explain their aggressive push through the wormhole" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "We may come back to the subject of the plague later. Have you heard of the Third Blight? It was far more recent, when a strange insectoid species began a brutal assault on - NPC@annpc#557:- core Dominion territory. Swarms of them came as far as the border with the Commonwealth, but they seemed more focused on the Dominion, and the Commonwealth never had more than brief - NPC@annpc#557:- skirmishes with them." NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "We came to call them the Locusts, due to their nature to strip a world of resources. We do not know their origin, but they vanished as quickly as they came. The Three Blights left - NPC@annpc#557 - the Dominion crippled and a shadow of its former self. The Founders attempted to maintain their control over all their territories, but it was rapidly slipping from their grasp. All across the - NPC@annpc#557 - Dominion, systems declared their independence, and when the Jem'Hadar came to bring them back into line, rebellion erupted." Keelah@crystyl:"I can't say I'm surprised. Even when we first learned of the Dominion, it quickly became clear that many remained within their protectorate through fear more than anything else" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "This is where the An came in. At this point, the plague had already been ravaging various Commonwealth worlds for years now. Many blamed the Dominion for it, but the Dominion - NPC@annpc#557 - was still feared and the Commonwealth did not dare openly accuse them. That all changed when the Dominion started to fall apart. The An seized the opportunity, announced that the plague was an - NPC@annpc#557 - act of aggression by their old rivals and threw their support behind the rebel factions. This was over two years ago, when the Fourth An-Dominion War began." Keelah@crystyl: â€œI see, so this is why you suggested that the war issue may link to our search for answers about this plague" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Yes. The Founders know how the plague entered Dominion space, but the Founders are not trusting in the best of times. Now, the Dominion is on the verge of collapse. I do not approve - NPC@annpc#557 - of this war, but I also believe the An would not stoop to genocide. But if the Dominion does collapse, not all of the rebel states will become Protectorates. Some will form independant - NPC@annpc#557:- factions, unbeholden to the Commonwealth and no doubt holding a burning hatred of their old masters. I fear that soon, there may no longer be any Founders to ask." Keelah@crystyl:"Then it is clear that the Valley Forge must make haste towards Dominion territory in order to find answers once the situation here has been reigned in" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Perhaps your work here can aid you. The Gelesh-Nen know of a subspace corridor near their space, but they have kept it a secret. It was to be their key for Protectorate status, - NPC@annpc#557 - allowing Commonwealth ships to make use of the corridor in exchange for Andarash protection. If you help them with the rogue nanites, I'm sure they'll let you use the tunnel to reach Dominion - NPC@annpc#557:- space more quickly." Keelah@crystyl:"And I'm sure doing so will not weaken their stance of maintaining control over it" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "I don't think so, at least. I'm no expert in these spatial phenomena, but the Gelesh-Nen claim subspace corridors are extremely difficult to navigate. They lost many ships trying to - NPC@annpc#557 - explore them and found only a single viable route so far. Without a guide, knowing the entrance is not much use to you. It'll probably just get you killed." Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, we have worked with other species who have specialized in mastering such corridors. Not to mention capitalizing on that expertise. Perhaps we can even share some of that insight with the - Keelah@crystyl:- Gelesh-Nen to help bolster their case" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Is that so? I'm sure the Gelesh-Nen will appreciate such insights." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie pouts a bit, "Does this mean we're not gonna get to see tha' lovely sounded home o'yours now?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "You never know, you may still have the chance. I don't know exactly where this corridor of theirs goes, and I doubt it'll take you exactly to where you need to go. You'll probably - NPC@annpc#557 - still have to travel conventionally, maybe through Commonwealth space. You might also have the chance to come back in the future, too, depending on where your journey takes you." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie smiles, "I sure hope so!" Keelah@crystyl:"We will endeavour to seek out the opportunity. In the mean time, from the story you shared earlier of your ancestors it strikes me that a lot of the detail has become fuzzy over time. If you would - Keelah@crystyl:- care to while we are here, I suggest you visit the Valley Forge. There are many more Orions like Lendaria there, and they have gathered a great deal of detail about your shared ancient history" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie smiles and nods, "Yeah, ya should go see Emma! She's closer to it than most" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "I was about to offer to come with you, actually. You may have want of a guide while travelling through this region, and my order seeks to find an end to this plague just as - NPC@annpc#557 - you do. And there is the shared ancestry of my people with much of your crew on top of that, it would seem. Mistress Leravani will no doubt see the reasoning in sending someone along." Keelah@crystyl:"Well if that is what you choose once matters here are settled, then you would of course be most welcome" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie's eyes widen, "Goddess, could this mean tha' for th'first time since our ancestors all went their own ways tha' we could all three tribes back in one room?!" Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, "And here I thought Emma was the one who so focused on restoring your people to past glory" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie chuckles, "Well sure, but ya gotta admit it'd be pretty momentous occasion!" Keelah@crystyl:"No doubt" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Who is this Emma you're talking about? Is she like our Mistresses?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie grins, "Yes an' no, probably. If ya Mistresses're anythin' like our Matriarchs at any rate" Keelah@crystyl:"Actually strictly speaking, Lendaria is more of a Matriarch by the traditional measure" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie, "Yeah yeah, but no way I'm-a ever gonna let mahself grow up enough f'tha'!" Keelah@crystyl:"I assume you mean old enough, despite the illogical sentiment" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Nu-uh, I'mma stay young at heart forever!" Keelah@crystyl sighs, "I will have to remind you of this conversation in years to come when you start asking T'Pia to babysit for you" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie snorts a chuckle at the thought, "But yeah, Emma Ralde's a bit of a special case all in all. But I'll let her fill ya in" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi chuckles and nods, "I'll look forward to meeting her, then. And I'll be happy to tell you all more of the Esana and our ways, as well." Keelah@crystyl:"First things first though, we need to address matters here. Then of course this is all assuming still that you are able to gain release from your current commitments as you anticipate" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "We'll see what decision the Assembly makes first, and then I'll speak to Leravani about it while you help the Gelesh-Nen reclaim their planets." --- NPC@annpc#557 | Later, Keelah and co. are called back to the Assembly Hall NPC@annpc#557 | Prime Minister Tirsa stands and greets them as they enter, "Welcome back, Captain Se'Lai. We have reached a decision." Keelah@crystyl returns to her previous seat, "And what have you decided?" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "We wish for you to restore the nanites to their original programming, with the additional refinements you propose. These old worlds are all gone now. We would like the memory of what - NPC@annpc#557 - they once were to remain, but giving them the ability to evolve for themselves will breathe some life back into these dead worlds as well. And if they can defend themselves and perhaps us from - NPC@annpc#557 - the Hyrdeum in the process, all the better." Keelah@crystyl:"You understand that there is no guarantee of any such result if we proceed with this, it is merely a designed potential. Depending on conditions as well, it may not exactly be a rapid change" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa nods, "I understand, and we do not expect immediate results. But it is better than turning these planets into little more than museums, or worse, rendering the entire world barren." NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "A chance is better than nothing, and even if the nanites never develop beyond their original programming, at least we still have the memory of our homes as they once were." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Very well, then we will proceed at once and do all we can to set them up for an evolution" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "Thank you, Captain Se'Lai. Our people do not have much at the moment, as I am sure you are well aware. But we will repay you in any way we can." Keelah@crystyl:"I appreciate the sentiment, but it was always our intention to take action and not leave the threat of the nanites behind. We simply wanted guidance and direction from those responsible here before - Keelah@crystyl:- acting. That said, certain things have come to light and it is entirely possible that you may be well placed to aid us in our journey" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "And how might that be? Whatever we have that we can spare is yours, as are any knowledge or assistance you might require." Keelah@crystyl:"Well a mutual sharing of knowledge is always a good thing since exploring new cultures is part of our primary objective in exploration. But more specifically when this is over, I would like to ask - Keelah@crystyl:- that you take us through the subspace corridor in this region towards Dominion space" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa nods, "That we can do. When the nanite-controlled vessels are no longer a threat, we can spare a ship to guide you. You are certain you wish to go /towards/ Dominion space? A war rages - NPC@annpc#557 - there, and the Dominion have advanced enough technology to be a threat to you. I hear the conflict does not go in their favour, but a cornered vach can be very dangerous." Keelah@crystyl nods, "I am aware of the situation, and the Dominions strength. But this current conflict is exactly why I must travel there as I believe it is connected to our investigation into the source of the- Keelah@crystyl:- plague" NPC@annpc#557 | Tirsa: "Very well, then. The corridor does not take you directly into Dominion space, but it should shorten your journey considerably. Once the nanites are pacified, we will assign a cruiser - NPC@annpc#557 - to take you to the closest point along the route to Dominion space." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you, then for now we should adjourn and make our way back to the colony" --- NPC@annpc#557 | After successfully travelling through Gelesh-Nen territory and pacifying the nanites on all the colonies, the Valley Forge returns to the station where they pick up Lady Verindi NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi materializes on the transporter pad, wearing the same basic robes she had when they met her on the station Emma Ralde@crystyl just happens to be the one on duty here today and finishes the cycle Emma Ralde@crystyl looks up with a smile, "Welcome aboard, Lady... Verindi, right?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi steps off the transporter pad and nods, "That's correct. You're another one of Lendaria's people, aren't you? I was told there's quite a few of you on the ship." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Correct on both counts! Though there aren't so many of us actually serving in Starfleet like me and Lennie, most are actually colonial conscriptsâ€ NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Colonial conscripts?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Ah, right..." she chuckles, "Sorry, bit of a convoluted story. But short version; they're like... civilians who work on this ship, they came on board to work on the ship but don't actually belong - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- to the organization that runs it" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "So they are like the Protectorate members who serve on Andarash ships. They are there as part of the pact made with the Commonwealth to be a Protectorate. Not members of the An - NPC@annpc#557 - military, but also more integrated than mere mercenaries." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yeah, sounds pretty comparable! Anyway I'm sure you are keen to get settled in, let me show you to your quarters!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi follows along, "So are your people similar to a Protectorate in terms of status with the civilizations that run this ship?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Sort of, yeah. We've had a messy time this last couple of centuries and are still recovering. So there's quite a lot of scattering still. But the dominant factions now who are starting to align - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- have become allies of Starfleet, and both groups belong to the Coalition which is a much broader grouping like your Commonwealth" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "And you are a long distance exploration expedition, like the An with their Motherships?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yep! The Valley Forge is a class of ship specialized in long distance expeditions, though nothing quite on the generational scale of the An motherships! That said, she's done a lot more than she - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- was ever meant for too. And it technically has started to become generational..." NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Is that so?" Emma Ralde@crystyl chuckles, "Well, barely! The Captain has a young daughter who is now a cadet. She pretty much grew up here over the last few years and is now a cadet" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "Walking in her mother's footsteps, is she?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"To some extent, yes" she smiles, "The Captain started her career as an engineer, and T'Pia also has a flair for ships! Though she is throwing herself into the design side of things which is quite - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- the challenging field, not to mention competitive!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Yes, I can imagine. My people do not build ships of our own, but one does not need knowledge of how all this works to see how complex it all must be." She glances around the ship as - NPC@annpc#557 - they walk, "And Lendaria was right, your ship is quite the beauty." Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles, "Ships like this often have to house families, and be much more of a community than other more utilitarian ships. And of course, it often has to play a role in diplomatic events too. so - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- they tend to go a bit overboard with the dressings on ships like this!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Yes, much like the An and their Motherships. These almost feel like miniature planets with the natural landscapes through them." NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "The Gelesh-Nen designed their station with the Motherships as inspiration, but aren't quite capable of the same technological feats yet." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"The An motherships are in a league of their own!" she chuckles, "That said though, I am still surprised by the aesthetic quality of new Orion ships too!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Are they as impressive as this ship?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Surprisingly close to it, considering we haven't been doing it as long as Starfleet. Also ours tend to have a much bigger focus on the aesthetics. You know, I heard that the flagship even has a - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- special relaxing bath in the captain's quarters!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Really? That sounds like quite the luxurious ship to command! Speaking of Orions, do you know someone called Emma? I was told to speak with her." Emma Ralde@crystyl stops midstep, "You... were?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "Yes. She's supposed to know more about your ancient history, which is of interest as we believe my people, the Esana, share the same ancestors as you." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Well I mean, I wouldn't exactly call myself an expert on our history or anything..." NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "You are Emma?" Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles, "The one and only! Apparently... Sorry, I should have introduced myself sooner; Ensign Emma Ralde at your service!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles back, "A pleasure to meet you, Emma. I was not expecting you to be so young, with the way Lendaria spoke of you." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Ahh, of course. I should have figured she had a hand in this!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Now I have to figure out if you are being humble, or if she tricked me," she chuckles Emma Ralde@crystyl:"I guess it's mostly the me side of that one... honestly, I do get why she would send you my way since I've seen a lot more of our history than most" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "Well, I look forward to having an in-depth discussion on it when I settle in, then!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It would be my pleasure!"
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NPC@annpc#557 | The day following Verindi's arrival, Emma heads to the lounge to meet with their newest guest and discuss their shared heritage. Verindi is already there upon her arrival, sitting at the - NPC@annpc#557 - counter and chatting with Taizam-Dur NPC@annpc#557 | TD: "Your pheromones cause those around you to be more calm, instead of being attracted to you like Orion pheromones?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "That's right. We can regulate the output by exercising control over our mental state, but they're always present to some degree." Emma Ralde@crystyl waves as she heads over and pulls up a stool, "Well, I see you've quickly become part of the furniture here!" NPC@annpc#557 turns to Emma as she sits, "Hello Emma. I was just speaking to the other Orions here, as I arrived a little early to see the social atmosphere here." NPC@annpc#557 | TD gives Emma a nod of greetings as well, "We were just discussing the physical similarities and differences between our peoples." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yeah, remarkable really isn't it!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "Our males are much like yours in appearance, only with the golden skin tones. And the lack of technological augmentations, of course." Emma Ralde@crystyl chuckles, "That must come as a relief!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "There is no doubt that our peoples are related. Did Lendaria tell you the old legends of how we came to be?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"She mentioned that you had historical legends, and that was what rung true to her with things we learned just recently about our own forgotten past. I am curious to hear it for myself, I'll admit" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Well in short, gods used to watch over the universe long ago, but they were betrayed by those who craved their power. Among them was a certain demon called Gatt Hunder, who became - NPC@annpc#557 - the master of our people. While the demon was vying for the remnants of the gods' power with the other demons, we rose up against him. We gained our freedom, but some of us became no better - NPC@annpc#557 - than the one who enslaved us and they too sought the power of the gods. Our people were among those who resisted the temptation. We settled on Essi to live peaceful lives, setting aside the - NPC@annpc#557 - power to traverse the stars and destroy entire worlds to embrace the gifts that the gods meant for us- the natural bounty of our new home." Emma Ralde@crystyl sips her drink, listening intently, "Well, that certainly does ring true alright!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi sips her drink as well upon finishing the account, "What did you recently learn of your past?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Well, I suppose to give it proper context I should go back to the very beginning with a species we know as the Progenitors, and their work to seed the galaxy with the Children" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "I don't believe I'm familiar with them." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Well, the Progenitors are known by many different names. But they are essentially the first mammalian species to evolve in this galaxy. They existed countless hundreds of thousands of years ago" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "And they seeded the galaxy, as in brought life to it?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yes, at the time they thoroughly explored the galaxy and found it lacking in sentient life besides themselves. Or so the story goes. What we recently learned is that whilst this is most likely true- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- to some degree at least, they were also envious of an omnipotent species called the Q Continuum. The Q wield unfathomable power over reality and the physical universe, when they choose to at least. - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- And so the Progenitors - masters of genetics that they were - realized that their own physical evolution would always limit their capacity to match the Q as equals. This led to them seeding the - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- galaxy from rim to core; encouraging life to grow in their own image so that one day the galaxy would be brimming with varied life for them to explore. And as it turns out, to also eventually farm- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- for a more advanced physical form to take as their own which would allow them to parallel the Q in potential. These species are those we now refer to as 'Children' species" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "And these Children are us, I'm guessing?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yes, but not just us" she gestures across the three of them as the Orionoids, "But /all/ of us" she turns, gesturing across the rest of the room NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Including the Gelesh-Nen and the An, and all the species that walk on two legs, then?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Pretty much" she nods, "There are exceptions, but haven't you ever found it curious that in a galaxy where life and form are both so vast that there are so many bipedal mammalians with the same- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- basic physical parameters as your own?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Yes, I've always thought that most curious. So these Progenitors seeded the entire galaxy with life like us? That must have been quite the undertaking." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"No doubt. But I'm afraid we know very little about them. You see, despite where you might now think this is going they are not the ones I believe to be the original gods of your legend" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "I take it they don't fit the betrayal part, then?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Not quite. I believe those figures from your legends are in fact the 'first Children' - a species known as Iconians. They also grew into a vast empire spanning the galaxy, using their technology - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- which we still barely comprehend even now. They are also obscured by history as their Empire finally collapsed around 200,000 years ago now. But many more remnants remain in the form of the great - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- gates and spheres they left behind" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "And you believe them to be the gods in our stories, because the Iconians' role in what you learned of your own history matches?" Emma Ralde@crystyl nods, "Yes. Well, sort of. More what we learned of their history really. You see that downfall I mentioned, it happened because they wielded this powerful and advanced technology. They were - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- benevolent enough with their own protectorates, but they did not share the technology - only the benefits. The lesser species - or 'younger Children' as it were - grew envious, just as it seems is - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- in their genetics to do so. They banded together and tore down the Iconian Empire from within, almost wiping the species from existence. Now, one of those species we learned recently was called- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- the Attahan. They were known to have kept a servitor species, who we learned through genetic comparisons to be our ancestors. When the Attahan turned their focus on the Iconians, our ancestors - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- rose up against their oppression and eliminated the Attahan who subjugated them with technology. Our once singular ancestors had - for the first time in their existence - freedom to be the - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- architects of their own futures. But of course, with this thrust upon them they did not know how to handle the opportunity and so developed into internal conflict and indecision about the matter. - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- Of the three main factions - as it were - you had the power hungry ones who wanted to seize the Attahan's technology for our own people. Then the strict regulatory group who... didn't quite fear - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- technology, but more the way it could do harm in irresponsible hands - they wanted to strictly police its use and ultimately defeated the first faction. The third were yours and ours more direct - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- descendents; those who simply wanted to leave all that behind and find a fulfilling life away from it all. They did not remain together though and spread across the stars in search of their own - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- new destinies. One such group settled on what we now consider the Orion ancestral homeworld, and now we know another went on to become your direct ancestors" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "But your people came to develop your own technology, and returned to the stars once again?" Emma Ralde@crystyl nods, "Yes, I couldn't exactly explain how or when it happened. But somewhere along the way, that shared ancestral past became forgotten to us. By a few thousands years ago, our ancestors seem to - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- have lived with nature for so long that they had regressed in evolutionary terms. They had no advanced technology, not even spoken language. They were a typical early tribal civilization, and each- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- tribe was led by a strong female who guided her tribe through her pheromones. We now believe they may have actually once substituted verbal communication with pheremonal, and perhaps this was part- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- of the trigger for that recession. That basic setup though remains today still with a matriarchal structure to our society, though we ironically seem to have followed in the genetic footsteps of - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- our ancestors, and their oppressors, and /their/ oppressors, since we have always had a history of gender imbalance; males cycling around to try and 'rise against female dominance', only to later - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- realize they can't function without our guidance, and ultimately succumb to restoring matriarchal order. It's a vicious cycle that has repeated more times than I can count, and that's just times I- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- can remember!" she laughs NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "It's already happened multiple times in your lifetime alone? Your civilization must be most turbulent..." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Oh! Right... well, um... thing is... it's really not all that turbulent, each cycle is typically generational - as in every few. I... just so happen to have seen more than my fair share of them" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "You've...lived through more than one generation? Do you age slower than us? That doesn't make sense, then your entire generation would be longer, and you'd still only live in your - NPC@annpc#557 - own generation..." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It's a 'me' thing, not 'my people' thing. Something happened to me a long time ago and I got sort of... frozen, at least my biological clock did" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "You don't seem frozen. I've seen people in technologically induced stasis before. They don't age, but they also don't walk around and talk! You must be a special case, some sort of - NPC@annpc#557:- living stasis?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"That's the simplest way to think of it, yes. My physiology essentially stopped it's natural growth cycle that occurs over a lifetime" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Very interesting. There are many in the galaxy who would do anything to undergo the same. I assume you don't fully understand how it happened, rather than having made some great - NPC@annpc#557 - scientific discovery?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It was the result of an unfortunate experimental failure. A dit is not all it is cracked up to be either" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "You don't have to persuade me. I don't seek immortality, I just know that many do." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"And it is an ill-conceived fantasy. But anyway, yeah; that's how I've seen so much of our development!" she chirps NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "An interesting tale. You mentioned something about your ancestors communicating with pheromones?" Emma Ralde@crystyl nods eagerly, "Yeah! Seemed pretty crazy at first, but after we got to studying the concept more alongside the Regulators we started to realize there may actually be something to it! Honestly - Emma Ralde@crystyl - though, I doubt I would ever have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself. It's got a few us wondering now if we can retrain ourselves that way, what with the psionic resurgence going on now" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "You saw it for yourself, even though it is a lost practice?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yep! Oh don't worry, I'm not /that/ old" she chuckles, "Was just involved in some time-wibbly mess this one time" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi chuckles, "I was beginning to wonder. Yes, I've heard of temporal travel. I've never experienced it myself, though. A common term all Protectorates must agree to is the prohibition of - NPC@annpc#557 - any technology relating to temporal transportation. It's also been banned under the Treaty of Varaxi, though that's no longer in effect with the Commonwealth and Dominion at war again. So - NPC@annpc#557 - technically, temporal missions can be carried out with Commonwealth permission, though they're not known to sanction such things." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yes, Starfleet and most others operate a similar philosophy. This was a purely circumstantial accident" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "That happens on occasion here, too, I've heard. Usually to the exploration expeditions, but every once in a while we get an anomaly with space-time properties." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Makes sense, exploratory expeditions like ours go out there to find just these sort of things and figure them out so others don't get caught out by them! Just means that we end up seeing more than - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- our fair share of the oddities!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "So, you think the psionic resurgence could help your people learn how to communicate with pheromones again? Does that mean you've only just begun developing psionic ability?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"We're typically not a psionic species, so it's coming as quite a new thing to many of those who have been affected" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"And whilst I know the two forms aren't exactly connected, I guess I can't help but wonder on the possibilities if this might just open things up for us a little" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "It might provide means by which you can explore your natural capabilities more closely. My people are familiar with psionics, and while the recent resurgence increased our psionic - NPC@annpc#557 - capabilities in many, we've always had some." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Really? I guess that just reinforces the potential for us then!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "We're not particularly strong in psionics. We know of many different species who have far more impressive psionic ability, but ours does manifest in a way that we've never seen in - NPC@annpc#557 - another species before. Though we also have the more typical manifestations, which have become more common recently." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"And what way is that which is so unique to your people?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Well, we...I should explain from the beginning. We form bonds with those whom we are close to. Esana mate for life, and when we do, a bond is formed. Any children born become a part - NPC@annpc#557 - of this bond and are connected to their parents, along with any siblings they may have. This is not unusual among psionic species, as I understand." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Oh, so it's like taking a vijra then!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Your people have a similar process?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Kind of, yeah. We don't strictly mate for life, but we can form a neurological connection to a chosen life partner. This is actually more often than not a more kindred soul, and quite often another- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- female. The further family ties are typically more controlled as we have those we call Matriarchs; females with the blood of leadership in their veins. They descend from the tribal leaders of the - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- past and typically exert a natural influence on others. Not through dominance though, but sheer charisma if anything. They tend to share such a bond with those they bring into their family, then - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- all of the girls within that family - regardless of blood ties - form a bond of sisterhood" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "How interesting. Mating and being born to someone is not the only way for us to form bonds, either. There is also a rite that allows us to bond with those unrelated by blood, - NPC@annpc#557 - reserved only for the closest of friends. Those who undergo the rite are either being adopted into another family due to the death of their biological one, or essentially making themselves a - NPC@annpc#557 - sibling of the one they are bonding with. The reason for these connotations is because of the unique aspect of our psionic manifestation." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Still fascinating though! The cultural similarities suggest that these are traits carried through from our ancient ancestors" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "It must be based in something from before they parted ways to settle on their respective worlds. I don't imagine your people share this next part in common with us. Though with - NPC@annpc#557 - the resurgence, perhaps you will in time as well." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Curious! And what is that then?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Our souls linger on beyond the death of our bodies. Usually, only those bonded with the soul in life can commune with them. That is why taking the rite of bonding is essentially - NPC@annpc#557 - adopting someone into your family, as normally you may only commune with the souls of your family. Once everyone they have bonded with have also passed beyond death, the soul is said to move - NPC@annpc#557 - to the next stage of its journey, though it is not agreed upon precisely what that is." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Wow, I've heard of some species who have a tangible 'second stage' of life, or afterlife. But had never considered something might actually tie to our own bonding rituals!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi smiles, "I thought you would find it interesting. These rules I just spoke of are for the average Esana. The average Esana does not develop much more than a limited ability to pick up - NPC@annpc#557 - the emotions of others, in terms of conventional psionics. But those among us who are psionically gifted in life do not abide by these rules. We group them into two categories, ancestor - NPC@annpc#557 - spirits and venerable spirits." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"I take it venerable are those you described who still share a connection with a living soul?" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "That's just every Esana- we do not have a special name for it as each one of us is capable of communing with those we are connected to after death. Ancestor spirits are those who can - NPC@annpc#557 - commune beyond those they are directly bonded to, but still require some bond. Usually, an ancestor spirit can commune with everyone who has ever bonded with someone they were bonded with, and - NPC@annpc#557 - those who have bonded with them, and so on. This often results in them being able to commune with entire clans, but not those outside the clan. Some of them choose to continue their journey - NPC@annpc#557 - after a few generations, but others remain behind to act as guides for their descendants. That's why we call them ancestor spirits. Each clan usually has at least one." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Remarkable! I'd love to be able to explore something like that" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "Perhaps your people will be capable of it too, with the resurgence. Though you'll be pleased to hear about the final classification, the venerable spirits." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Oh, do tell!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "The venerable spirits were the most talented of our psionics in life. In death, they are able to commune beyond any bonds, with anyone. Not just any Esana of any clan, but members of - NPC@annpc#557 - other species as well. They are very rare. We do not usually get more than a handful such psionics in every generation, and many of them decide to pass on when all those they knew in life have - NPC@annpc#557 - done so as well. Few choose to stay with us for long, and most of the very old ones have moved on by now. One of the oldest still with us is Diveh of Nissali. He was one of the original - NPC@annpc#557 - signatories of the pact with the Commonwealth and was instrumental in making us a Protectorate." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Ooh wow! He must be a real champion of your people's future!" NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi nods, "There have been few greater than he. Diveh was so devoted to our people that his soul remains to guide our leaders to this very day. It is thanks to these ancestor and venerable - NPC@annpc#557 - spirits that we have been able to preserve our legends and traditions so well through the ages." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"That is truly amazing! Though it saddens me a little to think that we might have lost that. Then I remember that the current popular theory is that I may be someway responsible for that... but - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- that's a story for another day!" she chuckles NPC@annpc#557 | Verindi: "I thought you weren't that old...oh, it has to do with that temporal incident, doesn't it?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Unfortunately, though I'm still not convinced myself and think it's just a silly theory people here made up for fun. Alright, let me order another round and I'll tell you all about that little - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- misadventure..."