Updated: Mar 18
Responding to a distress signal quickly leads to a stark reminder of the brutality that is ever present in this region of space, and leads Captain Keelah to one of the most difficult moral decisions of her command...
View Act I
NPC@annpc#5570 FX | It is a usual day on the bridge of the QanwI' as the raptor scouts ahead into the unknown... NPC@annpc#5570 | Honour Guard: "You think we'll get another chance at these Lupan?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "You can bet on it. Even the Feds got to see planetside action with them." NPC@annpc#5570 | Honour Guard: "That last carrier we met didn't seem to want a fight." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "I wouldn't call that a carrier. And picking a fight in orbit of one of the home to the biggest mercenary organizations in the area? No, they aren't fools." NPC@annpc#5570 | Honour Guard: "And that makes them a challenging adversary!" NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "Well, maybe you're about to get your wish," he turns to Lexi. "I see disruptor fire in a nearby system." Lexi@crystyll looks over, "Engage the cloak and take us in for a closer look!" NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn nods, "Aye, engaging cloak!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Pilot: "Taking us towards the system." NPC@annpc#5570 | After a few minutes of travel, the pilot announces their imminent arrival. NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "Looks like the fighting's in the system's inner asteroid belt. There's a lot of craft, but most of them are small. Smaller than us, fighters I'd say." Lexi@crystyll: "Any recognizable configurations among the ships here?" NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "One Lupan carrier, and some of the fighters look to be using similar tech. The rest of them I've never seen before." NPC@annpc#5570 | Honour Guard: "The carrier's not getting involved, though. Only the smaller craft are engaged in the fighting." Lexi@crystyll: "What can we tell about the new craft, any signs of indigenous to this system?" NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "There's some structures on the second planet of this system, but they're pretty basic, hard to say if they have anything in common with the new craft. All I can tell you is that - NPC@annpc#5570: - they're bigger than our fighters, but quite a bit smaller than a raider. Reading single lifesign in each one. Looks built for speed, but they've got firepower too for something that size." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "Definitely warp capable. Think a Fed runabout, armed to the teeth and made to fly like a bird of prey." Lexi@crystyll hrms, "Impressive, all things considered. Recommendations?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Honour Guard: "It looks like they're winning the fight with the Lupan fighters, but they won't stand a chance once the carrier gets involved. They can dance all day but they're not gonna take a - NPC@annpc#5570: - ship that size down, and they've got pretty bad defenses. Once they're hit, it won't take much to blow them up." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "You're just looking for an excuse to join in! If the carrier wanted to help, it would've. Looks like an honour duel with fighters to me." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn smirks, "Well, an honour brawl. Whatever it is, it's between them. Not our place to steal another warrior's glory." NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "Or maybe the Lupan are just toying with 'em first. Playing with their food before they eat it." NPC@annpc#5570 | Pilot: "Do they actually eat people?" Lexi@crystyll: "Possible. And as much as I thirst for battle, I am forced to agree. Without knowing the context, it would be premature to pick a side and jump in" NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "Why not. It's not like it's cannibalism for them." Lexi@crystyll: "Any comms traffic? The more we learn about this frey the better" NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "A lotta chatter, but they're on encrypted channels. Wanna ask the creepy lady to decode it?" Lexi@crystyll nods, "Why not. Give her something to do" NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "Alright." Not even a minute passes before he speaks again, "Well that was fast. She said it was very basic encryption. We're in now, if you wanna listen." Lexi@crystyll: "Let's have it" NPC@annpc#5570 FX | Audio feed begins coming in... NPC@annpc#5570 FX | At first, the dialogue is in a foreign language and sounds very excited. Soon, the translations kick in. NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 1: "Watch out, twenty-minus-forty..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 2: "Breyjan! We lost Kovik!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 3: "We got this, form on me..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 4: "You heard the Boss!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 2: "Drive these gihas out of here!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 1: "Wooo! Got him!" NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "The Lupan fighters are thinning out quickly." NPC@annpc#5570 | The comm chatter continues... NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 5: "Take that you dogs!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 2: "This is more like it!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 6: "Yes! Ha! Did you see that?!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 1: "Nice shot!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 3: "They've had enough, Riders. Back in line." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "The Lupan fighters are retreating to the carrier." NPC@annpc#5570 | Honour Guard: "Now let's see if these Lupan have any sense of honour..." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "The remaining fighters have docked back with the carrier...and it's turning away." NPC@annpc#5570 | Meanwhile over the comms... NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 4: "Told you we could do it." NPC@annpc#5570 | Voice 3: "Gather what you can from Kovik and Freja's rides. We'll do the burials tomorrow." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "Carrier's gone to warp, Captain. Looks like the craft are shifting through the debris." NPC@annpc#5570 | Honour Guard: "So they're not savages after all...makes them all the more worthy opponents when the time comes." Lexi@crystyll: "Curious though as to why. From what we've seen to date, they seem more inclined to mindlessly pushing through conflicts. Why /did/ the carrier turn away..." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "Not sure. It could've taken them out. Maybe their opponents will know more." Lexi@crystyll: "Alright, let's see what's going on here. Open a channel" NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "Opening channel..." Lexi@crystyll: <C> "Combat vessels. This is the IKS QanwI'. We have monitored weapons exchange with vessels known to us as Lupan." she pauses hesitantly, "...Do you... require assistance...?" Lexi@crystyll feels dirty talking so Starfleety... NPC@annpc#5570 | A few seconds later, an unfamiliar alien appears on the screen. He is bulky, comparable to a hardy Klingon warrior, but in the place of ridges, horns sprout from his forehead. He has shoulder - NPC@annpc#5570: - length hair which comes to rest on a brown jacket which seems to be fashioned from leather. NPC@annpc#5570 | Alien: "Nothing me and my Riders can't handle. Now who are you to be rummaging around our turf?" Lexi@crystyll: "We are scouting this region of space. My honorable warriors serve to protect a larger convoy, so we are here to see if you are a friend or a foe" NPC@annpc#5570 | Alien: "Now how big of a convoy are we talking about? You want to cross our turf, you have to pay up. And we charge by ship size." Lexi@crystyll: "Yeah... that's not going to happen. Trade, bartering, cultural exchange and all that good stuff; that is something my charge will engage with. Toll fees... not on my watch" NPC@annpc#5570 | Alien: "You saw how we drove off these dogs. You really want to mess with us?" Lexi@crystyll: "You really think you forced them away? Looks to me like they were using you to train their pups" NPC@annpc#5570 | Alien: "It's a fair fight, and they don't come back for a while after we beat them. Sure, they could blow us to oblivion with their big guns, but they don't." Lexi@crystyll: "It was a fair fight, which is not the Lupan's way unless they are just playing. You fought well, and so have earned my respect. Enough at least that I do you the courtesy of speaking to you. We have+ Lexi@crystyll: + no desire to make enemies of good fighters, but we will not be playing your games either. So, you can play nicely with our charge, or you can play with me" NPC@annpc#5570 | The alien stares for a moment, then breaks into a grin and chuckles, "I like you. You have heart. I don't see where you're calling from. Why don't you show me your ride, and we'll see if you're - NPC@annpc#5570: - as tough as you talk." Lexi@crystyll: "If you insist..." she grins, looking to her officer to cut comms with a nod NPC@annpc#5570 | The comms promptly cut at Lexi's instruction. Lexi@crystyll: "Position us point blank range behind the lead vessel and charge weapons" NPC@annpc#5570 | Pilot: "Aye, moving us to point blank range." NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "Weapons are charged, Captain!" NPC@annpc#5570 FX | The QanwI' moves into the asteroid field towards the lead vessel. Lexi@crystyll: "Prepare a volley from the wing cannons. Low yield, we don't want to disintigrate our new friend right away after all..." smirks, "And stand ready with a tractor beam" NPC@annpc#5570 FX | The craft draws closer and closer on the viewscreen: https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/starcraft/images/3/3a/Griffon_SC2-HotS_Rend1.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20140629125233 NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "Wing cannons standing by!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Pilot: "And we're in position!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "Tractor beam ready." Lexi@crystyll leans forward a little, savouring the moment, "Decloak and fire! Lock tractor beam!" NPC@annpc#5570 FX | QanwI' shimmers into view in front of the lead craft and fires its wing cannons, the bolts instantly collapsing the vessel's shields and scorching its hull. The tractor beam immediately - NPC@annpc#5570: - latches onto the disabled craft. NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "The other vessels are moving to surround us. Their weapons and shields are powered up." NPC@annpc#5570 | Merc: "He's hailing us." Lexi@crystyll leans back, a satisfied smile at the exquisite exection. She waits a moment, looking around the bridge before eventually acknowledging, "On screen" NPC@annpc#5570 | The horned alien reappears on the viewscreen. This time, his bridge is on dim emergency lighting and sparks can be seen in the background. NPC@annpc#5570 | Alien: "Hold, Riders! Not bad, not bad at all. It's a fine ride you got there, and it looks like you even have a stealth field like the Toroki!" Lexi@crystyll: "As I said, we monitored your engagement with the Lupan. Closely" NPC@annpc#5570 | The alien nods, "Tell you what, you and your people can pass through our turf. And you're welcome to our services, but those you'll definitely have to pay for." Lexi@crystyll smiles, "My associates would have it no other way. As long as you abide by this promise, you will be equally welcome to engage them with trade and service as well" NPC@annpc#5570 | The alien smirks, "Just don't wreck any more of our rides, or you'll have to start paying for these too." Lexi@crystyll: "Don't give me cause to, and I think we're going to get on just fine. It is too long since we encountered worthy fighters out here" NPC@annpc#5570 | Alien: "And it's been a while since we've seen a ride as nice as yours. I bet she can fly, by the looks of her." Lexi@crystyll grins, "You'd better believe it. So what do we call you anyway?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Alien: "We're Rakgor's Riders. I'm Rakgor the Younger, I run this outfit." Lexi@crystyll: "I see. So you run... what? This planet... the system... the sector, what?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Rakgor: "Our turf covers seven systems. We've got repair shops on three of them and one of those is in a proper town. Rest's nothing special." Lexi@crystyll: "That's a lot of lightyears to cover for one gang. I would hope there's more to your... Riders, than just what you have here..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Rakgor: "Oh we got other groups, I just took my best Riders to face off with the Lupan. We only really watch the three shops, rest of the space we won from other gangs, the Lupan, drove - NPC@annpc#5570: - one of those corporations away once too. They're our turf, and if we catch somebody in there we usually make them pay, but we don't frequent them unless we see another group moving in proper." Lexi@crystyll: "Fair enough. So what about these repair shops of yours, and this settlement. I expect a gang of such prowess must have a decent watering hole" NPC@annpc#5570 | Rakgor: "That we do. It's mostly not run by our people- we set up shop there obviously and our Riders go there to relax often, but it was built by the Padran. My grandfather, Rakgor the Elder, - NPC@annpc#5570: - took it over in his day." Lexi@crystyll: "If you are as bold in person as you are in space, I think this could make an entertaining respite for my warriors. What do you say, share a drink with a fellow fighter?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Rakgor smirks, "It'd be my pleasure." Lexi@crystyll: "Then lead on, and we shall drink and share tales of great battles!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Rakgor: "Riders, show our visitor the way!" NPC@annpc#5570 | K'Sarn: "The vessels are powering down weapons and beginning to go to warp." Lexi@crystyll chuckles, looking around her bridge, "Warriors... let's ride!" NPC@annpc#5570 FX | The QanwI' follows the group of small craft with their leader's disabled ship in tow. B'Atar@anncarise: FX | After following the Riders to one of their inhabited systems, Lexi and Avita beam down into a sizable but rustic frontier town. Aliens from multiple species can be seen around them, including - B'Atar@anncarise: - Eltreiah, Rakgor's species, the species that ran the mine on Volstak, but most prominently, a reptilian humanoid species that they would recognize from having seen on Underworld. B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor and his Riders are already on the surface and they start heading into one of the structures. Rakgor waves the two visitors along. Lexi@crystyll: looks around, "Well... guess that's our cue" B'Atar@anncarise: | Avita nods and begins following, her head turning from side to side as she observes the area. "This has the makings of a frontier colony." Lexi@crystyll: "But unlikely to ever reach such status as long as it held by a glorified hoverbike gang" B'Atar@anncarise: | Avita: "They do not seem to be natives here. The reptilian ones are far more numerous. But there are no other settlements on the world, and it's not likely they evolved here." Lexi@crystyll: "An astute observation. Still, time to accept our hosts hospitality" B'Atar@anncarise: | They step into the structure the Riders had gone into... B'Atar@anncarise: | ...and find themselves in a loud bar. The layout and architecture is rustic, like a Western saloon built with more advanced technology, but just as simple. Here, the horned aliens appear to be the - B'Atar@anncarise: - predominant ones, but there are a fair number of other aliens, including a number of Eltreiah. A reptilian serves as the bartender, and several wheeled drones carry food and drinks over to tables. B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor turns to them as they enter, "Welcome, friends!" Lexi@crystyll: grins at the surroundings, opening her arms wide, "Now this is more like it! I haven't seen a bar like this since I was last on Qo'Nos!" Lexi@crystyll: promptly moves over to Rakgor, "Quite the place you got here" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor grins, "I thought you might like it. A glass of Jaskar for our guests!" Lexi@crystyll: "Jeskar? A local flavour?" B'Atar@anncarise: | The reptilian bartender takes out a bottle of a reddish-orange liquid that almost looks like lava. He pours a little in each cup before filling the rest with water, which quickly begins to bubble - B'Atar@anncarise: - and turn into the same orange colour. B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Nah, the Padran don't have anything as strong as this." B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor smirks, "If you're as tough as you talk, I think you'll like this." Lexi@crystyll: "Ha! A welcome mild alternate to bloodwine would be most welcome" she takes the glass for a swig B'Atar@anncarise: | The drink has a sweet taste with a mild sting at first, but when she gulps it down, it burns down her throat like hot chili. She can taste the effect of the drink coming on, and it's easily as - B'Atar@anncarise: - strong as bloodwine or Romulan ale. Lexi@crystyll: slams the empty glass down on the bar with a satisfied 'aah', "Not bad, not bad at all! Now here, a gift in kind for our new friends" Lexi@crystyll: hands over a bottle of bloodwine, not the best yeear as most is more valued to her crew. But a surplus of more common variant was kept on board for trading B'Atar@anncarise: | Avita takes a gulp as well and gives a nod of approval. B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor takes the bottle, motioning to the bartender who grabs him a glass. He opens it and pours himself some before chugging it all down, evaluating for a second then breaking into a wide grin. B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Your people have as excellent taste in drink as mine, I see!" Lexi@crystyll: "And a shared thirst for battle" B'Atar@anncarise: "It certainly seems so. Your people conquered this world, didn't you?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "My grandfather took it from the gang that was here before, the Scarhorns." B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Been the best resting stop in our turf ever since." Lexi@crystyll: "I can believe it. So tell me, in all seriousness now..." she leans on the bar, eyes on Rakgor, "Does that little 'toll' scam of yours actually ever work?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "You'd be surprised how easily scared some people are. And the Lupan and Toroki around here help too, make them think twice about getting into fights." Lexi@crystyll: "I've heard about these Toroki..." looks around, "...I had half hoped to encounter one here and see if they are as fiersome in combat as their reputation suggests" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Oh they're good, but you're probably not just going to find one standing around in a bar. They aren't exactly known for playing well with others." Lexi@crystyll: grins, "Neither am I..." B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Doesn't help that they can kill you with almost any part of their body. No such thing as a friendly brawl with a Toroki, always ends up in bloodshed one way or another." Lexi@crystyll: "As a proper fight should be! And what of the Lupan, we have had limited dealings with them but they seem honorable fighters in their own way" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "That they are! They don't invade us outright like they do with some other people, or not the packs we dealt with at least. When we have disputes, we arrange fights, like the one you saw." Lexi@crystyll: "Seems you do quite a job of running your 'turf'. Must be demanding..." B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor nods, "That's why I like to ride alongside my Riders. It's a good break from keeping the shops running and stopping people from tearing each other apart." Lexi@crystyll: "Yeah, can't be easy looking after all these civilian needs; food, shelter, commerce and all. Are your worlds self sufficient or do you have need of outside trade to keep them afloat?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Oh we do plenty of trade. With the Corporations, the Spikes, the Arshai, the Commune, even the Lupan packs when we're on friendly terms." Lexi@crystyll: "Maybe we can add our escorted allies to that list. They like playing nice with new folks and opening trade" Lexi@crystyll: "Of course, they're mostly interested cultural exchange and all that good stuff" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Maybe they should get in touch with those Carran art brokers, then. I hear trading exotic cultural stuff like special drinks and art can fetch a good price, but it's not our thing, - B'Atar@anncarise: - outside of selling a bit of Jaskar. Mostly we trade what the Padrans produce, but we offer repair services and run protection escort too. We watch our turf first and play merc second though." Lexi@crystyll: "What exactly do the Padrans produce?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Machinery, components, tools, that kind of thing. They built this town up." Lexi@crystyll: "Impressive. Given how far from home we are, it could be that their services could be of interest to my associates" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "We're definitely up for talking trade with these associates of yours. The Padrans make most of the basic components for our rides, but we design the craft and put 'em together." Lexi@crystyll: "Oh yeah? Well ain't you guys just full of surprises!" she raises her glass to him before taking another swig B'Atar@anncarise: | Avita: "Sounds like an effective relationship. The previous gang that controlled this place, I assume they were of your people too? How long have you and the Padran been working together?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor takes another drink of the bloodwine as well before answering, "Oh, well...as far back as we know, really." Lexi@crystyll: "Sounds like quite the story for how it all came to be" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Well it's not a story I know. Most of the stories we tell are of more recent times." B'Atar@anncarise: | A female of Rakgor's species steps up behind him and gives him a heavy, but friendly pat on the back, "It's not a story any of us knows. There's not much left of the old days." Lexi@crystyll: "How come?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Tillga! Come to see our visitors?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga smirks and locks a horn with his in a gesture that appears quite intimate, "Come to see you." She then turns Lexi, "It's all gone now. We left it behind." Lexi@crystyll: "I take it then that your species does not originate form this region of space?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "Stories of the old days say we had a vast empire that included the Padrans and many others. It's not clear how it formed, our tale only tell of the most glorious days. Our people lived - B'Atar@anncarise: - far away then, and it was said that our home was a monument to our might, with towers that touched the sky and drinking halls lined with the statues of our heroes." Lexi@crystyll: smiles, "Sounds like the great city on the Klingon homeworld" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "And we had rides like the Lupan pack ships, big, with hundreds of riders operating each one and dozens of weapons that could wipe clean the surface of a planet if we wanted to." Lexi@crystyll: "A lot like the Empire indeed. And your stories say nothing as to what happened to this great empire of yours?" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "No one knows how our Empire came to be, but we all know how it was lost. We met an enemy that we could not fight. First we met their ships, and we destroyed them like any other. Then, our - B'Atar@anncarise: - own people turned on us, their minds taken from them. Anyone we sent to fight them returned as part of their horde instead. Those of us who were still alive and free in the end had no choice but - B'Atar@anncarise: - abandon all we had built." Lexi@crystyll: leans in, pushing the drink aside and holding a serious stare on on the pair, "The Primeval Horde..." B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "You know of our old enemy?" Lexi@crystyll: "We do, they are not just your enemy. They are the enemy to all life in this galaxy. We learned of them since embarking on our journey and now quest to find the means to destroy them once and for all+ Lexi@crystyll: + before their relentless march reaches this part of the galaxy..." she nods morosely, "Yes, the Horde is coming. Here. Now. But we sail to fight them!" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "It won't be easy. Our stories say there's no way to fight 'em. Not to say that there isn't, but we didn't find one at the height of our empire." B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga shrugs, "Maybe we weren't as powerful as the stories make us out to be. Maybe we're just being fanciful about the old days. But this Horde does sound bad. Very bad." Lexi@crystyll: "It is bad, maybe even worse than your stories tell. But we know much more now. We know they are telepathic, this is how they turn fallen armies against their former comrades. We know of a facility + Lexi@crystyll: + built to contain them indefinitely. And we know of a multitude of allies already lining up to stand against them. If you ever had fancies of retrieving your lost past, restoring your people to the + Lexi@crystyll: + proud empire of your stories... this is the time. Because the Horde is coming, we have already seen evidence of their telepathic influence as far coreward as the Trinity Alliance" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Our people are scattered now between the different groups of riders. Not unlike the Lupan. I can't speak for my people, but if you need help in this fight, then my Riders'll be honoured - B'Atar@anncarise: - to stand with you." Lexi@crystyll: grins, swiping her glass as she stands straight again and raises it to him, "Qapla'! I will inform my associates of your readiness. But in all seriousness, the best I can recommend is that you + Lexi@crystyll: + bolster your defenses and defend your charges. If you can get word to the other Riders that we are uniting to reclaim your heritage, all the better" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor nods, "We'll prepare for a fight. As for the other riders, we'll do what we can, but they're not all friendly to us." Lexi@crystyll: "Perhaps once they see the fight at their doorstep, they will rally to the cause behind your banner" Lexi@crystyll: "In the meantime, as it may be a point of interest, I believe my associates will be eager to offer intelligence on the Horde and defensive countermeasures in exchange for your peoples services + Lexi@crystyll: + and produce" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "If their turf gets threatened, I expect they'll fight for it. But even then, we don't have the strength of the old Empire. Anything you can provide to help'll be useful." Lexi@crystyll: "It will be done, I'm sure" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "But if you want an army to stand against the Horde, what you want are the Lupan. It's said their minds can't be taken from them. And they're sure as vaats good fighters." Lexi@crystyll: "We have already made considerable progress with them" she nods, "Though nothing so concrete as to discussing this threat yet" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "They'll never work together. Too much competition between the packs." B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "We've seen big alliances with lots of packs. Against an enemy like this, they might just all fight together." Lexi@crystyll: "I shall encourage my associates to establish a more permanent point of contact within the Lupan packs" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "They're nomads. At least we remember our old home, they don't even know where theirs are. They could just up and leave when the Horde gets too close for comfort. But then again, they do - B'Atar@anncarise: - like a good fight." He shrugs, "Hard to say." Lexi@crystyll: "I believe they would defend this region to their last. They worship an ancient species who they regard as their creators, and any sites or relics containing evidence of that species is highly sacred" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "Huh. I didn't know they were spiritual. You learn something new every day." Lexi@crystyll: "Like I said, our associates are very big on cultural exchange and such. Learning about other species is kind of their thing" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "Let's hope they learn something that helps them get the Lupan on side, then." Lexi@crystyll: "Ordinarily I would hold little hope on such things. But in all my lifetimes, rarely have I seen a ship Captain with such tenacity and skill for diplomacy" Lexi@crystyll: scoffs, "And this coming from someone who once served as a Federation Ambassador, ha!" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "What do you mean, all your lifetimes?" Lexi@crystyll: "8 lifetimes to be specific. Spread over the last 250 years, or near as dammit" Lexi@crystyll: "My species is symbiotic. I am the 8th host for the Vix symbiont, Kiren - the 7th host - was a Federation Ambassador" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "Huh. So...you're this symbiont, and the body is just a...shell? Something you can discard and change?" Lexi@crystyll: "Not quite so simple as that. Not all Trill are joined in this manner, the humanoids exist and live independently of our symbionts as we outnumber them approximately 10 to 1" Lexi@crystyll: "But once one of us becomes joined, we share both the strength and experience of our symbiont, including that gained from it's previous hosts" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "I've seen a lotta weird and interesting people in my time, but none like yours." Lexi@crystyll: grins, "I'll take that as a complement" B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "So you carry on the memories from all these previous lives you had?" Lexi@crystyll: "Yep, and... a little of each personality too. That's the downside" grumbles, "...Stupid space sickness..." B'Atar@anncarise: | Tillga: "Still, sounds handy. Would've been good for us to remember our old days better than the stories we pass on." Lexi@crystyll: "Perhaps in time now we will find some remnants of that lost civilization and you can relearn what has been lost to you" B'Atar@anncarise: | Rakgor: "That'll be nice. We have no idea what happens after the Horde takes over a place. Maybe there's still some things from the old Empire left." Lexi@crystyll: smiles, raising her glass, "As good a sentiment to drink to as any!" taking a long swig
View Act II
Keliaya@anncarise FX | A group of seven Rakgor's Riders fly in formation together at warp in their runabout sized fighter craft, each with a unique paintjob but all with the bull-like symbol of the Riders. Keliaya@anncarise | The camera cuts to the inside of one of the fighters' cockpits, where a horned alien of the same species as Rakgor sits, this one sprouting a mohawk hairstyle. Keliaya@anncarise | Loud music blares throughout the interior of the craft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkMFNx3WRbM Keliaya@anncarise | The music fades slightly as comms chatter comes through. Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Ygrae> "Alright boys, we're coming in on the signal." Keliaya@anncarise | The pilot of the craft responds, "Why the vaats are we here again? Isn't answering distress signals a Watcher's job?" Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Ygrae> "Yeah. But this one's on the edge of our turf. Could be they drifted in, or somebody's raiding where they shouldn't be. Boss wants us to check it out." Keliaya@anncarise | The pilot nods, "Fair 'nuff." Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Rider 1> "I see where the signal's coming from. Transport craft, looks adrift." Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Ygrae> "Any sign of attackers?" Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Rider 2> "Nothing on my sensors." Keliaya@anncarise | The pilot leans forward and taps the interface in front of him and the craft drops out of warp alongside the other Riders. "They've definitely been hit, though. Hull scorching, looks like - Keliaya@anncarise: - disruptor bolts." Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Rider 3> "Yeah, very helpful, Rajolf. That could be just about anybody within a hundred light years of here." Keliaya@anncarise FX | Suddenly, there is a flash on one of the Riders' side viewscreens as a craft suddenly goes down in an explosion. Keliaya@anncarise | Rajolf: "Hesht! Siftaag is gone!" Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Ygrae> "What hit him?!" Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Rider 1> "I don't know! I can't see any-" Keliaya@anncarise FX | There is another flash as another Rider is hit. Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Ygrae> "Disperse! They must have stealth fields!" Keliaya@anncarise FX | The Rders scatter, but a third is hit and goes down in a fiery explosion. Keliaya@anncarise | Rajolf: "I might be able to track their fire to find the source!" Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Ygrae> "Then what're you waiting for? We're running out of Riders fast!" Keliaya@anncarise FX | The next hit misses as one of the Riders turns to the side just in time. Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Rider 3> "Close one!" Keliaya@anncarise | Rajolf: "I got it! On me!" Keliaya@anncarise FX | The Riders converge on Rajolf's craft and make a coordinated attack, opening fire. The silhouette of a cloaked vessel flickers into view momentarily before a burst of retaliatory fire hits - Keliaya@anncarise: - the four remaining fighters. Keliaya@anncarise | In Rajolf's cockpit, the viewers go dark and consoles flicker and emit sparks erratically. Keliaya@anncarise | Rajolf: "Breyjan! I'm hit! Ygrae! Hemstal! Does anyone hear-" Keliaya@anncarise | Rajolf suddenly disappears into a transporter beam and finds himself materialized in a dark hallway... Keliaya@anncarise | He quickly draws a pistol from his belt, pointing it around him. The heavy-built horned alien looks frightened, like cattle about to be slaughtered. Keliaya@anncarise | Rajolf: "Where...where am I? Is anyone else here? Hello?" Keliaya@anncarise | He stumbles back and realizes there is a body on the ground. He turns and activates a light on his weapon to see a dead female of his species, a gaping wound through her chest. Keliaya@anncarise | Rajolf: "Ygrae! No...hesht no..." Keliaya@anncarise | He waves his pistol around frantically now, "I won't go down without a fight! Come on! Do your worst!" Keliaya@anncarise | There is a faint silhouette of a figure hanging down above him, then the light suddenly goes out, followed by a blood curdling scream. Keliaya@anncarise FX | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjaejG-LDAQ&feature=emb_title Keliaya@anncarise FX | After the QanwI' secures passage for them through Rakgor's Riders turf, the Valley Forge travels in the fringe of their territory on their journey towards the rim, unimpeded by the locals. Keliaya@anncarise | Gwi: "Finally got the Lupan map figured out last night." Keliaya@anncarise: "I saw it this morning. Good work, Lieutenant." Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher: "Me too. According to it, we should be in Colonial Fleet controlled space soon. A little over a week, probably." Keelah@crystyll | Rianni perks up: "Maybe we'll be able to catch up with Mana there!" Keliaya@anncarise: "Maybe! That's where she was headed when she left the Valley Forge." Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher: "I hope the map is reliable. I for one have had enough of looking behind our backs all the time." Keliaya@anncarise: "We always have to be alert. There's pirates even back in Federation space." Keelah@crystyll | Rianni: "Very true" Keliaya@anncarise | Gwi: "Well the map lines up with what we've seen so far." Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher: "And it's thankfully been quiet in these Riders' territory so far." Keelah@crystyll | Lennie: "It'll almost be a shame t'be gone from th'Riders. Could've seen t'spendin' more time around 'em. Kinda charmin' in their own way, don'tcha think" Keliaya@anncarise: "Mmm, and they're quite charming to look at as well." Keelah@crystyll | Lennie smirks and eyerolls at the Denobulan Keliaya@anncarise smirks back, "Don't see males like that often outside the Orions. Females are more like the Klingons, strong and tough." Keliaya@anncarise: "Which is fun too, if that's your thing," she grins. Keelah@crystyll | TQ: "Commander, I'm picking up a distress signal..." glares briefly at Fisher for jinxing their quiet day Keliaya@anncarise: "Any audio or video message with it?" Keelah@crystyll | TQ shakes her head, "Seems like an automated repeater, nothing more" Keliaya@anncarise nods, "Can you track down its location?" Keelah@crystyll | TQ: "Yes, I have spacial coordinates for the signal origin. Patching to the helm now" Keliaya@anncarise nods, "Fisher, set a course for it at high warp." Keliaya@anncarise opens an intercomm to Keelah, <C> "Captain, we've picked up a repeating distress signal and are on our way to its location now." Keelah@crystyll: <C> Understood. What is our eta? Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher taps his console, changing their course. As Kelly glances back at him, he announces, "ETA fourteen minutes." Kelly repeats the information to Keelah. Keelah@crystyll emerges from her ready room a while later, shortly before they arrive Keelah@crystyll: "Any change in status on the distress signal? More details on long range sensors?" Keliaya@anncarise: "Distress signal is still broadcasting. Long range sensors are picking up a single ship adrift.” Keelah@crystyll moves to have a look, "No other signs of activity in the region?" Keliaya@anncarise: "There's a number of warp trails leading towards the ship, but it stops there. No trails going away, and no other ships in the vicinity." Keelah@crystyll: "That seems more than a little odd... scavangers maybe?" Keliaya@anncarise nods, "Or a pirate trap." Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher: "We're about to get a closer look soon. ETA one minute." Keelah@crystyll | Rianni: "Tactical sensors show the same activity. Recommend alert status, Captain" then promptly looks up, over her shoulder to the supervising Vrolmacht who gives a curt nod of approval Keelah@crystyll looks over and nods, "A prudent precaution, Cadet. Yellow alert. Tee, update the QanwI' and advise the same" Keliaya@anncarise FX | The VF drops out of warp, and the viewscreen shows a field of stars, as they are in the middle of deep space. Keelah@crystyll returns to her seat, "Still, we shall not assume the worst. Kelly, Kazra; have your teams standing by to deploy" Keliaya@anncarise nods, "Damage control teams are ready. Short range sensor analysis is coming in..." Keliaya@anncarise: "The disabled craft matches Carran hull composition. Looks like it used to have tetryon weaponry like other Carran vessels too, but they've been disabled. Damage suggests disruptor fire." Keliaya@anncarise: "There's also a concentration of other artificial alloys nearby...a small debris field. Different material to the drifting vessel." Keelah@crystyll: "Lifesigns?" Keelah@crystyll | Lennie: "Nothin' from th'debris field. Th'Carran ship's got an impenitrable hull, so can't see it all. But no signs from wha' I can see" Keliaya@anncarise: "Looks like their life support systems are online though, and there are a few spots without interference that allows transporting." Keelah@crystyll ponders, staring at the screen, "I don't like this. But we can't rule out the possibility of survivors. Continue our approach, we'll do this the old fashioned way if needs be" Keliaya@anncarise FX | The drifting Carran ship draws closer and closer on the viewscreen until its shape becomes distinct. Keliaya@anncarise: "The best match for the debris is Riders' craft." Keliaya@anncarise: "Maybe they're responsible for this, but I don't think their fighters can take out a Carran vessel..." Keelah@crystyll: "It does seem unlikely. Try and get an analysis on the Riders' debris, see if we can match a weapon signature to the damage on the Carran vessel" Keliaya@anncarise: "Checking now...we have a positive match. The same disruptor fire, but most of the Riders' vessels weren't able to take much of it." Keelah@crystyll: "Any further match in the database?" Keliaya@anncarise shakes her head, "Doesn't match anything we've seen, but the Lupan have a variety of damage patterns and energy signatures between their packs." Keliaya@anncarise: "No sign of any other ships coming and going, though." Keelah@crystyll: "Good point. Are we within transporter range?" Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher nods, "We are, Captain." Keelah@crystyll: "All stop" she taps her comm panel Keliaya@anncarise FX | The ship comes to a stop with the drifting Carran vessel in front of them. Keelah@crystyll: <C> Transporter room 2; SGT Daaz, your recon team is a go" Keliaya@anncarise FX | Daz's team beams over... Keelah@crystyll | Rianni: "Intruder alert! Deck 10- no, 9!" Keelah@crystyll: "Red alert! Where did they come from, the Carran ship?" Keelah@crystyll | Rianni & Vrolmacht act quickly to deploy security teams Keliaya@anncarise: "I don't know, Captain. We didn't detect any sign of transport, from the Carran ship or anywhere else." Keliaya@anncarise: "It just appeared on internal sensors...and now it's gone again. But it's definitely not a sensor glitch. It's too well-timed, it appeared right as our shields went down to transport the team over." Keelah@crystyll | TQ makes an intercom announcement to alert stations Keelah@crystyll: "Tee, warn the away team" Keelah@crystyll | TQ does so then continues the internal announcements Keliaya@anncarise: <C - Daz> "No sign of hostiles or survivors here. Or bodies. A lot of blood, but no bodies so far." Keelah@crystyll: "Kelly, can you get the away team back?" Keliaya@anncarise nods, "I can, but we'll have to briefly drop shields for that again." Keelah@crystyll sighs, "Not until we know what's going on. But standby to drop shields and bring them back at the first sign of trouble over there" Keliaya@anncarise: "Standing by, Captain." Keelah@crystyll turns sharp to tactical, "Status on the intruder?" Keliaya@anncarise | The tactical console gets a comm from Security. Keliaya@anncarise | <C - Delaan> "This is Delaan. We are seeing no sign of an intruder. We've scanned the entire two decks." Keelah@crystyll | Rianni: "I think they might have appeared in the jeffries tube and quickly moved through the decks, that's why it was a misread at first" Keelah@crystyll: <C> Continue the search, expand to surrounding areas. There's something down there and we're not resting until we find it Keliaya@anncarise: "Very possible, but our internal sensors should still work in the jeffries tubes. I'm not picking up...wait, it's just appeared again for a brief second, between Decks 10 and 11!" Keliaya@anncarise: "Transporters can't lock on to it, sensors can barely register it." Keelah@crystyll | Rianni: "updating security in that area" Keelah@crystyll: "What are we dealing with here, some sort of personal stealth field generator?" Keliaya@anncarise: "That's the most likely explanation. Not a very good one, but good enough to make them hard to spot..." Keelah@crystyll turns to look at the MSD, "Plot the positive sensor hits as they appear. Maybe we can speculate on a destination" Keliaya@anncarise: "That's it! If they can miniaturize a cloaking device for personal use, they must have one on their ship! That's how they could beam around without leaving any traces!" Keelah@crystyll: "Kelly, prepare a tachyon sweep!" Keliaya@anncarise: "Already on it!" she taps away at her console. Keelah@crystyll: "Cadet" she looks to Rianni, waving her over to monitor the tracker map Keelah@crystyll | Rianni rushes over to the map to monitor movement while Keelah returns to her seat Keelah@crystyll: "Initiate the sweep when ready and stand by for weapons lock" Keliaya@anncarise: "Initiating sweep...we have them! Thirty thousand kilometres off our starboard!" Keelah@crystyll: "Lock a tractor beam on them" Keliaya@anncarise: "Tractor beam locked! They're decloaking and opening fire!" Keelah@crystyll | Rianni: "Captain, I think the intruder is heading for EPS Junction 12-Baker. Primary distribution for starboard shield generators Keliaya@anncarise FX | The bridge shakes slightly as the enemy fire hits. Keelah@crystyll braces at the weapons impact, "Mr. Vrolmacht, quantum torpedoes... fire" Keliaya@anncarise: "Shields currently holding at 85%!" Keelah@crystyll: "Cadet, relay to security to reinforce that section. Deploy emergency forcefields as well" Keliaya@anncarise | Vrolmacht: "Direct hit. Their shields have collapsed." Keelah@crystyll: "Phasers. Target weapons and propulsion" Keliaya@anncarise: "Our starboard shield is down as well! They're charging weapons for another volley!" Keliaya@anncarise | Vrolmacht gets there before them however, as the VF fires phasers at the unknown craft. Keelah@crystyll: "Helm, dorsal thrusters. Roll us over and protect that arc" Keliaya@anncarise: "Good timing, Commander! Their forward weapons are disabled." Keelah@crystyll: "Good timing indeed. Remaining armaments?" Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher: "Rolling us over. I suggest we drop the tractor." Keliaya@anncarise | Vrolmacht: "I will disable their engines, and we will not have need of a tractor." Keliaya@anncarise: "They have only an aft torpedo tube and defense turrets." Keelah@crystyll: "Proceed" Keliaya@anncarise | Vrolmacht fires again, disabling the enemy ship's engines as the Valley Forge turns and lets go of the ship from its tractor beam. Keelah@crystyll: "Tee, send them a warning to stand down" turns to Rianni, "Cadet, what's happening with our intruder?" Keliaya@anncarise: <C - Nishaa> "This is Petty Officer Sethi. The intruder is trapped in the junction by the force fields, but it managed to get past us earlier. Delaan and Lee are wounded and have been transported to - Keliaya@anncarise: - sickbay." Keelah@crystyll: <C> "Sethi, have you got a positive ID on the intruder?" Keliaya@anncarise <C - Nishaa> "I have eyes on it, but I don't recognize it. It's got scales, antennae, and a long tail with some kind of stinger on the end." Keelah@crystyll: "Tee, inform them that we have their boarder incarcerated and that we are prepared to negotiate it's safe return" Keelah@crystyll | TQ shakes her head, "Still nothing, Captain" Keliaya@anncarise: <C - Nishaa> "We have a problem...it has a pistol in there with it and it's shooting at one of the force fields. It won't hold for long, can we beam it to the brig?" Keelah@crystyll: <C> Proceed. The transporter should be able to register and remove it's weapon" Keliaya@anncarise: "We have it!" Keelah@crystyll: "Good work everyone. Continue security sweeps throughout the ship, we can't assume it was alone. Tee, open a channel to the away team" Keelah@crystyll | TQ nods, "Channel open" Keelah@crystyll: <C> Sergeant, what is your status over there?" Keliaya@anncarise: <C - Daz> "There was a hostile contact, but we took care of it. We have a MACO down, but the medics have stabilized her. We found the bodies too. It's not pretty." Keelah@crystyll: <C> "Is there anything to continue investigating over there?" Keliaya@anncarise: <C - Daz> "We've recovered all the logs we can on board, but you might want to get someone to take another look at the bodies. The medics paint a pretty gruesome picture, but they're not xenobiology - Keliaya@anncarise: - experts." Keelah@crystyll: <C> "...Very well, secure the area and we'll get someone over there" she looks to Lennie who quietly nods and heads out to transport over Keliaya@anncarise: "Captain, there's another ship inbound from outside Riders territory. Different signature from the one we fought." Keelah@crystyll: "Visual range?" Keliaya@anncarise: "Not yet, but it's coming in at warp 9. It'll be here in less than an hour." Keelah@crystyll: <C> Bridge to Lendaria. Commander, you have 45 minutes over there. Then I want you and the away team back on board" Keelah@crystyll: <C-Lennie> Understood Cap'n. Beamin' over now" ------ Trenick@annpc#5570 FX | Lennie and Trenick beams down to the very small bridge of the Carran vessel. There are bloodstains of various colours on the floors and consoles, representing at least three different - Trenick@annpc#5570 - species who have died in this room, but the bodies are not present. Trenick@annpc#5570 | Sergeant Daz awaits them by the exit. Lendaria@crystyll looks around with a grimace before settling eyes on Daz, "Sarge, ya do pick th'nicest date spots don'tcha..." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "I warned you it wasn't gonna be pretty. I hope you have a strong stomach, because it gets a lot worse from here on." Lendaria@crystyll: "Well we'se on th'clock. Cap'n wan'ts us all out in 45 minutes, so le's get this over with. Then I can go enjoy th'longest showere o'mah life..." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz nods and leads into the hallways beyond, "This way, then." Trenick@annpc#5570 scans around with his tricorder as they walk and Daz starts catching them up on what his team learned. Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "We managed to power up the ship computers and get their logs. This was a Carran Courier ship, picking up refugees fleeing the Horde. Like the ones from the Ularen homeworld. You were - Trenick@annpc#5570: - there if I'm not mistaken, Commander." Lendaria@crystyll nods, "Yeah, we'se met a number o'em... hard t'think they mighta ended up 'ere..." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "They were supposed to go to Underworld, but they got hit on the way there. Their attackers figured out this place connected to a subspace corridor and how to drag them out into our space." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "The Courier wasn't expecting that, the Carrans are normally the only ones who know about the corridors." Lendaria@crystyll: "Looks like we ain't th'first t'be drawn 'ere. Whoever picked this spot, picked it well" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz nods, "These guys have probably been camped here for a while." Trenick@annpc#5570 looks up at Daz from his tricorder, "I'm getting lifesigns further ahead, other than our personnel. That can't be right." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "That's what we wanted you to check out." Lendaria@crystyll checks her own tricorder to verify the readings Trenick@annpc#5570 | They exit the hallways and begin entering what seem to be cargo areas turned into makeshift bunk rooms. Lendaria@crystyll: "Confirmed. They'se faint, but no denyin'em" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "These parts of the ship interfere with sensors from the outside, but you're in here, which is why you can see the readings." Lendaria@crystyll: "Aight, time's tickin' so le's get on wit'this. Your show Sarge" Trenick@annpc#5570 | They pass through the first bay, also with a number of bloodstains, and enter the second one...where bodies are laid out around the floor. Many of them are wounded in various ways, but most - Trenick@annpc#5570: - prominently, almost all of them have a puncture wound in the chest. One body is distinctly different from the rest, a sleek reptilian looking being with a long tail ending in a stinger. Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz motions to the alien: "That's the hostile that attacked us. The bodies in here don't account for everyone on board, I think they might've taken some of them onto their own ship." Trenick@annpc#5570: "Why would they take the bodies?" Lendaria@crystyll checks again for the proximity of lifesigns Lendaria@crystyll: "These ain't all dead... Sarge, one o'these is ya lifesigns..." Lendaria@crystyll looks to Trenick, "From wha' we seen, I'se gotta figure a highly predatory scavanger species. This whole derelict were left as a trap, gotta reckon this setup is one too" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "I think so, but these people are definitely dead. It's what's inside them..." Trenick@annpc#5570 steps over to one of the bodies and scans it more closely. Lendaria@crystyll: "Sarge, cover him" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz nods and holds his rifle at the read beside Trenick. Trenick@annpc#5570 examines his readings before looking back to Lennie, "Parasitic young. Don't worry, they're not ready to emerge yet. There's a number of species known to do this." Lendaria@crystyll: "Tha' certainly explains why they take th'bodies. But ain't it helluva risk, leavin' their young unattended like this..." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "I think we might've caught them in the act and they didn't have time to move them all yet. Or room..." Trenick@annpc#5570: "Or it's intentional..." Trenick@annpc#5570: "Most species that implant their young into hosts are insects or arachnids. They have a lot of offspring at once, and they don't spend as much effort raising a single one as we do." Lendaria@crystyll: "Parasitic predators needin' bodies also tend not t'waste opportunity, as we already seen wit' these in drawin' folks 'ere" Lendaria@crystyll: "Look at these bodies, lieutenant, these puncture wounds" Lendaria@crystyll: "These were all killed by th'same thing, except tha' one. Th'one wit' a tail lookin' a lot like it could cause these wounds..." she edges back, looking to Daz Trenick@annpc#5570 examines the wounds, then goes over to scan the one with the tail, "You're right. This being has the same DNA as the parasites inside the bodies. Not identical, but clearly the same species. The - Trenick@annpc#5570: - same family, even." Lendaria@crystyll: "Lieutenant, get back" Trenick@annpc#5570 nods and steps back, "You said this was the hostile you fought, Sergeant?" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "Right in here. It was fast, got one of my team before she could react. If these are its young...maybe it was guarding them? Or in the process of moving them back to their own ship." Lendaria@crystyll: "Are we certain tha' things dead?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "It has no lifesigns." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz: "And nothing can survive the multiple phaser wounds it sustained. Not even a Gorn." Lendaria@crystyll: "Aight, well we got a look. but I for one ain't keen on stayin' longer than needed. Could be time t'get back" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz nods, "Me too. We just wanted biologists to verify these readings. And figure out what to do with these bodies..." Lendaria@crystyll: "I'll make mah recommendation to th'Cap'n. Is her call" Trenick@annpc#5570: "If I may give an opinion, Commander?" Lendaria@crystyll: "Always" Trenick@annpc#5570: "It's gruesome, but it's the natural way some species use to sustain their young. That's not an excuse for preying on refugees, I know, but their parent made that choice for them. The young - Trenick@annpc#5570: - didn't ask to feed on these bodies, and they're still living beings." Lendaria@crystyll: "A sound observation that'll go wit' mah recommendation" Trenick@annpc#5570: "I think we've seen enough here for now, though. Let's get back to the ship. I'll take a closer look at the readings I got of the dead one and the young and let you know if I find anything more." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz nods and leads the way back to the areas of the ship transporters function in. Lendaria@crystyll: "We'se got sufficient scans t'construct a full bio holo. That'll have t'do for now as I ain't gettin' into autopsies... or nursin' today" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Daz takes them to a different room this time, where most of his team is gathered. He taps his combadge, calling for transport and soon they are back to safety on the Valley Forge... ------ Keliaya@anncarise FX | Lennie returns to the bridge of the Valley Forge. Keelah@crystyll looks over, "Welcome back Commander. What do we have?" Keelah@crystyll | Lennie takes her station, "A bloody mess's what, Cap'n. These hostiles ain't like nothin' I ever dealt with before. Not only they'se predatory, but also parasitic" Keelah@crystyll perks a brow, "Care to elaborate, Commander?" Keelah@crystyll | Lennie: "We found a collection of bodies - presumably previous victims lured here, maybe some original occupants - they was layed out an' bein' used t'incubate infants" Keelah@crystyll: "Are you telling me these aliens are breeding offspring over there?" Keelah@crystyll | Lennie nods, "Young an' innocent by rights. Aside their presence I'd-a recommend destroyin' tha' ship t'stop more innocents bein' lured to it" Keelah@crystyll leans back, thinking Keliaya@anncarise | Fisher: "Don't mean to interrupt Captain, but the incoming ship will be here in a minute." Keelah@crystyll: "What can we tell from long range scans?" Keliaya@anncarise: "It's about the size of a light cruiser and coming in with shields up. Definitely not Carran and I don't see any similarity with the ship we just fought either." Keelah@crystyll: "Tee, hail them" Keelah@crystyll | TQ: "Channel open, Captain" Keelah@crystyll: <C> Unidentified vessel, this is the Federation starship Valley Forge. If you are responding to the same distress signal we did, you should know that we have found this to be a trap" Keliaya@anncarise | A familiar face, or at least species, appears on the viewscreen- a Gaton male, though not wearing the colour-coded armour seen on all Gaton encountered by the Valley Forge so far. Behind him, - Keliaya@anncarise: - quite a diverse crew can be seen working on the bridge: two Eltreiah, a Ularen male, one of the Riders' species and two other unidentified aliens. Keliaya@anncarise | Gaton: "This is Watcher Ship Krenton. We see a Toroki ship disabled. The culprits, I assume?" Keelah@crystyll: "That is correct. We have disabled their vessel, though have been unable to establish contact" Keliaya@anncarise | Gaton: "They're not going to talk. They're one bad day away from being animals. The Carran ship was the victim?" Keelah@crystyll: "The Carran ship was a baited lure. Our investigation suggests that several others have been here before us to investigate the signal" Keliaya@anncarise | Gaton: "I wouldn't be surprised. The Toroki are savage, but they're cunning. Any survivors?" Keelah@crystyll: "Not from the previous victims, though we have one of these 'Toroki' captive in our brig" Keliaya@anncarise | Gaton: "What about the bodies? Mutilated? Infested?" Keelah@crystyll glances to Lennie and back, "They have been used for parasitic incubation. The few on board all now carry premature young" Keliaya@anncarise | The Gaton Watcher sighs and nods, "That's what I was afraid of. Don't bother trying to salvage anything from that ship. Not only will you probably invoke the wrath of the Carrans, but you don't - Keliaya@anncarise: - want to be there when they finish growing." Keliaya@anncarise | Gaton: "Looks like there's nothing for us here. You seem to have it under control, unless you want us to finish up and scuttle these ships?" Keelah@crystyll: "That was our conclusion as well. I have no interest in salvage operations, only preventing others from falling into this same trap. We will scuttle the ship once I have decided what to do with the + Keelah@crystyll: + Toroki here" Keliaya@anncarise | Gaton: "They're too dangerous to leave alive, and we Watchers don't have the capacity to run incarceration facilities. Sometimes we hand people over to the Eltreiah or the Colonial Fleet, but I - Keliaya@anncarise: - doubt they'd want to deal with these Toroki." Keelah@crystyll: "Perhaps. But execution is not our way, especially with the innocent. Regardless, we will make our determination and see that this trap does not claim anyone else. Your services will not be required" Keliaya@anncarise | Gaton: "These Toroki are the exact opposite of innocent; you've seen what they do and what they're capable of. But you deal with it as you like, just don't let them be a problem again. As you - Keliaya@anncarise: - noticed, they don't usually leave many victims that can compensate us for rescue efforts." Keelah@crystyll: "Acknowledged. Valley Forge out" Keliaya@anncarise | The Gaton nods, "Try not to get yourselves killed." Keliaya@anncarise FX | The call ends. Keliaya@anncarise: "The Watcher ship is changing course and heading to warp again." Keelah@crystyll looks around the bridge, "Kelly, Lendaria, you're with me. It's about time we pay our guest a visit" she stands, heading for the turbolift Keelah@crystyll | Lennie turns and follows Keelah to the turbolift Keliaya@anncarise follows over as well. Keelah@crystyll & Co. enter the brig where the Toroki is being held a short time later Keliaya@anncarise | The Toroki paces around like a caged animal. Keelah@crystyll observes for a moment, "Can you understand us?" Keliaya@anncarise | The Toroki pauses and leans in close to the field to observe Keelah, before emitting a series of clicking noises. Keliaya@anncarise looks to Lennie, "I don't think our translators know its language yet..." Keelah@crystyll tilts her head a little, "I am Captain Keelah and I command this vessel. Please, continue. Our universal translators need more to interpret your communication" Keelah@crystyll | Lennie watches and observes as well, trying to figure what she can Keliaya@anncarise | The Toroki looks over to examine Kelly, then Lennie, offering the occasional clicking noises. The translators begin to recognize the noises as a language but still haven't deciphered it due to - Keliaya@anncarise: - it being quite different from the norm. Keelah@crystyll: "That's it, keep going. I regret having to cage you like this, but if we can talk then perhaps we can find a way to move past this conflict" Keliaya@anncarise | The Toroki continues to click away occasionally, then goes silent and paces for a while. Keelah@crystyll: "I can see the discomfort being in there causes you. You should know that your ship is still out there, we have refrained from destroying it" Keliaya@anncarise | The Toroki pauses again and turns abruptly to Keelah, "You have bested us...but my people live still?" Keelah@crystyll breathes a relieved sigh at the understanding, "Yes, and there is more. We know you have offspring on the derelict ship" Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "And they live still as well?" Keelah@crystyll: "As far as we can tell from our scans. All I can tell you is that my people have not disturbed them" Keelah@crystyll paces across the forcefield a little herself now, "You may find this hard to believe, given what we've seen of this region of space, but we are not hostile. We hold no desire for conflict with + Keelah@crystyll: + anyone, including the Toroki. I hope that there is a way we can all walk away peacefully from this. The question is, if you are willing to help achieve this" Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "You...wish to let us live? Soft ones like you normally cannot stand the sight of your own dead. You do not want vengeance?" Keelah@crystyll: "We respect life in all forms. While we may not agree with your methods of luring people to their deaths for this purpose, we understand that this is your nature. I can only speak for myself, but + Keelah@crystyll: + I believe we have evolved beyond concepts such as vengeance" Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "You have beaten us, and have proven you are not simple prey. We are not foolish enough to attack you again." Keelah@crystyll: "Does this proving extend to all Toroki, or just your ship?" Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "My people do not seek vengeance either, only hosts for our young, food for our stomachs and materials for our ships. We will leave you be and depart this place." Keelah@crystyll: "I assume from the way you boarded this ship that you have transporter technology?" Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "Yes. And there is enough here for us to repair our ship and leave, if you allow us." Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "We will not trouble you again. But you know our nature. We are predators. You are not prey, but others of your kind will continue to be." Keelah@crystyll: "I can not leave this trap of yours intact. You may consider others prey, but we consider them equals and will do all we can to protect them" Keelah@crystyll: "If I thought it was feasible, I would suggest working with the Toroki to find alternative means for you that did not require your taking innocent lives" Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "We will dismantle the trap and leave you be, but it is our way to continue seeking other hosts and prey elsewhere." Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "Those who let our ways fade and accept the help of soft beings such as your kind are no true Toroki." Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "Kill us if you must, but it is better to die a Toroki than live denying our nature." Keelah@crystyll: "It is regrettable that we could not explore a further dialogue, but I understand that this is your nature. Just make sure that when you tell your people of this vessel and how it is not prey. Be + Keelah@crystyll: + sure to also make clear that - like the Watchers - we are protectors of the innocent, and we will stand against you if we find you harming others" Keliaya@anncarise | Toroki: "The Watchers are nothing but opportunistic mercenaries. You...may be more our equal." Keelah@crystyll: "Then take that message to your brethren" she turns to the guard, "Lower the field" stepping clear of the Toroki's way Keelah@crystyll: "Since you got on board of your own means, I will assume you can return by the same method" Keliaya@anncarise stands back as well. The guard cautiously lowers the Toroki's field and it steps outside, tail swaying menacingly but not lashing out at anyone. Keliaya@anncarise | The Toroki turns and gives Keelah another stare, "You will not see us again." Keliaya@anncarise | The Toroki taps something on its belt and promptly disappears into a red transporter beam. Keelah@crystyll: "I do hope we have done the right thing here..." Keliaya@anncarise: "At least they won't be a threat to us again, I suppose. I'm not saying we should be executing prisoners...but I'm also not sure if these Toroki should be allowed to go free." Keliaya@anncarise: "Maybe we just don't know them as well, but I feel like we'll sooner see the Lupan change their ways than them..." Keelah@crystyll: "Neither am I. Ultimately they will kill again, but if they don't then others of their kind will" Keliaya@anncarise nods, "I guess a single ship won't make much of a difference." Keelah@crystyll: "They will take lives. Those lives are arguably on me, but I can't let semantics rule over our principles" Keelah@crystyll sighs, "...and when I consider what we would do with an adversarial mammalian lifeform here, with children and natural instinct involved I do not believe this would feel like such a moral dilemma" Keliaya@anncarise: "It's definitely a more complicated question than it looks to be." Keliaya@anncarise: "Probably why the Academy prepares us so much with ethics and decision-making." Keelah@crystyll | Lennie nods: "And probably why I stuck t'scientific studies instead o'command..." Keelah@crystyll: "Speaking of which, Commander; I believe you have an extensive xenobiological workup to conduct on these Toroki" Keliaya@anncarise chuckles, "Oh I'm glad Keelah's the Captain and not me. But I have an EPS junction to fix too..." Keelah@crystyll: "Indeed, good work today - both of you. But now it is done, I encourage you take a couple of days away from duty to reflect on these events" Keelah@crystyll taps her combadge while walking out with the others, "Bridge, resume course. Time to leave these Toroki to lick their wounds"
View Act III
Trenick@annpc#5570 rings the doorbell to Lennie's office. Lendaria@crystyll looks up from her console, "C'min" Trenick@annpc#5570 steps inside, "Commander. I've completed the file on Toroki biology based on the data we collected." Lendaria@crystyll leans back and smiles, "Oh, hey! Tha's great. Ya don't mess about do ya!" Trenick@annpc#5570 smiles as he walks over to Lennie's desk and hands her a PADD. "As gruesome as their way of life is, I'd be lying if I said it isn't also absolutely fascinating." Trenick@annpc#5570: "I've never seen these traits in a sentient, spacefaring being before." Lendaria@crystyll chuckles, "You an' me both!" she takes the PADD for a skim, "Sit, walk me through ya findin's" Lendaria@crystyll: "Much as I'd-a love t'dig through th'facts mahself, this Chief business don't afford me that luxury s'much as I'd-a like these days" Trenick@annpc#5570 takes a seat, "I think you'll find the basic rundown very interesting already." Trenick@annpc#5570: "So, the first thing you're probably wondering about is their reproduction. Certainly one of the more unique and brutal aspects of their evolution." Lendaria@crystyll: "Indeed. So whatcha got on tha'?" she leans back, skimming the PADD more as she listens Trenick@annpc#5570: "Mammalian lifeforms, like you or I, bear live young. The young is carried for a period of time inside the mother's body, feeding off the mother's nutrients and putting additional strain on the - Trenick@annpc#5570: - mother. The Toroki's method of reproduction eliminates this strain. Both males and females have tail stingers, but the female's stinger is capable of injecting a larvae into a host body." Trenick@annpc#5570: "This larvae feeds on the host body, slowly draining the host of its own resources like a cancer. Most of the hosts appear to have been killed not by the injection process, but by the larvae taking - Trenick@annpc#5570: - their nutrients for themselves." Lendaria@crystyll: "Lovely... so is it possible for a female t'implant a person, an' them t'go on livin' thinkin' they've recovered from an injury. T'later find out they'se got a larvae in 'em?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "It's very possible. With modern technology it wouldn't be too difficult to detect the larvae and remove it. There's nothing I could find indicating that the Toroki need sentient beings as hosts, - Trenick@annpc#5570: - though. Anything organic and of sufficient size should be able to support a larvae, and most animals won't know what killed them even after the host has been drained." Lendaria@crystyll: "Any speculation as t'incubation period?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "I would say at least a few months, sentient beings need time to develop when young. How long exactly I can't say, and there's no way to tell at which stage the host usually dies, but it's certainly - Trenick@annpc#5570: - before the metamorphosis starts." Lendaria@crystyll: "We should run this data by Kazra too. S'long as we in reach o'these Toroki we should take every precaution in case anyone does get 'bugged', I don't care wha' they say about bein' friendly now..." Lendaria@crystyll looks at the little holo image on the PADD, "There ain't nothin' friendly 'bout tha'!" Trenick@annpc#5570 nods, "They are, by their nature, predators." Lendaria@crystyll: "So are Klingons, but I ain't so scared o'meetin' Vrolmacht in th'corridor" she chuckles Trenick@annpc#5570: "They're quite different from Klingons, actually. The body of a mature Toroki after metamorphosis is that of an optimized stealth hunter. Fast, silent and deadly." Lendaria@crystyll: "Oh I know they'se a long way from th'same, just tha' they both evolve from predators. Guess Klingons're just a lil' further along tha' evolutionary scale" Trenick@annpc#5570: "Where Klingons and Lupan have resilient bone structure and multiple organ redundancies, the Toroki have no such adaptations. They do have a layer of scaled skin, but that is their only protection." Lendaria@crystyll: "They'se definitely designed as optimal killin' machines. Which begs th'question, how'd they evolve? Especially to th'point o'spacefarin'?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "I can see no sign of genetic tampering, but again, if they were tampered with in the early stages of evolution it would be impossible to see now. But stealth hunters require high levels of - Trenick@annpc#5570: - intelligence to function properly. It's not unfeasible that the Toroki may have evolved naturally." Trenick@annpc#5570: "Most of our species developed technology first to assist with hunting, and then, when it made our lives easier, we had more time to think on things not vital to our survival, say philosophy, or - Trenick@annpc#5570: - mathematics. Perhaps the Toroki were such efficient predators that they skipped the first stage and simply had the free time to think due to how easy it was for them to catch prey." Trenick@annpc#5570: "And from there on, their technology and civilization began to advance." Lendaria@crystyll: "A reasonable theory. Guess it's just hard t'imagine such a unique evolution occurin' when we see comparable species ultimately limited to lesser evolution, even extinction more than not" Trenick@annpc#5570 nods, "Even many of our less hunting-optimized species nearly drove ourselves to extinction in various ways. But it's possible the Toroki have suffered and move on from a near-extinction event." Trenick@annpc#5570: "Maybe they've lost their homeworld and the animals they naturally use as hosts for their young, so they've resorted to using whatever they can." Lendaria@crystyll: "Includin' advanced technology deveolment so they'se could reach for th'stars an' find more" Lendaria@crystyll: "Y'know Lieutenant, this'll make quite th'study paper. 'Specially if you work in all we learned 'bout th'culture. May be worth pennin' a paper for th'Institute if ya fancy it" Trenick@annpc#5570 smiles, "A good suggestion, Commander. The Toroki are most certainly a remarkable species." Lendaria@crystyll: "Well ya got mah blessin' if ya wanna reallocate some o'ya duty time to it. Otherwise, I'll-a look forward t'readin' it" she smiles Trenick@annpc#5570 nods and stands, "I hope it'll turn out to be an interesting read. Thank you again for the suggestion, Commander." Lendaria@crystyll: "Always a pleasure t'support such endeavours, Lieutenant. Now go on! Go enjoy yaself while I get back t'duty rosters... 'yay'..." Lendaria@crystyll chuckles again, not really thinking so bad of her admin duties as she makes out, clearly
AFTER ACTION REPORT STARFLEET SECURITY CLEARANCE LEVEL 2 | Unrestricted
MISSION PARAMETERSOUTCOME SUMMARYInvestigate automated distress signal. Signal source found to be a baited trap set by the Toroki. Trap dismantled & Toroki released.
Continued biological & sociological study of the Toroki will proceed from captured scan data. Recovered Carran ship logs to be returned to their people at earliest convenience.
After picking up an automated distress signal, the Valley Forge moved to investigate. Arrival at the coordinates revealed the source to be the remains of a Carran Courier vessel with no discernible lifesigns aboard. Circumstances at the location appeared suspect almost immediately as this vessel was not only surrounded by debris from multiple vessels all bearing the same weapon scorching as the Carran vessel, but also a number of warp trails which appeared to consistently be mono-directional insofar that they were all inbound to the location, but none outbound.
Given that the composition of the hull alloy in the Carran vessel, it was not possible to obtain complete interior sensor scans. As such, a response team with MACO escort was transported to the derelict to investigate as it could not be assumed that there were no survivors still requiring assistance. As soon as we lowered shields for transport, CDT Tierno reported an intruder alert mid-ship. Response teams were deployed, though the intruder proved difficult to track on internal sensors. After theorizing that a form of personal stealth field generator was in use, we transferred the sensor hits to the MSD where CDT Tierno continued to monitor movement. It did not long to determine that the intruder appeared to be heading for one of the EPS junctions which was essential to the starboard shield generators. Security teams closed in and ultimately contained the intruder with emergency forcefields, though not before they were able to disable the shields on that arc.
As soon as the intruder appeared, we came under attack from a cloaked vessel as well. This was easily located with a tachyon sweep and soon held with the tractor beam, allowing us to disable it's weapon & propulsion systems. As our facing shield also got disabled during this confrontation, we had to release the tractor beam in order to roll the ship and protect it's exposed arc. Fortunately, this did not impede our efforts in disabling the attacking ship however.
Once the captured intruder was safely transported to the brig - and disarmed in the process - a support team was dispatched to the Carran derelict at the request of SGT Daazitaet in order to reinforce their findings. LCDR Lendaria & LT Trenick were deployed with a short window to operate in as an unidentified vessel was detected on an intercept course. The away team confirmed that the ship itself was a trap intended for rescue parties, and found biological markers from several species. Though the MACO's had already dealt with the Toroki which lay in waiting there, extreme caution was exercised due to the unknown nature of this species. The team found that the bodies of previous rescue parties had all been killed by a single puncture wound to the torso which appeared consistent with the spiked tail of the dead Toroki. Further to this - and more poignantly - was the observation that the bodies of the deceased were being used as parasitic incubators for the Toroki's offspring.
After the away team reported back to the Valley Forge, we established contact with the approaching vessel which had now entered range, and learned that it belonged to the mercenary force previously identified to us as the Watchers. Following a brief dialogue to confirm that their costly assistance was not required on this occasion, our attention returned to the Toroki in our brig. With the assistance of LCDR's Keliaya & Lendaria, we were able to tie in the universal translators to it's obscure communication and open a dialogue. As predicted for a species which is clearly the advanced evolution of an apex predator (speculation as to the nature of this evolution being forced by a third party rather than natural), there is a natural hostility. That said however, the revelation that it's vessel had been spared and that we had not harmed the offspring being incubated on the derelict opened a new level of discussion which ultimately led to the Toroki being released.
Personal note: This was not an easy decision for me to take, and I did not do so lightly. Though I am comfortable with the guidance of my own moral compass, I will state here for the record that stand by my decision and will accept reprimand should that be the decision of Command. Whilst the Toroki are unashamedly brutal in their hunting of sentient life, it is their very nature still and part of their existence; not for sport, entertainment or tradition, but survival. The utilization of the deceased for both sustenance and procreation makes their actions part of the natural evolution of the species in it's current incarnation and as such the Prime Directive applies, in this officers opinion. Whist there is no doubt in the minds of anyone present that these Toroki will continue their hunting practices and that more lives will be lost to them, the alternate action of destroying this unarmed ship and killing it's crew in cold blood (including the unborn offspring on the derelict) would not serve any definitive change to the ultimate outcome of the Toroki situation, nor would it be consistent with best practice for Starfleet officers. Further to this is the consideration of my most sacred duty as a commanding officer in the protection of those under my command. The dialogue with the captive Toroki made clear that now we have bested them and proven to be no mere prey, the species will no longer be aggressive towards the Valley Forge. Whilst some who know the Toroki may consider this a naive view, I have to believe that this can be the first step towards a greater understanding and mutual cooperation with the Toroki. After all, it is still within living memory for many serving Starfleet officers that the Klingons were considered equally brutal and impossible to deal with, yet now they are our continued allies and even serve at our sides. Do I believe that we may one day see Toroki serving on Starfleet bridges? Highly doubtful, but personal prejudice and our own natural aversion to conduct such as theirs can not be allowed to influence decision making in such circumstances.