Following a lead presented by the allied coalition, the Valley Forge heads for a notorious regional tournament of gladiators. Said to attract only the bravest and strongest warriors from across this corner of the galaxy, there's only one person on the mission who could stand a chance of being crowned Grand Champion and earning the much needed audience with the Zihil.
Captain Vix couldn't be happier about it either!
View Act I
NPC@annpc#5570 FX | A few days after the Regulator ship's return, another meeting is held among the allies. The Regulator Evaluator is in attendance in addition to the same people as last time, and the Vulture - NPC@annpc#5570 - sits in an additional seat beside his. NPC@annpc#5570 | Evaluator: "The Administration has concluded that the sharing of the implant technology will be permitted due to the danger posed by the Horde. However..." NPC@annpc#5570 | He takes a little holoprojector and slides it across the table to Keelah. Keelah@crystyll activates the projector with a curious and reserved look NPC@annpc#5570 | The projector displays the schematic for the implant, though there are some differences. It is slightly larger, with additional functions added in. Keelah@crystyll takes in the details, "A revised version. Presumably you have removed some of the more restricted technology from this one?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Evaluator: "Not quite. The technology is essential to its functioning. We have made two additions- one, altered some of the material composition so it will be impossible to fully determine the - NPC@annpc#5570: - inner workings of the implant from a surface scan, and two, should one attempt to remove the implant and reverse-engineer it, a mechanism has been installed so that the essential components will - NPC@annpc#5570: - cease to function if unauthorized tampering is detected." Keelah@crystyll nods, setting the projector aside, "Both prudent measures" NPC@annpc#5570 | Evaluator: "We have tested the new version and it is expected to function identically to the old, only with additional security features. The Administration has requested that this variant be - NPC@annpc#5570: - the one used by any civilization that has not been granted Type 1 or Condition Type 1 access." Keelah@crystyll: "I see no problem with that" NPC@annpc#5570 | Solan: "We will begin implementing them immediately. What about the ones that have already been freed and implanted so far?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Evaluator: "An exception has previously been made for them, as they were possibly the last of their species outside of Horde control. If we have time, we will replace the implants, but for now - NPC@annpc#5570: - we must free as many as we can before the Horde force we witnessed reaches Terminu. Which brings me to my second subject..." Keelah@crystyll hrms, "Indeed. What are you thoughts, Evaluator?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Evaluator: "Our vessel will remain here to assist in freeing the people of Terminu as well. Only a few Regulator vessels have personnel currently equipped with the implants, and among those, we - NPC@annpc#5570: - are the only Survey Vessel capable of arriving to Terminu in time. The remainder are currently holding by an Iconian gateway until you are able to reactivate the sphere you are seeking." Keelah@crystyll: "Is it an active gateway?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Evaluator: "No. We do not keep it active as we do not know who controls the other gateways and what may emerge from the other side. However, we have activated it in the past and are fully - NPC@annpc#5570: - capable of doing so again to provide assistance once you have located the sphere." Keelah@crystyll: "Could we use it's connections to further pinpoint the facility we are searching for?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Evaluator: "I will contact the Administration and see if they can examine it for information of use to you." Keelah@crystyll nods, "Thank you. Every possibility is worth pursuing at this point" NPC@annpc#5570 | The communicator of one of the Lupan Alphas sounds and he steps aside while the Evaluator responds, "In the meantime, we will assist the reclamation at Terminu, if you would allow." Keelah@crystyll: "Of course, we hold no claim to jurisdiction here. As far as we are concerned, Terminu is under the protection of this coalition, we are but a voice on that council" NPC@annpc#5570 | Solan: "We need all the help we can get." NPC@annpc#5570 | Unwavering Defender: "Indeed. We are not presently in a position to deny assistance. The Horde will likely strike again, and there are many yet to be freed on Terminu." Keelah@crystyll: "What about the gathering Horde fleet? Any theories as to the nature of their action so far?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Paval: "It is possible that they may be responding to something other than our presence, though without knowing what other events may be unfolding, we must assume it is meant for us." Keelah@crystyll: "Whilst I understand the Horde's general approach is brute force in numbers. Am I the only one who still finds the size of the amassing force to be... overkill? Given that they have a measure of our + Keelah@crystyll: + forces here?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Gallant Defender: "It is possible they are anticipating that we may receive further assistance, or perhaps they may have other-" NPC@annpc#5570 | The Lupan Alpha interrupts the Defender as he returns to the table, "The Sisters send word that an Eltreiah vessel has been spotted entering this region with a course that may pass close enough - NPC@annpc#5570: - to Terminu to risk Horde influence." NPC@annpc#5570 | Solan: "We can dispatch a Recon Ship to warn them." Keelah@crystyll: "Please do so" NPC@annpc#5570 | Solan nods and sends the instructions to one of the An Recon Ships. NPC@annpc#5570 | Mana: "Perhaps a Spike Guild vessel, come to check out why the ships above Terminu have gone silent?" Keelah@crystyll: 'looks to the Alpha, "Did you report state what direction it was travelling from?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Lupan Alpha: "The ship is coming in from the core. That explanation would match." Keelah@crystyll: "We shall soon find out. It shouldn't take long for the scout to intercept" NPC@annpc#5570 | Paval: "The Recon Ship is approaching without stealth. So far, no sign of hostility. They will be approaching communications range soon." NPC@annpc#5570 | A few minutes later, Paval reports once again, "Recon Ship has made contact. The Eltreiah are unaware of what occurred to Terminu, but they are not here as representatives of the Spike Guild." Keelah@crystyll: "Then who?" she asks with a curious glance NPC@annpc#5570 | Paval: "They claim to be on their own business and heading to a world known as Azakos." NPC@annpc#5570 | Lupan Alpha: "Azakos. The Arena World." Keelah@crystyll: "Azakos? I'm not familiar with that one. I assume it is beyond where we have explored. What is this 'Arena World' exactly?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Lupan Alpha: "It is a world inhabited by a race of insects. On occasion, Lupan packs go there to trade, but mostly we go there to fight. Every stellar orbit, they hold a series of combat - NPC@annpc#5570: - tournaments attracting warriors from all over this region, and those too weak to fight themselves, but still wish to witness the feats of great warriors." NPC@annpc#5570 | The Architect: "And one such tournament is coming soon?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Lupan Alpha: "Evidently." NPC@annpc#5570 | The Architect: "That may cause problems. The Horde are close, and they are drawn to gatherings of the Children. That may be why Terminu was targeted previously, but not Azakos. These native - NPC@annpc#5570: - insectoids are likely not Children. But if these tournaments of theirs draws Children from across the region, they will become prey for the Horde. Perhaps not this stellar cycle now that we have - NPC@annpc#5570: - pushed back the most recent advance, but if the numbers we have seen come for us, we will not be able to hold them back again." Keelah@crystyll: "Sounds like we need to look more closely at this tournament then" NPC@annpc#5570 | The Architect nods, "If they continue to run this tournament, it may endanger themselves and any who come to attend." Keelah@crystyll: "What do we need about these insectoids and the tournament itself?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Relentless Hunter: "I have visited the world before in the past. The native insectoids call themselves the Zihil. Their evolutionary history escapes me- they appear to have a hive-like - NPC@annpc#5570: - structure yet all evidence points to only a single queen. The numbers of the Zihil are disproportionate to the possibility of having only one queen." Keelah@crystyll: "How are they with other species?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Lupan Alpha: "They don't talk. Only communicate through gestures, and only simple things at that. But somehow they're smart enough to trade and organize the tournaments." NPC@annpc#5570 | Lupan Alpha: "Have a feeling the queen's the real brain, but only the Champions get to meet the queen now." Keelah@crystyll pinches the bridge of her nose, "I can already see where this is going..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Mana: "Where do the names come from, if the Zihil do not talk?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Relentless Hunter: "The name Zihil is attested from past conversations with the queen. Azakos is the Lupan name for the planet. There is no official name." NPC@annpc#5570 | Solan: "And how far away is it?" NPC@annpc#5570 | The Lupan Alpha sets his communicator on the table and activates a Progenitor-style starchart. NPC@annpc#5570 | Paval observes for a moment before commenting, "We can send a Recon there, but our support ships are not meant for travelling far from the Mothership, and the Mothership needs to remain here to - NPC@annpc#5570: - free as many people from Terminu as we can." NPC@annpc#5570 | The Architect meanwhile has already converted the location to VF's charts, handing Keelah a datapad. It is a sector to the side of Terminu rather than rimwards, and would take a little over a - NPC@annpc#5570: - week of travel at higher warp speeds. Keelah@crystyll reviews the map, nodding, "Ok, we can be there in little over a week. Do we know when this tournament is due to commence?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Relentless Hunter: "Using the orbital time of the planet and the last tournament date I am aware of, I calculate that you will arrive before the tournament commences." Keelah@crystyll: "Hopefully the tournament will be a moot subject. But something tells me that if we're going to get to warn these people about the Horde, we're going to have put through a champion in order to get an+ Keelah@crystyll: + audience with the Queen" NPC@annpc#5570 | Lupan Alpha: "If the rumours are true...you have our greatest champion aboard your ship. But if the rumours are true, he will not fight." Keelah@crystyll: "Unless we're allowed to put multiple warriors into the arena, I don't think he'd get a look in anyway..." she throws a knowing glance to Lexi Keelah@crystyll | Lexi has sat grinning like a cheshire cat since the first mention of the tournament. She nods, "I thought you'd never ask!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Solan: "Then you will go to Azakos, and see what you can do about this tournament?" Keelah@crystyll: "Yes. Captain Vix will see about working through the tournament to gain audience with the Queen while we attempt more traditional communication both with the hosts and guests alike" NPC@annpc#5570 | Unwavering Defender: "A far-encompassing plan. It is always wise to explore multiple avenues. I am afraid the Nuhar will be of little help here however, unless the Zihil allow entire vessels or - NPC@annpc#5570 - drones in their tournaments." Keelah@crystyll chuckles a little, "That might be a little unfair to the rest of the contestants" NPC@annpc#5570 | The Architect: "It seems we have a plan, then. Let us complete this quickly, so we may return to Terminu to continue assisting the reclamation." Keelah@crystyll: "Agreed. If there's nothing more then?" she looks around the table NPC@annpc#5570 | Everyone around the table shakes their heads or stays quiet. Keelah@crystyll stands, "Then let's get all of you back to your ships and we'll be underway" --- NPC@annpc#5570 FX | A day into their journey towards Azakos, Keelah sits in her ready room when her doorbell rings. Keelah@crystyll glances up, "Come in" NPC@annpc#5570 | Nishaa steps inside, followed by the large, grey-furred and scar-covered Lupan easily recognizable as Azatul. NPC@annpc#5570 | Nishaa: "Captain. Azatul here wanted to talk to you." Keelah@crystyll smiles, "Thank you Nishaa. Azatul, make yourself comfortable. What's on your mind?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Nishaa nods and heads back out while Azatul sits down in front of Keelah's desk, "I am told that we are heading to Azakos now?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "Indeed we are. I assume you are familiar with it" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I am indeed. I was Grand Champion once. A long time ago, in another life." Keelah@crystyll leans back, smiling with interest, "Is that so? I should have Captain Vix consult with you before we arrive then" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I will share what I know of the tournaments, though if she seeks to enter the High Tournament, its arena is altered each time so what occurs cannot be anticipated." Keelah@crystyll: "Interesting. They must take this very seriously" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Indeed they do. It is more than simple entertainment, though the entertainment brings them trade and attention. They collect samples of blood from all the Champions, but for what - NPC@annpc#5570: - purpose I cannot say." Keelah@crystyll perks a brow, "Two species in close proximity both collecting blood samples? That seems a little... coincidental" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "The Lupan did not start this until recently. And many of the Champions such as myself are not of the Children. I do not believe they are attempting the same thing the Sisterhood was." Keelah@crystyll: "Interesting still. So tell me, was there anything specific you wanted to tell us about this tournament?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I will tell you and Captain Vix all you wish to know. Though I come with a question of my own as well." Keelah@crystyll: "I figured there must be something specific on your mind" she smiles, "Speak freely" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "The little female from when I first came here- has something happened to her? I had mistaken another one of your pups in training...what do you call them? The ones who wear the - NPC@annpc#5570: - different colours. She tells me she had not seen Rianni for some time as well." Keelah@crystyll: "She is an a special assignment. Not one that I particularly want her on now, but it was a necessity of opportunity at the time" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "She is a capable one. I assume she is not on the vessel anymore?" Keelah@crystyll: "You assume correctly. She is actually on board the Terran vessel. The one from the other universe that held some of us captive for a short time" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "The vessel that attacked us before the battle at the Holy City?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "Yes, that's the one. While we were held captive there we seized an opportunity to overcome her counterpart from that ship and switch their places" Keelah@crystyll: "So she is now posing as her other self in order to learn more about the people and their intentions, while her actual counterpart is held in isolation here" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Her counterpart? There was a version of her on board that vessel?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "From what we understand of it, their universe is a stark parallel to our own. So for everyone here, there is a duplicate in that universe" Keelah@crystyll: "By happenchance, the parallel Rianni was serving on board that ship" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And this...parallel, she is dangerous and kept in isolation?" Keelah@crystyll: "Very much so" she nods grimly NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "What is she like, then?" Keelah@crystyll: "Cruel, vicious and extremely cunning" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Not unlike many of my people. Perhaps I may be able to speak to her." Keelah@crystyll gives a curious head tilt, "A pure matter of curiosity, or do you have something in mind you wish to discuss with her?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I am only curious to see this parallel of her, though perhaps a part of me wishes I can turn her from her ways, as I once did." Keelah@crystyll smiles, "A noble goal, and perhaps not an entirely fruitless one. My officers tell that once you cut through brash and confrontational attitude, they have - on occasion - bore witness to the + Keelah@crystyll: + semblance of good heart" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Then I shall see if I can do so. And as for the tournaments, I will answer any questions you have." Keelah@crystyll: "I'll leave that to Captain Vix. Honestly, I abhor the whole concept and the less I know the better" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul stands, "I shall seek her out as well, then." --- NPC@annpc#5570 FX | Sometime after the talk with Keelah, Azatul beams on board the QanwI'. NPC@annpc#5570 | He steps off the transporter pad, looking to the officer operating it, "Where may I find Captain Vix?" Lexi@crystyll | The operator looks over with a curt nod, "Captain's in the training room. He can show you the way" he thumbs to a guard by the door NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul nods back and moves to follow the guard. Lexi@crystyll | The guard silently leads the lumbering Lupan through the ship, occassionally glancing back and sizing him up as a potential foe of course Lexi@crystyll | They eventually reach a sealed door and the guard points, "In there" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul steps up to the door, seeing if it would slide open. Lexi@crystyll | The door opens to reveal a typically sparse Klingon duelling ring Lexi@crystyll is in the centre, cycling through her bat'leth training routine NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul steps in closely, observing Lexi as she does, "You must be Captain Vix." Lexi@crystyll swings her weapon at the sound of the interruption, pausing it at a well aimed spot just short of the jugular. A light sweat on her forehead and bloodlust in her eye as she holds a moment before + Lexi@crystyll + standing to ease, "And you must be Azatul" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul stands calm and still, figuring that Lexi wasn't actually attacking her, "I was told you were a warrior people." Lexi@crystyll: "Technically that's the Klingons, not my people. But /I/ am a warrior, which is why I stand with these people" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I thought you looked different. So, you are the one who seeks to enter the tournaments?" Lexi@crystyll grins and nods, "I see to /win/ that tournament!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul runs a finger along the side of the bat'leth, "Which tournament do you wish to enter. There is one specifically for blades and hammers and other close-quarters weapons such as yours." Lexi@crystyll: "Is there one which determines an overall grand champion? My mission is to obtain victory in order seek an audience with the hosts Queen. You know, the bug guys, whatever they're called" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I am told all champions speak to their queen now, though in my time I was only taken deep into the planet to have my blood extracted, and then presented to the Guardians." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "There is a High Tournament, one which combines elements of all the tournaments to declare the Grand Champion." Lexi@crystyll: "Then that's the one for me! Wait... you fought in this thing before?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul nods, "Once, yes. When I was banished from the Holy City, and still sought death from a worthy opponent." Lexi@crystyll: "You say that like you no longer seek such an honourable end..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I have given up the ways of war long ago. It has brought me only misery." Lexi@crystyll: "Sounds like you haven't been doing it right then. It's brought me nothing but glory and entertainment!" she laughs NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You have not caused horrors such as I have. But I have not come here to dissuade you from joining the tournament. I have come to prepare you for it." Lexi@crystyll grins, "Now that's more like it! I'm all for learning new tricks" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "If you seek to enter the High Tournament, it is more than just besting an opponent. The specialized tournaments are the Survival Tournament, the Unarmed Tournament, the - NPC@annpc#5570: - Melee Tournament, the Speed Tournament and the Rifles Tournament. The High Tournament combines all of them." Lexi@crystyll hrms, "So which one did you win?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I was Grand Champion. I was much like you were, and went directly for the High Tournament." Lexi@crystyll: "So that is an option then? You don't have to earn your place in that one by first besting one of the lesser competitions?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "As long as you pass the entry test. Champions of the other competitions may join the High Tournament without the test, and likewise for High Champions who wish to enter - NPC@annpc#5570: - a different tournament the next cycle." Lexi@crystyll: "Fair enough. So the HIgh Tournament is more of a free-for-all then, right?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Not precisely. That would risk an incapable fighter becoming Champion only because the others have killed one another. The first rounds are free-for-alls held in an arena similar to - NPC@annpc#5570: - that of the Survival Tournament with all its dangers, but with weapons scattered throughout. Those who make it proceed to the second round." Lexi@crystyll: "Oh, I meant free-for-all as in style choice. But that's interesting what you say still. So you don't get to take your weapon of choice in with you?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "No. You are provided with only basic clothing. Surviving and securing weapons is part of the challenge." Lexi@crystyll: "Ooh a fun twist! This could actually be fun!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "The second round is more akin to a traditional tournament. Those who have survived the various first rounds are pitted against one other opponent, and must hunt down this opponent in - NPC@annpc#5570: - a slightly smaller arena. Once again, there are dangers other than your opponent, and weapons can be found throughout the arena but you may take none with you." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "These rounds continue until two opponents remain, and then the final round decides the champion." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "The final round is different yet again. Both opponents must agree on an arena. It may be the same arena that the middle rounds were held in, or it may be the arenas for one of the - NPC@annpc#5570: - other tournaments, whichever the final combatants think will reflect their capabilities the best." Lexi@crystyll: "And what of this provisional test for entry straight into the High Tournament. What does that entail?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "A simple measure of your combat capability. I do not expect one who wields a weapon as you do will have any chance of failing it. The true elimination comes in the first round, where - NPC@annpc#5570: - multiple opponents are thrown into an arena together. If it were all one-on-one matches, the tournament would not be finished by the time the next tournament is to begin, by the sheer amount of - NPC@annpc#5570: - warriors who are capable of passing the entry test." Lexi@crystyll: "Sounds fun! So what's the deal with all these different arenas then. Does it all play out on a holodeck or something?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "No. All the arenas are real. Including the natural dangers and the weapons. That is why it draws so much attention. Anyone can watch a fight in a holographic simulation." Lexi@crystyll: "So how does the captive audience enjoy these arenas?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "The regular arenas have viewing seats and screens for close up viewing. The survival arenas only offer screens because they are too large to view from the outside directly." Lexi@crystyll: "Fair enough. I'll be sure to put on a good show then!" she grins NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "They come to see you fight and win. As long as you concentrating on doing that, the audience will doubtlessly be impressed." Lexi@crystyll: "Don't you worry, I tend to be awe inspiring without putting effort into anyway" Lexi@crystyll and is clearly modest about the fact too NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You do carry yourself like a capable warrior. But you are also a little one." Lexi@crystyll 's face brightens with a wide smirk, "Indeed. You know, there are some schools of combat philosophy across the galaxy who suggest you can not truly know a warrior until you meet them in combat" Lexi@crystyll: "So how about it big guy? Let's get better acquianted" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I have not fought for some time, and there is a reason I do not." Lexi@crystyll: "Even one who does not thirst for battle can still benefit from keeping his skills honed" Lexi@crystyll: "I will not attempt to persuade you from your ways though. If you do not wish it, then we can do things the gentler way; at the bar!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I am not sure if I will still be a match for a honed warrior after so long. But I do not wish to risk losing control, if I indeed am." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Drinking, that is something I still do." Lexi@crystyll grins, "As do I. As for losing control, you need not worry" she gestures around them, "This place is a warriors sanctuary in Klingon culture. Those of the warrior caste will often come here for + Lexi@crystyll: + their own take on meditation and centering practices like mok'bara. If you are even half the warrior I think you are, you would never foolishly presume my small stature a weakness. You know I am as+ Lexi@crystyll: + capable a warrior as any. So if you wish it - I sense some part of you does - it will be my honour to spar with you. /If/ you lose control, you are safe in the knowledge that a capable warrior + Lexi@crystyll: + stands ready to stop you" Lexi@crystyll actually sounds sincere and mature. For once NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Very well. You will soon be pitting yourself against potential Grand Champions after all, and you may benefit from knowing what to expect. And I trust one of your position not to be - NPC@annpc#5570: - crushed easily." Lexi@crystyll smiles and nods, "And hopefully you will learn some benefit to not bottling up your true nature and allowing your warrior instinct to surface. Maybe even a little tempering and control to help" Lexi@crystyll steps over to one side of the duelling ring, "Do you have a preference for arms, or for mine?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul looks around for what selection of weapons is available as he responds, "Use whatever you fight best with." Lexi@crystyll: "Likewise then. If you do not see something you like, we can find it elsewhere" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul steps over, running his hand over a long slender blade, "I once favoured a blade like this, but it is not the optimal weapon for single combat." NPC@annpc#5570 | Instead, he chooses a slightly shorter, katana-like blade beside it before stepping over to Lexi. Lexi@crystyll smiles, "A fine choice. I sometimes favour a similar weapon myself" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul gives the blade a few test swings before assuming a ready stance before Lexi. Lexi@crystyll draws her bat'leth, giving it a brief flourish to get it balanced in her hand before holding it out straight in front of her. She gives a light bow before dropping into a ready stance as well NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul maintains a simple two handed grip as he slowly begins to circle Lexi, keeping his eyes focused on her but not making any move. Lexi@crystyll circles around opposite him, prowling, observing, waiting for the opportune moment to strike NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul continues to circle for a good few seconds before his blade seems to lower slightly. Lexi@crystyll feignts an opportunistic strike, expecting him to be luring her in and ready to swing her opposing blade across his counter to off balance him NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul does indeed lure her in before counter-striking. Lexi's move allows the opposing blade to stop the counterattack, but the Lupan maintains his balance well, simply stepping back as his - NPC@annpc#5570 - attack fails, "You do not fall for tricks easily. That is good." Lexi@crystyll: "And you do not limit yourself to thinking only of your immediate move, as I would expect from a true warrior" she complements while swinging a classic bat'leth disarming move to ensnare and twist + Lexi@crystyll: + the blade from Azatul's hand NPC@annpc#5570 | Lexi does manage to ensnare the blade, but finds his grip so strong that she is unable to twist the weapon away from him, and he pushes back against her weapon... Lexi@crystyll rolls back, kicking her feet out to take his legs from under him while she gets back to her own NPC@annpc#5570 | Despite his age, Azatul is surprisingly agile and has the footwork of an expert swordsman, adeptly maneuvering away from Lexi who manages little more than a simple kick on his legs. The Lupan - NPC@annpc#5570: - closes in, trying to take advantage of the situation before Lexi can fully get back up to swing an overhead blow at her. Lexi@crystyll smirks a little, staying vulnerable on the ground to invite the blow only to roll over to one side at the last moment to evade it, then roll back with her whole bodyweight against the side of his + Lexi@crystyll: + blade as it strikes the ground beside her NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul lets go of the blade and leaps back as Lexi pins it down with her entire body, "Impressive. An unconventional but effective action." Lexi@crystyll smiles as she stands, bowing her head a little, "Yes, size is not my only deceptive feature. I also have the benefit of... quite the few years of experience" she chuckles, tossing his blade back to + Lexi@crystyll: + him NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul picks up the blade again, "Adaptability is good. You will face many different opponents in the tournament, all with their own strengths and weaknesses." Lexi@crystyll: "I like to think I've seen my share of variety during my lives" Lexi@crystyll she stands ready, equally content to converse if he doesn't move to initiate another round NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul considers the blade with a 'Hm,' before he steps over and places it back before picking up and weighing the signature spiked mace of the Spike Guild. "Your other lives?" Lexi@crystyll: "My people - Trill - are symbiotic. What you see standing before you is only my present host. There have been 7 others" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Interesting. And these hosts allow you to use them willingly?" Lexi@crystyll smiles, "We do, mostly... There is no higher standing in Trill society than being joined, and as hosts exponentially outnumber symbionts, it is also the rarest of honours" Lexi@crystyll: "I... did not choose to be joined, but circumstances prevailed and... well, I guess I've kind of grown fond of the worm" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul turns, presenting the mace to Lexi (https://www.ashokaarts.com/img/product_images/image/detail/no-spikedmace1-1339.jpg), "You gain the experience of this...worm, then?" Lexi@crystyll: "I do. I can call upon the memories and experience of all my former hosts" Lexi@crystyll studies the mace and gives an approving nod NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "That is a useful boon to have. Take this weapon. In the High Tournament, you may very well have to fight with whatever you find, even if it is not something you would prefer." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Your experience will hopefully be of use in the different equipment you may locate throughout the arena." Lexi@crystyll smiles, "That's the idea!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul takes Lexi's bat'leth away as he gives her the mace and chooses a Klingon gin'tak spear for himself before stepping in front of Lexi again. Lexi@crystyll weighs the mace in her hand, tossing it from one to the other before standing ready with it held out and to one side NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul holds the spear out in front of himself. The length of the weapon puts Lexi at a disadvantage, though the mace is a heavier weapon than the spear and may be able to counteract Azatul's - NPC@annpc#5570 - strength. Once again, the Lupan begins to slowly circle Lexi. Lexi@crystyll moves for a quick early strike this time, using the mace to bat the spear aside while rolling herself down it's length to keep him from bringing it back to bear while swinging the mace around a full+ Lexi@crystyll: + 360 swing at him NPC@annpc#5570 | Lexi manages to knock his spear aside, but Azatul holds the weapon closer to the centre than the end and quickly brings the other end over in time to parry her attack, though the force of the - NPC@annpc#5570 - mace does send him two steps back, "Closing the distance quickly. A good choice." Lexi@crystyll: "I see the mind of a warrior is still as sharp as ever in there, even if the heart is not" she commends Lexi@crystyll: "Why did you turn away from the warriors path anyway?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "As I said, I lost control. Did things I could not take back." NPC@annpc#5570 | He quickly repositions his spear and steps forward, this time holding the weapon closer to the end for a quick and longer range jab. Lexi@crystyll: "We all make mistakes. You should learn to forgive yourself and move on, stay true to what you are else you dishonour who you were" she challenges, parrying the blow with flourish NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul repositions his grip, stepping closer for another stab at Lexi, "This is what the Sisterhood made me. This is not what I chose to be." Lexi@crystyll: "We are the sum of our experiences. Besides, you said you made a mistake and that's why you strayed from the path, not because you chose a preference other than that the Sisterhood bestowed upon you" Lexi@crystyll she counters, grunting as she moves aside to swat the spear tip down and catch it under her boot ready to smash it in half with the mace NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul allows Lexi to smash the spear in half, but as she does, he brings up the rear half he is still holding, stopping it just short of hitting Lexi, "Perhaps this is all I am now. But I have - NPC@annpc#5570: - done enough killing for one lifetime." Lexi@crystyll actually drops her own weapon at the same time, clasping her hands either side of the broken spear half. She pushes it to one side while propelling herself away, rolling to retrieve the other end of+ Lexi@crystyll: + the spear NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul drops his end of the spear, "You think fast. You will be ready for the tournament." Lexi@crystyll lowers her broken spear half as well, "You honour me with your praise, "She bows her head a little NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You are a capable warrior. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will win the tournament, the High Tournament especially. Sometimes, pure chance plays a factor as well. But you - NPC@annpc#5570 - certainly have the skill it takes." Lexi@crystyll: "If I could practice my good luck, I'd be doing that every day as well" she chuckles NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul chuckles as well, "There is little you can do about that. Just train with any weapon you can. Close quarters, long-ranged, unarmed. You don't know what you may need." Lexi@crystyll nods, "I get the feeling that crossing blades has indeed afforded you a better understanding of me. As it has for me, of you" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Indeed. Now that we have gotten to know one another better, shall we have that drink?" Lexi@crystyll grins, picking up the discarded mace and returning everything to the racks, "An excellent suggestion! We'll make a Klingon out of you yet!" she laughs NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Perhaps you can tell me more about the Klingons. They sound like my people, yet different in many ways." Lexi@crystyll slaps a hearty hand on his tall furry shoulder as she laughs, "First lesson about Klingons: they /love/ telling stories. Especially about how great they are... Come, let us drink!" Lexi@crystyll leads Azatul into the mess hall where she retrieves a bottle of bloodwine and two large tankards, sloshing out two full measures Lexi@crystyll hands one over while leaning against the bar and chugging back her own NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul follows Lexi, taking the bloodwine and chugging it as well, "A strong drink, even for a Lupan. You are tougher than your size indicates in many ways." Lexi@crystyll grins, "Now you're just flattering me! But yes, I have to be to hold a position such as mine in Klingon culture" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "How did you end up with these Klingons. Were you a warrior in your past life?" Lexi@crystyll hrms, "Not outright. One previous host was a Starfleet captain - like Keelah - but during some quite bloody conflicts. Another was an explorer in the early spacefaring days of my people, he saw + Lexi@crystyll + his share of action. But many of my previous hosts have been far gentler; artisans, diplomats and the like" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "So it was not because of your past that you came to be with the Klingons?" Lexi@crystyll shakes her head, "I am my own person and spurned Trill society at a young age. I ran away from home and found my way into Klingon company. There, I attended their academy and worked my up the ranks" Lexi@crystyll swigs her bloodwine, "Time was; I was captain of the Honour Guard to a modest House on the homeworld. But... politics happened and we ended up having to go into hiding to protect the legacy of the + Lexi@crystyll + House. Some time later, circumstances led to a necessary joining when both myself and a joined Trill diplomatic were critically injured on a mission. My body needed a symbionts strength to heal, + Lexi@crystyll + this symbiont's host was dying and it needed a new host quickly. So fate brought us together, much to the distaste of my people" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Ahh, that was why you say you did not choose to be joined." Lexi@crystyll nods, "I despised the prospect for the longest time. Looking back now, perhaps that was a mistake. But I was not built for the academic trials of the joining" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You require...academic trials to be joined with this worm-being?" Lexi@crystyll nods, "A particularly gruelling process spanning years to ensure a perfectly harmoneous relationship. Personality, preferences, emotional stability, mental capacity, intellect, desires. You name it,+ Lexi@crystyll + the Symbiosis Commission scrutinizes it to the 'n'th degree!" Lexi@crystyll chugs her drink, "But enough of that. Didn't you want to get to know Klingons better? Not small, soft Trill?" she laughs NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul chuckles, "Yes. This vessel is of Klingon design, is it not?" Lexi@crystyll nods, "The QanwI' was the pride of our House's fleet. It served exclusively as my Honour Guard's protector of the House and it's leading family members" Lexi@crystyll: "She's a fairly typical Klingon style, but notably far more aggressive than most as she was built to be a predator" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul nods, "Reminds me of our own escort ships. Though yours is even more formidible, from what I saw over Terminu." Lexi@crystyll: "She packs a punch alright. Like I said, she's a predator even among Klingon ships. With her enhanced firepower and laws-of-physics-denying engines, she can hunt down even the most elusive of prey or+ Lexi@crystyll: + drop the mightiest of warships" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "An impressive vessel. Have the Klingons always been a warrior people?" Lexi@crystyll nods, "As far as I know at any rate. Pretty sure they evolved from an apex predator" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Not unlike my own people, then. Only that we were evolved artificially rather than naturally." Lexi@crystyll: "Yeah, I'm not aware of any outside influence on the Klingon people. But they do count among the Children" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Do the Klingons have packs like the Lupan as well? You mentioned Houses and families." Lexi@crystyll nods, "The construct is generally similar. You might compare a Klingon House to a Lupan pack, or tribe" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And do Klingons fight among themselves like the packs and tribes, or is there a unifying force like the Sisterhood?" Lexi@crystyll scoffs, "Yes and yes. There /is/ a High Council formed of the leaders of all the Great Houses. But powerlust is also at the heart of many Klingons, making political plays and vying for power a + Lexi@crystyll: + constantly shuffling landscape. I mentioned the downfall of our House, this was the subject of such a move" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Much like the situation of my own people in some ways. What happened with your House?" Lexi@crystyll sighs, swirling her drink, "I still don't know all the details... what I do know is that we were betrayed by one of our supporting Houses. Likely an opportunistic grab for our Houses power, only it + Lexi@crystyll: + enacted in an underhanded and devious manipulation worthy of a Ferengi! We were deceived and framed for a heinous act, resulting in the House being disavowed by the Empire and stripped of it's + Lexi@crystyll: + assets. We fled the final battle in this very ship in order to save my Lady and her young son; now heir to the House. We received a tip that clues to the plot lay in historical activity from the + Lexi@crystyll: + Empire in this region of space, which is why we tagged along with the Valley Forge; so I can learn the truth and redeem our House!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "So that is why you are out here. Not to seek battle with the Lupan or the Horde." Lexi@crystyll shakes her head, "When we flew beyond the explored regions we had no idea you or the Horde were even out here" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Of course. Sometimes I still forget you travelled far to reach us here. Have you found much sign of this historical activity?" Lexi@crystyll: "Not as much as I'd like..." she huffs, "The records suggest it was a long time ago, two centuries or more. A large expedition left the Empire and sought to find new territory to conquer. We found a + Lexi@crystyll: + relic at Underworld - just an old insignia. Well, I say we... it was actually the spirited young cadet from the Valley Forge if you can believe that!" she laughs NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul quirks his head curiously, "Was it the one named Rianni?" Lexi@crystyll smirks, "You know her. I suppose I should not be surprise. She does tend to get around that one" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "It would seem so. She is a capable one indeed." Lexi@crystyll: "A fellow warrior, to be sure! But besides that relic, we did encounter an ancient escape pod from a ship. Though it was so degraded it yielded no fruitful information about the expedition" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I am afraid I was not alive so long ago, and I would have known if a band of warriors passed through recently. Perhaps the Sisters may still remember, though." Lexi@crystyll: "Not that I've been able to learn yet. But that doesn't mean the knowledge isn't there. Even the Nuhar we've dealt with haven't known anything we can use" Lexi@crystyll: "Of course, most of my interactions with the Constructs involved kicking their oversized asses" she grins NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I have been on vessels that have faced them as well, and personally cut down a number of their drones. I did not know they were even willing to cooperate until they arrived to aid - NPC@annpc#5570: - Terminu in the battle." Lexi@crystyll: "Same. For the longest time all I knew of them was this one Construct in particular who seemed determined to take me down like it was a personal grudge or something" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You in particular? That is...unusual for a Construct." Lexi@crystyll: "It was working as a mercenary at the command of a particularly ruthless organization who deemed me personally to be a threat. That organization has now been beheaded, so the Construct plays nice" Lexi@crystyll: "Also with the end of that organization, is the end of the facility where it could be cast into new construct shells. So I guess there's an element of self preservation in there too" she chuckles Lexi@crystyll: "Serves it right for testing me so many times" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And you beat this Construct, every time it came for you?" Lexi@crystyll grins and nods, raising her tankard, "Damned right!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul simply nods and raises his tankard as well, "You and your vessel are powerful indeed. Many a great packship have fallen to Nuhar Constructs in the past." Lexi@crystyll raises her tankard to meet his, "Formidable opponents. Those Lupan had good deaths" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "That they had. Though I much prefer the Lupan and Nuhar fighting side by side against the Horde now." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul takes another chug from the tankard, "The Guardians asked me to fight with them, you know. After I became Grand Champion." Lexi@crystyll: "Indeed... Klingon history is rife with tale of rampant forces like the Horde, but nothing close to the scale of them" she slurps her drink, giving him a curious look, "Why didn't you?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "At the time, I sought death from combat with a worthy foe. Fighting the Horde would have brought me to my end eventually, but at the time I thought the Horde no challenge on their own, - NPC@annpc#5570: - just a mindless swarm. I joined the tournament hoping to meet one who could match me." Lexi@crystyll: "So you were seeking a warriors end, even back then?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul nods, "That was before I had given up battle, and hoped still to die in it. Just any death was not enough for me as I was then. If I were offered the same choice now...I would not be so - NPC@annpc#5570: - eager to deny it, I think." Lexi@crystyll shakes her head with a frown, "No life should be thrown away. A good end, sure. But not an end for end's sake" Lexi@crystyll: "You know, the Klingon's have a word for those in their society like you; warriors tempered by the wisdom of experience" Lexi@crystyll: "They seldom find death in combat, but still find an honourable end when their time comes, after passing on their wisdom to the next generation. We call them Dahar Master, and grand statues to their + Lexi@crystyll: + memory eternally line the entrance to the Grand Hall on the homeworld" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Perhaps that will be my fate, then. If there is anything else I can pass on to you for the tournament, I shall gladly do so." Lexi@crystyll: "It would be my honour to spar with you any time you wish, Dahar Master Azatul" she smiles, dipping her head NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And mine as well, Captain Vix." --- NPC@annpc#5570 FX | In the VF brig, MURianni is still in a cell, though no longer being tormented by the Horde now that she has an implant. Rianni@crystyll has taken to occupying herself by being a nuisance to the duty guard. Determined to strike up a conversation and find some entertainment to pass the day Rianni@crystyll leans casually against the wall beside the forcefield as she talks, "...so you see? That's exactly why these uniforms of yours are completely inappropriate for women to wear on duty" NPC@annpc#5570 | The guard tries to do his best to ignore Rianni as he types away on a PADD. Rianni@crystyll: "Waaay to stiff and cumbersone! You should really consider short shorts and cropped tops. Honestly, /so/ much more breathing room than this thing" she tugs at her tunic, 'accidentally' popping the + Rianni@crystyll: + top open Rianni@crystyll gasps, "Oh my! But that does feel good" she purrs, loosening it further Rianni@crystyll: "Ooh! I know! Maybe you can't provide me anything for entertainment, but we don't need to!" Rianni@crystyll: "And we can spice things up! This time instead of simply plyaing I Spy. We can do /strip/ I Spy!" NPC@annpc#5570 | The guard sighs and looks up, "Is this is what you do on your ship all day..." Rianni@crystyll: "Go ahead. You go first. I'll even let you pick things you can see in here that I can't! No...?" Rianni@crystyll sighs and scowls, "Well on my ship I'm not cooped up in a box all damned day!" Rianni@crystyll: "Seriously! It's like you people have never even conceived something as simple as an agony booth. All this sitting around and waiting to rot, so inconvenient..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Guard: "Agony booths don't sounds so pleasant..." Rianni@crystyll: "See now; if /you/ were a prisoner on my ship. I'd have you sealed up in an agony booth right from the start, no wasted space or time like this setup. Just straight to the interrogation before I kill+ Rianni@crystyll: + you once you're no longer of use. Simple!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Guard: "And you would actually /prefer/ we do that to you instead?" Rianni@crystyll: "It's a damned sight more merciful than being bored to death!" Rianni@crystyll: "Seriously, you could at least provide entertainment to pass the time if you're going to just leave me here" Rianni@crystyll gives a sly grin, "You're not the worst looking, even for one of these softer faux Terrans. How about it then? Strip rock-paper-scissors? No...? Eugh, you're no fun!" NPC@annpc#5570 | The guard shakes his head at Rianni's attitude when the door slides open and Azatul steps in. Rianni@crystyll leans her back against the wall, facing back into her cell and continuing to talk, missing the arrival, "So where was I...? Oh yes! You're terrible uniforms! Now about these damned stockings..." Rianni@crystyll plucks at the fabric clinging to her leg, "I mean sure, it looks nice and all. But how do you strap a dagger to your thigh without snagging and laddering them? Then they just look messy!" NPC@annpc#5570 | The guard stands up, a little surprised at the visitor, "Hello. Are you..." he checks his PADD, "Ah, you're authorized to be here." Rianni@crystyll pauses at the sound of voices, turning and watching with a curious and entertained sideways grin Rianni@crystyll: "So you do keep pets on board in this universe too" NPC@annpc#5570 | The large scarred grey Lupan stands in front of Rianni's cell, "Was that meant as a taunt?" Rianni@crystyll pats her knees, talking in a baby voice typically reserved for infants and pets, "Here boy! Who's a good boy? Did you lose your owner? Need a scratch behind the ear?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "If your intention is to provoke me, you will not be successful." Rianni@crystyll looks to the guard, "Maybe you should replicate up a bowl of water for your pet. He looks angry. That or a stick, I'd offer to play fetch but..." she pings the forcefield in conclusion to the sentence Rianni@crystyll turns back to Azatul, "Honestly, I have no reason to provoke you since I'm locked away in here. Now if my BFF over there was nice enough to lower this field and let you in here, /then/ I'd have + Rianni@crystyll: + reason to provoke you" she smirks Rianni@crystyll: "But for now, I'll happily settle for a new source of entertainment" she thumbs to the guard, faux-whispering, "The conversation with this one was getting a little dry..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I was told you were different from the one on this vessel. Provoking a Lupan in close quarters is not wise." Rianni@crystyll: "pfft! Please! I've been doing so for fun ever since we met your kind" Rianni@crystyll: "Even got myself a nice rug out of it. And a pair of slippers" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You are a capable warrior then. Not unlike the Rianni here, from what I am told." Rianni@crystyll: "Yeah, well. She is part-me so it's only natural some part of her had to come out good, even in this soft environment" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And what is your environment like?" Rianni@crystyll: "A lot more like your people's from what I saw" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul nods, "As I suspected. And your people are hunters as well?" Rianni@crystyll: "Not in the same evolutionary sense. But we do tend to enjoy a good hunt" she grins NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "How did your people come to be as you are, then? Or were you always as you are where you come from?" Rianni@crystyll: "We've always been conquerors, it's just the natural order of things. We thing things likely strayed from the true path in this backwards universe at some point in ancient history. Most likely some + Rianni@crystyll: + fluke overturn of a great Empire irreperably diverting our evolution" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul chuckles, "You do almost sound like a Lupan. I can see how you can match us in battle, despite how you may appear." Rianni@crystyll smirks, "You wouldn't be the first Lupan to make that mistake in judgement" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "My people are driven by our belief, that we were made to be better and that the galaxy is our birthright. What drives you and your conquest?" Rianni@crystyll: "Pretty much the same thing. I don't know about the whole 'made to be better' part, but I certainly do know in my heart that the galaxy is my birthright" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Even this galaxy? I am told you come from a different reality than our own." Rianni@crystyll shrugs, "I'm not fussy, or unrealistic. I'll settle for ruling an Empire spanning a single galaxy, whichever it may be. Can't set one's sights too high after all else that would just be silly!" Rianni@crystyll 's tone makes it almost impossible to tell if she's even being serious at all at this point... NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Hm. And what would you do, if I set you free?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Guard: "Um...you're not allowed to do that." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Assume I do. What then?" Rianni@crystyll: "Ooh ooh ooh I like this! Ok, let's see... well first I'd have to kill him" she points to the guard, "He's armed and would try to stop me after all. That, and, he won't play with me" Rianni@crystyll pokes her tongue at the guard Rianni@crystyll: "Since you let me free, I'd continue to use you as long as our goals aligned and wait for your inevitable betrayal before killing you. After all, you might be useful in seizing control of this ship" Rianni@crystyll: "From there, I'd have to deal with the crew. No doubt many would bend the knee to my superiority, and prove themselves by airlocking those who don't in my name. Then..." she hrms Rianni@crystyll: "Then, we find my ship. So I can get a proper uniform back on, of course" Rianni@crystyll: "With two powerful warships we would begin to systematically conquer new territory and expand my new Empire from here" she thinks a moment more and nods, "Yep, that about does it!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And you really think you can create an Empire from two ships? Or take this one alone?" Rianni@crystyll: "Hey, every great Empire has to start with one person's bold move if you track it back far enough" Rianni@crystyll: "The key is to live long enough to see it through yourself. So we'll probably have to find a way to make me immortal along the way..." she hrms, at least seeming to give it serious thought Rianni@crystyll ponders the situation. NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You take very little seriously, do you. Would you truly try to take over this ship if you were free?" Rianni@crystyll: "I wouldn't put it past me" she shrugs. "But if you want to talk serious, fine I can do that to. Less fun, but sure..." she kneels in an almost meditative position Rianni@crystyll sits down. Rianni@crystyll looks up to the Lupan, "What? You guys like sitting on the floor don't you?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "That is our way, yes. We cannot use your seats comfortably, after all." Rianni@crystyll: "Then come on, sit and talk with me. I promise I'll be serious. Mostly..." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul lowers himself onto the ground, "Very well." Rianni@crystyll: "So what brought you to see me; simple curiosity? About me? About the Holy City?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Curiosity, mostly. I had met the Rianni native to this universe when I first came on board this vessel, and the Captain told me of you when I inquired where she had gone." Rianni@crystyll: "I get it; you had to see for yourself that there was indeed a far superior example of the same Terran" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Is that how you see yourself? Superior?" Rianni@crystyll: "Naturally. It is part of being Terran, a true Terran I mean. Not these people" she waves a dismissive hand at the guard NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And what is different between you and these people? You all seem the same to me." Rianni@crystyll: "In appearance only. You have met two versions of me, and already likened me to your own kin. So I think you already see the superiority" Rianni@crystyll: "For to compare anything to the self is arguably the greatest complement, regardless of context" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "My people believe we are superior due to our physical attributes. Though I suppose what you share with us in culture and attitude make you superior hunters and conquerers." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "But that does not mean you are superior overall, though perhaps you may be in battle." Rianni@crystyll: "Well as already noted from my counterpart, there are similarities between us. Therefore, you can surmise that the Terrans of this universe aren't /all/ bad" Rianni@crystyll: "But... I don't trust them, and you shouldn't either if you know what's good for you" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Why do you not trust them?" Rianni@crystyll: "Come on think about it! They preach this utopian 'lets be friends' line. Yet their Empire supposedly controls an unprecedented region of space, especially given what little time - in relative + Rianni@crystyll: + galactic terms - they've been around. They've stood against great and powerful Empires that are millenia old, and what, killed them with kindness? They've all been absorbed into this pretend utopia! Rianni@crystyll: "Then look at what they did to me? I was about to /release/ them back to their ship after my Captain decided to help them in the battle. What do they do? Knock me out and swap me with their version + Rianni@crystyll: + of me as a spy back on /my/ ship! We may be harsh by their standards, but at least we aren't underhanded and dishonourable!" Rianni@crystyll: "Mark my words my furry friend; there's a dark side to this Federation and it's Starfleet" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Hm. But if they are so cunning, would that not make /them/ superior? They managed to replace you, after all." Rianni@crystyll grins, "That just means there is hope for them yet in my eyes" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Hope for them to do what, exactly?" Rianni@crystyll: "To be capable of earning my respect" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And if they turn out to be exactly what they appear, you will not respect them?" Rianni@crystyll: "That's impossible. There is no way they can sustain an Empire this size without something more than this 'touchy feely' stuff to it" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "What if most others are like them, and those like the Lupan are exceptions?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "But I suspect you are right, at least partly. I am told they are capable warriors. Yet still I feel that the intentions of most of them are what they appear." Rianni@crystyll: "By their own accounts this is not the case. If anything - according to these people - just about every major power they've encountered has been a powerful Empire they made an enemy out of" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And you think they conquered those empires with their cunning and merely claim to be peaceful?" Rianni@crystyll: "You have a more plausible explanation?" she challenges NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Hm. I suppose not. But I do not know these people well. I suppose if one of them gave you a more plausible explanation though, you would not believe them?" Rianni@crystyll laughs, "Even the other me isn't /that/ gullable! No, I must find hard evidence!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And what of the Lupan? What do you think of our people, given the similarities?" Rianni@crystyll shrugs, "For a sub-Terr-... a non-Terran species? Credit where it's due, you do make fine warriors. Plus you have your beliefs; you know who you are at your core and you're proud of it." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "You truly are very different from the other you." Rianni@crystyll beams, "I'll take that as a complement" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "As I suspected, I do not think you can change. But perhaps that is not such a bad thing. If this is truly who you are, of course." Rianni@crystyll tilts her head a little, "You suggest it is not? Then what, it's all a facade and I'm really all cute and sweet deep down like the other me?" Rianni@crystyll grins wickedly, "If one thing is certain already, it's that whatever universe you're in; Terrans have an uncanny skill at deception" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I do not know you. Perhaps you may not be so different from the other at your core, but simply different due to circumstance. I can imagine such occurring with myself." Rianni@crystyll: "Perhaps. The theory does state that we are - in essence - the same person, physiologically speaking. The differences are purely the result of our different upbringings, so to speak" Rianni@crystyll: "In theory; she is as capable of being as ruthless and vicious as I, as I am of being as sickly sweet as she is" Rianni@crystyll shudders NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "But you are not she, and do not wish to be." Rianni@crystyll: "Of course not! I'm proud of who I am and wouldn't change that for anything!" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "If you insist. Though you are young, and I remember being much like you once." Rianni@crystyll: "Which means you no longer are. Mellowing with age is a given in almost all civilizations, Doesn't mean I change who am I at my core" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Some part of who we are always remains with us, despite our best efforts to suppress it." Rianni@crystyll: "So there is still a Lupan warrior buried under all that fur somewhere" she smiles NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul stands, "We cannot change who we are entirely. But perhaps someday you will see battle as I have seen it." Rianni@crystyll stands as well, "Perhaps. It is not like I share the pure bloodlust of some warrior species. I merely seek to ensure my own survival through domination" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "There are other ways to survive besides hunting, you know. In time, I hope you find them." Rianni@crystyll: "That's not what evolution teaches us. Survival of the strongest, that's the nature of existence" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Strength does not always mean dominating others. And having the power to dominate others does not mean you should do so to all you encounter." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "But as you said, you are young. You will not understand unless you see for yourself." Rianni@crystyll: "I won't pretend to know everything. I can only be true to myself" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "And of that I cannot fault you. You are not our Rianni- I cannot and shall not expect you to be the same." Rianni@crystyll: "...'our'? You really have bedded yourself in with these folks haven't you. So tell me; as one outsider warrior to another - what's the appeal? Why settle for these people- " she looks to the guard, + Rianni@crystyll: + "No offence" and back to Azatul, "-above your own kin?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I failed my own kin long ago.I came here first to help these people protect Terminu from the Lupan, and now from the Horde. Even the Lupan stand with us now, though for what reason I - NPC@annpc#5570: - unsure. Perhaps it was due to the loss of the Holy City, or from the Captain informing them of the true origins of our people." Rianni@crystyll: "I'm sure they'll be sitting their own representative on the Federation council in no time" she half-mocks NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul chuckles, "I doubt that would happen. Even with the Sisterhood my people are scattered, and there are even some packs do not recognize the Sisters at all." Rianni@crystyll: "You're probably right. But just you watch; this Federation is already sowing it's seeds out here. I mean, this little coalition of yours around Terminu? Already has a tinge of the Federation + Rianni@crystyll: + influence about it" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Indeed. I do not mind it, though I imagine there are many among my people who would not be so keen on an alliance for longer than it benefits them." Rianni@crystyll: "Whatever happens, it will be interesting to observe" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "That it will. And perhaps you may learn something of battle and life from this as well." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "It has been interesting to speak with you, young warrior." Rianni@crystyll: "And I can honestly say that it has been the highlight of my day" Rianni@crystyll: "Not that there's much competion..." Rianni@crystyll: "But it has indeed been a rare pleasure to enjoy a good verbal spar. I welcome a rematch anytime" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "Then I shall visit again, little one. The Captain is right to keep you in here, for you are dangerous, but I do not envy you being caged." NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul: "I suppose a little conversation is the least I can offer you." Rianni@crystyll: "Perhaps she will find a more worthy enemy of my attention. But given my kidnapping, that will be quite a tall order" Rianni@crystyll: "Until such time, I'll be here" NPC@annpc#5570 | Azatul nods and heads out of the brig. --- Keliaya@anncarise FX | Several more days pass on the journey and the Valley Forge is less than a day from Azakos when Keelah is called to the bridge. Keelah@crystyll steps onto the bridge, "What's our status?" Keliaya@anncarise | Vrolmacht: "We have a ship on an intercept course. Roughly frigate-sized, with armaments on par with standard heavy escorts." Keliaya@anncarise: "Unknown design, but appears to run on a standard warp drive. It's headed towards us at Warp 8.8." Keelah@crystyll takes her seat, "Quite the rush for a welcome party. Open a channel" Keliaya@anncarise FX | An armoured alien appears on the viewscreen: https://i.imgur.com/KNcOIzZ.jpg Keliaya@anncarise | Alien: "This is Guardian Captain Daian. Do not approach Azakos for your own sakes and those already on the planet. We will not try to stop you if you continue further, but we will not be able - Keliaya@anncarise: - to guarantee your safety. Attend the tournaments at your own peril." Keelah@crystyll perks a brow, "An odd greeting considering this tournament draws attention from across the region" Keliaya@anncarise | Daian: "That is precisely why you should not attend. Guardian scouts report that the Horde builds an army not far from here. They sense large clusters of Children and it draws their attention. - Keliaya@anncarise: - The more people gather for the tournament, the more risk you will all be in." Keelah@crystyll: "It is for exactly this reason that we are haeding towards the tournament. It was our hope to gain an audience with the Queen and warn her about this gathering force" Keliaya@anncarise | Daian: "You know about this force as well? How?" Keelah@crystyll: "We had a Regulator vessel scout the location recently. We are part of a coalition of local forces rallying to aid the Guardians against the Horde's march. Our mission specifically is to end the + Keelah@crystyll: + Horde threat once and for all" Keliaya@anncarise | Daian: "I have heard rumours that a different group was forming to battle the Horde. We welcome any assistance you can provide, but I see from this video feed that many if not all of you are - Keliaya@anncarise: - among the Children. I must first board your vessel and ensure that your people are not under the influence of the Horde already." Keelah@crystyll: "I assure you that we are not as we have developed countermeasures against it." she smiles, "But you would be most welcome to join us, we have searched for the Guardians for a long time now" Keliaya@anncarise | Daian: "You will forgive me if I do not take your word for it. Those under Horde influence never know that they are. We will arrive at your location soon, and we will send a team over to see - Keliaya@anncarise: - for ourselves." Keelah@crystyll: "We look forward to it. I suggest you prepare for a cordial approach however. Any attempt to force your way on board will not end well, but I'm sure we can all be friends" Keliaya@anncarise | Daian: "We will not attempt to force our way on board, so long as you are willing to receive us. Expect us shortly." Keelah@crystyll nods, "Excellent. We'll provide coordinates and clearance as soon as we're in formation. Valley Forge out" Keliaya@anncarise FX | The comm ends. Keelah@crystyll looks around, "Silvestrie, Kazra; you're on the welcoming committee with me" Keliaya@anncarise | Silvestrie and Kazra nod, heading over to the turbolift. Keelah@crystyll heads over as well, "Vrolmacht, you have the conn. Tee, update our representatives and advise them on the possibility of a debrief" Mana@anncarise | Keelah, Kazra and Silvestrie await in the transporter room as Katie announces, "Guardian team is arriving now." Keelah@crystyll stands ready, "Energize" Mana@anncarise FX | Five transporter beams appear on the pad and from them five individuals materialize. The Guardian team is as diverse as any Starfleet away team, perhaps even more so. Guardian-Captain Daian - Mana@anncarise - is the only one of her kind visible in the group. Beside her stands a member of a species the VF has previously encountered, both on Terminu and previously as the raiders who lured them into - Mana@anncarise: - the subspace prison. This one is dressed in different, more ornate armour than the rest of the party and could not appear more different from the desperate raiders and refugees they had seen before. Mana@anncarise | Instead, this alien holds a spear in one hand with the posture of a disciplined warrior, and a device is attached to the other arm which likely provides a shield when active. Mana@anncarise FX | https://i.imgur.com/EQm6YS0.jpg Mana@anncarise | Behind the two stands two more unfamiliar aliens, both armoured and like their Captain, quite heavily armed. Mana@anncarise | One male alien has a rifle behind his back, a pistol on one side of his hip and a short blade on the other. Mana@anncarise FX | https://i.imgur.com/M61ZgSQ.png Mana@anncarise | The female alien has a hood and some form of metallic mask obscuring her face. She carries a longer rifle and a longer blade both on her back, and two pistols on her hips. Mana@anncarise FX | https://i.imgur.com/CkVI6lG.jpg Mana@anncarise | At the rear is another familiar alien, appearing to be of the same species as the Captain of the first Guardian ship they had encountered. He carries some kind of kit on his back, with his only - Mana@anncarise: - weapons on his hips, a pistol, a slightly longer weapon that is shaped like a submachine gun, and a knife across the back of his belt, as well as a scanner. Mana@anncarise | Captain Daian herself is armed as well, with a rifle on her back, a pistol on one side and a handle-like object on the other. Mana@anncarise | Katie: "All weapons should be disabled during transport, Captain. Except for the bladed ones, of course..." Keelah@crystyll nods, "Thank you Katie" looking to their guests, "Your weapons are not necessary, and also non-functional here" Keelah@crystyll: "You can leave your blades here for safekeeping while you are on board" she gestures for Silvestrie to collect them up Mana@anncarise | Daian: "We mean you no harm, but a Guardian does not travel without defenses." She looks to the male at the back of the group and gives him a nod. He takes out his scanner, stepping up to - Mana@anncarise: - Keelah and the others to scan them. Keelah@crystyll stands firm, "Perform your scans if it will satisfy you. From there you can either beam back, or surrender your armaments for safe keeping. Either way, I will not permit anyone beyond this room with+ Keelah@crystyll: + weapons. This is a family ship and my responsibility is to the safety of my crew first" Mana@anncarise | He looks over the scan data for a few seconds before turning back and giving Daian a nod, "They're good." Keelah@crystyll nods at the conclusion, "With that done, I assume we can proceed more cordially?" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Alright. Turn over your weapons." Mana@anncarise | The team turns over their weapons, with the masked female giving Daian a quirk of her head as she does. Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Yes. Even your hidden ones, Inyari." Keelah@crystyll: "You may have someone remain here to ensure they are not tampered with if you so wish it, though I assure you nothing of the sort will take place on board this vessel" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "That will not be necessary. You are not influenced by the Horde, and we have no reason to suspect you of any ill intentions towards us." Mana@anncarise | Meanwhile, the masked alien takes out a number of hidden weapons, with Silvestrie looking surprised at just how many she's keeping on her. Keelah@crystyll: "Excellent" she smiles, "Now, you will forgive our own precautions. Kazra" she nods to proceed with their own scan Mana@anncarise | Kazra steps up to them and performs a scan before looking back to Keelah, "It definitely doesn't match Horde influence, but there is /something/ odd about their neural signatures." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "It is how we defend against them, the details of which we do not disclose lightly." Keelah@crystyll: "As we do not with our defenses. That will be sufficient Kazra, thank you" Mana@anncarise | Kazra nods and puts the tricorder away. Keelah@crystyll steps forward finally, "With that messiness out of the way, allow me to properly welcome you aboard the Valley Forge. I am Captain Se'Lai, this is my Chief Security Officer and Chief Medical Officer+ Keelah@crystyll: + - Silvestrie & Kazra" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, motioning to the alien in ornate armour who previously held the spear, "This is close quarters specialist Knight Jul-Chim," then to the previously unseen male alien, "Assault - Mana@anncarise: - specialist Tulgon," then the masked female, "Markswoman Inyari" and finally the one who had scanned them, "and medical specialist Valtar." Keelah@crystyll: "It is our pleasure to welcome you all on board. No doubt you have as many questions of us, as we do of you" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I imagine so. I will answer what I can, but I would suggest saving most of your non-urgent queries, as we have a situation to resolve first with Azakos." Keelah@crystyll: "Indeed, we must look to the immediate threat first. We can move to a more comfortable briefing room, or offer you the use of a mess facility if you wish to indulge in some refreshment while here" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "The briefing room sounds good." Keelah@crystyll gestures to the door with a diplomatic smile, "Right this way then" leading the way to the nearby briefing room Keelah@crystyll | The visitors would notice armed guards stationed outside the transporter room, as well as certain doorways they pass along the route, most likely to restricted areas Keelah@crystyll | They make their way into the briefing room where other senior staff and representatives await them Mana@anncarise | The Guardians approach the table, with Daian giving Keelah a glance for permission before she sits down. Keelah@crystyll gestures, "Please" inviting them all to sit before taking her own seat Mana@anncarise | The Guardians sit down, with Daian taking the seat closest to Keelah and Inyari sitting furthest from her among the group. Keelah@crystyll: "The rest of my senior staff" she gestures to those in Starfleet uniform including Lennie, Kelly & Vrolmacht. "And representatives from our coalition" gesturing to Mana, Vulture, Relay and whoever + Keelah@crystyll: + else is here. "And, the Architect" she smiles, saving the best for last, and not just forgetting him... Mana@anncarise | Jul-Chim looks across at the Architect curiously, "A live Creator? How?" Mana@anncarise | The Architect: "It is a complicated story. I recognize some of you, yet some are unfamiliar to me." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Many of us among the Guardians are the last of our kind." Keelah@crystyll: "The Architect was recovered from a form of stasis within the heart of what was the Lupan's Holy City" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "You have a diverse coalition indeed. Perhaps as much so as our own order." Keelah@crystyll: "This is a representation of all the powers in this region who have joined forces to stand with us against the Horde" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Such a force will be useful against the Horde indeed. You say this is a...family ship?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "Our mission started out as long term exploration, not unlike the An. And part of Starfleet's mandate is that officers should not be separated from their families for such long periods" Keelah@crystyll: "We were not aware of the Horde threat at the time of that departure..." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Yet you are still committed to standing against them?" Keelah@crystyll: "We all know the risks of service when we put on the uniform. It is what we do" Keelah@crystyll: "Were we closer to Federation space, we would have most likely returned and allowed a better suited combat vessel to take our place. But we have travelled for years to reach this far" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I admire your dedication. I can take you to the nearest Command Post when my mission here is complete. It will be better for you and your coalition to coordinate with us rather than - Mana@anncarise: - acting independently." Keelah@crystyll: "It would certainly be prudent for us to establish proper communications. Though at the moment, most of the coalitions focus is on recovering Terminu" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Recovering Terminu?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "Terminu fell to the Horde shortly after their assault on the Lupan's Holy City. Allied forces contained them there however, and have combined their resources to recover the people there from + Keelah@crystyll: + Horde influence" Mana@anncarise | Valtar: "We've saved people who have recently fallen under Horde influence before, but an entire planet? That's a big effort." Keelah@crystyll: "Which is why it's taking the combined efforts of the Regulators, Arshai, Lupan, An and Nuhar" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Terminu is a collection of scattered refugee settlements, not a full civilization. It's still a lot of work, but it may be possible there. But we're both here about Azakos now, not - Mana@anncarise: - Terminu. I take it from your determination to dissuade the Zihil that you know the threat the tournament poses already?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "After assessing the Horde fleet building in the area we surmised that this was the target. It is far greater a force than they would need to make an attempt on Terminu again, and this was the+ Keelah@crystyll: + next most likely gathering of the Children we could conceive. Given the nature of the tournament, we can't afford to let so many capable fighters fall to the Horde" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I agree. Unfortunately, the Zihil won't listen to us. You however, aren't affiliated with the Guardians. They might listen to you." Keelah@crystyll perks a brow, "The Zihil and the Guardians have a checkered history I take it?" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, "You're well-informed, Captain Se'Lai. But what you may not know is that we started the tournaments. The Guardians first encountered the Zihil about two millennia ago. We formed a - Mana@anncarise: - mutually beneficial agreement. The tournaments would bring resources to the planet and the champions would provide genetic data to enhance the Zihil. In return, we would have a test for the - Mana@anncarise: - greatest warriors of the region, which we would offer to recruit." Keelah@crystyll: "Sounds like a good arrangement. So what happened?" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Recently, the Zihil have decided to cut us out. They're taking the champions and offering them some different deal, and any Guardians who set foot on their planet are treated with - Mana@anncarise: - hostility. We helped them set up the tournament and spread the word, but now that everyone already knows about the famous Arena World, we're not necessary anymore. I don't think the Zihil take the - Mana@anncarise: - Horde seriously either. They're not Children and not susceptible to their control. They still have vast numbers, but they're a little less scary without their mental domination." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Plus, the Horde have a history of leaving non-Children species be. The problem is, the Zihil might not be Children, but their tournament attracts all sorts of different people. And the - Mana@anncarise: - Horde don't exactly care about taking out non-targets along the way. It's not that they intentionally spare non-Children species. It's just that sometimes they don't know they're there." Keelah@crystyll: "But once they are drawn to the gathering of Children, the Zihil will be in their way" she nods Keelah@crystyll: "We heard that the Zihil were gathering genetic samples from their arena champions. Do you know to what end?" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "The Zihil aren't a product of natural evolution. They're genetically engineered. That's what they're using samples for. Find the best physical specimens through the tournaments and - Mana@anncarise: - analyze their genetics for ways to improve their own." Keelah@crystyll: "Fair enough. So the question remains is how we convince of the threat, and what we convince them to do about it..." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "We have records and data showing when the Horde rolled over non-target civilizations in their way. You'll probably have to be convincing and not just throw information at them, but the - Mana@anncarise: - records'll help. And since the Zihil won't hear us out, that's the most we can do to help you. As for what to do..." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Well we could use genetically engineered warriors who are immune to Horde influence, but I don't have much hope of the Zihil being willing to fight for us. If you can talk them into - Mana@anncarise: - stopping any future tournaments, it'll be good enough. Just announce to everyone present at this one that it'll be the last tournament for a little while, and if any more show up next time, turn - Mana@anncarise: - them away. We've already made a few visitors turn back, but we can't convince everyone and we don't have the ships to both fight the Horde and maintain a blockade around here." Keelah@crystyll: "What if the massing Horde fleet moves against the Zihil world during this tournament?" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "We have Rangers running interference with the Horde fleet, trying to slow them down as much as possible. Our latest intel says they haven't been able to move out yet, and it'll take - Mana@anncarise: - them time to get here. They won't make it for this tournament, and if they don't sense a gathering of Children by the time they do get here, they probably won't come to this world." Keelah@crystyll: "Well that certainly takes some of the immediate pressure off" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Still, we need to resolve this during this tournament. It'll probably be too late by the time the next one comes around." Keelah@crystyll: "Agreed. What can you tell us about the Zihil themselves? Are they likely to respond well to us; an unknown vessel flying in with messages of warning?" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I don't think they'll be able to hear you. The regular ones don't exactly talk. Your best chance is having someone win one of the tournaments. They're talking to all the Champions now - Mana@anncarise: - to offer them whatever alternative deal they're making, and I think they have a degree of respect for the winners of the tournaments." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I've never talked to them before, but from what our records say, they have a 'survival of the fittest' mentality. The tougher you are, the more they respect you." Keelah@crystyll: "As we suspected. Fortunately, we have already accounted for this contingency. I had... simply hoped to avoid it" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I'm not sure if that would be possible. You do have a potential champion to enter, I hope?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "As I said, we are well prepared for that eventuality" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "You can try broadcasting when you approach the planet, but I doubt anyone'll respond. You might have to get their attention through the tournaments." Keelah@crystyll: "I had a feeling that would be the case" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Anything else you want to know about the situation at hand, or our organization in general?" Keelah@crystyll: "We certainly would like to learn more about the Guardians and your experiences with the Horde" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "As you no doubt already know, we're dedicated to fighting the Horde. But in reality we spend most of our time convincing worlds to evacuate and then helping them with evacuations." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "There's too much of them and not enough of us. We've defended worlds successfully before, but all that does is buy more time. Every time the Horde comes back with greater numbers, and - Mana@anncarise: - we have to fall back. It's not glamourous work. Often times we have to decide who to save and who dies, and there's not always a right choice." Keelah@crystyll nods solemnly, "A stark reality many of us have come to terms with back at Terminu" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "As for the Horde itself, we know more about them than most. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that they're not your conventional army." Keelah@crystyll: "That much is a given. With our recent observations we have also learned a great deal about them" Keelah@crystyll: "Namely; their reproduction, and also a theory about a hive mind being strengthened by it's numbers" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "You're right about that. They combine the neural power of all their hosts. The more of them there are in one place, the smarter they become." Keelah@crystyll: "As we suspected" she looks to her staff, "We should continue to analyse the data from Terminu to see about a more reliable means of disrupting this" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "A single Horde thrall when taken away from the vicinity of other thralls is just a feral beast, with extremely limited intelligence. But a ship of them can perform maneuvers and use - Mana@anncarise: - strategy. A whole fleet can employ complex tactics and counter enemy formations. We have ways to disrupt them, but it's also not something we share. All I can say is that it's connected to how we - Mana@anncarise: - resist Horde control. We're not Guardians just because we're immune to being dominated. While there's some among us who have immunity through other means, like not being one of the Children, - Mana@anncarise: - most of us are specialized to fight the Horde." Keelah@crystyll: "Of course. We have also previously developed a means of disrupting their vessels' coordination. But are still analysing our newest data in order to refine it" Keelah@crystyll: "Terminu has been our first opportunity to study them up close for an extended period" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "They only have new thralls there, I imagine?" Keelah@crystyll: "As far as we know" she nods, "Though having not been privvy to the majority of the combat there I can not speak for the likelihood of survivors from the ships being on the surface" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "You mentioned their reproduction. You no doubt already know how they breed us like animals and often hybridize different species together to enhance their strongest traits without care - Mana@anncarise: - for amplifying flaws." Keelah@crystyll nods, "Mia" she gestures Keelah@crystyll | Mia turns and activates a screen to playback her recordings of the facility on Terminu Mana@anncarise | Daian nods with a mix of faint sadness and anger on her face, "We've seen far too many of those. This is still on a very small scale. When they dominate entire civilizations with billions of - Mana@anncarise: - people, they turn the largest structures into breeding factories. To them, people are just resources to be produced, used and recycled." Keelah@crystyll: "I am curious what you know of the greater Horde consciousness. Is there - to your knowledge - a central controlling element?" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Not that we know of. We think there's a part of the Horde in every thrall. They rewrite brains and connect them all together." Keelah@crystyll: "This is problematic..." Keelah@crystyll: "Until recently we had been under the impression that the Horde was simply the visible fighting force of an unseen Primeval" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "That's what most people who know of the Horde think as well. But we've never found any sort of central 'overmind' that we can destroy, otherwise we would've targeted and destroyed them - Mana@anncarise: - long ago. Our Rangers have become very adept at operating in their territory unseen." Keelah@crystyll: "Well I'm sure there are many at the table here who would welcome the opportunity to swap stories and share tips on that front" she smiles Mana@anncarise | Daian: "There are theories that the Horde might be able to be overwritten by inducing something different into them. Perhaps even controlled. We've done experiments, but they've never amounted - Mana@anncarise: - to anything usable. We still have people doing research, but the best we've managed over all these years are the abilities we have now." Keelah@crystyll: "Well every little helps. Even disrupting them short term is better than nothing" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Exactly. We've also developed a classification system for their thralls, based on their specialties and weaknesses. It helps with fighting them inside ships and on the ground. But as - Mana@anncarise: - you won't run into any Horde thralls here at the Zihil world, we can go over that later." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "For now, we'll send you the information that'll hopefully help convince the Zihil. If there's nothing else?" Keelah@crystyll: "Of course. We should continue on our way as soon as possible" Mana@anncarise | Daian stands, with the other Guardians following suit. "We'll stay here and continue to dissuade people from coming. We've managed to turn away a few competitors and hopefully we'll be able to - Mana@anncarise: - convince a couple more and make things easier for your prospective champion." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Good luck with the tournament, and convincing the Zihil." Keelah@crystyll: "Yeah... I won't tell her that. She might not want to compete if it's not against /everyone/" she chuckles Keelah@crystyll: "And to you with your mission. Silvestrie here can show you back to the transporter room" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, "Thank you." She and her team turn to follow Silvestrie out.
View Act II
Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 FX | Twelve hours after meeting the Guardians, the VF approaches the Arena World... Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 | Fisher: "Dropping out of warp in 30 seconds." Keelah@crystyll: "Standby on sensors for cursory sweep and prepare to intiate contact" Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 | The VF drops out of warp around a planet surrounded by a large variety of ships of all sizes and designs. Keelah@crystyll takes it all in, "I guess the Guardians were not able to turn /that/ many away" Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 | Kelly: "There's ships from all over the region, as we expected. Lupan, Eltreiah, Toroki, Rider, Carran and plenty of designs we don't recognize. The planet has surprisingly low tech signatures - Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: - though. There's definitely technology and structures down there, but nowhere near enough to house even a small population." Keelah@crystyll: "Any opening comms traffic for us?" Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: "We have a message. Looks like an automated list of instructions given in a large number of languages. I'm reading through it now." Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: "I'm also sensing something very old and powerful at the centre of the planet. It's not like the one we encountered in the subspace trap, this one doesn't have any telepathic capability. But it is a - Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: - massive mind. Very likely the centre of the Zihil hive." Keelah@crystyll: "Stands to reason. Must be quite the powerful mind to stand out in this crowd" Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 nods, "It's nothing like anything else here." Keelah@crystyll: "How about those instructsion. Anything jumping out?" Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 taps her console some more, "I have coordinates for where they want visitors, traders and participants of the various tournaments to head down to. Other than that, just a list of rules. There's - Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: - the usual laws you'd expect, no killing, no stealing, but a lot of it is dedicated to no harming the natural ecosystem or polluting the planet." Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: "I don't think the Zihil have a concept of proportional punishment, either. If any rule is broken, they will attack, and if the lawbreaker gets away alive, they'll be attacked if they ever come - Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: - back. It's play by their rules or don't come at all." Keelah@crystyll: "At least they're clear about it. Ensure Captain Vix has a copy of those and advise her to rendezvous with us on the ground" Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 nods, "Forwarding it to the QanwI' now." Keelah@crystyll: "Well then, any volunteers to go and cheer Captain Vix on? By which I mean, keep any eye on her of course..." Evanne Dra@annpc#5570: "I can keep an eye on her, and see if I can find another way to communicate with the Zihil while I'm there." Keelah@crystyll nods, glancing the other way, "And yes Vrolmacht, go before you burst. Stars forbid I try and stand between a Klingon and a ritual of brutal combat" Evanne Dra@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht grins and nods back, "Thank you, Captain." He moves towards the turbolift with Eva. --- NPK@annpc#5570 FX | https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D4E0GNaXsAEoucr.jpg NPK@annpc#5570 | Lexi, Vrolmacht and Eva beam down to the middle of a courtyard. Around them, they can see people of various species, a highly diverse gathering of visitors. The area is extremely natural and - NPK@annpc#5570 - serene, with clear reflective pools, trees in the middle of the courtyard and various birds and critters among the sentient beings. The peaceful view is somewhat disrupted by the presence of - NPK@annpc#5570 - very aggressive-looking insectoid beings. NPK@annpc#5570 | The first form crawls among the various visitors, often operating machinery or carrying objects around on their backs. NPK@annpc#5570 FX | https://i.imgur.com/ul01jJw.jpg NPK@annpc#5570 | The second kind are seen primarily on the rooftops and bear some resemblence to the first, though they are winged. Every once in a while, they can be observed flying from rooftop to rooftop. NPK@annpc#5570 FX | https://i.imgur.com/guLVrfK.jpg NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht: "I can see what the Guardians meant by genetically engineered. These insectoids appear...hyper-predatorial, yet are completely peaceful among everyone and everything else." Lexi@crystyll: "And here I thought the Torokei were charmers" Lexi@crystyll looks him up and down, "So, big guy; you here to play? Or would that be too great a risk to that nice crisp uniform?" she smirks, clearly teasing NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht: "I am only here to observe." NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva: "Viewers and competitors are supposed to go to different places. We can see you to where you need to go first." Lexi@crystyll: "Sure. Good to take in the sights" NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva nods, "This way." NPK@annpc#5570 | As they make their way through the plaza, three yellow-brown furred Lupan step in their way. NPK@annpc#5570 | Lupan: "I recognize those outfits. You are from the Star-Blade, yes?" NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht nods, "That is correct." NPK@annpc#5570 | Lupan: "Have you come to compete?" Lexi@crystyll glances to her associates, "Have you guys been out making friends without me again?" NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva shakes her head, "I don't believe we've never met them before." NPK@annpc#5570 | Lupan: "No, we have not had the chance to face you, but we have heard of your prowess." NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht: "We are not here to fight, but Captain Vix of the QanwI' is." NPK@annpc#5570 | The Lupan looks to Lexi, "Such a little one?" NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht: "You will do well not to underestimate her." Lexi@crystyll: "See, this is the downside of a cloak. /Everyone/ knews the ship that just lumbers around like a big old space whale. Folks never pick up on the one who does all the real work..." Lexi@crystyll shakes her head in disappointment with her own commentary NPK@annpc#5570 | Lupan: "So you claim much of the achievements the Star-Blade is attributed with rightly belongs to you?" Lexi@crystyll shrugs, "Only those worth staking a claim to.." NPK@annpc#5570 | Lupan: "We will see if that is true. The Arena will test your mettle. I hope to meet you within, for only in battle will we truly get to know one another." Lexi@crystyll gives a curt nod, "Spoken like a true warrior. If you survive long enough to meet my blade, it will be my honour to defeat you" NPK@annpc#5570 | The three Lupan head off. NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva: "Why do I have the feeling this is going to happen a lot..." Lexi@crystyll: "Serves you guys right for making such a reputation for yourselves" she smirks NPK@annpc#5570 | The team proceeds through the area some more when they notice a small, bunny-like creature skittering past in front of them. Close behind it, a humanoid alien gives chase, with two others - NPK@annpc#5570 - shouting after him in a language the translators haven't picked up yet. The alien yells something back and corners the creature by the edge of a pond. Lexi@crystyll observes curiously NPK@annpc#5570 | The frightened critter gives a squeak, and before the alien has a chance to do anything else, one of the flying insectoids swoop down from the rooftops and without warning, impales him with the - NPK@annpc#5570 - two appendages from its back. The insectoid doesn't even stop its flight path, carrying off the screaming alien until both disappear into the nearby jungle. Lexi@crystyll watches, "Huh..." NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva: "They are not exaggerating about how seriously they take the rules..." Lexi@crystyll: "Note to self; don't walk on the grass" NPK@annpc#5570 | The group continue forward until they reach a building labelled: High Tournament Registration. A pair of Riders walk inside in front of them. NPK@annpc#5570 | They step inside to a lobby area, with a hallway labelled: Enter Competitors. NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva: "I think this is where we part ways." Lexi@crystyll: "Seems so. Well, enjoy the show!" she beams, heading in with a cheery wave NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht: "Good luck, Captain Vix." Lexi@crystyll glances back as she disappears from their view, giving him a proud salute, "Qapl'a!" NPK@annpc#5570 | As Lexi proceeds down the hall, she enters a different room. One of the Riders from before is in front of her, and a Toroki steps out from beside her. NPK@annpc#5570 | From small tunnels on the side of the room, two of the crawling insectoids emerge, One examines the Rider and turns, leading him to one exit of the room while another examines the Toroki and - NPK@annpc#5570 - heads for another exit. A few seconds later, Lexi hears battle cries, weapons fire, a yell, and then silence. NPK@annpc#5570 | The insectoid re-emerges from the tunnel (or maybe it's another, they all look the same) and examines Lexi, before moving one blade-like appendage up to tap Lexi's bat'leth. Lexi@crystyll watches, content to let it examine her weapon, "If you like it, I'm sure I can arrange to have a spare one sent down here for you" she quips NPK@annpc#5570 | The insectoid simply turns as it finishes examining her weapon, leading her down the way the Rider was taken. Lexi@crystyll follows muttering, "No accounting for taste..." NPK@annpc#5570 | Lexi is led into a chamber that resembles a holodeck, entering just in time to see another insectoid dragging the Rider's corpse into a nearby tunnel, leaving behind a trail of blood. The - NPK@annpc#5570: - insectoid that lead her in also crawls out the tunnel before both the exit and the tunnel disappear from view, leaving her in an empty chamber. Lexi@crystyll slowly makes her way into the centre, drawing her weapon in anticipation NPK@annpc#5570 | A few seconds after she draws her weapon, a hologram of one of the Guardian species appears. NPK@annpc#5570 FX | https://i.imgur.com/3GsWXwO.jpg NPK@annpc#5570 | The hologram holds a longsword and immediately raises it in a ready posture. Lexi@crystyll almost views it with disdain in disappointment, lowering into a ready stance as she encircles her prey NPK@annpc#5570 | After a few moments, the hologram steps forward and strikes with his sword. Lexi@crystyll parries the blow, moving into a quick flourish to bring the opposing tip of her blade down through the holo NPK@annpc#5570 | The holo jumps back after the parry, avoiding the counterattack in time. It appears to have been programmed at least somewhat competently at combat. NPK@annpc#5570 | It resumes its defensive posture again, circling Lexi. Lexi@crystyll pushes the offensive as it backs away, feignting left and right and going with a more classic Klingon brute force relentless asasult. Good to warm up the day with NPK@annpc#5570 | The holo parries fairly effectively, though it is forced to step back several times by the assault. Lexi@crystyll pushes it as far as she feels she can before thrusting high and forwards with the blade held outright, aiming to catch it in the jaw and throw it off it's feet NPK@annpc#5570 | The hologram is hit and thrown off its feet! It tries to roll and recover to get back up as soon as it can. Lexi@crystyll anticipates the roll and aims her powerful downswing accordingly NPK@annpc#5570 | The downswing finishes off the hologram and it disappears! In its place, a standard-looking energy rifle materializes. Lexi@crystyll gives the weapon a funny look before retrieving it and inspecting it closely, figuring they want to test her with different options NPK@annpc#5570 | As she retrieves the rifle, holos of three of the flying insectoids appear and immediately take to the air. Lexi@crystyll holds her ground, carefully tracking them, gauging speed and manouvering before she takes her first shot, aiming to move from one to the next in quick succession and keep them from sweeping in at her Lexi@crystyll: rolls 98 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570 | Lexi manages to take out all three holos quickly before they have a chance to attack her! NPK@annpc#5570 | The rifle disappears, and an exit appears on the other end of the room from where she entered. Lexi@crystyll cracks her knuckles and heads out the shown path NPK@annpc#5570 | The shown path takes her out to another hall, and soon a crawling insectoid emerges from a tunnel, once again beginning to lead her through hallways quietly. Lexi@crystyll continues to follow NPK@annpc#5570 | The insectoid eventually leads her into a very small room with what appears to be a large transporter room, with another insectoid operating it. The insectoid leading her retrieves a datapad, - NPK@annpc#5570 - handing it to Lexi. Lexi@crystyll takes it in hand, glancing back, "Um... thanks?" she offers, looking to the datapad NPK@annpc#5570 | The datapad appears to be programmed with a large number of text data. The open page instructs Lexi to return to this room once the announcement for Round 1.6 of the High Tournament is received. Lexi@crystyll takes note and looks around for her next move, presumably an exit point NPK@annpc#5570 | It also contains a map of the facility she is in now and says that she may return to her ship or use one of the guest rooms in the building until she is called. Lexi@crystyll not spotting anything obvious when she looks around the room, checks the map for an exit NPK@annpc#5570 | The map shows her a way back to the lobby she came in at. Lexi@crystyll follows the map and heads back to the lobby NPK@annpc#5570 | Many prospective champions are still coming and going from the lobby. Lexi enters to see Vrolmacht and Eva already there waiting for her. Lexi@crystyll approaches the pair, "Been just mulling around here waiting for me? I feel so warm and fuzzy" she quips NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva chuckles, "Actually, we had to go and get tickets. It's not cheap to watch you, apparently. But we got that done before you finished up here." Lexi@crystyll beams, "Good to see they know value when it's in front of them" NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva: "Well, it's another day until the tournament starts. I assume they told you to come back here when it's time?" Lexi@crystyll shows Eva the datapad, "I have my 'grouping' and have been told to await a summons" NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva nods and takes the datapad, "Is it just me, or does the whole thing feel very automated? They have been doing this for a while and probably refined the process to a science, but dealing - NPK@annpc#5570: - with the Zihil is like using a computer. I can't read them because their minds are so different, but from these interactions, they don't feel like a people. More just...biological machinery." Lexi@crystyll: "Maybe that's an accurate description for these drones. Maybe they're not even capable of communicating directly with the likes of us" NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht nods, "It would seem so from our experience so far." NPK@annpc#5570 | Eva: "So, should we return to the ship until the tournament is on?" Lexi@crystyll: "You guys won't do so well making contact with new people from back there will you know? Besides, easier for me to scope out my competition down here" NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht: "That is true. We will remain here and see what else we can learn, then." Lexi@crystyll gestures forth, "Well lead on the Starfleet. This is what you do best after all, right?" NPK@annpc#5570 | Vrolmacht nods and leads the way back out the building to explore the area further... NPK@annpc#5570: | The next day, Lexi enters the same building again. As per tournament rules, she has to leave her own weapons behind and one of the insectoids leads her to a guest room first where she must change - NPK@annpc#5570: - into a generic jumpsuit. Lexi@crystyll: accepts the weapon ditch begrudgingly but turns her nose up at the jumpsuit, "What in grethor am I supposed to use this for, a napkin?" NPK@annpc#5570: | The insectoid simply points at the jumpsuit with one bladed appendage, then points at her. Lexi@crystyll: "No way! My armour is part of me!" she snarls NPK@annpc#5570: | The insectoid repeats the motion. Lexi@crystyll: sighs, "...Fine! But no peeking!" grumbling more Klingon profanity as she moves to get changed NPK@annpc#5570: | The insectoid skitters away outside the room. Lexi@crystyll: emerges a short time later, frowning heavier than usual and constantly plucking at the clingy fabric, "So this is how you get your viewer ratings up..." NPK@annpc#5570: | The insectoid simply continues leading the way silently. Lexi@crystyll: mutters as she follows, "Yeah, I see you looking too. With those eyes all over the place..." Lexi@crystyll: "Not that I blame you of course. I do remember how unsufferably low male willpower is after all" Lexi@crystyll: tilts her head, looking at the insectoid, "If you even are male. I wonder if you people even have genders? Maybe several of them. Now thats a party" NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi hears a voice behind her, "I don't think they've got any genders. I'm told they're all bred by some queen deep inside the planet." Lexi@crystyll: turns to see who is there NPK@annpc#5570: | A male Rider steps up, also wearing a jumpsuit and being led by an insectoid, "Pretty sure they make us wear those so we all start the same." Lexi@crystyll: "Yeah..." she looks him up and down, "But they don't need to be this damned... eugh, tight!" she again tries to pluck the fabric from her flesh NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider smirks, "Don't complain to me. But you do look good in it." Lexi@crystyll: grins smugly, "Of course I do. That's why they make this way. It may be about even starts, but it's also about entertainment" NPK@annpc#5570: | Rider: "Probably. We're all gonna be watched, after all." NPK@annpc#5570: | They are led into the large transporter room, which is now filled with people, mostly wearing the same jumpsuits with some exceptions such as Lupan. NPK@annpc#5570: | The insectoids leading them point out their spots on the pads before skittering off. Lexi@crystyll: takes her place, "Well I would wish you luck out there, but... yeah. Best I can say is; I hope for your sakes you do not get in my way" NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider nods, "I'll try my best to stay out of it." NPK@annpc#5570: | After a few more arrivals enter the room, they all dematerialize... NPK@annpc#5570: FX | https://i.imgur.com/xYNhyde.jpg NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi materializes alone in the middle of what appears to be deep jungle. NPK@annpc#5570: | The sound of chirping birds and buzzing insects fill the air around her. Lexi@crystyll: immediately looks around to get her bearings and begins to hunt around for supplies. And prey Lexi@crystyll: rolls 51 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | She manages to spot a satchel hidden away in the undergrowth. There is only some basic survival tools within- a rope, a knife, a lighter and a flashlight. NPK@annpc#5570: | There is plenty of room inside the satchel for her to carry things as she finds them. Lexi@crystyll: takes it as a win, slinging the satchel across her back while moving to slip the knife through her belt. Cursing when it meets nothing but silky fabric Lexi@crystyll: instead tears a hole in the sleeve of one arm and sheathes the knife in there NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 47 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Once Lexi finishes storing the knife and moves on, she soon hears some rustling in nearby bushes. Lexi@crystyll: stays low and quiet. Slowly stalking her way around and readying the blade NPK@annpc#5570: | A minute later, the creature emerges, appearing to be a capybara-like creature. It doesn't seem dangerous. Lexi@crystyll: ignores it and continues her hunt Lexi@crystyll: rolls 4 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi searches for a good half hour without finding anything, when she sees a flash and hears a shot nearby. Lexi@crystyll: figures someone got a luckier first find and begins stalking her way nearer to assess the target NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi makes her way over to a clearing where she can see a closed supply chest and the body of a dead alien nearby. Someone has either set this up as a trap, or taken advantage of the location of a - NPK@annpc#5570: - supply chest to lure enemies in. Either way, the chest will not be safe to approach, not immediately at least. Lexi@crystyll: watches the surrounding area for signs of the trapper Lexi@crystyll: rolls 35 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | There are tracks, but it is difficult to say whether this is the trapper, the alien who fell for the trap or someone else. NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 90 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: follows the trail, avoiding encroaching on the trap, and looking for more clues as she hunts NPK@annpc#5570: | Following the trail takes Lexi on top of an elevated ridge, where she finds the body of a member of the species that lured VF into the subspace prison. Judging by its location overlooking the - NPK@annpc#5570: - clearing, this was most likely the trapper, but his throat has been slit and whatever he had on him was likely taken by his killer. Lexi@crystyll: checks the body still while scanning her surroundings. Figuring someone might be lurking still Lexi@crystyll: rolls 29 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | There is nothing of value on the body. However, there are tracks leading away from it that likely did not belong to this alien but someone a little larger. Lexi@crystyll: follows, content to let the weaker prey wipe each other out until one worthy of her attention appears. Always looking for supplies and opportunities Lexi@crystyll: rolls 77 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 35 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: Lexi follows the tracks to a large reptilian with a similar satchel to hers and holding an energy rifle. The reptilian doesn't appear to have noticed her following. Lexi@crystyll: uses her small size and agility to get around and ahead of the reptile. Quickly slinging up the rope to form a snare from a tree branch. Then waits for it to catch up NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 82 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The reptilian does catch up, but it is alert and stops ahead of walking into Lexi's setup, beginning to look around for her with rifle ready. Lexi@crystyll: grins expectantly as she appears from behind the tree with a faux-startled 'woop' before she 'tries' to run away in a panic only to appear to trip over a rock and disppear into a bush NPK@annpc#5570: | The reptilian spins around and fires only to see her disappear into a bush, and steps over cautiously to investigate. Lexi@crystyll: waits for him to follow her right into the snare she laid NPK@annpc#5570: | He holds his rifle ready to fire, sniffing and trying to detect Lexi and totally missing the snare... Lexi@crystyll: silently curses the lumbering reptile and waits instead for him to get close enough that she can leap up on it's back, knife at the ready to take out an eye or two NPK@annpc#5570: | The reptile gets closer... Lexi@crystyll: rolls 54 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi juuust manages to jump onto its back and stab it in the eye, causing it to shriek in pain. However, Lexi isn't able to stay on it and slips down, leaving her knife embedded in the reptile. NPK@annpc#5570: | Fortunately, the attack has also made the reptile drop his rifle, and he swings a large fist around semi-blindly to counterattack, missing Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: drops and tries to roll through it's legs, knocking it to the ground while rolling across the rifle to retrieve it and get ina finishing shot Lexi@crystyll: rolls 93 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi knocks the reptilian down and grabs the rifle in one fluid motion, finishing it off before it has the chance to recover. Lexi@crystyll: scopes the surroundings, staying prone and low as she checks nobody else has been drawn to the sound of their conflict before scavanging the reptile NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 28 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The shot does not appear to have attracted any attention. Searching the remains of the reptile, she is able to retrieve her knife and finds a survival kit similar to her own, though instead of a - NPK@annpc#5570: - flashlight it contains a few ration bars. She also locates a second knife on her prey, coated in dried blood and likely having been used to kill the alien on the ridge from earlier. Lexi@crystyll: stows it all away and retrieves her rope before continuing her hunt Lexi@crystyll: rolls 20 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | After another half-hour of searching, Lexi finds a supply cache that appears to have already been ransacked. The only thing within is a heavy vest that is both too big for Lexi and would likely - NPK@annpc#5570: - weigh her down. Lexi@crystyll: ignores it and carries on NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 10 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | More time passes as Lexi scours the jungle, and she comes across another corpse, this one with a burn through the chest indicating they were shot by an energy weapon. Beside them is a makeshift - NPK@annpc#5570: - spear they fashioned by tying a knife to a long branch, but nothing else of interest. Lexi@crystyll: takes the spear, slinging it across her back while continuing to favour the rifle for now while she presses on Lexi@crystyll: rolls 100 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Half an hour more pass when Lexi stumbles upon a supply cache, this one completely unopened. As she opens it, she finds an Arshai Zolre that can easily replace her makeshift spear, pieces of - NPK@annpc#5570: - leather armour that she can strap over her jumpsuit, a toolbelt and sling for her to attach her equipment to, and perhaps most useful- an Alien-style motion tracker. Lexi@crystyll: grins with satisfaction, stowing everything away safely before moving off to find some cover to reorganize herself instead of out in the open NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finds an area beneath a massive tree's roots where she can go to reorganize herself while being safely hidden from view. Lexi@crystyll: beds herself in, sorting out her new gear Lexi@crystyll: first equips the armour, strapping it down tightly. Then the toolbelt that she fills up with her main resources Lexi@crystyll: then begins to dissect part of the leg armour and trim it's strapping down to make a wrist brace for the motion tracker NPK@annpc#5570: | By the time Lexi has her armour on and motion tracker attached to her wrist, the sun is already beginning to set over the arena. Good thing she found that motion tracker... NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 67 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | As night begins to set in, the flashes of weapons fire become more visible in the darkness, both making it easier for her to spot enemies and making it riskier to use energy weapons. Lexi@crystyll: searches for a good high spot she can climb to for a nice overview NPK@annpc#5570: | After a short search, she finds a few large trees that can easily be climbed and manages to get atop one of them. Lexi@crystyll: lays some quick traps around the base then looks to climb up and settle into a perch where she can observe Lexi@crystyll: rolls 60 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi successfully sets traps by the base of the trees and gets into a nice vantage point where she can identify where exactly the flashes are coming from. Unfortunately, her rifle does not come - NPK@annpc#5570: - with automatic target seeking or a scope and it will be difficult to hit anyone unless they come close. Lexi@crystyll: is content to simply build a picture of things for now while she gets some rest. Munching on a ration bar while observing the battles NPK@annpc#5570: | Time passes by as Lexi observes from her vantage point, and before long the flashes die down, likely indicating that a sizable number of enemies have eliminated each other, and the rest are - NPK@annpc#5570: - spending more time hunting than they are fighting... NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 66 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | As she observes, there is rustling through the jungle somewhere beneath her... Lexi@crystyll: checks the motion tracker discretely NPK@annpc#5570: | There is motion just on the edge of the motion tracker. Lexi@crystyll: continues to watch, sitting with her rifle ready as she silently follows the movement both in view and on the tracker NPK@annpc#5570: | A Rider comes into view, backing into a clearing with some kind of rifle in hand. He points the weapon left and right, as if searching for a target. Meanwhile, a second signal pops up on the edge - NPK@annpc#5570: - of Lexi's tracker's range... NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 72 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: smiles quietly to herself figuring she lucked out getting dinner and a show as she watches how things unfold NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider fires in short bursts, each burst emitting three to four pops but no visible energy, indicating a projectile weapon of some sort. NPK@annpc#5570: | The second signal gets closer, and suddenly a Lupan pounces out from nearby bushes, knocking the Rider to the ground amid a wild discharge of weapons fire. The close-range fight is difficult to - NPK@annpc#5570: - discern in the darkness, but after a few moments, the Lupan is still moving but the Rider isn't. Lexi@crystyll: takes aim for a snipe at the Lupan, as best she can without a proper scoped rifle at least Lexi@crystyll: rolls 22 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Her shot lands in the clearing but doesn't hit the Lupan. His head snaps in the direction of the shot and he jumps into the bushes in the direction of the shot... NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 71 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Luckily for Lexi's motion tracker, she still has an idea of where the Lupan is, but he now knows where she is as well as he closes in on her location... Lexi@crystyll: seems content to test the Lupan's ability here as she watches still, waiting to see if it closes and if it triggers her traps NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 34 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Lupan evades the first few traps and seems to be doing well at first, but triggers one in the darkness as Lexi hears a howl of pain. Lexi@crystyll: grins to herself, tracking the source of the sound with her rifle, ready to take another pot shot if she spots movement NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 13 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | She does spot movement as the injured Lupan gets sloppy and tries to make a swift getaway! Lexi@crystyll: takes her shot Lexi@crystyll: rolls 24 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 38 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The first shot manages to graze the Lupan and it goes into a full four-legged crawl, darting away quickly. NPK@annpc#5570: | Turns out Lexi's rifle is not the best thing for accuracy... Lexi@crystyll: tries another shot to finish it, figuring it's not worth giving up her perch for her as the Lupan's days are numbered now Lexi@crystyll: rolls 94 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The wounded Lupan doesn't manage to get very far despite going on all fours as the first shot injured one of his arms, and with some aim adjusting, Lexi finishes it off in the followup shot. NPK@annpc#5570: | All is quiet as the Lupan slumps to the ground... Lexi@crystyll: checks again for movement and if all clear, would pack up her perch and head down to loot the two bodies NPK@annpc#5570: | There is no more movement, and Lexi makes it back down without incident. The Lupan has a hatchet strapped to his back, but other than that he doesn't seem to be carrying any supplies at all. Lexi@crystyll: takes it regardless, every little helps after all Lexi@crystyll: and goes to check the Rider of course NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider has one of the supply satchels, this one with some more rope and bits and pieces that could be useful for setting traps, but no food. His rifle is an automatic projectile weapon, by all - NPK@annpc#5570: - means inferior to Lexi's own. She wouldn't be able to carry it along without sacrificing anything she currently has. NPK@annpc#5570: | He appears to have found a few leather and metal pieces for armour, some of which might be able to be repurposed. Lexi@crystyll: cuts her losses with the supplies and moves on NPK@annpc#5570: | It is still night, and the arena is very dark. Weapons fire has largely stopped as many of the opponents have already been eliminated. Lexi@crystyll: searches onwards, working from her mental map of the area and where the activity was as she observed from her perch, hoping to get a hit on her motion tracker Lexi@crystyll: rolls 59 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | After some searching, Lexi gets multiple pings on her motion tracker... Lexi@crystyll: uses low cover to slowly edge her way closer to see what is happening NPK@annpc#5570: | She sees a group of four dinosaur-like creatures gathered around a corpse and appear to be eating it. NPK@annpc#5570: FX | https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/masseffectandromeda_gamepedia_en/images/7/71/Mutated_Rylkor_-_image.png/revision/latest/scale-to-width-down/225?cb=20181229055244 Lexi@crystyll: thinks better of messing with the wildlife when there are priority targets out there. Instead looking for a good vantage point again where she can wait them out to loot the bodies or bait other Lexi@crystyll: hunters along NPK@annpc#5570: | She gets to a vantage point, watching as the scavenging creatures pick off the corpse and disappear back into the jungle. Lexi@crystyll: gives it some time to see if anyone comes along. If not, goes to see what the dino's didn't eat NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 82 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | No one seems to come along, and Lexi checks what remains of the body. Its species is largely unrecognizable now, and on its body Lexi finds a Lupan-style katana and a scoped projectile rifle which - NPK@annpc#5570: - would offer better accuracy than her current energy weapon, though deal significantly less damage with each shot. She would have to sacrifice something she is carrying to bring along either... Lexi@crystyll: takes her finds and moves off to find another good observation spot where she can tinker with the rifles Lexi@crystyll: rolls 15 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finds a good observation spot, but still sees no sign of targets in the meantime... Lexi@crystyll: can live with that as she starts tinkering with her new finds. 1st job is to see about removing the advanced scope from the new rifle and using it to upgrade her energy rifle Lexi@crystyll: rolls 70 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to move the scope onto the energy rifle successfully! Lexi@crystyll: proceeds to empty all the ammunition out of the now useless rifle, save for 1 round she leaves in the chamber. The rest she stows away for trapping NPK@annpc#5570: | She removes the ammunition from the rifle with ease, leaving it with a single round within. Lexi@crystyll: heads off to find a good place to setup an ambush spot NPK@annpc#5570: | Dawn begins to set in, and as the area gets brighter, Lexi is easily able to find a spot to set up an ambush. Lexi@crystyll: rigs up the rifle with the single shot along with strands from her rope to make a fine low slung tripwire then proceeds to explore the area in search of prey Lexi@crystyll: rolls 39 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finds tracks nearby, but follows them only to come upon another body that had been eaten by wildlife, with only a basic knife and wooden club beside it. NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 76 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: continues patiently NPK@annpc#5570: | Eventually, her motion tracker detects a blip, but just a blip, and then nothing. Lexi@crystyll: finds that highly suspicious and readies herself, staying highly alert and ready to pounce NPK@annpc#5570: | A few seconds pass, then another blip nearby and then nothing. Something is probably stalking her, veeery very slowly... Lexi@crystyll: rolls 94 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi spots the glint of light off a weapon's scope, likely that of someone taking aim at her! Lexi@crystyll: quickly moves to cover and tries to get a good view to train her own scope on the target NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 30 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi moves to cover just in time as a bolt of light flies past her at where she was a second ago. As she gets behind a tree, a second shot punches a good chunk off the side of the tree, but misses - NPK@annpc#5570: - her. By the time she gets a chance to look in her scope, the target is no longer where she saw the glint of light earlier. Lexi@crystyll: works her way back to her ambush point, remaining wary and in cover NPK@annpc#5570: | Every once in a while, she sees a blip or two on her motion tracker, indicating that her pursuer is still on her trail... Lexi@crystyll: takes this as a good sign as she continues into her reserve spot and lays in wait NPK@annpc#5570: | As she lies in wait, she sees the blip flash up every few seconds, coming closer and closer and closer... Lexi@crystyll: waits for her trap to be sprung NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi sees her stalker come into view, a yellow-brown furred Lupan that is very likely the one that spoke to her shortly after arrival. Despite his slow movement as to not be too easily picked up - NPK@annpc#5570: - by Lexi's motion scanner, he walks into the tripwire and the rifle fires, hitting him in the thigh and causing him to stumble forward. Lexi@crystyll: jumps out with her zolre at the ready, spinning and slashing relentlessly like a bat'leth NPK@annpc#5570: | The Lupan steps back before turning to Lexi as she jumps out, "You. I hoped we would meet here." He drops his rifle, reaching behind his back to draw a greatsword. Lexi@crystyll: grins as she circles around him, forcing him to step around if he wants to keep facing her and not give a blind advantage which means she gets to observe the impact of his injury from the trap NPK@annpc#5570: | The Lupan steps around as Lexi expects, and his movement is visibly hampered by the injury, though he does fairly well in spite of it, and is clearly an experienced warrior. Lexi@crystyll: begins making a few testing moves to bait him into attacking full on NPK@annpc#5570: | The Lupan parries, not going for the bait. It may be that he sees through them, or that he is simply playing safer due to the injury. Lexi@crystyll: keeps pushing him, cautious of the long swing of his blade and her lack of the hooked tips from her usual weapon NPK@annpc#5570: | The Lupan keeps his distance, using the long reach of his greatsword to his advantage and trying his best to keep Lexi at bay. He is clearly trying to get her from a distance first before closing - NPK@annpc#5570: - in to finish her off and knows what he is doing with the weapon. His Lupan strength allows him to control it better than most, though its size still makes it notably slower than the Zolre. Lexi@crystyll: lets him build his confidence before striding in using a quick parry to brush the long blade aside while closing in for a swift kick straight to his leg wound NPK@annpc#5570: | He does indeed get more confident and doesn't manage to stop Lexi as she closes in. The kick causes him to lose his footing and stumble as he snarls in pain and anger. Lexi@crystyll: goes to follow up with a series of quick swings from either end of the zolre NPK@annpc#5570: | The Lupan does his best to evade but is caught by several slashes of the zolre. He tries to recover with a swing of his greatsword, but at such close range, the large and clumsy weapon is easily - NPK@annpc#5570: - stoppable... Lexi@crystyll: does exactly that, parrying it with the shaft of the zolre and allowing her weapon to split into two for an even more furious flurry NPK@annpc#5570: | In a move of desperation, the bloodied Lupan drops the greatsword and lunges forward, hoping to barrel right through Lexi's weapons with his sheer weight and tackle her to the ground. Lexi@crystyll: can't avoid the tackle at this range, instead rolling with it while crossing the zolre blades to protect herself. As she rolls back she would kick out to thrust the Lupan onwards past her NPK@annpc#5570: | The zolre blades protect her from the Lupan's claws, and her kick does indeed propel the Lupan past her. He rolls to break his fall as well and quickly begins getting back on his feet. Lexi@crystyll: turns on one knee while still crouched, launching a dagger from her hip at him NPK@annpc#5570: | The knife embeds in the Lupan's back, disrupting his otherwise fluid motion to get back on his feet and eliciting a howl of pain. Lexi@crystyll: runs in to finish him with the two blades NPK@annpc#5570: | The Lupan still gets back on his feet, but Lexi is much faster and finishes him off before he has a chance to try anything! NPK@annpc#5570: | As she stands victorious over the Lupan, she notices two drones hovering down from the canopy and circling her. Lexi@crystyll: finishes the Lupan before turning to the drones, readying herself for any attack NPK@annpc#5570: | The drones appear to be very basic, likely nothing more than flying eyes. They circle the scene a few times, coming in closer and closer. NPK@annpc#5570: | As they do, Lexi disappears into a transporter beam... NPK@annpc#5570: | She rematerializes in the transporter room she left from, only that now she is the only one inside aside from two insectoids, one operating the transporter and the other standing in the middle. NPK@annpc#5570: | The idle insectoid skitters up to Lexi once she finishes materializing, tapping her weapons and then tapping the ground. Lexi@crystyll: nods, disarming and laying down everything she had gathered NPK@annpc#5570: | The insectoid hands her another datapad and then promptly begins collecting the items. The one operating the transporter skitters over and helps. Lexi@crystyll: reviews the datapad NPK@annpc#5570: | The datapad congratulates her on winning the first round of the High Tournament, and asks her to return dressed in only the jumpsuit and nothing else when Round 2.2 is called. Lexi@crystyll: acknowledges and makes her way out --- NPK@annpc#5570: | Some time after the first round, Lexi is called back to the tournament building and led into the transporter room once again. NPK@annpc#5570: | This time, there is only a single other individual within, one of the pirate/refugee/Guardian aliens standing on a pad opposite her. Lexi@crystyll: looks over, sizing up her opponent NPK@annpc#5570: | Her opponent does the same, examining Lexi until the transporters activate, and they both disappear into transporter beams... NPK@annpc#5570: | Once again she finds herself in the jungle, this time with a drone waiting for her as she materializes. It circles around her before hovering out of view into the canopy. Lexi@crystyll: watches it disappear, figuring it's just her personal camera at this point as she sets about her routine of searching and hunting Lexi@crystyll: rolls 26 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The arena is significantly smaller this time, and Lexi finds what may likely be the edge of it. It seems the terrain and trees must have been artificially altered to create a natural-looking - NPK@annpc#5570: - barrier rather than some kind of energy field. With half an hour of searching, Lexi locates a basic survival pack with a combat knife, rope and a small toolkit, and then a supply cache with a - NPK@annpc#5570: - machete within, more tool than weapon but serviceable in combat. NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 5 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: rolls 55 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | After some more digging around, Lexi finds a laser pistol, some more tools and supplies and a two-handed battleaxe. NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 62 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: rolls 6 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 76 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to find only scattered tracks, none of it leading her anywhere. However, as she nears a river bank, her opponent suddenly springs out of the water, spear aimed towards her! Lexi@crystyll: stands prone, grinning as she drops her supplies and draws the machete and combat knife NPK@annpc#5570: | Her opponent appears to have found an ordinary spear rather than an Arshai zolre, though he has a leather belt with two combat knives attached to it. He thrusts the spear forward, hoping to use - NPK@annpc#5570: - range and quick little jabs to his advantage. Lexi@crystyll: rolls backwards, landing in a crouch and launching the combat knife at him NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 97 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The alien has fast reflexes. He doesn't sidestep the knife, but rather swats it away mid-air with his spear before trying to rush in and impale Lexi before she can get up. Lexi@crystyll: kicks back letting the spear come down short, then rebounds forwards again to... straddle the spear. Clamped between her thighs she flashes a grin before twisting herself to one side NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to grab the spear with her legs and twist her opponent off balance. The agile alien reacts mid fall, darting into a sideways roll and landing on a crouch before drawing his knives. Lexi@crystyll: completes her roll and braces the end of the spear into the ground as she lifts the point towards him ready to intercept a charge NPK@annpc#5570: | He gets on his feet with knives ready but doesn't charge as she now has the longer weapon. Instead, he slowly backs away, balancing on a log across the river... Lexi@crystyll: grins and stands, hefting the long spear from the ground and weighing it in her hand before tightening her grip, arcing back, and launching it full pelt at him NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 78 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The alien is forced to jump into the water again. The spear flies past where he was on the log bridge, and he disappears in the river... Lexi@crystyll: rolls 3 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The alien is stealthy. Very stealthy. He's probably still in the river, which isn't that deep, but Lexi can't spot him... Lexi@crystyll: checks the laser pistol she found earlier to see if she can rig a quick overload charge on it and if so, slides it into the water quickly before it goes bang NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 36 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to rig the pistol to overload and tosses it into the water. The alien almost flies out of the water a moment afterward, caught in the electricity. Lexi@crystyll: launches the second combat knife at him to keep him off balance if not land an attack, while she closes with the machete NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 54 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The combat knife lands in his left shoulder, keeping him off balance and forcing him to drop his combat knife in that hand! Lexi@crystyll: closes quickly, ready to lunge in with the machete, while also tracking where the knife fell NPK@annpc#5570: | The alien rolls away from her and gets back to his feet, one knife still on the ground. He tries his best to remain standing, though is notably weakened from his injuries. Lexi@crystyll: continues a relentless push to just flat out overpower him with speed and strength at this point NPK@annpc#5570: | It doesn't take much more to finish the alien, as he is much slower now and armed with only a single combat knife. As Lexi finishes him off, she notices two drones circling around them, who closes - NPK@annpc#5570: - in around Lexi as the alien drops dead. NPK@annpc#5570: | After a few circles, she disappears into a transporter beam... --- Trenick@annpc#5570 | Meanwhile on the Valley Forge, Lennie is doing paperwork in her office when the doorbell rings. Lendaria@crystyll looks up from her screen, "S'open" Trenick@annpc#5570 steps inside, "Just thought it was polite to ring first. How're you doing, Commander?" Lendaria@crystyll smiles, "Courtesy's never a bad thing. S'all go as usual though, as I'm-a sure ya got th'same. Whassup? Or ya jus' stretchin' ya legs a bit?" Trenick@annpc#5570 smiles back and takes a seat, "Stretching my legs, and brain, is always nice. I was looking over readings of the planet we're getting from orbit. It has unusually abundant life." Lendaria@crystyll: "Tha' wit' or wit'out all th'tournament visitors?" she chuckles Trenick@annpc#5570 chuckles and takes out a PADD and slides it across to Lennie, "Native life, I mean. It's not unheard of for planets to have maintained their biospheres well thanks to a responsible native - Trenick@annpc#5570: - civilization. Rare admittedly. But even on planets rich with life with no industrial development at all, there's always ecosystems with less diversity and activity than others. Deserts and tundras - Trenick@annpc#5570: - for example. Every part of this planet is teeming with life." Trenick@annpc#5570 chuckles and takes out a PADD and slides it across to Lennie, "Natural life, I mean. It's not unheard of for planets to have maintained their biospheres well thanks to a responsible native - Trenick@annpc#5570: - civilization. Rare admittedly. But even on planets rich with life with no industrial development at all, there's always ecosystems with less diversity and activity than others. Deserts and tundras - Trenick@annpc#5570: - for example. Every part of this planet is teeming with life." Lendaria@crystyll reviews the PADD, "I have been noticin' similar findin's too. Ya got any theories?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "It might not all be native to this planet, but the only information I have in support of that is the Zihil. From the scans Vrolmacht and Eva got, they look more like killing machines. There's two - Trenick@annpc#5570: - variants we know of so far, the most common type we've taken to calling Workers, who are already quite deadly, and the flying ones we call Soldiers. It's especially obvious in the soldiers that - Trenick@annpc#5570: - every biological trait and anatomical component is there to either protect itself or cause maximum damage. Neither of them have any reproductive capability." Lendaria@crystyll nods, "Yeah, this forced evolution puts th'Torokei t'shame wit' their old fashioned natural development" she chuckles Trenick@annpc#5570 nods, "It even rivals the Progenitor work on the Lupan." Trenick@annpc#5570: "My theory is that perhaps the planet is some kind of natural reserve world, and the Zihil are its protectors. However I'm willing to admit there's plenty of counter-evidence to that as well." Lendaria@crystyll: "Such as?" she asks almost absently while reviewing the padd still Trenick@annpc#5570: "The ecosystems are remarkably well-balanced. If this was artifically set up, whoever did it must understand all the variables involved very well. You would have to account for the different species - Trenick@annpc#5570: - and their behaviour and diet, how it interacts with every other species, not to mention the climate and geography. It's not impossible, and ecosystems do balance themselves out over time. But - Trenick@annpc#5570: - that usually involves extinctions while the environment does its own trial and error." Trenick@annpc#5570: "What we're seeing...doesn't look like a natural cycle to me." Lendaria@crystyll: "Well unnatural'd certainly be consistent wit' wha' we understand 'bout th'Zihil. Wha'bout this 'Queen' thing wha' Eva sensed deep beneath th'planet? She figure into ya theories yet?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "The prevailing theory is that it's the Zihil 'queen,' though I'm not sure if it's a conventional queen like an insect hive. People likely use the name due to the Zihil's insectoid, hive minded - Trenick@annpc#5570: - nature, but it's very likely that the 'queen' has little to no biological relation to the Zihil and is merely the entity breeding and perhaps controlling them." Trenick@annpc#5570: "There's no way a single queen can have a hive this large." Lendaria@crystyll: "I kinda like th'idea of a Queen bein' all powerful beyond expectation. Kinda rings true!" she beams cheekily Trenick@annpc#5570 chuckles, "True. Whatever is happening, I think it's more than what we can see on the surface." Lendaria@crystyll: "Ya know Eva an' Vrolmacht noted tha' th'Zihil seemed unusually automated, even in their direct interactions" Trenick@annpc#5570: "They're certainly unusual. Is there any chance we can send an expedition to the surface, outside the arena areas to investigate more? Or do the Zihil protection laws make that impossible?" Lendaria@crystyll: "I ain't aware o'any prohibitation t'tha' effect. Jus' /definitely/ make sure not t'be intrusive if we do go down" Lendaria@crystyll: "Eva said they see a visitor get speared through th'gut f'chasin' a bunny rabbit or somethin'" Trenick@annpc#5570 nods, "We'll make sure to be careful and not to intrude on anything." Lendaria@crystyll: "I'll check it wit' Keelah before we head out. Assumin's all good - an' ya don't mind me taggin' along" she smiles, " - anyone else ya wanna take?" Trenick@annpc#5570 smiles, "You're welcome to tag along anytime, Commander. Might be good to have Vrolmacht or Eva accompany us, since they're familiar with the Zihil and their rules already." Lendaria@crystyll nods, "Eva's sense could come in handy. Vrolmacht can make his own mind up, though he'll no doubt want to send a security detachment if nothin' else" Lendaria@crystyll chuckles, "Big guy's probably gettin' all gooey eyed over all th'new ships up 'ere" Trenick@annpc#5570 chuckles, "You want to ask him along, or let him keep analyzing the ships?” Lendaria@crystyll: "He can decide for himself. But mah money's still on tha' security detachment" Trenick@annpc#5570 nods, "As long as they know to be careful, we should be good. I can make preparations for the expedition and let you know when we're ready." Lendaria@crystyll stands, "Sounds good. An' to b'clear, this's still ya assignment if we get a green light. I ain't interested in steamrollin' ya, jus' along for th'fresh air" Trenick@annpc#5570 stands and smiles, "Thank you Commander. And it's always good to have another xenobiologist along." Lendaria@crystyll: "Le's go put an away mission together then" she smiles, heading out alongside him --- NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi's next opponent is a female Rider. Once again, they are both transporter into the jungle arena, where her personal camera drone circles her before disappearing into the canopy. Lexi@crystyll: goes about the now familiar routine of hunting and searching Lexi@crystyll: rolls 53 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 29 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi locates survival supplies which she can use to set traps, along with the basic combat knife and a swordstaff-like weapon Lexi@crystyll: rolls 4 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 76 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finds the edge of the arena again and has to circle back, managing only to locate another survival pack with combat knife within. Lexi@crystyll: continues Lexi@crystyll: rolls 20 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 77 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finds her opponent's tracks, but her opponent locates her before she does. Stepping out from behind a tree, the Rider has found some leather armour along with a rifle, a one-handed sword and - NPK@annpc#5570: - a round wooden shield. She drops the rifle upon seeing that her opponent only has melee weapons, assuming a ready stance with sword and shield. Lexi@crystyll: smiles at the reaction, readying herself with her own blade, "Finally a fun fight" NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider smirks and begins circling Lexi, "Wouldn't be very fair if I just shot you. Audience paid for a good show, after all." Lexi@crystyll: "They get their money's worth from these jumpsuits" Lexi@crystyll: raises the weapon high, almost vertically, with a firm two-handed grip NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider laughs, "True! But like you said, this is more fun for us, too." NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider closes the distance cautiously, shield held at the ready. Lexi@crystyll: "Then let's give them a show. Qapla'!" she shouts, swinging the long blade hard to clatter against the shield NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 20 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider raises the shield, hoping for Lexi's heavier blade to cut into the shield and then get stuck there. That doesn't happen, but the shield is fairly good quality and doesn't shatter - NPK@annpc#5570: - immediately either, though the hit makes a visible mark and sends wooden splinters flying. The Rider tries to take advantage of the parried blow to close in and counterattack with a lunge of her blade. Lexi@crystyll: didn't expect any more or less from the struck shield as she lets go of the weapon and sidesteps the lunge, only to clamp onto the Riders arm with both hands and slam it down across her knee NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider's weapon arm is slammed down onto Lexi's knee with her strike, causing her to yelp in pain and drop her sword. She recovers quickly, swinging her other hand with the shield strapped on - NPK@annpc#5570: - to slam Lexi with the side of the shield. Lexi@crystyll: takes the hit and rolls away to retrieve the stolen sword, a wicked grin on her face as she trains it on the rider NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider groans in pain as she tries to pick up Lexi's dropped weapon with her injured arm, but decides just to face her with the shield in hand, "You're good." Lexi@crystyll: 's grin sharpens, "...I know" she responds as she takes a two-handed grip once more, raising the sword over her head with it aimed at the Rider like a scorpions tail, "Show me how good you are too!" NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider closes in again, waiting for Lexi to strike first so she can parry it. Lexi@crystyll: feints a swing, waiting to see the weight shift in the Riders feet as she moves to parry it before dropping and sweeping a leg out to unbalance the Rider NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider is indeed swept off her foot, her taller height being a detriment in that regard. She tries to roll backwards away from Lexi, bringing her shield in front of her as quickly as she can. Lexi@crystyll: is already swinging the blade for real at the unbalanced Rider as she closed off the back of her leg sweep Lexi@crystyll: ...as the Rider raises the shield! NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 97 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to get her hit in before the Rider fully has her defense up, but... NPK@annpc#5570: | What would normally be a killing blow is foiled by one of the Rider's horns, and the sword isn't heavy enough to sever the horn completely, leaving a notch on the horn and sending the Rider's head - NPK@annpc#5570: - jerking to the side, but doing no more damage than a heavy punch would. Lexi@crystyll: jumps up to land a hard downwards kick to the Riders gut, stepping again off the partially raised shield to launch herself high and out of reach, ready to turn for another round NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to land a kick on the disorientated Rider and jump away. The Rider shakes her head and recovers, getting back to her feet and turning back to Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: "Not bad" she commends with a grin. Flourishing the blade as she settles into a ready stance once more NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider closes in slowly with the shield ready in front of her, before deciding to take a chance with a sudden aggressive rush forward, aiming to batter Lexi's sword out of her hand or at least - NPK@annpc#5570: - out of the way for her to slam head-first into Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: grins, holding a moment and feigning pause for thought before revealing her position to be no accident as she kicks up the longer blade earlier discarded that now lay by her feet, snapping out the + Lexi@crystyll: + air with her hand and launching it full force into the charging shield bash NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 35 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Though the swordstaff is much heavier than a spear and far from balanced for throwing, at near point-blank range Lexi manages to hurl it at the charging Rider. She repositions her shield to parry - NPK@annpc#5570: - and the heavy blade completely penetrates the shield, embedding itself inside. The sudden addition of weight causes the Rider to careen to the side during her charge, completely missing Lexi and - NPK@annpc#5570: - almost toppling over entirely. Lexi@crystyll: jumps on the opportunity to spin around out of the way of the charge while throwing maximum momentum into her swing with the blade coming back around behind the Rider NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 90 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The blade slashes across the Rider's back, but the leather armour holds up well against the lighter blade. The force of the impact, added with the weight of the weapon stuck on her shield, causes - NPK@annpc#5570: - her to finally fall to the ground though. Lexi@crystyll: holds her ground and stands back with her sword at the ready. Giving the Rider a chance to recover her standing NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider groans, trying to remove the swordstaff stuck to the shield, but her injured arm doesn't have the strength. Instead, she undoes the buckles around her shield, letting it fall before she - NPK@annpc#5570: - starts getting to her feet. She steps on the shield with one foot, grabbing the swordstaff with her good arm to dislodge it. NPK@annpc#5570: | Once she has removed the weapon, she holds it awkwardly in one hand as she turns to Lexi. The swordstaff is awkward in one hand, but she does her best to use it like a spear and makes a desperate - NPK@annpc#5570: - thrust at Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: bats it to one side. Almost mocklingly so if she weren't being so serious about the fight Lexi@crystyll: "Come on!" she... encourages? "If this is your moment then face it like a warrior! You can do better than that!" NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider does her best to grip the swordstaff with both hands, yelling a battlecry in her language as she charges forward for a more proper two-handed lunge. Lexi@crystyll: grins, meeting it with a parry and almost drawing the Rider in face to face. Eyes glistening with bloodlust she holds the blade-lock, "Now that's more like it! Are you ready?" NPK@annpc#5570: | Rider: "Let's finish this." NPK@annpc#5570: | The Rider tries to take advantage of the situation to step in and headbutt Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: ducks low and to the side, bringing her leg up for a swift combo hit; firts a knee to the ribs, followed by an extended and highly dextrous long kick to the back of the head. She would look to twist + Lexi@crystyll: + the blade from the Riders grasp as she is forced to her knees by the grappled kick, coming around behind her with her own blade held across the Riders throat execution style Lexi@crystyll: - if successful to that point - would lean in and whisper, "I look forward to the day when we fight again in stovokor" before slicing the blade through her throat to end it NPK@annpc#5570: | The weakened Rider is no match for Lexi's combo hit and is brought down as two drones visibly swoop down to get a close shot of the killmove. Lexi@crystyll: lowers the Riders body respectfully before throwing her head back with a guttural roar, or at least as close as she is able to for a non-Klingon NPK@annpc#5570: | The drones circle her, giving her time to pay her respects and filming. Once she gets back to her feet, Lexi is beamed out... --- Trenick@annpc#5570: | The VF away team beams down to the jungles outside the visitor's areas. They can hear the calls of various birds and creatures and the buzzing of all sorts of insects around them. Trenick@annpc#5570: "Try to ignore the insects. We know the Zihil don't take kindly to harming their wildlife." Lendaria@crystyll: looks around and grimaces, "Easy for you to say. These things always seem t'get a taste f'me!" she tries to shoo some away and resist outright swatting them against her skin Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "I'm not sure if they would mind swatting bugs, but it's best to play on the safe side, just in case. Might be annoying, though..." Trenick@annpc#5570: meanwhile takes out a tricorder and scans around. Trenick@annpc#5570: "Definitely play on the safe side. There's four Zihil Workers gathering around us in the undergrowth. They're not attacking, so we're probably good to be here, but we are definitely being watched." Lendaria@crystyll: meanwhile takes out a repellant hypo that she promptly jabs to her own neck, "More than one way t'skin a Sehlat" Lendaria@crystyll: "Aight Trenick, this' ya survey. We'll-a follow ya lead" Trenick@annpc#5570: scans around, "It's difficult to decide where to begin. Look at these readings. We can be here for years and barely make a dent in categorizing everything here." Lendaria@crystyll: "So, wanna keep it broad strokes f'now then? Big picture an' all" Trenick@annpc#5570: nods, "Good idea. Let's get a picture of the ecosystem here, see what we find." Lendaria@crystyll: nods and gets to work, scanning around and being /very/ careful where she stands Trenick@annpc#5570: carefully moves about, scanning the environment as well. Trenick@annpc#5570: "So far, nothing looks poisonous. That's good. If one of these insects do sting us, it shouldn't cause any issues." Lendaria@crystyll: "I'm-a still good wit' not findin' out for mahself" she calls over while scanning some flora Trenick@annpc#5570: "I would rather not be bitten either," he nods, moving his tricorder up to scan a tree. Trenick@annpc#5570: | As they scan around, there is rustling in the distance... Lendaria@crystyll: looks towards the source of the sound and scanning to see what's there Trenick@annpc#5570: | Leaves and bushes shake as something large moves towards them... Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "Commander, Lieutenant, watch out!" Lendaria@crystyll: jumps out of the way Trenick@annpc#5570: | A creature as large as a rhino lumbers out of the bushes. Their security escort set their hands on their holstered phasers nervously, but the beast simply looks at them... Trenick@annpc#5570: FX | https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/starwars/images/0/02/Boma_Beast.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20090511155023 Trenick@annpc#5570: | ...and walks away. Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "Well...that wasn't what I was expecting." Lendaria@crystyll: "Easy guys..." she holds a steadying hand to the security escort, "Remember the brief" Lendaria@crystyll: takes more scans of the large creature as it heads away Trenick@annpc#5570: | According to Lennie's scans, it has all the attributes of a predator, but it doesn't appear to be a carnivore from scans of its digestive system. At most it's an omnivore. Lendaria@crystyll: "Now tha's a curious one" Trenick@annpc#5570: looks over, "What did you find?" Lendaria@crystyll: heads back and shows him the scan data, "Whaddaya make o'tha'?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "That's...unusual. Another genetically engineered lifeform like the Zihil, perhaps?" Lendaria@crystyll: "Would certainly reinforce th'theory tha' this whole worlds bein'... designed. Not just th'Zihil" Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "I saw one of these during Captain Vix's first arena match. It was hunting the competitors." Trenick@annpc#5570: "If these scans are right, it's not predatory." Lendaria@crystyll: "Territorial maybe?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "Possible. Or maybe bred for arena matches, just like the Zihil are engineered to enforce the rules and run the tournaments." Lendaria@crystyll: "Tha' wouldn't explain this one not bein' bothered by us though" Lendaria@crystyll: "I hope they ain't abusin' these creatures t'make 'em fight in tha' arena. Wouldn't be th'first we saw tha' kinda thing..." Trenick@annpc#5570: nods, "True. If they're engineered to be aggressive, they would always be aggressive. That one looks healthy from the scans, but it's possible they're genetically engineering creatures to make them - Trenick@annpc#5570: - fight. Perhaps this whole planet is some kind of menagerie for the tournaments." Lendaria@crystyll: "As disturbin' as it is impressive..." Trenick@annpc#5570: "Indeed..." Lendaria@crystyll: logs the findings and goes back to the survey, "Le's see wha' else we can find" Trenick@annpc#5570: | The team continues their survey of the area... Trenick@annpc#5570: | A hour passes as they scan around and they are much deeper into the jungle now. Trenick@annpc#5570: "Do you feel that?" Lendaria@crystyll: looks around, "Feel what?" Trenick@annpc#5570: | Lennie feels a faint vibration on the ground, then another, like something heavy hitting the ground. Trenick@annpc#5570: "That." Lendaria@crystyll: "Tha'... feels like somethin' big..." she kneels, placing her palm to the ground Trenick@annpc#5570: nods, checking his tricorder, "This way. We need to be closer for a clear scan, but let's stay low and quiet." Lendaria@crystyll: nods and follows Trenick@annpc#5570: | The team creeps through the jungle quietly until they reach the edge of a sizable valley beyond, where a giant creature appears to be grazing... Trenick@annpc#5570: FX | https://i.imgur.com/nYImEdf.png Lendaria@crystyll: whispers, "Goddess..." Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "That's...big. Very big." Trenick@annpc#5570: takes out his tricorder and taps, alternating glances at the creature and the device. Trenick@annpc#5570: "It's...Zihil. Significantly different from the Worker and Soldier variants, but there's a surprising amount of shared base DNA." Lendaria@crystyll: sets her tricorder to an automated scan mode, knowing Trenick is doing the detailed work, and just unkers down to watch Lendaria@crystyll: "No kiddin'. Queenie?" Trenick@annpc#5570: shakes his head, "Can't be. It has no reproductive capability either." Lendaria@crystyll: "So wha' possible function could a beastie like tha' serve in an engineered society...? Trenick@annpc#5570: "I'm not sure...according to the tricorder, it's also a herbivore." Lendaria@crystyll: continues to watch, hoping to see some evidence of it's purpose Trenick@annpc#5570: "But that carapace is strong enough to resist medium power phaser fire, and these blades are far too large for hunting. They're more like scythes." Trenick@annpc#5570: | The creature simply continues to graze, not using its blades at all, like scythes or anything else. Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "Wait...have we found a single predator in these jungles yet?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "None that my scans detected..." Lendaria@crystyll: shakes her head, "Nothin'" Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "That reminds me of something I...well, Kelly remembers." Lendaria@crystyll: looks over curiously Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "It was from a few years back. The Valley Forge was scouting an ecologically rich planet like this one as a potential colony site. Kelly was part of the away team." Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "There wasn't a single carnivore on that planet, and the away team was attacked by predatory creatures that seemed like genetically engineered killers. Turns out the entire planet was a - Trenick@annpc#5570: - single giant organism, and the creatures with predatory traits were its protectors." Lendaria@crystyll: "Oh yeah I remember somethin'bout tha'. Wish I coulda seen it for mahself" she chuckles Lendaria@crystyll: "So ya figure this place's maybe somethin' similar? Some kinda... giant single organism?" Trenick@annpc#5570: | Eva: "It's possible, and it would explain the powerful presence I sensed at the core of the planet." She points to the giant creature grazing in the fields, "It's definitely not that one." Trenick@annpc#5570: "It would be one explanation for how this ecosystem exists without predatory creatures." Lendaria@crystyll: "Indeed. Certainly a possibility we can't rule out" Trenick@annpc#5570: "Let's keep collecting some more data. When we get back to the Valley Forge, we can see how it all compares to the data collected from that mission." Lendaria@crystyll: nods, "Sounds like a plan" and retrieves her tricorder --- NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi's opponent for Round 4 is a Ularen male, clearly the silent type as he steps onto the transporter pad without a word, giving Lexi a silent nod of either acknowledgement or respect for a - NPK@annpc#5570: - fellow warrior. Like before, they are both transported into the arena, with Lexi's personal drone camera circling her before flying off and beginning the match. Lexi@crystyll: gets stuck straight into her established routine Lexi@crystyll: rolls 34 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 66 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finds a survival pack placed not far from where she beamed in, and then a supply cache containing a lighter sword not unlike the one she killed the Rider with in the previous round, as well - NPK@annpc#5570: - as a few more bits of tools. NPK@annpc#5570: | As usual, the survival pack contains a combat knife within. Lexi@crystyll: takes her supplies and sets out to explore the area to see what else she can find Lexi@crystyll: rolls 92 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 15 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | She is getting lucky! Lexi comes across a second, far richer supply cache. Inside, she finds a scoped plasma rifle, pieces of leather armour and a second combat knife. Lexi@crystyll: grins as she plunders, quickly equipping the armour and stowing the gear while sizing up the rifle. She then sets about finding a good spot to secure and get up high Lexi@crystyll: rolls 2 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 3 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finds a serviceable spot on a tree, but once she gets on top she notices a few better vantage points nearby. Lexi@crystyll: figures she's well enough setup for a melee brawl again too so climbs back down and makes her way to the premium sniper nests NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 9 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: rolls 7 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi climbs a tree that provides a better vantage point, and realizes too late that she disturbed a nest of flying creatures. Five of them take to the air around the branches, one diving for her... NPK@annpc#5570: FX | https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/starwars/images/1/1d/Shyrack_JATM.jpg/revision/latest/top-crop/width/720/height/900?cb=20090601234658 Lexi@crystyll: curses, preparing her combat knife to cut the thing down if it comes right in NPK@annpc#5570: | It does indeed come in and she manages to cut it down, but a second comes in while the rest screech loudly. Lexi@crystyll: gives up on the nest and quickly climbs down, now that even if she takes it from the birds it won't be safe to setup there NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 95 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi climbs down from the nest, but doesn't have time to find another as the screeching has attracted her opponent's attention, and the Ularen walks into view, brandishing one of the Lupan-style - NPK@annpc#5570: - katanas with a combat knife and rope on a toolbelt. Lexi@crystyll: grins, almost preferring this kind of confrontation as she slowly unsheathes her own blade, savouring the anticipation NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen assumes an almost flawless ready stance, holding the blade vertically in front of him with both hands. Lexi@crystyll: slowly starts to encircle him, as usual following the routine to observe his movement, weighting, stance etc NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen circles back. Lexi can find almost no flaw in his movement and stance, at least not yet. Lexi@crystyll: starts to test his defenses with a series of calculated attacks NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen's defense are quite literally impeccible. His tendrils stand and point towards Lexi, monitoring every vibration in the air and allowing him to predict the angle of attack before it - NPK@annpc#5570: - lands. As a result, he seems to always know the perfect angle to parry or evade, and launches a number of counterattacks at Lexi as well. NPK@annpc#5570: | Fortunately, his predictive abilities do not seem to offer him much advantage on the offensive, though his blows are well-executed and strong, but not supernaturally so. Lexi@crystyll: parries the blows with her own measure of efficiency, getting a feel for his timing and motion NPK@annpc#5570: | He is clearly an expert swordsman, matching many of the better Klingon warriors Lexi has fought. Coupled with his natural abilities, Lexi finds that the only way she can possibly get a hit in is - NPK@annpc#5570: - if she can get a parry and counterattack in a way that makes it physically impossible for him to block in time, but that would require him to get over-aggressive with his offensive. Lexi@crystyll: does indeed start to push him harder, baiting him into a more furious series of strikes and counterstrikes to build the tempo of the frey NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen speeds up his attacks, but seem to keep up well, not making a mistake yet despite the speed of the combat... Lexi@crystyll: keeps it building until she finds her opportune moment when she flips grip to her opposing hand mid swing and completely reverses her approach in the hopes of quickly off balance him with the sudden Lexi@crystyll: change NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 16 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen is indeed thrown off balance, sensing the shift too late! Lexi@crystyll: pushes the advantage for a quick stab to the gut before whirling into a frenzy to keep him off balance NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen gets stabbed and staggers back, but his quick reflexes and senses allow him to recover and defend against Lexi's frenzy for the moment. Lexi@crystyll: continues to press her attack, relentlessly hacking and slashing, switching grips and stances almost at random to keep herself unpredictable NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 60 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi gets another light slash in on his arm, and the Ularen seems to be slowing down, though still blocking surprisingly well all things considered. Lexi@crystyll: uses one particularly tight backswing to unsheathe one of the combat knives from her hip, holding the pair in a two handed grip with the blades facing opposite direction. Suddenly bringing the second+ Lexi@crystyll: + blade to bear on the next swing and counter NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 64 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen reacts just in time, jumping back before the second blade cuts him before pressing a counterattack to try and keep Lexi on the defensive so she can't overwhelm him with two weapons. Lexi@crystyll: seamlessly drops back into a dual wielding stance, using her small frame to spin and twirl one side to the next with each attack, figuring that blocking her hands movement from him with her own body + Lexi@crystyll: + will make it harder for him to sense when she switches sides and which blade she will swing with next NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 26 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi's fancy movements do indeed confuse the Ularen's senses, and she gets another hit in across his leg. The Ularen begins to retreat backwards, changing tactics as he does and drawing his own - NPK@annpc#5570: - knife, but using it to throw at Lexi instead of as a second weapon. Lexi@crystyll: would try to keep pushing her attack and not let him gain any distance, hopefully avoiding the thrown knife in the process Lexi@crystyll: rolls 30 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi dodges the knife with ease, but it is only a distraction as the Ularen has unclipped the coil of rope from his belt while grabbing the knife. He hurls the rope, one end of which had been - NPK@annpc#5570: - previously tied into a loop, at Lexi... NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 14 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: would try to snag it with the combat knife as it comes at her, otherwise dropping the knife and grabbing the rope, twisting it around her wrist before yanking back with all her might Lexi@crystyll: rolls 9 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi sees the rope coming, but it is of good quality and the knife doesn't manage to cut it, instead being pried from her hands when the Ularen tugs the rope. NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen doesn't try to use the rope again, taking the opportunity to strike before Lexi can draw/recover another knife. NPK@annpc#5570: | He takes a step in and goes for a diagonal strike down at Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: rolls backwards, refocusing a two handed grip on the single blade NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen continues closing in, going on the offensive with a series of aggressive attacks, trying to prevent Lexi from getting a chance to draw a second blade. Lexi@crystyll: doesn't back away, but instead goes in low after again using her blade to simply parry his attack so she can roll closer and shield her movement from his sense NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to close in, and the Ularen tries to knock her down with a kick. Lexi@crystyll: would try to sidestep the kick and continue her roll through his stationary leg NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 78 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: rolls 48 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen executes the kick mid-roll, making it difficult for Lexi to dodge it and it strikes her before she can change her direction. It stops her movement and knocks her back, though she is - NPK@annpc#5570: - already close enough to force the Ularen to grab the blade of his katana with the other hand, using only the front half of the blade to make it easier to move in close quarters as he tries to - NPK@annpc#5570: - slash at the knocked down Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: rolls back again, unclipping her second knife to hurl low at his leg as she straightens out of the roll NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 31 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The large amount of movement makes the Ularen unable to predict the knife throw, and it embeds in his shin, causing him to stumble and drop to one knee, though he maintains a firm grip on his - NPK@annpc#5570: - blade to parry in case of a followup stroke. Lexi@crystyll: does indeed lunge forwards on her own counter offensive, following the same unpredictable routine as before NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 88 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen parries the blows surprisingly well despite his limited maneuvrability. Instead of trying to get up however, he drops backwards as Lexi attacks and sweeps his legs, hoping to drop her - NPK@annpc#5570: - to the ground as well. Lexi@crystyll: leaps forwards, right over him, to rebound of her hounds and quickly turn with with a wide slashing arc in anticipation of a counter NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen does indeed try to counter, and her slash causes her blade to meet his before he can strike a blow. Lexi@crystyll: uses the clash of blades to push in close, sliding her blade against his to force it aside as she rushes in for a Klingonesque headbutt to the nose NPK@annpc#5570: | The headbutt dazes the Ularen slightly and he snarls as he sets one hand go of his blade and tries to punch Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: ducks the punch, countering with a sharp jab of from the hilt of her blade NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen grunts as he is jabbed by the hilt. He lets go of his blade entirely as it has little use in such close quarters, trying to grab Lexi's sword arm to both stop her from using her weapon - NPK@annpc#5570: - and grapple her down to counter his lack of mobility due to his injuries. NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 92 (1-100) Lexi@crystyll: rolls 12 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen manages to grab onto Lexi's wrist, preventing her from striking with the blade of the sword and pulling her down as he tries for another punch. Lexi@crystyll: let's go of her blade, clasping her hands around his throat as she ends up almost straddling him on the ground before she... kisses him smack on the lips... NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen tries to punch her with his free arm but stops, confused at the unexpected move. Lexi@crystyll: grins through the kiss, reaching out to retrieve his dropped blade and drive it into his ribs NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen roars in pain as he is stabbed by the blade. Lexi@crystyll: continues to slowly drive the blade into him, holding herself nose to nose as she twists it deeper NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen roars again, trying to headbutt her as a last resort. Lexi@crystyll: holds her free hand around his throat, tutting in disappointment before giving him another kiss as she applies what should be a final twist of the blade NPK@annpc#5570: | The Ularen falls limp, and she looks up to see the camera drones circling her again. Lexi@crystyll: pants for breath as she sits back, finally letting go and dropping her arms to her sides NPK@annpc#5570: | A few seconds later, the transporter kicks in, and she soon materializes sitting on the transporter pad. NPK@annpc#5570: | One of the Zihil workers skitter up to her, handing her another datapad. Lexi@crystyll: takes the pad to review her latest instructions NPK@annpc#5570: | Once again, the datapad congratulates her for winning the round, but it also says that she has now made it into the finals! Instead of reporting back to the transporter pad, she is now to report - NPK@annpc#5570: - to a different room in the building when called. Lexi@crystyll: gives a slightly curious huh as she reads, but continues the post match routine as normal ------------------------------------------------------- Trenick@annpc#5570 FX | Some time after the trip to the planet surface, Trenick calls Lennie to one of the labs. Lendaria@crystyll wanders in a short time later, "Lieutenant. Hows it goin?" Trenick@annpc#5570 is working on a console, with Gwi typing at another nearby. They both turn as Lennie step inside. Trenick@annpc#5570 smiles, "Commander. We've just run through all the data we collected." Lendaria@crystyll: "Wow. You boys don't waste no time do ya?" she smiles, "So whaddaya got?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "I got Lieutenant Gwi to help, as if this is a specimen of Species 2504, well, it's as much a planet as it is a lifeform." Lendaria@crystyll nods, "Good call. I been over th'files from 2504 an' we still know next to nothin' bout tha' form o'life" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Gwi: "I've been matching the planetary data of it to the member of Species 2504 we encountered. They share about as much in common as any two Class M worlds. This one is a little smaller, a - Trenick@annpc#5570: - little cooler on average, has a higher concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere. About the same amount of water, but the landmass is divided into multiple continents." Lendaria@crystyll nods, "Only t'be expected. Even Jem'Hadar are different t'one another an' they'se bred in tanks t'be th'same" Lendaria@crystyll: "Wha' bout observational similarities. Environmental an' behavioral conditions?" Trenick@annpc#5570 | Gwi: "This one has more varied weather and climates, but on both it seems the most common non-aquatic biome is a jungle-like environment." Trenick@annpc#5570: "The behaviour of the local lifeforms match what was observed on Species 2504, but with one key difference." Lendaria@crystyll: "Whassat?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "The creatures with predatory features encountered on Species 2504 were hostile to any foreign presence, which is what made study of the planet by followup science expeditions so difficult. It's - Trenick@annpc#5570: - theorized that these lifeforms act like white blood cells or other immune system equivalents, attacking anything not native to the body to protect it from harm." Lendaria@crystyll nods, "But tha' ain't th'case 'ere" Trenick@annpc#5570: "Clearly not. I think the Zihil's ruthless attitude towards anyone who threatens the local environment might be similar behaviour, but clearly, this one is able to distinguish between benign - Trenick@annpc#5570: - foreign presence and those that intend it harm." Lendaria@crystyll: "An immune system" she smiles Trenick@annpc#5570 nods, "A more intelligent one in the case of the Zihil, it seems." Trenick@annpc#5570: "I do have stronger evidence that we might be looking at the same type of lifeform, other than behavioural similarities and the unusual lack of predators, though." Lendaria@crystyll: "Glad t'hear it. What else ya got?" Trenick@annpc#5570 turns and taps on a console, "I had the computer compare everything we scanned here to everything that has been studied on Species 2504. The Zihil are completely different from the predatory - Trenick@annpc#5570: - creatures, or I should say defensive creatures of that planet. But there are genetic similarities in sixteen species of plants and three avian species." Lendaria@crystyll: "So far so good. Could th'Zihil be a seperate entity tha's evolved into coexistence wit' a 2504? Like a symbiotic thing?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "It's possible, but the other species with predatory traits we've observed don't act as defenders from what we've seen and are very friendly to us, but aggressive in the tournament matches. If the - Trenick@annpc#5570: - Zihil are a separate entity, they must have completely replaced the defenders, and the planet itself has to be complicit in what the Zihil are doing with the arena as well." Lendaria@crystyll: "Not outta th'realm o'possibility in this settin' I guess. Wha'bout this whole Queen thing or wha'ever controls the Zihil?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "Still no new information on that." Trenick@annpc#5570 | Gwi: "Planetary scans show a large number of tunnel networks beneath the surface of the planet, with many containing Zihil lifesigns, But we haven't found a single lifesign to isolate out of - Trenick@annpc#5570: - all of them that looks especially unique. From the scan data of the giant Zihil you saw on the surface we were able to detect many more of those, but they seem to be exclusive to the surface - Trenick@annpc#5570: - habitats. You'd need some very large tunnels to get them underground..." Lendaria@crystyll chuckles, "Y'ain't wrong there. But wha'bout theories on th'Queen entity. Could th'planet itself fit tha' role within these current theories?" Trenick@annpc#5570: "It could. The planet definitely seems involved in the arena tournaments, which would mean it's significantly more intelligent than the specimen we encountered before. It could be due to outside - Trenick@annpc#5570: - influence, maybe from a symbiotic relationship with the Zihil, or maybe the other specimen is still juvenile." Trenick@annpc#5570: "Maybe it's just been tamed and trained to cooperate in the tournaments, or we could be dealing with a fully self-aware being." Lendaria@crystyll: "Maybe, but there's still another whole side to this" Trenick@annpc#5570: "We can continue surveying the planet in the meantime, but as we have very limited data on the other member of Species 2504, there's only so much comparison we can do. I'm hoping we'll get some - Trenick@annpc#5570: - more answers once Captain Vix gets her audience with the Queen." Lendaria@crystyll: "Indeed. Wit' luck tha' should tell us how th'Zihil supposedly communicate wit' other species" Trenick@annpc#5570: "I've sent our findings here to Eva to convey to her. It might be of help in communicating with the Queen if Captain Vix has a better idea of what's going on." Lendaria@crystyll laughs, "She'll jus' figure we'se determined to science the crap outta this place an' detract from 'er glory" Lendaria@crystyll: "But's a good idea still. Couldn't hurt f'sure!" Trenick@annpc#5570 chuckles, "More data is always good. Even for a warrior." Lendaria@crystyll: "Aight, well it sound like y'all are doin' good work here. Ya got all ya need? Wanna pull in more folks?" Trenick@annpc#5570 smiles, "More expeditioons and people wouldn't hurt. Actually, if someone gets careless...still, I think we could use more data, even if we don't have much to compare it to." Lendaria@crystyll: "I'll run it by the Cap'n" she nods, "I'm-a sure she'll be happy t'authorize more away teams as long as folks are strict on conduct down there" Trenick@annpc#5570: "I'm sure the teams'll understand the importance, with what we know of the Zihil."
View Act III
NPK@annpc#5570: | As per the PADD's instructions, Lexi returns to the building when called, noticing a number of fans cheering for her both outside and in the main lobby now. Lexi@crystyll: walks with immense pride, letting her fans get a good eyeful. It's not her first arena after all NPK@annpc#5570: | A large number of Zihil are nearby watching the crowds. As she passes the lobby and into the corridor for competitors, one of the Zihil workers skitters out and begins leading the way. Lexi@crystyll: follows dutifully NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi is lead into a room with a single table in the centre with a built-in console interface. On the other side of the table stands a Toroki, tail swaying idly. From the tip of the tail, the - NPK@annpc#5570: - only way to discern a Toroki's gender visually, this one appears to be female. Lexi@crystyll: looks across, "Well this is new" NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "The final round works differently. We compete in an arena of our choosing, with rules and weapons we agree on." Lexi@crystyll: "You are my opponent then?" NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "I am. I had expected to face the Ularen, but it seems you were able to best him. Very impressive." Lexi@crystyll: "He was a fun opponent. I am however glad that the final is against you. Long have I craved to face one of you" NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki taps the console, "I think it is safe to say we are both capable trackers and hunters. There is no need for the jungle arena, I think." Lexi@crystyll: "Agreed. Do you have any preference for the venue?" NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "We can choose a traditional arena if you prefer the energy of the crowds. However, we now also have the Precipice Arena open to us...the one only available for finalists of the High - NPK@annpc#5570: - Tournaments, and where many legendary duels have taken place." Lexi@crystyll: "Sounds like a worthy stage. Crowd pleasing is all well and good, but showmanship is secondary. If you wish to fight in the precipice arena that works for me" NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki taps the console again, "Then the Precipice Arena it is. Now for equipment..." Lexi@crystyll: "I assume the options are reasonably diverse?" NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "Yes, but I would like to fight you at your best, with a weapon you are most familiar with. You prefer close quarters, or long range?" Lexi@crystyll: "Definitely close quarters. As for my best, that would require my bat'leth" NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "That is a weapon you carry that the arena may not know of?" Lexi@crystyll: nods, "It is my personal weapon, ancient Klingon design" Lexi@crystyll: "The bugs did seem rather curious about it when I first registered, so I guess it is something new to them and not in their little catalogue" NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "Then we shall have it that you can bring what you wish into the arena. You may wear what you are most comfortable in as well, as long as it does not provide too much of an advantage in a - NPK@annpc#5570: - close quarters duel. Nothing impenetrable to a blade." NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "But you may wear a little lighter armour, as you have none naturally." Lexi@crystyll: My everyday armour should fit that criteria. What about you then? I assume close quarters is also your preference, given your natural assets?" she indicates the tail NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "Indeed. I will bring a close quarters weapon, but my natural scales should suffice. Any armour will impede my movement." Lexi@crystyll: smiles, "This will be a glorious duel" NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki taps the console yet again, and the arena options show up on Lexi's side of the table as well with an option to accept. Lexi@crystyll: skims over the details and confirms the settings NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "I look forward to facing you in the arena. May this battle live on in legend." Lexi@crystyll: "Couldn't have put it better myself" NPK@annpc#5570: | The console displays instructions to prepare to the final round and head to the transporter like before when called. Lexi@crystyll: checks the details and heads out NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki does the same, and they stride across the lobby and out of the building to cheering fans. Among the crowd, Lexi just notices someone in Starfleet uniform trying to push through and - NPK@annpc#5570: - waving to get her attention. Lexi@crystyll: heads over, trying to see who it is NPK@annpc#5570: | As she heads over, she can make out the figure as Eva. Lexi@crystyll: "Eva! Enjoying the show?" NPK@annpc#5570: | Eva: "I see you've amassed quite the following. I'm no warrior, but even I can see that you're good at what you do." Lexi@crystyll: grins, "You come here just to flatter me? Don't tell me it's autograph time already" NPK@annpc#5570: | Eva chuckles, "I'm sure some of your fans would love an autograph, especially if you pull off the final round. But no, that's not what the PADD is for," she hands Lexi the PADD in her hand. NPK@annpc#5570: | Eva: "It's the information the Guardians provided us. I was worrying about how to get it to you. We have no idea if they let you come back first like a regular match or if they'll transport you - NPK@annpc#5570: - directly to your audience with the Queen. But the final round was just announced, and it looks like you get to bring your own equipment." Lexi@crystyll: nods, "Yep, so you'll get to see me in all my glory!" she laughs, "Thanks for this though, I'll be sure to go over it before we head in" NPK@annpc#5570: | Eva: "There's also something else we just learned about this planet. I've included the summary with the PADD, but in short we think the planet might be a living entity." Lexi@crystyll: chuckles, "Of course you do" NPK@annpc#5570: | Eva: "We're not sure if the Zihil are a separate thing that's managed to tame the planet into cooperating with the arenas, or if they're a part of the planet. In either case, thought you might - NPK@annpc#5570: - want to know. It's definitely not a regular planet though, and the native wildlife seem to be complacent in the arena rather than thrown inside and forced to fight." Lexi@crystyll: "Alright, I'll take a look. Thanks again" NPK@annpc#5570: | Eva smiles, "Happy to help. And good luck with the final match, Captain Vix." Lexi@crystyll: beams, "Thanks!" giving a little wave as she heads off --- NPK@annpc#5570: | Several hours after deciding on the final arena, Lexi is called back into the transporter room, where the Toroki awaits her on an oppposite transporter pad, holding a custom-made Arshai zolre. Lexi@crystyll: looks her opponent over, giving an approving nod, "Good choice" indicating the zolre NPK@annpc#5570: | Toroki: "Your weapon looks impressive as well. This will certainly be a fight to remember." Lexi@crystyll: "They will sing songs of this glorious day!" NPK@annpc#5570: | The two disappear into transporter beams... NPK@annpc#5570: | Both opponents are transported on a narrow mountainside path only a few metres wide. One side is steep rock face, and the other a fatal drop down. Even though it seems like a path, both ends are - NPK@annpc#5570: - broken, leaving only a single short stretch of road. A thin layer of snow blankets the ground, dramatically drifting down from the sky. Without a canopy, the drones around them are more obvious, - NPK@annpc#5570: - though they hover well out of range and are not an interference to the fight. NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki assumes a traditional spear ready stance, her tail raised and ready on the side that the spear isn't being held, "One of us will not survive the day. Whichever one it is, let us make - NPK@annpc#5570: - sure she lives on in stories forever." Lexi@crystyll: grins, slowly unsheathing her bat'leth and gently whirling it into a ready stance, "And drinks to the victor of her honorable opponent in stovokor!" NPK@annpc#5570: | There is not much room for them to circle one another, but the Toroki goes for a more aggressive start anyways, closing in slowly before lunging forward with her zolre. Lexi@crystyll: deflects the blow with an upwards parry, twisting the bat'leth to slide down the shaft of the zolre to push it aside while swinging the tip in high at her opponent NPK@annpc#5570: | As Lexi pushes the zolre down, the Toroki twirls the weapon, bringing the blade on the other end up and slashing downwards towards Lexi and forcing her to redirect the tip of her weapon to block, - NPK@annpc#5570: - or have them both score a hit on each other at the same time. Lexi@crystyll: goes for the block, following through with a hefty shoulder barge before swinging her weapon back up the opposing direction NPK@annpc#5570: | The shoulder barge knocks the Toroki back slightly, but she quickly repositions her zolre to block Lexi's counterattack before using the other end of her zolre to strike in kind. Lexi@crystyll: moves to snag the tip of the zolre through the grooves of the bat'leth before giving it a sharp twist to wrench it from her opponents hands NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki holds on to the zolre with one hand, leaping up and using the other three as she grabs onto the rock face beside them, running along it briefly before spinning dramatically in midair in - NPK@annpc#5570: - the direction of Lexi's twist, all the while swinging her bladed tail like a whip while Lexi's weapon is intertwined with hers and its motion thus more predictable. Lexi@crystyll: launches herself off the ground as well, holding only her grasp on the weapon and allowing her body to twist in the air as led by the Torokei's fancy move NPK@annpc#5570: rolls 83 (1-100) NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki lands on her feet and manages to yank the zolre back out of the bat'leth's grooves, quickly bringing the other end of it up and slashing down at Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: hunkers down, raising the bat'leth to catch the swing before pushing up again as she jumps to her feet NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki doesn't relent with the assault, quickly bringing the other end of the zolre over for a low strike at Lexi's legs. Lexi@crystyll: continues her jump to lift her feet over the swing, following with a low sweep of her own as she lands again NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki leaps back and quickly brings the zolre up high to jab down at Lexi's neck and shoulder area. Lexi@crystyll: twists her frame to angle the pauldrons of her armor to glance the blow away while following through with a sideways swipe of the bat'leth into the shaft of the zolre NPK@annpc#5570: | The blow lands but it does indeed glance away thanks to Lexi's paudrons. The Toroki tries to move her weapon away, but Lexi's blow strikes the point that the two ends can be detached from, causing - NPK@annpc#5570: - it to break into two weapons. The Toroki moves quickly, snatching the front half and leaping back. NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki holds both ends of the zolre at the ready, bringing her tail over her head and awaiting Lexi's next move, appearing to play more defensively now that Lexi has the longer reach. Lexi@crystyll: lets her opponent play the defensive card by continuing a traditional offensive routine with the weapon. Keeping the hands busy with hopes to draw the tail into striking NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki parries as flawlessly as the Ularen as Lexi mounts her offensive, but she keeps her tail on the reserve. The Toroki retreats each time Lexi presses forward before suddenly pushing one - NPK@annpc#5570: - of her strikes away aggressively and darting in, watching the end of the bat'leth she had knocked aside to try and predict the position of the other end and dodge any counterattack as she rushes - NPK@annpc#5570: - forward to close the distance. If she gets close enough, she would try to use the other end of the zolre in her other arm to stab at Lexi's abdomen. Lexi@crystyll: does not counterswing, but instead twirls away again in the direction her blade with parried to, bringing it around once more with a two handed powerswing more akin to a battleaxe NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki tries to dive sideways under the powerswing, with her tail towards Lexi and swinging to sweep her off her legs, thinking that she wouldn't be able to bring the blade back - NPK@annpc#5570: - from the powerswing to strike the tail in time. Lexi@crystyll: is indeed swept off her feet, landing and pushing off with her hands to backflip away before the tail swipes again NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki rolls once she has cleared the powerswing as well and whips her tail as she turns around only to find Lexi has rolled away. She tries to close the distance again before Lexi - NPK@annpc#5570: - gets back on her feet, rushing forwards but not recklessly as she prepares for Lexi to try and stop her charge. Lexi@crystyll: stands ready, raising her bat'leth to block the charging attack, only to duck and roll towards the Torokei at the last moment, aiming to come up behind her as she charges and hurl another powerswing + Lexi@crystyll: + down at the trailing tail as she runs; to pin it if not slice it clean off NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki shrieks in pain as Lexi cuts into the tail and pins it down, but doesn't manage to completely sever it. She spins around as much as she can with the pinned tail, launching one of the - NPK@annpc#5570: - zolre ends at Lexi to try and force her out of the way so she can free her injured tail. Lexi@crystyll: would move to quickly jump over to the other side of the pinned tail to evade the throw while also throwing her body weight into a twist of the bat'leth pinning the tail NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi finally manages to sever the tail, causing the shrieking Toroki to dart off. She stops just short of falling over the end of the road before leaping onto the cliff wall again, using her legs - NPK@annpc#5570: - and arm to crawl while she holds the last piece of the zolre in her other hand. She climbs up and along the stone before leaping off with her weapon arm extended in a desperate but very quick move - NPK@annpc#5570: - to close the distance and impale Lexi. Lexi@crystyll: is prepared for the enraged counter but can't flee entirely, instead having to raise her bat'leth to meet the attack in the hopes of stopping the stab short of impaling her NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi's bat'leth knocks the zolre upwards, turning the stab into a slash that her armour and shoulderplates mostly manage to block, but it does make a shallow cut along her left cheek, but missing - NPK@annpc#5570: - the eye; nothing that would debilitate her during the fight and could easily be fixed afterwards with a dermal regenerator. Lexi@crystyll: growls happily at the drawing of blood, pushing the zolre aside and welcoming the closest of quarters with a signature Klingon headbutt NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki is knocked back a little but quickly tries to retaliate with a punch to the stomach. Lexi@crystyll: would try to intercept the punch with the side of her weapon NPK@annpc#5570: | Lexi manages to intercept the punch, but the Toroki continues the aggressive close quarters assault with a sideways kick aiming to move Lexi closer to the edge of the mountain. Lexi@crystyll: staggers with the kick, quickly spinning away and bringing her weapon to bare once more NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki wastes no time, trying to close the distance again. Lexi@crystyll: moves to quickly parry left and right with the fast assault NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki attacks relentlessly, but injured and with only one short weapon, Lexi soon finds an opening to strike... Lexi@crystyll: seizes her chance, parrying the Toroki's attack before pushing in with a relentless series of swings NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki tries to do her best to parry, but is unable to do so. Her natural scales provide some protection against the lighter blows, but Lexi lands a deep slash on her leg and the Toroki's - NPK@annpc#5570: - footwork begins to fail. The next blow smashes straight past the Toroki's weapon and slashes down her chest. Though the scales deflect some of the damage, the Toroki is pushed back and teeters on - NPK@annpc#5570: - the edge before falling over, with two of the drones taking a nosedive to follow. Lexi@crystyll: stands and watches her opponent fall, moving to reach out and grab her before she slips too far, but not being quick enough to come back from her weapon swing to do so NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki disappears into the mist below. Two other drones turn towards Lexi, but they don't zoom in as usual. Seconds pass by, and there is no transporter beam... Lexi@crystyll: looks around, slightly perplexed NPK@annpc#5570: | She notices just in time that the Toroki has climbed back up along the mountainside and is now on the rear rock face of the arena. She leaps off once again, completely unarmed this time and - NPK@annpc#5570: - aiming to knock Lexi off the edge, but leaving herself completely exposed in the process. Lexi@crystyll: drops to her back as the Toroki lands, bracing the impact with her bat'leth and kicking out as she rolls backwards to push her opponent over her head, and over the edge NPK@annpc#5570: | The Toroki cuts herself on the edge of the bat'leth with the force of her leap, and with Lexi's kick, her bloodied opponent falls too far off the side of the mountain to possibly climb back up... NPK@annpc#5570: | A few seconds pass, and this time two drones do indeed swoop down and begin to circle her. Lexi@crystyll: slowly gets back to her feet, panting with exhilration as she looks around before raising her bat'leth high overhead in victory NPK@annpc#5570: | The drones continue to circle as Lexi does her victory demonstration before she disappears into a transporter beam... NPK@annpc#5570 | Lexi beams in and finds herself on a transporter pad...but not the one she came from. Instead, it is one in a cave of some description. Lexi@crystyll looks around, still not completely content to let her guard down NPK@annpc#5570 | One of the Worker Zihil skitters up to her, circling her a few times before turning and skittering away, but pausing and turning back as if waiting for Lexi to follow. Lexi@crystyll slowly slings the bat'leth across her back once more as she follows NPK@annpc#5570 | The Zihil leads her through winding caves, where she notices many other Zihil, mostly Workers but a few Soldiers as well. They walk for several minutes, going further and further down judging - NPK@annpc#5570: - from the slope of the cave floor. Lexi@crystyll quietly follows, knowing better than to try and strike up conversation with the Zihil at this point NPK@annpc#5570 | The caves are lit up faintly by bioluminescent fungi, giving faint light so she can see where she is going and the rough shapes of the Zihil around her. Soon, the caves begin to widen and Lexi - NPK@annpc#5570: - notices two Zihil of distinctly different shape than the variants she had seen before. One of them skitters up by a cluster of glowing mushrooms, offering a closer look. NPK@annpc#5570 FX | https://i.imgur.com/SMSBmqw.jpg NPK@annpc#5570 | The Worker Zihil continues leading her on into a large cavern, where several more of the new Zihil types can be seen around. The cavern is lined with glowing fungi, though the centre is dark. NPK@annpc#5570 | From out of the shadows a bipedal figure steps out, and as it comes closer, Lexi notes that it is also insectoid and bears resemblence to the Zihil variants. NPK@annpc#5570: FX | https://i.imgur.com/zOIIVrA.jpg NPK@annpc#5570 | Biped Zihil: "Approach, Champion." Lexi@crystyll steps closer, "So some of you do speak basic" NPK@annpc#5570 | Biped Zihil: "All Zihil are one. I am all Zihil. This is but a mouth. The mouth of Zihil." Lexi@crystyll: "A mouth... or /the/ mouth?" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "The mouth, but more will be produced should this one come to its end." NPK@annpc#5570: | The Worker that led Lexi in skitters back towards her. Lexi@crystyll: "So you're all one conscious mind, like a hive mind?" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "In a manner. All beings here do as they were made to do, but they are a part of Zihil, and so I may command them." NPK@annpc#5570: | Zihil Mouth: "Your blood will be collected. This will not harm you." NPK@annpc#5570 | The Worker rears up and puts a hypo-like device to Lexi's arm. Lexi@crystyll watches the hypo, "You know it's generally considered polite to ask first, not just state the fact" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "The manners of Children are still alien to me, even after all these years." NPK@annpc#5570 | There is a prick on Lexi's arm and the Worker removes the device, skittering off. Lexi@crystyll: "So what exactly is this blood sample for...?" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "To make the beings of Zihil the way they are now. And better." It waves an arm around to the beetle-like Zihil and the Workers. Lexi@crystyll: "So it's true. The reason you hold these tournaments is to bring forth the best examples of other species to incorporate into your own genome. You must have a highly refined understanding of genetics" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Not my genetics. That of my workers, my protectors, my warriors. And some of the beings you have no doubt come across in the arenas." Lexi@crystyll: "So what happens now? I assumed there was to be an audience with a 'queen bee' of sorts" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Yes, there are many Champions who have come expecting a queen, due to the nature of my protectors and workers. In a way I am like a queen, but I can no more be a queen of them as - NPK@annpc#5570: - you can be a queen of your own hands and fingers." Lexi@crystyll: "I think I understand. In that case it is you have sought an audience with through all of this" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Yes. As for what now...in the past, you would have been given to the ones known as the Guardians, who would have tried to recruit you. And when you leave here, they may very well - NPK@annpc#5570: - still try. Do /not/ join them. They will deceive you. They will use you. They are not to be trusted." Lexi@crystyll: "Yeah, we know the Guardians. And we know you guys bailed on your old arrangmenet with them. We are curious to know why" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Is that what they told you? They experimented on us. Tried to control us. In a way, we owe what we now are to them. But we did not ask for this." Lexi@crystyll: "They were not exactly forthcoming on details. But it's because of those seeking to control you that is the reason we came. The reason I won your tournament" NPK@annpc#5570 | Several of the beetle-like Zihil suddenly skitter over and Lexi finds herself surrounded by them. Lexi@crystyll tenses, ready to draw her weapon NPK@annpc#5570: | Zihil Mouth: "You have come on their behest?! To control me? Impossible. I do not detect their influence on you." Lexi@crystyll: "That is /not/ what I said!" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Then why have you come?" Lexi@crystyll: "To warn you about impending action from those who do seek control. From the Horde" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "The Horde. The enemies upon with the Guardians are so fixated with defeating. It is their obsession that led to all this. If they did not tell you the full tale, I shall." Lexi@crystyll: "Then tell me your view of things before I say my piece" Lexi@crystyll looks around, "And call of your minions. Even if I wished you harm I not foolish enough to attempt anything here" NPK@annpc#5570 | The Zihil beetles skitter away. NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I once lived in ignorance, a simple life of sustaining myself. No mouth, no arenas. Then, the Guardians came." NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Like how their creators changed the Lupan, they changed me. Made me as I am now. But they did not do it without a specific purpose in mind. They made me help them set up the - NPK@annpc#5570: - arenas. Bring the best warriors from the region as potential recruits." Lexi@crystyll: "So they genetically engineered you. Trying to create a new weapon against the Horde" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Yes. A few warriors every tournament was not what they truly sought, merely an additional benefit. What they wanted was me. I was made to do their bidding. Change my protectors - NPK@annpc#5570: - into their weapons, all for their obsession with the Horde, an enemy that was not mine. So tell me, would you still have me fight against them?" Lexi@crystyll: "We didn't come here to try and make you fight against them" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Then what do you seek of me?" Lexi@crystyll: "Because like it or not, the Horde is aware of your presence. And the way this tournament of your attracts the Children, you are on their watchlist" Lexi@crystyll: "Even as we speak, there is a Horde armada counting in the thousands and growing in numbers every day, not far from here. When that force is complete, it will be coming here. For you" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "You speak truth. But how can I give up what has already been made? If the Guardians had never changed me, I would live in ignorance of the greater universe around me." NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "But now that my eyes have been opened, how can I again live in solitude?" Lexi@crystyll: "Then don't live in solitude. Even if you made this the last tournament they would likely still come for you. They may not absorb you into their army like the Children, but I'm sure they would + Lexi@crystyll: + see you as a threat. Look, I'm not necessarily the best person for this kind of conversation. I'm a fighter, and I did my part here. Grant an audience to the Starfleet captain I came here with. + Lexi@crystyll: + Tell her what you have told me, and let us help you find the right answer" NPK@annpc#5570 | The Zihil Mouth considers for a few seconds before saying, "I do not know who she is. Bring her with you to the place where you began the tournaments, and my workers will take you here." Lexi@crystyll nods, "That is all I can ask of you. I shall return with her shortly then, if there is anything more you require, or desire to be brought; ask now" NPK@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Only that you do not join the Guardians, and do not trust them. I will await you here, Champion." Lexi@crystyll bows her head, "No worries on that front. I already have a cause to fight for, and I don't trust anyone" she looks up with a slight smirk Lexi@crystyll: "I shall see you soon with Captain Keelah at my side then" NPK@annpc#5570 | The worker that led Lexi in skitters back into view, stopping near the exit and waiting for Lexi to follow to show her the way back to the transporter she came in at. Lexi@crystyll: turns and follows the worker NPK@annpc#5570 | The worker leads her back the way she came, stepping aside for her as they reach the transporter. --- NPC@annpc#5570 FX | Some time later, Lexi returns with Keelah and are led to the same cavern, where they find the Zihil Mouth waiting for them. NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "So this is the one you fought the tournament to seek an audience for, Champion?" Keelah@crystyll | Lexi: "Yeah, she's the brains the of the outfit, you might say" Keelah@crystyll gives Lexi an odd look, turning to the Zihil, "I am Captain Keelah" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I am Zihil." Keelah@crystyll: "Yes, I understand from Captain Vix that the individual before me serves as a voice for the collective hive consciousness of the Zihil?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Yes. What have you come to say, Captain Keelah?" Keelah@crystyll: "We recently discovered a Horde armada massing in a nearby sector. After close analysis we determined that this world was their most likely target. In short; we came to warn you and to help" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "The Champion has spoken of the Horde, and how they will come due to the Children gathered here. But to end the tournaments, all that has been built..." Keelah@crystyll: "I understand the position that puts you in. And there is no guarantee that ending the tournament would even stop them coming for you" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "What would you propose, then?" Keelah@crystyll: "I honestly don't know what would be best. It is difficult to determine without properly understanding the nature of your people" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I know little of my kind, if there are others. I know only me." Keelah@crystyll: "So you do consider yourself a singular lifeform, not a collection of individuals like the Children races?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Yes. All around you is Zihil. Not just my workers and protectors, but the stone within which you stand, the plants that cover the surface, the creatures of the land, water and air." Keelah@crystyll nods, "I understand. We have encountered one such as yourself before. Though we were not able to communicate like this. I do not know if that was of a related origin to you or not, but we are at + Keelah@crystyll: + familiar with your nature" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I do not know from where I come, only that I was for a long time. It was not until the Guardians found and experimented with me that I was able to truly comprehend my existence, - NPC@annpc#5570: - and learn to communicate with the Children." Keelah@crystyll: "Whilst I do not condone what the Guardians did to you on principle, I welcome the results in the fact that we are able to communicate and share an understanding with you now" Keelah@crystyll: "As for what to do about the Horde threat, I assume you know all about them and that the reason the Guardians first interfered here was to groom you as a defense against them?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "The Guardians are responsible for much, not all of it ill. And I welcome the presence the tournaments bring, I would not be in this position if not for their interference." Keelah@crystyll: "Yet you still refuse to speak with them since cutting them out of your arrangement?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Arrangement? It was no arrangement. While some of what they have wrought benefit me now, I was not given a choice in the matter. They forced me to perform their bidding and sought - NPC@annpc#5570: - to use my protectors as weapons. It was only with years of careful work and planning that I was able to thwart their wretched plans for me, turn the weapons they created against them." NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "The Horde is a threat to your kind. To deny that would be blindness. But the Guardians' obsession has made them no better than the foe they have sworn to destroy." Keelah@crystyll raises a hand, "Apologies. A misinterpretation on our behalf. Whilst Children are the goal of the Horde, we can not rule out the fact that they now have their eyes on you still" Keelah@crystyll: "Stopping the tournaments - for now - would certainly be a prudent measure. But tell me, at what cost would such a move be to you?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "You came here on a starship, did you not? With energy weapons and matter-energy transportation and synthesis technologies?" Keelah@crystyll nods, "That is correct" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Imagine then, all that taken away from you. Everything that your progress has wrought, gone, and you are alone in the universe with no idea what path to take now." Keelah@crystyll: "You don't simply rely on this interaction with the Children to continue your growth do you? You... enjoy it, crave it" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "It has been a part of my existence for the past two thousand cycles, not long after I had first became truly aware of my existence. Would you be willing to part with something you - NPC@annpc#5570: - have known for such a length of time?" Keelah@crystyll: "No, of course not. But if meant I could survive another two thousand cycles or more, then perhaps I would be willing to forego it for a shorter period" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "But how long a period? The Horde has existed long before the tournaments, and perhaps it will continue to exist long after I am gone. Will the tournaments ever be able to resume?" Keelah@crystyll: "If we have anything to say about" she nods, "We /have/ to stop the Horde before it creeps any further into the galaxy. If we fail, it will spread until there is nothing left. And if that happens, + Keelah@crystyll: + there won't even be any Children left for you know" Keelah@crystyll ponders her followup line briefly... Keelah@crystyll: "We do not enjoy lifespans such as yours. Not all of us at least... Tell me, do you understand the nature of Children species' procreation and continuation?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Yes. There is still much I do not understand about the Children, but I am familiar with your basic biological characteristics." Keelah@crystyll: "Perhaps the emotional importance of such will be beyond your understanding at the moment. But... I have a daughter, my offspring. She is on that ship orbiting here right now in fact. Now my most + Keelah@crystyll: + important goal in life is to see her have a happy and safe life; to provide for her until the day comes when I am no longer able. That means I can not let the Horde threat go unchecked any longer. + Keelah@crystyll: + It has to stop. And it has to happen now. You understand the premise of our technology, so hopefully you will understand when I tell you that we are so far from our home that we are incapable of + Keelah@crystyll: + travelling back there unless we find what we came here to seek. What is also now known to be the means of stopping the Horde" Keelah@crystyll: "So how long would you have to forego your tournaments for? Maybe a few cycles, if more than one. Because we can not afford to wait any longer even if you could" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Your logic is sound. If the Horde is not stopped, there will not be any Children to attend the tournaments. Many have tried, but I hope you will be capable of succeeding." Keelah@crystyll: "As do we all..." she nods solemnly, "In the meantime I would like to offer you a proposal" NPC@annpc#5570: | Zihil Mouth: "Speak." Keelah@crystyll: "Genetic sampling of arena champions may be what you were first taught to do, but by your own words you have learned to grow and evolve your ways beyond the guidance of the Guardians. Consider this; + Keelah@crystyll: + whilst many Children do indeed savour such events, the majority in fact do not. There are other ways to grow and interact with the galaxy around you. Take this opportunity to explore new means. You+ Keelah@crystyll: + never know; by the time the Horde is dealt with you may have found something which appeals more than the tournaments" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I will do as you suggest. I do not completely understand the Children yet, but the tournaments and the genetic sampling were what the Guardians taught me to do, in order to shape - NPC@annpc#5570: - my protectors into their weapons. I would like to become more than that." Keelah@crystyll: "We can help, if you would like us to" she smiles, "And we also have a... friend, of sorts, who may also be able to help you expand those horizons. If you could permit it to remain here with you. A + Keelah@crystyll: + potential companion for you, so to speak" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "And what might that be?" Keelah@crystyll: "Physically, it is but a small crystal formation" she demonstrates approximately with her hands, "However, this is merely the presence in our universe of a lifeform which exists primarly on a + Keelah@crystyll: + temporal plane. We have carried it for some time now per it's request of us, in search of a new home where it could grow alongside an evolving life" Keelah@crystyll smiles, "I can think of no better home for it, nor a more suitable non-indigenous companion for you" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "And I will be happy to take it in. With the tournaments halted, any companionship will be appreciated." Keelah@crystyll: "Then I will have it delivered to you shortly. As to my offer, what do you think? We want to do everything we can to help you adjust in light of the sacrifice you are making" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I will welcome any assistance you can provide. You will know better what your kind appreciates, and what will draw your people's attention to me when I no longer need to worry of - NPC@annpc#5570: - the Horde." Keelah@crystyll chuckles, "Trust me; for those of a more curous nature who seek knowledge about all like the Federation, /you/ will be all the draw you need" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Certainly simply existing will not be enough?" Keelah@crystyll: "Your existence is incredibly unique, and in our society the pursuit of knowledge is the highest of callings. Believe me when I say there are entire institutions who would gladly dedicate their + Keelah@crystyll: + entire - relatively short - lifespans to learning all about you" Keelah@crystyll: "But..." Keelah@crystyll: "You are right. That may satisfy the Children, but for such arrangements to work they need to be mutually beneficial. You must get something out of it too, that is where simply existing will not be + Keelah@crystyll: + sufficient. But that is where my people will help before we depart" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I look forward to hearing what ideas your people may present, Captain Keelah." Keelah@crystyll: "As do I" she nods, "Before I send any of them down however, I need understanding that they will be safe as long as they abide by the rules we have been given?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "No danger will come to them, as long as they do not seek to harm me. Any who try to harm them, my protectors will deal with." Keelah@crystyll: "Thank you. And for communication purposes, are you the only 'mouth'?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "There is one more not in use should this one meet an unpredictable end. But more can be created if they are needed for what I am to do once the Children can return." Keelah@crystyll: "I leave it to your judgement, but in order for my people to impart knowledge, you will need a means of hearing them at least" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "I will use the second Mouth as well, if it shall make things easier and begin creating more, though it will take time before they are ready." Keelah@crystyll: "Consider that a long term plan. If you have two right now, I can restrict our presence to two teams who can each work with your mouths" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "A good plan. I will await your teams, then." Keelah@crystyll: "Excellent. I'm so glad we could reach an understanding here, I can only hope to do our part and end the Horde threat quickly" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "As do I. Perhaps I will work on achieving what the Guardians had not yet managed before I drove them out- means to send my warriors beyond my reach and still be capable of - NPC@annpc#5570: - recognizing friend from foe, so they may assist you against the Horde." Keelah@crystyll: "You... still wish to pursue this concept?" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "No, but if defeating the Horde is the only way more Children will come here again, it is in my best interest. The primary use for my protectors will still be to protect me, but I - NPC@annpc#5570: - have resources to spare due to the trade the tournaments brought. And I have little use for the great Reapers that roam my fields. They were designed specifically for mowing down large armies of - NPC@annpc#5570: - Horde thralls, and are not very efficient against anything else." Keelah@crystyll: "Well we do have one of the foremost experts on the Children with us. One of the Creators in fact, so if anybody can figure out a way for you to achieve this then it would be him" Keelah@crystyll: "We will assist you in this endeavour if nothing else to help prepare you to defend yourself against the Horde. Not to take advantage of you for our own ends" Keelah@crystyll: "If you are successful and wish to support us then you will of course be welcomed, but with what you've already been through I can not and will not ask it of you" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "It will take time, perhaps something for me to work on during the great silence when I end the tournaments. I will welcome any advice your expert can give, however." NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "It may not be possible, and it may not be done in time to assist you, even if you do ask it of me. But I will pursue this course, as it may benefit me in the future." Keelah@crystyll: "And we will do all we can to assist while we are here" she smiles NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Thank you, Captain Keelah. I have met very few like you, though I suppose those I have met have been warriors, among the Champions or the Guardians." Keelah@crystyll: "On that front, I am glad to be the exception. We will speak again my friend, but for now I should return to the ship and prepare our teams to come join you" NPC@annpc#5570 | Zihil Mouth: "Until next time then, friend." --- Mana@anncarise | After concluding their business on the Zihil world, the VF departs the system, much to the dismay of most of the science department who is always asking for more time to study the planet. Mana@anncarise | Keelah works in her ready room when the comm sounds. Keelah@crystyll taps the intercom, "Se'Lai" Mana@anncarise | TQ: "Captain, we're getting a hail from the Guardian ship." Keelah@crystyll: "Thank you Tee, I'll take it in here" Mana@anncarise | A few seconds later, Guardian-Captain Daian appears on Keelah's computer, "Captain. Tell me good news." Keelah@crystyll: "Well, our Champion won the tournament. We convinced the Zihil to postpone future events, and they have agreed to resume trying to engineer their protectors to fight against the Horde How's that?" Mana@anncarise | Daian smiles, "Not bad. I thought the Zihil might see reason with stopping the tournaments, but I didn't think they would lend their assistance against the Horde." Keelah@crystyll: "We are a far cry for lending their assistance. But at least now they are preparing to defend themselves. Or should I say, their self" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, "That's good to hear. Do you know what they were doing, giving the champions an audience?" Keelah@crystyll: "Doing what your people taught them to do; obtaining genetic sampling to further improve" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I hope all that amounts to something in the end, even if it's just to protect themself against the Horde. It told you all the details about its history with the Guardians, I assume?" Keelah@crystyll: "It did" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I apologize for not giving you the full story. If you didn't know all the details, you would be more amenable to helping us, and cancelling the tournaments is the most important thing, - Mana@anncarise: - for everyone's sakes." Keelah@crystyll: "You still should have been forthcoming about the nature of the Zihil and the history with the Guardians" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "You were going to learn it anyways. I gave you what you needed to start working, and you did well. It's our way to keep from providing too much information. For the longest time we had - Mana@anncarise: - no way of discerning Horde agents, and even now the information still gets to them sometimes if the people we tell it to end up becoming thralls, or just passing it on to the wrong people." Keelah@crystyll: "I suppose. And I suppose you believe perfectly justified in what the Guardians did to this lifeform as well?" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "No. To be honest, I suppose that's also part of the reason I didn't want to tell you. I'm not proud of what my predecessors did to it, and I had a feeling you wouldn't like it either." Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Guardian-Captains and Commanders are expected to make our own decisions. Some of us go a little further than I'm comfortable with." Keelah@crystyll: "You are at least a good judge of character then. Fortunately this means you will understand that the Zihil still harbor great resentment towards the Guardians and will not cooprate with you still" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, "I expected as much. I didn't come here to ask for its help, just to make sure the tournaments are stopped. If it continues drawing Children to it, that'll be bad for everyone, the - Mana@anncarise: - Zihil included." Keelah@crystyll: "Indeed, and the Zihil understands that now. The tournaments may be resumed one day once the Horde threat is over, but I am confident that the Zihil will follow our guidance in pursuit of a more + Keelah@crystyll: + enlightened path when it is again safe for them to interact with the Children" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Once it's able to resume the tournaments, hopefully there won't be any need for it to defend itself against the Horde." Keelah@crystyll: "If it resumes the tournaments" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, "Of course. It's welcome to do whatever it sees fit. As evidenced by what happened a few decades ago, even if other Guardians wanted to control it, I doubt we'd be able to." Keelah@crystyll: "Indeed. It is quite the remarkable lifeform, and truly unique with the evolution the Guardians have provided" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I just hope we haven't changed it too much. Being the only one of your kind is difficult, and we among the Guardians know that all too well." Keelah@crystyll: "That is why it hs taken us so long to depart. We spent time with the Zihil after the tournament to help it with this transition" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "I hope it does well for itself, whatever it ends up doing. Now that the business here is done, we can proceed on to the nearest Command Post, if you'd still like." Keelah@crystyll: "Yes, we still need to try and coordinate the coalitions efforts with the Guardians" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "We'll lead the way for you. It's about time we head over for resupply anyways." Keelah@crystyll: "We'll form up and follow your lead then" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, "And Captain, thank you for dealing with the Zihil." Keelah@crystyll smiles, "It was our pleasure. The only downside is now I have to live with my science teams constantly pouting about having to leave there" Mana@anncarise | Daian: "Maybe you'll get a chance to come back still. If we can finally deal with the Horde, or at least push them far enough..." Keelah@crystyll: "We will. We have to" Mana@anncarise | Daian smiles, "I wish I had your confidence. Hope is one thing we have in short supply among the Guardians. But we've never had allies like your coalition before." Keelah@crystyll: "Then let that build upon the foundations of our recent success here to spark a new hope" Mana@anncarise | Daian nods, "Let's. Anyways, we'll start heading for the Command Post. Our ship's probably not capable of the same speeds you are. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions on the way." Keelah@crystyll: "Of course, we'll match your heading"
AFTER ACTION REPORT STARFLEET SECURITY CLEARANCE LEVEL 1 | Open
MISSION PARAMETERSOUTCOME SUMMARY Follow up on allied forces lead suggesting world identified as 'Zihil' to be the primary target for the recently scouted Horde armada. Zihil formally acknowledged as a member of Species 2504. Future arena tournaments postponed until the Horde crisis is over. Zihil resumed work on adapting it's protectors to travel beyond it's natural border and aid the cause. Additionally; our long term cargo of the temporal entity cutting has been deposited with Zihil in the belief that the two will make natural companions over their equally unnatural lifespans. Oh, and Captain Vix won the tournament (she would never forgive me if I didn't acknowledge that. Sorry Captain!).
Continue to support Zihil initiatives and aid the development of their Protectors. Encrypted relay installed on Zihil with single line communication link to dedicated lab at the Daystrom Institute. Long term remote support plan to be initiated in support of the Zihil's forced evolution towards sentience and galactic awareness.
After concluding business at Terminu, we departed for the Zihil tournament where Captain Vix would compete to earn an audience with the host species 'Zihil' (working on the assumption that typical dipomatic channels would be ineffective, based on allied intelligence). Whilst still en route, we were intercepted by a Guardian patrol vessel who initiated contact to encourage us away from the tournament - thinking we were typical competitors lured by the annual challenge. Once a rapport was established we continued to the Zihil world where an initial away team beamed down with Captain Vix to gain an understanding of the society there while the Captain registered for the competition.
Initial observations noted an almost autonomous nature to the various Zihil insectoid variants. Coupled to this was the observed reinforcement of incredibly strict non-interference rules relating to the natural environment. This prompted further research which was conducted while Captain Vix began the early rounds of the tournament. A breakthrough in the research came in the form of a comparison to earlier records where significant similarities were found with a world previously explored by the Valley Forge and later designated a living entity in it's own right as Species 2504.
The hallmarks of 2504 liken a planetary environment to the inner workings of a biological lifeform, and - save for the heightened intelligence of what we later learned to be the Protectors of Zihil - were all present in this case as well. A second research team was sent to the surface to verify the theory, straying (cautiously) from the public forums of the tournament. They witnessed further ambiguity to non-interfering presences as well as previously unseen variants of Zihil that can best be described as large harvesters.
Though not yet conclusive, the evidence was deemed sufficient to bring to Captain Vix' attention ahead of her presumed victory and meeting with the Zihil leadership - still publicly perceived to be a Queen as typical to insectoid races. Captain Vix was indeed successful in the tournament and got taken deep underground where she reports meeting a single Zihil 'voice' who confirmed sufficient evidence to acknowledge the Zihil as a member of Species 2504.
Captain Vix learned through this encounter that the lifeforms commonly regarded as the Zihil are in fact the Protector element to Zihil (akin to white blood cells). These Protectors were artificially evolved by the Guardians many centuries ago in an attempt to nurture them into weapons against the Horde in favour of their natural immunity to telepathic influence, much as the Progenitors had done with the Lupan eons earlier. The early relationship was fruitful and sore the beginning of the Zihil tournament as a means to collect genetic samples from the strongest warriors of the region to be incorporated into their own genome. Eventually the Zihil intelligence grew to recognize the Guardians abuse at the time and it broke ties with them, though continued the tournaments as it knew no different. Once a mutual understanding was reached regarding the current Horde threat, Captain Vix convinced Zihil to permit an audience with Captain Keelah who she felt would be more adept at negotiating with such an unusual lifeform.
The negotiation was successful and secured the postponement of future tournaments until the Horde threat is resolved. Further to this, the Zihil recognized the indirect threat the Horde posed to it's own existence and agreed to resume work on it's attempts to allow the Protectors to travel far from Zihil and aid against the Horde. As an offset to the Zihil's reluctance to pause it's evolutionary and sentient growth, we spent additional time with Zihil before departing ourselves, in which we worked closely with both Voice elements to establish long term support and alternatives to the tournaments that we hope in time it may come find preferable. Zihil is eager to learn about the galaxy around it and furthermore; to be a part of that galaxy. It could be argued that it fears isolation, even. To this end a remote link to our comms network has been established here with an encrypted and singular link to the Daystrom Institute where we have arranged for a lab to be setup and a psychological support team will be put together to work long-term with Zihil on it's personal development while offering support for other departments to assist in Zihil's attempts to aid against the Horde.