The Valley Forge returns to the Heart of War with the Coalition Vanguard to secure the Nuhar Foundries. As prospects begin to look hopeful, the Architect's latest actions are revealed, which threaten a major delay to the Coalition's plans...
T'Lana@anncaris FX | Meanwhile on the dyson sphere, the infiltration team has found that the other two weapons facilities were either not occupied or have also been abandoned by the Horde after the trick they - T'Lana@anncaris - pulled on the first one. With all three facilities secured, they proceeded back to the Genetic Archive, where the Preserver quickly obliged and began producing Heralds as they were back during - T'Lana@anncaris - the height of the Iconians T'Lana@anncaris | A few days later and with Ferry calling upon the other shuttles, there is a small force of armed Heralds in the Heart of War. The team stands in one of the weapons facilities, inspecting their - T'Lana@anncaris - new troops T'Lana@anncaris | The five of them watch as a group of Heralds fire on the holographic Horde targets in one of the weapons testing rooms, hitting the targets with about as much accuracy as V'Elo when she first - T'Lana@anncaris - used the weapons Mischa@crystyl watches, "Not bad, but room for improvement. Actually about on par with Heralds I remember from the war" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Their aim is roughly on par, but their overall physiology is less optimized for combat than the ones we encountered during the war. However, this will only be relevant in approximately - T'Lana@anncaris:- 9.25% of circumstances where thralls may actually reach close quarters range during a confrontation on the Sphere." Mischa@crystyl:"A whole 9/.25/%?" she notes with a smile, clearly a usual tease at the precision T'Lana@anncaris:"Roughly. Even in those circumstances, the close quarters capabilities of the Iconian projectors may still give the heralds an edge over any thralls they encounter." Mischa@crystyl:"What is the overall number at now?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Two thousand at the moment. Far from enough to match the number of thralls, but despite the less combat-focused designs, the equipment of each herald still easily outclasses the average thrall." T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo: "Not to mention the production has only just begun, and the Preserver should be making more with each day." Mischa@crystyl:"It is an impressive accomplishment given the time we've been here. Not just the Heralds, but everything" T'Lana@anncaris:"Indeed. This should provide adequate support for the Coalition forces once they arrive." T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo: "And it's impressive we haven't been spotted yet. It is a big Sphere, but you are also very good at going unnoticed." Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Well that is something of a speciality for us" T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo: "As I noticed. You assembled this team specifically due to your capabilities, I assume?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "Yes, that's right. We knew what challenges we faced here and so the team was assembled to bring complementary skills" T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo: "You have done well so far. I think it was a good choice of people on this team." Mischa@crystyl:"Indeed, and that includes you V'Elo" T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo smiles, "Thank you. I am still quite new at this, but I am happy to assist where I am able." Mischa@crystyl | Rianni smiles up at her, "Don't worry V'Elo, I'm still pretty new to everything too and you seem to be doing great so far!" T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo: "Really? You seem quite experienced at all this. At least compared to myself." Mischa@crystyl | Rianni: "I'm still barely more than a cadet!" Mischa@crystyl:"But even a normally qualified cadet has a good few years experience by graduation. You have gained significantly more than most in the last few years" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Not to mention your talent at tactics, and logical thinking which you demonstrated during our first conversation." Mischa@crystyl | Rianni smiles sheepishly, "Hey... remember that fun time a moment ago when all the praise and attention was on V'Elo. Ahh, good times..." T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo smiles, "You deserve it, Rianni!" Mischa@crystyl chuckles, ruffling her hair, "You love it really. But yes, on to business. We have foundries producing Constructs, arms factories and cloning banks churning out Heralds and weapons. What's next" T'Lana@anncaris | As they speak, Mia gets a message from Foundry 1 that its sensors have picked up thirteen ships heading its way from the centre of the Sphere Mischa@crystyl | Mia: "Foundry 1 has 13 ships inbound from the centre of the Sphere!" Mischa@crystyl raises her finger, "Ok. That's next then" T'Lana@anncaris:"We do not have armed vessels at our disposal, and the Constructs being built are not yet ready. We may be able to send heralds over to protect the Foundry interior, but if the Architect decides to - T'Lana@anncaris:- completely annihilate the facility, we will have to rely on its own automated defenses." T'Lana@anncaris | Mia can route the probes of this weapons facility to help! But it may not make a significant dent... Mischa@crystyl | Mia: "Should we divert probes to intercept?" Mischa@crystyl hrms, "That will certainly reveal our activity. Can you remotely shut down the Foundry?" T'Lana@anncaris | Mia is unable to remotely shut down the Foundry Mischa@crystyl | Mia shakes her head regretfully T'Lana@anncaris | She may be able to pause the Construct creation and put the facility into a hibernation mode, but she will have to be at the Foundry to do so Mischa@crystyl | Mia: "Though... we can put the Foundry into maintenance mode, suspending operations and making it appear inactive. But not remotely" Mischa@crystyl:"What is the eta for the inbound ships? Do we have time to get there first and shut it down?" T'Lana@anncaris | The time will be very tight, but they may be able to juuust make it and shut it down! Mischa@crystyl | Mia relays this Mischa@crystyl turns, "Alright, let's move then!" T'Lana@anncaris follows, quickly making their way back to the shuttle. As usual, Ferry welcomes them when they step in T'Lana@anncaris | Ferry: "Welcome back. Where should I take you today?" Mischa@crystyl:"To Foundry 1 with maximum haste. It has inbound enemies" T'Lana@anncaris | Ferry: "Understood. Departing immediately. Estimated time of arrival is 27 minutes." T'Lana@anncaris | The shuttle doors close behind them as Ferry lifts off towards the Foundry T'Lana@anncaris | Ferry: "I am afraid I am not equipped with any defensive capabilities that will be of use against these enemy ships." Mischa@crystyl smiles a little, "Don't worry Ferry, we won't ask you to. We just need you to get us there before they arrive" T'Lana@anncaris | Ferry: "I shall make haste, then!" T'Lana@anncaris FX | A little over twenty minutes later, the Foundry comes into view with no Horde ships visible yet in the vicinity. A few minutes later, Ferry touches down on one of the landing platforms, - T'Lana@anncaris - proudly announcing, "Travel time twenty-six minutes and sixteen seconds!" Mischa@crystyl:"Excellent work Ferry, now let's move out and get Mia in there" T'Lana@anncaris nods and makes her way out of the shuttle as soon as the ramp lowers. Entering the Foundry, it does not take long before they come across an access port Mia can use Mischa@crystyl | Miadrone hovers over and gets straight to work T'Lana@anncaris | Mia is able to put the facility into a low-power hibernation mode, but doing so also turns off the facility's sensors, which means they won't know if the Horde are indeed turning away or not... Mischa@crystyl:"Let's try and get eyes on the entrance" T'Lana@anncaris:"I recall a viewing area for organics on the schematics. It should be this way." T'Lana@anncaris leads the way to a room with one side which is entirely a huge wide window. There is a also a large Nuhar table not unlike those found in the Waystation, complete with replicator and - T'Lana@anncaris:- holo-display functions as well as a number of chairs around the table and scattered through the area. This is one of the few regions on the Foundry with amenities for biological lifeforms, though - T'Lana@anncaris:- the table is offline due to the low-power mode Mischa@crystyl moves to check out the view T'Lana@anncaris follows over while V'Elo explores the room curiously, checking out the clearly different layout from the rest of the machine-dominated facility T'Lana@anncaris | A few minutes pass quietly, then shapes begin coming into view from the distance... Mischa@crystyl squints trying to make them out, thought she has a pretty good idea what to expect T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo looks over, noticing the shapes as well, "Oh no. Are these the Horde ships? It looks like they are still coming towards us..." T'Lana@anncaris | Indeed, the shapes seem to be getting larger and larger, and as they loom closer, they do seem to be ships... Mischa@crystyl:"Moment of truth..." T'Lana@anncaris | The forms of the Horde ships, many of them looking vastly different from one another, become visible as they near the Foundry, showing no sign of backing off. Without sensors, they can't tell - T'Lana@anncaris:- what exactly the ships are up to... T'Lana@anncaris | Mia gets a message from Ferry: "These ships appear to have their weapons powered up." Mischa@crystyl | Mia relays this to the group Mischa@crystyl:"That is not good. The time of conflict may be inescapably upon us" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Perhaps we should reactivate the Foundry's defenses." Mischa@crystyl nods over to Mia, "Do it" Mischa@crystyl | Miadrone rushes over to the nearest port and gets to work on the defenses T'Lana@anncaris | Mia reactivates the Foundry shields and begins powering up its point defense. No longer in hibernation mode, the Foundry sends Mia a message that the ships are in range and now locking weapons - T'Lana@anncaris - on the facility... Mischa@crystyl | Mia instructs the Foundry to defend itself T'Lana@anncaris | The firing begins almost immediately and the view outside the window lights up with the flashes of energy weapons fire. The Foundry bombards the area with pulses much like those used by Nuhar - T'Lana@anncaris:- Constructs while the Horde ships return fire with beams and torpedoes. The Foundry's shields are powerful, but its main antiproton beams need time to power back up from hibernation mode, - T'Lana@anncaris:- especially as it uses all available power into shields and the pulses to protect itself Mischa@crystyl:"Can we relay a message through Ferry to summon reinforcements?" T'Lana@anncaris | The shields hold, taking the Horde over a minute to bring it down by a percent, but with its main weapons still offline, they are able to do little more than hamper the Horde, who continue - T'Lana@anncaris:- pummelling away at the shields T'Lana@anncaris | Mia is able to relay a message to summon probes, but they'll also need 27 minutes to arrive... Mischa@crystyl:"Get them moving" Mischa@crystyl:"And see what you can do to regulate power consumption and get the main AP weapons up" T'Lana@anncaris | The probes are scrambled, and Mia gets to work on the main weapons while the fighting continues outside. Soon, the Foundry's shields drop below 80%, trickling down towards 70... T'Lana@anncaris | As Mia works on the weapons, she gets another message from the Foundry stating that more ships are inbound from the opposite side of the facility Mischa@crystyl:"If I had to guess, I would say they finally noticed us" T'Lana@anncaris:"It would seem so." T'Lana@anncaris | The bombardment continues. The AP weapons are still not powered up as the facility keeps up the shields and counter-fire as best as it can, and the shields drop below 75%... Mischa@crystyl:"We should have the Heralds loaded ready for ground engagement. This may get messy" T'Lana@anncaris:"Agreed. The Foundry's own drones should be able to assist as well." T'Lana@anncaris | The shields drop to 70% as the ground defenses are prepared Mischa@crystyl:"Mia, get all forces mobilized and ready to intercept" T'Lana@anncaris | Suddenly, a barrage of cannonfire and torpedoes slams into the Horde ships, with two of the vessels at the forefront buckling from the fire Mischa@crystyl looks around at the unexpected cavalry arrival T'Lana@anncaris | Overhead, five small ships dart towards the Horde in an attack run- two Toroki raiders, two Lupan escorts, and in the lead the QanwI'... Mischa@crystyl smiles, "That Trill just can't make a normal entrance..." T'Lana@anncaris | The attack ships swoop back out of view as they finish their attack run. A few seconds later, the familiar saucer of the Valley Forge comes into view above their window as it enters the fray - T'Lana@anncaris - with its generated ablative armour covering its hull, flanked by two Nuhar Constructs who have very much functional antiproton beams T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo: "The other ships are on our side? Are these the reinforcements we're waiting for?" Mischa@crystyl:"And that Vulcan's no better... Mischa@crystyl | Rianni: "Yes! That's the Valley Forge, that's my ship!" T'Lana@anncaris | The phasers of Valley Forge open fire, accompanied by the red beams of the two Constructs, and three more ships crumble under the attack. A Lupan packship comes into view behind them, - T'Lana@anncaris - already opening fire before it has even fully turned to its broadside. The remaining Horde ships begin turning to retreat, but another four ships are cut down as they turn T'Lana@anncaris | The QanwI' and other raiders give chase to the last four, this time accompanied by the Eon and Nuhar squadron. Their attack run takes out two more wounded Horde ships T'Lana@anncaris | The last two seem to be getting away when suddenly a Nuhar Watcher with an all-black and clearly modified hull ripples into view as it decloaks in front of them, firing its main antiproton - T'Lana@anncaris - beam which punctures clean through one of the ships, just barely missing friendly fire on the Foundry and allied ships as the beam continues on forward. The other Horde ship pulls aside, - T'Lana@anncaris - but not fast enough as the unique Construct, unmistakably the Relentless Hunter, opens fire with its broadside pulses, blasting apart the final enemy vessel as it sails by, leaving a field of - T'Lana@anncaris - debris in its wake Mischa@crystyl:"Well. That was quite the spectacle. Welcome to the war V'Elo" T'Lana@anncaris | V'Elo: "Impressive ship you have!" Mischa@crystyl:"It's not bad for an old ship" Mischa@crystyl | Rianni smiles, "But it's not /your/ ship. Right Commander?" Mischa@crystyl glances back with a smile, "The Latenter would look magnificently imposing in this light. But the light is not a place she belongs" Mischa@crystyl | Mia: "Should we establish contact?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "Let them know we're here and give them a full update on our status" T'Lana@anncaris FX | https://youtu.be/cjaejG-LDAQ --- T'Lana@anncaris | On the VF bridge, TQ receives Mia's update! T'Lana@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "No more Horde ships on sensors in the vicinity. Shall we stand down red alert and deactivate the armour?" Mischa@crystyl | Keelah asks TQ to open a channel to the ground team Mischa@crystyl | Keelah nods, "Stand down to yellow alert and redeploy the battle group in a defensive formation" T'Lana@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "On it." T'Lana@anncaris | Meanwhile TQ opens a channel to the ground team Mischa@crystyl | Keelah, "It seems we arrived just in time" Mischa@crystyl:"Obviously we had a plan in motion. But your arrival did save us expending additional new resources" Mischa@crystyl | Keelah: "Naturally. Well, we have the vanguard fleet moving in across the sphere. Are you ladies ready to get back to some Starfleet decor? We've a lot to catch up on" Mischa@crystyl:"I assume the Latenter is on overwatch outside the sphere?" Mischa@crystyl | Keelah: "Correct" T'Lana@anncaris | Kelly: "Need any help on the ground, Commander? It's a big station you've commandeered, and I have engineers standing by." Mischa@crystyl:"A sound plan Captain. And is that Kelly I hear? Yes, Mia has a handle on things so any bodies you can spare to help her out here will be most welcome" T'Lana@anncaris | Kelly: "I'll have those of us who've been working most on Nuhar tech of late join her there." Mischa@crystyl:"Excellent. Then the rest of us will join you for a debrief shortly" T'Lana@anncaris | Kelly: "I look forward to seeing you on board again, Commander." Mischa@crystyl:"As do I. It's been too long now" --- Keelah@crystyl awaits the team's arrival to the VF in the transporter room. Word seems to travel faster than ever on board, as an uninvited Emma wanders in as well Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, "Something you need Emma?" Keelah@crystyl | Emma sliiinks over to the console, "Oh, me? Noooo. I'm just, err... here to help, yes!" she smiles proudly, standing awkwardly beside the operator Keelah@crystyl:"Mhmm..." Keelah@crystyl:"This wouldn't have /anything/ to do with the impending arrival, of course" Keliaya@anncaris | Katie smirks, whispering, "Here to welcome Rianni back?" Keelah@crystyl | Emma: "Impending arrival? Why who ever could that be..." she does a poor job of feigning ignorance Keelah@crystyl | Emma nods to Katie Keelah@crystyl chuckles, "Relax before you sprain something. Were I in your shoes, I'd likely be doing the same" Keelah@crystyl | Emma smiles and does relax some, "Thank you Captain" Keliaya@anncaris | Katie: "Looks like the wait's over. They're coming in now," she taps away at the console Keliaya@anncaris | Mischa and the infiltration team, including V'Elo, begin to materialize on the transporter pad Keelah@crystyl | Emma bounds over to welcome Rianni with a big hug as soon as she's materialized, catching her by surprise, "Welcome back!" Keelah@crystyl smiles, giving them a moment while sizing up the new face Keelah@crystyl | Rianni flusters, but welcomes the affection of course Keelah@crystyl | Mischa leans to TL, "See Lana, this is the benefit of being an Orion's vijra" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo looks at the two curiously before her attention is soon drawn to the rest of the transporter room, her six eyes moving from one part of the room to the next Keelah@crystyl | Both Rianni and Emma flush at hearing Mischa's comment. Emma stepping back, and finally noticing the tall Iconian next to Rianni who she slowly looks up at, "Goddess..." Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana raises a brow at the comment before looking to Emma as she steps back from the hug Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo looks down at Emma, "Hello. I am V'Elo. I assume you are one of Rianni's friends?" Keelah@crystyl | Emma shares a look with Rianni, clearly relationship labels are not something they've ever thought about, "Um... yeah, you could say that!" she smiles, leading Rianni off the pad by her hand, "I'm Keelah@crystyl:- "Emma, it's nice to meet you!" Keelah@crystyl chimes in, "And I am Captain Keelah in command of this ship. Welcome to the Valley Forge V'Elo" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "Thank you, Captain Keelah." She steps off the pad, looking to Rianni, "This is the ship you live on?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "Yes, this is my home!" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo steps over to Keelah, looking over her first before she leans down beside her to examine her ears, brushing some hair away while doing so Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, I am the same species as T'Lana" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "I thought so! You share many similar features." She glances over to Emma, "I have not seen your species, though..." Keelah@crystyl | Emma: "We are called Orions. You will see many of us on this ship" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa: *cough* "of the Valkyries..." *cough*. Barely audible, but enough for Keelah's Vulcan ears Keelah@crystyl | Mischa smiles sweetly at the obligatory - not fully serious - scowl Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo nods, "You are a key member of this Coalition, then?" Keelah@crystyl:"Very much so, yes" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa: "She is being modest. Keelah here is credited by many as bringing the Coalition together. She is not just a key member, but the linchpin of it all" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "Impressive! Thank you for coming to our assistance." Keelah@crystyl:"The hard work is still ahead of us. But come, let us go sit down and get fully caught up" Keelah@crystyl turns to lead the way back to the conference room Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo follows Keelah out, looking left and right as they walk Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "You have a very nice ship! It is different from the places I have been so far on the Sphere, but just as pleasant." Keelah@crystyl:"The Valley Forge was built for exploration and diplomacy, not the warfare it currently serves for. That purpose gives it a certain level of comfort" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa smirks, "Yeah, got to love the old luxury liners" Keelah@crystyl eyerolls, adding, "...unlike the Latenter - Commander Leveson-Scott's command - which is far more utilitarian, by comparison" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "I have not seen Commander Leveson-Scott's command yet. I look forward to comparing for myself, but this vessel certainly looks very comfortable." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles, "That's what makes it able to become a real home for us all!" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "It certainly feels like a home!" she looks around at all the different crewmembers also passing through the halls, "And I see there is quite a variety of species here. Are these all - Keliaya@anncaris - members of your Coalition?" Keelah@crystyl:"The individuals on this ship are, since this ship is a Coalition symbol. But our species all belong to different organizations back in our origin area of the galaxy. Mostly the Federation, but - Keelah@crystyl:- not all" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "Your origin area is far away from here, then?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "Yes. We have travelled for several years at warp to reach this far. Federation space is closer to the galactic core from here, in a much younger part of the galaxy" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo nods, "I hope to be able to visit someday. Did you come all the way out here to fight the Horde?" Keelah@crystyl | V'Elo may well also notice a lot of curious looks from the crew, especially those more senior who would have fought in the Iconian War Keelah@crystyl:"No, we actually came out here to explore. We did not learn of the Horde until we got out here" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "Well, I am glad you are out here to assist." She looks around at the crewmembers again, then back to Keelah, "I assume you do not usually encounter many species that look similar to - Keliaya@anncaris - mine? Your crew mostly look similar to you, and I seem to be drawing quite the attention." Keelah@crystyl:"It is a natural reaction. We are accustomed to meeting different forms of life, but you resemble one who was... particularly troublesome in the recent memory of many" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo looks to Mischa, "Were those the other Iconians you mentioned before?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "Yes, many of the people you meet here will have fought in that war. So it is only natural that they are particularly curious about you. Don't worry about it though, as Keelah said - Keelah@crystyl:- they are consummate professionals and understand that you are not them" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo nods, "I understand." Keelah@crystyl leads them into the reserved conference room where other senior staff are assembled Keliaya@anncaris | The Lupan hologram of the Relentless Hunter follows V'Elo with its gaze, "An Iconian, here? Did you find her on the Sphere?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "Yes, this is V'Elo. She is a newly created clone of the last Iconian Overseer of this sphere" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "I do not have her memories though, only her physiology." Keliaya@anncaris | Relentless Hunter: "I see. Iconian genetics are no doubt still useful for accessing many of the Sphere's systems." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa, "Yes, that is actually why she was generated. But she has proven to be a valued member of our team on top of that" Keelah@crystyl:"So, while we have Relentless Hunter's attention; why don't you start by telling us the status of the Foundries?" Keliaya@anncaris | Relentless Hunter: "Foundry 1 is fully operational and have been configured to produce the maximum capacity of Nuhar Constructs," the Lupan hologram looks to Mischa, "Your doing, I presume?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "Our team has been busy reactivating the Foundries across the sphere" Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana: "All four Foundries are currently in the process of producing new constructs to reinforce the Coalition forces here." Keliaya@anncaris | Relentless Hunter: "An impressive feat without the direction of a Construct. Thank you." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa: "We currently have them configured to produce multiple new variants, aimed to best support retaking the sphere" Keliaya@anncaris | Relentless Hunter: "They will be the first truly new Constructs in a long time." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "It is fortunate that you are here before they are complete. The foundries are producing them, but we have no idea yet what the state of the AI will be. It will be beneficial for - Keelah@crystyl:- the... 'newborn' Constructs to have others of their kind around to guide them" Keliaya@anncaris | Relentless Hunter: "That is the reason the Foundries are so vital. While the neutronium alloys of our hull are difficult to create, it is not entirely impossible to produce with other advanced - Keliaya@anncaris - technological methods. However, only the Foundries have the capability to program a new Construct AI. The Foundries should provide the new Constructs with enough information to be fully - Keliaya@anncaris:- functional in their intended roles, though it will nonetheless be beneficial to have us present to inform them of the status of current affairs." Keelah@crystyl:"This is good news indeed, and additional incentive for us all to secure the future of the sphere. So what do we have to work with presently in terms of additional local forces?" Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana: "Using the same facility that created V'Elo, we are also producing Iconian heralds, who are then armed with weaponry produced in three weapons facilities across the Sphere." Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana: "These are not the heralds from the war, but still effective forces in ground engagements. In addition, the weapons facilities are also producing a number of Iconian probes." Keelah@crystyl:"Do we have projected numbers of combat-ready units?" Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana: "Currently two thousand, and at current rates, between two hundred and three hundred heralds should be made combat-ready each day." Keelah@crystyl:"Remarkable, and the probes?" Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana: "Twenty-five per day per facility, with a total of three weapons facilities." Keelah@crystyl:"Your team has achieved far more than we could have ever anticipated, you have my thanks - all of you" Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana: "That is what you have deployed us for, after all. Regrettably, the Architect still has the majority of the probes previously produced on the Sphere under his control, and many of the - Keliaya@anncaris:- newly produced probes may ultimately work to counter his, though it may be possible for us to turn some of his probes to our control if we encounter them. Like we did when the probes - Keliaya@anncaris:- attacked the Valley Forge when you were in the Sphere previously." Keelah@crystyl:"Seems a reasonable course of action" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa: "So what is the state of play with the fleet?" Keelah@crystyl calls up a holomap of the sphere interior, "The vanguard we have here now is meant to establish a beachhead. We have split into four battle groups, with each centralized on the foundries. The aim - Keelah@crystyl:- is to hold these positions and reinforce them ahead of the main fleet's arrival" Keliaya@anncaris | T'Lana nods, "An excellent plan. The defenses of the Foundries should bolster your defense of the area, and protecting the Foundries will allow additional Constructs to be created to assist." Keelah@crystyl:"Meanwhile, the Architect is not likely to make this easy for us. I expect a swift counter attack to prevent us establishing a foothold" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "What about our team? What should we do now that your ships are here?" Keelah@crystyl:"Right now, you know this sphere better than anyone. I am hoping that you will remain here and help us coordinate the assets you have added to the campaign ahead of our moving on the Architect" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "We can do that. I suspect we will need to run numerous incursions behind enemy lines to gather intelligence as well" Keliaya@anncaris:"Maybe the phasing device we developed for the Horde factory could come in handy here. We've already seen that it works for moving undetected among Horde thralls." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa perks up, "New toys to play with?" Keliaya@anncaris:"Well, Rianni's already familiar with it. We can hand them to your team and she can show you how to use them." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles, "I'd be happy to!" Keliaya@anncaris looks to Mia, "Do you think you'll need one, Mia, or can you camouflage or mask your sensor readings effectively enough?" Keelah@crystyl | Mia smiles back, "We have become quite adept at masking our signature so it will not be necessary!" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles, "She's been playing probes with the Iconian models! Wait... that sounds wrong..." Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "We'll still need to make one additional phase discriminator, since the team at the Horde factory was smaller, but now that we know what we're doing, it shouldn't take more than a - Keliaya@anncaris - few hours. I assume your team will want to take advantage of the rest and won't leave so soon anyways, Commander?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "We'll take what we can when we can" Keliaya@anncaris:"Should we give you some guest quarters while you're here? Those of you who don't already have quarters on the ship, that is." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa smiles, "That would be most appreciated, thank you" Keelah@crystyl | Mia: "We will recharge then join the team back on the foundry to relay all that we have learned to date" Keliaya@anncaris smiles back, "I'll have a few engineering teams on the Foundry to learn what you've learned and help out where they can." Keelah@crystyl:"It would be beneficial as well if we can relay any key instructions or guidance to the groups holding the other facilities" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa: "We should be able to make use of the Ferry shuttles as well. They have proven most useful in getting us around, and are very much aligned with our cause" Keliaya@anncaris:"The Ferry shuttles?" Keelah@crystyl | Mia smiles, "They are native AI's, and very amenable!" Keliaya@anncaris:"And they are shuttles? Nuhar design?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa, "Not Nuhar, Iconian" Keliaya@anncaris:"Interesting. I'm sure they'll come in handy then!" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa: "They have done so far" Keelah@crystyl:"Alright, is there anything else to cover? If not, we should let you ladies get some well deserved rest" Keliaya@anncaris shakes her head, "Nothing more I can think of, Captain." Keelah@crystyl:"Then we will leave it there for now. Thank you again everyone" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo: "Thank you for letting us rest on your ship, Captain Keelah." Keelah@crystyl:"I will leave you in the capable hands of Rianni and Emma, since you have already gottn so close to them" Keliaya@anncaris | V'Elo nods, "A good idea. I shall go with them." --- Keliaya@anncaris | A short while later after settling into the temporary quarters Mischa had been assigned, the doorbell sounds Mischa@crystyl:"Come in" Mischa@crystyl is lounging on the sofa, looking out at the unusual sight of the spherescape while sipping a glass of wine Mischa@crystyl | Her trademark long black jacket is folded across the back of a chair with her headset on the table next to with her weapons Keliaya@anncaris steps into the room, "Hey Mischa. Good to see I didn't wake you. Came here as soon as I could after getting the roster sorted out." Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Hello Kelly, please come in. Make yourself comfortable - grab a glass" Keliaya@anncaris smiles back, grabbing a glass and taking a seat nearby on the sofa, "Thought I'd come check on you- didn't quite have a chance to catch up the last time you were here." Mischa@crystyl:"Yes, things moved rather quickly" she sits up a little, "How are you doing Kelly? I've been worried about you, with Eva and all..." Keliaya@anncaris:"Well, things moving quickly helps keep me occupied. I'm certainly worried about her, but there's not really much more I can do other than what we're already doing now." Mischa@crystyl nods, "Which is exactly why I'm worried. I know you, remember" Keliaya@anncaris nods and sighs, "I wish there's more I can do...but at least I know what I'm doing now is going to help free her in the end." Mischa@crystyl:"We're all fully invested in getting her back to you, Kelly. Much as I know what you're like, I also know what Keelah is like" she smiles a little Keliaya@anncaris smiles back, "Thank you, Mischa. What about you? You've spent a long time on the Sphere. I don't imagine you found anywhere that offered the amenities of a proper Starfleet ship quarters? And if - Keliaya@anncaris - you did, you probably didn't have the most time to enjoy it." Mischa@crystyl raises her glass in demonstration, "Hence making the most of it now!" Keliaya@anncaris grins and takes a sip from her own glass, "Must be nice to finally be back here. Not quite your own ship, but we still have all the comforts you need." Mischa@crystyl:"That you most certainly do. But it wasn't all arms factories and foundries down there. This place is quite remarkable really, even by sphere standards" Keliaya@anncaris:"I've never been in a Sphere before now, but I've heard about them and seen holoprograms," she glances out the window, "The Sphere's surface does look very natural, not much like a part of a - Keliaya@anncaris:- military base at all. There's a few concentrations of structures down there, but according to our sensors, most of it is natural terrain." Mischa@crystyl:"Not technically natural, but ingeniously bioengineered. This sphere is not just about being the weapon against the Horde, but it's like... like an Ark, that's it!" Keliaya@anncaris:"Ooh, that would explain the diversity the science teams were talking about! They must've been preserving life from the planets the Horde devastated! I'm sure we'll have quite the time studying the - Keliaya@anncaris:- place once all this is over. And it could make for pleasant places to camp out, too." Mischa@crystyl:"We've had our share of camping nights already! There are entire ecosystems forming out there now, including natural evolution cycles. But what I find most remarkable is the genetic - Mischa@crystyl:- archive where we found V'Elo. It has samples from... God knows how many species who were facing extinction to the Horde back in the Iconians time. Your science lot won't know what to do with - Mischa@crystyl:- themselves when we get them in here!" Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "I'm sure they'll be lost in all the potential research they can do! You've been on the surface already, then? I don't think we noticed anything of tactical value down there, and I - Keliaya@anncaris:- don't suppose you went there just for a night of camping..." Mischa@crystyl:"No, it was when we were trying to find our way after first arriving. Remember how we hitched a ride on a Horde ship that we pounded?" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Ooh yes, that was your plan. The surface must've been the best place to set down without drawing the Horde's attention." Mischa@crystyl:"More like without getting ourselves blown up along with the ship. We weren't exactly spoiled for choice, so ended up in what appeared to be a wild sanctuary of sorts. Took us a while to work our - Mischa@crystyl:- way out of there" Keliaya@anncaris:"I can imagine. It's a big surface down there, and the tech signatures are fairly spread out. At least the natural environment is nice, but nothing quite like a glass of wine and a proper bed there - Keliaya@anncaris:- I expect." Mischa@crystyl grins, "No arguments here!" Keliaya@anncaris:"Did you find any beds or living facilities at all around the Sphere? Most of the facilities we've scanned seem to be entirely automated." Mischa@crystyl:"There are accommodations for biological lifeforms where needed, like in the foundries. But nothing like recreation or anything so far. Not that I'm surprised, if they did have anything like that it - Mischa@crystyl:- wouldn't likely be near military facilities" Keliaya@anncaris:"True. Maybe we'll find some once we start exploring the surface more thoroughly. Anyways, looking forward to a good night's sleep on board, or would you prefer some more recreational ways to - Keliaya@anncaris:- relax?" she smirks Mischa@crystyl smiles, "I appreciate the thought, but honestly; I thought I'd just enjoy some of the crowds and lounges, and then one of those soft fluffy Starfleet beds" Keliaya@anncaris:"The crowds must be one of those things you miss after spending so much time on the natural Sphere surface and its automated facilities, isn't it?" Mischa@crystyl:"Not only that, but the Latenter too. Remember, we're the side of Starfleet they don't like to priss up and put on show for the galaxy, so it's not exactly the same standards as your luxury liner" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I served on a Defiant for many years. Not an Intelligence ship, but it's also one of the classes that focus on efficiency over comfort." She adds with a smile, "Any chance I could get to - Keliaya@anncaris:- visit the Latenter someday? I don't expect a full tour given the nature of the ship, but it would be nice to see a little of the interior. It's not a class I'm familiar with." Mischa@crystyl smiles, "I'm sure that can be arranged" Keliaya@anncaris:"Perfect! What's it like, being in command of your own ship now? You've taken command during a number of missions on the Gainsborough and Endeavour, but being CO of your own ship must still be - Keliaya@anncaris:- a very different thing." Mischa@crystyl:"Aah the Gainsborough, now that does take me back. You know, at the time I thought the boss was just humouring me by promoting this cross-Command thing of having SFI officers serving on SFC - Mischa@crystyl:- starships, gaining command experience and all. Looking back... I suspect now that the plan was always to use that to prepare me for the Latenter" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "That would make sense. Seems they were grooming you for this all along," she smirks. "And I'd say after everything you did on the Gainsborough, you've got more than enough experience for - Keliaya@anncaris:- taking command of the Latenter." Mischa@crystyl:"It certainly did help - being XO of a flagship vessel like that. But I think I've found my footing on the Latenter now, Lana is great XO and that's always key to a successful command" Keliaya@anncaris grins, "Now the entire ship is one big intel room for you, isn't it?" Mischa@crystyl:"Very much so!" Keliaya@anncaris:"I can see why you like it! So, what's T'Lana like? I've never met her before, but I imagine she compliments your skills nicely?" Mischa@crystyl:"She's a lot more... Vulcan than you're likely used to now" she chuckles, "But a damned fine operative, I often find myself leaning on her counsel" Keliaya@anncaris chuckles and nods, "She does strike me as a much more traditional Vulcan. Is she part human like Pia?" Mischa@crystyl shakes her head, "No, she's a pure as your Captain" Keliaya@anncaris:"I don't think I've ever seen Vulcans with her hair colour...or Romulans for that matter. The only Vulcanoid I've heard of with hair like that is the former Empress of the Romulan Star Empire, and - Keliaya@anncaris:- she's part human. I guess it's just very rare among Vulcans...or does she dye it?" Mischa@crystyl smiles, "I'm afraid that's up there with their age in terms of secrets Vulcan girls won't reveal lightly. And by Romulan Empress, I assume you don't mean the one hiding in your crew?" Mischa@crystyl:"Because last I checked, she definitely wasn't blonde. Or part Human..." Keliaya@anncaris:"No, I meant the one that's in prison...Sela, I think her name was? Wait...we have a Romulan Empress hiding in our crew?" Mischa@crystyl gasps, "Oh no, I appear to have let the Romulan out of the bag..." Keliaya@anncaris:"Oh...was I not supposed to know that..." Mischa@crystyl grins, "Whilst I'm genuinely a little surprised you haven't gotten close enough to figure her out for yourself already, it was never really a secret. Just... a little known fact that was faded into- Mischa@crystyl:- obscurity. I promise I absolutely did not mention it on purpose with the sole intent of leading you to stir her up so she gets her act together. Nope, not at all" Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "Well from my experience, Romulans generally aren't interested in me. I've spoken to her a few times, but she's never mentioned this to me..." Mischa@crystyl:"Hmm... maybe I've miscalculated and she actually doesn't know herself yet... nah, she must just be shy" Keliaya@anncaris:"Maybe...what exactly makes her Empress, if I may ask?" Mischa@crystyl:"Birthright. Not much, but neither is the Romulan Empire these days" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "It could be she's just afraid sharing it will mean everyone expects her to live up to that birthright. Wouldn't be the first time someone concealed an important parent or something, - Keliaya@anncaris:- either due to the expectations that come with it, or just to make their own way apart from their family's legacy." Mischa@crystyl:"Yes well, as I said. I absolutely totally did not mean to let slip so the very /last/ thing you should do is confront her about it and - ohhh I don't know - force her to acknowledge the situation - Mischa@crystyl:- and accept her place in the galaxy" she rattle off with too-well rehearsed innocence Keliaya@anncaris:"I'll see what I can do. Any other crew secrets you want to let me in on while we're at it?" She smirks Mischa@crystyl hrms, making a point of giving it some thought with a swirl of her glass, "I'm sure I could think of a thing or two if pushed..." Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "No pressure! So anything specific you're hoping for her to get into? Say, taking over what remains of the Star Empire, or maybe the Republic? Or finally unifying the two?" Mischa@crystyl:"Ooh, now /there's/ an idea! Unifying the remnants of Romulan society into a fruitful Federation ally not stricken by in-fighting. And right when we're facing another - even bigger - sphere - Mischa@crystyl:- settlement like Jenolan" she smiles, "Now that's Starfleet thinking Kelly!" Keliaya@anncaris grins, "Thought that's what you'd want! I'll do my best to make it happen." Mischa@crystyl raises a hand in innocence, "Want?" she chuckles, "It's not like I'm your CO giving orders here, Kelly. We're just catching up on the latest gossip with friends is all. Right" Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "Of course. Speaking of catching up- been up to anything interesting with the Latenter on your journey here? That you can share, at least. I know your ship has a cloak and all, but - Keliaya@anncaris:- with the region we travelled through, and the time we've been travelling, you must've run into plenty yourself." Mischa@crystyl:"We've had our share of interesting missions. Mostly though just picking up the pieces left in your wake" Keliaya@anncaris:"We do have a habit of getting wrapped up in things, don't we..." Mischa@crystyl:"It's the nature of your mission. But you're constantly moving with your exploration, so all these local affairs you find yourselves involved in along the way are often still in the honeymoon period- Mischa@crystyl:- as you leave them. But in the weeks and months that follow, things rarely stay so rosy. That's why we've been following; to monitor the changing political and sociological picture of the galaxy as- Mischa@crystyl:- it settles after your visits" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "That makes sense. We usually change things for the better, but sometimes people don't do everything they promise or things don't go as planned. It's a good thing you're around, then!" Mischa@crystyl:"Yes, something Starfleet's learned the hard way with repercussions of it's missions like this in the past. Given the scope of your mission, it was only natural to have a less pronounced attendance - Mischa@crystyl:- following up to observe. And if circumstances prevail - to act" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I can certainly see why Starfleet sent you out here. It's fortunate they did too, otherwise I'm not sure if we'd have made it out of the Sphere last time. Not to mention all the - Keliaya@anncaris:- facilities you've brought to our side now!" Mischa@crystyl:"Or having the Zihil cavalry when you faced the Horde fleet, or your implants for that matter" she smiles, "Not that we're counting" Keliaya@anncaris smiles back, "Thank you for all your help, Mischa. You probably don't get all the acknowledgement you deserve, cloaked ship and all, but everyone on this crew at least knows we have you to thank - Keliaya@anncaris:- for being here." Mischa@crystyl:"We all rely on each other this far from home" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Indeed. And I'm glad you're out here to help us, Mischa." Mischa@crystyl sips down the last of her glass, "Well, I don't know about you but I'm about ready to go take in one of your luscious lounges" Keliaya@anncaris smiles and finishes her glass as well, "Come with me, I know which ones have the most activity at this time of day." Mischa@crystyl stands, grabbing her jacket, "If anyone on board would know, I figured it would be you!" Keliaya@anncaris stands as well, "And if you do ever have an inkling for something a little more private, all you have to do is ask. But let's get you to those crowds you've missed for now!" Keliaya@anncaris leads the way to the lounge Keliaya@anncaris | As Kelly had claimed, this particular lounge is quite brimming with activity at this hour, with the sounds of conversation audible even before they entered. Inside, most of the tables are - Keliaya@anncaris - occupied by crewmembers who are dining, drinking and conversing casually with one another Keliaya@anncaris:"Now I'm curious...are your mess halls usually quieter? Or just less of a social space and more where people eat and get on with their day?" Mischa@crystyl:"We make the most of them with social nights and all. But they're much more like mess halls and less like lounges" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Just like the Radiant, then. Well, you've got a proper luxury liner lounge to enjoy now!" she smirks and approaches the counter Mischa@crystyl heads over with her, enjoying the vibrant atmosphere, "Still the drinks expert I trust? What's the house special here?" Keliaya@anncaris nods and smiles, "Orion wine. We have quite a few of them on board now, and quite a stock of it!" Mischa@crystyl:"Aah of course, some fine vintages no doubt too!" Keliaya@anncaris:"That they definitely are! Orions certainly know how to best enjoy life." Mischa@crystyl:"Then let us enjoy some of the finest Orion blends your lounge has to offer" Keliaya@anncaris nods and waves to the bartender, "Two glasses of Orion wine, the 2408, sweetened with two drops of honey." Keliaya@anncaris | The bartender nods and prepares the drinks before setting them on the counter Mischa@crystyl tries it curiously, "/two/ drops of honey? Well now I feel spoiled" Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "I find it's the perfect amount to go with Orion wine! It's the kind of wine that suits being a little sweet." She takes a sip of her glass as well Keliaya@anncaris FX | The door slides open and Ann and Lennie enter the lounge, approaching the counter as well Mischa@crystyl | Lennie joins the pair, sniffing the air, "Mmm.... 2408! What's th'occassion?" Keliaya@anncaris:"Getting to enjoy a Starfleet lounge for the first time in a while for Mischa!" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Hey Mischa! Heard ya were on the ship!" Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Annabelle Carter, I heard you took this posting! Graduated now too at that, hope those Ensign pips aren't feeling too heavy" she smiles Keliaya@anncaris | Ann smiles back, "Think I'm managin' well so far! Haven't seen ya since all the way back when we were still in Fed space. So, you're commandin' a ship now?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "Yes, the Latenter's my baby these days" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Caught a few looks at it when we were makin' our way outta the Sphere last time. Don't think I've ever seen a ship like it before." Mischa@crystyl:"I am not surprised. She's made to see, not to be seen. Though I don't mind admitting that she is an impressive sight nonetheless" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Tha' she is! Certainly distinct from other Starfleet ships I've seen." She glances to Lennie, "You ever seen a ship like tha'?" Mischa@crystyl | Lennie shakes her head, "Nah, figure it's one o'them spook ships. Heard rumours 'bout these folks havin' their own fleet, but ne'er seen one mahself" Mischa@crystyl chuckles, "'spook ship' I like it" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "I thought they were just rumours! Like tha' of another intel group in the Federation tha's more secretive than Starfleet Intelligence an' does shady things." Mischa@crystyl | Lennie: "Pfft, yeah they're totally one an' th'same. Ain't tha' right Mischa!" Mischa@crystyl: â€œYes. Absolutely..." Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "So ya ships operate independently like traditional Starfleet cruisers, but to gather info instead of explorin' for the sake of explorin'?" Mischa@crystyl:"The Latenter is on a comparative mission" she nods, seeming to confirm but not actually saying anything Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Interestin'..." Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, "My thoughts exactly when I first saw Mischa in Keelah's ready room." Mischa@crystyl smirks, "Aah, I'd forgotten how much I could miss tormenting Command officers with the intrigue surrounding purple strips" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann chuckles, "Ya got a certain sense of mystique to ya, tha' I can't deny!" Keliaya@anncaris:"I suspect you've got plenty of tormenting ahead now that you're working closely with us." Mischa@crystyl:"Yes indeed, it will be like the good old days again. Just without the corrupt Admiralty making things difficult" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Yeah, Starfleet's got a bad history with admirals, ain't it. Guess wha' they say 'bout power corruptin's true. Even Starfleet officers fall victim to tha' when they get given too much - Keliaya@anncaris:- power an' responsibility." Mischa@crystyl:"Their hearts are normally in the right place at least. But let us not get dragged down by such thoughts. This is a day of celebration as we all stand together once again" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Tha' it is!" Keliaya@anncaris:"Oh, you should tell Lennie what you learned about the surface of the Sphere, and that archive! I'm sure she'll be fascinated." Mischa@crystyl | Lennie looks over curiously Keliaya@anncaris:"Apparently the Heart of War is more than a military facility and also a...what did you call it, Mischa? An ark!" Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Oh, what? That little genetic archive thingy we found? Well that hardly seems worth mentioning. With it's 1000's of cloning-ready genetically preserved species who went extinct during the - Mischa@crystyl:- Iconian's time. Why on /Earth/ would our dear Lennie ever find something like that of interest...?" Mischa@crystyl | Lennie sprays her mid-sipped drink in exasperation Keliaya@anncaris laughs, "Now you're just toying with her..." Mischa@crystyl grins, "Couldn't resist" Mischa@crystyl | Lennie: "Tell me ya bein' serious now, an' this ain't a wind up?" Mischa@crystyl:"Absolutely, it's where V'Elo came from" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "And apparently the surface of the Sphere is rich with life that the Iconians moved here to keep safe from the Horde as well, from what Mischa told me!" Mischa@crystyl | Lennie looks to Ann, "Sweets, we maybe havin' t'rethink them retirement plans t'Legia" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann smirks, "Wanna retire to the Sphere now?" Mischa@crystyl | Lennie grins, "I'm-a thinkin' I'll-a be too busy t'retire!" --- Emma Ralde@crystyl | Meanwhile; Rianni and Emma drop by V'Elo's quarters to see how she's settling in Emma Ralde@crystyl | The door chimes NPC@annpc#557 | The door slides open a few seconds later, with V'Elo standing on the other side, "Hello! Did you need me to open the door from the inside? I don't know if it was locked or not. I'm not sure if - NPC@annpc#557 - it locks by default..." Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni smiles, "It is not locked by default, but you can lock it from inside for privacy if you like" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It is common courtesy here never to enter someone else's private space without consent, so visitors will always chime the door and seek permission before entering" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo nods, "That makes sense. Do I have to come to the door to open it for visitors? Or is there a remote control?" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "Unless you lock it manually from the inside, you are not required to open it for your visitors" Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles, "I for one hate getting up, so I'm always shouting out for folks to just come on in" NPC@annpc#557 | Vâ€™Elo: "I assume your computer will detect this and open the door?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Nothing quite so advanced" she smiles, pointing out the touch control beside the door NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Oooh. So your computer isn't quite like Ferry. Anyways, please, come in!" She steps back to let them into the room Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Don't let it's silky voice fool you, our computer is no AI" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "Anyway, we just wanted to check in and see how your settling in" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "I thought your computer was an AI just like Ferry. You seem to use it for many functions! I'm still figuring out how to operate everything, but the basics like the replicators seem - NPC@annpc#557:- simple enough! I'm not exactly sure how your shower technology works, though. It just seems to make some sound..." Emma Ralde@crystyl chuckles, "It's called a sonic shower, and it's supposed to do that" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Oh! I thought it was malfunctioning..." Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "It's actually very therapeutic and efficient!" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "I will be sure to try it later! And there is so much to learn from your computers as well..." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"They contain a wealth of information. But be careful as it's easy to get lost in facts without context" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "And there's more fun ways to learn on board anyway!" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "I remember hearing that Mia was a teacher of sorts on the ship?" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "Yes, she teaches the cadets. But I was actually thinking of the holodecks!" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Are they entire decks filled with holograms? Or...entire decks that can be shaped by holograms?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It's not quite so literal as a deck in that sense, it's just a term we use for them. They are large areas which can be shaped by holoprojection for everything from simulations to entertainment" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Ooh, that sounds very useful. I can see why they would be good for learning or training. It's like the holograms we trained on in the weapons facility, but more complex!" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni "Very much so! Mia's avatar actually started out as a teaching assistant in one such program. Unlike most holodeck characters though, she was made to be self aware" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo nods, "And then she was joined with the drone, right?" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "Well it was not exactly a simple process, but in essence yes" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "I look forward to seeing what your holodecks can do, then! Are there other ways to learn with it aside from training programs?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Oh very much so! It's great for cultural study as you get to recreate and interact with different peoples" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "Experience different places and environments, you name it you can experience it in there really" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Of course! You can simulate different species! Are the holograms it creates intelligent too, so it is really like talking with actual people?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"They are accurate facsimiles for the most part. Some like Mia are fully self aware, but most are just preprogrammed to play their part" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "I will have to try them when I am here! And I expect there is much I can learn from all the people here too. There are so many different people!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Not too overwhelming for you I hope? Having so many different people suddenly, and in such close quarters too?" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Not at all! This is all very interesting for me. I suppose a little overwhelming in how much there is to learn, but a good sort of overwhelming! If that makes sense..." Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles, "That's why we're here to help!" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "I can't wait to learn about everyone's cultures and species." She looks to Emma, "I noticed quite a few looking like you walking through the ship." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yes, unusually so actually for a Starfleet ship" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Why is that?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"There is a colony of our people on the Arshai world of Vue En - where the Coalition forces now congregate. When this ship first passed through the region, many of us joined them after hearing tales- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- of their connection to a growing revival of our people back in Federation space" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Oooh, so you are planning to travel back with this ship once it is finished dealing with the Horde out here?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"The ship will eventually travel home, of course. However, those Orion forces have now come out here to assist as well so that may well change" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Are some of you on the ship part of these forces? Or do they have their own ships?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Oh no, they have their own fleet here. They are allies of Starfleet, but there isn't anyone from the OSN serving here at the moment" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "You have your own fleet and are allies with Starfleet. Your people must have a lot of interesting history, I imagine?" Emma Ralde@crystyl chuckles, "That's one word for it. It's not just our flesh that's colourful" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo gestures to a nearby sofa, "I am curious to hear all about it!" Emma Ralde@crystyl sits, with Rianni nestling beside her NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo takes a seat opposite Emma, focusing all six eyes on her curiously Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Well the first thing you need to understand is that while Orions basically look like most other Children species, we function quite differently" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "You have very different biology internally?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yes and no. It is fundamentally the same of course, but wired quite differently. Basically; our pheromones are unusually potent for a Children species" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni: "To the point where they are renowned for being able to bend any male to their will" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Oooh, you can use your pheromones to influence the emotional state of others?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Quite unwittingly in fact. It has been known in the past for a single Orion female to influence an entire starship crew" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Or at least the male population. Females just tend to suffer in our presence normally; kind of a natural element of 'eliminating the competition' to it" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "An interesting feature. Are your males very difficult to control, which is why you have evolved it? Or is your society just naturally matriarchal?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Naturally matriarchal. We actually recently had the chance to see it's origins through a temporal displacement" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "You...went back in time to view the past of your civilization?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It was an accident, but yes that was the result. We are still reconciling everything we saw there and learned, but the evidence suggests that this matriarchal position was our natural development - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- the pheremonal assertion of that may have once carried borderline telepathic influence" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "Telepathic influence like actual control, like the Horde?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Maybe. I don't know exactly, we didn't exactly have the time to make a full study. We had limited exposure to the indigenous and can only base our suppositions on what we saw with them" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "You say once and are not familiar with these abilities. I assume your people do not have them today?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"We currently suspect that our pheromonal abilities today are what remain of this" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo nods, "You wanted to explain this first, so these abilities must play a significant role in your culture, then?" Emma Ralde@crystyl nods, "Much has been lost of Orion culture over the years. But what we still know is that our society has constantly bounced between matriarchal and patriarchal. Presumably with females over - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- stretching the bounds of their position, leading to male uprisings and suppression of females, then vice versa. It is an evolutionary battle of the sexes" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "A constant cycle of uprising and new leadership? That must get tiring for your people..." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Indeed... and whilst evolution led us to spread across the galaxy helped to dilute this cycle, it has also made it more exaggerated" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "More exaggerated how?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Well, history will likely recognize this period in time as a return to matriarchal society. The OSN resurgence and the ever growing reunification of our people. This has taken centuries as the - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- previous matriarchal society which destroyed our homeworld has expanded across the quadrant into an interplanetary criminal organization" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "That does not sound like a very pleasant society at all..." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Many would consider it the darkest time in the history of our people. One where we almost completely paled out of existence in our own right" Emma Ralde@crystyl | Rianni smiles softly, squeezing Emma's hand, "But; it's darkest before the dawn. As they say" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo smiles, "I like that saying. Let us hope this is the beginning of a new dawn for your people, then." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"There is no denying that is the strongest we have looked since the golden era of the High Orion society" NPC@annpc#557 | V'Elo: "It certainly sounds like you are starting off on the right footing!" --- T'Lana@anncaris | Things have been quiet so far since the initial skirmish at the Foundry, and Keelah works away quietly in her ready room when the doorbell rings Keelah@crystyl:"Come in" T'Lana@anncaris steps inside, "Captain Keelah. Not interrupting anything of importance, I hope?" Keelah@crystyl:"Not at all Commander. Please" she gestures to the empty seat across from her, "Can I offer you anything? I may not have your CO's range of exquisite teas, but I have a decent Spiced Tea recipe - Keelah@crystyl:- loaded up here" T'Lana@anncaris:"Spiced tea will be good, thank you." Keelah@crystyl:"I'm glad you said as much, I was just in the mood for a fresh pot myself" she moves to the replicator, "So what can I do for you Commander?" T'Lana@anncaris takes a seat while Keelah goes to the replicator, "Actually, I was hoping to present you with information. Nothing vital, hence it was not worth mentioning at the meeting. However, it does - T'Lana@anncaris:- possess cultural and historical significance, and is somewhat related to the situation at hand." Keelah@crystyl returns, pouring out the two Vulcan teas, "Intriguing" T'Lana@anncaris:"Have you heard of the planet UFC-3676-I, better known as Eden, located at the fringes of Romulan space?" Keelah@crystyl:"I am vaguely aware of its presence on the charts, though I can't say I am intimately familiar with the planet" she sips, curious attention held on TL as to where this is going T'Lana@anncaris:"It is perhaps best known for the incident in 2269, when the USS Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk was hijacked by a group best described as a cult. This group violated the Romulan - T'Lana@anncaris:- Neutral Zone in order to gain passage to this planet, but found it uninhabitable after the leader of the cult was killed by the planet's hazards. The Romulans, from what we know, were aware of - T'Lana@anncaris:- of the planet even earlier but found it similarly unsuitable for colonization. As a result, it is largely ignored and irrelevant to galactic affairs outside the 2269 incident." Keelah@crystyl:"Well, that would certainly explain why it never came up on my shore leave considerations" T'Lana@anncaris:"Contact with most of the planet's floral life has proven fatally dangerous to most forms of advanced biological life. It was somewhat of a scientific curiosity following the Enterprise's discovery - T'Lana@anncaris:- as botanists wished to understand why such plant life evolved, but interests quickly subsided due to the impossibility of studying samples firsthand as they were located in Romulan space. Thus, - T'Lana@anncaris:- the planet faded from public memory and became little more than another point on starcharts." Keelah@crystyl sips, "Possible then that the modern political climate will allow researchers to once again revisit this study, though I highly doubt that is what brings you to me now" she smiles a little, sipping- Keelah@crystyl:- her tea. "No, if I had to guess, I would surmise that this is to provide contextual relevance to something you experienced while traversing the sphere's biomes?" T'Lana@anncaris takes a sip of her own tea, "Yes and no. It is part of the reason, as the Federation may be interested in revisiting the world, but I suspect it will now be of as much interest to archaeologists - T'Lana@anncaris:- and historians as it would to botanical researchers." Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed. So how does this curious recounting fit into things here?" T'Lana@anncaris:"I conversed on multiple occasions with the Preserver of the Imperiled, the curating AI of the Genetic Archive, while we were creating the heralds. It had some fascinating information to reveal - T'Lana@anncaris:- about the creation of Children species. One of the worlds it mentioned was curiously familiar, so I asked for its location on the Progenitor starcharts. Aligning it to Starfleet's own charts, my - T'Lana@anncaris:- theory was confirmed. Or rather I should say, Dr. Sevrin's theory was confirmed. In the later years leading up to the hijacking of the Enterprise, he became known as an unstable genius, and - T'Lana@anncaris:- following the incident the genius portion became...less well-regarded. However, it appears Dr. Sevrin was truly onto something." Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, "The mythical 'Eden'?" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Correct. However, he made the mistake of taking the mythological sources word for word, a mistake that ultimately proved fatal. I believe Dr. Sevrin, an expert in acoustics, discovered - T'Lana@anncaris:- and activated Progenitor technology, which we know to possess acoustic interfaces. That was how he first learned of the existence of Eden, and the rough area of space in which to find it. But - T'Lana@anncaris:- what he found was not the legendary garden of paradise. What he found was one of the Architect's testing grounds." Keelah@crystyl:"You believe the Architect was using this planet to test his genetic manipulations? And that explains the unusual nature of the ecosystem there?" T'Lana@anncaris:"The creation of Children species, like any other scientific project, required a great deal of experimentation. The Preserver spoke of several planets which were turned into dedicated testing - T'Lana@anncaris:- grounds. After a series of what the Architect claimed to be unexpected results, the plant life on one such world became deadly in a variety of ways. According to the starcharts the Preserver - T'Lana@anncaris:- requested from the Librarian AI, the location of the star this world orbited, the lack of other planetary bodies in the system, and the number of moons all correspond with the planet we know as - T'Lana@anncaris:- Eden." Keelah@crystyl:"A most curious link well worthy of exploration" T'Lana@anncaris takes out a PADD with the starchart data, handing it to Keelah, "I thought it would be of interest to you, Captain. Moreso, this may be an early hint of the Architect's true nature which the - T'Lana@anncaris:- Progenitors ignored at the time. Apparently, they believed that the results were unexpected and simply deemed the world uninhabitable, moving all projects to other testing grounds. In retrospect, - T'Lana@anncaris:- knowing that the Architect has already begun destroying the consciousness and usurping the bodies of those intended to be his successors at this time, it is possible the hazards were not created - T'Lana@anncaris:- by accident." Keelah@crystyl:"Do you believe there will be insights to be found there which may help us in the fight now?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Perhaps, but excavation of the planet itself will be difficult given the hazards, but that is precisely why I believe the Architect may have hidden something there. If he simply wished to create - T'Lana@anncaris:- deadly flora, he could have done so while containing the fruits of his research safely inside laboratories. I suspect he allowed these plants to run rampant across the planet intentionally for two - T'Lana@anncaris:- reasons: to prompt the Progenitors to declare the world uninhabitable and to fend off those who still sought to travel to the world regardless, as a defense mechanism. While it is purely - T'Lana@anncaris:- conjecture at this point, Eden may be where the Architect secretly engineered the backdoor into the minds of Children species which the Horde now exploit." T'Lana@anncaris:"From the Enterprise's scans, I have noticed sections of the planet which sensors could not penetrate due to concentrations of certain minerals. It is possible that beneath some of these sections, - T'Lana@anncaris:- the Architect's labs may be found." Keelah@crystyl:"We can try and get this out to the Latenter. They should be able to relay the proposal back to Starfleet to see if they will divert assets to investigate" T'Lana@anncaris:"I believe it is worth looking into. It may not ultimately assist our fight here, but I can say with 97.66% certainty that Eden was once a Progenitor testing ground where experiments leading to the - T'Lana@anncaris:- creation of our peoples were conducted, and that alone makes it of cultural, historical and scientific significance." Keelah@crystyl:"It's certainly worth asking the question. Thank you for bringing this to me" T'Lana@anncaris takes another sip of tea, "It is our duty to uncover and provide information that may be relevant to the situation at hand, not to mention the other interests Starfleet will no doubt have in-" T'Lana@anncaris FX | Keelah's combadge chirps Keelah@crystyl puts her tea down just before a sip, "And there it is. A moment Commander" she taps, "Se'Lai" T'Lana@anncaris:<C - Vrolmacht> Captain, sensors are picking up twenty-five Horde ships heading towards the Foundry Keelah@crystyl:<C> He's taken longer than anticipated. He must feel truly threatened by our presence. Take us to red alert and deploy the battlegroup, we'll be right out T'Lana@anncaris:<C - Vrolmacht> On it Keelah@crystyl looks across to TL, "Time for phase 2" and stands T'Lana@anncaris stands as well and heads out Keelah@crystyl takes her seat, "What is the eta to contact?" T'Lana@anncaris | The bridge is in red alert lighting as Keelah takes her seat T'Lana@anncaris | Fisher: "Thirty-two minutes at their current speed." T'Lana@anncaris:TQ: "Captain, the other Coalition groups also report twenty-five ships inbound to each Foundry." Keelah@crystyl:"A curious strategy, but ok" T'Lana@anncaris looks to Keelah, "Twenty-five ships is not enough to overwhelm the Foundry's fully operational defenses supported by Coalition forces. Such an attack is a waste of Horde forces, and the - T'Lana@anncaris:- Architect may outnumber us, but throwing away ships on such a pointless attack is illogical. This must be a diversion." Keelah@crystyl:"Undoubtedly. So if the aim is to distract all four battle groups, what does that leave as a target of opportunity?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Either the weapons facilities or the Genetic Archive, but either are sufficiently defended that a few cloaked raiders would not be able to damage them, and anything more than a small vessel will - T'Lana@anncaris:- be revealed by these facilities' sensors as the cloaks will not be as effective." Keelah@crystyl:"Anything... /more than/ a small vessel..." T'Lana@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "What are you thinking, Captain?" Keelah@crystyl:"That sending in an elite team to do maximum internal damage is a far more efficient approach, and exactly what I would do" T'Lana@anncaris:"The Genetic Archive would be a far more valuable target. The weapons facilities merely produce personal arms and probes, which the Coalition can produce outside the Sphere, specifically in the - T'Lana@anncaris:- factory you discovered. The Genetic Archive is the only place currently capable of producing heralds, and without the heralds the weapons are of little use anyways, as all Coalition forces are - T'Lana@anncaris:- already armed." Keelah@crystyl:"Sound reasoning. Which are the closest battlegroups to each facility?" T'Lana@anncaris | Fisher: "We're closest to one of the weapons facilities, but we're also closer to the Genetics Archive than the Guardians, who are the second closest to it." T'Lana@anncaris:"I suggest diverting the Orions to the closest weapons facility instead while we go for the Archive." Keelah@crystyl:"I can go with that" she nods T'Lana@anncaris | Fisher: "Diverting course to the Genetics Archive, Captain. ETA twenty-one minutes." Keelah@crystyl:"Signal QanwI' to push ahead under cloak. I want them to get feet on the ground before anyone else arrives so they can coordinate a defense if needed" T'Lana@anncaris | TQ nods and signals the QanwI'. Twenty minutes later, the VF arrives at the Genetic Facility, with the QanwI' already there T'Lana@anncaris:"We should run tachyon sweeps for cloaked vessels." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Lennie" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie proceeds with the sweep T'Lana@anncaris | The sweep uncovers two cloaked Horde escorts inbound! Keelah@crystyl:"Intercept and destroy" T'Lana@anncaris | Fisher: "On it!" T'Lana@anncaris | The VF swoops in towards the two cloaked escorts and Vrolmacht announces, "Weapons locked and ready." Keelah@crystyl:"Fire" T'Lana@anncaris | The phasers pummel the Horde escorts. With the cloaks on, their shields are not active and one of them is taken out instantly. The second escort takes glancing hits and goes evasive, dashing - T'Lana@anncaris:- by the side of the VF. It returns fire, the shots all absorbed by the much tougher VF's shields before the aft weapons pick it off with ease, though Lennie detects it managed one wave of - T'Lana@anncaris:- transport onto the archive before it was destroyed Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "One wave 'inbound transports to th'facility. Got 'em off 'fore it blew" Keelah@crystyl:"Tee, inform Captain Vix that her package is inbound" --- B'Atar@anncaris | In the Genetic Archive, Lexi and her warriors get Keelah's message. One of her warriors announces, "Thralls in the next room, reading nine lifesigns." Lexi@crystyl draws her bat'leth, "Let the fun begin!" and charges in B'Atar@anncaris | Inside the room, she finds that the thralls are already engaging several drones from the facility. The thralls are overwhelming the drones, with several down and only two still in the air, but - B'Atar@anncaris:- it is easy for Lexi and her warriors to surprise them as they are mid-combat Lexi@crystyl raises her weapon and rushes in, eager for some exercise B'Atar@anncaris | Lexi cuts down two thralls before they respond to the new threat, but the third one actually turns, swinging a large, mutated club-like arm at her Lexi@crystyl ducks and weaves, aiming to make light work of the thrall B'Atar@anncaris | Lexi easily outmaneuvers and takes out the thrall, whose mutations make its movements rather awkward. A fourth thrall manages to take down one of the last drones and turns to rush her head-on Lexi@crystyl lowers her stance as she turns to face it, aiming to drop and thrust it tumbling overhead with her bat'leth B'Atar@anncaris | The basic brute charges right into the bat'leth and is thrown overhead, falling behind her heavily injured Lexi@crystyl turns and stands, swinging the weapon overhead to drop one end down for a killing blow B'Atar@anncaris | The wounded thrall is unable to move out of the way of the killing blow and is finished off! Around her, the other thralls go down to the rest of her warriors and the remaining drone B'Atar@anncaris | Warrior: "One more group incoming!" Lexi@crystyl looks around, "I should bloody well hope so!" B'Atar@anncaris | The door slides open, but before Lexi can engage, she and two warriors beside her are pushed onto the ground by an unseen force... Lexi@crystyl scrambles, "What the-?" B'Atar@anncaris | Another group of thralls step in, this one led by one that looks significantly different to the others. It is less mutated across its body save for an enlarged head, and holds a sword in its - B'Atar@anncaris:- hand. The other thralls beside it open fire, taking down the last drone as well as two other drones emerging from the hatches above Lexi@crystyl focuses on bighead, again moving to close quickly B'Atar@anncaris | A Nausicaan merc charges the lead thrall with a pulsewave rifle, but with a flick of its wrist the rifle flies out of his grasp before the Psionic thrall cuts the Nausicaan down. However, - B'Atar@anncaris:- his charge buys Lexi time to close the distance to melee range Lexi@crystyl swings high and hard to unbalance the thrall and stop it focusing on using it's abilities so she can cut it down B'Atar@anncaris | The Psionic thrall dodges the blow with unusual grace for a Horde thrall, promptly counterattacking with a thrust of its own blade Lexi@crystyl grins, parrying the blow and working to quickly build into a series of moves B'Atar@anncaris | The Psionic adeptly blocks the blows before, to Lexi's surprise, speaking, "I have access to the martial arts techniques of thousands of civilizations through the Horde. Of course, you are not - B'Atar@anncaris:- the sort to back down, are you?" Lexi@crystyl backs off briefly, holding her guard up and circling around her foe, "It was kind of you to give me at least one worthy foe to fight here. I will repay that kindness by granting you an honourable- Lexi@crystyl:- death when we meet in person, Architect" B'Atar@anncaris | Psionic: "If you have that chance. I may yet give you the end in battle your people so desire," With that the thrall closes in once again with a series of sword strikes moving almost as fast - B'Atar@anncaris:- as Lexi herself Lexi@crystyl:"HA! Trill have no such desires. Idiot" quickly parrying and backing up to draw the thrall in before moving for one her unorthodox pirouette reversals to come up behind it B'Atar@anncaris | Lexi manages to move behind the thrall before he can turn around! The Psionic positions his sword backwards in over-shoulder parry, which is sufficient to cover his body long enough for him to - B'Atar@anncaris:- turn around, but the large head makes it a more exposed target than usual... Lexi@crystyl seizes the opportunity B'Atar@anncaris | The Psionic thrall is not very hardy, and the strike to the head finishes it off as it drops to the ground. Another thrall suddenly exclaims, "NO!" as the Architect takes control of it and - B'Atar@anncaris:- charges Lexi Lexi@crystyl deftly turns to engage the new thrall B'Atar@anncaris | The new thrall is a bit more adept than the average thrall, but Lexi still takes it down with ease. As she does however, a third brute thrall picks up the sword B'Atar@anncaris | Thrall: "This facility is mine. The genetic codes stored within are my Designs." Lexi@crystyl:"You forfeited your rights to those designs when you tried to use them against your Children p'taq!" B'Atar@anncaris | Thrall: "This is the only way to prevent your self-destruction," the thrall closes in with a powerful diagonal slash, the Architect now leaning more heavily into the strength of the brute thrall Lexi@crystyl hops back clear of the desperate swing, almost toying with him, "Wow... prevent our self-destruction, by destroying us. How is that Keelah doesn't see the wisdom of your logic?" she asks with an - Lexi@crystyl:- exaggerated tilt of her head, heavy on the sarcasm B'Atar@anncaris | Thrall: "I do not expect a blunt instrument like you to understand" he says ironically while taking control of a brute thrall. The thrall steps in again for an overhead blow. Though the - B'Atar@anncaris:- Architect does seem to demonstrate incredible skill, he is heavily limited by the natural clumsiness of this thrall's body Lexi@crystyl sees the irony and laughs and she dances and prances around the thrall, clearly making a game of it at this point B'Atar@anncaris | The other thralls around them are taken down by Lexi's warriors, who watch as she toys with the final thrall. The last thrall looks around, roars in frustration, then promptly charges Lexi - B'Atar@anncaris:- blindly, once again demonstrating no tact at all as the Architect ceases directly controlling it Lexi@crystyl obliges in putting it out of its misery, holding her ground and going up on tip toes as she spins around and swings her blade across it's fast approaching neck B'Atar@anncaris | Lexi cuts the thrall's head clean off and it topples to the ground B'Atar@anncaris | A non-combat drone emerges from a hatch overhead, projecting the Preserver's holographic avatar, "My internal sensors register that all the intruders have been dealt with. Thank you for - B'Atar@anncaris:- your assistance." Lexi@crystyl comes to a graceful stop before turning to the avatar, "It was our pleasure" B'Atar@anncaris | The Preserver looks to the fallen Psionic thrall, "So that was the Architect speaking through the thrall?" Lexi@crystyl nods, "Yep" B'Atar@anncaris | Preserver: "He has fallen far indeed. I will resume my production of heralds, and do what I may to assist you in driving him out of the Sphere." Lexi@crystyl:"Glad to hear it. I understand you've got a lot of work you're waiting to get on with once the place is safe" B'Atar@anncaris | Preserver: "That is correct. This facility is essential to restoration efforts once the Horde is defeated. It must not be taken by the enemy. Once again, you have my appreciation for - B'Atar@anncaris:- safeguarding it." Lexi@crystyl:"Whatever it takes" she nods --- T'Lana@anncaris | On the VF bridge, Lennie sees that the facility is clear of thrall lifesigns Keelah@crystyl | Lennie smiles, "Looks like they'se all done down there" Keelah@crystyl:"Good. Any word from the other targets?" T'Lana@anncaris | TQ: "I'm getting updates from the Thana, Spear of Cidria and Guardians. They also encountered stealth ships. A few thralls made it onto the facilities, but the Orion Ghosts and Guardians - T'Lana@anncaris - dealt with them quickly. The Spear of Cidria eliminated all ships before any thralls could be beamed down." T'Lana@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "The groups of twenty-five currently on sensors appear to be turning back to the centre of the Sphere." T'Lana@anncaris nods, "They were likely never meant to be more than a distraction. The Architect needs every ship he has, and would not actually sacrifice the ships in a pointless fight." Keelah@crystyl looks Vrolmacht and TL, "Tactical discretion on pursuit and destroy at all locations" T'Lana@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "We may not be able to catch up to them, but I am informing the CIC to give direction to destroy as many as possible before they fall back to the cover of their main fleet." Keelah@crystyl:"All battle groups may as well take the opportunity he has given us to thin the herd" T'Lana@anncaris | TQ nods, "Notifying the other battle groups now." T'Lana@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Coalition forces are now in pursuit." Keelah@crystyl:"Given that he's moved on these facilities once already, should we consider deploying forces to secure these as well?" T'Lana@anncaris:"That may spread our forces thin, but I would suggest deploying a few patrols in the area, preferably vessels with excellent stealth-detecting capabilities such as the Lander One. If they move on - T'Lana@anncaris:- these facilities in force, we will be able to redirect our ships to defend in time. It is further stealth strikes that we must be watchful for." Keelah@crystyl nods, "I was not thinking about completely breaking down our battlegroups. But stealth patrols to cover each strategic target may be prudent" Keelah@crystyl:"As always, at tactical discretion" she smiles over to her XO T'Lana@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "It is a good idea. I will inform the battlegroups to send out patrols." Keelah@crystyl:"As for us, let us return to our holding pattern" T'Lana@anncaris | Fisher nods, "Taking us back to the Foundry." T'Lana@anncaris | A few minutes later, TQ announces, "Captain, we are receiving a hail from the Latenter." T'Lana@anncaris:"Curious. We were just thinking of contacting them before the Horde ships appeared." Keelah@crystyl:glaces back to TL & Mischa (assuming she's here watching quietly too), "This will be for you" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods and steps forward, looking to the viewscreen T'Lana@anncaris | Victoria appears on the viewscreen, "Commander. Captain. We have an incoming message from Vue-En to relay." Keelah@crystyl sharea a glance with Mischa, "Thank you, please relay" T'Lana@anncaris | The viewscreen goes dark for a moment before Vora appears in her Colonial Fleet uniform, "Keelah," she looks to Mischa, "And you must be the commander of the Intelligence ship." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "Commander Mischa Leveson-Scott" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "The name sounds familiar. Don't think we've met, but you've come up a few times on the Scryer Network's sensors, haven't you?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa smiles a little with innocence, "The... Scryer Network? What would that be then?" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "I'm not sure, but I'm sure your name's been mentioned before. I imagine you had something to do with taking down the old Scryer, probably." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa, "That would be quite the claim to fame wouldn't it. But I doubt you called purely to stroke my ego" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "No, I'm afraid not. We have a developing situation here. Keelah, you called us over a week ago to inform us that there might be a Horde envoy headed for the Corporations. Our subspace - T'Lana@anncaris:- corridor patrols haven't picked up anything, but over the last week, we've been slowly cut out of contracts with one Corporation after another. At first I thought it was their usual strategy to - T'Lana@anncaris:- negotiate prices, so I sent a merchant ship to their homeworld, and it never came back. More and more Corporations are cutting ties with the Coalition, and we're down almost a third of our supply - T'Lana@anncaris:- lines now." Keelah@crystyl:"How reliant is the Coalition on the Corporations in all?" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "If this keeps up and all the Corporations cut ties, our supply lines would be reduced by about 41%. They also have major pull with other independent businesses and contractors in this - T'Lana@anncaris:- region, and if they start turning those against us, we could be looking at losing more than half our trade connections. Needless to say, this is going to slow our repair and resupply of the - T'Lana@anncaris:- remaining Coalition fleet. Significantly." Keelah@crystyl:"What about the subspace corridors, can they be used to bring in fresh supply lines from Federation space?" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "They could, but there's only so many Carran Couriers, and plenty of them are attached to Coalition ships helping us patrol the subspace corridors for Horde while the Enforcers are - T'Lana@anncaris:- still being equipped with implants. We'll have to wait until the Enforcers are out in numbers before we can get any significant supply line going through the corridors." Keelah@crystyl:"I understand. The most expedient solution is for us to end the Horde here - if only it were that simple. Let me consult with the Junayd Observer, she spent time with the Corporations and may have - Keelah@crystyl:- some insights" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "The best and quickest solution is if you can get the Corporations back in business with us, but they're not talking to New World merchants or Colonial Fleet anymore. I suspect their - T'Lana@anncaris:- leadership is being influenced. If you need more intel on them, feel free to ask me. The An are also familiar with the Corporations, they've had a number of dealings on their way here, and they - T'Lana@anncaris:- dispatched the Lander One to join the vanguard." Keelah@crystyl:"We'll see what we can learn, but our options are somewhat limited at this end" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "Maybe you can send the Observer's ship there to get rid of the influence and negotiate with them, but I'll leave the specifics up to you. Our schedule isn't being impacted much yet, but - T'Lana@anncaris:- if this keeps up, it'll take a long longer for us to get these reinforcements to you." Keelah@crystyl:"I understand. Let us see what we can do to help" T'Lana@anncaris | Vora: "Thank you again, Captain. Feel free to contact me if you need anything." Keelah@crystyl:"We shall do so" she nods T'Lana@anncaris | Vora nods back and the comm ends. A second later, Victoria appears on the screen again T'Lana@anncaris | Victoria: "I assume Vora's updated you on everything?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "She has, thank you. We now a new problem to focus on" T'Lana@anncaris | Victoria: "Indeed. It's good to hear from you two again, though. How're things going in the Sphere?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa: "Predictably, so far. I need you get the analysts to work - find out everything you can on the Corporations, we may need it" T'Lana@anncaris | Victoria nods, "We'll get right on it, Commander. Is there anything else?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa shakes her head, "Not right now" T'Lana@anncaris:"Relay a message back to the Federation to investigate the world known as Eden. We have reason to believe the Architect may have used it for his experiments." T'Lana@anncaris | Victoria: "The one in Romulan space?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Yes. I will send all relevant data to you from the Valley Forge. It should be convincing enough for the Alliance to begin a joint research venture there, despite the hazards." T'Lana@anncaris | Victoria nods, "I'll send it along for you." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "Alright, let us know if you get any news" T'Lana@anncaris | Victoria: "We will keep you updated. Good luck inside the Sphere, Commander." T'Lana@anncaris FX | The comm ends and the viewscreen shows the spherescape once again Keelah@crystyl | Looks between Mischa & TL as the comm ends, "Seems we have a new objective" T'Lana@anncaris:"Indeed. The loss of so many supply lines is concerning for the Coalition war effort." Keelah@crystyl:"As mentioned, I'll speak with the Observer and send her to you if she has anything of use. I believe this is your field of expertise, so I'll leave the information gathering to you ladies" T'Lana@anncaris:"We will learn what we can about the Corporations and the current situation." Keelah@crystyl stands, "Then let's get to work" --- T'Lana@anncaris | A few hours later in one of the Valley Forge's smaller conference rooms, Mischa and T'Lana review the information the Latenter has been able to obtain on the Corporations T'Lana@anncaris:"The primary species behind the Corporations is a race known as the Hyrokee. They are best known for their greed and desire for material wealth and personal gain, not unlike the Ferengi. However, - T'Lana@anncaris:- in addition to this, they also seem to possess an attitude of supremacy comparable to that of the worst of the Lupan, or traditional Romulans, though they are much more open to trade and foreign - T'Lana@anncaris:- relations. The Hyrokee often take control of species significantly weaker than them, including pre-warp civilizations, often by entangling them in deals that favour the Hyrokee or when their tricks - T'Lana@anncaris:- fail, by force. Their approach to colonization is comparable to that of old Earth powers during your colonial era." Mischa@crystyl:"Charming. The Observer spoke of these subjugated species, or at least one in particular she met there. Seemed there was... openness to overthrowing the Hyrokee" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Uprisings against the Hyrokee are not uncommon, actually. The results often vary; several colonies have been able to obtain independence by making the situation too costly for the - T'Lana@anncaris:- Corporation they are subservient to, some managed to negotiate more favourable terms, and others were completely crushed by the Corporations." Mischa@crystyl:"Could be an option worth pursuing then. Perhaps we could head out there in her ship and stir things up with the locals" T'Lana@anncaris:"There is in fact currently an uprising in progress, between the natives of Tosukee IV and the Sakyto Corporation. In any case, one of the outlying colonies would be a good place to start; the - T'Lana@anncaris:- Architect's envoy likely went directly for the homeworld and would not have had time to influence every Corporation holding. Starting from the heart of the corruption will be difficult, but we - T'Lana@anncaris:- may be able to work our way in from the edges." Mischa@crystyl:"Sounds like we have a plan" T'Lana@anncaris:"The Hyrokee also have a curious societal structure. Not long after the development of warp drive, their governments attempt to regulate the Corporations, who were the ones responsible for inventing - T'Lana@anncaris:- their warp technology and propelling their civilization into space. This resulted in a massive conflict simply known to the Hyrokee as the Government War. The Corporations won this war and - T'Lana@anncaris:- parcelled off their homeworld between each other. From then on, they have not had a true government. The Corporations essentially fill the role, but they have no interest in the well-being of the - T'Lana@anncaris:- people, only their own profit. The Hyrokee seem perfectly content with this; many sources claim they have a natural inclination towards selfishness and view acts in the interests of others with - T'Lana@anncaris:- suspicion, as nothing comes without a price in their society. Any selfless act is usually suspected of being a trick." Mischa@crystyl:"These guys might actually give the Ferengi a run for their money. Unless they also happen to have a weakness when it comes to insulting their maternal parent" she smiles a little T'Lana@anncaris:"I'm afraid not, but they do have a weakness. Electromagnetic pulses." Mischa@crystyl leans in a little, "Oh?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Like many other species, they experimented with eugenics, but the executives of the Corporations, mostly older individuals, realized that the chance of successful genetic augmentation on a mature - T'Lana@anncaris:- specimen was very low and it was something best performed on fetuses or developing children. Out of a desire to keep themselves as the most powerful people, they outlawed research on genetic - T'Lana@anncaris:- augmentation and instead turned to cybernetic augmentation. This has led more and more Hyrokee to replace parts of their biology with cybernetics to enhance their capabilities. Today, even the - T'Lana@anncaris:- lowest Hyrokee possess some minor implants, and it is not uncommon for the elite of their society to have more mechanical components than organic tissue." Mischa@crystyl:"That is certainly something our fledgling revolutionaries will be able to capitalize on" T'Lana@anncaris:"The Corporations do make heavy use of mercenary forces on their colony worlds, but about fifty years ago, they began switching the bulk of their forces in their core worlds into robotic units." Mischa@crystyl:"Do we know what the catalyst was for this move?" T'Lana@anncaris:"From what we know, one Corporation began the switch as they found non-sentient robotic units more effective as they did not question orders, and other Corporations quickly followed the trend. Some - T'Lana@anncaris:- Hyrokee still serve in combat, but for elite roles such as special operations or assassinations. The rank and file Hyrokee soldier has been entirely eliminated, replaced with either robots or alien - T'Lana@anncaris:- mercenaries. Despite their selfish nature, it seems their belief in themselves as a superior species means they still value the life of one of their own above that of another species." Mischa@crystyl:"Interesting. Such setups tend to attract the more easily bought mercenary types" T'Lana@anncaris:"The Corporations apparently pay well, and they have no shortage of mercenary forces. They are extremely greedy, but that in turn makes them very adept at satisfying the greed of others." Mischa@crystyl hrms, "Maybe not then. But still, we shouldn't rule out the possibility. What about turning our own resources on them?" she asks, clearly meaning their appropriated spy network T'Lana@anncaris:"Due to the rampancy of corporate espionage, the Corporations have exceptional defenses against intelligence gathering. Even the Network has limited information on the elite of the Corporations, - T'Lana@anncaris:- but they do have a footing on outer colonies and the lower echelons of Hyrokee society. Crime is unsurprisingly common, though it is more often used as a means to elevate oneself in the Corporate - T'Lana@anncaris:- hierarchy than for immediate profit, but the Network has managed to gain a foothold through those less savoury elements." Mischa@crystyl:"It may not be much, but it could be enough to jump start our activity on the outer colonies" T'Lana@anncaris:"It is certainly an option. I shall look into it, Commander." Mischa@crystyl:"So when do you want to get underway?" T'Lana@anncaris:"As soon as we have determined the best way in. Will we be going with the Observer in her vessel?" Mischa@crystyl:"It is the most expedient way I can think of" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "I will obtain more detail on the colonies and the uprising on Tosukee IV to formulate an in-depth plan, then." --- T'Lana@anncaris | The next day, Mischa's combadge chirps as she goes about her business Mischa@crystyl taps, "Leveson-Scott" T'Lana@anncaris:<C> Commander. I have a plan, but we may have requests to make from Captain Keelah. I think it may be best if I present it to both of you in her ready room. Mischa@crystyl:<C> Very well, I'll meet you there shortly T'Lana@anncaris:<C> I shall await you there Mischa@crystyl arrives at Keelah's ready room a short time later, chiming the door and entering when called Mischa@crystyl | Keelah looks from TL to Mischa, "I trust you have some idea what this is about?" Mischa@crystyl shakes her head, "I'm here to hear the same thing as you" she smiles, turning to TL T'Lana@anncaris nods, "I have a potential plan of action to resolve the Corporation situation. Or at least, to get us within reach of resolving it." Mischa@crystyl:"What have you come up with?" T'Lana@anncaris:"You are correct, Commander. The uprising on Tosukee IV is our best passage in, but assisting the natives will not help us gain access to the Hyrokee homeworld. At least, not if we act alone." Mischa@crystyl:"You have identified additional assets?" T'Lana@anncaris:"The other party involved in this uprising is the Sakyto Corporation. As Vora stated, the An have had dealings with the Corporations during their travels across the region, and one of those they - T'Lana@anncaris:- have encountered is the Sakyto Corporation. An Recon ships rescued one of their cargo vessels from Lupan raiders, and they are likely favourable in the eyes of that corporation. My proposal is that - T'Lana@anncaris:- operate with the assistance of the Lander One. While it has no shuttlebay, its design is a combination of the Recon ships and the transports, and it possesses a cargo bay large enough to store an - T'Lana@anncaris:- auxiliary craft if need be, specifically the Observer's ship." T'Lana@anncaris:"The plan is to use the Observer's wormhole to transport near the Tosukee system, but well out of sensor range. The Observer ship will then dock inside the cargo bay and the Lander One will - T'Lana@anncaris:- approach the planet under cloak. As that vessel is designed for insertion behind enemy lines, it will easily be able to deposit our team on the planet, where we will assist the rebels in - T'Lana@anncaris:- overthrowing the Corporation," she looks to Keelah, "And before you say that Starfleet should not become involved in the politics of foreign civilizations, the Iztual, the natives of Tosukee IV, - T'Lana@anncaris:- were a pre-warp species with technology similar to 20th century Earth before the Sakyto Corporation made contact and interfered with their development. Assisting them in overthrowing the - T'Lana@anncaris:- Corporation would be enforcing the Prime Directive, not breaking it." Mischa@crystyl | Keelah takes a moment to consider TL, looking to the Mischa, "Is she always this resolute?" Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Only when she knows she's onto a winner" Mischa@crystyl | Keelah: "Very well, I have no objections if this the course you wish to follow" T'Lana@anncaris:"Excellent. We must ensure that we cut off their means of escape in addition to simply driving them off the planet. The Governor installed by the Corporation and the other Hyrokee must have no means - T'Lana@anncaris:- to flee. They will no doubt send a distress signal of some description. That is when the Lander One will arrive to 'rescue' the Governor, and in the process take us back to the vessel as well. - T'Lana@anncaris:- Coalition forces can later visit the world to ensure its independence and that its inhabitants develop without further interference, but we will have to depart with the Lander One. With their - T'Lana@anncaris:- personnel on board, the Lander One will almost certainly be permitted passage to the Hyrokee homeworld." Mischa@crystyl:"Should be a fun trip!" Mischa@crystyl | Keelah perks a brow, "You ladies have a strange idea of fun. But, as always, T'Lana's logic is sound" T'Lana@anncaris:"The Hyrokee's base physiology is quite ordinary for a Children species. With minor cosmetic disguises and falsified lifesign readings, we should be able to masquerade as them to investigate the - T'Lana@anncaris:- situation on their homeworld. This is where I need to request one additional member of our team." Mischa@crystyl | Keelah: "Who did you have in mind?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Avita, the Klingon cyborg on the QanwI'. We can visually disguise ourselves as Hyrokee, but almost all Hyrokee are equipped with cybernetics. While the Observer's exceptional abilities may be seen - T'Lana@anncaris:- cybernetic enhancement, none of us have cybernetic implants which are visible and can easily be demonstrated, which will be a problem for blending in with their society. With Avita along, at - T'Lana@anncaris:- least one member of our team will be able to show visible cybernetic enhancements. That can go a long way in aiding our infiltration." Mischa@crystyl | Keelah: "I certainly have no objection, but I'm not her CO. You'll have to get Captain Vix' blessing" T'Lana@anncaris:"We will confer with her, and Commander Kayan of the Lander One, but I wished to run it through the both of you first." Mischa@crystyl:"I for one look forward to it" Mischa@crystyl | Keelah: "I appreciate you bringing this to me, and am happy for you to proceed" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "I will make contact with the others we will need to involve for this plan, then." Mischa@crystyl:"Excellent" T'Lana@anncaris:"Are there any questions, or shall I proceed with making arrangements?" Mischa@crystyl:"Nope, I'm good" Mischa@crystyl | Keelah also shakes her head T'Lana@anncaris:"I shall speak with Commander Kayan and Captain Vix, then." --- T'Lana@anncaris FX | A short while later, T'Lana calls the QanwI' from her quarters Mischa@crystyl | Lexi appears on her screen, squinting at her, "You're not my usual Vulcan..." T'Lana@anncaris:"Very astute, Captain Vix." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi leans back with a grin, "So to what do I owe the honour?" T'Lana@anncaris:"I wish to ask something of you. Specifically, the presence of one of your crew members for an upcoming mission we are planning." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi: "One of my crew? Aww, so I'm not invited too?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Do you wish to come with us to a planet dominated by greedy Corporations who constantly attempt to outmaneuver one another with underhanded tactics?" Mischa@crystyl | Lexi gives her a quirked look, "If you're asking me on a date Vulcan, I'm flattered and all. But you've got a strange idea of romance" T'Lana@anncaris raises a brow, "That was not my intention. I merely sought to demonstrate that our destination is not exactly appealing for a warrior such as yourself." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi waves a hand, "Bah! Vulcan's, you're no fun! Alright, so who do you want for this Ferengi'esque mission?" T'Lana@anncaris:"Avita. Her cybernetic enhancements and general skillset are perfect for this mission." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi smiles, "I'll infiltrator skills, greedy corporations and political intrigue? Sounds right up your spooky street, and hers. Alright, you can have her" T'Lana@anncaris:"Thank you, Captain. I would promise that we will return her to you unharmed, but I know your crew are all fully capable of protecting themselves, especially Avita." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi laughs, "I'd be more worried about her causing collateral damage!" T'Lana@anncaris:"I am sure they are used to such where we are going. After all, many of them are just as heavily modified with cybernetics as she is." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi: "I look forward to hearing all about it upon your return" T'Lana@anncaris:"I am sure Avita will have much to tell you. Her assistance will be invaluable on this operation." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi: "Naturally. Well I'll let her know she's in demand, you want her over to the Forge?" T'Lana@anncaris:"At the Lander One, actually. I have just spoken to Commander Kayan recently, and it should be arriving soon." Mischa@crystyl | Lexi: "Alright, I'll keep an eye out for it's arrival and send her to meet you there then" T'Lana@anncaris nods, "Thank you again, Captain Vix."