The Architect unleashes what may be the Horde's most powerful thrall and ship to stop the Coalition from following the thunderbolt's trail...
Keliaya@anncaris FX | After arriving through the Observer's wormhole four days ago, the Valley Forge has been searching along the projected trajectory of the artifact. As they near a system which the artifact - Keliaya@anncaris - may have passed through, Keelah is called to the bridge Keelah@crystyl strolls in from the turbolift, glancing around, "What have we got?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "QanwI' reports picking up two small raiders in orbit of the second planet, likely Horde vessels. Captain Vix is requesting permission to engage." Keelah@crystyl:"Take us to red alert and prepare to engage. QanwI' can approach under cloak to verify targets, once confirmed Horde then engage" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and the bridge lighting switches to red alert as the VF proceeds towards the system Keliaya@anncaris | A short while later, TQ announces, "QanwI' verifies an assortment of lifesigns on board, many matching known Horde thralls." Keelah@crystyl:"An assortment of lifesigns does not constitute a Horde presence. Tell Captain Vix to hold position. We will make a neutral approach and gauge their reaction. QanwI' can pounce as soon as they show - Keelah@crystyl:- signs of hostility" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ nods and sends the message. A few minutes pass and Fisher announces, "We're entering the system now." Keliaya@anncaris:"I'm picking up debris around the two raiders." Keelah@crystyl:"Analysis?" Keliaya@anncaris:"It's too damaged to tell for certain, but the alloys match ships of Corporate design. Weapons damage match the disruptors sported by one of the raiders and there's signs of a core breach- very - Keliaya@anncaris:- recently. The breach probably disintegrated parts of the ship, so I can't say how large it must've been when it was intact." Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "QanwI' reports detection of energy fire on the surface." Keelah@crystyl:"Survivors of the destroyed ship?" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Unknown. QanwI's scans only show an assortment of lifesigns firing and advancing into an underground facility, but sensors can't penetrate the facility itself." Keelah@crystyl:"Alright, let's weigh in on this. Make for orbit and send a cursory message to the raider vessels saying we detect debris and offer assistance" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ nods and sends the message Keliaya@anncaris:"The raiders are transporting more crew to the surface. Same location as where QanwI' picked up the weapons fire." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They are now breaking orbit and heading out of the system.â€ Keelah@crystyl:"Have QanwI' continue monitoring. Trail and control at discretionary level. Take us into a geosync position above the ground action and try to establish communication with the other party down there" Keliaya@anncaris | As the VF nears the planet, Lennie picks up a single large crater on the surface of the planet, located in a different area from the weapons fire. The crater looks like the aftermath of a - Keliaya@anncaris:- large meteor impact, but there's a strange radiation lingering in the area that doesn't match anything in the database. Moreso there's a large number of still active technology set up all along - Keliaya@anncaris:- the edges of the crater and a geosynced but no longer active satellite above it Keelah@crystyl listens to Lennie's exposition, "If not for the ongoing fighting on the ground, I might surmise we found the right place but too late..." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Maybe th'Corporates found it an' th'Horde tried forcin' it from 'em" Keelah@crystyl:"Maybe..." she muses, "Any luck with contacting those on the ground?" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "I can't establish contact, the underground facility seems to be active, but its comm array is long destroyed." Keelah@crystyl looks to Vrolmacht, "It's far from ideal. But we might have to send in the MACO's to see what's going on down there" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "I will have them ready." Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "QanwI' reports the two raiders have disappeared into a subspace corridor." Keliaya@anncaris:"It has to be Horde, these definitely aren't Carran ships, and no one else has such intricate knowledge of the corridor network to find the nearest entrance and retreat through it." Keelah@crystyl nods an acknowledgement to TQ, continuing with V, "We should have at least one rank officer with them to establish contact" Keelah@crystyl:"Agreed Kelly. But we've got better things to do than pick fights with every random raider we encounter. They are out of the way, that's good enough for now" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "If the raiders are gone, the QanwI' can join us here. No one better than Captain Vix to lead an assault team. We may want a representative from the Valley Forge as well, someone - Keliaya@anncaris:- capable in combat and general interaction. I recommend Ensign Tierno." Keliaya@anncaris:"If the artifact is down there, we probably want someone who can control its power, like Sin." Keelah@crystyl nods, "The potentially delicate political situation is better suited to someone with Rianni's experience. If the artifact is there, they can secure the area for us to go down with Sin and approach Keelah@crystyl - it more cautiously" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "I will call the Ensign to the transporter room, then." --- NPC@annpc#557 | Lexi, Rianni and the MACO team materialize in a large paved clearing by a mountainside, with the tall mountain looming above them in one direction. Directly ahead, built into the side of the - NPC@annpc#557 - mountain is a large blast door which has been blasted open. By the entrance, the unmistakable corpses of at least twenty Horde thralls can be seen, along with the remains of a number of - NPC@annpc#557 - destroyed Corporate robots Rianni@crystyl materializes phaser drawn and ready, promptly sweeping the area before relaxing her stance once confirmed there's no hostiles in range Rianni@crystyl | Lexi looks around, "Aww, don't tell me we missed the party already! I swear if this little consolation prize of Keelah's doesn't pan out, I'm hunting down those raider ships!" NPC@annpc#557 | The MACOs similarly check their surroundings before Daz announces, "Clear. Don't fret just yet, Captain Vix. Looks like they forced their way inside, which means there might be plenty more in - NPC@annpc#557 - there." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi grunts, "There'd better be" Rianni@crystyl looks to Daz, "Alright, what's our plan for this?" Rianni@crystyl seems to make a point of deferring to Daz' judgement despite technically holding rank NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "Our sensors can't penetrate the walls of this facility, but given the location it's likely a military bunker of some description, so expect defenses and traps. We don't know what exactly - NPC@annpc#557 - is in there, we're just going to have to keep our eyes open and adapt to the situation. Everyone ready?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "Ready" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz nods, "Move in." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi eyerolls at the Starfleet formality, "Let's go already!" promptly charging ahead NPC@annpc#557 | The MACO team carefully proceeds forward. The facility appears to have been fully powered up, but some of the lights have been shot out or damaged by the fighting and flicker erratically. - NPC@annpc#557 - Scorch marks are found all over the walls, ceiling and floors and they have to step over several bodies. They pass by far more dead thralls, but there are a few Corporate robots and a single - NPC@annpc#557 - dead Hyrokee in the halls as well Rianni@crystyl | Lexi, "Ahh, this takes me back" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "These may be mostly basic Brute and Engineer thralls, but there's no way the Corporates took out so many with so few losses on their end. And I'm seeing no signs of traps." NPC@annpc#557 | Corporal jav Ghok, the Tellarite technician of the team, steps over, scanning several destroyed wall panels, "Looks like they've been targeting the walls. Might've already taken out the traps." NPC@annpc#557 | Daz nods, "If we follow the bodies, we'll probably find the remaining Horde in here. If we're lucky, they would've dealt with the traps for us." Rianni@crystyl:"Makes sense, but we shouldn't get complacent. I'll keep active scanning for anything untoward" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "Let's press on." Rianni@crystyl nods and follows NPC@annpc#557 | As they move ahead, Rianni begins picking up Horde lifesigns in front of them Rianni@crystyl:"Activity up ahead" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "I see it. Nine thralls. If we wait for them to move past that junction, we can use it to circle around ahead of them. Captain Vix, Sergeant Ulkass and Sergeant R'Mirr can engage them - NPC@annpc#557 - directly and get their attention while the rest of us take the junction and flank them." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi nods, "Works for me. Come on you two, let's get in there!" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz motions for the rest of the team to follow him and takes the flanking path Rianni@crystyl follows Daz closely, watching as Lexi and the others hurry off the other way NPC@annpc#557 | Lexi and the two MACOs with her quickly get the thralls' attention, who turn about and begins opening fire NPC@annpc#557 | Meanwhile, Daz cuts through an empty mess hall, where everything is covered in dust NPC@annpc#557 | Emerging on the other side, they circle behind the unsuspecting thralls who are busy engaging Lexi and the others. Daz immediately gives the signal to open fire Rianni@crystyl focuses extra hard to make sure she hits her target and doesn't risk shooting the other team NPC@annpc#557 | The rest of the MACO team shows off their exceptional training as they take down the thralls from behind before they have a chance to turn around and return fire. The three remaining brute - NPC@annpc#557 - thralls, realizing they are pinned, decided to make a charge towards Lexi's side. One of them is taken out by a shot from behind while Sergeant R'Mirr shoots down another as it charges, but a - NPC@annpc#557 - third gets close enough for Lexi to attack in melee... Rianni@crystyl | Lexi welcomes it and leaps in with her bat'leth swinging full force NPC@annpc#557 | Lexi easily cuts down the last brute, which drops before her feet! NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "All clear." Rianni@crystyl:"Who would have thought such a bloody mess could be made by one girl..." she notes at the remains of Lexi's brute Rianni@crystyl | Lexi hears and looks back with a grin, "You should know as anyone that you don't have to be a great hulking warrior to carve one down!" NPC@annpc#557 | R'Mirr: "We're not out of it yet," He gestures to two thrall bodies further down the hall, "We didn't kill these, and the walls around here are already damaged. Which means there's at least - NPC@annpc#557 - one other group ahead." Rianni@crystyl:"Defeating them is one thing, making it look like they were defeated by a massive hulking brute is quite another. And beyond me!" Rianni@crystyl | Lexi bows with a flourish and nods to R'Mirr, "Let's pick up the pace" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz nods and gestures for the team to continue on before leading the way himself NPC@annpc#557 | Following the trail of bodies and damaged walls, Rianni's scans soon pick up a dozen thralls ahead along with weapons fire. The thralls are clearly engaging something, but there are no other - NPC@annpc#557 - detectable lifesigns nor energy signatures of Corporate robots Rianni@crystyl points this out, "Could be they're clearing traps" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz nods, "I don't see any way around. Best we hit them while they're occupied." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi nods, "You boys carry grenades, or we doing this the fun way?" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "We have grenades. There's twelve of them, let's clear what we can with grenades and then pick the rest off," he nods to R'Mirr, who readies a grenade and tosses it around the corner Rianni@crystyl | Lexi stands ready to charge in as soon as the grenade has popped NPC@annpc#557 | The grenade goes off and two of the surviving thralls turn to the direction it was thrown, but the rest still seem focused ahead of them Rianni@crystyl | Lexi charges right into the fray NPC@annpc#557 | Lexi cuts down the two thralls before they have a chance to fire, and finds five more firing ahead. Something returns fire, taking out a thrall and leaving four left Rianni@crystyl | Lexi takes cover, not stupid enough to risk getting caught in the crossfire ahead. Drawing a blaster and beginning to put pressure on the thralls from the back Rianni@crystyl joins in the shooting as the grenade smoke clears NPC@annpc#557 | The MACOs join in as well, taking out the remaining thralls. As the thralls go down, they get a clearer view of the figure ahead in the hall... NPC@annpc#557 FX | https://i.pinimg.com/originals/66/42/e1/6642e125457444730b00545ae22a81a1.jpg NPC@annpc#557 | It seems to be one of the extinct Vex, destroyed by a combination of Horde and Lupan. The Vex turns its rifle on the MACO team and begins firing back... Rianni@crystyl calls out, "Wait! Hold your fire, that's one of the Vex. Non-combatant!" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "Hold fire!" The team stop firing, but the Vex continues shooting at the team, which are safely hidden behind cover NPC@annpc#557 | Ulkass: "He's not holding fire!" Rianni@crystyl tries calling down to the Vex, "We are not Horde, cease fire!" NPC@annpc#557 | The Vex doesn't seem to understand and fires a few shots in Rianni's direction as it advances towards her, not even taking cover NPC@annpc#557 | The MACO medic announces from behind Rianni, "I'm trying to scan it for Horde influence but...it has no lifesign." Rianni@crystyl:"A hologram maybe?" NPC@annpc#557 | Jav Ghok: "That must be why the Horde are targeting the walls! Check for holoprojectors and take them out!" Rianni@crystyl thinks out loud, working it through in her head, "Why would a facility go to the trouble of creating a holographic defense. Why not put the weapons straight where the projectors are...? A hologram - Rianni@crystyl:- is meant to interact. So why... unless, an override? IFF maybe...?" NPC@annpc#557 | Jav Ghok: "Maybe, but it seems to be identifying us as enemies right now..." Rianni@crystyl rescans their surroundings to try and match a species profile to obfuscate her own lifesigns as NPC@annpc#557 | Adjusting her lifesigns to Vex doesn't seem to trick the hologram, which continues firing... Rianni@crystyl frowns in frustration, "Dammit, I was sure that would work..." NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "We know the Corporates are holed up in here, right? Maybe they set the holograms to defend them from the Horde." Rianni@crystyl blinkblinks, "Ooh right! Let me reconfigure!" she taps away furiously at her tricorder NPC@annpc#557 | As Rianni reconfigures for Hyrokee lifesigns, the Vex hologram stops firing. It stands there for a moment before lowering the rifle and turning to calmly patrol Rianni@crystyl peers out of cover, slumping back against the wall and breathing a sigh of relief NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "Good work, Ensign." Rianni@crystyl shakes her head, "I should have realized that the Corporations were already here and had the defenses reconfigured" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz: "Didn't occur to me immediately either. Thinking's one thing, thinking under fire's another." Rianni@crystyl:"We should be good now anyway" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz nods, "Let's go." NPC@annpc#557 | The team presses onwards, passing by several more holograms who idly patrol, no longer hostile to the team. Soon, Rianni picks up five Hyrokee lifesigns ahead in a large room filled with - NPC@annpc#557 - consoles. Her tricorder also detects the presence of two Nuhar drones Rianni@crystyl:"Friendlies up ahead. I'm trying to find some sort of comm frequency" NPC@annpc#557 | Rianni manages to locate the comm frequency they are using! Rianni@crystyl ties into it and taps her combadge, "Corporate forces, do you read me?" NPC@annpc#557 | A voice comes in through the combadge, "Who is this? This bunker blocks comm signals, so you must be inside...is this some kind of Horde trick?" Rianni@crystyl:"No, we are from the Coalition. We have cleared out the remaining Horde troops out here. We're outside your control room now, could we please come in?" Rianni@crystyl | Lexi smirks at the innocence of such a simple request, figuring she'd likely never get away with it NPC@annpc#557 | There is a brief moment of silence before the reply comes, "We're opening the door for you. Keep your weapons lowered. Any sign of hostility and we will open fire." Rianni@crystyl:"Agreed, and likewise" she waves the group to lower their weapons, holstering her own Rianni@crystyl | Lexi is less impressed, but complies NPC@annpc#557 | The door slides open into a control room where the five Hyrokee cyborgs stand with two Nuhar drones hovering by them Rianni@crystyl holds her hands out a little to show she's not reaching for anything as she steps forward with a soft smile, "Thank you" NPC@annpc#557 | One of the Hyrokee comments, "Well, they don't look like Horde." Rianni@crystyl:"I can assure you that we are certainly not thralls. You can scan us if you wish, you will see we all have Coalition implants here-" she taps the base of her neck, "-to protect from it" NPC@annpc#557 | Another Hyrokee wearing a wide-brimmed hat steps forward, looking over the team closely before nodding, "I'm Ejinos Itadow," He motions over to a Hyrokee with more extensive combat - NPC@annpc#557 - modifications, "This is Captain Dyglo and what's left of his crew. Don't worry about the drones, they're mine and they won't attack you unless I order them to." Rianni@crystyl smiles over at the drones, "Like home from home, having a couple of you little guys around!" she turns to Dyglo, "I assume from his comment that yours was the ship we found destroyed in orbit?" NPC@annpc#557 | Dyglo nods, "That's right, and we're stranded down here now. This expedition's a disaster, even if we get off this ruined rock, it'll take me forever to earn back a ship and crew." NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Not entirely. We might still be able to find-" NPC@annpc#557 | Dyglo: "Enough with you and your clues. We wouldn't be in this situation if you hadn't gotten too ambitious!" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Hey, I was right about this place, it's not my fault you got your ship blown up." Rianni@crystyl:"Please Captain, we have left the front lines against the Horde on an expedition of our own. Even if it is not the same goal as yours here, your team may have learned something that could help us. - Rianni@crystyl:- And that means helping stop the Horde, perhaps enough of a feat even to earn back a fresh command" NPC@annpc#557 | Dyglo: "I wouldn't have lost my ship if Itadow hadn't led us here!" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "And I'm the only reason we're still alive down here after /you/ failed to get us away from the Horde in orbit," He looks back to Rianni, "You're here for whatever made that crater, - NPC@annpc#557:- aren't you?" Rianni@crystyl:"That would depend on what made the crater" she looks back to Dyglo, "Please, Captain. I know the pain of a lost ship and crew" she steps closer, lowering her voice for him, "Do not let my youth - Rianni@crystyl:- deceive you; I have felt the pain you feel now - that which your crew feels. Look around-" she glances to his morally defeated survivors, "- regardless of personal feelings or fault, your crewmen- Rianni@crystyl:- need you - now more than ever. Be the Captain they need you to be, I implore you, and have trust that the noble path can also lead to prosperity" NPC@annpc#557 | Dyglo sighs and nods, "You've got ships here, I assume?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "I am Ensign Tierno of the Valley Forge" she glances back, "That is Captain Vix of the QanwI'. If you know even loosely of the Coalition and defense against Horde invasion, you will - Rianni@crystyl:- undoubtedly know those two names as well. That should say all you need to understand how important this mission here might well be" NPC@annpc#557 | Dyglo nods, "I've heard rumours of your ships. We might get out of this yet." NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Did you take out the Shield Ship?" Rianni@crystyl:"First things first, we have medics in our squad-" she smiles with understanding, "-That Captain we were just talking out might recognize that and request that we put them to work in tending to your- Rianni@crystyl:- survivors while we assess the situation" she suggests Rianni@crystyl | Lexi huffs, looking to Itadow, "If you mean those two raider ships in orbit, they ran off. Starfleet doesn't like to shoot first so we chased them out of the system" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Two raiders? Let me guess, they went into a subspace corridor?" Rianni@crystyl | Lexi nods, "Familiar pattern I take it?" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "You've just fallen for the same trap we have. You at least cleared the bunker of Horde?" Rianni@crystyl | Lexi nods, "The last of their ground troops fell to my blade! So what's this trap exactly?" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I'll explain on the way. Everyone left here can walk. We have to get back to your ships, or they'll end up just like Dyglo's." Rianni@crystyl:"Alright, let's get your people out of here" looking to Daz, "Sergeant, would you do the honours?" NPC@annpc#557 | Daz nods, turning to lead the way out Rianni@crystyl lets the survivors closes, bringing up the rear --- Keliaya@anncaris | A short while after the MACO team is away, Lennie picks up seven ships popping into long range sensors, with the telltale tachyon signature of a subspace corridor opening. The group seems to be - Keliaya@anncaris - centred on one huge ship over two kilometres long Keelah@crystyl perks a brow at hearing this, "So that is why the raiders were so willing to run away without a fight. So be it, red alert. Deploy the armour and prepare all squadrons for launch" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and the red alert lighting kicks in on the bridge as the VF deploys its armour Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "Time to contact, one and a half minutes." Keelah@crystyl:"Transmit the obligatory warning not to approach the system" Keelah@crystyl:"How long until the squadrons can launch?" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ nods Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They can be away in one minute. Lieutenant Baelai was standing by since the initial report of Horde in the system." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Mr. Fisher, position us directly between the approaching vessels and the planet. Have the squadrons ready on my order, we're going to let them scratch our belly" Keliaya@anncaris:"Captain, the central ship- it's Progenitor technology." Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher nods and quickly gets the VF into position Keelah@crystyl:"I should not be surprised that they have such things in use" Keliaya@anncaris | On the viewscreen, the massive central ship comes into view first.. Keliaya@anncaris FX | https://i.imgur.com/ID3AR3n.png Keelah@crystyl leans in studying it, "That is quite the unorthodox configuration. Analysis?" Keliaya@anncaris | The remainder of the ships fall into position around it Keliaya@anncaris taps her console, "I...think that entire ship is one massive deflector dish. Pure neutronium hull, it's remarkably similar in design to the Planet Killer weapons, but without the convenient weak - Keliaya@anncaris:- point. It's got a phaser point-defense system that's clearly of different technology, added by the Horde most likely, but other than that I don't see any weapons." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Accompanying ships are two battleships and four destroyers." Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "Twenty seconds until they reach weapons range." Keelah@crystyl:"Keep an eye on it, they're in a defensive formation around it so it's clearly our priority target. Find another weakness" Keliaya@anncaris:"Energy spike coming from the Progenitor ship. It's forming a shield around the entire battlegroup." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They are in range. Horde ships are locking weapons on us." Keelah@crystyl:"So that's it... very well, draw them in with phasers. Let QanwI' get a look at their energy output and attack accordingly" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "Firing phasers. No discernible effect on the shield." Keliaya@anncaris | The bridge rocks as the Horde ships fire back, their shots seemingly having no trouble going through their shield Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Armour at 85%." Keelah@crystyl:"As expected. Draw them in as far as you can, then put the squadrons out to penetrate that shield and hit the generator ship from within" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and continues firing. The Horde formation continues to advance, their ships hidden safely behind the huge over-shield which conventional weapons don't even seem to be denting... Keliaya@anncaris | The formation continues drawing closer and closer, showing no sign of stopping. Vrolmacht launches the squadron when he deems it is sufficiently close.. Keelah@crystyl waits for them to swarm out, "Alright, time to get ourselves into this fight proper. Bring us over 180 and protect the weakened face. All weapons, fire at will" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Aye Captain." Keelah@crystyl | QanwI' meanwhile would stalk in behind the group, moving to punch through the shield bubble from the rear and draw their attention from the vulnerable squadron as it launches Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher turns the VF over as Vrolmacht fires all weapons Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Their shield is down to 99- no, it's gone back to 100%!" Keliaya@anncaris | QanwI' meanwhile draws the attention of two of the destroyers, which maneuver themselves in the shield bubble to a position where it can fire on the QanwI', while the battleships focus fire on - Keliaya@anncaris:- the VF Keelah@crystyl:"We're not going to win this through sheer armaments. We just need to hold their focus while the squadrons make their attempt. Kelly, continue analysis of the energy output; see if we can remodulate- Keelah@crystyl:- our weapons phase variance to cut through" Keliaya@anncaris nods, tapping away on her console. The bridge rocks again as they take a few more hits Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Armour down to 65%, but the squadron is away." Keelah@crystyl:"Understood. Mr. Fisher, keep us mobile and don't flash any one face to them. We can retain the armour by spreading the integrity reduction to all sides" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "On it Captain!" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They appear to be doing the same with their shield- spreading the damage equally in addition to repairing it extremely quickly." Keelah@crystyl | Meanwhile, Jenni and her squadron duck and weave as unnaturally as ever through the crossfire to close in and penetrate the shield bubble Keliaya@anncaris | Eon evades the crossfire up to the shield, but as it tries to pass through, Jenni suddenly finds herself losing control of the craft! Behind her, the Nuhar fighters break off the run, two of - Keliaya@anncaris:- them catching Eon in small tractor beams and pulling it along before the fighter falls fully through the shield to the other side Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Captain, Eon has lost power. The shield has some form of EMP effect upon contact!" Keelah@crystyl:"That is not helpful... get the squadron back then, Kelly; it's on you" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I'm working on it..." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Recalling the squadron. We have to break away- the shield is drawing closer, and if we make contact with it, the entire ship may be affected by the EMP." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie beavers away as well trying to help Kelly find a way through the shields, "What about siphoning it's power?" Keelah@crystyl nods to Vrolmacht, "Under no circumstances can we allow it to make contact" Keliaya@anncaris:"It'll boost our own power, but the shield's far too powerful. Even if we overloaded all our systems, we won't get close to dropping it." Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher nods and moves away from the shield, allowing the formation to draw closer to the planet.. Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Then... le's use it against 'em! Siphon th'power an' channel it back into an overload burst from th'deflector; suck it out an' throw it back at 'em!" Keliaya@anncaris:"That could work!" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They have opened a section of the shield and are transporting troops to the surface." Keliaya@anncaris:"We've got to prepare the deflector quickly, the away team might need help soon..." Keelah@crystyl:"Focus fire on that opening!" Keelah@crystyl:"Mr. Fisher, keep us between them and the planet. Adjust for atmospheric conditions if needed, we'll go right down with them" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie pauses at hearing that, "Atmospheric conditions... Kel', wha' if we don't use th'deflector, but channel it back through th'core. It'd release through th'nacelles, yeah?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Our hits on the shield vessel are doing no damage...they've closed the shield again." Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Yes...are you thinking to vent it all into the atmosphere?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, "If we get th'right layer, th'effect'll be exponentially amplified!" Keliaya@anncaris:"Good idea,,,I'm on it! Just have to wait until we're in the right layer..." --- NPK@annpc#557 | As the away team rush out of the bunker with the Hyrokee, they find Horde thralls spread out among the clearing beyond, and in the very centre of the clearing stands a figure that towers a - NPK@annpc#557 - head above the tallest thrall... NPK@annpc#557 FX | https://i.imgur.com/rSxDsG4.jpg Lexi@crystyl stops in her tracks, "Damn, they must have got more down here! And what the hell is that thing..." NPK@annpc#557 | The large armoured thrall speaks, "We meet again, Captain Vix. Still rushing head-first into battle, I see." Lexi@crystyl narrows her eyes, "You must have been less ugly the last time we crossed blades..." NPK@annpc#557 | Thrall: "The last time we fought, I used the body of a simple Psionic thrall, whose weakness you exploited. You will find no such weakness here, in the previous wielder of the weapon we both - NPK@annpc#557:- seek- for that is why you are here, is it not? I'm afraid you will find no weapon either. You will find only death, at the hands of the father of all modern Psionic thralls, the one so skilled in - NPK@annpc#557:- battle that before he was finally consumed by the Horde, he was worshipped as a god of war." Lexi@crystyl:"You reduced Ar-Rhys to a mere puppet. I will take pleasure in punishing you for the way you dishonour such a warrior, even if I have to carve my way through every thrall you hide behind!" NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys: "The thralls will not target you. They will kill the others, while I give you death in battle, as is your custom." Lexi@crystyl:"We've been over this, my custom is victory in battle. These are spots, not ridges thank you" NPK@annpc#557 | Dyglo: "I don't much care for death in battle. I'd rather kill you right now." NPK@annpc#557 | Captain Dyglo raises his rifle and fires a purple bolt much like the one from Myra's rifle. Architect-Rhys raises his shield with surprising speed and the shot bounces off the shield, going - NPK@annpc#557:- right through Dyglo, who is knocked back by the force of the hit and doesn't get back up Lexi@crystyl | Rianni rushes to his side to try and help him NPK@annpc#557 | Despite his extensive cybernetics, the high power of the shot has instantly killed Captain Dyglo NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys: "That was a mistake. Now, Captain..." Lexi@crystyl | Rianni lowers her gaze, shaking her head as she closes his eyes NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys advances towards Lexi as the other thralls open fire on the MACOs and the remaining Hyrokee Lexi@crystyl:"Get those zombies out of the way! This one's all mine!" she flourishes her weapon, striding in purposefully but not rushing NPK@annpc#557 | As Architect-Rhys comes closer, he shrinks down in size, no longer the towering figure but changing to the same height as Lexi. He begins circling around her as the firefight rages around them... Lexi@crystyl circles her prey in kind; watching, analyzing every step and movement NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys' footwork and movement seem to be as close to perfect as a warrior can possibly be. There is almost none of the over-favouring or under-protecting of certain areas almost every - NPK@annpc#557:- fighter has. He strikes the first blow, lunging forward with his spear while holding his shield defensively Lexi@crystyl pushes the attack aside, content to simply defend while studying NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys continues pressing the attack, mostly using stabs and jabs with his spear while always keeping his shield in the other hand, held defensively and ready to intercept any counter Lexi@crystyl continues parrying a few more attacks to get a read on his approach before attempting a sudden spin to his rear along his spear hold side as he thrusts it forward, rolling her body along its length Lexi@crystyl:- to keep it out of the way while spinning her blade around at his unprotected rear flank NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys throws his shield arm behind his back, lifting the shield as if it didn't weigh anything as he repositions it behind his back, deflecting the blow while he spins around in the - NPK@annpc#557:- opposite direction Lexi did, lunging with his spear to stab at her new position Lexi@crystyl twirls her bat'leth over to intercept the lunge, trying to twist-lock it out of control if not grip NPK@annpc#557 | Lexi manages to intercept the lunge and twist the spear out of control, but Architect-Rhys continues charging forward while her bat'leth is occupied, avoiding the weapon as he bashes forward - NPK@annpc#557:- with his shield Lexi@crystyl takes the impact on her armour and lets it push her back with a hop NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys takes the chance to reposition his spear, returning to his starting stance with spear and shield held ready... --- NPK@annpc#557 | On the bridge of the Valley Forge, the ship descends into the atmosphere as Kelly announces, "We're ready! Just have to wait until we're at the right atmospheric layer..." NPK@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht: "Armour at 45%!" Lexi@crystyl | Keelah nods, tapping her intercom panel, "All hands, this is the Captain; brace for turbulent atmosphere. Beware of EPS overload" NPK@annpc#557 | TQ: "Captain, the away team is having trouble holding against the new Horde forces. Daz is requesting extraction when possible." NPK@annpc#557 | The bridge shakes around them under the enemy fire and atmospheric turbulence Lexi@crystyl | Keelah: "Can the QanwI' press ahead and retrieve them?" NPK@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht: "Not without significant risk of the QanwI' being hit while lowering shields for transport." NPK@annpc#557 | Kelly: "Or being caught in what we're about to pull off. Almost at the right layer..." Lexi@crystyl | Keelah: "Understood, have transporters standing by to retrieve them at the first opportunity" NPK@annpc#557 | Kelly nods, "Chief Oliver's standing by." NPK@annpc#557 | The bridge rocks from a heavy hit and sparks fly from the lights above them NPK@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht: "Armour down to 35%!" Lexi@crystyl | Keelah pats her armrest, "Just a little more old girl, you won't let us down" NPK@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht: "30%!" NPK@annpc#557 | Kelly: "We're there! Ready to commence on your order, Captain!" Lexi@crystyl | Keelah: "Stand by for a switch to shields" NPK@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht nods, "Standing by." Lexi@crystyl | Keelah waits for a suitable moment before ordering the switch, ready to face the brunt of their maneuver with maximum shields NPK@annpc#557 | Kelly glances at Lennie before they proceed... Lexi@crystyl | Lennie holds on to her console to steady herself, nodding to Kelly when the Horde are in the right layer, "Tha's it, give 'em hell!" Lexi@crystyl | Keelah: "Shields!" NPK@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht: "Shields active!" NPK@annpc#557 | The VF's shields flicker on as it begins to drain shield power and channel it through the ship and out of the nacellesâ€¦ --- NPK@annpc#557 | On the surface, the fight doesn't proceed well. Two of the remaining four Hyrokee have been downed and Sergeant R'Mirr has taken a hit and is out of the fight, with the team medic tending to - NPK@annpc#557 - him while the rest of the team covers for them. Meanwhile, Lexi and Architect-Rhys duel to the side of the crossfire. With her enemy having changed his size to match hers, Lexi doesn't have - NPK@annpc#557:- the usual advantage of being able to outmaneuver and with his shield, Architect-Rhys is extremely well-defended. Even when she thinks she sees an opening, the exceptional agility of her opponent - NPK@annpc#557:- always allows him to evade her blow and usually counterattack with his spear or shield Lexi@crystyl doesn't let that stop her pressing the attack, picking up the pace and constantly switching stances and positions to avoid any kind of predictable pattern. She bides her time waiting for her desired- Lexi@crystyl:- opening to swing again at his weapon holding side... NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys doesn't seem to be tiring at all, moving effortlessly as he attacks, defends and counterattacks. As the fight rages on, the shape of a large ship can be seen looming into view - NPK@annpc#557 - above them, with a smaller vessel below it and closer to the planet. As the ships descend further and further, the profile of the Valley Forge becomes visible as the ship on the bottom, while - NPK@annpc#557 - other, smaller ships come into view around a huge craft shaped almost like a mushroom NPK@annpc#557 | Itadow looks to Rianni as he fires on the Horde with his pistol, "That's the Shield Ship I told you about!" Lexi@crystyl | Rianni looks up, squinting to focus briefly, "And that's ours beneath it! What are they doing there...?" NPK@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I don't know. Trying to save you, maybe? They don't look like they're having any more luck getting through that shield than we did." Lexi@crystyl | Rianni shakes her head, "No way, not Captain Keelah. She's up to something..." NPK@annpc#557 | Itadow: "What, your Captain normally doesn't bother trying to pick you up, or is she the type to come up with wild plans?" Lexi@crystyl | Rianni: "No, she is determined and ingenious - the whole senior staff are! They've stood their ground against far worse than that thing, and they always find a way!" NPK@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I sure hope they find a way to get us off of here..." NPK@annpc#557 | Meanwhile, after a long exchange with no progress on either side, Lexi notices an opening on Architect-Rhys' spear side.. Lexi@crystyl | Rianni: "We have to trust that they will do their job, and focus on ours. Which right now, is surviving and keeping those Horde at bay" Lexi@crystyl presses a now familiar attack to trap his blade in a twist of her bat'leth. This time though, when he is forced to the same way she lets her own weapon go so his offset momentum sends him off - Lexi@crystyl:- balance. Swinging herself around she draws a simpler blade from her hip and leaps across his stumbling rear, dragging the blade through the air in her wake aimed across the side of his neck before- Lexi@crystyl:- rolling back across her discarded bat'leth to regain a grip on it's handle as she returns to a prone stance. At least that's the intention... NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys does get thrown off balance, but he stumbles forward in a controlled fashion, whether because he expected the move or due to some special capability Ar-Rhys' body has is - NPK@annpc#557 - unknown. He reacts with uncanny speed, angling his neck away so the blade glances off an armoured shoulder before he spins around. As Lexi retrieves her bat'leth, Architect-Rhys slides the - NPK@annpc#557 - spear in a spot between the blades and towards her, forcing her to twist her blade in order to redirect the spearhead as to not get stabbed by it Lexi@crystyl does so, launching herself into an overhead leap instead of her usual pirouette. Again letting the bat'leth go and throwing her whole body legs first at his head, aiming to grapple around his neck - Lexi@crystyl:- with her arms and force him down NPK@annpc#557 | Despite his smaller size, Architect-Rhys is much stronger than he appears. He remains standing and ducks down, causing his helmet to come off and freeing himself from Lexi's grip. Long, dark - NPK@annpc#557 - hair becomes visible as his helmet is removed. Ar-Rhys, being a first-generation thrall, isn't particularly mutated and the foundations of a once fair face is visible. Now however, he is - NPK@annpc#557 - almost unnaturally pale and his eyes glow a bright red, giving his appearance more similarity to that of a vampire than a Greek god. As he frees himself from Lexi's grip, he immediately brings - NPK@annpc#557:- his spear to stab at her while she is vulnerable on the ground... Lexi@crystyl clutches at the ground to her side as she skids to a halt, hurling a handful of dirt at his now exposed face to buy herself recovery time NPK@annpc#557 | Despite the dirt, the spear continues directly towards her, but before it reaches her, the atmosphere above them suddenly burst into flame, followed by a series of explosions of the smaller - NPK@annpc#557 - ships. The shockwaves ripple down the the surface, sending Architect-Rhys stumbling just enough for his spear to miss its mark, merely skidding across Lexi's arm and leaving a grazing cut Lexi@crystyl staring up, is forced to shield her eyes from the flaming glory as much as she wanted to watch it. Opening them, she sees Architect-Rhys looming over her and quickly recovering his stance. Wincing - Lexi@crystyl from the pain of her fresh wound she realizes he might actually have her bested when he appears to freeze, going slightly cross-eyed... Lexi@crystyl | As Architect-Rhys' knees buckle beneath him - hands cupping protectively to his groin, Lexi sees Rianni stood behind him Lexi@crystyl | Rianni stares a moment before frowning and grabbing at her foot, "...OW! What are those things made of?!" Lexi@crystyl grins, coiling back like a viper before unleashing a two-footed kick at his preoccupied face, now comfortably within range as he recoils from Rianni's swift kick NPK@annpc#557 | Architect-Rhys flies back from the kick, dropping his spear as he falls back on the ground. He soon recovers, rolling back and returning to his feet before Lexi has the chance to press her - NPK@annpc#557 - attack. He stretches out his arm and his spear flies back into his waiting hand, followed by the helmet which he catches with the shield-hand. He glares between Rianni and Lexi, then look up - NPK@annpc#557:- at the flaming sky, where the debris of Horde ships begin to rain down, though the Shield Ship still looks intact, "This is not over. The Thunderbolt is long gone from here, and you will not find - NPK@annpc#557:- it before I do." He disappears into a transporter beam as the remaining thralls close in around them... NPK@annpc#557 | A disc-like object circles around them out of nowhere, cutting down the thralls before returning to Itadow's hand. It seems to be his hat... Lexi@crystyl grabs her bat'leth off the ground, standing and flourishing it as she prepares to face the rest of the Horde. Looking around at the sudden throw, "Nice" NPK@annpc#557 | The two Nuhar drones hover behind him, taking out a number of other thralls as he yells, "I'll cover you! Get back to cover, the Shield Ship's retreating! We just have to hold out a little - NPK@annpc#557:- longer!" NPK@annpc#557 | Indeed, above them, the Shield Ship seems to be turning away and leaving orbit Lexi@crystyl roars in frustration as she knows she has to deny her bloodlust and do as he says. She shoves Rianni back towards cover as they both retrieve sidearms and begin firing NPK@annpc#557 | Itadow fires his own pistol, adding to the attacks of his Nuhar drones. The remaining Horde seem to be attacking more ferociously than ever, either the Architect is frustrated, or simply - NPK@annpc#557:- because the destruction and retreat of the ships reduced their collective intelligence and turned them more feral. Daz and Ulkass both take minor glancing hits, but the last member of Dyglo's - NPK@annpc#557:- crew goes down as he gets overly ambitious in picking off Horde, clearly not as disciplined as the MACOs. One of Itadow's drones goes down covering for them, but he makes it back to cover with - NPK@annpc#557:- the other one intact Lexi@crystyl & Rianni continue doing all they can to hold the Horde back NPK@annpc#557 | As more and more thralls go down, the Horde definitely seem to be getting more feral, several thralls choosing to rush them outright rather than shooting while others press on more - NPK@annpc#557:- aggressively, causing them to lose thralls fast but also press closer and closer. Itadow uses his hat-blade again as several thralls get uncomfortably close, but the team manages to keep them at - NPK@annpc#557:- bay long enough, and blue transporter beams appear around them.... --- Keliaya@anncaris | Meanwhile on the bridge, the lights are almost completely out save for the central one above Keelah, which flickers every once in a while Keelah@crystyl looks around, "Status?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Shields are down, but no structural damage." Keelah@crystyl:"And the Horde?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "All vessels save the shield generator are destroyed. The Shield Ship beamed up a single thrall and is now on the retreat." Keliaya@anncaris:"The massive energy we channeled has knocked most of our navigational systems offline, but we still have transporters." Keelah@crystyl:"Weapons? Can we pursue and destroy?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht taps on his console and shakes his head, "Weapons are not responsive. The remaining thralls on the surface are still closing in around the away team." Keliaya@anncaris:"Katie has a lock on them. We can beam them back." Keelah@crystyl:"Let's get our people back. QanwI' is free to pursue if able" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and notifies the QanwI' Keliaya@anncaris:"We have the away team, and one Hyrokee survivor." Keliaya@anncaris | The bridge continues to shake with turbulence as Fisher announces, "We have a problem. Helm isn't fully responsive either. I'm doing what I can to stabilize us but we're still losing altitude...â€ Keelah@crystyl looks back, "Kelly?" Keliaya@anncaris:"The sheer volume of channeled energy overloaded a number of systems despite us releasing it," she taps quickly on her console, "I've identified the problematic relays, damage control is - Keliaya@anncaris:- prioritizing them to get back full helm control as quickly as possible." Keliaya@anncaris | On the viewscreen, the cloud layer of the planet draws closer and closer... Keelah@crystyl:"I don't need to tell you that the longer it takes to recover, the stronger the gravity will be to fight through" Keelah@crystyl:"Mr. Fisher, focus your efforts on maintaining a stable trajectory. If we enter a momentum spin during freefall we'll never recover at this altitude" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "Understood Captain!" He taps just as quickly on his console Keliaya@anncaris:"Just one more...that should do it!" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "I have full helm control!" Keelah@crystyl:"Get us back in a stable position, that will have to suffice for now" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "I'm on it..." Keliaya@anncaris | The VF dips beyond the cloud layer for a moment, showing the jagged peaks of mountains below before Fisher manages to pull the ship up, just narrowly avoiding the peak of a particularly tall - Keliaya@anncaris:- summit. They pass back up through the clouds, then the upper atmosphere, the ship rocking uncomfortably with heavy turbulence throughout the whole process Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht grumbles as they ascend, "I should have saved that blood pie for dinner..." Keelah@crystyl looks over with a slight smirk, again patting her armrest as before while muttering to the VF, "Attagirl" Keliaya@anncaris | Soon, the VF breaks atmosphere and the turbulence stops as they settle into orbit Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher breathes a sigh of relief, "We're in stable orbit, Captain." Keelah@crystyl:"Nicely done. Maintain yellow alert for now while we see to our ship. I'm going to see what the away team has to report" --- Keliaya@anncaris | In sickbay, R'Mirr is put on the surgical bed as Kazra and several nurses work on him, while Zanah works on treating the more minor injuries of Daz and Ulkass on the side beds Keelah@crystyl | The rest of the away team accompanies them, stumbling around initially as the ship fights to recover it's position. As things seem to settle back to normal, Lexi looks to Rianni, "So... Starfleet - Keelah@crystyl -training teach you that move?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni flushes, shaking her head, "It's... not exactly by the book..." Keelah@crystyl | Lexi laughs, "Girl, /never/ apologize for fighting dirty!" patting her heartily on the back Keelah@crystyl enters, "Well, I'm glad to see you two at least have had a fun time. Looking then to Kazra, "What's the situation?" Keliaya@anncaris | Kazra nods to Zanah, who takes over at the surgical bed while she heads over to Keelah, "Daz and Ulkass have minor injuries. R'Mirr's condition is more serious, but he's stable for now. He'll - Keliaya@anncaris - make a full recovery in time, just don't expect him out of sickbay this week," she glances to Lexi's arm, "And it looks like Captain Vix has a laceration as well. Want me to look at that?" Keelah@crystyl | Lexi doubletakes, "Look at what?" Glancing down, "Oh right, that. Nah, you've got better things to do" Keliaya@anncaris | Kazra: "Typical Klingon Captain..." she looks over as a Nuhar drone hovers by, "I thought Mia said those drones of hers won't get in the way in Sickbay..." Keelah@crystyl looks as well Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow steps over, his blade-hat off and set on a nearby table with his pistol, "Apologies, that's my drone. I can instruct it to wait outside, if that's better." Keelah@crystyl:"It's Kazra's sickbay, her call" Keliaya@anncaris | Kazra nods, "Please do." The drone promptly hovers out the door Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow looks to Keelah, "You the one responsible for that impressive display in the sky earlier?" Keelah@crystyl shakes her head, "I am only the Captain of this ship. That was thanks to some quick thinking from the bridge staff" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "Well, thanks for coming to my rescue," he looks over to Rianni, "Your crewmember said you were here looking for something?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "That's right" following his gaze, "What exactly happened down there?" Keelah@crystyl | Lexi suddenly points sharply to her side at Rianni - like a child professing her own innocence by diverting blame - "She kicked the God of War in the bo-... in the heavenly jewels!" Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, looking to Rianni who flushes profusely. "Ensign...?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni ahems, "It was a strategically placed strike to assist Captain Vix" Keelah@crystyl | Lexi rubs the back of her neck, "Yeah... it was him Keelah, Ar-Rhys - or what's left of him. The Architect p'tahq was steering of course, but damn that God can fight" Keelah@crystyl:"So let me get this straight; you dueled hand to hand with the being known to more Children species than not as the 'God of War'" turning back to Rianni, "And you... strategically struck his weak - Keelah@crystyl:- spot?" Keelah@crystyl | The pair share a glance before looking back and nodding in unison Keelah@crystyl:"Ok, this is going to be one of those days I'm glad we're not in range for me to send my AAR straight to the Admiral... so what about the facility-" she turns to Itadow, "I assume you are responsible Keelah@crystyl:- for the Corporate presence here?" Keelah@crystyl | While the grown ups talk, Lexi nudges Rianni's arm and whispers, "When she gives you medal for this fight, I'm putting a plaque on it to make sure everyone knows how you earned it!" and grins Keelah@crystyl | Rianni goes redder than ever, keeping her mouth forced shut so as not to interrupt Keelah Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow nods, "That's right. My associates- the late Captain Dyglo and his crew, worked with your Coalition for a time. One of them died in battle and his implant was intact, so I purchased it - Keliaya@anncaris:- and the crew's services for an expedition out here." Keliaya@anncaris | Kazra: "Into Horde space? Even with implants, that's almost a suicide mission." Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "I didn't get this far by playing it safe. No risk, no gain." Keelah@crystyl | Lexi adds for clarity: "Those were the survivors of the ship we found destroyed in orbit. They didn't survive the final ground assault, but they fought and died most honourably" she offers to - Keelah@crystyl:- Itadow, "They will live on in our songs, a warrior can ask no greater epitaph" Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed. So what was the purpose of your expedition?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "There's a lot of ruined civilizations out here, and who knows what secrets they might hold? Allow me to introduce myself properly: I'm Ejinos Itadow, purveyor of valuable - Keliaya@anncaris - antique artifacts and technologies. Some call me a treasure hunter, but I prefer archaeologist. 'Treasure' doesn't even begin to cover all the things you find in my line of work." Keelah@crystyl:"Fair enough. Come, you've been through quite the ordeal down there. Why don't we get you some refreshments and you can tell me all about your research?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow grins, "I won't say no to a drink." Keelah@crystyl smiles and nods, "Right this way when. And while we are on introductions, I am Captain Keelah. Welcome to the Valley Forge" Keelah@crystyl leads the way through the less than pristine ship to a private mess, "What would you like? Our replicators can produce just about anything and we have plenty of regional flavours in there now" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "You got Costona Orange? It's a common wine out in the Corporate colonies, ever since Costona went bankrupt the replicator recipe's been for sale, rather than just the product." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Then I'm sure we would have picked it up along the way. Please, make yourself comfortable" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow nods and takes a seat, "Comfortable ship you got here, Captain. Fit for a Corporate President." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you. Regrettably she's not at her most pristine right now, but such is the aftermath of battle" she joins him, presenting the drink or at least a close approximation Keelah@crystyl:"The Valley Forge is built to sustain her crew almost indefinitely on long range exploration. So as well as providing sufficient comfort to maintain mental health and wellbeing, it is meant to serve- Keelah@crystyl:- as an introduction of our society to potential new friends during first contact. Not all Starfleet vessels can boast the amenities we can here" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow smiles as he takes the drink and sips, "Thanks. And I'm used to roughing it out on more utilitarian freelancer ships, but enduring a few uncomfortable space rides' better than having my - Keliaya@anncaris - work dictated by Corporate superiors." Keelah@crystyl:"So back to your research on that note, what exactly was it that drew you here to begin with?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "I was digging through some Vex ruins and found records of the place. This world is actually the first place the Vex Empire learned about the Horde. A Horde force went out of their way - Keliaya@anncaris:- to take the system, stationed a force to hold it, and held onto it for a whole century before they started to push on the rest of Vex space. Pretty uncharacteristic for the Horde, isn't it? This - Keliaya@anncaris:- place is the only reason the Vex were prepared, actually put up a somewhat decent resistance, and were able to evacuate much of their empire after they fell. Of course, the Lupan got them in the - Keliaya@anncaris:- end, but that's another matter." Keelah@crystyl:"So you have no specifics about what was so attractive here for them?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "Not when I came here. I just knew there was something they wanted in the system, something that was worth going out of their way and alerting one of their future targets. Has to be - Keliaya@anncaris:- pretty valuable, especially considering that they lost hundreds of ships to the Vex when they could've easily swept through the Empire and consumed it all with barely any losses otherwise." Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "When we arrived, the crater caught our eye, as I'm sure it caught yours as well." Keelah@crystyl sips her tea, "I assume then in the time you have been here, you have learned more?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow nods, "I reactivated the Horde monitoring equipment in their outposts by the crater. Turns out some centuries ago, an artifact of immense power landed on the planet, an artifact whose - Keliaya@anncaris:- trajectory the Horde were tracking all along, which was why they went out of their way to take the planet. It had so much power it was impossible to touch or transport or move, and before the - Keliaya@anncaris:- Horde found a way to retrieve it, someone or something else beat them to it." Keelah@crystyl:"So you have no leads on the fate of this artifact after it impacted here?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "As far as the sensors on the surface know, something showed up, cut through a hundred thralls, took the artifact and disappeared- something that didn't register on sensors but its - Keliaya@anncaris:- impact was all too clear. But I know something the sensors don't. Am I right in assuming you're interested in this artifact as well?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "As is this newly revitalized Horde. We came to ensure it doesn't fall into their hands" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "That explains why the Horde was waiting here. I have a feeling the trap was for you, but we sprung it first and were caught in it too. I'll tell you what I know, as repayment for - Keliaya@anncaris:- the rescue." Keelah@crystyl:"I welcome any assistance you can offer" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow smiles, "I'll be of more help if you let me tag along. Ancient artifacts are my specialty. But first, you'll probably want to hear my lead." Keelah@crystyl smiles in kind, "I would" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "That radiation around the crater, it's very unusual. Maybe even unique to the artifact. I've only seen it in one other place out of everywhere I've been." Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "Or rather, I've heard of the place. Not been there myself, but there's no mistaking it- that's the same kind of radiation." Keelah@crystyl:"So your conclusion is that this other location is - or at some point has been - the resting place of the artifact?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "Exactly. And what's more, the radiation here has clearly dispersed over the years, but on that planet, it's constant. Which means what's producing it is still there." Keelah@crystyl:"Is the radiation the reason you have never been to said planet then?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "Not quite- the radiation's concentrated in one place," he opens his palm and a holographic projection of the system appears above it. "This is the system. The Corporations designate - Keliaya@anncaris:- it Sheemo. Almost a century ago, Yosita Corporation surveyed the fourth planet and deemed it a suitable site for colonization. When their colony ships arrived, they found Colonial Fleet ships - Keliaya@anncaris:- protecting the system. You see, the fourth planet's home to a pre-industrial civilization, and the Arshai wouldn't let Yosita take them over on their watch. Yosita calculated that the cost of - Keliaya@anncaris:- antagonizing the New World far outweighed any potential return in investment for the colony, so they backed away. Ever since then, no one's tried anything with the system. It's not in - Keliaya@anncaris:- Colonial Fleet space, but everyone knows it's under their protection. That fourth inhabited planet- that's the only other place I know of to have that radiation." Keelah@crystyl:"The Arshai must have also detected the unusual radiation there..." Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "No doubt, but they don't know about this place, and their rules of no interference with pre-spacefaring cultures probably limited them from studying the radiation in any depth." Keelah@crystyl:"Still, it is worth checking if they have any pertinent information. We can try to find a way to retrieve it without exposing the indigenous population to our presence" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow smirks, "Shouldn't be too hard to blend in with the locals. They don't have the tech to detect lifesigns, so a simple holographic disguise'll fool them." He suddenly ripples before - Keliaya@anncaris - appearing to be an Arshai, then ripples back to his usual self Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Impressive. We have similar methods, if not as technological" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "A basic visual modification to look like them'll do the trick. As for checking with the Arshai, they're a part of your Coalition, so it shouldn't be any trouble for you either." Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, their Supreme Commander and I go way back. I am sure she will accomodate any way she can" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow nods, "So, mind if I tag along with you? I'm going to need a ride anyways, since Dyglo's ship is gone, and I can help you with recovering the artifact." Keelah@crystyl:"I said I would welcome any assistance you are willing to offer, so of course. As for what happens after this mission, that will be up to you" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "One expedition at a time. Let's find this artifact first. So, there anything you learned about it that I don't already know? When it comes to pieces of the past, I'm used to having to - Keliaya@anncaris:- do a little guesswork to fill in the blanks, but the more pieces I have, the more accurate my guesses can get." Keelah@crystyl:"Well, we have managed to put together some of the details of it's origin. The... being that Captain Vix fought with. From their dialogue, do you know who he was before being enthralled?" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "I heard something about being worshipped as a god of war, so I take it he was someone important." Keelah@crystyl:"To the ancient ancestors of many Children species, yes. The species aboard this ship most commonly know him from their respective mythologies as 'Aries, or Ares. The Guardians who fought alongside - Keelah@crystyl:- him against the Horde called him Ar-Rhys. I am certain most languages with such mythology will find similar naming conventions for a deity associated with warfare" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow thinks for a moment before nodding, "I think I've seen references to him in a few cultures I've encountered. Aren't the Guardians supposed to be resistant to Horde control?" Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, for generations they have stood alone as the front line holding the Horde back from the rest of the galaxy. Centuries ago, Ar-Rhys joined them in this fight. That is where he eventually fell" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow nods, "So he fought with them, but didn't acquire their immunity. He must've used his own power to keep the Horde from controlling him, and when he used too much of it, his defenses - Keliaya@anncaris:- weakened to a point where the Horde was able to dominate him." Keelah@crystyl:"As good a theory as any. That brings us back to the artifact; it was actually one associated with the figure generally seen as his father - Zeus as most of our people would call him - the 'king' of- Keelah@crystyl:- these God-beings. When the race eventually went into seclusion and stopped trying to draw reverence from the Children species, Ar-Rhys was one of a few who refused to follow and took up his - Keelah@crystyl:- father's weapon - the thunderbolt - to seek out battle. When he fell, the Guardians tried to destroy the weapon, but could only manage to destroy a star and create a black hole around it" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "If Ar-Rhys could use this weapon and the Horde had him as a thrall, how did the Guardians end up with the weapon and not the Horde?" Keelah@crystyl:"When he fell, his weapon fell to the ground. It is said that even Ar-Rhys himself could barely control it, so when the Guardians and Horde tried retrieving it they were all vapourized upon making - Keelah@crystyl:- contact with it. No attempt at recovery worked, which is why they ultimately went to the extreme attempt that the did" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "I guess when Ar-Rhys got weak enough for his defenses to slip so the Horde could control him, he must've also been too weak to take the weapon, so the Horde had to leave it behind. I - Keliaya@anncaris:- digress, what happened to the weapon after the Guardians created a black hole around it? Hard to imagine anything escaping a black hole, even an artifact of this power." Keelah@crystyl:"We since learned that the initial explosion actually propelled the weapon into deep space. The Horde spent centuries studying the site and projecting it's course. One such course led to this planet, Keelah@crystyl:- and their recent change of leadership brought focus back to the search" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow nods, "Looks like they abandoned the search back when whatever it was showed up and whisked the artifact away. I'm not surprised; they haven't reached Colonial Space yet and probably - Keliaya@anncaris:- don't know Sheemo IV and the radiation there, so they had nowhere else to look." Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "Wonder who took the artifact though, if no one among the Horde or Guardians can handle it..." Keelah@crystyl:"Perhaps a better look at your research of the radiation will yield more insight" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow nods, "I'll upload all the data I have on it to your ship computers. You can always send a team down to survey it yourself, but I don't recommend sticking around here long, in case the - Keliaya@anncaris:- Horde come back with reinforcements." Keelah@crystyl:"It is unlikely they will return as they know the artifact is not here, and will expect us to move on. But I concur, we can collect anything you deem worth salvaging from the facility then depart" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "I've downloaded the data from the Horde sensor stations, so the only thing left is getting a sample of that radiation to study firsthand, if you like. We didn't have time to study it - Keliaya@anncaris:- in-depth before the Horde sprung their trap; I suggest containing it carefully. No idea if it's harmful or not." Keelah@crystyl nods, "I'll have our science teams investigate" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "I'll read up on everything you know about this Ar-Rhys and his people. I've heard the name and know the basics, but you might be aware of certain cultural interpretations of him that I - Keliaya@anncaris:- haven't heard, and there might be truth in those legends." Keelah@crystyl:"I'll ask Commander Leveson-Scott to bring you up to speed. She has been conducting the same research ever since this came to our attention" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "I'll look for her after I upload all the data I've collected," he finishes his drink and sets down the glass, "Thanks for the drink, Captain. And the ride off this planet." Keelah@crystyl:"Think nothing of it" she smiles Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow smiles back and stands, "I'll get the info into your computers. Anyone I should see about getting the required access first?" Keelah@crystyl:"Commander Lendaria will be looking after the research teams, so you may want to check in with her. I'll have Mia set you up with some guest quarters and assist with finding your way around. Don't - Keelah@crystyl:- worry about looking her up though, she'll find you soon enough" she smiles Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow: "Best for me to just wait for her here, then?" Keelah@crystyl:"Well until you find your way around, it may help you to avoid getting lost. But the computer can help guide you so no need to feel obliged to wait" Keliaya@anncaris | Itadow smiles and looks around, "Well, this place's comfortable enough to wait in." Keelah@crystyl stands, "Just ask the computer if you need anything. I'll make sure Mia doesn't keep you waiting too long, she does so like meeting new people" she smiles, leaving him to it Keelah@crystyl heads back to the bridge, "How goes the repairs?" Keliaya@anncaris turns to Keelah, "All critical systems are operational, but it'll take at least a day before we get warp capability back again. Most of the blown relays and damaged systems were along where - Keliaya@anncaris:- we channeled power, which means around the core and through the nacelles." Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, as effective a strategy as it was... let's not do that again, shall we" Keliaya@anncaris:"Agreed. Unfortunately, that Shield Ship is still out there." Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "QanwI' reported that its weapons were unable to penetrate the pure neutronium hull, and the ship was able to retreat through a subspace corridor." Keliaya@anncaris:"I'll see if I can come up with a better way to counter its over-shield next time. I doubt the Horde will follow us into orbit again, even if we wanted to use the same strategy." Keelah@crystyl:"Well at least they got to shoot at it, that should keep them happy enough. Perhaps not as much as their Captain, or Rianni for that matter... but enough for most Klingon warriors" Keliaya@anncaris:"What happened to them on the surface? Captain Vix enjoying a fight against the Horde I can see, but Rianni?" Keelah@crystyl smiles a little, "It would seem our young Ensign was... inspired by Captain Vix' efforts. I'll let her tell you all about it when you see her next. For now though-" she turns to Lennie, "The Hyrokee - Keelah@crystyl:- researcher from the facility is in the officers mess. He's given us a new lead, and will be joining us. You've got the 12 hours that Kelly needs for repairs to recover all you can from the surface.â€ Keelah@crystyl:- The priority being the safe recovery of a radioactive sample from the crater. We need to learn all we can about it before attempting the artifacts recovery, assuming our next lead pans out" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, "We'll-a get right on it Cap'n" Keelah@crystyl:"Oh, and inform Commander Leveson-Scott that he is a willing and eager research partner for her as well" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods again and heads off Keliaya@anncaris:"A new lead? That sounds promising." Keelah@crystyl:"Yes. Another planet showing the same unique radiation signature, but supposedly without decay. It is however the home of a pre-warp civilization, so precautions will be needed" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "It's a complication, but it wouldn't be the first time we've had to go undercover on a pre-warp world. I'll make sure we're ready to go in 12 hours, let Lennie and her people handle the - Keliaya@anncaris:- research." Keelah@crystyl nods, "We have a plan then" looking to Vrolmacht, "How is Jenni, and Eon?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They are both unharmed. The EMP effect of the shields caused the Eon to lose power, but there was enough oxygen left to sustain her long enough to be brought back into the hangar. - Keliaya@anncaris:- The interceptor itself took no damage, and a system restart once landed restored all its functions." Keelah@crystyl:"That is good to hear. Remain on alert as long as we're in the system and have QanwI' run a CAP with the squadron until we're ready to depart" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and sends the instructions Keelah@crystyl:"Very good, I'll be in my quarters" looking back to Kelly as she turns away, "Oh and if you want to quiz Rianni about her little adventure, I believe it was something to do with... heavenly jewels, - Keelah@crystyl:- I think was the phrase" she smiles a little, indulging quietly in some of the fun as she sows the seeds and heads out. --- Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Mia enters the lounge where Itadow is waiting to find an unfamiliar Nuhar drone hovering by the entrance... Mia@crystyl | Miadrone hovers over to the unfamiliar drone, beeping curiously and scanning as she circles around it Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Miadrone detects that the drone has undergone a number of modifications, though it is still very much recognizable as a Nuhar drone and still seems to run on basic Nuhar drone AI Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow meanwhile stands and turns around Mia@crystyl | Miadrone interrogates the Nuhar AI as she wasn't expecting any drones to appear on the ship and it is not one of her family Alien NPC@annpc#557 | The drone appears linked to Itadow in the same fashion they are usually linked to their Construct, and takes its commands from the Hyrokee! Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow steps over, "Don't worry, that's one of mine. The last one left, actually." Mia@crystyl ripples into view, "You are it's Construct? We are also Construct to our own family of little ones, how wonderful!" she beams excitedly Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I heard one of your crew say something about having them on board. Not easy work, figuring out how to work with Nuhar programming. But..." he leans to the side to observe Miadrone - Alien NPC@annpc#557 - more closely, "...might be a little easier for you, given you're running on code too?" Mia@crystyl grins, "Indeed we are! We learned long ago - back when we first encountered a Construct - how to speak their language! You must be monsieur Itadow. We are Mia" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Ahh, so you're Mia," he smiles, "The Captain said you'd come find me. Are you a...hologram being remotely projected by the drone, or a drone interacting with me through a hologram?" Mia@crystyl:"We are both, and neither, really!" she giggles, "We are a networked AI of two different origins" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Really? I've only heard theories about that. Never seen it done in practice, but then again, AI tech isn't particularly widespread in Corporate society." Mia@crystyl:"Yet you are still no strangers to technology. The connection you share with the little one is quite impressive in its own right!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "That we aren't, but most of us haven't managed to get working Nuhar drones. It's not uncommon for us to salvage remains of long-dead Constructs; sometimes we even find an intact core - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- to extract some coding from, which the Corporations repurpose in their own products. It's how I ended up with the drones, actually." Mia@crystyl:"Very intuitive! Most of our interaction has been more in the line of collaborative effort with functioning Constructs, but still very enlightening! Still, we digress" she reaches out, a PADD - Mia@crystyl:- materializing in her hand for him - "We have assigned you guest quarters and registered your presence on the ship" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow takes the PADD, flipping it over and examining it, "This looks like a real PADD, but you...created it like part of your holoprojection." Mia@crystyl:"That is because our avatar has evolved from it's holographic origin. It's technology is more comparable to our ship replicators" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow turns the PADD over, looking at the screen, "So this is a fully usable, replicated PADD, not a holographic interface?" Mia@crystyl nods, "Mhmm! It contains all you should need to find your way around initially. But we are happy to assist as well!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Thank you. The Captain said something about working with a Commander Lendaria on collecting radiation samples?" Mia@crystyl:"Ooh, right! We can help you find her if you wish to commence work immediately" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "I've got some data to upload too- need to give me any special access permissions for that?" Mia@crystyl:"Ms. Lennie is in her lab right now, so you will be able to establish any connection needed there" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Sounds good. Let's go, then." Mia@crystyl smiles, turning to lead the way Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow follows Mia, with his drone trailing behind him Mia@crystyl leads him through the ship, making the usual small talk until they reach the lab, "Allo Ms. Lennie!" Mia@crystyl | Lennie turns and smiles, "Hello Mia- " she peers around at the new face, "- and friends...?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow steps forward, "Ejinos Itadow, purveyor of valuable antiques artifacts and technologies. You must be Commander Lendaria." Mia@crystyl | Lennie eyes him suspiciously, "Yeah... but I ain't buyin' right now..." Mia@crystyl giggles Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow chuckles, "Don't worry, I'm not trying to sell you anything. Your Captain asked me to work with you. I've got the data I acquired from the Horde monitoring stations by that crater." Mia@crystyl | Lennie: "Aah, so you'se must be th'one from tha' facility down there. Good timin', we'se jus' figurin' a way t'retrieve a radiation sample" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "We didn't have time to study the radiation in-depth, so I can't tell you if it's harmful or not. We went down with full environmental suits, just in case." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | He pulls out a chip and hands it to Lennie, "Here's all the info we recovered." Mia@crystyl | Lennie smiles, "Shiny, thanks!" taking it and promptly plugging it into a console to reconcile the data with her own, "So... Mr. 'Purveyor o' antiques an' artifacts an' all', wha' treasure were - Mia@crystyl - ya huntin'ere?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "The same thing you were, apparently. I didn't know it at first, only knew that something was up with this place for the Horde to go out of their way to take the system, but it was - Alien NPC@annpc#557 - obvious the crater had something to do with it once we arrived." Mia@crystyl | Lennie: "Yeah, good market f'relics like tha' I bet!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "That there certainly is, if there's a way to recover it. The Horde were having trouble and according to your Captain, trying to touch the artifact is suicide." Mia@crystyl | Lennie looks past him to Mia, "Ya sure Keelah wanted this guy along wit' us? No... extra instructions t'nail e'erything down or anythin'...?" Mia@crystyl giggles, "None we are aware Ms. Lennie!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow chuckles, "I'm an archaeologist, not a thief. Sure, your equipment might fetch a few Points, but it's nowhere near the value I can get for rare ancient technologies. And my specialty's - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- dealing with old alien tech anyways, I know how to operate modern equipment of course, but I wouldn't know where to start even if I wanted to steal yours." Mia@crystyl | Lennie hrms, "/So/ reassurin'" she turns back to her work, "So wha' happens when we find this artifact. Sounds t'me like ya profit margin don't look so good wit' us takin' it t'fight th'Horde" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Assuming you can control the artifact in the first place. From what I've seen, this is quite a bit more powerful than most other artifacts I've come across. Not sure if I'd have been - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- able to take it back to Corporate space in the first place. I'll work on something, of course, but I'd be dead if you haven't come here, so helping you find the artifact's adequate repayment, - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- don't you think?" Mia@crystyl | Lennie glances back with a slight hrmph of 'we'll see if you prove yourself or not'. "Well I'mm-a keepin' an eye on ya, so no ways ya be doin' a dirty on mah family 'ere" Mia@crystyl | Lennie turns with a surprisingly natural looking and welcoming smile again, "Now, shall we gets t'work?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "The scan data should have some information on the radiation that the Horde's collected. Not quite studying a sample firsthand, but until you retrieve one, it might help you get - Alien NPC@annpc#557 - some idea of what this radiation does." Mia@crystyl | Lennie nods, "It ought'a give an idea on containment requirements" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Looking at the Horde studies of the radiation, Lennie quickly realizes that the radiation isn't as new as initially thought. It's never been seen in this form before, but it's essentially an - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- extremely energized and condensed form of the background radiation found throughout deep space. It's been condensed to the point that at high enough levels it could be harmful, though the level - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- currently around the crater is so weak that anti-radiation medication wouldn't be needed, let alone suits or other forms of shielding Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Given enough time, the radiation would likely dissipate into the same kind of background deep space radiation found across the universe, but it's already pretty much harmless now Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Anything useful in there?" Mia@crystyl | Lennie nods, "Looks like th'sorta thing we can handle" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Should make things easier here, then. Let me know if you need me for anything. Radiation's not exactly my area of expertise, but finding artifacts, that I do well." Mia@crystyl:"We believe Ms. Mischa ready to work with you on her historical research!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "Let's go see her, then. Historical research's closer to my specialty." Mia@crystyl smiles and nods, "Right this way!" --- Rianni@crystyl & Emma walk hand in hand through the corridor on their way to relax in the lounge, Emma typically being more affectionate than usual whenever one of them has a close call Rianni@crystyl | Emma: "Oh come on, however it went down doesn't matter! The important thing is that you came home to me nice and safe!" she smiles, leaning into Rianni as they walk Rianni@crystyl sighs, "I know, it's just the way Captain Vix made such a big deal of it all. So embarrassing, especially in front of the Captain..." Rianni@crystyl | Emma laughs, "She might be Trill on the inside, but she's a Klingon warrior at heart, it's what they do! Don't worry about it. We'll get ourselves a nice little bottle of something special from - Rianni@crystyl - /my/ homeland this time, and enjoy the view of a starfield while we have one. Yeah?" Rianni@crystyl smiles, giggling a little, "You really didn't like the carbonated fruit drinks from Earth, did you?" Rianni@crystyl | Emma huffs, "They made me burp all the time!" Rianni@crystyl | The pair share a more relaxed chuckle as they enter the lounge, pausing in awe at the door... Rianni@crystyl | Inside, Lexi holds the attention of an excitable crowd, perched up on the bar with a tankard of bloodwine in her hand as she is mid-story... Rianni@crystyl | Lexi waves her hand dramatically through the air, sloshing the wine, "And there I was - back to the floor, and the ALMIGHTY AND LITERAL GOD towering over me! - Rianni@crystyl - The Sky itself aflame with his fury!" Rianni@crystyl | The crowd - of course - ooo's at the drama Rianni@crystyl | Lexi feigns her arm across her forehead, "Mortally wounded from my endless duel with the God, I stared up at his Godlike form, knowing I had finally found a warrior worthy of sending me to - Rianni@crystyl - Sto'vo'Kor!" Rianni@crystyl | A number of Klingon's from the QanwI' roar and bash their tankards on their tables in approval Rianni@crystyl | Lexi leans in dramatically, "But then-" she hops down, "-like a silent viper striking at its prey in the night-" she swings her boot, catching the Klingon's table and launching it over in a mess- Rianni@crystyl - of broken glass and bloodwine, much to their entertainment. Then she points dramatically to the door, "The shadow jumper strikes! Right in the dishonourables, with. No. Mercy!" Rianni@crystyl | Many of the male audience - Klingon and all - gulp at the mere thought of it, some crossing their legs just a liiiittle more... Rianni@crystyl flushes red, as much with embarrassment as with frustration, turning on her heel to march out. Though she gets nowhere as Emma holds her arm, reminding Rianni of how strong Orion's can be when they - Rianni@crystyl - want Rianni@crystyl | Emma smiles, only slightly wickedly, as she braces Rianni's shoulders and turns her back to the room Rianni@crystyl | Lexi jumps back up on the bar, raising her tankard high, "To the hero of the hour, the shadow jumper, the saviour of this humble warrior, and the crusher of dishonourables. Rianni Tierno, I - Rianni@crystyl - salute you!" she sloshes her drink high before guzzling it back and tossing it aside Rianni@crystyl whimpers as Lexi's worked up and bloodwine fueled crowd roar and cheer Rianni@crystyl | Emma leans in over Rianni's shoulder, "Come on Crusher of Dishonourables!". nudging her forwards Rianni@crystyl | Lexi jumps down and joins the pair, some of the crowd following with their attention, but quieting for the most part Rianni@crystyl | Lexi grabs a pair of tankards of a passing member of her crew who seems annoying and slinks off to get more for himself. She thrusts one into Rianni's hand, "Drink with me!" Rianni@crystyl looks at the drink in her hand suddenly, "But I..." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi pushes her, "Drink! Drink like a Champion!" lifting the tankard to Rianni's mouth and almost forcing her to gulp it down Rianni@crystyl seems more concerned about spilling it down herself, but manages some before gasping out Rianni@crystyl | Lexi clasps a leatherclad hand on Rianni's shoulder, grinning proudly. The leather creaking unconformably in her ear as it flexes with Lexi's grasp Rianni@crystyl:"You're never going to let this go are you..." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi, "HA! Of course not! A warrior's great deeds are sung of long after they leave this world, you have earned your place alongside me at the eternal wine barrel of Kahless, fear not!" Rianni@crystyl grumbles, "Yay me..." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi continues, toning it down, "You have also earned my eternal gratitude and respect" she unclips a Klingon pin from her sash, setting it on Rianni's casual jacket collar Rianni@crystyl looks down and back up curiously Rianni@crystyl | Lexi: "If there was a House of Vix, I would embellish you with it's emblem and make you a part of it. But there is no such thing, nor will there be I'm sure. I am but a simple Honour Guard Captain- Rianni@crystyl:- after all. This is the symbol of my Honour Guard, as much as I am entitled to bestow upon another; I name you as one of my own. I welcome you at my back in the face of any enemy, as I will stand - Rianni@crystyl:- at yours" She bows her head a little, much to Rianni's surprise after the extravagant display. She looks back up with a grin, "After all, you and I faced down the God of War himself did we not?!!" Rianni@crystyl smiles a little, "Thank you Captain Vix, I am honoured by your praise. But please... stop calling me the 'crusher of dishonourables'..." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi haw's with entertainment, patting her heavily on the shoulder, "You've got it ballcru-" Ann Carter@anncaris who has been quietly listening to Lexi's story so far, steps up behind Emma, "I'm guessin' tha's not /exactly/ how it happened?" Rianni@crystyl | Emma, "I assume not, though it sounds mostly like Rianni told it. Just more... epic!" she chuckles Ann Carter@anncaris chuckles, "Sounds like how Klingons tell their stories! But Rianni told somethin' similar, so she actually..." Rianni@crystyl | Lexi: "You bet she did! With the merciless force of a supernova!" Rianni@crystyl eyerolls, "My foot still hurts..." Ann Carter@anncaris looks to Rianni, "Wow...an' he really was a literal god o' war?" Rianni@crystyl:"I would have to say not..." Rianni@crystyl takes a seat while Lexi wanders off to tell more interesting versions of the story Ann Carter@anncaris:"Still, to make ya foot hurt...must've been pretty tough!" Rianni@crystyl | Emma perches on the table beside her, leaving a chair for Ann Rianni@crystyl:"No arguments there. But he was just a heavily armoured thrall at the end of the day" Rianni@crystyl | Emma: "One being controlled by the Architect" Rianni@crystyl:"Yes..." Rianni@crystyl | Emma: "And one who originally belonged to the same species as Apollo and Poseidon, who Starfleet know of now" Rianni@crystyl:"...yes..." Ann Carter@anncaris gives Emma a nod of thanks and sits down on the chair, "An' I imagine he's got all those powers tha' the creator o' these artifacts like Poseidon woulda had..." Rianni@crystyl:"He was a lot taller when they first arrived. He kind of... shrank down to Lexi's size when they started their duel" Ann Carter@anncaris:"He shrank /down/? Tha's an interestin' choice. Guess Lexi must be pretty good at outmaneuverin' opponents with her size, an' he didn't wanna give her tha' advantage." Rianni@crystyl:"I think the Architect has fought her before using a different thrall" she nods Rianni@crystyl | Emma, "But this one was at least once the same person who fought alongside the Guardians wielding that thunderbolt" Rianni@crystyl nods, "The thrall was what remained of Aries" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Definitely not somethin' ya fight everyday! No wonder Lexi's so impressed ya helped her in fightin' him." Rianni@crystyl:"It was a spur of the moment thing. I saw an opening, and I saw she needed a window" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Wha' gave ya the idea to kick him, anyways? Instead o' shootin' him with a phaser or somethin'." Rianni@crystyl:"One of the Hyrokee tried shooting him at the start, he just deflected the bolt straight back at him. He wielded some powerful energy shielding, as well as large physical shield. He had also shown - Rianni@crystyl:- unusual strength and agility; overturning many of Lexi's attacks including a full body grapple at his neck while he was already off balanced. So I knew I couldn't do anything like that" Ann Carter@anncaris:"But ya saw the opportunity to...kick him?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "Mhmm" sipping the drink, forgetting briefly it was bloodwine and grimacing, "He had his back to us, focused on Lexi as she was on the ground and on the defensive. The flash from your crazy - Rianni@crystyl:- move above did ignite the atmospheric layer which distracted him as we could see the Horde ships falling in debris like a meteor shower" Rianni@crystyl | Emma: "So... sky on fire and raining down with flaming meteors. I don't know love, I'm starting to think Captain Vix wasn't exaggerating after all..." Rianni@crystyl:"Not helping..." Ann Carter@anncaris laughs, "Her story is soundin' pretty accurate so far. After all, the thrall might not be a literal god, but he was seen as one before he became a thrall, wasn't he..." Rianni@crystyl sighs a little in defeat, "Yes, many cultures including our own called him the 'God of War'" Ann Carter@anncaris grins, "Guess she really wasn't exaggeratin' as much as I thought she was!" Rianni@crystyl:"She still... makes it a way bigger deal than it was. I mean, /she's/ the one who duelled him hand to hand while the rest of us were taking potshots at the other thralls from cover" Ann Carter@anncaris:"But ya stepped in an' intervened when she needed it most! Mighta even saved her life from the way she's tellin' it!" she looks at the pin Lexi gave Rianni, "Definitely well-deservin' o' tha'!" Rianni@crystyl glances down, turning it to see better, "Well I mean, that was the intention. I guess I just don't get what all the fuss is about; I mean, it's the old golden rule - if you can't fight fair, fight - Rianni@crystyl:- dirty. If you can't fight dirty-" Rianni@crystyl | Emma chuckles, "Kick them in the dishonourables!" Ann Carter@anncaris laughs, "But not everyone gets to do tha' with someone who was 'bout to beat an experienced warrior like Lexi. 'Specially one known as a god o' war!" Rianni@crystyl:"I guess she'd be making a big song of dance of that fight whatever happened..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"No doubt 'bout that. But the pin an' givin' ya such a prominent place in it, tha's probably her way o' sayin' thanks for savin' her life." Rianni@crystyl smiles a little, "Yeah, you're probably right. And I meant what I said before, I really do feel honoured by her praise" Ann Carter@anncaris smiles back, "Klingons are all 'bout bein' remembered, so givin' ya a big role in her story's her sharin' some o' tha' glory with you, since she thinks ya deserve it." Rianni@crystyl:"And what about all of you guys up here? That was pretty crazy stunt you pulled!" Rianni@crystyl | Emma grumbles rubbing her tummy, "Don't remind me! I'm still trying to get my stomach to stop spinning..." Rianni@crystyl aww's, leaning against her as she gets more relaxed Ann Carter@anncaris:"Yeah, tha' was one rough ride. We're lucky we had Fisher on the helm; if it was that close with him flyin', most other pilots in the fleet wouldn't have gotten us out in one piece." Rianni@crystyl:"I can think of at least one" She grins Ann Carter@anncaris smiles, "Thanks Rianni! 'Less ya talkin' 'bout someone else..." Rianni@crystyl chuckles, "Ann, there's only you when it comes to that helm!" Rianni@crystyl:"Well, and Fisher of course. But you know what I mean!" Ann Carter@anncaris chuckles, "Don't think I woulda thought to do wha' you did down on the surface, though..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Only you when it comes to our tactical expert!" Rianni@crystyl smiles sheepishly, "Thank you Ann" not noticing the looming Vrolmacht stood behind her, arms folded... Rianni@crystyl | Vrolmacht ahems Rianni@crystyl jumps and bristles, then slinks, "Son of a... of all the timing Sir, really...?" Rianni@crystyl | V gives a toothy grin, ruffling her hair rather heavily, "Today Ensign, it is only you" Rianni@crystyl | Vrolmacht strides off to join his fellow Klingons Rianni@crystyl looks to the others, flattening her hair back with her free hand, "Well, you guys set me up perfectly for that one didn't you..." Ann Carter@anncaris grins, "I didn't see him at all, I swear!" Rianni@crystyl | Emma nods, "For a big guy like that, he's surprisingly stealthy..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Yeah he really is...guess ya gotta be good at stealth to pull off some tactics. Bet ya were pretty stealthy too to sneak up on the Aries thrall!" Rianni@crystyl:"I'm sure it only worked because he was so focused on Captain Vix, and distracted by seeing his ships destroyed" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Speakin' o' his ships destroyed, ya had a chance to review the battle an' tha' Shield Ship o' theirs since comin' back?" Rianni@crystyl:"I got up to speed with what went down, but I haven't been through any detailed breakdown or anything yet. Why... should I?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Nah, was just wonderin' if ya might have any ideas o' how to deal with the thing. You're our tactical expert after all! An' tha' Shield Ship got away from the battle so we might be seein' it again - Ann Carter@anncaris:- in the future." Rianni@crystyl hrms, "Well as a new class of enemy vessel, I certainly would like to get my head around it. Maybe I'll pull the logs into Pia's simulator and get a feel for things for myself" Rianni@crystyl | Emma nods, "Crystyl said that stunt really hit the ship hard. Blew out whole sections of the EPS grid all over the ship, and there's no guarantee we'll have a planet with an atmosphere next time" Ann Carter@anncaris:"An' even if there is, I think the Horde's learned the lesson this time an' won't come into an atmosphere again. Which means we gotta have another way to deal with it when it shows up." Rianni@crystyl:"Yeah... the one solid strategy against them is to never use the same strategy twice. Alright, I'll make sure to give it my fullest attention!" Ann Carter@anncaris:"I'm sure ya'll come up with somethin', Rianni!" Rianni@crystyl:"Any insights from what you went through at this end?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Wasn't on the bridge myself at the time, but I know the shield's got some EMP effect. Jenni tried to fly through it an' the Eon lost all power. Had to be towed back by the Nuhar fighters, who only - Ann Carter@anncaris:- managed to break off the attack at the last second an' avoid the EMP themselves thanks to the AIs' rapid reaction time." Rianni@crystyl:"A shield with an inbuilt EMP. Damn, that's impressive..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"I hear the whole ship's Progenitor tech, too. Some o' the engineers are callin' it a defensive cousin o' the Doomsday Machine. It's got the same, near-impervious hull an' insane levels o' power - Ann Carter@anncaris:- output, only it uses it for defense 'stead o' killin' planets. Not sure if the inbuilt EMP was original, or some modification the Horde's built knowin' our strategy for usin' the squadron to - Ann Carter@anncaris:- bypass shields." Rianni@crystyl hrms, "Could be. Not like they need it with that hull" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Probably to protect the other ships inside the over-shield an' not the Shield Ship itself. I don't think the ship's got any offensive weapons, so it counts on the ships it protects to actually - Ann Carter@anncaris:- fight, otherwise it's just a massive shield generator." Rianni@crystyl:"That will definitely be a challenge..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Yeah. Normally would be pretty obvious- find a way to take out the generator, then deal with the fleet, but in this case, we can't get through the generator's hull..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Not to mention the shields too. Though..." Rianni@crystyl:"Though...?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"The EMP only applies to tryin' to go through the shield, right? Has to, otherwise if it affects everythin' inside the shield, their own ships'd lose power too. So we just have to get inside the - Ann Carter@anncaris:- shield without passin' through it." Rianni@crystyl:"The Observer's shuttle?" Ann Carter@anncaris smiles, "Tha's wha' I was thinkin'! Not sure if it can open a wormhole right inside the generator ship itself, but it should definitely be able to bypass the shield, at least." Rianni@crystyl:"It's certainly an option worth exploring! Great thinking Ann!" Ann Carter@anncaris:"If it can get onto the ship itself an' not just the shield, might be possible to send a boardin' party through to destroy it from the inside. I don't think pure neutronium's gonna block a wormhole - Ann Carter@anncaris:- but it /does/ block our sensors. Which means we don't really know the layout inside and where a wormhole could be safely opened..." Rianni@crystyl:"Yes, that's a problem alright. But we've got a plan to work with at least!" Rianni@crystyl | Emma eyerolls and chuckles, "Do you ever stop thinking about work?" she gives a teasing nudge Rianni@crystyl:"Hey, all bets were off when we walked into this party and you all threw a spotlight on me!" she chuckles Ann Carter@anncaris chuckles, "Tha's a fair counter, I think." Rianni@crystyl | Emma:" Yeah... you got me there!" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Emma's right though, this is a party after all! We probably got plenty o' time to figure out how to deal with tha' ship, doubt it's gonna get enough reinforcements to support it again right away." Ann Carter@anncaris:"So now's a good time to relax an' wind down!" Rianni@crystyl:"Sounds good to me!" peers over to see Vrolmacht and Lexi arm wrestling, "...and they're supposed to be the grown ups..." Ann Carter@anncaris looks over and grins, "Tha's just how Klingons party! Least, tha's a pretty common thing Klingons do..." Rianni@crystyl:"Better than butting heads and brawling I suppose!" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Tha' also happens...usually later in the party when everyone's got more bloodwine to drink," she smirks Rianni@crystyl:"Didn't that happen at the Captain's birthday party one year? I remember those two going at it pretty hard then too. I think she literally drank him under the table..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"I recall tha' happenin' too! Not sure if wha' I remember was seein' it happen myself, or Lexi's tellin' o' it after the fact...tha's certainly somethin' she boasts 'bout!" Rianni@crystyl leans back against Emma again, smiling as she watches the antics, "You know, it's funny that she brought up that whole 'shadow jumper' thing. Belyia feels like another lifetime now" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Things were real different on Belyia, an' we were there for a long time. Definitely know wha' ya mean!" Rianni@crystyl:"You ever miss it? That simple life I mean" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "Sometimes, yeah. I prefer havin' tech around to tinker with, but there is certainly an allure to tha' simplicity." Rianni@crystyl:"Yeah, but all those magical abilities were pretty fun too weren't they!" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Tha' they certainly were! Thought we were in a holoprogram at first when we figured out we could do all tha'!" she chuckles Rianni@crystyl:"So what about our next steps from here now. You and Lennie got much on with all of that?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Cap'n's got Lennie lookin' into the crater down there with all the radiation. Apparently tha's where the artifact landed an' they're lookin' into getting a sample of the radiation before we leave.â€ Ann Carter@anncaris:"Tha' survivor ya rescued has a promisin' lead an' tha's where I hear we'll be goin' next." Rianni@crystyl:"He's got skills too. Funny Lexi didn't mention that in her story...". Ann Carter@anncaris:"Well, he didn't kick the god o' war in the dishonourables!" Rianni@crystyl:"No, but he did pull a neat trick with that fancy hat of his; threw it like a boomerang and wiped out a whole big group of thralls in a circle closing around us" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Certainly sounds pretty impressive, but wha' ya did probably saved Lexi's life, so she's given ya a special place in her story!" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Not to mention it just makes for a pretty amusin' addition to the story..." Rianni@crystyl grumbles, "Yes... I noticed" Rianni@crystyl & Emma chuckle --- NPC@annpc#557 | Meanwhile in her ready room, Keelah sends a comm back to the Sphere through their comm relays to contact Vora about Sheemo IV... NPC@annpc#557 | Vora's visage appears on the viewscreen, flickering for a few seconds before stabilizing due to the VF's range from the nearest buoy NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Cap...Keelah. How's the search going?" Keelah@crystyl:"As expected, insofar that it has not gone as simply as we might have hoped for. How are things there?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Stable so far. Architect hasn't tried anything new since we first arrived in the Sphere, which means he might be concentrating his efforts elsewhere. Maybe in looking for the same thing - NPC@annpc#557 - you are." Keelah@crystyl nods, "We crossed paths here. He was in control of a thrall born from the being who once wielded the artifact we now seek" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "That god of war figure? Must be a dangerous thrall...but at the end of the day, still just one thrall." Keelah@crystyl:"Even Captain Vix struggled against him in a face to face duel, it is a particularly dangerous and powerful thrall not to be underestimated. We also encountered a new type of starship under their - Keelah@crystyl:- control - a former Progenitor vessel by our calculations" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "A Progenitor ship? Looks like this isn't the first time the Horde's gone artifact hunting. Or maybe it was captured long ago, when the Progenitors were still involved in the conflict - NPC@annpc#557:- here." Keelah@crystyl:"Possibly, it did show signs of heavy modification. I'm sending you our scan data on it, as it was quite the challenging opponent and we must be better prepared should it appear again" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods, "I'll have my engineers study it closely. If it does date back to the early battles with the Horde, maybe the Sphere's archives or one of the Nuhar might know something about its - NPC@annpc#557:- design that can help." Keelah@crystyl:"Perfect. As for our search, we now believe this was indeed the impact site of the artifact so you can call back the other search parties. However it is no longer here and we are pursuing a new lead" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "We'll call them back to better reinforce the Sphere. What's this lead of yours, and do you need any support?" Keelah@crystyl:"Hopefully not, but I am hoping you will be able to provide information on the world" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Oh? Is it somewhere near Colonial Space?" Keelah@crystyl:"I don't believe so, but it is under Colonial protection; Sheemo IV, do you know of it?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Sheemo IV...that's a Corporate designation, isn't it? Give me a moment, let me check our database." NPC@annpc#557 | Vora speaks again after a few seconds, "Here it is. Pre-warp world, a Corporation tried to colonize it almost a century ago, but we turned them back. All before my time, though." Keelah@crystyl nods, "That is consistent with our information. We believe the artifact now resides there, and may even present a long term danger to the resident population due to it's radiation output" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods as well, "Yes, our records indicate a unique radiation signature on the planet. It's believed to possibly be remnants or even working elements of a starship that might've crashed or - NPC@annpc#557:- otherwise made its way to the surface, but whatever it was, it's now located in a temple structure at the heart of a sizable settlement. The Fleet Commander deemed that whatever culture there - NPC@annpc#557:- must've already been influenced by it, and since subtle removal is impossible by now, she elected to leave the planet be rather than risk causing more external influence through an attempt to - NPC@annpc#557:- remove whatever was down there." Keelah@crystyl:"Regrettably, we may now have to take a closer look. It would not be the first time we have faced such circumstances though, so perhaps we can get what we need without disrupting the society that- Keelah@crystyl:- has grown around it" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "I hope so. We don't have extensive data on the culture of the locals, but what we do know is that it's mostly a feudal society comprising multiple small competing states and kingdoms, - NPC@annpc#557:- fairly typical of a pre-warp culture at that point in development." Keelah@crystyl:"Exactly what point in development are they, by your records?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Roughly parallel with the Age of Sages in Arshai history. I'm not exactly sure where it lines up with your own, but it's a time when civilization and structured factions was already - NPC@annpc#557:- well-established, but they were still far from making any major industrial leaps. They seem to have sizable sailing ships capable of navigating the oceans, are constructing large monuments and - NPC@annpc#557:- walled cities and with that of course fairly advanced siege technology, but still no cannons or firearms." Keelah@crystyl smiles a little, "Home away from home..." NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Hm? Pretty sure Vulcan isn't like that. They're traditional, but not /that/ traditional." Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed it is not. But there is another world where my crew and I spent... considerable time during our voyage. This sounds very similar to it" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods, "Well, let's hope that means your crew'll have less trouble blending in for their investigation, then." Keelah@crystyl:"And that they don't grow too attached to the place..." shakes the thought from her mind, "What about the Colonial Fleet, is a presence maintained in the area at all that we should report to?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Patrols pass by the area on occasion, but we leave the system alone with the exception of a monitoring satellite around the far side of the ninth and furthest planet of the system, - NPC@annpc#557:- just to make sure the Corporations don't try anything. It'll send the Colonial Fleet a ping if it picks up a ship entering the system, but we all know you and won't give you any trouble," she - NPC@annpc#557:- smiles. "I'll send word ahead about your mission in the area to the rest of the fleet, just so they can be vigilant in case any Horde try to slip by." Keelah@crystyl:"A prudent course" she nods, "On the subject of the Corporations, we rescued a self-proclaimed archaeologist of theirs from the planet here. He is the one who gave us this lead and is continuing - Keelah@crystyl:- with us for now. Have you had much to do with them in the past? I am curious if this person has a reputation outside of the one he self-publicises" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods, "The Researcher's Guild has run into them more than once. The Corporations have an interest in the technologies you can find in the ruins of ancient spacefaring empires like the - NPC@annpc#557:- Nuhar and Iconians, which has led to a whole industry revolving around xenoarchaeology. Hyrokee treasure hunters are some of the Hyrokee who travel furthest from their homeworld, well away from - NPC@annpc#557:- their colonial holdings. Even some powers near your borders like the Cardassians and the Gorn have encountered them in the past." Keelah@crystyl:"If I send you a profile on our guest, could I trouble you to check it against Colonial records?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "No trouble at all. Send me what you have." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Most appreciated" tapping her screen, "This is him" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods and taps on her screen, "Ejinos Itadow...well, his reputation's certainly not exaggerated. The Colonial Fleet has only crossed path with him a few times, but he's got an extensive - NPC@annpc#557:- Corporate resume. He's a freelancer, but he's worked on Corporate expeditions as well as led a few of his own, selling his finds to the highest bidder. No doubt he's good at his job, and he must - NPC@annpc#557:- like it too. He could've easily worked his way into a stable position with a Corporation." Keelah@crystyl:"Interesting, thank you. I have no real reason to be wary of him other than the assumption of selfish motives" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "It's always safer to assume selfish motives with Corporate types, unless they prove to you otherwise. Even if he is just in it to get the artifact for himself, it's - NPC@annpc#557:- a good idea to work with him and just keep an eye on him. Until you actually find it, you're both on the same side, and someone with his experience can come in very useful." Keelah@crystyl nods, "My thoughts exactly. Well, I think that pretty much covers things for now. Oh, and if you do have any data on this planet we're heading to - or it's people - I would appreciate you sending - Keelah@crystyl:- it over. We'll soon see everything for ourselves, but it is good to get all we can up front and we have time before departing while we make repairs anyway" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods back, "I'll send you everything we have and keep you updated if we learn anything about that Progenitor ship." Keelah@crystyl:"Likewise, until then Supreme Commander" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Until then, Captain." --- Mischa@crystyl sits in a small private office on the VF, working away at a console with screens all around the room displaying various data feeds. As close as she can get to her intel dungeon away from the - Mischa@crystyl - Latenter, no doubt. She has classical Earth music playing and hums along contentedly while she works Alien NPC@annpc#557 FX | The door slides open and Itadow leans on the doorway, looking inside. "Nice music. Commander Leveson-Scott, I assume?" Mischa@crystyl smiles, not looking up from her screen at all, "Freelancer Ejinos Itadow, I was wondering when you would appear. Nice hat" Alien NPC@annpc#557 smiles back, "Thanks. It's custom work, top quality gear," he takes a step inside, "May I join you?" Mischa@crystyl:"Please, I've been expecting you" she finally looks up as she gestures to an empty seat, "Oh yes, it looks quite fetching as well. Very fitting" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow takes a seat, "We've got to have style; we're the first and only Hyrokee many people see, after all. And it's practical too- keeps the head warm on colder worlds and keeps the sun out - Alien NPC@annpc#557 - on warmer ones." Mischa@crystyl:"And the Horde at bay on crowded ones" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow grins, "Exactly. Your outfit looks different too- similar style to the rest of the crew, but not colouration." Mischa@crystyl:"I like to be different, something I would wager we have in common" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "That I get." He takes off his hat and sets it down on the table, "So, the Captain said you know more about this Ar-Rhys and his people?" Mischa@crystyl:"Well, I know about them. Whether or not I know more would depend on what you already know now, wouldn't it" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I've heard about them from various cultures, but most of it is more myth than fact. I haven't come across any artifacts of them yet though, just a lot of old statues based on them." Mischa@crystyl nods, looking around the various displays surrounding them, "That is very much all we have on them really. What is your current understanding of them as a species?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "That they had significant technological prowess and biological abilities and used a combination to have other species worship them as gods. They seem to operate on a hierarchical - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- structure with certain beings at the head of certain domains. Each of them liked to embody an aspect of existence, though some of them answered to higher beings with a more broad domain. And if - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- that particular element of the myths are to be believed, which I think they are as it's been attested through the stories of very different cultures, quite a lot of them were hybrids too. They - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- had a fondness for interbreeding with the races they ruled over, and mostly with their females." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I suspect limited fertility among the females of their own species- either only able to reproduce for a short period of their lives or having long periods of infertility between - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- children, neither of which would be particularly surprising given their seemingly very long lifespans. It's only a theory, but I think it might've contributed to the downfall of their species." Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Very good. What about their motivation for the way they brazenly interfered with undeveloped cultures and portrayed themselves as deities?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "No doubt an innate desire for power and attention is part of it, but there's one account which suggests they actually gain energy or sustenance from the reverence they receive." Mischa@crystyl:"That is indeed the case. Starfleet learned this during an early encounter with one such being" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "You've met more of these beings?" Mischa@crystyl:"Yes and no. That particular one was encountered on more than one occasion. Beyond that, we have encountered relics, artifacts, resting places and such. Then of course, the one you met here" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "So this isn't the first artifact of their civilization you're familiar with..." Mischa@crystyl:"That is correct. However it is the first where information suggests even one of their own struggled to wield it. That is why I am searching our database for relevant information from the various - Mischa@crystyl:- mythologies associated with this species" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "This artifact must be more powerful than usual. Found anything that might be relevant so far?" Mischa@crystyl shakes her head, "The only thing so far is a theory we previously considered here, insofar that we have traces of 'evidence' suggesting a closer association with another advanced species previously- Mischa@crystyl - unknown to us. Given the seemingly unique attributes of this artifact and that iit was supposedly wielded exclusively by the leader of these beings, we surmised that it could have originated - Mischa@crystyl:- from this other unknown species" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "An interesting theory. That's certainly a possibility; if their technology regularly gave off this form of radiation, we'd probably know it much better from how widespread they were." Mischa@crystyl:"Indeed. Whilst our database holds extensive records from Federation species, our knowledge of this region of space is still relatively limited. So perhaps that is where you can assist" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "Anything specific you want to know, or just general knowledge of this region pertaining to these beings?" Mischa@crystyl:"At the moment, I don't think we know enough to say what we need to know. So let's start with the broad strokes" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Well, there's a few cultures I know of who's encountered these beings sometime in the past. The Decen, Chlasi, Vottadin and Sep-Shal all have myths that suggest they were visited by - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- them in their early history along with a number of cultures I'm not overly familiar with from my own research, but they don't seem to deviate much from the standard pattern of these myths. The - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- really interesting one is the Diteans. Have you heard of them before?" Mischa@crystyl shakes her head, "That is not a species we have yet encountered. Do tell!" she smiles, leaning back in her chair and crossing one leg over as she listens Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I've never met them myself either, only heard the stories. Travellers call them the Sirens, it's said that most people who encounter them don't come back. But according to those - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- tales, they're not malicious; they're quite friendly actually, just irresistible. Supposedly, they're changelings, able to conform to your every need and desire, physically and mentally. Versions - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- of the Diteans show up in myths involving Ar-Rhys' people, so one would assume they're another species they once encountered, right?" Mischa@crystyl:"Interesting..." she nods along, "I am familiar with such myth's, and given what we know now it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. After all, we have people like the Orions who can- Mischa@crystyl:- elicit similar reactions from other species by their mere presence, and we know of multiple shape-shifting species" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Exactly. I've never seen a Ditean myself, but I've no reason to doubt the truth of these stories. A little exaggerated by the nature of such stories maybe, but there's got to be some - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- truth at its core. Now here comes the interesting part- some people have supposedly walked away from encounters with the Diteans. Some of those are probably just boasts, but a number of accounts - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- give the same general description of Ditean culture- they believe in a single goddess, but don't exactly revere her as a goddess. They call her Mother and seem to treat her as an ancestral mother - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- figure. This goddess' name is Dite, and they claim she was part of a race of gods, serving as the goddess of love and beauty. As her power began to fade, she wanted to leave a legacy behind, - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- something beautiful for the universe to remember her by, and she supposedly created the Diteans. They believe that the reason they're so irresistible to other species isn't some natural survival - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- or mating mechanism, but that they were designed this way." Mischa@crystyl smiles, "Interesting. And a little disappointing; I had always hoped to find such a connection between Aphrodite - as we know her - and the Orions" she chuckles Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow chuckles, "It's still a possibility, but the Diteans think of themselves as Dite's final and ultimate creation, or so the accounts claim. I don't know how relevant this is to the - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- artifact we're after, but it's the most unique version involving those gods that I'm aware of. Most other beings worship them as an entire pantheon, and like you said, typically place the - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- thunderbolt-wielding one on top. This particular focus on Dite is usually restricted to her own temples and cults, not an entire civilization-wide phenomenon." Mischa@crystyl:"Well, if these people have more intimate knowledge of the deity race, they might know of the others on a more even term like the Guardians did. It could certainly be worth exploring, assuming they - Mischa@crystyl:- are even within reach of course" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "They're not usually seen in this region and when there are recorded encounters, it's typically with their ships. We have no idea where their home territory is, how far it stretches, - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- and if they even have a homeworld. And if I knew where to find some of them, I wouldn't recommend making contact either. No disrespect to your crew, but there's rumours of Regulators going - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- missing after making contact with Diteans, and you know how duty-bound they are." Mischa@crystyl:"I also know how tunnel-visioned they can be. It wouldn't be the first time they took a heavy handed approach with a species stronger than them and paid the price. I will put some feelers out and - Mischa@crystyl:- if any leads present themselves on these Diteans. If nothing else, it will be interesting and useful to know about their presence" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "By all means. Don't say I didn't warn you if you try to make contact with them, though." Mischa@crystyl:"Duly noted" she smiles. "Well then, for now it seems we're back to comparing notes from different mythologies" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Where should get star-" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | The door slides open and Myra steps in, "Hey Mischa. I heard you picked up a-" her gaze trails to Itadow, "You..." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Oh no." Mischa@crystyl looks between the pair, folding her arms with an entertained look forming, "Well this looks promising. I take it you two are acquainted" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra nods, "Last time we met he hired me to get some people off his backside in the middle of Atayakee." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "And I paid you for it, didn't I? In advance." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra narrows her cybernetic eyes, "I saw the look on your face. You know exactly what you did." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Hey, you made it out alive, and with the Points." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "No thanks to you. And that job was worth a lot more Points than what you paid." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "You agreed to the payment!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Because you told me they were some 'thugs' after the artifact you were transporting." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Which was true..." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Except you failed to mention these 'thugs' worked for Matanee Incorporated, who everyone knows owns practically half the city..." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "What were you doing in Atayakee /anyways/?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I was going to sell it to Matanee. But someone else made a better offer. Look, the contract hadn't been signed yet and the transaction was never made, so it wasn't theirs!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Still should've paid me more for going up against Matanee," she crosses her arms Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I was worried you wouldn't take the contra-" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Most freelancers, maybe not. But I would've, if you set a price more fitting for the job." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I would've paid you more, but it would've been suspicious if I just said thugs, and if I told you it was Matanee, like you said, most contracters would've passed!" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Yeah, and you went offworld again not long after selling off your prized artifact so I couldn't find you..." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I tried to find /you/! But you disappeared, I thought they got you." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Had to lay low for a bit after all the damage I caused in the city," she smirks. "Oh well, not like Points are much use to me out here anyways." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "What /are/ you doing out here? I thought you don't usually work colonies." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Otherwise I would've chased you down when I heard you went offworld," she glances to Mischa, "It's a long story..." Mischa@crystyl:"Aren't they always" she smiles Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "How did he end up here?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow smirks, "That's also a long story." Mischa@crystyl:"He was on the planet we came here to investigate" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "I heard that much being talked about across the ship. Can't have been coincidence though, can it?" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "We were following different trails that led to the same artifact. Or, are leading to the same artifact." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "In that case, it's a good thing you're here," she looks to Mischa, "He can be a scoundrel at times, but there's few better at hunting down artifacts than Ejinos Itadow." Mischa@crystyl:"Quite the vote of confidence. But as you might recall, I am quite at home in the company of scoundrels" she smiles Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra smirks, "I'm sure you can handle him. So, you two sharing ideas?" Mischa@crystyl:"Comparing notes on the deity species" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Deity species? Sounds important." Mischa@crystyl:nods, "We know that Ar-Rhys wielded his fathers thunderbolt, but also that even he struggled and the Guardians found no way to handle it. If we are to recover it, we must find a way" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Might be easier once we have this thunderbolt to study, but it's probably a good idea to be prepared in case we need to grab the artifact before the Horde get it. But there's probably - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- gonna be a lot of guesswork involved this way..." Mischa@crystyl:"Exactly, that's why we are here. But the best we've come up with so far is searching for the Diteans, and we don't know a thing about them" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Diteans? Always thought they were just fancy spacer tales. People trying to explain mysterious disappearances, and trying to convince themselves that their friends and family are out - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- there somewhere living among a species that services your every fantasy." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "It does sound like that sometimes, and I believe no small amount of the stories do arise from such circumstances. But I assure you, the Diteans are very much real, if not quite as - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- fantastical as described." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra: "Don't tell me you've met them." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I haven't, but there's sufficient evidence to say for relative certain that-" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra smirks, "Of course you haven't. Probably would've run off with them long ago if you had." Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "But yeah, the Diteans aren't much help for this particular artifact hunt. No idea how or where to contact them." Mischa@crystyl:"So that's pretty much where we are up to" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra nods, "I'll leave you two to compare notes, then. If that super-thrall Captain Vix keeps talking about shows up again, let me know. Combat's my specialty, and sounds like you'll need good - Alien NPC@annpc#557:- fighters against something like him." Mischa@crystyl:"You have stiff competition in Captain Vix, and now she's got a score to settle with it - you might have to get in line" she chuckles, "But of course, your service will be most beneficial" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Myra smiles, "Just let me know if you need extra firepower against him, and I'll be happy to help." She turns to head out Mischa@crystyl:"You can count on it" Alien NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Now, let's see what else we can figure out before we reach our next destination..."