The Valley Forge must seek information from an enigmatic and isolated civilization, but when they arrive, they find that the Horde is once again one step ahead of them...
NPC@annpc#557 | In her ready room, Keelah receives another call from the Sphere. Vora appears on the screen, dressed in her Colonial Fleet uniform as usual Keelah@crystyl turns from her work to the screen, "Vora. To what do I owe today's honour?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "I've got an update for you, Keelah. We've been looking into that ship you encountered." Keelah@crystyl:"Has it resurfaced?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora shakes her head, "Not yet, but I sent some people to the Sphere's archives, and the Technological Archive's AI recognized the design. It's the third generation mobile shield design, and - NPC@annpc#557 - one of them was recorded as having fallen under Horde control. Keelah@crystyl:"So we have details not only on the type of vessel, but that very same one? This is quite fortunate then" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "That we do. I'm forwarding everything we have to you now. We have a full schematic, interior systems and layout included. Downside is, we've poured over the design and there's no - NPC@annpc#557:- critical weak points. The second generation version had one at the very centre of the emitter, and that's how it ended up being destroyed by the Horde. They fixed that in the third iteration; - NPC@annpc#557:- it's still technically the weakest point on the ship but you're still going to need concentrated firepower from a whole fleet to exploit it, and that's assuming you get past the shield, which is - NPC@annpc#557:- designed to withstand firepower from a fleet of enemy ships." Keelah@crystyl:"I've got my people working on alternate methods to bypass the shields. These schematics might well open up additional options" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "We're working on a form of magnetic shielding to counter the EMP effects of the shield as well. I've attached the progress we've made so far, but problem is the shield is substantially - NPC@annpc#557:- weaker at the moment. Combine that with the size of craft capable of penetrating the shield and you've pretty much got a completely unprotected fighter. Safe from the EMP effects, but any stray - NPC@annpc#557:- shot in a crossfire'll take you out, so I wouldn't recommend implementing it until we- or yourselves, have gotten a chance to improve it." Keelah@crystyl:"Understood. We'll get to working on these schematics and see what we can come up with. Our current plan is to utilize the Observer's shuttle again, but with this level of detail... well, options - Keelah@crystyl:- are opened up" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora smiles, "I thought you'd find it useful. In other news, activity inside the Sphere's been quiet so far. The ships outside are barely seeing any reinforcements inbound to the Sphere, but - NPC@annpc#557:- the Guardians are sure the Horde's got plenty of ships and can't possibly be depleted of reinforcements already, which means the Architect must be rerouting his ships elsewhere. Probably - NPC@annpc#557:- out searching for the artifact. Guardian Rangers report seeing Horde battlegroups on the move in deep space, some of them with signs of recent damage, but these aren't ships from the Sphere, and - NPC@annpc#557:- we didn't fight them." Keelah@crystyl:"A reasonable deduction" she nods, "Though we can't rule anything out with the Architect, he has a frustrating habit of being one step ahead all of the time". A slight smirk forms, "Almost reminds - Keelah@crystyl:- me of a particularly sharp thorn in my side of years gone by" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora smirks back, "I guess all your adversaries who didn't stay ahead of you are already no longer a problem. The Architect takes the time to study his opposition, like myself. He's probably - NPC@annpc#557:- also noticed that Starfleet has a habit of outpacing enemies that initially overwhelmed you. The Klingons, the Borg, the Dominion, the Iconians, all of them were years or even decades - NPC@annpc#557:- ahead of you in terms of military technology and strategy. But you're frustratingly good at catching up. The only way not to lose against your people is by staying ahead of you." Keelah@crystyl chuckles, "It's nice to know we can be just as frustrating. But this is exactly why we need a change, because this is no longer an enemy of the Federation facing against Starfleet. He made it - Keelah@crystyl:- personal by violating one of my officers, a friend..." her expression turns cold, even for a Vulcan, "The last to do that with me were the Senn and they no longer inhabit this galaxy" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Not to mention how he pretended to be an ally so long to use you to find and use the Sphere. But he's a threat to all of us now, personal or not we're just as committed to stopping him - NPC@annpc#557:- for the sake of our own survival." Keelah@crystyl:"Of course. My point is that circumstances do not favour our usual methods of out thinking our opponents. In short; this is no longer a fight where I need the Supreme Commander at my side. This is - Keelah@crystyl:- one for the Branded Lady" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora grins, "I'll keep that in mind. Don't worry, I won't hold back against the Horde. They sure don't against us." Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed they do not. I am putting an end to this conflict once and for all, and my gut feeling is that locating this artifact is the catalyst for that" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Good luck, Keelah. I'll keep you up to date of any developments here. We've got more support coming too, a Trinity Alliance fleet arrived at Vue-En not long ago and are just restocking - NPC@annpc#557 - before following the Carrans out here through the subspace corridors." NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "It shouldn't be long before they're here to reinforce us in the Sphere, but let me know if you need them elsewhere." Keelah@crystyl:"I will do so. We do not yet know where our search will take us from here, but once our guest arrives I am hopeful of a new direction" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "This isn't the Corporate treasure hunter, right? You've got another guest?" Keelah@crystyl:"Oh yes, a former resident of the planet we spoke about last time which your people have been protecting" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "One of these beings from the species that used the artifact that were going around as gods?" Keelah@crystyl:"Actually, the one who made the artifacts for them" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "It was made by a different species? Interesting." Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, a Primeval entity called Ketkolep. It was... hibernating beneath the city where people were worshipping it. Apparently waiting for this galaxy's cycle to reach its natural conclusion before - Keelah@crystyl:- reinvesting itself in the next cycle. It is severing ties with the religions that have popped up here around it's presence, then will be joining us to locate the artifact" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Sounds like it might have some useful insights into it. I hope it can help you find the Artifact before the Horde does." Keelah@crystyl:"Ketkolep appears to recognize the importance of standing against the Horde. It is however insistent that the artifact recorded by the Guardians is allowed to be destroyed when we discover it" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "I thought you wanted to use it against the Horde." Keelah@crystyl:"We do, but as we know the weapon can not be wielded by Children - even Ar-Rhys struggled with it. Ketlolep has instead proposed that this weapon is destroyed, and from it he will craft something - Keelah@crystyl:- new which we are able to wield against the Horde" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods, "Long as he keeps his word, seems a good arrangement to me." Keelah@crystyl:"At this point, we have no more option than we do reason to doubt his word" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "I'll leave you to deal with him, then, unless there's anything else?" Keelah@crystyl shakes her head, "I have nothing further at this time. Do you want us to forward a full status update on the planet given the major change in circumstances here? And given that - at least their - Keelah@crystyl:- leadership - are aware of the galactic life around them" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora nods, "That'll be useful. I'm not sure if we'll make contact with them, but the Colonial Fleet'll definitely keep a close eye on the world and monitor their development for a while." Keelah@crystyl:"I would certainly recommend it. They are socially mature against their technological development. But as is so often the case, they have been skewed by the very real manifestation of personal power- Keelah@crystyl:- that accompanied worship of Ketkolep. They may be facing unwarranted civil discourse as they find they way back to a natural development" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "We'll try not to intervene and let them work it out, but if we have to, we can send down some disguised personnel to try and sway things in the right direction." Keelah@crystyl:"Only time will tell for them. The best we can do is complete our mission, once Ketkolep arrives with us at least" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "With the influencing factor gone, things should get better in time. After all, plenty of cultures were influenced by the beings who wielded the artifacts, and they turned out alright." Keelah@crystyl:"Exactly. Well, I think that about covers things here. I shouldn't keep you" NPC@annpc#557 | Vora: "Thanks for the update, Keelah. Good luck with your search, and dealing with that shield ship." Keelah@crystyl:"To you as well" she nods --- NPC@annpc#557 FX | Later the same day, Keelah is working away in the ready room when her combadge sounds Keelah@crystyl taps, "Se'Lai" NPC@annpc#557 <C - TQ> Captain, we've received a message from Ketkolep. He is on his way to the ship now Keelah@crystyl:"Very well, thank you Tee. Please inform Kelly, Lendaria and Sin and have them meet me at his 'quarters'" NPC@annpc#557 <C - TQ> On it, Captain Keelah@crystyl stands and promptly makes her way down to the cargo bay cleared out for their new guest NPC@annpc#557 | A few minutes later, Keelah gathers with the others in the cargo bay set out for Ketkolep Keelah@crystyl looks to the gathered group, "Has he arrived yet?" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly nods, "Katie reported an influx of energy coming in slowly through the transporter system. It's still being channeled into the room, so I guess you can say he's arriving." Keelah@crystyl:"Alright then" she looks to the door, "Well, this will be a first" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly: "We've certainly never hosted anyone like this before. Sensors aren't registering any radiation though, so it should be safe to step inside." Keelah@crystyl:"No more activity or indications that he's still boarding?" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly checks her PADD and shakes her head, "Looks like all the energy is on board. Some of it is still lingering in our systems though- I've never seen the ship at these power levels before." Keelah@crystyl hrms, "Any cause for concern at this point?" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly shakes her head, "Nothing at risk of overloading. It seems most of the excess energy is contained within the cargo bay." Keelah@crystyl:"Very well, continue monitoring for the moment. We will query it with our guest" turning to Sin, "Since you are the only one to have already communicated with this being, I want you front and centre" Keelah@crystyl | Sin: "Isn't that above my paygrade?" Keelah@crystyl:"You don't get paid. So yes" she smiles, heading in NPC@annpc#557 | As Keelah steps in, the cargo bay seems completely empty, but then a shape begins to form from the feet up, almost like a hologram sparking to life, but slower Keelah@crystyl watches with acute fascination at what is essentially first contact with an entirely new form of life as far as she is concerned NPC@annpc#557 | After a few seconds, a bipedal figure stands in the middle of the bay. It looks like a typical Children species for the most part, except instead of two eyes it has a single large central eye, - NPC@annpc#557 - appearing like a more typical depiction of a cyclops, just without the hulking size Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, "Ketkolep I presume, you do not appear as I expected" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "It has been a long time since I held this form. I created it based on the appearance of the Children of this galaxy, to appear less alien when among you." Keelah@crystyl:"A courtesy for our benefit that is always appreciated. However you do not have to feel obliged to do so here on our account. I simply wish to make your stay on this ship as comfortable as possible- Keelah@crystyl:- for you" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I have ascended beyond a physical form long ago. I do not require one, but that is not very convenient for communication with those who are still bound to physical bodies. And - NPC@annpc#557:- my original form is no more or less comfortable than this one. Think of it like an avatar used by beings of codes and algorithms to interact with you." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Then it shall be an avatar which is not alone here, as one such construction also resides on this vessel. But where are my manners, I am Captain T'Keel Se'Lai in command of this vessel, - Keelah@crystyl:- welcome aboard. And thank you for your offer of assistance here" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I was known as Sy-Kotol Eibsu among my own people when they lived as you do, but I have had many names in many universes, some variations of my original, others titles. You may - NPC@annpc#557:- refer to me as you wish. Ketkolep may be the most convenient to you, as you are familiar with it already." Keelah@crystyl:"That works. So now that you hold this form, are you able to walk among us more literally? Or do you still need to remain isolated for our protection from your inherent energy?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I can walk among you. The Horde are the Final Judgement of this galaxy, are they not?" Keelah@crystyl:"So it has been said, but they would not be the first threat to have such claims made against them" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "It is not them who are the greatest threat. They are a test, to see if you are ready for the true challenges that await your galaxy. That is all I can speak of on this matter. Just - NPC@annpc#557:- as you frown upon providing less developed civilizations with knowledge of the greater galaxy, so too do we frown upon providing you with knowledge of the greater universe, and I have no wish to - NPC@annpc#557:- draw the ire of the Continuum." Keelah@crystyl:"Funny, the Continuum normally draws the ire of others through our interactions with them. But Q has also eluded to this current crisis being such an event" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Members of the Continuum have a reputation for being rather eccentric. They play an integral role, but many of them have seen countless universes and seek ways to amuse themselves - NPC@annpc#557:- while serving their purpose. You are familiar with them, I take it." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Our society has encountered a number of members of the Continuum, though one in particular seems to be more of a constant presence around us. He is the one who has spoken with me on a number- Keelah@crystyl:- of occasions since we started our present mission" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "They are trans-universal beings, as I am. They have access to a far greater store of power and knowledge, but outside of such, we are not very different. I am able to control my - NPC@annpc#557:- energies and walk among you as they do." Keelah@crystyl:"Whilst I understand the principle of everything you say, I am unclear on one aspect. The way you describe things; the galactic life cycle, the Horde advance, the Continuum, even your own presence; - Keelah@crystyl:- you make it sound like it is all premeditated - by design. Is this your intent, or have I misread your implied context?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "There is a plan- not mine, but the Continuum's. But you, and every other being in this universe, have free will, and as such with all their knowledge and power, the Continuum cannot - NPC@annpc#557:- foresee everything. The plan is always being altered. I am not a member of the Continuum, and my presence here was not premeditated, but clearly it is acceptable as part of their latest - NPC@annpc#557:- alteration, otherwise they would have intervened and brought me elsewhere, or given me the energy to move elsewhere myself." Keelah@crystyl:"Very well. Q and I will have much more to discuss the next time he decides to just 'pop in' for tea. But I digress, if your natural energy is no longer a risk to us by proximity while you are in - Keelah@crystyl:- this form, then there is no reason for you to reside in this storage compartment. We can arrange more convenient living accomodations for your stay if you prefer" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I am not bound to this form, thus I do not require sustenance and rest as you do, but the gesture is appreciated. I am willing to manifest within a certain living area and travel - NPC@annpc#557:- the ship as you do if it is less startling than manifesting wherever I wish, as I am aware that members of the Continuum tend to." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Q has a nasty habit of invading people's privacy, something which is still held in high regard at least in our culture. I'm sure that's the only reason he does so. Would I be right in a - Keelah@crystyl:- supposition that your natural energies are sufficiently diluted because you are retaining yourself more within our ship's systems and only presenting that portion of you which is necessary for us - Keelah@crystyl:- to converse like this?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "That is correct. I do not have much energy to spare, but we are both seeking the thunderbolt, which will give me additional energy to spare once I deconstruct it. As such, I have - NPC@annpc#557:- made some of my energy accessible to you to bolster your ship. If you find the thunderbolt, I will easily reobtain that spent energy and more." Keelah@crystyl:"Very good then. My officers here - Kelly and Lendaria - will be able to assist if you require any comforts during your stay. And of you course you have already met young Sin here, I'm sure she will- Keelah@crystyl:- more than happy to offer you any guidance and company. It may not have been a long sleep by your own measure, but the galaxy has come a long way even during our brief existence. Even if just for - Keelah@crystyl:- morbid sake that some memory of our cycle survives into the next, you might enjoy learning about the cycle you are now helping to save" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I would be most interested in learning more. I have always roamed the universe to see what new worlds and types of life developed in this new cycle. Though ensuring that your memory - NPC@annpc#557:- survives into the next cycle is your role. You will understand that soon enough. But first- we should deal with the situation at hand. I would suggest assembling those most engaged with the - NPC@annpc#557:- search for the thunderbolt so far, so that we may share the knowledge we all possess to discern its present location." Keelah@crystyl nods, "My senior staff and key representatives from our multi-species coalition involved in the search can be congregated quickly" turning to Sin, "Ensign, please act as our guest's guide and show - Keelah@crystyl:- him to conference 4 in 20 minutes" Keelah@crystyl | Sin gives a brief nod NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods as well, "Lead the way." Keelah@crystyl:"I will see you all there, do excuse me while I organize the others" she heads out, leaving them to it --- NPC@annpc#557 | Twenty minutes later, the VF senior staff gather in the conference room along with other relevant personnel and allies such as the treasure hunter Itadow Keelah@crystyl walks in, "Thank you everyone for gathering on such short notice, I trust introductions are no longer in order" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow nods, "I think we all know who the latest arrival to the ship is by now." Keelah@crystyl:"Good. Now I know many of you will have questions of general curiosity for our guest, but let us try and keep that contained for the moment. For now we have a new objective; find the 'thunderbolt' - Keelah@crystyl:- artifact and assist Ketkolep in deconstructing it" looking to Ketkolep, "What do we need to know?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "There are few beings who have the capability to wield or even carry the thunderbolt. Where was its last known location?" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow slides a PADD over, "This is the planet. Apparently it was ejected from a powerful black hole that tore a hole through space-time, but the others can explain that part better." Keelah@crystyl:"That black hole was formed around the star where Ar-Rhys last wielded the weapon. It is where he fell to Horde, and the thunderbolt became embedded in the ground there by all accounts" Keelah@crystyl:"Both the Guardians and Horde made every attempt to retrieve it, but failed. In the end, the Guardians imploded the star to create the black hole to destroy the weapon, or at the very least make it - Keelah@crystyl:- inaccessible to the Horde. We recently obtained the Horde's studies of the phenomena where a number of expel trajectories were calculated for it. One such trajectory we followed to this planet-" Keelah@crystyl:- she presents the holo, "- where we encountered a powerful Horde search party. Radiation readings there seemed to confirm that it was - at some point - there, but had since been removed. The - Keelah@crystyl:- consistent readings with your own presence led us to where we are now, and to you" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods as he looks through the PADD, "It could not have been removed by the Continuum, otherwise the Horde would not be seeking it now, as they would have removed it far beyond the - NPC@annpc#557:- Horde's reach. Of the other beings capable of handling it, the most likely ones to have an interest would be members of the species I created it for. I know four of them came here- Ar-Rhys, who - NPC@annpc#557:- brought the thunderbolt with him, Dite, Posaits and Haats. You say Ar-Rhys fell, so he does not have the thunderbolt, and I am aware that Dite returned to their homeworld in the end- she visited - NPC@annpc#557:- me before then and discussed what had transpired, making no mention of the thunderbolt nor did she have it with her at the time. That leaves two options- Posaits and Haats, the brothers of Zeuts, - NPC@annpc#557:- for whom I made the thunderbolt. Though not as strong as their leader, they are among the closest to him in power among their people, and most fit to wield his weapon." Keelah@crystyl:"Well we can rule Posaits - or Poseidon - out, as we already encountered his final resting place along with his Trident. But Haats?" Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods: "Hades in our tongue" Keelah@crystyl:"I am not aware of any noted activity from him yet. We recently learned of a - presumed - Children species; strict follows of Aphrodite" Keelah@crystyl:"But we also know others of that species did continue, for a time at least. Starfleet's first encounter with them was with the one we called Apollo" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "The creations of Dite. I am familiar with Apollo, and Zeuts, and the other notable members of the species. They did not come out here after returning to their home, and like my own - NPC@annpc#557:- their strengths waned, though for different reasons. They could not have come here for the thunderbolt. Haats is most likely the one who took the thunderbolt, and the data here," he raises the - NPC@annpc#557:- PADD, "suggests so as well. While any member of their species can conceal lifesigns from sensors, the Horde's sensor data shows they did not even fight back, likely could find nothing to fight - NPC@annpc#557:- back against. I recognize my handiwork at play, the stealth device I gave to him can hide one from all save another trans-universal being." Keelah@crystyl:"So you believe he is in isolation, much as you were? And that you can locate him?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Yes, I believe he may have hidden himself somewhere, along with the thunderbolt. Of his people, he was one of those who truly cared for the ones who worshipped them. He did not - NPC@annpc#557:- demand worship, and did not receive much. But he gave you much more than the others. The abilities of many Children to live on after death by transferring their spirits into a vessel or another - NPC@annpc#557:- that is thanks to him, and for that he became known as the Lord of Death." Keelah@crystyl | Mischa nods, "That is certainly the picture of him painted commonly in different mythologies" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "He would have been more interested in keeping the thunderbolt safe so it could not be abused by the Horde, rather than using its power himself. That would be consistent with why it - NPC@annpc#557:- has stayed hidden for all these years. He was always one who truly cared for those around him as more than tools to fuel his own power. If he is using his stealth device to conceal the - NPC@annpc#557:- thunderbolt and his own location, I will be able to see through it, but I do not have the strength to search this entire region of the galaxy. I will need to be in close proximity to reveal him." Keelah@crystyl:"Then we will need to do all we can to narrow down the most likely search area. Suggestions?" she looks around the room NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I might be able to help." Keelah@crystyl looks over, "Go on" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "There's a species called the Kratt. Very isolationist, doesn't like outsiders at all. They don't usually try to communicate, but several Corporations have taken remains of their ships - NPC@annpc#557:- for study, a few have even raided them. I was part of a team tasked with bringing back a derelict Kratt ship once for study. Their databases speak of a world called Ha-at, where they claim a 'God - NPC@annpc#557:- of Shadow' resides. I didn't associate it with Hades at the time, we don't know much about the Kratt but we're pretty sure they don't worship the other gods or any gods at all. Only remembered it - NPC@annpc#557:- because I thought it was odd why they called him a god, maybe because that's how he introduced himself, or how he was regarded by other cultures." Keelah@crystyl:"It certainly seems a promising lead. Do we have access to the navigation charts showing that location?" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "That's the thing- there was a database entry for Ha-at in their ship computer, but no navigational chart or coordinates. I don't know if the data is classified for them, if it got - NPC@annpc#557:- purged with the other more sensitive information when they knew the ship would be lost, or if they knew of the existence of the world but not its location. Only the Kratt knows for sure." Keelah@crystyl:"Then we need to find the Kratt and find out" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow takes his datapad back and taps on it, "The Kratt are a very secretive people. They're not a Children species, but they're not exactly Primevals either. They just evolved independently - NPC@annpc#557:- and became their own form of life. What's important is that they don't like or trust people like us." NPC@annpc#557 | Kazra: "Kind of reminds me of Tholians in our region of the galaxy." NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "Luckily for us, I know the location of one Kratt world. No one knows where their homeworld is, this might be it, or it could be a colony. It's a world populated by Kratt. That's the - NPC@annpc#557:- best we have, and a good place to start," he passes the PADD down towards Keelah Keelah@crystyl takes it with a light skim, "So we know they don't like people like us. Are there any forms of life they are inclined more towards?" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "I'm not sure. Our knowledge of them is very limited. We know they don't think anything like we do. The concepts we have of culture, art, morality...it's something very different to - NPC@annpc#557:- them, if they have it at all. Of course the Corporations put more effort into understanding their technology than their culture, since that's where the profit is, but their culture's just as - NPC@annpc#557:- alien to us, if not more so. I'm not sure they understand life the same way we do, and if they do, they're one of the few who value it even less than the Corporations. They've got more - NPC@annpc#557:- in common with the Horde than they do with us." Keelah@crystyl:"Charming. Well, it wouldn't be the first time we've had to make friends with such a different culture. We will find a way" NPC@annpc#557 | Itadow: "The coordinates of the world are quite far away, but your wormhole ship should be able to take us there no problem. Other than the location and the fact that they're really different, - NPC@annpc#557:- I'm afraid I don't have that much more to offer. They're closest to crustaceans, in terms of physiology, and they use a combination of biotech and mechanically produced components in their ships - NPC@annpc#557:- and equipment. They've got energy weapons, but it's not any standard form of energy I've seen." Keelah@crystyl:"We'll do all we can to prepare and find some sort of common ground on which to open a dialogue with them. For now, let us get underway" --- Keliaya@anncaris | After the meeting, the VF prepares to depart through another wormhole towards the single known Kratt world... Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Observer's ship has launched." Keliaya@anncaris:"Wormhole is generating now." Keelah@crystyl:"Proceed when ready. Who would have thought this would become such a routine for us..." Keliaya@anncaris FX | The effect of the wormhole opening fills the viewscreen Keelah@crystyl | Rianni half-mutters, "Not me..." Keliaya@anncaris | Ann glances to Rianni, "Wonder if this was wha' Starfleet was goin' for when they did those experiments Emma was involved in, with tha' tech the Regulators use. Save all the hours o' travel in - Keliaya@anncaris:- deep space." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "I believe so, or at least that's her take on it" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Wonder wha' things would've been like if we adopted it like the Regulators did. I mean, it's nice to have a quiet day enjoyin' the starstreaks, but sometimes ya just don't wanna take - Keliaya@anncaris:- weeks gettin' from here to there. 'Specially when there's a war or disaster. Anyways, takin' us in now." Keliaya@anncaris | Ann taps on her console as the Observer's ship enters the wormhole, and VF and QanwI' follows inside Keelah@crystyl smiles a little to herself at the debate, though Rianni is still naturally less than thrilled by the sight of said wormholes Keliaya@anncaris joins in as the ship flies through the wormhole, "Maybe we could've evacuated all of Romulus if we had ships with that technology. Or kept up with those Iconian gateways. Though it might've been - Keliaya@anncaris:- better that we didn't have it for Wolf 359, because our ships just weren't up to par with the Borg. More reinforcements would've just resulted in more casualties." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "More than likely we would have ventured much further much sooner, and ended up facing the Borg with technology and experience centuries behind when we actually did. Not unlike that other- Keelah@crystyl:- universe we slipped into at that black hole; where the Enterprise was out here in the 23rd century. You know, like that!" Keelah@crystyl slooooowly turns to the source of this revelation Keelah@crystyl | Rianni realizes that she's let the Kirk out of the bag and stares back at Keelah with an innocent smile Keliaya@anncaris looks over, "Mischa never mentioned anything about that..." Keelah@crystyl:"Curious how none of them did in their reports..." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni, "I, um... well the Commander said it was classified *ahem, mutter* probably..." Keelah@crystyl perks a brow Keelah@crystyl | Rianni tries to discreetly hide behind Vrolmacht Keliaya@anncaris | Ann laughs, "We'll make sure it doesn't get outta this room!" Keelah@crystyl:"You can tell me all about when this over" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann looks back to her console, "We're almost at the end o' the wormhole. Just a few more seconds." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni seems oddly relieved Keliaya@anncaris | The end of the wormhole looms into view and the ship slips out into regular space once again... Keliaya@anncaris ...only to reveal a large piece of debris right in the ship's path! Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Fvadt!" Keelah@crystyl:"Evasive!" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann lurches the VF sharply to the right as the Observer and QanwI' go over and above the debris. The smaller craft evade it more easily, while the VF has a much closer call, narrowly - Keliaya@anncaris:- avoiding the large chunk as smaller pieces rain over the ship, causing minor turbulence and a sound not unlike a rainstorm Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "No structural damage. Deflector has warded off all debris pieces so far." Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "We're not outta this yet!" Keliaya@anncaris | The VF quickly turns left again as yet another debris drift towards them, putting the enhanced maneuverability of the VF on full display as the cruiser moves far more deftly than most vessels - Keliaya@anncaris:- of its size, which would have at least scraped against the debris, if not collided entirely. There's not much she can do about the little pieces all over as a few continue to pepper the ship, but - Keliaya@anncaris:- are easily pushed to the side by the deflectors Keliaya@anncaris | Ann dodges and waves through the debris, turning and spinning the ship before tapping her console, coming to a quick stop as soon as she finds a clearing... Keliaya@anncaris FX | https://i.imgur.com/kyxoU7r.jpg Keliaya@anncaris:"These are ship hulls. Unknown configuration primarily composed of organic materials with metallic supports." Keelah@crystyl:"Not the most inviting of welcomes... Nonetheless, fine work Ann. Let's get a status from all decks before anything else, and check in with the QanwI' and Observer" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Observer and QanwI' report they are undamaged." Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "All decks are reporting in; a little turbulence but nothing serious." Keliaya@anncaris:"Deflector power's running at 150%. Ketkolep's doing, I think." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Very good, let's get the Observer back in dock and QanwI' flying cap. We can't trust sensor resolution in all this mess" glancing back to Kelly with a small smile to herself and back to TQ, - Keelah@crystyl:- "And thank Ketkolep" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ smiles and nods, sending their thanks to Ketkolep Keliaya@anncaris:"I'm reading...what remains of a station structure. I don't think these were visitors who were destroyed by the Kratt, Captain..." Keelah@crystyl:"That description of the debris fits our limited understanding of their technology. Power signatures or lifesigns?" Keliaya@anncaris:"No lifesigns, but I'm seeing a power signature further in, by the habitable planet." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Technically habitable, but it's been annihilated. Looks like orbital bombardment" she taps, focusing the viewscreen to show it Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "QanwI' has more detailed information of the ship coming in." Keelah@crystyl:"Let's have it" Keliaya@anncaris:| QanwI's scan data comes in and Kelly comments, "Looks like a carrier. Hull design is definitely not organic. Two hangar bays both open, which means its auxiliary craft are all already deployed." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "It's th'Horde!" Keelah@crystyl turns, "Are you certain?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, reading off her scanner, "multiple Children species, confirmed signs of extreme hybridization. There's no doubt" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Guess they found the Kratt before we did..." Keelah@crystyl sighs softly, "Take us to red alert and prepare to engage then" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and taps his console and the bridge lighting changes to that of red alert Keelah@crystyl:"Have the squadrons standing by. Inform QanwI' that we will draw their opening fire. Ann, I hope you're not done with your fancy flying for the day just yet" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann smiles, "I can keep it up, Cap'n." Keelah@crystyl smiles a little, "That's what I like to hear, take us in. Let's not allow them the opportunity to gain an upper hand this time" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Basic disruptor arrays, duranium hull plating, the carrier itself should not be a major threat, but we should watch out for its auxiliary craft. If I have to guess, they are likely - Keliaya@anncaris:- combing the debris." Keelah@crystyl:"Exactly why I want our squadron ready to launch as soon as they appear" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Enterin' weapons range in 20 seconds." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Weapons ready and standing by." Keelah@crystyl:"Make it count" she nods Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They are locking disruptors on us as well." He taps on his console and the VF fires. The return fire rocks the ship slightly Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Hm. The phasers are firing with a strange quantum signature. Enemy shields down to 50%." Keliaya@anncaris:"In a single volley?" Keelah@crystyl:"Focus fire on those open hangars, don't give them the chance to recover" Keelah@crystyl | TQ: "I'll send a further thanks to Ketkolep" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni hrms, clearly impressed, taking notes to see if she can find a way to keep the upgrade after he leaves them, assuming he doesn't leave it behind as a gift as she hopes he will Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Enemy hangars disabled. Fighters are emerging from the debris." Keelah@crystyl:"Squadron is free to engage at your discretion" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "Squadron is engaging incoming fighters now." On the viewscreen, flashes can be seen as the Eon and Nuhar squadron dance with the incoming Horde fighters. Despite the expert - Keliaya@anncaris - coordination of the Horde, the Nuhar fighters manage to outmaneuver them and their better design allows them to soak up what hits they do take Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Carrier shields have collapsed. Shall I disable or destroy, Captain?" Keelah@crystyl:"Disable if possible" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "Firing to disable." Keliaya@anncaris | The carrier's nacelles flicker as shots cripple the ship, before the VF turns to support the fighters with its point-defense turrets. Before long, the enemy fighters are cleared up and the - Keliaya@anncaris - firing stops Keelah@crystyl:"Full scan of the enemy vessel. With their defenses down, I want to see what we can learn from their computers" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: Not a lot in there but I got some charts an' details on their search. Doesn't look like they did this to th'Kratt, theyâ€™re searchin' existin' debris" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "Or they sent a fleet to destroy the Kratt, and this one followed to search" Keelah@crystyl:"Bottom line is we don't know enough. Anything else to gleam from the Horde ship?" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I think the Ensign's right. I'm picking up warp trails leading out of the system. Many of them are of unknown configuration, but this one belongs to the Progenitor Shield Ship. There's no - Keliaya@anncaris:- mistaking it, never seen another warp trail like that before." Keelah@crystyl:"How long ago did they attack?" Keliaya@anncaris:"Judging from the warp trail, it's been over a day, but some of the ships are smaller destroyers and escorts which are moving in formation around the Shield Ship. That's going to slow them down - Keliaya@anncaris:- more than enough for us to catch up at high warp if we wanted to." Keelah@crystyl hrms, "Tempting, but I don't want to abandon any survivors here. What can we see on the surface?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "No discernible survivors Cap'n, jus' thralls roamin' around down there" Keelah@crystyl:"Very well... scuttle the ship and recall all support. We're giving chase" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, firing another shot and scuttling the carrier. On the viewscreen, the fighters begin returning to the VF Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht soon announces, "Squadron is docked and we are ready to go." Keelah@crystyl:"Engage pursuit course" turning to V and Rianni, "You'd better have a plan ready for that shield ship before we catch up" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, looking to Rianni, "You've studied the schematics we received from the Arshai already?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods: "I've been pouring over them ever since they came in" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "I have not identified any easily exploitable external weaknesses, but the detailed schematics make it possible to open wormholes into the ship, bypassing the exterior defenses." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "I have pinpointed what was most likely a cargo bay during its original construction - it should be more than big enough to accommodate a wormhole aperture" she taps on her screen to show- Keelah@crystyl - the schematic, "The bay is here, and if I've read it right, this should be the primary junction on their equivalent of an EPS grid as it appears to channel most of their energy straight into the - Keelah@crystyl - forward shield generator. If the Observer can jump into this bay, I believe her standard weapons will be able to penetrate here and blow the grid. It won't destroy the ship in one convenient - Keelah@crystyl - shot, but I would expect it to take the fleet shield down. With that gone, it has no sufficient defense against our weapons" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht grins, "Excellent thinking, Ensign. That should be sufficient to nullify the Shield Ship's greatest advantage." Keelah@crystyl:"Just make sure that the Observer is able to get back out in good enough time to not be caught in any explosion" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "I could use an expert opinion on their engineering setup as it's not exactly Starfleet standard" Keliaya@anncaris:"There's also at least two dozen other warp trails around the Shield Ship. We can't take on that many ships by ourselves, even if we do disable their fleet shield." Keelah@crystyl looks to Vrolmacht while Rianni joins Kelly, "Recommendations to even those odds?" Keliaya@anncaris brings up the ship schematics and looks over them, "You're definitely right about the EPS junction, or what seems to be their equivalent. Their main core will still be intact, so the ship'll - Keliaya@anncaris:- still have power, but I don't see anything else that can carry nearly enough power to sustain the fleet shield. The ship'll still have full functionality otherwise, but its basic point-defense - Keliaya@anncaris:- weapons shouldn't be a threat to anything, so hitting it there should effectively render it harmless...well, unless they use it as a battering ram." Keliaya@anncaris | Meanwhile, Vrolmacht remarks, "Not unless we lure it into atmosphere and set the entire battlegroup aflame again..." Keelah@crystyl:"I'm not sure even the Horde would be that mindless" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods to Kelly, "We can't afford any risks with this thing so I would be inclined to hit the nose of that thing with everything we've got from every ship as soon as the shield drops" Keliaya@anncaris:"I agree, but even with Ketkolep's enhancements, we don't have the firepower to punch through. Unless..." she looks over to Lennie, "You have some of the charts the Horde pulled from the Kratt, - Keliaya@anncaris:- right?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, "What're ya thinkin'?" as she calls them up Keliaya@anncaris steps over, "Itadow was right, there's no mention of which world is their homeworld, but there's definitely other worlds marked the same way as the one that was hit. I'm guessing these are other - Keliaya@anncaris:- habited worlds, or ones they have a presence at," she reaches in towards the console, "May I?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie gestures, "Be mah guest" Keliaya@anncaris taps on the console, overlaying the warp trail's direction on the map and extrapolating it, which leads it straight to another similarly marked system, "As I thought...they're going for another - Keliaya@anncaris:- Kratt world," she turns to Keelah, "There's one way we can deal with the fleet and the Shield Ship." Keelah@crystyl joins them, "What have you got?" Keliaya@anncaris points to the world the Horde are headed towards, "We get to their destination before them and work with the Kratt. We know they're not a Children species and the Horde must be unable to - Keliaya@anncaris:- control them, otherwise they wouldn't have destroyed all the ships, they would've just taken them and added them to the Horde. And all that debris around the planet easily adds up to more than - Keliaya@anncaris:- two dozen ships. They weren't able to get through the shield, but assuming they haven't lost /all/ their ships already, they could have enough firepower to deal with the fleet once we bring the - Keliaya@anncaris:- shield down. Which should be enough to exploit the Shield Ship's weak spot as well." Keelah@crystyl nods, "Get the Observer back out asap. We'll calculate the jump while she's launching, we haven't a moment to lose" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "On it, Captain." Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Let's jump in a liiittle further out this time. Just in case. Last one was too close." Keelah@crystyl chuckles, returning to her seat, "No arguments here" Keliaya@anncaris returns to her own station as well Keliaya@anncaris | A few minutes later, TQ announces, "Observer is ready to open the wormhole. Jump has been calculated." Keelah@crystyl:"Then let's get underway" Keliaya@anncaris FX | The wormhole appears on the viewscreen again and the ships enter. This time, the journey takes much less time as the destination is closer, and before long, the end of the wormhole looms - Keliaya@anncaris:- into view... Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Let's hope the Horde haven't beaten us here again..." Keelah@crystyl:"Be ready nonetheless" looking to Vrolmacht, "But no offensive stance on emergence. We don't want to come across the wrong way if the Horde aren't here yet" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Understood. Keeping weapons and armour powered down." Keliaya@anncaris | The VF exits the wormhole, this time with no debris field and only a planet in the distance Keelah@crystyl:"Sensors" Keliaya@anncaris:"Sixteen ships and a station in orbit of the second planet. Hulls match the debris we saw in the other system with organic composition." Keelah@crystyl nods, "A better start. Hail them" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "No response." Keelah@crystyl:"Alright then... we'll do this the hard way. Open broadcast, all frequencies" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They have powered up shields and weapons- a form of phaser weaponry but with incorporated biomatter. We are still out of their weapons range." Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Broadcast open, Captain." Keelah@crystyl:"Kratt, we do not know you, nor you us. But we are here as friends, not enemies. That said, I urge you to /keep/ your defenses active and weapons charged. We have just come from one of your other - Keelah@crystyl:- colonies which was attacked by a hostile fleet. We tracked that fleet and it is on it's way here. Now. We are sending you all of our sensor data to support what I am saying" she waves a finger and- Keelah@crystyl:- Lennie obliges. "If you choose not to interact with us, that is your discretion. But we are sworn to defend others against these hostiles and we will do just that regardless of how you choose to - Keelah@crystyl:- proceed. If you wish to defend your home, we will defend it with you. I am Captain T'Keel Se'Lai of the Valley Forge, and we are going to engage that fleet when it drops out of warp here shortly. - Keelah@crystyl:- Your action from here is your own choice. We are open to further dialogue if you wish to initiate it" Keelah@crystyl signals TQ to cut the comm and it promptly closes Keelah@crystyl:"Bring us about to face the incoming fleet. Deploy armour and ready weapons" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann nods, "Aye Cap'n." Keelah@crystyl to Rianni: "I'm leaving you to get the Observer in and out, Ensign. That is your one and only objective here" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods as well, handing main tactical over to Vrolmacht and taking up a fresh station at the side Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "We have a reply. It reads: We are aware of the attack. We do not trust your intentions. Approach further and you will be destroyed." Keelah@crystyl:"That is fine, let them be distrustful. We are already turning away from their world so they can sit back and watch us honour our words if that's what they choose" Keliaya@anncaris | Lennie's long-range sensors pick up the Horde fleet now on approach! Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "Here they come" Keliaya@anncaris | Soon, the Horde fleet drops out of warp, with the Shield Ship in its centre, surrounded by the number of other smaller supporting vessels as they enter the system... Keelah@crystyl:"Hold position and commence suppressive fire as soon as they enter range" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni calls out: "Calculating interior to interior jump now" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht taps away at his console, readying the weapons. As they begin creeping into range, Rianni gets the jump calculated! Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "Observer is away!" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht fires as the Horde fleet comes into range, the shots being harmlessly absorbed by the shield. The foremost Horde destroyers fire back, rocking the VF Keliaya@anncaris | Then suddenly, as the Observer hits the ship from the inside, the fleet shield drops! The Horde ships continue advancing and firing and the bridge rocks more violently Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Their over-shield is down! Armour at 75% and dropping." Keelah@crystyl:"Fire all!" Keliaya@anncaris | The VF fires everything, immediately taking out one of the lead destroyers. Meanwhile, the Observer's ship successfully jumps back! Keliaya@anncaris | The next volley hits the weak spot, but Vrolmacht announces, "No visible damage." Keelah@crystyl frowns, "Push the fodder out of the way with tractor beams if you have to. I want every weapon on every ship hitting that shield generator" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, activating the tractor beams to push the other destroyers away, but the larger battleships and cruisers draw into view and the ship rocks more heavily Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Armour down to 40%! Third volley is away, but still no effect. We can't hold this position for much longer." Keelah@crystyl hrms, "What about an overload discharge from the main deflector?" Keliaya@anncaris:"Working on it..." Keliaya@anncaris | The bridge shakes again and sparks fly from one of the lights Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Armour at 15%! If we don't break off now, we-" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "I can redirect the squadron to tractor one of the disabled destroyers into a collision with it" Keelah@crystyl looks over, then to Vrolmacht for a judgement call Keliaya@anncaris | Before Vrolmacht can decide, a volley of fire strikes the foremost Horde ships, taking them down immediately and resulting in a chain of explosions Keelah@crystyl turns back to the screen, "The Kratt?" Keliaya@anncaris | Several ships with organic-looking hulls cruise by the VF, shooting down the Horde vessels with ease Keliaya@anncaris FX | https://i.imgur.com/L7vqQ8N.jpg Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "It would seem so. The Horde are attempting to retreat, but they are pursuing. Shall I send them targeting data for the weak point?" Keelah@crystyl nods, "Do so, and continue to direct with them with our own fire. Show them the weak spot in case they won't listen" Keelah@crystyl turns to Lennie, "Get tractor beams on that shield ship to keep it in our firing line Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and continues firing at the weak point Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, attempting to do so Keliaya@anncaris | Lennie grabs on to the Shield Ship with tractors, but it's far too big to hold. Before it can break free however, the Kratt ships fire a series of projectiles at the Shield Ship. On the points - Keliaya@anncaris:- of impact, some form of biomass begins spreading across the ship, slowing it. Combined with the tractors, the Shield Ship is locked in place Keliaya@anncaris | Simultaneously, the Kratt ships each fire a glowing pulse towards the spot the VF is targeting... Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "They are firing sixteen isokinetic bursts at the weak spot!" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni comments, "Well that should do something" Keliaya@anncaris | There is a bright flash as the shots impact the spot, before leaving a gaping hole where the centre of the deflector used to be. The Kratt immediately follow up with their phased biomatter beams Keelah@crystyl | QanwI' would swoop in throwing every torpedo they can into the void while VF stands proud doing the same Keliaya@anncaris | The Shield Ship shakes violently as it is hit. The explosions ravage it and the vessel splits open from the inside, bursting and shattering into multiple large pieces Keliaya@anncaris | The Kratt ships immediately pursue the rest of the retreating Horde ships, hitting them with the bio-torpedoes and slowing them down as they pick them off Keelah@crystyl gives a curt nod, "That's more like it. Now, let us help the Kratt clean up the rest of the rest of these intruders" Keliaya@anncaris | Ann: "Chasin' 'em down for ya now, Vrolmacht!" Keliaya@anncaris | The VF speeds in, joining the cleanup and picking off the Horde ships Keliaya@anncaris | Soon, Vrolmacht announces, "All enemy ships destroyed. No Horde ships managed to slip away." Keelah@crystyl:"Excellent work everybody. Message the Kratt informing them that we do not suspect any additional Horde forces to be following at this time" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Sending message now." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "The Kratt ships are forming up around us." Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "We have a reply. Text-only like before. 'Did you bring down the shield?'" Keelah@crystyl:"Reply in kind with a simple 'yes'" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ nods and reads the next response, "'Your assistance will be remembered. Your vessel is permitted to leave and will not be attacked by Kratt vessels in the future unless you strike first.' Keelah@crystyl:"Send response: Thank you. We came to this region in search of a specific world. In order to avoid encroaching on the Kratt unnecessarily, would you be willing to check your records and advise if - Keelah@crystyl:- course should be adjusted?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni glances over confused for a moment, knowing that Keelah knows full well it's their homeworld we're looking for. Then it dawns on her and she smiles, nodding in admiration at the approach Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Answer: 'Why do you seek a world in our territory?â€™" Keelah@crystyl:"Response: We do not specifically seek a Kratt world, but an individual believed to have once resided on a world in this region" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Answer: 'Few outsiders are allowed in our territory. Who do you seek and why?'" Keelah@crystyl:"Response: "The we seek is known to us as Haats. We seek him because we travel with one who once did a great favour for Haats, and now needs to recall that favour to aid us in defeating the Horde - Keelah@crystyl:- the enemy we just fought here" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Answer: 'Does the Horde seek the same individual?'" Keelah@crystyl:"Response: "We believe so, yes. We suspect that they attacked your territory to find Haats and - quite likely - destroy him as they have done to others like him" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Answer: 'Have your leader arrive at these coordinates on the surface. We will examine them to ensure they are truthful and responsible.'" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Coordinates on the planet surface are attached with the message." Keelah@crystyl:"Response: Accepted. This vessel will approach to within our transporter range. If this is not acceptable, a small craft will be used and it will remain at this position" Keelah@crystyl pre-emptively raises a hand to the imminent objections from Vrolmacht Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Answer: 'Transportation devices are permissible.'" Keelah@crystyl:"Well, they did not object to the ship approaching. Take us into transporter range, then hold position until further notice" she stands, "Vrolmacht, you have the bridge... and don't look at me in - Keelah@crystyl:- tone of voice" she glances back over her shoulder with a slight smirk Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods and takes the bridge as Ann turns the VF around and approaches the planet. Two of the Kratt ships follow, one on either side of them Keelah@crystyl doesn't turn to face her as they move, simply relaying her instructions as she clearly focuses on the task at hand, "Commander Leveson-Scott will look to develop a contingency plan" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "And... you want me to discourage her I take it?" Keelah@crystyl turns with a scowl, "No, I want you to make sure it works!" Keelah@crystyl smiles a little, "You have proven a fruitful working relationship with the Observer. No doubt a benefit to the two of you quite literally thinking alike, but nonetheless you are best suited to - Keelah@crystyl:- coordinate her movements with more expediency than anyone else would be able to. Given that her technology is the most capable of performing any elaborate SFI plan, and equally unknown to our new - Keelah@crystyl:- friends here, I want you to make sure that you are in position to handle anything in accordance with the Commander's plans" she turns and places a hand on her shoulder, "In short Rianni, there is - Keelah@crystyl:- nobody I would rather trust my life to in the circumstances" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles as the turbolift stops and Keelah exits, "I'll make sure we've got your back Captain, we won't let you down!" Keelah@crystyl nods, "I know. And then when I get back; /then/ you can fill in the blanks on that black hole report for me" she smirks slightly as the lift closes on a gawking Rianni --- NPC@annpc#557 | Keelah beams down to a beach on an island, with a very alien-looking structure nearby. Beside her sits a very alien-looking crustacean lifeform... NPC@annpc#557 FX | https://i.imgur.com/hpPrDSG.jpg NPC@annpc#557 | The alien rises to its legs, clicks its claws twice and turns towards the structure Keelah@crystyl looks to her host, opening her mouth to attempt an introduction before pausing and following quietly NPC@annpc#557 | The alien quietly leads the way to the front of the structure, where a number of vehicles are parked. It opens the door to one and gestures for Keelah to enter Keelah@crystyl gives it a curious look as she enters NPC@annpc#557 | The creature follows in, its movement and appearance utterly alien and incomprehensible to Keelah. The door closes behind them, and it offers Keelah something that looks suspiciously like a - NPC@annpc#557 - facehugger... Keelah@crystyl takes it, giving it a dubious look NPC@annpc#557 | The alien taps the strange biological...thing, then points at Keelah's face with a claw Keelah@crystyl surmises that it is some form of biological breathing apparatus and offers it up to her face NPC@annpc#557 | The appendages latch on across her face as she offers it up, and it covers her nose and mouth, but leaves her eyes untouched, allowing her to see unimpaired NPC@annpc#557 | The alien meanwhile turns to the front of the craft, inserting its large claws into two orifices of some description. The craft takes off, diving into the water beyond the island NPC@annpc#557 | As the craft dives, water begins to pour in from vents around it, slowly but surely filling it up... Keelah@crystyl closes her eyes as the water surrounds them, Vulcan discipline driving her to overcome the natural panic reaction and control her breathing while her Vulcan second eyelids help her eyes adjust NPC@annpc#557 | As the water rises above her head, Keelah finds that she is able to breathe perfectly fine with the mask on. There's a smell and taste of salty seawater, but other than that, the thing - NPC@annpc#557 - attached to her face seems to be allowing her to breathe underwater Keelah@crystyl quietly welcomes the accommodations, hoping that she does not end up being the only person to experience this NPC@annpc#557 | The craft travels for a time underwater before it docks with an underwater facility. The doors open to more water, as the facility doesn't seem to come with a different atmosphere within NPC@annpc#557 | The alien steps out, beginning to lead the way once again Keelah@crystyl follows, perhaps a little awkwardly at first as she finds her way to moving in the underwater setting. Maybe even having to completely swim along behind it NPC@annpc#557 | Keelah definitely finds swimming more efficient than walking, though the alien scuttles along the floor with its crustacean legs. As they move through the facility, they pass by a number of - NPC@annpc#557:- the other aliens, minding their own business throughout the facility Keelah@crystyl begins to regret not anticipating the aquatic environment and changing out of her regular uniform NPC@annpc#557 | After a minute of traversing the facility, the alien leads Keelah into a room with a device of clear Progenitor origin, looking almost suspiciously similar to the one used by the Architect on - NPC@annpc#557 - the VF to create bodies for Eva and Lycas NPC@annpc#557 | The alien gestures one of its large claws towards the bed-like extension on the device Keelah@crystyl gives the device a curious look, awaiting her guide's instructions Keelah@crystyl nods and swims over, settling herself into it NPC@annpc#557 | The alien waves and a holographic interface appears near the device. It manipulates the interface with its smaller claws and the bed slides into the machine, which begins to whir Keelah@crystyl quietly hopes it's not about to permanently transform her into a fellow crustacean NPC@annpc#557 | The machine whirs for a good few minutes, and she hears muffled clicking outside. Finally, when the bed retracts, Keelah is not a crustacean and indeed still herself, but there are three more - NPC@annpc#557 - of the crustacean aliens now in the room, looking over a readout of a large holographic brain Keelah@crystyl looks over, equally intrigued by what she presumes is a detailed holoscan of her own brain NPC@annpc#557 | The crustaceans tap away and parts of the brain light up different colours. One of them- presumably the one that led her in, though she can't really tell, moves towards the way they came in - NPC@annpc#557 - and gestures for her to follow with its large claw yet again Keelah@crystyl silently obliges, pushing off from the bed and swimming along behind it once more NPC@annpc#557 | The alien leads her back to the craft, gesturing for her to enter once again Keelah@crystyl climbs in again, now hoping that her brain wasn't offensive to them and she's now been escorted away in shame NPC@annpc#557 | The alien simply follows in, lifting off with the craft. After a short period of travel, they emerge on the surface once again and the water drain away from the craft NPC@annpc#557 | The crustacean turns over to Keelah, tapping its claws on the 'joints' of the thing attached to her face. It plops off and the alien catches it in one of its smaller claws Keelah@crystyl perks a brow as she watches, "Thank you" NPC@annpc#557 | The alien taps at another holographic interface and holographic words form on it: 'That is sufficient. You may depart.' Keelah@crystyl reads it, "I presume further dialogue will follow accordingly" poses it as a statement more than a question as she gets out NPC@annpc#557 | The alien taps again and a short message appears simply stating, 'That is correct.' Keelah@crystyl bows her head once more, "Then thank you for taking care of me here. I will take my leave" she steps back, allowing the vehicle to depart NPC@annpc#557 | The vehicle emerges underwater once again, leaving Keelah alone on the surface Keelah@crystyl taps her combadge, "Se'Lai to Valley Forge; one to beam up" NPC@annpc#557 | Keelah disappears into a transporter beam... --- NPC@annpc#557 FX | Keelah materializes back on the VF's transporter pad... NPC@annpc#557 | Katie looks over, spying the drenched uniform, "Everything alright, Captain?" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah loooks down herself with a sigh, "Appearances to the contrary, yes thank you. At least I... think so. Please inform the bridge I will be there momentarily, after a change" NPC@annpc#557 | Katie nods, "Will do, Captain." NPC@annpc#557 | When Keelah finally arrives at the bridge, she finds the view of starstreaks on the viewscreen instead of the planet as expected Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah pauses briefly at the sight, looking around, "What is our status?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht: "The Kratt just sent us a message affirming that they will lead us to Ha-at. One of their ships immediately broke off and began to exit the system, so I took the liberty of ordering - NPC@annpc#557 - us to follow." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah smiles and nods, taking her seat, "Excellent" Lendaria@crystyl peers over with a puzzled look, "Cap'n... s'tha' seaweed in ya hair?" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah almost flusters, promptly brushing the sides of her still damp hair with her hands Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah: "I don't suppose they communicated anything further?" NPC@annpc#557 | TQ shakes her head, "They're not a talkative people." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah nods, "That's putting it lightly..." Lendaria@crystyl:"So wha' happened down there Cap'n? Must've done somethin' right if they'se takin' us to Ha'at now" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah shrugs, a slightly proud curl to her lips, "Apparently they like my brain" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly: "They...what?" Lendaria@crystyl:"uh..." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah chuckles, turning to Kelly, "They took me down to an underwater city where they performed a detailed neurological scan. It looked like Progenitor technology, similar to that in the genetic- Lendaria@crystyl:- archive actually. It showed them a highly detailed holoscan of what I surmise was my brain, though I have no context as to what exactly it showed them" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly: "And they never explained anything?" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah shakes her head, "Never said a word, only a text message after they returned me to the surface saying that I was allowed to leave and that further dialogue would follow" NPC@annpc#557 | Vrolmacht: "Apparently that further dialogue consisted of no more than 'We will take you there.'" Lendaria@crystyl:"Not gonna lie, I'm-a pretty jealous ya got's t'experience tha', sounds fascinatin'!" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah nods to V and looks to Lennie, "For all we know, Ha'at will be just the same and we'll get even more dialogue with them there" Lendaria@crystyl hrms, "This is one o'them times when I know I don't wanna hear th'odds tha' Vulcan brain's worked out ain't it" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah simply smiles quietly, watching the viewscreen NPC@annpc#557 | Ann taps on her console, "Accordin' to our present course, looks like we're headin' to a system 'bout four days away at this speed." NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly turns back to her console, "That's unusual. The system isn't highlighted as inhabited on the charts we obtained from the Horde's data." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah: "That is no surprise if they live solely in the deep ocean" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly: "But this data indicates there's no habitable planets at all, including ocean worlds." Lendaria@crystyl hrms, "Maybe these folks don't strictly need salt water?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "Or maybe Ha-at ain't one o' their worlds, just where this God o' Death decided to hide the artifact. Would explain why it's not on any Kratt navigational charts." Lendaria@crystyl:"Makes sense" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah: "Well I guess we're in for a bit of a wait, and our hosts don't exactly seem interested in social niceties" NPC@annpc#557 | Kelly: "We still have Ketkolep on board. I'm sure he's got plenty of interesting things to share." Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah nods: "Indeed, let us not waste this opportunity" Lendaria@crystyl:"Wit' tha' in mind, if y'all excuse me I'd-a like t'spend some time wit' our guest" Lendaria@crystyl | Keelah nods and smiles, "By all means" --- NPC@annpc#557 FX | Lennie proceeds down to the guest quarters Ketkolep has been assigned... Lendaria@crystyl chimes the door on arrival NPC@annpc#557 FX | The door slides open. The quarter seems empty, but Ketkoleps' bipedal form manifests out of thin air, sitting cross-legged on the ground NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Hello Commander." Lendaria@crystyl steps in, "Hello Ketkolep. Just thought I'd-a stop by and see how ya settlin' in" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Your ship is quite a work of art compared to many other designs I have seen. I have always preferred constructions with good aesthetic taste, rather than ones built for pure - NPC@annpc#557 - practical purpose." Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "If ya think this's aesthetic, ya should see an Orion ship! But our Forge's a real home, f'sure" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "An Orion ship? Is that a civilization found around here?" Lendaria@crystyl shakes her head, "Nope, tha's mah people! Though we'se got ships out this way like Starfleet has now, an' there's a shared colony 'ere too but they ain't strictly got wha's called 'High Orion' - Lendaria@crystyl:- aesthetics. Guess ya got some curiosity 'bout th'galaxy as it is now, yeah?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "The latest I roamed this galaxy, it was very different. I very much wished to see this galaxy through to the end, but circumstances forced me to utilize too much of my energy." Lendaria@crystyl:"Ya say tha' with such absolution. Won't replenishin' ya energy help change tha'?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Yes. That is why I seek to aid you in finding the thunderbolt. It contains a significant reserve of energy." Lendaria@crystyl:"All th'more reason for us t'find it then! So wha' was th'galaxy like when ya last peeked at it?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "It was...nearly 200,000 of your years ago. Much of the galaxy had been plunged into a dark age following the collapse of the Iconian Empire. Neighbouring worlds that live in peace - NPC@annpc#557 - for generations under the guidance of the Iconians began to turn on one another, and themselves. Almost every region of the galaxy was gripped by at least one violent conflict." Lendaria@crystyl:"Right! We'se learned some about all tha'. Well ya might be interested t'know tha' them Iconians still exist, though very different kinda folks now. But we also recently discovered their Heart o'War- Lendaria@crystyl:- ark, an' it reproduced a genetic clone of an Iconian from tha' era" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "So the Iconians still exist? That is good to hear. I imagine their near-destruction must have changed them significantly." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "They'se had 200,000 years t'grow bitter over wha' they saw as a betrayal by th'folks they looked over or somethin'. Saw it as their place t'take it out on everyone livin' now as revengeâ€ NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "They are no longer friendly to other Children species, I take it?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Oh it's all good now, well sorta. They came back an' waged a bloody war on us all, but we sorted things out an' now they'se not fightin'. They jus' kinda... hide away broodin' or somethin', above - Lendaria@crystyl:- mah paygrade. But I bet Commander Leveson-Scott knows more if ya curious" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Commander Leveson-Scott. I do not think I have spoken with her yet." Lendaria@crystyl:"She's about. Probably doin' some diggin' into our history records t'learn all she can 'bout ya first. Information's kinda her thing an' she don't like it if she ain't all-knowin' in any - Lendaria@crystyl:- conversation" she chuckles NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Information on myself may be quite limited, outside what the natives of the world I had stayed on have learned. Even then, they know me only in the form I am now, and what I shared - NPC@annpc#557:- with them of this galaxy." Lendaria@crystyl:"Course! But she's pretty good at discerin' this stuff an' we've learned t'build an interpretation of a person based on how those around 'em perceive an' record 'em" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "A useful practice to have, though there is only so much a young Children civilization is capable of understanding. Even yours cannot yet comprehend everything I know and have seen." Lendaria@crystyl:"Now tha's one thing I know f'sure. We'se barely begun t'understand th'galaxy around us an' I ain't so inclined t'assume understandin' of ya own knowledge" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "That is the purpose of the Final Judgement- to ensure that you are ready to learn further. There are some things that you are simply not ready to accept. There is a reason you are - NPC@annpc#557:- referred to as Children." Lendaria@crystyl:"I do wanna learn, but I understand tha' someone's gotta be ready t'learn an' capable of understandin' first. But we don't gotta dwell on wha' we wanna learn now! How about wha' interests you 'bout - Lendaria@crystyl:- th'current galaxy?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I have come to understand the basic form of the Children in my time exploring this galaxy, but I expect many more unique attributes have evolved since then. After all, your creators - NPC@annpc#557:- did not design every aspect of your biology, merely seeded you on planets whose local conditions would have also influenced your evolution to sentience." Lendaria@crystyl:"True enough. Even jus' within th'Federation there's many different species wit' distinct attributes!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I would be most interested in hearing of some of these unique attributes, biological and technological. I am always interested in what new things the universe provides in each of - NPC@annpc#557:- its iterations." Lendaria@crystyl hrms, "Well I guess I'm best startin' wit' mah own people - Orions" she strikes a little pose, naturally, "Biologically; green skinned for th'most part like mahself, fairly typical Child physiology- Lendaria@crystyl:- on th'surface. Beneath it, females evolved a strong pheremonal ability wha' can influence th'minds o'most other Children species" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Interesting. Not unlike Dite's creations, but I assume you evolved this naturally?" Lendaria@crystyl nods, "We recently learned there's a possibilty tha' this first evolved as a means o'communication within a matriarchal structure tha' lasts even now. Technologically we don't got much special, - Lendaria@crystyl:- though social development's led our males - who're generally bulkier built than average Children - to engage in augmentation" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Genetic, or cybernetic augmentation?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Cybernetic. Our matriarchal heritage led to an unusual history o'civil conflict. Unlike most who go through such phases where it's religion or politics, our female abilities and social evolution - Lendaria@crystyl:- meant we experienced a generational battle of th'sexes. Every century or two there's a power shift between male an' female dominance. Least tha' how it has been, we'se hopeful this time's differentâ€ NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I can see how such a conflict would repeat so commonly. Neither side can afford to completely eradicate the other, as you are co-dependent for reproduction. The best you can do is - NPC@annpc#557:- subjugation, but subjugation leads to resentment and rebellion, restarting the cycle again. I have witnessed similar occurrences in symbiotic species as well." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "Exactly yeah! Trouble is, few centuries back now durin' a patriarchal phase, our male leadership got heavily caught up wit' a galactic crime organization an' dragged th'whole species down - Lendaria@crystyl:- into it; they took t'profiteerin' off th'slave trade an' used our females t'dominate tha' world. Orion females were highly sought after on account o'their naturally seductive ways, so they'se - Lendaria@crystyl:- flourished. Eventually though, females turned it around an' got back in control; pullin' th'strings o'them same slaver males to position themselves besides powerful leaders of others societies. - Lendaria@crystyl:- Eventually tha' led to another rebellion. Difference now is, tha' criminal element's all but wiped out an' our males n'females're workin' together for th'first time" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "I hope it is the beginning of something new for your people. I have seen many millenia-old confrontations end with cooperation and the reconciling of differences, and it is - NPC@annpc#557:- certainly not too late for the Orions. But you do not speak of this ship as an Orion ship, and there are more species here than your own. Are the Orions a part of this Federation?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Not formally, yet at least. Our conflicts made our society unstable so not viable t'join th'Federation. The dominant criminal element was favoured by th'Klingon Empire for a while but tha's shiftin' - Lendaria@crystyl:- now. As it stands we'se got a newly rebuilt Orion society built around a reborn space exploration service - like Starfleet f'this ship - called th'OSN. Tha's led to th'reunion of our people an' - Lendaria@crystyl:- rebuildin' a proper home. We'se more like allies of th'Federation than members of it, but one day maybe. Th'other Orions you'll see on this ship belong to tha' shared colony I mentioned, they - Lendaria@crystyl:- tagged onto this ship's mission when it first passed by there, so they ain't directly associated at all" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "And what of yourself? You are on this ship as well, and not an Orion ship." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "Yeah, tha's personal circumstance. Long story short; I were alone as a young'un until a Starfleet crew rescued me. They adopted me so growin' up, this's all I knew, an' so I joined t'follow - Lendaria@crystyl:- mah Human momma's example!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "So you were raised by a species who was a part of the Federation. That explains how you have come to hold such a vital position on this vessel. These Humans, what can you tell me of - NPC@annpc#557:- them?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Arguably one of th'least remarkable Child species we know of" she smiles, "But tha's exactly wha' makes 'em so remarkable. Most species we know tend t'develop one strong trait over others. - Lendaria@crystyl:- Humans're th'most balanced I know of. Durin' early galactic interactions tha' made 'em seem less distinct an' unremarkable. But since learnin' of th'Progenitors, I now think tha' Humans could be - Lendaria@crystyl:- th'species to develop most in line wit' them. Especially when ya take into account their one uncanny ability t'overcome adversity an' t'grow an'evolve in reaction t'stuff" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Interesting. Are there many on this vessel?" Lendaria@crystyl nods, "There are, but not as many as most Starfleet ships. See, Starfleet's kinda Humanity's thing. Their homeworld - Earth - is th'recognized home of th'Federation itself now. They'se been - Lendaria@crystyl:- instrumental in bringin' th'first of the conflictin' Alpha quadrant species together. As a result, most Starfleet ships're predominantly Human, maybe a few non-Humans in th'mix. But this ship's - Lendaria@crystyl:- got proportionately more non-Humans than any other I ever saw, especially when ya account all th'new guests we met durin' this journey from species local t'this region" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "That explains the variety of species on board. This ship must make use of a combination of technologies from these species as well, then?" Lendaria@crystyl nods, "Starfleet's normally pretty linear about tha' stuff. But Cap'n Keelah knows when to adapt an' so a lotta tha' different tech's come into useâ€ NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "A good policy. I understand care with technology, as some do not work well with each other, but it is always advantageous to expand and diversify your capabilities. What of any - NPC@annpc#557:- unique technologies you have encountered?" Lendaria@crystyl:"On th'subject o'tha' policy, Starfleet remains strict about sharin' advanced technology wit' species wha' ain't able t'be responsible with it. As for unique... well, from our perspective there's - Lendaria@crystyl:- th'Nuhar. Constructs tha' is, guess ya know them already though, right?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "Yes, they were present when I was still exploring the galaxy. The last I saw of them, they had assumed control of most functions of Nuhar society, and their creators no longer - NPC@annpc#557:- became involved in affairs. Many of them had begun to forget how to maintain and operate their own technology and relied more and more on their creations to sustain them." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "After their creators died out, th'Constructs splintered over time. Some clung to their past purpose an' stubbornly let themselves die rather than incorporate non-Nuhar tech into themselves. - Lendaria@crystyl:- While th'others forged new alliances, lendin' their strength t'Children who repayed 'em wit'service an' materials. We got 'em back together though an' now for th'first time there's brand new - Lendaria@crystyl:- Constructs bein' built!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "It is good that the legacy of the Nuhar still live on within their Constructs. I assume you have encountered many other forms of mechanical life, but the Nuhar are simply the most - NPC@annpc#557:- unique?" Lendaria@crystyl:"From our perspective, yeah. Though if ya want truly unique, we might've brought tha' with us. Girl called Mia on board who's well worth gettin' t'know, especially if ya like unique lifeforms!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Yes, the majority of mechanical lifeforms are either programs with no set bodies which choose to manifest at their creators, or those built into bodies in the image of their - NPC@annpc#557:- creators. Fully-sentient vessels like the Nuhar constructs. I will be sure to seek out and speak to this Mia while I am here." Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "Ya won't regret it! So wha' other species ya met 'ere so far?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I do not expect many of them still exist after the turmoil of the post-Iconian Empire. The Organians were one of the first in your galaxy to achieve ascension. Have you encountered - NPC@annpc#557:- them yet?" Lendaria@crystyl thinks a moment, "Not a species I know mahself, but th'name's familiar. Pretty sure Starfleet's encountered 'em somewhere along th'line" she smiles, "But relax! I meant wha' other species ya met - Lendaria@crystyl:- 'ere an' wanted t'learn more about!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "The species of the one who woke me- Sin. They have considerable power, enough to achieve the same as the Organians once did, as I did in a different universe." Lendaria@crystyl:"Aah yes, the Ocampa! Quite the unusual species by all accounts, an' I ain't even sure they are truly Children. Maybe... Children o'Children, I dunno. They come from th'far corner o'this galaxy, an'- Lendaria@crystyl:- don't even know much 'bout themselves. They're traditionally /very/ short lived even by our standards, an' for th'most part they've just lived simple lives cared for by a non-corporeal entity. - Lendaria@crystyl:- They'se been a sheltered people until tha' entity died of old age. Then a few of 'em started t'venture out wit' passin' starships after gettin' curious an' of them, they started t'learn more - Lendaria@crystyl:- o'their capability like Sin has - even learnin' tha' their lifespans maybe ain't quite as short as they thought too. It's rumoured that they'se at least had one instance of an Ocampa spontaneously- Lendaria@crystyl:- evolvin' to a non-corporeal state o'existence, though they mostly brush off th'idea outta fear o'change" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "And Sin, does she fear this change as well? She seems to embrace her abilities." Lendaria@crystyl:"She certainly did at first. Sin were a... troubled girl at first, but she's come a long way since we meet the Chlasi as they helped 'er embrace an' control her ability" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Her powers are still very raw and unrefined, though she has certainly had some training to unleash the power she did." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "She's generally lackin' discipline across th'board, s'just who she is an' we wouldn't want her any other way! She's also benefitted from experiencin' her power at it's full potential. Well, - Lendaria@crystyl:- maybe not literally /full/ in her case, but yeah" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "How did she manage that?" Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "Actually we all did! Thanks to another unique - non-Children - species we met. We got kinda stranded on this isolated planet. It were surrounded by an energy field tha' turned out t'be a - Lendaria@crystyl:- collection o'livin' entities. No power sources as we know 'em worked down there an' we lived a very long time thinkin' we was gonna be stuck there forever. Even started t'accept it! Thing was, - Lendaria@crystyl:- while tech didn't work, th'touch o'these entities kinda brought out th'potential in Children species so we all lived wit' abilities kinda like Sin's are now" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Almost like a temporary variation of the effect I can give. Interesting." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "Yes, it was a very interestin' experience! Folks seemed t'develop abilities based on their own psychological profile from wha' we can tell. Like th'touch from these entities brought out ya - Lendaria@crystyl:- inner sense o'self or somethin'" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Perhaps I will visit the world and study it for myself. I do not rely on any form of mechanical technology, and should not be affected, assuming the entities allow my presence." Lendaria@crystyl smiles, "Certainly a unique life balance there! Speakin' o' which, I'll get ya details on another unique lifeform ya may wanna visit. Is a planet wha's a single biological lifeform - Primeval - Lendaria@crystyl:- o'course, but this one manifests sentience an' interacts wit' Children. Just as we got biological elements servin' specific functions in our bodies, it has th'same. But th'scale makes it's - Lendaria@crystyl:- equivalent of a white blood cell appear like a Children - insectoid hybrid. It also has a spaceborn lifeform we met stayin' close too. Tha' thing loves company but it's powerful telepathic field - Lendaria@crystyl:-dessimates Children neurology. Sin helped us communicate wit' it usin' one o'ya other creations actually too!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "My mind has long since expanded far beyond its natural limits. I do not anticipate issues communicating with any Primeval lifeforms. Thank you for your recommendations. Once we have - NPC@annpc#557 - found the thunderbolt, I will use the energy I gain to visit these worlds." Lendaria@crystyl:"We'se been searchin' for this restin' place ya mentioned lookin' for after. Some o'these worlds're ranked high on tha' list given th'non-Children dominance there!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkoleps nods, "They sound like appealing options. I will evaluate them for myself when I am able to travel there, and if nothing else, I am certain they will be interesting to visit. Some of - NPC@annpc#557 - the lifeforms there may appreciate the company as well." Lendaria@crystyl:"I think so! We'll keep lookin' for options for ya, but personally I can see those workin' well. So wit' them Olympian Godfolks, how'd ya end up gettin' involved so close as t'become part o'folks - Lendaria@crystyl:- mythology alongside 'em?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "The dark age I mentioned, with the Iconians gone and the Nuhar Constructs and Lupan being pushed back, the Horde advanced further and further, their greatest expansion by far at the - NPC@annpc#557:- time. Many civilizations were consumed, and as the Progenitors kept secret the fact that the Horde was created by their own people, many came to assume that non-Children beings were involved due - NPC@annpc#557:- to our abilities. They feared what they did not understand, and everything from Primeval to trans-universal beings were hunted down throughout this region. One group known as the Resurrectionists - NPC@annpc#557:- rose to power. Their initial goal was to obtain, dissect and reproduce Iconian technology in an attempt to open gateways and find Iconian survivors to bring them back so they may restore order to - NPC@annpc#557:- the galaxy. Over time, their goals became twisted and they sought to take the place of the Iconians to impose order themselves." NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Having no technology to fight the Horde, they instead began to hunt and destroy any non-Children beings of significant power they could find, wrongly assuming that they could find - NPC@annpc#557:- and destroy whatever was controlling the Horde. Using adapted Progenitor and Iconian technologies, they managed to capture and imprison me in a subspace layer." Lendaria@crystyl pouts, "No way? Though I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Almost all species we encounter're kinda xenophobic at first" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I was trapped for many thousands of years. It was these 'Olympian Gods' who stumbled upon me as they roamed through space. They were reluctant to free me at first, as they had - NPC@annpc#557:- committed a grave error not long before while tampering with interdimensional portals. Have you encountered a universe parallel to your own, but almost the stark opposite in the choices made by - NPC@annpc#557:- its inhabitants?" Lendaria@crystyl nods, "Yes, many in fact. But there is one in particular which seems to be more perpetually connected to this universe than any other. It is fondly dubbed 'the mirror universe' now" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "The Olympians encountered something similar. I do not know if it is the same mirror universe you know now but long ago in the past, or another universe with beings that simply - NPC@annpc#557:- mirrored their existence. As you are aware, the Olympians gain power from positive neural energy- admiration, respect, worship." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "Yeah, Starfleet learned about their physiology evolvin' some unusual gland wha' made tha' kinda essential to 'em" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "In that universe, they gained power from negative neural energy- pain, fear, suffering. They developed into an exceptionally cruel civilization known simply as the Tyrants, who - NPC@annpc#557:- dominated entire civilizations. The Tyrants were a blight that rivaled the Horde, perhaps even surpassed it. Where the Horde commit atrocities only where it benefits their efficiency, the Tyrants - NPC@annpc#557:- committed atrocities for the sake of it. And the Olympians accidentally opened a pathway for them to cross into your universe." Lendaria@crystyl:"Huh... surprised more o'tha' didn't last into mythological history" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Your mythology, does it speak of any wars the Olympians faced against beings of similar power to themselves?" Lendaria@crystyl:"I'd-a have t'check but... I remember Mischa sayin' somethin' bout Titans I think?" Lendaria@crystyl:"Think they was meant t'be like the Olympians predecessors or parents or somethin'. Afraid Orion society don't really follow tha' mythology in favour of our own, so don't know so much" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "It is possible these Titans were an interpretation of the Tyrants, yes. These Tyrants were why I created the artifacts for them. Their reluctance to free me was understandable after - NPC@annpc#557:- their experience with the Tyrants, but the war with the Tyrants were still ongoing, and the Olympians were losing. It is far easier and quicker to cause pain and suffering than to build respect - NPC@annpc#557:- and admiration, and thus the Tyrants amassed power more swiftly than their counterparts here. The Tyrants found my prison not long after the Olympians and both sides sought my favour. I sided - NPC@annpc#557:- with the Olympians, forging them the artifacts, sacrificing my own power in exchange for my release. With what little energies I had left, I made my way to the world you found me on." Lendaria@crystyl seems saddened, "This galaxy ain't exactly been welcomin' to ya has it. I'm-a sorry f'tha'" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "You do not need to apologize. It is the nature of many sentient beings to fear that which they did not understand, and it is not solely your galaxy. I have encountered many similar - NPC@annpc#557:- things in past universes, including my own, and other galaxies in this universe. I would have remained in Andromeda and regained my power sooner, but the Children of that galaxy were even more - NPC@annpc#557:- hostile than the ones I have encountered here." Lendaria@crystyl:"So you hail from Andromeda? But... wait, Children there too? As in more from th'Progenitors, or...?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "No, the Children there were very different- closer to my original form. They were not created by the Progenitors, but like you, they walk a similar path. We do not use Children solely - NPC@annpc#557:- for species seeded by the Progenitors you know here. It is a broader classification, like starship. They can be of vastly different designs and compositions and use different technologies to - NPC@annpc#557:- travel among the stars, but all things that serve the same function are classified as a starship, no matter who created them or how they are shaped." Lendaria@crystyl:"So you speak of Children as any species tha' was artificially initiated by another sentient species?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Not necessarily, as the Lupan are not Children, not merely because they are resistant to the Horde. The Children of Andromeda would also lack the backdoor used by the Horde, but - NPC@annpc#557:- they are still Children. The use of Children among us trans-universal beings has quite a different definition. It is essentially a different meaning of the same word. To the inhabitants of your - NPC@annpc#557:- galaxy, the term Children refers exclusively to Progenitor seeded species. To us, Children refer to beings who are still young and do not yet understand the ways of the universe, but have the - NPC@annpc#557:- potential to comprehend these revelations with time and ascend." Lendaria@crystyl nods, "I get it" and smiles, "Well, at least we'se got potential!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep smiles back, "Yes. One day, you or your descendants could become what I am now, and that is why you are classified as Children to us." Lendaria@crystyl:"We've already learned so much in th'last few years since startin' this mission. It feels like we come a long way in a short time, but we know we barely started t'comprehend everythin'. Like th'whole Lendaria@crystyl:- mycelial network an' it's rootin's here through th'world trees an' all" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "You have come a long way indeed, otherwise you would not have come so far for the Final Judgement. Many have tried and failed before you." Lendaria@crystyl:"Not as inspirin' as ya might think" she chuckles. "But we won't let tha' stop us! We'se jus' tryin' a stop th'Horde is all" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "From all I have seen, I believe you have a good chance at doing so. It is not certain of course; as I said to your Captain, the events of your universe are not predetermined and - NPC@annpc#557:- affected by your choices. You must still put in the effort to win, but I see that you have capability to do so should you make the right choices." Lendaria@crystyl:"We intend to. Put th'effort in I mean, not presumin' t'win" she chuckles NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep smiles, "Good. I cannot speak more of the trial, but I wish you luck in your efforts after we locate the thunderbolt." Lendaria@crystyl:"Trails or not, we all really appreciate ya efforts jus' comin' along t'help! S'why we wanna help ya in return by findin' ya a nice place t'call home after!" she beams NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "And I appreciate all your people are doing to aid me despite this time of difficulty. Thank you." --- Keliaya@anncaris | The door slides open as Mischa is doing her research, and Kelly stands on the other side, dressed in one of her casual outfits Keliaya@anncaris:"Not interrupting anything, am I?" Mischa@crystyl looks up, "Kelly! Not at all. Did I miss a memo about dress down day?" Keliaya@anncaris chuckles, stepping inside, "No, I'm just off-duty. I'm not here for any official purpose, so I wanted to make sure you're not too busy." Mischa@crystyl smiles, leaning back, "Not at all. Just doing some research as usual, at least as much as I can with your computers" Keliaya@anncaris smirks, taking a seat, "Our database not detailed enough for you? Sorry." Mischa@crystyl:"Oh it's not your fault Command doesn't like it's officers to know everything" she grins Keliaya@anncaris grins back, "I've got something you don't have yet, though. Something you'd no doubt want to add to your much more complete Intelligence database so it stays more complete." Mischa@crystyl chuckles, "Teasing now?" Keliaya@anncaris holds up a PADD, "A detailed analysis of the ship we're following," she sets the PADD down on her lap, "But I'm not offering up this information for free," she smiles Mischa@crystyl:"Alright, I'll play. What are you angling for?" Keliaya@anncaris:"Other than getting you to relax from your work a little more? Well, Rianni mentioned something curious..." Mischa@crystyl hrms, "Did she now..." Keliaya@anncaris:"Something about you encountering the Enterprise out here..." Mischa@crystyl sighs, "Of course she let the Kirk out of the bag..." Keliaya@anncaris:"So you really /did/ run into Kirk's Enterprise?" Mischa@crystyl:"Yes and no. It was a version of that Enterprise, but not the exact one from our history" Keliaya@anncaris:"So this wasn't our Kirk, but one from an alternate reality?" Mischa@crystyl:"Exactly, yes. And for the record, it is not classified information either. I simply chose to emit certain specifics from our official records for the benefit of our own mission" Keliaya@anncaris narrows her eyes, "Why is that? Did you learn something that would be detrimental to our mission here?" Mischa@crystyl:"In my personal opinion, the risk was sufficient to warrant the neglect" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I won't pry into too much detail, then. But I can't promise Keelah won't pressure you. She was on the bridge too." Mischa@crystyl:"Of course she was... well you are as close to her as anyone, so it may be beneficial for you to be in the loop now as my concern was centred around her" Keliaya@anncaris:"Oh? Why's that?" Mischa@crystyl:"I made light of it with Rianni because I suspected that she would spill. But I did not want Keelah to start seeing parallels between herself and Kirk" Keliaya@anncaris:"Parallels? The Enterprise wasn't just out here, they were also fighting the Horde, weren't they?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "Yes, it was actually uncanny that given the temporal variance they were in an almost directly parallel position to the Valley Forge now. Suspiciously so in fact" Keliaya@anncaris:"Why do I have a feeling it has something to do with all this being Q's 'Final Judgement' as Ketkolep put it..." Mischa@crystyl:"I would not be surprised to learn this is all connected. But my concern for Keelah is more personal from this situation" Keliaya@anncaris:"You think she might grow...overconfident and make mistakes?" Mischa@crystyl:"Not exactly. We both know how close she is to her emotions, even by Human standards she wears her heart on her sleeve most of the time. Since this mission started I have seen a noticeable increase - Mischa@crystyl:- in her efforts to control that side of herself and keep her emotions in check. The current situation is more tense than ever, and she may be on an emotional precipice. I do not believe she is so - Mischa@crystyl:- vain as to grow overconfident; quite the contrary in fact. I fear that the legendary Kirk parallel will put additional pressure on her both in herself and from those around her. That can lead to - Mischa@crystyl:- a lack of confidence and conviction that has been integral to her command style. I know this may be hard for you of all people to hear and I am sorry for saying it, but there is every chance that - Mischa@crystyl:- Eva's involvement with the Architect may be hitting Keelah harder than anyone" Keliaya@anncaris nods slowly, "I think she blames herself for it, at least partly. You always have a feeling like that when something happens to a crewmember who works under you, but I'm pretty sure she feels - Keliaya@anncaris:- more directly responsible for letting the Architect use the Trident and carry out his plan." Mischa@crystyl:"That is a factor, but there is more to it with Keelah. I don't know if she ever talked with you about it or not, and I don't like sharing details personal to others but the situation requires your - Mischa@crystyl:- understanding. Tell me, what do you know of her encounter with the Senn?" Keliaya@anncaris:"I was with her when they attacked the ship and killed the bridge officers, and when they took Sam captive." Mischa@crystyl:"Then you understand. Good. You will know then that having her bridge crew executed in front of her very nearly broke Keelah, so having Eva's life threatened now is just a constant reminder of what - Mischa@crystyl:- she perceives as a personal failing, one which very nearly saw her resign her commission from Starfleet altogether" Keliaya@anncaris:"And you think having to live up to Kirk's reputation on top of that might be too much pressure for her to take at once..." Mischa@crystyl nods, "It's not that I doubt her ability to handle the situation, I just wanted to spare her the additional emotional pressure at such a critical time" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I understand. So this Kirk you met...was he still very much our Kirk in his command style and personality, or was he very different as a person?" Mischa@crystyl:"Well it's not like I knew our version to compare, but..." she smirks a little, "...he certainly fit all we know" Keliaya@anncaris:"Based on what we know from the personnel files and mission reports and all that. If he was still more or less the same person...I can see why it'd be a lot of pressure to live up to him if he was - Keliaya@anncaris:- doing the same thing in a different reality." Mischa@crystyl nods, "From what we learned, the initial venture which led their first 5 year mission was diverted. It led them to venture out this way instead and they encountered signs of the Horde as you did. - Mischa@crystyl:- From there, the Valley Forge and Enterprise walked almost identical paths. Right up to them standing off against the Architect at the Heart of War" Keliaya@anncaris:"And the rest of the crew are more or less the same as our Enterprise at the time?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "Yes they were all there" Keliaya@anncaris:"What about the ship itself? I imagine they received refits over the journey like we did. We were having trouble with the Nuhar and Lupan even with modern technology, let alone what they had over a - Keliaya@anncaris:- century ago." Mischa@crystyl chuckles, "I should have known that was your real interest. There are more parallels there, yes. Perhaps not the specific upgrades, but the fact that they have adapted and incorporated local - Mischa@crystyl:- technology like Nuhar AP weapons" Keliaya@anncaris grins, "Wish I was there to see it. Getting to see an original Constitution-class in its prime is already quite something, and implementing local technology on top of that, must've been one - Keliaya@anncaris:- impressive ship!" Mischa@crystyl smiles, "It is certainly a trip I will not forget. I am sorry if you - or anyone else - feels deceived, but hopefully you understand why I ordered the silence" Keliaya@anncaris smiles back, "Nothing to worry, Mischa." She hands over the PADD, "Here you go, our analysis of the Kratt ship. As impressive as that living hull is, it doesn't block sensor scans." Mischa@crystyl tucks it away without a glance, "The sensors can give me schematics. Nobody on board knows ships like you, so what can you tell about it - and them - from this?" Keliaya@anncaris:"Well, a combination of biotechnology and mechanical components are far from unheard of, Starfleet uses neural gel packs and the like ourselves, but it's rare to see such an extensive use of it. - Keliaya@anncaris:- They're not bioships, as in the ships themselves aren't alive in any way. They're definitely a ship at their core, completely controlled by its crew with no sign of self-awareness or ability to - Keliaya@anncaris:- make independent decisions. I'm guessing they don't have any special connection to other life that makes them particularly adept at using biotech, like the Undine and their telepathy." Keliaya@anncaris:"What it tells us about them, well, I've only seen this level of combined organic and mechanical components in two other kinds of ships- Dominion and Elachi. Both have practices of questionable - Keliaya@anncaris:- morality when it comes to tampering with other beings, and I don't just mean genetic engineering. My people practiced genetic engineering, but only to make minor enhancements to attributes we - Keliaya@anncaris:- already have. Correcting a few evolutionary inefficiencies, getting rid of genetic disorders and the like. Strictly speaking the Denobulan species as you know us now is a product of genetic - Keliaya@anncaris:- engineering, but it's far from what you see with the Jem'Hadar and Vorta. To create what's essentially a new species incorporating attributes you find from others, well, I'm not a doctor but it's - Keliaya@anncaris:- bound to have caused plenty of very horrific mistakes. Especially knowing what we know about the Founders' views of other forms of life." Keliaya@anncaris:"Anyways, the point is, the only people we know of who use this level of biotechnology without implementing full living bioships have shown a callous attitude towards life. I don't think that's a - Keliaya@anncaris:- coincidence. I'm pretty sure technology like this can't be developed ethically." Mischa@crystyl:"That would certainly be a consistent ethic with a species so isolationist as these guys" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I think Itadow's right about the Horde comparison as well. They're not malicious like the Horde, but they're very efficient. Plenty of civilizations develop one type of technology to the - Keliaya@anncaris:- extreme, sometimes even to the detriment of other developments. Forged Earth transporters, Tholian tractor beams, Hierarchy surveillance technology, and so on. Once a civilization finds a - Keliaya@anncaris:- specialty, they often capitalize on it so they have at least one area that's a distinct advantage over others. The Kratt don't seem to be like that. Yes, their biotech is advanced, but it's on - Keliaya@anncaris:- the same level as their mechanical technology, while Federation biotech is a little lower than our mechanical technology by comparison. And even though they have advanced biotech, they don't - Keliaya@anncaris:- implement it everywhere in an attempt to show off or take advantage of the fact that the technology might be less familiar to others. They only implement it in places where it genuinely provides - Keliaya@anncaris:- improved performance over a similar mechanical component, like hulls that can grow back. Their efficiency is more like Horde or Borg than anything else." Mischa@crystyl hrms, "Intriguing cultural insights, and I am inclined to agree with your assessments thus far. Kelly, you might be wasted down in that engine room" she smiles Keliaya@anncaris grins, "Thinking to recruit me to Intelligence now? /Has/ anyone actually transferred to Intelligence partway through their careers, or are you all recruited out of the Academy?" Keliaya@anncaris:"I don't know anyone who has, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. After all, I don't know everyone in Starfleet." Mischa@crystyl:"It has been known for officers to move both ways, especially since the Chief initiated this new regime of working openly alongside SFC. Though such officers tend to function in more traditional - Mischa@crystyl:- roles still. Field operatives like T'Lana and myself almost exclusively have to be recruited at such a young age given the amount of training time required" Keliaya@anncaris:"But some of the operational personnel on your ships like the engineers and doctors are just engineers and doctors from non-Intelligence postings who transferred over?" Mischa@crystyl nods, "Oh definitely, yes" Keliaya@anncaris:"Never knew much about how you operate, even when I was working with you on the Gainsborough, though you served a more traditional Command role there. I'm guessing you normally prefer others not to - Keliaya@anncaris:- know too much, don't you," she smirks Mischa@crystyl smiles, "It makes things simpler for me. But keep in mind that was my function on the Gainsborough; I was always SFI, but there I was also XO. Just another example of cross-function postings in - Mischa@crystyl:- this new regime" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "The Command positions of ships like the Latenter, are they always dedicated Intelligence officers like yourself with command experience?" Mischa@crystyl:"I believe so for the most part. There may be transfers commanding vessels in more traditional roles. But the Latenter is built to serve a very specific intelligence function. Given the nature of - Mischa@crystyl:- potential operations for a ship of her class, I can't imagine many circumstance where an officer - regardless of rank - would carry sufficient clearance to be posted, let alone given command" Keliaya@anncaris:"I'm not even familiar with the class, and I imagine most engineers'll have to take a lot of time just learning the design and systems." Mischa@crystyl:"That's true. But there is a little more to it than simply the technology. Ships like the Latenter inevitably draw operations which require walking a very fine line. Ultimately, most officers who - Mischa@crystyl:- spend long enough to become a part of the SFC family invariably develop that mentality. It works for missions like this and the Valley Forge, but can often leave officers torn and indecisive - Mischa@crystyl:- because of the differences in how we have to work on such missions" Keliaya@anncaris:"I hadn't considered that. Your missions aren't exactly standard ones that most officers are trained for, are they?" Mischa@crystyl:"Don't get me wrong, it's not all as people like to imagine about us - being more akin to myths of shady organizations and such. But it certainly has the potential to go beyond the average of your - Mischa@crystyl:- typical SFC ship" Keliaya@anncaris smirks, "I'm guessing the details of most of those are classified, though." Mischa@crystyl:"Very much so, I'm afraid. But you can get the idea from the Latenter's current mission" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I think I do. Anyways, I won't take up more of your time, unless you plan to wrap up and relax for the rest of the day. Won't say no to getting a drink at the lounge together!" Mischa@crystyl:"I can go for that" she smiles Keliaya@anncaris smiles and stands, "Come on, then!" --- NPC@annpc#557 FX | The doorbell to Sin's quarters sounds Sin@crystyl:"Come in" NPC@annpc#557 | The door slides open and Ketkolep's bipedal form steps in, "Hello Sin." Sin@crystyl looks over, "Ketkolep? Damn, didn't expect you to be making house calls! What's up?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I was speaking to Commander Lendaria of the creation of the weapon you seek earlier. These weapons were designed specifically for their wielders and the conflict they found - NPC@annpc#557 - themselves in at the time. If I am to create one for you, it would be beneficial for me to learn more about you and what you are facing." Sin@crystyl:"You mean for us collectively right? Or Keelah, or Vrolmacht, or that snooty Human Commander from the spy ship? You know, someone responsible and respectable. Well... Keelah or Vrolmacht maybe then" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep takes a seat opposite Sin, "I mean you specifically. I could craft something for them, but it would not be as potent as what you are capable of wielding." Sin@crystyl:"Why did I know you were going to say that..." NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Because you are no doubt aware that you have the strongest power here." Sin@crystyl:"I have long been aware of that. I know I am the best candidate to wield one of your creations. The truth is, I've been preparing myself for it for a very long time now; ever since I chose to actually - Sin@crystyl:- try and be a part of this crew in fact" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "And why did you choose to be a part of this crew?" Sin@crystyl:"I was shown a vision of the fate which awaited the galaxy, and one of my potential to make a difference to it" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "What does the fate of the galaxy matter to you? The Commander told me what she knew of your species. You are short-lived even compared to the others on this ship. You could have - NPC@annpc#557:- lived and died on the other side of the galaxy long before the Horde spread that far." Sin@crystyl:"But then my life would have been meaningless. It might be short, but that's all the more reason I have to make the most of it!" she retorts, a little defensively NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "You wish to leave behind a legacy. That I can understand. But what brought you so far from your home? You do not originate in this part of the galaxy." Sin@crystyl:"No, that was just business" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Business?" Sin@crystyl:"Yeah, I was a mercenary see. I got hired to take out Captain Vix from the QanwI', this mission departing with that ship was my chance. Nobody ever suspects Ocampa because the Federation see us as - Sin@crystyl:- their cute little pets or whatever, so it was easy for me to slip on board along with the crew swapout. I kept failing to find a chance to get my target and, well, long enough went by that I saw - Sin@crystyl:- enough I decided I couldn't ignore it" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I see. Why did you become a mercenary in the first place?" Sin@crystyl shrugs, "I wanted to get away from my people, make the most of life and all. I didn't agree with their defeatist attitude towards life. Guess I was young and angry" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Was? How would you describe yourself now?" Sin@crystyl scoffs, "I don't, old and bitter?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I have met many far older and more bitter than you are." Sin@crystyl:"Yeah, pretty much everyone on board is older than me. Except T'Pia maybe, but she's got her mother's infuriating chirpiness too. I guess I'm not really bitter, I don't really know what I am..." NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "You are shedding your old self, but not yet sure what you are transforming into." Sin@crystyl:"In more ways than one perhaps. I assume Lennie told you all about the rumours of Ocampan ascension?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "Yes, she spoke of that." Sin@crystyl:"So you get it then. I don't know if it's true, or what it means if it is. But every indication is that the more I embrace my abilities, the more I invite whatever it is to come" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I know much about it. I underwent the same process once, in my own universe." Sin@crystyl leans in, "Wait... you...? You mean to say you were like me before?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "Not precisely like you. My physical form was very different, but I too began restrained to a physical form." Sin@crystyl:"Did you evolve in a similar manner as well, with telekinetic powers and such growing in strength until your body could no longer contain them?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Very much so, though successful ascension depends on mental discipline as much as physical power. Those who could not contain their power but did not hone their minds to be able to - NPC@annpc#557:- master existence as a being of energy either self-destructed or became unstable and dangerous entities." Sin@crystyl:"Like the witch..." NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "I assume that is one such entity you have encountered?" Sin@crystyl nods, "She's annoyingly enigmatic. And worse, she keeps eluding to some connection between us" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Interesting. But you do not know who she is?" Sin@crystyl shakes her head, "No, just a bunch of theories" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Very curious indeed. I am not here about this witch though. I believe I understand what position you find yourself in. Now tell me more of what you face. I am familiar with the - NPC@annpc#557:- Horde, but these Horde are different. Directed by intent rather than instinct." Sin@crystyl nods, "That was a recent change following the Architect's betrayal" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "The Architect, tell me more of him and his betrayal." Sin@crystyl:"We first discovered him in what was called the Lupan's Holy City. It turned out to be a Progenitor facility of sorts and they were attempting to revive him from within based on their religion which - Sin@crystyl:- had formed around misinterpretation of a fractured recording. Still, he was recovered and resided on board this ship. He saved a number of the crew from beyond death, and was instrumental in - Sin@crystyl:- helping fight back the Horde, proving himself a valued ally. Then we found the Heart of War and I was supposed to use Poseidon's Trident alongside him and Eva to activate the Iconians 'final Horde- Sin@crystyl:- weapon' and end them. But then he turned on us and possessed Eva" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Eva, that is one of your crew, I assume?" Sin@crystyl:"Sorry, yeah. She's an officer from the bridge" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "So the Architect controls her now? What happened to the body he possessed before?" Sin@crystyl:"I destroyed it" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Do you seek to destroy Eva's body as well, or defeat the Architect by other means?" Sin@crystyl shakes her head, "We have to save Eva" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Does her consciousness still exist in the body, or backed up elsewhere?" Sin@crystyl:"She is still within her body. She is fighting back against the Architect, helping us from within his own mind. She and Kelly share a unique connection which allows Eva to share visions with Kelly. - Sin@crystyl:- Since the Architect is connected to the Horde, she is able to show us things she wants us to see through the eyes of thralls. That is actually how we got set on the trail that led us to you as she- Sin@crystyl:- led us to learn that the Architect was hunting for your thunderbolt weapon" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "A very useful connection to have. Do you have a plan for removing the Architect from Eva's body?" Sin@crystyl shakes her head again, "I don't know enough about the process to begin with. My first thought is for me to try and force his mind out, but I know that could be dangerous for Eva. The others have - Sin@crystyl:-debated theories about temporarily killing her body, or driving it to the point where it seems to be about to die so that he will leave of his own accord again. Then trying somehow to influence - Sin@crystyl:- where he goes so he can be trapped" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "A sensible plan. I should not comment further, as the Continuum will not be pleased if I tell you how best to succeed in the Judgement. I will create an artifact to enhance - NPC@annpc#557:- your abilities so you may face the Architect, not solve the entire situation for you. What do you use your power most often for?" Sin@crystyl:"Telekenesis is my most honed ability; manipulation of the physical world, and at a subatomic level when I really focus; like how I awakened you" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Do you believe a weapon like the thunderbolt will be more useful in your struggle against the Architect and the Horde, or something that enhances your natural capabilities?" Sin@crystyl:"I... don't know. I mean, we know from the Guardians that the thunderbolt was able to help one man stand against an entire fleet of ships. But if it's focus is physical damage then it would do - Sin@crystyl:- little to fight the Architect's mind out of Eva. But then, I don't even know what my own abilities can do to achieve that either" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "You may be the most powerful in terms of your abilities, but the Final Judgement is not for you alone. Work with your allies, rely on them and not solely your own strength. But I - NPC@annpc#557:- will create you something to enhance your own power, should you need it when the time comes." Sin@crystyl:"I won't let your efforts go to waste" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Thank you. But first, we must locate the thunderbolt. Know that you are not alone in this journey you embark on, Sin. It is a path that many have walked, and that many will walk - NPC@annpc#557:- after you. You seek to leave behind a legacy, and in this manner you shall do so, not only for yourself, but your galaxy and your universe, as I hold part of the legacy of mine." Sin@crystyl:"And you have now become a part of our legacy. I am curious; you speak of not wanting to cross the Continuum and their plans, yet you chose to aid us still?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "This is not the first Final Judgement I have witnessed. I have seen many, in other galaxies and other universes. They are far from identical, but I am familiar enough with them that - NPC@annpc#557:- I know how much I am permitted to aid you." Sin@crystyl:"So what, you're the perpetual ally of Children everywhere while the Continuum are like strict parents not letting them grow up unless they meet unrealistic demands? You sound more like the Human's - Sin@crystyl:- comical 'father christmas'" she laughs NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Not quite. I do not always become embroiled in such affairs as I am now. When I created these artifacts, I did not know the Horde would seek them. Now that I have unwittingly become - NPC@annpc#557:- involved, I provide what aid I can, to at least ensure that my creations do not cause you to fail. A more accurate comparison would perhaps be the organization this vessel belongs to and an - NPC@annpc#557:- independent scientist." NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "The Continuum is like your Starfleet for trans-universal beings. The parallels are far from exact, however, but they do more than simply study the universes. I on the other hand - NPC@annpc#557:- observe the universes as they pass, studying all I see for the sake of learning and no greater purpose. Like your scientists go to different worlds, I study different galaxies and universes and - NPC@annpc#557:- what arises and occurs there. Sometimes, the scientist may find themself set upon by predators and other dangers of the world, other times, their studies may unintentionally affect the - NPC@annpc#557:- environment. When the latter occurs, would you not attempt to undo what was done, or at least mitigate the effects?" Sin@crystyl:"Yes, that is a very important thing to people here too. So... multiple galaxies I can fathom, but multiple universes? How many of those have you seen?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Including my own, five, though I only came into existence near the end of that one. I am far from the oldest of my kind." Sin@crystyl:"There are others like you still out there then?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Many, not including those among us who have been recruited by the Continuum." Sin@crystyl:"Recruited you say? Interesting... the witch I spoke of before also claimed to be an agent of theirs" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "The Continuum possess the power to create more of their own, analogous to your reproduction, but they also recruit those who have ascended. Though they typically only take in those - NPC@annpc#557:- with most promise, it is not unheard of for them to take in particularly dangerous ascended to control them and attempt to guide them down the right path. Perhaps your witch is one of those." Sin@crystyl:"They can reproduce? Well that's weird..." NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "It is something you cannot yet comprehend fully. Reproduction is merely the closest analogy to what you know from your existence." Sin@crystyl:"Oh I can imagine. It's just that Starfleet has records on an encounter where they enlisted a Human in recent years in order to attempt such reproduction. They were apparently dissuaded and - Sin@crystyl:- encouraged to sort it out themselves, which was successful apparently. But still odd that they would have to seek that assistance if the capacity was always there" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "They usually prefer to recruit new ascended for the different ideas and perspectives they bring to the Continuum. Failing that, they may attempt to create the equivalent of a new - NPC@annpc#557:- ascended through a particularly promising candidate if there is a need for a new member. They have the capability to sort it out themselves, as you put it, but it is an action they only take as - NPC@annpc#557:- a last resort, to my understanding. It is for a similar reason biological species do not reproduce with those who have immediate genetic connections to themselves. While it can be done in - NPC@annpc#557:- times of crisis to increase the population, it does not add anything to the diversity of the gene pool. Not a perfect analogy of course as we beings of energy have no genetics, but - NPC@annpc#557:- I believe those are terms you best comprehend." Sin@crystyl nods, "That does make a certain amount of sense" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep: "Simply because we have ascended does not mean we cease development. Just as I seek to continue to learn, the Continuum also seeks to continue to evolve." Sin@crystyl:"So that's why they push Children through these 'judgements' of theirs. It's all just one big galactic mating dance where they play the female and choose the strongest male to mate with. Neat!" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketkolep nods, "That is also an adequate analogy, though it does not grasp the full complexity of the situation." Sin@crystyl beams, "I like to keep things simple"