When the Valley Forge tries to take the Horde's advanced stealth ship back to the Coalition, they trigger a trap set by the Architect, leaving a skeleton crew headed by Rianni stranded in the middle of a dangerous region with a precarious fuel supply.
Keliaya@anncaris FX | Six days have passed on the search for the missing stealth ship. The crew works away on the bridge as they continue the SAR... Keliaya@anncaris | As they cruise through the unexplored sector, Lennie's sensors pick up some nearby debris on the edge of a system Keelah@crystyl | Lennie snaps into focus, "Cap'n, got somethin' on long range sensors. Looks like debris o'some kind" Keelah@crystyl slowly turns, "Are you able to identify it?" Keelah@crystyl | Lennie shakes her head, "Gotta get into closer range" Keelah@crystyl nods, "Adjust course and increase speed to compensate" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher nods, "Aye Captain." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht, "If we are seeing it from this range, it can't be the stealth ship, the hull composition should not make it so visible." Keliaya@anncaris nods, "True, but if the hull's broken...debris is debris." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie: "'less it's interior. Tha' ain't got no fancy hull platin'" Keelah@crystyl:"Whatever the case, we must make certain" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "We should be coming into close sensor range in two minutes." Keelah@crystyl | Lennie nods, studying her readouts closely Keliaya@anncaris | As the VF closes into range, sensors can see that the debris belongs to two separate ships, one smaller and one larger. Neither fits the composition of the stealth ship, fortunately Keelah@crystyl breathes a small sigh of relief as Lennie confirms this, "What can we tell about them, while we are here? Any information may turn out to be prudent" Keliaya@anncaris taps her console, "This happened fairly recently, within the last few days. I think there was a single warp core containment breach...from the larger ship, it seems. Must've caught the smaller - Keliaya@anncaris:- one as well, probably caused a chain reaction, but the signs of the smaller breach most likely both dissipated over time or merged with signs of the larger breach, so we can't see it." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "There are signs of weapon damage on multiple hull fragments. Disruptor energy weaponry." Keelah@crystyl:"Alright. Gather your sensor data, then we will move on. We must return to our flight plan in order to make the next rendezvous" Keliaya@anncaris | After a short while, sensors gather up all available data on the debris field! Keelah@crystyl Lennie: "Tha's it, not gonna get anythin' more 'ere" Keelah@crystyl:"Very well. Mr. Fisher, get us back on schedule" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher nods, "Taking us back now." Keelah@crystyl turns to the others, "Continue analysis from the debris in the meantime" Keliaya@anncaris:"I'm reconstructing the debris as best as I can from what's left. Can't say for sure what the two ships were, but it's looking like a smaller escort for a larger vessel. Hull composition doesn't - Keliaya@anncaris:- match anything in the database perfectly, but the materials used are commonly found in starships, enough that just about anyone could've built these vessels." Keelah@crystyl:"Anything from the weapon signatures?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht taps his console, "The damage suggests energy bolts, powerful enough for ship-to-ship combat but not exceptionally high energy. Let me cross-reference with Kelly's reconstruction..." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "As I suspected. Dispersal pattern indicates coordinated attack by multiple smaller craft, raider-sized or likely even lower." Keelah@crystyl:"So, likely raider activity in the region targeting transports and the like?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "I believe so, Captain." Keelah@crystyl:"Then we must stay alert and get warning to the other search groups at the next comm window" Keliaya@anncaris:"Hopefully the stealth ship hasn't run into any trouble with them already. Their cloak should protect them from your common pirates, but it's going to cost them power..." Keelah@crystyl:"We have no reason to believe otherwise" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "We're back on course now. Time to next rendezvous is two hours and twenty-four minutes." Keelah@crystyl nods, quietly contemplating --- NPC@annpc#557 | Three days after their encounter with the Lupan and freighter, the Aethon crew gather in the mess hall, their best stand-in for lack of a dedicated conference room on the small vessel NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal: "We are approaching the optimal deviation point to head towards Yatiko Colony in approximately one hour." Rianni@crystyl:"Where are we on the buoy?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "The buoy's all ready to deploy. I ran a test an' everythin's lookin' good. If the Valley Forge passes by, they'll get the message an' know where we've gone. If they don't pass by, we'll - NPC@annpc#557 - be comin' back to pick it up so we'll run into 'em when we're back on course." Rianni@crystyl:'smiles, "I knew you could do it! What about encryption though, are we able to secure the information on the buoy?" NPC@annpc#557 | Togu: "As much as I'm able. I'm no intelligence officer, but your average pirate or trader shouldn't be able to access the information." Rianni@crystyl:"And what about our own people identifying it? It's not exactly a Starfleet issue buoy after all. Seeing it is one thing, but they need to know it's ours too" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "I've worked in a standard ping on Starfleet frequencies. Others might see it too, but the buoy itself isn't very valuable an' if they can't decipher the info, they'll probably leave it - NPC@annpc#557 - alone. Someone /might/ blow it up just for the fun o' it but hopefully nobody's tha' bored out here." Rianni@crystyl:"There is little we can do to counter such eventualities. We must simply take every reasonable measure in confidence that it will be enough. So, a recognizable Starfleet comm ping with coordinates - Rianni@crystyl:- of the colony?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann nods, "Want anythinâ€™ else on there, Cap'n?" Rianni@crystyl:"I think this is one of those situations where less is more" Rianni@crystyl | Emma: "True, but every letter needs a signature" Rianni@crystyl turns, "What do you mean?" Rianni@crystyl | Emma reaches over and plucks the combadge from Rianni's tunic, turning it over to show the service number NPC@annpc#557 | Ann smiles, "Good thinkin'. I'll put tha' in there so they know it's us." Rianni@crystyl smiles and nods, " A signature. Perfect!" she hands it to Ann, "Add my service number then, just to be sure" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "I'll get it done before we divert, shouldn't take much more work!" Rianni@crystyl:"Thanks Ann!" she looks around, "Alright, we know we're making a move towards a civilization we know nothing about. Get your rest now because we'll all need to be on our toes once we encroach" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann nods, "Once the signature's added an' the buoy's launched, I'll get some sleep before we arrive." Rianni@crystyl:"Then if there is nothing more on anyone's mind, don't let me keep you all" --- NPC@annpc#557 | Nearly half a day later, the Aethon begins to near the system where Yatiko colony is located. Suhani and Ann arrive on the bridge and take their stations, with Ann relieving C'Sera who had - NPC@annpc#557 - been filling in on the helm since the detour was made Rianni@crystyl already sits on the bridge as she tends to most of the time now, looking around with a smile, "Just in time ladies" NPC@annpc#557 | Ann smiles back, "Didn't wanna miss this! She slides into her seat, tapping her console, "Should be in sensor range o' the planet soon." Rianni@crystyl:"Any other activity in the region yet?" NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal: "There are some faded warp trails, but I cannot discern anything from them due to how deteriorated they are." Rianni@crystyl:"So, not exactly a thriving trade hub then" NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal: "Clearly not, though it does receive at least occasional traffic." Rianni@crystyl:"Alright, but keep an eye on things out there NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal nods, "Yes Captain." NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "Should be comin' into sensor range now." Rianni@crystyl patiently watches, giving Vusal time to make an analysis NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal: "I am picking up technological readings and lifesigns on the second planet. No vessels currently in orbit. Lifesigns do not match known species, but all indications point to a bipedal - NPC@annpc#557 - one of Progenitor origins." Rianni@crystyl:"If there's even a chance these are Children, we must be additionally mindful of influence" NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal nods, "Agreed. However, I do not read any active defensive emplacements. Their ability to harm us, at least while we are still on the Aethon, may be limited." Rianni@crystyl:"We were directed here in good faith, we must show that same faith in the gesture. At least far as is reasonable, let's see how friendly these people are" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods, "I see no reason to cloak or power weapons, but should we have shields up just in case? Or shields on standby, ready to activate if there's trouble?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "On standby is a reasonable precaution here I think" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "Got it. I'll have them ready if there's any threat." NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "Approachin' comm range now." Rianni@crystyl:"Try hailing the colony" NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal: "We have a channel. Putting them onscreen now." NPC@annpc#557 | An older alien man with mostly humanoid features appears on the viewscreen. The room behind him does not appear to be in the best condition, with various busted consoles and pieces of - NPC@annpc#557:- equipment strewn about. "H-hello. You're not on any scheduled list, and we don't recognize your ship. What do you want?" Rianni@crystyl gives a soft smile, "Greetings, we are visitors to this region and mean you no harm. We are on a long journey and were directed here by mutual friends in the hope that you might be able to assist - Rianni@crystyl:- us with a little refuelling" NPC@annpc#557 | Old Man: "Refuelling? Uh, well...uh...that might be a problem." He leans forward, squinting and typing on something, "I...see your ship is operating in a power-saving state. You're running - NPC@annpc#557:- pretty low, aren't you?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "Please, we have a long way to go and I would not dare ask if the situation did not warrant it. We don't have much to offer in trade, but we will do whatever we can to repay you. If I may - Rianni@crystyl:- venture, you seem a little... preoccupied. Is everything alright?" NPC@annpc#557 | The old man shakes his head, "Far from it. Look, we'd sell you our fuel if we had any to spare, but...you see, a few days ago the local Rider gang attacked us. Knocked out our defenses and - NPC@annpc#557:- took most of our fuel, killed any who resisted. They demanded that they'll be back in a week and expect us to refuel them here. We're extracting as much as we can for when they get back- the - NPC@annpc#557:- whole colony's running on fumes right now. I'm sorry, we can't give you anything. Who knows what these brutes'll do if they come back and we don't have enough for all their ships?" Rianni@crystyl frowns, "I take exception to bullies. Please, now that we are here there is no sense in us simply turning away. At the very least, allow us to transport down and assist you. My crew has some of - Rianni@crystyl:- the finest engineering knowledge in the Coalition, and while we don't have much in the medical supplies, we would gladly do whatever we can for your people" NPC@annpc#557 | Old Man: "You're willing to help us? That's great! Thank you! Give me a moment, I'll just patch you in to the Governor. I'm just a traffic and comms coordinator." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Thank you" Rianni@crystyl silently sulks to herself after giving her best hero speech to the operator before getting through to the one in charge. NPC@annpc#557 | The comm cuts for a second before a middle-aged woman of the same species appears on the viewscreen, "Hello, this is Governor Cinsarya. You've come to help us?" Rianni@crystyl puts on her best Keelah smile again, "Hello Governer, my name is Rianni commanding the Coalition vessel Aethon. We actually came here seeking trade for refuelling, but we did not know of your - Rianni@crystyl:- plight then. Now that your operator has informed us of the situation, my crew and I could not simply walk away and leave you at the mercy of these bullies. If you would accept it, we would gladly - Rianni@crystyl:- do whatever we can to assist you" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "We've heard rumours of your Coalition. We'll take all the help we can get. What can you provide?" Rianni@crystyl:"I will assume you have already seen scans of our ship by now. We are no freighter, we carry no large volumes of cargo to trade. But as I told your operator as well; my crew here possess some of - Rianni@crystyl:- finest engineering knowledge in the Coalition. Your operator mentioned that your defenses had been disabled, so perhaps we can find a way to repair them. We have little in the way of medical - Rianni@crystyl:- supplies, but what we have we will gladly share if your people require it. But beyond lending our skills to help you, I am afraid we have little to offer in spite of our strong will to help" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "We could use some of your engineering knowledge with the mess the Riders made. As for defenses, they've completely destroyed our weaponry and defense shuttles. The shield generator - NPC@annpc#557 - can still be repaired I'm told, but all it'll do is buy us time. The medical situation's under control, we have doctors tending to the wounded, those that survived at least. We can always use - NPC@annpc#557:- use more supplies, but we're not in any desperate need for it. If you don't have many, we shouldn't take them from you." Rianni@crystyl:"Then with your permission, I will transport down with some of my officers to see exactly what we might be able to do" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "I will notify the colony that you are here to help. Come join us on the surface as well, I'll show you our situation so you know how best to accolate your people." Rianni@crystyl bows her head, "Then we shall see you shortly, Governor" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "I look forward to it, and thank you for offering aid." Rianni@crystyl looks around once the comm closes, "Well, the more spiritually inclined might suggest here that fate has guided this humble ship full of engineers to a world in desperate need of their expertise" Rianni@crystyl:"I will simply acknowledge our fortunate. I am certain that if we can help them fend off these raiders, then we will be in a position to make a promising trade for all the fuel we can carry" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani looks over from her console, "The Governor is telling the truth. Their shield generator is damaged and I'm seeing signs of destroyed weapon platforms and other wreckage in orbit. It - NPC@annpc#557 - should be safe to go down, without a shield or any visible transporter inhibitor tech, there's no way this is a trick or trap of any kind." Rianni@crystyl:"Agreed. I will go down to continue negotiations with the Governor. Who do we feel is best suited to assess the damages and repair situation down there?" Rianni@crystyl adds, "Since I sadly can't take everyone down there and leave the ship deserted" she chuckles NPC@annpc#557 | Ann: "I'm no maintenance specialist, but I've got experience workin' with busted stuff an' tryin' to get 'em workin' again." Rianni@crystyl smiles, "I think your expertise would be most welcome Ann" Rianni@crystyl | Emma: "I'm no expert, so I'll play lighthouse keeper" NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal: "I suggest bringing Chief Lao for the initial assessment as well. Once that is complete, he can assign more specialized personnel to where they are needed for repairs." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Very good then, please update him and ask him to meet us in the transporter room" Rianni@crystyl stands, "Well Ann, let's go see what we can do here!" NPC@annpc#557 | Vusal nods, "Right away, Captain." --- Ann Carter@anncaris | Rianni, Ann and Lao beams down to the colony surface. Around them, the colony is clearly not in a good state, with furniture, mechanical equipment and damaged hovercars littering the streets. - Ann Carter@anncaris - Scorch marks and bloodstains can be seen on parts of the ground and walls, but all the buildings are still intact around them Rianni@crystyl:"Oh my" Ann Carter@anncaris | Governor Cinsarya awaits them with two others in the square where they beam in Rianni@crystyl approaches, "Governor" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya approaches them as they materialize fully, "Welcome to Yatiko Colony. We're not in the best of shape, as you can see." Rianni@crystyl:"Yet even in spite of that and all you have endured here, you welcome us with open arms" she bows her head lightly out of respect, "You are truly kind people and it pains me to see you suffer so" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "If we wanted to give up on the colony, we would've done so when the Corporation abandoned this place. Besides, the Riders destroyed our shuttles. Our planetary craft can't - Ann Carter@anncaris - take us to another inhabited system. Best we can manage is another planet in the system with the type of shuttle we have left." Rianni@crystyl:"This Rider gang, what can you tell about them; their number, their ships, methods? Anything you can tell us may help devise a strategy" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "Their ships are what you'd expect from Riders- bigger than shuttles, but smaller than most starships, including yours. They're small and fast, don't usually hit particularly hard, - Ann Carter@anncaris - but they're nimble. They move and attack in formation, but once you start firing at them, they can scatter, dodge and still remain coordinated. They're good pilots, hard to hit and whittle you - Ann Carter@anncaris:- down over time. This gang used to number between twenty to twenty-five craft, but they only attacked us with a dozen. I hear they've been raiding more frequently now, and some of their craft - Ann Carter@anncaris:- had damage we didn't inflict. They might've lost some of theirs in other raids, hard to say how much they number for certain." Ann Carter@anncaris | One of the males behind her adds, "They did take more fuel than a dozen craft would need in a week. Maybe they have more elsewhere, or they're just looking to sell it for a profit." Rianni@crystyl:"Could be. Perhaps they're trying to bolster their numbers and get more of their ships back into raiding shape. Perhaps you could show me your colony while my colleagues here work, I will only get - Rianni@crystyl:- in their way anyhow" she smiles, "and you can tell me more about your plight with these raiders" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "Come with me, the others will show your engineers what needs fixing around the colony." Rianni@crystyl nods, looking to Ann and Lao, "See what you think we can do here and coordinate with Emma as needed" Ann Carter@anncaris | Lao nods, "Understood, Captain." Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya leads Rianni further into the colony while the others are shown to a different area Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "As I mentioned, Yatiko was originally a Corporate investment, which is where the name comes from. When piracy began to increase in the region, the Corporation took their profits and - Ann Carter@anncaris - left, but many of us who have already made our home out here did not want to abandon the colony, and fortunately the mines and refining facilities make us mostly self-sufficient. We sell what - Ann Carter@anncaris:- surplus we make, in exchange for what we can't make here. Usually luxury goods and non-essential items, but on occasion we might lack some more specialized materials or components." Rianni@crystyl:"Do you find many to trade with still or is it mostly the passing freighter like the Clanderos one who pointed us your way?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "You've met the Cosmic Cetacean, then? Is that how you learned of us? We don't have that much trade, but we do have a few suppliers that would visit at least once a year like the - Ann Carter@anncaris:- Cetacean to ship things we don't produce ourselves. Other than that, we mostly get passing trade. We're not trying to build an economic powerhouse, just a home." Rianni@crystyl smiles, "A fine sentiment. And yes, it was the Cetacean we met and kindly pointed us your way. They had a misunderstanding with some Coalition Lupan, but we were able to resolve the situation. It's- Rianni@crystyl:- just a shame they are out of range now... at least I assume they are, unless you have a working subspace relay?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "No, that was one of the things they took out, unfortunately. I'm glad you resolved the situation with the Cetacean. Speaking of trade...the Wildlings, that is the gang that attacked - Ann Carter@anncaris:- us, they used to trade with us when they pass by sometimes too. That's when I remembered them numbering twenty to twenty-five." Rianni@crystyl:"But they stopped trading and took to raiding your colony?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "This was the first time they attacked us, but they haven't come around for over a year before that. We heard rumours that they had become more aggressive, but we didn't expect - Ann Carter@anncaris:- them to raid us. They were always loud and rowdy, as Riders usually are, but they never caused any serious trouble here before. Nothing worse than a few bar brawls. If anything, their territory - Ann Carter@anncaris:- being nearby warded off other pirate bands, made it safer for us." Rianni@crystyl hrms, "I have my suspicions as to what changed. A moment please" she steps away and taps her combadge, "Tierno to Lao" Ann Carter@anncaris:<C - Lao> "Lao here." Rianni@crystyl:"Chief, the Governor informs me that their subspace transmitter was damaged in the last attack. It might get us anywhere in time, but I think it's worth checking on at least. I am beginning to - Rianni@crystyl:- suspect that this Rider gang are the influenced anarchists the Lupan are hunting. If we could get the relay working, we might be able to bring the Lupan in. Even if it's not in time to meet the - Rianni@crystyl:- Riders, we may increase our odds if we only have to hold them back until they arrive" Ann Carter@anncaris:<C - Lao> "I'll prioritize getting the relay back online. I've yet to look at the damage, I'll give you a time estimate once I've had a chance to assess it." Rianni@crystyl:<C> â€œI trust your judgement on the feasibility. It's not an order to make it happen, just a request to take a look. I'll let you know if I get anything more, Tierno outâ€ Rianni@crystyl rejoins the Governor, "Apologies Governor, where were we?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "You said you might know why the Wildling Gang is raiding us?" Rianni@crystyl:"It is only a suspicion, I have no proof yet" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "What's your theory? Could it help us fight them off in some way?" Rianni@crystyl hrms, "If we had the Valley Forge here, maybe. But I'm not sure how it might help us presently even if it is correct. You recall I mentioned the misunderstanding between the Clanderos crew and the - Rianni@crystyl:- Lupan?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "Yes, you said you helped resolve it. Did it involve the Wildlings somehow?" Rianni@crystyl shakes her head, "No. The misunderstanding occurred because this Lupan pack was searching to weed out what we call 'influenced anarchists'. They suspected the Clanderos to be so when they ran in - Rianni@crystyl:- fear from the Lupan's heavy handed approach, but they were not influenced. The influence stems from the Horde - the 'army of the dead' if you prefer. They touch the mind of species like ours and - Rianni@crystyl:- bend them to their own will. The anarchist groups we've encountered are those like your Rider gang who in recent months inexplicably turned violent towards other Children species. Oh, that's a - Rianni@crystyl:- general term used to describe species like ours" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "We've heard about the Horde. Guardian ships occasionally stop by to refuel, and even before we established a colony out here, we have heard rumours about their existence." Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "It does line up, though we can't confirm it for certain yet, as you said." Rianni@crystyl:"And even if we could, I do not believe our ship has the capacity to break their influence as the Valley Forge does. Still, it is always useful to have intelligence on one's enemy" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "They still seem to be operating with standard Rider tactics, and from what the Guardians said, those influenced by the Horde but not absorbed into it completely can still - Ann Carter@anncaris:- keep their personalities, just become more...disagreeable. Which means we can still deal with them like any other hostile Rider gang." Rianni@crystyl:"To a point, but they could be dangerously irrational if they are influenced. It... would also be prudent to make sure that none of your people have been affected too" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "They shouldn't be able to spread unless they're full thralls, right? But it's definitely best to be safe. We have doctors here, I'll have them check everyone here for influence." Rianni@crystyl:"My people can assist. At least have them test those who will be testing others. Don't worry, our scans are very simple and completely non-intrusive" she smiles with reassurance" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "Sounds good to me. You can have your people compare your scanning methods to the ones the Guardians taught us, too." Rianni@crystyl smiles, "This is my first time visiting people whom the Guardians have already prepared since we established these methods of detection and protection. It is a welcome sight" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "We do everything we can to survive out here. If only the Riders were prepared as well..." Rianni@crystyl nods, "The situation is far from ideal. Just all the more reason for us to return from our mission out here and put an end to this threat" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "Put an end to the entire Horde? I hope that happens, but it's a very...ambitious goal." Rianni@crystyl smiles, "The Coalition is very ambitious by its very nature! But what other choice is there? If we do not stop them, they will one day run rampant across the whole galaxy. It's not a matter of - Rianni@crystyl:hope or odds of success, it simply a fact that we must achieve this goal" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "Indeed. If these Riders have truly fallen under their influence, it's only a matter of time before the Horde itself expands up to our colony. And a single Rider gang is already - Ann Carter@anncaris:- causing us so much trouble, there's no way we can protect our colony from a Horde invasion force." Rianni@crystyl:"I wish I could say it weren't so, but when the Horde comes in force there is very little which can stand in their way" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "The Guardians describe it in much the same fashion. I hope that day never comes here, and you are able to stop the Horde in time. But first, we must deal with the immediate problem - Ann Carter@anncaris:- here. The Riders will be returning in two days to collect their demands. If you are confident you can protect us, then we can give you some fuel for your ship to ensure it is ready for the fight." Rianni@crystyl:"We will do everything in our power to help you stave them off. If you are willing to help fully power our ship, it will certainly make a formidable asset to help defend you. Though I do not want - Rianni@crystyl:- to simply rely on our ship, because if they face a powerful starship and flee this time, they will simply return in greater force when we are not here. We must do all we can to empower your colony- Rianni@crystyl:- so you are able to hold them back yourselves, and keep our ship in reserve of this. That will be our best chance of a lasting victory" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "I do not suppose you have the means to rebuild our defense satellites, though?" Rianni@crystyl shakes her head, "Unlikely, I'm afraid. Not in two days at any rate. But perhaps we can do enough to make it seem so..." Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "Like a sensor illusion?" Rianni@crystyl:"That is one possibility. But if my ship is at full strength we can cloak her. It might be enough that we can rig a false power signature to at least some of your satellites and then use the - Rianni@crystyl:- Aethon's weapons to give them the impression that the satellites are functioning" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "That could work, though if they see only one satellite active, they will likely try to take it out." Rianni@crystyl nods, "It might not be much, but it's a start. Shall we go find the others and see what they have as well?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods and turns to lead the way to the others, "These Lupan you mentioned, they work with your Coalition as well?" Rianni@crystyl:"Yes, the Sisterhood is part of the Coalition and this pack have aligned with them, as have many of the packs now" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "If we can hold back the Riders from the colony this time, perhaps these Lupan can help protect us further if they seek to return, or at least fully restore our defenses." Rianni@crystyl:"I hope so as well. I know this pack currently patrol in this sector, but I do not know if it is a maintained presence or not. All the more reason to get your subspace relay functioning again so we - Rianni@crystyl:- contact them" Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya leads Rianni to a large structure that has taken much more damage than the rest, where Lao and Ann are gathered with the other two colonists outside Rianni@crystyl approaches the group, "I trust you two are having fun?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Lao: "Well fortunately the damage looks worse than it is. Most of the damage across the colony is superficial or to mechanical systems. Almost all the buildings are still stable and safe for - Ann Carter@anncaris:- habitation, just that some of the internal computer and environmental systems need repairs." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Most o' the damage was done with handheld weapons or blunt force, there's been no bombardment save for the shot on the shield generator." Rianni@crystyl:"Of course, they wanted the resources of this colony so it would only hurt their gains to damage more than necessary. Think you can get it back online?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Lao nods, "I can. There's damage to the superstructure, but the systems are still intact, just a lot of relays burned out. It must've been hit by low-energy blasts, for fear of damaging too - Ann Carter@anncaris:- much of the colony. They trashed the subspace relay more extensively, actually beamed down and blasted everything in sight. It was very crude and I don't think they really knew what was actually - Ann Carter@anncaris:- important, just what /looked/ important." Ann Carter@anncaris:"We can bring it back online, but we're gonna have to replace a lotta components an' not just repair 'em. Might have to take apart some non-essential stuff in the colony." Rianni@crystyl looks to the Governor, "It's your colony, I can't make the decision for you" Ann Carter@anncaris | Lao: "Shield generator we can bring back online in a day. Relay might need two." Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya: "If you can get the relay back online before the Riders get back in two days, then it's worth it." Ann Carter@anncaris:"We'll work fast as we can, try to have it finished under two days." Rianni@crystyl:"I should point out that even if we do, the Lupan won't be close enough to get here before the raiders return Ann Carter@anncaris | Cinsarya nods, "Bring it online. We're relying on you to drive back the Riders this time, but if we can get the Lupan here after that, they might be able to protect us against any subsequent - Ann Carter@anncaris:- attacks." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Alright then" turning back to the others, "What did you find with other defenses here?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Lao: "There's a few surface-based AA arrays. We might be able to get one or two online in addition to the repairs we have to do elsewhere. It's not much, but it's something." Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "If any Riders slip past us an' the shield, these arrays can deal with 'em." Rianni@crystyl nods, "The Governor has offered to refuel the Aethon ahead of the Riders arrival so we are at full strength to help defend the colony. They have - or had - orbital defense platforms as well, so I've - Rianni@crystyl:- got a few ideas on making the most of things up there too" Ann Carter@anncaris | Lao: "The Riders used full weapon force on the orbital platforms, so they're beyond repair now. What're you thinking?" Rianni@crystyl:"To fake some power signatures on them and use the Aethon's cloak to attack without revealing our presence" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ann nods, "Tha' could work! We can get started on the repairs down here, while ya discuss tactics with the others." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Do what you can, we'll get everyone on this" Ann Carter@anncaris | Lao: "Have Hurdan and Rasnik meet us on the surface when you get back, we'll need the extra hands." --- NPC@annpc#557 | As many of the Aethon's engineers help repair the colony's defenses on the surface, Rianni returns to the bridge to determine tactics for the upcoming fight... NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "So, how're things looking with the colony?" Rianni@crystyl:"We should be able to restore the shield generator and at least some AA defenses, it's a good start" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "Reminds me of the one time we took a Syndicate station from the inside, but they had ships nearby to respond and we had to defend the position with just one ship. But that time, we - NPC@annpc#557 - had most of the station's defenses to assist. Which is a lot more than what the colony has with the satellite platforms down." Rianni@crystyl:"We have very little to work with here, so I would welcome any suggestions that aren't exactly in the Starfleet playbook" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "We're dealing with a typical Rider Gang, right? A group of small and nimble ships?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "From the sounds of it, yes" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "Cloaking and firing a torpedo at the highest priority target isn't going to do much good then, they're all going to be more or less the same. We could identify who the leader is and - NPC@annpc#557:- take out their ship first, but like us the Riders have a chain of command. The second-in-command'll just take over and they'll probably be more furious than ever, so...might throw them off - NPC@annpc#557:- balance for a few seconds, but unless we have a way to take them all out in that time frame, it won't be of too much help." Rianni@crystyl hrms, "I had thought to cloak the Aethon and position us to make it appear that they were being attacked by the orbital platforms. But I'm not sure if we can maneuver between them tightly enough to- Rianni@crystyl:- pull it off" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "We...might be able to, but there's still going to be quite a bit of staggered firing between the false platforms. It could confuse the Riders at first, but I think they'll figure it - NPC@annpc#557:- out eventually. Especially if they attack a 'satellite' and their weapons pass right through. They're bound to try it, since they destroyed the platforms last time fairly successfully, so if they - NPC@annpc#557:- see more, they'll probably try shooting them down unless the fire's too overwhelming." Rianni@crystyl:"Yeah..." NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "And facing the Riders in a knife fight isn't an option either. We have stronger shields and defenses, but we're no Valley Forge. Normally if stealth fails, Aethon's biggest advantage - NPC@annpc#557:- would be maneuverability, but the Riders are smaller and they're going to outmaneuver us." Rianni@crystyl:"So we draw them down and ambush them with the ground defenses. They are coming to refuel after all, and they believe the defenses here are destroyed" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods, "That could work! Do we know how many ships they have? Or a good guess?" Rianni@crystyl:"We suspect about a dozen or so, but the gang has been seen with almost double that in the past" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "How many of the ground defenses can we expect to get online?" Rianni@crystyl:"I'm not sure. We're putting some focus on restoring their subspace relay in order to contact the Lupan too" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "I was thinking of closing the shield /after/ we lure them to the planet, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to take them out with what we have there. Not before they wreak havoc on the - NPC@annpc#557:- colony, at least. But we might be able to split their forces, maybe close the shield when they're partway through. Let the surface defenses deal with the ones that make it inside, while Aethon - NPC@annpc#557:- deals with the ones outside the shieldâ€ Rianni@crystyl:"Aren't those ships small enough to fly right through a shield?" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "True, we'll probably have to modify the shields to keep Rider craft out, and just repairing it is a large enough job..." Rianni@crystyl hrms, "What about our cloak, I know it works differently to typical devices but how exactly does it cloak the ship? I mean, could it cloak something close to the ship like others can?" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "It can do that even better, actually. The hull emitters are just like shield emitters, but for the cloak, which can extend the cloak's range significantly, as much as a ship of this - NPC@annpc#557:- size can extend shields, maybe even more. But it's going to cost us a /lot/ of power." Rianni@crystyl:"The colony have offered to fully refuel us to help in the battle, so that won't be an issue" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "They have? Then it shouldn't be a problem. I'll just have to tie the hull emitters back in, get the cloak up to its full capability again." Rianni@crystyl:"Then perhaps we can give the Riders a little surprise after all" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "What're you thinking about extending our cloak over? The colony doesn't have anything beyond sublight shuttles left." Rianni@crystyl:"No, but there is plenty of salvage and debris around the place. I assume this ship at least has some form of tractor emitter as well,yes?" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods, "That we do. Thinking of hurling debris at them?" Rianni@crystyl:"Not so much hurling, more... strategically placing it in their way. If we're smart - and lucky - we could wipe a few out without them even realizing they had anything more than sudden technical - Rianni@crystyl:- problems" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani smirks, "I'm pretty sure that's not in the Starfleet playbook. I like it!" Rianni@crystyl smiles, "I doubt we'll get much of an impact to their numbers, but it should weed a few out before they even have their guard up" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "We need every advantage we can get! We might be able to take out two or three this way, and the defenses on the planet can handle two or three. That still leaves half or more for the - NPC@annpc#557:- Aethon to deal with." Rianni@crystyl:"Let's take a closer look at the geography of the colony. Might be there's some environmental assets we're overlooking" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods, tapping her console and bringing up the geographical layout of the colony and its surroundings. The colony itself is located by the southern edge of a lake. The lake lies on the - NPC@annpc#557 - lowest part of a river, whose source arises from a mountain range which envelops the eastern side of the region, arcing over to cover both the northeast and southeast regions. This seems to be - NPC@annpc#557:- where the colony's mines are primarily located, with the area around the mountain range rich in various minerals Rianni@crystyl hrms, "What about the mining operation itself?" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "As in what they're extracting and refining?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "Mining is generally a volatile operation, right?" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods, "Usually involves a lot of mining lasers and explosives. Not much use against starships, but they might be strong enough to damage Rider craft..." Rianni@crystyl:"But isn't there some sort of refinement process usually involved too? We might not need to target the ships directly with mining equipment, but simply position them to in range of unfortunate - Rianni@crystyl:- accidents" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "There's a number of refining facilities located close to the mines, outside the main colony." Rianni@crystyl:"Then let's take a closer look and see what we can do with those" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani taps away at her console, "They've got pretty good pollutant systems on, but if we turn them off...no, that's not nearly corrosive enough to make an impact on starship hulls. Maybe in - NPC@annpc#557 - addition to the geography...yes, that could work!" Rianni@crystyl:"That sounds promising" she smiles NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani smiles back and looks to Rianni, "Some of these are topaline mines. If we set up the stronger mining lasers near topaline deposits, the lasers can fire on the Riders, but targeting systems will - NPC@annpc#557 - have problems locking on. The mining lasers are nowhere near as strong as the proper defense arrays, but with enough shots it could still get through a Rider craft's shields, and it's - NPC@annpc#557 - definitely going to damage the hulls of any craft that's already lost shields. So the Riders might not prioritize them, but if they want to take the colony and land for refueling, they'll - NPC@annpc#557:- still have to deal with the mining lasers. But the only way to do that without collapsing the mountains and threatening their own supplies is to get in close for manual targeting." NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "When they try to fly close to take out the mining lasers, we can release the pollutants from the refinery into the air. It won't harm them directly, but it's going to completely - NPC@annpc#557:- cloud sensors and visuals. Enough that most of the ships gunning for the lasers probably aren't going to make it out of the mountains in one piece." Rianni@crystyl:"Perfect!" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "That should thin them out some more, hopefully enough for Aethon to finish the rest of them." Rianni@crystyl:"We will have to make sure that it is enough" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "Can't think of any more surprises to leave the Riders. I can get in touch with the colony, let them know how to set up the mining lasers and refineries." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Proceed" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods and begins to tap away to contact the colony --- Ann Carter@anncaris steps into the mess hall/makeshift quarters as she returns from working on the surface Emma Ralde@crystyl sits at the table, working away Ann Carter@anncaris grabs a drink and moves over to the table, taking a seat in front of Emma, "What're ya workin' on?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Oh hey Ann. Just scrounging through inventory from the sealed off decks to see if there's anything we can make use of. You just wrapped up a spell on the bridge?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"On the colony, actually! Not much to do on helm while we're in a stable orbit, an' my scavver skills were more use fixin' things up down on the planet." Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles, "Good point. So how's it looking down there?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"A lotta stuff to fix, but think we can get the important ones runnin' in time before the Riders are back. The ones tha'll actually help with the defense, I mean. Mostly been workin' on piecin' - Ann Carter@anncaris:- together components from other stuff to replace parts o' the subspace relay so we can contact the Lupan. They're gonna need proper repairs after this, but it'll do for the time bein'." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Must be in your element playing with all this stuff!" Ann Carter@anncaris grins, "Tha' I am! Workin' with broken things, repurposin' 'em or tryin' to get 'em workin', tha's somethin' I've been doin' for long as I can remember." Ann Carter@anncaris chuckles, "Tha's why I didn't make Starfleet engineer. Our things are too new an' nice. I work better with junk." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Interesting way of looking at it. I would have thought that knack for making things work would have still drawn you more to the gold strip" Ann Carter@anncaris:"It did at first, actually! But I already had my own way o' doin' things after so many years o' scavengin' work. Didn't really mesh well with the way Starfleet teaches ya to do things. Emma Ralde@crystyl:"I suppose, yeah. So are you all scavenged out for the day, or got a little energy left to help me see what's written between the lines on this list?" Ann Carter@anncaris smiles and takes a sip from her drink before setting it aside, "I'm all up for helpin'!" Emma Ralde@crystyl grins, sliding her PADD across the table, "I was hoping you would say that!" Ann Carter@anncaris begins to check through the PADD, "So, wha'd you start out as? Were ya gold strip too? Or...wha' it was back then when you joined. Red like Mia's?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It was actually much more understated like we have now if you can believe that. But I was a research assistant back then, hopping around wherever needed. Not so much distinction between operating - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- areas back then" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "Ahh, so tha's how ya got caught up in tha' whole experiment thing?" Emma Ralde@crystyl nods, "Exactly, yes" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Oh I can use this for the subspace relay," she shows Emma a highlighted item on the list, "If it's somethin' we can spare, tha' is." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"I think pretty much anything and everything on there is fair game. But I'd suggest we draw up a shortlist and run it past Lao" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Sounds good to me!" she begins looking through the PADD again. "Ya ever been in somethin' like this before? Not the colony fixin' I mean, I'm /sure/ you've done tha' sometime over ya career, but - Ann Carter@anncaris - the whole protectin' the colony while outgunned bit. Starfleet ships weren't wha' they are today back when you joined up, after all." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"No, but neither were our enemies'. It was a common enough occurrence though, it was an era of rapid expansions; romanticism surrounding the great unexplored frontier. So colonists ventured far - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- beyond the fleet's resources were able to effectively patrol. So we often ended up riding out in a panic and if we weren't cleaning up the aftermath, it was an odds-against standoff" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "So this shouldn't be somethin' too new for ya then! 'Cept the cloakin' aspect, tha's probably different." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Well, I mean... I've not exactly been in it with odds like this before. It's always been a Starfleet or Orion vessel. And those tend to be bigger, more familiar, and fully staffed" Ann Carter@anncaris:"True. Starfleet didn't exactly get into the smaller ships till they rolled out the Defiant, did they? I mean obviously some ships are smaller than others, an' ya got small classes like the Oberth, - Ann Carter@anncaris:- but I don't think those were really meant to see combat." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"True, but they still had full complements. Size aside, we're a crew of 10 trying to fight with a ship we only even occupy a small portion of" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Yeah...it's gonna be challengin' for sure. Least we're up against a Rider gang, an' not a Lupan pack..." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Still, ya might have some experience tha' can help! We might be a small ship, but the Riders are even smaller. Must've had experiences like this with Starfleet an' Orion ships, with how some folks - Ann Carter@anncaris:- like the Klingons prefer small an' fast ships." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"True, and if I think of anything relevant I'll be sure to let Rianni know!" Ann Carter@anncaris smiles, "I'm sure she'll like any tips ya can give! Nobody here's got more experience than you do, probably even nobody on the Valley Forge!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"The best I've been able to do so far is not advise her to betray her highly polished Starfleet morality and abandon this place" she smiles, "I can see her delivering on this and believe it with all- Emma Ralde@crystyl:- my soul. That - I suppose - is more than I give it credit for" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "We aren't in the best o' situations, but neither's this colony right now. Gotta help each other out in times like this!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yes, but even then if I felt for a moment that it was not a reasonable mission to accept, I would have advised her to take a different course of action" Ann Carter@anncaris smiles, "Good to know ya think we got a chance, then!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"I know we can do it" she smiles Ann Carter@anncaris:"Thanks! With Rianni's talent and your experience, I'm sure we'll do just fine!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Don't sell yourself short either, Ann. I believe in Rianni's ability, yes. But I believe in her capacity to see this mission through because she has everyone around her that she does" Ann Carter@anncaris smiles, "We might not be a big crew, but we've all got skills tha' work well together here!" Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles back, "The skills, and the minds" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Yeah!" she taps on her PADD again before handing it back to Emma, "Think that's all the useful stuff I can identify from this list. Plenty o' it to help with the colony repairs, but a bit here - Ann Carter@anncaris:- an' there tha' could be useful on the Aethon." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"That's great, thanks Ann! I'll get Lao to check this over and make sure we can spare it all and get right on distributing it all" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "I'll grab some quick sleep, then get right back to workin' on the relay components. Lemme know if ya need anythin' else!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Will do, thanks!" --- Ann Carter@anncaris | A day and a half after arriving at the colony... Ann Carter@anncaris steps onto the bridge, "Good news Cap'n! Relay should be comin' back online any minute now!" Rianni@crystyl looks around and smiles, "That is great news Ann!" Ann Carter@anncaris smiles back, "All the components are replaced, Lao's just bringin' all the systems back up." Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal nods, "I have confirmation that the relay is active. Ready to patch us in, Captain." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Tie us in and open a channel to the Lupan's frequency" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "Channel open." Rianni@crystyl:"Lupan packship, this is Rianni Tierno on the Aethon. Please respond" Ann Carter@anncaris | A few seconds later, Alpha Ketaar appears on the viewscreen with a little static in the feed, "Alpha Ketaar here. What do you need, Aethon?" Rianni@crystyl:"We have news regarding your hunt. We believe we may have found the influenced anarchists" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "You h-...encountered them? Where?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "Apologies for the quality. Lao is still making a few adjustments." Rianni@crystyl:"At Yatiko colony. We have not seen for ourselves yet, but testimony from the colony indicates it. They are expected to return here shortly, then we will know for certain" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "Have they been causing tr... in the colony?" Rianni@crystyl:"Yes. They were reasonably docile until around a year ago apparently. Then they turned to violence and aggression without any known cause" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar nods, "Sounds li...influence to me. My pack will investigate. We should be here within one day. Is there any...se you know about these anarchists?" Rianni@crystyl:"A Rider gang local to this region. At least a dozen ships, maybe more. They will be here before you arrive" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "Do you think you can hold them off?" Rianni@crystyl:"We are planning to. But if you wish to savour in this hunt, I suggest you do all you can to expedite your arrival" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "We will come as quickly as the packship can take us. Fight well, Aethon." Rianni@crystyl nods, "We'll try to save some of them for you" she smiles in parting Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "I look forward to it." Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal announces as the comm ends, "Repair teams are moving to work on bringing as many weapon arrays repaired as possible before the Riders arrive." Rianni@crystyl:"How long until their expected arrival now?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Should be 'round ten hours." Rianni@crystyl:"Then let's get down there and do all we can to prepare this place. Is the Aethon ready?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal nods, "The fuel from the colony has been brought on board and Suhani has reconnected the hull emitters to the cloaking systems. We will be able to operate on full power once the Riders - Ann Carter@anncaris:- arrive." Rianni@crystyl:"Then begin isolating debris fragments that we can tow and drop like mines" Ann Carter@anncaris nods and moves over to the helm console, "On it, Cap'n!" --- Ann Carter@anncaris | Time passes quickly as the Aethon crew make their preparations, and over nine hours later... Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "Long-range sensors are registering twelve warp signatures inbound, smaller craft not much larger than runabouts." Rianni@crystyl:"Our Riders are here then. Is everyone back on board?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "Transporter room is retrieving the last team still working on the anti-air arrays." Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "We've currently got two AA phaser arrays online on the surface as predicted. Mining lasers are in place and we're ready to activate cloak over the collected debris." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Inform the Governor that it is time" turning the other way, "Take us to battle stations and activate the cloak. Ann, get us in position for the debris mining" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "Aye Cap'n, movin' into position now." Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "Governor Cinsarya reports that the colony is ready." Rianni@crystyl:"Let us hope that they are" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ann: "We're in position!" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Activating cloak." Ann Carter@anncaris FX | The Aethon shimmers and disappears into cloak, masking the debris around it as well Rianni@crystyl:"Monitor their approach and begin our deployment as soon as their approach vectors can be determined" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani nods and gets to work. Soon, the Riders drop out of warp in the system and begin moving towards the colony in formation, which allows Suhani to predict their path and maneuver the - Ann Carter@anncaris - large pieces of debris in their way Rianni@crystyl:"As soon as we've deployed our minefield, take us into position for the cat and mouse play" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani announces after half a minute, "Minefield in place." Ann Carter@anncaris | Ann nods and begins tapping on her console, moving the ship into position Ann Carter@anncaris | Meanwhile, the Rider formation comes into view on the screen as it advances towards the colony, going straight for the debris minefield... Rianni@crystyl watches patiently Ann Carter@anncaris | Before long, the first Rider craft slams into one of the pieces of debris, shearing off one of the craft's nacelles. It spins out of control, causing the Rider craft around it to dodge Ann Carter@anncaris | One of them isn't quick enough however and the two collide, knocking them in two separate directions. The one that was first hit drifts off into space, but the one it impacts with is - Ann Carter@anncaris - unfortunate enough to have its vector redirected into another piece of nearby invisible debris head on and it goes out in an explosion Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Now that was a good hit." Rianni@crystyl watches to see how the Riders react to the sudden chaos Ann Carter@anncaris | The Riders slow down and come to a stop, trying to discern what just happened. They scan around, but with their scans unable to penetrate the advanced cloak, they continue forward... Ann Carter@anncaris | It is not long before a third Rider ship slams into a piece of debris. This time, it does not explode or veer wildly off course, being stopped in its tracks by the impact. It drifts very - Ann Carter@anncaris - slowly, its lights flickering as the power fails Ann Carter@anncaris | The remaining Riders realize something is up and begin to disperse, retreating first before reforming into two smaller groups of four and five as they attempt to make an entry using two - Ann Carter@anncaris - different vectors, giving the region with the makeshift minefield a wide berth Rianni@crystyl:"Are we able to disperse any more of our 'mines'?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani shakes her head, "They've moved too far away from the minefield now. But that's one craft destroyed and two out of the fight, not a bad start." Rianni@crystyl:"Good enough. We'll let the colony make the next move in dividing them up with their shields" Ann Carter@anncaris | The Rider craft stop just short of the planet as a single craft approaches, probing for more traps. It detects none and begins to pass back, but the colony takes the chance to activate the AA - Ann Carter@anncaris - arrays. Concentrating fire, the single craft finds itself caught in a web of mining laser beams and bolts from the arrays and is taken out, bursting into a fiery explosion in orbit Ann Carter@anncaris | The other Riders charge in and open fire, but the colony activates the shields, absorbing the shots and protecting their AA arrays, at least for the time being. The eight remaining craft - Ann Carter@anncaris - continue to advance, aiming to pass through the shields to take out the colony defenses... Rianni@crystyl:"Lock weapons on the lead vessel heading for the shield" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Weapons locked, ready to fire on your command, Captain." Rianni@crystyl watches and waits for the opportune moment, "...Fire!" Ann Carter@anncaris | The Aethon's cloaks drop as both forward arrays open fire on the lead Rider craft, stripping its shields. It tries to go evasive, but doesn't get far as it is hit by the concentrated fire and - Ann Carter@anncaris - goes out in a flash! The three Rider craft in the rear of the formation breaks off to engage the newly decloaked vessel, while the other four continues heading for the colony Rianni@crystyl:"It seems a few haven't comprehended our point and continue towards the colony. Reinforce our point with them, fortify rear shields as the others pursue" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani nods and the Aethon fires on another one of the Rider craft. They only manage to take out its shields before it dives through the shields, the subsequent fire being blocked by the - Ann Carter@anncaris - colony's shielding. The colony's AA arrays and mining lasers take full advantage of this, firing on the shieldless Rider craft and quickly taking it out, though three other shielded ones - Ann Carter@anncaris - manage to make their way through the shields... Ann Carter@anncaris takes the Aethon into evasive as the other three Riders begin opening fire as they pursue, causing three separate streams of bolts to fly past their ship Rianni@crystyl:"Alright, just the three then. Time to play the mouse instead of the cat; lead them to our mining accident" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ann nods and maneuvers the Aethon into orbit towards the refineries as the three Rider craft give chase. The bridge shakes slightly as a few hits from one of the Riders land Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Aft shields at 80%." Ann Carter@anncaris | The bridge rocks slightly again Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "70% and holding." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Tryin' to evade as best I can but it ain't easy outmaneuverin' those Riders in atmo..." Ann Carter@anncaris | Meanwhile, the colony's AA arrays trade fire with the three Riders inside the shield Rianni@crystyl:"Just a little more Ann, I know you've got this" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani taps away, giving covering fire with the single aft disruptor array. The Riders dodge the shots easily, though it does help make their return fire less accurate Ann Carter@anncaris | As they draw closer to the refineries, the mining lasers join in the covering fire. The bridge rocks slightly again as a few more stray shots impact them Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Aft shields at 60." Ann Carter@anncaris:"Almost there..." Ann Carter@anncaris pulls the Aethon up as the pass over the refineries, just in time as a thick black cloud emerges from the facilities, obscuring vision behind them. Small flashes can be seen in the haze below - Ann Carter@anncaris - them as the Rider craft, blinded by the pollutants, slam into the mountainsides and explode Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Just as planned!" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "The AA arrays have taken down one more Rider craft. The remaining two are on the retreat." Rianni@crystyl:"Pursuit course" Ann Carter@anncaris | The last two Rider craft can be seen shooting away from the colony, the bolts of the AA arrays chasing after them Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "Aye, settin' pursuit." Ann Carter@anncaris | The Aethon turns around sharply and pulls up, giving chase to the fleeing Riders Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Weapons ready on your order." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Fire at will, see if you can least just disable one so that we can recover one for examination" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani nods and the two forward disruptor arrays fire. The Rider craft take a few hits but go evasive before they can be taken out or disabled, but the Aethon speeds after them Ann Carter@anncaris | The two Riders split up, forcing Ann to pick one and pursue. It dodges and does its best to throw them off, but Suhani lands a few well-placed shots, leaving it dead in the water! Ann Carter@anncaris:"One more!" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "I am reading additional vessels inbound at warp. Two are Lupan, the third is unidentified." Rianni@crystyl:"Well, we did promise them... see if you can drive the remaining Rider towards them, but keep a close watch on that last one still" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani nods, firing at the evading Rider to drive it towards the incoming signatures as Ann taps the helm quickly to keep up with the nimble craft... Ann Carter@anncaris | The chase persists for a few seconds when a large ship of clearly non-Lupan design drops out of warp between the Rider craft and the Aethon. The Rider ducks behind the ship's shield bubble and - Ann Carter@anncaris - spins around as the ship's hangars begin to open, and additional Rider craft start to launch... Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "I don't think that's a friendly..." Rianni@crystyl:"Evasive action!" Ann Carter@anncaris | Aethon breaks away the chase just as the larger ship opens fire, dodging the initial volley. The surviving Rider craft immediately forms up with the eight that launched from the carrier and - Ann Carter@anncaris - the new Rider squadron follows in furious pursuit, opening fire as they chase the Aethon Ann Carter@anncaris | The bridge rumbles more this time as Aethon takes several hits from the relentless Riders Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Aft shields at 36%!" Rianni@crystyl:"Can we break away enough to recloak?" Ann Carter@anncaris:"No, the Riders are too fast! If we try to cloak an' drop shields, they'll take us out before we can disappear an' make an escape!" Rianni@crystyl:"How long until the Lupan join us?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "They are-" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suddenly, a second ship drops out of warp directly in the centre of the Rider squadron, slamming into two of the Rider craft and forcing the rest to disperse. This ship has the more familiar - Ann Carter@anncaris:- shape of Ketaar's packship! Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "...here, Captain." Rianni@crystyl:"...nevermind" Rianni@crystyl:"Bring us about and reform on their wing" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ann nods and reforms on the Lupan packship, which has already begun opening fire on the carrier. The Lupan raider drops out of warp as well beside the Aethon while the Riders - Ann Carter@anncaris - quickly regroup and swing back in to support their carrier against the Lupan Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "We have an incoming hail from the packship." Rianni@crystyl:"Let's have it" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar appears on the viewscreen again, this time without the static, "Just in time for the action I see! Help my escort keep those Riders off me, we've got the big one." Rianni@crystyl nods and smiles, "I did promise we'd save some of the action for you after all. Don't worry, we're on it" Ann Carter@anncaris | The Riders close in for an attack run on the packship as it trades broadside fire with the carrier... Rianni@crystyl:"You heard the Alpha, let's keep those Riders focused away from the packship" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, "On it Cap'n!" Ann Carter@anncaris | Aethon and the Lupan escort dart in, intercepting and opening fire on the Rider craft, taking two out and forcing the rest to scatter before they can get any hits on the packship. They give - Ann Carter@anncaris - chase with the Aethon going one direction and the Lupan escort in the other, driving the Riders off Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "With two smaller ships we should be able to keep them from regrouping and pick them off one by one." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Ann, I know you're familiar with formation attacks. Suhani, our weapons are substandard so don't focus on tracking our target. Let Ann's flight path guide you and use it to herd the Rider's - Rianni@crystyl:- into the Escorts firing line" Ann Carter@anncaris:"Good idea! I'll herd 'em over to the Lupan!" Ann Carter@anncaris keeps up the pursuit and Suhani fires, not so much to hit the Riders as to direct their course, forcing the three they are chasing to go in certain directions or get hit Rianni@crystyl:"That's it, now I just hope our hunter friends get the idea and play their part..." Ann Carter@anncaris | After a short while of careful maneuvering and firing, the Riders find themselves in front of the Lupan escort, which opens fire and takes out two of them! The third loses shields but manages - Ann Carter@anncaris - to evade destruction, but in its frantic dodging it finds itself in the crossfire between the two larger ships, being taken out by a stray hit from its own carrier Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Only two more Riders left on the field!" Rianni@crystyl:"Nicely done ladies! Keep it up now" Ann Carter@anncaris nods, quickly moving to chase the last two Riders. Once again they split up, this time the Lupan escort choosing one and the Aethon going after the other, giving them no place to run Ann Carter@anncaris | The final Riders dodge as best as they can, but this time Ann and Suhani drives theirs into the crossfire, having seen what happened to the last Rider that ventured into it. The Rider's - Ann Carter@anncaris - shields are stripped away by shot from the Aethon's forward array followed by a hit from the carrier, then another shot from the Aethon tears off one of its wings, sending it spinning out of - Ann Carter@anncaris - control before it is vapourized by a powerful broadside cannon shot from the packship Rianni@crystyl:"Very good. What is the status of the packship and carrier now?" Ann Carter@anncaris | The Lupan escort manages to finish off its Rider as well and forms up beside the Aethon... Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Packship shields at 25% and dropping, but the carrier's is almost gone. This is a good time for an attack run with the Rider craft dealt with." Rianni@crystyl nods, "Prime the warheads. We'll make a strafing run at the carrier and see if we can't punch a torpedo through a weak spot in their shields" Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani nods, "Getting the warheads ready now." Ann Carter@anncaris brings the Aethon in and the Lupan escort follows... Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "I believe I have identified the weakest section of the carrier's shields. Sending the coordinates to the Lupan now." Rianni@crystyl:"Then let's finish this" Rianni@crystyl:"Push auxiliary power to the forward disruptors and focus fire on those coordinates ahead of the torpedo" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal nods, "Transferring power now, Captain." Ann Carter@anncaris | Aethon and the Lupan escort open fire with their energy weapons at the weak spot. The shield flickers dramatically before failing, and Suhani unleashes the tricobalt warhead... Ann Carter@anncaris | The warhead passes through the gap where the shields failed, impacting the side of the carrier. The resulting explosion unleashes a shockwave so huge that it shakes the Aethon's bridge and - Ann Carter@anncaris - pushes the ship backwards slightly. The viewscreen is completely covered by a bright white flash and the bridge crew shield their eyes. As the explosion fades, they can see what remains of the - Ann Carter@anncaris - carrier has been split into two large pieces, with smaller shards of debris in between Ann Carter@anncaris | Suhani: "Now that's what the Aethon was made for!" Rianni@crystyl:"Let's not get ahead of ourselves now. Start scanning the debris and disabled escorts, let's make sure nobody's got any surprises left before we let our guard down" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal nods, "We will make a clean sweep of the battlefield." Ann Carter@anncaris | After a few seconds of scanning, Vusal announces, "I am picking up survivors within portions of the carrier that is still pressurize behind sealed doors and force fields, as well as within a - Ann Carter@anncaris - few disabled Rider craft that still possess functional environmental systems." Rianni@crystyl:"What's the state of power signatures out there?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal: "I am only picking up low signatures from the disabled Rider craft and several parts of the carrier. No sign of any traps or hostile ships that still retain combat capability." Rianni@crystyl:"Then signal the colony that we are standing down and open a channel to the packship" Ann Carter@anncaris | Vusal nods, "Channel open." Ann Carter@anncaris | Alpha Ketaar appears on the viewscreen again, "That was a good final shot! Your little ship packs quite a punch with those warheads!" Rianni@crystyl smiles, "That it does, Alpha. Our sensors detect a number of survivors both on the carrier and in the support ships. We need to test and see if they are the influenced anarchists you were seeking" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar nods, "That is sensible. Do you have somewhere to hold them? Anarchists or not, they won't be happy we decimated their ships." Rianni@crystyl:"We might be able to process the odd one or two, but we don't exactly have the capacity or the staff to control any real number. You?" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "We do not keep holding cells for captives like other packs, but the packship is large. We can find somewhere to secure them, and as dangerous as some Riders can be, they will not be - Ann Carter@anncaris - able to break out and fight through my entire pack." Rianni@crystyl:"We are few and unlikely to be of any assistance in the matter, but we are ready and willing to join and assist you in processing them if desired" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "Your people are known for your technological ingenuity, are they not? I hear you put some very nice upgrades on your main ship after some of our people attacked you." Rianni@crystyl nods, "The ablative armour than earned the ship it's nickname of the 'starblade'. Technical expertise is one thing we have in abundance here with my crew" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "We can handle prisoners and checking for influence, but having a secure holding area will save a lot of trouble. If any of your people can help my engineers prepare the accommodations - Ann Carter@anncaris - for them, that will make things easier." Rianni@crystyl nods, "It's the least we can do in thanks for your timely intervention. That carrier was a complete unknown, and I do not imagine we would have fared so well against it without you" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar nods, "Yes, the Riders usually operate from planetary bases and settlements and do not field mobile docking platforms like that. And it does not look like it uses the same technology as - Ann Carter@anncaris - their other craft either. Perhaps it was influence by the Horde that drove them down this different path." Rianni@crystyl:"We shall soon find out, something is definitely going on with them even if it's not the Horde. I also need to check on the colony below following that skirmish, perhaps you or one of your delegates- Rianni@crystyl:- might join me there once we get things moving up here" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "I will send Aliz to join you there. Our shields are lowered, your people may beam over to help set up the holding rooms." Rianni@crystyl nods, "They will be along momentarily and I will see Aliz on the surface" Ann Carter@anncaris | Ketaar: "Thank you for notifying us. That was a good fight. And if they are not anarchists, then they are pirates and needed to be dealt with in any case. I'm glad we arrived in time to assist." Rianni@crystyl:"I am sure that is a sentiment we both share with the colonists" she smiles --- Keliaya@anncaris | Meanwhile, the VF meets up with the other search craft in a scheduled rendezvous... Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Runabout Delaware reports they have found something, Captain." Keelah@crystyl looks up, "What have they got?" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Chag seems very excited about the find, so I'll put him through and let him explain himself." Keelah@crystyl nods and looks to the viewscreen Keliaya@anncaris | The cheerful Bolian appears on the viewscreen, "Captain! I think we might've found them. Or where they went, at least." Keelah@crystyl perks a brow, "Please try to contain your excitement and start from the beginning Mr. Chag. What - exactly - have you found?" Keliaya@anncaris | Chag: "Sorry. We picked up a repeating signal on a Starfleet frequency with standard Starfleet comm encryption as well. It contained coordinates and a code that corresponded perfectly to - Keliaya@anncaris - Ensign Tierno's service number. We tracked the signal to a small, very makeshift buoy that seems to have been pieced together from spare components." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Excellent work Mr. Chag. And no apology is needed, your elation is shared by us all. What of the coordinates included, are they within your sensor range?" Keliaya@anncaris | Chag nods and smiles back, "It was too far for an in-depth scan, but it definitely correlates to a star system, one with a planet inside the habitable zone of its star." Keelah@crystyl:"They must have had cause to seek shelter on a planet there. Alright, thank you Mr. Chag, please hold position at your present coordinates and we call all search teams there to regroup" Keliaya@anncaris | Chag: "Aye Captain." Keelah@crystyl:"Mr. Fisher, if you please" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher nods, tapping away at his console, "At maximum warp, we can reach the coordinates in just a little over an hour, Captain." Keelah@crystyl nods looking to TQ, "Where do we stand on recalling the other search parties now. Is the Observer refuelling, or already out?" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "Still refueling, but nearly complete." Keelah@crystyl:"Good. Then she can start regrouping the other search parties to gather at the Delaware's coordinates while we follow this breadcrumb trail" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher: "Course is set." Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "The Observer should be ready to launch in a minute." Keelah@crystyl:"Engage at maximum warp as soon as the Observer is away" Keliaya@anncaris | Fisher nods, and a little over a minute later, Vrolmacht announces that the Observer is away and Fisher jumps the VF to warp, the stars stretching into starstreaks on the viewscreen Keliaya@anncaris | The cruise passes quietly for twenty minutes as they speed towards the planet, then... Keliaya@anncaris:"I'm picking up something. Multiple warp trails leading towards the same system. They seem fairly fresh." Keelah@crystyl:"A populated world then, presumably. Perhaps they sought aid from them" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Maybe. Two of these readings...they're a close match to Lupan warp signatures, and some of the others are from smaller ships- Rider craft." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Not unlike the size of the ships that would have inflicted the damage we saw in the debris field two days ago." Keelah@crystyl:"I was wondering if there was any correlation. Are you suggesting that these Rider signatures could be a match for the ships responsible for the destruction we previously observed?" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht nods, "The size of the Rider craft that would have created these warp trails are a good fit for the size we estimated based on the damage and damage patterns, Captain. I cannot fully - Keliaya@anncaris:- confirm the theory, but Riders are the group known for primarily fielding ships of this size- Lupan fighters are smaller and raiders like those used by the Clenduros or Toroki are larger." Keelah@crystyl:"But we have Lupan signatures as well?" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "Judging by the warp trails, it's a larger ship, probably a packship, with a smaller escort alongside it. Maybe they're just visiting this planet to resupply as well, but all of them seem - Keliaya@anncaris:- to have passed through the area very recently. A little coincidental for them to all be visiting at the same time..." Keelah@crystyl turns, "If you have a theory Kelly, don't hold back" Keliaya@anncaris:"I hope I'm wrong, but Riders and Lupan both have a reputation for taking what they want by force. Not every pack or gang are pirates, but these ones could have more nefarious purposes..." Keelah@crystyl:"There must be a known reason for all this traffic to be congregating at this system, most likely an industrial colony or trade hub for so many different peoples to make a beeline for it from a - Keelah@crystyl:- distance" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "It could be a territorial conflict. Riders are very territorial and have been known to engage Lupan packs that wander into their claimed space." Keelah@crystyl:"That could explain the destruction we previously encountered. Though if these Riders are this territorial about this system, I do not know why Rianni would think it a good idea to go there" Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "Perhaps she did not know it was Rider territory. We will have our answers soon enough..." Keelah@crystyl:"Good. I do not like these guessing games when it pertains to the fate and wellbeing of our family..." --- NPC@annpc#557 | On Yatiko Colony, Rianni beams down along with Aliz from the Packship to meet with Governor Cinsarya Rianni@crystyl looks to Aliz with a smile, "Hello again Aliz" NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz: "I am pleased we are able to meet again under better circumstances- fighting on the same side against true pirates." NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "Thank you both for your aid. Our colony would have been forced to follow the whims of these Riders without you." Rianni@crystyl:"I am glad to see you well, Governor. How are your people faring after that?" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "Thanks to your assistance, we have no serious injuries or deaths this time. The AA arrays are down once again, but they've served their function in the battle, and it seems you have - NPC@annpc#557 - dealt with the whole gang. Hopefully it will be some time before we have need of those arrays again. We pulled a wounded Rider out of the lake and we believe there a second survivor in the - NPC@annpc#557 - mountains. We have people tracking them now, a single Rider is not a serious threat to us." Rianni@crystyl:"At your discretion. Though I'm sure between our two crews, we can find the people to aid in the hunt of these Riders if deemed necessary. Oh but where are my manners? This is Aliz from the packship" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya smiles, "Welcome to Yatiko Colony, Aliz. We appreciate you and your pack coming to our aid." NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz: "We can send a few hunters into the mountains and help you find that last Rider." NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "We welcome any further assistance you're willing to provide, Be careful, the topaline deposits there can block sensors, which is why we have not been able to find the survivor yet." Rianni@crystyl:"All the more reason then to use pack hunters who don't need to rely on technological sensors" she smiles NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz gives a Lupan smirk "Exactly. I will tell the Ketaar to send a hunting party down." NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz taps her communicator and steps off to speak with the Alpha NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "As for you, we cannot call upon you any more than we already have, and with the Riders gone, we can proceed with repairs at our own pace. We have some additional fuel we can provide - NPC@annpc#557 - you, to ensure you will leave here on full capacity after what you have used up in the fighting." Rianni@crystyl:"Thank you, but that won't be necessary. You've already given us more than enough on that front, honestly. What would be nice though if you're willing; my crew has been packed up tightly in close - Rianni@crystyl:- quarters for longer than any of our species' find comfortable. Would you allow them to come down and stretch their legs for a while, get some fresh air and perhaps trade with your people for food - Rianni@crystyl:- and supplies? The interaction with others outside their own number will be a welcome enough distraction! There are only a handful of us, and we can't all come at once anyway. Besides, we have to - Rianni@crystyl:- make a quick turnaround and get back on our journey as soon as possible too" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya smiles, "Of course, Captain. You may stay as long as you like, and if you find yourself back in the region, you are welcome to visit and refuel- free of any charge. Without your help, - NPC@annpc#557 - who knows how much fuel we would have had to give over to the Riders?" ianni@crystyl bows her head, "You are most gracious, Governor. Now while we are here with Aliz, how do you feel about engaging with the Lupan to see if a similar mutually beneficial arrangement can be met; just - Rianni@crystyl:- in case more trouble does find its way here" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "That would be a sensible measure, especially with our defenses down at the moment." NPC@annpc#557 | Meanwhile, Aliz steps back to the group, "The first prisoners have begun arriving on the packship. Our scans confirm they have Horde influence." Rianni@crystyl:"So our guess was correct, not a pleasant revelation though I am glad that we have managed to find the anarchists you were hunting out here. What does this mean now for your packship?" NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz: "There are likely more than one group of Anarchists here. We will stay here to ensure the colony and surrounding areas are safe, and when the colony has its defenses restored, we will - NPC@annpc#557 - continue patrolling for others." Rianni@crystyl smiles, "Well, that answers our next question then" she chuckles NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz: "As for restoring the defenses, we can help repair the arrays on the surface and have some mercantile connections in the region." NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "We still keep in contact with some Corporations even though this isn't a Corporate colony anymore. We can get supplies and even full replacements from them, for a fee of course." Rianni@crystyl:"If this Rider gang was mobile - as turned out to be the case - it's possible they were subjugating a much larger area of space, so perhaps now more passing traffic will appear?" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "It's certainly possible. I hope that is the case, more trade will speed our recovery along." NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz: "We will send our escort out to probe the extent of this gang's influence while the packship stays nearby to assist and protect the colony for the time being." Rianni@crystyl:"And on the subject of speeding things along-" she turns to Aliz, "- do you know yet how long you think you'll need to secure the influenced Riders?" NPC@annpc#557 | Aliz: "We are starting to bring them on board already. They are mostly wounded or unconscious and in no state to try and escape, but we will likely need a few more hours before the - NPC@annpc#557 - accommodations are fully secure. The most alert and dangerous ones are being put into the rooms we have secured first, while our healers are tending to the more badly wounded ones." Rianni@crystyl nods, "I'll be rotating my crew to the surface a few at a time just to get them off our little ship for a while. It is useful to know roughly how long we plan to be here" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya: "The colony is not in the best state right now, but the other side of the lake is quite picturesque, if some of your people would prefer to explore the natural landscape instead." Rianni@crystyl smiles, "A lovely idea, thank you! Oh, and also; while it won't be safe to do so yet, once the pack has secured all of the Rider gang prisoners that large carrier of theirs should present a small - Rianni@crystyl:- abundance of salvage. Could be useful for repairs, or at the very least extra materials for trade" NPC@annpc#557 | Cinsarya smiles back, "Thank you, that's an excellent suggestion. We'll be sure to take full advantage of it." Rianni@crystyl:"Alright, well I know we all have much to do. We'll be contacted if anything is needed, meanwhile we will begin rotating the crew down" --- NPC@annpc#557 FX | https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/elderscrolls/images/7/7e/TESV_Lake_Ilinalta.png/revision/latest?cb=20120110230644 NPC@annpc#557 | Emma, Suhani and Rasnik beam down to the lakeside after Rianni returns to the Aethon Emma Ralde@crystyl looks around, smiling as she breathes deeply, "Ahh, you can't beat it" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani smiles, "Nice getting some fresh air after a week in a small ship, isn't it?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Sure is!" she finds a nice spot to plop down and relax NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani steps over, plopping down beside Emma, "That's the upside of larger ships like Starfleet cruisers or Colonial Battleships, I guess. There's a lot more room to breath, and there's - NPC@annpc#557 - room for holodecks to simulate environments too." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"And for not tripping over the same people every few minutes. Don't get me wrong now, I love you all. But there's only person on that ship I should be that close with all day every day" she smiles NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani chuckles, "Don't worry, I know what you mean. I'm used to working in smaller ships, but even then there's only so much an Orion can get used to being cramped up in a little space all - NPC@annpc#557:- the time. Still love the feeling when we finally do get some fresh air- or even get a chance to set foot in a bigger ship or station." Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles, "Yeah, you got that right. Can't wait to get back to the Forge now but hey! At least we're fully fuelled with the Aethon again so we can afford to spread out and use the whole ship" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "That's certainly going to make life more comfortable on board! And we won't have to constantly worry about running out of fuel before the Valley Forge finds us, either." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Oh that reminds me! Still got some spare parts listed that Ann filtered out from the unused parts of the ship for me. Going to see what passes for a market here later on if you fancy mingling with - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- some new faces! My self appointed mission is to secure high value cargo in the form of fresh food we aren't sick of already" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani smiles, "An important mission! I'll take a look around, see what they have for sale. I'm sure some of the everyday local foods will be amazing in comparison to the rations and basic - NPC@annpc#557:- replicated nutrition packages we've been eating. Don't have to be High Orion gourmet for us to enjoy!" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"My thoughts exactly!" she turns her head, looking between the others, "So what's the deal big guy, not much for talking or just enjoying the break?" NPC@annpc#557 | Rasnik: "Just enjoying the break. Had to scramble around Engineering the whole time while you had the comfort of seats on the bridge," he chuckles Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Fair point" she laughs NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "Targeting those Riders wasn't easy either! But it's more so my hands than my legs that are tired." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"I think it's fair to say that everyone's earned a little break here today" NPC@annpc#557 | Rasnik: "That we have. Stopping a Rider advance with all the improvised weapons we had here, that's no small feat. We're lucky to be alive, not to mention victorious." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Yeah, that carrier arriving was messed up!" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "That was certainly a surprise we weren't expecting. I wonder where they got a ship like that. I've never heard of a Rider gang building or even fielding a carrier, only a salvaged - NPC@annpc#557:- escort at most." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"It's sure odd. Maybe there'll be some info left on their computer" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "I'm not sure how much of their computer systems are intact, but it's worth checking." NPC@annpc#557 | Rasnik: "But let's enjoy the rest first before we get back to more work. It's been a long week." Emma Ralde@crystyl smiles and nods, "So you got any plans while we're here now Rasnik?" NPC@annpc#557 | Rasnik: "Nothing specific. Enjoy the scenery, mingle a bit with the locals. You?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Pretty much the same. But I sure as hell am going to make sure Rianni comes back here and switches off for a while too" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods, "She's been doing a great job, but she's as Orion as the rest of us...or human I suppose," she chuckles. "She needs the rest too, and no one like a vijra to make sure she gets it." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"I think she needs it more than anyone. The pressure she's been putting herself under in her own head since this whole mess began is immense. Not that she would ever admit it, even to me!" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "I suppose being Captain is always a high pressure job. But being thrown right into the middle of it, and so early in her career, that's probably something different." Emma Ralde@crystyl nods, "In all my years I don't think I've ever met a girl so full of determination. The weight of command is a heavy one, especially when you realize your responsibility for your crew, so being - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- thrust into a survival mess like this is not something even a seasoned Captain could just stroll through. She knows that, and so puts herself under even more pressure to get everyone home without - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- a scratch. It's just who she is, you know what I mean?" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods, "Reminds me of my old mentor. And Vora too to an extent, though I think she takes after Vora for that," she chuckles. "I don't know Vora personally, though." Emma Ralde@crystyl chuckles, "She is like Vora in some ways, Keelah too for that matter. They are all of the same breed" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani chuckles, "Guess you need to be a certain kind of person to be a successful commander." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Not strictly, but CO's like those tend to find their way to success. Like the universe is on their side or something" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "Maybe the personality traits they've got are just suited to leadership. It's not that others can't be leaders, but if there's a crisis, leaders like them are usually the ones to shine." Emma Ralde@crystyl nods, "That's a far more reasonable theory. But I like the romanticism of my universe theory!" she chuckles NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani chuckles, "You never know, with what we've seen of the universe travelling just one galaxy, there's certainly a lot of things beyond our comprehension still. There's a lot of cultures - NPC@annpc#557:- that believe the universe has a plan or some semblance of conscious will. Who's to say they're not right?" Emma Ralde@crystyl:"In all honestly... I find myself wondering too" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani: "I think we all wonder sometimes, but mostly I just go with the flow. I mean, it's not like we can resist the flow of the entire universe even if we wanted to anyways, right?" she - NPC@annpc#557:- laughs. "There's only so much you can do on your own anyways- a lot of our accomplishments, it's as much due to chance opportunities offered to us by the universe or other people as it is by our - NPC@annpc#557:- own talents. I bet there's plenty of Orions who can do everything we can, or Lennie can, who just never got the chance and are still serving drinks or playing bouncer in some club somewhere." Emma Ralde@crystyl nods, "True enough. And it's not like I believe that every individual persons fate is being steered by the universe of anything. I guess it feels more like... if we weren't the ones out here now - Emma Ralde@crystyl:- playing the part that we are in all of this, then someone else still would be, you know? Like this whole galactic cycle thing just sort of... finds it way" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani nods back, "I know what you mean. There's an overall pattern, but the universe's too big to be concerned with the precise details of everyone's lives. It just makes sure everything goes - NPC@annpc#557:- in the right direction for the big picture." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Something like that, yeah" she smiles, "And just turned out that my Rianni's got herself a leading role. Least as I see it, Totally not biased or anything..." NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani laughs, "She's the Aethon's captain, that's a pretty leading role as far as I'm concerned as well!" NPC@annpc#557 | Emma's combadge chirps Emma Ralde@crystyl:"For now. But I-" she looks down accusingly at the badge, laying back and she taps it, "Ralde" NPC@annpc#557:<C - Vusal> "Ensign, we are detecting the Valley Forge inbound." Emma Ralde@crystyl sits up, "They found us?! That's great! Where's the Captain, does she know yet?" NPC@annpc#557 <C - Vusal> "I have just informed her and she is on the way to the bridge now." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Perfect, thanks Vusal. What's the Forge's eta?" NPC@annpc#557 <C - Vusal> "Just under fifteen minutes." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Then let's get the word out and make sure everyone's back on board in ten. Last thing we want is our desperate rescue mission to come barrelling in here just to find us all lazing by the water!" NPC@annpc#557 | Suhani chuckles, "Good point. Guess we're cutting our rest short, but we'll all be back on board the Forge soon enough now." Emma Ralde@crystyl:"Exactly!" --- Keliaya@anncaris | As the Valley Forge travels towards the system... Keliaya@anncaris:"I'm picking up two ships in orbit of the planet, the Lupan packship and a smaller Lupan escort. There's power signatures coming from the planet as well, it's definitely inhabited. And lots of - Keliaya@anncaris - debris...at least one was the remains of a large ship." Keelah@crystyl:"What about our missing ship?" Keliaya@anncaris:"I'm searching for it now, even without cloak it's not easy to pick up with sensors at this range. Comparing the debris with its composition too, but nothing so far." Keliaya@anncaris | Vrolmacht: "The damage signatures on the debris is primarily disruptor energy. Very recent." Keelah@crystyl:"Try hailing the Lupan" Keliaya@anncaris | TQ: "We are being hailed, Captain." Keelah@crystyl nods, "On screen" Keliaya@anncaris:"Found them! They're in one piece and seem to be power-" Keliaya@anncaris | Rianni appears on the viewscreen in the Aethon's command chair! Keliaya@anncaris glances to the screen, "Nevermind," she chuckles Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Ensign, it is good to see you all again. Or should I say, Captain?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles, "Ensign works fine for me, Captain!" Keelah@crystyl:"Not as long as you're in command of your bridge. We no doubt have a lot to catch up on, but what is your initial report?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "It was a hidden trap within the Aethon's systems to sabotage us when we entered a wormhole - and yes, it was that specific. We've been running on minimal power on a return course to you - Keelah@crystyl:- but had to divert here. All the crew is doing well and are in good health, just a little eager to see home again now" Keelah@crystyl smiles at the last sentiment before perking a brow, "Wait... 'Aethon'?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles, "A ship can't be home without a name!" Keelah@crystyl smiles back, "Well it is good to see you in high spirits. We are just a few minutes out now so please report to me here as soon as you are able. We'll get a relief crew on to your Aethon so you can- Keelah@crystyl:- all come straight back" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "It will be a welcome return, Captain" Keelah@crystyl nods and the comms closes. Leaning back in her chair she half mutters again, "...Aethon...?" --- Keelah@crystyl & Kelly sit at the sofa in her ready room, sharing a tray of tea as they look curiously over initial scans trying to piece together events ahead of Rianni's arrival Keliaya@anncaris taps on her PADD, "So the disruptor energy readings on the debris match the weapons of the Lupan ships and the stealth ship. Looks like they were working together against these Rider craft, - Keliaya@anncaris - and...whoever that larger ship belonged to. Couldn't have been Horde, otherwise the whole colony would be affected by now if Horde thralls were in this close proximity." Keelah@crystyl:"The current state of the region I wouldn't be surprised to see a few upstarts getting a little braver. Perhaps they were a new player biting off more than they could chew" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "That's a possibility. Riders don't usually operate with large ships like this, but maybe these built an alliance with another group, or found a large ship they could use as a base of - Keliaya@anncaris:- operations and became overly ambitious. They are good mechanics, they just don't have the facilities to build anything bigger than the craft we usually see them in. If they found a damaged ship, - Keliaya@anncaris:- they might've been able to repair and repurpose it." Keelah@crystyl:"Even then, it doesn't seem... right somehow. Riders and large starships are just unheard of" Keliaya@anncaris:"Exactly. They don't usually tend to form alliances with their territorial nature, and they don't usually repurpose derelicts either, otherwise we'd see more gangs with ships like this..." Keelah@crystyl nods, turning as the door chimes, "Come in" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni steps in, looking the desk, then the pair sat casually to the side of the room, standing rigid, "Captain, Commander" Keelah@crystyl chuckles as she stands, "Relax Ensign before you sprain something" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles a little and approaches Keliaya@anncaris chuckles a little and pats the sofa, "Come join us, Ensign." Keelah@crystyl:"Oh, it... is alright to call you that again, yes?" she teases Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles and nods, clearly a little overwhelmed, "Will suit me just fine!" she approaches, tearing up at the reality of the ordeal finally being over Keelah@crystyl pulls her into a reassuring hug and lets her get it out of her system, "We're glad to have you back too" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni finds her composure after a moment, pulling clear and dabbing her eyes before taking a seat, "Sorry. I just..." Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "It's alright. Must be a frightening experience, being stuck out here with a skeleton crew on a ship you barely know." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "I don't know why it just all came out like that though..." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "Because for the last week you've been a Captain in a stressful situation. You've been holding yourself together and making sure to be the Captain your crew needed you to be in order to - Keelah@crystyl:- survive. It is a lonely chair, isn't it? But one that we both understand the burden of, so don't worry about it. A little emotional elation is perfectly natural here" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, dabbing her eyes again, "Thank you Captain. That... does kind of make sense" Keelah@crystyl smiles, quietly pouring out another drink for Rianni and giving her time to settle Keliaya@anncaris:"You're back safely on the Valley Forge now, and importantly so is everyone who was under your command." Keelah@crystyl:"Nobody can ask more of commanding officer" she hands Rianni a tea, "Except, that is, for a full debrief" she smiles a little Keliaya@anncaris smiles as well, "Don't worry, take your time to settle in, though." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni sips, "Well... when we got knocked out of the wormhole we assessed the situation first. We anticipated that an SAR mission would launch as soon as it were possible, and estimated how long - Keelah@crystyl:- it would take. Given the linear nature of the search area I figured that the piggyback deployment would be used, and so we calculated a two-week recovery period, give or take. We had insufficient - Keelah@crystyl:- power reserves and minimal provisions though enough to stretch out. So we found an optimum cruising speed and began our return journey. We isolated ourselves to a minimal portion of the ship and - Keelah@crystyl:- locked the rest down to save power and reroute environmental systems. It was rough living, but stretched our power reserves enough that we had a little buffer for emergency use" Keelah@crystyl:"A most logical approach. It can't have been easy deciding to ration yourselves so harshly right out of the gate" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "True, but we had some great camaraderie. Everyone was determined to rough it out and make it work. We got our heads together and redeployed to different roles around the ship as - Keelah@crystyl:- needed". Keliaya@anncaris:"That's great to hear. The skeleton crew was predominantly Engineering staff, we didn't anticipate needing anyone else for the task you were initially assigned with." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "Yes, and everyone was great in understanding that and being versatile enough to help. You've got some very skilled people there Commander, we had everything covered to at least some - Keelah@crystyl:- degree!" Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "Thank you. They're very fine personnel. A few I picked out for the skeleton crew just in case a certain role was needed, but even then I didn't anticipate the situation you found - Keliaya@anncaris:- yourselves in." Keelah@crystyl:"So then you were off on your way, but that's a far cry from where we found you now" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "That started a few days back. We intercepted a distress signal from a Canderos freighter that was under attack from Lupan pirates" Keelah@crystyl leans back iin her chair, listening. Her face a picture of 'oh, this is where it gets interesting' Keliaya@anncaris:"And I assume you responded to it, still operating as a Starfleet crew under General Order 6?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "Of course. We were dubious and so used our reserve energy to approach under cloak. I opted to challenge the Lupan's position through a general hail, and it got their attention" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "It turned out that the Lupan were agents of the Sisterhood hunting reported Horde anarchists in the region. They challenged the Clanderos, who mistook them for pirates and ran. That only- Keelah@crystyl:- confirmed the Lupan's suspicions and so they attacked. We were able to mediate and helped the Lupan test the freighter crew, proving they were clear. In thanks, the Clanderos provided us a small - Keelah@crystyl:- energy transfer and directions to this colony where we could refuel properly" Keliaya@anncaris:"Hailing them revealed your presence to them, if not your exact location. A risky call, but it looks like you made the right one considering how things turned out," she smiles Keelah@crystyl nods, "A bold move indeed, even if you were at full power in a ship which could hold its own against the Lupan" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "We had taken time to study all of Aethon's systems and were confident that they would not be able to detect us while cloaked. It was the only way to get them to stop firing and talk, for- Keelah@crystyl:- had we approached openly we would have been vulnerable from the start" Keelah@crystyl smiles, "I'm not doubting your judgement, the results speak for themselves. So you came here to the colony to replenish your power reserves" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "We continued as long as we could along the predicted search path. When it was time to divert, we left a buoy - which I assume worked, given that you came straight here" Keliaya@anncaris nods and smiles, "We did indeed find your buoy. That was a smart decision, Ensign." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "A smart move indeed. Especially including your personnel number so we knew it was you and not a trap" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles proudly, "Credit goes to the crew who were able to make it out of spares pulled from around the ship! But yeah, we diverted here and opened a dialogue with the colony to learn that - Keelah@crystyl:- they were being harassed by a Rider gang who were milking the colony dry from it's mining operations. Of course we couldn't just leave them, so we helped with their repairs and bolstered their - Keelah@crystyl:- defenses. Through talking with them, we began to suspect that this Rider gang were the influenced anarchists that the Lupan were hunting. So we prioritized restoration of the colony's subspace - Keelah@crystyl:- relay in order to contact the Lupan and summon them to the colony to help defend it. They arrived just in time too! Between Aethon and the colony defenses we managed to control the Rider attack, - Keelah@crystyl:- but then that huge carrier warped in for them. Fortunately the Lupan weren't far behind and we worked alongside them to stop the attack. Since then, we've been helping the Lupan convert areas of - Keelah@crystyl:- the packship into holding cells" Keliaya@anncaris:"So that's how the Lupan got here. And it could explain the carrier too if the Riders were operating under Horde influence and not entirely their normal selves." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "It's still something of a mystery to us. But we figure the unusual behaviour of them using a carrier like this is best explained by the influence driving them" Keelah@crystyl:"A reasonable deduction. I assume the Riders were confirmed to be influenced then?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni nods, "Yes, the Lupan tested them and are now working to determine the extent of influence while preparing to transport them back to the Coalition. They are also hunting a survivor or two - Keelah@crystyl:- who crashed on the colony, but once they leave they should be maintaining a presence here" Keliaya@anncaris:"Do the Lupan have everything under control here, or is there anything we can do to assist?" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "They are doing all they can, but I'm sure they would welcome expertise and support from the Starblade! The colony could certainly use all the help they can get, as the sooner their - Keelah@crystyl:- defenses are restored, the sooner the Lupan can ferry the prisoners away" Keelah@crystyl eyerolls at the 'starblade' drop but nods to Kelly, "Make an assessment and use your judgement. We'll take as long as you need" Keliaya@anncaris nods, "I'll see what help we can provide to restore the colony defenses while we're here. My team needs to do a full check to make sure the steal- Aethon is safe to go through the wormhole - Keliaya@anncaris:- again anyways, so we can't leave immediately in any case." Keelah@crystyl | Rianni: "The crew has already made a thorough examination, so I don't anticipate any more problems. If nothing else, their work to date on it should make a better starting point for any fresh team Keelah@crystyl:- to work from" Keliaya@anncaris smiles, "I'll make sure the new team consults with them, then." Keliaya@anncaris looks to Rianni, "You did a very good job, Ensign. You got your ship and crew out safely from a precarious situation, and solved crises for others you encountered and kept the peace all while - Keliaya@anncaris - trying to stay alive. Even some of the Captains with four pips can't say they've done the same," she smiles Keelah@crystyl smiles as well, "Yes, you have outdone yourself this time. I'm proud of you" Keelah@crystyl | Rianni smiles sheepishly, "Thank you both" --- T'Emp@anncaris | Shortly after Rianni and Emma finally settle back in their own quarters on the VF, the doorbell rings... Rianni@crystyl calls out from the sofa, "It's open" T'Emp@anncaris | TP skips inside, "Just wanted to make sure you weren't sleeping or anything!" Rianni@crystyl turns and smiles happily, "Hey Pia! Wow... look at you!" she sits up T'Emp@anncaris smiles back, "Wasn't too long since you sported one of those uniforms yourself! And now you've been commanding your own ship for a week!" Rianni@crystyl:"And wasn't too long since you were a newborn, and look at you now!" she teases kindly T'Emp@anncaris chuckles, "True! But technically I'm still older than the other you!" Rianni@crystyl:"Any excuse to play the 'I'm older' card, right?" she laughs, patting the sofa, "Come on now, join me and tell me what's been happening here!" T'Emp@anncaris laughs and sits down beside Rianni on the sofa, "We've been searching for you all this time! I think you're familiar with the method mum used, you helped develop it didn't you?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "One of the strategies that we devised since the Observer joined the crew. We had a new asset in her ship and so it had to review it's capabilities and devise deployments to suit it" T'Emp@anncaris:"It's a good strategy! We couldn't have found you as quickly without it! It was one of the runabouts we sent out that picked up on the buoy signal that led us here." Rianni@crystyl:"I'm just relieved it all worked out and we got everyone home ok" T'Emp@anncaris smiles, "I'm glad you're back now too Rianni! I knew you'd lead everyone through okay, but it was still worrying when we started finding things like the debris." T'Emp@anncaris:"We knew it wasn't your ship of course but it meant there was an active danger around here. We think it might be the same Riders you dealt with though, so hopefully this area is safe now! Definitely - T'Emp@anncaris:- /safer/, at least." Rianni@crystyl:"Oh, you found someone else they attacked? Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Just lucky they didn't come after you with that carrier of theirs, that was a beast!" T'Emp@anncaris:"Me too. But I'm sure mum would've found a way if they did show up! We have the QanwI' and Eon's squadron with us after all!â€ Rianni@crystyl smiles, "True enough! But I'm sure you're right, the region should be a lot more secure now with them gone" T'Emp@anncaris nods, "You've just been Captain for a week and you've secured a whole region already!" Rianni@crystyl:"Well I mean, it's not like I've really done anything all on my own or anything..." T'Emp@anncaris:"You had a very good crew, but it's still something else being the one leading them and making the important decisions! Not to mention it was a skeleton crew and you had to make do with less people - T'Emp@anncaris:- than the ship would normally be crewed by, which must've made it even more difficult!" Rianni@crystyl:"It certainly came with it's own set of challenges, yeah" T'Emp@anncaris:"So what was it like, having your own ship to command for a week? I imagine it must've been a very stressful situation, being totally unexpected and understaffed and all, but you've also always - T'Emp@anncaris:- wanted to be a Command officer! So must be something nice about it too!" Rianni@crystyl:"Would've been nicer to start off with something a little more planned" she chuckles. "I guess the thing of it was, there was never any time for me to think about the situation at all. Just had to - Rianni@crystyl:- get on and deal with it, you know?" T'Emp@anncaris nods, "Must've been one thing after another with a situation like that and such a small crew. And when you did have time to yourself, you're probably so tired you just shut down and sleep... T'Emp@anncaris:"Not a lot of time to think I imagine." Rianni@crystyl chuckles, "Yeah... 'time to yourself' was not a thing on the Aethon. Would have been had we got to departing this system before you found us, but not up to this point" T'Emp@anncaris:"Aww, did we interrupt your shore leave here?" Rianni@crystyl:"It's true that we were making the most of the opportunity while we rotating across the packship to help with their upgrades to hold the prisoners" Rianni@crystyl:"But no, up until here we were on minimum power and so confined ourselves to one small area of the ship for living" T'Emp@anncaris nods, "Definitely doesn't sound like a comfortable experience. Must be great being back in your quarters now!" Rianni@crystyl:"We're certainly enjoying it!" T'Emp@anncaris smiles, "So, what'd you think of the command experience looking back on it now? Other than the cramped living..." Rianni@crystyl:"It... hrmm, I don't really. I guess the best I can say is that it reaffirmed my belief that it is something I want to do. /One day/!" T'Emp@anncaris smirks, "But not today, and definitely not suddenly and unexpectedly being thrust into the chair." Rianni@crystyl nods, "I'm quite happy just playing my part on a bigger bridge right now" T'Emp@anncaris:"And we're lucky to have you here, Rianni! I'm sure you'll make a great Captain when you are ready for it too!" Rianni@crystyl:"What about you Pia? I know it's early days still but you've got a lot of your mother in you" T'Emp@anncaris nods, "True, but mum was Chief Engineer before she was Captain. I'm planning to be the best engineer I can be, and maybe one day when I have plenty of experience as a senior engineer, I'll move - T'Emp@anncaris:- into a Command role too. But that's still far off, so I'm focusing on the engineering first!" Rianni@crystyl:"Oh right yeah, still pitching for that whole ASDB thing?" T'Emp@anncaris:"Yup! Maybe your stealth ship could give me a few ideas..." she chuckles. "I'm not sure Starfleet would ever want to field such a specialized stealth ship, the most we'll probably do are - T'Emp@anncaris:- ships like the Latenter. And even if they do I don't know if I'll be designing ships directly for Intelligence, but still, there's some interesting things we can learn from its design!" Rianni@crystyl:"I'd wager a whole slab of gold pressed latinum that Commander Leveson-Scott would give her right arm for a cloak like that!" Rianni@crystyl:"Well, someone's right arm at any right. I don't think she's the sort to play fair" she chuckles T'Emp@anncaris chuckles, "True...but a cloak like that also detracts from other functions I imagine. You were commanding the ship for a week, I'm sure you have some stories about that!" Rianni@crystyl hrms, "Well we didn't exactly use it much so there wasn't a lot of opportunity for it to interfere with anything else" T'Emp@anncaris:"But the ship's systems were still engineered around the cloak, which had to have meant sacrifices in other areas, like shield strength, hull integrity, weapon power, and all that?" Rianni@crystyl nods, "Oh yeah, true. Without the cloak Aethon's nothing special. Pretty weak and vulnerable if anything, compared to most of her class" T'Emp@anncaris nods, "Exactly! Starfleet can engineer a ship that size into a formidable force like the Defiants or the newer Mercury-classes. Even a typical bird-of-prey might even be tougher, or at least - T'Emp@anncaris:- have stronger weapons. I'm sure Intelligence would love to take a few ideas from the Aethon's design, but I doubt they'd create a ship as specialized, unless they /really/ want to know someone's - T'Emp@anncaris:- secrets," she chuckles Rianni@crystyl:"Yea... I'm pretty sure that's what the Latenter is for anyway. I mean it's basically just a giant sensor pallette, right?" Rianni@crystyl chuckles, "Like someone just slapped 4 nacelles on the Midas array or something!" T'Emp@anncaris laughs, "Pretty much, from what I've seen and heard! They could certainly take a few tips from Aethon, but in order to make it as effective as the Aethon's cloak, they'd have replace some of - T'Emp@anncaris:- those sensors with the cloak emitters, and shrink the ship down for maximum effectiveness of the cloak, which would also lower the number of sensors that could fit on the ship. So it would - T'Emp@anncaris:- probably detract more from the Latenter's purpose than add to it." T'Emp@anncaris:"I think Aethon was designed for...pretty much what the Horde used it for. Close-range stealth tailing and stealth strikes. It's basically one of those old naval submarines, you know those?" Rianni@crystyl:"Oh! Um... I think so. They were like underwater ships, back on Earth when they sailed on the oceans right?" Rianni@crystyl perfectly imagines pirates of the carribean but with cutter ship submarines... T'Emp@anncaris:"Yeah! Vulcan had them too, just in more limited use as Vulcan has less large bodies of water. But there were also the sand tunnelers, and the icedrills of Andoria- basically specialized craft - T'Emp@anncaris:- built for the sole purpose of discreetly going behind enemy lines and usually carrying out ambushes against them. Not exactly what Starfleet's known for..." Rianni@crystyl:"Not SFC anyway. But SFI, even the MACO's maybe... I'm sure Intelligence doesn't just have ships like the Latenter after all. I wouldn't be surprised if they have something like Aethon already" T'Emp@anncaris:"Maybe...but Commander Leveson-Scott will probably neither confirm or deny that," she chuckles Rianni@crystyl laughs, "Yeah... she does like playing that game a bit too much, doesn't she!" T'Emp@anncaris laughs as well, "That she does! So...what do you think will happen to the Aethon when we finally bring it back to the Sphere? It'll be studied for sure, but it's also a fully functional ship, I - T'Emp@anncaris:- doubt we'll want that to go to waste. Maybe one of the Coalition factions'll take it over?" Rianni@crystyl:"I really don't know. I would expect everyone will want a piece of it, and your mum knows it too as I've never known her to consciously choose to capture an enemy vessel. Not even that Progenitor - Rianni@crystyl:- shield ship" T'Emp@anncaris:"I wonder who'll get it in the end. If it was a larger ship maybe it could be some joint-staffed ship, but you're not going to fit many people on something this small. Especially not Lodzki!" Rianni@crystyl:"So I can picture everyone doing shared research on it, but I think you're definitely right that nobody will want to see it stripped for research. Not while we're fighting the Horde still. Call me - Rianni@crystyl:- selfish, but... I hope we keep it. At least in a command and control sense, maybe with a mixed Coalition crew or something so everyone gets a piece of the action with it or something" T'Emp@anncaris smiles, "I thought you'd say that! Hard not to get a little attached to a ship you've commanded, even if it's just for a week, and not under the best of circumstances!" Rianni@crystyl:"Arguably even more attached. Especially as it was an unknown, just like the crew to an extent. So as much as we were getting to know one another, we were getting to know the ship. It was an - Rianni@crystyl:- intimate setting being so close with strangers as we grew more familiar so the ship was part of that" T'Emp@anncaris nods, "But you hope someone other than you gets command of the ship if we do keep it." Rianni@crystyl hesitates, "I... well I mean, it would make sense for me to have her back. After spending so much time there already and all..." T'Emp@anncaris:"You are the most familiar with her! But you don't feel quite ready to take on all that responsibility permanently?" Rianni@crystyl:"Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to be thrown in at the deep end like that again. But maybe if it was more like when I've done command turns on the bridge here, you know? With senior staff there- Rianni@crystyl:- calling the shots" T'Emp@anncaris:"Without any surprise wormhole dropouts, you should be able to command the Aethon from the bridge, but still take orders from mum here for the important decisions!" Rianni@crystyl nods, "Yes, and taking it out for specific missions with a full and experienced crew, knowing it would be returning here afterwards without all the other side of command stuff to worry about like - Rianni@crystyl:-looking after crew welfare & moral would be good I think. Kind of like how some starbases have small escorts attached to them with their own crew" T'Emp@anncaris:"Oh yeah, that's a comparison I haven't thought of! These smaller ships like the Defiant are often used in conjunction with starbases this way." Rianni@crystyl nods, "And I could see the Aethon working out something like that for us. At least, I think I'd like it to and I thiiiink I'd like to continue commanding her, if your mum would agree of course" T'Emp@anncaris:"I'm sure she would! She sounds pretty proud of what you've done in command so far!" Rianni@crystyl:"I guess it all depends on what Aethon's fate will be. But we'll see if she sends me back to take command for the trip through the wormhole again" T'Emp@anncaris:"I'm sure she will if you let her know you're up for it! Otherwise she might want to give you a break or something...you've been through a lot after all!" Rianni@crystyl:"Good point. I don't think I even knew for myself that I wanted until now, so thank you for that Pia! If nothing else it would be nice to actually match off against a wormhole and win for once..." T'Emp@anncaris:"Yeah...you don't have the best of luck with them, do you?" Rianni@crystyl snorts, "That's putting it mildly" T'Emp@anncaris:"Well, here's hoping you have a successful trip back this time! If you go back in command of the Aethon!" Rianni@crystyl smiles, "Thanks Pia!" --- NPC@annpc#557 | The comm sounds as Keelah works away in her ready room... Keelah@crystyl taps the intercome, "Se'Lai" NPC@annpc#557 <C - TQ> "Captain, we have incoming communications from the packship. Should I patch it through to the ready room?" Keelah@crystyl:"Yes, thank you Tee" she turns to her console NPC@annpc#557 | Alpha Ketaar appears on the console screen, "Captain. The first Riders to be cleansed of influence have woken up now. I thought you would be interested to finally have some solid answers." Keelah@crystyl:"Thank you, Alpha. It certainly would be nice. What have you learned from them?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "Roughly a year ago they were made aware of ships on the fringes of their territory. They went to investigate, suddenly felt overcome with a mix of anger and fear and their leader - NPC@annpc#557 - turned them back. Sounds like that's when they were influenced. Time matches up with when they stopped visiting the colony here, and the colonists started hearing rumours about increased - NPC@annpc#557 - aggression from the gang." Keelah@crystyl:"They have been influenced for quite a period of time then. How is their recollection of events during that time?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "It's a haze of extreme emotions, but they recall most of the events that occurred. The feelings are stronger, and they remember a feeling of inadequacy, needing to build up more - NPC@annpc#557 - strength to face this enemy on their borders. That's why the carrier was restored." Keelah@crystyl:"Indeed. What will become of them now then?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "Their gang and craft are decimated, but they do have a base in the area, one they wish to return to. It may be a while before they can rebuild, but they have families and homes there, - NPC@annpc#557 - a small colony that they've been neglecting since they fell under influence. We'll take them back when they're all freed of influence." Keelah@crystyl:"How likely is it that the colony itself has been corrupted?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "We thought that at first, because it wasn't the Riders who were influenced. The survivors from the carrier, of the same species, but many of them colonists they conscripted, were also - NPC@annpc#557 - under influence. But we spoke with some of them, and they told us they were initially skeptical of the gang's new direction. The carrier wasn't new, it seems- it was always there, just without - NPC@annpc#557:- functional warp drive. The Riders don't even know who it used to belong to. It was in orbit of the colony since the gang settled there, and they used it as a makeshift space station. When they - NPC@annpc#557:- restored the warp systems and took the carrier away, the colonists, including the ones they conscripted, thought they were abandoning their people." NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "But then they headed off towards where they first detected the ships, and suddenly the crew on the carrier started to agree with the rest of them. They didn't go all the way, they - NPC@annpc#557:- turned back again. Which means the source of the influence lies far enough from the colony, somewhere they have to travel towards to get influenced by." Keelah@crystyl:"I assume that means you will be backtracking their course to locate this danger point?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "That is our intention, but only once the colony here, and the Rider one if the situation there is dire enough, are able to fend for themselves again. We will report our findings to - NPC@annpc#557:- the Sisterhood first. Perhaps the Coalition will decide to send the Guardian-Rangers to investigate while we secure this area- they are also seeking out anarchist trouble around here." Keelah@crystyl nods, "A strong possibility I would say. I only regret not being able to offer our own services, but we have already been away from the front lines far too long" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar nods, "That is why the Sisterhood called on us out here, to assist with these issues while you deal with the heart of the matter. It is most likely a Horde controlled world; we - NPC@annpc#557:- initially believed the Riders may have come into contact with passing Horde ships, but if the presence was still there when they returned with the carrier, the presence seems to be permanent. It - NPC@annpc#557:- would also explain why this region has so many problems with anarchists, if there is a Horde planet constantly influencing those who approach it." Keelah@crystyl:"All the more reason for the Coalition to get someone else out here. Preferably someone who can get in there and see without being seen themselves" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar nods, "Yes, the Rangers are known for their stealth vessels. Unless you wish to dispatch the one that called us here?" Keelah@crystyl:"The Aethon? While the ship itself may well be well suited to such a task, she is currently without a crew. And even with the refuelling provided here, there is a lot of work needed to get it fully - Keelah@crystyl:- armed and self-sufficient. In time, yes, I believe it would be an ideal ship for such a mission, but it just isn't ready yet" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar nods, "We will just have to wait for Guardian support, then, or check the source ourselves once the colonies are secure." Keelah@crystyl leans back, her voice taking a distinctly curious tone, "But on the subject of the Aethon, I understand that you first met them under rather intense circumstances" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "Yes. A Clanduros freighter fled from our attempt to inspect it for Horde influence and we were pursuing it. The freighter sent a distress call, which the Aethon received and responded - NPC@annpc#557:- to, but as the Clenduros believed we were pirates, the Aethon's captain suspected the same at first." Keelah@crystyl:"Well, she clearly did a sufficient job of diffusing the situation else we would not all be here now. I am curious though; what was it about her that convinced you to comply with her proposals?" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "Hm. An interesting question. She showed the Starblade uniform she donned and the trophy she wore to show that she was a member of the Coalition and a friend to at least one Lupan - NPC@annpc#557:- pack, though it was not definitive proof. There was still a possibility the Horde fabricated both as part of some elaborate ruse. But there is something about the way she presented herself that - NPC@annpc#557:- seemed...sincere. After all, if she was truly a Horde spy, she would have attacked us from stealth in conjunction with the freighter rather than bothering to talk. Or simply left the freighter to - NPC@annpc#557:- its fate. The Horde will not miss one influenced freighter." Keelah@crystyl nods and smiles, "Interesting, thank you for the insight" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar nods, "Is there anything else you wish to know?" Keelah@crystyl:"No, I think that covers everything here. Thank you again for everything, we will be heading out as soon as repairs are in hand now" NPC@annpc#557 | Ketaar: "Good luck. I hope to see the Aethon and her captain in the fight again, once they are sufficiently prepared." Keelah@crystyl smiles, "I'm glad to see she made such a good impression. Farewell Alpha"