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 Second Contact

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Sentor

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PostSubject: Second Contact   Thu May 16, 2013 7:19 pm


Manor Furze, Duchy of Vasserheim, Augusti Prime
Lord of the Manner Cole Forrester


"Cole, Cole," Maria Forrester half gushed, half sobbed into Cole's ceramic breastplate. "You've always got to play the hero, don't you?"

Cole looked down on his flaxen haired wife with her grieving eyes and flush cheeks and took pity on her in the form of a smile.

"Maria, we always knew this day might come. We reap the harvest of our land and command our servants and live comfortably, and in exchange I swear my fealty to the Duke. I am his to command in times of war and triumph, and the Throneguard has called the Duchy into action. Besides, it's not so bad as you think. We're going to be exploring dusty relics, not taking on the old Empire herself."

Maria screwed up her face and willed her tear ducts to shut. Making a fool of herself in front of their daughter Annelle wasn't going to stop him. Maria and Cole looked at each other in silence a moment, then up at the thunderous sounds across the sky. A flight of Kestrel-pattern surveyors soared low over the manor, low enough to see the silver-and-electric-blue insignia of the 108th Special Tactics Division. Cole recognized it instantly - it was his unit. Maria looked back at him and gave one hmpf of defeat. Meanwhile, Annelle was about as worried about Cole's leaving as her upcoming exams.

"Do you think I could get an exam exemption for being so grief-stricken at your departure?" Annelle beamed at him with the big blue eyes he could never refuse. Cole chuckled.

"Yeah, babe, I think we can swing that."


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sat May 18, 2013 1:48 pm


New Horizons Dockyard, High Orbit, Augusti Prime
Cargo, Shipping and Receiving

The cargo sections of practically every dock and port in the sector were abuzz with activity, as supplies, ammunition, and fuel were lifted to orbit, fresh from the production lines upon Augusti Prime. Some of the Esquires had even joked about the Linear Accelerator Sabot Rounds still steaming, fresh from the metalworks. This sudden flurry of labor was all due to the recent decree by the Throneguard; pushing back the black veil would be no easy task, and likely require as many operational ships as possible.

Nobleman Landry and Estrada both oversaw third sector cargo loading and unloading, respectively handling each task. Working in the New Horizons yard had catapulted their standing in the Concordat; where they were once lowly serfs, they were now both Noblemen, in charge of an important piece of the empire. To work upon any orbital installation would bring social gains, it was considered the highest prestige of labor in the Concordat.

Having finished their twelve hour shifts in the floating cargo section, the two were taking a well deserved break, readjusting themselves to the artificial gravity provided by the rotating section. "You see them Mono's that were loaded in bunk P? The Shield of Light supplies?" Estrada asked, sipping on a bottle of water.

"Yeah, what about them?" Landry replied, seating himself upon a waiting chair.

"Well, they was all weird-like. Huge, bulky engines, but not the chemical drives they usually use. Looked like something bigger."

"Ah, those. Got an order for them yesterday. The boss said they're exploration probes. Some kinda space warper, meant to pierce straight into the veil, instead of taking the Akita Express."

"What a load of junk." Estrada replied derisively. "Better off chucking them into a star."


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sat May 18, 2013 3:58 pm


Uncharted System
Vathari Communate Space
Concordat Designation HD-15934


Commander Madalene Carthen of the CCS Shield of Light, command element of and only titan in the 3rd Concordat Astral Fleet, Exploratory, held her head in her hands as the survey of the local cluster entered its third week. They had been promised artifacts aplenty, contact with the fallen human worlds, and expansion of safe territory for their ships. Instead, it seemed that the old empire was not fragmented but dead. Planet after planet shrouded in Concordat lore and myth turned out to be completely dead with precious few and useless ruins on their surfaces. Certainly nobody to fight.

Cavernous and repulsive as the band of stars every Corvus citizen stared at in the night sky seemed, it was becoming apparent that it might not be as dangerous as society had collectively feared. From New Zephyr, their first stop on the expedition, to this uncharted system thought to be a likely suspect for an Imperial Remnant colony, it seemed that everything they found was decaying or dead. As quickly as Carthen had built up this new image of the Black Veil in her mind, it was shattered by the excited screech of her sensorman, Yeoman Wardson.

"Radar contact!"

At these two words a flurry of panic struck the bridge of the Shield of Light. Nominally bored Yeomen and Noblemen raced to their duty stations as if syringes of adrenalin had been injected into their rear end. The operations officer, Yeoman Engstrom, looked to the captain with his hand over the haptic control that would trigger general quarters. She made a quick hand gesture to him indicating to hold off until the contacts had been verified.

"Talk to me, Wardson. Are these rocks or do they have thrust?"

"New contacts designated Sierra one to Sierra three-eight, sir. Drive exhaust verified by machine equivalent to fusion torch propulsion. Approximate average mass clocked at two hundred thousand tons. Computer picked it up right away, sir. With all of them."

Commander Carthen ground her teeth.

"Okay, okay. Engstrom, sound general quarters. NAV, WEP, I want your teams coordinating for battlefield maneuvers. Protocol is very clear, we're to assume hostile until proven otherwise. WEP, get the railgun battery teams in guns A1 to AC9. Have the machine man the rest. Warm the monos in their racks and vent all launch bays. Load primary railgun cluster, mixed bear. First half shredder, last half fusion lance. COM, get on the horn with the surveyor teams and pull them back behind our point defense line."

The general quarters horn began to sound as Carthen cleared her breath and addressed the bridge crew, nestled deep within the twenty kilometer keel titan.

"Well," she breathed, casting her gaze left to right across the eyes of the bridge crew, "you all signed up for this, didn't you. Let's push back the Veil after all."


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sun May 19, 2013 8:07 pm

Gentle metallic taps broke the silence of the bridge as Valera drummed her fingers on the arm of her chair. In front of her at the center of the bridge her helmsman, Skiih, was wired into the haphazard command console. Traditionally military ships lacked command chairs for their First Officers*, as they would take direct control of the ship from the main console, or command from an auxiliary if they so desired. The Rellon, however, was a converted merchantman, thus it lacked the more sophisticated computer systems of modern Communate warships. When it had entered its service to be refit as a long-range scout and interceptor, it had taken a hell of a refit to get it up to standard.
The console Skiih was wired into had been the hardest part, and it had to be modified when the hexaped had joined the crew. So Valera commanded from a chair, as Skiih was by far the best pilot on board, and it would take an hour just to get him out of the thing as it was.

She heard a distant thump reverberate through the hull, signature of a port clamping shut. They'd stopped at this border system along their route to refuel, and were one of many dozens of ships loitering in high orbit around a fuel depot.
"We all clear Skiih?"

"Yes Ma'am, our tanks are full, we've cleared the depot and I've plotted a course to bring us out of orbit. Travel is tightly regulated by this commune, though, so we'll be leaving with a group of other ships along roughly the same trajectory. If that's permissible."

She shrugged, no need to exercise their authority. There hadn't really been a need for patrol since the extermination war, and it was more a collective fear that kept them around now.
"Permission granted. Get us to the allowed escape altitude."

"Yes Ma'am." A dull buzz sounded as the hexaped activated the ship's intercom. "This is helm, prepare for burn, four gs. Burn in five, four, three, two, go."

The Rellon shuddered as its massive engines spat flame into the vacuum, leaving the depot behind and setting into an elliptical orbit. Several minutes later they reached their rendezvous point, and a second burn set them to coast away from the world with a loose formation of nearly two dozen other ships. Against the backdrop of stars their companions were points of light, smaller ships equipped with low thrust, high efficiency engines. The Rellon, though, was most impressive, for a former freighter. Its vast cargo bays had been fit with two massive engines at the rear, fuel tanks and batteries in the middle, stardrives and a fusion core at the forward end, just behind the ship proper. The structure had been reinforced, modular pods welded together, new supports added, making it a more solid ship. At its front was a majestic deflector array, a collection of electromagnets and armor shields that stretched for three quarters of a mile from its bow. When the ship had been armed and fortified for service the deflector was given special attention, and it was now a proper piece of directional armor. From the front, the Rellon was more resilient than even the mightiest battleships. Such arrays were rare now, relics of an age before the limits of warp drive were understood, before the space fold drive ended a need for interstellar shielding. It gave the ship a unique look, for sure.

Their mismatched collection of ships had just burned for their respective solar escape trajectories when Skiih broke the bridge's silence again.

"Captain, sensors just logged four contacts. Unknown spectral readings, visual profiles don't match any of ours. Also detecting some anomalies from earlier in their trajectory, possibly stardrive residues."

"Break us off from the group and set us to rendezvous with their trajectory, approach at a tenth of a second**. Any other information?"

"They've spotted us, we detected EM pulses on our hull. Registering increased thermal signatures, possibly weapons."

"Sound the battle alarms. After we burn, get our armor pointed at them. Bring thermal shielding online and warm our beams. Keep the radiators out though, I want to let them know we won't fire first nor will we be taken lightly."

"Shielding is coming up, burn in twenty seconds. We've got more readings coming in, the big one's twelve and a half miles. If they attack, we can't win this. Not with beams alone."

"Load fusion warheads in the launcher tubes. Radio the civilian craft, tell them to warp immediately to the other side of the star for their own safety. Have our drive charged."

"It's too risky to warp if they start firing on us."

"I know, if we have to run we'll dive toward the star and out of their range, hopefully."
She tapped a button on the chair's armrest, and the familiar buzz of the intercom was heard.
"Well everyone, we got a contact. They look mean and are over five times our size, but we're not running. Not if we don't have to. Combat alert is sounded, but don't fire without my say. We're both weaker and faster than we look, and I'm hoping to use that to our advantage to convince them to back down a bit."

She hit the button again just as the ship shuddered with the burn for the new trajectory.

"Skiih, send them a message. Number bases only, radio frequencies."

"Done. You want to talk to the aliens that seem ready to leave us as a smoldering hulk?"

"I hope so. War's bad for everyone involved, and I'm not going to be remembered as the one that fired first."

((*First Officer is the Vathari equivalent of the Captain rank. Captain is just a title for the commander of a ship in Vathari terminology.
**When units of time are used as distance, assume they correspond to lightspeed distances (light second, minute, hour, etc) unless stated otherwise.
EDIT: Skiih's name is pronounced "Skeh"))
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Tue May 21, 2013 10:59 pm


Vathari Communate Space
Concordat Designation HD-15934
Cmdr. Carthen, Madalene Assuming Martial System Asset Control
Statute 407-35E, On Rebellions, Insurrections, and Emergencies


The CCS Shield of Light sat on high alert as it slowly trailed what appeared to be the populated garden world of the system. While the Kestrel-pattern surveyors burned furiously on escape trajectories of the outer planets towards the Iron Duke-pattern flagship, they would take upwards of two days to return to the Shield of Light's lazy, wide orbit around the star. Photons - and RADAR pings - likewise took precious minutes for their return trip. The waiting game was becoming unbearable until the crew of the Shield of Light received a stream of photons it was not at all prepared for.

"Sir!" Yeoman Engstrom choked, hardly believing what he was seeing. "Data stream from the bogey Sierra Two! Starboard EM receiver 108 parsed it four seconds ago."

Quote :
rolling 1d20 apparent communication intent
(1)
= 1

outcome: critical aggressive

"Lock sensor-to-network routing," Carthen hissed. If this vessel had access to Iron Duke-pattern command codes - maybe they were sitting on a naval command and control station from the Empire in Antiquity, she contemplated briefly - they could do all kinds of unspeakable damage to the exploratory fleet. Only the Kestrels were Concordat-built - their engineers didn't even know what half of the internals of the Iron Duke pattern were for.

"Machine already did it, sir," Engstrom reported. "It's running analysis."

The bridge was silent for a moment. Engstrom ground his teeth at the results, not quite sure how to tell the captain.

"It's picked up some assembly-level commands in the binary of the data stream, Captain. Machine is qualifying it as an attempted access attack."

Carthen exhaled. Engstrom furrowed his brow and tapped on his console uselessly. Yeoman Wardson shook imperceptibly. Everyone had their own reactions to realizing they had just been attacked. The bridge's silence held.

"Thank you, Mister Engstrom." Carthen thought for a moment. "Ready the monoardors if you please, and give me a report on Akita capacitor status."

"Aye aye, sir. Monoardors are checking status green in the tubes. They're ready for emotional input. Akita cap is fully charged and ready for a jump, but we won't be able to jump again in combat. Even ID caps take a full 48 to charge."

"I'm well aware, Mister Engstrom, thank you. WEP, who are you this shift? Give me input. The Primarch is relaying from her side of the system that the orbital contacts have split in two. All of a sudden, one side's in low orbit of the star. Now, I can't vouch for the Primarch's sensor resolution, so we'll need to take them at their word. Which do you recommend we confront?"

Quote :
rolling 1d20 jump target
(4)
= 4

outcome: strong aggressive

"Yeoman Barnes, sir," the current WEP duty officer replied. WEP had one of the larger teams aboard ship, and it was entirely possible that Barnes had been doing ordnance counts or running monoardor diagnostics ten kilometers down-keel on his last shift. "And, if I may speak freely, sir, I do not like the look of that group. The single ship is on a slow intercept. Either she's a sacrificial lamb or a superheavy combat vessel, and we needn't encounter either. The larger group, near the star, looks to be the real threat. Could be carriers, missile cruisers, radar probe cyclers. If it's a task force, probably all three and more - whatever Old Empire cooked up and they salvaged."

"Very astute, Yeoman," Carthen nodded. "Very well, then. I've made my decision. Mister Barnes, signal combat action status across the ship and prepare the monos for combat launch as soon as we hit realspace. Mister Engstrom, plot a navigation solution into that larger group. About twenty thousand K lead in their direction of travel, if you please. We'll hit them with their own momentum."

"Aye aye, sir," Barnes said. "Combat action status sent. Monos are ready...now."

"Ready for jump at your pleasure, ma'am," Engstrom said.

Commander Carthen wrinkled her nose for a fraction of a second at the word 'ma'am', then forgave the offense. While the correct honorific for a Concordat captain was always 'sir,' Engstrom had likely never been in any combat action worse than Brigand patrol. The young officer deserved a reprieve considering what he was about to get himself into, she reasoned.

"Execute," Carthen commanded.

The tremendous Shield of Light found herself quickly enveloped by a hole in space-time pointing towards the Akita superluminal medium, stem to stern encased in the alternate dimension in under a millisecond. She imperceptibly twitched forward in the medium over the next few milliseconds, and the movement was exaggerated in realspace. As the capacitor charge died down, the ship 'sloughed' or 'side-stepped' back into realspace, where it found itself at approximately its intended destination. As it did so, monoardor corvettes launched twenty at a time and began confirming their orders to commit to the 'rage' emotion type. They would attack whatever was in front of them without a FoF tag, without regard for themselves. Gunners and machine loaders began shucking shells and bullet belts into the various sizes of railguns, and the primary railgun cluster prepared to fire its mixed bear at up to a handful of targets.

For better or worse, the battle had begun.

Quote :
Drift from jump target, in thousands of kilometers:
Determined by 1D12 forum roll.

Shield of Light's drift relative to intended jump target:
Determined by coin forum roll.
Heads: in direction of xeno travel
Tails: away from direction of xeno travel

((As per the dice roll, the Shield of Light ends up (20-2) = 18,000 kilometers in front of the xeno group, front being their direction of travel.

I use Roll20's dice roller for universe events, such as twists of fate or how crew reacts in split-second situations. In a bit of a nod to Mass Effect, higher rolls tend towards peaceful/prosperous outcomes and low rolls correspond to aggressive/calamitous ones. These first rolls in particular were awful, but them's the dice.

What is the composition of your civil ships like?))


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Tue May 21, 2013 10:59 pm

The member 'Sentor' has done the following action : Dice Roll

#1 'D12' : 2

--------------------------------

#2 'Coin' : 2
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Thu May 23, 2013 8:00 pm

"Captain! Sensor contact appeared just in front of the civilian group! Same signature as our target!"
"FTL signatures?"
"Confirmed! Same radiation detected just before it appeared, residual now. It's firing something, missiles maybe, at least a dozen of them."
"Turn us about now, is the drive charged?"
"Yes, we can do a short jump."
"Get us in between us and the civil ships, I don't care how close we end up, but make sure our armor is pointed at them. Ready low-yield warheads and keep our beams warm." She tapped the intercom "All crew, prepare for emergency warp."

~~

Being the captain of a passenger ship wasn't particularly glorious or exciting, but it was Tathur's job. One perk is that you got to meet some interesting folks while going about the longer trips through the many systems of the Communate. He reflected on a particularly intriguing woman he'd met some decades ago when a blip on the forward sensors caught his eye. Strange, the EM was wrong, for a drive...

"Hey, Rasia, look at this." He said to his co-pilot.
"It's an EM burst, so?"
"Yeah, but it's not right. Outside warp ranges."
"Look, it's probably some kids screwing around with an old hulk. Let's just keep-" She was interrupted by a shrill beep from her console. A sound neither of them had ever wanted to hear. The alarm meant one thing: Incoming fire.

~~

Throughout the loose fleet of civil craft the alien corvettes and weapons tore through them, and all at once dozens of flames lit up as they burned their engines, trying to escape. Freighters dumped cargo, merchants their wares, but it wasn't enough. Vathari lived for so long, speed wasn't needed, they were fine to spend months or even years to leave a system. A warp field formed around one of the four-point-eight kilometer long passenger ships, only to be disrupted as a stray round passed through it. The drive exploded brilliantly, shearing the ship in half, bodies both dead and alive being sucked out into space as the nitrogen atmosphere in the ship rushed out through the gaping hole. The other liner started launching escape pods, as did many freighters, hoping to fly to a safe distance and activate emergency drives to get them as far away as possible.

~~

By the time the Rellon arrived, the civil ships were mostly in ruins. Some few had begun to limp away, and escape pods were burning as hard as their designs would allow.

"In just the few dozen seconds it took to get here" Valera thought, pausing to read a display "And they've done this"

"All batteries, open fire. I want them dead in space, prepare boarders. Keep us distant from them, match velocities along the axis of our armor, sidestep to dodge. They'll attack our flanks, and we need to give our defense time to target their fire."

The lenses on the Rellon's laser banks lit up an angry red, and flashes came from holes in its hull as missiles launched, flying through the void, their nuclear payload armed for proximity detonation.


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Thu May 23, 2013 8:25 pm

((Forgot dice rolls: 18,000km - (1d12*1000) for the Rellon's distance to the Iron Duke))

DiceBot wrote:
The member 'REDSHEILD' has done the following action : Dice Roll

'D12' : 8

((So, 10,000km distance, situated between the civil fleet and the titan.))


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Thu May 23, 2013 8:25 pm

The member 'REDSHEILD' has done the following action : Dice Roll

'D12' : 8
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sun May 26, 2013 3:49 pm


Vathari Communate Space
Concordat Designation HD-15934
Cmdr. Carthen, Madalene Assuming Emergency System Powers
Statute 407-42, Incursion Emergency Events


Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails all, and a pox on the hangman.

The Iron Duke-pattern titan was tearing through the enemy formation like Saladin disassembling a Children's Crusade. All the same, Commander Carthen felt a sense of unease. The line from the truly ancient play Every Man in His Humour, suspected to be written on the venerated and lost homeworld, had rang through Madalene's head whenever danger was about her since her mother had first taught it to her in primary school. Either this was the best the remnants of Old Empire had to offer, or they were walking into a trap. She studied the sensor screens for some kind of sign that they really had caught the formation off guard and weren't being led into a trap.

"Mister Barnes, Miss Wardson, report," Carthen shouted, tapping her index finger on her console just a bit too disconcertingly.

"Eighty percent hit effect rate, sir," Barnes reported with a hint of joy. "Rest of the guns are coming online and the fusion lances will be in the tubes in a few seconds."

"They are ejecting pods, or smaller craft, could be," posited Wardson, composing herself, "but their velocity is far too low. They might - oh. Oh, no. Those are bodies, sir."

The machine's best guess at interpolating the external cameras' data at eighteen thousand kilometers distant appeared on the screen. Though fuzzy and shaking, the image of limbs tumbling as they poured out of a gaping hole in a spacecraft's hull were unmistakable. Shimmering fragments of shrapnel and destroyed radiator wings joined crystallized gases and ruptured bodily fluids as they followed the somber path out of the freighter's death-knell. From the camera's perspective, outgoing shells and rounds could be seen as quickly receding points for a frame or two before crashing into the ships and knocking them soundlessly into a world of twisted destruction.

The vessels looked like wholly unlike anything Carthen had ever seen, but it had seemed they had caught the formation off guard and disabled a large portion of the hostile forces in this system. One other thing was for certain - this system was populated by humans, descendants of the Empire in Antiquity and opposition to the Concordat's reunification of the Empire under prosperous hegemony.

The Throneguard would have to know as soon as possible. They had made second contact.

(Post 1 of 3)


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sun May 26, 2013 4:28 pm


Vathari Communate Space
Concordat Designation HD-15934
Cmdr. Carthen, Madalene Assuming Emergency System Powers
Statute 407-42, Incursion Emergency Events


"Radar contact," shouted Yeoman Wardson, competing with the wail of the general quarters siren for volume, " New contact, ten thousand K, heading dead on! Designation Sierra three-nine."

"Holy Throne, they're right on top of us and closing fast," Barnes swore.

The bridge erupted in chatter for a second and a half. Yeomen and Noblemen all began shouting reports on the new vessel at once. Only snippets of information made it back to the conn. The yelling weighed on Carthen's weary ears.

"Discipline!" the Commander shouted. "Barnes, tactical!"

It was not a question.

"Four thousand meters keel, modular assembly. Apparent firing points all across the assembly. Some large assembly in the front, maybe a hydrogen collector? She's a predator, sir."

"Very well, then," Carthen said. "Give me-"

"Sir," Wardson interrupted, "EM spikes from Sierra three-nine! Machine matches engine retrofire and incoming projectile fire!"

"Gunners, re-focus fire to three-nine!"

A hail of small fragmentation shells rained from the hundred or so point-defense guns capable of covering the titan's fore assembly. They fragmented at predetermined distances like the flak shells of ancient war, followed by flak batteries of the very same tested design. Quickly a cloud of racing shrapnel sped to meet the waves of incoming missiles and, futilely, the bursts of the lasers.

The lasers impacted the Shield of Light's hull first by far. The fore assembly was by far the weakest portion of the titan, made to eject all manners of shells and contain fore sensors. The armor was still superheavy by any other measure, but the relative weakness was apparent as invisible laser beams struck the front of the titan, causing jets of molten metal to erupt like an unholy solar flare. The outermost layer of armor, the whipple shield, was quickly ripped to shreds, making it seem to some of the more fearful crew as though the titan was on its last legs.

The ablative armor of the titan quickly came into play as the blasts struck, atomizing struck portions to form conical clouds intended to dissipate additional incoming lasers. A high-energy laser here and there passed through and struck inside one of the tubes, melting part of the casing and spraying molten tungsten-carbide across the shaft.

Respectable numbers of nuclear missiles were intercepted and tumbled uselessly across the void spilling their fissile cargo without detonation, but not all missiles were intercepted. The point-defense screen was not perfect on such short notice. A sizable number of the missiles reached detonation range under a kilometer and burst in nuclear fire, warping the bulkheads of the uninhabited fore section under a flood of x-rays and ablating the surface even further.

A little under half of the railgun and mass driver tubes were taken offline, half of those destroyed proper by weapons fire. The other half were merely damageed - the machine's response to the incoming fire shut the tube doors and depowered the magnetic rails wherever significant debris or obstructions were detected.

"Return fire," screamed Carthen, suddenly panicked. "Whatever's in the tubes!"

"Sir," Barnes said, mouth nearly agape as he turned from his console to face the commander, "One of the space-warper probes was just launched."

Carthen processed this fact for a moment before the same half-amazed, half-amused expression on his face spread to hers.

"Contact the mono onboard, Mister Barnes. Have it run them through."

(Forum rolling 1d20 for Alcubierre-drive probe impact on Sierra 39
20 for direct impact, 19-15 for glancing blows, 14 and below clear miss)

(Post 2 of 3)


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sun May 26, 2013 4:28 pm

The member 'Sentor' has done the following action : Dice Roll

'D20' : 8
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sun May 26, 2013 4:46 pm


Vathari Communate Space
Concordat Designation HD-15934
Cmdr. Carthen, Madalene Assuming Emergency System Powers
Statute 407-42, Incursion Emergency Events


The events that occured once the mono was ordered to jump at the enemy ship seemed to occur in slow motion to Carthen, watching the screens intently for evidence of a direct disassociation of the target ship's atoms by the intense tidal forces in the probe's Alcubierre bubble.

As fast as her nerves could relay emotion across her brain and down her spine, she desperately hoped that the mono had the accuracy and the position to pull off this ludicrious scheme. With only two onboard, neither of which was intended as a weapon, it would be a cold day in hell for the Shield of Light's crew if they went down without using every resource at their disposal.

Unfortunately, the monoardor intelligence missed - and missed cleanly.

There was no evidence that it had hit the ship at all. Carthen began to feel the beginnings of despair washing over her as more and more enemy rounds, missiles, and laser fire came at the titan in slow motion. Just as the others on the bridge crew were making the same realization, perhaps a full second since the mono had been ordered to jump, something wonderful happened.

It was a blessing. It was an angel's intervention. It was an act of God, or better yet, of the Throneguard.

It was the high-energy shockwave caused by the probe's Alcubierre bubble collapsing.

Physicists in the Concordat were experimental, not theoretical - unlike their ancestors, they were to learn practical physics by testing the gadgets of the Empire in Antiquity rather than running the math themselves. This, among other reasons, was why the probes went out into the field untested. This was also the cause for Carthen's sense of shock and joy at what happened next.

What the physicists could not have possibly known was than an Alcubierre bubble traps impacting particles on its leading edge and distributes them throughout the bubble while granting them exponential increases in energy by virtue of the bubble itself.

When the bubble collapses at the end of the trip, the high-energy particles explode in all directions with teraelectrovolts of energy, comparable to Higgs Bosons in potential. The longer the trip, the greater the energy - though nobody had suspected that empty space possessed enough particles for a visible shell.

The probe's environment, however, was very particle-rich. Crystallized gases, ablated armor from the Shield of Light, even incoming photons from the enemy laser fire - all of these were mashed into the Alcubierre shell and invigorated with intense amounts of energy. All those particles sped in every direction upon the bubble's collapse when the probe completed its 'failed' journey a few thousand kilometers behind the enemy vessel.

Physicists would later estimate that the energy of the countless billions and trillions of particles approached 2.4 TeV as they reached the enemy vessel. For the unshielded rear end of the Rellon, this was roughly equivalent to being stuck into a few thousand running particle accelerators at the same time. Close analysis of sensor data would lead to the conclusion that the enemy ship's extensive magnetic deflectors had both kept the majority of the charged particles from the titan and reflected the piercing rays back into its own rapidly embrittling hull.

On the Shield of Light, farther away where energetic decay of the particles was much faster in the shrapnel-and-photon-rich environment, particles hitting the titan a full three times less powerful were causing serious problems to the tremendous, armored, and EMP-resistant systems. The computer systems reset, fearing massive data corruption from flipped bits. Any computer system would be massively damaged by the particles, while even the thickest armor flexed and stressed at the flood of x-rays hitting both hulls. Even the monumental armor of the titan sheared apart in big, evaporating layers - the lesser converted freighter surely was having a far worse day. Sensors of the titan were running off RADAR only, and weapons were having trouble maintaining best-guess locks. The tremendous burst seemed to damage everything it touched.

That included the crew. As the two ships sat in shock from the tremendous blast, the damage reports poured in from every section on the ship except Fore Assembly. The two hundred crewmen running damage control and team management inside were presumed dead by the conn. The massive flux of gamma waves and charged particles penetrating the fore hull seemed like the likely culprit. There would be time for grieving later.

The captain surmised that the Rellon was having far more urgent difficulties than they.

(Post 3 of 3)


Last edited by Sentor on Sun May 26, 2013 10:50 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Adding crew details.)
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Sun May 26, 2013 11:14 pm

Images flashed on the main screen, mapping incoming projectiles and the strange torpedo-craft. Vibrations were felt as far back as the command center as railgun rounds and more energetic fusion warheads tore through the forward array. Sensors showed the corvettes beginning to form up, readying for an attack. Point defense was allocated towards them, and laser banks shifted to prevent strafing runs.
A sudden shift from one of them, the incoming light had blue-shifted, and a warp bubble warning was sounded.

Valera tensed, knowing she may only have seconds until certain death. She couldn't believe it was possible; not even the Fabricators had yet weaponized the immense power of the warp engine, if not from lack of knowledge, then perhaps from fear. The display showed a red-shifted image passing by the ship, and a blue-shifted one in front, stretched by reference frame and velocity.

Relief came from just existing, the screen confirming what they all knew: The weapon had missed. She was about to give out more orders, when the world went black.

She was falling and flying in the same moment, the world blinding with light and crushing with darkness all at once. Everything from count errors to hallucinations as her mind raced to find safety where there was none to be had. Then, as soon as she had left it, the world returned. Her eyes snapped on, lens covers rolling away in microseconds, her bridge crew was in disarray, some limp, some tense, others in spasms. Her own body was wracked with pain as servos ran without cause and systems crashed and rebooted. In this chaos, she heard a voice, to one of her microphones it was barely audible, the other almost overloaded from the sound.
"Captain, we've lost main engines. Sensors from tank four and beyond register null, scout drones deployed. Crews report blacking out all over the ship, no known terminal cases. Drones ordered to monitor damage. Forward sensor arrays report damage to hostile following radiation burst about one-point-five miles behind us, likely the stardrive weapon. All aft weapons offline, one third of forward weapons disabled or damaged, total of 65% of weapons offline. Orders?"

It was Skiih. The hexaped hailed from a small colony, one regularly wracked with radiation from its nearby star. He must have taken the blast better, though his voice wavered unusually.

"Keep up the pressure." She paused, her vocabulator sputtering as a software piece encountered an error. "Refocus the majority of our beams to take out those torpedo ships. No more surprises."
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Mon May 27, 2013 12:40 am


Vathari Communate Space
Concordat Designation HD-15934
Cmdr. Carthen, Madalene Assuming Emergency System Powers
Statute 407-42, Incursion Emergency Events


"RADAR's back online, sir!" Yeoman Engstrom called out across the harrowed bridge. "EM is coming up in bursts."

"Mister Barnes," Carthen screamed, "Acquire solution on Sierra three-nine!"

"Acquired, sir!" Barnes replied.

"Return fire, all rail batteries, PALC and pulse!"

"All batteries, PALC, and pulse, aye!"

The Shield of Light roared into action once more. Her railgun turrets, momentarily silenced by the tremendous explosion, began loading shells again and firing them for close-in defense or against the enemy vessel. The larger railgun turrets and the nine railguns in the primary cluster unburdened by repairs fired their mixed bear of fusion-lance and fragmentation shells toward the enemy craft. At knife-fight range, the hits were all but guaranteed. Streaking shells, all but invisible to the naked eye at their tremendous speed, rained on the Rellon from the singed, sooty, sloughing and vengeful titan.

The Phased Array Laser Cannons, or PALCs, grinded along their tracks from their recessed armor housings along the hull. They were designed to remain partially covered in the recessed housings until ordered out to fire, for their lenses were particularly sensitive to the debris and laser burn-out that was a familiar part of combat. This was fortuitous, for the charged particle burst from the probe would have surely burned out the PALCs' sensitive targeting mechanisms. They now fired in packs of four and six, always probing and stabbing at perceived weak points in the enemy armor from different angles for maximum effect. As far as weapons went the PALCs certainly had a unique personality - the nimble swordsman to the railguns' hatchet-wielder.

The king of onboard weapons, however, was clearly the hydrogen pulse gun which now drained the last of its capicator juice to fire. The angry, armored musketeer to the PALC's swordsman and the railguns' hatchet-man, the hydrogen pulse gun was far and away the titan's main, devastating weapon. As the captain shouted orders on the bridge, a quartet of cryogenically cooled hydrogen splinters was brought out of storage. The splinters would be super-ignited by a laser one by one and induced into fusion. After acceleration by powerful electromagnets and coating in a thin layer of carbon nanotubing for cohesion, the deadly balls of roiling fusion would travel at tremendous speed along the keel-line until they struck the target or reached their max cohesion range.

The pulse gun would fire four times with a delay of one full second between shots before pausing to refill its capicator and draw four more hydrogen splinters out of supercooled storage. The machine within the titan calculated the precise time and angle at which to fire the pulse gun and ever so quickly and gently nudged the tremendous titan with pulses of its station-keeping thrusters. Its algorithms counted down to the precise millisecond to fire and, with all the fury of Carthen shouting, "Execute!" did so.

Shot.

Silence.

Shot.

Silence.

Shot.

Silence.

Shot.

Silence, a silence that lingered this time as the mechanisms within the Shield of Light worked furiously for another four pulse gun rounds. The fact that it was the sole weapon that could single-handedly cripple a titan in a shot or two was lost on the machine.

On the bridge, Commander Carthen watched the rounds sink into the Rellon with dramatic effect, but it seemed too late for her. Something broke deep within her psyche. The panic was beginning to sink in. It had since the battle started - it was all she could do to hold it in. She was screaming her orders now - no, not a dignified officer. No, no, no, no, not a dignified officer at all. She was an explorer, not a warrior. She couldn't handle this. She needed an out. She needed that ship dead. She couldn't handle looking at it anymore. She wasn't going to lose a titan. No, no, no. Not today. Not ever.

"Mister Engstrom," Commander Carthen screamed, abandoning all pretense of judicious, calm command, "Engines to flank, course bearing onto Sierra three-nine! Evacuate the rest of Fore Assembly and sound the collision alarm."

Yeoman Engstrom complied, thinking her merely overcome with bloodlust. In all reality, there was no harm in not questioning the order. The titan would smash the enemy vessel like a bug on a windshield, even in its damaged condition.

The gigantic twin gas-core nuclear thermal rockets, with nearly 500 meter radii themselves, drew reaction mass out of the tremendous onboard tanks that comprised the back two-thirds of the titan and summoned the energies of the fusion reactor assemblies strung across the back of the inner habitable section.

The CCS Shield of Light was on a dedicated, irreversible collision course with the Rellon, firing its turrets and PALCs as it went and preparing the hydrogen pulse gun for another quartet of deadly rounds. Its station-keeping thrusters and emergency jink thrusters, little more than shaped nuclear charges inside giant thruster housings to shove the titan on a new intercept course, prepared to counter any sidestep of the enemy vessel.

She began its short, fateful burn, across ten thousand kilometers into history.
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Mon May 27, 2013 1:32 pm

Ussun struggled to stay awake, circuits and optics firing and refiring as he willed his body to move. He was alive, maybe, so he triggered his beacon again, and blacked out.

He woke up to an alarm. The impact alarm, specifically. How much time did he have? A two minutes? Less? He couldn't remember. The others that were awake were around him. He remembered, he was the third officer. He was in command of this section.

"What happened?" He asked, barely speaking, his voice wavered and distorted from damage.

"We don't know. Sector separation has gone underway, Captain is waiting for us. We've all been having memory problems."

"No. We're dying." It came back to him, the fight, the blast. They'd survived, but only barely. Of the twenty crew under him, only five were awake including himself. The others' beacons had gone on automatically, and they could go out any moment.

"I've told the Captain." the other said, Ussun couldn't see who it was, his vision blurred. "She's given command to you. Here." The figure handed him a device. He grabbed it, felt his way into the ports, and connected with what was left with the ship's systems. It was no command console, but he could feel everyone. He gathered their memories, broadcast them at full power through the antenna. Vathari could die, but they could never be forgotten.

The alarm sounded again. Forty seconds before impact. The warheads in the magazines were still armed, and he made a decision.

He wasn't a murderer. He didn't want to die one. The warheads silent, digital buzzing went silent as he disarmed them. He felt a shudder as the command sector ejected, backup power and a warp engine with it.

Time became tortuously slow. He wasn't ready for this, he didn't want to die. But this was life. Then, as he thought of those he cared for most, the world stopped.

~~

"So that's how it ends, then." It was Reya, the weapons officer. She was staring at the screen, watching the Rellon fall apart and be spread to the void against the crushing force of the titan.

Valera couldn't think about that, the people she had lost. There were more pressing matters. "Skiih, is the drive charged?"

"Yes, our warp field is forming, we'll warp in a few moments. But we've got a bigger problem."

"What?"

"Just got a new sensor contact, warp bubble inbound, two minutes. It's a search and rescue ship, maybe with an escort. The commune must have seen the warp anomalies."

The words hung in the air for a bit. "The most they'll have is two corvettes, maybe a militia ship. They'll be slaughtered."

"There's nothing we can do, Captain. They've no synapses on board." An indicator light flashed. "Alright, prepare for warp, we'll be out in four minutes, back where we started."

Space curved around the tumbling chunk of starship, and it disappeared.
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Mon May 27, 2013 6:21 pm


Vathari Communate Space
Concordat Designation HD-15934
Cmdr. Carthen, Madalene Assuming Emergency System Powers
Statute 407-42, Incursion Emergency Events


“Sir,” Yeoman Wardson said, “New radar contact off of Sierra three-nine, designation Sierra four-zero! Too big to be debris, captain. Looks like a corvette. Machine says she's starting a high-gee burn."

"Intercept if we're able with the monos, Mister Barnes,” said Carthen, shaking and biting off each word as she fought to regain control of herself, “but track its trajectory."

“Aye aye, captain,” Barnes confirmed. “Twenty seconds to impact."

The forward weapon ports had sealed themselves behind heavy reinforced covers in anticipation of the strike, but the heavy PALCs and other turrets along the length of the hull struck out at the enemy ship as they were able. The gargantuan Titan barreled forward, one hundred and twenty million metric tons of seething rage at the deaths of two hundred of her crewmen. The machine made last-minute adjustments to its course by its thrusters and prepared for the impact.

The CCS Shield of Light struck and crumpled the Rellon like a cheap plastic toy in the path of a freight train.

The modular components of the ship strained and broke under the incredible force. What was left of its magazines tore and compressed uselessly under the pressure of their own compartment folding in on them and were reduced to jagged shrapnel. The reactor and damaged engine assembly overloaded and exploded brilliantly. The reaction of the crew was unsurprising.

“Mister Engstrom, did we hit a speed bump?”

“The enemy reactor catoed, sir. No damage to our ship. Sierra three-nine has been effectively destroyed.”

“Sir,” Yeoman Wardsom chimed in, “Sierra four-zero has jumped away. Trajectory recorded.”

“Good, Yeoman,” Carthen said, rubbing her quickly pounding temples, “very good work. We will be sure to pay them a visit in the near future. For now, let us begin gathering the debris into a stable orbit for transport home. Order the surveyors to meet us in the same orbit. And Mister Barnes?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Clear the debris off the primary railgun cluster and fire mixed bear upon the planet.”

“Aye aye, sir. One round, sir?”

“No, Mister Barnes. Fire until I tell you to stop. Suspected population centers. Report at each salvo.”

Yeoman Barnes nodded by means of reply and began relaying commands to the machine and gunner crews. Methodically and with purpose, cleaning protocols cleansed the tubes of debris and ablated armor particulate so the tubes could fire unhindered. New shells were loaded into the breeches and the electromagnets were primed. Twelve shells at a time - fusion lance, armor-piercing, and splinter rounds - would soon launch out of the tubes at incredible speeds, almost certainly redshifting to a degree as the world several AUs away began to feel the full force of Concordat anger.

“Salvo away, sir.”

The first wing of twelve shells left their silos with incredible speed and force, impacting furiously on the planet some minutes later. Carthen watched the effects on the cameras in angry, hungry, desperate satisfaction for a few moments before turning away. They still were not done here.

“Mister Engstrom,” she said, beginning to feel some relief from the drums of madness that threatened to split her skull, “begin working on the monoardor cargo transit protocols, if you please. We’ll need to ensure we can carry along the-”

“New radar contacts!” Yeoman Wardson yelled for the umpteenth time. “Designation Sierra four-one through Sierra four-three. Bearing zero-five-five, right declination zero-one-zero. Apparent distance fifty thousand k, apparent velocity three hundred emms. EM detects burning to match our orbit.”

This had to be some kind of joke.

“Mister Barnes,” Commander Carthen groaned, “I will not stand for this kind of incursion. Please deal with them before I get angry again. I don't care how.”

“Aye aye, sir,” Barnes said. “Redirecting the mono groups. And salvo away.”

By this point in time the monos had resumed launching and approximately eighty monoardor corvettes were lingering across the battlespace. They organized neatly into four flights of twenty at Yeoman Barnes’ order, burned rapidly to intercept the foe, and struck out with their fearsome AGIL gas-iodine lasers. The monos attacked the two incoming corvettes first with ferocity and a pattern not unlike the PALCs, striking at the same location in groups at different angles to exploit every point of weakness.

“Another salvo away, sir.”

The monos were relentless on their Rage setting, foregoing any safety protocols in lieu of unabashed bloodlust. They encircled their targets and hammered away at point blank range. They ran close passes and used their significant mass to shear away comm towers and important-looking superstructure with glancing collisions with the three enemy contacts. A handful of monos were destroyed by return fire, but the mad swarm was far too great in number for the two corvettes and rescue ship.

“Another salvo away. The two smaller contacts are out of action, sir,” Barnes reported with glee similar to the bloodlust the monos were feeling on Rage.

“Very good. On second thought, give the monos your best guesses for crew compartments on the larger contact and fire to disable, Mister Barnes. Assemble the backup surveyor crew with a boarding party and choose a leader from WEP.”

“I volunteer, sir,” Barnes said at once.”

Carthen looked him over. A stout and well-built man with a cleft chin dirty blonde hair, Barnes could easily be a shorter version of the famous farmhand poster boy for the the populist Dragoons. He would do just fine in zero-gee combat.

“Very well. Bring up your successor from the WEP team to this duty station and tell him to have the monos destroy any source of outgoing point defense from Sierra four-two as he sees them. I'd like to take that ship and crew intact but they're not worth any good men.”

“Aye aye, sir. We’ll be over there in a jiffy.”

Several minutes later, the CSV Penitent Shade disembarked from the tremendous titan and burned to match the disabled rescue ship’s orbit.


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Mon May 27, 2013 8:53 pm

In a flash the world returned, the blue-shifted distortions returning to the normal colors of a starfield. In the distance glittering specks and larger chunks were visible debris, tumbling through the vacuum.
The two corvettes left their formation, burning towards the debris field. Their radio chatter was broadcast on the bridge.

"Look at this mess. At least twenty ships, judging by the IFF beacons we're picking up and debris volume..."
"Hard to believe this is a single drive rupture, isn't it?"
"Yeah, yeah. But remember Ceta Nine? Big tanker has a field collapse, wipes out fifty freighters."
"The biggest ship here was just a passenger liner. That's some big boom but not- Non-ballistic sensor contacts! Inbo-"

The feed cut.

"What the? Did they just cut off?"
"Not sure, our sensors were on the wrecks. Realigning."

The screen shifted, the two corvettes were surrounded by dozens, possibly a hundred signatures. In less than a minute, the corvettes were shredded, one's reactor cut, ending it fast. The other fell apart, its structure buckling and shaking itself to dust from the force of its own engines.
Then, the swarm turned, speeding towards the tender, weapons blazing.

Crew panicked as the monoardor corvettes cut and carved into the large but fragile junker, destroying engines and fuel lines, blowing out bulkheads and shredding crew compartments. The point defense systems couldn't even keep up, meant to work against ballistic debris, not maneuvering hostiles. The lasers were destroyed before they could even track a target. Soon, the ship was dead in space, coasting on its last burn's velocity.

Inside, most of the two hundred crew, or the survivors, were huddling out of shock in safer areas, letting the drones handle the repairs, as they tried to gain their bearings.
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Mon May 27, 2013 10:41 pm

Second contact in more ways than one...

To conceal their approach, the probes had masked themselves in the shadow of a nearby star. Now, they hide their deceleration plumes behind this system's star. Elephants, hiding behind blades of grass.

They adopt a stable orbit that should take them close to the Vathari world in about a day's time.
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Wed May 29, 2013 8:00 pm


CSV Penitent Shade
Cargo Pod II, Temporary Staging Area
1st Assault Platoon, "Lancers One," CCS Shield of Light


"Nobleman Forrester," Arnold Barnes shouted across the mass of floating, armored men, "front and center!"

Cole Forrester, Lord of Manor Furze, commissioned officer, husband and father, meekly drifted forward like a schoolboy. Nobody liked having their name called.

"Sir."

"Forrester, we're closing in on the enemy vessel. I'll be leading the boarding action from Lancers One, serving as a liaison between you and the captain. You'll retain command of the unit itself. Lancers Two through Four will board on our orders and their own Noblemen will retain their commands. What do you say?"

By means of response Forrester produced a sheathed sword that had been presented to him by a runner aboard the Shield of Light just before launch. The sheath was black and sported an unremarkable black finish, but from the quick peek he had snuck in the massive zero-gee titan hangar he knew the sword itself was much more interesting. He handed Barnes the sword as the tassle hanging from its hilt swayed and whipped lazily in the freefall atmosphere.

"I say let's kick some ass, sir," Forrester responded, "perhaps with this?"

Barnes took the sword. Stamped in clear lettering was the phrase AGM Engineering Akita-Assisted Combat Sabre, Model .79, in what he knew to be the language of the Empire in Antiquity. Akita-assisted? Did someone really expect him to take this onboard an active enemy ship?

"The captain asked you to test it, sir," Forrester explained, imitating a sword swing with his gauntlet. "Take some of the prisoners aside and, shik, shik, I suppose."

"How crude," Barnes remarked. "I'll have to try it."


HD-15934 Battlespace
Open Vacuum Combat
1st Assault Platoon, "Lancers One," CCS Shield of Light


Several minutes later, the Penitent Shade was in position and the marines' target was covered by eighty monoardor corvettes, dim pricks of light only visible when their station-keeping thrusters fired. The marines filed out of the transport through the cargo pods' gargantuan pressure doors and prepared to enter the enemy vessel.

"Let's waste no time, then," Barnes said. "Shield of Light, Shield of Light, give us an opening, would you?

"Aye aye, Lancers One," came a voice from the titan. Seconds later, an invisible bolt of laser energy sped past the platoon, igniting debris and dust in a brilliant red trail as it went. The shot neatly penetrated what Barnes had suspected was a weak point. He was right. Some kind of airlock, hatch, or plain structurally weak point blew outwards as its own weight became too much force to hold. Some kind of crystallized gas blew with it, and as soon as the hole stopped venting white the marines maneuvered over with thrusters and clambered inside. The bulkheads and corridors were dark and shook off pulverized debris whenever the monos shot at something important looking - the job of neutralization was never done, after all - as the men advanced. They reached a well-sealed door, and Forrester oversaw one of the landless serfs plant a boarding charge. It exploded soundlessly and kicked the door inwards away from Lancers One.

"Contact!" someone shouted suddenly over the comms, and the corridor containing most of Lancers One lit up with yellow belching muzzle flashes as the marines sighted the humanoid targets and fired. The rounds ricocheted all around what seemed to be an electromagnetic storm cellar. What appeared to be synthetic entrails and clearly mechanical parts ripped from the humanoids in equal measure.

"Hold fire," shouted Barnes over the comms, "hold your fire!"

The dust settled - or at least clung to the walls in microgee. As the marines shone their flashlights inside, they could see the storm cellar filled with humanoid bodies, parts of humanoid bodies, unidentified ichor and body parts, spent shell casings, and live, terrified crew, which clung to the railings on the sides of the cellar away from the bodies. About fifty corpses littered the storm cellar, and other fifty were still alive and uninjured - or undamaged, depending on what exactly these things were. They stared at Lancers One in a mixture of anger, fear, and confusion. Barnes looked back at them with an expression that could only be understood as opportunity.

"These are our prisoners. Take them all to the ship, and have Lancers Two through Four sweep the rest of the ship. But...that one. Leave that one here."

The marines did as Barnes commanded, and while the others were wrangled away to captivity one lone "crewman" remained. This one seemed clearly different from the rest. Even if the uniform and the material was the same, it carried itself differently. This one was obviously the leader. The captain. Barnes remembered something someone had taught him once as a young boy.

No place can hold two masters. This one would have to go.

"Per Statute 71 of the Code of Naval Conduct, no ship can be commandeered with her captain aboard. In that light, I hereby relieve you of duty," Yeoman Barnes said as he drew the sword out of its sheath and plunged it cleanly into the surprised enemy captain's chest.

The 'Akita-assisted Combat Sabre' turned out to be very Akita-assisted, and very much a combat sabre. Though Barnes had no way of knowing, once the blade reached the captain's chest it fired up microcapacitors which moved thin segments of the blade through Akita space at tremendous speeds, hurling them back and forth in a process that violently tore anything from flesh and bone to nanofiber carbon weave and solid armor plate with ease and spat them up and in front of the wielder. A thick, sawdust-like particulate that was the captain's armor or bones mixed with a thin, watery soup that was either vascular fluid, hydraulic fluid, or blood and spat in a great spray over the captain, the bulkhead behind him, and Barnes' sealed combat armor. After about five seconds of spectacular, continuous cutting, the combat sabre seemed to be running low on power. Barnes put the blade back in its sheath and the captain was no longer recognizable as something that once held thought.

"Continue the search," Barnes said without further comment, wiping the ichor off his combat armor.

All in all, the search of the ship turned up one hundred and twenty live "crew," who were made to understand basic instructions by the marines and escorted back to the Penitent Shade. The other eighty were either killed in the initial raid or refused to comply and were shot. OPS officer Engstrom knew of a room of unknown purpose inside the titan which, for whatever reason, included in its walls a Faraday cage. The captain ordered the prisoners to that room and for Lancers One to stand guard. Lancers Two would stand guard in the corridors nearby, both units with their battlenets offline in case the enemy pulled any hacking tricks again. The CCS Shield of Light had its monoardors begin towing the debris to a tight orbit around the system's star and ordered the surveyors to meet them in the same orbit. In 48 hours, the titan, the surveyors, and the enemy prisoners and wreckage would all be in an ideal spot to encase in Shield of Light's Akita aperture and return home. The course was plotted and ready - they would be headed to New Zephyr in two days. It would be good to see some Empire architecture again.

All they had to do now was wait.


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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Wed May 29, 2013 9:49 pm

Tiirya opened her eyes slowly, metal shutters rotating back, vision blurry as the lenses focused and photoreceptors adjusted to the bright lights which shone down from above. She lay on her side, loosely sprawled on the floor, between her fellow crew. The others sat or lay on the floor in some manner, some holding each other. They made no sounds, but her antennae prickled with every radio wave, the mechanisms and circuits translating the frequencies into cries of sorrow and anguish, babbling of fear and panic.
This crew was a family, they had lived and worked together for decades, some, centuries. In this, she was a stranger, an outsider. Her home was Risthun, so she knew a few names, had seen them in the spaceport, but she was young, barely an adult. This was her first occupation, and the only person she really knew on board was Errius, the Captain, who had offered her the position after one of his crew had moved out of system.

The man had been brutally murdered an hour earlier. And given the warrantless destruction this ship had caused, Tiirya realized that her own homeworld was now burning.

She summoned the courage to stand up, the light refracting off of her seven foot chassis. Her family was traditional, they all followed the basic humanoid form, including proportional variations for gender. Her own chassis was somewhat bulkier, due to upgrades to improve its strength for salvaging work.

Tiirya cautiously walked through the dozens who stood in her path to the edge outside of the huddled crew, stepping over those who didn't or couldn't move.

She approached one of the aliens, one who looked to be in command of the armored group. Time slowed a bit as her circuits picked up speed, processors overclocking as she felt fear rise in her mind. She staggered a bit, almost turning back, but halting, facing the figure.

The first word she choked on, muttering a sad "Why?"

"Why did you do this? Why must we suffer? Why must we die?" She asked the being, her voice resonating with sorrow and anger, her orange eyes reflecting the sadness and rage she felt in her very core.
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Wed May 29, 2013 10:50 pm


CCS Shield of Light
Deck Section 47-A6
Temporary Prisoner Housing


A few marines tracked the humanoid's movements through the milling crowd. Moving with purpose was something active duty SPECTAC officers learned to pick up quickly, even if the subject was staggering. By the time it reached Yeoman Barnes to make its plea, more than a few marines had their weapons trained on the humanoid. Barnes ordered them to lower their weapons with a quick hand gesture. The thing spoke, and Barnes listened, astonished. He opened his mouth, as if to speak, then paused in thought for a moment. He studied the humanoid's pained face. He closed his mouth and raised his rifle.

He shot the humanoid cleanly through the knee, then took a few steps back as it fell to the floor. The rifles of the other marines went up to their shoulders to sight the crowd, but they did not fire.

"So, you can talk. If you can speak our language," commanded Barnes in a booming voice, "then you will understand this: you are prisoners of the Concordat seized after your illegal attack on this ship. You will be brought back to Concordat space to ensure your health and to be questioned about your crimes. While onboard this ship you are entitled to sustenance and this living space so long as the safety of these soldiers is not threatened, threats being defined by their own judgement. You will not touch these soldiers. You will not approach these soldiers. You will not speak to these soldiers unless spoken to. You will not leave this area or attempt to cause damage to these soldiers or the ship by any means. You will not take any action that could be interpreted as hostile."

Barnes gestured his rifle at the humanoid that lay with a bullet hole through her knee joint.

"We do not have any qualms about shooting anyone who cannot follow these simple rules. The captain has requested that as many of the prisoners be kept alive as reasonably possible. We will decide what is reasonable and who is alive."
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REDSHEILD

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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Thu May 30, 2013 5:07 pm

Tiirya crumpled to the floor, struggling to stand, but each time she felt the servo give out due to the damage. Her leg scraped against the floor as she dragged it, crawly slowly back to the edge of the group. One of the bipeds sitting at the edge extended his arm to her, helping to gently drag her back in. She recognized him as Guriul, an older member of the crew, supposedly an archeologist at one point. He had come to Risthun to retire, and started volunteering with dock and rescue operations a few years ago.
"Thank you" she said to him, via radio.
"It is lying."
"What?"
"I know that language. The speaker is lying."

Tiirya was about to ask more when Guriul gave her a look, his expression and the meaning in his gray eyes telling her it was best not to know. Then, Guriul stood. His chassis was more angular, more artificial, more practical. He was short and broad, covered in various brackets for mounting tools and equipment. She noticed a faint green hexagon on his chest, inset with a faded red one, and two barely visible green lines running down from his right eye, cheek, neck, shoulder, and arm, ending at his hand. Guriul had a history, more importantly, he had served Vathar as a soldier.

Guriul faced the lead alien, but unlike Tiirya he stayed at the edge of the crowd.
" My studies during my service has given me knowledge of your language's predecessor, this crew, however, lacks this understanding. Captain Errius died at your hands, and as I am the highest ranking surviving officer, I now speak for his actions and this crew."
He paused.
"The Search and Rescue vessel ArSee Eight-Two-Seven Orthulanon was responding to a warp field implosion event detected by the planet Risthun. The source was determined to be the passenger cruiser Thalma's Light, a ship with exemplary maintenance records and crew training. Radio logs intercepted during warp from the patrol frigate Rellon implied hostile attack was the cause. Initial debris analysis was underway by our escorts when your forces engaged us. However, recorder beacons that survived your attack on the group of civilian ships were still broadcasting, and initial analysis confirmed that the ships were attacked without warning or provocation, and destroyed. Detailed analysis was underway when the Orthulanon was attacked, and was interrupted. I can only assume that we were attacked and imprisoned to prevent knowledge of this amoral transgression from being known, so that you may hide behind the veil of ignorance and the absence of evidence should you ever be confronted with this crime."
"Whether or not that is true, your ship and its command staff have still committed a crime against the people of Risthun and by extension, the Communate of Vathar. As a soldier, I know as well as you do the consequence this act will bring. If my crew are returned now, I can leverage for leniency and diplomacy. If we are kept your prisoners, then the War Minds will act on their own, and I fear their course of action will not favor your people."
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Thu May 30, 2013 10:07 pm


CCS Shield of Light
Deck Section 47-A6
Temporary Prisoner Housing


Barnes raised his rifle to enforce the rules that had just come out of his mouth, but paused for a moment. Thoughts flickered over his face as barely recognizable muscle and eyebrow twitches. He lowered the rifle. He made eye contact with Nobleman Forrester, who seemed to understand what he was thinking.

"All right, then. You who just spoke, follow me," Barnes said, pointing to the door with his elbow. "The rest of you will remain silent and still."

Barnes walked to the door, motioning for three marines to come with him. He spoke to Forrester on the way out.

"Mister Forrester, you are the new captain of the watch. Shoot them at the first sign of hostility or movement towards you and don't hesitate to call in Lancers Two. They may look like women or old men. Whatever their form, they are durable and hostile. Do not let your guard down."

Barnes banged on the door in a simple pattern, one that changed at random intervals preset by the guard watch before the prisoners were taken here. The door opened to a hallway full of marines, rifles raised and hot.

"Very good, Noblemen," Barnes said. "Hour four - red archer."

The rifles lowered. Barnes was not speaking under duress. He brought Guriul and the three marines to the room next door, which by design was also a Faraday cage. It reminded Guriul of a cargo bay for specialized E-WAR or AI cargo - and it likely was. This was another special form of containment that the Concordat had only recently discovered and did not have use for until now. He felt the link between his comrades and himself sever. The shielding was thorough.

"Please, have a seat," Barnes said, motioning to a chair in the middle of the room. The marines took up positions at the corners of the room. "Let's have a little chat."

Barnes took a very deep breath, about ten seconds, then exhaled as he looked at the xeno.

"Let's start with the simple stuff. I ask you a question, you give me an answer. No, it doesn't work the other way around. First question. You said you know of our language from your service. Where did you discover it? I would enjoy all the details you can give me."

As Barnes said 'enjoy', a big, sadistic grin broke out across his lips for a fraction of a second.

New Zephyr
System of the Empire in Antiquity
Local Commander Carthen, Madalene


The Shield of Light had escaped to the New Zephyr system, the first one they had surveyed. Unlike the other systems of Old Empire they had re-explored, this one contained only a single star and a gas giant, perhaps a failed star in its own right, and amid various stellar debris an Imperial station from an earlier age. It appeared to be a astrometric station - in millenia past, it seemed Empire ships would refuel out of the gas giant while the station provided them precise location information for their navigation machine relative to the rest of the galaxy. Its databanks were small, but it was cavernous and empty by Concordat standards.

It would be perfect.

"Get me the WEP watch commander and our data officer," Commander Carthen ordered, suddenly struck by inspiration. "Have them meet me in Hangar Bay Three."

Over the next 48 hours, the crew of the Shield of Light labored to make the station suit their needs. They repaired their damage, they trained, they did anything to keep their minds off the fact that they were a long way from home orbiting a lonely star. But, in the absence of all else, they were ready.

And after 48 hours had passed, they finally jumped home.
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PostSubject: Re: Second Contact   Thu May 30, 2013 10:51 pm

Guriul felt lingering surprise and a twinge of relief as he sat in the chair. Just moments prior he had stared the man the eyes, prepared to lose his life for the remote chance of his crew's safety. He had stared danger in the face many times, yes, yet this was different. It was more... personal. He had to fight the urge to laugh at the man's request, serious as it was. This being had just been aiming a weapon at him, had shot one of his friends, killed many others, and personally murdered his Captain, and yet this 'Barnes' felt entitled to a response. Perhaps it was for the better that Guriul was a polite soldier, and not the kind to spit in his captor's face.

"I served in the Sixty-Eighth Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron, during the Kal Conflict and later the Sycon Rebellion. During the Sixty-Eighth's forty-fifth deployment of the war, we encountered scattered debris of a five kilometer long starship drifting in a star system marked as a potential hostile. Its breakup point was derived from the debris' trajectories, and the position in time-space was estimated to within a necessary degree of accuracy. Then we probed the edges of its light-cone, and together with records copied from what computers survived its destruction, found the origin point of its faster-than-light jump."

"We found that it had come from a binary star system orbited by two gas giants, both ringed by debris and hulks from some sorts of shipyards and fuel processors. Located on a few hulks were similar ships, also aged beyond immediate function, but their computer systems were intact. Our superiors took an interest in the language, finding it similar to the ones of our ancestors, much as it was similar enough to yours for me to derive your dialect."

"I know the location of the star system, however I only know it in reference to my own homeworld's coordinate system. You will understand that I would rather learn your coordinate system first, or find a compromise, then give you knowledge of my people's space."
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