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    BZPB: Resurgence

    JS
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Thu Feb 04, 2021 6:11 pm

    In the far-flung future of the Reborn universe, peace is a commodity in short supply.

    Building on the success of her victory over the Tanari Confederation, Sefer Yetzirah forms the New Order - a collectivist, totalitarian regime intent on nothing less than total galactic domination. The future Sefer envisages for the galaxy is free of pain, war, or suffering - but also of individuality, free will, or free thought.

    Whilst the galactic government itself collapses when presented with the threat of New Order and its vast armies, those worlds and systems which value their freedom and independence form an uneasy alliance with one another; under the moniker of the 'Free Systems Alliance', even former enemies find themselves fighting alongside each other against a common foe.

    Brave warriors on both sides fight and lay down their lives for the causes they believe in. Mercenaries and vagabonds flock to the service of the highest bidders. Ancient evil stirs and schemes, casting a hand out across a war-torn galaxy to shape it to its own perverse machinations. Independent worlds And, as has happened in every era beforehand, new heroes arise to restore justice and order to the galaxy -

    - or, die trying.
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Thu Feb 04, 2021 7:56 pm

    [ Unknown Desert World ]

    "Bendu."

    The camp fell silent as Shortman spoke, until even the nighttime sounds of the desert beyond them slipped into nothingness. Only the crackling of an open fire remained, flaring up every now and then as a new piece of kindling was thrown onto it.

    "Sefer's building something on Bendu."

    "Bendu's deserted." retorted Halen Karsso, turning his gaze down at the prisoner before him. The former prime minister knelt before the campfire, his hands cuffed behind his back, looking up at his captors.

    "It's a dead world." added Sylen Kurze - a leering, lanky figure with the air of a Tanari intelligence officer about him. "An asteroid that happens to have an atmosphere attached to it. No mineral wealth."

    Shortman shook his head. "She's building something there. Under the cover of a storm that I don't doubt was called by her just to obscure whatever she's doing."

    "Funnily enough, I have a hard time believing that." replied Sylen, slipping a knife out from under his desert robes. Halen Karsso stuck a hand out to block Sylen from stepping any closer, cutting the taller man a stern look. Reed Palermo - a young Malchiorian man dressed in combat fatigues - knelt down. "Don't pay him any more attention, kid." added Sylen, spitting. "Just another one of Sefer's tricks."

    Reed looked Shortman in the eye. "You have to admit, Sylen has a point. You're the former Takemikazuchi Prime Minister. You were one of Sefer's closest allies."

    "Were." replied Shortman.

    Reed sighed, looked to Halen and Kurze, then back to Shortman. Further away from the campfire, figures moved about in the darkness, growing weary of what was looking to be another of Sefer's counterintelligence schemes.

    "And what is she building?"

    Shortman paused, and considered his words. "The specifics, I'm not sure. But she's pulled the homeland fleet away from Shangri-La just to protect it. She's stopped communicating with her generals directly - they're effectively running the war on her behalf at this stage. I... know Sefer. She wouldn't leave the safety of Shangri-La in the middle of a war for a mere vanity project."

    Sylen laughed - a deep bellow. "This is one of Sefer's better schemes yet. Oh, I like this one a lot - a defecting former Prime Minister, real classy. A mysterious project on a dead world - real classy. Really, really cla-"

    "Be quiet, Sylen" uttered Reed, and the older man fell silent. Reed looked back to Shortman.

    "You're right to be suspicious of me, and of what I'm saying." added Shortman. "Kill me, take my life - do as you please. But promise me you'll take what I've said back to your people. Reed - I know Klak. Take what I've said back to Malchior. Do every bit of research you need to. The galaxy needs to know that buried under that unending storm on Bendu, Sefer's working on something that she thinks will win the war."

    Halen stepped forwards, drawing a heavy revolver from his belt. "Well, I'm glad we agree on one thing. I think I will kill you."

    At that moment, a hot white jet of energy shot out of Halen's chest as a railgun round tore through him, sending him flying over the campfire. The air was suddenly filled with the stacatto melody of electromagnetic gunfire as the gathered spies and mercenaries ran for cover, trading fire with an approaching force cresting a dune to the immediate north of them. Shortman rolled onto his side, catching sight of Sylen Kurze darting towards his sleek Tanari stealth fighter, firing back at the attackers with a pair of stiletto pistols. Palermo slid into cover behind an arrangement of crates, then looked over to Shortman, pointing his own pistol at the prisoner.

    "You set us up."

    "No." replied Shortman, locking his gaze on the young Malchiorian. "They're not here for you. They're here for me. Tell Klak - tell somebody. Anybody. Make this worth something."

    Palermo's finger wavered on the trigger, but instead of firing, he nodded, and ran with superhuman speed towards his own ship, a sleek and agile starfighter. Ships were taking off and fleeing as the attackers drew closer, yet Shortman's attention was drawn to a newly arriving ship, a light military transport, that was instead circling around for a landing. The New Order troops closed in, and by now the battle was all but concluded; those mercenaries that had not yet escaped or been killed were executed one-by-one with single bolts to the head. The circling ship touched down, a landing ramp unfolding from its angular hull.

    Arc Vekhta stepped out of the craft and onto the midnight sand; two of her troops fell in behind her and accompanied her as she walked over to Shortman. They grabbed hold of the battered prisoner and pulled him upright, planting him on his knees before her. She cast a scornful glance down at him, and he back up at her. From under her brown cloak, Shortman could make out the red irises of one who had been changed by Sefer's powers, but unlike her genetically engineered bretheren, Arc Vekhta lacked the trademark pallid, grey skin of a true Son of Sefer. She had the tanned skin tone one might expect of an inhabitant of a desert world - save for her right hand and forearm, which instead took the form of cybernetic replacements cast in red plasteel.

    "Sefer's red right hand." chuckled Shortman. "I'm almost flattered she sent you, though part of me was holding out hope she'd deal with me in person."

    "Well, the Emperor's far too busy for things like this." replied Vekhta, lowering her hood. Her red irises had a luminescence of their own, practically glowing against the backdrop of her face as she cast her gaze around her surroundings, then back to Shortman. "But of course, you'd know all about that. Why did you betray us, Shortman?"

    Shortman sighed. "There comes a time when you can no longer run away from the things you've done. The things you've been complicit in." he added, looking past Vekhta to the midnight sky beyond her. "But it's a beautiful night. Not a bad night to die. Not at all."

    "You aren't going to die here, Shortman. The Emperor has designs for you yet."

    Shortman chuckled. "One of these days, you fanatics are going to realize that there are matters in this galaxy that even Sefer doesn't get a say in."

    With that, he bit down hard, cracking one of his rearmost molars. The technology within it flared to life, and within an instant, Shortman's body began pulling itself apart at a molecular level, flaying himself into his constituent atoms as he was reduced to a silhouette of dust - that hung in place in front of Vekhta for just a moment, then blew away in the midnight breeze. It was a painless death, courtesy of a Tanari suicide tooth developed for Edward Allman's own intelligence agency.

    Vekhta froze, her anger surging within her; she clenched her fists, suppressing that anger, and then turned back towards her ship.

    "Have the Vengeance dispatch hunter-killer ships." she exclaimed, barking orders to her gathered troops. "I want every ship that left this planet in the past half hour either captured or destroyed."

    "Yes, my lord." came the response.


    Last edited by JS on Sun Feb 07, 2021 2:37 pm; edited 1 time in total

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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Kon Thu Feb 04, 2021 10:48 pm

    [ Nil'nara, moon of Tekku ]

    An invisible spacecraft grazed the treetops as it soared through the air under the cover of night, causing leaves to audibly rustle against the ship's exterior. Inside the craft, the purple electro-visual receptors of one of its passengers flared to life, visibly alerted by the sound outside. To Kakamu, even the simplest natural noise like the rustling of leaves now felt like an indulgence that the gods had forbidden him from.

    "What's the matter, Kakamu?" a female Takemikazuchi soldier quipped, glancing at Kakamu while she loaded her laser rifle. "Not afraid of a bit of turbulence, are ya?"

    Kakamu wordlessly shook his head, turning his gaze to his own instrument of destruction which he held in his hands: a seven-foot Tekkonite spear that terminated in two metal prongs. He was not sure how much his subordinates had been told of his origins, aside from the fact that he was native to this world. Even if they dared to ask, and he cared to answer, he wouldn't know where to start. His original life was so long ago, and there was nothing left of it now. There was only the mission. Sefer's mission.

    The last time his feet had touched Nil'nara's surface, Kakamu was a Tekkui healer, an expert in medicine and the sciences behind them. Under the mentorship of his father, The Savant of their village, Kakamu had forged his own path in the Tundral Wastes and returned with the discovery of Tekkonite, a dense metal he had found buried deep beneath the tombs of the Old Ones in the Coruscine Caves. His bravery and discovery won him the hearts of his village, and that of a woman, Parati. Their love was explosive, and erratic, and was never meant to last. After Parati delivered Kakamu their son, Tran-Toshen, she chased her visions into the wilderness, never to be seen again.

    Toshen's arrival was seen as a miracle to a village that had not welcomed a child in over a decade. Kakamu was less well-equipped than most at raising a child, but he did the best he could...

    Until they arrived.

    The Arokazek were brutal, showing no mercy to those who resisted them. They came without warning and took what they wanted, leaving behind just enough of the village so that the Tekkui would be able to rebuild each time, but never grow enough to oppose them. The victims of the Arokazek were returned, but changed in unsettling ways. While no one victim bore the same modifications, there was something common between them: they had all been bonded to metal. Though Kakamu recognized some of the metals from his journeys on Nil'nara, others had shades and consistencies he had never seen before. He trained to prepare himself for when it was his turn, only to realize that nothing would have been adequate when the moment finally came. The Arokazek took him to their flying metal village in the sky and grafted Tekkonite onto his skin, turning the subject of his discovery into a living cage for his own flesh. No screams of agony stayed their purple arms as they tended to their experiments, with Kakamu suffering more than most. Although he could not comprehend the creatures' speech, he came to realize that the Arokazek found him special. While some of his kindred were transported to the metal village once or twice a week, for Kakamu it became a daily occurrence. Despite the agony, he was willing to persevere as long as they didn't take his son.

    One day, Kakamu was lifted from the operating table and carried in a different direction to the beam that the Arokazek used to enter and exit their village. Kakamu played along, hoping that he would be able to discover more about their society so he could find a weakness to exploit, until he realized what was happening. The ground beneath him shook, and he felt the sensation of motion, like he was being launched into the air. The clouds above him began to get closer, and he was filled with an instinctual panic. In that moment, some part of his mind activated the metal in his arms, increasing his strength tenfold. Kakamu overpowered his captors, hurling the Arokazek against the metal walls of their village and making a break into the nearest corridor. Fleshy eyes and hands followed him everywhere, grasping at his reddened flesh, but he pressed on. Eventually, the ground gave way beneath his feet, and he fell into a cage of metal filled with light.

    Then, he heard the last sound he ever heard in that life. It was an explosion, similar to the kind that the Tekkui could make with gunpowder and caghe, but a hundred times more intense. Kakamu felt the energy sear the remaining flesh of his body and vaporize his heart, killing him instantly.

    But he awoke.

    Around him, there were no more Arokazek. No more metal walls or villages, no trees or Tekkui. Nothing but the stars themselves and the space between them.

    No air, either.

    Kakamu suffocated and died, but awoke again. And again. And again.

    Some time later - he had no idea how long - Kakamu noticed a new object slide into his sphere of vision. It was the same beige-colored planet had that sat in the stars above his home since he was a child. Tekku.

    Kakamu suffocated and died again.

    Over the following weeks or months, Kakamu noticed each of Tekku's moons appear in its orbit, one by one. But there was one he did not recognize: a small green moon with icy poles and an ocean on the western hemisphere. It wasn't long before he came to the only conclusion he could. He was in space, and the unknown moon was Nil'nara.

    Kakamu spent the next thousand lifetimes suffocating in space, being pulled inexplicably back from the brink of insanity whenever he thought he couldn't take any more. It seemed his mind, like his body, was capable of healing itself, but not without leaving the scars of trauma behind in the process.

    Eventually, as Kakamu prepared for his latest inevitable death, a flash of light engulfed him and he found himself in a metal room filled with air again. At first, he struggled to remember how to breathe, but the sensation came back to him with time. He was approached by a strange armored being with white skin and stringy hair, but one that resembled one of his own more than an Arokazek, having only two legs, two arms, two eyes, one mouth, and an organ that jutted out from the center of its face that the owner called a "nose". This figure introduced itself as Arc Keylana, a general of a tribe known as the New Order. Keylana spoke to Kakamu by transmitting images directly into his mind, requesting that he allow her to install another modification into his body that would enable him to communicate with her tribe. Kakamu, of course, accepted. After all, what was one more modification in a sea of a hundred?

    Patiently, Keylana educated Kakamu on the ideals of the New Order and opened his mind to the true nature of the cosmos. What the Tekkui had assumed was a empty canvas of dark and light was in fact a gigantic ecosystem that was teeming with more planets and species that Kakamu would have ever dared to imagine. Keylana mentioned that the New Order had wanted to bring the Tekkui into the stars and save them from the Arokazek, but were prevented from doing so by the tyranny of the Galactic Government, who had blocked the rest of the galaxy from accessing Nil'nara in order to "preserve its culture". Apparently, the Arokazek were an exception to this law. Although the New Order had eventually saved the galaxy from the Galactic Government's tyranny and dismantled their empire, the Arokazek were still at large in other parts of the universe. But Kakamu could stop them if he joined the New Order.

    Kakamu remembered looking out of the vessel's window towards Nil'nara, wondering if Toshen was still somewhere on the moon's surface. Although Keylana could not tell Kakamu exactly how long he had spent in space, she told him it had been at least 15 years judging from the age of his surviving memories. Wherever Toshen was, he was all grown up. He didn't need his father anymore. He probably wouldn't even recognize him anyway.

    Over the next few years, Kakamu became something of a myth among the generals of the New Order, a biomechanical tribesman who journeyed from world to world, hunting down those who the New Order named as allies of the Arokazek. Eventually, Sefer Yetzirah herself decided that she wanted to meet the man behind the legend. On his trip to Shangri-La, Sefer blessed him with the Fruit of Life, intertwining his flesh and metal in ways that neither he nor the Arokazek had ever envisaged: a perfect fusion of man and machine, immortal and with the ability to control fire with his own fingertips.

    "Psst. Hey, Pocahontas! Are you still with us?"

    Kakamu snapped back to reality, seeing his subordinates sitting around him, waiting for a response. The woman opposite him, Irscha Inkar, frowned in confusion.

    "Yes," Kakamu said, feeling heat build up in his clenched fist. "I'm with you."
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Claymore Fri Feb 05, 2021 12:24 am

    [Vongolan Rebel Front staging post, Tuvar system]

    The complex clung to the asteroid like a strange white pustule, tall frameworks of girders and support superstructure reaching into the inky blackness of space. Various small craft buzzed around the cluster of biodomes and hangers, ferrying personnel and material from point to point, and further afield to the outposts at the edge of the asteroid field. The central chamber of the complex was a large dome, flaking old ablative nulltherm foam covering its outer surface, pocked with thousands of micrometeor impacts. A web of smaller domes and service shafts radiated out from the centre, giving Gerry Arwell the uneasy mental image of a spiders web. As he peered out at the staging post from the viewing screen of the shuttle, his Virtual Interface chimed, sending an audio impulse directly into his brain and spashing an "incoming call" icon directly onto his retina. Arwell sighed, and reluctantly accepted the call.

    "Its good to have you with us Gerry," the disembodied voice of Ing Cai-Wei cooed into his ear. Arwell had no great love of his handler for this operation. She always carried an air of condescension in his interactions with her - he suspected she viewed him as a suit who did no real work for a revolution such as this. He couldnt give a toss.

    "It's, uh, good to be here. I assume you've cleared my shuttle with ATC?"

    "Head to pad 13. I'm pinging a flightpath to your VI now. See you on the ground."

    The flightpath Cai-wei had provided took Arwell directly past a tall silver tower of dense electronics - Arwell knew it was a full spectrum deep scanner, and one that was no doubt loaded with a variety of utterly lethal weaponry, physical and otherwise. He prickled slightly at the implication, but then smirked as he was reminded of the implants he'd been fitted with before heading out to this god-forsaken rock field. He trusted his clinic though, safe in the knowledge that what they had fitted was well stealthed.

    The shuttle swept in on a smooth landing trajectory, alighting on pad 13 with a slight shudder of hydraulic suspension. Arwell clicked the helmet down onto his space suit, a simple band of plasteel that projected a zero-width energy field around his head, a slightly shimmering shield seperating his skin from the vacuum outside. The door to the shuttle clunked open, receding into the hull. Arwell stepped out of the craft, a wave of nausea threatening to upturn the contents of his stomach, but he managed to grab the landing gear, steadying his low-gravity bound onto the landing pad. Three armed figures clad in matt-grey armoured suits pointed sleek carbines at him - a perfunctury gesture, he felt. Cai-Wei stood at the airlock of the landing pad, and beckoned him over. Arwell made it to her in three shaky bounds. He cast a single glance over his shoulder, long enough to see one of the soldiers peering into his shuttle. Arwell subvocalised a simple command - Mars, lock the ship. The door slid shut, and the soldier shrugged.

    "The gravity getting to you?" Cai-Wei smirked.

    "More the lack of it. Not been in this low gravity since Sundowner." Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. If Cai-Wei looked surprised, Arwell couldnt tell past her helmet's visor. What he could tell - she looked young, and it wasn't just regen treatments. Genuine youth, and an idealistic if misguided attitude. Slight features, almond shape brown eyes, piercings. Classic good girl gone bad. Probably ran away from home to fight this war. Always the same.

    "Well, there's a pack of pills in here if you need 'em," she said without malice as she passed him a small satchel. "There's rations and a clearance pack in there. If you activate it it'll sync straight to your VI. There's also an access card. Y'know, for the real black zones."

    Arwell couldn't help but laugh. "Physical? You guys are taking security seriously."

    "It is serious," Cai-Wei snapped in retort. "I know you don't consider our revolution more than a penny-ante game, but people's lives are at stake here."

    "Yeah." Arwell couldn't help it - his cynicism ran deep.

    They moved through the tunnel that led into the processing chamber for the landing pad. A single gate led to the next chamber, shielded with a shimmering pink forcefield. Arwell pulled the clearance pack from the satchel, a single chunk of technology that reminded Arwell of an antique Walkman stereo he'd seen in a museum somewhere. He clicked a button and it pinged Mars, his VI. The scanner above the forcefield spat a fan of red light over them both, and the forcefield disengaged. Cai-Wei bound through, and Arwell followed, removing his helmet once the forcefield flicked back on.

    The man who now faced Gerry Arwell was like a spectre out of his darkest memories. A slender figure clad in an exquisitely tailored cream suit proferred a firm hand to shake.

    "Hello, glad you could be with us Gerry. I'm Dallas Dalton."

    ***

    [A battlefield on Vongola]
    The staccato rhythm of the anti-aircraft gun beat a primal tattoo in Holbach's head. In a single motion, he leapt up from his foxhole, ripping the active camoflague tarp from his form as he sprinted at superhuman speed toward the gun emplacement. The crew didn't even have time to react as he vaulted the sandbag wall, burying his hatchet deep within the first man's chest. He dropped with a gasp, but Holbach was already onto the next man, bearing down on him with a savage fury. The soldier tried to raise his submachine gun, but Holbach thrust forward with both his arms, biomechanically enhanced strength crushing the soldiers neck before he could even raise a shout. Within moments, the only movement in the emplacement was the twitching of dead and dying men and Holbach's ragged breathing, his chest heaving with the exhilaration of the kill.

    "Jeez, I forgot what you do when we let you off the leash," Dreis' disembodied voice buzzed through Holbach's earpiece.

    "Keep a dog in a cage long enough, its no surprise it'll bite when you let it out."

    Dreis grinned, flipping the magnifier off of his 4-10x scope, allowing him a wider field of view out over the front he surveyed. His position was a bombed out municipal building, second floor, prone and camoflagued with a tarp like Holbach's, as well as an active trophy-system and digital warfare suite. He shared the position with Buster Breaker, the old cowboy's antique Lahti anti-tank rifle covered in nulltherm netting to cover its barrel's heat signature. Breaker was sat at the back of the shattered room, reclining in a chair with his wide brimmed hat pulled down over his eyes. Dreis shook his head. The old coot had been in a foul mood because Dreis wouldn't let him light one of his massive cigars.

    They'd been out on the front for three days, slowly pushing forward as part of a recon force sent ahead of the main battle line. While the rebels had entrenched themselves, the Vongolan military loyalists still had access to better weaponry. More importantly, they had air superiority and airspace denial in this sector, shooting down the VRF's drones when they'd sent them out to perform scans of the loyalists line. The rebel commander for the sector, Yuri Hasov, had asked for some of Dallas' own men to lead a force out to disable the loyalists anti-air batteries. It had been going smoothly the first two days, but the loyalists had deployed a gunship to force the rebels' attack back. Dreis had sent Hasov's men back alone, and had gone dark, holing up in the municiple building and sending Holbach ahead to take out the batteries as Dreis and Breaker provided fire support. Three batteries had fallen now, and they were on the home stretch.

    Vongola was shaping up to be a tidy little war, Dreis thought.
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by drj Fri Feb 05, 2021 3:07 am

    <Deep space>

    The mercenary ship hung on the very edge of the anomaly, its cloaking device activated and all other non-essential systems powered down to avoid detection. One couldn't be too careful given the nature of their target, which, according to their information, was scheduled to stop here very soon indeed.

    The ship's helmsman was a blond male human whose face betrayed no emotion. A woman sat next to him was tapping away on a console, while the three one-eyed aliens behind them were alternatively looking up at the ceiling or cleaning their weapons. There was no real reason for them to be quiet, but given that they were in silent running mode, it just felt right somehow.

    "Pes, can you sense anything?" the blond whispered to the one-eyed man who seemed to find the ceiling incredibly engrossing. He closed his eye for a few seconds, then began to blink very quickly.

    "Pes?"

    The cyclops snapped out of whatever trance he was experiencing. "Many voices. Muffled by hyperspace, I think but less and less so. They're almost here, Ashton." he finally said.

    "Wunderbar." hissed Ashton Carney, just as a blue-green vortex opened up in the distance, and spat out multiple grey, bulky ships one after the other.

    "One Tanari freighter and several heavy fighters. The order said there'd be a corvette." the woman noted with some hesitation.

    "Maybe they were wrong, or the corvette's down for maintenance." Ashton shrugged. "Either way, Amanda, I'm not complaining. Execute the programme."

    Amanda nodded, and punched a password into her console. "Confusion. I sense confusion and fear." said Pes. If the programme their client had given them worked as advertised, the Tanari ships' communications systems would now be scrambled for 45 minutes - hopefully long enough for them to get in and out. Immediately, Ashton flipped several switches, spurring the familiar hum of systems powering back up. The ship, still cloaked, suddenly accelerated, heading past the swirling heavy fighters and straight for the freighter.

    And then, suddenly, there was a thud, and the ship came to a shuddering halt.

    "What the fu-," Amanda began to say, only to be stunned into a silence as what appeared to be a human wearing a garish purple outfit and a grey scarf materialised right in front of the cockpit window. He appeared to be breathing normally in the vacuum of space.

    "Well, that can't be good." Ashton said, pressing buttons at random in the hopes of restarting the engines, but to no avail.

    "Pes, why didn't you tell us this guy was coming?" another cyclops yelled.

    "I couldn't sense him!" Pes cried, sounding even more distressed. "I... still can't."

    The human smiled, and then suddenly stretched out his hand towards the cockpit window, as if to touch it. He did, and then his hand kept going through the window, as if it were not there. The mercenaries opened their mouths to scream, only to suddenly fall into a deep sleep.

    -----

    <Tanari Homeworld>

    "I must say, Carney, never in a billion years would I have expected you to botch an operation quite this much."

    "I didn't botch a damn thing." Carney said, contempt for his Tanari interrogator dripping from every word. "There was no 'operation'. I was on a pleasure cruise with some friends near Anomaly X5409, the convoy dropped out of hyperspace, we were changing course so as to avoid getting in their way, and then... whoever the hell that man was appeared and I woke up in your facility. I already went through this with your subordinate."

    "Yes, so I'm told." the interrogator looked down his nose at Ashton, who was wearing a shock collar and what looked like a set of grey pyjamas. "And what I'm expected to tell my superiors is that we found a known mercenary at the last reported location of a missing Tanari convoy carrying precious cargo, and this is a complete coincidence and we should blame this on some anonymous man who can breathe in space and phase through solid matter instead. Are you trying to get me demoted?"

    "You know what, maybe I should!" Ashton slammed his fists down on the table. "You keep saying 'a mercenary', and even assuming that's an accurate description, which I dispute, I was there with friends. None of you have told me where they are or if they're okay yet. That violates so many conventions!"

    "Alright, alright, calm your tits." the Tanari sighed. "I can tell I'm not going to get much more out of you tonight. We'll continue this tomorrow." He turned towards the door and left, leaving Ashton to seethe.

    Outside the room, another Tanari, this one well-dressed, taller and surprisingly young-looking despite his completely grey hair, was looking at a live feed of the hidden camera placed in the interrogation room. "So all their stories match?" he said to the interrogator.

    "That's right, Mr. President. They're all lying about why they were there, of course. They don't know we hired them. But I don't think they made up the man."

    President Silver Eachan looked worried. "Most unfortunate, most unfortunate. Have patrols keep looking for the freighter."

    "But... Mr. President, does it matter? We hired Carney and the others to place a bomb on the freighter. One way or another, it's gone and we can claim the insurance payout. We can locate the freighter later. Even if it was this so-called 'Blackout'... does it matter?"

    "You're not very bright, are you, General?" Silver growled. "In the short term, no. In the long term, he wanted it for some reason. And I don't like mysterious events I don't control in an election year."

    "I'm sorry, Mr. President. What do I do with the mercs?" the general asked.

    "Kill them all. They probably have nothing more to tell us and we can't have any record of the deal. "

    "Yes, Mr. President."
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Klak Fri Feb 05, 2021 7:11 am

    [Moon of Vonilla, Space Station]


    Klak briskly made his way to the elevator doors. He quietly reviewed some briefings on a transparent tablet, the resplendent colors of holograms dancing across his face. He waved his hand above the tablet, dismissing the holograms, then flipped a switch, turning it off.

    Klak was flanked by a small entourage of about four people. Two of them wore the signature red beret and black suits of the Presidential Guards. One was a woman known as Amelias Volkov, and the other was a man known as Lorenzo "Lance" Lopez. The other two men were Ambassador Felix Vaish and Special Presidential Advisor Jefferson Bethlehem, respectively.

    "Shall we?" Klak asked, cheerily.

    The elevator doors whooshed open. Klak adjusted his jacket and tie then walked in, with the others following. Klak turned to face the windows as the elevator slowly lurched upward. He saw a clear view of the vast, black expanse of space that enveloped the Moon of Vonilla.

    Various diplomats from both Malchior and the Free Systems Alliance recommended to Klak that his meeting with a delegation from the Amun Collective take place on the Moon of Vonilla, a neutral space. It was the best place that either side could negotiate without having to look over their shoulders.

    "Permission to speak freely, Mr. President?" Jefferson asked.

    "That never stopped you before, Jefferson." Klak chuckled. "What is it?"

    "All due respect...Just exactly how many devils are you going to make deals with?" Jefferson objected.

    "And there it is," Klak grinned.

    "Ascheron, Veras, the Sefer clones, and now the Amun Collective? Are you going to resurrect Allman and Uteriach for good measure?" Jefferson said.

    "Who said Uteriach was dead?" Klak retorted.

    "You know what I mean, sir," Jefferson grunted.

    "Better the devils we know, Jefferson. These are trying times. Malchior and the Free Systems Alliance need as much help as they can get. The Amun Collective can help us with a lot of resources that we need to strengthen the galaxy against Sefer's New Order. Plus, it helps to have an ally with experience fighting Takemikazuchi ships. The Collective's fleet wasn't on our side back in the War, but they gave us all a run for our money for a while before they were decimated."

    Jefferson shook his head and sighed.

    "All this is why Krieger resigned, you know." Jefferson argued.

    "Kreiger always hated my guts," Klak noted. "He was just looking for an excuse. Besides, you know he wants to be Secretary-General."

    "Next week's elections, that's right." Jefferson sighed again. "I think you should back Krieger when this is over."

    "I'll take anyone, even Krieger, over Gaius Malcovus," Klak said, referring to one of his rivals in the Alliance. He sighed as he gazed out into the stars, seemingly in a trance.

    "Mr. President," Ambassador Vaish asked, breaking the silence. "We are here."

    Klak noticed that he was now staring at nothing. The elevator doors whooshed open.

    "Oh, right."

    He emerged from the elevator, followed by his entourage. They entered a large room with caramel walls and furniture of various kinds neatly arranged around various conference tables. At the center was a table with a dainty Aloussian man wearing glasses; a mediator sent by the Free Systems Alliance, no doubt. The Aloussian extended one of his lime green arms to acknowledge Klak, then nodded and smiled.

    On the other side of the room was a pair of majestic mahogany doors. A group of bizarre beings with human bodies and animalistic heads began to emerge from this door, marching towards Klak in unison. First came two men with dog heads carrying large banners that displayed ankhs, suns, and other hieroglyphic images. The banner bearers marched side by side, then split apart, each one sauntering to a different corner of the room. Then came a group of humanoid women of various races, strumming lyres and singing lullabies in an ancient tongue. After the musicians came a squadron of soldiers clad in linen kilts and plasteel Ancient-Egyptianesque armor; some seemed to have the heads of bears, whereas others had the heads of jackals. All the soldiers carried khopeshes with blades that vibrated with pure energy and had rifles hung across their back by slings. The soldiers too began to split apart, assembling on either side of the room. Finally, the Pharaoh entered, his litter carried by four drones. The drones kneeled and the Pharaoh emerged, his arms crossed, his green hands grasping at his crook and flail. He was adorned in shining snow-white armor. A crimson Pschent sat on top of his verdant and noble humanoid head. The Pharaoh--named Osiris I--towered over most of the group.

    Klak reached out his arm to shake the Pharaoh’s hand, but Osiris sneered.

    "Perhaps we should engage in a more formal exchange of traditional greetings," the Aloussian mediator offered. "The translators will arrive soon."

    "No need," Osiris said, in perfect English[?]. "I have traveled across the realms of Sah and Sopdet to arrive here. The gods of the Amun Collective do not wish that their time be wasted. You have an audience with their Pharaoh. Now speak."

    "Certainly, your majesty," Klak consented. Everyone sat down, and Klak continued. "It is truly a pleasure to meet face to face. A conference between the leaders of both of our peoples is a momentous occasion."

    "That remains to be seen," Osiris interjected.

    "We believe you'll find the terms of our alliance," Klak continued, unabated. "to be reasonable. Shangri-La is no doubt a threat to all of us. Mutual defense aid and open trade channels will lead to prosperity and security. Both our worlds can stand strong against the tide of the New Order and ensure freedom for all systems."

    "Freedom?" Osiris spat out, half chuckling. "There is no freedom. There is no tide. There is no New Order. There are only those who are part of the Amun Collective and those who are not."

    "I don't think this is a productiv-" the Aoloussian tried to say but was cut off by Osiris.

    "But I, Pharaoh of the Amun Collective, find some of your terms to be reasonable. It is because of this that you have been graced by my presence." Osiris continued.

    "An excellent start," Ambassador Vaish articulated.

    "Oh no, Malchiorian. Do not believe the gods of the Amun Collective accept your offer," Osiris refuted. "I only said we found some of your terms to be reasonable. We are happy with the trade provisions, but military aid? Do not make us laugh. Why would we help you? You certainly cannot help us. We are gods, President Vell. We will obliterate all who stand in our way. All I need to do is say the word, and thousands of ships will rain the fires of Duat upon my enemies. So no, you are not an ally, Malchiorian. You are simply a suzerain who trades with us, a suzerain because we allow you to live."

    "You came across the galaxy to tell me this, Pharaoh?" Klak fumed. "Vain, deluded, and with a lot of time on your hands!"

    "Mr. President!" Ambassador Vaish scolded.

    "Perhaps we got off to the wrong start," the mediator nervously added.

    "Mind your tongue, human." Osiris spat.

    "I suggest you take another look at our terms," Klak chimed, angrily standing up from his chair. "We'll meet again in the morning. Good day to you all."

    Klak and his entourage left the room as the dumbfounded mediator stared at them. Pharaoh Osiris glared, then grinned.  

    Meanwhile, back at the elevator, Klak sighed yet again.

    "What was that?" Jefferson asked.

    "A mistake. Maybe we'll do better tomorrow."

    Ambassador Vaish facepalmed and said nothing. The group arrived at their inn a few floors down and made their way to their suite.

    Suddenly, Amelias Volkov reached for her holopad. A holographic figure emerged from it, popping up in front of her. She spoke to the figure and nodded.

    "Mr. President," he said, "We have an important transmission."

    Klak nodded. They walked into the Presidential Suite. Lance Lopez flipped a switch. Suddenly, an energy bubble covered both Klak, Jefferson, and Volkov. The bubble was meant to block any spy drones or listening devices from hearing the contents of their conversation.

    "Play it," Klak ordered. Volkov pressed a button on her holopad, and a video of Reed Palermo appeared.

    Reed was in the cockpit of his ship, gritting his teeth.

    "This is Reed Palermo, sending this transmission to Malchiorian intelligence and President Klak Vell. I just met with Long Shortman, Shortman KIA. We're under attack!"

    An explosion could be heard in the distance. The image jerked around. Reed looked to the side.

    "Oh fuck...I'm hit...fuck! Mr. President, Klak! Shortman wanted to warn you! Sefer is building something on Bendu! Something dangerous, something even the Shangri-La fleet had to protect! They’re trying to cover it up! They killed Halen, and now the-“

    Blazes of fire suddenly filled the cockpit as Ross screamed. The transmission ended.

    “Spy drones confirmed Ross Palermo was killed in action,” Volkov breathed. Nadle and the rest of the intelligence agencies want to meet with you.”

    Klak clenched his fists. Whatever the New Order was building was worth killing a Malchiorian.

    “Mr. President,” Ambassador Vaish said, hoping that Klak could hear him from outside the energy bubble. “I’ve just received word that the Amun Collective delegation was leaving.”

    “Brilliant,” Klak whispered sarcastically. “Just brilliant.”  

    --

    [Malchior, Undisclosed Location]

    Hercules Splendor puffed on a cigarette as he gazed at the sunset. He exhaled, smoke churning out of his nostrils as his mind wandered.

    An agent walked up to Hercules with a solemn look on his face. The agent placed his hand in his jet-black hair and ruffled it, gritting his teeth. Hercules nodded without looking at the agent to acknowledge him. He quietly inhaled on his cigarette.

    “Herc,” the agent said, solemnly. “A report came in…I wanted to tell you because I know you two were close…Ross Palermo…was shot down on a mission. He’s been killed.”
    Hercules’s mouth seemed to slowly drop open. He exhaled as his eyes widened in confusion. He looked at the agent incredulously.

    “What?” Hercules gasped, betraying his raspy voice.

    “Nadle wants you in the debriefing in 20 minutes,” the agent said. “But if you need a moment, I understand…”

    The agent nodded awkwardly, then stepped away.

    Killed. The words echoed around in Hercules’s mind. He placed both of his hands on his head and stared at the ground, eyes widened.

    Killed. Ross Palermo is gone.

    --

    [Cruise Ship Durin, Sea of St. Cardozo, planet Jumano]

    Lalli Cain sat on a chair near the window of his room on the cruise ship. He sipped a cup of Gilclack’s Blend coffee as he surveyed the news transmissions from his holopad.

    “What kind of a name is ‘Gaius Malcovus?’” He thought aloud.

    Regina Faral emerged from their room wearing lavish silk pajamas. Although she usually preferred to spend the spoils of her quarry on weapons and armor, she was not above occasionally splurging on the little things in life.

    “I thought we were on vacation, Lalli,” she smiled. “You shouldn’t be looking for job opportunities in the news.”

    “Always good to keep an eye on things,” he replied. “Besides, we’re not on vacation.”

    “I know, I know,” Regina conceded, sighing. “But we can enjoy this thing while we’re here.”

    “Fair enough,” Lalli said, sipping another cup. “I could get used to this, really. Maybe after retirement if we make it out of this life alive.”

    “Oh, for crying out loud, look at you.” Regina laughed. “A handful of grey hairs start showing up and you start talking about retirement. You’re not old enough to be thinking like that. You think Ashton Carney’s worried about retirement?”

    Lalli chuckled, his (mostly) light brown hair visible under the sunlight that crept through the window.

    “Ashton is slightly younger than I am, but don’t ever tell him that.” Lalli chuckled. “But I’m just thinking out loud. Retirement is not soon, obviously, but someday.”

    “Speaking of Ashton, I haven’t heard from him in a while. When was the last time he tried to kill you?” Regina inquired.

    “Three weeks ago,” Lalli shook his head. “And we were supposed to be on the same side for that job.”

    “What? Is he sick or something? Far too long of a wait for him.” Regina said.

    “Yeah, no idea. Anyways, how close are we to landing?” Lalli said.

    “The schedule says we should be on the island in about an hour. We’ll be stationed there for most of the day. Should give us enough time to take care of things.”

    “Good,” Lalli replied. I should probably get ready. This won’t be an easy one.”

    “All the more reason to enjoy the downtime,” Regina noted.  

    --

    [Battlefield on Vongola]

    Dreis suddenly noticed a sniper’s bullet slam onto one of the walls of the ruined building he was in. Only one sniper this side of the galaxy would ever fire a warning shot like that to someone she knew.

    Cassandra Cromwell, agent of the Vongolan People’s Republic, smiled from afar in her sniper nest somewhere in a ruined building several meters away. She aimed again.

    “Good to see you, Dreis Bright,” she whispered to herself.


    Last edited by Klak on Mon Apr 19, 2021 8:39 am; edited 2 times in total
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Claymore Fri Feb 05, 2021 5:06 pm

    [Vongolan Rebel Front staging post, Tuvar system]

    Dallas couldn't help but revel in the utter lack of imagination Gerry Arwell presented. Middle aged, greying, humble athleticism betraying the wealth of startlingly powerful peripherals under his skin; Yes, Gerry Arwell was the perfect spy. Sitting across from him in Dallas' office, Arwell cradled the tumbler of Lagavulin awkwardly. Their surroundings were plain and plush, cream carpets and sofas with glass and wood tables and cabinets. A few sleek pieces of technology were spread around the room, one on the coffee table displaying a 3D hologram of Vongola.

    "What are you doing here Dallas?"

    The question actually took him aback momentarily, but he maintained his composure. He hasn't expected such an honest question from Arwell.

    "Revolutions are good business Gerry."

    "You've not got bigger fish to fry?”

    Dallas paused for a moment, placing his whiskey on a marble coaster on the table. "That question underestimates what a talented fisherman I am. I have many lures and many baits. The proverbial fish I am currently frying affords me ample... Breathing room."

    Arwell considered this for a moment before shooting his whiskey. He placed the tumbler down before continuing. "Vongola will never be at peace. You know that, and it's why you keep coming back here."

    "Peace is bad for business. I think you know as well as I do that isn't an option here... Yet."

    Arwell raised an eyebrow. "Not while Uteriach lives."

    Dallas laughed, an open easy thing. "To be honest, I'm not sure he's alive. It's frankly not important to the state of conflict here. No... But it's important to why you're here."

    "I'm no fan of Uteriach. I make no secret about that."

    "You find yourself now in a position where many men wish they were." Dallas took his time lighting a cigarette, offering one to Arwell, who naturally declined. "The giving of gifts in almost all cultures is a celebratory gesture. You're a very gifted man, Gerry. And, without any false modesty, so am I. I wish for us to exchange gifts. Figlio Di Armechio is running the show down there," Dallas gestured to the hologram with his smouldering cigarette. "But for the life of me, I don't know if he's for Sefer's New Order."

    "I don't think he's for anything, Dallas."

    "All men are for something Gerry. I need to know. You're going to find out for me, and in doing so, you're going to find out where Uteriach is. If he 'is' at all."

    Dallas watched calmly as the proposal weighed in Arwell's mind. The offer was specifically crafted for this man - Dallas had picked very carefully indeed.

    Gerry Arwell had spent his early adulthood in the Takemikazuchi Navy, repairing defence systems on ships. His almost prodigal skills caught the attention of his superiors, but not before he was poached by the Vongolan People's Republic, where he worked for years as an intelligence officer specialised in defence system analysis. When the first civil war broke out and it surfaced that Uteriach had ordered the purges of nobility, Arwell defected, siding instead with Kozinite rebels, and disabling defence systems in the process to allow rebels to strike more easily at Uteriachs military power. After a year of bitter war, Arwell left Vongola, signing on with the Diamond Dogs as they too left the planet, their profits having been made. Arwell served on the Stairway to Heaven during the Sundowner fiasco, but left the Dogs' service soon after. In the interim Arwell had gone dark, serving various paramilitaries and shady government organisations galaxy wide. But now Uteriach was missing, and Vongola was once again in flames. Arwell had come back at the behest of Dallas Dalton, the man who was best poised to put the dagger that would slay Uteriach into his hand.

    The decision was made before Dallas had even posed the question, of course.

    ***


    The hangar bay was filled with the sound of power tools and the smell of engine oil and electricity. Various mechanics toiled under long halogen lamps at workstations and bays, diagnostic equipment and subassemblies forming a maze of machinery that seemed to defy logic. Dallas strode through it all like a pale spectre, Arwell and Cai-Wei in tow.

    The centre bay of the hangar was where the activity was heaviest. Three hulking mechanoid forms stood statue-like in the recessed area, access gantries forming a scaffold around each. All but one of the forms was covered by dark grey tarpaulin, but Arwell knew the Armour Mobility X program well enough to recognise the truncated simian forms of the TIGER and JAGDTIGER. The disrobed mech was the RHINO, which was currently having its countermeasure systems upgraded to the package the program had introduced just a month prior. Dallas kept his gear up to date.

    "Insertion will be easy enough. I'll have ground secure an LZ for you, and once we have the all clear you'll be dropped into the atmosphere by the Stairway. She'll have to cloak; the TPR still has orbital defence stations active, but it shouldn't be a problem."

    "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to march up to the Hall of Justice and demand an audience with Figlio do Armechio in a mobile armour suit," Arwell said, his voice loaded with irony.

    "You're not going to. Use the armour to break the line, and once you’re through pass the suits off to my agents on the ground. They need them anyway - this way we have a delivery man, and you have an insertion method."

    "And once I'm through the front line?"

    "You and Ing are on your own. You know how this goes. We'll provide you with a means of communication - Ing will sort the details out. Once you've made contact with Figlio, give us a call."

    A blue skinned alien stepped up to their little group, proffering a dataslate. Dallas looked at the graph on the screen and muttered something to the mechanic. The alien grinned, revealing long rows of sharp teeth. "Oh and Boss? The new thermobaric warheads arrived for the RHINOs pod launchers."

    Dallas nodded sagely. Arwell couldn't help but feel a pang of anxiety in his gut. This would be his first time in an active combat zone since Sundowner. He hoped it didn't pan out so disastrously.

    ***


    [Battlefield on Vongola]

    Dreis swore loudly and profusely. That was no ordinary VPR marksman. He pinged the digital warfare suite, authorized a full spectrum assault. A haze of electromagnetic interference slashed out over the ragged craters of no man's land, cutting off Holbach. Dreis hoped the sniper had been using assisted targeting, and that the electronic assault would at the least delay their follow up shots; the alternative, Dreis didn't want to consider. Though, some small part of him revelled in the opportunity to duel with another of his kind.

    Dreis kicked the leg of Breaker’s chair. Somehow the old cowboy had managed to sleep through the incoming fire, but now he lumbered toward his Lahti, taking sight down the ancient optic. "Shooter ready," he muttered.

    "Sector 3, east of the ruined building there. Come to the antenna," Dreis watched as Breaker panned right with his rifle, finding the area Dreis described. "643 meters. Full send."

    Breaker opened fire, dumping all 10 rounds down range. The Lahti bucked wildly, the concussive blast of each round fired kicking up dust and spent casings off the ground. Down range, the destructive power of the rifle was being unleashed. Gouts of flame erupted from the first sized craters the 20mm incendiary tracer rounds blasted in the concrete. Whoever the marksman was, they were now suppressed.

    Dreis grabbed up his own rifle, flicking the bipod down and bracing it on a section of cracked and broken wall. Through the magnifier he could see the dust settling from Breaker's fire. There - the telltale camo netting of a sniper's nest. He cursed himself that he hadn't spotted it before. "Adjust, come about ten meters right from before. Once you send, I'll shoot," Dreis called to Breaker. The older man had slammed a new magazine home, and racked the bolt with a resounding mechanical clunk. Dreis took aim, and Buster opened fire again. Dreis saw just the slightest flicker of movement in the sniper’s nest. He squeezed the trigger, the rifle kicking into his shoulder. There was no way of knowing if he’d made the hit.

    Down in the anti-aircraft emplacement, Holbach wrenched his hatchet from the soldier’s corpse and began loping toward Cassandra’s location, covering himself with his active camouflage cloak once more.
    JS
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Fri Feb 05, 2021 8:30 pm

    [ Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon system ]

    The doors to Arc Kyydan's sanctum slid quickly open as Arc Vekhta approached them, and as she passed beyond them, slid quickly shut. The circular room was dimly lit, but even a being lacking Vekhta's finely tuned psychic senses would've been able to make out the imposing silhouette of Kyydan's cage looming in shadow at the rear of the room. It was a glass-walled vessel similar in shape and proportion to a tram car, set upon an integrated dais that, whilst currently inactive, could afford the entire container the ability to move via hovering. It was filled with a thick green liquid, but in the gloom of the chamber, nothing else inside could be observed.

    Vekhta came to stand before the vessel, then knelt respectfully. "I have returned, my master."

    The light level in the chamber gradually rose, and the container slid forwards towards Vekhta and out of its dedicated mooring in the rear wall. A silhouette began to materialize within the liquid, gliding closer to the foremost wall.

    "You destroyed the Malchiorian fighter rather than capturing its occupant." came the voice of Arc Kyydan, or rather, the synthetic voice of his vessel's onboard computer working to translate his neural impulses into speech. "I thought you had learned to suppress your anger. Harness it." he added, as he slid to a halt. "Rise, Vekhta."

    Vekhta rose, turning her gaze towards her master. Kyydan was one of the first of the adamah, the so-called 'Sefer Clones', to be created - and the first to expose just how prone to mutation his kind would prove to be. His legs were nonexistent, his spine instead terminating in something resembling a vestigial tail; his torso was asymmetrical, his back hunched, and his undersized arms locked in place, pulled close against his chest. His jaw was lopsided, and his hairless cranium slightly too large for a normal human - yet his eyes were the same as those of his brethren, luminescent red against the pale grey of his skin-tone, untouched and unmarked by mutation or error. A mechanical umbilical connected the small of his back to the upper lid of his protective vessel, linking him into its systems.

    There were those who had made the mistake of assuming Kyydan was a reject of the adamah, a failed science experiment that Sefer had not seen fit to dispose of. Yet the opposite could not be more true. In all the New Order, one would struggle to find a more superlative naval commander than Arc Kyydan; his victories were legendary, studied by both sides in laborious detail. He was known as the Caged Lion of Krace - he who had conquered that monastic world and forced its people to bend the knee when even Sefer struggled attempting the same task. Now, the people of that world fought valiantly as part of the New Order, with many serving on the very same ship of him - proud to serve alongside an honorable leader who had proven his martial supremacy over the battle-monks of Krace'ara.

    And above all that, Vekhta had come to know him as a humble man, and a wise teacher.

    Vekhta produced a holographic display-disc and lifted it up to Kyydan; it projected the image of Ross "Reed" Palermo, struggling to retain control of his fighter craft. The transmission played in full, and when it concluded, Kyydan looked to Vekhta.

    "You tricked him. You could've shot him down at any moment, but you let him send an unencrypted communication to Klak on an emergency frequency." he observed, the faintest hint of approval slipping into his synthetic voice. "Well done."

    Vekhta nodded respectfully. "I'm not that same unrefined, hot-headed brat the Emperor handed you all those years ago, master. You've taught me discipline, and ingenuity. And you've taught me well."

    "It appears that I have."

    Vekhta returned the holographic display-disc to her belt. "We should assemble a force and head to Vonilla immediately, master. Klak won't have the protection of the Malchiorian home fleet - we have an opportunity here to destroy him."

    Kyydan had already considered his response before Vekhta finished talking. "No. I must remain here, and ensure the full defense of this system. I will inform the Emperor of Klak's location. Additionally, I have a new task for you, Arc Vekhta. Your training, to my eyes, is complete. You must now take your fighter and head to Nil'nara, and pass on what I have taught you to Arc Kakamu. I believe it should be you who completes his training, and instructs him in the true ways of our order."

    Teacher and and student locked gazes for a moment, and then Vekhta knelt curtly, bowing her head.

    "It... it shall be done, my master."

    "And I am no longer your master, Arc Vekhta. I shall merely have to settle for being your friend. We shall meet again."

    Vekhta stood, stepping forwards and, for the first time, extended a hand out to touch the glass enclosure of Kyydan's cage. The fingers of her mechanical right hand gently rested against against the smooth translucent plasteel.

    "Then until we meet again, my friend."

    ---

    [ Moon of Vonilla, Space Station ]

    The station was on alert, on account of the ongoing negotiations, and so a security response was warranted when an unidentified trader vessel pulled in for an unscheduled docking. Guards armed with stun-pistols surrounded the airlock as it opened - but rather than trained Takemikazuchi assassins or gun-toting mercenaries, they were set upon by Gotti traders garbed in brown robes, who immediately began trying to sell anything they could - audio books (with the promise of a free trial), fractional shares, even online databases filled with documentaries and learning materials. The guards groaned and drew stun batons, whacking away at the traders and herding them back onto their ship - but amidst the distraction, they failed to notice a cloaked figure - evidently not a Gotti, going by his height and proportions - slip away from his travelling companions and deeper into the station...


    Last edited by JS on Sun Feb 07, 2021 2:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Klak Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:29 pm

    [Moon of Vonilla, Space Station]

    Some of the Vonillan guards were intrigued by what the Gotti traders had to offer. Others waved them away, insisting that they had nothing to buy and that “nothing came in the mail today.” All of them were distracted.

    In a nearby control tower, a Vonillan ensign assured his commander that the supposed threat was a false alarm; after all, they only saw a group of Gotti traders, nothing
    else seemed to be the matter.

    Oh, how wrong they were.

    Meanwhile, Klak notified some of his aides and assistants of his intent to leave the station.

    “There’s no point in staying, I suppose,” he continued. “Check me out, some of you can stay an extra day or two, but I want Jefferson and some of the others to leave with me now. Send my regards to the Vonillan ambassador, the Admiral of the station, and that Aoloussian…never learned that guy’s name.”

    “Islmac,” Ambassador Vaish noted.

    “Yes, Islmac.” Klak nodded. “Alright, let’s ride.”

    Klak left the room, accompanied by Jefferson, Ambassador Vaish, his personal assistant, and a squadron of Presidential Guards (which included both Volkov and Lopez).

    They made their way down a windowed hallway, views of the moon and of space blending to create a unique canvas. Klak stopped and stared at the expanse.

    “At least we got to see this,” Klak muttered. “Wasn’t a complete waste of time.”

    “Absolutely. Just phenomenal,” Jefferson said. “This installation is one of the most renowned tourist sites in several systems.”

    “Yeah…” Klak whispered, nodding.

    They turned back to the rest of the group, and continued down the hall, unaware of the danger that approached them…

    --

    [Battlefield on Vongola]

    Cassandra grunted as dust flew out of where each tracer round landed. After Buster’s second barrage, she peeked over to see if she could spot Dreis. Suddenly, she felt pressure slam into her left shoulder. Blue fluid spurted out of her wound as she gasped and grunted. Even in a gyndroid body, she could feel pain flooding her receptors.

    Cassandra placed one of her hands on the wound and dragged herself out of the next. She watched the blue fluid spill through her fingers panted.


    “Shit…Dreis, You’ve still got it,” she chuckled, speaking to no one in particular.

    With her other arm she reached into a pouch on her side. She yanked out a scrambling grenade and pulled the pin with her teeth. She hurled it in front of her. As the grenade played its symphony of gun noises, she reached into her pouch again and pulled out a hologrenade. She slammed it into the ground and saw the device project a holographic replica of a sniper right into her former position.

    Cassandra grabbed her sniper rifle, then leaped off the floor of the building she was on, landing on the ground below. She quickly took cover at the corner, her back resting on a concrete wall. Cassandra surveyed her surroundings, noticing a ruined brick building west of her position. The construction material signaled that it was one of the older buildings in this city.

    She quietly reached for a piece of glass to see if she could use it as a mirror that would reveal the positions of Dreis and the other Dogs.


    _________________
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    Post by Malygos Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:42 pm

    Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon System

    From the docking bay strode the newest Arc of Sefer Yetzirah's New Order.

    Mrain'delos-Zyandar, former Seventh Prime of the Grand Ascendant Fleet, of the Vykonian Ascendancy, strode forth.  Her stature was fairly small and slight, but her presence and bearing demanded respect as she gave a lower officer of the Vengeance a glance, him standing at attention and saluting.  She was Vykonian, as bespoken by her pale, almost stark white skin, deep sea-blue hair, pointed ears - and most of all, her eyes.  Vykonian eyes lacked whites, and had strange pupils, almost like two diamonds put together - these were to control to a greater extent the amount of light that entered one's eye, as Vykonians are amphibious - as at home on land as they are deep beneath the waves of the oceans of the blue world of Vykon.  Her own eyes were a striking turquoise against green, the same green that adorned her striking uniform - with its cape, steel pauldron, buttons, and cap denoting military rank - the short skirt over grey tights a small indulgence to femininity.  It - and the similar, albeit less ornamented uniforms of the two next to her - one man, one woman - contrasted greatly with the dull, grey, utilitarian uniforms of the Vengeance's crew.  She wore a saber on her hip, as well - another denotation of rank.  Though there was another she could use, she had never worn it.  It was not hers to wear.

    For her ascension to Arc was in part, a falsehood.  As the Seventh Prime, it was her prerogative to serve as vanguard of the invasion force of the great Vykonian Ascendancy as it spread across the galaxy, plundering and conquering as it went.  She had fought, struggled, whispered, done all she could to reach this point - to be declared the station of 'delos'.  Vykonian society was, in theory, a meritocracy - any could, via strength of arms, intelligence, and power, raise oneself to the heights of power.  Seventh Prime Zyandar was one of those few with the ability and ruthlessness to grant herself that power.

    And she proved the greatest fool, when Sefer Yetzirah's New Order came.  Trouncing her army in a single battle, Zyandar saw that the chance of the Ascendancy to continue was nil, and bent the knee to spare herself and her men.  She and the Vanguard Fleet found themselves pressed into service, her flagship, the Kraken's Grasp, first among them - aiding the New Order fleet in taking all reaches of Ascendancy space.  She herself was present for the storming of their beautiful capital - the Vykonian Ascendancy beheaded in one fell swoops, as they took the capital city in a great blitzkrieg, rounding up the resistant forces and planting the flag of the New Order everywhere.

    As they passed a window, Seventh Prime Zyandar - now Arc Zyandar, a servant of Sefer Yetzirah and her New Order - touched where the kraken emblem of the Ascendancy once adorned her collar, now replaced by the New Order triskele, gazing out at her homeworld of Vykon.  Though months removed, now, she remembered the day as vividly as yesterday - First Ascendant Veirn'alaran-Rynzos sitting atop the seat of the stormed palace of government, the rest of the Court of the First having escaped via the aid of the same Vykonian stealth technology that now the New Order exploited in their own ships, a smile on his pale blue face, eyes forward as he demanded one last challenge.  And Zyandar...Zyandar was the one who took that challenge.  In the moment, she knew she had to - and he recognized the precarious position he was in.  He made a show of it, but...Rynzos was her superior as a duelist.  One block too slow, almost deliberately sluggish, and he was dead, his black blood coating her saber.  The Sword of the Ascendant now hers by right of conquest - now, by their law, she was Ascendant.

    But it was a sham.  Rynzos had allowed himself to die to preserve her mission.  The Ascendancy prized subterfuge and treachery as much as it did strength of combat - and if Zyandar had failed to kill Rynzos, he would simply be shot down by New Order forces.  And he was first among them, who recognized Zyandar's game.  She would play the loyal servant - until she could have her knife at Sefer's back, and claim her home's freedom.  Then, she would be ascendant.  But if Rynzos had noticed the scheme from one fight...

    She shook her head, and her lips curled into a frown.  She stepped forward at a brisk pace, the sanctum of Arc Kyydan's sanctum sliding open for her.  "I am here, as discussed," she said, her tone measured, giving away nothing.  "You had called me to meet regarding the defense of Vykon?"


    Last edited by Malygos on Sun Feb 07, 2021 12:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Claymore Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:52 pm

    [Battlefield on Vongola]


    Dreis and Breaker hunkered down as the symphony of gunfire echoed out over the shattered landscape. Dreis looked at Breaker and smirked. "Decoy. there's no supersonic crack."

    "Well I'll be. Wily one."

    "Cover me, I'm moving up a bit. See if I can get contact with Holbach." Dreis shuffled out of the position, wrapping an active camo cloak about his shoulders. The municipal building was braced by a slope of rubble on the eastern side, which Dreis slid down, kicking up a plume of chalky dust. From here, it was a winding 300 meter jog to the anti-aircraft battery. Their quarry's position was further still, a demolished office block with piles of sandbags and razorwire bundles piled at its foundation. As he moved forward, Dreis pinged the digital warfare suite again before he was out of range. Another blitz of electromagnetic interference splashed forth, saturating the dataspace around him. He darted from cover to cover, keeping his eyes fixed on the sniper nest.

    ***

    Cassandra tilted the glass fractionally, finding the sweet spot. The Dog's position came into focus, and she smirked. The smile dropped from her face instantly and she swivelled lightning fast, jabbing her beam knife upwards in a sharp motion. The blade of Holbach's hatchet sparked as it was deflected away, and then he was on her, barreling forward, attempting to lift her high to then throw her down. Cassandra reversed the stroke, flipping the knife in her hand. Holbach jerked his head forward, the blade humming past his ear. Cassandra broke the grapple, twisting her hips clockwise. Holbach followed the movement, sprawling over her leg in a forward tumble. He came up fast, unleashing a savage kick at Cassandra's solar plexus, but she pivoted, going around the kick on the outside and skating the knife across Holbach's armoured shoulderpad. Holbach punched, hard. Cassandra's head snapped back as the blow rocked her chin, but she riposted even as she reeled, the blade arcing to plunge into Holbach's side. The mercenary gasped, the O of his mouth turning into a savage grin as he now grabbed Cassandra's wrist. Her injured arm. Holbach wrenched, hard. Cassandra yelped as she felt the gyndroid body protesting, the fibres of her already battered form screaming, sending pain flooding down the receptors. Holbach's face was mere inches from hers as he growled, low in the throat, "You're not such an easy kill... good."

    ***


    [4th Ziggurat, Angora Prime]

    Drip. Drip. Drip.

    The chamber was dank, the smell of rotting vegetation making Anya wrinkle her nose. The tidal nature of the nearby river had left the lower level of the ziggurat flooded for centuries. Anya wondered that it had been constructed that way; certainly, their finds in the rest of the dig site had revealed that the Huranti had placed some level of ritualistic emphasis on the river that wound lazily through this part of the jungle. Anya still hadn't got used to the heat. Her last posting had been in a cold desert on Onos II, excavating the ruined starship left there by a fledgling starfaring species they'd dubbed the Morlithians. The tropical heat of Angora Prime left her constantly slick with sweat, and the huge buzzing insects that plagued their camp in the evening had left her tired from disturbed sleep. Despite all this, excitement tugged at her stomach. The ziggurat represented the most important find of the dig so far. They had found the first chamber almost by chance, removing a small barkwood canoe from a trench they'd dug a few days ago. Since, three expeditions into the interior of the ziggurat had proceeded, and their finds inside ranged from trinkets and objet d'art to jewellery and even a hooked hunting spear with crystal inlay. The final chamber lay ahead, a great carved door separating them from the revelations inside.

    Anya placed her hand on the door and pushed gently. With a clunk, the hidden mechanism in the frame engaged, taking the weight of the vast slab of stone. She glanced back, and Reggie gave her a grin and a thumbs up. She beamed back, her cheeks flushing. Reggie was a new addition to the dig team, a tall man with neat dreadlocks and walnut brown skin. Anya liked him a lot.

    The door began to recede into the floor, shafts of light spilling into the room. The chamber was smaller than their scans had led them to believe, only 5 by 5 meters. In the centre was a stone pedestal, glyphs of warding and sanctity inscribed upon its flat black surface.The top of the pedestal terminated in a carved golden cradle, its claws locking a large jade gauntlet in place. Anya gasped. She heard a smattering of similar sounds behind her, and Reggie let out a low whistle.

    "Ok everyone. Shields up, full spectrum dispersal. This room is the most likely to be trapped, so go slow and be careful. Medevac is 3 hours to the nearest hospital." Anya wanted this to go smoothly. This would make her career.

    Anya heard a chorus of humming as the team activated their shields. She gulped, tentatively stepped forward, crossing the threshold of the room. No darts flew from recesses in the walls. No pit opened below her, swallowing her whole. Just absolute satisfaction, pride and relief.

    The explosion that tore through the ceiling of the chamber knocked Anya flat on her stomach, only her energy shield stopping her slamming her chin onto the slick rock floor. The air was punched violently from her lungs before being ripped from the chamber as a gout of flame rippled overhead. Anya screamed, which quickly turned to a whimper as her lungs emptied. She couldn't see; dust filled her vision, which was swimming and dazzled from the flash. She could only hear ringing.

    Through the ragged gash in the ceiling, jets of pink flame stabbed down, blasting superheated air against the humidity of the chamber. As though carried like a fallen angel, a figure descended slowly through the hole. Their flight pack sputtered and disengaged, the figure dropping the last few meters onto the flagstones. Matt black armour carapaced the individual, a slim band of blue glass covering their eyes. The figure's right gauntlet was bulkier than the left, stubby barrels protruding above the clenched fist. A swarm of wasp-like microdrones accompanied their descent, filling the room with mechanical buzzing. The drones quickly filled the room, taking up a perimeter as the black clad figure strode forward and pulled Anya from her resting place on the damp ground. A rasping, robotic voice emanated from the armoured visor. Anya whimpered as she was tugged upright.

    "This site is now ours. Take your people and leave. Take your gear and acquisitions. The gauntlet is ours."

    Anya gasped, fear now flooding her mind. She opened her mouth to speak, but the figure was already muscling past her, moving for the gauntlet. Anya slumped back to the floor. Her work leading to this point was dissolving in front of her. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she pulled the maser pistol from her belt holster. She set the yield high.

    "Stop! Stop, stop, you can't do this. Who are you? Are you government? We have authority!" Anya pointed the pistol at the figure. She was crying now, sobbing the last words. She knew it didn't matter.

    "Put the gun down," the robotic voice barked. Anya pulled the trigger. The maser stabbed forward, but the figure's armour turned instantly from matt black to quicksilver. The beam dispersed, fizzling out against the figure even as they took the gauntlet from the pedestal.

    Anya screamed in frustration, throwing herself at the figure, but with one swift movement they batted her to the ground with an arm. Anya lay perfectly still.

    The figure walked past the still forms of the dig team, and their flightpack ignited, propelling them upwards on a halo of pink fire.
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by drj Sun Feb 07, 2021 3:31 am

    <Tanari Homeworld, Secret Military Facility/Prison>

    The bored guard looked Ashton up and down. The strange blond man was sitting on his bed (which was not exactly good for anything else), doodling in the notebook that he had, after much cajoling, persuaded his captors to give him. "What is it you're drawing?" he finally asked in the hopes of striking up a conversation.

    Ashton stopped drawing and looked up from his artwork, almost affronted that he was being spoken to. Silently, he held up his notebook to the guard's face, revealing that it was in fact a crude cartoon drawing of a Tanari soldier - helpfully labeled 'TANARI' so as to avoid any doubt - being shot in the head by an as-of-yet unfinished figure.

    "Yeah, I get it, you're pissed." the guard shrugged. "Nobody likes jail."

    "You don't fucking say." said Ashton. "You Tanari really do have a gift for saying and doing the most asinine things. No wonder you gave the galaxy Allman."

    "Hey, hey, don't blame me for all that shit. Besides, I didn't think your profession was that bothered by war crimes."

    "Why not?" Ashton put down the notebook, stood up and grasped the bars of his prison cell. "What I do is legal, a necessary part of the economy. What your forces did to Atuar Sadiares sure as hell wasn't legal."

    "Still, again with the 'your'!" the guard protested.

    "The fuck are you talking about? You're Tanari." Ashton hissed.

    "Weeeell…" The guard's hair colour suddenly went from brown to red, then to green, then back to brown. "I'm not really Tanari."

    "One of those shifter types?" Ashton sat back down. This assignment, if one could still call it that, was full of surprises. "Damn. I'm sorry, man. What are you doing here then?"

    "They don't really know I'm what I am. I'm sort of undercover." the guard whispered.

    Ashton was only becoming more confused. He furrowed his brow. "Why are you telling me this?"

    "Look, Ashton Carney, if that's your real name…"

    "I really have no reason to lie about that."

    "They're going to kill you. And your whole crew. They've probably already done that, I don't know."

    The mercenary lay back on his uncomfortable bed, suddenly feeling completely defeated. "For fuck's sake. Why did I take this bullshit mission? Amanda, Pes… all of them are dead because of me?"

    "I don't know for sure. I heard they were going to do it soon." said the shifter. "Either way, we have a plan to get you out of here. I want you to be ready for when that happens." said the shifter, and suddenly walked away.

    "Mate, come on!" Ashton yelled, but the shifter was already way down the empty corridor. "Don't leave me with just that." he pleaded, essentially to himself, as tears began to run down his face.

    -----

    The next morning, the staff of the facility, in their identical, garish uniforms, filed into a lobby which had been specially temporarily emptied. A large screen that had been set up at one end of it flashed into life, and a technician was standing on top of a ladder behind it, seemingly making sure everything was in working order. He climbed down, satisfied, and slipped out of the room, happy to not take part in what was to come. The screen then flashed into life, showing President Silver Eachan's face.

    The practice of forcing civil servants and military personnel to watch the President's televised addresses was originally instituted under Allman and abolished by the first transitional government after his fall, but it was soon quietly reinstated under Eachan. The opposition mocked it as a display of vanity and a sign of democratic backsliding, but despite its unpopularity and ridiculousness, the government seemed convinced it benefited them somehow.

    As the President droned in about something or other, the screen suddenly began to crack and fizzle. The powerful explosive device the 'technician' had hidden inside the screen detonated, laying waste to the hall and shaking the complex to its foundations.

    At the same time, elsewhere in the complex, two guards walked down a corridor and stopped in front of Ashton Carney's cell.

    "Oh god, what now?" the half-awake mercenary mumbled, obviously woken up by the alarm that had just started going off, as the guards opened his cell. One of them put a bag over his head, and both then dragged him away hastily.

    "What the hell, guys?" Ashton yelled and tried to struggle which was objectively a waste of oxygen. "You can't kill me!"

    "It's alright." one of the alleged guards tried to plead. "We're here to help."

    "Oh, shut up." hissed the other one. His hand suddenly manifested a thin silver spike, which he jabbed into Ashton's neck. The mercenary went limp and quiet.

    -----

    <Tanari Capital City, Movement for Rights and Freedoms Headquarters>

    "Why are you here?" Aster said. The shifter, in her preferred form of a blonde Tanari, paced the office nervously, sipping water out of a paper cup. "You told me you weren't going to come back here unless the next congress accepted your manifesto."

    "That won't be necessary anymore." said Richard, her former friend and aide. He had assumed the form of a bulky bald man, still wearing his trademark purple hoodie.

    "Oh, is this your resignation from the Movement then?" Aster's eyes lit up. "Are you done being an annoyance?"

    "I'm certainly that." Richard laughed, as his entire arm began to morph into a crude holographic projector. While Tanari shapeshifters were quite versatile, imitating electronics was a difficult skill even for them - mastering it, however, was well worth it. It flashed into life, showing both Ashton Carney and the Tanari general who had interrogated him back at the military facility where he'd been held sitting together in a small, nondescript room. If one looked closely, one could notice that the general's uniform was tattered, and both men looked utterly defeated.

    "I don't understand," said Aster. "Who are these people?"

    "The guy on the left is Ashton Carney, a mercenary we just broke out of a secret military prison. He was hired by the government for a mission, a very illegal one at that. On the right we have General Van Smoot, an important advisor to Eachan who was involved…"

    "Hang on. Hang on." If Aster had blood as we understood it, at that moment it would have drained from her face. "You broke someone out of a secret military prison? And kidnapped a freakin' general?"

    "Not someone, someones." Richard's hologram switched to show Amanda, Pes, and the two other Terugans in quick succession. "We got the whole squad. And one of my people replaced Van Smoot. We're going to interrogate them, continue surveillance, get to the bottom of Eachan's activities and expose them before the election."

    "Well, that's all very nice. Very illegal, I might add. Exactly the sort of shit MRF, and our people, can't afford to be associated with!" she barked.

    "It's exactly the sort of shit our people need to be doing." Richard said.

    "We've been having this debate for ages, Richard. Why come to me if you're acting alone anyway?"

    "Because now you know, which makes you complicit." Richard smiled, as his projector slowly morphed back into a normal, muscular arm. "When I feel we have enough to go public, there'll be no going back for you. We do things my way from now on. No more bullshit about moderate progress within the bounds of the law. You choose between our people and the Tanari state, Aster."

    -----

    <Tanari Capital City, President's Residence>

    "Mr. President," the assistant meekly said. "There's an urgent call from you. Sylen Kurze from Intelligence."

    Silver Eachan looked up from the latest status report. "Can't it wait? I'm already up to my feckin' ears with this military base attack, not to mention all the rest of this omnishambles…"

    "It's about Sefer Yetzirah, sir."

    "...fuck. Put it through."


    Last edited by drj on Sun Feb 07, 2021 5:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Kon Sun Feb 07, 2021 3:33 am

    [ Nil'nara ]

    Kakamu cracked the metallic knuckles of his right hand, dispelling the heat that had built up inside them. Few other generals on the path to Archood would tolerate jokes at their expense coming from their own subordinates, and Kakamu had no doubt that many of his peers perceived him as weak and lacking in authority for failing to correct them. He, on the other hand, was of the opinion that he had more important things to be concerned about than the etiquette of those around him, especially if they were alien beings whose cultures he still did not fully understand. Etiquette was not something that had existed on Nil'nara, and he had no real interest in it now, especially not when the Takemikazuchi translator chip implanted in his cerebral cortex made the dialogue of his allies - and enemies - clear. Kakamu was fully aware that he was a fish out of water when it came to most things regarding cultural conventions, and he embraced this fact; it often lead his enemies to underestimate him, which often lead to their deaths.

    Also packed inside the cold, metal dropship were the Shiroi Taimatsu, or White Torches, an entourage of four enforcers hand-picked by Arc Keylana that followed him wherever he went. Keylana had served as his primary mentor in the New Order, educating him in their ideals, the art of strategical warfare, and new and more efficient ways of killing the species who had been unwise enough to ally themselves with the Arokazek, invisible puppeteers of the Galactic Government and, by extension, the Free Systems Alliance. But, as a general in her own right, Keylana had often been called to other parts of the galaxy on short notice, leaving Kakamu to explore the empire and beyond in his own starship as he saw fit. In was during these periods of independence that Kakamu became a legend, discovering and claiming new territories on behalf of the New Order almost single-handedly, sometimes leaving behind populations of cowering, fearful civilians ready to submit to avoid further bloodshed, sometimes leaving behind territories that had been changed little by his arrival, if at all, except for their newfound eagerness to join the New Order. Although his successes had put him on the radar of other heroes of the Order such as Arc Yramas, Arc Kyydan, and Arc Judmon, in addition to the Emperor herself, he had met few other than Keylana in person. Instead, his usual associates were the White Torches, a ragtag group consisting of four volatile but extremely effective individuals, some of whom had made names for themselves in the mercenary business before deciding the join the winning team. There were usually six, but they were down two after the less-than-perfect results of their last mission.

    "Well, that's good to know," replied Deacon Sand, the red-haired and red-bearded human man responsible for the 'Pocahontas' comment a moment ago. "Wouldn't want you going all native on us, now would we?"

    "I'll go native on you if you don't show some respect," Irscha Inkar snapped, her shoulder-length blonde hair whipping close to his face as he pointed an angry finger at him. Deacon's reply came in the form of a sneer as he loaded a fresh capsule into his acid-rifle. Kakamu wasn't sure what Irscha, a fellow human, meant by this, but he chose to ignore them both. As a woman who was born on Olyppan, a 'Class-J' planet that had also previously been quarantined by the Galactic Government for the purposes of 'cultural preservation', she was often the quickest to defend Kakamu whenever one of the Torches made a joke at his expense, whether Kakamu asked for it or not (and he never did). He decided to be impartial, letting her have her fun.

    "So... what's it like?" asked Niita, a female Vassila soldier who, like Kakamu, wielded a spear in combat. The Vassila were a new addition to the New Order, their oceanic homeworld of Vassilan having been recently forced into submission by the Third Wave Fleet under the command of Arc Judmon. Niita, however, was a willing recruit, leaving the Vassilan military to defect to the New Order months before Judmon turned the planet's waters black with poison. Niita, like Kakamu, was also on the receiving end of fish jokes, but she had more of a natural curiosity about culture than Kakamu did.

    Before Kakamu could open his mouth to respond, a skeletal white android took the liberty for him. Its head was shaped like an inverted triangle, with red LED panels in the upper two corners serving as eyes. "Nil'nara. A former Class-J civilization. Inhabited satellite of Tekku. A Class-J civilization, pending reassessment. Orbital analysis of Nil'nara's climate reports that it is: 83% Tropical, 8% Continental, 9% Polar. Notable individuals: Kakamu. Pending New Order designation: Arc Kakamu. No other data on notable individuals found."

    "Yes, thank you PAL," Deacon rolled his eyes sarcastically. "I thought we had established, no more useless trivia in transit?"

    "On the contrary, there is a high likelihood that this information is relevant to our mission," PAL retorted in a neutral tone. PAL was a former member of Independens Machinis, a collective of sentient and non-sentient machines headquartered on XTR-789, a rogue planet that had been previously left untouched by all the major powers of the galaxy due to the fact that it possessed no atmosphere and few natural resources. Five years ago, after 9% of all mechanical lifeforms in the galaxy were infected by a malicious program called DAL that turned them into mindless killing machines, Independens Machinis was founded to advocate for the rights of mechanical lifeforms everywhere and restore public perception of sentient artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, PAL was kicked out when the administration discovered that he had merely pretended to be infected with DAL during the incident as an excuse to kill more meatbags. The New Order had been happy to provide him with a new occupation, on the condition that an inhibitor chip was installed that suppressed most of his homicidal urges whenever he was not on assignment.

    "And what is our mission, PAL?" Niita grinned, looking at Deacon.

    "No, don't! You'll set him off agai-"

    "Assignment: Diplomatic meeting with leader of surface settlement in area designated 61-B. Purpose: To gather intelligence regarding psychic anomaly that previous intel refers to as 'dreaming plague'. Purpose: Killbzbzzbz Information: Kakamu and the White Torches have been selected for this mission due to Kakamu's familiarity with the native culture. Return to frigate designated Aquilla Torque in orbit within 48 hours."
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Sun Feb 07, 2021 1:22 pm

    [ The Battle of Osdurandt, many years before the present day, during the Tanari-Takemikazuchi war ]

    Up until a few minutes ago, Lena Ishikawa's right arm had terminated in something other than a bloody stump.

    She reached into her flight suit with her remaining hand, retrieved a canister of sealant spray, and doused her right forearm in it, wincing in pain as the rapidly hardening polymer sent searing bursts of pain up her arm. She would've screamed out had she not had a stimulant syringe in her mouth to bite down on, and instead she quickly pulled the saliva-coated metallic canister from her mouth and jabbed it into her neck hard enough to bruise it. Pain, pain, pain, and then no pain, and then focus.

    Survival.

    She fired the explosive bolts, sending the canopy above her flying away, and jumped out of the cockpit, sliding down the side of her downed jet. The war was still in full swing around her; missile trails lit up the skies, fighters of the same design as her own traded fire with their Tanari counterparts, and the characteristic praangggg of Takemikazuchi railgun fire sounded throughout the city. A Tanari main battle tank rounded the corner just ahead of her, and was immediately bisected by an orbital sniper beam that cut through the vehicle like an industrial torch through sheet metal, sending its panicking crew scrambling from the vehicle. Lena looked up, making out the familiar twinkling muzzle flashes of the 212th Orbital Sniper battalion, looming just above the planet's atmosphere. At that height, they had just a few minutes of coverage before their orbital path took them too far away from the city to be useful.

    But Lena was made aware that she had far more pressing concerns than sniper coverage, as a trio of gunshots sounded in her immediate vicinity, and the fleeing crew of the Tanari tank fell dead. It hadn't been Takemikazuchi railguns that had felled then, but instead the hand pistol of a well-dressed Tanari Commissar who wandered into view, his close protection force taking up positions around him. He looked around the city gleefully, relishing in the glory of battle.

    "Cowards bring shame to their families and their country!" he bellowed. "Long live Allman! Long live the Tanari Confederation!"

    Lena fell as still and as silent as she could, praying the commissar wouldn't notice her lying by the side of the street, slumped over in the shadow of her downed fighter. To her credit, he didn't. One of his men did.

    "Sir, there's one still alive. A pilot."

    A gleeful look took hold of the Commissar's face as he made his way towards Lena, and reached down, grabbing her by the neck and hoisting her into the air. The man was massive, easily half as tall again as Lena, and possessed of such strength that Lena swore she could feel her vertebrae fracturing and splintering as he tightened his grip around her neck.

    "You cowards all die the same. Soulless warriors fighting for a soulless empire. It is incumbent on me to add some meaning to your deaths. To make you appreciate, in your final few moments, how truly wrong you were to oppose us."

    Blood trickled from the corners of Lena's mouth. Lena Ishikawa didn't specifically want to die, but truth be told, there was nothing more to it beyond a basic animalistic instinct; no rational reason, no cause, no true purpose mandating her continued existence. Perhaps this was it, then.

    "Nothing to say?" he added, grinning as the last of the life force drained from Lena's broken body. "All that ideology, all that political theory, and it all boils down to-"

    Or, perhaps not. The Commissar stopped, and jolted, on account of his own ceremonial dagger being planted through his chest. He looked down at it in disbelief, and dropped Lena as she slid it back out of him - and seemingly immediately she had moved onto the closest Tanari soldier, slicing into him with the dagger, flipping him around to use as a human shield, and pushing him into two of the other troopers; by then she had that man's pistol out of his holster, and emptied it his direction, mowing down the three of them. She turned, rolled, cut into the rear of another soldier's knees and then drove the blade up through the back of his skull as he fell onto it - a pistol round tore into her thigh, and then another, but before the third could land she had thrown the dagger into the final soldier's forehead, killing him instantly.

    She paused, gathered her breath. Bodies lay strewn around her. One of them moved, slumping upwards against Lena's fighter. The Commissar - barely still alive, blood oozing from his chest - slid his pistol from his holster and aimed it at her. A round tore through Lena's shoulder, then another through one of her knees, and she fell to the ground as the Commissar chuckled, each laugh draining more a more of what precious little life he had left in him.

    "The only thing better than dying for one's country..." he said, grinning through bloodstained teeth, "...is making some other son of a bitch die for theirs."

    "Tell me... about it..."

    Lena's left arm jerked forwards, her hand in a claw-like pose, palm towards the commissar. Instinct, pure instinct, with no rational explanation for why she chose to do that - and certainly no explanation for what came afterwards.

    Lightning. Blood red lightning. A single bolt, a concentrated blast of fury that erupted from the palm of her hand and shot into the man, his torso exploding, the fighter behind him dented and deformed by the massive transfer of heat. Sparks of it coursed up and down her scorched and smoking forearm as she looked at in disbelief, then fell, the blood loss finally catching up to her to an extent even the stimulants flowing through her couldn't mitigate. As her vision faded, she swore she could make out the faintest impression of a grey-skinned figure clad in black coming to stand over her, looking down.

    "And here was me thinking only Lilith could do that." noted Sefer, smirking.

    ---

    [ Orbit of Nil'nara, present day ]

    Vekhta awoke from her meditation with a jolt. Always, now, the same dream, and each time more and more detail returned; most of it in the form of pain, or blood, or fear. She looked down at her palms, flexing her fingers. Her left arm was long-since healed, and under Sefer's wise tuition, she had learned to master her new-found abilities to the extent that she could avoid damaging herself with them. Her right forearm was entirely mechanical, black joints and servos encased in crimson plasteel the same color as the bolt of lightning that had saved her life so many years ago. Perhaps Sefer's powers could've restored her original right hand, perhaps they couldn't have - what was done was done. Vekhta turned her focus to the controls of her craft, and brought it in for a manual re-entry, slipping into the atmosphere of Nil'nara.

    She pulled in for a landing near Kakamu's cloaked stealth ship, artfully avoiding the cloaked vessel by watching for the characteristic shimmer of active camouflage. Lena Ishikawa had been an pilot long before Arc Vekhta had been an Arc, at it was moments such as these - true, hands on flight with no deference to onboard autopilots or instruments - that inspired a childlike sense of glee somewhere deep inside her. Sefer had told her to revel in it - Kyydan had told her to suppress it. She settled for a half-way compromise, and allowed a mild smirk to take form on her face as she touched down.

    She slid out of the cockpit, jumping down to the forest floor, and reached a hand back towards it - psychically pulling her dark maroon cloak from its stowage compartment behind her seat and donning it in one swift motion, covering up the sleek, form-fitting flight suit she wore underneath. She made her way over to Kakamu and his retainers, nodding her head respectfully as she approached. She had not met Kakamu in the flesh, but had heard of him and his deeds; like Vekhta, and like Zyandar whom Vekhta had fought alongside during the pacification of Vykon, he was one of the few granted the honour of Archood despite not being one of Sefer's fabled adamah.

    "Arc Kakamu. I am Arc Vekhta." she stated, casting a glance over the Shiroi Taimatsu that accompanied him. "Arc Kyydan has tasked me with accompanying you in this quest. He expects that there is much that I can teach you. I wonder... what truth there is to that statement."

    ---

    [ Moon of Vonilla ]

    The doorway at the end of the hallway slid open, and a cloaked figure entered, making his way towards Klak. Something was off - Volkov and Lopez noticed it first, and took up positions ahead of Klak, ready to protect him if needed. The brown-cloaked figure strode closer, then calmly lowered his hood, revealing his features - a handsome, brown-skinned man, with a short afro and light stubble, a kind and serene expression upon his face. Klak's eyes shot open - it was a face he had seen before, one had fought alongside against the Tanari - and one that, in all likelihood, he never expected to see again.

    "President Klak," began Canaan Jones, smiling wistfully. "It's good to see you again, and I apologize for intruding on these proceedings. You are in grave danger. The Emperor knows you are here, and has dispatched a fleet to destroy you and this station. You should make preparations to leave immediately."

    Meanwhile, in the control tower, the operators who had moments ago been chuckling at the Gotti incursion noticed a mass of new contacts appearing on their scopes. 3, 6 - no, 10 ships, exiting FTL just beyond visual range.

    Aboard the battlecruiser Adriatica, Arc Valorus patrolled the command deck of his cruiser as the remaining ships in his fleet reported in post-jump. A stern military man with an aged appearance, dressed in the uniform of a New Order Admiral, Arc Valorus was possessed of none of the pseudo-religious sentimentality of his fellow adamah.

    "Core railgun status?" he asked, turning his head to a weapons officer who, like the rest of the bridge crew of the Adriatica, was strapped into a reclined acceleration couch. The new Semovente-class battlecruisers of the New Order were fast - frighteningly fast - and artificial gravity technology had not yet caught up to that speed potential. As such, the interiors of these vessels were almost a return to pre-FTL design philosophies; reclined acceleration couches, viewscreens and controls mounted on mechanical arms and pistons, and for pilots and gunners, articulated seats that could rotate to ensure they were always pointing in the right direction, regardless of which direction the ship itself was moving.

    "Core railgun spooling." came the response. "3 rounds live in 3-0-0 seconds, Admiral."

    "Successive airbursts for the first two rounds." replied Valorus, returning to his command throne and strapping himself in. The weapons officer communicated his orders to the armory crew who, deep within the bowels of the ship, worked to load the specified ammunition into the vast railgun that ran the length of the entire vessel. "I want to pepper that station with enough shrapnel to break any AAA they have. Third round, nuclear ordinance, direct impact."

    "Yield, sir?"

    Valorus grinned. "Maximum."

    ---

    [ Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon System ]

    "I called you here to discuss a great many things".

    The doors to Kyydan's sanctum slid shut, and as the light level within raised, Zyandar became aware of a group of figures clad in light-grey armor occupying the same room as her. These were not the conventional infantry of the New Order, but were Kracian warriors; each one had modified their armor in different ways, with new components, animal pelts, trophies, relics - no two seemed the same, and the same could be said for the arsenals of weapons each warrior carried.

    "The battle for Vykon is over, but the war has just begun. Arc Vekhta recounted to me the prowess you exhibited in the battle for the capital. You have her approval, and so you shall have mine."

    Kyydan's cage motioned forwards, gliding silently as it approached the centre of the sanctum. An ominous psychic pressure accompanied him. Zyandar had seen Vekhta bring down heavy gunships with single bolts of lightning cast from her left hand - yet within seconds of being exposed to Kyydan she became acutely aware she was dealing with something far more powerful than Vekhta, regardless of what his physical appearance suggested.

    "Not all of your kind have adopted the ways of the New Order as quickly as you have, a fact that has been a great source of disappointment to the Emperor. Arc Judmon has counseled me, and have proposed that I wipe Vykon clean of life, and make it an example for all others who would engage in open defiance against us."

    Kyydan paused, his cage sliding to a halt.

    "Fortunately for the people of Vykon, I am not Arc Judmon. Your task will be to teach the people of Vykon the meaning of loyalty. These men and women shall assist you -" he said, as the gathered Krace warriors turned to look at Zyandar. "They are Krace warriors, to whom loyalty is everything. They shall protect you during your undertaking.  Perhaps they, too, can serve as an example to the people of Vykon."

    One of the Krace warriors closest to Zyandar removed his helmet. He was a dark-skinned man, with long dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail, and a short, neat beard; a stripe of yellow Kracian facepaint ran across the bridge of his nose and onto his cheeks. He smiled warmly as he tucked his helmet in under his arm.

    "My name is Arr-cad Vesh." he stated, before gesturing to the men and women of his clan who accompanied him. "We are yours to command, Arc."
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Claymore Sun Feb 07, 2021 1:50 pm

    [Vongolan Local Space, Diamond Dogs Starship Stairway to Heaven]

    Arwell had Mars ping the suit's systems, ordering a diagnostic. The suit's VI reported no errors - fuel levels optimal. Fuel temp optimal. Hydraulic fluid levels optimal. The VI reeled off the information, the androgynous voice playing out in Arwell's mind. It helped suppress the other voices of anxiety and doubt. Naturally, the suit was in prime condition; it had been refurbished almost from the ground up at the staging post in the asteroid field. They now were on an approach vector to Vongola, the Stairway having activated its cloaking systems an hour ago. Arwell and Cai-Wei had gotten into the suits shortly after, the mechanics in the launch bay making sure the systems interfaced correctly with the pilot's VIs. The weapons were loaded and checked, double checked, and then triple checked by Arwell. Cai-Wei had long since stopped giving notice as Arwell ran check after check.

    At last, Mars informed him that there were a mere 3000 kilometers between the Stairway to Heaven and Vongola. The hangar officer waved at them from the small office at the top of the launch bay. Arwell nodded, a useless gesture considering the suits armor plating had no windows. Instead, the cylindrical body of the AMX95 RHINO was covered in an array of sensor blisters, providing Arwell with a virtual representation of his surroundings via Mars. There was a vision slit he could open, but it was reminiscent of something from an ancient tank. Icons were displayed around the periphery of the interface, showing ammunition, fuel and damage levels. Arwell couldn't help but be reminded of a videogame he'd downloaded through Mars on one particularly boring mission. He'd played it non stop in his hotel room for a week.

    But now it was real, and very near. Arwell ordered Mars to supply him with a mild sedative; somewhere in his body, his implants suffused his blood with a calming drug. His mind sharpened, the fear that had dulled his reflexes abating. Now there was just clear, cold clarity. He was going to find Uteriach Di Armechio.

    Finally, the light in the launch bay flicked from red to green. “Good luck Gerry,” Dallas’ voice came through the suit’s VI. Arwell simply thumbed the switch for the suit's engine power. The powerplant hummed into life, refined Hydrogen3 burning, converting into energy and supplying the suit’s hydraulic limbs. The hanger doors at the end of the bay irised open, the air around them screaming as it rushed out of the widening gap. Arwell could see the vast expanse of Vongola’s swirling blue and green and white landscape ahead - no - below them. The green light began pulsing, and the clamps that held the RHINO and TIGER in place disengaged. RCS thrusters on the back of the suits fired, propelling them forward and out of the bay. As they began dropping toward Vongola, a series of crystal red chevrons appeared in his vision, plotting their insertion trajectory. The arms and legs of the suit automatically began locking themselves, setting the simian form of the suit into an almost fetal position so as not to be torn apart in their short burn through the planet’s atmosphere. A petal shaped field of energy thrummed into life ahead of the suit, designed to shield it further. Cai-Wei’s voice chimed over the suit’s VI. “You ready for this?”

    “It’s too late now if I’m not. But I am. I’ve been ready for this since I left Vongola.” Arwell set his mouth in a grim line of determination.

    They hit the atmosphere and began their descent.

    ***


    [Geostationary Orbit, Angora Prime]

    The Typa Gypsy hung above Drake’s shuttle, an architectural monolith of silver and white. The starship was a blunt cone viewed from this angle, the wider aft of the ship terminating in an array of flared engines that glowed with a neon pink haze of energy. The waist of the ship was braceleted by a dense ring of machinery - the exotic matter formatter that provided the Typa Gypsy with its astonishing level of power. The fore of the ship came to a truncated point, the prow covered in sensor blisters and booms. Scanner arrays were mounted on an ancillary spar jutting from the bottom of the ship. Two fins extended from the waist of the ship, giving it a sharklike appearance. At well over 600 meters long, the Gypsy fell into a class of ship that was coveted by traders, explorers, and pirates. Drake’s mistress was the latter.

    Drake Catlow docked quickly. It was better not to keep the Corsair Queen waiting. A small fleet of service automata and drones attended his shuttle, refueling it and preparing it for his next flight. He left the hangar, moving through the ship’s clean, dark corridors. On the inside, the Gypsy was outfitted in a haute Art Deco fashion, with tessellating patterns of black and gold engraved into almost every surface. Low amber light suffused the maze of corridors and accessways with a soft glow. Occasionally, Drake passed another of the Corsair Queen’s crew - other humans, clad in similar matt black armour to his own, as well as automata and androids, and a gaggle of blue skinned Terugans playing a card game in a darkened, smoke filled cabin. Drake poked his head around the doorframe of the cabin, and one of the Terugans, Bol, stood and excused himself from the game, with protests from the others.

    “What did you find?” Bol queried in a hushed tone, his cyclopean eye lingering on the grey armoured case Drake carried with him.

    Drake looked down at his friend and grinned. “Something that’s going to make me very, very rich,” he rasped.

    “Gee Drake, you always find the best stuff,” Bol quipped, his voice dripping sarcasm. Drake was a reliable soldier, true, but his hammer-fisted approach often left the artefacts he was sent to recover damaged or missing. Bol liked to think he had a more nuanced approach when it came to asset retrieval.

    “Your last haul was great Bol, real fuckin’ A+ material,” Drake said. “But this, this is prime shit.”

    At last they came to a set of double doors, with a single guard stood by them. Drake nodded and the guard pushed the doors open, and Drake and Bol stepped through. The chamber they entered was larger than any other on the ship save for the hangar. Vaulted ceilings rose high above them, frescoes of ivory and ebony inlay decorating the space. The floor was dark marble, veins of green and gold intersecting and mingling like blood in water. A large folding screen of dark wood stood off to one side, shielding a hot bath from view. In the centre of the room, a vast couch was placed, surrounded by potted plants and palm fronds, and on that couch sat Ciro Maddigan, the Corsair Queen.

    Drake and Bol bowed deeply to their mistress. Ciro’s lip curled in a devilish smile. “Show me what you’ve got Drake.”

    Drake stepped forward and placed the grey case on the plinth in front of the couch. He unclasped the lid, revealing the jade gauntlet within. Ciro’s dark eyes widened, before narrowing.

    “Did you kill anyone Drake?” Ciro purred.

    Drake hesitated, then shook his head. “They were alive. My wasps confirmed their vitals as I left.”

    “Good,” Ciro cooed, “We don’t want the authorities chasing us.”

    “But Mistress, the Gypsy can outrun any ship they have. Even destroy it…”

    “I know that, but blood needn’t be spilled today. Why, today is for celebration… this is something I’ve been looking for for a long time.” Ciro’s eyes slid from the gauntlet over to a glass case on the opposite side of the room. Inside the case, illuminated by spotlight, was a mannequin, the form of a man rendered in smooth, clear crystal. Drake followed her gaze, and noted the mannequin was missing its right hand. The pieces fell into place in his mind. He grinned.

    “You can finish him,” Drake breathed.

    “Yes. Yes I can.”
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Malygos Sun Feb 07, 2021 3:35 pm

    [Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon System.

    The time she spent working her way up the ranks of the Ascendancy had taught her well.  Emotions were something that could be used against her, and as such she tightly controlled what she allowed herself to feel and express.  Her honor guard exchanged glances as the Krace warriors came into view.  She felt the oppressive power of Arc Kyydan, but allowed it to wash over her.  There can be no fear among equals.

    Boldly, she strode forward, speaking in her hard-edged tone.  "You are lucky that you are not Judmon as well.  Were you he, and suggesting that course of action, I would be forced to cut you down where you stand, and stand against our grand New Order."  A bit of truth, to disguise how shaken she was.  She had heard of Arc Judmon, and his known brutality.  A butcher like him should have no place in this 'enlightened' regime - and to hear that he had the ear of powerful people like Kyydan...it was troubling, to say the least.

    Still, it steeled her resolve.  She raised an eyebrow, at the rest of Kyydan's proclamations.  Crashing storm, they still did not trust her, despite everything she had done on their behalf.  She understood the other, unsaid purpose of the Krace warriors assigned to her.  If you prove disloyal, they shall carry out the Emperor's will.

    Very well.  It was a complication, but not an impossible one.  She offered Vesh a salute.  "Of course.  I'm well aware of the Kracians' reputation.  Their example of loyalty should prove as example to some of those still standing against us.  But - you have neglected to mention."  She crossed her arms.  "You have given me guidelines to carry out a certain mission - but not what that mission is, Arc Kyydan."

    -----

    [Liquid Metallicon, Lair of the Serpent]

    A new power had emerged on Liquid Metallicon.

    While often a port of call for Vykonian pirates, such activity near ended when the Vykonian Ascendancy emerged from space and declared itself sovereign - and then was crushed under the weight of the New Order of Sefer Yetzirah.  However, a month after the fall of the planet, a large number of the fleet refused both Mrain'delos-Zyandar's call to turn themselves over to the New Order - and the remnants of the Vykonian Ascendancy that fled to the Free Systems Alliance.

    This included the flagship.  The Stormbreaker sat in port, at a dock above the waters in what was once the domain of a minor Pirate Lord - and now was the domain of one much greater.  While some structures remained in the old style, the ocean itself was now dotted with structures - in that curving, twisting Vykonian style, where a true shape could not be gleaned by examining it from one angle.  Inside the largest of these structures - a veritable fortress, shaped like a coiled sea serpent with its head deep beneath the waves - sat the newest addition to the council of Pirate Lords.

    Rlain'corvis-Veyelan, former First Prime of the Grand Ascendant Fleet.  A veteran of many battles, and a common representative of Vykonian pirates even before the emergence of the Ascendancy - she had  been known to them for some time now.  She sat at her throne, one gloved hand resting against her deep blue cheek.  A woman none would describe as 'young', Veyelan - the Serpent in the Waves - was tall, imposing, and full-figured, wearing a black Vykonian Prime's uniform, a serpent etched into her steel pauldron to denote her leadership, much of her top left unbuttoned - neither the kraken of the ascension or the New Order triskele adorning her collar, as neither had proven itself worthy.

    Now, her black lips were curled into a frown, her violet eyes regarding the screen warily.  "-And to retake it, we require the use of your fleet.  The Ascendancy is not dead, and we will come back to power."

    Zuln'balec-Aerenvas.  Former Majordomo to the First Ascendant, and speaker for the Court of the First - or what was left of it.  The servants of the First Ascendant had set up a government-in-exile, vowing never to declare a First Ascendant until one could be proven.  A fiction, of course - it was Aerenvas calling the shots.  The excessive caution and cowardice proved it.  And here, he sat in his comfortable chair from his office at the meetingplace of the Free Systems Alliance, trying to make demands of a pirate lord - sweat evident on his pale blue skin.

    "Please, First Prime, there must be something I can offer to convince you," the slender figure in the viewscreen said.

    "Convince me?  With what do you even have to offer?"  Veyelan's lips curled into an easy sneer, her hand resting lazily on a wicked sword at her back.  "A strike against the New Order right now is foolish, and you merely wish to use my crew as a frontal attack, to bring to bear against the meat grinder - hopefully eliminating one threat to your rule?"  She tucked a strand of white hair behind her ear.

    "Well no, of course - all of us should share in the glory-" began Aerenvas.

    "Bah.  You're surrounded by idiots and sycophants, little Zuln" - the use of his given name an uncomfortable familiarity, and an insult to his adulthood - "And you are too weak to hold the title of First Ascendant.  A better man than you, I could consider following - but you borrow the strength of others to bring to bear against those who would challenge you."

    His face darkened, black blood rushing to it.  "And who would be better, then?  You?  A stormed and lawless pirate who works for nothing but plunder and power?  No, Serpent, I think-"

    She laughed.  "Of course, Zuln, you're so easy to read.  And this is why you are unworthy of Vykon.  You know nothing of secrecy or honor - you just use your position as a bludgeon against those politically weaker than you."  She stood up from her chair, turning - her long cape flowing dramatically, the emblem of the serpent sewn into it.  "End transmission, we're done here."

    "Storm it, Veyelan, I order you to-" But what he was ordering would not be heard, as his face and voice vanished from the Serpent's lair.

    The pirates - mostly Vykonians, but a few Metalliconites of the former lord's domain now served the Serpent - wore modified versions of Vykonian uniform themselves, adorned with various things - a beast's skull here, a necklace of fangs there, a hole slashed in another in a fashionable way - but many had been soldiers, at one point or another.  It was clear by their bearing.  "Serpent," one young Metalliconite asked, "If we are not to follow Aerenvas, then what is our plan?"

    Some of the Vykonians chuckled at that, but Veyelan only smiled.  "Our plan is victory.  By any means, and at any cost.  Perhaps when Metallicon bows to me, we can speak of invasion."

    The Metalliconite chuckled nervously at it, but Veyelan's smile was anything but jovial.  "Keep my quarters clean and warm - I have a meeting with my dear coworkers."  The almost casual way she referred to the Pirate Lords rankled some - but they lacked the power to challenge her claim.  She was of them, whether they wanted to or not.

    She strode forth, entering a shuttle - a modified Ascendancy eel, still sporting its cloaking device and far heavier guns than one would expect from a small shuttle like that - with a few of her best, emerging from the depths, towards the center of pirate life on Liquid Metallicon.
    Yenot
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Yenot Sun Feb 07, 2021 8:51 pm

    [Moon of Vonilla, Space Station]

    As Klak speaks with Canaan, he is met by a young human woman of diminutive stature and skin grey as mist, draped in baggy light gray robes with darker accents. Her head initially cast down, framed by long darker grey hair. Upon his arrival, glances up. Her face, though not terribly memorable normally, is adorned by a radiant third eye on her forehead open wide, and her normal eyes shut tight, shielded by a set of circular framed glasses.

    With a curtsy and a bow, locking eyes with the President, her third eye closes, and her regular set open, "My apologies, but as this fellow has suggested, there is great danger afoot. I was hoping to catch you at a better time, but perhaps I can be of assistance. Speak the name of a place, and I can get us there."

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    JS
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Sun Feb 07, 2021 8:53 pm

    [ Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon System]

    "I will leave the specifics to you. Vykon must be purged of rogue elements. I do not agree with Arc Judmon's pessimistic assessment of the situation, but I do agree with him that dissent is a virus."

    Judmon paused, then slowly, his cage began to motion backwards towards the rear of the sanctum.

    "Kill or detain the leaders of this rebellion. Seek out their bases of operation and put them to the torch. The Emperor has ordered that this world be brought into compliance, or purged if it cannot be salvaged. Do not disappoint me, Arc Zyandar. The lives of many innocent people depend on your actions."
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Klak Mon Feb 08, 2021 1:35 am

    [Moon of Vonilla]

    Klak looked perplexed at Canaan and the girl.

    “Canaan, so good to see you,” he said. “Wish we could meet under better circumstances!” He glanced at the three eyed girl. “Kid, whoever you are, follow me.”

    Klak turned to his entourage.

    “Volkov, tell our ship to prepare all weapons systems. Lopez, contact the bridge. Tell them to evacuate the area of all civilians and to prepare for a battle. The rest of you, take Canaan, Jefferson, and the others with you. I’ll join you all on the ship soon.”

    “But sir, where will you g-” Lopez tried to ask.

    “Never mind about me, move out. This isn’t my first fight, after all,” Klak said, smiling.

    The group rushed to the hangar in time before the rail gun fired. Chaos erupted as the Vonillan guards told the Gotti traders to take shelter, or there would be no mail to be gotti’d by them in this life.

    “Kid, if you can take me anywhere, you better get ready to take me to a specific location on my mark,” Klak said to the girl. He raised his hands up.

    Suddenly, a purple form of Klak appeared on board the bridge of the Battlecruiser Adriatica.

    “You know, if Emperor Yetzirah wanted to kill me, she should have come herself,” he said. “Stand down. I’ll come quietly and you can deal with me, but leave the civilians on this station alone.”

    Meanwhile, the defenses of the station activated as guards rushed to fighterships.

    --

    [Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon]

    The club was packed with sapients of various kinds. Dancers stomped the checkerboard to the tune of intergalactic music. Revelers sang and drank merrily. A few others leaned on the onyx walls of the club, sipping on their drinks on whatever mouths they had. One of these was a man with jet black hair, an equally black shirt, and a blue uniform that lacked any symbols. He surveyed the club, noticing most sapients present were criminals.

    But like many things on Liquid Metallicon, the club was just one of many panem et circenses used to distract the galaxy from the activities of criminal organizations like the Pirate Lords of Liquid Metallicon. Indeed, a secret meeting room was affixed to the side of the club, hidden by weaving hallways. Of course, the Pirate Lords would have usually met in a more open area, but recent crackdowns made by the new FSA-affiliated government meant that the Pirate Lords stranglehold on Liquid Metallicon was weakening for the first time in centuries. Thankfully, PIrate Lord Kismota offered to hold the meeting at his own club.

    Inside of the meeting room was a massive Spanish grey table. At the center of the table was the insignia of the PIrate Lords: a reptilian skull with a machete-like sword behind it, surrounded by a circle. Every Pirate Lord had their own insignia, but this particular symbol--created by the first Pirate Lords millennia ago--was often used whenever they were acting in unison.

    PIrate Lord Ozar gazed at the symbol morosely. His armored exoskeleton bore the markings of the traditional Liquid Metalliconite signs of mourning. Pirate Lord Kismota stood near the door to welcome the incoming Lords. Meanwhile, Pirate Lord Keichi and Fourteen, who was the First Mate of Ozar’s fleet, quietly spoke to each other in a corner.

    “Even she is coming here,” Fourteen whispered in a voice sounding a lot like Jason Statham.

    “She’s coming? I hate her!” Keichi hissed.

    “You ‘ate everyone, Keichi,” Fourteen chuckled.

    “Yes!” Keichi replied happily.

    “Anyway, I don’t hate her, but I don’t trust her either,” Fourteen continued. “At least she’s no Akzer, though.”

    “Fair enough. Akzer’s the Qrelas’itz in the metal-and-flesh.” Keichi said, referring to the dark god of Liquid Metalliconite mythology.
    The Pirate Lords began arriving, greeting Pirate Lord Kismota and paying their condolences to Pirate Lord Ozar. One by one they sat down. Akzer entered and paid his respects. He said nothing as he sat down and smiled.

    A few Pirate Lords had not arrived yet. Veyelan was almost there.

    --

    [Battlefield on Vongola]

    Cassandra gritted her teeth in pain.


    “What...Dreis and Dalton...never told their puppies about me? I’m hurt!”


    She flung the palm that was free into Holbach’s shoulder. Holbach bellowed and let go of Cassandra’s arm. She quickly turned and kicked him in the chest, knocking him back. But Holbach landed on a wall and quickly lurched himself forward, slamming into Cassandra.

    The two struggled on the ground, each attempting to gain the upper hand. They rolled near where Cassandra’s beam knife had fallen, and Cassandra quickly grabbed it and began swinging it at Holbach, hoping to slice into him.

    Searing pain sliced through two of Holbach’s arms as he saw blood trickling out of his wounds. Holbach grunted in pain as he felt the burns. Cassandra took advantage of this to trip him and knock him to the floor

    Cassandra punched the floor, the tile shattering beneath her fist. Luckily, Holbach moved out of the way and got back on his feet. Holbach charged at Cassandra and grabbed her injured arm with one hand. As they struggled, he reached into her holster and pulled out her sidearm. Cassandra kicked Holbach back, the air rushing out of his lungs as he slammed into a nearby counter.

    Holbach weakly spun around and aimed at Cassandra as she approached. He fired madly at her, emptying the magazine. Cassandra’s eyes widened. She staggered back as blue fluid poured out of her wounds. She then slammed up against the wall and slid down, collapsing onto the floor.

    “Good shot…” she said, astonished. She touched one of her wounds and looked at the blue fluid. “Very good shot. You’re really good.”
    Before Holbach could react, she reached into one of her pockets and flung a throwing knife at his leg.

    “Something to remember me by until we meet again?” Cassandra coughed. “If you’re ending this now...give my regards to Dreis Bright. Tell him I’ll be seeing him after...well you know.”

    Cassandra sighed.

    --

    [Palace of the Generalissimo, Armechius (formerly Oncé City], capital city of the Vongolan People’s Republic]

    Figlio entered the war room wearing his signature pink and white armor. The room buzzed with ensigns, soldiers, commanders, and other military personnel. The whole group noticed Figlio and stopped what they were doing. Every single one saluted their Generalissimo, Figlio di Armechio. Figlio smiled, relishing the moment. After a moment, he ordered them to return to their tasks.

    Figlio sauntered to a series of glass walls that formed a conference room. He opened the door and was greeted by a flurry of salutes. Figlio nodded and grinned. He made his way to the head of the table, and sat down.

    “So?” he inquired haughtily.

    “We’ve lost communication with some of the AA installations near Adorra. Cassandra Cromwell was dispatched to solve the problem some time ago,” explained a Dachori Vongolan general named Abra di Cadabera. “She will provide updates soon.”

    “Excellent,” Figlio replied. “What of the battle in Sards?”

    A human general, Alaistaire Von, nodded.

    “We have made significant progress,” Von replied. “Julio and Tulio have captured many of the city’s neighborhoods. We predict that our next artillery volleys will likely route the rebel groups in many areas. Add our reinforcements, and victory should be assured within a few days.”

    “Good. And if you are wrong, General Von, you have my permission to level half the city,” Figlio snarled.

    Silence fell across the room. Some shifted uncomfortably. Others, like Rahksha, who was as loyal to Figlio as he was to his father, remained emotionless.

    “Such a shame that these rebels would stoop so low as to blow up half a city, isn’t it General di Cadabera?” Figlio asked pointedly.

    “Y-yes, my Generalissimo. Such barbarians.” she replied shakily.

    General Von gulped nervously.

    “Alright. What’s next?” Figlio asked.

    The meeting continued for two more hours as various intelligence and military officers presented information on various battles, operations, and initiatives that were part of the VPR’s war effort. But there were plenty of reports of tribulations mixed with stories of triumph.

    After the meeting, Figlio made his way to his office. He was followed by Rahksha and a Tuvar-nloq assistant. When the group arrived at Figlio’s office, the assistant remained outside. Figlio flounced to his ptarrawood desk and slammed his fist onto it.

    Lobodracca maldiblestius!” Figlio shouted in his native Dachori. He was not as religious as his father, but he often wondered if his fortunes and misfortunes were under the watch of the Rider (which was another name for the Dachori) pantheon.

    “Do not worry, my Generalissimo,” Rahksha assured. “We have made many victories. The losses are only minor setbacks.”

    “Just how many minor setbacks will we have?” Figlio retorted. “My father would have known how to handle this. And he would have helped our allies on Tuvar’quóth too.”

    He angrily sighed and sat down, rubbing his forehead.

    “Between the Diamond Dogs and Kozín’s resistance...the Malchiorians and their little FSA getting involved...this is taxing,” he muttered. “An endless war, a loss for every victory...on both sides.”

    “Those damned imperialists will pay for meddling in our affairs,” Rahksha declared. “They, along with those traitors Kozín and Ascheron, Dalton, and all others who stand in our way will fall! None can stand against the tide of our revolution!”

    “Yeah...Yes, of course,” Figlio nodded. His eyes widened, then he suddenly smiled as a devious idea dawned on him. “But perhaps...we can accelerate their defeat.”

    Figlio’s smile widened.

    --

    [Vongolan Local Space, Diamond Dogs Starship Stairway to Heaven]

    A small stealth cruiser made its way to the dock without messaging the bridge.

    --

    [Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon System]

    “And if she fails, I will ensure the mess is dealt with.”

    The being that said this entered the room. He wore the signature uniform of a New Order Arc, but the suit seemed odd on a creature that looked like him. Black and yellow biometallic arms jutted out of the sleeves. The being also wore a grey mask on his face. Red eyes peered through a pair of slits.

    “Hail to thee, fellow arcs,” he said. “I, Arc Caiaphus, am here to offer assistance.”

    Caiaphus, the name that had brought chaos to cosmos after cosmos. Klak destroyed the villain’s avian body on Malchior many years ago. However, Caiaphus was smart enough to take over a nearby creature and escape--with Klak none the wiser. Eventually, he made his way to the nascent New Order. Caiaphus then struck a deal with Emperor Sefer Yetzirah, agreeing to work together. She used the same technology she used to transform Kakamu to manufacture a biomechanical body in accordance with Caiaphus’s bizarre specifications. Now, the chaos lover’s body had a limited range of shapeshifting abilities.

    Caiaphus eventually planned to betray Sefer, but for now he played the part of a loyal Arc. He hoped to take advantage of the conflict between the FSA and the New Order to spread chaos and finally destroy Klak. Of course, he also anticipated that Sefer would eventually turn on him when she determined he outlived his usefulness, and he suspected she had an inkling of his own expectations. Only time would tell who would stab the other in the back first, and who would come out on top. But both relied on each other’s abilities to achieve their ends.

    “We shall show the galaxy what happens to those who dare dissent against our Emperor, eh, Arc Zyandar?” Caiaphus asked pointedly while smiling devilishly.


    _________________
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    Post by Claymore Mon Feb 08, 2021 2:54 pm

    [Aboard the Typa Gypsy, Deep Space]

    The mannequin was brought forth from the case, Bol and the other Terugans hefting it across the chamber and placing it carefully on the marble plinth in front of the Corsair Queen. With a wave of her hand she dismissed them, but not before saying, "Bol, set course for Liquid Metallicon. We have business there."

    Bol bowed. "Yes, Mistress."

    As the Terugans filed out of the chamber, Drake waited patiently, straight backed and staring into the middle distance. Ciro didn't expect it of him, but old habits died hard. His time in the Tanari military had instilled in him three things; discipline, skill in combat, and a hatred of authority. The logical step after his dismissal, he thought, was piracy. Mistress Maddigan was an excellent captain.

    Ciro slid the grey case closer, tracing a fingertip over the carvings on the gauntlet. The jade varied in colour, from a deep emerald green to a pale mint. She lifted it almost reverently from the case.

    “What do you know of this gauntlet Drake?” Ciro queried.

    Drake pondered the question before answering. “I know the Mistress desired it for her collection. I know I’ve not seen another like it, not from one side of this arm of the galaxy to the other. I know it most likely has... Power.”

    “Well observed Drake. This… this is the final piece of the puzzle. If I am right - and I believe I am - this gauntlet will provide my friend here,” her eyes slid up the mannequin’s form as she spoke, “Life.”

    Drake’s eyes widened as he stepped over to the mannequin, inspecting it more closely. It stood around 6 feet tall, slender but muscular. The figure was clearly male, but there were no genitalia carved, and likewise, no face; the head was smooth all over. Ciro grinned at Drake.

    She placed the gauntlet over the mannequin’s wrist.

    There was a moment where nothing happened, and then a nebulous energy began suffusing the figure’s arm, traveling upwards, spreading across the chest, down the body and into the legs. The effect was astonishing, as though an entire galaxy had been captured and contained within the glass of the form. The swirling nebula filled the figure's head last of all, and then settled, the eddies and currents within slowing to something resembling a sluggish rotation.

    The figure raised his hand, inspecting the new addition to his body. “Well, that’s novel. It’s green.”

    ***

    [Vongolan Local Space, Diamond Dogs Starship Stairway to Heaven ]


    The deck crew of the Stairway didn't notice as the stealthed craft swept past the slowly closing doors of the hangar bay. Their first inkling of the intruder was when the deck clamps were compressed, the phantom shuttle activating a series of docking procedures. Confused service automata scurried from their charging booths, only to wheel about in a blind frenzy when they couldn't detect the ship. At this point, the alarm was raised, and a squad of marines ran into the Hangar, sleek carbines pointed at the seemingly occupied bay.

    ***
    [Battlefield on Vongola]


    Dreis heard the shots ring out ahead of him, breaking into a sprint, crossing the distance at pace. As he scrambled up the wall of sandbags and razorwire, he caught sight of Holbach, now discarding Cassandra’s sidearm. Dreis swore, looking at the crippled form of the gyndroid body, then back at Holbach’s injured state.

    “HOLBACH!” Dreis shouted. The other mercenary snapped his head to face him. “That’s enough.”

    Dreis slid down the other side of the sandbags, his rifle slung. Cassandra lay propped against a shattered plycrete barricade. Dreis crouched next to her and lit a cigarette.

    “So, Cassandra Cromwell.” He puffed on the cigarette, blowing tobacco smoke out through his nostrils. “It’s a wonder you didn’t go out with Uteriach. But I guess Figlio knows a weapon when he sees one…”

    There was a static buzzing in Dreis ear before Breaker’s voice crackled across the radio. “Dreis, we’ve got company. On high says we’re to secure an LZ for an insertion. Y’all alright out there?”

    Dreis sighed before responding. “We’re all good Buster, Holbach's shit up but he’ll hold. We’ve got one of Di Armechio’s agents. Signal back up to the Stairway, ask Dallas what he wants us to do.”

    ***

    High above the battlefield outside Adorra, Arwell and Cai-Wei deployed their parachutes. The mecha juddered as bolts fired, sending the parachutes streaming out above the suits. Arwell gritted his teeth. “Have ground secured an LZ?” He radioed to Cai-Wei.

    “Stop worrying so much. We’re dropping on Dreis and his guys. No drama,” came Cai-Wei’s response.
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    Post by Kon Mon Feb 08, 2021 8:51 pm

    [ Nil'nara ]

    Although the stealth ship itself remained cloaked, the forested area it was parked in was illuminated by old wooden torches that stood in the ground at seemingly random points around the area, emitting thin trails of smoke that quickly dissipated into the air. Standing in the torchlight, Arc Vekhta noticed that Kakamu seemed different in the flesh somehow than in the pictures she had seen him in in the New Order's databases. The man in front of her was a muscular humanoid with dark red skin and a gold-painted metal mask that was set deep into his face, seemingly having been fused to his flesh. The mask had an opening around the mouth with three open grilles on each cheek, a single grille on the forehead, and two 'spikes' that jutted out from each side of the mask and wrapped around the sides of Kakamu's head. His eyes were rectangular purple lights that shone through the two eyeholes of his mask and changed shape in accordance with his mood. The chest area had also been painted gold, and the New Order emblem had been imprinted on the left side. The rest of his body was similar to that of a human, except for the fact that around 50% of the total surface area had been replaced with a dark silver metal that covered most of his chest, groin, shoulders, upper arms, and legs, having been intertwined with his flesh. Although this metal almost looked like a kind of natural armor or shell, there were some parts of his body where the metal was integrated with machinery: his five-toed feet and ankles were exclusively mechanical, containing what appeared to be gears and pistons, along with his hands, part of his chest, and the backs of his thighs. His only visible weapon, a long metal spear with a two-pronged tip, seemed to be attached to his back via magnetism.

    "Arc Vekhta. A pleasure," Kakamu replied stoically, walking over. He nodded his head momentarily as a sign of respect, maintaining eye contact so that it would not be mistaken for a sign of submission. "I see my reputation precedes me."

    Gesturing at the Taimatsu Shiroi, he continued, "These are my enforcers, the White Torches. Irscha Inkar, Deacon Sand, Niita, and PAL."

    Nearby, the White Torches stopped loitering around the area and walked over, standing in formation behind Kakamu. Although each of these characters wore the emblem of the New Order on their chests and were dressed in its colors, it was rare for an Arc to be accompanied by such a disparate group of individuals. Only Inkar and Niita seemed like they belonged, both natural soldiers who fit perfectly into their uniforms, bearing all the hallmarks of strength and discipline. Deacon, on the other hand, looked like a barfly, with his unkempt red beard, twitching eye, and bulging frame, and if it were not for the New Order emblem on his chest and the laser rifle in his hands, Vekhta would have guessed that PAL had recently escaped from a job waiting tables in a restaurant.

    "If you're thinking what I'm thinking, I had no part in selecting the Torches, but I know better than to question the wisdom of Arc Keylana," Kakamu divulged. "Truth be told, I was not told to expect your arrival. Have you been briefed on my assignment here?"
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    Post by JS Mon Feb 08, 2021 10:41 pm

    [ Moon of Vonilla ]

    As Klak's image appeared aboard the bridge, Arc Valorus barked an order to his bridge crew.

    "Weapons hold!"

    As soon as the order was given, the weapons officer withdraw the launch keys from his console, tapping in an order to the armory crew to standby. The rail-gun would continue to charge, but would not fire unless the weapons hold order was rescinded. Arc Valorus slumped back in his command throne, stroking his jaw.

    "I agree to the terms of your surrender. An uncharacteristically wise decision, Mr. President. Perhaps President Howard imparted some useful knowledge after all."

    The frigates Pacifica and Agathon pulled away from the fleet, accompanied by their respective combat air patrols, and moved in closer to the station. These Riniscita-class ships were smaller in scale than the Semovente-class Adriatica, and lacked the centrally-mounted railgun, instead having increased hangar space and an array of long-range torpedo tubes at the fore-end.

    "You will surrender yourself to the custody of the marines aboard the battleship Agathon and offer no resistance. I have no desire to spill any more blood today than is necessary, but if you make any effort to escape I will fire on that station. Consider your actions carefully."

    Meanwhile, aboard the battleship Pacifica, Captain Di-Jonn Massa - A blue skinned Vykonian born and raised on Krace - listened intently to the fleet-wide transmission of Klak and Valorus's conversation, as he watched from an escort position whilst the Agathon drew closer to the station. A smirk formed on his thin lips as he turned away from the central viewscreen to address his bridge officers.

    "Prep boarding torpedoes in primary launch tubes. Calculate a boarding solution for maximum effective dispersal throughout the station." he said, turning back towards the viewscreen with a gleeful smirk. "...and activate the PsyTroopers."

    ---

    [ Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon System ]

    OOS: Deliberately wording the below to allow Maly to have Zyandar speak to Caiaphus before Kyydan interjects.

    Arc Kyydan observed silently as Caiaphus and Zyandar spoke; better, he thought, that the junior Arcs get to know each other, and better understand the competition that existed within their ranks. The Emperor had little patience for weak or underperforming Arcs, and whilst outright betrayal had no place in the Order, Kyydan knew Sefer was not above pitting two would-be rivals against each-other, having the stronger dispose of the weaker. Indeed, Kyydan wondered if any others beyond himself and Keylana remembered the grim fate of the would-be Arc Bane.

    "I have requisitioned a ship for your use, Arc Zyandar. A Vykonian vessel, drawn from the armories of the former loyalist guard. As a captured enemy vessel it has, as per tradition, been renamed; the Servidora should assist you in your duties. You have a ship, and guards to accompany you; now, go, and dispense the Emperor's judgment as you see fit."

    Kyydan slid backwards towards the rear of the room, the immense frame of his cage sliding further into the gloom, the vague silhouette within the green atmosphere of his tank becoming less and less legible.

    "And if you should feel that your duties are best served by tracking down your traitorous kin on Liquid Metallicon, then perhaps we shall fight side by side there, too. Our military build-up is that region is nearly complete. The day of the pacification of Liquid Metallicon is nearly upon us."

    ---

    [ Nil'nara ]

    "It surprises me little that you weren't aware of my arrival. Arc Kyydan subscribes to a very specific interpretation of military leadership."

    Arc Vekhta paused, waiting for the inevitable "which is?" from Kakamu - be it verbal, or a tilt of the head, or anything - anything other than the stoic, emotionless look he cast her. Then it dawned on her: only Sefer could imbue a being with a perfect bio-chimaeric body, elemental powers rivaling, if not surpassing, her own - and then neglect to include any understanding of conversational norms.

    "Which is," continued Vekhta, deflated, "that it's impossible for the enemy to know our plans if we don't even know them in the first place."

    At that, Vekhta thought she heard a chuckle from one of the torches - but couldn't work out which one it was. Perhaps it was the wind.

    "Kyydan believed that, given your losses in your most recent mission, you could do with an extra pair of hands. I understand you're investigating a dreaming plague here on Nil'nara. I will assist in what way I can; you have but to lead, and I shall follow. This is your mission, Arc Kakamu."
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    Post by drj Tue Feb 09, 2021 1:10 am

    <Vongola, Battle of Sards>

    In his nest, set up in a bombed, abandoned building, the Vongolan sniper peered down his sight. His chosen initial target, a soldier of the VPR was already perfectly positioned, and he could do nothing but nervously await either sudden movement or the prearranged signal to open fire, while trying to block out the hollow rumble of artillery striking distant parts of the city. In other buildings along the same street, other snipers were positioned, preparing to open fire on the other soldiers in the immediate area, bar the one they had strict orders to ignore unless strictly necessary - Tulio, one of Figlio di Armechio’s top lieutenants, who was jointly responsible for the VPR assault on the city, for whom this trap was intended.

    If one was trying very hard to pick it out from all the other noise, one could possibly hear the low hum of engines approaching. Simultaneously, all the snipers heard a single beep in their earpieces, and began firing on the soldiers, just as an airborne troop carrier flew over the street at a very high speed, like a vast, predatory bird, and appeared to drop something from on high. That ‘something’ was Thomas P. Kane, former Vongolan industrialist and aristocrat, in his gleaming red exoskeleton.

    “Right.” he thought to himself. “Let’s see how this little toy works in real life.” Still hurtling towards the ground, he raised one arm, and fired a laser beam from a launcher built into his wrist, bringing down a wall and covering the ground behind Tulio with even more debris. As he hit the earth with a thud, he could feel the exoskeleton’s joints and systems work to compensate for impact, and marvelled at the technological craftsmanship.

    Over eight feet tall in his exoskeleton, Thomas looked down at Julio and smiled. “Alright, boy.” he boomed, his voice amplified by the exoskeleton. “It’s time to pay for your crimes.”

    ---

    Meanwhile, the troop carrier kept going, heading for the large hill just beyond the city limits where the largest artillery battery had set up camp. As it passed over the battery, a dozen soldiers wearing dark green exoskeletons of a similar type to Kane’s jumped out, and opened fire on, variously, the artillery itself, the soldiers, or the shells that had been laid out in preparation for reloading.
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    Post by Malygos Tue Feb 09, 2021 2:10 am

    [Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon System]

    Zyandar felt her hackles raise at the voice, her hand almost instinctually going to her sword as she heard that voice.

    Caiaphus. Though she had never met the man before, everyone remembered the bloody swathe he cut across the galaxy for the sake of naught but his own entertainment. At least - that was how the legend went - and ended, they thought, in his destruction. Rumors of his demise were, it seemed, greatly exaggerated. And now he worked with the New Order - an organization that was as great an antithesis to a being of chaotic wrath as there could be.

    Either Sefer had some pull on the being - or, worse, he had some on her. Difficult. "Of course. All who stand before the Emperor's will will be crushed beneath our heel." Emphasis placed on 'our', she thought - though she had already begun thinking about the damage control that she would be forced to do. If, of course, she survived. In terms of personal physical prowess, she knew that Caiaphus was...if the tales spun of this monster were true, far beyond even Kyydan.

    This would be difficult. She sighed. "Well, if you are to work with me on this...project, there are two names you should know." She nodded to her honor guard, who presented a holographic display - first, of a man, slender of frame and narrow of face. "Two whose names are rallying cries to the rebels on Vykon. The first - Zuln'balec-Aerenvas." She narrowed her eyes at that name. The man had been one of those damn nobles advocating against her rise from the beginning - though of course, his complaints had shut up when the posting that was meant to be her exile turned out to be her rise... "The former majordomo to the First Ascendant, and the de facto leader of the Ascendancy's government-in-exile. A coward and an eel. A slippery character who never stays in the same place twice. Despite having the protection and the forces of the Alliance at his disposal, Aerenvas rarely shows his face in public, preferring to act through intermediaries and holograms, rather than being present personally." Indeed, that was part of how he managed to retain his position - it was impossible to catch him alone, because he would never be alone, and he relied on the strength of others whenever he could. An eel, yes, but one who understood the games of power.

    She nodded to the honor guard, who presented the second. An older, female face, round in the places where Aerenvas was narrow. "And the second. Rlain'corvis-Veyelan. The leader of the terrorist group known as the 'Serpent in the Waves'. A veteran of a hundred battles and yet more raids, and bold, indeed, to challenge us so openly." Brazen indeed - Veyelan was actually the first to praise her openly when she returned from that campaign triumphant. She quite liked Veyelan, in truth - but behind those bold proclamations was always something more. She was capable of much more subtlety than others credited her for. "She has established herself as a Pirate Lord on Liquid Metallicon. Unlike Aerenvas, she is easy to locate - but far more well defended, as far more of the Grand Ascendant Fleet had defected to Veyelan than to Aerenvas - as First Prime, her name carries weight among the former military officers of the Ascendancy - even more than Aerenvas's." Both of them, dangerous, yet in different ways.

    At the note of the new ship, she frowned. "Sir, I protest. The Servidora may be a powerful ship, but the Kraken's Grasp has served me well since I first captained it. I would prefer my flagship stay mine." Another indulgence. She had to know where to push - appear too docile, and she may fall prey to someone like Caiaphus, or Kyydan - someone thinking her weak. In many ways, the New Order was no different from the Ascendancy. It rewarded ambition, valor, and strength - or the perception thereof - as much as it did its vaunted virtues of obedience and order.

    -----------

    [Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon]

    Veyelan swaggered. A self-satisfied grin on her face as she entered the meeting place of the Pirate Lords. "Ah, Ozar," she said with a smile. "A pleasure, as always. Fourteen, ever the loyal one. And Kismota - how generous of you to offer your own club as meeting place - just make sure to check the ledgers, afterwards." She flashed Keichi a winsome smile. "Still as morose as ever, I see? Did your mother ever tell you that your face might get stuck, if you keep glowering like that?" It was as it always was, with Veyelan. She made sure that any room she was in, she would be the center of it.

    "Now, I must say, our fellowship is one of the grandest things I've been made part of, and I am always ever so happy to provide you with my best -" She looked up to Lord Ozar. "-And I am certain I can provide much better than that pest I supplanted." She was no thief, that was for certain - only because thieves hid their treasures, and their conquests. Veyelan displayed them as trophy - evidence to the power she commanded, promises to those who aided her - and to those who opposed her.

    "Now, I believe you called us here to discuss the elephant in the room. The New Order." Her tone turned from jovial to grim as she said the name. "The Alliance may attempt to clean us up, but they rely on us for commerce and trade. Not so this 'New Order' - they have claimed my world for their own, and they muster the strength even now to destroy us. Bring us to heel." She was no longer smiling, as she met the eyes of every pirate in the room. "But certainly we have planned for this contingency, yes?"
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    Post by Claymore Tue Feb 09, 2021 2:50 pm

    [ Liquid Metallicon, Designated Parking Orbit ]

    Ciro’s spaceplane alighted from the hangar of the Typa Gypsy. The craft was an elongated teardrop of burnished silver, with two elegant wings protruding from the midsection. As it sliced into Liquid Metallicon’s atmosphere, Ciro pondered the events of the last few days.

    The crystal man had revealed himself to be Tarvias Deep, and though he had few to no memories of his past, he knew he was a construct, created by a magus on a distant planet to serve as a royal house guard. Ciro had given Deep clothes, an immaculate haute couture suit of the deepest navy silk. The crystal man seemed to like the attire.

    But now business called, and the curiosity she held for Deep had to be put away, suppressed until this meeting was over. She sometimes dreaded convening with the Pirate Lords; they were so fickle, and none of them could seem to put their own goals aside to come to an agreement on whatever matter was at hand.

    Ciro felt this time was different, though.

    The New Order, Sefer Yetzirah’s warmachine, had amassed a fleet in a nearby system, Lovian. They were set to strike at Liquid-Metallicon and the Pirate Lords, to bring them into the fold - or, more likely, crush them utterly.

    The flight was short, Ciro leaving her spaceplane at a dock she trusted. She’d brought Drake as protection, the soldier clad in his matt black armour and helmet. They used the wormhole transport network, hopping between 3 hubs, and soon stood outside the Lucky Money Club.  

    Ciro and Drake entered the back meeting room just as Veyelan finished her sentence. Drake took up position near the door with the other aides and bodyguards. Ciro breezed through the room, casting an eye to each of the Lords and nodding. When her eyes met Veyelan’s she winked, before sitting down at the end of the table.

    “Veyelan dear, you expect too much of these scoundrels. They couldn’t organize a coup on Vongola if it fell to them. What we need… is a leader.”

    ***

    [ Lovian System, New Order Fleet Staging Post ]


    The Herald was a darkly imposing ship, a seven-hundred metre long titan of angular black rock. The war barge was featureless save for the haze of nebulous green energy surrounding its drive engines at the aft, and the command sphere recessed into the fore face of the obelisk shaped hull. On the bridge, a tall Akkar stood over a cowering prisoner clasped in shackles. The alien was clad in brown armour over a black plastic body suit that covered much of zirs ruddy ochre skin. Various pipes and cables connected the creature to zirs life support modules. The helmet ze wore was a construction of ivory coloured metal and red tinted glass, two bulbous insectoid eyes covering most of the surface. A strange device attached to the back of the helmet buzzed static incessantly. The Akkar’s five legs were arranged in a pentagonal formation underneath zirs fairly humanoid torso. Two insectoid secondary arms protruded from the creature’s midsection, holding a small translator unit, and ze’s primary arms clasped a wicked looking curved and hooked poleaxe.

    The prisoner wore the green uniform of the Liquid Metallicon government, and though battered and stained still carried an air of dignity. It’s wearer, however, whimpered and sobbed as Arc Zabaton paced in front of him.

    “Where is the Pirate Lord fortress?” the translator unit croaked, a harsh, juddering robotic voice turning the Akkar’s speech into galactic common. The prisoner shook his head frantically.

    “I don’t know, I don’t know ok! We’ve barely been on the planet for two months, the FSA sen-”

    “If you do not know,” Zabaton barked, “then you are of no use to me.”

    “NO! No please, I can tell you everything about the government I know! No one knows where the Pirate Lords are! Please, you have to believe me!” the prisoner hysterically sobbed.

    “Have to? I am Zabaton! Greatest Akkar warchief! I ‘have’ to do no thing!”

    “Ok, ok, ok,” the prisoner trying to calm himself and Zabaton down. “The Pirate Lords don’t report to us, I mean, they don’t like us. We’re like, the cops, right? We’ve been hunting them! The government will surrender to you, Arc Zabaton - the New Order, we’ll surrender to you. The Pirates, they aren’t us!”

    Arc Zabaton cocked zirs head, pausing momentarily. “You are not pirate. Your use has been expended.” The prisoner started to wail, but Zabaton extended a clawed hand. The man’s head began to implode, crushed by an invisible force. The wailing became gurgling, then silence.

    “It is good to kill again.” The translator made a strange, guttural noise; an approximation of laughter.  

    “All Stations! Find me a Pirate Lord!”
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    Post by redwolfmoon99 Tue Feb 09, 2021 7:44 pm

    [ Xazari State Capital New Haven, Haven System, Xazari Core Territories ]

    "We need to choose a side." One of the CEOs in the large opulent meeting hall announces, his presence at the meeting marking the corporation he represents as one of the more influential private business entities, a 'Lord of Industry' as it were, even among the thousands of such companies operating in the territories of the highly-mercantile Xazari people.

    "And throw away our hard-fought independence? Our freedom?" Scoffs another such corporate leader, the woman not physically present at the Corporate Council meeting along with about three-thirds of the attendees, a holographic avatar connecting her instead appearing at her representative seat. "Don't be ridiculous, we've been doing just fine on our own thus far."

    "I concur, there is much more potential to be made in facilitating trade in such a conflict while still remaining neutral." The soft-spoken Wei Lienwu of Liuwei puts his own thoughts in, his voice never rising an octave even as most of the others raised and lowered their volumes with the room.

    "No use fer potential when one o 'em could come knocking on our door uninvited, though." John Henry Williams drawled as he lazily leaned on his chair, though his eyes dispelled any illusions of indolence as they seem to shrewdly analyse everything in the room. "Willin' ta bet it's gonna be them Tic-tacs who'll show up first, and they don't seem like folks who'll take 'no' for an answer."

    "Perhaps a parley is in order? Sefer's intent is ultimately peace and unity, or so she says." The SchorlCorp leader, Director Schorl explains, his words neutral yet containing the usual tone of smugness his colleagues have come to expect from him. "Surely she will see the benefit in having a nation of our economic disposition peacefully aligned with her interests."

    "HAH! Peace? With that Sefer bitch at the helm? Her idea of peace and unity will see us licking her feet like brainwashed slaves!" Bellows Nikolay Alexeyev, head of Markov Concern, the human's naturally booming voice reverbrating throughout the room even though the large man is only present in hologram. "I already get enough of that shit at home with my wife! How about that 'Free Systems Alliance'? At least they're not tyrannical assholes!"

    "Crass, as usual... But our colleage does make a good point." Zakria Arian, the gryphon head of the Suukuvesta Corporation opined, steepling her talons together on the table in front of her. "We cannot afford to merely watch by the sidelines anymore, lest we get swept away by the New Order. The Free Systems Alliance, in my opinion, at least still offers us our autonomy."

    "Well, that I can agree! With how many independent nations the FSA consists of, it'll be more to our benefit than the New Order." The CEO of Monarch Space Industries, Sanjar Nanjiani, comments, a broad cheerful smile adorning the male human's dark complexion. "Ever since the galactic government collapsed and all, economic growth has been largely stagnant, but now with these new markets, we can get right back on track. Take a look at the projected numbers yourself. How can yield improvements of 26.7% not quicken the pulse? How can 32% cost savings via licensing not moisten the loins?"

    "And then we end up on the chopping block when Sefer inevitably takes over the galaxy. Great plan." Cuts in another executive, a younger one whose corporation had only recently ascended to the Corporate Council. "Do you all not realize that the FSA is the losing side here? They've barely been holding against the New Order. I say we throw our lot in with Sefer. She may give us scraps but at least that's better than nothing at all."

    As the meeting room descended into an uproar once more with that proclamation, Edan Soulon pinched the space between his eyes to stave off the mounting headache. As High Councilor of the Xazari State, the male Satakar, a saurian species and one of the main species of the nation, is usually looked upon to be the mediator of any conflicts in the Corporate Council. This is a monumental task helped by the fact that Edan represents the core governing body of the Xazari State itself, a neutral governmental party immune to the influences and sways of the private groups and entities that make up the nation.

    It is, by all description, one of the highest honours a citizen could have. By the 5th hour of the meeting, however, not including the three recesses, the satakar was all but ready to resign then and there. For a group of the absolute best of the largely meritocratic Xazari corporate society, those who achieved their current position by intelligence, cunning, strength, ruthlessness or plain old willpower and determination, they can act remarkably like a group of belligerent children at times.

    With a deep sigh, Edan Soulon messages his aides, notifying them to prepare diplomatic missions to both the New Order and the Free Systems Alliance. While it may yet take a while before the Corporate Council will decide on who to align the Xazari State with, or even if they will at all, learning more of their potential options would help them make a much more informed decision. Perhaps, and this is a hope the satakar holds strongly in his heart, this would even hasten the Corporate Council's decision and avoid yet more of these pointless meetings about the issue.

    -------

    【 OBC - Excerpt from news segment "The Clash of Giants" 】

    "The galaxy is still in chaos as the two major divisions, the New Order led by Sefer Yehtzirah, and the Free Systems Alliance, represented by President Klak of Malchior, are still locked in their bid for galactic supremacy. While it seems currently that the upper hand is on the side of the New Order, the FSA has managed their share of victories during the war, though most come at a steep cost."

    The news anchor continues in line with the various holo screens behind her, showing various scenes and footage from the recent conflicts between the New Order and FSA.

    "Meanwhile, here in the Xazari State, various experts and members of the public have called into question the Corporate Council's recent decision to send diplomatic envoys to the two factions. Some worry that this may be the end of Xazari independence, stating that this may yet be the first step to subservience."

    The holoscreens now protray footage of public reaction around the nation, showing protests both against and in support of the decision, before switching to multi-angle scenes of the Xazari diplomatic representatives boarding the ships and embarking on their respective journeys.

    "A spokesman for the Corporate Council has stated that 'While times may have been hard and the future uncertain, rest assured that the Corporate Council has always looked after the interests of the Xazari State and the Xazari people.', stressing the need for people to wait and see results before coming to conclusions. And with that uplifting statement, we move on to sports. Take it away, Raymond."

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    Post by Klak Tue Feb 09, 2021 10:54 pm

    Vongolan Local Space, Diamond Dogs Starships Stairway to Heaven

    The cockpit of the stealth cruiser inched open with a hiss. Hercules Splendor slowly rose up. One of his arms was up in surrender, while another gripped a small laser pistol.

    “Easy, easy,” Hercules assured. “I’m not here to fight. Tell Dallas Dalton that Hercules Splendor is here to see him. And I’m here for myself, not Malchior.”

    --

    [Battlefield on Vongola Near Adorra]

    Cassandra grit her teeth in pain, then grinned up at Dreis.

    “You sure that’s a good idea, Dreis?” she asked mockingly. “What makes you think things will be different from all those years ago, back when Generalissimo Uteriach was here?”

    --

    [Battlecruiser Vengeance, Vykon Systems]

    “I will take the Servidora if Arc Zyandar feels that it would not be useful,” Caiaphus said, smiling. “It is understandable that such a weapon would make some of us feel hesitation.”


    --

    [Vongola, Battle of Sards]

    Julio smiled as he pulled out his spear.

    “Thomas P. Kane, the first rebel,” he mocked. “First you were upstaged, now you will die by my hand! FOR UTERIACH!”

    Julio charged at Thomas, swinging his spear at Thomas’s legs.

    Meanwhile, a random VPR soldier notified the nearby artillery installation of the attack. Platoons of soldiers surrounded the installation as the massive laser cannon recharged for another volley.

    --

    [Moon of Vonilla]

    Klak smiled.

    “He taught me more than you know, Arc. You know where to find me.”

    Klak ended the projection. He looked down at the Child.

    “Kid, I get the feeling your stronger than you let on,” he whispered. “I assume that means you can fight. At a certain point, I’m going to need you to teleport into that battlecruiser I just talked to and start taking out some enemies. Find me once you get to the bridge. I’ll meet you there, and we’ll take over the ship together. But be stealthy, understand?”

    Meanwhile, the Malchiorian battlecruiser began to embark from the bay.

    --

    [Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon]

    Akzer smiled at Veyelan and nodded. Kismota laughed hard at what Veyelan said about ledgers.

    “You’re right! Especially if Galtor decides to drink again!” Kismota quipped before laughing again.

    Keichi, meanwhile, growled at Veyelan.

    “Why you little…” he said. Despite this, however, Keichi would later smile at Ciro’s comment about scoundrels.

    Ozar said nothing in reply to Veyelan, simply staring at her. Fourteen briskly approached him and tapped on his shoulder.

    “She doesn’t know,” he clarified to the Pirate Lord.

    Everyone sat down after Ciro and some other Pirate Lords entered, save for Fourteen, who stood up at Ozar’s side.

    “Thank you for joining me. It is truly is a pleasure to have you all here,” Ozar said, forcing a smile.

    “Blah, enough with the pleasantries, Ozar!” a random Pirate Lord shouted. “Let’s get to the point!”

    Fourteen glared at the Pirate Lord, but Ozar nodded. He sighed, his armored exoskeleton shimmering in the light while he absentmindedly traced a clawed finger on one of the exoskeleton’s marks of mourning.

    “Certainly,” Ozar continued. “As you all may be aware, my cousin Treskis was shot down over Sojourn V by FSA forces. He was there on a smuggling mission, yet the FSA decided to kill him. This action cannot go unpunished, so I wish to explore the option of uniting against the FSA.”

    Shocked gasps came from many of those present. One Pirate Lord, who preferred speaking in the Liquid Metalliconite language, spoke up. The blend of hisses, clicks, chirps, squeaks, grunts, and words that characterized this language all formed a sentence expressing displeasure.

    “I know it was FSA guns that killed my kin,” Ozar insisted. “This war has gone too far.”

    Akzer raised a hand.

    “Hang on,” he interjected. “Veyelan brought up a good point earlier. The FSA and its allies let us expand our smuggling operations in numerous planets at various fronts in the war. Sure, our raids have gone down in many sectors of space, but the profits each of us are making off smuggling alone are unprecedented. Add that with my idea of raiding only vulnerable ships and worlds on both sides...along with a few neutral ships here and there...and we’re doing well. Infighting, aside from some exceptions,” Akzer winked at Veyelan. “...is going down. Profits going up. This could lead to a new golden age.”

    “What good is it if they keep killing us?” Ozar snarled uncharacteristically. “Whether through their war or through supporting the government, they have shown they cannot be trusted.”

    “He’s right!” Keichi added. “My idiot brother, Urimetsu,  tried to arrest me three times this week!”

    “Not to mention,” Akzer continued, ignoring the comments. “...what Veyelan and Ciro hinted at: the New Order is going to wage war on us soon. If we aren’t united, and if we lack FSA support, we might lose.”

    “Oh come on,” Ozar objected. “Next you’ll say we have to choose between subjugation and disrespect!”

    A flurry of protests came from many of the Pirate Lords, each taking a different side and shouting at each other.

    “No!” Akzer shouted, calming everyone down. “I’m saying we don’t have to. I have a plan. We find the FSA unit that killed Treskis. One of us, preferably one with limited dealings with the FSA, goes after this unit and wipes them out. The FSA, knowing that we aren’t the most unified group out there, will send an emissary--probably from Malchior or some other planet--to negotiate a truce with all of the Pirate Lords. Part of our terms will include respecting our territories and crews, getting the government off our backs, and loaning some additional ships to our fleets to protect Liquid Metallicon from the New Order. We gain all that, keep our black market, and make a pretty damn good demonstration of what happens when you cross the Pirate Lords. Everyone in the galaxy, whether in the FSA, the New Order, or anywhere else, will heed the warning.”

    Treskis looked around the table. The Pirate Lords had different reactions to the proposal. Some nodded, others scoffed.

    “What say you, Ciro and Veyelan?” Treskis inquired.

    Keichi scoffed.

    “You’re asking the outsiders what they think?” he grimaced.

    --

    (OOC: Inspired by Red’s post Razz)

    A news segment was broadcasted across the FSA and various other worlds:

    “THIS JUST IN: The Secretary-General of the Free Systems Alliance has abruptly resigned from his post only two weeks from the election, and only a month away from his swearing in! The Secretary-General stated that he was stepping down due to a recent diagnosis that would require intensive treatment that will stop him from completing his term and easing the transition between secretariats.

    The Under-Secretary and Vice Chancellor will assume the role effective by the end of the week as Acting Secretary General. Meanwhile, the Free Systems Alliance Assembly declared an emergency parliamentary vote. The Assembly will now vote on the new Secretary General in a few Malchiorian days.

    Although the representatives of the FSA member worlds have been mum about who exactly they’re voting for, our network’s political analysts all point to four frontrunners: Gaius Malcovus of Pasaje, Former Malchiorian Secretary of State Blake Olivio Krieger, Lijzhora of Byron, and...

    *the transmission fizzes*

    ...from the AKD. At the same time, some analysts warn that a dark horse could step in and overtake all the others. Either way, it should be an interesting scenario.

    Now over to Peter O'Hanraha'harahan for more coverage.
    "


    Last edited by Klak on Thu May 27, 2021 10:19 am; edited 4 times in total


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    Post by JS Wed Feb 10, 2021 12:48 am

    [ Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon ]

    "One problem with your plan, Azker."

    The chime of spurs sounded faintly in the meeting room as an armored figure who had been observing patiently from the edge of the room stepped forth; a bounty hunter of an unknown humanoid species, dressed head to toe in desert-toned armor plates over dull brown cloth, his torso and backpack concealed under a long, asymmetric poncho with a coloration that suggested a blood orange. A thin vertical visor, about the width of a finger and glowing a light blue, ran from the base of his helmet's faceplate, up the length of it, then over and down the back of the helmet; the helmet itself was sharp and angular, with no other visors or view-ports visible - no doubt designed by a race familiar with humanoid physiology yet not possessed of it itself. Two pistols were strapped to each thigh, the outline of a third visible through his poncho, affixed to his chest armor; a sword and rifle were also concealed under the poncho, strapped to either side of his backpack. Guns were drawn as he stepped forth, then swiftly lowered as Ciro raised a slender hand.

    "Let him speak."

    The bounty hunter tipped his head towards Ciro. "Much obliged."

    "What is the meaning of this?" came a protest from one of the gathered lords.

    "Firstly, I must beg your pardon for interrupting. I know all very busy with this little pirate meeting, so I'll not take up too much of your time." he said, tapping away at his left forearm armor, and projecting a holographic display for all to see. "But I'm afraid I'm a professional, and the first rule of business is you've got to know all the facts. And you don't."

    The projection was that of a woman, in her mid-20s, clad in the sleek black combat armor of a New Order warrior. Her skin was the same sandy tone that many of those gathered in the room possessed; her dark hair turning a cobalt blue towards its tips. She was posed mid-battle amidst the ruins of the Vykonian capital city, up to her shins in the coastal tide; sparks of red lightning surrounded her left hand, casting a glow on the sea below, whilst in the right she carried a blade which she used to bisect a pair of Vykonian loyalist honour guard who had charged her with spears. The blade was of an unusual design, and even the holographic projection had a hard time rendering it; the hilt was presented as a flickering glitch in shades of purple, whilst the blade itself had the same red glow as the woman's own eyes.

    "Arc Vekhta." deduced Ciro. The bounty hunter nodded.

    "Score one for the little lady." he replied, before looking back to the projection. "See, time was - back during the pacification of Vykon - you could walk out this club and find half a dozen Vykonian loyalists spread out all across the street - noble houses, refugees, you get the drift - offering vast sums of money in the hopes that one of us humble bounty hunters would take her down. Problem was, none of us ever took them up on it. Suicide's what it would've been. I suspect our colleague Veyelan here is intimately familiar with the reports that came out of Vykon around that time."

    "Yes, enough of your theatrics, bounty hunter." interjected Baze Ishikawa, an elderly, graying Syndicate lord of Hispanic descent. "Enough of this... this boogeyman tale."

    "Oh, you want me to cut to the end? Then I will." he said, tapping his wrist armor and retracting the holographic projection. "The New Order will never give up on sight of this planet whilst Arc Vekhta is still alive. Never. That blade she was carrying? That's the reforged version of the Lance of Avalon - the very same spear Sefer used to skewer Eddy Allman on. It's a weapon of revenge. I'm afraid you don't just have an army bearing down on you; you have the red right hand of God coming to exact vengeance."

    "Vengeance? What for? What do you suppose we've done to her?"

    "Not we, Baze Ishikawa, you. You took a little orphan girl - one of the countless boys and girls you've conscripted over the years to the extent I doubt you can even tell their faces apart - and you had it work in your mines, and plant your bombs, and smuggle your contraband. Only this one didn't die - it escaped, and now it has an army. Her name is Lena Ishikawa, Baze. You created this monster. And we..." he said, looking around to the gathered pirate lords, then specifically to Ozar. "...we were complicit it. We refused to keep our shop in order."

    The colour had drained from Baze's face. The bounty hunter made his way back to his spot against the wall.

    "Your plan might work, Akzer. But in order for it to succeed, we also need to kill off Arc Vekhta, too. We need to do what Baze here should've done a long time ago."

    ---

    [ Moon of Vonilla ]

    The Agathon docked, and New Order marines rushed through the hatch, subduing and arresting the guards. They made their way through the station, searching for Klak.

    Canaan looked to Klak. "I'll fight by your side, Klak. But we need to be careful - there are innocent lives at risk." he said, before looking back out of the window to the Pacifica looming in the distance, halfway between the rest of its fleet and the station itself. "And... there's something very wrong with that ship, in particular."

    ---

    [ Battleship Vengeance, Vykon system ]

    "Very well; Caiaphus, take the Servidora and hunt down the enemies of our New Order. Zyandar, you may keep your... Kraken's Grasp, but do not disappoint me."

    With that, Kyydan's cage retracted fully into the wall, and he disappeared from the Sanctum itself.
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    Post by Claymore Wed Feb 10, 2021 1:56 am

    [ Vongolan Local Space, Diamond Dogs Starship Stairway to Heaven ]

    "Weapons down men, I'll deal with him myself," Dallas said loudly as he strode into the hangar. "Mr Splendor is my guest."

    Splendor climbed from his stealth craft, but kept his pistol level.

    "We can do away with that, Hercules. I'm very interested in what you have to offer with your presence."

    ***

    [ Vongola, Battle of Adorra ]

    Dreis paused a moment before shrugging. "Figlio is all bark and no bite. It makes him look like a steady hand compared to Uteriach... but he's panicking. Vongola's on fire, Ms. Cromwell. We have the power to put that fire out. For a price. At the moment, well, the FSA is paying handsomely to try to stamp you out. But if you could get rid of this little rebellion, and come into the fold..."

    Dreis flicked his now burnt out cigarette to the floor, stood, and drew a chromed revolver from an under-shoulder holster. He levelled the handgun at Cassandra's head.

    "Now, what'll it be?"

    Dreis looked up, seeing two parachutes unfurl high above them.

    "Looks like the cavalry's here."

    Just then, lines of tracer fire arced through the air toward the parachutes. Dreis grunted. "Looks like they have more AA we didn't know about."

    ***

    Arwell gripped the controls tightly as explosive tracer rounds rattled against the composite armour of the mecha. Targeting graphics slid across his vision, tracking the incoming fire back to its source. His VI gave him a distance; 1.2 kilometers, asking him to confirm firing solution. Arwell nodded his affirmation, the VI picking up the physical gesture and arming the rocket pod. Arwell thumbed the trigger, releasing 5 warheads in tight dispersal. The thermobaric rockets whizzed from their cradle, streaking at hypersonic velocity toward the AA emplacement. Cai-Wei levelled a beam rifle at the blossoming explosions, streaks of ruby light stabbing down into the smoke and ash.  

    ***

    [ Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon ]

    Ciro began to laugh, breaking the icy silence that had settled on the room. “Well, we all reap what we sow in the end, it seems, even we who do not sow at all.” Ciro stood, her black dress standing out amongst the flamboyant attire most of the other pirates wore. Akzer is right. And though we might not like to admit it, so is Zolo,” Ciro said as she nodded at the bounty hunter. Her gaze crossed to Ozar, who sat smouldering at the head of the table. “This thing isn’t going away Ozar. The FSA might well make it hard for us to operate in the capacity we have. But the New Order will make it impossible. The age of piracy will be over if we don’t stand, here and now.”

    Ciro moved to the cellarette at the side of the room and poured herself a measure of brandy in a snifter. She sipped the drink, looking around the room, gauging attitudes. “We have to do this from the inside. A frontal assault is out of the question, the New Order would crush us in open battle. But we have what they lack - imagination, and a room full of the dirtiest bastards in the galaxy.”
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    Post by drj Wed Feb 10, 2021 2:15 am

    <Vongola, Battle of Sards>

    Thomas seemingly made no attempt to side-step the attack. “You remember my name, how sweet.” he said, as a few panels on his exosuit’s chest shifted aside to reveal what looked like a cannon. As he kept smiling, the cannon fired, unleashing a powerful wave of kinetic energy right in Julio’s face.

    ---

    The exosuited soldiers noted the laser cannon, and began to focus laser and mortar fire on the troops operating it.

    -----

    <Tanari Homeworld, Shifter Hideout>

    The two men eyed each other nervously for what felt to both like many, many hours, but was probably much shorter in reality. Finally, it was Ashton who broke and spoke first. “Didn’t you interrogate me back at the Tanari base?”

    “Young man,” replied General Van Smoot, sounding more grizzled than Ashton remembered. “I have never met you before.”

    “No, that can’t be right! You were definitely the-” Ashton shot out of his seat. “Ohhhhhhh.”

    “I’ve been here for over a month.” Van Smoot shrugged. “I’m General Ernest Van Smoot. Security Advisor to the President.”

    “Van Smoot?” The name jogged Ashton’s memory. The man who had first reached out to him in that Malchiorian bar, who wanted to hire him for the Tanari freighter mission, called himself Sven Maat. This man looked nothing like him, of course. Was his original client a particularly lazy Tanari intelligence agent all along?

    “Yes. I lead the Tanari forces at Atuar Sadiares.” the general said proudly. “That’s probably where you’ve heard my name.”

    Both Ashton’s mind and heart felt like they were racing at what felt like a million miles an hour. As if being framed for someone else hijacking a freighter he’d been paid to destroy by the same people who owned it, and the apparent execution of his friends wasn’t enough, he was now locked in a cell with the man responsible for the worst day of his life.

    ---

    “This is insane!” Pes, standing on a stool, yelled through the small transom window above the door of the room he and Amanda were being held in. “We’ve done nothing to you! Let us go!”

    “Don’t bother, Pes.” Amanda, who was sitting on the floor in a corner, said. “Don’t you get how prison works?”

    “Sorry.” the Terugan muttered, slowly climbing down. “I don’t like small spaces. Sorry.”

    “Don’t worry, Pes. There’s a way out.” the other mercenary said, pulling what looked like a fancy hairpin out of her long, curly dark hair. “They did us a favour. Tanari prison would have been so much harder to get out of.”
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Malygos Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:03 am

    [Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon]

    At the moment those words left his mouth, Keichi found a curved, wicked sword at his throat. Veyelan's sword, of course. "Is that a challenge, Keichi?" she asked, her voice low and exuding danger. "This outsider is a Pirate Lord, remember - claimed by merit and might, just as you. Or do you fear the presence of outsiders at your own limited power?" She smiled, knowing Keichi was naught but talk here, spinning the sword in her hands and sheathing it at her back. "If you wish to join me in the dueling yard, I'll eagerly accept - I certainly could use the practice, and the extra manpower of your crews."

    As the hologram came up, Veyelan put her hand up to her cheek. A wicked, black scar was on her face, running down her left cheek, where the Sword of Avalon had struck her. "My my," she whispered. "You have an interesting story. A pity our contest came to an untimely end, I would so love to be the end of that story." Now that was a thrilling battle. Looking upon the hologram, she could almost picture herself there - her crew cornered, with only one woman standing between them and the terrible storm that was Arc Vekhta.

    That woman, of course, was her. Sword in one hand, chain-whip in the other, she kept the Arc at bay long enough for the rest of her crew to escape to their ship - and pick her up along the way. Her last footsteps upon her homework of Vykon - metal of the docks beneath her feet, two lengths of powered metal between herself and death. Exquisite. "Arc Vekhta. I know her well enough to know that most of us would be destroyed in battle with her. Yet most is not all - I fought her to a standstill, once, after all." Her grin grew greater, manic, even. "Vengeance, is it? Good, then we fight for the same. A few of my best men died to that young lady, men I've drank with, campaigned with, and who at my side brought low the worst and the best the galaxy had to offer." Blood for blood. Red for black. Oh, this was going to be fun.

    "And, Ciro, you forget one resource. A fleet protected by Vykonian cloaking fields, ready for ambush. If we can get the jump on her...well, let's just say that i have a little surprise for the young lady."

    -----

    [ Battleship Vengeance, Vykon system ]

    Arc Zyandar allowed herself to relax a little. She expected some pushback, but apparently Caiaphus being willing to indulge his new ship satisfied him. Good. Her own ship meant her own crew, and her own preferences. And, frankly, the Kraken's Grasp was a match - even a superior, individually, to almost any ship she'd seen in the New Order fleet. "Very well, then, Arc Caiaphus. I hope you enjoy your new toy." She paused a moment. "I believe that between the two of them, the greater threat is Veyelan. Aerenvas commands legitimacy, yes, but Veyelan is the one leading an active terrorist resistance cell against the Order, even after its most recent pacification." As well, she knew Veyelan well - admired her, even. "She is, without exaggeration, one of the finest military officers I've ever had the privilege to serve with. She will be a formidable foe - and I have no doubt that the future attempt on Liquid Metallicon will be hindered by her presence. Better, than, to bring together all our forces and crush them beneath our might."

    Hopefully, with her newfound ally crushed in her former commander's grasp. "While she's useful dead or alive, I believe the right move will be to capture her alive. She already serves as a rallying point for the rebels, far more than Aerenvas does - her death will remove a powerful foe, yes, but it will create a great martyr. And fine as she is, a military officer is replaceable." She looked to Caiaphus meaningfully. As replaceable as we are. She nodded, examining a set of data. "Recently, my own spies have picked up a large amount of traffic in Liquid Metallicon - particularly around her base. Exotic materials, strange drugs, weapons...and this." She brought up a hologram of a large block. "An unknown import from a station in deep space, specializing in contraband of rare creatures. I know not what it is, but it is large. Be ready for anything."


    -----

    [Secret Base, ???]

    From his desk, Zul'balec-Aerenvas, long-time Majordomo to the First Ascendant of the Vykonian Ascendancy, and speaker for the exiled Council of the First, sighed. "That abyssal woman..." He sighed, sipping a glass of Vykonian wine, an old mariners' song playing in his office. He always loved those old songs - such a simple world they spoke of. Where the only concerns were piling the rope, tacking into the wind, and voyaging forth to explore the dark reaches of the waves. A world that, now, sat light-years away, under the occupation of an enemy that aimed to crush them utterly.

    He let out a sigh, examining the blade of his former master. Granted to him. Not won in battle, nor in a transition of power - a last laugh to the occupying force, that they would never possess the ancestral blades of the Vykonian. Won by battle and blood, and a forever symbol of leadership of the Ascendancy. And now, for the first time in centuries, separated. One, in the vaults of the damned New Order, granted back to that damned traitor. He knew that elevating her was a liability - the upstart had proven his suspicions so correct. So unfortunately correct. The blade in his hands was a long, curved, slender blade, black as blood, and with a shimmering pattern of waves upon the hilt. The metal of the blade seeming to almost flow as he viewed it, a pattern so lovingly etched into it by some ancient smith, so long ago. A sword made so terrible, the tides themselves would cow before it. "Rule," it was called, for that was what it offered and symbolized - "I ask always why he gave you to me. Was it mere vengeance? Or did he really intend I, less a warrior than any others who claim it, would be his heir?"

    The last words of the First Ascendant, Veirn'alaran-Rynzos, his dearest Vzin...

    He replayed that day many times, in his mind. "Take the blade. Go. I will die for the Ascendancy - it is you who must live for it." A last spite to the enemy? A declaration of heir? A final, desperate offer to a lover? Had he not ordered otherwise, Aerenvas would have stood by dear Vzin's side until the very end.

    Vykonians had four names - one given by their family, used mostly by children. A second, indicating their rank - 'alaran' for the First Ascendant, 'balec' for those closest to his household - personal servants and members of the Council of the First, 'corvis' for colonial highlords and grand masters of armies and fleets, 'delos' for lower Primes of the fleets and Alphas of the armies, and so on and so forth. The third was claimed by oneself when one reached adulthood, commemorating some deed they did - Aerenvas's own meant something like 'A whisper in the right ear, at the right time' - deposing his father to become head of his family by the right whisper into the right ear - Aerenvas was never one to get his hands dirty. No need for that kind of risk. The last...The last was something greater than the other three. It was spoken only to those one trusted with one's own heart, and would turn their back on even as the blade was drawn. Usually, only the closest would know. Siblings, sometimes - the closest of friends, but most often...

    Aerenvas shook his head. It was not time to muse on these things. Vzin would not want him to. No, the importance had to be this - to hold the Ascendancy, what remained of it, together. To gather enough power to avenge him. Whatever that traitor, and that damned woman thought, it was Aerenvas that had been granted Rule. He would do his duty - he would lead them to vengeance, and then to victory.

    A knock at the door, as the slender majordomo sighed. "Come in, please."

    An attache, dressed as sharply as Aerenvas, though with less decoration, entered. Vykonian as well. "Majordomo, I have news. The resignation-"

    He waved her off. "Please, I'm already well aware of it. The Secretary-General's failing health has been no secret among those in the know -" and I am always in the know, he thought.

    She bowed, expression giving away her nervousness. Aerenvas couldn't help but frown at that. Too obvious an emotional display. It was difficult, of course, but one must never give away their eagerness - lest it be supposed as either sophistry or ambition. Difficult, this one. "There are four candidates aiming for the presidency. Gaius Malcovus of Pasaje, Former Malchiorian Secretary of State Blake Krieger, Lijzhora of Byron, and..." She frowned.

    Aerenvas waved her off. "Don't worry - I'm well aware of that last one. A difficulty, but one we can adjust for. I care little, I admit, for which one ends up as the leader of this petty gathering of nations..."

    "But sir," she said, "Couldn't Malcovus help us achieve our own goals?"

    The majordomo raised an eyebrow. "He could, yes. But we cannot be seen favoring someone - not yet." He smiled. "Why gain the aid of one, when I can hold what all four desire?" Her heart and mind were in the right place, but she had much to learn. Unfortunate. Perhaps he would need to use a different one in the presence of these four - someone less questioning. Still, she was useful enough. Perhaps he would not have her sent off...

    He sighed. "Well, let us discuss business. Send a transmission to Gaius Malcovus."

    ---
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:05 pm

    [ Aerisgard, capital world of the AKD ]

    Such rapturous applause had not been heard in the ancient streets of Aerisgard since the old days of the victory of the Ta'har Empire.

    Thousands of Lurian troops burst into salute as the Emperor himself emerged into view, making his way down the vast marble steps leading from his imperial palace, flanked on either side by honor guard resplendent in the white-and-gold plate armor of his household guard. Gabriel Ascheron himself wore ornate golden power armor, covered fully on one side by a velvet cloak draped over one shoulder, affixed with a clasp displaying the sigil of the AKD. Seemingly every square inch of the city had been filled as the people of Aerisgard poured out to get a rare glimpse of their emperor, and hundreds of tanks had been brought out on parade to mark the occasion. Ascheron raised a hand to gesture for silence, and slowly the applause faded into but a murmur. He began to speak, his words broadcast not only across the AKD, but much of the FSA itself.

    "By now most of you will know that I intend to become the next leader of our fledgling alliance. Indeed, many of you will be questioning - respectfully, and rightfully - why I have chosen to pursue this course of action when I am of the firm belief that the time for democracy has passed. The simple fact is that we, as a people, cannot sit idly by and watch as the free worlds of our galaxy are betrayed by corrupt democratic politicians!"

    A roar of applause sounded from the gathered crowds, before Gabriel gestured again for calm.

    "The people of Malchior are a good, proud people, but under their stewardship this alliance has served the interests of Malchior, and Malchior alone. These cowardly politicians fear war, and believe that a path out of this conflict exists through bureaucracy and negotiation. No such path exists. The only way this war shall be won is through war itself. That way, and not another. Through the exercise of the ultimate craft by its ultimate practitioners!"

    Another roar sounded, and Gabriel grinned.

    "For too long this alliance has faltered under weak leadership. I will unite our fractured worlds under the same principle by which I have governed this empire that has stood for three hundreds years: One people! One army! One leader! No longer shall we sit idly by as our worlds are picked off one-by-one - we shall take the fight to the New Order itself! We will cut a swathe straight through the heart of it, we will overwhelm them, and we separate the head of Sefer Yetzirah from her godsforsaken spine!"

    Even the heavily regimented and indoctrinated infantry burst into thunderous applause, their own officers joining in the celebration.

    "Sieg Luria! Sieg Malchior! Sieg Tybion! As long as I draw breath, the light of galactic freedom shall never be extinguished! Not now, not ever! Long live the alliance!"

    ---

    [ Liquid-Metallicon, many hundreds of metres below sea level ]

    Aboard a small submersible, a middle-aged Darisian shook his head disapprovingly at Ascheron's broadcast, and reached a hand over to turn off the display it was being shown on. Months of isolation under the surface had dulled his mind and senses, but he still had sense enough to know a snake oil salesman when he saw one. He tapped away at a console, murmuring half-formed words to himself, his eyes darting back and forth across the screen in front of him.

    "I have nearly all the information I need."

    He grinned as he saved the file, then stood up from his seat, knocking over a stack of disks and paper. The submersible was a mess; it had previously been a Tanari espionage submarine that had made its way onto the black market after the fall of Tanar, and had then been acquired by Cade's current employer for his use. Now, it looked more like a university dorm, with rubbish, fatigues, and half-eaten food strewn about. Cade himself looked worse for wear; gaunt, his orange skin turned pale and desaturated from months without sunlight, blending in with the white markings that ornamented his face like naturally-occurring tattoos.

    He reached up to the ceiling of the submersible, sliding cables in and out of ports to activate the long-range communications. Tapping into the local communications infrastructure on Liquid-Metallicon was sufficient for most purposes, but not for this. Not for contacting the Lovian system.

    At the fore-end of the submersible, just in front of the vast octagonal window that offered a view out to the murky ocean depths below, sat a holoprojector. Cade knelt, cleared some papers off it, and it sprung into life, displaying the image of a tall, disapproving insectoid creature looking down at him.

    "Forgive me, my lord. Such little time to prepare, but so much work."

    Arc Zabaton offered no response. Arc Zabaton, who had rescued Cade and his twin brother Cale from their stranded freighter. Arc Zabaton, who held Cale hostage pending the outcome of this mission.

    "I have been watching for months. I know the identities of most of the pirate lords, as well as information about their bases and flagships."

    Zabaton offered a guttural, clicking retort, and Cade didn't need to wait for his artificial voice to kick in and translate it. Transmit everything.

    "I will send you all the information I have. They have no idea I've been accessing these systems. This submarine has shielded me perfectly."

    Cade rose, and walked back over to his console, transmitting the data.
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Claymore Thu Feb 11, 2021 1:08 am

    [ Battle of Adorra, Vongola ]

    The two hulking forms of the warsuits detached their parachutes a few meters above the ground, dropping the remaining distance and landing with a true that reverberated the ground under Dreis and Cassandra. Dreis gave a lazy salute, which Cai-Wei imitated in the mech before turning and climbing the sandbag bank, the whine of hydraulic servos filling the air. The hessian bags popped under the weight of the suit, sand trickling down to form small mounds.

    The hinged hatch on the back of the RHINO hissed open, and Gerry Arwell clambered from the cramped cockpit. His shirt was slick with sweat, but a wild grin graced the older man's face. "That was a fucking trip."

    Dreis laughed and extended a hand, clasping Arwell on the forearm. "You never forget your first time. I'm Dreis Bright. Dallas told me about you in his communiqué. Good to have you on board Mr. Arwell."

    Arwell returned the handshake. "Gerry. Now who's this?” he nodded to the bleeding and battered Cassandra.

    "One of Figlio's agents." Dreis opened his mouth to say more but Arwell was already pacing over to Cassandra. He knelt by her side.

    "Figlio, he's your boss. Where is he? I have to reach him. It's in his interest to get to know me."

    ***


    [ Herald, New Order fleet staging post, Lovian System ]

    The war room aboard Herald was a low chamber with a vaulted ceiling. Low, yellow light provided dim illumination. Banks of arcane technology hummed in recessed alcoves in the walls of the room, twinkling with indicator lights. A LIDAR scanner pinged occasionally as the fleet shuffled, various craft changing positions to provide a constant rotation of active craft at high alert on the perimeter of the staging area. Herald was near the centre of the pod of warships, a menacing chunk of rock surrounded by splinters of dark metal that were the New Order ships.

    Arc Zabaton paced in front of a plinth-like table. A holographic map of the sector was laid out before zir. Liquid Metallicon was a point of yellow light at one end of the table; the fleet was a cloud of red chevrons at the other. A smaller Akkar approached Zabaton, proffering a dataslate. The alien Arc laughed before his translator garbled into life. "The time is come for us to make Liquid Metallicon quake with fear. Prepare my Gurakto for battle. Have them hunt these… Pirate Lords. I want one alive, and one dead for a trophy!” ze proclaimed.

    The smaller Akkar nodded before tapping away at the tablet. Arc Zabaton splayed zirs hands on the map and laughed. The subjugation of Liquid Metallicon was within zirs grasp.



    Last edited by Claymore on Thu Feb 11, 2021 7:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Post by drj Thu Feb 11, 2021 5:25 am

    <Tanari Homeworld, Shifter Hideout>

    “Can you feel anyone coming?” Amanda whispered to Pes, as they both made their way down the corridor.

    “Their presences are unusual…” The Terugan began to blink very quickly again. “Fading in and out… but something’s getting closer…” Suddenly, he opened his eye wide, grabbed the portable fire extinguisher that was attached to the wall, spun around very quickly and set it off in the face of the shifter that was heading in their direction with a rifle. As the shifter coughed and tried to regain his sight, Pes smashed the extinguisher very hard into his face, which seemed to be losing its shape and colour, knocking him out.

    “Damn, man.” an obviously impressed Amanda said, as Pes grabbed the unconscious shifter’s rifle off the floor.

    “You didn’t think I became a merc just because I was psychic, did you?” said Pes. “I think I can feel Carney nearby. Let’s go.”

    ---

    Ashton thought back to several years ago, back when the Tanari-Takemikazuchi war was just rumbling. Along with a number of other mercenaries, including his crush Regina Faral, he’d been hired to infiltrate a convoy and prevent a precious cargo from reaching Pi’lar IV. Said ‘cargo’ had turned out to be Amy, a woman who had been kidnapped and genetically modified by a mad professor named Komolovsky, who was using her as a prototype for an army of super-soldiers which could have been used to defend Pi’lar.

    Amy never made it to Pi’lar IV, a fact which possibly had something to do with it being levelled by Tanari forces as soon as it became clear the Pi’lari would prefer to side with Sefer Yetzirah. Not that Amy cared by that point - she had resolved to stay as far away from the conflict as possible, indeed act as if it weren’t happening whenever she could, to spite those who tried to set themselves up as her puppet masters. She moved to Atuar Sadiares, a privately-owned space station that was a vast trading hub and home to several hundred thousand people, where she met a man called Nikolai, and they set up a reasonably successful restaurant together. Ashton had stayed in touch with her, and as the war escalated and the only assignments on offer became ever darker, he spent more and more of his free time on Atuar Sadiares with them. It became his home away from home.

    Even though - or rather, because the station was located in neutral territory, it was always viewed with some suspicion by the warring parties, who would have preferred to control it. Its owner, a Terugan businessman whose name Ashton could never remember, did his best to keep everyone sweet, but any concession he made to one side inevitably attracted the ire of the other. Eventually, the Tanari Confederation became convinced that the Malchiorians were using the station to smuggle weapons and troops to neighbouring sectors. Nothing could be done to disabuse them of this notion, and one day, a Tanari fleet surrounded the station and, after breaking through its meager defences and boarding, their soldiers took it sector by sector, killing thousands of civilians in the process. Amy and Nikolai were never seen again. The Tanari did claim to find some Malchiorian weaponry in the cargo bays - debate over whether they were found or planted, somehow, continues to this day. Ashton was off the station on an assignment at that point. Some tried to tell him this made him lucky. He wasn’t so sure.

    He never forgave the Tanari for that. And now, not only was he stuck on their homeworld, but the Tanari responsible for that atrocity was sitting right in front of him, looking like a right old smug bastard.

    His looking around for something to batter Van Smoot with, however, was interrupted by the sound of something - a key? - scraping inside the door lock.

    ---

    Richard swanned into the control room, looking very pleased with himself indeed and humming a happy tune. Finally, he had outmaneuvered both Aster and the Tanari. Aster and her wing of the MRF would have to cooperate at last, and then, together, they’d finally strike a blow against the oppressor state they’d remember for a very long time. He was so happy it took him a minute to realise that nobody else in the room seemed to share his mood.

    “Dick, we have a problem.” another shifter, who had assumed the form of a tall, older bald man and was wearing some sort of headset with a small visor attached, said. “All our surveillance systems, external and internal, are down, and one of the guards in the prison wing hasn’t checked in in several minutes.”

    “How can they be down? You checked them yourself yesterday.”

    “Unknown. I have people en route to the prison wing.”

    -----

    <Tanari Capital City, Movement for Rights and Freedoms HQ>

    Aster stood on the HQ roof, taking in the view of the city skyline. It wasn’t what it used to be - not all the damage from the war had been repaired and what had been rebuilt was but a shadow of its former glory, and some very ugly residential and other buildings had been built under Allman. Nevertheless, she found the view often helped her come up with better ideas. Not this time, though. This problem required much more than that. Richard, her former friend, had been trying to get her to abandon her political philosophy for a long time, and had now seemingly found a way to leave her with no choice in the matter.

    At first, there wasn’t even an argument. Shifters had been organising in secret ever since Allman’s coup, and the war with the Takemikazuchi only gave them more confidence as the Confederation had much more important things to deal with. When the war ended and the regime had - on paper - fallen, they were quick off the blocks. The closure of the detention camps was but a formality, ending compulsory military service for shifters didn’t take much convincing either - Silver Eachan was eager to make a big show of ending compulsory military service altogether to please the populace and show the galaxy he was a real reformer and serious about peace. But gradually, they lost momentum. Shifters wanted real action on de facto segregation and discrimination (‘You can’t trust them! They’re never honest, they don’t need to be!’), voting rights (‘What’s to stop you voting fifty times, eh?’), labour conditions (‘You can shape-shift your way out of any little accident, right, why should I spend money to make my workplace safe?’), and so many other things, and Eachan’s government, increasingly unpopular, was becoming less and less flexible. And so, many, including Richard, began to think it was time to become more radical, rise up against the unjust society.

    In some ways, Aster found it hard to blame them. Progress was getting harder and harder, wider Tanari society desperately wanted to pretend things had already been solved, when they hadn’t, and after a devastating war many could think of nothing to give meaning to their lives other than conflict. But she was never going to countenance shedding shifter blood, launching a de facto civil war, ending any chance of a unified Tanari society forever. No matter what Richard and the other radicals were telling themselves, kidnapping and impersonating a general and bombing a military base to break out a bunch of mercs was political violence in her book, even if it was in the hopes of eventually making a point about shady covert operations in the middle of an election campaign, and sustained political violence against the majority population in an empire still recovering from an experiment with fascism could only ever end one way for people in the shifters' position. Besides, she was Tanari too, damn it. This wasn’t their state yet, but it damn well should be.

    Aster’s musings were interrupted by the sudden appearance of what appeared to be a human wearing a black outfit and a light grey scarf, just casually floating in the air in front of her. There was something eerie about him - not the fact of him effortlessly floating in the air, she was used to such things at this point, but that he had a peculiar lack of presence about him. When looking at him, one couldn’t quite shake the feeling that one was possibly hallucinating the whole experience.

    “Yes. You deserve a share of all this too.” the man said, making a vague hand gesture.

    “Wh-?” Aster, shocked, struggled to get basic words out of her mouth. “I… didn’t say anything.”

    “You didn’t need to, Aster.”

    “How do you know my name?” Aster finally got out.

    “I know many things, including how to solve your immediate problem.” the man said. “I will show you where Richard is hiding.” As he said it, Aster suddenly got a vivid vision of what looked like a vast, abandoned resort a few hours away from the capital. She recognised it - she, Richard and David Robert Jones used it as a hiding spot on their return to Tanar during the final stages of the war. Apparently it hadn’t been redeveloped yet.

    “Who are you?” she persisted in asking. “Why are you doing this?”

    “My name in my native tongue means very little in these parts. I prefer the name ‘Blackout’.” he replied. “As for why, I am merely a good citizen, and because nobody will believe you if you tell them your source anyway.” he added, disingenuously, and then faded away as suddenly as he’d appeared.

    Aster thought quickly. On the one hand, there was no reason to trust this utterly bizarre presence. On the other, it made sense for Richard to use that resort as a base of operations, and if Blackout was giving her a chance to solve this problem before the Tanari government, then she was absolutely going to take it. Even if it played into some other agenda she didn’t know or care about, she had a duty to prevent a potential disaster for her people. She marched downstairs, ready to turn the tables on the radicals and stop them playing with fire once and for all, and then get one over on Silver Eachan her way.


    Last edited by drj on Thu Feb 11, 2021 7:43 am; edited 2 times in total
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Kon Thu Feb 11, 2021 5:41 am

    [ Nil'nara ]

    "Very well," Kakamu nodded, turning back to check on the Torches. Assured that they were listening, he continued. "Now, I know none of you came here for a history lesson, so I'll keep it brief. Those of you who know why I do what I do know that I do it because of the Arokazek - our true enemies, the demons that hide from the angels sent by the Emperor to purify the stars. The Arokazek came to this world as they have many others, harvesting the population for their experiments. Their constant hunts forced us - I mean, the native species - away from the flatlands and into the canyons and caves to the east. By the time Arc Keylana arrived with the salvation of the empire, the Arokazek had left, leaving behind nothing but the broken remains of a once-thriving civilization. Under Arc Keylana's providence, I oversaw the creation of New Kaozu as a city intended to bridge the cultures of the Tekkui and the New Order and allow both to benefit from what each had to offer. The city was founded atop the largest remaining Tekkui settlement, Akotoku, which was spread throughout the system of caves located atop the tombs of the Old Ones. Before the Arokazek forced the Tekkui to take shelter there as their last remaining option, we - uh, the Tekkui - believed that the tombs were cursed and that any trespassers would be consumed by the Old Ones' guardians."

    "So guess where we're going!" Deacon shouted, cackling sarcastically.

    Kakamu ignored him. "Anyway, three galactic standard days ago, one of our frigates in the system, the Aquilla Torque, picked up an emergency transmission from New Kaozu. This is what it contained."

    Pressing an unseen button on his mechanical wrist, Kakamu projected a hologram onto the forest floor, bathing the area in a pale blue light that contrasted against the red, flickering torches around them. Visible in the light was a bald male humanoid wearing simple robes who had an elegant tattoo on the side of his head. The man seemed panicked and out of breath, with beads of sweat visibly dribbling down his forehead.

    "I… am Vestum Tau-36," the humanoid gasped, breathing heavily. "I am a Psymancer of the Psymancers' Guild, Vestum Chapter, life-bound to Her Greatness Arc Keylana. I was assigned to this post by Her Greatness to ensure the successful conditioning of the native population. I believe…" the Psymancer paused, wincing while clutching his head, "...that the situation has gotten out of our control."

    Deacon shook his head dismissively, taking a seat on a nearby log and pulling a nutrition bar out of a pouch to eat. Irscha and Niita stood beside Kakamu, watching with interest but concern, with the blue fin atop Niita's head pricking up to betray her curiosity. PAL simply stood in place, emotionless while he watched, holding his rifle in a neutral stance.

    "It's the dreams," continued Tau-36 morosely, shaking his head. "It started with the goddamn dreams. The Tekkui reported having strange dreams that urged them to leave the city and go deeper underground. We thought it could just be a side effect of the conditioning at first, a subconscious desire to escape, but then it spread to the humans too. After I viewed the dream myself in one of their minds, it seemed to spread to me that night. I had dreams of giants… gods… oh god, it's like a plague… I can't get it out now, it's too powerful, drawing me down there… more powerful than anything I've ever felt. The others are gone now. I couldn't get them to stay with the dream in our heads. All I can do is send this message. Know that I have failed you, Arc Keylana. But perhaps... a more glorious destiny awaits me now. The glory of the throne of the kingdom of the chzcvcvgxvyn…"

    Kakamu deactivated the hologram as it degenerated into static, glancing at Arc Vekhta to gauge her reaction. "That was the last communication we've had from New Kaozu to date. Subterranean scans from the Aquilla Torque indicate the presence of life in the caves, but there's some kind of… electromagnetic distortion now, we can't make out which species they are, nor how many are left. Intel seems to indicate the presence of a psychic threat, so ingesting psyblock is recommended for all mission operatives. Unless… that won't be necessary for you, Arc Vekhta," Kakamu concluded.

    "Assertion: I am not required to ingest psyblock for this mission," PAL spoke, a series of motors whirring inside the grille of his mouth as he did so. "This robotic form is immune to psychic threats. In fact, I am immune to most threats that would pulverize your pathetic meatbag bodies. End assertion."

    "Speak for yourself, PAL," Irscha interjected. "That's the attitude Yertraf and Dermityay had on our last mission, and I don't need to remind you what happened to them."

    "100% of my memories are fully stored and accessible at any time. Unlike yours." What followed was a strange grinding noise caused by the motors in PAL's mouth. "Pathetic human brains."

    "Anyway, I've been in those caves before," Kakamu said, resting his hands on his waist and looking out into the forest. "A lifetime ago. Maybe even longer. The Old Ones hid their treasures well, but I didn't come back with a dream that wouldn't go away or with delusions of giants or gods in my mind. I know which way we'll need to go to get to the tombs, but not what to expect on the way there. What do you make of this, Arc Vekhta?" he asked, turning to face her again.


    Last edited by Kon on Thu Feb 11, 2021 1:11 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : removed duplicate newlines)
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    Post by Klak Thu Feb 11, 2021 8:39 am

    [Vongolan Local Space, Diamond Dogs Starship Stairway to Heaven]

    Hercules smiled and nodded at Dallas. He put his gun back into its holster at a snail’s pace. While the pair had many dealings in the past, a healthy bit of mistrust was the key to survival for spies and mercenaries alike.

    “They killed Ross Palermo, Mr. Dalton,” Hercules lamented. “Another Malchiorian killed in this damn war. A war we didn’t ask for, years after another one we didn’t ask for. You tell me what the bloody point of all this is, Dalton.”

    --

    [Battlefield near Adorra, Vongola]

    Cassandra sneered at Dreis’s comment.

    “No honor among thieves nor among mercenaries,” she taunted.

    Suddenly, Cassandra’s expression changed to a more serious one. She reached to her thigh and seemed to press a button. Back at her base, her handlers lost the footage coming from her vision.

    “It’s true that I preferred Uteriach. He was a Rider with a vision for a more just galaxy. But Figlio...Don’t underestimate him,” Cassandra warned. “He’s planning something. No one knows what it is, but it’s something my agency is increasingly nervous about.”


    Cassandra pressed the button again, and the footage coming from her vision returned back at the VPR base. Her brief warning undetected. Her handlers would simply chalk it up to a glitch in the system.

    “I am loyal to the VPR, something you could never understand!” she declared all-too-perfectly.

    When Gerry entered, Cassandra pursed her lips. She coughed.

    “What business do you have with the Generalissimo? You realize I can’t just let you waltz up to him,” she said.

    --

    [Battle of Sards, Vongola]

    Julio quickly crossed his arms, activating an energy shield. Nevertheless, the kinetic energy pushed him back. His heels dragged through the ground as he gritted his teeth. Julio looked back up at Thomas, his eyes and mouth one of the few visible parts of his otherwise fully armored body.

    “It will take more than that to stop me, Kane,” Julio spat.

    He twirled his spear then pressed a button on it. The spear suddenly charged with energy.

    “Now die!”

    Julio then threw it directly at Kane’s head.

    -

    Several of the soldiers guarding the artillery cannon were instantly killed by the lasers and mortars. More troops poured out, firing their guns at their exosuited enemies. One soldier pulled out a beam saber and slashed at an exosuited soldier.

    Meanwhile, there was another artillery installation that had been set up on a hill not too far from where the skirmish had broken out. Suddenly, a squadron of seven warriors clad in hulking black armor, helmets, and various markings seemed to appear out of nowhere. These warriors fired their blasters at the VPR troops. In minutes, the artillery installation was cleared out. An explosion of green flame obliterated whatever was left. The squadron of black-armored warriors disappeared without a trace.

    --

    [Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon]

    Keichi growled at Veyelan, baring his sharp teeth. He continued growling after Veyelan sheathed her sword. Meanwhile, Ozar glared at Baze Ishikawa.

    “That’s enough,” Fourteen warned. “Akzer, you had your hand raised. You may speak next.”

    “Those who doubt the Pirate Lords always end up being surprised, one way or another,” Akzer said with a smile. “I appreciate your warning, Zolo. A former slave of Baze’s run amok. But Ciro is right too. We can get the FSA, we can kill Treskis’s killers...and we can kill Arc Vekhta. We create our own monsters, and we can slay them too.”

    “Very well,” Ozar replied, nodding. “Unless anyone objects, the plan is as follows: Ciro and Veyelan, and whoever wants to join them, can work on finding a way to kill this Arc. Others can figure out ways to sabotage their fleet. Keichi, you and I will work on bombarding the bastards who killed my cousin, Treskis. Akzer, you will be our emissary to the FSA. Any objections?”

    The Pirate Lords began to chatter amongst themselves. Some pointed at Zolo in heated arguments. Fourteen crossed his arms and glared at each one of the Pirate Lords present. One could be forgiven for thinking that the telepath was secretly trying to “convince” everyone present to follow Ozar’s lead. Kismota shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

    --

    [Presidential Estate, Malchior]

    The staff of the Presidential Estate rushed here and there. They had received word of President Klak’s predicament. The Vice President had been notified. A fleet of Malchiorian ships were on standby, ready to make an FTL jump to the Moon of Vonilla. No one wanted a repeat of Yuy, after all.

    Someone on the comms team quietly walked into the Chief of Staff’s office.

    “Emily,” he asked.

    “Yes, Sam?”

    “I was looking over the President’s schedule for the week, and…”

    “Why were you looking at his schedule?” Emily replied, raising an eyebrow.

    “I found it pertinent,” he said. “Look, I noticed something. And Leo and Josh noticed it too...”

    Sam sat down and breathed in.

    “Why did the President choose Vonilla?” he asked.

    “What are you talking about?” Emily scoffed. “You’re worried about the venue at a time like this?”

    “No, look,” Sam said, pulling up a holographic display of Klak’s schedule. “There’s two hour gap between the supposed arrival to the moon and check-in.”

    “Oh come on,” Emily blustered. “Docking can take some time, especially on a place like that.”

    “But 2 hours?” Sam countered.

    Emily stayed silent for a moment. She sighed.

    “Sam, part of your job means there are certain things that you cannot know,” she said. “Now I may be allowed to know about this, and Leo may be too, but I’m afraid even if I did know I’m not able to discuss it with you at this moment. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. Alright?”

    “Alright,” Sam nodded.

    “Alright,” Emily echoed. The two stared at each other for a moment.

    “I’ll get to work on the statement on his safety and our security measures,” Sam said, turning and leaving the room.

    Emily sighed again. She would have to ask someone to scrub that missing time slot from Klak’s schedule. Only a handful of people in the galaxy could know just what Klak did on Vonilla before actually arriving at the moon.

    --

    [Office of Gaius Malcovus, FSA Assembly Building, Malchior]

    Gaius leaned back on a chair as he read from a briefing hologram. He furrowed his black brow as quietly analyzed its contents and planned how it would affect his campaign. Once Gaius finished, he dismissed the hologram and turned to the chocolate wood bookshelf that decorated one of his walls. He wrinkled his forehead, lost in thought.

    Gaius was a learned man in many ways. He was born to a Dachori father and a Pasajem mother. Although Gaius looked more like a Pasajem with his violet skin and elvish ears, he inherited the occasionally glowing eyes of the Dachori. Gaius’s father, who had changed his name from the traditional Rider naming convention, regaled him with tales of the Dachori people throughout Gaius’s childhood. The boy learned of their belligerent attitudes and of how their empire met their end millennia ago. He also heard of the suffering the Riders endured after the wars. Gaius’s father’s tales of woe, coupled with Pasajem’s easygoing and peaceful culture, instilled in Gaius an interest in war and diplomacy. Gaius got into a prestigious intergalactic university and spent years building his career. He played important roles in negotiating various treaties after the Tanari-Takemikazuchi War and was pivotal in creating the FSA out of the ashes of the Galactic Government.

    Gaius hoped that the perfect zenith to such a life would be becoming Secretary General of the FSA. He could finally reshape the FSA, and find a solution to the bloody conflict that threatened to destroy the galaxy. And if the FSA prevailed, maybe he could finally forge a new galactic order himself. He was ready to do what was necessary…

    Suddenly, an aide walked in, interrupting Gaius’s train of thought.

    “Sir,” the aide said, “We’re receiving a transmission from Zul’balec-Aerenvas.”

    “Put him through,” Gaius said, in a voice that sounded a lot like Giancarlo Esposito.

    -

    Elsewhere, an FSA diplomat awaited a transmission or meeting with someone from Xazari.

    --

    [Mansion, Fortune Island, Sea of St. Cardozo, Jumano]

    Regina Faral typed rapidly on a keyboard as she downloaded information from a computer. Meanwhile, Lalli kicked a guard back, knocking him out.

    “How much longer?” he asked, his voice filtered through the helmet he was wearing so as to obscure his identity.

    Lalli dodged a punch from another guard. He then struck this guard in the face with an open palm. It helped, of course, that his palm was covered in plasteel.

    “Almost,” Regina replied. “Aaaand, done.”

    She shut down the computer and placed the data key in a small compartment at the side of her helmet.

    “I think that’s the last of them too,” Lalli panted.

    “Not quite,” Regina replied, She grabbed a chair that was definitely there before, and flung it at an approaching guard, knocking him out instantly.

    “I love you,” Lalli remarked with a smile.

    “Save it for later,” Regina said.

    The two leaped out of an open window as guards of various species shouted to each other. They darted past the mansion’s garden and jumped over a gate as the guards fired their weapons at them. A laser blast burst into the ground near Regina’s feet.

    “Keep going!” Lalli shouted as they dashed to the beach.

    A small escape boat waited for them there. The pair jumped on it and drove away as the guards continued firing on them. Regina turned around and began laying suppressive fire, injuring some of the guards but taking the precaution so as to not be lethal.

    “Damn,” Regina said. Both panted as Lalli swerved the boat. “That was a close one.”

    Minutes later, they arrived at another shore. Lalli pulled out a pair of cases that had been hidden on the boat. Both he and Regina removed their helmets and armor and stored the suits inside the cases. Suddenly, they were wearing plain clothes again. Lalli wore a linen white shirt, tan suit, and straw hat. Regina wore a bright red floral dress.

    Lalli stepped out of the boat and held out his arm with a smile.

    “Shall we?” Lalli asked.

    --

    [Vonilla, Deep Underwater]

    Underneath the bowels of the ocean, there was a facility. Only a handful of guards and scientists were housed there, but the only permanent resident was their guest. Their guest had long grey hair tied and a small glowing device imprinted on his shirtless chest. He wore grey pants and a pair of socks. He sat on a bench in his room. The room was more like a cell.

    Lobodracca maldiblestius” the man whispered.


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    Post by Claymore Thu Feb 11, 2021 1:00 pm

    [ Vongolan Local Space, Stairway to Heaven ]

    Dallas ushered Hercules Splendor to follow him, talking as they walked.

    "I'm sorry your man died, Splendor. No one asked for this war in particular. I know you probably think me just a lowly mercenary," Dallas grinned, "But I do lament the New Orders' crusade. It's only going to get worse, I fear. I've got reports Liquid Metallicon is the next world set for 'subjugation'. I know Sefer. She's single minded to a fault, and in this she will not relent, will not abate. You have to prepare Malchior for that."

    They reached Dallas' office, and the slender man poured Hercules a whiskey, setting it on the table and sitting down in a plush armchair; an antique, in fact, from old Earth. Ridiculously rare.

    "Please, have a seat. What did you want to discuss?"

    ***

    [ Battle of Adorra, Vongola ]

    Arwell hesitated. He wasn't sure how much he should reveal to Cassandra; certainly not the whole story.

    "Look, I'm a security systems specialist," Arwell said in a hushed tone. "I get contracted out all over the galaxy, setting up installations. Shields, weapon systems, digital security, the whole deal. A couple of years ago a job came up in the industry, carried a black security rating, highest level. I made it into consideration but opted for a different job on Ordon V. The top secret job was to build a facility, a super prison. It was going to be under a sea on some planet in the Malchior Sector.

    I have reason to believe Figlio's father is there."

    ***

    [ Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon ]

    Ciro nodded her agreement with Ozar's plan before turning to Veyelan as the other pirate lords began discussing their plans. "You fought that ghastly Vekhta, Veyelan dear. That gives us at least something to go on. And now thanks to Zolo we know her motivations. We need to come up with some sort of trap, one she won't be able to resist..." Ciro cast an evil gaze to Baze Ishikawa and grinned wolfishly. "I think I have the perfect bait!"

    ***

    [ Herald, New Order fleet staging post, Lovian System ]

    A cluster of spheres dropped from the belly of Herald, small green drive flames guiding the pods away from their mothership. Each sphere was a few metres across, radiator fins and sensor booms extended. A single curving glass window allowed the beings inside a view of their surroundings, and a recessed engine at the back spat superheated Hydrogen3 in a plume of exhaust gas, propelling the craft forward.

    In the single, dark, cramped cabin of each pod was an alien, a dark carapaced insectoid with various chunks of machinery grafted onto its exoskeleton. These were Arc Zabaton's Gurakto, a species of dog-analogues that the Akkar had modified over the centuries to become living weapons, using them as hunting tools. The addition of sophisticated New Order technology to their alien forms allowed them to be controlled as remotes; vicious, sentient drones that Zabaton could deploy to hunt zirs prey.

    The spheres pointed themselves toward Liquid Metallicon, and a wormhole opened ahead of them, suspended in the darkness of space by Herald's generator. The wan light of Liquid Metallicon's star shone through the rent in spacetime. The spheres accelerated, passing through the wormhole, which snapped shut behind them.

    ***

    [ Heyerdahl Corporation Headquarters, New Harpenden, Ordon V ]

    Graff Heyerdahl pinched the bridge of his nose, attempting to dispel the pressure that was slowly mounting like a dark cloud in his head. He took another sip of the stale coffee. Spreadsheets and dossiers were strewn across the table in front of him. 3d Holographic projectors modelled complex charts in sparkling red light, and a computer at the side of the desk displayed a rapidly updating scroll of numbers and data. He'd been in the office for 33 consecutive hours now.

    The merger with Nanodyne was nearly complete, but the process had been far from easy. New Order representatives were putting mounting pressure on Heyerdahl to commit to a side. The FSA, meanwhile, were aloof, only interacting with his emissaries when it suited them. The air of projected calm infuriated Heyerdahl; he knew that behind that guise was absolute chaos. The FSA was in disarray this close to the election and with increased New Order activity creeping ever nearer their home systems.

    Nanodyne represented the newest of Heyerdahl Corporation's acquisitions. A medical nanotechnology manufacture, Nanodyne was a shrewd investment as war began to grip the galaxy. But the company's leadership was archaic, and replacing it with Graff's people had given HR a week long nightmare of shuffling personnel and striking deal after deal, promising this office wouldn't lose its autonomy, and that manager would still keep their bonus. Graff Heyerdahl was fed up with it. He was an ideas type of guy; he tried, as much as he could, to leave the implementation to other people. But times were tough.

    Pavinder, his PA, entered the office. She carried a fresh cup of coffee and a pastry on a plate; Graff perked up at the sight of that. The dataslate tucked under her arm dashed his mood back down again, though. Pavinder placed the coffee and pastry down in front of him, Graff snatching up the danish immediately. Pavinder proffered the dataslate. "I've finally got through to the FSA. They have a representative available for corporate calls for the next few hours. You'd better get on to them, I heard Xazari are wanting to open talks with them too."

    "Damn. Thanks Pavi," Graff smiled. "You're a lifesaver."

    Pavinder gave Graff an awkward thumbs up before leaving him with his pastry. He sighed. It was going to be another long evening. He punched the call icon on the dataslate, opening a link with the FSA diplomat.

    "Hey, this is Graff Heyerdahl speaking, Heyerdahl Corporation. It's good to talk to you."
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    Post by JS Thu Feb 11, 2021 8:03 pm

    [ Nil'nara ]

    Arc Vekhta nodded in approval. "I can't say I know what to expect. But it's clear the people of this world need our help, and we cannot afford to let them down."

    She slid something out from under her robes; what looked at first to be a silver-and-black dagger, but as the 'blade' split in half to form a crossguard, was instead recognizable as a sword hilt. Arc Vekhta ignited it, and with a crack of superheated air, a glowing red circuit-board pattern in the rough shape of a sword blade manifested above it, crystalizing into a solid form - then another crack, another circuit-board pattern, filling in the shape further, and then a final matrix of hardening light which filled in the remaining gaps, producing a glowing red sword blade which warped the very air around it, casting an eerie glow across the clearing. Kakamu recognized it as the Blade of Avalon, a personal relic of the Emperor herself. It was a bastard sword, with a long, thin cross-guard and an extended grip suitable for both one-handed and two-handed use. Vekhta held it out in front of her - for illumination more than anything else - as the group made their way towards the caves.

    "I want to caution you, Kakamu. If rogue or malevolent psychics are behind this, you should prepare for the possibility that the minds and bodies of your kin may be turned against you. But I speak from experience when I say that a life as a slave is no life at all. We... must not hesitate in our task, regardless of what we find."
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    Post by drj Fri Feb 12, 2021 7:38 am

    <Vongola, Battle of Sards>

    “Do you speak in anything other than clichés?” Kane taunted, running out of the way of the spear and peppering short burst laser fire at Tulio as he did so. He then picked up a giant piece of debris almost the same size as Tulio, and hurled it at him.

    ---

    The soldier with the beam saber, as it turned out, got lucky, slashing the exosuited soldier’s chest cannon just as he was about to fire it, causing it to launch him backwards.

    Another exosuited soldier took several bad hits to his joints, and found himself immobile while he and the exosuit’s internal systems scrambled to repair the damage. The others continued advancing on the artillery cannon, hoping to stop the bombardment of the city.
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    Post by Yenot Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:14 pm

    [Moon of Vonilla]
    The young girl blinks in confusion, jolting her head back slightly in shock of the order. Sighing she acquiesced.

    "Not the reaction I would have foreseen, despite my spells. Though, I suppose I should expect no less form the one my master sent me to reach out to."

    With an arm across her stomach, she bows to a 90 degree angle, rises back up, and begins tracing runes into the air, each one hanging there glowing an arcane purple until a full circle of glyphs is completed. The glyph flaring and she is gone.

    [Vonilla orbit, Adriatica Cargo Bay]
    In the same instant, a congruent flash heralded the arrival of this young woman at her approximate destination. Magic is fickle, and does not always put the wizard? Sorceress? Warlock? Witch? where she desires. Taking a look a round, she see's she's in luck and where she landed is deserted. Taking a moment to catch her breath and steady herself, thinking she got a way cleanly, she breathes deep and retches on the floor.

    "Gods be DAMNED. I hate using that spell. Makes me sick every time."

    A flick of her wrist and a gesture, a single glyph twinkles, cleaning the mess. Checking a small device on her wrist with readouts, she ascertains her heading. She does some calculations in her head and pulls out a book of her satchel, skimming over a passage briefly before tracing a different set of glyphs into the air, though these are less complex than the ones seen earlier, and shimmer between violet and ultraviolet before adhering to her skin, and removing her from view.

    Stepping through the halls she makes her way carefully around, noting the ship having very little crew to begin with. She eventually finds a lone crew member tending to a console in a side room. Slipping in quietly and invisibly, she produces a dagger to slit the crewman's throat
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    Post by JS Fri Feb 12, 2021 6:46 pm

    [ Moon of Vonilla ]

    Marines stormed into the hallway Klak and Canaan were left in, surrounding them, rifles trained. A sergeant wearing a red beret readied her pistol, and closed in on them.

    "Do the right thing and surrender, Klak. Don't try anything funny." she said, reaching for a pair of handcuffs on her belt. "People's lives are at stake."

    Canaan turned to Klak and whispered in his ear. "I hope you've got a plan, Mr. President. I didn't break my way out of a New Order prison camp just to get dragged right back into one."

    Meanwhile, aboard the bridge of the Adriatica, a systems officer dismissed a notification about a temporary pressure imbalance in the cargo hangar. Aboard the Pacifica, the chief weapons officer reported back to Captain Massa that they had acquired a firing solution on the Station, and the boarding torpedoes were ready if needed.
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    Post by Malygos Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:46 am

    [ Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon ]

    Veyelan's lips curled into a smile. "A plan it is. Glory to the one who kills her - which should be me, but I'm not against sharing it, in this case. Just be careful - she fights like a cornered animal, and that's when she has the upper hand."

    She glanced also at Fourteen, giving him a winsome smile and blanking her mind. Some of the monsters of the deep places of Vykon had some degree of telepathic ability, used to lure and anticipate the movements of their prey - as such, Vykonians had developed an ability to 'blank' their mind, rendering them all but immune to being influenced - or read - by telepaths.

    "Now, dear Ciro - tell us about this 'bait' of yours..."

    ------

    [Office of Gaius Malcovus, FSA Assembly Building, Malchior]

    The thin, almost gaunt face of Zuln'balec-Aerenvas appeared on the viewscreen, his almost-doubled pupils always serving to give that look that he was looking at more than just the person in front of him. "Ah, Gaius Malcovus. A pleasure to see you again." His lips curled into that easy smile of his. The background was scrubbed of identifying details, as usual - Aerenvas did not want his enemies finding out.

    "I'd heard of the announcement of your candidacy, Malcovus - and I must say, it is refreshing to see a man of wisdom and experience learning. Especially given...well, the threat posed by certain other candidates."

    His expression took a dark turn. "I speak, of course, of the malignant xenophobe Gabriel Ascheron. While the other two candidates I am willing to find acceptable, Ascheron represents as much an existential threat to me and my people as the New Order does." He leaned forward. "It is essential that someone of means and power leads the Alliance, in such unprecedented and dark times - but also one whose attitudes are not as...medieval as that one's."

    The dark pall passed, and Aerenvas's slight smile returned. "But of course, let us talk business. I believe that the two of us could help one another. We possess common enemies, and it would strengthen both of our positions - both in the Alliance, and on Vykon."
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by redwolfmoon99 Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:24 am

    [ Fleet Carrier Hermes, Local space around Malchior, Malchior System ]

    "We're entering Malchior space. Permission to request landing permissions, ma'am."

    Placing the glass of fine vintage wine gingerly onto the mahogany desk within her well-appointed quarters, Brianna D'argent, Xazari Corporate Council-assigned diplomat to the Free Systems Alliance, laid a finger upon her holo tablet, replying to the notification from the ship's captain in a calm, deliberate tone.

    "Permission granted. Send the diplomatic package as well, and prep the landing team. I'll be heading to the first hangar bay in 10 minutes."

    With the message sent, Brianna picked up the wine glass once more, swishing it around gently as she drained the last of it and stood up to prepare for the upcoming meeting. Once cleared, the Xazari ship, a Monarch Space Industries-manufactured fleet carrier, soon took position near Malchior, its escort detachement of escort carriers, frigates and corvettes mainting a loose but alert formation around the capital ship as they awaited further response from the FSA.

    -------

    [ Supercarrier Amatsukaze, Diplomatic Meeting Point, Hokka System ]

    "Honoured diplomat. We have arrived at our destination."

    Without looking behind him, Kurokawa Kohei nodded, the confirmation all the young woman needed as she left the room with a respectful bow to go and notify the ship crew and the rest of the delegation. After but a second longer, the diplomat stood up from his kneeling sitting posture, his meditation concluded for now as he left his personal chambers to prepare for the meeting with the New Order delegation. The aged diplomat nodded a brisk greeting as his honour guards fell into step to his sides as he crossed the threshold, the elite corporate soldiers provided to him by his nephew, the chairman of the Kurokawa Keiretsu.

    As the diplomat gathered his delegation for the coming meeting, the Xazari fleet, consisting of the rather old but no less potent behemoth Amatsukaze, pride of the Kurokawa Keiretsu corporate navy, alongside its accompanying escort complement of escort carriers, frigates and corvettes, moved into position, keeping a wary defensive formation a moderate distance away from the New Order fleet. Giving his uniform some final adjustments as the crew of the supercarrier bustled about the spacious bridge, the captain of the Amatsukaze then broadcasted the proper identification codes and greetings to their New Order counterparts, as per the agreed-upon protocol.
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by drj Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:47 am

    OOS: This post brought to you by Let Your Heart Hold Fast by Fort Atlantic.

    <Tanari Capital City, President’s Residence>

    “So, what you’re telling me is that Long fucking Shortman, that Long fucking Shortman, decided to defect and tell you all about some secret weapon Sefer is building on Bendu, which is basically a fucking asteroid?” Silver Eachan barked at the hologram of Sylen Kurze. “And I’m supposed to take this, and you, seriously, even though it sounds like absolute nonsense?”

    “Mr. President,” Sylen pleaded. “I had much the same reaction when we interrogated him. But the New Order forces did attack us. Halen Karsso was killed, and I suspect both Shortman and the Malchiorian agent accompanying us may have been too. I was lucky to make it back to Tanari space. Even if he was lying or incorrect, we must take the possibility seriously!”

    “Don’t fucking tell me what I must do.” Silver said. “But… you’re not wrong. Thank you for your service, Colonel.”

    “Thank you, Mr. President.” Sylen replied. The intelligence officer was visibly relieved. “Sylen Kurze, out.”

    Silver sighed, sat back down behind his desk, and moved to send an encrypted transmission. There were two calls he needed to make, and the first was to Gabriel Ascheron.

    -----

    <Orbit of Malchior IV>

    As one would expect, the orbit of Malchior IV was a busy place, with military, transport, exploration and commercial ships coming and going at all times. Accidents did happen, of course, but they were increasingly rare. One particular heavy transport, the Hyperion, was just exiting drydock after routine maintenance, while at the same time, another transport, the Julius was entering orbit.

    On the bridge of the Julius, the crew were going about their usual duties, when suddenly, Blackout materialised in the air, apparently hanging upside down from the ceiling. It took them a second to even notice him, as they couldn’t be sure if they weren’t just imagining it, and before any of them could do anything, a faint blue light filled the room, and all of them suddenly returned to their consoles as if nothing had happened.

    Much to the confusion of Malchiorian flight control, the Julius suddenly sped up and its bearing altered slightly, putting it on a collision course with the Hyperion. Repeated demands from both flight control and the Hyperion to alter course were seemingly ignored by the bridge crew, who seemed to be in some sort of trance, and every time the Hyperion tried to maneuver out of the way, the Julius would change course again. At this point, Blackout smiled, and faded away. The Malchiorians finally scrambled a cruiser to intervene, but it was too late - the Julius struck the Hyperion’s fusion reactor, engulfing both ships in an almighty fireball. Radioactive debris was scattered throughout the area, and some of it even began to fall into the atmosphere.

    -----

    <Orbit of Melchior Colony 07 “Yamato”>

    Just minutes later, a similar scene recurred in orbit of the New Order capital, as a heavy fighter with a similarly entranced bridge crew rammed into a freighter with similar consequences, as Blackout observed the explosion from his perch on top of the hull of a nearby warship, smiling serenely, before disappearing again.

    -----


    <Tanari Homeworld, Outside the Capital City>

    The black van rocketed down the empty, battered-looking highway, suddenly stopping in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. Aster stepped out, followed by a number of imposing-looking male and female shifters, all of whom were drawn from the MRF’s militia. While the MRF was a peaceful political movement, its members, buildings and events were sometimes attacked by extremists, and with the Tanari police not always as helpful as they could be to say the least, an alternate solution was devised in the form of a militia made up of volunteers, mostly army veterans or former members of the resistance, who would serve as guards in their free time. Of course, they had not signed up for quite this sort of mission.

    Aster walked up to one tree in particular, and placed her hand on it, hoping that what she was about to do would still work. The scanner hidden in the tree recognised her, and the ‘trunk’ opened up, revealing a cache of heavy weapons hidden there by the anti-Allman resistance years ago.

    “Alright, guys, listen up.” Aster turned to the militia members, who lined up to arm up. “You all know the mission. We don’t want anyone to get hurt, but since Richard and his people have turned much more violent, we have to be prepared for anything. Above all, we need to get their prisoners out alive. Is that understood?”

    “Yes, ma’am!” said the militia members.

    “No need for that.” said Aster. “Pick what you like, and then we go. The resort’s not far away.”

    “Aster,” one of them, a very tall bald man now holding a large EM rifle, asked. “You still haven’t told us how you know where they are.”

    A shadow passed over Aster’s face. “I can’t say. Not yet anyway. I don’t even know if I’m right.”

    -----

    <Tanari Homeworld, Shifter Hideout>

    The door swung open, revealing Pes. “Oh, for god’s sake.” Van Smoot said. “Do you really have to disguise yourself as this cyclops filth too? I know you’re shifters, but have some bloody dignity!”

    Ashton, who was on a hell of an emotional rollercoaster, was too stunned by his friend's reappearance to acknowledge the Tanari general’s blatant, gratuitous racism. “Pes!” he cried out, running to hug the Terugan. “You’re alive!”

    “Er… yeah, I am.” the confused Terugan replied, returning the hug.

    “They told me the Tanari had you all killed.” Ashton stammered out. “I guess they were just fucking with me.”

    “Come on!” Amanda cried out from the corridor. “We don’t have much time before more of them turn up.”

    “Who’s that guy?” Pes pointed to Van Smoot. “Didn’t you interrogate me back at the base?”

    Van Smoot stood up, trying to puff out his chest, which just made him look faintly ridiculous. “I am General Ernest Van Smoot, security advisor to the President and hero of the Tanari! I’m not some mere interrogator! I've never met any of you before! I am being impersonated!”

    “Vok’s balls, what’s with him?” Pes said, making a face as if he were Jim from the Office or something.

    “A mass murderer and a total clown.” Ashton sighed.

    “I put down threats to my homeworld, and I will make no apology for that!” Van Smoot continued to intone, wagging a finger in Ashton and Pes' faces. “What have you ever done?”

    “Guys!” Amanda walked into the room, flanked by the two other Terugans in their party, one of whom was holding several guns they had found in a nearby closet and began silently handing them out to the other mercs. Being left with one extra, he awkwardly handed it to Van Smoot. “We really need to get going! We can discuss the definition of war crimes later.”

    The party walked out of the corridor, followed by a still befuddled Van Smoot, and down the stairs into what appeared to be an abandoned hotel lobby. As they were about to leave, a burst of gunfire suddenly rang out, and several plasma bolts burned through the front door and struck one of the Terugans in the chest, killing him instantly.

    -----
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Klak Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:58 am

    [Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon]

    Fourteen sneered at Veyelan. His sneer turned into a smile. There was a reason he had the name.

    “Bait?” Keichi said exasperatedly. “Seriously? Why can’t we just shoot that human in cold blood like when we killed that Viladian pirate six years ago?”

    “That was different, and you know it,” Fourteen replied.

    “How so?” Keichi asked.

    “It was a dispute over cargo, and he wanted to raid Xazari frigates using our ships, not any of his,” Fourteen clarified. “AND a lot of people in your crew, and in mine for that matter, still have some scars from that day.”

    “You should see the other guy!” Keichi chuckled.

    “Just a moment,” Ozar interrupted. “I want to hear Ciro’s proposition.”

    Akzer leaned over to Veyelan.

    “Isn’t it true your people have some kind of government-in-exile?” he whispered. “I wonder if we could have a use for them.”

    Meanwhile, at the dance floor, the man with jet black hair, an equally black shirt, a blue uniform, and a holster with a pistol in it from earlier sipped on his drink. A hulking blue skinned alien wearing cargo pants, a white sleeveless shirt, and a large brown wool hat stepped up to him and poked his shoulder.

    “That’s my spot, pal,” Jedediah Stormen said, threatening the man with jet black hair.

    The man looked around with a confused look on his face.

    “Seems like there are plenty of spots here, chief,” he replied.

    “Nuh-uh,” Jedediah replied in a drawl. “That there’s the best one. And you’re in it. So move.”

    “Eh...no,” the man said, sipping on his drink again.

    “Look, pal,” Jedediah said, his voice rising. “Do you know who I am?”

    “Nope,” the man replied sardonically.

    “I’m Jedediah Stormen, intergalactic outlaw! Nobody fucks with me!”

    The man continued sipping, saying nothing. Jedediah growled.

    “I owe a favor to Kismota, so I won’t kill you in here,” he snarled. Jedediah picked the man up by his shoulders. The man’s eyes widened in amusement. He continued sipping as Jedediah dragged him out the door of the club.

    “Alright, you son of a qrat,” Jedediah said. “Time to die!”

    The man with jet black hair rolled his eyes. He continued sipping. At breakneck speeds, he pulled out the pistol from the holster at his side and pulled the trigger. Jedediah’s eyes rolled back as he collapsed to the ground unconscious.

    “That there wasn’t a killshot,” the man whispered. “Only because this drink was so damn good.”

    The man left as alien bouncers rushed to Jedediah.

    --

    [Office of Gaius Malcovus, FSA Assembly Building, Malchior]

    “Truly a pleasure,” Gaius replied with a smile. “And I agree. I know someone like me is not part of Ascheron’s “perfect” universe. We have many common interests. And rest assured that part of my platform is dedicating some of our resources to ensuring that your government returns to power on Vykon.”

    Gaius nodded, then seemed to raise an eyebrow, anticipating what Aerenvas would give in return.

    --

    [Moon of Vonilla]

    Klak smiled.

    “Of course,” he replied, and glanced at Canaan. His comment was subtly meant for the both Canaan and the sergeant.

    Klak flicked his wrist.

    “I do wish you wouldn’t bring out handcuffs,” Klak asked in a somewhat insincere tone. “Some journalist might be watching. Plus, they hurt my wrist.”

    Klak flicked his wrist two more times. A bright purple light briefly flashed through one of the veins on his face.

    Meanwhile, the Malchiorian battlecruiser continued its slow departure from the station’s dock.

    “I sure hope Klak knows what he’s doing,” the Malchiorian admiral said, his knuckles gripping the edge of his chair on the ship’s bridge.

    Jefferson nodded as he looked worriedly into the stars.

    -

    [Vonilla orbit, Adriatica Cargo Bay]

    Two physical runes suddenly materialized in front of the girl. They slowly reformed and became ethereal bound weapons: one a sword, the other a gun. Just in case she needed extra firepower.

    Suddenly, a portal opens. A black man in a black exo-suit fell out.

    “What the--?” Bob asked. “I was back on Malchior training when…”

    He looked around the cargo hold, noticing the floating weapons.

    “Why am I on a Tak ship? Wh...This is Klak’s doing, isn’t it?” he asked to himself, unaware that someone was nearby.

    -

    [Vonilla orbit, Solar Ship Thoth-class, Khafrite]

    Pharaoh Osiris was watching everything on a throne. He peered into a holographic display of the events on the station; the display emanated from a device that looked like a scrying bowl. Osiris’s laughs echoed throughout the golden room, reaching up to the ceiling that was decorated with countless hieroglyphics. He sipped his chalice of wine, hoping to see what would happen next.

    --

    [Fleet Carrier Hermes, Malchiorian Orbit]

    A hologram of a Malchiorian woman in a jumpsuit [link: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/03/82/3e/03823ee384a5e1dac53b8926f979eb59.jpg don’t know the source] appeared onboard each ship. The emblems on her suit indicated that she was an officer of the Malchiorian port authority.

    “Crew of the Hermes and fleet, your codes have cleared. You may land whene-”

    Suddenly, outside in space, the Julius and Hyperion crashed into each other. The fireball blazed as alarms began ringing on the other side of the holocall.

    “Oh crap,” the Malchiorian officer cursed. “Hermes, standby, there’s been an accident. I repeat standby! There’s too much debris for you to land!”

    Meanwhile, numerous fighter ships scrambled to shoot down the debris that was inching toward the atmosphere. On the planet’s surface, some of the debris was shot down by cannons. But other areas were not so fortunate. A remainder of the debris crashed onto a city, killing a few and causing damage to multiple buildings. Alarms rang throughout the city. The authorities dispatched numerous fire rescue mechs to the scene.

    --

    [Beach, Fortune Island, Sea of St. Cardozo, Jumano]

    Lalli Cain and Regina Faral integrated themselves into the tourists present at the cabana. They laughed and shared drinks with people they met on the cruise. Guards from the Mansion walked around the area, but were unable to find the mercenaries. Their cover worked perfectly.

    --


    [Vongolan Local Space, Stairway to Heaven]

    Hercules sat down.

    “Malchior’s been preparing. I couldn’t tell you how many contingencies and nightmare scenarios they have, and those are just the ones I have the clearance to know about,” Hercules said shook his head. “But more people are going to die, Dallas. More soldiers. That is, unless we do something about it. Unless we take a third option..chart our own path.”

    -

    [Battle of Adorra, Vongola]

    “Don’t you bullshit me, Gerry,” Cassandra scoffed. “You must be lying. And there’s no way you’d offer than info so easily.”

    Cassandra grunted as more fluid seemed to ooze out of her wounds.

    Back at the base, one of Cassandra’s handlers’ jaws dropped.

    -

    [Vongola, Battle of Sards]

    Julio blocked the laser fire and laughed. However, his haughtiness was short-lived. The piece of debris slammed into him. Julio rolled down the hill and grunted.

    “J-just a flesh wound!” he shouted. Julio stood up and looked at his battered armor, cursing in K’thaan. He grabbed a fallen soldier’s gun and fired it at Kane.

    -

    The soldier with the beam saber nodded at his victory and charged at the other rebels. Some of the other VPR soldiers were killed by the incoming gunfire, the plasma bolts burning through their suits. Others fired back, hoping to take down their attackers.

    A grenade landed near a group of three VPR soldiers. Its explosion caused the ground to shake as the three soldiers were blasted back and killed.

    --

    [Undisclosed Location, Malchior]

    An adamah Malchiorian agent crossed his arms. One of his eyes was red, befitting his heritage. His other eye, however, was pale, an injury courtesy of the New Order forces he escaped from a few years ago.  

    The adamah was sitting at a desk in front of Nadle, an old friend of Klak, veteran of the Vrai Wars, and currently a highly ranked intelligence commander.

    “Can’t believe he left,” the adamah said, incredulously.

    “This could be a major leak,” Nadle sighed, rubbing his forehead.

    “If you need me to go after him,” the adamah replied.

    “No, no,” Nadle dismissed. “We’ll deal with it soon. Focus on your own mission.”

    “Understood, Director Nadle,” the adamah replied.

    “You’re dismissed,” Nadle said with a smile. “And seriously, don’t go after Hercules. We’ve got this covered, Rain.”

    Rain looked around, and nodded.

    “Yeah, absolutely.”
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Sat Feb 13, 2021 12:35 pm

    [ Emergency Holo-meeting of the Arcs Primis ]

    The image of the destroyed colony of Yamato hung in the center of the room. What had started as a simple shipping accident had evolved into the loss of Shangri-La's capital colony; the destroyed freighter plummeting into the outer surface of the cylinder, rupturing it, and provoking an unprecedented civil disaster response. Tens of thousands were dead, and hundreds of thousands more were still trapped within the emergency shelters buried within the colony's walls, waiting to be rescued.

    Arc Jinzo was the first to speak. More machine than human, the Arc stood nearly nine foot tall with a thin and skeletal cybernetic frame that barely fit within the field of view of its holoprojector; fellow Arcs would recount how, upon their first awakening, Jinzo had immediately been driven insane with disgust at the flesh prison it had been born into. It had torn away at the meat it had been bound do, substituting it for wiring, cybernetics, and so much steel. Now, the only remaining aspect of the divine form Sefer had bestowed upon it was its brain, locked away inside a metallic skull that resembled the combustion chamber of some ancient engine more than a recognizable human visage.

    "We should order an immediate retaliatory strike on Malchior." opined the Arc, a single eye-like lens rotating about the circumference of their head as they looked for reactions from the gathered Arcs. "My fleet can be there within days."

    "Has the Emperor been made aware?" interrupted Arc Azon, an adamah with an appearance that could've seen him mistaken for the late Edward Allman, were it not for the pale grey skin and red eyes. "The Emperor must be made aware immediately. We cannot let this go unanswered. Even for Malchior, this is bold-"

    "You are correct on that account, Azon." replied Kyydan, a wave of tacit deference falling over the other Arcs as he spoke. "This is too bold, even for the Malchiorians."

    "With all due respect, Kyydan, now is not the time for philosophy - it is the time for action. We must make the Emperor aware, order a full scale assault-"

    "The Emperor does not wish to be disturbed. Her undertaking on Bendu is crucial to the outcome of the war."

    "Then - how do you propose we respond to this?" asked Arc Isha, who resembled a slightly younger version of the Emperor herself. She cut off Azon, sensing that the next words out of his mouth would cross the line into full-blown insolence.

    "Klak is many things. A terrorist is not one of them." replied Kyydan. "For now, we shall observe. The perpetrators of this attack shall eventually be dragged forth into the light, and on that day we shall apportion responsibility for these events - that day, and no sooner. We shall not run headfirst into further violence with only supposition as evidence."

    "This is outrageous!" replied Arc Azon. "They are laughing at us on Malchior! Laughing, and plotting the next attack, and the next. Once these savages learn they can get away with such brazen terrorism, there will be no stopping them. I will take my fleet to Malchior and burn the world to a crisp."

    Silence fell across the meeting, and Azon locked his gaze on Kyydan.

    "Master-at-arms of the Pegasus," came Kyydan's response. "Terminate Arc Azon's command."

    At that, Arc Azon disappeared from the meeting as he was dragged from the holographic podium he was stood upon; muffled yelps of confusion and protest played through his audio link before being silenced by two pistol shots. A New Order marine stepped onto the podium, appearing within the meeting, and knelt respectfully.

    "It has been done, my lord."

    "Good. All remaining operations shall continue as normal. And Arc Jinzo - keep an eye on your wild dog Zabaton. I fear his lust for battle may jeopardize our military build-up in Lovia. He has dispatched advanced scouts to Liquid Metallicon, and as such I have had to send Arc Vekhta to ensure he has no intentions beyond scouting."

    "I understand." came the response from Arc Jinzo, and with that, the meeting concluded.

    ---

    [ Lovian System ]

    In truth, Arc Vekhta had mixed feelings about the upcoming pacification of Liquid-Metallicon. She knew first-hand the evils of that world; slavery, piracy, wanton violence and bloodshed. It had no place in an orderly, peaceful galaxy - the one Sefer was striving to create. But she knew the people of the world would not submit without a fight; be it the pirate lords themselves, or their brainwashed minions coerced into fighting against their better interests. On Vykon, once the government had fallen, the civilian population - generally - submitted. Liquid-Metallicon had no real government, and no real civilian population. And it was a world where a rifle hid behind every blade of grass.

    The New Order would liberate Liquid Metallicon - that much was certain. The question remained as to whether anyone on the world would be left alive to enjoy their new-found freedom.

    Her fighter pulled into the hangar bay of the Andromeda, Captain Garland already awaiting her arrival in the hangar's observation lounge. The Arcs Primis were dissatisfied with Arc Zabaton's conduct during the military build-up, and had sent her to assume informal command of the invasion fleet, and, more importantly, to ensure Zabaton itself didn't escape its leash.

    ---

    [ Moon of Vonilla ]

    "He's using his powers!" shouted one of the marines. "Take him down!"

    At that moment, the station burst into chaos; the marines in the hallway began firing at Klak and Canaan, but Canaan thrust his palm forwards, projecting a barrier that neutralized the kinetic energy of incoming objects, shielding himself and Klak. The barrier was coming from a palm-mounted device he was wearing, which got hotter and hotter as it absorbed more and more energy, burning him.

    "Let's get out of here!" shouted Canaan, drawing his pistol and firing at the Marines behind them, taking a few of them down. "That way!"

    Throughout the station, Vonillan guards began fighting against the marines; they were outmatched but managed to use their knowledge of the station's layout to their advantage. Multiple dull thuds were heard and felt throughout the station as the Pacifica's boarding torpedoes slammed into it, dispensing their payload into the habitable space within. Rapidly, the Vonillan resistance was whittled down as garbled screams were transmitted throughout their communications channel - warning of a new type of combatant that was mowing through them, seemingly impervious to damage, moving with superhuman reflexes and prescience. The last words of a Vonillan officer sounded across the frequency Canaan was listening to; "God-modding son of a b-"

    "PsyTroopers!" shouted Canaan as him and Klak escaped the hallway, taking cover. "We need to get off this station, and fast. We don't have the weaponry to take them head-"

    Canaan had spoken too soon. A PsyTrooper burst through the wall next to him, a heavy combat pistol in one hand and a combat knife in the other, its gaze already trained on him. Evidently, Sefer had finally perfected the armor design. It wore sleek power armor with dark purple coloration, a far cry from the bulky exo-armor the first-generation adamah had worn during the Tanari-Takemikazuchi war; a low-profile backpack contained the reactor that powered its armor, with two combat knives stowed at the top of it. It was evidently female, judging by its height and figure. From its elbows and knees outwards, it was unarmored, these portions of its limbs being replaced by prosthetics that integrated seamlessly, and matched with, the power armor - to the extent that if Canaan hadn't been involved with the initial development process, he probably would've have even noticed. It wore a purple psychic hood - which resembled a bridal veil more than anything else - over a featureless, full-face helmet.

    And by the time Canaan had processed its arrival, it had already calculated the most efficient way of dealing with him. The PsyTrooper drove its blade into Canaan's pistol, destroying it, then threw him to the side in one swift motion, embedding him in the wall. It sprinted towards Klak, knife at the ready...

    --

    [ Hokka system ]

    Aboard the Mercurus, Captain Hans verified the identification codes, then responded by granting the Xazari delegation permission to come aboard. The New Order delegation was waiting in the ship's meeting room, and consisted of Ohdoko Sano, an orange-skinned Darisian and representative of the New Order's civilian government, as well as the twin Arcs Vodoss and Serano, who as of late had dictated and overseen much of the New Order's economy.

    --

    [ Aerisgard, Imperial Command Bunker ]

    Ascheron sat comfortably in a plush armchair, eating from a bowl of grapes, wearing a crimson-and-gold dressing gown. When the transmission came through, he took it on a handheld phone.

    "Silver Eachan. Now, I wonder, what business could you and I possibly have in common?"


    Last edited by JS on Sun Feb 14, 2021 7:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by Claymore Sat Feb 13, 2021 1:12 pm

    [ Lucky Money Club, Liquid Metallicon ]

    Ciro prowled over to where Baze Ishikawa was seated, running a slender finger along the lapel of his jacket. The finger traced up to his chin, where Ciro grabbed his face, squishing his cheeks forward. One of Baze’s men started to step forward to intervene, but Drake extended a stiff, armoured arm, blocking the man. Drake gave him a venomous look.

    “Mr. Ishikawa here is the reason we have that cur barking at our door. I say we load him onto a ship - rigged with explosives of course - and send him on a crash course with destiny. We make no secret of his little journey, and we fly him right past Vekhta, luring her away from the fleet. She won’t be able to resist the opportunity. And if I’m wrong, and she merely blasts the darling Baze from afar in a flurry of railgun fire, then we have her position, and that's when we commit to hit and run. Your fleet can cloak nearby, Veyelan, and when the trap is set, unveil themselves.”

    Ciro smiled coyly, releasing Baze’s face. The syndicate lord spat and scowled, but dare not say anything.

    ***

    [ Liquid Metallicon parking orbit, shipyard ]

    The spheres powered forward, their black outer hulls soaking up the wan light of Liquid Metallicon’s star. As small as they were, they would only register as debris on the most sensitive of scanners. The Gurakto inside began to stir as their implants activated and the machinery grafted to their forms hummed to life.

    The spheres dispersed themselves through the parking lot, falling in amongst the various ships and shuttles there. Some remained in orbit, waiting for opportune targets, while others found their marks, attaching to the outer hulls like limpets.  Those spheres that did attach themselves to ships irised open, and the dog like insectoids inside clambered out, skittering across the hull, gripping with barbed feet to the nulltherm foam and composite panelling.

    The Gurakto looked for an opening, some way into the ships though access hatches or vents. Others began biting at sensor booms and exposed machinery, acid fizzing from the mandibles of the aliens.

    ***

    [ Battle of Adorra, Vongola ]

    Arwell looked down at Cassandra’s oozing wounds. “I have no reason to lie to a dying woman. And anyway, I know your agency is listening. I’m assuming this is a remote; the real Cassandra is sat plugged into a neural shunt in a secure facility somewhere a few kilometers away.” Arwell stared into Cassandra’s eyes, the weight of his conviction boring into her. “And if it isn’t, then you’ve nothing to lose by believing me anyway. I know that Uteriach is alive. And I’m the best person to know if you want to get him out.”

    At that moment, the distinctive scream of a wire guided missile pierced the air. Cai-Wei barely had the chance to react, swinging the mecha around at speed, IR chaff launchers pumping a haze of foil into the air. "We've got company!" the loudspeaker amplifying Cai-Wei's voice boomed. Dreis unslung his rifle and jogged to the top of the slope where Cai-Wei was blasting out across the battlefield with her mecha's beam rifle.

    ***

    [ Vongolan Local Space, Stairway to Heaven ]

    Dallas nodded slowly, pondering Hercules’ words. “The New Order is tight, but it's getting looser as it spreads, as Sefer recruits more and more Arcs to her cause. There will come a time when there’s a vacuum formed behind all this expansion. That gives us a window. What were you proposing?

    And do you have the money, Hercules? You know the Dogs don’t work for free.”

    ***

    [ Herald, Lovian System, New Order fleet staging post ]

    Strange, lilting alien music filled the bridge of Herald, emanating from a harp-like instrument strummed by an akkar sat on a raised dais to one side of the room. Zabaton stood, statue still, at the command centre of the chamber, looking down on a human New Order lieutenant. The man was covered head to toe by a form fitting space suit, protecting him from the alien atmosphere of Herald’s interior.

    “It appears, Arc Zabaton, that Arc Vekhta has arrived in the Lovian System. She has business with the invasion fleet, it would seem,” the lieutenant reported, struggling to be heard over the alien tune.

    Zabaton inclined zir head slightly and raised a clawed hand. The music stopped, the akkar with the harp shuffling from the chamber. “Does this mean that the invasion is imminent?” the translator garbled.

    The lieutenant shuffled nervously. “No, my lord, it merely means tha-”

    “I am not interested in the habits of the Emperor’s pawns if it does not concern the invasion. Report to me only when the fleet is to attack. Dismissed.”

    The lieutenant hesitated before bowing stiffly. “As you wish, my lord.”

    The human left the bridge, replaced instead by an akkar clad in incredibly dark green armour a similar design to Zabaton’s. The intelligence officer of Herald passed Zabaton a dataslate. Alien runes were scrawled over the screen, and a small, grainy hologram was being played out. Zabaton watched as the Gurakto set about their sabotage, and laughed.


    Last edited by Claymore on Sun Feb 14, 2021 7:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
    drj
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    Post by drj Sun Feb 14, 2021 6:59 pm

    <Tanari Capital City, President’s Residence>

    “Why, good morning.” Silver said. “If you can call it business, I would hesitate to do so. I am going to tell you something I do not know if Klak has gotten around to telling you yet.”

    The President stood up, and looked out his window on the skyline of the capital below. “According to my intelligence, Sefer Yetzirah is building some sort of weapon on Bendu. She has abandoned Shangri-La and moved much of their fleet there to focus entirely on that project. I do not know what it is, only that it is so dangerous it apparently struck such terror into the heart of Long Shortman himself that he fled the New Order and spilled the beans to the joint intelligence task force that captured him, just before New Order soldiers hunted him down and executed him along with most of the agents. It could be a trick, of course, a counterintelligence operation, but until we have more information, the FSA should treat this seriously and prepare accordingly.”

    He paused for a second, then continued before Ascheron could get a word in edgewise. “And that brings me to you. The circumstances call for the candidate best suited to actually dealing damage to the New Order, and I believe you are that candidate, and you should handle the information I give you as you see fit.” He decided not to mention his intuition that a secretary-general… less than entirely enamoured with democracy would likely be better for him personally in terms of domestic politics than a Malchiorian-backed candidate. That wasn’t relevant, after all.

    -----

    <Vongola, Battle of Sards>

    Kane noted the same things about Julio’s armour as Julio himself had, and smiled. He suddenly blasted off using the rocket boosters built into his suit, doing a not particularly graceful flying leap over Julio, landing behind him and avoiding his gunshot in the process. He then reached out to grab the K’thaan, hoping to throw him into another wall.

    ---

    The already damaged and immobile exosuited soldier was hit several more times, and finally killed. Several others were also hit, but not severely. One of the soldiers blasted off into the air using his boosters, doing a grand somersault over the artillery and firing missiles down on it and its operators.
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by redwolfmoon99 Mon Feb 15, 2021 1:26 am

    [ Fleet Carrier Hermes, Malchiorian local space, Malchior System ]

    "Acknowledged, Malchior control. We will hold position and await fur-"

    The captain of the Hermes was abruptly cut off by Brianna D'ardent, the Xazari diplomat and her aides having arrived at the bridge just in time to witness the crisis outside unfold.

    "Belay that, captain. Malchior control, this is Envoy D'ardent. In the interests of diplomatic cooperation between our nations, our forces will assist you in the handling of this crisis."

    With that proclamation, Brianna nods towards the captain, who merely responds with a crisp salute, before relaying mobilization orders to the bridge comm officers to broadcast to the rest of the ships in the fleet. It was scarcely 10 minutes later that dozens of strike craft launched from the Hermes, joined by a multitude of others from the fleet's four accompanying escort carriers, the squadrons comprising a wide variety, ranging from multirole fighters and high-speed interceptors to heavily armed and armoured heavy fighters and torpedo bombers. Racing through the space around the area, the Xazari strike craft pilots, some of them veterans hardened by regular anti-piracy and raider combat, went swiftly about despatching most of the debris and wreckage drifting about space near Malchior, preventing them from damaging local space stations and ports, civilian and commercial shipping and the Xazari fleet itself.

    Unfortunately, due to distance and amount of debris from the collision, the Xazari forces were unable to prevent some of the debris from their crash course towards the planet itself. Despite that, the damage to the spaceborne and orbital elements of Malchior has managed to be drastically minimized with help from the Xazari fleet. The comms silent and disconnected for now as the both the Hermes' bridge crew and Xazari diplomats observed the squadrons mopping up the remained of the debris in space, Brianna affords a sly smile to the captain of the Hermes next to her.

    "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

    -------

    [ Mercurus, Diplomatic Meeting Point, Hokka System ]

    Meanwhile with the New Order contact, things appear to be more positive as the transport shuttle ferrying the Xazari delegation from the supercarrier Amatsukaze effortlessly enters Mercurus's hangar bay. The shuttle, an elegant, luxurious looking craft of the type often used to transport Xazari VIPs and corporate executives, gracefully glided into the designated landing spot that had been set aside, floating above before gently lowering itself as the anti-gravity drive does its work.

    When the shuttle door opened, the first to walk out are the Kurokawa Keiretsu honour guards, four of them moving with almost-mechanical precision, identifying any threats to their charges, before wordlessly taking positions outside of the shuttle. Following that would emerge the senior envoy, Kurokawa Kohei, an aged yet highly respected diplomat in the Xazari political sphere whose nephew is also the chairman of the Kurokawa Keiretsu, one of the older and more influential of the Xazari megacorporations. Walking beside him in step would be the bespectacled and stern-faced Mehmed Ardogan Yesil, the russet-coloured gryphon a high-ranking executive from the Tharwa Banking & Finance company here to mainly deal with the accountancy and economical side of the diplomatic talks. Immediately following behind them are Envoy Kohei's aides, the two keeping up at a respectable distance to their superiors before four more of the ornate Red-armoured Kurokawa honour guards filed from behind and split to either side of the diplomatic party as the group heads on towards the meeting with the New Order representatives.
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    BZPB: Resurgence Empty Re: BZPB: Resurgence

    Post by JS Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:36 pm

    [ Aerisgard ]

    "Bendu?" replied Ascheron, the word catching in his throat. "Bendu... yes, that would make sense. I didn't know Sefer was at Bendu, but... yes, that does make sense."

    Ascheron stood up, and began to pace his study. A vast canvas which spoke of the Lurian victory against the Ta'har dominated one wall; he traced his fingers along it as he walked past it.

    "Malak al-Maut used to tell me that, in the history of the ancient Dachori Empire, there were only three systems that they were never able to hold. The first, naturally, was ancient Terra. The Yuzar could simply write Dachori fleets out of existence, or so the legend says, and so the Sol system never fell to the Riders, who instead quarantined it and stayed well away. The second was Shangri-La, the fortress-solar-system of the Takeshan Empire, who would later entrust ownership of the system to Human successors. I'm sure your predecessor Allman knew all about the difficulties of trying to capture that particular system." Ascheron added, smirking. Then the smirk faded.

    "And the third was Bendu. Only, Malak never told me why Bendu. To this day I'm... not sure whether he actually knew, or not."

    Ascheron returned to his armchair, a concerned expression on his face.

    "A decisive strike on Bendu will galvanize the FSA. Even better if it serves to interrupt or halt whatever dark undertaking Sefer's engaged in. I have plenty of allies within the FSA who will follow my lead, but I need your help too, Eachan. I need Tanari intelligence - I need to know the dark secret that surrounds Bendu that even Malak al-Maut was ignorant of. I need to know what we're heading into." he said, stroking his chin. "And in exchange, you'll gain a powerful ally. One well positioned to help you with your... domestic issues."

    ---

    [ Battleship Mercurus, Hokka System ]

    Representative Sano smiled warmly as the Xazari delegation was led into the conference room. He stood up from his seat at one side of a long table and nodded his head respectfully, gesturing for them to sit across from him. Arcs Vodoss and Serano sat away from the table in two chairs against the wall; observing, not participating. The Xazari could barely make them out from within the gloom, but could see their distorted features; wide cheekbones, long, elongated chins and oversized lips. Not all Arcs were created equal, and it was well known that genetic mutation wasn't uncommon amongst their ranks.

    "Gathered delegates, on behalf of the civilian government of the New Order, I humbly welcome you on board. I must say I was surprised, pleasantly, when I received your request for these discussions. I will take up no more of your time than is necessary, and so shall cut straight to the chase."

    Sano sat down, conjuring up a projection from the centre of the table. It showed battlefield footage - a gunship very similar in design to one of Kurokawa Keiretsu's own, in Lurian Navy colors.

    "The FSA has no ability to protect your intellectual property. Courts on Malchior have no jurisdiction in Luria, and courts in Luria won't hear your cases at all. Your citizens toil away - you invest trillions of credits - to create new technology, only for the FSA to reverse engineer it at the earliest possible opportunity, and leave you short-changed. And this will never change - ever. The capitalism practiced within the FSA is a far cry from the ethical, orderly form practiced by the Xazari; it is a system built to enrich venture capitalists in the short term, with no concern for long-term stability. Conversely, long-term stability is exactly what we have to offer."

    Sano smiled, gauging the reaction of the gathered delegates.

    "There is no intellectual property theft within the New Order. There are no stock markets to be gamed - no venture capitalists to please. True, you will not find short-term profit amongst us. But you will find stability, you will find security, and the means to outlast even your boldest competitors. Make no mistake; this war will soon be over, and the time will come to build an order that will stand for ten-thousand years unchallenged. I offer you the chance, here, now, to be part of that."

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