NationStates Jolt Archive

A most bizarre endeavour - *Aboard the Arthropod* (RP)

06-08-2003, 02:24
"For the last time, my dear fellow Chen, I do declare that the wool is being pulled over our eyes about this whole Triumvirate issue!"

Chen sighed, this conversation had been going on too long, and he just wasn't getting anywhere in trying to talk some sense into his good friend Langford. At least the whiskey he was drinking was good though, Chen resolved to keep drinking it. Perhaps then the nonsense Langford was spouting might then make a degree more sense.

"You just have to look at the facts man! How on earth could any earth-bound nation get up there so quickly, and actually have the technology that they claim to have? It's quite simple once you examine the evidence, it's all a scheme to keep people off Titan until whoever they really are can properly claim it!"

Chen took another large draft from his whiskey as he prepared his response, rubbing his temples to try and fight off his impending headache.

"Look, Langford. I know there are a lot of things we don't understand about the Triumvirate, but surely that doesn't mean they don't exist. I mean, look at Menelmacar...

"Ah-hah! That's who's behind it! It is so obvious, I can't believe I didn't see it before. It's all a scheme by to annex the solar system while we aren't looking. Its the greatest hoax in the history of the human race, and I, Gerard Langford, will be the one to reveal it!"

Chen idley noticed his whiskey glass appeared to have emptied itself again, and methodically filled it while he waited to get a word in edgeways. His chance came as Langford took a breath,

"But, we can detect some structures on Titan from Earth for gods sake! We know there's a huge amount of development there. There is radio traffic and everything!"

"All fake! Have a look at this file, put together by the finest scientists in the land on how it could be faked."

Chen took the folder and began to browse through. He had to admit, some of the information did look good. However, he was also aware the absolutely compelling information a group of scientists could 'prove', if you gave them enough money. And Langford had never been short of money. Sense maybe, but never money.

"So you agree then! There is no life on Titan!"

"I'm not saying anything, Langford. I can see you've done a lot of work on this, and the information is very well done, but you just can't prove any of these fantastical claims. And you've no way to either"

"That's where you are wrong, my good chum. I've been talking to some of my friends in the military and they believe a manned flight to Titan is not that far off. All they need is a little more capital, capital that rich men like us can provide. How about a wager, Chen?"

Chen perked up, solar conspiracy theories might befuddle him slightly, but he knew where he was with gambling. And after all, what did he have to lose?

"You're on Langford. I'll prove you wrong and make a small mint out of it too. What are your terms?"

"Simple. We'll both contribute fifty percent of the costs, and then whoever loses pays the other what they contributed. I've already talked it over with my military friends, and for that much money they are prepared to let me prove my great work. You pull a few strings amongst your political associates and the final obstacles will be out of our path, allowing me to prove once and for all that Titan is a barren rock!"

Chen nods and with a smile the two gamblers shake on it. Langford turns to go, but stops just he reaches the door.

"One more thing Chen."

"What is it?"

"We'll be the pilots..."
06-08-2003, 13:43
Several weeks later

Another gruelling training session completed, Chen emerged into the midday sun and cursed for the thousandth time his detox program, which meant he hadn’t had a drop to drink for the last week. His initial apprehension was beginning to be replaced by an element of excitement though, the launch was only a few days away and he was going to be the first AO citizen to walk on Titan. It was a good thought.

His reverie was shattered by a commotion, somewhere to the right of him. Listening for a moment he could hear Langford’s voice rising over the others, so Chen decided it was at least worth a look. Turning the corner, it was indeed Langford, addressing a number of his supporters from a makeshift soap-box stand. Probably the most surprising revelation of this fool’s errant was the sheer number of people who supported Langford’s crackpot theory. At first, Chen didn’t understand why so many people would be swayed by his ravings, but after thinking long and hard about it, he believed he knew why. The people of Austrin-Ontis had always been a proud people, and always convinced they were the best, at the cutting edge. The existence of space colonies on Titan flatly denied it, and people weren’t happy about it. People didn’t actually believe Langford, they just wanted to believe he was right, wanted to live in his beautiful fantasy, even for just a short while. It was the reason it had been so easy to gain political support, no-one is prouder of what a nation has done than those who can take credit for it.

Good, he wished he could go and have a drink, he never had deep thoughts like this when he had a few spirits inside him.

Langford finished entertaining the crowd, and they slowly dispersed. Seeing Chen watching from the sidelines, he strode over to him, beaming happily.

“Not long now, Chen. Not long until my great work comes to fruition! Are you a believer yet?”

“I’ll be a believer Langford, when I’m standing on Titan and see nothing but bare rock. And not a moment sooner.”

The two began walking towards a large metallic building where they were due for their next training session, zero-g training. As they walked, the sleek shuttle that would transport them into space came into view from behind another building. The two stooped briefly to take in its magnificence, as the brilliant sun reflected off it’s metallic form. It really was an masterpiece of engineering, using the most cutting edge technology available to the scientists and engineers of Austrin-Ontis.

Still no bloody gravity though, though Chen as they resumed their walk towards the next training session.
06-08-2003, 17:52
Launch Day

There is a buzz of activity around the sleek rocket, Risky Venture, as a swarm of engineers check every single aspect of the vessel for possible problems and military officials follow them in mild incomprehension, trying to understand what they are looking for. One thing that is missing though is the press, the launch has been kept extremely secret, as much to avoid possible embarrassment if the mission is unsuccessful than to protect military secrets.

Chen fidgeted in his space-suit, it was far too hot a day to be wearing something so big, and even without the helmet on he was boiling. Langford stood nearby, peering out of the window and watching the final preparations around the ship.

“Marvellous, isn’t it? A marvel of our engineering prowess and a testament to our desire to prove what man can achieve, and how he will not be dissuaded even when the odds are stacked against him”

“Look, could you just give it a rest please. You’ve been trying to sell me this Titan story for the last three weeks and if you are going to rave on about it all the way there, then I’ll have no choice to beat you unconscious to keep myself sane”

Langford chortles and slaps Chen on the back heartily.

“I smell a sore loser! Alright, alright, I’ll drop it for now. I’m too excited to fully articulate my argument anyway”

A third man enters the room, dressed in the uniform of a AO military official and heads over to the two astronauts-to-be

“Mr Langford, Mr Chen. They are ready for you at the ship now. If you’d just follow me”

The astronauts head outside and cross the courtyard to the cheers and applause of the ground staff and military. Langford gives everyone a big smile and a wave, and even Chen can’t resist a nervous smile to their supporters. The Risky Venture towers over them as they climb into the lift, their guide saluting them and then moving away to safety as the lift begins its ascent. The view is incredible as the lift rises above the buildings, revealing the mountains that surround the launch base, and the plains stretching away beyond, without a spot of cloud as far as the eye can see. The lift grinds to a stop, and the astronauts make their way across the boarding ramp into the rocket, Langford not resisting one final wave before going inside.

The rest of a matter of discipline and countless rehearsals of this moment, as they perform the final prelaunch checks just like they have practised so many times before. Tense minutes pass, and then all the checks come back ok. The doors grind shut, the boarding ramp swings aside and the observers move to the minimum safe distance to watch the launch.

Without any great fanfare or announcement, ground control begins the countdown:



“So Chen, this is it! A penny for your thoughts?”




“I wish I’d got around to having some children...”



The ship rumbles as the main rockets fire with a blinding column of light and a deep roar that reverberates across the mountains. The Risky Venture begins it’s ascent into space, to the wild cheers of those below.
Slutbum Wallah
06-08-2003, 19:35
heh heh... funny :)
06-08-2003, 20:43
A couple of days later still

This was just typical, his last chance to stretch his legs and have someone aside from Langford to talk too before the long flight to Titan, and he was having to spend it in a small room with only Langford for company because the station they were docked with, AO DeathSat 1, was a military installation and deemed too sensitive for them to see the inner workings of.

They were here until the engineer finished attaching the high-efficiency liquid ammonia rockets to their rocket that would allow them to cross the great distance to Titan. Even with those, it was going to take 3 weeks either way, a month and a half in a pod that was effectively the size of a garage. The worst thing was, there was practically nothing for them to do, the minor course corrections would be entirely handled by computer leaving only major events to be handled by them.

Langford stared out of the one of the tiny windows on the station, down the planet earth below.

“Look Chen, you can see Austrin-Ontis from up here! And there’s Whispering Voices, and Los Bananos, and the whole Devil’s Desert. You’ve got to come and have a look at this.”

Chen pulled himself over and looked down. He had to admit the view was quite incredible, and for the first time in a long while began to think that his trip into space was perhaps a blessing rather than a chore. And when he thought about it, even if he was wrong and had to foot the whole bill, he could probably make it back on book sales alone. And then there was the lecture circuit, and talk shows. He perked up immediately.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it? Next time I complain about one of your crazy ideas Langford, feel free to remind me of this moment.”

Chen took his camera out of his bag and took a few snaps of the earth below, as well as of Langford and himself. After all, his book would probably sell much better with a few pictures.

“Philip Chen and Gerard Langford. Please report to docking bay one. Your ship is prepared for launch”

They clambered their way through the tunnels to the docking bay, and crawled in through the hatch, sealing it behind them before strapping themselves in. Langford pressed the switch to open communication with the station.

“All strapped in here, command. Mind if we set off?”

“You are clear to depart at your discretion, Risky Venture. Docking clamps have been detached and all personnel have been cleared from your immediate vicinity. We’re all rooting for you here, Mr Langford”

“Thank you. We’ll see you in six weeks”

Langford hit the rocket controls and a deep rumble signified the firing of the primary rockets. Chen felt himself pressed back into his seat as the ship began to accelerate towards it’s final destination, Titan.

No turning back now, he thought
06-08-2003, 22:42
Nine days out

“So, if you don’t agree with my predictions, what do you think will be there?”

Chen looked up from his journal, and once again clipped the pen into the holder on the side of it, to prevent it from floating away in the zero-g. Langford had not been taking his subtle hints over the last few hours that he could use some quiet time. All in all, the trip hadn’t been so bad so far, no technical issues to speak of, and even Langford hadn’t gone on too much. Until today that is.

“You know that I am reserving judgment, I’m not prepared to say either way until I see the actual evidence.”

“Oh, come on. You’ve got to have some opinion. What do you think we’ll find?”

“You want to know what i think? I think we’ll find the Triumvirate just like they say, I think we’ll we’ll find a developed Titan, and I really think you should let me have some peace!”

“Alright, alright. I’ll get back to my reading”

Chen looked down to his journal once again and began to write:

It is day 9 of the journey, measured since we departed DeathSat 1, and I increasingly find my thoughts dwelling on how easy in would be the vanish out here, never heard from by anyone ever again. It would only take a tiny miscalculation to throw us off course, sending us spinning past Titan into the unknown. And if we were ever to reach somewhere after that, then I dare-say myself and my colleague would long since have passed away.

I think my thoughts have adopted this morbid tone because tomorrow we must begin the deceleration procedure as we reach our journey’s half-way point. This is by far the most complex and precise task we have had to perform during our journey, and the possibilities if there is an error are chilling. Secretly, I believe this malaise has afflicted my friend too, though he reacts in a very different way, seeking to banish those thoughts with incessant talking...

“Chen? What do you think will happen if I’m wrong about Titan?”

Chen sighed and looked up from his journal again at the face of Langford, his co-pilot. The worry that was absent from his voice showed itself on his face, and Chen decided perhaps it wouldn’t be so much of a hardship to talk for a little while.
06-08-2003, 23:08
13 days out, 7 days to Titan orbit

Day Thirteen

It has now been three days since we performed the deceleration manoeuvre, and it appears to have successful. We are still on our our projected course and the computer has only had to make a few minor corrections to account for a few trivial factors that have affected our course.

However, today is also the day we have begun to survey Titan. The information that we are gathering is very primitive at the moment, but will improve as we draw closer. So far, we have monitored a large amount of radio traffic from the moon, which seems civilian in nature. Of course, Langford said it is automated broadcasts, whereupon I stated the messages were too variable, whereupon he responded saying you could use a supercomputer to randomly create messages and it said so in his dossier, not that I had ever bothered to read it properly. Needless to say, the ensuing argument did not endear either of us to each other, though the stony silence that remains provides me with a welcome environment to update my journal.

We are also picking up objects on or around Titan using a high resolution video telescope. It looks to me like Titan is at least partially urbanised, and I believe one of the larger objects in the vicinity of Titan must be the ‘World Disc’ that the Triumvirate has previously mentioned in communications, and the largest is the ring, though that is fairly difficult to miss, given it is clearly visible from earth. It's a lot more impressive out here though. I’m guessing that the remaining objects are probably ships, but we’re too far away to say for sure. Of course, Langford has an entirely different theory on what these objects are, but I really don’t have time to list them all here, especially given I have mentioned them so many times before in this journal.

I’d like to try and say hello via a radio broadcast, but Langford has insisted we maintain radio silence so that we can get as close as possible. I think he fears if they spot us too early, they’ll have time to very rapidly build all the things they say they have built already. I did try and point our they’ll probably detect out deceleration rocket burn, but it didn’t sway him.

Aside from this, I believe we are both holding up well. better than I thought we would, anyway. However, I have made a resolution that when this mission is finally over I’m not going to set foot in the same room as Langford for a good six months. It isn’t that I have grown to dislike my friend, but I think after six weeks of only his company we would do well to avoid each other for some time. I had not noticed little things about him before that this trip has made clear, like his slight personal hygiene problem or his incredible range of irritating habits. I believe his journal will likely paint a very similar picture of myself, and to be brutally honest, I probably deserve it too.
07-08-2003, 15:39
15 days out, 5 days to Titan orbit

“Chen? Do you think there is a god?”

Chen opened his eyes drowsily, he’d just been drifting off to sleep. Both of the crew of the Risky Venture were strapped into their beds for their sleep period, with the computer operating the vessel on auto-pilot. Chen generally found sleeping in zero-g quite difficult, but today had been a very long day and he was feeling extremely tired. However, hearing Langford mention god was rare enough to be worth a little time awake.

“That’s an odd question Langford. Something on your mind?”

“I guess it’s just being out here, it’s something you always see in the sky and it seems so far away, so unreal. And now we’re here and it feels odd. Like we are trespassing in somewhere sacred.”

“That doesn’t sound like you at all, Langford. Are you sure you’ve been getting enough oxygen?”

“Hmmph. A man can have spiritual thoughts from time to time, can’t he? And anyway, you never answered my question Chen.”

“Well ok then. Yes, I do believe in God, but you won’t hear me mention it much back at home. It doesn’t tend to go down so well back there.”

“Really? I thought the government didn’t discriminate against religion?”

“The government doesn’t, people do. Side effect of living in an atheist state, I’m afraid. Anyway, my father was a very religious man and didn’t really give a damn what others thought, I think I got it from him. Of course, I’m nowhere near as vocal about my beliefs, but I still have them.”

“So what do you believe then?”

“I believe that there is some kind of divine intelligence watching over us, that was in some way responsible for an aspect of our creation. And when we die, we go somewhere else to live on eternally”

“Do you believe in hell?”

“Not as such. I believe the worst hell would be to just stop existing when you die.”

“Interesting. That’s something I never knew about you Chen. I’m glad we had this talk.”

“Hold on, we’re not finished yet. You haven’t told me anything about what you believe”

“I suppose that’s only fair, but I’m really not sure what I believe. Most of time I don’t believe anything at all, I believe that religion was just something that humanity came up with in the distant past when they couldn’t understand the world around them. I guess I believe in science, not religion. But then, just occasionally I feel something else, like a connection to something greater than I can describe. Something that makes me question my shallow beliefs in science. I’m getting that feeling out here.”

“I never thought of you as the spiritual type Langford, even just for a short time. I guess we live and learn. I suppose I should of guessed, anyone who came up with this scheme in the first place has got to be hearing voices that no-one else does”

“Oh shut up Chen. I'm going to sleep. Goodnight”

“You know I'm only joking. Goodnight Langford”

Chen lay in the darkness thinking about God. He wondered about the last time he had prayed, and realised it hadn’t been for a very long time, certainly several months ago. In his mind, he uttered a quick prayer that the two of them would reach home again and then drifted off to sleep.
07-08-2003, 21:30
16 days out, 4 days from Titan

“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with...S”

“Could it possibly be Saturn? Again?”

“I’m sorry Chen, I’m just not too good at this. I tend to just say the first thing I see, rather than thinking up something obscure”

“I guess we can give it a rest for a while then, assuming you can think of some other way to keep us sane”

Langford looked deep in thought for a moment, and Chen took the opportunity to look out of the window at the rapidly approaching Saturn. It was a beautiful sight and he took a few quick photos, should be good for his book. The two of them were definately getting a little stir-crazy today, probably because this was the last day of finding things to do before the main sensor systems came in range of Titan tomorrow, and then they’d have no end of things to do.

“Okay, I’ve got one. What do you plan to do when you get home?”

“If you’re right, or if you’re wrong?”

“Either, both in fact”

“It’s pretty much the same in either case anyway. I plan to turn my journal into a book of our expedition but I very much doubt I’ll do that straight away. I think I’d hang around until the publicity got too much, doing the talk shows, then go on holiday somewhere sunny and quiet. That should give me enough time to finish my book, and then I’ll come back, do the lecture circuit for a little while. That’s about all I have planned...actually, there is one more thing. As soon as I come back I’m gong to go down to my wine cellar and drink until I can’t walk”

“You’ve got that right, that’s on my list too. Well, what I do depends very much on whether I’m right or wrong. If I’m right, which I’m still sure I will be, I think I’ll probably revel in the publicity a bit, well, probably a lot actually. I’ll also about encouraging our government to stake some sort of claim on Titan, but that obviously won’t be up to me. If I’m wrong, well I guess I’ll probably lie low for a while, probably take a holiday like you suggested. I’m not sure my pride could take talking to all those self-righteous journalists trying to rub my face in my mistake. There is one more thing, but it’s a bit silly...”

“Go on, you might as well tell me. I’ll just keep guessing for the rest of today if you don’t”

“OK, ok, point taken. I think I’ll try and marry Helen when I get back, assuming she’ll have me if I’m wrong”

“Tying the knot at last Langford? You know there’s a pool amongst some of our other drinking companions that you’d hit fourty single. I know for a fact that Addison and Wilks have put some serious money down on you reamining a bachelor.”

“Those devils! The moment we get back I want you to put a big bet down for me that I’ll get married. That’ll show them!”
08-08-2003, 02:30
17 days out, 3 days to Titan orbit

“Main sensor systems What are we seeing out there Chen?”

Chen fixates on his monitor, occasionally turning an array of dials which appears to control the x-y components, as well as the zoom and focus of the high-resolution telescope he is using to observe Titan.

“Hmmm. Two of those large objects don’t appear to be ships, they look more like Shipyards. If they are ships then they are gigantic, and really oddly shaped too. I can definitely see the world disc now, I can even make out some details, thought it’s still not clear what the objects I can see are for at this range. As for Titan itself, it looks completely terraformed and pretty urbanised too, there are a hell of a lot of people down there, or at least that’s what it looks like.”

“Well, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. We’ll see what’s real and what isn’t as we get closer.”

“I can see other objects too, smaller than the ones that could be shipyards. I guess they are probably ships. Jesus Langford, if this is a hoax then they’ve gone to an amazing amount of effort, there’s a whole load of objects out there. Picking up a massive amount of radio traffic too, and EM and IR are lit up like a Christmas Tree.”

“I’ll admit, I expected to be finding some holes in their disguise by this point, but I am not dissuaded. I’m one hundred percent sure we’ll find this is all a trick."

"And how exactly do you explain the Ring? You know, the Dyson Ring which entirely circles Saturn? I'd be fascianted to knoe exactly how anyone would fake that? If you want a closer look, it's practically all you can see out of the port side window!"

"I have to admit, that is fairly undeniable, however we have no guarantee that it was in fact it was the Triumvirate who built it. They could have just found it"

"So, it was aliens now. That sounds a litte weak, Langford"

"The answers are out there Chen. We just have to be patient.”

“Well, we’re only 40 million kilometres out, and unless we trigger final deceleration burn now we’ll scream right past it. Of course, that amount of burn will be fairly easy to detect if they have half decent sensors, and then if we are wrong we can expect some interest at best, company at worst. This is of course assuming that you are wrong.”

“Don’t worry about it Chen. We’ll be fine, we’ll just give them the willies that’s all, when they realise someone is close to bursting their bubble.”

“Well I hope like hell they haven’t got sufficient resources out here to kill to keep their secret safe.”

“Oh. Good point my man. I hadn’t thought of that. Well, I guess there’s no way to avoid it. We’ll just have to risk it. Have you prepared the radio broadcast for home? We might as well send it, since we are going to be fairly loud soon anyway.”

“Prepped and ready. Initiating transmission...transmission sent. Beginning final deceleration”

The ship shakes as the main rocket roars into life once more, gradually stripping the Risky Venture of it’s momentum, and hopefully, if all the calculations are correct, bringing it into orbit with Titan itself in a mere 72 hours time.
08-08-2003, 03:38
Aboard the Heavy Carrier TYCS-HCV Heimdal. flagship of the 1st Titan Combined Fleet

"Day watch manned and reporting ops normal, Sky Marshal."

"Understood, begin fleet maneuvers. Tactical, bring the fleet to Ovoid Echelon Left, please."

"Acting, Sir."

The ships of the fleet glide silently into position.

"SIR! Ferret probe outside the ring has an unknown contact. EM, IR, Gravitic signature. Two life signs aboard. Designating contact Sierra-1.


"40 million klicks from Titan. Wait, definate aspect change. Sierra-1 is doing a rocket burn. Looks like an insertion profile for Titan orbit in 48 hours."

"Comm, get me Starwind at TDF command. Tactical, hack the ferret over to TDF and get them the data-feed. Let them know we are standing by to assist."

<<Ice-9 encryption>>
<<Unknown contact>>
Starwind, Bluesummers here. Had a Ferret pick up an unknown 2 man ship outside the ring. Fowarding all data. Ferret data/control stream on TAC49, it has been hacked over to your command authority. We are standing by to assist.
<<End Communication>>
Sky Marshal Bluesummers
First Titan Combined Fleet
The Armed Republic of Karmabaijan
Triumvirate of Yut
08-08-2003, 03:52
Millions of klicks away, aboard Knive's Edge
"Sir, transmission from the Heimdal. It's Marshal Bluesummers, says it's urgent."

Starwind leans forward a little. "Patch it through."
<<Ice-9 encryption>>
<<Unknown contact>>
Starwind, Bluesummers here. Had a Ferret pick up an unknown 2 man ship outside the ring. Fowarding all data. Ferret data/control stream on TAC49, it has been hacked over to your command authority. We are standing by to assist.
<<End Communication>>
More data pours in as the Ferret is brought over to their control.
"Comm. contact the Dragoon they're the closest to the object. Tell them to tail it, 1000 klick distance, passive sensors only. Also, tell them to prep. their Tesseract drives for emergency manuvers."

He spun to the left a little, to see the relay controller for the Ferret.
"Have the Ferret shadow the object, close range. And make sure it won't be seen."

And back to the comm.

"Comm. patch me through to Bluesummers."
<<Ice-9 encryption>>
Starwind here. Thanks for the heads up. If you would, move the Heimdal on an intercept course to meet them twenty five thousand klicks from Titan.
<<End Communication>>
08-08-2003, 04:02
<<Ice-9 encryption>>
Understood. TCF is underway.

"Tactical, bring the fleet to Dimensional Wedge formation. Get us underway, put us between the object and Titan at 25mKlicks. Comm notify ring control we are leaving innerspace."

<<Ice-9 encryption>>
1st TDF requesting Ring clearance, exiting innerspace on TD priority alpha.
Permission granted, 1st TDF cleared through Ring Control. Break. All vessels on the 234 spacelane, make way for priority TYCS traffic.
Sky Marshal Bluesummers
First Titan Combined Fleet
The Armed Republic of Karmabaijan
Triumvirate of Yut
08-08-2003, 04:09
On board the Risky Venture, oblivious to their detection

"Any sign of a reaction to our burn?"

"Nothing. Still nothing, just like it was five minutes ago. Chen, will you just calm down, there isn't anything out there."

"I...You're right. I'm just a little nervous about how we'll be responded too if there is someone out there. I mean, it can't look good, just turning up here without announcing our presence. Perhaps we should send a radio broadcast ahead of us, just to be on the safe side."

"Absolutely not. The last thing we want to do is give the perpetrators of the hoax warning, so they can try and maintain the illusion. We want to catch them with their pants down, so to speak."

"I hope you're right Langford. I have no pressing desire to be mistaken for a missile and destroyed just because you are too paranoid to make our intentions known."

"We've been throught this a thousand times Chen. We maintain radio silence until we get close enough for visual confirmation of the hoax. Please don't lose your nerve now, not when we're so close..."

"Okay, okay. But if this comes back to bite us it'll be your head on the chopping block, okay?"

"My dear Chen, if this comes back to bite us, then I'll have been wrong all along, and my head will be on the chopping block as soon as I get home anyay"

Chen could not suppress a brief smile as he turned back to his console. The problem was, there could be dozens of ships out there but with so much space to trawl through, and such primitive tools at his disposal, how on earth would he spot them? He couldn't even use active sensors for gods sake. In his minds eye, thousand foot long battleships hung in space right next to the probe, silent and undetected.
08-08-2003, 04:18
OOC: *chuckles* I am sort of wondering how our intrepid explorers haven't sighted the Ring of Powerfulness, seeing as how its visible from earth...
08-08-2003, 04:20
"And how exactly do you explain the Ring? You know, the Dyson Ring which entirely circles Saturn? I'd be fascianted to knoe exactly how anyone would fake that? If you want a closer look, it's practically all you can see out of the port side window!"

"I have to admit, that is fairly undeniable, however we have no guarantee that it was in fact it was the Triumvirate who built it. They could have just found it"

"So, it was aliens now. That sounds a litte weak, Langford"

OOC: They did see it.
08-08-2003, 05:46
OOC: Ah. Nevermind.
08-08-2003, 06:01
"Sir, communique coming down from TDF."

Flag Colonel K'zta, commander of the Scolopendran Defense Squadron, scratched behind a tufted batwing ear as he sat at his command console. "Go ahead, Comms."

"TDF reports sighting, Contact Sierra-One, position is bearing 23 heading 203 inclination 31 range four million klicks Saturn standard relative. Tracking on passive radar, EM, and gravitic sensors. Appears to be a two-man capsule, sir."

"Hrm." The Kzinti rubbed his white-furred chin. "Ownership? Sensors, find S-1 and give me a read."

The sensors officer shook his head. "Can't tell at this range. Doesn't seem to be showing a grav sig. Doesn't look Melkor-make, or any other threat nation. Looks like the One-Teesf is moving to intercept."

"Odd. Maybe we are unneeded. Comms, patch me into TDF channels."

"Acting." The communications technician closed a contact. "Channel open."

<<Ice-5 encryption>>
<<What's Going Down>>
Flag Colonel K'zta, SDS. What is the situation with Contact S-1? We are observing the situation. Analysis--maybe a full TCF is too much for first contact. Suggestion--we can make contact without compromising Saturnian defenses. Recommendation, sir?
<<End Communication>>
08-08-2003, 06:12
"Sir, another com. This time from K'zta."
Starwind looks up from the tac. display.
"Path her through."

"Acting sir."
<<Ice-9 encryption>>
<<What's Going Down>>
Flag Colonel K'zta, SDS. What is the situation with Contact S-1? We are observing the situation. Analysis--maybe a full TCF is too much for first contact. Suggestion--we can make contact without compromising Saturnian defenses. Recommendation, sir?
<<End Communication>>
"Hmmm, comm. return message."
<<Ice-5 encryption>>
<<What's Going Down>>
Understood Flag Colonel, Bluesummers is being his cautious self as usual.
The situation is under control, we have a Sulaco-class and a Ferret in pursuit. The capsule appears to be of no threat, and we're cross checking the markings on the side of the capsule as we speak.
<<End Communication>>
08-08-2003, 06:19
<<Ice-5 encryption>>
<<What's Going Down>>
Understood Flag Colonel, Bluesummers is being his cautious self as usual.
The situation is under control, we have a Sulaco-class and a Ferret in pursuit. The capsule appears to be of no threat, and we're cross checking the markings on the side of the capsule as we speak.
<<End Communication>>

"Hrm. That leaves us out." K'zta frowns slightly. "Helm, return to patrol."
08-08-2003, 10:00
((Tag for an interesting RP.))
08-08-2003, 12:05
Sensor Readings of the Risky Venture

Risky Venture

The Risky Venture is forty metres long, 8 metres high and 8 metres wide, with a hull primarily constructed of high-quality steel with ceramic components around the rear rocket section. Most of this structure is devoted to fuel storage for the primitive but efficient liquid Ammonia rocket. There is also a large amount of space which appears to be used for oxygen storage for the tiny crew. The pod at the front of the vessel appears to be the crew compartment, categorised by a reinforced plastic front window, and the arrangement of quite a complex array of sensor equipment around it, with a smaller array of communication equipment too. Skilled observers will see that the sensor array consist of a central large telescope, passive EM and IR systems, a spectroanalyser and a high power multi-band radar system (currently inactive) and what could be a very primitive ladar system The communication suite consists of radio, with again a very primitive laser comm.

There is a airlock on the underside of the crew pod, designed to allow exterior access to the vessel. There are manoeuvring thrusters positioned in various places around the ship to allow minor course corrections. These thrusters look like Liquid Oxygen (LOX) rather than liquid Ammonia, probably to allow more rapid manoeuvres if the situation demands it. There are more manoeuvring thrusters arranged across the bottom of the vessel than anywhere else, and along with the landing gear this suggest the ship is designed to land. This conclusion is supported by a large fold-out support on the underside, probably designed to raise the craft to an angle where it can boost up into space again and reach escape velocity using it’s primary rocket. On the top of the craft is a large manipulator arm, with a number of small cargo pods nearby, probably to collect samples when the craft reaches its destination. There is no evidence of any offensive or defensive systems on the vessel.

The Risky Venture is currently flying backwards, as it uses its primary rocket to decelerate. Obviously this is the most distinctive feature, given that it is pointing directly towards the Ring and the vessel is not using active sensors. Manoeuvring rockets are firing every 15 minutes or so, doing incremental course corrections. The vessel has no national markings, but does bear its name on a plaque on both sides of the forward section.
08-08-2003, 21:23
(OOC: Seeing how I'm the only one in at the moment...)

Aboard the [i]Tiger-class medium cruiser TYWS-MCR Cincidelidae of the 1TCF, Colonel Neko'ti folded her arms as she paced across the command deck. "Patch the sensor report on the primary display."

A sensors technician on the terrace flipped a few switches and a large, detailed scan analysis appeared on a large flatscreen monitor near the spherical strategic situation holoprojection. The yellow icon indicating contact S-1 blinked to draw attention to it as the topic of the primary display. "Two-man constant-accel capsule. Spectrograph shows nitrogen trihydride propellant. Lots of observation and comms equipment, no weapon hardpoints of any kind. Very simple, but doesn't match threat-force design philosophy. Looks like anything it could put out would be easily jammed by an E-dub Loki. It is maintaining a course for Titan orbital insertion."

"So it's not a threat?" The colonel tapped her chin with a single long index finger, then chuckles. "We have the whole One-Teesf and Teedee-eff mobilized for a pod? Goodness, we are paranoid. Chasing a little probe with a heavy cruiser and putting a mainline battle-fleet in front of it."

Cincidelidae's weapons officer shrugged as he scanned over his control boards. Indicators for medium naval particle cannon, heavy and ultra-heavy naval autocannon, heavy naval lasers, point-defense large pulse lasers, and medium-range kinetic rocket tubes all glowed softly at full-standby orange. Yeah... just the Cinch would be a match for that little thing. This borders on the absurd. "Orders, ma'am?"

"Maintain Alert Condition Zero as per Bluesummers' orders."

"Okay... contact entering extreme range now, should pass us in about eight minutes and reach Titan in seven hours."

"I doubt we'll do anything. Let them shoot past and take some pictures. In fact..." Neko'ti walks over to her command console and pushes down a few buttons, each one clicking softly. "External running lights on. Now we're lit up like for parade."

Strips of light across the ship's exterior now glow, soft yellow LEDs giving a vague impression of the ship's outline as a cluster of white-light LED's illumine the section of hull where "Cincidelidae" is emblazoned in huge bold black letters.


Flag Colonel K'zta hums softly to himself aboard Arthropod as the SDS continues to lazily orbit Titan. "Is this the orbit?"

His sensor officer nods. "Sierra-One should insert right in the middle of the formation, as ordered, sir."

K'zta smiles broadly with toothless good humor. "Excellent."
09-08-2003, 12:37
Onboard the Risky Venture

The two crew are in the back section of their pod, playing cards on a small plastic table. The table has been specially modified to incorporate numerous clips that prevent the cards floating away.

“Hah! Flush! I win again!”

Langford’s moment of glory is interrupted by an insistent beeping alarm from the cockpit section. Both crew look at each briefly and then rapidly pull themselves into the cockpit section using the handrails. That isn’t a good alarm. Langford pulls himself into the pilots chair, and Chen into the sensor station and they both strap in. Chen studies his monitor with a worried expression.

“Computer picked up a contact, I’m trying to get further details now. It’s pretty close, well close in space terms anyway. I’m trying to get a fix on it with the telescope...hold on...I think I’ve got it. There’s definitely some light out there. There we go...Oh dear.”

“What’s ‘Oh dear’? What can you see?”

“I’m patching it through to the main monitor”

The Cincidelidae is displayed on the main screen in all of its illuminated glory. The view shifts as the telescope zooms in on the name plaque.

“How big is that thing? And how close?”

“Difficult to tell because we don’t have a point of reference. Certainly a lot bigger than us. It’s close too, between 10-20 million kilometres away. Doesn’t seem like it’s heading towards us though, possibly stationary”

“Why do you think they lit up like that?”

“I’d say to show us they know we’re here. I say we go active, it’s quite clear that there is someone out here, and they know we’re here.”

“Hmmm, I’m less than convinced by a few lights hanging in space. But yes, go active, lets see what we can find.”

“Going active now...”

The main sensor boom swings into position, the multiband radar beginning a 3-dimensional sweep of their position, while the ladar perform a more narrow search of their predicted course and the space around it. It isn’t long before the ladar feed comes back.

“Oh dear”

“Is this ‘Oh dear’ worse than the last ‘Oh dear’?”

“Infinitely so. There are numerous other contacts stationary in a loose group 15 million kilometres along our predicted flight path. It looks like we’ll be flying into a whole fleet of ships in about...3 hours”

“Oh dear”
09-08-2003, 17:18
Sensor Data, Unknown Nearby Fleet (First Titan Combined Fleet)

Nineteen contacts with an apparent mass of 500K metric tons and up of seven different types. In order by apparent mass (greatest to smallest), distribution is 2-1-2-2-2-4-6.

Sensor Data, Unknown Fleet in Titan Orbit (Scolopendran Defense Squadron)

Eleven contacts with an apparent mass of 500K metric tons and up of four different types analogous to those above. In order by apparent mass (greatest to smallest), using above categories, distribution is 0-0-0-1-2-2-6.

Library / Dictionary Data, "Cicindelidae"
Pronunciation: cis-sin-DEL-li-dee

A family of beetles (Coleoptera) with prominent eyes and generally a metallic blue or green in color. More commonly known as "tiger beetles."

Aboard Cicindelidae

"Looks like we've been made, ma'am." The sensors operator fiddles with his controls. "Contact Sierra-One is now broadcasting clear as day."

Colonel Neko'Ti nods. "What are they using?"

"Looks like... standard spectrum EM active signal-return sensors. Radar and lidar. Probably means they've been running on passive for this long. No signs of spectrography lasers, gravitic sensors--which are always passive, sorry--nothing overly fancy."

"Hmm." The colonel taps her chin again. "Well, we got their attention enough that they're trying to improve situational awareness... but even on passives they must've known that they're heading into one of the most heavily populated and industrialized areas in the Solar System. Anything that looks like weapon targeting paint?"

"Well, any active system could be a targeting system but I severely doubt it. According to FleetCom their sensors are sweeping across the fleet, so it's probably just scanning radar. Estimating vessel volume and using known mass, it's not some sort of bomb--at least, no more a bomb than any rocket is--and it seems to match the ammonia-fueled analysis earlier. Enough fuel for a round-trip... which either makes the propellant they have left a cheap explosive or they don't intend for this to be one-way."

"Explosive potential?"

"Hum. In space, nonthreatening. If it's heading for Titan, it could make for a very interesting fuel-air explosive if it's engineered right."

"Interesting as in 'bad,' right?"

"Interesting as in there's enough ammonia fuel for it to const-accel at maybe point-ten gravs all the way from here to Earth."

Neko'ti looks up at the sensors operator. "Any sign that it's hostile?"

"Dunno." The operator shrugs. "It's still clear-twentyfive for Titan insertion, but that might just be for a scanning-pass before a bombing run. But... why put landing gear on a bomb? Honestly, ma'am, I think we're bordering on paranoia here."

"Can't really blame us, with Melkor heating up... and it doesn't look optimized for atmospheric travel. All those exposed components will have intense drag. Maybe it's an off-the-shelf." Looking up at the strategic indicator projection--currently showing the 1TCF, the Ring, and the pod's little yellow icon--she wrinkles her nose slightly. "Show me what's around Titan, military only." The projection scrolls over to reveal a blue sphere with several blue icons around it, lines tracing out and identifying them."

"The Essdee-ess, ma'am. As usual. They've modified their orbit to intercept Sierra-One when it comes in."

She nods. "I assume they're getting all this?"

The communications officer nods. "Yes, ma'am. Hacked in through the Teedee-eff, which is in two-way with Heimdal. Shall I get ready to send a suggestion up the line?"

Colonel Neko-ti shakes her head. "Not really my position. If the higher-ups want radio silence, that's good. Right now, I think being quiet and unobtrusive as we watch is a good plan. The Essdee-ess is probably going to make contact, and we'll make sure they have plenty of data to make a call."
10-08-2003, 00:10
Directly outside of the foward (rear at the moment) observation window, the starfield ripples slightly. Suddenly, the Ferret probe is clear as day, holding station 100 feet from the pod. It is vaguely similar in profile to the "Swordfish" from Cowboy Bebop, long this fuselage section, bulbous rear engine casing, and long thin straight wings terminated by vertical panels.

Aboard the Heimdal, Bluesummers watches the Ferret controller bring the ship in.

"Ferret in range Sky Marshal, switching to composite visual."

The Ferret fires up its composite visual system, combining visual, infrared, ultraviolet, and ladar sensors to produce an enhanced visual of the interior of the ship. The ladar is low power enough so as not to cause organic damage.

"Life sign reading confirmed. Two huminoid males inside the pods living section. Name plaque on the side reads Risky Venture. Definatley seems to be exploratory in nature."

"Very well. Begin full spectrum hails, unencoded.

The technician's hands fly over his console programming the Ferret to relay the transmission from close range.

"Ready, sir. Message?"

<<Unencoded, broadband>>

Risky Venture, this is Sky Marshal Bluesummers of the First Titan Combined Fleet, under the authority of the Triumvirate of Yut. You are on an intercept course with Triumvirate space at this time. We show you making Titan orbital insertion in <time period>. You are required to identify yourself before proceeding. Please respond.

<<Message Repeats>>

"Systems, light us up, show them we're here."

"Acting, sir."

Across the 1TCF the ships activate their running lights, creating an artificial constellation in the Titan night sky.
Sky Marshal Bluesummers
First Titan Combined Fleet
The Armed Republic of Karmabaijan
Triumvirate of Yut
10-08-2003, 05:03
Scolopendran Independent News
"Because it sucks to be S.I.N.-less"

A short, plain man of Arabian descent nods to the camera. "Good evening. This is the Twenty-three-hundred hours edition of S.I. News. Our top story--"
The camera pans slightly to the right, giving enough room for a picture of the Risky Venture to be displayed with the caption Unknown Space Probe appearing at the bottom of the screen.

"--earlier today, the First Titan Combined Fleet and the Titan Defense Force responded to some sort of long-range sensor contact. Fleetwatchers reported that they took up standard defensive wall formations and the TDF sent a heavy cruiser to investigate. Civilian-operated space awareness telescopes have picked up a very small ammonia-fueled rocket coming in, and astronomers say that its current course leads to Titan."
The picture changes to the new-and-improved Alshai Kommetrez standing at a podium.

"Supreme Emperor Automata Alshai Kommetrez spoke at twenty-hundred hours Triumvirate Standard Time on the matter."

The inset expands to fill the entire screen and moves from pause to play. Alshai's rich voice fills the audio feed. Yesterday, at oh-six-thirty Titan Standard Time, a perimeter guard Ferret of the First Titan Combined Fleet detected an unknown sensor contact. After immediate response by the First Teecee-eff and the Titan Defense Force, we now know that it is a manned probe. Other than it's ammonia-fueled, called the Risky Venture, and from Earth heading to Titan, we don't know much about it. The First Teecee-eff is attempting to make contact as we speak.

The Risky Venture is not a threat to Titan or the Triumvirate. The T.Y.C.S. has three fleets monitoring what is little more than a manned probe. It is nothing to be alarmed about. In fact, I think we should prepare to be nice to our visitors. To that end, we should all be ready to welcome them with open arms.
The screen returns to an inset and shows the face of Julius Razak, obviously just walking around at night. The camera re-focuses on the anchorman. "S.I.N. caught up with Foot-to-Ass Section Advisor Julius Razak after the briefing."

The inset begins playing. "Advisor Razak," a reporter's voice asks.
--"What?" Razak's gruff voice, scowling at the camera.
--"What is your read on Risky Venture? Is it a threat?"
--Razak grimaces. "Pfft. Worry about Melkor, not some dinky little pod. Now I got a family to take care of. If you'll excuse me--" The inset stops and disappears.

"In other news..."
10-08-2003, 23:19
[b]Also directly, albiat farther away, from the forward(facing rear) viewing window, sensors would pick up a lone capital ship tailing them at about 1000 km's distance.
Aboard the Monte Cristo:
A sensors officer pipes up.
"Ma'am, the capsules lighting up, active sensors operating."
"Essdee-ess and teesee-ess are all examining the object sir, Ferret readings approximate a none-threat on the capsule."
Colonel Evez looks up from her comm-link to Starwind.
"Excellent, keep me posted."
She looks back at the comm-link. "Yes sir" she replies, tapping the comm switch and looking up.

"Ma'am, the Essdee-ess and teesee-ess are light up like a christmas tree. Running lights on full."

She crosses her arms.
"Helm, turn on the running lights and bring us to a 50 klick following distance."

"Yes, ma'am"
11-08-2003, 13:49
Onboard the Risky Venture

"We've got a little more sensor information on the fleet which is on intercept vector with us. Nineteen contacts in that fleet, and we just picked out a further eleven in Titan orbit with a ladar sweep. I'm patching mass detail through to your console"

"This doesn't look good at all. That's thirty-one contacts in all, I don't think even my logic can reduce that to a series of spatial anomalies"

"I'm widening the sensor sweep to see if there's anything else out there...goddamn, how did we miss that?"

"What? What is it?"

"Another contact. Big, I'd say capital ship sized. Matched vector and velocity with us and following at one megametre"

"So they're in front of us and behind us? This doesn't look good at all. Can we perform evasive action?"

"It's not advisable. While we could break away, we'd lose our Titan orbital vector and risk either flying off into space, or even worse, crashing into Saturn. There are a number of other orbital vectors we could try and shift to, but they are going to be difficult manuevers and risk not leaving us enough fuel for the way home. Anyway, whats to say they won't just move to intercept our new vector too?"

"I suppose so. I can't stand this though, I feel so...powerless"

"I know what you mean, but this was one of the situtions we modelled in training. All we have to do is..."

Chen's morale building speech is rudely interrupted by a piercing alarm siren from his console, which is now bathed in red light. The words Proximity Warning are emblazoned across the console. He begins to frantically try and trace the warning, while Langford looks on worriedly.

"What the hell? Sensors just picked up a object thirty metres behind us, matched vector and velocity. That's got to be a glitch, we'd have picked it up on the way in."

"I'm activated fore lights, at that range we should be able to see it through the pod window"

Langford clicks a few switches above his head, and a set of powerful lights flare into life, positioned above and below the window. They illuminate the Ferret completely and the two crew are briefly speechless.

"Chen? I'm tending to think it might not actually be a sensor glitch"

"You know Langford, I'd kind of come to that conclusion too"

Another insistent beeping starts, this one sounding less hostile than the previous beeps, but still causing the crew to jump. Langford studies his console to trace it's origin.

"It's a repeating communication. I'll put it through main speakers"

Risky Venture, this is Sky Marshal Bluesummers of the First Titan Combined Fleet, under the authority of the Triumvirate of Yut. You are on an intercept course with Triumvirate space at this time. We show you making Titan orbital insertion in 58 hours. You are required to identify yourself before proceeding. Please respond.

Again there is a brief moment of silence as the crew consider their next move. It is Langford who speaks first.

"Well, it's quite clear we can't respond. They'll destroy us for sure if they think we are on to them"

"For gods sake man Langford, listen to yourself! We have over thirty contacts out there, and all the evidence has so far pointed to your theory being wrong! Imagine you are them, imagine some unknown ship sails across your border oblivious and then imagine they ignore your communicaions and make straight for you capital. What would you do?"

"Stop them, I guess. Or even destroy them"

"Exactly. It's time to come clean and try and salvage what we can out of this mission. You can carry on trying to prove your theory if you like, but you aren't going to risk our lives anymore to do it"

Chen pulls a microphone down from and overhead compartment, checks it briefly and then records a return transmission. Meanwhile, Langford looks on from his pilot's seat, looking distinctly unhappy.

<<Transmission::First Titan Combined Fleet>>
<<Unencoded, broadband>>

This is Philip Chen of the Risky Venture. We are a scientific vessel launched from The Incorporated States of Austrin-Ontis on Earth. Our mission is to obtain scientific data on Titan and the surrounding area of space, for the general benefit of mankind. We are prepared to co-operate fully with you and the rest of Triumvirate

<<Transmission ends>>

"You think that was ok?"

"I think perhaps you could have grovelled a little less"

"I think 'Always be nice to the man in the big battleship' is the phrase we should be basing our negotiation tactics on at this stage. The less of a threat we can persuade them we are, the more information we'll be able to acquire"

"But we aren't a threat!"

"Exactly. So we don't lose anything by telling the truth"

The Risky Venture continues it's deceleration burn and maintains it's previous course, although the crew are finding the ship hovering a stone's throw out of their main window somewhat off putting as they operate the controls.
11-08-2003, 19:52
Aboard the Heimdal

A communications console begins blinking. "Sir, we have a return transmission from the probe, locking onto frequency.....148.15 mhz. Comm open Sky Marshal."

This is Bluesummers. We understand that your reaction mass is insufficient to bring you to a stop here. You are cleared for Titan Orbital insertion along your present course. A ship will meet you in your orbit, at which time you will transfer to it and proceed to the surface. The Triumvirate Council would like to meet with you. I do not intend to sound hostile, but any variation from your present course would be....unwise. Bluesummers out.
Sky Marshal Bluesummers
First Titan Combined Fleet
The Armed Republic of Karmabaijan
Triumvirate of Yut
11-08-2003, 21:47
Aboard the Risky Venture

“Return Transmission received, patching through now”

The Transmission from Sky Marshall Bluesummers plays through the Risky Venture’s internal speakers. Despite the somewhat worrying tone at the end, both crew seem fairly pleased with the message.

“Well, that’s a stroke of luck,” pipes up Langford, “I wasn’t relishing trying to explain we couldn’t stop if they asked us to.”

“Did you hear that though? The Triumvirate Council wants to meet with us, do they really think we’re that important?”

“Perhaps traffic is pretty rare out here?”

“What, aside from their battlefleets?”

“You know what I mean, I mean foreign traffic. People sending ships from outside to come take a look. That could explain the sheer number of ships sent to intercept us, I mean, it wasn’t just me, that was pretty excessive to deal with one little probe”

“They don’t seem like the type of people to take risks Langford. We could just as easily have been an IPBM as a science vessel”


“Inter-planetary Ballistic missile. Effectively an ICBM that never comes back down to Earth. You calculate the appropriate vector, pack in enough fuel and you can hit any planetoid in the solar system. Of course, they cost the earth to make in any large numbers, and I’m guessing our Triumvirate friends, and indeed any other nation with a significant space presence will keep a sharp look out for them. And then there are kinetic weapons, and a whole host of other nasty tools at the disposal of the budding astro-terrorist. And space is notoriously unforgiving if something goes wrong”

“How on earth do you know all this stuff Chen?”

“Background reading, my dear Langford. While you were addressing your devoted followers I was researching the myriad ways we could die out here”

“I doubt I’ll have quite so many devoted followers when I get back”

“Hmmm, perhaps. But then again we’ll be the first citizens from Austrin-Ontis to meet the Triumvirate High Council, so there will be some significant prestige attached to that. Actually, that raises an interesting point. We should really laser comm this home and see if they want to do anything in particular. That was the protocol for a first contact situation”

“Well remembered Chen. I’ll put together a brief summary for AO Command, and you send the Sky Marshal confirmation we have received his message”


The two crew begin to prepare their messages and within a few minutes the sensor boom once again hums with life, sending a broadband radio transmission to the fleet. Five minutes pass, and then the laser communicator precisely calibrates alignment and fires a tight band laser transmission back to a receiver in Earth orbit.

<<Radio transmission to First Titan Combined Fleet>>
Message received and understood. We will maintain our current course and deceleration program and rendezvous with a ship in Titan orbit. We thank you for giving us this opportunity to negotiate with your Triumvirate Council. We will be sending a laser transmission back to Earth within the next couple of minutes to announce the new developments to our government.
<<Transmission ends>>

<<Secure laser communication with AO DeathSat One, Earth Orbit>>
We have encountered in excess of thirty Triumvirate vessels as well as numerous structures apparently constructed by them, enclosed is sensor footage collated so far. We have been invited to meet with the Triumvirate Council on Titan. Please advise. We will dump all computer stored records to your databanks on the conclusion of this transmission.
<<Audio transmission ends - Data transfer commences>>
<<Data transfer ends>>
11-08-2003, 21:54
(tag for future RP)
11-08-2003, 22:43
Aboard Arthropod, the fleet communications pipe through speakers.

"Ah," K'zta growls happily, "they've been cleared. Comms, prepare to transmit."

<<Ice-9 encryption>>
<<S-1 Intercept>>
We are in position to incercept. May we have the honors?
<<End Communication>>
11-08-2003, 22:51
Siri smirks as she receives the dispatch from Titan. "I don't suppose they still think it's a big elfy conspiracy," she muses.

Serendis grins. "Prolly not, milady."

11-08-2003, 23:25
In the mean time, a Thelas base in the asteroid belt that has been monitoring radio traffic piks up this, dialog. The station cammander is somewhat ammused

"jeeze, they could have saved thr trouble and just asked The Taidan, Melkor, Thelas, Silver Turtle, or any one else's starcommands and found out. Just another gruop of idiots"
12-08-2003, 00:27
It takes about half an hour for the message to be sent to Earth, recorded processed and replied too (The technology is very new, and a little prone to technical failures) but a laser communication eventually reaches the Risky Venture from the Earth based transmitter. As usual, Chen patches the communication through the vessel’s internal speaker system.

<<Secure laser communication with Risky Venture>>
Our congratulations on the information you have managed to collate and your invitation to meet the Triumvirate Council. It is vital you use this opportunity to find as much out about the Triumvirate as possible, as well as trying to establish a favourable diplomatic relationship. You are to communicate further before committed Austrin-Ontis to any formal relationship but you are encouraged to pursue that line of enquiry. Continue to transmit all new information every six hours, and any future orders will be transmitted via this method. Good luck.
<<Communication ends>>

“So we’re ambassadors now?”

“Seems so Langford. Field promotion and all that”

“So what do we know about the Triumvirate? I’d hate to cause some sort of horrible diplomatic incident because of my ignorance”

“Practically nothing, but I wouldn’t worry about it. Just reread the contact protocol and we should be fine, its pretty all-encompassing”

“I’ll do that. What are you going to do in the meantime?”

“Try and gather as much information as I can, just like Command ordered. I’m going to carry out a more comprehensive sensor sweep of the ships in our vicinity, and then I’m going to carry out some in-depth monitoring of civilian broadcast channels originating from Titan, the World Disc and the Ring”

“That sound goo...hold on a second. You mean you are going to watch TV?”

“Well...yes. Perhaps a little. But for purely academic purposes. Monitoring their culture should allow us to better integrate, you know. You can learn a lot about a culture from their media.”

Langford gave a somewhat critical look at Chen’s excuse and then headed into the back section of the Pod. Chen was left cynically wondering exactly what another people would learn about Austrin-Ontis and Earth by monitoring their media. Probably that people got bored with everything very rapidly, with the possible exception of coming with evermore inventive ways and reasons to kill each other.
12-08-2003, 03:15
Scolopendran Independent News
"Because It Sucks to Be S.I.N.-less"

A female Pacific Islander dressed in a simple blue casual business suit--very clean lines, with a single button at the Russian-style collar instead of a tie--addresses the camera. "Good evening. This is the oh-dark-hundred edition of S.I. News. We've recieved some new information in our continuing coverage of the probe from Earth as brought to us by TYCS public relations and confirmed by independent fleetwatchers on the Ring. A press conference is beginning... just a moment..."--the anchor puts a hand to one ear--"just now."

An inset on the right displaying someone in a TYCS uniform expands to fill the screen and begins playing. The subcontinental Indian clears his voice and starts in a moderated voice with a very slight accent. His five pips, connected by bars to form an "X," show him to be a lieutenant colonel.

"Earlier today, Sky Marshal Bluesummers the heavy carrier Heimdal initated contact with Contact Sierra-One, which we now know to be Risky Venture. The crew of Risky Venture responded with... cue the audio, please."

This is Philip Chen of the Risky Venture. We are a scientific vessel launched from The Incorporated States of Austrin-Ontis on Earth. Our mission is to obtain scientific data on Titan and the surrounding area of space, for the general benefit of mankind. We are prepared to co-operate fully with you and the rest of Triumvirate.

The light colonel nods. "Sky Marshal Bluesummers then granted the, uh, vessel clearance to traverse Triumvirate space to Titan. Conversation follows." He nods again to someone off-screen.

This is Bluesummers. We understand that your reaction mass is insufficient to bring you to a stop here. You are cleared for Titan Orbital insertion along your present course. A ship will meet you in your orbit, at which time you will transfer to it and proceed to the surface. The Triumvirate Council would like to meet with you. I do not intend to sound hostile, but any variation from your present course would be....unwise. Bluesummers out.

Message received and understood. We will maintain our current course and deceleration program and rendezvous with a ship in Titan orbit. We thank you for giving us this opportunity to negotiate with your Triumvirate Council. We will be sending a laser transmission back to Earth within the next couple of minutes to announce the new developments to our government.

"I'm, ah, cleared to say that the Scolopendran Defense Squadron is tasked with making the interc-- rendezvous which is expected to take place at oh-six-thirty-seven hours Titan Standard Time. Flag Colonel K'zta of the Essdee-ess has been directed to take the vessel aboard and transition the crew to the Council of Yut. Um... the TYCS requests that all civilian vessels maintain at least a hundred-kilometer safe distance from Risky Venture to prevent potential accidents.

"In other news, the Third Titan Expeditionary Force's aerospace cordon over Vrak has ended, but it will remain on station at Valhalla for the duration of the hostilities against Melkor. Any questions?"

Hands raise in the foreground. "Yes, ma'am, the one in the green."

"Mei Sook Yu, Scolopendran Independent News. What is our current relations with the Incorporated States of Austrin-Ontis?"

"Ummm..." The light colonel holds the sides of his podium with both hands, tapping lightly with one thumb. "I don't think we have any. Great chance to make some, though, I guess. You, sir, with the hat."

"Kolchak, Titan YutLink. D'you think that greeting a little two-man probe with a mainline war fleet was a little bit much?"

"Erm... well, if we knew it was a probe, obviously we wouldn't have deployed the First Teesee-eff. As it is, we erred on the side of caution."

"Will the meeting be open to the press?"

"I, ah, I don't know." The light colonel shrugs. "Wasn't briefed that far. I'm sure an announcement will be made when appropriate."

The screen fades back into the inset, showing the anchorwoman listening intently. "Okay... that was the official TYCS press conference. The Risky Venture will enter Titan orbit in a few hours.

"In other news, the Melkor conflict seems to be heating up, with..."

(OOC: Thanks to the Stanford Information Network for the logo... used completely without permission. I'll take it down if you want. Please don't sue me. I have no money.)
12-08-2003, 04:48
Red screen with expanding yellow borders, black text following the spoken words.


"The Angelus WorldDisc is under attack. The Third and Second Titan Combined Fleets are engaging six capital ships that appeared a thousand kilometers out. All military personnel are to go to full alert. All civilians are to go to emergency shelters. All militia forces are to mobilize immediately. This is not a drill. We are under attack."
12-08-2003, 09:23
Aboard the Risky Venture - Day 18, 36 hours to Titan orbit

“Langford, come and have a look at this! We’re on TV!”

Langford quickly pulls himself along the rail back into the fore section of the pod, and straps himself in while Chen patches the Scolopendran Independent News press conference to the main display and plays the full report.

“Looks like we got a pretty good write-up”, said Langford as the clip finished

“Yes indeed. Looks like they are prepared to engage in some manner of diplomatic relation though, or at least that’s what they are telling their media. Either way, it’s a good sign”

“Did I hear ‘Melkor conflict’ right at the end of that broadcast?”

“Yes you did. I’m not exactly sure of the specifics, but I’m pretty sure that this could be one of the major fronts in the war. At least we’ll have something to talk about, given our involvement”

“What? We’re involved?”

“Do you even bother to read the updates from home they painstakingly send us? I’d guess not. Anyway, Austrin-Ontis is currently fighting on the Roanian front of the war in alliance with Whispering Voices and Tor Yvresse. Our commitment is fairly large but obviously the exact details are classified. However, from what I’ve gathered our problem is just with Roania, not Melkor’s forces in general. We saw the opportunity to strike when their forces were otherwise engaged and took it”

“What would I do without you to be my font of information, Chen?”

“I’m not exactly sure Langford, find out things much later on, if at all, I’d guess. Hmmm, another broadcast coming through, looks like an emergency frequency by the distribution and signal strength. I’ll patch this one through too”

The main video screen once again shifts from showing the direction of travel external view to showing a broadcast, though this time it is the S.I.N. Newsflash.

“I’d say this is definitely one of the fronts then”

“Absolutely. Hopefully we’re far enough away to miss out on the action, or we’ve got real problems. Actually, I think a ladar sweep of the affected area wouldn’t go amiss and I’m damn sure AO Command will want to know all they can about this. I’ll do the sweep, you take over communication channel monitoring, see if you can pick up anymore about the attack.”

The Ladar sensor boom rotates once more to the location of the WorldDisc and begins to sweep the area, looking for the six external capital ships as well as the Triumvirate defenders. Initial sensor pings are followed up by a High-Res telescope zoom, and all sensor data collated is stored on the computer for relay back to Austrin-Ontis.
12-08-2003, 16:12
Battle Observation Data
Conflict Time T-00:00:05 <> EM spike begins at bearing 269 inclination 87, 1000 kilometers out, WorldDisc relative.
Conflict Time T+00:00:00 <> EM spike peaks, six wedge-shaped vessels (Imperial-class Star Destroyers) complete hyperspace tunneling protocol. Thirty-eight capital ships of the same designs already encountered respond with what appears to be an instantaneous jump from standing positions to bearing 180, heading 0, inclination 3, 1000 kilometers out, enemy fleet relative.
Conflict Time T+00:00:01 <> Engagement begins. The threat vessels begin to accelerate towards the WorldDisc and open fire at range; the Trium vessels and WorldDisc defenses open fire on the threat vessels. Fighters launched, 192 from the threat ships and at least a thousand from Trium ships. The WorldDisc's EM signature begins to increase. Threat weapons appear to consist of plasma-based pseudoenergy weapons. Trium weapons range from high-yield fusion warhead missiles through broadband EM spectrum m/lasers, large-caliber autocannon, high-power Gauss cannon, and extremely high-powered ionic particle cannon. Both forces show evidence of ray and particle shielding.
Conflict Time T+00:10:00 <> Engagement technically ends. WorldDisc escapes into hyperspace showing signs of damage. Combined Trium fleets completely annihilate threat forces.
13-08-2003, 13:48
Aboard the Risky Venture - Day 19, 24 hours to Titan orbit

"Well, it's over, as far as I can tell"

"The battle you mean? What happened?"

"Six enemy capital ships attacked the World Disc, thirty-eight Triumvirate defenders moved to intercept. The WorldDisc vanishes having been damaged and then the attackers are destroyed. Obviously, there's a lot more data too but that's the summary. Morbidly, this couldn't have happened at a better time, the data gathered will keep out intelligence officers busy for months trying to figure out what weapons and defences were being used."

"It always pays to have people in Intelligence who like you, Chen"

"Indeed it does. Anyway, I've packaged the data and along with our other sensor feeds it should be transmitted home. You mind taking care of that?"

"Not at all."

Langford begins to operate his console, while Chen un-seatbelts himself and climbs into the rear section of the pod. He's halfway there when there is a short roar of a rocket and the pod briefly shudders, whereupon he stops in his tracks.

"Is that the manuevering thrusters again?"

Langford reads the response off his console.

"Yes, 1.2 second burst on the left-bottom thruster"

"How many has that been today?"

"Twelve maybe, definately more than I've ever seen before. I think that's the third this hour too"

"That's way over predicted, I better take a look"

Chen climbs back to his seat and re-straps in, before running a diagnostic on his console.

"Yes, that's right. Eleven boosts in the last six hours, eight on the left-bottom, two on the left-top and one on the right-bottom. That's means we've drifted off course eleven times and had to be brought back. I'm checking to see if there's an external factor involved..."

"You think there's a problem?"

"Well,I'd prefer to find out now than when we hit Saturn. OK, all external feeds put the factors that could be causing this within predicted levels, Saturn's gravity couldn't be causing this."

"But, that's where we are veering though?"

"Yes, that's right. The left-bottom liquid oxygen rocket is on about 60% of capacity, I really don't want it to drop any lower. I'm going to rotate us 180' so we can use the right-top thruster for course correction for a while. Make sure you tell Command we've got a few technical issues, but we think we can keep them under control."

"Will do. And I really hope you are right"

The view cuts to outside where a series of thrusters fire, slowly rotating the pod one half turn, before firing again to stop it there. The message completed, the laser comm once more adjusts to ensure it's messge is not lost in the depths of space before firing a second beam back to earth.
13-08-2003, 21:29
Aboard the Risky Venture - Day 19, 18 hours to Titan orbit

Both crewmen are looking over Chen's console. They both wear worried expressions and Langford is wringing his hands.

"This is not good. This is definately not good. You say we are veering off course the other way now?"

"Yes, we're now veering away from Saturn, almost exactly the opposite direction we were before. That means it's not a problem with the space around us, it's a problem with us. Specifically with our main thruster."

"What do you mean?"

"What I suspect is that we aren't getting equal thrust out of the main rocket, though there could be a dozen reasons why, it could be knocked out of alignment, there could be micro-fractures in the rear rocket. There could even be an obstruction in the rocket engine that's causing unequal thrust. What is basically means is that our deceleration vector isn't the same as our acceleration vector, so we're constantly being pushed off course."

"Anything we can do?"

"Well, the obvious thing to do would be do spacewalk out there and try and ascertain what the problem is. However, the rocket has been on full burn for a good few days now, and as a result it'll be furiously hot. You couldn't get near it, even in a spacesuit, without being incinerated. That's means we'd have to turn it off and leave it to cool down for a while before investigating it. Of course, the problem with that is that we'd not be decelerating, so we'd hit Titan at too high a speed and fly right past, whereupon we'd have a whole host of problems getting home."

"So we're doomed?"

"Ummm, that is perhaps a bit hasty. I've come up with a plan which I think might work. To start off with, we begin the ship rotating and leave it there. This means our course changes will be more erratic, but we can alternate which maneuvering thruster is used to bring us back on course, meaning we can lay off the left-bottom thruster. Assuming the problem doesn't get any worse, which is quite a big assumption to make, we'll hit Titan without burning that much fuel. Then we can try and carry out repairs in orbit, which will be a good deal safer. One thing's for sure, we can't head back like this, we'd never have enough fuel to keep correcting the course variations during acceleration."

"But, if it is a micro-fracture, isn't there the chance the rocket will just explode?"

"Yes, there is. But I don't see anything else we can do, short of asking the Triumvirate for help."

"Which we really don't want to do, I agree. It wouldn't be good form to admit we can't even get the simplest of space vessels to work properly."

"Certainly something we want to avoid unless it's absolutely necessary. It'll only take me a few more minutes to set us up for the constant spin, I think it's probably a good idea to send one more broadcast home keeping them up to date before the spin starts making communication more difficult."

"Not a problem."

The laser comm beams into life once more, it's communications having become increaingly frequent over the last six hours. Then the thrusters fire oncemore and the ship begins it's constant spin. Occasionally a thruster fires, pushing the Risky Venture back on course. As time passes, the time between course correction thrusts gets shorter and shorter.
14-08-2003, 00:30
Aboard the Risky Venture - Day 19, 12 hours to Titan orbit

“It’s getting worse, isn’t it?”

“Yes Langford. Quite a bit worse in fact. We’re getting course correcting thrusts every 270 seconds or so, and it was 290 just an hour ago. I’m bringing up a diagnostic on fuel remaining”

The view of their destination Titan on the main screen vanishes, replaced by a text display of technical information.

Fuel reserves remaining

Primary Thruster System 1 : Rear Liquid Ammonia rocket : 61%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Top-left LOX : 49%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Top-right LOX : 47%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Bottom-left LOX : 43%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Bottom-right LOX : 51%

Secondary Thruster Fuel usage has been 61% higher than predicted by this stage

Thruster Efficiency

Primary Thruster System 1 : Rear Liquid Ammonia rocket : 79%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Top-left LOX : 94%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Top-right LOX : 93%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Bottom-left LOX : 96%
Secondary Thruster System 1 : Bottom-right LOX : 94%

Primary Thruster Efficiency is 11% below lowest acceptable value

“Of course, the computer is fantastic at telling us what is wrong but awful at suggesting solutions. So, does this change our plan at all?”

“Well, the Primary Thruster efficiency drop confirms we were right about there being a problem there, the rocket isn’t generating the thrust it should do”

“Hold on a second, doesn’t that mean we won’t be able to slow down in time?”

“No, we left a margin for error. It just means we’ll have to keep the thruster on for longer, which isn’t going to help out other problem though...”

Chen’s description of their problem was interrupted by an involuntary yawn, driving home the fact he had been up for a good twenty four hours now, the crisis had hit just before he was due to sleep. Of course, Langford was similarly affected, but seemed to be coping significantly better. Probably all those nights on the town, though Chen.

“...Oh, sorry. Fatigue getting the better of me”

“Perhaps you should take a break. You’ve not moved out of that seat for the last four and a half hours”

“I don’t feel happy leaving it. It’s getting touch and go whether we’ll be able to keep on course. Computer predicts if we continue to lose efficiency at the rate we are now, then the answer’s a yes, but that's quite a large factor to leave it to take care of”

“Look, go and have a nap. You aren’t actually doing anything up here except worrying yourself to death, and I promise to come wake you up if there’s a change. It’ll all seem better once you’ve grabbed an hour or two of shut eye”

“No, I ... Hmmm, actually I guess an hour wouldn’t hurt. I am beginning to flag out here. But you promise ok, promise you’ll wake me up if the performance varies from the margins the computer has predicted.

“I promise”

Chen stretches, before unstrapping himself from his chair and pulling himself out of the command section into the rear recreation area. He fumbles with the pull down bed for a minute or so before getting it down and strapping himself in. He falls asleep almost immediately. Langford remains in his chair, going over the figures again, looking for a better solution to their problem. And wondering, in his heart of hearts, whether their desire to see this through themselves was going to get them both killed.

The pod continues to spin through space towards it’s destination but the variations in course are more noticeable now, despite the best efforts of the computer to correct them as soon as they occur. The ship is managing to remain on course overall and is being helped by the constant loss in velocity from it’s deceleration thrust, but while it’s progress looked fairly smooth before, now it looks a good deal like the pod is fighting to maintain it’s heading.
14-08-2003, 01:13
A sensors technician aboard the heavy cruiser Arthropod scratches the back of his head. "Sir?"

Flag Colonel K'zta half-opens one eye and shifts, reclining at his command console. He looks a little worse for wear for staying up for the last thirty hours. "Yes, sergeant?"

"Risky Venture, sir. She's got a definite spin to her, and her course is becoming erratic. Course correction burns almost every four minutes now."

"Four minutes?" K'zta straightens up in his chair, raising one eyebrow. "So what's wrong with them?"

"Her primary engine thrust is off-kilter with her center of mass," the sergeant continues, "and it's torquing her off course."


"If her course continues to deteriorate at the present rate, we've got ourselves a nice little meteor over the southwestern edge of Primary Continent."

K'zta hisses softly to himself in his native language. "FlightCom, dispatch a Loki on intercept course. Maintain distance two-hundred meters to its fore; prepare for grappling maneuvers. Comms, prepare open channels. Standard RF, using prior frequency."

"Acting, sir."


A harsh, gravely, extremely deep voice. "This is Flag Colonel K'zta of Arthropod, flag of the Scolopendran Defense Squadron. Sensor-based telemetry shows your engines to be failing. Do you require assistance?"

A gull-winged Loki dropship disconnects its clamps from Arthropod and smoothly accelerates to Risky Venture in a matter of minutes, flashing its running lights to indicate its presence and tilting those oh-so-obvious turrets as far away from Risky Venture as they can traverse. A soft, feminine voice with the usual aerospace-commander lilt ("this is your captain speaking") pipes through the radio. "Major Sumpter of Loki Sierra-Delta-Sierra-Zero-Three to Risky Venture. We're going to position two hundred meters to your fore and make sure nothing goes wrong. We are standing by to assist if you need it."
14-08-2003, 01:37
<<Audio Transmission from the Risky Venture to the Arthropod>>

This is Gerard Langford of the spaceship Risky Venture. We are suffering some minor technical problems but we believe we have them under control and we will be fine to reach Titan orbit under our own power. Thanks for the offer though, we’ll keep you posted if anything changes.

<<Transmission ends>>

The moment Langford concludes and sends the transmission he begins to regret it. Why didn’t he just ask for some help? It would keep them a hell of a lot safer, and all it would require would be a tiny swallowing of pride. And after the scorn he’s going to get when he gets back anyway, what does a little more matter. Is his pride really worth his life, and Chen’s life as well? He spends an agonised few minutes tearing himself up about whether to call the Arthropod back up and say he changed his mind. No, he couldn’t do that, that would just sound stupid. His thoughts are interrupted by the insistent beeping of a second incoming message which he patches through to his screen.

Upon hearing the communication from Major Sumpter, he visibly slumps in relief in his chair. They sent help anyway, and he didn’t need to ask! Now there’ll be someone there if something does go disastrously wrong. Langford sighs with relief before opening communication frequencies once more.

<<Audio Transmission from the Risky Venture to Loki SDS03>>

This is Gerard Langford of the spaceship Risky Venture Message understood Loki Sierra-Delta-Sierra-Zero-Three. We shouldn’t need to contact you, but having you so close is going to be a great worry off our minds. Thanks.

<<Transmission ends>>

Langford pressed the button to terminate communications, and goaded himself slightly for not managing to keep the tone of relief out of his voice on the second communication. He brought up the sensor feed to watch for the approach of their potential saviours, and then turned his attention back to the nervous task of overseeing the course corrections.
14-08-2003, 02:01
Aboard the Monte Cristo:
A sensors officer pipes up yet again.
"Ma'am, the capsules spinning."
Colonel Evez looks up from her half sleep in the chair.

"The capsule is spinning ma'am. Appears the main thruster is out of alignment. Her correction burns are coming at four minute intervals now ma'am."

"Hmmm, any action?"

"Well ma'am, the Arthropod has dispatched a Loki to a two hundred meter following distance."

Evez sits up in her chair.
"Helm, bring us to a 25 click distance. Keep alert, we don't want to ram the thing."
"And keep a watch on that capsule. If it starts atmosphere, we're going to have to move in."
14-08-2003, 02:05
Major Sumpter settles her Loki a stone's throw (in space) away from Risky Venture, pointing its beaked prow towards the comparitively fragile-looking craft. "Now, that right there," she points out the thick armored windows as she leans in her crash harness to her co-pilot, "is a piece of history."

Lieutenant Xi nods. "Chemical rockets all the way. They've really pushed themselves, coming this far in that bucket. Too bad it seems to be giving up the fight now."

The two watched the small craft spin, engine flaring into space towards Saturn, which continued to slowly fill the windows. "So, Xi, how are we doing on drive?"

Xi shrugs, knowing full well that the distort is displayed on their helmet visors, but plays along. Always has to talk... can't blame her. Gonna be pretty dull if all goes well. "Holding steady at point-one gee, vector head-zero inc-zero." He leans forward and flips a switch. "Helm patched into the computer, maintaining constant distance from target." Leaning back, he sighs slightly and toys with his dangling oxygen hard-mask. "Not much else to do 'till something happens, ma'am."

Sumpter looks over her right shoulder at the Loki's radio officer and 'bridge' flight engineer. "Keep that frequency clear, just in case Venture has to call us in a hurry."

"Acting, ma'am." Lieutenant Hall, having already done that, doesn't move much at all. "Ma'am, a suggestion. They must be pretty panicked over there... maybe you should talk to them and keep 'em settled."

The major nods, and then flicks the radio switch on her control column. "Venture, this is Sumpter. Just touching base... if anything goes wrong, God forbid, shut down your main drive first and then call us so we can grapple you safely. Other than that, we're keeping an eye on your course and it reads good for now. So, they say you're from Austrin-Ontis, eh? Why did you decide to come all the way out here?" She speaks in a friendly, disarming tone, with no hint of interrogation.
14-08-2003, 02:25
Aboard the Risky Venture - Day 19, 11 hours to Titan Orbit

Langford continues to monitor the sensors as the Loki approaches, as well as keeping an eye on the thruster activities. The time between thrusters has dropped again, down to 255 seconds, but a check of the computer predicted values indicates this is within predicted figures that will still allow them to reach Titan successfully under their own power. Langford looks up, and smiles at the Loki from his window. Not like they’ll be able to see me, he thinks to himself, but at least it makes me feel better.

The communication light blinks once more for an incoming live broadcast and Langford deftly directs it through the ship’s internal speakers as well as activating his own microphone.

“Major Sumpter, this is Langford again. Understood on the plan in the event of a major problem, I will disable the main thruster and initiate radio contact to request assistance.”

There is a brief pause

“Ummm, yes. I’m from Austrin-Ontis, but the reason might seem...well...a little silly to you. Oh well, I suppose I’m going to have to explain it to a great deal of people so I might as well start here. We came out here to investigate whether the Triumvirate of Yut actually existed, or whether it was something different to the image it portrays to the people of Earth. Obviously, we are now fairly convinced that it does in fact exist.

That means our mission has sort of changed, especially since we’re supposed to go talk to the Triumvirate Council when we reach Titan. I don’t mind saying that I’m a little worried about that, it sounds a little intimidating. Anyway, we’re here for diplomatic purposes now and to gather information.”

There is another brief pause

“That is, information that’s publicly available I mean. We’re not here to spy, just find out more about you. It’s hard to make ‘gather information’ not sound like a prelude to subterfuge. Sorry, you’ll have to excuse me, I’ve been up for some time making sure the pod’s problems are monitored and you are really the first person I’ve talked to in three weeks who wasn’t Chen, my crew mate”
14-08-2003, 06:16
"Heh," Major Sumpter laughs jovially for a few moments before continuing, "I'm not all too surprised you agree we exist now. Sorry," she sighs--inside the cockpit of the Loki, she slides up her helmet's huge visor and wipes a tear of mirth from one eye, still chuckling--"but that was the last reason I or anyone else--I think--suspected. Oh ho. Rich."

Lieutenant Xi stifles a chuckle and then takes over the channel with a flick of a switch and a smirk. "Venture, this is Lieutenant Xi, copilot. While the good major regains her composure I might as well carry on the conversation. Sorry about the intimidation, but it seems to be what we do best. Having powerful enemies tends to put one on edge... and you're a bit too big to send out a little S-3 utility shuttle... so we got sent."

"Venture, Major Sumpter again... hee hee. Yeah... at least they didn't dispatch one with a gunboat MAM--those make this thing look unarmed. Glad to hear that we're helping to break the monotony at least."
14-08-2003, 15:09
“Don’t worry about further intimidation, after sailing through that thirty ship fleet I think I certainly have reached my limit in terms of worry. Well, worry about the Triumvirate anyway, I still have plenty of worry about our engines.

Powerful enemies huh? You mean Melkor, I’d guess. Anyone else though? And any notable alliances too? Forgive my curiosity, but getting a little bit of information now is probably going to make talking to the Triumvirate Council a good deal easier. We’re not entirely unprepared, there’s a gigantic dossier in the back of the ship about your known political actions that I have to read at some point, but I’ve never been one to sit down and read something when I could ask someone about it.

So, do you get many non-aggressive visitors out here normally? I guess they probably announce themselves a little sooner than we did, hence the very impressive force sent to meet us.”

Chen turns away from the microphone for a moment to check the fuel status console, which appears to be keeping usage within predicted levels for the crisis. Main thruster efficiency has dropped again, but only by 2%. There is a shudder as a secondary thruster fires, computer displays time since last thrust is 247 seconds. Hmmm, a little below predicted, thinks Chen, but probably nothing to worry about quite yet. He leans back to the microphone.

“The problem is still looking under control here, luckily. It would be a terrible shame to come all this way and then have it break down so close to our destination, but I think she’s probably going to make it. Of course, getting back is another story. We might have to ask for some fuel and repair facilities when we get to Titan, but Chen’s the one who'll be able to reel off the technical information and he’s getting some rest at the moment. The fuel crisis took it out of him somewhat”


The Risky Venture continues to spiral through space towards Titan, it’s velocity now a tiny fraction of what it used to be and dropping all the time. Though the corrective thrust are becoming more and more frequent, and amount of fuel required to push the ship back on course is becoming less and less as the overall speed drops. Hour by hour, the nervous Langford guides the Risky Venture in on the last leg of the long journey, though his fingernails may never be the same again.
14-08-2003, 18:40
"Melkor's the biggest threat," Sumpter muses, "but little brush incidents keep popping up here and there we have to deal with. Just last month I seconded to the Ticks through the Teedee-eff and had to run aerospace cover over Vrak for the World Court... not much happened, but combat air patrol for a good ten-hour stretch still keeps one awake.

"Nonaggressive visitors? You'd be surprised, really... the Angelans popped out of nowhere to say hi, and so did the Rull. Seems like a lot of advanced extrasolar civilizations think that Saturn is the center of human civilization instead of Earth. Flattering, I guess, but definitely leads to some odd situations. Yeah, most of them identify sooner than you did... but it's becoming customary to roll out the Defense Force everytime someone comes to visit and then blame it on a 'previously scheduled exercise.'

"Notable alliances... pretty much we're our own uberalliance, more of a federal government... and any federal government that has Menelmacar, Cetaganda, and others as member states... smeg, I'm bragging, sorry. Our member states have alliances, but the Triumvirate as a whole tends to stay out of them. The Segments stay out of alliances, mostly.

"Of course, the information sharing goes both ways. I'd like to know more about Austrin-Ontis and how things are going in your area of Earth. Might as well ask, seeing how we're captive audiences and all."
14-08-2003, 23:31
“Well, since you asked I’m sure I could give you a detail or two. Just tell me put a sock in it when you’ve had enough. Hmmm, where to start...

...Ah, I know. It all started in The Dominion of Failte, which used to be where AO is now, within the region of Earth called the Devils Desert. Austrin-Ontis was originally an arms manufacture company founded by a man named Austrin Straub. Straub had built up the corporate state of Austrin Armaments from virtually nothing, and priced most manufacturers out of the local market, except for the existing heavy weight of Ontis Ordnance. Well, not to go into too much detail, it was corporate warfare at its worst. There wasn’t a day that passed that they weren’t fishing bodies out of the sea or putting out mysterious factory fires. Well, eventually the two companies had hit each other so hard that they were in severe danger of losing their markets to outside competitors. A meeting was called between Austrin Straub and Thomas Craic, CEO of Ontis Ordnance. Now, no-one knows exactly what happened in that meeting but at the end of it Craic was happily retired on a tropical island and Austrin Straub was now the proud president of Austrin-Ontis Industries.

Meanwhile, The Dominion of Failte was having some serious financial issues and found itself becoming increasingly reliant on Austrin-Ontis to enable it to survive. It really couldn’t last, Failte became so in debt to AO that something had to be done. The Lord of Failte, David Leoh, seeing no peaceful way to extract his country from this bondage, ordered the army to seize AO assets and make the company a part of the state. AO were not caught unprepared, Straub had predicted that eventually the state would turn on them and they hadn’t just been manufacturing the weapons, they’d been training their men how to use them. The war was a bloody one, but the skilled leadership of Straub and a number of weapons that AO had developed and retained for themselves tipped the balance, and after 3 years the Dominion of Failte was no more, replaced by the Corporate State of Austrin-Ontis.

Well, Straub concentrated on rebuilding the country, and more than that, he concentrated on instilling the same sense of pride in the country that he had managed in his workforce. It worked, no-one could deny that times were hard for the next half-decade but at the end of it AO had become a force, not just economically, but politically as well. We’ve continued to grow, maintaining both the arms industry that made us as well as the other sectors required to keep a country running. Straub led AO until he died peacefully in his bed, aged 88.

In the wake of Straub’s death, his advisors decided to hold a public election to determine who would be the new president for the next 4 years. Well, the election came and went, and the new president elected was Viola Sinysho, formally a general in the AO Army. Well, Viola made the most of her four years, primarily strengthening ties with other nations of Earth, as well as opening up new markets that allowed out economy to grow. Her skilled leadership was partly responsible for the ‘Good Samaritan’ defence pact that exists between us and our neighbours. Basically, it means an attack upon on of us is an attack against all of us, and is responded to appropriately. It is a testament to the worth of this agreement that it has only very rarely needed to be used.

Anyway, Viola’s four years are now up, and the election were in full swing as we left. I couldn’t really call a certain president amongst the candidates, but there are a few there who could mean big changes if they are elected.

As for recent events, Hmmm...oh yes, we’re at war it appears, just heard that through the last laser communication from home. We’ve committed a large task force against a country called Roania, apparently because they interfered in our political process. Apparently they are an ally of Melkor, but I very much get the impression he really doesn’t care what happens to them. We’re fighting on the same side of Tor Yvresse, I’m not sure whether you’ve heard of them? They’re space capable so you might have seen them out here at some point.”
15-08-2003, 03:41
"Hmm." Major Sumpter nods to herself in the Loki's large cockpit. "Well, the Segments border on being a socialist state, but we get away with it using a great deal of 'civic virtue.' Some people would call it indoctrination, but we were founded to get away from corporate warfare... but that story can wait a few moments.

"Tor Yvresse? We know about them... if I remember correctly, our Charlie cruiser squadron of the Ticks is allocated to help protect them. They've been taking the hits in this war, but we've always been on friendly terms... got cemented over arms in the Freebodnazi incident.

"Anyhoo, some Scolopendran history. Way back when, in our own timeline about a hundred years ago, the Mediterranean basin was basically controlled by a series of aligned European megacorporations who used strategic control of Mediterranean ports to control southern European and Middle Eastern trade to the West. When the USA and Canada merged into the United American Conglomerate ubercorporation and its subsequent disruption of European Union and Confederate Southern Asia markets, the Mediterranean corps began to fracture in trying to control trade to the UAC. As the UAC turned into what was basically a capitalist dystopia, there was a major insurge of what little idealism remained from there to Turkey, which was generally neutral in the economic wars between the EU, CSA, and UAC.

"Seeing how all these Mediterranean corps had adopted both English and Arabic as trading language, their employees were united by language and a mutual hatred of the people they worked for. When the Second Soviet Revolution occured, those employees were caught between the infighting of the fragmenting EU and the new Soviet threat. Led primarily by the American-Turkish idealists, popular uprisings started from Morocco to Gibraltar and the employees overthrew their corporations. The governments involved were joined at the carotid to the corperations and were too weak to prevent their coastlines from basically seceeding. Realizing that unity is strength, the remnant pseudostates formed the Federated Segments of Scolopendra... picking the Latin for 'centipede' because that's kind of what the nation looked like and no one could really be offended by it.

"The EU tried to stop Neocommunism before it ran rampant again by devastating the Ukranian and Russian economies, but they did it too well. Those cultures completely destabilized and turned into collections of petty warlord-states similar to Holy Roman Germany, and some obviously had a few nuts. They launched missiles at EU economic sectors and a EU already weakened by internal disagreements finally ruptured. This is when we started pulling extraction campaigns to save innocents, especially in the Crimea and central-to-western Europe. Then the Economic Alliance of Africa started up, and began pushing our southern borders.

"Once the nukes started flying, all bets were off. The UAC and CSA started to press on the Republic of Karmabaijan in Japan and the Southern Pacific, trying to make it another economic imperial holding, and the nation of Suunto in Siberia and Kamchatka started getting pressure from both them and the more powerful Russian warlords once they started successfully extracting resources from the tundra.

"We invented a gravitic drive but didn't have enough resources to implement it properly, so Karmabaijan, Suunto, and us formed an alliance of necessity called the Triumvirate of Yut. Using Suunto's resources, Karmabaijan's ability to pull strings between the UAC and CSA, and our own know-how, we decided to implement a plan to colonize Titan and get the hell off a destabilizing Earth.

"We launched our first colony fleets of five million fleets, and then reality... broke. I was a kid on the colony ships at the time, and I remember feeling distinctly different. The UAC, CSA, EU, EAA, all of 'em, and even our mother countries themselves, just up and disappeared. They were replaced with whatever the hell this multiverse Earth is, with Lodoss, Arda, layer after layer of conflicting reality piled on top of each other. We were stranded on self-sufficient colony ships with no home to return to. It was either colonize Titan or die.

"That was thirty-five years ago... we think, based on our aging. Still, look at the Ring. We couldn't have built that in so short a time, no matter how much help we got. Our technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, all logically progressing. Our only real explanation is that reality is horribly bent, and so is time--we've both been out here for a mere thirty-five years and several hundred. It's difficult to explain, but you can see it every day--hundreds of nations seeming to run at different speeds, hundreds of nations claiming the same land even but not conflicting. Lodoss is both an island chain in the Atlantic and it is no more than ocean simultaneously; Arda is a whole continent the same. Earth is the size of Jupiter, a ringworld, or a hyper-tesseract world depending on who you ask.

"Ugh. I'm rambling." The major shakes her head. "Sorry, but we're a rational people stuck into what, in total, is an irrational situation. Call it a national madness."
15-08-2003, 12:34
“Don’t worry about it, it’s something that I picked up on in my travelling days and it certainly made navigation a nightmare. There’s places out there that only exist when you are in certain other places, and it doesn’t half give you a headache when you know you are in the same location as you have been before, just not the same place. I’d started out trying to travel the major countries of the world, just to get a feel of what life was like and get enough material to write a book. It didn’t work, due to a number of revelations I had en-route. Firstly, I worked out if I’d started as soon as I was born and lived to seventy I’d still have to visit three nations a day, and that’s assuming the number wouldn’t go up, which of course it would. Secondly, a lot of the powerful states limit travel and have security so insane it’s not worth the effort of going there. I suppose they do it because they have powerful enemies, but it plays hell with your travel plans to have to spend six hours in custom giving your life story, getting bombarded with x-rays and getting searched in...unfortunate places. Thirdly, these countries fight. A lot. It’s an impossible task to try and keep track of all the sabre rattling, border skirmishes, gunboat diplomacy and full blown conflicts on the Earth. What this basically means is that I kept hitting conflicts which I had no way of finding out about in advance. Now, I’ve served my time in the military and even stayed on for another five years, but if I wanted to be ducking bullets, hiding in a ditch and eating awful food then I’d still be there now. So that’s my experience with the multitude of nations of the..what was Chen called it again?...oh yes, the Fractal Earth.

I think our government knows about it too, I’m not sure whether they are cruel enough to get bureaucrats to try and keep track of the entire population. I have noticed out foreign policy tends to be to get heavily involved with a small number of international issues, generally away from the main body of the action. This is especially true for war, we’d much prefer to open up a new front and fight a smaller scale war that we can keep track of, than participate in a war with countless powers that is as confusing as hell and holds the possibility of being wiped out by someone you’ve never heard of. Fractal Earth ain’t all bad though, our foreign trade revenues are simply insane because there are so many people to sell weapons too. And given a lot of the nations out there, that source is not going to dry up anytime soon.

Not really encountered the differential temporal progression issue, I suppose that’s a little more subtle. Aside from a wild difference in technological level obviously. You know, it’s quite depressing, we’re quite a large nation which prides itself on being at the cutting edge of modern warfare but nations a tenth of our size are apparently burning their economies building space battlefleets. Evidently we need to find a cosy little time pocket somewhere and hide there for a while.

As for your appearance here, and the disappearance of everything you left behind on earth, that definitely sounds like a wormhole to me, and I should know. One of my drinking friends, a man named Zauders, is quite a whizz in this area. There’s not a day goes by in his company he isn’t talking about Paraverses, Superspace and Einstein-Rosen bridges. Of course, I only understand about 5% of what he says, but some of it has still stuck. Fascinating stuff, though obviously he can’t prove a thing. I assume you’ve got people like that back in Scolopendra too?”
15-08-2003, 22:08
"Ugh, yeah. We'd try to play low-key except everyone and their kid sister knows about the Triumvirate. Once Menelmacar signed on, and we realized the whole of Menelmacar signed on, it just sort of bloomed from there. So much for playing it small and discreet.

"Wormholes, eh? I'd go into our theories, if I knew them. Rumor has it the scientists we have trying to figure out reality all have to be at least slightly mad, and I can believe it from some of the stuff that's filtered down.

"I've got family and friends back on Titan, yeah. Extended family were all on Earth before reality broke... where they are now..." She shrugs with a tired sigh. " doesn't really matter now."
15-08-2003, 22:16
"Yeah, we all do. Gives us something to work for. Still, getting shipped out all over the multiverse gets tiring after a while. At least this op doesn't seem too bad, assuming the rest of the multiverse doesn't try to snipe us right now.

"Hmm... getting new readings on your main engine there. Deteriation continuing, but at a reduced rate. What's it say on your end?"
16-08-2003, 04:21
"That's pretty much a fair summary. We're still suffering a gradual loss in power from the main thruster which is pushing us off course but it looks like we'll have sufficient secondary thruster fuel to maintain our present course. Any special procedures or orbital position we should adopt upon arriving?

If you don't mind I'm going to go offline for a minute or two to send one last message home and wake on Chen before we hit orbit. Talk to you again soon"

Langford switches the microphone off and heads into the rear section of the pod. Seeing how peaceful Chen looks, he briefly considers leaving him be, but a nagging doubt that Chen would be extremely upset at missing them hitting Titan orbit provokes him to shake his friend awake.

"Gnnthh...What? What's wrong?"

"Calm down Chen, there isn't anything wrong. The engines have been performing within your predicted figures and we are about to reach Titan orbit. We've got a Scolopendran ship nearby which has been folowing us for the last few hours, standing by in case we need emergency assistance. Everything is under control"

"That's good. Thanks for waking me up, I'll be through in a few minutes"

Langford heads back to the command section and composes a very short message home providing a brief update of their situation. He is just overseeing the laser communication transmission when the now dressed Chen enters the command section and straps himself into his seat.

"Ok, what's next then?"

"I'm just about to find out"

Langford activates the microphone once more.

"This is Langford again, we are ready to begin final deceleration and orbital entry manuevers upon your instructions."
16-08-2003, 04:38
Sumpter leans forward and slides her visor back down. Her voice turns from being soft to professional. "Roger, Venture. Xi, how's the orbital insert look?"

"Free and clear, ma'am. Ready twenty-three to inside of dispersed squadron formation. Looks like the catcher's glove is ready. D'ya think the two off will be a problem?"

"Can't always be five-by-five. As long as it's over twenty, life is sweet. Venture, follow current flight plan, I'm checking up with FlightCom."

Lieutenant Hall hears his cue and taps a contact on his display. After speaking in jargon a few moments, he nods. "Cleared."

Sumpter flicks the Loki back under manual control. "Venture, Loki Sierra Delta Sierra Zero-Three. You are cleared for orbital insertion on current plotted vector. You will be passing within one-zero-zero klicks of the defense squadron, which will close to one klick upon successful insertion. We will fade to one klick and monitor your progress. Proceed as planned. Do you copy?"
16-08-2003, 05:00
"That is understood Major Sumpter. We will proceed along current vector, and come to a full stop in...approximately 98 minutes which should put us in high orbit well within the safe area."

The two crew begin the final preparations for orbit and although it is primarily computer controlled there are still tasks to be done. Chen lowers the minimum deviation from course to trigger a secondary thrust, so the positioning of the Risky Venture along it's proposed course becomes considerably more exact, at the cost of a little more fuel. Meanwhile, Langford begins preparations to finally shut down the primary thruster when velocity hits zero.

The Risky Venture has lost all but the last tiniest bit of it's momentum now, to an outside observer in barely looks like it is moving at all, though it still has 90 minutes more deceleration left before it will be stationary. Langfrod maintains comunication channels with Major Sumpter, keeping her up to date on exactly what they are doing at all times so she can intervene immediately if something goes astray. 33 minutes from full stop, something does.

The ship once again veers slightly off course because of the inefficiency of the primary rocket, and once again a secondary thruster fires to keep in on course, the bottom-left thruster this time. However, instead of a thin flare of light there is a much greater stream as the overworked thruster fuel pipe cracks open, venting ignited liquid oxygen into space and causing the ship to spiral further off course. Langford sends the following message:

"Langford to Major Sumpter. Computer shows a fault in left-bottom thruster, we are going to attempt to cut power and use the left-top and right-bottom thrusters to resume course for orbit. Please keep us informed if you observe any further external issues."

The burning fuel stops as the supply is cut, and the two other thrusters fire, pushing the vessel slowly back onto it's course. The whole process takes about quarter of an hour, which is possibly the most nerve wracking 15 minutes for the two man crew. Another tense fifteen minutes follow as the crew watch their course like hawks, and then, finally, the main thruster that has been burning so long winks out, and the Risky Venture stops it's journey in orbit over Titan. Langford opens communications once more.

"Phew. That looked a little hairy back there for a moment or two, but we made it! How do you wish us to proceed from this point?"

In the background there is partially audible whooping as Chen obviously celebrates their successful arrival.
16-08-2003, 05:10
Major Sumpter grins. "Welcome to Titan orbit. Well, you don't have much in the way of docking equipment... and a landing in a damaged craft isn't a good idea. We'll come alongside as close as we dare and put a boarding tube up to your airlock. Will that work?"
16-08-2003, 12:43
“Yes, that will work fine. We have an airlock as part of the pod, it should be clearly visible once you close the distance again. I guess we’ll get ready then, hopefully I’ll talk to you in person soon”

Once again Langford terminates the connection.

“Hmm, when do you we’ll be able to get back here Langford? I’m not entirely happy leaving the ship in this state, although I admit there isn’t a lot to do now, at least until the engine cools down. I’m not entirely happy with leaving it in the hands of their engineers to fix either, but I also admit that is completely irrational and probably a result of not being held enough as a child”

Both Chen and Langford chortle at that, there is the impression that that turn of phrase may be part of a long-running joke between the two.

“I think we’re just going to have to see what their plans for us are. We don’t want to offend their hospitality by demanding to come back here every five minutes or so.”

“Langford? You’ve really become a good deal more upbeat about this mission since I was asleep. What happened?”

“Well, I figured that there is still so much to gain from what we can do out here, and I think I’m finally ready to forget all about that stupid theory and get some diplomacy done. It is my strong point after all. Most of this is due to that nice Major Sumpter who I had a very pleasant chat with while you slept.”

“Oh don’t?”

“What? No! Of course not! For gods sake man, I’ve only just met the woman. That sort of the thinking is the result of being stuck in this capsule for three weeks without any female company. The sooner we get you, and me for that matter, out of here, the better.”

“Well, let’s get moving then! What do we still have to do?”

“We need to decide what to wear. I was thinking about dress uniform, I think that’s probably the best idea unless we wish to project the image of being a nation of slobs and that could play hell with our diplomatic chances”

“Well, I think it might be worse for our diplomatic chances if we turn up as corpses and since we are getting there via a boarding tube with most likely no atmosphere, might I recommend spacesuits? ”

“Oh. Good point my man. Spacesuits it is. Just make sure you take your dress uniform in your baggage, I’d hate to be wearing spacesuits for the duration of our stay”

The two crew go off, wash, shave and get changed into clean clothes, before packing up a bag each of clothes and other essential supplies. Among their baggage is also a suitcase full of information dossiers that might be useful and a laptop computer. With their gear prepared, they clamber into the spacesuits. These spacesuits are fairly light since they are designed with the cutting edge of AO materials technology to provide good protection but without being huge. Saying that, they are still significantly bulkier than normal clothes. Probably the most prominent feature is a shoulder mounted camera on a powered mount, allowing everything the wearer sees (and quite possibly some things he doesn’t) to be recorded aboard the in-suit computer.

Langford and Chen take up position in the command section once again to make sure the docking happens successfully, before going to the airlock to prepare to change ships. They put their helmets on as the Loki approaches, their voices now coming through the suits speakers as well as the radio headsets.

“One small step for man...”

“Chen, I think you are detracting slightly from the magnitude of the situation. Please be quiet.”
16-08-2003, 18:13
"Boarding tube, eh? I'll get the M.I. on it." Lieutenant Hall punches some transfers on his internal comms deck. "MyComm, Bridge. Get a combat squad on the bounce to portside airlock three and prepare to extend boarding tube. Feel free to armor up but keep the roscoes to a minimum--no need to scare our guests."

"Acting," crackles the voice from the other end. Along the spine of the Loki, a corporal shouts four other mobile infantry troopers out of their bunks and into their armor... but they leave their combat kits behind. Back in the cockpit, Major Sumpter shrugs out of her crash harness. "Might as well go down and greet them. Xi, you're in charge."

Xi nods and begins maneuvering the Loki into docking position with Risky Venture, closing to ten meters, bringing its broad port wing 'under' the smaller vessel. Within ten minutes, the Loki is in position, the boarding tube is extended. Major Sumpter, still in flight suit and helmet with visor down, smiles. "Right, then. Kill the grav, Xi. These people have been in near-null-gee for a few weeks and we don't want to overstress them."

Cycling through the Loki's airlock, the six Scolopendrans float down the tube to Risky Venture's hatch. Grinning, Major Sumpter looks back at the suited troopers and knocks on the hatch.
18-08-2003, 19:42
Through the clear plastic section of the hatch the Scolopendrans can see two spacesuited figures clamber into the airlock with a fair amount of gear, seal it and begins to match pressure with the conditions in the boarding tube. A few moments pass before one of the figures turns and looks out of the hatch at the waiting team. With just a sheepish smile he returns to his work engaging the safety protocols for the airlock. A few minutes pass, and then the external airlock lights turn from red to green, and the door slowly hisses open.

The figures climb out of the final hatch and for the first time the Scolopendran delegation gets a look at the brave explorers, though obviously visibility is not fantastic through the thick bubble helmets they wear. The first figure to appear looks like he is in his later forties, with thick dark brown hair going slightly grey at the temples. Most of his facial features are eclipsed by a large beard but signs of a severe profile are evident, with a wide protruding nose and a large forehead. Other than that, his blue eyes are bright and his wide mouth locked in a somewhat comical grin. The second figure looks a little younger, perhaps early forties or perhaps even late thirties. Unlike his crewmate, he is clean shaven with lighter brown hair cut short in a pseudo-military fashion. His eyes are dark in colour, and his facial features considerably less prominent than that of the first figure. While the first figure is eminently noticeable, the second has the expression and demeanour that could easily be lost in a crowd. In terms of their movements, both are having a little trouble with zero gravity but the second appears to be coping better.

The first figure pulls himself ahead and proffers a hand the Scolopendran he thinks most likely to be Major Sumpter. His constant grin breaks into a big smile, partially of relief it appears.

“Nice to finally meet you after our journey, I was beginning to think we’d be in there for ever! My name’s Gerard Langford, and this,” he gestures at the second figure, “is Philip Chen. On behalf of Austrin-Ontis I’d like to both extend our greeting to you and the nation of Scolopendra, as well as express our profound thanks for watching over us during the final stages of our journey.”

Langford temporarily forgets what he is supposed to say and makes the mistake of looking down. His smile remains but the humour appears to vanish.

“Well, do you want a look at the Risky Venture before we head across? She’s a bit of a bag of bolts I admit, and I’m not fussed either way. I’d just like to get out of this tube, if that’s alright with you. Never been too fond of heights”
19-08-2003, 21:20
Major Sumpter is rather obvious--she wears a simple olive-drab flight suit looking like it could be pressurized if it had to be, with a bulky khaki utility vest over it covered in pockets and the usual pilot paraphenalia. A nametape on her right breast reads "SUMPTER," the legend repeated across the front of her matte green helmet. Not much is visible under the helmet with lowered visor; a hard plate attached by a hose to an atmosphere bottle hangs to one side much like an old oxygen mask (but designed to be buttoned up and pressurized). From under the visor, Sumpter smiles broadly, her olive-shaded skin seeming about forty-ish and accustomed to such jestures, if the smile lines are to be believed.

The five troopers behind her wear mottled flat grey segmented armor the shade of stormclouds; low-observability insignia on the shoulders. The armor is fully enclosed and slightly on the bulky side, and the edges seem slightly fuzzy due to the nature of the active optic camouflage (currently off).

The flight-suited woman accepts the hand and squeezes, shaking not being the brightest idea in null-gravity. "Major Karyn Sumpter, Scolopendran Military Services. No problem--just doin' our jobs." Looking out the clear plastic boarding tube at the visible sphere of Saturn, she somehow manages to grin even broader. "Yeah, I can see how it can disorient. We'll leave Risky Venture in orbit for now until its main drive can radiate the heat; I wouldn't want to poke around for fear of messing something up."

Somersaulting effortlessly, she grabs onto one of the railings in the tube's ladder and catapults her up the tube, the M.I. leading the way. They cycle through the airlock, apparently designed for maybe fifteen people (or ten in those armor suits) and enter the simple metal corridors of the Loki. No exposed equipment, per se, but access areas are obviously labeled and there is practically no effort to make the ship look aesthetic using paneling. Something that explorers like Chen and Langford might find odd is that there is a definite 'floor' padded with an odd material and a definite 'ceiling' with impressed LED light-fixtures... but the corridors still have handles in appropriate places for maneuvering in null-gravity.
20-08-2003, 04:09
“Sure thing. I’ll just be happy to get somewhere where I can stretch without hitting a piece of sensitive equipment”

Chen briefly stops to press a series of buttons on the external airlock control panel which cycles the outer airlock closed. The two crew then follow Sumpter and the troopers into the airlock, and then further on into the Loki. Their movements are somewhat deliberate but precise, like people who have undergone a fair degree of zero-g training but not really had the experience to make it look natural. Being cooped up in the tiny pod has evidently not helped, probably because of the small area they had to move around in. The shoulder cameras appear to be slaved to their head movements at the moment, turning as they turn to look at their surroundings. Langford merily hauls himself along, but Chen appears to pick up on the slightly unusual corridor layout of the Loki and pulls himself ahead of Langford to catch up with Major Sumpter and comment on it.

“Well, that’s strange. We predicted that the design procedures we have observed in building small ships would be extended to larger ships, that of having no definate up and down in zero gravity. Well, I can definately see a ceiling and floor, which means one of two things. Either our scientists are wrong, which I admit is perfectly possible, or you have access to artificial gravity. I’d be fascinated to know how it works if that is true”
20-08-2003, 10:40
Major Sumpter chuckles. "You've been in low-accel for several weeks... we don't want to overtax you too greatly. As to how it works, that, my friends, is classified. Let it suffice to say that the gravitic technology we use in our engines, combined with our tendancy to design things with more power than they need, has had a surprising side-benefit."

The corridors have open pressure doors every ten meters, obviously designed to slam shut in case of an emergency. The thickness of the walls, along with the obviously redundant systems and compartmentalization, underline the fact that the Loki is either a warship of sorts or just built to last.

Pulling her hard-mask closer to her lips, Sumpter speaks on her line back to the cockpit-bridge while four out of the five troopers stay back to work the boarding tube. "Xi, we're in. What's the call from up top?"

Speakers in her helmet relay the response. "We'll undock and monitor Venture until her drives cool down, then we're going to take her into Arthropod as planned. Crew transition from here to Arthropod will be via shuttle."

"Right on." Grabbing a handhold, Sumpter pivots herself gracefully around an intersection in the corridors. "Well, gentlemen, our orders are to move you to Arthropod via shuttle. If you'd like, we can turn the gravity back on at, oh, half or two-thirds terrestrial standard. Your legs, so your call."
22-08-2003, 09:07
Langford seems to consider the question briefly, before turning to Chen who answers.

“I think we’d appreciate a little gravity so we can start getting used to it again as quickly as possible. Let’s start with just half a G though, we’ve tried to prevent muscle atrophy as much as possible but I’m still expecting it to be extremely uncomfortable for a good day or so”

Langford winces slightly as he considers the imminent pain while Chen continues.

“Alright, to the shuttle then? I get the impression that this vessel is military which would tend to indicate the less time curious foreigners spend on it, the better. That would be the opinion of our military anyway.”

“So,” interrupts Langford, “are you coming with us, or is this goodbye? If it is, I’ll be sure to make it plain to the officials that we meet how much we appreciated your assistance on our way in and your welcome in general.”

The two probably start to make their way to the shuttle under the guidance of their escort. Chen appears to wrestle with his thoughts for a moment before speaking again.

“Gravitic propulsion heh? It’s something our scientists have considered as a possible avenue for space research, but it’s obviously some way off as we don’t really have the general technological base to make progress. You get a significantly higher rate of acceleration than even that proposed for antimatter rockets, and it’s a good deal safer too. And that would mean you could pull the same kind of manoeuvres we saw you do out there. Well, based on our predictions, anyway. I understand you might not be able confirm or deny any of this, but I’d kick myself if I didn’t ask and you could have answered. Nuclear fusion for power? Or something better? I won’t even ask about your weapons, I’m sure you won’t be able to say anything. Kinetics and hyper-V missiles? Oh, sorry. Just thinking aloud.”

Langford gives his crewmate a slightly surprised look as he talks, the root of his surprise being both his friends uncharacteristic enthusiasm and apparent knowledge of the subject.
22-08-2003, 10:55
In response to Langford's question, the major nods. "Yes, sir, I'm staying aboard here. 'S my job--sorry--but thanks for the complement." She smiles sweetly, still not having removed her helmet.

"Xi," she speaks into her mic, "turn up the grav. Half-standard." Righting herself with a well-placed handle, the acceleration due to gravity 'downwards' towards the 'floor' slowly increases to 4.9 meters per second squared. As she settles, she continues, merely chuckling at Chen's enthusiasm as they walk. "I can answer with whatever can be found in a public library. The standard Loki-class dropship is armed with ten heavy gauss rifles, sixty field-grade large broadband pulse laser cannon, sixty fifty-millimeter short-range kinetic rocket tubes and three-hundred-sixty twentyfive-millimeter long-range kinetic rocket tubes.

"Power is provided by a mix of hydrogen fusion, VASIMIR effect, Casimir plates, and anything else we can scrape up. The percentages are, of course, classified." She smiles as she taps a code into a thick door that cycles an airlock to what appears to be a large internal pressurized hangar bay (albeit with relatively low ceilings for such structures, like the inside of an aircraft carrier). From observations, it seems to be along the central "core" of the Loki's fuselage but doesn't take up the entire width. From obvious observation there are six delta wing fighter craft with broad canards and two larger beetle-like shuttles with two sets of folded wings, one in front of the other. As they enter, a soft klaxon sounds and red lights begin to spin. Technicians immediately close access panels and watch the explorers carefully.

"Oh, don't mind the alarms. Just a restricted access area." Walking up to one of the shuttles, Major Sumpter addresses the mahogany-skinned woman who pokes her head out. "Lieutenant, will you ferry these kind gentlemen over to Arthropod for me?"

The woman nods, leans back inside the shuttle, and reappears as she settles a bulky flight helmet over her short-cropped black hair. "Sure thing, ma'am." As the lieutenant steps aside to allow Chen and Langford to come inside, the major pauses outside the door, helmet on and visor still down. "Well, it's been nice having you aboard. Hopefully we'll meet again."
22-08-2003, 19:41
As the gravity is activated the two crew of the Risky Venture are drawn down towards the floor along with everyone else, using the handles to right themselves before they land. Both of them visibly wince as they hit the ground, and Langford staggers slightly while Chen holds tightly onto a handle to keep himself upright. Grabbing a handle himself, Langford turns to the Major.

“Don’t mind us, apparently our exercises weren’t quite so good as we were briefed they would be. I’m sure we’ll be alright in a moment or two”

A brief halt has to be called, during which Langford and Chen experiment with putting gradually more weight on their legs and readapting their muscles to gravity. After just a few minutes they are fit to walk, though they are limping slightly and it’s obviously still a little painful.

“There we go. I think we’re ready to go again now. It just stings a little. Well, more than a little actually. I see what you meant when you said we’d be gambling with our legs”

The journey continues, albeit slightly slower and more carefully. Chen listens with rapt fascination to the Major’s description of the Loki-class dropship, while even Langford displays a degree of mildly confused curiosity.

“That seems like an awful lot of firepower for a dropship, “says Chen once the Major has concluded her description, “but I guess our definitions of a dropship could be different. When I hear dropship I think of a VTOL carrying maybe twenty-thirty men, I imagine the definition is slightly different when applied to space-capable dropships. Pulse lasers too? That was something I wasn’t expecting. Our scientists seem to think they wouldn’t be viable for weapon systems once we became capable of space combat. Something about not measuring up to kinetics, I can’t remember the exact reason. Oh well, I guess it goes to show you can’t base everything on the results of a think-tank and assume it’ll be true. Well, thank you. I think once we reach Titan we’re going to have to spend a great deal of time downloading information from your libraries. There are so many things here of interest, and I’m sure our friends back home don’t want to miss any of it just because my friend and I can’t remember it all”

The walk continues, and Chen and Langford have practically overcome the return to a semblance of gravity gravity by the time they reach the shuttle. They both turn to the Major, and Chen steps forward first.

“Thank you for your hospitality and your patience with us Major, and good fortune to you.”

Chen gives the Major a small formal bow, hands clasped in front of him before entering the shuttle while Langford steps up to say his goodbyes.

“Well, it’s been a pleasure Major Sumpter, and once again my thanks. I’d consider myself blessed if I we were to cross paths again upon our departure. Even if we don’t, you never know, we might be back at some point, especially if the negotiations go well. Ah, one last thing. I think we can shake hands properly now, now we have got some gravity”

Langford proffers his hand, gives Major Sumpter’s hand a hearty shake and then vanishes into the shuttle with one final smile and nod of his head at the Major and her crew.
22-08-2003, 23:05
Along the way

Pulse lasers too? That was something I wasn’t expecting. Our scientists seem to think they wouldn’t be viable for weapon systems once we became capable of space combat. Something about not measuring up to kinetics, I can’t remember the exact reason
"True, kinetics have a lot going for them, and they are more energy efficient--thus all the tubes for the small-diameter rockets. Still, if you brute-force enough energy through a seven-ton laser assembly, you can do sufficient damage if you keep them focused. Their better accuracy, time-to-target, and relative independence from ammunition limitations make them decent weapons. Once one gets enough power, one can afford to trade energy efficiency for other tangible benefits."

On the shuttle

After closing the door, the lieutenant shows Chen and Langford to two jump seats to the side of the command cabin and illustrates how the crash harnesses work while introducing herself. "Good morning, gentlemen. I'm Lieutenant Zinsa Ahomadegbe, and I'm going to be your pilot for today." She grins broadly, showing how all the straps snap into the central buckle and release when the knob is twisted. "Quite the trip you made--honestly, we're all rather impressed."

After they were secure, she leans over the right-hand front seat of the cockpit as she buckles the chin-strap of her helmet. "So, Dotchev, how's the pre-flight?"

The copilot looks up from his clipboard. "In progress, ma'am. I've cleared up the starting points, and we're ready to go through the second stage warm-start procedures whenever you're ready.

Slipping into her seat and adjusting her harness, Zinsa looks back at the passengers and smiles. "This is Flight Sergeant Dotchev, your copilot." At his simple introduction, he leans back and waves with open palm over one shoulder. "Next few minutes are going to be rather dull as we get this bird ready to fly, but we'll run the list quick as we can." Sliding down a knob on the side of her helmet, she lowers her visor which immediately begins to light up on the inside with some sort of table. A quick smile, and then she turns to the front, flipping switches as Dotchev announces check-tasks.

"Set internal reactor to ten percent output."

Click and turn. "Check, ten percent." The shuttle hums at the very edge of human hearing.

"Set aux power feed from external to ready standby."

Click. "Ready standby, check."

"Deactivate external umbilical feed."

Click. "Deactivated EUF, check."

"Disconnect umbilical feed."

Cover flips open, click, cover slaps shut. "Disconnected, check."

"Monitor aux power feed level."

"Nominal, check."

"Monitor reactor cores one and two."

"One nominal and two nominal. Check."

"Set reactor cores to standard operating level."

"Reactors one and two to S.O.L."--she chuckles as she turns the knobs--"check and reading nominal." The hum becomes a steady audible tone, about as loud as someone humming softly to themselves and very low on the register--very bass.

"Engage gravitic impeller."

Cover flips open, click, cover slaps shut. "Gravimpeller engaged. Check."

"Set navigational controls to manual fine."

Click, turn, and lock. "Nav controls to fine manual. Check."

"Bird's ready to take wing, ma'am."

"Understood. Shuttle Sierra Delta Sierra Zero-Three-Alpha to FlightCom, we are ready for launch procedures."

The response is inaudible until Dotchev flips a switch. "--ged, Zero-Three-Alpha. Transit to starboard bay."

"Acknowledged, FlightCom." The shuttle lifts slightly--as can be seen through the windows, although there is no sensation of inertia--as the lieutenant pulls up gently on the spherical control column. "Transiting now." The coleopteran vessel follows along a yellow line gently, about half a meter off the deck, before turning and slipping into a massive airlock. The segmented inner doors slide shut behind it and the bay quickly depressurizes, judging from the fast-fading roar of the atmospheric pumps.

"Zero-Three-Alpha, bay is depressurized." The segmented outer door slides up, revealing space and the top and inside of the Loki's thick starboard wing. "Transition to Arthropod, freeflight vector."

"Acting, FlightCom. Zero-Three-Alpha out." Ahomadegbe pushes the sphere forward, and the shuttle quickly accelerates, leaving the wing and Loki SDS-03 behind with absolutely no sense of movement. The interior of the shuttle is left in null-gravity as the lieutenant swings the craft around, rotating the sphere, and directs it towards a particular point in space. Even a Sulaco-class heavy cruiser doesn't look like anything at all from a hundred clicks out. Spinning the craft towards blue Titan, she lets it fill the windows as she pushes sideways on the sphere.

"Just thought you two might like a good look at it."

(OOC: And... out of comms until Sunday night (probably) or Saturday night (absolute earliest))
23-08-2003, 11:17
"Good morning Lieutenant, you might have already been told who we are, but just in case, I'm Gerard Langford and my friend here is Philip Chen. Oh, and you might not think the trip quite so impressive if you were aware of how often we were convinced we were going to die. If there is a next time, I'm most definately going to demand a substantially bigger budget."

Chen gives her a smile and then returns to examining the interior of the shuttle. The two sit quietly as the pre-flight checks are rattled off, the only noise being their breathing and the whirr of their shoulder-cams rotating and focusing to follow the movements of their heads and take in everything that they see. As the shuttle turns to face Titan, both crew seem suitably impressed, there is a muffled gasp from Langford and even a raised eyebrow from Chen.

"Wow, that's pretty impressive. I think we can definately tick our 'yes' box for Titan being fully terraformed, don't you think Chen?"

"There were some of us who had ticked our Titan fully terraformed box before we even left Earth...Oh, I'm sorry lieutenant. After three weeks in a room with just one person, argument becomes both an artform and a way to keep sane and it's proving somewhat difficult to break the habit. That is indeed an amazing sight, I think we're both getting very enthusiastic about going down there and seeing it in person"

Chen reaches up to the camera on his shoulder, flicks a switch and pulls a hinged cylindrical section of the camera over his eye so it looks like he is looking through a very small telescope on the outside of his helmet. He then adjusts some discs of the telescope as he looks out at Titan, and there is a corresponding whirr of movement from the camera as it moves to his instructions. After five seconds, he moves the cylinder to one side again and clips it in place.

"There we go, that just give us some fine shots for the archives. Thank you very much lieutenant"
imported_Sentient Peoples
23-08-2003, 13:02
OOC: The t-shirts are ready.
24-08-2003, 04:55
The lieutenant nods. "No problem, gentlemen." Pushing on the opposite side of the spherical controls and twisting slightly, the shuttle spins back to face Arthropod, looming large in the windows and closing albeit at a slowing pace. "Arthropod FlightCom, this is Shuttle Sierra Delta Sierra Zero-Three-Alpha. Request landing clearance and vector."

"Zero-Three-Alpha, Arthropod FlightCom. Cleared for ventral bay three, approach vector bearing 180 declination 72 Arthropod planar relative."

"Ack, Arthropod. Following as broadcast." Carefully adjusting her control-sphere, Lieutenant Ahomadegbe brings the shuttle onto the requested flight path. "Course check is twenty-four out of twenty-five. Confirm, Dotchev?"

The copilot nods. "Excellent as usual, ma'am. Navcomp feed is still on standby for terminal guidance and control."

"M'eh," Ahomadegbe shrugs, "I'll stick to ILS 'till FlightCom tells me otherwise. Taking it slow and easy." The shuttle slips into the large airlock and cycles through, coming through the top inner doors and settling on the hangar deck. After the lieutenant nods to him, Flight Sergeant Dotchev slips out of his crash harness and helps the explorers out of theirs. "She's going to run turnaround as I get you off the shuttle. You've got some people waiting for you outside."

Opening the door for the two, the helmeted copilot nods to a uniformed group standing just outside in the hangar, red lights flashing to warn that anything secret should be kept so. The thrumming of the shuttle's engines is slightly louder now that the door is open, and the two explorers can clearly see the command staff of Arthropod. A short female about 153 centimeters tall of what appears to be subcontinental Indian descent with short, wiry black hair; an average height-and-build western European maybe 180 centimeters tall with curly brown hair and a jovial, sanguine face; and, potentially most interesting, a massive 235 centimeter tall bipedal felinid resembling some sort of bastard cross between a linebacker and a tiger, with a thick coat of glossy red-orange fur, a naked segmented rat-like tail, and leathery ears resembling bat-wings. It wears a uniform similar to those worn by the humans, modified slightly to fit its particular physiology better. Single gold stars adorn each shoulderboard.

Stepping forward, the creature makes a short bow and extends a massive padded hand. "I am Flag Colonel K'zta, captain of the Scolopendran WarShip Heavy Cruiser Arthropod and commander of the Scolopendran Defense Squadron. You will stay aboard for a while as you acclimate to gravity and we retrieve your vessel. Your expertise with your craft will be required. Hopefully this is acceptable?" The thing smiles (?) broadly, lips curling up at the edges, showing no teeth.
26-08-2003, 00:54
With the assistance provided, Chen and Langford are able to struggle free from their harnesses and after thanking the pilot and co-pilot, climb down onto the hangar deck, regarding their surroundings carefully. As they approach the welcome party, it is clear that they are both rather surprised at the appearance of the Colonel. A short but frantic conversation takes place within the privacy of internal suit-to-suit communications.

“Jesus Christ Chen! What the hell is that?”

“I don’t know, but remember your training. We’ll be damn well pleasant if their commanders turn out to be tentacled bloodsucking-monsters. And don’t stare! There too much at stake here to get xenophobic!”

“Okay, okay. I was only asking. Here we go...”

Chen and Langford reach the uniformed group and halt. They pause briefly before reaching up and flicking a row of catches around the neck joint of their spacesuits. With a slight hiss they remove their helmets and place them on hooks on the left-hand side of the waist on each suit, apparently designed for this purpose. A few more details are evident about the two crewmen now that their helmets now longer mask their faces. Langford is clearly white in ethnic origin, with perhaps a hint of Hispanic features. The beard that was only partially visible in the helmet is revealed in it’s full glory, it is a beard that would make any traditional Russian of the late 20th century proud. His grin still remains, but there is an element of uncertainty there that was absent before. This is reflected in his eyes also, which keep nervously flicking back to the Colonel despite his best efforts to act normally. Walking in the gravity reveals that he is perhaps a little shorter than six foot, while Chen is about 3-4 inches shorter. Chen appears to move like a man who is slighter built, though obviously this is still masked slightly by the bulkiness of the suits. His hair is not quite cut short all over, as he turns his head to one side a thin ponytail is revealed at the back, of uncertain length since it goes down inside the suit. Chen’s features indicate a mixed heritage, part western and part oriental. In contrast to his companion, Chen appears absolutely calm and focused, and regards all of the party sent to meet him with the same pleasant, interested look common to an experienced diplomat.

In response to the offer of Colonel K’zta’s hand, Chen firsts executes a short and precise bow and steps up first and shakes it, before stepping back as Langford also steps forward to make his introductions, shaking the outstretched hand a little more gingerly than Chen did.

“We are pleased to meet both you and your officers, Colonel. Though you have doubtless heard it before, I am Philip Chen and this is Gerard Langford. I would like to express our gratitude at the manner of our welcome and your tolerance of our presence and mission here. We welcome the chance to rest for a while and grow accustomed to gravity once more before fulfilling our diplomatic duty and are again grateful for the opportunity to do so. As for our ship, we are at your disposal and will provide any and all information and manual assistance to assist it’s retrieval. Since we are not exactly aware of the technology you have at your disposal, it would probably be best that we relegate ourselves to an advisory position, but we aren’t adverse to going out there again to see her in. Are we Langford?”

“Not adverse at all. She’s a good ship, and she deserves the best care we can give her”
26-08-2003, 02:32
K'zta nods. "Yes. It is an exquisite piece of engineering, all things considered. My engineering department says we need technical data to repair your main engine. You will wish to coordinate with Major Davidson." The Kzin indicates the tall man with one hand. "You may also want a tour of Arthropod... my executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Muthukumarasamy"--he indicates the short woman with his other hand, pronouncing the name carefully with his over-large palate, which makes the woman shake her head with a soft chuckle--"can take care of it if my presence is too disturbing."

The beast continues to smile softly as he looms at a polite distance. "We have transit quarters ready for you if you wish to relax. The choice is yours."
26-08-2003, 03:48

Took me a full hour to read. Great stuff.
26-08-2003, 16:22
Langford’s nervous smile grows incrementally wider as K’zta clearly notices his discomfort and uncertainty but Chen seems fairly unfazed, chuckling slightly as he responds.

“I am sorry Colonel K’zta, you are unlike any individual we have previously encountered on earth and first contact is always somewhat daunting, hence our slight trepidation in your presence. Our nation is almost entirely human and even our contact with non-human earthbound races such as elves has been limited. It is not a factor of speciecism though, merely a factor of geography. It does however mean that we are relatively unexperienced in this area, hence our impoliteness. I do believe however it will be something that we can work around in time, and the best thing to do is to spend some time in your company, if that is acceptable of course”

Langford vehemently nods his agreement for his friend’s idea, and then takes over the dialogue.

“I can’t speak for Chen, but if it’s alright with you I’d like to coordinate the retrieval of the Risky Venture first, I’m certainly still hoping we can use her to get home and I think she deserves a little attention after getting us all this way”

“Agreed. After that is concluded we would be privileged to accept your kind offer of a tour of the Arthropod, I am indeed curious about the inner workings and lay-out of this fine vessel, those you are wishing to show us, of course. Rest has waited for some time, I believe it can wait a few hours longer”

Again Langford nods and they both turn to Major Davidson.

“So,” speaks up Langford, “what is it you need to know?”
26-08-2003, 18:44
(OOC: Going to take some liberties with Venture design... hope you don't mind. Will edit otherwise.)

Colonel K'zta simply chuckles. "Do not apologize--no offense is taken. You fear the Kzin. This is wise."

Major Davidson produces a tabletcomp from behind his back. It resembles most tablet computers back on Earth except this one looks like it's been designed to still work after being run over by a Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle, all metal and thick plastic and hard-looking utilitarian lines. On it is a diagram of Risky Venture, points labeled in English and Arabic.

"Well, we've set up some bay space for Venture and the Loki we've got out there has been scanning it to no end. We still don't get the details of the engine, though, which will be needed if we're to make any modifications. It looks like the fault started with the thrust cone, which couldn't take the thermal stress along this juncture here"--he points with a stylus--"and it split along an existing stress line. After that, the cone started uncoiling--because it's a standard lamellor overlapping design--and when the gimbals tried to counteract it, your exaust just started melting off decent portions of the cone. We're going to have to rebuild the cone from scratch, and while I can make an educated guess as to its properties the specifics would be a lot better.

"Of course, then there was a heat transfer problem as the cone started transferring heat to the hull. The ring connecting the cone to the hull is warped significantly, and probably would have failed after three to six more hours of engine firing. As your gimbal systems and coolant return lines are hooked through that ring... would've gotten ugly fast. Ring would tear out, coolant gets sprayed about--and the funny thing about coolant is that it tends to be flammable--your gimbals go out and you lose all main engine control maybe one, two seconds before the flaming coolant bursts your fuel lines and you go up." Davidson smirks. "I guess you're just really lucky that Titan is inhabited. From the looks of the stress line that started all this, it just looks like a loading error--someone banged it too hard. Crazy accidents like that happen."

"Overall, though, the design's sound. My staff and I are quite impressed. We just need the specs and design of the engine so we can put them through the fabbers and make replacement parts. I hope you don't mind if we use a different material for your thrust cone... the outer coating had the thermal properties but not the durability, and the framework was the opposite... I'm thinking that we expand the coolant system around the nozzle and hook up some additional radiators to it." Tapping the display, he brings up a picture of Venture with several flimsy wasp-wing like radiators hooked to its aft with an inset of the proposed cone, large coolant tubes running along its outside. "We can make up for the added mass by taking off the equipment you'll obviously not need--landing gear, for example."
26-08-2003, 21:54
(OOC - Don’t mind at all, I had no specific plan for the layout of the thrust system and that seems pretty much the design I would have used had I given a complete description. Probably better in fact.)

“All this from a loading error?”, interjects Langford as the two listen to Major Davidson’s summary and look at the diagrams. “It looks like we’ve been very lucky indeed out there. Three to six hours before catastrophic failure you say? The automatic systems would likely push the crew pod clear but that just means you drift out into space without any way to manoeuvre, which is an even worse way to go as far as I’m concerned.”

Chen lays his canvass briefcase on the ground and unzips it, pulling out a second laptop. It’s slightly bulkier than a standard model, probably because of partial radiation shielding for space operation. It certainly seems a good deal heavier than a standard model as Chen opens it and starts it up on the hangar deck. It begins to whirr as it begins the start-up procedure of software and hardware checks.

“This’ll only take a minute or two and we’ve got full schematics of the ship on file. We aren’t exactly dedicated engineers so a little visual aid might make our explanations a little more understandable. The engine itself is very simple, it’s just a liquid ammonia bottle-rocket at heart, though the sophisticated part is through precision manufacture of the functionally simple components involved. Primarily, the higher than expected thrust is because of the exhaustive purification process used on the liquid ammonia fuel long before it ever made it into the fuel tanks. Secondarily, there is a complex system of filters inside the tanks and fuel lines designed to ensure balanced usage from each tank so the centre of mass remains the same. Finally, the supply system around the nozzle is pretty much a work of art, designed to scrape every last iota of thrust from the fuel by ensuring exactly the right rate of fuel burn for maximum efficiency and reasonable acceleration. All the regulation systems are powered by a network of thin-film nickel-cadmium batteries, again pretty much at our technological cutting edge because of the manufacturing precision involved. They were chosen because they were a good deal more reliable and smaller than the next alternative. The same power systems feed into the manoeuvring thrusters and back to the computer system which does practically all of the work. Ah, there we go...”

Chen sits down in front of the newly started up laptop and punches up the schematics in a few key presses. The screen shows a side-on view of the Risky Venture, different components picked out in different colours and labelled in English.

“There, you can see the fuel regulation system in yellow, the electronic interface in blue, the fuel storage and lines in green and the engine systems in red. This is a pictorial schematic, if you highlight an area it’ll bring up a more exact schematic, along with materials and dimension information. You can hang on to a copy of this if you like, it’s officially a government secret but think that’s rather irrelevant given our significant technological gap and the necessity of our ship repairs.”

Langford looks on with interest, it is evident he’s aware of the majority of the technical details too but is letting his more tech-savvy colleague handle the explanations. Chen stops speaking for just a moment to bring up a few more details on the screen.

“Hmmm, I can’t see any problem with the inclusion of radiator fins, they can be secured to the supporting struts here, here and here which are constructed from ceramic materials so they should be able to handle the temperatures involved. I’ve got no objection to a different cone material, nor the coolant tubes. I can even give you a weight of the landing gear and the other effected or removable components so you know how much you’ve got to work with. Anyway, the schematics are yours. You should find everything you need in there”

Chen moves away from the laptop to allow Major Davidson access and goes over to stand next to Langford, who is examining the proposed design for the refit.

“I don’t know Chen, I think she’ll lose a little of her charm with these coolant lines and those little radiator wings”

“Agreed, it won’t be the ship it started as, but we’ve got to get our priorities straight. She’s a tool for keeping us alive in space first and aesthetically pleasing second. And certainly better than hitching a life back and explaining that we broke our government’s spaceship, eh?”

“Oh, definitely. Definitely”
27-08-2003, 03:08
"Thank you, sir." The major nods and clips his tabletcomp to his belt, a segmented series of attachment points for slide-and-lock hooks, then takes up Chen's notebook computer. Looking at the probable dataport on one side he muses quietly to himself. "Lessee... looks like a standard modem/network card jack... a little dated, but we can manage."

Pulling an odd little plug from a port on his tabletcomp, the major sets the laptop down and taps a few menus on his tablet. The odd soft plastic plug seems to change shape with the wires visibly shifting in its translucent shell; Davidson plugs the jack neatly into the port with a barely audible click. "I hope you don't mind if I take the liberty of downloading this information--wouldn't want to steal your computer. Thanks, though--this'll tell us exactly what we need. The fabrication department will get to work on the needed components shortly, and our techs will wait to install until you can supervise."

The tall Kzin and the short Indian woman quietly converse off to the side--quite the odd pair--occasionally chuckling mutually over something. The technicians scattered about the hangar bay look around curiously, sometimes trying to snatch glances at the two explorers inbetween sitting on toolboxes and maintenance equipment. The shuttle behind Langford and Chen hums a little louder, backs off, and follows a yellow line painted on the floor until it dips into a recessed airlock in the floor.

The internal hangar bay looks extremely similar to the one on the Loki--form follows function--except that the ends have open pressure doors, large enough to fit one of the beetle-like shuttles through, that lead into more bays. Inspection would show that the explorers are standing in the middle of what seems to be three bays, set one in front of the other. The spinning red lights flash as they did on the Loki, accompanied by an identical soft klaxon.
27-08-2003, 20:06
“That’s a nifty piece of technology”, says Langford, peering over at the adaptable plug as it alters to fit into the modem socket, “something to do with plastics with memory possibly? I think I heard something about that back on earth before we left”

“Well, I’m glad you’ve got all you need, I was hoping to be able to hang on to the computer.” Chen sets the Laptop into shutdown mode, folds it up and stows it back in his black case. “And we appreciate the chance to be there when the modifications are made. I’m not sure how much help we’ll be during actual engineering work but any help we can provide we’ll be happy to.”

The two leave Major Davidson to his work and look around the hangar as the shuttle vanishes from sight.

“Well, what do we do now?” asks Langford

“I think it’s the guided tour, which should be extremely interesting. Oh, that reminds me. Check your camera, we don’t want any technical problems damaging our video record”

Langford reaches over to his right shoulder and spends a few brief moment performing a very simple check-over of his camera, checking a selection of external panels and finishing up with a circular head movement to test the actuators.

“So,” speaks Langford as he does the checks, “sorry if I caused a minor diplomatic incident before meeting the Colonel. I’m just not really used to dealing with non-humans and I kind of froze up. I think I’ll be better now. Come to think of it, how did you handle it? Had prior experience?”

“Not really, well, that is unless you count going out with an elf girl in college and that really isn’t in the same league.”

“Point taken. An elf eh? Never heard you mention that before”

“It didn’t work out. I’ll tell you about it later, but now isn’t really the time.”

“Oh well, water under the bridge I suppose. You and an elf...never would have thought it. It’s a funny old world”

The two finish their checks and cover the remaining distance to the Colonel and his associate, Langford leading the way this time with a little less trepidation than he demonstrated during their last meeting.

“Well, that’s the engineering out of the way for the moment, is that offer of a guided tour still good? I think Chen has been looking forward to this for some time and I have to admit I’m various curious to see the inner workings of such a large and sophisticated vessel”
28-08-2003, 17:41
"Sort of. Memory plastics can only "remember" so many configurations, though, and usually not in the detail needed for omniplugs." Major Davidson shrugs. "It's an application of nanotechnology."

Flag Colonel K'zta leans forward from resting against a portable generator and smiles. "Tour, hmm? We will show what we can. I am rather proud of this vessel. Indra," he turns to the short Indian woman, "please to take command of the ship in my absence."

"Acting, sir," Lieutenant Colonel Muthukumarasamy chuckles back with a smirk. "You truly are incorrigible, sir."

K'zta laughs--unlike the soft huffing noise of a chuckle, this sounds somewhere between a haggard roar and someone coughing up a lung--which gains the attention of everyone on the hangar deck. "I know, I know. I do promise to be nice to them." Regaining his composure, the giant Kzin turns to the explorers. "Follow me, please."

He leads the explorers through the corridors of the vessel, which are similar to those on the Loki except slightly broader. The ceilings are a good 2.4 meters from the floor, but K'zta ducks under each structural rib instinctually as he talks to Langford and Chen. "We are lucky. My people were extracted before Scolopendra built warships... and what ships they had were designed to accept powered armor suits in the halls. We managed to fit in."

The first stop from the hangar bay is a simple room filled with computer banks and a single technician sitting behind a large console. "This is part of the starboard broadside fire control of Arthropod. It coordinates with the other fire controls in a redundant network. This one is officially responsible for a broadside heavy naval autocannon, but can take control of other weapons stations if they are knocked out."

The technician--maybe enlisted, as he has a series of bars on the shoulderboards of his fatigues instead of the metal insignia seen so far on the officers--turns around in his chair and smiles. "Good morning, sir. So these are our visitors?" He seems to not notice the red-spinning light and soft klaxon.

"Good morning, Spaceman. Yes, they are."

(OOC: More tour later when I have time. Feel free to ask questions and such.)
28-08-2003, 18:57
OOC: Tag and let me know if you want to pass through Freod.
29-08-2003, 13:58
Talking to Major Davidson

“Nanotechnology? I am aware of some the proposed uses for it, but I did not expect to see it had already been developed to the point where it was in common usage. Fascinating, though I do not think you could explain it in a way I could understand. I shall add it to my list of ‘Wonders of the Triumvirate that will require our government to send an actual physicist out here, rather than an enthusiastic amateur’” Chen smiles widely as he says this, there isn’t any hint of jealousy, just his usual brand of self mocking humour.

Beginning of the Tour

“Extracted?” interjects Langford, “Could you tell us a little of your people’s history? I’d be interested to learn of your origins, and how you came to be a part of Scolopendra”

Starboard broadside fire control computer room

The two visitors make their usual greetings to the technician and look around the computer room with interest. Chen stays quiet for exactly the amount of time politeness demands before indulging in a barrage of questions

“A heavy naval autocannon? Is that a large bore kinetic weapon or something different? How many do you have on your broadside weapons array? And what other weapons systems? Oops, sorry...sorry if you cannot tell me this information, I know that this is a military vessel and you are very likely to have information you don’t want to tell a pair of inter-planetary tourists from a foreign nation. It’s sort of a vice of mine, I used to be involved in Naval engineering, that’s naval as in sea ships rather than spaceships, but there’s a surprising amount of similarity. I understand tactics are a little more complicated in three dimensions though”
29-08-2003, 14:28
Major Davidson, Chief Engineer of Arthropod

"Possibly. This isn't even the most... esoteric use of nanotech. The Eniqciri seem to make everything out of nanites, especially their autonomous computer systems. Rumor has it that Sentient Peoples and the EOTED have been fiddling around with doorless nano-walls. Sure, we have an excess of power... but..."--he taps one booted foot on the deck--"there's something comforting in solid metal. And there's just no need for doorless walls, right?"

Beginning of the Tour with Flag Colonel K'zta

"We are unsure of our own history." K'zta frowns slightly. "As far as we can remember we lived in the Tibetan Highlands, a close-knit community of hamlets seperated from the rest of the world by rugged terrain. We had a basic grasp of modern technology--radios and the like--but we have no idea from where. We used old machines that tended to break down. Those machines were at least centuries old. They were old enough that we no longer knew their age.

"We listened to humanity with our radios and saw no need to contact it. Eventually they found us. A nation called the Confederacy of SouthEast Asia stumbled upon us and tried to use us for slave labor." K'zta grins unconsciously, exposing his teeth just a hair. "Tried being the operative phrase. We needed help, we called the Scolopendrans. They saved our people."

As K'zta talks about this, it would be interesting to note that any human Scolopendrans they walk past would seem to get really quiet and introspective, especially if they're Mobile Infantry (who are visible sometimes either wearing fatigues or a lighter version of powered armor which resembles an exoskeleton more than a full suit).

Starboard broadside FCC room

"Well..." the Sergeant begins, looking up at the colonel.

"They are authorized to see anything that would be found in a public library."

"Okay, sir." The sergeant looks back at Chen. "I like your enthusiasm, sir. The 35-class naval autocannon I'm controlling right now is a rapid-fire kinetic weapon that uses a primary charge to get the round out of the barrel and then a self-propelled charge to speed it up. That's how we deal with recoil issues; it still takes some compensation from the gravitic engines though. It's about a 300 millimeter cannon... pretty largebore. We use those big shells so we can have variable ammunition ranging from high explosive to armor penetrator to microfusion burst to EMP piercer... also, the firing mechanism's a bit less massive than a magnetic hyperkinetic Gauss weapon and the fire rate is much better.

"Arthropod is armed with six variable-munition naval missile launchers, which can fire anything from the light 90-ton naval missiles to the heavy 150-tonners. She also has six medium naval particle projection cannon, six heavy naval lasers, twelve medium naval autocannon, and twenty-three more of these very-heavy naval autocannon. If that's not enough for one, she also has a point-defense screen of eighty large pulse lasers.

"And oh yeah, tactics are more complex in three-dee. Still, we deal with a lot of flat-thinkers--a surprising amount--and so we whip 'em. Strategy isn't quite my job, though; I'm a fire-solutions man."
01-09-2003, 20:39
(OOC - Sorry about the delay in reply, I generally have trouble getting online at weekends and a friend’s wedding this weekend didn’t exactly help. Will endeavour to reply extra promptly on weekdays)

Major Davidson, Chief Engineer of Arthropod

Chen nods his consent to Davidson’s point, looking down at the reassuringly solid deck plating.

“True enough. I suppose with that level of technological innovation there is a temptation to use it just because you have it, rather than making do with the adequate methodologies of the past. Aside from the fact that if the power goes off you still have a ship rather than an expanding dust cloud of nanites.

Is nanotech a recent innovation out here? I would say it is probably the most advanced technology we have seen, but given out lack of knowledge of actual futuristic tech progression we might be incorrect.”

Beginning of the Tour with Flag Colonel K'zta

Langford listens with interest, noting the unusual reactions of the humans they pass as well as following Colonel K’tza’s history lesson.

“You originated from Earth? That is quite interesting, I must admit I had thought you might be aliens. No offence meant, of course. It’s a reasonable mistake to make out here. Are you from the ‘Missing Earth’ or our one though? I heard a little of Scolopendran history on the way in, about the Earth they left being a different one to the sphere we live on. Parallel universes and such.

How long ago was this? I must admit I’ve never heard of the Confederacy of SouthEast Asia but what with the sheer number of nations out there, that’s perfectly possible. Also, what was integration into a completely different culture like? Was it particularly difficult or troublesome? This is something our government is very interested in, we’re almost entirely human and the government has traditionally been hesitant about allowing large numbers of non-human immigrants, primarily because they had no records to draw on regarding what sort of effect it would have on our society and culture. It might be something changing in the future though, which is obviously delighting some people and worrying others. All in all, I think it’ll be a good thing.

Starboard broadside FCC room

Chen looks very much at at home discussing ships and tactics, especially given he can apply aspects of his favoured field of naval warfare. Langford is left alternately staring off into space and looking interested whenever he remembers.

“A primary charge in the barrel? You don’t use entirely magnetic acceleration techniques then? We’ve been looking at them, but we’ve not found a way to make them efficient yet though. It might be a boost to learn that miniaturisation of the relevant systems might be more difficult than our engineers first thought. Multiple utility warheads is something that’s apparently being looked at too, I understand the military wants to retain the capacity of naval weapons to launch numerous various payloads.

That sounds like a lot of firepower, but she’s a big ship. What is the typical battlefield role for each weapon classification? I appreciate it’s probably self-explanatory to everyone out here, but we’ve really got no frame of reference to build our understanding on. Not yet anyway, but we’re working on it, hence the questions. Does the Arthropod use fighters or subsidiary ships in a typical battle situation? Does the Scolopendran navy do so, and do you have any dedicated vessels for that purpose. I’m curious to see whether the current state of aquatic navy tactics, especially regarding the move from traditional battleships to carriers, is repeated in the development of space navies.

That’s quite unusual, we’ve got practically nothing in space as of now and we’ve still got dozens of individuals working on effective three-dimensional tactics for when we do. I guess some nations just leap before they look. Hmmm, perhaps the Risky Venture isn’t the best example of us breaking that trend, but that’s what we normally aim for anyway. So, how many vessels are typically involved in fleet actions? I know this is a bit of an open ended question, what I’m really asking is do ships operate individually, in small groups or vast fleets in a war?
01-09-2003, 21:17
Major Davidson on technology

"Nanotechnology isn't really recent, no... it's just that some nations--Eniqcir especially--come up with more creative applications which just seem to blossom, really. We have an unfair advantage in 'tech progression' because the Trium shares its expertise... we basically specialize and then share results. Seems to work rather well."

Flag Colonel K'zta on history

"If by 'missing Earth' you mean the Scolopendran timeline, yes, that is ours." K'zta walks on. "We do not know if we originated on Earth. Our genome differs from any terrestrial analog, and we lack a fossil record.

"Our integration? We were confused initially, lacking our old... so we latched on to what was available. We converted in a panic. There were difficulties, at first, but we adapted to the culture and the culture adapted to us. No one grins around the Kzin; we percieve that as a challenge. Our ideas and culture were adapted into the Scolopendran culture. Fortunately, our old warrior-culture meshed well with the Scolopendran duty-culture. Watching the influx of other nonhumans that have been absorbed--Elves in particular--the process repeats. Some find it easier to adapt than others. Some fear assimilation and some work towards it. The process never ends, but it gives life flavor."

The colonel shrugs. "Scolopendra is a free society, so all ideas are tolerated... if not agreed to. It seems to work."

As-yet unnamed Sergeant on weapons technology

The Sergeant shrugs. "We have the autocannon as a backup for when magnetic impetus would be a bad idea." Jogging a joystick with one elbow, he highlights Saturn in his gunnery display. "We do live next to a giant magnet, so simple is sometimes better. For a low-impetus charge, surrounding magnetic fields would adversely effect our targeting... so we use a bland, boring, cannon round. Also, if one uses Gauss rifles all the time, one comes to this situation:

"Say you want to drop an EMP-piercer round on an enemy, right? You shoot your Gauss and the idea is simple enough; round punches through the hull and then plasmas a coil to fry any electronics it comes across. Of course, with a relativistic weapon, you've got too much kinetic energy for a pierce, so you get a boom. Instead of only destroying a portion of a ship and disabling the rest, as planned, you've just fragged the whole thing. If you set your Gauss low enough that the EMP piercer would work, and say you're fighting around one of the gas giants, their magnetics will screw with yours and you're dropping rounds into space. No good."

"Yes, we use smaller fighter-craft, especially the TME-12-A Peregrin medium aerospace superiority fighter. Unlike wet navies, fighters tend to not be much of a threat against well-designed cap-ships except in large numbers; it takes a lot more, say, Chronos ASF Mark IIIs with 'photon cannon' to take out even a Battle of Shiloh-class corvette than oh... F/A-18s carrying Harpoon or Penguin missiles to take out... um... any surface vessel. Fighter-grade weapons tend to splat off capital-grade armor, and with the advent of modern point-defenses, underwing missiles are not exceedingly effective. Because of that, fighters support large capital ships like battleships but don't actually replace them. Besides, with the advantage of open-ended construction, most capital-ships carry their own fighter support... the only think that makes carriers different from any other capship is that they sacrifice arsenals for fighters and carry a lot more fighters.

"Hmm... tactics... Colonel?" The sergeant looks up at the K'zin, who nods. "Mmmkay... the answer is all three. One has to tailor the force projected to the force needed. For big actions and for establishing presence, we use big fleets. These fleets can then second out their resources to smaller situations as need-be. Medium-sized groups--squadrons--are used when a huge fleet is just too big and a single ship is too small."
02-09-2003, 01:21
Major Davidson on technology

“You share all technological advancements between members? The Triumvirate members must trust each other implicitly to exchange technological advances so freely. It’s something that practically never happens on earth, the politics are just too unstable and more often than not nations have to think about both their own security and financial well-being. Perhaps someday though.”

Flag Colonel K'zta on history

Langford’s grin rapidly vanishes as the explanation sinks in and Chen’s soon follows, though in a less forced manner.

“I’m very sorry, Colonel. We can only hope that our ignorance is being gradually depleted as we learn more of the greater universe. However, this is a good example of why our government is nervous about non-human immigration. Things we absolutely take for granted, like a smile, can mean things entirely different to other species. And there isn’t really an easy way to discover these differences except blunder in, which could theoretically lead to conflict and worse. If your government doesn’t mind, once we reach Titan proper I’d like to spend some time in your libraries, finding specifics of integrations of the past. I think it might do our government the world of good to see that everything isn’t as bad as their predictions”

Langford looks extremely enthusiastic, though he has the presence of mind to smile without showing teeth. Chen looks a little less convinced than his optimistic friend.

“Well, I suppose it could help, but I would not put too much faith in this instituting a major change. While the government line might be a little extreme, they do have their reasons. This is something that has to be changed slowly and carefully, not by whipping up the population to throw open our borders to all and sundry. It’s not xenophobia, merely good sense”

Langford doesn’t look convinced, and indeed looks mildly surprised by his friend’s reaction to this. He let’s it slide though, turning back to Colonel K'zta.

“So, which other races have integrated into Scolopendra in significant numbers?”

As-yet unnamed Sergeant on weapons technology

“Sometimes simplicity in weapon systems is the way forward, I can definitely understand that. I’d not thought about the effects of celestial bodies on magnetic weapon’s systems, but I guess they’d be a major factor, especially since most combat is likely to happen around the areas of resource in the solar system, ie the planets and moons.

So, does the fact that fighters are less effective, because of their inability to carry sufficient payload, mean the balance of offensive versus defensive shifts slightly more in favour of defence in space combat rather than naval combat? I’m vaguely aware of one of our scientists referring to predicted designs for space battleships as ‘eggshells armed with hammers’. Is that true, or has defence progressed at a greater rate than offensive advances?

How many ships do have in total in your navy? Approximately, I understand you probably won’t be able to say specifics. Are they deployed in battlegroups comparable with our aquatic naval carrier groups? Does a single spaceship have significantly greater utility than a single aquatic vessel, giving greater ability for individual operations?”
02-09-2003, 01:59
Major Davidson

"Heh... glories of running a surprisingly enlightened society."

Flag Colonel K'zta on culture

K'zta smiles, chuckling with a soft huffing noise. "As I said, the adjustment is mutual. We no longer act upon grins as threats if they are not intended as such. They still make us uncomfortable at times; but life is not comfort.

"Our public libraries will be open to you when you arrive, if you wish it. None of it is information threatening to us. The scholars of Scolopendra make an effort to log the cultures within it; you should find what you are looking for. Mister Chen does have a point... we were accepted because people were willing to accept us. It cannot be legislated, it can only be. But without experimentation there is no conflict; with no conflict, there is no growth; with no growth, there in naught but stagnation and death.

"Grow and live or stagnate and die. That is something we gave to Scolopendra," K'zta chuckles with a half-smile, "they already thought it; we had the words for it.

"'In large numbers...'" K'zta looks at his hands, and counts off the fingers. "We were first. Then the Elves, both Noldorin and others... then metahumans... demihumans... posthumans... many variations on the traditional human... electronic intelligences... the largest numbers are certainly Kzin and Elves, although we are small minorities."

The Sergeant and his guns

"No... defenses and weapons proceed at about the same rate, as always. If one were to finally win, what would be the point of building bigger? Certainly defense is important, but most vessels must be weighted towards offense. You can't defeat an enemy by crawling into a shell.

"The TYCS has... hmm... lessee... about three hundred standard... sixty from Sunset... fifty from Menelmacar... sixty-ish from Sentient Peoples... hundred seconded from Zero-One... ungodly number from Angelus, like four hundred... maybe about a thousand capital ships, varying sizes, classes, and capabilities. Squadron deployment in our main-line fleets are carrier groups; we also have roving cruiser squadrons for patrol purposes.

"Ya, I'd say utility is increased."
02-09-2003, 02:27
Major Davidson

“One day...

Anyway, I should stop monopolising your time. Thanks very much for talking to us, and I assume I’ll see you when we’re ready to start work on the refit”

Chen proffers his hand once more, then heads over to start the tour.

Flag Colonel K'zta on culture

“Exactly”, says Chen, “Progression, but progression according to a plan, rather than a headlong dive towards an ill-conceived goal”

“Okay, okay. Forgive me for getting a little bit optimistic about our future... Excuse me, did I hear you say electronic intelligences back there? What on earth are they?”

The Sergeant and his guns

“That’s a lot of ships. I’d ask about the logistics involved but I scarcely think I’d understand. I think I’ll just consider it as ‘sufficient’. Well thanks for answering my questions, I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen more the moment I leave the room but I have no doubt there’s so much more to see.”

Langford turns to Colonel K’tza as Chen smiles briefly at the still unnamed sergeant and gives his hand a hearty shake.

“So, where do we go from here Colonel? So far this tour has been extremely informative and I’m sure we’ve only seen a fraction of this vessel. While I’m thinking about it, do you happen to know how long it will be before the replacement parts for the Risky Venture will be completed? We’ll obviously have to rush off to help when they are ready. Well, actually I suppose we don’t have to rush off immediately to start work, but I’d certainly like to as soon as it is feasible.
02-09-2003, 02:58
Major Davidson

The major shakes Chen's hand vigorously. "Not a problem. I'll call when we're ready."

Colonel K'zta on social management

"No..." The colonel shakes his massive head. "A plan is just as artificial as a dive. The change must be gradual, natural. It can be guided, yes, but it cannot be set in stages. It is like... growing a vine. You can guide it along its path but not determine its exact path.

"Electronic intelligences..." K'zta turns quiet for a moment, evidently thinking. "It is difficult to describe. I must connect traditional understanding to the truth. They are intelligent, sentient minds of metal and electrons instead of flesh and blood. 'Computer' is innappropriate, for they are more than calculators. 'Robot' is inappropriate, as they are not slaves. 'Android' is inappropriate, as they need not be man-like. They are our equals"--he holds his hands out like level scales for emphasis--"but are often seen as lesser by others for they are not of the same..." He searches for a word. "They are different, but not alien. That is what I wish to communicate."

The Sergeant, and then to Starboard Power Bay Two

The never-to-be-named sergeant nods and smiles as he shakes Chen's hand with one firm shake. "Glad you could stop on by. Enjoy your tour."

K'zta leads the explorers out and back into the corridors. "I am sure Mister Chen would like to see our powerplants." Entering a moderately-sized room, he spreads an arm at a series of nondescript truncated metal boxes set up on a cubical scaffold, connected by broad power couplings. "This is one of them. The ship is sectionalized for maximum survivability. We have decentralized power supply for most ship systems. They are connected by a redundant network to share power distribution needs. We also have more than we arguably need."
02-09-2003, 03:13
Colonel K'zta on social management

"Perhaps a more general plan of action than a specific set of stages then, or perhaps merely contingencies designed to respond to a selection of the myriad possibilities that could occur. We'll just have to see what develops in time"

Colonel K'zta on EI

"I can honestly say I've never heard of anything like these before", responds Langford, and Chen nods in agreement. However, there is a glimmer of recognition in Chen's eyes impossibly briefly before his diplomatic composure is regained. Langford continues, "So they live on your internet then? Do they have homes and families? Somehow the thought of talking to one of these electronic intelligences seems even stranger than I would imagine talking to the most unusual alien would be. I guess it is because I can imagine how different they could be and how difficult ti could be to relate to them. Are they like us at all?"

Starboard Power Bay Two

Chen stares at it for a moment or two, as if trying to somehow draw the knowledge of it's operation from it's exterior casings.

"I don't suppose you can tell us how it works? Or even hint at it? It would be terrible to be sent off wondering exactly what's in those boxes. I probably won't understand anyway, but please tell us what you can"
02-09-2003, 04:13
Colonel K'zta on EI

"Some live in cyberspace, some have physicality, and some are both, like the EI of Zero-One on Rhea. They do not have families as we understand them as they have no biological imperative... they have relations, so I have heard... They can be spoken to, as their origins lie in artificial systems, so they understand us from that angle. Their minds, however..." K'zta shrugs. "I... am not the authority on such things."

Starboard Power Bay Two

The casings are truncated rectangular prisms made of some sort of high-impact composite. Connected by thick trunk cables, they are labeled by number and each has similar access hatches with warning labels on them. Similar conduits enter the walls from a central construction in the middle of the scaffold.

"A hint? Hrmm..." K'zta looks down at his broad boots, obviously holding some sort of paw-like foot. His gait is not identical to a human's; he walks on his toes and the balls of his feet, with a long "arch" leading to a heel that always stays at least ten centimeters off the floor, much like the hind leg of a dog or a cat. Looking up, he smiles broadly. "I am sorry, but I cannot. I can say that Arthropod is powered by a mixture of sources. Specifics are disallowed."
02-09-2003, 16:39
Colonel K'zta on EI

"Fascinating. I very much hope I get the opportunity to talk to one before I leave. Despite my earlier hesitation, I am actually very enthusiastic about meeting new races and people, I just sort of clammed up on the spot, as it were. I get precious little chance to experience different cultures at home, there’s always something occurring which has to be watched over. This is about as close to a holiday I’ve had in a long while."

The thought seems to amuse Langford slightly, and he looks away down the corridor so that the smirk isn’t directed towards Colonel K’zta.

Starboard Power Bay Two

Chen doesn’t look disappointed at the response, it’s pretty clear he was expecting something similar. As he speaks he surveys the room, while Langford hangs back a little, keeping his gaze on the Colonel.

"Oh well. I understand military procedures only too well, and I won’t waste your time by trying over and over again to wheedle some information out. It’s certainly impressive...Ah, I know what I can ask. What do you use for civilian power generation? That should give us a little insight into power generation methods at this technological level without compromising your military secrets."

Langford speaks up as Chen pauses

"And then perhaps we could have a look at your propulsion systems? That is, assuming you can..."

Langford is interrupted by an quiet but insistent beeping from Chen’s suitcase containing the laptop computer he used earlier. They both regard it with a mild degree of confusion before something dawns on Chen.

"Damn. With your warm welcome and tour, I completely forgot that we are due a transmission from home on the laser communicator, and are expected to send a message in response stating our situation. We sent them one before we came onboard, but evidently it’s time for another one. Has the Risky Venture been brought onboard yet? If it hasn’t then we could patch a communication through to this laptop, assuming a radio transmission could get through your hull materials. If it has then I guess we’ll just have to wait, unless of course you don’t mind us using a part of your communications network briefly. You can monitor the transmission if you want to, it won’t contain any security critical information."
02-09-2003, 18:01
Colonel K'zta on EI

"Hrm... you may get the chance. S.H.O.D.A.N. sits on the Council of Yut, as does the proto... Arch... something of Angelus." The Kzin does chuckle slightly at Langford's attempt to appease Kzinti instinct. "See, adaptation is not so hard."

Starboard Power Bay Two

"Venture has been taken aboard. I suppose the next stop on our tour shall be a communications center, then." Again leading the way out the door and down the corridor, K'zta pulls something resembling a cross between a large digital camcorder and a mobile phone from his belt. He mutters something in an unrecognizable language before snapping its connector back into his segmented belt.

Coming to a large armored door, he taps a few keys on a console by the side and swings the door open, revealing a two-level room about ten meters by five meters in size. Consoles cover three sides of the perimeter of the room, repeated above on a balcony accessable via a small stairway at one end and several ladders. Assemblies that project square monitors hang from various points on the ceiling, reading off status reports and displaying images from Arthropod's telescopes. At the far end of the "ground floor" is a hemicircle of chairs with consoles extending around their armrests. Officers grace the chairs; the short Indian woman introduced earlier looks up from the one in the middle of the arc, tilts up the console, and stands up.

"Ah, gentlemen." She smiles broadly with closed lips, ignoring the red-flashing lights and the soft klaxons. "Welcome to the bridge of Arthropod. I believe you need to place a call somewhere?"
02-09-2003, 19:37
Colonel K'zta on EI

“I really wish we had done a little more research before we came out here, but, what with the ‘Triumvirate not existing’ hypothesis so prominent,” Langford has the decency to look embarrassed as he says this, “I didn’t really think it would matter. We live and learn.”

Starboard Power Bay Two

“Err, yes”, Langford remarks, “We’d like to send a message home, just to stop our government getting too worried that we’ve run off with their spaceship.”

“Specifically, we’d like to send a laser transmission to an orbital station which will then be passed down to Austrin-Ontis. We always send a transmission first because out location is more difficult to predict than that of Earth and I’m sure I don’t need to explain about the absolute importance of knowing where the receiver is when sending laser communications”

Chen gets out his laptop once more and hands it to Langford, opening it up and using his friend as an impromptu table.

“The station we are transmitting to is called DeathSat One, it’s a military run station constructed several years ago as part of the frantic escalation of weapons technology which was going on back then. Since then, it’s been kept operational but it’s purpose has been expanded to handling the majority of our orbital traffic and communications. I need to pull the locational co-ordinates, transmission window and codes from this computer and then we can begin. The codes are basically just a formality, they ensure we cut straight through the unpleasant messages which are sent to civilian broadcasters who contact the station. If I remember rightly the transmission window will be open for several more hours so that shouldn’t matter. Ah, here we go. The station has currently adopted a geostationary orbit over the centre of the Devils Desert island chain. That’s probably a good sign, means we probably aren’t at war with anyone”

Chen types rapidly and then ejects a disk from the side of the laptop which he removes, leaving Langford still holding the computer and trying to look helpful.

“There, this contains the co-ordinates and short-cut communication codes. Oh, do you still use disks? We can connect directly to your computer id that’ll be easier. Anyway, if you send the coded ‘hello’ message they’ll track us with their laser transmitter and we can expect a return message bringing us up to date with events back at home in a minute or two. We generally then send our status report back, and they’re happy for a day or so”
02-09-2003, 20:11
Lieutenant Colonel Muthukumarasamy, her last name somehow fitting onto the extended burnished-steel nametag on her right breast, nods. "Comms, did you get that?"

A technician on the starboard side of the room up on the balcony nods. "Yes, ma'am--DeathSat One, geostationary orbit over Devil's Desert island chain. We have a lock on its position... refining to transmitter using Three-teef's observation... coordinates made and laztrans aligned."

Taking the disc, the lieutenant colonel stretches on tiptoe to hand it up to the technician on the balcony. "We have some old-school optically read storage for you, Spaceman." Accepting the disk, the technician in fatigues rummages around in a drawer underneath his console until he pulls out something resembling a portable CD player--which, in essence, it is--that he plugs into his console.

"Coordinates check, ma'am and codes ready."

"Ack, Comms. Transmit at any time."

"Acting, ma'am." The technician taps a single key, then spins around in his utilitarian chair to face the explorers and officers. "Message sent and on standby to recieve a return message."

K'zta nods. "You did not hack it through the Voyeur net, correct?"

"No, sir." The technician smiles. "I figured that they'd be kinda curious if their message came from the wrong direction, so we're gonna have to deal with lightspeed lag."
03-09-2003, 01:01
There is a delay of a few minutes as you would expect for the lightspeed lag and appropriate reaction time, and then a transmission is sent in return, repeating itself ten times before ceasing. The transmission isn’t very strong because of the primitive equipment being used, but the multiple repeats and the greater receptiveness of the sensors allow the message to be constructed accurately.

Return Transmission from DeathSat One laser communications system
Text only

This is DeathSat One communications protocol alpha-three, transmitting to Risky Venture exploratory spaceship

We have detected a variation in wavelength from your usual system specifications, though the signal strength does not seem to be adversely affected. We would advise you instruct the computer to begin a diagnostic to ascertain whether this will be a problem in future.

As usual we will expect a status report upon the conclusion of this message to bring Command up to date with your progress. First though, here is the breakdown of political changes you should be aware of to facilitate your negotiation:

The election to determine the new president has not yet been concluded due to foreign interference in the election process and a number of assassination attempts. The election is expected to conclude within 2-3 days and the information will be sent to you as soon as it is available. You should be advised however that Nidien Sebridith is the clear favourite and barring significant outside influence will be successful in acquiring the presidency. Command has advised that your negotiation methodology should reflect Nidien's proposed policy changes in preparation for her likely success, meaning an increased emphasis on international and interracial diplomatic relationships.

The war on Roania, fought because of their persistent interference has been concluded by their surrender to Tor Yvresse and widescale disarmament of their armed forces and existing weapon systems. All of the involved parties received approximately 4 trillion dollars in recompense for Roania's previous actions as well as his surrender of vampiric agents for execution. We are currently involved in no further wars, so no organisation is clearly defined as an enemy. You might be curious to know that the majority of the financial influx will be used to boost our space program. Needless to say this makes the results of your negotiation even more vital.

We have withdrawn from the Dominion, formally known the GDODAD as a result of increasingly differing policies over the course of the last year and the rise of the regional defence arrangement to the level at which Command is sufficiently confident to feel that is does not require external help as a matter of course. Since we understand the Triumvirate has no great love for GDODAD, this development may help your negotiations. There has been no official response from the GDODAD to our decision but other foreign reactions have generally been positive.

A project is currently being tabled for a second mission to follow up on yours if it is successful. This mission would involve up to twenty people and have more of a diplomatic emphasis than the first exploratory mission. We would appreciate it if you could make enquiries as to how this second operation would be received, and whether it would be possible to station diplomats here for extended periods of time to forge some manner of diplomatic relationship. Command informs me that you are officially granted permission to pursue investigations into the viability of embassy exchanges, either with the Triumvirate as a whole or individual member states.

This concludes the important data we felt you might benefit from being aware of. We shall expect a status report within the next hour, whereupon we will confirm receipt and cease communications until the next allotted time period.

Communication Terminates

“Well,” remarks Chen, “that wasn’t exactly meant for your ears but like I said it contained nothing relating to security, it just means your bridge crew have been briefed on our diplomatic policies. It was a little more interesting than I expected it to be though, a few days really is a long time in politics.”
03-09-2003, 01:27
K'zta shrugs. "We will try not to use it to our advantage overly much. Comms, prepare for a return transmission on Mister Langford's or Mister Chen's orders."

"Acknowledged, sir." The technician twirls his chair back to his console and prepares to type a response.

"Well, it's good to hear that your nation is out of that collection of brigands and murderers," Muthukumarasamy smiles. "Your high command is right, we don't think very highly of them... at least, we didn't until their underwater base imploded. Now they're simply a limping collection of has-beens--not much of a threat there--although I think we still keep an eye on them just in case."

"It is good that your progressive candidate is leading." K'zta smiles. "We like attempts to understand others; it shows... maturity in a culture. As for diplomacy, that should wait until the surface. Arthropod is not a ship of diplomats." He chuckles softly.
03-09-2003, 15:11
Langford hands the laptop to Chen and stretches his arms while listening to Muthukumarasamy. He smiles somewhat wistfully, thinking back to simpler times.

“Well, I spent a little time as an envoy to the GDODAD, sorry the Dominion, and from my experience they aren’t really as bad as people think, a case of a couple of especially unstable nations giving the whole alliance a bad name, well, a worse name anyway. I’m not sure we ever agreed with their views on democracy but they showed remarkable loyalty and willingness to spring to the defence of a threatened member nation. That certainly helped protect us from rogue states in the early days of growth. Recently though the government has been more an more concerned about possible conflicts of interest between the organisation and our other allies, as well as a reduced willingness to commit the lives of our soldiers to wars that don’t really affect us.”

Chen closes the laptop and holds it under his arm as Langford talks, he keeps quiet but it is clear that he doesn’t entirely agree with his friend on the issue of the Dominion’s past merits. He frowns slightly in response to Colonel K'zta’s mention of the progressive candidate.

“Well, I have to say that I think Miss Sebridith probably is the best choice out of the potential candidates, her policies are definitely the ones most geared to our future development and as far as I can tell her ambition is entirely based around making the country greater. I just have a few reservations about whether we are ready for an elven president. I fear that it might adversely affect relationships with a number of earth nations which have reactionary policies, both in supporting and of condemnation of the apparent elven influence on human nations. There exists the possibility we’ll be drawn into conflicts that could otherwise have been avoided.”

Chen’s features snap back to his pleasant diplomatic demeanour.

“Anyway, enough about my opinions, it’s very possible I could be completely wrong. It’s happened before. If you could send the following message back:

This is Philip Chen of the Austrin-Ontis spaceship Risky Venture. We have received your message successfully and all points are understood.

The difference in transmission is because we are currently unable to use the communication system on the Risky Venture because of the repairs being conducted. The crew of the Scolopendran battleship Arthropod have been kind enough to allow us to use their communications system until we have restored our own, as well as carrying out essential repair work on our vessel.

The fault in the thrust that developed in the later stages of deceleration has been identified as a structural flaw in the primary thrust cone, possibly caused by accidental damage before launch. Repairs are being carried out to rebuild the primary thrust cone and allow greater heat radiation to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. We believe at the conclusion on our mission here we will be able to return under our own power once the repairs are complete.

We have spent some time looking around the internal layout and systems of the Arthropod in an attempt to familiarise ourselves with Triumvirate technology before starting the actual negotiations. Thanks to the assistance of a number of members of the Arthropod’s crew we have also received a more thorough grounding in the racial diversity and societal differences we can expect during talks.

From this point on it will likely become increasingly difficult to engage in regular communications, so I propose a more relaxed system in responses through which we attempt to contact ever 2-3 days during the transmission windows we have stored on our computer systems.

Message ends, we will wait upon return communication before terminating communications alignment.”

“Did you get all that? Generally we send it 20-30 times because of the inefficiency of the Risky Venture but you probably will be able to use significantly less. I’d still recommend you send it a few times, the photo-receptive receiver dish isn’t perfect either.”
04-09-2003, 04:38
Muthukumarasamy shrugs at Langford's defense of GDODAD. "We are a democracy."

"True," K'zta responds to Chen's fears, "but if she is best qualified her species is irrelevant."

The communications technician sits back as the computer's voice-recognition software dictates Chen's message, leaning forward only to type the addendum "Transmitted from SWS-HCR Arthropod" with fast-moving fingers, ending with a single decisive tap. "Ready to transmit, sir."

K'zta smiles. "Transmit."

"Acting." The technician sets up the transmitter to transmit twenty times, just to be safe. "Message sent."

"Good." K'zta turns back to the explorers. "It will take a few more hours for the fabricators to produce the parts. Do you want to see anything else, or do you want to rest?"
08-09-2003, 04:49
09-09-2003, 01:02
Langford shrugs in turn. "Water under the bridge now, and probably a few less wars to look forward to in the future"

Chen looks thoughtful as he considers K'tza's words. "If it only it were that simple, that species is truly irrelevant for everyone, but I fear we as a nation are not that enlightened. Already, fringe elements are blowing the situation out of all proportion in an attempt to muster support for their right wing causes. I have no doubt that saner forces all will do all in ther power to stop these views from spreading, but in the short term it means fear and uncertainty for both non-humans and humans alike. I suspect there are high up members of government who are more inclined to stick to the old ways than embrace the new ones too, and that is possibly the most worrying aspect. Nevertheless, I still believe that in time we can become more than we are now. I am just under no illusion that it will be easy"

Langford speaks up first at the offer to let his feet rest for a little while. "All things considered, I believe a few hours rest could do us some good. Espicially since we want to be one hundred percent awake for when we assist in the modification and repair of our ship. Actually, I can only speak for myself, Chen might still have things to see"

Chen nods too. "I believe the phrase is 'the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak'. If it is not inconvienient I would also ask for somewhere to rest ourselves briefly and freshen up"
09-09-2003, 02:05
Flag Colonel K'zta nods. "Of course." He turns to the technician gallery. "Spaceman Nankova, please escort our guests to their quarters. Personnel, assign them rooms."

The personnel officer, who by their insignia looks to be a flag sergeant, nods and checks rosters as the indicated Spaceman Nanovka hops from her seat and slides down the nearest access ramp, combat boots checking her fall against the rails. Landing, she turns around gracefully on one bootheel, smiling. She has neck-length dark-red hair in a conservative cut; her skin is of the porcelain quality considered beautiful around the nineteenth century. The simple markings on the epaulets of her fatigues--one long bar, one short bar, both black--show her to be a Spaceman First Class.

She smiles from behind thin lips. "If you'll follow me, gentlemen..."

She leads the two explorers to adjacent but seperate single-occupancy quarters, relatively small. About four meters square, they consist of a bed that folds down from the right-hand wall (looking from the door), a computer terminal and desk recessed into the far wall, and a shared head through a door to the left (or right, depending on the room). The rest of the walls are made of bookshelves, closets, drawers, lockers, and the assorted needs of a room. Done in simple burnished metal, everything gleams with unpolished metal over the floors padded with foam padding. "The terminal is set up to the library functions of Arthropod's computer, if you're interested; you may also access the communications functions from it. We've also several news and entertainment vid-feeds from across Saturnian space. Rest well, gentlemen."
09-09-2003, 03:10
“Thank you”, say Langford and Chen practically simultaneously, and then head into their separate rooms. Not even five minutes later Langford knocks hesitantly on the door to Chen’s room, having shed his spacesuit while retaining the formal wear underneath.


“It’s me. Can I come in?”

“Oh, alright then...”

Langford opens the door and looks inside, Chen has also removed his spacesuit which is carefully laid out in the corner of the room. The laptop is open and on, placed on top of one of the units, and Chen is sitting at the terminal browsing the resources on offer. Having finally removed the overly bulky suits, the physiques of the two spacemen are visible. Langford looks like he was extremely toned in the past but has suffered from a few two many years eating fine food. He is still fairly muscular but appears to be cultivating the beginnings of a healthy beer gut. Chen is in much better shape, his physique is not overly muscular but probably described best as athletic. His single braid of longer hair reaches down to the centre of his back, and hangs over the back of the chair as he studies the terminal

“So, not actually resting then?”

“I had planned to, but the idea of a more detailed observation of Saturian communication channels was more appealing. As is the capacity to browse through the Arthropod’s computer, but I am restraining that urge for now. It would be unseemly to give the impression we were attempting to spy for military secrets rather than merely to learn all we about every aspect of the Triumvirate. It would be more convenient if I could upload some the library information into my laptop for later perusal but unsurprisingly their is no suitable interface, allowing external computer access could be a serious risk for a military ship. Oh yes, almost forgot...”

Chen gets up and pads over to his spacesuit, carefully removing a small disk from the shoulder camera and inserting it in the laptop.

“You better get yours too, we should back these up while we have a chance, we don’t know how long it’ll be before we get a similar opportunity.”

Langford nods and goes back through to his room, returning almost immediately with a second disk which he hands to Chen. Chen ejects the first disk, inserts the second and then returns to looking at the terminal. Langford lurks nearby, looking like he is on the verge of saying something, but never quite doing so. A few minutes pass before Chen sighs a long suffering sigh, ceases his studying of the terminal and turns around to face his fidgeting friend.

“Well, go on then. Ask...”

Langford smiles a slightly embarrassed smile, though any blushing is concealed behind his beard. “It was really that obvious I was planning to? Oh well, makes things easier I suppose. So what's this about an elf girl? I must admit I had you pegged as a pure human man myself.”

Chen doesn’t reply immediately, looking down at his feet and massaging his neck with a hand, thinking of the best way to tell the story.

“Well, I guess we all change a little as we grow older. I met her when I was twenty-two and studying politics at the Annihil University, you know, up in the north-western reaches of the Paian province”

“I know the place, never been there myself but I hear it’s a very nice. A little bit of countryside in amongst all those factories.”

“Exactly. Well, it is a very nice place, especially in the summer. I’d been going to a class on our recent political history for about two to three months when a rumour hit campus that we were getting a new student in, and they weren’t human. Beyond that it was pretty much wild speculation, I had people swear blind to me it was going to be a dragon, or an Orc, or all sorts of other things I can’t remember. Well, anyway, the day ticked round and the new student arrived. She was a female elf, which caused quite a stir as you can expect. All sorts of unpleasant comments and social cliques, and probably even more people being inadvertently more insulting by treating her like some china statue, or worse, some dreamy air head. I must admit, I wasn’t exactly above the whole joking situation. To my eternal shame I accepted a bet from one of my room-mates, a certain Colin Stephens, I think you might know him.”

“Oh yes, it does ring a bell. I think he’s involved in public health somehow...”

“Anyway, Colin bet me a bottle of scotch that I wouldn’t have the balls to ask her if she lived in a tree back home. I’d had a scotch or two on the way in, Dutch courage and all, and took him up on the bet. We found her in one of the university gardens, just staring off into space, and I went forward to do the deed, while Colin sprinted off somewhere to await my return. I was about to say it when she noticed I was there are turned to look at me. She looked so fragile and alone, and it was clear she thought I was about to echo the cruel things she’d been constantly experiencing. Well, I couldn’t do it, not after I saw her like that. I stammered out something, can’t remember exactly what, and tried to start up a conversation. Well, to cut a long story short I got chatting with her, and realised she really wasn’t that much different. She’d been taking stick really bad, and I think she was just happy to talk to someone who treat her like a person. We talked for ages, about the university, the lectures, pasts etc. Turns out she was an orphan, she’s been picked up off the mountains by a bunch of hikers and brought to a mountain rescue station. No idea where she came from, and they couldn’t find any other evidence of elven activity. it was like she just fell out the sky.”

“What happened next?”

“Well, we met a few more times, talked about things and then before we realised it we were going out. Of course, I was taking a simply epic amount of stick by now, I don’t think I’ve ever got into so many fights since. Breaking Colin’s nose after a particularly vicious comment aimed at her was just one lasting memory of a string of brawls and confrontations. Well, it wasn’t to last, I finished up my course there and was assigned to AOII in Powder. What started off as a tearful goodbye somehow turned into a blazing row and we’ve not spoken since. I guess we were both too proud to admit how silly it all was. Kind of sad now that I think about it.”

“Definitely. Do you know what she’s doing now?”

“She’s in politics. She’s done pretty well for herself and sooner or later I think we’re probably going to cross paths again.”

Langford’s mouth drops open in realisation. “It’s not...It’s not Miss Sebridith is it? The president to be?”

“I’m afraid so, my friend. She’s done very well for herself indeed, though I have to say I’m not hugely looking forward to submitting a report to her if she is president when we do get back.”

“I can imagine...Wow, you went out with the president to be...just wait until I tell the drinking circle. So...what was she like in bed then?”

“Out. Come on. Get out.” I think I’ve answered just about enough of your questions for today. If you want the answer to that I suggest you ask her when we get back”

Langford is ushered out by the blushing Chen, sniggering in wild guffaws as he goes. Just before the door closes he is head to say, “I might just do that...”

Time passes
09-09-2003, 04:46
A gentle ditty from the computer terminal tries to awake Langford and Chen simultaneously. After chiming five times, the monitor turns on in a one-way audio-visual transmission, Major Davidson's jovial mug grinning through the screen. "Good morning, gentlemen... Davidson here. It is currently 0930 hours on Saturday... hope you've had a good sleep. We've got Venture cooled down and the parts fabricated, so if you'd like to come down to Cargo Bay Three we can get to work on assembling it. Shouldn't have any problem with the new materials we selected--shock resistant." He winks. "A tech will be down in ten minutes to escort you. Rise and shine, guys. Busy day ahead."

The screen blinks off with a soft chirrup.
09-09-2003, 13:57
With a wide yawn, Chen blearily rubs his eyes and gets up, performing the normal wake-up routine in that semi-awake zombified state common to those who would definitely prefer to be back in bed. The laptop is packed up again and after a small period of deliberation the spacesuit is redonned, minus the helmet of course. Checking around the room to make sure he hasn't left anything behind, Chen knocks on the door leading to Langford’s room. A minute passes and there is no response from inside. Chen knocks again, “Langford?”. Still no response is forthcoming. Chen moves his head against the door to try and detect any signs of movement from inside. He is apparently dissatisfied with the results and vents his displeasure by knocking hard and repeatedly on the door, while calling out, “Langford! Time to get up!”

He is answered by a quiet groan from inside, and a only semi-coherent voice quietly says, “what is it?”

“Time to get up, we’re going to go and start work on the Venture in about...”, Chen pauses briefly to look at his watch, “...five minutes. There was a transmission about it through your monitor, you can’t tell me you slept through it.”

“never heard any alarm.”

“I dare say that given your normal waking habits the alarm is fairly mild compared to some of the things you have slept through. Nevertheless you have to get up now.”

“ok, ok. I’m getting up.” To a chorus of grumbling, cursing and of shuffling feet Langford awakes and gets ready. Ten minutes are just ticking around when he finally appears, once more attired in his spacesuit and looking distinctly unimpressed at the world this morning.

“Do you think they have coffee here?” grumbles Langford as he drags a comb through his hair, wincing as it pulls through tangles.

“They have humans don’t they. I dare say that coffee is not far.”

The two wait for the tech to arrive, gradually becoming more awake.
09-09-2003, 14:52
About eleven minutes after the transmission (unlike the EOTED, we fully admit our imperfection) a technician in the common smoke-cloud grey utility fatigues shows up, a small fabric insignia of crossed wrenches emblazoned over his left nametape. Cheerfully smiling, the blonde-haired man labeled 'BUCHOLTZ' bows shortly. "Good morning! Hopefully you slept well. I'll take you down to See-Bay Three and we can get started... unless, of course, you want to grab a bite first." Looking over the relatively haggard faces of the two, he smirks. "Looks like you two could use a good dose of caffiene. C'mon, the mess hall's along the way. We'll just breeze through, grab some snacks, and move along."

The mess hall has the expected buffet-style cafeteria format, probably quite familiar to the explorers. The major difference in this case is that the buffet lines, complete with their little shelves for trays, are made up of various boxy machines resembling commercial pizza ovens. "Nanolathers," Bucholtz explains to the two before tapping in a code from the menu chart, "it's the easiest way to move CHON around in the closed ship system. Instead of having to carry lots of volume-intensive food, we can just store enough of the elements and simple molecules that make it up and let the nanobugs do the rest. Simplifies reclaimation and recycling." Opening the short but wide door, Bucholtz reaches in and pulls out a bagel. "Ta da."

"For drinks we've got kawfee," (with a mild emphasis on the 'kawh') "tea, regular Terrestrial coffee, and some boiled Paroo root... something the diplomatic mission sent back from Sakkra. It's a lot like coffee and kawfee but really strong stuff. I mean, intensely strong. Wakes one up like nothing else."
09-09-2003, 18:26
Langford takes the bagel without further encouragement and decides to start his own scientific experiment on whether nanobug bagels taste as good as the man-made bagels from home. Of course, the most important part of the experiment of the test is obviously the taste and he lays into it with relish. Although an accurate answer might be a minute or two away, he certainly seems to appreciate the unique cuisine of nano-constructed food, judging by the muffled comments in between the chomping.

“Well, how I could I pass up an opportunity for an even stronger version of coffee”, says Chen, “and we are supposed to be trying new things out here. Boiled Paroo root for me please.” Langford nods to indicate he’d like one too but the bagel prevents him from fully articulating his request. “Never heard of kawh-fee before either,“continues Chen, “is that local?”

Chen looks at the menu chart and types in the relevant codes to acquire a second bagel and a pair of boiled Paroo root drinks and removes them from the Nanolathers as they appear. He sips the Paroo root hesitantly, and blinks his eyes before exhaling. “Whew. You weren’t kidding. That’s strong stuff, and I consider myself something of a caffeine veteran.” He hands the second drink to Langford who swallows the last morsel of the bagel and takes it gratefully. Chen drinks a little more of the boiled Paroo root, displaying less reaction this time. “So, do you have any manufacturing industry remaining or can you nano-manufactured everything you need?”

It takes just a couple of minutes for the two to finish their bagels and drinks, and they look significantly more alive already. “That’s some good stuff there, that Paroo root,” says Langford when he finishes gulping it down, “We’ll have to see about getting some to take home I think.”

Chen particularly looks much more enthusiastic “Alright, I think we’re all done here. Let’s get down to our ship and start putting her back together”
09-09-2003, 23:38
Bucholtz nods. "Yeah, kawfee is a local coffee variant--genemod, actually, originally used to support the terraforming effort. Kinda has a hazelnut flavor to it, and sweet... not really bitter like normal coffee. Approximately same caffiene concentration, though."

"We still use 'traditional' manufacturing processes for large objects, simply because of the energy requirements involved. Using nanobugs to work entire lengths of, say, armorplate is so inefficient it's just mad. Ships are designed to produce far more energy than they theoretically need, so we can sacrifice power to conserve in other things, like mass and volume. Shipyards, as an example for the other end, have lower or sometimes nil mass and volume limitations so we can instead sacrifice those to conserve power. It's all a balance."

He chuckles over the Paroo root. "Yeah, I'm sure we'll put you in touch with the Sakkra. They'll probably be happy to export it to you or something."

Leading the way, Bucholtz leads the two to a large cargo bay, big enough to fit Venture in. It sits, nose towards the huge door that makes one end of the room, rear nozzle section disassembled, parts arrayed neatly, ready to be affixed. Several technicians in large powered exoskeletons stand by, as well as several others in smaller exoskeletons which form spidery frames around their bodies. Major Davidson, wearing a hard-hat, walks up, tossing hard-hats to the explorers. "Here ya go. As you can see, the exos are ready to start working as soon as you are. We've got the new radiators, the new thrust bell, coolant tubes, and we went ahead and replaced the connector ring just in case."
10-09-2003, 00:35
“Ummm, you aren’t expecting us to use exos are you?”, nervously asks Langford as he dons and adjusts his hat, “Oh, that’s alright then. Very impressive though, we’ve got some similar ones but they are only really useful for broken terrain construction work since we can’t get them more efficient than a crane and a truck. The problem is, as always, power.”

Chen puts on his hard hat too and looks over the construction area. “Okay. We’re obviously going to have to fit the new thrust bell first, but that’ll require removing the remnants of the old one first. If you don’t mind I’d like to go inside and start-up the main computer, just for the diagnostic systems. I’d hate to have one of your guys cut through a fuel line which had waste fuel still in it for some reason and the computer should be able to pick it up.” Chen heads off to the Risky Venture, opens the hatch apparently designed to allow access during landing and vanishes inside. Mean while, langford attempts to start up a conversation with Bucholtz while they wait.

“Not heard of the Sakkra before. Are they one of you too? The Triumvirate I mean.”

A few minutes later Chen reemerges, looking satisfied with the results and covers the ground back to Bucholtz in a brisk walk. “That all looks good, I’ve made sure the ship is safe to operate on and then shut everything down properly so we don’t get any odd surges during the operation. We’re clear to shear off the damaged thrust cone on your mark”

The two stand back to let the exos do their work. A careful observer might notice a tenseness in their eyes and movements that wasn’t there before, a nervousness caused by the life saving operation about to be performed on their almost-friend. They are fully aware they are about to see a large chunk of her sheared off and mentally preparing themselves for the fact.
10-09-2003, 02:04
Bucholtz chuckles. "No, they aren't Trium members, but rumor is the InterRelate section's been working to recruit them. They're a species of reptilians 'bout yea tall"--he holds his hand over his head, seven feet off of the floor--"who live off of South America. Really honorable folk--we've worked together on some things, and it's been quite amazing how well we've gotten along, actually. Good friends in Earth theatre are few and far between."

The exos ready themselves, two of the heavy lifters clamping onto the old thrust nozzle. Radios crackle. "Ready on our end, sir."

Davidson looks to the explorers, then nods to the work detail. "Light it up, troopers."

A third technician, this one in a light exo, extends something that looks like a retractable hacksaw with a single thin line of gleaming something inbetween the ends. One swift slice, and the two heavy-lifters step back with the clean-cut damaged thrust bell.

"Monowire," Davidson explains, "something we actually picked up from the Kzin. Nice stuff, but tricky to handle--need special carbon-nanotubule spools and instruments to handle it. Not horribly expensive, considering that it's essentially woven diamond. Hafta' be quick with it too... if it breaks... oi, that's nasty there." Davidson shudders. "Saw that once. Not pretty."

The two heavy lifters set aside the bell, and three of the light-exo techs skirt in to unbolt the mounting. In under a minute, they have the assembly loose, and the heavy lifters move it off as another team of two fits in a new mounting and thrust bell. Holding it in place, the light-exos reconnect fittings, attach hoses, and bolt everything tight. Skating back for more equipment, they take the coolant hoses and toss them gingerly over the nozzle and gently wrap them under, looking for the world like some sort of racing-car pit crew.

"You should've seen 'em last night," Davidson chuckles, "they were practicing, planning out their moves and everything. Shows, doesn't it?"

The process is repeated for the four wasp-wing like radiators, except they take extra care around the wafer-thin black radiators. In under fourty-five minutes, the last connections between the radiators and the thrust-bell cooling jacket are done and Venture is ready to fly.

"The cooling jacket is really just a precaution," Davidson smiles, "but hey, we design things to break but still expect them to. Saved the mass, so why not? She's done and all yours... 'spose you'd like to be going down to the surface now."
10-09-2003, 13:23
During the operation Chen and Langford try and help as much as they can, but realistically they are necessary and even particularly useful. After all, they weren’t actually involved in the construction of the Risky Venture, just it’s operation and it wasn’t really convenient to keep popping outside for a look. Eventually they just resolve to pass the time chatting to Davidson.

Langford winces slightly on the mention of monowire whiplash, “Youch. I can imagine. Very unpleasant.”

Chen responds to the comment about the exo’s speed, never taking his eyes off the operation going on. “Very efficient indeed. Practically all the utility of the human form plus a significantly higher lifting and carrying capacity. They are pretty much the perfect construction tool. It looks simplicity itself from here, but I suspect that’s just because your engineers are making it look easy.

Finally, the operation is concluded and Chen and Langford take a brief walk around to look at the work, Langford is first to comment.

“Well, thank you very much, she looks significantly healthier now and I’m actually looking forward to seeing what sort of effect these changes have on efficiency. Well, obviously after our diplomatic work is done.”

“There is one more issue with our landing I’m afraid, but I don’t think it is a major one. The Risky Venture does have the necessary equipment to land but it was only really designed to make a landing if we found Titan was unoccupied. The thing is, it’s not exactly the safest thing to be around when it fires it’s main booster. While that might be fine on a desolate rock, it is unlikely to be popular on a heavily urbanised planet. Therefore I have to request that we take a shuttle down to the planet, though I suspect that might have been the plan all along. As for the Risky Venture itself, well if you want to hang onto it until we are done that would be fine but we appreciate that the Arthropod is a warship and might be called away at any time to participate in some manner on confrontations. If it is more convenient to put it in orbit or transfer it to another ship, perhaps a civilian one, we would not have a problem with either option.”
12-09-2003, 00:57
Davidson looks down at his watch. Yes, it looks like a digital calculator watch. "Yeah, some others down on Titan are coming up to pick you up. We'll transition Venture to an orbital station... we can keep it secure without fearing that whatever is doing so has to fly off somewhere." He smiles broadly. "They'll be up shortly..."
25-12-2003, 09:29
*kicks Karma for letting this one die and puts it into the Archive for safekeeping*