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Heaven's Reach ST

[Exalted] Diplomatic Agendas

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Having cleanse the manses completely, though it took some time to finish the cleansing, especially in the most contaminated areas, it was just as well for the diplomatic agenda took several weeks all on it's own. The empire wanted access and trade agreements, the system government wanted autonomy, the marshal's wanted alliance, and the talks had gathered a few other interested parties.

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With the weapons systems online, the system had the military power to maintain it's independence, however access and control was restricted to the celestial exalted, a built in feature from the age of the solar dynasties. If the system had any celestial exalts of their own, that might not have been a problem, but as they did not, a rather firm treaty was needed with those who did, namely the marshals or the empire. The Queen also didn't wish to make an enemy of the empire, and though relations between the marshals and the empire were tense, neither wished them to become worse.

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Several weeks were to pass while the young Serenity caste was to attempt to thread this particular diplomatic manse, time during with the rest of the exalted and the ship crews were able to to use for repairs, study and assisting the diplomatic endeavors of Althea on the planet below. This was not as entirely free of complications, there were a few individuals on either side who didn't want this to go through, though the determination of the queen, the marshals and the imperial commander were presently such that little seemed able to stop it. Nevertheless, there was a request by Althea to look into and provide security against those who might use more direct means to stop the peace accords.

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During this period, Dan was to be contacted by the marshals with a request, from the Emissary of Nexus VII, which, was part of the Confederation of Rivers was a signatory on the Illuminated Accords, if one with certain provisions. Enough time had passed sense Dan was first given his present mission that some details had slipped to the other major signatories, and there was a request that he take the influential eclipse caste Methis and his retinue aboard his ship as a liaison officer.

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Liaison Officer. That's what he his official position was going to be called.

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Cygnis Methis, called simply Methis outside of the trading clans, reviewed the paperwork that had been filed with the assorted powers that be. Liaison Officer to the Dawn's Wrath. The long and short of it was that the higher ups had requested his presence on board the ship in order to... liaise between the two parties. The idea was to make sure that Confederation interests were represented on the Dawn's Wrath, cooperate toward mutual goals, etc etc etc. On paper, it was a horrifically boring assignment.

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On the other hand, he also had done a bit of research through various channels on the people he was going to be dealing with primarily and it seemed that it was going to be quite the exciting trip.

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Dan Hawkins - Solar - This was the guy in charge of the Marshall contingent stationed on the Wrath and the one he was likely going to be talking to first, in any official capacity. Decorated, fairly high standing among the Marshalls, closest thing to a 'law and order' type that he was likely going to be dealing with. Pretty standard stuff. The thing that stood out to Methis when reading Dan's file was not actually regarding the man himself, but rather the people he surrounded himself with.

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He had a fucking harem.

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Not even including the other exalts on his crew, his entire staff from bridge navigation to engineering was female. Now to be perfectly clear Methis had no issues whatsoever with this arrangement. He had a similar setup with his own entourage. It was interesting. Perhaps under all the rules and soldiering he would find a kindred spirit in Captain Hawkins.

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The other that stood out, at least in his mind, was Karren Gaunt - Lunar Exalted. Not much available about Karren except that she was linked to Dan personally, possibly romantically. He had separated her photos from the rest of the file on her, as he tended to do when he came across such stunning creatures. She even put a few of his own entourage to shame, making them look downright plain by comparison. A fact that had not been lost on them.

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Luxury Liner
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Although he had been given the opportunity to arrive with his own vessel and with pomp and fanfare, he chose not to this time around. Admittedly it had been less a matter of not wanting to and more convenience. He had been on an interstellar safari / party, where individuals of wealth and class would board whatever the latest in luxurious interstellar transportation was and have a soiree with some cosmic phenomenon in the distance to provide 'ambience'. This most recent one was a star that was just on the verge of changing from one type to the next.

When the summons had been given, he requested that instead of going back to Nexus and picking up his own vessel that he simply be 'dropped off'. It was a bit of a detour, but when one of the merchant kings of the Confederation of Rivers makes a request, you don't say no.

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The shuttle that brought him down to the system likely cost as much as many frigates. At this point he neither knew nor cared. It was all ones and zeroes to him. Accompanying him were his personal aides, Terrestrial Exalted of the highest caliber, reaching the upper limits of mortal poise and beauty while maintaining astonishing proficiency in their own areas.

Daesari and Myra, his fire and water warrior goddesses dedicated wholly to his well being and to bringing swift and bloody terror to his enemies. Isolde, the more gentle of the three, was aspected to wood, her own arts leaning towards the restorative arts. It was she who was in no small part responsible for his being able to go on logic-defying hedonistic binges and come back no worse for the wear afterwards.

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As the shuttle made preparations to set down, he set his files aside and stepped to his wardrobe to select an outfit. After all, first impressions were everything.

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Meanwhile, Karren Gaunt herself was stretched out on an air bus inbound to the planetary capital, hands behind her head, booted feet up on the foot rest in front of her, golden eyes lazy and happy. Well, stretched out as she could manage given her stature and the usual cheapness of mortal transportation. The big Lunar didn't mind, she'd just spent the last ten days living up the Exalted life up in quiet North Point Bay, and while switching to one of her more petite skins would be handy, she might need a surprise face or three before they left the system with a peace treaty and a nice set of secure manses under their belt.

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Incarnae, it felt good to do well while saving the world. She wouldn't trade her new hearthstones for her own planet. It only took a glance around at her fellow passengers trying to avoid overtly staring at her supernaturally polished looks. She hadn't even tried using the oathstone yet. Tee hee.

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Karren chuckled to herself and looked out the window, starting to see outlying cityscape flash by below. Wouldn't be too much longer now. Then it was back to work. What was the problem again? Oh, yeah. Althea had mentioned some people needed persuading to not mess up the peace conference. She could do that. Might even be interestingly challenging. The big Lunar pulled out her combead from a pocket in her jacket and thumbed it over to her stepdaughter's channel, leaving a message that bubbled with sheer exuberance.

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"Hey Althea. I'm back from my vacation. If you still need help keeping your party safe, give me any names and addresses of any known troublemakers if you have 'em, and Yachiru and I will get started problem solving. A contact number for an Imp spook would be nice, too. Always better to have them on speed dial rather than aiming a rifle at your head. I'll check if Sophia and Thief are still in for the fun after you get back to me. Tell Dan I still owe him something nice for leaving all that paperwork on his desk when I left and good luck with the new guy. Looking forward to hearing from you soon and catching up."

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Message done, Karren popped the combead back in a coat pocket and started humming again, twirling a lock of hair around her finger as she waited for a call back or the airbus landing.

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Nova had spent the time training himself, reacquiring skills he once possessed, when he wasn't busy helping Althea with her preparations. He made some time for his crew, each of them, It was a Captain's duty to know his crew, and he took such things quite seriously. He spent time with Karren, Sophia, Dyna, and Noble Endeavor, and smiled, remembering their time together. Still now it was time to head planetside and meet with the others. Clad in his armor, polished to a mirror finish, he made his way to the Shuttlebay, and after a final boarding call, made his way planetside, to the Starport in the Capital City. He'd maintained openly friendly relations with the Imperial Admiral, as well as the Local Queen.

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Of interest to him was that Nexus had sent their own Emissary, An Eclipse Caste, no less, named Methis. "Just what we needed to draw more attention here, Another Solar." He smiled despite himself. He had Faith in Althea to keep negotiations on track and couldn't help but wonder if Aria hadn't also come forseeing this eventuality as well.

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From Althea back to Karren, also forwarded to Kestrel.

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"I've ways of dealing with the more subtle attempts of derailing things, even the less then subtle poisonings I've managed to deal with by setting the talks within a manse that cleanses all poisons from food and drink, the queen provided the location, it's a lovely wood aspected manse that doesn't even produce a heartstone, so devoted was it's design to maintaining the health and welfare of the inhabitants. Talks are proceeding well, however, I've done some investigations both here and back at the celestial mountain with regards to the loom of fate, the most reasonable folks on both sides know this is the best for all, but there are a few fanatics among the empire and the planetary systerms who don't want talks to proceed smoothing. Sense they are clearly failing to derail the talks means that someone on either side will turn to assassins, and exalted ones at that, there appears to be a notable group of assassins that works in this part of the galaxy who have a 95% chance of becoming involved, they would have come into the system within the last week or so. Some of this group are air aspects, so don't expect it to be easy, if Kestrel can track them down, I'm sure the two of you can deal with them.

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On a side note, the web of fate indicates an interesting possibility, if you take the new liaison who is arriving within the week, and I believe Karren has already met him, at least one of the assassins who is not entirely happy by their associates, and might be convinced to join a different association, by someone with sufficient charm. An assassin trained air aspect might come in handy in the future, just something to think about."

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Meanwhile, on the Planet

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"Greetings once again." The lovely fire aspect commander of the imperial fleet was waiting for him when he left the shuttle bay and entered the main receiving area of the space port. She was also dressed up in her own way, a lovely scarlet dress touched with golden embroidery with the house carthak symbol on it. "I see you arrived on your own, might I offer an escort to our gathering this evening?"

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Karren had to chuckle out loud upon reading Althea's message. Charming. Well, that was one pale word to describe the liaison if her step daughter meant who Karren thought she meant. Still, he wasn't crew yet. Not until Dan said otherwise anyway. Still they had plenty of power to take on a cell of killers, Dragonblooded or otherwise. Had to find the prey before killing and cleaning it though.

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The big Lunar fired off two quick messages as the airbus closed with the central station through a thickening forest of towers.

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'Thief, you read Althea's message, right? This is more your area than mine. Find Sophia and I someone to beat into their senses. Please and thank you,' went the first, directed to Kestrel, words jaunty with the promise of righteous bloodshed.

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'Hope you had a nice ten days, but we're up to protect the peace again, Songbird. Meet me at Capital Central Station if you care to. I'll be there in 20 minutes. Hope to see ya smiling when I do,' went the second, bouncing out to her fellow Lunar's communicator.

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Dan nodded, and of course two could play this social game. He nodded curtly, "Only if said escort and company is yourself, Fleet Admiral. Though seeing you in so beautiful a dress, complementing your own, I feel abit improperly dressed in the Armor of my office." That he moved with effortless grace, and that his armor seemed a part of his being was left unsaid. Indeed he wore it often, so often that it was beginning to be wondered if he had normal attire, among the various rumormills. He wasn't here for pleasure, and his armor sent that message clearly. They had business to finalize. Pleasure could come afterwards.

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Still he offered he his own arm, clad in gleaming Orihalchum, they would make a magnificent entrance together, as equals, Even if only for appearances, The Empire and Marshals standing together as equals.

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She took his armor clad arm in her own as she responded. "Oh, I'd say your outfit makes quite a statement, Commander, it's more then enough for one such as yourself, I imagine you have a few other things you can chose to wear, but this is certainly formal enough. Perhaps arrangements for some alternate occasion where you might chose a different outfit could be made at some point?" She smiled as they moved from the docking port toward the palace where political and social activities were the order of the day.

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About half way there she stopped a moment as another individual came into their path, with his own attendants, a blue skinned male with three dragon-blooded attendants, and she smiled slightly at the scion of house Cygnis, then turned to Dan. "I believe this individual is here to speak with you, Captain, though I imagine he's got a invitation to this evening's gathering as well, it's highly unlikely that a 'former' agent of the Emissary would not."

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Using this moment to interject Methis into the story, how you two chose to interact is up you, others are welcome to join the party for social and political skulduggery, including attempting to hunt down certain assassins for certain night and changing moon castes.

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Cygnis Methis was garbed in the full splendor of his outfit, emitting a not unpleasant luminescence from his garments. Crafted from tangible strands of fate interwoven with light, it moved and shaped itself in accordance with whatever would make its wearer that much more awe inspiring. Moving down the thoroughfare, he had heard that the Imperial and Marshall commanders were headed this way, what better way to make an introduction to them both?

When the Fleet Admiral noticed his arrival--how could she not?--he smiled warmly, his retinue coming to a halt. When she was finished speaking, he waited a five count before Daesari stepped forward.

"Fleet Admiral, Commander, may I present the Perfected Architect of Worldly Magnificence, Prince Cygnis Methis of Nexus."

She stepped aside with a practiced grace, and Methis for his part gave a low bow, executed as if he had been trained in such courtesies and manners by an elite Imperial school and followed it with years of experience.

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Nova smiled "Indeed, I believe you're right he managed before Methis spoke. He turned his attention to the Solar Exalted, and nodded with proper respect. "Well met, Prince of Nexus. I'd not expected to see anyone such as yourself here, but you are welcome. All should celebrate the victories won in this system, Denying the Neverborn and the Yozi access to this system and its people."

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Nexus had no claim on any part of this, they were decidedly interloping where they shouldn't be. At least the Vara had been called upon to render aid. Nova let nothing show, but the presence of an Eclipse Caste would complicate things for Althea, which annoyed him. For him, this moment now was for her to shine.

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Dan was skilled as a socialite, of that there was no mistake. The untrained would actually believe that his response to meeting the Prince of Nexus was as warm and graceful as it appeared. Even one of the initiated, skilled politicians and most semi-observant Exalted would have difficulty deciphering the iron facade that the Dawn caste put forward.

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Cygnis Methis fell into neither camp. The excellence of the Solar Exaltation in his case had given him the ability to read all but the most talented politicians like open books. Mortals stood no chance against even casual scrutiny, Exalted stood a slightly better one. In Dan's case, he could register annoyance and minor irritation. It would take a bit more to figure out the root causes of such things, but there was plenty of time for that later.

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"Truth be told, Captain Hawkins, I did not expect to be here either, but as I'm sure you would agree, when the Confederation of Rivers makes a recommendation, it is generally in everyone's best interest to go along with it."

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Methis smiled an award-winning smile that had melted more than a few frigid demeanors (and won no small number of paramours, mortal and Exalt alike). "Besides, I'm not one to take being made 'Liaison Officer' as license to hijack your victory. It's yours, you've earned it." He tossed a warm glance to the Admiral. "I'm just here to help everyone get what they want."

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As Dan and Methis met one another, they did gain notice from the gathering, and eventually they arrived at the gathering itself. For someone with any degree of social acumen one could make out three major centers within this social gathering. One of them was fairly obvious and expected, a number of diplomates and socialites were gathered around the Queen. The second group was mainly that of the empire, some of whom were paying close attention to Dan, or more accurately the Carthak at his side. The third group however, were gathered around Dan’s daughter, Althea, whose social acumen was more remarkable for her youth, but she was carrying and presenting herself more as priestess then as anything else.

Althea was wearing a lovely cerulean gown embroidered with the symbols of the maiden of serenity, and a glowing blue sphere that filtered and added a touch of perfume to the air around her. She moved though the gathered assembly with a degree of assurance and certainty that suggested centuries of experience, rather then her apparent age.

When Daniel Hawkins, Carthak Erika, and Cygnis Methis arrived with their various officials, Althea moved to greet them, though with more grace and decoram then she normally showed aboard the starship.

“Welcome to the gathering, Captain Hawkins, Lady Carthak, Prince Methis.” She gave clear indications that she knew and was expecting each of them. She paused slightly and moved next to her father, and in a much quieter tone, one that would only be heard by those closest to them, mainly Dan, Erika and Methis, and perhaps Methis guards. "Did you hear anything from Kestrel or Karren? There is a chance we may see some of the more subtle attempts at assassination at this gathering, though I've done some things to deal with poisons."

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Dan shook his head almost imperceptibly.. "There has been no word,They are continuing their hunt, I have faith that they'll run them down soon enough."

He smiled. 'I have complete faith in your preparations, Althea."

He looked to Methis, and Erika. "Please allow me to introduce you to Althea. She is the primary architect of these talks, an invaluable member of my crew, and for sake of transparency, she is also my one and only daughter." He spoke with a certain amount of pride in all that the young Sidreal had accomplished.

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"And what a proud father you must be, Captain Hawkins"

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Methis smiled kindly, is face a disarming one, particularly when combined with the radiance of his form, which was just short of divine.
In a smooth, singular motion, he took Althea's hand and bent a ways to kiss the air just above her hand.

"Althea, as you have no doubt been informed, I am Prince Cygnis Methis, and I would be absolutely delighted if I could accompany you this evening."

He looked around at the assembled dignitaries, no doubt there were billions of credits in warships and weapons at the command of the people in this room, and very few of them had any clue how to handle themselves or even dress to impress.

"Perhaps together we can make sure that over the course of this evening we all get what we want and can walk away from the table happy"

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Althea

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"I've been expecting your arrival, Prince Methis" She responded with a smile, as she let him kiss her hand, she clearly was enjoying the attention from the handsome eclipse caste, perhaps more then her father might be entirely comfortable with, and turned up the charm a bit herself. "But no one said anything about how charming you were, or that you were traveling with an entourage, though I certainly didn't except a prince to arrive alone." She looked at the ladies traveling with Methis. "If it would not be impertinent for me to ask, might I ask after your companions?"

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Edridge Huckins was not a lucky man. You didn't wind up running a two-bit pawnshop in the worst part of town if you were lucky. But running a two-bit pawnshop that was also a clearing house for stolen and illegally-procured goods, and keeping your head on your shoulders, DID imply you were pretty clever and savvy. He was those things. He played off his harmless image, with his middle-age paunch and his gerbil cheeks and his overly-thick glasses...he looked like everyone's geeky uncle. It hid a head for numbers and the fudging of numbers, and a certain intellectual ruthlessness that made him one of the go-to men for anyone looking for anything that they didn't want showing up on an official record somewhere.

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But he wasn't lucky, which might have had something to do with why his head was pressed up against a wall at the moment.

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"You're sure it was him?" said the woman holding his head there. He didn't struggle. For one, she was a lot stronger than she looked. For another, he knew damn well knives would come out of the holes in her gauntlets...the holes currently mashed up against his temple.

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"Well," he wheezed submissively, "I didn't ask for a signature or anything, but it looked like the guy from the photo, yeah."

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Kestrel let go of him and stepped back. Edridge dropped to his hands and knees, and laboriously shifted to sit down, rubbing his neck and the side of his head. He looked up at her...though the shifting surface of the chameleon symbiote made it hard to see more than a silhouette in the dim light of his pawnshop. "So...am I under arrest?" he asked, half hopefully.

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"I don't do arrest," Kestrel answered. "Keep your nose clean, Huckins."

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There was a suggestion of movement, as the barely-seen outline flickered and vanished.

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Eldridge got to his feet and went to where his comm had fallen out of his pocket when she'd picked him up. Maybe walking away from a Solar on a warpath meant his luck was changing...but he doubted it. Time to get off-planet for awhile. He had a feeling this was going to get a lot worse before it got better.

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"Dyna," Kestrel said into her comm as she shrugged back into her clothes in an alley a few blocks up. The symbiote could color itself to look like clothes, but it would still look a bit too 'painted on' to escape notice. And she might need the essence soon. "Any progress on the facial recognition search from the port's entry logs?"

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There was a pause, and Dyna replied in a cautious tone, "Yes. You're not going to like it."

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"We're hunting assassins, of course I'm not going to..." Kestrel trailed off as Dyna sent the data over.

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"Of the six suspects you identified, I was able to locate records showing two of them were not staying in the city. The remaining four entered at different times, but the transport they arranged from the port were all going to the same district. I haven't found any matches for the man you've been investigating, but the two women were within eighty-five percent margins of error for a pair of air-aspected exalts; a known assassin and her sister, an accomplice."

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"Blue Wind," said Kestrel. "Well, the smaller guy is doing some buying around town. He's being careful...a little from one supplier, a little from another. The list looks pretty bad when you add it all up though. Reagents for thaumaturgy, but also some carefully chosen perfumes and dyes and cleaning agents that...with a little know-how...can become some pretty nasty poisons. And given Blue's record, I'd say she knows how."

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"Her sister is a sorceror as well," Dyna added, "So that explains the reagents."

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"Anything on the bigger guy yet?" Kestrel panned the photo she had around, looking the man in question over. It was from the customs security camera, so the image wasn't great. It showed his face in enough detail to pick him out in a crowd though.

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Dyna's voice was apologetic. "Negative."

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"Keep at it. I've got a feeling about this guy. Something about him is...off. I think he's disguising himself. See if you can get a scan of his handwriting maybe...run that. Or...I don't know. Just keep at it. Oh, and you said they all went to the same district...any more detail than that?"

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"No. They each stopped somewhere different according to transit logs."

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Kestrel frowned. "Throw me a map of the district, showing where they each stopped." The upload only took seconds, and she examined the map for only a little longer before closing it. "All right. Computers and omnisurveillance are all well and good, but sometimes there's just no substitute for a little footwork."

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"Are you sure that's a good idea? These are dangerous..."

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"I'm not going by myself, are you crazy?" Kestrel laughed. "I've got another errand or two to run, and then I'll get everyone together and let them know what we found. This is not a one-woman job. Even if that woman is me."

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It took quite awhile for Kestrel to get back to the others, after Karren made the call putting her on the case. A good twelve hours had passed, in fact, and morning had turned to night. Finally though, Dan got a message on his comm letting him know that Kestrel was calling.

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"Dan," she said, "Get everyone together somewhere secure. We've got big problems."

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Methis rose back to his full height, just about six feet when he released Althea's hand.

"Of course you may... ladies?"

With a gesture, he motioned Daesari forward, the woman's black outfit, clearly built for function as well as form only accenting her sun-darkened skin. Her Fire aspect was very apparent to those who knew what to look for.

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"This is Daesari, without whom I would likely have been horribly slain many times by now.

Daesari offered a precision, military bow, altered just so to give that feminine accent and keep those around them from presuming that she was trying to be "a woman in a man's role" before she stepped back to her position. Shortly afterwards, Myra stepped forward, her own skin also darkened but less easily defined in origin. A pearlescent blue dress covering her flawless body but revealing just enough in the right places to be enticing. Even without taking into account her hair which was a lovely violet, Myra's Water Aspect was clear, even to those who may not know all the things to look for.

"Myra, the yin to Daesari's yang, as talented and multifaceted in her abilities as the water she comes from"

Myra curtsied politely and smiled teasingly to Althea before stepping back and ushering the third of their number forward. Isolde all but screamed Wood Aspect, from her lily white skin, to her ivy-green hair, to the blossoms that rested perfectly in it, the blood of the Elemental Dragons was impossible for even an oblivious fool to miss. Her own dress, a conservative yet still form fitting white piece.

"And last but certainly not least, Isolde. I can't think of how many times I've been sick, injured, or worse, sometimes even poisoned and this one has been there to bring me back from the brink."

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As Isolde stepped back to where she had been standing, Methis turned his attention back fully to Althea.

"They are honestly as much a part of me as my arms and my legs, I don't know where I would be without them. I'm sure you understand, I'm certain you have someone in your life that is like that, am I right?"

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Dan actually knew the feeling quite well, Thoughts of course turning to Karen, Sophia, Dyna, and Noble Endeavor. Still after the introductions and while waiting for Althea to answer, Kestrel's message came in, and Dan frowned. It wasn't the Battle Scowl he so often wore, but one of real disappointment. "please excuse me for a moment, I must take this call."

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having excused himself and moved off alone into one of the empty private alcoves, He sent back to her. "Everyone save you Karren and Sophia are at the Gala now,who aren't at the moonbase or on their ships., Is this pressing enough for us to leave the peace talks we helped foster?"

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He knew it had been too good to last, at least they had the muscle to deal with this. If Methis was looking to claim a place on his ship, as an Ambassador, he'd earn it, his retainers could do the same, and he expected there to be some bargaining for their services. More politics, just give me a starcaster or daiklaive and a horde of shrieking demons any day... i'd rather that..."

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"Me and Dyna managed to find some high-threat people who recently arrived," Kestrel answered. "One's a notorious assassin named Blue Wind. Her sister's here too, and it looks like they're working with a pair of accomplices. One's making rounds in the local underground, getting supplies...the other is an unknown quantity. I think he's in disguise..." she hesitated, then added, "...and I think the disguise is made with Essence. It's a little too good, you know? A little -too- good. So I haven't got any concrete info on that one, except he's big."

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"Blue Wind's infamous for faking accidental deaths, and it looks like she's stockpiling poison ingredients. Her sister's a thaumaturgist, and she's got some ritual components...and they're both air-aspected dragonbloods, so they'll probably be a bitch to locate and intercept. I'll send you the data we have, including the list of procurements we've uncovered and the poisons that can be synthesized from them. Be a good idea to have antitoxins for them on hand."

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"I also have some info on the location they're staying in, which is what I could use help with. Anyone you can spare is appreciated, but if you're tied up I'll try it alone."

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Althea

Althea smiled and met each of the ladies who stepped forward with a soft bow of her own, just the right degree of propriety, she clearly knew the social graces, but there was a touch of something ancient about them, to a celestial exalt, it would be clear that she was still in the process of integrating memories of previous incarnations into her present existence.

She seemed to be be slightly more drawn to the wood aspect, but that could simply be that the joybringers were associated with the element of life a bit more then the others. Not that it mattered that much, Sidereals could move beyond elemental associations quite easily, as could any celestial exalt.

"Father and I have been fairly close, and my teacher is very close as well, but not as close as you seem to be with your companions here.” She glanced over at her father as he stepped to the side and responded to Kestrel’s message, and she watched him with a touch of worry.

Dyna

Dyna spoke up as soon as Kestrel suggested she might go it alone. "I'll go with you if it comes to that, Kestrel, after all you should have someone to watch your back in such danger, especially if one of them is a unknown and disguised exalt. I could also talk with my people and have some of them accompany us on this hunt if you like."

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Dan nodded, and had to come to a decision. "Much as I'd like, I cannot leave at this time, as the Marshall representative, if i left to chase assassins, it would cause an Incident."

"I'll have Dyna meet up with you, and Karren since you need some muscle for this. We still have jurisdiction as Marshalls, so jurisdiction isn't going to be a problem, since the request for our aid is still in effect. i'lll send Sophia along too, as an extra set of claws, She may be able to help more than we realize."

On another screen inside his helmet he opened a window to Sophia's discreet comms, copying a text only file of the conversation, and sending it to her, save his comments about her. "I want you to go on this, be discreet, and help Kestrel and Dyna."

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As usual, Sophia Ashcroft's latest concert was amazing, the entire crowd was cheering and fun was to be had by all. "Thank you All! You've been a amazing audience tonight! Thank you all for coming out here after these troubling times. I love all! Good Night!" She said with a wink. Inside she feels good about herself, this concert was a major success and 75% of the proceeds were going to help relief efforts. Who said you can't mix pleasure and business?

,,

Sophia responded as soon as her concert was over and she was heading back to the ship.

,, ,,

"Sure thing Dan. Sorry for not responding Sooner, Knocked them dead. My ETA is about 5 minutes." The young lunar said with a grin.

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"Sophia and Karren, well there goes the stealthy approach. All right, I'll send an address to meet us at. Have them hurry."

,,

Kestrel gave Dyna a smile and shook her head. "I think you, me and a pair of lunatics will be plenty. I'm thinking we'll do a distraction and a pincer move. Set up some kind of 'emergency' response up the block a ways. Sirens and some vehicles. That will get their attention, while you and I scout the place. Then when we're sure we have the right one...the brute squad kicks in the front door while we slip in a window and try to find data on their plans."

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"Honest" Jin was known to be able to acquire things. However, there was Acquisitions and then there was Acquisitions. The voice on the other end of the line was asking for the second type.
"That's a tall order. I presume collateral damage isn't an issue?"
"Can you get it or not?"
The low-life middleman steepled his fingers in the fashion of a man who saw the chance to break into the big times.
"I can get it. Twenty-four hours. I'll contact you with an exchange site. Bring the money. Lots of money."
****
A husky young man with a broad smile indicating that he didn't realize how ugly he was slouched into a sports bar. The raucous noise drowned out the sound of his belch as he grabbed a table and ordered a beer. Watching the central display for the jetbike races, he spent several minutes studying the makes and models of the vehicles and the track records of the pilots.
After another moment's consideration, he activated the convenience terminal at his table and pulled up a list of bookies that were taking bets on the game. Raising his the privacy screen to reduce the noise of the place to a dull roar, he produced his communicator phone and tracked the numbers for the second bookie from the top as he dialed.
Unseen by anyone, a flow of essence flooded the area and revealed to him that he was unobserved. Satisfied that he was not being watched, he dialed the numbers that he had typed in, which were different from those displayed on the screen in front of him.
"Report," came the answer over the phone.
"Surveillance from a bug on Jin's machine. They're upping their game and trying to get explosives. The transfer is supposed to take place in twenty four hours."

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Rubio

"Be prepared, the night has arrived and the moon rising, the hunter moves with fall of darkness.” The code words were an indication to Rubio that Kestrel and several lunars were about to enter his situation, and they would likely quickly recognize him. It was also a warning of a new agent who had been sent into the matter, someone who was simply code named ‘the hunter’. They hadn’t given Rubio much about this agent, other then that he was connected to the Material Intelligence, Nine Black Chases, a spirit of the hunt in a civilized context, with a mix including the idea of bounty hunting and law enforcement.

Kestrel

“That would work, and lends to our various strengths, both of us can easily tap the various networks to set up the emergency response your suggesting.” Dyna responded to Kestrel’s suggestion.

Meanwhile (Gianno Azhek)

Having been assigned to a new hunt, Gianno had a series of computer files and a set of orders, sending him to this star system from the Celestial Mountain. “Your targets have been confirmed to be on planet, integrate with and cooperate with the Star Marshals in system, you will be indefinitely assigned to the Marshal’s afterward, report to star marshal Hawkin’s at your convenience, though the hunt for the targets takes priority.”

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The man sat back at the table, dressed in a duster and wide-brimmed hat. Very useful, for concealing many weapons and items of import, among other things. A server brought a cup of tea to the table and he smiled politely at the young lady. "Thanks miss. You wouldn't mind please bringing my bill? Looks like I have to be heading out."

,,

Now, why did Nine have to be so quick on the draw? Gianno needed to ask for some vacation time at this rate. Or rather, since Nine had squared him to working with the Marshals for some time, he'd have to ask this Marshal Hawkins or someone else.

,,

Then again, they might be a real stick in the mud. Anyway, he paid the server as she came back, a few cups, plus some small pastries and other snacks. Well, he decided reluctantly, duty calls. The assassins were the number one task, but that didn't of course mean Gianno shouldn't link up with the Marshals anyway.

,,

Gianno stretched and left his seat, the lanky Exigent stepping outside for fresh air and to link with the appropriate local spirit-programs. Working as he did for Nine Black Chases did have the benefit of giving him an in with these fellers wherever he went, and they would tend to know something like where the Star Marshals were situated.

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"What? Oh... what? Oh come on!"

,,

This was supposed to be his first lead investigation. He'd finally been given the opportunity to pull his (not inconsiderable) weight with the Marshals and now the rest of the old crew was already on it?

,,

Well, did you really expect different? I mean, this is planetary-level politics here

,,

With a bemused sigh, Zed grabbed the remote for the dingy flatscreen display on the apartment wall and turned the surround sound on. On a lark, he flipped it to a split-screen view of the regional weather channel and an infomercial about home cutlery. The dueling soundtracks made for a cacophonous screen of white noise. As he reached into a hamper, it occurred to him that the cutlery set actually looked pretty utilitarian and the compact carrying case was fairly stylish, as things went.

,,

Producing a heartstone, he spent a moment activating it and attuning it to the common-use method of cross-team communication, hoping that he wouldn't catch the recipients in a bad spot.

,,

"Night-hunter," he said into the heartstone, making a up a callsign, "This is Fat Boy Z. Operation in progress. Suspect has contacted asset to attempt to obtain fireworks. Be advised. Uh. And stuff."

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Kestrel paused where she was, an expression of confusion flickering over her face. Who the hell was...

,,

You've got to be joking.

,,

"Zed?!" she demanded. "What are you...I mean...glad you're alive and all, but what are you doing here? I thought you were in some kind of...high intensity training thing."

,,

The thief looked at Dyna and rolled her eyes. "Alright, put in the fake call...make sure whatever comes is loud and has lots of lights. Fire or medical emergency, you know? Not a burglery or something the local enforcers would want to sneak up on. I'm going to head over and start scoping the place out. I'll wait for you to get back to me before making my move. And...the lunars aren't even here yet."

,,

She shook her head. "Alright, once they get here, put in the call, then meet me over on the roof of that building there."

,,

Then back to the hearthstone communication. "Listen, Zed, I'm kind of in the middle of something here. Can I call you back in like...half an hour? Hour maybe?"

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Sophia heads towards where she's supposed to rendezvous with Dyna and Kestrel, making sure to call them.

,,

"Kestrel, I'm on the way now. What's your plan and what can I do while en route?" She said getting off around three blocks away from the point so she isn't followed. "If nothing I'll be there in a couple seconds."

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,,

"Zed?!" she demanded. "What are you...I mean...glad you're alive and all, but what are you doing here? I thought you were in some kind of...high intensity training thing."

,,

The ugly young dragon-blood looked at the Heartstone and frantically looked for a way to turn the communication into a holovid-like link. He was willing to bet that the look on Kestrel's face was priceless. Alas, the link remained voice-only and the moment passed.

Then back to the hearthstone communication. "Listen, Zed, I'm kind of in the middle of something here. Can I call you back in like...half an hour? Hour maybe?"

,,

"Actually, this is kind of important and related to boot. There's an assassin going by the handle of 'Xia' making contact with a middleman who's an asset of ours. Goes by the name of "Honest Jin". And Xia just contacted Jin to arrange for the purchase of some high-grade military explosives."

,,

He sighed, giving the poor sod that was the target of Kestrel's hunt a one-in-five chance of survival.

,,

"Just... be advised. There's an exchange set for 24 hours from now, but if you can find Xia before then, so much the better."

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Diplomacy

 

While Kestrel gathered her allies to move against this group of assassins, matters continued to move forward for those gathering at the queen’s palace.  Althea smiled at Methis then looked over at her father again, then sent a silent request to the Eclipse caste to move with her as she moved to her father’s side, and touched his shoulder.

“There is an convergence of fate in progress, while we were fighting our own battles, there was another whose destiny is in the process of joining our own.”  She reached out and took her fathers arm and lead him though the palace toward the queen, and her family, most and directing her gaze to the queen’s niece who was standing at her side, and very quietly gave her father some background for what was about to happen.  “The battle had it’s own evolutions, a daughter of the queen’s house became one of Sol’s chosen, and now politics move around her, they want her to join the Marshal’s, for some very complicated reasons.  She’s more like you in regards to a desire to be involved in politics, but noble bloodlines don’t always have a choice about such things.”

As they moved closer to the queen she moved forward to greet Marshal Hawkins, Althea, Methis and newly promoted Admiral Erika Carthak,.  “Thank you, for joining me this day, may I make known to you my niece, the Duchess Vera Volkov, whose heroism and sacrifice in these last days is equaled only by you and your companions.”

Kestrel (And others - everyone presently in contact with Kestrel)

Meanwhile, Dyna was already in the process of preparing her own assault even as Kestrel heard a reply over the comlinks from Karren.  “So, I take it we’re all moving against these assassin’s, I say just charge in, but if anyone has a particular plan, I can wait a moment or two for you folks to flush the enemy in my direction.”  This was also sent to Sophia and Zed, though Zed was a last minute addition

Gianno Azhek

Finding the marshal’s on the planet was not all that hard, Marshal Hawkin’s was apparently at some sort of grand gathering or party involving interplanetary politics, though the files that Gianno had indicated that Dawn caste wasn’t at his best regarding politics, his Serenity caste daughter was a different matter.

There were others however, on the move, some of whom were his targets, and Gianno had a clearer idea of one of the targets then anyone else involved, it would be up to him, try to join the others in midst of their operation, or seek contact with Dan Hawkin’s first.

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Dan bowed his head in respectful greeting to the queen, smiling.  They had spoke simply, quite often since the end of the battles in the system, much as he and Fleet Admiral Cathak had.  He knew the two women were looking for advantages, and knew well they were both more politically saavy than he himself.   Knowing this he was careful not to give away much, or commit to much beyond his Mandate from the Marshals.

 

Neither of them wanted to push him away, he'd already shown himself to be a powerful ally, in command of a military force that could not be ignored.  This made him a potential threat, but also a powerful ally for whoever could gain such comittment from him.

 

He smiled at his Daughter.   "I know this exaltation, I can feel the connection.."  there was an almost mirthful look to his eyes.  An expectation that showed him to be happy at this turn of events. 

 

He regarded the queen and smiled warmly.  "It is a pleasure to see you again face to face."

 

Dan regarded the new Solar, this duchess Volkov, and nova felt the familiarity of another circlemate's presence.   "The Circle is nearly complete..."  he whispered softly.

Then in his rich baritone voice, "Well met, Duchess Volkov, I am Marshal Hawkins, allow me to present my Daughter, Althea, the principle architect of these talks, as well as Prince Cygnis Methis. " .

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Methis turned slightly to regard Captain Hawkins with a slight, roguish smile as he did the introductions.  When he finished speaking, Methis's smile widened significantly, a mouthful of perfect, gorgeous teeth visible for all to see.

 

"As well as...  well it seems that Marshall Hawkins is under an obligation to undersell those around him."  His tone was mirthful, rather than insulted, as he likely easily could have been.

"Fortunately for us all, I am under no such obligation."  He stepped forward and executed a perfect bow before the queen.  "Emerald Sonata, Queen of Kry'sta'tor, Exalted, and the pillar around which an entire planet rallies"

 

When he rose up from the bow, he met her eyes, his gaze an unquestionable promise of a much more personal introduction should she desire it.  "The Confederation of Rivers is most impressed by your conduct during the battle here.  Also I would be remiss if I did not express my own admiration of your majesty."

 

He turned to regard the Duchess, his demeanor just as charming, but when their eyes met, he did not have the same manner of gaze, this one more generalized positivity and radiant confidence.  He executed a similar bow, though nothing even close to the level of displayed deference that he had shown the queen.  

"Duchess Volkov, my congratulations on your transformation and my condolences on your entry into the world of politics.  On the other hand, such things are not without their benefits." He gave a mischievous smile to her.  "The parties are like nothing you've ever imagined...  At least mine are."

 

Methis stepped back a bit to regard them both, his associates keeping in a loose formation with his associates.  "As Marshall Hawkins stated, I am Prince Cygnis Methis of Nexus, Diplomatic Liaison from the Confederation of Rivers."  He indicated Althea.  "Much of the time when I come to an area, I am prepared to set to repairing whatever diplomatic missteps have been made.  You can imagine my relief when I witnessed the talent and skill that the lady Althea had brought to bear.  I am absolutely certain that whatever resolution is reached here, it will be seen as the best for everyone."

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***1.5 Hours ago***

 

A shuttle craft arrived at the palace. Inside a heroine that Her Majesty requested to be in her presence woke up from her nap. A rare thing for the person inside the shuttlecraft as she had been having a pretty busy life since being called by Sol Incarnate to his service.

 

She stepped out the airlock on the side of the shuttle craft, flanked by a personal group of bodyguards called by her Mother to protect her. But from Vera's appearance, she was completely capable of handling herself. Her cleanly tailored and pressed navy blue and white collared dress uniform stood out among the basic black suits of her entourage and the uniformed pilots, mechanics and soldiers milling about, suddenly taking position and acknowledging her presence.

 

Vera has learned to keep herself from using her power to be noticed. Sometimes the sun has to hide behind the clouds lest it burns everything below it. As she walked along, a medic runs up to her, a look of concern on her face.
 

"Lady Vera... I think you need to talk some sense into them!"

 

Vera held up her hand to open her entourage to the medic's plea. "Please, calm down. Tell me what is going on."

"It's a group of POWs we picked up after the battle a few weeks ago. The Lieutenant your Mother put in charge is losing it!"

 

Vera nods. "Very well, take me to them..."

 

The Medic hurriedly went off with Vera right behind her. A couple of the guards followed, but compared to Vera's speed they weren't going to catch up easily. It wasn't long before she saw what the issue was. 5 POWs in clothing just better than rags, shackled, and the Lieutenant mentioned was overseeing what would best be described as a group beat-down session, as other soldiers were being given sticks to beat each prisoner, one at a time. Two POWs already looked like they couldn't stay concious much longer as blood trickled from their forehead.

Vera had enough. She took the ceremonial sword and cracked it's sheathed tip to the ground as her military boots stood at attention with a noticable gavel-like rapping sound. "That will be ENOUGH!"

 

The crest of the Zenith shone from her forehead as sunlight seemed to crack through the clouds of the injustice she saw on that parade field. Immediately the lowest ranked soldiers stepped back, standing at attention, dropping the wooden clubs. The Lieutenant though turned to Vera. "Why, you want a crack, Lady Vera?"

 

She stepped right to the Lieutenant. "What is your name, Soldier? I want to remember it when I tell my Mother that she made a mistake choosing you to look after the welfare of POWs."

"These? These Scum? These "pilots" were part of a squadron that destroyed your brother's ship! We swept them up looking for survivors... I lost 10 wingmates, and almost died out there in the black myself!"

 

Vera grabbed him by the lapel of his duty uniform, already stained by the blood of the prisoners. "You disgrace your uniform with the blood of restrained prisoners? We're not like this, dammit! We're not the Empire! In fact this is even low for them... What if I told you these 5 and even others could get our POWs back!"

 

Her face tensed. "We're better than this. This sort of behavior is what thugs and criminals use."

 

She pushed the lieutenant back and started unbinding the POWs. Although they were beaten so hard, they weren't able to move.

"Lady Vera... these scum thrive on our compassion... they don't deserve it!"

 

Vera had enough. "You want to know what ends a war, soldier? It's by not giving your enemy any reason to fight any more. You are perpetuating the cycle of vengance that War thrives on. A soldier fights to end war, not to keep it going. Doing this soils the memory of my brothers... my sisters... EVERYONE WHO FELL!"

 

The Lieutenant grinned licking his lips. "You think that you're all bad, "Your Majesty"? Just because you popped that Solar swagger you think you know what's best for everyone suddenly?" He points to her rank pins. "We're on the same level, I don't care if you're some goddamn Ace Some 7th tier Duchess... All you are is air support. We fight and die... you don't know shit about what we go through. Seeing kids drifting in the vacuum dead because of pirates backed by the damned Empire. Those 5 represent the injustice that the Empire served to us! They..."

 

There wasn't much more he could say as Vera struck him in his solar plexus with the butt of the sheath of her sword that was in one hand. He buckled . "You're berserk. You're letting your passion drive you! You're no soldier! You're a zealot! You're nothing more than an animal who wants to consume everything before it!"

 

He fell to his knees as she stood over his buckled form. "Shall I beat you within an inch of your life and make you realize what you were doing?" She said walking up closer. "You insult my sight. Leave it. You're relieved of duty."

The Medic who summoned Vera and her nurses start looking over the prisoners as security escorted the Lieutenant to the medic facility. As that happened Vera pointed to a Private standing out of the way of the conflict. "Private. I place the care of these prisoners in your care. Also I declare this... all of our POWs will be treated like civilians we rescue. They deserve to be treated like people."

 

One of the prisoners that took a severe beating grinned, spitting out some blood at Vera's feet. "Using us as pawns?"

 

Vera walked over. "I'm suprised... no rank and serial number? What's your name, Pilot?"

 

He grinned. "Li... Chiang Li. Lieutenant Commander. 11Th squadron."

 

Vera stood at attention. "I am Duchess Vera Volkov, Lieutenant 21st Royal Star Navy Squadron."

 

The mention of the 21st squadron caused the fear of god to be put into them suddenly. She was the most feared Ace among the defenders of Kry'sta'tor. "Y... Y... You're the butcher of Agrippa Pass? The Reaper of the Willow Nebula?"

 

"Butcher? Reaper? Butchers and Reapers go after civilians... they leave people to bleed and to die." Vera said. "I know the propaganda." She said, passing her sword to one of her guards... then she did something unexpected. She held out her hand to help the prisoner up. "I am also the Savior of Agrippa... Vanguard of the Willow Nebula. If I was who your superiors called me... would I be not only sparing you, but having you live in relative comfort? Yes, not on the level of a officer... but you now will have regular meals a warm bed..."

 

The prisoner smacks her hand away. "I don't need your mercy!" He shouted, but then Vera knelt down to his level. "No... you don't. But it is the right thing to do. Think... You have family? Or someone you love? You want to see them again, or have another chance to fight again? I reccomend you just take this as time to rest, Lieutenant."

 

The medic walks over to the Lieutenant that rebuked Vera. "Please... let the medic look at you."

 

As Vera walks away, she sighed, running her fingers through her short hair after taking off the cap that was part of her uniform. "I'm not interested in continuing the war... too many are dead because of it, Lieutenant. Remember that. Let's for once let reason win... Also get them some better clothes... they're people, not animals."

 

She heads off, as one of the assistants to the Queen herself walk up. "Lady Vera... Her Majesty requires your presence shortly..."

 

Vera nodded. She hated this part of the job...

 

***Now***

 

Vera adjusted her dress uniform with a quick tug, as she turned to full attention to face Dan and his company.

 

"Duchess Vera Volkov, Lieutenant 21st Squadron." She said with a salute, then offering the saluting hand to Dan, "Rare that I get to see a living legend in the flesh. Usually it's either gazing on an unrealistic statue of a over-stylized painting."

The tone of her voice was direct, no use of accent to pretty-up her words. She sounded like someone whose been a grunt all her life. But somehow this commoner-sounding woman's voice had a slight ring that didn't make her seem unsophisticated. Rather it made the stuffy halls feel warmer with it's presence.

 

She smiled, obviously going for the small-talk option of diplomacy. "It seems my... situation... has caused quite a stir among the houses in Her Majesty's court."

 

Her smile didn't seem like the young Duchess many in the media tried to portray. She's seen a lot, but there was still something there that seemed to shine brighter... confidence someone would call it. "I'm honored."

Seeing Prince Methis, she sighed. "I've been to far too many state funerals in recent memory, but I am not one for parties, either... unless it is with my wingmates. And that opportunity won't come in this life anymore."

For all she said, there was a slight smell, one of the material of the seat of a starfighter cockpit. Even on her dress uniform resplendent with her achievements, there was still that air that her place was at the cockpit. She was a warrior, and she led from the front.

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Gianno frowned, walking leisurely down the street, though unbeknownst to the casual observer, he was getting his update from the local law-spirits. Very complete, which was a good thing and he'd thanked them for it. But the details were pretty devilish, all right. 

 

All women on the list of targets? What were the odds of that? And that assassin at the top struck him as a real piece of work, and a nightmare to find and stop. At least Blue Wind was more available, and it seemed Marshal Kestrel had her own posse at work, so it made a perfect place to hook up with Marshal Hawkins' general task force.

 

.....Speaking of Hawkins and women, did Fate intend for him to be the kind of man that would make other men sick jealous to their stomachs? Gianno let out a mournful sigh and then tossed the thoughts off. Work work. 

 

Gianno hailed the nearest cab around. He knew roughly where Kestrel would be at work, so he could just slip in. And Nine's special instructions per target shouldn't be objectionable, probably....

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"Yes, there's a plan," Kestrel replied. "Sophia and Karren, you go up to the front door and break in. Be as loud as you want, and be ready for trouble. While you do that, I'm going to go in real quiet-like upstairs, and take them from behind while they're busy with you. Should also be able to intercept any runners."

 

"Dyna, you and Zed are the goalies. I want you to pick a spot close by with good command of the area. If anyone gets out, you let us know and keep tabs on them. If me or the lunars need help, you're also our reinforcements, so be ready to go low or high as the situation dictates."

 

"Now, unless there's any questions, give me two minutes to get into position, then let the wild rumpus begin."

 

Essence bled into her anima, and while she didn't become invisible exactly, Kestrel seemed to fade in the perceptions of the other exalted...seeing her took concentration, as their minds tried to lump her into the same 'safe to ignore' category it put sidewalk squares and individual blades of grass into. A moment later she'd leapt away and vanished behind a corner.

 

(spending 3 motes on Easily Overlooked Presence Method to give kestrel cover from observation as she gets into a position where she can get inside quickly once she hears the fun start)

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Diplomats

The queen smiled slightly, and returned Prince Methis bow with a bow of her own, the degree that of queen to prince, before she pressed a button on her wrist, a transparent bubble surrounded those closest too her, Dan, Althea, the Admiral, Vara, Methis and his guards.  The bubble prevented sound from escaping, as well as created just enough distortion that reading lips were impossible though the bubble, but it would not prevent travel though the bubble, unless it was something moving at a lethal speed.

 

"Please bear with me a moment, before speaking, I thank each of you for coming and with this privacy bubble up,  I can speak plainly and bluntly, without the trappings one expects from royalty.  Speaking bluntly, I need Vera to join the Marshal's under your command, this is due to the degree of politics involved, not everyone is happy with a Zenith caste within the royal house, and with the number of deaths in this latest war, a number of royal houses are looking to maneuver things more to their liking.  Placing her within the Marshals puts her outside of the general politics and gives me the time I need to sooth things over, a few years, maybe even a decade or two and things will settle."

 

Before Vera could respond, the Queen reached out and took her nieces hands.  "There are only a few individuals between you and the throne, Vera, there are those who would use that to their advantage, I know how to deal with them, so I need you to trust me, go with the Marshals, learn and grow, and then when you return, I know you will be far more capable of dealing what whatever comes."

 

The Queen then went silent, to allow the rest of those present to speak as they might choose.

 

Assassins

 

Meanwhile, as Kestrel moved into place, unnoticed by others due to the flow of essence making her unnoticed, she was able to overhear a few words as her forces, including those she was not yet entirely aware of, moved into place.

 

"Explosives, Xia?  We were requested to be subtle about this."

 

"But we were also requested to do whatever we could to prevent these peace talks from reaching fruition, from my investigations, it will take something dramatic to bring things to an end."

 

A grunt from someone else was heard, then a softer sigh, one that had a response from the first speaker.

 

"Lily?"

 

"Sister, I'm here only to support you, I will help you as you ask, but I don't want to know any more then I already do, if you and Xia have tactics to discuss, please do so outside of my hearing."

 

Based on the sounds and voices, Kestrel could confirm that at least 4 individuals were present within the room she was listening in on even as things came to a head, and a reaction as the two lunars, Sophia and Kestrel broke down the front door.

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Vera sighed. For someone who accepted their role as a soldier, this was not her cup of tea by any stretch. If she had her way she'd challenge every single one trying to get  rank through a hostile take-over and string up the whole lot for treason. Then again where would that get her? Perhaps Her Majesty was correct... she did have much to learn. That, and she didn't look forward to the frilly dresses, pomp, and circumstance that now is in her future. Hopefully distant future.

She looked slightly impatient realizing this fact as she looked over the others in this room, sort of happy the bubble was up and her voice wouldn't be reverberating in the room. Adjusting the lapels of her dress uniform she uncomfortably took the Queen's words. Her aunt never steered her wrong. When Vera was diciplined by her mother at the Academy, it was the Queen who soothed her while helping with the bandages. When Vera graduated, it was her and her mother that stood side by side as she marched on the parade grounds. And it was her, while her Mother tended to the troops, that consoled her as she stood by six rifles boots and helmets signifying her siblings.

The Queen has always made sure little Anya was never alone. And now with the hazy yet what she knows as real memories of being Harmonious Thunder, and the powers and privileges that came with the title... She served Sol Incarnate... the Unconquered Sun as much as her people.

"So... I take it then that I am the responsibility of the Captain here?" She said cracking a wry smile. "Nice. I wager he's Solar like me, then... being a Marshal and all?" She asked her Aunt before turning to Dan.

"And don't be calling me Duchess or Your Highness... stick to ranks here, Sir. I'm just a Lieutenant."

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Nova looked first to the queen as she finished speaking, then to Vera, who then began to issue her own little proclamation, and hid his almost amused reaction behind a stone-faced mask. 

 

 

"I don't see a particular issue with her Enlistment with the Star Marshals, or her posting to the Dawn's Wrath under my command. There will be some formalities to go through for this, but I have the feeling that since it resolves some political turbulence for everyone, it will indeed be welcomed and approved quickly and quietly."

 

He looked to Vera.   "I cannot guarantee that rank will remain for you, as a Marshal.  There are Aptitude tests, for which you may prove your readiness for that rank, or perhaps more, or less.   You will be tested appropriately, and fairly, as We would do with any who serve the combat arms of the Marshals."

 

"If you wish for protocol and formality, then I will answer to Senior Marshal, or Marshal Hawkins, or Captain Hawkins."   It was known that he was technically higher ranked than that, commanding the most powerful Marshal fleet, but he still thought of himself more as a Captain.  There will come times where this is suspended, indeed my officers and I already seldom use a rank structure, as we are quite familiar with each other.  I have faith you will adapt to your new circumstances.  The Unconquered Sun makes no mistakes."

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Vera's expression shifted, taking a more serious appearance. "Very well, Captain, we'll see how I turn out. Although I will not lie, I think there will be some polishing needed." She adjusted the gold and dark blue choker around her neck with a locket on it. She had it purposely set that way to be as close to not insulting her uniform as possible. "And it would be foolish to think Sol Incarnate would make an error. Although what those he chooses to grant his power to on the other hand sometimes need... direction at first to find their way."

She knew this first hand with her memories of her past life.

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