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"GINGER SNAP"

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“GINGER SNAP”

 

Space is big.

Of course everyone knows this but still, until one finds themselves in the depths of space away from every single other human occupied ship, planet, moon, station, or what have you, your mind doesn't grasp how big, how enormous, or how intimidating space is.

Or how empty.

Man occupies seven starsystems, and has a presence in a half dozen more.

At least officially. Unofficially you can probably double that number, give or take.

At any given time there are a score of robot ships looking for new worlds, new sources for whatever it is that the powers that be are interested in at the moment.

And then there are the others. Those who wish to remain unseen, unknown. Those whose business is their own. Or those whose actions need remain in the shadows, undiscovered.

 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

 

The small cadre of Legionaires had deployed from the drop shuttle effortlessly and undetected and made their way to their target, an underground bunker complex on the unnamed airless moon, that housed, among other things, an unregistered industrial Compiler taken from a pirated colony ship in route to Shouye. Normally an op such as this would be handled by drones, but the tidlelocked planetoids close proximity to the systems three suns created havoc with communications and made remote access impossible, and command didn't want to use autonomous robotic combatants due to the sensitive nature of the op.

The legionnaires had all looked askance when informed of this but being legionnaires had said nothing, after all as the saying went, "Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die".

 

Sgt Volkov was alert as she lay in her over-watch position her snipers weapon trained on the likely egress point of any personnel attempting to flee the bunker. Not that there would be any. After all they had nowhere to go. The Coalition Force had waited after approaching the unnamed planetoid and had stayed under stealth waiting for the pirate ship grounded at the complex to launch and depart. The presence of the ship and it's departure at the appointed time lent credence to the intel they were operating under. Once the pirate ship had departed The protectorate warship had rapidly moved in and dropped the Legionnaires onto the airless worldlet to conduct the raid.

Volkov wished she were with her team inside but protocol called for the sniper to remain on overwatch. Still she knew her teams capabilities well and knew that they would be in and out with the efficiency they were known for. But the lack of radio comms bugged her. She could get only snippets of the ops going on inside through the stellar interference.

So it was a heart stopping shock when the words “Vampire, vampire, vampire!” clearly filled her helmet. She twisted into her side and looked up her eyes searching for where the CPS Dakota Meyer should be. Maddie couldn't locate the stealthed ship with her eyes but she did see the triple flares of the three gravity driven kinetic missiles that streaked up from the planets surface at over a thousand gravities acceleration on an intercept course with the small destroyer class ship.

Even from geosynchronous orbit and unable to make radical maneuvers, the Dakota Meyer managed to destroy two of the projectiles with her close in defense systems, but only one needed to hit and the third one did.

Sgt Madeline Volkov's Helmet face-plate darkened as the night was turned to the brightest day outshining all three suns with Antimatter fire. Seconds passed and the ball of light faded and darkness once again reigned. Maddie twisted back to face her watch zones and saw nothing had changed no movement no sound over the comms.

Sgt Madeline Volkov suddenly felt very very alone.

 

STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338

37.5 LY from SOL

 

The vessel slipped through the empty system at a healthy velocity. She was coasting now her drive was on standby and her JD was in the second half of it's spool cycle. The Apostate sat in the flight decks command chair where he was inputting the next jump. Being at velocity made navigation a bit more complicated but it was better, in his opinion, to be moving after a jump than dead still and maybe under someones guns.

“Daddy, I think I found something. It might be a ship.”

Jericho Wyze lifted his head but didn't turn to face his daughter at her station toward the rear of the flight deck. Instead he looked out the forward view port.

Behind him Penny watched her dad and shook her head. “You can't see it unaided, it's about 30k klicks, here, that's the coordinates so you can bring it up on the scope.”

“How'd you spot it?” he asked as he brought it up on the scope. All that he could see was stars and blackness.

“It occluded two of the stars as we shifted. It's stationary or moving really really slow.

“Moxie?”

“Give me a minute will you. I wasn't sight seeing I was monitoring the jump drive.” came the disembodied voice of the ships AI. Before Jericho could respond Moxie spoke again. “Yeah the Kids right I'ts a ship or at least something artificial. I get returns showing both ferrous and non ferrous materials. But it's cold. No emissions at all.”

Jericho finally turned around and looked at his daughter, at the light of excitement glowing in her eyes the grin on her way too pretty face.

The chances of running into a ship out here were so infinitesimally small as to immediately set off alarms and his first inclination was to change vector and open the distance and jump as soon as he was able. But then that other voice in his head started speaking. This was a smugglers route, he wasn't the only one to use it and lord knows a derelict ship could be a treasure trove.

 

SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

 

Maverick pushed her way through the crowd and deeper into the bazaar. She still wasn't used to this, to have to actually live without the privileged and economic stability being a citizen had brought. But she had made up her mind. She was committed and anyone who knew her knew that once committed to something she was in it one hundred and ten percent.

Still she needed to eat and needed a place to live. New Montreal was crowded and smelled bad. The air was pumped from the surface and circulated then recirculated through all the interconnected hulls which made up the buried city. The bazaar was an open area created from connecting the cargo holds of three different ships in to one big cavernous chamber full of booths and stalls where real craftsmen traded and bartered real hand made goods and where the farmers from hydroponics traded real grown food. It was like something  out of an old earth tale of the Arabian nights or something.

Maverick paused she had been here less than a week and had not found what she was looking for yet. Her decision to leave Olympus had been twofold, one, get away from her family (that included her House, Kimura), and two, to make contact with a person whose name she had gotten a person who if the rumors she had gleaned on the net were true, could get her on the way to fulfilling her personal mission maybe even get her an invite to the Darkive. A person called Lark.

Anna had struggled to survive in Minos for a couple of months after her dramatic exit from society in Olympus. While not yet truly accepted by the downtrodden she hoped to help she had made friends. One of them, a street waif called Noodle, had listened to Anna's forceful dissertations about evolution, true freedom, and the evil that the coalition was perpetrating against humanity with it's totalitarian rules and the almighty HPA. Noodle had been mesmerized by the girl who called herself Maverick and had become one of her followers if you could call her that. It was noodle who told her about the apostate facilitator named Lark, and told her where to find him, and helped her get off mars and to Sanctuary. It had taken 21 days of riding cramped stinking tramp ships and eating questionable food but Maverick had made it to Sanctuary. And now she was in the bazaar where you could find anything you needed. Anything except who you where looking for. Maverick stood and stared at the empty cleared out stall where she was supposed to find the man she had come 70 light years to find.

 

 

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, NP ST said:

STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338

37.5 LY from SOL

Jericho sat in his chair.  It creaked softly as he moved it side to side, rubbing the stubble on his chin.  Penny knew that look, he was deep in contemplation, weighing the odds of whether or not the gamble was worth the risk.  Being an apostate was never easy, between smugglers, pirates, the Coalition, every action one took had to be carefully weighed and measured to be sure that they'd be alive to spend whatever salvage they might procure.  Discretion was always the better part of valor.

"Mox," he spoke, tilting his like the ship's AI was standing behind him without taking his eyes off the object on the screen.  "What about biological, or organic?"

"Cold, means cold, genius."  Moxie replied.  Penny couldn't help but smirk, after all, her dad couldn't make the ship do push-ups as punishment.

"Estimate the tactical probability of cybernetic sleeves," Jericho looked back at the simple holo display where the ship's AI broadcast from.  The display showed the the floating head of a woman with long hair and comely features albeit all tinted in blue.  "Smart ass."

"Hmm, that's a possibility," she quirked one brow up in acceptance of the thought.  "However, that would be an awfully specialized unit equipped with some serious hardware all to lie in wait for what?  A few contraband smugglers?  The Coalition has far more important things to do, of that I can assure you.  Pirates seem unlikely.  That sort of tech would a smidge out their price range, or level of class."

Still, he just sat there, staring off into the void of space.  Jeicho was a careful man.  He had to be for the sake of his daughter and his ship (which currently housing a very illegal AI).  Penelope sighed and broke the silence.  "Dad, it's been months since our last good score out here.  The smuggling runs just aren't cutting it at the moment, this season is lean.  We're looking at a possible gold mine."

"No, it's too risky," he shook his head and settled into the chair preparing to fire up the sub drives and veer them around the derelict.  "That thing could be nothing more than a trap and we can't risk it.  We'll be too exposed while searching it."

"But, Dad!" Penny attempted a rebuttal but her father cut her off.

"I said no," he calmly replied over her.

His daughter stood up and pressed a single on his console that powered down everything he'd put into motion. "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

"Ah, well put."  Moxie interjected as Jericho shot them both an irritated look as he was slowly being subjected to mutiny aboard his ship.  "Thomas Stearns Eliot, OM, was an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and 'one of the twentieth century's major poets'.  A wise choice for a quotation."

There was a long pause as he pursed his lips in frustration, looking to the AI then to his daughter.  He sighed in defeat.  "Gear up.  Moxie keep her ready to go and the drive core charging, and try to isolate whether there is a breathable atmo," he then glared at Penny who was excitedly leaping with victorious vigor.  "Don't get too happy, kid.  If this whole thing goes south, and we live, your ass is so grounded.  And damn T.S. Eliot"

Spoiler

Jericho and Penny will prepare to, or just board the derelict ship, depending on how swiftly you waned to move the scene along.

 

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STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

"Squad lead, Volkov. Come in please. Over."

Static. The same nonanswer that had greeted her for the last two minutes since the mission had gone to hell with so spectacular a bang.

Madeline was on a clock, several clocks in fact, and all of them were against her. Less than 8 hours of air left in the suit. An increasing chance with every minute that passed her squadmates were all dead or at least disabled in the case of the cyberzombies. No means to contact command while whoever fired those missiles rallied a counter attack on the bunker and recovered the stolen compiler.

Come to think of it... Where had those missiles come from? There were no faculties or equipment listed in the brief that could fire those kinds of weapons. She frowned, mind racing as she considered the possibilities. Just delivered? ICON screwing up again? Apostate trap? She was too patient to move from her perch even with the armor's cloaking field protecting her from causal observation, but she wanted to.

Baba Yaga, probable location for the launch point of the missiles that destroyed the Dakota?” she asked the one 'person' she could reach, voice flat and grim inside her helmet.

There was a moment of silence save for her own breathing as the Agent worked on the problem and highlighted a circle on the map displayed on her HUD. “The most probable point of origin is approximately an hour's travel from here, Sgt. Volkov," came the voice of an old woman in her ear, the kind rarely heard outside of a sensie or a SIM these days, "Plus or minus 20 minutes based on degree of stealth movements included."

The Protectorate sniper drummed her fingers on the rock. "Assuming the source isn't mobile, odds we... I can find anything to get us back to a Coalition outpost?" she asked again, ever so careful not to try and not treat her Agent as a person. One of the reasons she had named it after the cannibal witch of legend.

"Unknown, Sgt. Volkov."

Madeline grunted in annoyance at herself. She had *known* that. She was dithering, avoiding how ridiculously bad today was, and step one of the best, the only, course of action lay before her at the other end of her rifle barrel.

"Time to go then, Baba," Sgt. Madeline Volkov breathed as she rose to her feet, rifle held low but ready, armored form ghosting towards the bunker entrance, thoughts racing with prefight adrenaline and the steps to her 'plan'. Get in the bunker. Find her squad or at least bring back any of the zombie's Cores she could recover. Destroy the compiler. Get home.

Her lips quirked grimly at the odds against not only that last step, but all them. Nothing for it though.

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SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

Anna stared at the booth in dismay, looking for details even as she fought down a spike of anger and a spike of panic. It all boiled down to one big question: What was she going to do now? She'd hung a lot on Lark, coming out here away from the meager contacts she'd managed to make on Mars and essentially starting over, hoping to get this guy's help. Now what did she have?

You know, besides an body full of augments and enough gear to choke a horse. Good thing she'd prepared a bit for switching to a goods-based economy. But that prep wouldn't help her for much longer now. She needed a line on paying work, and she needed a line on the movement and she...ugh. She needed to chill the fuck out.

"Lou...how long he's been gone for? Is this years, or is he just taking a break?"

A silver-white image skated out into her field of vision, the outline of a sleek, lithe animal as if painted in lines of light that left trails behind it as it moved. The AR representation of her Agent software, Loutre Demort. It swam through the air, circling points of interest as it scanned the scene through her eyes and highlighted them for her perusal.

As the agentsoft worked, Maverick released her drone; a wasp-like construct about the size of her two hands together, but spindly and fragile-looking. It hovered up over her shoulder and began revolving slowly, responding to her command to keep a watch around her and warn her if anything bigger than a cat started approaching her. The drone was armed, but she wouldn't issue a kill order unless it was necessary. Starting a gunfight in the middle of the bazaar was NOT how she wanted these folks to remember her.

 

Using Investigate to try to work out how long the booth's been unused; 1d8 skill level.

Investigate: 1d8 5 1d6 5

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SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

Lou circled doing her best to find a data point she could access to no avail.”Sorry, there is no net access here theses spots do not seem to be locked into any specific data streams. My conclusion is that they are first come first serve locations. I can however access a portion of the power system which feed electricity to this grid. In the last 106 days this particular site has dran power 87 days. The last increment being 6 hours ago.”

 

By this time Anna notices she has drawn a lot of attention. Both patrons and sellers are warily watching her and not a few of them have hands which are in pockets or under coats out of sight and likely gripping weapons of some sort. As she looked around her at what she was now, right or wrong, perceived as a hostile gathering her drone fed her an image into her direct VR feed. Three beings, cybersleeved in what could only be military models of some sort had entered the bazaar on the north side the paused and one raised it arm and made a sweeping motion obviously doing a snesor sweep.

“forty meters and closing on your position” came the drones voice metallic in her head.

 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL


Volkov crossed the half kilometer to the bunker cautiously and slowly. She tried a couple of more times as she got closer to raise her fire team only to get static in reply. As she closed the distance she went silent as well.

She came to the lock the team had used to breach the interior the ready seal they had placed after entering was still intact and holding air in. The seal was transparent but she couldn't see anything. She pushed through the outer seal which parted like loving lips and closed behind her once close the the inner seal that she was pressed against lotus'd open and allowed her to enter the complex proper.

Gravity was higher inside about 0.8g she guessed. That was good meant that despite the darkness there was power or the grav plates would be dead. She swept the area for thermal and found no heat signatures. Low light would be useless so she lit up her own light source using the red shift to give her low light something to work with.

Comms was still silent but she was picking up the teams suits carrier waves now so she did a scan for the team. Three suits responded. All indicators showed zero life-signs.

She cursed under breath. If she had had a mind set or even a damned data jack she could have accessed the suits and at least gotten some idea of what had happened. But she didn't so she would have to locate her fallen comrades and go to them.

 

 

STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338

37.5 LY from SOL

 

By the time they had changed vector and matched velocities with the object Penny had spotted, the Jump drive was fully spooled and thready to jump and they had made visual confirmation that the object was indeed a ship.

It was smaller than the Ataraxia but not by much, strictly a utilitarian design with no visible weapons although the Apostate noted a couple of sensor blister that could be camouflage for some small weapons. The ship looked dead a fact supported by the fact that the main airlock forward and a second lock aft were open. Both the outer and inner hatches. The only markings they could find was what looked like hand painter letters that read, GINGER SNAP, near the bow below what was probably the control deck. “Nothing in my files with that name, and the hull configuration isn't unique but not a perfect match for any of the market hulls I have catalogued.” said Moxie, a list of general hull types scrolling along with the percent probability that they were looking at that type but customized.

“Daddy, I got some lights on the inner control panel of the forward lock, there's still power coming from somewhere.”

Moxie followed Penny with out missing a beat. “I can confirm picking up a weak electro-magnetic field probably from ships batteries but the reactors are cold. Still zero emissions.”

Penny turned her chair to face forward to watch the Apostate. “If the batteries are still juicing the emergency systems there should be an emergency beacon, shouldn't there?” she asked a tiny bit of her excitement now replaced by fear.

 

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1 hour ago, NP ST said:

STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338

37.5 LY from SOL

"Possibly," replied the Apostate.  "Smuggler ships sometimes don't have them.  She's a custom job, like the Ataraxia.  Alright, change of plans, get us close and I'll check this one out on my own.  Moxie, the drive is charged, activate the Mockingbird Protocol."

There was a slight silence, like Moxie was processing the request.  Moxie's generally snarky tone grew cold and serious like one would expect from an AI.  The protocol was designed to, in the event that something happened to Jericho, that Mox would spirit Penelope away in the Ataraxia, keeping his greatest treasure safe at all cost.  "Jericho, are you sure?"

"Damn right I am."

"Dad, no," Penny didn't like the stakes all of a sudden as the seriousness of adventure crept into her thoughts.  "Look, maybe we should just forget this whole thing.  It's not safe, this whole thing could be a trap."

"Penny, we're here, and if there is emergency power that means there was, at some point, an emergency.  People could still be aboard that ship, and we have an obligation to investigate and search for survivors."

"Dad, the whole ship is cold.  No life signs.  We're good, conscience clear." She argued.

"Apotheosis doesn't work like that, we both know it.  While I can't help the dead, if there are inert cores on that ship then leaving those people out here is no different than abandoning a person in the middle of nowhere.  Death is preferable to be being lost and forgotten, sweetie."

She shook her head as he checked the ammo in his weapons and punched in the combination on his armor locker.  "I don't understand."

"You will one day, Penelope," he began strapping on his armor and sealing the suit.  "Mox, prepare the boarding sequence, if there are people aboard that vessel, they deserve to be home with their families.  If something happens, you keep my girl safe, you hear me?"

Moxie sighed.  "You know I will."

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SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

So...yeah. This was a thousand shades of off. Everyone's reactions to her just giving an empty booth the once-over seemed really extreme. And now this? Had Noodle set her up? Or maybe something had happened that Noodle didn't know about. Something that put everyone on edge.

Her first instinct was to hit the camo field and slink away to regroup before those sleeves found her. It was not a terrible idea.

...but who would talk to her then? Word would spread about her, and in no time every door would be closed, every eye hostile, and she'd have no choice but to just leave. This was a defensive reaction. They felt threatened by her for some reason.

She'd stepped into a big pile of shit here. Maybe it was a better idea not to start tracking it around all over the place. There was obviously some kind of misunderstanding going on. All Anna needed was to be able to talk to someone.

Of course, if these were the types to start shooting first and asking questions never, Anna would have just about enough time to regret that decision. A mnemonic core wouldn't help her out here. No sleeves on standby now, ready to host her mind if this body broke. In that sense she was as mortal as she'd ever been.

Anna recalled the drone to its perch on her shoulder. Its presence could be construed as a weapon. She kept her hands at her sides, visible and empty.

Hopefully they'd just want to detain her.

Hey Loutre. If this goes wrong send my last words, alright?

She waited for what she assumed were the security personnel tensely, on edge. If it looked like they were going to shoot, and didn't kill her right off, she'd try to cloak and escape. Otherwise she'd cooperate and hope for the best.

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STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

The little orange light in the bottom right corner of her HUD turned green as her reserves of air stopped counting down and started counting up after Madeline cleared the airlock. That was one clock on hold. The antechamber she was in now showed every bit the rough craftsman ship she expected from Apostates bereft of the benefits of civilization, strictly survival level, no signs of any mesh infrastructure. However much progress they had made to breaking the compiler, they hadn't started putting it to use here at least. That had her breathing a little easier. 

That was the only thing though. Three signals meant the other three armors had been damaged or overridden to the point of shutdown. And anything that hit the suits that hard meant the wearers were probably... No. She wouldn't kill them in her head until saw the bodies. "Baba, alert me when I'm close to their signals or any signs of an interface," she whispered in her helmet, double-checking the readiness of her weapons. Everything checked out. She clicked her rifle into place on her back and brought out her PAc pistol to better suit the potential close quarters ahead. Okay. Squad. Compiler. Interfaces. Three things to find and an unknown defense to get around. 

And with that, she ghosted out of the antechamber and into corridors devoid of life and marked by signs of a recent firefight, motions smooth and slow, outline blurred to near invisibility. The few corpses of the defenders she spotted were briefly examined and then abandoned like unworthy chaff, her objectives burning in her mind's eye.   

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STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338

37.5 LY from SOL

The Apostate entered the lock and glided through the inner door he pause and reached out his instinct to close it but his finger paused over the button, then withdrew. He disengaged the magnets on his boots and pushed off floating into the Ginger Snap.

What he saw was what he had expected and old tramp freighter no more no less. It was a different ship than his different layout but the rooms he saw was the same, the equipment the same, the stories were probably the same. There was nothing to arouse suspicion no signs of a struggle no billet holes or blaster scorches. No blood and no bodies. What mess he did see was probably created by the decompression when the locks were opened. He didn't talk much as was his way but he did make a few comments so the Kid wouldn't worry too much. The flight deck didn't tell him anything power would need to be restored before any of the logs could be accessed that or they would have to be physically removed and brought back to the ship.

It wasn't until he got to the ships main cargo hold that things took a turn. It was smaller than his and empty but he could see where something large had been secured of course he would need the logs to know when and what. Of course the hold wasn't actually empty, as he played his light over the cavernous hold he saw four bodies kneeling facing the bulkhead, two men and two women from the looks of their clothes they were the ships crew. They were dead. Aside from exposure to the vacuum each had a centimeter hole burned through the back of there necks at the base of the skull. Cored, The Apostates blood went cold at the sight.

He played the light around and found two more bodies these were both floating at the rear of the hold near the passageway toward the drives. Both had the same centimeter hole but in their chests not the necks. Both bodies were headless. A quick look told the tale their cores had been removed along with their heads. Standard mob style killing, less mess than digging the core out and much faster. Both men were dressed in good fashionable clothes nothing that immediately gave away who they might be. Searching for Ids in pockets was out of the question while in his suit but he didn't expect to find any anyway. Everything here said professional.


SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

The three split and came up on her in a flanking maneuver. Anna waited and made no threatening moves. Two halted , one on each side about five meters out the third a bulky male cybersleeve bristling with handguns and knives. On his chest was some sort of badge.

Anna assessed the situation she didn't need her agent to point out that she could make a sprint for what looked like an open access hatch. A very obvious escape route.

The big guy halted about a meter away. He eyeballed the drone on her shoulder, his hand casually at his side draped over the butt of a snub blaster. “Can I help you with something Miss?”

 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

It didn't take long before she came upon the first bodies. A man and woman at a cross section, wearing nondescript coveralls neither had weapons both had been shot in the chest. Clean efficient. A few more bodies Volkov came across were the same then she saw the first evidence of resistance, that the inhabitants had some fight in them. Still all she saw was the inhabitants dead. She had counted 11 bodies before she came across Manafort. It looked like he had taken a heavy energy bolt to the face-plate. The mans head was melted along with most of his helmet. Inside hers Madeline frowned, she hadn't seen any evidence of energy weapons up till now. And the team hadn't been armored against energy weapons, they had been told to expect small arms and hand weapons. She continued on saw more bodies and was closing in on the rest of the team when she came to the cavernous warehouse work center where the compiler should have been. She had seen any bodies for a while and once she entered the large area she knew why she hadn't been able to get any readings from the teams suits.

The remainder of the fire team was scattered across the room literally, they had been torn apart. The floor was littered with shell casings and the walls scarred and pitted with both bullet and particle blasts. The fire teams bodies were the only bodies she could find in the room but there was no compiler here either.

In the center of the room was a coffin a genuine resurrection chamber three times the size of any regulation chamber Volkov had ever seen and it was open.

And it was empty.

 

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Madeline's first reaction was to swap out her pistol for her rifle again. She'd need the stopping power against whatever had done this. Thrice-cursed zombies. Who would make themselves into a monster capable of doing this to an entire fire team worth of..?! 

She quashed that thought, forcing herself to keep a cool head, despite the grief and anger bubbling through her mind. She may have a spear clipped next to her ammo, but she was a sniper. One shot, One resleeve. That kind of calm would be how she'd get back home alive with the compiler destroyed beyond recovery and a handful of Cores. It would be... best if she didn't encounter the monster at all, much as the injustice of letting that thing go gnawed at her.

"Shit," she cursed in the confines of her helmet as she realized exactly where the monster had probably headed after killing her comrades. After all, it was smart as well as strong. Or could be anyway. Madeline hadn't lived this long by assuming her opponents were stupid as well as misguided.

She resumed her cloaked stalk out of the chamber, warier now with the acute and present danger of the mystery brute, enhanced vision split between the strange scratch marks on the ground and any other possible signs of the compiler. 

 

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SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

“Can I help you with something Miss?”

Anna clicked her tongue against the back of her teeth. Everyone was so nervous here. Who did they think she was?

"Yeah, maybe."

Taking some care to keep her hands away from herself and open, she turned around to face the man speaking.

"I'm gonna be totally straight with you. I came here just to meet a guy, showed up, he's not home...so okay, I figure maybe I can look him up. And then everyone's staring at me like I just ate a baby, and you three show up looking like you expect me to change into a dragon or something."

She nodded. "So if you can give me some idea of what's going on here, ideally without ending up with me stuck in a virtuality because my sleeve only exists in a single-atom-thick smudge on the ground here...that'd be a huge help."

Anna looked up wryly and added, "Annnnnd if that's too big an ask, I will settle for the second part by itself."

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The Apostate was in absolute awe of the carnage.  Silently he crept about the ship, his rifle at the ready as he instinctively fell back on years of military expertise.  He carefully maneuvered through the ship, suspicious of everything despite logically knowing that the chance of whomever was responsible for all the carnage had long since fled.  "Cored," he mumbled softly.  His comm picked it up easily.

"What?"  Penny asked, pulling her self closer to the console.  "Dad, I didn't get that."

"Cored," The Apostate replied.  "Everyone on board, save two.  They took the heads."

Penelope's heart sank as her stomach churned.  "Oh my god," she held her hand over her mouth, disgusted.  "Why would they take the heads?  That's gross."

"It's quicker than coring them," he replied.  He waked through the cargo area, looking about, investigating the bay for evidence of what the ship may have been transporting.  "With the heads they can load them up in a Construct and question them later.  Or ransom them off.  Moxie, I'm in the cargo hold, ping the bay and see if you can lock onto a manifest tablet."

"Oh, yes Master... by all means allow me to drop a the hundred a thirty six tasks I'm currently running along with monitoring your armor's on board systems, while keeping the dri-"

"Christ, just do it already!" The Apostate shot back, trying not to yell, but raising his voice through gritted teeth.  "We really don't have time for the bullshit, Moxie!"

There was a long, uncomfortable silence as he continued to look around, Penny sat silently, and Moxie went ghost-like in her silence.  The Apostate continued to explore the bay until finally Moxie's feminine modulated voice played over his comm.  "It's there.  Starboard side, possibly under some debris or hidden away."  Her short, melodic tone indicated she was quite furious with him, but he didn't have time to worry about that now.

Locating the pad with the manifest was simple enough to find with Moxie's help.  Within a few moments he'd dug it out from underneath a supply rack and was swiping through entries.  After a couple of folders and sub directories he'd found what he was looking for.  "Holy... Christ..."

"Dad?"  Penny was pacing through the bridge.  "What is it?  What did you find?  Is it loaded with gold?  Jewels?  Oooh... Twinkies?"

Jericho smirked at that last one, his smile a definite contrast among the gloom of the abandoned ship.  "No, kid.  No Twinkies.  But you will taste one, some day.  As for gold?  Yeah... something like that.  Whomever jacked this ship got away with enough to live comfortably for a long time... Mox, I'm heading back, there's not much I can do here."

Spoiler

The Apostate is returning to his ship, I forgot what you said was in the cargo.  I just remember it was really valuable.

 

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STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338

37.5 LY from SOL

 

Penny was waiting for him when he came out of the airlock. She helped him remove his helmet then she started in on him.

“Daddy, we cannot just leave those people over there, that jut wouldn't be right they have families and it is just wrong if we leave those folks never knowing what happened to theirs.”

“If I may it is also a bit foolish to leave that ship just sitting out here. Salvage from this vessel could set us up for a good long time” interjected Moxie. “What was the cargo?” she asked

Penney stared at the sensor strip that represented the AI a shocked look on her face. “What? Their dead penny this could be the windfall we have been hunting for.”

“Antimatter.” was all the Apostate said. “Probably stolen to begin with, since this definitely isn't a coalition fuel carrier.”

Penny was looking at her dad now.

“What?” he barked.

“Why did they close the cargo hatch?”

 

 

SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

 

The synth sheriff nodded toward Maverick's shoulder. “We don't get many visitors as well accoutered as yourself. You came in on a freighter you have anyone who can vouch for you?”

 

“I can Yoeny, She's lookin for me.”

Anna turned at the sound of the strangely accented basso voice and saw a large man of African descent age indeterminate but looks to be in his mid to late thirties or early forties.

“I'm Lark, Miss Maverick, sorry I wasn't here to greet ya proper.”

Spoiler

mykelti-williamson-justified.jpg

 

 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

 

Volkov followed the strange scraps forgoing taking the time right now to collect her fallen comrades cores. As silently as she could she moved back into the corridors and made the remainder of the circuit of the base until she was back at where she had discovered the first bodies. Just as she came to the intersection of the corridors her suit pressurized as decompression cause all the looses items to go flying down the hall toward the airlock.

One the wind died Volkov was moving. She came to the ruins of the pressure seal and saw something moving outside of the lock. Quickly she covered the distance and took what cover she could as she attempted to get her sights on the rapidly moving target that was racing across the plain at close to 30KMH.

 

Spoiler

Da88FuJVAAAB_Zv.jpg

 

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STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

Baba Yaga was throwing up numbers and indicators on Madeline's HUD almost as fast as the marine sniper dropped to one knee and sighted through her scope at the thing's back. The haze of questions regarding this bloody farce of a mission filed themselves away for a future that didn't matter beyond the next few seconds and a single trigger pull. Here was a monstrous, inhuman enemy of the Coalition who had killed her entire squad save her, and by the grace of God, she was that one with a weapon aimed at it's unaware bulk. Time to balance the scales.

She exhaled inside her helmet and pulled the trigger on her heavy rail-rifle, the vacuum robbing the weapon of it's customary thunder even as it's deadly shot flew at it's prey.

Spoiler

All right. Long Range Shot with her heavy sniper  rail-rifle at a foe she has the drop on with the benefit of Aiming.

First Shooting Roll (of the Game!)

Normal Dice 1D10 => 2  Wild Dice 1D10 => 1

Yeah, no. Spending a Bennie to get a reroll on that. 2/3 left for the Thread(?)

Normal Dice 1D10 => 1 Wild Dice 1D10 => 7

So with a +2 from Scope, +2 from Aim, -4 from Long Range, and +4 from The Drop, that's a total of 11 to hit.

Rolling for damage just in case that hits...

1D6 => 2 1D6 => 4 1D6 => 6 (Aces 1D6 => 3)

So with +4 from The Drop, that's 19 damage pre any Raises I may or may not receive.

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“I'm Lark, Miss Maverick, sorry I wasn't here to greet ya proper.”

Relief flooded Anna and she slapped her forehead with her right hand.

"Oh man, no, it's okay. You weren't even really late or anything. I haven't been here long." She looked back at the sheriff and shook her head. "Sorry if I freaked people out. I didn't really think about what it'd look like, me showing up with tech on me like that. People back home kind of know me already, and I just got used to that."

She held out a hand, first to the sheriff (dibs to the one who has guns after all), then to Lark. "I'm Anna."

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On 6/26/2018 at 11:57 AM, NP ST said:

STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338

37.5 LY from SOL

“Why did they close the cargo hatch?”

"I don't care," said The Apostate calmly.  His voice was cold and focused on the business at hand.  "Why do people do the things they do?  Why did they close the hatch?  Why did they have to kill everyone instead of just taking what they wanted and leaving?  You two may not have noticed but I'm not an investigator.  I don't care why, all I care about is us making it one more day out here in The Black."

"So, geniuses, how do you propose we get all those people aboard this ship, bag them, tag them, get them back to their families while we salvage their ship and get away with the whole thing with no one asking questions.  We can salvage it, but then we have a ship full of corpses.  We can load up all the bodies, but this is not really a prime spot to be sitting about trying to salvage a vessel... while we have the entire crew... with us... on our ship... all dead!  You two have an excuse for that?  Because I sure as hell don't and the last I checked the Coalition isn't big on sit downs where we all share stories and laugh about how the Apostates found an abandoned ship with the crew all dead... but it's okay because we didn't do it.  Yeah, yeah... they'll surely believe that."

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STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338
37.5 LY from SOL
Penny just stared at her father saying nothing the look in her eyes was more than enough to convey the shook and disappointment she was feeling.
“Well your the boss, and if your mind is made up who are we to argue.” The AI voice broke the silence. “Do you want me to begin acceleration to get back up to speed or do you want me to jump immediately?

 

SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

“Follow me, Miss”

Lark led Anna out of the bazaar the cops, for want of a better word, watching after them before fading away into the mass of humanity.

Deeper into the warrens and corridors of the interlinked ships Lark and Anna walked., Anna tried to engage the mysterious Lark in small talk. He grunted a few times at her questions then gave her a measuring look “Conversations are best to be had in private, miss.” was all he said.

In a short time the cane to a hatch which opened at Lark's touch. Inside was a work room filled with computers and electronics. Lark went to several pieces or equipment scatter around the room and flipped a few switches. “There we go, now the only's people gonna hear us talkin, is us.”

What brings you all the way out here to Sanctuary Miss?”

 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

At over two kilometers per second it took the slug a little less than a second to cover the distance to the speeding Morph. The AI's calculations and Madeline's skill with her weapon were spot on, and with no atmosphere to cause any deflection the targets speed as it ran was the only detrimental factor still something tipped the morph off as it suddenly twisted to it's left causing the slug to hit it's upper shoulder area instead of the center of it's back.

The impact threw the thing into a spin and it crashed to the ground rolling, throwing up dust which hung in the lower gravity like a gray curtain.

Madeline kept her sight on the Morph and watched as it rose in a crouch one of it's upper limbs dangling it's head swiveling looking for the origin of the shot which had hurt it.

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SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

Anna nodded. Right to the meat then. Alright, she could roll with that.

"The Darkive. I heard from a friend that you might be able to hook me up."

Ugh, did that sound as corny outside her head as it did inside? Hook her up? Oh well. Said was said. Maverick let her eyes roam around the room, idly trying to identify the function of the various gadgets and gizmos spread around.

She could at least dig this guy's sense of decor.

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STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL 

Two more shots once it spotted her, and then it would be her spear vs that thing's soulless strength. Or less if it was capable of going even faster than the numbers Baba Yaga was tossing up on her HUD. Simple solution: Kill it before it spotted her. So. Breathe. Let it all out. And... Shoot. 

The rifle roared silently again, slug heading downfield.

Spoiler

Take II. Still have the Drop on him at long range with my trusty heavy sniper rail rifle.

First Shooting Roll

1D10 => 4

1D10 => 10 (Ace 1D10 => 3)

So 17 to hit...

Rolling Damage

1D6 => 2

1D6 => 4

1D6 => 1

So 11 damage with 8 ap + however many raise damage dice I get for that epic to hit...

 

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STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL


 

Even with the synthetic's uncanny senses and speed it was no match for the hyper velocity rounds fired from the sniper rifle the distance was simply too short. The first round caught it in the same shoulder blowing the wounded limb clean off amid a shower of sparks and flame as the rounds outer coating interacted with the things body. The second went in lower, mid thorax, and the explosion as most of it's back was blown out was enough to make Volkov raise her head from the scope and curse in her native tongue.

The target went down hard. Madeline put the rifle back on target and waited but there was no movement only sparks as what even power source it had drained itself through open circuits like blood through severed arteries. It took a full two minutes for the sparks to die. Madeline wait an additional four before breaking her position and moving too the thing.

It was dead.

It was also unlike any drone or sleeve she had ever seen before. And it was too big for her to carry back on her own but she did remember that she had found a garage in the bunker that had some surface vehicles.

She returned to the bunker, repaired the seal with the one she was carrying and went about the grisly task of recovering her teammates. She also examined the crate that had contained the rez chamber. All of the markings indicated that the crate contained an industrial compiler, the same one that was stolen from the Jinzhan colony ship that had been pirated in route to Shouye.


 

SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

Lark leans back and grinning, revealing a large gold tooth “Well you get right to the point don't you. See the thing is, though, I don't know you.” He crossed his arms resting them on his belly, “Agreeing to meet you on the word of a distant associate I have never met in person is one thing. It's relatively low risk.” He shakes his head still grinning. “How you gonna pay for something like that? What do you have to offer me in return?”

 

STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338
37.5 LY from SOL
At Moxies inquiry to her father Penny seemed to snap out of her shock.
NO!” she shouted maybe a little too loud. Moxie shut up and her fathers eyes snapped back to connect with his daughters.
No, we are not just going to leave. Those are people over there and their families deserve to know what happened to them. We are all out here together. But let's put that aside for now.
Dad, you brought us out here so we could make enough money so we could have a life. And while I love this ship and I love you, I don't want to spend every bit of that life out here running from one measly job to another. I have dreams.”
And that,” she points in the general direction of the Ginger Snap floating outside the hull, “Daddy, is the biggest payday we have ever come across. Even if it isn't operational the parts alone are worth a fortune. Enough to settle on Sanctuary or some moon somewhere. As for how. We don't do it out here. We're a freighter we haul shipping containers all the time, so is she. We both have hard points for carrying stuff on the hull and she doesn't even mass as much as we do. We attach the Ginger Snap to our hull and freight the damn thing to wherever and either sell it whole or salvage it at our leisure.”
Penny steps up and puts her hand on the Apostates arm. “I know you want to protect me, daddy, but we can't keep running. We have to take the chance.”

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SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

Maverick grinned and spread her hands.

"I figure I could drop everything I got on me and you'd still wonder if it was a good deal. In my case, it's not so much a question of what I have to offer right now, but what I can do for you."

"For one, I used to be one of them. Lived on the other side. And I know, you're thinking 'bah, so what, plenty of people come across,' but recently? Lately? My intel's still good. Past that though, my big break moment...the whole reason I came over...was because I did it."

She taps her left temple.

"I set myself free. Now I'm still learning what that means, but at a minimum it means I can get into just about any system you've got."

Anna then unrolled her sleeves a bit and held her hands up. "And of course, I'm a package deal. You work with me, you're also working with my friends."

Black smoke came pouring out of her wrists, thickening in midair until it was thoroughly opaque, pooling into a sort of lump on the ground in front of her. The black lump then quivered and formed into a humanoid shape, and haltingly waved at Lark. it then started dissolving, streaming away into her arms again.

"So you tell me, Lark. What would make this introduction I'm asking you for worthwhile?"

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STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL 

Madeline considered her handiwork grimly. Her armor was streaked with blood and lubrication, weapons secured at her belt or on her back. Six dead Coalition Marines and their gear lay piled around  and in the resurrection chamber, the grisly pile studded with expertly placed ammo packs and demolitions gear. Five cores nestled in one of her equipment pouches, the sixth lost to blaster damage, but she had done her duty, sawing into the skulls of her comrades so that they could be up and about like nothing worse than a bad training accident had happened to them. Well, so long as she got them all home anyway.

She tried to put the unease aside and muttered a quick prayer under her breath, asking for the strength to overcome that which it was hers to overcome and the serenity to accept that which she could not. An exhale and a few quick step latter, she sealed the chamber containing her grisly labor. The click of a button then obliterated it all. Or at least made the chamber too damaged to use without repairs and removed the chance of more apostate looters claiming the gear left behind.

The redhead didn't look back, stalking to the entrance and through to the airless surface, pausing only long enough to sneer at the fallen hulk of the monster that had downed her squad. She had no idea if it was a crazy drone or a particularly twisted sleeve she'd popped the core on, but it was dead all the same.  Hopefully she'd be able to get some answers, but right now... The glowing orange light on her HUD indicated her 8 hours of air were counting down, and she had an hour hike to the launch point of the missile that killed  the Dakota Mayer. Time to get going.

"Yaga, give me those coordinates again. We've got ground to cover," she vocalized to her Agent as she turned her armor's cloaking field back on and began her hike towards what she could only hope was a way off world if she was skilled and lucky enough...

 

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On 7/9/2018 at 9:29 AM, NP ST said:

STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338
37.5 LY from SOL

"Mox,"  Jericho looked as his daughter with fury in his eyes.  His expression was one of pure irritation and a fatherly want to argue with his daughter.  Penny looked at him, her lips pursed in a vain attempt to hold her ground and not look afraid of the righteous fury her father might bring down upon her for openly defying him and standing up to him.

"Is that contempt I hear in your voice?"  She decided to add a little snark to the mix, again in an attempt to show she wasn't afraid of him.

"No," he was quick to answer.  A little too quick.  How could he fault her?  How could he be angry at her for doing exactly what he'd taught her to do, and that was take charge of her life.  To stand firm in the tempest that was her life as an Apostate and walk away stronger for it.  He'd raised a leader, and she was showing it now.  "It's pride.  Moxie, swing us around and clamp the ship, we'll tow it out of the trade lane and take her somewhere where we'll be safe to go through her and load up her crew for returning to their families."

He looked to Penny and smiled softly, his face void of any anger or irritation.  "Okay, sweetheart, this is your baby,"  He motioned for her to head up to the bridge.  "Show me what you got."

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STAR SYSTEM WISE 1959-3338
37.5 LY from SOL
Penny wasted no time she took her place at the controls and began giving instructions to Moxie. The Apostate looked on his anger slowly giving way as his daughter expertly docked the two ships. Yeah the anger faded replaced by pride, the kid really had learned. Her voice broke his reverie. “Dad, can you reset the calculations for the jump with the new mass?” She asked as she left the command chair and started putting her vacc suit through it's checks.
Where are you going?” he asked sharply.
I'm going over to restart the reactors. Once her systems have got power, we can fire her motors which will give us close to optimal accel and help with maneuvering.And we can access her flight computers if they weren't screwed with.”
No. You are not going over there.”He said as he took her suit from her hands “But dad..”
No Penny, You do the calculations, I'll go over and restart the Ginger Snap.”
 
A little more than five hours later, after the apostate had restated the Ginger Snap's reactors and placed the bodies in storage The connected ships maneuvered into jump position and and started on the next leg of their journey.
 
 
 
 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL 

A remote missile turret. An out in the middle of nowhere remote turret. Madeline closed her eyes as that sunk in, no ship, no way off this rock. With a breath she checked her air and went about inspecting the site anyway. It was a standard Surface to orbit rig two three missile magazines of which it had expended one leaving the weapon system with three more missiles. It must have been controlled from back at the bunker.
Once she was finished she set off back to the bunker and to find out what she could do to increase her chances of survival.
A couple of hours later she was sitting in the command center, such as it was, of the apostate bunker. She had found the defense system and had easily cracked it's thin security so she now had control of the three remaining missile this gave her a sense of security and a bargaining chip should the pirate ship return. She had no compiler but there was stored food that would last her a long long time. She spent the better part of the next two days cleaning the place up and disposing of the rest of the bodies. She hooked her agent into the bases systems and set it to monitor and look for any ships approaching entering the system.
Then she sat down and waited.
 
 

SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

Lark leand his upper body away as the nanite clump exuded and reformed then was sucked back into Maverick. He opened his mouth as if to speak then shut it. Maverick could see the wheels turning in his brain as he weighed things. Finally after a few seconds he leand forward again.
That is Impressive Missy, all very shock and awe so to speak. I'm still not convinced one hundred percent, but what I have seen shows me that you may have talents to offer. But I'm gonna have to test those talents.
I have another associate who recently came into possession of some expensive material, however he is unable to access his acquirement due to a...snafu in the system. With someone with your ability, accessing this system should be pretty easy and a test of your actual skill. I'll pay you Third rate, in trade or gold, for doing this and after , well we'll see about that other thing and maybe even some more work.”
 
 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

 

The jump point flared out of existance and the ungainly ship, or rather ships, appeared in the mostly empty multi sun system.

But the system wasn't completely empty on the barren moon where a small Apostate colony had existed until recently the gravity pulse of the Jump point reached the sensors tripping an alarm and waking Sgt Volkov from a troubled sleep.

 

Aboard the Ataraxia Penny began the post jump systems check while the Apostate began setting up for the next jump. It was his intention to recharge spin up the drive nad get out with no muss and no fuss. He knew that there was a small enclave here, had traded with the in the past but they were also a bit on the shady side and he didnt feel like having to explain or take the chance that they might find them easy prey.

 

“Captain,” Moxie's electronic voice came from near his ear, the volume low so that only he could hear, “Lidar is showing a lot of debris near the smugglers moon. Volume is consistent with a small ship. Not able to get any good returns though.”

 

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Third rate. Instead of first rate. Hah hah, funny guy.

Well, at least he wasn't trying to pull that shit where 'your payment is good rep with me.' She'd left THAT behind and wouldn't miss it even a little.

"Alright, sounds like something I can handle. Where's your friend and what's the system?"

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STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL 

"Grav pulse wave detected, Sargent Volkov," Baba Yaga's aged voice played over the speakers of the control room, six words that had Madeline going from asleep to painfully awake in a heartbeat. Thank God. Finally. Waiting was the name of the game in her chosen profession and doubly so in her specialization, but waiting alone as the only living thing on a dead planet in a dead system? That was a much, much different kind of waiting. Sleeping, well, resting anyway, in her power armor in case the pirates were on a short run and could blow out the air seal at any second? Doubling down on the discomfort and the uncertainty.

Heroic efforts of her armor's recyclers aside, she was beginning to smell. A small thing, but one more thing to remind her how alone she was.

And then suddenly she wasn't. The key to her return to civilization had been handed back to her, at least in part. And step one was easy enough. She reached out one hand and pressed a button to trigger a distress signal for the bunker.  Combined with the wreckage in orbit, that should draw all but the most cautious close enough for a step two. Which step two? Well, that depended on Volkov's admittedly rusty people skills. 

"Yaga, find me where and what made that pulse. I need to know who I'm dealing with," she whispered, leaning forward in her chair, as the bunker's active instruments started scanning the sky.

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"Son of a bitch," The Apostate grumbled.  "Will anything go right today?"  He sat down and brought up some displays and began sifting through data.  "Scattering pattern," he started bringing forward to his thoughts years of military experience.  "Indicates it came from the surface.  Blew it from the bottom while it was in orbit.  Mox, compile a drift chart for the last, say, twenty two hours."

"I'll see what comes up, Captain," she replied and the data on his screens began shifting and moving.  The parts of the ship were rewinding, putting themselves back together.  It wasn't a certifiable way to identify what happened, but it was old trick he'd learned for identifying who was shooting at who.  "Clever, Jericho.  I see what you're trying to do..."

"Yeah, I'm a regular genius," he said dismissively.  He sat up swiftly and eyed one of the displays intently.  "Hold.  Freeze at thirty eight point five."  He gazed at the screen as all the pieces came together in a very shotty looking puzzle.  It wasn't perfect, but it gave him a size and shape... and a class.  "Nope.  Shit is not going to go right.  At.  All.  That's a Legionnaire ship... we've arrived after a battle.  Chances are the colony is gone... but what the hell did they have that could destroy a Coalition ship?"

"Dad!" Penny ran through the p-way, up to the bridge, spreading her arms wide to catch herself on the frame of the bulkhead.  "Dad, distress signal!  It's coming from the surface!"

"I know," he spun around in his chair.  Scan the surface, I want to know the extent of the damage and some semblance of what the hell happened here.  Penny, keep working on the wreckage, I want answers about that and we need answers here too.  This whole sector is going to shit, I swear."

He pressed a button on the console.  "This is the independent trading vessel Ataraxia, picking up your distress beacon.  Anyone down there?"

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Madeline stared at the speaker for an eternity of six heartbeats, deciding how to reply. Nothing back from Yaga yet, and that could take a while with the mess this God-forsaken system was in. Plan A then. She glanced that flat-black visor of her suit's helmet and nodded to herself. She was a soldier anyway. She'd get off of here on her own honest merits or not at all. Not like she could hide who she was if she got on his ship.

"Sargent Madeline Volkov of House Tsarya, 2nd Legion," she sent out into the aether after triggering her own coms, "I am a sole survivor with 5 cores in need of transport to anywhere I can get back to Coalition territory from. The bunker and it's contents aside from me and my gear are yours if you're willing to offer assistance. I am authorized to inform you that my House offers standing rewards for my undamaged return as well."

That last part sounded flat and rote even compared to the no-frills delivery of the first part of the offer, part of a remembered brief on the Apostate Repatriation Program. Step two was where the whole plan started to fall apart anyway. So many 'what ifs' to make the planner in her throw up her hands in despair. 

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"Well, you're in luck Sgt. Volkov.  We have the means to get you where you need to go, unless you have any pressing medical needs, we can be down there in fifteen minutes to extract you,"  The Apostate's tone was about as friendly as he could manage on his best of days.  Dull, drab, and full of all sorts of 'I really don't care about your problems'.  Penny knew her dad though, for all his big talk he was a man with morals and a code, he wouldn't leave someone to die on a planet if he could help it.

"Two things you need to keep in mind, Sgt..  First, this is an Apostate vessel, meaning your laws and rank and House amount to absolutely squat to me and mine.  Second, you will relinquish your weapons while aboard my ship. They will be returned to you, but I have the safety of my crew to consider in the midst of an absolute stranger who seems to be the wrong side of exterminating a whole lot of people I used to drink with.  If my conditions are acceptable, we'll be by very soon.  If not, we'll wait.  All your shit plus that bunker, which we knew nothing about until you brought it up, will be ours anyway."

"Dad!"  Penny scolded him with a 'WTF' expression.

"Relax," he smirked.  "Just being assertive."

"Although not wholly inaccurate..." Moxie spoke.  "By my calculations..."

Penny sat on speaker in the console, muffling the remainder of what Moxie was saying.  "Don't encourage him, Mox."

"So," The Apostate spoke to Madeline once again.  "Do we have an accord?"

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An Apostate ship. Perfect. But she didn't need to ask her Agent the odds that she'd encounter another ship that *wasn't* Apostate out here. Probably bad. Very bad. And the Protectorate was spread thin enough out here that the odds they'd be able to send a rescue vessel before the next crisis flared up and demanded attention..? Even worse. As satisfying as it would be to blow the renegade craft out of orbit when it came into range, she had a responsibility to her squad.

"The renegades here were dead before my team arrived, Captain, killed by the thing they stole before it killed all of my squad," she finally replied over the coms, "But, yes. We have an accord, good faith for good faith. My Agent will sent you landing data. Yaga…"

"Transmitting, Sargent," replied the harsh voice of the AI as most of the distress beacon faded away to convey the requested info. The marine leaned back in her seat, waiting for his confirmation even as she thought back to the grisly silent  labor of lugging the spider hulk's husk onto the truck.

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"Copy," The Apostate replied.  "See you in few minutes.  Find a shady spot and hang tight."

True to his word The Ataraxia broke atmo like a fireball falling from on high.  The Sergeant could see the craft long before it arrived at the landing zone.  It didn't match any ship one could find in standard databases, appearing, for all intents and purposes to be some sort of custom job.  She was slick though, and way out of the price range for a typical Apostate.

With all the usual fanfare of a ship landing, dust and debris, loud engine noises, lowering cargo ramp, the whole nine, Sergeant Volkov saw, for the first time, the voice of the man on the coms.  The small lights and displays on his pressurized suit gave him away through the shroud of the landing debris, and his helmet's visor was clear and lit up from the inside.  He walked down the ramp with a trained expertise, rifle at his shoulder sweeping left to right in preparation for betrayal.

"Volkov!"  He shouted, his voice modulated and louder thanks to the help of his gear.  He squinted, through the dust and noise.  "Sergeant Volkov!"

 

Ship.jpg

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Madeline winced from her hiding place near the entrance to bunker, the rough apostate's voice echoing from her helmet's earpiece with thoroughly unnecessary volume for a noncombat situation. She blocked a final, fleeting temptation to put an electromagnetic slug down range and into his skull.

"Here, Captain. 50 meters to your left," she provided over her radio as she disengaged her armor's cloaking system, flickering and flashing into view as she rose to her feet from the cover of some rocks, a figure in black-and-blue light power armor emblazoned with the insignia of the 2nd Legion on one shoulder, visage hidden behind a blank reflective visor. Her rifle was clipped to her back, spear and pistol hanging from her belt with the rest of her personal gear.

"Good faith for good faith," Madeline offered as she closed the distance at a slow walk, hands visible at all times, "I even prepacked the thing that killed your... friends and my squadmates on a truck. Being sold for parts is better than it deserves but after I coring it by accident, can't bring the zombie back for trial and proper punishment."

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Spoiler

He's not using the coms, he's using the speaker on his helmet... just an FYI.  ;)

The Apostate approached, "Put yer damn hands down, I ain't robbin' ya."  He lowered his rifle, reaching back and maglocking it to his back.  He looked at the scrap she was offering, then looked back to her.  "I'm already giving you a ride, Volkov, you don't have to sell me on the idea."  With a resigned shrug he thumbed it towards the ship.  "Hell with it, load it up."

The didn't even get five steps hauling it with them before he added, "And for the record, I don't have friends."

Aboard the Ataraxia, Madeline realized that she was in a ship that was... different than anything she'd ever been on before.  It felt... 'alive', like she was always being watched and something aboard the vessel didn't appreciate guests.  It was alot of gunmetal black finish and dark passageways with incredibly bright white lighting.  True to her word she relinquished her weapons and gear.  The Apostate took them and locked them in a secure locker in the cargo bay, not far from where she boarded.  He handed her a thin metal card with a magnetic strip.  "Code is 1452.  Only two people know it, you, and me.  Good faith, for good faith.  You will have your own quarters, washroom, and there is a lounge.  The rules are simple, those are the areas you have access to, you try to get into anywhere else without me accompanying you, and Moxie will space you.  Simple as that."

He took off his helmet and his suit depressurized.  Something about him struck her as familiar.  "That said, welcome aboard.  Take some time, get cleaned up, acclimate yourself, and I'll see about our business once I get us off this rock and a safe distance away.  Mox, could you please show Mrs. Volkov to her quarters?"  True to his word, once aboard the ship, he stopped using her rank.

"Certainly, I've nothing else to do besides the eleven thousand other tasks I'm currently performing that keep us from falling out of the sky," a hologram materialized not fat from where Volkov was standing.  She appeared to be a woman dressed in a blouse and a knee length skirt, like a holographic business woman.  She was all blue, but solid enough to not be transparent.  What skin was showing was latticed with red circuitry that pulsed with light traveling all along her body.

"Well, you're in luck.  We're on the ground, so take a moment to show her to her quarters and quit acting like you're the only one who does anything on this tub."

"Tub?  Hmph.  Thug."  She retorted.

The Apostates walked off, leaving the cargo area and heading for the bridge.  "Toaster."

She took a deep, uneeded breath.  For an agent she seemed incredibly sophisticated.  "Toaster indeed," she looks to Volkov.  "He is right though, try anything aboard this vessel and I will pulverize your body, erase your existence and plug your core into a virtual landscape of torment and nightmares that makes the human concept of Hell seem like the happiest episode of Friendship is Magic."  She smiled wide and motioned for the exit, her accent rich and thick.  "Please, right this way.  I think you'll appreciate your room, we've not had guests in quite some time.  The Apostate isn't much of a people person."

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"Understood, Moxie. I'll be on my best behavior," Madeline replied, unsealing and removing her own helmet. Short-cut red hair, sharp features, and one eye ever-so-slightly bluer than the other were revealed along with a certain amount of body odor from three days of living in the suit. The Protectorate sniper was weary, taking in everything around her as she followed the Agent. It was far from her first time on a guided vessel, but certainly this was one of the nicer ones she'd seen outside of Coalition control. Combined with the niggling sense of recognition about her rescuer... Just who had she gotten a ride with? 

"Moxie, could I borrow some spare clothes from your ship's stores? My other uniforms were destroyed with our ship, and my armor needs repair and an airing out," she volunteered to the AI, "Speaking of which, there is a ADM launcher located a klick from here that you may wish to loot or disable with 3 functional missiles."

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"No need," said Moxie, in her thick british accent.  She seemed like she was designed to be more of a sexy librarian agent than a knowledgeable, helpful one.  Any moment she was waiting for her to pull her hair from the bun and do a dramatic hair whip before offering some sort of lewd titles.  "Each room aboard the Ataraxia is stocked with three changes of clothing of casual, work, and sleep wear.  You will also find undergarments.  Jer-," she paused, correcting herself.  Not something agents did very often at all.  "The Apostate, makes sure most common eventualities are covered.  Preparedness is something he excels at."

"I've already sent a message to Penelope.  She will 'air out', clean, and see that your armor is properly repaired.  She is quite the mechanical savant and it will most certainly pass Coalition equipment inspection standards," Moxie offered a very blue, mischievous grin.  "It has in the past.  Please, take solace in knowing that you're safe and your gear is in good hands.  Should you require anything, simply call for me, I will be happy to act as a guide around the ship, to the areas you're granted access to anyway.  I've informed the Captain of the ADMs, we'll see what he decides."

The Cargo Bay...

"Whoooo..." Penny held the armor out away from her.  "Girl was ripe.  Hot dayum..."

"She's a survivor, I'll give her that," Jericho said from a hologram, broadcasting from the bridge.  "Can you fix it?"

"Can I fix it?  Pffft.  Can I fix it..."  She looked at the hologram where Jericho was glaring at her with his 'stop screwing around' glare.  She cleared her throat.  "Yeah, I can fix it.  She's got a few blown capacitors, which would account for her fluxing power issues, and her scrubbers are shot.  Couple hours, tops.  Plus thirty to format her helmet's targeting software, once done she can re-calibrate to her own particular tastes, but at the mo', her optics are not looking good.  That stealth system may have attempted to siphon power from secondary systems to stay active.  Easy fixes, just takes time."

"Do what you can.  Once she cleans up, I'll get a debrief from her."

"Dad?"  Penny looked at her father, her voice compassionate, but confused.  "Why are we helping her?  She's Coalition.  She'll sell us down the river and you know it."

"She's got a right to live, like anyone else.  What she does with her life is none of our business, and we both know her master's don't care either.  At the end of the day, we lay our heads down knowing we did the right thing,"  he smiled at his daughter.  "To them we're criminals, but that doesn't mean we have to be villains."

"Can I at least delete her playlists and replace them with show tunes?"  She flipped the helmet around in her hands, looking for an access port.

"No,"  he smirked.  "Although, that would be pretty funny.  She gets it back as it was, no practical jokes."

"Ugh...," she fumed.  Setting down the helmet and hitting the armor with a shot of air freshener.  "Lame, but okay."

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SANCTUARY

70 LY from Sol

“Well,” Lark sniffed loudly clearing his sinus, “ Don't really know nothing about the system ya gonna have to crack and the items in question aren't in Sanctuary yet. They should be here any day now and then we can put you to work. In the mean time I can put you up at...”

Lark takes Maverick to a place where she can stow her gear and after guaranteeing it's safety takes her on a tour of the strange underground city made of derelict spaceships.

 

 

 

STAR SYSTEM HR9038

35LY from SOL

Volkov was annoyed and truth be told a little scared. She had given her self into the hands of what could be the very pirates she had been sent out here to eliminate. Although truth be told after seeing those bodies in the bunker she wasn't so sure they had been fierce pirates anymore.

A slight flutter in her belly indicated the activation of the ship Gravity Induction drive. At least, she thought, they gave me a room with a view.

The soldier moved to the small view port and watched through the transparent alloy that made up the window, as the sleek vessel rose from the surface of the now truly dead worldlet and drove towards orbit. She didn't know much about space flight but she knew enough to see that they weren't leaving the moon entirely as the Ataraxia shifted into orbit and raced around the small planetoid. Soon Volkov's eye caught a reflection of light and in no time that reflection resolved itself into a second ship.

Smaller than the Ataraxia and no where as nearly customized, they closed the distance and maneuvered over the smaller ship. Just before she lost sight of it as it slid beneath the bulk of the ship she rode she could make out the name of the ship, Ginger Snap, painted on what she assumed was that ships bow. Moments latter she felt the bump as the two ships joined. Then she her a buzzer from her cabin door which slid open revealing a young woman, a kid really, in a blue jumpsuit.

Hi Sergeant, I'm Penny. Just wanted to let you know that Your suit is in the main cargo bay and it's being recharged. We just docked with ...our cargo and will be heading out to a jump window immediately. That will take us about four hours.

My dad told you that we aren't a commonwealth ship so we are going to have to take you someplace where you can get transport back into a commonwealth port. That is going to take us at least a few days. So I thought you might want get something to eat. We don't have a five star galley but I saw that stuff you been eating in your suit and I figure you can use a real meal.” Penny gave the soldier a warm smile then led her to the dining area.

 

 

Spoiler

Maverick if you want to rp a little with Lark or just explore sanctuary go right ahead, if  Volkov wishes to rp with Penny go ahead . if y'all dont feel like that I will move to the next phase tomorrow

 

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True to Penny's word, 2.87 days passed before the Ataraxia jumped into the final system destination. And true to the Apostate's word Volkov never once set foot on the bridge or into any other sensitive off limits area of the ship. And because of that she had no clue where in the known universe she was.

She looked out of the viewport at the fast approaching planet, a brown and light tan world, wispy clouds and not many of them and a barley perceptible tiny ice cap at the top of the northern hemisphere. From the approach vector she couldn't see the south but was doubtful it was much better.

But what really worried her was that she couldn't see any cities.Even at full magnification the planet looked barren and uninhabited, a visual survey of the orbital space did show the plethora of satellites you would find on any human colony. She began to worry that she might be about to be marooned on a dead planet.

 

Maverick came awake startled. The smell of frying bacon and coffee filled her nostrils. She slipped out of bed and into a robe and stuck her head out of the tiny sleep cubicle that had been her home for the last week to find Lark standing in the even smaller kitchen cooking up some breakfast, a huge grin on his face.

"Good morning Missy," he said with his booming voice, "hope ya slept well and have an appetite cause you my little sweet friend are about to get put to work."

"?" the look on her faced asked the question she didn't need to voice.

"Haha, Yeah seems the Ginger snap made landfall this morning that's the ship with our cargo. we'll head there after you get some food in you. Details are a bit sketchy and there's another ship that came in at the same time The Ataraxia, captained by a mean SOB but  not a pirate so Not sure whats up we are to meet the Sheriff at he port as soon as we can."

Maverick rushed over grabbed a biscuit and some bacon and then ran back to her cubicle. "Gimme a minute to get dressed" she said as she gobbled down the food.

 

After swallowing a cup of black coffee Maverick and Lark made a very fast journey to the "port" there they found the two ships one a sleek custom job the other an ungainly freighter that wouldn't normally be glance at twice. In the nearby office the met the sheriff and the captain of the Ataraxia and a teen aged girl both in ships jump suits with a patch that read Ataraxia. In another room but visible through a window sat another woman also in a Ataraxia ships jumpsuit,.

"Morning Lark, this here is... The Apostate, captain of the Ataraxia, this is his first mate Penny. Captain, Penny this is Lark he represents the person or persons holding the commission for the Ginger Snap. I'll let you guys hash it out I'm going to get some breakfast."

The sheriff nodded at Maverick as he left the office leaving a million questions hanging in the air.

Spoiler

needed to get everyone together.  Dave by right of salvage  ginger snap is technically your so you cane sell it if you can find buyer. Lark was called in since hte ships mission and cargo was his for all intents and purposes and your likly to make some money off of him. Volkov is here because the apostate wasn't going to leave her alone on his ship

Lark watched the retreating back of the sheriff and maverick noted that the grin was gone. He turned back to face the Ataraxia captain. "So I heard of you, The Apostae, hmm.

Where is Captain Bemora and the rest of the Ginger's crew?" he asked

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Please do no feel like Madeline needs to stay quiet.  If she's here, play her.  The Apostate would have briefed her to not mention the fact that she is Coalition, aside from that, if she has something to add to the RPing, by all means.  Also, he asked that she not mention it, obviously she's under no obligation to do anything he requests.

"I'm afraid they didn't make it," The Apostate said softly.  "She was powered down, drifting at [location], when we boarded her, everyone was dead."  He took the time to explain the situation, before moving on.  "If you knew them personally, I'm sorry for your loss."

He moved on quickly.  "Look, if you know of me then you know I'm all for a little 'free trade', but I'm not one to strip someone from their livelihood, so if the ship is yours, and you can prove that to me, then I'll return her.  If not, then she's mine by rights of salvage, and the we can negotiate from there."

"Dad..." Penny nudged him on the side.  He raised his hand to symbolize that he wasn't finished.

"You set us up with a finder's fee, some supplies.  It'll be far less than the salvage money, I can assure you of that.  You may also know, that while I understand that a fair deal of piracy happens in our line of work, what I don't appreciate is senseless slaughter.  What happened to that crew was butchery, pure and simple.  If you're looking for someone to look into that mess, we're available to do that.  At a discount, even, considering I'm eager to see those responsible put down."  Unlike 'civilized' society, The Apostate did not cover his cybernetic arm with a flesh-like coating to make it appear like a real arm.  Thick, synthetic corded muscles contracted and flexed as he folded his arms.  One was all natural, but his left, was cybernetic, and boy did it show.  That's usually how people 'knew him', he was one of very few people that willing left his cybernetic enhancement exposed.

"There was quite a bit of cargo missing, I looked over the manifest.  Whomever did it, wanted that and only that.  Someone out there knows your operation, and knows it well.  Chances are, they might try something like this again."

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Maverick came awake startled. The smell of frying bacon and coffee filled her nostrils. She slipped out of bed and into a robe and stuck her head out of the tiny sleep cubicle that had been her home for the last week to find Lark standing in the even smaller kitchen cooking up some breakfast, a huge grin on his face.

"Good morning Missy," he said with his booming voice, "hope ya slept well and have an appetite cause you my little sweet friend are about to get put to work."

"?" the look on her faced asked the question she didn't need to voice.

"Haha, Yeah seems the Ginger snap made landfall this morning that's the ship with our cargo. we'll head there after you get some food in you. Details are a bit sketchy and there's another ship that came in at the same time The Ataraxia, captained by a mean SOB but  not a pirate so Not sure whats up we are to meet the Sheriff at he port as soon as we can."

Maverick rushed over grabbed a biscuit and some bacon and then ran back to her cubicle. "Gimme a minute to get dressed" she said as she gobbled down the food.

--

She pulled on her clothes, making a mental note for the umpteenth time to buy another set or something. The outfit she'd brought from Mars was good shit, with integrated thermal regulation and little nano-actuators woven into the joints of the shirt and pants that could augment movements and the outer layer of the fabric was woven spider-silk derived ballistic fabric...but it always looked the same, and despite the assurances on the manufacturer's tags she always felt nervous washing it with all that techie hoo-ha in it. Her only other outfit was the tactical armor though, and hard experience had taught her that walking around the settlement looking like a soldier was a great way to be treated like a soldier. A potentially hostile one.

Once she had more than her 'PJs' on, she headed back to where Lark was finishing up for a quick gulp of Joe and another forkful of eggs. Who knew if they were real...if life with apostates had taught her anything, it was to not look too hard at where the protein was coming from. They tasted real though, and that was a fine, fine thing.

"Mean SOB, not a pirate, unexpected ship...you going armed?" she asked, contemplating the sleek, dangerous-looking outline of her gun's case stuffed into the little cubby over her bed.

Lark shrugged and swallowed his bacon. "I don't do guns. You go your own way though."

Maverick gave Lark a look, then shrugged. "No guns will work for this."

Besides, it's not like I'm ever unarmed.

-

At the settlement's port, she held her tongue while 'the' Apostate told Lark what was going on. There were a lot of questions to be asked, but one really bubbled up to the forefront. Mav looked sidelong at Lark.

"So...that thing you wanted me to have a look at's gone I'm guessing. Unless we track these pirates down, yeah?"

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Madeline brooded on the stupidity of apostates and waited for her host to finish his 'business deal'.

It had been one thing for a survival bunker or starship to lack an active AR Mesh overlay for her implant to interact with, but this..? A port should be screaming with digital guides, warning, directives, House banners, and a veritable kaleidoscope of ARIDs as far as the eye can see. Citizens shoulder to shoulder, laughing and secure under the protection of the 1st Legion, weaving the living half of the Coalition with every action and every responsible fabrication, their Rep rising and falling as they proved themselves useful to one and all. This place was none of that, dead in the AR spectrum that made her want to hustle to the nearest Protectorate Station so that she could get her hands on a gun, kill those responsible for injuring the Mesh, and give hard-working techs the time they needed to restore the world to the way it should be.  

What was wrong with these people?

The Coalition was open to all, almost too much so in her opinion, so there was no reason for them to live like this. Scrabbling from hand to mouth. Having to *grow* food. So untrusting of one another so as to be forced to trade physical goods or bits of precious metal just to conduct basic commerce. The red-headed soldier had never considered herself old before, but if she didn't meet a bullet, she'd probably outlive most of them and was likely already older than most she'd seen between here and the ship. Lives were important, quality of life was too, and seeing all these idiots hurting themselves and their children by rejecting the Coalition's help for stubborn pride... It made her angry, and killed her hunger. When she got back home and her squadmates were back on their feet, she was going to remember this. Use it to drive herself forward next mission.

The angry soldier brooded, ARID halo playing invisibly about her head for those with the eyes to see the allegiance it silently proclaimed. 

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